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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."

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Chapter Text

Chapter 11
Just how far I'd travel, just how far I would go

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
Senator Kinsey straightened his jacket and tie using the chrome wall of the elevator for a mirror as it approached the twenty-seventh floor of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. He glanced up at the tall Air Force Colonel at his right side. "Simmons, have you met this General Wallace person?"

"No, but I`ve seen his file." The tall, dark-haired man replied, with a scowl. "He's a pretty typical flyboy mentality. You know the sort honor, justice and the American way."

"There is nothing wrong with the American Way, Simmons." Kinsey returned. "It's the cowboy attitude that often goes with it that bothers me."

"Well, the cowboy is long gone from here. Hammond has finally retired, O'Neill's gone and reportedly suicidal somewhere in the wilds of Minnesota, Jackson's dead..." Colonel Simmons commented with a self-satisfied expression. "The only remnants you have left of the old power base are Carter, Teal'c, Ferretti and some of the technical staff." He shook his head. "The SGC is becoming more of a bureaucracy. It makes it easier on us to deal with any distractions. The more steps in between the top and the bottom, the more areas that can be directly influenced." The officer smiled thinly at the politico. "The end of an era."

"An era of alien influence, impinging on conservative American values." The Senator nodded and looked at the third man in the elevator. "I suppose you can appreciate my viewpoint, eh, Mr. Conrad." He didn`t know Conrad personally but the rich industrialist had been pumping a great deal of money into his campaign fund. So when the request had come through Colonel Simmons, for Kinsey to invite him along for this impromptu visit to the top-secret facility of Stargate Command, it had made sense to honor it.

"Indeed, I can." The man smiled at the politician, then continued on in an unusually deep voice. "And I would like to thank you for including me in your party for your visit to the SGC. I'm sure I'll find it... fascinating."

Simmons eyed Conrad for a moment without any humor, then smiled. "I'm sure you will Mr. Conrad. I'm sure you will." The elevator came to a stop on the twenty-seventh floor and the three men exited the car. Simmons waived his hand down a hallway. "This is the way to the gateroom."

*******

Technical Sergeant Clark Brown, medical technician, was returning to level twenty-eight from a quick lunch in the snack machine room on the twenty-seventh floor. Curious when he heard the strange voices, he had realized whom those voices had to belong to, the impending VIP visitors. Clark ducked down a side hall and grabbed the class c phone from the alcove desk area. Dialing the command section, he was only mildly surprised at the voice on the other end.

"Wallace."

"Sir, this is Tech Sergeant Brown from the clinic."

"Yes, Brown."

"The Senator and his entourage is here, Sir. They're down here on the twenty-seventh floor and I didn't see an escort with them."

"Good Grief!" Wallace exclaimed. "Damn Security anyway!" He thought quickly as he pulled on his Service Dress Jacket. "Brown, get down to the clinic and get Doctor Jackson out of sight, now!"

"Yes, Sir." Clark paused. "What about Colonel O'Neill?"

"Can he be moved?"

"No, Sir, not till he's stable. Doctor Fraiser..."

Wallace interrupted him. "Brown, where are you at now?"

"Level twenty-seven at junction D and E." He replied. "They're at the junction of D and F."

"Can you do something to hide O'Neill?"

Clark thought a moment. "I'll try to come up with something, Sir."

"Do your best. Now disappear, son. Go!"

"Yes, Sir!" Clark hung up the phone and headed down to Corridor B. It ran parallel to the one the visitors were on. He opened the door to the stairwell and went down two steps at a time. Reaching the clinic area, he found that Fraiser was also out, probably at the commissary for lunch. He quickly headed for the ward that O'Neill occupied.

Daniel Jackson was sitting by the bed reading aloud from a magazine, the Colonel asleep. "Daniel, those VIPs, they're here!"

"Already?" Daniel looked up at Clark then glanced worriedly down at his partner. "Who is it?"

"Some bigwigs. Senator Kinsey, that NID Colonel and some other guy. They're on their way to the command section. The General said for you to take cover."

"Shit!" Daniel knew that all of them would know O'Neill on sight, but Jack was still resting in a drugged sleep and couldn't be moved. Clark walked past the occupied bed to an area behind one of the empty, unmade beds motioning for him to follow. Pushing a privacy curtain aside, Clark waived him over to a small unobtrusive hallway.

"Tuck in here, Daniel. It's a service hall to the emergency generator." The young man told him. "Look, I'm going to try to stall them by mopping the floor. That should keep them out for a little while anyhow."

Daniel nodded. That would work for an hour or two. By then Fraiser should be back and they might be able to do something else with Jack. "Thanks, Clark."

"If you hang a left at the corner there, you should be able to hear them in Doctor Fraser's office." The young corpsman flashed him a grin; pulled the curtain behind Daniel and headed up to the supply closet to start his self imposed floor-cleaning detail.

Daniel did as instructed and he could hear Clark whistling off tune as he banged around getting his supplies ready for the subterfuge. The narrow hallway was only about six feet long and turned sharply into a machine room that contained the generator for an emergency power supply for the clinic. He looked around and found a folding chair and a 1996 Reader's Digest. Daniel sighed and sat down to wait.

*******

Major General William Wallace came around the corner and greeted the newcomers as if this was an expected occurrence instead of a blatant case of sneak attack. These people hadn't been expected until at least the next day. Thanks to the alertness of Sergeant Brown, they`d caught on to them just in time. Wallace had even had time to make a hurried phone call to Lieutenant Colonels Carter and Ferretti, his two ranking officers and they'd be here in a few more minutes to assist with the visit. Wallace put on his best happy to have you face, tugged on his jacket once more and went out to meet the visitors as if they were right on schedule. His motto was "Never let the bastards see you sweat."

"Good morning, gentlemen. I see you found your way down to this level." He greeted them amicably.

Senator Kinsey stopped and looked in surprise at the immaculately dressed General Officer. "Good afternoon, General Wallace."

Wallace, unperturbed, offered him his hand. "Yes, that time zone thing is a bit of a bother isn't it? He nodded at Simmons. "You must be Colonel Simmons. Good to finally get a look at you."

"Yes, it's always good to put a face to a name." Simmons stepped forward to take the General's hand. He tried to use his height to impress the smaller man.

Wallace merely smiled up at him. "Yes, yes it certainly is. I've heard so much about you, it seems as if I already know you."

"Well, I hope it's all been good."

"Let's say it's been interesting." He glanced at the third man. "And you must be..."

Senator Kinsey spoke up. "Oh, I'm sorry General. Let me introduce Mr. Adrian Conrad. He's a political supporter of mine and shares several of the same, uh, concerns as I do in the continued operation of the SGC."

"Oh really." Wallace looked at the man closely. Carter had told him about this man's `possession' by a Goa'uld parasite. He didn't look any different and his voice was only a little deeper than he would have expected. He wondered if Kinsey even knew...or cared. "Well, how can I help you gentlemen?"

Kinsey started in with a smarmy smile. "Well, we know you've only just replaced Hammond but the Senate Sub-committee I'm on is interested in how your relationship with the Sovi...the Russians have changed in the last few weeks."

"Well, actually, Senator...I'm pleased to say that if anything, our relationship has improved. It seems that Colonel O'Neill did have a few, uh, issues with the Russian presence here at the SGC. Nothing overt of course, but..."

The four men started down the long hallway to the General's office.

*******

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter was rushing to catch up with the General and their unexpected visitors in the Command Section of the SGC when she first experienced the telltale Goa'uld alert sensation. Ever since her exposure to Jolinar the Tok'ra, she had been able to sense the presence of a symbiote. But this time she didn't understand where it was coming from. There were no Tok'ra on base, of that she was certain. So, who was the Goa'uld in the mountain?

As she passed the elevators, Ferretti joined her at the double-time pace she had set. "Lou, there's a Goa'uld somewhere near." She hissed at him. The slender built Colonel looked at her in surprise then nodded his acceptance of her statement. They'd just have to be on their guard. The two officers stopped at the General's doorway and did a quick uniform check on each other. They nodded the okay and the two flawlessly attired officers knocked and entered the briefing room.

Carter scanned the four men already seated at the large table, her senses were screaming. One of them was a Goa'uld and she was looking right at him. Adrian Conrad, her kidnapper!

********

Teal'c had just finished his workout in the gym with Jonasquinn. The young man was improving but was still sadly lacking in fighting skill. He had approached his teammate, Teal'c, to help him improve his self defense proficiency and the Jaffa warrior had agreed. Quinn had not had the friendship of O'Neill before the older man had retired and so had not benefited from his tutelage as Danieljackson had. The warrior had felt somewhat responsible for the young alien who had come to them. His government had tried to blame their friend and teammate, Daniel Jackson, for causing the very accident, which had led to his separation from them and his ascension. It was hard not to condemn Quinn for the accident but in all fairness, he had not been responsible. O'Neill had been unable to work through his grief and he too had finally taken his leave of the team. When Samantha Carter had taken control of SG1 she had asked Teal'c to assist in his training. And admittedly, she did have her hands full with the young Lieutenant Jennifer Haley.

When Danieljackson had returned to O'Neill's side, he had been very happy for his two friends. He had feared that after his leaving the SGC the older man had not much longer to live. His death would have been a tragedy of galactic level, as indeed Jackson's had been. Jackson's return had literally revived O'Neill's will to live and reinstated his own faith in the rightness of things in general. That the two of them were together again made the universe a happier place to be, from his point of view anyway.

So, he had agreed to assist in the training of the two youngest members of SG1. Quinn was having to learn by long hours of dedicated practice sessions. Haley, while more skilled than her teammate, was having to develop a different style that would use her small stature to her advantage. But though the young woman was petite, she was very strong and quick.

As Teal'c started to enter his quarters on the VIP level, he suddenly felt a sense of disquietude. His symbiote was reacting as if it sensed one of it's own kind suddenly nearby. He had not heard the Stargate engage, nor was he aware of any Tok'ra on the base. It was most peculiar. Instead of entering his rooms, Teal'c decided to check on his two ex-teammates who were presently restricted to the clinic area. But first he would ensure his present teammates were out of harm's way.

*******

Jonas Quinn had chosen to return to his quarters after his workout with Teal'c. He had much to think about. The Jaffa had graciously consented to be his teacher about things involving self-defense and combat readiness. Quinn had known that the SGC personnel would not like him immediately because of the part he had unwillingly played in the death or at least the disappearance of a much respected and beloved comrade. If he only he could have joined the SGC while Daniel Jackson had still been with the organization. He had genuinely liked the young Taur'i scientist and had mourned his leaving as well.

And Colonel O'Neill had been impossible at first. Every time the two men looked at each other, it was there for all to see. Jonas Quinn's culpability in the crime if not actual guilt, and the gaping wound in O'Neill's psyche. It had been painful for him to even be in the Colonel's presence at first. While the older man had never actually said it to his face, Quinn knew that O'Neill held him personally responsible for the loss of his best friend. Such a catastrophe, such a horrible, horrible tragedy and he had been the trigger if not the actual bullet at the scene of the crime. Finally, the man had opted to retire, and Lieutenant Colonel Carter had been awarded leadership of team SG1. He was now finally beginning to fit into a team and he enjoyed the interaction with the other members. Jennifer Haley, the young Lieutenant, was extremely intelligent and he held great interest in her learning abilities and techniques.

Several days ago, amidst unexplained undercurrents of emotions, the two senior members of SG1 had returned from their secret trip to some unknown destination. Then, yesterday, he had seen the impossible. While assisting some alien refugees in the Embarkation Room, he could have sworn he saw Jackson...with O'Neill. But when he had started to comment, Teal'c had dissuaded him from saying anything. And now the Jaffa was uncommunicative on the subject. He didn't deny it had occurred; he merely had told Jonas that he would explain everything when the time was right. And when THAT would be was anyone's guess.

*******

Lieutenant Haley was sitting in her small lab, pretending to work on her latest assignment given to her by Colonel Carter. It was a fairly simple exercise in testing a new, smaller naquadria powered generator to see how much output it could produce on certain frequencies. Carter had explained how differently this new compound element reacted from the old naquadah that she had used in the initial research on powering the reactor. And the reactors that they were experimenting with had many different purposes and were quite wonderful, she was sure. However, she was not thinking about any of those factors. She was thinking about other things.

Yesterday, in the gateroom, a group of Tollans had come through the Stargate with Colonel Jack O'Neill, SG1's old C.O. It had been a real surprise to everyone. He had supposedly retired to another state in a blue funk when Doctor Jackson had been killed in a radiation accident on Jonas's home world of Kelowna. Haley hadn't yet been at the SGC when it had happened but she knew that O'Neill had left soon afterwards. That was what had precipitated her being assigned to SG1. But how had he gotten off world? Colonel Carter had said she'd explain it to her later, but nothing had been revealed yet. Of course, it had been a really busy time, what with them helping the Tollans and Colonel O'Neill being injured in the rescue. He and two other men had been whisked away to the infirmary as soon as they had arrived. Later, Carter had brought the tall dark good-looking Tollan back to the group and she'd introduced him as Narim to she and Jonas. Teal'c had all ready known him and it looked like Colonel Carter had too from the looks the two of them were giving each other.

Jennifer knew that Carter and Teal'c had hero-worshipped O'Neill and that Jonas had wanted badly to be accepted by the older man, but it still hadn't stopped him from leaving the team and the SGC. She'd heard that O'Neill and Jackson had been involved in a gay relationship, which was sort of interesting, since it went against all the regulations. Maybe she could find out some information from Jonas. It was just too much for a girl to stand. She stood up, turned off the generator and went in search of answers.

*******

Colonel Alexis Chekov was in search of some answers. He knew that some friendly aliens had come through the Stargate yesterday, but he didn't know who they were or what connection they had to the SGC. He was tired of being kept in the dark. He was the highest-ranking foreign official here at the complex and he needed to be kept informed. He had gone looking for Lieutenant Colonels Ferretti and Carter but had found out that they had been called to Major General Wallace's office to meet with some government officials from Washington DC. It was impossible to keep working in an atmosphere like this. It reminded him of the old days back in the Kremlin. He hated that feeling.

He decided that enough was enough. He would find out what was going on here, once and for all.

*******

Haley tapped on the door that opened into Jonas's office/library. The television was on; the weather in Atlanta was going to be warm, sunny and humid. She was glad she wasn't there.

"Jonas, are you in here?" She called.

"Jennifer, oh, hi." Jonas's disembodied voice called out from the inner office. "Just a minute." After a second or two the Kelownan came out pulling a fatigue shirt on over his black tee shirt. He finished buttoning it and then looked up at her. "What can I help you with? How are your experiments going with the reactor?"

"I'm bored with the reactor, Jonas. It's just make work to keep me occupied today." She looked over at him from across the worktable. She idly picked up a book and opened it. The body of the text was written in an elegant quick script with annotations along the borders. She looked at the flyleaf on which was printed in bold letters, The Official Mission Journal of D. Jackson, for Mar-Apr 2000. "How can you read these, Jonas?"

He looked at her sadly. "Why, because I caused his death? Not you too, Jennifer."

"No, not that!" She replied rather briskly. "How can you read this stuff? It's like a fairy tale, all these stories of gods and demons. He tried to relate everything he saw to fables and myths." Jennifer looked rather impatient. "They're aliens! Not Zeus or Ra or Hathor! Just aliens pretending to be those old gods!"

"No, Jennifer. You're wrong there. Doctor Jackson was a true genius thinking out of the box of proscribed theories. Reading his mission journals help me see how his mind worked." Quinn took the volume from her hands and carefully put it back in it's place on the shelf behind the desk. "I've often wondered if he kept more personal notes or diaries. I would have like to have read them also, so that I could know him better."

She shrugged. "Probably so, but most people who keep personal diaries usually keep them at home so no one else can see them. I didn't know him that well either. He and Colonel O'Neill, well all of SG1, did the testing on the cadet team I was on when I tried out for the SGC." She shrugged. "He seemed really nice and he was cute too." Haley smiled remembering the reaction of the other female team member. "Satterfield thought he was really hot. But he never paid any attention to any of the women around here, except maybe to Colonel Carter. Everybody said they were like brother and sister." She picked up an ancient piece of pottery and turned it over in her hands.

"Oh, and what did they say about he and the other team members?" Jonas was watching her handle the artifact.

"Well, if you really want to know, some people thought that he and Colonel O'Neill were, uh, you know..."

Quinn looked at her curiously. "I do? What do I know? I don't understand."

Haley shook her head at his question. "Well, there were rumors that they were gay."

"Gay? You mean they were happy?"

"No. That they were having a homosexual affair, and that's why the Colonel got so bad off when Doctor Jackson died." Haley looked at him. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Uh, yes." Quinn looked a little confused. "Sure, I think I do."

"Look, Jonas. Normally people are attracted to the opposite sex. A man loves a woman...but some people love people the same sex as they are...you know?"

A light began to dawn in Jonas's face. "Oh, you mean they, O'Neill and Jackson, were a couple. I understand now. On Kelowna, well, it`s not unheard of, especially between two people who live and work closely with each other." He looked at her. "Why? Is it unusual on Earth?"

"Well, yeah. It happens but it's not generally accepted as the normal thing, especially in the military. Now, I'm not saying they were," She corrected him hastily. "Some other people do, er did, but I don't know for sure, so I'm not saying it to a lot of people. But you kind of asked me, and I told you what I think...okay?"

"Sure, okay." He looked at her curiously. "But...is this a bad thing here?"

"Well, yeah, it is. It's against regulations and it's frowned on by people, so don't say anything okay?"

"All right." Jonas agreed. If the two men had maybe been involved in an illegal and illicit love affair, then that would have explained a lot. If O'Neill had loved Jackson, it made everything clearer. No wonder he and O'Neill could never be friends. At least that part of it hadn't been his fault. But that didn't explain what he had seen, or at least thought he had seen in the Gateroom.

"Jennifer," Quinn wanted to ask this question correctly so that he was certain to understand the answer. "Jennifer, if a human being suffers extreme radiation poisoning, he will die...correct?"

"Hum, yea, a human would die. Radiation is lethal to us."

"And when a human dies, that's supposed to be the end right?"

She looked at him oddly. "Yes, all normal humans die and stay dead. I mean, they don't come back to life or anything. Not in real life. Why are you asking that?"

Jonas sat down in his chair and looked up at her. "Then we have a non real life situation. Yesterday, when we were assisting the Tollans, I saw Daniel Jackson. He was one of the two men supporting Colonel O'Neill."

Haley pulled up the other chair and sat down in front of him. "Are you sure it was him?"

He nodded. "Positive! I have met Doctor Jackson and spent several hours with him before the tragedy. I would know him anywhere."

"But, everyone was so sure that he had died.he just couldn't live through that much radiation. And Colonel O'Neill almost committed suicide afterwards."

Jonas Quinn nodded. "Almost. He ALMOST committed suicide. Why didn't he? Because Doctor Jackson came back to him.that's why!"

"But Jonas," Jennifer tried again. "It's impossible. The only way people come back from the dead is," She began to count off on her fingers. "One, you're not really dead, just in a coma; two, you're put in a Goa'uld Sarcophagus; three, you come back as a vampire or something; four, you don't really come back alive, you come back as a ghost or a zombie." She looked at him. "Human beings don't come back from the dead.not really."

Then much to their surprise, Teal'c's deep familiar voice interrupted them. "But perhaps a human being can ascend this plane of existence and then return to his previous state."

Jonas and Jennifer both turned to look at their senior teammate. Finally Jonas spoke, "What does that mean.Ascend?"

"We have met a race in the past that has the ability to transcend their physical forms. They are a very old, powerful race. One of them, whom we know as Oma Desala, took Danieljackson's stepson Shi'fu to raise and to protect him from Apophis. She brought the boy to his ascended state. There was another whom we met on planet whose civilization was completely destroyed by a doomsday device. He followed us back through the Stargate and descended into a human form to appear to Lieutenant Colonel Carter."

Quinn nodded excitedly. "I remember, I read that in the mission reports. He actually lived here on Earth for several days at her house. The NID discovered his presence and he had to escape back to his planet." Then he paused, thinking. "But then there was some disagreement in the official records. He was either shot and killed by the NID or."

Teal'c watched him, amused. "His people allowed him to re-ascend to his higher physical form. That is what Samantha says happened."

Haley had been watching her two teammates suspiciously. "So what does that have to do with Doctor Jackson?"

Jonas looked at Teal'c in amazement. "You mean he ascended.he didn't actually die?"

"I believe that to be correct, yes." The Jaffa nodded.

"So," Haley said slowly. "Doctor Jackson is here, now?"

"This is so." Teal'c looked at them ominously. "I warn you both, do not reveal what I have told you to anyone...do you understand?"

Both of the younger members of SG1 nodded. "I don't understand," Jonas looked confused. "Surely, Doctor Jackson is in no danger here. This is more his home than anywhere isn't it?"

"Once, perhaps that was so, but now both he and O'Neill fear that if his..." Teal'c seemed to be looking for a word.

"Resurrection?" Haley suggested, looking a little bewildered.

Teal'c sighed, "I do not believe that is a word that Danieljackson would accept as valid. Perhaps rebirth or de-ascension, but if his new status were to be discovered they fear that he would be a target for experimentation by certain factions." He looked at his two teammates seriously. "I myself barely escaped such a fate, and you Jonasquinn, by the very fact of your birth on another planet also run a certain amount of risk."

Quinn nodded. "Yes, I am aware of the possibility. As is the young man I met in research, Nyan."

Haley was looking more and more confused at this exchange. "I don't understand what you're talking about. Why would anyone do that?"

"Because," Jonas looked at her and smiled slightly. "We're all aliens, remember?"

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 12
Open your heart and everything will be all right

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
Daniel sat at Jack's hospital bedside, simply watching the other man sleep. Doctor Fraiser had once again given him a heavy dose of pain medication to allow him uninterrupted rest. While he would not presume to argue with their favorite physician, he would have wished for Jack to have been able to sleep normally instead of this drug induced deep unconsciousness. He knew his partner abhorred the lack of control that came with the surcease of the pain. So much of Jack was made up of the ability to use his finely honed senses that ordinary people normally ignored. Not the five usual ones, but the sixth survival sense; the prickle on the nap of the neck that indicated the presence of some danger, the feeling that indicated something wasn't right, the hunch that often had saved their lives. Jack had always made light of his lack of `smartness`, but in truth his genius lay in his native cunning and survival skills. O'Neill was by no means stupid, but when it came to his stamina and fortitude he had often left the so-called geniuses of his team in the proverbial dust.

The young man heard a sound behind him in the darkened wardroom. He turned to face the intruder but, but relaxed when he saw it was only Ambassador Narim. The Tollan came quietly over to the bedside where he took a chair next to Daniel. "I am sorry, Doctor Jackson. I did not mean to disturb you or the Colonel. I only came to inquire about his condition."

"Well, staff weapons do a lot of nerve damage and are extremely painful." Daniel spoke softly, as not to disturb the sleeping man. "So Doctor Fraiser has him sedated so that he can get the rest he needs to heal. I stay in case he wakes up unexpectedly and needs something." He looked longingly at the patient. "I'm just anxious to get him home, where we belong."

"Where is that at, now that you are no longer part of the SGC?"

"Jack and I have a cabin in the mountains some distance from here. It's close to a small town." Daniel smiled softly thinking of their secluded life there. "It's very quiet, we can go for days without seeing anyone. He fishes in the lake, reads, watches his sports. I write, study, and well, look after Jack. It truly is a wonderful life.

"It sounds like a paradise." Narim nodded. "I envy you both to have found so much...but then you deserve it."

"And we appreciate it. It's given both of us a measure of peace that I had forgotten even existed." He looked at the Ambassador. "So, have you been able to speak to General Wallace about your people's status yet?"

"No, unfortunately he's been occupied with some visitors from your government." Narim said. "But it is of no matter; my people need this respite. We need time to heal, to realize that we are no longer slaves and that we do have a future to plan for."

Daniel nodded. "It will take a while for everything to seem normal again to them, if it ever can."

"Yes, Doctor Fraiser has spoken of a possible need for counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome." He looked thoughtful. "But our stress is really not over yet. Without a home, we cannot truly call ourselves free from care."

Jackson smiled at the Ambassador, then glanced down at the sleeping O`Neill. "I know. Home is a very important place to all of us."

*******

Colonel Chekov was livid. He was presently in the briefing room with the American General Wallace, his two senior officers, Ferretti and Carter and a trio of fools: Senator Kinsey, Colonel Simmons and Mister Conrad. He was staring at the government official as the man was saying the most outrageous things.

"I do not understand why you allow this godless heathen to even maintain a presence here at the SGC, General Wallace. His government is only interested in gaining tactical information that can be used against American interests. This fairy tale that is being spun here about cooperation and support for the project is sheer political subterfuge."

General Wallace tried to maintain his air of calmness in front of this asinine frenzy. "Now, Senator. The Colonel is here at the invitation of the United States Government. Just last week the President and General Ryan stopped by to check on our status and to visit with the Colonel here. As I told you earlier, the cooperation between our scientists have led to several new and very valuable discoveries."

"And what might these wonderful discoveries be, General?" Kinsey asked sarcastically.

"Well, at this time they're still classified. But be reassured that Lieutenant Colonel Carter and her staff are right on the cutting edge of some extremely powerful energy potentials and some new and very surprising wormhole dynamics. Something this old warhorse doesn't even begin to pretend to understand."

"This is so, Senator." Colonel Chekov agreed with the SGC commander, gritting his teeth against his anger. "We may actually be looking at the end of our dependence on fossil fuel as an energy source."

"You mean the ability to destabilize the oil business and put thousands of American workers and businesses out of work don't you." Kinsey crowed. He pointed an accusing finger at Wallace. "You could be spearheading the research here that leads to the downfall of the very government that you have sworn to protect and serve, General."

Lou Ferretti just stared at the man, dumbfounded. "Sir, our reliance on fossil fuel is the innate weakness of the system now if I understand it correctly. As long as we rely..."

"You just don't get it do you?" Kinsey fairly howled at the group. "They are using you...using you as a weapon against your own countrymen. You fools!"

Finally, Colonel Chekov rose to his feet. "I have had enough of this stupidity!" He managed to keep his voice down to a quiet shout. "I cannot sit here and listen to this idiotic drum beating and saber rattling. I have not heard such ridiculous prejudices, narrow mindedness and sheer vitriolic stupidity since the days of the Kremlin. I will not hear it again!" He looked at Major General Wallace. "I will await the final words from your President and you as Commander of this Installation to me about this matter in my office. If they are not pleasing to me, and my fellow countrymen, then our efforts in this program will stop immediately and we will return home.... with ALL of our equipment!" The Russian General turned and stamped out the door, slamming it behind him.

Carter and Ferretti looked disbelievingly at each other then glanced up towards the General. Wallace had a new look on his face, Sam had not ever recalled seeing this particular expression there before, but she was certain she never wanted to see it again. He had turned a rather interesting shade of dark red; his mouth was a straight line with no lip showing. His hands were clenched on the top of the briefing table in hard fists. Facing the Senator and his party, Wallace said in a low voice. "That, Senator Kinsey, was the most unbelievable performance I have ever witnessed. You do realize that your foolishness may have put at risk, not only the Stargate program but also all of the diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia?"

Kinsey looked at the General smugly. "Then I have succeeded in double that of my wildest dreams. The Stargate Program has been nothing but a drain on this great country's resources ever since 1994 when that young zealot right there," He pointed at Carter, "and her pagan scientists that worship the false gods of progress and profit, started to try and open that cursed gate!" Lieutenant Colonel Carter just stared at him. "And as for your precious Ruskies, those heathen communists have been nothing but a threat on the free world since 1917 when they overthrew that royalist weakling bastard family, the Romanovs!" The United States Army should have let Patton go on to Leningrad when he had the chance in 1944." The Senator stood up suddenly, knocking his chair over backwards and leaned forward across the table towards the General, pointing a finger at him. The three SGC officers tensed at his implied threat. The politico continued on in his diatribe unnoticing. "But since he was prevented from taking the actions that every God-fearing Christian American knew he should have by the Socialistic S.O.B who was in the White House at the time; we`ve been mired down in political self-idolatry. I will take the proper steps to make sure that this program, this alliance and this whole damned self-serving, sacrilegious money pit is forever closed so as to not continue to expose any other fools such as yourselves into temptation and eternal damnation of your souls!" Kinsey slammed his hand down on the briefing table in triumph, spun on his heel and left the office in a parade of self-congratulation.

Colonel Simmons looked at Major General Wallace then glanced over at Adrian Conrad. The two men rose from the table and left the room, following in the wake of the Senator.

Ferretti and Carter looked at each other then towards their General still not believing the scene that they had just witnessed. Wallace sat at the head of the briefing table in disbelief for several seconds. Finally, the senior officer shook his head in total disbelief, then looked at his two subordinates. "That man is the craziest, most insane son of a bitch I have ever seen in my entire life...and believe me when I say I've seen a lot of them." He stood up. "I have to go call the President and tell him just what went on here. Then I have to go and talk to Chekov." Glancing out the door after the three individuals who had just left he looked at Carter. "Go and check on O'Neill and Jackson. Make sure they are completely out of that maniac's way." Sam nodded.

He turned to Ferretti. "Lou, go and keep track of those three... morons. I can't put a security guard on them yet, but I don't want them loose without supervision." Ferretti rose to follow them. "And Lou, if they try anything stupid, use a zat on them. But only use it once, for right now. Now, skedaddle!" The two Lieutenant Colonels nodded and hurried out of the briefing room. Wallace headed for his office to place a phone call to the Commander in Chief to tell him that one of the Senators of the United States was as crazy as a Loon and dangerous to boot.

*******

Simmons hurried down the hall with Conrad in tow. This was getting completely out of hand. This fool of a Senator was supposed to provide a smoke screen for their activities, not burn the damned house down around their ears. He could not believe that after all the things that had happened here that the man truly thought that closing the Stargate Program would accomplish anything. The other `man' that followed Simmons down the hall was proof that the package had been opened and all the beans already spilled. He had no idea what thoughts were going through the mind of the Goa'uld that was inhabiting the body of Adrian Conrad. Simmons hoped that the creature didn't think that all humans were this stupid! This could cost him some serious credibility.

Thanatos, the Goa'uld, son of Chronus, was following the human, watching his reaction to the old insane old human with interest. Since he had possessed this host, the Goa'uld had learned many things about this race of beings. He would continue to bide his time and learn. Then, when he had found what he needed, then he would act. For right now, however, he would continue to wait and watch.

*******

Simmons had followed the fanatical Senator when Kinsey had returned to his VIP suite saying he was tired. The Colonel could well believe the older man was exhausted after the explosion he had witnessed in the SGC's briefing room. It was just as well; he needed free rein to do a little exploring on his own. There was something going on at the underground complex. There were a large number of people in the relatively small confines of the complex; and they didn't all look like they were comfortable in their surroundings. Actually, there was no telling who they were: technicians, scientists or even visiting alien allies...Simmons rather suspected some of them were the latter. They looked bewildered and would occasionally refer to other locations that he'd never heard of in a language that he wasn`t familiar with.

Simmons knew that of all the areas of the complex, the one most likely to be the hub of any off world connected activity would be the infirmary area. There any returning teams would be examined and inspected for Goa'uld infestation, diseases or injuries. It was at least a starting point. As he left his quarters, the Goa'uld that possessed Conrad joined him.

"Where are you going, Colonel?"

"Just looking around, before that idiot Kinsey gets us all thrown out of here." the big officer replied. "Why?"

"I would like to accompany you on this trip."

"Why? What purpose would it serve?" Simmons asked him suspiciously.

"I want to see the Stargate. It lives in my memory but I would like to see it in truth."

Simmons looked at him sideways. "That may not be possible. I was going to another office on another level. It is very well guarded. You simply can't walk up to it unannounced."

"I did not expect too. When I go through it finally, it will be soon enough. But one can only hope." Thanatos looked at the man's expression. "Where are you going?"

"To the infirmary, to see what I can see there."

"You will see Tollans." the Goa'uld stated calmly. "They were stolen from a mining planet by an SGC operative."

Simmons turned to look at him in amazement. "How did you know that?"

Thanatos looked at him from within Adrian Conrad. "They are Tollan. That is obvious. They were discussing their captivity and their escape. Two men from the SGC came into the village and brought them through the Stargate." He arched an eyebrow. "You did not know this?"

The Colonel hated to admit it to this creature, but he had not known the information. "How many Tollans were rescued?"

"Not many, but then, there are not many left. When they're home world, Tollana, was destroyed most of them were killed." Thanatos smiled. "These may be all that are left."

"Out of a whole race?" Simmons was amazed. "Thousands of people?"

The Goa'uld shrugged his shoulders. "Do not animals become extinct on your world? It is no different. They had served their purpose, they died." He looked up at the taller man. "Are we not going"?

"Oh, yes. Of course. Come on." The NID Colonel led the way out of the billeting area and towards the clinic.

*******

Doctor Janet Fraiser was surprised to see Colonel Simmons and the man Sam had identified as Adrian Conrad stroll into her infirmary. She had just finished examining the youngest survivor of the Tollan refugees and given her the first of a series of vitamin injections. The children were actually in better shape than then the adults. She had found out that the parents and several of the other adults had been hoarding their food rations and giving them to the youngsters so that they might have a better chance for survival. As they approached where she was working, she motioned one of the staff over and handed the young nurse the child. Then she turned to the two men. She looked up at the tall colonel. "May I help you?"

"Well, actually Doctor, uh, Frasier," Simmons replied looking at her nametag. "I was just looking around your clinic." He glanced to the rear of the infirmary towards the wardrooms. "You are kind of busy today aren't you? Surely these people aren't all SGC personnel?" He smiled ingratiatingly at her.

Fraiser replaced her clipboard in it's holder on the exam table and thought quickly. She wasn't sure how much she should tell the NID operative about the Tollan's situation, especially in front of someone she suspected of being a Goa'uld. She didn't want to say anything at all, but the little ones were pretty obvious in the Air Force clinic and he was a Colonel in the U. S. Air Force. She smiled her prettiest. "Oh, they're just visiting."

Colonel Simmons returned her smile with one of his own. "Oh, really? I thought they were a little young for cadets." He looked over her shoulder towards the back of the clinic. The lights were out in the hallway but one shown from a lone doorway. Then he thought he saw someone in in medical uniform carry something in on a tray. "What's back there?"

Frasier looked at him, trying to quell nervousness evident in her voice. "Why nothing. It's just an empty exam room."

His question was interrupted when a new voice came from behind him. "Actually, Sir, they are the last survivors of our allies, the Tollans." Samantha Carter came walking over to them from another part of the Infirmary accompanied by Narim. She`d seen her friend when she had gone to check on O`Neill and Jackson in their area at the very back wardroom of the infirmary. Frasier shot her a grateful look and went back to her patients leaving the two to Carter. "These people endured over two years of slavery in on a Goa'uld held world. They managed to get to the Stargate and got word to us. We were able to assist them so that they could come here as a place of sanctuary."

"Well, how very humanitarian of us." Simmons said too agreeably.

"Yes, we appreciate and are very grateful for all of the assistance that the people here at the SGC continue to render us." Narim put in courteously.

"Well, that's nice." Simmons commented with a less than sincere tone. "And you are?"

"This is Ambassador Narim of the Tollan Curia." Carter introduced him.

"The Curia? What is that?"

Narim looked at Carter. At her nod, he continued. "The Curia was the ruling body of the Tollan people. I was a very minor member, actually an assistant to one of the representatives, Ambassador Omoc." His face became grim. "I was the only one of that body to survive the attack on our planet."

"How convenient for you." Simmons commented dryly.

"My people looked to me for leadership during our captivity by the Goa'ulds." The Tollan continued, looking strangely at Conrad/ Thanatos. "It is now my honor and duty to represent them in our search for a new home."

"Oh, any ideas?" Simmons asked. He had noticed that Conrad/Thanatos was looking around with a concerned expression on his face.

Carter answered for him without revealing anything to the NID officer. "There are a few possibilities that we're exploring." She glanced from Simmons to Narim. "Well, Colonel, if you'll excuse us..."

Simmons, who had now lost interest in the alien ambassador, nodded absently. He was watching the Goa'uld. Thanatos/Conrad was becoming increasingly restless. "We have to go. Now!" He said to Simmons.

Narim glanced at Samantha. "Yes, well, I was hoping to speak to General Wallace." He spoke politely to the two men.

Carter was happy to agree with him. "Perhaps it would be a good time to catch him now. Goodbye, gentlemen." She took Narim by the elbow and they walked off, leaving the pair of visitors standing alone in the clinic hallway.

Simmons looked at Conrad with a scowl. "What's the matter with you anyway? There's nobody here."

But Thanatos had turned to him and was talking in a low fast voice that only Simmons could hear. "There is someone here." He insisted. "A very powerful presence. It is one of the Ascended Ones."

"One of what?" Simmons craned his head over the Goa'uld host. "What the hell are you talking about? There`s no one here but SGC personnel and these Tollans."

"One of the Ascended Ones. They are creatures of light and much power." Thanatos insisted. The Goa'uld was looking definitely upset. Simmons grasped him by the arm and led him out of the clinic and into a side corridor. The Goa'uld continued talking. "The legends say that they were once alive like you, but that they were able to change their bodies and become pure energy. They are rumored to only stay in a small portion of the outer galaxy, but there have been reports of them coming closer more recently."

"Why would they do that?"

"They are becoming more involved in the everyday occurrences." Conrad/Thanatos stated grimly. "At one time they would only become concerned if something would involve one of their own kind. But now they are more active and are beginning to make themselves known more often."

Simmons was trying to understand who and what the Goa'uld was talking about. "Are they aliens?"

"Possibly, but not exactly, no one knows completely who they are. They appear to be normal beings, yet ...when they reach the end of their lifespan, they are altered, and they become beings of light and energy."

Colonel Ferretti approached them. "There you are!" He said with forced joviality. "Senator Kinsey was wondering where you'd gotten too. He wants to see you...now."

*******

Clark had ducked into the wardroom that O'Neill and Jackson were occupying. He closed the door behind himself and set the food tray down on the bed table.

Daniel looked at him curiously. "What's going on?"

"Colonel Simmons is out there right now." Clark replied. "Him and that other guy. And as much as I dislike Simmons, that guy gives me the collywobbles."

Daniel had to smile at the wording. "I haven't heard that word in years, Clark."

"What? Oh, collywobbles, one of my hillbilly aunts used to use it. It's an old colloquialism from the back hills." The young Sergeant smiled at his friend.

"Yes, I thought so." The civilian sniffed appreciatively. "That's not hospital food I smell there, Clark."

"Well, you're not sick." The Sergeant pointed out. He pushed the table over. "Though when the Colonel wakes up, he'll be able to have what he wants too. I figured that you hadn't had much to eat in the last few days. Heaven knows the Tollans are trying to eat us out of house and home. But to answer your question, when the Doc told the General what was wrong with the Tollans was mostly malnutrition, he told the cook staff to start working on real food like meat, mashed potatoes and fruits and veggies of all kinds. He said that nobody ever starved under his command before and he wasn't going to have it now." The two men laughed together.

Daniel reached over and picked up an apple from the heavily laden tray. "I've only spoken a few words to General Wallace but I like him all ready."

Clark nodded as he checked on O'Neill's vital signs. "He's a good man all right. Almost as good as Hammond was. He cares about his people, even us support types." Finishing with the cursory exam, he stepped back and looked critically at O'Neill. "He's still a little warm, but everything else checks out. Has he been restless?"

"No, in fact he's all most too still, if you know what I mean." Jackson answered the med tech's question worriedly.

"Well, the Doc has him pretty doped up." Clark looked back at Daniel. "He needs to rest and he wouldn't be getting any because of that burn." He shook his head. "I swear, if I never see another one of those it will be too soon. That's such an ugly weapon."

"Yes, and Jack has had entirely too much experience with them."

Brown nodded, watching Daniel start on the meatloaf. "Yeah, sort of like you and those ribbon things."

Daniel grinned up at him. "Yea, sort of like that, but I was getting used to them."

"So, I have to ask, Daniel. How did you well, come back to us?" the Corpsman asked quietly. "Can you tell me?"

"No, Clark. I really can't." He said apologetically. "It was through an alien race and that's about all I can say. Sorry."

"Well, I figured as much." Clark smiled back at him. "At this point, I really don't even care. I'm just glad you're back."

"I'm not really, you know. Jack and I are leaving as soon as Janet releases him."

"Oh, yes sir. I knew that, but I also know you're alive somewhere... and well, as much time and effort as I've, we've put into you I'm just satisfied knowing that." He glanced at his wrist watch. "Well, time to go and feed the Tollan kids. See ya later Daniel."

"Thanks again, Clark, for everything."

"No sweat, Dr. J. Take care of the Colonel."

*******

"Are you talking about angels?" Kinsey demanded, an oddly excited expression on his face.

Lieutenant Colonel Ferretti had located Simmons and Conrad/Thanatos had returned them to their assigned VIP Quarters after escorting the men from the Clinic area. There, Senator Kinsey, who was still enthusing on his victory over the godless communist; had joined them.

"There are no such things as angels. They're only a myth to scare children with!" The Colonel waived his arms around in frustration. "They're probably just aliens, like the Asgard or the Tollans."

"They are more powerful than either of those races are." The Goa'uld host insisted. "They are more powerful than the Goa'uld. I know this. They can kill with lightening and energy."

"Okay, they're powerful aliens. So what? Why would they be here?"

"I don't know why. They should not be here. But, I can sense them." The Goa'uld persisted.

"Bullshit! There's nobody here! And there are no such things as angels!" Simmons was losing all patience. He'd had just about enough of both of these fools. Just his luck, an immature Goa'uld and a senile human. He should probably just kill them both and leave.

"Don't you blaspheme, Colonel! The heavenly hosts are powerful." Kinsey couldn't stand the man's lack of faith anymore. "They are the right hand of God!"

"Puleese, Senator. Spare me your oration. There are no such things as angels, devils or ghosts. There are only people, live ones and dead ones, and the dead ones don't bother anyone after they're dead." He turned and walked out of the VIP Suite. Conrad ducked his head and followed his master.

 

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Chapter 13
Open your heart and believe with me...Don't be afraid forever

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
Later that evening, Colonel Simmons eased quietly into the darkened clinic. The NID Colonel had seen something that had attracted his attention earlier that day. When he and Conrad had visited the SGC's clinic, he had caught a glimpse of someone or something in a supposedly vacant hospital wardroom. When asked if there were any patients on the ward, the woman doctor had nervously denied that anyone was assigned to the ward. Then later, he had seen the corpsman carrying a tray of food to the rear room. There was someone back there all right. But who?

And then, the Goa'uld Conrad had made a comment about feeling a presence of something, something not human, he had said. Something he had referred to as an Ascended One. Not human indeed! Was the SGC involved with some alien technological experiment of some sort, or was there an unauthorized alien visitor on the premises? Maybe an Asgard, or a Tok'ra. Hell, it could just be an injured Tollan for all he knew...but then why had they hidden him, or it, from him?

As Simmons eased back to the rear of the medical clinic, he could see a light shining from under a door. As he eased into the hallway, he could hear a voice droning on as if reciting or reading. As he quietly, slowly cracked open the door, he could see two figures outlined in the light of the monitors in the occupied hospital room. One of the men was lying in the bed with various medical equipment and sensor wires running from him to an array of equipment. He was either asleep or unconscious. The other man was slumped tiredly in one of the common metal-framed chairs, facing away from him as if watching the patient. It was his voice that Simmons had been hearing, apparently reading aloud from a book. But as the NID Colonel peeked in through the door, this second man rose from his chair and turned to face him. By his shape and stance, he was a young man, slender but with an athletic muscular build. The face was partially concealed by the shadows and was framed by long, light brown hair. He was fair skinned and dressed in a set of the green SGC sterile fatigues.

"Hello, Colonel Simmons. A little far away from the VIP quarters aren't you?" The man spoke first, showing that he had known they were being watched.

Realizing he was discovered, the NID officer stepped into the doorway and entered the room. He still couldn't see the man's face, but the assertive stance showed that the guardian was not going to be easily moved from his spot.

"And you are a little out of place, also. There isn't supposed to be anyone down here according to the doctor." Simmons replied easily, stalling for time and still trying to identify this person.

"Oh, I'm not anyone, really. I just haunt the place." The quiet voice answered him. It was familiar but he couldn't quite put his finger on the identity yet.

"Haunt...?" Simmons forced a laugh. "Oh I get it. You're one of those poor unfortunates who have died here and now you've returned to stalk the hallways and wardrooms. I'd like to introduce you to Senator Kinsey," He continued on in a mocking voice. "He'd just love to meet a ghost after our conversation earlier today." He stopped laughing and put on a mocking expression. Then snapped his fingers and pointed at the figure. "Oh, no. Wait, you're not a ghost, you're an angel, right? You've ascended and now you're the Holy Ghost!" Simmons said in a greatly exaggerated tone of voice. "That's it! I'm right aren't I?"

*******

Their loud voices had begun to permeate Jack O'Neill's drugged state of semi-consciousness. He could hear Daniel talking to someone but couldn`t quite grasp what was being said. He had to find out what was going on. As Jack struggled to wake up, he moaned and rolled his head to look for his lover. The young man was standing a few feet away in front of Jack's bedside, feet braced with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Jack couldn't see Daniel's face but he could tell by the body language that the younger man was in full stubborn mode. "Daniel," he whispered. "Danny, who's there? What`s goin' on?"

Simmons jumped a little when he heard that voice. He'd know that one anywhere. "Ah, that's who our mysterious patient is!" He said a little louder. "Colonel Jack O'Neill, as I live and breathe. Is that you, Jack?"

Jack struggled against the bedclothes. "Simmons, you son of a bitch..."

"Yes, that's the Jack O'Neill I remember," Simmons said sarcastically. "I thought you were dead, Jack."

Daniel backed up to get closer to the bed. He reached back and half- turned, touching Jack on his upper arm. "Jack, take it easy," He murmured. "Don't hurt yourself. I'll take care of it. Lie back down." His voice and touch eased O'Neill back down onto the pillow. "Just rest."

"Danny?" Jack insisted.

Simmons finally got the connection. "Danny? Jackson! Daniel Jackson!" He said in amazement. "You are supposed to be dead!"

Jackson turned back to face his adversary. "As a matter of fact, yes. Yes, I am."

"Well, I must say, you're not doing a very good job of it." Simmons complained sarcastically to him. "Not very convincing at all. Maybe you need some help perfecting your acting style." He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a small 25 caliber automatic pistol, holding it easily in front of him.

Daniel looked from him to the pistol and shook his head slowly. "That won't do you any good here, Colonel."

"Oh, that's right, you're dead aren't you?" Simmons smiled. "Dead and gone. Only, it seems that you're not really gone after all... even if you are dead."

"Not as dead as you're going to be when your Goa'uld gets through with you." The young man looked at him knowingly. "Who's in charge now, Simmons? Are you still the master, or has he turned the tables on you now...or don't you even know?

"Look who's asking?" Simmons gestured to O'Neill's form lying on the hospital bed. "Who's the boy and who's the man here?" The lascivious grin on the Colonel's face was infuriating. "How long did it take him to seduce you, or was it the other way around...Danny- boy?"

Daniel was determined not to let the man get under his skin and ignored his comments. "Does he tell you what to do yet, Simmons? Or is he still just suggesting things? Was it your idea to bring him here to the SGC, or did he ask you to? Or did he tell you?"

"I'm in control here, Jackson." The Colonel almost snarled back. "I call the shots."

"That may not be the smartest thing, you know." Daniel mused aloud. "He could just get tired of things the way they are. They can jump hosts, you know. After he uses up Conrad, he may want a stronger, better body...one that hasn't been ravaged by disease." The younger man looked at him knowingly.

Simmons was taken by surprise. "No," he said slowly. "I'm sure that's not right. You're lying! You're just trying to protect O'Neill, so you can keep control of him."

Jackson shook his head. "You're wrong there." He answered trying to keep Simmons' attention on him and not his injured mate. "i don't control anyone. Jack and I are both free, to choose our own destiny ...unlike you. I wanted to come back to him."

"And I choose to get rid of you, Jackson. I don't care who you are, what you are or what you think you have become, but I do know that you've interrupted my plans for the last time. You're a dead man, Jackson!"

"I thought we had agreed that I was already dead." Daniel stated calmly, watching the gun in Simmons's hand, shifting his position again to stay between the man and where Jack lay semi-conscious on the bed behind him.

"Well, then I guess we'll find out if I can make you any deader, won't we?" The big man pointed the gun at Daniel.

Then, from behind the Colonel, another voice rang out of the darkness. "Simmons! What the hell are you doing, man?" Conrad and Kinsey were standing in the open doorway, Kinsey staring at Jackson, his eyes were wide open and dilated as if he were seeing a ghost.

"What the hell does it look like I'm doing?" Simmons snarled back at the Senator, half turning and breaking eye contact with Jackson. "I'm getting rid of two problems that have been sticking it to us from the very beginning."

Senator Kinsey looked from the NID Colonel to the glowing figure standing in front of him. The apparition was taller than the Colonel's six foot five inches. It was obviously male but it was unlike any human man the Senator had ever seen. The bright blond hair was long and flowing, the muscular torso clothed in radiant garments that seemed to flow with a graceful flicker, as if touched by a blue flame. And in his right hand the being held a mighty sword that glowed as if from an inner light, prepared to smite down the evil enemy that was Simmons.

Behind Kinsey stood the Goa'uld, Thanatos, who had been Adrian Conrad. He also was staring at the man, or what should have been a man. What he saw was a mass of glowing white energy with writhing extremities like arms that waved in the air. It was floating gently in the air of the infirmary; two sky blue eyes seemed to smolder from the depths of the dazzling light. It hovered in front of the hospital bed, imposing itself in front of the Colonel's weapon and shielding the man lying helpless behind it from any danger.

Jack O'Neill lay helpless in his hospital bed, watching what was going on in front of him. His mind and heart screamed at him to get out of his bed and defend his lover, but his body was held in the double grip of it's own injuries and the incapacitating drugs. He could see Daniel's body tensing to shield him with his life if necessary, and then he saw the glow begin to form around the young man's familiar body. There appeared to be an aura forming, outlining the shape of Daniel with an unearthly light. Jack knew what that meant, he had seen it before, it was his worst nightmare. Daniel was changing, he was ascending, leaving him again.

Thanatos/Conrad was behind Kinsey, watching in awe as the glowing mass of protoplasm fluxed and warped it's shape, first extending it's tentacles, then expanding its total mass to block the bed from view. He started to call out to Simmons, to tell him to stop, but realized the human wouldn't listen to him anyway. The Goa'uld knew that they were completely helpless before one of the Ascended Ones. His genetic memory warned him against trying to fight such a powerful being. Then he realized it could lead to the human's destruction and his own freedom.

When Simmons turned back to face Jackson, Daniel knew the moment had come. He had known all along that the NID Colonel was going to try to kill him and then Jack. In a split second, he moved forward, grasping the larger man's hand that held the pistol to force the weapon up and away from his helpless partner.

Simmons saw his movement and reacted by trying to shift away from the smaller man's aggressive action. In the struggle the pistol was pointed to the side and away from the bed. When it did go off, the bullet tore through the thin sheetrock of the wall beside where Jack lay and impacted the fully charged generator behind it. The electrical power shorted out through the damaged metal outer hull and exploded outward through the wall. A lightening bolt of plasma energy blew through the power cables and back out into the small enclosed room area engulfing the two struggling figures, blowing them apart and in opposite directions.

Kinsey had seen the vile blasphemer point the small gun and argue with the Heavenly Messenger. Then the iniquitous sinner tried to discharge the weapon at the Guardian Seraph. The Senator had tried to shout a warning at the man but a mighty hand clamped down upon his voice preventing him from even calling out to the prideful fool. Then, when the gun did fire, a mighty bolt of lightening descended upon the unbeliever and struck him down with a blaze of hellfire and the smell of brimstone, leaving the NID Colonel lying in a heap of his own vile wickedness. Simmons had been smote by the Avenging Angel who now stood above him, his terrible sword now smoking in his grip.

Conrad/Thanatos had watched in amazement as the stupid human had tried to destroy the Ascended One with his puny weapon. The glowing being merely swept the foolish man down with a huge explosion of its alien power, throwing Simmons across the room with its bioelectrical energy to crash unconscious into a metal and glass medical equipment cabinet.

Jack lay helpless, watching as Daniel fought to defend him against Simmons's weapon. He'd seen his partner grasp the gun and try to wrestle it from the much larger man's hold. The harder they fought, the brighter Daniel's aura glowed, seemingly enveloping both of the men in it`s brilliant light. He struggled to get free of the bed, to at least get to Daniel's side but the combination of the powerful drugs and his physical weakness held him in an unrelenting grip. He could only watch impotent and frustrated as they struggled a few feet away from him. Then, the gun went off and a dazzling light flashed. An explosion shook the room, overturning the hospital bed and dropping the injured man onto the floor, blinding and stunning him. Jack could only hang on and pray to whatever god was listening that he could just stay with Daniel . wherever that might be.

When the generator exploded, the shock separated Daniel and Simmons blowing the two men to opposite sides of the room. Simmons careening into a glass medical supply cabinet on the far wall, and Jackson was thrown back against the room divider and the wall next to Jack's bed. The furniture was tumbled over against the wall; O'Neill partially buried in the bedclothes. Looking up from the floor, Daniel could see dark gray smoke boiling out from a large blackened hole in the wall. Regaining his breath, he glanced quickly around the room. Simmons was down in a pile of medical equipment, broken glass and twisted metal. Conrad, the Goa'uld, was hiding behind the outer door and Kinsey was crouched down on his knees apparently praying in supplication to some higher power. Daniel turned and crawled on his knees to where O'Neill lay on the floor. He carefully gathered his lover in his arms, checking him for a pulse and breathing. When he had ascertained that Jack was still alive, he started disconnecting the medical sensors and lines. The IV line had been ripped out of Jack's arm and Daniel applied direct pressure to the vein and wrapped it in a torn sheet to stop the bleeding . At first, the older man was stunned and unresponsive to Daniel's voice, but after a few moments of his prayer, cajoling and desperate begging, O'Neill finally opened his eyes. "Jack, can you hear me? Jack?"

O'Neill looked at him in confusion. "Danny? We dead?"

"No, Jack. Not dead, not yet." He looked at the smoke gathering in the room above their heads. An alarm sounded in the distance. "We've got to get out of here though. Can you move?"

Jack nodded, "If you can help me up..."

Daniel nodded and gathered Jack to him, gently lifting the weak but willing man in his arms. The two of them managed to get to their feet, Daniel supporting most of Jack's weight. Pulling Jack's right arm over his shoulder, Daniel made his way back through the small hallway that Clark had hidden him in earlier. Reaching the end of the corridor, he turned away from the generator room and could see the small metal panel in the wall he was looking for. He'd noticed it earlier when he had been there. He'd decided that the panel opened out into a room on the other side of the wall. As near as he could figure, it should be ia storage area on the other side of this section of the twenty-eighth floor. Keeping a firm grip on O'Neill, Jackson started kicking the thin metal plate with his foot. Finally, with a clang, the panel fell out the other side of the wall.

Daniel, supporting Jack, finally made it out of the smoke filled room. He looked around and was happily gratified to discover that they were indeed inside a storage closet. Feeling his way carefully in the darkness and carrying Jack, he managed to get to the doorway. The knob turned easily in his hand and they exited into the empty hallway.

*******

When the muffled sound of the explosion was heard throughout the SGC, Wallace had been with Colonel Chekov. The General had spent some time with the President on the red phone, and now he was trying to convince, inveigle, and sweet talk the Russian senior officer that the Senator did not represent either the SGC, the United States foreign policy, or the President of the United States. It was a little difficult to explain how one looney bird in the Senate had rights and privileges to feel the way he wanted to, but that didn't necessarily mean everyone else thought that too.

Chekov was finally beginning to accept the fact that Kinsey was a flaming bigot and an complete imbecile, when a fire alarm siren started it's whooping cacophony. Wallace and Chekov both leaped to their feet and headed towards the source of the racket.

Just as the General and the Colonel were heading for the infirmary, the klaxons blared an unauthorized Stargate activation. The two senior officers turned in their paths and headed for the gateroom. They arrived in the large room, just in time to see the Security Forces open fire on a fleeing figure that leaped into the wormhole's vortex. Ferretti was there shouting and shooting along with the SFs and running up the ramp in pursuit just as the Stargate snapped shut in his face.

Wallace yelled at the frustrated Lieutenant Colonel as Ferretti stood there shouting obscenities at the Gate.

"Who was that man, Colonel?"

"It was that guy, Conrad." Ferretti turned around to face his C.O. "We were going to assist in the infirmary fire when..."

"Fire?"

"Yes, Sir. That's what the first alarm was for. There was an explosion and fire in the rear wardroom of the clinic. Possibly the generator."

"Isn't that where...?" Wallace stopped himself before saying any names.

"Yes, sir. That's correct." Ferretti picked up smoothly. "We were headed there to assist when the gateroom alarm went off. We got here just in time to see someone, we think it was Conrad, run across the floor and go through the gate." He shook his head. "Sorry, Sir, but I'm sure that he was hit...though it won't do any good if Carter's correct."

Wallace nodded at his Lieutenant Colonel. "Let's get to the clinic and see what we can find out there."

*******

The Emergency Response Team was already on scene by the time the senior officers all arrived. All medical staff personnel had also arrived and was inspecting the damage done to the SGCs main clinic. Master Sergeant Siler and his team were in the process of putting the fire out in the hidden generator room.

SG-1 had arrived at a full run, and Carter taken command, directing the clean up team, and helping Doctor Fraiser put some order to her clinic. Kinsey had been located, sedated and removed to a safe place; the unconscious Simmons was being treated in the ER for severe burns, lacerations and smoke inhalation. Conrad was missing completely.

She saw Clark Brown was donning a gas mask as he got ready to go back into the rear ward room. It wasn't what the gas mask was designed for, but it was better than nothing at all. Carter yelled at the orderly over the noise of fire extinguishers, the shower system and the crackling of flames. "Where's O'Neill?"

Brown, unwilling to break the seal to his mask just pointed back towards the damaged area. "Jackson, too!" He enunciated through the voice box, then turned and plunged into the smoke. Teal'c arriving in time to hear the pronouncement, followed him in without taking time for the mask's slight safeguard, trusting to his symbiote to grant him some protection against the toxic smoke.

Carter could only stand and watch, grabbing Haley and Quinn to direct them in assisting the clean up crew and prevent them from following the Jaffa into the dark, smoky room.

Major General Wallace arrived in the clinic to organized chaos. Doctor Warner was already in surgery with Simmons who had sustained the worst injuries so far. Senator Kinsey was in one of the private wardrooms, safe for the time being but out of the way.

Wallace and Chekov made their way back to the damaged area. There the General found his CMO busily directing the clean up activities. She brushed her sweat-dampened hair out of her eyes with a dirty hand adding another black smudge to her face.

General Wallace nodded at her. "Any casualties, Doctor?"

"Only two so far, Sir." Frasier replied. "Colonel Simmons was injured in the explosion; Senator Kinsey is.uh, in shock, Sir."

"Any.other personnel involved, Major?"

She shook her head, "We haven't found anyone else, but two men are missing. Teal'c and Clark are conducting a complete search of the affected areas. " She looked up at him worriedly. "They were here an hour ago, but they seem to have disappeared."

*******

Clark and Teal'c brushed past the shambles of the wardroom's furniture heading for the overturned bed. Clark knelt down to go through the tumbled linen of the bed that O'Neill had occupied, then held his hands up to indicate that he had found nothing except the abandoned medical equipment. The Jaffa had dug through the upended furniture and, finding no sign of either man, he shook his head. The corpsman climbed back to his feet and turned to look at the far wall. He motioned Teal'c to follow then swept aside a smoke-stained curtain. He indicated a small hall. At the end of the hallway, smoke still billowed from the door to the generator room where they could hear Sergeant Siler shouting directions to his technicians. Brown went a little farther back; feeling his way along the outer wall then turned to face the Jaffa. "There's a panel here that's been knocked loose leaving a hole in the wall," He shouted over the noise. "Someone went through it here."

"Where does that exit to?" Teal'c asked him.

"One of the storerooms off the next hallway." Clark answered him. "I hid Daniel in this room earlier, maybe he remembered the panel here and they used it to get out."

"Danieljackson would remember...I think you are correct." The Jaffa turned and led the way back to the clinic. "We must find them and be sure they are safe."

*******

Daniel had managed to get Jack up the one flight of stairs to the level with the VIP suites on it. He fished the key out of his pocket to the room that Sam had gotten for him and pushed the door open, practically carrying Jack to the bed. After securing the door behind them and returning to where the older man lay, he started to examine him for any further injuries. They were both covered with a black residue from the explosion and the subsequent smoke. Jack hadn't spoken since their exchange on the wardroom floor. The Colonel lay on the bed silent, with his eyes open. At first Daniel had thought he was unconscious again but then noticed the brown eyes, tracking him, watching him as he moved about the room.

"Jack? Jack can you hear me?" He wiped the black off of the beloved faced with a damp washcloth from the bathroom. "Jack, say something please?"

"Danny?' The voice was barely audible.

"Yes, love." He smiled down at him.

"Alive?"

"Yes. Alive, still." Daniel kissed him lightly on the lips. "Do you hurt anywhere?"

Jack shook his head slightly, then grimaced. He moved one of his hands from where it lay on his chest to his partner's face. Daniel picked it up and kissed the dirty fingers.

"Thought..." The older man licked his dry lips. "Thought...lost you."

"Lost me?" Daniel leaned forward, to kiss the mouth again. "No, never...never lose you again."

"Thought...you'd...ascended."

"What? And leave you? Never happen." Daniel said adamantly.

"Glowing...you were...glowing..."

He shrugged, "Maybe it was a reflection of the explosion," Daniel finished bathing his face and started on his hands. "No glowing, no ascension. I'm still here Jack."

"Kay...'s good," The exhausted, semi-conscious man mumbled. "Don't leave."

"Yeah, I think so too." Daniel stood up again. "Look, I'm going to go to the bathroom and clean up a bit. I'll be right back. Don't worry." He got up and went to the bathroom where he ran some water, washed his own face and hands and pulled off his dirty fatigue shirt. Returning to the bed, he brought a clean wet cloth and finished cleaning the remaining marks off Jack's face, hands and arms. Jack lay quietly permitting the attention, just watching Daniel. When the younger man was finished, he kicked off his shoes and lay down beside his lover. O'Neill moved into his Daniel`s arms with a trembling sigh. Jackson kissed him on the forehead, cuddling the shaken man in his arms until Jack finally dozed off into a quiet sleep. Daniel lay there watching him sleep until he too, drifted away.

*******

Sam Carter was heading to the VIP guestrooms. She had made sure that the clean up effort was in good hands, but once that was accomplished she had headed to the VIP suite area. The spare key to Daniel's room was in her pocket, and she was hoping desperately that her two friends were there. Teal'c and Clark had returned from the wrecked wardroom to report that there was no sight of either Jack or Daniel, but they had found a hole kicked through a wall panel. She was almost sure she knew where they had gone.

When she reached room number seven, she knocked softly on the door. There was no answer so she fit the key in the lock and turned it. The room was dark with only a light shining out of the bathroom for illumination. She could just make out what appeared to be a still form on the bed.

As she stood there in the doorway she heard a soft voice call her name from the bed. "Sam?"

"Daniel? Are you okay?" She could barely make out a large shape lying on the bed. Then he slipped out of the bed and stood up, padding over to her in bare feet. She could see now there was another figure still on the bed. Jack.

"Hi," She whispered as he came over and hugged him hard. "Is Jack...?"

"He's finally asleep. He was shook up a bit during the explosion." Daniel laughed self-depreciatingly. "We both were."

"What happened?"

"Simmons found us, then Kinsey showed up and Conrad." Daniel told her. "We exchanged a few words, and then Simmons pulled a gun. We struggled, the gun went off and I guess the bullet hit the generator because there was an explosion. We decided we needed to leave the area, so we came up here." He shrugged.

Carter looked at her old teammate suspiciously. "That's it? That's all that happened?"

"Well, Kinsey was yelling some really odd things about angels...but I didn't really get it."

"I need to get Janet, so she can check you two out." She turned to leave.

"Sam," Daniel looked unhappy. "Can't it wait until tomorrow? He's finally asleep and quite honestly, I could use the rest too."

Carter looked at him, noting his bruised face. "Well, if you're sure neither of you is badly hurt."

He smiled in relief. "I promise."

"Okay, then." She returned his smile. "I'll tell her, but I'll try to convince her to wait."

"Thanks, Sam."

She glanced over at the bed, O'Neill still hadn't moved from his sleep, obviously exhausted. "See you in the morning then."

He hugged her again and kissed her on the forehead. "In the morning."

She closed the door behind her, and Daniel went back to curl back up with Jack.

"Who was that?" The older man mumbled sleepily.

"Sam found us; she'll bring Janet later."

"Danny, I want to go home."

"So do I Jack, so do I."

 

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Chapter 14
This world is never enough and I'm not giving up

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
Doctor Frasier was not particularly happy this morning. She had a mess on her hands. The NID Colonel, Simmons had been seriously injured with a concussion, multiple lacerations and a broken shoulder. He was also found in possession of a small caliber automatic pistol, one that matched the bullet that was found imbedded in the generator's interior. What possessed the man to go into an occupied wardroom and shoot through a wall was unknown at this time, but he was responsible for the explosion and destruction of the generator and the surrounding area.

Senator Kinsey had quieted down finally. He had been declaring that the Archangel Michael, or was it Gabriel, had been in the room protecting someone. According to Kinsey, the tall blond male apparition had pulled forth his terrible swift sword and smote the evil philistine Simmons asunder, causing the explosion and resulting damage to the surrounding area. She knew that Daniel had been the only other person in the wardroom. Though he didn't fit the description the delusional man was spouting to anyone who would stop and listen to him, if anyone was doing any smiting it had to have been him.

The third member of their party, Adrian Conrad, had disappeared in the resulting confusion. He hadn't been found, injured or healthy, so he wasn't her worry at this point. Thank goodness for small favors. However, Master Sergeant Walter Davis was found in the control booth with a broken arm and a mild concussion. The ongoing theory was that Conrad was the one who attacked Davis, opened the Stargate and escaped to parts unknown.

The only good news Frasier had gotten was that her missing unofficial patient, Jack O'Neill, had been located. Sam Carter had found him and his guardian, Daniel Jackson a.k.a. Archangel Michael, safely tucked away in VIP Suite number seven. She was presently in route to their room for a quick check up and to see if the Colonel needed to come back to the clinic for further treatment. It just seemed to be his luck that, wherever he was, stuff happened.

She arrived and knocked lightly on the steel door. She could hear some movement from inside the room and finally Daniel opened the door a crack. When he recognized her, he opened it wide stepping back to allow her entrance. She looked at him critically, noting a new bruise on his cheekbone.

"You don't look much like John Travolta to me." She said with a straight face.

Daniel looked at her in confusion. "I'm sorry, John who?"

"John Travolta, you know, Archangel Michael."

Daniel was definitely confused now. "I don't get it. I thought he was Vinnie Barbarino?" He followed her over to Jack's bedside.

She laughed at his expression. "Daniel, you really ought to go to the movies more often. The movie Michael was out years ago."

O'Neill was sitting up in bed looking more alert than he'd been in several days. "Hi, Doc."

"Hello yourself," She said happily. He certainly looked no worse for wear. After seeing the destruction in the wardroom where he'd been staying, she'd been very concerned. "I should have known you'd come out of that mess smelling like a rose."

Jack wrinkled his nose at her. "Doc, I'm a long way from smelling like a rose, more like a polecat."

"You're fine." Daniel had sat down on the other side of the bed. "He's just mad because I wouldn't let him take a shower."

Frasier nodded at him. "Daniel's right, sir. You don't need to get this wound of yours wet." She gave him a stern look. "If you want, I can have a nurse give you a sponge bath."

He scowled at her. "No thank you very much." He replied, glancing at Daniel who nodded. "I just wanted a shower." He groused.

"By all rights, I ought to pack you up and take you back down to the clinic." she held her hand up to silence both of them. "But with all the wrong people populating the wards, I'll let you off the hook this time." She sat down on the edge of the bed next to him. "Can you sit up so I can look at your back?"

He grimaced and shifted his weight. Daniel scooted over from his side of the bed and helped Jack to lean forward while she removed the dressing. Her patient caught his breath when the bandage clung on his healing flesh.

Frasier looked at it and hummed in the doctor's universal language. "Not bad, no infection but there looks like some secondary bruising on your lower back."

"Maybe from the fall?" Daniel asked.

"Fall, what fall?" She asked, looking over at her anxious assistant.

"When the bed fell, or was blown over in the explosion, actually." Daniel reminded her.

"Oh, from the bed. Yes, possibly." She glanced at Jack and they helped him lie back down against the pillows. "What do you remember, Colonel?"

He shook his head as she applied an ointment and began to rewrap the burn wound. "Not a whole lot. I remember Simmons arguing with Daniel, then Kinsey yelling something." He turned to look at his partner. "I saw.it looked like you were.glowing. I thought.I thought you were. leaving again."

Daniel shushed him gently, still holding on to his shoulder. "Jack, I'm fine.I not going anywhere." He reassured his partner. "I won't leave you.you know that."

"I know what I saw, Danny. You were glowing."

"That's impossible, Jack. I don't glow." He glanced surreptitiously at the doctor as she treated the wound.

"Funny," Janet commented as she finished, "That's what Kinsey said too."

"Janet, Kinsey's an obtuse delusional idiot and you know it." Jackson shook his head.

"Danny, I saw you," Jack objected "when you were arguing with Simmons ...you were glowing." Daniel just shook his head.

Frasier continued. "Well, according to the Senator, he had followed Simmons and Conrad into the clinic after hours... evidently Simmons had seen Clark when he brought you your dinner, and I didn't lie well enough to convince him that there wasn't anyone back there. When he got to your room, he said Simmons was talking to someone," she looked over at Daniel, "someone Kinsey described as over seven foot tall, long flowing blond hair, white celestial robes and a sword. Simmons pulled a gun on the angel and the Archangel smote him with holy sword, and all the wrath of Jehovah descended upon the sinner." She shrugged; "the only one here that even vaguely fits that description is you, Daniel."

Daniel laughed softly at her, shaking his head in disbelief. "I'm not anywhere near seven feet tall, my hair isn't blond and these," he indicated the sterile fatigues he was wearing, "are a long way from celestial robes." He shook his head. "And Jack can tell you; I'm no angel."

"Oh, I don't know, Danny." Jack said softly, looking at him. "You better not ask me that any time soon."

"Good grief, Jack." Daniel admonished him gently. "Let's not get carried away here." He looked up at the doctor. "What happened to Conrad? Is he still a Goa'uld?"

"Sam says yes." Janet answered. "But he's gone. When everyone was in the clinic cleaning up after the explosion, there was unauthorized gate activation. Sergeant Davis was knocked out and Colonel Ferretti saw someone he thinks was Conrad go through the gate. He was shot several times by the security detail, but we don't know if he was only injured, or if he was terminally wounded." The Doctor continued, watching her friends. "Kinsey also said that Conrad told Simmons that there was one of the Ascended on the base, but evidently neither he nor Simmons knew what he was talking about. We think that's where Kinsey got the angel image in his head. Of course, Simmons is still unconscious, so we won't know what he saw until he wakes up."

Daniel looked at her seriously, concern showing on his face. "Well, he could have sensed me. I'm not sure how that works. I may have a different...well, aura or signature. But Sam and Teal'c don't notice anything."

"Well, be that as it may." Frasier rose to go, "You show up human normal on my all my instrument's readings. So as far as I'm concerned...you're just Daniel Jackson, born again archaeologist, and I'm pleased as punch to have you back with us.... glowing or not!"

Daniel turned a little pink and smiled at Jack. "Not glowing, at least normally."

Jack twitched an eyebrow at him. "Oh, I don't know about that."

"Shut up, please." Daniel turned a progressively darker pink.

"Okay, guys." Janet commented laughingly, rolling her eyes. "TMI."

"Yeah, right, Doc." Jack smiled sweetly at her. "You don't know nothing about anything."

"Well, you know us innocent military types..." She shook her head.

"Riiiiight." O'Neill nodded still grinning at her. "We're innocent until proven guilty."

Frasier continued to chuckle as she walked towards the door. "Riiight, I won't ask, and you don't tell and I don't know nothing about anything."

As she went to the door to let herself out, there was a knock. She looked back at the two men, Jack was back in his original position, leaning up against some pillows with the covers drawn up to his waist. Daniel was back sitting on the other side of the double bed. Jack nodded at her to let the new visitor in.

She opened the door and Major General Wallace was standing outside holding a tray of food. Frasier immediately tried to take it from him but he pulled it away. "Uh uh. I've got it." He looked into the room. "I figured if I brought food, I'd get let in quicker."

Daniel jumped off the bed and hurried over to relieve the senior officer of his burden. The General surrendered it to the younger man as Doctor Fraiser said her goodbyes and left the room.

O'Neill spoke up from the bed. "General Wallace, you didn't..."

Wallace laughed. "Oh, I know. I met Sergeant Brown on his way down the hall with this. I only carried it about ten feet. I seem to remember you carrying me a lot farther in the North African Desert."

Jack smiled depreciatingly. "It wasn't such a big deal, Sir. It was my job."

"You'll never convince a man whose life you saved that it wasn't a big deal. It was a big deal to me." Wallace walked over to the bedside and pulled up a wooden chair. "How are you feeling, Colonel?"

"Pretty good actually, but the name is just Jack now, Sir. Just an old retiree here."

"I've got thirty-three, well I guess it's thirty-four very grateful refugees who seem to think your name should be Saint Jack." Wallace smiled at the injured man, then glanced over at Jackson. "And Archangel Daniel." He smiled at the young man's uncomfortable look. "Uh, bring that tray over here, son. Don't let the food get cold on my account." Jackson brought it over and set it down on the bed next to Jack.

"Thirty-four?" Jack looked up at the officer.

"Yes, we've had a blessed event over on the Tollan side of the house, a little boy, seven pounds and six ounces." Wallace announced with a grin, "a real fighter. He came into the world screaming the house down."

"That's great!" Jack grinned, remembering the heavily pregnant woman whom Narim had helped to get to the Stargate. "They needed the good news."

"Yes and I was able to deliver some more to them right after the birth. The President has made some arrangements for them to stay here on Earth, if they want to, as political refugees with the right to apply for citizenship as soon as they meet all the requirements. I'm authorized to offer any of them jobs to fit their skills and training here at the SGC if they want them, or to assist in finding them other locations if they prefer."

"That's great." Daniel was smiling broadly. "I'm sure they can assist in scientific advancements here at the SGC."

"That's what we're hoping. Ambassador Narim has all ready introduced several of the scientists to Colonel Carter. It seems that these people are from all walks of life, from a Weapons Technician to their equivalent of a Registered Nurse." The General continued, returning the enthusiasm.

"Soon, we'll have to invent a different kind of green card for all the off-worlders in Colorado Springs." Jack smiled.

"Oh, no you don't. That'd be considered profiling. They're just newly arrived immigrants, nothing more."

"From France." Jack joked, Wallace laughed. Daniel just shook his head at the two men.

"The Coneheads, you know, Saturday Night Live?" Jack explained to Daniel. At the young man's continued confusion, he shook his head. "You know, you're as bad as Teal'c sometimes and you grew up in the States." He looked at Wallace. "I'm trying to civilize him, sir, but sometimes his lack of social education is a disadvantage."

Daniel looked confused. "I don't get it." Daniel shook his head. "I don't get the angel thing either. What angel?"

"Son," the General chuckled at the man's confused expression. "Senator Kinsey is telling everyone who comes into earshot that O'Neill here was being guarded by an Archangel. I know that there was only one other person in that room, you. Now, I'm sure your terrible swift sword and celestial raiment were part and parcel of his delusion, but you're the only one that he could be talking about.

"Why does everyone have to bring in religious icons?" Daniel lamented out loud. "I don't get it."

O'Neill and Wallace exchanged glances. "Obviously not the product of a conservative religious upbringing. Wherever did you find this heathen, Jack?"

"Actually, someone else brought him in. He just showed up one day and stole my astronomy charts." Jack grinned at Daniel's disgusted look. "And the rest, sir, is history."

"Please, call me Bill. You'll have to rent him some movies, Jack." The General got up. "I've got to run, but if you need anything at all, just call."

"You know, sir, Bill; there is one thing, if you can pull a few strings..." Jack glanced from him to Daniel.

"Name it."

"Well, Daniel was declared legally dead a year ago." Jack nodded to the younger man. "And it's kind of a hassle. He can't apply for a driver's license and his property is all tied up in probate. Is there any way we can slip him in when the Tollan's paperwork goes through? Maybe list him as a relative of himself so he can get his stuff back...and his savings?"

Wallace looked thoughtful. "Would you rather be just reinstated under your old name? We can do it quietly without a lot of fanfare, like we did for the POWs in the seventies. That way you can keep your academic degrees and credentials intact."

Daniel looked very happy. "That would be wonderful. I'm not so much worried about the credentials as just the little things like getting a license and a social security number so I can work if I want to."

Jack looked at him. "You don't have to..."

"I know, I know, but it would be nice to at least know I could."

The General nodded, "Yes; you don't realize how much you are until you aren't anymore. I'm sure something can be arranged. I'll put my hounds on the trail for you, no worries." He shook Jack's hand. "You just concentrate on getting well. I'll take care of the light work."

"Thanks again, Bill."

"Anytime, Jack." Wallace smiled at him. "You've still got lots of credit due back in my book."

After the visitors had left, Daniel came back over to the bed and sat cross-legged on the bed next to Jack. "You need to eat something." He prompted. He could tell that Jack was tired from his front of invincibility from their visitors.

"I'm not hungry." Jack shook his head and tried to smile convincingly.

Daniel looked at him suspiciously, and filled a fork with the meatloaf. "Too tired?"

The patient nodded, admitting his weakness to his lover, but Daniel persisted. "Come on, just a few bites." He smiled teasingly. "Here comes the airplane, into the hangar." Jack gave him a long-suffering look and opened his mouth obediently. This kept on for a few minutes before the hangar closed due to exhaustion. Daniel took a few bites himself then picked the tray up and relocated it on the dresser. He then came back and helped the injured man to lay flat. Once he'd gotten Jack settled, he cuddled up next to him.

"Daniel."

"Yes, love."

"What are you?"

Daniel lay there thoughtfully for a few seconds. "I'm me, Jack. At least I feel like me, I'm your lover, your partner, an archaeologist by training, an explorer by inclination, and a waiter by circumstance. What more do you want?"

"You left out helper and guardian." Jack turned his head to look at his Daniel. "Are you an angel? Are you real?"

"Jack, when you get well, I'm going show you just how much I'm not an angel." He rolled over on his stomach and stroked Jack's arm. "I'm going do things to you you've never even thought of ... and you're going to just love it."

"There's more to be done?" Jack had to smile at the declaration. "I thought we'd done just about all of it." He altered his expression to one of suspicion. "You been reading again?"

"Of course. I got the book just before we left the cabin. I didn't get a chance to read all of it...but the pictures are dynamite." Daniel smiled his best evil grin and reached his fingers up to Jack's face.

Jack bit them and sucked two into his mouth. He then raised his eyebrows at his young lover.

Daniel groaned softly. "You shouldn't do that...there's no telling what will...turn up."

Jack reached over and twisted his fingers through Danny's long hair. "I'm counting on it, buddy-boy." He tugged on the soft strands gently.

"One thing for sure that I am."

"What's that?"

"I'm yours, Jack O'Neill. Totally and completely yours." He pulled free from the older man's grasp and headed to the bathroom.

"Where are you going?" Jack complained.

Daniel stopped and looked back at him, "To take a cold shower, thank you very much."

*******

It was early the next morning when there was a tap on the suite's door. Jack was still sleeping though Daniel was up, wearing his fatigue pants and a black tee shirt, and reading a new issue of Current Archaeology. The article was on Gertrude Bell the woman archaeologist that was active between World War I and 2, the so- called Daughter of the Desert. He had resolved to show it to Sam when he heard the knock.

When he answered the door he was surprised to see Jonas Quinn standing outside bearing a tray with breakfast. Jonas looked very uncomfortable but like one who had set himself a task. "Good morning, Doctor Jackson."

"Good morning, Mister Quinn." Daniel stepped aside to let him enter, but put his finger to his lips for the other man to keep his voice low.

"I don't want to disturb you, but Colonel Carter had a staff meeting and Teal'c had his training class this morning. So I uh, volunteered to bring your breakfast."

"Well, thanks." Daniel took the tray. The two men stood looking at each other awkwardly. "Look, Jonas, I'd ask you to stay and talk but Jack's still asleep and.."

"I understand, really. Uh, look.I'd really like to talk to you, whenever it's convenient."

"Sure, fine. Why don't you come back later?"

"Daniel? Is someone there?" A groggy voice came from the bed. "Daniel?"

He indicated for Jonas to take the tray over to the small table in the room. Quinn sat it down by the one from the night before, then waited. Daniel crossed back over to the bed. "I'm here, Jack. Jonas just brought us some breakfast. Everything's okay."

"Who?" O'Neill seemed caught in that area between sleep and wakefulness.

"Jonas Quinn. You remember."

"Oh, yeah. Okay."

"Is he going to be all right?" Quinn asked nervously.

"Jonas," O'Neill grumbled. "I was shot in the back.I'm not deaf."

"Oh, yeah, of course. Are you going to be all right?"

"I'm peachy.just flaming peachy." Jack groaned as he tried to sit up. Daniel came around to his side of the bed and helped shift him to his preferred position, leaning back on some pillows.

"Well, I'll just go and maybe, I can come back later."

"Jonas, you're already here for crying out loud." He made a face as Daniel brought the tray over to the bed. "Why are you always trying to feed me?"

"Because you haven't eaten anything for three days, and if you don't, Janet is going to put an IV in your arm again." Daniel arranged everything for his easy reach and put sugar on the oatmeal, tipping a little milk over it. But when he picked up the spoon, Jack took it away from him.

"I can do this myself."

"Then do it." Daniel agreed threateningly. "Don't make me play airplane again."

O'Neill gestured towards Jonas who was standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, watching the exchange. "Go talk to him, and here you take something too."

Daniel obediently took a piece of toast and the lone cup of coffee and went back over to where their visitor was waiting. He motioned to the two remaining chairs around the table.

After they had sat down, Jonas started hesitantly. Doctor Jackson..."

"Daniel." He corrected.

"Daniel, I just wanted to say how happy I am to see you, to see that you're all right."

"Well, I'm kind of pleased about that too." Daniel agreed taking a bite of the toast.

"When I saw it was you with the Colonel after the Tollans came through the Stargate, I couldn't believe it. But, well, Teal'c told me to be quiet...I knew there was a reason you didn't want to be identified."

"I'm glad that you didn't." Daniel nodded as he took a sip of the coffee. "It would have led to too many questions that I can't answer."

"Oh."

Daniel could see that the other man was disappointed. "Sorry, you'll just have to trust me on this one, Jonas." He smiled.

"Oh, I trust you, Doc...Daniel. Don't worry about that, I mean, if Colonel O'Neill is satisfied you're you..."

"Oh, yea. It's him all right." O'Neill called out from the bed. "Same wise guy, know it all, pissy geek that we all know and love."

Daniel glanced over at the patient. "You're sick...be quiet."

"Not sick, wounded here."

"Yea, Jack. We know, eat your breakfast, or I`ll tell Janet."

Someone knocked on the door and Daniel went over and opened it for Doctor Frasier. She nodded to Daniel and Jonas as she headed towards the bed. She glanced at the empty oatmeal bowl and the drained milk glass. "Well, I see your appetite is back."

"Don't have any choice with Clara Barton over there." He looked up at her as she took his pulse. "When can I go home, Doc?"

"Ohhhh," She stretched out the word on purpose. "As well as you're doing, I'd say, hum, tomorrow." She held up her hand. "But only if you can get proper transportation. No car trips, I want you to fly so you can get there in a few hours."

"Yes!" Jack looked over at Daniel. "Uh, no...actually...uh, we can't."

She looked at him in surprise. "Why not?"

Daniel came over to the bed. "Well, actually, it's me. I don't have any identification." He shrugged. "I'm dead, remember?"

"Oh," she said, not really knowing what to say. "And you have to go with him; no one else will put up with him."

"Gee, thanks." Jack said sarcastically, then he shook his head. "I was hoping to have Sam rent us a car. He could drive; we just couldn't get stopped by anyone." He thought a moment. "Hell, we can't even go space A on a military plane..."

Another knock on the door came and Daniel strode over to check on the identity of the visitor then let in Sam and Teal'c.

"You look good, O'Neill." Teal'c stated happily.

Sam nodded in agreement. Janet smiled at the two charter members of SG1. "He's doing very well; in fact I was going to release him to go home. But we seem to have some minor logistics problems.

Daniel smiled shyly at his friends. "I uh, don't exist... no ID, no Drivers License, and no credit cards. This being dead really sucks."

"Well, we can get you a military ID. That's not a problem." Sam said, chewing her lower lip in thought. "I know the General is working on the other thing, but that's going to take some time."

Jonas spoke up. "Can't you fly them, Colonel? You are a pilot."

"That's true. I can rent a Cessna at the base Aero Club." She glanced at Janet. "Would that do?"

"Well, he really needs to be able to lie down." Janet said thoughtfully.

Sam nodded. "Let me talk to General Wallace. We'll come up with something." She smiled encouragingly. "We always do."

 

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Chapter 15
My baby, love is like blood, I spill it freely

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN
When the answer to O'Neill and Daniel's transportation problem was solved, it was with great simplicity. Major General Wallace decided that he had a meeting to attend at Grand Forks North Dakota. As one of his senior officers, Lieutenant Colonel Carter would act as pilot using an opportunity for some very necessary flight hours to maintain her flying status. The Air Force Base's Command Staff and several representatives of the Canadian Government had wanted to discuss using some wilerness areas of Canada for training purposes. The SGC and NORAD wanted in on a piece of the action. It had been easily orchestrated and actually did serve a legitimate purpose.

There was also plenty of room in the C-21 Lear jet for some Space Available passengers: a retired Colonel, a civilian nurse and a Department Of Defense civilian who wanted to spend some leave time with his friends. Once they reached Grand Forks, a four-wheel drive suburban was leased from a local rental agency. The two members of the original SG1 team had been granted four days of leave while their General attended his meeting.

The big vehicle made the trip to Elk Horn easily with the three drivers trading off. O'Neill was ensconced in the rear cargo area on a large air mattress with the wide portion of the back seat folded down. The small area that remained carried Teal'c and Sam's luggage, Jack and Daniel's backpacks and three of the four weapons that Jack and Daniel had taken off world with them. The two men had been quite touched to discover that Narim had thought to bring them back through the Stargate in their mad rush for safety. The only one missing was the 9 MM pistol that Daniel had dropped to carry Jack. O'Neill had declared it a good trade off.

They stopped in the town of Elk Horn to pick up supplies and any mail that had arrived during the ten days they had been gone. The owner of the grocery store that also served as a post office had been happy to see Daniel, saying that he was beginning to be concerned by their lengthy absence. When he heard that Jack had been injured, he came out to check on his regular customer. He offered to deliver anything that they discovered they needed and instructed them just to call. As they were filling the gas tank on the SUV, before heading up the mountain, their neighbor, Mr. Lyles the dairy farmer, saw them and said he'd drop by the next morning with two gallons of milk, some sweet cream, and some of Marthy's blueberry cobbler.

By the time the group finally reached the cabin, it was nearly dark. Daniel and Teal assisted Jack, exhausted from the long trip, onto the living room couch, where he continued his nap while the others unloaded the vehicle. Daniel started a fire in the old cook stove and began preparing a dinner of venison chili and cornbread. Sam went out to the back yard for some more wood to start a fire in the large stone fireplace while Teal'c finished the unloading of the heavier items.

*******

The two men had just about finished their work when Carter came back inside the kitchen with an odd look on her face and no wood in her arms. "Daniel, do you have any scraps of that meat left?"

"Sure," He indicated some of the tougher portions of meat he had removed from the pieces he was browning. "Why?"

"Well, you seem to have a squatter in residence under the back deck." She smiled playfully, "Come and see."

She motioned for him to come with her and Daniel followed curiously. After about 15 minutes, just when Teal'c was about to see if they'd been eaten by something, the pair came back into the cabin, Daniel cradling something small and white with in his arms. He came and knelt in front of the couch where Jack was watching them sleepily.

O'Neill looked at him curiously. "What do you have there, Danny?"

Daniel was examining the creature and finally discovered what he wanted to find out. He settled it down on his lap. "Well, Jack. We seem to have acquired a puppy." Daniel handed the little thing over to O'Neill. "How do you think she got way up here?"

He cuddled her to his chest. "Hey there, little girl. Where'd you come from?" The pup was eight inches long, bony to the point of near starvation; mostly white in color with a black head and some quarter sized black spots showing through a rough wiry coat. She had a white stripe on her face to her nose and more prominent hair over the brown eyes and the muzzle proclaiming at least partial terrier antecedents.

"Ya got me, Danny." He replied, "By all rights the wolves should have gotten her by now." Jack looked at her critically, rubbing her ears and making cooing noises.

Carter was watching her two friends with a little grin. She had a feeling the pup's lean days were over. "Here, let me give her a bath while you finish dinner, Daniel. Then we can tell more about her and not worry about any fleas or ticks she could be harboring."

O'Neill reluctantly handed the puppy back to Carter. "You'd better feed her first, Sam. She may pass out on you."

Daniel went into the kitchen and came back with a bowl in his hands. "Here's some bread in some powdered milk. She probably won't mind it not being fresh." As if to prove him right, the little mite literally dove into the bowl.

Jack watched her critically as she ate. "It looks as if that's the first meal she's had in a while."

"I wonder where her mother is?" Carter said softly as she watched her eat.

"Well, if they even brought mom along, she probably went out hunting and became dinner for something else." Jack commented. "She looks about five or six weeks old, so more than likely some bastard just dumped baby here off down on the road and she managed to find the cabin by herself. Probably just crawled under the deck to hole up."

Teal'c had sat quietly watching his friends interact with the creature. "You will keep this animal, O'Neill?"

"Might as well." He mused. "These terriers are tough little critters. Obviously nobody wanted her, though she will kill some of the squirrels and other little varmints around here. So don't be surprised if we lose some of the nosy neighbors, Daniel."

He nodded as he put out the plates on the counter. "One of the foster families I stayed with had a rat terrier. He was hell on wheels when it came to mouseing. Better than a cat."

After a dinner of warm milk, the little dog looked up at Jack. "What do you want, pup? If you eat anymore tonight you'll get sick. So why don't you and Sam go visit the little girls' room?" He glanced up at Sam who nodded and picked her up careful not to put any pressure on the now round little tummy.

"Come on sweetie. Time to get all pretty and girlie." The pup looked up at her happily and burped. Sam laughed as she went into the bathroom with her.

After dinner, when the four friends had gathered back in the living room, the pup was once again the center of discussion. She had been washed and toweled dry and was presently curled up on Jack's chest next to the back of the couch.

"So what are you going to call her, Jack?" Daniel was sitting on the floor up against the couch with the older man's arm lying loosely over his shoulder and chest.

"I don't know. You and Sam found her, what do you kids think?" He replied, falling back into his old speech pattern.

Sam looked at him and the puppy. "From where I'm sitting, she looks like one of those things that my grandmother used to put on the back of her chairs and couches. The lacy things, what were those called?"

Daniel shook his head. "I don't know, but she is kind of lacy looking with all the fringes and spots."

Jack smiled and tickled her ear, causing the little dog to shake her head and yawn. "You're thinking of a doily. But Lacy fits her, though I don't think she's very delicate."

"Sounds like a fit to me." Daniel smiled and got up. "Come on, Lacy; let's go take a walk for the night. Then we can help Jack into bed."

"I will assist O'Neill into the bedroom, Danieljackson. You and Samantha take the puppy for her walk."

"Oh, okay." Daniel scooped the pup up off her Jack-pillow. "Come on, Lacy. Let's go OUT."

A few minutes later, they returned with little Lacy, gamboling in front of them...both Daniel and Sam exclaiming over what a good girl she was as they entered the bedroom where Jack was lying in bed propped up on his pillows.

Jack looked up at Teal'c with a grin. "For scientists, they're remarkably easy to please...just eat all your food and don't pee on the carpet."

"Indeed," The big man intoned. "Perhaps if you would eat all your dinner, you too would receive congratulations."

"I wasn't hungry, and I don't pee on the carpet." He protested.

"Perhaps that is why Danieljackson has stayed with you; he is easily satisfied."

"Thanks for the show of support, T." Jack watched as Daniel pulled an old towel out of the closet and arranged it in a cardboard box. "You don't actually think she's gonna sleep in that do you?"

"Why not?" He put the puppy in the box and talked soothingly to her. As soon as he stood up, she jumped out and trotted over to the bed. There she looked up at Jack and whimpered.

"Come, Lacy." Daniel retrieved the little dog. "You're not sleeping in the bed with us." Jack didn't say a word. Daniel put her back in the box. She jumped out. Daniel got one of Jack's tee shirts from the laundry hamper and put it in the box, then deposited the pup back in it. She gave him a disgusted look and finally curled up on the shirt.

Jack sighed and shook his head. "Why my tee shirt?"

Daniel looked at him impishly. "Lacy likes you best anyway."

"That's just cause I stay in one place, not jumping around all the time."

Teal'c shook his head and went back out into the great room, Carter following. Daniel came over to the bed and kissed him on the forehead. "I'll make sure they've got everything they need, then I'll come to bed. You get some rest." Jack nodded sleepily.

After about fifteen minutes spent ensuring the comfort of their old teammates, Daniel came into the bedroom. When he looked into puppy's box, it was empty. A glance revealed the little Lacy firmly settled in the bed, under the blanket and next to Jack. She had nuzzled her way up under his arm and was peering out at Daniel from the area of his lover's ribs. Jack was snoring peacefully and there was no way to dislodge her without waking him. Daniel sighed and pulled off his clothes, crawling in on the other side of the bed. He peeked under the blanket. Lacy laid her head and one paw on Jack's belly and yawned at him. He gave up...two against one was not fair.

*******

Two days later, their brief visiting time up, Sam and Teal'c had left early in the morning to drive back to Grand Forks Air Force Base for the return trip with the General. Daniel had helped Jack out to the sunny back deck where he was sitting on one of the two rocking chairs holding Lacey in his lap, alternating between scratching the pup's ears and the beginnings of a beard he had started growing upon their return to the cabin. The two of them were watching Daniel practice his archery. The younger man had re-strung his bow and set up the target again in the meadow behind the cabin. His aim was improving with the custom-made bow and Jack wasn't shy about calling out instructions from his perch overlooking Daniel's activities.

The little terrier turned to look out into the brush and growled low in her throat. Daniel suddenly turned from his target and loosed an arrow into a grove of Aspen trees. Before Jack could get a grip on her, the little dog leaped from his lap and took off into the woods in the same direction. Daniel pulled another bolt from his quiver and ran after her. Jack managed to stand up out of his chair, but all he could do was curse his weakness and inability to act.

"Hey, Watch out! Ouch, stop it!" A voice came out of the woods, then the puppy yelped. Jack could hear Daniel's voice but couldn't make out what was being said. Next, he heard the sound of flesh hitting flesh, solid bone to bone. Within minutes, Harry Maybourne came rolling out of the trees to land face down in the dirt. Daniel followed him, carrying Lacy in his left arm, as she licked his face with gratitude. In his right hand he had the bow and his two arrows. The young man had a very angry look on his face and he seemed to be surrounded by a golden aura in the late afternoon sunlight. Jack shook his head. It had to be an optical illusion.

When Jack saw who the intruder was, he limped back to the rocker and sat down, waiting for the group to come to him.

Harry tried to get to his feet, but Daniel put his moccasined foot on the older man's back and forced him back down on the ground. The ex- NID agent hit the dirt again with an audible oof.

Jackson stood over him for a second. "Just lay there, Maybourne, where I can keep an eye on you." He then jogged over to the deck and handed the pup up to O'Neill. "Look at her, will you? Harry kicked her."

"I did not! I was just trying to knock it off. It bit me." Harry protested from the ground in an injured voice. "What was I supposed to do? Let it puncture my leg."

Jack looked up from his inspection of the little dog's side. "Good girl." He scratched her neck. "You're okay, aren't you? Yeah you are. You're a tough little rascal!" She looked up at him and licked him on the cheek.

Daniel had jogged back to where Maybourne lay in the dirt. He reached down and gave the man a hand up. Once on his feet, he glared at the young man. "I told you she bit me."

"And I told you she had every right to. Good guys don't skulk around in the brush, Maybourne. She was just defending her territory."

"So, I'm supposed to let her bite me?" He retorted as he brushed the dirt off of his clothes.

"No, you're supposed to come to the front door like normal people so you can be introduced." Jack called out to him. "What do you want, Harry?"

Harry gave Daniel an angry look then quickly headed over to O'Neill. "I was just checking on you. I lost track of you two right after my visit." He turned to glare at Daniel. "I was concerned."

"Yeah, right, Harry." Jack held the little dog to keep her from jumping out of his arms. She was growling again. "So, Harry, why does this pup hate you so much?"

"I don't know. I came by a few times, but I didn't see her." At Jack's disbelieving look, he raised his hand. "I swear, Jack. I didn't even know she was here."

Knowing Jack had the situation under control Daniel had gone out to the target area again. He turned and aimed an arrow at the mark releasing the shaft smoothly and effortlessly.

"You owe me a hat, Jack." Harry put in. He pulled his canvas fishing hat off his head and poked a finger through a hole. "He shot at me, he barely missed."

Jack watched Daniel put two shafts into the red center circle. "Harry, look at him. If he had wanted to hit you..." He left the sentence unfinished to admire the view.

"You might want to keep him reined in a little closer, Jack. I'd hate to see something happen to the good Doctor."

O`Neill looked ominously at the smaller man. "Harry, don't be playing at making threats. There's more here than meets your eye." He said quietly.

"Jack, I wouldn't hurt him out of respect for you, but don't let him go up against the NID alone or let him even expect to be able to." Maybourne replied equally serious.

"I won't, and he wouldn't, unless they came up here looking for us" Jack said with forced casualness. "As I said, we have some backup if we needed it."

"Like that glowing kid?" Maybourne looked at him suspiciously

O'Neill just looked up at him. "I didn't say that Harry. Don't be putting words in my mouth."

The two men just looked at each other for a moment, before Maybourne continued on with his conversation.

"Well, anyway, do you want to hear the latest news from Washington, or not?"

"Sure, why not?" Lacy had finally settled down in O'Neill's lap and was watching her other master shoot. She kept an ear cocked towards the stranger though.

Maybourne started to talk. "Kinsey's retired from his Senate seat. Rumor has it he had a nervous breakdown during a visit to the SGC. Had some hallucinations. Probably saw an alien or something. Simmons was injured in some sort of explosion, but that's all very hush hush. Oh, and Conrad, he's gone...disappeared. Nobody's talking about what happened to him. He's either dead or...."

"Gone through the Stargate."

The other man looked at him sharply. "How did you know that?"

"We were there at the SGC, Harry. Which is why we weren't here, cause no matter where you go, there you are." Jack smiled and looked down at the dog that was now snoozing in his lap.

"Oh, then you know about the Tollans?" Maybourne sounded disappointed.

"Yes, Harry. We know all about the Tollans." Jack smiled down at the sleeping puppy. "So how do you like Minnesota?"

"I don't," He declared. "It's too cold, has too many mosquitoes, and the people aren't very friendly."

"Ah, Harry; don't be like that... Wear a coat, put on insect repellant, and quit hiding in bushes. After a year or two, they'll warm right up to ya."

"No," Maybourne groused, looking from the little dog to where Daniel was still practicing putting arrow after arrow into the target's bull's eye. "No, no, Jack. I think I'm heading back to Acapulco, where the weather's warm and the living is easy."

"Well," O'Neill replied, turning to watch his partner in his own backyard. "There's no accounting for taste."

*******

From the Historical Romance, DESERT STARS by Jonathan O'Neill

=======

Iskander arrived back at the house and let himself in through the kitchen area. The cooks were already preparing the master's dinner of roast fish, bread, and dates. As he passed through the cook's area he picked up a date, the cook glowered at him. "The Master has been looking for you, ungrateful one."

"He's back already? I didn't expect him until this evening."

"Since when does a Master tell a slave anything...he's been calling for you, that's all I know." The short fat man looked at him with a grin. "Perhaps you'll be beaten this time, young scholar."

Iskander looked at the older man. "Perhaps. I do not know, oh cook of many talents. But I do know that I must go and find out."

The slave left the kitchen as quickly as he could. If his master was angry with him, he could very well be punished. The Greek didn't know how far the General would go. He had been an honor gift from the Pharaoh, but what did that mean here? His only excuse was that he had been given a difficult task by his new master. To properly translate a Nubian message he had needed to look at a certain scroll in the Great Library. Now he had only to complete the written transcription. So his master AmunNefer, might understand.

Iskander hurried on to his master's small library of military history and tactics. He arrived at the tall, carved doors of mahogany and tapped lightly to be admitted. Senit, the small houseboy, opened the door. The General was at his writing desk, several scrolls piled around him, bent over his writing desk. He looked up at the slave as he entered the room. The piercing brown eyes caught the blue of the Greek's and beckoned to him as Zeus called to an unsuspecting mortal to trap him in his limitless power.

The General was large for an Egyptian, almost six feet and though of middle age his life as a professional soldier was reflected in his hard lean body. The man was handsome in a hawkish way but obviously not one to be trifled with. His skin had been burned to the brown color of cured cedar by the long years of constant exposure to the sun. He kept his head shaved in the manner of all Egyptian nobles so that he could properly wear a helmet, a linen headdress or a woolen wig, as was the fashion in the Egyptian court. Occasionally, when he was too busy and didn't have time for fashion, it would grow out to a graying crop. At home, AmunNefer did not bother much with it and would often go bareheaded in his own house. The only face paint he normally wore was the heavy kohl eyeliner and then because it served to lessen the harshness of the brilliant Aten-disc on the hot desert sand. Even the gold eye powder was left off unless he was going to the court that day to advise the Great Pharaoh on military matters.

*******

When AmunNefer had returned to his city dwelling next to the palace that day, the house slave had told him that Iskander had gone to the Great Library to look at something. At first he'd been angry, but later had realized that his library was woefully incomplete for so difficult a translation that he had set before this new slave. He had then become worried. Not only was the slave a gift from the Great Pharaoh, Akenaten but he was very beautiful. Any of the ruffians on the street could attack the attractive Greek. He was unused to Amarna; he didn't know the streets. But worrying was useless. If he didn't return soon, AmunNefer would have to send someone... No, he would have to go himself...to search for the missing servant. But, he would wait a little longer. No use taking water from Mother Nile before the rainy season stopped.

So the General had concentrated on his work, trying not to think of his beautiful slave of the light hair and remarkable blue eyes.

Several hours later, a light tap came on this study door. The houseboy, eight year old Senit, got up from his place in the corner and ran to open the door.

The missing Greek slave, Iskander stood at the door waiting. AmunNefer motioned for him to enter. Senit scurried back to his corner and his empty cushion. The General sat back in his chair and watched the young slave enter. "There you are." He commented harshly.

"My Lord." Iskander walked over to the Egyptian's chair with his head bowed then genuflected at his feet.

AmunNefer looked at him in surprise. This was very unlike the actions of the slave that had glared up at him from below the Great Pharaoh's throne. The oddly colored blue eyes had looked up at him with fire. At first he had thought the young man didn't understand the language. But he had later learned that the Greek spoke ten different languages and thirteen dialects within them. This itself was an amazing accomplishment. Then he discovered the young man could read and write them also. This finding had prompted him to ask the slave to translate several scrolls, including one in a particularly difficult Nubian dialect. The Greek had quickly agreed to attempt the work, but had been unsure of the Nubian scroll. He seemed pleased to have been asked to use his mind in a challenging way.

"Well, Scholar." AmunNefer looked down at the slave with forced anger. "I see you found your way back."

"Yes, Lord."

The General glanced at Senit in his corner. He waved the boy away. He bowed and left the room, closing the boor behind him. "You do know what can happen to you."

"Yes, Lord." Iskander remained in the kneeling position, head down on the floor. "I know that I can be beaten for not satisfying my Lord's requirements."

The answer surprised AmunNefer for a moment, but he continued on in an angry voice. "You could be much worse than beaten. You could have been killed!"

"Lord?" The startling face looked up at him in shock. "Lord, I...I only went because..."

"Yes, I know. You went to the library to search for knowledge to translate the Nubian letter." He reached down and put his hand under the jaw and forced Iskander to look up directly at him. "Look at me, slave! I am not the Great Pharaoh." He jerked his hand, forcing the Greek to fall backwards. When he did, a fold of leather and a page of papyrus fell from the servant's cloak. "What is this?" The General picked up the items from the marble floor. "Is this the scroll?"

"Lord?"

*******

Jack, who was laying on the couch reading, looked up from the book at Daniel. His partner was sitting on the floor playing with Lacy. "Why does this conversation sound so familiar?"

Daniel looked up at O'Neill. "Which conversation?"

"Iskander just got back from the library and AmunNefer is pissed."

"Oh, yea." The younger man blushed and scratched the puppy on her belly. "Well, actually, we have had that conversation."

"We did?"

"Yes, uh, after Enkara." Daniel looked up at him. "Not those exact words per se, but the basic idea is the same."

"Oh, yeah." Jack commented dryly. "I guess we did. I just wasn't ever sure that you heard me."

The younger man grinned up at him. "I DO listen, Jack."

Jack gave him a disbelieving look and returned to the book. "I never knocked you down."

"You wanted to."

"But I didn't." He groused and turned the page.

"Why not?"

Jack looked at him with a small crooked smile. "Because I loved you, Danny, even then, I loved you."

 

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Chapter 16
My baby, love is like blood, it goes in every way

From the Historical Romance, DESERT STARS by Jonathan O'Neill

========

AmunNefer shook the slips of writing in front of Iskander. "Is this part of the scroll?" He demanded angrily.

"No, Lord! I would never...it is only some phrases I looked up in the library. Lord, I swear, I would never remove anything from your house. Please..." Iskander was shocked at the older man's anger.

"You could have been attacked. It could have been stolen. You could have been stolen. You could have been raped and murdered!" AmunNefer stood and walked the room, then returned to stand over the slave."

AmunNefer looked down at the Greek slave kneeling at his feet. "And what do you think I would have said to Akenaten when he asked of you?"

"I...I didn't think of those things, lord. I only wanted to perform my duties in your service." Iskander looked surprised. "I...I don't know, lord."

"Great Pharaoh, the honor gift you gave me is missing. He went on an errand unaccompanied and unguarded like a common work slave and did not return." AmunNefer glared angrily at the man lying on the floor.

"I didn't think..."

"No, you didn't think! You put yourself and everyone in this household at risk of Akenaten's anger." The Egyptian continued. "What should I do with you, slave? Shall I send you back to the Pharaoh and say `Great Pharaoh, a General of your Armies could not control one slave?' No, surely not! Should I sell you and say you were too valuable to take to battle with me? Or too foolish to trust by my side?"

"No, my Lord, please."

"What, slave?"

"Please, my Lord; do not send me away." The young man looked up at him pleadingly.

"Well then, what should I do with you?" His master stood over him, the papyrus crushed in his fist.

"Punish me, if that is what must be, but do not send me away. I...I have been...content here, Lord General. I am sorry, I will not fail you again."

"What punishment, then?" AmunNefer watched his servant carefully. Truly he did not wish to lose the Greek scholar. He was valuable in so many ways, but this infraction could not go unnoted or unpunished.

Iskander returned to his position on his knees in front of the General. He knew AmunNefer was a fair man. He had to trust him not to go too far. "Have me punished, Master. Have me beaten."

The older man looked at the slave in surprise, and then he nodded slowly. "Yes, you know I must punish you. Do you understand why?" When the man did not answer him, the nobleman continued in a forced voice. "If I do not punish you, the others will think that they are also free to do as they will. Egypt has too many slaves. To keep them we must be strong."

The slave bent his face to the ground and nodded. He couldn't speak.

AmunNefer reached down to the linen cloth covering the slave's back and grasped the hem at his neck. The General jerked on the fine material; a sign of his favor, wrenching back and ripping the thin fabric off the Greek slave's back revealing the fair skin. He looked at it in surprise. Old healed scars crisscrossed the exposed area like a battle map.

The slave remained in his exposed position. AmunNefer looked around his study, searching for something. Then he saw the new leather straps that he had just purchased for his chariot horses' harness. They would suffice for the unpleasant task.

"Iskander, I will do it myself, here and now. Prepare yourself."

The young man did not move, but spoke in a soft voice. "Yes, Lord."

AmunNefer slowly picked up the oiled leather straps. The two pieces of tanned bullock hide were six feet long and three inches wide. The General folded one of them in half, holding the loose ends of the thong. This would cause more noise then do any actual damage. He would not add anymore scars to the Greek's already impressive collection.

Gritting his teeth, the soldier brought the straps down across the slave's back. The leather straps made a loud impressive crack when they contacted the smooth skin. Iskander did not move as the red welts appeared but stayed in his place with his head almost touching the tiled floor. Ten lashes later, the slave hadn't shifted nor made any outcry except for a few soft grunts at the end.

His master knelt briefly and examined the affected area. He had not drawn blood or even broken the skin. It was an unhappy necessary lesson, but not the beating it could have been.

He then turned and walked to the doors, which he flung open. As he had expected, a group of curious slaves had gathered outside out of the study. At his appearance they began to scatter. AmunNefer strode out into the hall and shouted in a commanding voice. "HALT!" The slaves dropped to their knees. He pointed to Senit. "You, fetch the physician, now!" The small boy scurried off. "The rest of you dogs slunk here to witness the punishment of a favored slave. You wish to enjoy the pain of one of your fellows and now you have done so. Go now, tend your work and think on it. But, I see who you are, and I will remember your faces. Think well on it. Now, go!"

The Egyptian turned and went back to the motionless slave, still crouching in the subservient position. "Rise."

Iskander climbed shakily to his feet still looking at the floor.

"Go to my quarters. Wait for me there." The slave turned to go. "I have sent for the physician."

The young man turned and walked haltingly to the door, then he stopped, and before he left the room, he glanced back at his soldier master with a curious expression. The Greek slave then closed the door. AmunNefer returned to his desk and sat down in his chair.

*******

Within the hour, the court physician Sinuai arrived. Senit led him to his master and AmunNefer escorted him to the bedroom. The slave was sitting on the floor by the bed. When he heard the door open he resumed his earlier position of obeisance.

Sinuai looked at the General in surprise, then crossed to the slave. He glanced at the red marks. "You haven't lost your touch." The soldier nodded grimly for an answer. "Is he not the Greek that Akenaten gifted you with?" Another nod. "What had he done?"

"He went to the Great Library without permission or an escort." The soldier replied, "and he took some copies of a scroll with him."

The Physician nodded in understanding. If any state secrets would have fallen in the wrong hands, it could have caused the General's punishment or even death. Iskander, of course, would have been killed outright. He shook his head in sadness for both his friend and the slave. "Where should I treat him?"

"On the bed." The nobleman replied softly.

"Of course." Sinuai touched the slave on his shoulder, speaking to him in a soft voice and looking to the General to translate his words to the slave. "Tell him to take off his clothing and lie on the bed on his belly."

Senit ran to pull back the linen. Before the General could speak, the young man obediently rose, stripped and lay down on the bed. The Physician looked at the General curiously. After Senit had left the room, closing the door behind him, AmunNefer replied to the physician's unasked question. "Iskander is a scholar. He speaks and reads Egyptian fluently." He replied flatly. "Also Phoenician, Nubian, Hebrew, Hittite, Babylonian, Akkadian and many more." The General shrugged. "I had told him to translate a papyrus. He went to the library to look at a scroll." He glanced at Iskander sadly. "If he had asked, I would have taken him myself."

Sinuai nodded, then went to the bed. As he opened his box of medicines, he turned to the slave and spoke softly. "Iskander, do you understand what you did to earn these stripes?" The slave nodded silently. "Do you have any question of me?"

The Greek turned his head to look at the physician. "Why did he do it? Why the General himself? I know why he was angry, why I was punished, but why by him?" He asked in a soft voice.

"He did it so that you would not be more injured." He answered as he applied the soothing salve. "The General is very skilled with a lash. He can take a fly from his horse's ear with his chariot whip without disturbing the hair or remove the skin from a cowardly soldier's body. Your skin is not broken. There will be no more scars." When he finished treating the slave, Sinuai gave the young man a potion to drink, then turned to AmunNefer. "This is a sleeping draught. Do not attempt to use him tonight." The General nodded. The physician packed his box and turned to leave. "I understand why you did this, though I do not approve of these methods. However, I will not tell the Pharaoh of this unless he asks me."

"Thank you, my friend. I regret the necessity of your presence, but..."

"You regret doing it even more." The Court Physician smiled at his old acquaintance. "Peace and health to your house, General AmunNefer, friend. I will leave now. Do not bestir yourself. Senit will show me out."

After the physician had left, the older man went around to his slave's side. "Do you feel much pain?"

The Greek answered him in a sleepy voice. "No, my Lord."

"Good. Sleep now." AmunNefer looked down at his confounding slave. The man was a mystifying mix of innocence, wisdom and contrariness. Why had he done something so dangerous to both of them? And where had he been beaten so badly to leave scars such as those?

*******

Jack put the book down as Daniel came back into the living room with two cups of coffee.

"What?"

Jack looked up at him from the couch. "This part bothers me."

"Which part is that?" Lacy stretched as Daniel pushed her over and slid under Jack's feet on the couch.

"The part where the General beat Iskander." He shook his head. "I never did that to you. Are you into S and M all of a sudden?"

"Jack, he is not you." Daniel replied in a calm emphatic tone. "He's a fictional character, a man of his own time and culture where slavery was an accepted part of life." Daniel stroked Jack's bare feet. "AmunNefer made sure he didn't hurt Iskander."

"Yeah, right. Been there, done that. It hurts."

"Yes, I know but..." He saw Jack's expression change and realized that he had said too much. "Jack, it's okay. It was a long time ago." He shrugged. "Foster par...people."

"You were how old?"

"Fourteen, uh no, thirteen."

Jack grimaced.

"I was a handful." Daniel admitted with a grin.

Jack was not fooled. "Daniel, I've seen your back. No child deserves a beating like that, I don't care what you did. I just didn't know who or when...and you never said."

"And I know about yours." The young man commented sadly. "You could have asked me."

"I know a little, the same way you knew about mine." Jack commented. "But I acquired mine, let's just say in different circumstances. That's why I always wanted us to share the tent. After the first time it happened on a mission with SG1, well I guess I only wanted you to know. Not the whole team."

Daniel nodded. They shared a tent because they both had insomnia and nightmares, hell, sometimes night terrors. While his was from his childhood, Jack's was from his field experiences. They both understood the other's suffering and the need for privacy. It had helped them to keep their secrets safe from everyone else and had led to a different kind of closeness.

"I was always proud of your trust." Daniel admitted shyly.

"And I knew that I could trust you." Jack smiled affectionately at him.

The two men sat together in comfortable companionship. Finally O'Neill sighed. "It does get better? The relationship I mean."

Daniel looked at him fondly. "Theirs, of course. Ours, I don't see how."

Jack wrinkled his nose. "Theirs, cause ours is gonna get better as soon as my back is healed."

"No rush, Love, you're worth the wait. Now, what do you want to eat...for lunch, I mean?"

Jack laughed at Daniel`s changing the subject, but he was hungry. "Some of the pork roast from last night in a sandwich would be nice....and chips."

"Okay, easily done." Daniel replied putting O'Neill's feet back on the couch and getting up. He leaned over and kissed Lacy on the nose and rubbed Jack's head.

"Hey!" Jack protested. The pup rolled over and presented her stomach to be rubbed.

Daniel chuckled and kissed his lover. "Sorry, it's the beard."

Jack rubbed his chin. He'd been growing the beard since their return from the Mountain. "You don't like it?"

"Well, it looks good but, uh it feels odd."

"Looks good, feels odd. I'll think about it. Now go and let me read."

"Yes Master."

"Stop that!"

*******

AmunNefer stayed with his slave until the young man fell into a healing slumber. The General knew from personal experience with Sinuai's potions that he would sleep until dawn at least. He went down to the kitchen area to get some of the food from the evening meal. There was fish, a grainy loaf of brown bread, dates and wine served by an extremely submissive and very quiet chief cook. After he had eaten, AmunNefer took a pitcher of wine, a loaf of the bread and a bowl of some of the dates and returned to his room. Placing the food on a table, he gathered up two scrolls that Iskander had translated for him earlier that week.

The work was precise and perfect to the final detail. If he had taken the documents to the court scribe it would not be done so well. He rose from his desk and went to the empty side of his bed. He stripped off his garment and lay down next to the young slave. After a few moments, he rolled over to look at Iskander, to watch him at peace as he rested. He had fallen asleep on his belly with his face turned towards his master.

It was an exotic face, even with the blue eyes closed. The nose straight, the lips full with strong even white teeth. The skin was impossibly fair. He could even see the veins that lay beneath the skin. His hair was the color of golden wheat ready for harvest as if touched by Ra or the Aten. When standing the man was tall, straight and strongly made and perfectly proportioned. A beautiful man, a true honor gift from the Pharaoh. And he lay there, unconscious, because of his actions, actions of his own hands.

Had he acted properly? Had he been too quick to react? Too quick to punish? And where had he received those other old healed scars. AmunNefer knew that the Greeks were a barbarous, violent race. They always seemed to be warring between themselves. Well, it was done now. All he could do now was try to repair the damage to the beginning trust that he had more than likely destroyed.

He reached over to cover the beautiful body of his slave. But first, he gave in to an action that he'd resisted since his gifting of the man. AmunNefer gently stroked his hand down the soft, strong back, avoiding the swollen lash marks. He had purposefully stayed away from the well-shaped buttocks knowing how sensitive that area was. He gave into temptation to touch and caress the smooth muscular mounds. He was surprised at his own reaction to the tactile contact. He enjoyed the touching. He found it pleasurable. He found himself not wanting to stop, fascinated by the feel and the texture of the soft silky skin. But now was not the time, the man was injured at his hand. He would not take advantage of the circumstances.

Finally, he reached down and pulled the coverlet up over the sleeping man. Then blew out the oil lamp and slid under the linens next to a warm sleeping body.

The next morning AmunNefer awoke to the gaze of two blue eyes. "You are awake?" He asked unnecessarily.

"Yes, my Lord," the soft voice replied.

"How do you feel?"

"Fine, my Lord."

"Does your back hurt?"

"No, my Lord."

"Liar."

"My Lord?"

"If your back is not hurting, I'm losing my skill."

The blue eyes blinked. "No, my Lord. You are not losing your skill."

"Then why did you lie?"

"I...I do not know..."

"Are you hungry?" The General asked. The blue eyes looked confused.

A tap came on the bedroom's door. The General called enter and Senit came through the large cedar doors. The boy stopped and bowed to his master.

"Senit, bring the food from the table to me. Then you may leave and come back in one hour to help us."

"Yes, Master." The boy carried the food items and then poured the date wine into the clay drinking bowls. He bowed again and left the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

The nobleman turned to his slave. "Can you sit?"

"Yes, my Lord." Iskander rolled over to rise, but when his back contacted the bed, he gasped in pain.

AmunNefer slid over to assist the young man to a sitting position, then he pulled a piece of bread from the loaf and dipped a corner into the wine bowl. He handed it to Iskander, who tasted it gratefully. The General did the same eating it and sipping from his own cup. He then handed the younger man several of the dates.

"Thank you, my Lord." Iskander looked at the General. "May I ask a question?"

"Yes."

"I do not understand. You punish me for transgressions, as is your right, but you call for a physician. Then, you allow him to treat me in your own bed. You feed me with your own hand. Why do you do this?"

AmunNefer thought a moment. He wanted to answer it so that there was no confusion. "Iskander," He started. "This is very difficult." The General thoughtfully took a sip of the wine. "You were a gift from the Great Pharaoh, an honor gift for my success in battle." He shook his head sorrowfully then continued. "He gave you to me because you are a beautiful slave, for me to use to satisfy myself. He did not give you to me because of your mind or your spirit. But you, you are so much more than I expected, or that he even knew." AmunNefer paused. "Your mind and spirit are like..." he paused, "like the lightening in a storm. They are often surprising, definitely impressive...and sometimes dangerous." He paused a moment to hand the Greek slave another piece of bread, then he continued. "It must be directed, harnessed and guided. Your absence concerned me...no, it worried me."

"Did you think I would try to run away?"

"No, I did not. You are too intelligent for such a foolish thing. I was concerned for your safety and with the safety of this house."

Iskander's eyes relayed his confusion. "I do not understand."

The General replied as clearly as possible so that the younger man would understand the full import of his actions. "You are an Honor Gift, given to me as a reward by the Pharaoh for my battle skills. You belong to me, however, you are not completely mine to do with as I chose. I may use you. I may enjoy your charms and, luckily for me, your mind. But," he raised his hand in emphasis. "I may not allow you the run of the city carrying state secrets so that you may translate them; nor may I lose you through carelessness or stupidity, mine or yours."

Iskander bowed his head. "My Lord, I would not leave your side. If I must be a slave, I would be yours."

The Egyptian looked at the young Greek. "You were not born a slave were you?"

"No, my Lord, though I have been one for over ten years. I was born a freeman. At seventeen years I went to war with my polis against Crete. We were overrun; I was knocked unconscious and awoke to find my mentor dead and myself in chains. I have been sold several times. I have belonged to a scholar, a physician and a scribe. Then finally, I was sold into Egypt for the Pharaoh's house and now to you."

"You wish to remain in this household, then?"

The blue eyes met the brown. "Yes, I do. I wish to learn. But I also must learn your customs so that I do not make another mistake."

"Very well, today you need stay here to rest. Tomorrow, you may come with me to see and to learn the ways of Egypt."

"I would like that, Lord. Thank you."

"You may stay here in this room and continue to grow strong. Senit will see to your needs. I must go to my responsibility at the camp." The General looked at him thoughtfully. "Iskander,"

"Yes, Lord."

"Which owner was it that beat you?" AmunNefer asked gently

The magical blue eyes flashed first anger, resentment, embarrassment and then finally sadness as the General watched the memories take shape behind them. Iskander looked up at him and chewed his lower lip. "Lord, must I answer?"

The General looked searchingly at the younger man. "No, I will not force that from you."

"May I finish the letter I was translating for you? It was almost complete."

The General looked at him, wary at the change of subject. "Yes, but... you don't have to. You should sleep and heal."

"I can think and heal at the same time, and I will sleep this eve."

"I will see you this night then." He looked at the young man. "But... if you are still in my bed...you may do more than sleep."

"As my Lord wishes." The blue eyes held a different message for him now.

*******

"Nope. Not gonna happen."

"Now what?"

"This is too easy." O'Neill groused. "It took me five years to get you in the sack."

"Jack, " Daniel picked up the two dirty plates up off of the floor where Lacy had done her share of the dish preparation. "Jack, he's a slave...he's Greek, and the culture was a lot more accepting of a slave's being used for sex, especially by an unmarried man."

"Wait, I thought all Egyptian Noblemen had prearranged marriages?"

Daniel looked up at him suspiciously. "Did you read the first chapter?"

"Well, no." Jack replied coyly. "I kinda skipped the first two till I saw your name, uh, Iskander's name."

"So you missed his wife's death and the battle where he earned his honor gift?" Daniel pushed.

"Oh," O'Neill looked embarrassed. "Well, you know me and books."

"Yeah, right Jack. Tell it to someone who might believe you."

The older man looked up at him with a grin. "Yeah. Okay. I didn't think I'd be interested."

"And now?"

"I'm finding out that you always interest me, Daniel. You're just plain old interesting." Lacy woke up and climbed into Daniel's lap, trying to get him to play again. She growled and ruffed at him. Jack reached over and pulled her stub tail. "See, even the doily dog knows it, and we know she has good taste...she didn't like Harry."

 

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Chapter 17
Don't stop to look at it, look at the clock.

(Transcript from historical romance: DESERT STARS by Jonathan O`Neill)

=====

That evening, the General returned from the army encampment a new man, literally. The Pharaoh had come and announced that he would be in charge of one half of the army of Egypt on the upcoming campaign. That he, the Great Pharaoh Akenaten and Horemheb, the Absolute General of Egypt had selected and promoted him because of his success in defeating the Nubian Armies to the South. Horemheb had selected him to lead the Northern Army against the Hittite threat in the Northeast.

This meant several things. The Pharaoh had announced and changed his name. He was now known forever at court as AtenNefer, the beauty of the Sun. While he had never been a man of great religious fervor, he had won honor for his old name and had a bad feeling about changing things of such import. It also meant that he would be expected at all the temple functions and would have a role to play in the ceremonies as a representative of the God's power. And, most importantly, it meant that he now needed to direct his efforts and intensity into learning about the new and different enemy that he would be facing. The Nubians, though a brave and resourceful foe, were simple people without intricate tactics. The Hittites were much more creative and could develop strategies to confuse and destroy their enemies. He had been given another great honor, but one that would indeed challenge his military knowledge. He suspected that Horemheb, his old commander, had so honored him because he himself did not want the responsibility of this campaign himself.

As soon as AmunNefer arrived home and entered into his Library Senit, the slave boy, immediately went into the kitchen and started bringing out the serving plates and food to the dining room for the Master's solitary evening meal. It was he had done for the past two years, since the Lady of the house had died. The General came home, ate his meal, studied the scrolls that he always brought with him then went to bed. The boy found it sad how much the master had changed since his family's death. He could remember when the house was filled with joy, now it was only just occupied by the Lord of the house.

When the meal was properly placed, the servant tapped on the library's door. AmunNefer looked up at the child then rose, went to the dining area still carrying some documents and seated himself at the meal, unrolling the papyrus scroll he had brought with him. As he ate the dinner of roast waterfowl, baked lily roots and bread, his mind kept wandering to the scholar slave interrupting his concentration. The Greek servant had remained in his chambers this morning when he left for the encampment. AmunNefer had ordered him to rest and recover with permission to finish his translation of the Nubian scroll. He glanced at his house servant who was kneeling against the wall. "Yes, lord." The boy stood up and came to stand next to the Egyptian nobleman.

"Senit, where is Iskander?"

"Master, he is closeted in your rooms as you instructed him." AmunNefer nodded. If the boy had heard the instructions, then no comment about the Greek slave would be made amongst the other servants.

"Has he eaten?"

"I brought him food, but I did not see him eat. He waved me away and said he was working on the scroll."

He nodded. "Very well."

"Lord, he also asked for the scroll with the wine colored ribbon on it. I fetched it for him."

"Good. I needed him to finish that work for me. Good boy."

"Thank you, Master." The boy looked at him with his black eyes. "Shall I tell him you come soon?"

"No, I think I will surprise him." The General nodded to himself, and the boy smiled quickly then regained his composure. The older man leaned down and whispered to the child. "What? Do you like him?"

"Yes, Master." The boy whispered back. "He's nice and always speaks kindly to me." The child then became a little bolder. "He likes you also."

"I think that may have changed little one." AmunNefer replied unhappily.

Senit shook his head, looking much wiser than his years. "No, Lord. Iskander knows you are kind. He knows that his punishment could have been much worse." The boy's expression fell. "I would have told him not to go, but I did not see him."

"I know, little one. It was not your fault." The older man looked at the boy critically, as if examining him. Then he pulled a leg from the bird that he was eating. "What did you have to eat in the slave quarters this evening?"

The ten-year-old answered honestly. "Bread, a little fish and water."

"Are you still hungry?"

"No, Lord, not hungry."

AmunNefer twitched his mouth not to smile. The boy was eyeing the food. "Not hungry perhaps, but not satisfied either." He handed the boy the piece of fowl. "Here. A boy your age should be eating more than bread and fish." The General shook his head. He'd already spoken once to his chief cook. The man loved to impress the court nobles that visited the house with his skill but didn't like to prepare food for his fellow slaves.

AmunNefer knew that to work properly, even a slave had to eat appropriately, especially a growing youngster like Senit. It caused the household no hardship to feed everyone properly. And as he was a highly placed General living in the shadow of the palace, he had an obligation to set the standards that reflected the greatness of his God-King. It was all part of the job. He would speak to the cook again.

After the meal was over, AmunNefer gathered up his scrolls and took them back to his library. There he placed them back into their protective copper sleeving. Then he went to his sleeping room. He had left Iskander there this morning with the warning that if he was still there this evening, he might be occupied with something other than sleep this night. It had been an almost empty threat, not many slaves stayed when they had that kind of expectation. Last evening, after the younger man's injuries had been treated and he had been given a sleeping potion, the General had lain awake and watched him sleep. He had not been so affected by another person in a long time. The beauty of the young man was only overshadowed by the appearance of youthful innocence. How could a fully-grown man-slave retain such a quality? Perhaps it was the apparent naivety of him, or maybe the lack of guile in those sky blue eyes. He had noticed that whatever Iskander was set to do, he performed the task to the fullness of his ability with no complaints or shirking. AmunNefer wondered what the Greek would have been like without the yoke of slavery to inhibit his spirit and growth.

When he entered the room, he was surprised to find the slave still there. He lay resting, apparently asleep, on the large bed. AmunNefer went to the bed and sat down on the empty side to remove his greaves and boots. As he leaned down to unfasten the thick heavy straps, he felt the bed move as the other occupant stirred. Iskander came around and knelt in front of him. "May I help you, Lord?"

The General sat back up and nodded. The young man bent to the task and soon had removed them both. He then stood smoothly and reached around to the side so that he could unfasten the back clasp to the leather breastplate and it's knee-length loin guard. Once that was undone, the slave reached around the soldier's slender waist to unbuckle the middle strap, his forehead slightly brushing against AmunNefer.

The brief contact was as if the goddess Hathor had caressed them with her magical breath. A living spark seemed to flicker between them. Iskander looked up at his master. AmunNefer's face was mere inches from his. Dark eyes looked into his and seemed to mesmerize his soul.

Slowly, the nobleman reached out with both his hands to gently cradle the younger man's face. The impossibly blue eyes widened in reaction, the full lips parted slightly to welcome him and the harsh old soldier carefully took what was offered him. He would never force another; he didn't have to. Plenty would bed him for no other reason than his influence at court. But this want, this need, of his for this beautiful young slave was not that of a cold, empty coupling for court intrigue or political manipulations. It was for a sweet, warm desire of the flesh, to taste this innocence, this goodness that he had not known in such a very long time. Their first kiss was like a spring butterfly that skimmed on mother Nile's breast in the warm morning breeze. It touched and teased, shimmering throughout their bodies and awakening feelings in both men that they had both thought lay buried in their forgotten past lives. AmunNefer breathed in the scent of the one he held and memorized his every feel and sensation, imprinting the image of this new wonder upon his soul. He sought his needs in the willing lips and on the softly moving mouth beneath him.

Iskander allowed himself to be swept away, to follow the gentle, tantalizing lead of this man, his new possessor. An honorable man, one he had discovered where he had thought yet only another unfeeling master had dwelt. This act of passion was not a threat or an intimidation. This... this was a seduction of his spirit by one who recognizes another of its own kind. Iskander answered it with his own voice of need and want, opening to him and offering himself to this elegant, sensitive soul he had somehow managed to be captured by.

As the nobleman slowed to prolong the sensations for both of them, Iskander caught blindly at the last leather fastening. Once he had freed them both from the onus of the leather armor, they came together again, the linen shift of AmunNefer and Iskander's short kilt slipped quickly from both their bodies and their minds as they continued the tactile exploration of each other. But their slow delicacy could not be maintained, it had been too long for them both. AmunNefer moved to fever pitch to possess this gift of the gods and Iskander insisted upon his own sacrifice. The lord of the armies gave his surrender and the slave won the field of victory. As the two bodies sought the power that lay banked within them, their spirits soared as two great Horus hawks ascended and tumbled into their ritual of sky mating. Then, sated, they returned gently to great mother Nut to rest above the common plain of mortals. There the mighty defeated warrior lay, guarding his new won treasure in his arms. The slave remained, held safe by the man he had conquered.

*******

Jack closed the book and laid it down on the table that also presently supported his glass of juice, sunscreen, and CD player. He looked down the gravel road that led from the cabin to the paved road a mile and a half down the mountain. He shifted in the Adirondack lounge chair and closed his eyes behind the ever-present sunglasses. Daniel was due back any time now and he loved to watch him run.

It had started in the beginning of their hermit-like life here on Rock Mountain. Though Daniel had returned from his ascension healthy, he hadn't been in condition. So, O'Neill had egged and begged him in to running with him. They started easy; Jack himself had been in a bad state of health. Six months of enthusiastically trying to drink and smoke himself literally to death had done nothing for the condition of his fifty-year-old body.

Much to both of their surprise, Daniel admitted now he loved the physical activity. When he had first joined the SGC, O'Neill had to practically force the younger man to exercise to get him in good enough physical condition for the field. Finally, he had admitted, that between his youthful small size and allergies, exercise and physical competition had always been an uncomfortable and demeaning experience for him as a child. Now, in good health for the first time in his life, Daniel was as active as a teenager. Running was a particular joy for him, and the two men would often go for long hours of jogging and wind sprints. Since O'Neill's injury, Daniel had continued the running regime alone. Neither of them liked the temporary situation, but Jack had insisted that he continue. The terrier pup, Lacy had tried to run with him, but she wasn't quite glowing with health yet either. Her little body was still playing catch up after being abandoned and nearly starved to death. After the third time Daniel carried her back to the cabin, she was held back to keep her senior boss company while they waited for the younger man to return. Jack knew they were both looking forward to going with him, but for now they could only "Daniel watch."

A short while later, the little dog perked her ears and became alert, listening intently. She woofed softly in her throat and jumped up on the snoozing O`Neill. Jack shifted to put the sharp little claws in less threatening locations and listened to the measured strides running up the road.

Daniel trotted up the last slope of the driveway, face flushed and fair skin glistening with sweat. The runner came to a stop in front of his relaxed partner, then bent over to catch his breath. Jack regarded him fondly from his seat in the shade. "Looking good, Danny- boy."

Daniel flashed a smile at his lover as he lay back on the wooden chair. "You, too. You're finally getting a little color back." He stretched and walked slowly over to where O'Neill was reclining comfortably. "How do you feel?"

"A little stiff," the older man admitted. "Not really hurting anymore. I think it's caused as much by inactivity as the injury."

"Well, whenever you feel up to it we can start taking long walks together."

"Thanks, Daniel. That's makes me feel all tingly."

The younger man leaned over his partner, putting his hands on the chair's wide wooden arms, leaning his weight on them. A drop of sweat fell and hit the older man's tee shirt. Instead of flinching, O'Neill reached up and captured Daniel's face in his palms and pulled him down for a long, satisfying kiss. When they separated, it was with not a little regret.

Leaning down again and putting his nose on Jack's, Daniel whispered in a heavy hoarse voice. "Damn, now I have to go and run another five miles."

Jack smiled boldly up at him, obviously enjoying the effect he had on his Lover. "Damn, so do I."

*******

Iskander looked through the yellow, dusty haze of the battlefield. He knew that AmunNefer lay out there, somewhere in that crowded field of blood and pain. He knew because he had watched the General and his chariot driver leave early yesterday morning to join with his army. They were marching to this valley, he had been told by one of the Great Pharaoh's slaves. Marching to engage with the enemies of Egypt. And now, he was afraid. Iskander knew the dangers of war; he'd been there himself those long years ago in that grassy field of Greece. He had lost his mentor and his freedom to one ill-fated blow from a Miocene sword.

When Iskander had been told the battle was over, he'd prepared the tent for his master's return. Then he had waited in vain through the day and then the long night. AmunNefer had not returned. The few senior officers who had made it back unscathed had gone quickly to their tents. There had been no celebration in camp that night. The Greek had made his way to the Pharaoh's chief slave and asked for information. There was none to be had. So he had set off alone in the dark, as there was no freeman he would trust to accompany him. Several miles in the dark night down a trail of blood, wreckage and carcasses he had found the battle field and all it contained, including the vultures, jackals and hordes of blood flies.

The servant walked through the blood stained sand, beside the hundreds of bodies of men from two different armies, two different countries. Yet, as they lay there, if it had not been for the uniforms he could not have told the soldiers apart. The faces all held the same expressions of shock and surprise that their beautiful athletic bodies should be so insulted by the crass metals of bronze and iron as to be impaled, slashed and cut by them. But he couldn't care about that now. There was only one beloved face he sought, only one precious form that he searched for. Surely, a General would be more easily seen, more recognizable, even in this morass of mutilated bodies. He would search until he could search no longer.

Then, with sunburned and exhausted eyes, he saw a broken chariot with a familiar insignia on it. Iskander hurried his pace and ran through more of the carnage that he'd been studying for hours. AmunNefer's vehicle of war, once with its two proud steeds and valiant heroes, was now nothing but a shamble, a splintered wreck. There was a dead horse still caught in the traces. It was Ibis, the young gray stallion that was the left hand of the team. He had been impaled on a Lion spear and had died in struggles of agony still in his red leather harness. Eagle, the golden chestnut, was missing, his harness cut asunder by a sharp blade leaving nothing to track him by. He was either loose and free or he lay dead like his trace mate somewhere else on the bloody killing field.

As the young Greek searched through the wreckage, he found the driver of the General's chariot. The young soldier, Anwa, who had smiled shyly at him, impressed with his useless beauty and his miserable wit. The charioteer had been several years younger than he, and had often stood and watched him longingly as Iskander had served his Lord at dinner or during meetings. He had watched him and wanted him, but knowing that he belonged to the General, Anwa could only smile sweetly at him and dream of the slave in the night. Iskander hoped the youngster had been satisfied in his nighttime fantasies. He at least hoped he had been happy in his wanting.

But there, in the shadow of a broken howdah still attached to its camel's carcass, an achingly familiar form lay crumbled. Iskander struggled through the ankle deep sand as quickly as he could with his heart in his mouth.

The animal's rider lay sprawled across the small dune. Wind had shifted a small amount of the ever-present material across the bright splash of material that had been the robes of the Hittite. But beyond the dead man, lying on his back with the right arm thrown across his face as if to protect it from the burning rays of the Aten, was the familiar and much-loved body of his master, AmunNefer.

In his haste to get to him, the Greek fell, then slip-slid down the loose sand to the unmoving man's side. He reached the still form and tried desperately to remember everything, anything that he must have gleaned from his service to his physician master of years past. There must be some arcane knowledge of how to stop the flow of precious blood, some magic words to hold back the soul from fleeing the noble heart, that he still possessed. Iskander touched the strong neck to feel for the beat of life, then laid a shaking hand on the broad chest to sense the breath as he willed AmunNefer to inhale. When the body's motions proved to be strong, Iskander could have wept with relief and joy. His master still lived, but he must now be sure the life force would continue within. The Greek pulled the small knife that AmunNefer had given him when it had been decided that he would accompany the General to the battlefield. Iskander now used it to cut a length of cloth from the hem of his own desert robes to make rude bandages for his lord. He bound up the gaping, oozing wounds to protect them from the gritty air blown sand and create pressure that would stop the bleeding. Next, he looked around for any means that might ease his master's journey to a safer and more hospitable location. Finally, in a distance, he saw something that gave him a plan.

A short while later, Iskander had persuaded a small bay mare that he found standing by a slain enemy warrior, to accompany him back to the AmunNefer's side. Her harness was missing and she too carried a sword wound across her shoulder. He hated to use her in this condition, but he needed her help. Once they returned to AmunNefer, he gathered two broken shafts of a chariot, a saddle rug from a dead camel and leather straps such as he could find on the General`s chariot. With them he fashioned a wheel-less sled that he attached to the to the horse with the makeshift harness. She shied, frightened at the unfamiliar contraption, but then held steady at his soothing voice looking at him with trusting brown eyes.

AmunNefer had not yet made a sound or a motion. He remained in the dreamless sleep of the wounded. Iskander checked his injury and then eased the hurt man onto the camel rug. He was very hot and thirsty, not having any water with him, but he knew that his injured man needed it much worse than he did. After giving up his life's blood to the desert, he needed the water almost as much as he needed to breathe.

Soon the slave and the injured beast with their burden of the wounded soldier were making their slow way across the desert. Iskander remembered noting a small oasis not far from the trail to the campsite. It was only a small muddy pool with some unimpressive stunted date palms, but the water was necessary for all their needs.

After several hours, they approached the refuge. On their journey, Iskander had found a curved desert sword by a dead enemy soldier and he had picked it up to defend them against stragglers. He drew it now, alert until he determined that they were indeed alone. But, the water's nymph had seen fit to aid them, the oasis proved to be empty.

The little mare whickered hopefully at the scent of the pool. Iskander took her bridle with a firm hand. He would water her later, but not until his master got all he needed of it before she tainted it with her dainty mouth and hooves.

Unhitching the sled then tying the horse close, he went down to the pool. Men had been here recently, as had other creatures, but enough time had passed that the water itself had cleared. He had only the gold wine cup that he used to serve his master at meals with, but it would have to suffice. First, he saw to AmunNefer's comfort and safety, taking off his own linen shift that he wore under his coarse desert robe and cloak and rolling it under the General's head to support him. Then, he took the cup and dipped it full bringing the liquid to the unconscious man. He didn't try to force the injured man to drink, but only drizzled a few drops into AmunNefer's mouth. He then dampened a torn piece of his robe and began to stroke the hot brow, cleaning the sand, sweat and blood from him and cooling him with the water and his own breath. AmunNefer seemed to rest more peacefully and to fall into a sleep.

After he had done all he could do for the General, Iskander watered their horse and cleaned her wounds. She gratefully rubbed her head on his robe after she had drunk her fill. As he caressed her soft muzzle, he leaned on her and sighed into her mane. "What now, beautiful one?" She could only nibble at his hands and whicker softly to his question. He then took her back to the palm tree where he tethered her and then went to sit with his master.

After several hours, AmunNefer began to wake, the eyes shifted behind the sleeping lids. Then, they opened to gaze into the worried face of Iskander.

"My Lord?"

"Iskander?"

"Yes, Lord. Are you in pain?" He put his hand on this master's cheek to check for heat.

"My side aches. What has happened?" The General seemed confused. "Did I fall?"

"Lord, you were wounded in battle." Iskander again used the dampened piece of cloth to stroke the nobleman's face. "I found you. We are at the oasis."

"Where is Senit? I want some wine." He whispered then moaned softly as he tried to move.

Iskander lay a gentle hand on the wounded man. "Senit is not here, Lord. He's back in Amarna. Let me bring you water."

"No, I want wine." AmunNefer looked directly at the younger man but didn't seem to see him properly. "Senit has the cup; he must bring it to me." He moved restlessly on the blanket.

"Rest, Lord, I will seek Senit. Please, do not try to move."

The General lay quietly while the Greek went quickly to the water hole. It was still slightly muddied from the mare, but it was all they had. The slave returned hurriedly so that the injured man wouldn`t try to move. "Here, Lord. I bring you drink."

He accepted Iskander's help to hold the cup and swallowed. "Paugh, Senit, that is very poor wine."

"Yes, Lord. Last year's is nearly gone." Iskander was trying anything to keep the warrior still and quiet at this point. "The cook should order more."

"He is useless. I should sell him." He lay back on the soft linen under robe that the younger man had taken off to cushion his master's head. "Iskander? Senit, where is Iskander?"

"I am here, Lord. What is it you want of me?"

"Senit, I hurt him. You saw...I need to tell him...to speak to him."

"No, my lord. You did not harm me and that was long ago, before... before you allowed me to live again. Now that is all gone from us." He stroked the General's face with his fingers, tracing the well- loved lines, the paths that he had followed to wisdom and love.

"Iskander?"

"Ay, Lord. How may I serve you?"

Recognition slowly returned to the deep-set brown eyes. "I thought you gone... that I'd lost you." AmunNefer tried to reach for him. "I feared that you..."

"Shah, shah." Iskander caught the seeking hand and kissed him gently on the brow. "I cannot leave you; I will not leave my heart in Egypt. Where would the rest of me go?" He smiled down at his beloved master. "I cannot leave you. Where would I go?"

"You could go to your freedom," the General said softly, closing his eyes.

"My freedom is an empty place, my Lord." He shook his head. "My spirit would still be a slave in Egypt."

A short while later, Iskander was alerted by sounds of the mare. She was stamping at her tether and snorting, peering out into the darkness that surrounded the small oasis. The bay jerked nervously on the bridle, her eyes rolling so that the whites of them flashed.

He reached down under the sled where he had hidden the found weapon. Wrapping his hand around the handle, Iskander pulled the short scimitar from it's resting place he stood and turned to face the unknown presence in the dark.

*******

AmunNefer awoke lying on a bed of clean, cool linens. His head ached abominably and he couldn't move his left arm. A swath of white bandages covered him from throat to hip. This informed him of how close Anubis had come to him yesterday...or was it the day before? He raised his eyes to see that he was in his tent. He shifted his gaze towards the entrance flap.

Iskander appeared beside him with a cloth in his hand. When the slave saw that he was awake, he hurried to his master's side.

"My Lord..." The young Greek knelt by his bedside and placed a gentle hand on his warm brow.

"Iskander." He managed to whisper. "The battle? How goes the battle?"

"I'm sorry, Lord. No one has told me." He shrugged. "We are still here at the border, and armies go out every day to fight, so the war continues."

"Not lost then, in spite of my failure." The General murmured to himself.

Iskander looked at him in surprise. He had heard nothing of a loss and no words of condemnation towards AmunNefer. "I must get the physician. Please, Lord. Rest, I will return."

The injured man nodded tiredly and the slave left quickly on his mission.

Soon the comforting sounds of his old friend, Sinuai, the Court Physician, permeated his failing consciousness. "AmunNefer," He felt the cool cloth touch his forehead. "Wake up and speak, General. The Pharaoh needs your council."

He finally managed to open his eyes again. "Why?"

"There you are," the smiling man's face greeted him. "Why? To help win the war of course, old friend." The doctor talked on as he began to feel and search his aching body for injuries. "He will need assistance in what next to do with all the newly won battle spoils."

"Won? But," AmunNefer asked confused. "I thought..."

"That the battle was lost? No, no, the battle was won. It was you who that were lost...lost for over two days." Sinuai continued talking as he examined his patient. "If not for your good Iskander who found you, the greatest General in all of Egypt would be food for the carrion birds."

AmunNefer lay silent thinking on what had been told him. The battle won, his life saved.

Sinuai continued. "Some of your officers were seeking you. They had found your chariot and poor Anwa. They saw some strange marking on the desert sand and followed them to a small oasis. There they found a Thracian Lion with his claws out." Sinuai glanced over at the Greek slave kneeling at the tent's opening.

The General looked at him in puzzlement. "I don't understand..."

"Iskander had found you, treated your wounds and brought you to safety. When your soldiers arrived, he was guarding you with a scimitar he had picked up from the battlefield... and he knew how to handle it from all reports." The physician smiled when he remembered the officer's description. "It took more than a little discussion to convince him they meant you no harm."

"He was lucky he wasn't killed." AmunNefer whispered weakly.

"Oh, I think he was in no danger. All of your men know who the beautiful Greek slave is and belongs to." Sinuai smiled at his patient. "The art was to get to you in time to help you without risk to their own necks."

"Where...where is he?"

The physician motioned for Iskander to approach the bed. "Here is your excellent Iskander." Sinuai turned and closed his box, preparing to leave the tent. "If you ever tire of him, old friend, please allow me to purchase him. I would free him and make him a physician after me to carry on my knowledge. He has much skill and spirit." He watched the younger man as he knelt by the General's bed and smiled as he turned and left the tent. He knew he would not own any Greek slaves soon.

 

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Chapter 18
Forever, it won't be long enough

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
Jack limped in to the cabin, following in Daniel's footsteps. The younger man had just finished his run of five miles or so and, from the sound of the water in the bathroom, was starting his shower. O'Neill wandered into the kitchen and made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, one for each of them. He looked at the puppy that had followed him into the house and noticed that she was actually `sitting up' and begging. The easy touch Colonel pulled another slice out of the bag and tore it into quarters. He then handed her the first slice, mindful of her sharp little teeth, then gently pitched the pieces to her one at a time. By the time all the goodies were gone, she'd mastered the art of catching them. Jack poured himself a glass of cold milk from the gallon bottle that Marthy had `brung em' that morning. He'd tried to pay her, but she'd refused saying that whenever he or Danny-lad was feeling spry they could come over and play a little cold weather music on the hand ax fer tha ole man of hern as he ain't spry as he yusta be.

Daniel had particularly loved the varied dialects and brogues that he kept finding up here. At one point he even commented that this must be the Vineland that Eric the Great had discovered. Jack had rather cruelly reminded him that there were no vines in this heah Vineland. Daniel immediately made some comment about two cartoon characters named Pinky and the Brain and had wandered off to do something Jack was sure was of Galactic Import. He also found himself hoping desperately that Pinky was at least cute. He finished his milk and sandwich standing at the kitchen counter, listening to the shower run with a warm, wet Danny-lad in it.

*******

Daniel stood in the shower, water cascading over the broad expanse of his shoulders, rinsing shampoo out of his hair. The shower curtain was drawn back and Jack stepped into the small stall with him. Daniel eyed Jack through lowered lashes...slowly licking his lips as he admired his lover's naked body. "Jack, what are you doing?"

Jack leaned in and tenderly kissed off the one drop of water suspended from the tip of Daniel's nose. "Saving hot water? Come on Danny. It's been plenty of time for this damned wound to heal." He ducked under the spray and wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist, pulling him up against his chest. Daniel moaned at his nearness, his skin upon skin contact and slowly inclined into the larger man's body. Daniel absorbed the support and love like a growing plant needing the sun, slowly and inexorably. It had been a long time.

Jack reached for his young lover`s face, gently taking the strong neck and stubborn jaw line in his worshipping hands, tilting the beloved features slightly upwards to allow his lips and tongue to worship Daniel properly, opening him to his oral explorations.

Daniel leaned forward slightly, pressing himself against the older man's chest and slipping his questing arms around the slim waist and flanks. He sighed a low sound as his mouth was thoroughly examined, his tongue avidly sought. O'Neill drew back and looked at him, eyes dilated and hungry. "It's been a long time, Danny, a hell of a long time." He kissed his partner again, with insistent passion, rubbing his lean body against Daniel's under the hot spray.

Jack released his lover, his strong hands insistent on persuading him to turn. Daniel resisted for a moment until he received murmured assurances, to alter his position. He leaned forward, his hands on the slick, wet, sweating ceramic tile of the shower wall. Daniel could sense his lover's need. Jack craved this, needed it and he desperately wanted to submit to his lover's ultimate act of dominance. He rested his forehead on the wall for support as the knowing hands stroked him, prepared him, gently opened him with slick, soapy fingers and finally, broached him. He tried to relax, pushing down to guide the welcome invader into his body, to feel himself being spread open for the taking.

Finally, the strong firm hands moved and wrapped around his hips and he felt the presence of Jack's cock against his opening, insistent and demanding, larger and thicker than the earlier invader and much more needful. Jack's murmuring voice nuzzled his ear, rumbling his desire, his promises, and his sworn oaths. The knowing hands swept forward to hold his aching sex, to gentle him, to persuade him. The younger man arched backward into the promised pain passion pleasure. He wanted, needed to give this, his ultimate sacrifice onto the altar of his overwhelming love for this man behind him. Finally, his throbbing body capitulated to the insistent assailant. The blunt tip eased its way past the guardian muscles, blessing the tight, hot passageway with its presence. Strong hands cajoled him, stroking, grasping, and pumping while the heavy phallus insinuated itself into his sensitive channel. One of Jack's hands stroked upwards to caress and tweak the hard, erect nipples then to pass on to embrace the throat and tickle the chin and stroke his open, panting lips.

Daniel inhaled the active fingers into his mouth, nursing on them, sucking, chewing, needing to do something oral while his cock was manipulated and his ass plundered. He cried out softly, biting down as his lover eagerly took him.

The extra stimulation pushed Jack over his carefully held limits and he growled, pulling his willing victim against him and fucked him with all of his lethal strength. O'Neill forced his smaller lover against the hard, wet wall and bucked into his willing body, driving himself inexorably, savagely into his passion's prey, taking what he wanted. He could feel Daniel beneath him pliant, needy, real and alive..alive...alive. He snarled as he pulled him closer to his own heaving chest. Then he sank his teeth into the strong flat plane of shoulder muscle and roared out his victory with the taste of blood.

Daniel was lost; he had no concept of time place or of his own actions. He was being pummeled by his lover; the only man who could claim him, and he demanded that he be allowed to offer himself to this all-important being. Then, he felt a tearing pain in his shoulder and he screamed the pain of his sacrifice, his pleasure and his love for the god of Eros behind him. His orgasm exploded and he relaxed bonelessly non-existent as the waves of pleasure rocked through him.

Finally, Daniel realized that he was being held, cradled in his lover's arm. "Danny, are you all right? God, I'm so sorry. Are you hurt? Daniel, talk to me." He opened his eyes and saw the guilty face of his Jack at his shoulder. "Daniel, you're bleeding. Let me help you."

Daniel could feel a towel on his shoulder, could see where it had been stained with his own blood. "What happened?" He asked softly.

Jack ducked his head, not wanting to meet the other man's eyes. "I... I bit you, I cut the skin on your shoulder. I'm sorry, I...I don't... I`m such a bastard."

"No, Jack. Don't be sorry." He reached his hand to his lover's face. "You marked me as your own. I understand, completely." Then Daniel saw Jack's swollen right hand where it was tattooed with his own teeth marks.

Without a word Daniel turned and gently took Jack's injured hand in his own, inspecting the marks as he would a precious artifact. "Sorry," he murmured. Daniel placed feather light kisses on the reddened hand, beginning at the injuries progressing to the palm, the wrist...up the forearm. Sweeping the skin with his tongue, the moaning in his throat reverberating against Jack.

"Daniel...please," Jack whispered, swallowing audibly. "God...I need... Daniel, you need...don't stop... please...don`t."

"I know, my love, I know." He silenced his lover with a kiss. "I'll never leave you...I'll be with you forever..." Then the older man turned and spread his legs bracing his hands against the wall. Daniel, careful of his lover's nearly healed wound, gently stroked his ribs and belly, running his hands down the lean flanks to the rounded ass, kneading them gently and running his thumbs between the cleft. He knelt down to explore the crease with his tongue, finding the opening and gently, softly using the facile muscle and delicate fingers to open his lover to him. He could hear the other man murmuring phrases above him. It was making him hard again, very quickly.

"Oh, god, Danny. What are you doing...Oh, what is that...you can do...oh, fuck...Danny!"

"Yes, I can...oh, yes I can." Daniel rose to his feet and slid up behind Jack, his own newly reformed erection needing to be satiated. "Only, you...Jack, only you..." With a quick push, he was in his lover, reveling in the tightness and the heat of the other. Now, now you're mine, only mine..." He whispered in the beloved ear, "forever...forever...forever." On the third stroke, Daniel felt his worlds explode within him and all the stars he'd ever seen came back to him.

Jack arched back, forcing his lover deeper into him. He could feel Daniel building to another climax; the hard strong hands gripped him as his lover buried his erection into his anal tunnel. The stroking was setting him on fire as he finally experienced the other man's complete insertion, the wiry pubic hair adding a new sensation as he was buried balls deep into Jack's ass. As the penis head slid across the small nub of a gland, he cried out calling for it NOW! Daniel's rough unshaven jaw scrapped down his back and the strong fingers pinched his nipples and they came again, harder, hotter, stronger, deeper and the lights went out!

Jack leaned up against the wet tile, breathing deeply. He was in no danger of falling; he could feel Daniel's arms still around him and the other man's softening cock slowly easing out of his anus. But for some reason, it was dark. He was too exhausted to even think how that had happened. All he could think about was Daniel's head leaning heavily against his shoulders, his warm breath easing down his right biceps. Finally, the younger man moved back away from him and Jack felt his lover slide his strong arms around him in support. He allowed the motion and Daniel slid further under his shoulder.

"Hey." A soft voice asked, followed by a kiss under his ear. "You okay?"

"Baby, I'm so okay I can barely stand." He managed to say.

A low chuckle. "C'mon then. Bed time."

He nodded and pushed off the wall. He leaned against the younger man as his lover supported him with one arm and wrapped the other around his waist. He was led unresistingly to the bed. Daniel managed to pull back the covers with one hand still supporting Jack.

O'Neill lay back against the pillow and slid his legs under the comforter. His partner searched around for a moment and finally found the package of matches he was looking for. Daniel lit the two candles on the tables on his side of the bed, then picked one up to carry with him. "I'm going into the kitchen, love. Do you want something?"

He shook his head. He was so tired he could barely think. As Daniel left the room, Lacy jumped up next to him and snuggled down by his ribs under the covers. As he absentmindedly rubbed her ears, something odd occurred to him. They had both been in the shower. There was no one else in the house and yet, the lights went out all at once as if turned off. And they went out when the two of them...one in particular had come like a freight train. Curiouser and curiouser.

Daniel padded back into the room carrying his sandwich and a glass of milk. He crossed to the other side of the bed and slid in.

"Daniel."

"Hum?"

"What happened to the light?"

"Oh that. Sorry."

"What?"

"I guess I got a little, uh...overexcited." He heard Daniel place the empty glass on the bed stand. "I'll have to fix the generator tomorrow." A pause. "Maybe I just blew out some light bulbs."

"Daniel..."

"I love you, Jack." The warm body spooned up against his.

"Daniel."

"What Jack?"

"Blew out some light bulbs?"

A chuckle. "Go to sleep, Jack."

*******

(Transcript from historical romance: DESERT STARS by Jonathan O`Neill)

=====

Iskander carried in several scrolls, an inkpot and a reed pen to the small table he had just brought in next to the east window. He set them down in a convenient arrangement and looked over to the big bed where his injured Master lay watching him.

AmunNefer was sitting propped up in the bed with several scrolls lying on the linen sheets next to him. Little Senit was holding one that was partially unrolled so that the Egyptian General could read it. It was a tiring job for a child but one he enjoyed, being able to stay close to the master.

As the Greek slave sat down and started to peruse the next document, this one written on a finely prepared skin of some sort in cuneiform. He knew he'd seen it before and some of the nouns looked very familiar.

There was a scratching on the door and one of the other house servants pushed the panel open at his Master's call. The physician, Sinuei, came in carrying his box of medicines and a pouch with him. AmunNefer gestured at the boy and the scroll was carefully rolled up and taken out of the way.

"Good morning, oh General of the Pharaoh's favor." The doctor smiled down at his patient.

The Nobleman looked up at him with amusement. "Do not worry old friend. It is only for a short while. I'm certain to do something to irritate him sooner or later."

"That is true, in fact, you might have all ready done so." He put down the box and opened the soft leather pouch. "I cannot believe that he thought this to occur so soon."

AmunNefer only nodded and reached for the scroll that the physician held out towards him. He grimaced slightly at a twinge. Sinuei watched him carefully; the General shook his head in dismissal of his discomfort. He unrolled the papyrus on his lap and scanned it quickly, then nodded satisfied. "I thank you for bringing this." He carefully rerolled the papyrus and put it back into its pouch. The physician laid it on the table next to the bed.

Sinuei smiled from him to Iskander who was working a few feet away. "Iskander, please assist me with the General." The younger man immediately put down his reed pen and came over to the bed.

Iskander stood ready; holding the bandages and the unguents as the physician unwrapped the General's terrible injuries. He watched carefully as the doctor treated the injured man and finally assisted in rewrapping the bandages that supported the terrible, healing wounds in his master's flesh. It would be a long and painful mending process for his beloved Lord. The wounds had cut deep and dear.

Sinuei stood back and looked at his handiwork. "Iskander, if I leave the medicines behind, can you do this each night?"

The servant nodded. "It is easy enough done. I can have Senit help me."

"Good, that will save me a trip twice in the same day." He looked at the General. "The Queen is near her time and I would not leave her too long."

AmunNefer nodded. "Perhaps it will be the boy child they long for."

"That they need." The physician picked out the proper salves to leave with Iskander. "A woman may become a Pharaoh, but I have never heard of one inheriting as a child. The kingdom needs the stability of a male heir." He turned to the younger man. "Be sure to cleanse your hands before changing the bandage and then to get the bandages tight enough. The closer the ends of the flesh are together, the less scar will form."

"Yes, Master Physician." He bowed his head.

Sinuei looked at him fondly. "If you ever get tired of this master, remember you are always welcome in my house. You are very skilled with your hands."

"Thank you, Lord."

The doctor smiled at him then back at AmunNefer; he left the room with Senit escorting him.

"Iskander, please come here." The General called him over to his bedside and then pulled him down by his hand to sit next to him. At a motion, the young slave leaned down and kissed the injured man chastely on the lips.

The General smiled at him. "It does not seem fair to find one as you, then to be unable to enjoy my good luck for such a long time."

"I am sorry for you injuries. Perhaps I may help you in other ways." Mischief sparkled in his eyes. "I know a few other things that you might find pleasing."

"You do?" The General looked at him interestedly. "What such ways are these?"

"There is a thing I can do...I believe you would like it...but..."

AmunNefer watched him curiously. "Go on."

"I would not injure you lord, not for anything." He looked concerned. "I would like to make you feel good again, but some find the technique unacceptable" At AmunNefer's curious nod of permission, Iskander kissed him, caressing the silver brush of hair at the temple and the soft cheek along the strong jaw. Then with the other hand, he brushed the soft sheets aside to expose his master's nude body. He knew it well now. Since the battle, he had cared for the injured man, feeding him, bathing him, and massaging him to keep the lean muscles limber and warm. He gently lay a hand on the prominent hipbone, stroking the soft skin and traveling down to the limp organ as it lay in its nest of dark curls against the groin and testicles. At his touch, the older man caught his breath and then sighed as the slave once again kissed him, this time with no thought of chastity. With one hand still cupping the face and cheek and the other caressing the now awakening organ, Iskander used his mouth as an instrument of pleasure. Kissing, licking and suckling first the mouth that sought him, then the soft skin and nipples that responded to him until finally finding the hard phallus that needed him, his touch, his stimulation. The slave knelt next to his precious owner, raising his eyes to be sure he was not offending his master's sensibilities by his actions. Their eyes met as he gently caressed the hard cock watching with pleasure as the Egyptian arched in his bed, his breath coming in small puffs of enjoyment and soft moans. The Greek used his one hand to squeeze and pull on the shaft, his other slipped down to stroke and fondle his beloved`s belly and chest. AmunNefer moaned softly, his body responding to the sensations. Then, slowly and carefully; watching for any negative response Iskander bend down and put his lips to his master's swollen penis. He drew it into his mouth and he gently sucked, swirling his tongue over the hypersensitive foreskin, drawing it in and out, worshiping it as he would a deity. He could hear his lord gasping out his need for this, for him. After only a few moments of pleasure, AmunNefer cried out softly and grasped Iskander by the hair holding him to the task unnecessarily. The younger man suckled him, swallowing his lover's essence, making him his. Then, finally, he released his master and looked upon the beloved face. "My Lord, are you well?"

"Yes, oh yes." AmunNefer answered him with a warm smile. Iskander was looking at him, concerned with the older man`s stillness.

"Is there pain? Did I..."

"No, no pain. I am well...I am more than well." The relaxed, sleepy looking man spoke. "I had not thought to experience anything like that again so soon." He caressed the face of the amazing young man. "Where did you learn such things?" He was surprised to see the color rise to Iskander's face. "What is wrong, sweet one?"

"My lord, please do not ask," the slave turned from his master's hand.

"Why? I do not understand?" His lover reached for him, "tell me what I have said to offend you."

"Master, you cannot offend a slave. I am only ashamed that I could not come to you without such stain upon me."

AmunNefer tried to shift in the bed to reach him, but pain twisted his features. Iskander immediately turned at the slight gasp of pain. "Lord, please, do not move. Let me help you."

"Only if you let me help you. Tell me what you are speaking of." The patient voice replied. "What is wrong?"

Iskander helped the General to a more comfortable position in his bed, but he would not meet the Egyptian's concerned eyes. Finally, after AmunNefer was settled again, he sat still on the edge of the bed. "Very well, you have asked, and I would deny you nothing." The blue eyes looked at him sadly. "Though you may well send me away after I speak of it." The young man took a deep breath. "You had asked what masters I have served. I told you a doctor, a scribe and a scholar." AmunNefer nodded for him to proceed. "I have also told you of my mentor that was killed. After the battle where I was captured and enslaved, I was sold on the block. My first owner was the owner of a brothel. I was an innocent, knowing only what my kind Theodorus had taught me of the physical acts. One day, I was sent to serve a Persian soldier. He did many injurious things to my body, forcing me to do what I considered unnatural acts upon him. I tried to refuse him, but he brought out his chariot whip and beat me senseless. That is where I got many of the scars upon my body. A physician was brought, a kind man like Lord Sinuei, and he took me from there and healed me. He was also Persian, and he also used my body. He tried to teach me that no acts are unnatural or evil in themselves, they are only used for terrible purposes." Iskander shrugged. "Later, when he died, I was sold to a scribe because I could read and write. He then gave me to a scholar for instructions in knowledge." He shrugged. "I have learned many things in my life as a slave. Certain things remain unclean to me, perhaps merely because of how I was taught them...by force and cruelty."

AmunNefer looked at him sadly and reached to push the golden hair away from this face. "Then why...?"

Iskander looked up at his master. "Lord, I...I would do anything to help you...anything to make you whole and well again. You have been a kind, loving master. I only wish that I could have come to you unstained by evil and unspoiled by cruelty. I can only hope that I do not disgust you."

"Pick up that packet." The General indicated the leather folder that Sinuei had left him. After he had it, the General motioned to him. "Open it and read."

The young man unrolled the Papyrus scroll, looked at it then looked up at AmunNefer speechlessly.

"Go on read it, so that I may be sure it is correct."

Iskander looked down on the Royal seal of the Egyptian court. "All citizens in the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egypt. AtenNefer of Amarna, General of the Army of the Upper Kingdom under the command of Horemheb, Commander of the combined armies of Upper and Lower Egypt during the reign of the Great King Atenaken, sun of the Aten and living god upon the lands. Be it known that due to his courage and service to Egypt, the Greek Slave known as Iskander is granted and is rewarded the status of free man and citizen of Egypt. He is owed a pension and the sum of..."

The words ran on, but Iskander could not read any more of them. AmunNefer lay watching the man who had been his slave as he stared at the document. "As you gave me my life in the desert, Iskander, now, I give you your. I no longer have any right to your life or death." AmunNefer said softly. "But I would ask you to stay here, with me. I can always use the talents of a scribe, a scholar and a physician."

Iskander could only look at AmunNefer, he was so stunned. He held in his hands the decree that not only freed him, but also gave him citizenship and small fortune.

"Well, scholar. Would you stay in my employ? The army will always have need of a wise and educated man." The General smiled at him. "Not to mention I will be needing someone to care for me while I am still in this condition."

"I...I would be pleased to serve the General as a freeman as I have as a slave." Iskander looked up at him from under lowered eyelashes. "In all the ways that I have as a slave. But, now, I do it willingly, not as a slave but as one with willingness and great joy in my heart."

AmunNefer smiled at him. "Then stay, friend. I have need of you in all ways."

*******

Jack awoke late the next morning. Daniel was already gone, his side of the bed occupied by Lacy. He gazed at her obvious enjoyment of her other boss's warm spot next to him. Something was niggling at the back of His mind. Something Daniel had said.about fixing their generator or light bulbs or something.

Almost as if on cue the smiling Doctor Jackson arrived with breakfast tray in hand. "Hi there."

"Hi yourself." Jack looked at him suspiciously. "Daniel, about last night."

"Breakfast?" He sat the food down in front of O'Neill. "Fresh blueberry muffins."

"Daniel, we've got to talk."

"I put some butter on them all ready. And we've got the cream Mrs. Lyles sent over."

"Daniel."

"Do you want to go in and do some shopping..."?

"Daniel, please. Listen to me."

"Yes, Jack?"

"Danny, we need to talk."

Daniel immediately put the tray of food down and sat next to Jack on the edge of the bed. "What's wrong, Jack? Are you all right? Did I hurt you last night? I knew it was too soon."

"No Daniel, I'm fine." Jack stroked his arm to calm him. "I just," now, in the morning's light, his fears seemed too fantastic but he pressed on. "I'm still trying to figure something out here." He stopped Daniel from moving by putting a hand on his thigh. "Daniel. You know I love you, more than anything, but" he took a deep breath. "Daniel, are you all right?"

"Me? Of course. Why do you ask?"

"The other day when Maybourne showed up again, " He paused, Daniel nodded. "You got mad...and you were, well, glowing... like you did back at the Mountain. Then, last night, when we, when you..." He searched for words, and his lover watched him with trepidation in his eyes. "Well, what I mean is, what happened with the lights last night?"

Daniel looked at him for a long moment. Then he dropped his eyes, a nervous habit that Jack recognized from a long time ago when they had first become part of SG1. Finally, the younger man bent and kissed him. "Jack, I can't explain it...I guess Sam could find out what it is with enough tests, but I really didn't want to stay there any longer." He took a deep breath. "I think it's a kind of residual EM field. Normally, it's not there, but I've noticed when I'm... excited, it shows up..." He looked worriedly at O'Neill. "I'm still me Jack. I haven't changed." He wrapped his arms around his chest in the classic Jackson self-hug.

Jack looked at him seriously for a second, then raised an eyebrow. "So, you're really not Thor?"

Daniel looked at him oddly, but didn't answer.

O'Neill let a little grin cross his face. "You're not Omac?"

Daniel raised his own eyebrow.

"You're not Lya?"

A small ghost of a grin brushed across Daniel's expression. "No, and before you ask...I'm not Orlin, or Skarra, or Freya either."

"Eeewwwh!" O'Neill made a terrible face. "Thank god, I would have to kill someone then. Yuck!"

"Oh, come on, Jack." Daniel shy entered into the joke. "At least it was the host who wanted you. It was Anise that wanted me!"

"Eeewwwh again." He caught Daniel around the waist and pulled him down on top. "As long as you're you, Daniel Jackson and you're all right, I don't care if you glow." He looked at Daniel, then stroked his cheek with his index finger. "I was just afraid that you might, I don't know, leave. I couldn't stand it, Danny. I never want to be without you again, I never want to be without this... again."

"You'll never have to, I promise." He looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry if I scared you. I should have told you, but...well, I just wanted us to be normal. I was afraid that you...well, you'd treat me differently, or worse."

"You thought I'd what...be afraid of you?" Jack asked.

"No, Jack, not afraid." He smiled fondly at the older man. "You're not afraid of anything. Just maybe you wouldn't...trust me... anymore. Wouldn't want me anymore."

"God, Danny. The only thing I'm afraid of is you leaving." Jack reached up and stroked his face. "Don't ever leave me. I couldn't stand it again."

"No fear of that, love." Daniel smiled down at him. "You're stuck with me."

"I like the sound of that." He pulled the younger man down next to him in a hug. "I like it a lot."

A cold wet black nose insinuated itself between their faces. Lacy pushed gently between them and licked them both, whimpering softly. Her bosses were sounding upset and she didn't like it. Jack looked at the puppy and laughed. "There, see what we've done? We've upset the dog."

 

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Chapter 19
Forever may not be long enough for this love; Forever, Forever, Forever.

ROCK MOUNTAIN, MINNESOTA
Jack, Teal'c and Narim was sitting on his back deck of the cabin with their morning beverage of choice. Jack was nursing a cup of coffee, Narim a chocolate milk, and Teal`c his orange juice. The three men were watching Daniel and Sam playing with the pup, Lacy. The two were tossing a Frisbee back and forth and the pup would try to snatch it from the air or get to it before her playmates when they failed to catch the toy and it landed in the grass.

Narim was amazed and fascinated with the entire scene before him. The two attractive humans, their canine companion, the woods, the cabin, the birdsong, the fresh air and everything else he was seeing for the first time. Teal'c was watching like a doting uncle, and Jack was as proud of everything as if he had built it all himself strictly to show off to alien visitors.

Finally, Daniel and Sam, worn out by the exercise, jogged over to the deck and stretched out prone on the hard wood flooring. Lacy looked up at Jack for a moment but then lay down next to Daniel, tongue lolling.

"So, Jack..." Narim pronounced O'Neill's given name precisely. "This building, all of this area has been in your lineage for centuries?"

Jack had to smile at the terms. "Well, only about one hundred and fifty years. My Great Grandfather came here in the mid-eighteen hundreds. He's the one who built the original part of the cabin and filed the land claim." He took another drink of coffee. "He and the Sioux Indians. Unfortunately the government at that time didn't recognize the Indians claim. So the only one of the tribe left was my Great-great grandmother."

"Was that the O'Neill?" Daniel asked curiously.

"No, actually he was a Swede." Jack answered. "I think he fancied himself one of the old Vikings. O'Neill came in later looking for gold and married his daughter. My father was their son. That's the origin of the family name in the U.S."

Daniel nodded with a grin. "A typical American."

"Exactly, just like Lacy. A little bit this and a little bit that."

"Sir, uh, Jack." Carter had to laugh. "Are you saying we're mutts?"

"In the best tradition, Sam. It's called hybrid vigor." He laughed. "Carter, that's an English name isn't it?" At her nod, he continued. "And Jackson, that's Scots or Scotch-Irish but Nick Ballard was, is Dutch."

The Tollan was looking confused. Daniel sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees. "Don't worry about it, Narim. We are too young as a race to take ourselves too seriously." He glanced at Carter. "Anyone for a swim?"

Sam sat up too, "That sounds wonderful. Where at?"

"The lake, of course. Save us from a shower later."

"Oh, I don't know about that." She looked up at O'Neill. "Does that hot tub work?"

"Hot tub. Sam, that's a live bait container." Jack protested with a laugh. "You wanna boil my minnows?"

"No, I want to use your Jacuzzi." She stood up and stretched. "After we take that swim. I'll leave all that kinky stuff to Daniel."

O'Neill not to be bested gave her his evilest grin. "Then you'd better take Narim and Teal'c swimming with you, while I go take care of Daniel."

"No, I'm going swimming with Sam." Daniel got to his feet and offered the woman his hand. As she stood up, he pulled on her arm, ducked quickly and slung her over his shoulder and started walking towards the lake. Lacy following behind, gamboling along behind Daniel's heels.

"Daniel, put me down!" Sam hung over his shoulder, thumping on his back with her closed fists. "Daniel, I need to get my swimming suit, Daniel!" He continued walking down the dirt path. "Teal'c!" She hollered. "Teal'c! Narim! Help me! Daniel, put me down!"

"You don't need a suit. Nobody's going to see you but us." Daniel replied calmly.

"Us? See me but us?" She continued on ranting as they went down the hill. "Narim, Jack, Teal'c, somebody help me!" No one on the deck moved. "Daniel Jackson, I'm gonna kick your butt all over this mountain."

"Not me," O'Neill yelled back. "I wouldn't get between you two on a dollar bet." As he watched his two `kids' going down to the lake, he looked around at the other two men. "I've got to go and check the mail and get something from the store. You two want to come with or stay here with the danger twins?"

Teal'c stood and nodded to O'Neill and Narim. "With your permission, I would like to perform a long quiet Kel-no-reem, O'Neill."

"Of course, T. Pick a comfy spot and ignore the rest of us." Jack smiled.

The Jaffa gave him one of his small precious smiles and headed into the cabin to a quiet corner on a thick Persian rug.

Narim looked up at his host. "I would like to accompany you, Jack. Your planet is so beautiful; I would like to see more of it." He cast a worried eye down the path that Daniel and Sam had taken. "If you think they will be all right."

"Certainly and they'll be fine. Believe me, the only one in any danger here is anyone else who tries to get between them." Jack laughed as the two younger people disappeared down the trail towards Clear Lake.

*******

A short time later, when they reached the small store cum post office in Elk Horn, Jack and Narim entered the establishment. As he approached the counter the storeowner nodded pleasantly to him. "Morning Jack. Fresh coffee and donuts from the Missus on the stove over there, you and your friend help yourself."

"Morning Bill. Thanks." Jack pointed a thumb at Narim. "This is a Narim, a friend of mine from overseas."

"Nice ta meet ya, Narim. Welcome to Elk Horn."

"Thank you, Bill. It is wonderful to be here. You have a beautiful country."

"Yep, we like it mighty fine. Allus said Grand pap showed remarkable good sense to come here. Well, any friend of Jack and Daniel's is allus welcome, so make yerself ta home."

Jack went through the `grocery' aisle and picked up some bittersweet chocolate, several cans of peaches and some other items. As he came back up to the counter, Bill reached back to some cubbyholes in the back bar. "Got you some important looking papers, here Jack. From some publishing company in New York City. And a box from the same address, good and heavy."

O'Neill put the rest of his items on the counter and took the mail, thumbing through the stack of ads, bills and various other things. He took the heavy manila envelope and glanced at the return address. Sure enough it was the one where Daniel had submitted his book. "Well, Danny will be happy to see this. We hadn't heard anything and he was beginning to get a little disappointed." He commented to Narim as Bill added up his total and rang it up. After they had paid for the groceries he and Narim carried the food, the mail and the package out to the big Ford truck.

On their way back up to the cabin, Narim was looking at Jack curiously. "Why would Daniel be disappointed if you did not receive a letter?"

"Oh, it's actually his. He wrote a book, a fiction book, and sent it to a publishing company. He's been waiting to hear from them for several weeks now." Jack grimaced. "He has issues with living off my retirement without adding any income to the household, like I could care less."

"So, he can make money from writing this book?"

"Well, if people buy it. I've read it, its pretty good if a bit of a fantasy." Jack laughed. "I don't think things were quite as easy back in ancient Egypt, but then, people don't want to read about depressing stuff. We get enough of that in everyday life."

"I see," Narim had a thoughtful look on his face. "So, anyone can write these books?"

"Yashuryabettcha." Jack glanced at him sideways. "Of course, you couldn't mention any real Top Secret stuff. It would have to be all fiction, all made up adventures."

"Oh, I understand of course. I could not mention the Stargate or any such true stories."

"Yep, you'd have to change them." He smiled at his friend. "When you get back to Colorado, have Sam take you to the library and show you what's been done. You could very well have a good idea there."

*******

When they arrived back at the cabin, Lacy was on the porch with a still damp Sam and a refreshed looking Teal'c. The scent of dinner was filling the air. The two men carried their packages into the living room. The others followed.

"Daniel, you've got mail from Knapsack Publishing." Jack called out. "Looks like a check, and a big honking box."

Daniel came out of the storeroom; flour still smudged on his hands and face. "Really?"

"Yeah, really. I swear Daniel, you wear as much as you cook with." Jack wiped the white powder off his partner's forehead and nose.

"Sam was helping me cook." He made a face at Carter who grinned back. "Where's the envelope?"

"That's just for throwing me into the lake with all my clothes on." She responded with a grin.

Jack looked at Daniel. "I thought you two were going skinny dipping."

"She fought too hard when I tried to take her clothes off." He shrugged. "It's just as well, makes it easier to stay faithful to you."

Jack looked back and forth between the two of them with a mock look of horror on his face. "Here, and I love you too." He handed it off to the younger man and the rest of them waited with interest.

Nervously, Daniel used a steak knife to slit the heavy paper of the envelope. He drew out several pages of fine stationary and a check. He started reading the letter; Jack took the check from his flour- smeared hand.

"Nice, Danny. This is for five thousand dollars." Jack nodded agreeably. "I guess I`ll have to keep you in spite of your attempted infidelity. What's the letter say?"

He looked up and smiled broadly. "Well, it's an advance check. The book will be printed in hardback for the first year, then go to paperback. They've also sent a contract for a second volume, either a sequel to this one or another book of a similar nature." He looked up with a worried frown. "They want me to do some appearances, but....."

"But right now, you've got a book in print...right?"

"Yes. Yes, I do." He hugged Jack. "Or at least Jonathan O'Neill does." He looked up at his lover. "You could do the appearances, Jack. Nobody would know the difference."

"Oh, no you don't...I'm retired, remember." He smiled down at Daniel. "That's our excuse. A retired old warhorse who's gone to pasture and won't come out of the barn."

Carter had been worrying the large cardboard box. "Open it, Daniel. Let's see the finished product."

Daniel took the knife and carefully slit the packing tape and folded the flaps back off of the box. There, neatly packed, were twenty hardback copies of "DESERT STARS, a novel of ancient Egypt." There was a full color cover on the volume with a picture of the pyramids, a temple and two men. One of the men was dark skinned, wearing a linen head cloth, an Egyptian kilt and breastplate. The other was a fair-skinned blond, wearing a very skimpy toga like costume. They were both standing in a chariot pulled by two horses, a chestnut and a gray.

Daniel looked at it calmly. "That scene is not in the book." He complained.

Jack laughed, "I don't think it has to be. It's called poetic license." He looked over the younger man's shoulder and put his arms around Danny's waist.

Sam picked up one of the books. "Can I have one Daniel?" She opened it to the flyleaf. "It'll save me...thirty-five dollars and ninety five cents."

"Sure, that's what these are for...to give to friends." Daniel nodded. "Take one to Janet too."

"But don't give it to Cassie yet." O'Neill remarked. At Daniel's expression, he smiled. "I've read it remember, too racy." He pickup up a copy and studied the picture. "Hey, do you have one of those toga thingys?"

Daniel looked over his shoulder at him. "Not yet. Do you have a kilt?"

Sam started reading the flyleaf aloud. "The story of two men, their lives torn asunder, who find new hope and high passion in the court of the Great Pharaoh and under the DESERT STARS of Egypt. A must read for all historical romance fans!" She looked over at him as he was rereading the letter. "Sweet, Daniel."

Jack smiled at her, his chin on Daniel's shoulder. He turned his head slightly and kissed Daniel's ear. He shivered at the contact. "Yes, yes he is."

*******

That evening, the two had left their friends for a while and gone up to their cave on top of Rock Mountain. They were sitting outside reclining against a large tree, Jack's flannel clad back against the rough bark, Daniel was sitting between Jack's legs and leaning on him. They were looking up at the clear night sky. The stars were doing their best to outshine each other.

Jack pointed to a certain cluster, "There, there's Abydos, Daniel. Where it all started for us."

"Yes," He leaned his head back against Jack's shoulder. "There's Kasuf and Skarra and my lovely Sha'uri." he replied sadly. "I miss not being able to go there, but that's the only place."

Jack kissed him, understanding Daniel`s poignant emotions. "I'd like to see the Nox again. I really liked them." Daniel nodded and the two of them sat without talking for a long while. Then, a shooting star passed overhead. "There, look!" He looked down at Daniel resting his chin on the younger man`s shoulder. "Anybody you know?"

"Could be." He responded noncommittally.

Jack thought a moment. "They're keeping an eye on us, aren't they?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I imagine they check on us every so often, just to be sure I'm doing my job taking care of you."

The older man smiled into his lover's hair and kissed him on the ear. "You're doing a wonderful job."

"Thanks."

"So, what's the next book gonna be about?"

"Oh, I think it'll be a sequel. I kind of liked AmunNefer and Iskander."

"I do too. Lot's of potential there."

"Um hum." Daniel got to his feet and reached down for Jack. O'Neill clasped the hand and climbed to his feet.

"Where we going?"

Daniel indicated the cave. "Research."

"Oh yeah? I like research."

"I know. Come on." Daniel's blue eyes sparkled in the moonlight.

"Daniel."

"Jack."

"You're glowing."

"I know." He smiled. "You make me glow."

*******

The Egyptian moon shown through the window and across the writing desk. It reached it's light fingers into the room and touched the two nude figures lying entwined in each other's arms. The soft linen bedcovers had been pushed to the foot of the bed. AmunNefer, second high General of the Armies of Egypt, lay watching his lover curled peacefully in his arms. The moon light made him appear as if the pale white skin was glowing with a pearl luminescence. It was a sight he never grew weary of. Then he realized Iskander was awake, the blue eyes sparkling, as he smiled up at his General. AmunNefer moved to take the seductive mouth in a kiss and Iskander opened his arms and welcomed him to passion. Above, a shooting star crossed the night sky.

The End