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Coming Out 6

the end

Summary: The end, they get found out. But is it really? Darker than the rest of the series, but no Kleenex needed (I'm not THAT sappy).


"Yes, Jack?"

"Tell me why I put up with you?"

"Hmm, because I could suck a ping-pong ball through a straw if I put my mind to it?"

"Ah. That would be it."

We're stuck, off-world, in a temple which decided that the moment we got into the middle of it, would be a really great time to fall down. Mercifully, Sam and Teal'c were off doing a survey for me outside the building when it happened. Also we have a working radio. Jack, however, is pissed off with me again. It's not my fault. I tell him this.

"Then whose fault is it Daniel? You're the one that can read the symbols, you told me it looked safe. We walk in and find it's booby-trapped."

"We don't know that, Jack. It could be that it was going to fall anyway and the vibration from you yelling at me set it off. Besides, placing blame isn't going to help us any. We've got at least a five hour wait until help can come and I don't want to spend it acrimoniously."

I have an idea what would cheer him up, but he's in such a bad mood that I'm not going to suggest it. If he wants hot and sweaty sex he's going to have to beg. Hmm, what a thought. Jack on his knees, begging me to go down on him, pleading with those big, beautiful, brown, sexy, sensuous, sultry, seductive, exotic, erotic eyes. Woof! Hell, I'm alliterating my way through a thesaurus of erotica.

"So, what'll we do then?" I know that look, he's had the same idea as me.

"I have no idea. Perhaps we should play a game?" I try to look as innocent as possible, making him work for this.

He's shuffling closer to me, his eyes are twinkling, his nose is twitching and I know what he's got in mind.

"Jack? What are you doing?" Undoing my jacket, that's what.

"No one is going to know, Danny, they won't be back for hours, and even you, my horny Spacemonkey, can't keep it up that long."

"Maybe, but I bet I can keep it up longer than you, Jackie Boy." Ah ha! The challenge has been issued and accepted. I get his jacket off him, kissing his ear, stroking his chest. He's doing pretty much the same to me and it's taking all my self-control not to rip his clothes off him and just go for it. We've had to keep our hands off each other for the last three days and it's driving him nuts. Funny, we went for ages without it, but the last year with him has been one of sweaty nights and daytime quickies. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

T-shirts are off, pants undone and pushed down, let battle commence. The rules are simple, hands and mouth allowed, but not directly on places of strategic importance. He's touching my neck, kissing my ear, ohmygod that feels good. I love it when he strokes my chest like that. Time to bring out the big guns. Never enter a battle like this with a linguist.

"Love that Jack, keep doing it, oh yeah, more." I soften him up, pandering to his ego.

"Do you have any idea what you do to me?" I whisper.

"Yeah, Danny, I think I do," he says with a big grin. Here goes.

"Do you have any idea what I'm going to do to you when I get you home?" I'm sure I detected a hint of fear in his face. "As soon as we walk through the door, I'm going to take to you bed. I'm going to undress you, slowly, kissing every inch of skin as it becomes exposed. Then I'm going to lay you on the bed and you can watch me undress. When I'm naked, I'm going to lie down next to you on the bed and treat you to a sensual massage. I'll start at your neck, gently rubbing away the stress in your shoulders, then I'll work my way down your spine, easing your tired muscles. When I get to your butt, I'll rub the oil into your cheeks, pushing them apart so that I can get access to my final goal. I'm going to continue the massage, Jack, but with my tongue. I'm going to push it inside your glorious hole, licking and tasting you."

He's moaning, I know that look, he hasn't got long.

"I'm going to make you scream, Jack, you will howl with pleasure. When you can't take any more I'll flip you over and go down on you, taking you all the way in, deep-throating you till you cry. You're going to come screaming my name and I'll take everything you've got. When you finally come down off your high, I'm going to have my turn. I'll push hard into you, pounding and pounding, hitting the spot until you get hard again. Then I'll take you in hand, my Jack, and we'll come together, harder than we've ever come before."

His eyes are black, I push close to him, our erections just touching each other and he shoots hard.

He's finally regained the use of his tongue. "You win Danny, and I'm going to hold you to your promise. Jeez, babe, I know you're good with words, but my God, that was fucking pornographic."

"Glad your tongue is working, hun, get down there and put it to some good use." My prize for winning the game. I don't know why he bothers, I always win.

And I'm glad I do, what Jack can do with his tongue! Oy! Oh yeah, babe, just there, a bit harder please. Ooh, the finger. Ja-ack, ohmygod, JACK!

"Love you," I manage to pant. He's grinning from ear to ear. He likes being the only person in existence who can shut me up.

We'd better get dressed, it's getting cold.

"C'mere, Danny, we'd better snuggle. Don't want our balls dropping off with the cold."

"Any excuse," I reply, glad for the warmth though. It must be night outside now, the temperature has plummeted. I pull him into my arms, he's snuggling against my chest. Much better. Perhaps we should get some shut-eye.

What's that? A scraping noise. Daniel's snoring his head off.

"C'mon, Danny, wake up. They're here."


"Not now, Daniel, time for sleepy archaeologists to rise and shine."


Hell, his arms are clamped around me, his face is nuzzled in my neck and I'm having a hard time extracting myself. Both my arms have gone numb. Oh fuck, there's a face appearing through a hole in the rubble, one of the rescue team. He looks amused.

"Daniel! Wake up now!" I'm insisting.

He's bleary-eyed but suddenly comes to with a yelp. He lets go, pushing me off quickly. Shi-it, my arms are coming back to life. That hurts.

The rescuer shouts that they'll make the hole big enough fairly quickly, so Danny and I get up and get ready to ship out. As we finally climb out I say, "God, thanks you guys, it was fucking freezing in there. Daniel is not the most comfortable person to snug, er, huddle up with to keep warm. Pity Carter wasn't there instead." A cheap comment, I know, but what's a guy to do?

"I agree, Jack. I'd much rather have 'huddled' with Sam. Not to mention she's a damn sight prettier to look at. And the more interesting conversation..." Daniel's voice disappears as he turns his back on me and wanders off. I know I'd prefer to walk back to the gate holding his hand, but this is the way it has to be. A medic tries to check us out, but we both wave him away. We weren't hurt, just cold, we tell him. I just know that yet another rumour about Daniel and myself will be doing the rounds as soon as we get back. Fuck! Dammit! What do we have to do?

Hammond's there to greet us as we emerge from the gate. Carter and Teal'c are fussing over Daniel, as usual, and he's trying not to look at me. I think I need to talk to the General. I steer him to his office, Daniel's off to the infirmary, being reluctantly led by Carter. She got the look from me and understood perfectly. 'Play your role as girlfriend, please,' my eyes say. An almost imperceptible nod from her and an Oscar winning performance is on its way. Daniel picks up on it straight away and drapes his arm around her waist, his head resting on hers. Good, hope that works.

"Jack? The look on your face says this conversation is going to be off the record." Gotta love George, he's quick on the uptake.

"Yeah, um, George. That thing about me retiring? It may come sooner than we expected. It got cold last night, we, well, we snuggled rather than huddled if you get my drift. Daniel was still asleep when they broke through. The first guy saw him lying on his back with his arms around me. We tried to cover it up, but I don't know if it worked." I wait for the shit to hit the proverbial, but it doesn't come.

George nods, gets out the undated retirement letter of mine from his drawer, and sticks today's date on it. Then he puts it straight back.

"Just in case," he says. "You can always give me another copy if things work out."

I thank him, then he asks me for a quick debrief and tells me he has a job for me alone. Oh no, not Washington. More brown-nosing, it seems. A couple of new senators are being introduced to the secret of the SGC and he wants our side to be well represented. I have to go there for a couple of days, and then bring them back for the guided tour. If we can get them on our side, Kinsey will have a harder time dissing us. Of course, I agree to go, what else can I do? And I can schmooze with the best of them. Major Davis will be there to 'hold my hand'; better not tell Daniel, he might get jealous. I'm dismissed and sent for my post mission check-up. All that can be done, for the time being, has been done.

Janet's check-up is quick, thank God, but she takes me to one side and whispers that the rumours have already started. She says that she and the nurses are already working to kill them and that Teal'c and Carter have been informed. I thank her and head off to my office. I can't go and see Daniel, not now. It's killing me to do this. The only way I can be seen with him in public is to have a chaperone, a very visible chaperone.

I get on my phone. "Carter," I'm glad she's predictable, I knew I'd find her in her lab now Daniel's been released from the infirmary. "Can you do me a favour and find Teal'c, please? Then I want you to bring Daniel to the commissary. I've got something to tell him, and the two of you, and I think it's better it's done in public."

"Understood," she says and goes off to do my bidding.

I head to the commissary and get a coffee and something to eat. Soon after, the others arrive, do the same thing and sit with me. Nothing unusual in having a team meal.

"I've got to go to Washington tonight," I say, trying to keep my frustration at being parted from Daniel out of my voice. "Sucking up to some new senators," I add. They make soothing noises, but Daniel's quiet. He understands my needing to keep apart from him, but he hates it as much as I do.

"How long for, Sir?" Carter asks, just knowing that Daniel needs to know all the details.

"A couple of days," I reply. "Then I'm giving them the ten cent tour when they come back with me. After that, it's saddle up and we're out of here into the great unknown." Daniel's quick on the uptake, the double meaning glaringly apparent.

"Couple of days?" he says. "Good, that'll give me a chance to actually do some work around here. Unless I can get someone else here that can read cuneiform, all those translations for weapon specs are mine. It's not easy, the language has developed since it left Earth, there's a hell of a lot of technical stuff in it that bears no resemblance to anything I know. Sam, could you work with me? Your expertise might help me go in the right direction." He's trying to make it all sound routine.

"Sure thing, Daniel. We haven't done this for a while, it'll be fun."

Ah shit, I know what they're talking about, forty-eight hours straight, coffee, candy and catnaps the only breaks.

"Ah ah ah! Sleep! You may work but you also have to sleep. I'll need you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for when I return."

"We can sleep while you play tour guide," teases Danny. "Besides, my office has a couch, we can sleep there if we need to." His eyes are twinkling at Sam and she picks up on it.

"C'mon Daniel, it's playtime!"

"Play nice kids," I shout. I swear they'd both kiss me and skip off hand-in-hand if they thought they could get away with it.

"I will watch over them, O'Neill."

"I know you will, my friend," I reply to Teal'c. "Just make sure they rest once in a while. They haven't had the chance to do this for a while, indulge them. I don't understand it, you don't understand it, hell, most people don't understand it, but they need the opportunity to lose themselves in pure research now and again. They try to explain, but I doubt I'll ever get it. Daniel says it's probably like my love of flying, it just is."

"Is what?" Teal'c's eyebrows are knotted together. It's his 'Oh no, yet another Tauri saying' look.

"Just 'is' T. Sometimes you just have to do stuff. Go easy on them, please?"

"I will." He stands up, bows and leaves me. Ferretti's here, he comes over.

"Hey, Jack," his voice is quiet, "can I have a word, please?"

I nod. "My office."

He follows me out, not saying anything until we get there, then he shuts the door as we enter.

"I'm talking to Jack, here, my pal. Got it?"

"Got it, Lou. Spill, though I think I can guess."

"You heard the rumours?"

"Which ones now?"

"About you and Daniel. Seems the rescue guys saw you wrapped in each other's arms."

"As a matter of fact, I was wrapped in Daniel's arms, mine were numb. It was fucking freezing."

"With him on his back and you sprawled over him?"

"Okay, it's not your usual keep warm position, I grant you, but that's what I want to get around. Ah fuck it, I'm gonna retire, I've had enough of this fucking lying. I'm tired, Lou. You're right, Danny and me, we couldn't be more together. Yesterday was the first anniversary of us getting together too. Contrary to popular belief, I haven't been screwing him since the word go. Hell, I didn't even know he was gay till then."

"And you?" Lou settles into a chair and listens. I know him, I trust that what I say will stay here. I don't care if it gets out anyway.

"Me? Like Danny. Both of us are bi, Lou, have been since we were teenagers, neither of us were exactly innocent if you get my drift."

"I get the drift, but Daniel surprises me. He always seems so oblivious."

"Trust me, he's one hell of an actor. Remember the leather pants?"

"Oh yeah, nobody can forget him in those. Shit, Jack, I really am straight and I nearly ended up needing a cold shower."

"They were his favourite pants. Went out and got a new pair as soon as he'd recovered from the brain surgery. Took Mom into the shop where he gets them."

"Mom? As in Mama O'Neill?" His eyes are bugging out - pretty much like mine did.

"As in. Bought her a leather jacket while he was in there. She adopted him on the spot. My family know, Hammond, Frasier, Teal'c and Sam know." He doesn't need to know about Davis. "We wanted to tell you, but we thought it would be unfair, you know, the burden of secrecy thing. Figured you'd guess. We decided we'd never deny it to you if you asked." He nods at me, understanding.

"I won't say anything, Jack, and I'll try to kill the rumours. Have always done that, anyway."

"I know Lou, you're a good pal. I think I'm going anyway. Keeping this secret, denying how I feel about Daniel is killing me. It's doing the same to him. As soon as I get back from doing this favour for Hammond in Washington, I'll quit."

"Think about it, Jack, check out the situation when you get back. You may feel different then."

I agree, thank him and he gets up to leave. "Don't keep me out anymore, Jack. I can carry the burden too."

"Promise, my friend, I promise."

"I hate this Sam," I say as I shut the door to my office. "All this pretending, I hate doing this to you, it's not fair."

"It's not," she agrees, "but it means I get a chance to flirt with my favourite man."

"You," I say wrapping my arms around her and pulling her close, "can flirt with me anytime, you don't need an excuse." I plant a kiss on her hair and she sighs, snuggling in closer. If it were any other woman doing this I'd be worried, but we worked this out between us a long time ago. There's no 'sparkage'. I love her more than life itself, but not like that. Pity in a way, she's everything I could ever want. She's stunningly beautiful, sexy as hell and brilliant. Not to mention great fun and the best of friends. Life would have been so much simpler if I'd fallen for her.

"Are you okay?" she asks.

"I don't know, to be honest. It's all my fault. I didn't hear them breaking through the rubble. Damn my uselessness. I hate not being able to wake up quickly. I think I've just cost Jack his career. I'm fed up of hiding."

"We'll all cover for you, Daniel. Nobody will want you to leave, neither of you."

"Apart from the NID, Kinsey and the gay bashers on base. I know there are people like that here. They've thought I was gay from the beginning, you don't know how close I came to being beaten up back then. If Jack and Teal'c hadn't been so close..." I let my voice trail off, an unbidden memory of them walking in to the locker room as the threats got too close for comfort jumps into my head. I try to suppress a shiver at the memory. "Sam, if he goes, I'm going. I won't stay here without him."

"I don't want either of you to go, but I understand. What will you do?"

"Don't know, is the honest truth. We've talked a bit about it, one thing is I'm moving in with him immediately. But whether that would be on-world or off, we just don't know."

"If you two resign, I'm quitting fieldwork. No way I'm going through that gate without you, I wouldn't feel safe. I wonder what Teal'c would do?"

"Probably head off to Chulak and work with Bratac. Fuck! This is so screwed. I never meant to fall for him, he never meant to fall for me, it just happened. They always said SG-1 were to close for our own good, they had no idea."

We get the blueprints out and start to work with heavy hearts. Not even the joy of working together on research is helping.

Jack stuck his head in the office to say goodbye, but Sam couldn't leave. We constantly need a third person around us at the moment. We say a lot without words, the three of us understanding each other too well.

As he goes he says, "When I get back we'll need to talk, Danny. Maybe time for a change of venue?"

I nod, I know what he means. When he gets back, we quit. I print off my resignation letter, date it and head off to see Hammond.

"Dr. Jackson," he greets me as I walk into his office. I throw a glance at his secretary, Eileen, smiling at her, but my eyes are begging him to dismiss her at the same time. He does.

"Daniel, I take it that's your letter of resignation there?" I concur.

"Jack asked me to get his out earlier. The rumours are flying around the base. I know your friends are trying to stop them, but this time it's getting out of control."

"I know, Sir. I'll stay here till he gets back, then whatever he decides to do, we're doing it. I won't stay without him, like he wouldn't stay without me. I'll translate as much as I can between now and then. We'll only stay if you can guarantee that Jack won't lose his position."

"I appreciate that Daniel. I'll keep my fingers crossed that things will work out, this planet can't afford to lose either of you."

"Thank you, George. I have a feeling you'll lose more than the two of us. Sam won't want to transfer to another team, not to mention the fact that she has far too much lab work to do as it is. As for Teal'c, I really don't know what he'll want to do. His loyalty is as much to Jack as it is to you."

I go back to my office, ignoring the sniggers and looks as I go. Been there, done that. Sticks and stones, as they say.

More work, more coffee and chocolate. Sam and I are starting to drop around 3 a.m. We head over to the couch.

"Dammit Daniel, I think we're losing our touch, it's only 0300."

"Getting old, girl. C'mere, let's snuggle." She scoots into my arms and we start to dr..i..f..t off...

"Daniel Jackson, Major Carter, it is time to rise."

I hate chirpy Jaffa in the morning. At least he comes bearing caffeine.

"Mornin' Teal'c," I mutter.

"Whoa, what time is it?" Sam looks as drowsy as I feel.

"It is 0700 hours," Teal'c announces.

"7 a.m? We only just got to sleep!" Did I say I hate chirpy Jaffa?

"There is no rest for the wicked." Gee, thanks Teal'c, way to go to make a guy feel special.

We accept the coffee and being dragged to the locker room to get changed and showered. Feel a bit better now. He escorts us to the mess hall too.

"Did Jack put you up to this?" I ask as I pick some food up. He just gives me his inscrutable Jaffa look.

"Bet he did," mutters Sam. "Tells us to get some sleep then wakes me up from the best sleep I've had in ages and he's not even in the same state." Her voice is low and mutinous. Jack's in for it when he comes back.

A bunch of new recruits, USAF by the looks of them, are sitting at the next table to us.

"Dr. Jackson. Missing Colonel O'Neill already?" They're sniggering as they say it.

I glare at them, she shoots daggers. Teal'c speaks up. "Our team is such that we all feel a loss when one of our number is missing. You would be most fortunate to ever experience such a bonding. It is most rare, and one to be treasured. In over eighty years as a warrior, I have never been so privileged as now. We are, however, quite capable of functioning without him until his return. We feel his loss no more or less than if any other of our number is missing. I doubt you will ever understand that." Way to go Teal'c. They're shifting about, trying to figure out if they've just been insulted. They have. Big time.

Back to work. Teal'c says he'll look in on us later, he has to go see Hammond. I tried to tell him what I'd done, but I think he already guessed or knew. He won't say what he has in mind.

More work, we're getting somewhere. I show Sam a few tricks about translations, just in case they take a while to get another linguist who can read this stuff. Not gonna be easy, there's only a handful of us on the planet. She can point out what I'm showing her, it should help with the technical stuff.

That was odd, Teal'c just said that he had a solo mission. He wouldn't elaborate, he just said he'd be safe and would return as soon as he could. He left with 'be careful' ringing in his ears.

Sam's yawning, it's only 1 a.m. I send her to her quarters.

"But Daniel, Jack'll be back tomorrow," she complains.

"Today," I amend. "Sleep Sam, come back when you're awake. Go. Shoo! Or do I have to carry you off?"

I don't want her to stay, it'll mean I have to switch off the lights and keep quiet.

I'm never going to finish this, I've only gotten halfway through them and we've had them for months. Who's that? Someone outside the door. It opens. Ah, those loudmouth airmen from the commissary yesterday.

"Look who's here," the biggest mouth says. "It's the Colonel's toy boy. The Colonel's in trouble because of you. We don't like that. He's a fucking hero. Heroes don't need civilians fucking up their career. Just 'cause you like taking it up the ass doesn't mean you can fuck him over."

Oh hell. Where is Teal'c when I need him?

I am so not looking forward to this meeting. Day one, early, flew in last night. I've met up with Paul and we're heading to the White House. He assures me that things will be fine. Kinsey's not gonna be there, so things aren't quite as bad as they could be.

Finally got through all the security checks. Makes me laugh that, I've got higher security clearance than these guys and they still need to check me out. Paul's dealing with the bureaucracy well, he knows how much I hate red tape.

There's the meeting room. We're escorted through the door and - whoa! That wasn't something or rather someone that I was expecting.

"Jack! I don't believe it! They didn't say who was coming to this meeting. God man, it's good to see you again."

"Josh. You've aged well. A senator? I can't see you as a politician."

We grab hold of each other's hands, shaking them hard. It's really good to see him again. Our split was mainly because of logistics and the stupid policies. We did keep in touch for years, but we drifted when Charlie was born. I've missed him.

He introduces me to the other senator as his roommate from the Academy. Not gonna mention the fact that we spent a lot of that time in the same bed too. He knows how to play it. I introduce him to Paul and I'm amused to see a flash of attraction between them. Josh is like a forty-six year-old Daniel. Funny, never saw the likeness before, their personalities are so different. He's a little shorter, by an inch or so, but has the same mousy hair and blue eyes. Not to mention the wicked grin. I wonder if he's still single?

"So Josh, how's the family?" Nice and neutral that question. I knew his parents, and his brothers and sisters.

"Fine Jack. Mom and Dad will be thrilled to know I met you again. They still wonder what happened to you. The others, all married, loads of kids. I'm an uncle ten times over." Not married then, no cover-up relationship. Josh is totally gay, couldn't even bring himself to pretend to like women; not like that anyway, he's not a misogynist. Made out he was married to the service. It happens. "How's yours? Mama O'Neill still terrorising unsuspecting pals?"

"You have no idea," I grin back. "Just adopted my team. Dad died a couple of years ago, but the others are fine. I've only gotten one niece and one nephew, though my niece has made me a great uncle."

He stares at me, considering what I'm not saying. Takes me to one side. "Sorry about your dad, Jack. Sara? Charlie? What happened?"

"Charlie died when he was ten. Sara and I split up. Couldn't hack it."

"Jesus, Jack, I had no idea. I'm so sorry, truly I am. How are you coping?"

"Much better than I was. Good days, bad days. More good than bad now. It was years ago, got another focus. I'll tell you all about it in the meeting. Well, I'll tell you some of it. Come to my hotel for dinner after the meeting, I'll tell you more then." All of this was said in a whisper. He knows not to push, not now.

"So you are telling me that you go to other planets?" The other senator is totally incredulous after we finish our talk. Josh is quietly amused, I think.

"Yes, Senator. Usually once or twice a week, depending on mission status and length. We, my team and I, estimated that we'd been to over 300 different planets in the last five years. Of course, a fair amount of our time is spent doing paperwork, briefings, training, that sort of thing."

"Recovering in the infirmary," adds Davis with a grin.

"Recovering with your head down a toilet?" I say to him, reminding him of his only trip through.

"Don't, Sir, once was enough for me, honest. I'll stick to nice, quiet paperwork, uneventful politics, and if necessary I'll go back into safe Earth-side combat. I never want a hangover that big again."

We laugh at the in-joke, the others look confused. "A three day party that netted us the sweetest deal," I explain. They're mollified, for now.

The meeting seems to go on for ever, Senator Two (what the fuck was his name again?) keeps asking questions. It's getting late. I want to go back to the hotel, get something to eat and phone Danny. He'll be in his office at the base, or Sam's lab. Or the mess hall. Pretty much it, he won't even grace his quarters there for the next couple of days, until I order him to anyway. I send out a 'help me' look to Josh.

"Andrew, why don't we finish this tomorrow? I don't know about you, but I'm shattered. We have a lot to take in. Tomorrow we're going to hear a lot more about the other species out there, and I for one will need all my sleep."

He stands up, Davis and I do too. The other man reluctantly agrees. Paul does his stuff again.

"Senator Edwards," (that's his name!) "if you have any pressing questions that can't wait, I'll be happy to answer them for you. Don't forget you will be coming to the base the day after tomorrow, all of your questions could be answered there." In other words, take the hint and go home you moron.

He finally gives up. Davis comes with me to the door. Josh wants to come with me to the hotel, we have some old times to catch up on. Edwards doesn't want to be left out, but he's never been in the Air Force so the three of us do the inexcusable and start talking in jargon. By the time we leave the building his eyes have glazed over and he's heading for his driver.

"Good night, Senator," I call, "I'm looking forward to finishing our briefing tomorrow, Sir. Send your good lady our best regards, please, and apologise for us for keeping you out so late."

He's cross-eyed as he nods and stumbles into his car.

"Jack, you are a prize bastard," Josh teases as the three of us get in the official car laid on for us.

"Comes with practise. Paul, what have we got lined up for tomorrow?"

"Pretty much as wrote, Jack, nothing exciting. We're leaving the best stuff for the Springs." It's nice to see him relaxed and off duty, poor boy seems to spend half his life in his dress blues. Wonder if that's where Danny gets his penchant for them?

"So, Josh, settled down with anyone yet?" I ask, and he looks back slightly worried. "Don't panic, Paul here's a pal." The light dawns. Sort of - hell, he's gotten the wrong idea. "Um, Paul? Got your phone? Thanks, want to check that Danny's okay." He nods, told him about the rumours and what happened. He'll do what he can this end, but we both know how this is going to go.

"Look, Josh, come and have dinner with me in my room, we've got a lot to talk about. Has the place been swept?" I look at Paul, he nods.

"Under constant surveillance, too, so watch it."

"Thanks." I pick up the phone and dial, don't want to call from a land-line, not so easy to listen in to this one.

"Dr. Jackson's office," I say as the switchboard pick up, they put me through and he answers on the second ring.

"Hi, Jack," he says.

"Danny, how the fuck did you know it was me?"

"I always know Jack. Before you ask, I've eaten, Sam's eaten, Teal'c's mother-henning us in your absence, well he was till he disappeared off-world, he'll be back later apparently. We're making progress and nothing untoward has happened. Oh, and Sam says 'hi'."

"Tell her I said 'hi' back. And don't work too late. Where's the T man?"

"Yadda and don't know, in that order." We've definitely known each other too long.

"You do know I love being away from you, don't you?" I ask, not meaning a word of it. Josh's eyebrows hit the roof and Paul smothers a giggle.

"I'm glad you're not here. I saw Hammond. Gave him my copy."


"Not often enough." I snigger. "Oh! No, yes, it's dated. Look, got to go, just hit a particularly interesting passage and Sam's doing her nut that I'm not finishing. See you in two days Jack."

"Got it, and turn in the lease on the loft. See ya."

I give the phone back to Paul. He looks seriously at me. "You meant that? About the loft? Shit, Jack, I'm doing what I can to protect you two, so's Hammond."

"I'm tired, Paul, too fucking tired to hide it anymore."

The car stops, we've arrived at Paul's place. With a 'see you tomorrow' and a sigh, he goes. We head back to the hotel in silence. When we get there, Josh tells the driver to stay in the lobby, warns him that we'll be a couple of hours, catching up on old times and all and we head up. First thing we do is order dinner, then he pulls me into a hug, a long hard cuddle. Damn, it's funny how quickly you can feel at home in an ex-lover's arms.

"So, gonna tell me?" he asks.

"Danny. Dr. Daniel Jackson, member of my team, genius, hero, repeated saver of my life and best friend you could ever want. I'm gone, Josh, completely and utterly smitten. We've been friends from the first mission, lovers for a year. In fact, that three day party, it was our 'joining'. The place we went, it was okay, you know? Wouldn't trade with us unless we weren't 'living in sin', so we sucked it up and got hitched. Three day freaking hangover to go with it. Danny's working on the translation of the weapon specs we traded for as we speak. He's rare, Josh, not so much one in a million, but one in a couple of centuries. Nearest we can reasonably compare him to is Da Vinci."

"You're not exaggerating, from what I heard today."

"No way, if anything, I'm understating the man. Did you hear about his Presidential Medal?"

"Yes, couldn't figure out why the Air Force wanted an archaeologist who was so far out of his discipline though, and how he could be going on military missions."

"Now you know. When you hear more of what we've accomplished, I want you to bear in mind the only training he's had has been on the job. A couple of us taught him to fight and shoot, he taught all of us to think first, try to talk our way out of trouble. It works, sometimes."

"So, what's with the tired thing?"

He listens quietly while I tell him about what happened, grimacing at his own memories of nearly being caught.

"I won't stay, Josh. Daniel means more to me than the SGC. We'll leave the planet if we have to. Probably will too, so we can keep fighting the snakes. No matter what you hear in reports, you'll never really appreciate just how much danger we're in. Especially now."

"So, what does he look like?" Typical.

"He's a babe, Josh, just like you. Bit taller, built - oy is he built - freaking gorgeous. Shoulder-length hair, light-brown, goes blond in the sun, and even bluer eyes than you've got. Paws off, he's mine. Paul's free," I add with a grin.

"In the car, I thought you and him..."

"Nah, him and Danny, for quite a while. Best pals now. Paul's a good guy, a really good friend. He likes you, I can tell. Want me to put in a good word?"

"Hmm, you think he'll come to the Springs?"

"Undoubtedly, he's our Pentagon Liaison. Damn good at his job, been a great friend to the SGC. We need friends, Josh. Kinsey's trying to shut us down. He wants the presidency, nothing less. He's in it up to his neck with the NID. If you publicly come out on our side, at least as publicly as you can go, watch your back. He'll try to destroy you."

"Thanks for the warning. I make no secret that I'm not married, it's up to others what they make of that. I was married, to the service. Gave it everything I had. Didn't get the chance to find someone to settle with. I'm happy for you, Jack. I really hope we can keep you and him working for us."

"Get the law changed, Josh. The day Daniel and I can publicly live together, be together, that'll make the difference. We're both tired of hiding."

After dinner Josh goes. I can't wait to introduce him to Daniel, they'll get on well. Ah well, bed. Got another long day tomorrow.

I'm woken by a hammering on the door. It's Paul.

"What the fuck is the matter?" I ask as he falls through the door.

"Get dressed, pack now, tell you as you go," he orders breathlessly. As I head to the bedroom in a hurry, I hear him picking up the phone.

"This is Major Davis from the Pentagon. I was scheduled to attend a meeting with Senators Edwards and MacDonald, along with Colonel Jonathan O'Neill. Please inform the senators and anyone else from the JCS that was going to attend that an emergency has arisen back in Colorado Springs. We have to leave immediately... Please ask the senators to follow on as planned... Thank you... If you have any questions regarding arrangements call my office... Thank you. Goodbye."

"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

"Not yet, wait till we're on the plane," he says, but the look on his face tells me I'm not going to like what I hear.

My stuff is packed and we hurry downstairs. He's sorted the desk out already and the driver's waiting for us. Say what you like about Paul, he can get stuff organised in a hurry. We don't speak on the way, his face is as white as a sheet though. I'm worried, and I'm getting the feeling that it has something to do with Daniel.

Straight to the Air Force base. Fuck! He's not kidding about speed. We get there and a couple of flying suits are waiting for us. As is an F-15 Eagle. Nice, two-seater and fast. My stuff will get sent down later on a transport, I guess.

"Can you fly one?" I ask Paul.

"Of course, Sir, I have, in combat." Now there's a surprise. I look to him for elaboration, but he's not giving. Obviously wasn't much fun.

"Do you want to drive?"

"Don't mind, Sir. I thought you'd like to, you don't get much chance these days. It'll help you keep your flight hours up."

"Good thinking Paul. Okay, I'll do it. Tell me why I'm flying this to Colorado?"

"Um, no, Sir, not till we get there." Not if I'm flying, obviously. I think he's thinking it'll take my mind off whatever's on the receiving end. I don't really care about my flight hours, after today I doubt I'll ever fly again. Oh shit, that's pretty scary. Suck it up, O'Neill, you've got to get there fast.

We're saddled up, our pre-flight checks done in record time and before we know it, we're airborne. I love flying these babies. They're fun. But today, I can't wait to get her back down on the firma terra, so to speak.

God, there is nothing like flying. Danny tries to understand it. He does, sorta, he appreciates the freedom it gives me. Never stops me when I head off to the airfield to get in some wing time, he knows it's something I have to do every so often, and not just to keep my license. He says he feels like I describe when he's immersed in a dig. He loses himself to the moment, his pleasure in discovering things that haven't been seen for hundreds, maybe thousands of years by another being. I'll never truly appreciate that, but I try, I really try. Just like he tries for me, even though flying terrifies him. He even comes to the airfield sometimes, waits for me till I come back to him. He never gets jealous of my other love. I wish I could say the same about myself and his obsession. I try.

We're there. And for the first time in my flying career I'm not sorry to touch down. But something's wrong, very wrong, and I have to get to the mountain. Now.

"Now will you tell me?" I say as I get out. Then I see John McWilliams waiting for me.

"Get in the car, Jack," he orders. The three of us pile in. He's driving and I'm stuck in the back next to Davis.

"Now will you tell me?" I'm losing it now.

"It's Daniel, he's been beaten up," Paul says quietly. I'd tell John to floor it, but he already has. The SAS do offensive driving too, I can tell. He's sticking to the speed limit - rigidly - and getting the hell out of any traffic that might stop us. I couldn't ask for more. I'm numb, completely numb.

"How bad?" I manage to ask.

"Bad." John was the last one to see him here, so he's giving me the sit rep.

"He's covered in bruises, still unconscious, but the Doc says it's not a coma, he should wake up soon. He'll have a hell of a headache, but she's betting no permanent damage. He's been checked, all the scans and that. His old head injury hasn't been aggravated. She did say that if he'd had a spleen it would have been shattered. He had internal bleeding, but he's out of surgery and it's all stopped. All things considered he's in a lot better shape than he looks. He's not pretty, Jack."

I try to take this in, I can't, it's too much.

"Who? How?" I don't have to ask why.

"Four new airmen, they went to his office in the early hours. You should see the mess on them. He beat the crap out of them, Jack, you should be proud. One's got a broken jaw, two have broken noses, and the other one is still singing soprano."

John continues, "They got him in the early hours. Teal'c found them when he got back from off-world. He added some severe bruising to them all. He's had to be restrained, he wants to kill them."

"Don't blame him," I growl, "but he's gonna have to get in line. Who's watching over Daniel now?"

"I left Tiny there. Ferretti's there, along with his gang. They've taken up residence outside his room and they won't let anyone in unless they're supervised. Sam's there at his bedside, Tiny's in the room. Ain't no one gonna finish what they started, that's for sure."

Good, knew I could rely on Lou. Tiny's a good guy to have on your side. Any SAS man is, but a honking great 6' 8" killer with a huge soft spot for Daniel is about as good as you can get. Nobody would get past him; even Thor would have a hard time beaming him up if he didn't want to go.

"Hammond's gone nuts. Completely ballistic. I thought we were going to see the first general in orbit when he heard the news. Those four bastards are for it, he's baying for blood."

FINALLY! We're there. The security guys don't even try to stop the three of us going in. I'm guessing they've heard the news. Daniel's really popular. Come on, can't these elevators go any faster? At long fucking last, we're there. I run down to the infirmary. I can see Lou, I know which room he's in.

FUCK! The mess they've made of him. Can't hold it in now, I'm shaking. Fucking crying here. Tiny puts his hand on my shoulder and goes. The door shuts behind me, the guys are keeping this private. What? The door opens, it's Janet. No, don't cry, baby, please. Can't stop myself, how can I stop you?

"Cameras are on," she sniffs. "No one's getting past the guys outside, no one comes in without an escort. He's safe."

"Where's Sam?"

"Had to sedate her. She lost it earlier. Daniel sent her to bed about half an hour before the attack started." Got it, 'major' guilt trip to deal with. Not to mention my own. I shouldn't have left him, not now.

"Danny, wake up love, please," I say. God, I can't stop crying. What am I? A baby? He's been in worse shape and pulled through. I want Mom, she needs to be here. Danny's going to want her when he wakes up and comes home. He'll need someone to mother him and he won't want me to do it.

"Jan? Why won't he wake up?"

"He got kicked in the head, Jack, hard. Nothing's broken, no internal bleeding in his skull, by some miracle, but he's severely concussed. His early morning caffeine deprived temper is gonna be nothing compared to the one he's going to have when he does wake up."

I kiss his head. Don't care who sees it. I'm not staying in an institution that can't look after its civilians, the people it was set up to protect.

There's a knock at the door, it's Hammond.

"Heard you were back, Jack. I don't know what to say about this, I really don't."

"I want to see the bastards that did this George, I need to know."

"Jack, you can't lay a finger on them. They've had to have medical treatment already, a lot of the damage was inflicted by Daniel. He put up one hell of a fight."

"I know, John told me. I'll keep my hands to myself, I promise. I want Teal'c released too, he was only protecting Daniel."

"He was, a while back. He was just confined to quarters. He's been meditating to stop himself from losing it completely."

"Thanks George. Those resignation letters, use them. We're not staying, not after this. I can't protect him here. I don't want to have to protect him here. We're out of here the second he wakes up. I'll get him transferred to the public hospital in town if necessary, though I think he's going to want to come home."

George nods, there's nothing he can say. I kiss Daniel again, tell him to hold on, I'll be back soon. Paul's outside, I send him in to sit with Daniel. Tiny's been relieved by John. Ferretti and his gang are still there. Stubborn bastards.

"How is he?" Lou asks.

"Still out. Just going to have a few words with the perpetrators."

"Guys, watch the door, no one in or out without escort," he barks. "Coming with, Colonel," he says. No room for argument, he's keeping me covered, going to try to stop me losing it.

"Just Jack, Lou. I just quit."


"Hell yeah, and they can change the fucking law if they want us back. Not going to change who I am, they can go fuck 'emselves as far as I care."

We go past T's place. I bang on the door. "Teal'c, wake up!" I yell. A few seconds later he appears.

"Brig," I say. He nods.

"O'Neill, I failed to protect him, I am truly sorry."

"Don't sweat it, Teal'c, you weren't on the base. Not your fault. It's the motherfucking bastards we're about to visit. They're the ones at fault." If I say that often enough, I may stop blaming myself.

Word of my retirement hasn't spread, so the airman on duty lets me in to see the scum without question. Mind, I don't think he wanted me in his face at the moment, I'm not looking too pretty.

I get to them. The first of them looks out of his cell and looks scared. I get the airman to open the door, the three of us go in and shut it behind us.

"Why?" I ask as I slam him against a wall.

"Fucking cocksucking geek had it coming to him," he sneers.

"You are talking about a highly-respected member of our civilian staff," Lou shouts at him.

"You are talking about my friend," says Teal'c. He's looming, doing his scary Jaffa thing. The bastard looks shit scared, worse than Danny when I threatened to fly that Lear Jet.

"He's queer, we don't want their kind here," he mouths back, bravado overtaking any sense of self-preservation that he had.

"Why?" I ask again.

"What do you mean?" He just doesn't get it, does he?

"Why? Why don't we want people like him here? Daniel is a unique person. He's brilliant, he's kind, he's the most gentle soul I know. He's also the bravest man it has ever been my privilege to serve with. Do you know the marines made him an honorary Jarhead? That the Air Force adopted him as one of our own? That the fucking PRESIDENT pulled out all the fucking stops to give him a medal? That he's SAVED THIS FUCKING PLANET MORE TIMES THAN YOU'VE GOT LAID!" Okay, I'm really losing it. Teal'c's having to physically hold me back now.

"Rumours," the mouth says. "They said he and you..." he bottles out.

"He and I what? Come on, say it. If you've the nerve to do time in Leavenworth, you can tell me about these rumours."

He takes a deep breath. "You and he are, er, together."

"I like that. Together, got a nice ring to it. I'd DIE for him. Don't you get it? He HAS died for me. That man's got more balls than the four of you put together. He's more of a man than you could even aspire to be. You make me sick. How they let you in the Air Force I don't know."

"HE HAS NO RIGHT!" Ah, that's gotten a reaction. I let him give himself enough rope. "He's a fucking queer! He's with you! You're a hero, he has no right to be here, not in the same building, certainly not on the same team."

"Did you tell him this as he beat the crap out of the four of you?"

"Yeah," he sneers, I think he missed the irony. Oh fuck, I can see major self-confidence problems coming up.

I can't stand to be anywhere near this bastard anymore. I turn to leave.

"Oh, by the way," I say quietly, "the rumours, they are true. He's no more queer than I am. I love Daniel more than anything else in the entire world. He is my world. And you have just made some very dangerous enemies."

He goes white and faints.

Before I leave the area, I raise my voice so that all four can hear. At least the three still standing can.

"I hope your stay at Leavenworth is going to be interesting. Just remember, when you get there, it's going to be filled with big, BIG, guys who haven't had sex in ages, sometimes years. Your asses are going to have a HONKING GREAT TARGET painted on them. I know some of the guards. A few well-placed words and you ain't never gonna sit down in a hurry again."

I hear a couple of them throw up as we leave.

No, not again, the fucking infirmary. Why? Ugh, oh yeah. Fucking bullies, again! Getting fed up of this. My head hurts. Who's that? Sniffing? Come on eyes, focus.


"Daniel! Thank God. You scared us. Jack's here, I'll get him."

"No, don't want him to see me like this," no, no more seeing me as a victim, please.

"He's already been in, Daniel," Paul's voice is really soothing, but my head still hurts. "He's gone to see the amoebae that did this to you."

"God NO! Don't let him, he'll go nuts." I don't want him to end up in prison, not for this, for me.

"Major Ferretti's gone with him, to stop him."

"Even Lou can't stop him, Paul. You've got to go, please." I'll beg if you want me to.

"I'll get Janet in here. You're safe now, Ferretti's guys and the SAS colonel are on guard outside. Everyone is absolutely mad about this, Daniel. Jack's told Hammond that you're both quitting. Tell me it's not true."

"It is," I sigh. "Jack can't go on pretending, and where he goes, I go. No arguments." Nobody's splitting us up again.

He gets up and calls Janet. She's running, I can hear her high heels clopping on the floor.

"Daniel! How are you, honey?"

"Head hurts, actually I hurt all over. OW!" I shouldn't have tried to sit up. My stomach hurts.

"You had to have surgery, Daniel. You had internal bleeding in your stomach, they ruptured it. You made a good mess of them too, you did well. We're all really proud. Colonel John was positively strutting when he heard how much damage you did them. I know Jack's really proud of you too. God, sugar, you scared us."

She starts crying, I can't cope with that, I want painkillers. Lots of painkillers. Did I mention I hurt? A lot. Love the way Jack's friend is known as Colonel John, not McWilliams, seems really friendly, like him.

The door bursts open.


"Why the fuck is everybody shouting? My fucking head hurts!"

"He's back to normal, Jan, can I take him home?" Oh Jack, you are incorrigible. He's sitting by my side, the door's wide open and he's holding my hand and stroking my hair.

"Babe, I'm so sorry, I should..."

"Shut up Jack, you can't be everywhere. It wasn't your fault. I shouldn't leave my office door unlocked, or switch off my office camera, or do loads of stuff. But when it comes down to it, it was the bastards that did this, it was their fault. That and the stupid law. If it didn't encourage such a homophobic atmosphere things like this probably wouldn't happen."

"Damn Danny, that was very erudite for someone who's just woken up with a headache," he says, kissing my hand. Ow, I wish he wouldn't, it's covered in bruises.

"Yeah, any chance I can have some painkillers in here? And stop doing that, Jack, someone might see you."

"Doesn't matter, I am now officially retired. Again. They can't do a fucking thing. Got my pension and we're off. As soon as I can spring you, we're out of here. You're moving in with me. No more hiding."

He looks happy. Good. I'm happy too. Now can I have my painkillers? Please?

At last, Jan pops something into my drip. Ha, tha's better. Hmm love this stuff.

"How was Washington?" I manage to ask.

Jack grins, "Great, Danny. You'll never guess who one of the new senators is."

"You're right, I probably won't. Enlighten me, please."

"Josh MacDonald."

"Josh? As in..."

"Oh yeah. The SGC has another friend."

"That's good. Jack, what are we going to do?"

"We're going, Danny. You'll have to trust me on this one. I think things are going to work out for the best." He turns to Janet who's just come back in with the General. "Doc? When can I spring him? I'll take good care of him, I promise."

"If it were anyone else I'd like to keep him here for a week, but I know you two. Tomorrow, but on the understanding he's confined to bed for a week."

"Oh, I think I can arrange that," Jack's leering at me.

"On his own, Jack," she warns.

"That's what I meant!" He's now trying to look innocent. Forget it Jack, you'll never manage that in a million years. "Just called Mom, she's on her way down. Good enough for you, Jan?"

"That'll do nicely Jack. I'll call in every day after work too, and you keep me on speed dial, just in case Mr. Awkward takes a turn for the worse."

Feel much better now, think I'll have a nap.

"Wake up, Daniel." What is it with these people? Don't they want me to sleep?

"Goway wanna sleep."

"Not now, Daniel. You've been asleep for a couple of days on and off. Missed your release date by a whole day, sugar. Your concussion is improving though, it's not going to kill you. Time to go home now."

"Jan? Kicking me out already?"

"Sure thing sweet cheeks. Gonna check on you later though. Up and at 'em, book boy. You're unhooked, you just need to get dressed. Do you want some help?"

"Yeah, sure, and get that leer out of your voice, Jan, it doesn't suit you any more than it suits Jack. Where is he?"

"Around, he's sorting stuff out. He's already taken all your personal effects from your office. Don't worry, he hasn't broken anything. It's all packed carefully and been taken to yours, er his, hell..."

She's stumbling over her tongue. Tripping doesn't even begin to cover it.

"Our place, Jan. I'm moving in with him. We may get somewhere else between us, somewhere new, but Jack's place has always been home for me, even before we got together." I'm not worried about his looking after my artefacts, he's actually very careful with them. He always treats my things with respect, something I've always appreciated. He's a good man, my Jack.

I'm up and carefully walking towards the door. Jan's helped me get dressed, I can't bend at all. My stomach hurts like hell. Don't care, want to go home. She's holding on to me tightly, concussion is making me dizzy. Had worse though, I can do this. The marines are outside my door.

"Dr. J, how're you doin'?"

"Hi guys, um, fine, I'll survive. Takes more than this to get me down."

"Yeah, that's what we told those bastards when we explained a few things to them. Nobody picks on a Jarhead and gets away with it."

"You didn't beat them up, did you?" Oh God, those four idiots have dropped themselves in a heap more trouble than they realised when they came into my office.

"No, Doc, no one's touched them. We just pointed out that we all know their faces, got friends on the inside, that sort of thing. One of them started mumbling something about the Colonel and targets and then started crying. Don't know what that was all about. The SAS guys have been well pissed too, specially Tiny. He watched over you till the Colonel came back from DC." He would have. Tiny, as absolutely everybody calls him, even the General, is as sweet as anything.

"So it's true, then, that you and the Colonel are leaving the SGC?"

"'Fraid so guys, we can't stay, not now. I'll take care of him," I say with a wink.

"It stinks, Doc, we're gonna miss you guys. It's true about the two of you then?"

"Um yeah, pretty recent thing but it's true," I say, feeling happy that I can admit it.

The marine shrugs, "Doesn't matter, you're a good guy Doc. If you can ever come back, the Jarheads will be waiting."

Oh fuck, I want to cry. I shake hands with them, tell them I'll miss them too. I will, funnily enough. It was the marines that made my life a living hell, for a few months, when they first got here. Now they're among my most loyal backers. Life's weird, especially at the SGC. They're accompanying me to the main corridor, don't know why, Jack'll probably be in his office. Or not...

"Jack? What's going on?" There's a huge crowd there.

"Danny! You made it. Great. I want to introduce you to someone. Senator Josh MacDonald, this is Dr. Daniel Jackson." He beams at me and puts his hand out. I tentatively give him mine because it's covered in bruises from where I hit back. He looks at my hand.

"Ouch! You would appear to have made a lasting impression," he chuckles.

"I would hope so. I'm sorry to have interrupted your briefing the other day, Jack can get a little protective."

"I know. Look, if it's all right with you, I'll pop over to see you both tonight." We agree that it would be more than fine.

I have something to say to the General so I head over to him. I want to tell him how much he has meant to me, but I can't find the words. Not now. All those languages and all I can say is 'thank you'. He nods in understanding. Then I whisper something to him, his eyes go wide and then he bursts out laughing.

"If you are sure, Daniel, then I'm positive that it can be arranged."

"Thank you, Sir, I don't want to have to go through, well, you know."

"Understood. I'll come and visit you both real soon."

"You'd better," calls Jack. "Come on Danny, Mom's waiting."

"Arrgh, why didn't you say so. We'd better hustle." Don't want to keep Mom hanging around.

"One more thing, Danny, I've always wanted to do this," Jack's very evil grin appears. Oh God no, not that.

"Jammmmffff," I try to protest but he's planting a huge kiss on me, a real brain fryer, but he's trying not to squeeze me too tightly. I fall into it, getting pretty enthusiastic on my part too. A chorus of cheers and whistles rings around the corridor. Not sure about fireworks going off, but part of me is heading for a twenty-one gun salute.

"Cut it out," I manage to say, but I can't stop myself laughing. "Remind me why I love you again?"

He doesn't answer that, he doesn't have to. He's just given his life up for me.

Daniel's face when I kissed him was a picture. One of dread at first, followed by his own evil grin. The laughter that burst out from him was worth everything. I love hearing him laugh. Everyone that was there to see us off loves it too, they were still laughing as the elevator doors shut taking SG-1 out of the building for the last time. Sam and Teal'c are coming with us, for now. Going to help me this weekend, what with the building work I've got to have finished at the house and all. Must remember to keep the noise down though, or Daniel will have my hide. He's still got that headache.

"Daniel? What did you say to Hammond?" I ask him.

"Just 'thank you.' I know, it's pretty pathetic considering all he's done, but I couldn't think of anything else to say."

"Daniel, you're evading the question. What did you whisper to him?"

"Ah, wait till we get home, please. I'll tell you there, I promise."

Teal'c's looking miserable. Can't say I blame him. Not many people can tell what he's thinking. We can, always. And I know that at the moment, he's not a happy camper.

"Cheer up Teal'c, it may never happen."

"It already has, my friend. SG-1 is no more."

Not a lot I can say to that. The elevators get us up top, the guards say their goodbyes too. Then it's off home. Carter's following us in her car, Teal'c's driving Daniel's. No other way to get everybody where they should be. Carter will take Teal'c back to the mountain when necessary.

Daniel's really quiet on the way home. I know he has tons of stuff going through his mind right now, but I'll leave him for a while. I'll get it all out of him later. The three vehicles pull up one after the other, synchronised parking la SG-1 as was. Neat.

Mom opens the door to us. I've warned her about Daniel, but her face drops when she sees him.

"Daniel! Son! What have they done to you, my boy?" He falls into her arms, trying to hold back the tears.

"They won, Mom, I let them win," he sniffs.

"Never, my love, nobody beats an O'Neill. Come on, let's get you in." I like that, she called him an O'Neill. Funny, she's a Flanagan herself.

We all go in and Mom hustles Daniel up to our bedroom. I follow them, he's going to need help getting into his night clothes. As she helps him to sit I pull out a clean pair of sweats and a T for him. He's so far out of it that he doesn't complain when I take his shirt off him. The bruises on his body are exposed for the first time to us. He doesn't have any clear skin on his chest at all.

"Oh Daniel, what have they done?" Mom says again. The despair in her voice is heartbreaking. I shoo her out so I can help him finish getting changed.

"I'll put the kettle on," she says as she leaves. Daniel manages a smile for her before finally breaking down and sobbing his heart out.

"I'm so sorry, Jack, I've cost you everything. I'm sorry, sorry," he keeps repeating. He's not the only one crying here, can't hold the tears back myself.

"Not cost me anything, Danny. You are everything to me, never forget that. Besides, it's not over yet, we've got a new fight on our hands. Gonna get the law changed, you see if we don't."

"They were right, I shouldn't have been with you, not you."

"Dammit Danny, they were completely wrong. You're the hero around here, always have been. I love you, I couldn't care less about my job. It's you that matters, only you."

I slide his pants down and see that his legs match his chest - oh, and his back. He looks like an Impressionist painting. I can't see any clear skin on him, not anywhere. Even his neck is bruised. I recognise some of those marks, they obviously tied something around his neck. How he found the strength to fight back I don't know.

"Daniel, you amaze me, you know? I can see what they did to you, babe. You won, remember, you beat them. How did you overcome them? How?"

"Teal'c came in at the right time, couldn't hold on. I was losing it, Jack, it was all going black. I tried, didn't want to die. Promised you I'd never leave you, didn't I? Keep my promises, I do."

Somehow, I don't know how, I get him dressed and in bed. He's exhausted. Before he dozes off he pulls me close.

"Jack, love you."

"Love you, Danny, never forget. Hey, what did you say to Hammond?" He grins and whispers before sleep claims him. You sneaky bastard, Daniel.

I go downstairs, the others are waiting for me.

"He's gone to sleep, he's shattered." I go to pieces, I can't hold out now. I'm shaking like a leaf, worse than I was at the infirmary. Mom hands are shaking as she passes me a cup of tea. Carter, no I must call her Sam now, she's wrapped me up in her arms, she's crying too. None of us can stand it when he gets hurt, especially when it is so unnecessary.

Gotta pull myself together, won't help him if I'm falling apart.

"Teal'c. Daniel said you saved him, came just in time. Can't thank you enough, my friend, can't find the words."

"Thanks are not required, O'Neill. I just wish I had arrived earlier."

"Can't be helped, Teal'c, you got there when it mattered, that's enough."

"I wish I'd stayed with him. I should have insisted," Sam's complaining. We all tell her that it wasn't her fault either.

Mom did a double take when I called Teal'c by his real name. She's always thought he was called Murray. She hasn't said anything though, I doubt she will. Tough, the powers that be can go to hell. The T man is family, my Mom should be able to call him by his given name.

"So," she says, "have we all gotten over the self-recrimination trips now? It's not going to help Daniel recover, you know. What he needs is lots of TLC and practical support. The last thing he's going to want to have to do is support you lot because you're beating yourselves up over something that wasn't your fault."

You know, there are times when having a shrink for a mom is quite useful. She's not like Mac the Quack, either. She's one of the, 'pick yourself up, dust yourself down and damned well get on with it,' types, giving practical advice when needed, and not asking about your toilet training or how much you wanted to fuck your parents. (I'm really glad about the last bit - I mean, euw, just 'no!') Added to that, she has a propensity for cuddling when appropriate. I wonder who she passed that last trait on to?

I start to laugh and they look at me as if I've gone mad.

"Before he dropped off, Daniel told me what he'd said to the General. He doesn't want to press charges." I see the looks on their faces, but I understand Daniel's thought processes. He hasn't said as much, but I know this is what he thought. "Look, if they go to court martial, he's going to have to go and give evidence. He doesn't want to do that. He's been the victim too many times. Not to mention the whole sorry saga will come out and Daniel will not drag my name through the court. He has, however, made a compromise suggestion. He asked that Hammond transfer them." There's expectation in their eyes and I can't wait to see their faces when I tell them where.

"Put us out of our misery, Jack," Sam urges.

"McMurdo," I say. Teal'c and Sam fall about laughing. "Antarctica, Mom, we have a research station there. He wants them to go there for two years. They'll soon learn how necessary it is to snuggle up with their fellow servicemen."

Mom grins from ear to ear. "Ah, he's a devious little bugger. I'm so proud of my baby boy." Yeah, Mom, I'm proud too. And don't think I'm missing what you're calling him, either. Thanks, it means so much to me that you accept him as your own.

We're making arrangements for moving Danny's stuff over when there's a knock on the door.

"Josh, welcome, come on in," I say as he steps over the threshold.

"Mary!" he calls out to Mom. She never got him to call her Mom, guess she knew that we weren't permanent. She does, however, hug the shit out of him.

Sam and Teal'c only know him as a friend from the Academy, it's not my place to out people. He looks at them, then me, then he nods. I've just been given permission.

"Sam, Teal'c, you've been introduced to Senator MacDonald, let me introduce you to Josh. We were at the Academy together, er, um, roommates," I say. The light dawns on them and he gets a wry grin from them. Nuff said.

"Where's Daniel?" he asks.

"Out cold," I say, "tucked up in bed. He's one big bruise, Josh, head to foot. Not to mention the new scar on his stomach."

"Poor kid," he murmurs, getting mumbles from the rest of us.

"Josh, he may look like a kid, but for God's sake, and your own, don't call him one to his face. He hates it. He's got two PhDs for crying out loud, you don't get them with packets of Wheeties you know."

Sam snorts. "Oh God, I wish it had been that easy. Actually, it probably was for Daniel. Jack? Have you ever found a time when he stops thinking?"

"Er, yeah, but nothing I want to discuss, okay?" That gets a snigger from them all, especially Mom. Huh.

"Well, Jack..." Josh settles back with a whisky that's suddenly appeared in his hand, Mom's doing I think. "...The excrement has well and truly been distributed by an aeration device. Our allies," he says carefully, "at least the ones that Sam is most familiar with, have come calling and are demanding that the two of you be reinstated in your previous posts. General Carter was most insistent." His eyes are smiling. You know, we might actually win this one in the end.

"Of course," he continues, "the JCS, Congress, the Senate, yadda, have to agree, change the rules and so on and so forth. If you hadn't pulled off that stunt just before you left the building, we may have been able to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. That is no longer possible." He's grinning like an idiot. He didn't want to sweep it under the carpet. We want this to go the whole way.

"Teal'c, I believe that you called on a few friends the other day, the General for example."

"I did indeed," he says. So that's where he was, rounding up allies. Way to go Teal'c. I raise my glass to him and he recognises my acknowledgement of his idea. "I also visited our other allies, including the Scandinavian contingent as well as my own." Ah, of course, the Asgard and Bratac. Smart thinking.

"Did you manage to convince them?"

"I believe I did, though both sides feel that the law is barbaric and were both considering pulling out of the alliance. I am led to understand that this position will be explained, most thoroughly, to General Hammond. I did not have time to meet our Babylonian friends, though I believe that it may become useful to attempt the trip."

"Oh yeah," I say, this gets better and better.

A groaning noise comes from above so I shoot up the stairs.

"Daniel! Are you all right?"

"No, gonna hurl," he moans. He's trying to sit but the pain from his stitches is too much. I grab him, virtually carry him to the bathroom. He gets his head down the toilet just in time.

"I hate fuckin' concussion," he says in-between retches.

Mom appears at the door. "Daniel, sweetheart, I've got some ginger ale for you, it should help settle your stomach. I used to use it for morning sickness."

"I'm not pregnant," he complains.

"It's good for nausea, you daft thing." He's making her laugh even now. "Come on, sip it slowly, you'll feel better. It'll help clean your mouth out too."

He does what he's told, sitting on the floor, wrapped inside my arms. Mom wipes his face with a damp cloth. Poor Danny, he's never been cosseted so much in his life. He doesn't know what to do.

"Just lie there, Danny, keep still till it passes. That's it," I say. He looks up at me, blinking his unfocussing eyes at me. He looks so young when he's like this, not much more than a kid. He's a grown man, for crying out loud. What is it about him that brings out the protective instincts of those that love him? He nuzzles his head into my chest and dozes back off to sleep.

"Mom," I whisper, "could you ask Teal'c to come up and help me put him back to bed?"

"What happened to 'Murray'?" she asks with a wink.

"Mom, you know I can't tell you stuff, even though I want to. You're not supposed to know his real name, just be glad you do, huh?"

"I'll be back in a minute, son."

I feel lousy, still relying on Mom at my age, but she seems to enjoy being needed. I wish she'd been the base psych, more people would have spilled their guts to her than to the Quack any day. Wonder if I can get Thor to insist on it?

Ugh, my head. Still hurts. Hang on, last thing I remember I'm upchucking and being mollycoddled by the Irish contingent. How come I'm back in bed? Bet that'll have something to do with the Jaffa element. What time is it? 6 p.m. There's laughter downstairs. I hate being left out of stuff. I can do this; managed it when the old appendix came out. There. Ow, ow, ow, fuck, fuck, ow! Up. Knew I could do it. Good, got clothes on, fairly decent I suppose. Slowly, Daniel, you can do this. Stairs, hum, yeah, I can really do this if I hold on tightly to the bannister. Move your hand down the rail, Daniel, leaving your hands behind at the top isn't an option.

"Daniel! What are you doing up?" Oh hi, Mom. Oops, gonna get it now, better play the little boy card.

"Didn't want to be alone," I mumble. She fusses around me, calling to Jack who's coming running out of the room. He shakes his head as he helps me down the last few steps.

"What am I going to do with you, Daniel?"

"I have a few ideas, but you'll have to wait till the bruising goes down before you get to try them out," I say. He snorts and Mom laughs.

"Glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humour," she says.

"I wasn't kidding," I say back. Jack's blushing a bit now.

We head into the living room. Jack throws Teal'c off the sofa, but he allows Sam to stay. I've got a job for her.

"Daniel, feet?" she asks. I nod as I lie down, my head on Jack's lap, my feet on hers. Sam gives the most relaxing foot massage you have ever had. Love it.

"Thanks, babe, that's wonderful," I say, getting a huge smile from her.

"Now you see what I was saying Josh? I've never had a team like this one before. How many seconds give foot rubs? Not that I ever got any, Samantha," he's teasing her.

"That's because you were my CO, Jack. Daniel's my baby bro. He can have all the foot rubs he wants."

"Thanks sis," I say back to her, "I'll give you that back rub when I can stand up without fainting."

"You'll be held to that one."

Josh finishes off the story he was telling about him and Jack.

"So, there we were, in the back of beyond, tired as hell, desperate for a leak and this private was cleaning out the toilets. Jack yells at him to hurry on up, threatening him with dire consequences if he doesn't. This private turns around, looks at him, says, 'Lieutenant. I'm a private, I'm shovelling shit from drains in a latrine in Greenland. The temperature is cold enough to freeze my balls off. Tell me, what punishment can you give me that's worse than this?'."

We all crack up at that. What indeed?

"So, Daniel, are you going to tell us what happened?" It's Mom, oh fuck, you can't keep anything from her. It's like being given sodium pentathol with the O'Neills. They ask and you spill. Can't help it.

"Not much to tell, Mom," I say, Jack's friend's eyebrows do a Teal'c when I call her that. "There were four of them, they came in, mouthed off at me and beat me up. I hit back. Pretty much all there is to it. They were a bunch of amateurs, I hate to say, especially surrounded by all these Air Force-types, but they weren't very good at it. I've been beaten up by better jerks than them. Pretty embarrassing really that they could even hospitalise me."

"You hospitalised them, Daniel, all four of them."

"Nah, just three, Teal'c got the last one, just in time too. Thanks for that Teal'c. As usual, your timing was impeccable."

"I am just sorry I wasn't there before, Daniel," he says.

"Me too. Don't sweat it, the bruising'll go down in a couple of days. Besides, it got a lot of people good and mad, hopefully it will have forced the issue."

There's a knock on the door. What is this place, a meeting house? Oh, it's Janet. I'm going to get it for being downstairs. And the General. And Paul. Good God, we'll have to move somewhere bigger just to get enough seats in.

"Hi guys," I say, hoping that Janet won't get mad at me in front of the General.

"How are you feeling, son?"

"I'm fine, Sir, a lot better than I was. I've not long woken up," I add. See Jan, I am sleeping.

She's glaring at me but not saying much. Paul wants to get closer to me, I can tell, but because the General's here he won't. George wouldn't say anything. I put my hand out to him. "Help me sit up, Paul, we need to create some space on the sofa."

He takes my hand and gently pulls me up. George sort of knows about him anyway, but I never told Paul that. It keeps him acting straight in front of him, which is a good thing for now.

"Of course, you haven't met Jack's mother have you? General George Hammond, Major Paul Davis, this is Dr. Mary O'Neill." George and Paul do a double take at the word 'doctor'. Well, she is, worked damned hard to get it, she deserves the respect.

"I'm very pleased to meet you at last," says Paul. "I've heard a lot about you." His eyes are twinkling.

George on the other hand is smitten. Mom's only a couple of years older than him, he's nearer to retirement than he likes to admit to. She's seventy years-old and still very beautiful. Jack looks like her.

"I'm honoured to meet the woman that survived Jack as a teenager," he says, taking her hand and not looking away from her eyes. She's gotten the same look that Jack gets when I'm flirting with him. It's so cute. Wow, Mom and George. Actually, they'd be perfect for each other.

"Funnily enough," she says, "Jack was the easiest teenager of the lot. Patrick was the worst."

"Patrick?" I ask, astounded.

"Oh yeah," Jack says, "he was one warning away from some serious jail time at one point. Got into a gang and everything. He's only two years older than me, I saw a lot of what he was doing."

"That's what you meant when you said he'd done a lot of things?" I ask Mom. She nods, grinning.

"Suppose it makes sense, I wasn't the easiest of teenagers."

"You're not the easiest of adults," Jack says.

"Jack. Why should your brother being a tearaway be such a surprise?" It's George doing the asking.

Jack's laughing. He goes over to the mantelpiece and pulls a picture down. He proudly shows it to George and the others who are crowding around. It's of all of us, a neighbour was called in to take it.

"Taken last year when we went to Chicago. That's my family. That's Bridie and Reuben, she's my sister, their kids, Em and Joe and Em's hubby David and my great niece Katherine. And that," he points to Pat, "is my big brother Patrick." He's got the dog collar on. An understanding 'ah' goes up around the room.

"Now you see why I'm surprised." I say with a laugh.

"Mary, what are you a doctor of?" Paul asks. Jack and I crack up.

"I'm a doctor of child psychology," she replies, grinning from ear to ear.

"Mom would be perfect for the base, George. She'd sort out all the psych problems much quicker than Mac the Quack any day."

"Mac the Quack?" Mom says, laughing out loud at his nickname.

"Yeah," I say, a little bitterly, "he's useless. Can't tell his Id from his elbow."

Janet's sniggering. After our 'little problem' she resolved to keep me away from him. She lost all faith in his abilities when he still insisted I was barmy even though the virus had been found. Perhaps I am.

"So," says Jack, settling back down on the sofa next to me and wrapping his arm gently around my shoulder. "What's happened back at the base?"

"Well, Jack," George says, "the President wants to know what the hell is going on. The JCS are doing their nut at being blackmailed, Bratac turned up and threatened to take Teal'c away from us, and then Jacob came and said that if it wasn't sorted out and soon we'd lose their support. I told the President your terms for returning and he's not a happy camper. However, I think he'd rather face the Houses and tell them to change the law than to lose you two."

"It's Daniel they want back," Jack says.

"It's both of you, Jack. Don't put yourself down. No other CO could have led these three the way you have."

"I wouldn't have gone out in the field with another CO," I say, "not from the start. Besides, Jack was the only one at the beginning that would take me on his team. Without him, there would be no SG-1."

"I'm withdrawing from the field," says Sam. "I wouldn't be happy on another team."

"And I am returning to Bratac if you do not return," says Teal'c.

"See, Jack? We're a team, the four of us. No other CO can handle us, Makepeace proved that. God, he was a complete jerk. The others, they're good at what they do, but we're different, not like the others. Do you know of any other CO that could handle me?" Go on, Jack, you have to believe me.

"Probably not," he grins, "though I'd bet that John McWilliams would give it a good go."

"He's a great guy," I say, "a fair man. We'd have been fair on him, but he wouldn't have been you. I doubt that we'd have accomplished half of what we've done without you."

Teal'c and Sam agree wholeheartedly. "Come on Jack, how many other COs would listen to me prattle on about physics?"

"How many would trust me the way you have?" asks Teal'c.

"It's quite simple, Jack," I say. "Individually, other COs can put up with us for a while, the odd mission here and there. As a team, forget it. They can't handle us. You can. You're very good at your job, you know."

"Nobody should have to handle you lot at all, you should just do as you're told."

"That applies to Sam, not me and not Teal'c. Sam's job is to follow where her CO goes. Teal'c and I follow you because we choose to. I don't choose to follow others."

"Neither do I," adds Teal'c.

I see that the others in the room are silent and listening into this conversation. No matter how close they are to us, nobody else has ever really worked out why we work together.

Jack's smiling now, I think he's finally gotten it. You're not expendable Jack, never have been.

"What I don't understand," says Mom, "is how, if you are all so awkward, you were allowed to join this project, group, or whatever it is. Don't worry George, it's the one thing I've never gotten out of either of my boys, they won't let on. All I know is that it is good and it is very important. I'm taking them at their word on that one."

George answers, carefully. "Mary, they are right. The project we're involved in is the most important thing in the history of the planet. It is good. It is also very dangerous. The reasons we need the four of them together are manifold, but suffice it to say, each one of them has talents not possessed by anyone else. Individually they are all very special. Together, they are phenomenal, you know, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. They work well together, better than any team I have ever seen in my career. They bounce off each other, figure stuff out. It's a thinking team. There is no question of Jack being replaced as head of SG-1. And as for the others, they couldn't be replaced, they're unique."

"If they are unique, surely you should keep them under wraps, protect them from danger." She's got a good point, but it's not possible.

"I agree," says George - see, I said it was a good point - "but we need them in the field. That's where their talents are put to best use. I just keep praying that they come back. More often than not, Dr. Frasier here is needed."

"Jan's put me back together more times than I can count, Mom. She goes onto automatic standby every time we head out."

"Daniel's got a bed with his name on it," she retorts. "I keep it clear until he comes home. Jack's chair is right next to it. You know, guys, I should have had you figured years ago."

"That would have been great," says Jack, "perhaps you could have told us about it. Took us long enough."

"True," I say, "but I doubt we'd have worked out so well if we hadn't gone through everything first."

Jack's about to reply when all of a sudden there's a bright light in the room behind us. We turn around to look and Mom lets out a yell. George holds her hand quickly.

"Thor! Buddy, nice of you to drop in," says Jack. "Come over here. You know most people here, don't you? Have you met Paul?" He points to Davis.

"No, O'Neill, I have not," Thor replies.

"Well then, this is Major Davis, this here is Senator Josh MacDonald and here," he points to Mom, "is Mary O'Neill, my mother."

"I am pleased to meet you," Thor says, blinking wildly. I don't think he's ever been in a room with so many humans so close to him before. "I understand that we have a problem with the alliance," he says.

George quickly explains the problem. Thor listens, blinks and says, "I see. It is possible for us to withdraw Earth from the Protected Planets Treaty." Jack's about to say something but I nudge him. No time for sarcasm Jack, I know it hasn't been worth much. "I would like to be able to speak to your president, but I feel that dropping in on him unannounced may not go down very well."

"Probably not, Thor," I say. "We could arrange something." I feel sick and dizzy all of a sudden and let out a moan.

"Daniel? Are you all right?"

"'Sokay, Jan, just a bit sick. It hits me in waves."

"Lie down," she orders, kicking everyone off the couch. "Just take steady breaths, it will pass."

"What is wrong?" asks Thor.

Jack tells him.

"I can remedy this easily," he says. "Would you like me to?"

"Please," I say, trying not to sound too enthusiastic. "Can Mom come too?"

Thor blinks and Jack, Mom and I are transported up to his ship in orbit.

While Thor's sorting Daniel out, I show Mom Earth from orbit. She's shaking like a leaf.

"It's okay, Mom, Thor's a friend. Do you remember the stories of the Vikings with the Asgard?" She nods.

"Well, these are they. I know he doesn't look like it, they use holograms apparently, but this really is Thor, leader of the Asgard fleet. He's a pal of mine." She looks up at me, stunned.

"You know aliens?"

"So do you, you've met Teal'c. He's not from Earth. Neither is Cassie, by the way. We travel to other planets. Daniel figured out the gate that we use. Don't ask me how it works, it just does. It creates a wormhole between two gates. We dial an address, fire it up, step through it, and after a wild ride we end up on another planet. Daniel's wife, Shau're, was on the first planet we went to. She was given to him."

"And he accepted?"

"She'd have been driven from the society if he had rejected her. Mom, you realise you can never say anything to anyone about this, don't you?"

"Who'd believe me anyway? I'd end up as that cranky old woman who thinks she's been abducted by aliens. No thanks, I'll keep the secret, I promise."

Daniel comes up to us. He's got no bruises now, and he's looking better than he did before. I have an idea. Leaving him to talk to Mom I go to find Thor.

"O'Neill, he is better now."

"Thanks Thor, he was in a lot of pain."

"I am glad to have been of assistance. Tell me, how may I help now?"

"Teal'c explained the law to you, didn't he?"

"He did. It is unjust."

"Yeah, we think so too. If you personally explain it to the President and the Joint Chiefs, perhaps we can push for the law to be changed. Do you have one of those communication devices handy?"

"I do. Here." He gives one to me. I dial it up and call home.

"Hi guys," I say to the gathering at my place. "Paul, Josh, can you organise an emergency meeting of the President and the Joint Chiefs? Now would be a good time to do it. Thor wants to have a word with them."

"Call us back in five, Jack," says Josh as he dives for the phone.

"Now we wait," I say to Thor.

I return to the others, Mom's being cuddled by Daniel, still out of it with shock, I think.

"It's so peaceful," she says, "so beautiful. Nothing like the reality."

"It's not the only planet like that. Many of them look like ours, but in reality, humanity has a tendency to screw things up given half a chance. There are some species out there, some alien races that have got it right."

"The Nox," I say with a smile.

"Oh yeah, you'd love the Nox, Mom. They'd call you a child. They live for hundreds of years. They're small, dress like wood nymphs and appear really helpless and innocent."

"And they beat the pants off you," she says with a smile.

"In as many words. Except they are totally pacifistic. I love them. That's a thought, Jack, I haven't seen Lya for a long time. I'd love to go back there."

"We'll have to wait and see," I say to him. Who knows? Maybe one day.

"O'Neill. What are you going to do if the law is not changed?" Thor's making his way over to us, at least Mom's stopped freaking every time he looks at her.

"I see a lot of fishing in my future," I say.

"I see a new career," says Daniel. "You're too young to retire. I think you should go back to college, get a teaching qualification. I can see you as a fantastic high school English teacher."

I start to laugh, but Danny's not joking. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Absolutely. Jack, you'd be wonderful at it, trust me on that one. It's something I know about. You'd hold the kids' attention. I can just see you, reading Shakespeare, getting them to act it out, having fun doing it. They'd love you."

Wow. Must admit it had never crossed my mind before. It's a thought. Thor, however, seems to have other plans.

"I can take you and your team to another world, you could work from there, O'Neill. Unfortunately, the high school children of whom you speak will have to wait. You are needed in the fight against the Goa'uld."

"Who are the, what did you call them?" asks Mom.

"The Goa'uld," says Danny, pronouncing it carefully.

"Snakeheads," I say. I give her a quick rundown on the snakes and she looks worried.

"Now you see why, Mom, we have to be in the field."

"Your son and his team have proved most effective," says Thor. He's a bit like Selmac. Once he was happy to see the status quo, but now he's a bit happier about just wiping them out. Mom's bristling with pride.

The five minutes are up. I call home.

"Jack, tell Thor that a meeting has been called. The President has managed to get a number of the Joint Chiefs and the relevant senators on their way. Give them ten minutes and you can pop in."

"Thanks Josh, tell them to have all Secret Service men out of the room. I don't want any scared goon starting to fire on us. Which room will they be in?"

Josh tells us, I know the one, it was the one we had the meeting in the other day.

"So, you are telling me," says Mom, "that my son can tell the President himself to hold meetings."

"Mom," Daniel says, taking her away for a minute. "Jack answers only to George. George answers to the JCS and the President. That's it. No other general could order Jack around. George's orders took priority."

"And you?"

"Nobody orders Daniel to do anything, Mom. He ignores you if you do."

"Jack does. I listen to him, usually. When we go out into the field, his job is to get us out, help us do our jobs and get us home. He's good at that. My job, apart from the archaeological and linguistic work, is to give Jack options. The others give him military ones, when to fight, retreat, etc. I give him diplomatic solutions. It's up to Jack to decide which one is the most appropriate. Now, sometimes, I get a bit carried away with what I see is the right thing to do. Sometimes Jack does too. We balance each other. He asks me to do stuff, and if I think it's right, I'll do it. If Jack orders me to do something, I will, because I know he's seen something that I haven't. As far as other people ordering me, I'm not military, they can't. I obey George because I have every respect for him. I know he won't order me to do anything that isn't necessary."

Mom considers this for a while. She's beginning to understand us now. I'm really glad she knows now, so that if I ever have to disappear, she'll realise why and comprehend the reasons for it.

Ten minutes are up. I'm still in my jeans and shirt, hardly clothes fit for a meeting with the President, but tough, he'll have to take me as I come.

"Thor, send me down first, then I'll call you to come down." I don't want them shooting, just in case we end up in the wrong room.

Thor sends Mom and Daniel home, then it's my turn.

Wow, I'll never get used to that. "Mr President, gentlemen," I say, "just checking that we've gotten the right co-ordinates." I switch on the communicator and tell Thor to come down.

The President and the Joint Chiefs have never met Thor. I thought the little guy's eyes bugged out a lot, they're nothing compared to the men in the room. I'm looking at a lot of shocked people here.

"Eh, hem," I clear my throat, trying to stop them staring.

"Thor, this is the President and these are the leaders of the Armed Forces of our country. Gentlemen, this is Thor, Supreme Leader of the Asgard Fleet." My buddy.

They mumble welcomes to him. He blinks. He does that a lot, I notice.

"You will change your law," he says. No need to say which one. "The Asgard will only deal with O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. If you do not change your law and reinstate O'Neill, the Asgard will withdraw Earth from the Protected Planets Treaty. You will be on your own. With Anubis building his fleet, I can assure you that this would not be wise." Ooh, nice move, Thor, threaten them with annihilation, always a crowd-pleaser.

"It's not that easy," one of the generals says. "There's the question of morale in the armed forces."

"General," I put in, "my team has happily followed me through the gate for the last year, knowing I'm gay. The marines, for crying out loud, were nearly sobbing because Daniel won't be there anymore. There's hardly anyone at the SGC who can give a damn about the other members' sexuality. Some of the Brits and Canadians there are openly gay. I don't mean flouncing around the base or holding hands. It's not how you think it is. When Daniel got the crap kicked out of him, it wasn't because he was seen to be a threat to the morale of the place or because they thought he'd pounce on them in the showers. They thought that he was a threat to me, because of the stupid law. They couldn't see the man. If the law wasn't there, the simmering homophobic atmosphere that can pervade places like that would go away. With no threat of court martial hanging over people's heads morale would improve. It's worked for other countries, it can work for us too. You can change things. You have the power. I'd listen to Thor, if I were you, the threat from the Goa'uld is greater now than it ever was. Anubis' pal is Osiris, and he's got a huge grudge against us. They are coming. Sooner rather than later."

We had one supporter in the crowd. "I understand, Colonel, that you and Daniel Jackson, along with the other members of your team have saved Earth on a number of occasions."

"Yes, Sir," I say. "Daniel told us about the threat of the first invasion. My team, along with Master Bratac, disposed of the ships. Major Carter's idea helped us with Thor's problem, and Daniel and Carter figured out how to get the Goa'uld-sent asteroid past the Earth without it hitting us. There have been other incidents in which either my team or parts of it have been instrumental in stopping disaster."

"I take it that I'm correct to assume that your sexuality has never been a problem while dealing with these potential disasters?"

"You are correct."

Thor looks up at me, then over to the others. "I will return in two of your weeks. If your law has not been changed by then, Earth is on its own. O'Neill, we should go."

"Okay, buddy," I say. See, him and me, pals, we can work together. He can't and won't work with you. "Hey, Thor, got any info on Anubis?"

"Plenty." There's a flash of white and we're back on his ship.



I fall about. For someone with no apparent ability to laugh, he's got a great sense of humour.

"You can go home now, I will return in two weeks."

"Thanks, Thor, I really appreciate your help."

He blinks again and I'm home.

It's been a week since we left the SGC. The news is full of the fact that the President is trying to change the law and that some of Congress and the Senate are up in arms. The JCS are being remarkably quiet on the whole subject. Every time a congressman or senator speaks out, he's taken to one side by the President and told to can it. At least that's the info we're getting from Josh. He and Paul are 'working together' a lot.

I hope that things work out between them. They're both political animals, both Democrats, you never know, it might. They'd be good for each other.

As for Jack and me, things are pretty much perfect. We're reasonably certain that by this time next week we'll be back at the SGC. As it is, we can go out, not worrying if anyone sees us together, we can even hold hands when we want. Not that we do that much, we're not that sappy.

Mom has decided to move here from Chicago. George is smitten, totally gone on her. She's more than a bit interested in him too. Instead of her house hunting, she's taken over the lease on the loft. She loves it up there. We're happy because it means we can keep an eye on her, without it looking like it too.

Jack's had some work done to his, no, our house. He converted his attic into a study for me, all my shelves and books and my desk are there. It's my haven to read in peace when he's watching his game as retreating to the roof and his telescope is his when I'm watching a documentary. We're settling into a quiet life together. I'm enjoying it. Wasn't one hundred percent sure that I could manage having someone around all the time, without having my own place to hide in. This is working. Mind, it's only been a week.

We're keeping fit, hoping to return to work soon. That's why we're running in the park now.

"Hold up, Danny," Jack's puffing. "The knee's starting to hurt."

"Perhaps you should ask Thor to fix it when you see him next."

"Sounds good. Pity Jan didn't fix it when she fixed the other one. Come on, there's a tree over there which has a shade with my name on it."

I stop by a kiosk in the park to pick up a couple of bottles of water on the way over to the big oak. He's already there, collapsed under it.

"Here," I say, "drink this."

Considering it's only late February it's fairly warm today. At least the snow's gone. I fucking hate the snow. Jack on the other hand hates deserts with a vengeance.

I'm propping myself up against the trunk and Jack's laying his head on my lap. This is what all of this has been about. Him and me, out, together, just being us. We're not having sex in public, or disgracing the Air Force with lewd and indecent acts; we're just us, together.

"Jack! Daniel!" Oh, hi, it's Ferretti. Jack sits up and waves him over.

"Hi Lou, how's it going?"

"Great, guys," he comes over with his dog. Not too close to me, please, allergies. Pity, I like dogs. Jack loves them. Just can't have one.

"Have you heard the news?"

"Well," says Jack, "that really would depend on what the news was."

"The JCS have agreed to the change. The President is really pushing it. This is going to be the fastest peacetime policy change in history. You guys should be proud of yourselves."

Jack and I knock our water bottles together in celebration.

"How does everyone feel about this, back there? When I saw the President and the JCS I told them that they wouldn't mind, but I'm not completely sure." Jack looks a little worried.

"Don't sweat it, Jack. There's no one there that wouldn't walk through fire for you. That's what swung it. Some of the JCS came down two days ago. Hammond was getting it in the neck because morale is really low. We'd just had a few really good missions, stuff going right. The place should be buzzing, but everyone's just going through the motions. One of the generals stopped some of the marines, asked what was up. They said that the place wasn't the same without you two and they wanted you back. I think they miss you Daniel."

"Now you see, that's what I've never understood, guys. I mean, I'm a civilian, everyone calls me a geek, but for some reason, way back when, a couple of marines decided they liked me. Since then it's been Daniel 'Jarhead' Jackson. Not that I'm complaining, I'm just confused. Never wanted to insult them by asking why."

Lou's laughing. "Daniel, you're one of the few people that treat them like they've got brains. Marines don't have a great rep for thinking, but that doesn't stop you treating them like they can. They're not as dumb as they're supposed to be, but that doesn't stop those in the other branches teasing them. You don't. They like that."

"Oh." Never thought to treat them any differently.

Jack lays back down, snuggling up on my lap.

"You guys look happy," says Lou.

"We are," I say quietly, "I've never been happier in my life."

"Same here," says Jack.

"That's what I can't figure out, I mean, you two, apart from the job, you've got nothing in common." Lou's a touch perplexed.

"We've got lots in common, actually, Lou," I say. "It's not just in the job, but Jack and I feel the same way about a lot of things. Sure, he's not interested in the same things that I am, but that doesn't matter. When we watch the news, we rarely disagree on how we react to an item. We have the same sense of humour, pretty much, we enjoy doing stuff together. We've done loads of things outside the SGC for years, long before we got together. Okay, I don't like ice hockey, but I love playing street hockey. We run together, can usually find a film we both want to see. Jack likes reading more than he'll admit to. As for the things we don't have in common, we compromise. Always have done. I hate fishing, but if we go, I'll sit and read while Jack fishes. Works out nicely. That sort of thing. Don't tell me you and your wife agree on everything."

"God no, I'd love us to agree on anything sometimes. I can see what you're saying. It's just you both fight so much at the SGC."

"That's just work, Lou," says Jack, "when we get home, we leave it behind, find something we don't want to fight about. We're not saying we don't fight at home, we do, it's just it doesn't matter."

"Can be fun," I say, trying out my own leer.

"That it can, Danny, that it can."

"Come on, stuff to do," I say, "boring housework." I wink. He gets the picture.

We say goodbye to Lou and head off home.

As we crash through the door, Jack grabs me and pulls me close.

"Daniel, you are a fucking tease. I saw that look. How Ferretti didn't notice my hard-on the second you gave it to me I don't know."

"There's a good chance he did," I joke. He growls, I yelp and leg it to the bedroom.

He trips me up and we drop onto the bed. Our clothes are off faster than ever. I want him now. Forget foreplay, our whole life together has been foreplay. If I don't get off now I'm going to burst.

"On your back, Jack," I order. He gives me a defiant look.

"On yours, Daniel."

"Fine, you want it like that? You can have it like that." I grab the lube, grease up my fingers, yank him onto my lap and go to work.

"If you can hold on, Jack, you can have me too," I whisper. No chance, he'll never make it. He's letting out cries as my fingers go to work. I hit the sweet spot and his yell gets louder. I'm going for it now, he's sliding down my prick, taking all of me in. Now he's there he's giving off feral vibes. I love him when he's like this, dangerous. It's a real rush of adrenaline. Oh yeah, babe, just like that. I can see he's fighting the urge to just go for it and let himself come. He wants me too. He can have me, just as soon as I... aH YES!

"God Jack, you are fucking fantastic."

He slips off me, my turn. No finesse, no tenderness. He greases me up and slips in. Hard, harder, oh yeah, just fuck me Jack, please. Need you babe, faster, harder, oh God more.

We collapse in each other's arms, panting through complete exhaustion. I love him so much I can physically feel it, it makes my chest tighten. It's nearly making me cry.

"Danny? Did I hurt you?"

", just love you, Jack, love you so much."

"Aw Danny, me too. Even if we haven't pulled this law thing off, it would be worth it, just to be with you."

"I think so too," I say. "Come on, we need a shower. We stink."

Another week has passed, Thor's deadline. We're called into the SGC to meet with him. Sam's there at the top, waiting to sign us in.

"Hey guys," she says, giving both of us a hug. "Missed you."

"Missed you too. Have you been busy?"

"Yeah, rushed off our feet with diplomatic wranglings. Poor Paul has been back and forth between DC and here so often he's forgetting where he is. It's happening, really happening. Apart from a few, very few, dissenters, everyone's glad it's all going to be over."

Just before the elevator door opens, Jack reaches over and squeezes my hand. We don't want to walk through the corridors holding hands, that wasn't the point. We just don't want to have to hide the fact that we're together.

We drop our hands to our sides and step out. Hammond's there, waiting for us.

"Congratulations, gentlemen, you've pulled it off. Jack, I've been officially ordered to offer you reinstatement as full colonel with no black marks on your record. So, if you'll accept, I'd like you to immediately retake your place as leader of SG-1. Daniel, your job, of course, is open to you. If you want to come back, that is. I couldn't blame you if you never wanted to step foot inside this place again."

Jack looks at me, grins and says, "We'd be honoured to serve under you again, General. Daniel's not bothered about being here."

"As long as Jack's here," I add.

George is beaming, Sam hugs me again and Teal'c has just appeared around the corner.

"Today is a good day," he says. "SG-1 are together again."

"Yes, it is Teal'c," says Jack. "We've come home."