Beginnings

Author: Orrymain
Category: Pre-Slash, Mini-angst, Smarm, Missing Scene/Epilogue
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  1 - during Children of the Gods
Spoilers:  Children of the Gods, Stargate: The Movie (minor)
Size:  61kb,
Written:  October 7-12,14-15, 2004
Summary:  Jack brings Daniel home on his first night back on Earth, thus setting into motion the beginnings of a beautiful friendship and a poignant love affair.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Claudia, Linda, Alison, Drdjlover, Sue!

Beginnings
by Orrymain

====
--Jack's Perspective
====

~Long day.  Way too long.  I just want to go home, have a couple of beers, and maybe catch a replay on TV ... anything that has nothing to do with ... other planets and aliens.  Home, O'Neill ... peace and relaxation.~

Jack had just finished checking on Lou Ferretti, who had been injured on the recent mission to Abydos, and now, he was headed for the exit when something caught his attention: a lone figure standing lost in the shadows of the gray corridor.

~If you're smart, you'll keep walking, O'Neill.  Look at him.  Looks like he hasn't got a friend in the world.  Crap.  You always were a sucker for strays, and he is definitely one very lost puppy.~

Unable to continue on, Jack approached Daniel.

“Hey.”

The sad-looking archaeologist looked at Jack and waited a moment before saying the painful truth:  “They don't know what to do with me, and I don't know what to do with myself.”

~Definitely a lost puppy.  Go O'Neill; hurry; walk away.~  Jack looked at the barren wall Daniel was staring at.  ~Aw, crap, I am such a sucker for lost puppies.~  He just didn't have the heart to walk away.  ~Okay, Daniel, you've found a home.~  Jack lightly tapped the younger man on the arm and said, “Come on; Let's get out of here.”

He headed toward the other corridor and paused at the turn, waiting for the archaeologist.  After a moment, Daniel turned and followed.

“Where are we going?” he asked as they walked to the exit.

“My house.”

“Jack, you don't have to take me home with you.”

“Oh, you've had a better offer in the last two minutes?”

“No, but I ... I don't want to intrude.”

They entered the elevator and headed for the parking level.

“You won't be.  You need a place to stay; might as well be with me.”

“Jack, maybe you should call your wife first.  She might not appreciate you showing up with a total stranger.”

“My wife?”  ~Does he remember everything?~

Just then the door opened, and Jack made a quick exit.  He ignored Daniel's question and asked, “How do you feel about extra cheese?”

“What?”

“On pizza.”

“I, uh, it doesn't matter,” Daniel said, shrugging.

“What's your favorite?”

“What?”

~Does he have a hearing problem or something?~  “Toppings, Daniel.”

“Oh, uh, anything is fine.”

“Don't you have a favorite?”  Jack saw the archaeologist shrug.  “Everyone has a favorite variety.”

“Cheese, I guess.”

“Cheese?” Jack repeated dryly as he unlocked the doors on his old, beat-up truck.  “We'll splurge.  Go for a supreme.”

“Okay,” Daniel said.

Jack exited the Mountain and drove carefully down the winding road that led to and from the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.  Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the shaggy-haired man stare as blankly out the car window as he had stared at the nothingness of the corridors in the old missile silo.

Jack could see the young man's chest rising and falling quickly, a sure indication of nervousness.

~You're as skittish as a scared cat.  Come on, O'Neill.  The man just had his wife kidnapped by a bunch of aliens.  You know how that feels, to lose your wife, sort of.  No, you don't.  You haven't let yourself feel anything about that.~  Jack was tired of thinking.  It was giving him a headache.  “So, Daniel ...”

“What?” Daniel responded, looking at Jack.

“Nothing.”  Jack found himself unexpectedly lost for words.  Even his trusty sarcasm seemed to have deserted him, so for several minutes, the two drove in silence towards a neighborhood pizza parlor.  Suddenly, Jack exclaimed, “Crap!”

“What?”

“I forgot.  Samuels was in such a blasted hurry to get to the Mountain when he showed up at the house that I left my credit cards on the dresser, and ...” Jack grumbled as he remembered the circumstances concerning the comment he was about to make. “I lost my last ten-spot in a bet with Kawalsky.”

“A bet?”

“You *don't* want to know.”

“Oh.”

“Point is ... no plastic and no cash.  I don't suppose you have ...”  Seeing Daniel's incredulous look, Jack smirked, “No, I suppose not.  Well, we'll have to make do with whatever is in the fridge, but I'll warn you now, it may not be edible.”

Daniel chuckled very lightly and sighed; then looked back out the window, not really minding the change in plans.  Food wasn't exactly at the forefront of his thoughts.

Jack went back to his surreptitious Daniel watching.

~Is that your version of a laugh?  I thought you were a linguist?  Not tonight, huh?~

“Home, then,” Jack said, continuing the drive to his house, located about forty minutes from the Mountain.

It wasn't a big house, but it was two levels, and had a country-style motif to it.  He had a big yard, currently without any type of fencing, and the thing Jack loved most of the place, even though he lived in a suburban setting, the neighbors were far enough away that he felt secluded, something that he valued highly.  Even from his roof deck, the neighbors couldn't see any activity on the deck since their view blocked by trees and distance.

“Daniel, how about telling me what happened on Abydos after we left the first time,” Jack asked, wanting to lure Daniel out of his silence.

Daniel smiled as he remembered back.

“It was good, Jack, really good.”

~Aha!  That was the secret: get him talking about Abydos, but he's not talking about Sha're; he's guarding himself.  I recognize the tone and demeanor: anything to keep from feeling the pain.  He loved that Cartouche, though; can't stop talking about it.~

Six minutes later, with Daniel still talking about the planet and the Cartouche, Jack drove into his driveway and announced, “This is it.”

“Looks nice,” Daniel said as he got out of the truck and made a panoramic sweep of the house, yard, and neighborhood.

“Daniel, you can barely see it in the dark.”

“Still looks nice.”

~Okay, if you say so.  Well, it is nice, but how the blazes can you tell?~ Jack shook his head and led Daniel inside his house.  “Make yourself at home.  How about a beer?”

Daniel nodded as he toured the living room, surveying everything in sight and ending up by the fireplace.  Jack, meanwhile, headed for the kitchen where he pulled out two bottles of beer.  He heard a sneeze from the living room and shook his head.

~Some things never change.~

As Daniel blew his nose, Jack approached with the beers and offered one to him.

“Nice catch.”

“Thank you.  Sorry, Gate travel always seems to make my allergies ...”
Daniel stopped, blew his nose again, and sniffled.  “Sorry,” he said again, taking the beer from Jack and uncapping it.

“So, you were saying?”

“Anyway, um, as soon as you were gone, they realized they were free; I mean, Abydos was ... was their world for the taking.”

“Had a little party, did ya?” Jack asked from his seat on his sofa.  ~Bet that was fun: that stuff they fixed on the planet was hard-core liquor.  Didn't know Daniel had it in him.  Then again, didn't know he could kiss like that, either.  That was one big kiss the Mrs. planted on him before things went sour.~

“Oh, yeah; big, big party.  They treated me like their savior; it was, um, embarrassing,” Daniel said with a nervous smile.

“It's amazing you turned out so normal.”  ~Shy, aren't you, Daniel?  Must be why Sha're fell for you.~

“Well, if it wasn't for Sha're, I'd probably ...”  Daniel paused, realizing he couldn't ignore talking about his beautiful wife.  He missed her; he needed to remember.  Sharing a look with Jack, Daniel then sat down in one of the chairs and continued his thought about his wife.  “She was the complete opposite of everyone else.  She practically fell on the floor laughing every time I tried to do some chore they all took for granted, like, um, grinding yaphetta flour.  I mean, have you ever tried to grind your own flour?”

“I'm trying to kick the flour thing.”

Daniel laughed, “This is going straight to my head.”  He took another sip of beer.  “What time is it, anyway?  I must have Gate lag or something.”

“Daniel, for crying out loud, you've had one beer.  You're a cheaper date than my wife was.”  ~My wife?  I've never brought her up to a soul.  Why am I doing this?  I brought the kid home, and now I'm talking about Sara?  This is ... odd.~

“Yes, when am I going to meet your wife?” Daniel asked, looking around as if waiting for her to walk into the room.

“Oh, probably, uh, never.  After I came back from Abydos the first time, she'd already left.”  ~Can't blame her; she didn't get much of a prize when she married me.~

“I'm sorry.”

“Yeah, so was I.  I think in her heart she forgave me for what happened to our kid; she just ... couldn't forget.”   ~She tried, though, and she worked like a dickens to get through to me.  I just didn't want to listen.~

“And what about you?”

“I'm the opposite.  I'll never forgive myself, but sometimes I can forget ... sometimes.”  ~Like when I get very, very drunk, or when I'm fighting ... someone, anyone.  Great reason to un-retire - always someone to fight.~

Daniel looked around, not really knowing what to say.

“Daniel, it's okay, but I'm starved.  How about I order that pizza and have it delivered?”

“Okay.”

“Cheese?”

“Sausage and pepperoni with extra cheese,” he requested with a smile.

“There may be hope for you yet, Doctor Jackson.”  ~Thank you; I don't think I could have gone through 'what's your favorite' discussion again.~

Jack rose and ordered the pizza.  Still standing near the counter where the phone was, he watched Daniel for a minute.

~Lost and lonely: it's a miserable existence.  Okay, O'Neill, enough of that.~  “Hey, do you want to take a shower or ...”

“Is that a hint?” Daniel asked, trying to smile.

“Not this time, but ...”

“Actually, if it's okay ...”

“Sure, follow me.”

They walked upstairs.  Daniel looked all around as they entered the master bedroom, and Jack flipped on the lights.

“It's not much, but it gets the job done,” Jack commented.  He motioned with his head and said, “Bathroom is that way.  Help yourself to whatever you need.  Uh ...” Jack looked at Daniel, then went to his drawers and pulled out some clothes.  “These might be more comfortable.  They ought to fit well enough for now.”

Daniel nodded shyly and continued to look around.

~Always the observer, aren't you, Doctor Jackson?  I've noticed that about you; you're always checking out the surroundings.  I wonder if you're looking to see what's there, or looking for the way out?  Not sure why I thought that.~

“I'll be downstairs.  Take your time.”

Jack headed for the door.

“Jack?”  Daniel saw Jack turn expectantly.  “Um, just wanted to say ... thanks.”

Jack nodded and walked downstairs to wait for the pizza, leaving Daniel to shower and change.

====

“Jack?”  Daniel looked around, surprised not to see Jack anywhere in the living room or kitchen.  “Jack?” he called out again.

His voice floated up to where Jack was sitting in his chair on the roof deck.

 ~Sounds ... scared.  Hmm.  I’m just out here, Daniel.  Is that panic in your voice?~

“Jack, where'd you go?”

“Daniel ... outside ... climb the ladder,” Jack shouted.

Daniel looked around in surprise at hearing Jack's voice.  He saw the patio door was slightly ajar and noticed the ladder that stood just beyond it.  Cautiously, he went outside and climbed the ladder.  As he got to the top, he looked around again to get his bearings.

“Hey, welcome to ... the roof,” Jack smiled.  “Pizza's piping hot.  Danny, are you coming up, or are you going to stand on the ladder all night?”

“Daniel, and, uh, well, sorry,” he said, climbing onto the deck and shifting nervously.

Suddenly, Jack realized he had only one chair on the deck.  He stood, offering the chair to his guest.

“No, that's okay.  I'll be fine here,” Daniel said, sitting on the roof deck between the small table the pizza box sat on and the railing.  “It's nice up here.”

“Yeah, I like it,” Jack said, sitting back down and taking out a slice of the pizza.  “Quiet and peaceful.”

Daniel nodded, taking a bite of his food.  He looked at the deck, as if studying it.

~It's just your every day deck.  Give your mind a rest, Daniel.  Geez.~

Jack saw Daniel staring at the telescope, and offered, “Hobby.  Kept me out of trouble after I retired the last time.”

“Looks like, uh, fun.”

“It's interesting and entertaining.  You never know what you'll find when you look through the lens.  Besides, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to explore those places.  The Stargate,” Jack suddenly sighed, “what a dream.  It's like being a kid again; well, except for Ra and his buddies.  You know, playing space man.”

“I guess you're right.  I ... don't really ... I mean, sure.”

Jack took a bite and stared at Daniel whom he noticed was staring at the wooden deck.

~I don't get you.  What did I say that was so confusing?~

“Daniel, what did you want to be when you were a kid?”

Daniel slowed his chewing, and Jack could swear he actually stopped eating altogether.

“Wha...what?”

“I was just remembering playing space man, but I always wanted to be a fireman.  I guess all boys do at some point or another.  Right?” ~What’s so confusing?  Are these really tough questions?~

“I, uh, I don't know.  So when did you start studying astronomy?” Daniel asked nervously.

“Study?  I dabble.  Years ago, but I guess when Sara left ...” Jack trailed off.

“I'm sorry, Jack.”

~Why do you look so guilty, Daniel?  Crap, it's not your fault I flunked out as a husband.~  “Me, too.  She ... Sara's a good woman.  She's a teacher, elementary grades.  The kids loved her.”  ~So do I.~  “I ... miss her.”  ~Geez, O'Neill, you never talk about her, and now ... what the heck are you doing?~

“I miss Sha're.  We have to find her, Jack.”

“We will.  So you liked Abydos?”  ~Let's talk about positive things, Danny.~

Daniel smiled and nodded as he answered, “Closest thing I've ever had to a home since my parents died.”  Daniel looked shaken, almost white, but Jack didn't understand why.  He was about to say something, but Daniel finally started talking again.  “The people on Abydos are very friendly, and, like I said, they thought I ... thought I was some ...”

“Savior?” Jack said, using Daniel's word from earlier in the night.

“I've never been anywhere where the people were so welcoming.”  He looked up at the stars.  “You said the stars are peaceful; Abydos was peaceful for me.  I used to go for long walks in the desert and look up at the stars.  I, uh, always wondered what y...what people on Earth were doing at that precise moment.”

“Probably watching hockey and drinking a beer,” Jack answered with a smile.  ~Thinking about me, were ya?  Don't be embarrassed, Daniel.  I gave you a thought or two, too, over the past year, but I'm not about to admit it, either.~

“Hockey,” Daniel repeated with a sneer.

“Hey, hockey's a great sport.”

“If you like violence.”

“Ever play?”  Daniel shook his head.  “What was your poison?”

“Excuse me?”

“Sports?”

Daniel shook his head again, and said, “Books were more my thing, I guess.”

“Every kid plays a sport.  Come on, Daniel.  Fess up.  Tennis?  Track?  Baseball?  Soccer?”

“Can I look through the telescope?” Daniel asked, getting up and moving towards the scope and desperately wanting to change the subject.

“Sure.”

Jack explained its operation, and then watched as the younger man looked through the lens.

“I wonder where she is,” he lamented softly.

“We'll find out, but for now, we'd better get some sleep.  Tomorrow's going to be a big day.”

Daniel looked at Jack and nodded.  He carefully put the lens cap back on the telescope and stood, looking out over the backyard.

“It is a nice house, Jack.”

“It's home.”

After disposing of the pizza box and empty beer bottles, they went inside.  Jack locked up the house, and the two headed upstairs.

“This is the spare room.  Oops, guess it's in need of some clean up,” Jack chuckled, forgetting that he had a lot of boxes and accumulated 'junk' in the room, many of which were on the bed itself.

He walked to the bed and began to clear away the boxes and things.

“I can do that,” Daniel said.

“No, it's okay.”  Daniel followed Jack's lead, and soon the room was a bit more presentable.  “Wait here.”  Jack went to the hallway closet and pulled out a set of sheets and a pillow and returned to the room.  “No idea when these were changed last.”

He tossed the items to Daniel and began to tear away the current bedding.  Then, they put on the new sheets.

“Okay, if you need anything ... well, help yourself.  If you need the bathroom, just walk on in.  Only have the one.”  Daniel nodded shyly.  “Good night, Daniel.”

“Good night, Jack.”

Jack walked to the door and looked back at Daniel who was watching him.

“We'll find her.”

Daniel smiled at the certainty in Jack's voice.

“Thanks ... for everything.”

Jack smiled and went to the master bedroom.  He changed into pajamas and slid into his bed.

~Yep, O'Neill, lost puppy.  What can I say, Mom?  It's those eyes of his.  Betcha you couldn't have left him at the base, either.  Oh well.  I'll buy more dog food ... I mean, food tomorrow.  Besides, it's a little less lonely around here with Danny around.~

Jack shook his head at his silent thoughts and closed his eyes, falling asleep a few minutes later.

====

“Hey,” Jack said, surprised to see Daniel sitting on the patio porch early the next morning.  ~You still look tired.~

Jack had slept well, better than he had for a very long time.  He’d been sure the exhausted archaeologist would have slept soundly, and that he would need to be hauled out of bed just in time to run to the Mountain.

“Hey.”

“I thought you told me you like to sleep in.”

“Couldn't sleep.”

“Yeah, I guess those mattresses are kinda old and lumpy.  I need to get some new ones.”

“Oh, no.  The bed was fine; I just ...”

Daniel shrugged, not finishing his sentence.

“Did you eat something?”

“Eat?”

Daniel looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, as if the word 'eat' was foreign to him.

“Daniel ... food, nourishment.”  Jack shook his head and walked into the kitchen, leaving the younger man alone for a minute or two.  When he returned, he said, “How do you like your eggs?”

“Eggs?”

“Oval things; come from chickens.  You eat them.”

“Oh, um, doesn't matter.”

~Doesn't matter, just like the pizza toppings didn't matter?~  Jack called out again.  “Scrambled, poached, fried ... an omelet even.  Come on, Daniel.  What's your pleasure?”

“Um, whatever you're having.”

“Daniel ... pick one.”

The deer in headlights look intensified, both frustrating and confusing the older man.

Daniel looked around and then asked, “What's your favorite?”

~I may kill him as an appetizer.~  “Daniel, *pick* one.”

Finally, the younger man did as requested, answering, “I guess ... scrambled.”

Jack rolled his eyes at his efforts.

~That was like pulling teeth.~

It was then Jack realized Daniel was wearing the same attire he had left the Mountain in the night before.

“Daniel, come with me.”  Obediently, and probably for the only time in their history that it would happen, Daniel stood without question or argument and followed Jack back to the master bedroom.  Jack opened up several drawers and then moved to the closet, sliding open the doors.

Daniel's eyes were drawn to a crate full of magazines on the floor of the closet.  Jack immediately noticed.

“National Geographic.  I'm a lifetime subscriber; have all the issues.”

“All of them?”

“Somewhere around here.  This is the last couple of year's worth.”

“Oh.  They do have some intriguing articles sometimes.”

“Articles?” Jack asked as if he'd never heard of the publication containing articles.  He smiled wryly and said, “I just subscribe for the pictures.”

“Right,” Daniel said, a closed smile on his face.

~Don't buy it, do ya?  That's okay.  You're right.  Love the Geo.  Best way to learn about the world if you can't be there.~  Moving on to the reason he had revealed the contents of his closet, Jack extended his left arm, waving it in front of the closet and then over at the drawers. “Pick something,” he said.

“What?”

“You need clothes, and for now, this is the O'Neill Store for Wayward Archaeologists.  Take whatever you want, get dressed, and then we'll have breakfast.”

“Jack, you don't have to do this.  I can wear these.”

“Pick something ... now!”  ~Before I strangle you.  Geez, Daniel.  Why is everything so difficult?  It's not like I'm giving you a million bucks here!~

Slowly, Daniel looked at the wardrobe selection, but he seemed to have a hard time choosing.  He finally started to look through a few things ... carefully.

“Daniel, what you doing?”

“I, uh ... well, I thought maybe I'd try and find something old that ...”

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  Jack looked Daniel up and down for a minute, then selected a complete outfit and handed it to him.  “Try these, and if they don't fit reasonably well, *tell* me.”

====

“How's this look?” Daniel asked fifteen minutes later when he rejoined Jack in the kitchen.

“Not bad.”

“I'll pay you back, Jack; I mean for the food and stuff, and ...”

“No, you won't.  Look, we don't know for sure what's going to happen over the next few weeks.  I don't think you need the pressure of worrying about food, clothes, or a place to stay, so for now, this is home.”

“I ... I ...” Daniel folded his arms and avoided Jack's gaze.

“Unless, of course, you've had a better offer.”

“No, of course not; it's just ... I hate being a burden.”

“Burden?  Daniel, you're not an invalid.  If it makes you feel better, you can do half the cooking, half the cleaning, and watch whatever I want on TV.  How's that?”

“I still want to contribute to the bills, if I ever get paid,” he said, staring at the carpet.

“We'll discuss it later.  Here,” Jack walked over with a plate full of food and sat it on the counter in front of the archaeologist.  “Breakfast is served.”

“All this?” Daniel asked in disbelief.  “I thought you were just fixing eggs.”

“That was the first question, but I didn't want to spend another hour finding out if you preferred sausage or bacon, what kind of bread you wanted, or what you wanted to drink.”

“Oh.  I'm sorry,” Daniel said, bowing his head again.

~This kid is sorry about everything.~  “Daniel, eat ... ALL of it.  You're as skinny as a rail.  Didn't Sha're feed you?”

He smiled and answered, “She tried, but I ... I tend to get wrapped up in things and ... I don't know.”

“So little things like food and sleep become optional?”

“Something like that,” Daniel admitted.

“Well, not at the O'Neill Country Inn.  Eat up.”

====

“We'd better go.”  They headed for the front door.  “Whoa, wait a second.”  Jack opened the closet door and pulled out a brown jacket.  “Here, this is yours, and no, you're not paying me back.  It's old.  Put it on.”

Daniel smiled and took the coat, immediately putting it on.  He smiled again, enjoying the warmth of the jacket.

Jack chuckled.

“I don't think you'll make GQ, but it’s not too bad of a fit; a little long maybe.”

“You're taller than me.”

“Not by much.  Danny ...”

“Daniel.”

“Whatever happens, you're not alone.  We'll get Sha're back somehow, and go from there; but however long that takes, you're always welcome here.  Mi casa, su casa, and all of that stuff, okay?”

Daniel blinked several times, and seemed to Jack to be totally shocked.  He stood motionless, just staring at the older man.

~I don't get it.  If I didn't know better, I'd think he was going to ... cry or something.~  “Daniel, are you okay?”

“I'm fine.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.”

Daniel brushed by Jack and headed for the truck as quickly as he could.

~Daniel Jackson, I'm not sure exactly what your story is, but something tells me that your history isn't pretty.  Well, I've got news for you, neither is mine.  You're not alone, Danny, and from now on, you've got a friend, whether you want one or not.~

====

“Aren't you going to take off your coat?” Jack asked as they stood in the briefing room, waiting for the others to arrive.

“No, uh, I'm kinda cold,” Daniel answered softly.

“Must be a year in that desert sand.”

“Yeah, that's it ... and, um, well, I grew up ... I mean, I've spent a lot of time in warmer climates.”

“Well, that coat may be old, but it'll keep you warm.”

“I'm counting on that.”

Just then, Sam entered, and moments later others arrived who were to attend the morning briefing.  In another minute, General Hammond would arrive and make the historic announcement of the formation of SG teams one and two.  Life would never be the same for those assembled in the briefing room that day.

====
--Daniel's Perspective
====

~Great.  What do I do now?  Everyone's gone home or ... I don't know where.  Hey, guys, remember me?  I'm still here.  Gawd, why should I expect this place to be any different?  It's a freakin' military zoo.  I'm alone again, so alone.~

Earlier, Daniel had changed out of his Abydonian robes into a standard, military green jumpsuit.  It was all they had to offer.  There had been a couple of meetings to go over the basics of what had happened, but the next big briefing wasn't until the following morning.

General Hammond had dismissed all the personnel to get some dinner and hopefully, a decent night's sleep before moving forward with the dangerous situation that faced them and potentially threatened Earth.  One by one, the men and women had left the room until only the archaeologist remained, sitting alone at the empty table.  He sighed and began his long walk down the lonely corridors, finally coming to a stop and staring into space.

~What am I supposed to do now?  I'm sorry, Sha're.  I let you down.  I guess I wasn't a very good husband after all.  Listen to me, whining like a baby.  I miss you.  I love you.~

Daniel walked some more.  He had no clue where to go.  In the rush to get to their own homes, or otherwise fulfill their own obligations, the quiet archaeologist had been overlooked by the men and women at the Mountain.  No one had considered where he would stay or what would happen to him.  It was as if he wasn't really there.

~Just like when my parents died.  I was invisible then, too.~

Daniel sighed and stopped his forward momentum.  He leaned his back against the wall and wondered what the future held; would it just be more of the same long nightmare that his entire life thus far seemed to have been?  Aside from the year on Abydos with Sha're and his early years with his parents in Egypt, there had been only a handful of bright spots in Daniel's life, and those had been sparsely scattered throughout his thirty-two years.

Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice.

“Hey,” Jack said from behind him.

~Gawd, I don't know what to say to him.  How about the truth, Jackson?~  “They don't know what to do with me, and I don't know what to do with myself.”  ~Maybe blend in with the wall; that would work.~

He was surprised when the next words he heard were, “Come on; Let's get out of here.”

~What?  I don't understand.~  Daniel turned and saw Jack waiting for him.  ~Wow.  Okay, why not?  It's not like I have anywhere else to go.~

He turned and followed, eventually asking, “Where are we going?”

“My house.”

~His house?  Bet his wife won't like that.~  “Jack, you don't have to take to me home with you.”

“Oh, you've had a better offer in the last two minutes?”

~He's so funny.  How does he do that?~  “No, but ... I don't want to intrude.”

In the parking area, Jack asked, “How do you feel about extra cheese?”

~It's food.  Crazy question.~  “What?”

“On pizza.”

~Oh, gawd, I'm an idiot.~  “I, uh, it doesn't matter,” Daniel said, shrugging.

“What's your favorite?”

“What?”

“Toppings, Daniel.”

~He's getting angry.  Maybe I can figure a way out of this.  He's my only hope of finding Sha're; can't make him angry already.~  “Oh, uh, anything is fine.”

In Jack's truck, Daniel folded his arms tightly across his chest and stared out the window.

~I'd forgotten what it was like on Earth:  traffic lights, cars and trucks, garbage in the street.  Abydos was safe; that is, until I made it a danger zone.  I should have kept the Stargate buried.  It's my fault, all my fault, and now Sha're is ... gawd, I don't know what.  Have to find her.  Jack.  He said we would.  He'll find her ... if I don't piss him off first.  Just ... go along.  Don't ruffle feathers; be ... invisible.  You're good at that, Jackson.  Just ... go along.~

Daniel's nerves began to get the better of him.  He was breathing more rapidly, and he could feel Jack staring at him.  A big part of the archaeologist just wished he could open the door and run away and never be found.

“Crap!” Jack suddenly exclaimed, causing Daniel to look over at him.  “I forgot,” he began, explaining that he didn't have any cash or credit cards on him at the moment.

Thus, the two would have to make do with whatever Jack had in his house already.  Jack continued to head for his home, arriving there a few minutes later.

“This is it,” Jack announced, pulling into his driveway.

“Looks nice,” Daniel said as he got out of the truck.  ~Peaceful.  Calm.~

“Daniel, you can barely see it in the dark.”

“Still looks nice.”

Daniel followed Jack inside the house.  As Jack disappeared into the kitchen, Daniel looked around.

~It's nice.  I've never lived anywhere like this before.  Look at the fireplace.  I'd rather be in the desert, but on a cold night, sitting here in front of a fire would be nice.  I like this house.  Oh...oh...oooo~

Daniel sneezed.

“Nice catch.”

“Thank you.  Sorry, Gate travel always seems to make my allergies ...”
Daniel stopped and blew his nose again.  ~Darn allergies.  Stop sneezing and looking like a wimp, Jackson.  Blow your nose and take the darn beer.~  “Sorry,” he said again, taking the beer from Jack and uncapping it.  ~Gawd, he's going to kick you out.~

“So, you were saying?”

~Oh, about Abydos and what happened.  Forgot we were talking about that on the way here.~  “Anyway, um, as soon as you were gone, they realized they were free; I mean, Abydos was ... was their world for the taking.”

“Had a little party, did ya?” Jack asked from his seat on his sofa.

~Never been to a party like that one before.~  “Oh, yeah; big, big, party.  They treated me like their savior; it was, um, embarrassing.”  ~Very embarrassing.  They ... love me, so they say.  I think I'm just different, that's all.~

“It's amazing you turned out so normal.”

“Well, if it wasn't for Sha're, I'd probably ...”  Daniel paused, sharing a look with Jack.  ~My fault; my fault she's gone.  I love her.  She is so beautiful.~  He sat down in one of the chairs and then continued.  “She was the complete opposite of everyone else.  She practically fell on the floor laughing every time I tried to do some chore they all took for granted, like grinding yaphetta flour.  I mean, have you ever tried to grind your own flour?”

“I'm trying to kick the flour thing,” Jack quipped.

Daniel laughed as he wondered about the unusual conversation.  ~Why are we talking like this?  I never open up this easily, but with Jack, I can't seem to shut up.~  “This is going straight to my head.”  He took another sip of beer.  “What time is it, anyway?  I must have Gate lag or something.”  ~There has to be something to explain my behavior.~

“Daniel, for crying out loud, you've had one beer.  You're a cheaper date than my wife was.”

“Yes, when am I going to meet your wife?”

“Oh, probably, uh, never.  After I came back from Abydos the first time, she'd already left.”

“I'm sorry.”  ~Gawd.  Talk about putting your foot in your mouth.  Smart move.~

“Yeah, so was I.  I think in her heart she forgave me for what happened to our kid; she just ... couldn't forget,” Jack lamented.

“And what about you?” Daniel asked, surprising himself.  ~Why did I ask that?  It's too personal.~

“I'm the opposite.  I'll never forgive myself, but sometimes I can forget ... sometimes.”

Daniel looked around, not really knowing what to say.

~Wish I had some magic words to make you feel better.  I heard the hurt in your voice.  You're trying to cover it up, Jack, but ... I'm the king when it comes to covering up pain, and that's exactly what you're trying to do.  I'm so sorry.~

A couple of minutes later, Jack decided to order a pizza for delivery, and not wanting to upset his host, Daniel had responded quickly with his choice:  sausage and pepperoni with extra cheese.

After he made the call, Jack led the younger man upstairs to the master bedroom to show him the bathroom where Daniel could take a shower and put on some more comfortable clothes.

“I'll be downstairs.  Take your time,” Jack said and headed for the door.

“Jack?  Um, I just wanted to say ... thanks.”

He watched Jack nod and exit the room.

~Military man, that's for sure.  Not quite as cozy as downstairs, but it's very ... Jack!~

He walked into the bathroom and looked around for a minute.

~I'm surprised this is so big.  Nice-size tub, too.  I wonder if he'd mind if I used this.~

Daniel picked up the cologne and sniffed it.

~It's nice.  I like that.  Stop being a tourist; take your shower and get downstairs before he starts to worry that you're stealing something.~

====

Daniel dried off and put on the clothes Jack had given him.

~And I thought I had long arms.  It's because he's taller than me, but I like these clothes.  I'd better get downstairs, and not loiter; people don't like it when you do that.~

He hurried downstairs and called out to his host, surprised not to see Jack anywhere in the living room or kitchen.

“Jack?” he called out again.  “Jack, where'd you go?”  ~You have to be here.  I need you to be here.  Gawd, please tell me you haven't left me already.~

“Daniel ... outside ... climb the ladder,” Jack shouted.

Daniel looked around in surprise at hearing Jack's voice.  He closed his eyes and took a cleansing breath, relief flowing through his body.  At the same time, he questioned his feelings.

~I don't understand why I seem to be so ... attached to him.  Maybe ... maybe it's just that he's really the only person I know on Earth anymore.  Maybe it's because he understands ... loss.~  He sighed.  ~Or maybe, Jackson, it's because you're just pathetic and needy.~

Daniel saw the patio door was ajar slightly and just beyond it was a ladder.  He closed his eyes for a moment, giving a silent thanks for not having been abandoned yet again.  That's when Jack's words echoed through his brain.

~Climb?~

Hesitantly, he walked to the ladder and looked at it carefully.

~Well, it's not really that high; looks solid.  Not a big deal.  Keep saying that, Jackson, and you might convince yourself.  Gawd, how'd you ever climb that pyramid anyway?~

Cautiously, he climbed the ladder.  As he got to the top, he looked around again to get his bearings.

~That wasn't so bad.~

“Hey, welcome to ... the roof,” Jack smiled.  “Pizza's piping hot.  Danny, are you coming up, or are you going to stand on the ladder all night?”

~Oh, no, not another person who can't remember a thing as simple as my name.~  “Daniel, and, uh, well, sorry,” he said, climbing onto the deck.

Jack stood and offered the chair he had been sitting in to Daniel who quickly noticed it was the only one on the roof deck.

~No way: I'm the guest.  I don't want to be alone right now.  Don't rock the boat.  Steady.  Just ... go along.  Don't be selfish.  Don't loiter.  And, gawd, breathe or you'll pass out on his roof.~  “No, that's okay.  I'll be fine here,” Daniel said, opting to sit on the decking itself, situating himself between the small table the pizza was on and the railing.  “It's nice up here.”  ~I could learn to like this.  Learn?  I already like it.~

“Yeah, I like it,” Jack said, sitting back down and taking out a slice of the pizza.  “Quiet and peaceful.”

Daniel nodded, taking a bite of his food.

~It is peaceful up here; reminds me a little of Egypt, and Abydos, of course.  Clear night.  Cold, too, but too beautiful to be inside.  He has a telescope; wonder if he uses it.  Jack an astronomer?  That doesn't seem very likely.  I can see him with a punching bag or something, but a telescope?~

Daniel stared at the telescope.  Seeing that, Jack explained it was a hobby that “Kept me out of trouble after I retired the last time.”

“Looks like, uh, fun.”  ~Brilliant conversationalist, aren't you, Jackson?  Geez, you're supposed to be a linguist; you could have said something more intelligent than that.~

“It's interesting and entertaining.  You never know what you'll find when you look through the lens.  Besides, sometimes I ... I wonder what it would be like to explore those places.  The Stargate,” Jack suddenly sighed, “what a dream.  It's like being a kid again; well, except for the Ra and his buddies.  You know, playing space man.”

“I guess you're right.  I ... don't really ... I mean, sure.”  ~A kid?  Exploring?  Dreaming?  Not my childhood, not after Mom and Dad died, anyway.~

“Daniel, what did you want to be when you were a kid?”

The question caught Daniel off-guard.  He slowed his chewing on the piece of pizza he was eating, and then actually stopped.

~I didn't dream.  When I was kid, I just wanted to not be a kid anymore.  Can't tell him that.  I need to say something.~  “Wha...what?”

“I was just remembering playing space man, but I always wanted to be a fireman.  I guess all boys do at some point or another.  Right?”

“I, uh, I don't know.”  ~And I really don't want to talk about this. Change the topic -- fast!~  “So when did you start studying astronomy?”

“Study?  I dabble.  Years ago, but I guess when Sara left ...” Jack trailed off.

“I'm sorry, Jack.”  ~Foot in mouth disease again.  Gawd, just shut up, Jackson, or you're going to regret it.~

The conversation went back to Abydos and how the people adored the archaeologist.

“The people on Abydos are very friendly, and, like I said, they thought I ... thought I was some ...”

“Savior?” Jack said, using Daniel's word from earlier in the night.

“I've never been anywhere where the people were so welcoming.”  He looked up at the stars.  “You said the stars are peaceful; Abydos was peaceful for me.  I used to go for long walks in the desert and look up at the stars.  I, uh, always wondered what y...what people on Earth were doing at that precise moment.”  ~Just great, Jackson.  Why cant you just shut up for once?  You almost blew it.  You can't tell him how much you thought about him on Abydos.  Just because you reached an understanding with him, worked together to defeat Ra, think of him as a friend, doesn't mean he thought about you for two seconds.  Besides, remember, he walked right by you and went to Skaa'ra.  Gawd, don't get attached.  Keep your guard up.  He's not very fond of scientists, and you're one of them, supposedly, so ... just ... be careful.~

“Probably watching hockey and drinking a beer,” Jack answered with a smile, causing Daniel to wonder if Jack had caught his slip of the tongue after all.

Jack attempted to shift their discussion to sports, but Daniel didn't want to admit he was always the last one chosen for anything and for good reason:  he was a walking disaster when it came to sports.

“Can I look through the telescope?” Daniel asked, wanting to change the subject.

Soon thereafter, they decided they needed to get some sleep and returned to the inside of the house.  Once again, Daniel admired it.

~It's the right size for just one or two people.  There’s just something about this place ... it's really homey.~  “It is a nice house, Jack.”

“It's home.”

~Home.  Might as well be a foreign word.  Homes are highly overrated.  Home ... maybe I'll believe that one day.~

“This is the spare room.  Oops, guess it's in need of some clean up.”

Daniel looked around the room which was full of boxes and accumulated 'junk'.  Several boxes were actually on the bed.  Jack had begun to move them, so Daniel approached to help out in the endeavor.

~Have to earn my keep.~  “I can do that,” Daniel said.

“No, it's okay.”

Daniel ignored the words and continued to help Jack clear the bed, and then put on new bedding Jack had retrieved from the hall closet.

When they were done, Jack went to the master bedroom and quickly pulled out a pair of pajamas and, returning to the spare room, handed them to the archaeologist.  Then he headed for the door.

Daniel said softly, “Thanks ... for everything.”

Daniel watched Jack close the door, leaving him to his silent torment.  He looked around the room, noting it wasn't as big as the master bedroom and was a bit lacking in decor.  At least Jack's room had some shelves with Air Force and plane memorabilia visible, but the spare room was apparently more of a storage room.  It had a bed set in it (a double bed, two nightstands, and a dresser) as well as a coat rack and a thirteen-inch television that sat on the dresser.  Other than that, it was basically boxes and paraphernalia tossed anywhere and everywhere.

The young man changed into pajamas and slid into his bed.

~Enjoy it while it lasts.  Try not to antagonize the man.  You need him to find Sha're, but ... you want him to be your friend.  Haven't had many of those, and even though all we do is argue and disagree on philosophy and ... I don't know.  We didn't argue tonight, did we?  I can't believe I talked so much about Sha're; I can't believe he opened up about Sara.  I thought he didn't like to talk?  Just ... don't antagonize him.  Go to sleep.  Try anyway.  Sleep.~

Daniel closed his eyes and prayed for sleep to take him.

====

Two hours later, Daniel gave up on sleep.  He put on the clothes he'd gotten at the Mountain and quietly walked downstairs.  He didn't want to wake Jack, so he went straight outside, taking a seat on a chair Jack kept on the patio porch.

“Where are you, Sha're?” he asked as he looked up at the sky.

For the next few hours, Daniel replayed the tragic events of his life over and over.  He felt like such a failure, and he was consumed with guilt about Sha're, Skaa'ra, the people of Abydos, and even Lou Ferretti.

“I made a big mistake.  I was selfish.  Not supposed to be selfish.  Just supposed to ... go along.  See what happens when you do something for yourself, Jackson?  You get people killed.  Sha're.  I'm so sorry, Sha're.”

At 7 a.m., Daniel was shaken from his internal torment by Jack's voice.

“Hey,” Jack said.

“Hey.”

“I thought you told me you like to sleep in.”

~Yeah, when I can sleep.~  “Couldn't sleep.”

Hesitantly, Daniel admitted he'd gotten almost no sleep, nor had he eaten.

“How do you like your eggs?” Jack eventually asked.

“Eggs?”

“Oval things; come from chickens.  You eat them.”

“Oh, um, doesn't matter.”  ~Whatever he wants.  Always eat it however they want it.  Don't be selfish.  Just ... go along.~

“Scrambled, poached, fried ... an omelet even.  Come on, Daniel.  What's your pleasure?”

“Um, whatever you're having.”

“Daniel ... pick one.”

~Okay, turn the tables.~  Daniel looked around and then asked, “What's your favorite?”

“Daniel, *pick* one.”

~Gawd, he's angry with me.~  “I guess ... scrambled,” he finally answered.

“Daniel, come with me.”

~What now?  Don't rock the boat.  Just ... go along.~

He followed Jack to the master bedroom.  Jack opened up several drawers and his closet.

Daniel's eyes were drawn to a crate full of magazines on the floor of the closet.

~Magazines?  National Geographics?  Wow, I'm impressed.~

Jack explained that he had a lifetime subscription and even had all of the issues.”

“All of them?”

“Somewhere around here.  This is the last couple of year's worth.”

“Oh.  They do have some intriguing articles sometimes.”  ~You're going to joke that you only look at the pictures.  I just know it.~

“Articles?” Jack asked, adding with a wry smiled, “I just subscribe for the pictures.”

“Right,” Daniel said, a closed smile on his face.  ~I knew it.  Predictable, O'Neill.  Gawd, I feel like I've known you forever, but I don't really know anything about you.~

Standing in front of the closet while motioning to the contents and then to the open drawers, Jack said, “Pick something.”

“What?” Daniel asked, confused.

“You need clothes, and for now, this is the O'Neill Store for Wayward Archaeologists.  Take whatever you want, get dressed, and then we'll have breakfast.”

“Jack, you don't have to do this.  I can wear these.”  ~Really, these are fine.  Actually, they're better than fine.  There have been times I would have killed to have these.~

“Pick something ... now!”

Slowly, Daniel looked at the wardrobe selection.

~I don't know what to do.  He's trying to help, but I'm afraid.  I can't be afraid, but I am.  It's only a matter of time before he just throws me out.  Okay, hurry.  Find something worn out, something he won't miss when you ruin it.~

“Daniel, what are you doing?”

“I, uh ... well, I thought maybe I'd try and find something old that ...”

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  Jack looked Daniel up and down for a minute, then selected a complete outfit and handed it to him.  “Try these, and if they don't fit reasonably well, *tell* me.”

Jack left the room to go back downstairs again.

~These are nice.  Feel soft.~

Daniel sat down on the bed and ran his hand across the bedspread.  He took a minute or two to try and regroup after his long night of no sleep. Then he decided to take a quick shower to help wake him up.  It was bound to be a long day, and he needed to be on his toes.

When he was done, he dressed and was about to exit the master bedroom when he paused, seeing a picture of Jack with a couple he assumed were Jack's parents.  Jack was younger and dressed in his Air Force blue uniform.  The woman was smiling and looked proud, Daniel thought.  The man had his arm around Jack, and again, had a look of pride on his face.

“Must be your parents.  You look happy, Jack.  I wonder what that felt like.”

Daniel sighed and then proceeded downstairs where he found Jack in the kitchen.

“I'll pay you back, Jack; I mean for the food and stuff, and ...”

“No, you won't.  Look, we don't know for sure what's going to happen over the next few weeks.  I don't think you need the pressure of worrying about ... food, clothes, or a place to stay, so ... this is home.”

“I ... I ...” Daniel folded his arms and avoided Jack's gaze.  ~I don't deserve a home.  I don't even know what a home is.  I just need a bed to sleep on.  Gawd, don't confuse me by calling this home.  Please don't do that.  It won't last.  Nothing good lasts.~

“Unless, of course, you've had a better offer.”

“No, of course not; it's just.  I hate being a burden.”  ~Learned that early in life.  Don't ask for anything.  Don't be selfish.  Just ... go along.~

“Burden?  Daniel, you're not an invalid.  If it makes you feel better, you can do half the cooking, half the cleaning, and watch whatever I want on TV.  How's that?”

~He's so stubborn.~  “I still want to contribute to the bills, if I ever get paid,” he said, staring at the carpet.

“We'll discuss it later.  Here,” Jack walked over with a plate full of food and sat it on the counter in front of the archaeologist.  “Breakfast is served.”

“All this?” Daniel asked in disbelief.  ~I can't eat all of this.  Wow!~  “I thought you were just fixing eggs.”

“That was the first question, but I didn't want to spend another hour finding out if you preferred sausage or bacon, what kind of bread you wanted, or what you wanted to drink.”

“Oh.  I'm sorry,” Daniel said, bowing his head again.  ~Idiot.  I'm an idiot.~

The two enjoyed their meal, talking a little bit about Sha're, and even a little about Sara, but mostly, Jack rambled on about sports.  Daniel smiled and listened as best as he could.  He noticed Jack's fondness for hockey seemed the greatest, but he liked baseball a lot, too.  He remembered an abundance of baseball caps in the closet in Jack's master bedroom.

“Danny, I seem to remember you being more of a talker.”

“It's Daniel, and I guess I am ... normally.  I, uh, I don't know.  Maybe it's just that I can't stop thinking about Sha're.  I never should have unburied the Gate.”

“Why did you?”

“Right now, I'm not so sure.”  Daniel stared into Jack's eyes.  The truth was a bit disquieting to him.   “Jack?”

“What?”

“The truth is that I don't know what the truth is.  I was content there.  Sha're is ... wonderful, and I love her very much, but after I found the Cartouche, I just couldn't stop thinking about what else was out there.  I couldn't let it go.  I just didn't realize the danger was so great, and now my arrogance may cost Sha're her ...”

Daniel stood and walked to the fireplace, self-hugging.

“Daniel, there's no way you could have known what was going to happen.”

“I should have left the Gate buried.”

“You can't fight who you are,” Jack said softly.

Daniel's head sprang up, and he looked at Jack in surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“You're an explorer.  It doesn't matter if you're exploring a pyramid or a new world, discovering new things, being curious about the world that was, is, and will be ... that's who you are, Daniel.  You can't deny yourself, and if you try, you won't only hurt yourself, but also Sha're and anyone else you love and care about.”

Daniel stared at Jack, totally stunned.

“Explorer?”

“It's who you are.  When you found that Cartouche, the explorer in you took hold, and you know something, if it hadn't been that, I bet you would have found something else to wonder about.”

“But ...”

“There aren't any buts, Daniel.  You can spend the rest of your life feeling guilty about Sha're, or you can spend it exploring, trying to find her, and, in the meantime, hopefully making this world a better place.”

“Are you going to explore the world?”

“Why stop at the world?  Daniel, for us, the world is the universe.”

“Jack, what do you know that I don't?”

“Well,” Jack paused for a moment, then smiled.  “Last I heard, chances were good that the President was going to authorize a full go, set up teams, and ... let us see what's out there.”

“There's so much we can learn.”  Daniel had actually smiled, but only for a brief moment; it was gone almost before it appeared.  “Teams?” he asked.

“Not sure on the specifics.  Hammond will probably have the word by the time the briefing starts.”

Daniel bowed his head for a moment, and then walked a few feet away from Jack.  He turned back and said, “Jack, I, uh, I have to be on one of those teams.”  ~I have to be on your team.~  “Are you ... I mean, you are going to, uh ...”

“It's Hammond's decision, but I assume I'll be leading one of the teams.”

Daniel swallowed hard, and his heart was beating faster than normal.  He was self-hugging even tighter.

~Please don't make me ask.  Gawd, please.  I have to be on your team.  I need to know you'll back me up.~

The archaeologist began to say something, but thankfully, Jack cut him off.

“Look, if Hammond gives us the 'go', you make your pitch, and I'll back you up.  We'll ... be a team.”

“You'd ... do that?  Really?”

“You saved my life once.  I trust you, Daniel.”

His mouth opened slightly, Daniel said nothing.  He simply stared at Jack, a man he, too, trusted, for reasons he couldn't explain.

Jack smiled and checked his watch.

“We'd better go.”  Still in shock, Daniel followed Jack towards the entranceway, but suddenly, the older man stopped.  “Whoa, wait a second.”  Jack opened the closet door and pulled out a brown jacket.  “Here, this is yours, and no, you're not paying me back.  It's old.  Put it on.”

Daniel smiled and took the coat, immediately putting it on.  He smiled again, enjoying the warmth of the jacket.

~Home.  Gawd, why does this coat make me think of that word?  It's warm, that's why.~

Jack chuckled, “I don't think you'll make GQ, but it’s not too bad of a fit; a little long maybe.”

“You're taller than me.”

“Not by much.  Danny ...”

~Not again.  He is sooooo stubborn!~  “Daniel.”

“Whatever happens, you're not alone.  We'll get Sha're back somehow, and go from there; but however long that takes, you're always welcome here.  Mi casa, su casa, and all of that stuff, okay?”

Daniel blinked several times.  He stood motionless, just staring at Jack.

~I've never known anyone like him.  Why is he doing this?  Why is he being so nice?  I'm ... not used to this.~

“Daniel, are you okay?”

“I'm fine.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.”  ~I really have to get out of here.  I ... can't ... breathe.~

Daniel brushed by Jack and headed for the truck as quickly as he could. He hurried to the passenger side and stared at the door handle.

~Not alone: I don't feel so alone right now.  Jack ... I guess, maybe, you are a friend.  Maybe ... just maybe.~

====

“Aren't you going to take off your coat?” Jack asked as they stood in the briefing room, waiting for the others to arrive.

“No, uh, I'm kinda cold,” Daniel answered softly.  ~It, uh, makes me feel ... safe.  Crazy, huh?  I want to keep it on for a while longer.~

“Must be a year in that desert sand.”

“Yeah, that's it ... and, um, well, I grew up ... I mean, I've spent a lot of time in warmer climates.”

“Well, that coat may be old, but it'll keep you warm.”

“I'm counting on that.”  ~More than you know; I need something to hang onto.~

Just then, Sam entered, and moments later others arrived who were to attend the morning briefing.

~There's Kawalsky.  I wonder how Ferretti's doing.  I hope he's okay.  I should go check on him when we're done.  Jack and Kawalsky are laughing about something.  They're close.  I have nothing in common with either of them.  Why does that bother me?  Why do I care?  Why am I so afraid of being the outsider when all I've ever been is the outsider?~

“Hey, Doc.”

“Kawalsky.”

“We'll get her back for ya.”

Daniel nodded and looked at Jack.

~I need to get her back.  Please back me up, Jack.  Don't let me down.  Gawd, I'm counting on you, and I ... I haven't counted on anyone in a really long time.~

====
--Epilogue
====

As Daniel chatted with Kawalsky, he saw Jack disappear into another room.  He wondered why Jack had left, but he didn't have long to think about it as Kawalsky had asked him a question.

Meanwhile, Jack knocked on Hammond's door.

“Jack, I'll be in the briefing room shortly.”

“Yes, Sir, but I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time first.”

“All right.  Sit down.”

Jack moved to the chair in front of Hammond's desk and sat down.  He saw Hammond motion for him to talk.

“Sir, I'm not asking you to tell me in advance what the decision is, but there is one thing I'd like for you to consider.”  Jack looked over towards the briefing room and wet his lips for a second, then looked back at the General.  “Sir, Daniel wants to be out there, searching for his wife, and ... well, I think he should be allowed to go.”

“I'm not sure I can condone that, Colonel.  He's far too valuable of a resource to risk going through the Stargate.”

“General, who has more of a right to go through than Daniel Jackson?  We wouldn't even be able to turn the thing on without him.  I know the Pentagon is singing the praises of Carter, and I'm sure that whatever the heck she's done has been valuable, but Daniel opened the Gate, here and on Abydos.  We owe him.”

“He's not trained for that kind of work, Colonel.”

“A few weeks of basic training should take care of that.  I'll ... teach him.”

“I thought you didn't like Daniel Jackson?”

“I never said that, Sir.  That was that idiot Samuels.”

“Are you saying you'd be willing to have Doctor Jackson on your team?”

“Yes, Sir, I am.  In fact, Sir, I ... *insist* on it,” Jack said, staring at the man with intensity.

“I'll consider it, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Hammond watched Jack exit and shook his hands.

~You're going to be a handful, Colonel, and something tells me that if I do agree to let Doctor Jackson be on your team, that he'll be a handful, too, and together?  I'm not sure I even want to contemplate that.~

====

The briefing was underway, and Hammond finally made the big announcement, relaying the desires of the President.

“... He has ordered the formation of nine teams whose duties will be to perform reconnaissance, determine threats and, if possible, to make peaceful contact with the peoples of these worlds.  Now, these teams will operate on a covert, top-secret basis.  No one will know of their existence except the President and the Joint Chiefs.  Colonel O'Neill?”

“Sir?”

“Your team will be designated SG-1.  The team will consist of yourself, Captain Carter, ...”

“And me?” Daniel asked as he stared at the table.

“Doctor Jackson, we need you to work as a consultant with the other SG teams from here.  Your expertise in ancient cultures and languages are far too valuable to ...”

Forcefully, Daniel argued, interrupting the Major General.

“No, um, look, uh ... I mean, I know this is your decision, but I just, I ... I *really* have to be on their team.  My wife is out there, General, I need to go.”

Hammond looked at Jack who responded with a slight motion of his head and a facial expression that said, 'What are you going to do?  He has a right to go'.

“I'll take that under consideration.  Major Kawalsky, you will head SG-2.”

====

The briefing had ended when word was received that Lou Ferretti, who had been injured on Abydos had awakened.  The injured man had seen the coordinates their attackers had used when leaving Abydos, and after processing that information, the new SG teams waited to get the official 'Go' from Hammond to proceed.

Jack had relayed the information to Hammond who had been interrupted due to a phone call from the Pentagon.  Outside his office, Jack and Daniel waited.

“Jack?” Daniel asked tentatively.

“Piece of cake, Daniel.”

Jack gave Daniel a big grin that made the archaeologist feel better.  A moment later, Hammond walked out.

“Colonel, you have a go.  SG teams one and two will go to the coordinates Major Ferretti supplied.”  Hammond looked at Daniel.  “Doctor, you'll be a member of SG-1.”  He looked back at Jack.  “Good luck, Jack.  You'll depart in thirty minutes.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Thank you, General,” Daniel spoke at the same time as Jack.

The two smiled, and Jack quipped, “Told you.”

“You didn't know for sure.”

“Did, too.”

“No, you didn't.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did not.”

“Did, too.”

Both men grinned, then Daniel took a deep breath and said, “Thank you, Jack.”

“I didn't do anything.”

“You convinced him.”

“Now when did I do that?”

“Before the briefing: I saw you leave the briefing room for a few minutes.”

“Heartburn,” Jack teased, making a face and tapping on his chest.

“Okay, but thank you, anyway.”

“You're welcome,” Jack said, with a smile.

Daniel nodded, and the two headed for their designated locker room, something that they'd do hundreds of times as their future played out.  At the moment, neither understood their strange friendship, but neither did they want to question it.  They were two men, strong, independent, and even passionate, and they were as different as night and day, but somehow, in the crazy universe they lived in, they shared a simple bond of friendship.

It would be a long, long road, full of twists and turns, bumps and cracks, but at the end, they'd find their rainbow.  For now, they had shared a beginning that would take them to worlds they couldn't even imagine, and together, they'd discover more than aliens and new technologies:  they'd discover each other and the real meaning of both love and home.

For Jack and Daniel, forever was a just a stone's throw away.

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