Brain Drain

Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category: Slash, Drama, Angst, Humor, H/C, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  6 - May 16 - September 5, 2003
Spoilers:  Demons, The Curse, Fail Safe
Size:  231kb
Written:  July 11-17,19-31, August 12, November 26-28, December 7-8,15-16, 2004  Revised for consistency:  February 16-17, 2007  Revised for timeline:  March 25-26, April 1-2,14-15, May 1, September 16,18, 2008
Summary:  Daniel studies for another PhD while at the same time dealing with a departmental crisis at the SGC.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3)  This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “Murphy's Law,” “Hebetude,” “Heaven and Earth”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Sue, Kat, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Linda, Lissa, Keri!

Brain Drain
by Orrymain and Claudia

====
--May 16, 2003
====

Earlier in the day, Jack O'Neill had spent time simply relaxing, doing a crossword puzzle, watching his favorite episodes from the first season of 'The Simpsons' on DVD, and listening to opera on the patio deck.  Then, he'd gone to Lou Ferretti's to work on the infamous MonsterMobile, or, as Carolyn Ferretti called it, 'That big piece of metal taking up my driveway'.  Ultimately, he also accepted the couple's invitation to stay for dinner.

As the clock struck ten, Jack whistled as he walked into his house.  Keys in hand and wearing his favorite brown leather jacket, the Air Force colonel was glad to be home.  His attention was immediately drawn to the light coming from the study.  Ceasing his whistling, he sighed and shook his head.  As he approached, he heard the sound of mumbling -- rapid, jumbled mumbling.

“I know it's here.  Has to ... gawd, where is it?  Need it!”

Daniel was roaming all over the study, glancing rapidly at the bookshelves, looking at the floor, and rummaging through the sofa.  Jack watched as his lover went to the desk and rifled through a disheveled stack of papers and books.

“Must have.  Flunk.  Need it.  Where is it?”

“Daniel,” Jack called out in a normal tone of voice.

“Have to have it.”

“Danny!” the older man said a bit more forcefully.

Suddenly aware of Jack's presence, Daniel stared at him, almost through him it seemed, and then stated, “I have to have it, Jack.  Where is it?”

The plea in his lover's eyes touched Jack's heart.  He had no clue what the “it” was, but the trust in Daniel's eyes that he could solve the problem would feed Jack's soul for a lifetime.

“Where is what?” Jack asked as he walked inside the room.

“My pen.  It's my lucky pen.  I always use it when I start to finalize my thesis.  Need it, Jack.  Where's my pen?  I've looked everywhere.”

Jack shook his head slightly, torn between being amazed and amused.  Unless Daniel had rested while he was at Lou's, which was as likely as the Goa'uld suddenly surrendering, Jack knew his lover hadn't slept in close to thirty-six hours.  As soon as they had come home from the SGC the day before, Daniel had buried himself in the study, only surfacing for dinner, and that was due solely because of Jack's insistence.

The younger man was actually in a slight state of panic.  With his hectic schedule, it had been one thing after another that had postponed this crucial final stage to his goal of achieving another degree.

“Your ear,” Jack stated, his head nodding as he stared at the object wedged between Daniel's ear and his head.

“What?”  After his soulmate motioned towards his head, Daniel raised his right hand to his ear and then blinked.  “Oh.”  He smiled shyly.  “Thanks.”

“Daniel, I don't know why you're wigging out like this.  You'll ace this thing.  You always do.”

“You don't understand, Jack.”  Daniel walked closer as he spoke, “I know you think I'm some freakin' genius, but ...”

“Danny.”  Jack reached out and put his hands on his life partner's upper arms.  He smiled and spoke confidently, “You *are* a freakin' genius.”

Daniel sighed and moved into his soulmate's embrace, replying softly, “I don't know why I'm doing this.  It's not like I ... <yawn> ... need it.  After all, I ... um, IIIIIIIII ...”

Jack heard Daniel's sentence come to a whispered end, and then he felt the young man start to drop downward.  Quickly, he strengthened his hold.  Looking sideways, he silently chuckled.  The weary scholar had fallen asleep in his arms.  That, in itself, wasn't unusual, but doing it while standing up was new.

~Why are you doing this, Angel?  Like you said, it's not like you need more initials after your name.  How many times can you have 'PhD' after your name, anyway?~  Jack called out, “Danny?” but received no response.  “Daniel!”  There was nothing in reply except for a contented sigh.  “Daniel, wake up,” he repeated, gently shaking his lover.

“Mmm...wha...where...hmmmmmmm.  What?”

Jack chuckled as he ordered, “Bed!”

“No, Jack, I can't.  I have so much to do.”

“Daniel, you just fell asleep while standing up.”

“I did?”

“You did.  Bed -- now.  No arguments,” the colonel stated firmly.

“My pen?  Where's my ...”

Jack took the pen from behind Daniel's ear and placed it on the desk, atop his notebook, and then said, “Safe and sound:  move!”

“Yes, Sir, Colonel ... <yawn> ... Sir,” Daniel mused shyly with a small smile and a sleepy salute.

Jack followed his weary Love up the stairs, got him changed into a pair of pyramid-themed pajamas, and tucked him into their bed.  As he headed for the door, he heard a tentative, “Jack...” from his soulmate.

“What's the matter, Danny?” Jack asked.

“It's silly.”

“What is?”

“Never mind.”

“Daniel!”

“It's just ... gawd!” the archaeologist exclaimed in frustration with himself.

“Angel, what is it you want?”

Speaking rapidly, Daniel asked, “Will you stay and hold me until I fall asleep?  Please?”

Daniel knew he wouldn't last long, but he wanted to feel his soulmate's arms around him for those few minutes at least, and now that his query was spoken, he wasn't hesitating to use his patented look to get what he wanted.

Jack melted at the sight of the 'Danny pout', kicked off his shoes, and climbed onto the bed.  Reaching for the younger man, he pressed a kiss to his Angel's temple and whispered, “Love you, Danny.”

====

After having made sure his lover was safe and snug upstairs, Jack returned to his study, took in the room, and mocked, “Danny, Danny, Danny.”

The room was a mess.  Books were everywhere, some open, some closed.  There were notes in books, on books, on notepads, and even on the floor, and that didn't include the crumpled pieces of paper in the trash can, on the desk, and, of all places, on the seat of the desk chair.  Twinkie wrappers abounded.

Picking up three of the junk food wrappers located next to the computer, Jack mused, ~I see you had dinner.”  Seeing a tinge of yellow Twinkie on the 'E' key of the computer keyboard, he chuckled, ~Yep, dinner.  Power bars may keep you going on missions, but it's all Twinkies all the time when you get home.~

Over the next hour, Jack cleaned the study.  He picked up the books, using post-it flags to mark any open pages, and put them in alphabetical order on the table by the sofa.  Next, he arranged Daniel's notes as best he could.  Daniel had a habit of marking his pages with a time notation to track his progression, so that assisted Jack in his efforts.

Jack emptied the trash and took the thermos and coffee cups to the kitchen.

~Cups?  Forget where you left the mugs, Dannyboy?~

Then the cleaning colonel washed the thermos and set three new mugs on the counter next to the coffeemaker.  He also pulled out a new package of Starbuck's coffee.  For a moment, he had debated on which blend to leave out, but he soon settled on Daniel's favorite -- Arabian Mocha.

Checking the refrigerator and cupboards, Jack made a mental list of things to buy at the store.  Though it was late, he put on his jacket and went to the local market, knowing the items were needed.

====

As he roamed the aisles, Jack selected several items before approaching the checkout counter.

“Oh, no,” the surprised man sighed after reaching for his wallet.  “Crap, I took it out when I changed earlier and forgot to ... hold on one second,” he requested of the clerk.  Since it was late, she had no problem just waiting for Jack, who ran outside.  He hastily searched the glove compartment and seats for cash.  “Well, let's see what this will cover,” he said, tossing down an assortment of crunched, folded, and partially torn dollar bills, along with several coins onto the counter.

~Oh, brother.~  The clerk rolled her eyes and blew a bubble from her gum as she counted.  “Eight dollars and thirty-eight cents,” she announced.

Jack sighed, selecting a handful of items to buy now.  He'd have to come back for the rest tomorrow.  In the end, he left the store with a box of Twinkies, a few candy bars, some carrots, and a box of waffle sticks.

~The things I do for love, and I wouldn't have it any other way.~

====

Back at home, Jack surveyed the study one last time.  He checked the computer, making sure to 'save' the location of the browser page Daniel was on, and then turned it off.  He cleaned the keyboard and made sure Daniel's lucky pen was clearly in view on the notepad with all the notes neatly organized.  The junk food stash was in place behind the desk.

~Yep.  Ready to go.~

Knowing he'd done all he could to make Daniel's next day of study as easy as possible, Jack headed upstairs and joined his lover in slumber.

====

Daniel walked downstairs, rubbing his eyes.  He was on automatic pilot as he made himself a cup of coffee and swallowed it immediately.  After pouring himself another cup, he made his way to the study.  As he booted up the computer, he began looking through the notes on the desk.

~These aren't the right notes.  Where are my other notes?  All that reading.  Gawd, I'm going to fail.  I'm such an idiot.  A monkey could do a better job.~  Daniel sighed and opened his thesis file on the computer, only to stare at it in horror.  ~I wrote it in Goa'uld?  I couldn't have.  Wouldn't have.  Maybe it's the wrong file.~

The archaeologist began searching frantically through all his files, trying to squash his rising panic, but it wasn't working.  His blood pressure was sky high, and he felt his stomach muscles contracting from the anxiety.

“General Hammond is going to kill me.”

“Daniel?” Jack called out from the doorway, having been summoned to the study by the blaring of his internal Danny alarm.  He looked at his frazzled lover and inquired, “What are you doing?”

“I didn't mean to, Jack.  I don't know how it happened.  The general's going to fire me.”

Jack came over and pulled Daniel into a hug.  As he did, he caught sight of the computer screen.

“Daniel, I thought you were working on your thesis?”

“I am.”
 
“Ah, why is there Goa'uld on the computer?” the colonel asked curiously.

“I wrote it in Goa'uld.  I'm going to fail, Jack, and General Hammond will realize I'm not a genius, and he'll fire me ...”

“*Danny*!” Jack called out loudly as he shook the younger man.

“Where...what?” Daniel's eyes flew open, and he gazed into the concerned eyes of his lover.  “What?” he asked again, looking all around, confused to see he was still in bed.

“You were having a nightmare, Love.”

“Nightmare?  Oh, gawd.  I dreamed I wrote my thesis in Goa'uld.  All my work ... for nothing.”  Alarm spread across Daniel's features again.  “I didn't, did I? Gawd, I need to check.”

Jack held on to the panic-stricken archaeologist and chuckled a little as he caressed his lover's cheek, reminding, “Angel, the computer in the study isn't programmed for Goa'uld.”

Daniel's mind processed Jack's words.  Study meant home; home was the house he shared with Jack.

~No, no Goa'uld on Jack's computer.~  Daniel relaxed as he realized that what Jack had said was true.  “Tell that to my nightmare.”

Jack kissed his lover tenderly and then pulled them over so that they were in their usual position, Daniel listening to the security of Jack's heartbeat.

“Rest, Danny.  You're way too tired.”

“Deadline.  I have ... <yawn> ... a deadline,” Daniel insisted.

“You'll make it,” Jack reassured confidently, “but right now, I want you to just close your eyes and rest.”

“'Kay, J'ck.”

Jack was determined to get his lover through this.  Daniel had been studying for the thesis portion of his latest degree for almost a year, but it had been a year full of personal nightmares, both of them believed dead at one point or another, almost dying in an alien playground, not to mention the regular work obligations.  The younger man had been in such demand at the SGC, that his research had been postponed until practically the last minute.  He wished he could do more than clean to help, but it was his lover who was the genius.

====

Jack looked at the clock -- 9 a.m. -- and Daniel was still asleep.  His heart wanted to let him sleep, but his brain knew that completing this project was important to his lover.  With a touch of regret, he leaned over and kissed his soulmate.

“Hey, Beautiful.”

“J'ck?”

“Time to get up, Danny.  I made you breakfast.”

“You did?” the younger man asked with a sweet smile.  ~I love him.~

Smiling, Jack replied, “Yeah, I want you to eat it all, too, before you start working on your thesis.”

Daniel sat up as if shot out of a cannon, exclaiming, “My research!  I need to ...”

“Eat breakfast, take a shower, and then you can go crazy with your research,” Jack completed sternly.

“But, Jack ...”

“But nothing, Daniel.  I didn't wake you up so you could starve yourself or get full on Twinkies.  Breakfast first, and thesis second.”

====

Five hours later, Jack came inside from doing yard work.  He walked to the study to check on Daniel's progress and once again heard mumbling, only this time it was in a language he didn't recognize.  The day only half over, the study was already in a worse condition than the day before.

Jack was tempted to interrupt, but Daniel was writing furiously on a notepad, three different books open in front of him as he sat Indian-style on the floor, so he continued with his chores, leaving his lover to his work.

Two hours later, Jack heard a chilling scream and ran to the study, where he found Daniel nearly catatonic as he sat, fingers poised against the white buttons of the keyboard, but not moving.  The younger man was frozen in place, his eyes staring at a blank screen on the monitor.

“Danny?” Jack called out as he took in the scene.  He walked forward a few steps.  “Daniel, what's wrong?”

“It crashed.  The computer crashed.  It just ... died.  I've lost it all,” Daniel spoke with despair before standing and scooting by his lover, their shoulders brushing briefly.

Jack called out hopefully, “Can't you get it back?  Danny?”  He heard the patio door open and assumed Daniel was probably going to the roof deck, a place that was a sanctuary for both of them.  Torn between comforting his lover and trying to fix things, he chose the latter.  ~Fix it first, comfort second.  Bonus points for this one, O'Neill.~  He went over to the phone and dialed his 2IC, hoping she'd answer.  “Carter?”

“Hi, Sir.  What's up?” Sam asked over the phone.

“Carter, you're home,” Jack stated almost excitedly.

“Um, yes,” Sam confirmed, her face tightening a bit from the odd statement, knowing that whatever was coming was going to ruin her plans of relaxation for the evening.

“You aren't fixing some big dinner, or getting ready to go out, or ...”

“Colonel, I'd have to have a life, and as you know ...”

“Great!” Jack exclaimed.

“I'm glad you're happy, but ...” Sam began.

“Sorry, Carter.  I do want you to have a life, but we have a situation,” Jack informed seriously.  “The computer just crashed, and Daniel's thesis was on it.”

“Poor Daniel,” Sam replied.  Quickly, she added, “But he did back it up onto disks or a zip drive, didn't he?”

Sam had learned through bitter experience that it always paid to back up work onto CDs, floppy disks, or a zip drive.

“Carter, you know me and computers.  I don't know what half this stuff is.”  Jack let out a heavy sigh, then answered her question more directly.  “He probably backed it up somehow, but I don't know.  He acts like it's all gone.  Is there anything you can do?”

“I'll try, but even if he did back it up, it won't be the most recent version.  It's so frustrating when you lose any part of your work.  I'll be there in an hour.”

“Thanks, Carter ... Sam,” Jack said as he concluded the call, mentally preparing himself for the transition from fixing to comforting.

====

Staring mindlessly over the backyard, Daniel sat quietly in one of the white deck chairs on the roof deck.

~Geez, Danny.  You are so hard on yourself,~ Jack thought as he caught sight of his lover.

Climbing over the ladder, Jack walked over behind his lover and began a gentle massage of the young man's neck and shoulders.  Daniel leaned into it, moaning from the sensation.  His muscles were tight, the stress overwhelming.

“It's all gone, Jack.”

“Carter's coming over.  Maybe she can do something.”

“Do what?” Daniel asked with a voice that was so soft, almost weak even.

Jack moved in front of his lover, knelt down, and took Daniel's hands in his as he spoke, “Danny, I don't know, because I don't do computers, but Carter does, and if there is a way on this Earth to retrieve your thesis, she'll find it.”

“It's gone,” Daniel repeated.

“You're tired, Angel.  You've been working so hard.”  Jack kissed Daniel's hands and rubbed his cheek against them for a moment.  Then he looked up at the weary blue eyes.  “I want you to just relax until Carter gets here, okay?”

“But, Jack ...”

“No 'buts', Love.  Come here.”

Compliantly, Daniel did whatever Jack wanted.  Jack pulled him up out of the chair, led him down the ladder, into the house, then up the stairs to the master bedroom where the older man told his lover to lay on his abdomen on their bed.

“Oops,” Jack chuckled lightly.  “Take off your shirt first,” he ordered as he headed towards their bathroom.

When Daniel was in position, Jack returned with some herbal oil and straddled his partner.  He leaned forward to the nightstand, turning on the radio to a station that tended to play only instrumental music.  The soft melodies filled the room.  Then he began a soothing, rubbing motion with his hands, pressing softly against the tense muscles.  His fingers worked Daniel's neck, shoulder blades, upper back, and finally his lower back.  He had heard his soulmate's soft moans of approval as the ache was removed from his body.

Daniel was quiet, but that was okay.  Jack wanted him to relax, to be pampered until the stress kicked in again, which he knew would happen just as soon as his 2IC arrived.

Jack's fingers never paused, and every move, every touch, was smooth and tender.  When he finally heard the sound of the knocker sounding against the wooden door downstairs, he leaned over and kissed Daniel's nape.

“I love you, Danny.  Carter will fix this.  You'll see.”

Daniel nodded, but didn't say a word, silent tears of frustration collecting on the pillow beneath his head.

====

“Thanks for coming,” Jack said a minute later as he led Sam to the study.

“No problem.  Where's Daniel?”

“Upstairs.  He'll be down in a bit.”

“Did you ask him about the backups?” Sam asked.  After Jack shook his head in response, she said, “Sir, I need to know if ...”

“Carter, I'm counting on you to fix this.  I can't fix a computer, but I can fix Daniel.  That's what I've spent the last hour trying to do.  Now I need you to do your part.”

Sam understood the unspoken text.  Jack didn't have answers for her; she'd need to find those herself.

“It could take a while,” Sam spoke.  “I might be able to retrieve the files without the disks, but first I have to get the computer up and running and make sure there aren't any corrupted files.”

“If you need anything, you just tell me.”

“I will, Sir.”

Sam knew her friend had been working on his dissertation and was aware that he was doing his thesis in an accelerated mode, doing in mere months something that took most students anywhere from one to three years.

Jack nodded, excusing himself to check on his lover.  He was surprised Daniel hadn't come downstairs.

====

Daniel sat on the edge of the bed and sighed.  He knew he should go down and see Sam, but he was just too depressed.  He walked into the bathroom and stared at the mirror over the sink.

“I am such an idiot.”  The archaeologist hunched forward, leaning over the sink, and began softly hitting his head against the mirror.  “Jack's not going to want me anymore.  I'm useless.”

Daniel was so engrossed in mentally chastising himself that he didn't even notice Jack had come up behind him until a pair of strong arms wound around his waist, pulling him away from the mirror and back against the broad chest of the man he loved.

“I will always want you, Danny, and you are not useless.  Where the heck do you get these ridiculous ideas from anyway?”

Daniel gave him a humorless laugh as he replied, “I don't know.”

“I love *you*, not the initials after your name.”  Jack turned Daniel around and smiled as his thumb ran alluringly across the younger man's cheek.  “I love *you*,” he reiterated, and then he kissed his soulmate, pouring all his love for the younger man into the kiss.

~Gawd, I need him.~  Daniel moaned from the pleasure and leaned into his lover's embrace.  “I love you, too, Jack.  Thank you for the massage.  It felt good.”

“Anytime, Love.  Do you want to go downstairs and see Carter?”

“I guess I should.”

“No, you don't have to do anything you don't want to.  She's working on the problem now.”

“Three years ... three years' worth of work -- studying, consultations, research -- and months of preparation on my thesis; and let's not forget all those trips to Chicago away from you, Jack.  It's ... getting so hard to be away from you like that.  I ... I ... I can't do it all again.”

“Angel, it'll be okay.”  Jack's hands pressed Daniel to him even tighter.  He kissed his lover's neck and then pulled back, gliding his hands to Daniel's neck, and letting them slide down to warm his lover's upper arms.  “You've finished the research part of this thing, and you only need to complete the dissertation to get yet another PhD moniker to stick on your resume.  You'll get it done.”

~I want to believe him, but ...~ Daniel sighed inwardly.  “Not if the computer ate my research.  Jack, my notes are a mess.  They're not in any order.  I got ... careless.  We've been so busy at the SGC.  Normally, I'm very detailed about notations and documenting facts.  I could recreate it, but not in time.  The notes are all over ... in so many pages.”

Daniel's voice had trailed off, and he had automatically leaned back further into Jack's embrace, silently begging for support.

Rubbing his Love's back in tender circling motions, Jack asked, “Didn't you put them together before you started your outline?”

“Yes, but then I fell asleep.”

“What?”

“I had my notes in the right order, but I was so tired.  I fell asleep, and they went all over the floor.  I never put them back in any kind of order after that.  I figured it was all on the computer.  I'm such an idiot.”  Daniel bemoaned in bitter frustration.  “I'm so tired, Jack.”

“You are not an idiot, Danny.  Why don't you rest a while longer?”

“I said I'd talk to Sam.”

“She said it was going to take some time.  Go on; take a nap.”

Jack watched his lover walk over to the bed.  Daniel's easy compliance was an indication of just how depressed the younger man had become.  The older man sat with his lover for a while, providing a silent support as he ran his hands along Daniel's body to relax him.

====

“How's it coming?” Jack inquired several minutes later as he returned to the study.

Sam flinched as she responded, “This is bad, Sir.  It looks like a computer virus may have corrupted most of the files I need.”

“Virus?”

“Yes, but I don't understand it; I thought Daniel had a good virus program on your computer.”

“He does.”

“Well, it might be something new, or maybe it's something else.  I'll keep working on it.”  Sam watched as Jack sat on the floor in front of the sofa, a pile of papers at his side.  “What's that, Sir?”

“Daniel's notes.”

“Oh.”  In amazement, Sam watched covertly as her CO, with a patience she'd never realized he had, studied and organized the stack of papers.  Knowing how Jack felt about paperwork, she was astounded at how focused he was on his project.  ~He detests paperwork; the general is always threatening to ground him if he doesn't get it done.  Gee, he's so focused.~

====

Two hours later, Sam stated, “Sir, I need to call Sergeant Siler.  I think he has a program that might be useful in retrieving the files.”

“Doesn't he have a life?” Jack questioned.

“If he can do something to help you, Colonel, I'm sure he'll do it,” Sam answered cryptically.

Jack wasn't sure what to make of the comment, but he nodded and motioned towards the phone.  A second later, he was again organizing the papers.  Sam wondered why he was working so hard on what he was doing, but, obviously, he was determined to see it through.

Sam made her phone call, Siler arriving one hour later with the needed program.  He offered to help, and, in fact, was eager to do so, but she assured him she could handle it.  She thanked him and watched him leave.  She had also seen the smirk on his face at seeing her answering Jack's door, dressed in a black tank top and shorts.

~Oh, well.  Helps the game.  I wonder if we'll ever be able to stop playing it,~ Sam thought as she returned to the study, where she inserted the disk she'd just been given and then continued her efforts.

====

More time passed, until, finally, Jack exclaimed, “*Got it*!”  He then whispered softly, “I got it, Danny.”  When Sam looked over at her CO questioningly, he smiled and explained, “His notes were all messed up.”

“And you put them back in order?”  After Jack shrugged, Sam queried, “Wasn't that difficult, Sir?  I mean, to know what comes first in his thesis.”

“Very, but he's talked a lot about it.  He also has a pattern in his note-taking.  He documents when he adds a note.  I  know how he thinks, Carter, as scary as that sounds.  He needs these.”

~He needs you,~ Sam thought, glad her friend had someone like Jack.  ~Maybe one of these days I'll find the guy who completes me like the colonel and Daniel do for each other~

Jack stapled several sections together and then clipped others into bunches.  Then he put them into a folder before sliding them into the desk drawer.

“I'm going to check on Daniel.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam responded as her CO exited the room.  Staring at the drawer, she couldn't resist, opening it and reviewing Jack's organization.  She was fascinated by the logic of it.  ~I wonder if he got it right.~

====

Quietly, Jack opened the door to their bedroom and instantly bemoaned, ~Crap. I hoped you'd be asleep.  You need to rest, Love.~  “Hey, Danny.  How are you feeling?”

“I'm fine,” Daniel replied.  Seeing Jack's scowl, he droned unconvincingly, “It doesn't matter, anymore.  I don't need the letters after my name; I mean, like you said, I already have them anyway; it's ... redundant to get them again.  Besides, I did it to learn, and I have.  I'm going to withdraw from the program tomorrow.”

Jack flashed back to when Daniel had first brought up the idea of embarking on yet another PhD.  It had been after they'd gotten back from the planet with the Medieval English civilization.

//Flashback -- May 2000//
“Jack?”

Daniel lifted his head off Jack's chest for a minute then lay back down and went back to playing with his lover's chest hair.

“Hmmm?”

Jack continued to run his fingers through Daniel's hair.  It was such a simple act, but one that always soothed both men.

“I've been thinking.”

“That's always dangerous,” Jack joked, then yelped when Daniel yanked on a hair in retaliation.  “Brute.  What were you thinking?”

Daniel kissed Jack's chest, taking away the sting of his vengeance, and hesitantly began, “I'd like to learn more about the medieval period.  Actually not that period, earlier -- the Dark Ages.  Jack, what if the Goa'uld were somehow responsible for what happened during those times?  What if they were still here, or came back, or ... I don't know, but think about the possibilities.  If they were, it could explain a lot.”

“Well, you are an expert researcher, Love.”

“I ... ah ... don't know much about that period, Jack.  More to the point, I don't know much about the people that lived during that period.  I've been thinking about this a long time, actually, since our mission to ...”

“Medieval World?” Jack quipped, recalling the off-world mission from the year before.

“Ah, yes,” Daniel acknowledged.

“What are you trying to say, Danny?”

“IwanttogetaPhDinMedievalHistoryattheUniversityofChicago,” Daniel confided in a rush.

“You know, the scary thing is that I actually understood that.”  Jack felt the nervousness in his lover.  “If that's what you want to do, you know I'll support you.  I want you to do whatever makes you happy.”

“It'll take up a lot of time,” the younger man warned.

“But it'll make you happy.”

“I'll have to go the University sometimes.”

“Why not get it through Denver?” Jack asked.

Daniel informed, “The University of Chicago has the best course of study for this field, and there's a professor there I'd like to work with.”

“Then do it,” Jack responded, having no problems with his lover's desires.

“Jack.”

“Daniel, if we can handle the Goa'uld, we can handle some brain work.”

“Well, don't say I didn't warn you,” Daniel responded, pleased his lover was being so supportive of his desire, but still concerned that Jack didn't fully understand impact this undertaking could have.

Jack chuckled, “I consider myself warned.”
//End of Flashback//

Daniel's studies had been postponed several times before he finally had been able to begin his research and class work in earnest.  At long last, though, he was in the homestretch -- the preparation of his thesis.  Unfortunately, at the moment, it seemed like it had all been for naught.

Jack tried hard to console his lover, asking, “Why is this bothering you so much?  You've got the contacts in the field now.  They know your work.  I've seen the emails they send you asking for your opinion.”

Daniel looked at Jack, then at the floor.  If Jack didn't know any better, he'd swear the archaeologist was embarrassed about something.

“Daniel?”

“I'm petty.”

“No, you're not.  What the heck would make you think that?”

Daniel looked at his lover blinking back tears as he confessed, “I thought I could publish it.  At first I went into it just to learn, but recently, I thought maybe I could publish it.  Maybe ... maybe get a decent reputation in this field, and ... and ...” he stared at the carpet as he finished his sentence, “be something other than a laughing stock in the academic community.”

“Daniel ...”

“No.”  Daniel stood up and walked towards the wall.  “I know it's dumb.  I thought it didn't matter, and it doesn't, not really.”

“Daniel, stop.”

The young man was sure Jack thought he was being a silly fool.  He had said over and over that it didn't matter about his reputation, and now, here he was, whining about it.  Daniel felt ridiculous.

Jack walked to his lover, putting his hands on Daniel's upper arms as he softly spoke, “Daniel, look.  I know what it would feel like to me if the SGC, the Air Force Academy, and every military man and woman out there looked at me and thought I was ...”

“An idiot?” Daniel questioned.

“Okay, an idiot,” Jack said, agreeing to the term for the purposes of his example only.  “I'd hate it.  As much as I don't care what they think, which I don't, I would be annoyed that they all thought I didn't know a jet engine from a P-90, especially if I was the one who had made it possible to use the P-90.”

“It doesn't matter.  I mean ... I ... oh, I don't know what I mean.”

Daniel walked over to the dresser, picking up Jack's wings that had been on his jacket which they had taken to be cleaned.

“I do,” Jack said as he walked towards his lover,  adding,“and it makes perfect sense.”

“It does?” a vulnerable Daniel asked softly as he caressed the wings.

“Those wings you're holding?  They bring respect from a lot of people I don't know or care about, but when I wear them, it says I've accomplished something.  If I couldn't ever wear them again, if a story got out that I was coward, when I knew I wasn't, I'd want to kill the world.  It's the principle of the thing.”

“Jack, I love you.  I don't need ... I mean, I don't think I need ... acceptance.  I've gotten used to being in the shadows; sometimes, though, I just want to know what it would be like, to walk into a room of my peers and see respect instead of contempt.  Gawd, you should have seen the looks I got at Doctor Jordan's funeral last year.  It wasn't just Steven, but all of them, from the moment I walked to the gravesite, it was one look after another.  I just ... wonder, that's all.”  

~That Sarah dame did that; spit out all that gibberish about your reputation.  You don't need those pompous buffoons, Danny; you never did.~

Daniel put down the wings and then felt himself being turned to face Jack.  Then he was kissed, solidly and thoroughly, for a good five minutes.

“Gawd.  You make everything better.  How do you do that?” Daniel asked with eyes of appreciation.

“Like I always say, I love you, and it is just that simple,” Jack answered.

Daniel's smile was a much-desired reward for Jack.

“Hey, Carter's making progress,” the older man advised.

“Jack, I told you.  I'm going to ...”

“You're going to finish your thesis.”

“Jack, I can't,” Daniel sighed dejectedly.

“Can't?  Since when is 'can't' in Daniel Jackson's vocabulary?” Jack questioned probingly.

“But the computer ...” the younger man began.

“Carter's on it.”

“I've lost so much time,” a still-defeated Daniel replied.

“Danny, you're going to make it, and that's all there is to it.  Come on.  It's time for you to say 'hello' to Carter.”

“You're so tough,” Daniel teased lightly.

====

In the study, Daniel greeted their friend and thanked her for coming over.

After a few minutes, Sam started to ask Daniel some technical questions about his backups and file names, so Jack excused himself to make a quick run to the post office to mail the bills and return to the store to finish the grocery shopping he had had to abandon the night before.

“Do you really think you can get it back, Sam?” Daniel asked a little while after his lover's departure.

“Some of it, but not all,” the blonde admitted.  “I'm working on retrieving the last undamaged version of the documents.  At least it's something.”

Daniel plopped down dramatically onto the sofa and sighed, “I blew it, Sam.”

“What do you mean?”

“If my notes were in better shape, and you managed to find even a recent version of my thesis, I could redo it; but we've been so busy that I ... I took shortcuts,” Daniel expressed in sad frustration as he stared upwards at the ceiling.  “It would take hours to get it back into shape.”

Sam smiled, opened the drawer, and requested, “Daniel, take a look at this.”

Daniel stared for a minute, then rose, and walked to the desk.  A bit hesitantly, he took possession of the file.  He opened it, realizing the file was full of his handwritten notes -- years worth of notes from his meetings with his professor at the University of Chicago, relevant seminars that he'd attended, and months worth of intense research on the topic of his dissertation.

Slowly, the certain-he-was-doomed archaeologist walked over to the sofa and sat down, sighing at the file of notes.

From her seat, Sam watched, seeing Daniel's reaction, especially in his eyes, as he realized his notes were in decent order.  For fifteen minutes, he said nothing as he carefully sorted through the file.

“Sam?” Daniel finally asked, expectation in his voice.

“The colonel,” Sam answered, understanding the question without it actually being asked.  “He worked on it for hours, Daniel, right up until he went to check on you.”

“He did?”  Daniel's breathing was labored.  This was beyond his expectation.  To have organized the notes so well meant something very important to the scientist.  “Gawd, he really listened.  All those ... prattling lectures where he ...” He became overwhelmed, getting up and heading for the door.  “Excuse me, Sam.”

“Daniel?” Sam called out as her friend hurried out of the study, the notes on the sofa.

~He loves you, Daniel.  Do you really think he doesn't listen to you?~

====

Jack stood in front of the candy section of the supermarket.  He'd mailed the monthly bills and, making sure he had his wallet with him, decided to make another trip by the store to pick up the other grocery items that were needed.  Besides, he was having cravings for a Snickers bar, and there was the situation with the Soy Sauce that he had forgotten to buy during his last regular trip to the market.  The couple was completely out of the item now, and, since Daniel frequently used it in his cooking, Jack didn't want him to discover his shopping omission.

~Hmm, need more brain food for Danny.  Gotta have chocolate.~  Jack pulled some blocks of chocolate off the shelf.  ~Ooooh, and Jelly Beans.~  They went into his shopping cart.  ~Maybe a muesli bar or two.~

Five minutes later, Jack was on his way back to his truck, grocery bags full of goodies for his lover, as well as his Snickers bar and the much-needed-for-keeping-the-peace Soy Sauce.

====

As soon as Jack drove into the driveway and stepped out of the truck, Daniel came flying out of the house and launched himself at the older man.

It was a strange moment of public openness.  Very rarely did Jack and Daniel show their relationship in the potential view of neighbors, but sometimes, in front of their house they dared to be themselves; occasionally, they let their guard down.  Jack didn't know why, but they were apparently having one of those moments.

“I love you, Jack.  Thank you.  I don't deserve you, but I need you so much.  Love you.  Thank you.”

“Dani...” Jack's words were cut off by Daniel drawing him into a passionate kiss.

“I love you, Jack.”

Daniel gazed into the chocolate brown eyes of his lover, unshed tears of happiness and love making his own blue eyes shine brightly.

“I love you, too, Danny, but ...”

“Sam showed me my notes.  I love you, Jack, so much,” Daniel said before he kissed his lover once more, desperate to try and communicate the depth of his love for the man in his arms.

“Angel, maybe we should go inside,” Jack suggested carefully.

“Oh, sorry; gawd.”

“I'm not,” Jack stated.

Daniel had started to move away, but, for a second, Jack was concerned he had given his partner the wrong impression.  If he had his way, they'd be living out in the open, so to make sure his Love really did understand, he reached out and pulled Daniel back to him.  They kissed, a long, deep, wet kiss that lasted over a minute.

“I love you,” Jack declared happily.

“Jack.  I can't believe what you did.  I mean ... you've ... listened.  They're perfect, Jack -- the notes.  I think I saw just one or two things out of place, but ...”

“What, you want perfection?”

“I have perfection, Jack.  I have you,” Daniel replied emotionally, the love in his soul shining through his eyes.

Jack almost blushed, emotion threatening to explode within him.  Daniel was looking at him with such love; it was almost overwhelming.

“So I did okay?”

“Babe, you did fantastic.  How'd you know what order to put them in?  I mean ... gawd, how'd you do that?”

“I love you,” Jack repeated.

Daniel smiled, and then the lovers took the bags of groceries inside the house.

Jack, of course, made sure he had the bag with the Soy Sauce in it, which he skillfully managed to keep from his lover's sight.

As the couple unpacked the bags, Daniel realized that aside from a six-pack of beer and a box of Froot Loops, the entire shopping trip had been for him.  Every item was one of his comfort foods, from the chocolate to the power bars.  He looked at the man he loved, and felt his heart double in size;  he loved Jack more than ever.  He resolved to get through this mishap for Jack.  He no longer cared about repairing his reputation.  He wanted to do this for his soulmate, to earn the respect and the faith that had been placed in him by the older man.

~I won't let you down.  You think I can do this, so I will ... for  you,~ the archaeologist proclaimed deep inside of himself.

“Guys, I think I've got it,” Sam said, entering the kitchen.

“Way to go, Carter.”

Sam led the way back to the study and explained what she had been able to retrieve.  The last uncorrupted files were from three days ago.  Daniel had lost a bunch of research, but his notes were intact.  He refused to be discouraged.

~Jack.  I'll do this for Jack.~

“All the main programs are installed, and I used the backups you did have to reload most of the files you two had on the hard drive.  I wish I could have fixed a later version of your actual thesis, Daniel, but they either weren't retrievable or were beyond repair.  It was the best I could do; I'm sorry.”

“No, Sam, this is great!  Thank you for giving up your day, especially this one.”

“Don't worry about it.  I'm glad I could help, but, uh, remember, Daniel ...”

“Backups,” Daniel interjected with a small smile on his face.  “I knew better, Sam.”

“He was just tired,” Jack offered.

Daniel looked at Jack and nodded.  He had been.  He'd have to make sure to follow protocol in the future.  The deadline for his paper was the twenty-eighth, which was less than two weeks away.  With his schedule at the SGC, that meant that, realistically, he only had a few days left to completed his thesis.  He prayed nothing interfered.

~Please, just boring missions -- no ruins, no Jaffa -- just ... peaceful negotiations,~ Daniel implored of the Fates.

“Thanks for visiting, Carter,” Jack said jokingly as his second-in-command made her way down the front steps.

“You're welcome, Sir,” Sam chuckled as she looked back and cracked a smile before going home for a quiet evening in front of her television.  “Anything for Daniel.”

====

Daniel sat in front of the resurrected computer, his notes beside him, and opened up the title page of his dissertation.

“The role of witchcraft in Alfred the Great's defense of Wessex,” the scholar muttered as he began talking to himself, going through various parts of his argument.

“The Vikings had conquered everywhere except Wessex; none of those defeated kingdoms even fought them until it was too late.  Witchcraft was illegal in Anglo-Saxon England, but there is evidence that it was still practiced. Alfred himself might have been a devout Christian, but he was also intelligent and would not have turned down any aid out of prejudice.  It can be argued that witchcraft, the use of superstition and omens against the enemy, who were not Christian, aided Alfred and the people of Wessex in their defeat of the Vikings.”

Daniel continued to mutter to himself not even realizing that the cup of coffee he was drinking seemed endless.

Jack grinned, happy to see his lover enthusiastic about his work again.

“Alfred's ability to maintain the loyalty of his people was undoubtedly seen by the Vikings as evidence of something extraordinary, probably supernatural, especially when Alfred came back and reconquered Wessex in 876 after being forced into hiding.  The evidence to support this view can be found in ...”  Daniel paused as he flipped to the relevant section of his notes and began typing.  ~Gawd I love you, Jack.~

Daniel still couldn't quite believe that Jack had managed to put his notes back into order.  He was more determined than ever to defend his argument and earn this particular PhD.

====

Jack stared through his telescope at a star in the distance.  He was adjusting the lens when he felt the warm hands of his soulmate on his shoulders.

The hands slid down Jack's chest, and he felt tender lips on his hair, then his neck.  Lips began to nibble on his ear.  He heard himself moan from the touches and nibbles.  His body tingled from the fingertips that were snaking through his shirt, in between the buttonholes.

The older man leaned his head back against Daniel's lean body, looking up at his lover, and asked, “What about your thesis?”  He could feel his soulmate's fingers undoing the buttons of his shirt and then massaging his chest.  ~Tongue.~

Jack shivered when Daniel's tongue ran along his neck, connecting again with his ear, transitioning to another small bite.

“Made progress,” Daniel spoke.  “It's late.  We have a mission tomorrow.  Won't have a chance to ... you know ... for two or three days.  Too long,” he practically gasped from anticipation.

Leaning over his lover's body, Daniel enveloped his lover.  Jack dissolved into a mass of quivering Jell-O as Daniel's hands undid Jack's jeans and began to stroke his shaft.

“Dan...ny,” Jack gasped.

The archaeologist gently gripped his lover's length, sliding his fingers up and down for several seconds.  Then he looked down at his love, and had to kiss the succulent lips facing him.  His tongue slid into Jack's mouth.  He released Jack's shaft as their kiss deepened, and he slowly moved around in front of Jack, careful not to bump into the telescope.

With Daniel now in front of him, as their kisses continued, Jack unzipped his lover's pants, pulling them and the boxers Daniel was wearing down.  Jack's hands moved behind the young man to rest against the soft rear end.

Jack made circular, pressing motions there, and as their French kissing ceased, Jack shifted slightly to swallow his lover's length.  Daniel moaned from the sensation of Jack's mouth working his shaft.  He leaned his hands back against the railing.  As Jack engulfed his lover, Daniel's head flew back, his breathing deepened to gasping breaths.

Soon, the young man came, Jack swallowing his release.  Daniel hung his head low, against Jack's.  After a minute, he knelt down, laying down a trail of wet kisses on Jack's chest.  He pushed the brown shirt off Jack's shoulders.  It took Jack a minute to get the shirt completely off.

Daniel's attention went to his lover's erection.  It was time to finish what he had started.  He looked at the hardened muscle as if it were his favorite artifact in the entire world.  In fact, it was.  Jack arched back in his chair as Daniel hunched over to teasingly flick his tongue against the tip.

Jack moaned in agony from the tease.  His hands gripped the arms of the white chair he was seated on, his hold tightening as Daniel fully took in the length.  Daniel sucked gently until Jack's release exploded his mouth.  He looked up into Jack's eyes.  The two shared their love in that look.

Jack stood and pulled Daniel up.  They stared at each other, their eyes sparkling and moist, speaking expressions that were beyond words.  Jack smiled and embraced his lover.  He held on, taking in the scent of the man he loved.  His hands roamed Daniel's back, under the white tee-shirt Daniel was wearing.

“Hate these things,” Jack whined as he pulled back just a tad and quickly disposed of Daniel's shirt.  Taking his lover back into his arms, Jack sighed.  “Yes.  Oh, yes,” he whispered, feeling the skin he knew better than his own.

Jack's hands worked their way down to Daniel's buttocks, again beginning to rub and caress.

“You have a thing for my butt,” Daniel teased.

“I have a thing for your everything, Love.”

They kissed, and Jack's right hand moved to the front, beginning to play a bit with Daniel's shaft.

“Gawd.”

“Want you.  Want you in me, and I want to be in you.  Now, Danny.”

Daniel's hitching breaths prevented a verbal response, but the hardening of his length said everything Jack needed to know.  Moving away from the telescope and chair, Jack lowered them to the deck.  He completely removed Daniel's clothes and then his own, not realizing he had tossed some of the items to the backyard below.

By mutual, silent consent, the lovers ignored the need for lube, using bodily fluids as needed to ease their path as they slid through the channels of love.  Both were louder than they should have been for only 10:30 p.m., but their need was huge, and Jack's neighbors weren't close.  There were lots of trees for cover, and quite a bit of distance between his house and the next one.

After an intense hour, both were completely spent and totally happy.

“Did I thank you, Jack?”

“I love you, Angel.  You don't have to thank me,” the older man responded.  From his heart, he added, “Just being here with me, loving me, is more than enough thanks.”

“I would have given up.”

“No, I don't believe that.  You just needed a little time to figure out your next step,” Jack refuted.

“I love you, Jack O'Neill.  Love you so much.”

“My Angel.”

The couple stayed in place for another hour, relaxing under the cool light breeze of the night, the stars shining brightly above.

After a while, Jack suggested they go inside, where the lovers fell fast asleep in their accustomed positions, Daniel atop his Jack pillow, and Jack enjoying the warmth of his Daniel blanket.

Computer crash and all, it had been a good day.

====

Jack woke up and found himself missing his Daniel blanket.  He stretched his hand and found the sheets cold.  It looked like Daniel had been up for some time.  He looked across at the bedside clock.

“Grrrrr.  Danny!  It's only 0200.  You haven't even had two hours of sleep.”

With a sigh, Jack got up and made his way to the study.  He couldn't help but smile at the sight of a hyper Daniel.

“The concept of witchcraft fit into pagan belief systems and was well respected by some.”  Daniel flipped through his notes.  “Gotta mention Guthrum.  Wish I could explain the way Goa'uld technology looked like witchcraft.”

~I wish you could too, Danny.~

Jack remembered the day Daniel had told him about the Goa'uld influence in Britain.

//Flashback//
“Jack!”

Daniel came running into the backyard where Jack was tending to some long-neglected plants.

“Danny?”

Jack grinned at his lover.  He loved seeing him happy, and right now, Daniel was practically jumping up and down with excitement.

“Jack, there were Goa'uld in England.  I'm sure of it.  It all fits.  There are a couple of documented accounts of people saying witches killed by directing a glowing light from their hands.  Some of the witches are described as having glowing eyes ...”

Daniel hesitated, which frustrated Jack.  The older man knew his lover's theories were nearly always right, but even after being proven correct over and over again, Daniel still had a tendency to doubt himself, to reduce his brilliance to a 'maybe'.

“Well, the Anglo-Saxon isn't quite clear; it could be growing eyes, but it seems more likely to mean glowing.  Of course, everyone until now has dismissed these accounts as ridiculous, but they don't know about the Goa'uld.”

Daniel stopped to take a breath and then continued as he paced back and forth.

“It explains so much, Jack.  The Dark Ages may not have been the result of the Anglo-Saxon invasions and the fall of the Roman Empire.  If a Goa'uld was controlling the populace, they wouldn't have been allowed to learn, write, or keep the technology the Romans had given them.  This would change the entire way we see the period.”

Jack saw the light suddenly fade from his lover and pulled him into a hug.

“I wish you could tell the world about it all, Danny.”

“Maybe one day.  I'll write it all down, and then someday people will know the truth, even if it's not for another couple of centuries.”

The line broke Jack's heart.  His genius never got a day in the sun, never got recognition.  It was wrong, very wrong.  Daniel felt a tenseness in his lover.

“Jack, are you okay?”

“I love you, Danny.”

“Love you, too!  Want to celebrate?”

 Daniel gave his lover a wicked grin and led him to the bedroom.
//End of Flashback//

Jack sighed as he watched his energetic soulmate.

~Geez, I love you, Space Monkey.~

Jack went to a closet, retrieved a pillow and blanket, and then made himself comfortable on the sofa in the study.  He fell asleep to the blissful sound of Daniel talking to himself.

====

Five hours later, the computer alarm went off.  Daniel yawned as he heard the beep signifying that it was time to get dressed and go to the SGC.  Regretfully, he stopped his efforts after completing his current thought about his theory.  He saved his work, then backed it up onto a disk, smiling at the little post-it note Jack had placed over the power button.  It read:

Save your heart for me, but save your thesis to disk.

Daniel smiled more because instead of writing out 'heart', Jack had drawn the heart and colored it red, and he had sketched a floppy disk instead of writing the word itself.

~My heart is always yours.  Thank you, Jack,~ the archaeologist thought as he powered down the computer, stood, and stretched.  Then, he carefully put his notes away.  He was about to walk out when he noticed the body on the sofa. “Jack?”  He was confused.  ~When did Jack come downstairs?~

Daniel closed his eyes in disbelief.  Had he been that wrapped up in his work that he had totally missed the entrance of his lover?  The answer was an obvious 'yes' since Jack was asleep on the sofa.

~Gawd, I love him.  Just being here ... for me.~

The younger man walked over to the sofa and planned his attack.  He had to be careful, not in the mood for being shoved across the floor, something that had happened more than once, due to Jack's Special Ops training.  He decided to start with a kiss on his lover's head, nestling his chin against the silver-gray hair he cherished.

“My Silver Fox, I love you,” Daniel said softly.  He heard Jack begin to rouse and saw the automatic smile on the older man's face.  It was safe now, so Daniel moved to the side of the sofa and leaned over to awaken his lover with a kiss.  “Hey.”

“Oh, I like my Daniel alarm.”

Daniel laughed, then kissed Jack again, saying, “Just to make sure you're really awake.”

“Thank you for being so conscientious about my status,” Jack teased.

“Jack, it's 7 a.m.  When ... when did you come downstairs?”

“Two.  You were muttering away,” Jack said as he gazed at the younger man, still bewildered why or how he was so lucky to have Daniel love him as he did.

“You didn't have to stay down here.”

“Yes, I did.  My place is with you.  I wanted to be here in ...” Jack began.

“... In case I needed you,” Daniel completed.

“Something like that.”

“I always need you, Jack.  Love you.  Gawd, I love you.”

The two made out on the sofa for thirty minutes before they knew they had to get ready to go the Mountain.  They had to prepare for their mission, and the briefing was scheduled for 11 a.m.  Daniel was really hoping nothing would go wrong on the mission.  As it was, they were scheduled to be off-world for at least two days, possibly three.  He couldn't afford to lose more time than that.

====

“Good morning, Carla,” Sophia Valissi greeted her new neighbor.

Daryl and Carla McLamore had recently moved into the house that sat between Jack's and Mrs. Valissi's.

“Good morning, Sophia.  How are you today?”

“I'm fine, but I'm not sure about these old bones.”  They women laughed until Mrs. Valissi noticed an odd expression on Carla's face.  “Is something wrong?”

“Sophia, we had heard this was one of the safer areas of Colorado Springs.”

“It is, dear.  Why?”

“Well, I walked outside late last night to get something, and I heard the strangest sounds.  It was muffled, but it was a bit disturbing because I couldn't figure out what it was.”  The woman crossed her arms, rubbing her upper arms as she looked around.  “For a minute, I thought someone might be hurt.”

“Why?”

“The sounds, they were like grunts and groans, but like I said, it was muffled and seemed far away.”

“Maybe it was just the wind blowing, Carla.”

“Or maybe I'm just spooked.  One of the reasons Daryl and I moved here was to be in a better area.”

“Believe me, you are in a wonderful neighborhood.  Why Colonel O'Neill is one of the best neighbors you could have,” Mrs. Valissi said, pointing towards the country-style home Jack owned.

“Colonel?  I'm afraid we haven't met the O'Neills yet.”

Mrs. Valissi smiled and laughed.  She waved her arm in front of her as she replied, “It's just the colonel, and, oh, Carla, he's a joy.  He comes from good Irish stock, and he's as charming as can be; and handsome, too.”

“Sophia, if I didn't know better ...”

“Carla, I'm too old for hanky panky,” Mrs. Valissi responded.  ~Though I might make an exception for that darlin' colonel if I didn't think of him as a son, and that 'best friend' of his, Daniel as well.  Maybe someday I'll let them in on the fact that I know their secret!~

“You're never too old, especially in the shape you're in.”  The two women laughed, and then Carla spoke, “I'd better get back inside.  I just came out to pick up the newspaper; Daryl's going to think I was kidnapped.”

The women said good-bye, and Mrs. Valissi continued her morning walk again, though she didn't get far as she saw Jack and Daniel exiting the house on their way to work.

“Mrs. V, top-of-the-morning to ya,” Jack said, pretending to tip an imaginary hat in her direction.

The senior citizen laughed as she greeted, “Colonel, Daniel.”

“Morning, Mrs. Valissi.  Have a good walk.”

“I always do,” the woman answered, moving a bit further along the sidewalk.

“Everything okay these days?” Jack asked as he stood by his truck.

“Couldn't be better.”  The three all smiled and nodded, and the woman started to continue on her way.  With a mischievous expression on her face, Mrs. Valissi she stopped and turned around, calling out,  “Oh, Boys, how are the winds blowing these days?”

“Winds?” Daniel asked quizzically.

“Lovely winds we're having lately, especially at night.  Chilly, and loud, too.”

“Loud?” Daniel asked, raising his eyebrows and then looking at Jack.

Mrs. Valissi laughed, “We really should be used to those *howling* winds by now.  Have a good day.”

“Howling?”

“Daniel, close your mouth,” Jack whispered.  “See you later, Mrs. V,” he called out.

“Jack?”

“Daniel, she's talking about the wind,” Jack stated.  ~Sounds logical; don't want to think about the alternative.~

“Jack?”

“What?”

“Was it windy last night?”

“I was busy; I didn't notice,” Jack answered.  ~The only howling was ... nope, don't want to think about it.~

“Busy?” Daniel questioned a tad nervously.  Seeing Jack smile wickedly as he got into the truck, Daniel looked out over the neighborhood.  ~It's just my imagination.  I'm being ... paranoid.~  “Oh, gawd.”

====

Daniel sat through Sam's section of the briefing in a daze.  He knew he should be concentrating on what his friend was saying, but he just couldn't focus on levels of naquadah or 'exciting new minerals'.  His mind kept on drifting back to Dark Age England and the people of the period who sacrificed their lives fighting for their country.

~I wish I knew what it was that prompted the Goa'uld to leave.  No matter how talented or skilled the Anglo-Saxons were, they were no match for a Goa'uld.~  He ran back over the signs of worship that he'd uncovered in his research.  The most likely candidate for being a Goa'uld seemed to be Nerthus, supposedly an Earth Goddess.  ~I wonder if it was Nirrti.~

A kick under the table from Jack brought him back to Earth.  Jack was looking at him with amusement, Teal'c looked inscrutable, Sam looked miffed that he'd ignored her presentation, and General Hammond looked worried.

Glaring at Jack and realizing it was time to give his spiel, Daniel stood up and pointed out the salient features of the temple that they would examine, noting, “There are some writings that mention the four great races.  I need to get a closer look at them before I can say more.”

“Very well,” Hammond responded.  “Colonel, could I see you in my office please?”

Surprised, Jack looked up at the general and nodded.

**Have you been a bad colonel, Jack?  Again.**

**No!  What do you mean 'again'?  I'm never bad.**

Daniel's snort of disbelief got a puzzled look from Teal'c, but as the Jaffa had long since learned, his teammates had eccentricities he'd never understand, so, he simply ignored the noise and headed for the relative sanity of the commissary.

**Uh, Jack?  Can we be bad together after we get done with this mission?**

Seeing his lover gape at him through the window of Hammond's office, Daniel chuckled and continued out of the briefing room.

====

“Jack, what the blazes is going on with Doctor Jackson?”

The general's bark forced Jack to put Daniel's nonverbal innuendo on the back burner and quickly refocus on the issue at hand.

“Daniel, Sir?” the colonel asked as innocently as possible.

“Jack, it may be hard for you to believe this, but I've been to the hunt more times than you,” Hammond threatened with an undeniable glare.

With a gulp, Jack answered, “Daniel's fine, General.  He's rarin' to go on the mission,” he claimed, jutting out his left hand with force to back up his words.

“Colonel, did it escape your notice that one of your team had to be prodded to answer every single question asked of him?”

“Well, Sir ...”

“Or that he failed to provide his insights during Major Carter's presentation?”

“Well, Carter has ...” Jack began.

“Insights desperately needed.  Now, Jack, I realize two members of SG-1 can be, shall we say, wordy in their remarks, but never do they fail to contribute to the discussion.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Yes, Sir, what?”

“Yessssss, Sir.  You're right ... Sir.” Jack replied, his responses hidden in a covert cough.

“Jack, answer my question,” Hammond demanded.

“What question was that, General?” the colonel responded as their 'game' continued.

Hammond sat back in his chair, his displeasure with his 2IC evident.  He stared at Jack, and then he stared at him some more.  Silence filled the room.  He kept staring, smiling inwardly as Jack rubbed his hands together nervously.

~I want the truth, Colonel, and I know you know what's going on.  You two are thicker than thieves.  I love that boy like a son, and you are going to tell me what's going on if we have to wait all day.~  After five minutes of the awkward showdown, Hammond picked up the phone, saying, “Sergeant, call Doctor Yvenski to my office, and tell her she'll be going on a mission within the hour.”

~Yvenski?~  Jack blinked, regretfully aware that the major general was definitely playing hardball.  “Yvenski, Sir?  Mission?”

“You'll be taking Doctor Yvenski with you to PR3-981.”

“We don't need a fifth, Sir,” Jack responded.  ~Crap.~

“You won't be having one.  I'm grounding Doctor Jackson until I'm convinced that his distraction won't be harmful to SG-1.”

“That's not necessary, Sir,” Jack said, standing up.  If Hammond wanted a reaction, he was about to get one.  “Daniel's fine, General.  He just has a lot on his mind.  He didn't need to listen to Carter's prattling on about naquadah testing.”

“Or Teal'c's report on the security of the planet?  Jack,” Hammond leaned forward, “I don't believe Doctor Jackson heard a word at the briefing this morning, and you haven't said one thing to explain his inattentiveness.  I don't have a choice.”

“He's ... studying for another ... degree.”  Jack sighed.  Daniel hadn't wanted anyone to know aside from his teammates until he was finished.  “His dissertation is due in a couple of weeks, so he's fighting a deadline.”

Hammond breathed a sigh of relief.  He'd been worried that there might be a problem with Daniel's health.  He remembered vividly the period several years earlier when Daniel had been ill and had almost died.  Although the general had never discovered what had been wrong, he was aware it had been yet another close brush with death for the archaeologist.

~Now I just have to worry about Daniel working himself into an early grave.  Jack had better be keeping a close eye on our boy,~ Hammond thought.  “I'm all for Doctor Jackson pursuing whatever educational avenues he chooses to, Jack, but I won't let him risk injury to himself or to the team.”

“He's fine, Sir.”

“Fine won't cut it, Colonel.”

“General,” Jack spoke forcefully.  “Daniel is SG-1.  I promise you, he's fine.  Just because he didn't listen ... he's read all the reports.  Come on, General.  You know Daniel; he doesn't need ...”

“Colonel,” Hammond began as he walked to the front of his desk and right into Jack's personal space.  “I'll make an exception, this time, and this time only.  Distractions cost lives; you know that.  I expect Doctor Jackson's *full and undivided* attention at the debriefing and any other meeting he is required to attend.  If he can't give it, he's grounded until he can.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Dismissed.”

As Jack turned to leave, Doctor Yvenski arrived.  Seeing Jack, she smiled, hopeful her mission would be with the highly respected SG-1.

“Colonel O'Neill?  General,” Yvenski greeted.

Jack could see the young woman's anticipation.  The civilian anthropologist had received high praise from her colleagues, and her Russian accent was barely noticeable.  Maybe he could survive with her on a mission.

~Just one.~

“Doctor Yvenski, I'm sor...”

“Doctor,” Jack interrupted, nervously looking at the general.  “SG-1 is embarking on a mission.  Uh, I know you haven't been briefed, but Doctor Jackson thought you might like to ride along on this one.  You know, for education's sake.”

“Really?  You're not kidding me, are you?  A mission with SG-1?  With Doctor Jackson?”

While thinking, ~Ah, Danny, I wish you could see how excited she is to be working with you in the field,~ Jack bobbed his head and glanced at Hammond, a smirky smile on the general's face.

“Yes, Sir.  I'd very much like that,” the woman replied.

“Good.  Good.  Uh, gear up.  Doctor Jackson, uh,” Jack looked at Hammond, “Major Carter will give you a quick brief of the mission.”

A smile glued to her face, Yvenski turned and exited.

Jack looked at the general and prodded, “Sir, did you set me up?”

“You'll never know, Jack.”  After Jack nodded and again started to leave, Hammond called out, “Colonel, I do want Doctor Jackson's attentions focused on the missions.”

“Understood, Sir.”

====

Daniel stared at the computer screen in front of him.  He was working on a translation, writings from a tablet one of the other teams had brought back, that none of the other linguists had been able to decipher.  He looked at the rest of the work waiting for him.

~We really need to hire more linguists.~

With a sigh, Daniel turned back to it.  He was just saving the completed translation when Jack walked in, locked the door, and turned off the security camera.

“Hey, Angel,” Jack stated as he walked over and began massaging Daniel's tense shoulders.

“Gawd, that's nice,” Daniel moaned, leaning further into the touch.

Jack chuckled, but there was something off about the sound; it wasn't carefree like it should have been.  Swiveling around in his chair, Daniel looked up at his lover and noticed the anxiety the older man was trying to hide.

“What did General Hammond want, Jack?”

“Nothing.  I saw  Doctor Yvenski while I was there, invited her to come on the mission with us, basically because she really wanted to,” Jack said, knowing if he didn't stop talking he'd start babbling, if he hadn't already.

Daniel rubbed his forehead tiredly as he droned, “He wanted to take me off the mission, didn't he?”

Jack hesitated, and that was all the confirmation Daniel needed.  Jack winced at the hurt look that appeared in the blue eyes he adored so much.

“Well, you were distracted during the briefing.”

“It's fine, Jack.  I understand.”

Daniel stood up and moved towards the door, his arms automatically wrapping around himself.  

~No way, Dannyboy.~

Before Daniel could open the door, he felt Jack's arms surrounding him, wriggling their way under Daniel's.  After a minute, Jack turned his lover around and kissed him.

“Tell me what you feel, Danny.”

“It hurts, Jack.  I thought the general trusted me.”

“He does.  He's just worried because you weren't quite on top of the game like you usually are.”

“I am not under-prepared for this mission, Jack.  I listened to everything that was said.  Just because I didn't make comments throughout the whole briefing like I usually do doesn't mean I wasn't listening or thinking.  I listened as well as any of the other archaeologists and marines do to Teal'c's security reports and Sam's scientific studies.”  Daniel buried his nose in Jack's neck, and the older man barely caught the whispered self-condemnation, “I'm never good enough.”

“Daniel, you're more than good enough.  You're a genius, the best we have.  Hammond just saw something he hadn't seen before.”

“It's okay, Jack.  I'm ... used to it,” the archaeologist spoke, the inevitability of the situation making him sound defeated and even a little defensive.

“Daniel, stop it.”

Daniel broke out of Jack's hold, snapping, “Stop what, Colonel?  Facing the truth?”

“Don't be ridiculous.  Crap, Danny, you opened the ...”

“STOP IT.  I'M SO SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT WHAT I DID.  NO ONE KNOWS.  NO ONE CARES.  THEY ONLY SEE WHAT SAM DID.  ALL I DID WAS BLUFF MY WAY TO ABYDOS, AND BY SHEER LUCK, I MANAGED TO GET YOU HOME.  JUST LUCK.”

“Danny, calm down,” Jack requested.

“*No.  I don't want to calm down.  Hammond thinks I'm not qualified to do my job.  He doesn't think I'd tell him if i couldn't ... function.  fine.  He can take this job and ... and ... and ... shove it!*”

Jack walked towards Daniel, but the young man pushed him away, using more strength than he had intended.

“*Just leave me alone*,” the younger man yelled, running out the door, Jack's fall to the floor not yet registering with him.

“Ouch!  Oh for ... *Daniel*!”

“Sir?  What's wrong?” Sam asked, surprised to see her CO on the floor of Daniel's office.  She was geared up and ready to go on the mission, and, in fact, Hammond had sent her to round up the missing members of SG-1.  ~I hope the computer didn't crash again.~

“Everything,” Jack whined, shaking his wrist.

“Sir?”

Jack sighed as he got up off the floor, explaining, “Hammond was less than impressed with Daniel's performance in this morning's briefing.  Daniel's already stressed, and that was just the last straw.  His self-confidence is currently at zero.”  He caught the look of guilt that flashed across Sam's face and gazed at her with suspicion. “Okay, Carter.  Spill.”
 
Sam looked at the floor.  She knew Jack was going to hit the roof when he found this out, and she wished she hadn't listened to Daniel.

“You remember SG-8's mission to P78-J50?”
 
Jack winced.  When the team hadn't returned, SG-1 had gone through after them.  They'd found the entrance to what looked like an Egyptian tomb open and were about to enter when Daniel stopped them, pointing out the written warning above the door that said 'Death will come to all who enter'.

Jack had joked about it seeming like a bad movie, but all amusement faded when Sam tested the air and found it full of a cyanide type gas.  The bodies of the Marine team SG-8 had been found a short way into the tomb.

“I remember.  Daniel, of course, blamed himself,” Jack stated as he shook his head.  “It wasn't his fault SG-8's archaeologist messed up.”  When Sam shifted, a sudden chill went down Jack's spine.  “Carter?”

“Some of the newer Marines blamed Daniel.  I thought it had all blown over, but the other day I heard two of them ... well, making their opinions known to Daniel in the commissary.  They were telling him that it was his fault SG-8 died, that he was too incompetent to run his department, which was just a drain on the SGC's funds, and that the only reason General Hammond put up with him was because of his fluke in opening the Stargate.”

Sam cringed as she looked up and saw the amount of energy Jack was putting into keeping a hold of his temper.

“Why didn't you tell me about this, Carter?” Jack asked, his voice was low, but full of barely suppressed rage.
 
“Because I made her promise not to,” a voice said from the doorway.

Sam looked over at Daniel with unmistakable relief in her eyes as he shut the door behind him and walked up to Jack.

“Gawd, Jack.  I'm sorry I pushed you.  Are you okay?”

“Um, you know, I think I'll just ... uh ... excuse me,” Sam began as she headed for the exit.

Jack called out to her, requesting, “Carter, tell Hammond we need to postpone the mission.  I'll be down in a few minutes to explain.”

“Yes, Sir.”

As Sam left, Jack shifted his stance, his hand making contact with the table a bit harder than he had planned as he moved.  Daniel saw him wince and shake his wrist.

Daniel quickly locked the door, looking back at his lover as he did so and saying, “Jack, I hurt you.”

“It's nothing.”

“No, it's ... it's ...” Daniel was staring at his lover's hand.  He moved forward, closing the gap between them.  He took Jack's hand.  “We need Janet.”

“I need you,” Jack proclaimed.

Daniel looked up, saw the incredible amount of love in Jack's eyes, and surmised in amazement, “You're not even angry at me, are you?”

“Sure, I am.  You should have told me,” Jack argued lightly.

“Jack, I ... it's just I get a little ... sometimes when I think ... I don't know what I think.”

Jack pulled Daniel into his arms, assuring, “It wasn't your fault about SG-8, and you know it.”  He heard nothing but silence.  “Danny, why is it your fault?”

Daniel pulled out from Jack's embrace.  Arms folded across his chest, he walked to the other side of the office.

“Whether it was my fault or not doesn't matter.  It's my department.  People think it's my fault.  They see archaeologists and linguists as a waste of funding, especially when we make mistakes.  Nobody cares about what we do unless something goes wrong, and then we get blamed.  My dissertation, Jack, should be on trying to work out which Goa'uld Alfred was fighting against, but, no, instead I have to ignore the obvious and ... it doesn't matter.”

“It does matter, Danny.”
 
“I shouldn't have let myself get distracted.  The general was right; I should have taken time off.”

“Except he wouldn't have let you because the SGC needs you.  You were well organized; it's just that we've been pushed to the limit over the last couple of months, and that played havoc with your schedule for the dissertation.”  Jack saw Daniel's nod, but he could still see the guilt in his lover's eyes.  He caressed his Love's cheek.  “Do you know why Hammond was so mad, Danny?”

“Because I wasn't doing my job,” Daniel answered.  ~I shouldn't be on the SGC payroll.~
 
Jack scowled as he picked up on that last thought and replied, “I heard that, and, yes, you should.  The reason why Hammond got upset is precisely because you are useful; you are a genius, and he relies on you.  We all rely on you a little too much to see things that the rest of us can't see; and you do, Angel.  You always see things that the rest of us, even geniuses like Carter, miss, but that isn't your job.  We all forget that sometimes.  General Hammond forgot that today.”

“I'm tired, Jack.  I want to go crawl in a hole for the rest of my life.”

“Well, it better be a big hole because you're not crawling in there without me,” Jack promised, smiling as he heard the muffled snort of laughter from his lover. ~Geez, Danny, I should have pointed all this out to Hammond.  He was going on about Teal'c's friggin' security reports.  Security isn't your job, it's mine, T's and Hammond's; and those blasted Marines are going to be taught a lesson in team spirit.  T and Lou will help me out with that; we can have a little fun at their expense.~  “I should go see Hammond,” he said, grinning as he felt Daniel's arms tighten around him.
 
“Want my Jack Bear,” Daniel said possessively.
 
“Love you, Angel.  I'm all yours, but I do have to talk to Hammond.”
 
“Good. Tell him I quit,” Daniel told Jack's shoulder as his head burrowed further into the older man's neck.

Jack frowned.  For Daniel to talk about quitting meant that his lover was still upset by both those brain dead Marines and Hammond's over-reaction to Daniel's distraction in the briefing.

~It all comes down to trust, doesn't it, Love.  You're feeling vulnerable at the moment, and whether he meant to or not, Hammond hurt you badly.  We should both have handled it better,~ Jack thought.  “Ow!” he responded to the thump Daniel had just given his arm.  “What was that for?”

“You're going on a guilt trip.  Stop it.  I only bought a single ticket,” Daniel stated with a smile that pleased his lover.

Jack laughed, “You know you don't go anywhere without me.  How about we share it?”

Daniel sighed and came to a decision, saying, “Jack, I need to take a couple of days, well, a few days ... um, actually, a ... a week ...”  He nodded nervously and continued, “That ... that should do ... a week off, or at least until I get my thesis done.  And, um, well, then I have to deliver it, of course.”

~He needs rest; it's the lack of sleep that's making him talk like that.~  Jack paused, looking at his lover.  ~No, he's always like that.~  Letting out a little chuckle, which his lover didn't understand, Jack agreed, “Okay, Love.  Let's both go talk to Hammond.”

Silently, Jack vowed to take care of the Marines, but he was glad Daniel was feeling better.

~Sometimes, we just need to vent, and he hasn't had much sleep.  Still, I missed that about SG-8.  I need to get the details on that mission.~

====

“Colonel, I am *not* happy.  Would you care to explain to me why *you* cancelled a mission *without* my approval.”

“Yes, Sir.  Well, General, my team ...”  Jack started to spin a tale, the tallest tale ever created, but then he looked at Hammond.  The man was his commanding officer and a friend.  He also wasn't buying the story.  Jack glanced through the window and saw Daniel, pacing anxiously in the corridor.  He took a breath.  “Permission to speak frankly, General.”

~About time.~  Hammond sat back in his chair, responding, “Granted.”

“You were wrong, General; so was I.”

“Wrong?” the general questioned, leaning forward once again.

“Sir, Daniel does more to keep this place going than anyone else.  He does so much that sometimes we forget he's just one man, an archaeologist, anthropologist, and linguist; but, wait, now he's a negotiator and a diplomat, not to mention a teacher, mediator, engineer ...  Sir, Daniel didn't need to hear Teal'c's report.  It's my job to keep my team safe, not Daniel's.  Daniel knew exactly what he needed to about that planet and the mission.”

~I wonder how long he's going to talk,~ Hammond thought as he listened to the lecture.

Jack looked again through the window at his lover and continued, “We expect so much from him.  Sometimes *I* don't say a heck of a lot in a briefing.  There have been hours when Teal'c hasn't said a single word.  Carter goes days without prattling on.  Why is the expectation for Daniel different?  Why isn't he entitled to have days when he's focused on something else.  Sir,” he gulped as he prepared his challenge, “are you going to sit there and tell me that you've listened to every word ever spoken during the SGC briefings?”

Hammond shifted in his seat, glad when Jack moved on without waiting for a response.

“And, yet, because Daniel was quiet for an hour, because he didn't ask questions, because he didn't give us a lecture, we think something's wrong.  I dare you to quiz him about that mission, and then tell me he's not prepared.  We were wrong.”  Jack straightened to attention and spoke formally.  “General Hammond, I request permission to take two weeks off, Daniel and myself.”

“Two weeks?”

“Daniel's dissertation.  He needs to get it done, and I ... I need to make sure he eats and sleeps.  You know the routine, Sir.  Carter is highly capable of leading the mission that was scheduled for today and the others on our calendar.  Teal'c, Doctor Yvenski, and Lou Ferretti would make an excellent team, Sir ... for two weeks.”

“I'll consider it, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Sir.  When you reach your decision, you can reach me at home ... Sir.”

Hammond glared at his 2IC, a man who seemed to have his own version of the regulations.

“Send Doctor Jackson in.”

Jack headed for the door; then turned and said, “By the way, General, one of the reasons Daniel wants to finish his dissertation?  Respect.  Too many of the Marines here don't respect him; his peers don't respect him; and this afternoon, we didn't.  He deserves more than that, especially from us.  This thesis is a chance for him to get some acknowledgement from his colleagues, and I won't let anyone screw that up for him.”  He opened the door, exited, and then told his lover, “Your turn.”

General Hammond looked up as Daniel came in.  Although he hated to admit it, Jack was right.  He did tend to place a high burden on Daniel's shoulders.

~But that's because he's the only one in this entire facility that's capable of seeing every danger, every angle; still he is only human.  There's only so far you can push a man before you lose him.  Jack's his best friend.  It's probably a good idea to listen to him.~

“Sir.”

Daniel stood in front of the man who was the closest person to a father that he'd ever had.  He braced himself for the worst.  The subtle movement did not go unnoticed by the older man.

“Sit down, Doctor Jackson.”  Hammond cringed as he noticed the wariness in Daniel's eyes.  “I owe you an apology.”

“No, General, you don't.  You were right.  I've been failing to do my job.  I haven't been pulling my weight here, and I apologize.  I should be doing more; maybe if I was, I could have prevented the deaths of SG-8.”

Hammond looked up in shock and strongly refuted, “Son, you were in no way responsible for what happened to SG-8.”  Inwardly, he opined with surprise, ~How could he possibly believe that?~

“With all due respect, Sir, I disagree, and so do a number of people on this base.”  Daniel saw Hammond's expression harden at the thought of his people disrespecting the younger man and continued before he could be interrupted.  “I should have spent more time with my department drilling into them those Goa'uld words, phrases, and symbols that we've learned from experience denote ... well, warnings.”

“Doctor Jackson ... Daniel, you are not to blame for the shortcomings of everybody in your department.”  Hammond could see that the archaeologist was unconvinced and sighed.  He made it even more personal.  “Daniel, do you hold me responsible for the actions of Colonel Makepeace when he worked here?”

Daniel's eyes widened in shock, and then he answered, “No, Sir, of course not.”

“Yet as CO of the SGC, he was under my command.  Shouldn't I have known of his actions?  His character?”

Daniel gave the general a small smile as he replied, “I understand the point you're making, General, but whereas we can't predict the character of people, we can anticipate situations like the one SG-8 faced.”

As he wondered how to persuade Daniel that he wasn't to blame, Hammond suddenly had an idea.

“Daniel, we don't know that Doctor Porens didn't translate that Goa'uld warning.  All we know is that SG-8 entered the tomb.  It's possible that Porens told his CO what the warning said and that the colonel decided to disregard it.”

Daniel frowned and fidgeted slightly before asking, “Do you really think that's likely, General?”

“I don't know, but it's certainly possible.  Son, I wish I could honor Colonel O'Neill's request for two weeks, but I just can't do it.”  Hammond could see the instant dejection on the other man's face.  “However, I can give *you* one week, and the colonel can take today to help you as necessary, but that's the most I can spare.  SG-1 has a full plate scheduled.  I hope that's enough time for you to finish your dissertation.”

“Thank you, General.  Your support means a lot to me,” Daniel spoke.  ~But it's not enough time.~

“You'll always have it, Son, along with my respect.”

Daniel's eyes widened in surprise, and he gave the general a pleased smile that warmed Hammond's heart.

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Send Colonel O'Neill back in,” Hammond requested.  When Jack entered a moment later, the general ordered, “Colonel, I'm giving you permission to see to Doctor Jackson's needs today.  He's been granted a one-week leave.  As for you, I can't spare you that long.”  He held up his hand to stop the complaint that was about to be lodged.  “I need you to fulfill your mission obligations, as scheduled.  On non-mission days, I will allow you to leave the base when your daily duties are completed, *as long as* it doesn't have a negative impact on other personnel.  Are we clear?”

“Yes, General,” Jack said, taking what he could get and feeling lucky to get it.

====

As soon as the couple entered the house, Jack cornered his lover against the wall.

“Jack?”

“Now, listen to me.  For the next week, all you think about is that thesis.  The SGC doesn't exist.  You hear me, Danny?  There's no such thing as a Stargate.  All you do is concentrate on Medieval ... whatever.  You got that?”

“You're so tough, O'Neill,” Daniel responded with a pleased smile.  ~'Medieval whatever'.  I don't know who you think you're fooling.  You know exactly what my thesis is on.~

“You didn't answer my question.”

“Yes,” Daniel said softly, a smile forming on his face.  “I got that, and I've got the most wonderful man in the world who loves me.”

“Now that's a fact.  I'll do everything I can to make it go smoothly and have things set up for you before I head for the Mountain every morning.  Go.  You have work to do, and you're on a deadline.”

“Thank you, Babe.”  After the lovers kissed, Daniel called out, “Jack?”

“What?”

“What's a Stargate?” the archaeologist asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“No idea, Love.  Never heard of it,” Jack answered.

One more kiss later, and then Daniel headed for the study.  The only important thing now was proving his thesis argument.  The rest of life was on hold, and, for once, he was content to let it be just that way.

====

Daniel threw himself into the world of Medieval England.  Late in the afternoon of his second day of concentrated effort, he smiled to himself, wondering if Alfred really did burn the cakes.  He'd found various versions of the legend saying that Alfred had been walking one day, came across a herdsman's hut, and the herdsman's wife had asked him to watch her loaves of bread.  The King had been distracted and allowed the loaves to burn, earning himself a thorough dressing down from the irate women.

“Times have certainly changed.  No king in the world would now be unrecognizable to his own people,” Daniel muttered to himself.

Having handled everything he needed to at the Mountain, Jack had been home for a couple of hours.  He had just come in from starting a wash in the garage and was walking past the study when he heard his soulmate mutter.

Jack smiled as he thought, ~Geez, Danny, I love the sound of your voice.~

Just then the phone rang, and Jack rushed to pick it up before it disturbed Daniel.

“Colonel, it's General Hammond.”

~Speak of the devil,~ Jack mused.

“Colonel, I have a favor to ask of you.”

“General ... George, if it's to ask Daniel to come in, then forget it.  Now me ...”

“Relax, Jack, I'm just calling to discuss the attitude of the Marines towards the archaeologists,” the general stated calmly.

====

Twenty minutes later, after a fruitful discussion on ways to educate Marines on the value of scientists, Jack entered the study, amused that his lover was still muttering while typing on the computer.  He pulled up a chair by the desk and picked up the first piece of the cut-up sandwich he'd just prepared.

“Goa'uld.  I'm certain that he mmephlei bsnl ...” Daniel gulped, and then picked up where he left off.  Jack chuckled as he shoved in the next piece of sandwich. “Alfred must have known that helsionmmph ...”

Jack shook his head.  His lover's mumbled gibberish made as much sense to him as the unmumbled dialogue.  The process continued for a few minutes, Jack feeding his unaware partner while the student continued to mutter and type.

The sandwich eaten, Jack stood, placed a kiss on Daniel's forehead, said, “I love you,” before leaving the room, ensuring first that there was still plenty of coffee in the thermos and a few Twinkies for later.

====

Four hours later, Jack checked his watch.  He again entered the study and observed much the same sight as earlier.  This time he walked over behind Daniel and grabbed hold of his hands from the keyboard.  Amazingly, Daniel seemed to keep typing for several seconds until he realized he was typing in mid-air.

“Jack?”

“Break time,” Jack announced, reaching over quickly to hit the 'save' command on the keyboard.

“But ...”

“Break time,” Jack repeated forcefully, pulling his lover up and over to the sofa.

“But I'm still ...”

“Break time,” Jack stated yet again, leading Daniel to the sofa and sitting him down beside him.

“But I mmmmph hmmph mmmph gawd ...”

“Break time.  Shhh,” the older man silenced.

Jack pulled Daniel's head down and began a passionate kiss.  It didn't take long for their passion to mount, and soon they were heading up to the bedroom.

====

An hour later, the couple was lying in their usual positions, sated and content.  Jack ran his fingers through the soft, dark hair currently resting on his shoulder.  Daniel was playing with his chest hairs again, and Jack was filled with love for this precious man who miraculously loved him.  He unintentionally tightened his hold on the younger, and an inquiring gaze met him.

“Just thinking how much I love you.”

Daniel smiled, a beautiful, soft expression.  Seeing all that love and happiness directed solely at him, both humbled and flattered the older man.

“I love you, too, Jack.  So much.  Gawd, can't live without you, My Silver Fox,” Daniel spoke, after which he leaned up to share kiss.

A moment later, another round of passionate lovemaking ensued.

====

“No!  No!  No!” Daniel shouted the next afternoon.  He'd made significant process, but there was still so much to be done.  He threw down his pen and stared at his notes.  Frustrated, he looked up at the computer screen and told it, “This was a mistake.”

“What was a mistake?” Jack asked as he entered the study.  The colonel had just walked in the door from the Mountain.  For once in his life, he was reading memos, writing reports, keeping meetings on task and to the point, and just in general doing whatever he needed to in order to make sure he could leave the base and get home to his lover.  ~Good timing, O'Neill,~ he thought upon hearing his Love's tone of voice.

“My brain won't work.”

“Your brain won't work,” Jack repeated, unsure what that meant.

“It's not right.  I can't find the words, and I'm a friggin' genius, linguist.  Gawd, I can't talk.”

“Well, Love, you are a genius and a linguist, but 'friggin' is my word.”

“Sue me,” Daniel snapped, leaning back in the chair.

Jack walked over to his lover and began a massage, quickly noting, “Your muscles are tight.”

“Geez, really?”

“Danny, you're channeling me,” the older man observed about his lover's language choices at the moment.

“Ya think?”

Jack chuckled, but bit his tongue and advised, “Okay, Babe, I think that's enough of that.”

“Yeahsureyabetcha.”

Jack stopped his massage for a moment, and spoke with a warning, “Daniel!”

“What?”

Jack calmed himself, speaking with a low voice, “Would you like some more coffee?”

“I have a thermos full,” Daniel barked, sounding more like Jack than himself.

“Okay.  I was just trying to help.”

“That's just peachy, Jack.”  Daniel sighed, releasing a huge breath.  He closed his eyes and then looked up at Jack as he stood behind the chair.  “I'm sorry, Jack.  It's just ... I can't find the words.  I haven't written a thing in over two hours.  Two full hours.  I don't have time to waste like that.  I can't find the right words.”

“Maybe you're trying to hard,” Jack suggested.

“I don't know how not to.”

“Relax, Angel,” the older man suggested with a smooth, steady voice.

“I can't relax.”

“Try,” Jack insisted.  “Take deep breaths.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Jack.  I don't want to fall asleep.  I need to make some progress.”

Daniel bolted up out of the chair, crossing to where the sofa was.

As Jack watched, the archaeologist kicked the furniture with his right foot and shouted, “CRAP!”

Jack shook his head.  Not only was Daniel still channeling him, but he was barefoot.

~That had to hurt.~  Sure enough, seconds later Daniel was hopping up and down, cursing in various languages.  “Okay, Danny.”  Jack seized his lover's shoulders, bent down, and kissed the injured foot.  Then he began dragging his lover towards the front door.  “Here, put on some shoes.”

“Wha...Jack, I don't have time for this.”

“Trust me, Danny, you need to take a break.  Now, we are going for a ten minute walk around the block even if I have to drag you all the way.”

As he spoke, Jack bent down and slipped a pair of shoes on Daniel's feet while the linguist muttered about bossy colonels.

Just before he opened the door, Jack cut off the younger man's tirade by kissing him senseless and melting his brain.  Before Daniel had a chance to recover, he'd been dragged out the door and halfway up the street, a dopey smile still on his face.

~Geez, I love that I can do that to him, even when he's yelling at me!~  The two men were almost at the end of the street before Daniel realized where he was. “Jaaaack.”

Jack draped his arm around Daniel's shoulders and pulled him close for a brief moment, saying, “Daniel, you needed to get out and feed that poor overworked brain of yours some oxygen.  When we get back, you can try and explain to me what you're trying to say in your dissertation.  Maybe that'll help; to say it out loud, just talking.  Then, you can get back on the computer.”

Daniel poked his lover in the ribs and teased, “Closet smarty-pants.”

“Nah, just common sense.”

Daniel took a deep breath, for the first time taking in the crisp afternoon air.  It was good to be outside, in the open spaces, especially with his lover.  The archaeologist decided to follow Jack's advice, hoping it would work.  ~Besides, I love walking around our neighborhood with him.  Oh, who do you think you're kidding, Jackson?  You just love to be with him anywhere.~

“So, tell me about 'The Simpsons' episode this week,” Daniel requested.

“That was on a few days ago,” Jack replied.

“I know, but you didn't have a chance to tell me about it, and I ... I want to know,” Daniel requested, enjoying a few moments of thinking of something that was definitely not Medieval.

Smiling, Jack began, “Oh, man.  Homer was a riot.  He ...”

Daniel lost himself in Jack's storytelling, letting his mind relax until they returned home.  His lover had talked about the cartoon show for the entire duration of their walk.

“I admit that was funny, Jack, but I don't quite understand why you like Homer so much.”

“It's the 'd'oh' factor.  No one can 'd'oh' like Homer,” Jack boasted cheerfully.

Daniel stared at his soulmate and stated dryly, “Jack, sometimes I really do wonder if you truly have lost your mind.”

“If I have, I hope you find it,” Jack teased, laughing and then placing a kiss on Daniel's nose.

The young man smiled, but then, in a serious vein, replied, “I'm having enough problems with my own mind.  I think my brain has drained of anything resembling intelligence.”

Jack laughed loudly, earning a stare from his soulmate.

“What's so funny?” the archaeologist questioned.

“You're suffering from Brain Drain, a disease that affects only geeks,” Jack joked.

“Careful, O'Neill.”

At that point, Jack led his lover to the study.  He sat down, though Daniel remained standing.

Jack instructed, “Okay, Love, tell me what your current point is.”

“I love you.”  Daniel saw Jack's beautiful smile in response to his declaration of affection.  He wished they could explore that smile and their love more, but right now, he had to focus on darker times.  “Um, well, I want to say that ...”  He paced the room as he worked through his thoughts as he talked with his lover, a man who represented the world to the archaeologist, and what a world it was.  He continued, “... so the point is that even though witchcraft might have been outlawed, it was still used, and it's inevitable that Alfred used every means at his disposal, including witchcraft, or what seemed to the people to be witchcraft, to inspire fear into his pagan adversaries.”

Daniel stopped pacing up and down and plunked himself onto the sofa and immediately snuggled into his lover, realizing that Jack had actually listened to every word and had not tuned him out.

“Alfred was interested in science; he developed a candle clock,” the scholar stated.

“The forerunner of Carter,” Jack teased.

Daniel smiled at the amusement in Jack's voice.  He wasn't far off.

“In a way,” the scientist acknowledged.

“Did this help, Love?”

“Yes.”  Daniel smiled up at his lover.  He could never explain to Jack just how much he helped him to be simply able to breathe.  He nodded as he added, “I know what I need to write now.  You were right.  Explaining it to you made me organize my thoughts and not have to worry about whether it was clear or not because you would have told me if it wasn't.  Of course, now I'm babbling.”
 
Jack laughed as he enjoyed the sensation of Daniel leaning into him and remarked, “You're not babbling, Danny.”

“You were interested in what I was saying.  I could tell.  You were ... weren't you, Jack?”  Daniel had seen the spark of interest in Jack's eyes.  “And don't you dare try and hide behind the dumb colonel act.”

“Okay, yes.  I'm interested in the military strategies Alfred used.  He's one of those people from history it'd be really cool to meet.”

“Ooooh, I have lots of those.”

“I bet,” the older man replied.

~Thesis,~ Daniel sighed.  He was enjoying this moment, but the clock was ticking, and he still needed every second of time remaining.  “I need to start typing now.”  Yet, in contrast to his words, he burrowed deeper into Jack's side. ~Like this.~

Jack felt warm and strangely happy as he wondered, ~When did being deliriously happy become just sitting here with Danny?  I know.  The day I met him.  The day he told me he loved me.  Geez, O'Neill, get a grip.  He has work to do, and he's counting on you to make him do it.  This does feel good, though.  Just another minute, just Danny and me, sitting here, in love.  Ridiculously and deliriously happy.~

====

Five minutes later, Jack regained some resolve, though it wasn't easy, and spoke, “Okay, time for genius archaeologists to do some work while snarky colonels start dinner.  Then, after dinner no more work.  Your brain needs some downtime, Danny.”

“*We* ... need downtime,” Daniel quipped.

“Yeah, that works!”

“Jack?”

“Yes, Love?” the colonel answered.

“How do you do it?” the younger man asked in amazement.

“Do it?”

“Keep me focused by ... distracting me,” Daniel clarified.

“It's a talent,” Jack said, kissing his lover's forehead.  “Now, scoot.  You have work to do.”

Daniel walked over to his place by the computer, preparing to work on his thesis.

Meanwhile, Jack headed for the living room, stopping for a moment at the doorway to look back at his lover.  He smiled as Daniel began mumbling to himself, trying to further organize his thoughts.  A moment later, the archaeologist began to type quickly and furiously.

Jack discovered he couldn't move.  He stood there for over ten minutes, watching the younger man, so focused now on his dissertation.  He was sure Daniel didn't even know he was there, but he was immobilized by the sight of his Heart so happy.

Then, suddenly, his lover looked up at him, smiled, and said, “Thank you, Jack,” before returning to his typing.

Jack nodded and headed to the kitchen to work on dinner.

====

“Danny, time for dinner.”

Jack walked into the study, stood behind Daniel, and gave his lover's shoulders a gentle massage.  He grinned as Daniel immediately leaned into his touch.

Much to Daniel's disappointment, the phone chose that moment to ring, and he groaned as the magic hands left to answer it.  He saved and backed up his work.

“General ...”

Daniel looked at Jack with dismay.  General Hammond calling them at home, especially with Daniel on leave and the general knowing how important staying close to the archaeologist was to his 2IC, was never a good sign.  Jack's growing frown suggested that was still the case.

“Yes, he's here, but there has to be someone else who can handle this, especially considering ...”

~Not again,~ Daniel sighed, wishing the two of them could have taken off for two weeks and gone to the cabin, leaving their cell phones behind.  

“Fine, Sir.  We'll be in after we've had dinner.”

Daniel grinned at Jack's mother hen tone, urging, ~I am hungry.  Feed me, Love.~

Jack continued, “If I don't feed him first, he won't eat.  We'll see you in an hour or two,” and then slammed the phone down.

“Jack, don't talk to the general about me like I'm a child who has to be spoon fed,” Daniel sighed.

“Danny, he knows you, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.  Uh, what's happened now?” Daniel asked.

With a sigh, Jack answered, “You know that SG-5 was going back to PN3-967?”

Daniel nodded.  SG-1 had made contact with the people there and had managed to negotiate a treaty to mine naquadah.  The people, the Geranians, had spoken what seemed to be a derivative of Spanish with a few other languages, including Goa'uld, thrown in.  Fortunately, they also spoke English.

“Sergeant Aqualinas greeted them in Spanish.”

Daniel groaned, totally frustrated, and queried, “Geez, didn't he read my report?  I specifically said that they shouldn't use anything but English to communicate with these people.”

When SG-1 had been on the planet, it hadn't taken Daniel long to realize that while the native language itself was similar to Spanish, the words often had very different meanings.  Some phrases that were friendly Spanish words on Earth were actually grave insults on PN3-967.
 
“What's happened?”

“The Geranians are demanding an apology and are threatening to end the treaty.  They've also made it clear that they will only deal with you and SG-1 in the future,” Jack responded, hating the implication of his words.

“We're so popular,” Daniel said flippantly.

“Cream of the crop,” Jack replied

“Top of the line.”

“Best of the best.”

“Head of the class,” Daniel offered.

“The ... cliché among ... clichés,” Jack said, laughing.

“I love you, Jack,” Daniel sighed contentedly, leaning forward for a deep kiss.  Then he sighed discontentedly and said, “I don't have time to go to the SGC.”

“Okay, I'll call Hammond.”

“No, gawd, you know I'll go.”

“I do, but this isn't a life-threatening situation for anyone, so we are going to eat first,” Jack stated firmly.

Daniel looked sadly at the computer and lamented, “My thesis.  I can't get another extension.  I've already taken the maximum.”

“You're almost done, aren't you?”

Still staring at the computer, Daniel shook his head, replying, “There's still so much to do.  I have to defend my argument.  Jack, I can't afford to be gone, not if I want to get my paper in on time.”

“Okay.  One day, and that's all we give them.  If we can't get the situation under control, we try to put it on hold.  If that doesn't work, it's probably going to be a hotbed anyway, so we leave and go back later.”

“My genius,” Daniel teased as he leaned in to kiss his lover.

“Hardly a genius.  That's you,” Jack correct just before the two kissed again.

~Maybe I can convince him to make dinner an 'on-the-go' meal that we can eat in the car on the way to the Mountain.  Then I can use that time to show him just how much I love him,~ the younger man thought as the kiss ebbed.  ~Yeah, definitely one of my better ideas.~

====

Daniel shook his head as he listened to the details about what had occurred on PN3-967, trying to refocus on the issue at hand, rather than on remembering how he and Jack had fried each other's brains just a few hours ago.

“So, Sergeant Aqualinas, tell me exactly what you said, exactly how you said it, in Spanish.”

The Sergeant repeated the words, and Daniel bit his lip, trying not to let out his anger.  He nodded his head, then shook it.

“Didn't you read my report?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson. I ... just skimmed it.  I was going to talk to you about it, but you weren't here.  I ... I didn't see the harm.  I still don't see what I did wrong.”

Daniel stood, arms folded tightly across his chest, and responded, “If you read my report, then you read that certain words and phrases that mean polite or positive things here, mean something else on 967.  Did you read that?”

“Yes, but ...”

“Yes.  Good.  Then *why* did you speak Spanish?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“I ...”

“If you read my report, then you must have read my recommendation that we speak only English on 967.  Did you read that?” the linguist asked sarcastically.

“Yes, Doctor Jackson.”

“Yes,” Daniel echoed in annoyance.  “Then why did you speak Spanish?”

“I ... I can't say,” Agualinas looked down.

“Jack?” Daniel called out, his voice a bit strained.

“Sergeant, answer Doctor Jackson's question,” Jack ordered brusquely.

Aqualinas hesitated, but then looked forward at the wall and spoke, “Major Journow wanted to impress the locals.  He heard them speaking Spanish and suggested we do the greeting in that language.”

Jack asked, “And did you tell the major about Doctor Jackson's report?”

“Briefly,” Aqualinas hedged.  “I mentioned it, Colonel, but he insisted, and I really didn't see the harm, so I didn't argue the point.”

“Daniel?” Jack prodded, in case his lover had more to say.

The young man shook his head, and Jack dismissed the Sergeant.

As the SG-5 team member was leaving, he stopped and asked, “Uh, Doctor Jackson, what exactly did I say to the Geranians?”

Daniel took a breath and answered, “Well, what you intended to say was, 'We are honored to be here and open negotiations between our peoples.  You have a lovely village, and we are thankful for your kind hospitality'.  Is that accurate?”

Aqualinas nodded in affirmation.

The linguist continued, “Right, well what you actually said, as best as I can make out in translation is, 'We are repulsed to be here and open negotiations between our peoples.  You have a disgusting village, and we are angered at your ugly daughters'.  Do you understand now, Sergeant?”

“I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson.”

“Me, too.”

After the contrite sergeant left, Daniel turned to look at his lover and scolded, “Stop sniggering, Jack.  It's not funny.”
 
~Dang camera.  Think platonic.~  Jack walked over to Daniel and drew him into a friendly hug, rubbing his shoulder supportively as he responded, “Yes, it is.  Did you see the look on Aqualinas' face?”

Daniel shook his head, commenting, “I don't know why I bother sometimes, Jack.  Why don't they read my reports?  I read theirs.”

“Don't worry, Danny, the general and I will fix that.  Ferretti and T are also more than happy to help.”
 
Daniel sighed, “We'd better go see the Geranians and see if we can sort out this mess, and we're taking Major Journow with us.”  Seeing Jack's surprise, he shrugged and explained, “The good major can make his own apology.  I'll apologize for the SGC, but that brain dead Neanderthal can do his own groveling.  Maybe it'll prompt him to be more careful in future and pay attention to my reports.  It was right there, Jack.”
 
Jack noted the innocent look on Daniel's face with suspicion.

“Danny, what aren't you telling me?”

Daniel smiled slyly as he elaborated, “I, uh, suspect there'll be a ritual that we'll have to go through before our apology is accepted.  It won't be harmful, but it might, uh, be a little embarrassing,” he answered lightly.  Then in a more serious tone, he suggested, “Maybe a little humiliation will make Major Journow read my reports more carefully in future; drive home the fact that I know what I'm talking about.”

“Okay, that's the plan then,” the colonel stated.  “Let's report to Hammond; then we can go home.  You can get in some time on the computer, and tomorrow we'll set things straight with the Geranians.”

With an approving nod from Daniel, the two men went on their way.

====

“You have a go for 0700, Colonel,” Hammond advised after hearing Jack's and Daniel's report on SG-5's blunder.  “Thank you for coming in, Doctor Jackson.  How is the thesis coming along?”

Daniel sighed, “It ... it's coming.”

Hammond saw the defeatist look on his Head of Archaeology's face.  He also knew he wouldn't be able to give Daniel more time.  Now, he was cutting into that time as well.

“Son, I recall my daughter having to get an extension when she got her degree,” Hammond spoke.  “Isn't that a possibility.”

“I'm ... extensioned out, Sir,” Daniel answered respectfully.  “I guess being in this line of work and getting degrees don't necessarily go together.”

“Good luck,” Hammond said, giving the man an encouraging nod.  After a moment, he opened his phone directory.  Finding the information he needed, he dialed the home phone number he'd found.  “Major Carter, General Hammond.  What do you know about Doctor Jackson's studies?”

A few minutes later, having gotten the information he needed, Hammond thanked the major and then began searching for another phone number.

====

“Okay, Kids, let's go,” Jack ordered bright and early the next morning.

Jack gestured to his team and Major Journow to head through the open Stargate.

“After you, Major,” Jack smirked at the worried expression on Journow's face.  He was looking forward to seeing the major eat humble pie, seeing as how the man's idiocy had caused Daniel more stress.  ~This could be fun.~

The group stepped through the Stargate, where they were met by a welcoming party.

“Lionek,” Daniel greeted the Chieftain of the village, who smiled at the members of SG-1 and then scowled at Major Journow.

“This man,” Lionek gestured towards the uncomfortable looking major, “is not welcome here.”

“Of course,” Daniel spoke, nodding.  “However, I brought him with us so that he could make a formal apology to your village for his ... stupidity.”

Journow looked angrily at Daniel for his harsh choice of words, but a glare from Jack made him turn his scowl to the ground.

Daniel smiled at Lionek conspiratorially and spoke, “I also thought, that there might be some sort of ritual or ceremony that the major could perform to restore equanimity between our two peoples.  These negotiations are important to us, and,” he glanced at the major, “we are willing to do whatever it takes so that we might move forward.”

Lionek gazed intently at Daniel for a minute and then an evil smile appeared on his face.

“You are correct, Daniel.  There is a ceremony that would help restore the good faith between the Tau'ri and Geranians.  Come,” he urged and began leading them towards the village.

**Danny, I'm all for teaching Journow a lesson, but we're not going to end up getting roped into any tribal weirdness, are we?**

**Don't worry, Love, we're free and clear, but by the time the ritual is over, Journow might regret having ever joined the SGC.**

====

“The ritual is called krejkrejaebtnod.”

“That's a mouthful.”  Jack saw Daniel trying not to laugh.  **Danny?  You're laughing.**

**No, I'm trying, uh, not to laugh.**

**Why?**

**Jack, krejkrejaebtnod.  Spell it backwards.**

As Jack tried to figure out the puzzle, Lionek explained that the ritual is conducted in six stages, some of a short duration, and others lasting quite a while.  He also said that the ritual will not be complete unless the sincerity of the repenter is believed by those dishonored.

“Uh, so just to clarify,” Daniel said, “that would be the entire village.”

“That is correct, Daniel.  Do you still wish to continue?”

“Oh, yes,” Jack answered immediately.  **Danny?**

**Krejkrejaebtnod spelled backwards is 'don't be a jerk, jerk,** Daniel explained.

~Oh, that's good!~  Jack couldn't help himself; he laughed out loud.  Seeing the looks, he said hesitantly, “Sorry.  Bug ... yeah, bug ... windpipe; went down the wrong way.”  He coughed, trying to cover up his antics, not realizing the planet was free of all insects.  ~Very good!~

**Gawd, Jack.  Kinda reminds me of something you would come up with,** Daniel communicated as he risked looking over at his lover with a smirk.

**Funny, Daniel, and probably true.  So, there is no such thing as this ritual?** the older man questioned.

**No.  I think there is something, but not exactly what is about to happen, whatever that is.  I, uh, think Lionek was able to pick up on Journow's attitude.**

**Simple payback?**

**Probably,** the linguist replied.

**Daniel, they know slang like jerk?**

**Apparently.**

Lionek rounded up the people, gathering them into a large circle in the middle of their village.  He looked at Journow and explained the first stage.

“You must remove all your clothing, and then walk to each villager and beg their forgiveness,” the Chieftan instructed.

“I don't think ...”

“JOURNOW,” Jack barked.  “Whatever he says, it's an order.”

“But, Colonel ...”

Jack shifted, glaring at the major as he ordered, “Major, it's an order.  Do it ... now!”

Daniel covertly glanced at Jack, but quickly looked elsewhere, afraid he'd laugh.

Lionek explained more about this first stage of the ritual.

“Purity must come from within and be unhidden.  The shedding of clothes demonstrates that purity.  It cannot be given to just one, when all were shamed.”  He moved away, going to his seat at the edge of the village center.  “The ritual begins now.”

SG-1 watched as Major Journow set off to make his apologies.

Jack smirked and asked eagerly, “So, Lionek, what's the next stage of the ritual?”

Lionek looked at Daniel and grinned as he responded, “From what Daniel has told me, many males of the Tau'ri do not believe it is their duty to cook or clean.”

~I like this guy.~  Jack laughed, “Excellent.  I think Major Journow will read Daniel's reports more carefully in the future and display a little more caution when dealing with unfamiliar cultures.”

“I hope so.”  Daniel smiled appreciatively at Lionek.  “I'm grateful that you are understanding and willing to continue the treaty with Earth.”

Lionek had led them towards his hut.  As they sat around with the Chieftain's family, they were given the local equivalent of coffee.

“We understand that mistakes happen,” Lionek assured Daniel.  “However, were it to happen again, my people would not be so forgiving.  That is why we requested that you, Daniel, and your team would handle all future relations with our people.”

Daniel sighed, glancing at Jack, and responded, “I'm afraid that I don't have the time to accompany all SG-teams here, Lionek.  Would it be acceptable if I assured you that every team to come through the Gate will be personally briefed by me?”

Lionek looked disappointed, but nodded.

“My son will be sad, Daniel.  He hoped that you might be willing to spend some time with him to teach him Tau'ri Spanish.”

Jack glared at Lionek's son who was smiling hopefully at Daniel.  It wasn't hard to see that the young man was smitten with the archaeologist.

**Jack, don't upset the locals.  You know I'm yours.**

**Love you, Danny.**

**Love you, too, my snarky colonel.**

**You say the sweetest things.**

**Well, I am a linguist.**

Their silent conversation was interrupted by a commotion outside.

“That better not be Journow!” Jack swore as he raced out of the hut.  Arriving back at the circle of villagers, he saw Journow trying to hide behind some barrels.  “ATTENTION!”  He saw the major snap to, but also took note of the laughing females nearby.  Angrily, he demanded, “Report, Major, while you're *still* a major.”

“I completed the ritual, Colonel, but they refused to give me back my uniform.  They ... they were ... laughing, Sir.  Looking at my ... at ... me and laughing.”

~Nothing much to see, I'll bet.~  Jack suppressed his own laugh.  He turned to Lionek and asked, “Has he successfully completed this part of the ritual?”

Lionek whispered something to the females, causing them to giggle.  They went running to their homes.

“Yes.  It is now time for the second stage.”

“SECOND?” Journow asked in complaint.

“Major!” Jack reprimanded.

“Yes, Sir.”

Lionek retrieved Journow's clothes so he could dress.  Then he went to what they called Meawa, or place of communication.  Lionek took out something that looked like a lettuce leaf, but was actually their version of paper.  He pulled out a writing utensil and made a list, taking the lettuce paper to Journow.

“Stage two is humbling yourself before the workforce, showing that all work is equal.  There is no task that is demeaning.  Someone must do the work.  On this Meawasi (which Daniel translated to mean 'paper' or 'tablet')  is listed the four families you must show humility to.  Walina will show you the way.  Go now.”

Grudgingly, Journow, along with one of the locals who would show him where the families lived, headed off to the first address.

As he watched, Lionek said, “The four families are those of the laughing woman.  He will please them as he works.”

Even Daniel laughed as he, Jack, and Lionek returned to the Chieftain's hut.

====

As the day progressed, Jack could see the tension rising in his lover.  He left Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c chatting with Lionek's family and drew the Chieftain aside.

“Lionek, would you be offended if Daniel went back home?  He's in the middle of some very important work that has to be done in less than a week, and he's just sitting here worrying about it.  The rest of us will stay and make sure that Major Journow has learned his lesson.”

The Chieftain smiled at Jack.  In his talks with Daniel, he had learned much of the Earth way of life.  He had also picked up on the closeness between the young man and the leader of SG-1.  Looking at Jack now, Lionek sensed the link between the two was very strong.

“Daniel is very important to you, is he not?”

~Oh, yeah.~  Jack glanced at Daniel and then turned back to the Chieftain.  He smiled as he said, “Yes, he is.  All members of my team are important.”

Lionek nodded, then stared at Jack with intensity as he spoke, “But Daniel, he is special.  He is ... one, yes?”

“One?”

“Ronesha ... you would call her my wife.  She and I are one.  You and Daniel are one, yes?”

Jack was a little uncomfortable.  He didn't know this Chieftain very well, but he did like him.  Glancing downward for a moment, Jack decided to trust the alien.

“Yes, we are one, but, uh ...” Jack looked over where his team was sitting.

The colonel was about to continue when Lionek interrupted, “I understand, Colonel.  Daniel has explained to us about your strange rules of love, especially those of your military.  Strange rules.  My people have no such restrictions.”  The leader frowned.  “We do not agree with these laws of yours and would ask that your superiors do not send us people who do not respect different kinds of relationships -- your Major Journow and his team, for example.  It was not only their words that were offensive to us.  We observed their hoanic.”

“Hoa...what?”

The Chieftain thought for a moment and then smiled as he figured out the translation.

“Their manner; the way they reacted to my people -- looks, stares, unpleasant features on their faces.”

“I apologize, Lionek,” Jack replied.  “That is not our way.  At least, we try and should always be open to the ways of the worlds we visit.  Of course, not everyone is like Daniel.”

“This I have observed.  Our beliefs are not so narrow-minded as some of those he has described to us.  Again, we are eager to learn more of the Tau'ri, to exchange information about our peoples and our ways, but we will not tolerate ... rudeness.  We do not ask that your people do as we do, only that while here, you respect us, with your words, and your ... manners.”

“It will be a pleasure to pass that on, Lionek, and again, we do apologize.”

“And you will promise me to take good care of Daniel?  He is a rare find, that one.  He listens well.”

“Yes, he does, and trust me, taking care of Daniel is my life, Lionek.”  The Chieftain nodded.  “Come, let us walk Daniel to the Chappa'ai.”

The two walked over to the others, and Jack slung his arm casually around Daniel's shoulders, saying, “Dannyboy, you're being sent back to the SGC where you will not stop anywhere except at the security gates on your way home.  I'll bring you Chinese takeout when I get back, and that way I'll make sure you eat.”

Daniel looked at Lionek, surprised at Jack's words.

Lionek nodded and said, “Go, Daniel, and complete your research.  We thank you for coming to see us.  We trust your leader to finish the task for today.”

The Chieftain smiled at Daniel's stunned, but grateful look.

**Thank you, Jack.**

**You're welcome, Space Monkey.**

**Jaaaack!**

“Daniel's going back, Sir?” Sam asked quizzically.

“Yes, he is, Carter.  You and Teal'c stay here.  Make sure Journow behaves.”

“Ronesha,” Lionek called out.  When she approached, he introduced the woman to SG-1.  “Ronesha, when the Tau'ri returns, you know what to do.”

“Yes, Lioneksa.”

**Lioneksa?**

**It's like a term of endearment added to his name.**

“Come ...” Lionek requested and began to exit the village with Jack and Daniel at his side.

====

At the Stargate, Lionek waited while Daniel dialed the Gate, and Jack and Daniel said their good-byes.

“Jack, the general isn't going to be happy.”

“Daniel, tell him I'll give him a full report when I get back.  I don't want you hanging around the SGC doing what I can do, not when you're on a deadline.  You did what Hammond asked; you solved the crisis.  Now walk through that Gate, take your Beretta to the armory, head off the Mountain, and go straight home.  That's an order.”

Daniel actually grinned, responding, “That's one order I'll follow, Colonel O'Neill.”  He walked up the steps to the event horizon and turned around.  “Lionek, thank you.  I promise that in the future, our people will be better prepared.  I apologize, and thank you for your tolerance.”

Lionek bowed his head.

“Bye, Jack,” Daniel said, with a sweet smile on his face that made Jack smile and wish he could follow his soulmate home right them to show him just how much he was loved.

Lionek smiled, too.

As the Stargate shut down, Jack turned, the smile still on his face.  He walked up to Lionek as if he were an old friend.

“So, Lionek, what happens with the rest of this ritual?”

====

“Doctor Jackson?” Daniel looked up to see General Hammond entering the gate room, a concerned frown on his face.  “Where's the rest of SG-1?”

~Please, General, just let me get out of here.~  “The others are overseeing Major Journow's apology to the Geranians. Jack decided that my presence wasn't necessary.  He ordered me to return home and continue writing my thesis.”

“Ah ...”

Daniel's heart sank.  He was getting the feeling that he'd leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  The general led him to his office and closed the door.

“I really am sorry to do this to you, Doctor Jackson, but Jalen of the Tok'ra was here.”

“Jalen,” Daniel echoed, trying to remember the familiar sounding name.  “Oh, yes, I remember.  She's the one who rescued us after we, uh, rode the asteroid a couple years ago.”

“She's apparently more than a good pilot.  She asked if you could decipher the symbols on this box.  None of the Tok'ra are able to read them, and Jacob suggested you might be able to.”

~Thanks, Jacob.~  “Now?  It can't wait a few days?”

“Not according to the Tok'ra.  One of their undercover agents stole it from a Goa'uld, and they want to return it before it's found to be missing.  It is important, Doctor.  Jalen believes it may be a type of biological weapon,” Hammond stated.

Daniel sighed, thinking, ~I really need to learn to say no.~  He took the ornately gilded box from the general and headed for his office.  ~No big deal.  I don't need another degree.~

====

“We're hooooome,” Jack chimed as SG-1 and a very frazzled looking Major Journow returned through the Stargate several hours later.

“How'd it go, Colonel?”

“It went well.  Wouldn't you agree, Major?” Jack asked, looking over at the man.

“Yes, sure.  It was just swell.  If you'll excuse me, General,” Journow requested, saluting and then walking off.

“Formal, isn't he?” Jack quipped.

Hammond snorted, “It may surprise you, Colonel, but I get saluted a lot around here.  You might want to consider paying attention to that.”

“Yes, Sir.  Send me a memo?”

Hammond laughed, then said, “We'll debrief in thirty minutes.”

“It should be interesting and entertaining,” Jack replied as he started to walk out.

====

Jack walked into the briefing room, feeling pretty good.  He figured the briefing wouldn't take more than half an hour, and then he'd go home and tend to his archaeologist.  He had considered phoning Daniel, but he knew he'd be hard at work and didn't want to disturb him.

“Well, Sir, what happened was ...”

“Let's wait for the entire team, Jack,” Hammond suggested.

Jack looked around.  Sam and Teal'c were there, and Major Journow had been excused from the meeting.

“Uh, this is everyone, General,” the confused colonel responded.

“Doctor Jackson should be here in a moment.”

“Daniel?”  Jack looked at Sam and Teal'c and then back at Hammond.  “Daniel's here, Sir?”

“He is a member of SG-1, Colonel.”

“Sir, I sent Daniel back for a reason,” Jack argued.

“I'm well aware of that.  However, he was needed here,” the general spouted back.

Jack's blood pressure was rising rapidly as he questioned, “For what reason, Sir?”

Hammond sighed, “Because, *Colonel*, I needed him to do an urgent translation.”

Considering Jack's animosity towards the Tok'ra, Hammond decided it was best not to mention them at this point.

“With all due respect, Sir,” Jack began, the repressed anger in his tone evident.

Sam didn't think she'd ever been so pleased to see Daniel enter a briefing room in her life, but seeing him now, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey Jack, Sam, Teal'c,” Daniel said, greeting his teammates.  He could instantly see the effort Jack was making to control his temper and prayed that the older man wouldn't say something to the general that couldn't be taken back.  “General, here is the translation you asked for.  The hieroglyphs were a mixture of Ancient Egyptian, Persian, and Chinese.  Jalen was wrong; it's not a weapon of any sort, it's a child's toy.”

Daniel looked at Hammond's guilty face and Jack's furious one.

**Jack, Love, its okay.**

**No, its not, Danny.  You're exhausted, and I sent you home so that you could get some work done on your thesis, not so you could stay here at the SGC working on something that the friggin' Tok'ra could easily have waited a week or two for.**

“Doctor Jackson, Colonel?”

The two men noticed that everyone else had sat down and were looking at the two curiously.

“Sorry, Sir, just thinking.”

**Jack, please don't.  It's over.  You can't change what already happened, and I really need us to just get through this and go home.**

“I believe you were about to say something, Colonel,” Hammond challenged.  ~I know, Jack.  Trust me, I know that I took advantage of our boy.~

Jack looked at Daniel and shook his head, answering, “No, Sir.”

====

The briefing went smoothly, but Jack was unusually quiet and formal.  When it was over, Sam and Teal'c left, and Hammond went to his office.

**Jack, let's go home.**

**I'll meet you in the locker room in five minutes.**

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, I have to go by my office.”

“Okay.”

A bit unsure that leaving Jack alone was the thing to do, Daniel left the room.  Jack stood, hitting the file he held in his hands against the table. He sat back down, leaning back in his chair, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Colonel, is there a problem?” Hammond asked as he returned to the briefing area, having seen Jack was still there.

“Yes, Sir, there is.”  Hammond stood, waiting for the punch line.  “I'm just sitting here trying to figure out how not to get court-martialed, General.”

“Jack ...”

“No, Sir,” Jack stood up.  “If I stay here, and we have this conversation, it'll be the last one I have in the Air Force because, with all due respect, General, I think what went down today was a crock.  Daniel did not have to give up his time.  He's not an on-call translator for the Tok'ra, and the less said about Journow the better.”

“It was necessary, Jack.  The Tok'ra assured me it was urgent and ...”

“No, Sir,” Jack said more forcefully, then he paused.  He realized he was about to truly speak his mind.  Not only would he be court-martialed, but in the process, Daniel's focus would be taken off his studies.  As calmly as he could, he stated, “Excuse me, Sir,” and walked out.

General Hammond watched his departing 2IC with regret.  As much as he hated to admit it, he was feeling guilty about the way he had manipulated Daniel, but he felt it had been necessary at the time.

~I need to make that next call,~ the major general thought.

====

Jack found Daniel in the locker room sitting on one of the benches, frowning at the floor.

“Danny?”

At the sound of Jack's voice, Daniel's head flew up a mixture of love and relief flooding his features.
 
**I love you, Jack.**

Jack snorted and replied, **Because I didn't tell Hammond what I really, really wanted to?**

“Yes.”

The simple answer caught Jack off guard, and he stared at his lover, his confusion evident.

Daniel smiled and communicated, **Because the reason you wanted to tell Hammond off was for me, and because the reason you didn't tell him off was for me, too.  I love you.  Let's go home.  I think I need some exercise before I start working.**

“Okay.”  Jack grinned at his soulmate and changed in record time.  “Ready to head out, Daniel?”

“Oh, yeah.  Definitely ready.”

====

“Dinner's ready, Danny,” Jack called as he placed the plates on the table.  He hesitated, picked them up again, and took them into the study.  ~Yep, didn't even hear me.~

Daniel was oblivious to everything except the computer screen in front of him.  Jack put the plates on the coffee table near the sofa and turned back to his lover.

~Then again,~ Jack thought, smiling as he saw Daniel's nose twitch.

Daniel was obviously trying to ignore his senses, but kept sniffing the air.

Jack sat down to wait out the skirmish between the stomach and the brain.

After a few minutes, Daniel's hungry stomach won the battle.  He pushed the chair from the desk and headed to the kitchen, causing Jack to quietly chuckle.

“Ah, Daniel?” Jack asked.

Daniel turned, saw Jack seated on the sofa, the dinner plates on the coffee table in front of him, and immediately looked sheepish.

Jack finally broke out into laughter.  He stood, walked over to his lover and kissed him on the nose.

“Come on, you.  Let's get you fed so you can get back to it and then at 2200, I am turning off that computer ...”

“... after I back up ...” the two broke into laughter, and Daniel finished the sentence, “... the files.”

Jack picked up the plates, and they made their way out of the study.

“Mother hen,” Daniel accused.

“Only for you, Babe,” Jack responded lightheartedly.

“I should argue.”

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head.

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Yes,” Daniel insisted, but Jack just laughed as they arrived at the kitchen.

“Table or counter?” Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged, looking at the patio.  It was a bit nippy, but the fresh air called to him.

“How about outside?”

Jack nodded, so Daniel headed for the door and led the way.

====

Halfway through their meal, Jack caught Daniel glancing up at him frequently.

“Okay, Love, out with it.”

“It's not really fair,” Daniel answered.

“Danny.”

“Jack, I need to verify a few things for my argument.  It's, uh, just making sure the references are right and double-checking some of the validations.”

“And ...?”

“Well, I've lost a lot of time.  I need to concentrate on finalizing the paper,” the archaeologist stated.

“And ...?” Jack prodded.

“And ... I just thought ... well, that maybe ... never mind,” Daniel stammered, staring at his plate.

Jack finished his bite of stew, staring at his lover as he wondered, ~Nah, he's not asking what I think he is.  He wouldn't trust me with that.  Me?~

Still, it was clear Daniel had been on the verge of asking something.  It took Jack a few more bites before he decided to pursue the issue.

“Danny, what were you going to ask?”

“Nothing.  It was silly.”

Jack responded, “Silly as in 'don't ask the dumb colonel' or silly as in 'he'd never do it'?”

Daniel smiled shyly as he answered, “The second one because the dumb colonel is a character, a myth, not the reality.”

“Are you sure?  Daniel, I'm glad to help, but that's a lot of ... trust.  This is Academics; it's not really my strong suit.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, refuting, “Jack, I'm so tired of that dense act of yours.  I know school wasn't your favorite place to be, but I also know that not liking it doesn't mean you didn't do well.  I trust you, and if I didn't trust you to do this, trust me, I wouldn't have asked.”

“You didn't ask.”

“Technicality.  You knew I was.”

Both men were smiling at their timidity.

“So, how do we do this?” Jack questioned.

“What I need done, you can do on my laptop,” Daniel informed.

“I like being on your lap,” Jack quipped, a seductive smile lurking.

“Jack!”

“Later?”

“Maybe, if you're good,” Daniel responded, his eyes sparkling.

“I'm always good.  I have it on the best authority.”

“Oh, and who might that be?” Daniel inquired skeptically.

“You.”

“Me?”

“I haven't heard any complaints.”

“No, you haven't,” Daniel said softly, a very embarrassed grin on his face.  “And, uh, Jack?  You never will.”

====

After dinner, Daniel agreed to a very quick walk around the neighborhood before burying himself back into his work.

“Danny, how'd you know I didn't argue with Hammond?”

“Because if you had, you would have been in one of the holding cells pending court-martial, and, if you were going to, I think you would have done it the moment you saw me.”

“I came close,” Jack admitted.

“I know, but you didn't,” Daniel replied.

“He was wrong.”

“He was in a difficult position.”  Suddenly, Daniel realized they were violating their rule, and he really didn't want to talk about it anymore at the moment.  “Jack, there's no such thing as the SGC, remember?”

“Never heard of it,” Jack chuckled as he smiled, covertly taking hold of his life partner's hand for a brief moment as they strolled the block.

====

“Okay, so what do I do?  And, remember, I am not a computer whiz, especially on these tiny things,” Jack said.
 
“Neither am I,” Daniel assured his lover.  “It's just basic word processing.  This is a guide to the citation style that I need to use.” Daniel pulled out 'The Chicago Manual of Style' and showed Jack the various pages that he'd marked.  “I need you to check that I've crossed all the i's and dotted all the t's ...”

With a snicker at how his linguist had messed up the proofing cliché, Jack fought hard not to break out in all out laughter.

That is, until Daniel thumped his arm, saying, “Shut up, you know what I meant.  There are probably places where I can put 'ibid' instead of the citation that's already there, and can you check that everything I've cited in the footnotes is in the bibliography?”

“Do I get paid for this?” Jack asked, hopefully.

Daniel grinned and raised his eyebrows.  He leaned over to within an inch of Jack's face, and with a low voice promised, “Of course,” but then he backed away.
 
“Can I have an advance?”

Daniel pretended to think about it, then answered, “I suppose so.”  He bent down and kissed the older man, only surfacing when they were forced to part for air.  He groaned.  “I hate studying,” he whined, wishing they could give in to their passion, but knowing he needed to stay focused on his thesis at the moment.

“Danny, that didn't sound the slightest bit convincing,” Jack laughed.

“Okay, okay.  I don't hate studying, but right now I'm sick of it.  There are other,” Daniel looked meaningfully at his lover, “things I'd rather be doing.”

“Me, too, Babe.  Let's get this done so we can move onto those ... other things.”

The studious soulmates settled down to work, Jack feeling honored that Daniel trusted him with this while Jack's willingness to help him made Daniel feel more loved than he'd ever felt before.  Both enjoyed the quiet companionship of just being together.

====

“Who could that be?” Jack asked as the midnight hour approached, and the phone rang.

“Alfred was ...” Daniel began, continuing to mumble as he worked, oblivious to the phone.

Jack laughed, answering the phone, “O'Neill.”

“Jack, I apologize for the lateness of the call,” General Hammond began.

“Sir, Daniel ...”

“Jack, let me talk,” Hammond requested.

“Sorry,” Jack said, carrying the cordless phone out of the study and leaving Daniel to his work.

The general stated, “Can I assume Doctor Jackson is with you?”

Jack stared downward for a moment, shrugged, then answered quietly, “He's working on his thesis,” and then thinking, ~Crap.  Does anyone *not* know about us?~

“He has a message on his answering machine, Colonel.  He may want to check it.  See you in the morning,” Hammond said, disconnecting the call.

Jack stared at the phone as he held it out in front of him and commented, “Odd.”  He returned to the study, got his lover's attention, and stated, “Hammond called and said you need to check your messages.  Dial.”

Daniel blinked in confusion, but after a moment, pressed the speakerphone button and dialed his number at the apartment.  When the pertinent message was done, he stood, looking like the proverbial guppy, his mouth open.

“Well,” Jack stated.

“Well ... wow,” Daniel said.

It was Daniel's professor from the University of Chicago, who was calling at the request of the departmental dean, who had passed on the request from the university's president, who had passed on the request from Major Paul Davis, who was acting on orders “from a very high level friend,” after having received a phone call from General Hammond, who had asked for a favor from said 'friend'.

“A high level friend,” Daniel repeated.  “Jack, you don't think that means the ...”

“Nah,” Jack answered, dismissing the idea that Hammond had actually taken Daniel's timing problems with his thesis to the President of the United States.  “Hammond just used some contacts; that's all.”

“Right,” Daniel agreed.  ~Gawd.~

Essentially, Daniel had been given an unprecedented extension, “due to the extreme demands of your government job,” according to the message.  He now had adequate time to complete his thesis.  His professor gave him a new due date of June 17th and asked the scholar to phone to make arrangements for their final meeting before the thesis would be submitted.

Another message from General Hammond followed, making sure that both Jack and Daniel would be reporting for duty for their next shift as scheduled, following the Memorial Day weekend.  After all, there were many things that needed to be attended to.

“He's a sly one,” Jack opined about Hammond.

“He's a good general,” Daniel added.

“That he is,” Jack said.  “Danny, it's late.  Let's finish up what we were both in the middle of and get to bed.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Daniel agreed with a smile.

After a kiss, the amazed twosome completed their tasks for the night before getting some sleep, both minds resting easily knowing the deadline had been extended.
 
====
--June 14, 2003
====

In just a few days, Daniel's thesis had to be handed in.  He'd been working on it steadily, but still hadn't completed it.  Today was Saturday, and the clock was ticking.

“I must be a procrastinator,” Daniel sighed as he and Jack entered the study where all of the scholar's notes were.

Jack laughed, “No, Love.  You're just dedicated to the SGC and me.”

“Wrong.”

“Wrong?” Jack asked as he grinned faded.

“Wrong order, Babe,” Daniel clarified with a smile as he sat down and powered up the computer.  “It's *you* and *then* the SGC.”

“Geez, I love you,” Jack expressed with twinkling eyes as he sat on the edge of the desk, facing his lover.

“And I love you, but I have a lot to do in the next few days,” the archaeologist stated, reaching into the drawer for his notes.  “It didn't help that we lost a whole week recently.”

“But what a week!” Jack exclaimed about the days he and Daniel had spent as two young boys.

Daniel laughed, “I'm glad it happened, but then we had to play catchup at work.”

“Well, Hammond's given us the first half of the week to get it done,” Jack replied, picking up a paperweight and twisting it around in his hands while the two talked.

The younger man groused, “That's because he knows you have that trip to D.C. coming up.”

Jack chuckled, “I guess it is his amends in an odd sort of way.”

Staring at the computer and beginning the process of opening the needed files, he stated, “I need to finish this *now*.”

“I'm here.  Just tell me what you need,” Jack stated with a smile as he opened his arms out wide in a gesture that said he was all Daniel's.

“I need you not to drop that paperweight on the keyboard,” Daniel replied, smiling when his soulmate put the object safely back in its place.  “And I need you to never stop loving me.”

“No worries there,” Jack said, leaning over for a quick kiss.  “I love you, Danny.”

Daniel grinned and then began the process of finalizing his latest educational project.

====

As Daniel toiled at his scholarly labors, Jack toiled at taking care of his lover, making sure he ate and helping out whenever asked.

On the second day of toiling, better known as Sunday, Jack entered the study to woo his soulmate outside for a quick walk.  Daniel always functioned better after a brisk walk and then a few minutes of cuddling.

“Danny ...”

“*What?*” the younger man barked, not even looking up.

This was one of those moments when Jack knew he should steer clear, a moment when Daniel's eyes glowed like a Goa'uld.  ~Okay, not the time to force a break.~

After the computer crisis the month before, Jack had also worked very hard to make sure they didn't have any repeat occurrences.  Not just during this final week of work, but all along when Daniel had spent time on his paper.

Whenever his soulmate rested, Jack made sure the notes were still in proper order, as much as possible, and backed up his files.  He'd gotten his training from Sam, who had showed Jack exactly what to do, so that Daniel would have backups of his backups, if necessary.  Plus, the ones he did were often more current since he did them more often.

As Daniel now sat mumbling at the computer, his momentary Goa'uld eyes back to normal, he was wearing an old white T-shirt.  It was so old that it had three holes in the front.

~Old and holey, but I love where those holes are,~ Jack observed as he took in the skin over Daniel's left pectoral muscle.

The archaeologist was wearing equally old blue jeans, both knees frayed and showing skin beneath.  The jeans were faded.  Daniel's belt was unbuckled, the ends flapping a little whenever he shifted his body.

~Now, if they'd just fall down,~ Jack hoped, lust in his body and soul.

'Old' seemed to be the word for Daniel's attire, Jack chuckling at the brown socks.  Daniel's big toe stuck out on the right foot, and his little toe on the left foot.  He groaned, moving his shoulders in a dance-like motion, the ends of his feet moving as well.

~Geez, I love those wriggling toes.  I know -- abstinence until this is over, but ... I have needs.~

“JACK!”

Jack saw the look of horror on Daniel's face and wondered, ~What now?~

Daniel began to pace up and down, pausing to glance between his computer, Jack, and the floor; then resuming his pacing, muttering continuously as he paced.

“I should have realized before; so stupid.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  Should I just leave it?  Can't do that ... irresponsible.  Shouldn't have started this wretched thing.”

After watching his lover pace and mutter for five minutes non-stop, Jack decided to take matters into his own hands.  He seized Daniel's shoulders, forcing him to come to a stop.

“Danny, whatever it is, we can fix it.  I know the deadline is only two days away, but...”

“What?”  Daniel realized Jack had assumed there was a catastrophe with his thesis.  “Oh, sorry, Jack.  It's not that.”

Daniel leaned in to kiss his lover reassuringly; then turned around and sat Jack in front of the computer screen, explaining, “I have a friend in the British Museum who sent me some photos and descriptions of the Sutton Hoo artifacts,” as he pulled up some emails.

“Sutton Hoo artifacts?”

“Ah, yeah.  Sutton Hoo is an estate in Suffolk, England, and the site of an early burial grave of an Anglo-Saxon king from about the seventh century.  I was doing some last minute checking and noticed this.”

“Freakin' snakeheads,” Jack cursed as he gazed at what looked to be a Goa'uld hand device.  “Is there anywhere those slimy parasites haven't been?”

“Probably not.  According to Jason's notes, archaeologists are still trying to figure out what it is.”

“Who's Jason?”

Daniel grinned at Jack's focus.  His lover was so jealous, and as much as it drove him crazy, it also made him feel good.

“He's just a friend, Jack.  We studied at Oxford together.”  The younger man smiled at the relief on Jack's face and returned to the matter at hand.  “The British Museum has so many artifacts that there's a chance no one will look at this device for another decade or so...”

“But?”

“But the Sutton Hoo burial is famous, and it's likely to be a priority.  Most of the stuff is already on display in the Museum's Sutton Hoo room.  The only reason why this lot isn't yet is because it was misplaced.  If they take a close look at that device, Jack, what are they going to find out?”

“That the world is a crazy place.  We'll tell Hammond.  Now, you, back to work.”

“But ...”

“Daniel, the clock is ticking.  How's it coming?” the older man questioned.

Daniel smiled, a look of relief on his face, and replied, “I think I'm going to make it, but you're right.  I need to focus on it, but, Jack, the government can't just walk in and take ... well, who knows how much of the exhibit.”

“Not our problem.  The Pentagon will figure it out,” Jack responded.

“Yes, but they're liable to overreact.”

“Our government?  Get out!” Jack teased mockingly.  “You work.  I'll make the call.”

====

“I made that reservation weeks ago,” Daniel spoke early that evening as he did a routine check of his previously made itinerary.

“I'm sorry, but I don't see anything here.  'Jackson', right?” the customer service representative asked.

“Yes, Daniel Jackson, *Doctor* Daniel Jackson,” Daniel stated, feeling a rare need to stress the title portion of his name.

“No.  I'll check other flights.”

Daniel waited impatiently as the agent on the other end of the line searched for his flight information.  He'd made the reservation to Chicago over a month ago and absolutely had to get there on time.  He was going to meet with his professor and do a quick once over of the thesis before turning it in the next day.  Somehow, though, the airline was claiming not to have the reservation, and all the flights from Denver were booked.

“There must be a convention or something there this week.  All the flights for the next two days are booked solid.  We could try getting you on standby, but it looks like several of the flights already have passengers waiting,” the agent spoke.

“I *need* to get on that flight.  I have a confirmation.”

“Yes, Sir.  I checked, but still can't find a record of that number.  Maybe there was a system glitch.”

“MAYBE?  I NEED TO GET ...” Daniel lowered his voice.  It wasn't this woman's fault.  “I'm sorry, but this is really important.  I *have* to be on that flight.”

“I understand.  I wish I could help, but ...” the woman spoke, her words trailing off when the archaeologist interrupted.

“Thank you,” Daniel said, totally deflated.  He felt like all the air had just been sucked out of his lungs.  He put the phone down and just stared for a moment.  Then, in a daze, he walked over to the sofa in the study.  In his hands, he held the first print out of his paper.  He threw it onto the coffee table as he plopped down on the sofa.  “Jack, I really need you to fix this.  Gawd, I always expect you to fix things.  You can't fix this though.”

“Who says?”

Daniel looked up in surprise.  Jack had been gone for the last two hours, running errands.  He hadn't heard him return.

“What's happened now?” Jack asked, walking over to the couch, sitting down next to Daniel, putting his right arm around his shoulders and drawing the young man to him, hearing the distress in his soulmate's voice and seeing it in his posture.

“They lost my flight information.  All the flights are full.  Jack, I need, really need, to let my professor do a quick read through.  He's expecting it, and there are a few things I need him to see, to get his opinion.  I already know how I might need to change it, and, once I meet with him, if I need to, I can easily make those changes there.”  Daniel sighed and then said in desperation, “I'm sure I could get on a flight ... eventually, but that's not good enough.  I *have* to make that meeting, Jack.”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's forehead.  The young man sounded so tired and weary, completely drained of energy.

“You had a confirmation for the flight, right?”

“Yes, but they can't find it.  The computer ate it or something.  It doesn't matter, Jack.  I could show them the charge on the credit card, but I don't have the time to fight them on this and wait for them to try and convince someone not to take the flight.”

“And you have to meet with *this* professor?” Jack asked.

“He's good, Jack.  He understands ... the fringe.  Talking to him on the phone just isn't the same,” Daniel replied, lamenting once again that he'd ever decided to get this last post-graduate degree.

Jack smiled as his fingers caressed Daniel's head, running through the currently dark brown hair.

“You mean he thinks outside the box like my genius does.”

“Yeah, something like that,” Daniel responded before he realized what he had admitted.  He looked at Jack, who grinned, and sighed.  “Okay, I'm a ... free thinker, but so is he, and I need his opinion before I submit this.  Jack, he's leaving for two weeks after our session.  He's only staying because I couldn't get there any other time.  I can't ask him to wait longer, even if I had the time, which I don't.  The thesis has to be presented to the faculty by 5 p.m. on Friday. No exceptions.”  He sighed, “I've used up all my exceptions, plus one.”

Daniel looked into his lover's eyes.  He couldn't believe he was going to say this, but he had to, and he trusted Jack.

“Fix it.  Please fix it.”

Smiling, Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's nose and spoke, “I love you, Angel.  Be right back.”

Daniel watched his lover exit the room.  Jack was Air Force.  Air Force meant planes.  Normally, he didn't like to use connections, but Jack had a bunch of them, and, right now, three years of work was on the line, which meant things weren't normal.

Jack picked up the phone and soon had saved the day.  Sometimes, it paid to have lots of connections.

====

“Danny?”  Jack found his life partner sitting on the roof deck and slid down to sit beside him.  “Hey, you.”

“I'm tired, Jack.  Sometimes I really wonder why I bother with any of it.  Who cares what I think about the Middle Ages?”  Daniel gave his lover a wry grin, “especially when I can't even write what I want to because of national security. Talking about the uses of witchcraft as a euphemism for Goa'uld technology is really annoying.”

“I wish you could talk openly about the Stargate.”

“I know, Jack.  It's okay.”

“One day, Danny, the Stargate will at least be revealed to other governments besides Russia; maybe sooner than we think.  When that happens, there'll be more academics that will be let in on it, too.  Almost every museum in the world will probably want their stuff examined for Goa'uld devices.  You'll have people to discuss your arguments with then.”
 
Daniel looked at the sky and then at Jack as he responded, “I don't know.  I doubt the Stargate will ever be revealed to all countries.  After all, if you told Egypt, they'd demand the return of the Gate and its cover stones.”  With a sigh, he pulled himself together.  “I'm sorry.  I don't mean to be maudlin.”

“You're allowed to be.”

“Well, I don't want to be, and I haven't got any reason to be,” Daniel said as he stretched out his hand to caress the side of Jack's cheek, then added, “not when I've got you.”

“Love you, Phid Boy.”

Jack leaned down and kissed the younger man passionately.

“Love you, too, my Silver Fox, even if you do come up with the most ridiculous nicknames in the world!  Phid Boy?”

“PhD ... phid.”  Seeing Daniel's look of concern at his mental health, Jack said, “Hey, I can come up with much more ridiculous ones than that.”

Daniel looked at Jack seriously and replied dryly, “Of that, My Love, I have no doubt.”

The archaeologist started to laugh, and Jack retaliated the only way he could think of, by tickling Daniel until he begged for mercy.  Then they made love on the deck.

====

Afterwards, as they settled in each other's arms, Jack checked his watch and said, “Hey, you'd better get your stuff together.  I know it's a crazy time, but we have a flight to catch.”

“We?  Flight?  Catch?”  Daniel looked into Jack's eyes and saw the smile there.  “What did you do?”  Seeing his lover's growing grin, he asked, “You fixed it?  Gawd, how?”

“Contacts, Babe,” Jack smirked.  “A driver should be here in another hour.  We're hitching a ride on a cargo plane.”

“Jack, I love you.”

“I know.  Go.  Get your stuff,” Jack instructed.

Daniel planted a kiss on Jack that made the older man forget his name, and then he got up to prepare for the trip.

When Jack came back to Earth, he smiled, feeling a warmth inside.  He loved making Daniel happy, and he promised himself he'd do it for the rest of time.

====

“You don't have to come,” the younger man spoke as he stood next to his lover just inside the front door.  ~But please come.~

“You don't want me to?” Jack responded.  ~I wanna come, Angel.~

“Oh, yes, I want you to, I just ...” Daniel answered.  ~Come.~

Jack grinned, kissed his lover, and then they locked up the house.  They were off to Chicago.

====

“Have fun, Love.”  After looking around to make sure the coast was clear, Jack kissed his lover and watched him enter the tall, imposing looking building for his meeting with his professor.  ~Love you, Danny.~

Jack was smiling as he headed towards the University Union building and cafeteria.  He liked the atmosphere of the relaxed and friendly University, and he couldn't help but notice two same-sex couples holding hands and kissing on the grass, clearly finding it unnecessary to hide their relationship.

~Soon, Danny, we won't have to hide, either.  I can't wait for that day.~

The colonel spent half an hour browsing the bookshop, becoming engrossed in books on English Literature and Military History.  Then he came across a book of sayings and their meanings.  He grinned at discovering the origins of the expression 'above board' which came from card tables, otherwise known as boards, where cheats would drop their hand below the table to change their cards.  If all play was above board, people were unable to cheat.  He read a few more pages and decided to purchase the book.

~Maybe I can test Danny; see if he knows the origins of words like lily-livered and lukewarm.  We'll make a game of it one night.  I wonder if I can turn this into a game of strip-guess-the-meaning?~

After leaving the bookshop, Jack made his way to the cafeteria where he'd arranged to meet Daniel.  He paused when he passed the University shop with graduation memorabilia on display.  In the window was a graduation bear complete with shoes, gown, cap, and diploma.  A few minutes later, the bear had been added to Jack's bag.

====

Daniel sighed as he walked over to the Union building.  He'd had a good discussion with his professor and wanted to strengthen various points, but couldn't do so without mentioning the Goa'uld.  He really wished that academics were more open-minded.  Even those who were relatively open-minded, like his professor, still were not prepared to completely restructure their thinking.

The scholar had wanted to draw correlations between Anglo-Saxon England and Ancient Egypt that he believed were there.  Unfortunately, even his professor couldn't accept the connections he'd demonstrated, and he'd been forced to drop the argument.  Still, it grated on him.
 
Then the younger man caught sight of his lover sitting outside the Union building, his silver hair shining in the sunlight.  He saw the Irish smile that formed just for him.  In a second, he felt a weight lift from his shoulders.

~Who cares if people can't see what's in front of their noses.  I've got my Silver Fox, and nothing else matters,~ Daniel opined as he sat down opposite his Love.

“How'd it go?” Jack asked.

“Good.  I mean, I wish I could say what I want.  I had to give up one of my arguments,” Daniel sighed regretfully, the disappointment obvious in his soft voice that had slowly stilled almost before the words had gotten out.

“Not quite as outside of the box as you had hoped?”

“No, I mean, he is, but he just doesn't understand, and I can't blame him, Jack.  He doesn't know what we know,” Daniel stated as he rubbed the tips of his fingers together.

“So, what's the verdict on the dissertation?”

“The verdict is that we need to get back to the hotel so I can make my final changes.  This has to be submitted by 5 p.m. tomorrow, and it's going to take me almost that long to make the changes; and we need to get it to the copiers by two, so I can have it bound.  Jack, I need you to be ... I mean ...”

Jack reached out and took his lover's hand.  They had to be careful, but they weren't in Colorado Springs, so he caressed the hand lovingly.

“Don't worry.  We'll drop by a grocery store, pick up some snacks, and get to work.  Did you bring plenty of paper to print it on?”

“Yes.”

“And an extra ink cartridge?” the older man questioned, wanting to be fully prepared.

“Gawd, I didn't think about that.  We should have gotten extras when we rented the printer,” Daniel lamented.

“I didn't think about it either until just now, so just in case, we'll pick up one,” Jack stated.  “We'll order room service.  Danny, you *are* going to eat and get two hours sleep at some point.  No arguments on that.”

“Two whole hours?” the archaeologist replied, trying not to chuckle.  ~I thought he'd say five.~

“Two.  Agreed?”

“I love you,” Daniel replied, a gleam in his eye at his good fortune of having his lover there to help him.

“Is that a 'yes'?”

“Yes, as long as you're there with me,” Daniel answered, smiling.  “Thank you, Babe.”

The lovers got up and set out to do their shopping before retreating to the hotel.

As they walked, Daniel noticed the bag and asked curiously, “What'd you buy?”

“You'll find out.”

“Oh, a secret?”

Jack simply smiled as he again took hold of his lover's hand, enjoying the freedom of being in a city other than Colorado Springs.

====

Daniel had been hard at it for five hours, occasionally sipping the always-hot cup of coffee that Jack kept by his side.  In addition, every hour on the hour, Jack would put a snack item, such as a power bar or Twinkie, next to the coffee, and as if on automatic pilot, Daniel would reach for the snack item and stuff it inside his mouth.

Jack just smiled and shook his head, thinking, ~Geez, how I love this geek of mine.  Oops, forgot to take off the wrapper,~ he had thought after the second hour passed.  He chuckled, retrieved the rest of the power bar from Daniel's hand to take off the paper wrapper, which now sported the younger man's teeth impressions, and then made sure future snacks were free of their wrappings.  ~Danny, you're hopeless, and I'm hopelessly in love with you.~

====

Every two hours, Jack pulled his lover away for a fifteen-minute break, insisting his mind would be clearer if he took a mental break periodically.  This time, he took Daniel outside to enjoy the night air.  He wanted his lover to take in the freshness of the air, hoping it would help revitalize him as well.

“Jack, thank you for doing all of this,” Daniel said as he leaned back into Jack's hold.  “I could never have gotten through this without you.”

“Sure, you could have.  In fact, you have -- several times.”

“No, it's different now.  I'm not the same person as I was when I got my earlier degrees.  It was harder to study this time around,” the young man admitted.

“Yeah, we've had some extra nasty nightmares to deal with in the last twelve months,” Jack sighed, not really wanting to remember.

“Yes, but, uh, that's not why.  Well, it has interfered with getting it done, but that's not what I was talking about,” Daniel corrected.

“I'm not sure I know what you mean, Danny.  You're a genius.  Keeping your cute little nose in a book is status quo for you.”

“Pay attention.”  Daniel turned and kissed his lover.  He threw his arms around him, and Jack tugged him close.  “But I like doing this now, too.  It's a ... major distraction.”

“Oh, I see.  I'll take that as a compliment,” the older man said, grinning happily at being such a distraction.

Daniel chuckled, then inquired, “How much longer?”

“Seven minutes.”

Sighing contently, Daniel requested, “Hold me for all of it, okay?”

“Yeahsureyabetcha,” Jack quipped eagerly.  He wrapped his arms around his lover, and the two stood, looking out at the shimmering lights of the city.  “Right now, there's nothing else I'd like to do more than this.”

====

Suppressing a yawn as he stretched, Jack glanced at his watch.  He walked over to Daniel and began to massage his lover's shoulders.

“Okay, Danny.  Time for that two hours of sleep we agreed on.”

“I really don't need to sleep, Jack.  I can sleep tomorrow.  You go get some rest though,” the weary, but determined archaeologist suggested.

“Trust me, Space Monkey, you'll feel much better if you have a two-hour power nap.”

“But I have to get this done.  I can't afford to spend two hours sleeping.”

Jack was prepared for his lover's rebellion and offered, “Okay, let's try this.  You come and lay down with me for half an hour.  If you haven't fallen asleep in that time, I'll let you come back to work, but if you do fall sleep, then we stick with the original deal, and I'll wake you up in two hours.”

Daniel nodded and saved his work.  Ten minutes later, he was in a deep sleep, his head resting on Jack's shoulder, causing the older man to smile.

Jack knew that his lover's ability to fall asleep so quickly at a stressful time like this was because he trusted him so much.

~He makes me feel like a king.  I won't let you down, Love, not in this, and not in anything.~

====

“Jack, could you read through this for me and make sure that I haven't left out words or made stupid typos?  Unfortunately, spell check isn't foolproof.”

“Absolutely, Love.”

As Jack sat down to read the segment of the thesis that Daniel had rewritten, the frazzled archaeologist began printing the remainder of his work.

By the time Daniel had finished printing, Jack had read the draft through, thankfully only finding one mistake, a 'sight' that should have read 'site'.

Several hours later they were done, and Daniel had three copies of his thesis sitting in front of him.

“I can't believe it's done.”  Daniel gazed at the three piles in front of him.  “Now I just hope that nothing goes wrong with the binding.”

“It won't,” Jack said confidently.  “We'll drop this off, have a late lunch, and then you can submit it.”

With a nod, Daniel picked up the drafts.  He stopped at the door and faced Jack.

“I love you, Jack.  Thank you for being so supportive of this.”

Jack kissed the younger man, and then smiled warmly as he responded, “Easiest thing in the world, Danny.  I love you.”

====

Jack held Daniel's hand as they walked through a park, and then he shifted, moving his arm to go around Daniel's waist.

“Should we do this here?” the younger man asked.

“Why not?” Jack countered.

Daniel shrugged, putting his arm around Jack.  He was tired and didn't want to think about whether or not they needed to be careful.  He'd trust Jack, like always, so he smiled and leaned his head against his lover's shoulder as they walked.

It felt good to be out in the fresh air, calm and relaxed.  They'd had a pleasant lunch, and it was almost time to pick up the copies.  It would leave them with an hour to get to the University.

“My genius,” Jack whispered, placing a kiss on his soulmate's forehead as they continued their leisurely stroll.

“I haven't felt like a genius, hardly even knew I had a brain.  I think it had a slow leak in it or something,” Daniel confided lightly.  More seriously, added, “Simple things I've known for years just weren't there anymore.”

“It's Brain Drain again,” Jack surmised with a chuckle.

Daniel laughed, too, agreeing, “Yeah, anything intelligent just dripped on out.”

“Good thing I had a net to catch all the brain goo with.”

“Jack, we're being silly.”

“It could have been worse,” Jack announced.

“How?” Daniel questioned.

“You could have lost your brain!” the older man exclaimed teasingly.

“Jack, you can't lose a brain,” Daniel responded with an edge.

“Haven't we had this discussion?”

“I have no idea,” Daniel said, not able to stifle a yawn.  “You were right about the power nap.”

“It happens.”

“It happens a lot.”

“Time to pick up your masterpiece,” Jack observed after checking his watch.

“It's not a masterpiece,” Daniel replied softly.

“Sure, it is.”

“It could have been, if so many of the crucial points weren't classified.”

“Someday, Love,” the colonel promised.

“We'll be dead by then.”  The archaeologist saw his lover's scowl and spoke, “Sorry, maudlin again.”

Jack stopped and turned Daniel to face him.  He grabbed both hands and stared deeply into the younger man's eyes.

“Danny, I don't know how, when, or where it will happen, but I swear to you that at some point in our future, the world will know what I know, what your teammates know, what the SGC and the Pentagon know.”

“That I'm a geek?” Daniel said.  Noticing the look on his lover's face, he gave Jack an apologetic kiss and quickly added, “Sorry, that was supposed to be a joke.”

“They'll know that you are a genius responsible for more good than can be imagined.  They'll know you were here, that you made one of the world's greatest contributions.  Maybe it won't be tomorrow, or next year, but it's going to happen.”

“I love you.  I can't seem to stop saying that lately.  It's ... so easy now to say it.”

“I love you, too, Angel, even if your brain does leak.”

The two men laughed and then kissed before finally heading for the copiers.

====

Daniel smiled at the woman as she handed over the three bound copies of his thesis to him.  His name and the title were embossed on the spine, and he felt a sliver of satisfaction in his accomplishment as he stared down at the result of his studies.

~I set out to learn more about this period, and I have.  I need to keep remembering that.~

Jack watched the play of emotions crossing Daniel's face.

~George, we have to make things better at the SGC.  We owe, heck, Earth friggin' owes it to Danny,~ Jack thought assertively.  “So my genius ...” he began with a grin as they left the copiers, “Do you want to make one final read through, or shall we just go hand it in?”

Daniel gave his lover a tired smile and replied, “I don't want to know if there are any mistakes at this point.  It's too late to fix them so let's just go hand the wretched things in.  Of course, it's not so simple as that.”

“Your presentation should be a snap,” Jack responded as the two men headed for their rental car.  “You sure the faculty committee is going to be there?”

“The professor said as I long as I was in the building by five that it would be okay,” Daniel responded.  “Jack!” he called out in alarm.

“What?”

“Where are my notes?  I had my presentation notes around here somewhere,” the once-again nervous student stated in a panic.

“Angel,” Jack teased, grabbing the younger man by the shoulders.  “You didn't make notes for your presentation.”  He raised his right hand tapped lightly against his lover's temple, saying, “It's all right there.  You know this thing by heart.  Don't sweat it.”

Daniel took a breath of relief, though he wasn't as convinced as Jack was.  After all, a second earlier he'd been looking around the great outdoors, trying to find something he didn't even had.  It was all in his brain?  The problem was, he wasn't so sure his brain was functioning at the moment.

====

“Do you want me to wait here?” Jack asked as he parked the car.

“Would ... no one ...” Daniel cursed himself for finding it so hard to voice his wishes.  “Come with me?”

Jack smiled broadly as he answered, “Undomesticated equines couldn't stop me.”

“What about mules?” Daniel joked as they made their way to the Arts Faculty where Daniel had to hand in the copies of his dissertation.  “After all, you can be as stubborn as one.”

“Hey!” Jack feigned outrage, pleased to see his archaeologist finally beginning to relax.

====

“That was quick!” Jack exclaimed when his soulmate emerged from a meeting room just fifteen minutes later.

“The professor needs to leave, and he's well expected.”

“You mean you talked so fast they got headaches,” Jack teased.

“Gawd,” Daniel responded, bowing his head as they walked, knowing that was probably part of the reason for the quick presentation, that and the fact the professor really did have plans and needed to leave.

As they exited the building, Jack remarked, “I can't believe there isn't more to it.”

“What did you expect -- brass bands and cheerleaders?” Daniel joked.

“No, I just always thought that after all that work, there should be more of an acknowledgement than getting a receipt and spending a few minutes with the faculty.”

“Anti-climactic, maybe, but it's the system,” Daniel replied.  Taking a moment to regroup, he then expressed his appreciation.  “Thank you, Jack, for everything.”

“I wouldn't have missed being here for anything, Danny.”  Jack stopped walking and reached over, pulling his lover in for a kiss, not caring if anyone was watching.  ~This is a first for you, isn't it, Angel?  Having somebody around who really cares about how well you do.  Did anyone except you care whether you got those earlier PhDs?~

“So, Phid boy, where shall we go to celebrate?”

“Mmm,” Daniel said thoughtfully, his fingers gently strolling along the sides of Jack's neck.  “It's a difficult decision.  I mean, all that work, and we have one night to celebrate.  What should we do?”  Looking deadly serious, he surprised his Love with a grin as he asked, “What do you think?”

“I think I like the way you think.”

The lovers returned to their hotel, where they began their romantic night by relaxing in the spa.  Later, they enjoyed a candlelight supper in their room, after which they danced, their bodies teasing for more intimacy.  As their romantic nights normally ended, the twosome made love and then fell asleep, happy to be in each other's arms.

====

Early the next morning, Jack's laughter filled the room.  From the bathroom, Daniel could hear the joviality and wondered what could be so funny.  A bath towel around his waist, he walked into the other room.

“Yeah.  Right.  Thanks.”  Jack clicked off the cell phone, shaking his head, adding a “... for nothing.”

“Jack?  Who was that?”

“The airline.  They found their computer glitch, and your reservation.”

“A little late,” Daniel replied.

“That's what I said.”  Then Jack took in the sight of his sexy soulmate.  He could easily make out Daniel's 'asset' that seemed to be teasing him seductively.  ~Mmm, maybe we could ...~

Seeing his lover's wandering eyes, Daniel warned, “Jack, don't get any ideas.  Our plane leaves in ninety minutes.  We don't have time to ... you know.”

“Not even a 'you'?” Jack asked lightly.

“No.”

“Not even a 'know'?” the older man spoke hopefully.

“No.”

“You know, Danny, sometimes you're no fun at all,” Jack whined with a smile. He had already showered and was ready to go, having let Daniel sleep in to catch up on the accumulated hours worth he had missed.  ~I want to 'you know'.~

“A time and a place, Colonel,” Daniel stated as he returned to the bathroom.

“Since when have we ever paid attention to that?” Jack called out.  He didn't exactly expect an invitation, but he did think there would be a response.  “Okay, so I'm stretching it a bit,” he yelled so Daniel could hear, “but we have time ... for a ... little 'you know', you know?”  Still silence filled the air.  “Daniel, you could at least answer me.”

Jack waited for a snarky reply, but getting none, he started to grow perturbed.  He got up and walked into the bathroom.

“Geez, Daniel, you could at least ... Danny!”  Jack knelt down at his unconscious lover.  “Daniel?  Angel, wake up.”

Daniel was supine on the floor, the towel around his waist loosened.  His right hand was raised near his head.

Jack's heart raced with concern.  He was just about to pick up the phone to call the hotel doctor when his lover started to come around.

“Danny?”  Jack gazed anxiously into the dazed looking blue eyes he loved so much.  “Danny, are you okay?”

“Huh ... 'm fine, J'ck.”

Daniel tried to smile reassuringly at his lover, but clearly didn't succeed as Jack once more reached for the phone.

“I'm calling a doctor.”

“No!  Jack, really, I'm okay.  It's probably just the stress of everything.  I'll be fine after a day or two of sleep.”  Daniel looked into anxious brown eyes and smiled.  “Really, Love, I'll be fine.”

Jack hesitated, but then gave in, saying, “Okay, I'll lay off calling a doctor for now, but you're going to get back into bed while I change our flight arrangements.”

With more speed than Jack would have thought him capable of, Daniel sat up and grabbed the older man's arm.

“No, Jack, please.  I ... I just want to go home.  I'll sleep much better in our bed than I will here.  Pleeeease?”

Jack let out an exasperated sigh, saying, “But if you don't do exactly what I say, I'll sic Ole Doc Fraiser on you.”

Daniel put on a look of mock terror and replied, “I'll be good; I'll be good.”

The couple chuckled while Jack helped Daniel to stand and then led him back to the bed.  He threw his lover a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

“You can shower when we get home; until then you are to rest.  I'll pack our stuff and organize everything.”

“Yes, Sir,” Daniel said, giving him a sloppy  mock salute.

“Very funny.”

Daniel gave him a smug grin, responding, “I know.”

A couple of times over the next several minutes, Daniel began to help with the packing, only to find himself firmly escorted back to the bed and being told that, “If you can't stay lying down, Danny, I'll have to tie you down!”

Half an hour later, the two men were on their way to the airport, Daniel rolling his eyes at Jack in full 'mother hen' mode.  Even though he'd never admit it to the older man, Daniel had to acknowledge that he loved Jack's protective attitude.  It made him feel safe, warm, and loved.

====

“Thanks for the lift, Airman,” Jack spoke, taking hold of his suitcase.

A bit uncomfortably, Daniel took his luggage, only to have Jack snatch it from him.

“Thanks, Carl,” the archaeologist said softly.  The airman drove off, giving Daniel the chance to harp a little at Jack's overprotectiveness.  “Jack, I can carry my own suitcase.  It's not even a big one.”

“You might be sick.”

“Jack, he should have taken me to the apartment.  Did you see the look he gave us?”

“Danny, he thinks we were on an assignment,” Jack stated.

“Yeah, but ...”

“But what?” the older man asked.

“But why are we standing out here arguing?”

Jack looked around, slightly angling his head to the right as he responded, “You're right.”

The lovers began to walk towards the door when their neighbor, Mrs. Valissi, called out cheerfully, “Welcome home, boys.  I guess you were gone.”

The senior citizen chuckled.  She hadn't been aware that Jack and Daniel had been away, but with their schedules, one just never knew.

“Quick trip, Mrs. Valissi,” Jack spoke.

“How are you today, Mrs. Valissi?” Daniel asked politely.

“Out for my morning stroll.  Love this Colorado air.  Daniel, are you all right?  You look a little pale.”

“See!” Jack said, once again about to embarrass his young lover with his mother-henning.

“Jack, behave.”

Mrs. Valissi smiled at the two friends and said, “I'll bring you by some of my special soup for lunch.”

“You don't have to ...”

“No arguments, Daniel.  We can't have you getting sick.  I'm looking forward to you telling me more about Egypt one of these days,” the woman opined.

“I'd love to.”

“Well, I'll finish my stroll, and be by in an hour or so.  Colonel, you see to it that Daniel gets some rest.”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

Jack ignored the death glare of his soulmate, pleased as punch that Mrs. Valissi was supporting his mother hen mode.  As she walked off, Daniel turned and faced Jack, folding his arms in front of him while he stared.  Jack continued to smile.  Daniel had no outs.

Jack had done nothing to egg their neighbor on.  Not only that, but as far as the two men knew, Mrs. Valissi didn't know about their true relationship.  To her, they were just two very close friends, the kind you could depend on for anything, and did.

Finally, Daniel groaned, and let out a painful, “*Fine*” before opening the door and walking upstairs and plopping down on the bed.

Jack laughed out loud as he brought in their luggage and said, “Ya gotta love Mrs. V!”  Walking upstairs, he called out, “Danny, do you want anything to snack on before Mrs. V brings by her soup?”  Entering the bedroom, he saw his lover sprawled across the bed already fast asleep.  He sat down on the side of the bed and stroked the short bangs of hair on Daniel's forehead.  “Geez, Danny, you push yourself way too hard.”

Jack stood up and slid Daniel's shoes and socks off, before turning to the younger man's jeans.  He unbuttoned them and began easing his lover out of them.

“Are you going to wake up and help me out here, Danny?”

Daniel's only response was to wriggle a little and sigh contentedly as he buried his face in Jack's pillow.

“Well, one part of you is semi-awake,” Jack mused with a grin as he finally wrestled Daniel out of the jeans.  Tempting as it was to encourage the interest Daniel's groin was showing, he was more interested in making sure his overworked lover got the rest he needed.  ~How can you possibly sleep so soundly, Danny?~ he wondered as he struggled to get Daniel's top off.  ~Finally.~

Jack pulled back the covers and rolled Daniel over before quickly shucking his own clothes and crawling in behind the younger man.  He smiled when Daniel turned over seeking out his usual comfortable position nuzzling Jack's chest as his leg hooked between Jack's.

~Wonder if I should call Doc Fraiser?~  Jack stroked Daniel's back.  ~I guess I'll see how you feel when you wake up.~

====

A little more than an hour later, there was a knock at the door.

~That'll be Mrs. Valissi.~  Jack was tempted to not answer the door, but he knew his friendly neighbor would worry if he didn't.  Stealthily, he slid out from underneath Daniel, threw on his jeans, and went downstairs.  “Come on in, Mrs. Valissi.  Here, let me help you with that.”

“I don't want to intrude, Colonel.  You just make sure Daniel eats this while it's hot.”

“The funny thing is that he ...” Jack stopped and looked over toward the stairs, realizing he probably shouldn't say what he started to.

“I understand.  You can warm this up later, but it needs to be eaten hot.”  She saw Jack's concerned smile as he automatically found himself worrying about his soulmate.  “Don't worry, Colonel.  He's just tired; probably has a small virus. You just take care of him, and he'll be fine.”

“I'll ... I'll do that.”

With a warm smile, Mrs. Valissi left.  Jack shook his head and with his foot, shut the door.  He carried the large bowl of soup to the kitchen and took a taste.

“Mmm, mmm good.  Almost as good as my grandmother's.”

A noise from their bedroom drew Jack's attention from the tasty delight.  He quickly ran upstairs.

“Ouch,” Daniel expressed as he rubbed the side of his head with his right hand.

“Danny, what happened?” Jack asked as he ran to his lover, who was currently sitting on the floor.

“I think I fell out of bed and hit my head.”

“Well, as long as you didn't hurt anything important,” Jack chuckled lightly.

“Very funny ... Paul.”

“Right.”  Jack considered strangling his lover for his strange sense of humor.  “Let me help you up.”

“Okay, Paul.”

“Daniel, don't push it.”

Daniel grinned devilishly.  Jack's jealously often measured off the scale, especially where one Major Paul Davis was concerned, and every now and then, Daniel enjoyed teasing his lover.  This was one of those times.

“You're so easy, Jack,” Daniel said as Jack pulled him up.

“I thought you liked me easy,” Jack replied as he pulled Daniel to him.

“Over easy.  Maybe scrambled.  Always ... *hard* boiled.”

After sharing a lustful kiss, Jack began, “Danny, your head ...”

Shaking off the concern, Daniel interrupted, “I'm fine.  I just hit the floor a little hard.  Can't believe I fell out of bed.”

“I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

“Hey, Mrs. Valissi just brought over her soup.  I'll bring it up to you.”

“I can go downstairs.”

“No, you stay here,” Jack insisted.  “Get back into bed.  I'm serious, Danny.  I want you to rest, and if you argue, I am calling the Doc.”

“That's blackmail.”

“Whatever it takes.”

“Bully,” Daniel accused, then yawned and lay back down, snuggling back amongst the covers.

“Sleepy head.”

“Stubborn old goat.”

“Starved genius; you're going to fall asleep again before I even make it back here with the soup.”

Jack could see Daniel's eyes closing already.

Daniel smiled and nodded, barely able to speak a low, “Prob'ly.”

Jack shook his head and commented, “You need to eat, too, Danny.”

“Eat later, sleep now.”  One blue eye opened and gazed at Jack balefully.  “I don't have my pillow.”

Jack gave a frustrated sigh that lost all its effectiveness when his lips twitched upwards into a pleased grin.  He couldn't help but feel happy that Daniel wanted to snuggle with him.  In less than a minute, he was undressed and back under the covers, a sleepy archaeologist draped over him, nuzzling into his chest.

“Much better,” Daniel said.  He gave the chest under his head a little pat and immediately went back to sleep, a contented smile on his face.  “Like.”

~Geez, Danny, you make me feel so good.~  Jack savored the feel of the precious man in his arms.  ~I couldn't survive without this.  I feel like one of those rechargeable batteries, and you recharge my soul.  And, I am such a sap.~
 
====

Mid-afternoon, the phone rang, and Jack ran to catch it before it woke Daniel.

“Colonel,” a familiar authoritative-sounding voice greeted.

General Hammond was well aware of Daniel's deadline for his thesis and since SG-1 was scheduled back at the SGC tomorrow, he figured they'd be available.

“General Hammond.”  Jack sent up a quick prayer.  ~Please don't tell me there's a crisis at the SGC.  Please, please, please.~

“Jack, I'm trying to locate Doctor Jackson.  He's not answering his phone, and I can't reach him on his cell.  Is he there with you?”

Jack bounced a bit on the balls of his feet and bit his lower lip.  Every part of him wanted to lie, but he couldn't, not to the general.

“Daniel's not feeling well, Sir.  Is there a problem?”

“I'd rather speak with him, Colonel.  Is he there?”  Hammond heard the pause and Jack's hesitancy.  “Jack, I can always send a car to find out in person.”

“That won't be necessary, Sir.  As I said, Daniel isn't feeling well.  He's asleep at the moment.”

“Have him call me when he wakes up,” Hammond requested.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Tonight, Jack,” the major general ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged with a low growl.

“Call me at home if I'm not at the Mountain.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Hammond hung up, leaving Jack to wonder just what was so urgent.  He had his own decision to make now -- to tell Daniel about the call before or after the young man finally ate.

Jack pondered his choices as he waited for Daniel to wake.

====

About thirty minutes later, Jack went upstairs to check on his lover.  The young man was holding firmly onto Jack's pillow, still sound asleep.  Jack gently lay down on the bed, removing the pillow from a grumbling, but still sleeping Daniel.

“Here.  This is the real thing,” Jack said, taking the pillow's place in his lover's hold.”  He smiled when he heard the contented sigh as Daniel readjusted himself on his very own Jack pillow.  “Love you, Angel.”  Suddenly, he frowned.  Daniel was nuzzled against his chest, but he felt warm, very warm.  With his right hand, he felt his Heart's forehead.  ~Not good.~  He sat up, causing Daniel to grumble again.  “Sorry, Love.”

Jack put the pillow back in Daniel's arms.  The young man held on, but he groaned at the loss of his special human comforter.  Concerned, he placed a call, pleased when the desired voice answered.

“Janet Fraiser.”

“Doc, it's Jack O'Neill.”

“Colonel, how are you?” the spirited redhead asked.

“I'm fine, but Daniel's not doing so well.”

“What's wrong?” Janet questioned.

“I'm not sure.  We went on a little trip this week, and while we were there, he passed out on the floor.  I assumed it was because he hasn't eaten or slept much lately.”

“Colonel, for Daniel, that's the norm.”

“Well, this is worse than usual.  He's been working on something, so we're talking not much sleep or food without being forced for quite a while.”

“What did the doctor say?”

“We didn't get one.  He insisted he was fine, but he does look pale, and he's definitely got a fever,” Jack answered.

“Are you at his apartment or your house?” the physician asked as she prepared to make a house call.

“My place.  He's been asleep for a couple of hours,” Jack informed.

“Okay,” Janet acknowledged.  “Hold tight, Colonel, and I'll be there in an hour.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

Jack hung up the phone and then replaced the pillow with his body.  He'd stay there for the next forty-five minutes, and then he'd wake Daniel.  He needed his lover to be awake for Janet's visit, and not groggy, since Janet didn't know about their love affair.  He continued to frown as he held Daniel to him.  In just the few minutes he had been on the phone, he was sure Daniel's temperature had risen, and he seemed to be restless within Jack's arms.

~Don't be sick, Angel.  I hate it when you're sick.~

====

Slowly, the minutes ticked by, and Jack knew that he had to try and rouse Daniel.  Sliding out from underneath his lover, he sat on the bed beside Daniel and began stroking his hair.

“Danny?  Danny, Love, it's time to wake up.  Janet will be here soon, and she can't really find you here.”  ~Geez, I hate that.  Hate this whole hiding in plain sight business.  It's not right.~

Daniel groaned and tried to push himself upright.  Beads of sweat broke out across his forehead at the effort, and Jack pushed him back down.

“Stay there, Danny.  I'll tell Janet I put you in here because the spare room wasn't made up, and I didn't want to leave you on the couch while I got it ready.”

“L've you.”

Daniel closed his eyes and burrowed further into the bedclothes.

“Love you, too,” Jack spoke.  He looked around the bedroom to see if there was anything lying around that might reveal their relationship.  There were a couple of photos that he tucked away in a drawer for the time being and some of Daniel's clothes which were hastily thrown into the closet.  He went to the spare room, took off the sheets, took some boxes from the closet, and put them on the bed.  ~Just in case she wanders around.~

Jack returned to the bedroom to take a final look around, and then he remembered the bathroom.  He hurried there, removed Daniel's toiletries, putting them into a bag, and placing them into the closet.

~That should do it, and if she doesn't buy it, tough.  Danny is more important than the Air Force, and right now he's comfortable where he is.~

====

When Janet arrived, Jack gave his lover a quick kiss before heading downstairs to let her in.

“Thanks for coming, Doc.”

“No problem, Colonel.  Where is he?” Janet questioned.

“In my bedroom for the time being.  The spare bed wasn't made, and I thought he'd just sleep for a couple of hours then be fine,” Jack explained casually before adding with pretended irritation, “I didn't realize he'd turn out to be a bed hog, and I'd have to make the spare bed anyway.”

Janet smirked, “You could always send him home.”

Jack looked at her with an expression of fake horror as he responded, “I'm not sure who'd kill me first -- Carter, Teal'c, or General Hammond.”

“You know what they say, Colonel.  No good deed goes unpunished.”

“Shouldn't it be 'no good deed goes unrewarded'?”

Janet looked at Daniel, firmly ensconced in the middle of the bed, and grinned as she replied, “Clearly not.”

Jack waited by the door as Janet went over to wake Daniel.  He remembered vividly the time when another doctor, fortunately not an Air Force doctor, had come to see a sick Daniel.  Jack had leaned over to wake his lover who made some rather suggestive remarks and pulled Jack into a kiss before he woke up properly.  Putting on a similar display for Janet was not a good idea.

“Daniel, I need you to wake up,” Janet requested.

“J'ck?”

**Danny, it's Janet.  SGC.  She doesn't know about us.**

“Daniel?” Janet called out.

Daniel's eyelids flittered as he came to and focused on the petite red-headed physician.

“J'net?”

“Hi,” Janet greeted with a warm smile.  “The colonel says you're not feeling very well.”

“W'ryw'rt.”

“Hmm-mmm,” Janet said, noticing Daniel's speech problems.  “I'm going to examine you while we chat.  Any aches and pains?”

“No.”

“You passed out on your trip.  Has that happened before?”  Daniel didn't say anything.  “Daniel?”

“Um ...”

“Daniel?” Jack called out, moving closer to the bed, on the verge of getting angry if his sudden suspicion was right.  “Has it happened before?”

“W'rrywart,” he responded a little more clearly this time around.  “Stud'ing.  Couple days ago.”

**Daniel, so help me, I'm going to kill you myself.**

**Sorry, Jack.  Didn't want you to worry and had to finish my paper.**

**To Netu with the friggin' paper.**

“Look, you two, do you think you can let me do the examination?”  Janet had noticed the intense looks being shared between the lovers.  It had happened many times over the years.  She had never understood, and never knew exactly what was happening, but clearly, something was.  “Looks like you have a temp of one-hundred-three degrees, Daniel.  That's not good.  B/P is okay, though.  I think maybe we should take you to the SGC and do some tests.”

“NO!” the young man objected.

Jack squirmed a bit as he stood away from the bed, his arms folded across his chest.  He looked down.  He really didn't like the idea of Daniel going to the infirmary, but he also wanted to know what was wrong.

Janet sighed, “Daniel, have you been under any stress lately?”

“Gawd, yes.  Str's.  Lots str's.”

Janet looked to Jack, expecting an explanation.  She knew, of course, about their recent adventure as two adventuresome boys, but she didn't believe that would be the cause of Daniel's illness.

Jack explained, “He's getting another one of those degrees after his name.  Deadline was yesterday.  He made it, of course, but he had to push it.”

Janet waited, knowing there was more.  She saw Jack's hesitation.

“Colonel?”

“Doc, you know what's happened to us recently.  It's been one long nightmare after another.  I'd say that's stress,” Jack griped.  “And that mess with those thick-headed Marines has been on his mind, too.”

“Okay, well, this may just be a virus, but I still think I should run some tests.”  Janet looked down at Daniel, her determination evident.  “Daniel, I want you to have at least a week of complete rest.  That means no SGC work, no academic work, no work of any kind.”

Despite his tiredness, Daniel's eyes widened in shock and horror.  If the situation hadn't been so serious, Jack would have laughed.  Unfortunately, such extreme measures meant Janet must be really worried.

“Ja...” Daniel didn't even get to start.

“Daniel, you're on the edge of total exhaustion.  Your body can't cope with this continual stress.  It needs a chance to recoup.  If you aren't going to agree, then I'm taking you to the infirmary, and you will be confined to bed for a week.”

**Danny, just give in.  You know the Doc isn't going to relent on this.**

“No tests.  Staying here.”

Janet relented on the testing as long as Daniel didn't get any worse.  She gave him an injection of antibiotics, then stated, “I'll let you get some rest now, Daniel, but I'm coming back tomorrow to see how you are and to make sure that you're following doctor's instructions.  *No* artifacts!” she stressed.

The petite woman waited for a response and then realized that Daniel had fallen asleep already.  She gathered her things and followed Jack downstairs.

“Janet ...”

“Jack,” Janet interrupted.  “He'll be fine in a couple of days, but I want him to have complete rest, and I know if I said that, he'd try and be up tonight.  I need you to follow through and follow my orders, or he just might end up in the infirmary.”

“You're evil,” Jack teased.

Janet laughed, then said, “Jack, I know you have some influence over Daniel.  While I'm not as worried as I pretended to be up there, it has been a traumatic year, and there is a chance that this is a delayed reaction of some kind.”

“So ...”

“So let's avoid him ending up in the infirmary in the future by reducing his stress levels.  Try to make sure Daniel eats a balanced diet, especially over the next week, no cheating, and get him on an exercise schedule, nothing too demanding, but a regular routine, something he can do when SG-1 isn't off-world.  What's SG-1's schedule like coming up?”

“Pretty light.  We have the shakedown cruise for the Prometheus, and I'm supposed to be going to D.C. in a couple of days.  Should I try and get out it?” Jack asked hopefully.

Janet chuckled, “Can't help you there, Colonel, but that's good to know.  A couple of days on the Prometheus shouldn't be bad, but I'd like Daniel to relax for a while, regroup, so to speak.”

“Leave the office at the office?”

“Exactly,” Janet confirmed.

“Whatever you say, Doc.”

“I'll have a prescription sent over, an antibiotic, in case the fever doesn't start to come down on its own with what I just gave him.  Are you okay?  It's been an equally traumatic year for you?”

“Yeah, Doc, I'm great.  Thanks for coming by,” Jack said appreciatively.

Then the colonel got an idea, and he placed a phone call to another very good friend, one he knew he could count on to go on a quest to fulfill his need, as long as that need was to make Daniel happy.

====

“J'ck?” Daniel called out a while later after waking from his latest nap.

“Hey, Beautiful,” Jack said, then leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his lover's lips.

“Jack.”

“Everything's okay, Love.  You just need to rest for a while.”

“I messed up again.”

“No, you didn't.  Sometimes you just push yourself too hard.”

“But ... I've studied before; didn't do anything different.”

“Before you didn't have the weight of the SGC on your shoulders, and, my beautiful Angel, while you're not exactly a senior citizen, you were a kid when you did those all-nighters, week after week.”

“You took care of me.”

“Looks to me like I didn't do a very good job.”

Jack's fingers ran gently through Daniel's hair.  He was leaning over his lover who was on his back, still a bit sweaty from his temperature, which had finally started to go down, thanks to Janet's magic needle.  The archaeologist was already feeling better and was definitely more coherent than he had been earlier in the day.

“Not your fault.”

“I'm supposed to take care of you.”

“I can ...”

“Daniel, don't you dare say what I think you're going to say.  You'll take us back four years.  Don't do that.”

“I'm sorry,” Daniel replied.  “You do take care of me, Jack, just like I take care of you.”

“That you do, Angel.  Now, I'm going to make some soup, and you're going to eat all of it.”

“Jack ...”

“Don't worry.  It'll be an appropriate size.  I love you, Danny.”

“Love you, too.”

====

As he put the soup on to cook, the phone rang.  It was General Hammond, calling to check on Daniel after having heard about his illness from Janet.  He also had a request.

“Jack, if you get a chance, I'd like you to discuss measures we can take to increase cooperation between the scientists and military personnel on base.  We can't continue to ignore the differences between these two ... sides,” Hammond stated, hating to think of it in those terms, and yet sometimes, that's exactly how it seemed -- two opposing factions, duking it out over how missions were handled.  Finally, Hammond made one more request.  “Take care of him, Jack.”

“Will do, Sir.  General, about your call to Daniel earlier ...”

“Jack, forget about that.  Right now, Doctor Jackson's health is more important. I'll handle that situation.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Jack hung up the phone and smiled.  General Hammond cared a lot about Daniel.  The time they recently spent as little kids with the general as their grandfather had brought them all closer together.  Actually, a lot of people cared about Daniel, including Sam.

~Ah, Carter.  I have an idea!~

====

Soon thereafter, Sam arrived and handed over the bags to her commanding officer.

“Hey, Carter,” Jack greeted his 2IC and grinned at the number of bags she held. “You don't do things by halves, do you?”

“We are talking about Daniel here.  As soon as he starts to feel the tiniest bit better, you're going to have your hands full.”  She handed some of the bags to Jack and brought the others in herself.  “Can I see him?”
 
Jack nodded as he returned to the kitchen, saying, “Go ahead.  I'll be up in a minute with the soup.”

Sam watched her CO bustling around the kitchen and thought, ~No one would believe it.  Colonel Jack O'Neill, mush ball.~  With an envious sigh she made her way upstairs.  “Hi!”

“Sam,” Daniel greeted his friend.

The two chatted for a few minutes until Jack brought up the soup.  

“Okay, Daniel.  I want you to eat every mouthful,” Jack instructed.

“Yes, Mom.”

Sam laughed at her friends.  She felt better now that she'd seen Daniel. He would be fine after some proper rest.

“I have some things to do, so I'll see you guys later,” Sam said as she started to leave.  “I'll see myself out.”

====

Back downstairs, Jack turned his attention to the bags Sam had brought.  He rifled through them and grinned.

~Excellent job, Carter.  These will do nicely.~  He picked up two of the bags and took them upstairs.  As he approached the bedroom he heard a slight rustling and grinned.  ~You're not fooling me, Danny.~  He stood in the doorway and saw Daniel turn over to look at him innocently.  “Okay, Danny.  Hand it over.”

“Hand what over?”

Daniel looked at the unrelenting face of his lover.  Jack wasn't buying it.  He sighed and handed over the archaeology journal he'd been reading just before Jack came back upstairs.

“But, Jack, I can't stand just lying here.  I'm sure Janet didn't mean I couldn't read my archaeology journals.  I mean, that is relaxing to me.”

Jack raised an eyebrow in true Teal'c fashion and queried, “Should we call her and ask?”

Daniel sighed, admitting his defeat, but then he asked for something he'd much rather have instead.

“Will you keep me company then?”

“Of course, and, just in case I have to answer the phone or something, I have something better for you to occupy your time with than some journal on dirty rocks.”

His curiosity piqued, Daniel looked as Jack brought over the bags he'd carried into the room.

“The first item we have is ...”

Jack triumphantly pulled out a comic book.  Seeing the item, Daniel immediately laughed.

“'The Simpsons', Jack?  You expect me to read a 'Simpsons' comic book?”

“No,” Jack said in mock exasperation.  He looked through the bag, pulling out others as he continued, “We also have ... Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, and, last but not least, the Invisible Man.”

Daniel chuckled at his lover's latest trek into childhood, asking, “So, I spend the weekend reading comic books?”
 
Jack nodded, adding, “But if you feel you absolutely must have something more to read, we have some crime books.”  He reached down and began pulling out books, noting, “a modern crime novel with a pilot as the main character; for some classics we have Sherlock Holmes; and then we have good old-fashioned kiddie books such as the Hardy Boys and the Famous Five.”

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Angel.”  Jack sat next to his lover, gazing into his eyes.  “I want you to relax, kick back, and have some fun.  You know, when we were kids ...”

“You mean earlier this week?” Daniel joked.

“Yeah, Doctor Snarky,” Jack chuckled.  “As a kid, you would have devoured stuff like this, so just pretend you're a kid again.”

Daniel reached out to cup his lover's face, his thumbs rubbing against Jack's cheeks, and replied, “But if I did that, I couldn't do this.”

The young man planted a kiss on Jack that had his toes tingling.

“Geez, you're good at that,” Jack praised.

“You're not so bad yourself.”

The two smiled.  They knew kissing wasn't a good idea when one of them was sick, but they just couldn't help it.  Their love and need for each other had always been demanding.  Oftentimes, they had even made love when one or the other was sick; amazingly, it seemed to help their recoveries rather than hinder it.

“Read these, okay?”

“Okay ... just for you,” Daniel agreed, already feeling better.

“No, Love ... for you.”

Daniel nodded and looked at the collection spread out on the bed.  He wanted to make Jack happy, so he started with 'The Simpsons' comic book.  It was crazy, but Jack's grin worked wonders for Daniel's health. Besides, he thought, 'The Simpsons' was great when you're lying snuggled up with a warm, sexy colonel.

====

“Much better, Doctor Jackson.  Ninety-nine degrees even; almost normal,” Janet praised the next morning.

“You know Daniel, Doc.  Almost normal is about as close as you'll ever get,” the colonel quipped as he stood with his hands in his pockets.

“Very funny, Jack,” Daniel replied.

Janet smiled at the two friends.  Daniel's color was better this morning, his cheeks rosier than when she saw him two days ago.

“Well, it's an amazing recovery,” Janet mentioned.  “So, have you been following my orders?”

“Janet, look at this?  It's the Hardy Boys.  Do you believe it?  I'm reading the freakin' Hardy Boys.”

The petite doctor laughed, “And are you enjoying it?”

~She had to laugh.~  Daniel tried to evade Jack's smug grin.  He sighed and answered, “Okay, yes.  For a detective story that doesn't have much complexity to it and that can be figured out by the end of the first chapter, yes.”

“Good.  You just keep on reading on that level for the rest of the day, and if your temperature is normal tonight, I just might let you go back to work.”

“Anything you say,” Daniel agreed.

Janet mused, “I wish I could get you to say that more often.”  She looked at Jack and asked, “Are you coming in today, Sir?”

“I played the 'Daniel needs to be baby-sat' card with Hammond,” Jack smirked proudly.

“Jaaaack!”

“Hey, it worked,” Jack said with an unrepentant shrug, causing Janet to just shake her head and Daniel to close his eyes.  “He wants SG-1 on the Prometheus tomorrow.  Any problems with that, Doc?”

“Yes, I know,” Janet admitted, having already had a conversation with the major general about the archaeologist's health.  She looked at the eager Daniel and answered, “I don't see why you can't go as long as you continue to improve.  *Don't* miss your pre-mission exam in the morning.  It's your boarding pass.”

“Thanks, Janet,” Daniel acknowledged.

====

Jack finished making sandwiches and walked back into the living room.  He smiled at the sight of Daniel, sitting on the floor, surrounded by the train sets they'd been given during their stint as children.

“Jack ...” Daniel looked hesitant and a little embarrassed, but he continued, “We could really use some more track for these trains.”
 
Jack grinned at what he had just heard.  A few years ago, there wouldn't have been a chance that Daniel would ever suggest they go shopping so they could have more toys to play with, and that's essentially what he was saying now.

“Danny, are you suggesting that we go shopping for toy train tracks?”

“I know it's silly, but, honestly, Babe, I feel so much better, and I want to ... play with our trains.  I'm sorry, I guess we don't need to ...”

Jack cut the younger man off, responding, “It's a brilliant idea.  We'll eat lunch first, and then we can go.  When we get back, you'll have to rest though, or the Doc will kill me.”

====

The lovers enjoyed a relaxing lunch and then went shopping.  A local mall had a store that sold nothing but train sets and equipment, so that's where the couple headed.

“Jack, this is incredible.”

Daniel couldn't believe all the accessories that you could buy for train sets.  Jack loved his archaeologist's enthusiasm, and encouraged his lover to buy whatever struck his fancy.

“What would you like?”

“Oh ... well ... we need more track; that's for sure.”  Daniel examined some of the extras.  “Look, a railroad crossing and bridge trestle.”  He continued to look. “Isn't this cute, Jack?” he asked about a small shanty-like house.  It had a gate man that would come out automatically to warn motorists of a passing train.  “Jack, we need people.”

Jack was grinning at the child Danny who had clearly come out to play.  He found a variety of characters and put them in their cart.  There was a man reading the newspaper, a couple kissing, two sitting dogs, a woman pushing a baby stroller, a fireman, two nuns, a couple walking by, and other men, women, and children in various positions.

“Danny, how about one of these platforms for the passengers to wait on?”

“I like that one,” Daniel said about an illuminated platform.  “Let's get two, Jack.”

Jack put three into their basket and continued shopping, eventually asking, “Danny, billboards?”

“Yes.  Get that set of three right there.  I'll bet we could personalize them.”

“Yeah, 'The Simpsons - Just Say D'oh',” the older man teased.

Daniel shook his head, a smile on his face as he focused again on the accessories.

“Jack, we need a construction area.  There's always construction going on somewhere,” the archaeologist pointed out.

“I saw some signs over here somewhere,” Jack said, looking around.

“Here they are.”  Daniel laughed, “They even have these orange bumpers to warn and block out an area.”

“Get two sets,” Jack instructed.

Jack heard his lover laughing and asked, “What,” while moving closer to Daniel.

“Trees ... and more trees!”

“Have to have trees and some of this foliage and greenery.”

“Tunnels.  Geez, Jack, look at the tunnels.”

“Let's get at least four,” Jack stated.

“Okay,” Daniel agreed as he hurried to the area where the tunnels and bridges were.

Again, Jack smiled.  Daniel wasn't even arguing.  He loved this.

By the time they were done, two hours later, Daniel had a huge shopping basket full of items, all added with Jack's encouragement and blessing.  They'd purchased additional locomotives, cabooses, freight cars, passenger cars, and other train pieces, and all kinds of tracks.  It was definitely an expensive outing, but one that pleased both men.

“You have to have this,” Jack insisted, pulling the engineer's cap down so that it covered most of Daniel's forehead.

The young man laughed, and agreed, as long as Jack bought one, too, so he did.

Next, Jack took Daniel to another store that sold computer games.  He walked purposefully down the aisles and picked up two games.

“Civilization III?” Daniel said as he looked at the box doubtfully.

“I'll have you know that I got Carter to thoroughly research this, and she said this game is one of the best and would be right up your alley.  You set up civilizations, make peace with others, irrigate crops, build mines, and all kinds of fun stuff.”  Jack looked sternly at his lover and declared, “Computers are not just for work, Danny.”

~They aren't?~ Daniel questioned internally.  “And Boggle?”

Jack grinned as he explained, “It has space boggle.  You get to play with words, and since I'll never beat you, maybe the computer will give you a challenge.”

“You do challenge me, Jack,” Daniel began, giving his soulmate an evil grin, “in many, many ways.”

====

Happy, but tired, once they arrived home, Daniel allowed himself to be led up to the bedroom for a nap.

“Rest, Love, and then we'll play,” Jack said as they entered the bedroom.

“I like playing with you.  Gawd, Jack, I couldn't do this with another living soul.  I love our train sets.”

“Me, too.  Sleep,” Jack ordered, then kissed his lover before going downstairs to organize their purchases.

The colonel considered setting everything up, but half the fun was organizing the track, and he wanted to share that with his lover.  So instead, he sorted out their purchases and put them with the things they already had.  Once Daniel woke up, it would be a fun, stress-free night, just two engineers and their trains.

====

Daniel woke up from his nap and smiled.  While he'd been asleep, Jack had crept into bed, and he was now firmly wrapped around his Jack pillow.  He began playing with the silvery-gray chest hairs he adored.

“Danny, if you want to play with our trains, that is not a good thing to be doing,”

Jack looked down at the contented face of his lover and couldn't resist pulling the younger man in for a kiss.

“Hmmm, love you.”  Daniel grinned happily at Jack.  “Train time.  First one down is Chief Engineer.”

With lightning speed, Daniel leaped out of the bed and raced down to the living room.  Jack followed him, wondering how he'd ever survived without Daniel in his life.

“Cheat,” Jack whined, trying to imitate Daniel's patented pout.  Then he gave the younger man an evil grin and began wriggling his fingers.  “The penalty for an offense like not giving fair warning of a challenge is ... a tickling!”

Jack tackled Daniel to the carpet and began tickling him.

====

After due punishment had been meted out, and Daniel was recovering from laughing so hard, the couple turned their attention to the train sets.  They spent the next couple of hours setting up their elaborate train system on the living room floor after Jack had moved all the furniture to the sides of the room.  Though they had plenty of purchased accessories, they also made some special scenic additions of their own, such as mountains made out of cardboard boxes and little villages made from colored cardboard paper.

“We're just missing a Stargate,” Daniel teased.

“Wonder if you could take a train through the Gate,” Jack pondered.

“You can ask Sam that one.”

“No way.  Carter does not need encouragement.  She'd work it out just to see if she could; take all the fun out of it,” Jack said, giving a mock shudder.

As they played with their trains, Jack noticed Daniel laughing and relaxing even more.

~I'll have to remember to get these out more often.  Danny needs to let his inner child out a lot more than he does.~

A minute later, Jack started maneuvering the track.

“Jack, what are you doing?” Daniel asked.

“We're going to have a race, so I'm separating the track and evening up the sides.”

“A race?  What does the winner get?” the younger man questioned.

Jack smirked, “The winner gets to have his way with the loser.”

“Oh.”

Daniel beamed, knowing they were each going to be winners no matter what happened.

A few minutes later, having both agreed that each train had to overcome the same numbers and types of obstacles, the race was ready to begin.

“Wait!” Daniel called out, reaching into a box.  He walked over to his lover and pulled down the cap.  “You have to wear your official engineer's cap for an official race,” he said, putting on his own cap.

“A kiss for luck?” Jack asked.

Daniel grinned.  He didn't need an excuse to kiss the man he loved, so he did -- long and hard.  Both moaned.  Jack was ready to forget the race, but just as he was about to lower his lover to the floor, he was interrupted again.

Daniel whispered, “You have to win the race to win me!”

“Grrrrr,” Jack grunted.  “Get away from me, you tease!”

The new train engineer laughed as he moved into place and asked, “Okay, you ready, Love?”

“Ready, Babe,” Jack answered.  “On three?”

“On three,” Daniel agreed.

Together they counted -- “One ... Two ... Three.”

The trains were off, their engineers steering them around curves, over bridges, through tunnels, by passengers, and through the detour of the construction areas.  They went through villages and mountains, laughing and teasing each other as they went.

“Come on Lucky 97.”

“Ninety-seven?” Daniel questioned.

Jack shrugged as he said, “I have no clue where that came from, but I guess my train is now the Lucky 97.”  He quickly added, “the Flying Irishman!”

Daniel laughed as he thought and then stated, “Mine is the Egyptian Express.”

“You don't have a prayer, Babe,” Jack said.

“The race isn't over, O'Neill.”

It was neck and neck, or engine-to-engine, as they entered the final lap. The trains were chugging along furiously, their whistles blowing.  The engineers were focused on making their turns.  The air was thick with tension.

“Double or nothing?” Jack challenged.

“Double what?”

“Double the winner's pleasure.  The winner gets the loser for two days straight.”

“You're on, Fly Boy.”

====

“And here comes Lucky 97, inching in front,” Jack announced two minutes later.

“The engineer of Lucky 97 needs glasses; Egyptian Express is clearly in the lead.”

“Egyptian Express is *so* not in the lead, but they are neck and neck as they hurtle towards the finish line ... one more corner to go, and Lucky 97 is about to take the lead ...”

“Lucky 97 is about to derail.”  Daniel couldn't help but grin as Jack's train came off its rails while his own train sailed smoothly past.  “And the winner is Egyptian Express.”

As Jack scowled at his derailed train, Daniel gave in to his inner child and began dancing around the room chanting, “We are the champions, we are the champions, long live the Egyptian Express!”

Jack laughed.  He loved seeing Daniel just cutting loose and letting little Danny out to play.  He thanked the Fates for sending them to P4X-590 and for that device that turned the two of them into children for a week.  Before that, Daniel never would have allowed himself to be so free, to dance around in joy, to be a kid, even if he was really an adult.

“Oops, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to gloat.”  Daniel looked sheepishly at his lover.  “My poor Flying Irishman did very well.”

“You're allowed to gloat, Danny.  Besides, the Flying Irishman just had a spot of bad luck.  If we raced them again, Lucky 97 would wipe the floor with the Egyptian Express.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow, skeptically challenging, “Oh, is that so?  Let's see about that.  Double or nothing?”

“Never nothing, Danny; just double.”

Daniel grinned in anticipation of another victory and responded, “You, my poor unfortunate rival engineer, are on.”

They reset their trains, gave each other a kiss for luck, and then did the countdown again.  In a flash, both Lucky 97 and the Egyptian Express began their swift runs around the track.

“Yeah.  Go Lucky 97!” Jack exclaimed as his train made the first turn successfully, a few seconds ahead of the Express.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” Daniel said calmly.

“If you're a tortoise, maybe, but not if you're a train.  GO 97!”

Daniel laughed at his lover.  He gloried in seeing the relaxed smile on the sexy Irish face he loved.  Jack's eyes were sparkling, his laughter light and full of goodness.

“Better get a move on, Express, or Lucky 97 is going to leave you behind.”

“Eat my coal dust,” Daniel said, as his train maneuvered through a tunnel, coming out seconds before Jack's train.

“Hey, how'd you do that?”

“Magic!”

“Yeah, right.  'Eat my coal dust.'  I'll eat your coal dust all right ... when the moon stops shining.  You are so gonna pay, Dannyboy!” Jack threatened lovingly.

“Oh, making it personal now.  Ole 97 has no steam!”

“Lucky 97 is going to make the Egyptian Express wish it was back in Egypt.”

Jack increased the speed of his train as it chug-a-lugged down a straightaway.  Daniel just smiled, shaking his head.  He kept the same speed around the turn and then picked up speed for the straight track.

“And here comes the Express.  Watch out Lucky 97.  You're luck is about to fade.”

“In your caboose, Love.”

“In ... my ... caboose?” Daniel echoed, trying to make sense of Jack's comments.

“I've got this one in the bag.  Yeah!”

Daniel raised an eyebrow as Jack's train approached the same spot where it had derailed before and warned, “You're gonna derail again.”

“Not a chance, Engineer Boy.”

Jack watched in disbelief as his train hurtled around the bend and derailed again.

“Nooooooooo!” the colonel called out.

Daniel couldn't help sniggering at Jack's incredulous looks as the Egyptian Express chugged smoothly across the finish line yet again.

“Counting a few chickens there, weren't you, Unlucky 97,” Daniel quipped.

Jack glared at his smirking lover, then at his derailed train and challenged, “One more time around the tracks.  After all, third time's a charm.”

“You hope,” Daniel laughed.

“That's right, laugh it up, Snigger Boy,” Jack retorted as he put Lucky 97 back on its rails.

“Okay, Express, you're doing brilliantly!  Just one more time to convince our unlucky engineer here that you are the superior engine,” Daniel said as he patted his train fondly.

Again, Jack couldn't help but smile inside.  His lover, Daniel, the genius, the abandoned boy, was talking to a toy engine, rooting it on, encouraging it, and patting it affectionately.  The older man had to fight not to lose control.  He'd worked so hard, waited so long for Daniel to find this peace.  It's not that everything was suddenly bright and clear, but his lover was finally at a place in his life where he could laugh and play without second-guessing every move.

Moments later, they began the third race.

“Shall we triple our stakes, Mister Overconfident?” Jack asked.

“Sure.  We're not overconfident, we're cautiously optimistic, which, given our track record, we have reason to be.”

Jack scowled at Daniel's chuckles and focused on Lucky 97.  He was being more cautious this time, determined not to be beaten again.  As they came up to the dreaded turn, the two trains were neck and neck.

“Yahoo!  Lucky 97 takes the turn like a pro and dashes down the straightaway!” Jack gave his engine full power.  At that moment, a knock at the door startled them.  “CRAP!” he exclaimed in frustration.  He had responded to the unexpected banging at the door by jerking the controls, causing his train to derail.

Daniel's train had stopped, but was still on the rails.  Seconds later, Jack watched as Daniel started up the train again.  Mere seconds more, and the Egyptian Express successfully crossed the finish line.

“That,” Jack got up to answer the door, “doesn't count, Dannyboy.  Oh, hello, General.”

“Colonel, Doctor Jackson.”  General Hammond came in and took in the train set-up.  He smiled at the sight of a slightly embarrassed, but totally relaxed-looking archaeologist.  ~I have to admit, Jack, no one else could get Daniel looking so relaxed.~

The major general also noticed the abundance of extra accessories.  When Jack and Daniel had been boys, they'd been given two train sets and a few accessories, but nowhere near that amount that he now saw gracing the O'Neill living room.

Jack saw the leader of the SGC observing the new items and informed, “We went shopping, Sir.”

“I can see that.  Looks like some fine additions.  Someone's train has derailed.”

Daniel grinned as he said boyishly, “That's Jack's.  This is the Egyptian Express, and it's won three straight races.”

“Two.  The last one doesn't count,” the older man claimed.

“Does, too,” Daniel insisted.

“Does not.”

“Too!” Daniel maintained, not giving an inch in their banter.

“Not!”

“It does, too.”

“No, it doesn't.  I was distracted by the door,” Jack whined.

Daniel looked at Hammond and asked, “General, if you were in battle and distracted by ... by ... by a cannon or something, would that disqualify your loss in the battle because while you were distracted, someone blew up your ship?”

Hammond laughed, “No, Son, it wouldn't.  Concentration and focus are two very important aspects of being a successful leader.”

“See, Jack.  I won ... again!”

Jack groaned and was about to argue until he realized that his lover had just engaged in a silly round of banter over winning a train race in front of the general.  More than that, he had brought Hammond into the argument.  No one was going to mess that up, especially not Jack.

“You're right.  You won fair and square,” Jack acquiesced.

“Three times,” Daniel gloated.

“Three times,” Jack admitted.  He shrugged and, looking at Hammond, said, “He ran excellent races, General.”

“I'm sure he did, Colonel.”

Daniel smiled shyly, then grew serious.  Still embarrassed, he stood up, folding his arms across his chest.

“You didn't come here to ... settle our train arguments,” the archaeologist said softly, glancing at Jack out of the corner of his eyes.

“No, I didn't, but I'm glad to see you're feeling better,” Hammond observed.

“I am, Sir, much.”

“Sir, have a seat,” Jack invited, pointing to the sofa, only then he realized they'd moved all the furniture back to set up the elaborate train routes. “Uh, on second thought, how about we go outside and sit on the patio?”

Hammond chuckled and nodded, following Jack to the patio.  Daniel followed, and then all three took a seat.  The general and Jack in the two patio chairs Jack always kept on the patio, while Daniel sat on the patio steps close to Jack.

~They look like they've done this before.  Now, George, you know not to think about things you can't ask about and that you don't want them telling you about, either; but, if they are, good for them.  Who better to take care of my 2IC than Daniel, and who better to take care of the man I think of as a son than Jack?~

“So, Sir ...” Jack began.  He could sense Daniel's anxiety levels rising and wanted to get the SGC business over and done with as quickly as possible.  ~Then I can go back to relaxing, Danny.~

“We're off base.  Call me George, Jack.”  Hammond wanted to keep things as informal as possible right now.  “Daniel, I'm sorry you've had to put up with harassment at the base.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I want you to know that you were not responsible for what happened to SG-8.  Nobody at the SGC thinks otherwise, and those two Marines that did are no longer part of the Stargate program.”

“I can handle it, General.”

“You shouldn't have to, Daniel.  Now, Doctor Fraiser is concerned about the massive workload and demands placed upon you on a regular basis, and the subsequent amount of stress that has, or could, cause you,” the general commented.

Daniel shook his head, noting, “I've been under more stress than this, General.  Things were just complicated because of the problems with my dissertation.”

**Yeah, but you're not getting any younger here, Daniel,** Jack put forth.

**Still younger than you, Mister Gray Hair,** the younger man teased.

**Whoa, I thought you ...**

**I do.  I love your hair; it's so sexy.  Your silver-gray hair makes me shiver and ... oh gawd ... the general is here.**

Daniel's lustful grin at Jack subsided as fast as he could make it.  He took a deep breath, needing to slow down the meltdown that was going on inside of him.  He turned back to Hammond who was watching the silent exchange, a bit confused at the men's expressions; then again, it wasn't the first time Jack and Daniel had been off in their own world without saying a verbal word.

“Frankly, Sir ... George, the only way to ease both my workload and my stress levels is to hire some more linguists,” Daniel said, adding, “Which ... we've discussed before and, well, with all due respect, not that long ago, either.”

Hammond nodded as he responded, “I'm doing my best.  I've put in another request to Washington.”  He stood, smiling at the two as he instructed, “Go back to your race.  Oh, and, Colonel?  The Egyptian Express stayed on the track.  It's the winner.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack said with a smile.

“I'll see you both in the morning,” Hammond said with a nod.

After escorting Hammond out, Daniel started to talk some more about the situation at the SGC, but Jack silenced him with a kiss and then stated softly, “No such thing as the SGC or a Stargate, not tonight.”

“I wish you didn't have that trip.  Our anniversary is ... I don't like it that you won't be here,” the younger man sighed.

“Me, either.  We've missed so much time, Danny.  It's hard to argue right now for more time,” Jack stated regretfully, giving his lover another kiss.

Not wanting to think about it, Daniel smiled as he said, “Time to pay up.”

“Gladly,” Jack submitted, willing to be Daniel's artifact or whatever he wanted for the rest of eternity.  “And then race again.”

“All night.”

“And all day, the next time we have a day,” Jack chuckled, full of love for his soulmate.

“And all night again ... the next time we have a night,” Daniel chuckled, his smile bright.

“You know something, Angel?”

“What?”

“Ole Lucky 97 is the luckiest train in all the world,” Jack proclaimed from his heart.

“Why?” Daniel asked.

“Because the Egyptian Express is all his.”

Daniel chuckled sweetly, “You got that right, Babe; you got that right!”

====
--September 5, 2003
====

“There.”  Jack took a few steps backward after hanging the item in place and admired the latest degree that his lover had achieved.  “Looks good.”

“Jack, I never hang these things on the wall.”

“Well, you do now.  You worked hard for this, Daniel.  I just wish we could put this in the study at home instead of here.”

The couple were at Daniel's apartment, and while it was a nice place and they'd spent many happy days and nights there, Jack hated it.  The loft was a symbol of their game, of hiding in plain sight.  It meant the world thought they were best friends, which they were, but they were soulmates, too, and that is the truth they had to keep hidden from the world, including their dearest friends, except for Sam and a handful of others.

Daniel sighed contentedly.  This was the first educational effort that he'd earned that mattered not just to him, but to someone else.  Jack's face was alight with pride, and no matter how he'd tried to make it out to be nothing, Jack wouldn't hear of it.  He'd hung the diploma on the wall in the hallway, and he'd planned an elaborate celebration for the two, now that it was official, that the archaeologist had yet another PhD to his name.

“Thank you, Jack.”

Jack looked at his lover with a questioning look and asked, “What for?”

“Well ...”  Daniel wanted to make a list, including every smile, every nag, every second of everything that Jack had done for him over the years.  Instead, he said simply, “For loving me,” because in the end, he realized that was exactly what he was grateful for -- that Jack O'Neill loved him.

“Easiest thing in the world to do,” Jack responded, planting a quick kiss on his lover and then moving to put the hammer away.

“You didn't have to do all this,” Daniel remarked as he looked over at the candlelit table, while taking in the luscious aroma of the meal Jack had cooked entirely on his own.

“I wanted to, and this should just about be done.  Sit down, Danny.”

Smiling, Daniel moved to the table that Jack had set up on the balcony.  It was a half table since the balcony wasn't that big, but this way they could take in the beautiful night sky.  He soaked in the goodness and love he was feeling, and then he laughed when he saw Jack place his tray on the table in front of him.

“What's that?”

“Phid Bear.  I bought him in Chicago when we delivered your thesis to the faculty.”

“Jack,” Daniel said softly as he picked up the graduation bear.  “Phid Bear.”  He paused, staring at the bear wearing its cap and gown and holding a diploma in its paw.  “I might have flunked.”

“And I might have had sex with Paul Davis.”

Daniel choked, literally, dropping Phid Bear to the tray and raising his hands to his face.

“You okay, Love?” Jack smirked, knowing Daniel was physically fine.

“Wha...what did you say?”

Jack roared with laughter, saying, “Danny, the chance of you flunking that coarse was the same as me getting together with that Pentagon flunkie.”

“Jack, he's not a flunkie, and you know it,” Daniel stated.

“Well, you get my point.”

“You have so much faith in me,” the archaeologist spoke quietly.

“I love you.”

“I love you ... and ... Phid Bear ... and Ole Lucky 97,” Daniel spoke.

“The Egyptian Express isn't so bad, either,” Jack opined.

“Rematch?”

“When?” the older man questioned, eager for another train night.

“I wish it could be tomorrow,” Daniel sighed, knowing his lover would be leaving first thing the next morning for Washington, D.C.

“Me, too, but let's not dwell,” the colonel spoke, not wanting to lose the mood.  “So, when?”

“Soon,” Daniel answered with a tiny smile.

“How about tonight?” Jack asked.

“Can't.”

“Uh, okay, but why not?”

We have ... plans.”  Daniel paused, nervously as he questioned, “Ah ... don't we?”

“You bet,” Jack affirmed, thinking this Plan B was much better than playing with trains any day.  “Eat up ... Phid Boy.”

The lovers shared a smile and then enjoyed their meal.  They danced for a while before snuggling in front of the fireplace; then they feasted on each other for dessert.  As they always had, especially in the last several months, they'd overcome everything tossed their way, and now they looked forward to the future as their forever filled their hearts and souls with hope, love, and unity.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Feedback Welcome - click here to email the author


Hit Counters
School Supplies