Ouch!

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  3
Spoilers:  Nemesis, Small Victories, Crystal Skull (minor)
Size:  131kb
Written:  April 20-21,29-30, May 1-3,5-6, 2006  Revised for consistency:  January 26-27, 2007
Summary:  Daniel screams out in the throes of passion, but it's not because of making love with his soulmate!
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “They Don't Understand,” “Calming Influences,” “After the Calm,” and “The Pact”
4) Thanks to my medical betas:  Ali, Becky, Kat, Melanie, Teresa
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Claudia, Jodi, Kat, Heather, Ali, QuinGem, Linda!

Ouch!
by Orrymain

“Walter, wanna go fishing?” Jack asked Sergeant Davis as they passed in the SGC corridor.

“Ah, no, thank you, Sir.  I ... have filing to do,” Davis answered and then quickly went on his way.  ~That was close.~

~His loss,~ Jack thought as he continued walking.  Rounding a corner, he saw Sergeant Siler chatting with a Marine.  “Siler,” Jack said, approaching from behind and placing his hand on the man's back.  “How'd you like to spend a nice weekend fishing?”

“Fishing?  With you, Colonel?” Siler asked hesitantly.

“We'll have a great time,” Jack said smugly, his hands now resting in his pockets.

“I think I have something important to do, Sir,” Siler said.

“Ah, well, next time,” Jack chirped, nodding and then heading for the elevator.  ~This is working like a charm.~

====

“So, Daniel, you're going to New York?” Robert Rothman inquired as the two studied the finds SG-11 had brought back from their last mission.

“Yes, well, I mean, yes,” Daniel answered nervously.  He sighed, “I'm going to the New York Museum of Art.”

“I was there once,” Rothman replied.

Daniel nodded, then changed the subject, saying, “I think this might be tied into Neoplatonism.”

“Plotinus?” Rothman asked.

“Yes.  Look at all the references to beauty.  Where are the photos of the ruins?”

“Here,” Rothman said as the two continued reviewing their materials.

====

“Danny, are you packed?” Jack asked as he entered his lover's apartment.

“More or less,” the archaeologist responded as he walked out of the bedroom with a duffel bag in his hand.

“Less is more,” Jack quipped.

Daniel chuckled, expounding, “I want to take my favorite shirt, but it's at your house.”

“*Our* house,” the older man corrected.

The younger man smiled hesitantly and then headed for the balcony door, locking it.

“Everyone's bought our stories,” Daniel commented.

“I don't understand it,” Jack replied.  “People should be jumping at the chance to come fishing with me.”

“Aren't you glad they're not?” Daniel asked.  Then he speculated with amusement, “Maybe we're just good liars.”

“Of course, but I just don't get it.  Fishing is a man's passion,” Jack stated.

“I thought that was sex,” Daniel retorted, surprising his lover by actually saying the word 'sex', something he did infrequently.

Jack's eyes widened, then he replied, “I stand corrected.  Let's go.”  As he waited for Daniel to lock the door, he whined, “Fishing is an art, Daniel.  Why doesn't anyone want to go fishing with me?  I don't have bad breath.  Do I?” he asked a bit insecurely.

Daniel chuckled, responding, “Babe, not everyone thinks fishing is an art, and, no, you don't have bad breath.  Trust me, I know.”

Jack smiled at his lover as they headed for the elevator, though inwardly, he was still bemoaning all the 'no's' he'd received to his invitations, not that he had really wanted anyone to say 'yes', either.

Daniel just shook his head, knowing his lover was in denial.  That was okay with Daniel.  For the purposes of their private getaway, it was important that everyone believe Jack had gone to Minnesota and Daniel to New York.  The truth, though, would be that the lovers were going to be together at the picturesque cabin in Minnesota, celebrating the second anniversary of their romance.

They had four days off, meaning they could spend the weekend and Monday, which was the actual date of their first union, at the cabin before driving back to Colorado on Tuesday.

Neither could wait to reach the cabin and revel in each other.

====

“Danny, why don't we just start for the cabin in the morning,” Jack suggested after the lovers had arrived at his house and noticed the lateness of the day.

“I'm sorry, Jack,” Daniel apologized, self-hugging as he evaded his lover's gaze.

Smiling, the older man approached his lover, undoing the self-hug and taking him into his arms, and said, “Rothman doesn't have your insights, Angel.  I know you had to make sure he was on the right track.”

“I swear I meant to leave the SGC on time, but ...”

“But Rothman needed guidance,” Jack completed for his lover.

“He's good, Jack,” Daniel said in defense of his colleague, while his hands rubbed gently against Jack's lower back.

“Not as good as you,” Jack maintained, after which he brushed his lips against his lover's.  “Why don't we go upstairs and ...”

Daniel grinned and replied, “Celebrate?”

“Yeah,” Jack said, kissing his lover again before the two walked up the stairs to the master bedroom to join their bodies together as one.

====

Thirty minutes later, the two men were deep in the throes of their passion, beads of sweat rolling off their bodies.  Jack was on top this night, his length making one powerful thrust after another against the younger man's prostate.  Daniel was calling out Jack's name, urging him on, wanting, needing, and demanding more.

~Want him, but ... something's ... gawd, hurts.  Why?~ Daniel managed to wonder even as he encouraged his soulmate to continue.

Finally, in one huge motion, Jack slammed his length forcefully inside Daniel, and in response, Daniel shouted out Jack's name.  Jack was ready to collapse onto his lover, and let their convulsing bodies settle when he heard the younger man shout again.

“Danny?” Jack asked, his heartbeat even more rapid than while they'd been making love, realizing his lover was unconscious.

Unfortunately, Jack didn't think it was because of the intensity of their lovemaking.  That last shout of Daniel's hadn't sounded good and was nowhere close to their usual shouts of passion.

Sitting up, Jack shouted, “DANIEL!”  His hands cupped the younger man's face as he called out again, “DANIEL, ANSWER ME!”  Still, there was no response.  Jack put his ear to his lover's heart, relieved to hear a steady beat.  Still atop his Love, Jack shook Daniel gently, saying, “Danny, please wake up!”

“Gawd, Jack!” Daniel screeched in alarm, his eyes suddenly wide as he came to.

“Daniel, what's wrong?” Jack asked, pulling back, giving his lover a bit of room to breathe.  He was still concerned since his soulmate just seemed to be staring blankly at him.  “Danny, I thought I killed you!”

“Jack, don't be an ... OUUUUUUUUUUUUCH!” Daniel shouted.  “Hur...hurts!” he gasped, his expression one of both pain and horror as he shoved Jack off of him.

Daniel rolled onto his side, instinctively curling up into the fetal position in an effort to provide some comfort or relief from the painful agony he was feeling.

“I'm calling Fraiser,” Jack stated, moving to the phone and dialing.  “Doc, it's Jack O'Neill.  Daniel is in horrible pain.  Get over here -- NOW!”  He hung up the phone, noticing his lover's look of distress.  “What?”

“You didn't tell her where we were!  Jack, it hurts -- bad.  My abdomen -- tell her,” Daniel requested.

At that moment, the phone rang, and Jack was relieved when it was Janet, verifying their location.  Jack asked Daniel a few questions on Janet's behalf, and then sat with his lover, trying to soothe him as they waited.  He'd never seen the younger man so physically vulnerable before, except for the time when Daniel almost died on Apophis' mother ship.  That event had been the catalyst for the lovers finally getting together as a couple.

“Hang in there, Space Monkey,” Jack said, his hands caressing the side of his lover's head.

====

~It's about time!~  Jack twisted his body around, hearing the ambulance.  “That's Janet,” he said.

“Jack!  I'm not dressed.  Gawd, nei...neither are you!” Daniel called out.

Jack looked down at his naked body, whining, “Oh, for crying out loud.”

As quickly as he could, he put on a pair of sweats.  Daniel tried to move, but his body felt like a dead weight.

“Sorry, Love,” Jack said as he quickly slid a pair of sweats onto the younger man's body.

“Box...ers,” Daniel gasped.

“Commando,” Jack responded, hurrying downstairs to answer the door.

“JACK, I'M IN YOUR BED!” the archaeologist cried out.  He tried to move, hoping to get to the spare bedroom, but the pain was too great.  “Crap!” he exclaimed, as he accepted their fate, certain he was about to be responsible for his lover being court-martialed.

====

“Daniel, how long have you been feeling ill?” Janet inquired as she took the young man's vital signs.

“I ... I haven't, not ... not really,” Daniel replied, swallowing hard as he answered.

Janet glared at Daniel in disbelief, replying, “You haven't felt sick at all?”

“Just ... just a little uncomfortable, but I just thought it was my allergies or something I ate ... or maybe the flu,” Daniel responded.  “I ... well, maybe I've felt like throwing up once or twice, but I didn't,” he hesitantly admitted.

“The pain is here?” the physician inquired, noticing Daniel was holding his hand to his lower right abdominal area.

“Yes,” Daniel confirmed, nodding and feeling a stab of pain as he moved his hand, the small comfort it had provided him with disappearing with the movement.

“You have a slight fever,” Janet noted as she placed her hands on Daniel's skin.  “Have you had any problems urinating?”

“No,” Daniel answered quickly.

“No pain or problems with ...”

“No!” Daniel insisted more forcibly, avoiding Jack's stare as the older man stood at the foot of the bed, his arms folded across his chest.

“Okay, how about ...”

“No, Janet, I swear.  Everything ... there ... has been just ... fine, peachy even,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes when he realized he had used a word more associated with his lover than with him.

“Peachy, eh?  Well, that's good then,” Janet replied as she continued her examination.  Moments later, she released a small but audible sigh as she made a few notes on a pad and revealed, “Gentlemen, I think it's appendicitis, and, if so, we need to get you to the infirmary STAT.”

“Appendicitis?” both Jack and Daniel questioned at the same time.

“Could be one or two other possibilities -- kidney stone, hernia -- but my hunch is your appendix is about ready to burst.  I need to make some calls,” the doctor announced, picking up the phone on the nightstand to dial the first number.

**Danny?  Have you been holding out on me?** Jack asked sharply, believing that if it was appendicitis, then his lover must have been in severe pain for a long time.

“No,” Daniel answered verbally, causing Janet to look down at him and smile reassuringly.

Disconnecting from her first call, Janet instructed, “Colonel, get a towel and warm it with hot water.  It will help Daniel with the discomfort he's feeling while we travel to the hospital.”

“Okay, Doc,” Jack acknowledged, heading for the bathroom.

“Not too hot,” Janet called out as she dialed the next number.

====

By the time the ambulance reached Cheyenne Mountain, the surgical team was ready to go, pending verification of the problem.  Janet had called in some of her best staff members, including Casey Hemmings and Marie Hill, both of whom had once had crushes on Daniel.  Truth be told, they still did, but each knew better than to try and get anywhere with the younger man, who had gently rebuffed them, his polite refusals backed up by intense glares from SG-1's CO.

Knowing their duties, the two primary nurses stripped Daniel of the little clothing he was wearing and dressed him in a white hospital gown.  Then they replaced the warm towel, which had cooled during the ride to the Mountain.

While Janet conferred with the other members of her team, Marie did her own assessment of Daniel's condition.  She had Daniel lay still while she listened to his abdomen.  She coaxed Daniel into providing an urine sample, then inserted a catheter before drawing blood for the basic lab work.  As she took the samples for processing, Casey set up the IV and prepared Daniel for the cat scan.

At that point, Daniel was given some anti-nausea medication as well as a pain killer and hooked up to an ultrasound for monitoring.  He was allowed to lie on his side because it was more comfortable for him.  The lights were also dimmed in his part of the infirmary while everyone waited for the blood work and test results to come back from the lab.

“It'll be okay, Daniel,” Jack whispered, trying to soothe his lover, having been told it would probably take ninety minutes or so for all the tests results to be processed.

“I know,” Daniel replied, wanting to smile but not being able to.  “I think she's overreacting.”

“Of course, she is,” Jack mock agreed.

“I haven't been in pain, Jack,” Daniel reminded.  “I mean, uh, not until ... until we ... you know ... we ... gawd.”

“Great.  I almost killed you,” Jack lamented, shaking his head.

“You did not.  You ... ow,” Daniel said, having moved to try and comfort his partner and now wishing he had stayed as still as a statue.

“Are you okay?” Jack asked.

“No, I am *not* okay.  Gawd!” Daniel groaned at the ridiculous question.

“I'm going to see what's taking so long,” Jack said, deciding to give his lover some time alone.  ~He's not happy with me right now.~

“You do that, Jack,” Daniel replied.  ~Give me a few minutes of peace.~
 
====

The diagnosis confirmed, consent papers signed, and the surgical team in place, the lovers stared at each other as Daniel was wheeled away.

**Danny, I love you,** Jack spoke via their silent communication.

**I love you, too, Jack, so much,** Daniel replied, his eyelids closing from the anesthetic he'd already been given.  “So much,” he mumbled.

“Daniel, did you say something?” Janet asked.  She smiled at her friend when he only mumbled incoherently in response.  “You'll be just fine, Daniel.”

====

Jack sat in the observation area of OR 1, watching Janet remove Daniel's appendix.  Soon, he became aware of another presence.

“Carter.”

“How's he doing?” Sam asked as she sat down next to her CO.

“I'm a colonel, not a doctor,” Jack snipped.  After several seconds, he shrugged, glancing over at his 2IC and saying, “Sorry, I'm ...”

“We're all worried, Sir, but Janet's the best,” Sam said reassuringly.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, looking down at the surgery that was still in progress.  “New uniform?” Jack teased about the blonde's leather jacket and tight-fitting black outfit.

“No, Sir.  I was working on my bike,” Sam responded, referring to her motorcycle.  “I took it for a ride into the country to test it out when I heard about Daniel.”

Jack looked at the female oddly and asked, “How'd you hear?”

“General Hammond called me, Colonel.  He figured I'd want to know,” Sam answered.

Jack nodded, then leaned forward, resting his elbows on the chair in front of him and placing his  head in his hands.

“I thought you were fishing,” Sam commented.

“Carter, not here, not now,” Jack complained, not wanting to engage in the game of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and its associated 'O'Neill and Carter are Doing It' byplay.  “Please.”

“Sorry, Sir.  Daniel will be just fine,” Sam repeated, the only response being another nod from Jack as he focused on his partner.

**I need you, Danny.**

Not long thereafter, Janet looked up and gave a thumbs up sign to the watchers.  She seemed to be smiling, though neither could tell for sure since she was still wearing her surgical mask.

~Thanks, Doc,~ Jack silently spoke, repeating the words verbally later on when he received her account of the surgery first hand.

====

Daniel awoke in the wee hours of Saturday morning, mumbling “J'ck?” as he normally did when waking or coming to from any illness or injury.  Almost as soon as he had spoken the name, though, he went back to sleep.

~That always warms my heart, Angel, that you call for me even before you're conscious,~ Jack silently thought, holding back his emotions since people were milling around the infirmary at the moment.

“He'll be asleep for a while, Colonel.  Why don't you go home and ...”  Janet paused, seeing Jack's look of 'you've got to be kidding'.  She knew better after the past three years.  Smiling, she asked, “Can I get you anything?”

“No, I'm fine,” Jack answered from his favorite chair as he sat by Daniel's bedside.  “You going home?”

Janet shook her head, answering, “No, I'm just going to lay down in one of the VIP rooms for a little while.  If you need me ...”

“Doc?” Jack called out.  When Janet turned around, he gave her a nod and said, “Thanks.”

Janet gave the colonel a tiny smile and nod of acknowledgement, then said, “I'll see you in a few hours.”

====

Most of the rest of the day saw Jack seated by Daniel's hospital bed, the one in the corner of the infirmary.  Daniel drifted in and out of consciousness and was kept highly medicated.  Even so, every time his eyelids fluttered open, his heart skipped a beat, seeing the love of his life smiling down at him.  He didn't have to be awake to know that his lover was holding his hand as much as possible, too.  It was a knowledge and certainty that gave him strength.

As for Jack, he had no intention of leaving his lover's side.  He practically had a heart attack during their lovemaking when Daniel had passed out.  The appendix attack had frightened him, big time, and he needed plenty of reassurance himself that his soulmate would recover.  The man before him was much more than a body lying on the bed, he was his life.

--

By Saturday evening, Daniel was a bit more coherent, so Janet inquired how his attack had come on.

“I was in the shower, Janet, when the pain overtook me.  I stumbled out, and managed to get dressed and yelled for Jack,” Daniel claimed, still somewhat groggy from his ordeal.  ~Yeah, that's it.  I was struck by pain in the shower, and that's why I looked so ... why my body ... oh, gawd.~

Practically stepping on his lover's answer, Jack stated, “Daniel was outside doing some yard work for me.  You know, he does that sometimes, Doc.  I saw him fall to the ground, so I brought him inside.”  Jack looked at Daniel in a panic when he realized their two stories didn't match.  ~Crap!~

The two men realized that in the chaos of the moment, they hadn't come up with a story to tell their friend.  Normally, they always had a tale to explain what they were doing, where they were doing it, and why they were doing it. This time, though, they'd been so caught off guard that their stories didn't match.

Ignoring his pain, Daniel attempted to reconcile the two versions of events, claiming, “I was taking the shower after doing the yard work.”

Jack looked at Daniel like he was crazy, then said, “Ah, yeah, I saw him fall, and that's when he yelled for me.”

The colonel grimaced, realizing just how bad their story was.

“It was a little late for working in the yard, wasn't it?” Janet asked the two.

“You know us, Doc.  We keep funny hours,” Jack claimed.  ~Lame, O'Neill, very lame.~

“I thought you were going to the cabin,” Janet asked Jack pointedly.

“I am, or I was, tomorrow; ah, that would be today now since it's Saturday.  Heck, you know what I mean.  I was going to the cabin after I took Daniel to the airport,” Jack spoke, his words strung out slightly as he searched for what to say.

“Yeah, that's right,” Daniel lied, making a face as he felt a twitch of pain.

“You two have been up to something, and I will find out what eventually,” Janet threatened, turning and walking away.

Jack shuddered at the physician's stern threat, but then shrugged his shoulders.  He looked around the infirmary, realizing the place was currently devoid of human life other than he and his soulmate.  Surprising the younger man, he leaned over and placed a hard and possessive kiss on his lover, following it with a softer and more loving kiss.

Almost whispering, Jack spoke, “You scared me, Danny.  Don't do that again.”

“Sorry, Jack, I'll try not to,” Daniel responded as Jack backed away slightly in case someone walked in.

“So much for our trip to the cabin,” Jack sighed, unable to hide his disappointment and sadness.

“You should go, Jack, especially since I have to stay in the infirmary anyway,” Daniel urged.

Adamantly, Jack shook his head, saying, “I don't think so.”

Smiling half-heartedly, Daniel replied, “I want you to go, Love.”  Inwardly, he thought,  ~Not really.  Please don't listen to me.~

“Trying to get rid of me, Space Monkey?” Jack asked.  ~Not going anywhere, Love.~

“Never, but it'll be good for you, and since we've been so bold lately, it might help alleviate some of the gossip.  Everyone knows you've been planning this trip.  Jack, it'll make Kinsey and his pack suspicious if you suddenly cancel just because I'm laid up like this,” the archaeologist reasoned.

“Danny, you're more important ...” Jack began.

Interrupting his lover, Daniel intoned, “I know that.  I do.  But go, Jack.  Just for a few days, and then you can come back and bore me for weeks with fish stories.”

“Daniel?” Jack asked, a bit of an edge to his tone.

“Jack?”

“Bore you?  When do I ever bore you?” the military man questioned, feeling a bit insulted by the accusation.  “Am I boring you now?  Geez, you really do want me to go,” he spoke, rejection welling up in his soul.

Daniel sighed, did a quick check to verify no one else was nearby, and then reached out, pulling Jack to him.  He massaged his lover's back as he kissed Jack, their tongues mingling together as Daniel attempted to reassure the older man as best he could, considering all the pain he was in and that he could barely move.

“Does that answer your question?” Daniel asked.

“No,” Jack feigned in response, still sulking for a moment before revealing his Irish grin.  “I don't know, Danny.  I don't want to leave you.  It feels wrong.”

Daniel suggested, “Why don't you think about it tonight?  Maybe you can even ask Sam to go.”

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed.  ~No way!~

“Jack, the game, remember,” the archaeologist spoke softly, glancing around the infirmary.

A bit sarcastically, the colonel responded, “The game.  Yes, I remember, but I'd rather stay here with you and kiss your scar.”

“Ouch!  Don't even think about it, Jack.  Now, it's late.  Go home, get some rest, and think about going to the cabin, at least for a few days,” Daniel encouraged.

Jack groaned, “You have a one-track mind, Jackson.  Okay, you win, but I won't like it.”

“I'll miss you,” Daniel admitted quietly.

“Not as much as I'll miss you,” Jack responded, daring to steal a quick kiss.  “I'll come by in the morning, and we'll put on a show.”

“Catch a fish for me,” Daniel said with a loving smile.

“There are no fish in my pond,” Jack reminded.

“But, there are a thousand of them in your heart,” Daniel uttered as his hand reached out to clasp onto Jack's for a moment.

“They have to make way for one goofy geek,” Jack replied quietly.

“Get out of here,” Daniel ordered, slipping his hand out of Jack's, too afraid they'd be caught at any moment.

**I love you, Angel.**

**I love you, too, Jack,** Daniel replied as the two exchanged a smile before Jack headed for home.

====

“You're doing just fine, Daniel,” Janet announced bright and early the next morning after doing her first check on the archaeologist for the day.

“Then I can go home now?” the archaeologist asked hopefully, ignoring what Janet had already told him.

Janet confidently chuckled, “Daniel, you can't even move, but if you can prove me wrong, sure, go home.”

Daniel could swear the petite physician was still chuckling as she headed towards her office.  He had already tried to move and knew that he might as well resign himself to staying in the infirmary as prescribed.

Two minutes later, Daniel's heart fluttered as he saw his lover enter the room as planned.

~Sexy, so sexy, and alllll mine,~ Daniel thought as he watched every movement the older man, clad in a black leather jacket, white tee shirt, and khaki pants, made.  “Hey.”  **I want you.**  He stared up at the ceiling.  ~Nonchalant.  I don't even know he's here,~ he told himself as he prepared for the game they were about to play.

**Right backatcha, Love,** Jack replied silently.  **Nurse is nearby,** he added as he approached the bed.  “Hey.”

“Hey,” Daniel replied casually, tilting his head slightly to get a better look at his Love.

“How ya doin'?” he asked as he approached Daniel's bed.

“Good,” Daniel replied, studying his soulmate and realizing something was a little different.  Raising his eyebrows, he asked, “Did ya get your hair cut?”

“Yeah.  Why?” Jack inquired.  **Don't you like it?**

“No reason,” the younger man answered, though clearly hurt by it somehow. **Except you didn't tell me,** he whined, suddenly wondering if the medicines were causing him to be overly emotional.  ~Since when do I care about Jack cutting his hair?  I know -- since *now*!~

**Spontaneous decision after eating my Froot Loops,** the colonel replied, ignoring his lover's tiny grimace.  ~If I didn't know better ... nah, Danny doesn't get jealous or anything.~  Then he smirked, “Can I see your scar?”

“No,” Daniel responded.  **You cut your hair without me; you can wait to see my scar.**

**Danny, it was just a haircut.  I was ... lonely, so I called in a favor with the barber,** Jack answered, checking on the nurse's location.  “Uh, Fraiser says it'll be about a week before you get out of here,” Jack remarked.

“You know, it's funny.  After everything we've been through these past ... few years, and of all things, it's my appendix ... that lays me out.”

**I'll be miserable without you,** Jack told his Love.

Quickly, staying in the game, Daniel responded, “But it's not gonna be a week.  I mean, I ... I practically ... I feel fine now,” Daniel claimed.  **And, I'm already miserable.**

“Wanna go fishin'?”

Daniel thought about it for a moment, then answered, “Actually, I wouldn't uh ...”  He tried to move, but the pain got the better of him.  “Well, maybe ...” He cleared his throat from the pain and stiffness of his body, which wasn't cooperating with his heart.  “No, you know, I ... I think maybe I'll just ... I will stay here for two or three ... three days.” He looked at his lover, communicating, **But, I wish I could go with you.  Get out of here, Jack.**

“Bye,” Jack spoke, reluctantly leaving the infirmary, but silently saying, **I'll miss you, Angel.**

**No more haircuts without me,** Daniel communicated.  ~Oh, crap, what kind of pills did Janet give me anyway?~

Daniel looked up, incredulous at his emotional state.  He hated the quick good-bye, and yet he knew that Jack couldn't stand it, either.  They had just played a crazy game, one they both hated, all for the benefit of the nearby nurse and anyone else listening in.  He'd also just acted like an overemotional partner, whining about a haircut.  Intellectually, he knew it was the medicine and his despair playing out in an odd way, but emotionally, he knew he'd just acted like the proverbial silly goose.

As Jack disappeared from view, the archaeologist silently thought, ~Gawd, what a silly conversation.  I ... miss him.  It's not fair.  It's just ... not fair.~

====

“Casey, how about a steak?” Daniel asked late that afternoon, his question more a desire to have something of Jack with him, and since Jack loved steaks, that seemed like a good symbolic connection to the archaeologist.

“Sorry, Daniel, it's broth and rice for you for a while,” the nurse spoke.

“Great,” Daniel sighed.  While he longed for the Jack connection, it was also true that he was already tired of the liquid diet he'd been on since awaking from his surgery.  “I need to ...” he said, pointing towards the restroom.

“Daniel, use the ...”

“No, I want to get up.  I feel like I'm glued to this bed,” Daniel responded a bit gruffly.  “Sorry, but I'm feeling tied down.”

“Here, let me help you,” Casey responded, helping Daniel up.

“Ouch!” Daniel groaned, the pain still bothering him.  Walking slowly towards his destination, he noticed the personnel seemed very focused on their tasks, some even moving with a sense of urgency.  It was a bit too focused and too urgent for the status quo.  “Is something going on?”

“Just the usual, Daniel,” Casey answered.  ~No point telling him; nothing he can do, anyway.~

====

“Janet, what's going on?” Daniel asked from his bed as the redhead dropped by to check on him a couple of hours later.

“Daniel, just relax,” Janet requested.

“Janet, I know something's happening.  Tell me!” the archaeologist insisted.

Clutching a chart close to her chest, the physician nodded, informing her patient that Thor had beamed Jack up to his ship, and shortly after that, Sam and Teal'c had also been transported to the Biliskner, along with weapons and supplies.  It was the only information she had, but it was all Daniel needed to know to realize he was currently in the wrong place.

“Daniel ...” Janet sighed, full of frustration as she watched her patient struggle to sit up.

“Help me, Janet, or not, but I can't stay in here when Jack ... when SG-1 is in danger,” Daniel replied.

“I can see that you do,” Janet threatened.

“Don't,” Daniel warned in response, adding a definitive, “You owe me, Janet.”

Janet's heart ached, knowing Daniel was referring to her error in judgment earlier in the year when she had had him committed to the care of Doctor MacKenzie.

“It won't be easy, Daniel,” Janet spoke softly as she signaled to Casey to get Daniel's BDUs.

“Nothing ever is,” Daniel responded.  “I need to get to the control room.”

“I know, Daniel,” Janet agreed softly, opting not to fight the young man.  “However, I want you to let me give you something for the pain.”

“Janet, I don't want to be knocked out,” Daniel responded, waving her off.

“My word of honor, Daniel, but this will at least help.  You'll need it,” the doctor stated.  “Please, trust me.”

The two stared at each other for what seemed like minutes.  Their relationship had gotten a bit off track after the incident with MacKenzie.  Janet had made a mistake, and they both knew it.  They both also knew that Daniel had worked hard on forgiving her.  This was, in essence, a moment of truth.

“Okay, Janet, I trust you,” Daniel responded.  ~But, if you lie to me now, I'll never be able to trust you again.~

Janet knew she'd been given a gift, and she also knew she couldn't afford to toss that gift aside.  She would medicate the archaeologist, just enough so he could function.  She would not make the mistake of drugging him or taking him away from potentially being able to help his best friend and teammates.

“Thank you, Daniel,” Janet replied as she prepared an injection.  ~I'll have to watch him, but I can't keep him away from his ... family.  SG-1 is his family,~ she said to herself, giving Daniel a smile as she gave him the strongest pain killer she could without knocking him out.

====

En route to General Hammond's office, Daniel saw Sergeant Davis, stopping him and asking, “What's going on?”

“I'm not sure I should ...”

“I want to know, Walter,” Daniel stated firmly.

“I think you should ask General Hammond, Doctor Jackson,” Davis responded.

“Davis, report,” Daniel ordered, sounding as much like his hard-as-nails lover as he could.

~I thought he was supposed to be the nice one,~ Davis thought, seeing nothing but sternness in the archaeologist's eyes.  ~He is a superior,~ he rationalized.  “Sir, Thor beamed Colonel O'Neill aboard the Biliskner.  The colonel subsequently reported that Thor was dying.”

“Dying?” Daniel asked incredulously, looking around the hallway hesitantly.  “How?  Why?”

“The Asgard have been battling these mechanical ... bugs called Replicators,” Sergeant Davis answered.

“That must be the enemy Thor mentioned to Jack and I earlier this year,” Daniel deduced quietly.  “Go on,” he requested.  “Please.”

“The Replicators have overtaken most of the Biliskner.  Thor transported the other Asgard off his ship, but stayed to try and divert the Replicators from reaching Earth.  I'm not sure how, Sir, but somehow, the process has injured Thor severely,” Davis revealed.

“So, why did he beam SG-1 aboard?” Daniel inquired.

“He left Colonel O'Neill instructions on how to run the Biliskner, hoping the colonel would be able to stop the Replicators,” the sergeant replied.

“Jack?” Daniel asked skeptically, raising his eyebrows up and down a couple of times as he made a funny face.

“I believe that's why Major Carter and Teal'c were allowed to beam up, Sir,” Davis answered.

“How will they get back?” a concerned Daniel asked.

“NASA is launching a shuttle,” Sergeant Davis explained.  “They also took space suits.”

“Great,” Daniel responded sarcastically.  “So they what -- fly around in space, waiting for the shuttle?”  He sighed, realizing he was letting his physical pain work with his emotional worry to sound antagonistic to the sergeant.  “I'm sorry, Walter.  What else do I need to know?”

“That's all we know, Sir.  We haven't heard from SG-1 in hours,” Davis reported.

“Thank you,” Daniel said with a sigh, leaning against a wall for a moment as the sergeant walked away.

====

Minutes later, Daniel walked gingerly up the stairs and towards General Hammond's office.

~Well, I'll be dadgummed,~ Hammond thought, immediately getting up from his desk and walking into the corridor to meet the archaeologist.  ~That boy has guts, but he belongs in the infirmary.~  With a sigh, he asked, “What are you doing down here, Doctor Jackson?”

~Where else would I be?  Gawd, this hurts,~ Daniel thought, grateful not to have to move.  Trying not to grimace as he fought the dizziness he felt and the urge to collapse to the cold floor, he answered, “I've just been informed, Sir.  I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help.”

Hammond began to answer, but at that moment, Major Paul Davis, the liaison between the SGC and the Pentagon, walked into the corridor, calling out, “General.”  When Hammond twisted his body around to face him, the major continued, “We're going to DEFCON 3.”  As he walked to where Hammond stood, he expounded, “The Russians have gone on alert as a response. The moment the Asgard ship attempts to land, the President has decided to let the rest of the world know what we know.”

“And then?” Hammond asked.

Looking only at the major general, Davis responded, “We hit it with everything we've got.”

“Uh, SG-1 is on that ship,” Daniel pointed out.

“I have as much confidence in SG-1 as you, Doctor Jackson, but they
left over an hour ago.  We've had no communication since, and we have *no* idea what kind of a time frame we are dealing with here,” Davis stated brusquely.

Staring at Daniel as if to reassure him, Hammond advised Davis, “Let's give them a reasonable chance, Major.”

“Yes, Sir,” the major acknowledged.  “I'll try to define *reasonable* to the Pentagon.”

Davis nodded at Daniel and then walked away.  As he walked into the general's office, the DEFCON alert sounded, signaling the change.  Daniel felt incredibly helpless, and Hammond just wished his friend was back in the care of Doctor Fraiser.

After a moment, Hammond stated, “Son, there's not much you can do here.  Why don't you go back to the infirmary, and I'll make sure you are kept informed?”

“No, Sir,” Daniel responded without hesitation, unable to stop a wince from his pain.  “I have to be here.”

“What does Doctor Fraiser say?”

“I'm here,” Daniel answered, then turned and walked slowly towards the control room.

Hammond watched, then walked into his office and dialed the infirmary.

“General, trying to keep Daniel in the infirmary at this time would do more harm than good,” Janet answered when asked to explain the presence of the archaeologist in the control room.  She added, “I'll be monitoring his condition every couple of hours ... personally.”

“Very well, Doctor, but I don't want you to take any chances,” Hammond ordered.

“With all due respect, General Hammond, Daniel sitting up was taking a chance, but this is SG-1, and he'll heal better where he is,” the doctor asserted.

“Very well, Doctor Fraiser.  Keep me apprised of any significant change in his condition,” the major general requested before hanging up the phone.

====

Later in the day, Hammond re-entered the control room, not surprised to see Daniel staring out vacantly through the large window towards the Stargate.  The archaeologist looked so lost and alone, and the major general wished there was something he could do to help the young man feel better.  He was well aware, though, that nothing short of SG-1's return would accomplish that feat.

Quietly, Hammond inquired of Sergeant Walter Davis, “Still no communication of any kind?”

Sergeant Davis responded, “No, Sir, and NORAD's still reporting no sign of the alien ship.”

Hammond made a beeline to join his Head of Archaeology and asked, “Doctor Jackson, are you okay?”

“I'll be fine,” Daniel answered, glancing evasively at the bald man.  ~When they come home; when ... Jack is holding me again.~

~I know the answer, but I have to make the suggestion,~ Hammond thought as he looked downward.  “Why don't you go back up to the infirmary?  I promise, I will notify you as soon as there is any news.”

With his arms crossed in front of him, Daniel replied, “Sir, I...I know there is no reason for me to be here, but I just ... I feel like I *should* be here.”  He paused, then with a nervous smile confessed with rapid speech, “That's not totally true.  I feel like ... actually, I feel like I should be up there with them.”

Hammond sympathetically responded, “Now you know how I feel most of the time.”

The two looked out over the Stargate for a moment before Daniel said, “It is hard to be on this side of the Gate, Sir.”

“It's always hard to be separated from family when they're at risk,” the bald man replied intuitively, causing Daniel to look at him.

The archaeologist nodded, admitting, “I feel so ... helpless.  I know I can't do anything here, but I can't leave, either.”

“Has Doctor Fraiser checked you out recently?” Hammond inquired.

“About an hour ago,” Daniel answered.  “Sir, they're SG-1.  They'll ... get home,” he said, half as a question, half as a statement as he looked at the man he held a great amount of respect for.

With a confident smile, Hammond cocked his head, affirming, “If there's a way, Doctor Jackson, they'll be back, and you know Colonel O'Neill.  With him, there's always a way.”

“I hope so, General,” Daniel responded, appreciating the freedom he had to be a bit open with Hammond.  ~I wish you were ... I mean you're more ... thank you for being who you are, General,~ he thought.

Even in silence, Daniel struggled to say it, but in his heart, he knew George Hammond was more of a grandfather to him than Nicholas Ballard ever was.  It had only been days since Nick had chosen to go live with the alien giants instead of staying to get to know his grandson.  Daniel was excited for the opportunity his grandfather had received, and yet, he felt abandoned one more time.  If not for his lover, the man who made him feel wanted and cherished, Daniel would feel totally empty.  Now, though, he was scared because his soulmate was far away, struggling to save himself, and Earth.

~Too far away,~ Daniel thought.  **Can you hear me, Jack?  Gawd, I ... I love you, and I need you.  Find a way, Jack.  Please find a way.**

“Daniel, sit,” Janet ordered, arriving in the control room for yet another check of the young man.

“You were just here,” Daniel responded softly.

“And you look paler now than you did then.  What's happened?” the physician asked as Daniel sat down.

“Nothing; absolutely nothing,” Daniel answered, looking over at the Stargate and feeling nothing but despair within him.

====

Not much later, with Daniel seated and listening in to all the incoming reports, a report came in saying that NORAD had reported an unidentified flying object entering the upper atmosphere over the Pacific.

“They've disabled the ship's cloaking device,” Daniel surmised to General Hammond and Major Davis who had just returned to the control room to check on the latest happenings.

Major Davis was worried that the incoming UFO meant SG-1 had been unsuccessful in their task.  Hammond feared the worst as well, walking over to the phone and recommending that alert status be taken to DEFCON 2.

“Deploy all available assets to intercept the alien ship,” Hammond ordered and then hung up the phone.

~Jack?~ Daniel automatically thought.  Full of trepidation, Daniel asked, “General?”

The military side of him in full control, Hammond replied, “I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson, but if that ship makes it through the atmosphere intact, we have no choice but to assume SG-1 failed.  We *must* destroy it by whatever means necessary.”

Daniel blinked, life beginning to ebb from his body.  If Jack died, he would, too.  They'd agreed, and Daniel had no desire to renege on that agreement.  He closed his eyes for one moment, remembering the last brush of their lips and the last brief contact of their hands.  He trembled, wondering if this really was the end of everything for the both of them.

The archaeologist felt more ill in this moment than he had at the time of his appendicitis attack.  He felt his lungs depleting themselves of air, and he knew if he looked at his reflection, he would look like a zombie, pale and devoid of emotion.

~I ... I think I might throw up, right here and now,~ Daniel thought.  Keeping his eyes closed, he vowed, ~No, be strong.  Jack would expect me to be strong.  I ... I have to keep myself together.~

When he opened his eyes, he could feel the eyes of others on him.  Without looking, he knew that both Paul and Hammond were watching him, not staring out of curiosity, but both full of concern for his welfare.  He also realized he needed to maintain the appearance of strength, or Hammond would order him out of the area, something that would be even worse for him.

Moments later, the phone to his ear, Major Davis reported, “The Russians have also spotted an incoming object and are inquiring.”

As Hammond responded, there was a flash of light, stunning everyone as they realized the Stargate had just disappeared.

Still shocked, but suddenly feeling air in his lungs again, Daniel deduced, “They're gonna use it to escape!”

Excitedly, looking down at Daniel, Major Davis agreed, “Like you did from the Apophis mother ship! It could work!”

More firmly, Daniel intoned, “It *will* work!  The...they'll gate to another planet, then ... home.”  His mouth was open; Daniel felt hope for the first time today.  ~Jack will get home now.  SG-1 will be safe.~

Wanting to believe in his premier team, but keeping calm, Hammond interjected, “You had a DHD; they don't.”

“Even disconnected, there should be enough power to dial out once,” Paul Davis responded firmly to the major general.

~That works for me,~ Hammond decided as he nodded.  He walked over to wall, picked up the phone, and spoke, “This is Hammond.  I want the Beta Gate unpacked from storage immediately ... Yes, you *heard* me!  I want it unsealed and ready for use as soon as humanly possible.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force continued monitoring the UFO.

Finally, Davis reported, “We have visual confirmation.  A fireball headed for the Pacific Ocean four-hundred miles off the coast of California.”  A minute or so later, he hung up the phone he'd been using and added, “Naval recovery teams will be moving in to deal with any wreckage.”  He looked over at Daniel, still seated, and said as positively as he could, “I'm sure you were right, Doctor Jackson.  The point of commandeering the Stargate had to be an escape.”

“I just hope they made it out in time,” Daniel spoke quietly.  **Come on, Jack!**

A few minutes later, most of the personnel had cleared the area, moving on to work in other areas.  Hammond motioned for Sergeant Davis, who was the only one remaining, to leave his station.  He sat down, staring at Daniel, who was looking like a guppy as he stared at the Stargate-less gate room.

“Doctor Jackson ... Daniel,” Hammond began, his change of greeting prompting Daniel to look at him.  “All we can do now is wait.  Nothing can happen here until the Beta Gate arrives.  I'm ordering you back to the infirmary.”  Hearing the young man start to object, Hammond put up his hand and shook his hand, saying, “Son, if anything changes or happens sooner than anticipated, I swear on my stars I'll have you notified immediately.  You can't help them if you fall over and die.”

Daniel sighed, hesitantly nodding as he looked at the spot where the Stargate should be.

“I just feel so ...” Daniel began, shaking his head as he was unable to finish his sentence.  ~I can't leave, but he won't let me stay.~

“They've got the Gate, Son, and I'll bet on SG-1's record anytime,” the general spoke with confidence, giving Daniel a firm smile.  “To the infirmary, and that's an order.”

~What would Jack do?~ Daniel asked himself.  Then he let out a tiny snort as he smiled and replied, “Yes, Sir.  Thank you, General.”

As he reached the doorway, Daniel turned, about to speak, but Hammond nodded, firmly saying, “Any change at all, and I'll see you're told.”

Again, Daniel nodded, finally leaving the room and heading for the infirmary. He had to admit it would feel good to lay down for a while.  The pain was severe, but he had been afraid to say anything.  He still wouldn't, but he hoped that lying down would help the ache to lessen.

Daniel walked down the stairs, but didn't get any further.  He just couldn't go on.  Instead, he became 'one' with a corner of the wall, waiting as time passed.  Then, he quietly returned to his chair in the control room.  Things were quiet there now.  After all, without the Stargate, there was nothing that could be done there, so the personnel had moved to other areas of the SGC.

Undisturbed, Daniel sat back down in the chair he'd occupied for so long over the past day.  He sat, staring at where the Stargate should be, silently anguishing over his friends and his lover.  Hours passed before General Hammond realized he had returned.

~Okay, Son,~ Hammond thought, choosing to leave the young man alone in his misery for a while since Daniel was at least somewhere where help could be acquired quickly, if needed.

Eventually, though, Janet had had enough of waiting for Daniel to report to the infirmary.  She had heard about his 'trick' with the general earlier, and thus, she came prepared, bringing with her to the control room, one of her larger and broader medical team members.

“Daniel, it's time,” Janet ordered.

“I'm fine here,” Daniel replied.

“Now,” Janet said firmly, adding, “Or, Doctor Jackson, I can have Frank here escort you to the infirmary where I will give you a complete checkup.”

Daniel glanced over at the man, who smiled, anticipating the pleasure of physically carrying the geeky Head of Archaeology over his shoulder to the infirmary.

~No, I don't think so,~ Daniel thought.  “Okay, Janet.  You win.”

“We'll all win when SG-1 returns, and that'll be soon, Daniel,” Janet said hopefully as she stood.

Daniel nodded, standing and taking one final look at the gate room before following the physician to the infirmary.

====

“What?” Janet asked, seeing a bit of a smirk on the archaeologist's face as she checked the IV bag full of antibiotics.

“You're happy,” Daniel responded, sighing afterwards.

Janet sat down on the edge of the bed, answering, “Look, Daniel, if there was something you could do to bring home SG-1, I'd be all for you running around the SGC, but there isn't, so, as your doctor, yes, I'm happy to have you back, receiving the treatment I know you should have.  Being up and around like you've been is lengthening your recovery time, and I'm sure your temperature is as high as it is because of your increased activity level,”  She smiled soothingly and added, “You need this IV and the rest.”

“I'm not sleeping,” Daniel spoke almost defiantly.

“I know,” Janet smirked.  “That's why you're so crabby.”

Daniel sighed again.  He didn't intend to be a lousy patient, but his mind was elsewhere -- millions of miles away, with his lover.

Janet rubbed the top of Daniel's left hand gently for a moment and then added, “They'll be back.”

“They can't come home until the Stargate gets locked into place,” Daniel responded.

“And, there's nothing you can do to help with that, is there?” Janet asked pointedly.  When she saw Daniel nod in reluctant agreement, she suggested, “Then maybe you should focus on getting better so that when the colonel does get back, you can be your best self.”

“Thanks, Janet,” Daniel responded without thinking.  He felt the pressure lift from the bed as the physician walked away.  ~Just Jack?  Why didn't she say SG-1?  Gawd, I'm pathetic.  Everyone knows.  They must know.  Jack, I ... I'm such a failure.  I can't even ... wait without getting us in trouble.~

Feeling pain in more ways than one, the young man rolled over onto his right side, longing to forget everything, while knowing it was totally impossible.

====

“I want to see you back in here in two days, Daniel,” Janet stated as she released Daniel from the infirmary.  “And, remember, you promised to go home.”

“Uh, right,” Daniel said, leaving the infirmary while silently adding, ~And, I will ... when Jack gets back.~

====

Eight days after the original Stargate had been whisked away, Janet was examining Daniel, pressing on his abdomen as the archaeologist leaned back on the hospital bed.

“I hear it took a little longer than they thought to set up the second Gate,” the physician commented, still checking the tenderness of the area.

“Uh, yes,” Daniel responded.  “They finally got it running yesterday -- technical difficulties or something.”

Knowingly, Janet replied, “They needed Sam's help, huh?”

Janet pulled down Daniel's black shirt and pulled back the examination light to get it out of the way.

Sitting up and apparently still in a bit of pain, Daniel answered, “Yes, it's, uh, ... it's ironic she's not here to save herself.”

“Well, you are fine.  There's no sign of residual infection.  You were
very lucky,” Janet stated, folding her arms across her chest after having made a few notes on Daniel's chart and then putting it down.

“That's what they keep saying,” the archaeologist responded.

“Well, I still want you to, uh, take it easy for at least a...” Janet began, her words interrupted by the klaxons and Walter Davis' voice announcing an off-world activation.  “...another week,” she continued, speaking to the blur that was Daniel as he flew out of the infirmary.  “Oooookay,” Janet said to herself.  ~That's one hopeful archaeologist.  I hope it is SG-1.~

Daniel ran down the corridors, bumping into Marines and even Sergeant Siler.  He didn't care; his need to reach the gate room greater than anything else at the moment.  He let out various whines and “Ow's” as well as several apologies along the way until he finally made it to the elevator that would take him to the twenty-eighth floor.

~Made it!  Almost there,~ Daniel silently gasped.  ~Wait for me!~

Just as the iris was ordered opened, Daniel hurried into the gate room, not stopping until he stood at the foot of the ramp.

**Jack?  Please be Jack.  Be okay.  Gawd, Jack,** Daniel communicated, not realizing or caring if his mantra was silently said to himself or to his lover via their non-verbal abilities.  ~It is him,~ he sighed with relief, seeing Jack walk through the Stargate, followed by Sam and Teal'c.

“Well, it's about time!” Jack exclaimed, extending his arms to the side as he stopped at the top of the ramp, Sam to his right and Teal'c to his left.

Daniel resembled a guppy yet again, his eyes totally focused on his weary lover.

**Are you okay, Angel?** Jack asked with their special ability.

Daniel replied, **Gawd, no, but I will be.  You?**

At the same time, Sam spoke, “We've been dialing home for over a week.”

Playing a bit of a game, all for show, Daniel sarcastically spoke, “It's great to see you guys, too.”  His eyes were wide and his voice almost light, though, as the archaeologist was unable to hide his pleasure at seeing his teammates safe and sound again.  **Jack?**

As the three reached the bottom of the ramp and stopped, Teal'c stated, “I am pleased to see you well, DanielJackson.”

**I'm fine, Angel, now that I see you're up and at 'em,** Jack answered, staring at Daniel and wishing he could take him into his arms.  ~Gotta keep up the dang image,~ he sighed audibly, frustrated by the distance they were having to keep.

Daniel looked at the Jaffa, noting a caterpillar-like growth on his chin, and said, “Thank you, Teal'c.  You've got a ...”

~Whoa!~  As Daniel reached out to touch the growth, Jack raised up his hands to block his lover's, grateful for the excuse to touch his soulmate however tentatively.  He stage whispering, “Don't ... don't touch it.”  **But you can touch me as soon as we get out of here.**

**I can't wait,** Daniel replied, his heart beating with joy for the first time in days.

Now standing next to Daniel, having come to the gate room from the control room, Hammond greeted, “Glad you made it, SG-1.”

“Where's the fanfare, General?” Jack retorted boldly.

As the banter continued, Daniel's soul swelled within him.  What was being said didn't matter; what did was that Jack was right in front of him, just a foot or so away.  The younger man had waited so long for Jack's return, just to know the older man was safe.  Now, Jack was here, but they were surrounded by people.  Daniel wanted everyone to just disappear.  He needed to feel Jack's skin against his.  He needed reassurance.  He needed Jack.  If he wasn't filled with so much relief and love at the moment, he'd hate the world for having to put on the show they were doing, to act like it was nothing special that they had just been reunited.

Finally, the torture was over, and Jack, Sam, and Teal'c headed for the locker room, leaving Daniel and Hammond at the ramp.

“They made it through again,” Hammond observed after the team made their exit.

“Yes, Sir,” Daniel replied, still smiling and looking at the doorway, though his friends had long since walked through the passageway.

“Go on, Son,” Hammond urged, knowing Daniel wanted to be with his team.

Daniel smiled, saying, “Thank you, General.  See you at the debriefing.”

Swiftly, Daniel walked away, anxious to get to the locker room and hoping to steal at least a few moments with his lover before the meeting began in approximately one hour.

====

Daniel struggled to make small talk with Teal'c in the locker room.  He could hear Jack singing in the showers, and he was desperate for just two minutes with him. Fortunately, Sam had chosen to use one of the other locker facilities so he didn't have to worry about making conversation with her while being so distracted.

Still, the archaeologist muddled through, hearing more details about how Thor was placed in a stasis pod and retrieved shortly after the group escaped from the doomed Biliskner to P4X-234.  Sam had deduced the pod had a locating beacon in it that the Asgard used to retrieve Thor, who was one of their leaders.  He also learned more about SG-1's plan to kill the Replicators by allowing Thor's ship to crash into the ocean.  Then he listened to Teal'c's review of their past week, all about how Teal'c used the time to kelno'reem a lot while Sam whined about not having any science toys to play with, and how Jack spent a lot of time reminiscing about past missions, ones in which Daniel played a huge part of.

As the Jaffa prepared to walk out of the locker room, he spoke quietly but with certainty to his friend, saying, “O'Neill was very worried about you, DanielJackson.  He used his stories to cover up his concern.  I am glad he was just being a worry zit.”

“Wha...what?” Daniel asked, standing with his arms crossed and blinking several times as he worked to decipher his teammate's comment.  “Oh, uh, you mean worrywart, Teal'c.”

Teal'c nodded, giving Daniel a tiny smile and then departed the locker room.

Daniel smiled slightly, but then his heart stopped.  He closed his eyes, wondering if it was a dream.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered, his hands rubbing gently against Daniel's upper arms.

Daniel turned, his misty blue eyes gazing into his soulmate's, and said, “Jack, we shouldn't, but if we don't, I ... I ...”

“Me, too,” Jack said, walking backwards, pulling Daniel with him into one of the shower stalls.

There, the two kissed, their hands roaming each other's bodies.  For two minutes, they let themselves indulge in their needs and desires until, finally, they pulled apart, knowing they couldn't risk being caught any longer.

“Say it again,” Daniel requested.

“I ... love ... you,” Jack repeated, pronouncing each word slowly and precisely.

“I love you, too,” Daniel echoed, though his words were more rapid and connected.  “Are you really okay?”

“I'll give you a copy of the Doc's report,” Jack teased, though he hadn't had his post-op yet.  “You?”

“I'm fine.”

“Daniel!” Jack chastised.

“Ask Janet,” the archaeologist challenged.  “You'd better get dressed.”

“Yeah, the briefing starts soon,” Jack responded, heading for his locker.

“That's not why,” Daniel replied.

“No?” Jack asked, throwing down the towel that had been over his shoulder.

“No,” Daniel answered with a seductive smile, causing Jack to grin, which was all that needed to be said.

The two men wanted each other badly, and they couldn't wait to get home.  Unfortunately, their day was far from over.  For starters, they had a very long debriefing facing them.

“Soon,” Jack promised.

“Soon,” Daniel agreed, nodding as he waited for his Love.

“Danny, meet me in my office in ten minutes,” Jack requested.

“But the, uh, the briefing,” Daniel replied.

“We have time.  Ten minutes,” Jack repeated.

Nodding, Daniel began to walk away, but then he paused and said, “Oh, uh, by the way, Happy Fourth of July.”

“Crap!  We missed Hammond's barbecue?” Jack bemoaned.  “He grills a mean burger!”

“Yeah, and he doesn't burn them, either!”

Jack began to give a flippant retort, but then both he and his lover broke out into laughter.  It was a release of sorts, and it felt good to laugh over something.

“He said something about making it for Labor Day this year, if the weather's good,” Daniel noted.

A bit soberly, Jack surmised, “He didn't want to have it without ...”

“... without knowing for sure that you, Sam, and Teal'c were okay,” Daniel completed for his lover.

“If Labor Day doesn't work out, there's always next year,” Jack spoke.

“Yeah ... next year.  I'm gonna ...” Daniel began, pointing towards the door.

The archaeologist left the locker room, afraid if he didn't, he'd attack his lover on the spot, especially after seeing his Heart's charming laugh and grinning eyes.  He headed for his own office, trying to settle his nerves while he waited for the clock to tick forward.

====

When Daniel arrived at his lover's office exactly ten minutes later, Jack was already there, having turned off the recording devices.  In fact, the younger man had barely walked in when the older man pinned him against the office door and begun some heavy duty French kissing, which was so much more than they'd had a chance to do in the locker room showers.  The kissing led to more, which both needed in more ways than they could describe.

Their connection was heated and passionate, not to mention necessarily quick.  Compared to their norm, it wasn't much since Daniel was still recovering, and Jack would only let his lover do so much.  This frustrated Daniel, who wanted to do much more than his soulmate was allowing.

“We have time, Danny.  I'm not going anywhere,” Jack promised, having noticed Daniel's uneasiness.

“No fishing, O'Neill, not alone, never,” Daniel breathlessly spoke between kisses.

“I didn't go fishing, Daniel,” the older man reminded.

“I know, Jack, I'm just ... I don't know what I'm just, so just shut up and kiss me,” Daniel demanded.

Daniel was practically incoherent, needing to feel Jack, wanting to be a physical part of his lover, to have their bodies connect.  Time was of the essence, however, and they only had five minutes, each desperately trying to get inside each other's skin as much as possible within those minutes.  All too soon, they had to stop.

“It's a nightmare,” Daniel gasped as they hurriedly fixed their clothing.

“It's friggin' purgatory,” Jack agreed, buttoning his green BDU jacket.

“Jack, I think maybe you need to sit by Sam in the briefing, and ... play it up a little,” Daniel suggested as he tucked in his black shirt.

“Why?”

“I ... I thought I'd lost you, Jack,” the archaeologist explained softly.  He leaned his forehead against his Love's, saying, “I, um, was worried.  Hammond saw, and Major Davis, and ... I tried, Jack, but ...”

“It's okay, Danny,” Jack assured, his arms wrapping around the younger man protectively.

Shaking his head slightly, Daniel refuted, “No, it's not, but, sometimes, Jack, it just doesn't matter.”

After placing another tender kiss on his soulmate's sweet lips, Jack spoke, “I know, Love.  C'mon, we need to get to the briefing, or they'll come looking for us. We'll talk to Sam later, and let the rumor mills do their thing.”

Daniel started to turn towards the door when Jack's lips suddenly found his yet again.  In an instant, Daniel flung his arms around Jack again, pulling him close for one more long, hard kiss.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack intoned.

“Love you, too, Jack.”

Taking the time for yet another kiss, the lovers relished their nation of two, letting the joy and reality of it overtake them.  Then, regretfully, they parted and headed for the conference room.

As they walked, they made plans for their exit from the SGC.  Jack would continue his fishing charade, while Daniel pretended to simply go home, promising Janet that he'd do nothing but read and relax now that his teammates were safely back on Earth.  They'd leave separately, Daniel getting a ride home from an airman once Jack had successfully left the base. Then the lovers would meet up and spend the remainder of their downtime together.  That was the plan, one both were eagerly looking forward to.

====

“But, Sir ...” Jack began to argue.

“Colonel, we need to make sure we've gone over everything.  The Pentagon wants my report personally.  Now, it's already 2100, and we're all tired.  I think it's best if we adjourn and meet again tomorrow at 0800,” Hammond ordered.

“But ...”  Jack sighed.  “Yes, Sir.”

“With the exception of Teal'c, SG-1, you are ordered to spend the night in the infirmary at the request of Doctor Fraiser,” the bald-headed man added.

“But ...” a choir of three voices objected.

“That's an order,” Hammond stated as he stood.  “Dismissed.”

The members of SG-1 shared a look of weariness and regret.  They'd hoped for some serious downtime, but had just been ordered back in.  There was a lot to review about the Replicators, and they just hadn't had time to explore everything that needed to be reviewed.

The team had also not expected to be ordered to the infirmary, but they didn't have a choice.  Janet wanted to make doubly sure the flagship team was properly nourished and rested before being released from the SGC.

**Gawd,** Daniel lamented.

**I'm sorry, Danny.  I think the Doc is gonna have us watched all night,** Jack sighed.

The colonel was right, thereby adding to the lovers' despair at their recent separation.

====

The next morning, having survived a restless night, SG-1 was released, having been given the all-clear by Janet.  The debriefing was concluded, and the teammates went about their business, Teal'c to workout, Sam to work in her lab, Daniel to work on some research, and Jack to meet privately with General Hammond.  After that, Jack and Daniel's plans could finally continue with their escape to the Minnesota cabin.

As the morning played on and the meeting with Hammond concluded, Jack changed into his civvies.  He had one more stop to make, one to continue the masquerade and keep the 'game' going.  He would drop by Sam's lab and invite her to go fishing.  She'd act coy, but wouldn't go, of course.  Then Jack would exit the Mountain, followed by Daniel roughly an hour later.  By the time the two rendezvoused, everything would be packed in the truck and ready to go for their belated anniversary celebration.

Everything was right on schedule, and Jack was once again a happy man; that is, he was, until he had a nasty case of deja vu after playing the scene with Sam in her lab.

~Crap!~

====

Jack entered his lover's office, a frown on his face, something that was immediately noticeable to the younger man.

~No!~  Looking up from his desk, Daniel closed his eyes.  This wasn't part of the plan.  Jack's entrance, especially with that expression on his face, could only mean one thing -- bad news.  “What's wrong?”

“Change in plans, Daniel.  We have another briefing,” the older man announced, sighing as he leaned against the doorway, his hands in his pockets.

“Another one?” Daniel asked, his words drawn out and a vulnerability in his voice.

“Major Davis is on his way back from the Pentagon.  I'm sorry, Danny,” Jack spoke quietly.

As Jack started to walk towards him, Daniel shook his head, saying, “Don't.  I mean, let's get the briefing over with.  It can't be so bad, can it?”

“You're right,” Jack said a bit brightly.  “After all, we just saved the planet again.  We can't possibly have to do it twice in one month.”

Daniel smiled, watching as his lover turned around to leave.  Suddenly, he called out Jack's name, turned off the security camera, and closed his office doors.

“I thought you wanted to wait,” Jack remarked as Daniel moved into his embrace.

“I changed my mind,” Daniel admitted, leaning his head against his soulmate's strong shoulder.  “I need this, Jack.”

“I do, too, Danny,” Jack admitted, regretfully adding, “But we only have a couple of minutes.  Davis won't be here for a couple of hours, but Hammond wants us in the briefing room in ten minutes to go over a few things.”

“Fifteen,” Daniel refuted.

“I couldn't find you,” Jack stated.

“I was in the archives,” Daniel suggested.

“Takes a while to find a person amid all that dust,” Jack smirked.

“And, it was very dusty,” the younger man agreed.  “I was ... sitting down.”

“Twenty minutes,” Jack decided, squeezing his lover gently to him, closing his eyes as he took in Daniel's scent, something he'd been able to do so rarely in the last couple of weeks.

“Twenty,” Daniel sighed contently, wanting nothing more than to be held for a while.

====

Things moved quickly once Major Davis returned to the SGC and began the briefing, handing out information packets to SG-1 and General Hammond.

Davis reported that the Navy intercepted a mayday from the commander of a Russian Foxtrot-class attack submarine, code name Blackbird, claiming the crew was being attacked by a large mechanical spider.  Though first believed to be a joke, the story was taken seriously when sometime later the craft was spotted on the surface of the water.  Eventually, the sub was boarded, its crew found dead with no survivors.

While examining photos from the submarine taken after the bodies had been removed, Jack confirmed the killer of the Russian crew was a Replicator.

The photographer had taken the photos, but neither he nor the Russians realized what was really happening.

According to Davis, the United States was denying any knowledge of the true cause of the tragedy, but hesitantly, he admitted, “This is gonna get sticky.”

“We have to make sure that none of the Replicators get out of that sub,” Sam anxiously stated.

Major Davis responded, “It's under tight supervision. The harbor has been evacuated, and the entire area cordoned off.  Our cover story is a dangerous chemical spill.”

~The answer is simple.~  Emphatically, Jack exclaimed, “Blow it up!”

**Jack, they'll make you do it,** Daniel communicated, looking at his lover. ~I have got to go with them this time.  They ... he needs me.~

**It has to be done, Daniel, one way or the other,** the older man responded.

~They're not going to like this,~ Davis thought to himself.  He then intoned, “The Pentagon has requested that we take measures to preserve a number of specimens for study.”

Argumentatively, Jack looked up at the major and replied, “The Asgard already tried that, and these buggers are on the verge of wiping out their entire race.”  ~Dang bureaucrats.~

“That's why I'm here,” Davis calmly responded.  “You people are the closest things to experts we've got.”

~Geez, thanks!~  Full of frustration, Jack repeated as definitively as he could, “As an expert, I'm saying blow it up!”  ~Idiots never listen!~

Looking at her CO, Sam interjected, “Sir, conventional weapons might not do it.  At least one of the Replicators survived the destruction of Thor's ship.”

“Well, fine,” Jack snapped at his 2IC.  “Tow it back out to sea, and nuke it!” he insisted as he looked at Davis again.  ~Have some balls, Davis, and tell those idiots in D.C. to go stuff themselves.~

“We've considered that,” Davis responded calmly, looking at Hammond in the hopes he would release more information.  ~I can't say anymore.  I *am* on your side, Colonel,~ he thought.

Hammond revealed, “We're in a political mess right now, Colonel.  The Russians picked up the Asgard ship's reentry into the atmosphere.”

“So?” Jack inquired, lifting his hands, palms open, off the table slightly.

“They're not buying our version of the story,” Davis answered.  “They already think we're responsible for what happened with their sub.  A nuclear explosion in international waters, it's ... it's kinda hard to cover up.”

As they continued to discuss the situation, the group decided that perhaps a team armed with Earth weapons might be able to overcome the Replicators, if the mechanical beings were still in small enough numbers.  Just as that decision was being confirmed, an off-world activation drew their attention.

General Hammond immediately stood headed for the control room, followed quickly by SG-1.  All were both surprised and pleased when they saw Thor walking down the ramp.  Realizing who their visitor was, the five hurried to the gate room to greet their ally.

The little gray alien thanked the team for their prior assistance, but then announced, “I have come by Stargate because there are no ships to spare. My home world is being threatened by the Replicators.  Thus far, all attempts to stop them have failed.  I have come here to seek *your* help.”  After a bit more conversation, he added, “The Asgard have tried to stop them.  You have demonstrated their weakness may be found through a less sophisticated approach.  We are no longer capable of such thinking.”

Daniel responded, “Wait a minute!  You're actually saying you need someone *dumber* than you are?”

Immediately, Jack responded, “You may have come to the right place.”  Inwardly, he smirked, ~I knew the day would come when being dumb would be an asset.~

Daniel looked at his lover, communicating, **He's not serious, is he?**

Jack returned the stare as he answered, **Oh, yeah, he is.  He knows where to go to find dumb people.**

**Jack,** Daniel warned, hating it when his lover acted like the dumb colonel.  ~Gawd, he's reveling in it right now,~ he thought, knowing his lover all-too-well.

While Hammond was hesitant, Sam volunteered to go, and he eventually gave her permission to accompany the alien, leaving Jack and Teal'c to deal with the Replicators on the Russian sub.

“Colonel, I want you and Teal'c to leave immediately for San Diego,” Hammond ordered.  “Coordinate with Major Davis on all aspects of the mission.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.  “You're ... not going?”

“I am, but I'm afraid I won't be available at all times,” Hammond explained, about to say more when he was interrupted by the return of Major Davis.

Motioning to Jack, Davis stated, “Colonel, we need to go over a few details.”

Helplessly, Daniel watched his life partner walk away, the two not even having a moment to say a word, verbal or otherwise, to each other.

“Doctor Jackson, we'll be sending a team to monitor ...”

“I volunteer,” Daniel interrupted.  “And, not just to monitor.  I'm perfectly fine, General, and I belong with my team.”

“Son, I don't think Doctor Fraiser would approve,” Hammond responded.  Then he smiled, “But we need you there.  The plane leaves from Peterson in thirty minutes.  Have Doctor Fraiser give you the green light, and have her call me as soon as she's cleared you to return to duty.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Daniel responded and then hurried to catch up with the departing team.

====

“Janet ...”

“No, Daniel,” the physician continued to insist.

“I can help them!” the archaeologist pleaded.

“Daniel, I'll clear you to go to San Diego, but that's it.  You will *not* get on that submarine or go gating through the universe.  Is that understood?” Janet asked sharply, her eyes glaring daggers at her wayward patient.

“I'm fine,” Daniel lied.

“Daniel, you may be able to lie to me about whatever you were really doing when you had your appendicitis attack, but I will not let you trick me into returning to full active duty when you're still in pain.  Now, go, monitor the situation, but I am giving General Hammond strict orders about what you are and are *not* allowed to do.  If you disobey my orders, you'll be sorry,” the female major threatened, living up to her Napoleonic reputation.

“Janet, please ...”

“Daniel, if you don't go now, you'll miss the plane.  I'm calling the general now with my instructions.  What happens next is up to you,” Janet said sternly, turning her back on the distraught SG-1 member to follow through with her task.  ~And, I wish you'd hurry, because I'm going, too.~

~Gawd,~ Daniel whined, shaking his head and quickly leaving Janet's office.  He had wanted to accompany Jack and Teal'c on the sub, but Janet would only permit him to be on light duty.  He had spent most of his prep time arguing with her, but it was no use.  ~Little Napoleon is right,~ he whined about Janet's nickname as he hurried to meet the group going to Peterson to catch the flight to San Diego.

====

Daniel had hoped for a few minutes alone with Jack on the plane, but every moment was spent discussing the details of the upcoming operation and various options and scenarios.  There wasn't one minute available for any type of personal communication at all, not even their special non-verbal kind.  Not even after they arrived at their destination was there a minute for the two to talk.  For Daniel, that was sheer torture.  For Jack, it was agony.  Both, however, knew they had jobs to do, and so, each focused on their respective tasks.

At a hangar in the San Diego harbor, a command center was set up.  The hangar included a monitoring section as well as a medical station.  Several SGC personnel had made the trip, including SG-1, Janet, Sergeant Siler, and Major Davis.  General Hammond had also made the trek, but he was currently monitoring the situation with the Navy admiral in charge of the harbor.

As Jack, Teal'c, and two others named Baker and Stevens prepared to board the sub, Daniel, Sergeant Siler, and Major Davis made sure the monitoring equipment was set up correctly.

Each member of the team wore a camera on his helmet that sent back images to the center in the hangar.

“Jack, can you hear me?” Daniel asked, adjusting his headset from his seat inside the hangar.

With his usual sense of humor, Jack's responded, “Would it be necessary for me to mention my *insane* aversion to bugs at this time?”

~That's my Jack -- using humor to cover up your ... no, you're not afraid.  You don't want me to be afraid, either.  You ... you just get out of that sub alive, Jack. That's your job, and ... and that's an order!~ Daniel thought, watching his lover on the black and white monitor that was in front of him.

Jack led the way, with Teal'c and the two temporary members of SG-1 following.  In silence, Daniel, Major Davis, who was seated on Daniel's left, and Sergeant Siler, who was on the other side of the archaeologist, watched.

The images from inside the Russian sub were shocking.  The Replicators were all over the place.  Jack noted the creatures were a different color, prompting Davis to speculate that perhaps it was some kind of camouflage.

Daniel said nothing, his eyes focused solely on the screens.  His heart was pounding as he worked to remain calm.  Then, he saw it -- a huge Replicator.

“If that's some sort of queen, the other bugs may try to protect it,” Daniel told his lover quietly, as if talking loudly would jeopardize the team's fate.

“Queen?” Jack asked.  ~I *so* don't want to think about that.~

Suddenly, the Replicators in the battery room went on the attack, going after Teal'c and Stevens.  Helplessly, the group at the hangar watched in horror as Stevens was eaten alive by the mechanical demons.  Teal'c, too, had been injured in his upper back.

~This is *not* the place to be,~ Jack determined, ordering their exodus from the submarine.

~I should have been there,~ Daniel sadly lamented, his guilt mixed in with his gratitude that his lover was safe, as he monitored Jack and Teal'c successfully disembarking from the vessel.

====

“Jack!” Daniel called out as the team rushed inside.

“I'm okay, but Teal'c's been hurt.  Doc?” Jack called out.

“Here, Colonel,” Janet replied, already beginning to examine Teal'c.  “Let's go over here.”

“Daniel, how are you ...”

“Colonel,” Major Davis said, interrupting Jack's question.  “We need to talk.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Give me a second to take this stuff off,” Jack said, using the distraction to get in just a word with his lover.  Focusing on the personnel around them, the older man asked quietly, “How are you doing?”

“Great, now that you're back.  Jack, I don't know how we're going to get rid of that ... queen,” Daniel responded in a controlled panic.

“Any way we can,” Jack answered.  He stood up straight, now free of his jacket and weaponry and stared at his soulmate.  “We'll get out of this.”

“We will?” Daniel asked.

“Sure.  We've been in worse situations, right?” Jack asked.

Daniel cocked his head slightly as he struggled to think if that was a true statement or not.

“Trust me,” Jack requested, gently patting Daniel on the upper arm, then nodding with his head for them to meet up with Davis.

“But, Jack ...” Daniel sighed, wanting and needing more time with his lover. ~I know -- we don't have the time.~

--

As Janet continued to tend to Teal'c's wound, Jack, Paul Davis, and Daniel circled around nearby to decide what their next move would be.

“It's out of control,” the colonel commented, his frustration evident in his harshness.  “Nobody's going back down in there.”

Major Davis agreed, “We have to blow up the sub and hope that we can contain any of the bugs that survived.”

“I think it's the only way,” Jack affirmed.

“I'll talk to the Pentagon,” Davis replied, walking off to make the phone call.

~Maybe now we can ...~  Daniel sighed as he self-hugged.  He and Jack had been left alone for all of five seconds when his lover had been called away.  ~...talk,~ he finished, watching as Jack left his side.

“Colonel?” Janet called out, waiting for Jack to join her with Teal'c.  “There's *definitely* something in here.”

~It's hopeless,~ a defeated Daniel thought, walking over to see what was happening.

~I wonder what this is,~ Janet pondered as she pulled something out that had lodged in the Jaffa's back.  She washed it and then held it up, saying, “Well, I think you brought back a souvenir.”

Daniel took the object, which looked to Jack like a Lego toy piece and to others like a piece of a puzzle, and began to examine it carefully.

====

Not long thereafter, Davis walked up to Daniel, informing him that The Dallas, one of their submarines, was standing by in the harbor.  On his command, the sub would fire its torpedoes on the Russian submarine.

“You should probably put a hold on that,” Daniel replied, standing up from his seated position.

Daniel didn't see, but his words had gotten Jack's attention.  At the moment, the colonel was checking on Teal'c's condition and was a few feet behind his archaeologist.

Daniel explained to the major, “This new block is corroded.”

Confused, Jack spoke up and questioned, “And the significance of that is?”

Hearing Jack, Daniel turned his torso around slightly, stifling the 'Ouch' that he felt from the movement.  “Okay, look,” he began, facing Paul again, “the way Sam explained this to me, the bugs use whatever raw materials are around them to replicate, right?  Now, these ones are eating the Russian submarine, which means they're basically made of steel or whatever the sub is made of.”

“That is why they are a different color,” Teal'c surmised.

“And, it may also explain why they haven't tried to get off the sub, yet,” Daniel pointed out.

“It does?” Jack asked, not understanding.

Twisting around to look at Jack again, Daniel elucidated, “They can't.  You see, they're only as resilient as the raw materials they're made of.  Uh, these ones aren't like the ones on Thor's ship.  They...they'll rust or short circuit in the water.  They're less sophisticated, and they're vulnerable.”

Puzzled and frustrated, Davis replied, “I'm sorry.  It sounds like you're *now* saying that blowing up the ship will easily destroy them.  If that's the case, why don't we do it right now?”

“Because there's still one bug that could survive,” Daniel answered with regret.

Teal'c clarified, “The one that survived Thor's ship.”

Speaking quickly and passionately, Daniel replied,  “Right.  It's the one that started all of this by killing the entire crew of that sub.  We have to be *sure* this won't happen again.”  He looked back at his lover.  **Jack, we don't have a choice.**

**I know,** Jack replied, his head bowed as a feeling of hopelessness briefly flowed through him.  ~Sometimes, I hate it when he's right.~  Nodding his head, he ordered, “Okay, let's see the pictures -- make a plan.”

The group moved to the monitors, with Jack seated where Daniel had been earlier, and began to review the images taken earlier on the Russian submarine.  When Jack saw the queen, he nicknamed it the 'mother bug'.

All realized that the situation was getting worse by the minute, especially when they watched one of the Replicators incorporating itself into the 'mother bug'.  Jack knew he had to go back to destroy the gigantic Replicator, and Teal'c volunteered to go with him, even though he was still suffering from his back wound.

“Uh, look, every other bug on that sub is probably going to be pretty upset
when you kill ... Mom,” Daniel reminded.

“Yeah, that'd be a fair reaction,” Jack agreed.

“Could we not create a diversion?” Teal'c suggested.  “The Replicators are attracted to bursts of energy, are they not?”

Thoughtfully, Jack suggested, “A small charge on the upper level, draw them away from mom.  They're in a containable situation.  Now's our shot.”

Suddenly, the Russian sub's engines started, and the group realized they needed to proceed with their plan immediately before the Replicators had a chance to submerge the sub.

Jack looked up at Daniel, but had no time to talk.  Daniel had no choice but to stand by anxiously as Jack and Teal'c prepared to go on the treacherous mission.

~I need to be there.  I'm not accomplishing anything here.  I ... I can watch their backs,~ Daniel determined, seeking out the SGC's Chief of Medicine.  “Janet ...” he called out when he caught sight of her a minute or two later.

“Daniel, we've had this discussion.  You're not going anywhere,” the physician answered, having already been alerted to the latest plan and thereby stopping the archaeologist dead in his tracks.

Daniel hung his head low as Janet walked swiftly away, not even hearing his side of it.  He was full of woe and anguish, so much so that he didn't hear his lover approach.

“She wouldn't go for it, I assume,” Jack said, unintentionally sneaking up on his lover.  Jack knew Daniel would try it and was silently relieved with Janet held her ground.  ~You're still recovering, Danny.  I'd worry about you too much, if you came with us.~

Daniel's head moved upward in a split second, almost giving him a headache from the sudden transition.

“My place is with the team,” Daniel insisted, then quietly added, “With you.”

“We need you here,” Jack spoke softly.

“Jack ... *you* need me with you,” Daniel replied.

Jack smiled, answering, “All the time.”  After a second, he looked over in the distance, spotting Paul Davis staring at them.  ~What's with him?~  He looked back at his soulmate and stated, “You're not well enough.”

“You know I can hold my own,” Daniel challenged.

“And cover my six,” Jack stated with confidence.  “I *do* know that,” he spoke assertively.  “Daniel ...”

“Colonel, if you please,” Davis called out, beckoning the colonel to join him.

“Daniel, I ...”

“Colonel O'Neill,” Hammond said, walking up to the two men.

“How's the admiral, General?” Jack asked.

“He sends his regards,” Hammond answered.  “We need to ...” the military leader spoke, motioning over towards Major Davis, indicating the need for another discussion.

Daniel watched helplessly as the major general steered Jack away from him.

~Crap!~ Daniel thought, knowing that would probably be their only chance to say goodbye before the mission team departed.  He felt so dejected and sad at being left behind when his team was going on such a dangerous mission.  ~Just ... two minutes.  Was that too much to ask for?~

Sure enough, once the details had been confirmed, Jack headed for the gear-up area.  He motioned to Daniel to join him, but at that precise moment, Hammond included Daniel on a review of procedures for those monitoring the events in the complex.

Jack wanted to speak to his lover again, too, but the time table just wasn't cooperating with them, not even after he had prepped himself for the mission, and Daniel and Hammond had finished their discussion.  Just as he was about to take Daniel aside, he was approached yet one more time by Hammond and Davis.

Firming things up, Hammond, Davis, and Jack agreed that if a nuclear explosion was what it took to rid Earth of the Replicators, then a nuclear explosion was what there would be.  Hammond reminded both men that he would not be in the hangar during the mission, but added in had faith in all of the personnel to get the job done.

“God speed, Gentlemen,” Hammond wished as he moved away.

Less than a minute later, with a sad sense of foreboding, all Daniel could do was use their silent communication to say, **I love you,** just before Jack was about to leave the facility.  Jack smiled very briefly at his lover and communicated the same before exiting.

For a minute or so, Daniel was unable to stop staring at the large opening that was the exit.  He stood quietly, self-hugging.

“Daniel, are you all right?” Paul Davis asked as he walked up to him.

Daniel turned his head to face Paul and answered, “I'm just worried about the mission, that's all.”

“Well, if anyone can do it, it's SG-1,” Paul said, having heard those words from General Hammond over and over again.

“Yes, but SG-1 isn't complete.  I should be there,” Daniel replied sharply, turning and walking away from the major.

====

“Daniel,” Davis stated formally several minutes later.  “We need to set up,” he advised, then turned to head back to the monitoring station.

“Paul,” Daniel called out, successfully stopping the major.  “I, uh, I'm sorry ... about earlier.”

The major smiled, saying, “I understand, Daniel.  You want to be with your team, on the front lines, but instead you're stuck with 'paperwork'.  I know the feeling.”

Daniel blinked, suddenly seeing not sympathy, but empathy in the man.  He knew General Hammond had similar feelings, especially since political pressures had forced him to return to the admiral's office once again when he'd much rather be on site with his SGC personnel.

“You know how I feel?” Daniel asked.

“All I do is read the mission reports from the SGC teams.  Sometimes, I get to go through the Stargate, but not only do I not have a team, but I'm usually having to fight the financial and political side of the battle when ...”

“When you're really on our side,” Daniel completed for his friend, a tiny smile on his face.

“Daniel, someone has to do what I do, and the guys at the Pentagon aren't always wrong, but sometimes ...”

“Sometimes,” Daniel said, suddenly not feeling quite so sorry for himself.  He sighed, “It's just ... this is a big one.”

“They'll come back,” Paul Davis asserted.  “They're SG-1, right?”

“Right,” Daniel responded, smiling.  “So, uh, how many monitors do we have set up this time?” he asked as the two headed over to the proper section of the complex.

====

With everything in place, the mission was proceeding as scheduled.  Jack placed the explosive charges inside the Russian sub as Daniel, once again surrounded by Siler and Davis, watched anxiously.  All of a sudden, Siler reported that the submarine was beginning to submerge, information Daniel quickly passed on to his lover over the radio.

As Jack and Teal'c headed for the battery deck to lay down more of the powerful explosive, Daniel noted, “We're losing their signal.”

Davis quickly relieved his friend's worry as he explained, “It's okay.  The sub can't dive below periscope depth running on diesel engines.”

Siler reported, “Underwater radio transmission boosters launched.”

“How do they get out if the sub's underwater?” Daniel inquired contemplatively about the two members of SG-1.

“Escape hatch,” Davis answered, his attention divided as he also talked into the phone to his superiors.

====

With the charge set, Jack and Teal'c closed the door, sealing the 'mother bug' inside.  After Jack triggered the charge, several Replicators moved away.  When Jack opened the door, he was shocked to the big Replicator virtually unharmed by the explosion.  Quickly, he tossed a grenade into the room, then closed the door to protect himself and Teal'c.

After the blast, Jack was angry to discover that the grenade didn't have any effect on the 'mother bug', either.  The Replicators were rebuilding themselves just as fast as damage was done.  Frustrated, Jack opened fire on the nasty creature, destroying it.  He and Teal'c made their way to the main exit, realizing in horror that the Replicators had built a cover over it.  Jack blasted it, but every time he did, the creatures rebuilt it.

~Okay, that's not gonna work,~ Jack thought as he and Teal'c were besieged by more of the Replicators.

~No!~ Daniel screamed inside, his body tensing as he realized Jack was becoming more anxious.  SG-1 was desperately searching for a way out, but no matter what they tried, the 'bugs' blocked their way.  **Jack, find a way out.  I *know* you can do it,** Daniel communicated, but not getting a response, he didn't think his soulmate had received the silent message.

Over the microphone, Davis asked, “Colonel O'Neill, is there any way you can make it to the escape hatch?”

Jack didn't respond, but moments later, Siler noted, “The anchor line just snapped.”

“Is there anything we can do?” the fretting archaeologist asked.

Davis answered, “The best thing we can do right now is try and chase them into shallower water and hope that they surface.”

“No, there's not enough time for that,” Daniel refuted as his heart rate increased along with his blood pressure.  ~There has to be something we can do.~

Jack tried to make his way to the escape hatch, but there were too many Replicators blocking the path.  It was hopeless.  They had nowhere else to turn.  He knew it was either SG-1 or the planet.  There was no choice.

“You better go ahead and blow this thing!” Jack exclaimed over the radio.

~No, he didn't just say that.  There's always an 'or',~ Daniel desperately thought as he studied the schematics of the sub, desperately looking for a way out.  “That's not exactly a positive attitude, Jack!”  ~I won't let you die.~

Angrily, Jack removed his helmet, looked into the camera that was mounted on it, and shouted sternly, “LISTEN TO ME!  WE ARE NOT GETTING OUT OF HERE!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  BLOW IT!”  ~I'm sorry, Danny, but there isn't time to argue about this.~

“JACK ...” Daniel shouted, having no intention of letting his soulmate die in front of his eyes.  **I can't, Jack.**

“DANIEL, PLEASE!” Jack shouted.  **It's not just about us,** he communicated, though he wasn't sure Daniel could hear him or not.

Static interrupted the colonel's next harsh words, but Daniel knew his lover didn't want to be eaten by Replicators.

~There's always an 'or'.  You promised me, Jack,~ Daniel said inwardly as his eyes became misty, and he grimaced from his anguish.

~Danny, I understand, but this needs to be done,~ Jack thought, realizing his lover wouldn't give the order.  The colonel fully in charge and suppressing the man who wanted to comfort his soulmate, Jack shouted, “DAVIS, GIVE THE ORDER!”

Davis put the phone down to his shoulder and stared at Daniel.  He'd just been given a direct order by a superior officer, an order that had been discussed earlier in the day and mandated by General Hammond as well.

~Okay, court-martial me, but I'm not doing this, Colonel,~ Davis thought.  He stared at Daniel, not realizing how much trouble he himself was having breathing.  ~It's up to you, Daniel.  I won't give the order without your permission.  Technically, you outrank us all, anyway.~  Davis grimaced, knowing that was a stretch since Hammond had already dictated the way things should go, but still, the major hesitated.  ~It's up to you, Daniel. I'll deal with the consequences later.~

~Gawd, Paul's staring at me.  Everyone is staring,~ Daniel realized as the tears began to fall.  ~Why are they waiting on me?  Why?  I'm just an archaeologist.  I'm ... I'm just his ... lover.~

Another couple of tears fell, again without interference as the despairing scientist watched Jack and Teal'c fire in vain at their attackers.  He prayed he'd wake up to find this was just another nightmare.  He'd had so many frightening nightmares in his lifetime.  Why couldn't this be just be another one?

In front of his eyes, Daniel was watching the murder of his soulmate as well as a good friend.  He didn't care about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' at the moment.  All he cared about was finding an 'or'.

Yet, watching the 'bugs' attacking Jack and Teal'c, preparing to eat the two men alive, Daniel knew the kind thing to do was to cut out his own heart.  He glanced very quickly at Siler and then at Davis, seeing both still awaiting his decision.  He didn't have to look around him to feel the eyes of all the other nearby personnel centered on him, either.

Though his head was throbbing, the civilian dug deep within himself for courage and acquiesced, saying, “Okay, okay!”

~You're a brave man, Daniel,~ Davis thought, after which he ordered into the phone, “Fire on target.”

Siler began his report, saying, “Dallas is firing torpedoes.”

~I love you, Jack,~ Daniel softly and silently intoned.

“Eight seconds to impact,” Siler stated matter-of-factly.

~This can't be real.~

“Blackbird attempting evasive maneuver,” Siler informed the group.

~It really is a nightmare, right, Jack?  Any second now, you're going to wake me up and tell me this is nothing but a freakin' nightmare ... right?~

Siler reported, “Torpedoes still on target.”

~You've made me happier than I ever could have imagined, Jack.  I ... why is this happening?~ the archaeologist bewailed to himself.

“Three seconds,” the sergeant announced.

~Seconds.  We had no choice, did we?  No ... 'or' this time,~ Daniel reluctantly acknowledged as he steeled himself to prepare for the end of life, Jack's and his own.

Siler reported, “Direct hit.”

Davis couldn't watch, his head bowed the entire time Siler spoke, but Daniel bravely maintained his view, unwilling to let his soulmate die alone.

“Jack,” Daniel spoke almost inaudibly.  **I love you.  I'll ... I'll be with you soon.  I promise, Jack.  I promise!**

Daniel watched with an aching heart as Jack fell down to the ground, Replicators surrounding him.  One began crawling on his back.

Suddenly, Jack took note of something that horrified him even more than the crisis he was in -- the camera mounted on his helmet was still working, and it was pointed straight at him.  Though about to be consumed by mechanical 'bugs', the one thing on his mind was his soulmate, his Daniel, and he knew with absolute certainty that Daniel was watching every second of this torture.

~This is my last gift I can give you in this life, Angel,~ Jack thought as he lunged for the helmet, intending to either point the camera in another direction or knock it completely out of the way.

**Soon, Jack.  I'll be there soon,** the archaeologist vowed at about the same time, though he was pretty sure his lover couldn't hear him.  Still, he remembered their pact, one he fully intended to follow through with.  **You are my life.  There's nothing here for me without you.  You ... you've given me life, so ... so now, we'll discover whatever the future is together.  Wait for me, Love.  I ... I won't let you be alone.**

Daniel saw Jack lunging for something and wondered if he was trying to swipe a Replicator out of the way with his hand, but then he knew.

~No, Jack.  I ... I have to watch,~ Daniel sadly concluded, prepared to witness every moment of his lover's demise.

Then, without warning, a flash of light appeared, jump starting Daniel's heart.  He pulled off his headset, blinking rapidly as he made sense of what he had just witnessed.

“They're okay!” Daniel announced, stunning others who hadn't had the nerve to watch the deaths of their comrades happen on the screens.  ~Jack, you're okay!~

Davis, still rubbing his forehead in sadness, looked up, completely stunned, and asked, “What?”

Stuttering from his excitement and relief, Daniel answered, “The ... the ... the ... th...th...they're okay!”  The archaeologist was pointing upward, a smile on his face as the reality sank in.  **Jack?  Gawd, Jack!  I love you!**

~I don't believe it,~ Davis thought, placing his hand on Daniel's shoulder encouragingly.  ~I hope he really did see what he thinks he saw and isn't cracking up.~

Daniel's smile was broad, and it was one neither Davis nor Siler were used to seeing.  Everyone noticed Daniel's emotion, his joy at the recovery of his friends.  They couldn't help it.  A smiling Daniel was not often seen at Cheyenne Mountain or by his coworkers, and several couldn't help but smile in response.  For others, it stirred their suspicions and created feed for the gossiping mill.

~I knew there was something between him and the colonel.  First, he's crying, and now he looks like he just won the lottery,~ one airman thought.

~He's awfully cute when he smiles.  He should smile more.  Maybe I could give him something to smile about,~ a female sergeant pondered, biting on her pencil which she held between her lips, as she gazed at the sexy archaeologist.

~He's a queer.  I'll bet it drives O'Neill crazy to have him on his team.  He's too macho for that <expletive,~ a Marine opined silently as he watched the situation play out.  ~Look at Davis, drooling over Jackson; he's probably one of them, too.~

~Thank you, Thor,~ Daniel thought, still smiling at the now static-filled screens and feeling his pulse racing with excitement.

Major Davis truly wanted to believe, but the only proof of the rescue was Daniel.

“Let's see the playback,” the major requested, wanting to confirm Daniel's words.  Siler rewound the event, and this time, everyone in the vicinity of the monitors saw what Daniel had -- an unmistakable flash of light just before Jack and Teal'c disappeared.  A split second later, the nuclear explosion occurred.  “It's a miracle,” Davis noted quietly.

“Yes, it is,” Daniel agreed, swallowing hard as he looked over at Paul, another tear wetting his cheek.  “Excuse me,” he said, getting up and hurrying out of the complex, running past Janet.  ~Space:  I need ... space to ... to bre...breathe.~

“Daniel ...” Janet called out.

“I'll check on him, Doctor,” Paul Davis said, hurrying past the physician.  ~I should have given the order,~ he told himself as he realized the position he had placed the civilian in.

====

Outside, Paul searched for Daniel, finding him hunched over, hands on his knees, staring out at the ocean.

“Daniel, are you okay?” Paul asked, reaching over and touching the man's upper back.

“I'm fine,” Daniel lied, feeling his body trembling from the aftermath of what had happened.  He jerked upward, taking a step back.  He didn't want Paul to know how shaky he really was.  ~Think about Jack,~ he told himself as encouragement.

“I'm sorry,” Paul stated, backing off slightly himself.  He looked around, seeing a Marine staring in their direction.  As he stared back, the Marine returned inside the hangar.  With a sigh, he looked back at Daniel and opined, “I should have given the order.”

Now self-hugging, Daniel shook his head, refuting, “No, that ... that was my responsibility.”

“I've oftentimes wondered if you were aware that, by protocol, you are on par with Colonel O'Neill,” Davis revealed.

“I ... try not to think about it,” Daniel admitted, though as the months passed, his position within the SGC was clearly elevating.  “He's ... my teammate and, uh, my best friend.  It was my place to give the order.”  He cringed, then corrected himself, saying, “The...they both are.  I mean, Jack and Teal'c -- teammates and, uh ... uh, friends.”

~He's very nervous for some reason.  Cripes, Paul, you aren't exactly your best right now, either,~ Davis thought as he nodded and walked forward a few steps, placing Daniel on his right side.  Looking out on the calm ocean as he stated, “I know it wasn't easy.”

“No, it wasn't,” Daniel agreed, also staring out on the waters, wishing Jack would get back soon.

“So, I guess we can assume Major Carter was able to help Thor?” Davis stated as a question.

“That would make sense.  I just wish Thor would ...” Daniel began, his words ebbing as a familiar flash of light out of the corner of his eye caused him to blink.

“Daniel!” Jack called out, motioning for Davis to leave the two alone.

As he turned around, Daniel's eyes were wide, amazed that his wish for Thor to return Jack soon had been unexpectedly granted.

Pleased to accommodate his superior, Paul Davis walked towards the hangar, stated a congratulatory word or two as he passed Jack, and then met up with Sam and Teal'c.  Chatting words of greetings and 'jobs well done' as they walked up the steps that led inside the facility, the three then paused, each giving Jack and Daniel one more look before turning and going inside to discuss everything that had transpired during the very intense mission.

Stopping two feet from Daniel, Jack grinned and offered, “If you want me to retire, I'm willing to tell the regulations where to go right here and now.”

“Gawd, I want that, but ...”  Daniel paused, his eyes still moist.  Part of him wanted that more than anything he'd ever desired in life, but he also knew that he'd feel too guilty about ending his lover's career and deserting their teammates when the war with the Goa'uld was still raging strongly to allow it to really happen.  “Jack, get us home ... fast ... please.”

“I'll do my best, but Hammond's going to want a briefing,” Jack stated.

“Plane.  Jack, do it on the plane,” Daniel suggested emotionally, knowing the trip home would be difficult as they pretended to be 'just' best friends and nothing more.

“That's my genius,” Jack spoke with a cracked voice.  “The sooner we get inside, the so...”

“Let's go,” Daniel ordered, brushing by Jack, their shoulders touching.

“I love you, Space Monkey,” Jack whispered.

“I love you, too.  Home, Jack ... soon,” Daniel begged and then semi-jogged back inside the complex, fearing he would give in to his heart if he didn't put a bit of distance between them at the moment.

Jack looked back at the ocean, saying, “We win again, but crap, why does he always have to suffer so much?”

Jogging his way to the hangar, Jack was already formulating his plan.  He knew Hammond was frustrated at having had to spend most of the time during the crisis with the admiral, and he figured he could use that to his advantage, perhaps even convincing his CO to take some downtime of his own as soon as they got back to the Mountain.

~Yeah, that'll work,~ Jack told himself, a smile on his face as he headed up the hangar's steps.  ~I'll make it work.~

====

Daniel didn't know how Jack convinced General Hammond, but when the major general returned from his meeting with the Navy admiral, somehow he did, and so, as the group flew back to Colorado Springs, a debriefing was held.  They went over a tentative review of everything that had happened on the submarine and also learned about Sam's experience with the Asgard.

“They were building a new ship, The O'Neill,” Sam reported.

“Yeah?  Big with huge, honkin' weapons, right?” Jack asked in a boastful tone, not really knowing much about the ship named in his honor other than it had existed ... briefly.

“Uh, well, Sir, that was the intent, but ...”

“But what, Carter?” Jack asked, sitting back in his seat, letting his shoulder touch Daniel's for a moment.

“As you know, Sir, we had to blow it up,” Sam commented, reminding Jack that he had first learned about the ship named after him after Thor had rescued him and Teal'c from the Russian sub.

“You blew me up?” Jack asked, feigning innocence.

All eyes were on Jack, some going back to Sam, many trying to hide their laugh at the unintended innuendo.

“No, Sir, we destroyed the ship to save the Asgard home world,” Sam answered.  She elucidated, “It was difficult at first, figuring out how dumb I needed to be.  The Asgard fleet is fast, but the Replicators were moving slowly.  Thor told me that in order to generate the subspace field required to travel at hyperspeed, the full power of the generators was required.”

“And, why weren't the Replicators doing that?” Hammond questioned.

“They were ... replicating, Sir,” Sam answered.  “Also, moving at hyperspeed would have resulted in the lack of shields and weapons.”

“Major, how did the Replicators get control of the Asgard ships in the first place?” Davis asked.

“According to Thor, they modified the Asgard technology to a level that went far beyond even the Asgard's level of understanding.”

“Smart bugs,” Jack quipped in a whiny tone, clearing unhappy 'his' ship had been destroyed.

“Way smarter than we are,” Daniel added wryly.  “So, Sam, they had to gain knowledge from other ... species then?”

“That's what Thor thought,” the blonde confirmed.  “In fact, we assumed that the only reason the Replicators didn't get more aggressive with us was because the Asgard's technology was less advanced than the ships or vessels they already occupy.”

“Scary thought,” Jack contemplated, leaning forward again and clasping his hands together as he listened.  “Someone out there has techno gizmos better than the Asgard?  Whoa!”

“So, what happened?” Daniel inquired, not really wanting to think about that at the moment.

“I got tired and hungry,” Sam responded.

“Carter!” Jack spat, not wanting to deal with unnecessary details.

“Actually, Colonel, that is important to know.  I started thinking about the Replicators.  They don't sleep, but they do eat, and, like the old saying goes, you ...”

“... are what you eat,” Daniel said in unison with his friend.

“Exactly,” Sam responded with a smile.  “Thor told me that the Asgard had just developed a new alloy of naquadah, trinium, and carbon which was used to create the hull of The O'Neill.  He also confirmed that The O'Neill could be flown on auto-pilot.”

“Which meant ...” Jack prodded.

“Dessert!” Sam boasted.  “The O'Neill looked like one great, big, tasty dessert that the Replicators couldn't resist.”

“*You* blew up my ship!” Jack accused, rising from his seat, having fun with mock ire since he needed a distraction from the intensity of the day.

“Jack, sit down,” Daniel said, pulling his lover back down.

“It was an all-you-can-eat buffet, Colonel, and our only chance.  We rigged it to self-destruct.  If it means anything, Sir, Thor wasn't fond of the idea at first, either,” Sam confessed with a shrug.

“It doesn't help,” Jack whined, causing Daniel to roll his eyes.

“Continue, Major,” Hammond ordered.

“I convinced Thor that it was our best shot at destroying the 'bugs'.  They wouldn't be able to pass up the ship, so they'd have to go into hyperspace to follow The O'Neill.  When they did, their shields and weapons would be disabled.  It was the perfect opportunity to destroy them,” Sam stated.

“That was risky, Sam,” Daniel stated.  “If it hadn't worked ...”

“I know, Daniel.  I told Thor that if the self-destruct failed, the Replicators would consume the ship, absorb its technology, and then they would be the most advanced Replicators out there.  It was a huge risk,” Sam acknowledged.  “He refused at first.”

“I knew I liked him,” Jack spoke quietly about Thor.

Ignoring her CO's comment, Sam continued, “I reminded Thor about why he had asked for my help in the first place.”

“To dumb down,” Jack interjected.

Sam bobbed her head back and forth a few times and said, “Uh, yes.  He had to let go of his own instincts and trust me.  We had to use what we knew about their patterns of aggression against them, or fail.”

“So, you blew up my ship,” Jack said dejectedly.

“Yes, Sir, we blew up ... your ship,” Sam admitted.  “The 'bugs' took the bait, and The O'Neill and three of their ships were destroyed.  We were a success.”

“Being dumb is something we're all good at, Carter,” Jack joked lightly.

“Colonel, what happened when Thor beamed you to the Asgard vessel?” Hammond asked.

“We said hello, exchanged victory high-fives, shared war stories ...” Jack began.

“Thor beamed us back, Sir ... as soon as he could,” Sam admitted with a sly smile.

“Thor needs a better sense of humor,” Jack added.  More seriously, he added, “General, Thor did say he owed us one, and the Asgard would help us with the Goa'uld.”

“That's good to know, Colonel,” Hammond responded with a firm smile.

“There's a catch,” Jack announced, pausing before he explained, “There are more Replicators out there.  Essentially, Sir, we won a skirmish, maybe a battle, but definitely, not the war.”

“I understand, Colonel,” Hammond acknowledged with a sigh.

“General,” an airman called out.  “We'll be landing in five minutes.”

“Thank you, Airman,” Hammond replied.  “We'll hold a more detailed briefing in forty-eight hours.  SG-1, after Doctor Fraiser clears you, you're free to go.  Get some rest.  You've earned it.”

“Thank you, General,” the entire team responded, then smiled at each other.

**How'd you convince him, Jack?** Daniel asked as he buckled himself in.

**He loves me,** Jack quipped.

**No way, Babe!  That's *my* job,** Daniel responded.

**All yours, Love,** Jack agreed, looking at Daniel and smiling.

====

Finally, the lovers arrived at Jack's country-style home.  Daniel had already told him about how emotional he had been, adding that Sam would have to put in some overtime with their cover-up game, of pretending to be involved with Jack in some non-professional way .  Part of the younger man was certain Jack would be angry with him, but he was wrong, big time.

Jack held his Love, running his fingers through Daniel's hair and placing lots of light kisses on his head as Daniel nuzzled into him.  It felt so good to be holding each other again, and they planned to do it for two solid days without distraction.

“I'm proud of you, Danny, and, by the way, just how close *was* Major Davis sitting to you?” Jack asked, letting his Mr. Jealousy sneak out.

“Jack!” Daniel groaned in disbelief.

“Just asking, Daniel, and wondering where the good major would be most effectively used.  He apparently has some talents I wasn't aware of until now, and ...” Jack began, his mind working on several scenarios that would keep Paul Davis away from his lover permanently.  ~I heard the stories, and he *has* to go.~

“JACK!” Daniel warned more sternly.

Jack chuckled lightly and responded soothingly, “Shhh, Danny.  I was only saying that he is a man of many skills, and I think I should make sure he gets to use those skills where it will be safe.”

“Safe for who, Jack?” Daniel inquired as his hands snaked under Jack's pull over shirt to warm the older man's skin.

“Safe for Major Davis, Daniel,” Jack truthfully answered.

Daniel stared into Jack's eyes, knowing it was going to happen, but not certain exactly how or when.  Paul was about to be removed from their lives. He'd live, but Daniel wouldn't be having any lunches with the man for a while.  Jack didn't need to say it for Daniel to know it was the truth.

“Jack ...”

“Danny, do you want to stand here and talk about Paul Davis or ...” the older man smirked, pretty confident as to what the answer would be.

“Gawd, I want the 'or', so bad,” Daniel said, willing to sacrifice his friend for his lover.  In fact, he needed to.  He couldn't stand the memory of the last couple of weeks.  “I need you, Jack,” he admitted.

“You're still recovering,” Jack commented softly and then placed a kiss on Daniel's lips.

“You talked to Janet,” Daniel deduced as his hands slipped down, reaching inside Jack's khaki pants.

“Yeah, I did,” Jack admitted and then nibbled on his lover's right ear.

“And?” Daniel prodded.

“And ... we take it easy, but ...”

“I love your butt,” Daniel chuckled.

“It's all yours,” Jack stated, kissing Daniel again and then leading him upstairs to the master bedroom.

====

The next morning, the lovers lay together, though Daniel was the one on his back with Jack leaning lightly against his chest and Daniel carding his fingers through the older man's silver-gray hair.

Jack scrunched down and gently placed a trail of kisses around Daniel's healing appendix scar.

“Any pain?” Jack asked.

“All I feel right now, Jack, is ... is life,” Daniel spoke quietly.  “I thought it was over ... for both of us,” he stated in a whisper.

Jack moved back up, caressing his lover's cheek with his right hand as he replied, “Life is just beginning for us, Angel.  We're forever.  You remember that.”

“I'm ... trying to, but it got a little hard to do after you told me to blow up the submarine,” the younger man admitted.

“I know,” Jack intoned, leaning over for a kiss.  “I'm going to pamper you for the next couple of days.”

“I thought I'd pamper you,” Daniel intoned, smiling.

“How about we pamper each other?” Jack suggested.

“I always knew there was a diplomat inside of you somewhere,” Daniel stated.

“Not at the moment, but there sure was last night,” Jack teased.

“Jack!” Daniel laughed.  “You're so bad.”

“Why, thank you, Doctor Jackson,” Jack teased before engaging in several more kisses.  “Are you scarred for life?” he chuckled a minute later.

“Mentally or physically?” Daniel joked.

“I'll handle the mental,” Jack responded seriously.

“I'll ... I'll ...”

“You'll let me,” Jack spoke for his lover.  After Daniel nodded shyly, the colonel prodded, “So ...”

“No.  Janet says it will mostly fade.  Does it ... matter?” Daniel asked, half-seriously.

“Daniel, you're beautiful to me.  I love you *and* your scar.  Besides, that scar means the Doc was able to save you for me, and that means life,” Jack answered.

Daniel shifted slightly, reaching up to cup his lover's face and requesting, “Tell me.”

Jack quickly accommodated his life partner, saying, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel emotionally spoke and then led his lover into a new round of lovemaking.

====

Two nights later, Jack and Daniel were on the roof deck, Jack's back to the wall with Daniel seated in front of him.  As always, Jack's arms wrapped around his lover as Daniel rested his head against his lover's left shoulder.

“Danny, tell me the truth.  How's the pain tonight?” Jack asked.

“It's not bad.  I admit that sometimes when I move quickly or awkwardly, it still bothers me, but it's a lot less than it was at first.  I couldn't even sit up that day in the infirmary,” Daniel responded, referring back to their 'good-bye' scene when Jack was supposed to go fishing alone at the cabin.

“I can't believe you didn't know you were having an appendicitis attack.  I always thought that hurt *way* too much to be ignored,” Jack remarked.

Daniel shrugged lightly as his hands rubbed gently over Jack's, answering, “I didn't, Babe.  I've felt worse with the flu.  Even after Janet told us what it was, I kept thinking she was wrong.”

“The Doc knows her stuff,” Jack stated.

“She let me get away with a lot while you, Sam, and Teal'c were gone,” Daniel stated.

“Is there a story there?” Jack asked as he leaned forward to kiss Daniel's nape, causing the younger man to smile from the touch.

“Not really.  Jack, we're supposed to go back tomorrow,” Daniel reminded.

“Too soon?” Jack asked.

“I ... Jack, let's go to the cabin.  You just saved the world again, so ...”

“Twice!” Jack interjected boastfully, knowing it also gave him a lot of maneuvering power with Hammond at the moment.

“Can you pull some strings?” the younger man asked vulnerably.

“I can pull a lot of strings,” Jack stated, determined to do anything to make his lover smile.  Clearly, Daniel needed more time to revel in their nation of two, and if that is what he needed, that's what Daniel was going to get.  “I'll get us four days,” he spoke confidently.

“Are you sure?” Daniel asked, his eyes shining in the moonlight as he gazed into Jack's chocolate brown eyes.

“I'm positive,” Jack replied, leaning in for a kiss.  “I can't believe they blew up my ship,” he whined, shaking his head.

Daniel chuckled, welcoming the normalcy of their conversation.  He didn't know how Jack would do it, but he was certain that in the morning, the two would be on the road to Minnesota and four days of heaven.

~Heaven?  Happiness?  I ... I want to be happy, and you're ... you're my definition of 'happy',~ Daniel thought as he listened to his lover rant about the blown up ship.  ~Oh, yeah, this is ... happy,~ he thought as Jack's voice circulated throughout the air.  “Jack?”

“What, Love?” Jack asked.

“I love you,” Daniel said, saying the words first, something he did a tad more now, but still not all that often.

It was still more usual for Jack to say words of endearment first, so anytime Daniel took the initiative, Jack's heart sang and his spirit soared.

“Forever and always, Angel, I love you,” Jack crooned, treasuring Daniel's words even more than usual.

Daniel smiled, adding, “For...forever.”

As the lovers kissed, any pain Daniel was feeling vanished, replaced with only the joy of Jack's love.

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