Black and White

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  3 - May 1 - September 22, 2000
Spoilers:  A Hundred Days, Shades of Grey, New Ground (minor), Touchstone (minor)
Size:  139kb
Written:  December 1, 2003, January 16-19,22-23, February 5-6,8, 2004  Revised April 28, 2004  Revised for consistency:  January 23-26, 2007  Revised Again: January 5-6, 2018
Summary:  Barely back from Edora, Jack goes undercover.  Then he and Daniel do some covert operations of their own.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  This was a whim; all in fun.  I don't have anything to do with them legally!
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:  Drdjlover, Claudia, StarShadow, Suzanna, Charlotte!

Black and White
by Orrymain

Daniel was sitting on his bed, Indian style, with books and papers spread all around.  He held in his hand a photo of the top section of a wall that had been found on PX2-005 by SG-11 the previous week when Jack was still stranded on Edora.  The archaeologist was struggling to translate the symbols that appeared on the wall.

“Hey,” Jack greeted hesitantly, standing at the doorway to the bedroom of Daniel's apartment.

“Hey.  I didn't hear you come in.”

“Yes, I could tell,” Jack acknowledged in a tone that distressed the younger man.

“Are you going to just ... stand there, Jack?”

Jack took a breath and didn't move.  It was a moment of truth for him.  After this, there would be no turning back.

“Jack?” Daniel asked with concern, as he put down the photo and got off the bed, walking to his lover.

“We,” Jack said softly after Daniel had reached out and taken Jack's hands in his, “need to talk.”

Jack nodded towards the living room, so Daniel followed him there.  Daniel noticed the equipment Jack had brought with him right away, but he also knew he needed to not react to it.  As Daniel watched silently, Jack swept the apartment.

The Air Force colonel sighed when he had finished, disposing of the two listening devices he had found, and then he finally approached Daniel and kissed him.

“Jack, is this about Edora?”

Jack shook his head, saying, “I love you.  Do you know that?  Really know it?”

~Why is acting like this?~ Daniel wondered, every fiber of his body telling him something was amiss.  “I ... Jack, what's wrong?”

“I want you, Danny,” Jack spoke before he ravished his willing but concerned lover.

====

After the two made love, as they rested in each other's arms, Daniel asked again, “Jack, what's wrong?”

“Complaints?”

“Gawd, no,” the satiated archaeologist responded immediately.  “But something's going on.  Are you going to tell me, or not?”

“Yes, I'm going to tell you, but it's difficult,” the older man admitted.  “Crap, Daniel, my brain is still adjusting to being home, and now this.  Can't a guy get a break?”

~Brace yourself, Jackson,~ Daniel advised.  “Tell me.”

Jack sat up against the headboard of the bed, saying, “I can't do this lying down.  I'm sorry.”

Daniel sat up, pushing the covers down a bit.  He sat facing his lover, who took his hands, wanting that contact.  Daniel smiled, knowing that whatever was wrong wasn't their relationship which is what he had feared when Jack first arrived that night.

Actually, Jack had been acting strangely since his return from Edora where he had been stranded for three months.  At first, it was the normal adjustment, but then Daniel sensed it was something else.  Jack actually seemed stressed out, and, for the colonel, that was unusual.

“Danny, what I'm about to tell you, I shouldn't, for more reasons than I can list, including that I'm disobeying orders,” Jack began straightforwardly.

“Orders?”  After Jack nodded, Daniel pointed out, “Jack, you're still on light duty.”

“Yeah, well, the best made plans and all of that,” Jack sighed.  ~Who needs time to recoup from three months in a B-movie?~

“Okay, Love, I'm listening,” the younger man stated calmly.  ~And I'm braced for the worst, but at least it's not about us ... I don't think.~

“Two days ago, the general called me into his office,” Jack explained.  “Some of the Brass were there.”

“I didn't know we had anyone from the Pentagon on base this week,” Daniel interjected.

“Danny, they slid in and they slid out.  No one saw them who wasn't supposed to see them,” Jack responded.

“In the general's office?  What?  Were they disguised as airmen or something?” Daniel asked in a semi-joking manner.

“Or something,” Jack sighed.  “It seems there's a thief among us.”

“At the SGC?”

“Yes, or somewhere in the system.  From what they've put together, the feeling is that there's a rogue operation out there, probably run by Harry.”

“Maybourne?” Daniel questioned.

“Good old Harry.  Once a jerk, always a jerk,” Jack retorted.

“He did have one ... decent moment,” the archaeologist acknowledged, referring to the resolution of the recent foothold situation at the Mountain.

“I should have known it was a fluke, Danny,” the older man sighed.  “He didn't follow protocol with Carter.”

“So, what's happening ... with the thefts, I mean?”

“The idiots have been stealing weapons and technologies from various planets.  The Tollan are complaining.  Heck, even the Nox have contacted us,” Jack spoke.

“The Nox?  They're amazing, Jack, but, uh, they don't really want anything to do with us,” Daniel sighed with regret.  ~We could learn so much from them.~

“Well, apparently, we may be primitive, but they like you.”  Jack couldn't help but smile, adding, “I like you, too, by the way, just in case you hadn't noticed.”

Daniel smiled for a second and then responded, “Nice to know, Lover Boy.”

“Lover Boy?” Jack smirked.  “Daniel, you used a nickname!”

“It's a cover.  My stomach's in knots,” the scientist admitted Daniel spoke, his nose scrunched and a surprised look on his face.  “So, the Nox contacted the SGC?”

“They don't mind keeping some contact apparently.  Lya says you've given them hope for us, but they said that's a washout if this situation isn't resolved in a hurry,” the Special Ops colonel reported.

“Jack, is this like when the Touchstone was taken from Madrona?”

“It could be,” Jack surmised.  “The Brass isn't sure if it's connected or not, but the point is, that our allies from afar are insisting we uncover the thieves, or whomever is responsible, or they will break off relations with Earth.”  He paused.  It was cold, and he couldn't help but notice the goose bumps on his soulmate's arms.  “Hey, come over here.”

Jack gently pulled Daniel to sit beside him, wrapping his left arm around the younger man and pulling the blankets up to cover their lower halves.

“Sorry, it is a little cold,” Daniel acknowledged.

Jack kissed Daniel's temple, saying dejectedly,  “It's going to get colder, Danny.”

“You don't mean the temperature, do you?”

Jack's hand warmed his lover's shoulder and then he placed a kiss on Daniel's forehead.

“Jack?” an alarmed Daniel asked.

“They want me to go undercover.”

“What?” Daniel scooted out of Jack's hold, returning to his previous position.

“Hey, you're cold.  Get back here,” the older man orderly lovingly.

Shaking his head, Daniel replied, “No, I need to look at you while you're telling me this.”

“Then put something on.”

With a bit of frustration in his tone, Daniel responded, “Jack, I'm not a child.”

“I know that.”

Jack's loving, caring look got the best of Daniel, who got off the bed and grabbed his robe, slipping it on and then returning to his spot just in front of Jack.  The older man grabbed the robe's sash and pulled it taut, tying it.

The colonel leaned in for a kiss and then stated, “I need you to take care of you, now more than ever.”

The words had a double meaning.

Daniel nodded, kissed his lover again, and asked, “So, what's the plan?”

Jack answered, “I make a big scene on Tollana.  We go in on the premise that we want to reopen negotiations with them.  I'm afraid it means you end up putting in a lot of time on something that will mean nothing in the long run.  I'm sorry about that, Angel.”

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“You're going to be ordered to come up with reasons for the Tollan to deal with us.  It has to be logical and ... you know, whatever it is you do when we negotiate.”

“Great, with the Tollan,” Daniel sighed.  “They're worse than the Nox when it comes to sharing information.”

“They're arrogant little ...” Jack began sarcastically, though he stopped himself before he got too far.  “The rub comes because there's no way to be sure how the scenario will play out exactly.  You have to go in fully prepared, Danny, and Hammond will want progress reports.”

“So, I'm going to have to stop working on the wall translation that I'm already behind on, that might actually help us, in order to work on something that's nothing more a big charade?  Is that about right?” Daniel questioned, clearly upset at the idea.

“That's exactly right,” Jack confirmed.  “But that's just the beginning.  During the negotiations, I'm to fly off the handle ...”

“Well, that'll be a stretch,” Daniel tried to tease.

“Very funny ... ha ha ha,” Jack verbalized with a slight smile.

“Who could imagine Jack O'Neill flying off the handle?” Daniel returned with a smile.

“Do you want to hear this or not?” Jack asked a bit more sternly in mock retribution.

“Go ahead,” Daniel chuckled.  ~Gawd, the world could end, and we'd still be throwing barbs at each other.~

“Remember that device that strips our weapons of their working ability?”  Getting confirmation via a quick nod from his lover, Jack explained, “I'm going to steal it and act like I've had enough of the Tollan arrogance, which shouldn't be too difficult, considering they are a bunch of arrogant little ...”

“Jack!  Stay on task!” the able negotiator admonished.

“Sorry.  The long and short of it is that, in the end, I retire rather than be court-martialed.”

“I don't like this, Jack, and not just because of the danger, but ... gawd, you've just come back.  You're still on light duty,” Daniel spoke vulnerably, his hand rubbing his lover's chest.

Jack squeeze his Love's hands as he admitted, “Neither do I, but that's how it's going to go down.  Everyone will think I'm fed up with diplomacy and the Brass.  They are hoping that when the word spreads, Maybourne and company will seek me out.  I'll have to play it cool, but, eventually, I'll succumb to the dark side.”

“And the ultimate goal?”

“To find out for sure who is responsible and to determine if there is a connection to the SGC,” the older man answered.  His torso leaned forward slightly as he pleaded, “Danny, you aren't supposed to know anything about this.  Our allies *insisted*. and the Brass, from the highest authority, have set this up to happen a certain way.  Only Hammond and I are supposed to know about it.  I couldn't say 'no'.”

“Why aren't going to tell us?  I mean, Sam, Teal'c, and I?”

“They want your reactions to be real,” Jack replied.  “They don't think you guys can pull off a natural acting job, and, Daniel, our lives could depend upon your ability to prove them wrong.”

“I know we aren't actors, but ...”

“Danny, this is a high-risk gig; they can't afford to take chances,” Jack elaborated.  “I'm not saying I agree with them, but ...”

Suddenly, Daniel reared back a bit as he surmised, “You weren't going to tell me, were you?”

~Why'd he have to ask?~  Jack got up and began to pace the floor.  “I had orders, Daniel, but how could I follow through?”

“We're together all the time,” Daniel spoke as he put the pieces together.

Nodding, Jack spoke, “The only way would be ...”  He paused, shaking his head.  “I couldn't, I can't, do that.”

“Break up?” Daniel questioned.

“Hurt you.  Hurt you badly, and I just can't,” Jack stated from his heart.  “It's not in me.  I thought about using Laira as an excuse.  In fact, that may be my cover later, saying that I want to go back to be with her, to live out my life on Edora, but to tell you that, to let you think it ...”

Daniel moved to his anxiety-ridden partner and took him in his arms.

“I couldn't do it, Danny, because I'd have to say so much to you, and I love you too much to do that; but look what I'm doing instead -- putting your life in danger,” Jack said with his chin resting on Daniel's left shoulder.

Daniel massaged the back of Jack's head, holding him securely,  as he assured, “It'll be okay.  You've taught me a lot.”

“Not enough.  Daniel, you don't realize the stakes here,” Jack said as he pulled back to look into his lover's eyes.  “I know you think you do, but this is Black Ops we're talking about, and that's a world that, thankfully, you haven't had to know much about.”

Jack led Daniel back to the bed where they again sat facing each other, Jack still naked and Daniel still in his blue velvet robe.

“My only real choice in this mess is to lie to Hammond, to disobey orders,” the colonel stated, hating the words even as they escaped his mouth.  “I don't like it, but it's all I know to do in order to protect you, and us.”

“So, no choice but to go along with the plan,” Daniel surmised quietly about their predicament.

“We're going to have to clear the house,” the older man informed, closing his eyes for a moment with disdain for the entire situation.  “I hate that, but I'm sure once we begin the operation, if not already, it'll be bugged and probably searched.”

“My ... our fish.”

Jack nodded again, saying, “Anything that isn't supposed to be there has to go,  for now.”

“Gawd,” Daniel lamented as he looked down.

“Only for a while.”

“Just for a while,” Daniel agreed softly.

After a moment, Jack confessed, “I almost told him, Danny.”

“What?  Who?” the archaeologist asked, having no idea what his lover was talking about.

“I almost told Hammond about us.”  As Daniel stared at him wide-eyed, Jack elaborated, “I considered telling him in order to explain why I couldn't lie to you, hoping he'd agree that you needed to be brought in on the ground floor, but he's too close to retirement to risk his pension.  He'd cover for us.  I just didn't feel comfortable putting him in such a precarious situation.”

“It was the right thing, not to tell,” Daniel assured.

“But it means lying to him, not to mention what I'm doing now.”

“Jack, you know I wouldn't believe you about Laira anyway, don't you?”

Jack couldn't help a smile as he responded, “I hope not.”

“I wouldn't, Jack.  You wouldn't leave me for her.  You don't love her.  Geez, you can barely tolerate her.”

“Yeah, well, I put her and that little witch in pretty much the same league,” Jack spoke sharply about Laira and Shyla, the princess who had addicted Daniel to the sarcophagus the year before.  “Besides, I wouldn't leave you for anyone, or anything, because you're my heart, Danny.  No one but you, forever and always.”

“Forever and always,” Daniel repeated happily.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack declared with hunger as he kissed his lover again, his hands untying the sash he had tied together not long before.

====

Soon, the two lovers were again satiated from their lovemaking.  Daniel was in his customary position with his head on Jack's chest, listening to sound of the strong heartbeat that he relied on so much.  Both men's hold on the other was stronger than usual in some unconscious fear that if they let the other go, disaster might strike.

~We have to talk about it more,~ Jack lamented.  He wanted more time just to hold his youthful lover, but there just wasn't any.  “Danny, like I said, tomorrow we need to clear the house.  Hammond's planning on starting the plan in two days, three at the latest.  I'm supposed to start making comments about my frustration with the system now.”

“Jack, you don't need to worry about me.”

“Try stopping me,” the worried man stated.  Then Jack sighed, “I wish I had trained you more.”

“I already know more military maneuvers than I want to as it is.  They aren't after me,” the archaeologist claimed.

Jack shifted, moving his lover so that the young man was on his back with Jack looking down on him.  “Daniel, listen to me, they may not know about us, this, but they do know we're best friends, and they *will* use you if they think they need to.  You cannot let down your guard, and I need ... hear me on this ... I *need* to know you're safe.  I need you to be more aware than ever.  Understand?”

“Yes, of course, I do, Jack.”  Blinking, he thought, ~But I can take care of myself.~

“I love you, Angel,” Jack spoke softly.  ~And you may think you know all the moves, but you don't.  You will, but you don't yet.~

“I love you, too,” Daniel replied.  As he stared at his partner, he added with conviction, “Jack, there has to be something more I can do.  I don't like the idea of you being out there on your own, with no backup.  I think I can help.”

“You can help ... like this,” Jack said and then kissed his lover.

The couple made love once more, taking advantage of precious time they knew might not come again for longer than either cared to imagine.

====

The next morning, the lovers showered and ate breakfast quietly, until Daniel began to speak about wanting to do more than just watch Jack play this double agent game.

“Daniel, please, you have to let me do this my way, and no matter what happens, you have to remember that I love you more than life itself.  We'll get through this, but I need you to be safe,” the older man pleaded.  “So, just this once, don't argue with me, okay?  Please, Angel.”

With tears in his eyes, Jack cupped Daniel's face and pulled him down for a sweet, gentle kiss.  Then, he brought the younger man even closer, holding him like there was no tomorrow.

~He's scared,~ Daniel thought.  In that moment, he realized that Jack feared there might not be a tomorrow for the two of them.  ~He can't be distracted because he's worried about me.~

“Please, Danny,” Jack whispered again.

~I have to protect him anyway I can,~ Daniel thought.  Though a bit reluctant, he decided to go along, unable to refuse Jack's heart-felt request.  “Okay, Babe.”

====

Later in the day, everything that was at Jack's house that belonged to Daniel was reluctantly returned to the apartment, including the fish.  Only gifts or books, things Daniel would and often did bring over with him when he and Jack were best friends, were left in the country-style home.  They had carried out their task in a haunting silence, neither having voices to speak their hearts.

Having brought in the last box, Daniel now stared blankly at the fish tank in the corner of his apartment, while Jack stood by the kitchen counter.

“This is hard, Danny.”

Daniel only nodded slightly.  He didn't have the words to say anything.  The day had been surreal, like going back in time, the little boy being tossed out again.  Intellectually, he knew that wasn't the case; yet, there was a part of him that felt discarded.

There had been too many moments in the past when Daniel had hoped, only to have the dream shattered.  He had only just really begun to believe that Jack's words of forever might be true.  Now, though, even if it was a pretense, being forced to live back at his apartment, a place that consisted of floors and walls, Daniel yearned for home, and home was Jack and Jack's house.

Sensing Daniel's emotions, Jack walked over to his lover and held on tightly, his arms going around Daniel's waist.  He glanced over to the fish and then kissed Daniel's nape.  “They're only here for a visit.”

Again, Daniel only nodded.  His emotions were threatening to take over, and they didn't need that now.

Again, Jack sensed his partner's feelings, so he held on even tighter as he added, “A very short visit, Angel.”

Finally, Daniel turned around to face his Love.  He still had no words, but his misty eyes said all.

Jack cupped Daniel's face, then kissed him with great passion.  Their lust took root, and the two made love again.  It was the night before the undercover operation went into full effect, and it would be the last night Jack and Daniel would have together for quite a while.

====

Their lovemaking was “mind-blowing” in their words, but, afterwards, what Jack and Daniel needed most was the simple feeling of touching and comforting each other.  Thus, they snuggled and cuddled for quite a while in a peaceful silence broken only by the whisperings of silly nothings.

Then, Jack's emotion broke through.  He needed Daniel to fully comprehend the danger, and he was afraid that wasn't the case.  He also needed to make sure his soulmate was prepared for the rougher points of the covert mission -- the hurt and pain he was going to have to inflict on him.

“Danny, we need to talk about a few things.”

“I thought we had the plan set up?” Daniel replied as he played softly with his lover's chest hairs.

“We do, but I need to make sure you understand.”

“Jack, we've gone over more than once.  Isn't that enough?” Daniel asked, tired of the subject and wanting to forget about it, at least for this one night.

“No, it's not,” Jack responded.  “When this plan takes off and everything breaks loose about me being one of the bad guys, the natural thing will be for one of my team to try and find out what's wrong, and ...”

“And that has to be me,” Daniel offered with a voice that was soft, but full of awareness.

“For a lot of reasons,” Jack affirmed.  “Our friendship, of course, makes it essential that you be the one.  Everyone knows we're best friends.  Plus, you're just so stubborn that it'll have to be you.”

Jack hated this part of the scenario the most.  He knew what he was going to have to do, and he was worried that his lover wouldn't be able to push his emotions aside.  He was going to have to hurt Daniel with a sword made out of cold, harsh, jarring words.

“Stubborn?” Daniel questioned.

“You know what I mean.  You'd dog me until you got to the truth.  It's our history, Danny.  We have to be true to what we've done in the past,” Jack stated.

“You're right,” Daniel sighed.  “I'd never let you get away with doing the things this plan calls for without a lot of arguing and ... and nagging you to get to truth.”  There was silence for several seconds before he called out, “Jack?”

“Mmm?”

“I wouldn't believe you,” the younger lover insisted.  “I know you.  I ... I love you, and I'd just know there was more to it.  I'd never let you lie to me like that.”

Daniel placed several kisses on his lover's chest as Jack continued to caress his back.  Then Jack pulled his soulmate up to him.  He blinked a couple of times as they locked onto each other's eyes.

All of a sudden, with a gleeful amazement that the words he was about to speak were truer than he had ever known before, Jack crooned, “Geez, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

The strong, caring couple kissed for several minutes, taking in each touch of their lips and tongues, before Jack continued with what needed to be said.

“The house will be bugged.  I wouldn't be surprised if they bug the apartment, too; maybe even Carter's house,” Jack noted.  “I'm going to have to say things designed to hurt you.  I don't want to do this.”

“I know, but you have to,” Daniel acknowledged.  His left hand found Jack's right, and they joined together, their fingers playing together in a tender rapture.  “We do things we don't want to do all the time.”

“Danny, you don't understand.  I'm going to have to hurt you, down deep, and it's going to be the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life, but it's the only thing that will keep you safe.”

“Jack, I know that.”

~I wish I believed that.~  Jack shifted.  He rolled Daniel onto his back and gazed down at the young man who was his heart.  “Do you?  Do you know that I'm going to have speak words that will cut away at everything we are?”

“Jack ...”

Jack placed the palm of his right hand on Daniel's cheek and spoke, “You have to promise me, Angel, that you'll remember it's a game, a game I have to play in order to keep you safe.  I won't mean a word of it.  Promise me you'll know the truth.”

Daniel raised his left hand to take Jack's.  He brought the palm to his lips and kissed it, and then moved it back his cheek, rubbing gently against the palm with his face for a few moments.

“I promise, Love.  I'll play the game because your life depends on it just as much as mine does, and probably even more.  I'll do what you ask, Jack, because it'll keep you alive,” the younger man pledged from the bottom of his heart.

“I wish we didn't have to.”

His hands now rubbing up and down his lover's chest, Daniel made a requested, “Jack, I don't want you to tell me what you're going to say.”

“Why?  If we go over it ...”

“No, they, uh, have a point about one thing.  This isn't just my life, it's yours, too, and I think I need to make sure that my reactions are as true as possible.  What we say needs to be as ... honest, as it can for that moment.  Do you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I do.  You're right, as usual,” Jack agreed.  ~Not that I'm happy about any of this.~

“I promise, Jack, that I'll remember it's a game, and I'll do my part to keep you safe, too.”

“You need to stay safe, too, Danny.  I need you to be there when this is done.  I want to know that I can count on you to be alive so we can be back here, loving each other again, just as soon as I get back.  Okay?”

“You have to do the same, Babe,” Daniel replied.

Jack nodded, saying, “I love you.  Don't ever forget that.”

“I love you, too, Jack, and I could never forget.”

The two kissed, their bodies quickly igniting to a blazing fire that demanded a passionate combination of their bodies.

====

All too soon for the lovers, morning came.  Jack again put his left hand on Daniel's cheek, his thumb softly caressing it gently as Daniel held back a tear.  They couldn't afford emotion.  The game was beginning.  They'd have to be strong.

“I love you, Daniel Jackson.”

“Hold me, Jack,” Daniel requested, needing one last solid connection, one that would be their last for weeks.

====

The plan proceeded without a hitch.  That morning, Hammond called Daniel into his office and discussed the possibility of reopening negotiations with the Tollan.

Daniel played along, noting, “It would be extremely valuable if we could get them to at least agree to some kind of reciprocal exchange.  I'll get to work on it, General.”

As he sat behind his desk, Hammond nodded briefly and replied, “It's a top priority, Doctor Jackson.  The Pentagon would like us to meet with the Tollan by no later than the end of next week.”

Daniel nodded and left the general's office.  He returned to his own work area and took out his notes.  He glanced at the photos depicting the symbols of the wall that were crying out for attention, but they would have to wait.

====

Daniel worked on nothing but the Tau'ri proposal for the rest of that day.  It was all he worked on the next day, too.  In fact, the day after that was also devoted to the proposal.  Since he couldn't see Jack after work at the moment, he had stayed late the last two nights as well.

As the afternoon wore on, Jack entered his lover's office and casually picked up an artifact.  His arrival had immediately gotten the archaeologist's attention; Daniel observed him carefully as he 'played' with the object.

“Hey, Jack,” Daniel greeted quietly, not moving from his spot.

“Hey, yourself.  You've been ... working hard lately.  The Tollan proposal?” the colonel questioned innocently.

“Yeah, um, Hammond wants it as soon as possible,” Daniel acknowledged.  “Actually, I think he wants it in the morning so we can present it on Tollana in the afternoon.”

“Yeah, I heard something about that.  Hammond told Teal'c, Carter, and me to be ready,” Jack replied, the artifact he held now totally steady in his hands.

Jack and Daniel's eyes locked onto each other.  They weren't free to talk, and both knew it, but Jack also realized that it was uncharacteristic for him to stay away from his lover's office for so long, which is why he had finally gone to the eighteenth floor.  Standing here now, though, he felt like he was suffocating.  He couldn't even touch Daniel for fear of not being able to do more than just touch.

“I .. really should keep working on this,” Daniel said after a silent pause.

“Yeah, well, you know me.  Paperwork awaits!” Jack quipped.

“Maybe you need a secretary,” Daniel supposed with a very small smile.

Jutting his right hand out in front of him, his index pointing towards the other man, Jack replied cheerfully, “There you go.  I'll requisition one for myself.”

“Good luck,” Daniel chuckled.

“I like that idea.  Maybe a beautiful blonde or a tumultuous redhead,” Jack pondered, his face having an expression of mischief on it.  “It might be entertaining, not to mention fun.  Definite possibilities here!”

**Don't count on it, Colonel O'Neill, or you'll be in BIG trouble!**

**Jealous, Love?**

“Maybe you should forget the secretary, Jack,” Daniel said aloud.  “She might keep you tied to your office too much, and you know how you like to roam.”

“Right.  Well, thanks for the advice,” Jack thanked in an even tone of voice while returning the artifact to its place on the shelf.

“Anytime.”

“Ah,” Jack looked around a little.  The next thing was something he knew was going to be one of the hardest parts of the covert operation.  “Friday night, Daniel.”

Daniel sighed, looking down and nodding before asking, “Hockey?”

“Pizza and Beer!  I'll get the beer ...”

“And I'll get the pizza,” Daniel interrupted in a more upbeat tone, knowing that he couldn't let on that anything was out of the ordinary.  “When does the game start?”

“Doesn't matter.  I'm already starved,” the older man replied, patting his abdomen with both of his hands.  “How about six?”

“Okay.”

It was going to be a tough night.  The two lovers were going to have to laugh and cajole their way through the evening without giving themselves away.  They were best friends, and they needed to be seen as such.

====

As it approached six, Daniel drove up to his 'friend's home.  Jack was out front, ostensibly looking for something in his truck.

“Hey,” both men said at the same time.

“Don't forget, Danny, the house is bugged,” the older man reminded.

“Gawd, can't we make it an early night?” Daniel requested, already dreading the night that hadn't even begun yet.

“No, we have to be normal, and, if they've done their homework, they are expecting us to do the Friday night bit.  Everyone knows we do it unless we're out of town,” the colonel reminded, pausing to look up and down the street.

“Or something,” Daniel stated mournfully.

“Or something,” Jack repeated, trying to smile for the sake of his lover.

“Then, I guess we'd better get started,” Daniel observed as he walked around Jack and the truck quickly.

The movement surprised the older man a bit as he had hoped for just another moment of privacy with his lover.  In truth, their brief moment of true honesty had been too much for Daniel, and he had to get away in order to get back into his role.

“By the way, O'Neill,” Daniel called out from the front porch.  “You owe me $23.50 for this oversized food.”

“It's your turn to pay,” Jack replied in a near shout.

“No, I paid last time.”

“I don't think so, Jackson.”

The game went on, Jack and Daniel bickering about whose turn it was to pay for the supreme pizza and then going inside to watch the hockey game.  As usual, when the game had ended, they stargazed awhile, sitting side by side, shoulders touching, as was customary.  Still, the night was anything but usual, and both worked very hard not to forget they were being eavesdropped on.

After a while, Jack pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled something, covering for the scribbling by lying, “Oh, I forgot.  Here's the number for the electrician I mentioned last week.  I told him about the problem you were having with the A/C, and even though you live in an apartment, he thought he could help you out.”

Jack motioned at the note, and Daniel read it, covering by saying, “Oh, thanks.  I'd forgotten.”  He looked at Jack and communicated, **Gawd, this is hard.**

**I know.**

Daniel again stared at the note, which read, “We need to bicker; that's what we do, right?” and then put it in his pocket.  “Um, Jack, don't forget to get your blue suit cleaned this week.”

“Blue suit?”

“Yeah, next Friday we're going to the gallery,” the scientist reminded.

“More rocks?” Jack inquired a bit gruffly.

Daniel elaborated, “National Treasures of Egypt.”

“Come on, Danny.  Don't we see enough of that stuff in our work?” Jack challenged, gruffness having shifted to harshness.

“This is great stuff, Jack.  It's a collection of relics and artifacts discovered about three years ago during a dig.”

“I vote for hockey.”

“Relics,” Daniel maintained.

“Beer,” Jack countered.

“Wine.”

“Kicking back on the couch.”

“Sitting quietly and attentively during the lecture,” Daniel insisted.

“Lecture?  I'm *not* listening to a lecture,” Jack refuted.

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I refuse.”

“But you will!” Daniel exclaimed.

“Won't!” Jack spoke stubbornly.

“Will!”

“Will not.”

“Will, too!”

“Says who?”

“Says me!”

“And how are you going to make me?” the older man challenged.

“I'll ...” Daniel had laughed, but, now, he looked down and away as he closed his eyes from the pain.  ~I hate this.~

“Daniel, are you okay?” Jack asked.

Daniel nodded, replying, “Just, um, I think I swallowed a bug or something.”

Jack started to reach out to touch his lover, but Daniel sprung up and walked to the edge of the roof deck.

**Don't, Jack.  Please don't touch me.**

“So are you going to make me sit through that boring lecture?” Jack struggled to ask in a normal voice.

Daniel turned, self-hugging, and leaned back against the railing, threatening, “I'll beat you up.”

“Like you could.”

“I could,” Daniel said softly, almost too soft.

“Could not,” Jack refuted, his voice strained and cracking.

“Could, too.”

“Not,” Jack whispered.

Daniel nodded, his eyes misting as he spoke, “I could take you, Jack.”

“In your dreams, Doctor Jackson.”

Their eyes were locked on each other, their breathing labored.  Daniel blinked several times, while Jack clasped his hands together, pressing on his knuckles hard.

Daniel looked up at the stars, gathering his strength, and then stated, “You *will* be at the lecture, Colonel O'Neill ... or I'll have to schedule some extra briefings at the SGC and make sure General Hammond knows that your attendance is required.  They'll be a test afterwards.”

Jack smiled, mentally noting, **Listening to you, prattle on about anything is a joy, Danny, not a punishment.**

**That's not what you normally say.**

**Maybe not, but it's the truth.**  Verbally, Jack tried to tease, “I'll get out of them. I have ... influence.”

“So do I.”

“But mine are ...” Jack laughed, “the same as yours.”

Finally, the torment was over.  It was late enough, and they had done everything they normally would have done years ago, when they were limited by the term 'best friends'.  Daniel checked his watch, and Jack his.

Jack stood up, putting his hands in his pockets, “Stay the night?  Your ... the spare room awaits, as always.”

“Not tonight.  General Hammond expects that report I've been working on by ten in the morning, and I need to finalize a couple of points,” the negotiator responded.

“How's it coming?” Jack asked.

“Good,” Daniel answered, continuing the lie with, “I think we stand a good chance of convincing the Tollan.”

“Good.  Good.  I'll walk you out,” Jack offered as Daniel began down the ladder.

====

Having reached Daniel's car, the colonel and the scientist gazed into each other's eyes for several seconds.

“Jack, be careful, okay?”  Daniel's eyes widened upon realizing what he'd just said.  “Gawd, that's a stupid thing to have said.”

“No, it's not.  And I will be.  You, too!”

“I have to go ... now,” Daniel said.  ~Before I get you killed.~

“Drive safely,” Jack ordered, tapping on the expensive silver car.

The two men were in great agony.  This was the hardest thing either had done in years, pretending with each other.

Daniel nodded, entered his car and drove away.

Jack stood on the driveway for a few minutes.  He had taken a big breath watching the sporty car drive down the street.  Then he looked up towards the sky, watching the stars and hoping nothing would go wrong tomorrow and the days the followed when the game would intensify.

====

The next afternoon, SG-1 traveled to Tollana.

Daniel stood, dressed in his best suit, and began his presentation to High Chancellor Travell, saying, “Your eminence, our government has asked us to return to Tollana to arrange formal diplomatic relations with your people.”

“Consider it done.  You are, after all, the people who saved us from the Goa'uld,” the leader of the Tollan spoke confidently.

Daniel requested a trade of technology, but Travell immediately refused, intoning, “I'm sorry.  You know that is the one thing we cannot give you. Tollan law strictly forbids it.”

Undeterred, the archaeologist responded, “Okay, we understand that.  However, in our culture, laws can be changed when it's deemed that the reasons for those laws are no longer relevant.”

“The reasons for these laws are still relevant,” Travell countered.

Daniel continued to try and convince Travell to no avail, and then Jack chimed in that Earth would like an ion cannon.  When the Tollan naturally refused, Jack's tone and words became sharper until finally he exploded.

“We knew you wouldn't give us anything,” Jack argued.  “We're wasting a lot of time here.”

As SG-1 exited the large room, Daniel acted confused, asking Jack what he was doing.

Jack feigned anger, sniping, “We never should have saved their technologically superior butts.”  Then they reached the device in question, the pawn in their game.  He paused and asked, “This is that thing that disabled our weapons, isn't it?”

When Teal'c acknowledged that it was, Jack pulled it from the wall, leaving the other three members of his team looking shocked.  The colonel ignored Sam's verbal concern about regulations and then, upon Daniel asking if what he'd just done wasn't crossing the line, he told him to shut up.

The game was playing out exactly as planned.

====

Back at the SGC during the briefing, Hammond acted overjoyed to have the device.  He asked innocently what they had to give up for it.  None of Jack's teammates wanted to admit what Jack had done.  They answered the questions the general asked honestly, but each held back the total truth.

Finally, Jack admitted, “I took it,” taking the blame for his actions willingly, which was part of their plan.

At first, Hammond feigned surprise, then outrage at Jack's actions, while Sam and Teal'c remained silent, each truly shocked at the turn of events.  Daniel, for the most part, didn't say a word.  He watched as Jack's and Hammond's words got more heated with each verbal volley tossed at the other.

“We have no choice but to take whatever steps we need to get what we need!” Jack argued.

“As long as I am in command of the SGC, we will hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards,” Hammond said sternly

“And when the Goa'uld wipe us out because we have nothing with which to defend ourselves, I'm sure we'll all feel great about ourselves and our high moral standards,” Jack replied angrily.

“Colonel O'Neill, you are out of line.  Now stand down!” the major general ordered.

Sam and Teal'c were totally taken aback by Jack's outburst.  This wasn't the man they knew.  They listened in total surprise, Jack's words sounding incredulous to them.

Hammond sat back in his chair and looked sternly at his 2IC as he stated, “Colonel O'Neill, I am hereby relieving you of your command.  You are to report to the infirmary and stay there until I send for you.”

“No holding cell, Sir?” Jack snarked.

The general replied, “That could very well be your next stop, if you say another word, Colonel.”

The game played on as Jack left the room for the infirmary.  He was glad the briefing was over.  He was a pro at deception and cons like this, but he wasn't quite the same man he used to be, and lying to people whom he considered family was more difficult now.

The Special Ops colonel had another thought in the back of his mind -- Daniel.  He couldn't take looking at his lover, knowing what the younger man was silently going through.  He was glad Daniel had changed into his BDUs from his suit he'd worn to the meeting with the Tollan because, in Jack's opinion, he looked “deliciously edible;” but then again, the colonel had to admit that his lover looked gorgeous and edible in most anything, and even more so wearing his birthday suit.

Hammond ordered Teal'c to go with Jack, reminding the Jaffa that Jack was no longer Teal'c's commanding officer.

At that moment, the klaxons blared, announcing the arrival of High Chancellor Travell.  She and other Tollan representatives were greeted by a contrite Hammond and Daniel, who anxiously sought to appease the alien visitor.

====

A bit later, Hammond called Jack to his office.  As Jack made his way there, still accompanied by Teal'c, they passed Sam.

The blonde stopped and called out, “Is there anything I can do?”

“About?” Jack asked with a surly tone.

“Well, Sir, with respect, you aren't exactly acting like yourself,” Sam observed.

Jack looked straight at his 2IC.  It would be his only chance to send her a message.  He didn't know if she'd pick up on it on or not, but it was all he could do.

“No, Carter.  I haven't been acting like myself since I met you.  *Now*, I'm acting like myself,” Jack stated as he and Teal'c moved on, leaving Sam behind.

Sam had missed the hidden message, but there was nothing Jack could do about that.  He had tried to tell her that he was acting as he had prior to his involvement with the SGC, performing a Black Ops mission.  He regretted that she and Teal'c would be hurt, but he couldn't risk telling them anything more directly.  He had already put Daniel's life in danger and that was almost too much for him to bear.

====

Jack and Hammond staged a final conversation in the major general's office with Teal'c there to be a witness to it.  Instead of being court-martialed, Hammond offered his friend early retirement.

When Jack questioned the retirement option, Hammond flipped open a file and stated, “Five counts of direct insubordination to superior officers and a United States Senator. Two counts of refusal to obey orders.  Kidnapping an alien child. Should I go on?”

As was planned, when faced with his military record, Jack retired from the United States Air Force for the third time.

The next part of the plan, the one that would happen the next day, was the hardest.  It was the one that Jack had tried his best to warn his lover about.  It would rip them both to pieces, and Jack knew it.

With Jack's retirement, it would be logical for a member of SG-1 to go to him, to try and talk sense into him, to try and understand why he'd suddenly crossed the line.  As Jack's best friend, Daniel would be called upon to go to the colonel on behalf of not only himself, but of SG-1.

As he wandered about his house waiting for Daniel's visit, Jack realized he hadn't felt this alone since Daniel had first returned from Abydos.  It wasn't a nice feeling.  Eventually, he sat on the small sofa, silently playing chess against an imaginary Daniel.  Chess was a favorite game of the couple, and playing it now provided a small amount of comfort for the older man, until he heard the bell of his front door.  He knew instantly who was there, and his heart sank as he prepared himself for the scene.

As Daniel waited for the door to open, his heart was beating rapidly.  He had to play this just right.  He knew he was being watched and that every spoken word would be heard by outsiders.  He couldn't be weak.  Jack's life was on the line, and so was his own.

The scene would play out like a Greek tragedy.  Thus, with a feeling of remorse, Jack opened the door and saw a beautiful sight -- his lover.  Wanting only to take the young man into his arms, he fought to keep the game alive.  He didn't say anything; he was afraid to speak.  It was his soulmate who began the evil charade with a tentative, “Hi.”

The play was on.

“What do you want?” Jack's chocolate brown eyes stared coldly at Daniel.

With his arms crossed protectively in front of him, holding a blue jacket, Daniel answered, “I'm not, uh, I'm not sure, to tell you the truth.  I'm here to talk, I guess.”

“So, talk,” Jack stated as he stood at the door, taking a drink of his beer.  ~Good thing I stocked up on beer.  Crap, I'm on duty all the time.~

“You got another one of those?” the archaeologist asked.  ~Gawd, I hate beer.~

“Yeah,” Jack answered, though he still hadn't moved from his spot at the front door.

Waiting first with expectation and then with frustration, Daniel's reactions were perfectly according to plan, “Feel like sharing?”

“Beer?” Daniel questioned.  ~How about six of them?~  “Sure.”

Jack went to get the brew for his lover as Daniel entered the living room, looking around, missing the home that was his in almost every way that mattered.  He took a breath, needing to move the conversation on before he became stalled in memories and desires.

“So?  How are you feeling about all this?” Daniel asked with trepidation in his voice.

“Yes to the beer, no to the feelings,” Jack responded flippantly as he handed his partner a bottle.

“That's too bad because I don't really like beer.”

“Stop your worryin'.  I'm fine,” Jack replied as nonchalantly as possible while he sat in his favorite chair.

“Really? That's, uh … that's funny because I didn't figure you for the early retirement type anymore.”  As Jack shrugged, Daniel continued, “There's another reason you're angry, isn't there?”

“Oh, here we go.  Pop Pysch 101, right?” the colonel quipped.

“No,” Daniel denied.  He raised his finger as if recalling the hidden solution to a puzzle.  “When we were in the briefing, you said something about the Pentagon not giving us the backup we requested.  What, uh, what were you talking about?”

Jack stalled.  This was one of the planned parts of their conversation.  Daniel was supposed to pick up on a quickly thrown out comment during the briefing and ask Jack about it.  It was all part of the cover, so now, Jack acted like he had to debate whether or not to tell Daniel about it.

Waiting a few moments, Jack stared at his beer and then explained, “Hammond and I were planning a secondary SGC base off world.  It was gonna serve as a backup in case ours was attacked.  I was gonna command.”

“And the Pentagon pulled the plug?  So you're acting out because you're hurt, because you didn't get a command?”

“Give me a break, Daniel,” Jack requested brusquely.  “Their denial of the program was just another indication that they're not serious about attaining our goals.”

“Which you think is obtaining new weapons and technology?”

“Protecting ourselves,” Jack insisted as the couple exchanged their opposite views.

“But isn't our mission also about establishing and maintaining  diplomatic relations with other cultures?”

“What's the point, if we don't gain anything to help our other interests?”

“Well, there's a lot we could learn from people like the Tollan that has nothing to do with technology and weapons.”

Daniel's voice was still calm.  It was like some of their Friday night debates used to be, back in the beginning, when they were still learning about each other's differences, but they had come so far beyond those days that this conversation felt surreal to them.

Jack knew it was time to take the discussion to a turning point, one that would be painful, one that would eat away at him for a long time.  It was necessary, but he didn't like it.  He couldn't let up, and he prayed with all his might that Daniel remembered it truly was all a game, a nasty and vicious game.

“Stuff that interests people like you, Daniel,” Jack said with disdain, “Not people like me.  I want to see tangible gains from our efforts.  And if people like the Tollan don't want to share, we should just take.”

“You really believe that?” Daniel asked, knowing it wasn't anywhere close to what his lover truly felt in his heart.

“Being sweet and nice isn't gonna stop three or four Goa'uld  mother ships if they decide to come back again. I'd rather be a thief and alive than honest and dead.  It's a cliche, but there it is,” Jack spoke sharply.

~Okay, on with it.~  Daniel delivered the first of the death blows to their friendship.  It nearly killed him, but he, too, knew it was time.  “If you really believe that, I guess, uh, I guess I never really knew you at all.”

Jack could barely speak, his voice struggling for strength, as he prodded, “Come on. You're a bright guy. You had to sense some of this,” but Daniel just stared at Jack.  He knew Daniel should respond, but when he didn't, Jack continued, “Then no. I guess you couldn't relate to me any more than I could to you.”

Both men were struggling, but each knew they couldn't falter now.

~Okay, okay, breathe and ... and just ... say it.~  Daniel stared at Jack, his eyes focused only on the man he wanted to hold and kiss.  When he spoke, the words were tentative.  “So, this whole friendship thing we've been working on the last few years …”

Jack couldn't stand to draw their painful discussion much further, so he put an end to it swiftly, saying, “Apparently not much of a foundation there, huh?”  He wanted to cut out his heart, but all he could do was take another swig of beer.  His eyes were misty, something Daniel noticed.  They needed to end this agonizing conversation.  **Danny, I love you.  This is a heckuva way to spend an afternoon.**

**I know.  Jack, there's nothing with our foundation, but ... be careful, and ... I love you, too.**

Saying nothing verbally, Daniel stood, grabbed his jacket, and walked out of Jack's house.  He was on the verge of tears, and both were on the edge of forgetting the game.

Hurting Daniel was something that made Jack feel ill inside.  If his lover hadn't made such a hasty exit, he wasn't sure that he wouldn't have been able to continue.  Another few seconds, and he would have stood up, grabbed Daniel to him, and kissed him with all the love and passion that he truly felt for the younger man.

Daniel raced to his car after leaving the house.  He couldn't help it.  Though he didn't want to, a few tears fell.  Those watching would be expecting a display of some kind.  A friendship had been ended, and everyone knew the archaeologist was both passionate and emotional.  Thus, he felt there hadn't been any harm in a shedding a few tears for something lost.

~Go home, I mean ... gawd,~ Daniel bemoaned as he began to drive to his apartment.  It wasn't a refuge by any means.  After all, he was certain it was bugged.  ~Prison: that's what this feels like.~  There was no place for him to go where he could feel free.  His body ached, and all he could think about was the strong foundation of love that would get the two of them through this nightmare.  ~We will survive.  Jack says when we're together, we're ... but we're not together.  Jack's right: we should have let Teal'c tear Harry Maybourne apart limb by limb,~ he thought, thinking back to what the Jaffa had said to the often-irritating colonel, who had been assigned to Area 51 at the time.

====

“Hello, Doctor Jackson,” a stranger said as Daniel rode up in his elevator roughly twenty-five minutes later.

“Do I know you?” Daniel asked the tall, muscled looking man.

“Better do your job, Doctor Jackson,” the man warned menacingly.  “A certain leading citizen is anxious for progress that matters.”

“Who are you?”

The man ignored the question.

Daniel was about to say something further, but the elevator stopped two floors below his.

The man got off, turned around, and said in a chilling voice, “We don't give second chances.  Did I mention I hate fish?”

Daniel's eyes grew wide just as the elevator doors closed.  When they opened again, he ran to his apartment and unlocked the door.  Upon entering, he saw the place had been ransacked.  What he cared about most, though, were his helpless fish.  He went anxiously to the fish tank and took a tally.  He closed his eyes when he was done.  They were all there, all safe.  Then he heard a voice at the door.

“No second chances.  That leading citizen I mentioned in the elevator; he expects to have a need for your services soon, and he expects your full cooperation, Doctor.  I'm sure your fish would appreciate it if you remembered that,” the man stated, cackling for a moment.

Daniel stared angrily at the man, who turned and disappeared, leaving the archaeologist alone and fearful.  He wished he could call Jack to make sure he was okay, but to do so would destroy the game.  He wasn't afraid for himself, but he was scared to death for the man who owned his heart -- for Jack!

====

Meanwhile, at Jack's house, Harry Maybourne appeared at the door.  Harry knew all about the conversation that had taken place just an hour or so earlier.  He had been convinced.  Jack's coldness towards Daniel had convinced him that the colonel was in complete agreement with his own point of view regarding alien technology and the defense of Earth.  Now, he asked Jack about working for the rogue operation.

Playing it cool, Jack refused and sent the traitor away.

====  

The next day, SG-1 was assembled to meet their new teammate.  Daniel had assumed Sam would get command and that someone like Lou Ferretti would become the fourth member of their team.  Thus, when Hammond announced that Colonel Robert Makepeace, the leader of SG-3, would be taking over as leader of the flagship team, he became upset.

“Well, no offense, but doesn't Major Carter deserve to take charge of SG-1?” Daniel argued as politely as he could at the moment.

Hammond responded, “Major Carter has an exemplary record on the team as recognized by her recent promotion to major, but major is a far cry from colonel.”

“I understand, General,” Sam stated.

“I'm sorry, but I don't,” Daniel said forcefully, his frustration over everything else that had been happening surfacing now.  “What, uh, what difference does it make what title she has?  The point is ...”

Sam was nervous.  She didn't expect the command, nor did she really want it yet.

“It's all right Daniel -- really,” the major assured, trying to calm her friend.

Hammond dismissed the team, leaving Makepeace with his new teammates.

Makepeace spoke confidently, “I'm proud to join you folks. I hope you can learn to trust my command as much as you did Colonel O'Neill's.”

“I'm sure we will, Sir,” Sam stated without hesitation.

Daniel added cautiously, “I never really trusted Jack's command, but, uh, I'm open.”

Makepeace left the trio together.  Within seconds, Teal'c had walked away without saying a word.  Sam looked at Daniel, and then also departed the area.  Daniel felt cold.  Life at the SGC was anything but enjoyable these days.

====

Though only another day had passed, Jack contacted Harry to discuss joining the rogue operation.  Originally, they were going to give it more time, but Jack had done such a good job of alienating his colleagues with his attitude, that he was sure the prey would take the bait - him.

There was another reason the colonel dared to hurry the plan.  While he hadn't talked to his life partner, nor had he seen him since the meeting at the house, Jack felt something deep inside of him.  He couldn't define the jolt that raged within him, but it definitely unnerved him.

The meeting with Harry was successful and, with Jack having refused his final chance to opt out of the association, Harry and Jack boarded a jet plane where the crooked colonel explained about the secret organization, which he described as an “off-shoot” of the NID.  He wanted Jack to command a unit, one of several the organization had.

Jack recognized the temporary commander of the unit in question.  His name was Newman and he had been one of the ones SG-1 had run across while retrieving the Touchstone for the Madronans.  Clearly, it had been this rogue unit that had been responsible for that theft.

Jack agreed to take command of the unit.  His only other option would be to “disappear” as Harry had threatened earlier.

Upon landing, Jack went straight to the SGC.  They had anticipated this part of the game, so Hammond wasn't surprised when Jack had called, innocently requesting a meeting.

As part of the game, Hammond had arranged for Colonel Makepeace to be present in his office when Jack arrived.  It played out perfectly, Makepeace witnessing Jack's request to go through the Stargate, supposedly to live out his life on Edora with Laira.  Hammond approved the request, notifying SG-1 of their former CO's imminent departure.

--

As Jack walked up towards the Stargate, Hammond, Sam, Teal'c and Janet watched from the base of the ramp.  This was one of the most difficult and risky moments of the covert operation.  Jack was desperate to see his lover, and yet afraid to at the same time.  A piece of him was glad Daniel hadn't come to the gate room to see him off.  Then he felt it.  Just before he reached the shimmer of the Stargate, there was a ripple inside his soul.  His lover was there; Jack could feel his presence.  He didn't turn around, but he knew Daniel was standing in the control room.

**Don't worry, Babe.  I'm playing the game.  It's going to be okay,** Daniel reassured from his corner of the room.

Jack paused, his head turned just slightly as if he were going to turn and look, and communicated, **Remember, Danny -- I love you, forever and always,** after which he stepped through the Stargate.

====

As soon as his lover was gone, Daniel walked stealthily out of the control room.  No one had seen him there, and he was happy about that.  He returned to his office where he had a statue to study.  He also needed to prepare for SG-1's next mission, which he wasn't looking forward to.

“Doctor Jackson,” Makepeace stated sternly as he entered Daniel's office.  “We need to make sure you're a little more in tune with the way things are going to operate around here.”

“And that means?”

“It means I expect you to follow my orders.  I don't care what O'Neill let you get away with, but you're on my team now, and my team functions according to military protocol.  Is that understood?” the gruff colonel asked.

“What I understand, Colonel Makepeace, is that you can't wait to make a bigger name for yourself.  You want Jack's command so badly that you're practically salivating,” Daniel accused snarkily.

“I *have* the command, Doctor Jackson,” Makepeace reminded.  “O'Neill is history.  He went through the Stargate an hour ago.  He *won't* be back.”

“That's what you think, you robotic moron,” Daniel muttered incoherently under his breath.

“Would you repeat that, Doctor?” the colonel asked, moving forward three steps.

“I said ...” Daniel paused, sighing deeply.  “I don't do orders.  If you have a problem with that, then I guess you can *try* and have me replaced, but I wouldn't hold your breath.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“You've got a smart mouth, Doctor, and that could get you into serious trouble.”

“Are you threatening me, Colonel Makepeace?  Because if you are, you're a bigger idiot than I thought you were,” Daniel opined, his hands now gripping the worktable he stood behind.

“I'm warning you, Jackson, if you don't tow the line, you'll pay!”

“What are you going to do?  Take away my pocket money for a week?” Daniel asked.  “You don't have the power to do anything to me.  I'm not military, in case you've forgotten, and my place on this team is more secure than yours.  So, come on, tell me, what are you going to do?”

With a smirk, Makepeace promised, “Make no mistake, I can do plenty, and none of it will be very pleasant.”

“Many have tried, and all have failed, Colonel, so I suggest you save yourself the bother, and go play with your G.I. Joe or something.”

“You've got a smart mouth, Jackson, and it's going to get you into a lot of trouble one of these days.”

Daniel laughed, “I'm always in trouble.  It's a natural state of affairs for me.  It would be more of a shock if I had a trouble free week.  Perhaps you should try threatening me with that.  If I don't buckle down, you'll make sure everything goes smoothly for me -- that's sure to worry me.  Now get out of my office.  I just had it cleaned and I don't want you stinking up the place.”

“I will leave, Doctor Jackson, when I am through, and I am NOT through!”

“Oh please!  Spare me the big bad wolf speech.  You're nothing but a pale imitation of Jack O'Neill.  You're so desperate to be him that you're about to choke from your own venom.”

“Jack O'Neill was too soft.  He should have stood down years ago, and you're attitude is proof of that!”

“And what does it take to be a good leader, Makepeace?  Jack's saved this planet more times than you've had hot dinners.  You have no idea what you're talking about.  Do you think I followed his orders for the sake of it, simply because he was a friggin' colonel in the United States Air Force?

“Give me a break.  The President could order me to do something, and if I didn't think it was right, I'd tell him where to put his ideas.  I followed Jack because he was the best.  He listened to his team and that's the point.  SG-1, the REAL SG-1, was a team of individuals, and we all had a point of view.

“Jack knew our strengths and our weaknesses, and he listened to us accordingly.  If we hadn't believe in him so much, this team would have split up a long time ago.  Sam's been offered other opportunities at the Pentagon and with NASA, but has turned them all down, and do you know why?”

“You're the one with all the answers, Jackson, so why don't you tell me?”

“Because she believed in Jack,” Daniel answered.  “She wants to work with the best, and he was ... the absolute best at what he did.”

“Are you sure it's not because they had a little thing going on there, Doctor?”

Daniel desperately wanted to tell Makepeace how wrong he was.  Silently, he prayed for strength to continue on the charade without endangering Jack's life.

“We've all had a little thing going on Makepeace.  It's called friendship.  Perhaps you should look the word up and see what it means.  Then you might stand a better chance of going out and finding yourself one.”

“You're missing a key fact in your own little speech, Jackson,” Makepeace suggested.

“And what would that be, Makepeace?”

“Was.  Jack O'Neill *was* the leader of SG-1,” the colonel spat.  “Your little speech is about something that was.  The man changed, yet again, and now he's gone, and the only reason he wasn't dishonorably discharged from the service was because they didn't want to deal with the fallout!”

“*Fallout?*  You moron!”  Daniel felt like he was going to explode.  “What fallout?  Jack has saved this friggin' planet from being destroyed and overrun by the Goa'uld more than once.  You'd be ashes if it weren't for him.  *Was*?  *Was*?” Daniel questioned, his voice vibrating in the cold office.  “It's a freakin' verb, and that's all it is.  Get out of my office, Colonel ... Dunzel.”

“You need to be taught a lesson in manners, and I'm going to make sure it's me that does the teaching,” Makepeace sneered, his veins bulging from his own anger.

“Well, would you mind going to your own office to plan your little revenge attack?  I have more important things to do than stand here listening to the rusty cogs turning in your very small brain.”

“As I said before, I'm not through with you yet,” Makepeace stated.

“Well, I'm through with you!”  Daniel stormed past the Marine and headed into the hallways.  He had no clue where he was going.  He just walked away as fast as he could.  ~Idiot!  Freakin' friggin' idiot~

“Hey, Daniel,” Sam called out when her friend entered her lab.

“Hi, Sam.”

“Daniel, you should know that the colonel ... he ...”

“I know, Sam,” the archaeologist acknowledged.

“Gee, Daniel, this must be so hard on you.  I wish there was something I could do.”

Daniel nodded, and suddenly realized that being alone with Sam wasn't a good idea.  She knew the truth about Jack's and Daniel's relationship, and she might feel a need to discuss it.

“Sam, I just ... needed to get away from Makepeace for a minute, but I really need to get back to work.  I'll see you later,” Daniel said.

The male scientist left the lab, not giving Sam a chance to respond.

====

It didn't take as long as Jack had thought it would to get to the core of the undercover operation.  Within a day of having gone through the Stargate to Edora and then onto the secret coordinates Harry Maybourne had given him.  There, Jack met up with Newman and the rest of his new team.  Not long thereafter, Harry used the Goa'uld communication device to make contact, giving Jack his first mission to PX3-595, where he was to “acquire” a device that makes users invisible.

As they stole the unit from the cave where it was, Jack learned that PX3-595 was an Asgard-protected planet.  He hadn't been aware of that until his new team mentioned it.

When the rogue team returned, and Jack continued to talk about it with the traitors, he was told of an inside man at the SGC who would secretly pick up and return items to Earth for research.  Harry was always the go-between.

Once Harry passed on the information, Jack headed to the planet to make the drop.  As he waited, he wondered which team would appear through the Stargate.  The men of the SGC were the best, the elite.  The thought of one of them being a traitor made Jack extremely angry.

====

“Doctor Jackson, come in,” General Hammond instructed as he motioned to a chair in front of his desk.  “Sit down, please.”

Daniel walked in and did as requested.

“Son, Colonel Makepeace mentioned that there's been a bit of a problem with the transition of command,” the general began.

The archaeologist dived right in, intoning, “Major Carter deserved the team, General.  I know I'm not military and that obviously you don't agree, but a man like Makepeace doesn't belong on a first contact team.  He's suited to exactly what he did before -- hanging out with ja...with Marines,” he opined, changing his words at the last minute to be more generic than he had first intended.

“Doctor, Colonel Makepeace is one of our best, and he's well qualified to lead SG-1 or any team.  The decision has been made.”

“So, what?  Shape up or ship out?” Daniel questioned, raising his eyebrows and cocking his head slightly.

“That's not what I'm saying, but, Son, Jack O'Neill is gone.  He was far from the perfect leader, and it's time you accepted that,” Hammond stated.

“I never said Jack was perfect.”

Hammond studied his Head of Archaeology carefully.  The young man was focused, impassioned, and, yet, there was a monotone quality to his tone.  The general knew how close Jack and Daniel were -- best friends -- and he continued to be concerned that Daniel wouldn't be able to accept Jack's departure.  He decided it would be best to be tough with the sensitive scientist.  Hopefully, Jack wouldn't be gone long, and they could all mend fences later, but, right now, he had to keep SG-1 as unified as possible, with Robert Makepeace as the team leader.

“Doctor, I realize you have some issues, but frankly, it's not my concern.  Colonel Makepeace is the leader of SG-1.  If that is going to be a problem, than we need to make some changes, and Son, you might not like those changes.”

Daniel stood up and walked to the door.

“Doctor Jackson?” Hammond stood from his desk, surprised at Daniel's maneuver.

“General, my apologies, but if you are asking me to accept Makepeace blindly, I can't do it.  I didn't accept Jack's command without question, so what makes you think I could accept anyone else's?  But I'll do my job, Sir.  If you expect more than that, then maybe I need to resign,” Daniel suggested, not waiting for a response before walking out of the door and heading back to his own office.

SG-1 had a mission that afternoon, and assuming he was still on the team, Daniel needed to prepare.

====

On the planet, Jack hid the vanishing object near the DHD.  He hid in some nearby brush as he waited for the Stargate to activate.  His heart fluttered sometime later when the Gate activated, and he realized it was SG-1 that had come through.  A member of his team, the premier team of the SGC, was a traitor.

Jack watched Sam and Daniel veer off, apparently to do some scientific tests.  He was glad of that.  He didn't consider Daniel a possibility for one second, but he was afraid that had Daniel come too close, he wouldn't have been able to remain hidden.  Jack hungered for his lover and their life together.  He resolved to complete this mission as quickly as possible.  For now, all he could do was wait and watch.

====

Reaching their testing site, Sam set up quickly.

“Do you need any help, Sam?” Daniel asked as he watched her get her equipment in order.

“No, not for this, thanks,” Sam answered as she went about her work.

Daniel walked around the area.  It was a beautiful planet, and for a moment, Daniel imagined strolling the area with his lover.  How he missed Jack.  He hadn't realized how much the older man's presence made his own work at the SGC more fun.

Since the covert operation had begun, Jack hadn't been around to mother hen him, or tease him, or just watch him.  Daniel became aware that all of those moments with Jack, even the most frustrating ones, had become a part of his work.  Having it taken away made his work simply ... work.  As he ambled on a bit aimlessly away from Sam's tests, he remembered feeling this way before ... on digs and explorations on Earth.

~Gawd, how empty was I?~ Daniel asked himself.

The curious man loved his work.  It gave him joy, but he had never had anyone to share in that joy before Jack, not really, and for the first time in his life, Daniel came to the realization that sharing was the secret ingredient to real joy.  Sharing his discoveries with Jack, even if Jack didn't know what the heck he was talking about, was something Daniel looked forward to.

“Doctor Jackson, aren't you supposed to be helping Major Carter?” Makepeace barked.

“I ... she doesn't need any help, Colonel.”

Impatiently, the commander replied, “You have your orders, Doctor.”

“Take your orders and stuff them down your throat, Makepeace.  I will *never* take orders from you or anyone, and Jack can verify that for you.”

“What does it take to get through that geeky skull of yours?  I thought you were supposed to have a brain!  O'Neill is gone, history.  He's *not* coming back.  I AM the leader of SG-1 now and if you want to stay on this team, then you will do as I order.”

~It's not worth it.  What's he going to do, anyway?~  Daniel got into Makepeace's personal space, not caring about the weapon the Marine held in his hands, and spat, “Screw you.  I quit.”

As Daniel turned and started to walk away, Makepeace shouted out,“You can't do that,” as he took a few quick steps towards the archaeologist.

The archaeologist paused to reply, “I can do whatever I like, and what I don't like, is working with idiots like you!  I don't need this job, Makepeace.”

“Don't you?  Where are you going to go?  Oh, I know,  you can be a correspondent for the National Enquirer, tell all those enquiring minds about alien spaceships landing on the pyramids.”  Makepeace laughed a chilling cackle, then smirked nastily, “Do you really think anyone will take you seriously?  You need this place.”

“Why do you care?” Daniel asked suspiciously.

“I don't care what you do.”

“Good.  I quit!”

“General Hammond won't allow it,” the colonel supposed.

Daniel blinked a few times, and, facing Robert Makepeace, reminded, “But you forget, I don't take orders ... not from anyone.”

The civilian employee turned and walked away, returning to Sam and her testing materials.

====

“Daniel, can you check out those readings and log them for me?” the astrophysicist requested.

“Sure, Sam,” Daniel agreed as he began to check the equipment.

Sensing something was a bit off, Sam asked, “Are you okay?”

As if nothing was unusual, Daniel responded, “I just quit.”

“WHAT?”

“Don't worry,” Daniel assured as he looked over at Sam for a moment.  “I just said that to get old Ironpants in an uproar.  Gawd, I detest robots like him.  He doesn't see people, Sam, he sees ... numbers and weapons.  He has a brain.  I just wish he'd use it and ask questions like Jack does ... did.”

The archaeologist sighed, tired of using the past tense when speaking about his lover, a man worthy of the utmost respect and honor.  He took a breath and closed his eyes for a second.

Sam heard the hitch in her friend's breathing and noted, “This has been difficult for you.  I don't understand how the colonel could hurt you like this.  It doesn't make any sense, Daniel.  He loves you.”

“*Sam*!”  Daniel stood and took her the notes he had made.  “I don't want to talk about that ... ever again.  Are you done?”

“Daniel, I ...”

“Sam, are you done?” the archaeologist asked sternly.

“Yes,” Sam answered.  “Help me put these things away and we can head back to the Stargate.”

Daniel hated being so sharp with his friend, but he just couldn't get into a discussion about his romance with Jack.  Without further conversation, the two scientists gathered their materials and headed towards the Stargate.

====

Jack watched as SG-1 began to return to the Gate.  He saw Teal'c roaming the area and, for a moment, when Teal'c stopped near the DHD where the stolen device was hidden, he feared his warrior friend had dark sided.  It was only a brief thought, though, and he was relieved when Teal'c continued his duties.

It wasn't long before Robert Makepeace knelt down and picked up the item, stuffing it into his pocket without being seen by anyone but Jack.

~Figures,~ Jack thought.

When SG-1 departed, Jack dialed the planet where the rogue unit was, knowing the Asgard were watching.  As he walked through the Gate, an Asgard appeared, noting the coordinates to the planet.

Almost as soon as Jack arrived back to the rogue base, the Asgard took action.  He paused just long enough to let the traitors know they had a choice -- be beamed up and handled by the Asgard, or return to Earth and face the music.  They chose the latter.

When Jack came through the Gate to the SGC, Sam, Daniel and Teal'c watched the action silently at the base of the ramp.  As SF's took the traitors into custody, Jack used Makepeace's own handcuffs to bind the unsuspecting man.

When the dust settled, and the rogue agents had been led away, it became explanation time.

Daniel had to play innocent, and he did it well, saying, “So, uh, just to clarify. This whole past week, beginning with the appeal we made on Tollana, in which, I did a lot of hard work by the way, I take it that was all a scam?”

Hammond explained, “Within the last two weeks, the Asgard and the Tollan approached us independently of each other with evidence that we were stealing technology from them.”  As the discussion continued, he added, “The Asgard, Tollan, and the Nox were going to sever all ties with us, but we convinced them the theft must be the action of a rogue group from outside the SGC.”

Travell arrived and interjected, “We insisted that you apprehend them yourselves.  You have now regained our trust.”

Sam was stunned as she spoke, “So you set that whole thing up on Tollana in the hopes that the mole would think you were one of them and approach you?”

Seizing the chance for a believable sarcastic remark, Daniel asked, “And you didn't think you could trust us to help?”

Totally unaware that Daniel knew the truth from the beginning, Hammond answered, “We wanted to assure that your reaction to the colonel's behavior was as it should be, and the Asgard insisted that Colonel O'Neill be the only one involved.”

Shortly thereafter, Hammond and the others exited, leaving only SG-1.  There was just one more scene to be played out, the big reunion of SG-1.  Sam and Teal'c couldn't know that Daniel had been in on it.

Jack knew he had some fences to mend with his 2IC and his Jaffa friend, but the rift they would expect him to try and heal first would be the one with his best friend, so Jack went to Daniel and spoke loud enough for the others to hear as they walked out of the gate room.

“That stuff I was talking about at my house,” Jack began.  “The place was bugged. I had to keep up the act.”

“I understand,” Daniel responded in the near-banterous conversation.

“Obviously, the whole friendship thing, the foundation, it's all solid.”  Then, almost nervously, Jack added, “I do appreciate that you were the one that came to see if I was okay.  That ... that means something.”

Daniel couldn't resist.  His lover was back, and he saw a chance to stop his partner cold.  He just had to do it.

“Uh, actually, no it doesn't,” Daniel responded.  He paused appropriately and, barely avoiding a smile, said with just the right tone, “Um, we, uh, we drew straws.  I lost.”

Daniel walked away.  Jack exchanged looks with Sam and Teal'c. who both went along with the deception, each feeling their CO deserved a piece of humble pie for putting them all through the torture of thinking he had deserted them.

“Daniel, that was brilliant,” Sam laughed as she got into the elevator.

Daniel shrugged, opining, “He deserved it.”

“But you are going to forgive him?” the woman asked.

Daniel wondered if he should pretend to be angry.  He hesitated, avoiding Sam's gaze.  Teal'c had stopped to talk with one of the Marines, so it was just the two of them in the elevator.  Still, he didn't think it was safe, not yet.

“Daniel?”

“I don't know, Sam.  He lied to us.  He ... the things he said,” Daniel spoke.

“But it was an act.”

“Maybe,” Daniel said as the elevator stopped on Level 18, and he walked out, leaving Sam behind.

====

Several days later, things were calmer, but Jack and Daniel still hadn't spent any time together, even skipping their Friday night ritual, both too afraid they wouldn't be able to maintain any distance at all.  Jack, too, was concerned that the aftermath was potentially as dangerous as the setup.  He needed to be as sure as he could be that things were finished.  For Daniel, it was almost harder now than it had been at the beginning.

On this day, Daniel was working late, trying to catch up on things he had let slide while playing out the game.  Up until the covert operation ended, he had been too worried to actually translate much more than his name; or, at least, that's how it felt.  The young man was focusing on some notes when he felt familiar arms go around his shoulders and start to massage his upper body.  He sighed contently as he leaned into Jack's welcomed hold.  

“Home,” was all Jack said, and when Daniel looked up at his lover, he saw the sweetest smile gazing down at him.

“Home?” Daniel asked, needing the affirmation that at long last the brutal game that had required their cruel separation was finally ended.

Jack pulled his soulmate up, led him out of the office, and back to their home for the first time since the nightmare had begun.

====

Daniel was feeling warm, and looking forward to a passionate reunion with his lover.  He wasn't expecting much -- just Jack, and that's all he wanted, but he was wonderfully surprised when he walked into the house and saw the candlelit table, a roaring fire blazing in the fireplace, and a bouquet of flowers with a card that said simply, “Thanks for remembering.”

“Jack, you didn't have to.”

“Yes, I did.  I missed you more than I can say, Danny.  Missed you.  Geez, I missed you,” Jack repeated as his lips moved slowly towards Daniel's.

When they made contact for the first time, it was like a symphony coming into tune.  It was a tender tapping followed by a more aggressive pressing, and, finally, the two began to feast on each other.

They were together, and, for the next thirty-six hours, Jack and Daniel rekindled their nation of two.  Not caring what anyone thought, both called in sick.  They stayed in bed, all day, loving, caressing, soothing, comforting.  They made love over and over, their thirst for the each other deep and needy.

When they finally surfaced from the emotions of their love, they swept the house one more time, as a precaution.  Jack had done it before bringing his lover home, but he felt a need to take the extra step again.  They also checked out the apartment, clearing out all the bugs that hadn't yet been removed.

Jack warned Daniel it wasn't over, and they'd have to do the searches more often now, but they would go back as they were, as much as possible.

“Let's get our fish,” Jack suggested.

“Our fish,” Daniel echoed softly, turning from Jack and self-hugging.

Jack's internal Daniel alarm went off like fireworks, and he asked, “Danny, what happened?”

With a sigh, Daniel revealed, “Our fish were threatened.”

“The fish?  With what ... a spear?” Jack tried to joke, except then he saw the look on Daniel's face and realized it wasn't a joke.  “Okay, I'm sorry.  Tell me what happened, exactly.”

“There was a man, Jack.  He broke into my apartment and he ... he threatened the fish,” Daniel spoke solemnly, telling Jack all the details.

“Crap.  You can't take chances, Daniel, not any more.  Do you know what I mean?” Jack asked.

Daniel nodded, but Jack was afraid his lover wasn't truly aware of the stakes, and somehow, he was going to have to make Daniel realize the depth of the danger.

====

Daniel chuckled, a devious expression appearing on his face.

“Okay, what's that all about?” Jack asked, as he took an artifact that was a favorite of Daniel's and put it back it its proper place on the bookshelf.

“This,” Daniel said as he held up one of Jack's “Star Trek” DVDs.

“You want to be a bit more specific, Love?”

“I called Makepeace Colonel Dunzel,” Daniel chuckled, referring to a name used in one episode of the science fiction classic.

Jack burst into laughter, “You didn't?  Geez, I would have loved to have seen that!”

“Your fault, Jack.  You've made me watch this episode at least twenty times,” Daniel claimed.

Jack went to his lover and turned him so that they were facing each other, asking, “Did Makepeace have a clue what you were saying?”

Daniel sneered, “You mean did he realize I had just called him a useless twit, a robot who was nothing more than a figurehead and a dunce?  No, not a clue.  He obviously isn't up on his Trek.”  Becoming serious in demeanor, he put his arms around Jack's neck.  “He wanted your job, Jack.  He wanted to be you.  Gawd, he never had a clue who you are.”

“I'm nothing special, Danny.”

“Yes, you are, Jack.  Jack, I said something while you were gone, and, in case you hear it, I want you to know what I meant.”

“Daniel,” Jack said as he pulled away and then walked towards the patio.

Nodding, the younger man surmised, “You've already heard.”

“I don't pay attention to rumors, Danny.  Besides, we were paying a game,” Jack replied, dismissing the comment.

“Jack, I don't like the military.  You know that.  I don't follow anyone in that respect.  Look at me.”  Daniel moved in front of his soulmate and placed his hands at the sides of Jack's neck, gently kneading with his fingers in loving pats and touches.  “I did say that I didn't trust your command, but the truth is, I do trust you, in every way.  Professionally, I follow you because I trust and respect you, not your command, not your rank, and certainly not those crazy orders you get sometimes.  I trust you, trust in you ... I just ... I couldn't say that, could I?  So I stopped with the basic truth, that I didn't trust your command.”

“You know, my command is better because of you, because of how you make me view things from a broader perspective.”

“I drive you crazy on missions,” the scientist invited.

Jack chuckled, “You always drive me crazy.”

“I could,” Daniel nibbled on Jack's upper lip, “drive you crazy,” Daniel flicked his tongue inside Jack's mouth, “now, if you want.”

“Oh, I want,” Jack invited, steering the two over to the sofa to reaffirm Daniel's trust in their nation of two.

====

It had been only a short while since the incident on Edora and the undercover operation that had Jack pretending to have gone rogue when Jack somberly walked into the house he shared with his lover.  He grabbed two beers and sat down on the sofa.  Quickly, he opened one and began to chug it down, which was the moment Daniel walked downstairs and immediately sensed something was wrong.

“Jack, are you okay?”

Jack sighed, “Got another threat today.  Danny, we need to be more careful.”

Jack had actually received threats before, not on his life, but on Daniel's, from people wanting things, suggesting that the time would come when if he didn't comply, Daniel would be the victim, maybe a dead one, or maybe something worse.  Jack was afraid, and Daniel knew it.

“They're after you,” Jack pointed out solemnly.

“We're doing everything we can now.  Jack, maybe they're just trying to throw you off balance,” Daniel theorized as he walked to the sofa and sat on the end nearest to his partner.

“Maybe,” Jack concurred.  “Danny, I want you to work out more.”

“What?”

“You know, the gym, or even at the SGC.  Build up the muscle tone a little,” the well-trained older man requested.

“Are you saying you don't like the way I look?”

“Geez, Daniel, you are the sexiest thing in the universe.  I love the way you look,” Jack leered.

“Well, then ...”

“It'll make you better able to handle whatever gets tossed your way.”

“I can take care of myself,” Daniel insisted.

“I know.”  Jack put down the half-empty beer, and moved over to the sofa, facing sideways to look at Daniel.  He held his right hand up to caress the cheek that felt so soft to his touch, “But do this for me, anyway.  We can do it together. We'll buy some weights; go jogging some more.”

Daniel studied his soulmate closely and then questioned, “Jack, why are you so worried?”

“Because they aren't threatening me.”

Daniel leaned back on the sofa, replying, “Jack, if I'm lifting weights it means I have less time to ... you know.”

“You know?” Jack asked quizzically.

“You ... know.”

“Danny, what are you ... oh,” Jack laughed.  “Don't worry, Love, we'll always have time for ... you know.”

Jack kissed his love, Daniel's arms going around his waist as he sank further back against the sofa.

The conversation ended as Jack and Daniel did, in Daniel's words, “you know!”

====

“I still think this is pointless,” Daniel opined as he lifted one of the weights.

“Are you kidding?  I get to watch you sweat!  It's worth every penny,” Jack teased.

“You're going to pay, O'Neill, and I thought you said we'd do it together.  Sitting there eating Froot Loops while I'm sweating my hiney off is *not* doing this together,” Daniel pointed out with a scowl.

“So sue me.  I have bad knees,” Jack laughed.  ~Thank you, knees.~

“You're going to pay,” Daniel grunted.

“I'm looking forward to it.”  Jack smiled, getting up to pick up the newspaper that had fallen to the floor a few feet away.  Suddenly, he became more serious and added in a tone trying to hide the depth of his feelings, “In fact, you can start making me pay right after our first training session tonight.”

Jack coughed softly, a small cough hoping to distract Daniel from responding, and returned to his seat.

“Training Session?” Daniel questioned as he paused his workout.

With a full mouth of Froot Loops, Jack confirmed, “Special Ops 101.”

“Excuse me?  Say that again, and without the cereal,” Daniel ordered as he put the weights down.  He walked over to the pad, taking his position to begin his scheduled round of sit-ups.  ~He better not have said what I thought he said.~

“Special Ops 101,” Jack answered softly.

“Jack, I'm an archaeologist ...”

“And the most valuable person at the SGC *and* my lover.  I want you to stay safe.  What we just went through with the NID proves we need to be vigilant and do everything we can to protect ourselves.  Please, Danny,” the older man requested.

“Jack, I'm already doing ... this,” Daniel flung his arms around at the slew of body building equipment that adorned his apartment.

“And I'm glad.  You'll feel better for it, too.”

“Then why aren't you doing it?”

“Because I'm ... older,” Jack said, gulping down more of the colorful cereal.

Daniel rolled his eyes as he began his sit ups and responded, “I ... don't want ... to be ... in Spe...cial Ops.”

“Danny, I need you to do this.  We'll make it fun.  I promise.”

Daniel continued his exercises in silence, and Jack knew he hadn't convinced his partner to go along yet.

“I can't live without you, Daniel, and right now, you're the target.  Tomorrow, it might be me.  How would you feel if, say, to save my life I had to ... I don't know, pretend to love rocks for a while, but I refused to do it, simply because I didn't want to.”

“Jack, that's ... a ... really ... dumb ... analogy.”

“Maybe, but I'm not the genius, Love.”

Daniel stopped, the sweat rolling down him.  He'd been working out for an hour.  He grabbed a towel to dry his face and went over to his lover and knelt down in front of him, taking Jack's hand.

“You really want me to do this?”

“Yes, I do.  No one else needs to know.  I'll train you, Danny, just as if you were a recruit.  You'll learn everything I know, and it doesn't mean I want you to show it off at the Mountain either.  In fact, it's better if you don't, if no one realizes what you know.”

“But you'll relax more if I learn?” the younger man asked.

Jack nodded and added, “Danny, remember our fish.  There are ways you can deal with that.  I can teach you moves and techniques that will give you an advantage.”

Daniel's expression changed as he challenged, “You aren't thinking about my fish, Jack, and you know it.”

“Our fish, and, truthfully, yes, I am, because they represent you.  Daniel, we've gotten ourselves into a situation where we can't really trust anyone for a while, and the more you know, the better off we'll be.”

“Okay, Jack, but just so you know, I'm not thrilled about it,” Daniel agreed half-heartedly.

“I know, Love, but you do realize it's necessary?”

“Yes,” Daniel sighed, “and I hate that, too.  Gawd, Jack, why can't we just ... never mind.  Yes, I understand.  I'll do anything I have to in order to keep you safe.”

“And yourself,” Jack added.

Daniel nodded and then kissed Jack's hand.

“I love you, Danny.  I wouldn't insist if the threats weren't real.  I don't want you to change, to become some soldier, but I do want you to be able to ...”

“Kick butt?” Daniel smiled.

“Yeah, major butt kicking, Angel, the kind that could save your life.  It's not the Goa'uld I'm worried about.  You know that.  You know how to handle yourself.  You went through basic and I've already taught you a bunch, but what we need to discuss are the more subtle points, and I want to teach you some moves, moves you probably won't ever have to use when we're through the Stargate, but here ...”

“I don't even want to think about that,” Daniel admitted as he looked down and again kissed Jack's hand that he held in his.

“I don't either, Love,” Jack said softly, “but to ignore the possibilities and the threats wouldn't be smart.”

“Okay, Jack, Special Ops 101 has a student, ready and ... reluctantly willing.”

“Angel,” Jack spoke almost inaudibly, leaning in for a kiss that led to more “you know.”

====

That night, Jack sat with his back against the house as he and Danny enjoyed the starry night on the roof deck.  There was a slight chill in the air, but they tended to enjoy the briskness of the night.

Daniel was in front of Jack, between his legs, his back resting against Jack's chest.  Their hands were intertwined, and yet in constant motion, caressing each other's palms and fingers.

“Danny, the thing to remember, is not to show that you care.  Let's say we're captured, and they come to me, because I'm the leader.  Natural.  When they take me the first time, it wouldn't be to hurt me, no matter what kind of show they might put on.  They are watching you and Carter and Teal'c and whomever else may be on the mission.  They're looking for the person who reacts, showing fear or concern.”

“Gawd, that's why they always pick me,” Daniel sighed.  He placed his head back on Jack's left shoulder, turning slightly to look at him.  “I'm the weak link.”

“They think you are, but they don't know how snarky you can be.”

“Jack, sometimes when it's Sam ... or me ...”

Jack blew out a small breath of air and interjected, “This is a case of do what I say and not what I do.  Danny, I care too much.  Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't step down as leader of SG-1 because you are too important to me, and it's not just you, Love, but I've let Carter and Teal'c become ...”

“Family,” Daniel completed with a smile.

Jack nodded, continuing, “And that's the worst thing I could have done.  I react now when I shouldn't.  Listen to me, they look for weakness.  They want someone they can play, and if you react, they'll play with you, and it won't be like playing with Legos either.”

“I don't know if I can act like it doesn't matter.”

“My life may depend on it.”

Daniel leaned forward, bringing his knees up slightly and leaning his hands on them.  He didn't like military actions, and being trained on covert maneuvers wasn't high on his list.  He didn't think he had it in him to be so cruel and heartless when faced with friends, or anyone, being tortured in front of him.

“Danny, you have to tune out your heart.  That's how you save lives, by being patient, by waiting for the right moment.  You play along, and don't give anything away.  Then, you move when they least expect it, through the crack in the door ... and you save your life, and those of your teammates.”

Jack continued, “Next lesson, never assume and never let your guard down.  I don't care who it is ... someone you know ... someone you've heard of ... but when you are in a jam, when things are happening, you don't trust anyone in the mix.  You can't afford sentimentality.”

Daniel sighed as he leaned back into Jack again.  Jack placed his hands on Daniel's abdomen and caressed the tense, muscled area.  He knew this wasn't easy for his lover, but it was necessary, so he forged onward.

“You have to be ready for anything at a moment's notice.”

“Gawd, I hate this.”

“I know,” Jack said, full of understanding, but they had to continue.  “Be your snarky self.  Of course, you might pick some easier moments.”

“Snarky?  I don't even think that's a word, Jack.”

“Well, it should be.  The way you stand up to System Lords and other bumbling idiots.  The thing is they always underestimate you, and then you stand up there and take them on, and that gives you the advantage.  Love, what you have to make sure of, though, is that you don't make the same mistake.  Never ever underestimate your opponent.”

“You make it sound like a ... hockey game, Jack.”

Jack kissed Daniel's nape and then responded, “It is a game, very possibly the most serious game you might ever play in your life.  You have to always look, see everything.  Don't get trapped in tunnel vision.  Never stop at whatever is in front of you -- look ahead and all around.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Danny ...”

“Sorry, go ahead.”

“I just want you to live, Danny.  We're in the middle of some dangerous times.  The better skilled you are, the better our chances of living through it together.”

“That would be ... a good thing,” Daniel smiled, “After all, I'm not sure I could live without your truck.  Gawd, just love that truck.”

“Why you ...”

Jack began a tickling assault on his lover, Daniel twisting and squirming trying to escape Jack's touch.  He managed to move about a foot away, towards the ladder, but Jack reached out and got his most sensitive ticklish area, that spot right above his belly button.

Daniel was rolling in laughter, when suddenly, Jack pulled out Daniel's  pocket knife and put it to Daniel's throat, startling the younger man.  Daniel never felt Jack's hand reach into his pocket.  He never felt the knife being taken out, nor did he see the danger on the horizon.

“Never assume, Daniel.  When you're in battle, you can't let your guard down.  Don't trust anyone.  Not ever.”

“Except for you,” Daniel spoke with a soft, shaky voice.

“Except for me,” Jack smiled, retracting the knife and sticking it back in Daniel's pocket.  Jack leaned down and kissed his partner, “Sorry, it's just, I love you so much, and the more you know, the more I can relax.”

Jack sat back up against the wall, and slowly Daniel got up and sat in front of him, facing him this time, needing eye contact.

“But you don't relax, Jack.  You're always worried about me.”

“And I will forever ... that's part of being in love, but ... you know, you've learned a lot.  We used to have to worry about tying your shoe laces ...”

“Jaaaack.”

The older man laughed, “Well, we did.  Right or wrong, Daniel, you were a scholar suddenly thrown into space battles.  It was like ... like Alice being tossed into Star Wars.  But it didn't take long before we knew there was no one anywhere who could cover our six any better than you.  But what we're doing now is different.  The NID, Kinsey ... they've raised the stakes.  You have to be prepared, and I ... geez, Danny I need you to be.”

Daniel leaned in, and laid one of his special A-class Danny kisses on his lover.  This was the one that made Jack forget all about the military, hockey, and dynamic Ford trucks.  It was the “Danny Special.”

“Like that,” Daniel said, suddenly holding Jack's bladed pocket knife at Jack's throat.

Jack chuckled nervously, “How'd you do that?”

“I have a good teacher,” Daniel retracted the knife and kissed his lover, handing the knife back to Jack.

“I may not like it, Jack, but I am listening, and trying to learn.”

“Have I mentioned lately that I love you?” the colonel asked.

“Hmmm ... well, I think it's been at least ... oh, twenty minutes,” Daniel answered.

“Twenty whole minutes?”

“I feel ... neglected ... abandoned,” Daniel teased.

“Can't have that,” Jack said, pulling his soulmate in for a long kiss.

“I love you, Danny, with all my heart.”

“Love you, too, my Silver Fox,” Daniel said and then sought out Jack's lips again.

The lessons for the night were over.  Special Ops 101 would continue again on another day.  At the moment, Jack and Daniel were engaged in a soft, tender fusion of their bodies, expressing their love with passion and zeal.

====

A few days later, Daniel walked into his office and saw a typed note on his desk.  It said only, “Meet me at your place at 1700.”

Daniel thought the note was a little strange, but he figured it was Jack trying to be covert.  His lover had obligations all day, and Daniel hadn't expected to see much of him.  Still, a 5 p.m. meeting was a bit early, but they'd gone through so much recently that Daniel hurried with his afternoon obligations, leaving the SGC on time to reach the apartment just a few minutes before the designated time.

When Daniel walked into his apartment, he flipped on the light switch, but nothing happened.

“Great.  And I don't have any extra light bulbs,” the young man said aloud as he moved inside.

Fortunately, it wasn't that dark inside, but it was frustrating to not have the light on.  Daniel looked at his watch and decided he had time for a super quick shower.  It had been a long day, so he yawned as he tossed off his jacket and threw it onto the bed.

“Move and you're dead,” a voice threatened.

Daniel chilled at the words, a gun held to his head, and then the identify of his attacker became clear to him.

“*Jack, so help me i'm going to kill you myself*,” Daniel shouted as he turned around in anger.

“And if it weren't me, Daniel, you *would* be dead.  Don't you get it?  You HAVE to be more careful!”

“More careful?  Jack, this is *my* apartment!  I was expecting you,” the younger man stated.

“Why?” Jack questioned sternly.

“You left me a note.”

“Danny, think about it,” Jack requested.  “Think about that note.”

“Fine.  I'm thinking about it.  *What about it*?”

“Oh, for crying out loud, I thought you were a genius!”

Jack put his gun away, and paced.  He was angry and frustrated.  The threat was real, but Daniel still didn't believe it, not enough.

“Jack, *what's your problem*?”

“You!  You and your refusal to see the risks here.  Think!  For crying out loud, Daniel, think!” the colonel ordered.  “It's what you get paid to do!”

“I *am*.  Gawd, it was a note, like any other note we leave for each ... for ... oh, gawd,” Daniel said as he calmed down slightly.

“What do we always do, Danny?” Jack asked quietly.

“Our initials.  The note didn't have our initials,” Daniel spoke.

“No, it didn't.  We have a pattern, and that pattern wasn't part of that note.  What else?”

Daniel felt sick, and he slumped forward as he sat on the foot of his bed.  Jack was right.  They weren't safe in using their names, but whenever they left notes for each other, which they often did, they used only their initials, such as D. and J., nothing more, but never anything less either.  Now, there was more, and Daniel struggled to think.

“My place,” the younger man said softly.  “You never say that.  You always say 'the apartment' because you ...”

“Because I hate it, that we have to hide.  Danny,” Jack stated as he kneeled down in front of his lover.  “You *have* to pay attention to things like this.  I know you don't like it, but it's necessary.  Those were two big signs that I hadn't written that note.  What else?” Jack quizzed.

“Do we have to do this?” the anxious archaeologist asked.
 
“Yes, because you need to be thinking about this,” Jack answered affirmatively.

“No, it's going too far.”  Daniel stood, walking out of the bedroom and into the living room.  “And I suppose you turned off the power.”

“Of course,” Jack said, standing a few feet behind his soulmate, who had his arms crossed tightly across his chest.  “Daniel, you can't assume.  Didn't I tell you that?”

Annoyed at the game and still not sensing the danger in the same way that Jack was, Daniel turned to face his partner and began, “Jack, it was just you, not ...”

“Not some stranger threatening our fish.”

Daniel blinked.  He had tried hard to shut that out.

“Daniel,” Jack continued, “just because Makepeace and Maybourne are behind bars doesn't mean the threat is over.  It's not.  Their cohorts are still out there, and so is that leading citizen idiot, whomever he is.  We've gotten threats.  Why do you keep ignoring them?”

“I don't know.  I just ... gawd, I hate this.”

Jack frowned.  He wet his lips as he stood silently, but then he approached Daniel, rubbing his hands against the younger man's broad shoulders, and then down along his arms.  Finally, Jack took Daniel's hands in his.

“Angel, I know this is my world, and I don't like it that you have to worry about it, but I don't know any other way to make sure that you're safe.  You have to think, Danny, especially in situations like this.  The signs were there.  You just ignored them, and you can't do that anymore.”

Daniel nodded, then walked around Jack to the kitchen and spoke, “There's no food here.”

Jack smiled as he replied, “There's lots at home.”

Suddenly, the younger man turned and asked, “Jack, that gun wasn't loaded was it?”

Jack walked to Daniel and handed it to him.

With a nervous chuckle, Daniel responded, “Gawd, Jack, it's a water pistol.”

“You really think I could hold a gun to your head?”

“No, I guess not.  I'm sorry, Jack.  I know I need to be more serious about this, but it's not who I am.”

Jack flinched a little and turned around, walking to the balcony.  He opened the doors and walked out, looking out over Colorado Springs.

A minute later, Daniel stood by his side, saying, “But I guess we all change, and I need to let that become a part of me.”

“Just a part, Daniel, the part that will keep you alive.”

“You're feeling guilty, aren't you?”

Jack sneered, “Who me?  Just because it's my fault you're having to change who you are?  Why would I feel guilty?”

Daniel put his arm through Jack's, “Because you love me, and I'm being a stubborn student.  I want to pretend we don't have to be so ... vigilant on Earth.  Every time we walk through the Stargate, we have to be alert and on edge.  I just want some peace here.”

Jack nodded, a fearful nod.

“Gawd, Jack.  I'm sorry, I don't mean that.  I mean ... oh, I don't know what I mean,” Daniel sighed and leaned his head against Jack's shoulder.

“Maybe it's too much, Daniel.”

“No, that's just me whining, Jack.  I do that sometimes.”

Jack chuckled, “We all do.”

“Jack, stop scaring me, okay?  I don't like that, and I think that's why I'm ... whining.  When ... I mean, for a second, I thought I'd never see you again, and that killed me ... I mean, it would be worse than the gunshot.”

Jack turned, took his lover into his arms, and promised, “Okay, no more scares.  I just wanted you to see the danger.”

Daniel nodded, saying, “I understand, but no more.  I don't want to learn like that.”

“I'm sorry, Angel.  I love you.”

“I know that's why you did it, Jack,” Daniel spoke compassionately.  “Gawd, I love being loved so much.”

Jack continued to hold Daniel for a while, since A) he loved it and B) Daniel showed no indications of wanting to move.  He hadn't realized his covert game would upset Daniel so much, but at least it had made the younger man more aware, and right now, that was important.

“Hey, how about some Chinese?”

Daniel laughed, pulling back to look at Jack, “It's your turn for pizza!”

“Yeah, but Chinese is okay.”

“No, this is a partnership, and we had Chinese last night.”

“And you could eat that stuff seven days a week if I let you.”

“But you'd hate it.”

“Chinese, Daniel.  You want to go out or have it delivered?” Jack asked heading for the phone.

“We're having pizza!”

“You can be so stubborn,” Jack chuckled as he dialed their favorite Chinese delivery place.  “Yes, it's Jack O'Neill, and we'd like to ...”

“... just say 'hi'.  Have a good evening,” Daniel interjected, having grabbed the phone from his partner and then hung up after speaking his words.

“Daniel!”

“Jack!”

“I love you!”

“I love you, too!”

“Chinese,” Jack said softly.

“Pizza,” Daniel said just before their lips touched in a tender kiss.

“I have a better idea,” Jack offered.

“What's that?”

“You!”

“Me?”

Jack nodded, suggesting, “I think I'll just ... eat you.”

“Hmm ... I'm a little crusty right now.  Hard in spots, soft in others,” Daniel mused seductively.

“Ripe for the picking!”

“Ripe and ... juicy.”

“Not too spicy and not too bland.  The perfect mix!”

Daniel bit Jack's upper lip gently, and then their tongues mingled together.

Daniel moaned softly as he requested, “Eat me, Jack,” and leaned in for another hungry kiss.

Their dinner selections made, Jack and Daniel feasted on each other for the remainder of the night.

====

During the weeks that followed, Jack continued to teach his lover, now a bit more willing than before, everything he could about covert operations.  One day, the couple was headed for their Colorado retreat where they would stay the night and then return home Sunday afternoon.  They'd been laughing about all the acronyms which were so common place in society, not to mention the abundance of them at the SGC.

“GPS, Danny.”

“Global Positioning System -- keeps my car from becoming lost,” Daniel chuckled as they drove along in his Silver Fox sports car.

“True, but that wasn't the GPS I was thinking of.”

“There's another?” Daniel struggled to think what it could be.

“Yes, there is,” Jack answered, adding, “and it could mean the difference between success and failure.”

Daniel sighed, “Is this Special Ops 101, Jack?  If so, save it.  We're on vacation.”

“GPS -- Gut, Patience, Surprise -- in that order.”

“Jack ...”

“When in doubt, Danny, follow your gut instinct,” Jack continued on, ignoring Daniel's plea to stop.  “Don't over think, and I know that's hard for you.  Heaven knows asking you not to think is like asking the sun to set at noon, but when push comes to shove, Love, and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place, stop thinking and go with your intuition.  Do what your gut is telling you to do.”

“My gut is telling me to tell you to shut up, Jack.”

“And once you are sure what your gut instinct is, be patient.  Wait it out.”

“Jack, I think I'm being extremely patient right now.  If not, I'd have the Silver Fox pulled over and I'd make you get out of the car, and I'd go to the cabin all by myself!”

“Patience, Danny, is often the key to a successful op.  People panic; they rush in. It's the biggest mistake you could ever make.  It's not always easy, but trust me, Grasshopper, patience may one day save your life, or mine.”

“Again with the nicknames,” Daniel whined.  “Grasshopper?  I'm not a freakin' grasshopper!”

“Okay, trust me, Space Monkey,” Jack laughed.

“You are so going to pay for that, Jack!”

“And when you make me pay, do it with surprise!  Use your gut instinct to know what to do, be patient finding the right opportunity to carry out your plan, and then use the element of surprise to make sure you survive the attack, because trust me, Love, I may turn the tables on you,” Jack laughed.

Daniel rolled his eyes, remarking, “I may surprise you, Jack, by letting you vacation at the cabin by yourself.  I swear, you talk Special Ops there, and I'm going home!”

“A threat -- not a surprise,” Jack teased before growing serious again.  “Surprise, Danny, is always your best friend in any attack.  When they aren't expecting you, their defenses are down.  And if they are  expecting you, and it's at all possible, do the opposite of what is logical. It may be riskier, but the element of surprise will lean in your favor.”

At that moment, Daniel pulled up to their cabin.  Jack began to open the door, but Daniel reached over and grabbed his hand.  The older man looked at his lover in anticipation.

“Follow my gut instinct, be patient even if kills me, and use surprise, doing the unexpected even if sometimes it's not the most logical thing.  I got it, Jack, okay?  I heard every word, but we're at the cabin now, and once you get out of this car, I want the colonel gone.  Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“Jack, I love you, and what you've been teaching me is stuff I'd rather not know, but I've learned it all, and I'll continue, because I've promised you and because as much as I don't want to admit it, you're right.  Both of our lives could depend on how well I learn this covert craziness, but it's been a long year, Love.  I lost you over and over again, and ... I want the next twenty-four hours with my lover, not the leader of SG-1.  I need it, Jack.  Please.”

~Geez, I love him.~  Jack smiled, leaned over, and kissed his Love.  Then he questioned, “What Colonel?  I don't see any colonels.  Let's go have some fun.”

The colonel having been banished, Jack and Daniel enjoyed their nation of two for the rest of the weekend before returning to the demanding world of the SGC.

====

As time passed, Jack continued his training.  The two talked about their communications, things they didn't even realize they did regularly, and about the pros and cons of having a routine or habits that would stand out.

Jack drilled Daniel, giving him assigned tasks to complete.  Daniel learned how to do everything from simple lock picking to complicated espionage techniques.  Jack made sure Daniel was trained with the most advanced self-defense procedures, be it armed or unarmed, and he covered a wide range of evasive driving, counter-surveillance, and other appropriate techniques for staying alive in their high-risk line of work.

====

“Geez, Jack,” Daniel laughed lightly.  “I feel like James Bond!”

It was a few months later, early in September, and Daniel had bulked up and gone through a serious of training maneuvers with his lover.  He was far from the slender geek who opened the Stargate.

“That's a good thing,” Jack commented.

“Is there anything we haven't covered?”

Jack chuckled, “Booby traps: How to Make 'Em, Spot 'Em, and Destroy 'Em -- next up on Spy Archaeologist!”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he leaned back into Jack's hold on the roof deck of Jack's home.  It was a warm, but windy evening, but the wind wasn't disturbing the lovers from their Special Ops training conversation.

“I guess I can't complain.”

“You better not.”

“Gawd, Jack, I've already used what you taught me in the field.  I just hope I never have to here.”

“Me, too, Love, but if you do, you'll be prepared and live to tell me all about it.”

“Thank you for loving me, Jack, so much so that you practically forced me to go through this torture.”

“Loving you is easy, and I'm glad you understand now.”

“I would have lost you.”

“What do you mean?”

“The first contact mission to Bedrosia, when we were held in cages.  Gawd, I would have given them what they wanted if you hadn't taught me how to act, though it was the hardest thing I'd ever done, watching you be hurt like that,” Daniel lamented sadly.

“You have to do the best you can to give the cavalry time to show up, and that's what you did.”

“So, tell me about booby traps!”
 
====

Later in the month, after a calm day at the SGC, the lovers planned a night that promised to be anything but calm.  They had a hot date planned, just the two of them, in a hot tub for two.  The two were made aware of a quiet, discreet Bed and Breakfast not far from Colorado Springs.

This place had several small cabins nestled in the woods along with the main house, which made it somewhat unique.  Each cabin had a fireplace and its own hot tub, and a great view of the forest, not that forests were “new” to them.  It was the hot tub that was the attraction to the couple.

It was a bit of a risk, but every now and then, something called to them to be a bit bold and daring, and this was one of those times.  It would be the perfect twenty-four-hour getaway, which was all the time they had available.

Jack was getting ready to leave his office and make sure Daniel was ready as well when an airman knocked on his door and dropped off a note, stating, “Doctor Jackson said to give you this right away, Colonel O'Neill.”

The military men exchanged salutes and then Jack read the note:

J -

Ready, willing, and eager, but have an errand to run.  Will meet you there, at the rendezvous.  Trust me!

D

Jack sighed.  He wanted the joy of Daniel's company for the short trip, but it could have been worse -- Daniel could have said he had a translation to finish.

Not long thereafter, Jack left the SGC and headed for the B & B.  The drive was quiet.  Jack put on one of his favorite opera CDs and listened to inspiring music as he safely drove to the country inn.  Seeing Daniel's car already parked, Jack felt relieved.  He smiled, knowing the night was about to get exciting.  Anytime he was with his lover was exciting.

~Oh, yeah, we're gonna have a party tonight!~  Jack whistled happily as he approached their little getaway cabin.  Using the key he had acquired from his check-in at the main building, he opened the door, calling out, “Dan...*whoa -- what the ... that's cold!  Daniel*!”

Jack had been drenched by the oldest gag in the book.  Walking in the door, a bucket of ice cold water had been poured on him, a string from the movement of the door releasing the liquid.  Drenched, Jack looked around.  It was a small cabin -- cozy living room area with the fireplace and a large bed on the other side.  There was kitchen nook with mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, and a microwave.  There was a bathroom, of course, and then a separate room with the hot tub.  Small but very sensual and comfortable for two lovebirds.

Jack thought it would be perfect if not for two things -- he was soaking wet, and his lover was nowhere in sight!  Then, Jack saw it -- by the TV, a DVD of the movie, “Catch Me if You Can.”

“A-ha, so it's a game, is it, Dannyboy?  I should have known.  *No periods after the initials*, Daniel.  *I noticed*!” Jack paused for a moment and said more quietly, “I just didn't think I'd be the victim of ice water!”

Jack ignored the prank and grinned.  His lover was hiding and it was up to Jack to find him!  He rubbed his hands together as he surveyed the area one more time.  Daniel obviously wasn't in the room, so Jack walked outside.  He thought there might be something in his lover's car, so he walked over and all around it, but didn't see anything unusual.

Looking inside, the colonel saw a blanket that looked like it was covering something.  The doors were locked, so Jack went to his truck and opened a small compartment he had had privately installed inside which contained spare keys for his truck as well as Daniel's car and the house.  He pressed the car alarm to turn it off and then opened the door.  Carefully, he surveyed the inside.  Jack noticed the object under the blanket looked like it had a dish or some kind of container.  It was angled.

“Now, now, Danny, me boy, you really think I'll fall for that water gag twice?” Jack said aloud, sure that if he removed the blanket it would trigger a device that would toss more liquid at him.  “I trained you better than that,” Jack laughed, backing away slowly.

“Hi, Jack,” Daniel said softly from behind.

Jack was so shocked that he visibly startled and turned quickly.  Daniel smiled, and three seconds later, Jack found out why.  With his right hand, Daniel landed a Lemon Meringue pie in Jack's face, squishing it all around.

“Bye, Jack,” Daniel did a little wave and turned, running from Jack.

Jack was so taken aback, not to mention busy pushing pie off of his face, that he didn't even see what direction Daniel had gone in.

“*You're a dead man, Daniel Jackson*!” Jack yelled from the place where their cars were parked.

Five minutes later, Jack had changed into a dry shirt and removed the pie from his face, neck and torso.

“All right Bucko,” Jack said firmly, “you're mine!”

Jack walked out of the bathroom and looked around for more clues.  He saw Daniel's bag by the nightstand.  Sticking out from the side of the duffel bag was a coffee cup with writing on it.  Jack walked a bit closer and saw that the cup had the words “Follow Your Dreams” on it.

“My dreams, eh?  Well, you're my dream, Danny.  You and me ... fishing ... and other things,” Jack chuckled.  “Geez, I hope you know that.  I mean, deep inside. You are my dream,” Jack sighed with a serene smile on his face before hunkering down to continue the game.

“Okay, you can't mean the big dream, or do you?  Follow you?  What kind of a hint is that?  Let's narrow it down.  Not the big dream, tonight's dream!  The hot tub,” Jack smirked.

Slowly, Jack turned the corner to the door that held that hot tub behind it.  He opened the knob and then pushed it open, making sure he stayed well back.  But nothing happened.  Jack peeked in the room.  There was a window with a screen on it.  There was also a bench that wrapped around the circular room, and a couple of racks for towels.  There were two robes provided by the B & B, one obviously for a woman and one for a male.  Jack shrugged when he saw those.  He looked carefully to the back of the door, but no Daniel.  Jack turned around in a circle.

“Okay, Danny, if you're going to leave clues, they have to make sense.  This was our dream for tonight.”

“You're so right, Love,” Daniel said.

Jack turned and saw Daniel had pushed in the window screen.  He must have been standing on something outside, and then Jack saw it, his latest Daniel nightmare -- Silly String!  Daniel let loose with the can, firing out its contents, covering Jack and the hot tub.  Laughing, Daniel disappeared dropping the now empty can to the floor of the room.

“I'm going to kill him,” Jack said quietly.

Walking outside, Jack saw the crate Daniel had used to stand on.  He noticed a small sliver of wood extending from the crate towards the back of the cabin.  Cautiously, Jack went to the back of the cabin, but, he decided to outsmart Daniel.  Instead of going the direct route, he went around the other way, back around the front.  Jack was confident he'd catch his lover this time.

As he turned the corner to the back of the cabin, Jack looked for his covert lover, but once again, Daniel wasn't there.

“Hi, Jack!”

Jack automatically looked up.  Daniel was on the roof, just long enough to drop a large sack full of mud on top of his lover.

“*Daniel, what the blazes are you doing*?”

“Having fun, Love,” Daniel replied backing away.

Only Jack knew Daniel had finally backed himself into a corner.  No way could he get down quick enough.  Jack ran to where the crate had been.  It was the only way Daniel would have had enough time to get up on the roof.  He was sure of it.  He waited and waited.

“Daniel, you can't stay up there all night!  Danny ... all night?” Jack's voice had gone almost to a plea.  Finally, he climbed the ladder, but, again, no Daniel.  Then he saw it -- a rope, secured to the chimney.  “I'm going to kill him,” Jack laughed.

~Okay, he's learned.~  Jack silently admitted his defeat.  He had been drenched, pied, silly stringed, and now muddied.  He really just wanted a shower and that hot tub.  He walked into the cabin and shouted, “*I give up*!”

Jack took what he intended to be a quick shower, but the mud was thick, and it took a while to get off.  When he walked out of the bathroom, he anticipated Daniel being there, ready to flaunt his victory, but Daniel wasn't anywhere in sight.

“Danny?  Come on, Daniel.  It's time to ... play,” Jack urged longingly.  “Oh, for crying out loud, Danny,” Jack sat on the edge of the bed.  He took a deep breath and looked down, catching a glimpse of the bedspread.  “Whoa, wait a minute.  This isn't the same spread,” he commented, then smiled.

The original bedspread had been a solid ivory.  This one was beige and had black designs on it, the designs looking like anchors ... anchors pointing down.

“Oh, Danny,” Jack said as he got down on the floor and lifted up the spread, “Hey!”

“Hey,” Daniel replied, smiling sweetly and starting to scoot out from under the large bed.

Jack helped him up, practically lifting him into a tight hold, and spoke, “Geez, what you do to me.”

Daniel laughed, but before he could say anything, Jack kissed him, his hands rubbing Daniel's back softly.

“I love you.”

“Even after I got you with the mud?”

“I love you,” Jack repeated with another kiss.  “Besides, paybacks are way fun!”

Daniel chuckled.

“You did good, Angel.  How long have you been planning this little ... game?”

“Actually, just thought of it today!  I wanted to show you that I was paying attention, that I'm not helpless or as naive as I used to be.  To do these things, I had to think of it first, anticipate your actions, plan a counter-action.  I did listen, Jack, and that's what I wanted you to see.”

“I don't suppose you could have used something besides mud?”

“I considered pizza toppings!”

“Ewwwww,” Jack laughed.

“That's why I went with the mud.”

“My little secret agent.  Actually, my not so little secret agent.  You're all buffed up now.”

“Just for you, you know.”

“I know.  I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too, Jack.  How about that hot tub?”

“Yeah ... gotta follow my dream.”

“Jack?”

“What?”

“I, uh, I heard you ... what you said ... about your dream.”

“It's all true,” Jack said just as his lips found Daniel's again.

“Jack ... my dream ... is your dream.”

“Come on, Love.  Let's go make our dream come true ... if only for one night.”

“But someday, Jack ...”

“But someday ...” Jack agreed softly.

Their arms wrapped around each other, the two headed for the hot tub.  They disrobed and gently entered the hot, soothing water which whirled around them.  They kissed and nuzzled together for hours.

“We're going to be prunes, Babe,” Daniel laughed.

Jack stood and got out of the hot tub, and Daniel followed.  They dried each other off, a process that lasted about five times longer than necessary, due to the slew of kisses and touches each placed on the other as they dried their bodies, and then they made their way to the bed, where they made love, grounding themselves into each other and exhausting them completely.

====

The next day, the couple ate a delicious breakfast in bed, delivered by the management of the B & B, who didn't flinch at all when they realized two men were occupying the rustic cabin.  Afterwards, Jack and Daniel checked out.

Standing by their vehicles, the lovers kissed.  It was rare that they did so in public so close to their home, but they didn't care.  They felt strangely free, and both knew it wouldn't last, that once they returned to their home, they'd have to be back on guard once again.

“It was a perfect night, Angel,” Jack crooned happily.

“Heaven,” Daniel agreed and then he kissed his soulmate again.

“You don't have any surprises waiting for me at home, do you?  You know ... more mud pies?”

Daniel laughed, “No.  Jack, I know you'll always be worried, but ... do you feel better now?  I mean, that's why I let you teach me all this ... covert ops in the first place.”

“Oh yeah.  I will always worry because you're my life, and I need you.  Gawd, I need you safe.  But yes, you're not that little geek anymore, and as much as I wish you could have stayed the way you wanted, I needed to know that you could do all of this.  Daniel, the world isn't black and white.  There are all kinds of shades, shades of grey and they aren't easy to spot.  With what we do and the people we deal with, we can't afford to ...”

“... to make assumptions.”

“Exactly.”

“You made assumptions, Jack.”

“Yes, I did,” the older man agreed.  “I assumed you were still that geek I fell in love with.”

“And now?”

“And now you're him, and so much more, and I love you more than ever,” Jack stated with a gleam in his eye.

Jack and Daniel kissed one more time, a long, passionate union of their mouths and tongues, their arms securing one to the other as their hands roamed the other's body freely.  Then they headed back to Colorado Springs to face whatever would come next in their lives.  They didn't know what that was, but what they did know, is that they had each other and always would.

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

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Boscovs Department Store
Boscovs Department Store