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Part one

The Sadaqans stood before SG-1 looking regal and tall. Very tall. Daniel coudn't remember a time when anyone had made Teal'c look short -- until now. The shortest Sadaqa was at least 6'6. They were all armed to the teeth and from everything Daniel had learned of their culture, they were a fierce but honorable warrior tribe inhabiting P2J-778.

"Daniel, these guys look Arabic to me. Did I miss something in your briefing?" Jack asked with one raised eyebrow.

"Yes. You missed the part about how they were of Arab descent," Daniel said without his usual bite. "From what I was able to decipher from the pictures taken by both the M.A.L.P. and the UVA, what we have here are the descendants of a tribe given over to the Goa'uld as payment, or tax, hence their tribal name, Sadaqa, which means like a tax levy in Arabic."

"Must of missed that part too," Jack said snidely. "Napping does have its advantages."

Daniel didn't rise to the bait. He never did anymore. He just stood quietly behind Jack, Teal'c and Carter.

Jack stepped forward and held out their offering -- an ancient Saracen sword -- unhappily provided by the Britich Museum. One Sadaqa separated himself from the others and bowed before accepting the gift. His dark hooded eyes gleamed with appreciation and long, slender fingers smoothed over the beautifully carved hilt. The man finally looked up from the weapon and with a guarded smile, said, "Shukran!"

Jack, without glancing around, said, "Daniel?"

"He just thanked you."

Jack bowed his head to the Sadaqan, who was obviously the leader. The man was not the tallest, but his regal bearing and slightly different robe bore out that hypothesis. The Sadaqan immediately began to bombard Jack with words, none of which the older man understood, but he kept smiling and nodding as if he did. Sam moved forward and in her halting Arabic, attempted to introduce them all, but the look on the leader's face told everyone she wasn't succeeding.

Fearing that they'd lose what little advantage the sword had given them, Daniel walked around Teal'c to stand before the leader.

"Ismy Daniel Jackson," he said, introducing himself.

The leader smiled more openly, then responded with a sweeping hand gesture. "Ismy Aben al San."

Daniel smiled, then continued in fluent Arabic.

"We are peaceful travelers from a place called Earth. This," he indicated Jack, "is Colonel Jack O'Neill, our leader. He is a great warrior, both honorable and to be feared. His heart is huge, but his mind is as cold steel."

Aben al San nodded, his demeanor changing slightly as his steadfast gaze met Jack's, one great leader to another. Daniel bit back his grin, then placed his hand on Sam's shoulder and said, "This is Major Samantha Carter, and while she is indeed a woman, she is also a fierce warrior. You would do well to walk softly around her. Her mind is full of wisdom and knowledge that would make Allah himself proud."

Aben's brown eyes widened as he stared at Sam. Finally, he nodded his acceptance. Daniel then turned to Teal'c.

"And this is Teal'c. He is a Jaffa, a warrior of the stars. He once served the false gods that brought your ancestors here, but now fights with us against them. You may know these false gods as the Goa'uld?"

Aben moved to stand before Teal'c, his narrowed eyes taking in the emblem on his forehead and the staff weapon in his hand.

"We know of the Goa'uld. We defeated them and their Jaffa. They have not visited our world in over a hundred years."

With that pronouncement, he turned his attention back to Daniel. "And what of you, Daniel Jackson? What are you?"

Daniel had noticed the different robes of the Sadaqa, noticed that the shortest wore black robes trimmed with white and stood slightly behind and to the right of the others, all of whom wore black with red trim. Aben al San's robes were trimmed in gold, signifying his leadership role.

Daniel deduced that the men with the white trim served as some sort of slave or servant. Daniel quickly realized that that Jack, as their great leader, needed a servant, and since he'd identified his fellow teammates as warriors, that left him. Naturally.

"I am nothing," he said as he bowed his head. "I translate for my leader, serve his needs and will gladly serve as intermediary. We are eager to learn of you and your ways and how you defeated the Goa'uld. We will share of ourselves in return."

Aben al San's eyes narrowed at Daniel's words. He shifted his position so that he now stood before Daniel. He reached out and a long dark finger touched the skin just under Daniel's right eye.

"Blue," he said in Arabic. Then his finger drifted down Daniel's face, stopping just at his lips.

In an effort to get the man's attention from himself, Daniel pointed at Sam, and smiling, said, "Blue."

Aben reached over and touched Sam's blonde hair, then touched Daniel's. "Soft," he said.

Daniel gave Sam a sideways glance and muttered, "You using hairspray again?"

"Very funny, Daniel. He obviously likes your hair better, *and* your blue eyes."

"Yeah, because you're using hairspray again."

Jack shook his head. "Children, children, can we get back to business here?" He stepped up to Daniel's side and asked, "So, are we welcome," Jack paused for a beat, then added evilly, "Blue Eyes?"

Daniel clenched his jaw, but before he could answer, Aben did it for him.

"Come. All of you are welcome to our city, Sabat. We will feast tonight, and our wise men will share our history. Tomorrow, I will share our strength."

"Daniel?" Jack asked.

"He's invited us to share a meal. Tonight, we'll learn their history, and tomorrow, how they defeated the Goa'uld." With those words, Daniel stepped back behind Jack and just off his right shoulder. He bowed his head, as Aben's servants heads were bowed.

"All righty then, let's go, people," Jack said as he rubbed his hands together.

Jack fell into line with Aben, Daniel behind Jack, while Sam and Teal'c spread out on either side. The march to the city began.

Sabat was a city of tents, but unlike any tent city SG-1 had ever seen. The multi-colored silken shelters rose high in the desert air, tribal flags flying brightly from atop each tent.

By his estimation, many of the tents matched a two story building in height. In the middle of Sabat, the largest tent sat draped in gold silk, an emblem of a hawk adorning the waving flag. Most of Aben's men moved away and to their own homes, but a few walked ahead and with swords rising in the air and crossing, made an archway that Aben and SG-1 walked under before entering the tent.

As Jack passed under the awning made up of crossed swords, he said, "Sweet. Now why can't Hammond come up with a welcome like this?"

"Maybe you should take to him about it when we get back, Sir?"

"Don't think I won't, Carter. Don't think I won't."

Once inside, Aben turned to Daniel.

"The female warrior shall follow Ashieda, while your -- Colonel -- and the one called Teal'c shall follow Hasad. They will be allowed to bathe, rest and change for tonight. You, Daniel, shall be quartered with Moussaf. He will take you to his quarters where you may also bathe, rest and change. All of you will be provided with suitable clothing."

Daniel nodded even as he wondered what *suitable* would mean. He turned to Jack and quickly filled him in.

"Wait a minute, why are you being separated from Teal'c and I? I don't like this, Daniel."

"It's okay, Jack. Sam is being separated as--"

"Daniel, I'm not an idiot. Of course she's being taken to another area, duh. She's a woman. But the three of us should be together."

"Uh, Jack? Just go with it. I know what I'm doing."

"Since when?"

Daniel didn't bother to answer, he just waited.

"Oh, all right, fine. But if you get into any trouble, don't expect me to bail your ass out, you hear me?"

"God forbid, Jack."

Sam was amazed at the intricacies of Aben's tent. It was a given that it was huge, but by her limited count, she'd already come up with over a dozen different *rooms*. The one she was finally led to was elegant, cool, and the best part was that she be alone. No sharing with a harem. The woman, Asheida, walked sedately over to a curtain and parted it.

Oh, glorious day -- a tub. A huge tub, and the water was steaming. Sam thought at the very least, she'd died and gone to heaven. Asheida smiled and waved her hand. That was all the invitation Sam needed. She was stripped down in record time, then found herself dipping a toe into the deliciously warm and scented water. A moment later, she was completely immersed.

Asheida pivoted and while Sam luxuriated in the tub, the younger woman poured from an intricate carafe into a tall, ornate cup. She handed it to Sam, who took it with only the slightest suspicion. She sniffed, then grinned. Wine. Perfect. She sipped it, then sank back and rested her head.

This was simply too good to be true.

As her muscles relaxed, she thought about Jack's and Daniel's behavior since the run-in with Reese. She was greatly bothered by their apparent animosity -- no -- that wasn't fair. There was no animosity on Daniel's part, only on Colonel O'Neill's. She couldn't explain it, but it worried her. And she hadn't missed the fact that Teal'c was equally worried.

As Sam began to wash, she mused on the possibility that she was, in some way, culpable for the breach between Daniel and the Colonel. She'd certainly had a crush on her commanding officer, and in recent weeks, well, she'd been less than sympathetic to Daniel. But she'd come to realize that her feelings for Jack O'Neill were, while deep, not the stuff of romance. And most definitely not worth her career. The question was: While in the throes of her crush, why had Daniel felt like the enemy? And why was Jack treating him like so much scum on the bottom of his shoe?

She sighed heavily just as Asheida came over and motioned Sam to stand. Understanding, she complied, and the girl picked up a large pitcher and began the rinsing off process. When all soap was gone, she put the pitcher down, lifted a large, incredibly soft towel, and allowed Sam to step out and into it. Asheida moved behind the billowing curtain, allowing Sam to dry off in private.

When Sam entered the chamber, she noticed a set of beautiful robes laid out on the bed of pillows. She wished Daniel were here. She could ask him if refusing to wear them would insult their host. She lifted them up, felt the silky softness between her fingers, then realized that what she held was *not* in the manner of skirts and folding material such as worn by Ahseida and the other women Sam had observed. She had been provided with, of all things -- pants. The same as worn by Aben and his men.

"Well, I'll be damned," she said, as she began to dress.

"Now this is a bit of all right," Jack noted as they were led into their quarters.

"Indeed, O'Neill. Even the tents of the Goa'uld could not surpass this luxury."

Hasad moved to a curtain and parted it. He stood silently as Jack and Teal'c walked over and looked in. They gazed back at each other, then at the two tubs. Jack shrugged, then quipped, "Last one in is a rotten egg."

"I believe this is quite nice, O'Neill," Teal'c said from his tub.

"I couldn't agree more, Teal'c. I'm betting Carter is in seventh heaven."


Jack snorted, then said, "Daniel, on the other hand, is probably deep into the research of the bathing habits of the Saqada."

Teal'c lifted his head, then tilted it. "O'Neill, that is not the first -- inappropriate -- remark aimed at our friend. And earlier, you were unnecessarily harsh to DanielJackson. I do not understood this. He is your friend and his value to the SGC, undisputed."

Jack froze in his washing. He glanced down at his hand, at the soaped up cloth he held. Slowly, he began to move the cloth over his arm.

"O'Neill, did you hear me?"

"In the same room here,Teal'c," Jack said, eyes fastened on the cloth and the foaming suds.

"But you have no explanation?"

"I don't think I need one. It's called -- bantering. It's what Daniel and I do. It means nothing."

"I do not agree, O'Neill. At one time, this 'bantering' of which you speak, would bring a smile to my lips, now I cringe, as does Major Carter. What has DanielJackson done to deserve your ire?"

Jack stopped washing. He turned and looked over at Teal'c. "Ire? *Ire*?"

Teal'c lifted his head proudly. "Readers Digest. It means the same as brotag." At Jack's puzzled look, Teal'c added, "Brotag is our word for anger."

"Ah. Well, I feel no -- brotag -- towards Daniel."

"Again, I disagree." Teal'c levered himself out of the tub as Hasad handed him a towel. He took it, then not bothering to conceal his nakedness, walked over to Jack's tub.

"Aw, geesh, Teal'c. Cover yourself up, fer crying out loud."

"Have you not seen me in the showers, O'Neill?"

Jack closed his eyes and started counting to ten. By the time he'd made it to eight, he could tell that Teal'c was still standing naked and dripping in front of him. Fuck.

"O'Neill. I believe I know DanielJackson very well. I believe, although I do not understand it, that he has a great deal of self-doubt. I further believe that if you continue in this manner, he will come to accept he has no place with us. Is that what you wish, O'Neill?"

"That's ridiculous, Teal'c. So I'm a little hard on him? So what? He's a big boy, in case you've failed to notice."

"That he is, O'Neill. A 'big boy' as you say, that believes in you. Trusts you. He has already stopped fighting back. Do you not understand what will come next?"

"You're over reacting, Teal'c. And would you *please* put something on?"

For a moment, the shadow that was Teal'c didn't move. Then Jack heard a sigh and Teal'c turned away. But not before Jack heard, "You lie only to yourself, O'Neill."

Damn Jaffa.

Daniel was shown to a small room where a tub waited in the corner. Moussaf smiled as he poured more hot water into the tub, then indicated that Daniel should bathe. Addressing him in Arabic, Daniel said, "Why are you waiting on me? We both serve our leaders."

The smile on the youthful face widened. "My Sheik wishes it. But even if he did not, you are my guest, Daniel Jackson."

"I see. Well then, thank you. But you do not have to stay."

Moussaf nodded. "I shall leave you in peace then. I have placed the appropriate clothing on the bed. I will return when it is time to lead you to the feast." He bowed low then backed out of the room.

With a deep sigh, Daniel sat down on the second mound of pillows that, based on the new clothing laid on its surface, would be his bed. He gazed about him and thought how appropriate it was that he'd been separated from Teal'c and Jack. He glanced over at what he would be wearing, and winced. Oh, swell. Aladdin, but alas, no lamp.

Three hours and no rest for the weary later, Daniel was ready. Somehow he'd bet that the rest of SG-1 would be wearing way more clothes. He glanced down at himself and rolled his eyes.

First; cream-colored silk pants that hung low on his hips. Second; a short, matching vest without buttons, but trimmed in blue. And on his feet? Nothing. At least he still had his glasses. Daniel suspected that Jack would get a good year's worth of snide jokes at his expense over his outfit.

"Daniel Jackson, are you ready?" Moussaf asked from the flap entrance.

Well, it wasn't as if he hadn't played a servant before. At least this time -- no Goa'uld system lords.

"I'm ready."

Daniel was led to Jack's and Teal'c's quarters, where Sam had already been shown. Evidently they would be taken as a group to the feast. As he walked in, he almost gasped.

The first person he saw was Jack. The older man stood by a low table, a goblet in his hand. He was wearing a flowing white silk shirt tucked into matching pants, and over that, a long billowing silver robe. With his gray hair, he looked -- incredible. Daniel did not need Jack looking incredible.

Teal'c was clothed in a similar fashion, but in black. Then Daniel looked at Sam. He managed to refrain from whistling. She was in the same basic outfit as Jack and Teal'c, but her shirt and pants were light blue, the robe, a shiny metallic blue.

"Yeah, yeah, Daniel. The Colonel already did his impression of a wolf," Sam said as she caught sight of him. Then her own eyes widened and she was the one doing the whistling. "Wow," was all she could finally say as she continued to stare at him.

Daniel looked over his shoulder but saw nothing. "What?" he asked.

Sam grinned. "You look good, Daniel. That's all."

Before Daniel could come back with an appropriate response, Hasad was beckoning them. Jack, eyes fixed on Daniel, had to be nudged by Teal'c.

"I believe we are to be taken to Aben al San, O'Neill."

Jack shook himself, then nodded. Daniel took his position slightly behind Jack, and off his right shoulder, and SG-1 followed Hasad out.

Jack decided he'd seen way too much skin. First Teal'c, then -- Daniel. Yep, he thought, as they followed Hasad, way too much skin. And did silk have to cling just so to Daniel's hips? Mold itself to his ass like that? And why did he have to walk *behind* Jack? Couldn't he walk -- in front -- of Jack? No one should look -- that -- good. No one. It was criminal, that's what it was. Jack could feel a unexplainable anger building, and it was directed at Daniel.

Jack clamped down on it as they were shown into the largest room of Aben's tent. Jack almost stopped dead at his first glimpse of the feast. Shit, it was right out of some old Maria Montez, Jon Hall movie.

Part 2

SG-1 stood just inside the great room, their collective breaths held. There were at least fifty people seated on colorful pillows, surrounding a long low table laded with food. Aben was reclining against several more pillows, his black robes spread out around him, hair down and flowing over his shoulders. Scantily clad servants, both male and female, moved up and down behind the guests. Their hands full of trays, they passed even more food to the guests. Soft music played in the background, barely heard over the chatter and laughter of the Sadaqans.

Aben al San spotted SG-1 and immediately rose. As he did, all quieted. Raising an arm, he said in Arabic, "Welcome to our feast! Please, come, join us." He indicated the spaces immediately to his right and with Hasad leading the way, SG-1 followed.

Daniel noticed the young man kneeling behind Aben. He was dressed much as Daniel was, but his clothing did not look to be made of silk. The color of his pants and vest matched the color of wet sand.

Daniel gazed around him and noted that a few others at the table also had similarly clad men kneeling behind them. As Jack lowered himself to sit, Daniel took his cue and knelt behind him. Good thing he, unlike Jack, had good knees. Teal'c sat next to Jack, and Sam next to Teal'c.

"Uh, Daniel, why are you kneeling behind me?"

"It would appear, O'Neill," Teal'c answered for Daniel, "that DanielJackson is believed to be your servant."

"Dan-i-el?" Jack said, drawing out Daniel's name.

"Aben has a servant, Jack. You needed one too. By the time I realized this, I'd already explained Teal'c and Sam, so that left me."

"That's why you were taken to another room this afternoon?"

"Yes. Now pay attention, Aben is talking to you."

Jack immediately turned back toward their host, who was speaking rapidly and gesturing around the table.

"Daniel, fill us in."

Daniel bowed to Aben and said, "He's just invited you to eat your fill. His most learned men are here, as are his best warriors, as befits your status, Jack."

Jack, who'd just taken a sample of fruit from a large platter in front of him, and almost choking, he said, "Just what did you tell him about me, *Daniel*?"

Daniel shrugged. "What can I say, O Great Leader?"

"I may just have to kill you when this mission is over, Daniel."

"Yeah? So what else is new?" Daniel muttered under his breath.

The next hour was spent eating, drinking and laughing.

Carter understood maybe a fourth of what was being said, Teal'c and Jack nothing, yet they proved that laughter was universal. Whenever Aben addressed Jack, Daniel translated, but the bulk of conversation consisted of questions about whether Jack liked the food and drink. It was obvious that Jack did.

When the platters were finally cleared away, Aben rose and lifted his arms. The room quieted immediately. He turned to the older man on his left.

"Colonel O'Neill," Aben said in Arabic, "this is our most learned man, Sharif. He will now tell you our history."

Daniel translated and Jack nodded. Sharif stood a bit unsteadily, thanks to abundant amount of wine he'd consumed. He bowed, then began to speak, Daniel softly interpreting behind Jack.

"He says that many, many generations ago, his ancestors were enslaved by those claiming to be gods. His people did not believe that the conquerors were gods, for there is only one God, Allah. After much time, many of the enslaved people were turned over to another false god as payment owed him. They were taken through the Holy Ring to this world."

The narrative stopped as Sharif swallowed yet more wine. As he'd been speaking, his voice would rise and fall, anger and heartbreak in counterpoint to Daniel's soft-spoken translations.

Sharif put his goblet down, and picked up where he left off.

"He says that one hundred years ago, the Sadaqans overthrew the false gods, having decided that death was preferable to enslavement. They were led by a great warrior and his powerful scimitar. His fervor and resolve bolstered the slaves and they overwhelmed the false gods. The Sadaqans were victorious.

"Those they did not kill, they banished through the Holy Circle. They then -- buried -- it."

The parallels to what occurred on their own planet was not lost on SG-1.

"Why did they uncover their Holy Circle, Daniel?" Sam asked.

Daniel faced Sharif and repeated the question.

"They have a prophecy. The leader of the original rebellion is supposed to return to them, to once again take up the sword and forever protect them. The prophecy speaks of excavating the 'gate after exactly one hundred years. They did so, one month ago. We're the first to have come through."

"Well, isn't that just dandy," Jack observed wryly. "So do they, or don't they, have a great weapon for defeating the Goa'uld?"

"Aben said he would tell us how the Goa'uld were destroyed tomorrow, that tonight, we'd get their history. I suspect we'd best leave it at that for now, Jack."

"I think Daniel is right, Colonel," Sam offered.

"Fine, fine. Whatever. But if they need this old leader to return and protect them, it doesn't sound like they have any great weapon, does it?"

There was no answer to that, so wisely, none of Jack's team offered one.

More wine flowed and the music got louder. It was obviously time for the entertainment.

The evening wore on, and rather pleasantly for SG-1, as dancers danced and singers sang. At one point, Aben got up and with a nod directed at Daniel, invited him to follow. Jack had been taken by one of the dancers and was now being indoctrinated into the Sadaqan way with veils. Daniel was torn. Go or stay? Tell Jack, or not? Daniel got up and followed Aben.

Jack was finally freed of the veils, and the nearly naked women. Huffing and puffing, he returned to his seat, only to find both Aben and Daniel missing in action.

"We seem to have lost our host, not to mention our archaeologist, Teal'c. What happened?"

"Apparently they left some time ago, O'Neill. Both Major Carter and myself were--"

Jack held up his hand, not wanting to hear anymore. He frowned, then gave a cursory glance around the room. No Daniel. He straightened his robe, and started to move away.

"Sir, should we come with you?"

"I'm sure everything is fine, Carter. However, Daniel *is* supposed to be my servant. Not to mention the fact that we really don't want Daniel wandering around and left to his own devices, do we? Things tend to happen when we do that, don't they?"

Carter had the grace to blush. Both she and Teal'c heard the unspoken message. They'd allowed Daniel to skip out.

"O'Neill, DanielJackson is quite capable of--"

"Teal'c," Jack said, holding up his hand again, "Tell it to the hand." With that, he strode off.

Teal'c turned to Carter and asked, "Tell it to the hand?"

"I'll explain later, Teal'c."

Teal'c turned back to follow O'Neill's disappearing figure. He was angry with himself for not noticing DanielJackson's departure, and puzzled by O'Neill's recent behavior toward DanielJackson. To add to his worries, Teal'c had not missed the manner in which their host had looked upon DanielJackson. A question from Major Carter brought his attention reluctantly back to the situation at hand.

Daniel, somewhat puzzled, followed Aben out of the feasting room, through more tent passages, and finally out into the warm desert night.

"I wish to show you something, Daniel. Will you follow me?"

Not quite understanding why he'd been singled out, but nevertheless curious, Daniel nodded. Aben began to lead him through the tent city.

In spite of the dark, moonless night, the city was ablaze with light, thanks to the multitude of torches. Laughter and celebration could be heard emanating from several tents. Horses neighed and pawed the ground as servants hustled between tents, arms laden down with food and drink.

As Aben and Daniel walked, Daniel realized they were following a trail of torches, one that Daniel had noticed upon their arrival. He'd observed the unlit torches that appeared to lead from the city and over a great dune behind it. He vaguely remembered the path from the UAV pictures, but it had seemed to lead nowhere. Evidently the pictures had been wrong.

As he walked behind the larger man, he found himself wondering about his future. He'd been entertaining thoughts of leaving the SGC, or at the very least, leaving SG-1, since the debacle with Reese. In spite of his apologies, the tension between he and Jack had only increased. To top it off, this mission was one of the few "first contact" missions they'd been on in months and "first contact" was what he did.

He wasn't a soldier, but gradually, he'd felt himself becoming one. It seemed to Daniel, that who and what he was, and any talents he possessed, no longer interested the SGC. Perhaps others could have remade themselves, but after years of struggling and fighting to be exactly the man he was, he found the idea of discarding that Daniel Jackson almost abhorrent.

Not that he hadn't been trying to change for Jack, for the SGC, because he had. And he'd carried the burning gut and migraines to prove it.

Of course, there was one other reason for leaving at least SG-1.


Daniel had to admit, as he plodded along behind Aben, that whatever friendship had existed between he and Jack was now gone. And knowing that, Daniel might still have been able to continue with SG-1, but the total disrespect and disregard he now faced from Jack on an almost daily basis was proving too much. All of which made a revelation on his part that much more difficult. Several months ago, he'd come to realize that he loved Jack O'Neill.

Daniel had never been big on mundane things like eating or sleeping, but even for him, both activities had become increasingly difficult. When he finally did hit his bed, or the couch in his office, he tossed and turned, his past and present heartaches merging into one long forever. He wasn't a masochist, he didn't need this much hurt, pain, and nonexistence.

Somewhere, Daniel Jackson had to matter -- to someone. Right? Right. He'd mattered to Shau're, to Kasuf and Skaara, to all the Abydonians. He could matter again.

Just not to Jack.

As they moved over the giant dune, Daniel realized they were started walking *down*. The torch path had ended, but Aben, just prior to their descent, had pulled one from the sand and carried it now, lighting their way. Even so, as Daniel glanced beyond Aben, he could see nothing.

Jack was going to kill him. Here he was, in the darkness, following a stranger to God only knew where. Hell, for all Daniel knew, he was about to have his throat cut. Okay, that could work. Jack wouldn't have to kill him then. In fact, Jack might even be relieved. And what did that say about their relationship? About him?

As they moved down, the sand was warm beneath Daniel's bare feet and several times he started to slip, losing his footing. Each time, Aben was there, catching him. Each time, the strong arm that bolstered him, remained a bit longer around his waist than necessary.

All right, throat cutting was definitely not on the agenda.

Daniel had been called naive in his day, but he wasn't. Occasionally clueless, but given time, he was fully capable of figuring out what was what. This was one of those times and it was most certainly a -- what.

He was ready to turn around and go back, but at that precise moment, Aben raised the torch high and Daniel spotted their destination. A small pyramid.

A pyramid.

Well, hallelujah. Proof positive that the Goa'uld had been here. Would wonders never cease?

Of course, judging by the gleam in Aben's eyes, this could be the Sadaqans version of Make-Out Point.

As they approached the entrance, Aben's footsteps slowed, almost reverently. Daniel decided this was definitely not a make-out spot. Maybe the tomb of the man who'd led the rebellion against the Goa'uld?

At the entrance, Aben stopped, bowed, touched an ornate symbol to his right, kissed his lips, then stepped aside and allowed Daniel to precede him. Once inside, Aben lit three other torches imbedded in the walls. Daniel blinked as his eyes adjusted, then gaped.

The interior of the pyramid was empty, save for an impressive pedestal in the center. On the pedestal, encased and resting upright, was the longest, most beautiful scimitar Daniel had ever seen.

On most scimitars, the hilt was short and thick, but not so with this one. It was longer and jeweled, the gems sparkling in the flickering light. The blade itself shone brightly but appeared to be thicker than most scimitars.

"This is Nasireddin, the great sword wielded by our leader, Al-Marrakushi. He who defeated the false gods."

Daniel moved in closer, thinking there was something odd about the scimitar. He was right. The metal had a greenish tint to it and seemed to be unlike the typical scimitar.

"This doesn't appear to made of the same type of alloy as your other weapons, Aben."

"No. We do not know what Al-Marrakushi used. Our history only tells us that he spent months crafting it in hiding and that he stole materials from the false gods to create it. The writings of our ancestors say that Jaffa and false gods alike fell to its mighty power."

Aben walked up behind Daniel and in a soft voice, asked, "Is this not what your -- leader -- wishes to find? A great weapon to use against the Goa'uld?"

Daniel nodded absently, then with a start, realized that Aben had spoken in -- English. He whirled about, eyes wide.

"You speak our language!"

"I do. As do a few of my closest men. We are not alone on this planet, Daniel. We are not the only ones brought here by the false gods. We travel far, trade, and share cultures and languages. I recognized your language as that of the Bernais, who occupy the land south of us. Not all who share our land, share it willingly. Hence, the need for my warriors. Our real city is well over one hundred kilometers from here."

Daniel closed his eyes. How very stupid of him. He should have realized, known, asked. A sure sign of how far from his original purpose he'd come. A year ago, both he and Sam would have fired off enough questions of Aben to keep him busy for weeks. Instead, they'd been so focused on procuring weapons, that they'd taken the city found by the UAV at face value.

Shit, this could have gotten them killed. His stupidity could have gotten them all killed. Just because his talents were no longer needed, didn't mean he shouldn't be using them, damn it. No matter how much flack he'd get from Jack.

Sighing heavily, Daniel opened his eyes -- and found himself staring up into the warm, humorous gaze of his host. The man's lips were curved into a gentle smile and it seemed as if he were swaying toward Daniel. Aben brought up one large hand and held it close, but not yet touching Daniel's face.

"I wish to know what it would take to purchase you from your Colonel Leader."

Well, fuck.

Daniel leaned away, but only slightly, his body automatically responding to the invitation in Aben's eyes. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at him, really looked at him, let alone as Aben was looking now. He cleared his throat.

"Uh, see, in reality, I mean, you must know that I am not -- that Jack doesn't--"

"I have seen and heard how he treats you. You are less than a servant to him, but to me, you will be everything."

Unknowingly, Aben had hit the sorest spot Daniel owned. His words pierced Daniel deeply. Aben, sensing the vulnerability, moved closer and lowered his head until his lips were a whisper from Daniel's.

"I do not wish another servant, Daniel. And I have no harem, as you have seen. I wish only for a soulmate. One who will see eternity with me. I believe you are that person. I was drawn to your beauty, and the intelligence that surrounds you, Daniel. What will it take for your Colonel to release you?"

Soft breath, earnest brown eyes -- God, Daniel could so easily lose himself here and now. Give himself over to the gentle words and promises. Even though Aben had yet to touch him, he felt his body leaning forward, his head tilting up to receive the kiss that appeared to be imminent. Except.

Except ... the brown eyes were the wrong brown eyes.

With greater regret than he would have believed possible, Daniel stepped back.

"The only person who can release me -- is me. I am the only one responsible for my life and where I choose to live it, Aben."

Aben smiled tenderly, but wisely made no move toward Daniel. Instead, he said quietly, "Then choose to live it here, Daniel, with me. My world is simple, but there is so much for you to explore, to learn and to teach. I will show you this planet, I will give you my world."

Daniel's mind was tumbling around with thoughts and he was having difficulty thinking straight. Would it be so bad? So wrong to give himself over to Aben and his promises? He was no stranger to relationships with men, and obviously the Sadaqans had no issues with homosexuality, but still--

//Isn't this everything you want, Daniel?//

God, yes. He was fucking hungry for it, his body dying without it. Wants and needs, to *be* wanted and needed? Yes, he wanted it. Did he owe the SGC anything anymore? Or his own world?

Again Aben sensed his wavering and moved closer, still wise enough not to touch. "Daniel--"

He got no further as Jack O'Neill stepped inside the pyramid.

"Daniel? Everything okay?"

Part 3

Jack must have checked every single room in the huge tent. Nothing. No Daniel, no Aben. He headed outside. Once free of the noise and people of the tent, he spotted what could only be the footprints left by Daniel's bare feet.

He began to follow them.

As he walked, flickering torches lighting his way, his anger with Daniel grew. The farther he walked, the more unreasonable his ire. Daniel had no business wandering off with a strange man, in a strange land. No sir. And when he found his wayward archaeologist, he'd give him a piece of his mind, oh yeah.

Question was; did he have any pieces left? He'd given a whole lot to Daniel lately. He was betting that he was almost out.

Okay, so he'd just beat the crap out of him.

Whoa. Where did that come from? The last person in the world he'd want to hurt was Daniel. The very last person.

"So what *do* you want to do with him?" Jack muttered to himself as he got farther away from the city.

"Go on, admit it, O'Neill," he encouraged. "You know exactly what you want to do with your archaeologist."

"Shut the fuck up."


Wait, didn't the old saying about talking to yourself say that you weren't insane unless you started answering yourself?

"Whoa, boy, you're in trouble now."

Jack bit his lip to keep from answering.

His knees told him he was walking uphill and he decided he'd better check out his surroundings.

Oh, great. A giant sand dune. But hey, at least he was on a path and by the look of the prints, he was following in Daniel's foot steps. He kept going and when he crested the dune, he looked down.

Well, whaddya know, a pyramid. Daniel must be in heaven.

From where he stood, he could see the entrance, thanks to the slight golden glow given off by torches inside the structure. He started down.

Jack paused at the entrance, for some reason unwilling to show himself. But he had no difficulty seeing Aben and Daniel. They were standing only a few feet apart and not speaking. What they were doing was staring -- at each other. If Jack hadn't known better, he'd have guessed that they were in the middle of a very intimate moment. But Jack knew better. Right? Right.

Whatever the hell the moment was, Jack found that he couldn't keep his eyes off of Daniel. Thanks to the golden flames of the torches, the cream silk of his pants and vest almost seemed to glow, but not nearly as brightly as Daniel's skin. And Jack could see a great deal of Daniel's skin. Not enough, mind you, but a whole hell of a lot. Pale, inviting, luminous--

Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he heard Aben's deep voice, sultry and soft, saying only one word, "Daniel."

The pure bolt of anger and jealousy that hit Jack was actually painful. His fingers automatically rolled into fists and he could hear his teeth grinding. All because of one spoken word: Daniel.

Damn it, NO ONE had the right to say Daniel's name like that -- except Jack O'Neill. Got it? Good.

But anger wouldn't impress Daniel or Aben al San. Jack forced himself to relax. He rolled his shoulders, then rotated his head on his neck. Loose. he needed to be loose and unconcerned.

No anger, just simple -- possessiveness.

He stepped inside.

At the sound of Jack's voice, Daniel spun around, shocked. "Jack?"


"Uh, um, Aben was just showing me--"

Jack's grin was deceptively easy as he said, "His etchings, perhaps?"

Daniel's face screwed up in that ever so cute expression that said he wasn't sure what the hell you'd just said, but he was pretty sure he didn't like it, but wasn't sure why.

"Uh, Jack--"

Jack sauntered over to a case holding a huge sword. He whistled. "Sweet. Very sweet."

Daniel, still confused, walked over to Jack's side. "It's a scimitar. Aben was telling me about it. Apparently it's the one used by--"

Jack ignored Daniel and turned to Aben, who now stood next to Daniel, looking at only Daniel. Jack smiled that deceptive smile again.

"Daniel, translate for me, all right?"

"Well, actually--"

Jack ignored Daniel again and began speaking to Aben.

"I'm betting you wouldn't appreciate it, Aben, if I were to say, touch this, right? I mean, I'm allowed to look, but not touch, right?"

Brown eyes regarded Jack thoughtfully.

"Uh, Jack?" Daniel said again.

"Am I right, Aben?" Jack persisted."This sword is obviously very special to you and to your people, right?"

Aben nodded. "Yes, Colonel O'Neill, it is."

Jack turned slowly and faced Aben. "You speak English."

"Jack, that's what I was trying to tell you."

"That makes this easier, Aben," Jack said as if Daniel hadn't spoken. "So I'm right about the sword--"

"Scimitar," Daniel corrected automatically.

"Aren't I?"

"Yes, Colonel O'Neill, you are."

"Of course I am. And I wouldn't dream of touching this 'scimitar', just as I wouldn't expect you to touch something of value to me."

"I understand. However, I do not believe that which I wish to touch, is of any value to you, Colonel O'Neill."

The two men were now facing each other, Daniel in the middle. They were talking through him, although, to be fair, Aben was talking over him.

Daniel felt as though he'd somehow missed something important, but was at a loss as to what it might be.

Jack's next words were no help in finding what Daniel was obviously missing.

"You are not equipped to judge what I hold of value and what I don't, Aben.

"I have eyes that can see, ears that can hear. You, the Jaffa, even the woman, all great warriors. We have been told your heart is good, Colonel O'Neill. We have been told the woman is dangerous but wise, and would bring pride to Allah. We have been told that the Jaffa is honorable and strong, and we have been told that which you say you value, is less than nothing, here merely to translate.

"He kneels behind you, does he not? You treat him as the Bernais treat their slaves. As dirt. No, Colonel, you do not value him. But I do and am willing to trade for him."

Daniel was fast catching up. He had never enjoyed the Twilight Zone.

"Aben, I have already told you, you cannot trade for me. I belong to no one."

"Daniel, stay out of this."

Daniel cocked his head, arched his eyebrow. "Excuse me, Jack? Did you say, 'stay out of this'?"

With his eyes fixed on Aben, Jack said quietly, "Yes. I'm your commanding officer and I said -- stay-out-of-this."

"Oh, of course. So sorry, Jack," Daniel said snidely. Then he bowed, touched his hand to his head, heart, and abdomen, then began to back out of the pyramid. "I am about to become very out of this." Once outside, he turned on his heel and headed back to the city. From there, he'd pack, then make his way to the Stargate and home. Enough was enough and he'd had enough.

Aben watched Daniel leave and hid his smile. O'Neill was a fool. Aben would not have to purchase Daniel, Daniel would come to him now. He turned back to the man who was no longer his adversary.

Jack stared at the spot where Daniel had been but a moment ago. Somehow, he'd screwed up. Again. But damn if he knew how.

Okay, maybe he'd gone a bit over the top, maybe a bit -- territorial, but hell, the guy had been talking about buying Daniel, fer crying out loud. That just wasn't normal. How the hell was he supposed to react?

"They have been gone quite a long time, Major Carter. We should be worried."

Carter turned her attention from the overly friendly warrior next to her, to Teal'c. She was grateful for the interruption, she'd been ready to punt kick the guy.

"Maybe we should go looking for them?" she said hopefully.

"I think that would be wise, Major Carter."

She started to rise, but the persistent soldier grabbed her arm, thus yanking her back down. She narrowed her eyes, but before she could say anything, a large dark hand landed on top of the warrior's.

"You may look, but do not touch Major Carter again, or I will have to break your arm," Teal'c said in his most benevolent voice.

Teal'c and threats apparently transcended all languages. The man dropped his hand instantly. Slowly, Sam rose, straightening her robes as she did. "That was -- chivalrous -- Teal'c. And completely unnecessary."

"This I know, Major Carter. I was only protecting the man from you."

Sam had to look up at Teal'c again in order to catch the smile. As they started out of the room, she said, hiding her own grin, "Wise move, Teal'c."

"I thought so, Major Carter."

Daniel made it back to the city in record time, his anger and yes, embarrassment, fueling his steps. Once in his room, he stripped out of the pants and vest and into his own clothing. Then he searched for his pack, and finding it, hefted it over his shoulder. Time to head out. The Emerald City was getting very uncomfortable.

Two steps took him to the flap, but there he paused.

Okay, they were on a mission. He couldn't very well step through the 'gate, announce to General Hammond that he'd left his teammates behind and that he was resigning, then go on his merry way. Not professional, definitely not the right thing to do.

"God damn it," Daniel said in exasperation. With a heavy heart, he turned back, dumped his pack, and sank down onto the bed of pillows.

Jack started after Daniel, but Aben's voice halted his forward movement.

"You have lost him."

Jack's shoulders straightened. Slowly he turned back. "Like Hell I have. And you never had him." With that, Jack almost ran out of the pyramid.

His robe and the sand severely hampered his efforts to run, but he persevered. As he approached the main tent, Teal'c and Carter were exiting.

"Teal'c, did you see Daniel?"

"No, O'Neill. In fact, Major Carter and I were about to look for both of you."

Catching his breath, Jack said, "He was ahead of me. I'm sure he's in his quarters now. I'll go--you two--" He paused, took several deep breaths, then said, "Carter, you may want to head over to that giant dune we spotted in the pictures sent by the UAV. There's a pyramid at the bottom, and inside, a pretty nifty weapon, by all accounts."

Sam looked up at Teal'c, who simply shrugged.

"Sir, what about Daniel?"

"Oh, I'll take care of him. I believe he's sharing quarters with Moussaf."

Jack was about to enter the tent when Teal'c stopped him. "O'Neill, if I may have a moment with you?" He inclined his head away from Carter.

Jack gazed from the tent opening to Teal'c, then back again.

"It is important, O'Neill."

With an aggravated sigh. Jack nodded. "Fine, fine. Let's take a short walk."

Leaving Carter, who was clearly curious, but not about to ask, Jack and Teal'c moved several feet away.

"What is it, Teal'c?" Jack asked when he felt they were out of ear shot.

"Are you aware of Dear Abby, O'Neill?"

Nonplused. Only word for Jack's reaction to that question. He couldn't even formulate a wisecrack.

"DanielJackson used to read to me from Dear Abby. He felt it would aid me in understanding the interactions of humans."

"Okay," Jack was finally able to say, "that sounds like Daniel."

"Yes. He also watched Oprah with me."

"You're going somewhere with this, aren't you?"

"I believe so. It is time you were honest in your feelings regarding DanielJackson. Others will feel high regard for our friend, will see what we both see, and will desire him. He will not wait for you forever, O'Neill. He will not remain alone forever. His soul cries out for its mate. If you do not act, trust me when I say that others will."

Once over the shock of those words coming from Teal'c, Jack realized that arguing would be useless. Besides, there was a look about Teal'c, a dark sadness in his eyes, that silenced any attempt at denial. In the face of Teal'c's obvious feelings for Daniel, Jack could no more hide his than Daniel could avoid a nifty artifact on some God forsaken planet.

Eyes telegraphing his understanding, Jack said simply, "I think I'll just go have a nice talk with Daniel."

"That would be wise."

As Jack disappeared inside the tent, Teal'c rejoined Major Carter, but his thoughts were on DanielJackson.

The more Daniel thought back over the strang exchange in the pyramid, the more he realized that it he'd been part of a triangle. As he contemplated this novel idea, his posture took on a decidedly upbeat configuration. Instead of slumping down in the pillows, hanging his head and rubbing his thighs miserably, he was straightening up, cocking his head and rubbing his hands in anticipation. In anticipation of what, he wasn't yet sure. But still -- a triangle was a triangle.

Jack -- Daniel -- Aben.

Aben leaning, promising. Daniel almost leaning, almost accepting. Then like the proverbial spider; along came Jack. And didn't the man do a remarkable job of insinuating himself between the two leaners? Hadn't Jack implied that Aben should keep his hands to himself?


Which meant -- a triangle.

So he was the what? Um -- hell if he knew. And Jack? Well, the more he thought about it, the more Jack had sounded -- possessive. Of Daniel. That was kind of unusual. Kind of very unusual.

Even more unusual was the fact that Daniel had -- liked it.

No, Daniel *loved* it.

Well, I'll be damned, he thought.

Daniel realized that he was getting kind of excited. Excited at the idea of being someone's. Of belonging to someone, as odd as that sounded. And it was looking as though that someone was, of all people, Jack.

Suddenly Daniel had legs of pudding.


Daniel's head shot up as Jack nearly skidded into the room. He watched Jack as he took in the fact that Daniel was back in his SGC uniform, that his pack was on the floor a few feet from him, and that he was wearing his booney.

"Um, going somewhere?"

Daniel thought of standing, but pudding legs would probably embarrass him. "Um, no, Jack, I'm not."

"You changed," Jack said needlessly.

"So observant," Daniel said dryly.

"But you're not thinking of going anywhere?"

Daniel gave a little sigh, then decided to take the bull by the horns -- or whatever he could take of Jack's.

"You were acting pretty odd back in the pyramid, Jack. And to tell the truth, before I really sat down and thought it out, I was ready to just chuck it all and head back to the 'Gate. But then, like I said, I thought about it."

Jack, faced with Daniel, found his well-thought out words fading. He drew on his "I'm the commanding officer" persona, and while fiddling with his robe, said cooly, "Odd? I don't think I acted odd. You take off, an act expressly forbidden in the SG-1 Rule Book, by the way. I follow you, SOP in the SG-1 Rule Book, and I find you in a compromising position with an alien. Also expressly forbidden in the SG-1 Rule Book."

"Jack, we don't have a rule book. And since when is standing a compromising position?"

"We do too have a rule book, I wrote it years ago. And standing can very compromising, under certain circumstances. Like tonight. In that pyramid. With Aben. Who was seconds away from a liplock."

"Did you share this rule book? Because if you had, I'm certain I'd have read it. Of course, after reading it, I would have--"

"Tossed it."

"Tossed it. But I would have read it."

"And after tossing it, you would have ignored it. Which is why I didn't give you a copy. Although, I wrote it for you specifically. You being the one who tends to go off all the time, not to mention that you're the one always standing in compromising positions."

"Jack, I do not run off. I have never run off. I stand all the time and it's been years since I stood in a position that could even remotely be considered compromising."

"You run off, Daniel. You ran off tonight. I rest my case. You were standing next to Aben and about to join him in a liplock, I rest my case again." This was certainly fun, Daniel decided. But it wasn't getting him anywhere near a compromising position with Jack. He got up and walked over to where Jack stood fiddling with his robe. He was cute when he was fiddling, but Daniel figured there were a couple of other things he might want Jack to fiddle with. He stopped when he was approximately the same distance from Jack as he'd been from Aben just before Jack had interrupted them. He spread out his arms.

"Well, Jack, am I standing in a compromising position now?"

Daniel watched Jack swallow hard. He'd also stopped fiddling. "Jack?" Daniel took another step closer and went in for the kill. "Am I, Jack?"

"Well," Jack said, his gaze fixed on Daniel's lips, "if Aben were here, I'd say -- yes."

"Maybe you'd better explain why. I'm obviously missing something."

Daniel did a mental cheer when he spotted a very predatory gleam in Jack's eyes.

"Fine, Daniel. A lesson in the fine art of compromising positions. As a point of order, this lesson can be found in chapter four of the SG-1 Rule Book. Now, if I were Aben, this is what I could do, once you're standing in this--"

"Compromising position?" Daniel offered helpfuly.

"Exactly. So here you two are, and all he'd need to do is this--"

Jack leaned in and pressed his lips lightly against Daniel's. After a couple of heartbeats, he pulled back and said, "See? Compromising."

Daniel licked his lips and watched Jack's eyes follow the movement of his tongue. Hiding his smile, he observed, "That seemed pretty -- harmless -- to me, Jack."

"Yes, well, that's because I haven't demonstrated compromising position number two."

Daniel waited, one eyebrow arched.

Jack leaned in again and rested his mouth against Daniel's now deliciously moist lips. Then he nudged at Daniel's mouth with his tongue. He was so startled when Daniel's mouth opened to him, that he jumped back.

"Wha' the hell?!"

Looking every inch the innocent man, Daniel said, "Something wrong, Jack?"

Suspicious brown eyes narrowed."Daniel?" "What?"

"What just happened here?"

Daniel bit his lower lip, examined the top of the tent, then said, "I think I just put one over on you, actually."

"You're on to me, aren't you?"

Daniel nodded. "On to you, and more importantly, on to myself."

"I'm thinking I should be grateful to Aben."

"I'm thinking you should be grateful to me."

"Give me an hour."

Daniel smiled. "Okay."

"So we're about to become -- something, aren't we?"

"God, I hope so, Jack. Although all pity should be reserved for me."

One eyebrow arched. "Oh, really?"

"Admit it. You're -- irascible."

"You're incorrigible."

"That beats irascible every time, Jack." "But I'm not irascible."

"You are. You can be."

"Only with you."

"So glad to know that I bring out the best in you, Jack," Daniel said dryly.

Jack's eyes softened as he brought his hand up and tenderly caressed Daniel's face. "My fault, not yours," he said gently. "Horny Colonel in denial equals irascible Colonel."

A few words, a great deal of truth, and Daniel realized, a heartfelt apology for so much gone wrong between them. He leaned into the warm hand even as his own hand began to undo the buttons on Jack's silk shirt. He decided to let his eyes and his actions convey his apology and his love.

They managed to get their clothes off without ripping anything, then with lips attached, the two men stumbled back to the mound of pillows. As they dropped down, they laughed, the sound expressing their nervousness as well as the freedom that came with finally realizing a dream.

Jack was on the bottom and as Daniel pulled back, Jack smiled. To Daniel, he looked like a small boy on Christmas morning, and he wondered if he was giving off that same glowing joy. He wouldn't doubt it, he was certainly feeling it.

"You know how beautiful you are, Daniel?"

Daniel had been about to demonstrate that Jack wasn't the only flyboy on SG-1 by conducting a dive bombing raid on Jack's lips, but Jack's words stopped him cold.


Jack laughed outright. "Oh, yeah," he finally said after choking back even more laughter, "that was eloquently said, my little linguist."

Daniel harrumphed, then took one of Jack's hands and guided it down to his groin. "Little, Jack? I don't think so." "Well, who knew you could be so bold, Daniel?"

Daniel growled low in his chest, then said, "You haven't seen bold yet, Jack. Best fasten your seat belt, Flyboy."

Part 4

Sam entered her room and without preamble, began to strip. She was frustrated by the fact that Aben had met she and Teal'c halfway to the great dune and then proceeded to tell them that they would be shown the pyramid tomorrow.

Now, alone in her quarters, Sam felt much as she would if the man of her dreams had been playing her like a violin, and the bow had snapped in two. At least the Colonel had found Daniel, according to Teal'c.

Now there was one conversation she wouldn't want to overhear. She expected the Colonel would really lay into poor Daniel. Sam felt guilty about that and wondered vaguely if she should put some clothes back on and make an attempt to intercede on Daniel's behalf? Shaking her head at that idea, knowing full well she'd probably only make matters worse, she flopped down on the pillows and listened to the sounds of Aben's camp.

God, she hoped the Colonel and Daniel would be able to patch things up. She knew that Teal'c feared that if the tension between the Colonel and Daniel didn't improve, that Daniel would leave the SGC. And to be quite frank with herself, if with no one else, she believed it too

Sam sat up when the truth hit her: She'd be as responsible for Daniel leaving as Jack, if it happened.

Aw, God, she should have been more responsive to Daniel, more open to what he'd been trying to tell them about Reese. But no, she'd gone on and on about Reese being nothing more than a machine, that all she would ever be was a machine. In reality though, Reese exhibited the same signs as Urgo, with regard to being a sentient being.

How many times in the last five years had Daniel tried to show them that the universe was bigger than humans? That humans weren't the be all and end all? That what a species looked like, or where a species originated, had little bearing on their worth?

Too many times to count.

Yet, she'd persisted in her blindness where Reese had been concerned.

Sam had always known that she and Daniel came at life and science from vastly different perspectives. She also understood that thanks to Daniel, she'd begun to think outside of the box, to stretch old beliefs and concepts. So why hadn't she listened to Daniel about Reese? Supported him? And did she really want to know the answer?

No. The answer might tell her more about herself than she was willing to admit.

Suddenly exhausted, Sam rubbed at her eyes. She needed to have a talk with Daniel.

Daniel. More of a brother to her than Mark had ever been. No, that wasn't right. Mark had tried to be a good brother, but Sam had never really let him in, choosing instead to compete with him.

Sam dropped her head into her hands. Aw, God. Competing. That's what she'd been doing with Daniel. Competing. And the competition had been completely one-sided.

She rose quickly and dressed, her only thought to talk with Daniel -- now.

Teal'c was restless. The room he shared with O'Neill felt more like a prison than a place to rest, to practice his Kel-no-reem. He hoped O'Neill was still with DanielJackson, still talking and attempting to make things right. The lack of O'Neill in this room bore out the likelihood that the two men were, indeed, still conversing. But to what end? Teal'c needed to find out, to reassure himself that O'Neill had truly been able to share his inner thoughts with DanielJackson.

A few moments later, he approached the room that was Moussaf's -- and found Major Carter approaching from the opposite end. Her expression spoke of a need that Teal'c doubted could be met tonight. Already he could hear sounds coming from the room that told him O'Neill had been successful in sharing more than just his feelings.

Teal'c moved quickly to the Major's side.


Placing a finger to his lips, he indicated with a nod of his head that they should move away. With a puzzled expression on her face, Sam followed him.

"Colonel O'Neill and DanielJackson are still -- talking -- Major Carter. I believe we would be wise to leave them alone for now."

A small smile tugged at her lips. "So what were you doing here, Teal'c?"

"I simply wished to reassure myself that all was well between our friends."

"Ah." Sam glanced over Teal'c's shoulder, a frown replacing her smile.

"You came for another reason, did you not, Major?"

Eyes still on the Daniel's room, Sam nodded carefully. "I -- need to speak with Daniel, to explain -- to apologize--"

"Major Carter, do you truly think that DanielJackson believes any apology from you is necessary?"

"Probably not, but I do."

"Tomorrow is inevitable, is it not?"

Sam looked up at Teal'c then, and smiled again. "Yes, it is, and thank you, Teal'c. Good night."

The Jaffa watched Sam walk away, then he turned and headed back to the room. The curtain that separated Moussaf's quarters from the rest of the tent moved gently and Teal'c could catch glimpses of the room beyond -- and the bed.

From his vantage point, he could see pale skin gleaming with sweat, strong legs wrapped around O'Neill's waist, and one of DanielJackson's slender hands stroking through O'Neill's hair.

Face impassive, Teal'c watched a moment more, then squared his shoulders and walked away.

Jack cracked open one eye and found himself staring at Daniel's face. Nice way to wake up in the morning, he thought with a smile. Very nice. To aid him in staring at Daniel's face, he opened the other eye. God, he thought, Daniel really is beautiful, by anyone's standards.

Jack removed his hand from Daniel's hip and slowly traced gently over one eyebrow, then down the side of Daniel's face, over the perfect nose, down to the delicious lips, then across the square jaw. Yep, beautiful. And his. All his.

Daniel moved slightly, his lips parting as he sighed, then dug his head deeper into the pillow. Jack couldn't resist. He kissed him.

"Mmm," Daniel murmured sleepily into Jack's mouth.

Blue eyes opened to stare into smiling browns. Jack reluctantly left Daniel's lips, then said, "Morning, sunshine. How do you like my alarm clock?"

"Nice. Very nice. You're hired. From now on, I expect to be awakened in exactly the same manner."

"From now on?" Jack asked, his eyes on Daniel's mouth.

"From now on. You got a problem with that?"

Jack grinned and shook his head. "Not at all. I'm yours to command."

Daniel gave an elegant little snort. "Right. Sure, you betcha."

"You have got to stop stealing my lines, Danny. And we'd better get up and I'd better get to my room before we alert--" Daniel was already moving. "Gotcha. Up and at 'em."

Jack took a moment to enjoy the view afforded him by a naked moving Daniel. God, his life was really looking up. When this mission was over, he and Daniel were in for some serious downtime. Together, naked, in a very large and comfortable bed. Of course, then they'd need downtime from their downtime. Jack wondered if General Hammond would understand?

Probably not.

Sam was up and dressed early, eager to see the pyramid and somehow find time to talk with Daniel. Asheida had arrived bearing breakfast and the smell of the coffee and breads convinced Sam to slow down and smell -- well, the coffee.

By the time she'd downed the thick, sweet coffee and half the earthy bread, Asheida was there with more. This time she'd added fruit. Sam might have waved her off if Teal'c hadn't followed Asheida in.

"Teal'c, you've got to help me eat this," Sam said as she waved her arm at the array of food.

"That was my intent, Major. Asheida is going to collect -- DanielJackson -- and he and the Colonel will be here shortly. According to Moussaf, Aben will meet us by the path to the great dune in one hour."

"My," Sam said after swallowing a chunk of warm bread, "you've been busy."

Teal'c nodded, then sat down cross-legged opposite Sam. He reached for a small fragile cup and Sam poured the coffee for him. He was just taking his first sip when the Colonel and Daniel arrived.

"Okay, now we know where breakfast went. Move over Teal'c," Jack said as he led Daniel to the low table. Teal'c made room and both men sat down.

"Sir? Neither you nor Daniel are in the clothing provided us by the Sadaqans."

"You're quick this morning, Major. And as soon as we're done stuffing our faces, both you and Teal'c can change back into our regulation desert uniforms. We're going to meet Aben, let you drool over the weapon, then we're heading home in order to turn this planet over to whichever SG unit Hammond believes would be best suited to continuing our relations with the Sadaqans."

Sam looked over at Daniel, who, with his mouth full, simply shrugged and grinned. Okay, what's going on here? Sam let her gaze move from her commanding officer, to Daniel, then back again. And was that a -- hickey -- on the Colonel's neck?

Her eyes widened. Damn, it *was* a hickey. And if she wasn't mistaken, Daniel was sporting the twin on his neck. She let her gaze travel up until she was looking into Daniel's eyes. What she saw twinkling in the blue depths, drove any worries from her mind. He was smiling at her, his eyes sharing the truth and asking a question.

Slowly, she smiled back and nodded. Her little brother was going to be just fine, she realized, and so were the two of them. But man, when they got home, she was going to need some serious downtime, and a man. Oh, yeah.

Sam walked around the pedestal, eyeing the scimitar. How could this simple sword defeat the Goa'uld?

"Notice the green tint to the metal, Sam?" Daniel asked.

She nodded, but before she could say anything, Daniel went on.

"No one knows what it's made of, only that tje material was stolen from the Goa'uld to create it."

That got Sam's attention. Her gaze skipped over to Aben. "May we touch it?" she asked.

Aben, who'd been standing at the entrance, arms folded across his chest, eyes on Daniel, shook his head. "I'm afraid not. No one may. If you reach out to try, you'll see what I mean."

Sam, unable to resist such a dare, reached out a finger. As she was about to touch the glass that surrounded the scimitar, sparks flew and she quickly withdrew her hand.

"Carter? You hurt?" Jack asked as he moved quickly to her side.

"No, not at all. There seems to be an energy field surrounding the case."

"We do not know how it's protected, only why," Aben stated. "As I shared with Daniel, Al-Marrakushi will return and only he can touch the sword. Only he can unlock its strength."

Daniel stepped forward then, and noticed that Jack hovered by his side as he approached Aben. "How exactly did Al-Marrakushi leave? And why?"

"It is said that the great rings of Allah came for him. They surrounded him and in a flash of golden light, he was gone."

The members of SG-1 looked at each other, all recognizing the "great rings of Allah" as that of Goa'uld transport rings. They had the same thought, except Daniel, who said softly, "Tok-ra."

Sam moved closer to the case. "Teal'c, come here. Tell me if you feel what I do?"

Teal'c did as requested, then with a surprised look, nodded. "Naquada."

"Exactly," Sam confirmed.

Daniel took a deep breath, then faced their host. "Aben, if we can find a way to -- study -- this weapon, without removing it from--"

"Daniel?" Jack interrupted.


Jack rolled his eyes, then waved his hand at Daniel, giving him silent permission to continue.

"So, Aben, as I was saying, would you allow it? I believe it may aid us in our battle against the Goa'uld, as it aided your ancestors in their fight for freedom."

Aben's eyes narrowed as he regarded the man he wanted. It had been evident that morning, from the moment he'd seen Daniel and his Colonel together, that Aben had indeed lost his bid for Daniel's affections. Now Daniel was asking for something, something only Aben could give. He looked at the beautiful man before him and he could not ignore the new brightness that shown from within.

"There is nothing that says the weapon of Al-Marrakushi cannot be touched. If you can find a way to study it, then it is with honor that I grant you that opportunity, Daniel."

"Thank you, Aben. We will have others come through the Holy Ring to study it, as well as to open negotiations between your world and ours."

Aben, knowing his time with Daniel was coming to a close, bowed his head, then said, "I look forward to such negotiations, Daniel."

Aben and several of his men traveled to the Holy Ring with SG-1. Aben was on horseback and Jack was pretty certain that the reason for the impressive Arabian mount was to show Daniel what he was missing. Jack made a mental note to show Daniel had good *he* looked on horseback. Not that he was insecure, or anything. No, sir, not Colonel Jack O'Neill.

While Carter punched the correct symbols, the Sadaqans stood, or sat, and waited. Aben's eyes never left Daniel. For the briefest moment, Jack almost felt sorry for the man.

The 'Gate came to life, more good-byes were said, then SG-1 moved to walk through. At the last moment, Daniel turned and lifted a hand to Aben. The Sadaqan leader brought his horse up on its hind legs and lifted his arm. As Daniel stepped through the 'Gate, he heard Jack mutter, "Show off."

"SG-4 will continue negotiations with the Sadaqans, as well as attempt to study this scimitar you mentioned, Colonel. SG-9 and 12 will continue to explore the planet and see if negotiations with the Bernais are possible as well." Hammond rose and closed his file. "Good job, SG-1. This time, we might actually have something.

"I don't want to see any of you anywhere near the SGC for the next week. Is that clear?"

"General? Permission to accompany SG-2 back to the planet? I'd really like to get my hands on that sword, Sir."

Hammond glanced over at O'Neill, who shrugged and said, "Why not, Sir?"

"In that case, Major Carter, you have permission." With raised eyebrows, Hammond then looked over at Daniel expectantly.

"Ah, Sir? I think Doctor Jackson could really use the downtime. Right, Daniel?" Jack asked innocently.

"What? Oh. Yes, definitely. I can really use the -- downtime. A week away is -- will -- work for me, Sir."

The General, satisfied, turned to Teal'c. "Teal'c, perhaps you'd like to visit your son?"

"That would be most pleasurable, General Hammond. Thank you."

"Very well. Dismissed, SG-1."

"Danny? You ready yet?" Jack asked as he walked into Daniel's office.

"Give me two minutes, Jack. Just need to finish this email, then we're good to go."

"God, you're starting to sound so military, Daniel. It's a real turn-on, by the way."

"Yeah?" Daniel said, eyes fixed on his computer screen. "So, have you completed your preflight checklist, Colonel?"

"Oh, yeah," Jack breathed out.

Laughing, Daniel hit 'send', then powered off and stood up. He grabbed his jacket, then said, "Well then, your mission, should you choose to accept it--"

"Oh, man, I *loved* Mission Impossible," Jack exclaimed.

"Well, this mission is a done deal. Come on, Flyboy."

Laughing, they headed out into the hall and toward the elevator.

Teal'c stepped out of his room, his intended destination, the 'Gate room and ultimately, his son. Ahead of him, stood O'Neill and -- DanielJackson. Teal'c waited until the elevator opened and the two men stepped inside. When the elevator shut, Teal'c moved toward the second one. He stepped inside and "One". A few minutes later he found himself watching DanielJackson and Colonel O'Neill walking toward their cars.

The two men were walking very close together, arms and shoulders touching. They were laughing. Teal'c concentrated on the shorter of his friends.

The sun was bright, its glow dancing off DanielJackson's hair. Teal'c could imagine what that hair would feel like under his fingers, but such a thought was no longer his to have. He could look, certainly, but touching was no longer even a dream.

Slowly, Teal'c turned and went back into the mountain. Downtime and his son awaited.