Forever and Always

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  NC-17
Season:  3 - November 2-13, 1999
Spoilers:  Children of the Gods, Prisoners, Secrets, Forever in a Day, Past and Present
Size:  85kb
Written:  November 24-28, December 1-2, 2003, January 5, 2004  Revised:  January 20, 2005, May 9, December 22-23,28,30-31, 2007, January 3,8,17, March 2, 2008
Summary:  After Sha're dies, Jack fears he's lost his reason for living to the destroyer of worlds.  Is it really the darkest before the dawn?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fics, “Wish Upon a Star,” “Waiting,” and “Murphy's Law”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Drdjlover, Suzanna, Tina, Courtney, Charlotte, Linda, Irina, Melissa, Lissa, Tonya, Keri!

Forever and Always
by Orrymain

“Thank you, Love, for a marvelous week. I needed it,” Daniel spoke appreciatively.

“You earned it.  Geez, Danny, you took care of me and the house as it fell apart.  I certainly didn't help, acting like some old grizzly bear.”

“Yes, you did,” Daniel chuckled.

Daniel was snug in Jack's arms looking out towards the chilling but serene-looking lake.  Both were wearing warm turtleneck sweaters, the younger man's black and the older man's gray, stonewash jeans, and new black boots that they'd purchased on a trip into Ashby, which was a nearby town.  Jack wore his black leather jacket as well, while Daniel had on his longer brown leather coat.

The couple had come to the Minnesota cabin on the spur of the moment after a crazy weekend where everything that could go wrong, had, including broken appliances and Jack having an injured foot.  It had taken time for the colonel to realize just how bad things had been for his lover, but once he had, his Mr. Fix-It had taken over.  He'd made every bad thing better, even buying his partner an expensive new car, a very sporty 1999 Shelby-American that Daniel had immediately dubbed his Silver Fox, just like he often called Jack.

“I mean, you did help, because you took care of me, just like you always do.  I can't believe how you fixed everything.  Everything,” the younger man repeated softly.  His right hand was extended up to the side of the older man's head, his fingers tenderly running through the man's silver-gray hair.  “I love you, Jack.”

Jack grinned.  Daniel very rarely spoke those precious words on his own, the result of a childhood full of self-doubt and fears that had carried through into adulthood.  Hearing them now, spoken first, filled him with a lightness and joy that he couldn't express, except to return the emotional declaration, something that he felt from the very depths of his soul.

“And I love you, Angel,” Jack replied, turning his lover to face him so they could share a sweet and gentle kiss.  With a reluctant sigh, he said, “I guess we should get back.”

Daniel tensed in Jack's arms.  He was also clinging to him a bit, not that Jack minded, and his head was lowered, too.  These were all signs that told the slightly taller man that something was definitely amiss.

“Danny, what is it?”

“I don't know.  I feel like ... like something's about to happen that's going to be important.  I don't know.  Hold me, Jack.  Gawd, don't let go,” the trembling archaeologist implored with a cracking voice.

Jack was surprised by his lover's quivering body and shaking voice.  His Daniel was strong and brave, and was rarely spooked by anything; but even before they had left home a week ago for the cabin, Daniel had mentioned some strange foreshadowing of events to come.

As securely as he could, Jack held the man who was his heart in reassurance while saying, “Never; never letting you go.”  He kissed Daniel on the temple and then promised, “Whatever it is, we'll face it together.  You know my motto.  Together, you and I are unbeatable.”

“I hope so,” Daniel replied, his strange sense of foreboding causing him to frown as he nuzzled into his lover's hold even further.

“Nothing will defeat us, Danny, because we love each other,” Jack stated firmly, his hands rubbing his lover's back in small circles.

Jack leaned his head against the younger man's and closed his eyes.  He hated it whenever Daniel felt distressed, as he clearly did now.  He silently vowed to protect his Love from anything they would face.  Whatever was on their horizon that was negative, he'd push away.  It was a resolve he would not abandon.

“Always,” Daniel agreed softly.  “I wish we didn't have to go back.”

“You've learned to like it here,” Jack noted, smiling.

Pulling out of their embrace, Daniel looked over to his right at the cabin and then out at the lake.  He looked behind and to his left of where the two stood, recalling walks into the woods and spontaneous moments of both play and lovemaking.  To say he liked it here at the cabin was an understatement.

The archaeologist sighed contentedly as he replied, “It's so peaceful here, Jack, and it's just us.  I'm happy wherever we are, as long as we're together.  No phone calls, no interruptions: just you and me.”  Snuggling into his soulmate again, he added, “No one can come between us when we're here.”

“Danny, no one will ever come between us, no matter where we are,” the older man promised his Love as he held him securely.

Daniel was silent and, while less tense, he was still holding onto Jack's jacket, almost in desperation.  He was obviously worried about something, and that tore into Jack's soul.

Pulling back, he used his right hand to raise Daniel's face so they could see into each other's eyes as he spoke, “Hey, look at me.  No one, and I mean *no one*, will ever separate us.  I love you, and I'm so not going anywhere.  I'm in this relationship for the duration.”

“Promise?” Daniel asked, his face pleading for Jack's answer to be the one he needed to hear so much.

“Oh, yeah, with all my heart,” Jack affirmed and then leaned in for a passionate kiss.

A few minutes later, Jack and Daniel got into Daniel's shiny silver car and headed back to Colorado Springs.

====

Daniel's foreboding proved to be correct.  No sooner had the lovers awakened at Daniel's apartment the next morning than the phone had rung, ordering them to the Mountain immediately.  They'd received word that Kasuf, Sha're's father, and some other Abydonians had been captured by the Goa'uld.

“Daniel, you ready?” Jack asked his lover, who was standing motionless by his locker.

“Yeah, I guess so,” the archaeologist responded a bit hesitantly.

“We'll get Kasuf and the others out safely.  Don't worry.”

Daniel wasn't really worried about Kasuf.  Well, he was, of course, but that wasn't what was preoccupying his mind.  He was naturally concerned about his friends on Abydos.  Normally, thoughts about the Abydonians led to thinking about his wife and now even Sha're's baby, a boy Kasuf was caring for. Still, his mind wasn't focused on any of them at the moment.  He wasn't even sure what the issue was that gave him such an eerie feeling about the mission.

“Jack?”

“What?”

“I ...”

Daniel looked around and heard the stirrings of SG-9, who had arrived back from their mission an hour or so ago.  He looked down, unable to say what he wanted.

Jack sensed his lover's dilemma, smiling as he quietly spoke, “I know, Danny.  Me, too, but we have to go now.”

Daniel nodded and followed Jack out of the locker room and down the halls of the SGC.  Suddenly, he found himself pulled inside a small storage area, hearing the door lock by his lover's hand.

“Tell me,” Jack insisted.

“It's just ... don't forget I love you, okay?  I ... just don't forget.”

~That's twice in two days, not that I mind, but it's not normal,~ Jack thought about his lover's declaration.  “Danny, we're both going to be fine.”

“I love you, Jack.”

~Three times,~ the older man nodded.  Tenderly, he replied, “Love you, too, Space Monkey.”

“Space Monkey,” Daniel repeated, suddenly reflecting back to a moment on Jack's roof deck when their lives had changed forever.  “It was a perfect night, wasn't it, Jack?”

“Perfect,” Jack caressed Daniel's cheek as he, too, remembered their first night together.  “La Mio Bello Stella Cadente,” he crooned, using Italian to call his soulmate his beautiful falling star.  “Perfection.”

“Don't forget it.  Okay?” Daniel begged, a desperation in his tone and expression.

“How could I?  Danny, what's going on?”

Unable to explain his mood, Daniel just shrugged, shaking his head from confusion, and said, “Just ... Space Monkey.”

“Mine,” Jack stated with softness and confidence.

Feeling only slightly better, Daniel smiled and headed out of the room.

Jack followed, his concern greater than ever.  Daniel had always given him a hard time about the use of the Space Monkey nickname, but today he had clung to it, just as he had clung to Jack at the cabin the day before.  What's more, Daniel had smiled, a tentative, sweet sentimental smile, one Jack loved, but it wasn't the norm, and that bothered him.

SG-1 had a rescue mission to undertake, however, so Jack was forced to put his personal concerns aside as he led the Marines from two other teams through the Stargate.

As for Daniel, he remained quiet.  He couldn't explain the apprehensive feeling he'd had for weeks, but, somehow, he just knew something was going to happen, and it wasn't going to be good.  Worse, he feared for his relationship with Jack, even though he knew things were better than they'd ever been.

The two men were so in love.  With every passing day, their love grew, as did their devotion to their relationship.  Nothing could interfere with that.  Daniel was certain of it.  He found himself frequently remembering the moment when he knew he was in love with Jack, recalling the instant he knew Jack still cared about him.  He replayed their first night together over and over in his mind.  He clung to those memories, from the falling star that Jack wished upon to the crazy, nonsensical nickname he'd been labeled with.

Daniel was deep in his memories as the technician dialed the Gate.

~Space Monkey.  I still don't know what it means.  Yes, I do.  It means ...~ He glanced at Jack, chatting with Sam.  ~It means you love me, that we belong to each other.~

“Chevron seven locked,” Daniel heard, as the Stargate did its famous kawoosh.

“Okay, Campers, we're off to find the Munchkins and kill the wicked witch if we can.  Everyone stay sharp,” Jack said, taking the lead.

Daniel allowed himself one more moment to recall the beauty of his love with his partner, to remember Jack's promise that they'd always be together, that no one would ever be able to break them up.  He trusted his lover more than anyone in the world, and Jack never lied to him.  He could depend on his Love's words as if they were gospel.

~Then why am I so scared?~ Daniel asked himself just before he walked through the Stargate.  ~Gawd, Jack.  It's slipping away; I feel it, but I don't know why.  Please don't let it happen.  Please.~

====

The rescue mission was difficult.  The Jaffa were everywhere, but finally the SGC teams were getting the upper hand.  When things finally calmed, Jack looked around for Daniel.  Not seeing him, he began to panic.

“Carter, where's Daniel?”

“I don't know, Sir.  He was over there the last time I saw him,” Sam said as she pointed down the hill.  Looking around, she added, “I don't see Teal'c, either.”

“Let's check out that tent,” Jack said, motioning towards a single tent near where the battle had ended.

The two teammates entered the enclosure, totally unprepared for what they were about to see.  Sha're was dead on the floor, Daniel sprawled out on his side next to her.

Jack's heart stopped, a lump in his throat as he watched Daniel raise his hand to his wife and say, “I love you, too.”

“Daniel,” Sam called out softly.  ~Oh, gawd, no,~ she cried out inside, looking over at her commander and seeing the lost expression on his face.  “Teal'c, what happened?” she asked, knowing Jack was taken aback by their shocking find.

“Ammonet had DanielJackson captive in the ribbon device.  She would not stop, despite his pleas.  I had no choice, O'Neill.  If I had not fired my staff weapon when I did, DanielJackson would be dead.”  Teal'c paused and then added, “Before she died, Sha're emerged victorious over the Goa'uld who had enslaved her.  She told DanielJackson that she loved him.”

Jack nodded, unable to speak, his eyes still glued to Daniel, who had moved closer to Sha're, caressing her skin, his eyes focused only on his beloved wife.

This was the moment Jack had dreaded from the moment he had brought Daniel back to Earth, the time when he had promised his friend that they'd bring Sha're home.  He knew Daniel expected that to mean Sha're would be alive, and Jack had wanted that; it's what he had meant when he'd made the promise.

Standing there, as he watched his lover like he was watching some tragic Shakespearean play, Jack faced his own truth -- that for most of the months since that promise had been made, he had feared that the only way they'd get Sha're home would be if she had died.  Now, she had, and in the worst possible way.

How could he and Daniel go on with that truth staring them in the face?  Jack had always known that when Sha're came home, it would mean the end of his romantic relationship with his lover, but he hadn't anticipated her dying.

It was a contradiction within Jack's soul that shook him to his core.  He knew if they got Sha're back alive, he'd lose Daniel.  For the last two years, he'd known that the odds on getting her back were slim, but he'd always portrayed confidence that she'd come home, safe and well, whenever the subject had come up.  At the same time, he somehow knew that if they were able to find Sha're and bring her to Earth, she would end up dead, or a prisoner.  Those words, however, had never crossed his lips.  He could never say such a thing, not about his lover's wife.

~I'm a mess,~ Jack thought, contemplating his warring emotions.  It didn't make sense, both anticipating Sha're's death and expecting it, while truly believing his promise to the archaeologist to bring his wife home to him.  ~He'll hate me now,~ he bemoaned, the fear within his heart laying heavy within his soul.  ~I didn't keep my promise.  Look at him.  He loves her.  Gawd, it's over, isn't it, my sweet Angel?~

Daniel's reddened face was locked onto his wife.  He wasn't even aware of anyone else's presence, except for Teal'c.

Jack needed to give his lover time to say goodbye without an audience.  He knew that from his own experience with his son.

~I couldn't keep my promise, Danny, but I can at least let you say goodbye,~ Jack sighed inwardly.  His eyes still on the younger man, he quietly ordered, “Carter, Teal'c, get a stretcher.”

“Sir, don't you think ...”

Jack shook his head and responded, “Go on, and take your time, *lots* of time.” As the two teammates exited, he called out, “And, Carter?  Make sure no one comes in here until I say so.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam responded, swallowing hard and fighting back tears of compassion for her friend, who was still lying on the floor, caressing the cooling body of his deceased wife.

When Sam and Teal'c were gone, Jack walked over to a corner of the tent and sat down on a pillow, staring silently at the two people on the floor.

~I'm so sorry,~ Jack lamented as he kept watch without interfering in the poignant moment between husband and wife.

====

After several minutes, Daniel sat up, looking around the tent to get his bearings.

“Jack?”

“I'm so sorry, Danny,” Jack said, holding his position, scared to move, not sure what Daniel needed or wanted from him now.

“She's dead, Jack.”

“I know.  Teal'c didn't have a choice.”

Daniel looked at Sha're and said, “I know.  She ... she told me.”

“Danny, are you ready?” Jack asked, not wanting to rush the younger man.  He hadn't a clue what the younger man had meant with his comment, but he didn't feel like he needed to understand right now.  Seeing a nod, he clicked his radio and said, “Carter, it's okay now.”

A minute later, Sam and Teal'c returned.  They reverently placed Sha're's body on the stretcher, while Jack helped Daniel up.  Without conversation, SG-1 returned to the SGC.

====

As the day came to an end, Jack changed out of his BDUs and into his civvies.  There'd been a debriefing, one that Daniel had sat through, even though General Hammond had excused him from the meeting.  The session had been kept thankfully short, no one having had the heart to keep the anguished archaeologist tied up for long.

Now, Jack glanced over at the locker across the room, wondering where Daniel was.  After the briefing, he'd lost track of the younger man.  He knew his lover had planned to go to the infirmary, where Sha're's lifeless body was.  Maybe that's where he still was.

Fifteen minutes later, Jack's search for his lover had proved fruitless.  He'd been in the infirmary, spending time with Sha're, but then he'd quietly slipped away, with no one knowing exactly when he'd left.  Finally, a check with security revealed Daniel had left the Mountain about thirty minutes after the debriefing had ended.

As he headed for the parking level, Jack felt empty and unsure of himself.  He didn't know whether to go after his partner or not.

~Do you need some privacy?  I could understand that.  Heck, I didn't want to see anyone for ... crap, forever after Charlie died.~  Jack sighed as he wondered, ~Or I am just afraid of what you'll tell me when I see you next?  Will you tell me goodbye, Danny?~

In their entire history, Jack had never let Daniel go through a single moment of pain alone.  Now, as he stood by his truck, Jack closed his eyes in turmoil and uncertainty.

“Gawd, Daniel, I don't know what to do,” the usually confident colonel said aloud before unlocking the truck and taking his seat inside.  ~Okay, why change now?~

His decision made, at least for the moment, Jack headed home, until he decided that would be the wrong place to go.  He made a quick turn and now moved in the direction of Daniel's apartment, a place that was rarely occupied anymore

Earlier in the year, Daniel had officially, unofficially moved in with Jack, fish and all.  The apartment was a cover, something to appease the NID or anyone looking in as the lovers hid in plain sight.  Mostly, Daniel spent time there when Jack was out of town or in meetings.

====

Ten minutes later, Jack pulled into the parking area of the apartment complex and saw the Silver Fox, confirming Daniel was there.  He took his time parking and then going up to the eighth floor, allowing his mind to clear as he attempted to stop the ongoing debate in his mind on whether or not he should be intruding on the widower.  Finally, he stood in front of the apartment door.

Though Jack was always on his lover's case about not locking his door, he knew that if the door was locked, Daniel would be shutting him out.  If not, his lover was waiting for him, needing and wanting him both.

Tentatively, Jack reached for the knob and turned it.  It opened, and he let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding, a breath of nervousness and of anxiety.  For the first time, he just didn't know if he was right or wrong in approaching his lover.

The apartment was totally dark, but after he closed the door, Jack heard a small noise, a ruffling sound.  He carefully walked into the bedroom and saw his soulmate sprawled on the bed, his face buried in a pillow.  Sha're's photo was atop the comforter on the left.

Jack went to Daniel's side of the bed and gently sat down, taking his left hand to caress his lover's back and neck.

“I'm here, Danny ... if you want me to be.”

Daniel turned over, blinked a few times, and then sat up into the caring arms of his lover.  He said nothing as he settled into Jack's protective hold, his eyes staring down at the picture of the beautiful and mysterious Sha're.  This was all he needed, or could handle at the moment, but he wanted to be in the older man's arms, arms that protected him and kept him safe.  After a moment, he began to cry, releasing his suffering from the death of the Abydonian woman that had been a gift to him by her father.

After a while, the tears stopped, and Daniel simply relished being held by the other man.  He felt so many things at the moment; yet, he was confused and angry at himself.  His wife had died, and it was his fault, at least, in his mind it was.

The archaeologist couldn't blame Jack for anything that had happened.  His lover had done all he could have asked, and more, to try and find Sha're.  When he boiled it down, it still came back to one thing: on Abydos, he hadn't kept the Stargate buried.  He had let his own need to be accessible, to maybe make contact again with Earth, overtake his judgment.

~No,~ Daniel interrupted his torturous thoughts, closing his eyes as he let the truth in.  ~Jack.  I wanted to see Jack again,~ he admitted about the stranger who had become so much a part of him in such a short period of time.

Daniel's selfishness led to Sha're's being chosen as a host and to her eventual death.  In his mind, no one had more of the blame than himself.  He had no right to feel safe, protected, and loved.  He had no right to be in Jack's arms, being comforted.  He needed to suffer, like Sha're had.

Suddenly, the widower pushed the warmth and safety of his lover away and stated coldly, “I need to be alone for a while, Jack.”

Without argument or discussion, Jack kissed Daniel's nape and then looked into his eyes for a moment before getting up and quietly walking out, giving the archaeologist the time he'd just asked for.

Daniel sank back down on the bed and silently prayed he would go to sleep and never wake up.

====

At 3 a.m., as he watched the stars shining above, Jack finished his third beer.  He was surprised he hadn't had more to drink, but he was afraid Daniel might need him, and he had to be prepared.

“Yeah, right.  He might need me.  Now, that's a laugh.  I'm sorry, Danny.  I guess the truth is finally out.”

Jack was about to reach for another bottle when a noise in the yard got his attention.  He looked towards the ladder and saw his lover climbing over the top, his feet stepping onto the roof deck.  Daniel's eyes were red and puffy.  He was dressed in the same black tee he had worn home from the SGC, the chill of the night already causing goose bumps to appear on his arms.

Daniel stood by the ladder, his arms folded, new tears beginning to fall.  Slowly, Jack stood up and walked to his Heart.

“I ... I need you, Jack.  I don't want to be alone anymore.”

Jack pulled Daniel into his arms and spoke, “You never will be, not if you'll let me be here.  I love you.”

Quietly, the lovers walked over to their favorite spot against the house and sank down to the deck, holding each other close.  Daniel lost all of his inhibitions as Jack gently held him, and he cried until he thought he hadn't another tear left.

Amid his tears, Daniel cried, “She gave me a message, Jack,” and relayed every detail of the dream Sha're had given him while he'd been held motionless by the ribbon device.  He told him about Sha're's baby, who was the Harsesis child, the warnings she'd given him, and the gift of a goodbye via their time together in the dream.  “She forgave me, Jack.  Gawd, she ... oh, gawd.”

Finally, the younger man fell asleep as Jack continued to keep him safe from the monsters of the nightmares and demons of the past.

====

That morning, Daniel decided that Sha're belonged on her home planet with her family.  That afternoon, he accompanied Sha're's body to Abydos, asking his teammates, who wanted to come, to stay behind so he could spend time with Kasuf and other Abydonian family and friends he'd made while living on the planet with his wife.

Mid-morning the next day, a funeral, much like the one he'd dreamed about while under the spell of the ribbon device, was held.  SG-1 and General Hammond had all attended.  A representative from the Pentagon wanted to attend, too, but Jack put the kibosh on that, refusing to turn the event into a political or state affair.

The funeral was followed by a reception that afternoon on Earth to allow Daniel's friends and co-workers to pay their respects.  The Pentagon representative put in an appearance, but left soon after speaking with Daniel, who had nothing to say to the man.

Jack stayed close to his lover as the day wore on, but he was careful not to overwhelm his soulmate.  When Daniel returned to his apartment, alone, the colonel was crushed, though he understood.

Over the next two days, Daniel shut himself off from everyone, including Jack.  He spent hours working in his office, and even more hours cleaning every nook and cranny of his apartment.  He also spent every minute evading any discussion with his lover that wasn't work related, which wasn't that hard since he avoided him as much as possible.

On the third day, as they prepared for their mission to Vyus, Jack had endured all the distance from his lover that he could.  He snapped his black vest closed and walked over to his mourning lover.

“Daniel, we need to talk.”

“I don't want to talk,” Daniel replied flatly as he sat down on the bench and tied the laces to his boots, an obvious attempt to avoid the other man's gaze.

“So it's over -- just like that?” Jack questioned in disbelief.

“I didn't say that,” the younger man argued, though still not making eye contact with Jack.

“You haven't said anything in days.”

“I just need time, Jack. Is that too much to ask?”

“You've had time, Danny, but this isn't about time; this is about shutting me out.”

“I need ... I'm sorry.”

Jack nodded as he responded, “Fine.  I guess you were right.  It had to happen sooner or later.  I let you down, broke my promise.  I'm sorry, Danny ... Daniel.”

The colonel turned, banged his locker shut, and left the room, leaving Daniel to his aloneness and the chilling sound of his name.  He hadn't meant to shut his lover out, but he had no right to be happy with Jack when his wife had been abused and killed.  He had cheated on her and lied to her.  He didn't know how to live with himself, let alone with Jack.  He didn't want to hurt Jack, but he didn't know how not to, either.

====

On Vyus, SG-1 discovered a world of inhabitants who had no memory of their history or who they were.  They blamed it on something they called the Vorlix that had occurred over a year earlier when an enhanced gas caused some kind of chain reaction that had affected the entire population.  It wasn't until later that SG-1 realized that as a result of the Vorlix, the Vyans regressed back in age and lost all of their memories.

The leader of the inhabitants was a pretty blonde named Ke'ra, and she immediately connected with Daniel, much to Jack's chagrin.  The older man watched his lover chatting and smiling with the woman as they researched the situation of the people.  His heart had broken in two, and he felt helpless.

A bit later, as he waited for Janet to arrive to examine the inhabitants, Jack confronted Daniel, bluntly asking him, “What the heck do you think you're doing?”

“I don't know what you're talking about, and, if you'll excuse me, I have to meet Ke'ra.”

“This is more important than that, Danny.  We have to talk, and I'm not going to let you put it off any longer.”

“She's waiting for me.”

“You can't even wait until Sha're's been buried a week before you go after the first girl who comes along.”

“Shut up, Jack!”

“Why?  So you'll feel better?  What was I, Danny, a temporary diversion while you waited for your wife to come home, and, now that she's not, we're through? I thought you were the one who always talked about loyalty and commitment?  I have news for you ... Love ... you have a helluva way of being committed to someone.”

Irate, Daniel responded, “You don't understand.  You're wrong.  It's not ... it ... it's not like that.”

“It's not?  Then what the heck are you doing?  Explain it to me!  Come on, Daniel.  You're a linguist, for crying out loud.  Find the words.  *Tell me* whatever it is you keep saying I don't understand,” Jack demanded with glaring brown eyes.  “How do you expect me to understand if you won't tell me?” he sighed in total frustration.

~I can't,~ Daniel thought as he stared at the other man.

Becoming even more agitated, Jack barked, “What's wrong, Daniel?  You're the friggin' genius.  Why can't you tell me?”

“I have to go,” Daniel said as he started to walk on.

Jack grabbed his lover's arm, turning him to face him, his irrational Mr. Jealousy now taking full control, pushing the hurt and guilt aside for the moment.

“Have some guts, Daniel.  Tell me the truth.  Was I just someone you used to warm your bed until another opportunity presented itself?  Or maybe I was just some anthropological experiment, research of the other side, something new to study, and now that you don't need me any more to find Sha're, you're dumping me?  Game over: back to women, to the first available one who looks at you wide-eyed?”

“You don't know what you're talking about.”

“Don't I?” the angry man asked.  “You blame me.  That's it, isn't it?  I didn't keep my promise.  It's my fault, so you're going to punish us both; or is it that you never had any feelings for me at all?”  He released Daniel's arm, but stayed right in his face, his eyes icy cold with anger and rage.  “I am so stupid.  I loved you.  Heaven help me, I still love you, but you were only thinking of yourself and what you could get out of it.  You wanted me to save your precious wife, but now that she's gone, I'm history.”  He turned around, banging his fist against the wall.  “Geez, I'm such a friggin' fool.”  Facing his lover again, he demanded, “Tell me that this hasn't been some sort of game with you.  Speak to me, dang it!  I deserve the truth!  I love you!”

Daniel was on the edge of losing it.  He hated himself at the moment more than anyone.  He wanted to disappear, but he couldn't.

“No!  Jack, leave it alone,” the younger man said and then attempted to walk around his lover.

Again, Jack grabbed Daniel's arm, spinning him around to face him, desperation in his voice when he questioned more vulnerably, “Are you sure this is what you want? Didn't we mean anything?”

“You meant everything, Jack.  You ... you *mean* everything to me.  It's just ... I can't do this, not now.  You have to let me go!”

Daniel yanked his arm free and took several steps backward, his face full of anguish and his heart pounding loudly, but while his heart ached for Jack's touch, his soul was crying to escape.

Sha're's death was his fault.  Daniel was sure of it.  He had cheated on her, been unfair to her, and misled her.  He had no right to be happy with the man of his dreams, so he turned and ran from his Heart, hurrying to meet Ke'ra, desperately trying not to think about anything but the moment at hand.

Jack watched his lover flee, his heart shattered.  He'd believed Daniel when he'd spoken words of love, but he'd been a lovesick idiot.  It had all been a game or some sort of scientific experiment.  He'd been used; now, he was all used up.  He hardened his heart and returned to work, once again becoming the colonel that Daniel had first met all those years ago before the Abydos mission.

====

Later, Jack returned to the SGC to brief General Hammond on what they had learned, that Linea, the destroyer of worlds, who they had first met on the prison colony of Hadante, was responsible for the Vorlix.  Janet recommended they bring several of the inhabitants to the SGC to do some studies, to try and determine the cause of the amnesia and see if there was a cure.

As he waited with the general at the foot of the ramp, Jack couldn't remember feeling sadder in his life, except for when his son had died.  He watched with tormented eyes as Daniel stepped through the Stargate, holding Ke'ra's hand, smiling at her as she settled from the walk through the Gate.

~Why should I be surprised?~ Jack asked in despair.  ~It couldn't last.  Face it, O'Neill: you never wanted her to come back.  You can't even say her name.  If she had come home alive, you would have lost him to her; okay, say her name; geez, you're only thinking this, so think it.  Right, to Sha're.  You didn't do all you could.  You could have done a lot more; looked for her harder.  There were hints, pieces of intel the SGC didn't follow up on because of priorities.  You could have insisted.  So now you pay.  Sweet.~

Giving in to the attraction and his loss, Jack suggested Daniel show Ke'ra to her quarters, wondering what might happen there.  Then he turned and escaped to his office, not really wanting to know what transpired next.  He was afraid if he did, he'd murder the blonde on the spot.

====

That night, Jack walked into his empty home.  It may have been full of furniture and accessories; and Daniel's things were still there, as were the fish; but the house was void of warmth because Daniel himself wasn't there.  He was at his apartment, or maybe he was with Ke'ra.  Jack didn't know for sure, and as much as he tried to convince himself that he didn't care, he knew, deep down, that he did.  Too much so even.

The colonel went to the refrigerator to pull out a beer, but then he just stared at the bottle, letting out a huge sigh.  He didn't even want to get drunk.  He just wanted to disappear.

The heartbroken man went upstairs and pulled out a special keepsake box where he and his lover kept mementos of their relationship that they couldn't afford to keep out in the open.  He sat down on the bed and, unlocking the box, began a torturous walk through the last year-and-a-half.

“I love you, Danny,” the strong colonel, but weakened man cried.

====

The next day, Sam made the connection that Linea was actually Ke'ra, a fact that made Jack angry and afraid for the man who was still his heart.  With the facts in hand, he had no choice but to inform Hammond and Daniel, who didn't take the news well at all.

In fact, Daniel became argumentative, defensive, and accusatory, flaunting Teal'c's past in Jack's face.

“Let me ask you a question,” Daniel began as he starred into Jack's eyes.  “Who would you trust with your life more than anyone else in the world?  Don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't pick me.  Could it be Teal'c?”

“Sure,” Jack spoke with a tone of acceptance.  ~Go ahead and be a smart aleck, Daniel.  Facts are facts.  You're having a fling with the destroyer of worlds.  I may not be much, but I don't think that's a step up.~

“Uh, Teal'c, just refresh my memory, what was your previous occupation?”

“I was First Prime of Apophis.”

“Right.  Did a few nasty things back then?” Daniel asked.

“We see the subtle point you're trying to make,” Jack spoke angrily.  ~Not quite as forgiving of Teal'c as you claim; that's pretty harsh, Daniel.~

“No, you don't,” Daniel shouted.  “She is not the same person.  She is not who she used to be.  Let's not condemn her for who she may have been in the past.”

General Hammond interceded at this point, saying, “I think it would be prudent to keep her confined to her quarters until we can resolve the Vyans' medical crisis.  Colonel O'Neill, perhaps you could inform ...?”

“I'll inform her,” Daniel insisted, exiting the conference room.

“Dismissed,” Hammond said quietly, getting up and heading for his office.  Slowly, the room emptied, leaving only Jack and Sam, who was one of the few people who knew the truth about Jack and Daniel as a couple.

“Sir, I'm sure he didn't mean it.”

“Yes, he did, Carter, and maybe he has a right to feel the way he does.  I promised him that I'd bring Sha're home.  He just didn't expect me to bring her back as a corpse.”

As Jack stood and started to leave, Sam called out, “Colonel, he's hurting.  He needs a little time to adjust.”

“He's with her, Carter.  We're ... through.  He's made it clear he wants nothing to do with me, and I don't blame him.”

“I have a hard time believing that,” Sam refuted, trying to remain positive.

“Why? You've never understood us.”

“No, Sir, I haven't, but I also have never denied the love that I see between the two of you.”

“It's over, Carter, and I'm done.  Once this mess with Linea is finished, I'm retiring.  I'm recommending you to take over as the leader of SG-1.  You've earned it.”

“Thank you, Sir, but I would prefer to remain your second,” Sam stated.

“No chance, Carter.  I can't stay and watch him be with her or anyone else.  I'm out.”

“But, Colonel, he ...”

“For crying out loud, Carter, give it up.  He's made his choice, loud and clear.  He's actually flaunting her in my face.  I'm not going to hang around for the encore.  I got the message, and I'm giving him what he wants -- me, out of his life, for good.”  Sternly, he ordered, “I don't want this mentioned again.  Dismissed, Major,” he said, turning and abruptly leaving the room.

Sam was stunned, and she ached for both men.  No matter what, she couldn't believe their relationship was finished.  Although it was true she'd never understood their relationship, she'd seen their love in action and how much they cared for each other.

~You'll find a way to get him back, Colonel,~ Sam opined.  ~Actually, I don't think he's gone.  He's just hurting.  You both need some time.~

Hoping her thoughts were the true, Sam finally left the briefing room to continue on with her day.

====

That night, Jack went home for a few hours, and this time he and the beer bottle were best friends.  He didn't care about protocol that would suggest excessive drinking before a shift was a bad idea.  He was leaving anyway, so he got as drunk as he could.  He was tired of thinking about his loss.  Jack's heart, mind, and soul hurt like never before.  He couldn't stand the pain.  He needed some peace.

Before coming home, the colonel had spent an hour trying to beat out his frustration at the SGC, powerfully jabbing at the punching bag.  Over and over again, he'd beaten the inanimate object, trying to shut out the anguish, but it wouldn't go away.  He'd finally collapsed in front of the bag, his eyes tearing, grateful no one else was around.  It was then that he'd made the decision to leave for several hours before he lost control in front of the entire SGC.

Now, trying to drown out his sorrows, Jack downed a mixture of beer and Jack Daniel's whiskey, enough to at least warp the pain.  He plopped down on the bed he had shared with his lover and prayed for merciful sleep.  His wish was quickly granted, and, for a few hours, Jack O'Neill found peace.

====

The next day, another confrontation occurred, one that upset Jack to the core of his soul.  As soon as he could, he found the archaeologist and lambasted him for his actions.

“Have you lost your friggin' mind?  What the devil did you think you were doing standing between me and her?” the colonel barked, incensed that, with his weapon drawn and aimed at Linea/Ke'ra, Daniel had stepped between them.

“She has a right to live, Jack!” Daniel argued.

“So do you!  You know better than to do something so idiotic.”  Jack was close enough to kiss his aggravating lover as he shouted at the top of his lungs.  Ke'ra now knew who she really was, and that meant she was capable of anything. “*Never* stand between me and someone like that again.  Do you hear me?”

“You *can't* order me around, Jack,” Daniel shouted back before calming.  “Besides, I was helping her.  You didn't need to shoot her.  We proved that.”

“You've lost your ever lovin' mind.  You really think the destroyer of worlds cares about you?”

“Her name is Ke'ra, and, yes, I do.”

“Daniel,” Jack continued to stand in Daniel's personal space, “She's the destroyer of worlds.  She doesn't care about individuals, not you, not me, not anyone, except for herself.”

“You're wrong, Jack.”

“No, I'm not, but let me repeat, Daniel, because I want to make sure you understand me.  Don't you *ever* step in front of me again when I'm aiming a weapon at someone.”

“I couldn't let you kill her,” Daniel responded.

Mockingly, Jack laughed, “I had the shot, Daniel.  I'm not some recruit just out of the Academy.  I could have taken ole destroyer breath out at any second, and I swear to you, had she made one move, just one, she was dead.”

“But you said ...”

“I've said a lot of things, but you don't need to worry about that anymore,” Jack sighed.  He was tired of the fight and turned to sarcasm, saying, “I simply didn't want her blood splattered all over your nice clean shirt.  It's a pain to get out.”  He backed off, inhaling deeply in resignation.  “I'm not arguing with you anymore.  You want to go with her?  Go!  You're free, Danny ... Daniel.  You're free to go and do whatever you need to.  Whatever obligation you *might* have thought you owed me, is done.  You don't need me.  It wasn't real, anyway.  You've made that abundantly clear.”

“Jack, you don't understand.”

“You know, I'm really tired of you saying that.  That's about the only thing you've said since Sha're died.  That I don't understand.  Well, Dannyboy, I think I understand more than you know.  I understand that you've played me for a fool.  Well, guess what?  The hard-nosed colonel fell for it hook, line and sinker. Bravo, you should be proud.  Score one for the geek squad!”

Jack turned and walked out of the room, slamming the door as he left.

Daniel folded his arms and stood in silence, but he didn't have long to think before Sam entered his office and asked, “Daniel, what's wrong with the colonel?  He practically ran over me just now.”

Daniel shook his head, never looking at his friend.

Sam sighed, “You two need to work this out.”

“There's nothing to work out.”

“He loves you.”

Standing motionless, Daniel said nothing for several seconds, but then, thinking about one piece of his argument with Jack, finally inquired, “He said I wouldn't have to worry about him anymore.  Do you know what he meant?”

The blonde sighed, and her face became sympathetic as she answered, “Daniel, he's retiring.”

“What?” Daniel asked, walking forward a couple of steps.  “He doesn't mean that.  He ... he can't mean that.”

“I think he does, Daniel.  He's had enough; he wants out.”

Daniel walked to the cot and sat down, sighing, “Gawd, what a mess.”

Sam sat down next to her friend and spoke calmly, “Daniel, I don't know what you're going through, and I can't pretend that I do, but I can't believe you've fallen for Ke'ra.  What I do know, though, and I know this for a fact, based on the last couple of years, is that, Daniel, I've never known two people more in love or more suited to each other than you and the colonel.  Whatever you're feeling, tell him.  Trust him, like you always have.”

“I can't.  You don't understand.”

“No, I don't, but I know he's scared.  I know he's sad, and I know he feels responsible for Sha're's death.”

Shocked, Daniel looked over and asked, “What?  He didn't kill her.  He had nothing to do with it.”

“He made you a promise.”

“No, Sam.  He tried.  Everyone tried.  Gawd, I feel so lost.”

Sam kissed Daniel on the cheek and took his right hand in hers, saying, “Then trust me, as your friend, and follow your heart, wherever it leads.”

“My heart?”

“It'll never steer you wrong.”

“Jack is my heart,” Daniel stated unabashedly.  He  closed his eyes, remembering the kisses with Ke'ra, the betrayal he was responsible for a couple of nights earlier.  “I'm not sure I'd forgive him if the situation was reversed.”

“Yes, you would, because you love him.  Daniel, you're grieving for Sha're, and, well, I don't know what else is going on, but you never give yourself a break.  Let him help you, like he always does.  The colonel always knows what to do.”

Daniel closed his eyes.  Sam was right.  Somehow, Jack had a knack of making any bad situation right.  Inside, he cried, knowing he'd hurt this man that he loved to his center, and he feared the older man didn't care about him at all after all that had happened.

“I don't think he wants to anymore,” Daniel spoke.  “I've ... pushed him away. It's gone too far.”

“Come on, Daniel.  You know better than that.”

“I betrayed him, Sam,” Daniel confided softly.

“Whatever it is, he'll understand,” the woman insisted.  With a smile, she maintained, “You two can work it out.”

Daniel shook his head, arguing, “How can he understand?  I can't forgive myself, Sam.  What right do I have to expect Jack to ... to let me off the hook when I can't let myself off?”

“Do you love him?”

“Gawd, yes.”

“Then trust him.”

“You didn't hear the things he said, Sam, not that I can blame him.  Whatever love he felt for me, I killed it.  I shut him out and pushed him away.  I ... Ke'ra.  Gawd,” Daniel expressed sadly, leaning forward and burying his head in his hands.

Rubbing her friend's back, Sam urged, “Trust me, Daniel.  I know he loves you.  Please, don't give up on him, or on yourself.  Go to him.”

“You seem so sure,” Daniel said, looking over at the blonde.

Sam smiled again and with confidence in her voice acknowledged, “Yeah, well, there's not much that I'm certain of in this wacky world of ours, and even though it goes against everything I was brought up to believe in, I just can't deny what is so obvious between you and the colonel.  Give him a chance, Daniel.  If you don't, you'll both be miserable for the rest of your lives, and I think you know that.”

“I don't know,” Daniel spoke in a near whisper, his body still hunched forward.

“What have you got to lose?”

Daniel looked at Sam, straightened, and then shook his head as he admitted, “Nothing, because I've already lost everything.”

“Actually, I don't think you've lost as much as you think.  Take a chance, Daniel.  You've always trusted Colonel O'Neill.  So, trust him one more time.”

Daniel nodded, a bit of hope in his heart, and was about to speak again until Janet walked in, interrupting the conversation and needing Sam's assistance with the Vyans.

====

Not long thereafter, Janet, with Ke'ra's help, devised a way to again make Ke'ra forget her past, leaving Linea as nothing but an ugly memory to those who had come in contact with her at the SGC.  The Vyans took her back willingly, welcoming her as a leader who had lost her memory.

Daniel said a polite good-bye and watched Linea/Ke'ra return to Vyus through the Stargate.  Then he turned and saw Jack standing near the door to the gate room.  The colonel smiled, gave him quick nod, and then turned around.

~I'm so sorry, Jack.  Sam's wrong.  I wouldn't forgive me.~

====

At his apartment, Daniel recalled the events with the Vyans, his flirtation with Ke'ra, and their kisses.  He remembered seeing Jack's watchful eye on him as he walked with the young woman, joking and teasing about the Vyans.  He replayed his behavior during the briefing, his harsh tone towards the man he loved, and his challenge that Jack trusted Teal'c more than he.  He recalled their run-in in the halls of the SGC when Jack had said, “Listen, I'm not saying the first woman you've fallen for since Sha're isn't a peach, but if she remembers who she is, you'll be the first to go.”

Daniel had hated Jack for that, for flaunting Sha're in his face, but as he stared at the walls of his apartment, he realized Jack had been right all along.  He replayed the scene in Ke'ra's room, when he'd realized Ke'ra had taken the antidote and regained her memories as Linea.  He had stood between Jack and his drawn pistol, and this woman, the destroyer of worlds turned femme fatale whom he'd flirted with and kissed.

The archaeologist's heart sank, realizing how truly hurt Jack must be, and when he replayed his lover's words, and those of Sam, he knew Jack had his own pain that he'd completely ignored.

“Gawd, I'm so self-absorbed,” Daniel shouted into the air, grabbing the mail that was stacked on the counter and tossing it to the floor in frustration.  “Do you hate me now, Jack?”

Daniel sank to the floor, folding his head onto his knees in despair, knowing what he had to do, and yet afraid the other man wouldn't want him, that he'd be rejected.  He needed courage, but he feared he had none left.

====

“Jack?”

Jack was seated on the roof deck, his back to the house, his knees drawn to his chest.  It was a cold night, but he wore only a short sleeve yellow shirt with his denim jeans.  His hands were clasped together in front of him as he turned to look at his lover.

“Jack.”  Daniel slowly walked forward, sitting down in front of him, Indian style.  He took the man's hands in his, observing, “You're cold.”

“I'm fine, Daniel,” Jack said dispassionately.

Daniel struggled to find the words he needed, but couldn't, so he relied on their other communication, that of touch and their eyes.  He held on to Jack's hands and stared deeply into his Love's chocolate brown eyes, trying to say what his voice couldn't.  His breathing was labored, his anxiety great.  Everything hinged on being able to explain to Jack, but would the man listen?

The two men sat, saying nothing vocally.  Their eyes were locked onto each other's as Daniel caressed his lover's hands.

Daniel tried to gather his courage to say what needed to be said, but he kept getting sidetracked by the pain he saw in his Heart's eyes.

After a few minutes had passed, with tears falling from his eyes, the young man finally said, “I'm sorry.  I love you so much.  I've been an idiot, Jack.  Please, gawd, Jack, please forgive me.  I don't know what I'd do without you.  I love you so much; I swear I do.”

Jack's heart began to beat again for the first time in days.  Daniel's hands fit snugly into his, and his into Daniel's.  It felt so right to hold them and be caressed by them.  He had seen the tears welling in his lover's eyes.  He saw the truth, but he worried that he was seeing only what he wanted to see.

The silver-haired man stared longer into his heart's beautiful cerulean blue eyes, the eyes that had always revealed what was in his soul.  No matter what, Daniel's spirit never lied.  Jack knew that, in spite of what he had yelled out in anger during their battles.

Now, the older man noticed that Daniel's hands were desperately holding on to his, the caresses firm and yet needy.  He looked down at them and then up at the stars.  Everything seemed so clear; at least, everything that was truly important.

Jack didn't know why Daniel had shut him out.  He knew what his own fears thought, but he didn't know if that had been the truth.  He also knew that he could make the young man suffer now.  After all, a tiny part of him wondered if this was just another part of the game.  He could send him away and gain an ounce of revenge, but then he looked again into his lover's eyes, the cerulean blue marbles that he had so often gotten lost in, and he knew those eyes couldn't lie.

The colonel had a choice, to keep himself separated from his Heart or to welcome him back.  The former would mean an unfulfilled life; the latter would mean life, for without Daniel, Jack didn't exist.  It was that simple, and in that moment, Jack's heart filled with love once again.

“You know something, Danny?  It's hard to lie to yourself when you sit here and look up at the stars.  If you try, the truth slaps you in the face.  You shut me out, and I got angry, so I went on the attack.  It's the only thing I knew to do.  I tried, Danny.  Geez, I tried to convince myself that this was all about me, but it's not.  It's about Sha're and how much you loved her.”

“Jack, you don't understand ... and I know, I've said that a lot.  Gawd, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.  I need you so much, so ... so much,” Daniel said, his body aching in pain and remorse.

Jack shook his head, and Daniel feared he was about to be sent away.

Instead, Jack quietly spoke, “No, Danny, I'm the one who's sorry.  I was jealous ... again, and I used Sha're to try and, I don't know, goad you.  I shouldn't have done that.  It was wrong, and I'm sorrier than I can say about using her in that way, and for being the jealous idiot that I tend to be.”

Daniel's tears flowed even more, the trauma and reality of the recent days taking their toll on his strength.

Jack wiped away the moisture with his hands and spoke, “I hope you can forgive me for ...”

The older man's words were cut off by Daniel's lips, lips desperate to taste Jack's, to reunite their energies.  It was a slow, lingering kiss at first, which quickly became hungry for more as he urgently needed to show his partner how much he loved, wanted, and needed him.

There were no more words that night, but there was the union and communication of their bodies, grounding themselves to each other, fusing together their hearts and souls even more than before.  It began on the roof deck, neither caring about the cold, but then they moved inside, to the warmth of their king-sized bed.

The couple's lovemaking was long, passionate, and possessive, each claiming the other as their property, each willingly submitting to the other, over and over again until they had no more energy, collapsing onto each other.  The explosions within their bodies caused them to quiver and convulse for long periods of elation.

====

When the couple awoke the next morning, they made love again, and as they calmed in each other's arms after, Daniel kissed his lover's chest and then listened more to the heartbeat that gave him strength.

“Jack?”

“Hmmm?”

“Let's go the cabin.”

“Now?”

“I ... I need to talk to you, some place where I know we won't be interrupted. It's important.  Please.”

Jack tensed slightly, concerned that Daniel wanted to break off their relationship, that last night had been some kind of goodbye, but suddenly Daniel's head left Jack's chest.

The younger man looked down into his soulmate's eyes and spoke first with his lips, a deep kiss of devotion, and then with his voice, saying, “I'm here forever, as long as you want me.  I just ... want some time with you, to tell you some things, things I should have explained a long time ago.  I want you to ... to understand what you should have, so long ago.”

“Okay, Love,” Jack agreed with a soft smile and hands that warmed Daniel's bare back.

“What about the general?”

“He knows what you've been through, Danny.  He'll give us a few days.  Let's take a shower and go fishing.”

“Oh ... yeah, fishing.”

“You're the one who wanted to go to the cabin,” Jack teased.

“But not to fish, Jack!”

“Cabins and fishing go together,” Jack proclaimed as he scooted off the bed.

“So do we, Jack,” Daniel spoke softly as he sat back.

Jack looked back, smiling as he asserted, “And we always will, Danny.”

====

The first day at the cabin was light-hearted.  Jack went out on the lake with his small rowboat to fish and managed to get Daniel to go along.  The archaeologist read while his lover attempted to catch a fish, with his usual no luck.

That night, the lovers cuddled next to a warm fire, not saying much.  When they did speak, it was mostly chitchat about friends or even their adversaries.  They made love tenderly and fell asleep next to the fire.

====

The next morning, Daniel awoke alone in front of the fire.  He smiled, knowing Jack must have made sure the fire would continue so he wouldn't be chilled.  He dressed and went outside, finding his lover sitting on the grass next to the lake.  He knew it was time to make his confession, to tell the truth he had kept hidden for years.  It was something he hadn't wanted to face.

Daniel folded his arms as he walked over slowly to where the other man was.  Taking a deep breath, he sat down slightly to the right and in front of Jack, facing him.

Jack instantly knew this was the moment of truth as well.  He took a deep breath in preparation.  He really had no idea what was coming, but he had to be braced for anything.

“Jack, I love you so much.  The thing is, I always have, and ... well, Sha're, I loved her.  I loved her a lot, Jack.”

“I know, Danny.  I'm sorry.  I know I promised you we'd get her back.  I let you down.  I wish I could change that and bring her back to you.”

“No, Jack, you don't understand.”

“Yes, I do.  I said I'd bring Sha're home.  I wanted to, Danny.  I swear I did, but maybe I ...” Jack looked away, his own fears getting the best of him.

“You did everything you could.”

“Did I?  She was your wife, and I love you.  Maybe ... crap, Danny, the Hammer. We had so many chances.  Maybe we should have followed that lead up a while back; gone after Apophis.  He would have led us to her.  Why didn't we?”

“It was too dangerous, Jack.  We didn't know for sure, and we would have walked into a Goa'uld army.”

“That's what I said, isn't it?” Jack spoke despondently.

Daniel could see the pain and woefulness on his lover's face, the fear that he hadn't truly done all he could.  In that moment, he finally saw that his brave and strong lover was just as insecure as he was.

“Maybe I didn't want to find her,” the older man continued, the sadness in his eyes enormous.

“Jack, look at me.  Look at me, Jack,” Daniel insisted as he used his left hand to reach under Jack's chin, turning his Love's face towards him.  “You did everything that was humanly possible in order to find Sha're.  Everything.  I saw the reports, Jack.  I heard the intel.  Gawd, I saw you struggling to find a way for us to get in there, to check it out, but it would have put too many people at risk.  If you could have saved her, Love, you would have.  I believe in you, Jack. I always have, and I *know* that's the truth.”

“Maybe your faith is misplaced.  Danny, I always knew that when we found Sha're, when we brought her home, I'd lose you.  I've dreaded it.  Every moment we've been together, I've dreaded that day, knowing one day it would come.  I promised you.  Crap, I never break my promises to you.”

Daniel's hands cupped Jack's face, his thumbs brushing back the man's tears the best he could.  He swallowed hard at his lover's pain, which was almost too much for him to endure.

“Jack, I love you.  You were the only one who even had a chance to bring her back, but you're only human, and it just wasn't possible.  Maybe it never was.” Daniel paused and then sighed, “You need to listen to me.  I *have* to tell you the truth, to make you understand.”

“Truth?”

“Gawd, I love you,” Daniel said as he leaned in and kissed Jack, a kiss of hunger and need and of want and lust.  Then he closed his eyes for a moment as he pulled back slightly, his hands still caressing his lover's cheeks.  When he opened his eyes, he stared deeply into the older man's and said, “When I found out that you were in love with me, I was scared, maybe even a little freaked, but it wasn't long before I realized that all that mattered to me was that you were my best friend.  Do you remember the night we talked about it?”

“I'll never forget it,” Jack replied.  “I thought I'd lost you.  I mean, my best friend.”

Daniel's hands slipped down to hold Jack's.  They couldn't lose contact; they had to keep touching, to feel each other's life force flowing through them.

“Jack, I only cared that we were together.  As time passed, it didn't matter that you were in love with me.  In fact, I ... I liked it, Jack, and the really scary thing is ... I started to notice when someone else looked at you, and I didn't like that.”

“Your imagination works over time.”

“No, Love.  You're so darn sexy: my Silver Fox,” Daniel said with a sweet expression on his face.  “That smile of yours is so beautiful.  You could have anyone, but you chose me.”

“Geez, Danny, it's the other way around.”

Daniel shook his head insistently, and then continued, “On the ship, when you touched me to say goodbye, that's when I knew in my heart how I really felt. It's when I admitted to myself that I had fallen in love with you.  Your touch gave me life, made me want to live, and I did, for you.”

“My beautiful falling star,” Jack whispered.  “I'll never forget that night, not ever.”

“Me, either.  It was the best night of my life; and that next week, just you and me.  I felt so loved, so safe.  For the first time since my parents died, I felt ... I felt ... I ...”

“Danny, it's okay.  You don't have to go through all of this.  I know you loved her.  It's okay.”

Daniel shook his head, refuting, “No, gawd, no, it's not okay, because you don't understand, and I need you to.  I should have told you a long time ago, but I ... I didn't want to think about it.  Jack, I got scared, and we broke up, and it was then that I realized that my love for you was different than my love for Sha're.”

“I know that, Danny.  Please don't ...”

“Stop,” Daniel ordered, putting his hand over his lover's mouth.  “I need you to listen to me.  Please.  Stop making assumptions, Jack, because you don't know what you're talking about.  Listen to me, My Love ... just listen.”

Daniel leaned in for a gentle kiss after he removed his hand.  He ran his right hand through Jack's graying hair and took another breath as he tried to get himself under control.

“My Love, when we broke up, I thought about Sha're all the time, about the life I shared with her, how we made love, how we spent the days together on Abydos. If you hadn't come back through the Stargate, she would have been all I had known.

“She was my first real love.  No one before her had mattered, not that there were many anyway.  Sha're accepted me, made me better than I was.  I did care for her, even loved her.  I think I would have been ... contented with our life together.  It was ... warm and peaceful, but I thought about you every day, Jack. I wondered what you were doing and if you were alive.”

“You saved my life,” Jack whispered emotionally.

Daniel smiled and then laughed, “When that Kleenex box came through the Gate ... gawd, Jack, my heart: it began to pound.  I was going to see you again, and I ... in that moment of realization, I felt more alive than I had the entire year I'd been on Abydos.  I wanted to see you again so much.  I didn't know why; it just was.”

When Daniel looked down, staring at the grass, a sudden silence coming over him, Jack prodded, “What, Angel?”

“I hated you, Jack,” Daniel confessed quietly as he looked up at the older man.

“I don't understand.  You just said ...”

“You walked right by me; barely looked at me.  You couldn't wait to see Skaara. I was just an afterthought.”

“Oh, Danny.  You were the reason we were there.  I was so dang glad to see you I thought I was going to burst.”

“But you ...”

“For crying out loud, Daniel, I didn't know why I wanted to see you so much, the sneezing geek who saved my life.  My heart was pounding, too.  You know me.  I had to hide it.  I'm sorry, Love.  I didn't even know what to say to you, but there were so many things I wanted to say.”

Daniel smiled for a moment, but then he couldn't suppress a sniffle as he looked down at his hands entwined in Jack's.  He focused on their joined bodies.  His lover's hands were strong and full of character and life.  He shivered as he let himself feel the sensation of Jack's touch.

“That first week with you,” the archaeologist continued.  “Geez, we didn't have a clue what we were doing.  We just loved each other.  It was powerful, so intense.  I felt things in that week I had never even imagined before, and that's why I got scared again, and why I felt so guilty.

“Jack, Sha're was gentle, loving, warm, and full of spirit.  Our relationship was like that, like a tender fire in the night, burning embers within us that bound us together; but you and I are all of that and so much more.  The passion I feel, the need and the want; the things you do to me, not just physically, but emotionally, you ... gawd, Jack, I don't have the words.”

Jack brought Daniel's hands to his mouth and kissed them before saying, “We have all the time in the world, Danny.  I love you.”

Daniel blinked as he made eye contact with Jack again and declared, “And I love you.  Jack, our love is ... it's like a raging fire, sometimes out of control, sometimes as gentle as what I had with Sha're, but it ... it fills me up.  It ... it's inside me, all of me, in ways I can't comprehend, let alone find the words to explain.  Gawd, how'd I ever get a degree in philology?”

Jack chuckled at his beautiful genius and said, “You try too hard, Danny.  I only need to hear that you love me and forgive me for failing you.”

Daniel shook his head, and he was finding it hard to breathe.  This was so important, and he was miserable that as a linguist he was having such difficulty.  He was growing increasingly angry with himself for not being able to say what he felt clearly.

“Danny ...”

“No, Jack, I ...”

“Shhh.”  Jack raised his hands to his lover's face and brought their mouths together for a joyful union.  “You need to breathe, Angel.  We're not going anywhere.”

Daniel smiled as they kissed again and then explained, “It's just so important, Jack, for you to hear this, to believe me.”

“Okay.  Just remember, we have as long as it takes.”

Daniel nodded and waited a minute or two to gather his thoughts and rein in his emotions before he spoke again, his voice quiet and sincere.

“You're inside me, Jack, like no one else has ever been.  When Sha're had the baby, I felt so guilty.  I knew for sure that no matter how much I loved her, that even if I had brought her back, it would be ... we would be ... temporary.  I couldn't give you up, Jack.  Gawd ...”

Daniel's tears were in full bloom, and nothing he could do held them at bay.  His emotions were raw, the depth of his feelings beyond expression.

“I made the choice, Love,” the archaeologist confided.  “I made it long ago, before I even knew I had made it.  I should have told you, Jack, but I felt so guilty.  I was her husband, and I was cheating on her, something I couldn't forgive myself for; but I couldn't live without you, and, Jack, I didn't want to, not for a second; and I don't ever want to.”

Jack gazed into his Love's eyes, wondering if Daniel was saying what he thought he was.  Could it really be that he was hearing words that warmed his soul like no other words could?

“I should have told you,” Daniel continued.  “Gawd, I've let you think that you were second choice, but you never were, not from the first night we spent together.  I knew it on Abydos when she had the baby.  I'm so sorry, Jack.  I just ... I felt so guilty.”

“Danny ...”

“Jack, I did love her, as much as I knew how, but it was never the same as us, not for a second.  I chose you.  I chose you so long ago.  I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how, and I didn't want to face the truth that I'd abandoned Sha're, no matter what I said on the outside.”  Daniel closed his eyes, not caring about the falling tears or his out of control sentiments.  “When she died, all the guilt came back.  I didn't want her to die, and I didn't want her to die with a lie.  Geez, she believed me, that I loved her and that we'd have a life together.  I lied to her.  I lied to her.  I lied.”

Jack repositioned himself so that now he was sitting next to Daniel, pulling his lover into his protective hold as his Love's tears moistened his neck and red plaid shirt.  He wanted to speak, but Daniel was barely breathing, the words suddenly tumbling out of his mouth a mile a minute.

“I ran away from you because I felt like I had betrayed her, and I didn't think I could live with that.  Gawd, Jack, nothing happened with Ke'ra.  I swear it. Please believe me.  I kissed her a couple of times, but that was all.  I knew it was wrong, and I didn't want her.  I just ... I needed a distraction, something else to think about besides Sha're and ... and you.  I'm sorry, Jack.”

“Shhh, Danny,” Jack soothed.  “It's okay.  I know, and I understand now.”

“I was scared, Jack, and I still am -- scared of how much I love you.  Do you have any idea how much a part of me you are?  It's like ... like ...”

“Like we're one person, like we feel each other, like we're sharing a heart, like our souls are tied together?”

“Yes,” Daniel sniffled, snuggling into Jack more.

“It's a scary feeling; I'll give you that, but it's also the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced,” Jack replied.  “You complete me, Danny.  I don't think I can breathe any more unless you're with me.”

“That's how I feel, too,” Daniel said as he shifted, turning out of Jack's embrace to face his lover fully.  “Jack, I need you to know that you're my life, that I made the choice a long time ago, that time when we first broke up, and that ... I just got scared.  I love you so much, only you, Jack, forever and always.”

“Danny, I love you.”  Jack knew there was more to be said, but right now nothing was more important than reaffirming their unity.  He cupped his lover's face and kissed him.  “Forever and always,” he pledged, his voice cracking.

Tears fell from the eyes of both men as they nuzzled together on the green grass by the cabin.  They didn't try to speak again for a long while.  Rather, they let their tears of joy, pain, sadness, and desire fall, each comforting and being comforted.

After a time, the lovers stretched out and snuggled together in each other’s arms, their tears drying and their healing progressing.  They listened to the birds chirping and to the sounds of squirrels scampering for twigs and nuts.

Suddenly, Daniel laughed, prompting the older man to query, “What's so funny?”

“The fish.”

“What fish?”

“Don't you hear them, Babe?” Daniel spoke, causing his lover to wonder if he'd gone insane.  “I hear them.  It's not winter like it is now, but it's summertime, and there's a gentle breeze, and we're here, together.  I'm reading, and you're fishing for ... imaginary fish.”  He laughed again and said, “Geez, Jack, there are a bunch of fish in our lake, but you never catch one.”

“The lake ... in our minds?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, that one,” Daniel said, looking at his lover.  “Not even in an imaginary lake, do you catch fish.”

“I do, too.”

“Do not.”

“Do, too!”

“Not!” Daniel argued lovingly.

“Yes, I do.”

“When?”

“I ... don't be a wise guy, Jackson.”

“I love you, Jack.  Forever and always, I love you.”

“Heaven knows, I love you too, Danny.  I love you, too.”

Daniel's head rested on Jack's shoulder as they cuddled, his fingers reaching through the buttons of the shirt, making contact with Jack's skin.

“There are fish in Colorado,” Jack stated.

“But not in Minnesota,” Daniel chuckled.

“Just the fish that matters,” the older man declared, looking at his soulmate with such caring and passion that the archaeologist practically melted on the spot.

“I'm glad you want to hook me, but ... Jack, how can you forgive me so quickly?  When I came to you on the roof, you just opened your arms.  I cheated on you.”

“There's nothing to forgive.  You just needed time, and all you did was kiss her while you were still grieving.  I don't call that cheating.”

“You didn't know that, at first.”

“Yes, I did, inside, where it mattered.”

“You're such a pushover, O'Neill.”

Jack laughed, “Only for you.”

Both men knew that they were half joking, and half serious.

“I need you, Babe,” Daniel stated.  “I'm not sure what I would have done if you had sent me away.  You're the best part of my life, Jack.”

“Even when I growl?”

Daniel laughed, “Even then.”

Daniel rolled over atop of Jack and ran his fingers over his lover's face gently, slowly.

“Whatcha' doin'?” Jack questioned curiously.

“Studying my favorite artifact.”

“I thought you had me memorized by now.”

“No.”  Daniel shook his head as his fingers continued to trace every inch of his partner's face.  “There's so much to catalog, so many pieces, so much depth, character, and richness.  You keep changing.  I have to know, to see you.”

“I'm beginning to feel old.”

Daniel's focus was strong, his eyes concentrating on Jack's left cheek and then his earlobe.

“Danny?”

Daniel sank down to rest on Jack's chest.  He was quiet.

“Danny?” a worried Jack called out.

“Shhh!” the younger man reprimanded.

After a minute, Jack asked again, “Danny, what are you doing?”

“Listening to your heart.  It's the most beautiful sound in the world, your beating heart.”

“It's probably beating pretty fast.  It's ... excited, I think.”

Daniel chuckled as he looked up, “Is it now?”

“Um ... well, yeah.  Most of me is right now.”

“You don't say?”

“Geez, Danny, anytime you look at me that way, I get excited,” Jack pointed out with raised eyebrows.

“What way?”

“You know, like I'm one of those old fossily rocks you love so much.”

“No such word as fossily, Jack.”

“So sue me.”

“I'd give up all my rocks for you.  You're all I need.  I should have told you,” Daniel lamented, still full of regret at never having told Jack that he was first in his life.

“Angel, you told me today.  You've made me so happy that I can't even tell you how much.”  Jack noticed a wicked grin developing on his soulmate's face.  “Okay, what now?”

“Space Monkey.”

“That would be you.”

Growing serious again, Daniel said, “I'm ... cold, Jack.”

Jack saw the little smile he recognized so well.  The two had never forgotten the first words that they had used to communicate their united love on Jack's roof deck after they had saved the world.  Sometimes, like now, they would repeat them.

“I ... may have a way to fix that.”

“I was hoping you would,” Daniel said as he leaned into Jack, their mouths joining, their tongues teeter-tottering with each other.

The lovers' kisses grew with their passion, each trying to reach inside the other's mouth as much as they could.  Moans and noises escaped from their throats as they began to get lost in each other.

Jack pulled out Daniel's shirt, his hands roaming the soft skin of his love.  Their heads twisted and turned as they kissed, Jack's hand reaching down inside Daniel's jeans.

“Love you, Jack,” Daniel mouthed between kisses, his own hands going between his body and Jack's unbuttoning Jack's shirt, but as he often did, he grew frustrated and ended up snapping a few of the buttons off.

Jack couldn't help but laugh, “Gawd, I love you.  My personal clothes buyer.”

“I want you.  Too many clothes,” Daniel stated, kissing his lover's chest, placing a trail of wet touches from Jack's Adam's Apple down to his belly button.

Daniel unfastened Jack's jeans and pulled them off quickly, removing both of their shoes and underwear.  He was a man on a mission, and the disrobing was done quickly and without fuss.  Daniel laughed for a moment at his clothing dysfunction.

“What?” Jack asked at the sudden laughter.

“Geez, Jack, I always tear your shirts, but I never seem to have a problem with anything else.”

“I think you just like to buy me new shirts.”

“Yeah, that's it,” Daniel teased with a kiss and then went straight to Jack's ready-for-action length.

“Geez, Danny,” Jack moaned from the sudden sucking on his shaft by his lover.

“Complaining?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, no. Please, go right ahead with what you were doing!” Jack requested politely.

Daniel smiled and return to his labor of love, his tongue flicking against the tip of Jack's shaft and then he swallowed his love whole, his tongue continuing to flick and lick against his lover, tickling and stroking.

“Danny -- love you.”  Jack's hands were on his partner's shoulders, rubbing and caressing, his motions increasing with intensity as Daniel worked him.  “We're forever ... always, Babe.  Geez.  Danny,” he gasped as the sensations his lover was creating in his body intensified.

Daniel was so totally focused on Jack, on making him feel extra special.  His tongue teased and played until Jack came, his release filling Daniel's mouth as he swallowed.

“What you do to me, Love,” Jack said in total awe of the younger man.

“I love you so freakin' much, Jack,” Daniel said as he moved up to kiss his soulmate.

“Need you; want you now.”

“You're mine, O'Neill,” Daniel stated firmly.

“Better believe it, Jackson.  Unbeatable.”

As their passion flamed, Daniel whined, “Geez, Jack, not again.”

Jack wanted to laugh, but managed only a raspy, “We need to start carrying it in our pockets.”

“I'll ...”

“Oh, no you don't.  Now, Danny.  Now,” Jack demanded and then planted a sultry kiss onto his love, a kiss that demanded action now, lube or no lube.

Daniel moved slightly to position himself and then quickly inserting a finger inside Jack, who sighed loudly and then spoke insistently, “Just do it, Danny. I want to feel you right now.”

The younger man entered his lover and slowly began to move inside him.  As he did, his body gaining more and more force, Jack found himself strangely studying his lover as he moved his body.  It was a bit surreal, but then, Jack and Daniel were rarely normal, even with their lovemaking.

“Gawd, you're so beautiful,” Jack uttered, his brown eyes locked on to Daniel's sweating face.

“Jack ... forever ... us?”

“Yes, Angel ... forever,” Jack gasped as his breathing began to match Daniel's own labored efforts, their bodies rocking with motion.

Jack's fingers buried themselves in the blades of grass as Daniel's shaft pounded against Jack's prostate.  The pace was fast but steady, each impact causing Jack's body to fill with electricity.  He arched up to give Daniel as much access as possible, his legs hooking somewhat around his lover.

“You're mine, Jackson,” Jack shouted.

“All mine, O'Neill,” Daniel gasped, his body approaching its limit.  “Mine -- never leave.  Never.”

“Never,” Jack repeated as their healing continued via the melding of their bodies.

“Jack ... love ... love you,” Daniel said as he reached climax, exploding inside his partner, his body convulsing as he sank down to his lover's chest.

“Whoa ... Danny ... Sweet,” Jack gasped, his own body quivering from the explosion inside him.

The two men held on tight to each other as their breathing calmed, but Daniel found he was unusually emotional, “Forever, Jack.  Tell me.”

“Always, Danny.  Just you and me and our nation of two.  We don't need anyone else.”

“I loved her, Jack.  I swear I did, but I never felt like this with her.  Never felt so ... so much a part of her like I do you,” Daniel sobbed, his tears washing against Jack's chest.

“Angel, it's time to let go.”

“I lied to her.  Gawd, Jack, I would have hurt her so much if she had lived.”

“No.  Danny, listen to me,” Jack spoke, ignoring the soreness of his body, rolling them over so that Daniel was prone on the grass and he was looking into the blue eyes he treasured so much.  “Sha're was strong.  Remember that first night back on Earth, how you told me about grinding the flour and how Sha're wouldn't take any of your guff?”

“She wouldn't,” Daniel sniffled.  “She never did.”

“She had spirit.  You've always told me that.  Danny, if you and I are meant to be together, and we are, then out there somewhere, there was someone special waiting for Sha're.  You have to believe that, or you'll go crazy with guilt.”

“But I would have hurt her.  She believed that I loved her, that we'd always be together.  Jack, she would have been so hurt.”

“For a while, yes, but then that strength and spirit would have kicked in.  You can't second-guess yourself, Love.  You did the best you could.  We both did.”

“Sha're wasn't your responsibility.”

“No, but Sara was,” Jack said as he moved off of his lover and sat up on the grass.

Daniel blinked his eyes, hating himself for once again making everything all about himself.  He sat up and placed his arms around Jack's neck, his hands rubbing Jack's torso, his fingers playing with the chest hairs he found so very sexy.

Daniel leaned his head against Jack, saying, “I'm sorry, Jack.  I wasn't thinking, again.”

“It's okay, Danny.  I have to believe that Sara has finally found someone who can love her the way she deserves to be.  She's moved on, finally, and this guy, he sounds like he makes her happy.  I hope he does, because I certainly didn't.”

“You were happy ... before ...”

“Yes, we were.  I loved her, Daniel. I mean, I really loved her.  I didn't marry her because I was expected to or obligated to.  She's an incredible woman, and I knew she was exceptional the first time I laid eyes on her.  I fell in love with her, but as I much as I loved her, it doesn't compare with what I feel for you.”

Jack leaned his head back to kiss Daniel briefly and then continued, “I treated her shabbily at the end.  All I did was sit in Charlie's room and stare at the walls for days on end.  She tried everything, and I ignored her.  She tried to get me into counseling.  She tried giving me space; tough love.  She suggested we go away for a while.  Danny, she did way more than most would to try and keep us together, but I shut her out.

“I didn't blame her for leaving, but I knew I had failed her.  I can't forget what I did to her.  She thought we would always be together, and I let her down, and for a long time, I wasn't sure either one of us would survive.”

Daniel kissed the back of Jack's shoulder as he continued to caress his lover's chest, holding on with all the love he could.  He had never realized that Jack harbored such feelings of guilt, but now he could see the pain, a pain they both shared for the women in their lives.

Jack turned his body towards Daniel while speaking, “Don't you see?  Sara is strong, just like Sha're.  She hurt for a long time, but in the end, she's found someone who can finally bring her a peace and happiness she could never have had with me.  Danny, you have to believe that Sha're would have found that with someone, too, because I know in my heart, that you and I belong together.”

Daniel nodded, whispering, “Forever.  I just wish I knew she understood.  I didn't want to lie to her.”

“You gave her hope.  She knew you wouldn't stop trying to free her.  After she had the baby, she saw us in the temple, and she said nothing.  She was that strong.  Faith, Danny.  She had that because you gave it to her.  I wish I had known her better.”

“She was special.”

“You loved her.  She had to be, but I don't think she ever really liked me very much,” Jack sighed.

Daniel moved to rest his head against Jack's shoulder, feeling a need to be held, and Jack obliged.

“She knew ... I think,” Daniel said suddenly.

“What do you mean?”

“I talked about you all the time, wondering what you were doing, and after I found the Cartouche, I spent most of my time there.  She hated that.  I would say that I wished I could show it to you, explain it, and she'd get angry.  You're all we ever fought about.”

“Sorry, I think,” Jack said, not sure how to interpret Daniel's comments.

“It's why she was so standoffish with you.  You were ... competition.  No one else was, and she knew that.  I think she knew there was something deeper between us, even if we didn't.”

Jack placed a kiss on Daniel's temple as they both looked out on the waters of the lake.  They'd shared so much in the last couple of hours, things they had rarely if ever even allowed themselves to think about.  They were tired and emotionally drained, and yet, there was a peace within each of them that was calming and warm.

“Jack, we need to let them go, don't we?”

“Yes, and that means we need to stop asking 'what if' all the time.”

“I love you.”

“And I love you, my beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, yummy Angel.”

“Geez, Jack,” Daniel expressed in embarrassment.

“What?” Jack asked with surprise as he watched Daniel turn all shades of red.

“You say the craziest things.”

“I love to see you get all flustered.”  Jack kissed his lover's nape and then shifted.  “I love to do this, too,” he added as he began to tickle his lover in all of his most ticklish spots.

“Jack ... gawd ... oh geez ... Jaaaaaaaack,” Daniel cried out while rolling in laughter, his smile huge as Jack continued his loving assault.

Over the course of their relationship, Jack had been pleased to realize just how ticklish Daniel was, and at the perfect moments, Jack had never hesitated to give his lover the gift of laughter, and this was one of those times.

“Oh ... stop ... Jack ... love you ... oh ... love you so freakin' much,” Daniel laughed, his attempt at getting Jack to stop only half-hearted.

Three minutes later, Jack figured it was enough and slowly stopped his fingers.  He watched Daniel calm, the smile still on his face, and then their eyes connected.

“How do you always know?” Daniel asked, the need for laughter having been real and yet he hadn't a clue that he had needed it until Jack's tickling attack.

“Because you're part of me, and I love you, forever and always, and even always and forever.”

Daniel chuckled and replied, “Forever and always, Jack, and always and forever, I love you with all my heart, with all of me.”

The two kissed and continued their healing together.  They would spend three more days at the cabin, laughing and crying, remembering and letting go, and by the time they returned to Colorado Springs, they had released their demons.

“I'll never forget her,” Daniel had said one night.

“Neither will I,” Jack had added truthfully.

“Forever and always,” both had spoken at the same time as they smiled and made love yet again, a love now freer, stronger, and more vibrant than ever before.

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