The morning sun was just cresting the line of trees that ran along the boundary of the village separating it from the fields. Out in the fields Jack could see a man with a wide brimmed straw hat hitching up a horse to a plough.
“I’m not asking you to write an essay on it, Daniel. Just explain what the heck is going on.”
Daniel scrubbed at his hair with his hand.
“Okay, Jack.” He sat down on the short wall that separated the small kitchen garden of one of the little stone houses from the street. “So, the villages here are pretty small communities.”
Jack sat himself down next to Daniel, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankles.
“They are mostly quite a long way apart, ” Daniel continued, “as they’re built where the springs are for fresh water and because the mountains get in the way.” He gestured out across the valley, towards the mountains that rose as steeply on the opposite side as those behind them. ”I mean, we’re actually pretty close to several villages north of here according to Sam’s aerial reconnaissance drone, but Ruan didn’t even know about them because to travel to them, you’d have to travel the long way round the mountain passes to the east of here.”
“Yeah yeah.” Jack made a ‘moving on’ gesture.
“So, they don’t have much to do with people not from their village or valley and from a genetic standpoint, that’s a pretty bad thing.”
Jack huffed. “Even I know that.”
Daniel smiled at him. “So, young people get sent off when they reach maturity to go on a big journey, their ‘Midsummer Walk’, and visit far off villages.”
Jack could see where this was going.
“Culturally, the Surobua are pretty liberal when it comes to relationships. I mean, they don’t have many real prejudices when it comes to relationships, except for the obvious ones like sibling incest, domestic abuse.”
Daniel took his canteen out and took a long mouthful as a couple of the Surobua wandered past pulling a wooden handcart loaded up with hay. He wiped his mouth before continuing. “So, these young people on Midsummer Walk have a certain...license in how they act.”
Jack laughed. “So they’re sleeping their way across the country.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, stared at his boots for a moment, then looked back up at Jack. “Well, yes.” He nodded. “And they can go a long way. Ruan said that Hista had made it all the way to the sea to the south. I mean, Sam’s mapping hasn’t got that far and she’s had the UAV out to it’s maximum range of a couple hundred miles.”
Jack shrugged, pulled out a couple of powerbars and handed one to Daniel.
“So they can spread their wild oats pretty damn far then.” He said, peeling the bar out of its wrapper.
“From what Ruan has told me, they can sleep with any adult who is not married, so other young adults, divorced adults, widowed adults, I’m not sure but possibly even maybe with...uh...married couples together.”
“Are you blushing Daniel?” Jack teased him.
The academic huffed at him and bit into his powerbar.
Jack pursed his lips thoughtfully. “So what happens about the inevitable babies?”
“If they parents don’t get married, they get raised by their mothers and extended families. I mean, everyone here can count, Jack. Nine-ten months after midsummer, that’s early spring here. Ruan says ‘Spring babies’ are considered lucky. He told me he was a Spring Baby himself.”
Jack nodded, chewing on his bar. If it was something that Daniel’s contact admitted to freely, it was obviously pretty normal here.
“So all those kids camped in the sheep field with the green ribbons are effectively on Spring Break?”
Daniel rolled his eyes again. “You could say something like that Jack yes.”
They paused a while as the two Surobuan farmers walked back through having emptied their cart.
“It’s a bit more than that,” Daniel went on once the farmers were out of earshot. “It’s not just a party. Some of them will meet people and settle down while they are on Walk, or will take a partner back home with them. A lot of the girls will probably go home pregnant. But most of all, it’s the last part of adolescence, once they go home they’re considered to be an adult.”
Jack nodded again.
“And it gets the restlessness out of their system, I guess.” He agreed. “And gives ones who aren’t happy at home the chance to find somewhere else.”
He stole Daniel’s canteen and took a drink.
“Hey!” Daniel complained. “Drink your own!” He grabbed his canteen back as Jack smirked at him.
“Okay Danny,” Jack said, relinquishing the canteen, “so how does this lead to what happened earlier?”
Daniel blushed. He took another bit of his powerbar and chewed deliberately.
“Daniel?” Jack pressed him.
Daniel swallowed with a sigh. “So last night,” he hedged, “I was talking to Hista, that's Ruan’s daughter, and she basically…”
Daniel’s blush deepened. “Basically asked me to go to bed with her.”
Jack started to laugh. “Every. Freaking. Planet!”
“Hey!” Daniel protested.
“So Ruan’s daughter asked you to have sex with her.” Jack said, grinning.
“Yes. It’s not funny Jack!”
“Daniel, it’s hilarious!”
Daniel stood up abruptly.
“Hey, Daniel! Sorry!” Jack grabbed at Daniel’s jacket. “Come on, I take it back.”
He pulled gently on the hem of Daniel’s jacket and Daniel sat down huffily. Jack squeezed his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, seriously. Look, tell me the rest. What happened.”
“Well, for starters, the Surobua weren’t sure that we weren’t on some sort of Midsummer Walk ourselves.”
Jack’s eyes opened wide. “What? They thought we were on some kind of intergalactic sex tourism?”
Daniel shrugged. “They thought we were all single and we turned up at the right time of year.”
“Whoa, whoa!” Jack stopped him. “Seriously?”
Daniel nodded in agreement. “It made perfect sense to them. We’re a bit old, but look at it from their point of view, we’re all single, it’s midsummer, we’re all wearing matching green outfits…?”
Jack snorted. “Just like those kids.”
“Exactly.” Daniel agreed. “Just like the kids.”
They paused for a moment. In the distance Jack could hear cows lowing and further off the baaing of sheep. Daniel took another drink from his canteen then at Jack’s pointed look handed it over.
“I don’t see why you’re drinking mine Jack.”
“Mines with my pack.”
Daniel gave him a long look but Jack just shrugged and grinned.
“Okay, so Ruan’s daughter hit on you last night.”
Daniel sighed. “Hista went on Midsummer Walk last year but didn’t get pregnant.” He explained. “There’s no suitable single young men in the village for her to marry so…”
“So you look like a really attractive prospect.” Jack interrupted.
“Yes.” Daniel said flatly.
Jack thought it over for a moment. “So, what did you say?”
“Well, Sam had already mentioned to Hista that she was seeing someone at home and Teal’c had mentioned to Ruan he had a son so they assumed he wasn’t available either. Which confused them, what with them thinking we were on Midsummer Walk.”
Jack frowned. “You’re avoiding getting to the point here.”
“So I said you and I weren't available either.” Daniel blurted out quickly.
“In what way?”
“I said you and I weren’t available either, exactly those words.”
“Oh for cryin’ out loud Daniel!” Jack threw his hands up.
Daniel shrugged. “I didn’t realise at that point they had comparatively broad minded attitudes to homosexuality here as well! I’d made the assumption that Kallin and Denah were sisters.”
“You know what they say about assumptions, Daniel.” Jack growled. “I could have done without two lesbian ladies asking me bluntly, in front of Sam no less, if I was ‘capable of performing with a woman’ and if you’d share me!”
It was Daniel’s turn to suppress laughter.
“I’m sorry Jack, Kallin explained afterwards, after you’d run away…”
“I didn’t run away ,” Jack interjected a little huffily, “I made a tactical retreat.”
“Okay, after you made a tactical retreat, Kallin and Denah explained to me afterwards that it’s considered completely acceptable for gay and lesbian couples to...uh...make arrangements...to...uh...collaborate...to make a family.”
“Daniel.” Jack groaned.
“In fact it’s apparently pretty common for lesbian couples here to basically use young men on Midsummer Walk to enable them to have families.”
“Daniel!” Jack complained louder.
It was Daniel’s turn to smirk. “I mean, it’s not like they were too far from the truth, Jack.”
“Okay, okay!” Jack gave in. “But it’s just not the way I wanted to come out to the team.”
“You didn’t actually come out to the team Jack, they just made an assumption. And we agreed, you’re not coming out until you’ve retired.”
“I’m sorry Danny. I...look, I...”
Daniel shrugged. “It’s not like I didn’t know up front what I was getting into.”
There was a moment of silence. Daniel took Jack’s hand in his and just held it and they sat there for a few moments as the sun rose over the trees and the smell of ploughed earth drifted across from the fields.
“Fair enough I guess.” Jack said finally.
Daniel nodded and smiled then lifted Jack’s hand and brushed a quick kiss across the scarred knuckles. Jack smiled at him, brushed his fingers across Daniel’s cheek, then took his hand back and sat up a bit straighter. Military again.
“And Sam and Teal’c know anyway.” Daniel added, grinning as he brushed crumbs off his pants and stood up.
“I just hadn’t found a way to tell you. They, uh, might have found the polaroids from that summer when we were getting all my stuff back when I de-ascended.”
Daniel ran for it, laughing all the way.