Part II


Disclaimer: Kali & Muses do not own Stargate; we just borrowed it for this fanfiction.
Warnings: slash in the form of Jack/Daniel

Big thanks to my new beta, Cryysis!

~ Part II ~

Chapter I
{Jack}
Tuesday Evening:

Slipping out of the jacket of his Class As with great relief, Major General Jack O’Neill tossed the thing across the back of a leather armchair sitting in the corner of his office and reached up to loosen his tie.  It was nearly 1700 hours and he’d been in a very long, tedious, pointless meeting with some Pentagon officials and the Appropriations Committee since 1000 hours that morning.  Jack had been at work since 0630 hours.  In other words, he was dead tired, hungry, and supremely annoyed at the wasting of his time that these politicians, bean-counters, and pencil-pushers all seemed to agree on.

Not for the millionth time, Jack groaned wearily and sank down into his office chair asking himself why, oh why did he let Hammond talk him into taking over this horrendous position as Head of Homeworld Security?  Closing his eyes, he scrubbed his hands over his face and growled at himself.

Because you’re a coward when it comes to some things, O’Neill, and it was easier to run away than to face yourself and him.

He opened his eyes and picked up a framed photograph that sat on his desk, staring at it with a mixture of fond affection, pride, regret, sadness, and deep, deep loneliness.  It was a rare team photo of SG1, including Hammond, Janet Fraiser, Jacob Carter, Bra’tac, and Cassandra Fraiser – taken by Lou Ferretti at one of the last BBQs Jack had hosted before Janet died, and the first BBQ Bra’tac had been on earth in time to attend.  Even though Lou had retired, he was still part of the ‘family’ and Jack kept in touch with him to keep him up to date on its members.

While the mix of emotions revolved around everyone in the picture, there was one figure in particular that Jack’s eyes lingered on.  Dr. Daniel Jackson – a triple PhD who came along when Jack needed someone most (as unlikely a someone as Jack or anyone else would have thought he needed) and became the most important person in the universe to him.  They were best friends who could bicker like an old married couple or a pair of eight-year-olds, protect each other whether either of them liked it or not, and laugh or cry together – whatever the situation demanded.  And yet Jack had taken for granted Daniel’s personality and infinite capacity for forgiveness, had let this precious friendship slide to the back burner and finally off the stove completely.  By the time he realized what he’d done, what he’d lost, Daniel was lying in a radiation-induced coma, dying in one of the most horrible, painful ways Jack had ever witnessed.  And then Daniel Ascended, was gone for an entire year, leaving Jack to try and carry on the fight as he knew Daniel would want him to, trying to keep SG1 and the planet from falling apart without their guiding light – their conscience.

Then came the fateful mission to Vis Uban after Jonas Quinn deciphered the Ancient tablet from the hidden treasure room in the pyramid on Abydos.  Maybe it wasn’t the Lost City after all, but to Jack they’d found something infinitely more important, infinitely more special than Atlantis.  They found Daniel – a whole, healthy, corporeal and so beautiful Daniel in his flowing robes of blue.  Okay, so he didn’t know any of them or even himself, but at the core he was still there, and Jack couldn’t ask for anything more.

Yet the following year Jack had held back, even though Daniel needed his friends, his family, more than ever.  It was a hard year for everyone.  On top of the usual crisis, Daniel struggled with regaining memories, trying to fit back into a team that nearly shut him out completely before his Ascension, near-death experiences that for once Daniel hadn’t gone looking for, the loss of a dear and much-loved friend, and the constant upheavals at the SGC caused by Senator-cum-Vice President Kinsey and his NID cronies.  Jack had held himself back out of fear.  He’d gone through the pain of losing Daniel once, and he had no wish to do it again.  So he’d kept to himself, not letting the linguist get as close as he once was – and if Daniel noticed, or remembered what it was like before, he never let on.  Oh sure, they were friends again, but hockey nights, chess matches, Jell-O-wrestling nights out with Teal’c, and the deep, meaningful conversations they’d once shared were long gone.  Maybe their friendship hadn’t regained its former glory, but at least they fell back into the work-roles easily and comfortably.  On that front, in fact, their relationship actually improved and settled somewhat from the past’s philosophical differences.

Leaning back in his seat, Jack gently set the picture down, still staring at Daniel’s happy face.  Why had he let himself runaway from the best thing to happen to him since Charlie?  He’d never let fear dictate his actions before.  He was so afraid to get close to Daniel again, afraid to lose him again, and so had distanced himself and not let himself trust Daniel quite as he had before because of his fear and because he knew that Daniel Jackson would throw himself through another glass window and expose himself to a mortal dose of radiation all over again if it meant saving people.  Jack didn’t want to deal with it again – didn’t think he could.  And how does one explain that to someone like Daniel and hope to get a promise that he’d never do it again?  One couldn’t, and honestly, Jack would never ask that of Daniel because it would detract from Daniel’s essence…his very soul.

With the hiding and running away, Jack had also done Samantha Carter a real disservice.  Sure, he’d genuinely cared for her, even lusted (a little) after her, but he never really considered a relationship, and he never intended to follow through with any of the flirting or the ideas both he and Sam had given many at the SGC regarding their supposed ‘hidden, unresolved love affair.’  So after Jack spent a year as a General, watching his team (his, damn it!) go through the Gate time and again without him, he finally began to understand just what he’d done to the people he cared most about.  It came to a head at his cabin.  He finally took the bull by the horns and had a long, painful discussion with Carter about…everything.  He was bowled over when Carter admitted she’d broken it off with Pete Callahan not just because of Jacob’s death, but because she finally decided to do something about her feelings for Jack.  In turn, Jack apologized until he was blue in the face, and told her the absolute truth: he was never going to marry again, and his heart wasn’t his to give away to someone any more – not even Sam – because he gave it away to someone long ago.

I’m so very sorry, Carter.”  Jack said yet again, feeling all of his nearly fifty years in that moment.  “We should have had this conversation a very long time ago, but I’m a coward and an asshole.  Sara left me for a good reason, after all.  I’ve got far too many issues and far too much crap to sort out in my head before I can give anything else of me to anyone – even the one who already owns my sorry excuse for a heart.  I know you’ll think less of me from now on, and I realize you probably won’t want to work with me any longer…I understand and I want you to know I accept full responsibility for…all of this.  None of this is your fault.  It’s all on me.

It was one of the few times he ever saw Carter with tears in her eyes.  And the shock.  And the bitter anger of rejection.  And, worst of all, the absolute confusion of the emotional rollercoaster of the last eight years they worked together.

There was never an ‘us,’ was there?  Just in my head.”  She’d asked softly, somehow no longer able to look him in the eye.  “Was I ever anything more to you than a subordinate officer and…friend?

Not as anything romantic, no.”  Jack admitted in as gentle a voice as he could muster.  Really all he wanted was to make friends with the remaining six-pack of Guinness in his fridge.  “You’re one hell of an officer, Carter, and a wonderful woman – a wonderful human being.  And as far as I’m concerned you’ll always be a friend, and more, you’re family.  You, Teal’c, and…Daniel are my family, and I hope someday I’ll be able to mend all the fences I’ve broken with all of you.  Until then…I sincerely wish you all the best life has to offer, and I know you’ll find someone who deserves you and who can make you happy.

She sat there for a long time, the silence nearly deafening between them.  Finally she wiped at her eyes, her face becoming a stone mask with eyes just as cold to match.  Carter stood and nodded, almost to herself, as if she came to a decision.  “I see.  Well then, there isn’t anything to be said, is there?  If you don’t mind, I would appreciate it if you could drive me to the airport tomorrow morning, sir.  I think it’s best if I leave.

So he did.  At the airport, just as she was about to leap out of his rented SUV, she paused and looked at him searchingly for a moment.  “Would it be strange for me to ask who this mysterious person is, sir?  Do I know them?

Jack had floundered miserably, looking very much like he would appreciate a full-scale Goa’uld attack right then if it meant not answering.  But Fate, it seemed, hated him and he wasn’t that lucky.

No.  It’s not strange.”  He managed to reply.  “And…if we weren’t who we are, if we weren’t in the careers we chose, then I’d even tell you because I think you have every right to want to know.”  Jack stared out his windshield as he spoke in a tight, rough voice.  “But that’s not the case.  And really…it isn’t going to matter, Carter, because I’m fairly sure the person will never have me no matter what I say or do.  Even if…even if society would accept us, even if we could continue our jobs and fight whatever the stars throw our way together.

Now Jack sat in his office, remembering the harsh, almost hysterical quality to the laugh Carter had given then.  And imagine his surprise at her parting words before she’d jumped out and slammed the SUV’s door hard and walked away.

Those fences you want to mend with me are nothing compared to the ones you will have to with Daniel.  I sometimes wondered about you two, but I talked myself out of it easily enough.  Too easily, apparently.  Janet tried to tell me, once, but I didn’t want to listen.  I should have.  I also should have known that you and I being together would have been far too easy because you just don’t work that way.  The regs between you and I are a challenge, but not an insurmountable obstacle.  And relationships last longer and are deeper when there’s work involved.”  Sam’s tone turned ironic while Jack just sat there stupefied, like a statue.  “You’re right, though.  I deserve better.  And you…” she opened the door and slid out, her duffel bag in hand.  “…Jack O’Neill, if you don’t deserve me then you deserve him even less, no matter how petty that makes me.”  Two seconds later she was gone and Jack was wondering if he’d ever really had any clue about what he was doing.

Jack sighed and looked around his office, the place that had become his existence for two years out of duty and escaping reality.  When he’d gotten back to the SGC, Sam was long gone to Area 51 to take over as the head of Research and Development, just as she’d announced at dinner the night before.  After dropping Carter at the airport, Jack went back to the cabin to find Teal’c and Daniel had returned from their day-long nature walk (Daniel having wanted to go alone but Teal’c insisting he go along because he didn’t like the idea of their linguist running around in the woods alone during hunting season).  When Jack explained that Sam was gone, it didn’t take long for Daniel and Teal’c to pack up and decide to leave, too.  Jack had finished out his first week of leave at the cabin, but in a place that had once been a retreat and a place of peace and contentment for him, he found no such serenity any longer.  Arriving back at the Mountain, Jack found himself packing up his stuff from Hammond’s old office and making the phone call to George Hammond himself to accept the new posting to Homeworld Security – in Washington D.C.

And it was one of his most bitter regrets that he’d never even talked to either Teal’c or Daniel about it before hand.  Obviously he hadn’t been in his right mind at the time.

Now…in this small, sparse, yet functional office, Jack spent the last two years alone, frustrated, miserable, and anxious for every mission report, for every phone call from Hank Landry about the SGC and the people he’d left behind.  He waited desperately every day for word on the well-being of his team – not that he didn’t trust Mitchell to do his best as a part of SG1.  And most of all, he dreaded the phone ringing to tell him that once again Daniel was hurt, sick, missing, possessed, crazy…whatever.  He knew that if he lost Daniel again, this time Jack would go with him.  He couldn’t live in a universe without Daniel in it, so he wouldn’t.

Jack came to that conclusion after the thing with Daniel going Prior.  Before he could catch himself, he found himself falling back into the established treatment of distancing himself from Daniel by not trusting him, not having faith in the wisdom and abilities of someone he claimed to admire and love.  And just to make it worse, he once again took Sam’s opinions over Daniel’s.  It hadn’t been Daniel’s fault.  He’d just done the best that he could in the situation he was in and with future events that presented themselves.  But Jack was angry that he would allow himself to go Darkside and make all these clever little schemes on his own, to place himself in such danger again and again with no guarantees of the outcome.  His anger got the better of his brain, and though everything seemed to work out in the end as Daniel had foreseen (to the extent that they’d used Merlin’s weapon and Daniel returned to normal, safe and sound), the jury was still out on whether or not the entire ordeal had been worth it.  No one knew if the Ori were gone.  No one knew what happened to Adria after she Ascended.  The SuperGate was still open and functional, and there were Ori ships out there with hordes of zealots and Priors-a-plenty on board still converting or destroying anyone they came across.

Where Jack would rather be was out there with his team.  Or if he couldn’t do that, then at least be on the front lines at the SGC.  Instead, he was playing at politics and fighting the fight as a pencil-pusher.  Flying a desk instead of an F-302.  He hated it.  He wanted to go home.  And for the last few months, since they had returned from the SuperGate with a blessedly normal Daniel and an intact ‘borrowed’ Odyssey, Jack had quietly been making plans to do exactly that.

Speaking of which…he reached out and grabbed his desk-phone, punching out a number he knew by heart.  A few rings later, someone picked up and answered.

“Ferretti, it’s your dime…”

“Hey, Lou.  It’s Jack.”

“Hey!  Good to hear from you, sir.  How’s D.C?”  Jack had to smile at the genuine pleasure in Ferretti’s voice.  It was nice to be missed by old friends and war buddies.

“Just as boring and useless as always, Lou.  How’s the family?”

“Great!  The wife’s busy sewing Halloween costumes for each of us.  She says I’m not getting out of dressing up and going out this year.”

Jack chuckled.  Strange though it was for a prankster like Lou, he disliked both Halloween and April Fool’s day.  “Aww…poor baby.”

“Shut up!  You don’t have to clean up the toilet paper and eggs from your yard the next day!”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“What can I do for you, Jack?  Calling to check up on the project?”  There was a hint of sly amusement in Lou’s voice as he referred to the large job Jack had hired him for so affectionately.

“Yep.  It’s been a couple of weeks, and I’m prepared to start putting the wheels in motion around here.”  Jack frowned to himself, fingers tapping restlessly on his desktop.  “If things go as I plan.”

He couldn’t see it, but on the other end of the line, Lou was grinning from ear to ear.  When Jack had dropped by unexpectedly one day and made his request – and after a few beers, given Lou the reasons for it – the former USAF Major turned carpenter had eagerly agreed.  Anything, he said, for Jack O’Neill and the Doc (as he fondly called Daniel).  He knew exactly why Jack wanted to do for Daniel what he’d asked Ferretti’s help with, and before he’d met Daniel and gone on the mission of his life – not to mention the following ones he’d undertaken later with SG2 – Lou may have had a few reservations about the DADT nature of that relationship.  But, as with just about everyone that encountered Daniel Jackson with his peaceful explorer routine and unique worldview, Lou Ferretti slowly changed for the better.  He’d never been homophobic, exactly, but he still saw it as wrong and it made him uncomfortable to be around those who were gay or bisexual.  Now, however, he’d seen and done too much, reorganized his priorities and matured in his own worldview.  Now he would simply be happy that two of his favourite people could finally find some well-deserved happiness in each other.  And if he could help make it happen, it was a nice side-bonus.

“You’ll do it.  I’ve seen you both do the impossible.  And this is far more important, right?”

“Right.  Thanks, Lou.”  Jack couldn’t help the warmth that Lou’s words gave him.  And he couldn’t be any more grateful than he was for Lou’s friendship, support, and tolerance.  “Have I mentioned I owe you huge for this?”

“You don’t.  It isn’t like I’m doing this for free, you know – though I would have if you weren’t so stubborn.”  Lou retorted with a snort.  “And before you go getting all Oprah on me, you’re welcome.”

It was Jack’s turn to snort, though he understood what Lou was saying.  “So then?  How’s it comin’?”

“Actually, we finished the deck, the drywall, and the crown moulding today.  All that’s left is paint, stain, and installing the bookcases you wanted.  After that, you can move all that furniture and stuff you picked out in.”  Lou informed him, getting down to business.  “You actually caught me on my way out.  I was about to go pick up the paint and stain.”

“Seriously?  Wow.  Lou, you’re a real pal.  A gem!  How long until the paint’s dry?”  Smiling, Jack suddenly felt like maybe there was a real chance for this crazy scheme to work the way he wanted – hoped.

“If the weather holds, which it’s supposed to, then a couple of days.  End of the week, for sure.”  Lou assured, proud of his work.  “Wait’ll you see it, Jack.  I think it’s exactly what you had in mind.”

“I’ll hold you to it, Lou.”  Jack grinned.  “Look, I’ve got to run.  Barring any major end-of-the-world crisis popping up, I’ll be by to see it Sunday.  And…with any luck at all…”

“I’ll leave a light on, sir.  Take care.”

“Yeah.  And thanks again, Lou.”

“Anything, anytime.”

Jack hung up, still smiling, and rubbed his hands together gleefully.  At least he had one part of his Big Plan ready.  Now he had to talk to Carter and Teal’c, and to both Landry and the President.  A little help from his friends, a little game of shuffle the Generals, and he’d be ready to do what he should have years ago…

Have it out with Daniel and make an offer the man couldn’t refuse.

~*~*~*~*~

          Of course, real life isn’t quite as simple as we’d like it to be.

Jack was nearly done the stack of paperwork in his in-box that same evening when one of the few people he could stand here in Washington poked his head into Jack’s office after a tentative knock.

“General O’Neill?  Oh, good, you’re still here, sir.”  Col. Paul Davis opened the door wider and stepped inside.  “Sorry to bother you, sir.  I know it’s getting late.”

“Davis.  Come on in.”  Jack waved him in, signing his name with a flourish and dropping the folder in an ever increasing messy pile.  “What brings you to my dungeon?”

A faint smile crossed Paul’s face.  He was quite aware of O’Neill’s opinion of Washington, the Pentagon, and the people in it, and therefore understood the irreverent General’s humour.

“Ahh…several things, sir, the first being…aide number seventeen has put in a request for immediate transfer.  Already.”  Paul announced wryly, giving Jack a half-amused, half-exasperated look.  “I’m having a very hard time finding replacements, General.  There are too many scary stories flying around about working for you these days.”

Rolling his eyes without any contrition whatsoever, Jack leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the corner of his desk.  “If you want an apology, you’re not getting one.  It isn’t my fault I’m used to a certain standard in my aide.  You can blame Walter and Gilmore for that.”  Sighing dramatically, Jack laced his fingers behind his head.  “I should have commandeered Walter when I had the chance.  Now he’s too invaluable to Landry.”

Paul sighed, too.  “Well, I’m afraid that until I find someone, you’re going to be stuck with me.”  He didn’t add that it was the other way around, really, or that he’d much rather be working for the IOA.

Jack knew it anyway, and beamed at him.  “Good!  Someone who knows what they’re doing!  Welcome aboard, Davis.”

“Thank you, sir.”  Paul replied weakly.

Ignoring that topic, Jack gestured for Davis to continue.  “And…”

“I stopped by the AC offices and I heard a rumour that they’ve agreed to let the budget for the SGC and Antarctic site stand for another six months.  I imagine that official word will come down first thing in the morning.”

“Ha.  Such a waste of time.  Do you know that one of these small-minded, bean-counting idiots suggested we pack up shop now that we have an Asgard outfitted Odyssey to defend the planet with?  Like it could defeat anything and everything.”  In disgust, Jack glowered and slammed a fist down on his desk.  “I hate it when people don’t listen!  So what if we have everything the Asgard had?  Against the Ori, it’s an improvement to our chances, but it by no means assures us victory!”

Paul just nodded his agreement and moved on.  “I also made the request for a personal audience with President Hayes that you asked your former aide to make this morning.  He’s invited you to dinner at the White House on Thursday evening.”

Jack sat up abruptly, letting his feet drop back to the floor noisily.  “Uh, wow.  Okay.  I wasn’t fishing for a dinner invite just a few minutes of conversation.  But if that’s what the Man wants…”

“I’ll let his secretary know you accepted.”

“Any news from the Mountain?  I haven’t gotten to my messages yet.”  Jack pointed at the stack in his messages box.

“Yes, sir.  As a matter of fact…” Paul pulled out a folder from his briefcase and handed it over.  “SG1 came home safe and sound from their last mission, as did the other teams that have been off-world recently.  We have reports of three more planets under Ori dominion, though only one of those is a planet previously visited by the SGC.  And the Antarctic site team is requesting some new equipment for one of the labs, and a new set of barracks to accommodate the newest wave of personnel being assigned by the IOA.”  Paul shivered.  “It’s getting crowded down there, I hear, and they want to finish excavating before the real bad weather hits.”

“Oh, for cryin’ out loud!  It’s not us sending more people down there!  Why do we have to pay for them?”  Jack scowled, but held out his hand for the requisition forms he knew Davis probably had all neatly prepared.  A thick pile of paper was dropped into his hand.  “Fine.  I’ll get to it tomorrow.  Anything else?”

“No sir.  I think it’s time we both went home and called it a day.”

Jack huffed and muttered, “Home.  Soon, I really hope to be there.” as he stood and prepared to stuff the last of his paperwork in a messenger bag he used instead of a suitcase.

“Sir?”  Paul paused in the act of rising from his own seat in front of Jack’s desk.

“What?”

“You said you hoped to be home soon?  What did you mean?”  Paul didn’t know how, but he knew O’Neill wasn’t thinking of his apartment in D.C. when he said that.

Jack slowly slipped back into his Class A jacket, debating whether or not to explain.  Well, if there was anyone trustworthy in this town, it was Davis.  “The truth is, Davis, you may not need that new aide for me.  I’m…working on a plan to get back to what I do best and go back where I belong – the front lines.”  He raised his head and met Davis’ surprised eyes.  “You and I both know I don’t belong here, playing this particular set of games.  I’ve done my duty.  I think I’ve earned the right to pick and choose my life as I want it and not how Uncle Sam wants it.”

Eyes still wide, Paul smiled and couldn’t help but admire the man even more than he already did.  “Yes sir.  If you don’t mind my asking, General, what is the plan?”

“I can’t say just yet, Davis, but you’ll find out soon enough.  Let’s just say…it all depends on a certain brilliant linguist we know.”  Jack slung his bag over his shoulder and gave the Colonel a jaunty wave.  “I’m so outta here.  See you at 0700, Davis.”  With that, Jack waltzed out, leaving a suspicious but intrigued Paul Davis behind.

 ~*~*~*~*~

Wednesday Morning:

General O’Neill had barely just sat down at his desk the next morning when Davis bustled in and laid a stack of file folders on his in-tray.

“Oh for…what now?  This is ridiculous!  I’m a damn General not a bureaucrat!”  Jack groused, eyeing the files with annoyance.

“This is the result of all the back-logged paperwork, sir, since your aides keep coming and going.  I went through and culled out the truly urgent stuff, General.  The rest I can probably deal with myself once you’ve looked it over and approved.”  Paul rubbed the back of his neck, and Jack eyed him.  He looked tired and slightly stressed.

“You got how much sleep last night, Davis?”

“Enough, sir.  Honest!  I just came in around 0500 this morning to go through the backlog, and I really need some coffee.”

“Help yourself.”  Jack waved toward the nice coffeemaker sitting on a low bank of cupboards and file drawers.  He pulled off the first file and flipped it open disinterestedly.  “And may I say it’s no wonder you and Daniel get along so well.”

Gratefully, Paul helped himself to the coffee already brewing.

“Dr. Jackson’s not a morning person?”  Paul asked curiously.  “I hadn’t noticed.”

“For the very few number of times you’ve been exposed to Daniel in the early morning, no, you probably wouldn’t.”  Jack replied absently, his attention on reading the report in front of himself.  At which point his phone rang shrilly.

“Unless it’s Landry or the President, I don’t want to talk to them.”

Paul nodded and reached for the phone to answer it himself.  “General O’Neill’s office.”  He handed over the receiver.  “It’s General Landry, sir.”

A little surprised but happy to be distracted, Jack eagerly greeted his fellow General.  “Hank!  Great timing!  Please tell me there’s some urgent crisis that’s requiring my personal attention at the SGC…”

“Ha!  Sorry, Jack.  Can’t help you on that one.  I do however have news for you.”

“Damn.  You’re supposed to rescue me from this paperwork.”  Jack whined.  Davis nearly dropped his coffee cup.  Generals don’t normally whine after all.  “What’s up?”

“You know a Dr. Sarah Gardner?”

“Not very well.  We met briefly after the whole Osiris thing.  Why?  Don’t tell me she got herself snaked again.”

“No, no, nothing like that.  No, Dr. Jackson received a communication from her warning him of an exhibit their former colleague, Dr. Steven Rayner, is putting on at some museum in New York City, starting on Friday.  Apparently Rayner may have discovered some alien something-or-other on a dig he was recently on in Southern France, and intends to not only display what he’s got but also give some kind of lecture.”

“Rayner?  Wait, didn’t we muzzle that guy a long time ago?  After the Egypt thing?”

“Well…yes and no.  We fed him a cover story – which he bought – and he signed some disclosure agreements, but none that would really prevent him from revealing artefacts he legitimately discovered on a legitimate dig.”

“Damn.  I take it the kids are off to nip that in the bud?”

“Yeah.  They depart at 0930, and then they have some organizing and such to do when they get there.  Dr. Jackson suggests they go in Thursday to do a thorough search, and then get whatever data that was collected from the dig team and Dr. Rayner.”

Jack ran a hand through his hair.  “I’ll send a team of SFs to meet them when their flight lands.  They’ll need them to secure the place, I suppose.”  Jack glanced at Paul, who was making a quick memo of that on a note pad.  “Which museum?”

“Uh…New York Museum of Art.”  Flipping pages could be heard from Landry’s end of the lines.  “Why?”

Jack closed his eyes briefly and sighed.  “Great.  It’s where Daniel’s parents died, Hank.  He witnessed it.  He was only five or six years old.”  Paul’s head shot up and he threw a concerned look at the General.  “I think he’ll be fine.  He made it through the Gamekeeper’s macabre game, after all.”

“I think I remember reading that one.  Well, Carter and Teal’c should be able to keep an eye on our linguist just fine.”

“Yeah.”  Jack hoped so.  He hoped they remembered what the place was to Daniel.  “Anyway, keep me updated, Hank.”  He could remember the expression in Daniel’s face then, too, and it had nearly broken his heart.

“Will do.  Oh, was that Davis who answered earlier?”

“Yes.”  Jack answered cautiously to the tone in Landry’s voice.

“Lost another one, huh?”

“Shut up, Hank.  You’re spoiled with Walter.”  Jack scowled.  Paul ducked his head, trying not to grin.

Laughter poured down the line.  “True, true.  I’ve gotta go, Jack.  Got a mission briefing with SG22.”

“Fine.  Oh, I have something else to talk to you about, but it can’t wait.  Enjoy your briefing!”  Jack hung up before Landry could reply at all.

“Situation, sir?”  Paul inquired.

“Apparently.  More details to come, I hope.  In the meantime, find an SF team with nothing better to do and have them ready to go to New York City to assist SG1 tomorrow.  And if you would, do a little digging and find out what this exhibit’s all about at the New York Museum of Art.”

“Yes, sir.  Will we need cover stories or spin?”

Jack made a face.  “Oh, probably.  Though I imagine when Woolsey and the IOA folks hear about this they’ll trot out their lawyers and kill a few forests for the necessary forms.”

“I’ll do what I can to get our people in on that, General.”  Paul assured him.

“Thanks, Davis.”

~*~*~*~*~

Thursday:

Jack spent the hours of his day on paperwork and two short meetings with some Pentagon suits about budgets and recruitment efforts for the SGC from various prime military academies across the country.  He was in one of those meetings when Landry had last checked in with an update on SG1’s trip to New York, and so only heard about it much later from Davis.

“It was a compromise, General.  A necessary one.”  Paul insisted, doing his best to explain to Jack why Woolsey was even in New York City making life difficult for his team.  “To get our USAF JAGs there to debrief and spin this, I had to agree to Woolsey going along to handle the two Doctors and their debriefings.  Especially once Dr. Jackson requested bringing them into the programme.”

“And oh my, Dannyboy, we are so going to be having a little chat about that.”  Jack muttered under his breath, fingers tapping restlessly on his desktop.  “But there were no problems with the alien stuff?  Nothing to get excited about?”

“No, sir.  They were packing things up for Odyssey to beam aboard last I heard.”  Paul hesitated.  “Dr. Jackson did make one other suggestion, however, and General Landry seemed to think it was worthy enough to mention.”

Jack raised an eyebrow.  “Of course he did.  What great scheme has our brilliant academic come up with?”

“An Earth-side archaeological SG team, sir.  And, if I may offer my opinion?”  Jack nodded.  “The reasoning behind his idea is valid, sir.  There have been enough discoveries here at home to warrant having our own specialists to deal with anything new.”  Paul pulled out a memo he’d sketched out details on and handed it to Jack.  “Out of curiosity, I did a little research.  I’ve listed the countries where something has been found or happened, what was found and/or the events surrounding it, the resources that were tasked to handle the discoveries if there were any, etc.  Now, obviously, SG1 dealt with many of these personally, especially the more dangerous ones – which is fine, and probably best in any case.  However, there were times were teams had to be brought in after the fact to deal with documentation, clean-up, further study, etc.”

“You mean like the more recent thing in England?”  Jack queried, studying the list.  “I see what you’re getting at – more, I’m seeing what Daniel is getting at.  He’s not talking about huge discoveries like in Antarctica, though.  Just the smaller stuff.”

“Yes, sir.”  Paul agreed.

“So…what?  Am I expected to do something to help this along?”  Jack dropped the list on his desk and picked up a pen, toying with it.  “Because if Daniel thinks we need this new special team, then I’m all for it.”

Paul had to smile.  He was one of few people who had worked with SG1 enough over the years to have gained a clear understanding of the bonds and trust that made the team so successful and tight-knit.  “I don’t know yet, actually.  General Landry was going to think about it some more before he brought it up with the IOA.  He wasn’t entirely sure they’d agree to the expense of a new team – one that would cost a significant amount more than your usual team.”

Jack made a face.  “Penny-pinchers.  They’re not contributing anything like what we spend on all this.  Yet they’re always demanding more control and more say in what we do or how we do it!  Russia…can get away with it.  But the others?  Bah.”

“It’s the game, General.  Diplomacy is always tricky, and rarely fair.”

“Yadda.  Which is why I don’t belong here.”  Jack glanced at the clock on one wall.  “I need to go home and change.  Is there a car and driven around or am I cabbing it to the White House?”

Paul looked mildly horrified at that idea.  “Neither, sir.  President Hayes is sending a car to pick you up from your apartment at 1800 hours.”

“Ah.”  Looking a tad uncomfortable at the apparent merit he was being shown by their Commander-In-Chief, Jack pushed away from his desk and stood up.  “I’d better go now then, or I’ll never be ready on time.”  It was only 1630 hours but by the time he got back, showered, and changed, it would be nearly time to go.

“I can drive you home myself, General.  I need to go to the USAF offices to pick up a few things, so it’s not out of my way.”  Paul offered.

“Thanks.  I appreciate it.”  Jack accepted gratefully, for once having not to ride around with no one to talk to.

~*~*~*~*~

          Jack followed the Secret Service agent that had admitted him to the White House through its historic halls.  He was dressed in his civies rather than his Dress Blues, seeing as this wasn’t an ‘official’ audience, but he was still dressed up as classy as he could be.  A rarely worn pair of black chinos for pants, a black, long-sleeved turtleneck shirt, and his most comfortable pair of dress shoes was what he’d come up with from his closet.  He carried his old leather bomber jacket over one arm as he walked, working very hard not to turn around and run away out of sheer nervousness – which made him thoroughly disgusted with himself.

This SS man stopped at a set of double doors and knocked, opening it and ushering Jack inside.  “General O’Neill, Mr. President.”  He announced as Jack strode past.  “Good evening, sirs.”

“Jack!  Welcome.”  The President of the USA greeted the General warmly from where he stood at the fireplace of what Jack took to be a parlour or sitting room.  “Come on in and make yourself at home!  What are you drinking tonight?”

Somewhat stiffly (out of his discomfort and uncertainty about the etiquette of the situation), Jack took a seat in the armchair Hayes gestured to, his back ramrod straight as he sat at attention.  “Thank you, sir.  A Guinness, if you happen to have any.”  He figured he could nurse the thing all evening and gain a little courage in the process.

“Coming right up.”  Hayes smiled, noting the unease in the man and the formality practically oozing out of him.  He went over to the sideboard and opened up what turned out to be a cleverly disguised mini-fridge and pulled out a bottle.  He handed it to Jack and picked up his own tumbler of whiskey before sitting down himself.  “Sorry about that being in the fridge.  I’m afraid whomever on staff brought it doesn’t know better.”

“That’s okay, sir.  This is fine.”  Jack, with the practiced movements of a Guinness fan, opened the bottle and sipped it cautiously, expecting the coolness of the ale.  “And thank you for the dinner invite, Mr. President.  I really wasn’t expecting it, just a few minutes of your time…”

“Oh, I’ll admit I had selfish reasons for it.”  Hayes laughed.  “The wife’s at some charity function or other, and I hate eating alone.  Besides, this was the perfect opportunity for me to get to talk to the infamous General O’Neill, formerly of SG1 fame, about all his adventures around the galaxy!”  Hayes winked at a faintly bemused Jack.  “Reading the mission reports is all well and good, but to hear it from the man, himself, is a real treat.”

“I suppose so, sir.  Though there are plenty of those times I’d rather have read about than experienced.”  Jack replied quietly.  Not every mission could perfectly after all, and often didn’t.

“No.  You’re quite right about that.  Can’t blame you for it, either.”  Hayes agreed sympathetically.  “You’ve done some crazy, amazing things, Jack, and you’ve experienced some real horrors, too.  I’m just grateful we have such strong, intelligent men and women like you out there taking care of the rest of us.”

Jack was glad for the turtleneck because he could feel the heat of a flush creeping up his neck.  “So am I, sir.  I’m very proud of my kids – and everyone else at the SGC I’ve worked with over the years.”

Hayes chuckled at Jack’s description of his former team.  “You should be, Jack.  No matter what should happen in the future, you all have nothing to be ashamed of or to regret.  I’m really hoping America gives me another term in office so that I can keep on reading mission reports.”  It was an election year, after all.

“You’ve got my vote, sir.”  Jack felt compelled to assure the man – who just laughed.

“Thanks.  I’m glad to know someone thinks I’m doing alright.”  Hayes took a sip of his whiskey.  “Dinner should be ready soon, I imagine.  In the meantime, tell me what’s going on lately in the galaxy.”

Beginning to relax somewhat, Jack sank back into his seat a little more comfortably.  “Still no word on the success or failure of Merlin’s weapon, though no new Ori ships have come through the SuperGate since we sent it through.”  Jack went on, describing the latest intel on Ori-dominated planets and ship sightings.  “This is really, really difficult war to fight, sir.  We have tactics that are successful – against single Priors or ships – but nothing that can be called an advantage.  Not yet, at least.”

“Which is why it’s important for us to keep exploring and making new friends.”  Hayes mused, listening to Jack’s unintentionally militaristic report of things.  “Even though we’ve got everything the Asgard had, from what I’ve read so far, it’s still not quite enough.”

“No, sir.  Not quite.  Maybe that will change once we have more than just Odyssey kitted out with Asgard tech; I don’t know.”  Jack ran a hand through his hair.  “All we know for sure is that the Ascended won’t do a thing to help out.”

“It’s difficult all around.  We, here on Earth, already know what extremes fanatical religious fervour can drive people to.  I’ve wondered, since this Ori threat began, if maybe we should expose the programme and the reality we face, if for no other reason than to prepare our people for the possibility of a Prior and a ship coming here.  ‘Forewarned is forearmed,’ and all that.”  Hayes expression was conflicted and thoughtful.  “On the other hand, dealing with the fallout of such information is a whole lot of trouble none of the nations’ leaders who already know are prepared for.”

“Reality will rock a whole lot of boats – worse yet, capsize them.  It’s not just the ‘aliens are real’ aspect of it, or the fact that descendants of our ancestors are scattered all over the universe.  It’s going to shake the foundations of a lot of people’s beliefs and traditional values.  Like you said, religion can do strange things to people and there are some things we’ve learned out there that are going to step on some religions’ structures and systems of belief if not outright destroying them.”  Jack really hoped he wasn’t around to see that day.  He already knew how dangerous people got and humanity’s lack of maturity when it came to things like religious tolerance.  He’d seen enough of it, and he never wanted to see any more of it.

“Well.”  Hayes sighed, deciding a change of subject was needed.  “I don’t think I’ll be calling a press conference anytime soon, anyway.  So how are Mitchell and Landry doing?  I’ve gotten the impression that they’re settling into their new posts.”

Jack smiled.  “They have.  I knew Hank was what the SGC needed when I picked him.  And Mitchell…well, he needed a bit more time, especially once he got my kids back together and all.”  Jack took a swig of Guinness, guiltily remembering how much of that was his fault.”  He just needed to find his place on the team.  Build some trust and respect in the field.

“Good, good.  And what are they up to these days?”

Ah.  Now here was an opportunity if Jack ever heard one.  He told the President all about the little excursion to NYC and the apparent discoveries that Rayner and his team had made in France.  “Daniel’s requested that Dr. Gardner and Dr. Rayner be recruited to the programme, sir, which I don’t see a problem with if they pass all the requirements.  But I found out earlier today that Daniel also had another idea that, after some thought, I have the full intention of backing.”

Intrigued, Hayes leaned forward.  “Really?  Do tell.”

Jack explained it just as Davis had done for him.  At the end, however, he added, “I’m more inclined to accept it because if there’s anyone who knows what’s good for the SGC, the programme in general, and the planet it’s Daniel.  I trust his judgment.”

“As do I.  Now that he’s brought it to our attention, though, I have to wonder why he didn’t sooner.”  Hayes shook his head.  “It’s a legitimate, reasonable idea.”

Jack fiddled with his battle, sighing deeply.  “It’s Daniel, sir.  He’s brilliant, he’s brave, he’s compassionate, and he’s great with people…but he’s not so great with himself.  He’s gotten better since I first met him, but he’s still a long way from having the kind of self-confidence I’d most like to see in him.”

“Dr. Jackson?”  Hayes tone was incredulous and almost shocked.  “After everything he’s done and been through?”

“I know.  He doesn’t like being in the spotlight at all.  He’s annoyingly humble, sometimes; the man won’t accept praise or credit when he’s due.  He still doesn’t understand that when he talks, we’re listening, that we actually value not just his opinion or his work but him.  It’s…Daniel, sir.”  Jack shrugged, smiling with fond exasperation despite himself.  “It’s the way he is.  And in this case, he probably didn’t bring it up sooner because he didn’t think he’d be able to convince anyone that could make it happen actually happen.”

Amazed, the President sat back in his chair.  “We’ll just have to work on that, won’t we?”

“I’m trying, sir.  Have been for years – though I admit there were…incidents in which I’m guilty of causing setbacks to that progress.”  Jack hung his head, for all the world looking like a bad little boy being scolded.  “I’ve never been very good at…interpersonal communication.  I always manage to say the wrong things at the wrong time.”

“You and Dr. Jackson are good friends, then.  I got that impression from everything I’d heard about the both of you from General Hammond when I first came to office.”  Hayes grinned at Jack’s sheepish yet proud expression.  “I’ve known George a long time, and his opinion was always valuable to me on anything I asked him about.  His confidence in all of SG1, but particularly yourself and Dr. Jackson, admittedly biased me in your favour whenever things got…sticky.”

“And we’ve always appreciated it, sir.  Your support means a great deal to all of us in the programme.”

A staff person interrupted them just then.  “Mr. President, dinner is served.”

“Perfect!  I was beginning to consider ordering out for pizza.”  Hayes stood up and motioned for Jack to follow along.  “I hope you’re hungry, Jack.  Whenever they hire chefs to work here, they really know how to pick ‘em.”

“I could eat.”  Jack replied happily at the prospect of a real meal that wasn’t take-out, delivery, or whatever he could toss together for himself with the least amount of time or effort from his typically under-stocked cupboards and fridge.

~*~*~*~*~

          Dinner was lavish, and plentiful, and Jack enjoyed it immensely.  Conversation turned away from serious galactic affairs toward light, serious topics like TV shows (Hayes admitted to watching Wormhole Extreme whenever possible) and hockey.  As the meal wore on, Jack found himself relaxing much more completely.  He was pleasantly surprised to learn so much about this man who was – for all intents and purposes – the most powerful person on the planet.  Hayes was a very down-to-Earth, clever, and humanistic soul, with faults and foibles just like everyone else.  But he was also personable – not in the typical charismatic way of most politicians, but that if they had met in other circumstances as other people and not as General and Commander-in-Chief, then Jack was sure they’d have been good buddies.

Once they’d stuffed themselves silly and exhausted the small talk topics they’d discussed already, Hayes led his guest back to the sitting room for an after-dinner drink.  “Another Guinness, Jack?  Or something stronger?”

“Please.  A whiskey would be perfect, sir.”  Jack took the same seat he’d been in before and this time he nearly sprawled out in the armchair.  Hayes handed him a tumbler and sat down himself with a satisfied sigh.

“Ah…sometimes I wish I had more evenings like this where I can just enjoy a good meal, some excellent conversation about nothing of dire consequence, and good company.”  Hayes saluted Jack with his own glass of whiskey, who returned the salute with the utmost seriousness.

“Amen and slaïnte.”

“Unfortunately…our jobs don’t allow us much time for leisure.”  Hayes sighed again and gave Jack an apologetic glance.  “So I guess this would be where I ask why you requested a personal meeting.”

Jack nodded with equal regret, and straightened himself up a bit from his lazy sprawl.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, egg-shaped stone with a flat base that had runes carved all along the base.  “Yes, sir.  I suppose it’s time for that.  And I hope you’ll allow me to use this little gift my good buddy Thor whipped up for me some time ago so that this conversation really does remain between you and I.”

Intrigued by the request (and fascinated by the device), Hayes asked, “What does it do?”

“Basically, sir, it’s a bug-jammer.  When I turn it on, it does several different things, but the one I would use in this case is to block all sound from within the field it generates so that anyone outside the field can’t listen in.”  Jack explained.  He’d have used its full-capabilities to block any other surveillance – including video – but he doubted anyone would go for that.  Blinding and deafening the Secret Service when one was alone with the President was a good way to freak them out and drive them crazy – and have them running into the room guns-a-blazing.

“You know, it never ceases to amaze me what the Asgard were capable of.”  Hayes studied the device curiously.  “I don’t mind if you use it, Jack, though I assure you that the only surveillance in this room is the one video camera that faces both doors.”  Hayes pointed up to one corner of the room where, if one looked closely enough, one could see the tiny glint of a camera lens hidden at the joining point of the crown moulding and the ceiling.  “And there’s no sound.  It’s minimal to provide enough security but also to allow the President and his family as much privacy as possible.”

“Yes, sir.  That’s partly why I made it a personal request and not a very public, official one.”  Jack admitted, turning the little deceive on anyway and setting it on the side table next to his chair.  “You see…what I have to say violates a couple of regulations, and that alone could mean career end or worse – court-martial.  And just the information alone could be used against me by people who’d love to see me go down.”  Jack’s expression became grim and perfectly serious.  “I’ve made many, many enemies, sir, right here at home.”

“Now I’m worried.”  Hayes declared in concern.  “I honestly believed it would be something less grave, like retirement or a request for personal leave or something.”  Thoughts racing, an idea occurred to him.  “Our former, now deceased Vice President Kinsey once made serious suggestive innuendoes about yourself and then-Major Samantha Carter, Jack.  Hammond effectively eased everyone’s minds about that, but…don’t tell me it’s true.”

Jack had the grace to wince, but he shook his head in denial.  “No, sir.  It was not true then, or earlier than then, since then, or now.  And it never will be.  There were…possibilities, I admit.  Temptations, even – for both Carter and I.  But we never once acted on any of it, and I never intended to.”  Jack took a healthy swig of whiskey, letting the burn of the alcohol to his stomach shut out some of his antsy nerves that were beginning to make a reappearance at what he was about to do.  “I can assure you that Carter and I have sorted all that out and reached an understanding.  And someday she may even find a way to forgive me.”

“Alright.  That’s good enough for me, even if I don’t know all the details.”  Hayes allowed, frankly not wanting to know.  “So what is it then?”

Jack’s fingers began to tap-dance on his thigh nervously.  “Sir…I’m asking you to forget, for just a moment, that I’m a USAF General, and that you’re my Commander.  This…is from one guy to another.  One human being to another.”

Hayes blinked, took his own healthy swig of whiskey, and set his glass down.  “Okay.  Hit me with it, Jack.  The suspense is killing me.”

After a deep breath, Jack blurted, “Do you believe in soul mates, sir?”

The non-sequitur nearly knocked Hayes over, though he recovered quickly enough. “Well…yes.  I suppose so.”  He answered, confusion colouring his voice.

“You see, Daniel told me this story once.  It was a long time ago, and I admit that I rarely pay attention when he starts going off on a tangent about myths and history and cultures and all that stuff.  But this one I did listen to because…it was just after Sha’re – his wife from Abydos – died, and he really needed someone to talk to.  He was trying to explain – not to me, even, but to himself – how he could have loved her so much even though he’d had barely a year with her, and how, though he was devastated and grieving, he was able to keep going.  Not just with life, but to keep going through the Gate and continuing what he’d started.”  Jack paused, remembering the weekend Daniel had spent at Jack’s after that horrible mission and its results.  He’d felt very much a failure to his friend, and Daniel had needed the comfort of another’s presence – someone who would not only listen but not judge him for anything he said or did in his grief.  So Jack did what he could: he listened, he shared his memories of Abydos and Sha’re, he got drunk with Daniel, poured a thoroughly soused Daniel into his guest bed, nursed the hung-over Daniel the morning after, let him rant and rave and scream at the injustice and cruelty of it all, held him when the tears finally came in torrents, and finally pestered Daniel in every way he could until Daniel was able to smile again.  To laugh.  Then Jack had known for certain the man would be able to move on, eventually, and live.

“What story did he tell you?”  Hayes prompted quietly when Jack’s silence wore on.

“I guess it’s something from the Greeks.  That Plato guy, I think.”  Jack pulled himself into the present.  “It was this conversation about love between a bunch of famous Greek guys who were all sitting around getting drunk and…whatever they did back then.”  Jack waved it away.  “Anyway, the one guy in the story told the others this legend he’d learned about how Zeus created humans and why there were three different ways to love.  I don’t remember exactly how it goes, but the gist is that the gods created the first version of human beings and these creatures were very much like the gods themselves, except they each had two sets of everything – like four arms, legs, eyes, etc.  Ah…these beings did something that angered Zeus and he threw lightning bolts at them, splitting each being down the middle into two separate beings as punishment.”

“Which is what we are today.”  Hayes guessed.

“Exactly.  Now the guy in the story explained that when Zeus split these people, he split their souls, too.  So out there somewhere, a person could find the other half of their soul.  But the thing is – the original version was genderless.  When it split, it split into either a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.”  Jack gave a wry chuckle.  “The Greeks’ way of explaining homosexuality, I guess.  Daniel said that if a person was bisexual then they were already whole – meaning they’d already been reunited at some point with their soul mates in the past and were now free to love wherever.”

“Huh.  Fascinating.  The Greeks tried to think up explanations for everything, didn’t they?”  The other man mused.  “And how did this help Dr. Jackson?”

“Oh…this guy in the story claimed when one found their soul mate, they’d find their perfect lover, since obviously they’re your other half and would know you best, I guess.  Daniel…he loved Sha’re.  Adored her.  Worshipped the ground she walked on.”  Jack hesitated, not sure if he should be telling anyone else this deepest, private secret of Daniel’s.  “Well, I‘ll just say that even though he really loved her, and the sex was good – apparently – he always felt there was something big missing.  I guess he felt guilty for even thinking that, and he was trying to justify it to himself and Sha’re’s memory.”

“Ah.  He didn’t think she was his soul mate.”  Hayes guessed again in understanding.

“Yeah.  That’s pretty much it.”

“And how does this relate to you, Jack?  You believe you’ve found your soul mate?  Someone under your command?”  Hayes was beginning to get the picture, but he wanted to ease Jack through the telling of it.  After all, it couldn’t be easy to be where Jack was now, telling him what he was.  And love…was a precious thing not to be taken lightly nor dismissed easily.

“Because…I have found my soul mate.  And there was a time when I didn’t really believe in that sort of thing.  I’m…I was too cynical, world-weary, and jaded to believe in such a romanticized ideal like that.  But…I’m wiser now.”  Jack smiled faintly at himself.  “Thank Daniel for that.  He makes you look at everything in new ways.  Better ones, if you want to know the truth.”

Hayes tilted his head, studying the man across from him in silence.  There was a softness in Jack that had become much more apparent as soon as he’d started talking about Daniel Jackson.  There was a healthy dose of respect, admiration, and even awe there.  But what practically radiated from this hardened, paranoid (albeit with good reason), world-weary soldier was something that Hayes could only describe as love.  The real, forever kind that, these days, was all too rare and that people seemed to forget existed.  Hayes knew, even if he was at all conservative and bigoted like so many others in the world still were, that in the face of this pure emotion he could do no less than try to help the man achieve it.  Thankfully, Hayes didn’t care what persuasion a person favoured.  In the end it really didn’t matter, after all.  And in cases like this, it wasn’t about gender; it was about love – pure and simple, no more or less.

Jack polished off his whiskey.  “Sir…I was married.  I had a son.  You probably know that from my records.”  Hayes nodded.  “But as much as I loved my wife, Sara…when Charlie died…I had my confirmation that we weren’t soul mates.  If we were I really believe we would have made it through together.  And truthfully, we’d been having problems long before that.  That first mission to Abydos…I was ready to pack it in.  I accepted the assignment because at least if I died that way, it would mean something.  If I’d gone the way I was intending to before General West’s people came for me, well…I’d just be a statistic, and how could I ever face my kid again?”  Jack shook his head at himself.  That all seemed so long ago now.  “But then I met this guy – a geek by any other name.  Disliked him on sight, even more so when he started talking.

“There was something very different about him, though.  He was so unlike any person I’d ever met before.  He refused to be intimidated by anyone, especially not me.  And we military boys were awfully hard on the kid, then.  He was so passionate about everything.  I wondered where he was finding the energy for it.”  Jack shook his head ruefully.  That part of Daniel hadn’t changed much.  “Especially for someone who lived off coffee and chocolate.  He tried so hard to please, but if he came up short he didn’t let it faze him – he just worked harder.  Abydos wasn’t as foreign as you’d think, despite being light-years from Earth, and its people…they still are the best people I’ve met.  Friendly, hospitable, generous, and strong.  And forgiving.  I don’t know how he does it, but this guy was able to ingratiate not just himself, but the rest of the team into their good graces.”  Jack laughed.  “He got himself married without knowing it until much later, but hey.  It worked out in the end.”  The General sobered.  “Then Ra came.  My team and I were captured.  By this time, Daniel could speak Abydonian perfectly, and because he wore that pendant of Catherine’s, Ra…” Jack swallowed hard.  Daniel had changed Jack’s life in that moment, with one simple, heroic act.  “We were brought before the guy.  His host was barely an adult.  I tried some foolish last attempt to take the guy out, believing we were going to die anyway.  There were a few minutes of chaos, and suddenly one of Ra’s Jaffa was turning his staff weapon on me.  Daniel was frantically trying to calm the situation down when the Jaffa shot at me.  The idiot dove in front of me, taking the full blast in the gut.  Instant death.  I couldn’t believe he’d do that, for me, someone he hardly knew and someone not worth his life.”

Hayes smiled gently.  Of course he’d read the mission reports, but it was highly enlightening to hear Jack speak of it directly from memory, so very openly.  “He obviously saw something worth saving in you.”

Jack glanced up, giving a harrumph of disbelief.  “Nah.  It’s just what he does.  He’s like the Nox that way.  He values life above nearly everything else.  He didn’t know enough about me yet to know if I was truly a good guy or a bad guy.  But he still died for me, and something about that gave me the swift kick in the ass I needed to begin re-evaluating my life and my fatalistic desire for death. Later, after the escape with the help of Ska’ara and his friends, Daniel gave me another kick.  I don’t know what it is about him, but I found myself talking to him.  About personal stuff and feelings.  He made me realize that dying probably wasn’t such a hot idea.  That even though Charlie was gone and Sara probably would be if I got home, I should continue to live because life was too precious to just throw away.”

“Dr. Jackson is a remarkable man.”

Jack met the President’s gaze unflinchingly.  “Yes, he is.  Is it any wonder that I went and fell for him?  Over the years he’s done nothing but constantly re-affirm that for me, even when I was too dumb, obstinate, and repressed to realize and accept it.”

“So to recap,” Hayes stood, gestured at Jack’s empty glass in a silent inquiry about a refill, and took the glass over to the sideboard to do so when the General handed it to him gratefully.  “You’ve found your soul mate in Daniel Jackson, which violates not only the non-frat regs but is also of a DADT nature.  I’m happy for you, Jack.  It’s a fine thing that you’ve found someone to love so completely.”  Hayes came back and gave the refilled tumbler back to Jack.  “And while I’m honoured that you feel I’m trustworthy enough to share all this with…I fail to understand why.  I mean, why have you told me?  What do you want to hear from me?  Permission?  Because I say what the hell are you still doing here talking to me about it when you should be back in the Springs waiting to welcome him home.  You don’t need my approval to pursue relationships.”

“No, sir.  That’s not exactly it, though I appreciate that you…” Jack fumbled, trying to find the words that wouldn’t come across as a huge insult.  “…are understanding of it, where most wouldn’t be.  You see, I want to go back to the Springs.  I want to go back, tell Daniel everything and hope that he might actually feel as I do.  I have a plan for that, and that’s why I’m here, sir.  I…really hope you’ll hear me the rest of the way out and help me – but mostly Daniel – achieve a little piece of happiness in this darkened reality we live in.”  Jack rubbed a palm over his knee that chose that moment to ache dully.  “Of course, the entire thing hinges on Daniel, but…”

Sitting back in his seat, Hayes took a drink from his glass and smiled with earnest interest.  He had no doubt that Jack O’Neill’s plan would be very thorough, being the consummate strategist that he is.

“Well, then.  Tell me what you’ve got up your sleeves and we’ll see what we can do to make it happen.”

~*~*~*~*~

Chapter II
{Jack}
Very Early Friday Morning:

Jack walked into his Georgetown apartment well after midnight, flying high on the combination of the buzz from the fine, aged whiskey Hayes had plied him with all evening and the wild, jubilant elation that the President was on board with his plan and totally accepting of the relationship Jack was looking for with Daniel.  And while, as long as he was President, Hayes couldn’t give them any official recognition or protection, he did promise that if it came out and Jack and Daniel were brought into any official disciplinary proceedings, he would intercede on their behalf and work from behind the scenes to get them out of it – though in that eventuality Jack already had a few ideas for a back-up escape plan.

The message light on his answering machine was blinking away, indicating he had messages.  Hoping it wasn’t anything too serious (though he knew if anything had gone down, someone would have informed the President or called Jack on his cell), he leaned on his kitchen counter and pushed the replay button.  Yawning, he ran his fingers through his hair and listened sleepily as the tape played.

Jack!  It’s your cousin, Liam!  Got your number from Sara, in case you wondered.  Listen, I’m getting married in two months, and you are absolutely required!  I need an MC, and I’ve convinced my bride-to-be that there’s no one better for the job.  So call me back when you can at…”  The number he rattled off went over Jack’s head, but he’d get it later – like tomorrow – and write it down.  “…and let me know, huh?  Take care, cousin!  Later!

Amused and exasperated, Jack rolled his eyes.  Liam O’Neill had been one of the few relatives he’d stayed in contact with after his parents passed away.  He hoped he would be able to attend the guy’s wedding, but of course that depended on Daniel – not to mention the Ori and all the other intergalactic troubles that were prone to pop up at the wrong time.  Like the ever-prolific Ba’al clones.  He sighed and went around the counter to the kitchen sink to get a glass of water while the next message played.

General O’Neill, this is Col. Davis.  General Landry asked me to inform you that a special IOA meeting regarding Dr. Jackson’s idea for a new team is being scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 1300 hours aboard Odyssey.  He requested that you call him after your meeting with the President to discuss it, whatever time that would be.”  There was a pause, which had Jack raising an eyebrow at the machine, his water glass frozen in his hand halfway to his mouth.  “And sir, when were you going to mention that after this week you were going on two weeks’ leave?  I think we need to work on our lines of communication.  Sir.

Jack snickered, impressed that Davis found enough guts to even remotely chastise him with that sarcastic tone that would make Daniel proud.  “Good man, Davis.  You’re learning.”

The final message was from Ferretti, and Jack’s mood couldn’t get much happier at the moment (without Daniel himself having something to do with it).

Hey, Jack!  The project is complete!  Paint is dry, stain’s looking pretty good (if I do say so myself) and there’s enough bookcase space for the Doc’s entire library and then some.  Bills are in the mail, sir.  And if you need a hand moving in, give me a shout!  Actually, call anyway, ‘cause I can’t wait to show you around.  Later!

“Woo hoo!”  The Homer quote came out a bit louder than he’d though it would, but he was sure the walls were thick enough to prevent annoying the neighbours.  The next impression was Mr. Burns all over as he rubbed his hands together gleefully and declared wickedly, “Ex-cellent!”

Picking up his receiver and glancing at the clock, he dialled the Mountain and asked for Landry.  As much as he wanted to crawl into bed, he had to do this first – just in case something else went down.

“Hank.  Davis left me a message telling me to call you.”

“Jack.”  Landry sounded tired, but pleased.  “You just caught me.  I was about to leave.  Did he tell you about the meeting tomorrow?”

“With the IOA, yeah.  And I have to be there why?”

“Because the more support for Dr. Jackson’s new team that is present, the better?  I thought you agreed with him.”

“I do.  I just don’t see why he wants me up there.  I’m really not that useful when it comes to talking the IOA into anything.  Out of things, yes.  Into them, no.”

“He didn’t ask for you, Jack.  I did.  As did a few other members of the IOA; they expressed, independently of one another, a curiosity about what the Head of Homeworld Security thought of the idea.”  Hank informed him mildly, in the tone of a parent gently chiding their kid.  “What are you whining for?  It’s not paperwork.”

“Yadda.  I’ll be there.  It’s a good thing I’m in such a dang good mood right now.”

“I take it you had a wonderful meal with the President.”

“Well, yeah.  And it wasn’t even all that gourmet stuff you gotta dress up for.  Steak, homemade pan-fries, and all kinds of other delicacies we red-blooded men crave.”  Jack sighed in memory.  It had been a good meal.  “But it wasn’t just the meal that put me in a happy place.”

“Oh?”

“I had a long, deep conversation with Hayes about some things, and I came out,” Jack tried not to pat himself on the back too hard for the pun, not that Landry would pick up on it, “and told him about this little plan I’ve been working on for a couple of months.  He’s approved it, if I can make it work.”

“Really?  Well, now I’m all a-fire with curiosity.  What’s the plan?”  On the Colorado end of the line, Hank was grinning widely at Jack’s little boy excitement.

“It depends on a number of things, you see, and I’ve had to get all my ducks in row, so to speak, before I attempt to break it to the ultimate factor: Daniel Jackson.”

A silent pause from Landry made Jack’s heart skip a beat.  Maybe he’d better hold back the ‘soul mate, love of my existence’ part of the plan for now.

“Maybe you want to clarify that a bit, Jack.  I’m not entirely sure I understood what you mean.”

“Well, you know I consider Daniel to be one of my closest acquaintences, if not outright best friend, right?”

“Yes-ss…”

“What I mean, is that my plan hinges on Daniel’s forgiveness for…a whole lotta crap that’s totally my fault and that I intend to own up to in the very near future.  If he does forgive me and we can work out a mutually beneficial understanding, I’m hoping he’ll also agree to my wild and crazy scheme that would end with us working together again.”  Okay, so that was all true, even though he was totally glossing over stuff.  “You have to understand, Hank, that I’m not exaggerating how badly I fucked up with him.  It doesn’t show when we’re around each other because…well, I don’t know exactly.  It’s always been that way.  We somehow still function even if we’re mentally strangling each other.”

“I was going to ask about that, because I hadn’t noticed any overt tension.”

“I think that’s partially because by now, Daniel’s pretty much given up on me.  He’s resigned to the way things ended up, so he doesn’t bother wasting his time or energy being pissed with me anymore.”  Jack mused.  He did, after all, know the man better than anyone.  “Anyway, I’ll burn those bridges later.  At the moment, you’re one of those ducks I’m trying to line up.”

Amused, Hank responded mildly.  “Quack?”

“Cute.  No really.  What’s SG1’s mission schedule like?  Any chance you could toss some leave at them?  And in Daniel’s case, some extended personal leave?”  Jack was really hoping the universe played along just this once – not for him, but for Daniel.

“Uh…I don’t know, Jack.  You know how dicey things are out there right now.  And Dr. Jackson is very much our best asset in this fight.”  Landry hedged.  “How long are you aiming at?”

“For the rest of the team – a week.  Five days would be good.  Enough to be a real rest for them and yet hide the fact that I’m totally behind kidnapping Daniel for much longer.  For him, I want two weeks.”  Jack held his breath.

Two weeks?  Jack…”

“I know, Hank.  I do.  Look, they’ve been hard at it for months without much of a break.  And the last couple of missions have been particularly hard ones – especially for Daniel with his stint on the Darkside.  You can always call us if something that important comes up, but I…Daniel and I really need to work this out.  I’m going to drag him, kicking and screaming if I have to, up to the cabin for a week.  The other will be less like leave and more like time off for organization, restructuring, and completely invading his life…if all goes well at the cabin.”

He could almost hear Landry’s brain turning over his arguments trying to find a good reason to object.  “And how soon would you be wanting to do this?”

“Ah…does Monday seem unreasonable?”

Papers shuffled loudly as Hank studied the mission schedules.  “I guess it’s fine.  Their scheduled missions for these past few days were pushed back or reassigned to other teams because of this latest thing in New York, and whatever got pushed back…”

“Can be pushed back further?”  Jack finished hopefully.

“You’re killing me, O’Neill.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes.”

“Thanks, Hank.  Really…thanks.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Jack blew out a huge breath of relief, then sucked in another in preparation for the next part.  “Um…How attached are you to the SGC?  As in your command?”

Now Landry’s voice was heavy with suspicion.  “I’m rather fond of my job, Jack.  Why?  Someone looking to get me discharged?”

“No.  Nothing shady.  This…it’s part of the big picture I’m working toward.”  Quickly explaining exactly what he had in mind, including the game of ‘musical Generals’ he wanted to play, Jack outlined his plan for Landry.  “After all – and let’s be honest – you are much better at the political games than I’ll ever be, and I know you’ll do right by the SGC in Washington.  I’m better at making command decisions, Hank.  I don’t belong here…I belong there, at the front lines.”

Landry’s wheels were turning again.  “Whew.  You’ve really thrown me for a loop, Jack.  I can tell this is really what you want, otherwise you’d never have brought it up.  And Hayes gave his approval for this scheme?”

“He did.”  Jack tried not to let his apprehension bleed into his tone.  Because as much as his plan relied on Daniel’s cooperation (aka capitulation), it relied just as much on Hank Landry.  In a quiet (uncharacteristically so) voice, Jack admitted, “I took the promotion and posting here because I was running away from some things, and because Hammond asked.  But I’ve done my duty, Hank, and one way or another, I’m done with this place.”

“So if things don’t work out?”

“I’m permanently retiring and becoming a crotchety, bitter old hermit in Minnesota.”

“That’s different, how?”

Jack growled out an epithet.

“Okay, okay.  I get what you’re saying, and I’m not disagreeing with the fact that you deserve it, Jack, after all you’ve done and been through.”  Hank sighed wearily, and Jack suddenly remembered how late it was.  He’d just been so…giddy earlier he hadn’t stopped to think maybe he could have brought it up tomorrow instead of at 0112 hours.

“Listen, I’ll make you a deal.  You give me the first week of your leave to think it over while you’re off sweet-talking our linguist,”  Jack blinked, wondering if maybe Hank had caught on anyway, “and I’ll let you know at the beginning of week two?”

“Done.  That’s fair.  Look, I’m sorry for springing it on you like this, at this hour, Hank.  I guess I was a little gung-ho from this evening, yet.”  Jack apologized sincerely.  “I’ll let you go so you can get out of there and get some sleep.  I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, anyway.”

“Right.  Almost forgot.  And don’t worry about it.  When is a good time to bring something like that up?”  Hank chuckled ruefully.  “Good night, General O’Neill.”

“Same to you, General Landry.”

~*~*~*~*~

{Daniel}
Friday, Noon:

He managed to get in at least a few hours of sleep (after his all-night study of the obelisk and some of the other treasures they’d confiscated) before his bouncy, all-too-energetic wake-up call burst into his quarters on board Odyssey just before lunch.

“Daniel!  Oh Da-an-i-el!  Rise and shine, my love!”  Vala’s cheery, accented voice jarred his consciousness into wakefulness – helped along significantly by the scent of his drug of choice, coffee.  “Come now, sleepy, you asked to be woken in time to be able to have a shower and a decent meal before your big meeting, remember?  And it’s now…12:07 pm.”  She informed him, waving the large travel mug full of java near Daniel’s face to try and tempt him.  “Wake up, sit up, and say ‘thank you, Vala,’ and this mug of dark roast blue Colombian is all yours…”

After muttering several unrepeatable phrases in Abydonian, Russian, and finally Mandarin (of all things), Daniel rolled over, sat up, and blinked owlish, red-rimmed blue eyes at the woman bearing caffeine.  “Thank you, Vala.”  He intoned with a raspy, sleep-heavy voice.  “Now, gimme!”  The travel mug was snatched out of her hands faster than she could say ‘Merlin’s treasure!’

“Tsk, tsk.”  Vala clucked sympathetically, running her fingers through his short, dark blonde hair fondly and massaging his scalp gently with her fingertips to soothe.  “Poor Daniel.  I’m sorry to pull you out of such a much-needed slumber.”

He batted her hands away with one of his own (the other still clutching his coffee for dear life and sanity) and merely glared at her.  She gave him a sunny smile, unfazed, and then a quick pat on the knee before standing.

“When you’re ready to eat, you’ll find us in the Mess just down the hall.  Take your time, Daniel!”  Vala blew him a kiss and left him to finish waking up.

After a few minutes more, the linguist got up, stripped, grabbed his coffee and padded into the small attached bathroom.

When he emerged twenty minutes later, damp and rosy-skinned from the hot water and still naked as the day Oma dropped him on Vis Uban (or later when he dropped himself in Jack’s office), he stopped dead in his tracks and gaped in shock and embarrassment at the blurry yet unmistakeable sight of a silver-haired Major General Jack O’Neill lounging comfortably on the bed playing with a blue yo-yo.

“Danny-bo – whoa!”  Jack’s greeting did a nosedive (so did all the blood in his upper body, right into his pants) and he at least retained enough brain cells to hastily toss the linen drawstring pyjama bottoms on the floor at his gorgeously naked best friend.  “Well, hello!”

“Jack!”  The unhappy, slightly hoarse squeak of a reply made Daniel wince with mortification as he scrambled into the pants.  “What the hell are you doing here?!”

“Uh…meeting.  You know…that thingy you brought up…” Jack was resolutely staring at the wall behind Daniel so as not to stare at the temptingly toned flesh right in front of him, but his brain couldn’t seem to form coherent sentences yet. “With the IOA.”

“Okay…but here?  In my quarters?”  Daniel demanded, searching desperately for the clean clothes he’d planned on changing into for the meeting later.  He grabbed the clean set of blue BDUs from his duffel bag, plus boxers and a black t-shirt and socks.  “You could have let me know you were here before I came out of the shower!”

Jack cleared his throat, feeling somewhat back under control, and looked at Daniel’s embarrassed visage with a wide smile.  “When I came in – and I did knock, you know – I didn’t know you were in the shower.  I thought you were just…you know…using the little archaeologist’s room.”

Daniel shook his head and stalked back to the bathroom to get dressed.  “You still could have announced yourself.  Jackass.”

The door slammed behind him.

“Dan-iel.  Don’t be mad.  I’m sorry for barging in.  T’ told me you were here and I wanted to see you before the meeting.”  Jack explained through the door.  There was a brief pause, then, “Don’t be shy and embarrassed, either!  It’s me!  And you have absolutely no reason to be bashful, Spacemonkey!”

Daniel was grateful for the door as he blushed bright red.  It had sounded like Jack was appreciative, but that couldn’t be.  Daniel had given up a long time ago on ever being seen as other than a friend to Jack, and the man had never once made…complimentary-type remarks about Daniel’s appearance in all the time they’d known each other.  However…

“Quit it with that name!”  As far as he was concerned, Jack gave up the right to call him a cutesy nickname, particularly that one.  If the man ever wanted to be able to get away with calling him ‘Spacemonkey’ again, he’d have to earn it.

Dressed now, Daniel stared at himself in the mirror for a moment apprehensively.  What was Jack doing here?  Maybe he didn’t like the idea for the new team after all and decided to come shoot it down in person?  After all (Daniel scowled at his reflection in bitter disappointment) Jack didn’t trust him, something he made painfully clear when he was ‘interrogating’ a strapped-to-a-chair Prior Daniel a couple of months ago.  As for why Jack thought it wasn’t strange to be in Daniel’s room, the linguist was very confused.  Jack barely even liked him any longer, barely tolerated his presence.  Why was he here?

A knock on the door jotted Daniel out of his reverie.  “Daniel?  You okay?”  Oops…he must have zoned out for a moment.

The response was knee-jerk.  “I’m fine.”

“You sure?  You’ve been in there a lot longer than it takes you to get dressed, and it was awfully quiet.”  The concern in Jack’s voice had to be a figment of Daniel’s considerable imagination.  Annoyed with himself and the General, he wrenched open the door and strode out briskly, determined to be the professional he was and ignore all the weirdness and indeterminate attitude of his former best friend.

“I said I’m fine, Jack.  And you never answered my question.”  He began picking up all his belongings and packing them up, knowing that after the meeting he’d be beamed back to the mountain with the obelisk and artefacts, and his team.

“Uh…which was that?”  Jack sat on the bed again, toying with his yo-yo and watching Daniel pack up warily.  At a quick, blue-eyed killer glare, he smiled winningly with totally faked innocence.  “Oh!  Well, like I said, Teal’c told me you were here, and I wanted to see you before the meeting.”

“Well, here I am.  So what did you want?”  Daniel asked waspishly.  Jack frowned, looking somewhat confused by the hostility.

“I can’t want to see a good friend I don’t get to spend a lot of time with these days?”

“No, Jack.   Maybe you need to get your eyes checked.  I’m not Teal’c, in case you hadn’t noticed.”  Daniel looked around for his coffee mug, then remembered he’d left it in the bathroom.  He went to get it, completely missing the surprise, hurt, and deepening frown on Jack’s face.

“Daniel…I’m not in your room to see Teal’c.”  Jack felt obliged to point out.  “I’m here to see you.  And how come you’re so cranky?  I apologized for surprising you like I did.”

Daniel stared at him.  Oh, what was the point?  The ass never did understand how easily he could hurt Daniel with a few well-timed, choice words and an attitude that made Marines want their mommies.  It was all too likely Jack would never figure out that he’d screwed up – again – and would, of course, just continue on like nothing happened.

“Forget it.  I’m going to grab something to eat, drink about a gallon of coffee, and look over my notes for the meeting.  Go find Sam and pester her, or Teal’c, or Mitchell…whoever.”  Daniel left his pack by the door and lifted the latch to open it.

A rough, sun-kissed hand slapped on the door and held it shut.  “Oh no you don’t.  I don’t know what I said or did to make you so mad at me, but I’m sorry.  I only wanted to see you, see how you were since the whole Prior thing, and make sure you were really alright.”  Jack leaned on the door with his shoulder and folded his arms over his chest, real temper firing in his whiskey brown eyes.  “Can we please talk about this without resorting to our usual childish squabbling or do I have to tie you to a chair and gag you to make you listen to me?”

If there was one person in the universe who was never, nor ever would be, intimidated by Jack O’Neill or his threats, it was Daniel Jackson.  The archaeologist turned face-to-face with the older man, stepping right up into his space and daring him to even try such a threat just by the cool fire in his own eyes.  In truth, it was a bit of a shock to Daniel just how spoiling for a fight he really was.  It was as if all the hurt, the loneliness, the aggravation, and the anger of ten plus years had boiled up to the surface where Daniel could no longer tame it, forget it, and lock it away.

“As you can see, I’m perfectly fine.  Healthy, whole, sane.  Now please move.  You’ve done your duty, so let me get on with mine.”  His voice held a thinly veiled threat if Jack didn’t.  Jack, whether he understood that or not, did the typical Jack thing and ignored it.  He pulled his security card out of his pocket and, before Daniel realized what he was going to do, swiped it through the card lock next to Daniel’s head – effectively locking them in.

“What the hell did you do that for?!”

“I’m the highest ranking officer on board.  No one’s opening that door until we’ve had this out.  Obviously I’ve missed something here because I’m fairly sure you’ve never been this pissed off at me.  And you’ve never treated me like something you just scraped off your boot before, either – sarcophagus addiction notwithstanding.”  Jack walked over to the middle of the room, planting himself firmly in place.  “So come on.  Let me have it.  I can’t fix the problem if I don’t know what it is.”

Incredulous, furious, Daniel’s hands clenched into fists so tight his knuckles went white as he fairly stomped up to Jack with every intention of decking him and taking his security card.  “Fix the problem?!  Fuck you, O’Neill!  It’ll take more time and effort than you’ve got or would want to put in to ‘fixing’ this!”  A finger wagged between the two of them.  “What makes you think you can just keep waltzing in and out of my life, treating me like you do, and expect that I’ll just continue to take it and welcome you back each time?  I sometimes wonder why I bothered Descending – the first time! – because it’s become glaringly obvious that any friendship that was left from before Kelowna didn’t survive the radiation any better than I did!”  It was true – as far as Daniel could see.  During the months after his return, his relationships with Sam and Teal’c had vastly improved, even blossomed.  But with Jack…it became very obvious that Jack was simply going to pretend nothing happened and nothing had changed, that he wasn’t going to try and get back their broken friendship and mend the shattered pieces of it.  And now, as far as Daniel was concerned, it was far, far too late to be attempting any such thing now.

Jack’s eyes widened, and he winced at the awful memory of a gauze-wrapped Daniel dying horrifically, painfully, in the infirmary of the lethal dose of radiation.  He had never felt so helpless in his life.  Not even with Charlie (because there was absolutely no opportunity for Jack to attempt to do anything to try and save his little boy).  Stricken, and slowly beginning to realize that Daniel’s current anger was not-so-current after all, Jack closed his eyes and sat down heavily on the edge of the bed.  Unable to look Daniel in the eye, he attempted to salvage the little time he had here to convince the man that he was willing to try – it was the entire point of being there, after all.

“I fucked up.  I know it.  In so many ways…it’s criminal.  I don’t expect anything from you, Daniel, let me make that clear first of all.  You and I…”  Jack made a helpless gesture, “there are so many things I want to own up to, so many things I want to explain, apologize for, and perhaps spend the rest of my life making up for.  You know I’m no good at this feelings stuff, but when I’ve done wrong, I do acknowledge it and try to be mature about it, even if I’d rather pretend otherwise, sometimes I go about it back-asswards, and most of the time I end up screwing up even further, but I try.”  He gave Daniel a self-mocking grimace.  “Actually, I can’t believe you hadn’t called me on this years ago.  But then…I should have tried harder, slapped down my own pride sooner and called myself on it.  Truth is, I’m a coward.  By rights, I should turn in every single one of those ribbons and medals on my uniform.  I don’t deserve them for what I’ve done to you.  To us.”

“Jack…”  Daniel shook his head unbelievingly.  “You’re laying it on a bit thick.  Don’t exaggerate just to try and win me over.  It just makes you look foolish.”

“I’m not exaggerating!”  Jack snapped, put out that Daniel didn’t think he was being sincere or serious.  “And good!  Because I am a fool.  I’ve done everything I could, no matter how unconsciously or unintentionally, to alienate and take advantage of the best thing to happen to me since Charlie was born!  When I realized what I’d done, I was too damn chicken-shit to face up to the consequences.  Instead, I ran scared, let it continue, and it festered like gangrene until…here we are.”  Jack looked up at Daniel with the most utter honesty he’d ever shown the younger man in all the time they’d known one another.

“Do you hear me, Daniel?  I’m saying I know I’ve screwed up and I’m more than willing to work on making it up to you, if you’re willing to give me one last chance.  No.  If you’re willing to give us a final chance.”  Jack stood, arms dropping to his sides though he really wanted to reach out and grab Daniel by the arms and shake him.  “I’m begging, Danny.  You’ve seen all of me, good and bad.  There’s no pride for me between us, and I’m sorry it took me so long to figure that out.  I came here all happy and excited, this great plan all worked out and ready to be put into action.  I came here,” his hands waved wildly, encompassing the room, “with the intention of firstly dropping the news that you’re getting two weeks of vacation starting on Monday, then doing some quick sweet-talking to get you to give me the first week at the cabin.  Just you and me.  I don’t even care if we fish or not.  The whole point was to give us the time and place we needed to hash out what’s become ground zero of our relationship.”  Jack looked away from Daniel’s stony countenance, his chest squeezing painfully.  “But…I can see now I was deluded and far too optimistic.  I never expected to fully repair everything in one or two weeks, but I’d hoped it would be enough to start over, maybe even as something larger, something better than what we originally had.”

Daniel was stunned.  Downright shocked.  And more confused than he’d ever been in his entire life.  His head was full of questions, his emotions were zigzagging all over the place, and he was actually dizzy with it all – though that could be the low blood sugar, lack of sleep, and the caffeine craving, too.  So…he sat down – hard – right there on the floor.  “First off…” he began in a shaky, weak voice, “who are you and where’d you hide the pod?  Because you can’t be Jack O’Neill.  My Jack is a smart-assed, cranky, juvenile, and irritatingly charming bastard who never admits he’s wrong – unless it’s to prove he’s right – and who can’t tell people how he really feels when it’s important no matter how much you want him to.  He’s also real good at pretending to be a dumb jet-jockey and nothing more, even when he’s truly frighteningly intelligent.  My Jack would rather just say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I was an asshole!’ and then never mention the problem again, expecting that he’s forgiven and the problem is solved like it never happened.”

Although his knees would bitch at him the rest of the day for it, Jack hunkered down in front of his shaken archaeologist and tried to catch Daniel’s blue gaze.  “It’s true.  I’m all those things and many more kinds of a bastard.  As much as I would have liked to ignore the problem in the past…I can’t.  This is really me, Daniel.  I’m not messing around with you or any of this, I swear.”  His knees creaked loudly as he sat down on his butt, draping his forearms over his bent knees loosely.  “I’m sorry I…put all this on you know, at a time when you have so many other things on your mind.  I guess I wasn’t thinking too rationally about it.  All I know is that I don’t want to wait any longer to at least try and fix things between us.  I don’t think we’ll have any more time to wait.  And..I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you out there with all this…muddy water under our bridges.  Well, honestly, I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you, period.  Probably won’t survive much longer myself.”

Daniel looked horrified.  “Don’t, Jack!  Don’t ever say that!  I don’t want you giving up just because something happens to me!  I mean, why would you?  I’m not worth…”

“Yes, Daniel Jackson, you damn well are.  Especially to me!”  Jack interrupted firmly.  “It absolutely mystifies me how blind you are to the effect you have on the people around you, how oblivious you are to the effect you have on our lives.  I admit we’ve done a real piss-poor job of showing how much you mean to us, that we’ve taken for granted your people-skills and gone on believing that of course you could see what we really think of you despite that.  But…it’s one of the things I mean to work on, given the chance.”

Daniel’s eyes began to sting.  “Why are you doing this, Jack?  Why now, after all this time?  And why are you finally saying some of the right things I’ve wanted so badly to hear for too long?”  Blue eyes darkened with suffering and an unspeakable loneliness, searching Jack’s expression as if desperately hoping to find answers there.  Jack felt his own eyes burn, and he sat forward, placing a hand on each of Daniel’s knees and squeezing.

“Do you really need me to say it?  I think you know.  And I’m not prepared to say it until after we’ve really talked, Spacemonkey; not until after you and I have aired all our dirty laundry and figured a lot of crap out.”  Jack kneaded the younger man’s knees tenderly.  “Is there a chance of that happening?  Is there some way I can earn that chance from you?  Because I’ll do whatever you want, Daniel.”

A series of fierce shivers ran through the flesh under Jack’s hands, and after a hitching sob of breath, the General suddenly found himself with his arms full of trembling, emotional linguist.  Jack was feeling pretty distraught himself.  He was not prepared for this when he came aboard.  He hugged Daniel to his chest tightly, realizing he was shaking pretty badly himself, and buried his nose in Daniel’s short hair with closed eyes, rocking them gently together as they rode out the emotional storm.

Neither man was certain how much time passed, but the tremors in both their bodies slowed and stopped, eventually, and so did the outpouring of pure emotion.  But neither moved away from the other, unwilling to let go for fear the other might suddenly disappear.

For Daniel, however, it was very much about wallowing in the solace and heat of another person – Jack’s warmth, protection, and care – and easing some of the lonely knots that had formed right down to his soul after years of solitude.  He normally wasn’t big on being touched, but he’d come to rely on Jack’s affectionate nature to supply the cravings for touch that he hadn’t known were there before.  The hair ruffling, shoulder-pats, hugs (and those were the most special for their rarity), and even the occasional arm punches gave him a sense of caring, of belonging..of acceptance as he’d never had before.  When it all seemed to just stop, as Jack seemed to withdraw from him, he’d fought hard to learn how to live without it again.  He had no idea if Jack understood just what he did for Daniel just by being there, and he was fairly certain he would never try to explain it to him, either.

But, now, here he was practically in Jack’s lap being hugged and held and touched and soothed…and it felt sooo good.  The lonely noose around his heart slowly began to unravel and loosen, and something deep, deep within him began to mend.  He took a deep breath, inhaling a lungful of air and Jack’s scent, and as he released it slowly, that something Daniel snuggled into the embrace like a contented cat, practically purring with growing happiness.

Oh, he was still mad at the considerable ass, don’t get him wrong.  And there were indeed a whole lot of things they needed to get straightened out – Jack was totally right on the button with that.  But right now all Daniel wanted was to absorb what he could of this moment, to be happy for just a little longer.  So he held onto Jack quietly, eyes closed, and listened to the steady, joyful rhythm of Jack’s heartbeat against his ear.

Jack wasn’t complaining.  Far from it.  He was enjoying it just as much as Daniel, and was perfectly content to stay that way forever if they could – which he knew was impossible, but hey!  While huddled there, absorbing each other, he did some quick introspection and re-evaluation of the situation.  It wasn’t a threat assessment, per se, but he was heavily weighing what he’d believed to be the truth about where he stood with Daniel against the obvious reality of it.  He wondered – and not for the hundredth time in the last hour – how he had let everything decline so badly.  It had become glaringly obvious that Daniel had relied on him for much, much more than just friendship or a decent work relationship.  Jack apparently filled a lot of the holes in Daniel’s life and spirit, and he’d been too self-absorbed and selfish to see that until now.  Well no more.  He’d do more than fill those holes for Daniel.  He’d make them overflow.

“You know…” the rough, husky voice startled Jack and he glanced down at the top of Daniel’s head.  “I feel really ridiculous at the moment.  We’re two grown men, yet we’re sitting on the floor and I’m cuddling you like you’re my very own personal over-sized teddy bear.”  The linguist’s voice took on a definite tone of recrimination.  “Yet I can’t seem to move myself away, even though I should.  I’m not this weak, this…needy.”

“Do you hear your teddy bear complaining, Danny?”  Jack asked, amused because he kind of felt like one.  “And you’re not weak or needy.  You are the strongest human being I’ve ever met.  It’s part of the whole parcel of being so strong to be lonely, to want the closeness of another, their comfort and support.  I’m…so very sorry it took me so long to get that, Daniel.  I only saw your strength, and was blind to your needs.”

Fingers reached up and laid themselves over his lips, shushing him.  “To be fair, it isn’t like I ever told you, either.  It takes two to tango, Jack, and in this mess we find ourselves in, it took both of us to get here.”  Daniel shifted, moving so that he was comfortably situated between Jack’s legs, his back leaning on Jack’s chest.  Jack curled his arms around Daniel again and held on, pressing his cheek to Daniel’s temple and rubbing gently.

“Maybe.  Probably.  But most of the blame is on me.  Aht!”  Jack hushed the protest.  “No.  It’s the truth and you know it.  We’ll work on it, Daniel.  At least…I hope we will?”

The apprehension in Jack’s voice made Daniel rub a soothing palm up and down Jack’s thigh.  “You wouldn’t still be here if I wasn’t willing to give this one last shot, O’Neill.  Just…not right now.  Maybe not even this weekend.  I need…a little time to, you know, percolate.”  Daniel made a swirling motion around his head to illustrate, and Jack began to laugh, the vibrations reverberating against Daniel’s back pleasantly.

Relieved and working up to giddy again, Jack continued to smirk as they hauled themselves up off the floor stiffly.  “I think I need to pour a gallon or so of coffee into you ASAP.  You’re starting to use words that normally are associated with the java juice.”  Daniel smiled a little wryly, then blinked when his stomach growled loudly in demand.

“Um…I could eat.”

“No kidding.”  Jack stared at his middle in awe.  “Did that sound really come from you?”

“Shut up.  Don’t be an ass, Jack.”  Daniel glanced at his watch and squawked, “Shit!  I’m not going to have time to go over my notes now!”

“Come on.  Forget the notes.  You don’t’ need them.  Let’s just go feed the hungry beast living in your stomach, fill up on caffeine, and relax a little.”  Jack swiped his card through the card reader and swung the door open.  “After you, Dr. Jackson.”

A hand dropped down on Jack’s forearms Daniel went to step past him.  “Wait, Jack.”  There was a speculative gleam to the bright, intelligent blue eyes focused on the General and studying him like one of Daniel’s artefacts.  Jack returned the look expectantly.  “I just…were you serious about the two weeks of leave?  I mean, Landry actually okayed letting SG1 off for that long when things are so…”

“I kind of insisted.  And in our line of work, when is there ever a really good time for a vacation?  Besides, if they really need any of us, they can find us.”

“Right.  What was I thinking?”  Daniel shook his head at himself then smiled in a shy, contemplative way that made Jack hurry after the man as he walked away, toward the main commissary.

“Daniel?  Penny for them?”

“Nothing, Jack.  Just…”

“Percolating?”  Jack grinned, but there was a hopeful note to his tone that didn’t escape Daniel’s notice.  Smiling mysteriously, Daniel just shrugged and ambled into the commissary, looking for his team.  Spotting them, he waved and made his way to the line to pick out his lunch.

Jack sighed to himself and reminded himself that patience was a virtue.  Following his friend to the line to grab his own meal, he made a mental note to talk to the rest of SG1 to requisition their friendship and assistance in getting Daniel’s stuff out of storage and unpacking it all at the house while they – Jack and Daniel – were at the cabin.

As they joined Teal’c, Vala, Sam, and Mitchell at their table, Sam smiled up at them and teased, “I knew the General would succeed in getting you here Daniel.  What did he have to promise you?  A few pounds of that expensive coffee you love?  The most expensive chocolate he can find?”

Jack eyed her and took a sip of his own coffee before saying, “Two weeks leave and many sexual favours,” in a dry, completely serious voice he knew they wouldn’t believe and would probably call him on, as his reputation for saying outrageous things at inappropriate moments was well known to his former teammates.

Daniel – who should have known better, and knew at least half that statement was true (he wasn’t quite prepared to think about the truth of the other half) – nearly choked on the bite of lemon chicken he’d just put in his mouth.  “Jack!” he exclaimed, scandalized.

Mitchell’s eyes were wide and flicking between the two curiously but not judgementally.  Vala looked far too interested in the concept and Sam was trying futilely to smother the giggles that still escaped.  And Teal’c…merely smiled in that mysterious, all-knowing Jaffa way he had and inclined his head at Jack (who shrugged surreptitiously and smiled faintly at the silent acknowledgement).  Teal’c obviously understood how much truth was really in Jack’s words, and the man wondered why he ever bothered to try and hide anything from his big Jaffa friend.

“He made no such promises!”  Daniel was hastily trying to assure his team, shooting dark glares at the innocent-looking General that promised retribution when Jack least expected it.  “There were no promises of any such kind, or bribes, or whatever!”  He just knew his face was bright red.

Mitchell nudged Daniel’s plate a bit with a finger.  “Relax, Jackson.  Get busy and eat, ‘cause you’ve only got ten minutes before we have to head to the briefing room.”

Daniel made a panicked noise and began shovelling in the food.  Jack just shook his head and ploughed through his own lunch – with a tad more circumspection and decorum than the linguist sitting across the table from him.

~*~*~*~*~

          Fifteen minutes later, Jack and SG1 met up with General Landry and took their seats at the long table in the Odyssey’s briefing room.  Jack sat at the head of the table, Daniel at his right, and the others after him, while Landry sat at the opposite end from Jack.  Moments later, the representatives of the IOA filed in and sat down along the empty side of the table.

Conspicuously absent was Richard Woolsey – not that Daniel minded or anything.

“So let’s get this show on the road.”  Jack declared, straightening in his chair.  “I assume you all know why we’re here and I don’t have to give you any long explanations?”  At the nods from the IOA members, Jack gestured at Daniel.  “Good.  Your floor, Dr. Jackson.”

Daniel cleared his throat and pushed his glasses up his nose before looking down the table to meet each member’s eyes as he spoke.  “Thanks, Jack.”  Even now he just couldn’t address him by rank.  Never had, never would, the officer in question mused silently.  “And thank you, ladies and gentlemen for your valuable time.  I’m sure General Landry gave you all an overview of the idea I proposed, but I want to offer you more detail and reasoning behind the concept so that you can see why I think this new, Earth-side SG team is worth the expense.”

And so he talked, listing off all the reasons he had come up with for the team, pointed out all the countries where discoveries were made or encounters had occurred, explained the expenses that were likely to pop up if the team were to exist and function effectively, and generally did his absolute best to convince the IOA that it was a good idea and in their best interests, really.

“To conclude, I even have a suggestion about where the new team might begin.”  Daniel took a big gulp of coffee and stood, picking up a small remote controller and turning off the lights while turning on a projection screen that stretched across the length of the table.  It was a holographic screen, courtesy of the Asgard, and the images that popped up were of the artefacts SG1 had confiscated from Steven Rayner and his dig team.  “As you may or may not know yet, SG1 was sent to New York City a few days ago to investigate a tip that an archaeological nature.  What you see here are the artefacts we recovered.”

“Where were these found, Dr. Jackson?  Some of these appear very familiar.”  The new Russian representative who recently replaced the deceased Col. Chekov asked.

“They should.”  Daniel switched images to show the obelisk and the small communication stones.  “They are of Ancient origin, ma’am, and they – along with what you see here – were all excavated from a recent dig in Southern France by Dr. Steven Rayner and his team.  Dr. Rayner is a former colleague of mine.  You may recognize the name as one of the two I’ve recommended for recruitment to the programme and for the new team.”

“I had not heard of such a find.”  The French representative said in surprise.  “I knew of the dig you speak of, yet there was no word of any discoveries like this – only the usual Roman and Greek items that are typical to the area.  Where did the SGC get this information?”

Before Daniel could answer, Landry spoke up.  “From the other name Dr. Jackson recommended.  Dr. Sarah Gardner.  She was the former host to Osiris, you may recall, and has some previous knowledge of the programme thanks to that experience.  It was she who tipped us off to the probability of the existence of alien devices or artefacts at this exhibit.”

“Sarah keeps in contact with me.  She is also a former colleague of mine.”  Daniel continued at a nod from Landry.  “From what I know of Steven, I can guess why you, sir,” he nodded at the Frenchman, “hadn’t heard about this, even without having read his statement yet.  You see…Steven has always held a grudge against me. Our mentor, Dr. Jordan, tended to favour me over Steven – or at least that is how it always seemed to Steven.  This kind of academic rivalry is fairly common. Dr. Jordon always had high hopes for all of us but especially me, and he was probably my biggest supporter, pre-programme.  Well, anyway, when I was laughed out of my field for the final time, Steven had come to believe I’d betrayed Dr. Jordon and his support of me by insisting I was right and continuing to pursue my work.  He was already jealous of the attention I received from Dr. Jordan, but now he had even more cause to dislike me.  His jealousy and the shadow he continued to live under after I ‘disappeared’ – when I came to the programme – only continued to simmer over time.

“Then Dr. Jordan died.  I went to the funeral and ran into Steven and Sarah there.  The events that followed you all know as the Osiris/Egypt incident.  Sticking my nose into Dr. Jordan’s death and the missing Osiris/Isis jars and amulet just antagonized Steven further.  Because of all this rivalry he feels toward me, I believe he kept this big find as secret as he could in the hopes that when he presented it and his research to the community he’d finally make a name for himself and pull himself out from my supposed shadow.”

“I see.”  The French rep shook his head. “Perhaps we should begin paying much closer attention to any activity within our own nations in the future so such an occurrence does not happen again.”

“It would be wise, yes.”  Daniel agreed.  “And if we make this new team, you would have someone reliable and qualified to handle any such delicate discoveries that will probably occur in the future.”

“Dr. Jackson, I must ask you…why do you recommend this Dr. Rayner if what you say is true about him?”  The Chinese rep inquired.  “He obviously desires recognition for his work, which he will not receive if he were to be accepted to the programme.  And his dislike of you shows that his character may leave a great deal to be desired in a member of an SG team.”

“I hate to say it, but the lady has a point, Jackson.”  Mitchell seemed compelled to throw his two-cents in.  “I don’t know the guy, but from his reaction to us – you – when we crashed his party doesn’t really endear him to me.”

“I know.  I do!  But…” Daniel heaved a sigh.  “Despite that, Steven is a good man.  He’s an excellent archaeologist and he has real talent when it comes to preservation and archiving artefacts and documents.  For that alone he’d be a valuable addition to the SGC.  But I honestly believe that once he knows what reality we face, when he understands the importance of the work, he’ll be just as loyal and reliable as any other SG member.  And he will get recognition, just not from the people he once wanted it from.  I think when he knows the truth, he’ll find all the validation he’s ever wanted.”

“So you believe he is trustworthy, Dr. Jackson?  That he can be entrusted with the security of the programme?  Because if you are incorrect and he becomes a leak…” the British rep cautioned, saying without words that the blame would fall on Daniel if such a thing happened.

Jack intervened, catching on immediately and heading that off before it got started.  “Oh no.  Hold your horses!  You can’t expect Daniel to predict the future and make guarantees about the actions of another person!  Just…no.  He’s made the recommendation based on his professional opinion of the man’s abilities as an archaeologist.  Should Rayner go Darkside and spook, that’s his decision, and the consequences will fall on him alone.”

“Now, now, folks.”  Landry stuck his calmer, more diplomatic head into the fray.  “We’re getting ahead of the game here, don’t you think?  We don’t know what will happen, so there’s no use arguing over possibilities that are, at present, irrelevant.”  Landry looked at Daniel.  “Was there anything further you wanted to say, Dr. Jackson?”

“Oh…uh, yes, sir.  I brought up this latest mission for a reason.”  Daniel pulled himself back to the point he was trying to make, and switched the images on-screen to close-ups of the Ancient writing from the obelisk.  “I want to suggest the dig in Southern France as the first assignment for the new team.  This obelisk, after I spent all last night studying the thing and translating the text you see here, is actually a version of the communication devices we have seen recently.  It appears it was modified to be camouflaged, in effect, to look like a typical Roman obelisk based on Egyptian design – as the Romans were known to borrow architecture from all over their empire.  Since your average citizen or slave or soldier was illiterate it was unlikely anyone would recognize the text as writing, let alone be able to read it.  Honestly, it appears almost decorative, and even I may have over-looked it if I had never seen this particular form of Ancient before.”

“What’s it say?”  Sam asked, leaning forward eagerly.

“This part,” Daniel zoomed in on one section, “is basically a sign.  The rest is instructions and a kind of maintenance warning for whomever was caretaker of the obelisk during the time of its use.  However, what makes this especially special is its purpose.”

“It’s a communicator.”  Vala repeated slowly, not sure where Daniel was going with the dramatic build-up.  “Like the one we used to talk to those poor people in the Ori galaxy.”

“Yes.  But according to the Ancient text on the tablets that were also found with the obelisk, this device had a very specific destination that it was connected to.”  With a grin, Daniel switched images, showing the tablet he wanted, then highlighted a section of text and zoomed in on it.

Mitchell whistled lowly and Sam gave a surprised gasp.  Vala blinked in confusion and said, “It looks like a Stargate address, but with eight symbols.”

Jack clapped his hands, applauding his beaming linguist.  “Atlantis.  Well done, Daniel!”

“Indeed.” Teal’c agreed.  “This discovery should be passed on to Dr. Weir and her team, should it not?  Perhaps they can locate the partner to this device.”

“We will.  As soon as I get back to the SGC, I’ll have your report transmitted to Dr. Weir immediately.”  General Landry declared.  “Is it possible that the device still works?”

“Sam and her people will have to go over it some more first, General.”  Daniel shrugged.  “There were energy readings emitting from it, which suggests it still has power, but I don’t know about its capability to function.  As you saw, the top part of the obelisk was severely damaged.  There may be missing parts or something may be damaged inside.”

“Do you believe there is more to be found at the site these things came from?”  The Chinese rep asked.  “This is why you suggest the new team be assigned to continue excavations?”

“Yes.  At the very least, the new team has access to equipment and instruments that normal archaeologists do not.  They can scan for energy emissions, certain minerals like naqahdah or trinium, and even for hidden underground chambers that normal ground-penetrating radar can’t.”  Daniel aimed a glance at his team.  “Glastonbury?”

“It certainly bears looking into.”  Sam agreed.

Daniel shut down the screen and turned the lights back on.  “Well, that’s really all I have right now.  But I hope I’ve made a sufficient case for the new team.  Um…did anyone have any other questions?”

“I have one.”  The Russian rep spoke.  “How would this team be administered?  I mean…who would oversee its missions and progress, and who would lead such a team?”

“Ah.”  The linguist took his seat and folded his hands on the table in front of himself.  “Yes, I nearly forget that part.  I imagined, when I was planning and dreaming, that it would operate like a mini-SGC, in a way.  I will, of course, oversee its functions just as I do the rest of my department – budgets, administrative details, progress status, and assignments.  The team wouldn’t go anywhere except by the mandate of the SGC commander, just like any team.  And the IOA would have as much control of its operations as you do the rest of the international programme.  The only difference is that the budget would be significantly larger than your average SG team because it isn’t doing the same job as the others.  I’m sure each IOA member-country would like to submit candidates for consideration to join the team, also, as there are many, many different areas of expertise that will need to be filled in order for the team to be effective and efficient.”

“Very good, Dr. Jackson.  You seem to have thought of everything.”  The British rep approved judiciously.

“I really try to, sir.”

Landry added his own thoughts.  “Before you ask about any military application that may end up applicable, if it is necessary that a military contingent be assigned for the protection of the civilian scientists, the SGC would task any available SG team or teams, including SG1.”

“Military?”  Russia was frowning at that idea.  “For what reason would this be necessary?”

“I know it’s hard to remember where we live,” Jack drawled sarcastically, “what with the knowledge of the universe we have and work in, but there are still places right here at home that are just as dangerous to play in as any out there.”

“The Middle East, for instance.  Or certain places in Central and South America.  Or Central Asia.”  Mitchell listed off trouble spots on his fingers.

“We understand, Col. Mitchell.”  The Brit interrupted.  “And I do see your point, General Landry.  I believe we of IOA would be willing to offer our nation’s support in whatever way we can should such a need arise.”  The other reps nodded in agreement.

“Well then!”  Landry stood and thanked Daniel for his work.  “Excellent work, Dr. Jackson.  Thank you for the hard work on such short notice.  As for you folks,” he turned to speak to the IOA members directly, “you probably need time to think it all over, speak to your governments, whatever.  “So we’ll adjourn for now and meet again, when?  Tomorrow morning?”

“Thank you, General, for that consideration.”  The Chinese rep rose to her feet and glanced down the line at her other colleagues.  “However, I don’t believe it is necessary.  Despite the absence of your Mr. Woolsey, I believe the rest of us are in agreement and are prepared to endorse the new team.  Yes?”

Each member nodded or made some indication of agreement.

“Wonderful!”  Jack rubbed his hands together in satisfaction.  Daniel was stunned but pleased that he’d managed to succeed.

“In that case,” Landry smiled engagingly, “I’ll let Woolsey know and we’ll hammer out all the official paperwork to be passed along to each of you.  Dr. Jackson can start recruiting his colleagues and bring them up to speed, and then make further selections from whatever candidates you all present him with later on.”

“That is agreeable.”  Russia concurred, as did the others.

Jack got up, went to the door, and snagged a passing crew member.  “Airman, do me a favour and escort our guests to the Ring-room, then notify the bridge that they are ready to be beamed home.”

“Yes, sir, General O’Neill.”  The officer, a sergeant, snapped a smart salute and patiently waited for the IOA members to gather their briefcases and jackets before leading them away.

Once the door closed again, Daniel flopped back into his chair and heaved a huge sigh of relief.  “Thank god that’s over.  For a while there I wasn’t sure they were buying it – literally.”

“Ya done good, Danny.”  Jack grinned, clapping Daniel on the shoulder heartily a few times.  “Real good.  And didn’t I tell you not to worry?”

“Yes, Jack.”  Daniel rolled his eyes.

Sam was smiling at the, almost wistfully.  There was something here that was missing, something that reminded her of the first years of their team…something that she had refused to see and was absent for far longer than she’d cared to admit.  Watching the two men continue their playful banter (aka childish squabbling), Sam had a moment of introspection, one of those sudden things that just rear up and slap a person with new-found clarity about something.  Even  though she’d known it after the confrontation at the General’s cabin, she finally let herself see it.  And she was little surprised that it didn’t hurt.  Not at all.  On the contrary, she was glad to see it – glad to feel it.  There was an absence of tension that she realized she had gotten so used to between these two strong men that she didn’t recognize its existence until now that it was gone.  And Jack was relaxed, fingers drumming not restlessly on the tabletop but with an energy that reminded her of a steady downpour – quiet, tranquil, but no less dynamic.  She couldn’t remember seeing him so…at peace, not for ages.

Then there was Daniel.  Her ‘little brother,’ who (she was ashamed to admit) she’d neglected for no reason that would ever be good enough to her conscience.  Especially the last two years.  After the score at the cabin, she’d abandoned him in favour of her own resentfulness and jealousy and misplaced anger, although she had (after running away to Nevada) eventually come to terms with the fact that she was blaming someone for her issues who was totally innocent of fault – if not completely oblivious to anything that she had condemned him for.  When she’d come back to the SGC, after months of trying to bury herself in her projects and new posting, trying to escape her heart and her conscience, and she’d seen Daniel again…any lingering resentment about her failure with Jack O’Neill and the fact that he hadn’t refuted her accusations concerning the ‘who’ Jack claimed to belong to so completely had just…melted away.  She knew then what she’d truly lost in fleeing the reality of her love-life.  She’d given up the family she loved, the only ‘family’ she had left – since Mark and his family had distanced themselves from Sam after Jacob had passed away with Selmac.  She’d given up her career, something that was better than anything she’d ever dreamed of growing up.  But she’d noticed a difference in this brave, brilliant, somewhat flaky man she’d adopted as a brother, a difference from the Daniel she knew pre-Kelowna and Ascension, and even a difference from the Daniel she’d gotten to know post-Descension.  Certainly the experiences of dying and Ascending and then having to relearn about himself after Vis Uban would change him – would change anyone – but this wasn’t because of that.  Sam was sure of it.  Daniel was…very much a loner.  He’d stopped trying to reclaim what he thought was there before – what was supposed to be there, according to his shaky memories and how these people had reacted to his appearance on that planet.

People that were happy to see him, wanted him to come home, helping him to remember who he was.  People who told him all these wonderful qualities about himself and really seemed to believe it.

And yet when he came home, they all tended to act as if he’d never been gone.  They put him back in a place that, before he’d left with Oma Desala, hadn’t felt like a place of belonging.  At first Daniel seemed to want to fight to make that place for himself, and he seemed to have succeeded, but now Sam wondered if he hadn’t sacrificed more than he’d gained to create a place of belonging.  Because not only was Daniel more isolated from his teammates than before, he continued to suffer hardship after hardship which inevitably he ended up dealing with the aftermaths on his own.  There were fewer and fewer team nights or BBQs or get-togethers.  The team dynamics changed drastically.  Daniel was being quietly pushed aside, and where his normal place on the team was at Jack’s side, he tended to fade into the background so that Sam could fill that spot.  And – now that she thought of it, glancing at Teal’c – their Jaffa teammate had taken up a protective, solicitous guard over Daniel as if he could sense just how far away Daniel was becoming removed from his family.  But no matter how much Teal’c wanted to, he still didn’t fully understand Tau’ri ways, nor the whys and hows of Daniel’s separation enough to keep the linguist with them.  Teal’c was a Jaffa, and there were certain things he would not interfere with no matter how badly he wanted to.  He could only stand by and support Daniel silently, just by existing and hoping his presence helped, even a little.

Suddenly a laugh cut through her train of thought, and she blinked in surprise. Then she grinned, because it was Daniel’s laugh.

He didn’t do that often enough at all.  So why now?  Oh.  The General was making jokes at Richard Woolsey’s expense, including little sketches and doodles that he was happily displaying to Daniel.

Hearing Daniel laugh, seeing him smile, and feeling the warmth of a happy linguist filling up a place in her heart she hadn’t realized was empty made Sam’s eyes sting with tears. She very much wanted to get up and go over to hug the stuffing out of him and tell him how very much she loved him.

Jack, feeling rather proud of himself for pulling that wonderful laugh out of his all-too serious archaeologist, crumpled up the paper from Daniel’s notebook with all his Woolsey doodles on it and happened to glance at Carter as he got up to go throw the paper away.  “Carter?  Yo, Carter!”

She blinked, startled out of whatever place she’d been in, and snapped to attention reflexively.  “Sir!  Uh…sorry, sir.  I must have been thinking…”

Jack gave her an odd look, noting the suspicious sheer to her eyes and the stiffness of her posture.  “Relax, Carter.  You just looked a little out of it.  You okay?”

“Yes, sir.  Fine.”  Sam smiled in what she hoped was a reassuring way.  “Like I said, just thinking.”

“Well stop it!  You’re making my brain hurt in sympathy.”  Jack tossed the paper in the wastebasket.  “So!”  He clapped his hands together loudly.  “What’s the story, kids?  What’s next on the agenda?”

“We haven’t officially debriefed yet concerning the mission to New York.”  Landry pointed out, looking down the table at his premiere team.  “But Dr. Jackson did a fairly thorough job of most of the findings already, so I won’t ask him to repeat himself.  Did anyone have something to add?”

Jack listened in while he went over to the side of the room to grab the full coffee pot so he could refill both his mug and Daniel’s.

“We have a few more tests to run back at the SGC, sir.”  Sam said.  “After those are completed, I’ll have a report for you.”

“Otherwise, no, General, we have nothing else to add.  For once things went very smoothly.”  Mitchell stated happily.

“Uh…there were a few things I didn’t mention earlier, sir.”  Daniel confessed sheepishly.  “I only used what I thought relevant to my arguments for the team.”  He looked up as Jack handed him a refilled coffee mug.  “Thanks, Jack.”

“Okay.  So what did you leave out?”  Vala asked, “Because I probably would have never noticed.”

“Well, the reason I think the dig site is worth checking out more thoroughly is because of the approximate dating I managed to theorize based on the text from the tablets, as well as the style and type of stone used to make the obelisk.  It looks like it might be something the Romans brought from somewhere else, however.  I don’t believe this to be the case.  I think it was there as a part of an earlier settlement – quite possibly left by the ancients themselves – and the Romans just incorporated it into their own colony when they arrived much later.”  Daniel explained his tentative Ancient timeline of their residency on Earth.  “It was obviously made sometime before all the Ancients left for Atlantis, or it was brought here by one of the Ancients who returned to Earth later, when the situation with the Wraith began to go badly and that plague was sweeping through our galaxy.  If I’m correct, then it is very possible that whoever that obelisk belonged to may have left something else behind.”

“Ah.  Sounds like enough of a reason to me to send the new team there to investigate.”  Mitchell agreed.

“It is true.  Daniel Jackson could very well be correct.  We have learned of several Ancient or Ascended individuals who left Earth then returned much later.”  Teal’c agreed also.

“There will be a lot to do before I can send the team to Southern France, though.”  Daniel felt obliged to point out.  “Once Steven and Sarah get their official clearance, I’m going to have to show them around, tell them…everything, and then they’ll have to go through all the preliminary training we require of the new civilian recruits.  And I’ve got to come up with some sort of reference material for them for the known dialects of Ancient.  Sarah will probably be find with anything Goa’uld, but Ancient is different.”

“They know Latin, don’t they?”  Jack queried.

“Well, yes.  Sarah’s a better linguist than Steven, but…”

“Then whatever you give them for reference will be fine.  They’ll probably have a much easier time learning it than Teal’c and I did.”  Jack decided confidently.

“It’s a shame you didn’t retain it longer than it took to stop Malachi from continuing the time loops, Jack.”  Daniel sighed mournfully.  “We could always use someone who has a decent grasp on Ancient.”

Jack sensed an insult in there somewhere and frowned.  “Who says I didn’t retain anything?”

“You do.”  SG1 chorused (excluding Landry and Vala).  Even Mitchell had heard the General claim not to understand those ‘crazy Ancient chicken-scratches.’

Scowling, Jack waved the topic aside.  “Well, I do remember most of what I learned.”

“Anyway…” Daniel continued, ignoring the put-out officer next to him.  “It will be sometime before the team is ready to go on that mission.  I’ll do my best to help them out so they’re prepared as soon as possible, General Landry.”

“I’ve no doubt, son.”  Landry nodded, content with how the day had gone thus far.  “Moving on to other topics, I suggest that you all get any important work you had going finished this weekend because as of Monday SG1 is on leave.  For a week.”  He shot Jack a furtive glance.

“A week?”  Mitchell’s eyes were very round.  “Sir, I appreciate the thought, but…”

“Yes, Colonel, a week.  I know you all can find something to occupy yourselves for such a short period of time off-base.”  Landry emphasized.  “I catch any one of you so much as breathing on the mountain and I’ll have you shot.  SG1 has had a busy, rough few months.  You’ve been working pretty much non-stop for a long time now, and you need a break.  And right now is as good as time as any for you to have some time away from work.”

Daniel glanced sideways at Jack, who wore an innocently happy expression – obviously for the benefit of the rest of Daniel’s team, because Daniel was pretty damn sure Jack had arranged this miraculous leave on purpose.  Hadn’t he said as much earlier?

“Um, well, thank you, sir.”  Sam said in surprised gratitude.

“But…” Vala was looking a little lost.  “What about…”

General Landry and Dr. Jackson to the bridge!  The page interrupted her.  General Landry and Dr. Jackson, please come to the bridge!

Daniel shrugged at Jack’s questioning gaze.  “Guess we’d better go see what they want.”  Landry led the way, waving Mitchell and Sam down when they made to stand up as he left.

Once they were gone, Jack seized the moment.

“Listen up, kids.  While I have the opportunity, I need to talk to you about a little something personal.  So gather ‘round.”

SG1 exchanged intrigued and concerned looks then moved so that they all sat in the seats nearest Jack, who leaned forward in a conspiratorial way.

“What is this about, O’Neill?  You are acting very suspiciously.”  Teal’c wanted to know, casting a stern Jaffa eye on his Tau’ri brother-in-arms.

“I need to ask you all to do me a huge favour on your leave.  Actually, I’d rather you did it for Daniel and not for me.”  Jack shifted a tad uncomfortably under their curious scrutiny.  “I would very much appreciate it if you could get Daniel’s belongings out of storage, take them to the house, and unpack everything.  You know…get it all ready for him to just move on in.”

“Whoa, what?  What house?”  Mitchell stared in mild confusion.  “Jackson doesn’t have a house.  He’s lived on-base since he missed the Daedalus.”

Vala aimed an interested look at the silver-haired man.  “And why do you need us to do this?”

Teal’c, however, only nodded gravely, seeming to understand completely and approve.  “I will be happy to be of assistance in this venture, O’Neill.”

“Thanks, T.”  Jack smiled gratefully at him.

Sam’s eyes went large and she gave a small gasp as she realized just where this request was probably going.  “Sir!  I thought…didn’t you sell…have you and Daniel…?”  She couldn’t seem to get out a whole question.

Uneasily, Jack forced himself to remain calm and meet his former second-in-command’s gaze.  “I almost did sell the house, Carter.  But the buyer backed out at the very last minute.  So I hung onto the property a while longer.  And then…I came up with an idea.”  He held her gaze steadily, refusing to back down and hoping she would understand.  “I have a lot of fences to mend with Daniel, but even if it can’t happen, I want to give him something he’s never truly had – a home.  He doesn’t know it yet, but my old house is now his.  I have all the paperwork signed and ready to go.  I’m taking him fishing for the week to try and mend those fences, and when I bring him back, I want to be able to bring him home.  Even if…even if I’m not in it with him, it’s his to keep or sell.  I’m sort of hoping that once he sees what I’ve done he’ll want to keep it, though.”  And me…  Jack added silently.  He was pretty sure they heard the unspoken thought anyway.  “I have this plan.  But to pull it off, I need this one little thing from you, kids – you who are his family.  The only real family he has.”

Pleased, Vala added her assistance to Teal’c’s.  “I’d be happy to help!  After all, every house needs a woman’s touch, right?”  She rubbed her hands together, a gleam in her own set of stunning blue eyes that made Jack just a tad nervous.

“I don’t really know or understand what’s going on, but I’ll help out.”  Mitchell pitched in with a shrug.  Oh, he had a hunch or three, but even if he was correct, it didn’t matter to him.  It was none of his business anyway.  As long as SG1 – people who were not only his teammates and personal heroes but also his friends – were happy and healthy, then he was, too.  He’d do whatever he could to keep it that way.  “I’ve had plenty of practice moving over my lifetime.”

There was a flash of grateful respect in O’Neill’s eyes.  “Thank you.  Both of you.”  He looked back at Carter, a sad kind of resignation passing over his expression when she remained silent.  “It’s alright, Carter.  You should probably go spend your leave with Cassie, anyway.  I’m sure she really misses you.”  Jack pulled out a piece of paper with a key ring attached, and slipped it across the table to Mitchell.  “The storage place’s address is there, with the shed number and its key is that odd-shaped one.  The other key is for the house.  Teal’c knows where it is.  Um…if you want to rent a truck or something, just bill me for it later.”

“Yes, sir.”  Mitchell smiled a little, though he probably wouldn’t bill the General for anything as his contribution to the plan – whatever it is.  “Leave it to us, sir.”

“In this instance, Cameron, I’m not a General and you’re not a Lt. Colonel.  ‘Jack’ is perfectly fine.”  Jack held out a hand and Cam accepted, shaking firmly.  “Besides, you’re SG1.  We’ve always operated a little differently than usual, and you’ve more than earned your place.”

Teal’c, who was watching Carter with a nearly imperceptible frown on his face, rose to his feet and clapped a hand on O’Neill’s shoulder.  “You may rely on us to prepare a home for DanielJackson, O’Neill.  Col.Mitchell, ValaMalDoran, perhaps we should attend the bridge to determine if some event has occurred?  Or if we can be assistance to General Landry and DanielJackson?”  He raised a pointed eyebrow that said he wasn’t actually suggesting anything.

They took the not-so-subtle cue, eyeing Sam and Jack before getting up and following Teal’c out the door, hurried farewells tossed out as they passed the General’s chair.

Once they were alone and it was only Jack and Sam left in the room, Jack linked his fingers together in front of himself and stared hard at them.  “Go ahead, Carter.  Say whatever it is you want.”

“Sir…Jack,”  Sam sighed heavily, picking at invisible lint on her pants in a distracted way, “I owe you a massive apology.”

Surprised, Jack stared at her.  “What?  No, you don’t.  I understand why you wouldn’t want to be involved, Carter, and it’s okay.  I shouldn’t have asked you to do something like this anyway.  Just…one more screw up for my list, I guess.”

“No, you don’t understand.  I want to help.  I will help, and so will Cassie when I tell her.  She’ll be overjoyed, you know.”  Sam smiled a little, thinking of the young woman who was probably the closest she’d have to a daughter of her own.  “She loves you and Daniel so much, actually downright adores Daniel.  She’d do anything for him.”  Sam met Jack’s whiskey brown eyes, gone soft at the mention of SG1’s adopted child, raised by extended member Dr. Janet Fraiser until she’d died in the line of duty almost four years previous.  “I’m apologizing because…I’ve been a fool, and I reacted badly to a situation I had no business expecting certain outcomes from.  I’ve caused strife between you and Daniel, however unintentional it was, and I’ve been too absorbed in myself and things that I only wanted to e that really were not.  I lost my professionalism somewhere, too.”

“I want you to know that…I’ve come to terms with everything, and that I hold nothing less than the deepest of respect and admiration for you – not only as an officer of the USAF but as a person, also.  And…I love you, but as a very good friend and no more – or less.  This…” Sam blushed and flicked a hand between Jack and herself, “It wasn’t all your fault, and really, I can’t blame you for my part in making it all so awkward and confused.  I know that, now.  And…I think I have a few fences of my own to mend.”  Her eyes slid away to stare at her lap, tears beginning to burn.  “I just hope that you both can accept my apologies and that we can all move on, to be stronger friends for it.”

Feeling a tad misty himself, and a little light-headed as the huge and heavy weight on his head, heart, and shoulders named Samantha Carter was lifted, Jack pushed himself to his feet and held out his arms to her.  “We already are, Sam.”

She got up with a watery smile and moved into the hug, letting him give her the only affection he had for her.  For some reason, unsurprisingly, Sam realized that this was exactly what she wanted of this man.  And to think she’d nearly lost it.  What a fool she’d been!

Sniffling, she pulled away after a quick extra squeeze, and brushed at the stray moisture on her cheeks that had escaped.  “Well.  Now that we have that settled…what can Cassie and I do to help, sir?  Is there anything that you need for the house?”

Grinning, Jack stuffed his hands into his pockets and rocked on his feet with all the anticipation and excitement of the little boy he was at heart.  “Yeah sure, you betcha!”

Grinning back, Sam laughed.

~*~*~*~*~

On to Part III: https://kalichaos.wordpress.com/stargate/infinitas/part-iii/

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