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Push Comes to Shove

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The push was enough to propel Daniel a few feet backward, slamming him up against the cliff side. Daniel couldn't hide the shock from Jack. His stunned expression fading, he trained his gaze on Jack and touched his own tingling lips with a shaky hand.

"What the hell was that for?" Jack said.

It was the wrong place and the wrong time. Daniel knew that the moment he made his move. They were off world, for one thing, and Jack was always all business during a mission. Then there was the whole being straight thing. Daniel hadn't forgotten that part, but he'd thought for sure... He hadn't known what he'd thought. All he knew was that he'd looked into Jack's eyes and seen that expression, the one that Jack reserved only for Daniel. The express made Daniel shiver just at the sight. Moreover, for a second there, when Jack had cried out his name and grabbed his jacket to prevent Daniel from slipping over the edge of the cliff and tumbling to his death, Daniel had thought this was it, that he'd die without ever feeling Jack's lips on his.

"I...I just thought..." Daniel didn't know what to say. Based on Jack's reaction, he hadn't thought. Daniel's heart pounded in his chest and his throat closed up.

Jack glared at him and stepped away, yanking his sunglasses from his face and tucking them into his shirt.

"For someone with all those degrees, you're pretty damn stu...." He shook his head.

Daniel noticed that Jack stood balanced on the edge of the cliff, one booted foot planted just atop the loose rocks. Daniel watched a few pebbles spill over the edge and felt his heart leap at the thought that Jack might tumble over, but Jack took a surefooted step away from the edge, showing no concern for his precarious position.

Daniel turned away, wanting to hide the hurt, embarrassment, and humiliation. He pulled his glasses off and examined them for smudges. There was a distinct smudge on the left lens, probably from Jack's nose.

"I need to check on my men," Jack said. His voice was calm, as though nothing had happened just a few minutes before. "You'll be okay." It wasn't a question so much as a statement. They didn't know if there were hostiles in the area but, boy, Daniel had picked the wrong time and wrong place to make his grand gesture. Despite the calm tone of Jack's voice, Daniel could sense the tension and anger.

Daniel tensed, nodded, and listened to Jack's retreating footfalls, wondering how he was ever going to look Jack in the eyes again. Daniel cleaned his glasses, slid them back on and took a deep breath. He'd misjudged. He'd screwed up, and the fallout would be horrible. Daniel took comfort in the fact that at least Jack hadn't shot him on the spot.

He'd tripped and fallen into Jack's arms, and they'd stayed like that for long drawn-out seconds that had ticked into minutes. First, their eyes had locked, and then their mouths had pressed together hot and rough. Daniel shook the memory from his mind and rubbed his eyes, cursing under his breath. He'd thought for sure at the time that Jack had initiated the kiss, but now he wasn't so sure.

He sat down on the rough, rocky side of the cliff, burying his face in his hands, ignoring the dirt and grit on his palms. The ground beneath his ass was hard and dusty, but Daniel ignored that too. He jumped when his radio squawked to life.

"Daniel."

Daniel's heart sped up at the sound of Jack's voice, his mouth too dry to respond.

"You'll have to make your way up on your own. Taylor twisted his ankle. We're going to have to take him back to the SGC. Out."

Daniel nodded as though Jack was there, and then realized he'd better respond, so he acknowledged that he heard and that he would make his own way to the top. He sat on his ass for a few more moments, imagining Jack getting farther and farther away from him. Daniel sighed and pushed himself up to stand, not bothering to dust the dust from his pants. He cleared his mind and concentrated on the mission. The aerial probe had spotted what looked to be a temple at the top of this cliff and though the terrain in the vicinity had looked dangerous, Jack had agreed to take Daniel up to investigate. He made his way toward it, being as careful as possible on the treacherous terrain because there was no Jack to save him this time.

Daniel stopped after hiking for a half hour and slid his pack from his back to pull out a bottle of water. The dry heat was starting to take its toll on him and, for the hundredth time, Daniel wished he'd begged off investigating this particular area. The first part of the expedition had been much more enjoyable with Jack around but, when walking alone filled with regret, the trip wasn't much fun. He shook the thoughts from his mind again, picked up his pack, and continued walking. Making his way up a steeper incline, Daniel tossed his pack ahead and hauled himself up. He rolled across the ground, realizing that there was soft grass beneath him. Daniel lay still, looking up into the clear blue, alien sky and marveling at how being off world never ceased to amaze him. He watched a few clouds pass by before he sighed, grabbed his pack, and stood to finish his trek.

The temple the UAV had spotted was just a few hundred feet from the cliff's edge. Daniel dropped his pack and pushed his glasses up his nose, staring open-mouthed at the ruins. He was going to be here for days, if not weeks. The planet seemed to be uninhabited, but the find was well worth reporting that they needed to study these ruins in detail. They were fantastic, and Daniel turned to see no one nearby, wishing he had someone there to exclaim what a wonderful discovery it looked to be. It was obvious that Jack wasn't coming back any time soon, so Daniel pushed the talk button on his radio.

"This is Daniel Jackson," he said, hoping someone was still on his side of the gate. "I made it to the hilltop." Daniel released the button and walked toward the ruins. It looked as though he was here alone and would have to make his way back to the gate on his own.

He retrieved his camera, popping the LED screen open and pressing record as he walked toward the temple. It looked to be ancient and he wasn't ready to speculate on who could have built the structure. Most of the pillars were intact, although a few lay on their sides and, as Daniel walked between the two main columns, he lowered the camera and bent to get a closer look at some of the writing on the pillar.

"Uh-oh," he muttered. He pressed the button on his radio. "Um, I have a possible theory about whom or what was once here." No one responded. Daniel ran his hand through his hair and turned to look behind him. The silence surrounded him and he felt a sudden prickle ride his spine, as if something or someone was watching him. "Hello? Is anyone still here other than me?" he called into his radio. There was still no response, and he thought that maybe he was out of range.

He walked back outside of the temple entrance. The sun was high in the sky and the heat intense. Daniel sighed and placed his hat on his head, then removed his jacket and set it down by his pack before lowering himself to the ground. His stomach rumbled in protest, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since early that morning before walking through the gate. Daniel checked his watch, tapping the face. It was useless off world, but at least he knew that on Earth it was three in the afternoon.

"I could get used to this." Daniel inhaled the sweet, clean air. He squinted up at the sky, noticing that there were no birds chirping or insects. They had yet to encounter any form of life, animal or otherwise, and Daniel thought that to be peculiar. With the camera still rolling, Daniel pointed the lens at the temple. "It's strange that there was once a civilization here and yet there are no signs of life of any kind," he said just to say something. His stomach rumbled, taking that moment to remind him of the need for sustenance.

He pressed the pause button and set the camera aside. Rummaging in his pack, Daniel pulled out a power bar, tore open the wrapper, and took a bite. As he chewed on his dry meal his mind flashed back to earlier, and the stunned expression on Jack's face after the incident burned in his brain. The look of shock that had morphed to distaste then disgust was undeniable. Pulling off his glasses, Daniel rubbed his eyes, trying to rub the image from his mind, but it stayed there on the back of his retinas, seared like a permanent etching.

Giving up on the futile scrubbing, Daniel swallowed the dry lump of food that had stuck in his throat. "Stop that. Just stop that." It was pointless to dwell on the moment. It was his damned fault. He'd misinterpreted the signals he'd thought Jack had been broadcasting.

Finishing the bar, Daniel gulped some water, setting everything down in a shaded area before standing to continue filming. He slipped his glasses back on his face, and turned to walk into the heart of the ruins. The inside was dark but once Daniel's eyes adjusted to the dim sunlight filtering in from the entryway, he noticed the writing on all four walls. He started at the sound of his radio squawking to life. A voice came over the speaker, but static made it hard for Daniel to understand what it was saying. He moved out of the temple and the static cleared.

It was Jack and he sounded pissed. "Where the hell are you, Daniel?"

"I'm at the top of the hill. There are ruins here and, based on the writings I've found, I think this place was once inhabited by Ra."

Neither of them had spoken that name in a long time. Ra was the first Goa'uld that they had killed on their first trip through the stargate.

There was a long pause on the other end before Jack replied. "Are you sure?"

Daniel glanced back at the temple. "I'm pretty sure." Daniel turned to the entrance and stared up at the telltale symbol etched on the stones. "Here is the temple of the prime God Ra," Daniel translated. "It's either prime or first or something similar to that.'Let all who enter perish in flames. He who dares to defile shall be put to death'."

"Sounds like our snakehead. Daniel, don't move and for god's sake, do not go inside the temple. I'm on my way up to you. Don't do anything until I get there to assess the situation."

Daniel felt his heart speed up at the thought that he would have to face Jack. He took a deep breath and decided that he could be professional. There was no need to bring up the incident. The likelihood of Jack bringing it up was slim to none anyway, and besides, they had something much more important to focus on.

Daniel hesitated for only a moment before he walked back into the temple. He'd already entered once and nothing had happened, so he saw no harm in going back inside to start his translations. He pulled out a small notepad and pencil he kept in his breast pocket and moved in closer to the wall beside the entrance. It wasn't long before he was lost in his work. So focused on his work, Daniel didn't hear anyone enter until someone tapped his shoulder from behind. Daniel jumped, spinning around. He fumbled for his handgun but couldn't manage to pull the gun from its holster.

"Sorry, I just…." Daniel leaned against the wall, and sighed with relief. He straightened his glassed that had gone askew in his haste.

"You would have been long captured or killed if I'd been a bad guy," Jack said, waving his hand. "I thought I told you not to enter the temple." His posture was tense, contradicting Jack's casual tone. They made eye contact for a brief moment where Daniel wasn't sure what to make of Jack's expression, and then Jack turned his gaze away from Daniel.

"I'd already been inside before you told me not to enter and nothing happened," Daniel said, pushing his glasses up his nose.

Jack spun in a circle, taking in their surroundings. He had his P90 ready just in case.

"This place looks...old," Jack said.

Daniel watched as Jack examined the writings on the wall.

"Oh, hey," said Jack, stopping in front of the far wall. "This looks familiar." He pointed up at something on the wall that Daniel couldn't see from his angle. Daniel moved closer, careful not to invade Jack's personal space.

"Gate addresses," Daniel mumbled. He stared up at the symbols bunched in groups of seven with a few in groups of eight. Jack stepped aside to allow Daniel to move in closer, reach up and run his fingers over the symbols. "Could you get my camera?" He pointed in the vague direction of his pack, not bothering to look behind him.

"Yes, sir," Jack said with a hint of sarcasm.

Daniel paused in his examination of the symbols and swiped a hand across his sweaty face, keeping his back to Jack. His heart sped up, and he froze in place. Maybe they needed to talk this through before they could move forward. Daniel turned to face Jack and swallowed the heavy lump that had formed in his throat.

Jack paused a few feet from Daniel, holding out the camera. They stood like that for a moment, a hush falling between them.

"Jack," Daniel felt his heart rate increase again as he spoke the name. The memory of the expression on Jack's face flashed through Daniel's mind, and the unmistakable look of annoyance in Jack's eyes halted anything else Daniel was about to say.

Jack thrust the camera toward Daniel, his expression making it clear that Daniel should just take it and not say another word. Deciding that this was not the venue for this conversation, Daniel took the camera, turned back to the wall, and began to film the symbols, making sure to get them all, including the odd eight-grouped symbols.

"Shouldn't there only be seven?" Jack said.

Daniel ignored Jack's question, although he couldn't resist commenting on the find. "I'm not sure if these are new coordinates that we've never seen before but, if I get these back to Sam, maybe she'll figure it out. Maybe one of these addresses is a planet with some big space guns." Daniel smirked a little at his own voicing of what he knew Jack was thinking.

"That would be cool," Jack said.

Daniel could almost hear the eyebrow quirk. He heard shuffling behind him as he panned the camera around the room, capturing all the details until Jack appearing in his viewfinder. Jack smiled and waved his fingers at the camera then stuck his tongue out. Daniel felt warmth grow in his chest at Jack's antics, knowing he was so doomed when it came to the other man. With a sigh, he lowered the camera and turned it off.

"We should probably get back to the 'gate. I'm sure Hammond is tingly with anticipation over what we've found here," Jack said. He turned toward the entryway before Daniel had a chance to say a word. It was obvious that there was going to be no arguing with Jack about what to do next. Daniel wanted to stay and keep translating the symbols, but he wasn't in the mood for a fight. He walked to his pack and crouched to stuff his camera inside its case.

"So, you told him how important this find could be," Daniel said without looking up at Jack.

When there was no response, Daniel looked up to find Jack staring at him with an inscrutable expression on his face. Jack shrugged and waved a hand in the air. "Sure," he said with another shrug of his shoulders.

Daniel sighed and stood, hoisting his pack onto his shoulder. He walked across the room, pausing when he heard a distant humming. There was no time to say or do anything. A flash of brilliant light filled the air. Daniel heard Jack shout his name just before a heavy weight threw Daniel on his ass. The weight was Jack sprawled across Daniel. They both looked over at the spot where Daniel had stood moments before, to find the ground covered in scorch marks with tendrils of smoke still wafting up from the stone ground.

Daniel became aware that something hard and sharp was jammed against his side. He felt a sticky wetness there as well and, for a moment, Daniel had a crazy thought that maybe Jack had done something on purpose just to get close, but then the pain hit. Daniel only managed to moan, "Jack," before everything went black.

*

Warmth enveloped Daniel, and his eyes felt sticky in that way when he'd slept to long. He felt better than good, but he shouldn't have, because the last thing he remembered was some beam of light on the surface of that planet cutting into his side. He couldn't remember the planet's designation, or why it had happened, but he was sure that he should be dead, again.

Daniel opened his eyes to a brightly lit room. He was in the infirmary; a place he saw much too often. Feeling a stab of pain in the back of his head, he closed his eyes with a groan. When he opened his eyes again, he realized that his glasses were gone so he couldn't see much beyond fuzzy shapes. Raising his head, he looked around the room to find that he was alone, but not for long. Janet walked into the room and paused to check his chart. Daniel let his head fall back on his pillow with relief.

"Welcome back to the land of the living," Janet said with a small smile, though her brow creased in a frown. She set the chart down and took Daniel's vitals, lowering his wrist with caution after taking his pulse.

Daniel tried to speak, but talking was impossible so he lay still, following Janet's movements with his eyes. She stopped and stared down at him.

"You gave everyone quite a scare," she said, moving in close to lift his blanket. Daniel winced when pain shot up his side and he strained his neck to see. He was shirtless and a big bandage covered his torso. When Daniel touched his side, careful not to press too hard, he could feel a distant thrum of pain through his body. He let his arm drop to the bed, his muscles painfully tensed for a few moments before he could relax again.

"Jack," Daniel managed to say, his voice just a croak.

Janet didn't respond. She tucked the blanket around Daniel's torso and smiled before leaving him alone. Jack hadn't been there, not that Daniel expected that he would be. He was most likely busy with other stuff. After all, Jack was the leader of SG-1 and Daniel wasn't his first priority. He could almost convince himself of this, except for the fact that Jack always waited by his bedside all the other times Daniel sustained injures in the field. He could only conclude that Jack must still be angry about what had happened back on the rock ledge.

Daniel lifted an arm to rub at his tired eyes, thinking better of it when pain shot up his side. The meds were starting to wear off - and he wanted more - but he was too tired to reach for the call button. Feeling a prickle behind his eyes that he refused to acknowledge, Daniel closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift into semi-sleep. The pain grew with each passing minute, but still he refused to call for more meds. It wasn't so bad. He didn't need the meds. He could handle it. He concentrated on something else, something warm, soft, and painless like Jack's body pressed against his. In that too-short moment before the pain had hit, Daniel had felt elation at their forced closeness.

There was no denying how he felt about Jack, and now that he'd slipped up, allowing his feelings to see the light of day, he felt a terror deep inside. Turning his body to the left, his back sore from laying in one position, he wondered how long he'd been unconscious. He'd forgotten to ask Janet. He flinched when he picked up the call button and a sharper pain shot through him, making him temporarily rethink his position on the meds.

Janet marched into the room with purpose. She walked to the IV hooked to Daniel and checked the bag. "Hey," she said with her soft smile. Daniel felt warmth build in his chest at her concern as he fought the urge to flinch from the pain in his side.

"How long?" he asked.

"You've been out of it for a few days now," Janet said. She placed a gentle hand on his bare shoulder and held his gaze with her sympathetic eyes.

"That bad, huh?" Daniel said, unable to hide the flinch as he shifted under her hand. Janet didn't miss it and, before Daniel could protest, she released more pain medication into the IV drip. The effects were almost immediate, and Daniel sighed as the pain faded into a distant thrum just on the edge of his skin. He still ached but, within moments, there was nothing but numbness.

"You were hit with some sort of weapon meant to disintegrate all matter," Janet said. "You're lucky. If the beam had hit you full force, you would have been incinerated instantly."

Daniel swallowed hard, a sinking feeling deep in his chest. "A weapon," he muttered. "That's ...great." Disappointment filled him, and he closed his eyes. "I think I'm going to sleep now." He felt a wonderful blackness envelop him and, just before the world faded, he thought he heard the sound of familiar footfalls.

*

When Daniel woke again, the room was dark. He cleared his throat and shook the cobwebs from his head, taking deep calming breaths and tried to relax to allow his heart rate to calm. He'd been dreaming something about Jack pushing him over a cliff and telling him that he didn't belong on the team. The nightmare had felt all too real and brought back memories of when he'd been young and teased for being different. The derogatory taunts still haunted him, though he was long past those days when he was an outsider.

Daniel tried to sit up to reach for the cup of water next to him, but fell back, squeezing his eyes shut from the pain. It was coming back with a vengeance. He felt a cool, dry hand pick up his own hand and place the cup of water against his palm.

"Thanks," Daniel said, tilting his head forward without opening his eyes to see who had helped. The straw met his mouth and he sucked greedily, feeling relief at the cool water sliding down his dry throat. Thirst temporarily sated, Daniel cracked his eyes open to see that the helping hands were familiar. He released the straw and relaxed, allowing his head to fall back on the soft pillow.

Jack sat perched on a seat next to the bed, leaning forward, the cup in one hand. Daniel watched Jack set the cup down, their gazes locked. Jack was close enough that, even without his glasses, Daniel could see his expression.

"You scared the crap out of me back there," Jack said with a soft tone. He touched Daniel's shoulder tentatively then withdrew his hand, a feeble smile playing across his lips. "I'm pretty sure I ended up with some more grey hairs because of you."

"I'm...." Daniel dry swallowed the rest of his sentence.

"I know," Jack interrupted. He placed a finger to his own lips in a shushing motion. "You're sorry you got blasted by some alien space doohickey and you won't let it happen again." His brown eyes revealed worry rather than the dark humor his words implied.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. "No, I mean," he struggled with his words. He didn't usually have so much trouble speaking, but somehow Jack managed to twist Daniel's tongue up in knots. Daniel had only recently come to recognize why. "I'm sorry about what happened before, on the way up to the ruins."

"Ah, ah," Jack raised a finger. "Don't." He made a slashing motion with his hand. "We don't talk about that. Never happened. I just want you to get better."

Daniel nodded. At least he knew where things stood, that there was no chance of Jack reciprocating any of his feelings. He had to admit that, deep down he'd always known that was the case. He'd just hoped. This was just a silly crush, and Daniel could get past that. It was time to move on. The team was too important and his feelings didn't factor in. He could deal. He had to deal, because there was no other choice.

"Stop that," Jack said, pulling Daniel from his reverie. "I know you, and I order you to stop thinking right this second. You need to rest and recover because you have to help figure out this new big honking space gun that you found. Carter needs you to decipher the language on those walls."

It was suddenly too much to deal with. "Teal'c can do that," Daniel said, turning his gaze from Jack's scrutinizing stare, wishing that Jack would leave him in peace. He closed his eyes and shifted his body away from Jack, schooling his breathing and hoping that Jack would get the hint.

"You better not be tiring out my patient, Colonel," Janet said. She walked around to the other side of the bed and checked Daniel's pulse.

"What? Me, never," Jack said.

"How's the pain?" Janet asked.

Daniel opened his eyes and forced a feeble smile to let her know that he was just fine.

"You let me know if it gets worse."

Daniel nodded and watched while Janet removed the IV needle from his arm. The pain of the needle sliding from his skin didn't register. Janet gave him a comforting grin and patted his arm. She disappeared from his view and he heard her footfalls retreat without another word. The room was silent for a moment before Jack spoke.

"Guess I'll leave you to rest," Jack said followed by the scrape of his chair.

Daniel felt his heart thud in his chest, wishing he could ask Jack to stay, knowing it would come out sounding wrong. There was no way he would beg. Jack would see it as a weakness, and that was the last thing Daniel wanted. It was bad enough that he'd let his true feelings slip.

Staring at the out-of-focus wall, Daniel fiddled with the scratchy bed sheets, wishing that he wasn't in the infirmary glad that at least he no longer had a tube in his arm. His mind drifted to thoughts of the planet and the ruins. Even though the walk up the steep rocky cliffs had been treacherous, Jack had said yes to it because Daniel had wanted to investigate the ruins. They'd gone alone, just the two of them with the extra team members ten minutes behind them, and then it had happened.

Daniel shook his head, trying to clear out the memory. He needed to keep his mind off Jack and their nonexistent relationship and figure out what he'd missed in that room and how he'd triggered the weapon. He sighed with disappointment thinking that instead of learning more about the ancients and other off world cultures, he'd only found more death. He muttered, "Sometimes I'm such an idiot," then began mumbling the symbols he could remember seeing on the walls in a short meditative chant.

"You know, it's not that bad."

Startled by Jack's voice, Daniel's heart raced, and he cursed to himself for letting his guard down. He hadn't even realized that Jack was still in the room. His head felt fuzzy and the pressure on his bladder was beginning to hurt. Daniel had planned to wait for Jack to leave before attempting a go at the bathroom, but he couldn't wait any longer. He needed to pee in a bad way, and he wasn't about to give Jack more blackmail material by ignoring it.

Daniel pushed the blankets away, realizing that he was dressed in nothing but briefs and bandages, but then he noticed a hospital gown folded under the sheets. He managed to sit up without too much pain, paused long enough to take a few deep breaths, and then slid the gown on. He couldn't tie the back shut, but he didn't care. Jack moved around the bed to stand in front of him, his concerned gaze forcing Daniel to look away in embarrassment.

"I need to..." Daniel motioned toward the general direction of the facilities, and he caught a nod out of the corner of his eye. He slid forward and off the bed, setting his bare feet down on the cool floor. He didn't bother to hide his wince from the pain, keeping his focus on the floor when he took his first step. His knee gave out, but Daniel recoiled away from Jack's attempt to help, reaching to lean on the bed instead.

"Let me help you, Daniel," Jack said.

Daniel swallowed the pain and shook his head, but didn't resist when Jack helped him to stand up straight. He'd learned the hard way that there was no sense in fighting Jack. He would do what he wanted, Daniel's own feelings be damned. Ignoring Daniel's cringes, Jack slid his arm around Daniel's waist and slung Daniel's arm over his shoulder. They walked together one step at a time, at Daniel's pace, to the doorway, where Daniel slipped his arm from Jack's shoulder even though he would have liked nothing more than to continue to rely on Jack's help. He had to stand on his own feet and, besides, there was no way Jack was coming into the bathroom with him.

Jack held the door to the small room open and waited while Daniel made his way into the bathroom, then he released the door so it slid shut on smooth, silent hinges. Daniel breathed a sigh of relief and turned around in the room, using the bar on the wall beside the toilet to support his weight.

"This may take a while," Daniel called out. "You might want to go get something to eat or maybe go for a drive... or something." Daniel muttered that last part under his breath. There was no response, and Daniel hoped that Jack had taken his advice. In the meantime, he had some unpleasant business to take care of.

In the end, he was much quicker than he'd thought, though Daniel could feel the pain meds wearing off. He wanted to get back in his bed as soon as possible and swallow down a few of the pills Janet was sure to have left by his bedside.

Daniel moved over to the sink, leaning forward to stare at his own reflection. He looked terrible, his eyes hollow and his skin mottled and grey, like something dead. He couldn't help thinking that maybe if he was lucky, that beam had turned him into a zombie and the SGC would have to kill him, which would at least put him out of his misery.

He leaned forward, leaning his bare hip against the cold porcelain of the sink, and turned the hot water tap first then the cold water. When his gown slid from one shoulder, Daniel pushed it back up, bending his head. He lost his grip and fell forward, his sore side slamming against the wall. Daniel cried out in pain, and then jumped when the door flew wide open, Jack rushing in to help Daniel. He struggled and fought Jack's viselike grip, but gave in when it became apparent that he would lose his tenuous footing if he continued to fight Jack's help.

"Here, I'm not going anywhere," Jack mumbled, leaning close to Daniel and allowing Daniel to put his weight on Jack. "I've got you."

Daniel kept his head bent, took one faltering step after another. His eyes burned and he squeezed them shut tight as he allowed Jack to help him back to the bed. Each step was a testament to agony, and Daniel fought the pain in silence for as long as he could before giving in to a deep groan. Jack pulled the back of the gown closed and helped ease Daniel back onto the bed without a word.

Daniel muttered 'thanks' under his breath while Jack fussed with the sheets, tucking them around Daniel. Daniel didn't miss the fact that Jack was careful not to make skin contact. He'd even caught Jack's wince when his bare hand had touched Daniel's bare arm. On the other hand, he wondered if he was just imagining things. Jack had never seemed to mind before, so why would he now?

"Thanks," Daniel said again, reaching out for the water cup. His clumsy sausage fingers grazed the cup and it tipped over the edge, clattering to the floor. The water spilled down the side of the bed, and Daniel clenched his fists in frustration. "Fuck."

"Hey," Jack said, rushing to get the fallen cup. He vanished into the bathroom and returned with the cup refilled. "No need for that sort of language." Jack held the cup up so that Daniel could take a sip. Daniel motioned to the meds that, sure enough, sat on the bedside table. Jack read the label and retrieved two of the pills. He startled Daniel by holding them to Daniel's mouth. After a brief moment where their gaze's locked and they exchanged cryptic looks, Daniel parted his lips and allowed Jack to slip the pills past them. His dry fingers grazed against Daniel's bottom lip, and Daniel thought that they almost lingered for longer than necessary. He licked his lips and Jack pulled back, cleared his throat and looked away from Daniel.

"That's easy for you to say," Daniel said, responding to Jack's comment of a few moments before. He quirked his lips, but his smile morphed into a grimace of pain and he shifted on the bed to get more comfortable. Jack leaned forward as though he meant to help somehow, though Daniel was unsure how he could. He wished that he could read Jack's mind. "You're not the one in excruciating pain."

"Are you in that much pain?" Jack said turning to the doorway. "I could get the doc."

"No!" Daniel stopped him with a hand on Jack's arm. Daniel felt as though time had stopped as Jack stared down at the hand gripping his arm, the silence dragging on for far too long. His gaze trailed up to lock with Daniel's, and Daniel blinked and released Jack's arm, feeling his cheeks flame from embarrassment. Without another word, Jack backed out of the room and left Daniel alone.

Daniel slammed his head against his pillow and cursed under his breath. It wasn't going to go away. He would have to switch teams, or worse, leave the Stargate program altogether. Daniel couldn't stop the bitter chuckle that escaped his lips. It seemed he'd already switched teams.

He rubbed his eyes and shook his head to try to erase the look in Jack's eyes, but he couldn't. It wasn't until the pain medication kicked in that he was able to drift into soft, sweet sleep, his mind blurred with equal measures of drugs and heavy emotions. His last thought just before sleep took him was of Jack and the undeniable tingle Daniel had felt when his fingers brushed Daniel's lips.

*

Daniel woke to agonizing pain, the ache in his side worse than before. The pills he'd taken weren't doing their job. Most of the room was in darkness and there was no one around, so Daniel struggled to lean toward the bedside table and snatch up the bottle of pills. Beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead at the effort, and Daniel lay back down taking long deep breaths. He'd been dreaming and his mind raced with the dream images; Jack pushing him away again, only in his dream, Jack had pushed him over the edge of the precipice.

Suddenly, unable to breathe, Daniel sucked in deep harsh breaths to stop panic from taking him. He needed to calm down. Daniel struggled to get the cap off the pill bottle, growling in frustration when it wouldn't open. He lay back with a sigh, staring at the ceiling, reviewing the facts. He wasn't dead at Jack's hands. It had only been a nightmare. He was still in pain from that stupid thing he'd found off world. He was resolved not to return to that world. There were too many bad memories associated with the place, and with any luck, he would still be in recovery by the time the SGC was finished with the planet.

He turned his attention back to trying to pry open the bottle. The stupid safety cap was adult-proof because, no matter how hard Daniel tried, he couldn't get the damned thing to open. Yanking as hard as he could manage, though it caused him more pain, the lid came off with a loud pop. Daniel cursed when most of the pills went skittering across the floor; thankful he'd managed to spill at least a few of the pills onto the bed. He picked up the four in his lap, put them in his mouth, and swallowed them dry. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing it wouldn't be long before they would numb the pain and send him back into a hopefully dreamless sleep.

Daniel closed his eyes, and tried not to dwell on his dream. Once he got back on his feet, he could decide what to do about his situation.

*

Someone was urgently calling his name and shaking him awake. Daniel groaned and opened his eyes, feeling groggy from the medicine he'd taken before falling asleep.

"Hey, Danny!" Jack said. He stood over Daniel, gripping him by the shoulders and shaking him. "Wake up!"

Daniel shoved at Jack's painful grasp, but didn't have the strength to move him. He gave up and let his hand fall to the bed, too tired to keep trying.

"I was asleep with no nightmares for the first time," Daniel griped. "You didn't have to wake me." He could feel the pain throb in his side, building to a dull ache that finished in his skull. Daniel placed a hand on his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" Jack said.

His tone set warning bells off in Daniel's aching head. He opened his eyes to find Jack hovering over him, the pill bottle clutched in his white-knuckled grip. Jack upending it to show that it was empty. Even without his glasses, Daniel could see that Jack was angry. Daniel blinked and squinted, glancing from the pill bottle to Jack. He motioned to his glasses on the table, and accepted them when Jack handed them over. Daniel slid them on and took the bottle, staring in confusion at his name and instruction printed on the label in clear bold letters.

"Wait," Daniel said, shaking the last vestiges of fog from his brain. "You think that I would...." he didn't even want to finish the sentence. He blinked up at Jack, astonished that his friend would ever think what Daniel couldn't say.

Jack took a few steps back, unable to look Daniel in the eyes. His gaze traveled a circuit of the room before falling onto the bottle in Daniel's hand. "I don't...no," Jack said.

Daniel wasn't sure because of the dim lighting of the room, but he thought Jack's cheeks had turned a light red. "You seriously thought that just because you...."

"Ah, ah, ah," Jack said, raising a hand to silence him. "Don't...."

Daniel felt anger building in him. He couldn't let this pass, had to say it. He sat up straighter, ignored the pain and crossed his arms over his chest. "You actually thought that because you rejected me that I would...." Daniel swallowed the words and cleared his throat, lowering his gaze to stare at the end of the bed. "I'm not going to do myself in simply because you don't feel the same way about me." There, he'd said it.

He tightened his arms around his chest. Daniel felt his heart race at the thought he'd spoken the words aloud, held his breath as he waited for Jack's reaction.

He glanced over the side of the bed and watched Jack's booted feet rock in place, just missing one of the dropped pills. Daniel raised his gaze until he looked over the rim of his glasses up at Jack. He couldn't quite make out Jack's expression, but knew he was struggling with what to say.

"You're awake," Janet said, bustling into the room. She stopped by Daniel's bedside and Daniel tried to see past her, but Jack had already turned away, his back to them. Janet picked up the empty bottle from where it lay on the bed. "Daniel? What's going on here?"

"I spilled the pills on the floor when I tried to open the bottle," Daniel said, keeping his tone cool and matter-of-fact. He directed a glare at Jack.

Janet checked on the floor then nodded, giving him one of her stern looks. "I'll have a refill brought in and get this cleaned up. Next time, call so that one of us can help."

Daniel nodded in agreement then lifted his arm to allow her to pull the sheet back and check his bandage. Other than a few hums and small grunts, she didn't say much. Her cool warm hands on Daniel's bare skin felt comforting and Daniel leaned toward her, staring up at Janet and batting his eyes at her in his usual flirtatious manner.

"What?" Janet asked with a wary tone.

"Nothing," Daniel said. He shrugged to emphasize his innocence.

"Every time you look at me that way, you want something that you know I can't give you," Janet said. She pressed down on the tenderness on his ribs and Daniel flinched.

"I was hoping that I could get out of here," Daniel said, batting his lashes again. He threw in his warmest smile. He was going insane lying in bed.

Janet smiled down at him and shook her head. She patted his shoulder and turned to face Jack, who hadn't left yet.

"Make sure he doesn't try to leave," Janet said. "There's something odd about the wound, and I need someone to keep a close eye on him."

"Yes, ma'am," Jack said.

Daniel turned his gaze away from Jack, contemplating the wall on the other side of the room instead. He tried to twist his body away too, but pain shot up his side and he flinched before he could ride it out without any outward sign. Yanking off his glasses, he let them fall to the bed. He didn't want to be able to see right then. He just wanted to be alone, and he wanted those damned pills.

"Could I at least get some work brought to me?" Daniel asked with a sigh.

"Nope, sorry, Daniel. You need to rest," said Janet.

By her tone, Daniel could tell that it was going to be a hard sell, and he didn't have the strength to fight her now. He turned to look up at her blurry image, squinting to see her better. She remained a blur, her expression a vague image hidden from him. He could have put his glasses back on, but that would require effort. Instead, Daniel closed his eyes and relaxed, letting his head fall to the soft pillow. Her footfalls echoed out the doorway and faded away. Daniel heard the distinct click of the door closing, followed by the scrape of the chair moving closer to the bed.

"So, I guess I'm keeping you company," Jack said with a cheerful tone.

Daniel stared down at his hands, resisting the urge to give in to his need to speculate on what Jack might be thinking. The continued uncomfortable silence was broken when a nurse returned to help him take his dose of medication. He could see Jack in his peripheral vision, a motion or gesture, an attempt to take the dose from the nurse so that Jack could finish what she'd started, but the nurse ignored the colonel in the room.

Daniel settled into the bed, closing his eyes. There was shuffling and then soft voices on the other side of the room. Daniel's fuzzy mind drifted and he mumbled something about cannon fire and how to activate a weapon. He thought that the weapon's purpose could be to destroy ships in orbit, a defense against mother ships - he remembered from what little writing he'd been able to read before the accidental activation.

Then he was drifting in darkness, the sound of distant voices calling to him.

"Daniel, wake up." It was Jack calling him and shaking him with gentle motions.

Daniel woke slowly, eyes so sticky that he could hear each blink of his lids. Too groggy to move, Daniel managed to turn his head enough to see a blurred figure at his bedside.

"You were talking in your sleep," Jack said. His voice was low, filled with worry.

The overhead lights were on, the bright glare hurting Daniel's sensitized eyes. Daniel motioned to his bedside table, hoping that Jack would get the message. He did, and Daniel slipped on the offered glasses, the room resolving into sudden and stark focus. He felt a tickle in his nose and sneezed loud and wet. Jack handed him a few tissues and Daniel blew his nose.

"I was?" asked Daniel. His stuffed voice echoed in his own ears. Jack handed Daniel a bubble pack of allergy medication. Daniel popped two pills from the pack and dry swallowed them, grimacing at the bitter flavor. He'd missed his monthly shot and his stuffed up nasal passages hated him.

"Yes," Jack said with a wave of his hand. "I grabbed your recorder from your lab and pressed 'play.'" Jack held up the small recording device and grinned, then tucked one hand in his pocket - a nervous gesture. "Now you can honestly say that you can do this job in your sleep. Oh and by the way, the dialect on the temple is one Teal'c doesn't recognize. He thinks it's ancient or something."

Daniel cleared his throat - his own nervous tick - and took the recorder from Jack, dropping it on the bed with a nod.

"I brought you something," Jack said, his voice lowering to a conspiratorial whisper. He moved in closer and slipped pages onto Daniel's lap. They looked like images of the wall from the ruins on the planet. Daniel picked up the top page and turned it right side up. Jack slid a note pad and pen onto the bed.

"This says flight," Daniel said, tracing a character on the page. He brought the image closer to examine it better. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jack shift closer to the bed, his body language tense with anticipation. "It's a weapon that shoots at orbiting ships." Daniel lowered the image, letting it fall to his lap.

"Right, so how do we bring it back here and how did you activate the damn thing?" Jack said with one raised brow.

Daniel shrugged. "I have no idea." He sifted through the pages, and studied each one with more scrutiny.

"I'll leave you to it," Jack said. He backed away from the bed.

Daniel didn't glance up from his work, and pointedly ignore the footfalls when Jack left the room. Instead, he focused all his attention on deciphering the pages, writing each word he knew and leaving those that he didn't as blank lines. By the time he finished translating as much as he could from the images, a nurse came to the room. She gave him a stern look before handing him two pain pills with a glass of water.

Once he'd taken the medicine, Daniel relaxed back into the bed, leaving his notes scattered across his lap. He wished he'd asked the nurse what time it was, but before he could call out to her, he felt sleep take him.

He woke startled from a forgotten dream, feeling beads of sweat on his forehead. The papers had vanished, and Daniel couldn't remember anyone entering the room to take them. His glasses were gone and everything was a blur, but he could see that somebody stood by his bed. Daniel squinted and was able to make out Janet's form. He could tell by her body language that she was not pleased. Daniel closed his eyes again, hoping to avoid a lecture.

"How are you feeling, Daniel?" Her voice was soft and her hand gentle on his arm.

Daniel struggled. "Better." His throat felt parched and he motioned blindly at the cup of water he knew would be on the hospital tray table. When Janet didn't hand it to him right away, Daniel opened his eyes. Her petite frame had vanished, a larger, broader figure taking its place.

Jack handed the cup of water to him, their fingers brushing together. Daniel felt a hitch in his stomach when Jack's touch lingered for longer than necessary. He took a long drink from the cup, keeping his eyes focused on the foot of the bed.

"Do not tire him out," Janet said. She hadn't left the room, but now she left them alone, exiting after a pat on Daniel's shoulder.

Jack sat down on the stool by the bed, and folded his arms across his chest. Daniel managed to set the cup down, reach for his glasses, and slip them on. He was feeling much better, the pain just a phantom ache in his side. His gaze flicked around the room and, each time he made eye contact with Jack, he had to look away. He fidgeted with the edge of the bed sheet, feeling nervous. The silence grew and, with each second that passed, Daniel felt his stomach clench with uneasiness.

"I hope what little I managed to translate helped," Daniel said, just for something to say.

"Sure," Jack said with a dismissive wave of one hand. He crossed his arms again and continued to sit in silent. It was unnerving.

Daniel rubbed his cold hands together and adjusted the bed sheets, tucked them under his arms, then smoothed them with one hand and then straightened the folds. He swallowed hard, reached for the water cup to drink some more, setting it back down, now empty, on the hospital tray table. There was no reason for him to be nervous and yet, each time his gaze met Jack's gaze, Daniel felt his stomach flutter. He glanced away again and forced himself to stop fidgeting.

"Seriously," Jack said, breaking the long silence.

"What?" Daniel asked, raising one brow and looking at Jack. He felt his breath hitch when Jack stood up and leaned forward, legs pressed against the bed. Daniel couldn't help glancing down, and then caught himself because he was staring and he knew it. He pulled his gaze up to meet Jack's dark eyes. His heart hammered in his chest because Daniel had seen that look of determination before.

"I'm old," Jack said. "I mean...," he added with a sharper tone, "...older than you. Older and wiser, I might add." A hint of mirth danced in his eyes. It appeared that Jack wanted to talk about the thing that they didn't have between them, and that they'd said never happened.

At least, Jack had said it never happened.

Daniel felt vulnerable, but he swallowed down his apprehension. He knew how foolish the whole thing was. He'd already spent so many nights struggling with his feelings for Jack. He knew they were a waste of time, but now, it was too late to hide.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Daniel hugged himself, wishing that Jack would just leave, stop, or do anything, but talk about what they weren't supposed to discuss. He couldn't handle it, not now, not ever, especially knowing that they would never come to anything beyond his own foolish hopes.

"Tell me, is it the hair? The silver fox thing is a big hit with the women, or maybe it's the bossiness. I do tend to boss you around, but then that's my job," Jack said with a wave of his hand. He turned and began to pace the room. "Or, I try to boss you around, only most of the time you end up bossing me around, and I give in to everything you want." He paused in his sarcasm with a pondering gaze to the ceiling. "Or maybe it's just because I'm cute." At those words, he turned to face Daniel with a smirk on his lips.

"You've given it some thought, I guess," Daniel mumbled. His cheeks felt hot, and he had to glance away from Jack's intense gaze. He felt a twinge of annoyance and frustration at Jack's tone. Daniel refused to meet his eyes.

"Look at me, Daniel," Jack said, using his 'bossy' tone.

Daniel couldn't. He shook his head and released a long, slow breath. "Jack, don't do this. Please." His voice cracked, and Daniel mentally berated himself, wishing that a wormhole would suddenly appear and swallow him up. He glanced up over the rim of his glasses to find Jack bent close and trying to catch Daniel's attention.

"I'm doing this," Jack said, gesturing between them. "It needs to be done. I thought I could walk away and forget the whole... side of the cliff thing, but I can't. Okay? Are you happy? Because I can't fucking get it out of my head!" Jack straightened and threw his arms in the air as if he was surrendering, then he took a deep breath and composed himself, tugging his shirt down in that gesture he made whenever he was nervous. He paced across the room before he stopped beside the bed.

"I'm sorry, Jack," Daniel mumbled. He ached inside, knew that Jack would say that he couldn't be around Daniel any more. They would have to split the team and Daniel was to blame. "I'll be out of your hair just as soon as I get back on my feet. I can find another position in the program."

Even as he said the words, Daniel knew they weren't true. His colleagues had drummed him out of his field years before. No one would have him back. The SGC was the only place he had ever felt like he belonged, and he was about to lose it all.

"No," Jack said, his voice harsh. He pointed at Daniel, his eyes blazed with what looked like angry indignation, his chin in the air and lips pursed.

Daniel felt his whole world collapse around him. His heart pounded in his chest and his throat felt constricted, as if he could no longer breathe, yet he took long harsh breaths. He waited for Jack to speak the words that would end them, and he felt there was nothing he could say or do to stop the inevitable.

Daniel peered up at Jack over the rim of his glasses, glad that Jack's face was not in focus. Jack hadn't moved nor said another word and the seconds dragged. A feeling of panic grew in Daniel with each tick of the clock.

Finally, Jack lowered his hands and his shoulders sagged.

"Don't give me that look," Jack said.

Daniel shook his head, but didn't get to say anything because the door to his room opened and Sam Carter rushed into the room, pushing past Jack to get to Daniel. She leaned in close and wrapped her arms around Daniel without saying a word. Her soft cheek pressed against Daniel's own stubble-covered face, and he leaned into the contact, grateful for the intrusion. Sam pulled back and smiled down at Daniel.

"I wanted to come sooner, but I was...." she paused and took a deep breath.

"I understand, Sam," Daniel interrupted, glad for the attention. He spared Jack a quick glance, and saw that he'd retreated and was exiting the room, his back already to them.

Daniel smiled up at Sam. He felt the sting of frustration and relief all rolled into one, even as the weight on his chest lifted with Sam's jovial demeanor. She began to explain what she'd been up to on the planet and what the weapon that had almost killed him could do. Daniel folded his arms around himself and smiled up at Sam's enthusiasm, trying not to think about what had transpired between him and Jack just before Sam showed up.

*

It felt good to walk through the halls of the SGC. Daniel smiled and waved as he passed Bryce, a scientist who worked with Sam. The pain in Daniel's side had almost subsided and, though the wound still ached, he'd lied and told Janet that the pain was gone. With reluctance, she released him to light duty. A month had already passed since his accident and he was desperate to return to work in his office, because if he'd had to spend just one more day in that bed, he would have gone insane.

Daniel turned a corner and almost slammed into Teal'c. The large Jaffa, gripped Daniel by his arms in an effort to prevent steady Daniel.

"I'm sorry, Teal'c. I wasn't paying attention," said Daniel. He took a step back and brushed off the helping hand Teal'c offered.

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said with a raised brow.

Daniel hoped that Teal'c's hadn't seen Daniel flinch when they'd collided.

"It is good to see you out of your bed," Teal'c said, clasping his hands behind his back. He stared down at Daniel with his usual indecipherable expression.

"It's good to be out of my bed," Daniel said. He glanced past Teal'c. He noted that the corridors were unusually empty for the time of day. Teal'c accompanied him the rest of the way to his office. They stopped at the doorway.

"I visited you on several occasions, but you were always unconscious," Teal'c said.

Daniel smiled, "Yes, I did seem to spend a lot of my time unconscious." Daniel walked past Teal'c into his office, flipping the light switch as he entered, noting that nothing seemed to have been disturbed in the time that he'd been bedridden. Teal'c stood at the entrance as though waiting for an invitation. "Is there something I can do for you, Teal'c?"

"I only wished to see that you were well. We are leaving for a mission in short order. I am saddened that you will not be joining us, as your presence is very much missed, particularly by O'Neill," Teal'c said before turning to leave.

Teal'c turned his back to him. Daniel bent and clutched at his aching side but straightened up when Teal'c faced him again. He seemed about to say something more, but instead, Teal'c turned and left without another word. Daniel would have thought the behavior was peculiar, except that most of Teal'c's behavior was peculiar. Instead of dwelling on what it could mean Daniel sat at his desk, and began to sift through the papers. He set to work on organizing them. He had a lot of work ahead of him, and he needed to start if he wanted to get anything done before he grew too tired.

*

Daniel straightened in his seat and stretched. He glanced at his watch to discover that he'd been working for hours. He needed a break and now was the perfect time, since one of the words was still giving him trouble. He yawned and touched his side, feeling a stab of pain when he stood up. He hadn't even noticed the pain, because of how engrossed he'd become in the work, but now he was forced to acknowledge the dull ache in his side.

He removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes, and mused it was odd that no one had disturbed him or stopped by to check up on him the whole time he'd been working. Usually, at least Sam would stop in just to say hello, although it was possible that the mission had gone longer than planned - that happened often enough.

Daniel slipped his glasses back on and yawned, thinking he could at least check on the team to see how things had gone. Just as he exited his office to head for the 'gate room, the blare of sirens, announcing an unscheduled off world activation, rang through the base. Daniel picked up the pace. He ignored the stabbing pain in his side and the sudden flare of heat in his ribs. He entered the dialing room just as Hammond ordered the iris opened. Daniel rushed to the window to watch the large metal safety device slide open to reveal the event horizon of an active wormhole. Moments later, Jack and Teal'c emerged from the shimmering light, followed by Sam and two other members of another SG team that Daniel didn't recognize. One of the men had an arm slung around the other man who looked injured.

"Close the iris," Jack shouted, adding an emphatic wave of his arms to stress his order.

The iris closed behind them, the wormhole disengaged and the embarkation room exploded in activity. Janet and a med team rushed in to tend to the injured man. She ordered the rest of the team to see her in the infirmary as soon as possible. Daniel stood with his arms crossed and a sense of dread at what could have happened to SG-1. He felt odd being on the outside of things. At least Jack, Sam and Teal'c seemed uninjured. Jack looked up and their gazes locked.

"We'll meet for a debriefing after you've had a chance to clean up," General Hammond said into the microphone. He glanced in Daniel's direction and nodded before he left the room.

Daniel moved to stand behind Walter and asked, "Where were they?" He leaned forward to look at the coordinates that the dialing computer displayed - not that they would tell him much when he didn't know the planet designation - except he did know this one. He never forgets the coordinates for any of the worlds that they had visited.

Walter handed Daniel a file folder and turned back to the 'gate computer. Daniel was already turning and heading out of the room, the folder open. They'd gone to the planet with the giant space gun. Daniel rushed to the meeting room, sliding into a chair while he read the report. Someone entering caught his attention, and he looked up to see General Hammond walk over to the window that overlooked the embarkation room.

"Son, shouldn't you be resting?" said Hammond, his focus still on the gate.

"I wanted to sit in on the meeting," Daniel said. He rested his hands on the folder before him.

"It's nothing to concern you," Hammond said. He turned to face Daniel. "This meeting is a military strategy only meeting, I'm afraid." Just as Hammond said these words, two officers entered the room. Both men ignored Daniel and sat down at the table, one of them setting a briefcase in front of him. "If we need your expertise, Dr. Jackson, we'll call for you."

Daniel stood and took the folder, but Hammond plucked it from his hand with a patient sigh. Daniel turned from the General to leave and slammed into Jack in his haste to rush from the room. He flinched from a stab of pain in his side and backed up to detour around Jack, who seemed to stand deliberately in Daniel's way. The tension between them was undeniable.

"That's right," Jack said. "No geeks allowed."

Daniel ducked his head and turned from Jack, headed out the door. He almost ran into Sam on his way. She smiled, but he could see that it humorless and lacked her usual softness.

Daniel felt the proverbial door slam on his way out. He tucked a hand in his pocket and headed for his office, trying to put out of his mind the cool expression on Jack's face and the comment about Daniel being a geek. When Jack had spoken to him like that in the past, a clear sign that it was in jest always accompanied the jibe. Maybe it was just posturing for the military boys, but Jack's words had stung this time, and there was no denying that.

Daniel rounded a corner and, for the second time that day, nearly barreled into Teal'c, who stood unmoving.

"I apologize again, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.

"It's my fault. I wasn't paying attention, again, to where I was going." Daniel stepped back and clutched at his side. The pain he'd felt was much sharper than the other two incidents, which meant it was time to take more medication.

"I am late for a meeting, otherwise I would stay to speak with you further," Teal'c said. He gestured in the direction of the meeting room, and Daniel stepped aside. With a nod of his head, Teal'c walked past Daniel toward the meeting.

Daniel felt a wave of dizziness from the pain in his side. He pulled the bottle of pills Janet had given him from his pocket and continued to head to his office, bending at a water fountain to wash the pills down. Daniel swiped at his mouth as he straightened and sighed with relief. The blare of gate activation sounded and he flattened against the wall when a group of armed marines rushed past him. His instinct was to rush to the dialing room to find out what was going on, but a fresh wave of pain made him decide he should sit it out.

Daniel took two steps and felt wet sticky warmth trickle down his side just before he fell to his knees. He cried out from the pain, clutching his side. His hand came away covered in blood. A distant voice called out to him. Daniel tried to look up but the wave of dizziness overtook him, and he fell back, staring up at the cold, grey ceiling. He thought he heard Jack's voice just before he closed his eyes and darkness overcame him.

*

Daniel woke to a too familiar sight, a blurry view of the infirmary ceiling. Daniel tried to sit up, but he thought better of his actions when intense pain shot through his body. He squeezed his eyes shut, and tried to block out the feeling of agony.

"Just lay still, Dr. Jackson," a soft, female voice said.

Daniel opened his eyes again to see a blurred form before him.

"My glasses?" he asked. His voice sounded rough and strained. He took the glasses offered and slipped them on, glad when the world came into focus. "Why am I back here?" He managed to peer down far enough to see that he had fresh bandages wrapped around his chest. Daniel touched his side and wrinkled his brow in puzzlement. His memory was vague, but he remembered the pain, and his collapse, and that there was blood.

"You started to bleed internally as well as externally," the nurse said, just as Janet marched into the room with a grim expression on her face. She nodded to the nurse, who turned and left them alone.

Daniel focused all his attention on Janet, and waited for her prognosis. The sound of shuffling at the entrance caught Daniel's attention. It was Jack, and he stood leaning against the doorway, hands tucked in the pockets of his BDUs.

"What's the verdict, doc?" Jack asked. He pushed off the doorway, and sauntered into the room, his hands still in his pockets, avoiding eye contact with Daniel.

"Daniel's wound is not healing the way it should," Janet said with a sigh and shake of her head. She shrugged her shoulders and turned her gaze to look up at Jack's face. "I'm at a loss. It was healed and he was well on the road to recovery, but the initial wound has reopened as though fresh."

"Hey," Daniel said, waving a finger at Janet, wondering why she was directing her words at Jack when Daniel was the one lying in the bed, bleeding. "Interested party, right here." He pointed at himself, but they ignored him as though he were invisible.

"What can we do?" Jack asked, turning his gaze to Daniel, his brown eyes softened by worry buried in them.

"I've given him a clotting agent and that seems to have helped, but as soon as we stop administering the drug, he starts to bleed again." Janet stared down at Daniel with more than worry in her eyes. She looked terrified, and Daniel swallowed a lump of fear when the realization dawned that this was much more serious than they'd originally thought.

"What about the doohickey?" Jack asked, holding a hand above Daniel and waving it back and forth.

Janet shook her head and shrugged her shoulders in response.

"You need to get Carter to contact her father," Jack said his gaze locked on Daniel, a determined look in them. "I'll make sure that the healing thingie gets brought here." Jack waved his hand in the air in a shooing motion to get Janet moving. Janet turned and rushed from the room.

"What do you have in mind, Jack?" Daniel said, sure that he knew what the reply would be, but nonetheless he had to ask. Jack didn't trust anything the Goa'uld would use so Daniel needed to know why he was suggesting that avenue.

"I'm not letting anything bad happen to you," Jack said. He pulled a chair closer to the bed, sitting down and rubbing his face with both hands. "At least not anything else bad." Noticing how tired Jack looked, Daniel watched as Jack rolled his head and settled into his chair. Daniel decided that he would keep his mouth shut about how Jack couldn't always protect him from everything, especially his own stupidity. If Daniel had been more careful in that room, then maybe none of this would have happened.

"Maybe you should be the one talking to someone about getting a healing device here?" Daniel said, breaking a long silence during which Jack sat staring at Daniel.

Jack leaned back in his chair and winced. "You know that Sam can take care of that," he said with a deep sigh. He jumped up from the chair and paced a few times around the room. "When you first passed out, Janet told me what was happening, and I called in some favors. It was that or I'd have to break into some snakehead's stronghold to get a sarcophagus." Jack reached out and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"Wow, it's really that bad," said Daniel. He stared up at Jack, trying to gauge the other man's state of mind. "I must be dying for you to agree..." Daniel bit his bottom lip and slid his hand on top of Jack's hand. Instead of shying away, as Daniel thought he would, Jack took hold of Daniel's hand and squeezed.

"It'll be all right," Jack said, gripping Daniel's hand tighter. "I promise."

A long silence fell between them. Daniel should have released his grip on Jack's hand, but he couldn't, he was too selfish. It felt so good to feel Jack's warmth and pulse against his skin. Jack stroked Daniel's pulse point with his thumb, sending shivers through Daniel, and he didn't know how he could give up such closeness if it might be the last time.

Daniel was the one to break the silence. "What about the space gun?" He hadn't wanted to, but he had to ask. After all, it was obvious that the weapon was powerful and would be useful as a serious defense against their enemies, if they could get it to work.

"It was a bust," Jack said, waving his hand in a dismissive motion. "Carter couldn't figure out how to bring it back here without the thing malfunctioning. She says it wouldn't work because it tapped directly into some power source specific to that planet."

Daniel nodded absently, turning his attention to the entrance when Janet and Jacob Carter, along with Sam and Teal'c, entered the room. Sam had a small metal case in her hand and Janet looked pensive. Jack released his grip on Daniel, but the angle, ensure that no one had seen them holding hands. Gingerly wrapping his arms around his chest, Daniel summoned a smile for his friends.

"Hello, Daniel," Jacob said, stepping into the spot that Jack vacated.

"Hey, Jacob. How are you? I'm injured, once again," Daniel said with a feeble grin. "Probably dying, as usual," he said with a humorless chuckle.

"Let's see if I can do something about that." Jacob turned to Sam, who set the case down on the bed table and thumbed open the latches. Reaching into the opened box to pull out the Goa'uld healing device, Jacob slipped it onto his hand. Somehow, Janet managed to slide in between the bed and Jacob, to urge Daniel's arms down by his sides so that she could lift the blanket and peel the bandages back. Daniel heard a sharp intake of breath from Sam and Jacob when they saw the raw flesh. Daniel lay still, rested his head on the pillow and stared up at the ceiling.

"This is much worse than you let on," Jacob said. He didn't seem to be addressing anyone in particular. Instead, he schooled his features to a calm expression and held the healing device above the wound. It activated and a soft glow streamed out of the center crystal.

"But you can help him, right, Dad?" Sam said.

Daniel could hear the strain of worry in her voice. He turned to look at Sam and offered her a smile of reassurance.

"Shh, Carter," Jack said from behind the group crowded around the bed. "Let the man work his thing."

Daniel couldn't see Jack from this angle, but he saw the look of irritation in Jacob's face. The beam faltered for a moment, and Daniel cried out at the sudden jolt of pain that shot through his body. His whole body tensed in agony, and he screamed when a wave of excruciating pain shot through him. It felt as though electric fire coursed through his body from the inside out. The healing beam stopped, and Jacob lowered the device. With a grimace, Daniel forced his tensed body to relax.

"I am so sorry, Daniel," Jacob said, and then his eyes flashed to show that Selmak - his Tok'ra symbiote - had taken control. He held the device up and, with a determined look on his face, activated the beam again. Daniel writhed on the bed, but remained silent this time.

"You're hurting him," Jack growled before lunging forward, but Daniel saw that Teal'c caught him with one arm and held him back.

Daniel felt his body tense and he arched his back. When the pain subsided, he sagged into the mattress, sighing with relief as the burning sensation ceased altogether. The room was silent except for the sound of the healing device. Daniel stared up at the ceiling then turned his head to lock gazes with Jack. Unable to look away from the raw emotions playing across Jack's face, Daniel managed a feeble smile before he nodded to let Jack know that he was okay.

When the beam cut off, Daniel sighed again. Jacob stepped aside and Janet rushed forward to examine Daniel's wounds. He felt exhausted and all he wanted now was to sleep, but he fought unconsciousness to hear the verdict.

"I think it worked. It looks like the wound has been healed," Janet said, but Daniel saw the wariness in Janet's eyes. "We won't know if it is fully healed for at least a day or two," she said with caution in her voice.

Daniel nodded with a faint smile, feeling relieved that he could finally drift to sleep. He closed his eyes and tuned out the mutters of his friends' voices and the shuffle of their feet when they left. His body felt tingly all over. Daniel let himself sink further into sleep, hearing the soothing, steady beep of the machines monitoring his status. He felt cool and hot all at the same time. Relaxing the last of his tensed muscles, he let his head loll to the side. Someone took his glasses off and brushed fingers across his forehead. When they touched his lips, Daniel licked at their soft touch.

His mind drifted and his body floated until there was only darkness.

*

Daniel floated in a pool of darkness that turned to blurred light. Someone was holding his hand, and he could hear someone speaking, although he couldn't understand what he or she was saying. Whoever held his hand, released the hold, and Daniel felt bereft at the loss of contact. He wanted to cry out 'no,' but had no strength. Everything felt like a hallucination, with him floating high above the world and staring down at darkness.

"He's still out cold," Jack said, his voice soft and close.

Someone further away responded, but Daniel couldn't make out the words. He could hear the distant sound of paper shuffling and scuff of shoes on the floor, and then there was silence again. The only sound he could hear was a constant beeping that he knew meant something, but he wasn't sure what. For a moment, Daniel couldn't remember where he was or why he was there. All he knew for sure was that his body no longer ached.

The scent of Jack's aftershave wafted through the air, giving Daniel a feeling of comfort. A hand slipped into Daniel's loose grip and squeezed, then a gentle touch brushed against his forehead, pushing his bangs aside. Daniel felt sleep overtaking him again despite his efforts, his body felt heavy and unmovable.

"I know you probably can't hear me," Jack said. His voice was low and the scrape of a chair against the floor told Daniel that Jack had moved in closer. "The doc said you might not come out of this, but I know you'll make it. We haven't come this far for it to end like this. You have to make it. I can't tease you about your crush if you're dead."

Daniel felt a shiver in his lower back when Jack pressed cool fingers against his cheek. "It's not a crush," Daniel mumbled. He turned into the touch, nuzzling against the rough knuckles. Cracking his eyes open, Daniel blinked up at the blur in his field of vision. Jack leaned close enough to come into focus.

"See, I knew you'd make it," Jack said. He smiled and reached out to ruffle Daniel's hair.

Daniel could hear a hitch of relief in Jack's words. He licked his lips, his mouth and throat feeling bone-dry.

"Wa...?" Before Daniel could finish the raspy request, a straw tapped his lower lip.

"Not to much at once," Jack said, nudging the straw away after Daniel managed a few sips.

Daniel raised his head and sighed in relief at the lack of pain. He yawned wide and with contentment. He stretched his whole body, relishing in movements without pain. With Jack's help, he managed to sit up in the bed and prop himself up on the pillows. Every fiber of his being tingled with a sensation he couldn't describe. He slid his proffered glasses on and looked around the room with newfound vision.

"You cozy there?" Jack asked with a wave of his hand.

"How long was I out?" Daniel took a deep breath glad to be alive and aware.

"You've been in and out of consciousness for a few days," Jack said. He leaned forward, with a tight-lipped smile on his lips. There were clear lines of exhaustion etched on his face.

"I don't remember much," Daniel said.

Jack shrugged and hovered close by, his body tensed. Curious, Daniel lifted his hospital gown, smoothing a hand over the healed skin on his side. The wound was gone, his flesh made whole.

Jack cleared his throat, and Daniel looked up to see that he was motioning at Daniel with one hand and rolling his eyes.

"Want to end the peep show there, buddy?" Jack said.

It was obvious Jack was uncomfortable, though Daniel couldn't understand why since he had a sheet across his lap. "The X-rated parts are covered, Jack," Daniel said with narrowed eyes. He turned to face his back to Jack, deliberately allowing the sheet to ride down, and smirked over his shoulder when Jack glared at him.

"Nice backside," Janet said. She stood in the doorway, a medical chart in one hand.

Daniel rolled back and released the gown to let it fall, feeling his cheeks burn red.

"Why didn't you tell me that Daniel was awake?" Janet said.

"Hey, Daniel's awake," said Jack. A strained smile flicked across his lips, vanishing as he rose to his feet. He tucked his hands in his pants pockets and cleared his throat.

Daniel resisted the urge to laugh and watched Jack step aside to allow Janet room, taking up a new position by turning around and leaning against the bed by Daniel's feet.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, reaching for his wrist. She smiled.

"I feel great," Daniel said. He flicked his gaze from Janet to Jack then returned his attention to Janet, who had lifted his gown to place smooth, cool hands on his ribs. She leaned forward and examined the area where the wound had been, making noises that sounded positive. Daniel suppressed a smile as he watched Jack twist at the waist and try to peek past Janet to get a better look at Daniel.

"It's amazing. There's no sign that you'd ever been injured," Janet said, releasing Daniel's gown. The fabric fell and Jack straightened, smiling at Janet when she turned a suspicious gaze on him. "I don't see any reason why you can't be released, as long as you take it slow. You'll have to stay on base for observation for a few days but, other than that, you're fit to return to light duty. Nothing off world." She pointed at him and then Jack to stress her instructions.

Daniel felt relief, mixed with bubbling excitement in his chest, at finally leaving the infirmary. Even the mild discomfort of having the various leads, IV lines, and other bits of tubing removed couldn't bring him down.

"That means office work, Daniel. You aren't fit for gate travel just yet," she reiterated in a firm tone.

Once she finished disconnecting of the tubes and feeds, Janet patted Daniel on the shoulder and offered a smile before she turned her attention to Jack. "I expect that you'll help Daniel to his room and make sure he doesn't over-exert himself for the next forty-eight hours."

"Yes, ma'am," Jack said, offering a half salute.

Janet glared at Jack's antics, and then turned and left the room.

Jack crossed his arms and smiled at Daniel. "You better get dressed," Jack said, waving one hand at Daniel. "We can't have you flashing the personnel on the base." His serious expression was in opposition to his breezy tone of voice.

When Jack didn't leave the room or turn to give Daniel some privacy, Daniel raised his chin with defiance and yanked the gown off. He tossed it aside, letting it flutter to the bed, then pulled back the sheet and climbed out of the bed on slightly wobbly legs. Naked as the day he was born, Daniel made his way over to where his clothes sat on a chair in a neat folded pile, smirking when Jack yelped. A fresh pair of briefs sat on top of fresh civilian clothing, and Daniel grabbed those first, then peeked over his shoulder to find Jack had turned his back to him. Regretting the lack of shower, he dressed in slow, careful movements, and then shuffled back to the bed to snatch up the gown and fold it into a neat square. He cleared his throat and Jack turned, opening one eye. Seeing that Daniel was now dressed, Jack faced him with a mock glare.

After finger combing his bed-mussed hair, Daniel motioned for Jack to lead the way. Although he felt much better, he followed Janet's instruction to take it easy. Just before reaching Daniel's room, they ran into Teal'c and Sam, who looked relieved at Daniel's condition. Sam hugged Daniel tight and Teal'c offered a simple nod.

"I can't travel through the 'gate just yet and I have to remain on base, but at least I'm out of that place, as much as I love Janet and her bedside manners," Daniel said with a quirk of his lips.

"It is good to see you so well, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.

"We're headed to meet my dad in the mess for some lunch," Sam said.

"That sounds great," Daniel said, looking to Jack who shrugged his shoulders. "Mind if I join you? I'd really like to thank Jacob for helping me, and I'm starved."

Sam grinned and looped her arm through Daniel's arm, and they all turned and headed to the mess. Jacob was already there waiting at their customary table. They collected food and sat down to eat and talk about everything and nothing.

*

Daniel's on base quarters were dark when he entered. Jack reached around Daniel and flipped the light switch, staying in the doorway while Daniel entered and turned to face him. The time in the mess hall with Daniel's friends had been just what Daniel had needed, but it had tired him out much faster than he'd realized. He yawned, and raised a hand to cover his mouth.

"I should let you sleep," Jack said. Despite his words, he seemed poised to enter the room, balancing on one foot, taking a step into the room with the other. Daniel didn't say anything. Shuffling to the bed, he sat down, fatigue washing over him. He removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes.

"This sucks," Daniel mumbled. "Just a few hours ago, I felt fine." He slid his glasses back on and rolled his shoulders, feeling relief at the crack and pop of tensed muscles. To his surprise, Jack didn't leave. Instead, he took another step into the room and closed the door behind him, leaning against the door.

"You should lie down and get some rest," Jack said. He didn't move from his casual lean against the doorway, but Daniel sensed some tension in Jack's deceptive, relaxed stance.

Giving up on his fleeting thought of a shower, Daniel licked his lips and nodded before lying down. The pillow beneath his head felt wonderful, and he sighed with pleasure as he relaxed into it. Slipping his glasses off, he folded then and placed them near his belly, curling his body around them.

"You'll stay with me?" Daniel murmured, his question muffled by the pillow. There was no response to his request, but the other side of the bed dipped. He closed his eyes, although Daniel was exhausted, he also felt wired and couldn't fall asleep right away. He curled his arms around his chest and shifted, rolling onto his back and bumping against something solid. He opened his eyes to see Jack was sitting on the bed, one knee bent up and the other leg over the edge of the mattress as though ready to lay down.

Jack stared down at Daniel and reached out to brush warm fingers over Daniel's cool forehead. Daniel turned into the touch until his lips met the tips of Jack's fingers. The simple touch sent a shiver through Daniel's body, and he didn't miss how Jack closed his eyes and parted his lips.

Daniel took a chance and mouthed Jack's fingers. Instead of pulling away, Jack slipped one finger past Daniel's lips and allowed Daniel to suck the finger into his mouth. He blinked up at Jack, feeling his heart pound in his chest and his head swim with anticipation. Locking his gaze on Jack, Daniel sucked on the finger, pulling it deeper into his mouth. Daniel's cock swelled, and he twisted his body to curl around Jack's leg, pushing his erection against Jack's knee. Jack stared at Daniel, motionless except for the thumb he brushed across Daniel's wet mouth.

Daniel yearned to pull Jack down onto the bed with him, but he dared not move. He froze at the sight of Jack's parted lips and intense gaze, knowing they'd irrevocably crossed a line Jack had drawn. Daniel wondered if he should break the spell, but he held his breath and decided that it was Jack's call. He would need to make a choice, here and now, and Daniel couldn't do that for him.

It happened so fast that Daniel had no time to react. Jack had him pinned on the bed, beneath him, their bodies crushed together and mouths inches apart. Daniel struggled for a second then stopped and stared up into Jack's dark eyes.

"This can't ever happen," Jack said. His deep voice rumbled against Daniel's chest, sending shivers through his body. Jack's actions, however, belied his words. He slipped a hand down Daniel's left side, yanking his shirt up to caress where the wound had once been. His rough touch only turned Daniel on more, and Daniel bucked against Jack, inhaling a sharp breath when he felt Jack's hardness press against him, feeling Jack pulse even through the fabric of their clothing.

Daniel reached up with one hand and pulled Jack closer, locking lips with him. The building tension increased when their wet mouths met, and Jack pressed Daniel against the bed, almost crushing the breath out of him.

"I said it can't happen," Jack said even as they kissed. "Not here." His lips brushed Daniel's mouth when he spoke and his tongue teased Daniel's lips apart, plunging inside to taste and lick and drink in every response. Daniel's cock pulsed and he bucked again, unable to stop himself from rubbing against Jack's firm body. Their legs tangled and Daniel slipped his hand down to grip Jack's ass. He tried to roll them over, but Jack had him pinned tight, and the more Jack pressed against him, the harder Daniel got, until he threw his head back and cried out as he came.

They both froze, Jack's mouth poised over the pulse point at Daniel's throat. Daniel felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. He hadn't gotten off so fast in years, and he turned his head away from Jack trying to hide from him, regretting that the lights weren't out.

"Did you just...?" Jack asked. He pulled back and Daniel could feel Jack's intense gaze burn across him. Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and nodded once. Jack chuckled. "Oh, to be young again."

"It's been a long time," Daniel said, cracking one eye open to frown up at Jack. "A very, very long time."

"I'll just..." Jack went to roll off, but Daniel clung to him, hoping he wouldn't just run, but his fear that Jack was freaking out grew when Jack sat up and turned away. Daniel didn't know how it could possibly be more awkward, except, maybe if he'd been naked when it had happened ... that would have been mortifying.

A siren began to blare and the call of unexpected off world activation rang out. Jack was immediately up on his feet, straightening his clothes. Daniel scrambled out of the bed and hurried to the bathroom without a glance back.

Jack hadn't looked at him, nor said a word before he left. There had been no words of reassurance, or acknowledgement that they needed to discuss what had happened. After a quick shower, Daniel changed into fresh clothes. Though off-world duty was out of the question, he still wanted to be there to find out what was happening. As he buttoned his shirt, he stared down at the rumpled sheets of the bed. Daniel swallowed the lump of fear and regret that had formed in his throat. Putting it out of his mind, he rushed from his room and into chaos.

The increased activity in the hallways of the SGC meant that there was something big happening on base. Daniel flattened against the wall when someone called for him to move out of the way. He watched as soldiers, with their weapons held at the ready, rushed past, headed for the gate room. Someone elbowed him aside when he tried to follow.

The flurry of activity grew in intensity the closer Daniel got to the 'gate room. He could hear the sound of the stable wormhole. Just as he reached the entrance to the embarkation room, Daniel ran into Jack, who moved past Daniel with his own weapon drawn. Daniel ignored the look of frustration in Jack's face at seeing him, and rushed into the embarkation room.

The iris was closed and backlit by the wormhole. Teal'c stalked past Daniel and stopped just inside the doorway, and Daniel could see Sam with General Hammond up in the control room. The sound of their voices carried over the PA. He heard Hammond give the order to open the iris. It was SG-11 returning early from their off world mission. They were coming in hot. Something must have gone wrong.

Daniel moved aside again to allow the medical team entrance and watched with bated breath, catching a glimpse of Jack mixed in among the other soldiers. Three men emerged from the wormhole. Daniel didn't know any of their names, but two of the men held another, who looked unconscious, between them. Jack moved forward, the other soldiers in the room parting to allow him access.

"What happened, Taylor?" asked Jack as he lowered his weapon.

"You need to close the gate, sir!" Taylor called up to the general. The wormhole immediately disengaged and the iris closed.

"Where is the rest of your team?" Jack said, turning Taylor's attention to him.

"Gone, sir," Taylor said. Before he could say more, Janet was between him and Jack, nudging Jack aside. Daniel moved aside when the gurney carrying the unconscious team member rolled past. Most of the soldiers remained in the room, with weapons drawn, but Jack and Teal'c both left with the two remaining team members, Taylor and the other man, whose name was Reed, according to the name stitched on his uniform. They all ignored Daniel when they walked past him, Jack firing off question after question at the two men. Daniel noted that Taylor held something in his hand that looked like a scrap of cloth. He caught a glimpse of writing that wasn't English.

Daniel followed a few feet behind, hanging back and keeping silent while Janet's medical staff examined the men for injuries. Teal'c joined him, his arms folded behind his back and one brow raised in question. Sam rushed up and stopped at Daniel's elbow.

"Any word on what happened?" she asked.

Daniel shook his head and watched Sam enter the infirmary. She reemerged a few moments later at Jack's side, the scrap of cloth from earlier dangling from Jack's hand. Jack held it out to Daniel.

"Taylor brought this back from P3X 539. I need it translated ASAP," Jack said. The moment Daniel grasped the cloth Jack turned and marched away. Teal'c and Sam followed close behind him.

"Yes, sir," Daniel said to empty air. He unrolled the old fabric and realized that the words were in Ancient. Daniel forgot everything else and rushed to his office. He sat at his desk and spread the cloth out, getting to work on the translation.

By the time Daniel had written down most of what he was able to translate, hours had passed. He sat up straight and stretched out, sighing in relief as his back and neck cracked, then he jerked at the sound of someone clearing his or her throat. He spun in his chair, relaxing tensed muscles when he saw that it was Jack leaning against the door jam with his hands in his pants pockets.

"How long have you been standing there?" Daniel asked, sitting up straighter in his chair.

"A while," Jack said. "You were kind of busy, so I didn't bother you."

Daniel nodded and spun the chair, facing his desk and the translation that lay in front of him. Seeing Jack move out of the corner of his eye, Daniel turned his head enough to watch Jack saunter closer until he was standing right behind Daniel, his chest inches from Daniel's back. Jack peeked over Daniel's shoulder and motioned toward the document.

"That it?" Jack asked. As his hand withdrew, it brushed the back of Daniel's neck.

Daniel tensed and nodded once, then held a breath, waiting for more, but there wasn't more, although Daniel could feel Jack's warm breath against his skin. It prickled through his body straight to his groin, and Daniel wanted to push away, but instead he sat still. He'd almost managed to forget what had happened earlier in his quarters, but now, with Jack so close, the memory of their lips touching filled his thoughts. Daniel's breath hitched but he tried to remain calm, acting as though it was nothing out of the ordinary, as though Jack's touch meant nothing, had been a casual, unintentional movement.

"That's as much as I can translate," he said, risking a glance upward. Jack's brown eyes looked dark in the light, and Daniel felt his heart skip a beat at their intense scrutiny because when Jack O'Neill looked at you, he really looked. Daniel forced his attention back to the desk and the translation. Jack always managed to throw Daniel off his game, and this time was no exception. He hunched his shoulders and tensed with each breath that Jack took. His vision swam, and words became a jumbled buzz in his ear when Jack reached around him to tap a finger on the top sheet.

"Did you need more time?" Jack said with a shrug and a wave of his hand.

Daniel leaned forward in an attempt to avoid an accidental touch, but instead, Jack touched him on purpose. He rested one big hand on Daniel where his neck met his shoulder, his thumb brushing the pulse point.

Daniel fought the shiver that ran through him, but failed. He cleared his throat. "I...if I had more time, I could probably manage a more accurate translation but you said you needed it ASAP," he said, almost certain that he hadn't sounded too unnerved.

"Jeez, you are so tense," said Jack.

"I am," Daniel said, closing his eyes. The sudden touch of Jack's hands on his shoulders made Daniel tense up, but he relaxed when Jack turned to stand behind Daniel, and lean against the chair. Jack rubbed Daniel's shoulders. The touch sent a jolt of dread through Daniel and set his heart racing. Jack shouldn't be doing this here in Daniel's office where anyone could walk in on them and catch them. How would they explain why Jack had his hands on Daniel? How would they explain why Jack was fondling his teammate?

Daniel licked his lips, nervous. His mouth felt dry. He leaned into the massage, pressed into jack's touch, and sighed. Daniel wanted to tell Jack that he should stop but he didn't want Jack to stop. He wanted Jack to be unable to keep his hands off Daniel. With each rub of his hands, each press of his strong fingers into Daniel's aching muscles, Daniel's tension melted away.

Daniel leaned forward, closed his eyes, and sank into the wonderful feel of the sensations coursing through his body. The idea of Jack's strong hands on Daniel was too tantalizing to resist. When Jack slide his hand down to fondle one of Daniel's pectorals, his fingers brushing a hard nipple, Daniel felt his dick go hard. He shuddered at the sudden intimate touch, and wondered how something so simple could be so erotic and brain melting. His dick was so hard; Jack only needed to slide his hand down just a little bit lower....

The fantasy vaporized in a puff of smoke.

Daniel leaned forward with his elbows on the desk and his head resting on his arms, jarred back to reality by the sound of someone else entering the lab. He realized that Jack was not in the lab. It had been a dream, a wet dream and Daniel gulped to find that he was hard and turned on.

"Daniel." It was Sam standing just inside the doorway of Daniel's office, her gaze roaming around the room.

"Sam," said Daniel, a tight smile on his lips. He kept his gaze down, unable to look her in the eye.

Sam waved a file folder before Daniel. "It's the report you asked for." She crossed the room and set the file down on Daniel's desk at his right elbow.

Daniel rubbed at the back of his neck and nodded. "Thanks," he said, clearing his throat and touching his free hand to the folder, taking care not to move away from his desk. He was still hard and he could feel his face going red with embarrassment. He glanced up at Sam and smiled, but she was already turning away from him.

"Sir," she said. She almost slammed into Jack who stood at the entranceway to the room. Jack looked down at Daniel and then at Sam.

"Carter," he said with a stern tone.

There was a long pregnant pause, during which Daniel swore he could hear the ticking of his wristwatch, and then Sam marched from the room.

Daniel released the breath he'd been holding and tipped forward, burying his head in his arms, mouthing an expletive. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jack lean back against the wall, his head tilted up to stare at the ceiling.

"Daniel," Jack said.

Jack had seen Daniel's state. Daniel could tell from his body language and expression.

Daniel lifted his head and twisted enough to look at Jack.

"You have something to tell me," Jack said, waving two fingers at his own head and giving Daniel a tight smile.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut at the thought of how stupid he had been. He should never have fantasized while working. He'd never allowed himself to lose focus while working on a project in his office. Why should he start now? He needed to concentrate on his work and stay on point instead of allowing his recent encounters with Jack distract him.

All his musing helped to quash his state of aroused enough to move from his chair. He stood and turned toward Jack. Daniel took in jack's casual demeanor. He couldn't help studying Jack's body, savoring the way Jack's pants hugged the curves of his thighs and stretched across his groin. He stared at Jack's fidgeting, and watched him play with the hem of his shirt. Daniel licked his lips, hungry, needing Jack O'Neill so much that it shot his judgment to hell. He never openly stared like this at Jack.

Jack's gaze locked onto Daniel's mouth, and the intensity of his stare sent a thrill coursing through Daniel's body. Jack took a step toward him and Daniel took a step back, then they took another step until Daniel was up against the desk, trapped, his arms behind his back, gripping the desk edge so tight that he knew his knuckles had to be white.

"Beer and pizza, my place tonight," Jack said more than asked, his tone an order and not a request.

Daniel's mouth was too dry to say anything. His body throbbed, his heart thumped in his chest. He nodded, and licked his lips again. Jack reached up to brush a thumb over Daniel's mouth, and Daniel parted his lips at the touch.

"You were the one who opened this can of worms," Jack said. He was so close that their chests were almost touching, and Daniel wanted to close that small distance more than anything he'd ever wanted to do in his life.

Daniel searched Jack's intense gaze, looking for a clue - any clue - as to Jack's true intentions. How far was Jack going to take this? Was his invitation just a friendly night out with a friend or was he planning to talk about what had happened? Jack wasn't the 'talking things out' kind of person, but Daniel could talk and Jack could listen, or maybe they could talk with their bodies. Daniel certainly felt up for that - was way past up for that.

He licked his lips and shivered when his tongue brushed the callused pad of Jack's thumb, which still hovered over Daniel's mouth. Then the hand was gone, withdrawn and Daniel felt his heart pound with regret, and disappointment. Jack was backing away, a soft smile on his mouth. There was a gleam in Jack's eyes that, to Daniel, seemed unmistakable. Jack looked gorgeous, handsome, and Daniel's stomach did a flip at the sight.

"20:00," Jack said, driving his point home with a poke of his finger, "Eight o'clock. Don't be late," then he was out the door, his footfalls echoing down the hallway.

Daniel relaxed against the desk with a heavy sigh. He yanked his glasses from his face and dropped them on the desktop, watching them clatter and land lenses down. Frowning at the possibility of scratches, he nudged the frames to tip them over before leaning against the desk with both arms out straight.

He was hard again and, he was afraid he'd explode on the spot, but his release would have to wait. He needed to concentrate on work, which meant he wasn't going to obsess over Jack and his invitation, or worry about what it meant to their relationship, or if it meant anything at all. It was possible that Jack was just inviting Daniel over to let him down easy, but the way Jack had touched him and looked into his eyes convinced Daniel that things were about to change.

Minutes before Daniel packed up for the evening, he got a text message. Daniel sauntered out the door as he opened the message, grinning because he could see it was from Jack. A few steps down the hallway, Daniel stopped so abruptly that someone behind him slammed into him. Jumping out of the way, Daniel muttered an apology without looking to see who was behind him, and then he lowered his phone and ran fingers through his hair.

Jack had canceled their plans.

*

By the time Daniel rushed into the embarkation room, there was an active shimmering wormhole. The rest of SG-1 and two other teams were geared up and waiting on him. Jack slapped an arm around Daniel's shoulders even while Daniel checked his pack to be sure he hadn't forgotten any thing.

"It's about time you got here, Danny boy," Jack said. He pulled in and then pushed away from Daniel, almost knocking Daniel off-balance. "Let's move out, gentlemen," Jack said motioning up the ramp to the event horizon. "And lady," Jack added, when Sam smiled and walked by him up the ramp. Jack shoved Daniel toward the wormhole, knocking his glasses askew and forcing Daniel to thumb them back into place. Daniel glared back at Jack, who followed behind with Teal'c taking up the rear in the long trail of people.

Just as the text had said, they were headed for P3X 539, the planet where SG-11 had found the scrap of cloth that Daniel had spent the past week translating. Daniel had put in his report that the planet was worth further investigation. The Ancients had once lived there and they could have left technology behind.

The usual thrill shivered through Daniel just before he entered the event horizon. His mind a jumble, he shook off the chill when he walked out of the gate on P3X 539 and into a bright, sunny day. The soldiers were already in formation, guns ready, while behind them, the wormhole shut down with a loud whoosh. Jack stood a few feet in front of the gate with Sam, Teal'c, and two other soldiers, most likely discussing military strategy, which Daniel didn't care to pay attention to at that moment. Everything looked peaceful enough with no sign of the people who'd attacked SG-11 a few weeks before. Perhaps they'd decided that the interlopers were no longer a threat and had gone back to where they'd come from. There hadn't been much for Daniel to go on other than the cloth scrap Taylor had ripped from one of the attackers he'd shot and killed.

Daniel let his backpack slide from his shoulder and crouched to pull out his hat. From that position, he watched Jack wave his hands and give orders. They hadn't said much to each other in the past few days since Jack cancelled their 'date'. Every time Daniel had attempted to get Jack alone to talk about what was going on with them, Jack deftly avoided both him and the subject. After a few days of trying, Daniel had given up and decided that Jack had to come to him on his own. If he didn't, then Daniel would know where things stood with them. Jack's behavior toward Daniel hadn't changed. Their friendship seemed intact. The only problem was, Daniel had gotten a taste of Jack O'Neill and he couldn't get it out of his mind. Hunger gnawed at Daniel's gut every time he laid eyes on the man, but it wasn't the time to be thinking that way. They were on a potentially dangerous mission. It wouldn't do for Daniel to lose focus. He'd talked General Hammond into coming back to a planet that had gotten some of his men injured. Daniel needed to keep his mind on here and now.

The aerial sweep had shown that there were ruins that looked old enough to be signs of the Ancients just ten miles from the gate. Daniel stood, placed his boonie on his head, and settled the backpack over his shoulders before bending his head to check for his notepad and pencil. He thought he'd put them in his chest pocket, but it was empty. Daniel frisked himself, checking all his pockets, finding everything but his pad and pencil. Daniel glanced up to find that the teams had already started the long trek out and if he didn't hurry, he might fall behind. Someone pushed him forward, and he turned to find Jack making walking motions with two fingers.

The first few miles were through lush undergrowth. It didn't appear as though anyone had been there in a long time. The aerial survey hadn't spotted signs of any villages or population in its sweep, and Daniel was beginning to wonder if the attackers had gated in from somewhere else. Despite the peaceful surroundings, every time Daniel paused for even a second, Jack pushed him forward. It was irritating and Daniel glared at Jack, and pushed Jack's hand from his shoulder each time. Moments later, Daniel fumbled a pen from his pack and it fell to the ground. He bent to pick it up and, when he stood, Jack pushed him again.

Daniel spun around, furious. "Stop doing that!"

The calm look on Jack's face only fueled Daniel's anger that much more. He crossed his arms, and refused to move another step. Daniel clenched his jaw before the nasty words he wished to say spilled from his lips.

"If you would stop dragging the team down, then I wouldn't have to babysit you back here," Jack said, his gaze centered first on his weapon then on the ground - anywhere but on Daniel.

"I am not dragging...." Daniel sputtered, unsure why Jack was behaving so badly toward him. His glasses slid down his nose and, before Daniel could push them back up, Jack obliged with a middle figure. Daniel froze and stared into Jack's dark brown eyes. There was a long pause, during which time seemed to stand still. Daniel could feel his heart thud in his chest, and the sound of it seemed to ring in his ears. Although the rest of the team was getting farther ahead, Daniel didn't care. For just a moment, Daniel was sure that Jack would bridge that gap between them and kiss him, but then he knew Jack wouldn't - couldn't - do that off world.

"I'm sorry," Jack said, taking a deep breath. He adjusted his weapon and started to take a step back from Daniel, but Daniel reached out and grasped Jack by the elbow.

"It's okay," Daniel said. He hoped that they could talk about the canceled date and the avoidance. "I was just..." Daniel released his grip on Jack when he was convinced that Jack wasn't going anywhere. After all, Jack could find the rest of the team with ease. "I hoped that... that is.... I meant to ask about the other night when you canceled our…." Daniel couldn't help the smile that played on his lips. It sounded so ludicrous when he said it aloud, but he needed to say the word, he had to clear the air. He leaned in closer to Jack and whispered the last word afraid that someone might overhear. "...date."

Jack blinked then blinked again and a patently false expression of confusion played across his face. "I had stuff to do. Something came up." He shrugged and turned away from Daniel to begin walking in the direction the team had taken.

"Jack," Daniel called out to him. Daniel knew that this was neither the time nor the place to have the discussion; he rushed forward and tugged on Jack's jacket sleeve. Jack stopped in his tracks and glared down at Daniel's hand as though it were somehow offending him.

"Daniel," Jack said with gritted teeth. "We have a mission and you are holding up the team. If you want, I can escort you back to the gate and send you home." He turned a cool gaze on Daniel. "Otherwise, shut up and walk." Jack motioned for Daniel to walk in front of him, but Daniel refused to move, too stunned that Jack had just told him to shut up to be able to say or do anything.

"Then, can we talk about this when we get back?" Daniel said, after a few tense moments had passed.

Jack yanked him by his jacket collar so that he was in front of Jack, and then pushed him forward.

"Nothing to talk about," Jack said. He nudged Daniel each time Daniel stopped walking.

Daniel spun and faced Jack, anger building in his chest over Jack's treatment. "Yes, there is."

Jack's expression went from calm to cold and he gritted his teeth. Daniel could see that he was angering him, but it was too late to stop now. He'd pushed and he needed to know.

"No, there is not," said Jack, leaning forward. They were inches apart and, for one brief moment, Daniel was sure that Jack would kiss him, but instead Jack's eyes flashed with anger and his jaw clenched. "Let me make it clear in a way that even you - someone with all those degrees and brains but no common sense to go with them - will understand. There is not and never will be anything more than friendship between us. There can never be anything more than friendship." He leaned closer until they were nose to nose. "Got that, Dr. Jackson?" Jack spun on his heels and continued on their path without waiting for an answer.

Daniel stood rooted to the spot. The words Jack had just spat at him echoed in his mind. It was over before it had even gotten started. Daniel had always known that being in a relationship with another man was a huge risk for Jack, that Jack could lose his command and his position in the Air Force if word got out that he'd been with Daniel in that way. Obviously, Jack had decided that Daniel wasn't worth the risk.

Jack had made his choice, and Daniel had to accept it and move on.

Daniel heard Jack call out for him to get his ass in gear, and he turned in the direction Jack had gone when the sound of wings filled the air. Someone screamed his name, and Daniel saw movement out of the corner of his eye, but it wasn't Jack because he'd gone left and the movement was on Daniel's right. Daniel fumbled to pull his gun from its holster, but before he could bring it up, someone punched him in the face. Daniel cried out in pain and fell to one knee. The sudden sharp shock of the pain sent him reeling.

He'd been so distracted that he hadn't noticed someone coming up on him. Daniel tried to look up as he struggled to stand, but his glasses were askew, and he reached up to straighten them. Someone shouted in a language he didn't understand, and he felt two objects, probably weapons of some kind, poke him in the back. Daniel guessed that the speaker was probably telling him to stay down or maybe to surrender. His gun remained in his holster, but there was no way for Daniel to draw and defend himself was his attackers. He flinched when someone shoved their weapon harder into his ribs.

"Okay, okay," Daniel shouted, holding both hands up in surrender. He turned his head enough to see that there were four pairs of legs surrounding him. Someone grabbed his collar and yanked him down onto both knees so fast that his teeth clacked together. He should have shouted for Jack, but if they hadn't spotted Jack then maybe they would think Daniel was alone. The men were all dressed in dark clothing and wore patches on their shoulders that looked as though they were part of some military structure. Daniel examined every detail and tried to memorize as much as he could before they knocked him unconscious, because that was usually what happened next.

One of the men shoved a stub-nosed device at Daniel, probably some sort of weapon, and said something. Although, he wasn't speaking to Daniel, Daniel decided it might be a good time to tell them that he came in peace.

"Hi," Daniel said, lifting his empty hands up in the air to show that he was no threat to them. One of the men stepped forward and stood in front of him. Daniel realized that the patch on his uniform was different from the rest. Maybe it meant that he was in charge. "I'm not a threat. I came through the stargate...." Daniel motioned in the direction of the gate. He made a round shape with his hands to communicate. "I'm an explorer." He craned his neck to look up into the man's cold, blue eyes. "Daniel Jackson." He pointed at himself.

The man said something and Daniel realized that he was speaking a language that he did understand. It sounded similar to ancient Arabic. Daniel repeated his words in Arabic, and the spark of recognition in the leader's face must have meant that he understood.

"I am Akil," the leader said in their language. "You trespass on private lands and will be made to pay." He snapped his fingers and turned away from Daniel.

Two of the men grabbed Daniel, one on either side, and yanked him to his feet.

"Wait," Daniel said, going limp to slow them down. "We had no idea this was private land. If we had, we would have stayed away."

Akil spun around and glared. Daniel gulped as he realized his mistake. He'd said we. He flinched when Akil rushed forward and backhanded him across the face, only staying upright because the other men held him in their firm grips. Akil snapped his fingers again, and the two men holding him released Daniel, letting him fall in a heap to the ground. Before Daniel could take a breath or sit up, they began kicking him in the ribs on both sides. Unable to defend himself, Daniel curled into a ball and stayed that way until he lost consciousness.

*

Someone nudged Daniel, and he groaned. His head pounded as though a thousand daggers were being jabbed into his skull. Daniel sighed and his insides protested the injudicious movement. He was sure that he had a least one cracked rib and possibly a broken arm. His right wrist hurt, but he didn't think it was broken. He could hear someone whispering his name. Fingers brushed his face, and Daniel cracked his eyes open to find everything was a blur; his glasses were gone. His ribs throbbed with pain and his right arm ached. There was someone kneeling before him.

"Daniel," Sam said. She touched his shoulder and handed him his glasses.

Daniel reached for them with his free arm and nearly screamed from the pain. Why was he always the one who got the crap kicked out of him? Somehow, Daniel managed to grit his teeth through the pain and slide his glasses on. The world came into sharp focus and he sat up with Sam's help, his head swimming.

"I guess this means we're in trouble," Daniel mumbled. He glanced around to see that they were still outside, close to some sort of stone structure, maybe the temple that they had spotted on the aerial sweep. Sam and he sat unbound in the center while some of the men from the SG teams were to their left, on their knees with their arms tied behind their backs. All their weapons where gone.

"They haven't captured all of us," Sam whispered, leaning in closer.

Daniel glanced around and noticed that Jack and Teal'c were missing then tallied that a few more members remained unaccounted. Three of the soldiers from the group that had captured Daniel stood to their right. One of them smirked at Daniel, then looked over Daniel's head and straightened to attention, tightening his hand around his weapon.

Daniel scrambled to his knees when Akil made his presence known.

"Jackson," Akil said. "There will be no speaking unless I will it." He still spoke in their native language, which confirmed that they didn't understand English.

"Please allow me to speak, Akil, said Daniel in their native language, blinking up at the man."My friends do not understand your tongue."

Akil moved in closer, towering over Daniel in an obvious attempt to intimidate him, and then he reached out and placed a hand on Sam's head, caressing her. She flinched away, and Daniel made a motion to defend her but she warned him with her eyes to stop. He could see the look of distaste in her eyes as she allowed Akil to finger strands of her hair.

"It's not too late to make this right," said Daniel.

Akil snapped his fingers at one of the men, the one who had smirked at Daniel, and pointed at Sam. The man tied Sam's hands behind her back. Then Akil produced Daniel's handgun from where he had tucked it into his own belt. He moved up behind one of the tied-up team members and placed the barrel of Daniel's gun against the defenseless man's forehead. Daniel's eyes went wide, remembering he'd thumbed the safety to arm his gun just before the attack.

"There are more of you?" Akil asked the soldier. "Translate." Daniel did. It was plain what Akil planned to do, but Daniel knew that he couldn't answer. He locked eyes with the teammate who had Daniel's gun to his head. Daniel saw by his name patch that it was Drake. Drake shook his head and pinched his mouth tight, making it clear that he would not talk. Akil raised the gun and jabbed the barrel against Drake's temple.

Daniel couldn't let this happen.

"Wait!" Daniel shouted, lunging forward to grab at Akil's jacket. Akil kicked Daniel away with what must have been a curse. Daniel found himself in someone's grip, but he continued to protest. "Don't do this. We can leave peacefully and never return. I promise my people will never bother you again." Daniel looked up at Akil, pleading with his eyes and his words.

"Tell me how many more there are of you and I will not kill your man," Akil said. He stressed who had the upper hand by jabbing Drake with the weapon again, and looked Daniel in the eyes. Akil pointed the gun to the sky and pulled the trigger to demonstrate that he understood how to use the weapon. The shot rang out with an echo. Daniel flinched. Akil pointed the barrel at the soldier, and Daniel gave in to the demand. "There are five, five more out there!"

There was a long pause then Akil smiled and pulled the trigger again. Another shot rang out, and Drake fell forward, dead.

Daniel felt his heart leap into his throat and his body went numb. It had happened so fast "Why did you do that? I told you what you wanted to know." He tried not to look, but his gaze fell on Drake's body, and the blood that soaked the ground beneath his still form. Vacant eyes seemed to stare at him with accusation. Daniel stared, unable to look away.

"Yes, you did," Akil said. The next words out of his mouth chilled Daniel to the bones.

Daniel shook his head and swallowed hard, trying to keep the contents of his stomach down. He looked at Sam with horror and then swept his gaze over the other members of the team. Akil said something else, but Daniel didn't hear. He felt dizzy with fear and horror and frustration at the avoidable tragedy of the situation. Someone kicked him and he looked up at Akil.

"No," Daniel said, shaking his head again.

"What did he say?" Sam's question was risky but, thankfully, there was no retaliation from any of the aliens.

Daniel sat back on his ass and stared, trying to focus, trying to think of something, anything, that would get them out of this without someone else ending up dead, but he couldn't. They wouldn't allow them to leave this world alive. There was no way they could.

"They said that they protect this planet, and we must pay for our intrusion," Daniel said. He looked into Sam's gaze. "They told me that I have to choose who dies next. They will not let us go home."

Sam's eyes flared with anger and her gaze rose to Akil's face. "Tell them we'll leave and never come back."

Daniel sighed and shook his head. "I did. I told him that right away, but he won't listen. He said we have to pay with our lives." Daniel felt his eyes start to burn and hated it. He knew he had to get it together, couldn't break down there and then. That luxury was for later, provided they ever made it back home again.

He snapped his head up at the sound of a startled cry. The man who had shot Drake, moved to stand behind someone else. He held the gun up for Daniel to see.

"Choose," Akil said.

Daniel shook his head. "No! I won't choose. If you wish to murder people, I won't help." He shook his head harder, fighting the urge to flee, knowing they would only shoot him in the back if he ran now.

Akil snapped his fingers and the man turned his weapon on Sam, sighting down the barrel.

Daniel stumbled to his feet and rushed forward, determined that he was not going to watch the bastards kill Sam or anyone else. He thumped his own chest. "Me. I choose me."

Two men rushed at Daniel and pushed him back down onto his knees. Daniel struggled against them, but they were too strong. One of them slapped Daniel across the head, knocking his glasses from his face. Daniel's head snapped back from the impact and he fell onto his back, squeezing his eyes shut. He screamed and cursed, calling them every nasty Arabic name he could remember.

The two men kicked him until he stopped cursing. Daniel could hear Sam screaming at them to stop, but they didn't understand her words, though Daniel was sure that they understood her meaning.

They yanked him to his knees, but Daniel swayed dizzily and couldn't focus. He squinted and looked on the ground for his glasses.

"Looking for these?" Akil asked.

Daniel looked up through his messy hair. Akil was twirling something in his hand, and Daniel suspected it had to be his glasses. There was a sudden eruption of gunfire and Daniel ducked, curled into a ball and covered his head with both hands. All around them, Akil's men fell. Daniel saw Sam break free of her bonds and yank a weapon from one of the fallen men. She point it at the man who had shot Drake, and fire. All Daniel could think was how glad he was that she had managed to gain access to a weapon so that she could kill them all. He didn't care how uncharitable that sounded.

Akil rushed forward and dove at Daniel, flattening him to the ground, gripping him by the throat. He was screaming the word death, and he had one arm raised in the air, rage in his eyes. Something shiny glinted in the sun - a curved dagger. Daniel struggled as hard as he could, but he had one arm pinned behind his back and the other was pinned under Akil's leg.

The grip on Daniel's throat tightened and the knife made a swift elegant arc in the air, plunging at Daniel's chest. Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that no other team member would die, even if he had failed.

In the next moment, the weight on top of Daniel vanished, and Daniel opened his eyes to see that Jack had the man by his throat. Akil's legs thrashed as Jack dragged him a few feet from Daniel. Daniel couldn't see what transpired, but the thrashing stopped. Daniel looked away, clutched at his sore throat, overcome by a coughing fit. Someone grabbed his arm, and that was when Daniel realized there was no more gunfire.

The only thought going through Daniel's mind was how glad he was that Jack and the others had come to rescue them. He refused to think about the fact that he was happy Jack had killed that bastard.

Sam helped Daniel to his feet, and asked him something, but the words sounded far away, like they were underwater. His head swam and he fought the wave of dizziness. He leaned against her for support. Someone else grabbed his other arm, and Daniel lifted his head to find Teal'c staring down at him. Spots danced before his eyes. They merged and morphed into black shapes, blotting out his vision.

"Are you well, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.

Daniel nodded even though he was far from well. He wished he could puke, but his stomach was empty. He leaned against Teal'c with all his weight, glad for Teal'c's tight grip, and then he regained his footing, told Teal'c that he was fine to stand on his own. Teal'c moved off and Jack appeared in front of Daniel, his expression a blur as he thrust Daniel's glasses into his hand. By some miracle, they hadn't broken. Daniel lowered his head and slipped them on, feeling his eyes burn with tears.

"I'm so...sorry, Jack," Daniel said. He didn't know why he was stammering, but he felt shaky all over, his hands trembled. Jack had one hand gripping his weapon while his other hand danced before Daniel's eyes.

"Hey," Jack said. "Focus on me." He waved two fingers in front of Daniel, and Daniel followed them up to Jack's brown eyes. Daniel wasn't sure what he expected to see in them, but all he saw was empathy. "There's my boy." Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Right now I need you to be here with me, with us. The team needs you."

"Okay," Daniel said, lowering his eyes, but Jack forced his gaze up with a hand on Daniel's chin, keeping their eyes locked.

"Focus," said Jack, his voice low so that only Daniel could hear. "There might be more of those crazies coming to see what all the noise was about. We need to get home."

Daniel glanced past Jack and saw Sam standing, waiting, concern in her eyes. He shook the remaining dizziness away and nodded emphatically to show Jack that he was all right, he would be just fine.

Jack turned away and barked orders at the men and they were off, headed toward the gate. Two of the soldiers carried Drake's limp body between them, and Daniel gulped, fighting a new wave of nausea even as he marched behind Sam. Daniel barely paid attention to his surroundings, his gaze locked on Sam's back, Jack right behind him.

They made it to the gate without incident. Sam dialed home and the team walked through the event horizon. Jack clapped a hand on Daniel's shoulder to keep him steady. On the other side of the wormhole, there was chaos. Someone took his gear and shoved him toward the door. Daniel wondered where his gun had gone, realizing he would have to file a report because it had been discharged, even if he hadn't been the one to fire the weapon. He felt bile rise in his throat at the thought and stopped to throw up clear fluid on the floor. When they did arrive at the infirmary, Janet urged him to sit up on one of the beds.

The examination was quick. She asked all the usual questions and he answered with a blank stare. There were no major cuts, and the arm Daniel originally thought had been broken turned out to be a sprain, along with his wrist, but he didn't think he needed to stay in the infirmary for that. He asked if he could spend the night on base instead. Much to his surprise, Janet agreed.

Jack had disappeared, probably to make his report to the general. He would have to explain how they'd lost a man. It was only a matter of time before Daniel would need to write his own report, but for now, he headed to his quarters. He needed to shower, desperate to be out of his dirty clothes. Shivers kept running through him, he couldn't stop the waves of dizziness. All he needed was a shower and a good night's sleep and he'd be right as rain. Daniel's mind wandered as he walked, musing on what 'right as rain' meant, deciding he sure as hell didn't know or care.

After his shower, Daniel lowered himself to the bed. It wasn't as soft as the bed in his apartment but, right now, anything was better than the ground on that horrible planet. He hadn't seen any sign that someone or something was protecting that world from interlopers. Though he was exhausted, and his body ached despite the pain pills Janet had administered, Daniel couldn't stop thinking about Drake. Paul Drake was dead and Daniel hadn't been able to prevent the outcome. He knew they all came to the SGC with the knowledge that they could die off world, but that thought didn't make it any easier accept.

Daniel tossed and turned until exhaustion won and, a few hours later, he woke with a shout from a nightmare-drenched sleep.

*

His office was dark, but Daniel didn't bother to turn on the lights. He walked to his chair and sat down, jarring his shoulder. He turned the chair to face the desk, leaned forward, and rested his head on his folded arms, exhausted. His body throbbed with pain. He was thankful that the SGC was quiet for a change. Jack was off site, and Daniel couldn't find anyone who would tell him where he was; only that Jack wasn't off world. When Daniel had gone to hand in his report about P3X 539, Hammond had told - more like ordered - Daniel to get some rest, but every time Daniel slept, he dreamed. They were all nightmares. Each time he closed his eyes, he saw Drake's face, accusing Daniel of allowing them to kill him.

Daniel sighed and turned to his computer screen. It had been three days since the incident and, though his physical injuries had almost healed, he found it difficult to focus on anything. He took a deep breath and stared at the computer screen, wondering how Hammond would react to his report. Daniel hadn't spared any details. He'd included the argument with Jack that had distracted them and that, no doubt, led to their capture in the first place. Though Daniel left out the real reason for the argument, he'd felt it was an important detail to include.

When Daniel's phone rang, he jumped in his seat. It was the general's assistant requesting that Daniel come to Hammond's office. Daniel sighed in resignation, stood with a groan and made his way to the office. When he arrived, Hammond was on the phone. Daniel waited in the meeting room, and stared out the window down at the stargate, the ring that had changed his entire life. Daniel thought back to that fateful day when he'd first met Jack O'Neill and smiled. Even back then, he knew there was something more building between them. Daniel knew that despite staying on Abydos, he'd no doubt in his mind that their story was not over by a long shot. So much had transpired since that day.

"The general is ready to see you now, Doctor Jackson."

Daniel felt his heart surge with nervous anticipation at the thought that it could all end at any moment. He turned from the window view, nodded at the assistant, and then walked into the office.

"Please close the door, Doctor," Hammond said from behind his desk.

The formal address sent Daniel's heart racing. He took the chair in front of the desk when Hammond invited him to sit down. Hammond shuffled some papers for a few moments, before setting them down and folding his hands on top of his desk. There was a long moment of silence where Daniel could swear he heard the sound of the gate's cooling system kick in. He tapped his foot twice, glanced away from Hammond's intense gaze. The general's expression was unreadable as he surveyed Daniel's face then lowered his gaze to stare down at his folded hands.

The door flung open, and Daniel turned to see Jack stride into the office with his hands tucked in his pants pockets. With two easy strides, Jack nudged the other seat in front of Hammond's desk with his leg and sat down. He folded his hands into his lap and offered no more than a tight smile at Daniel before he turned his attention to Hammond.

"Sorry I'm a bit late, I had to change out of my...." Jack said, waving one hand at his regulation black t-shirt and olive BDUs.

Hammond nodded and cleared his throat. "Let me get right to the point, gentlemen," he said, his Texas drawl more pronounced than usual. He tapped the papers before him with a finger. "I felt it best to warn you both that there will be an investigation into the handgun incident off-world. As of this moment, I am temporarily rescinding Dr. Jackson's firearms permission. He will not be allowed to carry any military regulation weapons when going off-world until this matter is resolved to the investigation's satisfaction."

Jack leaned forward and sat on the edge of his seat. "That's crap," he declared. "What happened was not Daniel's fault."

"I understand that and, once they have interviewed everyone that was there, this matter will be resolved. I have to follow the regs on this one, Jack."

Jack shook his head, and Daniel could see that he was holding back rage. Daniel sagged in his chair, and looked everywhere but at Jack and Hammond. He didn't need to see the expressions of disappointment in their faces. Daniel wanted to tell Jack that it was okay, and that he understood, but he couldn't make the words form on his lips. They remained trapped in his throat. Drake's face swam before him with accusation in his eyes.

"Dismissed," said Hammond before Jack could protest again.

Daniel stood and turned to leave. He wanted out of there as soon as possible. He wondered if Jack would follow him, but when he looked down at Jack who still sat in his chair, Jack telegraphed his intention to stay behind with his eyes. Daniel nodded and left, closing the door behind him. The shouts started the moment the door clicked shut. Daniel walked to the window and stared down at the ring, the symbols of every gate address they had visited etched in his mind. He crossed his arms and rested his head against the cool glass.

A hand on his shoulder startled Daniel, and he spun around to find Jack standing behind him - too close. Daniel wanted to move away, but stood his ground instead, unsure of what to do or say.

"This will all blow over in a few days," Jack said. His voice was low - his soft brown eyes focused on Daniel with intensity that made Daniel's stomach flip-flop in a warm way. "Change into some workout gear and meet me in the gym in thirty minutes."

Before Daniel could ask what was up, Jack turned away and left. Daniel looked to Hammond's closed office door, and then to the gate. After a few more minutes of leaden contemplation, he pushed off the glass and headed to his locker. He checked his watch and discovered much to his chagrin that he had only ten more minutes to meet Jack. Daniel hustled into the locker room, and changed.

The gym was in use by the time Daniel arrived. Four military SGC staff members were sparring at one end and Teal'c was lifting weights. Jack stood alone in the center of some mats, dressed in a loose t-shirt and dark blue track pants. Daniel could see a tuft of grey chest hair peeking out from the collar of his shirt. When he caught sight of Daniel hovering in the doorway, he waved him over.

"What's this about, Jack?" Daniel asked as he walked onto the padded surface. He started at the sound of a man grunting and slamming against a mat nearby.

"You need some practice," Jack said, shifting his stance to face Daniel. Without warning, Jack lunged forward and grabbed Daniel, threw him down flat on his back, and pinned him to the mat with one knee on Daniel's chest. Daniel groaned as he landed, his breath knocked from his lungs.

Too stunned and breathless to say anything, Daniel watched Jack stand, and offer him a hand. He could hear some chuckles from the other side of the room. Turning away from the offered hand, Daniel pushed up on to his feet, wondering what Jack was playing at.

Even though he was sure about what Jack was going to do, it didn't help. With one swift move, Daniel was flat on his front again, pinned to the mat. This time, Jack had one of Daniel's arms twisted behind his back. Daniel cried out in shock, and Jack released him. He stepped back and allowed Daniel to get on his feet. Daniel rubbed his sore shoulder, and glared at Jack. He pushed his skewed glasses up his nose. This was crazy. Jack knew he could take care of himself. What was he playing at, and why was he doing this here?

"It has come to my attention that you haven't been training on a regular schedule," Jack said. He straightened, shifted on his feet, and faced Daniel again, waving at him. "Come at me. This time, I'll give you an advantage." Jack put one of his arms behind his back and circled Daniel, his gaze intense.

"This is ridiculous. I don't need this kind of training," Daniel insisted. The room went silent. He glanced around the gym to see that everyone had stopped their activities to watch them. Daniel could feel his cheeks burn with embarrassment. He lowered his voice to plead, "Jack, don't do this. Please."

Jack ignored him, bounced on his feet, and lunged at him. This time, Daniel gave into the inevitable, and tried to prepare for Jack's attack. He dodged left, but Jack deceived him and looped his free arm around one of Daniel's arms. He pulled Daniel forward and off balance. Daniel fell forward, and, in a blur of motion, he was once again pinned beneath Jack. To top off the humiliation, Jack still had his arm tucked behind his back.

Jack leaned in, and shoved his face into Daniel's face and growl, "Don't ever take your eyes off of your opponent." He released Daniel, stood, and rubbed his hands together as though he were brushing dirt from them. Daniel stood, stifling a groan. His other shoulder had been hurt in the fall. Before he could regain his footing or his composure, Jack motioned for one of the other men to come forward.

"What's your name, son?" Jack said.

"Brad Cartwright, sir," said the young aviator. His body was stiff at attention and all his focus was on Jack, or so Daniel thought until he realized that Brad was sending furtive glances Daniel's way.

"Cartwright," Jack said, motioning at Daniel. "I want you to attack him."

Cartwright directed a hesitant look from Daniel to Jack. "Sir."

"Do I need to make that an order?" Jack said. It wasn't a question. Jack was serious. The man still looked uncertain of how to respond to Jack's request.

Daniel tried to get a sense of what Jack was trying to prove, but the expression on Jack's face was inscrutable. "Jack," Daniel said narrowing his eyes. "This is unreasonable. If you're mad at me then just please, don't do this here." Daniel eyed the room, and realized that it was too late to stop whatever this was. Everyone was watching the confrontation, and Daniel felt humiliation grow in him.

"He got one of your guys killed, Cartwright," Jack said. He leaned closer to Brad with his eyes narrowed.

Daniel felt his heart skip a beat and widened his eyes. He couldn't believe what Jack was saying, right in front of everyone. He might as well have told them that it was open season on Daniel. Just seconds before the punch Cartwright threw at him landed, Daniel realized that Jack's words had hit home. Cartwright lunged for him, and Daniel jumped out of the way at the last possible moment, but he overbalanced and fell forward. This time, Cartwright was there with his other hand, a tight grip on Daniel's collar. He tossed Daniel to the mat with no effort.

Someone clapped his or her hands and, Daniel looked up to find Jack towering over him, motioning to Cartwright to stand down. The man obeyed the order and offered Daniel a hand up from where he lay sprawled on the floor. Daniel's ass smarted from yet another embarrassing moment. Daniel went to take the offered hand, but Jack pulled Cartwright away.

"Okay, Jack, you proved your point," Daniel said. He tried to hide his frustration but, even to his own ears, he could hear the hurt in his voice. He stood and rubbed his sore elbow. His gaze met Jack's, and he knew Jack was about to say or do something else that would result in more humiliation.

"Anyone else want to lay out the sissy?" Jack crossed his arms, stepped back and away from the center of the room, and nodded at the other men.

The shock of those words coming from Jack reverberate in Daniel's ears, and he swallowed the lump in his throat and spun to leave, but his way was blocked by three men. Teal'c stood to one side motionless, his arms behind his back. It was clear that Daniel wasn't going to get any help from him. Daniel turned from the men and ducked the first man who lunged at him and ran around the group of men, the only advantage he had. He could run faster than anyone else could on the team.

It was hard to get a good buildup of speed in such an enclosed space, but Daniel managed. He rushed around the equipment, his heart pounding from the adrenaline and the thought of what they might do to him if they caught him. He assessed his surroundings and lunged at one of the men who tried to corner him. He managed to knock the man off balance, then pushed him the rest of the way, until the man toppled over, and fell flat on his face. With Daniel's attention focused on his opponent, another man grabbed a hold of him, wrapped his arms around Daniel's shoulders, and threw him to the floor. He pinned Daniel beneath him and held him down with such ease that Daniel felt humiliated again.

"All right," Jack said. "That'll be enough for today."

The man atop Daniel released him, but Daniel didn't miss the barely concealed look of anger in the man's eyes, nor did he mistake the way he ground his knee into Daniel just before getting off him, as mere accident. Daniel stifled a cry of pain and rubbed at his sore ribs. He rolled onto his side with his back to the people in the room and curled in to a ball.

"You're all dismissed," Jack said. The sound of shuffling feet receded and there was a moment of silence.

"Do you not think that perhaps you were too harsh with Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c said. His voice was as calm as always, and Daniel imagined Teal'c standing with one brow raised.

Daniel rolled over and lay on his back, glad that his glasses hadn't been broken during the lesson that Jack had so obviously felt the need to impart. Sure enough, Teal'c and Jack stood a few feet away from him, Teal'c with one brow raised. Jack stared down at Daniel and threw a casual wave in Daniel's direction.

"Nah, he'll be fine. However, we need to set up a schedule for hand-to-hand combat training," Jack said. "He's not in shape to defend anyone, especially not himself. I want him to learn how to fend off an attacker and how to keep his weapon." He continued speaking as though Daniel were not even in the room.

"Hey," Daniel protested. He got to his feet in one graceless motion, and grimaced at the stabbing pain in his ribs. "He is standing right here."

"He should also learn how to disarm an enemy in any situation." Jack continued to ignore Daniel, scratched at his cheek and then rubbed his hand over his hair as if he was lost in thought. "Maybe throw in some staff weapon and P-90 training as well."

Daniel took a few steps forward, limping from a cramp in his left leg. He flinched and glared at Jack.

Teal'c approached Daniel. "You did well against multiple opponents," Teal'c said. He offered up one of his nods and exited the gym.

"You sucked," Jack said. "Don't let the big guy give you a false sense of security." Jack threw a dismissive wave in the direction of the exit. "He was just being nice."

"I won't submit to any of this training," Daniel said. He folded his arms across his chest and prepared for an argument. He knew there would be one, because Jack was a stubborn son-of-a-bitch and Daniel was not going to give in to his crap. He'd already been through the training that was required for off world missions, and Jack's was well award of this fact.

"Yes, you will," Jack said, a grim smile on his lips. "We'll talk later about your schedule." He moved to leave and Daniel rushed forward to stop him with a hand on his arm. Daniel tightened his grip on Jack's bicep when Jack turned a cool stare on him.

"Whatever it is, Jack, we can talk it out," Daniel said. It was obvious that Jack was angry with him, and he thought he knew why, but Daniel didn't want to say anything. He would rather hear the words spoken by Jack.

Jack shook Daniel's grip away, turned, and walked out of the room without another word, but Daniel couldn't let it go. He chased Jack down the hall, rushing to keep pace with Jack's strides. Daniel ignored his aches and twinges of pain. He moved aside whenever they walked past another member of the SGC. He barely had the time to say a word before they were in the showers and change rooms. Jack began to strip without pause. The jingle of his tags echoed in the room when he yanked his shirt over his head.

Daniel had to take a step back to dodge Jack's shirt when Jack tossed it over his shoulder in the general direction of his locker. "Come on, Jack. Give me a break." Daniel's mouth went dry at the sight of a shirtless Jack, and then he stared speechless when Jack hooked his thumbs on the waistband of his track pants and, with one raised brow for warning, yanked them down.

Daniel looked away then looked back, unable to help himself. Jack looked so damned hot standing there naked, and then Daniel realized that Jack hadn't been wearing briefs beneath his track pants and his face heated at the thought.

"You want to know what I did this afternoon," Jack said, pulling his shampoo and soap from his locker. Daniel kept his gaze on Jack's face, and tried hard to ignore that he'd just given Daniel a perfect view of his ass. "I had to go tell Drake's parents that their son died in the line of duty."

"J-Jack," said Daniel. He was too stunned to think of anything else to say even though he should have said something, offered more than a stammered name. He was supposed to be good at speeches, words were his specialty, but Daniel couldn't think of anything that wouldn't sound trite. "You're angry with me because...you think I got him killed?" Daniel couldn't help but be stunned at the words even as he said them aloud because Jack wouldn't blame Daniel, would he?

"No, Daniel," Jack said lowering his gaze. "I blame me. I should have been paying attention. If I hadn't been fighting with you, I would have seen the bad guys sooner and no one would have died, and I wouldn't have had to tell that boy's parents that their son is dead." Jack's voice trailed off and he snapped up his towel to head toward the showers, tension in every line of his body.

Daniel sat down on the bench against the wall and leaned back, eyes closed. His mind filled with thoughts of the events of the past few weeks. Jack had made it clear that there was never going to be a 'them' now or any time in the future; what had happened was the nail in the coffin. There was no way now that Jack would consider a romantic involvement with Daniel. He yanked his glasses off, leaned forward, and buried his face in his hands.

It was easy to think it, but he couldn't accept that they had reached the end so soon. He'd thought that after his wife died, he'd never feel the same way again about anyone. Yet, somehow, Jack had found a way into Daniel's closed heart, and it was over before it even had a chance to begin. It was obvious that Jack was hurting, and Daniel wanted nothing more than to be there for him, even if it was just in a capacity as a friend. Daniel had to accept that it would be nothing more than that between them, and that thinking otherwise was being selfish. Here was Jack, broken up because of their dead teammate, and all Daniel could think about was how it had affected him.

Daniel was too lost in thought to notice the sound of footfalls or the men who entered the locker room until their shadows fell across him. He glanced up and made out several shapes looming over him. Bright lights behind them cast their bodies as silhouettes, but this close, he could sense tension in their stance. He shouldn't be afraid, but there were three of them and he was alone, and they looked angry.

"C-can I help you?" Daniel said. His voice wavered and he cleared his throat. He began to slip his glasses back on his face, but someone gripped his wrist and halted his motion. Behind them, he could hear the sound of the water turn off.

Daniel shook the man's grip off and turned his gaze away, trying to hide the sudden pang of fear that he knew must have shown on his face. He didn't know their names and he didn't look at their faces, otherwise he would have to identify them. He slid his glasses on and stood, glad when the men stepped aside to allow him room to pass. One of them nudged his shoulder, a glancing blow that knocked Daniel up against the wall and he slapped a hand on the wall beside Daniel's head. Daniel jumped in spite of the mantra in his head repeating 'just keep moving and get out as fast as possible.'

No one said a word. Daniel flinched when the man plunked a second hand on his other shoulder and began pressing forward.

"Something going on here, Bates?"

Daniel snapped his head up and saw Jack, dripping wet from his shower, a towel wrapped around his waist. The man he'd addressed as Bates backed away from Daniel, and squeezed Daniel's shoulder before he slid a hand down Daniel's chest and let it drop to his side.

"Nothing's going on here," Bates said.

Jack pursed his lips and bore down on the man with narrowed eyes until Bates took a step back. Daniel had to admit that even in nothing but a towel and dripping wet, he found Jack intimidating.

"What was that you said, Airman?" Jack growled deep in his throat and shot the other two men death glares.

"Sir," Bates said, adding a salute. There was a long pause where Daniel was sure Jack would explode with anger, but then he backed away from Bates, and gestured at the exit.

"Get out of my sight," Jack said. He turned his back on them and sat down on the bench, both hands in fists. Daniel didn't watch the three men leave, but he did hear the door of the locker room thump shut behind them.

"The showers are all yours." Jack swiped a hand over his wet hair and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, his tags jangling together.

"Thanks," Daniel said, referring more to the averted confrontation than the chance to get clean. He thought he saw a sneer on Jack's lips but it was so fleeting that Daniel hoped he'd imagined it. He hesitated before he gathered his supplies, and headed for the shower. He felt dirty, wanted to take his time, but his heart was still thumping from the adrenaline of what could have happened. The men wouldn't have hurt him, he was almost sure of that, but it had still frightened him, even after he'd faced down Ra and all those other Goa'uld system lords. Those men weren't supposed to be his enemy, and yet, they had made him feel that way.

Daniel took a few deep breaths then stepped into the shower to wash away the sweat and fear. He turned under the spray of warm water and thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Daniel froze and squinted, trying in vain to see, but without his glasses, everything was just shadows. He didn't see more movement, so he focused on finishing his shower as quick as possible. Once he had his towel wrapped around his waist, and had gathered his things, Daniel padded across the damp tiled floor. He jumped in surprise, almost dropping his shampoo bottle when he saw that Jack still sat on the bench against the wall, in the shadows. He was now dressed in BDUs and a black t-shirt.

"God, Jack, you scared me," Daniel said. He tried to force his erratic heartbeat to slow down, but he was still on edge.

"Jumpy," Jack said with a hint of amusement. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his legs spread wide.

Turning his back to Jack, Daniel tucked his soap and shampoo into his locker, and pulled clean clothes out. He stared down at the olive drab pants and a black t-shirt - the same outfit that Jack wore, wishing to ask Jack why he was still there. When he tried to say the words, they stuck in his throat. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer to that particular question.

The soft rustle of clothes and the shuffle of boots on the floor filled Daniel with a sense of heightened awareness, and he held his breath in anticipation. He could feel Jack behind him, standing closer than propriety, and his skin tingled at the sensation of Jack's breath against the back of his neck.

"Jack, I...." Daniel smoothed a hand over the neatly folded clothes he held, spread his fingers wider to hide the shiver that spread through him with each breath that warmed his damp skin.

"Those men won't bother you again. I promise," Jack said. Each word painted a shudder across Daniel's skin as Jack leaned in closer, so much closer.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut so tight, and willed his body to relax. Then he took a deep breath and a chance, aware it was a foolish gamble. Daniel opened his eyes, and stared down at the t-shirt. He noticed that a small thread dangled from the collar and made a mental note to trim it later.

"And what about you," Daniel said, taking a deep gulp of air. He raised his head and turned enough to gaze into Jack's intense brown eyes. "Will you be bothering me?"

The look of surprise on Jack's face told Daniel that his words had not had the desired effect, but Jack sighed. Daniel realized that Jack did understand the meaning of his words after all because, when he turned his gaze on Daniel again, there was regret in his eyes.

"I can't, Daniel," Jack said.

The whispered words cut through Daniel like a scream. They were scant inches apart when he turned his body to face Jack. Daniel brushed his against Jack.

"If anyone ever got wind of anything...." The implication hung heavy in the air between them.

Daniel licked his lips and swallowed the lump in his throat, bit down on the words that threatened to spill, and knew it was unreasonable to ask Jack to take the risk. For just a moment, when Daniel looked Jack square in the eyes, he thought he saw intent, but the moment vanished, gone in the blink of an eye.

Jack backed away, tucked his hands in his pants pocket, maybe to resist temptation.

"There's a meeting at 0800 hours tomorrow," Jack said. He looked everywhere but at Daniel and then waved his hand in the air. "You should get some sleep...here on base since it's so late." Jack slipped one hand from his pocket and pointed at his wristwatch, although Daniel didn't catch the time. Jack left without another word and Daniel was alone, again. He sat down on the bench, and swallowed what little he had left of his pride.

*

Daniel typed the last word on his paper with a sigh of relief. He stared at the title and wondered if something more appropriate would suite the article, but he knew there would be plenty of time to change the name. After all, no one but Sam would read it.

He saved the file, sent it to the printer, and turned as the whir of the printer spools were set in motion. He stood and trudged over to the table where the printer sat and watched it spit out each sheet. Black ink sprayed on pages and filled them with his words.

The past week had been hard. Whenever he'd seen Jack, Daniel had turned and walked the other way. For the most part, he'd managed to avoid Jack, but it wouldn't be too long before they had to be in each other's presence. At least there wouldn't be a new mission for at least a few more days, while Sam performed the monthly maintenance on the gate system. Daniel had taken the downtime to write his annual paper that no one would ever read and would never see the light of day in the academic journals. He glanced over at the file cabinet that held the numerous papers he'd written over the past four years. He knew this latest one wasn't his best, because he lacked the necessary focus and concentration.

The printer finished its job, and Daniel shuffled the hundred plus pages together into a neat stack. He frowned down at the title page, still unhappy with the name he'd chosen, then shrugged his shoulders and headed to Sam's office. When he arrived, the room was empty. Daniel checked his watch and realized that it was almost one and that Sam was probably in the commissary having lunch. Daniel breathed a sigh of frustration and turned to leave when he heard the sound of Sam's distinct laughter carry down the hallway. There was a chuckled response and Daniel recognized Jack's voice. He tried to gauge if he had enough time to slip from the room and disappear before they got here, but then he'd taken too long to think about it, and they were in the doorway, blocking his escape.

"Daniel," Sam said. She smiled at him and he could see that her cheeks were flushed red. Jack stood just behind her, his hands in his pants pockets.

"Hi, Sam," Daniel said. He waved with his free hand. He felt foolish and nodded at Jack before he glanced away from them both. "I um..."

"Is that your paper?" Sam said.

Daniel turned to see that her gaze was on the stack of papers in his hands. He nodded and pushed his glasses up when they slipped down his nose. She reached for the stack and took it when offered.

"It's not very exciting," Daniel said. "I wasn't sure about the title and some of the references are a bit obscure." Daniel folded his arms across his chest and tried for a smile.

 

"No, the title sounds good to me. I like it," Sam said. "I can't wait to read it."

"If you have any suggestions...."

"Oh, I doubt I will. It's probably perfect, as usual," Sam said. She gave Daniel a lighthearted smack on his shoulder. Behind her, Jack stared off at the blank wall, and Daniel followed his line of sight to see nothing on the wall that Jack seemed to be contemplating with so much concentration. Daniel could almost sense an eye roll coming on.

"I know it's only the second one this year, but..."

Jack cleared his throat, and Daniel lost his train of thought, sidetracked by Jack's attempt to distract them. Sam smiled with indulgence, and Daniel lowered his head to rest his chin on his chest before looking up at Sam.

"So how goes the gate diagnostic?" he said to change the subject, at least until Jack decided he was bored and left them alone.

"Great. Everything is on schedule," Sam said. She set Daniel's paper down on her desk with great care. There was a long pause, during which Daniel swore he could hear a clock ticking...somewhere.

"Well, I guess I'd better get going," Daniel said.

Sam nodded and Daniel walked around her to exit. He made sure to avoid eye contact with Jack. The moment he was out of sight and in the hallway, he picked up his pace until he was at the elevator. He pressed the button and waited. Someone came up behind him, and he spun to find that Jack stood with his hands in his pockets.

The elevator door slid open. Daniel stepped inside, and Jack followed him. Jack pushed the button for Daniel's level before Daniel could, then shrugged and returned his hands to his pockets.

"That was awkward," Jack said.

Daniel waved and shrugged off Jack's words. Silence filled the air between them.

The elevator stopped on his floor and Jack trailed after him until they were both inside Daniel's lab. Jack went straight for an artifact - the priceless one - and picked it up, pretending to scrutinize the object. It was a clay circle with a square hole in the center, and Jack poked his finger through the hole with a childish smirk.

"So what was that all about with Carter?" Jack said. He threw in a casual shrug. When Daniel didn't respond, Jack waved a hand in his face. "Yoo-hoo, I asked you something, Daniel."

"Nothing," said Daniel. He wrestled the artifact from Jack's grasp and set it down before he could make more lewd hand gestures with the thing. "She was just doing me a favor. You'd be bored with the details."

"No, I wouldn't," said Jack. His mouth curved into a smile and his eyebrows shot up to emphasize how much he would not be bored.

Daniel sighed and sat down in front of his computer. His document was still on the screen and he pointed to it. "It's a paper I wrote about the similarities to the indigenous people from Corax and Earth's Mayan culture."

Jack moved in closer and leaned over Daniel's shoulder to stare at the screen, his mouth just inches from Daniel's ear. That close, Daniel could smell Jack's clean skin. He tried not to notice Jack's clean-shaven cheek, but his imagination ran away on him, and he pictured his own stubble-covered cheek pressed against Jack's smooth skin.

Jack reached out and rested one hand against the table beside Daniel's hand. His thumb brushed Daniel's thumb, whether deliberate or accidental, Daniel couldn't tell, but Daniel didn't move his hand away and the contact sent a thrill through him. He licked his lips and tried to focus all his attention on the screen.

"Why would you bother?" Jack said. He drew his head back and turned his gaze onto Daniel. "It's not like you can publish the thing."

"I know, but maybe some day, if the program ever goes public...." Daniel shrugged and shifted enough to feel the press of Jack's shoulder against his own. He pretended to himself that he hadn't done it on purpose, that it was casual, the kind of contact they'd always engaged in even before Daniel's slipup back on that cliff ledge.

When Jack didn't withdraw, and instead leaned in closer, Daniel felt a pang of hope spring in his chest. Jack turned his attention to the computer monitor, as if to read what was on the screen. Daniel drew back, stunned that Jack would, but that was what it looked like he was doing, his lips even moved as though to mouth the words. Then the spell was broken the moment over. Jack backed away, though his hand still rested on the table, a wayward thumb brushed against the pad of Daniel's hand.

"So you've been doing this...." Jack raised a brow at Daniel.

"Pretty much since the program started," Daniel said. "I usually manage five or six papers a year, but so far, I've only managed two this year. I've been somewhat distracted. I keep thinking that maybe my workload...." He trailed off because Jack stared at him in that distant way that meant he had stopped listening.

"Did you throw in the stuff about how friendly they were?" Jack waved a hand over the keyboard and Daniel resisted the urge to slap it away. He watched the mocking fingers dance and then glared at Jack, waiting for him to stop. At least, Jack had the decency to look sheepish as he withdrew his hand to rub the back of his own neck. "You know -that part about where they followed you around the whole time we were there and wouldn't leave you alone for a second."

"That was one person and he was just curious, Jack," Daniel said. He was glad that their little dance of avoidance was over, but Jack had to have better things to do than get Daniel hot and bothered. Daniel had a busy day ahead, besides his own workload, he also had a new recruit that was supposed to be here any minute, and he still hadn't written an agenda for their day. He almost managed to make it through the conversation without getting that feeling deep in the pit of his stomach that made him want to grab Jack and kiss him until he saw stars. The longer Jack stayed in his office, the harder Daniel it became for Daniel to resist.

Someone cleared his or her throat at the entrance to Daniel's office and Daniel felt his stomach flip. Jack stiffened but didn't move away. Instead, he rested a heavy hand on Daniel's shoulder and patted him.

"That's great, Dr. Jackson," Jack said. He withdrew his hand, and then straightened to face the intruder.

Daniel turned in his seat enough to see who had interrupted them, but he suspected that this would be the new recruit. It was a surprise to Daniel that the man in the doorway was familiar.

"Robert," Daniel said. He slipped from the chair and slipped around Jack. "I had no idea that you were our new hire."

The last time Daniel had seen Robert Wellsburg, he'd been on a dig in Egypt. They'd spent a three-month period in close proximity back then, and Robert had always been encouraging, though not as enthusiastic as Daniel had been about his theories on the age of the pyramids. Robert had all but vanished by the time Daniel made his doomed lecture that had caught the attention of Catherine Langford.

"This place is insane," Robert said. His gaze flicked from Daniel to Jack then settled back on Daniel. He still had the same dark green, intense eyes that Daniel remembered, although his black hair was longer, and he had lost some weight. Daniel reached out to take his hand in a firm shake as he noted the security level on Robert's badge.

"It can be a little overwhelming," Daniel said. He smiled at the sound of Jack noisily clearing his throat. "Robert, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill." Before Daniel could finish the introduction, Jack lunged forward and offered his hand for a shake. Robert stared down at the hand, and for a moment, Daniel was sure Robert would not accept it, but then he did.

"Hi, I'm the second in command of this insane place," Jack said. He released Robert's hand and clapped his together. "You have any questions, just talk to Daniel here. He can fill you in on everything. Well, maybe not everything, because some things are classified, and I'd have to kill you if you found out." A long pause followed the joke. When nobody laughed, Jack continued. "Well, I have a meeting to get to." Jack spun and pointed at Daniel. "Say, you didn't happen to fill out that requisition thingy for that doohickey you wanted?"

"It's on your desk," Daniel said.

"Great," Jack said, backing away. "I'll let you two get to it." He flapped a hand at them and ducked out the door before Daniel could say a word.

Daniel took a deep breath, and watched Robert's reaction. He stared at the door for a few moments as though he expected Jack to suddenly pop his head back inside, then he turned to Daniel with a baffled look on his face.

"So, does everyone around here go as crazy as him after a while?"

All Daniel could think was that it was going to be a very long day.

*

After Robert's orientation, he and Daniel settled down at a table in the mess for a late lunch. They'd determined that Robert's new job was to help Daniel catalogue any new archeological finds brought back from other worlds. Daniel felt a thrill course through him at the thought of having someone to share his findings with; someone he knew would be just as excited.

"What we do here is too important to give up to just anyone," Daniel said. He waved an animated arm in the air then paused to eat a spoonful of the daily special. He wasn't sure what he was eating, but it tasted good to him.

"But it's being controlled by the..." Robert leaned in close and whispered the rest of his sentence. "...the military. Their objective must be to get bigger guns." It was clear that Robert was not a fan of the military or of the government.

"They're not all bad," Daniel said, shooting a smile at his friend. "Plus, the pay is good." He waggled his brows to show that he was mostly just kidding. "The work is what matters, and I have seen things that you would never dream of. Besides, the bad guys have really big guns. We don't have a choice in some cases. Once you've worked here for a while, you'll understand." Daniel wiped his mouth on a paper napkin and noticed Robert's intense stare.

"I won't be allowed to go through the gate," Robert said. His gaze locked on Daniel, the intense green eyes glittered with wonder. "Do I at least get to see it?"

"Maybe," Daniel said with a coy expression. "Of course, the only way you'd get to go is if you were trained. Every team member has to go through a special training program. It's not easy, but even I managed to make it through the course."

"Right because 'the man'..." Daniel could almost see the air quotes, "wouldn't want you to get any of the pretty little soldiers killed."

Daniel leaned back and sighed. "It's not like that, Rob."

"Yeah, Rob, it's not like that," Jack said.

Daniel spun to find Jack behind him. He'd managed to sneak up on them in the middle of the mess without either of them taking notice. Jack was dressed in his usual BDUs and wore his off-world ball cap pulled tight to shade his eyes. His lip curled in a sneer, and he didn't look happy.

"The man," Jack continued this time with full air quotes, "is expecting you, Dr. Jackson." He tapped his wristwatch and raised a sardonic brow. If Daniel didn't know better, he'd swear that Jack was pissed at him.

"I'm kind of busy here, Jack," Daniel said, motioning at Robert. "I still need to get Dr. Wellsburg situated in the lab, and show him what his duties for the week will be."

Daniel was sure that Jack would argue, but then his tense shoulders relaxed. "Fine, but make it quick."

When they didn't move from their seats, Jack snapped his fingers and pointed at the exit. Rather than risk a confrontation in public, Daniel gathered his tray and motioned for Robert to do the same. They left the mess with Jack in tow, headed for the eighteenth level, and the room where they stored the archeological finds that Daniel hadn't had time to catalogue.

"Is he always so bossy?" Robert asked. He leaned in closer to Daniel while they walked so he could whisper the question.

Daniel glanced behind them to see Jack was still a few feet behind them. He looked lost in thought, but Daniel knew better. Before he had the time for further conjecture on the matter, they were at the elevator. The three of them stepped inside. Robert and Daniel stood at the back with Jack in front. His back to them, Jack stuffed his hands in his pants pockets, and Daniel realized too late that he stared at how the fabric stretched across Jack's ass. He averted his gaze to Robert's face, who'd raised a quizzical brow. He recalled that Robert had a bad habit of shooting off his mouth when least expected, Daniel prayed he wouldn't say something that would embarrass them.

"So this training," said Robert. "What exactly would it involve, and how would I sign up?"

"You wouldn't," Jack said before Daniel could respond. Jack twisted to look over his shoulder at them. Daniel thought he was going to elaborate or make some snide remark but, when he didn't say anything else, Daniel almost breathed a sigh of relief. The elevator stopped at their level, the door slid open, and Jack sauntered out. He stepped aside with a sweep of an arm and a wide smile. "Right this way, gentlemen."

Daniel stepped from the elevator and walked past Jack with Robert close behind. The office was empty and the lights were out. Daniel flicked them on, flooding the room with cool blue light. Robert stopped and stared with wide eyes at the artifacts that filled the room.

"Wow, this is amazing." Robert picked up a star-shaped object and turned it over in his hand. "I can't wait to get to work."

Daniel pulled a large stack of papers and notebooks out and set them on the big table that sat in the center of the room. "These are some of the notes that I managed to make so far," he said, slapping a hand on the top of the stack. "I use the standard cataloguing system."

"Look at that," Jack said with a sarcastic laugh. "Now you have a playmate who likes boring old stuff just as much as you do, Danny boy."

"Be nice, Jack," Daniel said. He wrapped his arms across his chest and glared.

"I am," Jack said. He leaned with one arm against the table and waved with the other. "This is me being nice." He grinned, but the smile was so false that even Robert couldn't miss it. "See, nice."

When Daniel turned his attention back to Robert, he found him staring open-mouthed at them. Daniel cleared his throat in embarrassment.

"I'll meet you in the gym," he said to Jack.

"Didn't you get the memo? Meet me in the range. Weapon's training today. You got the memo, right?" asked Jack, when Daniel looked mystified. As always, Jack didn't wait for a reply. He sauntered from the room to disappear down the hallway before Daniel could form a reply.

"Seriously, is he always this bossy?" Robert said.

Daniel shrugged. "He's my boss, so yeah. I guess he is always this bossy."

"But he's not mine, right?" Robert said. His curious expression morphed to one of fear.

"No, he's not. I'm your direct supervisor," Daniel said with a smile.

Robert breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I don't think I could stomach being ordered around by such a hard-ass." Robert softened the words with a smile, and Daniel chuckled at how well he'd pegged Jack.

"He's not so bad once you get to know him," Daniel said. He could see that Robert wanted to say something else, but he kept silent. "Listen, I have to get going. I'll see you later." Daniel tapped the table nervously, stopped when Robert reached out and clutched his hand.

"Maybe we could have dinner later and you could tell me more about all this," Robert said. He squeezed Daniel's hand and then released his grip.

"Sure," Daniel said. "That'd be nice." He turned, walked from the room, and ran smack into Jack, who'd had been lurking just outside the doorway.

"Ready to shoot some 'pretend' bad guys?"

*

The rest of the week went better. Daniel continuing to humor Jack and the kick he was on to get Daniel back into shape. Jack was professional at each training session, and he'd started to back off after Daniel proved that he could defend himself in a combat situation. He'd made sharpshooter status and disarmed Jack in the last session, which left Jack grumpy and Daniel confused.

Daniel had gone to dinner with Robert almost every night in the past week. Catching up with his old friend had been easy, and it hadn't taken long for Daniel to remember why they'd made such fast friends the first time around. They spent the rest of their time together cataloguing the backlog of artifacts. Though Robert hinted that he wanted something more, he was never overt with his flirtations. Daniel pretended, just as he had back then, that he had no clue what was going on, but there was only so many times he could play ignorant.

Daniel had an off-world mission scheduled, and Robert had already hinted that he wished he could come. SG-6 had done the recon and the video they'd taken of the ancient ruins had proved to be so fascinating that even Daniel wished to have a look. Based on the information, Daniel needed to decide on the additional team members to bring with them. Robert had yet to undergo training for off-world missions, so Daniel had told him that he couldn't go, but Daniel's resolve was beginning to waver. He knew that Robert would be perfect for the mission.

Daniel made the choice and added Robert's name to the list. He sent the email to Hammond along with the suggestion that they would need two SG teams as backup. It paid to be cautious and after the mission that still haunted Daniel, he wasn't willing to take chances.

The planet also showed the promise of rich deposits of naquadah that Sam wished to investigate. Daniel Gathered his notes and the books he would need to bring with him, and stuffed them in his backpack. He winched as he realized that, once again, he'd lost track of time, and he was ten minutes late for his next session in the gym with Jack. Oddly enough, Jack hadn't shown up to remind him as he'd done every other time Daniel was late.

Daniel sat down at the desk and rubbed his hands through his lengthening hair, making a mental note to get a trim soon. He'd meant to have it cut, but hadn't gotten around to it with how busy he'd been these past few weeks. He closed his eyes for a moment, and rested his head on his arms, but then the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Daniel didn't bother to lift his head. He knew who was standing in the doorway.

Jack's aggravation broke the silence. "Are you fucking nuts?"

Daniel raised his head off his arms and plucked his glasses off to set them aside. He straightened and then leaned back, rubbed his tired eyes with both hands. He was almost that Jack meant this as a rhetorical question, and Daniel wasn't in the mood to dignify Jack with an answer. When he lowered his hands, Jack stood beside him, a dark featureless shape. Daniel reached for his glasses, but Jack beat him to them. When their hands touched, Jack withdrew as if burned. Daniel slid his glasses on and blinked up at Jack. He forced a stiff grin.

"Hi, Jack," Daniel said with a cheerful tone. "How are you? I guess you're here because I'm late for our 'beat the crap out of Daniel' session." Daniel folded his arms across his chest and remained seated. He'd decided that he'd had enough of the so-called training and this time, he would stand his ground and refuse. He wondered why he'd ever let it go so far.

"Never mind that," Jack said with a dismissive wave of one hand. "You put that newbie of yours on the mission roster. Why would you do that? He's not trained for off-world missions yet and you know it's against regs."

"It's my choice who goes on my archeological missions," Daniel said. He clenched his jaw and stood, glared at Jack, because he'd made his decision and he was going to stick to it. Jack knew that Robert's lack of training was no reason to keep him off the mission. They could put a man on him for protection while they were off world. Jack was pissed about something else, although Daniel wasn't sure what that something was since they hadn't interacted much other than Jack's beat down sessions.

"Well, I have the final say-so and I say no," Jack said. He leaned forward, shoved his chest against Daniel, and bore down on him. Daniel wasn't intimidated in the least bit, even if Jack had a height advantage.

"I need him there," Daniel said "Besides, Hammond okayed my list, so unless you want to go over his head...."

To Daniel's relief, Jack backed down and left the office without another word.

*

The sun had almost set, and Daniel sat alone by the fire near the tents, reviewing the past week. He felt at peace on what seemed to be an abandoned world, where the days were pleasant and the nights were never cold. They were well ahead of the dig scheduled time and they'd already found evidence that an ancient culture once resided on the planet. Three soldiers milled around the outer tent in the camp. Daniel could hear an occasional burst of laughter from their direction. The other four members of the team were already ensconced in their respective tents. Jack and Teal'c were out scouting the perimeter, something they did each evening. Jack had yet to join Daniel by the fire.

Daniel had tried to ignore the glares Jack shot his way, and instead, chose to focus on his work. Jack had made his choice and Daniel had resigned himself to acceptance, though it hurt like hell to know that they would still see each other everyday and work together. Daniel resolved that could remain professional, he could keep his distance. It wasn't going to kill Daniel to keep to the status quo, except that it was, and every time he had a moment's peace when no one else was around, he let his game face slip.

The soldiers moved off and out of sight just as Robert emerged from the tent that he'd been sharing with Daniel since the dig began. He was doing well off world, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Many days, he and Daniel sat bent over an uncovered relic, speculating on what it could mean. Daniel felt so alive and overjoyed at the vicarious thrill he got when he watched Robert. It was like seeing things through fresh new eyes.

"Hey," said Robert. He sat down beside Daniel and offered him a canteen of water. Daniel accepted, swallowed a mouthful and swirled it around in his mouth, grateful for the coolness of the liquid. Robert watched him with his intense gaze, but Daniel was all business. Their working relationship was going so well, he didn't wish to mess with the chemistry and nor did he wish to have Jack say 'I told you so' if anything went wrong with Daniel's choice to put Robert on the team.

"It's going to get light fast," Daniel said. He handed the canteen back to Robert. "We should probably get some sleep. I want an early start tomorrow." He turned his head wrong. Daniel winced and rubbed at a kink in his neck from when they had remained bent over the dig for the day.

"Here, let me," Robert said. He set the canteen down, placed his cool, dry hands on Daniel's shoulders, and began to message the sore muscles. Daniel should have pulled away, but it felt so good. He sighed with relief at each expert rub. "Lean back." Daniel closed his eyes and leaned back into Robert's touch. Daniel stifled a moan then opened his eyes, prepared to stop this. He pulled away when a prickle of a sense that someone was watching them trailed up his spine and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

"Um...I think that's enough," Daniel said. The sensation that something was out there watching him persisted, and Daniel stood, peering around the area. The darkness was complete now that the sun had set, and he couldn't see anything beyond the circle of light cast by the fire. Daniel moved inside the tent without a backwards glance at Robert.

A hand clutched at his wrist and Daniel turned his attention to Robert, who eased his grip and rubbed at Daniel's pulse point with his thumb.

"I just wanted to thank you for choosing me for this dig," Robert said. The thumb pressed harder, and sent shivers up Daniel's arm and shoulder. Daniel saw the look in Robert's eyes and understood what would happen next. He glanced around, his heart fluttered, uneasiness built in his chest even though they were alone. Daniel knew he should walk away, but something in him didn't want to stop the inevitable. After all, he didn't want to be alone forever, even if that meant giving himself to someone that he didn't truly love. He could have some fun. He deserved this after all his hard work.

The kiss was gentle at first, a feather-light touch pressed to his mouth, and Daniel closed his eyes. Robert placed a hand on Daniel's hip and pulled him in closer, deepening the kiss. Another shiver went through Daniel at the hint of tongue. After all, as he'd told Jack, it had been a long time since anyone had wanted to touch Daniel as a lover. He drank in the feel of being wanted and held the moment, then turned his head to break the kiss when he caught himself comparing Robert to Jack. He knew he wouldn't feel half of what he felt when he kissed Jack. Undeterred by Daniel's withdrawal, Robert trailed kisses across Daniel's cheek until he mouthed the edge of Daniel's jaw, his warm breath whispered over Daniel's skin.

"This is...." Daniel meant to say more, but the words fell away when Robert caressed his chest with soft, gentle strokes.

"I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't, but you're just so..." Robert growled deep in his throat. "Has anyone ever told you how sexy you are?"

Daniel felt a blush creep up his cheeks and lowered his head, a smile on his lips. When he lifted his head, he thought he caught a glimpse of movement in the underbrush, but it was so dark and he couldn't tell for sure that he'd seen anything at all. He pulled away from Robert and shook his head.

"I'm flattered, really I am," Daniel said. He lifted his gaze to stare into Robert's eyes. The firelight danced in his dark orbs and Daniel swallowed hard. This situation was awkward all of a sudden.

"But..." Robert said. He stepped closer, and stroked Daniel's cheek with his knuckles. Daniel shivered at the delicate touch.

Sounds of movement on the opposite side of the camp caught their attention, and Robert withdrew his hand. Daniel rushed toward the fire. Jack was back from the perimeter sweep and he was alone.

"Teal'c decided to head to Carter's camp for the rest of our stay," Jack said, answering the unspoken question. His P90 dangled from his lanyard, and Jack rested a hand on the butt.

Daniel turned to find that Robert had gone back into the tent.

"I was just about to get some sleep," Daniel said.

Jack unclipped his weapon and glared when the three men walked out of the darkness and into the campsite. The soldiers hadn't returned from their foray, and Jack looked displeased.

"Where the hell were you?" Jack said. He set his weapon down and bent to pull something from his pack. From this angle, Daniel couldn't see what Jack had taken out from his pack. "Smithson, you take first watch. I'll take the next watch after you." He assigned each man to a watch and then spun to wave a small box in the air. "You owe me a chess game, Doctor Jackson." Jack turned and disappeared into his tent before Daniel could respond.

Daniel sighed and followed. He pulled the flap open and entered the tent. Jack was already setting up the small magnetic chessboard atop a case. He set the black pieces before him and the white pieces on the other side. He pointed to the spot opposite him on the ground without looking up at Daniel. Not in the mood to argue, Daniel removed his jacket, set it down, and sat with his legs to one side. Jack sat with his legs crossed and once they had both settled in, Jack rested his chin on his folded his hands, his intense gaze on the board. Jack reached out and picked up one of his pawns. In his big hands, the tiny chess piece looked even smaller. Daniel couldn't help but be caught by the way Jack held his pinky out and stared at the little whorls on his knuckles. The nail on Jack's middle finger was black, and his thumbnail bitten down to a stub. A nervous habit perhaps, though Daniel had never noticed it before.

"I really need some sleep, Jack," Daniel said.

Jack motioned at the board. "It's your move."

Daniel sighed and reached out to move a piece. Then Jack moved one of his pieces moments later. They played like in silence. Daniel wanted to speak, say something, but the tension built with each move, and he wasn't sure what to say. Was Jack angry with him? He couldn't remember owing Jack a game, but it was possible. He hadn't done anything to offend Jack. He was almost sure of that other than his choice to bring Robert on this dig. Was Jack still angry at that? On the other hand, maybe it was something else. Daniel kept his distance, respected Jack's decision to keep their friendship platonic, but maybe this didn't sit well with Jack. After all, Jack did tend to be a contradiction, sometimes doing the opposite of what he said.

Daniel withdrew his hand when his knuckles grazed against Jack's fingers. So lost in thought, he hadn't realized that Jack had reached to take his turn.

"Sorry," Daniel said. He lowered his head, his long bangs falling in his eyes. He hadn't had the time to get his hair trimmed and it was getting long. When he glanced up, Jack leaned back and scrutinized him.

"You're too tense," Jack said. "You need to relax. I don't bite." Jack leaned back further, one arm stretched behind him, chest puffed. The black t-shirt stretched over his taunt muscles, and Daniel couldn't miss the peeks of Jack's nipples. "Unless you ask me to." When Daniel didn't respond, jack elaborated. "Bite that is. I don't bite unless you ask me to."

Was Jack flirting with him? This was unfair.

Daniel had to look away. He could feel his cheeks burn again. He wanted to dive over the crate and chessboard and grab Jack with two hands, pin him to the ground and kiss him until he begged for more. Just the thought send Daniel's mind spiraling into a dizzy euphoria.

Daniel shifted his legs and changed his position to hide his euphoric state. He wanted to flirt back, but he was horrible at the game. He'd never been good at pursuit, only at being the pursued, and Jack knew how to hunt.

"You are so easy," Jack said with a light chuckle. "As in easy to make you blush."

"Am not," said Daniel, even as his blush flared anew.

"Are too."

Daniel narrowed his eyes and glared at Jack. The dim light darkened Jack's brown eyes, lending a heat to them that Daniel felt way down deep inside. He hadn't felt this way about anyone in so long, and it was there, undeniable. He tried to squash it, but the feeling only grew when Jack's eyes glittered with mischief.

"Not," Daniel said. He leaned forward and smiled at their silly antics. This was just another one of the reasons that he loved Jack so much. That thought wiped the smile from his lips, and Daniel had to look away.

"I'll bet that I could make you blush long before you made me," Jack said. He waved a hand in the air and pointed a finger at Daniel.

"You would win," Daniel said. He couldn't recall Jack ever blushing. His own cheeks burned again, and he smiled, looking up over the rim of his glasses at Jack.

"Now that's not fair," Jack said, waving his hand in the air as though he were waving away insects. "You haven't even tried." Jack shifted and leaned forward. "Okay, just this once, I will give you an all access pass to do whatever it takes." Jack leveled his most intense stare at Daniel, the glint of mischief turned naughty.

"I wouldn't even know where to begin," Daniel said with a shrug of his shoulders. This was ridiculous. Didn't Jack realize how unfair he was being, and after the demand that he'd made on Daniel to end their affair before he had even begun?

Jack lifted the case, chessboard and all, without spilling a single piece and set it to the side. Once he'd set it down, he turned his attention on Daniel, leaned in closer, and tilted his head to one side.

Daniel reared back and smiled. He couldn't even look Jack in the eyes right now. The serious expression was so enticing, and the last thing Daniel needed now was to be enticed.

"Come on," Jack said. "Give it your best shot."

Daniel sobered and held his gaze on Jack. He bit down on his bottom lip. Maybe this could be fun. He moved and crossed his legs, settling in with his hands on his knees.

"Okay," Daniel said. His mind raced with any memory of a time when Jack had been embarrassed and he couldn't come up with even one. He sat, bit his bottom lip, lost in thought, and then turned his eyes on Jack. In the dim light, Jack looked sexy and that thought made heat flare in Daniel's chest, creep down through his stomach and into his groin. He rubbed his palms on his knees, and bit down on his bottom lip again, shaking his head.

Jack sat across from him with a big grin of triumph.

"You win." Daniel threw his arms up, defeated even before he'd started, but he couldn't give up. He had to wipe the smug look from Jack's face. All of a sudden, he knew just how, but Jack would probably punch him if he tried.

"Come on, Daniel," Jack said. "I'm sitting right here, totally defenseless."

Daniel rolled his eyes, straightened and shook his shoulders. He leaned forward, catching Jack's full attention. "Anything goes?"

Jack nodded, and his lips fell open.

"You ..." Daniel said. He leaned back and shook his head. "I can't. Besides, this is silly." Daniel ducked his head and looked up at Jack with a deep sigh. He needed to go now. He couldn't sit here, so close and yet so far. He swallowed and glanced down at the chessboard. He could win in two moves, and knowing this, he reached out and moved a piece. Jack reached out and moved one of his pieces without as much as a glance at the board.

"Check," Jack said. His voice was a low rumble that went straight to Daniel's spine.

Daniel tilted his head and thought naughty thoughts. He let loose every fantasy that he'd ever imagined that starred Jack O'Neill and smiled. It was a shy smile and he knew this. He didn't hide his obvious admiration of Jack, allowed himself free reign to ogle. He licked his lips when Jack shifted and flexed an arm. Daniel narrowed his eyes, and allowed a predatory feeling to take hold. What if he went after Jack and didn't take no for an answer? How long would it take Jack to give in? Would Jack give in or would he push Daniel away? All these questions raced through Daniel's mind in that moment.

"The game is all yours if you want it," Daniel said in his huskiest voice. He must have sounded sexy even to his ears, and he knew he did because Jack stared openmouthed, at a loss for words. Daniel took this opportunity, leaned forward, and placed one elbow on his knee. He batted his lashes and grinned. He was sure that he had already won this round.

"No," Jack said. His response was a whisper and Daniel knew he had Jack in the palm of his hand when Jack cleared his throat and glanced away, then back at Daniel, his eyes shiny in the dim light.

Daniel reached out to move that last piece then stopped. "If I win..." he paused, for a few heartbeats, for effect, "I get a kiss from you on the lips, with tongue."

Jack's mouth fell open again, and then he clenched his jaw.

"If you win," Daniel said, before Jack could respond, "I will leave this, us, alone and never bring it up again."

"Well," Jack said, raising a brow. "If I'd known the stakes, I would have played a better game."

Daniel reached out, moved his piece and smiled up at Jack. "Check and mate," Daniel said. He couldn't hide the smugness, but before Jack could respond, Daniel got on his hands and knees and closed the gap between them. He kissed Jack on mouth.

Jack didn't push him away this time. Wide-eyed and startled that his tactic had worked, Daniel took what he could before it ended, eager to taste every inch of Jack's mouth. Their tongues touched and Daniel moaned, shifting when his dick started to get hard. He closed his eyes and crawled a few more inches forward right into Jack's lap. Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack's neck and tilted his head to accommodate the new position. Jack slid one arm around Daniel's waist and dipped Daniel down until Daniel almost lay on the ground. Jack's tags dangled between then and settled on Daniel's chest.

Jack broke the kiss. "I said this can't happen," he said with a deep growl that rumbled against Daniel's chest. He cupped Daniel's cheek with one hand and stared deep into Daniel's eyes, searching.

Daniel closed his eyes and turned his head, but Jack stopped him with another kiss, this one harder and more passionate. Daniel melted into Jack's embrace, his whole body sang with joy. Then Jack pulled away, and glanced at his wristwatch. He pushed Daniel up to a sitting position and out of his lap, manipulated him until he sat back down in the same spot he'd occupied before the kiss. Jack scooted back to his spot and focused his attention on the chessboard, brows lowered and his chin on one hand.

"You beat me again," Jack said.

Daniel stared with open mouth. He wondered what game Jack was playing, pretending they hadn't just shared the best kiss in the world, and that he wasn't as turned on as Daniel. He'd felt the erection that Jack had rubbed against Daniel, and heard the whimper into his eager mouth.

Before Daniel could say another word, the tent flap opened and one of Jack's men ducked into the gap. Daniel looked away feeling heat on his face. If they'd still been... god, Jack knew what he was doing and Daniel was relieved that Jack was so alert and vigilant.

"Sir, it's your watch," the man said.

Daniel turned his head.

Jack's expression revealed nothing of what they'd been doing just moments before. Jack waved an arm in the air and stood, stretching his full length, the tags rattling as if to taunt Daniel.

"Why couldn't you have come sooner? I could have been spared the embarrassment of having Jackson kick my butt in chess." Jack took the two steps to the tent opening and stood with his back to Daniel. "You'd better get some sleep, Doctor Jackson." Then he was gone, the flap falling shut behind him.

Why couldn't Jack have taken a later watch?

Daniel put the chess set away, and stood to stretch his legs and arms. Outside, the sky was still dark and there was barely enough light to see by. Daniel stumbled to his own tent, hopeful that Robert would be asleep by now. Jack stood just a few feet from the edge of the camp. Daniel could see his silver hair. He nodded once at Daniel and then turned his attention back to his duty without a change in expression.

Inside their tent, Robert lay with his back to him, sound asleep, snoring softly. Daniel sighed, removed his jacket and boots and slipped into his sleeping bag. He scrubbed one hand over his face. He was exhausted and wired all at once, and he couldn't imagine sleep now, especially not after the hot kiss he'd just shared with Jack.

He slid his glasses off, tucked them somewhere safe, then closed his eyes, and tried to get comfortable. He gripped his thigh with one hand and trailed the other over his chest, brushed a peaked nipple with a thumb. Daniel raised his hand and touched his lips, still feeling the ghost of the kiss on his mouth. Jack's kisses was one of the best kisses Daniel had ever experienced, filled with passion and determination that Daniel felt all the way down to his toes. He peeked over at Robert to be sure that he was still asleep. The sounds of his snores had stopped and then started up again in earnest.

Daniel wiggled his ass and spread his legs wider. He imagined Jack there with him, their eyes locked in an intense stare. Jack's soft brown eyes would speak the language of desire, and they would beg Daniel without words, to know what Jack wants from him. He thought of the kiss and the words mouthed across Daniel's lips, words that spoke lies even as Jack thrust his desire toward Daniel.

Daniel stroked a hand down his chest and tugged his t-shirt up. He shouldn't do this. He had no way to clean up the mess after, but the memory of Jack's mouth on his spurred him on. His cock was so hard. He brushed his thumb against the length.

Why had Jack kissed him with such passion and then told him they couldn't? The mixed signals were playing havoc on Daniel's mind, but his body had no problem interpreting Jack's desires. As far as his dick was concerned, Jack wanted him and Daniel wanted him back.

Daniel unbuttoned and unzipped his pants to free his aching erection. It jumped up in eager anticipation, and Daniel brushed his palm against the silky smooth length. He froze at the sound of shifting on the other side of the tent.

"Danny," Robert said.

Daniel hated when Robert used the name he only liked when Jack used it. Ever since Robert heard Jack call him that, Robert had taken to calling Daniel that as well.

Daniel pulled his briefs back up and rolled away from Robert. He zipped and buttoned up. He stiffened at the touch on his shoulder.

"You're supposed to be asleep," Daniel said. He though he managed to hide his bitter tone, but perhaps fell short. This wasn't Robert's fault, and he shouldn't take it out on him. Daniel crossed his arms and curled up into himself in an attempt to send the signal that he didn't wish to be disturbed.

"I know," Robert said. His hand stayed on Daniel's shoulder. "I can't stop thinking about what happened earlier." He squeezed and rubbed Daniel's shoulder.

Funny, Daniel had forgotten about what had happened between them until now. Now he just wanted to forget it had ever happened. The silence grew and Daniel hoped that Robert would get the hint.

"Should we talk about it?" Robert said. The hand rubbed again. Blunt fingers wandered, stroked Daniel's throat and collar. The touch sent a shiver through Daniel. "I don't know about you, but I'd like for it to happen again." His hand ventured further and Daniel remained passive. He didn't encourage nor stop Robert's advances.

He was still horny from the encounter with Jack. The thought tortured Daniel and he turned his head to brush his cheek against the back of Robert's hand. Fingers searched out his lips and Daniel opened his mouth to allow them entry. Robert nudged Daniel until Daniel lay on his back and stared up at him. He lay passive, blinking up into the darkness. All Daniel could make out was a shape. He could pretend. He could imagine that this was someone else.

Robert took the invitation and his lips brushed Daniel's mouth. The fantasy broke the moment their mouths touched. This wasn't Jack. This could never be Jack, and Daniel pushed up and away, shoved Robert aside. He couldn't do this to Robert or Jack.

Daniel rushed from the tent, and stopped to catch his breath just on the edge of the campsite. He hoped that Robert wasn't foolish enough to follow. Too late, Daniel realized that he had left his glasses in the tent. He stumbled a few feet into the underbrush and slammed against something hard. At first, he thought that it was a tree, but then the tree grabbed him by the arm.

"Doctor Jackson," someone said. "Are you okay?" The firm grip steered Daniel forward and further into the darkness. Daniel kept his head down to avoid low hanging branches. A chill went through Daniel. It was cold out and he only wore his t-shirt, he'd left his jacket back in Jack's tent. Daniel wrapped the free arm around his body, and shook his head, stumbled against the soldier who continued to guide him.

He leaned against a tree, and scraped his palms against the rough bark. Daniel took deep breaths, and let loose with a wet sneeze. He knew he was overreacting. Now that he'd made where Robert and he stood clear, he could relax, but he still felt a panic build in his chest. He turned his back to the tree and slid down, wrapping his arms around himself when both arms were free.

"I'm fine," Daniel said with his gaze focused on the ground. He squeezed his eyes shut tight. When the soldier reached for him, Daniel held his hand up to tell him to back off. "I just needed some air."

"Sir, I have a situation."

Daniel squinted up at the soldier ready to tell him to leave him alone, and then realized that the man wasn't talking to him. He was talking into his radio. Daniel felt panic build, and willed his breath to calm down. He could feel the cold seep up from the ground through his body, and shivered. Daniel closed his eyes and willed the world to vanish. The sound of footfalls and rustling grew louder. Daniel lowered his head, and rested his chin against his arm. He could hear whispers of voices close by, but chose to ignore them. Then someone moved away, and Daniel hoped that the soldier had left him alone. He wasn't alone though. Someone hauled him up by his arms, forced him to stand and, for a brief moment, Daniel thought he was back on P3X 539 and he would have to choose who died next.

"Daniel," Jack's voice cut through the panic attack, because that was what this was. Daniel knew it and he took a deep breath, raised his gaze to meet Jack's worried expression. Jack placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and shook him.

"I'm okay, Jack," Daniel said. He wanted to pull away from the touch, but didn't. He pressed against Jack's hand, and closed his eyes. Jack shifted and moved his weapon from between them, and wrapped an arm around Daniel's shoulders.

"Come on," Jack said. He tried to steer Daniel, but Daniel remained rooted to the spot. He couldn't go back to the tent, and he couldn't tell Jack the real reason. "You need to get out of this cold." Jack rubbed Daniel's bare arm and the touch sent shivers through his body. Jack pushed Daniel forward, and this time, Daniel didn't resist. He needed to get a grip. This overreaction was ridiculous, but then his heart sped up when he saw that Jack had steered him to the tent that he shared with Robert.

Jack didn't lead Daniel into the tent. Instead, he pulled the flap aside, disappeared inside for a moment then came back out with Daniel's glasses and jacket. Daniel took them from him and slipped them both on, grateful to Jack for knowing what he needed. Wasn't that the kicker? This was just another reason why Daniel loved Jack so much.

"Why don't we go sit by the fire so you can warm up," Jack said. He held his arm out and Daniel walked to the fire. Someone had built it up, and the flames licked the air, radiating heat. Daniel sat down and Jack settled beside him, and placed his weapon between his legs.

"You sure you're okay?" Jack said.

Daniel nodded, stared into the flames, and wished that somehow they could burn away the dread and loneliness.

"It's just, you were out wandering in the cold," Jack continued.

Daniel pulled his knees up, rested his chin on them, gaze focused on the flames. "I'm fine. I needed some air and I hadn't realized how cold it had gotten out here." He caught Jack's nod out of the corner of his eye. Much to Daniel's relief, Jack fell silent. The only sound the snap and crack of the wood burning. He was glad because he needed the silence. He should have gone back to the tent to set the record straight. Daniel snorted at the thought of that word, but he couldn't will his body to move. He would do it later. Right now, he just wanted to sit here, stare, and not think. Jack leaned toward him, and Daniel leaned away, and telegraphed to Jack with his eyes that he didn't wish him to touch.

Firelight danced in Jack's darkening eyes, and he glanced away before he stood up and moved away from the fire. Daniel felt a stab in his chest of bitter anguish, and wished he could jump up and bring Jack back, but Jack had made a choice. Daniel needed to move on. He sighed and stood, turned to look at his tent. When he turned back to Jack, he was gone, vanished into the darkness.

*

The hot shower felt like a balm on his soul.

Daniel stood beneath the hard spray of water and pressed his palms against the cool tiles of the shower stall. He was alone. After the debriefing, the medical exam, and everyone had taken their turn in the showers, Daniel realized that he was the last man from the mission who hadn't showered and changed into his civilian clothing.

He was glad to be back from that planet. The dig had gone well. They'd made new discoveries that would rock the archeological world, if Daniel could have presented his findings, but now all he wanted was to go home, and rest for the next month. He only had a few days off, but he knew what he wanted to do with those days. He planned to spend them in bed, hopeful that it would be a dreamless sleep. He planned to swing by the infirmary and ask Janet for something to help him with that sleep.

Daniel rubbed a hand over his wet chest, and slapped his palm against the wall. The water sluiced down his back, and washed away the filth and sweat. He swiped his palm over his face with one hand and soaped his chest with the other. On the other hand, maybe he would stop by a liquor store and get something on the way home. Wine sounded perfect and he could drink until he slipped into a coma.

Daniel turned the taps off and reached for his towel, but it wasn't where it should have been. He cracked his eyes open, water trickling down his brow. He turned to find a dark shape a few feet behind him. The steam from the heat hid who it was, but Daniel felt sure that he recognized Jack's leather jacket. He covered himself, too late to preserve modesty.

"How long have you been there?" Daniel snatched the towel from Jack's outstretched hand.

"Just a few minutes," Jack said.

Daniel turned his back on Jack and wrapped the towel around his waist. He slid his glasses on though the lenses were fogged over, and kept his head bowed.

"Why are you here? It's considered kind of creepy to stalk someone."

There was a long pause where Jack remained silent.

Daniel took the few steps to where his clean clothes sat and yanked his t-shirt over his head. He pulled his briefs on, managing to keep the towel around him, and then he rushed to get his pants on. While he buttoned up, Jack settled against the wall before him, making it obvious that he wasn't finished with Daniel.

"Look, Daniel," Jack said with a wave of his hand. "I just don't want things between us to be so uncomfortable."

Daniel snapped his head up, and stared at Jack openmouthed. Was Jack really going to talk about this now, right here in the SGC shower room? Daniel shook his head and tossed the damp towel aside. His hair dripped wetness on his clean clothes. He wished to be out of here as fast as possible, but Jack stood in his way.

"It's nothing, Jack," Daniel said. He turned his back to Jack. He needed time to be alone, and adjust to Jack's choice. Couldn't Jack see that? He had to know that this wasn't easy for him.

"Don't do that," Jack said.

Daniel turned and watched Jack rub at his eyes then the back of his neck.

"I'm not doing anything, Jack," Daniel said. He narrowed his eyes and moved a step closer. "It's fine." Jack didn't back away.

"Look," Jack said. He licked his lips and shifted to lean against the wall with one shoulder. "Come over tonight. Dinner is on me. Besides, I owe you one." Jack spun, turned to leave then turned around to rake a gaze over Daniel.

"Is that an order?" Daniel said with a derisive snort.

"No, but if you want me to make it one, I will," Jack said. The smile faded fast and he tapped two fingers against the wall. "One hour, okay."

Daniel sagged, defeated. What could Jack want? It couldn't be to talk. He hated talking, especially about feelings. Daniel thought of blowing him off, but then thought better. Maybe this was the right thing to do. They could get it over with, like ripping a band-aid off all at once. The wound would heal faster.

*

The front door of Jack's home flung open just as Daniel raised a hand to rap his knuckles against the wood.

"Hey, good. You're on time," Jack said. He stepped aside and waved Daniel in to his home.

Daniel held the bottle of wine he'd brought against his chest, and smiled at Jack as he walked past him. He turned back to face Jack at the sound of the door being closed.

Jack spun on his heels and clapped his hands, eyes fixed on the bottle of wine in Daniel's hands. "Great, is that for me?" Jack pointed at the bottle, and then motioned for Daniel to hand it over. "You shouldn't have," Jack said as he yanked the bottle from Daniel's hand. "Really, you know I hate wine."

Daniel plucked it from Jack's grasp and glared. "It's for me, you jerk."

"Hey," Jack said his mouth open in mock offense.

Daniel glared and walked past Jack, pretending to ignore his antics. Daniel inhaled the aroma of something that smelled good and noted that the dining table was set for two. A single flower in a small vase and a lit candle sat between the two settings as a centerpiece like a romantic dinner.

"What's this?" Daniel motioned at the scene before him, and Jack took the opportunity to swoop in and snatch the bottle from his grasp. He stalked toward the kitchen with his prize.

"Sit," Jack said. His voice faded as he disappeared into the kitchen.

Daniel removed his jacket and set it on the back of his chair. That was when he realized that the lights had dimmed, and the sound of soft classical music began to play.

"Jack," Daniel said. He cast a wary gaze at the romantic setting. Just as he was about to demand an explanation, Jack appeared at his elbow with the opened bottle of wine.

Jack walked past Daniel, and took a wine glass from the table. He filled the glass and offered it to Daniel. It was a red wine and the fruity scent tickled Daniel's nostrils.

"This is my way of saying sorry," Jack said. He set the bottle down on the table and turned to go back into the kitchen.

Before Daniel could demand that Jack return, he was back with a bottle of beer in his hand. He tapped the bottle against Daniel's wineglass, and saluted him before he took a long gulp of his beer. Daniel sighed, raised his glass to his lips, and sipped.

"What exactly is it that you feel the need to apologize for?" Daniel stared over the rim of his wineglass, expectant. They stood a few feet apart, Jack with one hand tucked into the pocket of his dress slacks.

"I wasn't exactly honest with you," Jack said. He licked his wet lips and downed the rest of the bottle in one swig. Jack finished his beer and swiped his hand across his mouth.

Daniel drank deeper of his wine. It wasn't a bad wine, but not the best he'd tasted. He kept his gaze on the glass, and watched the light dance in the dark liquid. "Oh." It was all Daniel could manage.

"Look," Jack said. He pulled his hand from his pocket, glanced around as if looking for something, maybe a way out. Daniel tried to think what Jack could have been dishonest about, but Jack's expression was inscrutable.

He held up a finger then left the room. Moments later, he returned with a fresh beer. Jack twisted the cap off and tossed it at the table. Daniel turned and watched it skitter across and over the edge, the tiny click it made echoed in the room. Jack gripped a chair back, tight with one hand and drank his beer.

"Jack, what is it you want to say?" Daniel said. Frustrated with Jack's odd behavior and afraid of what it could mean to their friendship, Daniel went to turn away, but Jack clutched at his arm and kept him in place.

"I said that we couldn't," Jack said.

Daniel felt his heart pound in his throat. "You don't need to bring me over here so you can reiterate what you've already made clear. I get it, Jack. You don't want me." Daniel raised his voice trying to break free of Jack's grip.

"No, you don't get it," Jack said. He forced Daniel to stay still, reached up and turned his head so their eyes locked. "I said we couldn't."

Daniel felt his throat close up, and tried to pry Jack away. He only managed because Jack released his grip. Daniel spun around with his back to Jack ready to bolt out the front door, but Jack wrapped an arm around Daniel's shoulders and pulled him up close against him. Daniel stopped his struggle, held a breath, and then exhaled with resignation. He could feel Jack's warmth against his back and his breath tickled the small hairs on the back of his neck. Jack placed his mouth close to Daniel's ear.

"I said, I can't," Jack whispered.

The sound of his voice made Daniel's heart thud in his ears. Daniel closed his eyes and turned his head towards those words, and Jack pressed his forehead against Daniel's temple. The embrace sent shivers of desire through Daniel, and made him hard. He moaned and Jack brushed his lips against Daniel's cheek.

"I never said that I didn't want..." Jack stressed the last word, turned Daniel around in his arms until they were face to face. Up this close, Daniel couldn't see the expression on Jack's face. He pulled back, and searched Jack for clues. Jack nodded and licked his lips. He cupped Daniel's face with one hand. "...you." The last word was a breath against Daniel's mouth, before Jack pressed their lips together in a firm kiss. Daniel wasn't even sure if he'd heard correctly, but that didn't matter, because Jack kissed him and held him tight.

Jack took Daniel's wine glass from him and set the beer and glass down on the dinner table. He walked Daniel backwards and pushed him up against the nearest wall, pressing their bodies together, never breaking the kiss. Daniel closed his eyes and drank in every second, because there was no telling how long this would last. Jack cupped Daniel's face with both hands. He thrust a knee between Daniel's legs. Daniel felt his heart hammer in his chest, and his body tingled in a way that only Jack could elicit. Jack broke the kiss, and leaned an arm against the wall beside Daniel's head with his lips to Daniel's ear. A quiver traveled through Daniel's body.

"You look damned fine with your mouth hanging open, Dr. Jackson," Jack said. He brushed a hand through Daniel's hair, and placed a delicate kiss on his wet mouth.

Daniel couldn't help but stare openmouthed up at Jack. He'd lost the ability to speak and the ability to think at the word you.

Jack brushed his thumb across Daniel's bottom lip, and smiled. Was he gloating?

"Look," Jack said, the thumb still stroked Daniel's bottom lip. Each caress sent thrills through Daniel. He couldn't recall anyone ever doing something so erotic to him. His sex life had always been straightforward, vanilla. "I made you speechless. Who'd of thought?" Jack smiled and kissed Daniel on the side of his mouth. Then he pulled away.

Daniel blinked. His mind spun. No! He couldn't let Jack stop now. Daniel dove at Jack, and clutched at his arm. Jack's smile morphed into a full-blown smirk.

Embarrassed, Daniel released Jack and let his arms fall to his side.

Jack paced a few feet away then spun to face Daniel, his arms waving.

Daniel meant to say something, but all he could manage was a stammer, which was silly because his mind raced with things to say.

Then Jack waved a hand at the waiting dinner table.

"We should eat dinner," Jack said. He turned and left for the kitchen.

Daniel had forgotten about the food. How could Jack even think about food at a time like this? He took a calm deep breath and watched as Jack set all the plates of food down. There was roast, and green beans and potatoes that smelled so good, Daniel's mouth watered. He moved to the chair that Jack motioned to, and sat down. Jack sat in a chair right beside Daniel, and reshuffled his plate. Daniel watched in silence while Jack carved the roast and set a thick slab on Daniel's plate, then served himself. He reached for the wine bottle and poured two glasses, this time, and one for Jack as well. Daniel set the bottle down, raised his glass and indicated that Jack should also raise his glass.

"To us," Jack said. They tapped glass and each took a drink. Daniel sipped from his own glass and then set it down, eager to try the roast. It looked delicious and he cut off a bite-sized piece. He realized that Jack hadn't started to eat, but instead, watched Daniel.

"This is all fantastic," Daniel said. His cheeks felt warm and he wasn't even sure why he was embarrassed. He had to admit that he found it hard to believe that Jack had done all this for him.

After that, they ate in silence. Daniel watched Jack, and wished he could ask the questions racing through his mind, but he wasn't sure where to start the conversation. Right now, it felt good just to be together like this.

"You're surprised," Jack said. He wiped his mouth and set his napkin down beside his plate. He'd finished off his portion and Daniel was only halfway through his slice of roast.

"A little. It just doesn't seem like your style, Jack. Have you done this before?" Daniel sat back, and waited for a response, although this wasn't the first question he wished to ask.

"What? Seduce someone?" Jack waved his fork in the air and then set it down. He sat back, reached for his wine glass and took a sip. He looked thoughtful and pensive.

Daniel licked his lips and set his own fork down. "What I meant to say was, I just..."

"Nope, I have never done this before," Jack said. "I've been giving this, us," he motioned at himself and then Daniel. "...a lot of thought since, you know, that incident."

Daniel nodded and mouthed the word incident. Jack twisted to face Daniel their knees brushed together and Jack pressed his leg against Daniel's leg, and his gaze flicked down.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said. It was obvious that Jack was uncomfortable with this, and he was trying hard to hide how ill at ease this made him feel.

Jack reached up and tapped his finger against his lips. "No," Jack said. He leaned in and brushed his lips across Daniel's mouth. "See, it gets easier each time."

Stunned at the words, Daniel went to pull away, but Jack stopped him with an arm around Daniel's neck.

"That sounded wrong. What I mean was that you don't ever need to be sorry. I will admit, and fuck me because I am crap with words." He stopped and drew his head back to look at Daniel. "Actions I do not suck at." He kissed Daniel, held him in place, one arm around Daniel's neck, his free hand rested on Daniel's chest as though he was afraid Daniel would try to escape. The action felt possessive.

Daniel smiled and fluttered his eyes at the flip his stomach made and, then Jack pulled away and patted Daniel on the shoulder.

They cleared the table together in silence. Daniel blushed when they bumped against each other, which was often because of Jack. Once that task was completed, they moved to the sofa, and sat with drinks in their hands. Silence settled between them and Daniel stared at the dark fireplace. Daniel thought that a fire would be nice, but it was too warm outside for that, and then he thought that maybe they could talk about this, but he had no idea where to begin.

Jack rubbed a hand on his thigh. The sudden motion startled Daniel. He looked away from his contemplation of the empty fireplace and into Jack's gaze.

"Let's ease into this, shall we," Jack said. He bent a knee and twisted to face Daniel, his beer bottle balanced on his thigh in a loose grip.

Daniel gulped the rest of his wine.

"You keep drinking like that and you're going to have to stay the night." Jack's eyes twinkled when he spoke and he finished his beer in one swig, wiggled the bottle to show that it was empty.

This was much too awkward. Daniel stood without a word and went to get two more beers, the rest of the bottle of wine, and their glasses. He fished around in the kitchen and discovered that Jack had a bottle of white wine. When he returned to the sofa, Jack sat lost in silent thought. Daniel took his empty away and handed him a fresh bottle. He set the wine down on the coffee table before them. He poured the rest of his bottle in his wine glass. Then he raised his glass to offer a toast.

"To awkward moments," Daniel said. They clinked bottle and glass and drank. Daniel smiled when Jack slung an arm over the back of the sofa and placed his hand on Daniel's shoulder, fingers fiddling with Daniel's hair. "You forgot to yawn." Daniel stifled a giggle. The wine was starting to get to him, because he found Jack's actions silly, and cute. He wouldn't ever say that part aloud, because Jack O'Neill did not do 'cute.'

"I'm not tired," Jack said with a derisive sniff. He downed half his beer and leaned forward to kiss Daniel on the mouth. "I better not be the only one making the moves here."

Daniel parted his lips on a sigh, and licked Jack's wet mouth. Jack startled him when he gripped his neck and mashed their mouths together, the hunger in his kiss transmitted loud and clear. Daniel returned the hunger with eager abandon. He was amazed at how ready his body was to respond. He hadn't felt a response like this to anyone in so long that he almost forgot what it felt to be wanted.

Then Jack pulled away, and narrowed his gaze at Daniel. "No talk, just do," Jack said.
Jack wasn't pushing him away, and he wasn't saying no. Daniel had to keep reminding himself of this.

Daniel felt his confidence grow now that he had permission to touch. He lunged at Jack pushed him down, and sprawled out on top of him. Daniel plucked his glasses off and set them on the table, and then turned his full attention to Jack. He wiggled his hips and Jack accommodated by spreading his legs wider to allow Daniel to slip between them. Daniel licked Jack's mouth and kissed him hard, humped against him to show how eager he was to take action.

He could feel Jack's cock, a solid length pressed into his hip, and Jack hissed when Daniel rubbed against him and pushed his tongue past Jack's parted lips.

Daniel smiled against Jack's mouth, and buried his face in Jack's throat. They were making out on Jack's sofa, in Jack's home, like a couple of teenagers. He felt the pulse point and licked, then hummed his pleasure when Jack slid his hand underneath Daniel's sweater to cares at bare skin.

"This might be better somewhere more comfortable," Jack said.

Daniel nodded against his neck, but didn't move. This felt so good, safe, and he hugged Jack tight, pressing their bodies together.

They stayed that way for a while. Daniel was reluctant to end the comfort, his mind filled with thoughts of where they would take this next. They both sat up, and Daniel put his glasses back on. He was nervous, and his hand shook when he finished the glass of wine. Jack finished his beer and stood. He tugged at the hem of his shirt, and motioned in the direction of the bedroom. Before Daniel could react, Jack turned away and rushed into the bedroom. Daniel watched him walk away, and gulped at his wine, the flavor lost to his pallet. They were really going to do this. He sat up and took a deep breath in an attempt to stifle the butterflies in his stomach. The sound of running water from the bathroom pulled him from his haze.

Daniel stood and made his way to the bedroom. Jack was already in the tub, the glass door to the shower ajar. Daniel could see Jack's blurred form through the frosted glass.

"Come on in," Jack said. He slid the door wider in invitation.

Daniel stripped his clothes off and tossed them aside. He didn't know why he was so nervous. They'd seen each other naked many other times, but this was different.

Daniel rapped twice against the glass. Steam from the hot water filled the room, and Daniel removed his fogged glasses to set them aside.

"Jack," Daniel said. The door slid open a few inches and Jack poked his head out. His gaze traveled up and down Daniel's naked body, and he grinned.

The tub was large enough for the both of them. Daniel stepped into the tub and gazed at Jack's bare chest. Jack pulled him in close, under the spray of the hot water, and wrapped his arms around Daniel. The slide of Jack's bare skin against his sent a thrill through Daniel and his cock jumped against Jack's leg.

"Sorry," Daniel said into Jack's shoulder.

"What's to be sorry about?" Jack said. He stroked the back of Daniel's neck, the touch an erotic thrill.

Daniel turned his head until their mouths touched, and kissed Jack. He felt dizzy from the heat of the shower, and the wine, or maybe it was just being this close to Jack. The kiss was slow, sensuous, and delicious. Daniel savored every moment. Droplets of water splashed against his face, and Jack turned them so Daniel was under the spray, their mouths locked in a desperate, hungry kiss. Jack stroked Daniel's hard cock. Daniel buried his face in the crook of Jack's neck. He pulled back enough to look down and shivered when Jack took both their erection in his hand and stroked them together, the feel of his rough hands on Daniel's sensitive skin made him shudder. Every nerve ending felt on fire with electric lust, and Daniel reached down to caress Jack's bare hip.

"Fuck, yeah," Jack said. He nipped Daniel's shoulder and pushed him back against the tiled wall, forcing one leg between Daniel's legs. Every touch sent paroxysms of pleasure through Daniel and stoked his desire. He plunged his tongue into Jack's inviting mouth, and gripped his hard length in his hand. He'd never touched a cock other than his own before and it felt strange, but good, silky like his own cock. Jack pushed into his grip and Daniel stroked the full length, rubbed the tip with his palm. He had no idea what Jack liked, but he would learn.

The touch spurred Jack on, and Daniel stroked his length again. He tightened his grip and sped up his strokes. Jack did the same. Daniel pushed his cock into Jack's tight grip. His balls tightened and he knew it was almost over for him. He moaned his pleasure in Jack's wet mouth, and squeezed his eyes shut tight at the first pulse.

Jack gripped Daniel by the back of his neck, and coaxed every drop from his orgasm. Daniel's legs felt wobbly, and he almost released Jack's hard cock.

"You better not stop," Jack said. His deep voice rumbled in Daniel's ear, and Daniel tightened his grip and jerked him. Jack stroked Daniel's back, and caressed Daniel's naked ass. Fingertips explored Daniel's crack, and Daniel nodded against Jack's neck. The fingers delved deeper, and nudged his perineum. Daniel sped his strokes up, and Jack muttered unintelligible words into Daniel's ear. His wet finger strayed deeper, and Jack's chest rumbled with pleasure. He thrust into Daniel's fist. Daniel shivered when Jack's finger went deeper, and pushed inside. Jack kissed Daniel's neck and shoulder and groaned and then he came, splashed hot down Daniel's leg.

They leaned against each other, spent. Jack petted Daniel on the shoulder with one hand and placed the other on his hip. Daniel stood with his gaze on Jack's chest. He rubbed a hand through the grey, wiry hairs.

"They're softer than I thought they'd be," Daniel said. He rubbed up then down, thrilled that he had permission to touch.

Jack nudged his cheek, and urged Daniel to raise his head. When he did, Jack kissed him hard, and then moved him under the spray of water. Jack stood at his back, pressed close enough that he could feel Jack's cock brush against his ass cheek.

"I am going to fuck you one day," Jack whispered into Daniel's ear. His hands roamed over Daniel, first on his back then to his hips. One hand settled on his abdomen and the other settled on his ass cheek.

Daniel could only respond with a sharp intake of breath. He leaned back against Jack and felt his cock start to harden again. Jack fondled the semi hard length. Then suddenly, he was gone. It took a moment for Daniel's lust addled brain to register the fact. He almost fell backwards, but caught himself in time. He turned his head to find Jack with a cocky grin on his face. Droplets of water had collected on his pale lashes, and Daniel wanted to lick them off with his tongue. He wanted to lick Jack all over at this point, and moved forward with that intension, but Jack placed a firm hand on Daniel's chest to keep him at bay.

Then Jack slid the glass door open and slipped out of the shower. Daniel watched his ass retreat, and made to follow, but the door closed. He turned the water off, and by the time he exited the tub, Jack had left the bathroom. Daniel noted there were no towels save for a small hand towel, which wouldn't even cover his crotch. He shook his head, and let water fly. With a big grin, Daniel marched from the steam-filled bathroom out into the bedroom. Jack stood by the bed, drying himself off with a big fluffy towel. He moved to stand behind Daniel.

"You're dripping all over my floor," Jack said. He patted Daniel's back and ass with the towel, and when Daniel tried to take the towel from him, Jack pushed his hands away and continued to towel him down.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "There weren't any towels in there."

"Oh, I was sure I left one for you," Jack said. He shrugged a shoulder and tossed the damp towel aside, pulled Daniel in close, their bodies pressed together. "It's up to you where you sleep tonight." Jack backed away, and opened a dresser. He pulled out a pair of black briefs and slipped them on. Daniel took the time to look, really look at Jack. For a man his maturity, he was in great shape. Daniel watched him move around the room, every motion economical. The muscles on his neck stood out against tanned skin. Daniel moved in close to Jack, placed his hand on Jack's shoulder and smiled.

There was no doubt in his mind where he wanted to be tonight.

*

After that night, nothing changed, while at the same time, everything changed.

Daniel sat in the mess, his oatmeal cooling in the bowl, his mind filled with thoughts of the night before. Daniel had woken early this morning before Jack, slipped from the bed, and gone back to his own apartment for a fresh change of clothes. He had nothing at Jack's place, not even a toothbrush.

Someone nudged him from behind just as he was about to scoop a cold wet spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth. It plopped back into the bowl and Daniel growled ready to glare at the clumsy person, but then he turned and looked up into the eyes of the soldier from the shower who had harassed him.

"Sorry, Jackson," he said. He winked at Daniel and walked backwards toward his table where his friends, the other two men from the locker incident, sat. He sat down, but his gaze never left Daniel. Then someone else slapped Daniel on the shoulder and he jumped, spilling oatmeal everywhere.

"Whoa, relax, Daniel," Jack said. He smiled down at him and sat in the seat beside him, brushing their knees together. Daniel, unsure if it was a careless touch or if Jack meant to do that, glanced around the room his gaze falling on Bates who glared back at him. Daniel thought he saw a flash of venom in his eyes, but he had to be mistaken. Never the less, he felt on edge.

He turned his attention to Jack and smiled. Jack contemplated Daniel with a questioning stare. He rested his forearms on the edge of the table and spooned fruit loops into his mouth. Jack motioned at Daniel's bowl of cold food with his spoon and chewed. He looked on the verge of saying something, but didn't want to talk with his mouth full.

"What's on the agenda today?" Daniel said just for something to say. He turned his head when Teal'c approached the table and sat down across from Jack. Sam joined them, sliding her tray of fruit loops and milk onto the table.

"I was hoping you could translate something for me," Sam said without preamble. She munched a mouthful.

"Do you wish for me to get you something more palatable, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c said. His gaze settled on Daniel's splashed, congealed oatmeal, and he nudged aside a lump of stray oatmeal so that he could place an elbow on the table.

"Uh, no," Daniel said. He eyed his friends with suspicion. He caught a motion from the corner of his eye, and noticed Bates getting up from his table. Daniel followed the man's movements with his gaze, without moving his head.

"We're supposed to go to that planet, the one SG-11 reported on," Jack said. He kept his attention on his food and didn't notice Daniel flinch when Bates brushed against Daniel. Bates muttered a sir when he passed them. Jack didn't acknowledge the man's presence, but Daniel was sure that Sam had seen.

"I heard something about this," Sam said, turning her attention to Jack. "They said something about finding fossilized remains that bare a distinct resemblance to a symbiote."

Daniel perked up at the words. He knew he was gawking at Sam and then at Jack. Jack set his spoon down and smiled.

"Oh, oh," Jack said with a glint in his eyes. "You do know you said the magic words?"

*

Daniel sat in his office.

The dig on P3X-888 had been going so well, until Chaka had kidnapped Daniel. His wrists hurt. He rubbed the left one and sucked air through his teeth at the pain. The rope burns from Chaka's knots stood out stark against his pale skin. His hands no longer felt numb and Daniel rubbed at his left wrist again. Janet wanted to give him something for the pain, but it wasn't serious enough, and Daniel didn't want to lose any of what he'd learned from the Unas. He scribbled everything he could remember about the language on the blank sheet of paper.

Just down the hall, his team worked on the finds. Daniel paused and tapped the edge of his pencil against his lips, lost in thought. He grunted a few syllables of the primitive language and wrote the words down. He set the pad aside and stretched to check the time. Daniel jumped up from his chair and grabbed the pad of paper, rushed from his office. The debriefing started ten minutes ago, and he wondered why no one had paged him.

Daniel stabbed at the elevator call button and pushed his glasses up. He stared down at his notes, lost in thought about what he would say to Hammond. This planet could prove to be the most important find in decades. Daniel nodded and scribbled those words down. He stepped into the elevator when the door opened and leaned against the back wall. It was a moment before he realized that he wasn't alone. There were two men in the elevator. Daniel clutched his pad to his chest and lifted his head up to acknowledge them. His smile faltered when he saw that one of the men was Bates who stood to Daniel's left, his arms crossed behind his back. Bates shifted from one foot to the other, and then turned his gaze forward.

The other man nodded at Daniel, and when the elevator stopped, he marched from the car. The door slid shut and Daniel felt a keen awareness of the tension in the air. He flinched back when Bates leaned toward him, but then realized that Bates had reached push the button for level 22. Daniel settled into the corner and watched Bates move to the opposite side. His gaze wandered and then settled on something. When Daniel looked down to see what Bates was looking at, he realized that his wrist was exposed, the red marks on display for all to see. Daniel tugged his shirt to cover the evidence of his off world excursion, and ignored the smirk on the other man's lips.

The ride seemed to take forever, and Daniel stared at the buttons, watched each one light up. They stopped and Bates got off without a word or another glance in Daniel's direction.

Everyone was already in the briefing room. Daniel rushed in, took a seat, and set his notepad down on the table before him. Jack marched out of Hammond's office, arms swinging. He paused, bit his lower lip then sat down across from Daniel, beside Sam.

"Let's get this started shall we," Hammond said. He sat down at the head of the table.

*

Several hours later, the screen of his office computer was blank still. Daniel stared at the blinking curser, wishing it would go away. His head hurt and he was just about ready to rush to Janet and beg for something stronger than Tylenol for the pounding headache. His left wrist ached and he knew that would be enough to request the strong stuff. He should ask for a room on base and lay down for a few hours.

He reached out and knocked the picture frame over. Daniel picked the frame up and stared down at the image. A small lump formed in his throat. He was starting to become maudlin.

He stood and opened a drawer, and put the framed picture of Share away, face down. His temples pounded and he headed toward the elevator, and bumped someone along the way. He mumbled an apology to whomever he'd bumped.

The ride to the infirmary level didn't help matters. By the time he arrived, his head was throbbing and he knew it was one of his migraines. Janet was busy in one of the examination rooms. Daniel sat down on a bed and waited, his head clutched between his hands. He heard a noise, and glanced up, his lips pinched in a tight smile, to find Janet staring at him.

"You okay, Daniel?" She reached out and lowered his arm.

He sat up, and yanked his glasses off. "My head," Daniel said, by way of explanation.

Janet did a quick examination, and handed him two pills along with a glass of water. He took them without protest and leaned into her touch. She turned at the sound of someone entering the room.

"Can I go now, Doc?" Daniel knew that voice. It was Bates, and Janet nodded at him. Bates was flexing a bandaged hand, and Daniel noted that he had a nasty gash on his forehead.

"Try not to pull another foolish stunt like that," Janet said.

Bates nodded and turned to leave the room. Janet turned her attention to Daniel.

"You're welcome to sleep here," she said, urging him to lie down even before she finished issuing the invitation. Daniel obeyed. He was glad to rest his head on a pillow. With a deep sigh, he closed his eyes and let his glasses slip from his fingers.

*

Four days of intense work felt good.

Daniel stretched and sighed at a job well done. The cataloguing of all the items was well in hand. Bringing Robert on board had been a stroke of luck. Daniel could focus on other things like SG-1. They were set to go off world in two days.

When Daniel entered Sam's office, he found her engrossed in the study of a device. The video from L3X-218 paused on a frame.

"Hey, Sam," Daniel said. He smiled when she looked up from her work and graced him with a nod.

"You should take a look at the footage from the MALP," Sam said, and pointed at the monitor.

"That's what I'm here to do." Daniel tucked a hand in one pocket and moved to sit in the seat in front of the computer screen. He picked up the remote and pressed play. The screen sprang to life, and he watched the footage.

"Are you busy later?" Sam said. She sounded distracted, and Daniel turned to find her head bent to examine the device.

"Yeah," Daniel said with a snort. "Jack has me doing more hand-to-hand combat training. He refuses to get off this kick even though the last time we trained, I threw him twice."

"You're still not allowed to carry a weapon," Sam said, more than asked. She raised her attention to Daniel and gave him a sympathetic look.

Daniel shook his head, and shrugged his shoulder. "I'm allowed to go through the gate, and that's all that matters to me." He turned back to the MALP footage. A shadow fell across the screen then vanished. Daniel leaned forward and reached out to touch the screen. He squinted unsure he'd seen what he thought, and then rewound the footage a few seconds. The shadow danced across the screen again.

"You know we've got your back," Sam said.

Daniel nodded and rewound the tape again. He leaned in closer to the screen, reached out, tapped against the glass, and turned at the sound of someone entering the lab. It was Jack. He strolled in with his hands tucking inside his pants pockets, and that sparkle in his eyes that meant he was here to harass Sam. Daniel smiled but Jack only nodded in his direction before turning his attention to Sam.

"So, any progress with the doohickey?" Jack said. He waved a hand at the device that sat before Sam.

Daniel sat back in his seat and frowned. Was Jack angry with him? He watched Jack lean in closer to Sam, right over her shoulder. She leaned away, and craned her neck to look up into Jack's gaze. Daniel felt a stab of jealousy, and quashed it before it had a chance to rear its ugly head.

"Not really, sir," Sam said with a shake of her head.

Jack stretched an arm behind Sam and placed his hand on the table. He leaned so close that Sam had to move a few inches to avoid contact.

"Well, I'm sure you'll figure it out." Jack smiled and turned to smile at Daniel. He raised one brow at him. "In the mean time, you and I have a date."

Daniel coughed and sputtered at the words.

"Go easy on him, sir," Sam said. She gave Daniel a sympathetic smile and turned her attention back to her project.

"Not a chance, Carter," Jack said, his own grin plastered across his face. He moved away from Sam and slapped Daniel on the back. "Come on, we have work to do and your technique last time was sloppy." Jack yanked Daniel from his seat and urged him out the door without giving him a chance to say a word. He slung an arm around Daniel's shoulder and pulled him in closer. "Besides, there's a treat in it for you this time if you manage to pin me." Jack waggled his brows in a suggestive manor.

"Jack," Daniel said. He could feel the heat creep across his cheeks.

Jack pushed him away and pulled something from his pocket, holding it up for Daniel to see. It was a chocolate bar, and Jack waved it in Daniel's face.

"I'll let you suck on this," Jack said with a smirk.

Daniel groaned at the joke and rolled his eyes.

The training room was in use when they arrived. Daniel ignored the other men and moved to change into this sweats. When he came back out, the three men were gone and Jack stood in the center of the room, alone. He hadn't changed into sweats. He looked at his watch and smiled.

"It's about time," Jack said. He glanced past Daniel.

"Sorry, sir," the new arrival said.

Daniel turned to find Bates standing a few feet behind him. He wore sweats and stood at attention, arms behind his back. Daniel was about to protest, but Jack cut him off with a raised voice.

"Don't let it happen again," Jack said. He took two steps back and stood off to the side. "Today's training session will be how to disarm and overpower your opponent. Bates here is going to be your bad guy." Jack turned and retrieved two wicked looking knives from a bench. There wasn't supposed to be real weapons in the training room, which meant that Jack had brought them. They were both still in their sheaths. Jack handed one to Daniel and the other to Bates. "Now, no one is to pull the weapon out. This is just an exercise."

Daniel moved forward into Jack's space and lowered his voice. "Jack, what are you doing?" He eyed Bates who stood far enough away from them that he probably couldn't hear their conversations. "I thought this was between you and me. I can't..."

"You can and you will," Jack said.

Daniel could see by the look in Jack's eyes that there would be no arguing with him.

"This guy hates me," Daniel said. "Don't do this." Daniel stared up at Jack over the rim of his glasses and put as much plea into his gaze as he could muster.

"Don't be ridiculous, Daniel. Everybody who knows you loves you." Jack turned away and clapped his hands. "Come on," he said. The words echoed in the room. "Do whatever it takes to disarm your enemy." Jack stepped to the side.

Bates circled Daniel, the sheathed knife held ready. Daniel backed away, and pushed his frustration at not being able to talk Jack out of this course of action aside. This was stupid, and Jack knew that. Daniel would get his gun permit reinstated. There was no way they would allow him to continue going through the gate unless he could carry a weapon.

Bates rushed Daniel. He tripped and fell backwards. The knife flew from his hand, and landed a few feet from his grasp. Bates was on him in an instant, and had Daniel pinned to the mat. He was a large man compared to Daniel, all muscle and that muscle held Daniel in place with one hand. Bates stood and held his hand out for Daniel.

"Keep your eyes on the enemy," Jack said. He circled them, and pointed two fingers at his eyes and then at Bates. "He wants to take you down, but you have to beat him to the punch." Jack nodded and Daniel turned, but not in time to see Bates rush at him, fist in the air. He aimed at Daniel's face. Daniel ducked left, and took the punch in his right shoulder. He fell down, but before Bates could descend on him, he kicked his leg out, sweeping Bates off his feet. Much to Daniel's astonishment, his tactic worked. Bates fell to the mat, flat on his back. Daniel scrambled away from him.

"Great move, Daniel." Jack clapped.

Beside him, Daniel watched Bates rub the back of his head, which had hit the mat hard.

"I am so sorry," Daniel said. He leaned on his arm and reached out to help the man. Bates jerked out of Daniel's reach, rage in his eyes.

"Fuck off, geek," Bates said. The words were low and only Daniel could hear them, but the venom was unmistakable. Bates rolled away, and jumped to his feet. He retrieved his fallen knife.

Daniel got to his feet, and backed away from Bates, who stood ready with his weapon. Daniel got the distinct impression that Bates wanted to take the knife out and use it in a much more effective way.

While he contemplated this, Bates was on him, slashing out with the knife as if he could cut Daniel. Bates dodged left and punched out, but his blow missed his target. Instead, it sent Daniel reeling, and Bates fell on top of him, pushing Daniel face first into the mat. Bates ground a knee into the small of Daniel's back, yanked an arm behind him and gave it a hard twist. He pulled the knife from Daniel's hand and tossed it out of reach.

"That's exactly how you do it," Jack said. He bent at the waist and stared down at them.

Daniel gazed up at Jack through crooked glasses. There was no empathy in Jack's eyes, and Daniel stopped his struggles. His arm hurt, and he cried out in pain. Jack motioned with a nod at Bates who released Daniel on the command, but he ground his knee into Daniel one last time for good measure. Daniel curled into a ball, clutching at his ribs.

"Okay, that's enough for today," Jack said, straightening. "You're dismissed, Bates." He waved a hand at Bates and the man vanished from Daniel's view. Daniel lay on the floor, swallowing his humiliation as best he could. It seemed as though Jack enjoyed every second of this.

"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said. He sat up, a hand on his tender ribs.

"Come on, Daniel," Jack said. He stood over Daniel, legs spread apart. Jack held the knife Bates had used in one hand. He tossed it in the air and twirled it on one finger as one would twirl a basketball.

"Show off," Daniel muttered. He got to his feet, careful not to jar his bruised ribs.

"Disarm me," Jack said. He tossed the knife up and caught the handle in one hand.

Daniel shook his head, but Jack sliced at Daniel's chest with the sheathed knife. Angry, Daniel took a step back, and managed to avoid the knife. He lashed out at Jack with his fist, and landed a lucky punch on Jack's side. Jack doubled over, and Daniel took advantage. He knocked Jack down, and fell on top of him, straddled his chest. Before Daniel could claim victory, Jack bucked, and unseated him. He rolled them, pinned Daniel to the mat. Jack's ass pushed against Daniel's crotch. He leaned forward with a big grin on his face and ground against Daniel's crotch. The motion sent spikes of desire through Daniel and his dick started to harden. Jack sat back, and pushed down.

"I guess you win again," Daniel said with a gulp. The friction made his cock pulse, and Daniel felt shock at the realization that they were simulating sex right here in the SGC training room floor where anyone could walk in on them.

Jack leaned in closer until they were nose to nose. "I guess I do, Jackson."

Daniel's heart pounded in his chest. He was sure that Jack would kiss him, and his cock jerked at the thought, but then Jack pulled away and stood in one smooth motion. With the sudden absence of Jack's body against his own body, Daniel felt regret that they were here and not somewhere else more private.

"I'd much rather spar with you," Daniel said. He accepted Jack's helping hand.

Jack yanked him to his feet and Daniel fell against Jack's chest. He sucked in a harsh breath when Jack copped a feel. The stray touch was much too brief to give Daniel relief, but just enough to make him shudder with pleasure.

"You are evil." For a moment, they stood close together in silence. Then Jack broke the quiet.

"We have a meeting with Hammond in thirty minutes," Jack said. He tapped at his watch. "Get showered and changed into civvies. You're buying me dinner."

Daniel grinned and watched Jack retreat. His stared at Jack's ass and vowed to retaliate when Jack least expected.

Daniel moved to the showers. He stripped and tossed his smelly clothes into the laundry hamper. It was a shame that Jack couldn't join him, but Daniel knew that wasn't an option. The only way what they had together could woke is if everything remained as always. Daniel grinned at the thought of the secret they shared, and set his towel within reach. He removed his glasses to place them in a safe spot. He turned the water on, and stepped under the hot spray. He breathed a sigh of relief when the hot water hit his skin, eager to wash the sweat down the drain.

After he cleaned up, Daniel made his way to his locker, and set his glasses on the top shelf beside his shaving kit. He smoothed a hand over his fresh shaved cheeks, and tensed when he caught a movement in his locker mirror. Daniel spun around and found that he was alone. He slid his glasses on and checked the room again. There was no one else there with him. He thought to call out to whoever could be there, but felt foolish. Instead, he turned his attention back to his locker. He checked the time to discover that he had five minutes left before the meeting.

Daniel let the towel around his waist drop to the floor and reached for clean briefs. He dressed in civilian clothing as Jack had instructed and rushed from the room. He was so lost in thought and in such a hurry that he didn't see the person in front of him until they collided. Daniel took a step back, hands in the air.

"Sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going," he said. Daniel swallowed hard, and took a step back from Bates. Dark piercing eyes glared at Daniel.

Bates mumbled something too low for Daniel to hear, and moved to stand in his path. When he refused to move, he said as explanation, "I'm here to escort you to General Hammond's office."

Daniel sensed a thread of annoyance just beneath the surface.

"Who told you to do that?" Daniel said. He adjusted his jacket and took the time to check his pockets to be sure he had his keys and wallet.

"Colonel O'Neill," Bates said.

Daniel thought to argue with the man, but the look in his eyes made him think twice. "How long were you waiting?"

"I just got here," Bates said. He replied after a short hesitation.

Daniel nodded and motioned for Bates to take the lead. He didn't want to give Bates a hard time, especially since he was only following Jack's order. As they walked, Daniel mused on the distinct sensation that someone had been watching him while he'd showered. He'd thought that it was Jack but now he wasn't so sure. There was no reason for him to suspect that Bates would sneak up on him, but Daniel couldn't help the thoughts from forming. He shook them from his head and followed Bates.

They walked to the elevator and stepped inside when the car arrived. Daniel moved to the back of the car, and kept a close eye on Bates who pressed the button for the level they wanted. He should have been annoyed that Jack sent someone to escort Daniel to the office, but he was too tired. Now that he was motionless, he felt the ache in his muscles and soreness in his ribs. Daniel rubbed at the sore spot, and noted that Bates had turned his head enough to see behind him. Daniel wished he'd taken something for the pain.

"Did you want to visit the infirmary first?" Bates said. The question was so sudden and unexpected that Daniel almost didn't register what Bates had said.

After a pause, Daniel shook his head. "No, I'll be fine." He leaned against the wall, and wondered why this ride was taking so damned long. Daniel rubbed at his eyes and a wave of dizziness reminded him that he needed to eat.

The car came to an abrupt halt. Bates stretched an arm across the open door, and waited for Daniel to step out. Daniel rubbed at his temple and mumbled a thank you, exiting the elevator.

"Are you sure you don't want to go see the doc?" Bates asked again.

Jack came up behind him, and Daniel shook his head.

"I'll take it from here, Bates," Jack said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and nodded at Bates, who saluted Jack and turned and left.

"You know, that wasn't necessary," Daniel said. He watched Bates retreat.

"You're five minutes late," Jack said with a tap to his watch.

They walked into the meeting room, and Daniel noted that Sam and Teal'c were not there. General Hammond entered the room, closing his office door. He held a folder in his hand and he set it down on the table, taking his usual seat at the head. He cleared his throat and waited for Jack and Daniel to take their seats. Daniel stared across the long table, feeling like he was under interrogation.

"Gentlemen, we're here because of a matter that concerns Doctor Jackson's ability in the field to handle a weapon."

Daniel looked to Jack. His expression revealed nothing. Why hadn't he told Daniel that his review was completed?

"Sir, I can assure you..." Jack started to say. Hammond held a hand up to stop Jack.

"You are here because you are the head of SG-1, but you have no say in any of the proceedings." Hammond leaned back in his chair, tapped a finger on the folder, and looked at Daniel. "The review board has determined that you may not carry a military weapon."

Daniel felt the wind knocked from him. He opened his mouth to speak, but once again, Hammond held a hand up to stop him. Jack looked tense, and ready to spring from his chair to strangle someone, only there was no one to attack.

Hammond opened the folder and held a sheet of paper up.

"Until such time as this committee is convinced that Doctor Daniel Jackson, nonmilitary personnel, can be trusted not to endanger the lives of military personal, his weapon license is suspended. He is not to, under any circumstances, carry a military weapon." Hammond looked up at them.

"Sir, this is a joke," Jack said. He vibrated in his seat.

"The truth is, Jack," Hammond said. "It is my suspicion that someone is trying to rob us of our most valuable resource." Hammond motioned at Daniel who blinked and looked flummoxed. "However, by the wording of this document, Daniel is not to carry earth military made weapons." He raised a brow at Jack.

"Permission to punch the head of the committee's lights out," Jack said. He was serious. Daniel could tell.

"Permission denied." Hammond nodded at Daniel and stood. He picked up the folder, and left the room without another word.

"It'll be okay, Jack," Daniel said. "I can carry a Zat or something else." Daniel leaned back in his chair.

"I'll get to the bottom of this," Jack said. The tone of his voice broached no argument and besides, Daniel was too tired to argue. He just wanted to go home.

"If there is someone behind this," Daniel said. "Don't you think they would have considered that I could work around this restriction?" Daniel sighed and stood up. They stood for a moment both men lost in thought.

"You're coming over tonight," Jack said. Though the statement almost sounded like a question, Jack nodded when he spoke.

Daniel shrugged, "Sure. We can finish that game we started."

Jack looked confused but he didn't argue or disagree.

Daniel turned to leave, Jack behind him, a light touch on the small of Daniel's back, which vanished the moment they exited the office. Was this how it was to be? Hiding who they were and what they meant to each other. Daniel sighed again, and ran a hand through his hair. They went in separate directions, but first they arranged to meet topside in an hour. Daniel had a few things to finish up, and he had assignments to hand out to his staff.

Once Daniel had doled out assignments and checked on the status of the ones in progress, he went to his locker and though he was dressed in civilian clothes, he felt the urge to change. He sat on a bench lost in thought, and didn't hear the footfalls until they stopped before him. Daniel looked up at Teal'c.

"Daniel Jackson, you look troubled." Teal'c stepped back when Daniel stood up.

"No," Daniel said. He shook his head and stared down at his shoes. "I'm fine." He shrugged his shoulders and told Teal'c the outcome of the meeting with the General. Teal'c narrowed his eyes and tilted his head.

"It seems foolish that they would take this course of action," Teal'c said.

"Well, Teal'c, no one ever said that the military isn't above taking foolish action." Daniel made a feeble attempt at a smile.

Teal'c reached out and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"If you wish, I can train you in staff weapon technique."

"That's very generous of you, Teal'c." Daniel smiled and felt fortunate that he had such good friends. He glanced at his watch and started to move around Teal'c with the intention of leaving, but stopped when Sam stalked into the room.

"I just heard," Sam said. Her breath was short and her face flushed with what looked like outrage. "I let them know exactly what I thought of their stupid decision."

Flustered at Sam's declaration, Daniel smiled and stood still when Sam wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. He pressed his chin into her shoulder, glad for the moment.

"Hey, what's going on here?" Jack entered the room. It was obvious that when Daniel didn't show at their appointed rendezvous, Jack went looking for him.

"Sir," Sam said, pulling away from Daniel, much to his chagrin. "We heard about Daniel."

"Don't worry," said Jack, looking from Teal'c to Sam until his gaze settled on Daniel. "I intend to get to the bottom of this bullshit." Jack waved a hand. "It's the usual political crap. Nothing we haven't seen before." A moment of uncomfortable silence fell, and then Jack cleared his throat. He signaled Daniel with a gaze.

"Wow, it's late," said Daniel. He made a show of checking the time.

Sam stepped aside, and gave him room to pass.

He felt all eyes on him, and squirmed, uncomfortable with being the center of anyone's attention. He just wanted out of here and off this base. Away from this place, he could be himself again.

He could feel the presence of someone else behind him, and turned his head to find Jack. Silence hung in the air like a palpable thing, and Daniel kept his gaze down. He moved, one foot before the other, headed for the elevator that would take him out of this sudden stifling place.

Jack brushed past him and then settled in beside him, and matched Daniel's pace. Their shoulders brushed and Jack offered a smile. The silence remained and the longer it stretched, the more anxious Daniel became.

Then they were topside and in Jack's truck before Daniel spoke again.

"You seemed as rushed as I was to escape from the mountain," Daniel said. He had meant to make a joke about things because they were on their way to Jack's, probably to engage in illicit activities. That was what he should have said, and he turned to look at Jack, but Jack's tensed shoulders and white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel halted the words in his throat.

"I guess right now, I just can't stomach being there," Jack said.

Daniel felt the words like a punch. Jack loved the mountain, but Daniel knew how much he hated the politicking that went with Jack's position. Daniel leaned back and watched Jack's profile, taking the time to absorb the man beside him. He examined Jack's close-cropped short graying hair, the bare nape of his neck, and Daniel wished he could reach out and brush his fingers across the stubble. The thought alone sent a shiver through him. Here in the privacy of Jack's truck, speeding along at fifty toward a destination that he knew would end in stickiness, Daniel felt the weight of work slip from his shoulders. He slid his arm over the backrest and brushed his fingers across Jack's nape. The touch sent thrills up through Daniel's fingertips, up his hand and down his arm.

Jack leaned back into the touch and smiled, though he remained focused on the road, lines of tension in his face. Daniel could change that when they reached their destination.

"Thank you, Jack." Daniel said with a smile. His heart leapt in his chest when Jack turned to smile at him. Daniel kept his hand on Jack's neck, stroked the small hairs with his knuckles.

Jack turned the steering wheel to make a sharp right, and Daniel shouldered his door. Jack pulled over, turned off the engine and twisting his body to face Daniel. They were out in the middle of nowhere.

"Fuck, just come closer," said Jack, his voice a deep growl. His eyes flashed, and Daniel thought he'd somehow angered Jack, until Jack pulled him in close with one hand on Daniel's shoulder. His grip tightened around Daniel's vulnerable neck, but he had no time to respond, because Jack's mouth smothered his with an eager and hot. Daniel pressed his chest against Jack's shoulder, and caressed Jack's arm.

They broke apart and Daniel rested his forehead against Jack's forehead. The position was awkward, but Daniel didn't mind.

"Are you sure about this?" Daniel had to ask. "It's not too late to change your mind." He didn't want Jack to make a decision that he would regret later, but the flash of hurt in Jack's eyes made Daniel wonder if maybe, he had said too much.

"I've got a lot of catching up to do." He stroked the back of Daniel's neck. The gentle touch sent shivers through Daniel. "I just think maybe..." Jack fell silent and they sat in the dark for a long, drawn out moment. He seemed about to say more, but then turned the engine on and maneuvered the car back to the road.

Daniel locked his gaze on the street ahead too afraid to say anything else. He felt a hesitation build between them when Jack didn't finished what he'd started to say. They spent the rest of the ride in silence. The longer the silence stretched, the more frightened Daniel felt.

Daniel hung his coat in the closet and smiled when Jack tossed his own coat on the sofa, and dumped the car keys on the coffee table.

"Did you want something?" Jack said. He seemed much more reserved, and waved in the general direction of the kitchen.

When Daniel didn't respond, Jack moved to the kitchen. He returned with two beers. Daniel accepted one and Jack pop the cap from his and take a long deep gulp. They moved to the living room and sat down on the sofa. Jack flicked his bottle cap across the room. It pinged and skittered to a halt on the wooden floor.

"If you're angry at me just say so," Daniel said after a long silence where he watched Jack contemplate the bottle in his hand. "I wasn't trying to imply that you can't make up your own mind."

Jack shook his head and offered up an attempt at a smile. The silence stretched and Jack finished his beer. He stood and retrieved two more beers, though Daniel hadn't finished with his first drink. He watched Jack drink his second, and twisted his body to face Jack and get more comfortable.

"You gotta know, Daniel," Jack said after the silence had gone on much too long, "I'm never angry at you. I'm just pissed about this thing with the weapons." He flicked his second cap across the room.

Daniel leaned forward and saw that there were bottle caps all over the floor in the far corner. He scrunched his brows at the blatant lie, and prepared a mental list of all the times Jack had been furious with him, but before he could start to list them aloud, Jack raised a hand and pressed two fingers to Daniel's lips.

"We'll get through this bull crap," Jack said. He pressed his forehead to Daniel's cheek with a sigh.

Daniel nudged Jack with his head, and Jack who raised his gaze, a comforting smile on his lips. Much to his surprise, Daniel felt his cheeks burn with heat. Up this close and personal with Jack, it made Daniel's body tingle. The knowledge that he now had permission to touch thrilled Daniel.

Jack caressed Daniel's cheek, stroked a calloused thumb across Daniel's parted lips.

"Damn, you're sexy, Doctor Jackson," Jack said.

Daniel leaned toward the touch, closed his eyes, and sighed. Jack kissed him, and Daniel felt the last vestige of anxiety melt away. Daniel enjoyed the moment. He focused all his attention on the feel of Jack's mouth, the texture of his tongue when Jack licked Daniel's bottom lip, and the gentle touch of his hand on Daniel's knee.

They broke apart. Jack gulped his second beer down, and set the empty bottle aside. It was obvious that there was something on his mind.

"That was nice," said Daniel. He stroked Jack's shoulder and slid closer until their thighs pressed together. He leaned in and nibbled on Jack's ear lobe, caressed Jack's leg.

Jack jumped up from the sofa out of Daniel's reach.

Jack started to say something and then stopped. He snatched up the other beer bottle, paced across the room, and waved a hand in the air. "Look, I did some research and there's some ground rules that we should set." Jack spun to face Daniel. He looked nervous and that made Daniel smile.

"Okay." Daniel settled against the sofa. "If this is about sex..." He raised a brow.

"No," Jack said. He waved his hands in the air for emphasis. "I can do sex. That part's easy."

Daniel nodded. "Easy." Jack's sudden case of nerves was almost adorable, but Daniel wasn't about to tell that to tough-as-nails Jack O'Neill.

"I'm just not sure about the other stuff."

Daniel waited for more clarification, but the silence stretched.

"We can work on the other stuff together," Daniel said with a shrug, though he had no idea what Jack meant by the other stuff, he looked forward to the discovery.

Jack heaved his shoulders and spun to face Daniel. He narrowed his eyes again and took another swig from his beer.

"This isn't natural," Jack said and there it was. The real reason Jack had sprung a case of nerves. "I blame all this on you."

Before Daniel could respond to the accusation, Jack stomped from the room. Daniel sat back on the sofa unsure what to do next. He could hear the tick of a clock, and then the slam of a door. Maybe the best thing to do would be to leave.

Daniel stood and sighed. Jack needed time or maybe there was not enough time in the world for him to come to terms with the change in their friendship.

"Well," Jack said.

Daniel turned. Jack stood in the hallway, one hand on his hip.

"Are you coming to bed or not."

"Mixed signals," Daniel muttered. He tucked a hand in his pants pocket and marched across the room. Jack wrapped an arm around Daniel's shoulders, and pulled him in close.

"Cut me some slack," Jack said. He rubbed their cheeks together, and pinned Daniel against the wall.

Daniel lowered his gaze. It was obvious who was going to be the submissive in this relationship, but Daniel felt his hackles rise at the thought that Jack would want to control him. He pushed back, until he reversed their positions and Jack was up against the wall. Daniel knew that Jack hadn't fought as hard as he could have. He thrust his hardness against Jack's thigh. He could feel Jack's own erection press against his leg. Maybe Daniel could live with the submissive role, but maybe not.

"Why should I?" Daniel said. He gazed into Jack's dark eyes, searched for something, a wordless signal that this was what Jack wanted, that his hesitation was just a moment of panic that had passed and would vanish.

Jack bucked against him, and Daniel knew what to do. He pinned Jack's shoulder against the wall, and pressed his mouth to Jack's parted lips. The kiss was deep, long, and passionate, and Daniel felt his dick jump each time Jack thrust his tongue in his mouth. He tore at Jack's shirt to get to bare skin, felt the taut muscles of Jack's stomach quiver beneath his touch. They rolled along the wall toward the bedroom mouths locked in the kiss. Jack's shirt was the first article of clothing to go. Daniel tossed it aside and pressed his lips against Jack's bare shoulder.

He stared into Jack's dark eyes. Daniel could feel the beat of Jack's heart and the puff of his breath. He caressed Jack's arm and gripped his wrist with one hand, raised the arm to sling it over his own shoulder. They both leaned into a kiss and pressed together, bodies flush, thighs together, knees overlapped, hard cocks rubbed together. Jack slammed Daniel against the wall, and plunged his tongue deep inside. He yanked Daniel's t-shirt over his head and tossed it aside, grabbed at the waistband of Daniel's pants. Jack unbuttoned his pants one-handed and then tugged the zipper down. He slipped a warm hand inside and behind to cup Daniel's ass cheek. Daniel's cock jumped.

Jack thrust his leg between Daniel's legs, urged Daniel to spread them wider. Daniel complied, startled when Jack unbalanced him. Then Jack's hands were everywhere. Daniel threw his head back and closed his eyes, caught in the moment. His head spun, delirious. Jack rubbed against him harder. Daniel's pants slid off, and then Jack pressed Daniel against the wall with his shoulders, fumbled at his own button and zipper. Then his pants were off and Daniel sighed at the electric touch of the hair on Jack's legs. He wrapped his arms around Jack, and buried his face in Jack's shoulder, allowed Jack to take control.

Jack pulled back and watched Daniel. His intense gaze scanned Daniel's naked, exposed body. He leaned in close, one hand on the wall at Daniel's head, his mouth to Daniel's ear. Daniel shivered at the hot breath.

"Bedroom," Jack growled. "Now." He pushed off the wall, stepped out of his pants and left them where they lay. In nothing but socks and a hard on that strained against the fabric of his briefs, Jack stared with dark, dangerous eyes, and marched to the bedroom. Daniel scrambled out of his pants, and rushed to follow. He yanked his socks off as he went, and tossed them aside. When he reached the bedroom, Jack wasn't in the room but the light of the adjoining bathroom was on. For a heart stopping moment, Daniel thought that Jack had changed his mind, but then he walked out of the bathroom, no longer in his briefs. Daniel pulled his own briefs off, his hard cock bounced out of them, eager.

Daniel walked across the cool, wooden floor and stood close to Jack.

"Again with the mixed signals," Daniel said. He spoke in a low whisper, afraid to disturb the silence.

"Sorry, bad habits die hard." Jack shrugged and Daniel moved in closer, placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. He caressed down to Jack's elbow, lifted Jack's arm, and examined the wristwatch.

Daniel kissed Jack's hand. "I always thought watches were sexy," Daniel said, giving the watch serious consideration. "Especially when you wear one. Almost like bondage."

He looked into Jack's gaze, and smirked.

Jack raised a brow. "You want me to tie you up." It was somewhere between a statement and a question. Daniel couldn't be sure, but the idea made Jack's dick perk up.

"Do you want to tie me up?" Daniel said. He eyed Jack's stiff erection. Daniel backed away until he hit the bed and sat down with spread legs. He fell back and eyed Jack with a grin.

"Are you going to make a break for it?" Jack moved in close, and placed a knee between Daniel's spread thighs.

"Nope," Daniel said. His anticipation rose and Daniel shivered when Jack slid a leg along his thigh. Short hairs tickled his skin.

Jack lowered himself onto Daniel and caressed Daniel's shoulder with one hand, while he stroked Daniel's cheek with the other. He thought that Jack was about to say something else, but then Jack swooped in and kissed him hard on the mouth and thrust a wet eager tongue inside. This time there was no hesitation or reluctance on Jack's part.

Their bodies twined together, Jack rubbed against Daniel and the friction sent thrills through him. This was fast become one of Daniel's favorite positions, and he hadn't realized just how much he enjoyed the feel of Jack's naked body against his.

He craved the touch and Jack, willing to oblige, stroked and petted every inch of exposed skin. Jack softened the kiss and gripped Daniel's cock in one hand. He jerked the length from base to tip. Daniel bucked up, moaned into Jack's mouth. With each stroke, Daniel felt his body vibrate, and his balls tighten. Jack brought him to the edge, and pushed him over with ease.

Daniel shuddered as he came, gripped Jack's shoulder and squeezed. He broke from the kiss and closed his eyes, but Jack kissed Daniel's cheek then throat, and pulled away for a moment to retrieve a cloth by the bedside. Jack cleaned Daniel's wet belly, tossed the cloth aside and nudged Daniel onto his side. Compliant and lethargic from his climax, Daniel sighed and smiled.

Jack's weight shifted behind him, and Daniel shivered at the cool, wet touch on his crack. He opened one eye.

"Jack?"

Jack stroked Daniel's shoulder. His weight shifted to lean against Daniel, and their gazes locked. Daniel swallowed, unsure what to do next. He thought he knew what Jack wanted, but wasn't sure it was what he wanted. The finger returned and Daniel flinched away from the touch, and then forced himself to lay still. He didn't want Jack to bolt now after they'd made so much progress. He could feel Jack's silky length against his thigh.

"If...?" Jack started to say.

"No, just...." though Daniel's body tingled with anticipation, he felt a jolt of fear weave through him. He knew he could trust Jack.

Daniel gripped the pillow with both hands. Desire and anxiety mixed with trepidation and doubt, but he took a deep breath and stepped over the abyss.

When Jack penetrated him, Daniel held his breath for a moment.

"Shh, not so tense," Jack said. He stroked Daniel's shoulder and arm. "Relax. I've got you."

When Jack thrust, Daniel shuddered at the sensation of fullness and being stretch. A kiss on the back of his neck soothed and relaxed him.

Jack wrapped an arm around him, thrust, slow at first in and out. Daniel couldn't help but move with the rhythm Jack had set. He pushed back when Jack pushed forward. With each movement, Daniel could feel Jack swell inside him. Jack hummed deep in his throat and stroked Daniel's chest.

Then Jack twisted and moved Daniel with him, until Jack lay on top. He pressed Daniel to the bed and thrust hard with a grunt. Daniel spread his legs for a more comfortable position. He watched Jack's tensed arm, watched the muscles tense and cord, and marveled at their intimacy.

Jack's cock pulsed. His climax vibrated through him, made Daniel quiver with ecstasy. He through his arms around Jack and pulled him in closer, chest to chest.

"Yes," Jack said into Daniel's ear. He moaned low and long, kissed Daniel on the throat and cheek. Then he buried his face in Daniel's neck.

Daniel felt Jack slip out and the weight of his body eased away. Daniel almost reached out to pull him back, but he felt lethargic, heavy and tired. He closed his eyes for a moment.

*

Daniel stood in the gate room, lost in thoughts of the events of the other night. He had tuned Sam out and hadn't heard a word she'd said. When she shook him, Daniel felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. He was sure that she could somehow see in to his thoughts and knew what he had been thinking.

When she narrowed her eyes at him and smiled, he blushed harder.

"You got laid last night," Sam said.

Daniel balked at her stark, frank tone. He decided it was best not to say anything, that way Sam could infer whatever she wished from his silence.

"Way to go, Daniel." Sam slapped him on the shoulder and turned to Teal'c.

Daniel shook his head, trying to stop her, but when she asked Teal'c about the mission, he breathed a sigh of relief.

When Jack entered the gate room, all eyes turned in his direction. He wasn't dressed for a mission. Daniel eyed him with suspicion, but Jack just smiled, and clapped his hands together.

"I have an announcement to make." Jack nodded at Daniel. "So, here's how it is from now on." He approached Daniel and slapped an arm around Daniel's neck, pulled him in close to stroke Daniel's cheek. Daniel went cold, and fear shot up his spine. "Daniel and I, we're an item, but it's cool, because it's just sex." Jack held up his free arm.

*

Daniel awoke in a cold sweat.

It was a dream, just a dream. The bedside clock said two AM. Only a few hours had passed since he'd fallen asleep. Jack lay beside him, sound asleep. They weren't at the mountain and Jack hadn't pushed them out of the closet in front of all their friends in the middle of the SGC. Daniel eased out of the bed, and flinched at the cool floor beneath his feet. He made his way to the bathroom, glad that the light was on. His body ached and tingled at the same time. He felt great, but nature called.

After he finished taking a pee, he caught his reflection in the mirror. He looked haggard, exhausted despite the sleep. Daniel ran his fingers through his short hair and sighed, the dream still foremost in his mind. It wasn't anything he needed to fear. He knew Jack would never tell anyone. Jack couldn't tell anyone. It would mean his career, and Daniel was well aware how much that meant to him.

He yawned and made his way back to the bed. Daniel stopped to stare down at Jack. Sheets tangled around his naked body, and his hair tousled, Jack looked so sexy. Daniel felt his libido jump and his cock responded in kind. He slid into the bed, and tucked the warm sheets around them. Daniel pushed his hardened cock against Jack's thigh. Jack responded to the movement, snuggled up against Daniel, and then wrapped his arm around him. He placed his lips against Daniel's cheek.

Daniel smiled at the thought that their tough team leader was just a big softie who liked to snuggle in bed, a fact that Daniel would never be able to share with his teammates. His mind raced with thoughts of what his dream could mean. There was no way he would be able to sleep.

Somehow, he managed to drift off again, content that he was right where he needed to be. With Jack at his side, Daniel felt this was easy.

The End