Mr. Jealousy's Debut

Author: Orrymain
Category: Pre-Slash, Angst, Drama, Smarm, Missing Scene/Epilogue
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  1
Spoilers:  Singularity, Cor-ai
Size:  96kb
Written:  October 4-6,12-13,16, 2004
Summary:  Jack's Mr. Jealousy makes his first appearance.  Can he cover up his extreme overprotectiveness and irrational emotions, or will Daniel learn the truth?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Sue, QuinGem, Linda, Claudia, Heidi, Drdjlover!

Mr. Jealousy's Debut
by Orrymain

“You owe me ten bucks, Danny.”

“I do not.”

“My team won,” Jack insisted.

“We never bet.”

“Did, too.”

“Did, not.”

“Welcher.”

Daniel ignored Jack's jab and changed the subject.

“Jack, the concert starts at nine tomorrow night.  Do you think we'll be done with the mission in time?”

“Yeah.  It's basic, in and out, meet up with SG-7, watch the eclipse, get the data, let the Doc stick a hole in us again, a few clicks on the keyboard, a quick 'howdy' with the General, and we're done.”

Daniel laughed at how simple Jack had made the process seem.  It was never that easy, but he hoped that maybe this would be an easier mission.

“I'll see you at the base.”

“Danny?”

“Mmm?”

Daniel turned around.  He had just walked out the door of Jack's house. The two best friends had done something they'd done regularly for quite a while: they had spent their downtime together.  They'd had three days off after a grueling mission and had enjoyed just puttering around Jack's house, though they had taken time away to go to an antique show, shop at a flea market, and enjoyed, in spite of Daniel's skepticism, a stock car race.

Daniel hadn't particularly wanted to go to the race, but Jack was determined to expand the younger man's experiences with sporting events, all kinds of sports, including auto racing.  As it turned out, they had a great time.

While at the racetrack, they had picked up a flyer promoting a benefit concert for a local children's home.  There wouldn't be any big-name entertainers, but several local headliners would be in attendance, including a pianist Daniel had been wanting to see.  Jack and Daniel knew they had a two-day mission ending on the day of the concert, but they were banking on the assignment being a smooth one so that they could get home in time to attend.

“I had fun, Jack.”

“Me, too.”

Jack watched his best friend drive away and sighed.

~This is hard, Danny.  I don't mean spending time with you, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do, but feeling like this, sometimes ... it's just ... hard.  You have no idea how wonderful you are, and you haven't a clue that I ... geez, that I'm in love with you.  I've barely gotten used to it myself, but, right or wrong, Daniel, I do love you.~

Taking a breath, Jack closed the door and prepared to go to work.

====

“Sam, you look great,” Daniel said, a smile on his face as he entered the locker room.

“Oh, thanks, Daniel.  It's just your basic military green.  I did decide to accessorize with an MP-5.  What do you think?” she asked, prancing around gaily.

“I might have preferred a Beretta, but on you, it looks ... terrific.”  ~I can't believe I'm joking about guns.  I think I'm hanging around Jack too much.  Nah, I don't want that to change.~

“Will you two stop before I gag, please,” Jack requested.

“Sorry, Sir.”

“I'm not.  Sam's beautiful, even in BDUs,” Daniel insisted affectionately.

Sam coughed, blushed, and excused herself to attend to some personal business before meeting up again with her teammates to leave on the mission.

“Daniel, what was that all about?”

Daniel saw Jack tighten his bootlaces as if lynching someone.  He didn't understand the harsh tone in his voice, either.

“Jack, lighten up.  Sam had a fight with that guy she's been seeing.  He said she was too tomboyish.  She's feeling a little down, so I just wanted to make her feel better, that's all.”

“Sorry.”

“Jack, I know you look at Sam and see your 2IC, but ... she is a woman, too.”

“I noticed, Daniel,” Jack said snarkily.

“You did?”

“The day we met.  She prattled on about reproductive organs and Matt Mason dolls.  It was hard to miss.”

“Oh.”  ~Glad I did miss it.~

====

SG-1 prepared to walk through the Stargate to Hanka, designated P8X-987 where SG-7 had been stationed, collecting data on a solar eclipse due to occur that night.

“So, what exactly are we going to see after this eclipse begins?  I mean it is black, and it is a hole,” Daniel inquired.

Jack teased, “Well, it might be a black hole.”

Daniel considered slapping his friend, but instead said, “Okay, let me put that a different way.”

Sam smiled, nearly laughing, but explained, “No, Daniel, you're right.  You can't actually see it, not the singularity itself.  It's so massive not even light can escape it, but during the totality phase of the eclipse, we should be able to see matter spiraling towards it.”

~Time to show off; maybe impress my archaeologist a little.~  “Actually, it's called the accretion disc.”

Jack's comment didn't register at first with Daniel who continued to talk about the planet, but suddenly, half way up the ramp, he stopped and looked back at Jack.

“What did you just say?”

~Gotcha!~  “It's just an astronomical term.”  ~This old Colonel has a few surprises for ya, Dannyboy.  Maybe someday I'll tell ya.  Then again ...~

Daniel was totally floored by Jack's comment.  He knew about Jack's hobby, of course, but had no idea his friend was that well versed in the specifics.

~You are sooooo cute, Danny, when you're shocked out of your gourd.  Yeppers, I gotcha!  Gotcha good!~

Still confused, Daniel turned and headed through the Stargate, leaving Jack feeling pretty darn good.

====

On Hanka, the team traveled the long, dirt road that led from the Stargate to the observatory where they expected to find SG-7 preparing for the “big show” as Jack called it.  En route, however, they found a dead man at the side of the road.  His face was grotesque, showing signs of trauma.  Immediately, SG-1 donned their protective gear.

Having found SG-7 and the rest of the villagers dead, Jack ordered Teal'c to contact the Mountain.

“Teal'c, contact the SGC and tell them what's happened.  Tell Hammond I recommend Fraiser bring a team through, in full protective gear.”

Teal'c nodded and headed back to the Stargate.

“Okay, let's see if we can find out anything useful while we're waiting,” Jack told Sam and Daniel.

====

“What are you looking at?” Daniel asked Sam.

“Oh, just some of the information SG-7 had already accumulated.  Daniel, it's fascinating what we can learn from events like this.”

On the other side of the room, Jack finished perusing the team leader's last report, which hadn't answered any of the questions now facing the SGC.  He turned and looked over at his teammates.  Sam and Daniel were huddled together, Sam talking away.  Jack couldn't make out the words, but he saw the sparkle in his 2IC's eyes, and changing his position, he saw Daniel's had that same shine.  The two laughed at something.

~Cute couple.  I may have to shoot you, Carter.  Where's your respect for the dead?~  “Excuse me, this isn't a picnic, you know.  Don't you have something you're supposed to be doing, Carter?”

“Um, yes, Sir.  I'm sorry.”

Daniel stared at his friend, surprised at the tone that was as snippy as his earlier remarks at been at the SGC.

“Jack, we were going over the data.  We don't know what we might find that could give us a clue about what happened here.”

With a lowered, but stern voice, Jack said, “Looked to me like you two were partying.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel said in total disbelief.  ~What the heck is going on with you?~

“Well, you were smiling and laughing.  Daniel, is there anything on this planet that should have you smiling and laughing right now?”

Poignantly, Daniel replied, “Jack, to be honest, there's not so much on Earth that has me smiling or laughing, either.”

They stared at each other for a moment, and then Daniel walked away, going to another room in the observatory to continue his search.

Jack took a deep breath, audibly sighing.

~O’Neill, you're an idiot.  Danny didn't deserve that.~

He shook his head for a moment as if to shake off the last two minutes, and then continued on with his search as well.

====

As soon as Janet and her team arrived, they decontaminated the observatory, needing a place to work from as a base.  Once that was done, she ordered SG-1 to undergo full exams, beginning with Jack since he had touched the dead man found on the roadside.

As the two walked to the barracks area for the exam, Daniel sneezed.  Jack and Janet looked back at the archaeologist.

“Allergies, right?”  Jack asked.  He looked at Janet, and repeated, “Allergies?”

She agreed, and they walked off, but Jack was worried about Daniel.

~With his allergies, he might be more prone to get ... whatever this is.  I have to protect him.~  “Doc, maybe you should start with Daniel.”

“No, Colonel, you had the greatest exposure.”

“But maybe his allergies would, I don't know; I'm not a doctor, Doc, but ...”

“Colonel, Daniel appears to be fine, but I promise, I won't miss a thing when I examine him ... *after* I finish with you.”

“You'll check him out ... after me?”

“Yes, Sir.  This way.”

~I still think he should go first.  I don't really matter, but Danny, he's got so much to offer, and I ... I need him to be safe.~

====

A while later, after their exams had been completed, SG-1 began the gruesome task of locating and tagging the dead bodies of the villagers. As she was doing so, Sam suddenly saw movement in the bushes.  She called out, and soon, they discovered the lone survivor of the disaster on Hanka:  a young girl with long hair.

After coaxing her out from hiding, they took her to Janet to be examined.  The girl was silent, but Sam talked to her as reassuringly as possible while Janet conducted her tests.

The tests resulted in a startling discovery.

“There are traces of the element the Stargate is made of in her blood,” Janet stated, alarmed at the thought.

“Naquadah?” Sam asked, surprised.

“Yeah.  Now it's possible that's the reason she was able to resist the infection.”

Then, Janet was given a file with more test results from the planet and other patients.  She cringed.

“What's wrong?”

“It's not good, Sam.  We need to find the Colonel.”

====

“Well, I have some bad news,” the doctor began when she found Jack and Daniel.  “The samples my team collected show the entire area to be contaminated.  It's in the water and the ground.  Now the bacteria doesn't seem to be airborne, but it has a unique ability to survive in a variety of environments.”

After some discussion, it was decided that Sam and Daniel would escort the survivor back to Earth, while Jack and Teal'c remained on the planet to complete their original mission, a decision reached after a plea from Sam.

“Sir, the eclipse happens in less than one day. This is our only opportunity to use this window of darkness to photograph the black hole with this telescope.  It could change the course of human history.  I don't want to belittle what's happened here, but if we just pack up and leave, SG-7 and all these people will have died for nothing.”

Sam had originally wanted to stay, but the young girl grabbed a hold of her, and no one could bear to hurt the girl more by separating her from someone she had become attached to since being found.

Jack watched the trio leave, along with the rest of the SGC personnel.  A strange feeling shot through him.  The little girl was walking in between his teammates.  Both Sam and Daniel were holding her hand, and they just looked so much like a ... ~family.  Shake it off, O'Neill. You have work to do.~

====

Sam led the girl to the room she would be staying in.  It wasn't much -- basic military gray walls, a twin bed, a table with nothing but a lamp on it.  She talked softly with the girl who still had not spoken.

~We need to fix this place up.  This isn't going to help her feel better.  I wonder if she likes to paint?~

Later, in the briefing room, Daniel and Janet met with General Hammond to update him with the latest information.  They began by turning on the monitor and observing the girl with Sam.  The drab room had already been brightened up with colorful paintings and accessories to give it a more home-like feeling.

“She seems to have bonded with Captain Carter,” Hammond noted.

Daniel responded, “I can't blame her for being terrified; believe me, it was not pretty over there.”

“What happened?”

“We counted one-thousand, four-hundred, thirty-two dead,” Janet answered.  “I believe we may be indirectly responsible.”  She went on to explain that, “It's possible someone from Earth brought a normally harmless bacteria to that planet; it learned some new traits from a local organism, and mutated into the most deadly infectious strain I've ever encountered.”

====

At the observatory, Jack took a seat on the steps that lead up to the giant telescope.

~I wanted Danny to be here, to share this with him.  He'd like this.  Crap.  It was the perfect night for it, too.~  “This is fun.  Only eight hours to go.  Sweet.”  ~Did I mention that I miss Danny?  I should have ordered him to stay instead of sending him off with Carter.  Carter.  He said she was beautiful.  I thought you were happily married, Daniel?~

Jack groaned.

“Is something wrong, O'Neill?”

“No.  Just ... thinking.”

Teal'c nodded and continued to study preparatory information that was on one of the computers.

A bit later, Teal'c stated, “I still do not understand this black hole.”

~Have some fun, Jack.  It'll help you get over your ... funk.~  “Well, a black hole is this really ... big thing.  It's, uh, well, basically, it's a massive ... hole ... out there.”

“I see.”

~No you don't, but nothing personal, big guy, I had planned to do a little showing off to Danny, and Teal'c, you are not My Danny.~  “What happens is everything gets sucked into it, even light; that's why we can't see it -- just ... gets ... sucked in.”

“Thank you.”

“Sure.”  ~Well, that wasn't that much fun after all.  What are you doing, Danny?  I wanted you here; to let you know I'm not as dumb as I make out to be.  Geez, O'Neill, why is that so important to you all of a sudden?~  Jack sighed.  ~Because you fell in love with your best friend, that's why.~

Jack continued to stew as he sat.  For a few minutes, he tried to distract himself by making notes about training ideas, but he quickly realized the futility of that, crumbling up the paper and throwing it into a trash can.

~Two points, not that it means anything here.~

He put his notebook away, but continued to hold the pen, clicking the top piece on and off incessantly as his mind raced with other thoughts.

~They looked like a friggin' TV show, walking off like that, holding hands.  Geez, I'm stuck here, twiddling my thumbs, and Daniel is off playing house with my 2IC.  I'll fix that when I get back.  No scientific explorations; we'll just go where the Goa'uld are.  We'll fight, fight, fight; they won't have a chance to stick their little heads together and ...~

“O'Neill, is there something wrong?”

“What?”

“You look troubled, and I do not believe you will be able to use that pen again.”

Jack looked at his hands.  He'd broken the pen he'd been holding in two and hadn't even realized it.  The tiny plastic fragments filled his hands.  He looked up at Teal'c.

“I'm fine, Teal'c, just ... thinking about these people and how they died, that's all.” Jack said, trying to explain away his actions.

====

“Sam?” Daniel called out, knocking on the door and slowly opening it.  He smiled and wiggled an object he held in his hands.  Sam smiled in return as she motioned towards the young girl.  “Um, hi,” Daniel said as he approached her.  He didn't want to frighten her, so he held back a little bit.  She was clinging to Sam, but watching Daniel.  “I, uh, thought you might like this.  It's called, a, uh, an elephant.  Here,” Daniel said, holding out the gift.

The girl looked at Sam who smiled and nodded at her.

“Go on.  Take it,” Sam urged.  “I love stuffed animals myself.  Don't tell anyone, but I still have a few at home in my closet.”

The girl looked at Daniel again, and then reached out to accept the gift.  She hugged it, enjoying the softness of the plush toy.

Daniel smiled at the young girl who continued to press the gift against her chest.

“Well, uh, I just wanted to drop that off.  Are you doing okay?” he asked Sam, full of concern as he wondered how well she was really handling the situation.

“I'm fine.”

“Need anything?”

“Daniel, you sound like the Colonel.”

“Oh, in that case, I'll leave you two alone.  See you later, Sam.”  He walked to the door and looked back.  “Bye,” he said, smiling at the girl as she continued to hold the stuffed elephant in her arms.

====

As the hours passed, the Hankan survivor became even more attached to Sam.  They had spent a long time painting, and then she finally fell asleep, grasping the stuffed animal Daniel had given her.

Later, Daniel walked into the room, intending to stay with the girl so that Sam could attend to some other SGC business.  The girl woke up, though, and although Sam said she'd be back, she grabbed Sam's arm and finally spoke.

“Please don't go.”

The girl revealed that her name was Cassandra and told Sam that she had a sharp, stabbing pain.  Immediately, Sam took her to the infirmary.

====

Janet was completely mystified.

“I have no idea what to say or do.  Her latest blood work shows a marked potassium deficiency.  I have no idea what is causing it, or how it could have gotten so low, so quickly, but one of the effects can be arrhythmia.”

When Cassandra exhibited an irregular heartbeat and went into cardiac arrest, the petite doctor and her team worked in tandem, finally getting a regular rhythm back, but then Janet was shocked by what she heard through her stethoscope, prompting her to urgently order a chest X-ray.

The X-ray revealed an object that hadn't been there ten hours earlier when Janet had first examined the young girl.  Having no clue what it was, the medical team operated, hoping to be able to remove it, but when that failed, Doctor Warner did a biopsy to get more information about the foreign object.

====

The girl was returned to her room where Sam sat with her for a long time.  Once Cassandra had fallen into a deep sleep, Sam exited the room.  She saw Daniel, waiting, seated in a chair, reading a book, just outside Cassandra's room.

“How is she?” he asked as he stood up.

“She's fine, sleeping,” Sam answered, trying to sound detached.

Gently, Daniel volunteered to help.

“If you want, I can sit with her tomorrow for a few hours.”

“No, we're okay.”

“Okay.”

Sam started to walk away, but then she slowed, and explained, “I just ... I want to do this.”

Daniel understood, but being alone during traumatic times was something he had done once too often.  He loved Sam, and wanted to make sure she understood a valuable truth:  she had friends, and he was one of them.

“Okay, but I guess what I'm saying is, you don't have to do this alone.”

“Thanks.”

Daniel watched her walk away.

~You're not alone, Sam.  Gawd, this is nightmare for that little girl.  Her parents are dead, and now this ... thing inside of her.  But you, Sam, you're in pain, too.  Why you're working so hard to pretend you're not, I don't understand.  I'm your friend.  I want to help.  Please let me.  Jack's reminded me just how important it is to have someone to ... rely on, to have friends.  I do rely on him; on you, too, as my friend, so ... let me help you.  You don't have to do this alone.~

Daniel sighed and headed back to his office, wondering how Jack was doing on the planet.

~Can't believe he knew about an accretion disc.  You're full of surprises, Jack.  It's probably a fluke, not that you aren't smart, because you are, way smarter than you let on.  Of course, this is your hobby so I should have known you'd know more than how to take the lens cap off the telescope.  Guess we're going to miss the concert, but it doesn't seem very important anymore.  I know what it's like, Cassandra.  When this is over, I'll try and help you adjust.  Wish someone had ... helped me.~

====

“It's show time,” Jack stated as he prepared the telescope.

Teal'c added, “The systems are online.”

Jack looked through the large scope as it began to record the data.  The moon traveled in front of the sun and finally when the sun was completely covered, Teal'c reported,  “The eclipse has reached its totality.”

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed.  ~I wish you were here, Danny.  This is amazing.~

====

Back at the SGC, Sam and Janet made a terrifying discovery about the object in Cassandra: the naquadah inside the young girl, when mixed with something like potassium, could easily cause a nuclear reaction.  

Along with Daniel, the two females met with General Hammond in the briefing room to fill him in and discuss options.

Daniel explained, “It's a set up; it has to be.  The Goa'ulds wiped out every last living person on that planet except Cassandra, and then they made us think that it was our fault because they knew we wouldn't leave her there.  They *knew* we would bring her back here; and they used their technology to put that *thing* inside of her.”

Sam added, “It's like they designed a way for us to help them create the device after she came through the Stargate so we wouldn't detect it until it was too late.”

“We gave her iron supplements.  We may have even turned the device on with a jolt of electricity when we resuscitated her,” Janet noted.

Hammond clarified, “You're saying it's meant to destroy us.”

“Or at least this complex, the threat to the Goa'ulds is the Stargate,” Sam answered.

Daniel was angry, very angry.  Emphatically, he said, “They used that little girl like a Trojan horse.”

The clock was ticking, and Hammond dismissed everyone so he could call the President.

====

A while later, Sam went to check on Cassandra who was asleep, and a bit after that, Daniel joined her, standing at her side as she watched over the innocent victim.

~You aren't alone, Sam.~

“How could they do this?”

Daniel answered, “Well, to a Goa'uld, she's not as we see her.  She's a tool.  Her death is a very *cheap* way to get rid of us.”

Sam was at her emotional end and was unable to hold back the tears.  Apologetically, she said, “I know I am supposed to be detached.”

Surprised, Daniel asked, “Who said that?”

For the first time, Sam was truly glad Daniel was there.  “Sometimes, I forget you're not military,” she said, crying, but still trying to stop it.

“Sam, it's okay to let go, to cry.”

“I'm a Captain, Daniel.  Crying's not allowed.”

“You're a woman, too, and Cassandra's a little girl being victimized by something she shouldn't even know about.  There's nothing wrong with shedding a few tears about the unfairness of it all.”

Daniel had a faraway look.

“I'm sorry, Daniel.  I guess you'd know better than I.”

“No, I'm just ... I already cried.”

Sam smiled, placed her arm on Daniel, and leaned her head against his shoulder.  She knew she could rely on Daniel.  With him, she could let go and not worry about military protocol.

“Thanks for not letting me be alone.”

“Anytime, Sam.  That's what friends are for.”

“I'm glad you're my friend,” she smiled and sighed.

Daniel reached over and took her hand.  Physical touch was not easy for him, but right now, Sam's needs outweighed his own insecurities. His friend had endured a tough week, and he simply wanted to support her.

After a few minutes, the two were called to the General's office.

====

His discussion with the President completed, Hammond revealed Cassandra's fate to Sam, who was desperately trying to find a way to save her, and Daniel, who was leaning against the doorframe, a few steps behind the blonde Captain.

“I have been assured there is absolutely no way to remove the object from the girl without killing her.  Therefore, we have no choice. According to Doctor Fraiser's measurements of the device's atomic decay, we have one hour and twenty minutes left. The girl should be prepared to go back though the Stargate.”

Hammond ordered SG-4 to go as well, telling them he wanted Jack and Teal'c to return as well.

Daniel looked at Sam, concern for her welfare equal to what he was feeling for Cassandra.

As they walked the corridors of the SGC, Daniel said, “Sam, I'll go with you.”

Sam stopped walking, turning to face the young man.

“No, Daniel, we'll be fine.”

“But ...”

“It's okay.”  She put her hand on his arm.  “You've been great through this whole thing.  I'm not sure I could have made it this far without knowing that you were here for me.  Thank you.”

She gently placed a kiss on his cheek, and quickly hurried down the hallway to prepare for the trip that would return Cassandra to Hanka.

====

Back on Hanka, Jack had spotted a Goa'uld ship when looking through the telescope shortly after the eclipse had ended.  Soon, he and Teal'c realized the ship belonged to Nirrti. The two raced for the Stargate, avoiding multiple blasts from the ship.

At one point, they took cover behind trees and bushes.  Teal'c took the opportunity to impart some information that made Jack's blood run cold.

“This Goa'uld Nirrti; he once sent an emissary of peace to negotiate a treaty concerning a Stargate Apophis had taken control of.  The negotiations was a ploy; the Stargate was destroyed.”  He added, “As soon as he entered the Stargate, there was a massive explosion.”

Jack realized the girl was the current “ploy.”

Teal'c dialed the Gate just as Sergeant Davis was also trying to dial out to Hanka.  As the chevrons locked into place, Cassandra suddenly collapsed and slipped into a coma, but before anyone could do much, the Stargate engaged.  Moments later, Jack and Teal'c ran through.

Seeing the young girl with Sam and Janet, Jack immediately ordered, “Get the girl away from the Gate.”

====

Jack and Teal'c went to shower and change.  Then Jack needed to drop by his office.  Hammond had told him there was a report he needed to sign.  No matter the crisis, there was always other business that had to be attended to at the SGC.

As he walked, he passed his old teammate, Lou Ferretti.

“Hey Jack, how ya doin'?”

“Been better.  You?”

“Hanging in.  Hey, what's with the frat on your team?  I'm not complaining; they make a great looking pair.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Doc and ... the Doc!”

“What?”

“Daniel and Captain Carter.  They've been like two peas in a pod the last couple of days.  Looks serious to me.”

“Serious?  Carter and Daniel?  They're like ... brother and sister,” Jack said, trying to find another explanation for their closeness.

“If my sis held my hand like that, I'd have been in prison a long time ago.  Wheeeew, I mean, they've been *hot*, Pal; the talk of the base.”

“Yeah, well ... birds of a feather.  I have to go, Lou.”

Jack continued towards his office.

~Birds of a feather; I may tar and feather 'em both.~

====

As Jack finished doing as Hammond requested, Daniel appeared at the doorway.

“Jack.”

“Daniel.”

“Um,” he walked in slowly, looking behind him, “are you mad at me for some reason?”

“Daniel, now isn't the time or place, is it?”

“No, I guess not.  I just ... I was worried when you came through the Stargate, and normally, you ... I mean ... well, you haven't said anything to me, and it, uh, it's just ...”

“Daniel, spit it out!”

“Never mind.  We need to get to the briefing.”

Quickly, Daniel left the room, leaving Jack silently berating himself once more.  He hated seeing the hurt in Daniel’s eyes and knowing he had put it there.

~I’m sorry, Danny.  I want to be happy for you, but …~

====

Not long thereafter, the team began to assemble in the briefing room to discuss what they had learned and what their options were.

“So the Goa'ulds kept SG-7 from coming back through to warn us.  All part of the plan,” Jack explained as they walked up the stairs.

Daniel asked, “So what are we going to do now?”

Since they couldn't risk the security of the Mountain, the decision was made to take Cassandra to an abandoned nuclear facility that was twenty minutes away.  Racing against the clock, SG-1 picked up the young girl, still in a coma, and headed for the site.

Reaching their destination inside one of the storage facilities, Sam insisted on taking Cassandra to the bunker room they had agreed to place her in.

On the way down in the elevator, Sam's heart broke when Cassandra woke up.  It was a waking nightmare for the Captain.  When the elevator stopped, Sam escorted her charge into a dark room, spoke a few words, and then moved to the door.

It was the hardest thing she'd ever done, and Sam cried as she closed the door, locking the orphan inside.  She headed for the elevator, pressed the appropriate button, and then lost total control.  Her body shook as she tried to rid herself of the image of Cassandra sitting on the bed inside the room, but it was burned into her mind.  Cassandra's cries also echoed in her ears.

~Help me.  Someone help me.  I can't do this.~

Sobbing, Sam slid down the elevator wall.  Then, she paused, realizing that she simply couldn't do this and live with herself.  She sprang up and reversed the direction of the elevator.

 “Jack, she's going back down,” Daniel spoke with alarm as he noticed the change in direction for the elevator.

Ignoring Jack's orders heard over the intercom, Sam hurried to Cassandra and hugged her.  She had made her decision, and tossing aside the risk, Sam would wait with Cassandra as the nightmare played out.

Jack sighed, knowing it was a lost cause.

~Okay, she's staying.  She's part of my team, so I stay, but Danny ... Danny has to go.  I won't let him die.~

Jack looked at his watch, and then at Daniel and Teal'c.

“All right, why don't you guys clear out?”

**No.**

It was one word, and Jack had heard it ... in his head.  He knew Daniel hadn't spoken it, but he had still heard it as clearly as he had just heard himself give the order for Daniel to leave.  This silent communication thing was a bit unnerving for Jack.  It had started a while ago, and seemed to be picking up steam with the passage of time.  Still, he didn't understand it, and that made Jack antsy whenever it happened unexpectedly.  As a rule, Jack never liked things he couldn't explain.

As they stood there, Jack realized Teal'c wasn't leaving, and that his best friend, the man he loved, wouldn't, either.  He nodded.

“Right,” he finally said, giving up the battle before it had really begun.

As the clock ticked down to the final minute, Cassandra and Sam bonded even more.  Hugging each other, they knew whatever would happen, would happen to both of them.

“We are both very brave,” the young girl said.

“Yeah.”

“I love you.”

Sam replied, “I love you, too,” and hugged Cassandra even tighter than before.

Floors above, Jack looked at his watch.  They were down to twenty seconds.

~At least we go together, and at least I didn't mess it up.  Geez, he thinks I'm some friggin' hero or something.  Crazy geek, but I do love him.  He's ... my geek ... at least ... I wish he was.~

**Danny ...**

**What?**

~Shut up, O'Neill.  You can't tell him you love him with ten seconds left in life; just not right.~  **Nothing.**

Jack led the countdown, but nothing happened.  The anticipated explosion never occurred.  He looked over at his friends and saw their dawning hope.  He called to his 2IC over the intercom again.

She responded, “We're okay; nothing happened.  Cassandra's fine; I'm fine.  It didn't happen.  I just ... I couldn't leave her, Sir.”

“How did you know, Captain?”

“It occurred to me that she first slipped into the coma when we brought her close to the Stargate.  As soon as we got her far enough away from the Stargate, she woke up, and I ... knew.”

Jack looked over again, wanting to see Daniel and just look, but when he did, he saw the young man's relief at Sam and Cassandra being alive.  Excitedly, Daniel hit Teal'c in celebration.

~What was that?  Emotion?  Of course: I mean, you're glad Cassie's alive, and Carter.  That was for both of them, wasn't it?  You just ... Daniel, you don't normally show that kind of emotion openly.  I ... oh shut up, O'Neill.  It's nothing, and what if it wasn't?  You have no claim on him.  Geez, if he knew, he'd run back to Abydos in no time flat.~

====

The crisis had ended, and SG-1 was given forty-eight hours downtime.  Sam was staying on base to help with Cassandra's adjustment.  The following day, the young girl would be going home with Sam for the day.  Excluding the traumatic trek to the nuclear plant, it would be her first time outside the Mountain.

“Danny, pizza at six?”

“I, uh, can't.”

“Oh?  Why not?”

Daniel buttoned his shirt nervously.

“I told Sam I'd ...”

“Sam?”

“It's just ...”

“Have a good time,” Jack said, never giving the younger man a chance to finish his sentence.

He quickly left the locker room, but instead of going home, he went to a cabin he rented in Colorado.  He use the cabin frequently whenever he didn't have time to go to his own cabin in Minnesota.  At the moment, Jack wanted to get lost and away from it all, and the cabin was one of his few retreats that would allow him to do just that.

====

Returning home, he found six messages from Daniel on the answering machine, along with two notes in the mailbox.

~Sorry, Daniel, but I'm not in the mood to hear about your ... dates with Carter.  I'm going to bed.  I'll deal with you tomorrow.~

====

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Jack wasn't really sure which, the next day proved very anything, meaning Jack didn't deal with anything much but paperwork and bureaucracy.  The Brass, spooked by the recent events, wanted to review security procedures and protocol at the Mountain, so for the next three days, Jack was locked up either in his office or in meetings.

====

Cassandra was adjusting as well as could be expected.  She was staying with Sam who had gotten permission to take a few days leave.  They had spent a lot of time with Janet, and Sam observed how close the two were becoming.

“Janet, you want her, don't you?”

“Sam, I know that you ...”

Sam cut her friend off, having already thought about the subject matter quite a bit.

“No, Janet.  I'm not ready to be a mom, but I think you are.  I mean, of course, I want her; I love her, but she needs more than I can give right now.  I was hoping ...” Sam paused, then smiled, believing she knew the answer to the question before she asked it, “Do you want to adopt her?”

Janet smiled and nodded, answering, “Of course, I do, but like you said, Sam, there's a lot to be considered.  Raising a teenager isn't easy for anyone, but for us ... I'm not even sure if it's fair.”

“I know what you mean.  It's more than being ready to take care of a child,” Sam stated.

“What we do, Sam, even me, it's time consuming and very risky.  Cassandra needs an extraordinary amount of love and patience right now.”

Sam hunched her shoulders forward as she leaned in towards her friend and said, “But Cassandra's options are limited.  I mean, the Pentagon is willing to let her live her life as normally as possible, but it has to be with someone who has a very high security clearance, and someone who knows the Stargate.”  Smiling, she added, “I think it's important for her to be with someone she knows.”

“I'm thinking about it, but only if you're sure, Sam.  She loves you.”

“And I love her, and it's because I love her that I have to be honest with myself.  Right now, I'll make a better aunt, than mom.”

====

~Aren't they cute?  Look at them.  Carter and Daniel practically carrying Cassie.  She's a big girl.  She can walk.  He looks ... happy, doesn't he?  He's smiling.  He and Carter could ... crap!  He is very sexy in that maroon shirt; still prefer blue, though.~  “Cassandra.”

Jack had gotten a message that Sam and Daniel were taking Cassandra to the park for the first time.  They wanted to make a day of it and have a picnic.  Teal'c would be coming, too.

Cassandra ran to Jack who introduced her to the dog he was carrying.

“What's that?” she asked.

~Wonder if Danny ever had a dog?~  “We have a rule here on Earth.  Every kid has got to have a dog.  This is a dog, and he's yours.”

He smiled, watching her hug the dog and kiss it.  Eagerly, she carried her dog over to the bench where the others were waiting.

“Hey, Samantha.  See my new dog!”

Surprised, Sam said, “Wow.  *Your* new dog?”

She explained, “It's an Earth rule.  Every kid has to have one, but I don't mind.”

Jack shrugged, hearing the comments, and then suggested, “Why don't I take the dog for a little walk.”

Teal'c and Daniel followed the Colonel, leaving Sam and Cassandra to spend some more time alone together.  They'd created her cover story, saying she was an orphan born in Toronto, and they'd impressed upon her the importance of keeping the secret of the Stargate's existence.

Jack saw Sam and Cassandra head for the swings.  Then, he looked over at Teal'c who was walking the dog.  That left Daniel who was standing at Jack's left.

“So, Daniel, did Carter have any news about where Cassie is going to end up?”

“She thinks Janet is going to take her.”

“Really?”  ~Good.  That'll break up the happy little family picture I've been seeing lately.~

“Jack, are you okay?  You've been a little ... I don't know.  You seem tense, and you've been ... distant.”

“Daniel, I'm fine.”  Jack ignored the confused and hurt look in Daniel's eyes and again looked at Teal'c, noticing that he wasn't walking the dog, but instead was standing still, limply holding onto the leash as the dog lay on the grass.  “Teal'c, the idea is to walk the dog, not stand around with it.”

“It does not want to move, O'Neill.”

“Tug on the leash.”

Teal'c looked down and tugged slightly.  The dog looked up and let out a single bark before lying back down on the grass.

Jack and Daniel laughed and continued talking.

“What about that thing inside Cassie?”

“It's almost gone.  I guess it's being reabsorbed by her system now.”

“Good.  Good.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, it's picnic time.  Let's go round up the girls.  I'm hungry.”

Daniel watched Jack go to Teal'c and the dog were.

“Right,” he said softly.  ~I’d hoped this time would be different.  I guess not.  I guess it was stupid to think someone like Jack would want to be friends with a ... clumsy, nerdy, sneezing geek like me.~

Silently, Daniel continued to berate himself.  He didn't fault Jack at all, certain that whatever had happened was his fault.  After all, he wasn't much ... at least, that's how he felt.

====

For the first time in a long time, Jack and Daniel spent three downtimes apart.  They attempted their Friday Night Ritual of pizza, beer, and hockey, but for reasons neither could fathom, it was strained.  Jack had no idea why he was constantly perturbed at being around his friend, and Daniel thought Jack was humoring him now that their friendship was over.

Finally, on this Friday, Daniel finished putting on his civvies in the locker room.  When Jack entered, Daniel said softly, “Jack, um, about tonight.”

“What about it?” Jack asked a bit coldly.

“I, uh, promised Sam that I'd have dinner with her tonight.  I mean, it won't just be ... I mean ...”  Jack seemed to be ignoring him.  ~Gawd, he doesn't care what I do.  Why bother?~  “Would you mind if we ... skipped tonight?”

“Sure, no problem.  I have something I want to do anyway.”

“Okay, then I'll see you Monday.”

“Monday,” Jack said in a detached monotone as he watched Daniel leave.  ~I am in love with you, but I don't know what's happening to me.  I'm so angry with you, Daniel, and I don't know why.  Maybe it's just that I don't want to interfere with your relationship with Carter.  It's the buzz of the base, you know.  First, Lou, then Gordon, even Makepeace had to sound off about it.  Fine.  Who am I to butt in on a ... budding romance?~

====

The team set foot on the planet they were assigned to explore and found a village, deserted.  As they walked the area, Teal'c announced that he'd been to the planet before and that it was called Cartago.

He explained, “The Goa'uld visit here regularly.  It is one of their favorite places to harvest hosts for Goa'uld absorption.”

Daniel responded, “You know, I wish you wouldn't say 'harvest'.  We're talking about human beings, not Brussels sprouts.”

“That is how the Goa'uld perceive it,” Teal'c responded.

The team continued their exploration, eventually going into a large hall, observing several lit fires.

“It hasn't been deserted long,” Jack stated.

Suddenly, villagers appeared, pointing their weapons at SG-1.  There was a momentary standoff as both sides measured up the other, but eventually, Jack lowered his weapon, and the inhabitants did the same.

Hanno, one of the villagers, studied each member of SG-1, but when he got to Teal'c, his demeanor changed in an instant.  He raised his bow again and called out, “Jaffa!”

The standoff was on again.

Hanno claimed Teal'c had killed his father, though the Jaffa said he did not recognize the young man.  Though Hanno was filled with rage and the need for revenge, another calmed him.

“If you are right, he will be put through cor-ai, but we do not take revenge like this, or we are no better than the Jaffa.”

Hanno lowered his weapon and said to SG-1 with certainty, “Cor-ai will sustain my belief, but first, you meet the elders.”

He led the team to meet the elders of the village.  Suddenly, people began to come out of hiding.

Daniel observed them closely, and said casually, “That's interesting.  I wonder if everyone's coming from some religious event.”

~Religious event.  Geez.~  “Why does it always have to be a religious thing with you?  Maybe they're coming from a swap meet.”

~Why is Jack so hostile lately?  He's been snapping at me for weeks now.  I don't understand.  What did I do?  I must have done something. I miss his friendship.~

Hanno explained, “When the gods come through the Circ Kakona, we scatter in many directions to hide from those who would hurt us.  They are overdue to visit us again.”

Daniel immediately began to translate, quickly determining that Circ Kakona meant circle of woes and was their name for the Stargate.

Jack soon figured out that while he, Daniel, and Sam were free to go, Teal'c was not.

“For him, there will be cor-ai,” Hanno explained.

Teal'c finally remembered the incident Hanno spoke of as flashes of memory came back to haunt him.  He’d been First Prime to Apophis when forced to kill an old man with one leg.  That man was Hanno's father, and the young boy had indeed witnessed it all.

When Hanno ordered Teal'c taken into custody, Jack raised his gun in protest, as did Sam.

“Hold it!” the leader of SG-1 said sternly.

Daniel rushed to Jack and pushed his MP-5 down, saying, “Jack, that is not the way to handle this.”

~I may just shoot you myself, Daniel,~ Jack thought as he glared at Daniel.  ~Stay out of my way, Daniel.~  Jack glared at Daniel again, then followed the villagers to the place where they were going to hold Teal'c prisoner.

Cor-ai would begin the next day, so Jack knew they had to act quickly. As soon as Hanno and his friends left SG-1 alone near Teal'c's cell, Jack began to bark out his orders.

“All right, when they come back, Daniel, you draw 'em in.  Carter and I will take right and left flanks.”

~Where are we?  In the Old West?~  “Well, well, well, wait a minute.  Are you talking break out?”

Sarcastically, Jack answered, “Uh, yeah.  We're gonna grab Teal'c and head straight for the Stargate.  It'd be nice if we could do it without bloodshed.”

~Gawd, what is wrong with him?  Stop shouting, even if you aren't technically shouting at me, you are.  It's in your eyes and your tone.  You're angry, but I don't know why.~

Jack became even more frustrated when Teal'c explained that he would not agree to a breakout, not wanting to disrespect the elders of the planet.

“Teal'c is right,” Daniel commented.  “We should show some respect.”

~Duct that.  That's what I need, and when I find some, I'm going to tape his annoying mouth shut!~

Jack was furious.  Things were bad enough without the archaeologist always arguing for the inhabitant's point of view.

He retorted, “Did anyone else hear that kid say that Teal'c was guilty already?  For all we know, they wanna kill him.”

Daniel answered, “Wait, wait, wait!  Who said anything about killing?  I mean, all they said was they want to put him through cor-ai.  Now near as I can figure, that is like a simple trial.”

Still with an edge to his voice, Jack said snippily, “Now see, it's that 'near as I can figure' part that's got me a little worried.  What if their idea of a simple trial is a simple beheading?”

“I will not run,” the Jaffa reiterated.

Jack glared at the stubborn Jaffa.

~Okay, I could use some duct tape for Teal’c, too.~

“We have to give the cor-ai a chance, Jack.  We don't know what's going to happen.”

“What's going to happen, Daniel, is that they are going to lynch him.  I saw that kid's eyes.  He's out for blood.”

“Jack ...”

“Give it a rest, Daniel.  I'm getting some air.”

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look.

“He's just worried, Daniel.”

“Right,” Daniel said softly.

====

Jack had been outside for ten minutes when he heard a familiar voice.

“Jack.”

~Why me?  Why did I ever go back to Abydos?~  “What is now, Daniel?”

“You have to give this a chance.”

“You don't know what's going on here.”

“Well, then neither do you.  We're on another planet, Jack.”

“Oh, well, thank you for that news bulletin, Daniel.  I thought we were at Disneyland.”

“What is wrong with you lately?”

“Sir,” Sam interrupted as she joined her teammates, “Maybe we should contact General Hammond and let him know what's happening.”

“Carter, I don't need you telling me my job.  Excuse me.”  Sam looked at Daniel in confusion, noticing his rigid stance and how tightly his arms were folded across his chest. “Daniel, do you have any idea what's bothering the Colonel?”

“I think it's me, Sam.”

“Oh, I doubt that.”

“I don't.  Sam, I ... don't say anything, but I think I'm going to request reassignment when we get back.”

“Daniel, don't do that.  I'm sure whatever this is has nothing to do with you.  You know how the Colonel is about his team.  He's worried about Teal'c, that's all.  It's not you.”

“I wish I believed that.”

“Don't do anything rash.  Give it some time, okay?”

Daniel nodded, and the two returned to Teal'c's cell.

====

Later, Jack was surprise when three female villagers entered and knelt down in front of Teal'c's cell.  One explained they were to be Teal'c's voice during the cor-ai and had come now to witness his pecca-ve.

“There's a Latin word that's similar.  It basically means, I have sinned,” Daniel commented.

“She wants his confession?” Sam asked.

Frustrated, Jack asked the woman if she had heard of the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but his question was met by a blank stare.

Standing next to Sam, Daniel explained, “Actually, throughout history, the idea's pretty rare.   Most cultures usually assume things the other way around.”

Jack stared at Daniel, even angrier than before.

~I *am* going to strangle him.  Can't he ever shut up?~

~What's going on, Jack?~  Daniel noticed the look of disgust on Jack's face and said, “I'm just ... saying.”  ~Saying that you seem to hate me all of a sudden, not that I'm surprised.  It's just ... we were friends ... or so I thought.  I was beginning to believe you.  Gawd, how stupid am I anyway?~

“I must hear the Jaffa's pecca-ve,” the woman insisted.

“Well, you're outta luck, 'cause you're not gonna get him to pecca-anything,” Jack argued.

“Then who will be his voice?”

“That would be me,” Jack stated.

Surprised, Sam asked, “Uh, you?”

The women left, saying they'd inform the elders of Jack's wishes.

Daniel asked, “You sure you're up to this?”

“Why?  You don't think I am?”  ~Surprises you, doesn't it, that I'm capable of defending a member of my own team?  Am I stealing your thunder, Dannyboy?  Well, tough!~

“Well, it's ... it's just that I've never actually heard you referred to as a diplomat.  I think, um, antagonist was the word used.”

“But I'm his commanding officer.  It comes with the territory.”  ~That's the truth; nothing wrong with that.  Captain goes down with the ship, and all of that.  Well, wrong scenario, but ... oh, shut up, O'Neill.  Carter's looking at you funny.~

Sam braved the question, “Wouldn't Daniel be better at it, I mean, being a linguist and a cultural expert ... Sir?”  ~Nothing personal, Colonel, but you, yourself, say words aren't your thing.  This is important.  Teal'c's life is on the line, and you aren't letting Daniel handle it?  Doesn't make sense to me.~

~Sweet!  Now she's defending him.  Can't he stand on his own two feet?  Oh, I get it, you don't want him standing.  Well, *tough*, Captain, but I guess I'd better compromise here.  Don't have a good military reason not to.  Fine.~  “All right, we'll all do it.  How's that?”

Daniel nodded and said, “That's fine.”  The words were practically sighed.  ~Gawd, Jack.  I'm supposed to be the negotiator.  Why won't you let me do my job?  Don't you have faith in me anymore?  Maybe ... maybe you never did.~

“Co, co-counsels.  Works for me,” Sam added, though still being very confused at her CO's choice.  ~Kinda redundant; doesn't make sense.  Why isn't he letting Daniel do it?~

====

The cor-ai began as scheduled in the meeting hall.  Teal'c was led to a small circular dais at the center that was essentially the witness stand, and then, Hanno spoke, “Jaffa, you killed my father.  For this crime, the punishment is death.  I will now lead the cor-ai.”

Jack objected loudly to Hanno's comments and appealed to the female elder that someone else lead the cor-ai, but she refused, saying, “Only the person who has suffered understands the pain which has been inflicted.  Who else can fairly say what the punishment must be?”

Jack couldn't believe it, and became even more upset when Daniel explained, “It's actually rather Talmudic - only he who is wronged can forgive.”

~I am going to wring his cute little neck soon if he doesn't stop defending these people.~  Jack snapped, “Will you can it?”

Daniel just stared at the man who was once his friend.

~Gawd.  He really does hate me.  I'm not wrong.~

During the opening session, Teal'c admitted killing Hanno's father, angering Jack who had ordered him not to answer the question.

After the session ended, Sam and Daniel left with some of the villagers, hoping to learn more about the culture.  They were convinced that if they could discover more about the cor-ai and the people, it would help them with Teal'c's defense.

Meanwhile, Jack confronted Teal'c about his admission in the meeting hall.  He just didn't understand why his friend wasn't fighting for his life.  Finally, Teal'c asked poignantly, “ColonelO'Neill, have you ever faced the crying eyes of a child whose father you have just murdered?”

Jack was a bit taken aback, answering, “Not exactly.”  ~Geez, don't go there, O'Neill.  Different time.  Let it go.~

Still, the Colonel realized that, in part, Teal'c represented himself and all the things Jack had done during his darkest Special Ops days, nasty things done under the banner of defending home and country.  Jack wanted to blame the leaders, the order givers, at least in part, so now, he wanted Teal'c to let Apophis shoulder the blame for the death of Hanno's father.

Forcefully, Teal'c refuted Jack's idea.

“You are wrong, O'Neill.  While in the service of Apophis, I did many things.  For these deeds, my victims deserve retribution.”

Jack was getting angrier, and more desperate.  If Teal'c was guilty, so was he.

~You have to agree with me here, Teal'c.  If you don't, where does that leave me?  Do you have any idea the things I've done?~

Yet, Teal'c refused to give in.

“I cannot give all of their loved ones retribution, but I can *at least* give it to this one.  I am sorry, O'Neill, I will not run.”

“Well, I'm sorry, Teal'c, but that's unacceptable.  I'm gonna do what I have to do to keep you alive whether you like it or not.”  ~I have to.  Don't you understand what is at stake here?~

====

Just before the next session began, Jack asked Daniel how he thought they should proceed.

~Asking?  Not yelling?  Okay, well ...~  “Well, the way I look at it, Teal'c has already pleaded guilty, so to draw a parallel to an American trial, we have to look at this as sort of like the sentencing phase.  We need to prove to these people that he doesn't deserve to die.”  He explained that they would do this by convincing the villagers “that he's a different man now than he was then.”

Jack mellowed suddenly.

“Daniel ...”

“You have to ask me about Sha're, Jack.  It's the best way to show them how he's changed.”

The two exchanged a soft look.  Jack sighed, not wanting to do this.

“I can do it, if you like, Sir,” Sam volunteered, not anxious to hurt Daniel, either, but yet, wanting to relieve the burden on her CO whom she knew was Daniel's best friend, even if things were strained at the moment.

“No, I'll do it.”  Daniel nodded and had gone into a self-hug.  ~But I don't want to.~

====

As the next session of the cor-ai proceeded, Jack questioned Daniel about how he met Teal'c and what had happened with Sha're.  The crowd was stunned by the young man's story, a tragic tale of a young wife, captured and forced to be the host to Amaunet, the mate of the dastardly System Lord, Apophis.  They were shocked that it had been Teal'c who had chosen her to be the queen, and they were even more surprised with what Daniel said next.

“It was difficult for me at first; I wanted to hate him, but now I know that it was a different Teal'c that chose Sha're, and I know that if there were any way for him to help me get my wife back, this Teal'c would do it gladly, even if it meant giving up his own life.  This Teal'c is my friend.”

**I'm sorry, Danny.**

**It's okay.**

The two shared another look as Daniel's testimony ended.  It was the closest they had been since the incident with Cassandra at the nuclear plant.

~There should have been another way other than making him relive that.  Crap, it was his choice, but I shouldn't have let him.  Look in his eyes; he's barely holding on.  He practically droned over some of his testimony.  He was trying so hard.  I should have thought of something else.  My fault.  Dumb, O'Neill.  Very dumb.  You're not doing your job very well today.~  He stared down at the floor.  It was as if the next voice in his head wasn't him, but his alter ego, taunting him.  ~And which job is that, Jack ... leading SG-1 or loving Daniel?  If today is any indication, you've failed at both.~

====

During the next break, Daniel went for a walk in the village, still wanting to learn more about the culture.  It was actually quite peaceful on the planet, and under other circumstances, he'd be enjoying the simple life of the inhabitants.

He met up with the woman who had previously been assigned to get Teal'c's pecca-ve.  As they chatted, she told Daniel that the villagers slept in “the hiding ... We have hidden caves and tunnels in all directions.  When the evil ones come in through the Circ-Kakona, we flee in all directions, and we disappear.”

“So they catch only the slowest among you,” Daniel deduced.

She immediately reacted, “Oh, no, we would never leave anyone behind.  We all go, or none of us do.”

Suddenly, Daniel understood what Teal'c had done.  He hurried to see his teammate, running down the steps to the cell excitedly.

“I think I might have something that might help us out.  Teal'c, tell us exactly what happened that day.”

Though Teal'c began by telling the glossy version, Daniel stopped him, requesting the full story.  He knew there was more than his friend had revealed thus far.

Finally, Teal'c relayed his story in its entirety, relating how Apophis had ordered him to kill one of the villagers, or he would kill everyone in the village.  Teal'c had seen Hanno's father and noticed he was the slowest and weakest of the people since he had only one leg.  Teal'c fired his staff weapon, killing the man in front of his child, Hanno.

While Teal'c didn't say the words, it was clear to his teammates that he had acted in the only way he could, the only way that would save the villagers.  By killing one, the slowest, he had saved many.

“The truth is our defense,” Daniel stated.

Though Sam now felt hopeful, Jack wasn't, believing nothing would make a difference since Hanno had already made up his mind.

“So what do you suggest?” Daniel asked, once again feeling deflated at having his discovery mean nothing to Jack.

“Carter and I are going back to Earth for reinforcements.”

“What?  You're going to shoot his way out?” Daniel asked, his tone clearly relating his disapproval.

Jack was enraged.  He was tired of Sam and Daniel agreeing, almost urging each other on.  At least, that's how it felt to him.  He hated that Daniel was fighting him, or that's what it felt like to the older man anyway.

The fire in his eyes showed the level of his fury as Jack snapped, “No, Daniel, I'm hoping we can bring back enough fire power so it'll scare 'em into turning Teal'c over.  That's how I'd like to see it go down.”

Teal'c reiterated, “I have already told you, O'Neill, I will not run.”

Sternly, Jack replied, “Teal'c, you're going back with us if I have to knock you out and carry you myself.  Got it?”  He and Sam began going up the stairs as he ordered, “Buy as much time as you can, Daniel.”

~Gawd, what's happened to him?  I understand wanting to get Teal'c out of this.  I want to save him, too, but this is more than that.  He's so angry at me.  I knew it wouldn't last.  Well, I had a best friend for a little while.  Never had one like him before.   Get over it, Jackson.  You can get used to being alone again.  Besides, you don't like beer, pizza's just another food, and hockey is way too violent.  Who needs the Friday Night Ritual anyway?~

Daniel stared at Teal'c and, seeing the intense look on his face, asked, “DanielJackson, are you all right?  I am concerned.”

“You're worried about me?”

“You seem upset.”

“No, I ... well, of course, I'm upset.  We'll get you out of here, Teal'c.”

“I will not run.”

Daniel nodded and sat down, trying to think of a plan, or anything to stop him from thinking about his ... former best friend.

====

As Jack tried unsuccessfully to convince Hammond to send more firepower back to Cartago with him, Daniel questioned both Teal'c and Hanno about the precise details of the death of Hanno's father as the cor-ai continued.

“So you made a decision; you chose to kill one that day to save many later.  Is that right?” Daniel summed up for his friend.

“It is correct.”

Daniel addressed the assembled villagers, “So if Teal'c hadn't made that decision, many of you might not be alive today to want him dead.” He tried to argue that the Jaffa was needed to fight the Goa'uld, urging the villagers to think about today and tomorrow, and not yesterday. “Teal'c's death will not change the past, but his continued life can help all of our future.  Can you really justify killing him now?” Daniel asked, pleadingly.

Though moved, the female elder reiterated that Hanno had the final say in Teal'c's fate.  Her words chilled Daniel's blood.  He looked at Hanno, closed his eyes, and took off his glasses.  He had tried his best, but he already knew his best hadn't been good enough.  He felt like a failure.  It was no wonder Jack seemed to hate him now.

As Daniel listened, Hanno stated calmly, “Your argument is wise, and moving.  I commend you.”

“Thank you,” Daniel responded, resigned to the outcome.

“You have made a compelling argument that this Jaffa's more recent and continuing good should somehow negate his past evil.  I have but one final question.  Can his recent actions, or any future actions, return my father from the dead?”

Frustrated, Daniel answered, “No, no, of course not.”

His voice was small, tiny, which is how he felt inside.

“Then clearly no amount of good in the present can erase what he has done in the past.  Jaffa, you are guilty of killing my father.  Tomorrow, at mid-day, you will die by your own weapon, as my father did.”

Daniel closed his eyes again, disbelieving all that was happening.

~I'm sorry, Teal'c.  Maybe Jack was right, and he should have stayed here to plead your case.  I've ... failed, and it's going to cost you your life.~

====

At the SGC, Jack and Sam's futile argument was coming to a close.  Hammond had heard them out and had even spoken with the President, but the decision was made, and Jack's anger at being denied was going to have to take a back seat to his orders.

“You have the right to disagree, Colonel, but you do not have the right to take actions against orders.  Is that understood?” Hammond asked pointedly.

Although Hammond's personal opinion was similar to Jack's, the President had made his feelings known.  The consensus was that the cor-ai was essentially a war crime trial, and as such, the SGC had no right to interfere with the politics of Cartago, including the cor-ai.

Unhappily, Jack and Sam returned alone to the planet, but what they found upon their return surprised them: the village was in shambles.

Hearing serpent guards, the two ducked into the building where Teal'c's cell was.  Finding it empty, Sam said, “Maybe Daniel broke him out.”

Both terrified that something might have happened to Daniel and annoyed that the archaeologist was once again the focus of his 2IC, Jack answered sarcastically, “Keep those positive thoughts comin', Captain.  Let's go.”  ~I'd expect you to feel that way about your ... boyfriend, but keep the cheerleading to yourself.~

====

Taking Daniel and Teal’c with them, the villagers fled from the attacking Jaffa who were destroying their village.  Hanno argued that it was Jack's fault, that he had led the Jaffa to Cartago, but Daniel assured him that he was wrong.  Still, it wasn't until the young man witnessed Jack battling the Goa'uld and shooting a Jaffa that he was convinced of SG-1’s loyalties.

~I have made a mistake about this man.~

The leader of the serpent guards was Shak'l, an old nemesis of Teal’c. After the other Jaffa had removed Daniel and the villagers, Shak'l gloated, telling Teal'c that by killing him, he would be Apophis' new First Prime.  Teal'c, however, using a knife that one of the village children had passed him, stabbed his nemesis, killing him almost instantly.

Teal'c grabbed Shak'l's staff weapon and began firing on the Jaffa.  Jack and Sam continued to fight as well, and soon, the battle was over with none of the villagers or SG-1 sustaining any major injuries except for Teal'c who was wounded in the leg.  

Though Daniel suggested they return to Earth immediately, Teal'c refused and limped over to where to Hanno stood.  Holding his head up high and handing his staff weapon to the villager, the Jaffa decreed, “It is mid-day.  I am prepared to accept my punishment.”

Hanno asked, “You would save those who wish to kill you?”

“I would save those who deserve to live.”

Hanno paused, then responded, “I have made a mistake.  My memory was faulty.  You are not the same man as he who murdered my father.”

Teal'c stubbornly refuted the statement, clearing saying, “I am the one.”

“No,” Hanno said firmly.  “That Jaffa is dead.  You have killed him.”  He looked at Jack.  “We have our own wounded to care for.  I suggest you take your friend home.”

Hanno handed Teal'c his staff weapon, and the Jaffa bowed his head. It was finally time for SG-1 to leave the planet.

====

Jack stared at his locker.  He sat down and placed his head in his hands for a moment, and then looked back up.  He let out an audible sigh as he stared at the metallic surface just a foot or so in front of him.

~I just want to get out of here.~

His obligations fulfilled, Jack headed for the exit.  Moments later, after turning a corner, he saw Sam and Daniel approaching.  They were laughing about something.

“Something funny?” Jack asked the two as he neared them in the corridor.

“Hi, Jack,” Daniel said calmly.  ~Please, Jack.  I’m sorry.  Whatever it was I did, I’m so sorry.  Can't we start over?  Please?~

“Uh, we were talking about something Cassandra said last week.  Colonel, you should go see her now that she's settled in with Janet.  She talks about you a lot.”

~Glad someone wants to see me.~  “I will.  She's at the Doc's, right?”

“Yes.”

“I'll give her a call.”  ~Of course, I have spent quite a bit of time with Cassie, but you wouldn't know that, would you, Captain?  You're too busy playing with your boyfriend here.~  “Goodnight.”

Jack walked off.  Sam started moving ahead, but stopped, realizing she was alone.  Daniel had twisted his torso to watch Jack, not turning back until the Colonel had rounded yet another corner.

“Daniel, why don't you go talk to him?”

“He doesn't have a lot to say to me lately.”

“Well, hang in there.  Listen, Janet said it's pot luck night.”

“Sounds good.  What time?”

“Six-thirty.”

“I'll be there.”  Daniel sighed.  ~But I wish ... oh, shut up, Jackson.  If wishes were horses and ... I don't even know what that old saying is.  Besides, when did anything you wish for ever come true?~

====

It was a few days later, and Daniel stared at his typewritten request.  It had been a month since they had first gone to Hanka and found Cassandra, a month of torture, of going through the motions with Jack.  Their closeness seemed to have disappeared into thin air.  He was certain transferring to another team was the answer, but he hadn't been able to make himself sign the request.  Instead, a voice in his head told him to give it one more try with Jack.  He had more time on his hands again, and the days and nights, the downtimes, without his best friend were even harder to take.

~Gawd, I miss him.  I got used to you, Jack.  I ... believed you.  What kind of an idiot does that make me?~

He signed the letter and sealed it.  He stood, turned the lights off in his office, and headed for General Hammond's office.  The General had gone home, but Daniel thought he'd just leave the letter on his desk, but before he walked through the doors, that voice inside him started shouting at him.

~Give it another chance.  Maybe there's an explanation.  You can always turn the request in tomorrow.~

Daniel couldn't believe this voice inside him still existed.  It was always hopeful, even positive.  His response to the voice now was, “But I'll just get hurt again.”

~Like it's going to hurt less tomorrow?  Get some guts, Jackson.  At least that way you can say you gave old hard-nose a chance.~

“Hard nose?  Gawd, I've been hanging around him too much.”

~No, you haven't, but you wish you had.  Go on.  Bet he's home alone.~

Daniel sighed, wondering how insane he must look as he stood in the corridors of the SGC having a conversation with himself.  He looked around nervously, grateful not to see another living soul ... though he cringed at the sight of the security cameras.

~Great.  I look like an idiot.~

Taking a breath, Daniel headed for the locker room to change into his civvies, his request for a transfer stuffed into his pocket.

====

“Hey, Jack,” Daniel said as he climbed over the ladder to stand on the roof deck.

He had gathered up all his courage to use his key and join Jack on the deck.  Part of him expected Jack to demand the key back.

“Daniel.”

Jack hadn't moved an inch.

“Looking at the stars?”

“No, Daniel.  I've got my face glued to the telescope so I can look at flowers.”

“Oh,” Daniel said, crossing his arms over his chest.  “Um ...”

“What are you doing here?  Carter busy tonight?”

“Sam?”  Daniel scrunched his face in confusion.  He gave a very short shake of his head and ignored the unusual comment.  “Uh, actually, I was thinking ... pizza.”

Jack sat back on the stool he was sitting on and turned his head to look at Daniel.

“I already ate.”

“Oh.  Well, I haven't, so ... maybe we could order a pizza and watch ... hockey or something.  I'll ... pay.”

“Daniel,” Jack stood up and talked as he walked to the ladder.  “I'm sorry Carter's too busy to keep you entertained tonight, but I happen to have plans.”

Jack climbed down the ladder and began to pull some weeds in his yard.  Daniel followed him down.  His hold on his arms tightened as his confusion heightened.

“You mean you have to pull weeds at eight-thirty at night?”

“Yes, Daniel.  So glad you're brain is functioning.”

Jack stood up and went to the other side of the yard.  He grabbed his hose and began to wash down the windows.

“Jack, what's wrong?”

“What's wrong, Doctor Jackson, is that I'm not your Carter substitute.  You want pizza?  Go pick one up and take it to her house.”

“Sam again.  Jack, I don't understand.  What's this obsession you have with Sam?”

“OBSESSION?  ME?  I'm NOT the one with an obsession.  I'm NOT the one who's spent every night of the last month with ... with his science twin.”

“Science twin?  What is wrong with you?”

“I just told you, now go; eat, drink, and be merry with your girlfriend, and leave me alone.  I have ... watering to do.”

“Gawd, Jack, in the first place, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were jealous.”

Jack turned off the nozzle on the hose, and his breathing stilled to almost nothing at the shock of Daniel's words.  All of a sudden, Jack knew what was wrong.

~Jealous?  Geez, no.  Is that why I'm acting like a lunatic?  I'm ... jealous of Carter?~

“In the second place, I'm married.  I love my wife, and I miss her very much, so ... I'm really not interested in a ... girlfriend.  Of course, I never really had to ... worry about ... that much.”

He looked down, years of abandonment and general lack of interest by anyone in him overtaking him.  The joy he had felt at spending the night with his best friend had now evaporated into a giant ache.  He held back the tears that were threatening to escape and was annoyed to find he couldn't keep the vulnerability he was feeling from his voice.

“And ... lastly, Jack, I honestly have no idea what's upsetting you, but ... I only wanted to make sure Cassie was settled.”

~Cassie?  Oh, no.  He's been with Cassie, not Carter.~  In addition to the acknowledging truthfulness of Daniel's words, of realizing he had been jealous, Jack added guilt to his list of crimes.  Cassandra was a wonderful little girl, and Jack loved her.  He had been spending quite a bit of time with her himself, but had no idea that Daniel had been, too.  He quickly became aware that he didn't know that little fact because he hadn't been listening.  ~I am such an idiot!~

“I know how it feels to be the outsider, to not fit in.  I know she was smiling and happy on the outside to just about everyone, but she'd just lost her mother, and her father was already dead.  She's an orphan, Jack.  Sam wanted to help Janet get Cassie settled, and she kinda felt like I did.  We both wanted to make sure Cassie really understood that she wasn't alone.  I wanted her to know she had more than just Janet and Sam.  I ... I ... gawd, I'm sorry I've upset you ... somehow.  I won't bother you anymore, especially when you have such ... urgent things to ... to do.  Goodnight.”

Daniel walked out the same way he had come in, through the house, which was still unlocked from his entry.  He set a quick pace, wanting out just as fast as he could manage it.  Meanwhile, Jack stood frozen, feeling like a fool, and not just the idiot he knew himself to be.  By the time he snapped out of it, Daniel was unlocking his car.

Running with a speed that shocked even him, Jack caught up to Daniel just as he turned on the car.  Out of breath, and feeling like a complete ignoramus, he reached in and grabbed Daniel's arm.

“Pizza.  Supreme.  Extra cheese.  Beer.  Two six-packs.  I'm buying.”  He reached in and handed his friend two twenty-dollar bills.  “Hurry back.  I'm starved.”

“Jack ...”

“Extra cheese, Daniel.  Two six-packs.  Don't forget.  And ... uh ... you know, why don't we just have it delivered?”

“Jack, you're nuts!”

“Yeah, I am.  Come back inside, Danny.  Please.”

~Why should I?  Look at him.  Something's happened.  He's different, but maybe it's just part of the game.  I don't want to be hurt anymore.~

“Daniel ... please.”  Daniel shut off the ignition and followed Jack back inside.  The older man waited for Daniel to walk in before closing the door behind him.  “Danny, I'm sorry.”

Daniel turned around, still very confused and on guard.  He was self-hugging, causing Jack to wince at the realization of how much his recent behavior had hurt Daniel.

“Jack, what's wrong?”

“I've been a little ... distracted.  Let's have that pizza, okay?”

“I thought you said you'd eaten.”

“Daniel, a man can never have too much pizza.  Mmm-mmm good.”

“That's soup,” Daniel said with a small smile.

“It's applies to pizza, too.  You call.  I'm going to wash up, okay?”

“Okay.”

====

The two men enjoyed their pizza with the sounds of screaming fans and hockey pucks gliding across the ice in the background.  They talked shop for a while and then let the conversation drift to an article on Egyptology Daniel had read recently.  Jack talked about the latest fighter jet the Air Force was testing out, too.

Close to midnight, they returned to the roof deck to relax and enjoy the chill of the night.

“Whose idea was it to come up here?” Daniel asked, his teeth chattering.

“Wanna go back down?”

“No, cold is good ... sometimes.”

“Just sometimes.  I've had some non-cool cold experiences,” Jack teased.  He took a swig of his beer and leaned forward in the chair he was sitting in.  It had been pushed back to sit near the wall of the house.  “Danny, I, uh, if you tell anyone what I'm about to tell you, I'll kill you.”

Facing Jack as he sat on the deck near the railing, Daniel wondered if Jack was serious, until he saw the smile that finally appeared on his friend's face.

“You look nervous, Jack.”

“Me?  Imagine that.”  He took another drink from the beer bottle.  “I was jealous.”

“What?”

“Look, Daniel, believe it or not, in some ways, we are alike.  My life changed when ... when Charlie died.  Maybe it didn't really change.  Maybe it just became easier to hide.”  Jack stared off into the dark of the night, not really focused on anything.  “I haven't let anyone in, in a very long time, but then this ... geek walked into my life, and I got sort of used to the pizza and hockey.  I guess when it stopped I ...”

Daniel stared at his friend in utter disbelief.

“You were jealous of Sam?  I mean, of my ... Jack, I was with Cassie, not Sam.  I mean, Sam was there sometimes, but not all the time, and, even when she was, she was with Janet more than me.  I was spending time with Cassie.”

“I know.  It's stupid,” Jack snorted, very nervous.  He could feel the palms of his hands moistening.  “I was wrong.”

“Wow,” Daniel said, not knowing what else to say.  He took a sip of beer and repeated, “Wow.”

“Don't let it go to your head.”

“I won't.”

“How is Cass?”

“A lot better now, I think.  She loves that you've gone by her school so much.  That's helped her a lot.”

“So ... when she smiles now, is it real?”

“I think so.  I tried to tell her that she doesn't have to smile in front of us if she doesn't feel like it.  I ... I learned that from you, Jack, that it's okay to be yourself.”

Jack sat up a little straighter.

“My friend, I think you still have a long way to go.”

Daniel smiled, “Probably, but ... I wouldn't have been able to say what I've said to Cassie if you hadn't ... I mean this ... and, uh, pizza and hockey ... all of it.”

“I'm sorry, Daniel.  I was an idiot.  I've missed this.  I ... I've missed you.  I hope you can forgive me.”  Jack saw Daniel turning red from embarrassment.  He smiled, and added one more thing.  “And I even missed your prattling.”

“I do not prattle.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Do not.”

“Champion prattler.”

Daniel laughed, then said, “I missed you, Jack; that's really not easy for me to say, but, I just felt Cassie needed someone right now.”

“You put her needs ahead of your own.”

“I ... I don't know.”

“I know, and I should have known all along.  Okay, I owe you one hassle-free briefing.  You prattle; I'll listen.”

Daniel laughed, and then both took a drink of their beer.  They joked for a while about other things, and then for a while, they simply enjoyed the night.

“We missed the concert,” Daniel sighed.

“The good thing about concerts, Danny, is that there's always another one.  Maybe it won't be exactly the same, but hopefully, it'll be better, in its own way.”

“Like ... like us?”

“Better and better, Danny.  Maybe ... maybe that's what friendship is about; growing and changing together, even when we, when I, make huge mistakes.”

“Better and better, Jack.  That's, uh, a pretty insightful comment from the man who doesn't like to talk much.”

“Only seems to happen when you're around.  Better have the Doc check you out.”

“What?” Daniel asked, not following Jack's logic at all.

“You might have some contagious blabber disease.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, but both laughed, and again, they relaxed into a comfortable silence, just enjoying being together.

Eventually, Daniel leaned back against the railing, his feet stretched out in front of him.  Jack still sat on his chair, but he pulled the other chair up and put his feet on it, crossing one over the other.  It was a little after 1 a.m. when Jack sighed.

~I love you, Danny.  I wish ...~  He sighed again.  More than anything, Jack wanted the man he loved to be happy.  He knew Daniel loved Sha're, but that future was uncertain, and he had to admit the truth -- Daniel would never be his, so Jack looked to what might be another future for his friend.  Besides, Sam was a good person.  “You know, Danny, you and Carter do make a cute couple.”

“You're out of your mind, Jack.”

“Am I?  Think about it.  You actually understand what each other is saying.”

Daniel shook his head and responded, “Our expertise is different.  I don't know half of what Sam is talking about when she ... prattles.”

Both chuckled at Daniel's use of the word.

“Have you ever thought about it?” Jack asked tentatively.

“Thought about what?”

“You and Carter.”

“Jack, I'm married, and I won't ever cheat on Sha're, even if ...”

“We'll find her, Danny, I promise.”  Jack smiled and nodded at the younger man; then he continued.  “But say Sha're wasn't in the picture. I mean suppose you'd never met her.  Do you think you and Carter might ever ... ”  Jack made a funny face to end his question.  “Do ya?”

“Sam and me?  Gawd, I don't know.  She's intelligent, pretty, fun, very compassionate.  I don't know.  Maybe, but I did go to Abydos, and I did meet Sha're.  She's wonderful, Jack.  I wish you had gotten to know her better.”

“Yeah, me, too.”  Another minute or two passed as the two friends enjoyed their renewed camaraderie.  Jack chuckled and said, “I can just see you and Carter changing diapers.”

“Jaaack!  Gawd, she wouldn't even be interested in me.  I'm not her ... type.”  ~I'm not anyone's type.  Maybe Sha're.   She loves me.  She ... was a gift.~

“Not her type?  Smart, caring, good conversationalist, cute as a button ...”

“Jaaaaack!”

Jack panicked, until he thought of an instant out.

“That's what the nurses say.”

“They do not.”

“Oh, yes, they do.  They think you're the best thing to come along since sliced bread.”

“You're exaggerating.”

Jack grew serious, staring at his friend.  He shook his head and spoke sincerely, “No, I'm not.  Hey, it's getting late.  Why don't you stay tonight?”

“You sure?”

“Danny ...”

“Just making sure.”

“We'll have waffles for breakfast.”

“You hate waffles.”

“No, I don't.”

They stood and stretched for a moment, and then made their way down the ladder to the patio deck.

“Wait a second.  I'd better put this away.”

Jack moved to where he had dropped the garden hose and picked it up.  He heard Daniel laugh, and asked, “What's so funny?”

“You were pulling weeds at night.  Jack, could you even see what you were touching?”

“Weeds, I hope,” Jack replied, his head down as he gathered up the hose.

Daniel walked by him undetected and stopped near the window where Jack had stood a minute before.  He looked at Jack and suddenly, a mischievous grin appeared on his face.

“Watering your windows.  Pretty silly, Jack.”

“People wash down their windows.”

“With them open?”

Jack's eyes grew wide and he looked at the window he knew he had applied the water to earlier.  It was open about five inches.

“Sweet.  Couldn't you have told me?”

“Well, at the time, I didn't really care.  I mean, you were being a jerk.”

“Daniel, do you know what's on the other side of this window?  They'll be ruined, and it's all your fault!”

“Gee, I didn't think.  I'm sorry.  What did you have there?”

Daniel moved towards the house when suddenly he felt a cold burst of water make contact with his clothing.

“Newspapers!” Jack answered happily.

“O'Neill, you're dead!”

“Gotta catch me first, Dannyboy!”

It may have been the wee hours of the morning, but in Colorado Springs, two boys who just happened to be best friends played under the stars until each was soaked and completely exhausted, lying on their backs looking up at the stars.

“Danny?”

“Yes, Jack.”

“Welcome home!”

“Thanks.  It's, uh, good to be home, but you're doing the laundry.”

“Daniel?”

“Yes, Jack?”

“Not on your life!”

Jack scooted up and ran into the house.  Daniel laughed and got up slowly.  He looked around the darkened yard and took a deep breath.

“Home?  I don't know what a home is, Jack, but I guess, this is the closest I've ever come to knowing, and I thank you for that, but ... you're still doing your own laundry!”

Daniel walked inside the house and locked the door.  It was now 3:30 a.m., and SG-1 had to report in at nine.  He was tired, but he wasn't sure he could sleep.  He wished he could take a shower, but he didn't want to disturb Jack by walking through the master bedroom.

He looked around the living room for a couple of minutes, not really looking at anything, but instead, just taking in the feel of the house.  He had lived there for a few months after he had returned from Abydos and loved everything about Jack's home.

“It really is a nice house.”

“Why, thank you, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel turned towards the stairs.

“Gawd, I'm sorry.  Did I keep you from going to sleep?  I mean, was I making noise or ... uh, the lights?”

“No, I took a shower.  Why don't you take one, and I'll put on the coffee.  We'll play chess.”

Daniel smiled, and Jack's heart zinged.  He hadn't been prepared for the warm expression on the young man's face.

~You definitely need to do that more.  Geez, you're beautiful~

“Chess?  Don't you want to sleep?”

“Nah.  I don't think I can.  Go on.  I think I may even have a chocolate bar around here somewhere.”

Daniel smiled again and headed upstairs to take his shower, but he stopped and looked back at Jack.

“Jack, on Cartago, was there something else going on besides ... Teal'c and your, uh, being ... well ...”

“Jealous?”  Daniel shrugged nervously, and Jack took a deep breath.  “Yeah.  I kinda need to talk about that later.  It's been eating away at me.”

Daniel thought for a few moments and said, “It has to do with Teal'c taking responsibility and wanting to be punished, kinda ... symbolically.”

“Kinda.  I did a lot of things, Danny.  I ... I have to keep those things buried, but I guess it hit home a little.  I'm not good at talking about that, but ...”

“Then we'll talk about it.”

Jack nodded and said, “Tomorrow night, okay?  We'll have Chinese.”

Daniel smiled and nodded, “It's a date.  I mean, you know.”  He laughed and said, “Be back in a few minutes.”

Jack watched Daniel turn and go upstairs to take his shower.  He shook his head, smiling, and allowed himself a minute to indulge in thoughts he knew he shouldn't be thinking: thoughts about touching.  No, nothing erotic; just simple touching, holding, cuddling.  The thought was strangely appealing.  Jack found himself with a grin on his face before he was able to reel himself in.

~Whoa, O'Neill.  Careful.  You are so gone over that man.  You almost blew it these past few weeks, and you had promised not to.  Relax, Jack.  Daniel and Carter?  Get a grip.  Put on the coffee.  Give the boy a Hershey treat, and ... lose like always at chess.  It'll be a great morning.~

Ten minutes later, Daniel returned, and the two friends settled into their seats, coffee and snacks at their sides.

Daniel grinned.

“What?” Jack asked.

“I have a confession to make.”

“Let me call a priest.”

“Very funny.”

“Okay, Father O'Neill is in.  What's your sin?”

“I, uh, opened the window.”

“What?”

“When you were rolling up the hose, I opened the window.”

“Father Jackson?” Jack said with a big grin.

“Uh, yes ... I guess.”

“I know.”

“You did?”

“Special Ops, Daniel.”

The two laughed and continued their game, enjoying it, but enjoying being together much more than anything else.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Daniel.”

“I lied.  I didn't open the window.”

“I know.”

“But you said you knew I opened the window.”

“I lied.”

“Oh.”  Daniel made his next move.  “Jack?”

“Yes, Daniel.”

“Can we, uh, do one of our four-nighters?”

“You need to ask?”

“I was hoping not.”

“There's a hockey game on Friday.”

“Museum exhibit Saturday.”

“Laundry and chores on Sunday.”

“I'm not doing your laundry.”

“Stubborn.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Daniel?”

“Yes, Jack?”

“It's your move!”

“Checkmate.”

“Daniel?”

“Yes, Jack?”

“Let's play gin!”

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