Atlantis or Bust

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  8 - April 20-29, 2005
Spoilers:  Stargate Atlantis: Rising, Torment of Tantalus, Lockdown (minor)
Size:  73kb
Written:  July 16, 18-21,23,25, 2004  Revised for consistency:  March 16, 2007
Summary:  Daniel has found Atlantis, and “We can go there.”  “We?” Jack asks.  Will the Lost City sink Jack and Daniel's marriage?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Sue P., QuinGem, Drdjlover, StarShadow!

Atlantis or Bust
by Orrymain

“Daniel!  How's it going?” Jack asked from the phone in his office.

“Hmmm.  Good, I think.  I'm making progress with the address, but I'm still missing something.”

“You'll figure it out,” Jack stated confidently, though also a bit formally.

“Yeah, well, I hope so.  Doctor Weir is really anxious for us to find Atlantis.  So am I, by the way.”

“So, you're having fun?”

“Jack, it's fantastic,” Daniel answered enthusiastically.  “I mean, I don't much like the memory of what happened to you down here, but it's incredible the little we've learned so far.  I am a little disappointed about the chair, though.”

“Daniel, not everyone can have that gene thing.”

“I know, but the potential for discovery ... Jack, we're close, so close to finding the Lost City, and once we do, think about the prospects.  If we can go there ...”

“I have to go, Daniel.  Memos to write,” Jack spoke abruptly.

“Oh.  Okay.  I'll let you know if I find out anything more.”

“You do that,” the general said sharply.  “Goodbye, Daniel.”  He hung up the phone, his hand still gripping the receiver tightly for seconds afterwards.  His heart was pounding with uncertainty.  ~Finding this city was supposed to be the beginning of our future, Danny, but listen to you.  You sound just like you did on Ernest's Planet, so excited and enthused.  I'm just glad I can't see your face.~

Jack closed his eyes.  He didn't mean to, but the image of Daniel on Heliopolis surfaced.  He saw the wonder in his lover's eyes.

“Jack, this is a true universal language,” Daniel had spoken back then, his face alight with passion for what he had figured out.

~Oh, Angel.  You're lost in the discovery.  I hear it in your voice, and I don't have to see your face to know how eager you are to find out more.  What happens if you find it?  I can't let you go, Danny.  I won't let you go.~

--

In what seemed like a world away, Daniel hung up the phone.  He stared at it for a minute or two.

~Memos?  I don't get it, Jack.  I miss you.  Don't you miss me?~

Daniel had been in Antarctica, at the Ancient's Outpost, for almost two weeks, working diligently to uncover the mystery -- just where was Atlantis?  He missed his husband desperately, but he survived by throwing himself into the wonder and awe of the discovery that he sensed was just at his fingertips.

~I'm close.  So close.  I feel it.~

Yet, the scientist was disturbed.  Whenever he had spoken with his lover, their was a chill in the air, and not from the weather.  He couldn't figure out why.

~Maybe I'm just cold ... for real.~

====

The next day, Daniel made one of the most exciting discoveries of his life -- Atlantis.  He hurried through the facility, looking for Elizabeth Weir, the civilian leader of the Outpost project.

“Ah, just the people I need to see,” Daniel called out excitedly when he found Weir talking with Rodney McKay by the chair that seemed to be a link between humans and the Ancients.

Apparently, some humans had a gene that would allow them to control the various Ancient devices found at the Outpost.  The chair somehow triggered the objects if the person sitting in it had the gene.  According to McKay, the gene was a “random characteristic” and so far, only a handful of people had been found to have it.

Daniel had walked away, then returned when he realized the two weren't following him.

“Come with me,” the archaeologist instructed Weir and McKay, not really waiting for a response before he began to lead the way.

The two followed him to the makeshift lab he'd been using.  Daniel was so excited that he was talking a mile a minute, long before they had arrived in the area where he had a computer and other materials set up.

“We've gotten closer and closer to finding the location of the Lost City, but it turns out we've been looking in the wrong place all along.  Now we thought we had a Stargate address -- six symbols representing coordinates in space that determine the location of the planet the Ancients went to after they left Antarctica.  Now, recently we determined the seventh symbol.”

Daniel drew a chevron symbol at the end of the address that had been placed on a large writing board.

Weir recognized it -- “The point of origin - Earth.”

“That's not it,” Daniel said, his passion for his discovery showing in his face.

“Then you're address must be incorrect,” McKay said.

“Not incorrect; incomplete.”

Daniel drew another symbol between the six signs already on the board and the one he had added a moment ago for Earth.

As she watched, Weir asked, “What are you saying, Doctor Jackson?”

“It's an eight-symbol address.  What we're looking for may be further away than we ever imagined, but it's not out of reach.”

“Atlantis,” McKay said.

“Atlantis,” Daniel confirmed.  He added with a small smile, “I think we can go there.”

Daniel was thrilled beyond belief.  He'd longed for this ever since finding the tablet on Abydos that told about the Lost City.  This could be a find of a lifetime; well, another one, much like the Stargate.  He hadn't been this enthused in quite a while.

“Then let's go,” Weir said with a smile.

“I'll call Jack,” Daniel offered.

“I can do it, Doctor Jackson.”

“No, uh, I need to talk to him anyway.  Excuse me,” the archaeologist said as he hurried to place the call.

====

“You found it?” Jack asked a bit dryly, his voice surprisingly monotone.

“Don't sound so enthused,” Daniel replied, still confused by his husband's lack of response to almost everything he said.

“Sorry.  Distracted.”

“Jack, you need to come here,” Daniel said as he twirled his pen in his hand, the earpiece jammed between his ear and his shoulder.

“Great.  Daniel, you know how I feel about Antarctica.  Nothing good ever happens to me there.”

“I'm here.”

Jack sighed.  Daniel didn't usually use himself as an argument for doing something.  As a result, the decision had just been made.

“Okay.  I'll call Peterson and arrange for a flight.  I'll get there as soon as I can,” Jack spoke, a formal tone in his voice.

“Thank you ... General.”

“You're very welcome ... Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel paused, then said, “O'Neill.”

The younger man hoped Jack would get the message, that he was anxious for their nation of two to be reunited, for the Jackson-O'Neills to be in each other's arms.  Unfortunately, his hopes were shot down almost immediately.

“What?” Jack responded, not making the connection, or, perhaps, choosing to ignore it.

“Nothing, Jack.  I'll see you when you get here.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Me, too.”  Daniel hung up the phone, confused.  At least Jack had sounded a little bit excited at the very end, but still, it wasn't the warmth the archaeologist was used to, or wanted.  ~Why do you sound so distant?  Maybe it is just Antarctica.  I can understand your hesitancy, but ... you haven't even been bugging me to come home.  I'm confused, Jack.~

--

In Colorado Springs, Jack hung up the phone and sat back in his chair.  He thought about his spouse and their dreams for a life beyond the Stargate; and he wondered if their forever was about to be waylaid by some mythical city.

~Why couldn't the Lost City just stay lost?  He's going to want to go, but ... I need him.  I'll do anything I have to keep him here.  Then what?  Are you going to hate me, Danny, because I won't let you go?  Geez, would Hammond have let you go?  I don't even want to think about that.~

====

Weir and McKay had been discussing their plans, full of excitement that Atlantis was now within their grasp.  Having been given an update on Jack's flight status, Weir sought out Daniel, McKay on her heels.  They found him still working in the lab area.

“Doctor Jackson, General O'Neill is on his way.  The helicopter from McMurdo should be here within twenty minutes.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said, returning to study his findings.

“Doctor, I'd like you to accompany us to Atlantis.  With your knowledge and capabilities, you'd be a vital asset to our team.”

McKay looked a bit disappointed.  While he wasn't thrilled about risking his life, he desperately wanted to be a major part of any research involving Atlantis.  He knew that the mere presence of Daniel, the genius of the SGC, would detract from anything he himself could contribute, even though his own talents were in the more technical, physical sciences area than Daniel's.

“It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Daniel acknowledged.

“You'd never find anything greater,” Weir said, a smile on her face.

“Yes, I know.”

“Convincing the general may not be easy, but can I count on your support for the project?”

“Definitely,” Daniel said, knowing the mission was one of the most worthwhile ever.

“Then, you'll be going with us?”

“Ah, no.  I, uh, I don't think ...”

“Doctor Weir, General O'Neill's helicopter is eight minutes out,” a technician informed her.

Weir motioned for Daniel to accompany her and McKay to the surface, not that he needed an invitation.  The three entered the elevator shaft that would take them to a higher level, but as the device raised upward, a warhead-like drone suddenly activated, shooting around the complex, and then breaking through the dome cover of the Outpost.

The drone was activated as a result of Doctor Carson Beckett having sat in the powerful chair.  Beckett had the random gene needed, though like everyone else who had sat in the chair thus far, he had to focus and concentrate to make anything happen.

Outside the protective bubble of the Outpost, the drone raced through the air, seeking a target.  As Weir anxiously tried to get Beckett to concentrate on deactivating the dangerous flying object, Jack was being flown in by helicopter.  The pilot, Major John Sheppard, worked quickly to try and evade the drone that had locked on to their aircraft, finally landing the helicopter on the ground.

It was a narrow escape, but Beckett managed to shut down the destructive mechanism just as it was about to make contact with the helicopter.

~Why does this stuff keep happening to me?~

Jack shook it off, and moments later, they were back in the air, headed for the Outpost.

**Jack?  Gawd, Jack, can you hear me?**

**I'm fine, Daniel.  Be there in a few minutes.**

Daniel took a huge breath, thankful for the expansion of the near-telepathic-like communication that he and his husband shared.  It had begun with them having to be in the same room, but over the years, as their bond had grown, so had the range.  It was never a sure thing, but especially when in crisis, they usually were able to hone in on each other.  It had often saved their lives, but at the moment, it provided a calm relief for the much-worried archaeologist.

====

Less than ten minutes later, Daniel received word that Jack had arrived and was headed down to his level.

~Gawd, I can't wait.  Remember, Jackson, business first, pleasure second.  Two weeks.  Two very long ... okay long, exciting ... thrilling even ... weeks, but ... I've missed him.  Hurry, Jack.~

Daniel saw the lift moving downwards, finally catching sight of his General.  He wished he could ravish him on the spot, but there was no way he could do so without getting his lover a court-martial, so he prepared himself to deal only with the business aspect of Jack's visit.

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed as his lover stepped off the elevator.  **Missed you.** ~He's so handsome, My General.~

“Daniel!” Jack greeted.  **Missed you, too.** “Warm welcome,” he added, referring to the escaped drone.

“Wasn't me,” Daniel stated.  **I didn't touch anything.**

**I have something for you to touch,** Jack communicated, thinking how sexy his archaeologist looked in his mission jacket.

**Count on it.  Later.**

~Yeah, down to business.  I hate this place, and I don't want to be reminded of how much fun you're having here,~ Jack thought.  “Let's say we cut to the part where you start talking real fast,” he suggested as they walked, leaving Major Sheppard near the elevator with orders not to touch anything.

The two men headed for the lab area where Weir and McKay were waiting.  Daniel told his lover what he had discovered about the Stargate address to Atlantis, and expanded his theory, telling Jack he believed that the Ancients “packed up their entire city and left somewhere between five and ten million years ago.”

“In their flying city?” Jack asked incredulously.  **That's a bit ... out there, isn't it, Daniel?**

“Yes.”  Daniel saw the funny look on his lover's face and heard the silent communication.  He responded verbally to the skepticism, “What?”

A bit hesitantly, but full of doubt, Jack repeated, “Flying city?”

“Well, keep in mind this is the race that built the Stargates.  They did everything big.”

“So why'd they leave?”

“Why did they leave?” Daniel repeated the question, glancing at Weir.  “Who knows?  We know the Ancients on Earth were suffering from a plague.  Maybe some of them were trying to start over, seeding life in a new galaxy.  Maybe that's what Ancients do.  The point is we know where they went.”

Jack felt conflicted.  To cover his emotions, he let his doubt show, but the truth was, Daniel's enthusiasm at the discovery frightened the older man.  He was afraid Daniel would ask to go.  In fact, he was certain that the archaeologist would ask.  It was a question Jack did not want to hear, and it was one he'd been dreading for weeks.
 
“Pegasus?” Jack asked, referring to the dwarf galaxy in the local group Daniel had told him about, the place where he believed Atlantis actually was.

McKay was curious about the Ancients and asked, “Is there any hope of actually meeting them?”

“Well, who knows,” Daniel answered.  “But isn't that reason enough to go?”

~No.  Not for you, Daniel.  Don't ask me.  Please don't ask me.~

Weir answered, “Well, I've been choosing members for this expedition for months, Doctor.  I'm not the one who needs convincing.”

The woman looked at Jack, who smiled slightly.  The mission was worthwhile; he couldn't deny that.  He didn't care if she went, or McKay.  Daniel was another story, however.

“Well, I'm convinced.  Have fun,” Jack said.

Daniel spoke up, “It's a little more complicated than that.”

~When isn't it?~

Jack was told about the Zed PM or Zero Point Module that would be needed for the trip.  The energy from the device was currently powering the Outpost's defenses.  As he listened to McKay's Carter-like prattling, Jack had already made his decision.  Going through the Gate to Atlantis was one thing, but they couldn't afford to give up this power source, the only one they had.

When McKay finished, Jack replied, “That was a waste of a perfectly good explanation.  The answer's no.”

Daniel had to fight for this.  The opportunity was too great to pass up.

**You have to listen.  This is important.**  “Jack, you know that gating to another galaxy requires an enormous amount of power.”

“Yes, I do.  Find another way,” the general responded.

“There's no other way,” Daniel argued.

Jack asked, “You think there's more of these zed things in Atlantis?”

Daniel responded, “Yes, and who knows what else we could find.  This isn't just some other civilization we're talking about; these are the Gate builders.”

Weir argued, “The potential wealth of knowledge and technology, it outweighs anything we've come across since we've stepped through the Stargate.”

~Like you'd know?  You're new to this shindig.  You've never even stepped through the Stargate.  Besides, don't you think it's ironic that you were my boss for all of a week, my time anyway, and now I'm your boss?  Interesting twist there, don't ya think?~  Jack looked at Daniel briefly, then stated a harsh reality -- “Well, with the amount of power you'll need to make this trip, odds are it'll be one way.”

Weir responded, “Yes, we know, but the benefits to humanity is far greater than the risk, General, and it is a risk that every one of my expedition members is willing to take.”

~You really don't know what your talking about, not that I don't like your willingness to get out there.  I suppose we all started like that.~

--

While the meeting continued, Sheppard sat in the Ancient's chair, triggering a reaction.  It automatically reclined and lights appeared.  As they soon discovered, the major had the gene; only for him, it was more natural.  He didn't have to work to get things to happen; they just did.

====

“Jack, this is so amazing.  Just think what we could learn,” Daniel pondered wondrously.

“Yeah.  Fun stuff.”

“Jack, what's wrong with you?  You've been ... in a mood for days.”

“How would you know?” Jack asked sarcastically as the two finally had a few minutes alone in the lab area.  Jack sighed, seeing his lover's intense stare.  “I'm sorry, Daniel.  I'm just ... ”

**I know.  Me, too.**

Jack smiled, glancing at his watch, and said, “I have to go.  Brass.  Geez, what have I gotten into?”

“You're a great general,” Daniel assured.

“I'm not so sure.  I hate getting memos.  Daniel, I want you back at the SGC in twenty-four hours.”

Jack's tone had gone from borderline humorous to borderline antagonistic, very serious and formal yet again.

“Ah, Jack ...”

“I mean it, Daniel.  You've ... had your fun.  Time to get back to work,” Jack ordered without using the actual word.

Now, the general was sounding like a general, nothing lighthearted at all in his expression or voice, something which disturbed his lover.

“Work?  I thought that's what I was doing.”

“Tomorrow, Daniel.  I'll see you then,” Jack said succinctly, walking out.

~What was that?~  Daniel stood, a bit stunned.  Suddenly, he hurried after his lover.  “Jack, wait!”

“Daniel, I have to go,” Jack stated, turning around briefly.  “What is it that you need?” he asked impatiently.

“What do I need?”  Daniel stopped cold in his tracks.  Pausing a moment, he answered, “Nothing you can help with, I guess.”

Jack nodded and continued to Weir's office before leaving the Outpost.

~I don't get it, Jack.  My bags are packed.  I thought we'd ... we'd leave together.  Why are you being like this?~

====

“Doctor Weir, is there anything else you need?” Jack questioned.

“Actually, General, there are a couple of things.  First, about Doctor Jackson.  He's been invaluable, and he shares my enthusiasm for Atlantis.”

“Yes, he does,” Jack agreed.  “Doctor, I'm late as it is.  Let's walk.”

“Of course.”  Weir realized she had only a couple of minutes remaining of her time with Jack, and she needed to convince him to grant her request for her most urgent need.  Changing gears, she said, “We need him.”

“Sorry, Doc.  We need Daniel here.”

“I'm talking about Major Sheppard,” Weir stated.

“Oh.”  Jack didn't care.  If she wanted Sheppard, she could have him, but not Daniel.  Inside the elevator, the general agreed to talk to Sheppard on the ride back to McMurdo.  “Good luck, Doctor Weir.”

“Uh, General, about Doctor Jackson.  I know his contributions to the Stargate are important, but ...”

“No.  He stays here.  See you back at the SGC.”

“But ...”

Jack nodded to the airman, who pushed the button initiating movement of the elevator.  Weir quickly backed out, barely managing to say “Yes, General” while he could still hear her.

~Well, I guess Doctor Jackson stays here.  He wouldn't even listen to me.  Strange.~

====

“Jack?” Daniel called out as he walked in the door of their house.  “Jack, where are you?”

Daniel had been surprised that Jack wasn't at the base when he returned from the Outpost.  The archaeologist had been flown to Colorado Springs and then transported to the SGC since he had to drop off some things he had brought back with him.  He had been positive that his soulmate would be there, anxious to rekindle their love affair in close proximity.  When he wasn't, he had assumed his lover would have some big surprise waiting for him at home.

Now, though, as Daniel entered their home, everything seemed normal.  Jack's truck was out front, but the older man was nowhere to be found -- not in their bedroom, the study, or even on the roof deck.  Daniel glanced at his watch, wondering if he should be concerned.

The archaeologist sat on the patio steps to pet Bijou and Katie, taking note that the beloved beagles were behaving normally, which meant nothing untoward had happened at the house.  Jack could have taken a walk, or maybe he was with a friend.  He felt uncertain as he waited.

“I left him a message, Bij; told him when I'd be in.  Why isn't he here?” Daniel asked the canine.

====

Fifteen minutes later, Jack finally walked through the front door.  Daniel heard the sound, but remained seated on the patio step.

“Bijou, Katie, go in your doghouse, okay?  Don't worry.  Everything will be all right,” Daniel said.  ~I hope.~

Daniel gave the girls a sad smile and reaffirmed his vow not to fight in front of them.  Of course, he didn't really want to fight at all.

“Daniel?” Jack called out as he walked through the house.  He saw the open patio door and walked outside.  Still standing, he said, “You're home.”

Daniel lowered his head for a second, and then looked over his shoulder as he responded, “Good to know you're happy to see me.”

“I am.  Of course, I am.”

“Who are you trying to convince, Jack?”  Daniel stood, standing on the lawn.  “Why weren't you at the SGC?  I left you a message.”

“Yeah, I got it.  I just ...” Jack struggled.  They never lied to each other, and he almost had in that moment, and they both knew it.  “Danny, I just needed to go for a walk.  Where are the girls?”

“In their house.  Jack, why are you angry with me?”

“I'm not angry,” Jack insisted.

“Okay, then what's going on?” Daniel questioned.

Jack shook his head and looked back towards the house.  He sighed, and then faced his husband.

“I don't know.  I just want you to be happy.”

“Jack, I am happy.  Well, not this second.  Actually, I can't say that I've been happy for the last couple of weeks, but ...”

“Right.  Daniel, I'm going to bed.”

Jack turned and walked quickly into the house, leaving Daniel perplexed.  To the older man, Daniel had just reaffirmed that he was unhappy, and Jack knew the reason for that was because he wasn't being allowed to go to Atlantis.  Actually, the young man hadn't asked to go, but Jack had the answer for that, too.  Daniel obviously felt like he had to stay on Earth.  Jack was an obligation, and Daniel didn't walk out on duty.

“Wait,” the younger man called out, chasing his lover up the stairs.  When he walked in, Jack was changing his clothes.  “Jack, I don't understand what's happening.”

“Neither do I, but I'm tired, Daniel.  It's been a crazy couple of months, and today was an especially bad day.  I really need to relax and just get some sleep.”

“I thought ... I mean, there was a time, and not long ago I might add, when I made you relax,” Daniel replied.

“Goodnight, Daniel.”

“Daniel.  You're calling me 'Daniel'.”

“It's your name, Love.”

“Well ... that's something.  I'll be right back ... in case it matters,” Daniel said, as he walked into the bathroom.  ~Crazy?  When isn't our life crazy?~  When he returned two minutes later, Jack was under the covers, pretending to be asleep. “Right.”

Daniel sighed and walked downstairs.  He pulled out a book and began to read it as he sat on the sofa until he finally fell asleep there hours later.

====

Two hours later, Jack sat on the sofa, staring at the man he loved, the man he was certain he was about to lose to some galaxy far, far away.  After all, Daniel's excitement about Atlantis was unmistakable, and he had admitted not being happy recently.  It was all the proof Jack needed to know he was losing his lover.  Yet, he couldn't let him go.

~If you go through the Gate to Atlantis, I'll never see you again.  If that happens, I might as well shoot myself.  I can't let you live your dream, Danny.  I'm sorry.  I'm not strong enough for that.~

Jack leaned over and placed a tender kiss on Daniel's forehead.  He then returned to bed, though he knew he wouldn't get another minute of sleep.

Downstairs, Daniel opened his eyes and stared at the wall, not understanding the tender kiss or the aura of sadness that had just engulfed his soulmate.

====

The next morning, Daniel woke up, cursing his right arm which ached from an uncomfortable position he had slept in during the night.  As he stood up, he stretched and headed upstairs to shower and dress; hopefully, he could talk with his husband, too.  Sadly, when he walked inside the master bedroom, he immediately saw the made-up bed.  He kicked the bed frame as he walked into the bathroom.

That's when Daniel finally saw it -- a note pinned to his shirt.  He actually chuckled in spite of his bad mood because he knew Jack wanted to make sure he saw the message.

~So, it's not that bad.  Bad, but not that bad,~ Daniel thought as he unpinned the note and read it.

D.

I'm sorry.  I'm just having a bad day or two.  Forgive me, please?  Have a meeting with those idiots from D.C. at 0900.  Arabian Mocha is on.  Breakfast is made.  You just have to warm it up.  Please eat.  L.Y.S.M.

J.

~Okay, definitely not that bad, but there is something, and I need to find out what, and soon because ... because I love you so darn much, too, Jack.~

====

“Daniel,” Jack called out upon walking into his husband's office a bit hesitantly.

It was mid-afternoon, and he hadn't yet had a moment to talk with the archaeologist, having only seen him once as they passed in the hallway of the twenty-first floor.

“Finally have time for me?”

“I always have time for you,” Jack replied softly.

“Do you?  It doesn't feel like it.  I understand the meeting, but ... maybe it doesn't matter.”

“Yes, it does,” Jack insisted as took a position across from the lab table his lover was sitting at, “Look, can we try to get through the next few days, get Weir's team out of here, and then we could talk?”

“Jack, why won't you talk to me now?”

“Because it's not you; it's me.  It's who I am, and what I've done, or haven't done.  Daniel, please.  I need to focus on this Lost City of yours.  I'm just asking for a couple of days.  They're out of here on Thursday.  That's all I'm asking,” the general requested calmly.

“Okay, Jack.  Um, because I've been gone, things have piled up at the house, my house, so ... I think I'll take care of ... of some of those things this week.”

Jack nodded reluctantly.  Maybe it was best.  A little time apart while he struggled to forgive himself for keeping Daniel from his dream might be a good thing.

“If that's what you think is best,” the general agreed.

“I do ... at least for tonight, anyway.”

“What about the girls?” Jack asked.

**Gawd, Jack, we're not getting a divorce.**

**I only meant they've missed you,** Jack explained quickly.

“Well, I'm glad someone has,” Daniel said, bolting from his seat and walking out of his office.

“That's not what I meant, either,” Jack said softly.

“I wish I knew what you did mean,” Daniel responded.  When his lover looked surprised, he continued, “Oh, come on, Jack.  Things have changed; I mean, from the old days.  No more running, remember?  I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have left in a huff.”

“Caught yourself pretty quick.”

“You have until Thursday night, Jack,” Daniel advised.  “Now, I have work to do.”

“Me, too.”  The two lovers walked by each other, careful not to brush their shoulders, something totally opposite of what they'd normally do.  Jack stood in the doorway, facing sideways.  His hands in his pockets, he tried to speak nonchalantly.  “You know, Weir wants you on her team.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You can't go,” Jack stated.

Daniel sighed harshly, “Jack, what is your problem?”

“I'm sorry.  I know it's important to you.”

“It's important to the *world*.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and those who go will experience more than ... maybe than even we can imagine, and that's saying a lot.”  Daniel looked down and shook his head, continuing to speak.  “The thing is, it's a great chance to learn more about the Ancients and ... stuff, but I don't want ...” He looked up, realizing he was alone.  He shook his head again, wondering, ~Gawd, what's going on in that head of yours, Jack?  I hope we survive the next few days.~

====

Daniel tossed and turned as he tried to sleep at the house he had purchased last year.  It hadn't been an easy decision to let go of his apartment, but it was a sound financial move, and the house was closer to the home Daniel shared with Jack.  Much like the apartment, the house was more of a storage facility for the archaeologist's artifacts and relics.  Everywhere a person looked was some ancient item dug up during a dig somewhere.

At 3 a.m., the young man gave up.  He only had a three-quarter-size bed in the house, and it wasn't near as comfortable as the deluxe king bed he and his lover shared.  Since it was a bit warm, he wore only a V-neck tee-shirt and boxers, both white.

Daniel went to the kitchen for a drink of milk.

~Milk?  I'm lucky if there's food here.  Milk?~ Daniel asked himself.  He settled for tap water, the only liquid in the house he could drink.  In fact, he didn't even have coffee, having used the last of his before his trip to Antarctica.  “I need coffee.  I could ... go home.  No, he ... he doesn't want me there.”

“Yes, I do.”

Daniel looked up and saw his lover, wearing an old beige shirt and jeans.

Jack continued, “I need you there very much.  Danny, please.  It's not you.  Come home.  I ... Dang it, Daniel, I can't sleep, and I really need to sleep.  Come home.”

His heart beating more rapidly from the unexpected visitor and request, Daniel replied, “You have to tell me what's going on.  Why did you walk out on me today?”

“Come home, Daniel,” Jack said as he turned and left.

~Gawd, I'm going to kill him.~

The young man leaned forward, cradling his head in his hands as he sat at a chair in the tiny kitchen.

“If you don't want to come home, I guess I can't blame you.  You'll be wanting this,” Jack said, surprising his husband yet again.

Daniel's head flew at Jack's reappearance, but just as suddenly, he was gone again, having left a package of Daniel's favorite Starbuck's coffee as well as a giant Hershey chocolate bar on the table.

~I'll kill him, after I kiss him senseless.  Gawd, what's happening?~

====

Back at their house, Jack returned to bed, even though he knew he wouldn't sleep.  Still, he had to try.  There was a lot on his plate right now, and he couldn't afford to let personal problems interfere.  He had changed into his pajamas and had the covers pulled halfway up.  He closed his eyes at 3:30 a.m., hoping for some kind of much-needed rest.

Suddenly, the faint sound of footsteps on the stairs drew Jack's attention.  Then he heard the sliding of the drawer in the bedroom.  He felt the mattress give just slightly from the addition of another body.  Moments later, he felt the love of his life spooned up against him.

Daniel's left arm went over Jack's body, then snaked underneath the pajama top, settling against his chest where fingers began to caress lovingly.  Jack felt soft lips against his skin at his neck.

“I love you, Jack.  Please come back to me from wherever it is you are.  I love you,” Daniel intoned quietly.

Daniel nuzzled in as tight as he could go and held Jack securely as he closed his eyes.  He breathed a sigh of relief when the top of his hand registered the feeling of Jack's palm.  Soon, Jack's fingers interlaced with his.

No words were spoken, and neither slept, but they did rest for a few hours before starting a new day at the SGC.

====

Somehow, the lovers managed to get through the days that followed without a fight or major trauma.  Both were so busy with the Atlantis project that they were starting work early and ending late.  When actually together at the SGC, other people were usually around.  At home, they managed to be civil, even friendly as they played with Bijou and Katie, but then one or the other would excuse themselves to do some work.

The couple slept together, literally.  They hadn't made love, but they continued to touch lightly.  Twice, they both were so tired that they'd fall asleep almost instantly upon lying down, each on their own side of the bed.  It always amazed them that whenever that happened, they'd awake the next morning, spooned together, their hands clasped and fingers intertwined.  They'd smile and kiss, knowing their connection was there, despite the current tension.

On the other nights, even if they started on separate sides of the bed but hadn't fallen asleep right away, it was never more than an hour before one couldn't stand it any longer and would cave in, cozying up to the other.  Always, without fail, the other would take hold of their lover's hand.  It was the only physical closeness they'd allowed themselves, and both clung to it.

Finally, it was the night before the big send off.  Jack and Daniel had again worked late and were going through the dog playing scenario.  It was Daniel who got up to go work on this night, except something unexpected happened.

“I need to do some work.  I'll be in the den, Jack.”

“Sure.  Actually, Daniel, I think I'll take a walk.  I know it's a little late, but we haven't been out much lately.”

“Okay.”

Daniel rose from the patio step where the two had been sitting and began to walk towards the house when he felt a breeze at his feet.  He really wasn't sure what it was, until he heard the growl.

At the same time, Jack had started to go around the side of the house to start his walk.  He too felt a sudden breeze and heard a growl, stopping his movement.

Katie stood in front of the patio door, actually growling at Daniel while Bijou had corralled Jack, growling at him.

“Hey, what's the idea?” Jack barked.

“Grrrrr...ruff.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.”

“Okay, I give.  What?”

Bijou looked fierce, her black eyes piercing through Jack's.  She began to walk towards him as if angry.  It actually made the Air Force general back up.

“What the blazes is going on?  Daniel?” Jack asked, looking over at his partially estranged lover.

“I've got my own problems.  Katie, why are you growling?” Daniel questioned.

“Wuuuuuuuuuf...grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

Daniel started to lean forward to pick up the youngest beagle, but she lunged a bit at him and growled even louder.  Automatically, he startled, backing up another step.

“Jack, I don't think they're ... happy.”

Katie mimicked her mother's moves.  Like Jack, Daniel backed up yet again, barely managing not to fall down the steps.

“Ya think?” Jack said, still backing away from the angry mama beagle.

“I wonder if they're sick?” Daniel inquired worriedly, continuing his movements as Katie moved in a fierce, cat-like attack motion.

The two dogs continued to growl loudly and forcefully, stunning both Jack and Daniel.  Both men's eyes were locked on to the unusually hostile beagles, neither sure what was happening.  Bijou and Katie had never acted like this with them; it didn't make sense.

“Now, Dear,” Bijou said to her youngest puppy, using dog-speak to communicate.

At the same time, both dogs charged, shocking the men so much that they backed into each other, knocking each other down to the ground.

“What the ... Daniel?”

“Don't look at me,” Daniel responded, rolling over; that is, starting to roll over until Katie jumped onto his abdomen.  “Hi, there,” he greeted, totally confused, especially when he noticed Jack was flat on his back in the same predicament with Bijou sitting firmly in place on his abdomen.

The two men were side by side, supine on their backs, each with a beagle atop them.

“And your point, Bij, is what?” Jack asked.

“Woof!” Bijou answered, looking at Daniel.

“Woof!  Woof!” Katie added, looking over at Jack.

In dog-speak, Bijou said to her daughter, “Katie, their hands.  Nudge their hands.”

Katie responded with a soft “Woof” that meant, “Okay, Mom.”

Together, at the same time, both beagles began their task, Katie pawing on Daniel's right hand, and Bijou on Jack's left.  Daniel gave in, turning his head to face his husband.

“Jack?”

Jack realized what was happening, too, allowing Bijou to complete her task.  The two hands were side by side.

Jack smiled and took hold of his lover's hand as he surmised, “I think they're trying to tell us something.”

“Ya think?” Daniel said, a laugh in his tone as he mimicked another of Jack's trademark phrases.

“Okay, Girls, we get the message.  Do you think you could get off of us now?” Jack requested.

Bijou looked unconvinced.

“Oh, for crying out loud.  OFF!” Jack ordered.

“Let's give them a chance, Katie.  If they mess up, we go to Plan B,” Bijou instructed.

“Yes, Mama,” Katie responded as she jumped off of the younger man.

“Thank you,” Jack said as he stood up alongside his husband.  The two stared into each other's eyes.  “I've missed you ... a lot.”

“I'm not the one causing this.  I don't know what's wrong.”

“I'm wrong, but I can't change, but it doesn't matter if we're not together,” Jack stated truthfully.

“Jack, I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Too much talk.  Way too much,” Jack spoke softly as he leaned in for a tender kiss.

“Jack ...”

“I want you, Danny.  Let's go to bed, for real.”

Daniel sighed, “We need to talk.”

“No.  We need to make love until our bodies collapse on us.  That's what we need,” Jack refuted, love in his eyes that Daniel just couldn't deny.

“I love you, Jack.”

“Heaven knows I love you, Daniel.”  Jack closed his eyes for a moment.  He reached down and brought Daniel's hands to his lips and kissed them.  “I love you ... Danny.  Bed?”

Daniel nodded, and the two went upstairs as the beagles watched from the patio.

“Mama, are they going to be okay?”

“Eventually, Dear.  Oh, I see a bone.  First one there gets it!,” Bijou said as she raced off towards the bone.

“Mama!  You're supposed to give me a head start.  I'm your baby.”

“Age before youth, Dear, especially where bones are concerned!”

====

“Morning, Beautiful,” Jack chimed as he kissed his very tired but very satiated lover.

“Hey,” Daniel responded slowly, yawning as he woke.

“I love you so much.” Jack ran his hand against Daniel's cheek.  “So much, Danny.”

Jack was determined to get them back on track.  To do that, he needed to let go of his guilt, and he was going to have to trust that somehow, he could make it up to the man he loved.  He didn't know how, but he would find a way to make Daniel forget Atlantis ever existed.

The lovers kissed and, as they showered, they made love again.  Daniel didn't understand what had been wrong, and he still hoped Jack would talk to him about it, but he also felt the tremendous outpouring of love being given to him.  Jack's adoration was true and sincere.  Daniel was certain of that.  He felt it with every fiber of his being, so for now, he decided to just enjoy the good.

~Maybe time will help.  Maybe something happened I don't know about that he can't tell me.  Time.  He just needs time to sort through it.  I'll bet that's it.~

For the first time since Daniel's departure for the Outpost, the lovers were smiling and teasing as they left for the SGC, each winking at their happy beagles through the patio door.  They drove together to the Mountain in Daniel's Shelby-American sports car and were still laughing when the first crisis of the day began.

“We can't find Rodney,” Doctor Weir said, a bit frazzled.  “He's always disappearing.”

“Don't worry.  He'll show up,” Jack said.  Smiling a goodbye to his husband, he communicated, **See you at showtime.  Love you!**

**I love you, too!**

====

Jack entered the control room a few hours later, feeling pretty darn good.  He had to admit, it was an exciting day.  Personally, he had come to a decision to move forward, and his lover was letting him.  Life was good and would get even better soon.

Professionally, the brave people embarking to another galaxy were an inspiration to everyone.  Their courage couldn't be denied.  If the Stargate engaged, no one knew what might be learned over time.

The gate room was bustling with activity.  A new colony was essentially being launched, and that meant a tremendous amount of supplies being sent.  As Weir made her speech to those who would be pioneers to Atlantis, Daniel stood up from his seat in the control room and went to stand by his lover.

Jack stood, his arms folded.  He was full of conflicting emotions, ranging from the excitement of the discovery to guilt that he was preventing Daniel from participating to relief that Daniel was by his side now and things were on the upswing for the first time in a month.

“Begin the dialing sequence,” Weir ordered and then headed for the control room.

If the Stargate engaged, the expedition team would be headed for Atlantis.

“Chevron eight is locked,” the technician announced.

Applause broke out.  Jack smiled; it was awesome.  There was even a part of him that wished he could go explore this new frontier.

The MALP was sent through, and as the telemetry came back through, it was revealed that a structurally intact room with a breathable oxygen atmosphere was awaiting them on the other side.

“We have viable life support,” McKay reported as he studied the MALP readings.

“Doctor Weir, you have a go,” Jack announced.

The travelers began their trek as Jack and Daniel watched.

Jack nodded at Weir just before she walked through the Stargate, leaving Earth behind.  She wasn't so bad, but he also knew that neither he nor Daniel would really miss her.

Then, the nightmare began again.  Jack heard Daniel's voice, and it was saying words that Jack didn't want to hear.

“Jack, it's not too late for me ...”

“No.”

“I can just grab my ...” Daniel began.

“No,” Jack said more forcefully, his soul completely deflated, but he still had work to do and obligations to fulfill before he could deal with his personal disaster.

With the leaders having gone through, Jack went to the microphone and ordered, “Expedition team, move out.”

Several minutes later, all the equipment had been sent through and the last team member had walked through the Stargate to Atlantis.  Jack waited for the anticipated message from Doctor Weir.  It came through as soon as the final member had arrived.

“General O'Neill, Atlantis base offers greetings from the Pegasus galaxy.  You may cut power to the Gate.”

“Should I shut it down, Sir?” the technician asked.

“In a minute.”

Jack looked at Daniel, a boyish smile on his face.  Reaching into a cabinet, he pulled out a bottle that a paper attached to it.

Daniel chuckled as he walked with his soulmate to the gate room, where Jack walked up to the event horizon and then rolled the bottle of champagne through the Stargate.

“What did the note say, Jack?”

“What else ... Bon Voyage!”

====

“Jack, are you ready to ...” Daniel had entered Jack's office, expecting to find his husband there.  Instead, he found a note sitting on the desk.  ~Not again.~

D.

Had an unexpected meeting.

J.

Daniel disposed of the brief, dispassionate note as his heart flip-flopped from a feeling that things were improving to things had just taken a nose dive.  He went home.

====

Jack arrived at the country-style home two hours later, once again acting distant, only this time, Daniel wasn't going to let it pass.

“Okay, Jack, what is going on?  And this time you *are* going to tell me,” Daniel insisted.

“Let it go.”

“NO!  TELL ME WHY YOU'RE ACTING LIKE THIS.  NOW, JACK!” Daniel shouted, having reached the end of his rope.

“Fine.  I'm sorry, Daniel. I'm sorry I'm keeping you from doing something you wanted.  Sue me.  My fault.  I'm the bad guy, okay?  Just give me my black hat, and I'll be on my way.”

Daniel shook his head in disbelief, his eyes wide and his hands on his hips.

“Jack, what in Netu are you talking about?”

“You don't have to lie to me.”

“Lie?  Me?  No, Jack, you aren't turning this ... whatever around on me.  The problem here is you.  WHAT'S GOING ON?”

“You said it.  I'm the problem.  Maybe you should do something about that,” Jack stated.

With his right hand, Jack pushed the newspaper that had been setting on the counter off.  He grunted, holding his hands against the white surface.

“Jack, I'm not going through this game again.  You owe me the truth.”

“I owe you everything, and I just cost you everything.  I'm selfish.  I took your dream.  My fault.”

Daniel let out a sound of frustration, then spoke, “I don't know what you're talking about.  You're my dream, Jack.  This house.  The girls.  Our future.  That's my dream.”

“Right.  Excuse me,” Jack replied as he raced towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Out.  I need air.”

“Jack!” Daniel called out exasperatedly.

“Goodnight, Daniel.  I'm going to stay at your house tonight,” the older man informed.

“Jack ...”

The general was gone, leaving Daniel totally bewildered.  He plopped down on the sofa, trying to figure out the puzzle.

“What is he talking about?  My dream.  He knows our life means everything.  Gawd.  Okay.  Think Jackson.  No, Jackson-O'Neill.  You worked a long time for that name.  Think ... Jackson-O'Neill.  When did this start?  Really start.”

Daniel folded his arms as he thought over the events of the current year.  He knew he must have missed something, something important.

~Okay.  Jack's promotion was great.  Nothing wrong then.  He had a few jitters, but that didn't affect us.  Okay, so he shot me, but he had a reason.  No big deal, especially not with the retribution I got out of him.~

Daniel actually smiled a moment.  Jack had paid dearly for the minor injury he had inflicted on Daniel, and both had enjoyed the fruits of the payments.  He went back to the problem at hand.

~Sam or Teal'c?  No.  General Hammond's fine.  The SGC is doing great.  Think, idiot.  You're supposed to be a genius.”

The young man got up and began to pace.  He stopped at the mantle and scanned their family photos.  He stopped at one of Charlie.

“Help me, Charlie.  Something's wrong, and I can't figure it out.  Any ideas?”

Daniel sighed and looked over at the television.  For some crazy reason, he decided to turn it on.  Even as he did it, he knew the action was strange.  He took the remote and prepared to scan the dial.  Suddenly, he felt a breeze, and the remote fell from his hand.  He picked it up, but then another breeze flew by him, and again, the remote fell to the carpet.

“Ooookay.  I'll just put the remote on the coffee table.”  Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he stared at the TV.  “MacGyver?  Okay, so he looks a little like Jack.  So what?”

Daniel didn't know why he was talking to the air, but he was.  He could tell it was the middle of the episode because the plot appeared to be moving well along, only then he discovered it was actually a movie made after the series went off the air.

“I didn't know they filmed a ... what is that?  What did he say?  Atlantis?”  Daniel sat down and watched the show for a few minutes.  “Atlantis.  Is that when things started to go wrong?  It couldn't be.”  He stood up again.  “We've been talking about finding the Lost City for well over a year.  Things were ... fine.  Atlantis.”

Daniel paced the room, the movie still playing on the television in the background.

“The Ancient's knowledge.  It was a nightmare.  Things were good.  It wasn't until ... until I went to Antarctica.  Maybe a little before that.  But why?”  Daniel looked at the photo of Charlie.  “Is that what you're trying to tell me?  It has something to do with Atlantis?”

Just then, Daniel felt the breeze again, and a second later, two videotapes inexplicably fell off the shelves.

“Tapes.”  Daniel walked to them and picked them up, staring at them.  There was no tie-in to Atlantis, but Daniel didn't think that was the point.  “Tapes.  I ... things were fine this morning.  Something happened.  I ... missed something,” he spoke excitedly.  “That's it, Son, isn't it?  I've missed something about Jack, and the answer is on a tape ... at the SGC.”  He smiled appreciatively.  “Thanks, Charlie.”

====

En route to the Mountain, Daniel pressed the appropriate speed dial number on his cell phone.

“Samantha Carter.”

“Sam, it's Daniel.  I need a favor.  A big favor, and now.”

“Can it wait?  Pete is ...”

“Oh, yeah, sure.  I'll figure it out.  You have fun,” Daniel said, realizing his friend must be on a date with her fiance.

“Daniel, where are you?” Sam asked, sensing something important was happening.

“Headed for the Mountain.  I need to see the security tapes,” Daniel answered.

“Your office?”

“No.  Um, no, not mine.  Nothing happened there,” Daniel said mostly to himself. “Uh, Jack's office, and ... the control room I think.”

“Daniel, that's pushing it a little.  I mean, the general.  Well, he's a general now.”

“That's okay, Sam.  Tell Pete 'hi',” Daniel requested cordially.

“Wait.  Tell me what's happening,” the blonde requested curiously, knowing Daniel wouldn't be out to look at the security tapes without good cause.

“Just a little misunderstanding.  I think.  I mean, I hope.  Gawd, Sam, I don't know, but all I do know is that if the answer isn't on one of those tapes, my marriage may fall apart.  I can't let that happen, Sam.  I'll talk to you later.  Have fun.”

“Dan...”

The archaeologist flipped off his cell phone as he sped to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.  He wasn't sure how he'd get the tapes, but he was going to.

====

Daniel carefully looked down the corridor.  He wasn't sure why he felt like he had to do that.  After all, the hall cameras were catching the peculiar movements on tape.

~Act normal, for crying out loud.~

Daniel took a breath and prepared to move forward when suddenly the door to the videotape storage room flew open.  His heart stopped, and he was certain he'd die on the spot.

“Daniel!”

“Sam?”

“Hey, guess what?”  Sam walked forward, doing a darn good Jack O'Neill imitation, putting her arm around Daniel's shoulder and turning him.  They walked towards the elevator.  “A funny thing happened.  I was about to go home because I have this hot date when, well, I remembered there was something I had to do.  I called Pete and ...”

“Sam, you didn't?”

“Just delayed it.  We can ... sleep in,” the woman said with a wink.

“Too much info, Sam,” Daniel responded, a shy, embarrassed smile on his face.

“I'm not sure why you're embarrassed.  I'm the one who just admitted we were ... uh, you know.”  Daniel laughed.  “What's so funny?”

“Nothing.”

“Daniel!”

“Just an inside joke.  It has nothing to do with you.  I promise.”  Sam looked at him skeptically.  “It's just.  You kinda sound like me.  Let's leave it at that, okay?”

“Okay,” Sam agreed as they entered her office.

Daniel watched Sam secure the room, turning off all recording devices, and remarked, “Sure doesn't take long to do that anymore.”

Sam laughed as she admitted, “After all these years, I have it down to a fine art form.  Some day, the three of us should have a contest -- see who can do it the quickest.”

“Loser pays -- O'Malley's,” Daniel challenged.

“You're on,” Sam agreed happily as she put down the bag she had been carrying since coming out of the security room.  “Okay, this is it.  Where do you want to start?”

“Well, I've been thinking about it, and ... I only saw Jack a couple of times.  Everything was fine the first time.  That was in his office, and I know it was fine because when the team went through to ... Sam, I need to see the tape from the control room from when Jack arrived.  I got there ahead of him, but not by much.”

“Okay.  I wasn't there.  Did they go out on schedule?”

Daniel nodded, so Sam checked the time and date stamps and pulled out the one she thought would be correct.

The archaeologist watched the tape carefully.  Everything seemed normal.  He saw Weir's arrival in the control room as the teams began to gather in the gate room and listened to their conversation where she again asked him to go on the mission, and again, he had refused.

~That's not it.  Jack isn't even there yet.~  The tape played on to the point where Daniel had left the control room.  “You can fast forward, Sam.”

“How far?”

“Until you see Jack ... or me,” Daniel answered.  “There I am.  Stop the tape.  Rewind a little.”

Daniel watched his arrival, and soon after, Jack's.

“He looks pretty happy to me, Daniel,” Sam observed.

“Yes, he does.  I don't ... it doesn't make sense.”  He continued to watch, seeing him stand and go to his lover's side.  “There.  Oh gawd.  Jack, you're such a dope, a great, big dope.”

“Daniel?”

“Play that part back.  There ... stop there.”

Sam listened to the exchange:

//Replay//
“Jack, it's not too late for me ...”

“No.”

“I can just grab my ...”

“No.”
//End of Replay//

“Look at him.  Tense.  His whole demeanor changed.  I was joking, Jack,” Daniel stated, sighing and shaking his head afterwards.

Sam smiled weakly, not needing any explanation to understand, at least in part, what the problem was.

“Daniel, I really don't know what this is all about, but just looking at this, you have to know that anytime the general thinks he might lose you, it drives him crazy, and we usually end up paying for it.  When you were gone, he was a bear.”

“I never would have known.  He practically ignored me,” Daniel confided.

“You know what I think?” Sam asked.

“What?”

“I think the general thinks you wanted to go to Atlantis and that you didn't go because of him.”

“He'd be right.”  Daniel sighed, shaking his head.  “But he'd be wrong, because he thinks ... Gawd, Sam, he thinks I'm giving up something.  Doesn't he know that I have everything ... because of him?”

The lieutenant colonel smiled, responding, “Yes, but sometimes, Daniel, you're both ... well.  You can both be a little insecure.”

Daniel nodded his agreement as he stood and said, “Thanks, Sam.  I have to find my dope of a husband and talk some sense into him.”

“I'll see you in a couple of days,” Sam stated.

Daniel headed for the door, but then stopped, saying, “Sam, you know, going to Atlantis would have been exciting, but it can't hold a candle to the excitement of going home to Jack.  It's not even close.  The next time I start to tease him about something like that, shoot me, okay?”

Sam laughed her agreement -- “I will.”

====

Daniel stood over the bed where Jack slept, grateful for years worth of covert training.  Jack was asleep, still in his clothes, not having bothered to undress, and had no clue his lover was standing over him.

~You're so sexy, Jack, and you're all mine.  Not letting you go.  Nope.  You hooked me, your 'Danny Fish' as you called me, so now you're stuck with me.~

Daniel was slowly shedding his clothes, letting them drop to the floor until he was naked.  Then he sat gently on the bed and began fondling his husband, his hands straying down to Jack's jeans, his lips laying an onslaught of kisses on Jack's neck and face.

“Danny ... Angel,” Jack responded automatically.

Daniel smiled, finally realizing he had a golden opportunity to channel his husband.

“That would be me.  You just keep saying that name when you wake up, and we'll be fine.”

Jack's eyelids fluttered open, and he couldn't help but smile at the words.  He had spoken similar words to Daniel many times over the years.

“Danny, you're naked.”

“You noticed,” Daniel said as he worked on disrobing his husband.

“Daniel, I think ...”

“Yes, you do, and way too much.  Way, way too much.  No thinking tonight.”

“Dan...mmm...Danny, I ... we ...mmmph, but ...”

“Shhh.  I'm busy.”

Jack's words were silenced by his husband who controlled the older man completely for the remainder of the night.  They made wild, passionate love, Daniel in complete command of his general, his chosen artifact.  It was hours before they finally slept, but when they did, they were still fused together, holding firmly to each other.

====

The next morning, the lovers ate at the local IHOP and then went home. They played with Bijou and Katie for quite a while, making the two beagles very happy.

“Jack, we need to talk.”

“I know.  Let's go inside.”

The couple petted their dogs again before walking into the living room for their discussion.

“Mama?” Katie asked, concerned but hopeful.

“They're on their way back, Little One.  Did you look in their eyes?” Bijou responded in dog-speak.

“They love each other a whole lot, Mama.”

“That they do, Dear.  Let's go watch.”

“If they see us, they'll leave.  They never fight in front of us.”

“That's because they don't want us to worry, but I don't think they'll be fighting.”

Bijou and Katie walked to the patio door and lay down to watch their “parents” as they talked.

--

Inside, the two lovers sat side by side on the sofa, holding hands.  It was Daniel who spoke first.

“Jack, I honestly think you'd feel better if you tell me the truth, and if it makes it easier, I think I know what it is, and I have one thing to say to that.”

“And that is?”

Daniel answered, “You're a dope -- a silly, insecure, crazy dope ... and I happen to be head over heels in love with you.  So, are you going to tell me, like you know you should?”

Jack nodded and took a deep breath.  He leaned his head back against the top of the sofa, staring at the ceiling.

“Atlantis.”

“Right.”

His head still against the sofa top, Jack faced Daniel, turning his head to the right, and said, “Your dream.”

“That would be you,” Daniel acknowledged pointedly, his blue eyes connecting solidly with his husband's brown eyes.

“But you have another dream.”

“Jack, I have a lot of dreams, but the biggest one is you.  You know that.”  He could tell Jack's breathing became a bit more labored.  He faced the front of the room now, his head no longer leaning against the sofa.  “Dope.  Go on.”

“It reminded me of Heliopolis.  I took that from you, too,” Jack lamented.

“No, you didn't.  I would have died, Jack.  The place fell apart.  All that knowledge is probably ... lost in that ocean or buried under a ton of rock.  You saved my life.”

“I'll never forget how excited you were.  Your eyes, your voice ... every part of you was so thrilled at making a new discovery.  I saw that same look, heard that same tone when you talked about Atlantis.  You would have gone if it weren't for me.”

“You're right,” the passionate explorer agreed.

Jack looked at Daniel, stunned by the admission.  It made Daniel shake his head again as a small smile formed on his face.  With his right hand, he leaned over to Jack and caressed his cheek.

“You big, silly, crazy dope.”  The words were light, soft, warm.  “Jack, if you weren't in my life, I'd have gone to Atlantis, and you know what I would have done?”

“What?”

“Worked all day, every day.  My whole life would revolve around the mysteries of the Lost City.  My nose would be in a book all the time.  I'd never eat,” Daniel smiled.  “Sleep?  Who needs that.  My social life would revolve around the Ancient's knowledge and whatever I could extrapolate from there.  Jack, don't you get it?”

Daniel had to kiss his lover, needing to connect with the lips that often turned him into Jell-O.

“My Love, do you remember a few years back, I finally went to General Hammond and ... well, I told him I had a life now?  I stood there, in his office, and said that I would always be available for emergencies, but that now, I had something outside of the SGC.  I couldn't tell him that was you.  I could only tell him that I was ...” he paused, looking down for a second and then back into Jack's chocolate brown eyes.

“Jack, I'm happy.  I've wanted to be happy since I was eight-years-old.  I love the digs.  I love the travels.  I love the experiences.  But, Babe, I was never happy, not until you, not until you touched me on Apophis' ship.  I didn't have a clue what it meant to wake up knowing that I was loved, and that at the end of the day, I'd still be loved.  I have a home, a husband, the girls, and gawd, Jack, you big dope, we're going to have children ... babies, and soon.  I'm thinking very soon.”

“Are you?”

Daniel couldn't miss the sparkle in his soulmate's eyes.

“Oh, yeah.  I think ... darn soon.  I'm getting tired, Jack, not of the SGC really, but of putting off something that's grown inside of me for years, and especially since we got married.  We're ... missing something.”

“I know.  Almost there, huh?” Jack asked, his heart soaring at the prospect of not hiding anymore.  ~I'm so tired of pretending.~

“I'm hopin' so.  It's feeling ... almost right.  You?”

“Danny, you know me.  I was ready a long, long time ago, but now the SGC is ... if I left now ...”

“I know, but once you get it all organized, and we sort out a viable successor, one we can trust, then maybe we can leave.”

“I've felt so guilty the last few weeks,” Jack admitted

“Dope,” Daniel said softly, the smile again on his face.  “Jack, I don't want Atlantis.  I swear I was only kidding in the control room.  You couldn't have pushed me through that Gate.  Weir asked me again before you arrived.  I told her 'no' which is what I told her every other time she asked, and if you hadn't walked out of my office when I was rambling on about Atlantis, you would have heard me say that Atlantis has nothing on General Jackson-O'Neill ... nothing, Jack.”

“I love you.  I love you so friggin' much.  I just couldn't handle that my love for you was costing you something you wanted so much,” Jack explained, his voice pained.

“If I really wanted it, don't you think I would have fought for it?  Did we ever argue about me going to Atlantis?”

Jack sighed and shook his head, answering, “I kinda thought I was avoiding the arguments.”

“Jack!”

Finally, Jack laughed, “Yeah, I guess that was pretty dumb.  When you want something, you go after it.”

“I learned that from you.  I love you, Jack, my sexy Silver Fox.”

“Better than being a dope.”

“Well, you've graduated.  Jack, tell me you know, really know, that you are my heart, that I have no life without you, that Atlantis, or Ernest's Planet, or ... anything else that might be out there ... that all of that means nothing if I don't have you.  Tell me you know that.”

Daniel was staring at Jack, their faces only inches apart.

Jack nodded, his voice cracked, when he responded, “I know, Angel.  I'm so sorry I was a ... dope.”

“Big time dope, O'Neill.”

“Jackson-O'Neill.”

“And don't you ever forget it,” Daniel reminded.

“Never.  Can't,” Jack claimed.  “You see I'm married to the most beautiful, dreamy, gorgeous geek, and he happens to have the same name.”

“Does he now?”

“I got scared, Danny.  I couldn't let you go.”

Daniel smiled, saying, “That's the best thing about this.  There was a time, Jack, when you would have tried to make me go, thinking it was what I wanted.  Thank you for not doing that.”

“I need you.  I love you.”

“Show me,” the younger man requested.

“You're on.  Bed?”

“Definitely, bed.”

The two kissed as they headed upstairs.

“Oh, Jack, we're having a contest,” Daniel announced as they were halfway up the stairs.

“We are?”

“You, me, and Sam, to see who can turn off all the security equipment in our offices the quickest.”

Jack laughed as he drew Daniel to him and nibbled on his ear, asking, “What does the winner get?”

“Dinner at O'Malley's,” Daniel answered.

“How about a side bet?”

“Like what?” Daniel asked.

“Winner gets to have his way with the loser,” Jack said with a leer.

“What if Sam loses?”

“We send her to Pete,” Jack smirked.

“Uh, by the way, did you know they ... you know?”

“They do?” Jack said with a chuckle.

“Seriously, Jack, that's what she said ... that they 'you know'.”

Jack laughed as he escorted his husband to the top of the stairs, stating, “Time for us to ... you know.”

“Don't you know it,” Daniel said as they sank down to the bed and began their reunion of their nation of two.

--

At the patio door, Katie brought her mother a bone she dug up from her play yard.

“Here, Mama, this is for you.”

“You're giving me a new bone, Dear?” Bijou asked, surprised by the gift.

“Yes, because you're so smart.  I'd miss them, Mama, and what would happen to us?”

“Oh, Little One, you don't need to worry.  Jack and Daniel will always keep us safe.”

“Woof!”

“Right, and we'll keep them safe, too!”

It was a promise Bijou and Katie would always keep.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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