What Must Happen

Author:  Orrymain
Author Email:  marciastudley1@comcast.net  (Feedback welcome)
Author Website:  http://orrymain.com
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  S9 - November 24 - December 5, 2005
Spoilers:  Crystal Skull, Scorched Earth, Icon, Babylon, The Fourth Horseman Parts 1 & 2, Ethon, Arthur's Mantle
Size:  119kb
Written:  November 25-27, December 5,14,18, 2009, January 4, March 8-9,21-22, 2010
Summary:  As the battle with the Ori continues, both Jack and Daniel have to endure individual battles with their souls.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This is truly my interpretation of these episodes and it definitely does not follow the chronological order of events as seen in the TV series.
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “What Must Be” and “Footsteps”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Navi, Becca, Irina, Claudia!

What Must Happen
by Orrymain

Stargate Command was bustling with activity.  It had been that way for the past couple of weeks, ever since the President had okayed Daniel's recommendation that Cheyenne Mountain focus all of its resources on drawing out the villainous Ori in an effort to defeat them.

So far, the plan had succeeded in that the Ori had invaded the Milky Way Galaxy, allowing Daniel to obtain a copy of the Book of the Origin.  However, the Tau'ri were far from winning the battle.  In fact, they'd barely survived the deadly plague unleashed by the religious zealots and which had raged through SGC personnel.  Sadly, after having infected Daniel, the plague had even reached Jack and Daniel's precious beagle, Katie.

Fortunately, a variation of the vaccine provided by an alternate reality version of SGC had worked, and now Daniel and Katie were both back on their feet, as were the other infected Tau'ri.  It was time for Jack and Daniel to focus once again on the menacing Ori.

“Sir,” Sam called out, jogging forward a few steps to catch up with her CO as he walked the drab gray corridors of the military base.  “How's Daniel?”

“Ask him yourself,” Jack responded lightly.  “He's got his nose buried in the reports the other Daniel gave me.”

“I've been doing some reading myself.  They're helpful,” Sam stated.  “What about Bijou and Katie?”

“They're being spoiled rotten by Carolyn Ferretti for a few days,” Jack answered.  “We'll bring them home next week, but we just want to be sure there aren't any after effects.  The truth is we just don't want them to be alone right now.”  After a pause, he questioned, “What's the status on the anti-prior gun?”

“It's not a gun,” Sam reminded.

“I know that,” Jack returned a bit agitatedly.  “It just sounds better if I call it that anyway.”

Sam chuckled and then reported, “We're still working on it.  Um, two more worlds are under Ori influence.”

“Not a good way to start out my day, Carter.”

“I just thought you'd want to know,” the colonel said with a shrug.

“Thanks for thinking of me,” Jack replied with an edge to his voice, continuing on his way.

Stopping, Sam called out, “Anytime, Sir,” and then turned around to head back in her original direction.

====

The next morning, Sam and Daniel were in his office, talking about what they'd learned from the reports given to them by their alternate selves.

“Orlin sacrificed himself, Daniel,” Sam sighed sadly.

“You really liked him,” Daniel observed.

“I know it was silly,” Sam admitted, thinking back to when she'd first met Orlin, when he'd returned to mortal form in the hope of having a relationship with her, though later he'd been forced to sacrifice himself to save others and thus had ascended for a second time.  “There wasn't a future with him, but he was so ...”

“... cute?” Daniel asked, his dimples showing.

Sam giggled, “Yeah, he was.  He was disarming.  I didn't intend to care about him, but I couldn't help it.”

“He grew on you,” the archaeologist mused.

“In spite of myself, I guess he did,” Sam conceded with a soft smile.  She grew more serious as she reflected on the Ascended being.  “Orlin put others before himself.  He ... left me behind to save others.  Something tells me that if we needed him, he'd do it again.”

“Like he did in the alternate reality,” Daniel affirmed with a nod.  He didn't know Orlin well, but he had no reason to doubt his friend's assertion.  ~I hope it doesn't come to that for us.~

“Did you find out anything interesting?” Sam asked curiously.

“I'm still reading, but, uh, yes,” Daniel answered.  “Actually, Orlin helped the alternate reality to hone in a bit more on the history of the Ori and what they're really after.”

“We don't know that already?”

“This makes it crystal clear,” Daniel replied.  “As Orlin told it, there was a time long ago when the Ori and the Alterans were one society, all human, on an evolutionary path to ascension, but they began to argue, philosophically.  The Ori became more fervent in their religious beliefs, while the Alterans focused on science.”

“The Ori attacked,” Sam assumed, recalling all she'd learned up until now.

“So, instead of going to war, the Alterans built a ship, left their galaxy, and came here.  Both the Alterans and the Ori eventually ascended, and the Ori passed on their religion, Origin, to what they call lower species.”

“That would be humans.”

“Yeah,” the archaeologist returned wistfully.

“That we know a little too well,” Sam quipped, grimacing at the thought of all the Ori had already done in their galaxy.

“The kicker in young Orlin's revelation in the alternate reality is that everything Origin's followers devote themselves to is a lie.  Ascension is central to their religion; it's what they promise their followers, but it never happens,” Daniel stated.  “Orlin said it was something the Ori would never do or share.”

“You'd think the followers would figure out that no one ever ascended.”

“The Ori have too much power, given to them by their followers.”

Sam nodded and replied, “The belief gives the priors' staffs power.”

“No, Sam, it gives the priors themselves power.  There's a real, physical transfer of energy to the Ori that occurs through a human being's belief in them.  To have a measurable effect, it requires massive numbers of humans relinquishing their will, but as we know ...”

“... it happens,” Sam sighed.  “Up until now, we thought it was just the staffs that received the power.”

“We've been underestimating the Ori in spite of our best intentions not to,” Daniel expounded.  He sighed thoughtfully and then added, “That transference of power?  It's one of the main reasons the Ancients believe so strongly in strict non-interference in the lower planes, not that that makes it any less frustrating.”

“It's understandable,” Sam reluctantly agreed.

“Temptation,” Daniel stated succinctly.  “Non-interference is a safeguard, to keep themselves from doing exactly what the Ori are doing.”

“Daniel, what about the priors?  Do they know this?  I mean, are they complicit?”

“No, they're pawns in the Ori's twisted game,” Daniel answered.

“You said the reports indicated why the Ori have really come to our galaxy,” Sam prodded curiously.

“Not for us,” Daniel answered.  “They want to get to the Ancients.”  After a gloomy silence, he spoke, “Oh, uh, according to the reports, the anti-prior weapon worked.”

With a pleased expression, Sam returned, “I hope so.  Bill thinks he should have it done in the next day or so.”

“Maybe we can find a prior to try it out ...” Daniel paused, hearing the klaxons go off, “... on.”

“Wonder who that is?” Sam questioned.

“Better go and ...”  Daniel's statement was interrupted by his telephone.  “Hello ... on my way.”  Hanging up the phone, he advised, “We've got an incoming message from Tegalus -- Jared Kane.”

Sam stood up a little straighter and then followed her teammate to the control room.

A year earlier, when factions of the planet Tegalus had begun a civil war, Daniel had been injured and stranded on the planet.  During that time, Jared's wife, Leda, had nursed him back to health.  In the process, she'd learned to care a bit too much for the archaeologist, though Daniel had done his best to dissuade her.  In the end, Jared and Leda had started the process of reconnecting, but only time would tell if their marriage had survived or not.

Stargate Command had attempted to help stop the war and to assist Jared and Leda's people reach peace, but nothing they'd done had worked.  It had been a few months since any contact with Tegalus had occurred.

Now, Jared was requesting permission to come through the Stargate.  He'd apparently gained access to the Gate on his planet without his government's permission.

“I think we should hear what he has to say,” Daniel told Hammond.

“Open the iris,” the major general ordered Sergeant Davis.

“This ought to be good,” Jack groaned, following his husband to the gate room, as did Hammond and Sam.

====

“Jack, we have to help,” the archaeologist asserted forcefully after the briefing with Jared had ended.

“No, Daniel, we don't,” Jack stated petulantly.

Daniel sighed and closed his office doors, after which he used the remote to turn off all of the security recording devices in his office.  He walked up to his lover and kissed him.

“Nice, but what was that for?” Jack asked, his hands still loosely around his husband's waist.

“Just nice?”  Seeing Jack's glare, Daniel nodded, waving off the brief and probably ill-timed tease.  “Jack, I kissed you because I wanted to remind you of who we are.  We're married, happily.  Jared's come here to ask for our help.  Please don't let your jealousy, thankfully small as it might be now, prevent you from seeing why we have to help.”

“I'm not jealous.”

“Jack, you're always jealous, and you know that Leda cared about me.  I ... didn't handle that well.  That's not a reason for us to turn our backs on Tegalus.”

“I didn't say we would.”

“We couldn't if we wanted to, not after what Jared told us.”

The Rand Protectorate, of which Jared was a part, was still at war with the Caledonian Federation, even as it struggled to rebuild from the original devastation of the civil war.  A few weeks ago, a prior had arrived on the planet.  In exchange for their devotion, he gave the Protectorate plans for a satellite that could be launched into orbit and which would give them total domination over the Caledonians.  Working around the clock, the satellite was already operational.

Devotion was something the people of the Rand Protectorate were willing to give since the prior had brought more with him than just a plan for weapons.  He'd told the citizens that their suffering was a test to see who was worthy.  That had provided the people with a reason for the war and the pain it caused.

Having argued against the building of the satellite, Jared had been locked out of the building process.  As a result, he'd only been able to bring the Tau'ri some early schematics for the device.  It hadn't taken Sam long to realize the satellite wasn't very efficient, especially the capacitors that took several minutes to store up enough energy to fire and then again to repeat the firing.

It was that fact, though, that led Sam to believe the Prometheus could easily take out the satellite.  Her opinion was that the ship could emerge from hyperspace and fire before the satellite weapon could charge.

“We shouldn't be involved in their mess,” Jack sighed.

“We *caused* their mess, Jack,” Daniel reminded.  “If we'd never gone there in the first place ...”

“Daniel, every time we walk through that Gate, we're sticking our noses into other people's business.  You wanna stop exploring so we don't risk folks getting their noses out of joint?”  Jack let his challenge settle a few seconds before he spoke again.  “It's part of the job.  If those folks had used some common sense, they wouldn't be in this situation, *regardless* of our little meet and greet.”

“We don't know that.”

“One word:  Kelowna.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and bobbed his head slightly.  Both alien worlds were on the thick-headed side, rarely wanting to listen to what anyone else had to say. Common sense wasn't something neither planet understood.

“I just hope the government will hear us out,” Daniel stated.

“You're not going alone; I hope you know that.”

“Maybe you should go with Sam and Teal'c on the Prometheus,” the archaeologist suggested.

“You're afraid I'll ruin your attempt at diplomacy.”

“I,” Daniel began, prolonging his first word, “didn't want to say it exactly like that, but ... yeah.”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack, you know how you get during negotiations.”

Jack groaned, but then surprised his husband by kissing him soundly, not once, but twice.

“Let's negotiate,” the general recommended as the couple kissed again.

====

~I should have listened to Jack,~ Daniel lamented silently the next day.

The archaeologist couldn't believe it.  He'd convinced his husband to trust him and to believe in the alien government.  Nothing would happen.  Besides, unlike his last visit to the planet, this time if something did go wrong, he could easily be found via the locator beacon he was wearing on a wristband.  Unfortunately, the moment he and Jared had walked through the Stargate, they'd been arrested and incarcerated and were now languishing in adjoining cells.  Worse, the wristband had been taken from him.

“This isn't exactly what I had in mind.”

The statement broke through the silence that had descended upon them after Daniel and Jared were escorted to their cells.

“What happens if your people don't hear from us?” Jared questioned as he paced in tiny square room.

“I told them to proceed with destroying the weapon,” Daniel answered.  ~If I'm not able to get in touch with Jack soon, he might just help the Caledonians. Crap.~

“I was hoping my government would listen,” Jared expressed dejectedly.

Daniel nodded and then queried, “Jared, shouldn't Leda be here, trying to get you out, or wouldn't they even tell her that you're here?”

“Leda's dead,” Jared replied, sorrow in his eyes as he looked at his hands.

“Dead?  How?”

“When the prior first arrived, that first day, no one believed him.  They may have needed a reason for the war, but they weren't ready to follow the Ori based on just the word of the prior.  In an instant, thousands became very ill.”

“The Ori plague,” the archaeologist sighed as he stood, his hands holding the metal bars that separated his cell from Jared's.

“We didn't know what it was, but the prior told us that anyone who believed would be cured.  We watched friends barter away their lives, but Leda, she ... refused to accept it.  She and many others died, refusing to accept Origin.”

“I am sorry.”

Jared nodded with acceptance and added, “Our last few months together were good ones, Daniel.  Our world may have been entangled in a political war, but we were finding our way back to each other.”

“I'm glad to hear it,” Daniel acknowledged, feeling some peace within him at last as he let go some of the guilt he felt about his mishandling of Leda's affections.

The two men settled into a silence, each content to be lost in their own thoughts for the moment.  Then President Nadal entered.  He wasn't a particularly threatening looking man.  In fact, he had a rather crumply face that seemed to match his nasty disposition.

As Daniel listened in disbelief, Nadal informed Jared that he was under arrest for treason.

“Excuse me?  You allowed us to come here under false pretenses?” an angry Daniel accused venomously.

“Doctor Daniel Jackson, your government has knowingly harbored a felon.  As well, it seems, they are in possession of top secret documents vital to the security of this country.  As of now, you are both considered enemies of the state and will be detained until trial can be set,” Nadal informed unsympathetically.

~Jack is *so* going to kill me,~ Daniel groaned to himself as he gripped the bars of his cell tightly, resisting the urge his bang his head on said bars.

====

The Prometheus came out of hyperspace and immediately tried to beam up Daniel.

“I shouldn't have listened to him,” Jack groused angrily as he picked up the wrist strap with the beacon on it that had been beamed up to the ship, sans one archaeologist.  “Find him,” he ordered anyone who was within listening distance.

Not long thereafter,  Crewman Womack announced, “Target has been acquired, Sir.”

“We've got the satellite dead to rights.  We can hail them and ask for Doctor Jackson in exchange,” Colonel Pendergast announced.

Somberly, Teal'c advised, “That would not accomplish the goal of this mission.”

“He wouldn't want us to trade his life for thousands, possibly millions of Caledonians,” Sam added sadly.

Jack stared at his teammates in disbelief, shocking the two with the intensity of the glare.

“Well, it's your call, General,” Pendergast told Jack.  “All I'm asking is that you make up your mind quickly.”

“Sir, we're detecting a power build-up from within the satellite,” Womack announced.

“Sir, Daniel ...”

“One word,” Jack interrupted bitterly.  “Enkarans.”

Sam's eyes widened and Teal'c actually blinked at the recollection of the time when Daniel had almost been blown to bits while aboard a spaceship.  At the time, both of them had urged Jack to proceed with the ship's destruction, which he had.  Only a miracle from the archaeologist saved his life.

“Yeah,” Jack said with a nod.  “I remember that, too, and it was too close.  We got lucky.  Daniel always says there's another way.  Well, we're going to find it. Colonel Pendergast, target that satellite weapon, but you are *not* to open fire on it or Tegalus without my express order.  Is that understood?”

“Understood,” Pendergast replied, inwardly happy at not having to risk Daniel Jackson's life.  ~Jackson's a good man; I'd rather not be responsible for ending his life.~

====

Meanwhile, on Tegalus, Nadal was steaming at the revelation of the large ship's detection.  He ignored the ship's hail and their request to speak with the man in charge.

Finally, Jack took over and spoke in his most deadly ‘don't mess with me’ voice, “This is Brigadier General Jack O'Neill of Earth.  I want to speak with Daniel Jackson, *now*.”

After some consideration, Nadal opened communications on his end and returned, “This is President Nadal of the Rand Protectorate.  Doctor Jackson and all of Earth are enemies of the State.”

“Look, we'll turn around and go home *if* you turn over Doctor Jackson to us,” Jack offered, even though he knew Daniel wouldn't be happy about it.  ~We can fight about it for weeks, Danny; but at least you'll be home.~

“Sir, the satellite's had time to charge,” Sam called out urgently.

Before anyone could react, the weapon fired, piercing the Prometheus' shields and blowing a hole from one end to the other.  The jolting ship listed to the starboard as the crew was jostled about.  Desperately, they tried to get control of the vessel.

“Evasive maneuvers!  Full military thrust!  Return fire, forward rail guns,” Pendergast shouted.

“Sub-light engines aren't responding,” Womack reported, frantically working the controls.

In an instant, the situation had gone from bad to dire.  Hyperdrive was offline, the shields were down, and there had already been four casualties.  Sam was confused.  The satellite weapon had apparently been modified.  It was far more powerful than the early schematics indicated.

“The F-302s,” Jack called out, looking over at Teal'c.  “They can only fire at one thing at a time.”

Sam briefly acknowledged her commanding officer's words, but she was too busy at the controls, trying to stabilize the Prometheus.

Pendergast nodded and called out, “Scramble Blue Squadron.”

“We'll blast that thing up close,” Jack stated confidently as he headed for fighter bay to head up the squadron.

====

Unfortunately, Jack's confidence proved to be misplaced.  The F-302s weren't making a dent against the upgraded satellite weapon.

Worse, the Prometheus was fighting a losing battle.  Its two main power relays had been damaged and the only way to fix the situation was to reroute power through the bypass conduits.  That would at least get them sub-light capability. Sam and the recently promoted Captain Marks were desperately trying to get to the area of repair, which was two levels up from the flight deck.

Down on Tegalus, Commander Pernaux, Rand's military leader, reported, “The large vessel appears to be disabled.  Shall I broadcast a call for surrender?”

“The Book of Origin tells us that enemies of the Ori show no mercy in their attempts to draw us away from the path.  We must face this attack with all the strength we have been given.  Finish them,” Nadal ordered coldly.

--

From space, Jack communicated over his radio, “Prometheus, this is Blue Leader.  Status report.”

“Uh, not too good, right now, Blue Leader,” Pendergast responded.

“Can we assist?” Jack questioned hopefully.

“Negative, Blue Leader, negative.  Docking bays are too unstable for safe return.”

--

Aboard the Prometheus, Sam and Marks had finally made it to Level 15 and were working feverishly on their task.  The problem was that they needed more time.

Hearing this from his captain's chair on the bridge, Pendergast knew what he needed to do.  He wished there were another way.

~Wishing won't help, Colonel; just suck it up and do it.~  Hoping to give Sam and his crewman that precious time, Pendergast opened a channel to Tegalus and pleaded, “This is Colonel Lionel Pendergast of the Earth vessel Prometheus calling the Rand Protectorate.  Your attack on our vessel has severely damaged our engines and rendered our weapons systems inoperable.  We are willing to negotiate the terms of our surrender.”

Not getting a response, Pendergast implored, “Rand Protectorate, this is the Earth vessel, Prometheus.  We wish to negotiate our surrender.  Repeat, we wish to negotiate our surrender!”

--

~They aren't listening,~ Jack sighed.  He could see the Prometheus, and she didn't look good.  “Blue Squadron, this is Blue Leader.  Break off the attack and scramble formation between the Prometheus and the weapon.”

--

Sam and Marks finally managed to get some power back for the Prometheus at about the same time Nadal finally responded to Pendergast's plea.

“This is President Nadal of the Rand Protectorate addressing the Earth vessel. Please explain your brazen act of aggression against our nation.”

Jack cut into the communication, calling out, “Nadal, this is General O'Neill.  As I tried to explain before, all we want is Daniel Jackson.”

“Your actions are hostile.”

“You fired the first shot!” Jack countered.

“You harbored a fugitive on your planet, General!” Nadal blasted back.

“Give us Daniel Jackson now, or we'll be back, and when we come back, you'll be dust,” Jack threatened.

“O'Neill, DanielJackson ...” Teal'c began from the weapons position in the rear of Jack's F-302.

“... is a prisoner being held by those pompous idiots.”

--

Unbeknown to Jack, Nadal had already sent for Daniel and Jared.

“Your planet sent this ship to attack us,” Nadal told Daniel.  “I have no desire to take more lives.  You tell us what we want to know, and I will accept their surrender.”

Pernaux examined, “Who else was involved in this attack?  What other actions are the Caledonians planning?”

“We're not spies,” Daniel insisted.  “I came here to convince your people to dismantle this weapon yourselves before any of this became necessary!”

“Why would we do that?” the leader of the Protectorate asked.

~This is insane,~ an irritated Daniel thought.  “I have tried to explain.”

The questioning continued, with Nadal revealing that he believed Jared was part of a spy network supplying their enemy with classified information.

“Did you ever think that maybe the Caledonians are being leaked information because not everyone in your country agrees with what you're doing?” Daniel queried.  ~I know I don't.~

Nadal was incensed by Daniel's comment, but his attention was drawn back to the battle as the weapon had again been charged.

“Wait!  Please!” Daniel implored passionately.  “Just listen to me before you go murdering defenseless people!”

“You *are* the enemy.  You came to our world, and it nearly destroyed us,” Nadal spat back.  “Your very presence is dangerous for us.  *We* are the ones defending ourselves.”

~No!~ Daniel exclaimed silently, realizing what was about to happen.

--

On the Prometheus, Sam reported she still needed more time to get weapons back online.  Regretfully, it was time Pendergast couldn't give her.

“We don't have it, Sam, I'm sorry.  It's over.  Give me as much power as you can. Re-route it from the shields, and get me all functioning internal Asgard beam sensors back online.”

“Sir?” Sam called out with concern.

“We're abandoning ship,” Pendergast declared as he moved to Womack's station.  “Begin the evacuation orders.  I want all personnel to beam down to the planet's surface.  Find me a nice open field anywhere in Caledonia.”

“Yes, Sir,” Womack acknowledged.

“And broadcast the locations of all the active sensor sites.”  Into the radio, Pendergast called out, “Uh, this is the Prometheus to all F-302s.  We have begun our evacuation.  Advise you get clear of the ship and meet us at the rendezvous coordinates on the planet.”

“Affirmative, Prometheus,” Jack acknowledged reluctantly.  “Good luck.”

“Thank you, Jack.  We'll be fine, just as soon as we land this bird.”

--

On Level 15, Sam continued her work, ordering a hesitant Marks to evacuate.

--

On the ground, Nadal stated, “We must not fail the gods.  We must embrace our destiny.  Fire the weapon!”

“*Wait!*” Daniel shouted.  ~No!  Innocent people are going to die, and it's my fault.  Why can't I ever say 'no'?~

“*No!*” Jared yelled at the same time.

Both men lunged forward, but were immediately pulled back by the guards.

~Gawd, what did I do?~ Daniel bemoaned inwardly.  ~Jack?  No!~

--

Pendergast was working as fast as he could to beam his crew off the Prometheus.  He was almost done when he looked up and saw the satellite weapon had fired another shot.  He felt the burst ram through his ship and knew the end was at hand.  In resignation, having done all he could do, he closed his eyes and met his death head on.

--

“Crap!” Jack exclaimed as he watched from F-302.  The Prometheus was exploding in front of his eyes until there was nothing left.  “Carter got out,” he tried to assert as confidently as he could.  He heard nothing from the Jaffa in the second seat.  “Right, Teal'c?  Carter beamed off.”

“ColonelCarter would not leave the Prometheus without having done everything in her power to save it.”

“Right,” Jack sighed sadly, fearing the worst.

--

“The Earth vessel has been destroyed,” a technician reported on Tegalus.

~My fault, Jack.  Why did I do it?  Why didn't I listen to you?  Jack,~ the devastated archaeologist bewailed internally.  A cold dread seeped into his mind and body as he processed what had just happened.  ~Why didn't I listen?~ he echoed amid the sorrow.

Daniel and Jared were taken back to their cells, where Daniel simply sat down and began a silent vigil of sorrow.  He said nothing when Pernaux entered and engaged Jared in conversation.

**Jack?** Daniel called out in despair.  Though the odds of a response was just about nil, but he had to try.  Still, he knew that his reason for living was most likely dead.  His body ached from the deep sadness he felt.  He wanted to fade away and drown out what he'd heard only minutes before.  Against all odds, he prayed that his soulmate was simply too far away to hear his call; yet, he couldn't stop the thoughts running through his head.  ~Jack could be dead.  Sam, too ... and Teal'c and ... and how many more, all because I *had* to come here and save the day for people who don't want our help.~

Though he felt like he had no strength left, Daniel found an inner will to fight for Earth.  He had to see this through even as he hoped for the safety of his husband.  As always, the very essence of who the archaeologist was could not be denied, no matter what the circumstance.

Amid his prayers and doubts about his own actions, Daniel heard noise, indistinct sounds penetrating his brain.

~Words.~

The words took clarity until finally, the linguist began to respond after hearing words that were very disturbing to him.

“With my own eyes, I saw the prior bring the satellite to life merely by touching it with his staff.  Neither Rand nor Caledonia have the technology capable of resisting such power.  What choice do we have?” Pernaux questioned Jared.

~I have to do something; they have to listen,~ Daniel thought with the little bit of motivation he could find down deep inside.  With a sigh, he stood and walked forward.  “Ah, look, I can't make you any promises, but we have already developed a machine that neutralizes the prior's powers.  Now, as far as we know, they've only been able to travel within our galaxy by use of the Stargate, and you can either bury your Gate, or we can teach you to build an iris system like ours.”

“Nadal has lost all sense of reason,” Jared argued as he strove to get his point across to Pernaux.  “The Book of Origin is just one big lie meant to seduce us into meaningless worship. The Ori just want to use us, and killing in their name is not self-defense.  It's murder.”

Saying nothing in response, Pernaux turned around, leaving the prisoners to themselves.

====

At the Caledonian headquarters, Minister Chaska entered the main tactical area where personnel were buzzing about.  With her were Jack and Teal'c.  It was the day following the Prometheus disaster.

“We were monitoring the entire exchange,” Chaska informed the Tau'ri.  “To our knowledge, seventy-six crew were recovered in Caledonian territory.”

“There were over a hundred and fifteen people aboard that ship,” Jack replied, coming to terms with the loss of some very good men and women.

A couple of minutes later, Sam entered the room, calling out, “Sir! Teal'c!”

“Sam,” Jack replied in relief, uncharacteristically using his 2IC's first name.  “I'm glad you made it,” he said, embracing her briefly, which was also uncharacteristic.

“It is good to see you, ColonelCarter.  We feared the worst,” an emotional Teal'c greeted, also embracing the blonde.

Sam was speechless.  The embraces proved just how jarring the recent experience had truly been.

“Where's Pendergast?” Jack questioned.

Sam fought back the tears, keeping a brave face as she shook her head and answered, “He wasn't with us.”

Sympathetically, Chaska advised, “Our security forces did extensive sweeps of the area where you appeared.  No other survivors were found.”

~Crap.  He was a good man,~ Jack sighed.  To Sam, he introduced, “This is Minister Chaska, leader of the Caledonian Federation.”

“Daniel?” Sam asked softly.

“No friggin' clue, Colonel,” Jack responded, his expression stoic, but his words laced with bitterness.

Chaska advised the SG-1 team members that any hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict was now nil.  In fact, the Caledonians would rather die than live under Rand rule.

“All right.  You folks want to kill yourselves, go ahead.  In fact, I'd be happy to put you in touch with some nice warring factions from a little messed up planet called Kelowna that no longer exists.  I have a hunch y'all would be great friends.  However, before you go blasting your corner of the universe to smithereens, I want to find Daniel Jackson,” Jack asserted strongly.

“We will attempt to contact the Rand Protectorate on your behalf,” the minister responded.

“Thank you.”

====

“Sir,” Sam acknowledged as she joined her CO for dinner at the Caledonian's equivalent to a commissary.  “Where's Teal'c?”

“Kelno'reeming,” Jack answered as he played with the food on his tray.

“I wonder what this is?” Sam asked about the slimy red object attached the prongs of her fork.

“Red sushi?”

Tasting it, Sam made a face and immediately dropped her fork.  Raising her napkin, she spit the food out of her mouth as gracefully as she could.

“Not sushi?”

“It tastes like ... like ... honestly, Sir, I don't know, but I'm not sure it's dead,” Sam commented as she gingerly moved on to a brown and white gelled food that she hoped would agree with her taste buds better.  “Minister Chaska is providing us with better schematics for the satellite.”  She paused, seeing just a nod from Jack.  “I'm sure that ...”

“Carter,” Jack interrupted.  “Don't try to make me feel better.  Daniel's out there with those buffoons, by choice, and that boils me; it boils me good, but he's out there, which means he's coming home.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam agreed with a smile.

“This isn't the way Daniel goes out,” Jack asserted thoughtfully.  “Nothing stops him, not even death, and he's not dead.”

“They're just trying to use him,” Sam put forth.

“Yes, well, we both know Daniel.  He's a pain in the butt, and he's not going to let them use him without a fight, that's for dang sure.”

Sam listened as Jack spouted off similar comments for the next several minutes.  In her heart, she believed the words, and yet she was worried because she realized her CO was worried.  He never sounded off like this.

~Whatever is happening, Daniel, make sure you get back here safely.  I don't think that we could survive without you, especially not General O'Neill.~ Sam urged.

====

That night, Jack paced the room he'd been given to relax and sleep in.  It was the Caledonian version of a VIP room, though the silver-haired man didn't really care.  He was too restless to even sit down.  In his mind, he kept replaying two pivotal moments that had contributed to the current situation.  First was when Earth had originally come into contact with Tegalus, when Daniel had insisted on returning to the planet to try and soothe their political unrest.

“Never should have let him go back,” Jack mumbled, turning around to cross back over the short expanse to the other side of the room.  ~He almost got killed and that woman tried to get him into some crazy soap opera triangle.  Sorry, honey, no go.~  His internal ire was bulging with each second.  ~We should have let them deal with their own mess.~

The second recollection that wouldn't shut off within the general's mind was the choice to let Daniel return to Tegalus with Jared Kane in an attempt to ease the tensions and convince the Rand Protectorate not to trust the Ori.

~Blasted Ori.  We have to get rid of these monsters, but what do we care about Tegalus?  They're just like the Kelownans.  Didn't we learn?  Forget the 'we'.  Didn't *I* learn from that?~  Jack's breathing was getting heavier and his face redder from the anger he felt.  His pacing increased speed as he put all the blame on himself.  “For crying out loud, I could have stopped you, Danny.  Why'd I let you go -- again?”

So perturbed at himself now, Jack pivoted and smashed his hand into the wall, denting it and causing himself to cry out in pain.

“Crap!”

Holding his hand, Jack sat down on the edge of the bed, his body hunched forward as agony swelled within him.

“Dang it, Daniel.”

Finally, Jack leaned over to the side, weeping inwardly until he fell until the darkness of sleep.

====

The next day, Sam was in the main tactical area of the Caledonian headquarters reviewing more detailed schematics of the satellite when the minister, Jack, and Teal'c joined her.

“Any word?” the blonde asked with hope.

“Nothing,” Jack answered quietly.

“The Rand government continues to deny any knowledge of DanielJackson's existence,” Teal'c elaborated.

“Our contacts tell us he was seen alive in the Rand command bunker during the exchange with your ship.  He has not been seen since,” Chaska interjected.

The group turned their attention to the plans Sam was looking at.  The colonel advised that she had one good piece of news to report.

“According to this, all commands for the satellite originate from Rand's main control facility, and maintaining a shield around the satellite is a huge power drain, so it's only activated when a threat is detected.”

“Are you saying the Prometheus was destroyed because we hesitated to fire when we dropped out of hyperspace?” Jack questioned.

“We hesitated out of concern for the safe return of DanielJackson,” the Jaffa explained.

“We also hesitated to leave once our weapons were ineffective,” Sam stated.

“However, it seems that you are saying if we were to destroy the Rand control facility, the weapon itself would become vulnerable to attack,” Teal'c surmised.

“Then we could take a 302 back up there and finish the job,” Jack stated.

However, Chaska refuted, “No, the Rand facility is part of an underground bunker complex that was strong enough to survive our last missile attack. Since then, Rand has developed an early-warning radar system and anti-missile defenses.”

As the discussion continued, Sam opined that it wasn't necessary to hit the bunker, but only to sever the link between the facility and the weapon, which could be done with an EM pulse.  It would take only a brief interruption and based on work she was overseeing at Area 51, she asserted that all that needed to be done was to “harvest the inertial dampener and rig it to one of the Caledonian missiles.”

“What about the anti-missile defenses?” Chaska questioned.

“We use that same 302's radar jamming technology to make your missile invisible to Rand,” Sam answered.

“Still, if this does not work as you're planning, it will be seen as an offensive against Rand.  President Nadal will surely respond by stepping up the deadline for our surrender, and he'll use the satellite weapon against us.”

Confidently, Sam proclaimed, “This will work.”

====

In his jail cell, Daniel paced from the hard cot bench to the doors and back again.  It was an action he'd been doing for at least a half-hour.  His mind was stirring, searching for possibilities and desperately clinging to the hope that his husband and teammates were all safe and sound.

Feeling guilty, a somber Jared apologized, “I don't know what to say, how to take it all back.  I shouldn't have come to you.”

“Look, right now, I just have to believe that there are survivors.”

“You think that's really possible?”

With a sigh, the archaeologist explained, “The Prometheus has beaming technology.”

“Had beaming technology, whatever that is,” Jared rebutted as he turned and sat down.

Going to the cell bars between his hold and Jared's, Daniel gripped the bars and stated with force, “Look, the bottom line is we can't lose focus on why we came back here in the first place.  I mean, there has to be a way out of this, and I got the feeling Pernaux was listening to us.”

“Daniel ...”

“Look, I ... I know the history between Caledonia and Rand makes things seem impossible, but ... sometimes an outside perspective helps,” Daniel put forward, his speech rapid fire as his mind worked at high speed.  “In the past, I've found the key to these types of disputes is to, to get both parties on equal footing, just to, to get the process of talking with each other going.”

Surprised by the other man's dedication and determination not to buckle under, Jared asked, “Do you ever give up?”

“Not until I'm dead,” Daniel sighed.  “And, sometimes, not even then.”

====

As Sam's plan continued to be put into action, the launch was visibly detected by spies for the Rand Protectorate.  This led to a call from Nadal to Chaska, who tried to play it cool.  Afterwards, though, the Caledonian leader realized the paranoid president hadn't bought her story.

Just as Jack advised that the F-302s were in the air, Sam told her CO that the launch had occurred.

It didn't take long for Rand to spot the incoming missile, and as soon as they did, Nadal ordered their shields activated.  At that point, their power went out.

~Okay, what's going on?~ Daniel wondered, looking upward at the unlit light in his cell.

What had happened was that things were finally going as planned for SG-1. Rand had lost all power and their systems were down, including their backup power.

--

At the Caledonian HQ, Sam advised over the radio, “Blue Leader, this is base. Package has been delivered.  Window of opportunity is now open.”

“Copy that,” Jack responded.  “We have cleared the atmosphere.  Two minutes from weapons range.”

--

As the F-302s moved in, Daniel and Jared were led into the bunker on the orders of President Nadal.  He'd just received the news that the outage was in a limited area.  For him, that told the story.

“To our knowledge, the Caledonians do not possess the level of technology required to do this.  Such a weapon could only have been given to them by your people,” Nadal told the archaeologist.

“I hope so,” Daniel responded, his eyes full of defiant pride.  ~As Jack would say, you're an idiot, and right now, I don't really care what happens to you.~

“How can we undo this?  You tell me now, or I'll have you executed,” the president threatened.

~Go ahead,~ Daniel urged calmly.  ~If Jack is dead, I am anyway.~

“Based on its speed and trajectory, the Earth ship will reach the satellite in less than one minute,” a technician reported to Pernaux.

“Do you think if the Ori were true gods, they would allow the Caledonians to do this?” Jared charged with ire.

~I can't give up, no matter how much I want to; not yet.~  Shaking his head, Daniel offered, “Look, I understand your fear of the prior and why you feel you have no choice, but there is another way out of this.”

“What would you have me do?” Nadal questioned, as if truly interested, not that he was.

“Let me use the radio,” Daniel pleaded.  “I can contact the ship that's about to destroy the satellite and get them to call it off.”

“Why would you do this?” Pernaux queried.

“Because I still believe a peaceful compromise can be reached out of all this,” Daniel answered from his heart.  ~I'm sorry, Jack.  I ... I can't help it.~

“I'm listening,” Nadal responded.

“Okay, okay,” Daniel began, preparing to outline his plan.

====

After hearing the archaeologist's idea, Nadal was skeptical, but Pernaux thought it had merit.

“Very well.  You may make the proposal,” Nadal stated.  ~Then I will kill them all.~

Over the radio, Daniel called out, “This is Daniel Jackson, come in please.  To whoever's flying the 302, if you can hear me, please respond.  This is Daniel Jackson, come in please!”

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed, his heart wanting to sing except for the severity of the current situation.  “Daniel, are you okay?”

“Jack?  You okay?”

“I asked you first,” Jack quipped lightly.

“Yeah, I'm fine ... for the moment,” Daniel answered, looking around as Pernaux and Nadal stared at him.  “You?”

“Now I am,” Jack returned.  “What's going on?”

“You know -- same old stuff.  Uh, whatcha' doing?” Daniel queried a bit lightly.

“Oh, well, Teal'c and I are getting ready to bag ourselves an evil Ori satellite,” the general replied as if this were just a normal conversation.

“Yeah, so glad I caught you.  Listen, the Rand want to offer the Caledonians a deal.”

“Really?” Jack questioned in disbelief.

--

Chiming in from Caledonia, Sam interjected, “Daniel, this is Sam.”

“Hey, Sam.  Good to hear your voice,” Daniel replied softly.  ~That's everyone.  We all made it ... so far, anyway.~

“Yours, too,” Sam responded gratefully.  Speaking more strongly, she stated, “I'm here with Minister Chaska of the Caledonian Federation.  We'd like to know what Rand is offering.”

“In exchange for leaving the satellite intact, Rand is offering Caledonia the Stargate,” Daniel answered.  “Rand is offering the Gate and a limited cease fire, so all those from Caledonia who do not want to follow Origin and wish to seek refuge on another planet may do so.”

“They want us to leave our home, our planet?” Chaska questioned Sam.

“I don't know, Daniel.  I'm lookin' at one big, honkin' satellite out my window,” Jack expressed dubiously as he stared at the object in the distance.  “I have a clean shot at this thing, and I am in favor of taking it.”

“Listen, it didn't take Rand very long to build that satellite, and their resolve is ... pretty steady.”  Daniel glanced over at Nadal, observing his stone face expression.  “If we blow this one up, they're just going to build another, and as far as the Caledonians go, well ... Sam, you're just going to have to explain to them that the priors may not give them much choice, regardless of what Rand decides to do.”

On cue, Sam looked at the woman minister standing next to her and expounded, “In a very short period of time, we've seen the damage the priors can do.  They've wiped out entire planets for refusing to follow the Ori.”

Chaska was hesitant and she took in Sam's words that Tau'ri would continue to try and help them, though they were limited in what they could do.  She was torn, fearful the priors would follow them no matter where they went.

“Look, this offer's not going to be on the table long and I realize there's a lot to be worked out, but at least it's a start,” Daniel argued fervently over the radio.

--

Chaska walked away, contemplating the ramifications of whatever decision she might make.  Finally, she made her choice and a moment later, Sam spoke into the radio once more.

“Blue Leader, this is Carter.  Minister Chaska is requesting that you stand down.”

--

Taking off his breathing mask, Jack sighed and warned, “Daniel, you'd better be darn sure about this.”

“Jack, just ... stand down,” Daniel pleaded.

“Blue Leader, standing down,” Jack agreed, turning the F-302 away from the target.  ~You'd better be right about this, Daniel.~

--

At the Rand bunker, things took a darkened twist for the archaeologist when Nadal ordered the shields activated, ignoring Pernaux's remark that the ship was no longer a threat.

“Power the weapon,” Nadal ordered.

“What?” Daniel questioned incredulously as he began to charge the president, though he was held back by a guard.

“Target the Caledonian Capital Building,” the president ordered, still ignoring his military commander's objections and suggestions to reconsider the attack.

--

~I knew it!~ Jack exclaimed after sensors detected Rand's shields had come online.  ~Dang it, Daniel.  The whole universe is not full of good guys.  There are some wicked beasts out there.~  Engaging his radio, he called out with a strained voice, “Daniel, what's going on down there?  The satellite is powering up its weapon and targeting the planet.”

Unfortunately, Jack's blood boiled when his lover didn't respond and that meant just one thing -- that Daniel couldn't respond.

--

“You gave your word!” Kane lambasted Nadal.

“I gave my soul to the Ori who offered us all salvation. Anyone who rejects that is a fool,” Nadal argued, following up his declaration by claiming that all Caledonians deserved to die, even before the prior arrived on Tegalus.

At that point, Pernaux interfered, ordering the satellite be shut down.  Daniel watched the man argue heatedly with Nadal and wished he could take comfort that common sense finally seemed to be prevailing.  Instead, he just felt numb from all that had happened thus far; but then numbness gave way to feeling sickened when the argument ended with Pernaux mortally wounding Nadal and then being shot himself by Nadal's guards.

~Senseless,~ Daniel thought about the entire affair.

Through his pain, as he was being tended to by personnel, Pernaux gave the order to stand down.

~He understands,~ the archaeologist sighed, a small piece of him feeling like he'd at least accomplished that much.

Others in the room were hesitant to obey the order; that is until Jared Kane spoke, demanding Pernaux's order be followed.

“The deal ... will stand,” a weakened Pernaux assured Daniel and Jared.

~Finally, some reason appears,~ Daniel thought silently.  ~I ... I just want to go home.~

As the medical team arrived to look after the military commander, Jared turned to Daniel and said, “Thank you.”

“This won't be an easy road, Jared, but ... we'll help you, if you let us.”

Jared nodded and looked over at a technician, ordering, “Arrange for a transport to shuttle Doctor Jackson to Caledonia.”  He walked over to the radio and called out, “Minister Chaska, this is Senator Jared Kane.”

“Yes, Senator,” Chaska responded.

“Commander Pernaux has been wounded, but for the moment, he is leading the Rand Protectorate,” Jared announced.  “With your permission, I'm arranging transport for Daniel Jackson to Caledonia so he can rejoin his team.  Do we have your permission for the transport to enter your boundaries?”

“Of course,” Chaska agreed, motioning for one of her commanders to take charge of meeting the transport.  “I look forward to meeting Doctor Jackson.”

~And I look forward to getting the heck out of here,~ Daniel opined, giving way to some of the negativeness he felt about Nadal's actions.

====

“Daniel!” Sam called out, hurrying over and hugging her friend as soon as he entered the Caledonian headquarters.

“Sam,” the archaeologist greeted, returning the hug.

“DanielJackson, you look well,” Teal'c acknowledged with a bow of his head.

“You, too,” Daniel replied.  “Ah ...”  Anxious blue eyes shifted around the room, searching.  ~Where is he?~

“He's with ...” Sam began, smiling when Jack entered the tactical room after having met privately with Chaska to offer some suggestions and advice.

“Daniel!”

“Hey, Jack!”

The two men hugged, censoring their touches and reactions in keeping with their location.  It was difficult, their hearts fluttering like butterflies.  Restraint was required, and it tested their willpower.  They wanted to touch and be touched, to assure and be reassured, and to love and be loved as only one could do for the other.  That would have to wait until later and how much later was still a question mark.

====

After SG-1 and the survivors of the Prometheus returned to Earth via  the Stargate, they went through the necessary debriefing and physical examinations.  As soon as they had concluded their obligations, Jack and Daniel returned home.  Both men were exhausted and emotionally drained from the events on Tegalus.  Still, their need to reassure each other that they were alive led to a quick lovemaking session, one that was particularly rugged as they let their beast-like needs possess them.  That's how it was sometimes, though more often than not, their physical unions were tender.

Satiated and convinced they were indeed alive and together, Jack and Daniel fell asleep, the younger man the blanket to the older.

A few hours later, Daniel awoke with a start, though he caught himself in time from waking up his husband, or so he thought.  Getting up, he paid a visit to the restroom, put on his sweats, and then went downstairs.

Daniel wanted to escape out onto the roof deck, but though it was clear, it was an extremely chilly twenty-one degrees outside, so he lit a fire and sat down in front of the blaze, his knees tucked under his chin as he sat, leaning forward, mindlessly staring into the orange and red colored flames.

“Angel,” Jack stated softly, sitting down behind Daniel and putting his arms around his soulmate in a tender but protective embrace.

“It's all my fault, Jack.  It's always my fault,” the younger man confessed with emotional undertones.

“Daniel, if it weren't for you, those people would have blown one another up even earlier.”

“No,” Daniel refuted.  “I'm the one who insisted we go to Tegalus in the first place.  You told me not to, but I had to go, and what happened?  Their whole world changed.”

“Daniel, it wasn't your fault.  They made choices,” Jack insisted, his chin resting atop his Love's shoulder as his hands held Daniel even closer to him.

“Don't try and make me feel better.”

“I'm only stating the facts.”

“The facts?  The facts, Jack, are that I not once, but twice interfered with life on Tegalus and both times ... *both* times, it ... people died.  Colonel Pendergast ...”

“... was an honorable man who led his crew into battle and made the ultimate sacrifice.  In other words, he did his job.”

“He died.”

“Danny, it happens.”

Jack felt the tremors within his lover.  They were deep, and he could feel the scars of battle within Daniel's soul.  Nothing angered him more than when Daniel felt that pain.  It was something Jack knew well, but it was also an emotion he wanted to keep away from the man whose very essence was peace.

“You told me not to go back,” Daniel mumbled forlornly.

“And I was wrong.”  Jack shifted so he could see the other man's profile as he spoke.  “Did you hear me?  I ... was ... wrong.”  He paused, hoping the words would sink in.  “Daniel, what I want most in this world is for you to be true to yourself.”

Daniel blinked, emotion consuming him.  His breathing was labored from his internal anxiety.  So many people had died, and he felt responsible for each and every one of them.

“The Enkarans, Danny.  I had Carter build a bomb, and I was prepared to kill an entire race, and you, because I stuck my nose in where it didn't belong.  I felt responsible for the Enkarans, but the truth is that they had choices, and they refused the options we gave them.  Now there was a lot more to it, but the point is, they were willing to die because they didn't want to leave anyone behind *and* because they were stubborn.”

“What's your point?”

“You didn't listen to me, and you stuck your nose in, and you saved the Enkarans, and Lotan.  That's something I'm sure his two kids are happy about, though I'm still a little shaky on the whole 'born today as a fully functional Enkaran' thing.”

“Jack ...”

“You told me about your true function, and it's not to be a pain in my mikta,” Jack tried to tease.  “Your true function is life -- giving it, breathing it, cherishing it, being passionate about it -- whatever life is about, your function is to keep it going and make it better, regardless of who you're talking to or trying to help.  That's what you did on Tegalus.  You thought I was dead, Carter, T; you knew the Prometheus was destroyed, and the people who were responsible were the same people you tried to help.”

“Stupid, wasn't it?”

“No, it's caring and it's you.  It's who you are, Daniel.  Look, you might talk a good game, especially after all these years.  Geez, you're one snarky geek, but when you boil it down, when you rip away the layers, you're about life, Danny. You hated Apophis and yet you were merciful to the host.”

“That ... was different.”

“No, Daniel.  You can't go against your soul, and your soul amazes me because it's so full of love and compassion for everyone, everywhere, and that will never change.  You can't deny your soul; you can't.”

Tears falling down his cheeks, Daniel's head dropped back against Jack's left shoulder.  He stared up at the ceiling as he let out a sob.

“Let it out, Danny, and then tomorrow we go on.”

“What ... like, like nothing ever happened?”

“Of course,” Jack groaned.  “Look, not long ago you told me that what must be, would be.  Well, as usual, you're right.  What has to happen, must happen, and when you're thrust into a situation where there's right and wrong, what's gonna happen is that you're going to do what your soul tells you is right, is what ... has to happen.”  He let the words be absorbed before continuing several seconds later.  “Someday, My Love, and there'll be a someday, we'll be up against some paranoid, self-indulgent, contemptuous, arrogant ...”

“Gawd,” Daniel let out in what was both a guttural release and an incredulous laugh.

“I wasn't done yet,” Jack laughed.  “Well, you get the idea.”  He paused, kissing the side of Daniel's neck and his hands taking hold of his hands securely.  “Someday, we'll meet another group of Tegalus type folks, factions like that Kelownan bunch -- we'll have a choice to make, and you know what, Danny?  We'll make the choice, to try and help.  I'll probably want to kill them all, but you'll fight me.  You'll argue for their human rights, even if they aren't human; and when they turn on each other, even if they whipped our butts, you'll still search for a way to end the conflict because you believe in peace, and you always believe there's a way to find that peace.  That's why I love you, Daniel: you're a believer, just like you believed in me on Abydos that first time.”

Jack began to sway a bit, keeping Daniel in his arms.  It was soothing and comforting for both.

“Being passionate about living; finding a way for people *to* live: that's your true function, Danny.  That's your essence; your soul.  The Rand Protectorate and the Caledonians listened for one ... brief moment, when you were there to help them.  If you hadn't been there, we'd all be dead.  We're not; we're home.  Seventy-six survivors of the Prometheus are home; we're home.”

As they rocked, Jack held his shaky Love.  Daniel knew Jack was right, but the loss just ate away at him.  Life was so precious and the loss of it, even by people who seemed anxious to throw it away, was almost unbearable.

“I love you, Angel; love you so friggin' much.”

As Daniel let the pain of his soul escape through the tears in his eyes and the sounds of his voice, Jack held him close, making sure Daniel knew he was never alone and was deeply, eternally loved.

====

The next day, a memorial service was held at the Academy for the men and women of the Prometheus who had perished in the destruction.  Many family members were there as well as much of Stargate Command's off-duty personnel.  General Hammond and SG-1 also attended to honor the fallen.  Of course, the deaths had been explained away with a cover story about a battle, though it was referred to as an overseas engagement versus one in outer space.

Daniel had cried out his pain all night, getting only a few hours of sleep prior to the service.  He and Jack had eaten a quiet and simple breakfast of toast and orange juice, the two still holding on to each other as they'd eaten informally on the sofa.  Once they'd walked out the door of their home, however, it was back to the Mountain and back to doing what was necessary.  Yesterday was simply that -- yesterday, and now it was today.

After the service, Daniel returned to the Mountain to continue his research, while Jack disappeared, having told his lover only that he had something to do.

That night, Jack entered his lover's office.  He was in his civvies, which surprised Daniel a bit.

“Hey,” the archaeologist acknowledged.  “Haven't seen you since the memorial service.”

“Yeah,” Jack sighed.  “It was a rough day.”

As Jack sat on a nearby stool, Daniel inquired, “So, where have you been?”

“I hand-delivered Hammond's letter to Colonel Pendergast's wife and kids.  I wanted them to know first hand that he died saving his crew; that his death mattered.”

“Seventy-six people survived,” Daniel replied thoughtfully, his soul more able to deal with that now than it had been the day before.  “That's a ... a testament to his leadership.”

“And yours, Daniel,” Jack surprised his lover in proclaiming.  “We never would have made it off that planet if you hadn't brokered the deal,” he stated, sensing his soulmate's strength had returned but needed a little reminder of the truth.

“You haven't heard,” the younger man sighed as he sat back in his chair.

“Heard what?” a hesitant Jack asked.  ~I've got the feeling I'm not going to like this.~

“Soon after we left, the talks broke down,” Daniel explained as he looked away for a moment.  “They barely made it through a day, Jack.”

“And?”

“And we've been unable to make contact with them.  General Hammond had the Daedalus reroute on its way back from Atlantis.  It seems the Caledonians weren't content to just leave their fair planet.”

“She didn't listen to me,” Jack sighed, recalling the conversation and advice he'd given to Minister Chaska.  ~I tried to warn her; some people are just blame idiots.~

“Apparently not.”

“They launched an attack,” Jack surmised, deciding the words needed to be spoken.

“And Rand responded.  The Stargate is presumed buried in the rubble.”

Shaking his head as he stared straight ahead, Jack lamented, “Rough day.”

“Rough day,” the archaeologist agreed.

There was silence for over a minute, neither man moving.  So much had happened in such a short period of time.  It was a lot to take in, and the lovers just needed a minute to breathe.

“Let's get drunk,” Jack suggested out of the blue.

Daniel let out a little snort as his head lowered for a second and replied, “We can't do that, Jack.  This war, and it is a war, has to have our first attention.”

“Okay, we don't get drunk, in case the zombie-ites show up somewhere, but tonight, Daniel, our first attention is to ourselves and Bijou and Katie.”

The younger man smiled as he asked, “Has it been a week?”

“Longer; time flies when you're not having fun,” Jack quipped.  “It's time for them to come home, and it's time for us to go home.  The war will still be here tomorrow.”

The linguist stared at the book he'd brought back from Avalon.  It was huge and there was much to be learned, but his husband was right.  Tonight was theirs.  Tomorrow, the hunt for the Ori would continue.

====

“Teal'c, what's the status with Gerak?” Hammond inquired at the next briefing.

“Gerak did admit to me that he was approached by a prior and given the Book of Origin.”

“That's a bad sign,” Jack interjected.

“There was no sign, O'Neill,” the Jaffa refuted.

“I just meant ... never mind,” SG-1's team leader replied with a slight shake of his head.

Staring at Jack as he continued, Teal'c expounded, “I took him to the place of his father's greatest battle and reminded him of the honor bestowed to him.  Gerak then realized the truth of the Ori did not exist.  He destroyed the book and has returned to his home.  He has decided not to participate in the new government, fearing the Ori would try to influence him again.”

“No offense, Teal'c, but how can we be sure he'll honor his word?” Hammond asked.

“He will,” the Jaffa insisted.  “However, I have arranged for Gerak's home to be watched and contacts made.  I am confident the Ori have failed in their attempt to take over Chulak.”

“Very well,” Hammond responded, satisfied with the response.  “General?” he called out, looking at Jack.

“We've confirmed that the priors have made their mark on thirty-one planets.”

“Thirty-one?” Daniel asked, stunned by the numbers.

“They're out in force,” Jack replied.  “Some planets have tried to fight back, but they're getting their collective butts kicked.”

“Weapons status?” the bald-headed commander questioned.

“SG-3 was able to try out Carter's anti-prior weapon on P9G-844, and it did work, so that's one for the good guys.”

“Doctor Jackson, you brought back several ancient devices from Glastonbury.  Are any of them going to be of help in this war?” the lieutenant general asked pointedly.

“I'd like to think so,” Daniel answered.

“But?” Jack prodded.

“But ... I don't know,” the archaeologist sighed.  “The communication device is still an option.  Unlike most of the alternate realities that we know of, ours wasn't destroyed because we didn't utilize the stones.  There is ... one device that looks promising, but we haven't been able to ... to ...”

“... figure out how it ticks?” Jack probed with a cock of his head.

“Something like that.”

“Doctor Lee and I have been working on it for days,” Sam advised, referring to fellow scientist, Doctor Bill Lee, a man who had never had Jack O'Neill as a big fan.
 
“Keep at it,” Hammond ordered.  Addressing everyone in the meeting, he added, “This base is still on full alert.  The President is growing concerned the Ori might try other types of plagues.  Be alert, people.  Dismissed.”

“Sam ...”

Jack watched as his lover disappeared with his science twin.  He had a hunch it could be days before either of them came up for air as they continued to try and get the ancient device to work.

~If they find something that helps, it'll be worth it,~ Jack thought as he headed for his office.

====

“Good morning, Carter,” Jack greeted gaily as he entered Doctor Lee's lab.

“Sir,” Sam responded, straightening.  She had been leaning against a worktable as she typed on her laptop computer, which was connected to the ancient device. “I don't know if Doctor Lee has reported in yet this morning.”

“Relax, Carter,” Jack ordered casually.  “I came looking for you.”

“Me ... Sir?” Sam questioned nervously.

Glancing at the device, Jack asked, “You still working on that thing?”

“General Hammond has made it a priority,” Sam answered.

“He didn't mean non-stop,” Jack returned as he looked over at the object.  “Did you sleep here last night?”

Coyly, the blonde answered, “Of course not.  I slept down the hall in my quarters.”  Suddenly, Sam got it.  “Oh.  Daniel didn't go home, either.”

“No, he didn't.”  With his hands in his pockets, Jack leaned forward slightly as he continued, “I know this because *I* didn't go home.  Do you want to know why?”

“You were waiting for Daniel?”

“There you go!”

“Actually, Sir, I did tell Daniel to go home a few hours ago,” Sam advised defensively.

“He got as far as his office,” Jack replied.  “Look, Carter, we've got ourselves one big mandate to fill.  We can't afford to be wasting our time.  Are you sure about this thing?”

Defensively, Sam argued, “Daniel's sure; well, as sure as he can be right now.”  After a pause, she reminded, “General, this device was recovered from the cave under Glastonbury.  Who knows what ancient secrets it may hold?”

“Yes, so Daniel tells me,” Jack sighed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his BDU pants.

“General, is something wrong?”

“You know as well as I do what we're up against with the Ori, and you've heard the rumblings about some end-of-the-world device the priors are preaching about.”  Jack paused for a moment.  “Look, Carter, I don't mean to belittle the secrets this little baby might hold, but we're in a battle here.  I need you on the front lines.  Why not let the R and D folks have a crack at this thing?”

“I understand, Sir, and thank you,” Sam replied.  Looking at her laptop, she explained, “I'm actually making some progress here, and I'd like to keep at it ... unless we have a ... mission?”

~Doesn't it say 'general' somewhere on my uniform?~ Jack groused inwardly. “Carter, you need a break, and I'm hungry, so let's go grab some breakfast.”

“What about Daniel?”

“I'll wave a cup of coffee in front of his nose in a couple of hours,” Jack responded, heading for the door.  Reaching the doorway, he realized his 2IC hadn't followed.  “Carter, I want my oatmeal, and I can't eat knowing my team hasn't eaten.”

“One minute,” Sam requested as she typed on her keyboard.

“Carter, breakfast -- now, and that's an order!”

Excitedly, Sam pointed out, “Sir, my verification scan just kicked back a positive result.”

Returning to where the lieutenant colonel stood, Jack groaned, “Does this mean you're going to ignore my direct order, indirectly causing my stomach to make funny noises?”

“They aren't any funnier than normal,” Sam quipped, earning her a stare from the silver-haired man.  “Actually, it means this device is interactive.  I'm reading an EM output that keeps fluctuating between high and low frequencies.  I'm going to try to stabilize it.”

“It's too early in the morning,” the general sighed, feeling a headache coming on.  ~I can't do technobabble on an empty stomach.~

As Sam typed on her keyboard, a bright light emanated from the device and surrounded Jack and Sam.

“Should have brought my sunglasses,” Jack quipped just as the light disappeared.

“Are you okay, Sir?”

“Peachy,” Jack answered.  “What was that?”

At that moment, the center region of the device emitted an orange glow of Ancient text into the air.  There were several lines of the writing in the pattern of an inverted pyramid.

“Nice job,” Jack praised.  “Can you read that?”

“My Ancient's a little ... first grade,” Sam answered sheepishly, shaking her head.  “How about you?”

“Carter, I learned a few words back in loop hell.  Those are just,” Jack waved his hand at the symbols on the display, “little squiggly things.”

“Sir ...”

“Okay, I recognize some of them, but recognizing a few words doesn't mean I can translate full sentences and get the gist of ... all that.  I didn't learn the entire language, for crying out loud,” Jack claimed truthfully.  Staring at the display, he inwardly observed, ~Ancient technobabble is worse than normal technobabble.~  With a sigh, he admitted, ~It's over my head.~

“Okay, so we need Daniel,” Sam stated.

“Looks like Daniel's coffee service starts now,” Jack agreed with a nod of his head, sorry that his lover's sleep would be disturbed sooner than he had planned. ~If I knew enough to know whether this mattered or not, I'd let you sleep, Danny.~

As Jack and Sam began to exit, Doctor Lee entered the lab, carrying his breakfast on a tray.

“Hey, Bill, good timing,” Sam chimed.  “Take a look at this,” she requested, turning back to look at the display.

To SG-1's astonishment, Doctor Lee completely ignored the colonel's remark and actually walked over to Sam's laptop, surprised to see it opened and running.

~I always knew he was odd,~ Jack thought.  Pointing towards the ancient device, he called out, “Hey, Doc, amazing discovery over here.”

“Bill, you okay?” Sam queried, concerned about her co-worker; that is, right until he walked right through her.

“Whoooooa!” Jack called out.  “What the ...”

“This isn't good,” Sam noted unnecessarily, cutting off her CO's words.

“Ya think?”

It didn't take Jack and Sam long to realize that in activating the device, they had also triggered a localized effect, one which put them out of phase and unable to touch anything in what had been their normal existence.  Instead, their hands went right through objects, which also explained why Lee had gone right through Sam.

All of a sudden, Jack looked at Sam and tapped her on her upper arm.  Undaunted by the man's rank, Sam lightly nudged him in reply.  He repeated his action a bit more forcefully, as did Sam.  In a brief and unusual respite from the protocol of their ranks, the back and forth shoving became playful.

“Wanna box?” Sam quipped, putting up her fists.

“Just making sure you're solid.”

“As much as you are ... Sir,” Sam advised as she returned to military mode.  “We'd better find Daniel.”

“What can he do now?” Jack questioned.

“You remember the crystal skull incident?”

“How can I forget?” the general retorted as the two left the lab and headed for Daniel's office.  “He was out of phase, too.”

“And no one could see him except for his grandfather.”

“Swell guy,” Jack stated sarcastically about Nicholas Ballard, a man who was not one of his favorite people in the world.  “You figure because Daniel was out of phase then that he should be able to see us know.”

“I hope so,” Sam responded.

====

“All right, where is he?” Jack growled upon seeing Daniel's Level 18 office empty.

“Breakfast?” Sam offered with a smile.

“Let's try the locker room,” the general suggested, thinking his lover might be changing BDUs.

====

“General!” Jack called out, seeing General Hammond talking with Teal'c.

“He can't hear you, Sir,” Sam reminded as the two unseen teammates listened to Hammond and Teal'c talking.

“Teal'c, I can't seem to find General O'Neill,” Hammond stated.

“I have not seen him, GeneralHammond.”

“Find him, and the rest of SG-1,” the base commander ordered.  “SG-12 just got back from P8T-474 and it looks like we may have a bigger problem than we thought.”

“How is that, GeneralHammond?”

“According to the natives, that doomsday device the priors have been talking about is going to be ready within the next few days.”

“I will inform the others,” the Jaffa promised as he bowed his head.

As Hammond departed the locker room, Jack looked at Sam and reiterated an earlier comment, saying, “Fast workers.”

“Too fast.”

“We need to find Daniel,” Jack stated more anxiously than before.

====

Jack and Sam had looked for the archaeologist in several places without success.  The general was starting to think that maybe his husband had gone home when he finally caught a glimpse of his Love rounding the corner of the corridor.

“There he is,” Jack told Sam.  “Daniel!”

“Daniel, we really need your help,” Sam stated.

Seeing the archaeologist continuing to walk full steam ahead with his head bowed, Jack quipped, “Dannyboy, time to wake up.”  To Sam, he teased, “Maybe he's sleepwalllllll...”

Jack was stunned.  His heart and soul had just walked right through him, as if he weren't standing there at all.

“...king.”  Standing motionless, the general asked, “Carter, what just happened?”

“The dimension we're occupying must be different from the one he was shifted to,” Sam surmised as she watched Daniel enter an elevator.

“Alternate alternate dimensions?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Sam replied in disappointment, knowing that now they were going to have to find some other way to communicate with Daniel and the personnel on base.  Seeing her CO's expectant stare, she stated, “I'm ... working on it, Sir.”

“Work quicker,” the general snapped.  ~What a beautiful day this is turning out to be,~ he snarked inwardly.

====

In the elevator, Daniel hit the button for Level 18, but as he stared at the closed doors, he felt odd.  He couldn't figure out why, but as he backtracked in his mind, he realized that while walking down the hallway, a funny breeze had seemed to go through his body.  In fact, though he'd been lost in thought about the Ori situation, he'd suddenly had a thought about his husband.  Jack was always with him, but this was different, as if Jack had been literally inside of him.

~I'm not thinking about sex,~ the archaeologist told himself.  ~For a minute, I could feel his thoughts.~

Daniel shook it off, deciding that his connection with his husband was just so strong that sometimes when they were thinking about each other, they actually felt the other was a part of them.

~I love you, too, Jack.~

====

Ninety minutes later, Daniel shrugged as he looked around the commissary and, feeling dumbfounded, told Teal'c, “We've looked everywhere.”

“Well, you aren't looking hard enough,” the unseen Jack quipped.  Waving his hands in front of his husband, he called out, “Yoo hoo, Daniel, remember me?”

“It would seem O'Neill and ColonelCarter are not on the base,” the Jaffa deduced, having no clue his commanding officer was just standing a couple of feet away from him.

“But there's no record of them leaving, either,” Daniel reminded, having already checked with the security checkpoints.  “They have to be here somewhere.”

“Come on, Daniel.  We're husband and husband.  We're better than this alternate alternate dimension crap of Carter's.”  Jack sighed, “I hope she's having better luck with that gizmo.”

“We must advise GeneralHammond,” Teal'c told his teammate.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed, reluctantly leaving the mess area.  **Jack?**  There wasn't a response to his mental communication.  ~Where could he be?~

====

Nodding to Daniel as he entered his office, Hammond stared at Teal'c and stated, “Teal'c, I thought I made myself clear.  I need to meet with all of SG-1.”

Hammond's displeasure at the delay was obvious.  His face was the epitome of military unhappiness.

“He's having a little problem seeing all of SG-1, General,” Jack explained sarcastically from his frustrating vantage point of not being visible to the others in the room.

“GeneralHammond, DanielJackson and I have searched the entire base.  O'Neill and ColonelCarter cannot be found.”

“They're missing, Sir,” Daniel stated simply, standing with both of his hands in his pockets.

Standing up from his desk, Hammond asked incredulously, “What do you mean, they're missing?”

“They are not in their quarters, nor are they responding to any attempt to contact them.”

“We've checked all the usual areas -- the range, the commissary, the locker room, Jack's office, Sam's lab -- and they just aren't there,” Daniel elaborated.

“Is it possible they aren't even on the base?” the lieutenant general questioned.

“We checked the front gate.  Neither of them signed out,” Daniel answered.

“What about security footage?” Hammond queried.

“We're reviewing tapes for both the labs and the cafeteria, but beyond that, well, there are ... hundreds of cameras and hours of tape, so ...”

“Then we'll screen them all if we have to.  I want them found,” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” Daniel acknowledged with a bob of his head, after which he and Teal'c left the office.

Jack had seldom been so frustrated.  Here he was, able to see and hear everything that was going on and yet no one but Sam could see and hear him.

“Why am I getting that 'Patrick Swayze in Ghost' feeling?” Jack quipped, watching as Hammond sat down and began to write a note.  “General, we need a Whoopi.”

With an unfulfilled sigh, Jack left Hammond's office and decided to see if Sam was making any progress in Doctor Lee's lab.

====

Daniel headed for the elevator, intending to return to his office to do some research.  He really wasn't worried about his husband, a fact that unsettled him a bit.  For some reason, he just had the feeling everything was okay, even though he hadn't seen Jack since the early hours of the morning.  Thinking back, Daniel recalled the brief moment he had with his husband at that time.

“Daniel, what are you doing?” Jack had asked upon entering the office.

“Trying to go to sleep,” Daniel had answered, yawning three times in succession as he pulled a cover over his shoulder.

“I'll wake you for oatmeal,” Jack had responded tenderly, pulling up the blanket a bit tighter.

“Waf...”

That had been the last sound Daniel could recall hearing before he'd awakened a few hours later, that and something that had sounded like a chuckle.

~The technicians are reviewing the security tapes and Teal'c is searching floor by floor.  Jack probably challenged Sam to some ridiculous game and forced her to stop working, or maybe Sam's working with Bill.  Last night, she was sure they were close to having a breakthrough.~

Lost in his thoughts with his head bowed, Daniel didn't see Bill Lee step off the elevator and actually walk right by him.  It wasn't until Lee spoke to him that Daniel was yanked from his private musings.

“Oh, hey!  Have you seen Colonel Carter?” Lee asked upon turning around to face his colleague.

“I was just coming to ask you the same thing,” Daniel responded.

“Really?  Because she left her laptop in my lab.”

“She did?” Daniel questioned as Lee entered the elevator.

“Yeah, yeah.  It's, uh, hooked up to that device that you picked up in Glastonbury.”

~She wouldn't leave it like that,~ Daniel thought as he surprised the other scientist by swiftly walking out of the elevator.

Lee stopped the doors from closing and followed the archaeologist, curious what had suddenly come over him.

“What's the big hurry?” Lee asked as he caught up to Daniel.

“Sam and Jack are missing,” Daniel answered, feeling more concerned about his lover's welfare than he had just two minutes ago.  “Sam doesn't leave her equipment unattended, especially her laptop.”

“That's why I was looking for her,” Lee admitted.  “She must have worked through the night.”

“She was still there at 3 a.m.,” Daniel replied.  “That's when I left,” he stated as he walked up the steps to the control room.  “Sergeant,” he called out to Chief Master Sergeant Walter Davis.

“We haven't found any footage of General O'Neill or Colonel Carter,” Davis reported as he and another technician sat in front of computer monitors, reviewing the tapes from the last twenty-four hours.

“We need the tapes for Doctor Lee's lab,” Daniel advised.  “Start it up at 3 a.m.,” he ordered.

“There she is,” Lee observed after a few minutes of watching the tape speed by, with images of Sam leaning over her keyboard and sometimes pacing as she stared at the ancient device.  In fact, at one point, she actually jumped up and down while pulling her short blonde strands.  ~I know that feeling; it's why I'm bald.~

“Fast forward,” Daniel instructed the sergeant.

“There's General O'Neill,” Lee pointed out as Davis stopped the tape.

~I recognize that look.  He's trying to get her to bed.~  Daniel would have blinked, but he had startled himself with the wording.  ~I know what I mean.  She's tired.  You can see it on her face.~  Suddenly, the images on the screen turned to static, prompting him to ask, “What just happened?”

At first, Davis theorized that the camera had just gone offline for a second as often happened due to power sources or other temporary disruptions, but when the footage was played simultaneously with that of the tape recorded at the same time from the corridor, it became clear that Jack and Sam had just disappeared.

“Okay, if they didn't go through the doorway, how did they get out of the room?” the archaeologist asked curiously while scratching his head.

“Maybe the answer's in my lab,” Lee supposed.

“I'll update General Hammond,” Daniel replied.  “Let me know if you find anything.”  Looking at Davis, he advised, “You'd better put all of that on a CD in case we need it.”

As Davis acknowledged the request with a nod, Daniel turned and exited the control room.

====

“Carter, why are we roaming the halls like ghosts haunting ourselves?” Jack quipped.

“Well, Sir, I was just hoping that maybe someone would see us.”

Jack stared at his 2IC incredulously and was about to groan when an airman walked by with a food tray loaded with hot delights.

“Burritos!  I *love* burritos,” Jack sighed.  “Carter, I'm hungry.”

“It's only been a few hours, General.”

“Aren't you the least bit concerned about this?” Jack questioned as his anxiety grew.  “No one can see us or hear us.  We can't touch anything, ergo no eating, no drinking, and no taking a ...”  He paused, seeing Sam's eyes widen slightly.  He smiled and altered his original phraseology.  “And I'm not even going to speculate on the other bodily functions.  If they don't figure out a way to get us back soon, I'm going to go wacky.”

“*Go* wacky ... Sir?”  As Jack leered, Sam gulped and replied as confidently as she could, which wasn't much, “They'll figure it out.”

“Carter, don't take this wrong, but if I have to go through eternity as a ghost, you're not the one I want to be ghosted with.”

“I know the feeling, Sir,” Sam responded dryly as she began walking.

~Two points for the lieutenant colonel,~ Jack mused before deciding to following Sam, though he had no clue where exactly they were headed.

====

“Daniel, any news?” Colonel Lou Ferretti asked when he saw Daniel in the hallway.

“No.  Uh, well, Doctor Lee has a ... a crazy idea.”

“How crazy?”

For a moment, Daniel considered the question and then answered, “Like pyramids being landing pads for alien ships crazy.”

Ferretti laughed at the nervous smirk on the archaeologist's face, admiring the self-deprecating humor.

“Ah, anyway, Doctor Lee thinks that Jack and Sam might be ... miniaturized.”

Lou's face hardened for a second and then he laughed, “Micro-Jack?  That's a good one.”

“Well, he's in his office, searching ... inch by ... inch for them,” Daniel mused lightly, shaking his head.

“Let me know if you guys need any help.  Hey, if Doctor Lee finds him, I still have my daughter's old dollhouse.”

“Doll...house?”

“If Jack's a tiny guy, he'll need a tiny home,” the colonel laughed jovially.  “Seriously, Daniel, Jack'll turn up.”

“Thanks,” Daniel acknowledged as Ferretti walked away.  ~A dollhouse?  If he's that small, he'll probably only need a shoe box.~

====

A while later, not having been able to focus on his own research, Daniel returned to Doctor Lee's lab to get a report.  As he entered, he immediately noticed that the cautionary yellow tape and cone markers that had been there to protect the miniaturization area during his last visit were gone.  He looked around, making a bit of a face.

“Oh, come on,” Lee verbalized as he reacted to the archaeologist's expression.  “It was just a theory.  Anyway, if I'd been right, you'd all be calling me a genius right now.”

With a nod, Daniel walked all the way into the lab and agreed, “You're right.  I've had a few crazy ideas of my own, Bill, and they haven't always been right, either.  It was a worth a try.”  Taking a breath, he looked at the laptop and queried, “So, anything?”

Placing earphones over his ears, Lee answered, “Ah, eh, nothing significant. Fairly, eh, constant power readings and, uh, slight traces of lepton radiation.”

Startled by the comment, Daniel questioned, “What?”  After Lee confirmed his remark, reiterating that slight traces of lepton radiation had been detected, the archaeologist stated urgently, “Gotta go,” and left a confused Lee alone in the lab.

====

“Carter, enough walking,” Jack insisted as he stopped his movement.  “No one here is gonna see a couple of alternate alternate dimension people.”

“It was worth a try,” Sam sighed, secretly admitting that it wasn't one of her better ideas.  ~I should have slept a few hours last night, or at least had a cup of coffee before entering this dimension.~

“Sleep helps,” Jack stated with a pointed stare.  After a pause, he suggested, “Why don't you check on that device; see if Doctor Lee has earned his paycheck this month.”

“Where are you going to be?”

“I'm gonna find Daniel and see if I can give him a nudge,” Jack stated, eyes alight with glee.

“A nudge?”

“He nudged me when he was out of phase.  One good turn,” Jack quipped, smiling as he turned and headed for his Heart's office.  ~Of course, the trick is to find some blasted idiot to use the elevator and get off on Level 18.  I really don't like this walking through walls business.  It's just ... odd.~

====

Daniel returned to his office, heading over to the back bookshelf.  He pulled out several volumes, including Merlin's book acquired at Avalon.  He began to review, taking notes as necessary.  Somehow, he was certain there was a tie-in between his experience with the crystal skull and Jack's and Sam's disappearance with the ancient device.

Jack entered and couldn't help but smile.  Daniel was deep into his work now.  Sure, it was a crisis and they were in different dimensions, but this type of work was something the archaeologist thrived on.  Fighting the Ori should have been something only Jack and career military soldiers should have to deal with.  Men and women like Daniel should have been able to devote themselves to research and exploration.

~Perfection, My Love,~ Jack crooned inwardly, though he realized that he had to bring himself back to the present.  Besides, even if his physical body wasn't really craving sustenance, his mind was.  “Come on, Danny.  Figure it out.  I've already missed breakfast and lunch.”

“DanielJackson,” Teal'c greeted as he entered the office of his teammate.

“Hey, Teal'c,” Daniel replied, a sigh following his greeting.  “No luck?”

“O'Neill and SamanthaCarter are not on the base.”

“At least, we can't see them,” Daniel corrected.

“Explain,” the Jaffa requested, an eyebrow lifting high.

“Well, I've been going over some of the texts we recovered from the cave in Glastonbury.  A lot of them seem to make oblique references to Arthurian legend. For instance, the word 'anawyn', which shows up several times, is, I believe, a variation on 'annwn', the Celtic underworld where King Arthur journeyed in search of thirteen sacred objects ... one of which was a cloak,” Daniel turned the book so that Teal'c could see what he was talking about, “said to render the wearer invisible.  It was called the 'Mantle of Arthur' and was kept at Bardsey Island by none other than our good friend Myrddin.”

“Merlin,” Teal'c interpreted.

“Exactly,” Daniel affirmed as he turned the tome back so he could read it.

“What is the connection to O'Neill and ColonelCarter?”

“Well,” Daniel began, sighing first, “A little earlier, Doctor Lee told me that he detected trace amounts of lepton radiation from the device, and from that I was able to put it all together.”

“Was it not lepton radiation that transported you, O'Neill, ColonelCarter, and NicholasBallard to another dimension on P7X-377?”

“Yes,” Daniel answered brightly.  “And I think that's what has happened to Jack and Sam.”

“Indeed.”

Expounding on his reasoning, Daniel spoke, “According to legend, the mantle makes the user invisible.  Now, given what I've read and what's happened today, I'm guessing it wasn't literally a cloak at all.”

“The device from Glastonbury?”

“It makes sense, Teal'c.  Medieval historians could well have attributed the powers of the device to a cloak simply because they didn't understand it, and they could have credited its recovery to Arthur, out of deference to their king, who was in power at the time.  Now given what we know now, it seems much more likely that it was Merlin who actually built the device.”

“For what purpose would Merlin build such a device?” Teal'c questioned curiously.

“I have no idea,” Daniel answered as he stared at all his books and notes.  “But at least it points to the possibility that both Jack and Sam may still be somewhere here on this base.”  He paused and added, “We just can't see or hear them,” as he began to look around his office.  **Babe, are you there?**

“Is there anything I can do to assist you?”

“No, no, but, uh ... maybe you could update General Hammond for me, tell him about the lepton radiation.”

With a bow of his head, Teal'c turned and left Daniel's office.

Daniel again stared at his table full of books and notes, and he let out a big sigh.  He got up and began to pace back and forth.

“Come on, Danny,” Jack urged, focusing all of his mental will on the action he wanted his soulmate to take.

The archaeologist paused, an unusual feeling coming over him.  As if being led by an unknown force, he closed and locked the two doors of his office and then he turned off the security equipment.

“Why'd I do that?” Daniel asked aloud, looking around his office.

“Because I asked you to,” Jack answered, though he knew his lover hadn't heard his words.  “But you will.”

The archaeologist began to self-hug, confused by what was happening.

“Remember, Danny?  Remember when I was alone, here in your office?  I'd been joking around with Carter.”  Jack let out a sneer, shaking his head as he admitted, “Image.  I couldn't let anyone know how destroyed I felt inside.  We didn't know where you were, but you found me.”

Daniel blinked and looked around the room, calling out a quiet, “Jack?”

“Yes, Danny, it's me,” Jack affirmed in a near whisper.  “Remember, Love, how you joined with me?  It didn't last long, but it was long enough.  I felt your strength, and I knew you were there.  Now, I need you to know that I'm here.”

“Jack, are you here?” the archaeologist asked, his voice stronger than before.  “I think you're here.”

“In a second, you'll know,” Jack asserted, after which he took two steps forward, his body floating into Daniel's, merging two dimensions into one.

Daniel let out a gasp and his mouth remained opened.  His breathing hitched, and he felt his heart beating strong and loud.

“Jack.”

“Daniel, I love you.”

“Love you so much,” an emotional Daniel responded.  “You're here.”

“I'm here, Angel.  We'll get through this.”

All too soon, Jack backed away, separating himself from his Heart.  Staying joined as one took a toll, and he felt weak.  He looked at his lover and saw a tear falling.  Reaching over, he attempted to dry it, though the wetness fell right through his fingers.

“I'll get you back, Jack.  I promise.”

“I'm counting on that,” Jack replied.

“Jack, the answer is with the ancient device.”

“Probably, but it's science and research, and that's your thing, Angel.  I hope you have an ...”

“I think I have an idea,” Daniel continued, unaware of his Love's comments from the other dimension.  “Jack, you and Sam need to go to Doctor Lee's lab, and ... don't do anything to tease him, okay?”

“Crap,” Jack responded dejectedly.  “Getting one over on Doctor Plant-happy is one of my favorite things to do,” he said, referring back to an incident when the SGC had been overrun with plants.

====

SG-1 along with General Hammond and Doctor Lee were gathered around the ancient device.  Of course, Jack and Sam weren't visible, but Daniel knew they were there.  He reminded the others about how it was when he was going through the experience with the crystal skull and suggested that Jack and Sam could hear them talking now.

“Except they can't respond,” Hammond pointed out.

“Maybe they can,” Daniel put forth, pointing out that the keyboard to Merlin's invention didn't have a visual interface, at least not in their dimension.

“You mean it's on the ... other side?” Lee queried.

“Carter?” Jack questioned, even as his lover was talking.

“Well, it stands to reason that Merlin would want the device to be interactive on both sides, this and the alternate dimension.  The interactivity on this side is difficult to access.  Now, I'm guessing as a type of safeguard against just anyone using the device.”

“I think Daniel's right, Sir,” Sam responded as she looked at the keyboard.

“But there'd be no reason to hide it on the other side,” Hammond surmised.

“So, time to play 'name that tune',” Jack quipped.

“Exactly,” Daniel agreed as he responded to Hammond's remark.

“Here I am,” Jack stated as he pressed a key several times in the hopes of proving his lover's theory.  ~This would be easier if we could do the non-verbal thing.  Tried that, no go,~ he lamented.

“Whoa! Whoa.  Did you see that?” Lee questioned.

“Oh, yeah,” Daniel confirmed.  ~Good job, Jack.~

“There you go!” Jack exclaimed happily.

After that, Daniel established a 'yes' and 'no' button to ask Jack and Sam questions.  It didn't take him long to realize that there was a display visible only in the alternate dimension and that it was written in Ancient.

~Jack knows a little Ancient,~ Daniel thought silently.  ~That doesn't help, though, because he's in another dimension.  He's not going to have the patience for this.  It's a good thing Sam is with him.~

Grabbing a book and notepad, Daniel pulled a stool over to the device and explained that Jack and Sam were going to have to help him translate the display by using the 'yes' and 'no' buttons.  This meant the translation would have to be done a letter at a time.

“Are you sure you don't know what this says, Sir?”

“Carter, even if I knew half of what it said,” Jack began, silently admitting that was about how much of it he had been able translate, “how's that going to help Daniel in the other dimension?  He's the one who has to get us out of this phased out mess.  It's not like we can write it down for him.”

With a sigh, Sam nodded, realizing her CO was right about that.

“How long do you think this is going to take?” Jack asked, cringing at all the Ancient text floating in front of him.  ~There's gotta be more to this, anyway.  It looks incomplete to me.~

“You'll miss dinner, Sir,” Sam answered realistically.

“Teal'c, I'd like you to meet me in the briefing room in ten minutes.  We just got some intel that I think you'll be interested in,” the general informed the Jaffa.

“As you wish, GeneralHammond,” Teal'c responded, bowing his head.

“Doctor Jackson, keep me informed,” Hammond ordered as he turned and left the lab, Teal'c following behind him.

“Yes, Sir.”  With Hammond and Teal'c gone and Doctor Lee watching, Daniel pointed to a character and stated, “Okay, um, first letter.”

“Carter, can you 'yes' and 'no' the letters on your own?” Jack queried.

“I think I can handle it,” Sam chuckled.  “Uh, why?”

“I want to nose around and see what Hammond was talking about just now.”

“Of course.”

Looking at the display and seeing Daniel's finger pointing at the same character in the book, Jack pressed the 'yes' button and chirped, “A freebie.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Sam chuckled.

====

In the conference room with Hammond and Teal'c were SG-12 and a weary and battered looking SG-3.

~Reynolds looks like he's been put through the wringer,~ Jack observed about Colonel Marc Reynolds.

As he listened to the briefing take place, Jack learned the reason for SG-3's team leader's physical condition.  SG-3 had just returned from the Sodan village.  The Sodan were part of an elite Jaffa command force who had ultimately realized the falseness of the Goa'uld they had once thought was a god.  They had tried to fight for their freedom, but finally fled, hoping to find Kheb.

Though Kheb had eluded the Sodan, they did find a planet which had once been occupied by the Ancients.  For thousands of years, the Sodan had existed in peace, using a cloaking device that was worn as an armband to remain undetected by their enemies.  SG-3 had happened upon the Sodan several months ago and though their relationship was strained at first, Reynolds had helped to form a friendship between the Tau'ri and the Sodan.

In fact, Reynolds had recently secured the assistance of the Sodan in testing out the anti-prior weapon.

~We needed to know if it would work,~ Jack thought.  ~We couldn't set up a plan on a guess and the reports of that alternate reality.  Too many lives at stake.~

Standing at the back of the room as he leaned against the table where an airman was overseeing the recording of the session, Jack suddenly stood up and walked closer.  He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

~They're all dead?~

Apparently, several days earlier, Volnek, one of the Sodan, had gone to a neighboring world to obtain supplies.  Before leaving the planet, he'd been stopped by a prior, who proclaimed the Sodan had committed 'unforgivable treason' against the Ori and that 'great ill' would befall the Sodan.  Then yesterday, Volnek had fallen ill with reactions similar to that of having rabies.

While being tended to, Volnek went crazy, killing all the nearby warriors with ease.  He'd even followed women and children who had fled into the woods and callously murdered all of them.

Jack hung his head.  He felt nauseous.  Anytime people were slaughtered like this, he felt ill, but this was worse.  This was an entire race which had been taken out in just two days.  He looked up when he heard there was one survivor, though he was weak.  He'd been given Tretonin and was being cared for by Doctor Lam in the infirmary.

~Stinkin' Ori,~ Jack expressed violently, his mind continuing on with all sorts of expletives that spoke of the hatred and anger he felt at the moment.  He looked at Reynolds and was glad he'd survived.  ~You've come a long way from that geek we met at Area 51.~

Indeed, it had been Reynolds using one of the Sodan armbands who had finally taken Volnek out, ending the rampage.

Having heard all he could stand, the Special Ops general walked out of the briefing room, happy for the first time today that no one could see him.

====

Meanwhile, Doctor Lee believed he had determined what Sam had done to trigger the device.  He figured if he simply counteracted Sam's algorithm that it would reverse the process and make Jack and Sam visible again.

~I want to believe him,~ Daniel told himself.  ~He looks too excited,~ he observed, thinking it odd that something deep down inside told him that his friend's theory wasn't correct.

Within seconds, Lee finished his putting his theory into action and exclaimed, “That should do it!”

All of a sudden, a bright light blinded the archaeologist and when it ebbed, he turned around and saw a pleasing sight.

“Sam.”

Wearing a huge grin, Sam called out happily, “Daniel.”

Feeling happy himself about things, Daniel turned around and announced, “Bill, I will never doubt you again.”  His smile swiftly faded as he saw the expression on Doctor Lee's face.  Daniel's heart sank in realization.  ~Crap.~

“Doctor Jackson, can ... can you hear me?” Bill Lee called out dubiously.

~If Jack doesn't kill him, I will,~ the archaeologist groused while Sam clicked the 'yes' key on the device to confirm for Lee that Daniel was in the alternate dimension.  ~Okay, I won't, but right now, I ... hey, where's Jack?~  Pretty much ignoring his clueless colleague, he walked over to Sam and asked, “Sam, where's Jack?”

“He went to the briefing with Teal'c.”

“Okay,” Daniel acknowledged.  **Jack?  Jack, can you hear me?**  He sighed, ~I guess the connection only works in our true dimension.~

“To be honest, Daniel, I don't think he could take the 'yes' and 'no' game,” Sam confided.

“Why doesn't that surprise me?” Daniel questioned rhetorically.  “Uh, was he able to translate any of this?”

“A few words he said, but not enough to really tell us anything.  There is some good news.”

“I'm all for that,” Daniel responded.  “What is it?”

“Now that you're here, the translation will go a lot quicker,” Sam answered, giving Daniel a bright, somewhat mocking grin, which he returned.

“Good news,” Daniel sighed, walking over to the display and beginning to translate it.  “Okay, this is interesting.  It appears to be a log of some kind.  Merlin was conducting research on some kind of new invention.”

As he read the ancient writing, the linguist learned that Merlin invented the device to conceal his research from his fellow ascended beings.  This information surprised Daniel because until now he hadn't believed Merlin had ascended.

“But if he was ascended, he must have retaken human form to perform his research,” Sam responded.  “I don't get it.  What invention could have been so important that it would have led him to give up his ascension?”

“A weapon,” Daniel answered.  “A weapon capable of destroying ascended beings.  Merlin believed that the Ori represented a significant threat to the safety of this galaxy, including the Ancients themselves, who refused to take any action to protect themselves against them.”

“So he went ahead and developed the weapon anyway?” Sam questioned.

“Well, he found a way of doing it without their knowing about it by shifting his research to another dimension.”

The big question became whether or not Merlin had ever completed the weapon, and that wasn't that easy for Daniel to answer since some of the writing was way too technical for him.

“He relocated the weapon, Sam,” Daniel stated as he continued reading.

“To where?”  Seeing Daniel turn the page and the resulting display, Sam smiled. ~Now we're getting somewhere.~

“A Gate address,” Daniel answered brightly.

====

A few minutes later, Doctor Lee again expressed his confidence over his latest idea.  Unfortunately, when he triggered the program, the ancient display shifted and then shut down.

~Bill, no,~ Daniel sighed.

“He tries hard, Daniel,” Sam said as she patted Daniel's shoulder sympathetically.

“Jack's gonna kill him,” the archaeologist put forth.

“Maybe not,” Sam returned.  Seeing Daniel's confused expression, she explained, “You're in our dimension now.  He might actually like that.”

~Like it?  Well, uh ...~  Daniel couldn't believe Sam had just said what she had, but he couldn't help but smile at the sentiment.  “Maybe,” he reluctantly but somewhat happily agreed.  “You know, since we've been ... shut down for a while, I'm going to go look for Jack.”

“Okay, but don't be gone too long, Daniel,” Sam requested.  “If Bill gets this up and running again, I need you here.”

Daniel nodded, understanding the message.  None of them could know how long they might have before things changed.  When he found Jack, all they'd have time for was a kiss and an 'I love you'.  Their real reunion would have to come later.

====

“Where's the general?” Sam questioned when her science twin returned.

“I couldn't find him,” Daniel answered, concerned but knowing he couldn't afford to dwell on his lover's absence at the moment.  “What did I miss?” he asked, looking over at General Hammond, who was talking to Doctor Lee.

“Bill thinks he drained the device's power supply.”

“That's ... obvious,” Daniel replied as he stared at the display-less invention.

“Well, it's bad, Daniel.  Bill thinks it could reach critical failure inside,” Sam checked her watch, “ten minutes.”

“And then what happens to us?”

“In all likelihood, we'll be permanently stranded,” Sam answered nonchalantly.

“Oh, well, just thought I'd ask.”

“Daniel, there has to be something we can do from this side.”

Positioning himself in front of Merlin's invention, Daniel studied it thoughtfully, searching for some kind of fail safe or anything that might power up the device once again.

“Doctor Lee, I want my people back,” Hammond ordered.

“I'm ... wor...working on it,” the somewhat flustered scientist responded.

~Bill's not getting anywhere,~ Sam opined after several minutes had passed.  Pleadingly, she looked at her teammate, hoping he could solve the puzzle before time ran out for them.  “We're running out of time.”

“Okay, I think I've got it,” Daniel stated.  “This looks like some sort of master control screen.  Yeah, here it is.  It's a ... it's a button combination.”  He sighed sadly and asked, “Sam, if this works, what happens to Jack?  I mean, he's not here, in the room with us.”

“I don't know, Daniel,” Sam replied truthfully.  “We don't know where he is.  Maybe ... it is possible there's still a connection linking him to the device, even if he's not right here.”

“And if there isn't?”  Daniel blinked in awareness when he saw his friend look away.  ~I don't want to press the button, but ... it's not just Jack and me.~  He looked again at Sam, a woman he cared about deeply, probably more than anyone else in the world, except for Jack and the beagles.  ~I have to do this for her.  She deserves her life.~

Across the room, Doctor Lee was assuring General Hammond that he was able to fix the problem by making an adjustment to the algorithm.  Hammond had grown weary of the situation and was threatening the scientist with all kinds of threats that Daniel had never heard the lieutenant general say before.

~He's frustrated.  Me, too,~ Daniel thought.  **Jack, just in case.  I love you.**

Taking a deep breath, Daniel pressed the appropriate key on the device, causing a blinding light to appear yet again.

“Doctor Jackson, Colonel Carter, welcome back,” an extremely pleased Hammond greeted.  “Congratulations, Doctor Lee.”

“I ... didn't do it, General,” Lee admitted as he studied his computer output.

“It was Daniel.  He figured it out,” Sam stated.

Daniel shrugged, giving off one of his self-deprecating smiles.  He was very concerned about his lover.

“Where's General O'Neill?” Hammond queried, seeing that his 2IC was missing.

“We don't know,” Daniel returned.

“He went to the briefing, Sir,” Sam stated.  “I haven't seen him since then.”

“Sir, I think I'll go ... look for Jack, if you don't mind.”

“Go ahead, Son,” Hammond permitted before turning his attention to the blonde.  “Colonel, you need to know what happened with the Sodan.”

Daniel looked back as he turned the corner out of the lab.  All he'd heard was the mention of the Sodan and something which had followed about a slaughter.  Now, he had an idea of where to look for his husband, provided Jack had survived.

====

Having climbed up one of the access shafts, Daniel walked outside.  It was cold, which made sense due to the light snow that was falling.

~He'll catch pneumonia, but that's okay because it means he is still here,~ Daniel opined amid his worry.  “Jack?” he called out as he approached one of their favorite retreats atop Cheyenne Mountain.  When he saw the familiar form of his husband, he had to blink back tears of relief.  “Hey,” he greeted more quietly as he knelt down across from his Love.

Jack was sitting on the hard, cold ground with his hands around his knees, staring off into the distance.

“We're back?” Jack asked, somewhat dazed.

“Yeah.  It's ... good to see you.”  Daniel leaned forward and kissed his lover sweetly.  “I missed you.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”  Looking around, Daniel pointed out, “It's ... snowing.”

“I love the snow,” Jack stated, lifting a hand to catch some falling snowflakes.

“I know.”  The younger man caressed his Love's cheek and asked, “What happened to the Sodan?”

“I never met any of them,” Jack responded, not yet answering the question.

“I didn't, either.”

With a heavy sigh, the general stated, “The Ori decided the Sodan were treasonous and had to be punished.”

“Punished?”

“My word,” Jack returned.  “They got hold of one of the Sodan when he was gathering supplies.  Basically, they zapped his brain and turned him into a crazed and depraved killer.”

“I don't ...”

“He killed them all, Danny, even the families.  He hunted them down and butchered them.”

“One Jaffa ... murdered ... *all* of them?”

“One Ori-infected Jaffa,” Jack corrected.  “Danny, the Sodan had existed in that place, being free for five-thousand years.  That's what they said.  They had families -- husbands, wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandparents, grandkids.  They didn't bother anyone, and these Ori bas...”  His anger rising up to his neck, Jack looked away.  He was full of hate.  “Except for one warrior who is fighting for his life in our infirmary, an entire race has been wiped out.”

“Gawd,” Daniel sighed, leaning forward and taking his Love into his protective hold.

“I never met one of them,” Jack reiterated emotionally.

Daniel simply held Jack in his arms.  He knew that within his strong and often abrasive husband was the most tender of hearts, and while Jack had done a lot of what he called distasteful things in his Special Ops days, the killing of women and children always hit him hard.  Jack was mourning the Sodan and people Daniel was sure he'd never heard about and probably never would.  The worst of his soulmate's secret missions were buried in a mental box, one that was to be kept sealed and locked away forever.  Life was about today and survival.

“We have to stop the Ori, Jack,” Daniel said as he caressed the silver strands of Jack's hair that were held close to his chest.

“We will, Daniel.  You can count on it.”

As the snow continued to fall, the lovers settled into a combined embrace, each holding the other.  They were glad to be back in their own dimension, but the joy of their return was marred by the reality of the end of a people, a mighty people who lived only to be free.

====

“Jack,” Hammond stated as he approached his second-in-command in the mess hall.

“General,” Jack greeted.  Offering up an item, he asked, “Jell-O?  The blue is always the best.”

Hammond grinned, but shook his head as he answered, “No, thank you.  Actually, you'd better eat up.”

“Do I want to know why?”

“The President wants a briefing, in person.  We're taking a plane in twenty minutes.”

“Sweet,” Jack sighed, not really anxious to have a pow wow with the leader of the United States.

“Don't antagonize the man, Jack.  I know you're tired; we're all tired, but we need his support.  The budget's a little high this month.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged, starting to take a bite of his beloved Jell-O, but then letting out a sigh and pushing it away.

Hammond had already left the commissary and Jack had no time to waste.

====

“You'll be back this afternoon?” Daniel questioned, not pleased at the idea of being separated from his husband at this point in time.

“I hope so, but you never know when these political shindigs end.”

With the security equipment off and the doors locked, Daniel put his arms around his lover and asked, “Are you okay?”

“I'm great.  You?”

“I'm as good of a liar as you are, Babe.”

Jack laughed and then the couple kissed, a long, passionate reminder of their love for each other.

“Hurry home,” Daniel requested softly.

“Love you.”

“I love you, too, Jack.”

====

As Jack had feared, the trip to D.C. wasn't a quick one.  The briefing with the President turned into multiple meetings with various committees.  To Jack, these special sessions were a waste of valuable time.  He needed to be home, fighting the Ori, not sitting in stuffy war rooms debating how to handle the priors or discuss what to do with Vala Mal Doran, who was still under guard at Cheyenne Mountain.

Besides, Jack missed Daniel, especially when the President extended the meetings for another day.  In fact, it had been suggested to Jack that there would be more meetings lasting further into week.

As for the archaeologist, he not only hated every second Jack was gone, but he was also anxious for SG-1 to go to the Gate address where Merlin supposedly hid his weapon.  With all the recent loss, he was hopeful the weapon would end the evil threat the Ori presented, not just in this galaxy, but to others as well.  Still, what he missed most was his the warmth of his husband's hold in their bed.  While snuggling with Bijou and Katie was nice, it wasn't at all the same as nuzzling into the man he loved.

At the SGC, Daniel focused on his work.  It was almost lunchtime as he typed away at his desk.  Suddenly, he looked up, surprise written all over his face.

“Hey.  Wow.  What the ... what are you doin' here?”  Daniel couldn't stop feasting on the sight of his husband.  ~He's so handsome; I want him ... bad.~

In his dress blues and looking very edible, Jack replied, “Nice to see you, too.”  He retained a casual stance.  ~He's dying over there.  O'Neill, you've still got it.~

“No, no, sorry!  I just wasn't expecting to see you,” Daniel returned as he stood up and walked around his desk over to his husband.  ~Why did he have to show up in his Class A's?  He knows what they do to me.~

“Yeah, well ... I was in the neighborhood,” Jack teased.  ~This game is fun.~ With a hidden smile, he commented, “I hear the Daedalus just left for Atlantis.”

“Yes, yes, she did.”  Looking down momentarily, Daniel grinned.  “I was on the manifest.”

“And you didn't go?”

“No, I had a time problem.”

“Those can be ... timely,” Jack retorted.

“Yeah, it was pack my bags or buy dog food,” Daniel sighed.  “I couldn't leave the girls without food.”

Jack smiled and then pushed his smile back as he stated, “Sorry you missed Daedalus.”

“No, you're not.”

“You're right.  I'm not.”

The two men grinned at their impromptu game, which was full of silliness and nonsense.

“Any news?” Jack asked as the game ended.

“Two more worlds have been taken by the Ori,” Daniel answered solemnly.

“Sounds like we have our hands full.”

“Well, we've been up against some pretty bad guys before.”

“Yeah, not so pretty; overdressed, yes,” Jack quipped.

“In some tough situations,” Daniel continued.

“That we always won,” Jack pointed out with hope.

“Yeah, but didn't you feel that was because we had someone ... lookin' out for us?”  Daniel paused and looked into his husband's eyes.  “I wouldn't say this to anyone else, but for the first time, Jack, I'm scared.”

Deep brown eyes bore into the endless blue eyes they loved so much.  Jack was scared, too, and that, he believed, was healthy.  It had been a very long month with virtually no break in between the various crisis that the war with the Ori created.  Still, there was one thing Jack felt was important to confide to his lover.

“I'm hungry.”

“That's nothing new,” Daniel laughed.  “Me, too.”

“Well ...” Jack began, cocking his head towards the door and starting to leave.

~He actually wants to go eat?~ Daniel asked himself in complete and utter shock. ~We haven't even ... you know.~  Not knowing what else to do, he followed his husband out the door and down the corridor.  ~I don't freakin' believe this.~

In an unsuspecting moment, though, Jack twisted around, opened the door to a supply room, and grabbed hold of his Love, pulling him inside.  It was risky, and the adrenaline was pumping.  It was daring and quite probably a dumb thing to do, considering the priority alert the base was operating on.

However, Jack knew one thing Daniel didn't.  Hammond had scheduled a briefing to commence in two hours.  After that briefing, SG-1 would be in full preparation for their next mission, which was to find Merlin's weapon.  That meant the lovers had one opportunity and one only to reunite in the way they needed.

Life was dangerous right now, and that's just how their lovemaking needed to be. Staying in the archaeologist's office would have been too easy.  They needed that extra thrill, that special temptation of maybe being caught, even though the two believed in their covert abilities to hide their love while at the Mountain.

As Jack locked the door, Daniel was already undressing and ready to undress his husband as well.  His eyes were deep with lust and desire.

“Gawd, dress blues,” Daniel gasped.

“Kept them on just for you, Angel.”

Their want growing, Jack and Daniel gave in to their passion and welcomed their explosive nation of two as it swelled within their bodies.  It was a hot and adventurous union, and it was a bit noisier than most of their storage room liaisons, but that was okay.  Actually, it was way beyond okay.

The reality was that while the conversation in Daniel's office was playful to an extent, there was basis for it.  The lovers were frightened, much more than either wanted to admit.  As opponents, the Goa'uld had been powerful and the Replicators seemingly indestructible, but the Ori were looking like they might not be beaten.

Jack and Daniel were afraid.  That fear became part of their union and with their union came strength and solidarity.  When they'd climaxed and were holding each other on the cold floor of the storage room, the fear had been buried.  Now, they were refreshed and ready to take on the Ori, unbeatable or not.

“We're going to defeat them, Daniel,” Jack proclaimed with certainty.  “They won't get this world.”

“I know,” Daniel agreed with equal conviction.  “We're going to find a way to free the universe of the Ori.”

“No doubt about it.”

Jack smiled as he kissed his lover.  They only had a few more minutes and then they'd have to clean up.  He knew Daniel was probably concerned about that, but like the proverbial boy scout, he was prepared, having placed his duffel bag in the corner of the room before he'd gone to Daniel's office.  In it was everything they needed to be presentable for the briefing.

Actually, since Daniel wasn't saying anything about their predicament as yet, Jack surmised that his archaeologist had seen the duffel bag.  Either that or 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' wasn't a factor in their lives at the moment.  Both alternatives were fine with Jack.  His Danny could make the choice, and he'd happily go along, no matter what.

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

“I love you, too, Jack, forever and always.”

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