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Out and About 5

divine retribution

Summary: It's time. The battle is upon us. Will SG-1 come through? Will the System Lords take over the Galaxy? Will Thor blink? (duh!) Will Homer ever give up Duff? Who knows? Who cares? It's only a story. BTW, normal service will be resumed in part 6 (if they make it of course - heh, heh, heh.)

Plan B is going into action. I still can't believe that we've done what we've done in such a short space of time. If we pull this off and get home, I'm gonna recommend that the engineers get lots of time off and a pay rise. Damn, they've worked really hard. The best news is the SG-1 is back together again. This plan is a good plan. No gliders involved. I don't think that there were many complaints either.

We've cloaked all the ships. There are two people on each one, except the Rascal. We're using this one as the central control. And the plan is elegant in its simplicity. We're going to hang out until we're sure that all of the enemy ships are together. Then we're sending some of ours into the fleet, still cloaked. Each ship has a glider which is also cloaked. The Tok'ra and engineer on board are going to set the engines to blow by remote, we've got a controller that should trigger the whole lot at once. We've enhanced some missile warheads with naquada and attached them to the sides of the engines, so when they go they'll go. Then they're getting the hell off the ship and back to the Rascal. With any luck the explosions will take out some of the Goa'uld fleet and we'll be waiting for the rest of them when they scatter. And with a bit more luck, the Asgard will be here to help us out. We'll only have seven ships left, so I hope that Thor turns up.

We've been watching the enemy for the last ten hours. They don't seem to know that we're here. They've got twenty ships, so we need to take out as many as we can to start with. At the very least we need to disable them.

Carter's wandering around. She's in deep trouble now.

"Carter! What the fuck are you doing? You know you should be resting."

"Yes, Sir, sorry, Sir."

Damn, she can't sleep. Ed's on one of the ships that's going to blow, and with her reputation as a black widow... hell, I'm not even going there. Trouble is, she's asleep on her feet. So's Danny, but he hides it better. I have a cunning plan.

"Daniel, come here please." Hell, he must be tired, he's come over without complaint.

I pull him close and whisper, "Hey Danny, do me a favour, will you? Carter's gonna drop any minute. Thing is, she won't go to bed. Would you be a mensch and take her? Ya know, lie down with her, cuddle her, she might drop off if you do."

"Okay Jack, I'll come back when she's asleep," he says a little too brightly.

"You do that."

I hear him call out to her and watch him as he does his brother thing, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and leading her to our billet. He's going nuts with his arm in that cast, I think it itches. She's stroking his arm, I think he's been playing the sympathy card, asking her to keep him company while he has a nap. Crafty sod, learned it from me.

I've left it ten minutes and I'm going to check on them. They have to sleep. I'm glad these doors open silently. Oh yes, I was right. Both of them out cold. Daniel is virtually wearing Sam. Both their faces are dirty. I think they've been crying. Danny can be a real drama queen when he wants to be. If she was upset then he'd have joined in. Back out as quietly as I went in.

"How long before we attack?" I ask Jacob.

"I think that the last ships should be here soon, Jack." He's been monitoring the communications between the System Lords. Only one more to come. Morrigan. I know her from Irish mythology. Not one of the nicer characters.

Some of the Tok'ra and our engineers have set up a fantastic system. If, for some reason the people on board the remaining ships of our fleet can't access the controls, we can fire the weapons remotely. Just in case, like. Carter said that there had never been such collaboration between the two sides and she had really enjoyed it. Hopefully this will be the start of a proper alliance. However, when this is all over, if we survive it, I'm afraid that the Tok'ra will feel like they don't need us anymore. We've decided to split the surviving ships 50/50. That way we'll all have something to show for it. Not to mention a rather interesting internecine war playing out among the lesser Goa'uld. That should keep them occupied for quite some time. Then we get the chance that we'd hoped to all that while ago when Daniel played slave to Yu. We're gonna wipe them from the face of the galaxy. Once and for all.

It's going to be time soon, so I'm brewing some decent coffee for the kids. Carter's as bad as Daniel for wanting the good stuff, but she doesn't complain quite so violently if she gets freeze-dried.

Okay kids, time to wake up. I wave the coffee around and the smell gets Daniel up straight away. He blinks a lot and realises that he's been sleeping.

"Bastard," he says to me, smiling as he does it. It's all in the delivery. I couldn't tell him to rest, he wouldn't have. Not after last time.

"It's nearly time. Here, your glasses have fallen down the side." At least he can put them on now, the swelling on his forehead has gone down.

"Thanks Jack," he's softening. I think he realises how much he needed to sleep. It's okay for me, I can drop when I want to, it's a knack. He's a terminal insomniac.

"Thanks, Sir," Carter's quiet voice pipes in. Poor thing, she's really having a hard time this go out.

I leave them to come to their senses and head back to the bridge.

"We should move in," Jacob says. He sends an encrypted message to the ships on a rarely-used frequency. We don't want the enemy listening in. They quietly drift to their positions. They have to get as close as they can without actually hitting any of the enemy ships. Not easy. We have to wait now. They've set the engines on a switch. When we have the last glider on board I'll flip the remote. All the engines will simultaneously power up and as soon as they've reached critical mass I flip the other switch. That will drop all the safeties and the engines will explode. The enhanced warheads we've placed around them will add to the effect.

Six ships are going up. One glider is back in the bay. The Goa'uld fleet doesn't seem to have noticed yet. Another glider and another. None of them contain Ed, unfortunately. Teal'c's down in the glider bay under strict instructions to let Sam know the second he turns up. Number four is home safe. Still no Ed. Number five. Dammit, where is he? Oh-oh, the Goa'uld fleet are starting to power up. We have got to flip the switch now. I look at Carter and she nods. I know she's fighting back the tears. Jacob's calling Ed's glider.

"We're on our way," we hear him call. "Do it!"

I flip the switch and all hell breaks loose over the comms channels. Daniel's listening in.

"They know that something's up but they don't know what," he says. "We're going to have to blow them quickly, Jack."

Can't yet, they're not ready. Come on, come on, why are they taking so long? Just a moment more... NOW!

Explosions appear around the fleet. We're outside the area. Our other ships are in a circle around the fleet. One enemy ship was right next to one of our 'sacrifices'. It went up as quickly as the Trojan Horse. Others are severely damaged. Hell, I didn't want to see that. A hole appeared in the side of one ship and bodies are floating out. Damn. Another exploding ship has caused massive damage to a Goa'uld's engines. That's gonna blow.

More explosions. Unfortunately we didn't seem to get the simultaneous effect that we wanted, but more of a domino one. The Goa'uld have put their shields up, but you can see them falling as shrapnel in the shape of huge chunks of mother ship are taking them out. By my count we have five Goa'uld ships wrecked or exploded and another eight disabled. That's leaving twelve what with the new additions that arrived before we attacked. We're outnumbered nearly two to one. However, they don't know we're here and we can fire while cloaked.

Daniel's flying this ship while Jacob targets and fires. I shout instructions to the others, telling them which ships to target. No point in all of us firing on the same ones. Our firing has taken out another three but they have a fix on us now. We have to move our positions. I direct the redisposition of our fleet and we fire again. Two more ships. Evens now, one-on-one. Time to finish them off.

FUCK. A lucky shot has taken the cloaking mechanism offline on one of the ships. The Goa'uld are heading for it. I yell at the people on board to head to the transport rings and to the nearest friendly to go and ring them out. Phew, we get a call saying that they're on board and safe. Just as well, their ship's gone up. We move ours around to take up the space left. No Goa'uld is getting out of this today.

There's never an alien around when you want one. Where the fuck is Thor?

More lucky shots and another of our ships has gone. We lost the crew. They were exposed and deliberately flew into the nearest Goa'uld ship, taking it with them. Brave, brave people.

A third one of ours is damaged and retreats from the battle. Good thinking. We don't have time to rescue any more.

WOO HOO! A Goa'uld ship has just vanished. Thor's here! I yell with delight and turn around, but the only face I can see is that of Carter. Still no news about Ed. Oh God, I hope he made it.

A communication is coming through. "Sam, Sam, Ed made it onto a different ship!" Daniel's yelling. I grab her as she almost collapses with relief. It's not over yet. The Asgard are helping out, but we're still under fire. Damn, another one of ours has gone up. We see a cargo vessel heading out of the danger zone. Oh God, no. The fucking Goa'uld shot it out of the sky. More good people gone.

"Jacob, see that one over there?" I shout, pointing at the scumbags that just attacked the unarmed cargo ship. He nods. "Nuke the bastards," I order. He throws everything we've got at it and we take no little delight in its ultimate demise.

The battle's over. Any that we didn't finish off, Thor and his buddies did. We owe him - again. I call him up and thank him, telling him that we'll be there for him whenever he wants us. He blinks and nods and they all go home.

Carter's on the communicator, trying to reach Ed, but there's no reply.

"Carter," I call, but she doesn't hear me. "Sam, give him a minute, please. He may not be able to get to a communicator at the moment. Calm down."

She turns and looks at me. My tough, dependable, brilliant second is about to break. Daniel sees it and sweeps her up into his arms, holding her close and whispering in her ear. If that Brit didn't make it, I'm gonna trawl through the local space till I find his body and then I'll do some damnably unspeakable things to it. I don't want to see her heart get broken yet again. She's shaking in Daniel's arms, silently sobbing. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I want to throw something.

Teal'c calls up that there's a glider trying to enter the landing bay. We drop the shields to let it in. Please, let it be good news.

Sam can't stop shaking. Neither can I to tell the truth. Watching the ships blowing up was one thing, watching a body that had suffered explosive decompression floating past our observation window was something else. I'm taking Sam to the glider bay. I hope to God that Ed's there. A cry goes up as we walk down the corridor, clinging onto each other as if our lives depended on it.

"Sam! Sammy!" I think after all there may be a God. It's Ed. Sam can't take any more and she's collapsed.

"Oh my God, is she all right?" he's asking. His face is blood-streaked. It's a small wound but as with most head wounds it looks a lot worse than it is.

"Snap," I say to him, pointing to my own stitches. He gives a nervous giggle. "Don't worry, she's just been frantic about you, that's all. It's safe now so she's let go. Let's take her somewhere quiet and you two can be together."

I carry her to her billet and lay her on her bed roll. Ed's lying down next to her, stroking her face and calling her name. I leave them to it, I doubt they'd even notice me if I was still around when she woke.

"Danny? Is she okay?" Jack's calling.

"Just overwhelmed, Jack. Ed's back, he's with her. I guess it was all a bit too much for her."

He nods, accepting what I say without question.

We're heading back to the Tok'ra base, it's closer than Alpha. The Tok'ra are going to take a little time to gather their forces, find out what is the state of play in the political landscape of the galaxy and then they'll come and let us know. We have three fully functional ships and one damaged one left. The Rascal is ours. We'll get control over one more and the Tok'ra get to keep two. I don't know if that means they won't want our help anymore. Part of me isn't sorry. Though to be fair, Jacob fixed my arm up for me a few minutes ago against his better judgement, so perhaps they're not so bad. My head's better too, just as well, my glasses were rubbing against the stitches.

I hear that Sarah was on one of the ships that went up. I don't know if she escaped. I'm going to have to wait until we get back to the base to find out I think.

Jack's tired. He usually gets like this after the adrenaline rush has gone. I take him to our quarters and tell him to lie down. He insists that I join him. I will, but I'm not going to sleep. Not yet.

I don't think I have ever been so glad to see the gate room. Mom's there, not caring whether she embarrasses the shit out of us or not. It's hugs all round, and to be honest, we're happy to be hugged. None of us believed we would see this day. We lost only four - two Tok'ra and two of our engineers. One was USAF and one a Russian. A small number, but it hits us hard none the less. The opposition lost thousands. It's hard to comprehend how we could have done that, but it was all down to Jack's planning and the hard, hard work of the engineers.

"Sir. I want this on record. The geeks did us proud. We couldn't and we wouldn't have won without them. Daniel for realising what was going on, and the engineers for pulling out all the stops. Those we lost were heroes, Sir, nothing less. I want this to be noted officially." Jack's standing on the ramp, his best colonel's voice cutting through the chatter. Everyone has gone dead quiet.

"So noted Colonel. A damn fine display of human resourcefulness, hard work and ingenuity, not to mention the Tok'ra-Earth Alliance working at its best. You should all be damn proud of yourself, people, I am mighty proud of you all myself."

The General pulls himself up to his full height, pulls his stomach in and snaps off a respectful salute at everyone. He gets salutes in return. The boisterous ones of the US forces, the neat and tidy ones of the British and their closest friends and the serious, almost heart-stopping salutes of the Russian forces. He has to know that there is not a single man or woman here that wouldn't follow him into battle anywhere. He's respected by all. Even the civilians are at attention, nodding back to him in acknowledgement. He continues, "All of you are on stand-down for the next seven days. Go home, people, rest, enjoy yourselves. And thank you, on behalf of humans on Earth, and every other damn planet out there. You did a fine job."

A quick trip to the infirmary for the routine post trip check-up. The medical staff are getting the checks done as quickly as they can. I look out for the team; Teal'c's quietly standing as a nurse runs through his normal schedule of checks. He nods to me as he sees me looking out for him. Another quick scan of the room and I see Sam and Ed, unable to be separated even by the nursing staff. A curtain is drawn around the both of them, I guess they're getting done at the same time. Janet comes over to me and hugs the stuffing out of me.

"I called Mom and Cassie the moment we heard you were all safe. I think they've overdosed on chocolate and ice cream over the last couple of days. Even the dog was howling in the background."

I promise her that Jack and I will take Cassie out over the next couple of days, spend some time with her on our own. She could do with the attention. I made a promise to her when Janet adopted her, that I would always be there for her. I understand her loss better than most people could. I also promised that I would do everything in my power to come home to her, to be her big brother. I haven't always had the time I wanted to spend with her. Things are gonna change from now on.

I can't see Jack, he must be talking to the General, so I head to my office. To tell the truth there is a lot of work for me to catch up with, so I'd better get on to it. Translations wait for no man.

"Danny? You in here?" Jack's voice gently reminds me that I've been in here for hours. Where the fuck has he been?

"Sorry about that, Daniel, but as we're on stand-down the General needed the fine details before I left. I've done the debrief, nobody else needs to do anything. Ready to go home?"

"Ah, sorry Jack, but I have to finish this. Time off we may have, but the work really needs doing. You know me, I'd never relax knowing that this has to be done. Stan Kovachek is in desperate need of this translation or he can't conduct the mining negotiations on P79 - wherever it is. I'll get a lift home later, as soon as I've finished, okay?"

He's not happy, but he kisses my cheek and lets me have my own way anyway. I don't want to sleep. Not yet.

I'm worried about Daniel. He didn't come home last night. I marched into his office and found him still plugging away at the translation. He said that he'd slept in his office, it had been too late to get anyone to drive him home and he didn't want to disturb me. I tell him he looks like shit and he yells at me, tells me to get the hell out of his office because he's got work to do.

"Daniel, at least come and eat something," I plead.

I don't like this, I don't like this at all. I nearly resort to the 'you'd do it if you loved me' line, I'm that desperate, but he begrudgingly says he could do with a coffee. He stomps out of the room and I follow him. He's staggering down the corridor. Dammit Daniel, you fucking lied to me. You stared me in the face and LIED! You didn't sleep. I won't call you on it now, but I'm gonna make sure I find out why you won't sleep. What are you afraid of? That you won't wake up? Or is it something else? Nightmares, perhaps? I don't know what to do for you, Danny. I think I'm going to call Mom.

He gets himself a coffee but no food. I grab him and steer him to a table and place the bacon sandwich that I'd got for myself in front of him. "I ate at home," I say. Okay, I just lied to him, but he needs to eat and bacon sandwiches are usually irresistible to him.

"Mater gallina," he mutters. Mother hen indeed. At least he hasn't completely lost his sense of humour.

He's forcing that sandwich down his throat, I can see that he's fighting a desire to gag on it. What's wrong Daniel? Why won't you talk to me? I also know that calling him on it now is going to make things worse. He's going to drop at some point, I just have to make sure that I'm there to catch him when he does.

I let him go back to his office. He's so tired he doesn't notice me following him discreetly. I stand outside his office and hear him throwing up in his sink. Fuck.

It's time to call in the real 'mater gallina'. I head to Mom's office. She's in today, George figured she might be needed. I have to wait twenty minutes before she's free. A red-eyed officer comes out of her consulting room. I quickly look away before he sees that I've noticed he's been crying. It wouldn't help him at all. Sometimes a good weep can help. I don't think anything less of anyone that cries. It's a safety valve. A lot of crying can help reduce the pressure inside. It doesn't cure anything, but it can lighten the load. Sorta like the valve on a pressure cooker. When the pressure builds up inside you release the valve and all the steam comes out. Things still cook inside, but the danger's gone.

"Jack? Are you all right, son?"

"Can't a guy come visit his mom?" I say loudly for the benefit of the ears around me. Don't want anyone to know why I'm here. "Can I come and see you for a minute? I can fill you in on a few things that happened out there, might make your job a little easier." That's a good story, O'Neill. Everyone seems to be buying it, except Mom. But then I never expected her to buy anything but the truth. She beckons me in and shuts the door behind me.

"Okay Jonathan, spill."

"It's Daniel, Mom. He didn't come home last night. I came in this morning..." I tell her all about it, especially the fact of him lying about sleeping.

"What did he see, Jack?" She's concerned now. I think she's as afraid for him as I am.

I tell her about the battle, as much as I remember. It was bad, worse than we'd ever seen before because of the sheer number of opposition that we killed.

"He was so calm throughout, Mom. He flew that ship like he'd been born to it. Made the pilot in me a bit jealous. He says they're easy to fly. I dunno. He took care of Sam when it was all over, then he insisted that I rest and I know he didn't sleep, even though he lay down with me. He watched over me in case I had a nightmare. Why isn't he sleeping, Mom? Why won't he come home?"

"How many nightmares does he get normally, Jack?"

"I suppose he gets a couple a month, assuming nothing awful has happened at work. When things go bad he has soul-tearing screaming fits. God knows what the neighbours think. He's completely unaware of them, usually. The worst ones he wakes up with and they're the ones he remembers. He told me once that he can clearly remember the one he had after his parents died. That was nearly thirty years ago. I've never talked to him about the ones he had after Shau're died."

"Why not?"

"I was in love with him, Mom. Crazy in love. I couldn't tell him when Shau're was alive. He wouldn't have let me anyway, he was so in love with her. Besides, I thought he was straight. So," I take a deep breath and confess, "when he lost her I was vulnerable. He pushed me away, and I let him. I should have pushed back, the way we usually did things. One of us would hurt and send the other one away. The other one would say 'fuck that for a game of soldiers' and push back. We never, but never walked away from each other. This time, when he needed me most, I walked. I was so scared of saying the wrong thing, telling him that I loved him, that I walked - like the coward that I am." I hang my head in shame, half-expecting Mom to clip me up the head.

I'm shocked when she strokes my hair.

"Jack, I understand, sweetheart. Telling him then, when he was at his most vulnerable, would have been disastrous for you both. You're right that you were wrong to walk away, but you were right not to tell him then. So, what this means is that you have no idea what he went through then." I nod my head. To my eternal shame and regret I wasn't there when he needed me most. That's why I am going to be there for him now.

"So, what am I going to do, Mom?"

"Wait. As soon as he's ready, take him home. He'll have to crash at some point. I'm guessing that he's afraid of the nightmare that's going to hit him. If you want, call me when you're on your way home. I'll come over as soon as I can, wait it out with you."

I thank her and leave, heading straight to Daniel's office. I knock on his door with trepidation, I don't want another screaming match with him. I'm shocked by what I see.

"Daniel, it's time to go home," I say.

He's out of it, not really compos mentis at the moment. He lets me grab his jacket and stands up, nearly falling as he does. He couldn't have slept a wink in the last forty-eight hours. I slide the jacket over his arms and he gives a nervous giggle as I futz about.

"S.s.sorry, Jack, stupid me again." he says quietly.

"Shh, Danny, not stupid, just very brave and very tired. Come on, it's time to go home. I need you, Daniel. Please come with me."

He looks into my eyes and decides that he should be there for me, so he comes without a murmur.

Somehow, he stayed awake on the journey home. I steer him indoors and straight to the bathroom.

"Come on, Daniel, neither of us got much sleep last night, let's get ready and go back to bed. What do you say, buddy? Will you do that for me? Please? I could do with the company. You know I don't sleep very well alone."

If I make this for me, maybe he'll give in.

"Bath?" he asks. I nod. I think he wants to wash away what happened. I quickly shuck my clothes and help him out of his. The water's run and we go in together.

"Let me, please," I beg him as I get hold of the shampoo. I know how much he loves this. He lays down on me and I give him a repeat performance, without the onanism, of after the last battle. He's almost falling asleep as he lies against me.

"Come on Daniel, time for bed. I'm feeling really sleepy."

I push him to stand up and have to catch him again as he stumbles. I let the water out and grab a towel, quickly rubbing him down and getting the worst out of his hair. He mutters about it but I plead to be allowed, telling him I need to take care of him, it will make me feel better. Love him, he lets me too.

He's lying on the bed, I get his sweats and pull them on him, quickly getting mine on too.

"Jack," his voice is no louder than a whisper. "I don't want to sleep. Not yet."

"Why not, Danny?"


"What, of nightmares?" He nods a little and then blushes with the embarrassment of it. "I know, babe, me too. But we're here for each other, right? You'll hold me and I'll hold you. It will help, won't it?" Another nod, slightly more enthusiastic than the last one. Poor lamb, he's exhausted. His head hits the pillow and he's out for the count.

It takes over an hour before the nightmare hits. I have no idea what it is about, he's screaming in another language, Arabic I think. Whatever it's about it's scaring the life out of him.

Mom came over about half an hour ago. She's never seen him like this. I have to stand back for a moment, he's thrashing around enough to hurt me badly.

"Does he often get like this?" she asks.

"This is the worst one I've ever seen, Mom. He's not normally this bad. Hang on, I'll get him out of it." I sit down and stroke his back while my other hand grabs his flailing arm. I call to him, talk to him, tell him I'm there for him. After a few minutes he starts to calm down and then he's searching for me, calling out to me in his sleep.

"I'm here, Danny, right here. Not going anywhere."

"Jack, hold me, need you," he says. I grab him and pull him tight to me. "Want you," his voice is full of desperation. I look at Mom and she books quickly, shutting the bedroom door as she goes.

His mouth finds mine, he's still not even awake. His kisses are frantic, urgently pressing against me. He needs physical reassurance, so I give it to him. No foreplay, he's not aware of what's going on, but I know what he needs. He needs to hurt. I hate this, I hate hurting him, but he tried to explain it once. If he hurts then he knows that I'm really there. I won't hurt him badly, just enough to make him feel. I grab the lube from the nightstand and prepare him as quickly as I can. His eyes haven't opened yet, but he's moaning, "please Jack, need you, do it please," over and over again.

I give him what I can, not holding back, pressing as far as I can go. This isn't making love, but this is love; it is pure, complete and utter hunger for each other.

He's gone back to sleep again, his climax signalled the end of the nightmare for him. I hope he feels better when he wakes up. When I am assured that his sleep is peaceful, I head downstairs and find Mom in the kitchen.

"How is he?" she asks without looking up.

"Sleeping like a baby now," I say. I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. I just had sex with my lover and my mom was here.

"Does he usually need you like that?"

"Sometimes. It's like he can't believe that I'm really with him."

She nods in understanding.

"Poor thing," she says, "it's all down to what happened to him as a kid, I think. He told me what happened, after his parents were killed, the way all the adults thought they knew best. They wouldn't let him see the bodies. They thought that seeing a dead body would disturb him. They would've been right if he'd been an ordinary child, but they were so wrong with him. Did you know he saw his first mummified body when he was no more than a toddler?"

I shake my head, I didn't know that.

"He was used to it," she says. "The dead held no fear for him. He even saw a 'live' dead body, if you get my meaning, when he was four. One of the diggers had an accident and he saw him lying there, blood pouring out of him. He also saw how the people around reacted, how they treated the body with respect, mourned for him, and so on. He wanted to be able to do that for his parents, but the adults around him wouldn't let him. He had no concept of the way Western society deals with death. He only knew about it from his life in Egypt, mainly that of the ancient times. He was used to reverence and prayers. The way he was shunted around made him feel like his parents weren't being treated so well. He had no idea that they would be treated with respect here. And of course, the psychologists thought he was disturbed because he wanted to see them, as if he had a fixation or something. He was disturbed, but not the way they thought. If he'd been allowed to see them, to say goodbye, he may have had a much easier time of it later."

The more I learn about Daniel, the more respect I have for him. Most people would have cracked a long time ago. No wonder he doesn't care for psychiatrists. They thought they were doing the right thing, but they screwed him up for life.

"I'm hoping that this will be the end of it," I tell her. "Once he's had the screaming nightmare he usually copes well until the next disaster." Mom sighs, I know what she's thinking. But Daniel can handle more than most people so I'm not as worried about him as she is and as I was. But, if he still doesn't want to sleep tonight, I'll really worry.

We sit and talk for hours then I hear him crashing about upstairs.

"Put some coffee on Mom, he'll be down in a minute. I'll go and check on him."

I rush upstairs and look in the bedroom.

"Hey, how're you feeling?" He looks at me as he pulls his pants up, and nods.

"Better, thanks. I had a nightmare, didn't I?"

"Oh yeah, a real doozy. Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really, no." Ok-ay, he thinks he's going to shut me out. No way Josť, not gonna happen.

"Daniel, you were thrashing about so much that I had to get out of bed. I thought you were going to kill me. Talk. Now. Or I'll set Mom on you. She's downstairs making coffee as I speak."

"You called Mom because I had a nightmare?"

"No, she came over to see how you were. Hey, I'm not a sneak, you know." I know, I know, I am and I just lied again. But I'm concerned, so it's allowable under the circumstances.

"To be honest I don't really remember much. Just feelings, you know? The only clear thing is seeing those bodies floating in space, especially the one that floated past us. Remember?"

Oh yeah, I do. Not one of the prettier things I've ever seen.

"You know what?" I say. "I think we need a holiday. A real, getaway from here and crash-type vacation. We've got some vacation time due us, I'm sure I can get Hammond to agree. Where do you want to go?"

He looks surprised. "I can't, Jack, I didn't finish that work. There's far too much for me to do back at the base. I don't have time to take a vacation right now. Maybe after Christmas, what do you think?"

I cautiously agree with him, but my devious colonel's mind is working overtime. I'm not going to mention it again, but Daniel's going on holiday whether he wants to or not. I send him down to Mom and the coffee and get on the phone.

Mom's looking at me, trying to figure something out. She has the O'Neill stare, the one that says 'I know you're hiding something and I'm gonna find out what it is.'

"No Mom, I don't want to talk," I say before she even asks the question. "I'll be fine. Nightmares are my way of dealing with things. It will pass."

"You've never been so afraid to go to sleep before, Jack said."

"I knew what was coming. It was awful out there, really bad. I watched thousands of people die, Mom. I know that if we hadn't have done it then billions would've died, but it doesn't make it any easier."

"Neither should it, Daniel. Every life is precious, as you well know. But as you say, you did the right thing. If you didn't everyone you know and love on Earth would probably be dead by now. Me, Bridie, her family, Patrick - Cassie."

I know, she needn't go on. I retreat into my coffee, and try to figure out the rights and wrongs of it all, decide that I'll never work it out and give it up as a bad job. It's happened and that's that.

"What time is it?" I ask.

"Nine o'clock," is the reply. It's dark for nine in the morning. Oh, it's nine at night.

"How long was I out for?"

"All afternoon," Jack's voice comes from behind.

"Oh great, that means my sleep pattern's screwed again," I grump.

"Daniel, you haven't slept properly in ages. Give it a couple of hours and you'll want to sleep again."

"Uh, uh," I shake my head, "I'm wide awake now. What am I going to do now? Perhaps I should head back to the mountain, I can finish that translation for Stan."

"Nope, when you were sleeping I phoned up. Derek Jones is finishing it off for you. He can speak that language too, you know."

I groan. Derek's good, but he's as imaginative as a cheese sandwich without the cheese. Sometimes you need to be a bit creative with your language to make a translation flow, or it ends up stilted and boring. Ah well, I can see I'm not going to win this one.

"So? What shall we do then?" Of course, that gets a filthy, filthy leer from Jack and Mom throws a tea cloth at him.

"Jonathan, keep your mind out of your pants," she scolds. Not a hope, not cat's chance in a dog's home. I'm a fine one to talk.

"We could play a game?" he suggests. I know what sort of game he's got in mind and it's not one that Mom would want to play.

"How about we invite someone around?" I try.

"It's a bit late for that," Jack says, scowling at me. I think he wants Mom to go home now. Mom's getting the message too.

"Daniel. Do you need me to stay or can you control him?" she says with a twinkle in her eye.

"Oh, I think I can manage," I say. "I have ways of making him behave." Jack's looking a touch worried now and Mom laughs at him.

"Are you sure you're all right?" she asks as she stares into my eyes.

"I'm fine," I assure her. "I'll get over this. Thanks for being around, I appreciate it. I'll call you if I need to talk, I promise." She takes a little comfort in that and then departs.

Jack's looking predatory. Oh dear, I think I'm in trouble. He paces over to me, grinning like the Cheshire cat. Damn, that's an evil smile he has. I start to run but he catches hold of me and slings me over his shoulder. The next thing I know I'm on the sofa with a large colonel attached to my face. Not that I'm complaining.

Shirts are off, we're laughing as we tussle. I love this, it's always fun. Pretending to fight, but no hint of nastiness anywhere. A tinge of hysteria hits us as we crash onto the coffee table, breaking yet another one. We should have shares in the firm that makes these things, or remember to move it before we start making out. Damn, I'm gonna have to spend some time picking splinters out of my thigh again.

"Bed," I say, rather breathlessly because he's still on top of me and he's heavy.

"Oh no, Danny Boy, bed's boring. I wanna make out here."

"Not got any lube," I wheeze. I really need to breathe now.

"Don't need it for what I've got in mind." Again, that desperately filthy look is on his face. "Kitchen," he orders. Huh?

He grabs hold of me and pulls me up, leading me by my waistband into the kitchen. He clears the kitchen table and pushes me back up against it. Some Olympic standard kissing and I'm ready for anything. I mean it, anything. If he wants it, he can have it. Oh my. This is going to be good.

"Have you locked the door?" I ask. Don't want anyone walking in on us again. He nods, grinning from ear to ear.

"Drop them," he whispers in my ear, making my skin come out in goose bumps. Okay, yasureyoubetcha. I'm dropping them as fast as I can. Ooh momma, that's cold. Maple syrup straight from the fridge and on my chest. Oh yeah, the little linguist likes that one. Come on, a bit more, babe, please? Oh yeah, his tongue is going to work, cleaning me up as I lay spread across the table. EEK. That was really cold! Ice cream! The bastard. Now he's covering it with more syrup, and it's all going into my belly button.

"Hey, I want some of that!" I complain. He gets the spoon and dips it into the ice cream, lets me sit up and feeds it to me. Hmm, best vanilla. Almost a shame to waste it for sex. But not quite, this is good.

"Be a good boy and lie back down," he purrs. Oh yeah, sure, Jack, anything you want.

He pushes me further back so my backside is on the table. OH MY GOD! No, those bits weren't designed to get frozen. That's better, his tongue is warming it all back up. And up. Whoo, and up. Come on, Jack, a little more, huh?

Oh yes, that tongue. I've heard it speaking the most romantic words, lashing the dullest grunts and watched it while he's eating, but what it's doing now - Oy! What is it doing now? Geez, Jack, that's good.

"Come on Danny, give it up for me," he's encouraging me.

I *pant* don't *groan* need *ooh* any more *aah* encouragement *YES JACK!*.

I prop myself up on my elbows. Oh yes, his turn.

"What do you want, Jack?" I gasp. Still out of breath, here. Again, the evil grin and the olive oil appears. I LOVE this man.

"Turn over," his huskiest voice commands. Yes, Sir, Colonel, Sir! Whoo hoo!

At least this isn't so cold. I feel it drizzling down between the cheeks, his fingers working it in. It's supposed to be good for your skin, apparently. I should have a lovely, soft butt later. Fingers are going in, I know we fucked when I was sleeping, so he's not going to need too much in the way of preparation. I also know why he wants to do this. He always needs to make love after we've had raw sex. He can't cope with that on its own. Again, I am not complaining. This is so good.

He's all the way in, I don't think that I'm going to recover for a second go around, no matter HOW many TIMES he HITS the SPOT! I play dirty and tighten a few muscles.

"DANNY what the FUCK do you think you're doing?" Heh, heh, heh. He's not the only one who knows how to be rotten. I do it again.


"C'mon Jack, more," I beg. And he goes for it, coming with a war cry to finish. He's collapsed over me, panting hard.

"Love you Danny," he murmurs. Oh yeah, love you too Jack, so much.

"Shower?" I manage to grunt.

He stands up somehow, slaps my ass and pulls me up. We stagger upstairs and hit the bathroom.

I hear the phone ringing as we emerge from a fun shower so I run to the bedroom to get it. Jack's looking a bit put out that I beat him to the phone. Tough, babe, I can outrun you any day of the week.


"Dr. Jackson?"

"Speaking," I turn and look at Jack, he's a bit more relaxed now. Perhaps he's expecting a call. Anyway, it's for me, a call is being routed. Oh. Jacob's there. He has news for me. It's Sarah. We talk, I thank him and hang up.

"Danny? What's up?"

"Remember the cargo ship that blew?"

"Uh yeah, we got the bastards that did that."

"Good." My voice is a little cold and Jack picks up on it quickly.

"Daniel? What's wrong?"

"Sarah was on it."

"Aw fuck, Daniel. We only just got her back. I'm so sorry, babe. I know you two had something special."

"No, we didn't. I think people read a hell of a lot more into our relationship than there actually was. Nevertheless, she was my friend and I didn't want her to get hurt, let alone killed. Damn, I guess I'd better go see Steven. There's no point in him holding out hope that she's still alive now." I let out a large sigh and Jack pulls me close to him. I think he's surprised that I'm not more upset about it, but I'm not. I am sad, and I am annoyed, but I cut Sarah out of my feelings a long time ago. To be frank, I didn't particularly miss her.

"You want I should go with you?" he asks tenderly.

"Nah, it's okay. But as it's in Chicago I suppose we could go and see Bridie and Pat. I'll see Steven as you visit them. Okay?"

He agrees to it, but again, I don't think he's that happy. I call up the airport and book a couple of tickets for the next morning, staying overnight and returning the next day. I pack some stuff for us as Jack goes downstairs for a minute. I have no idea what he's up to. Perhaps he's calling Bridie.

Ah well, I guess it means I have to go to bed anyway, don't want to be whacked out when I deal with Steven.

I hate mornings. I hate them even more when I know I have to fly. It's funny, I don't mind being up in space, but flying here on Earth - no thank you. It's probably because we are nearer something solid. Like the ground. I take my pills like a good boy. Don't want to freak out at thirty thousand feet.

"Coffee," I moan as I walk into the kitchen. Jack responds by quickly finishing his phone call and pouring one for me, waving it under my nose.

"Gimme, don't tease, Jack. You know I'll make you pay."

"Don't I know it. You okay?"

"As okay as I ever am in the morning, pre-coffee fix and about to fly."

"That good, eh?"

So, it's not thirty thousand feet. It's thirty-three. Fuck. I hate this. I took the pills, so why am I still so freaked? Jack's holding my hand, trying to keep me calm. We're getting 'aw, isn't that sweet' looks from the woman in the window seat next to me.

"Hello dears," she says. She must be about seventy-five, going on fourteen. She's wearing a track suit and reading a magazine all about white-water rafting. "My name is Ethel. I'm going to visit some friends in Chicago before going off to Niagara to meet up with my old dear."

"Hhhi," I manage to stammer. "I, I, I'm Daniel, this is Jack. We're going to visit family in Chicago."

"How nice for you, sugar. Hope you don't mind me asking, but are you afraid of flying?"

"Me? No. I'm a pilot," Jack jokes. "Daniel on the other hand... ow!" I squeeze his hand hard.

"I'm terrified," I admit.

"I'll fly anywhere, me," she says. "What do you do for a living, Daniel?"

I can't resist. "I'm an astronaut." She howls with laughter.

"Go on, what do you do really?"

"Seriously. I work up there," I point upwards. "Love being up there, hate being on an aeroplane. Can't help it."

"You don't look like an astronaut."

"I do science stuff, experiments and things. A lot of it I can't talk about, you understand." She gives me a conspiratorial nod.

"How many times have you been in orbit?"

I have to stop and think. There was that time on Klorel's ship, on Thor's ship, on the Rascal (I guess being in the solar system counts) and then on the tel'tac on the asteroid. "Um, goodness, that would be four times." I look at Jack. He's trying not to laugh.

"So," she says, still not believing me one bit. "What does the Earth really look like from up there?"

I can answer that one.

"It's beautiful," I say, remembering that time I got a chance to look without being hurried, holding onto Mom as we looked out of the window of Thor's ship. "So peaceful. Like there's no one on the planet, you know? I hate coming back to Earth sometimes, it's so noisy and dirty and dangerous. When you're up there, there's no noise, no hate, it's paradise."

I think she's starting to believe me now. Jack's gone quiet, I think he's remembering it too.

"Wonder when we'll get back up there," he says.

"I dunno, Jack, part of me wants to be there now, but part of me..." Never wants to fly around our system again. It usually means trouble.

"You two really are astronauts, aren't you?" Ethel's asking.

"Oh yeah," Jack says. "Daniel flies us when we're up there, can't get him to learn down here though."

"Too many bad experiences," I tell her. She holds my other hand for a moment and gives it a little squeeze. Teasing aside, I like her.

"Do you have any children?" I ask her.

"Six," she says proudly. "And fifteen grandchildren and five great grandchildren with another two on the way."

"Wow," I'm impressed. "I was an only child myself, I'd have loved to have had lots of siblings."

"I told you Danny, it's not all it's cut out to be," Jack reminds me. "I've got a brother and a sister myself," he tells her, "and my niece made me a great uncle last year." He's positively bristling.

"So, how long have you two been together?" she asks with a wink.

"Nearly two years," I say, "but we've been close friends for about seven."

"You look serious," she adds.

"Couldn't be more serious if we tried," Jack puts in. "Though we do have a lot of fun."

"That's the key, darlings! Lots of fun. Never take each other too seriously. I told you I'm meeting my old man, didn't I? Well, we're having another romantic tryst. We do this every so often. Go apart from each other for a few days, arrive at our destination separately and then meet up like lovers having an affair. It keeps the romance alive." Another wink as she says that.

"How long have you been married?" I ask.

"Fifty-eight years the day after tomorrow," she replies with a grin.

"That's one hell of a long time," Jack says in awe. "I only lasted fifteen with my wife."

"But Jack, you had reasons, things weren't easy for you." Poor dear, he often feels like he failed his family.

"Jack? What happened?" Ethel is curious, but also concerned for him.

"Our son died," he says quietly.

"An accident," I say before he can add any more guilt to his already overburdened soul.

"Oh Jack, I'm so sorry. Was he your only child?"

Jack nods and looks away.

"And what about you dear?" she looks at me.

"My wife died," I tell her. "We... we didn't have time to have a family."

There's more to it than that, but I haven't even told Jack that yet. If Teal'c ever found out... no, that is one thing he will never find out.

"You poor things, you've been through so much. You have each other now though, and I can tell you love each other very much, it shows you know."

"So people tell us," I say. "I don't know where I'd be without him, but don't tell him that, his ego's already big enough for the both of us."

"I heard that," he says with a warning tone in his voice, but his eyes are laughing.

Jack's gotten up and he's having a word with a steward. Is he flirting with him? I ask Ethel.

"I think he has something in mind, dear, and he's using every advantage, that's for sure. It's the eyes with him, isn't it?"

Oh yes, the eyes. I love his eyes. So dark and mysterious yet so full of mischief. Where the fuck is he going?

"You don't think he's leaving me for the steward, do you?"

Ethel leans over me and sticks her head out of the aisle. Then she sits back up.

"I don't think so dear, his backside is nowhere near as cute as yours." I roar with laughter, she's incorrigible.

"You're like Mom," I say. "Just like her. Can't take her anywhere."

"Your mother?"


"I suppose your mother is well behaved."

"My mom died when I was a kid. My dad too. I've been adopted by Jack's family. It's nice. I've also inherited a brother and three sisters from work. The guy, Murray, he's like a big brother, always looking out for me, protecting me. The girls, Sam and Janet are like big sisters, and Janet adopted a teenager, Cassie. She's like my baby sister. She lost all her family too, so we understand each other. It's good. I've never felt like I belonged anywhere until I went there."

"You know, Daniel, I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or to rejoice for you."

"Be happy, I am. I haven't been so happy since I was a kid in Egypt." Her eyes light up and I tell her about life as a kid in Cairo and out in the desert.

Jack comes back and slips into his seat, quietly listening in to my tales. Ethel seems enthralled by it all.

"I've always wanted to go there," she says, "but I was never very good at languages. I always want to be polite, you know?"

"Learn how to say 'please', 'thank you' and count to five. That's all you need to know anywhere. Please and thank you will keep you polite, and you rarely need more than five of anything. You can point to whatever you want. It's never a good idea to stick fingers up, you don't know if it's insulting in a particular culture."

"Well, I didn't know that, Daniel. Next time I go abroad, I'll leave you behind," Jack teases. Then he turns to her and says, "Not only is he one of those science-types, he speaks thirty languages fluently. Got two PhDs, you know, and a separate Masters degree. A genius."

"Jack," I whine, but he's proud of my achievements. I think he gets a kick out of it. Ethel seems duly impressed.

And we're landing already. I actually enjoyed this flight with Ethel. As we stand up to disembark, the steward comes over and hands her a large bottle of champagne.

"Happy anniversary," says Jack. "I thought it would go well with the romantic tryst."

Ethel's face is a picture and she stammers her thanks. I kiss her cheek, thanking her for keeping me occupied during the flight.

The champagne cost me a fortune, but it was worth it. I liked Ethel a lot. And I don't think I've ever seen Daniel so relaxed on a flight before. He's almost skipping down the concourse to the luggage bay. Ethel's sticking with us until we see her friends. We want to keep an eye on her.

We've gotten the bags and we've found her friends. She gets a hug and kiss from us both and we wave goodbye.

"Jack! Daniel!" Oh good, Bridie made it.

Danny's fallen into her arms and is getting the stuffing hugged out of him. He doesn't look unhappy about it at all.

"I'm so glad to see you both, after you had to go..." her voice trails off. Mom phoned her as soon as we got home, but I think she's glad to see us in the flesh.

"I know, Bride, we're glad to be home. It was touch and go for a while, but Daniel was right. He saved more lives than you can imagine that day." He gets another hug for that.

"My hero," she says and he goes beetroot-red. "Come on, home," she orders and we follow her to the car.

"Can you drop me off at the Institute, please? I have to see someone," Daniel's voice is quiet but determined. She doesn't say anything but points the car in that direction. "I'll get a cab to your house later. Did you call Patrick? Is he free tonight?"

"I did and he is," she answers.

"Good, I'm taking us out to dinner," Daniel says. His tone of voice brooks no argument.

"All of us?"

"Of course."

"Oh, because my favourite place is very expensive," she teases.

"And that's a problem why?" he asks. Ooh, he can be a cool one when he wants to be. Well, if I can spend over a hundred bucks on a stranger... it is nearly Christmas after all.

Bridie squeals. "Ooh, I'm so glad you took up with the old fart in the back," she tells him. "It means I get looked after."

The old fart isn't impressed. Daniel, however, thinks it's funny. "You have no idea how accurate a statement that is. Especially after one of my chillies."

"Daniel, a nun would fart after one of your chillies, loudly and in public too. Hell, even a saint wouldn't stand a chance. Have you eaten any of his spicy food, Bride?"

"Not yet, but I'm game for anything."

Damn fool woman, she is too. I tried to warn Reuben when he took her on. He thought I had a problem with him being Jewish and her being Catholic. Not true, I told him, not true at all. I liked him on the spot, I was just warning him about her. After all, I'd known her all my life. Bridie is a wonderful woman but quite, quite mad. I just wanted him to know what he was letting himself in for, that was all. I wasn't wrong about him either, he's been a fantastic husband to her. I think he's become immune to some of her eccentricities over the years. At their first wedding anniversary he took me to one side. The conversation went something like, 'you remember you warned me off her and I accused you of not wanting me to marry her, etc., etc.,', 'I do', 'well, I just want to say, sorry, you were right, she's barking. Love her to bits, but she's out of her tree.' I did warn him. Mind you, it's a testament to his sticking power, they had their thirtieth this summer.

We arrive at the Institute and leave him to his fate.

I don't want to be here, but I have to do this. I don't really know what I'm going to say to him. I just hope he's here, otherwise I've come a long way for nothing.

I get some funny looks from people who think they know me, but just can't place me. I don't really care. I see Ingrid, Professor Jordan's secretary. I guess she must be Steven's now.

"Dr. Jackson! How lovely to see you again."

"Hello Ingrid. How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you. You are looking fit, been working out?"

"Oh, yes, I have a bit. Look, I need to see Steven Rayner, is he in?"

"He's in the Professor's old office. It's his now."

She can't hide the sadness in her voice. She was devoted to the old man. We all were. I thank her and go in. Steven looks up from some papers. For a moment he looks happy to see me then a mask descends quickly and it's a look of contempt.

"Hello, Steven." Well, it's not original, but as an opener it should work.

"Daniel. What are you doing here? Not looking for a job are you? We don't really have a need for action heroes."

"Actually, I've come to give you some news about Sarah, but if you're going to be a sarcastic pain-in-the-ass, I'm off."

"Daniel!" he calls as I turn to walk out. "I'm sorry, I have a lot on my mind at the moment. Please, sit down."

I go back to his desk and pull up a chair.

"Look, Steven, this isn't easy for me either. I've just flown up from the Springs to tell you this in person, because I didn't think you should hear it over a phone."

"Thank you for your consideration, but I don't think I'm going to like what you say next."

"I'm afraid not. Since Sarah disappeared, I've been looking for her, among other things. Well, I found her. She had been taken by the same people that had taken my wife."

"Your wife? You married?"

"Yes, to an Egyptian woman, Shau're. She was abducted by a tribal warlord, sort of; long and secret story, I can't tell you any details. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. I spent three years looking for her, but she was brainwashed and had to be killed when I found her - basically because she was killing me at the time." We always stick to this brainwashing story, it has a ring of truth to it.

"God, Daniel, I'm so sorry." He is genuinely sorry for me, I can tell, so I accept his sympathies.

"Sarah was taken by the same people. A few weeks ago I found her, with my team. We were able to, um, deprogram her, and she decided to join the fight against them."

"That doesn't sound like her," says a little sceptically.

"Does it sound like me, Steven?"

"Well, no, not really."

"I've been doing this since I left here. This fight, you won't hear about it, but it's necessary, I promise."

"So, Sarah's with you then?"

"That's what I'm here for. She was going to join me at the base, and she asked that I enquire whether you would want to join us. Unfortunately, while we were attacking the other day - don't ask what or where, I'm not going to tell you - Sarah was killed. I'm sorry, Steven, but I thought you should know, so you didn't have false hope of her turning up one day."

He's stunned, absolutely knocked sideways. I hated telling him this, but he had to know.

"Was she brainwashed when she killed the Professor?"

"Oh yes, it wasn't really Sarah. She couldn't have done that as herself. Look, I guess I'm saying that if you want to come and work for me, there's a job there for you. I've got the clearance for you, they'll allow it, but it's up to you."

"You were doing this for Sarah?"

"Yes. Steven, you and I were good friends once, and we worked well together, but if you still hold a grudge against me then I don't want you there. I have enough problems as it is without worrying about sniping and backstabbing. If, however, you feel you could do the job, then I'll be happy to give you a position."

"Tell me about it."

"I can't tell you much. You can only get the details once you're there, it's very secret. What I can tell you is that there is no funding problem, you'll be busy and you'll be working with a wide range of experts in many different fields. No more grant-finding and bootlicking. The downside is you may be required to work in the field, and that is potentially very dangerous. We try to keep civilians away from firefights, but you'd need to learn how to fire a gun properly and take some fitness tests."

"You make it sound like you are military."

"No, I'm a civilian still, but I've been there since the beginning and because my team is the first into many situations I have seen a lot of action. I've been injured on many occasions. Of course, there is one other downside."

"What's that?"

"I'd be your boss."

Chew on that one for a while.

I'm worried, Daniel's taking longer than I thought he would. I don't like that Rayner one bit, but Daniel said he was going to offer him a job. I don't want him there. I really don't want him there. Still, it's up to Daniel, it's his department.

"Jack, come and sit down," Bridie's insisting. "I think you're going to wear the carpet out."

"Sorry, Bride, I'm just concerned. I don't trust the guy he's going to see."

"Do you trust Daniel?"

"Of course."

"Do you trust his judgement?"


"Then sit down and have a cup of tea, Jack. He's a big boy now, he can take care of himself."

"I know, I know, it's just..."

"...You wouldn't be you if you didn't worry. I understand, love, I worry about my kids every day. Even now. I can't wait till I see Reuben come home from work. The second he steps through the door I start to breathe a little. I insist that the kids call me to say goodnight every night. Just a quick call to tell me they're safe and sound. I know, I'm a real mother hen." I laugh out loud and shake my head.

"Mater gallina, that's what Daniel calls me. That's what all my team call me, mother hen. I guess it's genetic."

"You're probably right, it's an O'Neill thing. Has Mom improved now she knows what you do for a living?"

"Yes and no. She doesn't have to ask me anything now, but she worries even more because she knows just how dangerous the job really is. Look, Bridie, if Daniel seems a bit off it's because he's just had to go and tell an old friend that a mutual friend of theirs was killed the other day."

"Oh God, poor Daniel. How many people must he lose?"

"He's not as upset as I thought he would be. It's a long and complicated story. Sarah was his girlfriend and they had a bad break up not long before he joined the programme. Rayner, the guy he's gone to see, worked with the two of them at the Institute. More than that, he was Daniel's partner for two years before he was with Sarah. There was another bad break up between them."

"I don't see Daniel as the villain of the piece somehow."

"I don't think there were villains, it just wasn't pretty, ya know?" She does.

There's a knock at the door and Bride and I rush to answer it. Of course it's Daniel and he gets swept into the house before he even knows we've opened the door.

"Where have you been?" I ask, not a little harshly.

"Talking to Steven, Jack, you know that."

"Humph, did you have to take so long?"

"Jack, I just had to tell him Sarah was dead, did you expect me to walk in, say 'sorry, Sarah's dead' and walk out again?"

"No, no, of course not. I'm sorry, I just..."

"Worry, I know." Am I ever going to be allowed to finish a sentence?

"So, is he going to work for you?"

"I doubt it, I left him thinking about it. We went for a drink - coffee, okay? He was telling me about his latest book and his even newer second-hand Porsche. I don't think he wants to give up that life."

"So, what did you tell him about you?"

"Nothing much, just that I'm happy, living with someone I'm nuts about, doing the best job on the planet, oh and I suppose I did mention the car."

The car. The one he has wanted ever since I've known him. Daniel doesn't like cars particularly, but when he was at Oxford a friend of his had a car that he fell in love with. And a couple of months ago, a left-hand drive American imported version of the same car turned up for sale. So he rushed out and bought it. Of course. Bridie's intrigued.

"Car? What car is worth 'mentioning'."

Danny's grinning. "A 1966 Jaguar E-Type, 4.2 litre, manual gearbox - oh, that's stick shift, by the way, with overdrive. A 2 + 2 seater sports convertible in British Racing Green. She purrs, Bridie, absolutely purrs."

That's not 'second-hand', it's a classic. And in Daniel's eyes, better than a second-hand Porsche, even if that is a nice car in itself.

"So, why didn't I see it when I was down there?"

"She had to be sent to a Jaguar specialist. She hadn't been looked after as well as she could have been, so I've sent her to be restored to factory condition. I can't wait for her to come home."

Neither can Bridie by the sounds of it, she's making him promise to take her out for a drive in it next time she visits. I don't think that will be long after the car comes home, somehow.

"Have you booked anywhere for tonight yet?" he asks. We say no so he borrows the phone and dials up somewhere in town. He makes reservations for eight o'clock for the five of us. Bridie then takes the phone and calls Pat and tells him to get here for seven, and then books a cab for half past. Sounds good to me.

We have a couple of hours to kill so the three of us curl up on our bed. I know that sounds funny, but Daniel's pills can make him sleepy and now the adrenaline's worn off I think he's going to want a nap. So under the guise of unpacking, the three of us go up, get the stuff out and then I lay on the bed and insist that Daniel joins me. Bridie sits on the foot of the bed and we chat about everything and nothing. As predicted, Daniel falls asleep within a few minutes.

"You know him well, Jack."

"Not as well as I want to, Bride. Even now he's an enigma to me. I can read him, I know when something's wrong, but I can't tell what it is. But I do know his 'I'm tired but too damn stubborn to admit it' face."

I pull a cover over him and we sneak out.

"Daniel! Is it really you?"

A voice booms across the restaurant as we walk through the door.

"Jihan!" Daniel strides across the floor and soon they're kissing each other on the cheeks and Daniel's jabbering away in Arabic. Now I know why he chose this restaurant. The warm smell of spices permeates the air making an already hungry colonel very hungry indeed. It's a welcoming aroma, and the waiter seems to be very welcoming too.

"Jihan, meet my family," Daniel says as he drags the poor man over to meet us. "This is Bridie, Reuben, Patrick and Jack." Daniel beams as he introduces us, but he leaves his shy 'I can't believe he really loves me' smile for me. Jihan or whatever his name is twigs straight away about us. He must have known Daniel from way back.

"I'm very pleased to meet you," he says, a broad smile plastered to his face. "Please, come on in, sit over here. So, Daniel, what have you been up to since you left us?"

"Working here and there, mainly translating things," he says.

"Are you still cooking?"

"Oh yes," I say. "I make him practise as much as possible."

"That's only because I can't face what you cook, Jack. I don't cook what I love to cook, Jihan, I doubt whether the old man could take it." Old man? He's gonna get his when I get him home.

Jihan laughs at that - I guess there's a story behind it. Undoubtedly to do with Daniel's love of spice.

"Have you been home at all?"

My family look at him as he replies, "Not as often as I would like to. It's this time of year I miss it most. It's so cold in Colorado in winter. I need my heat."

Another laugh from Jihan and he says he understands. He loves Chicago but there's nothing like Cairo when you have four feet of snow up here. On a warm day.

Daniel orders some food, but not in English. His eyes are twinkling as he does it so I know we're in trouble.

"How's Abia?" he asks when Jihan returns with some drinks.

"Fine, fine, thank you. We had our third child a year ago."

"Third! Congratulations. Wow, what do you have now?"

"Two boys and the baby's a girl. She's so cute, already ruling the roost."

"That's girls for you."

He disappears again and we take the opportunity to interrogate Daniel.

"I used to come here a lot when I studied up at the Institute," he says. "Jihan and I became good friends. I introduced him to Abia. She was a student in my department. I thought they were made for each other. It would seem that I was right."

"What have you ordered for us, Daniel?" Patrick's a bit of a traditionalist, needing persuasion to try anything new.

"A bit of everything, Pat, don't worry. There's some fairly mild stuff in it, some hot stuff too, I'll tell you all about it when it comes."

"He asked about you returning home," Bridie said.

"Sure, I was born in Cairo, it's home to me."

"What's on your passport?" Reuben asks.

"Technically I'm a US Citizen, I am American, I'm loyal too. But I'm also Egyptian by birth. I was brought up by Egyptian nannies, I spoke Arabic long before I spoke English. I have more in common with North African culture than I do with American. I guess I tried to shut everything out when I moved here, because I wasn't supposed to be here. I was due to return to Egypt a short time after the exhibition started, but everything changed when my parents got killed. I spent my childhood waiting to go home."

"That's sad."

"It was stupid. I wasted all that time," he says with a shrug.

The food comes - and it's a feast. Daniel wasn't joking when he said there would be bits of everything. He tells us what's there, what it tastes like and prompts us to try things out. He keeps the spiciest things for himself though, knowing that none of us would be able to cope with them.

It's a great night out for us. The waiters were attentive but not hovering, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly and the food was wonderful. Daniel was quite sad when we left. I think he misses being here sometimes. I promise we'll come back the next time we're in town and he cheers up a bit. Pat goes back to his parish in one cab after emotional goodbyes on the sidewalk, and the four of us head back to Bridie's in another.

We sit up for a little while, but I'm shattered, so we head up to bed.

I have a question I need to ask Daniel. I wait until we're tucked up together, him wrapped in my arms and close to dropping off.

"Danny? Why did you tell Ethel that you didn't have time to have children with Shau're? I know you weren't telling her the truth. You're hiding something. What is it?"

"Don't Jack, please, I don't want to tell you. Just drop it, will you?"

"Daniel, what's wrong? Why won't you tell me?"

"Because," his body language is going on the defensive, so I stroke his back to make him relax.

"There's nothing you can't tell me, Danny."

"I know, but it would kill Teal'c."

"What is it? I won't tell him, I won't tell a living soul, I promise."

He takes a deep breath.

"Shau're was pregnant, Jack, when they took her. We hadn't long found out. She was only about three months gone. She was so happy about it."

"Oh God, Danny, I had no idea."

"That was the idea, Jack. Teal'c feels guilty as it is. If he were to find this out..." he waves his hand in the air in lieu of more words.

"I know, I won't say a word to him. I'm guessing that Amaunet would have, you know..." I can't even bring myself to say it.

"Yeah, I thought that too."

"Why didn't you say anything at the time?"

"Would it have brought her back, Jack?"

"No, it wouldn't." He's right. "How did you feel when she told you?"


That surprises me. He explains.

"Jack, my parents, they were nice, treated me well, but they weren't like your mom. They weren't cut out to be parents. They loved me and all, but they were just as happy to hand me over to someone else. They were only relaxed around me when they were teaching me things. They had no idea how to interact with a child. I have no idea how to interact with small children. I never wanted kids at all. Perhaps that's why I found it easy to accept that I preferred men to women. No reproductive imperative. Don't get me wrong, I was coming round to the idea. It made Shau're happy, so I was happy. I would have loved the child, just as I would have grown to love Shifu if he had come to live with me. I'd have taken better care of him than my parents did of me, I wouldn't have found a nanny for him. But I doubt I'd have been anything like as good a father as you."

"Daniel..." I try to argue with him but he doesn't let me.

"Jack. You loved Charlie. You still love Charlie and you always will. You cared, dammit, you spent what time you had with him. You taught him baseball, you took him places, you read him bedtime stories, right?"


"Trust me, Jack, you were a damn good father."

We're home. The flight back wasn't anything like as good as the one out, but for some reason I wasn't as scared this time. Jack's acting suspiciously. He keeps making phone calls and not telling me what he's up to. He's not having an affair, is he? No, don't be silly Daniel, he wouldn't do that. Hell, he gave up his job, his life for me, he wouldn't throw what we have away, would he? But why wouldn't he? Perhaps he's fed up of me. Oh God, no. Please don't leave me, Jack.

"Danny? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I say but then I realise that my body language is saying something else. I hate this reflex action that I have, the minute I worry I wrap my arms around myself. Fuck. He's figured that something's bothering me.

"Daniel," he growls. "Spill, now."

"Jack, you're not going to leave me are you?" I can't even look at him as I ask, afraid to know the answer.

"NO! God, no, Danny, I couldn't do that. Why? You don't think I would, do you?"

"No, of course not," I try to relax, force my hands to my side.

"What brought this on, Daniel?"

I'm not going to say anything, he'll think I'm being silly. He comes across the room to me. I can't look him in the eye, it always feels like he can read my mind when he looks into mine.

"Come on Daniel, tell me. It's obviously something that's bothering you."

So, I'm weak, sue me. "These phone calls you keep making. You keep hanging up when I walk into the room. Who are you calling Jack? Is there someone else? Please, tell me the truth." Hell, I want to cry. I want the truth but I'm scared. I don't want him to leave me.

"Shh, babe, nothing's going on, I promise. Don't you trust me?"

"Sure, of course I do," I say a little hurriedly.

"Daniel, sit down and listen to me. Look at me Daniel, please."

I sit on the chair and he kneels down in front of me, catching hold of my face and making me look at him.

"I. Love. YOU. Got it? There's no one else, there never will be anyone else, never could be anyone else for me. You have to believe me, Danny. Yes, I'm making phone calls, and no, you're not going to find out why just yet. You will, when the time comes. I promise it's something good, okay? You have to trust me on that."

"I'm sorry," I say, I really feel stupid now.

"Don't be. It's okay, babe, honest. C'mere."

He stands up and pulls me up into his arms, holding me close. I guess all the stuff that's happened over the last few weeks has gotten to me. I break down.

"I'm sorry, so sorry," I sniff. "Don't want to feel like this, but I can't go on without you, Jack. I'm scared, so scared of losing you."

"I know, I know, how do you think I feel? I see all these young, good-looking men and women flirting with you and I get scared that you'll want them instead of an old man like me."

"NEVER! No, I couldn't Jack, don't want them. You're NOT old. I know I tease you but I don't mean it, you've got to know that. Don't want them, want YOU. No one else."

"You got me. I must have done something really good once to end up with you, Daniel, but I ain't looking no gift horse in the mouth. I've got you - YOU - amazing but true. I'm so lucky, Danny, so lucky."

"Me, I'm the lucky one."

We hold each other tighter, I can feel my ribs buckling, Jack's must be too.

"Bed," I tell him. I want him now.

He takes me by the hand and we head upstairs. Lots of kissing and touching and generally knowing that we're there and safe and loved, still in our clothes as we lie on the bed.

"This is nice," Jack murmurs.

"Yeah, I always love this, kinda like teenagers making out in secret."

Jack grins, a wicked, filthy grin.

"Jack? What are you thinking."

"I think that you and I should have an affair. You know, like Ethel said."

"What, not see each other for a few days and then meet up somewhere?"

"That's one possibility. We could use different names, pretend that we're hiding from others, meet up in motels, that sort of thing."

"That sounds like fun. What names?"

"How about our middle names?"

"Could work, Conor," I say with a leer in my voice.

"Okay, Nicholas, how about we start now?"

I don't know if I'm going to remember to use his name, but this could be fun. He leans over to the drawer in the nightstand and brings something out. The handcuffs? Whoo hoo, I'm gonna have some fun.

I start to undo my shirt thinking he's going to want it off before he puts them on me.

"Um, Danny, not for you," he says. Okay, we're dropping the name thing already, but I guess that's because this has just become very serious.

"Jack, are you sure about this? I know how you feel about it, I don't want you freaking out."

"I trust you, Daniel. I know you won't hurt me."

"God no, Jack, I couldn't. Put those back, I have a better idea. You'll prefer it, I promise."

He does as he's told and I head to the wardrobe and pull out a couple of silk ties. I think this would feel better for him, softer on his skin.

I can see him swallowing with dread as I come over to him. "Jack," I whisper, running my hands down his shirt and undoing the buttons. He pulls me close and hugs me to him tight.

"It's going to be so good for you, Jack, I won't do anything you don't want me to." I slip his shirt off and kiss his arms, the insides of his wrists, his elbows, tracing his strong, solid muscles up to his shoulders. It never fails to impress me just how dangerous this man can be, and how gentle and loving he is with me. He's starting to relax a bit, I'm going to go for it. I lift up one arm and show him what I'm doing. I wrap a tie around his wrist, tying a bow in it and putting one end between his fingers.

"If you want to, pull that and it will undo, okay?" He nods, glad of the escape route. I tie the other end firmly to the bedstead and then do the same with his other hand.

"One word, Jack, just say stop and I will, no question. Got it?"

He nods, still nervous but a lot calmer. I go to work, I've got to make this good or he'll never want to do it again.

I start by undressing slowly, he always loves it when I do that. He's still got his jeans on but I can see that I'm having the desired effect on him. He's starting to smile now, I think he's getting the hang of this. I'm naked now and I climb onto the bed, draping myself over him as I do, kissing his throat and ears and down to his chest, teasing his nipples till they stand up hard for me.

"You okay, Conor?" I ask, dropping back into the role he set.

"I'm fine, Nick," he says. I think being someone else is making this easier on him.

I undo his belt and his pants, sliding my body down the bed as I take them off him. My face meets his groin. Let the fun begin!

I'm not going to use any food stuffs on him this time, keeping it to one kink at a time. Who knows, if he likes it, I might have found one for him. I know he loves what I am about to do with my tongue - mwahaha!

"EEK! Oh more, please," he's begging. Hmm, okay. I have a long tongue, finely-tuned and well-versed in speaking 'Jack'. I think a couple of superlatives are due, don't you?

"Fucking hell! What are you doing down there?" I said superlatives, not expletives. Huh, and I thought he had a Masters in English.

"Finish me, please, I beggin' ya!"

Don't know, maybe I'll make him hold out a little longer. After all I'm not ready yet. More begging, oh, okay then. I take a deep breath and go down. I wonder how much I can really take?


That much, eh?

Finger time, tee hee. Brought the lube down with me, so grease them up, and up they go. He screams as I find the happy button straight away and I get to swallow quickly or I'll drown. My turn.

I crawl up the gibbering madman's body in what I hope is a slinky and seductive manner. It could just look stupid, of course, but I don't think he's in a position to call me on it. I push his legs over my shoulders as I get further and further up, till I'm in the right spot, his back is arching and I go for it.

YEE HA! Oh yes, this is so good. Man, he's recovering quickly today. I'm going to have to take him in hand, I can see. It's helping that we've got the angle just right, and I'm hitting his prostate with every thrust. Nice and slow and deep. Oh yeah, this is incredible. I'm calling his name, babbling in different languages. That never fails to turn him on, he's writhing around and finding that he can't move his arms. I think he's just twigged how good it is to be held in place. His head snaps back to look at mine. An evil lecherous grin is spread over him.

"Love you," I mouth to him.

A bigger smile comes back at me. "Love you too," he mouths. He's relaxed, completely happy now. He knows now, he knows how safe he is, how secure. And he now understands why I love this, what it is to completely give yourself over to someone else.

I can't hold on anymore, I push faster, harder, taking him with me. We come more or less together and collapse on the bed. He snags the ends of the ties and releases himself, wrapping his arms around me as quickly as he can.

"Now I understand, Danny," he whispers. "You trust me that much."

"With all that I am, Jack. You trust me too, don't you?"

"Absolutely, Daniel, never trusted anyone more."

So why won't he tell me who he's been calling? Guess I'll find out soon enough.