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Puff, the New Year Cream

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Puff, the New Year Cream by Sideburns

 

"UNAUTHORIZED GATE ACTIVATION!"

The words rang through the compound, partnered with the rotating red lights. Hammond hurried into the control room just as Davis yelled out, "IT'S SG-1!"

Since his flagship team had only left a mere five hours ago, this sudden return did not bode well. He headed down to the 'Gate room where he found himself rushing in a few steps ahead of Janet Frasier and her team. Leave it to his CMO to figure out she'd be needed.

The wormhole shot out, settled, and was quickly followed by Teal'c, his arms full. George looked at what he could see of the man in Teal'c's arms, basically nothing more than limp limbs, and prayed Doctor Jackson was alive. He barely had time to worry though, because right behind Teal'c, and obviously protecting his six, was Major Carter. Teal'c rushed down the ramp to carefully deposit his teammate and a moment later, the final member of the team exploded onto the ramp, back to the room, yelling "CLOSE THE IRIS!" even as he continued to fire his P-90.

At the same moment, two staff blasts whooshed overhead, forcing everyone to duck. The blasts impacted the far wall just as the iris swirled shut. The sudden silence was broken by the thud of two more blasts as they hit the iris.

Still wary, Hammond straightened and turned his attention once again to his best team . and received the shock of his life as a panting Daniel whirled around, eyes searching for -- and finding - his fallen commanding officer. He dropped Jack's P-90 and hurried down the ramp to kneel next to Teal'c. He made an aborted attempt to reach out before asking, "How-"

"I need all of you to stand back," Frasier barked out as she and her people tried to get close enough to their patient to ascertain his condition.

Sam took Daniel's arm and, as he stood unsteadily, pulled him back and out of the way. Teal'c rose even as he said, "We were attempting to climb back up towards the platform that housed the Stargate and a staff blast dislodged O'Neill. He fell approximately thirty feet."

Janet was already assessing, and at Teal'c's words, nodded. Teal'c stepped back next to his teammates and waited while a still surprised Hammond joined them.

Five minutes later, IV attached, Jack was lifted onto a gurney and wheeled out. Hammond looked at the remaining members of SG-1 and said, "Infirmary, people. Let's get you checked out."

Looking shell-shocked, all three nodded.

***

Following the usual tests to ensure that no snakes had hitchhiked their way into the SGC via a member of SG-1, all three were examined for injuries. Teal'c was fine, Sam had a few scrapes and bruises, and Daniel, unbeknownst to any of them until one of the nurses discovered it, had a minor knife wound to his left arm. He'd evidently taken on a Jaffa warrior in hand-to-hand combat in order to give Teal'c the opportunity to get down to their injured leader.

Two hours after their spectacular exit from the Stargate, three members of SG-1 sat just outside the Infirmary, waiting for news. They'd already had their briefing with Hammond and had explained the surprise attack and the natives that had been fearful enough of the Goa'uld to support them in said attack. The final consensus was that P3Y-982 was officially a lost cause. As SG-1 had filed out of the room, Hammond had held Daniel back long enough to tell him what an excellent job he'd done. Daniel had been embarrassed, ducked his head in a typical gesture for him, and had hurried to the Infirmary.

Now he sat uncomfortably, shifting slightly in order to adjust the sling, and wince. Damn, what was taking her so long? But, of course, Jack would be fine. This was, after all, Jack. He was damn near invincible. A hand on his good arm brought him back from his thoughts and he found himself looking into blue eyes much like his own.

"He's going to be fine, isn't he, Daniel?"

"Of course. We're talking about Jack here, you know?"

"He didn't look good," she said softly.

"Rolling down a hill will do that to a guy, Sam. Trust me, Jack is going to be fine."

"Indeed he will, Samantha Carter."

"It's hard to believe that yesterday we were all sitting around his Christmas tree drinking his horribly spiked eggnog and singing carols."

Daniel smiled at the memory as he said, "I thought the eggnog was pretty good, Sam."

"He gave you the plain stuff. Said if one beer could do you in, there was no way you were having anything stronger."

Daniel knuckled his glasses back up and frowned. "That's not fair. I can hold my liquor. now."

Sam grinned and patted his thigh. "I know, Daniel, I know."

Before he could say anything else, Janet walked out, a smile on her face. All three practically jumped up, causing her to raise a hand to forestall the barrage of questions she knew would follow. "He's fine. Bruised, has a concussion, a sprained right wrist, and a twisted knee that will probably be the more painful. He's going to be here for a while, though, thanks to the knee. Right now, he's sleeping, but I suspect he'll be happy as a clam to wake up and find all of you staring down at him, so Sam, Teal'c, you can come back in about six hours." She looked hard at Daniel. "And you, Doctor Jackson, are to sack out either in my Infirmary or in your room. No work until tomorrow."

He gave her a mock salute and asked, "Is there a bed near Ja-"

"Yes, and it has your name on it. Go," she answered with a smile.

He got up, looked down at Sam and Teal'c, and said, "See you guys later. Like in six hours."

Laughing, her relief palpable, Sam nodded and said to Teal'c, "How 'bout some dinner?"

"I believe they have leftover turkey and stuffing, Major Carter."

Rolling her eyes, Sam took his arm, waved at Daniel and Janet, and led Teal'c toward the elevators.

***

Daniel rested his head back and pulled his glasses off. His arm was actually starting to hurt. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and spent a few moments enjoying the quiet of the room. It was almost eight and the lights were dimmed in deference to the injured and ill. Daniel turned his head and looked over at Jack, who was once again sleeping. He'd awakened, as Janet had promised, and had been happy to find his team healthy and standing by his bed. He'd eyed Daniel's sling only to have Daniel eye his bum leg in retaliation.

In spite of his joy at seeing his team whole and healthy, for the most part, Jack had tired quickly and Sam and Teal'c had left, promising to return the next day. Daniel had stayed a bit longer having noted Jack's disappointment when Janet had told him that he'd be stuck for at least a week and a half - which meant he'd spend New Year's twenty-some-odd floors beneath the Earth's surface. He was scheduled to be moved to a private room in the morning, but still, it all meant no Dick Clark, no football, no pizza, no beer. Jack had not been a happy camper.

Certain that Jack would now sleep through the night, Daniel rose, quietly replaced the chair where it belonged, and headed out. He supposed it was a good thing that he still hadn't found a place to live. Not to mention that the government was painfully slow when it came to resurrecting people from their "drop dead" file. Hell, he still didn't have a driver's license.

Once in his room, he dropped down on the bed, took off the sling, struggled one-handed with his boots, finally got them off, and proceeded to strip down to his boxers and t-shirt. He draped the sling over the corner of the headboard, turned down the bedspread and covers, and climbed in. He turned off the light and thought about Jack's disappointment regarding New Year's.

It was one of Jack's favorite times. No stress, no pressure, pure fun. Daniel knew that when home, the man loved staying up on New Year's Eve and watching the ball drop in Times Square. He thoroughly enjoyed seeing the moment captured around the world while he sat in his lounger with a glass of beer. Jack wasn't one for parties or groups and the most ever invited to celebrate the new year with him numbered exactly three: his team, with the fewest being - one: Daniel. Except for the years Jack had celebrated alone, which had been far more than Daniel liked to think about. This year, Sam would be attending an Academy shindig with Pete, while Teal'c, now assured that Jack was all right, would be going off-world for the next couple of weeks.

Fine, so Daniel would make sure Jack had a great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

No problemo.

***

"Janet, come on, let me do this."

"Daniel-"

"Janet, if this happens, you'll have a very quiet and happy Jack on your hands." He almost sing-songed the promise.

"I don't think yelling at the top of his lungs, 'Go, Michigan, Go!' will be-"

"He's in a private room now," he almost begged. "Come on, please? This is for the man who's saved Earth more times than we can count, Janet." He batted his eyelashes.

"All right, but *no* beer, Daniel. Is that understood?"

Daniel made the "cross my heart and hope to die" motion over his chest and said, "You got it. No beer."

"And a *small* television, right? Volume low?"

"Right, absolutely. Low and small. Portable. Barely visible, hardly there."

"And he goes to bed right after the ball drops and you don't wake him too early - when's the first game?"

"Ten."

"Okay, so bed right after the ball, and up no earlier than say. nine-thirty. Yes?"

He nodded solemnly.

"All right." She started to shoo him out but grabbed his jacket at the last minute and added, "And NO mess, Daniel. No. Mess."

"Mess? Moi?"

"Daniel, you'll be responsible for Colonel O'Neill's . messes."

"Janet, he's bedridden. How much - forget I said that. We're talking Jack."

"Thank you."

***

Jack knew he was pouting, and considering that he was alone in his room, well, it was wasted. But damn it, it was New Year's Eve and he didn't even have a television. Okay, sure, Carter had dropped by, looking rather hot in her slinky red dress, and wasn't it too bad she didn't do it for him anymore? Okay, it wasn't too bad at all, but still, she'd looked pretty damn good. Pete was one lucky bastard.

And damn it, he was alone, in the Infirmary, on New Year's Eve. He was going to miss Dick Clark.

"Hey, careful, guys. Yeah, right in here, that's it, careful.."

Jack sat up and craned his neck to see what the hell was going on just outside - now inside - his room. His eyes widened as two SF's wheeled in a rather large television, a large -- plasma screen -- television.

"Okay, right here, that's it," Daniel directed. The table was wheeled over against the wall opposite Jack's bed. Daniel nodded and said, "Perfect. Thanks, guys."

The two SF's saluted Jack, who barely responded, his eyes glued to the plasma screen. Daniel rubbed his hands together and said cheerily, "Okay, Siler, it's up to you now."

That got Jack's attention. "Daniel?"

"Hey, Jack. How do you like it? Great, huh? And once Siler does his magic, you'll have every bowl game in living color, and Times Square tonight."

Staring at the wires and cables Siler was unraveling, Jack said, "Frasier know about this?"

"Sure does. Got her permission first." Daniel skirted around Siler and pulled up the visitor chair. With a sigh, he dropped down into it. "Man, you don't know what Siler and I went through to find the right set. But find it we did. We'll accept your applause later."

Jack stared at his friend, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. "How-"

"Don't even ask, Jack. And you'd better hope we're not invaded tonight or tomorrow, because what he," he nodded at Siler, "has to do to get that thing to work . well, just don't ask, okay?"

"It will work, Doctor Jackson. Of course, radar screens around the world will show what looks a great deal like a football scrimmage," Siler said as he inserted a yellow cable into the back of the set.

Jack blinked. "Uhm. it would appear that you've been right all these years, Daniel. Siler *does* have a sense of humor."

"Toldcha."

Fifteen minutes later, Siler wiped his hands on a cloth, wiped his brow, and said, "All done. Let's give it a try." He picked up the remote and pushed the power button. A moment went by. and the set flickered on. The picture was crystal clear.

"Wow," Daniel said almost reverently.

"Yeah," Jack said with equal reverence.

With undisguised pride, Siler handed Jack the remote. "Use it wisely, Sir. And be careful. If I did this wrong, you could end up watching SG-11 on PY2-223 negotiating with the Obums."

Jack made a face. "The Obums, they're the tribe that all talk like Ben Stein, right?"

Daniel nodded. "Only. s.l.o.w.e.r."

Jack gave a shiver and said, "Siler, I have the utmost confidence in you. More or less."

Daniel nudged the bed. "More," he coached.

"Right. More. Tons. Loads."

"Thank you, Sir. Enjoy the bowl games and take care," Siler said as he walked out.

Suddenly looking like a kid at Christmas, Jack gleefully pointed the remote at the set and started surfing.

***

"I can't believe you did this, Daniel."

"Hey, we can't have our fearless leader without on New Year's Eve, can we?"

"Fearless leader?" Jack snorted.

Daniel grinned and stretched his legs out in front of him. Half-time for the Sun Bowl was over and the game was about to start again.

As the two teams re-took the field, Jack sniffed the air, caught the whiff of Air Force hospital food, and wrinkled his face. "Dinner," he said in disgust. "Probably rubber chicken and gravy that could hold a stealth fighter together in outer space."

"Good thing you don't have to eat any of it," Daniel said with an air of superiority.

The game had resumed but that didn't stop Jack from looking rather hopefully in Daniel's direction. "I don't?"

"Nope." Daniel checked his watch. "In about thirty minutes, Nyan will be walking in here, arms full of goodies."

Jack sat up. Eyes wide, he said eagerly, "Goodies?"

"Yep. Chicken broth, soda crackers, a nice fruit cup-"

Daniel got no further as one of Jack's pillows smacked him in the face. Laughing, he put it in his lap, readjusted his glasses, and said, "What? You didn't like the fruit cup? I should have him swap it out for cottage cheese and pineapple?"

The other pillow followed the first - with the same accuracy.

***

Jack stared at the boxes. The pizza boxes. Two of them. And the soda bottles - two of them. And the salad boxes. Two of them.

"How many of us again, Daniel?"

"Two."

"That's what I thought. Nyan, you can't stay?"

"Party at Steve's, gotta run. Have fun you two." With that, Nyan ducked out, leaving Daniel and Jack alone.

Daniel opened box number one with a flourish and said, "This half is mushroom, pepperoni and sausage while this half is Hawaiian." He dished up two slices for Jack, one of each, and then piled on the salad and poured a soda for him. "Okay, here you go. Pizza, salad, and the only beer Janet will let you have: root beer."

Jack looked at the spread before him and said, "Why are you doing this?"

In the process of pulling a slice of barbecued chicken pizza out of the other box, Daniel stopped, a trail of cheese hanging in the air between his plate and the box. "What?"

"Why are you doing this, Daniel? You arranged the set, the food; you brought in chips and dips and the buffalo wings I love, and from the look of that cooler over there, we're having more of the same tomorrow, and now the pizza, and I'm asking. why?"

Using his finger to secure the trail of cheese, Daniel said easily, "Why not?"

"Why not ask why or why not. why?"

"Why not why."

"So why not. why?"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Jack, you're my friend."

"So? I'm Lou's friend too and you don't see him here doing all of this, do you?"

"'Cause I paid him *not* to come. You know damn well with him here this place would have gone to hell in a hand basket in the first ten minutes."

"Daniel?"

"What?"

"Hell in a hand basket?"

Daniel picked up the pizza from Jack's plate and stuffed it in the older man's mouth. "Eat."

***

"Damn, we're good. We called that game right," Jack said with great satisfaction.

"Everyone called Minnesota for the Sun Bowl, Jack."

"Spoilsport," Jack grunted into his root beer.

Daniel perused the TV Guide and said, "Okay, until ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, we can watch ESPN, which is showing highlights from last year's Fiesta Bowl."

"Sweet. We were off world for the Fiesta Bowl last year, remember?"

Daniel felt his face heat up and immediately held the TV Guide up and ducked his head.

"What planet were we on again?"

Head still buried, Daniel mumbled, "Don't know."

"Since when don't you.."

There was silence.

"Damn," Jack finally said.

Daniel peeked over the top of the Guide. Jack was scratching his chin and looking miserable. He put the Guide down. "So, good thing they're showing the highlights, eh? For both of us."

"Sorry," Jack said.

"Funny you forgot."

"Uhm. yeah. Seems like. I mean, you know."

"Yeah." He looked back down at the Guide and said, "So ESPN?"

"Yeah, sounds good."

Daniel changed the channel.

***

"You know, you tend to forget the rest of the world down here. and then we watch television and realize forgetting is a good thing," Jack said as they watched the dancing couples on ABC. Jack winced and added, "I swear, women can't really want to look like that, can they? I mean, who really dresses like that, anyway?"

Daniel chuckled. "I'm pretty sure Cassie does, when she can get away with it."

They continued to watch Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, both feeling very old. At eleven forty-eight, they looked at each other and smiled.

"Almost a new year, Daniel."

"Yep."

Jack looked back at the screen, which was showing a long shot of Times Square and, while absently playing with the remote, said, "So. last year, when you were. you know. did you know it was. you know. New Year's?"

Daniel suddenly found a dried spot of pizza sauce on his pants to be very interesting. While he picked at it, he said quietly, "No. I don't think so. Time was kind of . irrelevant. I remember that much."

"Oh. Okay."

At twelve fifty-nine, the ball started its downward run toward the year two thousand and four.

***

"Thanks for tonight, Daniel."

"Hey, it's not like I'm not here already, you know?"

"Oh. Right. So. see you tomorrow. sometime?"

"Well, I am here," Daniel reminded with a grin. "But right now, you'd better get some sleep. I promised Janet that I'd be outta here by five after."

Jack yawned and rested his head back. He *was* tired. But in a very good way. He waved as Daniel gave one last look around to make sure there was no leftover mess before starting out the door.

"Happy New Year, Daniel."

"Happy New Year, Jack."

***

Daniel walked back to his room, his mind full of memories, memories of visiting the Jack, the SGC and SG-1 while ascended. In truth, Daniel knew exactly what planet SG-1 had been on last New Year's Eve: PY2-434, because he'd been there with them. He'd watched Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Jonas while they sat around the campfire talking about past New Year's and explaining the holiday to Jonas, whose own world didn't have the tradition. They'd spent the night - until midnight - sharing the best and the worst, and Daniel had hovered, listening and absorbing.

What Daniel remembered most about what he'd felt that night. was the sadness. A sadness he'd been pretty sure had been a part of Jack as well. And a sadness that was still with both of them even now.

***

Jack was tired but found sleep elusive. He glanced over at the chair Daniel had occupied for most of the evening and imagined he could still see him lounging in it, long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. He didn't understand why Daniel had done all that he'd done. A few years ago, sure, but . things had changed and they weren't the same people. The same friends.

Of course, this *was* Daniel he was thinking about, the guy who just kind of did things for people - except when he was glowing - of course.

But still, what he'd done today - well, hell, maybe for Lou he'd have had pizza brought in, or a radio. And for Teal'c - he'd have meditated with him, and Sam - he'd have made sure Pete got in.

Jack pulled the blanket up a bit and wiggled his head deeper into the pillow. He didn't get it, didn't *get* Daniel, and it was as simple as that.

There was a knot of . of . what, anger? Yeah, anger, still imbedded deep inside of him. Anger over Abydos, Skaara . and so much more. And it didn't take a genius to see that things weren't what they'd been between him and Daniel - because of the anger.

Sure, he'd been overjoyed to see Daniel on Vista whatever. His heart had jumped so hard and so fast, he'd thought - for a minute - that he'd been in the middle of a heart attack. Daniel had looked so damn good, and serious, and lost, and totally without recognition of his teammates, that Jack's heart had then taken a nosedive into his big left toe. They got him back home, his memories had started to resurface, and Jack found a black nugget of coal buried deep in his heart. A nugget of anger and - almost - hatred. Almost. From the moment he'd recognized the lump for what it was, his joy in having Daniel back took a backseat to his frustration with all that Daniel had done - and not done.

He supposed much of his anger was unreasonable. A part of him, the precise, military, organized part of him understood, but the rest of him . and wasn't the rest of him actually the more of him now, thanks to Daniel?

Yes. So the rest of him, the selfish, *human*, male part of him - hated.

Hated the fact that Daniel didn't stop the pain of Ba'al or the bad things that happened while he was ascended. Angry that Daniel hadn't stopped Anubis, thus saving Abydos and Skaara. Why couldn't Daniel have just done . what needed to be done?

Because that wouldn't be Daniel; a man with the weirdest code of honor Jack had ever encountered.

Without thinking, Jack placed his hand over his heart. Was the coal still there? He tried to dredge up the same anger . only to find that there was nothing there - or at least not to the same degree.

Was that all it took to forgive someone for something so horrendous? The guy just had to give him a New Year's Eve? Jesus, what the fuck was wrong with him?

Okay, okay, so. let's talk this through.

What would have happened if Daniel *hadn't* come to him in Ba'al's cell?

The cold sweat he immediately broke out in gave him his answer. Insanity and - or - death. Final death.

But wait - Sam and Teal'c and Jonas. They'd been able to do what needed doing. They'd gotten him out. They'd have gotten him out no matter what.

//Except//

Damn. He hated that word. It hung over him and dangled all sorts of other possibilities.

For instance - except for Daniel's presence, talking to him, arguing with him, giving him hope, Teal'c and Sam and Jonas might have finally rescued him, but what condition would he have been in? Besides. insane?

Except. Teal'c still didn't know how the hell he'd come up with Yu. Hell, even Sam had been surprised by how her mind had worked, suddenly so . unscientific. so. Daniel-like. As for Jonas . well, come on, he was a Daniel wanna-be, but could-never-in-a-million-years-be. Not an original thought in his weird-assed hair-covered brain.

Ah, damn.

Damn, damn, damn.

How nice. All these months and his brain was finally operating on all eight cylinders. How many times had he advised a soldier to keep his anger in check in order to get the job done, see the problem through, and yet he'd failed to do just that - big time.

Truth beat at him, barreling its way through to his stubborn brain. The truth about Abydos and Anubis, and how, without Daniel - Jack rubbed his eyes with his hand as he realized how much Daniel had risked to do what he'd done. In every case. And how Daniel must have driven Oma Desala crazy as he'd outwitted the Others every time - until - the last time.

Ah, God, what had Daniel given up? A world and a life that even now Jack didn't fully understand, but on a gut level knew had been all that Daniel could ever have dreamed of attaining. All the good he must of have done, could still be doing, even for all that he'd been unable to do, and he'd lost it all in trying..

Jack screwed his eyes shut tight but that didn't stop the small bit of moisture from escaping. He didn't stop its journey down his cheek.

Daniel had been Daniel - the same stubborn, brilliant, clever, pull-a-rabbit-out-of-your-hat Daniel that he'd always been. He'd used his brain to help Jack while not *quite* breaking the rules, and he'd done the same with Abydos until he'd broken the rules big time - because Jack had asked him to.

"Damn it, Daniel. You had to listen to me that *one* time?"

***

Damn, his room was dark. Of course, windowless rooms tended toward darkness - in the dark. Now there was a brilliant thought. He clasped his hands behind his head and blinked in the blackness.

He wondered what Jack would say if he knew that the very first thing Daniel had remembered had been the fact that he was in love with Jack O'Neill. Smiling in the dark, he realized that he probably shouldn't have gone on with that whole "Jim" thing. But really, it had been kind of fun to watch Jack's face every time he'd used the wrong name.

He should really get some sleep. Starting at eight in the morning, he had big plans for Jack tomorrow. His arm was feeling pretty good too. Maybe he could go without the sling. Probably. If he could sneak by Janet, that is.

***

Jack was getting used to being awakened at seven with the shift change. Of course, at home, he'd have been up two or three hours earlier, so he'd have to admit, this was still sleeping in. Luxuriously so. Well, except for the temperature readings, the blood pressure cuff, the clanging, prodding and pinching part. He could have done without that.

"Careful with that, Rodney, don't spill."

Jack lifted his head from the pillow. That was Daniel's voice.

A moment later, the man himself appeared just behind Airman Stewart, who was pushing a cart from the Commissary. A cart laden with . food.

Jack began to mentally rub his hands in anticipation.

"Happy New Year, Jack."

"Hey, Daniel. Airman."

"Sir."

The cart was wheeled to Jack's hospital table and young Stewart, clearly pleased with being in Jack's presence, saluted smartly and said, "Happy New Year, Colonel."

"Back atcha, Airman." He returned the salute with a grin.

"Thanks, Rodney. You do good work," Daniel said as he transferred almost everything from the cart to the table.

"My pleasure, Doc. See you later, right?"

"You got it. Make it around noon?"

"Yes, sir."

Rodney made himself scarce just as Daniel picked up the remote and clicked on the set.

"Now, Daniel, I know you're a real sports aficionado, but there's no football game on this early."

"Ah, but there *is* the Rose Parade." He lifted a couple of the lids and got a good whiff of the food. With a dreamy expression, he said, "Grace's cinnamon rolls, just for you, Jack."

He hefted himself up to look under the lid Daniel was holding. "Oh, my God. We . those aren't . not until February.."

"I know. But she loves you, man."

Jack gave his friend a skeptical look. "Don't you mean she loves *you*?"

"I don't know. Which one of us loves pumpkin pancakes?"

"Uhm, that would be me."

Daniel lifted the lid from another container. "Voila! Pumpkin pancakes."

"I've died and gone to heaven." He looked at everything and added, "I don't suppose we have. her famous .you know.."

"Hot chocolate? Yes, we do."

Jack dropped back and closed his eyes. "Life is good, Daniel."

Daniel looked at his friend - his very alive friend - and said, "Yes, it is."

***

The cinnamon rolls were gone, as were the pancakes, eggs and bacon. The hot chocolate was still in existence, but not by very much. On the set, the Rose Parade was halfway through its route.

"Damn, would you look at that, Daniel."

It was the float from the Automobile Club of Southern California and it was a beautiful representation of the plains of Africa. Gazelle seemed to be running along the sides of the massive float, while an elegant giraffe stood regally at the front. Taking center stage was the incredible head of a magnificent lion.

Jack shook his head. "I can't even guess at the work."

"Yeah. The imagination, the time and patience. The plants."

"It must be backbreaking to glue every petal, leaf, seed, whatever."

"It is. Trust me."

"Don't tell me.."

"I did. It was '93, I'd just returned from an expedition and was on a lecture circuit that took me to Southern California and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. My host, Doctor Richard Benedict, was on the committee for the parade, and his Pasadena College-attending daughters were, respectively, a Rose princess and a float volunteer. They roped me into working on the floats when I wasn't lecturing. It was fun *and* backbreaking. And painstaking."

Jack did some quick math. "Wait, you were only. twenty-four, Daniel."

Daniel looked at Jack, one eyebrow arched. "So?"

In an attempt to backpedal the fact that he'd forgotten what a genius Daniel was, Jack leered and said, "So. which one did you date?"

Daniel looked at Jack thoughtfully for a moment, and finally said just as he turned back to the set and the parade, "Richard, actually."

***

"Richard, actually."

The words seemed to be echoing in Jack's head. Over and over and over again.

"Richard, actually."

Twenty-four-year-old Daniel with a man who had two daughters in college. Twenty-four-year-old Daniel, who should have been dating one of the *daughters* but dated . the father. A man probably twenty years older than Daniel.

Holy shit.

Jack shot a covert look at his friend, who was watching the parade - avidly watching, apparently. Why would he tell Jack now? And what exactly was Daniel telling him?

Jack felt a familiar tingling in his gut, one he'd experienced many time over the last seven years. One that he spent a goodly amount of time stamping down. Only maybe. he no longer needed to stamp it down.

Well, wasn't this just dandy.

Jack grinned.

***

At noon, Airman Stewart reappeared, this time with a couple of coolers. Jack looked with suspicion upon his friend.

"Daniel?"

"Can't have the Rose Bowl without chips, dips, sodas, ribs. you know, the usual suspects."

"Chili?"

"Lou's. He made it just for you."

"And Janet okay'd this?"

"Yep."

"I've always liked that woman. Best damn CMO in the Air Force."

"For a Napoleonic power monger," Daniel said with a grin.

Jack cast the same suspicious look on Daniel. "Where did you hear that expression?"

"Exactly where - and when - you think."

"Oh."

"Good thing you said only nice things about me then, eh? Or at least. mostly nice things."

"All nice things, Daniel."

"Sure. Sure. Well, except for accusing me of being the leftover radiation effects."

"Okay, there was that. But really, who could know you were floating around the SGC, huh? Tell me that."

"Riiiight."

"You're impossible."

"Yep. But who cares when Michigan is winning?"

"Good point. Break out those ribs."

***

"Burrrrrp."

"Nice, Daniel."

"Thank you. Not one of my better ones, but respectable."

The games were over and Jack was pleasantly tired. He was also stuffed to the gills. He glanced over at Daniel, who was stretching luxuriously, his black sweater riding up enough to give Jack a nice eyeful.

"I guess I should clean this up," Daniel said almost wistfully.

"No hurry."

"Yeah, there is. You're tired and need to rest, and I need to get this cleaned up before our power monger shows up to see if I kept my promise."

"Ah, well then, carry on, Jeeves," Jack said with an airy wave of his hand.

Grinning, Daniel did just that. When he was done, he stood uncertainly, moving from foot to foot and managing not to look at Jack. Who finally said, "Oh, fer crying out loud, would you sit down already?"

"You really need to rest, Jack."

"And I will, once you stop moving around like some kind of-"

"Okay, okay." Daniel sat down.

"You know, I'm fine, Daniel. It's just my knee that's keeping me here."

"Right, of course."

Daniel looked down at his hands and seemed to find something interesting about them. Jack watched silently for a moment, and finally said, "Thanks for all of this, Daniel."

"Oh, hey, no problem. Know how much you love your football - almost as much as hockey."

"No one else thought of doing anything, Daniel," he said quietly.

"How do you know?"

That was a good question. Except. he knew Daniel.

That thought seemed to resonate within Jack and he frowned. He *did* know Daniel - better than any man - or person - alive. He knew him inside and out if you didn't count the fact that he'd been somewhat oblivious to Daniel's history with men. Of course, it could have been just that one man.

Okay, rein in your thoughts, O'Neill.

Right.

Knowing Daniel.

A good man. The best. Can be odd, can get too focused at times - and can be a bit self-absorbed in a "but it's for mankind" kind of way as opposed to a "what's in it for me and aren't I wonderful" kind of way. Too damn smart, and yet with the self protection skills of a lemming. And when it came to needy women? He had the judgment of a slug.

He was a work-a-holic, a coffee addict, and a soft touch. He could forget his own birthday, but never anyone else's. He could talk so far over your head that someone who *didn't* know him might think he was putting on airs. In reality, he simply forgot - in the excitement of the moment - that he was going places with his mind that not even the Starship Enterprise would consider.

Daniel was strong and oddly vulnerable. He had hurts buried deep and yet he could continue to trust, sometimes unreservedly so. And unwisely. He knew so much, and truly understood people, and yet could be disappointed -- repeatedly.

And he'd dated at least one guy.

And he knew how to cuss in twenty-some languages.

All in all - a good man to have around.

The best.

Ascended or back on terra firma.

Jack scratched his nose and said, "How much does it bother you that Oma pulled you out before you could destroy Anubis?"

Not what he'd been about to say - but it was what came out so he'd have to live with it.

"I get the feeling it bothers you more than me," Daniel said, his voice soft.

"Well, I can certainly say it bothers the hell out of me. If she'd left you alone, it would be over now. Anubis would be gone and so would the threat he represents, which, let's face it, is a mighty big threat. Yeah, I wish she'd left you alone."

"You seem to have a lot of faith in my ability to defeat him back then."

"Naturally."

Daniel did a double-take. "Oh, right. Naturally."

They were silent again until Jack said, "She should never have interfered."

Daniel studied him a moment, and finally got up. He closed the door, flicked the set on, turned up the volume a bit, and then walked to the foot of Jack's bed, his back to the surveillance camera.

"Oma knew that by using my energy to fight Anubis, I would be giving him critical knowledge - knowledge he needed to ascend fully and tap into all the inherent powers that would provide."

"Daniel? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Damn it, keep your voice down. I'd really rather not have the NID on my back, okay?"

Frowning, Jack said in an exaggerated stage whisper, "Daniel? What the hell are you talking about?"

Daniel closed his eyes a moment, and when he opened them again, said, "You'll never understand this but. okay, you get the whole Harcesis thing, right?" Before Jack could answer, Daniel said, "Of course you do. You just like to act dumb. So anyway, when you're . when you ascend, become this, this -- energy being -- you inherit the knowledge of the Ancients." Daniel put up a hand to forestall the inevitable Jack-question. "No, it's not the same thing - and yet, yes it is. It's something I puzzled over and finally concluded that what the Ancients evolved to started out as a collective consciousness. From there, they found the ability to break off, to become individual energy-"

"Thingys?"

"Beings," Daniel supplanted. "And when you ascend, or *are* ascended, as I was, you're . you become a part of the collective first, and thus are given those memories. But once you leave the collective, those memories are buried until you're ready to absorb them."

"You do realize that you sound like a Borg, right?"

"I'm sure Star Trek, the Next Generation is the *reason* I started using the word. It was the only one that fit. It's not my fault some television writers came up with it first."

"Okay, so Oma took you with her and you were in this collective and during that time-"

"I learned everything there was to learn about the Ancients - including how Anubis could regain the power of his original ascension. And had I used my - energy - to stop him, that knowledge would have passed into him and he knew that. He actually challenged me, dared me. He *wanted* me to attack him. He wanted to regain the knowledge and that was the only way.."

Daniel's voice broke and he moved to his right, around Jack's bed and to the far corner. His back was still to the camera, but now it was to Jack as well. His shoulders were hunched, his head bowed. "That's why he threatened to destroy Abydos. He knew I'd come for him -- *wanted* me to come for him."

"Oh, hell, Daniel, he always intended to destroy Abydos. Always. He's a Goa'uld, it's what he does."

Daniel slowly lifted his head. He turned just enough so that he could see Jack over his shoulder. "I. since when do you think-"

"I *know* it. And intellectually, so do you."

Truly puzzled now, Daniel faced his friend. "Wait a minute. You think I don't know how you've hated what I did - and didn't do? How you've hated me in that Jack O'Neill, "we're really friends, but I can't get around what you did" way? And now you're saying that you *know* he would have destroyed Abydos?"

Jack took a moment to truly appreciate the phrase "Now the shit has really hit the fan." He lifted his head a bit and scratched under his chin as he tried to figure out what to say. Daniel took the matter out of his hands.

"Forget it, Jack. Forget I said that. Just. look, you should rest. Besides, I have work to do and should get to it. I just wanted you to know so you wouldn't keep. you know."

"Hating you?"

Daniel's face heated up as he said, "No. just. look, Oma knew what she was doing and if she hadn't stopped me, well, Abydos would still be gone, but so would you. He'd have destroyed everything because he could." Daniel rubbed the back of his neck. "I just wanted you to have some kind of peace about it, I guess."

His friend was starting to look like the pre-macho Daniel and it was making Jack uncomfortable - for Daniel. He looked around, spotted the box of cream puffs left over from their New Year's Day food-and-football orgy, and grabbed them up. With what he hoped was a winning - and encouraging - smile, he held the box out. "Cream puff?"

The bridge of Daniel's nose started to wrinkle up and consequently, his glasses bobbled. "Jack?"

He patted the edge of his bed. "Come on, sit down, have a cream puff and relax."

Wiggling his nose, Daniel kind of . slid over and sat down where Jack's hand had been.

"Better?"

"Sure."

"Good."

Daniel leaned over, peered into the box, and tried to choose. The cream puffs were the small one-or-two biters. While he struggled to decide, Jack watched him, his eyes taking in Daniel's face, his mouth, jaw, his hair..

"When did you decide to style your hair, by the way?" he suddenly asked.

Daniel took a cream puff out and frowned. "I didn't, actually. Sam did. She showed me how to mousse it and make it messy." He cocked his head at Jack and added, "I don't get that, do you?"

While Daniel went back to studying the puff he'd chosen - like some kind of Goa'uld artifact - Jack studied Daniel as he asked, "Get what?"

"The whole mess-your-hair-up-to-make-it-look-stylish thing. Like Sam's. What is that?"

"It's a woman thing, Daniel." He looked at Daniel's hair. "So every morning, you actually stand in front of a mirror and mousse it?"

"Yeah." Daniel brought the cream puff to his mouth and took a tentative bite, his lips closing over the golden-brown pastry.

Jack cleared his throat. "That's not exactly the behavior of an absent-minded professor, Daniel."

With a smidgen of white. cream. on his lower lip, Daniel said, "I'm not an absent-minded professor, Jack."

In an effort to get his mind off the way Daniel was eating the cream puff, he said, "So how do you get it to do that swirling thing in the back?"

Daniel licked the cream from his lip and then said, "Sam taught me to . I think she called it 'palming'. the back of my hair." He then ran his tongue over his bottom lip.

Jack was starting to feel a bit . lightheaded.

Daniel took another bite, and thick, sweet cream flowed out and onto his finger. He licked it off and popped the last of the cream puff into his mouth.

Jack pulled a pillow out from behind his head and dropped it quickly over his lap. Then he pulled the table over. And the magazine he'd been reading earlier.

"Uhm, Daniel. I.."

He gave up. He remembered the old saying about silence being golden, so he bit his lip to keep from groaning as Daniel took another cream puff.

"Daniel, are you doing this on purpose?"

Tongue delving deep into the heart of the puff, Daniel blinked at Jack. He pulled out and, with a puzzled frown, said, "Huh?"

"Right. I could only *wish* you had even an inkling of what I'm talking about. But no, not you. Not Doctor Brainiac. Not the guy who now styles his hair-"

"For you," Daniel said easily as he went back to delving for cream.

"For me. Not the guy who now wears oddly attractive designer clothes-"

"For you," Daniel said as he swiped another dollop of cream from his finger.

"For me. Not the guy who wears his shirts and pants one size too small instead of one size too big-"

"For you," Daniel said again in the same off-handed manner.

Jack paused in his diatribe. He looked at Daniel . who held out a cream puff and asked winningly, "Want one?"

"For me?"

"For you."

A slow, almost orgasmic grin spread over Jack's face. "I'd love one."

He was about to take a bite - hopefully as sexy as Daniel had managed - when a thought struck like lightning.

"Daniel - how do you know about. I mean. how is that you remember why Oma-"

With a thumb jerked back toward the camera, Daniel lowered his voice and said, "How 'bout we discuss that once we get you home?"

Jack looked at Daniel, who smiled back at him.

"Right. Home."

Daniel reached over and cupped Jack's pastry-filled hand with his own. Slowly he pushed Jack's hand toward his mouth. "Cream puff."

Jack took a bite and wasn't surprised when a small bit of the cream oozed out and dropped onto Daniel's thumb. Juggling the rest of the cream puff with his other hand, he lifted Daniel's thumb to his mouth.

"Camera?" Daniel asked, his thumb poised at Jack's lips.

"They can't see what I'm doing."

"Oh, okay," Daniel said, his voice husky and low.

Jack sucked the thumb into his mouth, wrapped his tongue around it, and made sure he had every ounce of cream.

He gave brief thought to how they'd moved from best friends, to wary friends, back to best friends, to . thumb-sucking friends, but abandoned the question. After all, they were Jack and Daniel, and didn't that say it all?

Thumb still deep in Jack's mouth, Daniel croaked out, "So, what's under the pillow?"

Jack grinned around Daniel's thumb.

***

"You'll follow the list religiously?"

"Of course."

"Do the *precise* exercises as outlined in the instructions?"

"Naturally."

"The meds?"

"Yep."

Janet nodded as she handed Daniel the bag of prescriptions. "Then you can take him home, and good riddance."

Laughing, Daniel dropped the bag onto the seat of the wheelchair and pushed said chair away and toward Jack's room, Janet on his heels.

As he entered the room, he made a motion as if pulling a cord and said, "Toot-toot and all aboard, Colonel O'Neill. Your chariot awaits."

Jack immediately started shaking his head. "No way. I am *not* leaving this mountain in a wheelchair."

"You heard the man, Doctor Jackson. Colonel O'Neill isn't leaving the mountain. I'll just take that back.."

"Jack?"

Stubborn chin rising, Jack said, "Daniel?"

With thoughts of all they could do once in the privacy of Jack's home, now that they'd unofficially declared themselves with cream puffs - and wasn't *that* just a Jack/Daniel thing -- Daniel decided to play hardball. He wheeled the chair around and rolled it toward Janet.

"Here you go. As long as Jack is staying put, I'm going to head down to my office and get some work done. Talk to you later, Janet."

Silently applauding him while biting back a grin, Janet nodded and made a move as if to leave. with the wheelchair.

"Damn, you two are tough. All right, get that thing over here."

Janet cocked her head. "Does the colonel mean. us, Daniel?"

"I do believe so, Janet."

"Oh, cut it out. Just get that . let's just get me home, okay, Daniel?"

"Gee, thought you'd never ask."

***

By the time they got a now very disgruntled Jack into the chair, Sam and Teal'c had arrived to accompany him to the top. Daniel pushed while Sam and Teal'c talked and joked with Jack. Air Force personnel stopped to chat and share their gratitude that Jack was doing better and going home, and once at the top, they were surprised to find Hammond waiting for them.

Looking only as stern as the humorous gleam in his eyes would allow, Hammond said, "You do have the exercises, right?"

Daniel patted his pocket. "Right here, sir."

"And you'll make sure he does them?"

Feeling like he was rerun, Daniel said, "Religiously, sir."

"And the meds?"

Daniel nodded toward Jack's lap, which held the white bag.

"When is he due back to have it checked?"

"Friday, sir."

Jack rolled his eyes and pointed at himself, "*He* is right here. *sir*."

Daniel snorted. "And *he* wouldn't do what he was told if *he* were-"

Jack lowered his head and muttered, "When did I start losing?"

Sam frowned and said, "Sir, when did you ever win?"

"I'm still your commanding officer and latrine duty is looking pretty good for you, Carter. For the next *seven* missions."

"On that note," Hammond said, "I'll head back down. Doctor, don't put up with any guff from Colonel O'Neill, understood?"

"Daniel came to us with a natural 'O'Neill guff' repellant," Jack groused.

"Good point." Smiling, Hammond said, "Get well and hurry back, Jack."

"Yes, sir."

Sam, Teal'c and Hammond watched as Daniel began to roll Jack to his car. None of them missed Jack's helpful hints..

"Daniel, watch that rut. not so fast, what, you think this is a NASCAR race or something? Should I have taken a Dramamine?"

Nor did they miss Daniel's reply..

"Yes, mastah, whatever you say, mastah, just remember you're at my mercy, mastah.."

***

Daniel spread out the sheet of paper and smoothed the corners. He frowned. Cocked his head. Tapped his lower lip. Jack watched, clearly amused.

"Daniel?"

"Give me a minute."

Jack settled back in his lounger. He was supremely comfortable, his leg was up, thanks to his lounger, and cushioned by a pillow, courtesy of Daniel. He had a hot toddy within his grasp, and a concentrating Daniel on his couch.

Could anything be better?

Daniel looked up from the diagrams of exercises that Jack was supposed to do on a twice- daily basis. "Okay, I think we can work number two and number five into-"

"You're kidding."

Daniel grinned. "Nope."

"You've got this all planned out?"

"Yep."

"Even though we've only shared a few cream puffs, a couple of hugs, some handholding on the way home, and a long, wet, tonsil-cleansing kiss in the driveway?"

"What, you want to talk first, or something?"

"Talk? Me? You've got to be kidding?"

"So, as long as we have sex at least twice a day, exercises two and five," he glanced back down at the paper, "and maybe. six, are no problemo. The rest, however, you're stuck with doing on your own."

Jack held out his hand, snapped his fingers, and said, "Gimme."

Daniel leaned over enough so that Jack could take it, and watched as he studied it.

"Oh, come on, now, Daniel. Surely you have more imagination? I can see how the other three could be used, especially if I'm flat on my back."

Wiggling his fingers, Daniel said, "Back."

Jack handed it over. Daniel frowned. "Oooo-kay, if you're on your back. and I straddle you. and then. yeah, I can see number one working. But how on earth do you see three and four happening?"

"If we're on the couch, for one. My head facing north.."

". your leg up and braced on the back of the ."

". couch, right."

"Wow," Daniel said, his awe almost palpable.

"Thank God we're not 'talking' about it," Jack snickered.

"Speaking of not talking about it, are you recovered yet? From the long and torturous journey from the car to the lounger? Because if you are. exercise number," he looked back down at the paper, "two . beckons."

Jack sat up carefully, reached for his crutches, and said, "Exercise number two, here I come."

Laughing, Daniel got up and, while walking behind his about-to-become-lover in case he needed help, said, "Here *we* come."

Crutching his way down the hall, Jack said, "I don't think we should tell Janet about this whole partnership thing we're about to have going with regard to my exercises, do you?"

"Nope. Shame though. We're undoubtedly depriving the medical community of valuable information on knee exercises."

"Want I should pull out the video camera, Daniel?"

"Not until we've been a couple for, oh, say, six months?"

Jack was just nudging the door to his bedroom open with the end of his left crutch, but paused at Daniel's words. He turned slightly and said, "Couple. We're about to be . a couple?"

"Well, a secret couple, but yeah, unless this is just about sex with me and my fantastic dick."

"It's definitely about sex with you and your dick, but . it's been a long time since I was a couple, and I blew it last time."

Daniel sighed. Looked like they were going to do some talking after all. He pushed the door the rest of the way open and said, "Let's get you off your feet and then we'll talk about what a lousy half of a couple you're going to make, okay?"

***

The crutches were put against the wall but within easy reach should Jack need to get up in the middle of the night - or whatever. Both men sat at the foot of the bed, Jack gently massaging his now un-braced knee.

"This is silly, isn't it?" Jack said quietly.

"No, not at all. You're worried."

Jack shot Daniel a look, and Daniel responded with, "All right, all right. It's silly. So what if you weren't a good couple once? It's not like this relationship is going to be anything like your marriage." Hand waving in the air, Daniel added, "For one thing, we're both men. But you probably noticed that already. And of course, there won't be any bridge nights with the McAfees or lawn parties with the neighborhood watch group. No church socials, or Tupperware parties, no-"

"Daniel? Who the hell are the McAfees?"

"Our neighbors. You know, the couple who like to argue at three in the morning? And when they make love, he lets out a rebel yell to wake the dead? And she likes to garden in the nude?"

Jack cocked his head as he regarded his friend and very-close-to-becoming-his-bed partner. "You do know that you're weird, right?"

"But you love me anyway."

Jack ran a finger down Daniel's cheek. "Yeah, Daniel. I do. And weird doesn't begin to cover it."

"So we can forget worrying about the whole couple thing, then?"

"Yeah."

"Good. Next up, Daniel undresses Jack. Slowly."

"I'm up for that."

Laughing, Daniel stood up, insinuated himself - carefully - between Jack's legs, and started unbuttoning Jack's shirt. When he got to the button above Jack's belt, he paused and then slowly pulled the shirt out. He finished unbuttoning the last two before slipping the garment off Jack's shoulders. He leaned down and even as he started unbuckling the belt, he whispered, "Not too cold?"

"Er, no. no, not too cold. Heating up rather nicely, actually."

"Good."

Daniel finished with the belt, took care of the snap button, and started on the zipper.

"You've done this before," Jack said, his eyes following Daniel's fingers as they lowered his zipper.

"Everyday, and depending on my coffee consumption, many times a day," Daniel said.

Jack's head shot up. "Huh?"

Daniel captured Jack's lips. After a thorough kiss, he whispered against Jack's lips, "*My* zipper, you jerk."

"Ah."

"Can I go on now?"

"By all means."

"Good. Let's get you further up on the bed so we can prop your leg up."

Working together, they did just that. Once Jack was resting comfortably, pillow under his leg, and pants lovingly removed. Daniel decided he might be wearing too many clothes himself. He pulled his sweater over his head and was just removing one arm when Jack said, "Slower, Danny. If you're going to take it off, do it slower."

Head still buried within the woolen warmth of the sweater, Daniel smiled. "If I'm going to do this right, I need music, Jack," he mumbled.

Laughing, Jack started humming - loudly and off key - The Stripper theme.

"Oh, God, Jack."

***

Jack could feel the burn in his thighs and had enough brain power to acknowledge the fact that Daniel riding his cock was indeed, an excellent way to accomplish exercise number two.

Yeehaw.

***

Their sweat was cooling, their breathing slowing. Jack was discovering that he really loved having Daniel wrapped carefully around him. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the circles Daniel was making on his chest. He was almost drifting off when it hit him.

Their conversation about Oma and Anubis.

His eyes popped open. "Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"We're home now, so you need to tell me how you know Anubis could use your energy. How you remembered that one thing."

Daniel's hand stilled.

Jack experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Dear God. you remember ... all of it."

"I remember. a great deal."

Feeling his heart doing loops, he asked, "Could you define. 'a great deal'?"

"It might be too early in our relationship to discover odd things about your bedmate, Jack. Maybe this is another item we should hold over?"

There was silence. Until Jack asked, "Just. how. odd?"

"Would you believe that I'm not sure yet? These memories are kind of . new. Call me an experiment in the making."

Jack swallowed hard. "A good experiment or more like . Frankenstein's monster experiment?"

Jack could feel Daniel smile against his shoulder.

"I'm thinking . a good one."

"Oh. Okay then."

"This doesn't bother you, does it?"

"How do I know yet?"

Daniel chuckled and said, "Guess you'll just have to wait and see."

Jack was silent again, gave a thought to sleep, but something else was still bothering him. Something he'd been mentally avoiding since he'd first thought of it. He placed his hand on the back of Daniel's head and let his fingers travel through the softness as he asked, his fear obvious to him, "You gave up everything, Daniel. Why?"

"I gave up nothing and gained everything, Jack."

"You. did?"

Smiling against Jack's skin, Daniel said, "Yes, Jack, I did." He yawned and added, "Now, do you really want to talk anymore about it?"

Jack patted Daniel's ass. "Nah, go to sleep. We'll talk in the morning."

"Yes, dear."

Jack snorted. "I guess I *am* going to make a good half of this couple."

"Damn right."

"Daniel?"

"Mmmm?"

"Happy new year."

"Love you too."

The End


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