This Old Man

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, H/C, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  3
Spoilers:  A Matter of Time, Holiday, Out of Mind, Into the Fire
Size:  102kb
Written:  June 18-19,24, September 5-8,10-11,15, 2004  Revised for consistency:  January 20, 2007
Summary:  Daniel worries about Jack's health.  Meanwhile, Jack is afraid the truth will cost him everything.
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 fic(s), “I'm Fine,” “Beach Blanket Blond,” “Silver Linings,” “Out of the Fire, Into Our Souls,” “Anniversary”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Brenda, QuinGem, Kalimyre, Brandy, Sue B., Drdjlover, Kat, Claudia!

This Old Man
by Orrymain

====
--Four Months Earlier
====

**Danny?**

**I'm here.  So is General Hammond and ... just about everyone else.  You're okay, Jack.**

Jack opened his eyes slowly, his eyelids fluttering a few times as he did so.  He focused on Daniel, taking in the shape and form of the man he loved.  He felt groggy, a little confused, and exhausted, but seeing Daniel made the world worth living in.

“Hey, Jack.  Did I miss anything?” Daniel asked, self-hugging as he looked at Jack lying in the hospital bed.

Daniel had been off-world when calamity had struck Earth.  A black hole had more or less taken hold of the Stargate, and the SGC had had to sever the connection or Earth would be swallowed up by the hole.  In the end, a bomb had been released through the Stargate, effectively ending the connection, but in the process, Jack had been severely injured.

It was killing the archaeologist not to be able to comfort his lover.  Surrounded by the rest of the team and a room full of medical staff, all Daniel could was stand there and stare at Jack, hoping the older man knew that he wanted to do so much more.

“I made it?”

With appreciation in his voice, Hammond answered, “We all made it, thanks to you and Captain Carter.”

“How?”

“Teal'c managed to pull you far enough away from the bomb before
it went off,” Sam explained.

Jack looked to the Jaffa and said, “Thanks.”

“You are welcome.”

Sam explained further what had happened as Jack listened.  His eyes, though, were focused on his lover.  He couldn't help but notice how rigidly Daniel was standing and how tightly his hands gripped his forearms.  He saw the intense look, Daniel's unwavering focus on him.

~Geez, he's scared.~  **Danny, I'll be okay.**

**You almost died.**

**But I didn't.  I'm okay.**

“The majority of the blast energy went right where it was
supposed to. The wormhole jumped to P2A-270, and once it did that, we shut it off,” Sam concluded.

Hearing his 2IC stop talking, Jack knew he had to say something.  Of course, the problem was, he had stopped listening to her explanation and instead had been silently chatting with the man who was his heart.

~Okay, O'Neill, she's stopped prattling.  She was explaining what happened sooooo she must have said how she saved the day.  Fake it.~ “Good thinking, Captain.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Sam said, smiling at the compliment.

~Good.  A 'thank you' works every time.~

Hammond added, “A new trinium-strengthened iris is being installed right now.  We should be back in business in no time.”

“What day is it?” Jack asked, completely exhausted by his experience and injuries, not to mention all the thinking he'd been doing in the last two minutes.

Daniel answered, “Well, this might be a little difficult to accept, but since you reported for duty yesterday, two weeks have actually gone by.”  **And I've hated every second of it.**

“Two weeks? Think I'll sleep in.”  **Don't leave, Danny.**

**Not going anywhere.  Sleep, Jack.**

With a smile, Hammond said, “You do that.”

As everyone began to filter out of the infirmary, the General noticed Daniel had stayed behind.

“Son, why don't you go get some rest?”

“Me?”

“You had a difficult time when you were off-world.”

“Not as bad as,” Daniel looked at Jack, “as, uh, everyone had it here.  I'm fine, General.”

Hammond looked at Jack and then back at Daniel and nodded.  He knew the two men were close and decided not to interfere with Daniel's desire to remain behind.  When Hammond left the room, Daniel turned back and stared at his lover.

~I was scared, Jack.  I didn't know what was happening.  Then, I get home, and you're fighting for your life.  Gawd.~

“Daniel,” Janet said, returning to Jack's bedside.  “You need to get some rest.”

“I'm fine, Janet.”

“Daniel, Colonel O'Neill is probably going to be asleep for hours.  He ...”

“Not if everyone doesn't stop talking,” Jack grumbled softly.

“I'm sorry, Colonel, but I was trying to convince your friend here to get some rest.”

“Come on, Doc.  Let him stay.”

“Stay?”

“I need someone to hold my hand,” Jack teased with a smile, only it wasn't a tease.  He really didn't want Daniel to go.  Jack, too, had been scared.  **Don't let her kick you out.**

“Janet, I'm just going to sit down here for a while, okay?”

“Why do I even try?”

“Good question.”

“And that, Colonel O'Neill, will get you an extra shot where you hate it the most ... and I'll be using the big one.”

“Promises, promises.”

“Sleep, Jack.  Daniel, please don't stay all night.  He's fine.”

Daniel sat on the chair, still self-hugging.  Jack wanted to say something, but exhaustion claimed him within a minute of closing his eyes again.  All he had time to say was a silent **I love you.**
 
====

“Hey, Babe,” Daniel smiled as he entered the master bedroom, having let himself into Jack's house.  “Are you sure you're ready to go back to work?”

The older man had been on medical leave for one week, following a six-day stay in the infirmary.  His injuries had been severe -- a jarred knee,  concussion, internal bleeding, multiple lacerations, and, one of the scariest things for Jack at the time, dizziness and blurred vision.  Numerous neurological tests had been done.  Fortunately, after a few days, his vision had cleared up, and the doctors had found no permanent damage.

Though Jack was now cleared to return to work, Daniel was still worried.  He loved the older man with all his heart, and the thought of something happening to him, caused Daniel to feel sick inside.

Daniel had stayed with him through most of the convalescence, only returning to his apartment for a few hours at a time.  Last night, however, he had spent the entire night there, though he didn't get much sleep.  He couldn't stand the separation, something that scared him on several levels.  Daniel didn't have time to think about that at the moment, though.  He had just needed to see Jack before they went to the SGC, so he dropped by the house on the way to the Mountain.

“Hey, Danny,” Jack greeted his lover, immediately scooping him into his arms.  He had heard the door open downstairs and knew it was Daniel because suddenly, the house seemed alive.  It didn't make sense, but Jack was in love, so in a way, it did.  “I didn't know you were coming here before going to the Mountain.”

“I ... it's just I ...”

“I love you, Danny,” Jack intoned cheerfully.

With a smile, the younger man replied, “I love you, too, and I missed you last night.”

“I wish you had stayed here.”

“I can't stay here all the time, Jack,” Daniel stated.  It was a line he'd uttered before and probably would again.  Jack was always asking him to stay.  While he liked being asked, and wanted, his insecurities kept him from settling into that solid of a routine.  ~I want to, but I can't.~

“Why not?”

“Jack, be serious, and answer my question,” Daniel insisted as his hands roamed up and down his lover's back.

“I'm ready.”

“You sure?  You had some nasty injuries, Jack.  I was scared.  Gawd, I came back from a dig with SG-6 and find you practically dead in the infirmary.  It ... gawd,” Daniel repeated, suddenly trembling from the nightmarish memory.

Jack brought him close, wrapping his arms around Daniel as he spoke, “At least you would have been safe.”

~What?~  Daniel tensed immediately at hearing Jack's words.  He responded, “Safe?  Jack, I would have been ...”

Daniel shook his head against Jack's shoulder.  He couldn't talk about this.  Had the black hole swallowed up the Earth, Daniel would have lived his life out on a strange world, alone, having lost everything.  He couldn't imagine going on after yet another loss.  His parents, his grandfather, Sha're, and then Jack?  It frightened the younger man, and now, he nuzzled into Jack for both warmth and security.

“It's okay, Danny.  I understand, but everything's fine now.”

“Is it?” Daniel asked, pulling back to look into Jack's eyes.  He brought his hands up to caress Jack's face.  “Jack, are you sure you're all right?”

“I'm fine.  Good as new even.  I missed you last night, Danny.  Tonight, you're mine.”

Daniel smiled, and then they kissed again before heading downstairs and leaving for Cheyenne Mountain.

====
--Three Months Earlier
====

Thanks to one of Ma'chello's Goa'uld-fighting inventions that allowed two people to exchange their conscious minds, Jack was now in Teal'c's body, and Teal'c was in Jack's.  Daniel was, unfortunately, in the dying body of the very old Ma'chello while the inventive creator was in the archaeologist's body.

Up until a minute earlier, Ma'chello had refused to assist Sam in making things right, in returning each person to their correct body, but now, after speaking with Daniel, he had agreed.

Immediately, Sam called for Jack and Teal'c to come to the infirmary.

“What's going on, Captain?” Jack asked.

“I think I may have come up with a solution to this whole mess.”

“Finally.”

“Well, whatever you're gonna do, do it fast,” Janet warned, knowing that Ma'chello's body only had minutes remaining, if that, and if that body died, it was taking Daniel with it.

“All right, it's a little complicated so I need you to do exactly as I say,” Sam began.  “We're going to have to play a little musical chairs with your bodies.  First, Colonel, you and Ma'chello will switch.”

They went to the machine and switched bodies, leaving Jack in Daniel's body.

~Geez, he's young and ... healthy.  I can't remember the last time I felt this good.  Crap.  Stay in shape, O'Neill.  Can't lose him.  Coffee.  Why do I want coffee?  And chocolate.  Oh boy, do I want some chocolate,~ Jack thought.

“How do you feel, physically?” Sam asked.

“Peachy.”  In Daniel's body, Jack looked over at his own body and suddenly felt something react, for lack of a better word.  He looked down at the body he currently possessed.  ~Oh crap!~  Then he smiled.  ~Danny!  You want me!~  Then he panicked.  ~Goa'uld.  Kinsey.~  That did it.  ~Whew!~

At the same time Jack was realizing how Daniel's body reacted to Jack's body, and then panicking from the result, Sam had Teal'c (in Jack's body) switch with Daniel (in Ma'chello's body).

“Whoa, what a dream.  What happened?” Daniel asked, now existing inside of Jack's body.

“I don't have time to explain right now, Daniel; just bear with me.”

“Okay.”

From behind him, Daniel heard his own voice, which was really Jack, now inhabiting Daniel's body.

“Dannyboy!”

Surprised and a bit confused, Daniel turned and asked, “Jack?”

**Come on, Danny.  I know this is weird, but Carter's fixing it,** Jack communicated in a fairly good-natured beat.

**Very weird.  Very ... very weird.**

Jack used his finger to motion Daniel towards him, so Daniel went to stand at his side.

Both felt better now that they were standing side-by-side, though Daniel was still very confused by it all.  It had felt like a dream when he had been in Ma'chello's dying body, and now, it seemed surreal to be in his lover's body.

~Ow.  Weird.  Gawd, Jack, that knee aches.  Janet had you on medication after the accident last month.  You'd better talk to her again.  You might have jarred it more than you thought,~ Daniel theorized.

As the lovers stood together, Sam had Ma'chello (in Teal'c's body) switch with Teal'c who was currently in the dying body of Ma'chello.

“I am myself again.  Thank you, CaptainCarter,” Teal'c spoke with gratitude after the machine ceased functioning.

“Anytime,” Sam spoke and then motioned towards Jack and Daniel.

Jack put his arm around Daniel and said, “Our turn,”.  After they had switched back into their own bodies, he opined, ~I may be older, but at least this body is mine.  I love my body; fits like a glove.~

~Glad that's over,~ Daniel admitted.  Then he made himself a mental note.  ~Don't forget to ask Jack about his knee.~

As he lay on his deathbed, Ma'chello said a calm, “Thank you for my holiday.”

The elderly scientist took his last breath with Daniel looking down at him.  It was a sad ending to a crazy time, but General Hammond was just glad to have his team back.

“Welcome back, SG-1,” the major general said a moment later.

====

“That was a trip,” Jack stated lightheartedly as he held Daniel in his arms.

The lovers and teammates had finished out their day at the SGC and then headed to Daniel's apartment.  As soon as they had locked the door, Jack took Daniel into his arms.

“Yeah.  It was ... different,” Daniel agreed.

Cocking his head to the side a bit, Jack confided, “I'll admit I was a little scared there for a while.  I kept hoping I was dreaming.”

“Jack, when I was in Ma'chello's body, why weren't ...” Daniel stopped, moving out of Jack's embrace.  “I need to feed my fish,” he said in a strange non sequitur, moving to get the fish food.

Halfway to the fish tank, Daniel felt a light pressure on his arm, and then he was swung around to face Jack.

“Junior needed attention,” Jack explained, not needing to hear the full question.  “I was in Teal'c's body, and he had to teach me how to do that kelno'reem thing. Danny, that's the only reason I wasn't there.  Hammond and Fraiser both wanted us kept under watch.”

“Oh,” the archaeologist said softly, realizing his lover's response made sense.

“I love you, Danny.”

“I know.”

“Do you?” Jack challenged, his head giving a slight nod in his inquiry.

Bashfully, Daniel nodded and then found himself being ravished by his lover.

“Just in case you need proof,” Jack intoned before sending the younger man to a state of euphoria.

====
--One Month Earlier
====

“Another one bites the dust,” Jack chimed as he changed into his blue BDUs in the locker room.

“Too bad it didn't happen sooner,” Daniel lamented as he, too, changed from his civvies into his blue uniform.

“Yeah,” Jack acknowledged, not wanting to start a conversation now about Hathor's existence had impacted them.  She was dead now, killed by Jack himself.  She'd never hurt Daniel again.  ~Witch.~

“Jack, Janet wants me to drop by the infirmary to look at my leg,” Daniel mentioned.  “Personally, I'd say she's being overly cautious, but ...”

“It's not a bad idea,” Jack responded.  “That was a pretty bad  cut.”

“I'm fine, but you know Janet.  Ah, maybe you should have her check you out, too,” Daniel suggested.

“Me?  I don't have a scratch on me,” Jack replied.

“Yeah, but ...”  Daniel sighed, then continued, “I know most of the focus was on me when things settled, but it looked to me like you were limping a little bit, too, when you were walking across the meadow.  Maybe it was my imagination, but ...”

“That's exactly what it was, Daniel,” Jack said, shutting his locker.  “Briefing is in one hour.  Let me know what the Doc says,” he requested, smiling and then hurrying out of the locker room.

~Quick exit, Jack,~ Daniel observed.  He blamed himself.  As he thought now, he remembered his lover's severe injuries from a few months earlier, as well as how it felt to be in Jack's body during the Ma'chello incident.  His lover's knees weren't at their best.  ~I keep getting distracted.~

Though concerned, Jack continued to pass his physicals and perform to his usual standards on their missions.

~Maybe I am imagining it.~  Daniel chuckled, then looked around suddenly to make sure he was alone.  He felt good.  The lovers were now living together.  ~Almost; I'm still moving things in.  We're still figuring out what's okay to keep out and what's not.~

On their one-year anniversary of becoming lovers, the couple had celebrated with a quiet, romantic dinner.  They'd been pure saps, as they called themselves, buying each other a lot of gifts.  The best present, however, had come very early the next morning when Jack had asked Daniel to move his fish in.  It had been a symbolic request, the fish representative of their union.

So, from that day on, when they could, Jack and Daniel were making the switch, hoping it was going unnoticed to everyone but themselves.

~I'll keep watching; Janet wouldn't clear him for duty if he wasn't fit, and, uh, actually, uh, he's ... pretty fit.~

Suddenly, the archaeologist's libido began to take hold, and he was forced to recite a long list of bland, boring, and disgusting things to keep himself from having to hide inside the locker room.

~That's better.  Oops!~

Glancing at the clock, Daniel realized he was overdue for his checkup with Janet. Quickly, he shut his locker door and headed for the infirmary.

====
--Several Days Earlier
====

SG-1 was on a mission to Gernon, a planet first visited by SG-2 a few weeks previously.  While there, they had found some interesting caves and caverns, and from the pictures they had brought back to Earth, Daniel felt he needed to get a first-hand look.  The hieroglyphs on the walls appeared to be an interesting mix of both Egyptian and Mayan, something he'd never seen done in quite this manner before.

Unfortunately, the Stargate was located over twenty-five miles from the caves.  It was a long, difficult trek, going over a rocky and oftentimes steep terrain to reach them.  They had to actually climb several mountainous areas as they traveled toward their objective.

At one point, about three-quarters of the way there, the team was climbing one of the steeper and rockier mountains.  Teal'c had taken point, Sam several yards behind him.  Jack was next, and in the rear was Daniel.

Jack looked back just before rounding a bend in their path.  He knew Daniel wouldn't be able to see him for a minute or two.  Utilizing the time, he found a large rock and sat down on it.  Grimacing, he rubbed his right knee.

“Crap.”

The colonel shook it off and got up after a few seconds, grunting as he put pressure on his leg, the knee joint aching as a result.  He knew Daniel should be at the bend within another few seconds, so he moved forward, determined not to let the ache get the best of him, and even more importantly, not to allow Daniel see him rubbing his knee.

The older man never noticed that Daniel had caught up to him and was standing at the bend.

Having seen Jack glance back at him, and fearing something was wrong, Daniel had hurried to catch up.  What he saw next had surprised him.  He had seen Jack's pained expression, witnessed the massaging of the knee, and he had heard Jack's grunt in pain as he tried to put weight on his knee.

~Okay, Jack. That's enough.  You've managed to change the subject every time I've tried to bring it up, but no more.  When this mission is over, we're having this out, and you *are* going to see Janet.  I can't blame it on my imagination any longer.~

====
--Current Time
====

Unfortunately, Daniel's plans to discuss Jack's knee had again been delayed.  When they returned from their three-day the mission, Jack had been called out of town for two days.  The younger man had no clue where his lover was.  It was one of those Special Ops trips with a ~lame, very lame~ cover story of the colonel working at the Academy, but not being reachable.

As soon as Jack had returned, Daniel's focus was more on other parts of Jack's anatomy, wanting to insure his soulmate had come home in the same condition he had left in.  The next morning, today, Daniel had been asked to accompany SG-11 to evaluate the worth of a potential dig site .  Jack, of course, wasn't happy about that, never thrilled with loaning out his archaeologist, but the younger man had insisted, knowing that his expertise was needed.  He wasn't due back for another sixteen hours.

At the moment, Jack was out on his back patio, sitting on a chair.  He had his right leg stretched out so that it rested on a crate he had placed there.  He had his jeans rolled up, a huge ice pack resting atop the knee.

“Crap,” the colonel whined as he moved the knee slightly.

“Hi, Jack.”

Hearing his lover's voice, the specially-trained officer actually jumped.  He stood up quickly, the impact of his step onto the wooden patio causing him to curse from the pain.  The ice bag fell to the ground.

Several feet away, Daniel stood motionless.  His arms were folded with his black leather jacket draped over them as it hung down in front of him.

“Daniel!  What the heck are you doing here?” the older man snapped.

“I thought you'd want me here,” Daniel replied a bit smugly, knowing he'd finally caught his lover in a situation that he couldn't get out of it.  “If you recall, I live here ... now.  Don't I?” he added after a moment, his smugness shifting to doubt.

“Oh for ... Danny, you're supposed to be ...” Jack stopped, taking a huge breath.  He knew he'd been caught, but what unsettled him was that Daniel didn't look surprised.  In fact, he looked the opposite and was standing as if he were ready to do battle, except for that brief moment of insecurity that he exhibited.  “Daniel, you *know* you live here, and that's *not* what I meant.”

“Good.  I mean, uh, I know,” Daniel said, his doubt disappearing, once again replaced by smugness.

Jack was glad his lover wasn't doubting his place of residence, but he wasn't glad to see that other look resume.  He'd seen that stance before, when Daniel had faced down System Lords.

“Danny,” Jack said more softly.

The colonel started to move to the steps, but Daniel held out his hand and said, “No.”  He walked up the steps until he stood facing his lover.  “Surprise.  Bad weather.  We came back early.”

Jack smiled.  He reached out with his right hand to touch the side of Daniel's face.

“I'm glad, Danny.  I missed you.”

Slowly, Jack inched his face closer to Daniel's until finally they were joined in a soft, loving kiss.

“I missed you, too.”

“I wish you'd called,” Jack stated.

“To warn you?”

“No, to ... Danny,” Jack said in frustration, knowing that Daniel was right.

“We're about to argue, O'Neill, but before we argue, can we, uh, do that ... you know again?”

Jack leaned in for another kiss.

“Are you sure we can't just do more of this ... you know and argue later?” Jack asked.  He attempted to seal the deal with a lengthier, more passionate kiss.  ~I'd much rather do this.~

“Gawd, yes,” Daniel responded, suddenly devouring his lover.

The lovers had essentially been separated for over two days, and that was a lifetime.  They'd argue later.  Right now, they needed to reconnect, and they did.

====

Six hours later, Daniel woke up, alone, something he hated tremendously.  He cursed in some new language he'd learned recently, and then got up, slipping on his robe and going in search of his lover.  He found him downstairs, cleaning.

“Jack, what are you doing?” Daniel questioned.

Without looking up, the older man answered, “Dusting.  Polishing.  Vacuuming.  The place needs it.”

“Jack, sometimes you're a little ...”

“Perfect?”

“Crazy.”

“I'm sorry if I woke you up,” Jack said.

Frowning, Daniel admitted, “I don't like waking up alone.”

“I couldn't sleep; I'm sorry.”

“Jack, how many times do I have to tell you to wake me up?” the archaeologist asked aggressively.

“Daniel, have you ever tried to wake yourself up?”  When Daniel stared at him blankly, Jack added, “You know what I mean.”

“Right.  Jack, put that down.  We need to talk.”

“Let's talk tomorrow.  I need to clean.”

It was 10 p.m., a strange time to be cleaning, although Daniel had to admit that in their line of work, normal was hard to come by.  He also had to admit that he had often cleaned his apartment in the middle of the night, too.  Still, he wasn't going to let Jack get out of the discussion they needed to have, and he knew that if he continued to let his lover evade the issue, things would only get worse.

Daniel walked across to Jack who was leaning over to clean a shelf.  He tugged on his lover's arm.  Jack raised up in response.

“Jack, we're going to talk ... now.”

“Nothing to talk about,” Jack said, returning to his task.

“Jack, I don't understand why you're being so ... defensive or ... I don't know.  Why don't you want to talk about this?”

“Nothing to talk about,” Jack repeated, moving to the mantle and beginning to work on it.

Daniel folded his arms and spoke firmly, “Your knee, Jack.  Something's wrong.  Maybe it's from the bomb, or ... I don't know.  I'm not a doctor, but ...”

“No, you're not,” Jack unintentionally snapped, throwing the dust rag to the ground and walking to the closet where he pulled out the vacuum cleaner.  He tried to cover his harshness with sarcasm.  “You're an archaeologist, not a scalpel-carrying double-talker.”  ~That made no sense, O'Neill.  Stop trying to parody 'Star Trek'.~

“Oh, no, you don't, Jack.  Listen to me,” Daniel ordered.  “Four months ago, you almost died.  You said then you thought you had jarred your knee.”

“I did,” Jack said, definitely annoyed.  “But it's fine now, Daniel.  Fraiser did her thing, and it's fine.  ABSOLutely fine.”

“Three months ago, we switched bodies.  I was in *your* body, Jack.  I felt your knee,” Daniel stated forcefully.

“Now that makes a lot of sense -- *not*,” Jack bellowed, plugging in the vacuum to a socket in the wall.  “It always sounds creepy,” he mumbled out of the side of his mouth.

Daniel rolled his eyes and continued, “You know what I mean.  It hurt.  I can still remember the ache I felt.”

“It was your imagination.”

“No, it wasn't,” Daniel insisted.  ~Nope, already tried that one.  Gave you the benefit of the doubt, but not believing it anymore.~

Jack offered, “Maybe it was just a bad day.  Teal'c probably knocked me out boxing or something.”

“Give me a break, Jack.  You were in Teal'c's body and had been for a day.  You hadn't done anything but sit.”

Jack turned on the vacuum and began moving it back and forth.

Daniel stared at him incredulously, shaking his head, thinking, ~Stubborn as a mule, but I do love him.~  Finally, he moved to the wall and unplugged the appliance.  ~Score one for the geek.~

“DANIEL, THAT WAS A FRIGGIN' DANGEROUS THING TO DO!”

“Then stop and listen to me.”

“I WILL ...,” Jack shouted.  More calmly, he added, “... when you have something worth listening to.”

“Oh, so you don't care what I think?” Daniel questioned, his eyes daring his lover to answer in the negative.

“About this?  No!”

Daniel started to walk upstairs, hurt and angry.  Then he yelled at himself.  It was what Jack wanted, to avoid the real issue.  He made a quick U-turn, returning to his previous spot.

“No, you don't, O'Neill.  That won't work, not this time.”  Daniel walked to within two feet of his lover.  “A few days ago, we went to Gernon.  You thought you were out of my sight, but you weren't.  I saw you, Jack.  I saw you rubbing your knee and grimacing from the pain.”

“You don't know what you saw,” Jack said, unable to look Daniel in the eye.

“Yes, I do, just like I know what I saw when I came here earlier tonight:  you in pain, with an ice pack on your knee.  You need to see Janet.”

“I DON'T NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR!” Jack barked, moving swiftly by Daniel, even bumping his shoulder as he moved.  He didn't know where he was going, but he just couldn't stay still any longer.  ~Crap, crap, crap.~

“Jack, why are you yelling?”

“I'M NOT ... yelling,” Jack responded, lowering his voice mid-sentence.

“Talk to me,” the archaeologist requested.  “I don't understand.  Why won't you go see Janet?”

“Daniel,” Jack sighed.  He faced his lover, a cold look on his face.  “Mind your own business,” he ordered sharply.  He ran up the stairs, cursing as the impact caused the pain in his knee to reach excruciating levels.  ~Geez, O'Neill, you have got to control that stupid defense mechanism of lashing out.  Danny does not deserve it.~

Downstairs, Daniel felt like he'd been punched in the gut.

~Mind my own business?  Gawd, maybe I should just go home.  Low blow, Jack.  I thought this was my home, but I guess home is the apartment, but ... you *are* my business.~  He almost ran back to the apartment, but he couldn't.  No matter how much Jack's words hurt, he had to stay.  Jack was masking the truth, striking out at Daniel to avoid the reality.  ~You are my business, and I'm not leaving.~

The scientist's hesitation had only lasted a few moments.  Slowly, he walked upstairs.  Jack was seated at the edge of the bed, hunched forward slightly.  In his hands were some papers.  Daniel didn't know what they were, but as Jack held them, he grunted, tearing them up and throwing the papers to the ground.

“What are those papers?” Daniel asked curiously, leaning against the doorframe.

“Junk.”

Daniel picked up some of the torn papers and read pieces of them, stating, “Jack, this is information on knee surgeries and ... and, uh, replacements.”

“I'm impressed.  You can read,” Jack commented, standing and heading towards the bathroom.  He paused and looked at the younger man.  He felt uncharacteristically closed in.  “Why don't you do us both a favor and just ... shut up?” he barked harshly, entering the bathroom and slamming the door behind him.

Again, Daniel considered a quick exodus.  His heart was torn between giving in to the hurtful words and what he logically knew was Jack striking out as a defensive mechanism.  It's just they were lovers, and he couldn't comprehend why his soulmate would speak such wounding words to him, words designed to cut into Daniel's heart.

~Why is he so hostile?  He's supposed to love me.  Gawd.  I can't handle this.  I should go.  He ... he doesn't want me here.  I should take my fish and go.~

Daniel took off his robe and got dressed.  He looked around for his jacket, but then remembered he had left it downstairs.  With a glance at the still-shut bathroom door, he headed for the living room, but when he got to the bottom of the stairs, he stopped and sat down.

His heart pounding from the conflicting emotions flowing through him, Daniel felt lost and confused.  He didn't understand Jack's anger or why he was pushing him away.  All he knew was that Jack was on the attack, purposely trying to drive him away.  Now, he felt cold and lonely inside.  He hated that.  Just two hours ago he had felt warm, loved, safe.

~Gawd, I want that feeling back.~

Daniel felt the warm body suddenly seated by his side.

“Danny, I don't want to argue,” Jack sighed with regret.

“Then why were you?”

Jack pleaded, “Just leave it alone.”

“I can't.  Jack, you can't just ignore the fact that you're hurting.”

“I am not.”

“You are, too.”

“Dang it, Daniel, we're not going to start that 'not', 'too' thing.”  Jack stood and walked to the kitchen, pulling out a beer.  He returned to the living room and took several swigs as he stood by the sofa.  He stared at Daniel who hadn't moved.  “Daniel, why can't you leave it alone?”

The younger man stood and walked to within a few feet of Jack.  An idea had just occurred to him.

“Not long ago, I got sick.  It was just a really bad case of the flu, but I tried to push you away.  I thought you wouldn't want me anymore if I got sick.”

“That was crazy.  You know that.”

“Yes, I know that now, but I didn't then.  At the time, Jack, my fear was very real.”

“Daniel, what does that have to do with anything?”

“Because you're trying to push me away, and ... you've come close, Jack.  If that's what you really want, tell me, and I'll walk out that door, but don't chase me down later, wanting me back, not when you're the one doing the pushing.”

Jack took another drink of his beer and began to pace.  He was clearly agitated and in complete denial.  His tone was sharp and harsh whenever he spoke.  Daniel was having to draw on every ounce of strength he had not to run out, not to let his own insecurities aid Jack in his quest to shove Daniel away.

“Jack, I've seen your knee.  I took a really long look at it when I ... I mean when we ... you know.”

“For crying out loud, Daniel, it's called sex.  SEX ... S - E - X.  You're a grown man.  Act like one,” Jack spat in anger.

Normally, Jack found Daniel's shyness charming and appealing.  Right now, it was simply a volley in a war.  The problem was, the war was within Jack, and Daniel?  Well, he was just in the middle, a victim of Jack's internal conflict.

~Don't let him push you away, Jackson.  Focus.  He loves you.  You love him.  Don't let stupid words get the best of you.  He didn't.  You tried your best to push him away that time; he didn't budge, and you can't now.  Focus, Jackson.  Focus on Jack's needs, not your own fears.~

“Jack!”  Daniel stood up, again folding his arms across his chest, and this time, his fingers pressed tightly into his upper arms.  He needed to hold on to himself. Jack was pressing all the right buttons, and the archaeologist was seconds from bolting and leaving Jack to his misery.  “I saw your knee,” he spoke calmly, with a low voice.  “It was swollen.”

“So what?” Jack asked callously, looking downward.

“So, I'm calling Janet.”

Janet would be at home, but Daniel didn't care.  He needed to make a point, and this might be the only way of doing it.  He walked to the phone and picked it up.  He began to dial.  The next thing he knew, Jack had grabbed the phone and threw it onto the sofa.

“What the blazes do you think you're doing?” Jack challenged.

Without flinching, Daniel answered, “Taking care of you.”

Jack shouted, “I DON'T WANT YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME.  I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF.”

“NO, YOU CAN'T,” Daniel yelled back.  “You're running, Jack.  I'm not sure what from, but you're so scared you can't see straight.”  As Jack stared into Daniel's eyes for what seemed like hours, the younger man prayed he'd see the love that was there.  ~Trust me, Jack.  Please.~

After two long, motionless minutes, Jack shook his head.  He turned away from his lover.

“It's over,” the colonel said weakly, moving to his favorite chair and sitting down.  “All over ... for good.”

Daniel's heart stopped.  He literally skipped a few breaths.  He felt as though he had just been punched in the gut.

“O...over?  Us?  Gawd.”

“Over and done with.  Everything.  Over,” Jack said, having not really listened to his lover.

Heartbroken, Daniel darted towards the door.

Hearing the movement, Jack looked up and realized what was happening.  In a split second, he was snapped out of his self-pity.  He got up and ran to try and catch Daniel, but after a few steps, as his weight made contact with the floor, his knee gave out.  In horrendous pain, Jack cried out and fell to floor.

“Danny.  Geez, didn't mean that.”  Jack tried to get up.  The pain didn't matter, but Daniel did.  He struggled to get his footing, cursing the pain.  “Dan...ny.  DANIEL!”

“Jack!”  Daniel ran over to his lover, kneeling down.  The archaeologist had never made it out the door, only managing to open it when he had heard Jack call out.  “What happened?”

“I was following you, you geek,” Jack gasped, out of breath.  “Danny, didn't mean what you thought.  Not what you thought.  You understand?  Not us.  We're never over.”  Jack had reached up and was grasping Daniel's black shirt, holding on as tightly as he could.  “Danny, not us.  Love you.  Need you so much. Want you always.  I ... I love you.  We're not over.  Do you hear me?  We're not!”

Daniel took Jack's hand, and, for a few moments, their hands spoke what their voices hadn't said in the past thirty minutes -- that they were one, and in love.

“Here, let me help you up,” Daniel offered as he helped Jack over to the sofa and assisted him in lying down.  He placed a pillow under Jack's head before focusing again on the knee.  ~My fault.~

“Holy Mother ... this hurts,” Jack grimaced.

“I know something that might help.”

Jack nodded and let Daniel tend to him.

Daniel carefully stretched out Jack's leg on the sofa.  He put a pillow under it for both comfort and elevation.  Going to the kitchen, the younger man took a hand towel and soaked it until it was thoroughly moistened.  He wrung it to rid the towel of excess water, grabbed a garbage bag, and then returned to Jack.

“Um, hold on a minute.”  Daniel hurried upstairs and returned a minute later with a pair of shorts.  “Put these on instead of your jeans.  Ah, well, let me put them on you,” Daniel said shyly.  Jack shifted and let Daniel remove his jeans and then slide on a pair of tan shorts.  “It'll be easier now.”

Jack watched Daniel wrap the moistened towel around the swollen knee, and around it, he placed the large trash bag.

Daniel went upstairs again, and returned a minute later with a heating pad, which he plugged in and placed it over the garbage bag.  He put it on low heat.

“One more thing,” the archaeologist stated, going to the closet near the entranceway and pulling out a multi-striped blanket.

Daniel put that over Jack's leg, making sure it wrapped around the knee completely.  Then he sat back a little on the sofa and just stared at the knee.  After a second, he looked up at Jack and smiled.

“That's a crazy combination.  I've never seen a towel and a heating pad.  Are you trying to electrocute me, Doctor Jackson?” Jack quipped.

“No, the plastic bag will stop that.”

“You know.  It already feels a little better.  Where'd you learn this?” a curious and grateful Jack inquired.

“Um,” Daniel looked away for a second.

“Danny?”

“In Egypt, one of my father's friends had a bad knee.  I remember he hurt it once.  It was, uh, not long be...before ...”

“Hey, you remember this from then?” Jack questioned with surprise.

Daniel shrugged.  In part, it came with being a genius.  His brain remembered all kinds of unique and oftentimes trivial things.

“Yes, I guess so, at least part of it, the wrapping and heating part.  The rest was something I learned on Abydos,” Daniel revealed.

“They had heating pads on Abydos?” Jack chuckled lightly.

“No, of course not.  It's just ... a variation of something they did, that's all.  You'll, uh, need to leave that on for the next half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes.  It'll help a lot with the pain and the stiffness.”

Jack reached out and touched Daniel's right cheek.  There was a story behind this, and some day, Jack knew Daniel would tell him.  For now, the older man had something he needed to say.

“Danny, I'm sorry.”

“Jack.”

“No.  Hear me out.”  Jack made sure he had Daniel's attention and then he explained as best he could, hoping his lover would understand the anguish he'd been feeling.  “You mentioned that time when you were sick.  You were scared I'd leave you just because you had the flu.  You also talked about when we switched bodies.  Well, Danny, being in your body, I realized how many years are between us.  No, don't argue; listen.  You're so young.  You could have anyone, and I still don't get why you want this old man.  Look at me.  I feel like I'm falling apart.”

“So you thought you'd push me away first?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“No, I thought I had to cover it up.  I was afraid if you knew you'd want out.”

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel expressed in total disbelief.

“Danny, I love you, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have you, but I know you could do better,” Jack claimed.

“Jack, so help me if you don't stop talking that way, I might kill you myself,” the frustrated younger lover intoned.

Jack smiled, seeing the devotion in Daniel's eyes, and responded, “I'm sorry, Danny.  When I said it was over, I wasn't talking about us. I meant the military.  Danny, my knee is shot.  They won't let me go off-world.”

“Jack, you're jumping the gun.”

“I read the literature, Daniel.”

“Finally utilizing the Internet?” Daniel quizzed.

“I guess it's good for something,” Jack sighed in disappointment and sadness at his apparently bleak military future.

“Yes, it is, when you understand what you're looking for.  My silly colonel,” Daniel took Jack's hand and leaned his cheek into it.  “My silly, silly colonel.”

“Danny, what makes you think I'm wrong?” Jack asked, his brown eyes begging for understanding.

Daniel answered, “Because there are hundreds of things that could have happened, and you're jumping to the worst-case scenario.  Tomorrow, we see Janet.”

“We?”

“You're a nut, O'Neill, but you're my nut,” Daniel insisted with a smirky smile.

“Forever, Danny.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

After a pause and a kiss, Jack said again, “Danny, I am sorry.  I yelled, and I said a bunch of ... geez, I'm sorry.”

“I know.  It's okay.”

“No, it's not,” Jack insisted, shaking his head.  “It's far from okay.  I hurt you, and I did it on purpose.”

“Because you were scared,” Daniel replied.  ~I understand that.  I've ... done that.~

“I swore I'd never hurt you,” Jack lamented.

Daniel smiled and leaned in for a kiss.  He placed his left hand on Jack's cheek and kissed him again.

“Jack, I'm going to take care of you just like you take care of me.”

“I hurt you,” Jack said, his voice cracked.

“A little, but you didn't mean it, and,” Daniel smiled, “you can make it up to me later.”

“I can?”

“Oh, yeah.  I'll make you a list.”

Jack laughed and opened his arms in invitation, one Daniel took up immediately.

“I love you,” Jack repeated.

“Love you, too,” Daniel replied.  Looking at his lover's knee, he asked, “Is it helping?”

“Your love keeps me alive.”

“Gawd, Jack,” Daniel said, blushing.  “I meant the heating pad and towel.”

“Oh, yeah, that's helping, too.”

====

“Colonel, why didn't you tell me you were having problems with this knee?” the physician asked, her eyes telling Jack he was in big trouble.

Jack groaned.  He knew he was in for a lecture, or retaliation via a very big needle, probably both.  Either way, Little Napoleon aka Janet Fraiser wasn't going to like his answer.

“Just ... Doc, what's the prognosis?”

“You're not answering my question.”  Janet saw Jack's apprehension.  She'd seen it before in military men.  Warriors afraid that some injury would doom their careers, when, in fact, with modern technology, many injuries resulted only in short to moderate downtimes.  “Okay, Colonel.  Just tell me exactly when this started and what it's been like.”

“I'm sure it was that black hole business, but when I was on medical leave at home, I was picking up some stuff outside the house.  I stepped on a rock in the backyard, lost my balance a little, and I could have sworn I heard a shotgun blast.  Since then, it's felt like a meat grinder inside my knee.”

“Can I assume it's gotten worse?”

“Every time I put extra pressure on it, yes,” Jack answered.

“Okay, you're mine for the next couple of hours.  Daniel, there's no point to your being here.  Excuse me.”

Janet walked away to make preparations for the tests she'd be conducting.  As she'd talked to Jack, Daniel had stood quietly in the background, his hands in his BDU jacket pockets as he took it in.

“I guess you've been dismissed,” Jack said softly.

“I don't want to be dismissed, Jack.”

“I'm okay.  The Doc'll take good care of me.”

**That's my job.**

Jack's face broke out into a huge smile, one that warmed Daniel's heart.  It had been an  instantaneous response, one that came from the heart.

**I love you, Danny.**

Now, Daniel smiled, but he was very aware of where they were, so spoke calmly, “I guess I'll go try and get some work done on those writings we brought back from Gernon.”

Jack nodded and replied, “Sounds like a good idea.”

“I'll be back.”

“I'm counting on it,” the temporary patient said with a smile.

“Daniel?” Janet called out, not expecting to see him still standing where he was.  “Did you need something?”

“Ah, no.  I was just keeping Jack company,” Daniel answered with a small smile.

“Well, he's going to be tied up with tests for a while.  I'll give you a call when we're done, if you like.”

Daniel nodded and said, “Thanks, Janet.”  He looked at his lover.  “I'll see you later.”

====

A little over two hours later, Daniel returned to the infirmary.

“Hey, how's that translation coming along?” Jack asked from his spot on the corner of one of the infirmary beds.

“Weird.  There's something off about those writings.  It doesn't make sense,” Daniel answered, intentionally being a bit vague, wanting to focus on Jack and not his work at the moment.

“You'll figure it out.”

“I hope so.  How are you?”

Jack shrugged.

“Doc did an MRI and an X-ray.  She said she'd be back in a minute with the results.”

“Does it hurt right now?”

“A little.”

“I'm sorry,” Daniel said.

“Daniel, why?”

**Because I don't like it when you're in pain.**

**Have I said lately that I love you?**

**No.  It's been a long time.  At least two hours.**

**Way too long.  Bad me.  I love you.**

**I love you, too.**

“Okay.  Oh, Daniel, I was just going to call you,” Janet said as she walked over to where the two men were.

“I, uh, felt like taking a break.”

“Well, why don't you two come over here to the monitor, and I'll show you what I've found.”

Gently, Jack slid off the bed and walked over to where Janet had gone.  Daniel pulled out a chair for the older man to sit down on.  Janet sat down in front of the computer terminal and pressed a few keys to bring up the images she wanted.  Daniel stood behind Jack as he focused on the pictures and listened to what Janet had to say.

“In simple terms, Colonel, you've got some torn cartilage.  See this, these tiny fragments here,” Janet pointed to the image.  “That's the torn cartilage floating around.”

“Looks like a snow globe,” Daniel said.

“Daniel, I am not a piece of decoration.”

“Oh.  My mistake,” the young man smiled, earning a glare from his lover, but a smile from Janet.

Still, as he watched the image, Daniel thought Jack's knee did look like a snow globe that had been turned upside down or shaken, or maybe a snowstorm with little flecks of snow being blown all about.

“The knee has a cup-like disc called a meniscus that sits between the tibia and the femur.  There are actually two of these in each knee, one lateral, outside the knee which is circular in shape, and one medial, inside the knee which is more of a C-shape.”

“Inside?  Outside?” Jack asked, looking down at his knee.

Taking her hand, Janet touched lightly on Jack's knee to demonstrate as she explained, “The medial is inside, where you rub your knees together, and the lateral would be outside, where you slap your thigh.”

“Oh.  I knew that,” Jack said.

Removing her hand from Jack's knee, Janet continued, “In one sense, these act as shock absorbers, distributing body weight across the knee joint.  It’s amazingly easy to rip one of these, and apparently, that's what you did when you stepped on the rock.  The twisting of your knee when you were thrown off-balance probably did it.”

“So,” Jack asked, holding his breath, “what does this mean?”

“Surgery.”

“Okay,” the colonel responded quietly.

Janet elaborated, “If all goes well, you'll be going through the Stargate again in a couple of months, if not sooner.”

“I will?” Jack asked with the happy surprise of a child getting a new toy.  Then he cleared his throat, catching his emotion.  “I mean, of course, I will.”

“Janet, tell us about the surgery.  What's involved?” Daniel asked.

“It'll be arthroscopic surgery.  We'll bend the knee over a brace and insert three stainless steel tubes; one will allow us to see what's going on inside the knee.  The other two are what we'll use to maneuver the instruments, scraping away or cutting out the damaged cartilage.  It'll only take an hour or so as long as there are no complications.”

“An hour?  That's all?” Jack inquired.

“That's it,” Janet affirmed.  “You'll have a couple of small incisions on your knee, a few stitches, but other than that, you won't even notice from a visual standpoint.”

“And from the physical?” Jack asked.

“Therapy.  Medication.  For a while, it'll be difficult to move around.  We'll discuss all of that later, though.”

“Doc ...” Jack didn't finish his statement.  He just looked away.  ~I hope she's right.~

“Colonel, I assure you that torn cartilage will not keep you from fighting the Goa'uld, as long as there aren't any complications,” Janet promised.  She smiled reassuringly and placed her hand on Jack's.  “Trust me, Jack.  I'll bet there are personnel on this base that have had more severe operations and are still doing their jobs, and you don't even know about it.  In fact, I know there are.”

Jack nodded and said a soft “thanks” as Janet moved to write something down.

“I'm going to contact Doctor William Barnes.  He's the best orthopedic surgeon we have at the hospital.  This is his number, but let me get in touch with him first and fill him in on the specifics.  If you want to wait a few minutes, I'll give him a call shortly,” the petite doctor spoke.

“Janet, when will he operate?” Daniel asked.

“Considering the colonel's position on base, I'll see if I can put a rush on it, but it'll depend in part on Doctor Barnes' schedule.  If you two will excuse me, I need to check on Sergeant Johnson.”

“How's he doing, Janet?” Jack asked about Johnson, had been severely injured on a mission two days earlier.

“I think he'll be all right, but he's still in some pain.  He's due for another injection, and I'd like to try something new to see if it helps.  I'll call Doctor Barnes when I'm done,” Janet stated.

“No rush, Doc.  Help Johnson.  He's a good man,” the colonel opined.

Janet smiled and again placed her hand on Jack's hand as she replied, “And so are you.”

After Janet had walked away, Daniel looked around a bit slyly.

“What's wrong?” Jack asked.

In a bit of growl, which was highly unusual for the archaeologist, Daniel answered, “It's a good thing she's gone, Jack.”

“The Doc?  Why?”

Daniel explained, “She touched your hand, tapped it, and ran her hand across yours.”

“Huh?”

Jack was stunned.  He had barely noted the contact, and it was unlike Daniel to notice something like that ... at least, in Jack's mind, it was unlike Daniel to notice something like that.

“Janet -- I saw her,” Daniel spoke, his expression dead serious.  “Good thing you behaved yourself.”

“Danny, are you okay?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Daniel acknowledged.  “Just as long as you continue to behave, which means keeping your hands to yourself, and me, of course,” he said a bit offhandedly.  Stay away from Janet.  I think she wants your body, but she can't have you,” he said softly, continuing to look around and make sure no one was within listening range.

“Daniel, I think you've lost your mind.”

Jack was almost in shock, first at Daniel even noticing such a thing, and then at his talking about it at the Mountain, and in such a public part of the base.

Seeing no one around, Daniel risked a covert maneuver.  He leaned over, blew a small puff of air into his lover's left ear.

Still making sure no one was nearby, the younger man whispered, “Mind, body, and soul, Love.  I'm all yours; and this is what I want you to do when we get home.”

In a trance, Jack listened in disbelief at his soulmate's very suggestive words, some of which Jack didn't even know that Daniel knew.  The younger man was, after all, unusually shy about sex, except sometimes when demanding it or in the throes of passion.  Jack sat motionless, barely breathing, his mouth open slightly, and eyes wide open.

“And ... then, Jack, I'm going to do that to you ... sloooowly.”

Daniel stood up straight again.  He walked in front of Jack and moved to pat his left shoulder, but as he did he let his finger tap and caress slightly on Jack's ear, tracing the lobe and flicking inside.  It was a very slight, covert move, one that if observed on camera could be covered up by a thousand cover stories.

“I'll be back in a few minutes, Jack,” Daniel said, arching his eyebrows and wearing a smug smile as he exited the infirmary.

~Who was that man, and I think I'll keep him!~ Jack thought, shaking his head swiftly, and then making sure all of his body parts were behaving properly.

Taking refuge in the elevator, Daniel leaned against the door, glad he was alone. He tilted his head back against the rear wall, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.  He'd meant every seductive word he had spoken.  He just couldn't believe he'd said them in the infirmary with military personal close by.  He had been motivated, though.

Jack was scared of losing Daniel because he was older.  They'd talked about that at least twice during the year all ready, first when Jack's hair had begun to turn gray, and again when they argued at the house about Jack's knee.  Aging didn't matter to Daniel, but he needed to make sure Jack knew how much he wanted him.

~He has to understand I want him, and boy, do I want him,~ Daniel thought passionately.  Janet had been an easy device for Daniel to use to communicate that.  Jack was always jealous of people who were close, or trying to get close, to Daniel, so the younger man had decided to turn the tables, and the SGC's Chief Medical Officer had given him the perfect opportunity to set his plan into motion.  ~Sorry, Janet.~  He smiled in the elevator, but then he grew serious. ~No, I'm not sorry.  Watch where you put those hands,~ he thought as the doors opened.

Apparently, Daniel's altruistic mission had some basis in fact, regardless of how minute he considered it, but the more he thought about Janet's hand on Jack's, the more he hated it.  Her fingers had gently swayed across the top of Jack's hand.  It had lingered way too long in Daniel's opinion.

~Oh, gawd.  I am jealous.  Stop that,~ the young man chided himself as he walked along the eighteenth floor to his office.  ~Don't be jealous.  It's childish, and you know there's no reason to be, and you hate it when Jack gets jealous ... well, mostly.~  Opening the door and walking to his desk, he thought, ~It's only Janet.  She's a doctor.  She doesn't care about his bod...y.~  He let out a groan.  “Oh, for crying out loud,” he cried verbally, shaking his head.

Daniel decided he just didn't want to think about this anymore, so he went about his business and then prepared to return to his lover.

====

“I thought I'd find you out here,” Daniel said, hunching over Jack and letting his hands massage his lover's chest.

“Hey.”  Jack was seated on a stool and had been stargazing with his telescope. “I couldn't sleep.”

Confidently, Daniel stated, “Jack, it's going to be fine.  It's not a complicated procedure.”

“Barnes said once you get an injury like that, it's easily damaged again.”

Daniel kissed the top of Jack's head, and then leaned his own against Jack's.  Still caressing with his hands, he said soothingly, “Then we'll deal with it.  The General's already promised you that everything is okay.  Your place is secure.”

“At the SGC.”

“Gawd,” Daniel said in frustration.  He jerked away from Jack and flinging his arms about as he spoke, exclaimed, “Jack, you are not going to lose me over a lousy knee.  GAWD!” he exclaimed again.

“I'm sorry, Danny,” Jack said mildly, getting up from the stool and walking to the railing.  He crossed his arms in front of himself and stared down towards the grass.  “This is ... hard.  I'm ... I guess I'm a little ... afraid.”

It wasn't easy for Jack to admit fear of any kind, and had it been anyone else but Daniel standing there, he wouldn't have admitted it now.

Jack rarely spoke so hesitantly, and Daniel knew it.  His frustration dissipated as quickly as it had ignited.

Shaking his head, a small smile on his face, Daniel walked the roof deck to where Jack stood.  He wrapped his arms around the older man and leaned his head against his lover's.

“Jack, it's okay to be afraid, but it's going to be fine.  You've been in pain for months, and after therapy, that's going to go away.  You'll feel better.  SG-1 is yours.  No one else's.”  As Jack nodded, Daniel knew what his lover wanted to hear.  “Me, too.”

“Danny, maybe ...”

“Jack, shut up.”

Surprised, Jack turned to face the younger man and repeated, “Shut up?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Amazed, Jack responded, “I can't believe you told me to shut up.”

“Well ...” Daniel shrugged, teasing his lover.  “If you're going to say silly things, that's what you get.”

“Silly things.”

“Ridiculous even.”

“How ridiculous?” Jack asked.

“Insane.”

“Borderline or full-blown paranoia?” the older man inquired.

Daniel laughed and answered, “As in nuts, bananas, looney tunes, absurd.  Get the idea?”  He moved inside Jack's personal space.  He didn't wait for an answer as he quickly locked their lips together.  “Jack.”

There seemed to be paragraphs behind the one syllable word of Jack's name.  Daniel's eyes penetrated deep into Jack's soul.

“How come that sarc didn't fix my knees?” Jack inquired about the sarcophagus he had been placed in during their last ordeal with Hathor.

“How come the sarcs I've been in haven't given me perfect eyesight or cured my allergies?” Daniel asked in reply.

“No fair answering a question with a question,” Jack whined.

“Well, Babe, that's what happens when you ask questions no one knows the answer to.  I mean, ah, clearly the sarcophagus is a quirky tool that we may never fully understand, except, uh, to be honest, I don't think I want to understand it.  I'd ... just assume ... stay away from them,” Daniel admitted.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  Again, they stood, staring into each other's eyes.  Finally, he sighed, “Danny,” leaning his forehead against the younger man's and closing his eyes.  “I'm turning gray, and now my knees are shot.”

“Silver-gray, and it drives me wild, remember?” Daniel answered with sparkling eyes.

“Yeah, you ... do kinda have a thing about my hair now.”

“Mmm ... gawd,” Daniel leaned into his partner, moaning.  “Want you.”

Jack had no time to respond.  The mere mention and focus on Jack's now silver-gray hair had flipped a switch inside Daniel.  He was 'on' then, momentarily, 'in' and happier because of it!

====

Jack had checked into the hospital for the outpatient surgery around 8:15 a.m., a bit later than planned, but a tie-up on the freeway caused the delay.  Fortunately, Doctor Barnes had been able to push back the surgery a couple of hours.  The arthroscopic surgery took place at 10:30, and just slightly over ninety minutes later, Daniel was standing by Jack's bed as the older man showed signs of waking up.

“Hey, Jack.”

Jack was groggy, trying to focus his eyes on the younger man.  The voice was like a beautiful aria to Jack.  He wanted to hear it again, and he didn't have to wait long.

“How do you feel?” Daniel asked.

“Um ... I ... Da...”

Daniel laughed softly at his waking lover, then said, “Jack, Doctor Barnes said everything went smoothly.  No problems.  He emptied your snow globe.”

He figured he'd have to repeat himself later, but Daniel knew that Jack would want the reassurance on some level.  Still coming out of the anesthetic, Jack chuckled, but since he felt dazed, he wasn't really sure what he had just laughed at.

“Dannnnnnn...”

The younger man smiled.  Jack wasn't really awake yet, but he looked so handsome and sexy, lying on his back.  There was a vulnerability about him that drew Daniel near.  He looked around, making sure the door to the hospital room was closed.  Since they were off base, there were no security cameras to worry about, so Daniel leaned over and gave his lover a tender kiss on the lips.

“Daaaanny...” Jack barely got out before falling back to sleep.

Daniel's heart beat with pleasure when he saw the smile on his lover's face as a result of the kiss.

~I love you, Jack.  Sleep a little longer.  I'll be here when you wake up again.~

====

Daniel didn't have to wait long, just another twenty minutes or so, and this time, when Jack woke, he quickly became aware of his surroundings.

“Danny, did you ... kiss me?”

“Maybe.”

“Do it again.”

“Jack, someone might come in.”

“I'm injured,” Jack said, reaching out for his heart.  Daniel again looked at the door, then took Jack's hand, and kissed him.  “Geez, you're good at that.”

“Thanks, Babe.”

“What about my knee?  How'd the surgery go?”

Daniel smiled.  As expected, he repeated what he had said earlier.

“Good!  Ready to move on,” Jack said a bit prematurely, which was immediately followed by, “Ow,” after he tried to move.

“Whoa, Jack,” Daniel said, leaning forward and pushing Jack down.  “You're not even fully awake yet.”

“Got it all?”

“That's what the doctor said; Janet's talking to him now.  They said they'd be back to check on you soon, and in a few hours, we can go home.”  Daniel looked around.  “They haven't brought in the crutches yet,” he observed.  “Oh well, guess I'll have to be your crutch then,” Daniel smiled widely.

Jack smiled, and the lovers chatted as they waited for the medical personnel to check on Jack and explain more about the physical therapy he'd have to begin immediately.

====

After thirty minutes, though, there had been no sign of the doctors in question.

“I guess they've been delayed,” Daniel surmised.

Jack groaned, then said, “Daniel, I have to go the bathroom.”

“Oh.  Um ...” Daniel looked around for the needed device.  ~Must be here somewhere.~

“I am *not* using one of those things,” Jack argued, starting to get up.

“Jack, I don't know that you're supposed to ... JACK!”

The Colonel groaned and moaned as he moved his stiffened leg.

“Are you going to help me?”

Daniel sighed and, as he helped Jack to stand up, said, “I wasn't counting on being your crutch just yet, Jack.”

Jack ignored the comment as he focused on his knee and remarked, “Geez, feels like a piece of lumber, and it doesn't want to bend.”

Jack put his arm around Daniel's shoulder and hobbled to the tiny bathroom area.

“Need help?” Daniel asked with a smirky grin.

“OUT!” Jack bellowed.

“Such a grouch,” Daniel teased, returning to bed.  “Want some help?” he asked again, seeing Jack was done.

“No, I'm ... a big boy,” Jack answered, limping his way back.

“I'm bigger,” Daniel said softly.

“Daniel, now is so NOT the time to discuss that.”

Daniel chuckled as Jack slowly sat down on the bed.

“It's stiff, Danny.”

“That's natural.  The CPM machine that Doctor Barnes told us about will help with that,” Daniel reminded.

The continuous passive motion machine, better known as the CPM, was a metal device that Jack's leg would be placed in for several hours each day for at least two weeks.  The doctors had told him that the benefits of the machine were well worth the effort.  CPM would reduce stiffness, pain, and muscle atrophy, among other things, and would reduce the overall recovery time.  It would also help prevent the buildup of blood in the joints as well, something that could often be both painful and lead to other complications.


“Daniel, what if ...”

“Jack,” Daniel smiled, not just an ordinary smile, but one reserved exclusively for the man who was his heart.  “It's going to be a tough few weeks, but in the end, you'll be good as new.”

Jack nodded and sighed as he lay back down.  Just then, Janet and Doctor Barnes finally entered the room and proceeded to talk with Jack and Daniel about the physical therapy process.

====

As was quickly becoming the norm whenever Jack or Daniel was injured and then faced recuperative downtime, the other most always took leave to be the other's nurse, for lack of a better word.  Thus, by 5 p.m., Daniel was driving the two of them back to Jack's house.

Much to Jack's chagrin, as soon as he had arrived home, Daniel hooked him up to the CPM as directed by Doctor Barnes.  Having been told he'd be spending almost every waking hour attached to the CPM when not exercising, Jack had dreaded the device before he'd even left the hospital.  Of course, that was an exaggeration, but to Jack, it's how he had felt when Barnes and another therapist explained the machine at the hospital.

While he understood it would be a vital part of his recovery over the next few weeks, Jack silently thought, ~It doesn't mean I have to like the dang thing.~

“It'll keep the joint area stretched and warm,” Barnes had explained, adding, “and it increases blood flow and elasticity.  Use the machine right, Colonel, and you'll be able to move that knee of yours quicker without pain and be able to return to your regular duties sooner.”

~Right.  The CPM is my friend, so Daniel has told me.~

Other than that, though, Jack had been able to relax in bed, letting the anesthesia drain from his system, but the next day, his new routine was put in place, overseen by his keen and dedicated drill instructor, the supposedly meek and mild Doctor Daniel Jackson.

“I thought you were compassionate,” Jack said.

“I am.”

“Then why are you looking like I do when I break in new recruits?”

“Because I want you to get better, and I ... I, uh ...”

Daniel looked away shyly.  He always hated himself when he got caught up on the words.  There wasn't a single doubt in his being that he loved Jack O'Neill more passionately and with more devotion than he had ever known was possible, but years of loss made him unusually shy and hesitant to put himself on the line.  He just couldn't say the words first. Sometimes, he got them out before Jack, but more often than not, he had to swallow or cough or look away, like he was now.

“I love you, too, Danny,” Jack spoke sweetly, knowing and understanding his lover's emotions.

“Jack, I'm sorry,” Daniel responded guiltily, still wrapped up in his sorrow at not being able to express his love.

“Come here, you,” Jack beckoned, a warm, inviting expression on his face.

When Daniel knelt down by Jack's chair, Jack leaned forward and cupped his face.

“Listen to me.  You have nothing to apologize for.  Love is a huge risk, and you've been hurt, a lot.  I don't want you apologizing to me for that.  I love you, Daniel.  We have an eternity for you to learn to trust in that.”

As Daniel lips curled into a smile, Jack kissed him.

“I love you,” Jack reaffirmed, “even if you are making me stay hooked up to this contraption.”

Daniel chuckled, “It's for your own good, and I love you, too.”

====

“Here, take this,” Daniel instructed as he held out the items.

Jack took the water and Tylenol his lover had brought outside.  He swallowed the pills, and groaned.

“Daniel, I'm tired of that friggin' machine.”

“That ... friggin' machine is helping your knee to recover, Jack.”

“Aaaaargh!” Jack bellowed.

On this first full day of his physical therapy, Jack had already been placed in the machine three times, two hours per session.  The motion had been set to go from zero to ninety degrees, and was increased ten degrees per day.  Each day of use would provide more flexibility for the knee.

“Come on, Babe.  It's time.”

Jack sighed, “Danny?”

“Come on,” Daniel smiled softly, helping his lover up and actually pulling him gently into his arms.  Daniel felt Jack nuzzle his chin into his left shoulder.  He was right.  Jack needed some loving big time, and Daniel was more than willing to give it.  He put his arms around Jack and rubbed his back.  He squeezed him close, and whispered, “You're making great progress.  It'll get easier.  You can do it.  Just one hour this time, and it'll be the last time today, okay?  We'll just take it one minute at a time, Love, and then afterwards, we'll ... listen to opera and ... you know?”

“You know?” Jack asked with anticipation of a lingering make-out session with his lover.

“Snuggle.”

“Oh.”

“I like to snuggle.”

“Me, too.  I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too.”

====

“Daniel, what the heck are these?” Jack asked about the pills that were on his dinner tray.

“Supplements.  They'll help.”

“Danny, I am not going to become a pill popper.”

Daniel rolled his eyes in disbelief.

“Jack, you of all people should know that I'm not exactly a proponent of pills, but these aren't drugs.”

“They're pills!”

“Very good, Babe; there's nothing wrong with your eyesight.  Now, this is glucosamine, this one is calcium, and this is a multi-vitamin.”  Daniel saw Jack just staring at the pills.  “Jack, just because they aren't in the shape of Fred Flintstone doesn't mean they aren't good for you.”

“Yabba, dabba, do,” Jack sneered, swallowing the pills.

“That's my Fred,” Daniel teased, leaning over to kiss his lover on the forehead.

====

“I'm burning these,” Jack announced as he tossed down the crutches he'd been using since his surgery two days ago.

“Jack, do you have to complain about everything?”

“I'm *not* complaining,” Jack growled.  “I just don't like being on crutches.”

Daniel stared at his lover and hesitantly asked, “On crutches, or dependent?”

“Daniel, don't take it the wrong way,” Jack replied strongly.

“I won't.  I, uh, I'm not.  I'm going to make lunch,” Daniel stated and then disappeared, leaving a disgruntled Jack in the living room on the sofa.

====

Two minutes later, as Daniel was preparing some stir-fry, Jack hobbled over to the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room.  He sat down on one of the stools, grimacing as he positioned his leg.

“Danny, I'm sorry.  I've been a bear all morning.”

“I hadn't noticed,” Daniel said, never looking up from his meal preparation.

“I'm not a good patient.”

“You're right,” the younger confirmed as he remained focused on his task.

“I yell too much.”

“Yes, you do,” Daniel agreed with a nod.

“Daniel?”

“What?”

“Could you stop staring at whatever you're cooking and look at me?”

Daniel sighed, lowered the heat, and turned to face his lover.

“Could you ... come over here?” Jack asked hopefully.

Daniel waited a moment, but then approached Jack without saying a word.  He sat on a stool across the counter from the older man.  Jack reached out with his arm, offering his hand, palm open in invitation.  After several seconds, Daniel placed his hand in Jack's, earning him a smile from his lover.

“I love you, Danny.  I do appreciate all you're doing for me, but I'm not used to relying on other people, and ... I'm ... well, I guess I'm still a little ...”

“Scared,” the archaeologist surmised.

“I don't know I'd say that exactly.”

“Frightened.”

“Maybe not that.”

“Terrified,” Daniel stated.

“Closer,” Jack smiled.  “This is my career.  I know I've made light of it, but I'm not ready to give up the military.”

“You don't have to, Jack.  You're letting your mind race with fears that are so unnecessary.”

“I can't help it.”

“I can ... I mean, I can help you.”

“You are helping me,” Jack spoke softly and sincerely.

“Thank you, Babe, but I have an idea.  It's something else I learned when I was on a dig.”  Daniel stood, placed a kiss on Jack's lips, and said, “I'll be back in a half hour.”

“Hey, what about my stir-fry?”

“You're a big boy, remember?” Daniel teased as he left the house.

====

“DANNY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?”

Jack looked at the CPM and considered shooting it, but before he could carry out that idea, his lover finally came downstairs.  Since his shopping trip earlier, Daniel had been upstairs “preparing,” having given Jack “orders” to stay in the living room.

Finally, Daniel came downstairs and sat on the sofa next to his lover.  He said nothing, but kissed Jack tenderly.

“Well, that doesn't exactly answer my question, but I'll take it.”

Daniel smiled and kissed Jack again ... and again.  Jack gave a contented sigh.

“I missed you while you were up there doing whatever you were doing. What were you doing?”

Daniel laughed, “You'll see.  Come on.”  He helped his lover up the stairs to the master bedroom.  “Here we are.”

“What did you do?” Jack asked, surprised to see what his lover had done to the room.

“Redecorated ... slightly.  Sit on the bed, Jack,” Daniel directed his partner.

The window blinds were shut and covered by a dark blue blanket to keep all the light out.  Placed strategically around the room were several candles with a sandalwood scent.  In the background, was a CD of ocean sounds, full of crashing waves and seagulls in the air.

Though not sure what Daniel was planning, Jack propped himself up against the headboard of the bed.  Daniel sat facing Jack, but off to the side.

“Okay, I want you to focus on me,” Daniel instructed.

“Oh, I can do that.”

“Jack, behave.  Close your eyes and shut everything else out except for my voice.  I want you to listen to me, just to me, and do exactly what I say.”

“You've been hanging around Teal'c too much.”

“Jack!”

“Sorry.  My eyes are closed.  Now what?” the older man questioned.

Daniel leaned forward for a kiss, causing Jack to open his eyes again.  With a hopeful glimmer in those same eyes, he asked, “Danny, are we going to ...?”

“No.  Now, close your eyes and listen to my voice.”

Jack sighed, but once again closed his eyes, his hope at some mid-day sex shot down in a split second.

“I want you to feel your muscles and ...”

“Feel my muscles ...”

“Jack, don't argue.  Listen to me for once, okay?” Daniel requested sternly.

“Definitely hanging around Teal'c too much,” Jack mumbled.  “Muscles.  Okay.  I have ... muscles,” Jack said.

The younger man requested, “I want you to concentrate only on your right arm.  Nothing else.”

“I thought I was supposed to listen to your voice and nothing else,” Jack challenged.

“JACK!”

“Sorry.”

“No, you're not, and if you want sex anytime in the next week, I suggest you pay attention.”

“Week?” Jack asked, dread in his voice.

“Week?  Did I say week?  I meant *weeks*.”

Quickly, Jack replied, “Listening.  Muscles.  Right arm.  Eyes closed.  Ready.”

“Concentrate on your right arm.  Feel the muscles.  Make them tight.  Pressure.  Feel it, Babe.  Tighten that muscle with your mind.”

“Ouch.”

“Don't ease up.  Feel it.  Count to five, and then let it go.  One ... Two ... Keep it tight.  Three ... Four ... Five.  Release the tension.  It's relaxed now.”  Daniel waited a minute or so and then asked, “Can you feel the difference?”

“Of course, I can.  Can we have sex now?”

“Jack,” Daniel scolded.

“Okay, what's next?”

“Concentrate.  We'll do the same thing with your left arm.  You can't feel anything else.  All you're aware of is your left arm, and the muscles there.  They're relaxed, but slowly, make them tense.  Tense them.  Make them tight.  They're tight now.  Hold for a count of five.  Don't let go.  Feel the muscles constrict.  Okay.  One ... Two ... Three ... It's still tight.  You can feel the pressures of the muscles in your arm.  Four ... Five.  Good.  Let it go.  Relax.”

“Geez, that's strange.”

“Keep your eyes closed.”

Daniel coaxed Jack through similar moments with each of his arms and legs, then his abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, and even his face and neck.  He had his lover focus on one area at a time, feel it relax, then constrict, then relax again.

“Danny, why are we doing this?”

“It's a visualization technique.  It helps you understand what tension feels like in contrast to total relaxation.”

“Daniel,” Jack opened his eyes.  “I *know* what tension feels like.  I've even been dead before, for crying out loud.”

“Jack, dying doesn't make you tense; it makes you ... dead.”  Jack gave Daniel an “oh please” look, which went ignored.  “We're almost done.  Please.”

Unable to deny his lover, Jack continued to go along.

“Take a deep breath.  That's it.  And another.”  Daniel needed to get his lover back to a calm place.  Feel the peace.  Hear the waves, smell the scent of the candles.  That's your entire existence.  Calm.  Peace.  Relax your body.  I want you to focus in on your knee now.  Feel nothing but warmth all around it.”

Jack heard Daniel move, and then he thought he heard a switch flip.

“Open your eyes, Jack.”

“Are we done?” the older man inquired.

“No, look at your knee.”

Jack noticed a portable light directed at his knee.  It gave off a soft green and gold light.

“What's with the colored lights?” Jack asked.

“They're for healing.  Green keeps you calm and stimulates growth, and gold is the strongest color for healing.  It strengthens your entire body. Now, focus on your knee.  Look closely.  See how the healing lights circle around it.  Visualize it, Jack.  See it in your mind.  The lights; they're surrounding your knee and now, slowly, let them soak into your knee.  They're going inside, the lights.  You feel warmth, and you see the lights.  Feel the breeze of the ocean, hear the waves, feel the warmth in your knee, see the lights.  The knee is healing.  It's relaxed.  The tenseness is being wiped away forever.  It's gone.  All gone.”

Silence filled the room when Daniel stopped talking.  In what seemed like only a moment later, Jack looked at Daniel and said, “Are we done?”

“You did great,” Daniel praised.

“I appreciate what you were trying to do, Daniel, but that stuff is rubbish.”

“Is it?” Daniel asked with a knowing smile on his face.

“Why do you look so smug?”

“Jack, you've been focused on your knee and the healing lights for ten minutes.”

“No way.”

“Way.”

“I don't think so.”

“But you were,” Daniel stated factually.

“Get out of town.  I was not.”

“Were, too.”  Daniel moved inside of his lover's personal space.  He smiled, kissed his Love and asked, “How does your knee feel?”

“It ...”  Jack paused.  He was going to say it ached as much as ever, except ... it didn't.  He looked at his lover and shrugged.  “It's ... not so bad.”

“Jack,” Daniel said, taking his left hand to Jack's cheek.  “It's not garbage.  Our minds are so powerful.  You've seen that with the Nox. You can't ignore the influences of sound or light, or our own attitudes.  I know it's not your thing, but we'll do this at least once or twice a day for the next couple of days, okay?  For me?”

“I'd do anything for you.”

The couple kissed.  Jack didn't want to admit it, but it had helped for a while, and listening to Daniel's voice, so calm and soothing, was always healing for the older man.  He was amazed at how easily he had been entranced by the soft tone of voice.  It was almost hypnotic.

~I could listen to you forever, Danny.~

====

“Five more, Babe.”

“Daniel, what are those?  Fifty-pound weights?” Jack grunted as he lifted the leg weight again.

“Sorry, Jack.  Only five pounds.”

“FIVE?  ARRRRRRRGH,” Jack moaned.  “I'm done.”

“Four more,” Daniel urged.

“Daniel!”

“FOUR ... more,” Daniel ordered demandingly.

Jack gave a reluctant sigh and grunted his way through another lift, saying, “You're ... such ... a slave ... dri...ver!”

“You know what Doctor Barnes said.  You need to stabilize your vastus medialis, rectus femoris, and vastus lateralis,” Daniel sing-songed.

“I love it when you talk dirty,” Jack said.

Daniel laughed, and then returned to his words of encouragement, saying, “Only two more, Babe.  Work those thighs.”

“I want *you* to work my thighs,” Jack grunted.

“That's dessert.”

“Yeah?” Jack asked, looking enthused for the first time in an hour.

Daniel grinned, and Jack quickly did another lift, and then one last one.

“Now, you're done,” Daniel said, smiling and taking away the weights.

“Time for dessert?” Jack asked as he sat up.

Daniel chuckled, “You can have dessert any time you want, Jack.”

“I want ... now.”

Daniel stood and pulled Jack up and they headed for the stairs.

“I never thought I'd hate stairs,” Jack whined.

With a seductive edge, the younger man replied, “Well, when you think about it, we don't ... really need to, uh ...”

“Geez, I love you,” Jack responded, turning around and returning to the sofa.  “Ugh, it's that last bit that hurts.”

“That's natural, Jack, and it'll get better.”

Jack lay back on the sofa, slowly relaxing, and replied, “So you keep telling me.  Now, about my thighs ...”

The lovers kissed and enjoyed their 'dessert' on the sofa.

====

“Daniel, if I drink any more water, I'll float away!” Jack claimed from his chair on the patio, his knee in the CPM.

“Jack, you know what Doctor Barnes said,” the younger man stated as he handed the bottled water to his lover.

“Will you *please* stop quoting that guy?”

“Sorry, no can do.  Drink.”

“Daniel, I already feel like the Pacific Ocean.”

“Drink!”

“Daniel ...”

“Drink, Jack.”

“I'd rather be drinking a beer.”  Seeing Daniel's glare, Jack downed his fourth liter of water that day.  “You know, Barnes said three liters was sufficient.”

“Doctor Barnes isn't your lover.”

Jack got an intrigued look on his face and said playfully, “He is a handsome man.  Intelligent.  Hazel eyes.”

“JACK!”

“Yes, Daniel?”

“I'm going to the store.”

“For what?”

“Hair dye.  I think I'll dye my hair bleached blond again.  Casey seems to like it that way.”

Daniel was referring to a time earlier in the year when his hair had accidentally bleached blond after spending too much time on the beach. He had hated it, but Jack enjoyed the change of pace until the SGC's newest nurse, a male named Casey Hemmings, seemed to show a bit too much interest in Jack's archaeologist.

“Daniel,” Jack called out.

“Yes, Babe.”

“Dye that hair of yours, and I'll ...”

“You'll what?” Daniel interrupted.

“Dye my hair red,” Jack smirked.  “Fraiser and I will match!”

“Janet?” Daniel echoed as his smirk turned into a frown.

~Oops.  He didn't like that line about the Doc.  Maybe that's a good thing.~

“You just make sure she keeps her hands off of you,” Daniel stated as he stood at the edge of the patio steps, adding a moment later, “unless it's in the line of duty, of course.”

“She's got small hands, very delicate,” Jack said, egging his lover on.

Daniel folded his arms and stared at Jack.  “Fine,” he said dryly.  “Let her get you your next bottle of water.  I'm going home.”

Daniel walked to the patio and up the stairs.

“DANIEL!  Danny!  I was ... oh for crying out loud.  GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!”

Daniel had disappeared through the door, but he returned a second later, hearing Jack's yell.

“Would you like me to call Janet?” Daniel asked from the atop the patio steps, a smug smile on his face.

“I want you.”

“I don't have red hair.”

“I like brunets.”

“I don't have little delicate hands, either.”

“Actually, Love,” Jack said thoughtfully, thinking about how smooth and soft Daniel's hands and slender fingers felt to him.

“JACK!”

“Danny, please.  Help a guy out here.”

“Well,” Daniel walked down the steps, “if you're sure you don't want me to call Janet.”

“Daniel ... Danny ... Danny.”  Each time Jack had said his lover's name, it had gotten softer and more tender.  “I love you.”

“Well, when you put it like that what's a man to do?”

“I have several suggestions,” Jack said, earning a smile from his soulmate.

“I'll, uh, take them all into consideration,” Daniel said as he closed in on his lover until finally they were joined in a passionate kiss that warmed both instantly.

====

“Danny, I love you.”

Jack held his lover in his arms as they stood in the kitchen.  They were both returning to the SGC, to the real world.  Daniel would be back on full duty and, in fact, would be going off-world not long after their arrival at the Mountain.  The still-recovering Jack, however, would be on light duty for at least two weeks.

“I think I got spoiled, Jack, just you and me here, though, I wish it hadn't been because of your knee.”

Daniel's voice and expression expressed his sorrow at that.  If he could keep Jack from hurting, even slightly, he would.

“At least I can walk on this thing now.  It's a little wobbly, but you were right.”

“Imagine that,” Daniel mocked.

“Smarty pants.”

“Flirt.”

“My love,” Jack crooned before kissing his lover.  “Seriously, Daniel, I know I have to keep this therapy thing going, and ... well, you make it fun.  I can do anything as long as you're here.”

Daniel blushed and leaned back into Jack's embrace.

“Even that meditation thing has helped,” Jack admitted.  “I love you, Daniel.”

“I love you, too.  Jack, when you get home tonight, promise me you'll do your time on the CPM ... and drink your water ... and take your pills ... and ...”

“Danny, I promise.  I'll do it all, as long as you make me a promise.”

“What?” the younger man asked.

“You come home safe and sound tomorrow.  No making nice with the hostiles.  Don't touch anything.”

“Jack, there are no hostiles on P29-014, and I have to touch the ruins, or I can't do my job.”

“You know what I mean.  Promise me.”

“I promise.”  They kissed again.  It was something they enjoyed doing a lot, needless to say.  Then, Daniel said, “Jack, no heroics while I'm gone.”

“Heroics?  Me?”

“You're not supposed to drive yet, and you need to be careful around here, too.  There are so many steps,” Daniel said, looking around the home.

“Don't worry, Love.  I'll behave.”

“When I get back we can start hydrotherapy.  You'll like that.”

“Great.  Get rid of the CPM, and in its place I get a water hog,” Jack said, thinking about the portable spa-like machine that would be arriving shortly.

“I'll ... make it fun,” Daniel claimed with shining eyes.

“Well, in that case,” Jack said, smiling, and then kissing Daniel again.

“We'd better go, Jack.”

“Sometimes, I hate it when you're right.”

“Me, too,” the younger man laughed.

“Well, Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho,” Jack sing-songed.  “It's off to the Mountain we go.”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he followed Jack out the door.

====

“Time to go, Daniel.”

“Jack, we've only been here fifteen minutes.”

The lovers had gone to the YMCA.  Though they could have gone to the Mountain to use the pool there, they didn't want the constant interruption that could have easily occurred there.  They also wanted a certain amount of freedom that going to the YMCA's pool provided, even though they still had to be careful about how they behaved with one another.

“I think we should go.”

“Why?”

“I don't like the way that guy is looking at you.”

The lovers were at the pool, each in their swim trunks.  Jack's was green with palm trees on it.  Daniel's was navy blue, of course, being a gift from Jack.  Unfortunately for the older man, he had forgotten how short those trunks were, exposing much more of Daniel than he wanted anyone else to see.

Daniel turned and shook his head in disbelief.

“Jack, that guy isn't even looking over here.”

“Well, he was.”

“He looks like the Incredible Hulk.  I'm not interested in Mister U.S.A.”

“Oh, is that the only reason?”

“Jack, be quiet, and let's see if we can do this next water exercise without causing you much pain.”

“Much?  Glad you're thinking of me, Daniel.”

“Sulk all you want.  We're staying here until we get through these exercises, and we're coming back every day that I'm not ... you-know-where ... until your knee is a lot better.”

“Have I mentioned that you're stubborn as a mule?”

“No, but you have told me I'm a slave driver, so slave, move that leg.”

====

After almost two weeks of therapy, Jack was again examined by Doctor Barnes.  All the stitches had been removed during a previous visit, and there was no sign of swelling or infection.

“It's looking good, Colonel O'Neill.  Any problems you haven't mentioned?”

“Not a one.”

“You're a very fit individual, Colonel.  That's a big plus when dealing with an injury like this.”  Barnes made a few notations on his chart, and then addressed Jack again.  “Okay, then as far as I'm concerned, you can return to active duty with certain provisos.  I understand that you are often involved in strenuous duties.  I want you to hold off on those, so whatever adjustments in your schedule that needs to be made should be.  You can do regular activities with normal strain, but no excess physical stress, not for another week, maybe two.  I'll give Doctor Fraiser a call and make sure she concurs.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

====

For the next ten days, Jack was on a modified activity status.  He was allowed to go through the Stargate, but only to established planets where a minimal amount of walking was required and where there was definitely no climbing or rough terrain involved.

At home, they'd kept the CPM machine at Daniel's insistence while continuing with hydrotherapy in the portable machine they had at home and in the water at the YMCA's pool.  Daniel also made sure Jack exercised and participated in the meditation techniques, at least once or twice a week, no matter how much he growled.

Finally, Barnes and Janet had agreed Jack could be cleared for regular duty.  His good physical condition and attention to recovery had paid off.  While they urged him to continue various therapies and also warned him that playing hockey and other more physical sports should be avoided for several months, they were happy with the knee's healing.

“Well, Love, you're good as new, just like I told you would happen,” Daniel stated happily.

“I'm sure glad to see that CPM go,” Jack replied with a smile.

Since he was returning to work, Daniel had agreed the CPM had done its job.

~Okay, maybe I was overdoing it a little.  I know most patients only keep that machine for a couple of weeks, but ... I ... I love him, and I want him to feel good about himself, and a healthy knee will help with that,~ Daniel had thought when he had eventually packed up the machine to return to the hospital the night before.  “You still need to do those exercises, Jack.”

“I know you'll make sure I do.”

“You got that right,” Daniel affirmed.  “Are you ready to go to the Mountain?  Sam says she has the perfect first mission for your full-scale return to duty.”

“Oh yeah?  Where?”

“P5M-195,” Daniel answered without elaborating.

“And what makes it perfect?”

“Children,” Daniel answered, still holding a straight face..  The place is loaded with children and toys.  Sam said you'd be in your natural element,” he said, breaking out into a grin.

“I think I'll talk to Hammond about getting a new 2IC.”

“Jack!”

“Just kidding.”  Jack took Daniel into his arms.  “I owe this all to you.”

“Being a child?” Daniel asked quizzically.

“No.  My recovery.  I was scared, Danny.  I know I went overboard with the hair thing, but this was bad,” Jack confided.  “I really thought I might never walk through the Gate again, and my paranoia about  losing you.”

“You know better.”

“I love you, Daniel.  Thank you.”

“I love you, too, so much,” the younger man stated.

“You know, the sooner we get to the Mountain, the sooner we can come home and ...”

“And you know?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“Big time you know!”

“Then let's go.”

Laughter in their voices and huge smiles on their faces, Daniel and his not-so-old man headed for Cheyenne Mountain, full of love and with lots of hope in their hearts for their tomorrows.

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