Part IV


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 beta, Cryysis!

~ Part IV ~

Chapter I

“No, Daniel you may not have your cell phone back until after the surprise.”

Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, trying not to look or sound petulant (despite the pout that was overtaking his bottom lip).  “I don’t know why you had to confiscate it in the first place!  I just wanted to check in with Sam and make sure things were alright while I was away.”

“You can do that later.  And Landry told you everything was relatively fine when we dropped by earlier.  He wouldn’t lie to you, Daniel.”

The pout thinned with exasperation.  “Jack…he was talking about work.  I was talking about personal stuff.”

“Such as?”

Daniel slanted a look at the man in the driver’s seat of the uncharacteristically sporty rental car as Jack deftly drove them from the Mountain to…whenever it was they were going.  “Such as, has anyone strangled Vala yet?  Do I have to bail her out of jail?  Did she spend all my savings again maxing out my credit cards on shopping sprees?  Little things like that.”

“I’m sure Carter, Mitchell, and Teal’c are capable of babysitting your sticky-fingered friend, Daniel.  And I’m pretty sure Vala likes you wa-ay too much to do anything like that, things that would cause you trouble.  Not after spending over two years around you, and at least one year living here and learning the way things work on Earth.”  Jack pointed out, hoping it would alleviate some of Daniel’s concerns.  “She’s earned her place on SG1, and she’s learning what all that means, isn’t she?”

Frowning, but finding he had to agree with Jack, Daniel reluctantly nodded.  “Yeah, I suppose.  She’s a good person, Jack…she just hasn’t quite mastered the concept of finances here on Earth.  And I’m a little worried about how the others have managed keeping her occupied on their leave.”  Daniel looked at Jack with a considering expression, a slow grin spreading over it.  “She’s very much like you, you know.  If she doesn’t have a mission to keep her busy, then I swear she’s got on acute case of ADHD.”

Jack pulled to a stop at a red light and sat tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, scowling.  “I just like doing things most of the time.  I can sit still and be lazy just as well as anyone can!”  Daniel caught the muttered, “And I do not have ADHD!” under Jack’s breath, which made him snicker.  “Look, I just have to stop at this Walgreens for a moment, and I’ll be right back.”  The older man informed his passenger as he pulled into the parking lot of the chain drugstore.

Daniel shrugged.  “Okay.  I have no idea what’s going on, so…”

“Want or need anything? I can grab it while I’m in there.”  Jack offered, shutting off the engine and opening his door to get out.

“Something chocolate.”  Daniel said, thinking about it.  “With nuts.”

“Of course.”  Jack rolled his eyes and shut his car door, then walked off with purposeful strides.  Daniel watched him go, sighing with appreciation for the view of Jack’s denim-clad ass working – along with powerful leg muscles – under the jeans with each step.

It wasn’t a new concept for Daniel to look (re: leer) at his friend’s butt, though it had been a while since he’d last bothered to indulge himself.  Only now it was different in that Daniel finally really believed that he had every right to watch Jack’s fine ass and covet it like he did…well, chocolate.  Or coffee.  Or some heavenly combination thereof.  Not only that, but he could look and not care if Jack caught him ogling because Jack – apparently – wanted Daniel.  It still floored the archaeologist to think of it but he was getting used to the idea.

Although…he did wonder when Jack was going to get around to kissing him, even though he understood that the man wanted to go slowly so as to give Daniel a chance to truly believe it was real, and to learn to trust Jack again.  But kisses were okay in Daniel’s book.  Great, even.  And he really wished he knew what Jack was up to with this big surprising of his.  It was making Daniel very nervous with all this hush-hush secrecy.  He knew perfectly well why Jack had really nabbed Daniel’s cell that morning…

…Because Jack didn’t want Daniel talking to anyone who might accidently give the surprise away.

Shaking his head at himself (and Jack) Daniel turned his thoughts away from the big scheme and thought about Cassie.  Maybe they could take the young woman out for supper to a nice restaurant, then maybe a movie or something fun.  Daniel was looking forward to seeing his ‘niece’ again after so many months apart.

Before he knew it, Jack was back, opening his car door (startling Daniel out of his reverie) and sliding smoothly into the driver’s seat with a plastic shopping bag in his hand.

“That was quick.”  The archaeologist commented, glancing at the bag.  “What did you need anyway?”  Curiosity laced his voice, making Jack grin and pull out an item.

“First, your chocolate bar.”  Jack handed him the dark chocolate almond bar.  Daniel immediately started peeling off the wrapper and took a large bite.

“Mmm…hmm…that’s the stuff.  Thanks.”  Daniel said, looking perfectly blissful as he chewed and swallowed.  “And?”

Jack shook his head in amazement at the sounds and look of pleasure his mate made and wore because of a chocolate bar.  “Wow.  I’m really hoping I can compete, someday, with that damned bit of confection you’re so hot for.”  Daniel just looked at him in confused innocence, taking another non-healthy bite.  “And…secondly, I wanted to get something to blindfold you with.  For the rest of the trip to your surprise.”  Jack explained, pulling out a roll of medical gauze and tape.  Daniel paused in his munching to eye both the gauze and Jack suspiciously.

“And we couldn’t use a bandana or whatever because…why?”

“Because I’m gonna drive around randomly to confuse you first before I take you to our final destination, and it’ll look very suspicious to passers-by – including police officers on patrol – to spot a guy blindfolded in the passenger seat.  It’ll seem like I could be kidnapping you or something.”

“Which you have…”

“Have not.  I invited you and you’re too damn curious to turn me down so you came along of your own free will.”  Jack stared hard at Daniel.  “My point is that if you’re bandaged up then it just looks like I’m a good buddy taking care of you post-surgery or accident, or whatever.”

Now Daniel gave Jack a slightly amazed look.  “Gee.  Must be something you learned in Special Ops: how to kidnap someone and not make others suspicious.”

Snorting indignantly, Jack opened the gauze packaging and found the end of the roll.  “Smart-ass.  Give me your glasses for now and let me wrap this around your head, Daniel.”  He didn’t wait for the man to take them off himself, instead Jack simply plucked them off Daniel’s nose and neatly folded them, setting them on the dashboard for the moment.

“Ja-ack…” Daniel squinted at him, ruining his scowl of complaint.  “This is ridiculous.”

“No it’s not.”  Jack swatted his hands when they reached for the glasses and twisted in his seat to reach over with the gauze to begin the wrapping process.  “And would you please stop bitching?  You’re supposed to be excited at the prospect of getting a great surprise, not ruining my good mood or my attempt to make this fun.”

Instantly contrite, Daniel’s shoulders sagged and he sat still while Jack continued to loosely (but not too loosely) wrapt the “blindfold” around his head to cover his eyes.  He didn’t even point out that he could barely see anything without his glasses or contacts and thus the gauze was totally unnecessary.

“Hold the end down for a minute.”  Jack requested, waiting until Daniel obediently did so then ripping off a couple strips of the tape to hold the end of the gauze down, holding it all in place.  “There.  How’s it feel?”

“Like you’ve attempted to mummify my head.”

“Har har.  I meant is it too tight or uncomfortable somewhere?”

“Well of course it’s…”

“Daniel!”

“No.  It’s fine.”

Jack huffed and held up three fingers.  “Can you see my hand?”

“No.”

“How many fingers?”

“On your hand?  I’d hope the standard five.  If you mean that you’re holding up…I don’t know because I can’t see them.”

Since there was no way for Jack to prove otherwise, he took Daniel’s word and turned the car on, carefully putting Daniel’s glasses onto his shirt pocket before strapping himself in with his seatbelt and pulling out of his parking spot.

“I don’t know what bee got in your booney today, Daniel, but I sincerely just want you to have fun.”  Jack gripped the steering wheel as he pulled out into traffic and began driving randomly to confuse his passenger.  Because if you don’t like the house, then it’ll be the last piece of excitement and happiness I’m likely to ever have.  He added silently.

“First, I’m not wearing a booney nor have I for years.  Second, I’m sorry.  I’m not being…recalcitrant on purpose, Jack.  I just…most surprises in my life haven’t been fun or nice or good in any way.”  Daniel hugged himself and stared (relatively speaking) straight ahead, his voice apologetic.

Jack grunted, reaching over with his right hand to pat Daniel’s knee for a moment.  “I know.  Life’s been a true bitch to you.  But, Dannyboy, you trust me in the field and with all manner of other important stuff, so trusting me to surprise you with something good should be easy as pie, right?”

Daniel nodded, unable to argue with Jack’s logic.

Jack drove aimlessly for another ten minutes, then made his way to the house.  He pulled into the driveway and killed the engine.  “Okay we’re here.  Now hold up and I’ll get you out of the car before you take off the gauze.”

Somewhat apprehensive, Daniel opened his car door, took off his seatbelt, and swung his legs out but stayed sitting until Jack was suddenly there guiding him out to stand (without whacking his skull on the car in the process) and then led a few steps away from the car.

Jack dropped Daniel’s hands and had to take a very deep, nerve-settling breath as he lifted his own to pull the gauze off.  “Here we go…”

Daniel blinked and squinted hard at the sudden brightness of sun again.  He felt Jack slip his glasses back onto his face and blinked some more until he could see without his eyes watering or squinting.  The first thing to come into focus was Jack, watching him anxiously with hopeful whiskey eyes.  The next was the very familiar surroundings of Jack’s former residence.

“Uh…this is your house.  I mean, your old house that you don’t own anymore.”  Utterly confused, Daniel looked at the house (which did look a little different somehow, but he couldn’t quite figure out why) then back at the fidgeting general.  “Why did you bring me here, Jack?”

To his complete surprise, Jack dropped his head, shuffled his feet, and refused to look at him again.  “Jack?”

“Well…it’s like this: the deal fell through at the last minute, so I never actually sold the place.  For a while, I didn’t know what to do with it – you know, try selling again, or just rent it out, or whatever – so I just left it until…I came up with an idea that I thought was just the best thing for it…and for you.  And maybe even me, I hope.  Maybe.”  Jack stuffed his hands in his pants’ pockets, the fingers of one hand curling around the warm metal of the house keys.

“I’m not sure I understand.”  Daniel scratched his ear absently, glancing up at the house again as if he’d see answers there.

Jack pulled the keys out and held them out to Daniel.  “The house is yours, Danny.  To do with as you see fit, though I sort of hoped and planned…and hoped some more that you’d, maybe, see fit to call it home, and that would, maybe, include me?”  Still holding out the keys, Jack risked a peek to threat-assess his linguist’s lack of response after a pregnant bout of silence.

Daniel was standing there, staring at him in absolute shock, jaw dropped and bright blue eyes huge behind his glasses.  His mouth opened and closed a few times in a ‘fish out of water’ way but no sound other than a squeaky kind of gurgle came out.

Floundering, Jack started talking again.  Quickly.  “Okay, so maybe it’s a little fast, but Daniel I really do love you, and I want more than anything to give you a place to make into a home – a real home – and I would very much like to be a part of that.  The papers are all signed and ready for your signatures, and I had Lou come in and make a few renovations so the place is more suitable for your needs, and this week Carter and Cassie, Teal’c, Lou, and even Mitchell and Vala helped get the place cleaned up and set up with all your stuff…the things you had in storage?  So you can move right in immediately, and…”

“Jack?”

Unwittingly, Jack met Daniel’s stunned gaze and swallowed back the flow of words.  And now he couldn’t speak, his mouth going dry.  He nodded instead to indicate he was listening.

Daniel was floored.  Flabbergasted, even.  Never in a million millennia would he have guessed that this was what Jack had schemed.  He believed he was hearing what Jack was telling him – no, what Jack was offering, but he was having a hard time understanding what drove the man to go through all this elaborate planning and staging.

“I…you…”  He had to stop and pull himself together, clearing his throat repeatedly to get rid of the hoarseness and rather large lump that was making him sound all croaky like a bullfrog with laryngitis.  “You’re giving me your house?  Just like that?”

Jack nodded, watching him with increasing anxiousness, still unable to say anything.

“And you got Ferretti to do some renovations, for me.  And you had my team and Cassie clean and move me in while we were in Minnesota.  For me.”

Emphatic nodding and an endearingly hopeful look from Jack.

“All because you think I need a place to call ‘home,’ and because you love me you’re hoping this will prove it to me and I’ll want you to live here with me?  As in forever, happily ever after, ‘till death do us part – even if we know death rarely ends anything?”

Jack blinked, puzzling through all that, then nodded even more vehemently and offered a tentative smile.  He also jingled the keys, still held outstretched in front of himself.

Daniel Jackson, PhD times three, peaceful explorer of the universe, genius and apparently most loved of General Jack O’Neill, slowly stepped forward, reached up and closed his hand around the keys and said General’s fingers, the other hand closing over their joined hands to trap Jack’s between Daniel’s own.  And he smiled, brilliantly, giving Jack’s hand a minute squeeze and slight tug.

Jack took the hint, moving until he was standing so close they were practically breathing each other’s air.  His free hand came up to brush Daniel’s cheek then slide back to cup the base of Daniel’s head, leaning forward to rest his forehead against this soulmate’s.

“Is this a ‘yes’?” he whispered in a thick, ragged voice.

“No.”  Daniel murmured back, releasing Jack’s hand (taking the keys away) and winding one arm around Jack’s shoulders, the other around Jack’s middle, preventing him from escaping.  “This is a hell yes!”  He looked over the rims of his glasses into Jack’s dark eyes, quirking an eyebrow and a grin as if daring the older man to retaliate – right before he tilted his head up and found Jack’s mouth with his own.  It took a few seconds, but then Jack was kissing him back, his arms snapping around Daniel tightly, possessively, and a noise that was almost like pain came from somewhere deep in Jack’s throat, swallowed up by Daniel’s kiss.

The fierceness of Jack’s joy kept them lip-locked rather chastely for quite some time, neither man willing to let go of the other.  When they finally did break away to breathe, Jack buried his face in Daniel’s neck and clutched him desperately.  Daniel was little better, holding onto Jack with equal need, and he murmured against Jack’s ear in Abydonian and Ancient all the things he’d always wanted to say to the man but had kept locked away in a small, safe corner of his heart and mind all these years – his love, his admiration, his respect, and his desire.  And he knew Jack understood enough of what he said to understand what he had always meant to Daniel all this time, though good times and bad.

The force of Daniel’s love was almost tangible to Jack, and it made him gasp and his knees threaten to buckle.  Since he was in this completely, and couldn’t get any more soppy if he tried, Jack did the one thing he knew would communicate to Daniel that he did understand – every word and emotion – and that it was reciprocated.

In the dialect of Ancient he and Teal’c had spent untold weeks learning during the infamous Looping incident, which came back to him with surprising ease, Jack pulled back from Daniel far enough that he could look the younger man right in the eyes, held his face between his hands, and spoke his heart clearly and unrestrained.

Te amo, Daniel.  Amorem maxium me es…amorem solum me es!  Mei spiritus conjugii, Daniel…(1)

Daniel could hardly believe his ears.  Jack O’Neill was saying these things directly, openly, and in another language to him.  Daniel.  But then the meaning of that, with the vulnerability and sincerity in Jack’s soulful eyes, told him everything he could ever want to know.

Jack suddenly found himself holding an armful of shaking, clinging, sniffling anthropologist.  Then he heard the softly spoken flow of watery words, muffled by his neck, as Daniel returned the sentiments with equal passion.

Neither Jack nor Daniel were entirely sure how long they stood in Jack’s former car-park – now Daniel’s – holding onto each other for dear life.  Eventually it was Daniel who separated them, wiping at his damp eyes and face and pulling out a cleaning cloth for his glasses.  Jack was little better, being decidedly misty, and rubbed roughly at his face.

“Well.  Are we about done emoting all over each other?  ‘Cause…now I’m all afire with curiosity about what you did with the place.”  Daniel put his glasses back on and smiled.  Jack’s heart skipped a beat because this was a truly happy, bright smile that had never been seen on Daniel’s face by Jack in the eleven or so years he’d known the younger man.  Jack could only smile back.

“Yeah, sure, you betcha.”  The USAF officer made a sweeping motion with his arm.  “After you, Dr. Jackson.”

Eagerly, Daniel hurried past Jack, up the front steps and inserted the key in the lock.  Jack followed his mate inside with a smug saunter, shoving his hands into his pants’ pockets casually.”

The linguist saw the living room first and immediately veered left to go inspect it.  He smiled, noting many objects around the room that were his (though there was no furniture, since he’d sold all his own with his apartment pre-non-Daedalus), including his very beloved baby-Grande piano.  He also noted the fresh paint on the walls, the new recessed lighting, and the shiny new hardwood floors.  Oh, and the new mantle on the fireplace, where the pictures in their frames were displayed – all of which were Daniel’s pictures.  One was of Sha’re, Skaara, and Kasuf standing with Daniel on Abydos, and the other was of just Sha’re.  Another was of SG1 and their extended family members (Jack, Daniel, Sam, Teal’c, Janet Fraiser, General Hammond, Jacob Carter, Bra’tac, Cassie, and Lou Ferretti) taken after the goodbye party held at the SGC when Lou retired from active duty.  There was another picture, obviously older than the others, that was one of the few Daniel still had of his parents, and one of a painfully young version of the archaeologist sitting on a camel with two fellow students on a dig in Egypt, the Great Pyramid in the background.  And then Daniel spotted the newest picture, one that had not been among his stuff before.  It was his new version of SG1, with newer additions to their little family.  Daniel went over and picked it up to study it with a misty smile.

“Look, Jack…they left me a new picture.”  Daniel held it out to Jack, who came up beside him silently.  Jack took it and laughed.  Hank Landry looked pleased as punch to be included in the picture, smiling with an almost paternal affection as he watched the SGC’s flagship team goof off for the picture.  Mitchell was standing next to Landry (who sat casually on a rock) with Sam on his other side and an arm around her shoulders.  He was making a peace sign for the camera with a big grin on his face.  Sam was smiling widely, too, and also making a peace sign – above Mitchell’s head.  But the funniest part of it was the normally stoic Jaffa and ex-thief.  Teal’c stood next to Sam with and aggrieved but amused smile on his face (and wow! Teal’c smiling…creepy), his expression relaxed and oddly content.  And draped over his back as if she’d leapt up there for a piggy back ride was a beaming Vala, waving at the camera and clutching at the big man’s shoulders.  A highly amused Carolyn Lam stood off to the side, behind her father, with her hand resting on his shoulder.  Everyone was dressed in civies, and appeared to be somewhere outside, possibly up on Cheyenne Mountain somewhere.

“Good picture.”  Jack decided, replacing it on the mantle.  “Fits right in with all the rest.”

“I’ve been meaning to take one for a long time now.  I just never got around to it.”  Daniel sighed happily.  “And by the way, I love the new floors and all.”

“Ah, but you haven’t noticed the best part yet.”  Jack grinned and grabbed Daniel by the shoulders, spinning him around to face the dining room and kitchen.  “Tada!”

“Whoa!  Oh, wow, Jack!  You knocked down the walls!  It really makes the space open up!”  Daniel, wide-eyed, headed for the kitchen.  “And new counters!  Granite?”  He glanced at Jack, running a hand over the countertop of the new island cabinets and counter.

Jack nodded.  “Tile.  Lou chose most everything you see.  I haven’t got the design gene, so I let him pick stuff out.”  Jack nodded at the fridge.  “New appliances, too.”

“I see that.  Wow, Jack.  I…I can’t believe you did all of this with…me in mind.”  Daniel blushed, looking very shy and humble all of a sudden.  As endearing as it was to Jack, he couldn’t let the man have time to start making objections.

“I would and will always do anything for you, Daniel.  Besides which, the house needed a few updates, so why not go all out?  You haven’t even seen the rest yet.”  Jack winked and gestured to the kitchen entrance to the hall beyond.  “Keep going, Danny.”

“There’s more?”  Daniel’s eyebrows rose in disbelief, but he quickly went where Jack indicated.  Out in the hall, he spotted the closed, double oak doors and paused.  “Those weren’t there before.  Did you get the office renovated, too?”

The older man’s expression went mysterious.  “Yes, but leave it for last.  Go upstairs first.”

Extremely curious, Daniel reluctantly obeyed and climbed the stairs.  “What did you get done up here?”

“Well, nothing as extravagant as the main floor.  New paint, new floors, and a few updates to the master bathroom.”  Jack flipped on the lights in the master room and led Daniel to the bathroom.  “See?  Lou was going for that fancy spa look.  He put in some kind of fancy new shower, with new tile and floors.”

Daniel whistled lowly.  “Wow.  This is great!  Makes me wanna jump in the shower right now and try it out.”

Jack’s eyes practically crossed at the image in his brain of a naked, wet Daniel.  “Uh…later.  More to see, Danny!”  He very nearly dragged his linguist out of the room – Daniel chuckling knowingly.

“I can’t believe the team actually moved all my stuff in while we were gone.  I’ll have to think of some really great way to thank them for all this.”  Daniel mused, not bothering to resist Jack’s insistent tugging, preferring to let the man keep his firm hold on his hand as they made their way back downstairs.

“Have a BBQ in their honour.”  Jack suggested.

“Maybe.”  Daniel figured he’d come up with something more than a simple BBQ.  But later, because now they stood outside the double oak doors.

“Okay, so…this is the icing on the cake, Daniel.”  Jack blocked the doors with his body for a moment, looking almost as nervous as he’d been outside earlier when they’d first gotten to the house.  “This room was really what started all the rest of the improvements you’ve seen.  I knew you’d need a lot of space for a decent study/library, and so…sort of had Lou build a small addition onto the house to expand my old office a little.  This room I had very specific requirements for, and I am extremely impressed with Ferretti because he really surpassed all my expectations.”  Swallowing visibly, Jack stood back and allowed Daniel to move forward, twisting the door knobs and pushing the doors open with a flourish.

Flabbergasted and awed, Daniel stood stock-still in the doorway as he took in the enormity of the luxurious, warm and homey study.  Sunlight filled the room from the huge windows, illuminating the bookshelves, all his artefacts and artwork, all his books and journals, the new desk in one corner and the hardy work counter in the middle of the room.  Unconsciously, he began a slow tour of the room, opening cupboards, picking up objects he hadn’t seen in a few years, and generally trying to take it all in.

Jack watched him from the door, smiling with unbearable softness at the wonder and disbelief in Daniel’s expression.  Cassie, he decided, had been 100% bang on when she told Jack that Daniel would love it.

“This is…” Daniel’s voice cracked with emotion.  He’d always dreamed of having a home study just like this, and it absolutely floored him that Jack knew him so well, knew exactly what Daniel would want.  “This…I can’t believe…”

A speechless linguist was enough to make Jack grin goofily, supremely satisfied with himself.  “Pretty cool, huh?  Oh!  And check this out.”  Jack walked over to where the pull-cord rope was and reached up to tug on it as Daniel joined him.  “Lou…well, let’s just say this was a gift – a bonus, if you will – in the off chance that you decided to keep me for some reason.”  The stairs slowly descended and Daniel peered up to see where they led.

“What’s up there?  Attic?” he asked, curiosity growing.  It was almost like exploring a new tomb just discovered.

Jack took his hand and, grinning like a little kid now, led Daniel up the stairs to the door.  He pushed it open and pulled Daniel out into the sunshine-filled observatory deck.  “this is really great, isn’t it?”

Smiling, the younger man took in the view of the backyard and the privacy of the small deck thanks to the rest of the house and the giant trees surrounding the property.  “It is.”

“Now just imagine being up here on a nice, clear night, when you almost don’t need a telescope to gaze at the stars…” Jack slipped up behind Daniel and curled his arms around him, resting his chin on Daniel’s shoulder.  In his ear, Jack continued in a voice that dropped low, intimate, and husky.  “Just us.  You and me, and the universe spread out above us…a universe of stars and planets that you gave us – gave me – when you opened that Stargate twelve years ago.”

Overwhelmed into a state of absolute speechlessness, Daniel turned in Jack’s arms and captured that beguiling, irreverent mouth with his own.  It was the only way he could come up with that could attempt to adequately express what he felt at that moment.  He hadn’t expected that in doing so, he’d just trade one set of overwhelming emotions for another set of equally overpowering sensations.  He was absolutely surrounded by Jack, the hardness and strength of Jack’s arms and body, the pressure and heat he generated whenever their bodies touched, pressed, and rubbed, the heady scent of the older man in his every breath – Jack’s aftershave, the faint fragrance of his shampoo, the tinge of coffee in Jack’s breath, all combined with his own unique scent and the increasing musk of arousal…  Then his focus narrowed to their joined lips, mouths trying to devour each other and tongues slickly duelling after only the few startled moments it took Jack to realize what was happening and respond with ardent enthusiasm.

One of Jack’s hands slid up Daniel’s spine to palm the back of his head while the other arm trapped his lover against him tightly, earning an enticing squeak and a low groan from the man.  In response, Daniel lifted an arm and curled it around Jack’s neck, gripping the opposite shoulder hard while his other hand found purchase on Jack’s hip.  The archaeologist gave himself up to the nearly-forgotten passion of the moment, surrendering everything to this man whom Daniel no longer doubted loved him – soul deep.

Even if he could have scraped together the brain cells to consider it, thoroughly distracted and debauched as he was, he couldn’t have explained what it was that finally pushed him into his belief, the real knowledge of the truth.  It wasn’t the house, or any of Jack’s explanations about the past, or his declarations of love (no matter what language he said it in, though it did help).  Whatever it was, it could not be quantified or qualified.  Daniel just knew.  And it left him exultant, euphoric, and whole in spirit as he’d never felt before – not even when Ascended.

Eventually they eased back, exchanging slower, deeper – but no less fervent – kisses until they simply held on to each other, both reluctant to let go.

“Wow.”  Jack managed, voice gone smoky and raw.  “I always wondered what a Daniel Jackson Abydonian kiss would be like.”

Daniel, feeling decidedly giddy, simply chuckled.  “Abydonian?” he inquired, rubbing his cheek against Jack’s.

“I saw you kiss Sha’re twice, and both times it was one of those kisses you always see in the movies with sparks and things exploding and time slowing to a stand-still…ya know?  The kind that gave meaning to the team ‘suck face.’”

Grinning, Daniel leaned back in Jack’s arms so he could meet Jack’s eyes.  “So instead of ‘Earth-shattering’ it was ‘Abydos-shattering?’”

“Pretty much.”  Jack grinned back.

“So did the earth move for you?”

Groaning, Jack rolled his eyes and spun Daniel around, herding him to the door to go back inside.  “Okay, let’s not get into a cliché war.  You know how I feel about clichés.”

“This from the cliché King and Master.”

Back in the study, Daniel began walking around the room again, opening cupboards and drawers, checking out his desk, and generally basking in the wonderful space.  Jack just sat on one of the comfy counter chairs that were at the work table and watched his mate happily inspect his domain.  After a few minutes, however, Jack couldn’t hold back any longer and interrupted him.

“So…Daniel?”

“Jack?”  the linguist glanced up from looking inside the mini-fridge that was inconspicuously camouflaged to look like the other cupboards around the room, sitting under a small counter area where a coffee pot and a small sink were situated.

The General fidgeted.  “Does this mean you’re keeping me?  I mean…do I get to stay, or…?” he couldn’t look at Daniel for some reason and he hated that he sounded so completely insecure and needy.  But this was important.  Probably the most important thing in his life.

Sobering again, Daniel closed the fridge and went over to the worktable, taking the other chair and sitting across from Jack so they were face-to-face.  He reached across the surface and held out his hand. Jack gave him his own and Daniel squeezed, holding on comfortingly.

“Try and get rid of me.”  Daniel responded, smiling at Jack.  “I’ll make you a deal, O’Neill; if you’ll keep me, I’ll keep you.”

Sighing in relief, Jack gave him a wry smile.  “Deal, Jackson.”

“Good.  I’m not sure how we’ll work out all the logistics, but I think we’re both pretty good at organizing and…stuff.  We should be able to come up with something we can both live with…” he stopped when he noticed Jack’s confused expression.  “What?”

“What?  I have no idea what you’re talking about, Danny.”

“Uh, hello?  General O’Neill…Head of Homeworld Security.  Living and working in Washington D.C.”  Daniel looked at Jack over the top of his glasses, eyebrows furrowed.  “Me, living here, clear across country, FYI – and often not working on this planet.”

“Okay, okay.”  Jack made a face and leaned on the worktable’s counter on his forearms.  “Thank you for the verbose clarity.  And…I guess this means it’s a good time to make a huge confession.”

Daniel’s wary expression was almost comical – if the seriousness of the topic hadn’t been so real.  He almost pulled his hand back but Jack turned his hand so that their fingers twined together and curled into a loose fist, so he let the older man keep it.  “Ja-ack…  What’d you do now?”

Jack shot him a disgruntled glare and sniffed.  “Well, you should know by now that if I would go through all this,” he waved his hand at the room then pointed at Daniel, “and all of it for you, then I wouldn’t leave out the all-important part – staying together.”

The linguist gave in gracefully.  “Fine.  My bad.  What’d you do?”

Eyeing the man he loved, Jack proceeded to tell Daniel his little game of ‘shuffle the Generals.’  “Hank Landry would take over at Homeworld Security and I’ll come back to run the SGC.  Oh, and you’d be promoted, and you’d run the SGC with me – which would do a great deal to make the IOA happy because then the place would be run by both the military and a civilian, not to mention that we would then have the leverage to boot Woolsey out of his ‘watchdog’ position.”  Jack beamed at a stunned Daniel.  “And that’s about it!  Officially.  Unofficially, you and I are together and stuck like the proverbial white on rice.”

The younger man’s eyes were huge behind his glasses.  “Me?” he squeaked, his head shaking in disbelief.  “Run the SGC?  Promoted?  Jack, I…”

Frowning, Jack squeezed his fingers.  “Daniel?  What’s wrong?  In all honesty, you would not be doing all that much differently than you already are.  You’re already in charge of the civilians on base anyway, and being on SG1, as well as being the senior personnel of the SGC means you already have a major say in the decision making around here.”  His frown eased as he realized what was actually bothering the linguist, and Jack slipped off his seat to move around to Daniel’s side of the worktable.  Dropping his hands down heavily on Daniel’s shoulders, Jack looked him squarely in the eyes, and raised an eyebrow.  “Hey.  You know you are the most qualified person on the planet to run the place.  The very best person, Dr. Jackson.  Your voice has been the voice of reason in the chaos, our conscience, our guiding light.  Your intelligence and compassion have opened the universe to us, and saved us all more times than are easily enumerated.  You have given more of yourself than any one person should ever have to give to the programme…to those of us who are privileged enough to work with you.  And I believe I’m repeating myself, but whatever.  I’ll say it as many times as needs saying.

“We obviously haven’t expressed our appreciation very well – if at all – judging by the fact that you still have the lowest confidence in yourself I have ever seen  You know everything that you’ve seen and done and experienced, but you still don’t get the full extent of the impact you’ve had.”  Jack smiled gently and brushed the back of his fingers across Daniel’s cheek affectionately.  “You, Daniel, are the programme.  I’ve known that since the very beginning – even if I didn’t want to acknowledge it sometimes, even if I was less than supportive or encouraging on occasion; I knew it.”

Daniel swallowed a few times to get the lumps out of his throat.  He stared up at Jack, completely dumbfounded.  He realized Jack was right about how he felt – under-appreciated and thus under-qualified.  Not to mention wondering why he’d been kept around so long when, more often than not, it felt like no one was ever really listening to him.  Yet here was Jack, telling him that wasn’t true and that they had – in fact – been listening very closely all along.  He remembered Jack talking about his ‘cosmic importance’ at the cabin, but…

Leave it to Jack O’Neill to totally throw everything in his life into chaos and completely knock him off track this way.

As the minutes ticked away in silence, Jack leaned a hip against the counter and folded his arms across his chest, watching the emotions chase each other wildly across Daniel’s face, and he could almost see the synapses firing at the speed of light in Daniel’s brain as he tried to process everything.  Figuring that maybe he needed a moment, Jack moved past the linguist toward the double doors, dropping a hand on his shoulder as he passed by.

“I’ll give you a few minutes, Danny.  I’ll just run out to the car for a second and grab some stuff, and when I get back, I’ll try and explain my plans a little more clearly.”  He heard a noise that told him Daniel had heard but couldn’t quite respond coherently just yet – too immersed in Daniel-land trying to understand everything that had happened to him so rapidly that day.  Jack squeezed his shoulder again and left him to it.

He’d just stepped out the front door when his cell went off.  Jack pulled it out and answered brusquely without looking at the caller ID.

“O’Neill, and this better be important!”

“Sir, it’s Carter.”  Sam’s voice responded, sounding a bit sheepish, a bit eager, and not really very apologetic.  “I’m sorry if I interrupted anything…”

Jack sighed and made his way to the car, pushing the button on the remote-start to pop the trunk open.  “Hey, Carter, it’s fine.  I didn’t look at the caller ID before I answered.  If you had been Washington I’d have chewed you out, though.”

She laughed.  “Lucky me.  I – we, actually – were wondering if you and Daniel had gotten back yet, sir, and whether you’d taken him to the house?”

A faint smile lightened Jack’s face.  “Yes and yes.  We’re here now.”  He paused, grabbing the file folder from his bag (loosely termed ‘suitcase’) from the open trunk of the car.  “And who might we be?”  He also grabbed Daniel’s cell, slipping it into his pocket.

“Well, myself and Cassie, and Teal’c, Cameron, and Vala.”  Carter admitted sheepishly.  “We’re all excited, sir, to know how everything is going, so SG1 gathered here at my place.  Oh!  And Ferretti asked me to pass along a request to you.  He wants to know how it goes, too, so call him.”

Rolling his eyes and smiling anyway, Jack dug around in his bag for one last thing.  It was his own fault for spilling the beans to so many people.  Of course they would all want to know the outcome.  “I see.  Look, Carter, I can’t really tell you anything just yet.  I’m actually outside at the car grabbing some stuff, to give Daniel a few minutes to himself.”  He pulled out the Asgard anti-surveillance ‘egg’ from Thor triumphantly, slipping it into his other pocket.  “I’m afraid…I may have completely overwhelmed him with everything I told him and with the house and all…”

Carter made sympathetic noises as Jack closed the trunk and slowly made his way back to the house.  “I don’t blame him, sir.  But I think he can handle it.”  There was a deeply affectionate note in her voice.  “He’s nothing if not resilient, our Daniel.  Not to mention brilliant.  Once he wraps his head around it all, it’ll be fine.”

“I really hope so, Carter.”

“Oh!  We left a little something for Daniel in the mailbox, sir.”  Carter suddenly exclaimed.  Jack paused at the door and flipped open the mailbox attached to the wall right next to the doorbell.  “Could you give them to him for us?”

“What’s with the letters?”  Jack asked curiously, taking out a stack of envelopes all addressed to Daniel.

“It was Cassie’s idea.  She suggested we each write Daniel a little letter to tell him how happy we are for him, our support, all that…and we leave them in the mailbox because then he’d really feel at home.”  Sam explained.  “She said a house isn’t home until you start receiving personal mail there.”

Jack grinned.  That sounded like something Cassie would do and say, alright.  “I’ll definitely pass these along, Carter.  I’m gonna go now.  I promise one of us will call soon, so keep the kids in line a while longer, okay?”

“Yes, sir!  Good luck, General.”

She hung up and Jack could have sworn she’d saluted him despite that she wasn’t even in his presence.  Shaking his head, Jack closed his cell and went back to the study.

Daniel wasn’t there, however.  Leaving the letters and the file on the worktable, Jack wandered to the open patio door and stepped out to join his mate on the new deck.

“Hey.” he drawled, surveying the backyard with a note of pride.

“Hey.”  Daniel sighed deeply, looking upward at the very blue sky for a moment.  “Took you a while.  Couldn’t find what you wanted?”

“Oh no.  I found it.  Missed me, did you?”  Jack grinned and winked at Daniel with a side-glance.  The younger man snorted, but his hand did reach out blindly and clasp Jack’s.  Pleased, Jack turned toward him.  “You okay, Danny?”

“Huh?  Oh, yeah, I’m fine.  Sorry, Jack, for zoning out like I did.”

“Nah.  I understand that everything’s been a real bitch to wrap your head around.  And…I suppose I owe you some more thorough explanations, too.”

“No.  I think I get what you’re trying to tell me, here, Jack.  Though I would like to hear how you managed to convince the necessary people that I should be running the SGC…” Daniel turned and led the other man back indoors.

Blushing, Jack followed and retook his seat across from Daniel when the linguist sat down at the worktable.  “It’s…a tale worth telling, I suppose.”

“What’s all this?”  Daniel indicated the stack of letters and the file.  “This is what you went to get from the car?”

“The file is.  And your cell phone.”  Jack took out the phone and held it out to him.  “The letters were Cassie’s idea, apparently.”  He explained what Carter had said, and Daniel smiled softly, gathering the envelopes into a neat stack, setting them to the side.

“That’s really sweet of her.  I’ll read them later.”

“It’s just like her to come up with an idea like that.”  Jack agreed.  “The file is all the legal stuff my lawyer and I got ready to transfer the property to you.”  Jack picked up the file, staring down at it rather than the archaeologist out of sheer anxiousness.

“Jack…I want you to listen to me a minute without interrupting, okay?”  Daniel reached out and pushed the file in Jack’s hands back down to the counter, forcing Jack’s attention back to himself.  Looking worried and a little fearful, Jack nodded warily.  Daniel nodded back and pulled his hand away, folding both in front of himself solemnly.  “Thanks.”

“I’ll try.”

“First, I love you.”  He smiled when Jack’s eyes snapped up to meet his, the whiskey colour of them cloudy with emotion.  “You called me your soulmate earlier, and I know you would never use that term lightly, not unless you really, truly believed it and felt that way.  I was thinking about it while you were outside, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re completely right, Jack.”  Daniel blinked back the burn of moisture in his eyes.  “I am the mate of your soul…just as you are mine.  I never, ever believed I would ever find someone that would be that important to me, someone who makes me feel as much and as deeply as you do.  I loved Sha’re – you know that better than anyone – but ours was a quiet love.  Gentle and comfortable, despite how fiery her personality often coloured things between us.  You and I…are anything but quiet or gentle, and very rarely comfortable.”

Jack smiled crookedly, nodding in agreement instead of speaking.  There was a sheen to his eyes that were unmistakably moist as he listened.  Daniel continued, tapping a finger on the file folder.

“Second, you didn’t have to do all this to prove how you felt.  Because I think I know you, Jack, well enough to believe you when you say the things you have in the last week – hell, the last few hours!”  Daniel flushed and hung his head a little sheepishly.  “I know I’m a little blind and lacking self-knowledge when it comes to other people’s feelings for me, but…even I understand what you’ve said and what wasn’t said by doing all this scheming, for me.

“So here’s the deal, O’Neill: I’m not going to accept ownership of the house.  But I will accept ownership of you.”  Daniel met Jack’s misty gaze solidly and gave him a tremulous smile.  “And I’ll be happy to turn this house into our home, because in my heart of hearts…you are my home, Jack.  You’ve meant home to me ever since you took me in when you brought me back from Abydos.”

Jack rubbed his free hand over his face, wiping away the tears that slipped out, and spread his hand over the file.  “Compromise?  I’ll get the lawyer to put everything in both our names?”

Smiling brilliantly, Daniel nodded.  “Okay.”

“Sweet!  I’ll do that as soon as possible.”  Jack shoved the file aside.  “I guess we should start furniture shopping, too.  There’s a few key pieces missing around here.”

Daniel looked thoughtful.  “Yeah, I got rid of most of the furniture I owned when I gave up my apartment, so…” he shrugged.  “I had no use for it, and without it I could rent a smaller storage unit, which cost me less…”

“Hey!  It’s fine, Danny!  We get to have lots of fun arguing over sofas and dining sets and lamps…” Jack grinned.  “And we get to pick out all new stuff, if we want.”

“It’ll be an experience, all right.”  Daniel rolled his eyes.  “We’ll probably have to do some grocery shopping, as I’m assuming we have nothing edible at all.”

“Yep.  But not for a few days, since we won’t move in until we at least have a bed.”  Jack pointed out.

“Right.”  Daniel stood up and gathered up the letters.  “There’s still plenty of daylight left, Jack, so why don’t we hit a few stores?  And grab lunch.  I’m starving.”

The older man slid off his seat and followed Daniel out of the study and down the hall to the front door.  “Lunch is an excellent idea.  Let’s pick up something and find a nice park somewhere to eat.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

~*~*~*~*~

          Forty minutes later, they sat together at a picnic table under a giant tree laden with autumn foliage in a small park they’d found.  Jack had a newspaper, and was reading through it while he ate his monstrously large sandwich from the little deli/café they’d chosen for lunch.

Daniel was eating his own giant sandwich, and rather than reading a newspaper he was opening the stack of letters his friends had left for him.

He started with Cassie’s letter.

Dear Uncle Daniel,” she wrote, “the letters were my idea because when Uncle Jack mentioned how he wanted to give you a home, I wanted to help make it feel more like home.  And getting mail from friends and family makes me feel like I’m at home, so…  Anyway, I also wanted to let you know how much I love you, and I’ve really missed you these months I’ve been away at university.  And I also want you to know I’m glad Uncle Jack finally realized he had to do something about his feelings for you.  I hope the two of you can work everything out because I truly believe you were meant for each other.

I guess I’ve been in a unique position to watch all of you and hear not only what you, Uncle Jack, Sam, Teal’c, and Uncle George have said over the years, but also what Mom always did.  It will probably surprise you to know that she loved you, Uncle Daniel.  Really and truly and deeply.  But she also always knew and said that your heart belonged to Uncle Jack, whether or not either of you knew it or acknowledged it.  She hoped that someday she’d get to see you two finally quit dancing around each other and get together – and I believe that where she is now, Mom is doing the happy dance of all happy dances because I think she’s always watching over us.

I’ve known for a long time how you and Uncle Jack felt.  You may not remember, but you dropped by very briefly a few hours after your Ascension.  You spoke to me a little, because you weren’t supposed to even be here, you said, and you asked me to take care of Uncle Jack, and the others, for you.  I tried my best, and I think I managed to keep Uncle Jack from slipping away from us, even though he probably doesn’t really remember my even being there.

So I guess all that’s left for me to say is that I am deliriously happy for you, Uncle Daniel.  Both of you.  And I love you guys a lot.  Welcome home, Uncle Daniel!  Love always, Cassie.

Daniel carefully folded the letter and slipped it back into its envelope, setting it to one side as he fought down the wealth of emotion reading it had evoked.  He caught Jack eyeing him covertly over the newspaper and shrugged.

“You okay?”  Jack asked, glancing at the letter.

“Fine.  Just, you know…sentimental.  Everything’s made me turn into this huge sap lately.”  Daniel picked up his extra-large coffee and drank deeply before opening another letter – this time from Cameron.  Jack rustled his paper and went back to reading, content that his partner wasn’t upset or something.  “You can read it if you want.”  Daniel offered, pointing at Cassie’s.

Jack was tempted, but he shook his head with a slight smile.  “Nope.  Those were written for you, Daniel.  But thanks.”

Shrugging, Daniel unfolded Cam’s letter.

Jackson,” the linguist suppressed a sigh.  He’d never convince Mitchell to actually use his name like the rest of the team.  “So Cassie Fraiser had this idea that we should all write letters to you as a ‘welcome home’ present.  Unfortunately for you, I absolutely suck at this form of communication.  Text messages, though…  Whoa man!  I rock that.  But since the young lady won’t let me do that, I’ll give this my best shot.

I know you remember when I first came to the SGC – to SG1 – and the expectations I had.  I didn’t want to lead the team, I just wanted to serve with you, Sam, and Teal’c under General O’Neill.  I also wanted to learn from all of you.  Each of the members of SG1 have many, many things to teach but I admit I was especially excited to learn from you.  Sure, Teal’c and General O’Neill had plenty of combat experience and other such military stuff that I wanted to benefit from, as did Sam – plus she could teach me all kinds of technical stuff about alien technology and that sort of thing.  And although all that would be – is – invaluable to me as an officer serving in the programme, what you have to teach is invaluable not only to me but to every human being everywhere.  Invaluable to us all as humans.  I wanted to learn more about myself as a human among who knows how many peoples in the universe, and about myself as a person.  As a military officer, I learned some things about myself but in truth the military is not about the individual.  You can advance through the ranks, win all kinds of pretty, shiny medals and colourful ribbons…but to learn about yourself and about the kind of person you are is not something that can be done (at least not completely) on a battlefield.

So I hoped to have the chance to work with you, Dr. Jackson: civilian, archaeologist, anthropologist, and linguist.  Just from reading through hundreds – maybe a thousand – mission reports I knew that my best chance for learning was with you, a man who has perhaps the greatest wealth of knowledge about people that any one person could have.  You’ve not only studied every aspect of (how many?) most human cultures here on good old terra firma, but all over the universe; on top of that you’ve also had experiences beyond what anyone else has ever had.  You, Jackson, have the most to give, the most to teach.

I’m happy to say that I have learned.  Oh, there’s always more to learn, more ways to improve, but I have learned from you more than I ever could have dreamed.  I came to the SGC a bit over-eager for adventure and with a huge case of hero-worship.  I still love the adventure, and SG1 will always be my own personal heroes, but I’ve had the opportunity to get to know all of you as people and that means even more to me.  Don’t get me wrong!  We all do what we do because it’s our jobs, because someone’s gotta save the world and we all happen to be qualified – and crazy enough – to do it.  It’s not for the pay-cheque, it’s not for the glory, it’s because we can and it needs to be done.  For all the not-so-good parts of this gig, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It’s been my greatest honour and pleasure to have met you and served with you, Jackson.  And I know we’ll somehow defeat this great cosmic threat we face and keep going – because the alternative isn’t an option for me, or any one of us, right?

Another thing I’ve learned working with you has been to redefine my concept of ‘home.’  Before I joined up with the programme and started out flying X302s, when I was on a tour of duty overseas someplace, ‘going home’ meant the USA.  It meant my parents’ ranch, and my mom and dad.  It’s what I fought for as a soldier, what I wanted to protect.  Now…now it’s all that and the whole damned planet.  The ranch and my parents are still significant reasons for my willingness to fight, but every time we step through the Gate or ship out on Odyssey, and I start to want to come home during missions (or after), it’s enough to make it back to Earth.  Even the ugly concrete walls of the SGC are more home to me than any place else.  When Cassie brought up the idea for these letters from us, and Sam explained to Vala and I that you’d never truly had a home – with the exception of Abydos – it got me thinking.  I’d read your personnel file, of course, but it never really occurred to me until then.  So what did I think, right?  Well, I asked myself, ‘What is home, Cameron?  What makes a place mean home over any other?’

To me, home is not just the place where you live – maybe it’s sometimes not where you live at all.  It’s where you’re safe, a haven from the outside world (or another world) and all the stuff that goes on in life around us.  It’s where you’re completely free to be yourself without apology or excuse, like…a place of total freedom.  It’s where you feel a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose.  It’s where your friends and family welcome you.  It’s where you are loved – and where you love someone in return.

When I thought all this, I realized Sam was wrong.  You have had a home, it’s just that home has shifted far too often for you.  You had your parents – albeit not nearly long enough.  For a time, you had a home among your academic peers, and just because they were all too short-sighted and deaf to actually pay attention to you and listen to what you were trying to say was not your fault.  It’s been their loss and our gain.  You had Abydos – actually, I suspect you will always have Abydos – once again, not for long enough.

But, Jackson…Daniel, I guess what I’m trying to say is that home for you has never been about a building.  It’s been about people.  And when General – then Colonel – O’Neill brought you back from Abydos, I suspect you found a new place to call home.  And no, I’m not talking about the SGC.

I suppose it’s more accurate to say you haven’t had a more or less permanent place of residence.  But!  I also suppose that’s no longer the case.  You have someone who has and will continue to provide everything I said before.  I don’t know that someone very well personally, unfortunately, but from what little I’ve been able to glean from those in the know, I can reasonably say you’ve found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Oh god.   No pun intended, absolutely not!  Honest!

You have my full support and friendship.  Another lesson for Cameron: I just want my friends to find whatever happiness they can, doing what we do and knowing what we know.  No one deserves that more than you.

Wow, not only have I babbled on and on, I was all philosophical and sappy.  Let’s just keep this between us, okay?  I do have an image – or at least a reputation – to maintain.  Besides which, I couldn’t take the inevitable blackmail a certain feisty ex-thief would be certain to try on me if she found out.

I guess there’s just one last thing I could possibly say: Welcome home!

With honour and friendship, Cam.

Laughing softly because of Mitchell’s concerns about Vala and possible blackmail, and very touched by everything the man had said, Daniel smiled and set the letter next to Cassie’s.  He remembered the hero-worship the young officer had suffered when he arrived at the SGC, and how it was a little embarrassing to realize he was on object of that hero-worship – not something that Daniel ever, ever aspired to.  He’d never believe he’d done anything to warrant that kind of sentiment.  His reward was if Earth survived another day and humanity was able to continue – however blindly and oblivious – down the path toward whatever future awaited; be it Ascension, or simply becoming the Fifth Race that the Asgard had such high hopes for, it was theirs to discover.

Cameron had learned very quickly that adventure wasn’t exactly what he was going to get at the SGC or SG1.  A part of it all, yes, but it was almost completely overshadowed by the enormous responsibilities, the hardships, and the very mortal risks they took every single day.  And even if they hadn’t had Cam’s own heroic performance during that dog-fight in Antarctica, they soon had proof that he belonged with SG1, at the SGC, and fighting alongside his team for all the right reasons.  His integrity was without question.

Daniel was humbled that such a good man – a good person – believed that he had something worth teaching, and that Cam was willing to learn.  It was rare that Daniel had someone who stopped to listen to him whenever he had something to say (although admittedly he found that more and more people were actually paying attention to him).  He especially found it rare among military personnel.

He polished off the first half of his giant sandwich before picking up the next letter, this time from Teal’c.  Glancing at Jack, who had already finished eating and separated the page with the crossword puzzle from the rest of the paper, Daniel opened up the envelope and unfolded the letter.  He had to smile because the letter was written entirely in very precise, neat lettering.

Daniel Jackson,

I do not know if you remember the words I once spoke to you as you lay in the infirmary bed before me, bandaged from nearly head to toe as you slowly succumbed to the effects of your radiation poisoning.  In fact, I am unsure whether or not you were indeed conscious when I spoke, though I felt compelled to say things as if you were.  I expressed my belief that your passing would rob us – me – of not only a very great and true friend, but of a truly wise man, and one of the greatest warriors I have ever had the honour of knowing.  I know you have never considered yourself a warrior – at least not as you would most likely label myself or O’Neill as such – but I most certainly do.  A warrior need not fight only with weapons and technology.  You are a warrior of words, of wisdom and diplomacy.  You are a warrior of mind, heart, and spirit.

I have learned a great deal from you over the years, my friend.  Not only have I benefited from your wealth of knowledge, but also from your wisdom in all things.  Because of this, I have begun to view the galaxy (indeed, the universe) with new eyes, and because of you some of my most fervent desires have come to pass.  My people are free of the Goa’uld, just as I believe we will all be free of the Ori one day.  I truly believe that you will be the one to make it so.

My friend, our paths have crossed many times since our meeting over a decade ago.  While our footsteps often ran alongside one another for the majority of these years, there have been times where, at their crossing, I have failed you.  You would argue this fact, I am certain, but it is a truth nonetheless.  In the case of your late wife, Sha’re, I cannot claim that I would be so forgiving of the man who killed my wife.  You understood why I did it, and you forgave me accordingly.  I am more grateful than I can ever express to you for such magnanimity, and very humbled by your graciousness of character.

While I have said all these things – emotions that I have often wished to express but have never found the appropriate time or manner to do so – I have not spoken of the true purpose of this letter Cassandra Fraiser has requested of all of us.  That being O’Neill’s previous home which he has renovated and had SG1 prepare for you.

On this subject, I wish to offer my most sincerest, heartfelt congratulations.  I have seen the deep affection shared between yourself and O’Neill, and I am quite aware that such feelings went further than a simple (though strong) friendship.  I watched you both avoid your emotions strenuously for so long; I had begun to despair that I would also witness the greatest of tragedies: a true and profound love unexpressed, denied, and subsequently lost.  I witnessed O’Neill’s frustration, his exceeding loneliness, and self-delusions in regards to Samantha Carter.  I saw you withdraw; I saw your loneliness, and the resignation of your bright spirit to a fate you could not fight.  Yet here again, I feel I failed you most grievously.  Although I did try to be available to you whenever you needed someone with whom you were comfortable speaking about personal matters, I failed to realize that this was one subject you would not speak of with anyone, as you wrongly believe that we – your family and friends – do not wish to hear about your problems and that you are not important enough in our lives to burden us with what issues you deem insignificant to us.  Daniel Jackson, you could not be more wrong.  I think you would be quite shocked at the number of people – from O’Neill and SG1 – to all manner of your colleagues at the SGC – who think you are the most important person there is, and who would willingly do anything for you, unasked, if one believed there was any action to be taken to be of assistance.

I should have voiced my observations to both you and O’Neill, but I kept my silence out of respect for and in adherence to the Tau’ri military’s obscure dictum of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, as well as out of continued hope that you would find each other on your own.  Perhaps if I had said something to either or both of you, your lives might have come together sooner.

However, I am hoping – now – that such an error on my part is completely irrelevant and you have seen O’Neill’s offer for what it truly is.  He loves you very much, my friend, as I know you love him in return.  Should you accept him, know that I am exceptionally pleased and delighted for you both.  It is a joyous, wondrous thing to find the mate of one’s soul, and I wish you great happiness and long lives together.

To end this letter, I will add one last thing.  I gave up my home, my wife, my son, and everything I had known before we met when O’Neill, yourself, and Samantha Carter came to Chulak and showed me another way to accomplish my dreams for a free Jaffa nation.  I confess that at first I was sceptical of the wisdom of my decision, and often second-guessed myself.  And I admit that for many years I became increasingly despairing of actually succeeding in my quest, despite all the wonders I saw and experiences I gained in my travels with SG1.  Yet I did not, for even one moment, regret my decision for I soon gained a new home here on Earth, with these strange Tau’ri humans and their strange customs.  And I have many thanks to give you for always being patient with my many questions and occasional lack of understanding, for always welcoming me and helping me to create a place amongst you that I can truly refer to as ‘home.’  It is my fervent wish that you and O’Neill proceed to do the same and forge a home for yourselves.  There is no being who deserves such peace and a place of tranquility more than you, Daniel Jackson.

Congratulations once more, my dearest friend, and best of wishes and luck to you for all future endeavours.  Remain true, wise, and strong, and you shall succeed in all you do.  Know that you may always count on my assistance and friendship.

Your friend and brother, Master Teal’c of the Tau’ri.

The letter fell from Daniel’s hands unnoticed.  He was too busy trying to process all the amazing, stunning revelations in Teal’c’s letter.  Not only was the gentle Jaffa totally alright with his relationship with Jack, but he’d known all along how not only Daniel felt, but Jack also!

Daniel blew out a stunned breath, putting the letter aside.  He decided he would talk to Teal’c one day soon about these feelings of failure, too.

Jack raised an eyebrow at his linguist’s dazed expression and the slight pinkness to his cheeks.  “Danny?  Something wrong?”

Crystalline blue eyes swept downward from the sky and found Jack’s soft brown eyes studying him curiously.  “Oh…not really.  I just feel quite spanked, though.  Thanks.”

“What?”  Jack let out a laugh at the expression, glancing at the last letter Daniel read.

“Teal’c scolded me in his direct, Jaffa way, for not believing enough that all of you believe in me.”

Jack chuckled, smirking knowingly.  “I told ya.  Maybe now you’ll start believing it?”

Daniel huffed and picked up the next-to-last of the letters, this one from Sam.  “Yeah, yeah.  Finish your crossword, Jack.”  He pulled the surprisingly short letter from its envelope and began to read somewhat anxiously.

Daniel,

Cassie’s idea for these letters was a really good one, one that I’m happy to comply with.  But it seems that I just have so much that I want to say, things I want you to know, that I can’t seem to find the words now or the best way to say what I want and put it on paper.  I’ve never been good at telling the people who mean the most to me that they are that important.  This letter may turn out to be a little abrupt, maybe even emotionless because of that, and I hope you’ll bear with me and remember I don’t mean it to come out that way.

I guess I’ll start by putting your fears to rest, and letting you know that I’m okay with it.  100%, Daniel.  The General and I worked out a lot of things, and I think – somewhere in the back of my mind – I’ve always known the two of you were meant to be.  Whereas General O’Neill…Jack and I were not.  I dreamed foolishly and in the wrong direction.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the man, but not of the variety that would see me married to him.

And I don’t care how many of those alternate realities out there have us in that sort of relationship!  In this one, it never would happen, and it never will.

I hope you can forgive me for being an idiot, for being blind and ignorant to your feelings, and for very nearly wrecking our friendship.  I hope you can forgive the General, too.  I wouldn’t lose us if I could help it, because you mean the world to me, Daniel.  You’re my little brother, my best friend and guiding light, and I love you.  So very much.

There’s…a lot more to say, a lot more we need to talk about, so when you get settled in and have a few moments to spare, I hope you and I can share a few bottles of wine and get down to the dirty truths one night, and emerge the next morning clean.

With that, I’ll just wish you all the best with Jack, and pass along my congratulations.  May you finally find the home you’ve looked for and which you deserve so richly.

All my love, Sam.

Daniel sighed in relief and put her letter on the pile, smiling to himself.  Maybe they did have a lot to talk about, and maybe they had to really work on their fragmented friendship again to rebuild it, but he could sense from Sam’s words that there was a positive hope for them.  He was glad.  He wanted his ‘big sister’ back.

The last letter was from Vala, and this was one letter Daniel had no idea what to expect from it.  Tentatively opening it, Daniel steeled himself.

My Daniel,” the archaeologist rolled his eyes, “I have been told to write you a letter to express my congratulations on your good fortune and blah, blah, blah.  I’m not sure I understand why this is necessary when I can just tell you so when next I see you, but the others are being rather insistent, so here I go.

First off, I must say you’re indeed fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who seem to care for you so much it’s very nearly nauseating.  Then again, I suppose the truth is that I am one of them, so I can’t really complain.  You’ve changed my life, Daniel, changed me…simply by existing.  I know I would not be here today if not for you, and I hate to think what my life would be like if I’d never met you – even if I lost that rather lucrative deal of naqahdah for your ship, but I digress…  You’ve given me a place to belong, you’ve given your support and confidence and trust, and you’ve given me your friendship.  I doubt I can ever repay you for all of that, but I can only hope that my efforts to be worthy will never let you down.  Now all you have left to give me would be that rather sexy, delectable body of yours, and I bet I’d be one very ecstatic woman.”

Daniel flushed and wondered if she would ever take ‘no’ for an answer.

Actually, I don’t believe I will ever have that opportunity.  You know, if you’d ever just told me that you had that rather fine male specimen in your bed I wouldn’t have bothered you quite so much about having sex with me.  However, if he was willing to share…

Daniel managed a strangled noise, unable to decide if he should laugh or get jealously possessive.

Anyway, you are – again – very fortunate to have Jack O’Neill as your lover.  He seems like a reliable man, a rare breed, and if his looks are anything to go by he’s probably a real tiger in bed.  Loyal, too, and very shrewd.  I’ve never known a man who was willing to go through all the trouble of buying their lover (meaning me, of course) a house and redecorating it to suit their lover’s (mine!) tastes.  Jack seems to be worth the trouble of keeping around, Daniel, so don’t you lose him!

As I really don’t know what else I’m supposed to say here, I’ll just wish you congratulations once more and shut up, shall I?

Your beloved Vala.

Groaning, Daniel dropped his head onto his arms on the surface of the table.  Jack looked up at the thump, which broke his concentration, and eyed the letter in Daniel’s hand.  “Who was that one from?”

“Vala.”  Came the somewhat muffled reply.

Grinning, Jack reached out to pat his mate on the shoulder.  “That bad, huh?”

Daniel didn’t answer except to wave the letter above his head at Jack without even raising his head from his arm.  “Go ahead and read it.”  The muffled permission added when Jack didn’t immediately grab hold of the letter.

Jack took it, scanned it quickly, and made a sound that came out somewhere between a swallowed back laugh and an exasperated snort.  Daniel looked up and caught the faint blush on Jack’s face – who was also looking mighty smug.

“Don’t even, Jack.”

“What?”

“You’re going to say something macho, and I don’t want to hear it.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You were.”

“Not!”

“Were!”

“Not!  Look, let’s not get into that right now.”  Jack waved the usual childish tennis match of an argument away.  He handed the letter back to Daniel and tucked away his crossword puzzle to finish later.  “For now…we have shopping to do.”

Daniel nodded, cleaning up after himself.  On the walk back to the car, Daniel brought up his vague idea to take Cassie out for supper and a movie.

“I was thinking,” he said as he and Jack got into the car, “that dinner and a movie were in order, but do you think she’d want to come shopping with us?”  He glanced at Jack as the General started up the vehicle.  “Would you mind if she did?”

“Of course I don’t mind.  We don’t get to see our little girl often enough any more.”  Jack agreed wistfully.  “Call her.  We’ll swing by Carter’s and pick her up.”

Daniel took out his cell and dialled Sam.

~*~*~*~*~

 Chapter II

Cassandra Fraiser was thrilled to go along with her uncles on their shopping excursion.  In fact, so was the rest of SG1.  The team had all still been at Sam’s house when Daniel called to invite Cassie, and they all decided that Daniel and Jack absolutely had to have their advice and help choosing items of furniture.  So while Cassie rode with Jack and Daniel in their car from store to store, Mitchell, Teal’c and Vala rode with Sam in hers.  It was a bit of a circus, with all of them trooping into each store all at once and quite often arguing about each other’s décor choices, but really it turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

And the actual decisions and choices were made by Jack and Daniel off to the side anyway.

The first day’s shopping was fairly successful.  They picked out a nice new dining room set of table and chairs and a sideboard.  In another antique store (that Daniel had been unable to pass by without checking it out), they found a set of lamps for the living room and a matching set of side-tables and a coffee table.  They picked out two comfy armchairs for the living room in another store, as well as the most comfortable sofa ever.  As for the bedroom furniture…Jack pulled Daniel aside and pointed out that was one room they didn’t need the others’ “help” with.  Daniel agreed, blushing a lot.

They decided they’d get to that on Monday.

Thankfully, most of the businesses they’d bought things in offered delivery services – on weekdays.  So, Monday they would get all their larger items of furniture.  The lamps fit in the car trunk.

Shopped out, Jack invited the team back to the house for the evening – after he’d insisted on picking up fixings for a BBQ from a grocery store.

“It’s been far too long since there’s been an SG1 BBQ in this house!” he declared, depositing bags stuffed with food on the brand new island counter in the kitchen.  “So it’s high time we had another, right Daniel?”

“Here, here!” the linguist smiled his agreement.

There were smiles and agreement all around.

~*~*~*~*~

          Everyone was outside on the deck, enjoying the mild weather, sunshine, and each other’s company.  Jack, as usual, was reigning as the Grill King over a smoking BBQ (he’d called Ferretti and asked to borrow Lou’s when he invited their old friend to join them), while both Vala and Cameron hovered nearby getting lessons in the fine art of backyard grilling.  Lou made appropriate comments and jokes.  Sam and Teal’c remained off to the side, not saying a word, as they were far too used to these BBQs and the chaos that came with them.

Daniel had left everyone to go inside and set out dishes, utensils, and napkins, as well as find the salads and stuff Jack had wanted to go with the steaks and hot dogs he was currently charcoaling.  He almost didn’t notice that Cassie had followed him indoors.

“Can I help with anything, Uncle Daniel?”  She asked, standing at the island across from Daniel.  He smiled and gestured at the cupboards.

“Sure.  Dig around for plates and things.  I haven’t had a chance to snoop around and find everything yet.”

Cassie moved to do so and grinned at how happy her favourite person was.  “So you like what Uncle Jack and Lou did to the place?”

“Very much.  It was totally unnecessary, but I’m not complaining.”  Daniel winked at her and she laughed.  Daniel bent and gave her a quick buss on the cheek.  “And thank you, by the way, for your letter and for making the others write letters, too.”

Her smile softened and she set a stack of plates on the counter.  “You’re welcome.”  Digging utensils out of a drawer, she laid them next to the plates.  “Can I ask you something, Uncle Daniel?” she inquired hesitantly.

He leaned against the counter and folded his arms over his chest casually, giving her his full attention.  Something in her tone told him it was a serious question.

“Of course.  You can always ask me or any of the others anything, Cassie.”

“How much of the past have you remembered?  From your first Ascension, I mean.”

A tiny furrow appeared at Daniel’s brow.  “I remember everything now, Cassie.  I didn’t for about that first year or so when I’d returned, but it all came back the second time around.  The Others must not have felt I’d learned anything too threatening to their all-mighty Rules and sent me back with all my marbles, that time.”  He answered, unsure why she would want to know.  “Why?”

“Even the year you were Ascended?”  Cassie pressed, avoiding his inquiry for the moment.

“Well…maybe not all of it.  I remember the events, but I don’t remember all that cosmic Ascended knowledge I gained while one of them.”  The frown deepened in bewilderment.

Cassie nodded.  “Okay, I can understand that.”

“What’s up, sweetheart?”  Daniel asked, concerned.  “Is there something you think I’m not remembering?”

“Kind of.  You see…I just wanted to know if you do remember stopping by to visit Uncle Jack before you left permanently with Oma Desala, and if you remember what you said to me then.”

Daniel tilted his head as a light bulb went off in his brain, regarding the young woman gravely.  “Somewhat, I do.  I remember sticking around a couple of extra days to make sure all of you would be okay.  I remember Oma was very patient about it, since the idea was to let go of all one’s past ties in order to move ahead on the Path.”  His eyes went a little distant as he dredged up what he could from his memories.  “I remember that Sam was really upset for quite a while but I knew she’d be okay because Teal’c would make sure of it.  Janet was…she felt guilty, as if she could have done something more even though she knew she’d done all she could and that I would never have blamed her.  But…she was a doctor, and they hate to lose a patient, especially a good friend.”  He fell silent, the painful, ugly memories of the doctor’s death rising up.  Yes…he knew exactly how she must have felt.

Cassie, saddened by the reiteration of what her uncle seemed to be remembering, laid a hand on his arm.  “I’m sorry, Uncle Daniel.  I shouldn’t have asked and brought it all up again.”

“No, sweetheart.  Not at all.  It’s okay to remember even the sad stuff.”  Daniel smiled and drew her into a hug.  “And if we can’t reminisce with our loved ones about it, then who can we?”  He dropped a kiss to the top of her head.

“Yeah.”  She agreed, hugging him back tightly.  “I just…I only asked because I always wondered why you asked me to take care of everyone – why you nudged me to be the one to go over to Uncle Jack’s and give him a shoulder.”

He had to think about that one a bit.  He’d known how much he cared for Jack then, and he was probably the only living soul – Ascended or not – who knew Jack so well that he knew how Jack would grieve.  And he hadn’t wanted his best friend to revert to the Col. Jack O’Neill he’d first met on the original mission.

“The simple answer, Cass, is that there was no one else. He couldn’t be open with Sam for…all kinds of reasons other than the plain fact that he wouldn’t allow himself to show his true emotions to her – or anybody, for that matter.  He could have talked to Teal’c, but there’s that whole macho warrior thing and Jack wouldn’t let himself appear weak to the big guy, even though he knows better.  General Hammond…maybe, but George was Jack’s CO, and someone had to hold the SGC together when no one else could.  I couldn’t ask George to take on more than that.  And he was grieving, too, in his own way.  Not Ferretti, for the same reasons as Teal’c.  Actually, those reasons apply to everyone at the SGC that worked with us.”  Daniel paused, rifling mentally through the people close to SG1 who would have been possibilities.  “Jack would never have spoken to Mac-the-Quack or any other counsellor, psychologist, whatever.  Jacob…was already off-world and unavailable, even if Jack would have talked to him – which he probably wouldn’t because of Selmac and the fact that he was Sam’s father.”

“And Mom?”  Cassie looked up at him. “She would have done anything for any of you, but you especially, Uncle Daniel.”

“I know.  But…Jack wouldn’t talk to her either.  He would thank her for her concern and he’d understand how genuine she would be, but he still wouldn’t allow himself that luxury.  They were friends, and there was plenty of respect between them, but…”

Cassie sighed and nodded.  She knew Daniel was right about that.  “Still…why me?  I was still just a young kid.”

“Age didn’t have a thing to do with it.”  The linguist said, releasing her and looking outside the large kitchen windows at their family beyond.  “You may have been young, but you are far older than your age, Cassandra.  You’re also much more intelligent, compassionate, and wise than most people your age.”  He watched Vala snatch Cam’s ball cap off his head and run off with it, forcing the man into an exasperated game of keep-away as Mitchell gave chase.  “And even some people far older than you.”  He added, amused.  He turned back to her.  “Besides being the only one left, you had the maturity to understand him and what he needed, and you – more than nearly everyone else – understood grief in ways no one else can.  And you were a ‘safe’ person to be openly emotional with, Cassie.  You were close to us, you grieved also, but he didn’t have to hide how deeply it affected him with you.”

She nodded slowly in comprehension, her eyes misting a little.  “I see, now.  Even though I don’t think Uncle Jack even remembers that I was there, or knew it at the time…”

“Oh, I think he does.  You know Jack…he’s got a soft spot for kids, but you hold your own special place with him.  Just as with all of us.”

“I love you all, too, Uncle Daniel.”

Daniel smiled, and looked around the kitchen.  “Well, I guess all this stuff is ready, so shall we go see if Jack’s done turning supper into charcoal?”

Giggling, Cassie smiled back and followed Daniel back outdoors.

~*~*~*~*~

          The party broke up around 2130, and the oddly mismatched family went their separate ways.  Cam took Teal’c and Vala back to the Mountain before heading to his apartment, and Cassie went home with Sam.  Lou took his BBQ home with an invite to his old friends to stop by and meet his wife and daughter someday soon.

Jack and Daniel spent another forty-five minutes or so cleaning up the mess before they made their way back to base themselves.

“Ya know…I think we should put in a nice fire pit in the backyard.”  Jack mused aloud in the elevator ride down.

Shrugging, Daniel smothered a yawn.  “If you want.  You’re the yard and garden expert and I plan on leaving all that to you.  I was never very…diligent when it came to yard work.”

Jack rolled his eyes, remembering the little house Daniel once owned and the jungle of weeds and overgrowth in his small, quaint backyard.  “Hadn’t noticed.”  He commented with dry sarcasm.

“Shut up, Jack.  So I don’t have a green thumb!  I’ve never needed one.”  Daniel’s eyebrows knit together in a cute scowl. Jack just chuckled and patted his partner on the shoulder, aware of the security cameras everywhere in the Mountain, including the elevator.

“Hey, you still don’t.  That’s my department.  Besides, I was planning on leaving the cleaning indoors all to you since I wouldn’t know how to care for all your…old rocks and stuff, let alone not break something.”

Daniel snorted, but agreed.  “Very true.  But!  KP, we switch off the duties.”

“Deal.”

They shook on it before stepping off on Level 25, heading for their on-base quarters.  Reaching Daniel’s first, Jack rocked back and forth on his heels while his linguist unlocked his door and flipped on the light.  “So, Danny?”

Leaning against the door frame with crossed arms, Daniel gave him a chastising stare.  “No, Jack.  Absolutely not.”  They’d had this conversation in the car, even though they both knew Jack was only half-serious about staying the night in Daniel’s room.  Too risky, too blatantly DADT.  “You can wait an extra couple of days.”

Jack sniffed with mock sadness.  “Fine, fine.  Any ideas about where to go finish shopping tomorrow?”  he let the subject drop.

“I suppose.  IKEA would be easiest and probably the most cost effective place to get the rest of the furniture.”  Daniel suggested.  Jack nodded.

“Okay.  Then we have got to hit Best Buy and get a flat screen TV.  And a home entertainment system.”  The General looked like a kid at Christmas and his birthday all rolled into one.

Daniel rolled his eyes.  “Okay.  Anywhere else?”

“Home Depot.”  Jack rubbed his hands together gleefully.  “I’ll need some stuff for the fire pit, but there’s also BBQs…”

“Of course.”  The archaeologist couldn’t stop the yawn.  “Sorry.  I’m going to get some sleep now, Jack.  You’d better do the same.”  He pointed down the hall, then waved vaguely.  “Good night.”

“Night, Danny!  I’ll wake you up in the morning.”

“With coffee.”

“Like I’d dare attempt it without the java.”

“I’ve trained you well, O’Neill.”  The door closed in Jack’s face – a face with a silly, sappy grin on it.

“You sure have, Spacemonkey.”  He agreed softly, absolutely content.

~*~*~*~*~

          Sunday rolled by so fast it was almost like it never happened.

Jack woke Daniel up – as promised – with giant coffee mug full and steaming in hand – and they stopped by the commissary for a quick breakfast.  They were joined by Vala and Teal’c, and by Col. Reynolds and SG3, who had just returned from a mission.

Before they went shopping, Jack stopped by the rental agency to switch the car for a truck, having realized that it was better suited for hauling all their purchases than the car was.  Then they hit IKEA, and by the time they made it through that, it was already lunch time.

They ate at the Swedish restaurant in the IKEA then hauled their new furniture home to unload it.  Then they hit the Best Buy – spending nearly three hours there because Jack couldn’t make up his mind which TV he liked best, and then couldn’t decide which theatre system would be best.  Daniel didn’t really care, so he spent most of his time in the CD section.

Since Best Buy offered same-day delivery, Jack and Daniel made a very quick stop at the Home Depot to get the supplies Jack wanted for the fire pit and a brand new BBQ grill.  Then they went back to the house to unload it all and start putting furniture together – until they realized they had no tools.

A quick call to Sam brought about the entirety of SG1 descending on the house once again, much to Daniel’s bemusement.  Jack gave in when Teal’c proceeded to single-handedly start moving the large, heavy boxes containing their new bedroom furniture upstairs.  Mitchell and Daniel hauled the mattress upstairs and Cassie, Vala, Sam, and Jack picked up all the smaller, lighter stuff and carried it all up, too.

While Jack, Daniel, and Teal’c put together the bedroom, Sam and Cassie moved some of the living room around to make room for the arrival of the new sofa and armchairs the next day.  Vala and Cameron let in the delivery people when they arrived and assisted in directing them to move in the TV and all the rest.  Then Sam and Mitchell handily set it all up.

Unsurprising, with all the extra help, Jack and Daniel soon had a house to live in.  Okay, so maybe they still had to sit on the floors to eat or watch TV, but that was only for another day.

They ordered pizza for supper, and had a wonderful time eating like a bunch of teenagers on the living room floor.

“So guys,” Sam glanced at the two men curiously.  “When are you letting General Landry know what you’ve decided?  Oh!  And have you told General Hammond, yet?”

Jack flushed at the idea of telling his former CO (and now good friend) about his and Daniel’s new relationship status.  The man was practically Daniel’s father for crying’ out loud!  George had certainly looked upon Daniel as such over the years.  He glanced at his partner for his reaction and snickered at the deep red the poor linguist had turned.  At least I’m not the only one, Jack thought, to be embarrassed by the prospect.

“I’m supposed to let Hank know tomorrow what the plan will be for certain.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m telling him everything,” Jack stressed pointedly, “nor that any changes will happen immediately.  These kinds of things rarely happen in the middle of a campaign, after all, and there are other considerations that have to be taken care of first anyway.”  Jack took a swig of his beer.  “As for George…I guess I’ll find some way to break the news to him, though I don’t know how he’ll take it.”  Visions of angry father-figures with shot-guns and a Texas accent that grew thicker with rage chased through his mind’s eye and he shivered.

Daniel, mouth full of pizza to keep from having to comment, patted his partner on the leg sympathetically.

“Wait…what changes?”  Cam asked, pausing in mid-sip of his own beer.

“Have you decided to return to us, O’Neill, and fight as SG1’s leader once more?”  Teal’c inquired, a raised eyebrow that translated to ‘hopeful’ shooting up.

Jack scratched his head.  “Kind of.  Didn’t I explain all this to you guys already?”

“Jack…you’ve barely explained it to me.”  Daniel reminded him, rolling his eyes.

“Sorry, sir, but you didn’t really say anything beyond having a plan and things about the house.”  Sam informed him.

“Oh.  Well, it’s like this…I had a nice long chat with President Hayes.  I explained what I wanted, where I’d much rather be, and with whom…and then I explained my entire plan to him.  He understood and agreed to the plan, providing the necessary parties involved all agreed to it – like Landry, and of course, Daniel.”

The triple doctorate in the room caught the truly amazing part of that statement and squawked, “The President?!  You told the President?!” after inelegantly spewing the mouthful of Guinness all over Jack in horrified shock.

“Uh…yeah.”  Jack blinked and took the napkins Cassie handed him to mop up the exclamation.  “Don’t worry, though, Danny.  He’s not going to issue a press release or anything.  In fact he’s offered his protection from any official reprisals.”

Cam whistled loudly, impressed.

“Wow, sir.”  Sam looked quite impressed also.  But she supposed if anyone had ever earned such protection it would be these two heroes.

Teal’c merely nodded his approval.

Still stunned and amazed, Daniel managed to speak without the squeaky catch in his voice.  “Tell them the rest of it, Jack.  They actually can probably help us out with a lot of things when the time comes.”

So the General did.  All of it.  His people listened intently, without interrupting, and when he finally said, “So…yeah.  I think that was it.” And looked at Daniel questioningly, it was all the linguist could do not to simply throw himself at Jack and kiss him insensate right then and there.

“You really are a schemer, Jack O’Neill.”  Daniel shook his head in awe and wonder.

“I prefer ‘strategist,’ thank you very much.”

“This is great!  I finally get to serve with all of SG1!” Cam exclaimed, rubbing his hands together gleefully.  It was his dream come true, after all.  “The band’ll be completely back together!”

“Indeed.  I will be most glad to have you return to us, O’Neill.”  Teal’c added.  The slight smile on his face was a sight to behold, so rare as it was.

Sam snickered at the starry-eyed gleam in Mitchell’s eyes and patted him on the shoulder.  “Cam, my friend, believe me when I say that the shine wears off after about two briefings with these two.”  She gestured at Daniel and Jack – who gave her identical twin expressions of “who, us?” before exchanging looks of their own.

“What are you trying to say, Carter?”  Jack demanded, flicking his bottle cap at her.

“You and DanielJackson are quite vociferous in your…discussions at most briefings, O’Neill.”  Teal’c informed him.

Daniel smiled, polishing off his beer and setting the bottle aside.  “Ah, the good old days.  Although I suppose I’ll have to work harder to convince you that I really do need more time to study the new stuff we find on missions and to explore new temples and such.”

Jack rolled his eyes.  “Whatever, Dr. Jackson.  You’ll have more than enough to deal with, too, ya know, what with your promotion and all.  Don’t you forget about that.”

Daniel made a face.  “Oh yes, and thanks so much for that, Jack.  I didn’t need it.”  His voice dripped with sarcasm.

“All it really means is a change in title and official position in the command structure, Daniel, not in any duties or responsibilities.”

“Besides,” Sam added softly, “After all you’ve done for not only the SGC but the whole planet…it’s a long time in coming.  Atlantis should have been yours, Daniel.”

Shamefaced, Daniel hung his head for a moment.  “No, Sam.  I’m an academic not on administrator or commander.  Sure, I wanted to go to Atlantis – to see what we worked so hard to find, what we nearly lost Jack – and you – to find.  To study the greatest achievement of the Ancients and maybe learn something that could end the fighting and give us peace.  But I never wanted to be in charge.  “No…Elizabeth was the right one for the job.”

“I’d never have let you go.”  Jack huffed, reaching out to take Daniel’s hand.  “Not without the rest of us, anyway.”

Daniel squeezed Jack’s fingers.

“Well, we can all go check out that Atlantis place much more thoroughly after we’ve done something about the Ori.”  Vala announced, tossing her hair over her shoulder.  “From what I saw on our brief stop there, it seemed like a good place to go treasure hunting.”

“Hell, when we’re done with the Ori, I say we go on vacation.”  Cam laughed, lounging back against the wall comfortably.  “Anybody know any good planets with lots of beaches?”

“Sun, sand, and surf, huh?”  Sam shook her head.  “Not that I can remember, but I’m sure we can find something.”

“Argos.”  Jack said.

“No.  Kynthia.”  Daniel stamped on that idea immediately.

“He has point, sir.  You escaped marriage by a hair.”  Sam reminded him.

“Oh.  Right.  Nearly forgot about that.”  Jack scratched at his temple and gave Daniel an apologetic look.

~*~*~*~*~

          They spent a final night on-base, and early the next morning, Daniel went back to the house – taking several boxes of his things (like clothes and a few books) with him – so that he’d be around to accept the deliveries they were expecting of their furniture.  Jack saw him off then made his way back down to Landry’s office.  He rapped lightly on the door and waited.

“Jack!  Come in, come in.”  Hank waved the other man inside and gestured at the chairs in front of his desk.  “Have a seat.  I just have to sign off on these req-forms…”

“You know, that’s the one downside to taking this job back.”  Jack mused, eyeing Hank’s in-box and the stack of folders and papers waiting for the Commander’s attention.  “All that paperwork.”

“It’s less than you deal with now.”  Landry pointed out, closing the file and dropping it onto his out-box.  “There.  Done for now.  So!” he folded his hands in front of himself on the desk and gazed expectantly at Jack.  “I take it you’re here to give me your good news?”

Jack nodded.  “Yep.  Have you had a chance to think about it, Hank?  I mean, I don’t want to…”

“I’ve thought.  I talked to Carolyn and I even talked to the President.”  Landry interrupted, smiling a little.  “My daughter was a little put out that you were going to ship me off to Washington now when we’re starting to mend a few fences between us.  But…she also thinks it’s a good thing.”

“I’m sorry, Hank.”  Jack grimaced, looking very apologetic.  “I really am.  I didn’t realize it was going to be such an issue for you.”

“Oh no.”  Landry huffed.  “She’s alright with it, and so am I – or I will be after you hear what Hayes and I discussed over the weekend.”

Jack quirked an eyebrow.  “Pray tell?”

“He’s still on board with your Plan, Jack.”  Hank reassured, getting up and moving to close both doors to his office.  “But it may not happen as soon as you’d originally hoped.”

“What do you mean?”

Landry sat back down at his desk.  “I had eight teams return home over the last two days, Jack.  Five of those reported another ten planets falling to the Priors and the Ori.  The other three teams were on covert ops, and reported sightings of either Ori ships or Priors coming by Stargate.”  He paused letting that sink in.  “It’s escalating.  And there’s not a thing we can do to stop it.  Yet.  I firmly believe we’ll find a way somehow.  So does President Hayes.  On that we share agreement and hope.

“Another thing we agreed on was that changing up the administration and command of the SGC at this ever increasingly dire time in the campaign would be in no one’s best interest.  Hayes thinks – and I agreed – that we should continue on as we have been until this whole Ori situation is over.  One way or another.”

Jack frowned.  He didn’t like it, even if he reluctantly had to agree.  “I don’t like it, but that’s purely as personal thing.”

“I figured.  And…I said as much to our Commander-In-Chief.”  Hank sighed, watching Jack fiddle with the little flag on his desk.  “Lucky for you, he had a fairly good idea that should satisfy you in the interim.”

Whiskey brown eyes flicked up with interest.  “Oh?”

“Hayes said there was no rule that said your command had to be based in Washington.  It is, after all, a super-secret posting that no one knows exists outside a few politicians.  He said you could continue on just fine from here at the Mountain and do just as well as – if not better than – you did in Washington.”  Hank grinned at the expression Jack’s face.

“Just pick up shop and move, huh?  Ya know, the only reason I didn’t vote for Hayes the first time was because of Kinsey.  But I’m sure glad the man proved me wrong.”  Jack rubbed his hands together eagerly.  “And you’re alright with this?”

“Glad to have you, Jack.”  Hank assured him.  “Oh, and as for Dr. Jackson…”

“Daniel?  What about him?”

His promotion can still happen on schedule, seeing as how he deserves the recognition – earned it a long time ago, too – and that he wouldn’t actually be gaining any new responsibilities…”

Jack sighed happily, folding his hands behind his head and leaning back is the chair as he shared a thoroughly pleased look with Landry.  “Then so it shall be.”

“Amen.”  Hank looked thoughtful for a moment.  “We’ll have to find you a good place for your office.  You and your assistant.”

“I thought there were offices on Level 5 for Homeworld Security.”  Jack said, making a face at the thought of still having to find an assistant. “And you don’t need Walter anymore, do you?”

“There are but I think you’d be happier closer to the action – more efficient, too.  And the Chief is just fine where he is.  Go find your own assistant O’Neill.”  Hank chuckled.

“Nuts.  Well…maybe I can convince Davis to stick around if it means coming back to the SGC.”  Jack mused.  He decided to ask the man as soon as he had the chance.  “When he’s not off-world with SG9…”

“There hasn’t been much for SG9 to do lately in the way of diplomacy, Jack.  I don’t think Davis will mind too much if you actually put him to work and use his real skills.”

“Yeah.  Well, he’s one of the few who know how I operate so he knows how to work with me.”  Jack sighed dramatically, pushing to his feet.

Hank chuckled and reached for a new stack of paperwork.  “You certainly left me with a legend to fall around here, General O’Neill.”

Jack paused, hand on the door knob of Landry’s office door.  “You’ve done a really great job, Hank.  Don’t ever think you haven’t, and for god’s sake don’t think I’m asking you to take HWS because I…”

“Jack, Jack…Relax.  I understand perfectly well why you’re doing what you’re doing.”  Hank waved Jack’s reassurances aside.  “Besides, do you honestly think that I – or the President, for that matter – would have agreed to any of this if we didn’t think it was a good idea and that you didn’t deserve it?”

Looking sheepish, Jack ran his fingers through his short, silvered hair.  “Okay.  I just…” he stopped at Hank’s stare (one he’d apparently learned from Teal’c).  “Thanks, Hank.”

“Not a problem.  Now go away!  I’m sure you’ve got a million things to do this week, though I expect my people back rested, well, and ready to go first thing on Monday.”

“I’ll make sure of it.”  Grinning, Jack offered a jaunty salute as he left the office.

~*~*~*~*~

          Daniel watched with a critical eye as the two young, overly-muscled men manhandled his new sofa through the front door and worked out the logistics to turn it around the corner and down into the living room.  “It might have been a better idea to bring it around back and inside through the patio doors…” he mused aloud to himself, wincing as he heard the wood of the door frame creaking ominously.  He just hoped nothing got busted or Jack would probably have a fit.

Thankfully this was the final delivery of the day.  The dining set of table, chairs, and sideboard had arrived earlier, and next the side tables and coffee table for the living room.  Now it was the sofa and armchairs.  Daniel was grateful that was it, because he really just wanted it all in place when Jack came back so they could just enjoy the house together for the first night, alone.  And he very much wanted to start living here with Jack, to begin their new life together and to turn the house into their home.

Daniel sighed in relief when the delivery guys managed to get the long sofa into the living room without damaging anything.  He glanced at the open door when he heard a vehicle drive into the car park but couldn’t see past the delivery truck to see who it was.  Assuming it was Jack or one of his teammates, Daniel left the door open and went to help the delivery guys tear off the packing plastic and wrap from his new sofa, and direct them to where he wanted it placed (even though he suspected it would get moved again later when Jack saw it, as the General was as particular about his furniture placement as any Feng Shui master).

The delivery guys left to fetch the sofa armchairs and Daniel was standing, his back to the front door, admiring his new sofa when there was a loud knocking on the door and a questioning.  “Dr. Jackson?” in a familiar Texas twang.  Whirling in surprise, Daniel gaped up at his former Commander.

“General Hammond!” he exclaimed, blue eyes wide behind his glasses, “Sir!  What are you doing here?  I mean…it’s great to see you and what a surprise!”

Hammond chuckled, his eyes crinkling with mirth. “Hello, son.  Sorry to drop by so unexpectedly, but I heard from Hank Landry that Jack was in the Springs and that you were moving into his old house this week, so I thought I’d pay a visit while in town.”

Daniel’s eyebrows did their expressive little dance as all kinds of emotions flirted across his face until it settled into happiness and welcome.  He beamed at the General and beckoned him inside.  “Well it is very good to see you again, sir.  Come in, please!  And forgive the disaster zone.”

“Thank you, Daniel.  And don’t make me remind you like I do Jack that it’s ‘George.’”  Hammond came in and clasped Daniel’s outstretched hand firmly, shaking it.

Sheepish, the linguist laughed.  “Yes, well, I think it’s all habit.  I don’t think either Jack or I will ever stop calling you, ‘Sir,’ no matter how hard we try.”  Daniel gestured at the sofa.  “Take a load off, George, and break it in!  Can I get you anything?  I know there’s Guinness left in the kitchen…”

“Yes, please.”  Hammond sat on the sofa just as the delivery guys brought in the first of the armchairs.  “But finish up with these gentlemen first, Daniel.  I’m in no great hurry and I did drop by unexpectedly.”

“Oh it’s no trouble, sir.  You’re always welcome.”  Daniel assured him, heading for the kitchen to grab the Guinness bottles. ”Jack should be back anytime.  He had a meeting with General Landry.”  He popped the caps off the bottles, walked back over to his guest in the living room and handed one to Hammond.  “Slaïnte.”

“Thank you, and ditto.”

They took a healthy drink after saluting each other with the bottles.

After the delivery guys brought in, unpacked, and set up the armchairs, they left with a generous tip from Daniel for all their hard work.  He rejoined Hammond in the living room, trying out one of the new armchairs with a happy little sigh.  “Oh yeah.  So much better than those chairs on base…”

Hammond chuckled, smiling fondly at the younger man.  “I imagine that those will make recovery time – God forbid you ever need recovery time again though – just a little easier.”

Daniel smiled wryly.  “Funny, ‘cause Jack said pretty much the something when we…uh, I bought them.”  Inwardly cringing at the near slip, the linguist kept talking in the hope that Hammond wouldn’t notice.  “Jack helped pick them out, and even Teal’c fits in one of these comfortably.”  And now a change of subject, as smoothly as could be.  “So you’re visiting your daughter and grandkids, George?  How are they?”

If Hammond caught on to the change of subject, he gave no sign and let it go.  “They’re all doing wonderfully.  Kayla got into swimming recently.”

“As in lessons?”

“No, competitive.  She wants to join the Swim Club.”

“Wow.  Good for her.”  Daniel smiled at the proud expression on Hammond’s jovial face.

“Yes, she’s quite excited about it.  And, while I’d come out to see my girls, I also had some business at the Academy.”  George took a sip of his Guinness, meeting the linguist’s gaze.  “I heard about your new team, Daniel, and I couldn’t have been happier to hear you’d talked the IOA into it.”

Daniel flushed but smiled. “I was rather surprised, myself.  I didn’t think they’d go for the expense.”

“Son, if anyone can talk that bunch of miserly penny-pinchers into something, it’s you.  You’ve always underestimated your ability to negotiate and come to terms with such people.  I’ve certainly seen you do so many, many times.”

Daniel shrugged, picking absently at the label on his bottle.  He didn’t really know what to say to that, except, “I just try to do my job and what’s good for the programme, sir.”

Hammond smiled kindly, yet a little sadly.  “Well, I’m certain that as long as you keep on doing so, the world and the programme will always benefit.”

The redness to Daniel’s face spoke plenty about how hearing such praise truly affected him – and that he still didn’t fully believe it.  Daniel let it drop, though, and nodded before taking a real chug of his Guinness.

Topics moved onto less serious areas of conversation, much to the archaeologist’s relief.  And Daniel – running out of such safe topics to use for small talk – was just contemplating calling Jack’s cell to find out where the hell he’d disappeared to when the man himself finally came in, as boisterous as always.

“Daniel!  I’m back!  Where’re ya at, Dannyboy?”  He called out as he noisily burst through the front door laden down with grocery bags.  He had yet to turn in the direction of the living room, and thus saw neither his mate nor Hammond.  Instead, he moved on into the kitchen from the entry hall to put down all his purchases, continuing with, “Come to the kitchen, where ever you are!”

Rolling his eyes and smiling apologetically at their former CO, Daniel rose and hurried off to the kitchen at Hammond’s grinning ‘shoo’ motion.

“Jack…” he said, eyeing all the stuff Jack was pulling out of the bags. “Jack, we…”

“Hey!  There you are.  So did the furniture show up?  Can’t wait to lounge in real comfort with the game on our new TV!”  Jack beamed like a kid, rubbing his hands together gleefully.  “Or the History Channel, or Discovery, or whatever you want…” he hastily amended at Daniels’ raised eyebrow.

“Jack, I don’t really care.  You know I’m not big on the boob-tube.  I could live without just fine, thanks.  But forget that.”  Daniel waved that aside, trying to alert Jack to their guest.

“What?  Dying to know what Landry said, I suppose.”  Jack nodded, continuing to empty out bags onto the counter.  “Actually, we do have to talk about that, but let’s deal with this stuff first, then figure out something to eat.”

With an exasperated sigh, Daniel grabbed onto Jack by the biceps and forcibly whirled his startled partner to face the living room.  “Jack!  We have company!  Quit babbling long enough for me to say so!”

Jack blinked, tensing at the sight of a familiar bald head – even if it was the backside.  “Shit!”  He hissed at a whisper.  “Why the hell didn’t you say so earlier?!”

“I would have but you wouldn’t give me a chance.”  Daniel grumbled, following the older man out to greet their guest.

“General!”  Jack exclaimed exuberantly, wide, wide smile on his face in welcome.  “What a surprise!  How’s it going, George?”

Hammond stood, accepting Jack’s offered hand to pump it strongly in greeting.  “Jack.  Quite well, thanks.  How’re you doing?”  He sat back down, winking at Daniel, whose wry expression made him chuckle.  Honestly, these two never, ever changed, and thank God for it.

“I’ll finish putting stuff away.”  Daniel said, intending to escape to the kitchen.  He’d let Jack deal with the situation for a while.  “Oh, did you want another Guinness, sir?” he asked before leaving.

“No, thank you, son.  I think I’m good for a while.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah sure you betcha.”  Jack plunked down in an armchair – the same one Daniel had occupied earlier.  Daniel slipped away momentarily, returning with Jack’s Guinness before disappearing again.

“So, Jack, how’s life in Washington treating you?  You look much less…stressed than the last time I saw you.”  Hammond commented, studying the other General’s face.  He had changed quite a bit in the past decade or so since they’d served in the programme; his face was a little more worn, weathered, and lined, his hair was almost totally silver now, and his years flying a desk had taken its toll subtly on Jack’s physique (though he was still quite lean and muscular).  But rather than the frown lines at his brow there were crinkles at his eyes and mouth, and Jack smiled more easily with real contentment than he ever had in the time Hammond had known him.  And while his former SIC regaled him with tales of Washington, Hammond thought he had a pretty darned good idea for the reason Jack O’Neill was at peace with himself.  Finally.

That reason sauntered back into the living room to rejoin them in the middle of Jack’s complaint about his lack of quality assistants.  Daniel dropped into the vacant armchair.

“Oh please, Jack.  You terrorize every one of those poor souls so badly that it’s no wonder they prefer any assignment other than you.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault that the quality of today’s administrators is so low!”  Jack retorted, sniffing indignantly.  “Not to mention that all the good ones are already taken.  I only have the dregs left to choose from.”

“Right.”  Daniel obviously didn’t agree.  “You know you only do it because you don’t have the Marines, the new SGC recruits, or me to pick on anymore.”

Jack scowled, slouching in his seat.  “I never did such a thing!  Especially not to you, Dr. Jackson!”

“Let’s not get into that.”  Daniel moved away from the subject, raising an eyebrow at Jack in warning.  “The point is that you’re coming back to the SGC and you’ll have plenty of helpful people around – and the Marines, the new SGC recruits, and Mitchell (instead of me) to pick on.  So stop complaining.”

“Coming back?”  Hammond jumped in at that piece of news, content until then to listen to them banter and argue again – for old times’ sake.  “Care to elaborate, gentlemen?”

Jack, on reflexes so ingrained after all these years, came to attention in his seat at the commanding tone in Hammond’s voice.  He couldn’t help it!  “Yes, sir!  It’s all my fault, sir.”

“I figured that much.  Relax, Jack.  I’m not your CO anymore.”  Hammond gave the other General a curious look that had more than a little understanding in it.  “I wondered how long it would take for you to have enough of D.C., Jack.  What prompted it now, though?”

Jack relaxed with a grimace (at himself), but seemed to flounder for an explanation that wouldn’t sound completely selfish, wouldn’t give away his true reason (Daniel), and would be plausible.

Watching his best friend and partner flail, as entertaining as it was, Daniel decided to take pity on him.  “Jack is wasted on the Pentagon, sir.  We all know he’s much more useful on the front lines commanding than sitting behind a desk pushing a pencil.  And…is it so bad that he wanted to come home?”  Daniel refused to look at Jack as he spoke, though he could see the astonishment on his face even off to the side in his peripheral vision.  “He’s done more than enough to have earned the right to pick and choose his post.”

Hammond smiled easily and held up a hand.  “I would never say otherwise, Daniel.  In fact I’d be among the first to say the same.  I only wonder why he waited until now to actually take that initiative for himself, why he stuck it out for two years.”  He paused thoughtfully, looked back and forth between the two men in the armchairs, then smiled again quite knowingly.  “Of course, I’m no spring chicken.  I’ve been around the block a few times, and I think I’ve a pretty good idea for Jack’s reasoning.”

The colour in both Jack and Daniel’s faces didn’t seem to know whether to drain completely or rush up to fill them.  They exchanged quick side glances, and luckily for Daniel, Jack managed to find his voice first and make it as even and without inflection as possible.

“You do, sir?  What?”

“Son, neither of you can fool me.  I’ve watched the two of you go through more than any one person should ever go through, and you did it together.  Always.  Whether you agreed or disagreed, whether you liked it or not, that was one thing that never changed.  And Jack, you know perfectly well that as Base Commander you know everything that goes on in that mountain.  Everything.  I often wondered when you’d realize certain things for yourself and then, when you did, I wondered how long it would be before you did anything about those things.”  Hammond shook his head, ignoring the way Daniel seemed to shrink into this seat in embarrassment and Jack’s smacked guppy impersonation.  “And when you took the HWS post, I honestly feared you never would.”

A long moment of silence stretched out between them before Daniel asked warily, in a quiet tone, “What exactly are you saying, sir?”

Hammond sighed, his smile melting into a very serious expression – but not an unkind one.  “I’ve known the two of you could be so much more than the close, best friends you are.  Of course I couldn’t say anything, being your CO, no matter how often I wanted to give you boys a shove in the right direction.  But at this point, in all our lives, with the state of the universe such as it is and life being that much more uncertain, I’m not particularly worried about breaking the DADT regs.”

Wide-eyed, Daniel croaked, “I see.”

Jack was looking a tad flustered, but courageously ploughed on.  “I’d never do anything to put Daniel or the SGC or the programme at risk, General.  I swear that if…if it should happen that being with Daniel clouds my judgment at any time for any reason…  I’ll retire immediately.  It won’t – I will do everything to make sure it doesn’t – but…”

“General O’Neill.”  Hammond halted his flow of promises quietly.  “Jack.  I know.  I don’t believe there will be issues, either.  If there’s one thing that’s painfully obvious after over a decade of serving with you and Daniel, it’s that you two are stronger together than apart.  I foresee nothing but benefits for us all by you two being back together.”

Swallowing hard, Daniel leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.  “So… you’re okay with…us?” he waved a finger between himself and Jack.

The smile was back as Hammond reclined comfortably in his spot on the sofa.  “Son, I’m an old Texan grandfather, and I’m a military man.  But I am no fool, nor am I homophobic bigot.  I don’t care who a person loves.  Because it’s love.  And I’ve seen far too many people hurt because of who they loved in my years in the military.  Stupid, senseless, and a tragic waste, all of it.  I can only say to the both of you…finally!  And congratulations.”

Blushing, Jack pushed to his feet and snapped to, giving Hammond a perfect salute.  “Thank you, sir.  You have no idea what that means to us, General.”

Hammond beamed fondly at them and rose, too, reaching out to offer a hand to Jack.  “Just take care of each other and be happy, Jack.”  He said, patting Jack on the shoulder heartily after a firm handshake.  “And of course, it goes without saying that if you hurt him, I’ll kill you myself.”

Smiling weakly at those visions of Hammond with a shotgun flew through his head once again, Jack nodded fervently.  “Of course, sir.  Wouldn’t have it any other way, George.”

~*~*~*~*~

          They said good evening to Hammond not long after, when he declined their invitation to join them for dinner.  Since it was just the two of them, it was late, and neither really felt like cooking now, Jack ordered out from O’Malley’s (which they could get away with because they made the order under Teal’c’s Tau’ri name, Murray, being still banned from the restaurant).

In the middle of his wonderfully fulfilling steak, Jack realized there was still one thing he had yet to show his mate.  Swallowing and chasing his last bite down with his Guinness, he pushed away from the table abruptly.  “I’ll be right back.” He stated, going to look for his jacket and the little Asgard anti-surveillance device.

Daniel’s fork paused halfway to his mouth when Jack seemed to suddenly leap up from the table.  “Jack?  You okay?”

“Fine!”  The General’s voice floated back from the hall.  “I forgot I have something to show you.”  Jack walked back in holding his jacket in one hand while he dug around in its pockets for something.

“Must be important, considering I figured nothing short of an Ori invasion would get you to leave your steak.”

The glimmer of amusement in Daniel’s eyes teased Jack lightly.  “Ha, ha.  No, really.  Ah ha!  Here it is.”  Jack pulled out the device triumphantly and set it on the table next to Daniel’s place mat.

An eyebrow went way up.  “Asgard communication device?”  Daniel picked it up and inspected it, the lines in his brow furrowing as they always did when he concentrated.

“Nope.  Let’s say it’s Thor’s idea of a house warming gift.  Or maybe a wedding present?”  Jack wasn’t sure his little pinky-grey buddy knew exactly why he agreed to make such a thing at Jack’s request, but hey!  The Asgard had a soft spot for SG1 – Jack and Daniel in particular.  Even if, in the end, they hadn’t been able to help the Asgard save themselves…from themselves.  “I talked him into making that for us a year or so ago, when I first conceived of my grand plan to win you over.”

“Ah.  What’s it do?”

“This right here is a kind of remote for the whole system – which Thor installed himself, from orbit, using Asgard beams.  It’s also a portable version.”  Jack informed him, pleased with the whole thing.  “Think of it as the ultimate security system.  No surveillance of any kind can be used on the property when this baby’s set, and there are Asgard sensors all over that, when set, will scan and identify anyone who sets foot on the property – and if it isn’t someone we give permission to come and go freely, then it’ll set off all kinds of alarms.”

“And,” Jack held out his hand and Daniel dropped the little device in his palm, “This remote, here, when we take it somewhere else, can act like an anti-surveillance system.  It has all kinds of different settings…there’s a manual Thor gave me somewhere.”

Daniel’s eyes were wide but intrigued.  “Wow, Jack.  That’s…really nifty.”

“Isn’t it?”  Jack beamed proudly.  “I told Thor I needed something that would guarantee our privacy, and this is what he did.”

The linguist smiled sadly, fondly remembering Thor and his people.  “I’m just sad that we can’t thank him.  He really was one of our best new friends we made going through that ‘Gate.”

Jack’s smile faded.  “Yeah.”  He agreed softly.  “I miss him.  I never really got to say goodbye.”

“None of us did.  Except Sam, since she was with him before he jumped ship just prior to the Ori attack.  It all happened too soon.”  Morose, Daniel fiddled with the remains of his supper on his plate.

“Well, I’m sure he and all the rest are still looking out for us.  And they did trust us with all their toys.”  Jack tried to lighten the mood again.  “Thor wouldn’t want us to sit around being sad because of him, right?”  He laid a hand over Daniel’s on the table.

“No.  He wouldn’t.”  the linguist had to give a small smile at that.  Picking up his glass of wine, he raised it in a toast.  “To our patrons the Asgard, and to our good friend Thor.  May they live in eternal peace from now on.”

“I’ll second that.”  Jack clinked his glass to Daniel’s lightly and they drank in honour of their former allies.

“Speaking of…” Daniel frowned to himself, watching the wine swirl in his glass.  “Everything they gave us…it’s still all on board Odyssey, right?”

Jack nodded, quirking an eyebrow.  “Yeah, so?”

“Do you honestly feel comfortable with that?  I mean…the legacy of the Asgard, the only remains of their entire race and civilization…all their knowledge, all their technology, and it’s all centred in one place.  On a ship that could very well be destroyed the next time it encounters an Ori ship.”

Frowning, Jack’s fork paused in mid-air half-way to his mouth.  Slowly, he put it down again.  “When you put it that way…  No.  I really don’t.  The only problem is that so much of the tech-stuff is built into the ship, integrated into its systems.  I’m not positive – you’d have to ask Carter – but I don’t believe most of that can be…uninstalled?”  Jack sighed.  “You’re right, Daniel.  We should be doing everything we can to preserve what they’ve trusted us with.  The problem is, without an Asgard to help us remove stuff, I’m not sure we can.”

Daniel shook his head.  “In their defence, they didn’t have enough time to teach us everything.  I think Thor might have done more if those Ori ships hadn’t found Orilla and Odyssey so soon.  He would at least have taught Sam all he could.  It was all they could do to get it all on board and install everything, make sure it was working.”

“Yeah.”  There wasn’t much Jack could say.

“I know I’m the scholar, but my real concern is the Asgard database.  Their knowledge.  If we could just…make several copies somehow and spread them out a bit, then their legacy would survive.”  Daniel made a frustrated sound.  “They’ve been the only one of the Four Races to be true allies and friends to us, Jack!  A truly advanced people that didn’t treat us entirely like we’re too dumb to understand, who decided we’re trustworthy enough to pass on the Galactic torch to.  There has to be something we can do!”

Jack got up and moved to stand behind his frustrated mate.  Dropping his hands on Daniel’s shoulders, he began to massage and knead the tension out of the scholar.  “I know.  And we’ll work on it.  We’ll think of something, Danny.  You’ll think of something.”

Groaning, Daniel let his head fall forward, chin to chest, as Jack’s hands worked magic on his muscles.  “Maybe…God, Jack.  Keep that up, flyboy…”

A slow grin spread over Jack’s face.  “Why Danny!  You’re a massage slut!  You know, I’d probably do a better job of this if you were horizontal.  Say…on the new bed we’re going to break in tonight?”  The smile turned smug as Daniel simply stood, grabbed his hand, and dragged him out of the dining room to the bedroom upstairs.  Yep.  He sure knew how to get his mate’s motor running.

Pure desire pulsed through Jack as he watched Daniel unceremoniously strip off, right down to the buff.  It was lust, certainly, and deep love (without question) but there was also a large dose of disbelief.  While Daniel yanked the covers back out of the way and crawled over the mattress to the middle of the bed to lie on his stomach in a hedonistic display that made Jack’s mouth go dry, the older man was trying to convince himself that it was real, he wasn’t dreaming, there was no alien anything making this up for him or messing with his head…

“Jack?  Hey…  That beloved voice drew his eyes up to meet a bright, concerned blue gaze.  “You okay?”

“Huh?  No, I’m fine.”  Jack shook himself mentally.  Hello!  What the hell was he doing standing here stupidly?  “Just…admiring the view.”  Save!  And the leer he managed to throw in was pretty good cover, too.

Or not.  Daniel wasn’t buying it; Jack could tell by the expression on his face – which included a raised eyebrow á la Teal’c.

The younger man frowned and pushed himself up on his forearms, turning just enough that he could pat the bed beside himself.  “Come here and sit, Jack.”  Obediently (only because he was thoroughly distracted by the acres of naked Daniel flesh spread out in front of him) Jack did so.  Daniel scooted back a bit so Jack could actually stretch out beside him on his back, staring up at the ceiling…until his vision was interrupted by Daniel’s face looking down at him from the side.

“Okay.  So what’s going on in that brain of yours, O’Neill?”  Daniel asked, propping himself up with one arm and one of the new, king-sized pillows.  “Did I do something wrong?  Say something?”

Brown eyes widened slightly.  “No!  No, not at all.  It’s not you at all…”  Jack rubbed a hand over his face, frustrated with himself.  He hadn’t expected to freeze up like this.

Daniel gave him a questioning look, and gently traced Jack’s facial features with an equally knowledgeable fingertip.  “It’s okay, you know.  If it’s too much, too soon…”

“No.  I want this, Danny.  God, so much!  I want you.”  Jack hurried to assure him.  “I just…I don’t know why it all of a sudden made me as nervous as a damn teenager, or why I’m having such a hard time believing that…that…you’re here.  That you want this – want me – and I just…”

Daniel’s whole face smiled very tenderly with total understanding.  “Ah.  Well, I guess that’s something I’ll have to work on isn’t it?  Because I do want you, Jack.”  His free hand left Jack’s cheek to find Jack’s hand and slide it down his side, over his hip, and under his pelvis to feel the growing evidence for himself.  A small gasp came from parted lips and blue eyes drifted closed a moment at that first touch.  Jack was mesmerized by all of it.  “Oh god…Jack, the only way I can prove it is if you and I…”

Jack took the hint, his hand becoming quite sure and setting up a slow, steady rhythmic stroking that had Daniel rolling onto his back and moaning in bliss.  Awed, Jack watched the build-up of pleasure in his lover – now he could actually say that – and wondered at the reality that he was doing this to Daniel, that he could do this to Daniel.  It was the most humbling experience in his life next to the first time he’d held his newborn son.

“J-Jack…Jack!”  Daniel ground out, grabbing the man by the wrist and forcing him to stop.  “Too close…” he panted heavily, blue eyes gone nearly solid black and glanced with pleasure.  Reaching for Jack’s shirt, Daniel started to wrestle the garment off the older man with a lusty, possessive growl.  That sound burst Jack’s focus like a bubble and within seconds they had him stripped bare.  As Daniel swiftly moved to straddle Jack and claim a kiss that absolutely scorched, Jack reached under the pillows awkwardly and felt around for the tube of Astroglide he’d stashed when Daniel wasn’t looking while setting up the bed and other stuff in the room.

It took several tries and more than a few moments to find it, since he was so distracted with kissing Daniel and touching him with the other hand everywhere he possibly could reach.  And he was so hard it was nearly impossible to concentrate on anything but not exploding like that sun Carter once blew up – because this had been a long time in coming, had been pent up and corked for so long, and everything Daniel did was with such intensity and focus it was nearly overwhelming.  Jack loved it.

“Ughn..oh god, Danny!  Enough, enough…” Jack tried pushing Daniel away for a moment (with great, reluctant difficulty).  Finally, his fingers closed around the lube just as Daniel pushed himself up and back to stare down into Jack’s eyes.  “Here.”  Jack panted, shoving the tube at the younger man.  “I don’t know…that we can manage the heavy stuff right now…” he glanced down between them, noting their copiously weeping erections and the tension of muscles holding back.  “But I’m sure that’ll still be useful.”

Daniel’s eyes widened at the knowledge that Jack had been thinking ahead enough to get supplies.  “Didn’t know you were a boy scout, Jack.”  He grinned, opening the tube.  A shiver went through the hardened, worn body under him at the husky, teasing croon of his voice.

“Oh, I wasn’t.”  Jack’s answering grin was perfectly wicked and he dropped his hands to Daniel’s toned thighs as the linguist sat up, still straddling Jack’s waist.  He slowly slid his palms upward as he spoke, stroking damp skin with appreciation.  “You know me; I’m just practical that way.”

“And horny.”  Daniel warmed the lube and raised an eyebrow at his lover.

“And that.”  Jack agreed, totally unrepentant.  It was an education watching Daniel dribble the gel-like lubricant into his palm then carefully coat first his own erection (biting into his bottom lip to hold back the moan) then Jack’s (whose fingers dug into Daniel’s legs hard enough to leave little imprints).  “Danny…my god you’re beautiful like this…”

Daniel’s eyes closed to half-mast, the barest hint of blue still visible.  Falling forward and shifting until he was pressed almost chest-to-chest with Jack, their cocks slipping along-side each other into their bellies with fantastic friction, he smiled and nibbled at Jack’s mouth eagerly.  “So are you.  We’ve waited so long for this, Jack…don’t hold back!”

The older man’s arms curled around Daniel, pulling him close, and Jack captured Daniel’s mouth in a brief, hard, deep kiss.  When he released the linguist’s lips, he replied hoarsely.  “Never, love.  I’m yours, so do what you want with me.”

Daniel made a throaty noise and began to move, hips rocking and pushing just enough into Jack’s.  When Jack’s hands smoothed down his back to grip his hips and Jack began moving in counterpoint to Daniel’s movements, the younger man let out a whimper and buried his face in Jack’s neck, muffling his cries as the pleasures began to escalate.

They’d both known it would be over quickly, though it was Daniel who lost it first.  His whole body shook with the tremors of his orgasm, his shattered moan of completion muffled in the pillow under Jack’s head next to his ear.  All that, plus the sight and scent of it, was more than enough to pull Jack’s orgasm out of him so hard he very nearly bucked his lover off with the first jerk of his body as he came with a hoarse cry of Daniel’s name.

When the stars faded and his head came out of orbit, Daniel mustered the energy to fall to one side, removing his bulk from crushing Jack, still lying insensate beneath him.  Once he’d stopped panting for breath and his body cooled down, Daniel blinked lethargically, while a slow, sated, and sappy grin began to spread across his face.  He trailed a finger through the sticky mess on his stomach and began to chuckle – a joyous sound that dragged Jack out of his stupor with a rather smug grin of his own.

The General rolled toward him.  “Oh yeah.  We so needed that.”  He grinned at the snort of laughter from his bed-mate.  “And you’re just silly in a post-coital moment, I see.”

“Not silly.”  Daniel protested, swallowing back his laughter.  “I’m happy.”  He turned to face Jack and ran his non-sticky fingers through Jack’s silver hair affectionately.  “I think for the first time in…years, I’m happy.”

Whiskey brown eyes went unbelievably soft, crinkling at the corners as Jack smiled back.  He draped an arm about Daniel’s waist and wriggled closer.  “You have no idea how much that means to me, Danny.  I’ve wanted nothing more than for you to be happy since…since our first mission as SG1 so long ago.  And that I can do that for you?”  Jack let him see the wonder and humility it caused in him.  “I’m so lucky it’s criminal.”

“I love you.”  Daniel murmured self-consciously at the sap quotient.  He moved closer to Jack and kissed him languidly, with all the emotion he had for this man who made his life worth living.  Not even the Stargate could do that for him anymore.  It was still a thrill every time, but nothing compared to how Jack made him feel.

Wrapping his arms firmly around the younger man, Jack plastered them together as tightly as he could in a full-body embrace.  “I love you, too.” He breathed with a heartfelt sigh as they curled around one another, sleep weighing them down into unconsciousness.

~*~*~*~*~

Chapter III

They made love twice that night.  It was awkward at times – both needing to remember the mechanics and to get fully acquainted with each other’s bodies until the goal was achieved – and there was a lot of laughter, something neither would have expected of sex with the other man.  Daniel felt obliged to point out that now that they had the hang of it and got their limbs and bodies coordinated, sex would get much easier and less acrobatic.

Jack followed that idea with a comment about throwing out half the Gay Kama Sutra then, and a pout that made his archaeologist laugh until his sides hurt.  When he stopped snickering, Daniel promised they’d only get acrobatic in attempts for that rather than because they had trouble with legs in the wrong places and elbows to the ribs (or head) at the wrong time.

The next morning at brunch (since it was nearly noon by the time they got up and Daniel had his first pot of coffee for the day), Jack realized he had a lot of loose ends to tie up, now that he was officially staying in the Springs and at the SGC.  First order of business: his stuff back in D.C.

“I’m gonna have to go back and get it all, Daniel.”  He pointed out.  “Not that the USAF won’t pack it up and get it here for me, but…there’s some personal stuff that I don’t trust strangers to pack.”

“Such as?”  Daniel asked curiously over his coffee mug.  They were sitting at the island counter, eating brunch.

“Some stuff that was Charlie’s mainly.”  Jack stared down at his now empty plate.  “And a few other odds and ends.”

“Ah.”  Understanding, Daniel took a sip of his java.  “Well, why don’t we go?  I don’t have to be back until Monday, right?”

Jack smiled.  “You’d come with?”

“Of course.”

“Okay.  I’ll get us there, you call Landry and let him know you’re leaving town so they aren’t panicking when they can’t find us should something happen.”  Jack planted a noisy, wet smooch on Daniel’s cheek as he stood up.  His mate grimaced and wiped at the damp spot, but didn’t complain.  He was too used to Jack’s quirky sense of humour and affectionate ways.

~*~*~*~*~

          Two hours and a handful of phone calls later, they’d dressed, packed overnight bags (just in case it took longer than expected to do the packing), and were now standing in their backyard awaiting their transport to Washington.

“Jack, seriously.  This has to be some sort of flagrant misuse of power.”  Daniel grumbled, eyeing his partner – the Major General – with a disapproving stare.

“It is not, Daniel.”  Jack rolled his eyes.  “What would you have me do?  Call the President and ask permission first?  Like I’m asking to borrow my parents’ car…” he muttered under his breath.  Daniel heard and scowled.

“I heard that.  And yes, maybe you should call Hayes.”

“Well tough Tok’ras, Danny-boy, because I’m not gonna.  So get over it.”  Jack declared stubbornly.  He glanced at his watch.  “Any minute now…”

Daniel opened his mouth to deliver a rather pissy retort but never got to say it, as they were beamed aboard the Odyssey yet again – bags and all.

“General O’Neill!”  The welcoming voice of Odyssey’s Commander, Colonel Davidson, boomed.  “And Dr. Jackson!  Welcome aboard.”

“Colonel.”  Daniel greeted the man politely.

“Davidson!”  Jack returned the greeting with typical Jack charm.  “Thanks for the lift.”

“Not a problem, sir.  We’re actually just running through some training exercises and drills today, so this actually gives some of our newest crew the chance to learn and practice with the beam technology.”

“Good, good.  Glad we could help.”  Jack grinned, ignoring Daniel’s sigh of exasperation.

“So where can we put you down, sir?”  Davidson inquired.  “We were only told you needed to get to D.C. quickly.”

Jack scratched his head thoughtfully.  “My office in the Pentagon, I suppose.  Might as well deal with that first.”  He gave Daniel a glance in question.

“It’s your show, Jack. You’re the one moving shop.  I’m just along for the ride.”  Daniel smiled, all too innocently.  Jack didn’t trust that guileless expression one iota.

“And to make pithy, sarcastic comments to keep me on my toes.”  Jack added with his own brand of snark.  “If you didn’t want to come, ya could have just said so.”

They glared at each other until Davidson (obviously confused and trying to hide his amusement at their bickering) cleared his throat.

“Ah, yes sir, General.  The Pentagon it is.”  He gestured at the Major sitting at the controls, who began pushing buttons on her console.  “Good luck with it, sir, and just call when you’re ready to head back to the Springs.”

Jack nodded, smiled, and offered a salute, which he received in return.  Daniel just waved as the beams did their thing once more.

A brief, tingly sensation and moment of blankness and Daniel found himself standing in Jack’s cramped office in the Pentagon.  He blinked and looked around curiously.

Jack was already digging around in his desk, pulling stuff out of the drawers.

“So…why are we here, again?”  Daniel asked, picking up a statuette of a bald eagle he assumed Jack was using as a paperweight since it sat atop a large stack of papers.

“Because I have to get people started on packing up the HWS to move to the SGC…ASAP.”  Jack paused, thinking through what he just said.  “Good god, I have been here too long!  I’m starting to speak in acronyms.”  He shuddered in horror and reached for his phone on the desk.

Daniel snickered, setting the eagle down again.

“But first,” Jack picked up their handset of the red phone and pushed one button. “This is General O’Neill for the President.  No it’s not urgent but he will want to…thank you.”  Jack rolled his eyes and motioned for Daniel to sit down.

Shrugging, the linguist made himself comfortable in eh leather armchair in front of Jack’s desk, raising his feet to prop them up on the corner of the desk, ankles crossed for balance.  “The President?” he asked.

“I don’t think anyone’s told him yet that you accepted…the promotion.”  Jack caught himself in time from saying ‘my proposal.’  But from his partner’s nod, Daniel understood anyway.  “And that the rest of the plan is moving forward.”

“Ah.”

Jack’s attention shifted back to the phone.  “Yes, sir.  How are you?  Good, good.  No everything’s okay, Mr. President.  Very okay, as a matter of fact, which is why I’m calling.  Yes sir, exactly.”  Jack grinned, winking at Daniel.  “He’s right here, too.  Yes, Landry informed me about that change of plan.  Oh no, sir, not at all.  It’ll work out fine that way.  Are you sure you don’t mind Homeworld Security moving across the country, sir?”  Whatever Hayes said made Jack laugh.  “No, sir.  I think it will actually make Hank very happy to be able to stay in the Springs.  He’s grown rather attached.  Well, we’re in my office at the Pentagon right now, sir.  Yes, that’s what I thought I’d do first.  Odyssey?  Yes, sir, I will.  Okay, and thank you sir, again.  I’ll tell him.  Goodbye.”

“So how’s the President?”  Daniel inquired casually, as if chatting with major world leaders was an everyday occurrence. Come to think of it, it probably was – just not necessarily world leaders from Earth.”

“He’s fine.  Apparently I gave him a good excuse to get him out of a meeting with some senators that was giving him a migraine.”  Jack grinned.  “He’s very happy for us and told me to extend his heartfelt congratulations to you.”

“That’s nice.”  The blush belied his dry, neutral tone.  “I can’t believe you actually told him.”

“So you’ve said.”  Jack looked around the room and sighed.  “I’m also grateful he told me to task Odyssey with moving all these filing cabinets and all the other files and stuff from here to the SGC.  It would be a severe pain in the ass to go through all the paperwork to get this office moved the old fashioned way.”

“Shall I call Col. Davidson, or will you?”  Daniel asked with a raised, questioning eyebrow.

“I will.  No, you do that while I hunt down Davis and let him in on the fun and games.”  Jack headed for the door.

“What?  Wait!  I wasn’t serious, Jack!  I can’t issue orders to Odyssey.”  Daniel’s feet fell off the desk and he stood up hurriedly.  “I’m not…”

“Yes, Daniel, you can.  Well, these orders, anyway.  No, you have no such command in a combat situation unless every other ranking officer available…isn’t.”  Jack glanced over his shoulder at Daniel, explaining with gentle patience.  “But you have rank now.  Rank that comes with a few bonus privileges.  You got promoted, remember?”

Daniel – smacked guppy expression and all – floundered about, wide-eyed, for a moment before simply reaching for the phone.

Jack smiled to himself as he opened the door.  The President would never truly appreciate what giving Daniel a real voice among military minds could do for the programme…and the world.  Sure, it was still restricted to non-combat civilian only types of things, but it was all Daniel needed.

Outside his office in the small waiting room he found a painfully young Lieutenant he didn’t know, sitting at the desk that belonged to his non-existent assistant – currently meaning Davis.  Her back was to the door and Jack, typing away on the computer so she didn’t notice Jack was even there.

Raising an eyebrow suspiciously (someone he didn’t know outside his office – with access to computers belong to HWS?) Jack leaned against the doorframe with arms folded across his chest.  “Excuse me, Lieutenant, but who might you be?”

The poor woman nearly fell out of her chair as she jumped in surprised shock and spun around to look at him.  She also squeaked in an un-Lieutenant way.  “Gah!  My god!  Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!”  She clutched a hand to her heart, gasping.  Then she blinked, frowned, and narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him in return.  “And who are you?  How did you get in here?”  Her hand was reaching for the phone, obviously about to call for security.

“I’d be General O’Neill, Lieutenant, and I asked you a question.”  Jack straightened and pinned her with his best stare of command.  “You’re in my office and I don’t know you.  Explain.”

“I…General O’Neill?”  She was still frowning and looking uncertain, though she hadn’t picked up the phone yet.  “I have to ask for some proof of that.  I was told he was on leave and would not be back until Monday.”

Jack, unfazed, pulled out his military ID and walked over to the desk, handing it over.  “Now that we’ve established who I am, I’ll ask again – who are you?”

The Lieutenant looked at the ID, paled, and hastily stood up and to attention, snapping a smart salute.  “Sir!  Forgive my ignorance, General, sir!  I am Lieutenant Alexandra Keeley, USAF, sir!”

“And you’re in my office…because why?”

“I…I was assigned to your office, sir, as an assistant to the General of Homeworld Security, sir!”  Keeley looked confused, and a little afraid – like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  “I was told to report for duty as of this past Monday at 0800 hours, to learn the ropes – so to speak – and to familiarize myself with my duties in order to be as efficient and productive as possible upon the General’s return.  Sir!”

Jack sighed.  “Who gave you the assignment, Lieutenant?”

“Colonel Davis, sir. He recruited me from among General Vidrine’s staff.”

“I see.  At ease, Lieutenant Keeley.”  Jack ran a hand through his hair in exasperation.  “Great.  What am I going to do with you now?”  He muttered to himself, as Keeley stood at parade rest and waited for orders.

“Jack!”  Daniel appeared in his office doorway.  “Where’d you…oh.  Hello…” the linguist paused, taking in the new person and Jack’s slightly annoyed expression.

“Just a minute, Daniel.”  Jack waggled a finger in his direction, looking at his new assistant.  “Alright, Keeley, so where would Davis be at the moment, as do you know?”

“Yes, sir.”  She flipped open an appointment calendar on the desk.  “Col. Davis had a meeting with…a Richard Woolsey from the IOA and…”

“Woolsey?  Fantastic.  What is that little weasel doing now?”  Jack growled unhappily, glancing at an equally unhappy Daniel.

“Probably messing up my new team somehow.”  Daniel rolled his eyes.  “Or trying to.  Paul won’t let him get far.”

“Hmph.  I’m beginning to think Carter should have left him at the Gamma site with all those bugs.”

Daniel shuddered at the memory of those creatures that ultimately destroyed the Gamma site and drove nearly all life from the planet.  “Not even weasel-Woolsey deserves that, Jack.”

“You’re more forgiving than I.”  Jack turned back to Keeley.  “I take it you’ve been briefed on the programme, Lieutenant?”

“Mostly, yes, sir.  I haven’t quite finished reading the materials I was given.”

“Uh huh.  Well, I can imagine it’s a lot of reading and a lot to take in so suddenly.  Don’t worry!  You’ll catch up quickly enough.”  Jack glanced at the clock on the wall.  “Well, since I could give a rat’s…”

“Jack…” Daniel’s tone warned.

“…tail about Woolsey, Lieutenant!  Interrupt that meeting and get Col. Davis back here, ASAP.  Then go hunt up a few boxes.  We have a lot of packing to do and a relatively short time to do it.”  Jack waved a hand at the salute Keeley offered.  “And Lieutenant, I’m not so formal.  Relax with the salutes and stuff, please, at least out of formal situations.”

“Yes, sir.”  Keeley reached for the phone again, watching her boss head toward the other man – who waved and smiled at her over the General’s shoulder.  As she dialled Col. Davis’ cell number, she wondered just what she’d gotten into with this new posting.  She’d heard a lot of rumours about this office and this General…

“Davis.”  The officer’s voice said in her ear when he answered.

“Sir, it’s Lt. Keeley from Gen. O’Neill’s office.”

There was a sigh.  “Lieutenant, I’m still in a meeting.  I know it’s difficult learning all you need to in such a short amount of time, but surely you can manage without supervision for longer than…”

Keeley held the receiver away from herself to glare at it, insulted.  “Sir, the General is here and requires your immediate presence in his office.”  She interrupted as calmly and politely as she could.

“…a couple of…what?  He’s there?!”  She could hear the surprise and not a little exasperation in his tone.  “When did he arrive?”

“I don’t know, sir.  He just scared the…startled me quite badly when he came out of his office, Colonel.”  Keeley informed him, hastily rephrasing what she’d been about to say.  “I don’t even know how he got past me.”

Another sigh – this time a long-suffering one.  “Don’t worry, Lieutenant.  I doubt he was expecting to find you there, either.  Welcome to HWS.”

An impatient “Lieutenant!” was bellowed from her boss’ office and she cringed.  “Sir, I have to go.  I’m being…paged.  What can I tell the General?”

“I’m on my way.  ETA, ten minutes.”

“Very good, sir.”  Keeley hung up and hurried to the office door.  “Sir!  Col. Davis will be here in ten minutes!”

Jack, who already was pulling things off the walls and down from the shelves, spared a moment to glance at her, nod, and raise an eyebrow.  “Boxes?”

“Yes, sir!  I’ll go acquire some from Supply.”

Daniel, unnoticed in a corner, shook his head as she hurried away.  “No wonder your aides have all had themselves reassigned, Jack.  You’re down-right scary.”

“I am not.  You’ve never had the pleasure of being subjected to any of the military’s drill Sergeants.”  Jack huffed, shooting him a glare.  “I’m nothing, even if I can scare Jarheads shitless with a glare.”

“Which doesn’t scare me – and never has.”  Daniel retorted, not even looking at his partner.  “So quit trying to use it on me.”

“Gee.  Feel the love?”

“Shut up, Jack.”

A few minutes later, Keeley returned with several folded boxes – which she started unfolding and setting up for Jack, trying to be helpful.  Not long after, a harried and slightly harassed-looking Col. Paul Davis hurried into the room.

“General O’Neill!  I didn’t know you were coming back so soon!”  He blurted, flushing at his own tone – one that clearly said he wasn’t pleased at being so uninformed.  Thankfully, Jack chose to ignore that (something that could have been taken as insubordination).

“That’s because officially I’m not here, Davis.  I’m still on vacation.”  Jack drawled, stuffing the lid on a box and grabbing another.  Glancing at the man, who looked extremely confused as he took in the packing boxes, the office, and – finally – noticed Daniel over in one corner also packing away things with Keeley’s help, Jack took pity on Davis and gestured at a yet vacant seat.  “Have a seat, Colonel, and I’ll fill you in.”

“Hey, Paul.”  Daniel sent him a smile and wave.  “Don’t worry too much.  It’s just Jack pulling off one of his schemes.”

“Daniel.”

“Jack?”

“Hmph.”  The General ignored the twinkling innocence of his partner’s expression.

“Hey, Daniel.  Good to see you again.”  Paul replied, wondering if he ought to apply for leave himself.  And he’d worked with these men for years.

Jack opened his mouth, frowned and glanced at the Lieutenant, then asked, “Is Keeley cleared, Davis?”

“Yes, but she hasn’t been read in fully to the programme, yet.”  Paul blinked.

“Ah, well.  I’ll start off simple, then.  HWS – aka me – is moving to Cheyenne Mountain for the foreseeable future.  Hence,” Jack gestured at the disaster zone of his office, “the packing and why I sent for you.”

All the years and experience of politics and the weirdness of the programme paid off for Davis, keeping his expression neutral, calm, and vaguely interested.  In other words, he refrained from jumping to his feet screeching, “WHAT?!” in a manner un-officer-like.  Then again, in a way, he’d been expecting something like this for a long, long time.

“I see.  Would this be a part of that plan you were talking about before you left for your leave, sir?”  Davis inquired.

“Yep.  So…here’s the not-so-simple part: you’re a major part of this office and the programme, Davis, but whether or not you come along back to the Springs is entirely up to you.  If you feel you need to remain here in D.C., then I’ll set it up so that you do.  As…” Jack thought fast, snapping his fingers.  “…as what, Daniel?”

“HWS D.C. Liaison.”  Came the prompt reply in an amused voice.  “Or something like that.”

“Or something.”  Jack agreed, nodding.  “Anyway, you’re my right-hand man in this office, Davis, and you’ve earned the right to pick your posting – at least in my books you have.”

Davis goggled a bit, startled by the praise.  “I…thank you, sir.  I really try to be useful and do what’s good for the programme.”

Daniel moved to stand at the desk, placing his now full box on the stack on the floor. He smiled at the officer.  “We know.  We know the efforts you’ve made, the hard work and sacrifice you’ve put into this.  You’re one of us, Paul.  One of the old guard, so to speak.  A lot of our accomplishments would not have been made without you behind us, working behind the scenes and dealing with aspects of the programme we couldn’t , or didn’t want to, or simply had no ability to do so.  I mean, Kinsey?  Simmons?  Those two alone were enough to earn you medals for bravery.”

Jack nodded emphatically.  “Me, I’d have just shot the bastards after one minute of their self-righteous, greedy, power-hungry tirades.”

“I can’t say I didn’t want to…” Davis gave a wry smile, turning faintly pink at the praise from Daniel.

The General gave an easy smile, dropping down into his chair and raising his booted feet to rest on the desktop.  “Ahh…man.  I hate packing.  I’m so taking this chair, though.”

“You can’t take the chair, Jack.”  Daniel shook his head.

“Why not?”  An actual pout on the older man’s face made Davis have to try really hard not to stare – or laugh.  The whine in Jack’s tone didn’t help, either.  “Hammond did!”

“You’re not General Hammond.”

Jack scowled.  “You’re just saying that because I wouldn’t let you run off to Pegasus.”

“No-oo, I’m not.  Besides, Hammond took me along with his chair, remember?”  Daniel pointed out, drumming his fingers on Jack’s boot.  “And it was always George’s chair.  You thought of it that way, too.”

“Metaphorically!  I was hoping that Hammond ‘taking it back’ meant he was coming back to command the SGC!”  Jack protested, flicking a paperclip at Daniel petulantly.  “And I still can’t believe he just…commandeered you like that!  Without even asking me!”

“He doesn’t have to.  He out-ranks you.”  Daniel’s smile was serene – and smug.  He folded his arms.  “He could requisition any personnel or whatever he wants.  Including me, Walter, and his chair.”

“We really needed Walter around, too.  No one is as efficient as Walter.”  Jack grumbled.

Davis couldn’t hide the snicker that escaped, but quickly moved the subject along to distract his superior officer from taking offence.  “Which reminds me, sir, that if you’re moving then so will your new aide – unless you think General Landry will let you have Walter back.”

Jack made a face.  “He won’t.  I wouldn’t ask anyway.  Walter’s very good at what he does and enjoys where he is.  He keeps the rest of us organized.  And anyone returning from missions are quite reassured and relieved to hear his voice when they dial home.  Removing Walter would be bad for morale.”  He shifted his gaze around the room and pinned the confused, astonished, and extremely curious Lieutenant still in the room, standing near the door, with a look.  “So, Keeley, it looks like you’re getting much more than you anticipated with the new posting.”

“Yes, sir.  I mean, I don’t really understand at this juncture, but if you say so.”  Keeley raised her chin bravely, trying not to look as if she was totally clueless here.

“Simple.  Your choice is pretty much as Davis’ – since you’re so new that I don’t feel you should be dragged into this whole mess completely blind.  You can stay in D.C., where it’s safe and everything is normal.”  Jack sat up properly, dropping his feet to the floor and taking on his General persona.  “Or you can have the opportunity of all lifetimes, get in on the real action, and maybe do something meaningful for not just your country but for all mankind.”  He glanced from her to Davis and back again.  “I’ll give you 24 hours to decide.  Both of you.  For now, though, I need your help packing up here.  After which Daniel and I need to go pack up my personal stuff at the apartment.”

Keeley saluted smartly.  “I will go acquire more boxes, sir.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”  Jack waved her off.

“I’ll leave any computer files and such to you, Davis.  I wouldn’t have a clue.”  Jack eyed the computer on his desk like it was a Goa’uld.

“Yes, sir.  Do I need to arrange for transport?”  Davis stood, getting ready to go handle the computer files.

“Nope.  Odyssey and Davidson are standing by.”  Jack raised an eyebrow at Daniel, who nodded.

“He said to just yell when we’re ready and he’d send down a couple of beacons to tag the stuff we want beamed to the SGC.”

“Good, good.  Well!”  Jack jumped up, clapping his hands sharply.  “Let’s get this over with, gentlemen.”

~*~*~*~*~

          The remainder of the packing didn’t take as long as Jack thought it would.  The HWS was moved completely by dinner, and between Jack and Daniel the apartment was three-quarters packed and ready to go by the time Jack called it a night.

“That’s it!  I’m done.”  Jack tugged on Daniel’s shirt, trying to draw him away from where he was carefully wrapping Jack’s dishes in the kitchen before boxing them.  “We can finish tomorrow.”  He settled his hands on Daniel’s hips, moving closer and nuzzling behind Daniel’s ear with light kisses.

“I’m almost done here.  See?  One last cupboard full.”  Daniel put the newspaper-wrapped bowl in the box and let Jack turn him, raising his arms to drape them on his partner’s shoulders.  Smiling, he leaned in for a kiss.

“Mmmhmm…” Jack acknowledged, steering Daniel as he began walking him backward out of the kitchen and down the hall to his bedroom, his lips hardly leaving Daniel’s.  It was a tad uncoordinated (there was some stumbling and bumping into walls) but they go there.

They were too tired for anything fancy, but they managed for a good time to be had by all – and slept quite well afterward.

Early the next morning, a very rare event occurred.  Daniel was awake and up long before his lover – whose internal clock was set with all the precision of a Swiss-engineered timepiece.  The linguist watched Jack sleep for a while, perfectly content, then quietly got out of bed to shower and dress.  Then he slipped out to hunt down coffee and breakfast for them.

When Jack finally roused from the dead sleep he’d enjoyed, it was to the absence of Daniel’s warmth next to him and the tantalizing scents of freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked something that made his stomach growl.  Prying open his eyes, he blinked sleepily around the room until he spotted his missing bed mate.  “Hey.”  He rumbled huskily.

“Morning, sleeping beauty.”  Daniel grinned, delighted to be able to tease Jack for once.  He was sitting next to the bed on an armchair, his bare feet propped on the mattress, extra large steaming cup of coffee in his hand.  “I found breakfast, if you’d care to join me.”

“This I smell.”  Jack shoved himself up to a sitting position, letting his back prop up the headboard.  “Gimme.”

Daniel dropped his feet and handed over the other extra large cup of coffee before grabbing the bakery bag from the bedside table and getting up to move to join Jack on the bed.  “There’s a very nice bakery two blocks away.  They were just putting out their first batch of quiche when I walked in.”

Jack’s warm whiskey eyes lit up and he rooted around the bag for this prize.  “Excellent!”  Taking a large bite, he chewed and studied Daniel thoughtfully.  Swallowing, he commented, “Is the world ending?”

“What?  No, I don’t think so.”  Daniel glared at him with a confused frown, starting on his own quiche.

“It has to be, because the day you are up before moi in the morning must mean it’s Armageddon.”  Jack mused while Daniel sighed and slouched.  “Were pigs flying around out there?  Are snowballs now able to survive in Hell?”

“Shut up.”  Daniel smacked Jack’s bare leg where it peeked out of the covers.  “I’d have woken you, but you were sleeping so soundly and looked so peaceful…  You obviously needed the rest.”

Jack smiled and crooked a finger at him.  Daniel leaned down and over, and Jack slid his fingers through Daniel’s short, dusky-blonde hair to the back of his skull, pulling him in for a very thorough good morning kiss.  “Thank you.  For that, and for breakfast.”  He murmured against his mate’s lips.

“You’re welcome.”  Daniel returned, pulling away and licking said lips distractedly.

“So why were you up so early, anyway?  Didn’t you sleep well?”  Jack asked.

“Hmm?  Oh no, I slept quite well.  I don’t know why.”  Daniel shrugged, going back to his coffee and quiche.  “I had a weird dream last night, but it didn’t, you know, disturb my rest or anything.”

“Really?  What was it about?”  Jack raised an interested eyebrow, polishing off his quiche.

“Don’t remember.”  Daniel shook his head.  “I doubt it was significant, Jack.  Probably something I ate.”

“Yeah.”  Jack grinned, tossing the covers back and getting out of bed.  “I’ll shower and get dressed, then let’s finish the packing so we can get home.”

“And unpack.”  Daniel laughed, watching appreciatively as Jack presented him with an excellent view of his naked backside as the older man headed for the bathroom.  Sighing wistfully (they wouldn’t have time to fool around now) he got up and went out to the kitchen to finish that packing he’d left last night.

~*~*~*~*~

          The next few days were a bit of a whirlwind.  Monday morning arrived and Daniel wondered where in the world his leave went to.  He wasn’t complaining, though.  Oh no…  He didn’t think that he’d ever have much to complain about in life ever again now that he had Jack O’Neill with him as he’d always wanted.

And speaking of his smart-ass General…

“Danny!  You ready to go?”  Jack called from outside by the brand new truck he’d gone out and picked less than two days ago.  “You’re gonna be late for your first day back!”

The linguist rolled his eyes and stuffed his feet in his shoes, not bothering to do them up, and pulled the front door closed behind himself.  Juggling his laptop case (stuffed with more papers and a couple books as well as his laptop), a giant travel mug full of coffee, and his jacket, Daniel hurried to the truck’s passenger door.

“I just wanted to make sure I had everything.  I don’t know which would be worse: me being late for the briefing, or me being unprepared for it.”  He said as they got in and Jack started up his new toy with a happy, gleeful grin.

“Well, I think we’ll make it in time so that you’re neither.  Although…you’re frequently late for briefings anyway, so I doubt Landry would notice.”  Jack replied, backing out of the drive and heading for the Mountain.  Daniel gave him a mild scowl and decided his coffee was more interesting than the conversation.

Once there, Jack obtained new parking permits for his truck and parked in the reserved spot that still bore his name on the plate, even though he hadn’t been a regular attendee to the base for two years.  Landry admitted to holding onto it for Jack because he’d always had a sneaky suspicion that Jack would be back at the SGC someday.  “Besides,” Hank had drawled, “There aren’t any other high-ranking Generals or officers around here demanding their own parking spot.

During the elevator rides down to their individual offices (Jack’s new HWS office was now on Level 26, where some storage had been), Jack made Daniel promise to meet him in the Commissary at 1230 for lunch with SG1 – or he’d send Vala to drag him away from whatever he’d been doing.  Then he got off on 26 (met by and eager Lt. Keeley with coffee and his schedule, much to Jack’s consternation and Daniel’s amusement).  Daniel went back up to the locker rooms to change into uniform, then to his office to grab a few other things, then headed for the briefing room.

He was quite smug about the fact that he arrived promptly at 0800, smiling as he pulled up his usual seat at Landry’s right.

“Dr. Jackson!  Welcome back.”  Hank greeted him with a smile – which morphed into a grin when Vala threw her arms around him and squeezed.

“Hey, guys!”  Daniel gave a little wave to the rest of his team and patted Vala on the arm and shoulder fondly.  “Miss me?”

“Good to have you back, Jackson.”  Mitchell grinned.  Teal’c quirked his mouth in what was a huge grin (for a Jaffa) and Sam smiled brilliantly.

“Alright, boys and girls, let’s get this done quickly.  We’ve all got lots of fun and excitement for the next few days, particularly you, Dr. Jackson.”  Landry called the briefing to order.

It only took a bit more than half an hour, during which SG1 caught Daniel up on their various projects on-base, the last two weeks of other missions that the other SG teams continued on, and what was coming up for new missions.

Once dismissed, Daniel went to his office/lab to begin the painstaking effort of playing catch up with his inbox and email.  He had another briefing at 1030 with SG8, then nothing until lunch.

Of course, the distracted way he was pushing his food around on his plate was bound to be noticed by Jack.

“Something on your mind, Daniel?”  The General nudged his mate in the side with an elbow.  “You’re playing with it.”

Daniel sighed, giving his family an apologetic smile.  “Just a little anxious, I guess.  It’s a big day.”

“Oh!”  Sam’s eyes widened.  “I can’t believe I forgot!  They’re coming today, aren’t they?  Sarah and Steven?”

Daniel nodded.

Under the table and out of sight, Jack squeezed his partner’s knee in reassurance.  “It’ll be fine.  That Sarah is pretty tough from what I’ve seen.  She’ll be okay with being back here.”

“I hope so.  I don’t want her to feel obligated, though.”  Daniel picked at his salad.

“What about the other one?  Rayner.”  Mitchell asked, happily filling his face with enthusiasm.  Teal’c was doing the same.

“I believe he will be quite humbled by what he will learn today.  He seems to be a very insecure individual who believes his worth to be much greater than anyone is willing to credit him with.”  The big man said sagely.  “He shows much jealousy of DanielJackson with his insecurity.”

Daniel winced.  “It’s true, Teal’c.  But don’t let it fool you.  He really is good at what he does, despite how we butt heads over everything.  It was never my fault that Dr. Jordan was too blind to pay attention to someone other than me, but Steven would never admit that.  It was easier to blame me.”  He dropped a hand to his lap and let Jack take it to twine their fingers together under the table.  It was a real comfort Daniel savoured greedily.

“He’ll get over it, Daniel.  He has to, if he expects to get anywhere with the programme.”  Sam reasoned in her own attempt to soothe.  “Grudges aren’t tolerated well, especially here at the SGC.”

“I know.”  Daniel managed a faint smile.  “And I know I’m worrying over nothing, but…I guess it’s because they are among the first of my colleagues from the past that I’ll finally get to share all the things we’ve discovered with, and…”

“I’ll be right here with you, Daniel.”  Vala promised, thumping him on the back.  “And if he isn’t suitably awed by our superior knowledge then I’ll be happy to..”

“Thank you, Vala.”  Daniel hastily interrupted.

“We’ll all be there.”  Mitchell added, catching his team’s eyes.  “After all, it’s an awful long story you’ve got to tell, and you’ll need some help, right?  Who better than us?”

Jack sat back in his seat, very pleased with his kids.  “I’ll wander in at some point.  I want to meet this guy.”

Daniel shot him a warning glance at the predatory tone.  “Thanks, guys.  And you,” he poked Jack in the bicep, “stop that!  I can handle Steven.”

“Oh, I know.  I just want to make it clear that his personal vendettas won’t be tolerated.”  Jack ignored the scowl on Daniel’s face.  “And that he needs to grow up.”

“Jack…”

“Daniel.”

“Don’t start acting like an overprotective husband or you’ll be living on-base for a long, long time.”

Sam smothered a giggle, Vala laughed outright, and Cam just looked pained.  Teal’c simply raised an eyebrow and said, “O’Neill.  I believe you would be wise to heed DanielJackson’s wishes in this regard.”

“I can’t help it!  I’m an over protective, jealous bastard.  He knew that.”  Jack tried really hard not to pout.  It was undignified for a General to pout.

“Jack…”  Daniel warned.  “Promise me.  You’ll let me handle it.”

“Yes, Daniel, I promise.”  Jack agreed with a roll of his eyes.  Thankfully, Daniel seemed to realize that was the best he’d get from Jack, even heavily laced with exasperation.  The linguist gave a grunt of acknowledgement and proceeded to chug the rest of his coffee, letting the subject drop.

~*~*~*~*~

          Grabbing her luggage from the baggage carousel, Dr. Sarah Gardner – former host to Osiris – did her very best to ignore her travel companion’s complaints about the flight from New York City.  They’d only just arrived in Denver, and already Steven was getting on her nerves (what few she had left to spare, anyway).

In many ways she was looking forward to the new job.  What little she remembered from her time as a host – despite the horror and nightmares – still intrigued the scholar in her enough to make her brave returning to the underground facility Daniel had called the SGC.  She wanted to know exactly what had happened to her so that she could finally put those months and her bad dreams behind her.  Sarah also wanted to know what Daniel had really been doing all these years.  She had a lot of guilt stored up over the way she treated him during those years as colleagues under Dr. Jordon, and for after that final disaster of a conference Daniel had given in a last-ditch effort to convince people he was on to something and not a crackpot.  She hadn’t even tried to keep in touch with him, and – much to her chagrin – she’d been among those who thought he’d died when no one heard a peep about him for several years.  She’d been both surprised and relieved to see him at the funeral.

“You’ve got everything, Sarah?”  Steven asked, regarding her questioningly, and bringing her back to the present.

“Oh, yes.  Let’s get out of here.”  Sarah picked up her carry-on bag and allowed Steven to lead the way.

As they exited the Baggage Claim and passed through the final security checkpoint, she spotted the uniformed USAF officers – three of them – waiting patiently for them.  Not for the first time did she wonder if she was (as many of her peers would believe) selling out to the military.

“Stick out in a crowd, don’t they?”  Steven muttered quietly as they approached the officers.  Sarah couldn’t help but agree, though she shushed Steven and gave a polite, inquiring smile to their greeting party.

“Dr. Gardner, Dr. Rayner.”  The slightly shorter man in the front of the other two greeted them, holding out his hand first to Sarah, then Steven, to shake.  “Welcome to Colorado.  I’m Col. Paul Davis from General O’Neill’s office.  Both he and Dr. Jackson asked me to meet you here and escort you back to base.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Col. Davis.”  Sarah returned the pleasantries for them both.  Steven just nodded warily, but politely.

“Well, we have a bit of a drive, so we’d better head out.  Oh,” Davis smiled with his best diplomatic charm, “These two gentlemen will take care of your baggage.  Airmen.”  He gave a nod and the other two men when from silent statues to mobile attendants.  “If you’ll follow me, there is a car waiting for us.”

Sarah and Steven exchanged glances and allowed the Airmen to take their bags, then followed the Colonel out of the Arrivals area to the car park.  While their bags were stowed in the trunk, Davis opened the back door to a small, sleek, and shiny limousine with USAF plates.

Once they were inside and seated, Davis signalled the driver to leave the airport.  “Well!”  He exclaimed, settling comfortably in his seat across from the two civilians.  “In a couple more hours we’ll be in the Springs and your trip will be done.  I hope your flight was pleasant.”

“Yes, thank you.  I wasn’t expecting to be flown First Class, though.”  Sarah replied.  Davis nodded.

“That was Dr. Jackson’s doing.  All of this project is.”  Paul smiled wryly.  “He felt quite strongly that you both deserve that treatment we would give honoured guests to the SGC.  I agreed, by the way, and together we managed to convince Generals Landry and O’Neill that it was a good idea, too.”

“And who are these Generals?”  Steven asked.  “We’ve been told virtually nothing.  That man…Richard Woolsey?  Yeah.  He barely explained a thing.  He just kept shoving papers and stuff in front of us to sign and fingerprint.”

Davis stared in shock.  “He didn’t?  I…oh dear.”  He slumped and rubbed a hand over his face.  “He was supposed to give you a bare-bones briefing on the programme and its objectives, mandates, and such.”  Davis frowned to himself.  “Unless Daniel asked him not to.  He’s very eager to share everything with you.  Um, I do apologize for our lack of explanation, though.  At this point, it’s probably best if I just leave the entire story to Dr. Jackson.”

Steven shrugged, though not very happy at the continued darkness they were being left in.  “It’s waited this long.  What’s another couple of hours?”

“Can you tell us who the Generals are?”  Sarah asked.  “I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with military command structures – not modern ones, at least.”

“Ah.  It’s pretty simple.  You’ll catch on quickly, though you won’t be working directly with the military itself in quite the same way Dr. Jackson does, as your team is a civilian one.”  Paul smiled.  “Major General Hank Landry is the Commanding Officer for the SGC.  Actually the entire mountain complex.  Basically, he’s the head honcho for everyone there.  Except for Major General Jack O’Neill, who heads Homeworld Security, which runs the entire programme for the US and in cooperation with the IOA – the International Oversight Advisory.  The IOA is an international body of contributing member countries that participate and invest in the programme.”  He paused to let that sink in.  “I work primarily out of General O’Neill’s office, which recently moved to the Mountain from Washington D.C. and the Pentagon.  I do occasionally get loaned out to the SGC, though.  Oh!  And General O’Neill – when he was a Colonel four years ago – was SG1’s CO.  That’s Daniel’s team.”

“I see.”  Sarah blinked, processing all that information.  Paul gave them his best sympathetic smile, trying to be reassuring.

“Don’t worry.  Everything will be made clear, and it will all make a whole lot more sense.  Dr. Jackson is very good at that.”

Steven huffed in annoyance, turning his head to stare out the window at the passing scenery rather than listen to yet more people sing Daniel’s praises.  Sarah spared him a concerned glance, but thought it best not to say anything at that moment.  It would only make things more difficult and awkward.

The rest of the ride to the Springs and Cheyenne Mountain, Davis smoothly kept topics of conversation to the ‘getting to know you’ variety – where they went to university, their main fields of study and expertise, where they were from originally, places they’d travelled…even if Davis actually knew all this already from their files.  Sarah found Davis to be a very nice man, quite intelligent and humorous, and with a certain amount of charm that she wouldn’t have expected from any military person.  Even Steven had warmed to the USAF officer somewhat by the time they arrived at the base.

After the driver got them through the gate security, they pulled up to the main entrance of the complex located deep within the mountain itself just before the road turned into the huge underground parking lot and garage.  Davis opened his briefcase and pulled out two manila envelopes, handing one to each of them.

“Take out the security badges inside and clip them somewhere visible. You’ll be receiving your official card keys and badges later.  For now you’re visitors and you’ll have restricted access to most areas of the complex.”  Davis waited until they’d complied and nodded, moving to the door as it was opened by their driver.  “Let’s go.”

“Our luggage?”  Sarah asked as she accepted his gentlemanly assistance out of the limo.

“It will be taken care of.”  Davis assured, nodding briefly at the Airmen – who seemed to already know what to do and where to go without any further instruction.  “So, if you’re ready…follow me.”

Two security checkpoints and one elevator ride later, they stepped out onto Level 11, where they were met by a familiar face.

“Hey, Daniel!”  Davis greeted the linguist warmly, a grin on his face.  They shook hands.  “I promised I’d get them here safe and sound, and here they are.”

“Thanks, Paul.  I’m sorry Jack roped you into it, but at the same time I’m glad it was you.”  Daniel gave a wry grin, faintly apologetic.  “So thanks.”

Davis’ grin widened.  “It was no trouble, my friend.  They were orders I was happy to carry out.”

“Daniel.”  Sarah stepped forward to greet her old friend and colleague, smiling and giving him a brief hug.  “It’s good to see you.”

“You, too.  Both of you.”  Daniel smiled back, doing his best ot keep it warm and neutral, if not welcoming, when he faced Steven.  “I’m glad you’re here.  Was your trip okay, Steven?”

“It was fine.”  Steven replied, a bit shortly but still polite enough.  Daniel sighed and winced internally.  He was really hoping this would finally allow them to put their past differences aside if not behind them completely.

“Okay.  Well!”  Daniel waved at Paul to lead the way.  “Shall we?  We’ve got one more elevator ride to get to the briefing room.  The rest of my team is probably waiting for us.”

Sarah walked the halls beside him, looking around with interest and curiosity.  Even Steven seemed to be unable to hide his curiosity at their surroundings.  But what was truly interesting was how different Daniel seemed here, in this place.  He was very much at home, and made his way through the halls with a comfort and familiarity he’d never shown anywhere except (perhaps) Egypt.  There was a confidence about him now, too.  Something she had noticed in New York, but hadn’t truly registered.

And as they passed personnel and soldiers, Daniel seemed to be very at ease and familiar with all of them.  Some he greeted aloud and by name, others he exchanged smiles and nods and small waves with.  Occasionally someone would stop and ask a quick question, and Daniel would patiently listen, then send them on their way with an answer or direction and a smile.  It was blatantly obvious that this place was Daniel’s domain, and that he was well-liked and respected here.  More…he was accepted as she’d never seen him be.  Valued.

A surreptitious glance at Steven (and the confused scowl he wore) told Sarah he’d noticed it, too.  She only hoped he would grow up and not cause trouble over his jealousy of Daniel.

“So are we allowed to ask what this place is?”  Steven asked as they stood waiting for the next elevator.

“Of course.”  Daniel responded, looking a tad puzzled.  “You have clearance, now.”

“We haven’t been told anything yet, Daniel.”  Sarah informed him quietly, laying her hand on his arm.  “We’ve only signed a forest’s worth of paperwork, and been told that we’ll be heading an international team that will handle various projects around the world.  But other than things pertaining to that…”

He looked shocked for a moment, then angry – a brief cloud of it passing over Daniel’s features before morphing into a more familiar, deeply apologetic expression.  “I’m so sorry.  I thought the IOA would be briefing you on the basics before you arrived here for the more in-depth courses you’ll need to take before you can head off on your first dig assignment.”

Davis had a dark-look of his own.  “So you didn’t tell Woolsey not to tell them?  I’ll mention his mistake to the appropriate parties, Daniel.”

“Why bother?”  Daniel made a face, stepping into the elevator after the others and pushing the button for Level 27.  “It won’t make a difference.  No matter how much we dislike each other, the guy is good at his bureaucratic-cum-diplomatic job.  And there are far worse choices of people we could be dealing with.”

“True.  Still,” Davis shrugged.  “This is a lapse in judgment that should be noted.  It will set back their training, and that’s time of yours that can be ill-afforded to waste, Daniel.”

Daniel didn’t like it (since he didn’t consider it time wasted) but he nodded, rubbing at the bridge of his nose in annoyance.  “If you say so, Paul.  To answer your question, Steven, the complex is a military base that’s been set up inside a former missile silo.  The levels nearer the surface are the parts that are mostly public knowledge – containing operations for NORAD and even NASA.  The lower levels, however, are top-secret, and contain the main centre of operations for the entire programme.”

“I see.”  Steven said, though he clearly didn’t.

“It’s…” Daniel paused, mouth quirking wryly, “It’s a very long story, beginning in the late 1920’s in Giza.”  The elevator opened up, and they filed out.

“I’m going to report in to the Generals, Daniel.  I’m sure one or both will be joining you all in the briefing room eventually.”  Davis went off down one hallway, and Daniel led Steven and Sarah down another.

“This programme of yours has been around for that long?”  Sarah wondered, amazed.

“No, actually.  Research and study only truly began just around the time WWII broke out. The…artefacts were discovered on a dig in the Giza plateau in 1928.”  Daniel paused just outside a closed door, his hand on the knob.  “Look, before we go in there and we turn your realities upside-down and inside out, I want to warn you.”

“Of what?”  Steven huffed.  “We aren’t stupid, nor are we children.”

Daniel sighed, meeting the other man’s belligerent gaze solidly.  “I’m not kidding, Steven.  Everything you think you know as fact, all the history we’ve come to accept and the possibilities that most of humanity on this planet would consign to the realm of science fiction and fantasy are going to change for you.  You won’t believe it at first, but it won’t matter because reality is truly stranger than fiction.  Your life is about to change, and even you have to know that once you’ve learned something, you can’t just ‘un-know’ it again if you don’t like what it is.  So…I guess I’m saying that this is your last chance to get out and go back to life as you know it.”  His serious, carefully neutral blue eyes flicked from Steven to Sarah.  “That’s to both of you, Sarah.”

She’d made up her mind long ago.  “No, I’m already too far in to leave now, Daniel.”  She shook her strawberry blonde curls slowly.  “I’m staying.”

Steven frowned, looking unsettled.  “That’s a bit over-the-top dramatic, Daniel, even for you.”

Daniel frowned, too, arms folding in that unconscious self-hug of his.  “I’m not being overly dramatic.  I’m as serious as a heart-attack.  You want the truth Steven?  I’m terrified.  You and Sarah are of the very few people I had any real connection to before I was recruited to the programme.  We were friends once.  Colleagues, too, with mutual respect for our abilities in our fields.  In my entire life, I haven’t had many people I’ve been able to get close to, whom I’ve trusted enough to allow them close.  And in the time I’ve been here…” Daniel had to top, swallowing hard at the memories of all the friends and colleagues he’d lost over the years.  “I’ve come to be part of something important, and I’ve learned to trust, learned that time is to short for us to hold everyone at bay.  I have seen so many lives lost…just because they know about what goes on here.  It scares me, Steven, that I might have to watch you or Sarah be hurt or die because you’re a part of it now.”  Daniel leaned against the wall by the door, eyes haunted.  “Because this knowledge is dangerous.  What we do here is dangerous.  And while you won’t be doing what I do, or leaving the planet to do your job, the risks are still there.  Sarah…may not remember much, but she’s already been exposed to one of, gods, a million possibilities for harm.  She’s been lucky.  I’ve seen more people not survive what she has than do survive.  All of it scares me as much as it thrills me to be finally able to share it all with you.”

Steven stared at Daniel for a long, tense moment, then sighed heavily.  “Damn it, Daniel!  After you say all that you really expect me to turn around and run away for fear of something unknown? How could I do that?  As a scholar of any kind?”

Sarah gripped Steven’s arm, her eyes on Daniel.  “He’s committed, Daniel.  As am I.  And while we can’t be expected to predict the future, nor make promises that we may not be able to keep, we can say that you’ve warned us and we’ve made our choice.”

A faint smile kicked up Daniel’s mouth at the corners, though his eyes were old – far, far older than his age.  “Alright.  I’m glad you understand that, because its far more important than you’ll ever know.”  He straightened and turned, reaching for the door knob.  “So…come on in, get comfortable, and allow us to blow your minds.”

*~*~*~*~*~*

(1)Te amo, Daniel.  Amorem maxium me es…amorem solum me es!  Mei spiritus conjugii, Daniel…” = Latin, “I love you, Daniel.  You are my greatest love…my only love!  My soulmate, Daniel…”  I just found a use for all my Latin classes.  Yay, me.  I didn’t try to make it “Ancient,” though.  I’m not that ambitious.

Next Part:  https://kalichaos.wordpress.com/stargate/infinitas/part-v/

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