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Just How Far I'd Travel, Just How Far Would I Go

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Chapter 1
Forever, Forever may not be long enough for my love

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
"Daniel. Daniel, where are you?" Jack O'Neill entered the cabin carrying the mail and the Duluth Daily News, the only paper they could get this far up in the mountains. He was tall and lean at six foot two and one hundred eighty pounds. His light brown hair, heavily garnished with silver, had grown longer and lightened considerably since he'd moved back to the great outdoors of Minnesota, the land of his youth. The red checked flannel shirt, jeans and hiking boots fit him like a second skin making him one of the favorite topics of conversation in the small town of Elk Horn. There was no answer to his call.

The retired Air Force Colonel lay down the mail on the kitchen table. "Daniel?" He checked the bedroom, still no good-looking significant other in sight. A quick glance into the bath also proved fruitless. He reached into the small cabinet by his side of the bed and checked. The 9MM Glock handgun was still in it's holster inside the drawer. He removed the firearm from it's resting place, checked the clip and shoved it in the back of his jeans. He went back out through the living room and pushed the back screen door open. "Yoo- hoo, Lucy I'm home." Jack stepped out the back door and his breath caught in his throat.

Daniel Jackson was out away from the cabin, concentrating on the task he had set for himself. He was presently facing away from their home, holding the big compound bow that Jack had taught him to use. Daniel was aiming a practice tip arrow at a circular target they had set up out in the small meadow that constituted their back yard. That in itself was good, but what took Jack's breath clean away was the picture he was unconsciously presenting.

Daniel too had benefited from the active outdoor life. He was standing in the classic archer pose, shoulders back, left arm extended and right arm pulling the nocked arrow. Shirtless and glowing from a sheen of perspiration, the posture emphasized his trapezoids, biceps, triceps, and lower back. His hair had lightened to a golden ash blond and it had grown out considerably from the short military style he'd worn before when he was still with the SGC. The worn gray sweatpants Daniel had on were living up to their name and clinging tenaciously to his lower body, molded like a second skin to his gluts, thighs and calves. The soft suede moccasin boots finished the picture creating a vision of a feral woodland godling. Jack stood mesmerized by the scene before him. In a few seconds, the arrow was released and it flew towards it's intended target, striking the circle in the white ring, off center by only a few inches.

"Good shot!" O'Neill called out to the neophyte archer.

Daniel turned to greet his lover, with a small grin. "No. I missed." He protested the praise.

"You hit the target." Jack walked over to greet Daniel. He wrapped his arms around the younger man and kissed him soundly.

"But I missed the center." The kissed one protested. "Jack, I'm all sweaty!"

"Yes, you are." Jack agreed, "You certainly are. Absolutely sweaty, just the way I like you."

As Daniel slid his arms down around Jack's waist, where he felt the weapon tucked into his jeans.

"Oh, is that your gun or are you just happy to see me?"

"Yes, dear." Jack kissed him again.

"Don't take this wrong, but why do you have a gun?"

"Well, you didn't answer when I yelled your name..." Jack stopped nipping at his lover's bare neck for a second. "So I got a little antsy." He shrugged and slipped his hands down the back of the immoral sweat pants firmly caressing the firm muscles. He could feel Daniel's reaction as he pulled the younger man against him.

"Sorry, I didn't hear you come back." He leaned into Jack and kissed him back, working his mouth to insinuate his talented tongue into Jack's eager kiss.

"You, uh, got some ma....lll. Umpummm." The trained archaeologist's hands started a new excavation down the front of his Levis. He could feel Daniel's fingers moving around between them, unfastening his jeans and sliding into his boxer's fly. To reciprocate, he began kneading the firm flesh he presently had his hands on. Jack was beginning to get a little lightheaded, what with all the blood presently pooling into his nether regions. As Daniel began to fondle his cock and balls, Jack traced his forefinger down the sweat-slicked cleft and located the sphincter muscle. As his erection started to harden further, he insinuated his finger into the delicate opening and began to stroke gently, keeping pace and rhythm with his assaulter. Daniel groaned his appreciation into Jack's mouth. Jack was simply losing his mind.

"Do you want to go inside?" Daniel asked breathily.

"I already am." Jack managed to get out around the tongue that had presently taken up residence around about where his tonsils had been once. He tweaked his finger as a reminder then hooked his booted foot around the suede moccasins and gently tilted his lover over and down onto the ground.

"Jack,"

Jack was past any skills of verbal communication. As he lowered Daniel to the soft grass, his hands slid the sweats down past Daniel's hips. Daniel had been forced to release his lover's genitals so as not to hurt him, but his hands had slipped up around Jack's ribs kneading the strong back muscles that supported him. As he was laid down on the soft ground on his back, Jack shifted and moved between his legs.

Suddenly, Daniel stiffened and hissed into O'Neill's ear. "Jack, there's someone in the trees!"

"Whaat?" His attention had been broken by the tone of his lover's voice.

"Ssssh." The younger man breathed. "There's someone in the trees, watching us."

Jack stayed where he was; lying over Daniel's prone form but his mind was working quickly. "Where?"

"Five o'clock." Daniel replied. "He's only just been there a few minutes."

"Do you see my gun?" Jack asked, not remembering where it had slipped out of his waistband.

"About eight inches to the right of your hip. I can reach it easily."

"Good, grab it and aim it at him, but if he moves...shoot." Jack spoke in a soft serious voice. "I'll block you till you get your sweats up."

"Great." Daniel grimaced. "I hope it's not any of the neighbors." He slowly reached down to the weapon lying on the ground where it had slipped out of Jack's jeans. He palmed the 9MM and slid the safety off and nodded to Jack who was tensed and ready to go. O'Neill nodded and pushed himself off of his lover as Daniel leaned forward and pointed the weapon at the still form in the trees.

The silhouette slowly raised his hands over his head and spoke in a clear familiar voice. "Hi Jack. Long time no see!"

Once O'Neill gained his knees he spun around and deftly took the pistol from Daniel's hand. In a second, Daniel had his sweats back up to his waist and was in a crouch behind Jack. He grasped his lover and pushed, the two men stood up as one.

The figure remained standing still, arms up still in a position of surrender. "How you doing Jack? I see the rumors of your death are still greatly exaggerated."

Jack kept his gun pointed at the shape in the trees. "What hole did you crawl up out of Harry?"

"Oh you know me, here there and everywhere." The voice continued familiarly. "Hadn't heard from you in a while, thought I do a little checking. I was afraid that something had happened to you."

"Come out of the trees, Harry," The retired Colonel called. "But keep both your hands where I can see them." Jack said grimly, holding the gun steady and pointing it at the smaller man. "You don't have to worry about me, Harry. But you might be concerned about yourself."

"You surprise me, Jack. Who's your friend?" The smaller man called out to him. "I thought your taste ran more to tall, blond women than pretty boys?" Maybourne still hadn't gotten a clear look at O'Neill's partner. "If I had known about this weakness earlier we could have been doing business a lot sooner and more to my advantage."

It occurred to O'Neill that Harry hadn't recognized Daniel, that he thought his companion was someone new. Of course the old NID spy would have heard of Jackson's apparent death while at the SGC. And Danny had changed in his appearance, growing his sun-bleached hair longer, filling out and becoming more tanned due to his active outdoor life since their reunion in the wilderness of Minnesota.

Jackson had got to his feet and was standing close behind Jack, still obscured from Harry's view. He was tugging on O`Neill`s jeans trying to secure them by reaching around under the long shirt tail that hung down to and buttoning his fly back up. "Jack?"

"Stop fidgeting with my pants and stay behind me," He responded sotto voce. "He doesn't recognize you."

"What?"

"He thinks your dead, remember. Go into the cabin and don't let him see your face," He continued. "I don't want him to know who you are yet."

"I don't want..."

"Go in the house and hold the rifle on him. Let him see the barrel through the window."

Daniel managed to get O'Neill's belt buckled, kissed him on the back through his shirt and trotted back to the cabin, ducking his head as he turned. He didn't like it, but Jack was right about Maybourne not knowing him. It was safer for them both this way.

"So who is he, Jack?" Harry had a knowing grin on his face as he stepped out into the sunlit meadow. "Are you corrupting the local youths? A small town will run you out on a rail for moral sins."

"What do you want, Maybourne?" Jack asked him pointedly. "You didn't come all this way for a friendly visit."

"Jack, I'm hurt." The smaller man stopped about ten feet from when Jack was standing. "After all we've been through together." He shook his head. "I was worried about you. I know you have a, shall we say history, of depression. I came to offer you a job opportunity."

"Another one? What kind of job are you talking about this time ?" O'Neill pretended to be interested. He never knew what this slime ball was into and it might be to their benefit in the long run to know where he was coming from.

"Well, there are several that you might be interested in." Maybourne started to lower his hands. Jack motioned with the barrel of the 9MM. "Come on, Jack. My arms are getting tired." He complained. "Aren't you going to ask me in?"

"No, I don't think so, Harry," Jack remarked dryly. "Not yet. I'm still not sure you aren't the one who shot me in that hospital that time."

"I've told you that it wasn't me. Hell, it was probably Simmons. He'd shoot his own mother if he had enough reason." The former NID agent continued. "Besides, he's involved with one of the situations that I was going to tell you about. He's still got that Goa'uld."

Jack shrugged. "He can keep him; they deserve each other. Hell, if the Earth is lucky, they'll kill each other. But it's no skin off my nose, not anymore." He smiled thinly at Maybourne. "I'm retired remember. Out the door, down the road, past tense, and old news. If you want a rise out of anybody, e-mail Carter. She may care. Me, I don't...not a rat's ass...especially not about you."

"Jack, you've changed." Harry shook his head sadly. "I'd heard that when Jackson died it had taken the heart out of you. Now, I can see it for myself. It was a tragic loss, even if he was a bit irritating at times."

"Shut the fuck up, Harry!" Jack said softly. "He was so far out of your league; you couldn't even begin to get it."

"It didn't take you long to replace him though, did it." Maybourne smiled grimly. "Maybe your feelings weren't returned. I know he grieved for his wife for years. Then you took him for your own." Harry shrugged. "Maybe he just did it so he could keep looking for her...to pay you off. You always did like those long legged blonds: your wife, Carter, Jackson, now this kid."

"Harry, give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you right now...just to get you out of my life forever." Jack straightened his arm, pointing the weapon directly at Maybourne, his finger unconsciously tightening on the trigger.

"Come on, Jack. Cause I'm you. I'm the dark side of Jack O'Neill." The shorter man looked at him with confidence. "We've seen the same stuff, done the same things, been the same places and been fucked over by the same people. You are me, Jack. I just got caught, and it took another me to do it." Maybourne looked at him steadily. "If Hammond hadn't sicced you on me, I'll still be a Colonel in the Air Force...hell, I'd probably be a General by now. You owe me Jack. You queered my deal big time."

Harry casually dropped his right hand to his hip pocket. Before O'Neill could react, a shot rang out from the window of the cabin. Maybourne spun around with a curse and hit the ground, grasping his upper arm where his blood leaked onto the flannel shirt he was wearing. "Damn it, Jack!" Harry spit out. He was now sitting on his butt in the dirt. "Who the hell is that and why did he shoot me?" He whined. "I was just reaching..."

"Exactly. You were just...reaching." O'Neill ambled over and reached down behind the other man's back, picking up the automatic pistol from where Harry had dropped it. He also did a quick pat down of the prone man and pulled a boot knife from his trouser leg and a wire garrote from Harry's pant cuff. O'Neill straightened up and glanced back at the house. The rifle barrel was gleaming in the sun and still protruding from the window, overseeing the scene. Jack looked back at the cabin with a smile. Daniel's instincts were better than ever. He looked back down at the man on the ground in front of him.

"Give me one good reason I shouldn't finish the job right now Harry. One reason."

Harry glared up at him, still holding his wounded arm. "Okay, Jack. I have information you need."

"You got squat, Harry!"

"No, really." He continued as if uninterrupted. "Simmons and Senator Kinsey are going to cause an incident at the Stargate. I don't know exactly what or how, but it will involve the Russians and affect our relationship not only with them but also with one or more of Earth's allies. I don't know who, or which ones. Maybe General Carter's group. They think that they can fool Wallace. Without you or Jackson there to mediate it just might work. The resulting confusion could allow the Goa'uld to get the upper hand over us and the Tok'ra!"

Jack looked suspiciously at the man sitting on the ground. As unlikely as it sounded on the surface, the change of command at the SGC and the resultant confusion could cause enough instability to allow something like this scenario to occur. He knew he'd have to get in touch with Hammond or Sam Carter and let them know what was going on.

Maybourne watched the retired Colonel's face as the flash of insight crossed his expression. For all of O'Neill's vaunted cynicism, he remained one of the few men Maybourne knew he could depend on to take the proper actions on these matters.

The only unknown element that Harry hadn't counted on was the unidentified paramour. He had been surprised to discover O'Neill shacking up with someone...a young man no less. If Daniel Jackson had still been alive, it would have been no surprise, hell even expected given the close relationship of the two men. But when he'd finely located the hideaway and discovered this other youngster he'd been astonished. He didn't like surprises in his schemes and this definitely counted as one. Plus, it detracted from his confidence in his knowledge of O'Neill.

*******

Jack was rapidly dissecting the scenario that Harry had presented him with. He didn't know Wallace well, though he had met the General years before when, as a Captain on a Special Operations team, he was on had gone behind the lines to pull the then fighter pilot out of harm's way. Hammond thought highly of the man but Jack was a bit too experienced to take anyone at face value. He really wanted to talk to Daniel about this to get the younger man's take, but he was unwilling to reveal to Maybourne just who his companion was as yet. It would open too many opportunities to the wily man to hold Jack in check.

Daniel had been watching the complete episode from his seat by the window, but he couldn't hear what was being said between the two men. He could tell from Jack's stance that whatever was being said was interesting at least. Whether or not it was important to anyone other than them, he couldn't discern. When the other man had dropped his hand to his side, Daniel had made the split second decision to fire the rifle. He could have easily killed the ex-NID operative, but he didn't really want to shoot the man in cold blood, though if the threat to Jack had continued Daniel would have done so without any qualms. After the two men had continued to talk for a while, Jack finally tilted his pistol's barrel up in the air and glanced back to the cabin, nodding at Daniel. Jack then reached down and pulled Maybourne up by his good arm. He then escorted him to the back deck of the cabin.

Once Jack got him to the area, he called out to the man in the kitchen, still not using his name. Daniel took it to mean to still not reveal his identity. O'Neill turned Harry to face the woods away from the door then motioned for his partner to come out.

"Bring me the first aide kit. I want to patch up our guest," Jack requested. When the small white box was brought out he moved around in front of Maybourne and scowled at the visitor. "Just because I'm patching you up doesn't mean I still won't finish the job later, Harry. So, don't do anything stupid."

"Jack, I'm hurt by your lack of trust." Maybourne complained. "After all we've meant to each other."

"The only thing you've meant to me has been a pain in my ass. Shut up," Jack groused at him. "Harry, I'm retired. I live up here to get away from all this shit." O'Neill opened the kit, removed a small pair of scissors and cut open the sleeve so he could see the wound to treat it.

"Jack, I understand. I really do. It's just that I'm worried that no one else is capable of handling this situation. They don't have the....skills required." Harry shrugged. "I could do it, but they won't trust me." He watched O'Neill treat his flesh wound. "Ouch, be careful. That hurts, Jack."

"Yeah, they'd throw your butt back in jail if they could find you." O'Neill agreed, concentrating on treating the other man's wounded arm.

Maybourne nodded in agreement. "They don't appreciate the tool after the job is done. You know Jack, I've only done what's been asked or expected of me, just like you." He complained.

"Funny that's what William Calley said after My Lai, and what Oliver North said after the Iran-Contra Scandal. Face, it Harry. You got caught, embarrassed your boss, and he hung you out to dry; you and Makepeace both." Jack shook his head as he finished tying the bandage off. "I'm sorry, I can't help you, Harry. I can't protect you against yourself. Maybe you're right, maybe I was just lucky that I got a Commander like Hammond who had enough sense and courage to stand against people like that. But I've paid my dues now. I've lost enough. I'm not going to risk what I have now, not for you, and not for your old bosses to clean up their mess. You're on your own."

"What do you have now, Jack? A crummy cabin in these woods, a penny- ante pension and an illicit affair with some stupid kid?" Harry stopped at the last phrase.

O'Neill's face had gone very cold very fast. "Shut up Harry. Shut up and get the fuck out of my woods and off my property...." Then he glanced up over his prisoner's shoulder to the cabin's back door. Daniel was standing there watching and listening. Then the younger man motioned Jack to come over to where he was standing. He glanced back down at their guest. "Don't run, Harry. I will shoot you in the leg. Don't turn around, I will shoot you in the head." He straightened up and stepped over to the door, keeping an eye on the ex NID agent. "What?"

"Jack, don't you think we should do something?" Jackson looked at him then at Maybourne.

"We can't trust this guy. It could all be a set up to get something on us." Jack patiently reminded the younger man.

"He could also be serious about the threat. I don't like the idea of this Goa'uld being here on Earth. Shouldn't we at least call Sam and let her know. I mean, she was the one that was being threatened by him last time."

Jack grimaced, then nodded. "Yea, we could send her an encrypted e- mail. That way they have a heads up anyway."

"See, if you can find out where he was the last time Maybourne heard of him," Daniel suggested. "That way we could point them in the right direction."

Jack sighed, then nodded at the younger man. "You're right. Hell, he's right. I don't like it any more than you do. We can't just let this guy run around on Earth." He glanced back at Harry, then nodded. "Go on in and e-mail Carter. Use the code thing she installed. Tell her we'll be in touch when we get more information." Daniel nodded and went back into the cabin.

Harry had sat still, looking out over the meadow. He had overheard the low conversation. "Jack, I'm surprised at you. Did you tell him all your little secrets? All about the SGC? I'm shocked!"

"Don't worry about it Harry." O'Neill commented. "Where was the Gould the last time you heard about him?"

"No, Jack. There's got to be some give and take here." Harry turned to look at O'Neill. "I can't trust you if you won't trust me." He stared up at the taller man. "What are you so afraid that I'll find out? Hell, Jack nobody cares if you`re..."

Jack made a decision. He pulled his boot knife, then reached down and grasped the other man's flannel shirt by the front collar. Then O'Neill leaned down very close into Harry's face laying the blade alone his cheek. "Listen to me Maybourne. You're right. I do care...I care about my friends here on Earth...I care about having that damn Simmons and his pet gould running around ...and I care about that fucking Senator Kinsey having the power and ability to close down this planet's only defense against things that he doesn't even begin to comprehend. So, I'm going to do something I can only hope I won't come to regret. I'm going to have to trust you. Don't make me sorry, Harry. Cause there's a great big deep lake over there that a man can disappear into and never be seen again. You got it?"

Harry tried to keep up a brave front and smiled weakly. "Don't worry, Jack. Believe it or not, we are on the same side here. You can trust me."

Jack released him and walked back over to the doorway. He opened it and leaned in. "I think we're going to have to trust Harry here."

Daniel turned from where he was sitting at the computer and nodded. "I think you're right. I don't like it, but I don't see any other options.

O'Neill shrugged. "You could stay here."

Daniel grimaced at him. "That's not an option, Jack. We've had this discussion before. Where you go, I go." He smiled. "I'll watch your back."

Jack looked at him for a minute, just watching that smile. "Okay, and I'll watch yours. Together, buddy, we can't lose."

*******

The two men came out onto the deck and looked at their `guest'. Harry was still looking towards the woods and hadn't seen Daniel's face yet. Jack looked into his lover's eyes, smiled and nodded. Daniel winked at him and walked around to the front of Maybourne.

Daniel's ash blond hair had grown to almost shoulder length and he no longer needed his glasses thanks to Oma Desala's miracle of his rebirth. He had pulled a tee shirt on and he was still wearing the sweat pants and moccasin boots from earlier. As he stepped around to where Harry could see him, he squatted down in front of the older man.

"Hello, Maybourne. It's been a long time."

Harry looked at him in blankly; then shocked recognition came. "Doctor Jackson? Is that you?"

Jack came around to stand behind him and laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel turned to look up at his lover. The two men's eyes met then turned to Maybourne.

"Your files list you as deceased." He remarked, surprised.

"They've said that before." Daniel nodded amicably.

"But Doctor Fraiser...her reports said you died of radiation poisoning."

"And so I did...I don't recommend it, by the way."

"But how?"

"Harry," Jack said with a smile. "Haven't you learned yet? Nothing is impossible where Daniel`s concerned. I found that out a long time ago."

"So this is your secret." Maybourne said. "This is what you're protecting up here in the middle of nowhere."

Jack looked down at the younger man. Just who was protecting whom? He hadn't figured that out yet. "No, Harry. I'm not protecting him. He's protecting me."

"Yea, right." Maybourne commented unbelievingly.

"Harry, I'm not the one who shot you."

 

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Chapter 2
I have a will but I'm lost inside your touch
ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
The three men entered the cabin. Harry looked around the comfortable furnishings. "This is nice, Jack." He settled in the inviting overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace.

"Yea, not bad for a crummy cabin, a penny-ante pension and an illicit affair with some stupid kid." Jack went to the fridge and pulled out three beers. He pitched one to Maybourne who caught it deftly with his good arm, and then he walked to where Daniel had sat back down at the computer and put one down next to him on the desk on a coaster. The younger man smiled up at Jack. O'Neill paused a moment and just looked at him in appreciation before going over to sit on the couch.

Harry shook his head. "Okay. Not so crummy, not so penny-ante and not so stupid." He opened the beer bottle with a twist, grimacing at the pain caused by the motion to his injury. "So how did you do it Daniel? A sarcophagus?"

Jackson looked at him, not sure if he approved of Maybourne's use of his given name. "No."

After a few seconds, he realized that Jackson wasn't going to tell him. Harry looked at O'Neill who looked at him smugly and took another sip of beer. "Well, how did he do it?" At the continuing silence, Maybourne continued. "Come on Jack, you don't expect me to believe that his was the Second Coming do you? Who does that make you? Saint John or Mary Magdalene?"

"Harry, don't blaspheme." O'Neill commented darkly. "You may not like the role you get cast in."

"Let's not bring any Christian references into this, shall we." Daniel glared at their uninvited visitor. "It's bad enough I have to deal with my chosen field of study being corrupted without any reference to the Christian belief system. I am not, nor ever claimed to be a god of any sort or in any context of the word. Nor do I want to be!" He glared at both of the older men. "So can it, both of you!"

Jack looked over at him and smiled. Daniel's eyes softened when they rested on his lover.

"Well?" Maybourne demanded, not put off by the younger man.

"Just call it a miracle, Harry." O'Neill gaze shifted to him for a moment before returning to Daniel. "And don't worry about it."

The younger man finished shutting down the computer, got up and came over to the couch, sitting down beside O'Neill. Jack reached up and pushed the longish light brown hair out of Daniel's face to behind his ear, then running his thumb along the younger man's jaw line.

"I sent that e-mail to Sam. She should read it before she goes home tonight." Daniel said, then considered something else. "What do you want to have for dinner? There`s not enough steak thawed for three."

"How about some of that venison stew I made yesterday? Do we have enough left?" Jack asked, glancing at their unexpected guest.

Daniel nodded. "Did you get that barrel of flour today? I can make some flatbread."

Jack nodded. "Yea, that would work. The flour and sugar are still out in the truck." Then added, "I chopped some wood before I left this morning."

The younger man nodded, then got up from his seat and headed out the door. Jack crossed the room to the wood-burning stove. Maybourne watched him in amazement.

"What are you two doing?"

"Starting a fire to make dinner, Harry." Jack commented dryly. "In case you hadn't noticed, our staff took the day off."

"You really live like this, Jack?"

"Yea, Harry. We do. We like it. If you don't, you shouldn't have come up here." O'Neill rose and went into the kitchen kneeling in front of the large cast iron cooking stove. "We also wash our own dishes, store our own food and don't watch television much."

"I saw the satellite uplink," The Maybourne protested.

"That's for the computer and the telephone. The television is extra. We mostly use the VCR and DVD, though I do watch the hockey games, CNN and the Discovery channel every once and a while." Jack continued to talk as he stirred up the embers from the morning's breakfast fire.

Daniel came back in with an armful of wood that he dropped it on the floor next to the stove. He then went back outside. Jack began to stoke the smoldering embers. Once the fire had built up, O'Neill crossed to the back pantry and came back with a package of frozen food.

Jackson had returned, this time carrying a large keg that appeared quite heavy. He took it back to the storage area. Once he dropped that off he left again and returned with two smaller containers. As Jack started to heat the frozen stew in a large pot on the stove, Daniel started the process of making flat bread. The two men worked together as a team, interspersing their work with teasing commentary. Maybourne watched in amazement as the hardened Special Ops trained officer and the highly educated scholar started a food fight with flour and bread dough.

"So, what's Simmons been up to that's got your drawers in a twist Harry?" Jack asked casually, noticing his attention.

"Well, he's moved the Goa'uld, probably to another safe house." Harry came over to the kitchen area but staying well away from the flour-spattered arena. "I think he's going to try something with him here shortly. He and Kinsey have been in contact for about a month. Kinsey's due for re-election soon and since the Democrats are out of power now he's not such a sure thing any more." Maybourne chuckled. "He thought that the Bush administration would be easier to deal with. But the First lady doesn't like him at all and that's affecting his relationship with the President."

"Smart lady." Jack commented.

"Yes," Harry returned. "She's not interested in furthering her own career, she wants what's best for her husband and the country, and she has a lot of common sense."

"How does this cause problems for the SGC?" Daniel asked, looking up from his bread-making task. He still had some residual flour on his face from the earlier food fight and looked quaintly domestic. "It seemed that the relationship between the USA and Russia were taking a turn for the better...when I left at least." Jack reached over with a towel and gently wiped the white powder off his face.

"Well, Daniel." Harry replied, shaking his head at the domesticity evidenced by the two men. "When you, uh.....left, Colonel Chekov wanted to put a Russian on SG1. However that suggestion was met with.... well, disapproval...with the then Team Leader of SG1. It put a damper on the relationship."

Jack was over at the stove stirring the stew. He shrugged and smiled at Daniel. Daniel shook his head at him in mock dismay.

"The Russians now have their own team." Harry continued. "Lieutenant Colonel Carter has a team comprised of two aliens and a young lieutenant. And one of these days Teal'c is going to leave. He never did develop much of a relationship with Jackson's replacement."

"He hasn't killed him yet. For Teal'c, that's saying a lot." Jack interjected as he handed Maybourne some silverware and paper napkins, motioning him back to the dining area. "Set the table Harry." Maybourne looked at him in disbelief for a moment then finally took the flatware and headed back to the table.

"So, what do you think Simmons is going to do with his Goa'uld?" Daniel asked curiously as he prepared the dough for cooking on the griddle top of the stove. "It was a juvenile larva wasn't it? It can't have much of a power base, even if it does have the genetic memories to work with."

"Yea, Harry. Who is this Gould anyway?"

"Either it hasn't told Simmons or Simmons is keeping it quiet. I haven't been able to find out. Does it make that much difference?" The ex-NID finished with the place settings and was moving chairs to around the table.

Jack and Daniel glanced at each other. "It could," Daniel answered. "They carry the race memories of their family. "Their parentage can indicate what the Goa'uld's interests are."

"And they can draw support from that group of Jaffa. If, for example, it's from Apophis's line, he could garner support from the Serpent Guard since both Apophis and Ammonet are dead." Jack glanced at Daniel to gauge his reaction.

"And Klorel is host-less, powerless and pretty much useless," Daniel added. "Unless Zipacnac was able to find another poor host for him."

"Yea, Zippy said that he would...but did he?" Jack asked thoughtfully.

"He wasn't at the Summit." Daniel told his partner. "Zipacnac was there but he was with Sarah, er, Osiris." Jack laid his hand on Daniel's shoulder and massaged it in silent support. Daniel nodded and turned his head to rub his cheek on Jack's hand.

"What Summit?"

"You mean there are secrets that Harry Maybourne isn't privy too? I'm shocked." Jack said with a sarcastic gleam in his eye. He carried the large pot of heated stew to the table and put it down on a trivet.

"Ah, well Jack..." Harry started to say something but Jack interrupted him with a raised hand. O'Neill crossed the room and going behind him to the cabin's front window.

"Son of a bitch." Jack commented softly. "It's always at dinnertime." A glow was starting to manifest itself on the front yard. "Daniel, are you expecting someone?"

"No," the younger man joined him for a moment at the window, then went to the front door of the cabin, opened it and walked out onto the lawn.

Harry came and stood beside Jack looking out at the bright light descending from the evening sky. "What the hell is that?"

Jack spared him a warning look, then followed Daniel outside. Harry remained where he was, taking O'Neill's hint to stay clear but watched with interest.

"Daniel, wait for me." Jack called, jogging up behind his young lover. Daniel paused and looked behind at him as Jack came to his side. "You are so not going anywhere without me, Danny boy." O'Neill said softly to his lover.

Daniel stopped and waited until Jack joined him. "It's Shi'fu. He may have news from Oma."

Jack reached out and grasped his partner's hand. "Together. We go together until we know."

"Together." Daniel smiled back at him then the two men went to meet the coalescing form of light.

An adolescent boy formed on the front lawn, looking very much like he had the last time O'Neill had seen him at the SGC. He was dressed in a white robe and the dark brown eyes of his mother looked out from under a shaven pate. The boy regarded them calmly.

Jackson and O'Neill approached him, then Daniel stepped out in front. "Hello, Shi'fu."

"Hello, Daniel." The boy replied. "I have missed you."

"And I have missed you. How are you?" Daniel walked over and lay his hand on Shi'fu's shoulder in a welcome.

"I am well, Oma says I grow every day." The boy smiled. "How are you?"

"I'm good. Very good." Daniel smiled back at O`Neill who stepped up beside him. "You remember Jack."

"Yes, I remember your Jack."

"Hi ya." Jack waved with his hand that wasn't holding on to Daniel.

"Shi'fu, I'm very happy to see you." Jackson smiled down at the boy. "But, why are you here? Is there a problem?"

"No, I am here from Oma." He looked at Jack then down to where their hands were clasped. "I will not take Daniel away, Jack." He smiled at the two men. "He came back to be with you. He will not leave with me now."

Jack looked at the boy, but didn't release his hold. "That's good, Shi'fu."

"What message does Oma Desala send to us?" Daniel interrupted gently with a look at Jack.

"Oma says the Goa'uld who is among you grows strong, like the candle flame that feeds upon the hot wax. It burns deep on the wick and wishes to bind many together in his heat."

"How many?" Daniel asked.

Shi'fu looked at him patiently. "The others of his kin and their Jaffa. He seeks to return to his beginnings to seek the power of his blood."

"Do you know where he comes from? What his bloodlines are?" Jack asked, suddenly intent on the young boy's answer.

"He is of Chronus."

Jack looked at Daniel for the significance. Daniel started to explain. "Chronus was the Greek god who fathered the entire pantheon of their classic gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter and Hera. Their Mother was Rhea. But an oracle had told him that one of his children would overthrow him, so as the `gods' were born, he'd swallow the infants before they drew breath. Finally, Rhea got tired of it and when she gave birth to Zeus, she gave Chronus a stone the size of the baby and he swallowed that instead. Zeus was secreted away and he grew to adulthood. According to the legend, Zeus stuck his father down and cut off his genitals, his body became the sky and his blood the seas. He also was the father of the titans and several other species in their myths and legends."

Jack waited patiently for Daniel to finish his recounting of the old tales. Even though he knew the myths were nothing but legends, he also knew that as with all legends they were based on some actual events and the ancient people used them to explain away things that they were incapable of understanding. So something had happened thousands of years ago; it was up to them to understand the message and use the information in a practical fashion. He looked at Shi'fu who was also patiently listening. "Chronus is dead." Jack said. "SG1 killed him on his own planet and started a revolt among his transplanted tenant peoples." He glanced at partner. "Daniel wasn't with us that time." At Daniel's nod, Jack continued. "He was busy with SG-11 and got archaeologist-napped by an Unas."

Shi'fu nodded. "Oma is concerned. She says the melted candle is hot and the wax easily poured into many molds."

Jack returned the nod, trying very hard to follow the point of the words. He glanced at Daniel. "Candle?"

"It's an allegory Jack. She's referring to possible futures. The Jaffa could still be controlled by an offspring of Chronus"

O`Neill nodded following the train of thought but not understanding it. "But why would they voluntarily give up their independence? They're free now."

"They could be afraid that they'd die without the larval symbiotes." Daniel answered. "When their symbiotes mature, they'll need hosts but the Jaffa will need new larva within a day or two or they'll start to die for lack of an immune system. Without Chronus they have no one to provide them. They'll have to pledge to another Goa'uld."

"So, they live enslaved to a Gould or die free." Jack commented, thinking of Teal'c. It had been a concern of SG1 and Janet Fraiser since they had learned of the life situation of their own Jaffa warrior.

Shi'fu nodded with a look of gravity on his young face. "Oma says the fire will burn very hot if fed."

"Yea, well." Jack looked at him. "I agree, I think, but I'm not sure how we can stop it. Did she send along any good ideas with you?"

"No, Jack." The boy looked at Daniel expectantly. "Oma said that you must consider your steps carefully as you travel the darkened trail or you will become lost."

"Like I'm not lost enough already." Jack murmured into Daniel's right ear. Daniel and Shi'fu both smiled at him.

Daniel nodded. "We'll do that, and hopefully something will present itself to us. In the meantime, will you stay with us a while?"

"No," The boy smiled at his stepfather. "When I asked she said the time was not proper, but later, later I may return if it's all right with your Jack?" He glanced back at O`Neill.

"Well, of course. It's no problem." He quickly covered his surprise that the question was even asked. "You are family after all." He looked at his lover fondly. Daniel was smiling happily at the boy. Jack turned to go back into the house. "Look, you two talk. I'll go in and finish dinner now, okay Daniel?"

The smile was turned his way. "Thanks Jack. I'll be there shortly."

Jack reentered the house and found Maybourne had been watching the scene with interest. "Who's that Jack?" The shorter man asked curiously.

"That is Daniel's stepson, Sha'uri's son by Apophis."

Harry looked at him sharply. "Then that's the Harcesis. The one you, well the SGC, let get away."

"Harry, we couldn't have stopped him." Jack gave him a look. "He's a little different now then when he was born."

"So I noticed. How did he get here?" Harry pressed. "Did he come in a ship?"

"No, he flew."

"Yea, right Jack." Maybourne shook his head in disgust. "If you don't want to tell me, Jack, then just say so."

"Harry, did you see a ship?" Jack shook his head at Maybourne. "They don't need ships. The Ascended don't even use the StarGate system unless they're convenient. They don't need anything else. They are some of the most powerful beings I've ever met."

"Are they the Ancients?" Maybourne looked at him suspiciously.

"No, they're more than that even." O'Neill turned back to the kitchen area to finish the dinner, tired of the obtuseness of the other man.

By the time Daniel rejoined them, the meal was ready to be served. Jack had finished the flatbread and was dishing the savory venison stew in large bowls for the table. He noticed how quiet his young lover was but didn't comment on it in front of their guest. When they sat down the two ex-Colonels kept up a conversation made up of thinly veiled comments and double entendres. Jackson kept to himself. After a desert made of canned peaches and a quick rise dough recipe, the dishes were quickly done by the younger man and Jack put them away. Maybourne was again taken by the unexpected domesticity of the scene here at their sanctum sanctorum.

After all was said and done, Jack looked over at Maybourne. "Okay Harry do you need a ride to town or do you have a car stashed somewhere around here?"

Maybourne looked up at him surprised. "You mean you're just going to let me go?"

O'Neill looked at him patiently. "Harry, I don't take prisoners, I don`t torture people and I don`t work for the government anymore so I don`t have to turn you in. You came, you convinced me of your usefulness and you shared your intel. We didn't kill you, we fed you and we shared what information we have with you. Now, go back to your hotel or whatever. It'll be dark soon and you don't want to be on these mountain roads too late."

"Well, uh thanks Jack." Harry still seems a bit surprised. "I do have a rental car down on the road by the river."

Daniel came up behind him. "Come on, Harry. I'll escort you to your car. I wouldn't want you to get lost and get eaten by a bear."

"Uh, that's okay." Maybourne looked at him in surprise. "It's not far."

"No problem. I need to walk off dinner anyway." Daniel looked over at Jack. "I'll be back soon."

Jack nodded hesitantly. He didn't know why Daniel decided to do this, but he must have a good reason. "Fine, I'll check the e-mail messages. Don`t be long."

Harry looked at the younger man suspiciously. "I know the way..."

Daniel raised an eyebrow, shook his head and gestured for Maybourne to lead. Harry nodded goodbye to Jack and left the cabin to start down the footpath to the county road below. After about a mile, he finally turned back to look at Jackson. "Okay, Daniel. Why the escort? What's going on?"

"Harry, do I make you nervous?" Daniel smiled at him.

"Actually, yeah, you do." Maybourne replied honestly and sat down on a convenient boulder. "I understand O'Neill. I know what makes him tick. You, you I don't get. You're too smart for this Jackson. You're too...good." Harry stared at him suspiciously. "And you have a bad habit of surprising people and succeeding where no one else can. I don't know how you do it but you do. Who are you, Jackson, really?".

The young man's expression changed to one of amused self- confidence. "Why Harry, I'm surprised at you. I'm Daniel Jackson; you've known me for years. Geeky intellectual archaeologist and general pain in the mik'ta to a lot of people. Let's just say I've grown a little."

"And Jack?" Harry pressed. "What about Jack?"

"Jack is my reason for being here." The calm gaze grew dangerous. "Don't fuck with us Maybourne. If you hurt him, you won't be able to handle the repercussions. You can trust me on this one."

Maybourne nodded. "Okay, Daniel. I understand. No one will find out about you two from me, I swear." He motioned down toward the distant road. "I can find the car by myself from here. You can go on back. I'll be all right."

The younger man watched the ex-NID operative for a long moment. The blue glare softened and the younger man nodded his acceptance of Harry`s words.

Maybourne got up from his seat on the rock, Harry glanced back down towards the road, then when he looked back to bid the young man goodbye...Jackson was gone. He looked back up the trail towards the cabin then glanced around at the encircling trees. He'd never seen this side of Jackson before. The boy had always been sort of a joke to the NID, one of those harmless intellectuals that they had to deal with on a daily basis. Now Harry realized that his estimation of this man was wrong. He could be dangerous, as dangerous as his partner was. The cute little harmless cub had grown up to be a mountain cat as lethal as the lone lobo who had mentored, protected and loved him for these past few years. He realized with a shock that these men were probably two of the most dangerous people he knew. He smiled at the thought of them going up against Simmons and his pet Goa'uld. Harry felt better than he had in a very long time. He shrugged and turned to go, carefully walking down the darkening trail to his car and civilization.

 

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Chapter 3
If you could would you come with me to the other side

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
Daniel returned to the cabin after leaving Maybourne with his warning. He could feel that Jack was inside, puttering around the kitchen, putting up dishes and cleaning the counter surfaces from their flour fight earlier that evening. Daniel knew this was his heaven. He didn't need nor want the pearly gates, cloud formations or winged neighbors that some of his foster parents had tried to convince him of. His heaven was made up of a small cabin in the deep woods and a rather crotchety retired Colonel that he could call his own.

Jack looked up when his young lover entered the front door. The kitchen area was back to its pristine condition. The older man smiled and welcomed him back with a hug and kiss. "Oh yeah," Jack said, remembering something after his greeting was properly explored. "Daniel, you've got some mail. I had brought it up from the store and laid it on the mantle when I got home this afternoon." He shrugged. "I kinda forgot about it with Harry sneaking by."

"Who from?" Daniel asked curiously as he relaxed into Jack's arms. "Who would...?"

"That publishing company...Knap-sac. It's addressed to Jonathan O'Neill...the author."

"Really?" Daniel got an excited look on is face. "Cool!"

"My linguist says cool. I have corrupted him." Jack remarked to the room's interior at the other man's enthusiastic reaction.

Daniel broke away and had hurried over to the cabin's hearth and looked on the ledge above the fireplace. There, lying neglected, was a legal sized manila envelope. He opened it eagerly and scanned the contents, several sheets of velum paper with a watermark.

Jack followed, coming up behind Daniel and peeking over his shoulder. "What does it say?"

"Well, they're definitely interested." Daniel replied. "But they're asking for a rewrite in some parts of the book."

"Which parts?"

"The parts between the two main characters, AmunNefer and Iskander ...they want more graphic sex scenes."

"Told ya." Jack laughed and kissed him behind the ear, wrapping his arms around the younger man. "For the forty year old housewives. Sara used to read those historical romance books all the time. Some of them got pretty steamy."

"Humm." Daniel looked back at him speculatively. "Research time."

Jack hugged his lover to him; stroking the firm abdomen and nuzzling his neck and ear. "Always room for more research. I like the way you think, Professor."

Daniel leaned back against Jack and rubbed his head on the other man's cheek. "It's always the best way...to be accurate that is. Let's see. How would a warrior-soldier take a slave-scholar and make him his faithful servant?"

"As often as he could...uh, when he wasn't fighting battles, on parade duty, or doing paperwork, that is." O'Neill qualified his enthusiastic answer. "You know how soldiers are, horny all the time."

Daniel smiled up at him and nodded. "Papyrus. They used papyrus" He corrected then shivered as Jack explored the back of his ear with his mouth. "That's part of the scholar's job, to give him more free time."

"Cool." Jack replied, speaking against Daniel's soft hair that was tickling his nose and cheek.

"But what if the slave was bad?" Daniel pressed back against him, rubbing his sweatpant-covered ass against the bulky zipper of the other man's jeans. "You know, not efficient, and he had to be punished?"

Jack kissed Daniel on the other ear, enjoying the response he got. "Wouldn't be...couldn't be."

"And if he were good?"

"Couldn't help but be."

"When he was good he was very, very good, but when he was bad, he was better?"

"Ab-so-Slutly."

"Slaves were not sluts...they were...enslaved." Daniel protested and turned in Jack's arms to return the hug. "They had no choice, after all."

"Humm...sounds like time for some...research." He brushed his lips over Daniel's mouth.

"Research is a good thing."

"So I'm told."

"For accuracy."

"Definitely."

"Wouldn't want to be...imprecise..."

"Riiight." Jack murmured, moving in for the open mouth kill. Jack held the other man firmly, his hands tracing the spine and back muscles. Daniel pressed forward returning the caresses with an almost desperate passion that startled the older man.

"Danny?" He pulled back and looked in his beloved's face sensing something was different.

"Jack, I...I want..." Daniel breathed softly, his mood and tone changed from playfulness to one of restless need.

"What baby? What do you want?" Jack asked him softly. Daniel leaned against the taller man, draping his arms sensuously around the broad shoulders and relying on Jack to support him. O`Neill wrapped his arms more firmly around the slender waist that he held; slipping his hands down under the clinging material that covered the appealing rump. He massaged the firm muscles and the soft smooth skin with his wide, long fingered hands.

"Jack..."

"Um hum." He had buried his face in his lover's neck and was pulling Daniel as close as humanly possible.

"I'm afraid." The tone in Daniel's voice had changed.

"Of what, Love?' Jack nibbled on the strong column of the tan neck, listening now.

"Of losing this, of having too much...losing you."

O'Neill stroked his lover's hair, loving the soft feel of it on his hands. " `M not going anywhere, Danny." The older man assured him. "And I won't let you leave me again." He hugged Daniel tightly to him, kissing his hair. "You're stuck with me; I lost you once... never again." He knew what had caused this, and knew why. It was one thing to have old trusted friends stopping by the cabin or neighbors that only knew them since their arrival. It was something else to be discovered by someone that Daniel didn`t trust, someone who knew who they were, someone who could pose a threat to their newfound happiness.

"Now, you listen to me Daniel Jackson." Jack slid his hands up the strong firm back, supporting the shoulders, gripping the back of his partner's skull, to hold him firmly in place and look him in the eye. "You're mine, Danny boy." He emphatically declared to his partner. "Body and soul, mind and spirit...no one...no one in heaven, purgatory or hell will separate us again. Not Harry Maybourne, the SGC, NID, the US Air Force, the Azgard, not Oma Desala, Satan nor God in his heaven. You are MINE! And I am yours ...forever! You got that, Danny?" Daniel was standing passively in Jack's grasp, his head tilted back, eyes half open, his breath coming in little puffs from his mouth. When he didn't respond, Jack released the firm grip and pulled his lover back against him, cradling the precious head on his shoulder. "Daniel?" He asked softly, "Daniel do you hear me?" He felt dampness through the flannel shirt he was wearing. He began to stroke the shoulders shaking in his arms. A soft sobbing noise reached his ear. "Danny? Danny, love?"

A faint whisper answered him. "Hold me, Jack, don't let go." The warm breath, damp on his shoulder.

"Never." O'Neill whispered an oath for them both and tightened his arms. "Never, in a thousand years."

*******

Carter and Teal'c arrived the following day, Friday afternoon, in a rented Bronco. When she had gotten the encoded message from her retired commander, Sam had approached her new General with a request for a weekend of leave. Teal'c had also decided to come to visit and since Minot AFB was relatively close to Jack's house there wasn't a security issue for `Murray' to travel by Military plane. Lieutenant Haley was busy on an experiment and Jonas, well, he knew that O'Neill had never quite accepted him after Jackson's death. That left the longtime friends and teammates to enjoy the solitude of O'Neill's retirement home and the relaxation of the weekend.

The cabin was enjoying the last of the late evening sunshine when they arrived. Jack was sitting on the porch in one of the rocking chairs working on his fishing fly collection. He had a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose and he was concentrating on tying a sure-fire-guaranteed trout fly. As the vehicle pulled up in front, he lay his equipment down and stood up to greet his friends, pitching the glassed down on the table.

"Hi ya, kids." He greeted his two old team members. "Have a good trip?"

"Indeed, O'Neill." Teal'c responded. "The good trip made even better by seeing you." The two men clasped arms and then parted to allow Carter to get her hug.

"Where's Daniel?" She asked knowing that he wouldn't be too far away.

"In the house working on his book."

"I thought he had finished that the last time we were here?" Sam asked curiously.

"Well, yea, he had." Jack smiled cryptically. "Sent it in to a publisher and everything but he got a letter back from them yesterday. They liked the book but wanted a rewrite or two." He motioned inside the cabin. "So he's in there trying to punch it up."

"What sort of rewrites?"

"Well, as you know cause you read the damned stuff, historical romance is more romance than history. They wanted more er, graphic descriptions of the activities."

"What sort of activities would these be, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked innocently.

"Oh, you know...intimate activities."

"Intimate as in...bedroom activities?" Sam asked with a smile thinking of their Daniel writing hot steamy sex scenes.

"Yep, just that kind." Jack had to chuckle. "And you know Danny, hard at work as ever." He turned and led them up the stairs to the porch and the interior of the house. He pushed open the door and glanced inside the room. "Daniel, we've got company."

Daniel raised his head from the computer. "They're here? Oh, hi, Sam...hello, Teal'c." The younger man got up from the desk and hugged his two best friends.

When Carter stepped back from the embrace, she studied him for a moment. "You look good, Daniel. Have you gained weight?"

"Indeed, Samantha." Teal'c agreed. "I believe that it is good health and happiness that has changed him."

"Yea, well, that and getting him outside for more than missions and an occasional weekend holiday." Jack agreed happily. "Not to mention eating real food regularly instead of field rations and commissary chow."

"And you too, Colonel. You're losing that lean and hungry look." Carter pressed.

"Thanks, I think. Yea, you tromp around up here in all this fresh air all week and you get exercised whether you want to or not." He looked at her with a smile. "But lose the rank, Sam. I'm retired, remember?"

"Well, it looks good on you both." Sam shrugged apologetically at her faux pau.

"Speaking of which," Jack headed to the refrigerator. "Either of you want anything? We've got beer, wine, coke, Kool-Aid...name your poison." He opened the door, pulled out a bottle of wine and handed it to Daniel, then waited expectantly for their requests.

Sam nodded to her friends. "A glass of that chardonnay would do nice right about now." Daniel proceeded to use a corkscrew and open the bottle, pouring two glasses and handing one to Sam.

Teal'c indicated a container of non-caffienated orange soda. Jack pulled it out along with a bottle of beer. He noticed Daniel's look and smiled charmingly. "Its' only my second one today, don't worry." Daniel silently toasted him with his glass.

At Sam's confused look, Jack shook his head. "He's still not convinced that I'm not gonna drink myself to death. Doesn't realize that he's the best reason I've got to stay clean and sober."

Daniel blushed at the compliment. "Yea, well after that stunt you pulled at the lake..."

"Hey, I knew what I was doing...just didn't want to do it any longer." He slipped his arm around Daniel's waist. "No hard liquor, quit smoking again and generally started behaving myself. It's downright disgusting how good I've been."

Daniel returned the embrace holding Jack for a moment, then declared to their two friends. "Got to keep him healthy, never know when he has to save the universe from itself."

"So, Colonel...ah, Jack," Carter started then adjusted her manner. "Don't take this wrong, but your message said it was urgent."

"Right. Well, Lieutenant Colonel Carter let's get comfortable and we can start." He indicated the seating area in the great room. "We've had two very interesting visitors." After they were seated, he proceeded to tell the story of Harry Maybourne's visit then that of Shi'fu.

*******

"So it looks like Simmons has Adrian Conrad, who now has been Goulded; and they're going to try to somehow interfere in the workings of the SGC," O`Neill summed up the military situation. "By causing internal problems with the Russians and enabling Conrad's Gould to contact other Chronus offspring and to establish a power base." Jack summed up the information succinctly.

"Wouldn't they have to gain access to Cheyenne Mountain to accomplish this?" Teal'c asked.

"Yes," Jack nodded. "But remember someone as wealthy as Conrad is bound to have some political clout. By using those old contacts and with all of his host's money, he can probably get just about anything he wants. Simmons will probably think that he's in control for now."

"And Simmons will not have control of the Goa'uld for long." Teal'c agreed. "The Goa'uld will be struggling against his influence at every step."

"Shi'fu said that Oma Desala and the other Ascended are concerned by the shifting of power within the hierarchy if he does succeed in reestablishing Chronus's power base." Daniel nodded. "It seems when you and your doubles killed him it left a large power vacuum. That's what encouraged the less powerful system lords to hold the Summit that I attended as lotar to Yu.

"But how does Simmons expect to get Conrad access to the SGC? Just because he has money doesn't mean that he can just walk in and make demands." Carter asked sounding annoyed.

"Ah, but if he comes in with someone's entourage, someone with enough political clout, someone who has already been there and is the watchdog of the common people against the wasteful expenditure of their hard earned tax dollars...

`Senator Kinsey." Carter finished for him, nodding her comprehension.

"That's my number one guess." Jack nodded. "We know he has connections to Simmons all ready. It wouldn't be hard for them to add Conrad to the list of hangers-on."

Carter considered her old commander's words with a sinking feeling. It was indeed very possible. "But how could that affect the relations with the Russians?"

O'Neill shrugged. "I have no idea. I don't even know how they are now." He looked at her. "How are they now?"

Sam considered. "Well, to my knowledge they've remained amicable enough." She glanced at Jackson. "They shared our grief over Daniel's death. They respected him as both a scientist and an explorer." She looked at her friend. "We didn't tell them about the Ascended. We didn't know what to tell them really, just...you were gone. They understand about radiation poisoning."

Daniel nodded. "It's probably for the best. I would have gone except for Jack. He glanced at his lover. "I left a lot of unfinished business. I could only hope he could handle it."

Sam nodded. "I understand now why Jack was the one you contacted. I was concerned about him, too."

Jack reached over and laid his hand on Daniel's. "I handled it as best as I could, for as long as I could." He smiled apologetically at Carter and Teal'c. "There wasn't anything you two could have done."

Daniel looked down at their entwined hands. "I almost took too long. If I hadn't found you when I did, I don't know what I would have done."

"Well, it didn't happen; so it doesn't matter." Jack squeezed his hand. "Next time I'll know, should have known anyway. You told me to wait."

"Well, considering the condition you were in when I gave you that particular message..."

"And that's why I let you count my beers now." Jack grinned at him. "I know my weaknesses." He shrugged then looked over at their two ex-team mates. "I am only human, ya know."

Sam smiled at the two men. "Oh, really? You couldn't prove it by me."

Jack rolled his eyes and made a face. "Great! Let me tell ya, Sam Carter, when I start yelling for help, you kids better come running."

"Not a problem sir." She promised with a laugh. "We'll be there."

Jack released Daniel's hands. "Who's cooking dinner? I'm starved."

The younger man shook his head and smiled. "You are."

"Sweet. Steaks anyone?"

After a little preparation, the four moved out to the back deck area. Jack poured some charcoal into the stone bar-b-que pit and started it to prepare the grill for the steaks that they had put out earlier. Dinner was a simple meal, the steaks done to a turn, potatoes roasted in their jackets and corn ears in their husks. Dessert was wild blueberries that Daniel had found the day before, just turning ripe for the picking with some thick clotted cream from the Dairy down the road. After the meal and cleanup, Teal'c excused himself for a brief kel-no-reem and Daniel had escaped back into the computer to continue to work on his book's rewrite. Jack and Sam sat out on the deck, admired the view and talked.

"You really have done it, haven't you?" She commented, sipping on the last glass of wine from the bottle they had opened earlier.

Jack sat back with a glass of iced tea and looked at her quizzically. "It? What's it, Sam?"

"Retired." She looked at him in admiration. "Really called it quits."

"Hell, yes." He nodded enthusiastically. "It's really nice here. Quiet, peaceful and with Daniel here well, everything is perfect. I can fish when I want, the steak you ate earlier was venison that I killed bow hunting with a special landowner's permit. Next year we'll have our own garden." He shrugged. "I know if Danny sells this book, he'll be happier to have something to do with himself. I think it bothers him that he's not contributing financially." Jack shrugged. "I told him I didn't care, but you know him."

She nodded and put the empty glass down. "I brought something with me he can take a look at if he wants too. The General told General Wallace that I had a top-secret contact that would help in a pinch. I can pay him for the consult. I guess once you've been poor it's more satisfying to earn your money."

Jack nodded, "I think its more than that, Sam. Daniel has his own needs that have to be met. Feeling useful and wanting to be needed is one of them. It adds to his feelings of security"

Carter started to answer him but Daniel's voice interrupted them from inside the house. "Jack, Sam. Can you guys come here for a minute?"

Mystified the two friends rose from their seats and entered the cabin to where he was sitting at the computer. Jack came up behind him and draped his arms around his lover. "What's up?"

"Well, I had finished the chapter I was working on when I decided to check the e-mail. I figure Harry would use this as a way to contact us since he hasn't shown back up." Jack nodded. It would make sense, Maybourne was very proud of his ability to hack into computers. "I was about to open the program when this happened." Daniel indicated the screen with his index finger. It was on the wallpaper mode displaying an F-14 Tomcat in flight without the normal `Outlook Direct' framing on the monitor. On the screen overlaying the picture, there were runic symbols in large red block markings.

"What does it say?" Jack asked, never doubting that Daniel could read the message.

"Assist or help someone, I don't recognize this symbol, meet rock mountain three. There's no signature or symbol to indicate the sender." Jackson looked up at Carter. "This isn't in the e-mail, Sam. It's being sent directly to the monitor."

The woman bent over her friend's shoulder. "Does it come back if you reboot it?"

"I don't know. I haven't tried that...waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait." He dug around for a pencil and paper. "Let me copy it first, in case it doesn't." Locating the required items he carefully drew the runes on the steno pad. "There. Okay, now we can do it." At her nod, he clamped the pencil in his mouth and hit the control, alt, delete buttons at the same time. Another small window popped up asking for a command and finally the screen went black. The symbols remained red against the now black screen.

"How does that happen?" O'Neill demanded.

Sam raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips a moment in thinking mode. "Well, Sir...uh, Jack. Your computer is linked by satellite dish not the normal phone or cable lines. Theoretically, anyone could hook in through the EM waves."

"Uh, Sam. I thought this was encrypted?" Daniel asked.

"It is." She nodded. "I put the top of the line encryption device on this thing when I installed it for Jack last winter. General Hammond let me because we were hoping to stay in touch with the Colonel." She glanced at O'Neill. "There may be a newer one out, but if so it's so new that we don't have it at the SGC. This shouldn't be possible."

The two scientists' eyes met in agreement. Daniel stated slowly. "If it were coming from Earth."

Sam nodded. "The Azgard, the Nox and the Tollan would all have, or well have had, the technology to beat this."

Jack frowned. "And the Gould?"

"Well, yeah..." Sam hedged a bit. "If they really wanted to, but why would they?"

Daniel shook his head negatively. "This is more Azgardian than Goa'uld Jack; these are Nordic Runes. I just don't understand this one symbol." He looked from Jack to the myriad of books displayed around on the walls.

Jack shook his head catching his lover`s thoughts. "No, I don't know if I have a particular book of yours. I just put them on display...I can't read the damned things anyway."

"Oh, well...of course not." Daniel got up from the chair. "How did you sort them when you put them up?"

"Size."

"Size?"

Carter had to smile at her two friends' expressions, Jack's of innocence, Daniel's of surprise.

Jack just shrugged. "It was either that or color. Big on the bottom, little on the top you know, size."

Daniel's expression finally went from distraction to fondness. He shook his head and glanced back at the bookshelves. "Size. Okay, let's see..." The linguist turned explorer as he went in search of the proper book running his hands through his hair. "Size." He repeated. "Let's see big and green, I think."

"Can we help?" Jack called.

"Uh, no, well, maybe...will you? I'm thinking big and green or maybe maroon...with gold letters by Anderson..."

"Hans Christian? Any pictures?" Jack asked teasingly.

"Nonononono," Daniel replied absently, stopped, turned around, came back to O'Neill and kissed him soundly. "No pictures." He said softly. "We'll save the one with pictures for later. Thank you, Hans."

Carter turned away and walked towards the wall to give them a moment. "Big and green or maroon with gold letters." She murmured. "Anderson."

 

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Chapter 4
Forever may not be long enough for this love

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
`Assist or help, something, Tor, three`. Several hours later, the mysterious message had finally disappeared from the computer's monitors.

"Hum; let's break this down into text." The large, forest green, leather covered, museum quality book lay open on the dining table. Four heads bent over the task, Daniel continued. "This symbol means to help or assist or to be given help or assistance. This means to meet with or join. This is the symbol for Tor, a rock mountain or Rock promontory and the fourth is the number three. This second word is the one that has no translation listed...so it could be an individual's name, a tribe or village or a new word coined since the Asgard took the Nordic peoples from Earth."

"Why would they do that?" Jack was getting frustrated. After about an hour looking for the damned book, Guide to the Mystic Runes by Rolf Danil Anderson, they had finally found it. The spine was maroon, the front and back cover green which made it nearly impossible to locate in the large literary collection.

"Well, they've probably invented lots of words by now. The Vikings didn't need a rune for airplane but the modern Nordic cultures do." Daniel replied in his professorial tone. "The more modern the culture the more descriptions you would need, and older words like uh, well, going a-Viking would fall in disuse."

Carter nodded. "But that still doesn't help us."

Jackson grimaced as he continued to doodle with the shape and form of the runes. "Yes, unfortunately. And the number three, that could be a number, a date, a place..."

"The only thing I can think of...is that this property, this location, is referred to as Rock Face Mountain on the old deed." Jack rubbed his hand across his face. "There's a bluff right above us that's too steep for the trees to grow there. And you can see the rock outcropping from the valley. The original settlers used it as a guide for finding the town at the bottom of the mountain. My Grandpa used to tell me stories about the people that were saved because of it."

"Then perhaps that is where you will discover whoever has sent the message." Teal'c put in.

"Yeah, but when? This could be in three hours, three days, the third of March 2003...when?" Jack shook his head. "And why announce it like this? The last time they just beamed us up."

"The last time they didn't keep us though." Daniel put in. "They just swept us up for a few minutes then returned us to the clearing. This time, if it is the Asgard, it could be for a longer period, say three days."

"Or three years..." Jack got up and went over to the drip coffee pot and poured the hot water from the wood stove into the top chamber of the stainless steel container. "So all we're doing is guessing."

"That's what translation is, Jack, guessing what is meant by who sent the message and who`s supposed to get it and what it all means."

"That makes me feel so much better, Daniel." Jack said looking at him with frustration.

The younger man just shrugged. "Sorry."

O'Neill looked at the other two members of his old team. "Comments, opinions?"

Carter looked thoughtful. "Well, we know that the Goa'uld do not normally use Nordic runes as a written language. We know that the Asgard do. We know that they have contacted you in the past. We now have a new contact, via an Earth device. We know that the Asgard know where you are. If you don't understand what they want, I think that you can be confident that they will contact you again. Unless you want to try and contact them."

"How?" Jack asked. "They hacked into my computer. That doesn't mean that I, or any of us, can hack backwards does it?"

"Why not?" Daniel asked curiously. "I mean, I'm no computer expert, but when I get an e-mail I can reply without knowing the senders address simply by hitting the reply button."

"But you have to be using E-mail. They didn't."

"Well, yes they did. They just didn't use Outlook Direct." Daniel looked over at Carter. "Sam?"

She shrugged at her friend. "Sorry, Daniel. I haven't a clue. I'm sure that they did it, I just don't know how to do it back."

Jack picked up the coffeepot with the new coffee, poured himself a cup and took a drink. "Even the coffee isn't helping anymore." He groused.

Daniel looked up at him. "Well, it is after midnight and we have had a rather full day." He glanced over at Sam who was covering a yawn.

"Yeah, let's call the game cause of darkness and pick it up in the morning." Jack sat his still full mug down and crossed over to stand behind Daniel. "Come on, Grasshopper; let's get some shuteye." He looked over at Carter who was propping her chin up on her hand. "Sam, you and Teal'c can arm wrestle over the couch or the roll-away bed."

"Sounds good, Sir." She slowly got to her feet and headed for the corner where they had stashed their suitcases.

"Samantha, you please take the couch. I will meditate on the porch. It is very restful there."

Carter nodded and took the blanket that Daniel had brought out of the bedroom. "Thanks, Teal'c."

Daniel passed a blanket over to his friend as he headed out to the porch. "It gets chilly out there. I'll set up the bed in here for when you get through with your kel-nor-reem."

The Jaffa nodded his appreciation. "Thank you for your concern, Danieljackson."

As O'Neill helped Carter spread the covering over the couch he smiled at her. "Samantha?"

She had to laugh. "Leutienantcolonelcarter was a little long and Sam a little too short. Then he said that he knew too many people with my surname. We finally agreed on Samantha for casual use." She shrugged, and Colonelcarter for missions."

He nodded approval. "And the others?"

"Well, Jonas calls me Colonel Carter and Haley calls me Ma'am." Carter shook her head. "It works, but..."

"Yea, I know...I was Sir forever, as you recall."

"Well, you're being a full Colonel had a little to do with that. I certainly couldn't call you Jack then."

"Ferretti did, well, casually anyway."

"He'd known you a long time." Sam looked up at him. "He'll probably make full Colonel this time around. I know the General gave him outstanding ratings."

O'Neill nodded. "He's a good man. He deserves it."

She nodded. "I knew someone else I thought deserved General."

He shook his head disparagingly. "Never happen, and you couldn't give it to me now." They both watched Daniel come back in from talking to Teal'c. He went to the back storage room and pulled out the rollaway bed, then noticed them watching him. "What?"

"Nuthin."

Daniel gave him a look and snorted. "Yeah, right." He bent over, with his back and butt towards them and started unfolding the bed's frame to lay it out flat. "I know what you're doing." He called back in a singsong fashion, wiggling his derriere at them.

Jack smiled over at Sam. "I think he's a little telepathic."

She smiled up at her old friend. "I think he's a little knowledgeable about his subject."

Jack smiled down at her and turned back to admire the view. After Daniel had made the bed up, he walked back over to where they were standing. "C'mon, let's go to bed and let these people get some rest."

Jack patted him on the butt, and looked at Sam. "I don't know, seems pretty telepathic to me."

Daniel took the offending hand and led him towards their bedroom. "Next thing you know you'll be convincing Sam I have special powers or something."

"Well you do!"

"Only over you lover-boy. Good night, Sam."

"Good night, you two."

"Good night, Teal'c"

"Good sleep, Danieljackson, Jackloverboy."

*******

The next morning dawned bright and cool. Jack woke at his customary seven o'clock. He'd finally gotten over the five o'clock madness, as Daniel referred to his old wake up time, but not by much. But he enjoyed lying there next to Daniel watching him sleep. Their time together here on Rock Mountain was infinitely precious to him. After being without Daniel for almost a year, he had fully grasped just how much he needed the other man. They had never touched in an intimate manner when they were both a part of SG1, but Jack had heard all the rumors. He had actually been asked by one or two people if he and Daniel were lovers. He had always been able to reply that no, they were just best of friends. His answers were not necessarily been believed but he had not been called on it either. But when Daniel had ascended, Jack had always regretted not acting more aggressively, of not telling his young friend how much and in how many ways he valued him as a person, treasured him as a colleague, and loved him in every way but that one forbidden way. Then, all his hopes and prayers had been answered. Daniel had descended to find him passed out, dead drunk in the bottom of his damned dinghy. When Jack had awoke with Daniel holding his sick, disgusting self safely in his arms, it had been a miracle. Then, when Daniel proved his passion for him by asking him to make love to him; it was everything that he desired but had not deserved. Love wasn't quite enough of a word to describe what he felt for his life's partner...no, his eternal partner. They would never be separated again, of that he was sure. Daniel had assured him that they would go together, whether into real death or ascension, he would not be left behind a second time.

Finally, as if sensing he was being watched, Daniel yawned and stretched, flexing that heavenly body full length and coincidentally managed to rub Jack in all the right places. The older man smiled, and placed a kiss on the slightly open mouth, receiving a puff of Daniel breath and the entrance into an oral caress. He shifted upwards to follow the movement and wound up draped over a very willing victim. They lay there, just kissing and stroking, Daniel merely enjoying the wake up call and Jack conscious of only a blanket dividing them from their sleeping guests. After a proper greeting, the younger man blinked those incredible, blue eyes that never failed to amaze his lover.

"Hi."

"Hi, yourself."

"You were watching me." An old accusation.

"Um huh. I love to watch you when you sleep, you're beautiful."

"Not."

"Are. Take my word for it; you're the cat's meow, the pick of the litter, a knockout drop on legs, gorgeous George, divine Daniel, and mine...all mine."

"Yeah, right...I've got morning breath; I need to pee and probably smell disgusting since I didn't take a shower last night."

"I love the way you smell."

"Good grief, Jack." Daniel pushed off and headed for the bathroom. "You are so besotted."

"No, I'm horny," Jack smiled and watched his partner's wonderfully nude body as he pulled clean clothes out of the chest of drawers. "And it's your fault."

"Well. Okay, that I can accept. You are horny, but then you're always horny. Get over it."

"Dan-neee." Jack wheedled. "Come back to bed."

"Breakfast, Jack." Daniel came back to the bed and leaned down for another kiss. "Coffee, eggs, sausage, buckwheat pannncaaaakes."

"Food?" Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel's shoulders. "Food good, Danny better."

"C'mon, Tarzan," the young man pulled loose, smiling at his lover. "Let go, I've got to cook breakfast for the troops."

"You are no fun." Jack groused.

"Not when I'm hungry and caffeine deprived." Daniel regretfully slipped out of Jack's loosened grip. He leaned over again and whispered. "Save it for later."

Jack pouted, nodded, then whispered back. "Okay!"

*******

After his final escape from Jack, Daniel showered, dressed and went into the great room. He heard Jack mumbling incoherently as he got himself into the shower. Shaking his head and laughing quietly, he dumped the old coffee out and started preparations for their breakfast. He stoked the wood stove and got a fire burning merrily within its cast iron belly. By then the hot water for the fresh coffee was ready. After it had dripped he poured three steaming mugs of the fragrant liquid.

Teal'cs bed was empty, he was probably outside looking around already. Soon however, a tousled blond head looked over the back of the couch at him. Daniel smiled and carried Sam a mug and settled himself in the chair across from her. She sat up, tugging her pajamas into place and nodded her thanks as she took her first sip of the elixir of life.

"Good morning." He said when he was certain she could respond.

"Good morning to you." She peered at him. "If the Colonel weren't so sure you were you, I'd be suspicious. The Daniel Jackson I knew was never this chipper in the morning."

"I have a lot to be happy about, Sam." He nodded at her. "In fact, I'm a little scared that this is all too good to be true, and it can be snatched away at anytime."

She nodded her understanding, taking a sip from her cup. "Domesticity becomes you, you wear it well."

"Sha'uri always said I'm make someone a wonderful wife." He smiled an introspective smile. "I learned a lot about love from her."

"Well, she taught you perfectly...and your parents scripted you well too." Sam returned his smile. "You were greatly loved as a child. It shows."

Daniel blushed. "I don't know what any of them would think now...me being with Jack."

"I didn't know what to think at first either," She admitted. "I was a little jealous. But after seeing you two interact...you're like two kids on a honeymoon." Shaking her head. "I'm still envious."

"Sam, we never did it to hurt you."

"No, Mister linguist, I said envious not hurt. You found your love ...I just want one too."

"He's out there Sam; you just have to find him."

"I don't know, Daniel. I'm getting a reputation back home...as a black widow."

"Whaat?"

"Everybody I care about dies." She grimaced. "Poor Martouff, Narim, Joe, Orlan, even you Daniel...it's like I'm cursed or something."

Daniel moved over to the couch to hug her to him and kiss her on the forehead. "Orlan's not dead, Sam. You know that."

"Not for lack of trying on the NID's part." She frowned into her coffee cup. "He would have died if he hadn't ascended again."

"Do you want to see him?" He pressed. "I can contact him for you. I think he thinks that you didn't care for him as much as he did you." Daniel shrugged. "It's hard on a guy, to be unsure like that."

Jack snuck in behind his two kids and slid in beside Sam on her other side, putting his arm around her shoulders. "That's the truth, look how long it took us. We were both clueless bastards."

She elbowed him in the ribs gently. "You're both guys...makes sense in your context. What about me...Miss pity party."

Jack glanced to the window that looked out onto the front porch. Teal'cs large form could be seen sitting on one of the rocking chairs. "Sometimes you don't have to look so far away."

She smiled at him and shook her head. "Team leader, team member ...remember that lesson, dear Sir."

Daniel made a face at Jack who reached over to ruffle his long hair.

"Besides, Teal'c has his own issues." Sam continued. "The Jaffa rebellion, he's still not completely over either Drey'ac or Shau'nac." She sighed. "No, too many complications right now. I'm not a replacement, not any more. I played that game with Martouff and lost everything."

Jack nodded. "I know, I remember. It sucked big time, all of it."

"Yeah, nothing like being loved cause you're not you, but because you're someone else." she looked down into her coffee.

"Or someone thinks that you're someone else and won't let you be you." Daniel continued for her.

"And who was that, Danny?"

"Sarah. She was never really happy with me." He shrugged. "I even tried to be that someone for a while to make her happy, but you know...it didn't take."

"Who were you supposed to be?" Sam looked at her friend amazed. Who would ever want to change this guy into something else? She didn't get it.

"Oh, I don't know more respectable, more main line archaeology, dig up artifacts and find where they fit into classical knowledge, don't make up wild theories that would get you laughed off a stage."

"Yeah, I see that as the Daniel Jackson I know." Jack mumbled into his coffee mug. "Of course, you'd be as wrong as the rest of that bunch is and with no windmills to tilt at, no Senators to piss off, no NID bullies to insult to the point of them wanting to kick you off the project. You would have been miserable, and you know it."

Daniel nodded. "And I never would have been dragged into all of this by Kathryn, never opened the Stargate, never went to Abydos..."

"Never met Sha'uri..." Jack put in,

"Or you, or Sam, or any of you." He nodded. "Course, Sha'uri probably would still be alive and Ska'ara married with kids of his own,"

"If wishes were horses," Sam put in gently.

"Beggars would ride." Daniel finished.

"Yeah, and if frogs had wings he wouldn't bump his butt when he hopped." Jack commented as he stood up. Both the younger people stared up at him. "What?" Jack smiled an innocent grin. "What now?" When they both just continued to watch him, he drew himself up to his full six foot two inches, crossed his arms and said in a Colonel voice. "Well, okay, campers, if you`re going to be that way. Shall we reconvene the translation department?"

Daniel looked at him and shook his head. "No."

Jack looked back at him in disbelief. "No?"

"No, I didn't heat up that damned stove not to use it."

"Oh, yea." Jack nodded. "Breakfast. Buckwheat paaannncaaakes. Yes, dear."

Daniel stood up and kissed Sam on the cheek, then looked at Jack. "Did we get the maple syrup?"

Jack shook his head. "Nope, not in yet...but we have the molasses."

"Well, okay." Daniel turned back into the kitchen and called back over his shoulder. "Can you set the table?"

*******

An hour or so later, after the breakfast was consumed, plates washed and the embers in the stove banked until the next meal, SG1 classic was gathered back around the table.

"It's apt to be a proper noun," Daniel announced. "It has to be. There is nothing else that even remotely resembles it."

Teal'c nodded. It does appear to be something not listed here in all of these words."

"So," Jack prompted. "What does it say?"

"What?" Daniel looked at him blankly

Jack patiently pointed to the piece of paper. "What does it say, oh linguist extraordinaire?"

"I don't know!" Daniel's voice got a tad louder.

"What does it spell?"

"Jack, these aren't letters. They're runes."

"I know. What do the ruins spell?"

"They don't spell anything...they're not like that."

Jack looked at him with infinite patience. "Daniel, just tell me what the damn ruins stand for."

Daniel sighed. "Okay, Jack." He pointed at the paper. "This represents a T, this one a U, this is an L and this stands for N."

Jack had pulled a separate piece of paper out and picked up a pencil. He copied down what Daniel said. "Okay, here's the letters. T-U-L-N." He looked at the markings and and thought a minute. "T-u-l-n. Tuln, Tu-ln...To-ln...Tul-lan." Jack kept sounding out the letters on the paper. "Tol-lan, Tollan." He looked up at Daniel with a smile of triumph.

Daniel stared at him in amazement for a few seconds then grabbed him and kissed him enthusiastically. "Now I'm sure I love you." The younger man exclaimed.

Jack grinned at his lover. Sam and Teal'c just looked on in astonishment.

The two men looked over at their two guests. Daniel finally spoke up when he realized they still didn't understand. "Tollans! Help... Tollans... Rock Mountain... three!"

 

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Chapter 5
This world is never enough and I'm not giving up.

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
After Jack's epiphany about the wording in the Runes, it became very apparent where the mysterious note on the computer had come from. While the Asgard had the knowledge and the technology to help an inferior race, very seldom would they bestir themselves to actually assist directly. This was caused by several reasons: due to their reproductive situation they were loath to risk the lives of any Asgard. Jack had explained the cloning problems to an interested Daniel in rather colorful terms and then had creatively expressed his opinion of whatever scientist had dreamed the cloning system up. Daniel had agreed with his partner. It was beyond his understanding why some whole race would actually want to give up sex. He could only shake his head in disbelief. Then, their difficulties with the replicators continued to sap their military strength and of course, they would not openly challenge the Goa'uld without incontrovertible proof of allegations.

So, evidently in this case, they were dropping the situation right in the lap of the people whom they knew would take some action without directly involving them...the Taur'i. And to the Asgard, the Taur'i meant Jack O'Neill and his group of merry `men'. Perhaps if Thor had been around, more assistance or at least more information would have been forthcoming. But the new High Commander obviously did not have Thor's trusting nature.

Now, it was apparently going to be left up to one retired USAF Colonel, one descended Archaeologist, one SGC Team Chief and a free Jaffa. The rest of the day was spent in formulating and rejecting numerous Plans of Operations . There were several initial problems that could be easily seen by all involved. The first and most important, Carter and Teal'c had to return to Cheyenne Mountain no later than Sunday evening or their leave would run out and they would be counted A.W.O.L. So this left Jack and Daniel to be contacted and potentially transported by the Asgard to wherever the remaining Tollans were being kept. How much support, if any, they would receive from the gray aliens once they got there was unknown. The second consideration was if they were contacted, transported and did find the Tollan people, they were without backup. They would be on their own to rescue the refugees, if they found any, and to get their own asses out of the fire if the need arose. There would be no friendly Stargate Base complete with Iris, Security Forces, medical facilities or friendly C.O. to greet them when they returned with unhappy Jaffa's hot on their heels.

Carter and Teal'c both wanted to remain and help in the rescue attempt. Jack, however, refused the offer of assistance. His concern was that they both had obligations to the SGC. There was no guarantee that their translation was correct or that anything would even happen. The Asgard were notorious for working on a `best for them' basis. Then, even if they showed themselves, there was no guarantee that Jack and Daniel were going anywhere. They might be only the messengers and if that were the case, the Tollans would be counting on the SGC to help them, not two civilians. The third and worst case scenario, was that in a fire fight Jack and Daniel might actually have to use Earth's Stargate to get home and they would need as many friendly faces on the other side of the Iris as they could get, especially now with the new unknown quantity that was Major General Wallace.

Jack had convinced one extremely unhappy Lieutenant Colonel and one completely unsatisfied Jaffa that his plan was the best one available. Then came the assessment, appraisal and inspection of their available weapons and equipment. While they had good quality camping gear and Jack had purchased the best in his hunting weapons, they were short in firepower. Jack's Remington 308 rifle was a bolt action and possessed a good scope; he also carried a 44-magnum caliber Colt revolver. He'd originally purchased it for killing power while hunting and it would work for anything short of a Grizzly Bear. Daniel would carry the 9 MM Glock automatic pistol. He was most comfortable with it, as it was what he had carried his first years with the SGC. They both owned hunting/skinning knives and folding blades. Jack would have given his eyeteeth for two zats and two P-90s but that wasn't going to happen between now and Sunday night when they were planning on making the hike up to the bluff that overlooked their cabin. He was considering what else was available as weaponry but hadn't as yet made any decisions.

They decided to travel light on gear, no tents and not much in the way of clothes. It would be a surgical strike by necessity. Packing space was to be used for the important food and ammo. They'd have to sleep out in light bags, no tents this time. A first aid kit, of course, though it was probably superfluous. The Tollan had been overrun by the Goa'uld and there was probably wanted posters of him and Daniel all over Snaketown.

All during the packing Teal'c was somber, Carter fidgeted wanting to be helpful, and Daniel was eerily quiet. Jack didn't like a quiet Daniel. A quiet Daniel was thinking and not sharing, not a good sign at all. Jack tried to keep the chatter going as it helped his nerves. He was used to the team giving opinions, insights and outlooks. Finally, Teal'c joined in with his subtle wit to offset Sam's twitch and Daniel's stillness. It helped, but didn't replace the snarkiness of an excited archaeologist.

Later that evening, after the packing and the eating and the talking was all done, Daniel left the cabin saying he needed to walk. Jack watched with concern as his young lover donned a sweatshirt against the cool evening air and pulled the door closed behind him. Thirty minutes later he followed. Making his way down the path to their dock on the small, snowmelt lake, Jack found Daniel on the far end of their pier, sitting with his shoes and socks beside him, bare feet dangling in the cold, clean lake water. The night sky was perfectly clear and the uncounted stars were reflected back from the calm translucent surface creating the illusion of him being totally surrounded by the fiery points.

As he approached the younger man he thought that this must have been what it was like for Daniel when he was in his ascended state. Totally surrounded by the celestial desert; to be engulfed by the heavens and at one with the universe like he had been with the Abydonian sands on his adopted world. And he had given it all up to return to earth to be with him, Jack O'Neill. It had never occurred to him before just what Daniel had abandoned to come back to him again. He had forsaken the literal secrets of the universe.for him. Jack felt suddenly humbled.

After a few moments, Jack walked out onto the dock. He sat down beside the younger man who looked at him; the stars still reflected in his sky colored eyes. "Hey."

"Hey"

"Whatchadoing?"

Daniel ducked his head and looked up at him through the fringe of fair hair that curtained his eyes. "Thinking."

"Thinking huh. What about?"

"Stuff."

"Good stuff or bad stuff?"

Daniel tilted his head back down so that his face was obscured by the silken strands and shrugged.

Jack, never one to be put off, slipped an arm around the other man's shoulders. "Come on.. give. What's up in that multitalented brain of yours?"

They sat like that for several minutes. Jack gently rubbing his hand up and down Daniel's upper arm, waiting for the words to find their way to him. Finally, the younger man spoke in a soft voice. "I don't want to go."

"You don't have to go." Jack told him quietly.

"Don't be an ass." Daniel said in the same voice. "You're not going anywhere without me. I told you that."

"But if you don't want to...."

"No, I don't want us to go." He turned back to look at Jack, who raised a hand to push the hair back out of his face, then cupped the strong chin in his palm. "I don't want anything to happen to you, to this, not now."

"Nothing is going to happen, Danny." Jack lied easily. It was an old untruth that they were both familiar with. "We're gonna go have a look see. If there are any Tollan there, we'll figure out if we can help...if we can't, we come home."

The blue eyes looked right through the falsehood. "Yea, just like we always did. We go, we look, we come home."

"Hey, I don't have to do anything. I'm certainly not going to do anything to risk us." Jack protested, smilinf at the expression of disbelief on his lover's face. "I'm retired, remember. I don't have to answer to George Hammond, or Bill Wallace, or anyone else...and neither do you."

"Jack, go tell it to Sam and Teal'c." The younger man snorted. "You're not made that way. If we get there and you find Narim or someone else we know; you'll no more be able to leave them behind than you did that alien that was Tyler." Jack looked uncomfortable. "And I wouldn't expect you to. It's just..."

The older man reached up with his other hand to stroke down the soft cheek with its light bristle of beard. "I know, Daniel. I don't want to risk what we have here either. God knows what I'd do if I lost you again. But you're right, as long as there's reason to believe that someone we know is being held by the Gould..." Jack stopped and watched the crystal tears form in Daniel's eyes. He reached and took one on his fingertip and stared at it.

"This is the third time, Jack. The third time I've been really truly happy. I won't lose it again."

"Third times the charm, Danny." Jack took the beautiful face in his hands and kissed his lips. "You'll never lose me."

"You're right, Jack. I'll never lose you again." He laid hands on his lover and pushed him back against the wood of the decking, still warm from the last of the sunset. Daniel slid his hands under Jack's flannel shirt and started stroking the strong chest, running over the taut pectorals, brushing across the nipples and working their way up to the collarbone. "I'll never let you go anywhere without me."

"Okay," Jack was trying to sound normal but was having a little difficulty under the circumstances. "I can deal with that. I admit it'll be rough having to carry your weight all over the damned universe, but I have very broad shoulders and....." He was finally silenced when a set of extremely talented hands and lips shut him up.

*****

The next morning after a late brunch, Carter and Teal'c regretfully and with very little enthusiasm climbed back into the rented Bronco and prepared to leave for Cheyenne mountain by way of North Dakota. "Jack, I wish you'd let us stay and come with you two."

"Like I told you yesterday, Sam," O'Neill smiled down at her concerned expression. "This could all be for nothing. I mean we are depending on a translation that I helped to figure out for crying out loud. We may just go and camp out on the mountain and see a beautiful sunset and sunrise. But if this does mean what we think it means and we do have something go wrong and need to come back through the Stargate, we'll need someone there to open the door for us."

"It will be open, O'Neill. Have no doubts of that." Teal'c put in. "And if you have need of other assistance, go to Master Braytac on Chulak. He will offer you sanctuary until he can contact me."

"I appreciate that, Teal'c." Jack acknowledged the advice, knowing full well that it could be valuable indeed if things went bad for them. "You two kids drive carefully down the mountain. If nothing happens I'll contact you on Tuesday."

Daniel had been standing by quietly but when Sam walked around to the driver's door, he gave her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. She looked up at him, concerned by his quiet. "Take care of yourselves, Daniel." She murmured into his neck. "We don't want to lose either of you again."

"We'll do our best." He handed her a package and a CD. "Will you mail this for me? It's my rewrite. I finished it this morning. The CD is for you." He shrugged. "I didn't want to make the publishing company wait and since we don't know how long we may be gone..."

"Sure, Daniel, and thanks for the copy." She smiled up at him coyly. "What's it rated?"

He turned a little pink. "It started out PG, but they sent it back; so now it's an R I think."

She smiled at his blush, "You never cease to amaze me, Daniel Jackson." She climbed into the SUV and Daniel went around for a farewell arm clasp from Teal'c. As the vehicle made it's way down the mountain road, Jack came over and slipped his arm around his lover's shoulders.

"R rated! Danny boy, I'm proud of you."

"You haven't read it yet."

"You wrote it. It'll be good."

"That's not necessarily true, but you'll like it cause you're in it, or at least you're alter ego is."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, AmunNefer."

"Ammo-heifer? Are you in it?"

"Sort of, Iskander."

"Is-dander?"

"Jack! Stop it."

"I didn't know Ancient Egyptians named their kids Jack."

"Oh, yeah sure, Pharaoh Jack and the mystery of the lost pyramid."

"Is that your next book?"

Daniel turned and started into the cabin shaking his head.

"Is His-dander gonna be in it too? Can I watch? Can I help? Can I be the mummy?" Jack followed a few steps behind.

Suddenly, Daniel turned, grabbed Jack by the shoulders and kissed him with all of his intensity. Jack felt his legs get weak as Daniel's tongue forced it's way into his mouth and the younger man plastered his body against his, one hand reaching to stroke and squeeze between his legs. Jack's knees finally gave out as the result of such direct stimulation and the weight of his lover. Daniel caught him around the waist and supported his weight as the two of them collapsed onto the soft pine needles piled up at the side of the driveway. Once they hit the ground, He continued his assault with nimble hands and searching mouth, opening the buttons on Jack's flannel shirt and biting, nipping his way down the older man's chest.

Jack hissed as the seeking mouth first made contact with his nipples, then roamed down to his belly and started attacking his navel. The fingers now made their assault on his pair of 501's buttons, arguing with the tough denim. Jack arched up, the unexpected attack had taken him by surprise, but he was enjoying it immensely. A quick memory of a young skinny 29-year-old geek caused him to start to laugh.

Daniel stopped his button worrying and looked up at him. "Are you laughing at me, Jack?" He bit him on the belly, causing his lover to curl up and laugh out loud. "That's not a wise thing to do."

"I know, no, I'm not." Jack was almost in tears from the tickling fingers that had started making inroads into his self-defense. "Oh, my god...." He gasped. "Stop..."

The young man sat up and stared at his lover. He'd seen Jack angry, furious, hurt, happy and crying...but never wheezing... "Jack, are you okay?" He was going from annoyed to concerned. "What's wrong with you?"

"Oh, Danny." Jack was still laughing but more controllably. "Oh, love. I just had a flashback." He lay there a moment, gazing up at the Adonis that held him victim.

Daniel relaxed against his lover. The man was recovering from whatever madness had seemingly overtaken him. He lay there waiting for him to explain.

Jack lay back on the soft pine needles. He gazed up at Daniel's face framed against the pine trees and blue sky of their home planet with soft eyes. "I was remembering that skinny guy that Kathryn brought to Cheyenne Mountain. The kid geek with all that hair that managed to do in two weeks what a whole crew of eggheads couldn't accomplish in years and years of mind bending work. Then I started thinking of everything you've done and what you've become to me. God, Danny... I'm so scared of losing you again, I feel like telling Freyr, or whoever the hell sent us that message just to go fuck themselves and leave us alone."

Daniel nodded. "I know, Jack, but I also know..."

"That we can't." Jack looked up at him. "It's not fair, Danny. We earned this; you earned it especially a year ago." He reached up and pushed the hair out of Daniel's face, caressing the smooth skin under the jaw line. "You already saved one planet, hell you've saved five or six. Why can't that be enough?"

"There's never enough, Jack, not enough time, not enough love, and not enough good intentions. It'll always take men like you who stand up and say `stop it'. Stop making the universe a place as miserable as you are. And unless people like you do it, there will never be a safe place for us or anyone else to lay our heads down for one good nights sleep."

Jack looked at Daniel with love and awe. After all he'd been through, or maybe because of it, his Danny was still a fighter. And he knew that they would continue to do so as long as they were here in this place. "Daniel,"

"Yes, Jack."

"Let's go inside where we can finish what we started here without giving the neighbors a free show." He indicated some squirrels watching them from a nearby treetop.

Daniel smiled at him and got up off of the ground. He then extended his hand to Jack to help him to his feet. "Come on then, Jackloverboy."

*******

Later that afternoon, they lay in their bed together, cooling down after some very heated activity; Jack rolled over to look at a relaxed Daniel and stroked his bare arm. "Feeling better now?"

"Oh, yea. I always feel better after spending time with you." The younger man admitted sleepily. He reached back and interlaced his fingers with Jack's hand. "We wasted so much time before, fighting and lashing out."

"I know, it's hard to believe that we didn't figure this out before..."

Daniel looked pensive; "Maybe that's what it took to do what we had to do. We had to know what we lost before we could value it...value each other."

"All I know is that I fucked up our lives so badly, and I don't ever want to do or be that man again." Jack propped his head up with an arm. "I should have never have left you there, alone with Jonas. I should have made you come with us, or stayed behind with you."

"It wasn't Jonas's fault, Jack." Daniel said softly. "He didn't do anything wrong."

"He didn't do anything, Danny...except watch you do what he should have done."

"It doesn't matter now," He looked down at their joined hands. "Its over, gone, forgotten."

"Not by me, Danny." Jack shook his head negatively. "I didn't want him on SG1, but the Russians were forcing George's hand. I had to accept a fourth member; it was either him or a Ruskie." He sighed. "I had to make a decision. I made a bad one."

"Why was it bad?"

"I should have taken a Second Lieutenant...I mean, well maybe not Hailey, maybe that kid Grogan. He had chutzpah at least, and if he'd been with us maybe he'd still be alive." Jack looked at Daniel sadly. "So many lives wasted."

"Well, I'm not wasting any more." Daniel said quietly as he moved to lean over his lover. "C'mer you."

Jack smiled up at him. "Where, how high, and how often?"

*******

Later that evening after supper, the two men loaded up their backpacks. They were already dressed in their comfortable clothing; each in a set of well broke in BDU fatigues. They were going to hike up to the top of the mountain that evening and spend the night. That way they would be there if and when the Asgard decided to contact them. Jack kept glancing at Daniel with a thoughtful look on his face. Finally, the younger man turned to him. "Okay, what's the problem?"

Jack smiled a small grin at him. "I've been thinking about something. I don't like the idea of you going with only a pistol so I've decided to give you your birthday present early."

Daniel looked suspicious. "What birthday present?"

"Well, I know it's not for a month or so..." he went back into the bedroom, then returned with a rather large flat box. "But this might come in handy." Jack handed it to his lover. Daniel sat down on the couch and looked at it in surprise. "Well, go ahead. Open it."

"Gee, Jack. I don't know what to say." The younger man started to unwrap the brown exterior covering. "I didn't really expect anything..."

"Daniel, you never expect anything." Jack nodded to him to keep working. "That's why it's so much fun to get you stuff." The older man sat down in his chair, watching Daniel. "And besides, this might come in handy where we're going."

Finally the paper was removed and the box opened. Nestled in the box and supported by peanut hulls, lay a compound bow, it's lacquered surface gleaming softly. Next to it, securely wrapped in a beautifully tanned and intricately beaded leather quiver were twelve arrows with steel tipped, razor sharp heads.

Daniel gently lifted the bow out of its box and ran his hand down the spine. "It's beautiful, Jack. Thank you."

"You're good enough now where it makes sense that you should have a custom job of your own." Jack rose and crossed over to sit next to Daniel. "The wood is the same as mine, but it's shorter to fit you and it has a heavier pull." He smiled at the younger man. "Cause you have more upper body strength now than I do." Jack reached back into the box that Daniel had put down and removed the string. "Here, I'll help you string it. It may take both of us to pull this heavy a bow. But with your aim and skill, this is as deadly as any rifle." They sat down together on the couch and together they managed to flex the bow and run the bowstring through the gears properly. After they were finished, Jack claimed his reward kiss and then sat back to watch Daniel handle his new pride and joy.

Daniel hefted it, noting that it was two inches shorter in length than Jack's bow, but of a stouter length of wood. "It's beautiful! But are you sure you want me to take this?" He asked. "I don't want to break it."

"You shouldn't. These bows are pretty tough, and if you do, well... it's got a twelve-month warrantee. And I like the idea of you having something that's not only deadly, but also it will also be silent and completely unexpected." He raised his eyebrow at the younger man. "Sort of like you, well except for the silent part."

Daniel had to grin at the jibe. "Are you taking your bow?"

"No. My 308 and me will do just fine." He hefted the well-used rifle. "It's a lot like the one I used to have in Special Ops. We used them for sniper rifles."

Daniel nodded, comforted by the knowledge of the seasoned warrior`s skill with his chosen weapon. Jack settled his pack on to his back and slung the rifle over his shoulder by the strap. He then looked at his partner. "Well, you ready to boldly go where probably no man has gone before?"

Daniel hefted his pack on his back, slung his quiver and arrows over his left shoulder and picked up the new bow. "No, but that's never stopped us."

Jack nodded to him. "Lets go Tonto. We're burning daylight."

"Okay, Ke-mo-sabe. If you insist."

As they left the house, Jack turned and locked the door securely behind them. Satisfied, he turned and followed Daniel to the top of the mountain and their latest date with destiny.

 

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Chapter 6
My baby, love is like blood, I spill it freely.

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
The next morning found Jack and Daniel nestled together under the overhang of a shallow cave. When they had arrived the evening before, Jack had shown his young lover the cave that he had played in when he visited his paternal grandfather at the cabin as a boy. The memories of those careless playdays were precious to the adult Jack and he was pleased to be able to share them with Daniel. And to make things even better, the pictograms that he had thought he remembered were indeed there, showing faintly against the weathered rock face. Daniel had of course immediately begun translating the word symbols, which described a band of early Indians hunting their ultimate big game, the Woolly Mammoth. The older man had sat by a small campfire; entranced while his Archaeologist/linguist divined the meaning from the markings. He was describing and acting out the motions of the native Americans and the plan of the hunters as they went up against the largest land mammal to ever grace North America. The lithe young man's motions and gestures were magnified by the shadows that played upon the cave's rock wall behind him taking the veteran outdoorsman on a fantastic journey into the ancient past of his heart's home.

Then, after the passion play was reenacted the two lay together engaged in a passion all of their own, knowing that this could indeed be the last time they could love each other in complete privacy of the deep woods. Tomorrow they could well be engaged in a life or death situation but last night, the night had been theirs to take for their own. It had been a rich and amazing experience made the more precious by this knowledge.

Jack awoke first in the early morning's darkness to find Daniel curled against him in their shared sleeping bag, his head resting securely on his chest. He had his right arm wrapped around his lover's shoulders holding him in a cocoon of safety. O'Neill nuzzled the soft thatch of light brown hair, reveling in the texture and the smell of his Daniel. He kissed the broad forehead, the only area he could easily reach. Finally, responding to the tactile sensations, the slumbering scholar moved against his comfort source and raised his head to greet his sweet tormentor. Jack shifted and grazed down the beloved face until he reached the beckoning mouth, which he proceeded to kiss with all the love, and intensity he could manage at daybreak on a mountain. The sleepy blue eyes opened to greet Jack's brown ones.

"Good morning."

Daniel peered around Jack to look outside the cave entrance at the still dark sky. "Are you sure?"

"Of what?

"That it's morning."

"Oh yeah, it's morning all right. C'mon. Get up."

"Why?" Daniel mumbled into Jack's chest. "It's not even light yet."

"I know, I want to show you something."

"What?" The sleepy blue eyes waxed curious.

"Sunrise on Rock Mountain. It's the second most beautiful thing I can think of right now. C'mon, I want to see it.and you'll be sorry if you miss it."

Daniel finally raised his head from its resting-place and sat up groggily. "You do know that this is considered abuse in some circles."

"No, Daniel. What we did last night could be considered abuse in some circles." He leaned over and kissed the younger man. "But not to me."

"Hmmm. Nope, not here, nobody here by that name." O'Neill climbed to his feet and extended his hand to Daniel. "C'mon."

Daniel shrugged and clambered to his feet, grasping Jack's hand as an anchor. Quickly, they prepared their packs. Once done and they stood upright, Jack slipped his hand around the younger man's waist and they walked outside together.

It was still dark as they came out of their cave. The morning breeze was cool as it wafted up the side of the mountain from the lake down below. Jack led Daniel to a large Pine tree and settled down against its ancient side in a sitting position, leaning up against the friendly trunk. Daniel sat down between his lover's knees and leaned back against him, relaxed and warm in the sheltering arms. In a short while the darkness in the east began to lighten in color from black to purple to lilac to gold and Ole Sol slowly began it's climb up from behind the mountains. The sun's golden rays swept down across the virgin timberland causing the remaining darkness to run and hide in the deep canyons of the wooded range. Finally, the amber light reached the small deep lake that nestled in the depths of it's valley, reflecting it's joy at being in such a perfect place. As the two men sat there watching the birth of a new day, they felt the pull of the Asgard transportation device. They just had time to grab their packs before Minnesota disappeared from around them.

*******

The next thing the earthlings realized was that they were sitting together in the sterile, gunmetal gray interior of an alien spaceship. The two men regained their feet, slipped their light BDU jackets on and made sure that their packs and weapons had arrived safely with them. After only a few moments several of the small gray Asgardians arrived in the transportation room.

"Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Jackson." One of their hosts approached the pair. "I'm am gratified that you were able to decipher our message. Some of our number disagreed with my method, but I knew that you would understand it`s meaning and be prepared."

"Uh, yeah, thanks for the confidence, I think." Jack looked around. He couldn't identify who was who in this crowd and it annoyed him. "Is one of you Freyr?"

"No, unfortunately Commander Freyr was unable to return for you. I am Balder." The diminutive alien explained. "And I believe you know Heimdahl, Colonel."

"Oh, yeah. How ya doing, Heimdahl?" He smiled and nodded then indicated his companion. "This is Daniel Jackson, Haimie. He, well, he wasn't with us last time we met. Daniel, this is the scientist that SG1 rescued."

"I am honored, Doctor Jackson. I had heard so much of you that I was disturbed to hear of your difficulties. I am pleased to meet you at last."

"Well, uh, thank you." Daniel smiled at him. "I'm pleased to be back."

"So," Jack rubbed his hands together and looked curiously at Balder. "What's up that you wanted to see us for?"

Balder took over the conversation again. "We have some information regarding the Tollan people and what occurred after the Goa'uld invaded their planet."

Daniel spoke up. "We heard their last radio transmission through our MALP that was still transmitting from Tollana. It sounded like complete destruction in the background. We were lucky to get back through their Stargate before it was destroyed."

"Yeah, Baldo. What happened to that protected planets treaty, anyway?" Jack asked in an irritated voice.

"Unfortunately Tollana, like our own home planet is not covered in the treaty. It was a free entity, not a protectorate." Balder explained calmly. "It's being attacked was an act of war...against the Tollan. Not against the Asgard."

Jack frowned and nodded in comprehension. He glanced at Daniel who looked at him curiously. "Like when Germany attacked France in World War Two. The United States didn't just jump in and start fighting, as least not until we were attacked."

Daniel looked at the Asgard representative. "But the Tollans were your friends! Why didn't you help them?" He demanded.

"It is unfortunate what has happened to the Tollan." Balder sighed then looked at O`Neill. "As you know, Colonel, the Asgard has problems of their own now."

"Yeah, like it was `regrettable' when Earth was gonna get hit by that honking big fake asteroid." Jack retorted. "And you couldn't do anything because of the fucking treaty then either."

"Jack..." Daniel reached out and grasped his right arm. "Jack, that was a little different."

He turned and looked at his lover, then back at the Asgard. "Yeah, well, we still woulda been just a little dead....just as dead as the Tollans." He glared at Balder. "Right?"

The Grey had the courtesy to look embarrassed, or at least try to look embarrassed. "Yes, that is true." He said sadly. "However, the Tollans are not dead yet, at least as a race. A few still survive as slaves on one of the Goa'uld held worlds. That is why we contacted you."

"And what exactly do you expect us to do?" Daniel interjected before Jack started in on another diatribe. "We are only two humans. We no longer have military backup."

"And even if we did," Jack put in. "The SGC doesn't have the firepower to invade a Gould held world. It would be suicide unless..." He put on a scowl. "Unless you are willing to help with Air Support." He watched as Balder turned, spoke to the other two unidentified Grays and heard their short replies. He sighed. "You might as well put us back where you found us then. Neither Daniel nor I have access to the Stargate any longer. I told Freyr that we're no longer working there."

"Yes, we understand that." Balder admitted. "While we cannot give you any direct support, we can give you the transportation required to get you to Andalusia, the planet in question. We could transport you to the surface then return for you when your activities are completed."

"Yeah, right." Jack shook his head. "Nope, not interested. I'm not going to make a phone call then stand on a street corner waiting for you to show up with Jaffa and Death Gliders all over our collective butts. It's just not gonna happen."

Heimdahl looked shocked as he listened to O'Neill. "You mean you would allow the Tollans to die as a race?"

The human warrior returned the look, shaking his head. "No, I'm not, at least not willingly. But you're not offering us much in the way of backup either. Look, I'm not suicidal here. I happen to have a whole lot going for me right now, and I'm not throwing it away on a plan that offers me a slim to none success rate." He shot a look at Daniel who looked like he was going to protest. "Not one word out of you! It won't work and you know it."

Daniel chewed on his bottom lip and nodded unhappily. He knew Jack was right. The plan wouldn`t work, at least not in that format. "Well, what about..."

"Daniel..." Jack shot him a more severe look. "We talked about this...no unnecessary risks. I know about after, but I'm enjoying our status now. I don't want glow-y yet."

He nodded at his partner, with a little grin. Jack was right, they wouldn't be separated but he wasn't ready to re-ascend quite yet. Their physical forms held too much enjoyment for them. Glow-y was to be put off for as long as possible. "I was just thinking," He glanced at Balder, the military leader. "Is there any way we can get a visual assessment? I mean can we see the status of the surviving Tollans for an appraisal of the situation?"

Heimdahl, the scientist, nodded excitedly. "Oh, yes. We can use our long-range sensors to see them as they work. There are so few left, it's not difficult to pinpoint them."

Balder had looked at Heimdahl with a very familiar expression on his face. Daniel recognized it immediately. It was a `Jack looking at excited scientist' expression. He almost laughed, except O'Neill was giving him one exactly like it.

The two Commanders then looked at each other. Jack sighed and if Balder could have, he would have. "Daniel...."

"Heimdahl...."

"It would be a simple matter to approach the planet as required, Commander..."

"But..." Jack put in before Daniel could join the chorus. "Would it be safe?" He was frowning at the Asgard Doctor. "I do not want to put this ship and all of us at risk for two or three Tollans."

"Nor would we, O'Neill." Balder assured him. "We can get close enough without entering the planet's orbital space; we would only go close enough to gather the required information." He seemingly appreciated the Human's caution. "If the Tollan's position is unrelievable then we will return you to Earth."

O'Neill frowned at Daniel. "I thought you didn't want to go."

Jackson had the good grace to look embarrassed. "Well, I...I really don't want to put you, or us in any danger," He raised his head and met Jack's gaze "But the Tollan are our allies."

"Yea, I remember." Jack shook his head. "A supercilious, prideful ally who refused to trade with us because we were unreliable and immature as a race."

"Narim was our friend." Daniel pointed out. "He's saved us a few times." Then he glanced sideways at his lover and played his ace card. "Narim was responsible for saving Skarra. I owe him."

The Colonel's look softened, then he shook his head. "Well...I guess we can check it out." He said after a few moments. Jack glanced at the alien ship captain. "Will you let us do that, then make a decision?"

The Grey Alien nodded. "Agreed. We will view the situation by long range scanners and make an assessment. You may make the final decision."

Jack looked at Daniel. Daniel smiled. "Your decision, Jack. I'll abide by your decision."

He nodded. "No arguments?" At Daniel's nod, he looked at Commander Balder. "Okay, let's go get a look-see."

*******

The trip to the planet that the Asgard referred to as Andalusia was going to take over twenty four Earth hours, so Jack and Daniel had some time to look around the ship and discuss some potential plans with Heimdahl. Daniel and the little scientist had hit it off and were running a mile a minute with plans for potential rescues. The good thing was, there was a Stargate on the planet not far from the imprisoned Tollans. The bad news was it was in use by the Goa'ulds. And for it to be used as an escape route in a rescue attempt, the group would have to `gate' to another planet besides Earth. Jack no longer had a GDO, and his and Daniel's codes had long since been blocked out.

This plan did however seem the best method of getting the largest number of Tollan off the planet quickly. Cimmeria's Hammer device was back in working order. Theoretically, they could grab as many Tollan survivors, go through the gate to the protected Asgard planet to lose the Goa'uld bad guys, then gate to another planet, say the Nox home world, as a precaution and then go on to the Alpha Site and ask for assistance from the Alpha Base Camp Commander to get back to Earth. The plan held several downsides. It would once again bring the friendlies of Cimmeria back to the attention of the Goa'ulds, and it would call attention to the Nox again. Once they gated to Alpha Site, they could only get to Earth if General Wallace would allow them to come through the Iris. Of course Carter and Teal'c would be there, but as always, the ultimate responsibility settled on the shoulders of the Officer In Charge of Stargate Command of Cheyenne Mountain.

After hours of planning and discussing the possible and the impossibles that might await them on the planet, Andalusia, Jack called a halt to the meetings. He pointed out that he and Daniel had been awake for at least a day and needed to get some sleep before they reached their destination.

The two were shown to a room containing several of the lounge-like chairs. After they managed to get politely rid of their guide, Heimdahl, Jack turned and looked at the chair beds. "Ya know, Danny, this can really cramp a guy's style here." He complained mournfully.

Daniel looked at the floor where the couches stood. "Yeah, and they're bolted to the floor, too." He looked from the single beds to his lover and then moved over to the corner where their packs had been brought and left sitting. Wordlessly, he pulled the two bedrolls from their straps and began to unroll them on the floor, spreading the two out flat and using one as a bottom and one as a top.

Jack quickly came over and began to help him arrange their sleeping bags. After a few minutes, Daniel shucked his top layer of clothing and crawled into the bed. He looked up at Jack who rapidly followed suit, leaving his boxers and tee shirt on. Slipping in the combined bags, he lay next to his young lover and gratefully curled up beside him. Daniel helped him position his head comfortably on his shoulder. "Comfy."

"Yea, much better, thanks." O'Neill shifted a little. "You're pretty comfortable, Daniel. I'll have to rethink my nighttime habits."

"Whatever you want, Jack." Daniel nuzzled the grizzled hair and kissed the top of his partner's head. "Whatever you need."

Jack sighed. "I'm just hoping that this isn't all a great big mistake."

"What? Sleeping on the floor?"

"No, goofy. This...mission, or whatever it is."

"I know." Daniel was also thoughtful. "Just don't get all gung ho on me. I really do want you okay more than I want to rescue the Tollan."

"Bridge, Daniel." Jack said sleepily.

"Bridge?"

"Yeah, I got one to sell you too."

"Go to sleep, Jack."

"Quit stealing my lines." Came a sleepy mumble.

"Yes, Sir. Colonel, Sir."

*******

Jack awoke to the warmth of Daniel's arms cradling him, the hardness of the floor under his butt and a pair of black eyes staring at them. He stared back at them. It was an Asgard

"Good morning, O'Neill."

"Morning." Jack returned confused. "Heimdahl?"

"Yes."

"Don't take this wrong, but...why are you here? Is there something wrong?"

"No. Why do you ask?"

"Why are you here?"

"I am studying you."

"Why?"

"You humans are such fascinating people. I wish to learn about you."

"We're asleep." Jack groused into Daniel`s chest. "Study us later."

"Are you having sex?"

"No. We are sleeping, resting, you know, sleeping."

"Yes. You are sleeping together. This is a phrase used to describe sex, is it not?"

"Well, yeah, I suppose so. But now, we are sleeping...I mean really sleeping, resting, recouping our energy. Sleeping. That's all, just sleeping."

"Speak for yourself, Jack." A sleepy Danny-voice commented. "I was sleeping."

"Well, so was I, but I woke up because we have company."

"Oh," a pause. "Who?"

Jack nodded in Heimdahl`s direction. "You're fellow space-science- geek."

Daniel scrunched his nose at Jack. "Really?"

"Yes, really." He turned back to the Asgard. "Look, can you go away."

"Jack." Daniel's terminal niceness kicked in.

O'Neill groaned and rolled over, knowing that he'd lost the battle. "Fine, you talk to him." He peered blearily at his wristwatch and noticed they'd been sleeping for five hours. Sufficient but not satisfactory. Jack patted the shirt he had just grabbed as a pillow and closed his eyes again. It must be Daniel's tee shirt. It smelled just like him. He could hear Daniel and Heimdahl talking behind him.

"So, you were not having sex?" The little alien pressed.

"No, uhm, sex is more active..."

Jack smiled into the non-pillow. `And more noisy', he thought to himself.

"And more um, noisy."

"TMI, Daniel."

"Hush, you're asleep. Act like it."

"Yes, dear."

"But the phrase `sleeping together' is..."

"It's a euphemism for having sex, yes, but there's no actual sleeping." Daniel's professorial tone kicked in. "What we were doing was, well, actually sleeping...together."

"It looks uncomfortable. Why not use the provided furniture?"

"Because then we'd be sleeping...apart...not together." Doctor Daniel continued on pedantically.

"Oh, for crying out loud you two." Jack sat up. "This is called not sleeping at all." He scrubbed his hand down his face and glared at Daniel. "How come when I wake you up, you're a bastard, but when anyone else wakes you up you're nice to them?"

"Jack..."

O'Neill looked at the Asgard. "Do you take baths or showers?"

"Yes." The Asgard replied primly.

"Can I?"

"Why?"

"Never mind." Jack rolled over and started pulling his pants back on.

Some time later, after Jack had figured out the Asgard `shower', which was a sonic shower right out of Star Trek, the two humans and a group of the gray aliens were gathered again in the briefing room area. Balder had returned along with several other advisor types and they were all looking at a holographic map that had been activated on a large low table.

It showed a small valley consisting of a river, river flood plain and a village or town surrounded by a range of fairly low mountains. In one area, indicated on the map, there appeared to be a mining operation of some sort. At the foot of the mountains was a miniature replica of a Stargate.

"The slaves or workers are apparently housed here." Balder indicated the village. "They go to the mine and deliver the ore here to the Stargate. You must contact them, make a plan and then escape through the gate to Cimmeria."

"Whoa, hold your...well, hold on to something." Jack leaned down putting his weight on the table with his hands. "We don't even know the Tollans are here."

"We do." Heimdahl put in eagerly.

"Well, I don't." Jack pointed out. "All I see are mountains, huts, a mine and," he grimaced, "trees." He glanced at Daniel who smiled, arched an eyebrow and shrugged. "Looks like Canada actually."

Balder moved his hand over the map and everything blinked closer. They could now see little figures moving about the village. Jack looked closely then glanced back at the Commander. "Closer?"

Again the map blinked and blinked again. There, standing alone on a little rise just outside of the city, was a tall, dark-haired man. He was dirty, disheveled and wearing clothing little better than rags. But there was no mistaking the identity of the individual.

"Shit..." Jack exclaimed angrily, and glanced quickly at Daniel who had leaned forward to look closer at the holographic representation.

Jackson looked over at his lover with a similar expression in his eyes. "It's Narim."

 

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Chapter 7
My baby, love is like blood, it goes in every way

THE PLANET ANDALUSIA
The Asgard, true to their word, materialized the two humans down in a small clearing within a stand of trees. Jack and Daniel looked at each other, assuring each other that they had both arrived safely. Then they hefted their packs onto their backs and started on into the low foothills that held the village. They didn't say anything to each other; words were unnecessary for them to communicate their inner feelings about being here. Neither of them was pleased with having to take such an active part in this undertaking. Conversely they couldn't stand by and allow their friend and his people to be exterminated by the Goa'uld.

The hike was a relatively short one. Soon they reached a small ridge that allowed them an uninterrupted view of the cluster of rough single story hovels that made up the mining town. The dropped down behind the rocky outcropping on the crest of the ridge. Jack pulled out his small set of binoculars and looked down upon the group of Tollans that was gathered at something that appeared to be an outdoor dining area. After a minute, he passed the glasses to Daniel and pointed to a group seated together at a rough wooden table. Daniel looked in that direction and then nodded. They had both seen Narim, the Tollan who had been the Ambassador to Earth for three years. There were also approximately twenty-five of his fellows with him. If this were indeed all that was left of his race, their time was rapidly running out.

Jack signaled to the younger man to withdraw back down the slope and put some distance between them and the community. To do their former allies any good, they must remain undiscovered and unsuspected.

After putting a mile or so between them and their spy post, Jack sighed and shook his head at his lover. "What a mess! This is so FUBARed,"

"If that means what I think it means, you're absolutely correct." Daniel agreed. "But we can't just leave them there."

"I know," Jack conceded unhappily. "But you'd think their other allies, the big powerful ones would help them...not us poor backwards, stupid humans."

"I'm not so sure that the all-powerful aliens that we've been led to believe in really exist, Jack, at least not anymore." Daniel said in a thoughtful voice. "The more we meet, the less impressive they become."

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "The only ones I think really are who they say they are, is the Nox, and that's only because I've seen them do stuff."

Daniel nodded. "So, we have a plan?"

Jack just looked at him. "If by we, you mean you and that mouse you have in your pocket then I hope it's better than mine is." At the younger man's silence, he shook his head. "Okay, the best I have right now is contact Narim, have him get as many of his people as possible together at one time, take control of the Stargate and extract them to Cimmeria."

"That's it?"

"That may be all it takes. I only saw about twenty or twenty-five people." He shrugged. "There may not be many survivors from the initial attack of Tollana."

"But Jack, a whole race?" Daniel looked at him in disbelief. "Jack, there were over ten thousand people on Tollana."

He could only shrug. "Well, maybe there are more somewhere else." O'Neill tried to hold out positive thoughts. "Maybe the Gould wanted to split the Tollan up to keep them from being too dangerous. Hell, Danny, I don't know." He looked helplessly at his partner. "But however many we can help well, we've done that much anyway."

Daniel nodded sadly. "I know, Jack. It's...it's just unbelievable."

Jack reached over and hugged the younger man to him as they walked along.

The two partners pulled back into the heavy tree line where they couldn't easily be seen from any wandering sentries or Death gliders. They set up a simple cold camp, unrolling one of the sleeping bags and opening up their MREs. The two men sat together and ate in thoughtful silence, taking comfort in the other's presence. Finally, Daniel indicated the bedroll. "Why don't you get a nap, Jack. I'm too wound up to sleep right now so I'll take the first watch. I can reassemble my bow at the same time."

O'Neill nodded. "This evening, we'll slip closer to the town and see if we can't make contact with Narim. Find out status and numbers." He pulled off his hiking boots and outer shirt leaving his pants and tee shirt on. As he sat down on the sleeping bag, Daniel came over to the back packs and pulled the folded up compound bow out of its carrying case. Jack reached for his arm and pulled him down for a quick kiss. "Danny...."

"Yeah, I know, stay frosty." He smiled down at his lover. "Get some sleep; you're the one who knows about this black ops stuff."

"Special ops, I didn't do black stuff. Didn't have the stomach for it." Jack rolled into the bag and pulled his hat down over his eyes. "Wake me in two."

After the two hours were up, Daniel moved regretfully to awaken his lover from his well-deserved nap. Jack pushed his brim up and smiled an affectionate grin at the younger man. Daniel knelt down on one knee and placed a hand on Jack's chest, over his heart. He lift it there a moment, just feeling the beat, Jack pulled it to his lips and kissed the palm. "Anything?"

Daniel shook his head. "Nothing. Quiet as a, well, quiet."

"Good. Here, you're turn for a nap. In three hours it'll be dusk, a good time to try and make contact without being seen." The younger man nodded and slipped into the bag still warm from his beloved's body. Jack glanced at the bow that lay within arms reach. "Any problems?"

"No, of course not." Daniel smiled at him. "You bought it, I knew it would be perfect."

"I'm glad you think so. It may come in handy in the next day or so." Jack picked up his rifle and began to clean it and insure its readiness. He put it to his shoulder and checked the scope for dust and to be sure it was tight and securely mounted. Then he pulled out the magazine and ensured it was fully loaded. The rifle only held five shots at a time, but it was a good weapon and he was confident he could make all five count. Jack watched Daniel's face as it relaxed into sleep then he started his perimeter walk.

Two hours later, he awakened the resting man and handed him a granola bar and his canteen. Daniel took them gratefully and watched Jack as he sat down across from him with a can of something in his hand. As Daniel chewed, Jack reached over and smeared camouflaged grease paint on his lover`s face. First the green, then a black with which Jack playfully drew in the shape of a joined J and D. When he was satisfied with the result. He proceeded to decorate himself in the woodland colors. Jack smiled his infectious grin at his partner, white teeth flashing in the dark colors. Then they packed up their gear and started back to the village without a word.

*******

As evening settled on the small village, the two watched from their vantage point on the tree lined ridge. The communal eating area was busy as men and women both came in from the mines. Jack, using his binoculars, watched the people as he tried to identify Narim or some other familiar Tollan. Daniel watched their escape route insuring that they weren't snuck up on or cut off.

After about an hour, O'Neill grunted and spoke softly. "There, that's him."

Jackson turned to glance over his shoulder and nodded. Jack shifted his position and rose to a crouch.

"Be careful." Daniel whispered to him.

"Don't worry, I'll be back." Their eyes met and the experienced combat veteran slipped off down the slope. Daniel watched his descent worriedly.

*******

Narim had gotten his tray and walked tiredly to the crude plank table. The once dapper government official was gaunt, tired, and filthy. He sat by himself, too weary to try to keep up the brave face to his fellow countrymen. He looked down at the rations on his plate and forced himself to take a bite of the tasteless offering.

Narim knew that he had to eat, to keep up his strength for his people. He owed them at least that. As the last surviving member of the Tollan government and attache to the Curia, they looked to him for leadership, guidance and whatever hope he could give to them. It certainly wasn't much. He desperately wished for Omac or Travell, anyone to take the burden from off of his shoulders for just a few hours. But they were all dead now, as dead as his planet, as dead as his heart.

He felt something tick on his shoulder. There were buzzing and biting insects everywhere on this accursed planet, just one more thing to add to the afflictions of his remaining people. He slapped it away. He felt a sharp sting on his neck now. He looked for the offending pest to try to end its miserable existence. But as he glanced around he heard another sound...a hissing noise.

"Hhsssst, Narim." This was a special bug, it knew his name. "Narim, over here." He turned uncomprehendingly towards the sound. Then he saw some unusual looking thing in the brush a few feet away from his lonely table. It moved and called his name again.

He looked at the object dully, trying to figure out what it was. Then the voice called to him again. "Narim...it's O'Neill, from Earth. Remember me?"

"O'Neill? O'Neill!" He was dreaming. He must be dreaming.

"Shssht, keep it down, will ya!" The mottled multi-colored form began to take shape into that of a human being with colored paint on his face. "Can you get closer without drawing attention to us?"

Narim looked around, trying to appear casual. No one seemed to paying any mind to his rather odd behavior. The Tollans were all too tired and there were no Jaffa in the immediate area. Carefully, he allowed his eating utensil to fall on the ground a foot or two closer to the bush. He groaned audibly and slowly swung his body around to reach for it. It got him within three feet of the Earth Human. He laboriously knelt down to pick up the implement.

O'Neill's voice came out of the leaves again. "We need to talk."

Narim thought frantically. He had to talk to O'Neill. He had to, no matter what the cost to himself. "Tonight, back here when the first moon rises. It that good?"

"Yeah. Will this place be guarded?"

"It is not usually so." Narim tried to think back for a time span. "If so there will only be one who would stand at the building to my right." He tried to make out the man's face through the branches. "Is Samantha with you?"

"No, she's back on Earth. Only Danny and me. I'll be back tonight. If there's a problem, don't come. I'll watch for you before I come down. If I don't see you, I'll be back tomorrow night. Got it."

"Yes, Colonel O'Neill, I do, but I will be here. If you cannot make it tonight, I will be here tomorrow."

"Good, now go, before someone gets suspicious." A shifting in the foliage again, then something hit his hand and fell into the dust. It was a wafer of a sort, made of nuts. "I'll see you tonight." Then the man was gone.

Narim managed to get up and back to his place. He looked down at the precious thing in his hand. If he hadn't been holding it, he would have thought it all a dream. When he took a bite of the food, he almost wept. It was sweet and it tasted so good and it was real and ...someone had come. At last, someone had come.

*******

O'Neill made it back up the hill to where Daniel was waiting for him. He had to smile at the exceedingly blue eyes peering out of the woodland camouflaged face. As he slid back down to lie next to his lover he reached over and kissed the young man on his green nose.

"Everything go okay?"

"As good as gold, Danny-boy." Jack assured him. "Narim's in pretty bad shape. He looks like a POW, weighs about one hundred thirty pounds. I couldn't get his attention at first, he was too tired... but he's willing now."

"And the other Tollans are they going to be able to get to the gate?"

"I'm sure that will not be a problem." He glanced at his watch. "In about two hours, I'm gonna slip back down and fill him in on the plan. There were too many people around now."

Daniel nodded, silent. He lay back with the dirt slope against his back. "Do you want to stay here?"

"Yeah, the move we move around the more likely we'll be spotted." He looked over at Daniel. "Are you okay?"

"Just thinking."

"That's dangerous." Jack teased back. "What are you thinking about?"

"How this is a lot like a scene in the book when Amun-nefer is trying to rescue a court noble from the Hittites." Daniel mused. "He even used a horn bow."

"Did A-man-heifer use a 308 or a p-90?"

"Uh, that would be no." Daniel smiled at him. "A bronze sword and a spear, out of a chariot of course."

"Oh, a Staff weapon...cool!"

*******

Several hours later, after the sun had set and the first moon rose, Jack saw Narim sneak out of one of the huts and make his way back to the covered area. He then slipped back down the hill to the cover of the brush that led up to the pavilion.

"Narim." The man was crouched down beside the bush that O'Neill had used for cover earlier and he startled when Jack touched him with his hand. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, Colonel. You came. I was afraid that I had only imagined you."

"Nope, it's really me." Jack looked at the exhausted man with concern. "How many people do you have?" He asked, going right to the matter at hand.

"There are thirty-two of my people being held here. If there are any more I do not know their location." The man said bitterly. "Thirty- two out of over fifteen thousand."

"I know, but...well, we want to get all thirty-two out of here and through the gate." O'Neill said encouragingly. "I think we can do it."

"We?" Narim looked at him hopefully. "How many men do you have, Colonel?"

"Well, uh, I have two...me and Daniel Jackson." He had to smile at Narim's expression. "But, we're good at what we do. Don't worry."

"But the SGC..."

"Is not here. The Asgard sent us."

"The Asgard? Sent two men for us?"

"What can I say, Narim. That's the little gray guys for you." Jack shrugged. "Listen, here's the plan."

Narim kept looking at O'Neill in disbelief. "But only two men?"

"Hey, when ya got the best, you don't need the rest. Now listen carefully, I want you to get all of your people that can run, walk or crawl. Have them here, tomorrow night, at this same time. We're going to take the gate, open it and hold it as long as we can. That's when you bring your people through."

"Are we going to Earth?" Narim asked hopefully.

"Yeah, finally. But we'll have to go to at least two other gates before we can get there." O'Neill answered honestly. "I don't have a GDO, so we'll have to take the scenic route."

"Colonel O'Neill. I don't..."

"Hey, it'll work. I have every confidence that we can do this, or believe me, I wouldn't be here." Jack reached over and squeezed Narim's hand in encouragement.

"Please, no. I just cannot believe that you would risk your life, that Doctor Jackson would risk his life...for us."

"Narim, you're our friend. That's worth something." He looked around, his time was running out. "Look, I have to go now. Just bring everyone you can tomorrow. We'll meet here at;" Jack glanced at his wristwatch. "Twenty one hundred hours." At the Tollan's confused expression, he added. "Right now, this time of night, tomorrow." When Narim nodded his understanding, Jack got up to leave.

"We'll be here Colonel O'Neill. We will not be a tool of the Goa'uld anymore. We will either be free...or we will be dead."

"Then, my friend, you will be free." Jack squeezed Narim's hand again, turned and melted back into the darkness.

*******

Daniel met Jack as he came up the slope of the ridge. "I was getting worried."

Jack nodded, hugged him, whispered "I'm fine, let's go." And then led the way down the opposite side of the crest. When they got down the other side and some distance away he drew Daniel up to walk beside him. "Sorry, it took a little while to get through to Narim. He's pretty fried, I think he's been responsible for everyone since he got here."

"How many are there?"

"He said thirty-two people. He doesn't know if there are any more anywhere else." Jack shook his head. "He said that there had been over fifteen thousand people on Tollana at the time of the attack. These may literally be the last of their people."

"I know, it's such a tragedy." The two men walked silently together for a long while, and then Daniel looked over at his partner. "So, what's the plan?"

They were coming up on the site they had located earlier. The huge Fir trees loomed fifty to sixty feet high with large limbs a big around as a man's waist. Jack picked a large one several yards back in the thick of the forest. "Let's set up a cold camp here for the night. Sorry, another morning without coffee." He smiled apologetically at Daniel, who shrugged back at him. Jack unrolled his sleeping bag under the low hanging branches. Daniel pulled his out and used it as a pillow for the other bag. As he did this, Jack pulled a can of cold cream out of his pack and applied it to his face, wiping off most of the grease paint with a small towel he had brought for that purpose. When Daniel joined him, sitting on a log next to the bag, Jack handed the jar to Daniel who copied his actions. When the younger man was removing the paint, O'Neill took the towel from him and did the honors, kissing his lover slowly and tenderly as the cream came off onto the terry cloth. They sighed and separated, knowing that now was not the time nor place.

"What's wrong, Jack." Daniel watched his lover's face carefully in the darkness.

"Wrong?"

"Yeah, like in not correct, erroneous, off the mark, making you feel antsy." Daniel looked at him. "Is there a problem?"

"Just with me, Daniel." He shook his head disparagingly. "I just always am aware of how special our relationship is how precious you are and how easy it would be to screw it up."

"Never happen, Jack." The younger man smiled at him. "Not in a million years. I didn't come back to you to let anything happen to you or to me."

"You're very good for my ego, you know that Professor Jackson?"

"Hummp, just...well, hell, just come here will ya." He opened his arms for Jack to slide into them.

When the two men were finally comfortable, Jack filled him in on the plan. "So, it's fairly simple. We secure the gate from the two Jaffa who are there at night; I go and get the Tollans. You hold it till we get there and dial out to Cimmeria when you see us coming. Then, we make sure everyone gets through. At that point, we join them and hopefully nobody will notice they're missing until roll call or breakfast or whatever they have in the morning."

"The only thing I'm concerned about is how much attention we'll attract when the wormhole engages." Daniel admitted. "It's bound to bring some guards."

Jack nodded, "Yeah, it probably will. My concern is how mobile will the refugees be? If we're carrying people, it will be slower."

"There's sure to be one or two." Daniel chewed on his lower lip. "Could you see any children?"

"Didn't see any, but...you never know." Jack sat up straight, releasing Daniel. He looked into his partner's eyes and then at the sleeping bag. "Get some shuteye; I'm going to need you tomorrow night."

"I was going to say the same thing to you. It's late, and you'll need your wits about you." He shrugged. "All I have to do is my job, get to the gate and dial out. You're the one that will need to be planning and thinking on your feet. You go ahead. I'll watch tonight and get a nap tomorrow."

Jack smiled a small smile at the man who knew him so well. "Okay, you talked me into it." Jack nestled down into the bedroll.

Daniel stood up and smiled down at Jack. "Rest now. I'll watch your six."

The older man nodded. "I trust you, Daniel. Safe watch."

 

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Chapter 8
Don't stop to look at it, look at the clock.

THE PLANET ANDALUSIA
Late that next afternoon, after Daniel had slept and the two men had eaten, Jack and Daniel started heading towards the Andalusian village and the Stargate. Jack had told Narim to meet him at the communal dining area at 2100 hours that night with all the surviving Tollans, so they needed to arrive at and secure the Gate for their escape. Jack carried his 308 Remington rifle slung over his shoulder within easy reach and his 44 Magnum pistol in a hip holster. Daniel had his 9-millimeter Glock automatic holstered and his compound bow with it's twenty-five razor-tipped hunting arrows carried across his shoulderin their quiver.

As they approached the Stargate, they could see the two unsuspecting Jaffa Guards walking their perimeter. Daniel silently wished they had secured a zat somewhere along the way. All their weapons were of the lethal variety, and he hated to kill unnecessarily, but these two men had to be silenced. Jack stopped him with a hand signal and indicated he should wait and hide. Then the older man continued forward at a crouch. Jack circled around the closest Jaffa, Daniel saw the flash of light off his knife blade and he saw the warrior fall, his throat cut. But even though mortally wounded, the Jaffa continued to struggle against the human warrior with the supernatural endurance given him by his primta. The slight noise of their struggle telegraphed itself to his companion, who turned and saw the fight. The second Jaffa spun around and attempted to activate his staff weapon but he was interrupted by the shafts of two arrows appearing suddenly in his breastplate, one in his heart, another in his belly pouch. He dropped his staff and grasped the two fledged ends as if to tug them out but fell forward onto his face. O'Neill finally dispatched his opponent, glanced over at the dead warrior then looked back at Daniel.

The younger man, still gripping his hunting bow, made his way to the DHD. He looked at it briefly then signaled back to Jack that everything was good. O'Neill approached and checked the Jaffa that Daniel had shot. The man was dead. He pulled the two arrows from the body, then got up and went to where Daniel was ostensibly inspecting the Dial Home Device. "You okay?"

Daniel didn't looked at him. "Yeah." His voice was subdued.

"Thanks." O'Neill wiped the blood from the shafts and put them back in Daniel's buckskin quiver. "You saved my life again."

"I know." Daniel put his hand up to his face and wiped the hair out of his eyes. "I just wish these things came with a stun setting." He turned to look at Jack, "but I had no choice. He was going to kill you."

"It's a little bit more personal with a primitive weapon like this one though."

"It's a little bit more personal when the enemy is going to kill the man I love, Jack."

O'Neill smiled gently at him. "I know." He reached over and squeezed Daniel's shoulder, looked around then glanced at his watch. "Here, let's drag these guys off the pedestal so our guests won't stumble over them. Then I'll have to go to meet Narim. You have the address to Cimmeria?"

The younger man nodded. "Heimdahl gave it to me before we left the ship." The younger man looked at him quizzically. "I would have said something if I didn't."

Jack looked at him a little embarrassed. "I didn't even think about it." He chuckled, "I forgot about the point of origin thing." Referring to the final, necessary seventh symbol.

"Jack, after all the trouble I had with that unimportant little item back seven years ago, I never forget it." The younger man smiled down at him from the DHD's block. "Now go on and get Narim and his people."

"I'll be back in twenty minutes."

"Okay, I'll have the gate open in 18." Daniel looked up at the looming circle. "That will give us a window of thirty-five minutes to get everyone through." He stepped down from the dialing device to hug Jack to him. "Be careful. Please, just be careful."

"As always, Danny," Jack returned the embrace. "Just like old times."

"That's what I'm afraid of." He replied shakily, kissing Jack.

His partner hugged him a hard squeeze, released him and turned, trotting off in the direction of the village.

*******

Narim was waiting at the communal eating area for his people. He had spread the instructions by word of mouth all day. He hoped that everyone was as ready to leave as he was. There were to be no packages, only the clothes on their backs. There was to be nothing to hinder them in their flight to safety to a non-Goa'uld world. O'Neill had promised nothing, only escape, but that was enough. Rebuilding would be difficult anywhere they went, but this was their only hope.

As the appointed hour approached, a few early arrivals had come and Narim had secreted them into the surrounding brush out of sight of the guards. He himself remained concealed unless he absolutely had to come out to snag the persons to be hidden. They were now numbering twenty-seven, eight with himself. Well, almost twenty- nine. The woman, Sela was heavily pregnant and now alone since her husband had been killed in another mining accident. Finally, all that remained was the young family of Nabooth, five in number with three young children. They were coming at the last minute, concerned that the children would be hard to keep silent for any period of time. They would also be the most difficult to get safely to the Stargate, but he counted them among the most important. There were no elderly to worry about. There were none left.

Finally, all were assembled, the family showing up right at the appointed time. Just as a doubting panic set in, Narim heard the familiar hissing noise coming from the far bushes. O'Neill appeared out of the darkness with a seemingly magical ease.

"Ready?"

"Yes, very much so."

"Anything I need to know about? Babies, whatever?"

"One pregnant woman, whom I will assist, three little ones with their parents," The Tollan acknowledged. "And some older adolescents, but they will be no trouble."

O'Neill nodded, unbothered by the news. "Sweet. C'mon then, before we're noticed." He glanced around the group that was gathering itself. He spoke up as loud as he dared for everyone to hear. "We're going to the Stargate. My friend is there to open it. Don't stop for anything. Just go right on through. Understood?" A soft murmur was his reply. "Narim, you know the way?" At his nod, Jack looked around one last time. "Okay, you lead. Let's go. We're burning moonlight!"

Jack watched as the group of people started to move out, slowly, but with building impetus. Thirty-three starved, wounded, abused human beings in all states of wreck and disrepair. The oldest no more than fortyish, the youngest a baby in his mother's arms. Dad had the other two, one in hand; the other balanced on his hip. The heavily pregnant woman was valiantly trotting along. And Jack knew that this time, no one would be left behind.

As the moments ticked by loudly in his head, the exodus proceeded smoothly. In fifteen minutes, they made it away from the village of hovels and across an open field. The Jaffa were obviously too confident that no one knew or cared about their little hideaway. They would be unpleasantly surprised shortly.

Then in the distance, and right on schedule, the Stargate engaged it's wormhole and the event horizon became a beacon in the night. O'Neill heard a low voice cry out in excitement and the crowd surged forward, picking up speed. This was the most dangerous time. Now, the secret was out and the Jaffa would be quick to follow. For a moment, he could just see Daniel's silhouette at the DHD, and then he lost sight of him. The man no doubt now coming to them to assist the first arrivals up to and through the Stargate.

Then right on schedule, a tree exploded to O'Neill's right, a victim of a staff blast. Some of the children screamed in fear, the Tollans increased their rate of speed. Jack turned on the run and pulled his rifle from where he had slung it from it's strap on his shoulder. He saw two Jaffa running from the outskirts of town firing wildly at them, then a third and a fourth. They were in no danger of catching the escapees yet, but they could do a lot of damage with those staff weapons. O'Neill stopped and took aim with his rifle, taking his time and hitting his first target easily. The high powered rifle had plenty of knockdown capability and the Jaffa fell immediately. Pulling the bolt action again, a second warrior fell to his steady eye. But more enemies were now streaming out of their barracks building and running as fast as they were able to in their heavy armor, towards the still slow moving crowd. Even now, they had about a mile before the first of the refugees made it through the Stargate. Fifteen minutes, he figured, only another fifteen minutes. He fired three more times, emptying his magazine before he turned and started jogging towards the gate while pushing his second fully loaded clip into the rifle's receiver. More staff blasts hit the ground around the fleeing group, adding momentum and motivation to their flight. Jack thought he could hear Daniel's voice now, encouraging and cheering the crowd onward and up the flight of stairs on the pedestal.

Jack pivoted and returned fire again, taking down two more approaching Jaffa easily. A third spun around, fell and staggered back up to stand watching his fellows. Then another fell and a fifth staggered and then finally went down. O'Neill spun around and started trotting towards the Stargate. He could now see Daniel, helping and pushing the first of the Tollans through the active wormhole. Narim was there also, encouraging and exhorting them to hurry. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw the father of the children carrying one and dragging the other across the rough ground. The little one on foot was grimly hanging on to his Dad's hand while trying to stumble along as staff blasts continued to get closer to them. Then he saw Daniel, sprinting towards them to help. His lover didn't even stop, just picked the boy up, and ran back to the Stargate. Dad followed with his own precious burden.

Slamming the last clip into the 308, Jack turned back once more. When this one was empty he'd be down to only the pistol. He could already hear Daniel's Glock barking out his answer to the incoming fire. To get a more effective aim, the trained marksman dropped to one knee to steady his rifle. Five more shots, five dead Jaffa to his credit. He slung the rifle back to his shoulder and pulled the 44-magnum revolver from his holster. He had six shots left.

As he turned back to the Stargate, Jack could see that Daniel and the father had reached the gate and gotten them through. All that was left were a handful of Tollans including the pregnant Sela, still lumbering as fast as she could. Then, he felt an explosion of pain in his back and experienced the familiar falling sensation. His last sight was of Daniel leaping from the Gate's pedestal and running back towards him.

*******

Daniel was amazed at how smoothly everything was going. He's gone down to assist a man with a toddler in one arm and a small boy running along side. The boy was easily picked up and carried to the wormhole and the little family had gone safely through to rejoin Mom and baby on the other side. Narim was standing beside him, helping his people to commit to enter the event horizon.

He looked up to track his lover's progress. O'Neill was kneeling now; to steady his weapon Daniel thought. Then he saw Jack rise, turn and begin to run towards him, pulling his pistol. Then to his horror, Daniel watched as a staff weapon blast struck O'Neill, knocking him to the ground. Before Jack was even down, Daniel had leaped to the ground and was running as fast as he could to get to O'Neill's side. He could hear footsteps behind him but he spared them no time. He had to get to Jack, to either rescue him or to take the final step with him, either into ascension or into darkness. As he ran, he pulled the 9mm pistol and fired off his last few remaining shots. The Jaffa were almost upon them as he reached Jack's unconscious form. He threw down the pistol and pulled his bow from behind his shoulder where he had been carrying it along with several of the hunting arrows. Nocking the first one, he dropped the leading warrior then his closest neighbor. He stood straddling O'Neill's body, delivering shaft after shaft as fast as he possibly could, the razor tipped arrows penetrating the armor and taking out the leading ranks of the approaching warriors, giving them a little breathing space.

He could just see Narim to his left, picking up Jack's fallen handgun. After a few seconds of fumbling, the Tollan figured out the firing mechanism and started shooting the heavy caliber weapon. Narim turned to Daniel yelling. "Get O'Neill to the gate. I will try to hold them off."

Given the respite of a few seconds, Jackson dropped his bow, bent down and picked up Jack in a Fireman's carry. He yelled at their savior as he turned. "Come on, it's only got six rounds. We have to make it to the gate now."

Narim acknowledged the information with a nod then picked up the rifle and the bow; the two men ran to the gate at best speed both bearing their burdens. As they gained the steps to the wormhole, Narim turned and fired the final shot of the big caliber pistol directly in the face of a Jaffa not three feet behind them. Then they fell into the wormhole just as the horizon snapped shut behind them.

*******

The three men tumbled out of the wormhole and landed bonelessly several feet apart in front of the imposing edifice of the Stargate. As soon as he hit the ground, Daniel scrambled toward where Jack lay crumpled several feet from him lying facedown on the ground, the staff wound on the small of his back still smoking slightly. They had become separated in the wormhole when he had released his lover, fearing that he would fall on the injured man when they emerged. Daniel pulled off his outer jacket, covered the wound and gently rolled O'Neill over so he could assure himself that Jack was still alive. The older man was unresponsive, breathing rapidly but without apparent difficulty. Daniel looked around to verify their location. They were indeed on Cimmeria and several of the native people were already there, assisting the newly arrived Tollans. Narim was sitting up off to the side. A young blond haired woman was talking to him.

He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. It was the village's leader that they had met before but Daniel couldn`t remember his name. "It is O'Neill. Does he still live?" The big man asked.

"Yes," Daniel said gratefully. "But we need your help. He was hit by a staff blast before entering the wormhole."

"Of course," The man nodded. "Gairwyn is attending another but she will come. You are Daniel?"

"Yes, there are some Jaffa that were pursuing us..."

"Thor's Hammer will protect us. He saw that it was repaired long ago after your last visit." The blond man assured him. "Balder came and told us to expect your arrival and to assist you. We have been waiting for you."

"Thank you, uh, you are...I'm sorry I've forgotten your name."

"I am Olaf. I fought the evil ones along side O'Neill and your Jaffa while you sought the great hall." He knelt down beside O`Neill. "We must get him to the healer so that his wound may be treated." The large Cimmerian gently slipped his arms under Jack's limp form and got to his feet, bearing his burden easily. Olaf led the way into the small village and towards a house. They proceeded on through a mixed crowd of people. The Tollans and their benefactors were gathered outside in the yard area and were in various stages of recovery from their own trip through the wormhole.

Entering the building, Olaf called out to one of the women who were checking on a Tollan child. When she turned, Daniel recognized her as Gairwyn, the woman who had guided Sam and he to Thor's Hall the last time they had been here.

"Daniel? I thought it must be you. Balder said that our Taur'i friends would be returning to us." She smiled at him, then turned her attention to the unconscious man. "Olaf, put him down on the bed so that the healer might help him." Indicating a low cot against the wall. She turned back to the table and lifted the child down to the floor, handing him over to another younger woman. The big Cimmerian gently lay O'Neill down and a groan announced his return to consciousness. "Danny?" Jack called for him with a weak voice.

"Jack, I'm here." Daniel came to his side and knelt down by the bed at eye level with O`Neill. He put his hand on the damp forehead and stroked it gently. "Jack..."

O'Neill looked up at him. "We made it?" He asked.

"Yea, we're here on Cimmeria. Olaf, Gairwyn and some others met us at the gate and are helping us. Balder had told them to expect us."

"What happened to me?" He grimaced in pain

"Long distance staff weapon blast. You're slowing down, Jack."

"Yeah...old age...will do it."

The dark haired Cimmerian woman came back with an older, taller silver-haired woman. "This is Svenla, our healer. She can help O'Neill."

Daniel moved aside, allowing the healer access to the injured man. She smiled at him and then made to shift Jack onto his side so that she could examine the wound. Sounding very similar to Janet Fraiser, the woman hummed and clucked when she saw the damage but looked up at the worried man and smiled. "I have seen a few wounds such as this. Either the weapon was almost spent or he was a goodly distance from it." At Daniel's nod, she continued. "The wound itself, though painful is not serious, but it must be kept clean so that the evil does not enter into it." She reached back to the table. "I will put a poultice on it to draw out the poison. It will also calm his pain." The woman got up and moved around the room, gathering things and giving instructions to Gairwyn.

In a few minutes, the healer had returned. She shooed the young man back out of the way and assisted O'Neill to sit up on the bed. With gentle, careful hands she placed a poultice of crushed herbs on the seeping burn wound and bound it with a white linen cloth, wrapping it loosely around his waist.

Jack hissed out his pain between his teeth. Daniel reached for his lover's hand and Jack took it in a crushing grip. "Danny?"

"I'm here, Jack."

Jack smiled gratefully up at him. "Hurts...like a...son of a bitch." He admitted.

Daniel could only kneel there beside him and squeeze his hand. "She's putting a poultice on your wound. She said it would help the pain too."

Svenla covered the poultice with a coarsely woven bandage, then nodded, indicating that Daniel should help him to lie back.

"Easy, Jack. It's all over." Svenla moved behind her patient to help assist him back down. Daniel supported his shoulders and eased him back onto the bed.

"'Kay, " The wounded man was breathing hard, trying to work through the pain. "Everybody...make it?" He managed to get out.

"Everybody made it, Jack. No one was even injured but you."

"O'Neill luck..." he managed to gasp out a short laugh. "You get... what you want...but...pay for it."

"Just take it easy, Jack, and let the medicine work" Daniel spoke softly. The healer-woman was done with her task and was picking up her supplies. She nodded as she observed the gentleness the younger man used with him. He would do as well as any nurse, she decided. She would trust him.

"He must drink lots of water and eat when and what he wants." The woman instructed Daniel. "The wound will drain, do not be concerned."

"Just rest, Jack," Daniel spoke again. "I'll get you some water."

"See...what they have.... to drink. I...need something...stronger."

Svenla looked down at her patient. "You should have no strong spirits, man Jack. But you may have some mead if you're a mind to."

Daniel nodded in understanding. "Where can I get some for him?"

"I shall have some brought with bread and meat for him. He must eat to regain his strength for the healing to occur." She smiled at the younger man. "Take care of your chosen. He is honored by the gods."

After the woman left the room, Daniel helped Jack to get comfortable in the bed. O'Neill looked up at the younger man. "What did she mean by that?"

Daniel was arranging the cushions behind him. "Mean by what?"

"She called me your chosen? You giving away family secrets again?"

"Not much of a secret, Jack," He smiled down at his lover. "I'm afraid I'm not very discrete when I'm carrying your bleeding body through the wormhole." Daniel leaned down and kissed the older man as he lay back in the bed. "I love you, and I'm not ashamed of it."

"I'm never ashamed of you, Daniel. You're the best part of me, but..."

"No, I didn't tell her. I think she's just wise to us. After all you are `honored by the Gods`."

"Oh, yeah. The gods keep on honoring me like this I won't be worth much as a chosen one to you or anyone else." He groused.

Two adolescent girls entered the room, one bearing two wooden trenchers, the other carrying a tray with four flagons. Each of the rectangular platters had half a loaf of bread sliced long ways, with meat and its juices piled on top. Two of the tall metal goblets were full of a warm golden liquid--the other two, cool water. Daniel took the food and drink containers, thanked them and put them down on a rough table that was next to the bed. The two girls giggled at them and fled back out the door.

Daniel pulled out his k-bar hunting knife and started slicing the meat and bread on one of the platters. He came back to the bed, pulling a stool up next to it with his foot. He then settled down next to Jack and started feeding him with his fingers. Jack started to protest, but he just shook his head. "No silverware." The younger man reminded him. "Relax, enjoy, and eat."

"Okay," O'Neill mumbled around the food. "But why were those girls laughing?"

"They were shy. It's not often they get to serve heroes." The younger man smiled at his companion. "It seems that the couple of times that we were here, the local bards have recorded our adventures. We've had epic poems composed about us...how the band of heroes came from Midgard to solve the riddle of the god Thor, and to protect them from the evil of the trolls." He reached over to pick up a flagon and give his lover a drink of the potent liquid. "You're a kind of a poor man's Beowulf."

Jack coughed at the strong drink and the description. "What IS that stuff? I thought you said it was beer?" He sputtered.

Daniel had to smile. "No, well, not really. It's mead, made out of fermented honey." He lifted the flagon and smelled it then took a sip himself. "It's alcoholic...but it's not hard liquor." He rolled it around on his tongue then commented. "Not bad. It should help you sleep."

At Jack's expression, he smiled down at his patient and picked up another morsel of the food. "Eat, at least, you can't complain about the food." As Daniel fed the roast meat to Jack he commented. "And you've got to admit; this is better food than we ever got at the SGC infirmary."

"More solid anyway." Jack said thinking back. "I think I had to eat more soup, Jell-O and tapioca pudding in those six years than I ever did in my life."

"Yea, Janet seemed to have a fixation on soft foods."

"And lights, she loved to shine lights in your eyes." Jack nodded. "And put her fingers in places...." He shivered.

Daniel smiled at him. "Don't talk too loud, Jack. You know to get home we'll have to go back to the SGC."

A soft tap on the door interrupted their reverie. It eased open to reveal the concerned face of Narim. "Doctor Jackson? Colonel O'Neill?"

"Come in, Narim." Daniel waved him in.

"How is the Colonel doing?"

"Hello, Narim."

"You are awake?" Narim was amazed at the man speaking to him from the crude bed. "I feared you were dead."

"Nah, just sore and pissed off." Jack grumped.

"And very, very lucky." Daniel put in gratefully, smiling up at him. "I'm expecting him to pass out again at any moment. How are you doing?"

"I am...awed, Doctor Jackson. I cannot believe that I am here...my people are here, and that we are safe. These Cimmerians, as you call them, are so kind, so eager to help us."

"Yes, they are good people." The young man nodded. "We came here in our first year of reopening the Stargate. They've been nothing but helpful and gracious, in spite of some mistakes that we've made."

"I cannot imagine what they must think of us..."

"I can Narim." Jack spoke softly, thinking about how he had felt when he first saw the man standing in front of him yesterday. "They think you've been hurt and abused by bad guys, and it's their way to try and help."

Narim took a deep breath and let it out. "But, when you came to us, to the Tollan Curia and asked us to help you against the Goa'uld, we turned you away. We were so...self important, so self satisfied..."

Jack restlessly tried to shift in his bed, eliciting a soft grunt. Daniel immediately turned to help him. "No, Narim. YOU didn't. You told them to listen to us." His face twisted in pain, but he kept on talking. "Your people, these thirty people, had nothing to do with that decision. It was Travell, and her buddies on the council, you people here are victims of their blindness. Earth hasn't paid any price yet, but you sure as hell have."

Daniel put a restraining hand on Jack's chest, "Jack, calm down. You're only going to hurt yourself. What's done is done."

"Yes, please, Colonel O'Neill. Don't injure yourself further. I'm sorry I upset you." Narim was horrified that he had caused this man, their savior, any more pain. "I'll be going now, please forgive me for disturbing your rest." The Tollan turned to go. "I know it isn't enough, but...thank you...for everything." Narim walked out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

Jack lay back in his bed, face gray, eyes closed. "Shit." He murmured.

"Jack, you need to rest. Tomorrow we can go on to the Alpha Site and then back to the SGC. Then Janet can take care of you."

"Yea right. Can't we stay here?"

"Sure, but I thought you'd rather get back in time for the hockey finals on ESPN."

"Oh yea, forgot." Jack opened his eyes and looked up at his lover. "Daniel, you know when we get back to the SGC they'll be lots of people who will recognize you. What do you want to do?"

Daniel frowned. "I'll just try to stay back in the crowd, Sam and Teal'c will help hide me." He shrugged. "It won't fool Janet, or Seiler or any of the old group, but everybody won't see me. I'll change out of my BDUs and into some Cimmerian clothing and blend in with the crowd." He shrugged. "Besides, I don't really mind if the SGC knows I'm back, I just don't want the knowledge to get to...other people."

Jack knew who he was referring to. "Like the NID."

Daniel nodded. "But we'll worry about that tomorrow. You need to get some sleep."

"Stay..." Jack was weakening, fighting the rest he needed.

"Where else would I be? No matter where you go, I'll follow." Daniel stroked the unruly graying hair back from the high forehead. "Sleep, I'll be right here. Promise."

Jack was smiling as he slipped off into restful healing sleep his body needed.

 

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Chapter 9
Forever, it won't be long enough.

THE PLANET CIMMERIA
Daniel had pulled the sleeping bags from out of their packs and unrolled them one on top of each other next to Jack`s cot, giving himself as much padding as he could. He was just glad that he'd had enough foresight to throw the packs through the wormhole while he was waiting for the Tollans to arrive at the gate. This way he could stay as near to Jack as possible. He knew from experience that tonight would not be restful for either of them.

He had been asleep about two hours when it started. The rustling of the coarsely woven blankets had awakened him. Jack was moving around in his bed, murmuring to himself. The language was Iraqi, one of the several that O'Neill spoke quite a few words of. As usual it was a string of curses. Jack had once commented that he always managed to learn the all the bad words first. In this particular instance, it was very true. But then Jack's experience with the Iraqi prison guards had not been as favorable as Daniel's had been with the Iraqi archaeologists who had worked at his parent's digs when he was a small child.

"Jack," Daniel sat up next to him trying to sooth him with his voice and by his touch. "Jack, you're safe. You're with me. It's all right."

But tonight the retired Colonel, ex-POW would have none of it. He continued to talk as if to a guard, offering to trade, offering to do work, if only they would stop what they were doing, if only they would let his Danny live. Daniel knew he had to take some action and soon. He got up on his knees, and grasped Jack loosely by his arms and shook him gently. "Jack, it's okay...it's only a dream...Jack, I'm right here."

But as usual in these cases, it didn't do any good. The murmuring turned into talking, and the movements turned into struggles. Suddenly, Jack pulled his arms away from his partner and he jerked violently in the bed, crying out in pain. Daniel grasped him around the shoulders trying not to put pressure on his lower back and wound. But the violent actions of the struggling man threw him off, knocking him back down to the hard floor. Jack jerked up to a sitting position and immediately woke up, the agony of his wound causing him to arch back into the bedclothes. Daniel clambered to his feet and, fending off flailing arms, pulled his lover into a firm embrace. Finally, the older man pulled his way out of the night terror and relaxed into his partner's warm hug, sighing against him. Daniel could feel the shaking of his body and the dampness of his companion's tears.

"Easy, Jack, I've got you. Easy, it`s okay." He crooned, stroking his neck and shoulders. Doing anything he could think of to calm him. Daniel knew this nightmare. It was old, but now there seemed to be a new twist to it. He was in it now.

"Daniel?"

"I'm here. You're safe, I'm safe. It's all right. Just a dream."

"Dream?"

"That's right, just a dream." He could feel Jack was still shaking a little. "We're on Cimmeria, with the Tollan. You're hurt. You need to lie down, okay."

"Yea, okay." Jack was back. "Back hurts."

"I'm sure it does." Daniel eased him back down to the bed and continued to sit on it's edge until O'Neill eased out of the nightmare's grip. "Better now?"

Jack nodded, reaching out to take Daniel's hands in his. "Haven't done that in a while."

"No, I guess I'm not a cure for everything that ails you." Jackson smiled down at him. "But I'm sure today's events were the trigger." He stroked the still warm brow, pushing the hair back from the dampness. "You need to sleep some more. Do you want something to drink?"

Jack nodded, and Daniel reached for the mead cup. Jack took a drink then made a face. "I guess it's an acquired taste."

Daniel chuckled and took a sip himself. As always, their nightmares were too close to leave him unaffected and he really didn't need to have one of his own tonight. He offered another drink to Jack and after the other man was finished, he drained the cup and sat it back on the table. He then lay back down on the floor on his pallet.

Jack sighed and tried to look at him.

"What do you want, Jack?"

"I want a bigger bed, and you in it with me."

"Yes, but I'm right here." Daniel grasped his hand and gripped it firmly. "Go to sleep, Jack. Tomorrow's going to be a big day."

*******

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter threw her third broken pencil across the room and watched it bounce on the concrete floor of her workroom. It was Thursday, or as Daniel would have reminded them had he been here, Thor`s day. Well, maybe the Asgard would have something to do with them again. Jack was supposed to have called, e- mailed, sent smoke signals or something on Tuesday if they hadn't gone... hadn't run off with the Asgard again. But nothing, not even a hint of news, and she was furious with him and herself. She should have known it was going to happen, it always did. Just in the middle of the `and they lived happily ever after', it had to happen. What was it with those two anyway?

She went back over to the computer and pulled up her e-mail program. Nothing.

"Samantha, is something wrong?" The deep voice of her old team member and friend, Teal'c, startled her.

"No, yes, I don't know." she sighed. "I'm just worried about them."

"Yes, it would appear that they were correct in their assumptions about the message."

She nodded and sighed. "I was so hoping that they were wrong, for their sakes. I've never seen them so happy. It just doesn't seem fair somehow."

Teal'c nodded his agreement. "It does seem as if they are fated to always be warriors on the cusp of battle."

"Who is?" A voice sounded as Jonas Quinn walked into the office.

Carter rolled her eyes at Teal'c. "Oh, just a television show on the Sci-Fi channel."

"Sci-Fi? What is that?"

"It is a television channel that specializes in Science Fiction movies and series. Some of them are quite realistic, showing transporter capabilities, warped space and aliens. Some of them... are not." Teal'c explained to the other alien. "I also enjoy the History channel. That one explores historical occurrences that led to the Human condition that we live in today. It is very enlightening, explaining some of the mores and habit patterns that I find incomprehensible."

"Really?" Jonas looked interested.

"Yes, there is much more on television than the Weather Channel." Carter smiled at her other alien teammate.

"Well, which television show were you talking about?"

"Star Trek." Carter answered. "I liked the first series. I thought Spock was hot when I was a kid."

"Really?" the Jaffa warrior commented. "I enjoyed Voyager. I was very impressed with Captain Janeway."

"It was a good show, I admit." Carter nodded, happy that Teal'c was going with her misdirection.

"Colonel Carter," A young, female voice announced Hailey entered the office. "Ma'm?"

"Yes, Lieutenant?" They all turned and looked towards the door.

The petite young officer had a notebook in her hands. "I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"

"No," Jonas put in for her benefit. "We were discussing science fiction television shows. Do you watch television?"

"Well, not much." She admitted, wryly. "I'd rather be here working on something, an experiment or project." She thought for a moment. "But I did like Star Trek when I was a little kid. I had a big time crush on Wesley Crusher." She smiled, "My first geek hero."

"Ah, yes. Star Trek, the Next Generation. I do admire Worf. He would have made a great leader for the Jaffa." Teal'c put in.

"Yes, he would have." Sam smiled at the thought. "Though I don't think Klingons as a whole would have made good Jaffa."

Teal'c looked thoughtful. "I believe if properly raised and indoctrinated they would have been, but they would have made difficult hosts for any except the strongest Goa'uld to master."

Carter looked at him curiously. "I remember when you said nothing of the host survives. I see you've changed your mind."

"Indeed," He intoned slowly. "I have learned much since I have joined the SGC. We Jaffa were always told that the Goa'uld was all- powerful in this way, that when they subdued their host that the person was destroyed by the parasite. Even Master Bray'tac, who knew the truth about the Goa'uld, did not understand their true nature. I only learned of this through knowing Sha'uri and Skaara, and of course, learning of the Tok'ra's existence."

The sound of the Stargate klaxons announced an unscheduled, off-world activation. Carter and Teal'c looked at each other then started heading for the Gateroom. Quinn and Haley followed curiously.

*******

The Stargate started its activation sequence. Chevron 1 locked with its characteristic thunk, followed swiftly by two and then the other five. The SGC klaxon sounded, the iris rotated home securing the Base as the Security Force ran to their positions, weapons at the ready. Major General William Wallace ended his phone call with the head of the Joint Chief's of Staff and stepped out onto the observation area.

Master Sergeant Walter Davis looked up at his Commanding Officer. The new General under the Mountain was a tall impressive man. His face, while handsome, was not always easy to read and the Technical Staff was still learning his ways. But if there was only one constant of the SCG, it was that everyone was fascinated by the Stargate and it's workings, including new Commanding Officers.

Monitoring his instrumentation, Davis finally received the expected code. "It's SG10, sir; from the Alpha Site Gate."

The General glanced down at the readings and nodded. "Open the Iris, Sergeant."

The metal disc spun open at his typed command. The SFs on the floor remained on alert, adjusting their positions.

"Receiving MALP transmission, General." Davis turned to look at the boss. "It's Major Conway, sir."

Wallace moved in to where the SGC camera interface would see him. "Good to see you, Major. Do you have something to report?"

Major Keith Conway of SG-10; a young looking, freckle-faced redhead was on the other end of the message. His face was a happy ne. "Well, yes Suh, we shor do." His distinctive southern drawl announced. "We got ourselves a bunch of refugees seeking asylum on Earth, Sir. They're some of tha Tollan Survivors, Suh."

"Tollans? Isn't that the race that were overrun by the Goa'uld a year or so back?" Wallace heard a disturbance behind him and turned to see SG1 entering the observation area.

Lieutenant Colonel Carter came to a stop right behind him. The other three members stopped a few feet behind their leader. She answered his question. "Yes, Sir. SG1, under Colonel O'Neill, was on Tollana when the attack began, but we were asked to leave by the Curia's representative, Narim."

Wallace nodded. He'd read the report. It had been a very bad business indeed. The Curia was being double dealt by the Goa'uld, and they had ultimately paid the price for their isolationist policies. He returned his attention to the transmission. "How many refugees are we looking at here, Major?"

"Well, Suh, I count thirty-four Tollan and one lone Bird Colonel. It's Colonel O'Neill, Suh, an' he's a'hurtin' from a staff weapon wound that he got from tha rescue."

"Colonel O'Neill is there?" Carter demanded. "Is he badly injured?"

"No, Ma'm. They came by way of Cimmeria an' he got some treatment there, but I think he's a'needin to see Doc Fraiser."

"Well, by all means, send them through to us, Major Conway." General Wallace commanded with a grin. "I owe that old fox a rescue or two." He glanced back at Carter. "Go on down to meet him, Colonel. Your team can assist the medical people." He then turned the intercom microphone and commanded the Med Team on scene ASAP.

Sam smiled at him and SG 1 left the observation deck at good speed. As they went down the stairs, Teal'c came up close behind her. "Danieljackson?"

"I don't know, I hope nothing has happened to him."

"Perhaps he is among the Tollan."

She could only nod and say a little prayer of concern for her friend as they ran down the metal stairway.

The first three people through arrived together, two men wearing Cimmerian clothing, supporting a third man in BDUs between them, then a trickle of one, two and three persons at a time.

Carter immediately recognized the three men. She called stand down to the SF squad then hurried to their side. "Colonel O'Neill!"

She and Teal's ran up the ramp to assist with the injured officer. As the two men supporting O'Neill sat him down Carter glanced at the sandy haired man on his right. "Daniel? Are you okay? What happened?" Jackson gave her a quick grin and knelt down beside his partner. "We got the Tollans out but Jack was hit with a staff weapon while he was running to the gate." He explained quickly. Sam could see that her old C.O. was exhausted and gray-faced with pain, almost out on his feet.

She could hear the medical team come rolling into the room. Janet Fraiser, professional mask firmly in place, appeared over Carter's shoulder. Daniel ducked his head to move his camouflaging screen of hair in place. "Colonel O'Neill?" The shocked surprise turned in to professional concern as she took in his condition. "Let's get him on a stretcher and to the Emergency Treatment Room." Then, she glanced at the two men supporting him. "Oh, my God..." She said softly, under her breath. Daniel caught her eye and shook his head in a silent request. Carter laid her hand on her friend's arm. "Don't say anything, Janet. I'll explain later." She said softly.

"You bet you're life you will." Fraiser glanced at her sharply, then up at the two waiting corpsmen. "Get him to the ER, stat!" Doctor Fraiser then turned and did a quick visual assessment of Narim. "Are there any other major injuries?"

Narim answered. "No, Doctor Fraiser, but there are several small children and a woman due to birth her child soon. They may need attention. The rest of my people suffer only from abuse, exhaustion, and starvation."

"How many of you are there?" She asked him gently.

"Thirty-three...just thirty-three." His voice broke at the number.

Janet took his hand and looked at the man. "And you, Ambassador?"

He shook his head. "I am grateful, only very grateful...for friends like you and these two." He watched the gurney bearing O'Neill being moved down the hallway.

Doctor Fraiser turned and saw that her well-trained staff was performing triage exams on the remaining Tollans. She turned to look up at the Observation Room. "Sir, I'm taking them all to the infirmary, but I need to treat the most severe injuries first."

"Understood, Doctor. Just report to me at your convenience."

"Yes, Sir." She looked at Daniel and Narim. "Come on, you two need to be checked over too."

He nodded, knowing from experience that arguments would do him no good. He and the Tollan followed her into the halls of the SGC.

As he went down the ramp, Jonas Quinn got a close look at Jackson's face and started to say something. Teal'c took him by the arm. "Jonasquinn, do not remark on anything that you see here. Do you understand?"

Jonas looked up at the big man, feeling the pressure being put on his arm by his teammate. "Yes," He said, startled. "Uh, yes, I do."

"We must assist the others, come."

"Sure. Of course." And the two men turned to assist the other newly arrived Tollans, Quinn glancing over his shoulder at the two men following Doctor Fraiser.

Once in the infirmary, Fraiser directed Daniel and Narim to two beds with curtain enclosures. She pulled the curtains around them and turned to her friend and hugged him around the waist. "You better have a damned good explanation up your sleeve, Daniel Jackson." She sniffed into his heavy Cimmerian shirt.

He returned the hug and looked down at her. "I do.but."

"I'll go check on the Colonel," she patted him on the hand. "Who's been treating him, and do you know what was done?"

"Yes, Svenla, a healer on Cimmeria used an herbal poultice on him last night. It seemed to be helping, but then I uh, well, anesthetized him with mead." He looked a little embarrassed with that. "Then he slept, but he did have one nightmare."

"Mead?" She looked at him curiously. "What is mead exactly?"

"Well, it's fermented honey, moderately alcoholic." He shrugged. "He was in a lot of pain."

"Humm, okay, well, I guess you did the best you could. I'll be back in a while and let you know how he's doing." She turned to go. "I'll have Clark do your exam, so you can be with him when I'm through, okay?"

"Thanks, Janet." He smiled. "I owe you."

"Damned straight, Daniel Jackson." She squeezed his hand as she left.

Narim had been sitting quietly during the conversation, but when the doctor left he looked at Daniel curiously. "I do not understand, Doctor Jackson. Are you not with the SGC anymore?"

"No, Narim, I'm not." Daniel sat down on the bed. "It's a very long complicated story. I'll have to try and explain later."

The Tollan nodded. "That is a new Superior Officer, is it not?"

"Um yes, he is. General Hammond retired several months ago. Jack says he knows this man from some years back, but I've never met him."

"And Samantha?"

"Oh, yeah." Daniel smiled a little. "When Jack retired, Sam was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and retained command of SG 1. She added some new teammates, a Lieutenant Haley and Jonas Quinn. So SG1 is basically intact, just with new members."

They were interrupted by Sergeant Clark Brown, the medical technician, entering their cubical. The big orderly pulled the curtains closed behind him and then he turned around with a large smile on his pleasant face. "Dr. Jackson, I am very happy to see you again!"

"Couldn't fool you, could I, Clark?"

"No, I guess you couldn't. We've been down too many medical procedures for that. It's wonderful to see you again. I was afraid."

"Yes, I was too.for a while there." Daniel returned his grin with a self-conscious smile. "It was kind of scary."

"I can imagine." Clark acknowledged. "Well, let's check and make sure you didn't bring back any unwanted passengers."

"Absolutely." Daniel agreed easily. "I've been mostly around Earth, but I understand, and I want to get back to Jack."

The young man nodded. "It's the same drill as before. Shouldn't take long, I'm sure we still have your records." He glanced over at their visitor. "Ambassador Narim. You've been here before, haven't you?"

"That's correct, but only as a visitor." Narim smiled sadly at the young human. " And please, I'm not an ambassador any longer, only a refugee."

"Doctor Fraiser wants a full work up on you, sir. I'll see if I can find what we do have. That will make things go a lot quicker." He wrote something down on his clipboard then glanced back over at Daniel. "I'll be right back. You might brief ah, Mister Narim on what to expect."

"Sure, Clark, I'll be happy to."

A little over an hour later, Daniel was finally through with all the tests that proved to Janet Fraiser's satisfaction that he was un- Goa'ulded. After being released by Clark from the MRI chamber, he determinedly headed for the waiting area outside of the emergency room. There, he found Sam Carter and Teal'c sitting in the well- remembered chairs. There was also a new face waiting. Major General William Wallace was talking with the abbreviated version of SG1. When they saw the `missing' member of the old team, the General got to his feet and offered Daniel his hand. "It's a long awaited and unexpected pleasure to meet you, Dr. Jackson." The General wasn't quite as tall as Jack, more Daniel's height, but his shoulders might have been broader than the Colonel's, and the face a bit more weathered.

"Thank you, Sir, and thank you for allowing us to gate back so easily." Daniel said honestly. "I think Jack was expecting more uh, resistance from you."

"No, not for the Jack O'Neill that that parachuted into Northern Africa to rescue a lost pilot who thought he'd never see US air space again. I owe Jack O'Neill, a lot, and any friend of O'Neill's is welcome at my little intergalactic Bed and Breakfast." He looked at Jackson. "Besides, it would have been rather inhospitable to refuse you the use of the gate that you opened."

Sam had also gotten up to meet him. "Daniel, what happened? Did the Asgard come for you?"

"Yes, they did. They told us they had located some Tollan survivors." .and he launched into the story of their journey.

".So, we gated back to Alpha Site to get Conway to call home for us." Daniel finished his story.

"That is quite a story, Doctor Jackson, and it fits perfectly with what I know about O'Neill." The General nodded at the finish of his story. "But, when the Jaffa were about to overtake you and O'Neill after he was wounded, how did you hold them off? You said that you had emptied your weapon all ready."

"That was the most amazing sight of all." Narim came out of an exam room down the hall, having finished with his own exams. He walked up to where the group was sitting. "Doctor Jackson stood over O'Neill's body with nothing but a primitive stringed weapon that fired only wooden bolts." He shook his head. "He would not leave him."

Carter looked confused then realized what it was that Narim was describing. "Daniel? A bow?"

"It was all I had left. My Glock was empty...and so was the rifle. I didn't see Jack's revolver until Narim showed up and found it. He used it until we got to the gate and through to Cimmeria. I wasn't going to stand there and throw insults and rocks." Daniel looked a little surprised at himself, then said defensively. "I couldn't leave him, Sam. You know that."

She smiled at him. "I know, Daniel."

Doctor Fraiser appeared at the ER's doorway. "Daniel, good you're here. He's waking up and he's beginning to call for you. Maybe you can calm him down."

Jackson didn't wait for any other form of permission. He rose from his seat, gently but firmly pushed past Fraiser, and entered the room behind her. The group watched him until the door closed behind him.

Narim spoke up. "Samantha, I had brought their weapons with me as I fled through the wormhole. Major Conway assured me that he would have them returned here for them."

Carter nodded. "Thanks, Narim. I'm sure they will appreciate that very much."

"It was the least I could do." The Tollan said quietly. "If it had not been for them, we would still be there, suffering and dying." He looked up at Major General Wallace. "We may have nothing, but we do have our freedom from the Goa'uld."

"Then, my friend," Teal'c spoke up at last. "You have everything."

 

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Chapter 10
Forever may not be long enough for you to know.

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
General Wallace watched the young man go into the Emergency Room. Doctor Fraiser turned and followed him, closing the door behind her. He glanced at Carter and Teal'c. "He certainly has his priorities, doesn't he?"

Teal'c looked at him. "It has always been so with Danieljackson. He cuts directly to the bone of the carcass."

"Ah, what Teal'c means, Sir..."

"Teal'c said exactly what he means, as he always does." Wallace stood up. "It's one of the refreshing things about him." He thought a moment. "Colonel Carter, I get the impression that Doctor Jackson would prefer to remain unrecognized for the time being. Is that a correct assumption on my part?"

"Yes, Sir. That is. Because of the circumstances of his return, he's, well, they're concerned that some groups would be more than a little interested in Daniel's existence."

Wallace nodded. "I read the reports that you all wrote at the time of his apparent death. I don't believe that all of you were falsifying reports." He looked at her closely. "He did die, didn't he?'

"Sir, to the best of our ability to tell, Daniel died in his hospital bed. She looked a little embarrassed. "Colonel O'Neill appeared to be having a complete relapse into his suicidal ideology. He started drinking heavily again and began to organize his affairs. We were very concerned but he did nothing that would suggest any immediate actions on his part..."

General Wallace held up his hands to stop her. "Colonel Carter, let's take this up in my office in a short while. The area there is more, ah, secure for this type of conversation. And perhaps Doctor Jackson would like to sit in on it once he's confident that O'Neill is in no more danger."

"I do not believe that Danieljackson will leave O'Neill's side until he regains consciousness." Teal'c commented.

Narim nodded. "He has patently refused to leave him during our stay with the Cimmerians."

"Well, perhaps the meeting can be held here, later on. But, be that as it may...you and I need to discuss what we can do to assist your people in finding a new home, Ambassador Narim."

"I am not an ambassador any longer." He commented sadly. "I do not believe that thirty-three people constitute a governable body."

"Maybe not on Tollana, Mister Narim. But you are the man best suited by training and apparently character to continue to represent your people at least for the time being. They're going to need someone like you to plead their case wherever they decide to settle." The General nodded to him. "Why don't you visit with your people tonight, and tomorrow we'll meet again and discuss what the options are that are available for you and your group."

"Thank you, Sir, for your kindness to us. I'll meet with my people this evening after they've all been cleared by your medical staff."

"Very good, I look forward to it. Now if you'll excuse me for now, I've got to go and prepare for some VIP visitors that are coming in." He turned to Carter, "Colonel, if the opportunity presents itself, tell Colonel O'Neill that I'll drop by tomorrow, my time schedule and his condition permitting."

After the General left, Clark escorted Narim to where the rest of the Tollans were billeted. Carter and Teal'c were becoming restless. Neither Janet nor Daniel had reappeared to let them know about O'Neill's condition. Sam finally got up and tapped lightly on the door. In a few minutes, Janet came back out.

"How's he doing?" Sam pressed her friend.

"He'll be fine in a few weeks, but he's in a lot of discomfort now and I've got him sedated." She shook her head. "I thought you were still with the General."

"No, he said he had to go and make arrangements for some VIPs tomorrow." Carter shrugged. "Can we see the Colonel?"

"Well, just for a minute. We're trying to get him back to sleep, but he won't let go and relax." She looked at them. "Maybe a short visit will calm him down."

Sam nodded, understanding. They were familiar with a hurt O'Neill's idiosyncrasies. She and Teal'c entered the room to find Daniel sitting by the bed, Jack clutching his hand. "Jack, you've got to rest." Daniel was speaking softly. "I won't go anywhere; I'm not leaving you."

"Remember... what Harry...said."

"Jack, our friends are here. Nothing is going to happen." The younger man kept on talking in a soft low voice. "You've got to rest...please."

Carter came up and put her hand on Jackson's shoulder. "What's going on?" She asked softly.

"I really don't understand it, Sam." Fraiser turned to look up at her. "He's certain something is about to happen, but he can't say what."

"Sir," Carter bent down to Jack. "What's wrong. Is there something I can do to help?"

O'Neill lay back into the pillows. "Carter?"

"I'm here, Sir."

"Daniel, got to..."

"Jack, I'm right here." Frustrated Daniel reached out and laid his hand on Jack's face. "Jack, what do you need? What do you want me to do?"

"Danny, remember...he's coming. You've got to go, be safe."

"Jack, I'm safe here. I'm not leaving you, understand."

"Not safe, he'll find you. Got to go." O'Neill struggled on against the sleep he needed. Doctor Fraiser stepped over to the drug cabinet in the corner of the Emergency Room and removed a syringe. She injected it into the port of the IV bag. After a few minutes, Jack's features relaxed into the calm of drug enforced sleep.

As the physician was treating their friend, Carter drew Daniel to her side. "Who'll find you, Daniel?" Sam asked her friend. "Who does he think is coming?"

Daniel's expression was closed. "Remember, we told you that Maybourne came to the cabin?" She nodded mutely. "Later that evening, Shi'fu came with a message from Oma Desala. He told us that the Goa'uld that is here would come to the SGC and cause problems."

"The Goa'uld that is here?" She was confused for a moment, then who it was occurred to her. "You mean one who's on Earth, Adrian Conrad?"

He nodded. "Maybourne told us that Simmons and Conrad would try to come to the SGC with Kinsey to cause problems between you, well the SGC and the Russians. That's why we e-mailed you, Sam, to give you that warning." He shrugged. "The Asgard message just took priority." Daniel grimaced. "We weren't supposed to be here, well, we weren't expecting to be here. You know I've been staying away to avoid the NID's attentions, not the SGCs."

"I thought so, yes."

"But why, Daniel?" Fraiser asked, troubled. "You know we'd protect you."

"No, I don't." He looked at her thoughtfully. "Don't misunderstand me, Janet, but I don't know General Wallace. I know Hammond, and I would have trusted him, but I can't risk being turned over for experimentation or whatever. I won't leave Jack but I can't stay here."

"Danieljackson, that would not happen." Teal'c stated flatly.

"No, Teal'c I can't allow you to put yourself at risk, either." Daniel commented looking at his friend.

"Why would they even want to do that, Daniel?" Janet asked worriedly. "My tests show nothing unusual, other than, well, your allergies are cured and you don't need glasses anymore."

"Oh? Come on, Janet, I'm more alien...more dangerous to them now than I ever was. I don't know what my body would reveal to an in depth exam. We know Sam was changed by Jolinar. What side effects did the radiation, the ascension and now my uh, reintegration cause for me? It wouldn't matter if there was nothing significant...I would still be held against my will and away from Jack. I won't allow that. I can't! I have to be with him!"

The doctor nodded. She could see what might happen if he was discovered, especially by people with no good intentions and less conscience. "We need to let the General know what's going on, Daniel. He's a good man; he wouldn't do anything..."

"He may be a good man, Janet, but he's got the same problem General Hammond had. He's military; he has to follow orders." Daniel was beginning to feel trapped by his very friends. "Look, we've got to get out of here...before they show up. There's got to be a way we can get back home without them knowing about us and without compromising you."

"You can stay at my place." Carter offered.

"No, Sam. No offense, but your house would be the first place they'd look." He shook his head. "Jan's would be next...and we have to think of Cassie there. We could accidentally put her at risk of discovery, and none of us wants that."

"But Daniel, you can't just stay in here. You won't sleep at all." Fraiser shook her head. "Let me get you into a VIP room for the evening. You'll only be a few floors away and someone will come and get you if we need to." She picked up her phone to call the Services Sergeant on duty. "Sam can bring you something to eat and you can get a couple of hours sleep."

Sam nodded her agreement with the doctor's plan. "I'll bring you a uniform so you look like you belong here. That'll help you be more inconspicuous." She ran her fingers through his long bangs. "Well, sort of."

He grinned up at her through the hair. "Not cutting it."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Daniel." She smiled back at him. "Will lend you some shampoo though."

Within a few minutes, Sergeant Siler appeared at the door holding a set of keys. "Doctor Fraiser?"

"Hi Siler," Carter took the keys from him. "Thanks for bringing these." She indicated the man seated by the bed. "I have a friend that needs a place to crash and the bunkrooms were a bit too public for him."

Daniel looked up at the big NCO, "Hi Siler. Good to see you again."

Sam wished at that moment she had a camera for the expression on the NCO`s face when he recognized who her friend was. "Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel got up and came over to the pair. He extended his hand to his old acquaintance. Siler took it in his and clasped it happily. "I don't know what to say, Doctor J., other than I'm damned happy to see you again." Siler was beaming. "Damned happy."

"Glad to see you too." Daniel was also genuinely pleased to see the man who had been a loyal, steadfast companion to him before. While they had never been close friends, their working relationship had always been enjoyable and they knew each other well enough for him to trust the big Sergeant.

"So, Doc, you trying to stay out of sight?" Siler asked curiously. "I've heard that Senator Kinsey is coming, and I know you two didn't care much for each other," he glanced at the bed. "Or the Colonel either."

"Yes, but we can't leave yet. Jack's still needs a doctor's care, but I, in particular, can't be seen."

"Well, if you need anything while you're here, just let me know." The Senior NCO nodded. "I know places in this mountain that no one else knows about."

Daniel smiled at the Sergeant, "I'm sure you do, Siler, and when or if I need that place to hide out, I know who to come to."

"Anytime, Doctor J. Just shout." Siler looked at them and then at his watch. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I've got things to do downstairs."

"Thanks again, Siler." Carter called, the man waived over his shoulder as he left.

*******

Daniel sat with Jack another hour or so, to settle his own nerves. But he knew that the infirmary was not a good place to remain unseen. Finally, he went with Carter to the waiting VIP room where she left him to rest. Someone had brought a plain unmarked uniform, and a package of other necessary items and laid them on the bed for him. After he had showered and changed, Daniel lay down on the bed until he heard a tap at his door. It was Teal'c, bearing a tray of food. On it were a few things that he remembered his young friend was fond of, including a piece of cherry pie.

"Thank you, Teal'c." Daniel smiled up at him. "I really appreciate the food. I really can't remember the last meal I ate."

"I am pleased to help you." The big alien sat down in the extra chair as his friend began to eat. "How is O'Neill faring?"

"Janet is keeping him sedated, but he's fighting it. I need to get down there to him soon so that I'll be with him when he wakes up again." Daniel looked thoughtful. "I don't like us being separated like this."

Teal'c bowed his head to the younger man. "You have become very dependent on each other."

"Yes, I suppose so." He nodded wiping his mouth with the napkin. "I feel kind of responsible for him. I guess I didn't realize how much I really cared until my, uh, ascension." Daniel shook his head. "I knew it was what I had to do to survive. I thought that it was what I wanted. My relationship with Jack had taken on a new aspect back then. It was as if we were trying to push each other away...as if we couldn't, didn't want to be around each other. But after we were separated, I could barely function. I couldn't even think of what I needed to do." He paused and looked over at his friend. "I was lost, as if whatever I wanted or needed was directly tied to Jack."

"It was your new relationship, beginning to want to establish itself." Teal'c nodded his understanding. "At one time you were both very dependent upon each other, but it was a paternal relationship. Then, you began to grow, as a man, as a person. O'Neill tried to keep you as a father holds his son to him and you fought him. As you did so, he felt a loss and betrayal."

"But I never betrayed him..." Jackson protested. "I never lost any of my feelings for him. He's always been my friend, my mentor...more than any other man has."

"But he could only feel the loss of your dependency, and then when you did leave, he felt a sense of failure that he had not protected you, had not prevented your fate." Teal'c looked at him with saddened eyes. "I thought that we would find him dead from his own hand very soon afterward. It is a sign of his strength that he continued on as long as he did."

Daniel nodded. "I found him just in time. He was trying to commit suicide by getting drunk and falling out of the boat, or it sinking with him in it." He closed his eyes, reliving his emotions at finding O'Neill unconscious and dead drunk in the small rowboat in the middle of the lake. "I had come to him twice before that, to tell him to wait for me, but he didn't believe it was really me, or else he thought I was lying to him."

"He had told Samantha, but she feared it was his mind playing on him." Teal'c said sadly. "She could only see his loss, as could I. We could not hope that it was truly you."

"I know, sometimes it all seems like a dream to me too." Daniel agreed in a low voice. "I was in such pain when Oma came to me and offered me a way to continue to live; I went believing that it was for the best. But, Teal'c, I was so alone. Among all of the ascended, all those worlds, all that knowledge, I was so desolate. I missed you all, but I needed him. I was so lonely for that one person, wanting to see him, to be with only him." The young man blinked back the moisture from his eyes. "I didn't realize even then what I really wanted, truly needed. But, then, when I did come back, it was almost too late. That's when I knew that...well, what I wanted and needed was more than just his friendship. I wanted all of him, everything, so that we'd never not have each other again." Daniel grimaced and shook his head. "Words don't say it, Teal'c. I can't explain it any better."

"You have said it as well as it may be said." the wise man said, nodding his understanding. "The words of a warrior heart are not easily spoken."

"And I also know that he is very important to the world, more than just to me, I mean. The Ascended Ones believe that he may hold the future of our world in his hands." Daniel said. "That's why I was allowed to return, not because they knew that I loved him, though that was their assurance I would stay with him...but because they knew that I would protect him. That's why I can't leave him now, even with Kinsey coming."

Teal'c looked at the young man closely then spoke slowly, thoughtfully. "I believe that they may be right, Danieljackson. I could not say when I lost faith in Apophis, the creature that claimed to be my god. But, when O'Neill came and called to me to help him save those people, I knew that it was the correct action to take, that he would not fail them or me."

Daniel flashed his friend a quick smile. "Do you know what Jack would say if he could hear this conversation?"

"He would deny it." Teal'c stated flatly.

"He'd laugh at us." Daniel chuckled. "When Maybourne was at our cabin, he asked Jack if he was Saint John or Mary Magdalene, trying to insinuate that I was the important one." He smiled to himself. "He had it all wrong; Jack is the center, not me." He looked earnestly at Teal'c. "I'm only a helper or maybe a guide. Jack knows what's right; he always knows what to do."

The Jaffa shook his head, "No, Danieljackson, there you are wrong. O'Neill once called you the heart of the team, it's conscience. You are his light; he is your strength. Together you are a beacon, which we may follow."

Daniel flushed pink under the passionate declaration of his friend. "Well, I'm not so sure about that...but I am sure I'd better be getting down to the clinic or Janet's going to have her hands full."

Teal'c smiled his small smile. "I agree, O'Neill can be most loud to let his needs be known."

*******

Daniel and Teal'c took a less traveled way back to the clinic, the younger man always putting Teal'c between himself and anyone else they passed in the hallway. They arrived at the medical section just as O'Neill was beginning to awaken from his enforced rest. Daniel went directly to his bedside.

Jack was moving restlessly in the bed. As he opened his eyes, he could see his companion sitting at his bedside holding his hand. "Hi." His voice was weak and gravelly.

"Hi yourself," Jackson returned. "How do you feel?"

"Like I'm back in the SGC a year ago." O'Neill groused. "With a doctor that is a little too happy with the needles."

Daniel smiled at him and brushed the hair back from his face. "You need her and her needles, so be nice."

"Yes, Colonel." A familiar female voice chimed in. "Be nice. I don't treat many retirees here you know." Doctor Janet Fraiser let herself in the room. "I'm only making an exception in your case because you come so well recommended."

"Well recommended?" Jack looked from Daniel to Janet. "What? You're not believing him are you?"

"No, but I do believe one Brigidier General, one Lieutenant Colonel, and thirty-three very grateful Tollans." She came over to the bedside and wrapped her arms around Daniel`s shoulders, who returned the hug one handed. "I haven't even talked to this one yet." She looked up at her long lost friend. "That's one conversation I'm really looking forward too."

"Hey, woman. Unhand him, he's mine...and I don't share." Jack grinned weakly up at them.

The Doctor looked at the two men. "So, it is true! Sam told me, but I had a little trouble believing her."

Daniel looked worriedly down at her. "It is a problem for you? Because it's true all right. We've been together now for over five months."

Janet looked up at him thoughtfully for a few minutes; arms still clasped around his waist. "A problem? No. A surprise? A little, yes. But if it makes you both happy, then I'm fine with it." She squeezed Daniel around the middle and released him. She then took Jack's hand from his grasp and turned to her patient adjusting her hold to the pulse point on his wrist. "How are you feeling right now, on a scale of one to ten?"

"Six?" Jack replied tentatively.

Janet looked back down at him from her watch. "Colonel..."

"Eight." He admitted. "But..."

"No buts please unless you want me to just automatically add a point or two." She studied his pain filled eyes and exhausted face. "You're hurting, Colonel, let me make it easier on you, please. Don't fight me anymore."

"Look, Doc. It's just a staff wound. I've had them before; we both know the drill." He sighed and closed his eyes. "I just want to go home." He opened them and looked plaintively up at Daniel. "Can't you just take me home?"

Daniel looked over at Janet. She shook her head. "Not yet, Colonel. In a few days. Just let us help you, okay?"

"Okay...for a few days." Jack sighed and settled back down into the bed and closed his eyes. "But only for a few days."

"In a few days, my dear Colonel O'Neill..."

"Retired." He put in, eyes still closed. "With two ells."

Janet smiled at Daniel who smiled back at her as she left the bedside and he stepped back into position by Jack`s bed.. "...My dear retired Colonel O'Neill with two ells, I will be more than happy to release you to the custody of this poor overworked, underpaid and totally unappreciated guardian angel that some happy spirit has seen fit to bless you with..." Jack opened one eye and looked at her. "...So that he may relieve us of your injured body, your broken spirit, and your crotchety self..." Jack opened both eyes to glare at her. "And take you back to the fabled mountains of Wisconsin..."

"Minnesota"

"...Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, where ever...so that we may be left in peace to combat evil aliens, malevolent wizards and..."

"Whatever...Daniel, get me my pants."

Daniel shook his head, and chuckled. "No, not yet, Jack." He stroked his partner's forehead and bent down to murmur into Jack's ear. "In a few days." He looked back over at Janet who smiled broadly at them. "In a few days, we'll go home...right now, get some sleep and get better. Okay?"

"Traitor."

"Go back to sleep. I'll be right here."

"No, Daniel. Look," Jack opened his eyes again. "You go on to where ever they've got you billeted and get some sleep in a bed." He let them drift shut. "I'll be fine. You look like a hell. I`ll be good, I promise."

He looked over at Doctor Fraiser who nodded and left them alone in the room, closing the door behind her. The linguist then leaned over his Colonel and kissed him gently on the lips. "I'll be back first thing in the morning. I love you."

"I love you too, Daniel." He shifted in his hospital bed and closed his eyes. "Now, go get some sleep. I'll be fine."

"Yes, dear."

 

Next: Part 2