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Out and About 4


Summary: I know, I know, the last one was a cliff hanger. Heh, heh, heh, so's this one. Sorry, I'm busy at the mo. The Goa'uld are coming...

So, here we are again, in space, in the Rascal, but this time we are currently orbiting Mars. Damn. I've looked up here often enough with my telescope but to see it so close up... The irony hasn't escaped me. NASA and the other space agencies are currently working on ways to get man to Mars. All I had to do was bring a spacesuit, then I could get in a glider and down I'd go. We could solve the mystery of whether there was any life on Mars in minutes. And yet, because of the need for secrecy, we can't. Instead, we're spending billions of dollars on something that could actually cost us nothing. Part of me wants to drop something on the planet anyway, in one of the favoured landing spots. Pity I didn't have a pizza delivery box handy. I'd give anything to see an astronaut's face when he found that Domino's delivered this far out.

"Colonel? Penny for them?" Carter comes over, wondering what I am giggling about. I tell her.

"Holy Hannah! You wouldn't. Please tell me you wouldn't, Sir," she's almost on her knees begging me to behave.

"Calm down, Major, don't get your panties in a bunch, I'm not going to do it." The relief is palpable, setting me off again. "Though, it is sorely tempting, you know. How about we leave an alien artefact on the surface? It would be an easy way to let the public know without causing too much of a panic. After all, it could have been left thousands or even millions of years ago. Whatd'ya think?" She's gone white! Ha! If I'd known it was so easy to wind her up I'd have done it years ago. Who am I kidding? I did and I do already.

"Jack! Behave yourself!" Poor Daniel, he looks exhausted. He's been acting as a liaison between the Tok'ra, Asgard and us for the last three days. Messages have been flying back and forth and he hasn't had a break. One thing has come out of all this - Yu killed Zippy. No loss there, and certainly no tears shed. Unfortunately, Yu has now gotten it into his head that he is the strongest, meanest, baddest snake there is and he's coming to take out the Tauri once and for all. So, we're gonna let him. Come, that is. Sorting us out - we'll let's just say we have something in mind.

"Carter, remind me why we're in orbit around Mars, and not cloaked next to Earth?"

"Quite simply we don't want to burn out the cloaking mechanism. We don't know how long we can leave it on for before we get problems. And if we stay on this side of Mars, the telescopes on Earth can't see us and neither will Yu."

"I can."

"Grrr. Yu, Sir." I know. It's an old joke - but she walks into it every time. "Yu is going to have to come into the solar system and come out of hyperspace around by Saturn. When we get the warning, we cloak, and head off to the asteroid belt. We'll be there by the time he gets to Jupiter's orbital distance. Head him off at the pass, so to speak."

Yeah, I know the plan, it's the physics that gets me.

"Daniel, go, sleep, now. We'll need you to be alert when Yu comes. I know the Tok'ra here will fly this thing, but I want you to do the talking. Bed."

He's muttering something under his breath. I think I heard the word 'invitation' in there somewhere.

"Carter, watch the controls here for a bit, I think I'll help him settle." I follow him out to the room where we are sleeping. We're eating and showering with the rest of the pilots, but 'cause I'm the boss, we get our own room. Still bed rolls and sleeping bags though. Huh.

"Come on Danny, you're dead on your feet," I say as I grab him and lead him to the bed. It doesn't take much in the way of persuasion to lay him out. I remove his boots and tuck him in. He's already out cold.

Back on the bridge and I'm pacing up and down. I hate waiting. Carter's quiet - that's unusual. I can't normally get her to shut her yapping. Quantum this, subspace that, wormhole the other. I'd say she needed to get laid, but as Ed's just moved in with her, she is. So what is it with her and physics? Can't she give it a break? Yeah, of course, she is now. You're rambling, O'Neill, not a good thing to do.

"Are you okay, Carter?"

"Yes, Sir, I'm just a bit frustrated, that's all. You know, the waiting. Just want the action to start, get it over and done with."

"I know, me too. I'd say it's pretty much the same for everyone, except Daniel of course."

"How does he cope, Sir? He never lets on when he's upset."

"He copes. The trouble is he lives in a conundrum. You and I both know how much he hates violence, right?" She nods in return. "Well, he also knows that we're at war and we have to fight, he knows that better than anyone. So, he has to reconcile his pacifistic leanings with the fact that he has to kill. It's not easy for him. He needs to protect - it's his nature. And he knows that there are six billion people on Earth that he has to protect, not to mention the countless billions scattered around the Galaxy. Unfortunately, he sees the Goa'uld hosts and the Jaffa as victims too. He's right, they are. But unless we get rid of them, the humans will be enslaved or killed. To him it's like, I dunno, I suppose the best analogy would be killing the slave armies of the Third Reich in order to protect the concentration camp victims. Neither side deserved to suffer or die. But which side deserved to live more? Neither lot wanted to be there, after all. Both sides were forced into their positions against their wills. It's not an easy question to answer. The only way he can justify what he does is to say that more humans will die than Jaffa. Just put it down to numbers. Not nice, but it's the only way he can cope. Then we get the nightmares."

"I've heard him have some, they're scary."

"Fucking terrifying sometimes. Remember when he had to kill that Jaffa with his bare hands and the snake came out?"

"I'll never forget that." No, neither will I.

"That night he screamed the place down. I don't know what was going on in his head, we never talk about them after, he doesn't like to remember, but whatever it was it made him shake, shiver, sweat and scream. It was bad. Really, really bad. But then when he wakes up, it's like it didn't happen." Then we had lots and lots of frantic and hot and dirty sex. It helps him forget.

"Poor thing, I wish he didn't have to do this."

"So do I. But you know Daniel. He'll do what he has to do. And if that means taking out the Goa'uld fleet single-handed, he will. He won't let us down."

"No, he won't. It's funny, but even considering his non-military status I've never doubted that he would come through for us."

"Me either, but Daniel doubts himself sometimes. I don't know why. I don't think he's ever forgiven himself for the sarcophagus addiction thing."

Carter shakes her head. She knows just how impossible it can be to convince Daniel that he did the right thing sometimes.

Oh oh, it's showtime. And Daniel's only had a couple of hours' sleep and there's no coffee.

"Carter, quick, go get Daniel now and then find a brew for him." She sniggers and runs. Fearless in battle I may be, but waking Danny without coffee - just 'no', no way. I'm not as stupid as they think I am.

The Tok'ra that helped us out against Anubis is here, Qabil/Kadim. Nice guys, er, snake, whatever. They're flying us cloaked to the asteroid belt. We want to get there before they do. Yu's fleet have just come out of hyperspace and they're heading for our destination. Carter was right when she said he'd have to come this way. Thank God.

This is going to be good. Daniel's stomping in here. His hair's all over the place, he hasn't gotten his glasses on yet, and he's in a foul temper.

"Hi babe," I say as cheerfully as I can.

"Fuck off Jack," he growls. Ooh boy, interplanetary diplomacy is going to hit new highs I can tell. I give the order to decloak. Messages to our allies have been sent. We have drawn the battle lines and- oh fuck. He's got EIGHT SHIPS! How are we going to take them all? Daniel slaps the communication button.


No answer.


Oh crap, no sleep and no caffeine makes Danny a naughty boy. I can't wait to see what develops.

"How dare you speak to me like that? You had better learn some manners Daniel Jackson so that I may spare your life when I reach your worthless planet."

"If it's so fucking worthless why in hell's name are you bothering? You humourless pile of rotten stoat's throat scrapings. I've just been woken up to deal with you and I haven't had any coffee - so why don't you fuck off and go and play wannabe Hitler somewhere else?"

*howl!* *snort* It's going to be really hard to keep a straight face when Danny's in a mood like this. All he has to do is keep Yu here for a little while.

"I have never heard such insolence in my life!"

"Well hang around, you inbred blob of greasy squid carcasses, there's more where that came from. We're gonna take you and yours out for good. You hear? The insignificant Tauri have killed, wiped out, massacred, bumped off, assassinated, FUCKING MANGLED bigger lizards than you, you primordial, skunk-breathed, cack-handed, egotistical, third-rate waste of space! I've seen amoeba with more teeth than you!"

"To think I came here to tell you that I considered your suggestion of an alliance."

"Too late, you should have thought of that before you came with a fucking invasion fleet."

"You will die for this impudence."


"We shall see about that!"

"It'll be the last thing you ever do see! You don't think I'm scared of you, do you? You couldn't be scary if you dressed in black, hung out in dark alleys and went around shouting 'boo' at unsuspecting pensioners. You are hopeless. Get it? The time of the Goa'uld is over. OVER. No more, we're not putting up with you and yours anymore. Piss off back to your pond, you lice-infested bucket of mouldy skunk faeces!"

"See what I have to put up with in the morning?" I say to Carter as she pushes a mug of coffee in his hand. Oh shit, it's instant. He's gone quiet. Carter's just gone. Legged it. Vamoosed. Scarpered. Run. Hiding in the corridor, I think. She should know better than to give him this. I don't think that Yu is going to live through this, somehow.

The cavalry have arrived in the shape of Thor and a couple of his buddies. Three Asgard ships and the Rascal. They may outnumber us two to one but tough titties, we're big-ger, stron-ger, bet-ter. Ha ha.

"TAKE HIM OUT!" Daniel yells and Qabil fires at Yu's flagship. Our weapons are superb and they cut into his shields quickly, but not all the way through just yet. The Asgard are dealing with the other ships, their 'disappear quick' weapons are making them, well, quickly disappear.

Yu's getting some shots off, our pilots are waiting to hear whether we need to launch the gliders. I'm hoping not. They're good pilots, but they've never been in battle against Jaffa before - at least when flying. In an atmosphere, maybe I wouldn't worry so much, but not out here. Trouble is, I don't want them hanging around on the ship if the Rascal's going to go. They could at least get home from here. This is the element of command that I hate. No win situations. If I send them out, they'll likely die. If I don't...

Damn, a direct hit. Danny's gone down, sent flying across the room. I can't go to him. I don't know if he's alive. Qabil's holding on, firing at Yu like mad. I have to stay in command.

"REPORT!" I yell at Carter.

"Shields are failing, Sir, one more hit like that and we could be opened to space. Injury reports coming in from all decks."

Fuck, fuck, fuuuuck!

"FIRE!" I yell at Qabil. He is firing, we're getting through Yu's shields. He's launched his gliders. Damn, we're going to have to launch ours. I give the order with a heavy heart. Teal'c's leading them into battle. Nobody else could have done it.

Time seems to slow down as I watch them depart the Rascal. My mind must be working overtime. I had wanted to fly with them, I can fly one of those things, but Daniel gently took me to one side and pointed out to me that I was in command and should be here directing operations. Carter wanted to go too, but he equally gently pointed out that she was needed to fix things on the fly. When Teal'c departed yesterday to spend his time with his troops, we said 'goodbye'. We have no idea if we'll see each other again. There were a few tears. Come home, Teal'c, come back to me, please.

My heart is breaking as I see gliders exploding, one after another. Not just ours, I'm happy to say. In fact, our pilots are taking as many out as they are. I have no idea who is dead, and I have no idea who is coming home.

Another direct hit on the Rascal and our shields are down. One more and people are going to get spaced. Not a pleasant thought. The good news is that we've broken through Yu's shields.

"Aim at his engines, Qabil," I say quietly. He does and we have the desired effect. Yu's ship blows. I call out to the gliders to stand down. Teal'c doesn't reply. The Jaffa have nowhere to go, the Asgard have destroyed the other ships. Our last remaining glider is back on board. Someone's dealing with Danny. There's blood everywhere but they yell that he's alive. I'll go to him in a minute. First I call the Asgard and talk to Thor.

"Thank you, Thor. Please pick up the Jaffa and take them back home. When word reaches the other System Lords that you helped us, they'll think twice before doing that again."

"You are most welcome, O'Neill. Can I do anything more for you?"

"Bring back the dead airmen?" I say ruefully. He just nods his head, accepting that we now need to be alone to lick our wounds.

"Danny? Wake up, please," I beg. He's unconscious. Took a nasty blow to the head. His arm is broken, his leg dislocated at the hip and there's blood pouring from his head. The medic is trying to staunch the flow.

Qabil's under instructions to reach the nearest planet with a stargate as quickly as possible. We don't have rings at the SGC so we can't transport the injured down. It's time to count the victims.

I keep trying my radio, but there's no answer from Teal'c. I think that I may have to face the fact that my buddy didn't make it. Ferretti's okay, thank God. He called me up as soon as he got in. In lieu of Teal'c not being there he's doing the body count.

We're nearly at the planet. My heart is breaking. We lost twenty pilots out there today. Good people. Brave people. Men and women. Daniel's still out cold, but at least he's alive. The rest we can fix back home. And at least we have a home to go to. There's a noise by the door. I turn around and...

"Teal'c. Thank God. When I didn't hear from you..." My voice breaks as what could have been hits home.

"My radio was disabled, O'Neill. I could not reach you. I apologise for not contacting you sooner, but I was needed among the pilots. You should be proud. They fought well, and those that died, died well."

"I've never been prouder Teal'c. I've also never been sadder after a battle. I've lost people before, but this time, I dunno, it's different."

"Indeed. However, you should comfort yourself. Instead of dying in a skirmish between your own people, these pilots died to protect all of your people. They are true heroes, O'Neill." He's right, and I know he's right. Doesn't make losing them any easier.

We've landed. I'm taking them home now. Qabil and the other Tok'ra will fly the Rascal to one of their bases and fix her up. I thank him. I doubt I've ever been so truly grateful for a Tok'ra's presence.

I'm tired. I'm going home.

Not again. Why is it that I always end up here? I love Janet dearly. I like the nurses a lot. I HATE the fucking infirmary. Strip lights. Grey walls. Pillows like bricks. And somehow, I don't know how it's possible but it happens, the food seems to deteriorate in transport between the mess and here. And it was bad enough to start with. Not to mention the coffee. No, I'm not mentioning the coffee.

I try an experimental moan, to see if that brings anyone running. Nope. It doesn't. How about a louder one? Nada. I must be unpopular. Where's Jack? He's always at my bedside. I can see a few shapes and shadows in here. It's so quiet. Oh God. What went wrong? Jack? Is he okay? Please, won't someone tell me, where's Jack?

"Calm down, Dr. Jackson." It's one of the nurses. "He's been ordered to his quarters to rest. You've been out for quite some time."

"What happened? The battle? I take it we won? Was anyone hurt?" She just hushes me again.

"We won, Dr. Jackson, don't you worry about it, we won." She's hiding something, I can tell.

"Who was hurt? Oh God, was anyone killed? FUCK. I gave the fucking order. Damn it all to hell."

"Shh, if you don't calm down I'll have to get the doctor to sedate you."

No, I won't put up with this.

"I want to see someone who'll tell me, and I want to see them now." I know she's getting my stubborn face but I don't care. I have to know.

"Hey Danny," it's Jack. Thank God. Someone must have called him. He's been running.

"Jack. Why won't they tell me what's wrong? Sam? Teal'c? Are they hurt?"

"No Daniel, we're all here."

"Who's been hurt?" My tone is measured. He knows he has to answer me. He tells me, gives me a list of people who didn't come home. I only knew a few of them, some of them were new here, some of them were from the foreign troops. But all of them, ALL of them were good people. I know it. I'm crying and I don't care who sees me. I gave the order. I killed them. He pulls me close to him, holds me tight.

"No, Daniel. Yes, you gave the initial order to fire, but you only beat me to it by a blink. It was time to fire. And I gave the order to send out the gliders. Everyone that died was in a glider, Danny. But we did the right thing. Earth has been saved. In fact, Earth is oblivious to what went on. Peace reigns, Daniel, because we gave the order. The Asgard took care of the rest of the fleet." He tells me what happened after I was knocked out. I feel a little better, then feel guilty for feeling better because Jack is carrying the guilt over the glider pilots' deaths. This is so FUCKED UP! Why couldn't Yu have been sensible and have left things alone?

"Because he was a Goa'uld, Danny. They don't see reason."

"He was the only one that did once, Jack. Now I don't know what we're going to do."

He can't answer that, I know he can't. I look up with pleading eyes.

"Spring me, Jack, please. Take me home." My head aches, but there's no concussion, just a big lump and some stitches. My hip hurts. Jack tells me that they had to pop it back into place, but fortunately no operation, it was an easy dislocation. And my arm is broken. In three places. Again, fortunately they were all minor breaks and easy to set without diving in. And they're all from the elbow down. And it's my left arm! Way hay! I can write! And do stuff like clean my teeth. See, not so bad. I got off lightly for once.

He sighs, heads off to find whichever doc's on duty and badgers him to let me out. I do my 'see, I'm fine' routine and the Jack Daniel's double act wins again. Usual rules. Bed, rest, no driving (as if?). Bed I can do. And I want to get laid. I want to come so hard I see stars. I need this, and so does Jack.

We're there. I have never been so glad to see this place. Home. It's really home for me. Jack insists I eat something before I do anything, trouble is there's nothing around. He calls for a Chinese takeout. That'll do. Then he calls Sam, asks her if she can pick us up a few things; milk, bread, and the like. He says he won't face me without coffee in the morning, especially after how I screamed at Yu. I have no idea what I said to him, but I take it I wasn't polite.

"Danny, I was wetting myself. It was so hard, I was trying not to laugh, but he was getting the full blast of a very tired, very pissed off, coffee-less Dr. Jackson. Even Qabil couldn't stop laughing. And I mean him, not Kadim. God knows what he thought. You were on form, Daniel, and you did your job. Yu was so outraged by what you were saying that he didn't notice Thor and his buddies turning up. For once I think your temper actually saved lives."

Wow. Perhaps he won't mind so much when I yell abuse at him in the morning. Then again, lightning never strikes et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The dinner has arrived. Jack has ordered all my favourites and we're snuggling up on the sofa with a beer and feeding each other. I love doing this, it's more intimate in some ways even than sex. Though, there's a lot to be said for that. Another knock on the door and it's Sam with the groceries. Ed's in tow, as he usually is these days. Talk about joined at the hip. Though I am a fine one to talk about that. I hate it when Jack's out of my sight, even if I know where he is. He's the same about me.

They pull up a chair and share our dinner. Jack ordered enough for four anyway.

I pull out some chicken chow mein. "Hmm, tastes like chicken," I say predictably, but the three of us crack up and Ed looks confused.

"Very, very long running joke," I say.

They're pretty comfortable about Jack and me snuggling up together. They're pretty wrapped up too. It must be as a reaction to the battle. Ed couldn't be there. He must have been going nuts. They're not staying though, I think they must have a 'reunion' in mind. Rather like I do.

"Jack, I really need to have a bath, hun. Could you help me, please? I can't get the cast wet." Any excuse. He gives me his patented leer and we lock up for the night and head off to the bedroom.

"Oh God, Danny, we're home, we made it. Thought we weren't gonna get out of that one." He's desperate, kissing me hard and passionately. I'm giving back what I'm getting. I need this. Our clothes are off, he's laying me down on the bed. The bath can wait.

Our groins are locked together, Jack's trying not to hurt my hip or my arm. Not succeeding, but I'm not going to tell him that. My hip hurts like fuck.

"Oh God, harder, please, Jack, please, oh yes, ohgodyespleasetherejusttherebabeIloveyouLOVE YOU!"

A rib-crushing hug now, panting like exhausted dogs. Oh yes, I really needed that. Now the bath. There is nothing like a hot bath to soothe away your aches and pains. Jack's in with me, my broken arm is draped over the edge. He's sitting behind me, I'm virtually on his lap. Love this, love the way he washes my back and hair. The feel of his fingers running over my scalp always turns me on.

"Daniel, you horny dog. Look at you," he's teasing. Just 'cause he's older than me he thinks he can get away with that sort of talk. I wriggle against him.

"Oh no, Daniel. That five times in fourteen hours we had - that was a one-off. It's gonna take me a while longer to recover. Besides, I don't know about you but I'm tired."

"I'm tired, just horny," I say with a sigh. So he does something about it. Ooh. Damn, his fingers are skilled. "Jjjjack, more please, don't be so gentle."

"Danny, I'll hurt you."

"You won't, please, need to feel." I can hear him swallowing. He hates it when I get like this, when I ask him to be rough. He's such a tender lover, so gentle, but sometimes I need this. Really, really, need this.

"Oh God Danny, look at you," he's saying. I can't, I'm currently studying the ceiling. Oh my GOD.

Ugh. Mornings, I fucking hate mornings. And Jack's not in bed. Where is he? Damn, I shouldn't panic like this when he's not here. I know he's in the house. He'd better be anyway. No coffee in here, so he hasn't tried to wake me up. Can't find my glasses, they're not on the bedside table. Where are they? Damn, I need them to freakin' find them. OW! Stubbed my toe. Hurts. Nothing hurts like a stubbed toe. Except for a bitten tongue. That really hurts. Door. Made it to the door without banging any other part of my anatomy. Bathroom. Glad it's opposite the bedroom. Can just about make out the rim of the toilet. I can see stuff, it's just very fuzzy around the edges. At least the noise tells me I'm aiming in the right direction. Quick wash and downstairs to the Holy Water a.k.a. triple-strength freshly ground coffee. At least he's got the coffee on.

"Ah, the swamp monster emerges."

"Off. Fuck. Now. Coffee. Gimme."

"Ah, erudition at its finest."

"Grrr." What the fuck does he expect.

"Careful, Jack, look what happened to Yu when he didn't get any coffee." Sam? What's she doing here now? Thank God I have my sweats on.

A mug is quickly placed in my hand. Oh goody, it worked. And I get a hug from her.

"Damn, Daniel, have you been working out again?" she's purring as she runs her hands over my arms. Hmm, now that's the best way to wake up. Strong coffee and a beautiful creature. What do I normally get? Jack. Huh. Still, his idea of waking me up with a long, slow fuck is pretty good too. I disentangle myself from Sam and go to Jack. Yeah, nice cuddle. Okay, he's forgiven.

"Danny, don't doze off on me. Come on, it's 1000 hours."

"Jack. That's 10 a.m. Leave your weird timekeeping up at the base will ya?"

Sniggers from them. Well tough. I've learned to shoot, done self-defence classes, can tackle the bad guys as well as the next grunt. I can even fly alien spacecraft. I point blank bloody refuse to tell military time.

"Sam was saying we missed Thanksgiving," Jack points out.

"So?" I ask. Never celebrated it myself. No family, besides, my parents didn't agree with it and neither do I. Bet there aren't many Native Americans that do either.

"So, we missed it. No food, fun, party."

"Jack. If you want a party and a get-together with the gang and maybe your family, we'll organise it. But don't expect me to cry about missing something that I despise."

"Ooh, Mr. Touchy."

"No, Mr. 'Couldn't give a flying fuck' to be precise. Come on, it's anachronistic at best. If the authorities decided to call it 'Family Day' or something then fine."

"Don't argue with him Jack, you'll lose and he'll get pissy and cut you off for a week."

"Ok-ay," Jack says, "how about we have a party tonight?"

"Tonight? How can we have one tonight? Tomorrow. We'll organise it for tomorrow. I'll have things to cook and God knows what else. We've got lots of shopping to do. Phone Mom, tell her what's going on. Ask her to phone the usual suspects. Tell her Sam knows of course. Tell her also that refusal to attend will be met with a caffeine-free archaeologist banging on their door."

"So, what are we going to do tonight?" Sam's asking.

"SG-1 night," I reply. We're on stand down for the next four days but we hate being apart for too long.

"Ed's on duty this afternoon and evening," she says. "I'll tell him I'm staying over."

"Sounds good. Why don't you give us a couple of hours to do the shopping. Would you pick up Teal'c? We'll get the films."

SG-1 night consists of 1) alcohol. This can take the form of beer, wine, whisky, or anything else that takes our fancy. Or usually a combination of all of the above. Not good, but a lot of fun. 2) Food. Again, this can take many forms, but there's usually lots of it. 3) Films. Normally two. Quite frequently we'll have one good one and one bad one. The bad one gets watched second. By then we are usually so pissed we'll watch anything and our sofa becomes the MST3K cinema seats. Titanic sunk without a trace as we laughed our heads off. Pearl Harbour bombed, if I can say that and remain PC. The Mummy Returns - or rather it did until we unwound its bandages all over the floor. "You're the three sides of the pyramid." Duh? Did they even look at a pyramid? They've got four. Historical inaccuracies abounded. The only thing worth watching was Brendan Fraser. Mind, John Hannah, with that sexy, sexy way of his and that voice - oy, the voice. Got to stop thinking of that. Loved Sliding Doors. Funnily enough, he was in that one too.

So, it's getting dressed time. Can't actually put my glasses on anyway, when I cut my head I did it right across the top of my nose and eyebrow, making it swell up a bit this morning. They'd keep falling off. Contacts time again. Hell, they make my eyeballs itch after a couple of hours. Still, better than not seeing enough, I suppose. Nuts. Haven't done any laundry in ages. The only clean pants I've got are my leather ones and my only clean T-shirt is a rather tight black number with the logo 'Linguists do it with tongue' across the back. Apparently Sam and Janet thought it was funny. At least I have a pair of socks, those small sneaker ones with nothing that goes up your leg. Okay for skintight leather pants I suppose. And my hiking boots will have to do, can't seem to find my sneakers. And they're heavy, making my hip hurt and me limp. Huh.

Back downstairs and I can see Jack already waiting for me. Sam's coming shopping with us, she needs to pick some stuff up for herself.

"Wow, Daniel, you're looking dangerous," she says slipping up to me and giving me a hug. Dangerous? It's not as if I'm carrying a gun or anything.

I grab my flying jacket, by now my favourite one. Love those guys up at the base for getting it for me, it's really comfortable to wear. Jack's swallowing hard.

"Jack? Are you all right? Is something wrong?" He's quivering, poor thing.

"I'm f.f.fine," he's stammering. Perhaps he's sickening for something.

Sam's getting me to help her do her shopping. I've told Jack what I want for the party tomorrow so he's off doing ours. I think he's in the next aisle along.

"Why do you want me to help you?" I ask Sam.

She gives me one of her sweet 'big sister' looks and says that she needs me to pick items off the top shelf. Fine, as long as she bends down and gets the ones off the bottom, these pants are tight. I think my thighs are getting fat.

"I'd say more muscular," she whispers. Oh! Hadn't thought of that. Damn, that means I'll probably have to get the next size up.

"Jack! Good to see you!" I hear an unfamiliar voice bellowing from the next aisle over. I look at Sam and we both sneak up to the corner to see what's going on.

"Dennis, long time, no see," Jack replies. I know that tone of voice, he's not too happy to see this guy. I can see why. He's about 5' 10", thickly-built, bit of a beer belly, unshaven, red-faced, close-cropped hair and to quote from the Lion King (don't ask how I know, please) 'man, is he uuugly'. Next to him is a mother figure, probably attractive in her youth, not unpleasant now. She's curvy and comfortable. Probably has loads of grandchildren for whom she makes cookies, feeding them as she sits them on her copious lap. The sort of lady you can feel relaxed around. Unfortunately she has a long-suffering look on her face.

Loudmouth is speaking.

"Still in the service, Jack?"

"Oh yes, full colonel now," Jack says, not a little proudly. "Got the best damn team I've ever worked with."

Sam and I look at each other, smile and hug. Aw, he's such a softy.

"So, what are you doing?"

"Well I could tell ya but I'd have to shoot ya," Jack jokes. Well, he's not joking really, he would have to. 'Dennis' laughs, thinking this is really funny. It's not, bucko, it's the truth.

"I got out," he says. "I hated the fact they were letting women fly and bringing those academic-types in - civilians too! What do you think of that? But when they changed that damned law, that was the last straw. Couldn't bear the thought of the service I love filling up with faggots." Oh, he didn't say that, did he? Jack's going a touch white. I nudge Sam, time to move in and have some fun.

"Jack, there you are," I say. "Have you gotten everything for the party yet? Oh, hello, I'm Daniel, I'm on Jack's team," I extend my hand to Mrs. 'Dennis', smiling at her and doing the fluttering eyelashes thing that drives Jack wild. She's giggling and blushing as she introduces herself.

"I'm Edna," she says.

"That means 'desired'," I reply and she blushes even more.

"This is Major Samantha Carter," Jack says. "My second."

"Second what, dear?" Edna asks.

"Second in command," Dennis barks back at her. I really don't like him at all. He's gritting his teeth.

"So dear," he says to Sam, (I nudge her to stop her ripping him a new one), "what do you do?"

Through clenched teeth she says, "I'm a pilot and a doctor of astrophysics."

"Gulf War veteran," Jack puts in with a grin, slipping his arm over her shoulder and squeezing her. The fat bastard's eyes are popping out.

"Phew! It's getting warm in here," I say, slowly slipping my jacket off. Edna fusses over my arm.

"How did you get that? And what did you do to your face, poor dear?" I like her, she means well.

"In combat," I say. "Can't tell you any more than that, I'm sorry."

"And what do you do, son? You look like a fine soldier to me." He's eyeing up my tattoo and pecs at the same time. Missing my long hair by the looks of it.

My voice goes up a note or two. "Soldier? Me? Oh no, dear, I'm a linguist. Little old civilian, me. I just go in and help them out, you know, in, um, awkward situations." I leave it hang there, not going to say any more than that. Jack's trying not to laugh. Dennis the Redneck is going purple. Got to go out on a high though.

I reach up to Jack, stroke his cheek. "Are we done then babe? Time to go home, I think. We've got so much housework to do. Don't forget we need to drop Sammy off first and I want to get these frozen things away before they defrost. Nice to have met you," I say, smiling hard at Edna. Poor darling, she could do with a quick thrill.

"Fine," Jack says. "See you guys around." He slips his arm around my waist as I push our trolley to the checkout. Sam's right with us.

"Not a word you two," I threaten.

We make it out of the shop and load up the truck. By the time we've got in it we are fit to burst.

"His face," *howl, snort* "did you see the colour it went?" Sam's lost it.

"I thought he was going to explode," Jack whimpers. "Danny, you couldn't have camped up the last bit more if you'd tried!" Okay, maybe walking with a waggle was pushing it. And my voice isn't that high normally.

"Sorry Jack, I'm really sorry," I finally get out in-between gasps for breath. "But he was such an easy target."

"You wait, Spacemonkey, when I get you home you'll get yours."

"Oh, promises, promises. Come on, let's get going!"

"Cut it out you two, it's like the start of a bad porn film in here." Sam's giggling as she speaks.

"Well I wouldn't know anything about that," I say as I turn to her. "Tell me, Sam, just how many bad porn films have you seen?"

Her colouring is starting to match Dennis' so I leave it there.

Daniel's in charge of tonight. I would've been but he refuses to let me in the kitchen and cook and he says he's already picked the movies. So that's that then. All I have to do is sort out the drinks and be waited on hand and foot by Danny. Oh, life is so hard.

They're here. You can always tell when it's Teal'c on the other side of the glass. The shadows he casts are vast.

Food's coming out. Daniel's gone to town for us. A feast, the table is groaning with international dishes. Spicy, not so spicy, 'fucking hell that's hot!' and sweet. Film number one. Oh yes. Men in Black. Ideal. Hoots of laughter as we watch and slowly get drunk. Danny's curled up with me on the sofa, much to Carter's amusement.

"Aw, ain't that so sweet," she says.

Danny responds by flipping her the bird and kissing the shit out of me. Yeah, like that sort of response.

"Cut it out the pair of you, or I will be forced to separate you."

Teal'c can be a real killjoy sometimes.

Woo hoo! Film number two. And it's...

"Independence Day!" Daniel announces. "I kinda thought it would be appropriate somehow."

Hey, it's a great film. Really funny too. Especially as we know stuff they don't. Did the writers have any idea just how accurate their representation of Area 51 really is? $10,000 for a hammer and $30,000 for a toilet seat- that's an understatement. I know that long-haired geek. And I'm not talking about the one currently three sheets to the wind and lying draped across my lap.

"Fire at will!" comes from the TV.

"Aw, leave him alone, he's the best thing in the film," Carter screams. Daniel thinks that's very funny. He thinks most things are very funny at the moment. Oh yes, he's now on the floor eating carpet. Trying to get up again. He puts his hand out and misses the floor completely. Shit, he's made his nose bleed. I knew he shouldn't have taken his contacts out. No depth perception at all, my Danny.

One advantage to having a sneezing geek in the house is boxes of tissues all over the place.

"Here Danny, pinch your nose."

"I'd rather pinch your ass," he says, nasally. At least he seems to have got a grip on the situation. Well, he's got a grip on his nostrils anyway. I'll have to wait for the ass-gripping later.

Teal'c, surprisingly, hasn't seen this film before.

"Hey, T man, do you know any aliens like this?" I call, pointing to the slimy, tentacled boogie men on screen.

He looks carefully at us. Carter's currently draped over the arms of the chair, laughing her head off, drunk off her ass. He looks at me, sprawled over the sofa, pretty relaxed to say the least and oops, covered in bits of food. And then there's dear Daniel. Dressed to kill, howling his head off at something on the TV, absolutely shitfaced, blood streaks down his T-shirt, his arm in plaster and stitches across his forehead.

Teal very slowly and carefully answers.

"Indeed I do."

"I think I'm gonna throw up," Daniel says as we make our way to bed. Teal'c has helped me get him up here. It was slightly easier than getting Carter up here and taking her into the bathroom to get ready for bed. Oy, not an experience I want to repeat in a hurry. At least she didn't want any help taking a leak. I don't think I could've coped with that. We steer Daniel into the bathroom and get his head down the toilet where he promptly regurgitates all his hard work from this afternoon.

"Tha's better," he says as I point him to the sink. I have to put the paste on his toothbrush and aim it at his mouth.

"I can do it," he says, waving the toothbrush around. "Where's the toothpaste gone?"

On my face, that's where.

"Ja-ack, why have you got toothpaste on your cheek? You're very silly. It should go on the brush. Silly, silly Jack. Let me," and he scrapes it off with the head of his brush, licks my cheek clean and sticks the brush in his mouth. I'm trying hard not to laugh, but he's moving his head and not the brush. How on earth does a guy with an orbital IQ end up being reduced to a simpering moron after a few drinks? Okay, more than a few, and perhaps he shouldn't have taken those painkillers earlier. You live and learn. Or in his case, he doesn't. This isn't the first time this has happened. It's probably the 128th since I've known him.

I do assist him to take a leak, the mop's still downstairs and I don't feel like having to wipe up after him. No glasses means problems with visual acuity.

"Hmm, like this," he says as I get him undressed. I am not going any further. A horny Daniel is a noisy Daniel. A drunk Daniel has no inbuilt volume control and we have guests. Oh no, Danny, not tonight.

"Jack? Don't you love me anymore?" He's doing his cute voice on me.

"Oh yeah, babe, still love ya. Just want to sleep, okay?"

He's sighing and harrumphing. I know I've hurt his feelings but he'll thank me in the morning. Oh God, what is he doing? He's going down. Nnno, Danny, stop that, please. Hell, he's not stopping and Little Jack's getting in on the act. Damn traitor. I always knew I couldn't rely on my prick's sense of propriety. What am I thinking? It's a dick! It has no sense of moderation. It's just been offered a blow job by an expert, what the fuck is it going to do? The second Daniel goes down, it goes up! And up. And stays there till he's finished.

Okay. I'll let him finish, but I am not going to return the favour. He's too loud. Yeah, I'll tell him that as soon as my tongue and brain start working together again. Damn, he good at that. Fucking excellent in fact. Oh yeah, just there. Please, no Danny, don't stop.

"But you'll get loud Jack," he says as he comes back up to me. "Can't get loud, we've got visitors." His eyes are twinkling. Bastard. I throw him to the bed, shut him up in the best way I know how and it's bump and grind time all over again. He can't scream with my tongue down his throat, can he? Well he can, obviously. But I doubt that our next-door but one neighbour heard him this time.

Why do I let myself get talked into these situations? Mom called and told me how many are coming today. I have to cook for sixteen. Not a problem, but hell, I'm gonna be busy. Perhaps a buffet would be easiest, just in case anyone else turns up too. What with drinks and everything, yeah, I think I'll do that. A quick recce of the fridge and freezer and I know that's what I'm doing. A continuation of last night I think. I yell at Jack to get stuff ready. The party is going to start mid-afternoon and will probably go on all night. I don't even know who's actually coming. Sam's gone home but Teal'c's stayed to help. I think Sam's gone to be sick, she was looking pretty green. She wasn't the only one, my face this morning was not a pretty sight.

Jack has offered to barbecue, but on the grounds that it's the end of November and fucking freezing outside, I declined. He's hauling out the drinks, making sure that there's plenty to go around. Put the local cab firm on speed dial for when people want to go home. He says they're all coming by cab or walking. No point in spoiling the day for anyone.

The food's nearly ready, I'm currently trying out some experimental nibbles on Jack's ear. Ooh yeah, he likes that.

"Danny, not after last time, please," he's moaning. Oh, okay, I'll stop.

I give a little laugh.


"Us. Look at us." We're both in black jeans and white T-shirt. Only got two laundry loads done yesterday so we're reduced to looking alike. "Of course, J, the difference is, I make this look good." Jack laughs at the reference to the film last night.

"You're not wrong, Danny, not wrong. Can't wait to get it all off you tonight though." He pushes up against me, my nether regions try to get in on the act but these jeans are tight. Ow, that's uncomfortable. His most evil grin tells me he did that on purpose.

"Jack. One word for you. M'losa." He goes as white as his T. This is good. Now he thinks I'm going to cut him off all weekend. Ha! I'm not, that would be dumb. It's not going to stop him trying to get around me all afternoon though.

Doorbell goes, and he's rushed to answer it.

"Oh WOW! I didn't know you were coming! Come in, please, come in!" I look out of the kitchen to see who's come and end up rushing out to greet our guests.

"Bridie! Reuben! Fantastic. Mom never said a thing." I grab Bridie and swing her around.

"Do that to me, Daniel and I'll thump you." I like Reuben, nice guy.

Who's that behind him? "Patrick! This gets even better," Jack's calling out.

I know he's accepted me, but I still feel a little awkward around him. It's my fault, not his, but I can't help it.

"Daniel, good to see you again," he says putting his hand out to me. I take it and shake it warmly. He's very welcome here. "What have you done to yourself?" he asks as he surveys my injuries.

"Oh, nothing serious," I say. "Didn't die this time." The joke falls flat though. Oh dear. I carry on regardless. "Just broke my arm in a minor place and banged my head."

"Broke it in three minor places, needed seven stitches and dislocated his hip," Jack mutters.

"I've had worse," I say with a shrug and take their coats.

"Now you see why I turned grey so quickly?" Jack asks them. They have to agree that I'm probably the reason. I know I'm the reason.

We usher them in, fill their hands with drinks and sit down to chat. Mom's here with them, of course, she picked them up from the airport. And where Mom is, George is too. I think that he's finally been officially introduced to Bridie and Patrick. I think they approve.

I head out to the kitchen to start bringing the food into the living room. Bridie follows me. I get a sisterly hug as she sits me on the kitchen chair and interrogates me.

"Jack didn't hit you, did he?"

"Hell no, no, this was got in combat. You don't think that he'd ever...?"

"No, I was just teasing. We worry about you." Aw, isn't that sweet? "Mom seems happy now that's she's down here," she adds thoughtfully.

"We're glad she's here. I think that working again is giving her a sense of freedom, funnily enough. And George is a great guy. Lost his wife some years back. Got daughters and granddaughters of his own. You don't have to worry about him, Bridie. I've known him for years, couldn't ask for a better boss or friend."

"How about father-in-law?" she mutters as we look out into the living room. Mom's holding court and her boys and George are rapt with attention.

"We couldn't have found anyone better if we'd scoured the planet, love, he's potty about her, trust me. I know some good and honourable men, Bride, and George ranks up there with the best of them."

I get another hug from her and we start to deliver the food.

"Daniel, you've been cooking again," Mom says, her eyes popping out as she sees the dishes. Okay, I think I've probably cooked enough. There's enough to feed about thirty normal people. I'm guessing that Patrick will eat as much as Jack and me, and of course, Teal'c can out-eat the two of us put together, so there should just about be enough.

Doorbell again. Sam, Ed, oh and Janet, Cassie, Paul and Josh! All the family and closest friends. This is going to be a great get-together.

"I asked Louis Ferretti to come," Mom says, "but he already had plans. They're meeting up with his sister and her family. Did you know that little Gina said her first words after swimming with those dolphins? It worked, brought her right out of herself. I'm going to see her in a few days' time, see if we can't coax a few more." Of course, if anyone can, Mary O'Neill will get her to talk.

"So all the humiliation was worth it then?" Josh says to Jack.

"Humiliation?" Pat asks. Oh-oh, he's gonna get the whole story I think.

Mom's telling it. The three of us are blushing like mad. Teal'c is as impassive as ever. That man has NO shame. Oh no, please Mom, not the calendar.

"I've got copies for all the family," she says with a smile.

"MOM!" Both Jack and I are begging her not to show it to them. Of course, Bridie's sitting on me and Pat's gotten Jack in an arm lock so we have to let them see it.

"See! See! I told you you didn't dip out by not having any real siblings! No family is good, Danny, it's safe. Aargh get off Pat!" Jack's calling out to me from under a pile of large priest. Of course, where's the rest of SG-1 when you want them? Stuffing their faces, that's where.

"Sam! Please, sis, get her off me!"

"Oh no, Daniel, you're on your own. Big bad nasty guys are one thing. Big mean sisters are something else. Besides, I'm a big mean sister. Mwahahaha!"

"Teal'c, help me buddy!" Jack's calling.

"I make it a point to never interfere with family disputes," he says in-between munches.

"Wuss. That's the last time I'm cooking for you two," I try. They pretend not to hear anything.

"Mom, tell him," Jack's whining.

"Look at you," she's saying, hand on hip. "Full-grown colonel and wants his mother to help him out. You're a big boy now, Jonathan O'Neill."

"I'll say," I add, not very helpfully.

Mom's already got to December. Having been humiliated by being seen naked on my own, I now get the red face from the pic of the four of us. Oh no, she's flipping the book.

"It's all right for you, Danny, you look gorgeous," Jack says. Somehow, we've managed to waggle ourselves across the floor. We're both face down. Jack has Pat sitting on his back, I have Bridie on my legs. I'd throw her off but I don't want to hurt either her or my hip. Jack and I hold hands for mutual comfort. I remind him just how sexy he looks in the ammo belt and nothing else. How about a bit of lip lock, I wonder? Ah well, once they've seen February...

"Oh Jack, Daniel, it's beautiful." I can feel her turning round to look at us. Oops. "Typical. Take my eyes off you for one second..." Bridie's scolding. Jack and I are kissing. Slowly and gently. I think she liked the piccy but she's now annoyed that we were making the most of eyes being elsewhere.

We are finally released and scamper over to a corner where we sit clinging on to each other.

"I'm not going back over there, Jack. They're dangerous," I say, loud enough for them to hear.

"See what I had to put up with? I'm tellin' ya, Danny, nightmare time. Honest Injun."

"So it's just me and you then, huh, hun?"

"Yeah, kiddo, just me and you."

Today has been a scream from start to finish. Mom's been on form, even getting Cassie under control. Janet's been getting helpful hints and tips on how to deal with a teenager whose hormones are rampant. Bridie's obviously trying to emulate Mom in the scary stakes, but she's got a lot to learn. Mom is one of the few people in the galaxy who is almost immune to Daniel and 'the look'. Bridie's a complete sucker where he's concerned.

Paul is at his charming best, Josh is being very funny, telling stories about some of the better-known senators and Ed looks bewildered. My team are pretty much sticking together - strength in numbers when faced with the O'Neill family. Danny and I are as normal, loving one moment and bickering like married people the next.

"Jack, how are you really?" Pat asks as he takes me to one side.

"Happy, Pat. I haven't been so happy since Charlie was around."

"It's fun watching Daniel on his own turf. He's a lot more self-assured," he says.

I confide in him a bit, well, he is a priest, he's used to it. "A lot of Daniel's self-doubt when you first met him was my fault, Pat. I built him up, became the best friend he ever had and then shut him out. I had no idea he was like me, and when I realised that I couldn't cope with being his friend as well as being in love with him, well, I took it out on him. It's a testament to his strength of character that he didn't give up on me. He knew there was a reason for me being the way I was. At the time he thought it was something that he had done to deserve it. It was awful, Pat. He worked out, learned to shoot straight, learned tactics. Anything to turn himself into the soldier he thought I wanted him to be. If only you'd known him back then. He was a wide-eyed idealist. He'd seen so many terrible things in his life and all he wanted to do was make things better for others. I changed him - to my eternal regret. He's a much harder, colder person than he used to be. Some of that is because of the job, but I take the blame for the rest of it."

"Does it help him cope with what he sees now?"

"Maybe, but it's still not necessarily a good thing. I was with him when he killed for the first time. He did it to save a life, Pat, that was the only reason. The look of horror on his face when he did it was heartbreaking. Since then he's had to kill time and again. Always to save life, never for any other reason, and he always, but always gets nightmares after it. He's convinced that any goodness in his soul is long gone. He's wrong; he's the best person, the gentlest person I have ever met. In the last couple of years he's had to kill with his bare hands. That was the worst for him, feeling the necks break under his touch. It makes him so sick. He doesn't eat properly for days afterwards. It's like he has to punish himself, even though if he hadn't done it, we would have died."

"Perhaps he feels that his life isn't worth that of another."

"That's the trouble, Pat. If it was to save his own life, he wouldn't do it. And that's what scares me. Oh-oh, something's wrong."


"Daniel. He knows there's something wrong. His trouble-radar is telling him something, he just doesn't know what it is yet."

"How can you tell?"

"You spend six years in the field with him. Trust me Pat, something's up. Danny? What's up, hun?" I walk over to him. Teal'c and Sam are already at his side. They've picked up on it too. I can feel every other eye in the room on the four of us.

"This is why I keep them together," George is murmuring. "They know."

"Know what?" Bridie's asking.

"When one of them isn't happy, when something's wrong, whatever. They all just know."

Daniel's got his wide-eyed look. His finger is at his lips. It's his 'I have no idea what's going on in my head, but I'll be sure to let you know just as soon as I've figured it out,' look.

Paul has his cellphone out, his finger poised on the speed dial button. George is sidling over to the phone, getting ready to act on Daniel's word.

Absolute silence reigns. I know that my brother and sister have never seen Daniel in action before. I don't think that Mom has ever seen him like this either. Josh, Janet, Cassie and Ed have gravitated towards each other.

Daniel's face drops. It's a look of absolute horror.

"Oh my God." He's whispering. "We're in deep, deep, shit."

"Danny? What's wrong?" I put my hand out and touch his shoulder. His head snaps up and he looks at me as if he's just noticed me.

"How could I have missed what he said, Jack? How could I have been so stupid? Damn!"

"What who said?"

"Yu!" Okay, I know who, I'm not joking with him when he looks like this.

"What did he say, Daniel?" My calm colonel's voice is taking over, I need to get this out of him now.

"His exact words were, 'To think I came here to tell you that I considered your suggestion of an alliance.' Don't you see, Jack? Not an alliance with us, but with the others. They're coming Jack and we've just sent away our best hope."

Oh fuck.

Paul's on the phone, George is too.

"Sam, we need your dad asap," I say, trying to keep as calm as possible. The time for verifying Daniel's theories has long past. If he says they're coming, we're going to red alert just in case.

"Jack? What's going on?" Pat's asking.

"Can't tell you, but it's serious. If Daniel's right, well, all you can do is pray, bro. Please, put in a good word for the four of us, we're going to need all the help we can get."

"Are we talking another attack on the US?"

"Something like that, but could be worse. Look, chances are we're overreacting, but Daniel's usually right. If we can move fast enough, you won't even hear of what goes on. Pray that you don't. Every day that our work stays a secret is another day you can get on your knees and thank God for. Trust me on this one, Pat. You don't want to know what we do."

"Mom knows."

"Yes, she does. She helps us pick up the pieces of people's minds when they can't take any more."

"It gets that bad?"

"Oh yeah, and worse." I shake my head as I think of some of the staff there that have completely lost it. It's so sad to watch bright young career officers who burn out too quickly. The more I see of that, the more I admire the civilian staff that somehow stay comparatively sane. Just don't tell Danny I said so.

The party's over. Mom is taking Cassie home and staying with her. Another benefit of her being here. The generation gap really works to our advantage. Cassie adores her new grandma and Mom always stays with her when Jan's at the base at night. Josh and Paul are coming with us, and Bridie, Pat and Reuben are heading to an hotel. I think they'll meet up with Mom again tomorrow. We, on the other hand, have no idea how long we're going to be away - or if we're coming back.

We're up at the mountain now and Carter's sent the message to the Tok'ra. Daniel's trying to sort out his thoughts. Anubis' fleet is the key. None of Anubis' ships were in the fleet we destroyed. Did Yu extract their location from Zippy before he killed him? If he didn't, we stand a chance. If he did and the alliance has them, Earth is fucked.

I head to Daniel's office. He's retreated there for some peace and quiet before all hell breaks loose. I've got a rule to break.

"Hey babe, how're you doing?"

"Oh hi, Jack, not sure to be honest."

I shut his door and lock it, make sure his security camera is off and pull him into a long deep kiss.

"We didn't have time for our little ritual," I say with a distinct leer in my voice. He grins at me.

"Oh Jack, I'd love to, but not now, hun, we can't on the base. You know the rules."

"Oh I do, I so do, Danny. But this rule of ours that we never go into battle or off-world without letting each other know overrules the other rule. So to speak."

I smile, an honest to goodness face-lighting smile comes my way.

"I know, Jack. You've told me in so many ways, not just in words but in deeds. I really want to make out, but we can't, not now. But knowing that you love me, that's enough. That will keep me safe. You know I love you, don't you?"

Of course I do. Nothing is more obvious to me at the moment than how he feels. He never smiles at anyone else the way he smiles at me. We settle for some serious kissing time on his cot instead. Maybe we'll get a chance to take things further later, but he's right. Not here and not now. It doesn't matter though. We've told each other and so the tradition has been fulfilled. We should come back from it.


I hope.

The phone rings and we get called up to the briefing room. The Tok'ra are here.

"So, what intelligence do you have?" I ask after explaining my theory to Jacob. I'm glad it was him that came. Trying to explain things to those that don't know me isn't easy.

"Not heard a thing, to tell you the truth Daniel. I'll contact some of our people, see if they know anything. And I'll get in touch with Qabil. He's been in charge of repairs to the Rascal. I'll find out what he knows. What you say makes sense. I'm hoping that you're wrong and that Yu came to Earth to form an alliance, but as you say, it's not very likely. Whatever happens on that front, you did the galaxy a favour."

"If he didn't know where the fleet was, does that mean that Zippy hid it somewhere else?" Jack asks.

"It's possible," Jacob answers.

"Probably," I say. "Zippy split the fleet. But, I'd still look there first - at least we may find some of them. Can we go and look?"

"That was what I was going to ask," says Jack, trying to look put out and failing. At least the prospect of a couple of days on a ship with me is cheering him up.

Jacob goes off to 'phone' Qabil and get a status report on the Rascal. We're basically just biting our fingernails, waiting on some intelligence. Sarah's been telling them everything she knew. Now that we've gotten rid of Anubis and Osiris though, and Zippy is no longer around to pick up the pieces, all bets are off. We are in the unenviable position of not knowing a damn thing. Jack's disappeared. He's going to contact Thor, put him on standby so to speak.

"What I don't understand," I suddenly say, because the thought is still forming in my head, "is why they are taking so damn long about coming here. If I was in charge of a reserve fleet, I'd have been waiting at the edge of the solar system."

Mehmet, another Tok'ra who's with Jacob explains what he thinks. "They would not have expected Yu to fail. The Goa'uld are so arrogant that even the prospect of losing a battle does not come into their plans. They guessed you had the ship, I am sure. And they knew it was a big one, but one ship against eight? No way was Yu going to lose. I do not believe that they thought the Asgard would get involved."

"What about now? Will they come knowing the Asgard will get involved?" Sam's asking. Good question, it was next on my list.

"Most likely. They will have a point to prove. Not only that, they will not believe that a few Asgard ships and a single ha'tak will defeat the combined forces of the Goa'uld System Lords."

"Then we have to take the fight to them. And hopefully, we'll end the domination of the Goa'uld once and for all." At least I sound confident. It could work, but we need Anubis' fleet to pull this off. And any other ship we can find.

"Mehmet, how quickly can the Tok'ra make and install cloaking devices?"

"It takes a couple of days to make one. Installation is a matter of hours."

"Can you get the blueprints and materials and bring them here?" I ask. "If one of you could show our engineers how to make them, we should be able to do it quickly." He looks a bit dubious but Sam adds, "Trust us, Mehmet, we have some of the planet's best 'on-the-fly' engineers here. The British sent their Royal Engineers, the other countries sent civilian engineers, and the Russians are brilliant at making stuff out of nothing. Not to mention the engineers from our own forces and the civilian ones. We've had a fair bit of practise with Goa'uld and other alien technologies."

The weaponry from the Babylon blueprints has recently come on-line. We modified some of them so that they can be fired from orbit. We have surrounded the planet with a ring of satellites disguised as telecoms sats. We haven't been able to test fire them in space yet though, we think other countries not involved with the project might notice. This is why we don't want to rely on them, but they are the last line of space defence.

Jack's come back in.

"I managed to speak to one of Thor's deputies. I told him everything, he says that Thor is currently in battle against the Replicators, but that he seems to be winning. That information we were able to give them about messages being transmitted to each individual bug seems to be helping. Thor's buddy says that the Asgard will do what they can."

Mehmet goes to find Jacob to transmit our request for cloaking device technology. He knows as well as we do that the Tok'ra's only hope of survival is to limit the numbers of Goa'uld. Hopefully, they'll share this time.

Jack and I are shipping out with Jacob. Sam needs to stay here to supervise the building of the cloaking devices. The Tok'ra agreed to help out, they thought it was a reasonable idea under the circumstances. Teal'c has to stay to carry on with training the pilots. Using the last battle as a template, he's going to instruct them on how to avoid getting shot. Apparently the new pilots are a lot more nervous than the old ones were before they shipped out first time. The reality of dying in space has hit home. I'm hoping we come up with a plan that doesn't include them this time.

I don't like going without Sam or Teal'c, it's like I'm leaving an arm and a leg behind. We said our goodbyes in private. Don't want to go but I have to. Won't let Jack go without me. We either both come back or neither of us does. Called Mom. She's still at Janet's keeping Cassie company. Said goodbye to her too, just in case. Heard Cassie weeping as she passed the phone back to Mom.

"I don't want them to go, Gran," she howled. "Don't want to lose them too."

Jack and I had to fight back the tears as we said goodbye to Mom. Told her we loved her and the family. Asked her to say goodbye to them if we don't come back. Howled for a minute after we put the phone down. I have such a feeling of dread.

Stepping through the gate has lost its sense of wonder for me today. All I can feel is sick to my stomach. I wonder if that's the last time I'll travel through a wormhole? We've arrived at a Tok'ra base. The Rascal is fixed and ready for us. We're going to meet up with the pilots at a planet near to Earth on the way back if necessary. The Tok'ra are throwing a hell of a lot of resources at this. Their info says pretty much what I had feared. The System Lords are going to launch an attack on the Tauri within a week. That gives precious little time to get prepared.

We get on board the ship and I have a surprise waiting for me.

"Sarah! What are you doing here?"

"Daniel," at least she looks pleased to see me. It's nice to hear her voice coming through for once. "I've joined the Tok'ra," she says.

"As in 'joined'?" I ask.

She nods. "There was a symbiote desperately needing a host. I found being on my own very strange. Aman is very comforting. She's been helping me through the realities of being a Goa'uld host. I'm happy, Daniel."

Aman. Even the name is similar. Fuck. I hate this. I try to hide my true feelings.

"As long as it is what you wanted, Sarah, then I'm happy for you."

Jack's heard what was being said. He comes over and wraps his arms around me, kissing my cheek as he does. Sarah looks surprised.

"They changed the law," I explain. "Jack and I can openly be together."

Was that a look of disappointment on her face? Well tough; no way was I ever getting involved with her again, Jack and snake not withstanding.

It's time to go. We're heading out to the last place we saw Anubis' fleet. The Tok'ra think they know all of Anubis' territory, the information that Jack and I got at Fort Knox helped them a lot. If the fleet isn't there we should be able to guess at some of the rest of the potential hiding places. Zipnaca would likely have used the same resources before visiting Yu. Jacob says we should reach the first destination in a few hours. Jack's pacing. I'd go and stop him but I'm pacing too. This is bigger than anything we've ever faced before.

I feel impotent at the moment. I know that the System Lords are going to attack Earth. I need a plan, a good plan to stop them. I don't want them even getting close to the solar system. We'd never be able to cover up a full-on attack. No, we have to take the fight to them.

"Jacob. Do you know where the System Lords are gathering their various fleets?"

"Yes, Jack, we have the specific co-ordinates. It will take them a day at full speed to reach Earth from it."

"Good. How long will it take us to reach them?"

"From the first destination, about twelve hours. If we can find enough ships there and man them we should be able to reach the attacking fleet a day before they are scheduled to launch."

"If." It always comes down to 'if'.

"Show me a plan of the area in which they are meeting, Jacob. I need to think."

He pulls up one of those hologramatic displays. There's a large star in the centre. He puts up the ships that are known to be there already. Damn, there's about fifteen of them. More are coming from different parts of the galaxy, hence the delay.

"Those planets, are they inhabited?" I ask, pointing to the ones in the star's system.

"No. The Goa'uld are trying to meet in secret."

"How about blowing the sun then? It worked before."

Yeah, Jack, brilliant idea. Just remember what happened then. However, it might just work.

"It's an idea, Jack. Pity Sam's not with us, she's the one that would know about it, and of course, it would all depend on the connection to the gate with the black hole still being there. That would be unlikely, I think, because the force of the exploding sun may well have damaged it or pushed it so close to the event horizon that it fell in. I wouldn't want that to be the only plan we have."

Damn. He's got a point. Not to mention that I don't know the co-ordinates for that gate and Carter's not here. Okay. Plan B. All I have to do is think of one.

"Is there any other way of blowing up a sun?"

Jake doesn't know, but he says he'll go and ask around. Some of the Tok'ra on board are scientists.

While he's going to find out, I transmit the rendezvous point to Thor. He gave me a gadget with which to communicate with him when he helped us out with our little law problem a year ago. I only use it when necessary, don't want to overdo it. Thor's buddy answers and I tell him what I know. He says he'll relay the information. I point out that there's going to be a huge battle and that we're going to be fighting with the Tok'ra. I wonder how they'll tell the difference between the enemy and us. Thor's pal says that we don't have Jaffa on our ships. Good point.

I hope that Thor gets the message in time. I also hope that he's coping with his own problem too. Don't want to see any harm come to him.

Danny's coming over to me. He's grabbed me by the hand and he's taking me off somewhere. I have no idea what's going on in his head because he's not talking.

He's opened a door, looked inside. It's obviously okay for whatever he's got in mind because he pushes me through the doorway and into the room. And slams me up against it. Whoo boy. He's going down. Oh yeah. I have no idea what brought this on but I am not complaining. Oh God Danny, what do you do to me?

He's looking like the cat that got the cream. Well, I suppose he did - snigger. I'm gonna reciprocate; fair's fair and all that. His turn against the door. Damn, he's desperate. Come on Danny, give it up for me babe.

Some frantic kissing and hugging later and I finally get my mouth capable of speech again.


"No, just fucking horny."

I laugh at him, he starts laughing too. A note of hysteria is creeping into our voices. I don't think I've ever been so afraid before a battle in my life.

We're just standing here, holding onto each other, not wanting to let go. No need to say 'I love you', we both know already.

A communicator bleeps. We're there.

Five ships are waiting for us. We're still cloaked, thank God. Jacob's scanning the fleet. It's been abandoned. All my alarm bells are going off. We'd hoped that this would be the case, but best case scenarios rarely work.

I've also just thought of a plan. If we can do this - oh yeah, it would be so good.

"Jacob, how do we tell if these ships are a trap?"

"Only by going over there and looking, Jack," he replies with a sigh.

Daniel's thinking again. He waves his finger. "Jacob, scan to see if there are any gliders and transport vessels on board."

Jacob does. There aren't any. Daniel's smiling.

"When the Jaffa and the minor Goa'uld on board those ships heard what happened to Anubis and later to Zipnaca, I think they abandoned them. Quite simply left. They had no idea if we would come back and deliver another dose of the poison, and they had no one to tell them what to do, so they went. It's Marie-Celeste time all over again. Has the toxin cleared from Anubis' ship yet?" He asks

"To tell you the truth, Daniel, I don't know."

"You're sure there's no one alive on board?"

"Absolutely, the scans are completely negative."

"Okay, then Jack and I are going to have to go over there." We are? That's news.

"Come on, Jack. Oh, Jacob, do we have any breathing apparatus on board?"

"There may be something in the Jaffa weapons stores." He sends someone off to have a look for us. "Um, why, Daniel?"

"I don't suppose anyone took the dead bodies off the ship," he says quietly. No, I don't suppose they did either.

How do I let myself get dragged into these things? Daniel was right. There are decomposing bodies everywhere. I can't do this, it's making me sick. Daniel's ignoring everything though.

"I must admit," he says, "I'm much more at home with very old dead bodies, but this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would." It doesn't? It's bothering the hell out of me. We're heading to the bridge. Daniel wants to look at something on the controls. He hasn't enlightened me as to what he's hoping to find yet, but he will when the time comes. I hope.

Finally, we're there. Euw. Dead snakes everywhere. The First Prime is laying across the control panel and Daniel just pushes him off. I don't care what he's saying now, he's definitely gonna pay for this with nightmares soon. Hell, I'm gonna have nightmares about this soon. While I'm awake, even.

"Got it!" he says and presses some buttons.

"Daniel? Are you going to let me in on your little secret now?"

"Secret? Oh! No, no secret. Just the co-ordinates of Anubis' other hideouts."

Ya know, one day he's gonna let me in on the way he thinks. I'm gonna get a headache, maybe my mind will explode, but he'll tell me first.

Daniel opens a little hand-held scanner thingamajig that Jacob gave him.

"No toxin," he says. "It's okay for the Tok'ra to board."

Ok-ay! Time to implement plan B.

Some of the other Tok'ra have headed out to the other four ships. We're gonna take them all back to the Tok'ra base. Hopefully, Carter and her pals will have made some cloaking devices already.

A couple of Tok'ra relieve us on the ship from hell. They can take it back. I think they're gonna open it up to the vacuum of space at some point and flush the bodies out. Best way, there must be a thousand dead Jaffa here. Not a nice way to die.

We're back on the Rascal and heading out to one of the other co-ordinates. We don't have time to search them all, maybe two or three. Daniel and Jacob are trying to figure out the best ones to try.

"That one, that one and that one," I say.

"Um, why?" Daniel asks.

"Uninhabited, not very inhabited and well off the beaten track," I reply, pointing to each choice as I do.

"As good a guess as any," Jacob says. Hey, I can think tactically, it's my job.

Daniel just grins at me. Huh.

Jacob plots a flight plan that means we don't have to double back or divert anywhere. Good, nice and quick. The Tok'ra are as determined to see this through as we are. I guess they want revenge for what happened on Ravanna. That's why they were so happy to take Anubis out and positively rejoiced when Zippy got what was coming to him.

First destination was a bust. It was the least likely one, given that there was an inhabited planet. Zippy would have wanted to keep this a secret. Oh yeah, I was right. Sector number two has three ships ready and waiting. Not to mention also abandoned. After all, what would a homesick Jaffa want with a mother ship? Same plan as before, and some more Tok'ra fly them home. We sneak up on sector number three and I'm right again. Twice in one day! Hey, I'm shooting for the record, here.

Four more ships to add to our collection. We know we don't have them all, there were around twenty when we attacked Anubis, but we are out of time. This time we all head back to the Tok'ra base.

Carter's waiting for us with her band of engineering geeks. They've come up with the goods. Built the devices in record time. There's an advantage to having lots of geeks at the base after all. She said that the Tok'ra were falling over themselves to help out. I don't think that she or the others have slept in the last thirty-six hours. Who does she think she is? Daniel?

"So, Jack, are you going to let us in on the plan?" Jacob asks as we all sit down to eat. I've sent the freshest Tok'ra and Tauri engineers to fit the devices and ordered the others to rest.

"Tell me Jacob, can we rig the engines on a ship to blow at a specific moment?"

"Ye-es," he says, his voice betraying his 'what the fuck has he got in mind' thought. "Why?"

And I tell him my plan. Daniel cracks up.

"Like shooting fish in a barrel," he says. "They won't know what's hit them." And it might mean that we can do it without the help of the Asgard just in case they can't make it in time. It's gonna be a good one.