Echoes of the Past

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C of the mental kind, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  2 - immediately after Bane
Spoilers:  The Gamekeeper, Bane and Need (both minor)
Size:  136kb
Written:  October 22-23,27,30, November 5-6,8-9, 2003  Revised:  January 13,31, February 2, March 18, July 31, September 5, October 31, 2005, June 13-14,16-19,22, 2006  Revised for consistency:  January 16,20-21, 2007
Summary:  For the first time since reliving the trauma of his parents death via the Keeper, Daniel returns to the New York Museum of Art.  Jack tags along, and what follows is a combination of tears, anger, and romance.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Hanky warning, so I've been told!
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “The Truth Within” and “Danny”.  The follow-up fic to this story is “A Glimpse Into the Past”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Suzanna,  Drdjlover, StarShadow, Tina, Michele, Sentarla, Arawa, QuinGem, Gail, Sharon, Claudia, Linda!

Echoes of the Past
by Orrymain

~He should be back soon,~ Jack thought as he glanced at his watch.  He was waiting for his soulmate at the apartment.  Daniel was accompanying Teal'c on an errand, but when he got back, the two lovers were going to spend a nice, quiet night together.  ~Geez, what he's done to me,~ he thought, smiling.

Just then, the door opened, and Daniel entered, his head bowed and swearing in Abydonian.

“Go for a swim?” the older man teased when he got his first glimpse of his soulmate.

“Very funny, Jack,” Daniel replied, apparently in no mood for being teased.

“What'd you do -- run through the sprinklers?” Jack asked jovially.

“Oh, tha...that's a ... a good one,” the archaeologist replied in stuttered tones.

“I know!” Jack exclaimed.  “You were saving time by doing your laundry while you ran your errand.”

“Gawd,” Daniel whined, shaking his head as he stood with his arms folded across his chest.  ~I wish he'd grow up ... just a little.~

Jack was still laughing as he grabbed a beer from Daniel's refrigerator and then headed to the couch, where he flopped down, leaning his head against a sofa cushion.  In fact, his laughter grew several degrees from its original volume and heartiness.

“It's not that funny, Jack,” Daniel whined.

“Yes, it is.  Look at you,” Jack replied, motioning towards the younger man with his left hand.

“You don't have to look at all.  Excuse me,” Daniel huffed as he sulked his way towards his bedroom.

“Oh, for crying out loud.  DANIEL!” Jack called out brusquely, hastily putting down the beer and following his new lover into the other room.

Daniel had just taken off his soaked shirt and was fumbling with it in his hands.  Jack walked up to him, took the shirt, and tossed it on the floor.

“Jack, it needs to go ...”

“It'll be fine,” Jack insisted, scooping Daniel into his arms.  Daniel didn't lean into Jack, but he didn't pull away, either.  His head was bowed so as to avoid the older man's gaze.  “How'd you get wet?”

“Teal'c did it,” Daniel stated, after which he told Jack about their visit with Ally and how the Jaffa had unexpectedly, and repeatedly, squirted him with a giant water gun.

Jack laughed some more, but all the while, he was noting his lover's subdued expressed.

“Okay, Danny, tell me what's really wrong.  There's no way in the world you're this upset because Teal'c squirted you with a water gun, even if he did have remarkably good aim.”

“You're a bad influence on him, Jack,” Daniel stated.

“Hey, I'm actually proud of the Big Guy, surprising you like that,” Jack smirked.  Seeing Daniel roll his eyes, he grew serious and prodded, “Come on, Love.  Tell me what's going on in between those ears of yours.”

Daniel grimaced as he asked, “In between my ears?”

“Danny, are you going to answer me?” Jack asked, hoping his partner would finally look at him.  The younger man only sighed, and after a few silent moments, Jack started to get concerned.  They'd had a few problems with Daniel's guilt about Sha're early on, but since then, life had been pretty darn good by Jack's estimation.  ~What's going on, Danny?  I need you; please don't push me away again.~

Finally, sensing Jack's worry, Daniel looked up.  He moved his right hand from Jack's waist to his cheek and neck, caressing the older man gently in reassurance.

“No, Jack, we're fine.  I promise.  It's ... it's ...” Daniel stuttered, unable to explain his feelings.

“Not us?” Jack asked hopefully, needing further verification that his soulmate was still his.

~Gawd, no.  You're my life.~  Daniel shook his head and finally leaned into his Love.  He was surprised to find that the simple change of position, that small release of allowing himself to be cared for, had made him feel better, and he was amazed at just how safe he felt being in Jack's arms.  ~I like this.  Don't let go of me; I like it here in your arms.~

~Thank the heavens.  You had me going there for a minute, Danny.~  Jack held the younger man securely and placed a kiss on the top of his head.  His hands warmed Daniel's back as he inquired, “So, what's wrong, Love?”

“Mail: I got mail,” Daniel answered cryptically.  ~I wish I hadn't.  I wish it had been on the computer, and I could have just deleted it; empty to trash and make it disappear.~

“Okay.  That ... happens, most every day.  What's so different about this mail?” Jack inquired.  

Daniel pulled out of Jack's embrace, went to the bed, and sat down.  His shoulders hunched forward, and he began to study the carpet with intense fascination.

~What could be so terrible?~ Jack inwardly sighed, totally at a loss as to what the problem could be.  He took the spot next to Daniel and placed a kiss on his temple.  At the same time, he put his hand around his lover's back, rubbing it gently to offer support.  Time passed without intrusion as Jack knew Daniel would tell him the problem when he was ready.  ~You're just sorting it out,~ he thought, well aware his lover wasn't used to sharing so much of his life with anyone.

~Maybe he doesn't want me here,~ Jack thought as his own insecurities began to take hold.  He was suddenly finding it strangely hard to breathe.  Daniel was everything to him, and losing him would destroy whatever was left of his own humanity.  ~Maybe he needs more space; maybe I'm crowding him.~

The older man considered the pros and cons of trying to push the archaeologist into talking.  At the same time, he was petrified he wasn't going to like whatever it was that Daniel was going to say.  Jack glanced down at his hands, noticing that his palms were sweating.

~Crap.  I'm Special Ops, and right now I'm so terrified that I'm sweating?~  Jack glanced at the silent man sitting beside him and couldn't help himself.  He had to ask.  “Danny, whatever this is, it's not about us?”

Daniel again shook his head, and Jack's heart beat strongly in gratitude.

“Does this whatever it is put you in harm's way at all?  Before you answer, you *know* what I mean by that, so no hedging or cutting corners.”

“No, it's nothing like that,” Daniel answered honestly as he rubbed his left hand against his thigh.

“You sure?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Jack, I'm sure,” Daniel replied softly, without any hesitation.

~Okay, okay.  We're good to go, but there is something wrong.  Time:  I can give him time.~  “Okay, Love,” Jack said, rising from the bed and heading towards the door.  “You don't have to tell me if you don't want to.  Why don't you put on a new shirt, and then we'll go get some Chinese,” Jack suggested, making the words a statement, rather than a question.

“Chinese?” the archaeologist questioned, looking over at Jack.

“Yeah, you like Chinese, don't ya?”

Daniel blinked a few times as he stared at his best friend-turned-lover.  He stood and walked to him.  Bringing his hands up, Daniel cupped Jack's face, his fingers gently stroking his lover's cheeks.

“You don't like Chinese very much,” Daniel reminded unnecessarily.

“But you love it,” Jack explained.  ~Meaning I love it, too, because you do.~

“I love ...”  Daniel hesitated.  He still wasn't very good at expressing his love for Jack unless his lover said it first.  In an instant, though, he realized Jack had said he loved Daniel.  He'd said it just as soon as Jack had given him space, and then he said it again when he suggested the Chinese meal.  The younger man smiled as he proclaimed, “I love you, Jack.  I promise you; this has nothing at all to do with us.  I ... I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” a pleased Jack replied, his voice full of relief.  “Hurry up because I'm so hungry I could eat all kinds of Chinese slop,” he teased.

The lovers kissed, and then Jack returned to the living room.

====

In the living room, Jack picked up a magazine that was sitting on the coffee table and began to peruse it while he waited for his lover.  Finally, he found an article of interest and was halfway through it when he heard Daniel call out to him.

“Jack?”

Jack twisted around and saw his soulmate, now dressed in a blue plaid shirt, standing a few feet away.  In his hand was an envelope.

“You ready?” Jack asked, ignoring the letter.

~I don't want to run, Jack,~ Daniel thought, knowing the older man was giving him another chance to escape from the truth, but he glanced down and shook his head.  Flipping the envelope over in his hands nervously, he explained, “It's an invitation to a lecture.”

“And?” a curious Jack prompted, tossing the magazine back onto the coffee table without looking, wanting to stay focused on Daniel's eyes.

“And ... it's, uh, in New York,” Daniel quickly responded.

“Okay ... and?”

“And ... the keynote speaker is one of my Anthropology professors.  I guess you could say he was my favorite,” Daniel revealed as he rubbed his fingers over the envelope several times.

“No doubt you were his pet pupil,” Jack lightly teased.  Seeing Daniel shrug, Jack knew that meant a definite yes.  “So you want to go, and the problem with that is?”

~I don't want to go, but I do, and I don't, and I do.~  Daniel took a big breath as he walked over towards his piano.  Not facing Jack, he answered, “Well, two things really.  I mean, I'm not exactly considered part of Academia anymore.  They all think I'm a crackpot.  No one knows what I'm doing, and I can't tell them, so if I go, it means ... I mean I ...”

“It means walking into a room where everyone thinks you're crazier than Daffy Duck, and when they ask you what you're doing, all you can say is you've been reading books or whatever,” Jack surmised.

Daniel nodded as he turned back to face his soulmate.  He seemed steady enough, though the envelope was now showing signs of being crinkled from the way the anthropologist was twisting it around in his hands.  Daniel was clearly not comfortable with having received the invitation.

“And the second problem?” Jack asked as he carefully observed his lover from a short distance.

“New York.”

“Big city.  You've been there a lot,” the older man commented.  Seeing Daniel fidget dramatically and once again find the carpet more fascinating than any artifact, the light dawned for Jack.  “Where in New York?”

In a whisper, Daniel answered, “Museum of Art.”

“Ah, Danny,” Jack intoned sympathetically, losing no time getting to his soulmate and taking him into his arms.

“I've been there many times.  I mean, I used to go there all the time ... right there ... where it ... where the stone ... I went there all the time,” Daniel rambled as his breathing hitched.

“It's okay, Danny.  I know,” Jack spoke softly into Daniel's ear.

Jack could only imagine how difficult it would be for anyone to go back to the place where as a small child they had witnessed their parents being killed.  It was even worse to think about how hard it would be when the death had been as traumatic as that of the Jacksons, both youthful adults, crushed to death by a large cover stone.

“Jack, it's just ... I haven't been there since ... since ...”

“The keeper,” Jack completed for his lover.

Daniel nodded, burying himself as much as possible into the security of his lover's embrace.

Memories of SG-1's unpleasant visit to P7J-989 flooded back.  The Keeper had used both Jack's and Daniel's minds to provide entertainment for the residents of that world.  The end result was that each of them had relived a particularly traumatic experience from their past on a repetitive basis.

For Jack, the memory had been a Special Ops mission gone wrong that had turned deadly for his team, but for Daniel, it was even more personal as the Keeper used his recollection of witnessing his parents working to get the cover stone in place, and the tragedy that occurred as the cover stone fell atop the couple, crushing them to death.

“It's just ... over and over.  It brought it all back, made it so real again,” Daniel noted.  You've helped me to remember them, Jack, the way we talk about them sometimes, but ... I don't know.”

Jack's hold on his lover tightened, sensing a need on Daniel's part to feel safe.  The older man placed a quick kiss on his partner's forehead as he continued to listen.

“I want to remember them as they were, when they were alive, not be reminded of how they died, like I could ever forget that ... cover stone fall...falling on ... on them in front of me.  I never thought I could get past that, but you've helped me finally get that image out of my head, to think of the happy times and how much they ... they loved me.”

Daniel's trembling voice tore through Jack's heart.  His lover was trying so hard to move forward, and it was true that he'd come a long way in a short period of time.  Still, saying the simple words, that he was loved, had proven difficult.

“They did, Danny,” Jack promised.  “All those stories you've told me; they're full of love.”

“They were so happy together,” the younger man recalled.  “Jack, my parents loved each other.  They were always together; and they were good people, too.  They deserve to be remembered for how they lived, not how they died, especially by their only child.”  Daniel sighed loudly. “I just don't know if I can live through that nightmare again, to see it up close.  I'd like to go, but ... I mean I ...”

“So when is this lecture?” Jack inquired, prepared to do whatever was necessary to help his lover through the visit.

“Next week,” Daniel answered.

“Next week as in this Monday, or as a week from Monday?” Jack asked, wanting to make sure they were on the same wavelength.

Daniel sighed, “This week, I guess.”  He sighed again and admitted, “We were off-world when the invitation came, and we had other things on our minds -- you know, the, uh, game,” referring to the fairly new game that he, Jack, and Sam were playing in order to help conceal the fact that the two men were lovers. The instigation of the game had caused some conflict between the lovers, but, fortunately, that had finally been resolved, though it had taken a few weeks.  Daniel continued, “And then I ... I guess I just didn't want to think about it.”

“Okay, when do you want to go?  We need to make reservations,” Jack stated firmly.

“We?”  Daniel looked up at the man he loved with all his heart.  ~Gawd, I love him.~

“We!” Jack confirmed, a supportive smile gracing his face.  ~He needs me, and that means I'll be there.~

Seeing his lover's reassuring expression, Daniel found himself wearing a smile that was both big and wide.  He felt such a jolt of happiness shoot through him that he threw himself against the older man, kissing him so hard that Jack actually took a couple of steps backwards.

“Geez, you're good,” Jack joyfully spoke after the kiss.

Daniel felt an aura of shyness surround him. All he could do was smile and caress his lover with his hands.

“Jack, you'll be bored,” the archaeologist warned when he finally spoke again.  ~This isn't something he likes to do.  He'll hate it.~

“To the contrary, Doctor Jackson,” Jack began cheerfully.  “I'll be a happy man, because I'll be with you.”

“Jack ...”

“If you're really concerned, have some pity on my stomach;  I'm starved.  Can we please go and get that Chinese before I wither away?” Jack asked with a smile.

“No danger of that,” Daniel teased, lightly patting Jack's abdomen, earning him a tiny glare from his partner.  He kissed his Love again, then decreed,  “But, uh, we're going to get pizza, Jack.  I want pizza!”

The older man smiled.  How he loved his archaeologist slash anthropologist slash linguist slash everything!

====

“But, General ...” Jack argued the next day in his plea to get some unplanned downtime.

“I'm sorry, Colonel, but your presence is required here.  I can't spare you.  It's that simple,” Major General George Hammond declared firmly from his spot behind his desk.

“General, it's because of that da... I mean, it's because of that meeting with the Brass, isn't it?” the colonel inquired, knowing there was a 'paper-pushers' meeting scheduled during the time he wanted to be in New  York with his lover.

Nodding, Hammond conceded, “They want you there, and *I* need you there to represent the best interests of this facility.  You're my second-in-command, Jack.  What you think matters.”

Frustrated, Jack retorted, “General, it's hot air, stuffed shirts, the Joe Schmo guys -- and you know it.  It's just two days,” he spoke about his time off request, which he'd already shortened once in his attempt to get the needed downtime.

“Two days plus the weekend; that's four days.  Don't play smart with me, Colonel,” the man-in-charge warned sternly.

“I apologize, Sir, but what is so dang important about the pencil pushers that I have to be here?  They aren't discussing the Goa'uld.  They'll be talking about ...”  Jack hesitated, then extended his right arm out as he whined, “... how much toilet paper to buy.”

“Colonel, this meeting has been on the books for weeks.  My decision is final,” Hammond said, closing the door on the issue.

“General ...”

“Jack, I am aware that Doctor Jackson requested the same four days off.  I've granted his request.  Can I assume your request ties into his?” Hammond asked.

Jack sighed, “Sir, Daniel's been asked to some scientific shindig in New York, and I ... well, it's just ...”  He uncharacteristically flinched, stumbling over his words, not sure what to say or how to say it.  Finally, with a solemn expression, he queried, “General, you remember what the Keeper did to him, recreating the image of his parents death over and over again?”

“Jack, Doctor Jackson can take care of himself,” the bald-headed man proclaimed as he reached for a file on his desk in preparation to work on his next task.  “I understand you're his friend and he's part of your team, but you're needed here.”

“General ...”

“Dismissed, Colonel,” Hammond ordered, opening the file and beginning to work.

~Crap,~ Jack thought, fully aware he'd lost the battle.  Reluctantly, he acknowledged, “Yes, Sir,” and exited the office.

Walking to the locker room to change his clothes, Jack continued to search for ways to make a miracle happen.  He didn't think there was an answer, other than disappointing his soulmate.

====

Daniel had arrived at his apartment roughly forty-minutes ago.  He changed his clothes, nearly moving in slow motion, each move done methodically as well as absentmindedly.  Afterwards, he tentatively glanced through his mail, though when he put the envelopes and publications down onto the coffee table he realized he couldn't even remember who the bills were from.

Just as he was about to start cleaning just to be doing something, Daniel heard the door open.  Moments later, he saw the man of his dreams approach him.  Jack's face told the story.

“General Hammond said 'no',” Daniel stated, transitioning to a self-hug position.

Jack leaned in, able to share a brief, light kiss with his Love before answering, “I'm sorry, Danny.  I couldn't change his mind.”

“I know you tried, Jack.  Maybe ... maybe I just shouldn't go,” the archaeologist wondered, thinking Jack's situation might be an omen.

“Danny, I don't want you to do anything you don't want to, but you've talked about that professor before,” the older man pointed out.  “I know you'd like to see him again.”

“Yeah, but it's not him.  It's not even the Museum.  It's ...” Daniel began, than trailed off into a long, drawn out sigh as he walked by his lover towards the kitchen counter.

“Daniel, you're worth ten of those idiots easy,” Jack spoke as he turned around to face the younger man.  “Go to the lion's den, and you hold your head up high, because *you* know the truth.”  He walked a few steps closer as he continued, “The truth, Daniel, is that you are and always have been right.  The joke's on them,” he snickered lightly.  With a confident and yet a bit stern of a look, he concluded, “Don't let them win.  Don't let them stop you from doing something you want to do.”

“You make it sound so easy,” Daniel hesitantly replied.

“No, Love, it won't be, and if you really don't want to go, then stay, and I'll love you something silly all weekend.”  Jack saw Daniel let out with a tiny smile at the thought of being loved 'something silly'.  He smiled reassuringly and added, “If, on the other hand, you *do*want to go, then go with pride and the knowledge that you're worthy of their time and their respect.”

Daniel's love for Jack grew again.  It always amazed him, how just when he thought he couldn't love Jack more, the older man would do or say the perfect thing, and Daniel's heart would soar with more love than ever for his partner in life.

“I'll miss you, so much,” Daniel conceded, deciding to go on the trip without his lover.

“Yeah.”  Jack looked around the room for a second before glancing at his lover again.  “I'm sorry, Love.”

“It's not your fault.  It was short notice.  Besides, I can go alone ... take care of myself,” Daniel said, his arms still folded as he walked towards his balcony.

~But I want to take care of you, Danny.  Don't you understand that?~  Daniel was putting up a wall, not one Jack had built, but rather, that 'I'll always be alone' shield, the 'I don't need anyone' armor of protection.  Jack's heart ached at the realization.  ~You are not alone anymore.~

Jack headed to the balcony to hold the sad younger man, the only thing he could do at the moment to make things better.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack intoned as he kissed his lover's nape.

“I love you, too,” Daniel replied, leaning back into the man who always made everything in life better.

====

Since all of SG-1 had Tuesday off, Jack and Daniel decided to spend a romantic evening in Denver on Monday night.  Then they could also have breakfast together on Tuesday, and Jack could see his lover safely off at the airport when he left Tuesday afternoon.  The lovers weren't happy about being apart for five days and wanted to create a memory that would get them both through their separation.

“Daniel, I want you to remember something for me,” Jack said as the lovers settled into their room at a posh, yet very discreet hotel.

“What, Love?” Daniel inquired as he adjusted the room temperature to something more to their liking.

“When you walk into that room and see all those ghosts from your past, you remember that you opened the Stargate.  Remember what we learned that first time on Abydos and everything that has come since.  You were right, Daniel; the ones who laughed and dismissed your ideas were wrong.  Promise me that you'll remember,” Jack requested earnestly.

Lowering his hand from the thermostat, Daniel turned to face his soulmate, replying, “I'll ... try.”

“Don't try, Daniel -- do!  That's an order,” Jack spoke with a smile.

“Jack ...”

“We're going to rehearse your thoughts, all night long,” Jack stated, moving forward and taking his somewhat anxious lover into his arms.

“But I thought we were ...”

“That, too,” Jack assured, grinning and then sharing a tender kiss with his Love.  “I just don't want you to forget that without you, Earth would be a goner right now.  I know it's going to be hard, Danny, but, for me, keep your head up high and remember who you are -- the genius who saved the world.”

“Jack ...”

“I love you,” Jack intoned.

“Show me,” Daniel requested.  “Please show me.”

With a smile, Jack obliged his lover's request.

====

Jack awoke a couple hours later when his 'Danny blanket' started to get off the bed.

“Danny?” Jack questioned.

“Just going to answer the call of nature, Jack,” Daniel informed his groggy lover.

“Hurry back,” the older man instructed, smiling at his sexy soulmate.

Daniel smiled and promised, “I will.”

--

Not even a couple of minutes later, Daniel came out of the bathroom that was located off the bedroom and was surprised to discover that his lover wasn't in the bed.  He walked into the adjoining living room and saw the balcony door was open.  For a moment, he watched his soulmate standing silently on the balcony overlooking the city of lights.

~Guilt trips are mine, Jack.  You're helping just by being here,~ Daniel thought as he headed for the balcony.

As he reached his soulmate, Daniel quickly realized it was a warm, pleasant night, making their current location alluring.  He gently wrapped his arms around Jack, laying his head on the older man's back.  For a moment, he closed his eyes, just enjoying the moment.

“Danny, I'm sorry,” Jack spoke, his voice cracking slightly.

“For what?” Daniel asked, surprised by the emotion he heard in his lover's voice.

“For not being able to go with you this weekend,” Jack responded sadly.  “I should have figured out a way.”

~That's what I thought you were going to say, O'Neill, but it's not the truth.  You tried; that counts so much,~ the archaeologist thought, his heart full just from knowing that the colonel had fought so hard to try and get the time away.

Daniel gently grabbed Jack's arm and turned him around so they could face each other, refuting, “Jack that's not your fault.  You're the SGC's second-in-command.  That means that you're needed there ...”

“I'm needed here, with you.  I'm needed to be at your side in New York City,” Jack stated, his frustration causing him to tense.

“It's okay,” Daniel soothed, caressing Jack's cheek with his fingertips.  “You're right; I always need you, but you're always with me, right here,” he said, emphasizing his point by putting his hand over his own heart.

“Danny, I ...” Jack began.

“Shh, Love.  Let's go back to bed.  I need you to ...”

Daniel whispered the rest of his needs into Jack's ear, and Jack spent the rest of the night satisfying the younger man's needs.

====

After spending a wonderful night together, making love and reinforcing Daniel's 'I am okay, you're the idiot' mantra, Jack and Daniel were taking a morning walk at a nearby park.  Unfortunately for the lovers, Daniel's plane was leaving in two hours, so the time had come to check out of their hotel and get to the airport.

“Jack, we ... shouldn't.  We're in Denver; someone might see us,” Daniel warned nervously.  ~Don't listen to me.~

At the moment, Jack was holding his lover in his arms.  The younger man loved the sensation of having Jack's arms enveloping him with strength and caring.  He was never alone when Jack held him, and truth be told, he'd be happy to stay in his soulmate's arms forever.  The problem was that they were in public where anyone could see them, and if it was the wrong person, being seen could lead to the end of the colonel's career.  Daniel started to pull back, but Jack simply tightened his hold.

“I need to do this, Danny,” Jack stated softly.  “You're about to fly away from me for a week, and I just need to do this for a couple of minutes.”

“Don't exaggerate, Jack,” Daniel replied in an attempt to deflect the conversation.

“Four days is four-fifths of a work week,” the older man responded.  “Don't get picky.”

“Uh, actually, Jack, it's ... five,” the archaeologist corrected.  “It starts on Wednesday, remember?  That's Wednesday, Thursday, Fri...”

“Daniel, I know how to count *and* the days of the week,” the older man groaned.

“Jack, I'm okay,” Daniel assured with a light chuckle, though he wasn't trying to slip out of Jack's hold, not even a little bit.  ~Thank you for not listening to me.~

Ignoring Daniel's obligatory objections and claims of being 'okay', Jack held them in place for another minute or so before letting them part slightly.  He looked into Daniel's eyes and requested, “Tell me.”

“Where are we ... in school?” Daniel tried to tease, wishing Jack would forget about this confidence thing.

“Daniel, tell me,” Jack lovingly ordered again, his voice calm and assured.

Daniel sighed, then bobbed his head slightly as he repeated Jack's words that had been spoken repeatedly for the last several days until they were a mantra of sort:  “I'll hold my head up high.  I ... I was right, and ... they're just ...”

“Come on, Danny,” Jack urged encouragingly.

“They're just ... jealous or ...”  Daniel smiled.  “I'll be okay, and if I'm not, you'll ...”

Jack smiled, kissed his lover, and then promised, “Yeah, I'll fix it.”

“It's time to go, Jack,” Daniel reluctantly spoke, though he wished they had more time together.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

====

“I wish I could go,” Jack stated again as they entered the airport.

“Me, too,” Daniel agreed, looking around at the people who were hurrying in all directions.  “You, uh, didn't have to come in.”

“Yes, I did,” Jack replied.  He cocked his head to the right as he admitted, “I'm not ready to let you go.”

Daniel smiled, saying, “I'll be back -- soon.”

“Not soon enough,” Jack spoke, gazing into the younger man's eyes and desperately wishing he could hold him.  “Hey, you dropped your wallet,” he said, suddenly leaning over and picking up his own wallet that he had just thrown down onto the floor.  He handed it to his lover, allowing the two a brief moment of contact as their hands touched.  Covertly, Jack rubbed his thumb across Daniel's hand and said, “You know.”

“You know, too,” Daniel replied, his eyes full of love.  “Um,” he said, looking down.  “I think this one is yours.”

“Wonder how it got down there?” Jack asked, shrugging as he returned the brown wallet to his pocket.

“No idea,” Daniel stated, unable to hide a grin.

“Have a safe flight,” Jack stated.

“Drive home safely,” Daniel requested.

“Call me.”

“I will,” Daniel promised.  Time froze as their eyes connected.  “I'd better check in.”

Jack nodded, regretfully backing away as he spoke a quiet, “Bye, Danny.”

“Bye, Jack,” the younger man replied, after which he put his hand over his heart, a silent reminder to Jack that he was Daniel's heart.

Both men took a deep breath, neither moving, until finally Jack shook his head as if to free himself from some invisible force field.  He nodded, then turned and left the airport.  Daniel took another big breath as he watched his lover disappear from his sight, and then he picked up his luggage and approached the flight counter.

====

Daniel rarely felt so unwelcome or uncomfortable, but circling the room full of colleagues on Wednesday morning, he felt like the proverbial fish out of water.  It was rather ironic that he felt more comfortable when surrounded by aliens than he did at the moment amongst his peers.

~Okay, Jackson, remember what Jack said.  I ... I was right; I have noth...nothing to be ashamed of.  I ... gawd, I wish you were here to remind me, Jack.~

As he studied some photos taken of an Aztec shrine recently discovered in Mexico, Daniel suddenly heard his name.  He looked up and around, but no one was talking to him.  He did see a group of three men, however, huddled together in conversation as they stood just a few feet away.  Their raised voices carried through the air.

“I can't believe he actually showed up,” one of the voices said indignantly.

“I can't believe he had the nerve to ever suggest his theory in the first place. Honestly, pyramids older than Ancient Egypt itself?  What was it he thought? Aliens built them?” a second voice laughed nastily.

The first voice responded, “Aliens, yes.  What was the speculation about why the aliens would build the pyramids?”

“To serve as landing docks for their spaceships, of course,” the first voice laughed callously.  “How ridiculous can you get!”

The trio laughed, not an ounce of understanding or respect in their tones.

~I didn't say that ... exactly, even if it is the truth,~ Daniel thought.  With a sigh, he looked back at the photographs and then slowly walked to another part of the large exhibit hall.  He found a display of ancient relics unearthed at a dig in Peru.  He glanced over the notes and comments of the anthropologists who had studied the ruins and the finds, sighing at the errors in their assumptions.  The archaeologist didn't realize it when he spoke aloud, “This is wrong.”

“And I suppose you have proof?” a male voice responded.

Daniel turned to see Christopher Sumners, a man about his age who had been on a similar fast track through Academia as Daniel had, even researching many of the same subjects.  Yet, both had come to completely different conclusions about the pyramids.

“Hello, Christopher,” Daniel greeted formally.

“Daniel.  I'm surprised to see you here.  You've been incommunicado for a few years now,” Sumners replied without warmth in his voice.

“Yes, well, I was invited,” Daniel stated, rationalizing his presence.  ~Gawd, Jack would kill me for saying that.~

“Every day brings a new surprise,” Sumners quipped as his eyes studied the shaggy-haired man in front of him.

~Why does the surprise have to be a nightmare?~  Daniel thought as he fought off the temptation to say something sarcastic in reply, but he really didn't want to get into a disagreement if he could help it.  Thus, with his arms folded, he returned his attention to the display, ignoring Sumners.

“How do you know it's wrong?” the arrogant scientist asked, unhappy at Daniel's silent dismissal.

“Because it is,” Daniel answered simply.

Sumners asked, “Exactly how do you know that?”

Daniel replied sadly, “You wouldn't believe me if I told you.”

The five-foot, eleven-inch redhead laughed mockingly as he proclaimed, “Oh, I see: just a cover.  You act like you know everything, but you don't know anything.  Do us a favor, Daniel, call one of those spacecrafts, and tell them to pick you up at the top of Pyramid Runway B, and don't come back.”

Sumners turned and walked away, shaking his head at Daniel's attitude.  As for Daniel himself, he couldn't help releasing a small chuckle at Sumner's attempted jab at his theory.  His supposed colleague was so close to the truth and yet couldn't accept it.  With a final glance at the display, he headed for the first scheduled lecture, taking a seat in the back row, silently hoping everyone would just leave him alone.

~Just pretend I'm not here,~ Daniel thought as the crowd began to filter in.

====

A few hours after the run-in with Sumners, as the last speaker of the day finished, Daniel stopped to review the day's schedule, debating on whether or not he wanted to attend the evening festivities.  From his vantage point, he couldn't see the gossiping group of three, two women and one man, who were gathered on the other side of the door.  He could, however, hear them.

“Did you see that looney tune?” the man asked.

“Doctor Jackson?” the first woman inquired, wanting to be sure who the man was talking about.

“How did he ever get a degree anyway?” the man inquired as he nodded in affirmation.

“Maybe he knows someone,” the second woman supposed.  “He's a joke, an insult to Anthropology.”

“Any idea what he's been doing all these years?” the man asked.

“Who cares?” the first woman responded sarcastically.

“I doubt anyone does, but, obviously he's been somewhere, or he wouldn't have been invited here this weekend,” the second woman remarked, feeling a bit uneasy about their discussion.

“I think he knows one of the speakers,” the first woman stated a bit cattily.

“Oh, a sympathy invitation,” the man deduced, pondering the notion.

“The sympathy should go to all of us who have earned our titles.  Having *Doctor* Jackson here belittles us,” the first woman opined.

“He's a disgrace to the entire community,” the man agreed.

“I'll second that,” the second woman stated, going along with the other two.

“And I'll third it, and speaking of thirds, how about we third a check?  I'm hungry,” the first woman stated as she rubbed her abdomen for a moment.

Daniel's head hung low as he waited for the gossipers to move away from the door.  Silently, his heart and soul was crying from his painful hurt of the day.

~Why'd I come here?~  Daniel headed for his hotel, no longer having any desire to attend the nighttime events that had been scheduled.  ~I miss you, Jack.~

====

The lonely anthropologist walked into the hotel room and sighed.  He missed his lover desperately, especially after the day's events, which left him feeling like an outcast.  He wasn't sure that the evening's events wouldn't be equally disturbing.  He needed strength, and he knew just where to get it.  Picking up the phone, he dialed home.

~Home: what a great word,~ the sad young man thought as he waited for his lover to answer.

“Hello,” Jack answered cheerfully.

“You're in a happy mood.  Glad I'm gone?” Daniel asked, not sure he really wanted to know the answer.

“Ah, Space Monkey, I knew it was you.  That's why I am happy,” Jack intoned lovingly.

“How could you know it was me?” the younger man questioned.

“I just knew, Dannyboy,” Jack responded, using his Irish accent as he sat back in his favorite chair in the living room.

“You saw the number on the caller ID,” Daniel surmised.

Jack chuckled, then admitted, “Okay, you got me, but I knew it was you before I checked the number.”

“I miss you, Jack,” a very vulnerable-sounding Daniel spoke, sighing as he stared at the brown desk in his hotel room.  ~He's so far away.  I want to touch him.  I ... I want him to hold me and ... sappy as it sounds, I want him to make me feel better.  Jack always makes me feel better.~

“I miss you, too, Danny.”

The lovers talked for over an hour, the anthropologist telling Jack about seeing his old professor, and the colonel telling Daniel about the boring meetings he was forced to endure all day.

Before making the call, Daniel had decided not to tell Jack about the conversations he had overheard or how he'd been treated during the day.  He knew how his lover would react, and he didn't want to spend the entire phone conversation trying to calm his colonel down.

“Daniel, shouldn't you be eating or listening to more fascinating lectures on sticks and stones?” Jack finally spoke, not realizing exactly how precise that simple statement was to his soulmate's day.  “Don't stay up too late.  I'm sure there is some fascinating rock lecture at 0800 that you don't want to miss.”

“And you have all those exciting meetings to go to tomorrow,” Daniel teased, avoiding the first part of the comment.  ~I'd rather be talking with you than seeing those stares again.~

“Daniel, remember ...” Jack prompted encouragingly.

“I know -- I'm right, and they're idiots,” Daniel sing-songed, having already had two reminders during the conversation from his partner.

“That's my Danny,” Jack proudly stated.

“Jack, remember, you *are* my heart,” Daniel lovingly reminded.

“And you are mine, My Love,” Jack crooned.  “I love you.  Goodnight.”

“I Love you, too.  Night.”

Both men lingered for a moment, just staring at the phone.  Daniel got up and reviewed the night's opportunities; then he replayed the day in his mind.  His lover, meanwhile, made one phone call -- to General Hammond, wanting to go over some of the finer points of their final meeting of the day with the visiting Pentagon bookkeepers and 'minutia fanatics', as he thought of them.

Then, almost right in synch, at the same time, as if they could see each other, Jack and Daniel both changed into their night clothes and went to bed.  Neither, however, got much sleep, their souls too saddened at missing the other to concentrate on the comfort and peacefulness of sleep.

====

Bright and early the next morning, while the commuter traffic was still going full tilt in the Springs, Jack O'Neill was engaged in a small battle with General Hammond over the 'pencil pushers' they were meeting with.  The first session for the day was scheduled to begin in just twenty minutes, but Jack had already reviewed the transcripts of the previous day's sessions and was using every bit of ammunition he could find to further his not-so-secret cause.

“General, this is crazy,” Jack ranted.  “These bumbling, inept, ridiculous, ludicrous ...”

“Jack!”

“I wasn't finished, Sir,” Jack responded slyly.  Ignoring his CO's glare, he continued, “These sessions aren't going anywhere.  They're just prattling on about storage space, and did you hear what that so-called ...”

“Jack ... get out!” Hammond barked, tired of arguing with the man.

“Out, Sir?” Jack asked a bit lightheartedly, a tiny smile showing on his face.

“Yes, Colonel ... out ... NOW!” Hammond ordered, actually pointing at his office door.

“Would that be out of your office, or out of the SGC, or ...” Jack began hopefully.

General Hammond was sick and tired of dealing with his 2IC.  Over the past twenty-four hours, the colonel had whined, complained, moaned, groaned, and argued through every meeting, droning through technicality after technicality.  As a result, not one phase of the agenda had been completed on schedule.

The worst of it was that Hammond couldn't even fault Jack because, technically, every whine and complaint had been justified.  Normally, however, the things Jack had picked on were the usual bits and pieces of red tape that went overlooked or saved for other staffers of lower rank to cover.

During the meetings, Jack had been at his finest sarcastic self as well, never crossing the line, but teetering on the fence with a skill befitting a trapeze artist.

To top it off, in between meetings, Jack had decided that General Hammond should be privy to every little detail of the proposed changes, that he should be aware of all the appropriate background information, right down to the most mundane of facts.  Finally, he picked the perfect moments to rant and rave about the ineptness of the participants in the meetings to the major general, including phone calls to Hammond's house last night and the 'wake up' call this morning, prior to coming to the Mountain.

Hammond had to admit defeat.  Jack O'Neill wanted to be in New York, and, if he couldn't be there, he was going to make everyone around him as miserable as he was, especially his CO.

~All right, Colonel, I surrender,~ Hammond thought, seeing it was only Thursday and not certain in could survive two more days of his second-in-commands lunacy.  ~This is bad enough without you trying to make me even more miserable.  Those pencil pushers are doing a good enough job of that themselves.~

Hammond gave his 2IC one final look as he clarified his position.  Jack O'Neill had saved the planet, and the major general decided that all things considered, he could understand why the man wouldn't want to be part of the decision making process about how many rolls of toilet paper should be kept in each storage closet of the SGC.

“It means get away from me, my office, and my base.  I don't want to see you back here until 0800 Monday morning.  Is that understood, Colonel?” Hammond asked.

Jack's grin was huge, but seeing Hammond's intense glare, it shifted to a smug look of fake rejection as he responded, “Yes, Sir.  I'm going now ... Sir ... out of here ... out of your office ... definitely going ...” he rambled as he slowly backed out of Hammond's office.

“GO, COLONEL!” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, Sir.  Never let it be said that Colonel O'Neill can't follow an order,” Jack spoke, grinning.  ~Not this one, anyway!~

“JACK!”

Giving a bit of a sloppy salute, Jack slithered out of Hammond's office and whistled as he hurried down the halls of the SGC.

~That went well; oh, yeah, that went very well!~ Jack thought as he headed for the locker room.  As quickly as he could, he changed into his civvies and went to the parking area.  Unlocking his truck, he smiled at his luggage.  ~I knew I could count on you, General.  You just needed a little help.~

Closing the door, Jack took out his cell phone and glanced at his watch.  He whistled, waiting for his travel agent to answer the phone.

“Sue, it's Jack O'Neill,” the colonel stated when a woman's voice answered.

“So, Jack, did you decide what time you wanted to fly out?” Sue asked as she pulled up Jack's itinerary on her computer.

Jack answered, “I'm on my way to the airport now.”

“Okay, give me a moment,” Sue requested as she pulled up the reservations system.  “One moment ... Yes, I've confirmed your flight for you, and I'll cancel the other outbounds.”

“Thanks, Sue; you're a peach!” Jack chirped happily.

“Does that mean I'm all fuzzy, Jack?” Sue teased.

“Warm and fuzzy, Sue,” Jack chuckled.  “Thanks!”

Jack's travel agent had booked several flights for Jack over a three-day period.  The crafty Air Force colonel knew he could drive Hammond crazy; he just wasn't sure how long it would take to finally push the major general over the edge.  He was pleased that he'd done it so quickly.

Having cleared the security gate, Jack was all smiles as he headed for the Denver airport.

~I'm on my way, Dannyboy!  New York, here I come!~

====

Hours later, and now on the East Coast, Jack finished unpacking his bag.  He had arrived in New York City only an hour earlier.  He felt good and had a lot of plans for getting his Love through the weekend.

~Okay, time to find one geek,~ the colonel chimed inwardly as he went in search of his lover.

A call to Daniel's room a few minutes ago had gone unanswered and, wanting to surprise him, Jack opted not to leave a message.

It was 7:15 p.m., and since Daniel had left him a copy of the schedule, Jack knew there weren't any exhibits or lectures going on at the moment.  He remembered something about a cocktail party, but Daniel hadn't expressed a desire to go to that.

Just in case, though, Jack was wearing a nice pair of black pants with a cream colored long-sleeve shirt and a black jacket.  The shirt had the top two buttons open and, covering his bases, he stuffed a tie into his pocket, not sure whether or not it might be required.

The colonel walked down the stairs of the quaint hotel that sat across from Central Park.  It really wasn't that close to the museum, but Daniel hadn't wanted to stay at the hotel sponsoring the event, figuring he'd need some space from his colleagues.

Jack roamed the hotel for a while, ending up in the lobby.  He had again called Daniel's room, but there still wasn't any answer.  He fidgeted with some pamphlets he had picked up as he stood waiting, scanning the lobby and its exits.

“Can I help you, Sir?” a cute twenty-ish blonde asked.

Jack had noticed the female earlier.  She was perky, had a big smile, and seemed to be interested in everyone and everything.  He wasn't exactly sure of her role at the hotel, but he'd seen her walking behind the check-in desk in the lobby and in and out of various rooms, including the restaurant.

“I was looking for a friend of mine, Doctor Jackson.  I don't suppose ...” Jack began, wondering if she might know who Daniel was.

“Oh ... Daniel,” the young woman gushed.  “Yes, he's staying here.”

“I know that,” Jack responded.  “I just don't know where to find him.  I called his room and ...”

“Daniel went for a walk,” the blonde said as she motioned toward the door.

“He did?” Jack asked.  ~Naturally, you paid attention to him leaving.~

“Can I ask you a question?” the woman queried.  She took Jack's stare as permission and asked, “Is he married?  I mean he's so cute and friendly.  He really should be married.  Is he?”

~I don't like that look in your eye.~  Having never been asked that before, Jack discovered he wasn't sure how to answer it.  It was more than just his jealousy of the blonde's interest in his lover, it was an unusual feeling of being confused.  Finally, he replied, “Yes, but they're ... she's ... ”

“Oh, I'll bet she doesn't understand him.  He's so sweet and sensitive; helped me with a problem I was having with my parents.  He needs some TLC, and I think ...” the perky worker continued.

Jack watched as the outgoing gusher rambled on and on.  She seemed confident that Daniel was worth fighting for, that he needed to be loved, that it was obvious he had been hurt, and that she was positive she could help him through his difficult time of “discomfort and emotional pain,” as she had called it.

~Over my dead body!~ Jack inwardly bristled, though he decided it was best not to say anything.  ~If I spoke a word, I'd tell you where you could stuff your lust.~  Instead, he smiled until he couldn't take another word, finally interrupting the woman by asking, “You don't happen to know where he went for his walk, do you?”

“The park, Sir.”

“It's a big park,” Jack sighed, thinking it would take forever to locate his partner.

“He went to the right, over toward the Wildlife Center,” the female expounded, pointing in the direction of the area.

“Thank you,” Jack acknowledged as politely as he could , leaving the blonde behind.  ~You just stay there, Vixen, and I'll give Daniel all the TLC he needs.~

====

Twenty-five minutes later, Jack finally found the object of his affection.  Daniel was standing with his arms folded, staring at the grass behind a bench that was located several yards away from the Wildlife Center.  Jack's heart saddened.  The man he loved didn't look like he was having a good time at all.

~I'll change that.  Don't worry, Love, Jack's in town!~

Jack didn't try to hide his approach, but Daniel had retreated so far within himself that he never heard his lover walking towards him until Jack's hands slid around his waist.  Daniel startled, automatically beginning to pull away except ... those hands ... they felt ...

“Jack?” Daniel asked, full of surprise.

“Hey,” Jack greeted, wearing his most charming Irish smile.

~He can't be here.~  Daniel did a one-eighty in total disbelief and stared into his soulmate's chocolate brown eyes.  He was sure it was a dream, and Jack wasn't really there.  ~I must be dreaming.~

Jack chuckled at Daniel's astonished expression and shook his head as he promised, “I'm real.  Is that what you're trying to figure out with that brain of yours?”

“Jack?  How?” a stunned Daniel asked.

“I drove them crazy, absolutely crazy.  It was wonderful!” Jack answered with a smug grin and gleam in his eye, completely proud of his success in being evicted from the base.  He laughed at his gaping partner and finally kissed him, long and hard, pulling Daniel as close to him as he could.  He loved the sound of Daniel moaning from the kiss as the younger man's hands grabbed hold of Jack's jacket.  “Told ya -- completely real.”

“Geez, Jack.”  Daniel leaned in against his Love, but then he suddenly pushed his soulmate away.  “Jack ... we're ... I mean ...” he trailed off as he looked all around.

“It's okay, Danny.  This is the Big Apple.  No one cares who we are or what we're doing here.  C'mere.”  Jack reached out and pulled Daniel back into him.  “Did you eat, Love?”

“What?” the still-a-bit-confused genius inquired.

“Geez, Danny, what would you do without me?” Jack teased, figuring his lover had probably eaten a power bar, if that.

“Hmm ...”  Daniel had intended to say something snarky, the words forming as he opened his mouth, but in the end, he opted for the truth, saying, “I'd be miserable.”

Jack kissed Daniel under the moonlit night.  The Wildlife Center had closed hours ago so there weren't many people around, and those that were, could care less about two men kissing in Central Park.

“I *was* miserable, but you knew that, didn't you?” Daniel asked.

“So was I,” Jack admitted.  The lovers kissed again, their hands clasped together securely.  “Sounds like you had a bad day.”

“I've had better -- meeting Apophis, Nem,” Daniel half-teased, “but ... now, you're here, and ...”

Jack cut off his soulmate's words with another kiss and then suggested, “Let's go eat.”

“Is that all you ever think about, O'Neill?” Daniel joked.

Jack laughed, “No, but I thought we'd feed our stomachs before we feed our ...”

“Jack!”

“I love you,” the older man intoned softly.

“I love you, too, so much.  Thank you for surprising me,” Daniel stated, his expression completely loving.  “So, uh, you drove General Hammond crazy?”

“I had him begging me to leave,” Jack proudly stated.  “First, I ...”

Smiling, Jack gave his lover the details of his mischievous behavior at the SGC as they headed back to the hotel.  It was the first truly peaceful moment of Daniel's stay in New York City.

====
 
The two lovers had a nice steak dinner at the hotel restaurant, happy that they had been given a corner table which had given them some privacy allowing for small, covert touches and glances as they small talked their way through their meal.  They enjoyed a fine wine as they chatted about a variety things, such as places to go in New York, how their flights were, etc.  As they headed for the elevator, they crossed paths with the gushing blonde.

“I see you found him,” the woman spoke, smiling at the anthropologist.

Seeing Daniel's look of confusion, Jack explained, “This young lady was the one who told me you were in the park and what direction you had headed.”

“Oh, thanks, Jill,” Daniel stated, giving the girl a smile.

“Anything for you, Daniel.  I'll see you later,” Jill promised, her eyes sparkling in anticipation.

Noticing Jack shaking his head as they reached the elevator, Daniel prompted, “What?”

“Anything for you, Daniel?” Jack mocked.  “Is there something I should know, Daniel?  Maybe I should make myself scarce tonight so you two can be alone.”

Jack chuckled, knowing that his partner wasn't even aware of the girl's interest.

“Jack ... I ... She's just ... I mean ...” Daniel stuttered.

“She likes you,” Jack opined.

“She likes everyone,” Daniel replied, dismissing his lover's comment as they entered the elevator.  “That's her job, Jack.”

“You're in such denial, Daniel,” the older man insisted as he stared at the panel with the various floor numbers on them.

“You're just overly sensitive,” Daniel said as he rolled his eyes, but then his mind went in another direction.  “Jack?”

“Your place or mine, Doctor Jackson?” Jack asked seductively.

Daniel shrugged, answering, “I just want ... I ...”

Jack answered, “Your place.”

When Daniel pressed the button for the appropriate floor, Jack smiled and noted, “Sweet!  We're on the same floor.”

“You are,” Daniel stated a bit shyly, inwardly glad no one else was in the elevator with them.

“Of course, I am,” Jack agreed.  He looked puzzled, then asked, “What am I?”

Daniel chuckled and answered, “Sweet.  You're very sweet, Jack.”

“I'm a rough and tumble colonel in the Air Force.  I'm not supposed to be ...” Jack paused, seeing Daniel's grin.  With a tilt of his head, he said, “Well, only for you, and don't let that get out.  I have a reputation.”

“Yes, I know,” Daniel said, exiting the elevator when the doors opened on their floor.  “... as a grizzly bear.”

Jack paused, the closing doors of the elevator making a temporary sandwich out of him.

“Hey, I resemble that remark,” the colonel teased as he made haste to catch up with his lover.

“Of course, you do ... Teddy.”

“I'm a grizzly, not a ...” Jack protested.

Daniel cut him off, saying, “You're both, but I prefer the soft, cuddly ... teddy Jack bear.”

Jack almost melted on the spot, the look in Daniel's eyes so soft and the tone of his voice so tender that he truly felt like butter melting onto the plush carpet.  He just couldn't argue when the younger man was gazing at him that way, so he just smiled.

As it turned out, totally by coincidence, Jack's and Daniel's rooms were next to each other.

“See, Love, it's fate -- you and me!” Jack exclaimed happily when they realized the arrangement.

“It's just a fluke, Jack,” Daniel replied as they went inside the room, whereupon the older man took his Love into his arms.

“A fluke of destiny,” Jack countered.  “So, you gonna tell me all about it?”

“Later.”

“What's wrong with now?” Jack asked, wanting to learn the specifics about why Daniel had looked so sad in the park earlier.

“I have ... plans,” Daniel spoke, a sly smile on his face as his hands slid off Jack's jacket.  He tossed the item over to a chair and then pulled out Jack's shirt from his pants.  “Lots of ... plans.”

“Oh,” Jack replied, enjoying his disrobing.  “I could go for that.”

And he did ...

====

Jack awoke a few hours later, just before midnight, in their hotel bed, his arms melding with the soft skin of his lover's back and his chin nestled in the long, silky brown strands of Daniel's shaggy hair.

“Life is good,” Jack intoned softly, feeling both peaceful and happy inside.

“This is anyway,” Daniel responded, taking Jack by surprise.

~He's awake?~ Jack asked himself before placing a gentle kiss on Daniel's hair.  Hearing a contented sigh of affirmation, he queried, “Ready to talk about it?”

“It was awful,” Daniel sighed, burrowing his head against Jack's chest as much as he could.  “They think I'm a nut case.”

“They're the nuts,” Jack said as his hands caressed Daniel's back.

The scientist continued, “My old professor was great, glad to see me -- supportive, even understanding, though I couldn't answer his questions about what I've been doing.  The others ... they just stared at me like I was a ... a ... cypher -- a great, big, zero.”  Not realizing it, Daniel's fingers twisted Jack's chest hairs a bit tightly, causing the older man to grimace slightly.  “I could hear them, talking about me, not realizing how loudly they were speaking.”

~Or they did know and were doing it intentionally,~ Jack silently pondered.  ~Let me at 'em, and I'll teach them a lesson or two.~  Gently diverting Daniel's fingers from his chest hairs to his own fingers, Jack inquired as casually as he could, “Did anyone say anything to you?”

“Jack, don't,” the younger man requested strongly.

“Don't what?” Jack asked.  ~He can't know what I want to do to those morons.~

“You're not going to hurt anyone, so stop thinking about it,” Daniel ordered.

“How'd you know what I was thinking?” Jack asked in a futile attempt to defray his lover from the truth.

“I don't know; I just did,” Daniel answered.

Jack smiled.  Sometimes he knew what his soulmate was thinking, too.  They had always had a strong bond, a connection that seemed to go beyond the normal, even when their relationship was that of just being friends.  Sometimes, they would finish each other's sentences or talk in fragments, not paragraphs.  Since becoming lovers, this strange telepathic-like link was growing stronger.

“Weird, isn't it?  Sometimes, Danny, I swear ... I just ...” Jack stammered, the strangeness of their link almost overwhelming to him.

“Hear me?  The way I hear you?” Daniel inquired.

“Yeah.  Do you understand that?” Jack asked.  “It started with Nem, I think,“ Jack stated.

“No, it was earlier than that,” Daniel corrected.  Seeing the puzzlement on Jack's face, he expounded, “I think we both dismissed it at the time.  It was before Teal'c officially joined SG-1 ... at night ... we, uh, said goodnight, in our minds.  Of course, at the time, I thought I was crazy.”

Jack smiled as he remembered the moment and acknowledged, “Yeah, I do remember.  I guess it's been going on longer than I thought.  It's kinda odd -- Twilight Zone-ish.”

“Maybe, and no, I don't understand it.  I never know what you're thinking when you're just ... thinking, but when you're ... I mean, when ...” Daniel stuttered, not sure how to verbalize his thoughts.

“When I'm talking to you in my mind?” Jack clarified.

“Yes,” Daniel agreed.  “I hear that sometimes, but you're right about the first time; that is, when it happened, for real, like a genuine conversation.  It was on Oannes.  It ... it just happened, Jack.  I could hear you, but I knew you weren't talking out loud.”

“Yeah.  Crazy; it's just crazy.”  Jack rubbed the now quiet Daniel's back soothingly.  “Danny?  I said crazy, but I love it.  I love being so tuned in to you and your brilliant mind.  I just don't understand it.”

“Me, either, but I ... I like it, too,” Daniel admitted.

Jack decided to test it out, silently communicating, **I love you.**

Daniel suddenly looked up at him and responded, **I ... I love you, too.**

Both men smiled, each realizing that their messages had been sent and received, and neither had spoken verbally.

“It's crazy, but let's not think about it too much, Jack.  I ... I don't want to .... to lose it,” Daniel admitted.

“Okay,” Jack agreed, kissing Daniel's head.  After a minute or so, he returned to their original conversation, saying, “Danny, you're better than all those wannabees.  You know that, don't you?”  Daniel's nervous shifting of his position was the only response.  “They're jealous, that's all.”

“Jack, they don't know I'm right.  They think I'm broke, unemployed, and clueless about everything, and, no, it's not okay, but there's nothing we can do about it in one weekend, and I don't want you ... you know.”

“Being adorable?” Jack smirked.

“Threatening them,” Daniel warned.

“I'll try my best not to,” Jack replied.  ~But no promises.~

“Jack!” the younger man admonished.

“Okay, okay.  Geez, Danny, what is it you think I'd do anyway?” Jack asked innocently.

Quietly, the younger man answered, “I don't know.  I just know you'd do something.”

“I love you,” Jack responded just as his hands reached down to caress just below his lover's waist.

Daniel looked up and gazed into his heart's eyes as he said, “Don't you see, Jack, that's why it *is* okay.  You know the truth, and so do I.  In the end, it doesn't matter what anyone else believes,” Daniel spoke with sincerity.

“Geez, I love you.”

“Show me,” Daniel requested of his lover.

... And Jack did.

====

An hour ago, just as New Yorkers had begun buzzing around the large city, Jack had returned to his own room while Daniel showered and dressed -- alone.  He wasn't fond of leaving his lover, but he had to admit that Daniel was right.  The two had made love twice last night, and odds were that had they remained in the same room, the shower would have been number three.

~We'd never make it to the museum,~ Jack mused in his mind.

Now, Jack stared at his clothing choices.  The biggest part of him desperately wanted to wear his dress blues to Friday's events.  Surely, wearing his uniform couldn't be considered threatening.  After all, Daniel loved Jack's look when he dressed in his Air Force duds.

The colonel had brought his uniform to impress, not Daniel, but the so-called brains of Academia.  Somewhere in the back of Jack's mind, he had an image of walking into the lecture hall at Daniel's side, dressed in his uniform, with his sunglasses on ~for effect,~ Jack thought with a smile.

Jack could visualize the intimidation factor.  Academia would go crazy wondering why their “outcast” was worthy of an Air Force escort, and Jack would be at the top of his game, making them shudder with fear and envy.

Jack knew he could do it, put those jealous snobs, as he thought of them, in their place.  A wicked smiled appeared on his face as he began to put on the uniform, but then he sighed, swore something indistinguishable, and replaced the Air Force blues with the same black suit he had worn the night before along with a basic white shirt.

Daniel had asked Jack to “behave,” and Jack loved Daniel, so he'd go along.  Even so, the colonel reserved the right, in his own mind, to change if those jealous Doctor Jackson wannabees caused his partner much more anguish than they already had.

Jack was just putting on his shirt when the younger man knocked on the door.

“Geez, Jack, I thought you'd be mad at me for taking so long,” Daniel said as he leaned in for a kiss, his hands reveling in his lover's chest hairs, something that had proven to be strangely exciting for him.

Daniel was dressed in black pants, a navy blue jacket, and a light blue shirt. Jack loved his soulmate in blue and couldn't help but smile when he saw the younger man's outfit for the evening.

“I was debating,” Jack confided, motioning at his clothes.

Daniel chuckled, “I'm glad you made the right choice.”

“It wasn't easy, Love,” the older man admitted.

“This is not fair, Jack,” Daniel said his eyes focused on Jack's hairy chest, his fingers traveling through them erotically.

“We could stay here,” Jack suggested enticingly.  ~We'd definitely have more fun.~

Daniel sighed and then let his fingers do the walking -- to the shirt buttons, fastening each one except for the top three.

“No tie?” Jack questioned.

“Nah-uh.  I ... I like you like this,” Daniel confessed, his right hand fondling Jack's skin through the open part of the shirt.  “It ... gawd, it turns me on.”

“Geez, I love you,” Jack said as he pulled Daniel to him for another kiss.  ~You make me feel so young, Danny.~

The two men kissed passionately, and, while still moaning, Daniel suddenly pulled away, taking a deep breath.

“We need to go, and, uh, fast!”  The shaggy-haired man looked seductively at the visible skin of his soulmate's chest.  “Real fast.”

“I love you, Daniel Jackson,” Jack spoke with a grin.

“I love you, Jack O'Neill,” Daniel chuckled.  “Out -- now!” he ordered, knowing that if they remained for just five more seconds, they'd never leave.

====

Jack watched Daniel talking with various guests at the first lecture of the day.  His blood pressure rose frequently as he discerned some of the flippancy and contempt addressed towards his Love.  He wanted to murder the entire room, except for Daniel's professor, who had been extremely nice and cordial.

Jack managed not to fall asleep during any of the lectures, and he humored his lover as Daniel explained just about every piece and photograph that was on display.  In fact, he knew that the younger man was talking even more than normal, and for a while, Jack was willing to let him avoid the real issue.

~No more running, Danny.~  Finally, toward the end of the afternoon, as Daniel was rambling on and on about an Egyptian sculpture, Jack grabbed his partner's hand, led him to a corner where no one was near, and requested quietly, “Show me.”

~No!~ Daniel thought as he fidgeted, but before he could try to evade what they both knew Jack had asked, Jack spoke again.

“Show me, Danny.  It's time.”

~I guess he's right; it's just ... hard,~ Daniel thought as he looked down a hallway.

Daniel looked back at his partner and reluctantly, nodded his agreement.  In his familiar self-hugging pose, he stayed a few steps ahead of Jack as he headed towards the part of the museum where his parents had died.

As soon as they entered the area, Jack recognized the location from the incident with the Keeper, who had recreated the area almost perfectly from Daniel's mind.

~No wonder Danny was spooked; the recreation was perfect,~ Jack thought while glancing around the room, realizing that the only differences were the items actually on exhibit.

Daniel's eyes were transfixed, staring at the spot where the huge cover stone had fallen, crushing his mother and father to death.  He had been only eight-years-old when it had happened, and in that moment when the stone had dropped in front of his watchful young eyes, Daniel's life had been forever changed.

Jack stood back, giving his partner plenty of room.  He never took his eyes off of his soulmate, prepared to move at a second's notice, the instant when the younger man's body yelled, 'Rescue me'.

Eventually, the archaeologist walked to the exact spot where his parents had been standing.  He looked up towards the ceiling, his knees weakening as he relived the moment yet again.

Jack was closing in, his internal 'Daniel alarm' beginning to blare.

“Jack.”

It was spoken softly, almost whispered, but in a flash, Jack was there, his arms providing Daniel's much-needed safe haven.

With Jack there to hold him up, Daniel felt a renewal of his spirit.  He wasn't ready to leave.  He needed to be where he was, to feel the moment, and to let go, if he could.

“I couldn't save them, Jack,” Daniel whispered.  “There was nothing I could have done.”

“You were a little boy, Danny,” Jack gently reminded.  “They loved you.”

“Why, Jack?  Why were they so careless?  Mommy saw it.  She knew something was wrong, but she let Daddy calm her, and then it fell.  It fell and ... and then ... why, Jack?” Daniel asked, his voice trembling and vulnerable, like a child.

Softly, the older man answered, “Because they were young, and like all of us, they thought nothing could ever happen to them.  They thought they were invincible, that their world was safe.”

“But it wasn't.  Th...th...they left me alone,” Daniel stated.

Jack's hand caressed Daniel's back in firm motions as he thought, ~You are *so* not alone, My Love.~  “They loved you.  Danny, don't you know they're kicking themselves -- wherever life goes from here?  They lost out on being a part of their little boy growing up, and they know what you've been through. Believe me, they know what they did, and if they could change it, they would.  They loved you.”

Daniel leaned his head against Jack's shoulder, wanting to believe, thinking, ~Gawd, I'm glad he's here.  I can't believe how I much I need him, but I do.  Don't leave me, Jack.  Please, don't ever leave me.~  Daniel's breath hitched. “I loved them, too.”

“They know that.  They made a choice, Love, and it turned out to be a costly one.  I wish I didn't know what that was like, but I do,” Jack spoke, his voice low and full of regret.

Daniel blinked.  Once again, guilt began to consume him.  Mourning his loss had reminded Jack of his own tragedy.

“Gawd, Jack, I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean ...”

“No, listen,” Jack demanded, putting a stop to his lover's words.  “Daniel, I left my gun in a drawer, something I rarely did.  If I hadn't been so anxious to ... to be with Sara when I got home the night before, it wouldn't have been there.  It was a costly choice, and all I can do is pray that somehow Charlie understands that I'd give anything to take back that choice.  That's why I know your parents would do the same thing, if they could.”

Daniel sighed, taking it all in, and, after a minute or so had passed, stated, “I used to come here all the time, replay it over and over, just like the Keeper did to us.  I was trying to find the solution, trying to understand, but I guess ... gawd ... I guess there's nothing to understand, is there?  It was just ...”

“Just an accident, Danny, a regrettable, tragic, stupid accident that cost two young adults their lives and an innocent young boy his childhood,” Jack stated, after which he kissed his lover's temple.

The younger man took another deep breath and surmised, “There aren't any answers, are there?”

Shaking his head, Jack answered, “No.”

His voice shaky, Daniel hesitantly acknowledged, “Just a mistake, a dumb mistake, a ... a bad choice.”

“A very bad choice,” Jack repeated.

“I love them, Jack,” Daniel commented.

“I know, Danny.”

Daniel added, “It was almost like they were in a hurry.  They kept pushing me out of the way.”

Nodding, Jack agreed, “They probably had a schedule to keep.”

“I guess so,” Daniel conceded.  ~Why Daddy?  Why Mommy?  Why ... why were you in a hurry?~  Trying to hold onto his emotions, he turned his head slightly and revealed, “I found her glasses over there.”  He pointed to a spot along the edge of the wall near a doorway.  “I think a paramedic must have taken them off and tossed them out of the way, but when I saw them, I grabbed them.  She needed them to see just ... just ...”

“Just like her precious baby boy needs them,” Jack said gently.

“They were dead.  I could hear them -- the paramedics and the museum workers,” Daniel confided.  “Geez, Jack, they didn't even pay attention to me.  It was like I was invisible, and I guess I was.  I don't think I said anything for a long time afterwards.”

“It's why you talk so much now; you're making up for those quiet months,” Jack half-teased.

Jack was glad when Daniel smiled in response.  They needed a bit of lightheartedness to go along with the intensity of their emotions.

In return, Daniel teased, “Saving it for you.”  He moved a couple of feet and knelt to the floor, his hand running along the cold floor.  “This is where she was, and they pulled Daddy out over there,” Daniel said, pointing to a spot a few feet away.  “Blood was everywhere.  They were crushed to death, Jack.  It wasn't just a hit on the head.  That stone ... it ... gawd!”

Jack hurried to Daniel and knelt down next to him, again providing the tactile reassurance Daniel needed to process his past.

“You saw them, like that?” Jack asked in disbelief.

When his soulmate nodded, Jack became angry.  Knowing his anger wouldn't help Daniel, he worked hard to suppress it.  Inwardly, though, he desperately wanted to know why no one took care of that beautiful little boy whose parents had just been killed.  Why would anyone not keep him safe?

“You shouldn't have seen that, Danny,” Jack stated.  ~That was wrong.~

“I always blended in with the background,” Daniel explained.  “I wasn't ... typical.  When the cover stone fell, they all tried to get it off, and then the paramedics came, and the police ... and all the onlookers.  No one noticed me ... not for a long time.”

~I know I'm not going to like the answer to this,~ Jack thought; yet, he knew he had to ask the question.  “How long, Danny?  How long before someone remembered there was a sweet boy who needed some love and attention?” he asked.

The tears began to fall, and if Jack's heart wasn't breaking into a thousand pieces with every drop of moisture, he'd again want to kill someone.

“When the museum closed,” Daniel's trembling voice answered.  “I was still here.  They had turned out the lights, and one of the docents noticed me sitting by the wall.”

Daniel was fighting hard to hold on, but he was losing the battle.  The tears continued to flow as his memories played out in front of him.  His lower lip quivered as he tried to talk, his hands shaking as he moved them to accompany his speech.

Jack never let Daniel go, keeping his hands on his soulmate's back and arms, his head and neck -- wherever he could place them as he tried to ground his lover to the present with his touch.  He didn't care who saw or heard them.  There was only one person in the world at the moment, and that person was Daniel.

~Let anyone dare to say anything,~ Jack challenged.  He was determined to get Daniel through this difficult time if it killed him.  He thought it just might, his rage so strong at the injustice done to an innocent child that society had neglected that he was about ready to break everything in the museum just to get out his anger.  “Danny, what time did the accident happen?”

“In the morning,” the younger man answered.  “The museum wasn't open yet for the day.”

“Are you telling me that you sat there all day, and no one paid any attention to you?” Jack asked, his ire increasing.

Daniel nodded as Jack tried to dry the tears with his hand.  Daniel wished he had more control, but he was just grateful there weren't any visitors walking by, at least none that he noticed.

~I don't get it,~ Jack thought.  Daniel was a wonderful human being, a remarkable accomplishment since he'd practically raised himself.  He'd seen the few photos that Daniel had from his all-too-brief childhood, and Daniel had been a cute little boy, just like Charlie.  Jack just couldn't imagine how anyone could ignore a lost child like the people of New York had done with his Daniel.  “Didn't they close off this section after the accident?”

“Yes, but ... no one said anything to me.  I knew they were dead, Jack,” Daniel confided, using his hands to try and wipe his tears.  He pushed away from Jack as he stood up.  “Gawd, I'm such a mess,” he observed.

“No, but that little boy is finally saying goodbye, and good-byes can be tearful,” Jack intoned.

Daniel inhaled, and Jack worried he might never exhale, but finally, after several seconds, the archaeologist released the air, taking another big breath.

After taking a final look around, he remarked, “I don't want to come here anymore.”

“You don't have to,” Jack assured as he walked closer to his lover.

Daniel sighed, then admitted, “I used to feel them here.”

Jack placed his hand over Daniel's heart, but before he could say the words, Daniel smiled and said, “I know.  It's like you said before.  They're in here, in my heart.”

“They'll live forever, Danny, because you love and honor them everyday,” Jack promised.

“Jack, they'd think I'm a crackpot too.”

“No,” Jack adamantly refuted, his head shaking in a definitive rejection of his soulmate's words.  “Danny, you've read me some of those papers your father wrote.  He was a free thinker.  They'd be proud of you.”

“I'm not so sure,” Daniel replied vulnerably, his head bowed.

“I am,” Jack argued confidently, raising his partner's head with his hand.  “They taught you to learn, to see with more than your eyes, and to hear with more than your ears.  They are *so* proud of you.  Trust me on this,” he stated with a cracked voice.

Daniel looked around one more time and whispered a barely audible, “Goodbye.  I ... I love you,” before retreating to the main corridor.

~It should never have happened.~  Jack looked around for a minute, shaking his head at the tragedy's memory.  He whispered in his own barely audible tone, “It was a tragic choice.  Why were you in such a hurry?  Gawd, that little boy.  Why?”

The older man was about to become lost in a combination of anger and sorrow when he heard, “Jack, let's go.”

Jack turned to see Daniel watching him from the corridor.  Nodding, he joined his lover.  Not saying anything, they meandered the hallways leading to the exit.  They were almost out of the building when they heard the voice of an older woman calling to them.

“Wait, wait, please wait,” the woman called out frantically, relieved when the two men stopped.

Jack and Daniel turned, having no idea who the female was or why she was calling to them.

“Oh my.  You gave me a start.  I thought I wouldn't catch you,” the woman said as she paused to get her breath, patting her chest as she stood before the lovers.

“Excuse me, Ma'am.  Can we help you with something?” Jack asked politely.

“Oh, I'm sorry.  It's just ... I've been .... Well, I saw you,” the stranger said, looking at Daniel, “in the room, and ... well, I didn't want to interrupt so I kept waiting, and then,” she paused, still trying to catch her breath, “I went to the ladies room, and when I came back, my goodness, you were gone.  I was so upset, and then I saw you walking towards the exit.  I thought I wouldn't make it.”

“Well, Ma'am, you did but ...”

The gray-haired woman chuckled.  She seemed jolly in spirit, was in her fifties, about five-feet, five-inches tall, and had brown eyes.  Her voice was pleasant and inviting.

“I'm sorry again.  My name is Mary McClintock, and I used to volunteer here years ago.  I know I'm right.  I knew it the moment I saw you enter the exhibit, and then when you were standing ...”  Mary's smile saddened, her demeanor sobering.  “You're Claire's little boy, Danny, aren't you?”

Daniel's mouth opened, doing that guppy fish face he did so well.  He looked to Jack and then back at the woman, stunned.

“Yes, he is,” Jack said, extending his hand. “And I'm Jack O'Neill, a ...”

“Yes, I saw,” Mary interrupted, smiling knowingly which caused Jack to cough a little and Daniel to redden.  “Oh, don't be embarrassed from my spying.  I didn't mean to.  I only wanted to talk to you before you left.”

“I ... I'm glad to meet you,” Daniel said softly, reaching out as Jack had done to shake the woman's hand.

Mary explained, “Claire and I had some classes together in college, and we kept in touch over the years.  I was volunteering here when she and your father were working on the exhibit.  I'm so sorry.”

“Were you here that day?” Jack inquired.  ~And, if you were, why'd you leave him alone like that?~

Mary sensed the underlying tone in Jack's question and asked, “You're very protective of him, aren't you?”

Jack didn't flinch, sternly stating, “That doesn't answer my question.”

“No, Mister O'Neill, I wasn't, not for long anyway.  I was here for a short time very early in the morning.  We talked, Danny, and ...”

“Daniel,” the archaeologist corrected, closing his eyes for a moment at his interruption.  “I, uh, I mean, I prefer Daniel.”

“Daniel,” Mary acknowledged.  “We did talk, you and I, for a couple of minutes that morning.  I don't suppose you remember?”  She wasn't surprised when Daniel shook his head.  “Your parents brought you with them.  They were anxious to get things set up and continue with their day.”

“Yes, they were in a hurry,” Daniel agreed dejectedly, looking over towards the exit.

“Claire and I chatted that morning while Mel was talking with the men helping with the cover stone.  She ranted about you, Daniel.  She was so proud of her ... oh what did she call you ... oh, yes,” Mary laughed, “her little Pharaoh.  She said you were a wonder, smarter than she and Mel combined.”

Daniel fidgeted, not knowing what to say, but Jack, though still a bit wary of the woman, smiled, full of pride for his accomplished lover.

“She just beamed, Daniel, telling me about how you helped Mel on the digs,” Mary said informatively.

“I don't know that I helped.  It was more like getting in his way,” Daniel commented.

“Oh, no, no, no, no.  Mel was equally thrilled with your interest in the digs.  He knew you were a natural.  Tell me, you have followed in their footsteps, haven't you?” Mary inquired hopefully.

“I ...”

“Yes, he has,” Jack answered.  “He's a multiple PhD -- archaeology, anthropology, and linguistics.”

“Philology, actually,” Daniel corrected.  He sighed, wondering why he had bother to point out the correct degree.  After all, he often just said 'linguistics' himself.  ~I want my parents to be proud of me; may...maybe that's it.~

“Whatever you call it,” Jack mused, “they'd be very proud of Daniel's achievements.”

“As are you, Mister O'Neill,” Mary observed with a smile.

Jack coughed again, but smiled back at Mary, his own way of acknowledging her comment.

“Ah, it's Jack,” the colonel added, having given the woman his silent seal of approval.

Mary smiled her own acknowledgement before returning her focus to her friend's son, saying, “Daniel, I was so upset when I heard.  I had come by specifically to talk with Claire about their plans for the rest of the week so we could try and spend an evening together, and then I had classes and appointments for the rest of the day.  I didn't find out what had happened until two days later when I came to do my shift.”  Mary paused, studying her friend's son.  “You've had a difficult time, haven't you?”

“I ...”

Seeing Daniel's uneasiness, Mary continued, “I wish I could say something to make it better, but life has a way of making words seem so inadequate.  If I could say anything to try and help, it would be that Claire loved you more than life.  She was so excited that morning, said the three of you were going to the zoo that afternoon and some amusement park if they got through early enough.”

“Zoo?” a very surprised Daniel asked.

“Amusement park?” Jack inquired with a tone of wonder in his voice.

The lovers had spoken at the same time, both looking at each other.

“Oh, yes.  Claire told me that she and Mel wanted you to see something other than a camel,” Mary laughed.  “Apparently, Mel also thought it was time you rode something other than a camel.”

Jack laughed, which earned him a slight leer from his soulmate.

Mary expounded, “She told me they weren't sure how long they would be here, in the United States, before starting the next project, and they felt guilty about you not having all those normal experiences.  They were going to make the most out of being in the States while they had the chance, just as soon as they got the exhibit set up.”

Letting out a sad sigh, the amicable woman remarked, “I guess they were in a bit too much of a hurry; but they loved you, Daniel, and I guess that's why I stopped you today. I wanted to make sure you knew that, that you were so much in Claire's thoughts that morning, and how excited she was ... and Mel, too.”

“Thank you, Mary,” Daniel said softly.

“One more thing,” Mary said, pulling out a business card.  “I have some photos of Mel and Claire, not many, just a few, but ... well, Claire gave me a roll of film to develop for her the day before she ... ah, I'm ashamed to say that with classes and my volunteer duties, I never took the film to be developed, and then they died.  Strange as it seems, I couldn't get myself to throw away that film.  I don't know if it's any good after all these years, nor do I know what's on it, but if you want it, give me a call or write me, and I'll send it to you.”

Daniel smiled and thanked the woman, who left the two men alone.

“Gawd, Jack, the zoo,” Daniel stated in astonishment.

“Rides.  I knew your parents were okay people,” Jack teased carefully.

“But ...”

“No guilt trips, Danny,” Jack stated firmly.  “What Mary said proves they loved you and that they wanted you to have a full childhood.  The choice was still theirs, not yours.  Don't you dare go there.”

Daniel flinched, but nodded as he lamented, “I don't remember them saying anything about ... zoos and amusement parks.”

“Danny, you were a little boy, and you went through a very traumatic experience.  You can't kick yourself for not remembering; besides, maybe you didn't know.  Maybe they were going to surprise you,” Jack suggested.

“Maybe,” the younger man replied, a small smile appearing on his face.  ~I want to believe it.~

Jack gave the younger man a quick kiss and then steered Daniel out of the museum and towards their hotel.

====

“Remember, you only talk to me, not Doctor Jackson,” Jack instructed firmly.

“Yes, Sir,” the concierge said.

Jack smiled and hurried up to Daniel's room.  He had made a temporary 'escape' under the guise of wanting to change his clothes, but in reality, he needed to make some arrangements.  Those concluded, and his clothing change completed, Jack was once again in Daniel's arms as the two snuggled on the sofa.

Roughly fifty minutes later, there was a knock on the door.

“I wonder who that could be?” Daniel asked.

Jack just shrugged as he released Daniel's hand so the younger man could get up and answer the door.

“Yes?” Daniel said as he opened the door.  His eyes widened at the table.  “Um, there must be a ... a mistake.  I didn't order ...”

“Excuse me, Sir,” the waiter politely requested as he pushed by Daniel.

Jack stood, a grin on his face.

When Daniel saw his lover's expression, he smiled shyly and asked, “Jack, what did you do?”

“Who, me?” a happy Jack asked innocently.  ~Just my job -- keeping you safe and making you happy.~

Daniel smiled a bit nervously at the waiter, who put the table in place, after which he handed Jack a piece of paper, smiled, and exited, not waiting for any signatures or comments.

“What did you do, Jack?”

Jack picked up one of the bright flowers at the center of the table.  He hadn't ordered the flowers, but they made for a lovely centerpiece to the table.

“For you, Love,” Jack said gallantly, handing his lover a flower.  As Daniel smiled and bowed his head shyly, Jack thought, ~Note to self:  buy Danny some real flowers.  He deserves them; besides, Sara always said flowers made her heart smile, and I want Danny's heart to smile all the time.~

“Thank you, Jack,” an appreciative and overwhelmed Daniel stated.

“I can't take credit for the hotel's centerpiece, but this is for you, too,” Jack stated.  He lifted up the covering from the food tray, revealing a silver plate full of delights, from chocolates to soft pretzels.  As well as the flower centerpiece, there was wine, the flowers, and a cassette tape.  ~I hope he likes this one.~

“John Tesh,” Daniel observed, smiling.

“He knows how to play those keys,” Jack remarked, taking the tape to put it into the cassette deck that had been delivered with the table.

“Thank you driving General Hammond crazy,” Daniel intoned gratefully as the couple shared a tender smile and loving gaze.

“Anytime,” Jack chuckled.

The soulmates settled in to enjoy their romantic interlude, spending a cozy night together, sampling their treats and wine, snuggling, and talking about anything but museums and cover stones.

====

Saturday was another day of lectures and posturing.  To Jack, it seemed as if everyone was trying to outdo the others, listening only superficially to other people's opinions and discoveries before launching in with some sort of “but when I ...” retort.

Worse than that, though, Jack was frustrated at not being able to open the eyes of those in the room.  He detested the people pretending to be polite to Daniel, speaking to him without really looking at him.  Most of the time, during their conversations, people looked over and around Daniel, hoping to find someone 'better' to talk to, someone more acceptable in Academia than Daniel.

Later in the day, the professor Daniel had come to see invited Daniel to his suite to catch up.  Jack had been invited, but he decided he'd let Daniel revel in some respect on his own and would catch up with ESPN.  At 4:15 p.m., he decided to take a brisk walk in Central Park.  He figured by the time he got back, Daniel would be finished visiting and ready to eat.  Jack himself was already hungry, having had a light lunch.

Dressed in his brown sweats, the colonel took the stairs down to the lobby.  He ambled the hallways for a while, looking at a couple of the shops and reviewing the menus of two of the five restaurants in the hotel.  As he walked through one of the quieter areas, he heard laughter, immediately recognizing it as coming from his soulmate.  Curious, Jack followed the sweet sound he cherished, only to have his cherishing come to an abrupt stop when he saw what was happening.

There, in front of Jack, was his lover caressing Jill's leg as she smiled down at him with big, wanton eyes.

“Oh, Daniel, you have such a magic touch,” Jill said coyly, letting out a seductive moan at his touch.

Daniel shrugged as he smiled and asked, “Is it helping?”

“Oh, yes, definitely helping,” the young woman gushed.

As soon as Daniel stopped his efforts, Jill immediately tensed, groaning as if she was in pain and grabbing for the calf of her left leg.

“I'm sorry, maybe I should get a doctor,” Daniel suggested.

“No, no, just don't stop,” Jill pleaded.  “It feels so good when you touch it like that,” she spoke and then broke out into a grin.

~She has more teeth than the Osmonds,~ Jack mocked from his position.  He watched as Daniel returned to his former position, kneeling in front of the seated blonde, his hands gently rubbing back and forth on her calf, massaging tenderly as he did so.  ~He's enjoying this too much,~ he thought as his Mr. Jealousy began to surface and take control.

“I love your hands, Daniel.  They're so sensitive and strong,” Jill sighed, causing Daniel to blush slightly.  She reached down and put her hand atop Daniel's right hand.  “Thank you for helping me.  I'll be forever grateful, and I absolutely insist on doing something for you.”

That was it.  Jack's cool had flamed and was ready to boil over.  Mr. Jealousy was now in full possession of the man's faculties.

“Daniel,” the older man barked.

“Hi, Jack, I was just ...” Daniel began innocently.

“... having fun?” Jack snapped, his eyes cold and accusing.

“Isn't he wonderful?” Jill said with just the right innocent smile and cock of her head as she gazed at the younger man.

“Yes, he's wonderful,” Jack agreed as he pulled his lover up by taking hold of his arms.

“Jack, what the heck are you doing?” Daniel asked, not liking his lover's current attitude.

“Protecting you from she-wolves.  Think faraway princesses, Daniel,” Jack warned.

Daniel glared and ordered, “Stop it, Jack.”  Jack still had a hold on Daniel's left forearm, and the younger man had to take his own right hand to push Jack's hands off of him.  He began to explain, “She had a cramp, and I was just ...”

“I saw what you were 'just', and there was nothing 'just' about it,” Jack irrationally argued.

“Jack, don't be ridiculous,” Daniel stated, annoyed by the accusation.

“I'm not,” Jack refuted.

“Are, too,” Daniel resisted.

“Am not.”

“Definitely are,” the younger man insisted.

“Oh, no, I'm not,” the older man maintained.

“Yes.”

“NO!” Jack exclaimed, holding his ground and glaring at his soulmate.

“Jack, this is insane,” Daniel stated, turning around in a circle and wishing he had something to kick.

“Excuse me, can I have my shoe?” Jill asked, feeling a bit confused by the unusual exchange between the two men.

It was only then that Jack realized he had picked up the woman's shoe and was flaunting it in Daniel's face.

With indignation in his voice and green in his eyes, Jack's raised voice commanded, “Take this,” handing her the shoe, “your fake cramps, your gushing smile, your school girl crush, and GO A-WAY.”

“Jack, stop acting like an idiot,” Daniel demanded.  ~What's happened to him?~

“Honey, how about you and I let Gramps yell at himself?  My leg could still use some care, and I know how I can make it up to you,” Jill spoke both confidently and seductively.

“*Gramps*?  Oh, I don't think so ... *Honey*,” Jack seethed, yanking Daniel away from her and towards him.

“Jack, I am *not* a ping pong ball, and believe it or not, I have a mind.  *Stop it ... now*!”

“Come on, Daniel.  Let's leave him,” Jill urged as she tugged against Daniel's right arm, trying to move him out of the small cubbyhole which was situated near the back of the hotel.

“DANIEL, you are so *not* going anywhere with that Monroe wannabe,” Jack stated about the bubbly blonde.

As Daniel closed his eyes, not sure how exactly his day had gone from wonderful to miserable to reasonably okay and then to decrepit.  He slowly headed for the door, not really intending to leave, but wanting space between the two warring parties.

All of a sudden Jack grabbed him and laid on him what Daniel referred to as the O'Neill Special, a long, hard, lingering kiss, the one that always turned his knees to Jell-O, the one that shot his brain cells into smithereens, and the one that took away his vocal chords.  This edition was a whopper, one where added to Jack's passion was a big batch of possessiveness.

In spite of his best intentions, Daniel's arms shot up to Jack's neck, his fingers playing with the ends of Jack's hair and his body slinking up so close to Jack that they could probably be arrested.

Jill watched, looking like the guppy that Daniel sometimes did, her mouth open and eyes wide.  Her voice had gone.  She stared and stared and stared as the kiss went on and on and on.

Finally, Jack released his captive, totally pleased with himself.  Daniel was his, and he was sure of it.  He had just made sure Jill was sure of it, too, or so he hoped.

Daniel stood close to his partner, breathing hard, still suffering the after effects of the O'Neill Special.  Jack was sure he'd won the argument, but then, Daniel backed away, pushing Jack back as he himself moved back several steps.

“No, Jack, it's not that easy,” Daniel said as he headed for the doorway.  ~Don't give in, but crap, that was good.~

“You aren't going anywhere with that jezebel,” Jack warned, pointing at Jill, who wasn't as thrown by the kiss as Jack had wanted her to be.

“You don't own me, Jack,” Daniel argued.

“I didn't say I did,” the older man bristled.

“Then what was that all about?” the younger man demanded to know.

Aggravated, Jack responded, “If I have to explain it to you, then it really doesn't matter, does it?”

“You're so full of it,” Daniel accused.  “Where do you get off treating me like ... like ... like some ... some piece of meat?”

“You're exaggerating,” Jack claimed.

“Am I?” Daniel challenged, his eyes boring into his lover's.  “Sure looked to me like you were staking your claim -- 'mine'.  You should have beaten your chest, Jack, sounded the mating call like ... like some prehistoric caveman.”

“Oh, for crying out loud.  You kissed me back, and you can't deny that.  It couldn't have been that unpleasant for you the way you were moaning and your tongue was dueling for equal time and right of passage.”

“You deserve better, Daniel,” Jill cooed, sensing her battle was far from being lost.

“Shut up!” both Jack and Daniel said in unison, stunning the blonde and frustrating both of the men.

“Daniel, you're too innocent for your own good.  She wants you,” Jack angrily shouted.

“So?”

“She was touching you,” Mr. Jealousy reminded, 'Jack' firmly in the background at this point.

“So?”

“So?  SO? ... So I didn't like it.  You're ...” Jack began, only to stop short of completing his comment.

“I'm what, Jack?  Go on,  say it!” Daniel dared.

“Oh, for ...”

“SAY IT ...” the younger man demanded with glaring eyes.

“You're mine.  Is that what you want to hear?  Fine ... I'll say it again.  YOU'RE MINE, but it works both ways, Daniel.”

“Yeah, right,” Daniel intoned dryly, staring over at the doorway for a moment.

Jill interjected, “Oh, Daniel, he's such a beast.  Let me take care of you tonight.  Come with me, and I'll ...”

Jack glared at the blonde.  This was his best death and intimidation look, the one that had Marines quaking, and it was the one that finally connected with the brazen blonde, who took a step back.  Jack returned his focus to Daniel.

“Yeah right what?” Jack asked.

“Nothing ... nothing at all.  Just ... leave it alone,” Daniel requested.

“Fine.  Let's go,” Jack stated.

“No, I think ... I think we owe Jill an apology for this little scene,” Daniel said more calmly than his prior statements.

“I'm free for dinner,” Jill perked, ready to take advantage of any opening she could.

“Oh, I don't think so,” an agitated Jack responded.  “Daniel, if I have to pick you up and carry you out of here, I will.  Don't think I won't.”

Daniel stared.  He was shutting down, tired of fighting and of not being believed, trusted, and respected.  He had expected that from his so-called colleagues, but not from Jack, especially not this week.

“Let's go, Daniel,” Jack ordered as he nudged Daniel's arm.

“No, Jack,” Daniel replied, backing away slightly.  “I don't follow orders well, especially in a relationship that is supposed to be a partnership and not a dictatorship.”

“You and me, or you and the gusher?” Jack accused, his eyes so green with jealousy that he could barely see straight.

“That's rude,” Daniel informed him.

“Oh, for the love of ...”

“Goodnight, Jack,” Daniel replied cooly as he turned and walked away.

“Fine.  Walk away; see if I care,” Jack called out.  “Let her do what Shyla did, only this time I won't be around to pick up the pieces.”

Totally clueless, but happy to have 'won', Jill ran after Daniel and put her arms in his.  She beamed back at Jack and began rambling in Daniel's ear as they walked down the hallway, leaving Jack huffing and puffing to an empty space.

====

~Fine!~ Mr. Jealousy huffed as he headed for the elevator.  ~Who needs him?  Not me.  He wants some pop*tart* to fondle, he can have her.~

Entering the elevator, the green-eyed monster hit the button to his floor so hard that he had to shake his hand to relieve the pain.  Still, he focused on his broken love affair.

~Always knew I was too old for him.  He just wants a floozy to play around with.  All the geeky innocent stuff is just crap,~ Mr. Jealousy raged internally.

Arriving on his floor, the alter ego of Jack O'Neill pushed by someone, not even realizing he'd brushed by her, causing her to lose her balance slightly.

“How rude,” the woman spoke.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jealousy had total control of Jack, and he huffed and puffed his way straight to his hotel room.

====

Jack was packed and changed into a blue shirt and pepperstone jeans.  He had cursed up a storm the entire time he had packed his suitcase.  He did a quick double check, took the elevator down to the lobby where he checked out, and then walked out of the hotel, where the doorman hailed him a cab to the airport.

En route, Mr. Jealousy began to retreat back into his hiding place, somewhere deep inside of Jack O'Neill.  It was a dark place Jack didn't like to admit was there, and it was a place that stemmed from his own insecurities.  He was older than Daniel, more than he cared to admit to, and his youthful lover was, as Jack often thought, ~a friggin', out-of-this-world genius who really does make me look like a 'dumb' colonel.~

By the time the taxi pulled up to the curb at the busy airport, Jack was torn as to what to do, especially since Mr. Jealousy had fully disappeared, leaving a sad and lonely man in his place.

“We're here, Mac.  You gonna get out or sit there all day?” the taxi driver asked.

“I haven't decided,” Jack answered as he stared out the passenger window.  ~Who needs him?  He wouldn't have left with her if ...~

“Well, decide, or I'm putting the meter back on,” the driver announced.

~You can take your meter and ...~  Angered, Jack reached for the handle of the door, but suddenly swore under his breath.  ~I need him, that's who needs him.~  Releasing the handle, he sighed, “Take me back to the hotel.”

“What?” the driver asked in surprise.

~Don't argue, moron; it's more money for you.~  Jack snapped, “You heard me.  I want to go back to the hotel.”

The yellow cab driver raised his eyebrows, but did as instructed.

====

“He's such a brute,” Jill said as she and Daniel stood in the hotel's atrium, Daniel's arms self-hugging.  She was doing all she could to flame the fire, wanting the good-looking archaeologist all for herself.  “Come on, Honey.  You don't need him.  He's just some old grizzly bear who treats you like a toy.”

Daniel's head snapped to his left to face Jill, but he said nothing.  Instead, he walked to a large plant, reaching out to touch and examine it.  Jill joined him, her fingers walking up Daniel's arm, then to his neck, and finally, she put her hand on his chest and began to lean in to kiss his neck.

“Stop ... I mean, no,” Daniel told her, backing away and walking hurriedly to a window.  ~Gawd, how do I get myself into these situations?~

Jill, however, would not be deterred and stated strongly, “I don't believe for one minute, Daniel, that you are so hung up on men that you'd refuse what I'm offering.  I'd be good for you, Daniel, so good,” she said as she slid the back of her hand down Daniel's cheek, along his torso, and then stopping at his waist, switching to a side-to-side caress.

Daniel tensed and yelled, “Stop pawing me.”

“But, Daniel ...”

“No ... you don't even know me.  Jack ... Jack does ... the good and the bad.  He ... he loves me,” Daniel intoned confidently.

“He sure has a funny way of showing it, shoving you around like that, yelling, making you kiss him,” the blonde responded.

“He ... he didn't make me,” Daniel admitted.

“It sure looked like it from where I was standing,” Jill argued.  “That was a pretty tight grip.”

“What it was, was *some* kiss.  I call it the O'Neill Special,” Daniel surprisingly confided, trying to discourage the brazen woman with a bit of emotional honesty.

Refusing to give up, Jill continued, “Don't be naive, Daniel.  He was holding you hostage.”

“No, Jill, he wasn't.  I was holding onto him, too.  He just ... he ... he wasn't forcing me to do anything.  He'd never do that, not Jack,” Daniel maintained.  He felt sick.  He wished he could curl up in a ball and get lost somewhere.  ~I wish I'd never come back here.~

“Daniel, people stay in unhealthy relationships out of habit, but I'm sure that I could ...” Jill began.

“I'm sorry,” Daniel interrupted.  “I love him, and nothing else really matters at all.  I'm sorry if I'd misled you in any way,” Daniel said and then backed slowly out of the atrium and headed for Jack's room, leaving Jill standing in utter, open-mouthed astonishment, clueless for words.

====

~Please forgive me, Jack.  I'm just so tired,~ Daniel thought as he knocked on the door to Jack's room, surprised when it easily pushed open.  At the foot of the bed was a maid, changing the sheets.  “Jack?”

“Are you looking for someone?” the maid asked in broken English.

Daniel shook his head, answering, “No, no one.”  The young man's heart had stopped.  He had lost his soulmate, forever.  Jack had left him, having finally had enough of Daniel's quirky needs and ways.  ~I knew it would happen; I just ... I just hoped it ... it ... gawd.~

With his head bowed, studying the floor as he walked, Daniel despondently returned to his room and threw himself on the bed, wondering why he had ever come to New York City.  Nothing good ever happened to Daniel Jackson in the large metropolis, and Daniel decided he would never again come back.

~I hate this place.  I hate it!~

Tears escaping from his eyes, Daniel tried to bury himself in his pillow, feeling lonely and abandoned yet again.

====

“What do you mean you don't have a room?  I just checked out an hour ago,” Jack barked at the man who stood behind the front desk counter.

“I understand that, but we have several conventions in town this weekend, Sir, and we've been booked solid for weeks.  The reservation you got was from a last minute cancellation, and when you checked out, there was someone waiting for a room.  I'm truly sorry.  Can I help you find an accommodation at another hotel?”

“NO,” Jack bellowed, grabbing his bags and heading for the elevator, which confused the already confused desk clerk even more.

Jack grumbled the entire ride up the elevator, and then he stomped along the hotel floor, cursing as he walked past the room that was once his.  Then he let out a deep sigh, knowing it was pointless to be angry at this point.  With his bag in his left hand, his coat in his right, Jack knocked on the door.  He knocked again, and then again.

Finally, Daniel opened the door, automatically saying, “I don't ...” and then stopping as he saw his lover standing there.

Jack smiled weakly, saying, “They gave away my room.  I'm homeless.  I don't suppose you know where there's a bed I could share?”

“You might try Jill,” Daniel replied antagonistically, though he really wanted to devour his lover on the spot.  ~Why'd I say that?  He's here, right here.  Why am I pushing him away?~

Jack nodded several times and sighed, “But I'm not in love with Jill.”

“Neither am I,” the younger man responded, his cerulean blue eyes meeting Jack's chocolate brown ones.

“So ... about that bed ...” Jack began, purposefully stopping, his verbal question continued via his expression alone.

Daniel lowered his head, slowly turning toward the inside of the room, leaving the door ajar.

Jack looked up and thanked his lucky stars for his lover, having assumed the open door was permission to enter.  He tossed his coat and luggage near the chair and walked over to Daniel, who was now standing by the chair of the little hotel desk, his hands rubbing against the chair's walnut finish.

“Danny, if I touch you, are you going to hit me?” Jack asked bravely.  He saw his lover shake his head, so then he asked, “If I hold you, are you going to think I don't respect you?”  After another shake of the younger man's head, Jack asked, “Are you going to make me sleep on this uncomfortable very small sofa?”

“It opens up to a bed,” Daniel answered softly.

Jack rephrased his question, asking, “Are you going to make me sleep on this very uncomfortable, springy, small sofa bed that might as well be miles away from where I really want to be?”

When Daniel shook his head, Jack smiled, inside and out.  He approached his soulmate from behind, sighing at the contact, as did his Daniel.

“Geez, Danny, I'm so sorry,” Jack admitted.  “I don't know what happened to me.”

“You were jealous,” Daniel accused.

“Ya think?” Jack quipped, confessing to the truth.

Daniel nodded against Jack's left shoulder, his hands resting on Jack's as the older man toyed with his lover's smooth skin.

“I love you, Danny,” a grateful Jack spoke.

“And I love you, Jack.  Why can't you believe that?” Daniel asked, a note of desperation in his tone.

“Because you're smart and beautiful and could have anyone you wanted, and sometimes, I just wonder why me,” Jack confided.  ~You're so much better than me, Danny.~

“But I love you, Jack, just you.  Why is that ...” Daniel suddenly tensed.  ~Sha're.~  “Gawd, Jack ... I ... I forgot about ... how could I just totally forget her like this?”

“It's okay, Danny,” Jack assured.  “It's hard to live in two worlds.  Don't worry; I know, and it's understood.  You love Sha're; she's your wife, and we're going to get her back for you.”

Daniel turned and stared; then he raised his hands and completely traced Jack's face, his fingers moving around the ends of Jack's short hair, touching his eyes and eyebrows, running down over his nose, and brushing his fingers along Jack's lips.

~You don't understand.  Why can't I tell you?~  With misty eyes, Daniel said, “I never knew I could feel like this.  It scares me.”

“Me, too.  I'm so sorry, Danny.  I was jealous out of my mind.  I don't even know what I said, but whatever it was, and I'm sure it was bad.  Geez, I'm sorry,” the older man echoed.

“That was quite a kiss, Jack,” Daniel spoke, his cheeks pulling his mouth back into a closed smile.

“Ya think?” Jack grinned with pride.  “I, uh, was trying to deliver a message.”

Daniel laughed in acknowledgement and replied, “You were ... quite the caveman.”

Jack's lips sought out the younger man's.  It was brief, a quick swipe, and then they bore into each other.  There would be no more words aside from cries of “Yes,” “Love you,” and other one syllable words of passion as they fused their bodies together, grinding into each other, reminding themselves of just how good their love could be.  The caveman and his conquest would not rest until four o'clock the following morning, having spent hour after hour solidifying their nation of two.

====

“Geez, Danny, you're incredible.  My Energizer Bunny.  You may kill me,” Jack gasped.

“Want gauawah ... Kill?  Yessssssss ... bunny monkey no ... just ... hmmm ... mot'vated,” Daniel attempted to speak, totally lost in the aftermath of an orgasm he had never ever in his entire lifetime conceived could exist.

Jack thought long and hard trying to decipher his soulmate's words.  He shook his head, wishing he had Daniel's genius.  However, he was also determined to become the one and only expert in the language of Daniel Jackson.

“Danny, what's gauawah?” Jack inquired.

“Hmmm?” a groggy Daniel responded.

“Daniel, Love ... gauawah?” Jack inquired again.

“Yes, please ... no sug ... <yawn> ... 'r,” the younger man answered.

~That wasn't any help.~  Jack was totally lost, but he was determined to figure it out.  “No Sug ... sugar?  You don't want sugar?” he asked.

“No ... nev'r,” Daniel smacked his lips and that gave Jack his clue.

“Coffee!  You want coffee?” Jack deduced.

“Said that already, Jack.  Pay attention,” Daniel demanded lightly.

“Oh, so now you can speak.  I'm still trying to figure out what you said before,” Jack told him.

“No idea,” Daniel responded as he settled his head against his lover's chest and smiled.  “Comfy.  Love my Jack pillow.”

~Love him.~  Jack smiled, feeling warmth from Daniel's body.  “Love my Danny blanket,” Jack replied softly, taking a moment to enjoy the tingling sensations of having his soulmate's body so close to him.

Daniel had one leg hooked between Jack's, his head solidly on the older man's chest, and his left arm draped possessively around him.  It felt so good and so natural for both of them.

“Goodnight, my Energizer Bunny,” Jack crooned, smiling.

“Not a bunny or a monkey,” Daniel said, denying the truth.

Jack grinned, everything finally falling into place.  Daniel had whined about the use of the bunny nickname, comparing it to Space Monkey.  Jack realized the younger man was also saying that he wasn't a bunny, but had just been motivated during their lovemaking.  Jack had been, too!  Daniel had also wanted coffee, but since he had fallen asleep, Jack figured it could wait.  He placed a kiss on his lover's head and let sleep take him.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack softly intoned, feeling all was right with the world at this moment.

With Jack's declaration of love, Daniel snuggled closer.  The older man chuckled.  It always amazed him that his lover seemed to hear him when he was sound asleep and would respond to whatever words Jack spoke.

~I'll never understand it, but I'll always treasure it,~ Jack thought as he caressed his Heart.

====

“J'ck?”  When Daniel awoke, he was alone, and that panicked him.  “Jack?  Jack where are you?” he asked anxiously.

“Hey, right here, Love,” Jack walked in, a big smile on his face as he sat down next to his lover.

“Gawd, Jack, please don't do that ... not after ... I mean ...”

Daniel had worried that Jack had had a change of heart.  When he woke up alone, he had assumed the worst, that he had been abandoned once again.

“I'm sorry, Love.”  Jack caressed Daniel's cheek and realized he had made a goof by not getting back into bed after he had finished his task. He lifted Daniel to him, kissing him tenderly in apology.  “I had to make a couple of phone calls; didn't mean to scare you.”

“It's just ... I thought ... I ... I don't like that, Jack.  Don't leave me alone like that,” Daniel requested strongly.

“I'm sorry, Babe.  Forgive me,” Jack begged as his tongue entered Daniel's mouth reaching for new depths.  “I love you, Danny, so friggin' much.”

Daniel's body was trying to fuse with Jack's.  He was afraid to let go.

~I messed up,~ Jack realized silently.  ~Note to self:  do not let Danny wake up alone.~  He waited a couple of minutes, holding and reassuring Daniel as much as possible.  Then, he made a suggestion.  “How about a shower?  We only have a few hours before the plane leaves.”

====

A while later, Daniel emerged, dressed, and was about to suggest they get a bagel or something for breakfast, but he never had the chance.  He stood speechless in the doorway as a delightful tray of breakfast foods awaited him.  It wasn't the food, however, that had floored him as much as his lover walking towards him with the most perfect red rose Daniel had ever seen.

“For you, My Love,” Jack spoke as he handed the rose to Daniel and leaned in for a quick kiss.

“No one ... I've never been given a rose before,” Daniel confided softly, his eyes shining so brightly that Jack thought he might be blinded, and his mouth smiling so gigantically that Jack wondered if he might pull a muscle.

~Oh, yeah.  His heart is smiling.  Geez, my heart is smiling.  Note to self:  if I ever see Sara again, thank her!~  “Get used to it, Love.  You're my rose, and I know sometimes I can be a thorn in your side, but I swear, Danny, I just love you so much.  The truth is I don't understand how I could be this lucky, that you'd love me like this.”

Jack took his left hand to caress Daniel's cheek, and the younger man leaned into it.

Daniel sighed, “Jack, you make me feel so ... so ...”

“Cherished?  Loved?  Treasured?  You're all of those things to me, and more,” Jack professed.  “Maybe some day I'll figure out how to tell you properly, but for now, I offer you a rose, and this old grumpy grizzly body; and I promise I'll try not to growl too much.  I owe you an apology, Daniel.  I'm sorry.”

Daniel sniffed the pleasant aroma of the red rose and smiled and then raised his arms around Jack, the rose still in his hand.  He just had to say the words; he couldn't hold them in, not for another second.

“I love you, Jack.  Thank you.”

“Eat,” Jack instructed after another kiss.

“Do I get to eat you first?” Daniel asked, his eyes shimmering in anticipation.

Jack grinned, totally amazed at Daniel's flirtatiousness since he was normally so shy, and responded, “You're so demanding, Doctor Jackson.”

“I'll, uh, take that to be a 'yes',” Daniel stated.

The lovers enjoyed a tender, but very quick make-out session, and then enjoyed their breakfast, finding unique ways to take advantage of the strawberries that were part of their breakfast buffet.

====

“Back to the Mountain,” Jack chirped as he picked up his suitcase, suit bag, and coat.

Daniel was right behind the older man with his luggage.  Unlike Jack, Daniel had two pieces, plus a tote, full of things acquired during the lecture.

“Wait, Jack.”

Daniel wasn't sure how to maneuver all of his luggage.  He dropped one bag and went over to pick up his rose, smelling it again.  Jack saw his Heart smile, and that made him smile.  Daniel returned to Jack's side.

“You're beautiful, Danny,” Jack said sincerely.  As Daniel blushed, Jack smiled yet again.  “Geez, I love it when you do that.  So beautiful,” he crooned into Daniel's ear, causing the younger man to shiver.

“Jack, we won't get to the Mountain, and the general will have your hide if you keep doing that,” the archaeologist warned.

“Okay, let's go,” the colonel acquiesced.

~Let's see ...~  Daniel looked down, still not sure how to go about carting the luggage.  Finally, he called out, “Jack?”

“I love you, Danny, for caring so much about a rose,” Jack intoned quietly.

“You gave it to me, Jack.  I love it ... like I love you.”  When Jack took Daniel's other suitcase as well as the tote bag, Daniel objected, “I can carry that.”

“No, you keep that rose safe,” Jack said.  “It needs you safe and unencumbered, because if it's me, then you're its heart, because you sure are my heart.”

“Who said you were bad with words?  I love you, Jack O'Neill,” Daniel said strongly, wondering if he had broken his record for saying those three words first, something he didn't do that often, his insecurities causing him to wait for Jack to say them.

“I love you, Daniel Jackson.”

The lovers stood for a few moments, staring into each other's eyes, their looks saying so much more than words could ever express.  Then, finally, they proceeded to check out and head back to their lives in Colorado Springs.

====

Jack and Daniel had spent Sunday night making love and talking about their trip. Jack had apologized for his behavior and jealousy so much that Daniel had been forced to threaten him that if he uttered one more apology he'd be sleeping alone.  The older man didn't utter another apology, at least not with words.

The couple also talked about meeting Mary, as well as Daniel's feelings about finally letting go of the disaster that had happened in front of him all those years ago -- the tragic death of his beloved parents.

“They loved me, Jack,” Daniel said quietly as he lay atop his lover's bare chest.

“Yes, they did,” Jack affirmed.

“So do you,” Daniel spoke with more confidence than usual.

“No doubt about it,” the older man happily agreed.

After a moment, Daniel confided, “I want to go back again sometime, not to mourn, but to remember and honor them.”

Nodding, Jack replied, “You honor them every day, Danny.  They couldn't have asked for a better son.  Trust me on this.  I know what I'm talking about.”

“Thank you, Jack.”

“For what?” Jack asked, tilting his head slightly to try and get a glimpse of his lover's eyes.

“Aggravating Hammond,” Daniel chuckled, still amazed at all the antics Jack had done to be given the downtime.

~It was nothing.~  Laughing, Jack responded, “Anytime, Daniel, anytime at all.”

====

On Monday morning, Jack and Daniel drove together to the SGC, having already decided to spend the night at Daniel's apartment.

As the morning ticked on, General Hammond was glad to observe that his 2IC had returned less of a grizzly and more the colonel.  Things were pretty much back to normal, even though Jack had insisted on taking a long lunch, pushing back a scheduled briefing while refusing to explain why.  Hammond agreed, sensing disaster if he didn't.  He really didn't want a return of 'Colonel Grizzly Bear'.

~Our meeting can wait an hour or two.  I'm not sure I'll ever understand you, Jack, but you're a darn fine colonel, and a good friend, judging from Doctor Jackson's positive outlook this morning,~ Hammond thought as Jack walked away.

====

As the day progressed, the archaeologist was so busy playing catch up that he didn't notice Jack's prolonged absence from the Mountain during lunchtime, especially since Jack still found time to 'annoy' him by playing with artifacts in his office.

At the end of the day, Jack collected his lover, practically dragging him away from his backlog of work.

“I have so much to do, Jack,” Daniel commented.  ~I didn't realize we went off-world so often.  There's research, cataloging, translations ...~

“Trust me, Daniel,” Jack requested boastfully as they walked to the truck, interrupting his lover's silent listing of tasks to be perform.  “It'll be there in the morning.”

“That's the problem,” Daniel responded.  “I seem to have an abundance of paperwork in addition to the translations and research I need to do.”

“I can help you,” the older man offered.

“You can?” Daniel asked as he closed the door to the Ford truck and put on his seatbelt.

“Well, with the paperwork anyway,” Jack stated.

“Jack, you're volunteering to help me ... with paperwork?” Daniel asked in total disbelief.

“I could help you file it,” the colonel suggested.

“File it?  Where?” a surprised Daniel asked.

Jack smiled, starting the vehicle as he answered, “In the round receptacle.  It's a great place for filing.”

“The round ... Jack!” Daniel admonished lightly as he caught on to his lover's game.

Jack chuckled, “Waste baskets save a lot of time, Danny.”

“I'm sure they do.  No wonder you never get your memos,” Daniel observed.

Jack shrugged lightly as he headed for the security gate to exit the Mountain and suggested, “How about Chinese?”

Daniel smiled, having a special fondness for Chinese food, and quickly agreed, “Sure.”

After picking up several of their favorites at a nearby Chinese restaurant, the two men proceeded to Daniel's apartment, which was roughly a twenty minute drive from Cheyenne Mountain.

====

“Jack, why are you grinning like that?” Daniel asked as they entered his apartment building.

“Because,” Jack answered cryptically.

“Very informative.”  Daniel didn't overlook the fact that Jack kept grinning as the elevator moved upwards.  He didn't know what to make of his partner's whistling as they walked through the hallway, either.  Finally, Daniel slid the key in the lock and opened the door.  “Put the food o... o... oh my ... Jack?”

Jack folded his arms around Daniel, kissing his nape intermittently as he explained, “I wanted to do this in New York, but we were leaving.”

Daniel was totally taken aback.  He slowly walked into his beautifully scented apartment, now full of roses -- red, white, and yellow -- some in bunches, some standing alone.  They were on the table, the counter, on the piano, lying on the bookshelves, taped to the refrigerator, on the mantle, and even all around the fish tank.

The archaeologist was so focused on scanning the room, he didn't see Jack disappear into the bedroom or hurry back to the living room after a minute or two.

Then Daniel noticed the trail of flower petals leading to the hallway.  He followed them, peering into the bedroom, which was draped in red roses.  Even the bed was covered with rose petals.

Daniel felt his eyes moisten, and he whispered with all the voice he could, “J'ck?”

Jack put his strong arms around his Love and said, “My beautiful rose.  I love you, love you so much.”

A sniffle later, Daniel turned and saw the trail of rose petals that led to the bathroom.  He could see candles lit all around the room, along with scented oils and more roses everywhere he could see.

“I have plans for us tonight,” Jack crooned, holding his precious archaeologist.  “Sure hope you aren't cemented into watching that documentary.”

“What documentary?  Never heard of it.  What's a documentary?  Gawd, I love you, Jack.  Thank you ... thank you,” Daniel spoke from the depths of his heart.

The two began to kiss, their Chinese food forgotten as they ambled towards the bathroom.  There, another fusion of their bodies took place, one that would stay with them both for a very long time as they left the echoes of their pasts far behind them.

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