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A Man Called Daniel

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A Man Called Daniel by Sideburns

 

Sometimes he felt so weighed down, it was as if the hand of God were pressing his lungs, squeezing the air from them and leaving him breathless. At other times, his life seemed barely there, a mere wisp of wind that could just lift a leaf and carry it a few feet before dropping it gently back upon the ground.

Today had been a hand of God day; in more ways than one. Today his usefulness to the SGC had been measured - and found wanting.

His running shoes landed solidly, propelling him forward, arms pumping.

Running wasn't the weight room, but that had been full of the young military men and women who thought a civilian archaeologist was a waste of time and money for the Air Force. He wasn’t sure he disagreed with them anymore, but even so, when you're already breathless, you don't need to hear again about your lack of usefulness.

Sweat rolled down the sides of his face and, when it seemed he was running in slow motion, he fancied that he could actually see a drop hit the hard running surface of the indoor Academy track. He could hear his lungs fighting for breath but knew it was a symbolic struggle, not a real one. He was running hard, but not so hard that his body wasn't more than up to the challenge. In fact, he was running to help him forget about God's hand.

And yes, in spite of everything – Daniel believed in God – a god, the God, someone. He couldn't have explained why, would never get anyone to understand, but believe he did. He kind of suspected God was a woman because it was the only plausible explanation for his life. And no, he wasn't insulting God, not by any means. But let's face it, the art of whimsy was a female and his life was extremely whimsical.

He rounded the curve and imagined for a moment that he was running for Olympic gold.

"Daniel Jackson, you've just won an Olympic gold medal, what are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to Disneyland!"

Actually, he'd never been to Disneyland, which was a shame because he'd always wanted to go on the Matterhorn. Although, he understood that it was now among the more tame rollercoaster rides. Didn't matter to him, a dream was a dream.

He sped up and lengthened his stride.

He'd been hoping that today would be a good day. He'd been looking forward to working with the cadets that had been earmarked for the SGC and, while he'd always enjoyed the training sessions at the Mountain, this was the first time they'd actually be part of the educational day for the recruits at the Academy. Working with a classroom full of cadets, playing teacher, was vastly different from working with four or five of them at the mountain and running various training scenarios.

God, how he'd been looking forward to sharing what he did, talking cultures and the science of gating to new worlds; his kind of science. Unfortunately, they'd started out in a Question-Answer session (General Hammond's idea) featuring all four of SG-1 and, in less that twenty minutes, he'd been quickly put in his place.

"Doctor Jackson, what exactly does an archaeologist do on SG-1 and how does it help in our fight against the Goa'uld?"

Yep, that had put him in his place, all right, and he couldn't fault the question, or the cadet who'd asked. It had been a fair question; his answer, accurate.

"Actually, I haven't the faintest idea. I think they keep me around because I carry the trail mix and know how to say 'We are peaceful travelers from a planet called Earth' in twenty-five – okay, now twenty-eight or so -- different languages."

Jack, with his usual humor, had jumped right in.

"Hey, he has the best power bars too. Don't let's forget that, guys."

From there, it had gone downhill. That one question had been the first one directed at him - and the last.

Daniel continued to run, harder and faster.

Maybe if he ran fast enough, he could pull a Superman. Turn back time.

Only question was – how far back should he go? Okay, that was one hell of a loaded question.

Sweat blinding him, he kept running – around and around and around, racking up the mileage and going nowhere fast.

***

"Okay, kids, time to get back to the office." Jack made a show of counting heads before saying with some exasperation, "Except we're one geek short of a team. Anyone know where our missing candy pusher is? Anyone? Bueller?"

"I believe DanielJackson went to the cadet gym. He mentioned something about lifting weights, O'Neill."

Frowning, Jack asked, "Gym? Why would he—"

"There were no cadets for his workshop."

"What do you mean there were no cadets for his workshop?

"I believe I mean that there were no cadets for his workshop, O'Neill."

"Sir, you might remember that following the Q and A, and while you were with General Madison, we were each scheduled a workshop for the cadets."

"Indeed. Mine was on Goa'uld weaponry. I believe DanielJackson was scheduled to deliver a discussion on, among other topics, the cultural changes effected on your ancestors following their displacement by the Goa'uld."

"Scintillating," Jack commented dryly.

"Indeed. He has shared many of his theories with me and I have found them to be most illuminating."

Jack, looking surprised, said, "He has theories?"

Teal'c cocked his head. "Naturally. On the cultural changes effected on your ancestors following their displacement by the Goa'uld. His research and conclusions are quite astute and I suspect – grassbreaking."

"He means of course," Sam offered helpfully, "groundbreaking."

"Gee, really?" Then, suspecting that Teal'c was pulling his leg about the whole theory thing, Jack raised his scarred eyebrow but it was Carter who explained.

"Sir, it's what Daniel does. Do you really think he's done nothing with all we've observed of transplanted humans over the years?"

"Okay, I get that." It was very clear he didn't. "Sure. But no one showed up?"

"That is correct. I had seven of the twelve cadets and—"

"And I had the other five – all of them into, you know, quantum physics, etc.," Sam said.

"So your topic was?"

"Wormholes."

"Naturally. All right, so you're saying that when no one showed for Daniel's, he thought he'd pass the afternoon--"

"I believe so, O'Neill."

"I guess I'd better get him, then. Be right back."

Sam looked at Teal'c who looked back at her with dark, troubled eyes.

***

The weight room was full, just not of Daniel, which puzzled him. Where else could he have gone? The cafeteria, maybe? He turned and almost bumped into a young cadet.

"Sorry, SIR!" The young man, wearing the regulation white tank and dark blue shorts, stepped back and saluted smartly.

"No problem, cadet, and at ease, okay?"

"Yes, SIR!"

Jack refrained from rolling his eyes, but he did say, "This isn't the Marines, kid."

The "kid" gave him a sheepish shrug. "Sorry, sir."

Jack now recognized the man from the question and answer session. "You haven't seen my archaeologist, have you?"

"Yes, sir. Doctor Jackson is on the track, sir – Colonel – sir."

Ignoring the kid's red face, Jack thanked him. Only out in the corridor did he shake his head. He was damn sure he'd never been that young.

***

There were only three people utilizing the track and Jack had no difficulty picking Daniel out. What surprised him was seeing him running. Of course the Academy had helped by providing the proper running gear, which meant running shoes, the white Air Force tank and the navy blue shorts, the effect of which left Jack severely short of breath.

Long bare legs. Tight perfect ass. Broad shoulders, narrow waist….

Holy shit.

When had Daniel turned into…into….

When the hell had Daniel grown up?

This was so not good.

In the field, it was easy to forget his friend was a good-looking man, what with the baggy uniform, the glasses and the boonie, not to mention the focus Daniel put toward any new planet they were exploring. Back at the base, the same baggy uniform and glasses, combined with a constant absentminded expression and stooped-over shoulders due to the ever-present pile of books, continued to hide his significant attributes.

None of the usual bits of camouflage were present now and Jack was left with pure Daniel Jackson.

Who just happened to be one damn fine looking man.

Too much so for the peace of mind of one Air Force colonel.

Okay, he could handle this. He needed to get Daniel's attention and they needed to get back to the mountain, well, right after the team dinner, anyway.

Watching Daniel run, muscles flexing, he wondered how quickly he could dump Teal'c and Carter.

No, no, don't even go there. They were scheduled for a much needed team dinner and they weren't a team unless it included all four of them. Two members just wouldn't cut it. Although…he sure would like to give it a try.

Stepping to the edge of the track, he said, "Yo, Daniel," as the younger man rounded the curve bringing him within earshot.

Daniel ran right past him, never ever even blinking in acknowledgement.

Okay, that was interesting.

All right, so he'd wait until he came around again.

Sure, and why not? Waiting gave him more time to look and appreciate.

But mustn't touch.

No-o-o, must not touch.

***

Here he comes again, Jack thought. This time, he'd just step right out onto the track – like so….

"Daniel?"

Huh-oh, not working.

"Daniel!"

Daniel slammed into him and only the fact that Jack realized it was going to happen kept them both on their feet.

And damn it, Jack was touching Daniel. Hell, he had his arms around the man.

"Jack?"

"None other. How you doing?"

Plastered to Jack's uniformed chest, Daniel said rather breathlessly, "Not too bad, all things considered. But I'm getting sweat all over your uniform."

"You didn't see me," he said, as if that explained everything.

"When?"

"One lap ago. I called you but you just kept running."

"Well, you've got my attention now, Jack. You can let go."

"Oh, yeah," he said as he dropped his arms and stepped back. "So, no one showed up for your lecture, eh?"

Daniel turned and headed for a bench a few feet away. He picked up a towel and wiped it over his face. After slinging it around his neck, he grabbed a cold bottled water he'd set down earlier, twisted off the top and took several swallows before saying, "Nope."

Feeling like an idiot, Jack said, "Sorry. But if it makes you feel any better, Carter only had a couple of cadets—"

"Scientists, and she had five of the twelve."

"Oh, well, yeah. Scientists, but then, who else would attend a lecture on wormholes?"

"Kids going for their degrees in astro and quantum physics?" Daniel asked after another swallow. He sat down on the bench, put the bottle down and started to rub his sweat-dampened hair with the towel.

"Well, yeah, naturally. Wormholes, remember?"

"Yeah, wormholes."

Jack ran a finger around the collar of his shirt and finally sat down next to Daniel. "Teal'c really had the big class," he said rather lamely.

"Hey, he's the alien. You know how our cadets love meeting him. Plus he's military-ish and all. And let's face it, fighting the Goa'uld, that's what it's all about. Not to mention he has this cool tattoo - and - Junior."

The towel took its place back around Daniel's neck and he reached for the water again.

Jack nodded. "Yep, yep, that's what it's all about. Saving the world, tattoos and snakes in the stomach."

A couple of minutes – uncomfortable minutes – went by as Daniel allowed his body to cool down. He drank his water and watched the other runners, finally breaking the silence by nodding at them and saying, "I don't think I was ever that young."

Surprised at how his words mirrored Jack's earlier thoughts, Jack said, "Yeah, same here."

Daniel turned his head and gave Jack an appraising glance. "Oh, I don't know. I can see you on this very track: a tall, lanky kid, full of dreams about conquering the sky. Yeah, I can see a dashing, handsome, and painfully young Cadet O'Neill."

Through sheer will, Jack kept his jaw locked in place. He quickly looked away from the track – and his friend. "Trust me, Daniel. I was never that young."

"Riiight."

"But you were. Hell, when I first met you—"

"Looking young," he nodded at the runners again, "and being young are not the same thing, Jack."

"Okay, so you were really this wise, ancient man—"

Daniel shook his head as he laughed. "Oh, yeah, that was me, all right. Look, all I'm saying is that kids raised like me tend to leave their youth behind, and when you're a geek on top of it, you're just never young."

Jack sat forward and, resting his arms on his thighs and clasping his hands together, said with a teasing smile, "So you had a tough life, eh?"

"Oh, pul-eeze. I'm just saying I was never that—"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. So should I apologize for having a 'young' life?"

"You should," Daniel said with a chuckle. "Some groveling wouldn't be bad either. And you can take me to…Disneyland. There, that should do it." Daniel smiled in satisfaction even as he lifted the bottle back to his lips.

"Gimme that," Jack said, taking the bottle away. He then proceeded to empty the bottle. Wiping his mouth, he grinned and said, "Thanks. Hit the spot."

Giving him a disgusted look, Daniel said, "So much for groveling."

"Not to change the subject, but what's up with the running? Last place I'd expect to find you. Library, sure, but never the track."

"Seemed like a good idea at the time."

"To quote a brilliant linguist – riiiight." He looked at Daniel, one eyebrow arched. "Did it bother you that no one came to your lecture?"

Daniel gave him a hard look and said, "No."

"Why don't I believe you?"

"Because you don't know me as well as you think?"

"Yes, I do."

"No, you don't."

"Do."

"Don't."

"Do-o."

"Jack, if you did, then you'd know that what bothered me was that not one of those cadets represented the Social Sciences. Not one. A couple of years ago, that wouldn't have been the case. Maybe that's what bothered me."

"Ah, I see."

Daniel gave him another hard, piercing look. "No, Jack, I don't think you do. Because, you see, it means that what I do is no longer valuable to the SGC, let alone Earth. It means that I'm the last person needed on SG-1, a fact that was so brilliantly pointed out earlier today. That's what bothered me, Jack, okay?"

Jack wondered what "aghast" looked like on his face. While trying to marshal his emotions, he asked, "Are you serious?"

"Hell, no. Just thought I'd pull your leg."

"Damn, you are serious."

"You know what the right thing to do would be?"

"Don't tell me it's to resign because—"

"No, the right thing would be to ask for a transfer to Area 52. But I can't do it, Jack."

"Damn right, you can't. And I wouldn't let you." He paused, scratched his head and asked, "But just out of curiosity, why can't you?"

Daniel smiled sheepishly and said, "I can't explain it, really. But…I just can't not go through the 'Gate. I'm not accomplishing anything, but I keep thinking 'this time, it'll be different'. It never is, but hey, I keep hoping. And then…well, this is silly, I know, but you guys are my family and I can't give you up." He leaned over to mirror Jack's position and, clasping his hands tightly together, said, "But I should. You need another military person as the fourth. You don't need an archaeologist."

"But we need a quantum physicist? We use her a great deal, do we? In the field?"

"She's also a soldier and damn fine one, Jack. And we usually need her more than me. Who does the naquada tests? Who does—"

"Daniel, give me a break. Anyone could do that damn test – including me. And if you think Hammond hasn't received a great deal of heat on the very subject of both you and Carter being in the field, well, you'd be wrong."

Daniel looked at him in surprise. "What?"

"You heard me. He has to listen to the complaints at least every other month. Something about how we're risking our most valuable minds and isn't it time – yadda-yadda. And then he calls me in and I refuse to let my kids go." He glanced over at Daniel and grinned. "It's a jinx kind of thing. SG-1 is SG-1 because of the four of us, in my humble opinion. The things you and Carter come up with constantly amaze me—"

"You mean the things Sam comes up with," Daniel said, eyes on his hands.

"No, I mean the things you both come up with."

"Right, of course. Sam saves the day and I come up with the trail mix, power bars and Hershey candy."

Jack frowned. "You have Hershey bars when we go off-world?"

Lips twitching upward, Daniel said, "Hard to do the whole S'mores thing without, you know?"

"Wait. You carry graham crackers and marshmallows off-world?"

"Ye-ah," Daniel said with a waggle of his head. "Doesn't everyone?"

They grinned at each other. The light moment was broken when Jack bumped Daniel with his shoulder and said, "I'm serious though. SG-1 needs you, Daniel, and you need to believe that."

Daniel rose to his feet. "Fine, so I believe it." He smiled disarmingly and jerked a thumb in the general direction of the lockers. "I'm going to take a quick shower. Where should I meet you guys?"

With an internal sigh, Jack got to his feet and said, "Parking lot. I'm taking us all out to dinner before heading back to the mountain."

"Good deal. I'll hurry."

Jack nodded and watched, frustrated, as Daniel walked away. He knew damn well that the guy hadn't bought any of it, but he also knew that Daniel had reached the limit of his listening. Of course, Jack wasn't a colonel for nothing and he was determined to convince the man of his worth.

And then he'd kill him for putting him through this shit.

***

Jack eyed his team. They looked relaxed and happy, if still a bit wary of the place. The waiters were giving them the evil eye, which was ridiculous considering that the little "disagreement" they'd had with the guys at the bar had been months ago, fer crying out loud. And hadn't the Air Force replaced the pool table, mirrors and booze? Damn right, they had. The American military at its finest. So how long could a restaurant hold a grudge, anyway?

For quite awhile, apparently.

He smiled at Sam and Daniel, who had their heads together and were deep in discussion, no doubt about something Jack wouldn't be the least interested in if he were to ask. Teal'c was looking around in that "I'm a Jaffa, don't mess with us" kind of way, but his body language told Jack he was actually pretty happy. They'd ordered and now had drinks in front of them, along with the best sourdough rolls this side of San Francisco. Jack took another sip of his ice cold beer and sighed happily.

This was the life.

A good restaurant, steaks on the way, an ice cold beer, and his family. Maybe now was the time to try to steer the conversation toward all of Daniel's accomplishments, like with the the whole arm band thing. Er…no. The mirrors and booze had died as a result of Daniel throwing one of the jerks into the bar and, if that weren't enough, he was still embarrassed that the damn things had worked the least amount of time for him and, thus, he'd been the first to succumb. No, best not go there.

Okay…the more recent scare when Teal'c had been trapped within the 'Gate. After all, Daniel had been the one to convince the Russians to loan them the DHD, which in turn, had been used to bring Teal'c back.

Er…no. The Russians were still angry about the destruction of the DHD and, naturally, Daniel blamed himself.

All right, going back a bit… How about the work he'd done on the whole Tok'ra and Earth alliance. Yeah, he'd really impressed the Tok'ra Supreme High Councilor, Per'sus.

On the other hand…he still felt guilty about not being able to save Martouf, as if Daniel should have been able to tell Martouf was the zartac? Unreasonable, but Daniel all the way.

Jack chewed on his lower lip as he considered Reese and the replicators. Definitely not something he should bring up, hell, he and Daniel were just now working their way back to normal after that one.

Okay, moving on.

"Jack? Did you hear me?"

He shook himself and turned his attention to Daniel. "What?"

"Oh, yeah, he was off in la-la land, Sam."

"I'm a colonel in the United States Air Force, Daniel. I don't know from la-la land. Besides, that sounds like some place you'd inhabit."

"I believe O'Neill has one-upped you, DanielJackson."

Three sets of eyes turned to look at Teal'c. Finally Jack said, "He got it right. Teal'c got it right."

Teal'c's eyebrow rose and Jack, Sam, and Daniel burst into laughter.

***

Jack sat back and wondered if he dared unbuckle and unzip - just a bit - just to relieve the pressure of a huge steak, a baked potato the size of George's Texas, creamed spinach and a Cesar salad. Nah, they'd probably be thrown out again, so maybe a covert burp? Best not, because then Teal'c would start, all hell would break loose – and they'd be tossed out again.

So, he'd just have to be stuffed. But really, he could use some extra room for the cheesecake he'd ordered.

"Are you sure you're all right with splitting the Death by Chocolate cake, Teal'c?"

"I am most fine with it, MajorCarter."

Jack quickly picked up his fork and jabbed it in the general direction of Daniel. "Do not even think about sharing my cheesecake, Daniel."

Holding up his hands in defense, Daniel said, "I'm stuffed, Jack. Your dessert is safe."

Putting the fork down, Jack said rather sheepishly, "Good."

A few silent minutes later, their waiter showed up with the desserts and coffee and it took Daniel exactly forty seconds before he attempted a raid on Jack's.

"OW!"

"Not so loud, Daniel."

"You hit me."

"You tried to steal my cheesecake. Did we not have this conversation?"

"A bite, Jack. A measly bite."

"Try it again, thief, and you'll lose a hand."

"I would be more than happy to share a portion of ours, DanielJackson," Teal'c said, even as he held out his fork, a chunk of cake perched precariously on its end.

"Why, thank you, Teal'c. It's nice to know some members of this team are unselfish."

Daniel leaned over and started to take the fork, but Teal'c simply waved it slightly, inviting Daniel to eat from the implement, which Daniel did.

Jack suddenly felt very warm. He wiggled uncomfortably in his chair and reached for his water, which he downed in three gulps.

"O'Neill, are you unwell?"

Wiping his mouth with his napkin, which he immediately dropped onto his lap, Jack shook his head. "No, I'm fine, just…fine."

Teal'c nodded and turned his attention to Daniel. "Is it not good, DanielJackson?"

"It's delicious. Considerably better than Jack's barely adequate cheesecake."

"Excuse me?" Jack dug his fork into the dessert and held it out towards his friend. "I dare you to taste this and then call it 'adequate'."

With a mischievous gleam in his eye, Daniel gave Jack a faux frown, as if studying the offered fork before finally, reluctantly, starting to take it.

"Tut-tut," Jack said as he waved the fork much the same as Teal'c had done. "Just taste it, Daniel."

Shrugging disarmingly, Daniel let Jack guide the fork to his mouth. He took the cheesecake and made as if he were testing it by working it around in his mouth. Finally he swallowed and said, "Not bad, not bad at all…but honestly, I have to go with the chocolate cake." He paused before adding, "I think."

Falling for it, Jack cut another piece of his rapidly dwindling dessert and held it up for Daniel. "Try another bite."

Looking all the world as if he were about to make the ultimate sacrifice, Daniel nodded and opened his mouth. Jack fed him and immediately shot his 2IC a suspicious look when she snorted.

"What, sir?" she said innocently.

Daniel swallowed the second bite and, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, said, "It's good. No denying that. But I'm afraid the Death by Chocolate just edges it out. Sorry, Jack. But thanks for sharing your dessert." He flashed Jack a huge grin.

Jack sighed. "I fell for it, didn't I?"

"You did indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c said with a small smile.

Shaking her head, Sam said, "Daniel, you're amazing. You got not one, but both of them to feed you."

Teal'c winked at Daniel even as Jack groaned.

***

"I'll take Teal'c back to the mountain, sir, and you can take Daniel," Sam offered as they walked out of O'Malley's.

"Actually, can you take me too, Sam? I've got some work to do—"

"No you don't, Daniel. I'm your CO and you're going home. Carter will take Teal'c and I'll take you."

"Fine, fine, whatever," Daniel said. "Far be it from me to go against my," he made little quote marks, "CO."

Jack froze. He looked at Carter, who shrugged, and then he looked at Teal'c, who canted his head ever so slightly. Finally turning back to Daniel, Jack asked, "Since when have you ever done what I asked?"

"Whenever you've asked me to do something that sounded like a good idea, like now. I'm tired and the translation can wait until Monday."

Looking flummoxed, Jack said, "Oh."

"Yes, well," Sam said with a barely-there grin. "I guess we'll say good-night and see you both on Monday."

Teal'c gave a small bow. "Good-night, DanielJackson. Good-night, O'Neill. And thank you for the dinner."

"You're welcome, Teal'c. Come on, Daniel, the night isn't getting any younger and it's past your bedtime."

"I'll tell you what isn't getting any younger, Jack," Daniel muttered as he followed the older man. "And it starts with a 'J'." He waved to Sam and Teal'c before adding, "As in 'Jack ASS O'Neill'."

***

"What, you're not going to invite me in?" Jack asked as he removed the key from the ignition.

"I wasn't planning on it, no." Daniel made a show of trying to read his watch. "Why look at that. It's an hour past my bedtime. Gosh, how the time flies when you're having fun."

"Come on, invite me in for a nightcap."

"You just want to talk about today, and I don't."

Wondering how Daniel knew him so well, Jack feigned innocence. "I do not. I just want a nightcap, that's all. Come on, please?" He'd have batted his eyelashes, but he doubted that would work on Daniel.

"Fine, fine. Come in, already."

"Gosh, so eloquent, so heartfelt, so—"

"Get your ass out of the truck, Jack."

"I can do that."

They both climbed out and Jack followed his friend up to the front door. Once inside, he took off his jacket, hung it up and, after entering the living room, kicked off his shoes and sat down in Daniel's lounge chair. He pushed it back into the reclining position and sighed in contentment.

"Gee, make yourself at home, Jack."

"I envy you this chair, Daniel. Mine is fifteen years old and has more lumps than I do."

"Thanks for sharing that."

Jack grinned like a school-boy and said, "Speaking of sharing, does nightcap ring a bell?"

"Irish coffee sound good?"

"If you were a woman, I'd marry you, Daniel."

"Don't let gender stop you. I'd love to see you explain it to Hammond," Daniel said as he walked into his kitchen.

"I'd love to explain to him how Daniel was now Danelle."

"I am Dan-yel, on Abydos," Daniel said loudly from the kitchen.

"Good point. I bet on Abydos, I could marry you."

Coffee now heating up, Daniel came to the doorway and lounged against the frame as he said, "You could. Same sex relationships, while not widely discussed, are condoned."

"There ya go. Next time we're on Abydos, we do the deed."

Eyes rolling up to the ceiling, Daniel said, "Riiight." He turned and walked back into the kitchen.

***

Daniel took down two of his tall-stemmed whiskey goblets, poured a shot of Irish whiskey into each, added three sugar cubes, and then waited for the coffeemaker to do its thing. Resting against the counter, he wondered about Jack and today. The man had seemed sincere in his praise of Daniel, and that surprised him. Their friendship had suffered in the last weeks, and the respect he'd tried so hard to earn from Jack had been slowly eroding. But today, today he'd almost believed Jack.

The coffeemaker pinged and he quickly poured the hot brew almost to the top of each glass. He took a small carton of cream out of the fridge, topped off the drinks and, after putting everything away, carried them out to the living room.

"Here you go, one Irish coffee, as ordered," he said as he handed down one of the goblets.

"You're a god, Daniel," Jack said as he took the offered drink.

"That would be the god-dess Dan-yel -- false – goddess Dan-yel."

Jack gave out with a bark of laughter before taking a sip. He made a little humming noise and said, "You know how to make these things. Most places screw them up, or get too fancy, but this is the real deal."

"Learned it from an Irish buddy back in school."

"I'm impressed. What else don't I know about you?"

"I'd marry you…if you asked," Daniel said with a grin.

"Really?"

"Yep."

Jack smiled, but a moment later it faded as the undertone of seriousness in Daniel's voice registered. He canted his head slightly and said, "You would?"

"I would."

"Even though you think you're useless to the SGC and SG-1?"

Looking surprised, Daniel said, "What does one have to do with the other?"

"Self-worth, maybe?"

"Hey, I have plenty of that. It's the SGC that doesn't need me, or more precisely, my talents. No, scratch that. They need me, they just don't use me, but I'd expect you to use me if we got married. Quite frequently, actually."

Jack found himself blinking rapidly. He held up the goblet and asked, "There is coffee in this, right?"

Daniel laughed and nodded. "There's coffee."

"So then this conversation is real and not the product of too much whiskey?"

"It's real," Daniel said, his voice light, but with the same undercurrent Jack had discerned earlier.

"I see. So is this something that's been hanging around long?"

"I don't know. What do you consider long?"

"How did this conversation go from Irish coffee, the SGC and your lack of self-worth, to us getting married?"

Daniel leaned over and put his drink down. "Now Jack, if I had any lack of self-worth, would I think even for a minute that you'd want to marry me? I mean, really. You're considered quite a catch at the SGC so I'd have to think I was equal to the challenge, you know?"

"I gotta tell ya, Daniel, I'm thoroughly confused."

"Perpetual state for you."

"Oh, like that's gonna get a proposal out of me."

Daniel shrugged and picked his drink up again. He took a good swallow before saying, "It's not the same, Jack. I'm not sure I can keep doing this."

The sudden change of subject threw Jack for a total loop. He gave a little shake of his head before saying stupidly, "Huh?"

"I said earlier that I couldn't quit – but at the same time – I can't go on. It makes no sense, don't you see?"

"Ah, we've left discussion of our engagement and come back you and SG-1, haven't we?"

"You don't get it, Jack. I need to feel useful. I need to feel that, like you, Sam and Teal'c, I'm accomplishing something, and I don't. I walk through the 'Gate, come out on the other side and we fight, then we walk back through the 'Gate, butt heads with the NID, fight, and I don't know who the bad guys are anymore. I don't always know that the Goa'uld are any worse than what we have right here and what was once so clear – is now all muddied."

Daniel suddenly removed his glasses, set them very carefully on the table next to the couch, rubbed the bridge of his nose, and said, "I truly believed that the Stargate was the miracle that would turn this world on its ear. Believed that what we were doing would change the world forever – in the best way. But now – now I see it as just another tool used by governments, fought over by them, misunderstood by them, and, yes, misused by them."

Jack found himself captured by Daniel's words and the emotion behind them. He felt his stomach churning even as his heart seemed to constrict.

"It's damn hard to continue thinking that we're making a difference out there, let alone here on Earth, Jack. And to top it off, hell, I'm a dinosaur now, you know?" He finally looked at Jack. "I think maybe it's time to cut me loose."

Jack had never relied on words to express his feelings and thus often failed to use them when needed most. He understood their power all too well and it scared the hell out of him. He could so clearly remember his inability to use them following Charlie's death, because to do so would have left him more vulnerable than even he'd been willing to admit. Vulnerable, scared, and hurt more than he thought it was possible to bear. With the use of words, he'd also have had to admit his guilt, put it out there like an open wound for all to see. Instead, the wound had been covered and allowed to fester into gangrene of the soul, at least until Abydos and an arrogant, naïve, innocent young geek named Daniel Jackson.

Now here he was, with same said geek, and he needed to use words as he'd never needed them before. Failing tonight would mean absolute loss of this man and the loss to the SGC would be catastrophic. Oh, it wouldn't close down, but it would lose its humanity because the man who kept them all on the right path would be gone.

Worse still, he would lose the person responsible for keeping his heart beating.

Okay, so where to start in this verbal battle?

Inspiration struck.

He leaned forward and put his hand on Daniel's knee. "Can you answer a question for me, Daniel? And I want an honest, well-thought-out answer."

Surprised, Daniel slowly nodded.

"Do you think I've changed since we first met?"

He didn't expect an immediate answer. He knew that Daniel would give the question all the consideration possible, and he wasn't disappointed. Several minutes passed before Daniel finally said, "I don't know… Perhaps. Or maybe change is the wrong word. You've – expanded." Suddenly Daniel smiled, that shy, silly grin Jack enjoyed seeing so much. "You were damn tight when we first met, a regular closed-up-shop son of a bitch."

Trying not to look shocked, Jack said, "Where did you…where the hell did-"

"Just something I thought to myself when you first opened your mouth with that 'I'm in charge now', and let's not forget 'He's full of shit'. Closed-up-shop son of a bitch seemed entirely appropriate. And your haircut – what the hell was that, anyway?"

"My haircut? What about yours – or lack thereof. What was that mop you were wearing? And I was sporting a crew cut back then. I thought I looked very…military."

"Yeah, military, that's the word, all right." Daniel rolled his eyes. "But as a human, you were closed for business until Skaara. He managed to get under your skin, didn’t he?"

"Skaara was…it was easy to see Charlie in him, but he wasn't the one who got me to hang up the open sign again."

"So something happened after you got home? You were definitely a different man a year later. There was a real warmth coming from you, Jack. Gee," he grinned, "I guess that's my answer. Yes, you've changed."

"For the better?"

"Are you fishing for more compliments?" Daniel asked with a grin.

"No, Daniel, I'm not. Just answer."

"Okay, yeah, for the better."

"Even though we still fight and butt heads?"

"I'm not sure what that has to do with-"

"Answer the question, Daniel."

"Okay - yeah. And while I'm not sure where you're going with this little question and answer session, I can say that you're proving my point. We're actually fighting more now, almost constantly, and I have to take the blame. I know damn well the pressure you're under – that the SGC is under – to produce, and I still give you grief. Sure, I've tried to keep my mouth shut, I swear it, but it's not in me, which is all the more reason for cutting me loose."

"So it doesn't matter that I come around to your way of thinking eventually?"

Daniel cocked his head. "Is this before or after you want to shove me through a wall?"

"You're never going to let me live that one down, are you?"

Daniel gave him a wry grin. "You meant it."

"Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. I didn't-"

"Yes, you did, and it's okay. However, we're so far from our original conversation that it's almost ludicrous." He got to his feet, picked up his goblet, nodded at Jack's, and asked, "Another one, or?"

Jack reached out and grabbed Daniel's hand. "No, wait. Let me say my piece, all right?"

Daniel pulled away, just enough so that his hand slipped from Jack's, and said, "Sure, go ahead."

"You're right, I've changed, but because of you. Hammond sees the project differently – because of you. So do Carter, Teal'c, and a damn good chunk of the rest of the SGC. Yes, the pressure to produce has caused some friction between us, but only because-"

"Because I open my mouth and it's contrary to what our core mission has become, and that's scary."

Jack found himself blinking rapidly even as his mouth dropped open, because…Daniel was right. They'd be in a briefing, Daniel would start talking, making sense, but what he'd be saying wouldn't get the job done. Not the job that "the powers that be" wanted done. Not the job that Jack was ordered to do. But that never stopped him for thanking God each time Daniel opened his mouth.

Suddenly Jack had the answer on how to get Daniel to see his worth. He had the examples he'd failed to come up with earlier. Excited, he leaned forward and said, "Let me ask you another question. What would have happened to the Enkarans if you'd left the SGC? And how 'bout Euronda? What would have happened if you hadn't been there, or more recently, on Latona? And speaking of Latona, there's a perfect example of how much your skills are needed. I doubt that anyone else could have done what you did, let alone in time. Your skill with language got that force field down – and back up. And how about the asteroid and your option 'number three'? What would have happened to Earth if you'd left the SGC?"

"Sam would have—"

"But she didn't, you did. And in time to save the day. I know you felt ridiculous going along on that one, feeling the odd man out, right?"

Daniel nodded slowly. "But I couldn't stand the idea of…and not being with… I just couldn't stand it and, since I am part of SG-1, I-"

"So, thanks to you and Carter – the job got done. Damn it, Daniel, I could give you hundreds of ways you and you alone have made a difference. Jesus, when I think of the Summit, it actually scares the hell out of me. If anyone other than you had been that spy, all the system lords would be dead, Anubis would own the galaxy and we'd probably be dust right now. I know you think you failed on that one, but you didn't." Jack paused, then slowly reached out and took Daniel's hand again. Tugging him gently down until he was seated again, Jack leaned forward and said softly, "You changed me, Daniel, not Skaara, life or time. You. Please believe me when I say that we're not that far apart anymore. I see the world through your eyes now, and while, at times, it grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard," he grinned, "I wouldn't trade the view for anything on this Earth."

Daniel's face drained of all color as he said, "You're serious, aren't you?"

"I am."

Jack was suddenly very aware of Daniel's hand in his. He glanced down and thought that it was odd how well they looked together. His dark hand wrapped around Daniel's lighter one. Their fingers were similar, long and slender, and he found himself squeezing gently. When Daniel squeezed back, Jack felt it like a lightning strike, one that went straight to his groin, from holding hands.

With Daniel.

"You know," he finally said, "now might be the time for that proposal."

"For God's sake, don't get down on your knees, Jack. You'll never get back up."

"That was a low blow. My knees are fine. In fact, to prove it." He stood up, Daniel's hand still in his, and got down on one knee in front of him. "Daniel, would you do me the honor of joining me at my cabin in Minnesota for three days of fun, frolic and fishing?"

Biting back a grin, Daniel asked, "Would you be willing to define…frolic?"

"Sure, once you help me up."

Laughing, Daniel got to his feet and hauled Jack to his. "Okay, define frolic."

Stepping in close, Jack said, "Earlier you said you'd expect me to use you – frequently. Well, in my world, frolic is code for frequent Daniel-use. And equally frequent Jack-use. Sound good?"

"You sure?"

Jack gazed into Daniel's eyes – and was lost. "I'm sure."

Jack wasn't certain how it happened, exactly, but the next thing he knew, his lips were plastered to Daniel's and just as suddenly, tongues were involved.

When, five minutes later, he was being led to Daniel's bedroom, he said, "I suppose you think I proposed to you, don't you?"

"Don't be silly," Daniel said over his shoulder. "We've been married for years."

***

"Yes, sir, and thank you for understanding. No, I'm sure Ted and his team can handle Kelowna. Yes, sir, we will. See you in two weeks."

Jack hung up and smiled. Two weeks with Daniel, in Minnesota, and maybe there'd be some fishing too. Woohoo.

He turned and almost ran back to Daniel's bedroom. Bursting in, he flung himself onto the bed to the laughter of his companion.

"Nice dive, Jack."

"Thanks, and we're a go for Minnesota." Crawling up to Daniel, he dropped down so that his head was resting over Daniel's heart.

"How did you manage that? We're scheduled for a mission on Thursday."

"I simply said you were tired and overworked, so he's reassigning P-whatever to SG-6. I'm a genius."

"A genius who blames the need for a break on me?"

"Get real, Daniel. Hammond would do anything for 'our boy'. If I say you're tired, he says, 'Take him somewhere, Colonel'."

Daniel grinned and patted Jack's head. "You're a good wife, Jack, but if you really loved me – you'd take me to Disneyland."

Jack pulled the cover over his head and groaned. Laughing, Daniel said, "Come on, a week in California – a week in Minnesota. Oh, and by the way? As long as you're down there…."

 

 

 

-30-