TITLE: The Darkness

AUTHOR: plumtuckered

RATING: PG-13

BETA: None

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first attempt at writing in this fandom so any constructive criticism is welcome concerning my characterizations or lack thereof, if that is the case.:-) This story is team-oriented with an emphasis on the wonderful friendship between Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill. There is no romantic 'shipping at all. Oh, and I believe what happens to Daniel in this story is called "whumping". :-)

Since the story is SO long, I will post a chapter everyday, if possible. And as always, reviews are most welcomed and greatly appreciated!

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Colonel Jack O'Neill shifted the strap he wore over his shoulder then settled his hands on the cool metal of the MP-5 he held slung against his chest. He peered over the head of the man with whom he'd been talking to see SG-1's archeologist listening intently to another village elder.

"Colonel?"

Jack started slightly then returned his gaze somewhat sheepishly to the older man standing before him. "Oh, uh, sorry there, Tezca. What were you saying?"

Tezca smiled. "You are concerned for your---kid, are you not?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess I am," the colonel replied. "You do know he isn't actually my kid, right?"

"I am aware that it is a term of affection you use for your three friends."

Jack pursed his lips and glanced at his feet, scuffing at the dirt with the toe of one boot.

"There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you care, Colonel."

"Oh, I know that," agreed the Air Force officer. He looked up and smiled uncomfortably at the holy man. "You mind if we change the subject?"

"Of course not."

Jack cast another look at Daniel Jackson. He was definitely concerned for the young scholar, deeply concerned. His friend looked tired, drawn, his shoulders slumped slightly forward as he stood listening to Kaatzál, the village's other holy man.

"May I ask what happened?"

Jack switched his focus back to the deep charcoal eyes of Tezca.

"If I may be so bold," continued the elder man with a gentle smile. He reached a gnarled hand out to touch Jack's reassuringly then crossed his arms over his chest, tucking both his hands into the sleeves of his heavy brown robe.

The colonel regarded Tezca a long moment. He wondered briefly why he felt so comfortable talking with this white-haired stranger when his instincts had always taught him to be wary. He wanted to share his worries for Daniel with this man, something he would normally never even consider with anyone else but Teal'c and Carter.

"Please, Colonel."

Jack nodded. "There was an accident about three weeks ago. Daniel was with another one of our teams on a planet where we thought was hidden a cache of weapons left by one our enemy's leaders. It was supposed to be a cakewalk."

"You were not with him?"

"We were back at the base," replied Jack with a dismissive wave of his hand. "The only reason Daniel went was to translate the instructions for opening the door to the chamber holding the weapons store." The colonel paused, looked to his feet and shook his head. "Turned out our intel was wrong; there weren't any damned weapons." He lifted angry eyes back to Tezca. "We lost a good soldier for nothing."

"What happened?"

"The trail from the chamber to the Stargate---Ring of Stone---ran along a cliff face. From what I understand, the ground just broke away under Jacobsen's feet. He was a fresh-faced Army lieutenant who'd just transferred into the SGC. Daniel threw himself down and grabbed Jacobsen's wrist. The kid outweighed Daniel by a ton and there was only a straight drop, nothing for the kid to grab onto or put his feet on. He just dangled there pulling Daniel over the edge with him. He must have known Daniel wouldn't let him go, that he'd go over with him." Jack looked down at his feet again and swallowed convulsively. "The kid wrenched himself out of Daniel's grip and that was all she wrote."

"I'm sorry."

"Daniel's blaming himself even though everyone there says he did everything he could to save the kid. He's tearing himself apart and there's not a damn thing I can do to help him."

"And you want to---help him," Tezca stated gently.

"Of course I want to!" snapped Jack, his eyes returning to the elder's. "I'm his CO. He's my responsibility. He's---he's---."

"Important to you and you need to protect him. He's your friend."

Jack nodded. "Yeah---that." He waved a hand again shifting uncomfortably on his feet.

Tezca stood silently regarding Jack with a kind smile.

"What?" asked the colonel, his eyes darting away from the older man's wise ones. He was seeing too much and it made Jack suddenly very uncomfortable. He looked back over the holy man to see Daniel approaching. "Hey," he greeted with a sigh of relief. "What's up?"

"Kaatzál says there're ruins about an hours hike up river from here."

Jack arched his eyebrows speculatively. "Oh, yeah? Ruins, you say."

Daniel nodded. "Can we check them out, Jack? He says they're at least a thousand years old and----."

"Sure, why not."

"---there's a temple and-----wh--what?" the archeologist stammered to an abrupt stop.

"I said sure, why not."

Daniel looked at Jack askance. "You did?" he questioned then he scowled. "You did."

"Sure, we'll even come with you, watch your six."

The younger man's mouth dropped open in disbelief.

Jack reached a gentle hand up under Daniel's chin and lifted, closing his mouth. "Flies, Daniel," he said with a smile.

Daniel's eyebrows puckered even more as he stared at Jack incredulously.

"What?" asked the colonel with mock innocence. "I can do nice."

"Um, yeah----thanks, Jack," Daniel replied still somewhat uncertain then he smiled slightly. "I'll go grab my gear."

"Easy there, big fella, we'll go tomorrow."

"Jack, there's still plenty of daylight left and we can camp----."

"Daniel."

"Jack?"

"Daniel?"

The younger man sighed. "Jack, there's----."

Jack raised his index finger. "Ah---not another word, Daniel," he chided easily, pleased to see his friend so excited. "We'll head out tomorrow."

Daniel nodded reluctantly. "Tomorrow," he repeated.

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"Hey, what are you doing up?"

Daniel turned from the fire to see the colonel approaching him. He crossed the big room and settled on the bench next to the archeologist.

"Couldn't sleep?"

"Yeah, something like that," Daniel replied.

Jack bumped Daniel's shoulder with his own. "Want to talk about it?"

"What?"

"It, Daniel," replied Jack in exasperation. "The it that's been bugging you since P4C-927."

"I'm fine, Jack."

"Yeah, sure you are."

Daniel shook his head in fond annoyance. He knew Jack was concerned and he also knew his older friend would not let the 'it' go until Daniel spilled, but he just wasn't ready yet. The hurt was still there and still too painful, the shame and guilt at having let a life slip literally through his fingers still too raw and real. He was responsible for Eric Jacobsen's death and to talk about it would mean sharing the burden that was his and his alone and he couldn't, he wouldn't do that.

"When are you going to get it into that thick skull of yours that you don't have to handle things alone, Daniel? You did everything you could for that kid. He would have pulled you over with him if he hadn't-----."

"Jack, don't."

"You are not responsible for Jacobsen's death, Daniel," the colonel pressed. "He made the decision to pull free, you didn't let him go."

"You weren't there!" Daniel snapped. He stood from the bench and glared down at his companion, feeling his face warm with sudden anger. "Just drop it, Jack," he spat then he sighed tiredly and wrapped his arms around his middle. "I'm going back to bed."

"Colonel?"

"Everything's fine, Carter, go back to sleep."

Daniel pulled his arms tighter around his mid-section and moved to stand over his rumpled sleeping bag. He scrubbed a hand over his face and sighed deeply. He was so incredibly tired and yet he knew sleep wouldn't come, knew that dreams would follow him the minute his eyes were closed. He stepped over the bed roll and moved to the open door.

"Daniel Jackson."

The archeologist turned to see Teal'c rising to his feet. Sam was sitting up looking at Daniel, her blonde hair sticking up in all directions, the concern clear in her blue eyes.

"Would you like someone to accompany you?" continued the big Jaffa.

Daniel shook his head and jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward the dark gathered just outside the door. "No, Teal'c, I---um---just need a few minutes alone, if you don't mind. I'll be fine."

After a quick glance at Jack who still sat facing the fire, Daniel turned and stepped into the cool night air. He could hear the hushed voices of his friends and the rustle of cloth as they moved around in the room behind him and guessed both Teal'c and Sam were joining Jack near the fire. His arms still wrapped over his middle, Daniel moved onto the dirt path that led back to the main square of the little village. He dropped his head back and stared up at the stars, noting the first hint of dawn lighting the night sky.

"Hello."

Daniel tensed then relaxed as he watched Kaatzál slowly walk toward him from the direction of the village.

"I didn't mean to startle you," smiled the holy man kindly.

"That's okay," replied Daniel then he frowned. "What are you doing out here? Is something wrong?"

"No, I was unable to find a peaceful sleep."

Daniel snorted softly. "Seems to be going around."

"Your heart seems troubled."

"My heart is fine, Kaatzál," replied the doctor then he turned his eyes back to the sky. "Your world is beautiful, very much like my world."

"You should allow your friends to help you."

Daniel sighed and turned his head to regard the white-haired man looking back at him through knowing hazel eyes. "Look, Kaatzál, I appreciate your concern, but---." He stopped suddenly, his gaze held by the older man's. "How do you know?"

Kaatzál smiled warmly. "I can sense your feelings, Daniel," he replied. "And your friends' as well." He raised a finger toward the small single-room dwelling.

"You---you can?"

"Yes. They appear as colors in my mind. Joy and contentedness appear as warm, vivid colors while anger and malevolence appear as cold, dark colors. Other emotions fall along the spectrum between the two extremes."

"Can all your people do that---read emotions?"

Kaatzál shook his head and quickly looked away. "The ability is---mine and mine alone."

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize---oh, God. Am I---are we keeping you awake?"

The old man chuckled in amusement, his eyes meeting Daniel's once more. "Let's just say there are quite a few colors swirling in my mind right now."

"Kaatzál, I'm---."

"No apologies necessary, Daniel. Your emotions are amazing and overwhelming and so powerful, I welcome the sensations they bring. I do not, however, welcome the worry I feel for you. Why are you so troubled?"

Daniel ducked his head and stared at his bare feet. "I'll be fine, Kaatzál----really. I've just got to work through a few things that's all." He looked up with a shy smile. "Since neither one of us is going to get any sleep tonight, why don't you tell me some more about these colors you see."

Kaatzál tipped his head to the side and regarded Daniel for a long moment. "Stubbornness appears as a shade of green, young one," he replied lightly.

The archeologist chuckled and returned his gaze to his feet.

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"So the Alarans can read our minds?"

"No, not the Alarans, just Kaatzál and then only our emotions," replied Daniel. "He doesn't see our specific thoughts, only the feelings that are tied to them."

"Why only him?"

Daniel shrugged. "I'm not sure---he just referred to his ability as a throwback to his ancestors."

Sam glanced quickly at her younger teammate then returned her gaze to the surrounding landscape. "Wow. That must be really hard to handle, being around so many people all the time."

"You'd think so, but apparently the Alarans are a pretty—um---." The archeologist rotated one hand quickly in front of him as he walked searching for the right word. "---placid people," he finished.

"So they do not experience a wide range of emotions?" wondered Teal'c. He walked behind Sam and Daniel, his staff weapon clutched tightly in one big hand.

"The small children do, but once they hit puberty, they gain control over them."

"Why?" asked O'Neill from his position at point.

Daniel paused. "I---I don't know, exactly. Kaatzál didn't really explain that part to me," he replied.

"Are we bothering him, being so emotional and all?"

"No, Jack. In fact, Kaatzál says he finds our presence refreshing especially----um----mine."

"Yours?" asked Sam. She glanced again at her younger companion and saw his cheeks slightly flushed with discomfort, his eyes set on the path before him. No one questioned the archeologist further and Sam knew her other two teammates realized the same thing; Daniel's emotions were running pretty close to the surface since the events of three weeks ago. The elder Alaran must have sensed it as well.

The major stepped slightly to the side to bump her arm against her friend's then smiled gently when he looked up at her. He was trying so hard to handle the death of Jacobsen like he'd handled every other tragedy in his life and Sam couldn't help but wish he would let them in, let them help him. Even after their years together, Daniel still didn't want to burden anyone with his troubles.

"So what's the story behind these ruins?" asked O'Neill suddenly and Sam had to smile again, grateful her CO was quickly changing the subject in deference to their friend.

"Oh, well----the city was called Teóti after the god who ruled this world a thousand years ago."

"I am not familiar with that name," replied Teal'c.

"He wasn't a Goa'uld. Kaatzál says he was much loved by all his people and ruled with a---a velvet hand."

"What happened to him?" asked Sam.

"Well that's the interesting part," replied Daniel, one hand gesticulating in front of him. "It's a mystery, actually. Kaatzál says the historical records state that Teóti was killed by one of his followers, but they don't say exactly how."

"Ah, I SO love a good mystery."

"There's also no record of what happened to the citizens, Teóti's followers," continued the archeologist. "The records just---stop."

"Fascinating."

"Jack, you didn't have to come out here with me, you know."

The colonel looked back over his shoulder and grinned. "No where else I'd rather be, Dannyboy," he teased. "You know how much I love watching you dig in the dirt."

Daniel snorted and shook his head in what Sam knew was fond exasperation. Then he fell silent, his gaze fixed on the path ahead of him. The major wondered where his thoughts were as she cast furtive glances at him, but she held her peace, hoping her friend was pondering the mysteries of Teóti and not the death that had haunted him for three weeks.

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TO BE CONTINUED