secrets and spies
Summary: A blast from Paul's past throws him into confusion.
Thanks as ever to Joy for the beta. You're a star, hun.
"We're getting nothing from the mountain. Ever since that cock-up in New York, they've shut down tighter than a battleship in a typhoon. We've got to get something out of them or else the powers that be will wonder if we can do anything at all."
"How're we going to do that?" The uniformed man strode across the room as he spoke and looked out at the barren landscape from the small, shuttered window.
"We need someone on the inside."
"We tried that, if you remember."
"How about blackmail? Isn't that Davis character living with Jackson?"
"It's not exactly news. Everyone there knows it and no one cares, apparently. The good Doctor is well-protected by his team, pretty well-liked by some of the heavies too. Davis enjoys that protection by association. Not to mention he's one of Hammond's brightest stars."
"So, we'll need someone else."
"I think I have the perfect man for the job."
"Yeah. They won't know what hit them."
Paul Davis came down the ramp with a grimace on his face. His latest mission had been accomplished; the captured SG team he'd been sent to negotiate for had been released, but it had been a tough couple of days. Eduardo, his right-hand man when it came to security even though he was the lowest ranked there, had had his finger on the trigger the entire time, ready to shoot his way out. Something about the natives had put SG-9 on edge. It was bad enough that they had taken SG-4 prisoner, but they'd said something about having past dealings with the Tauri. Paul couldn't get any more out of them about it, but he was almost certain that they had been talking about the rogue NID group that Jack had caught. Whoever it was, the natives had felt hard done by and it had taken some fancy negotiating on Paul's part to secure SG-4's release.
As SG-4 were escorted by the medical team out of the gate room, Major Bartlett, their CO, turned and called out to SG-9.
"You guys are incredible. We thought we were goners there. Major Davis, you could sweet-talk my old grandma into letting you have the hot cookies from her bake tray, I'm sure of it. And believe me, no one managed that."
Light laughter ran through the room, Paul acknowledging Bartlett with a broad grin and a nod. Bartlett continued.
"I'm sure glad we've got you on our side. All of you. I know that your team gets ragged on for not being a combat team, but hell, you just saved our asses. So for that, I salute you."
General Hammond watched the returning teams from the control room and smiled. Not once had he ever regretted taking up Daniel's suggestion of Paul Davis for commander of SG-9, even if once or twice he'd wondered about the reasons. The Major had proved time and again that he was more than capable of doing the job, his teammates were devoted to him, and contrary to his and his friends' fears, his coming-out hadn't affected the level of respect afforded him one iota.
Heading down to personally greet the incoming team, Hammond sighed internally. He had a feeling that the news from the man waiting in the briefing room wouldn't be as welcome with the politically savvy Paul as had been his own welcome back to the SGC.
He found them all in the infirmary and watched from the doorway for a while, waiting till the doctors and nurses had done their jobs. SG-4 were being kept in overnight. They weren't harmed as such, just exhausted, scared, hungry and a bit bruised from the fight they'd put up.
As they were tucked into bed by the kindly fussing nurses, Hammond approached, welcoming each one in turn, his voice quiet and gentle, never anything less than totally genuine in his relief at having them all home. Much as he had his favourites, even if he shouldn't, all of his people were his people. He worried himself sick about every single one of them.
Having made sure that they were all right and arranging to debrief them when they were feeling up to it, Hammond turned to SG-9 who were having their check-ups.
"Good work, Major," Hammond said with a huge grin on his face. "Very good work indeed. Major Bartlett says he owes you and your team everything. This will go on your record as a commendation, I can assure you."
"Thank you, Sir. Please, General, note the same for my team. They were superb out there. Under very difficult circumstances they kept their heads and kept us all alive. Sergeant Cores and Lieutenant Dymond were alert the entire time, protecting myself and Captain Kahlert as we negotiated. How she kept up the running translation for so many hours, I do not know. The gentlemen were so on the ball that we were able to think only of doing our jobs. Having back-up like that, that we can trust so implicitly is a godsend, Sir. It really was a team effort, and a good one, if I say so myself."
Hammond beamed at them all. "So noted, Major. When you're showered and changed and had something to eat, come up to the briefing room. We'll get this debrief out of the way and then you can all have a couple of days' leave to recover."
He left them to their check-ups and returned to the briefing room, wondering how he was going to deal with the latest internal diplomatic mess.
Under the shower, Paul let his mind wander. He'd not seen Daniel in a week and he was getting a touch desperate. Not for sex, though he'd not say no to that, but for his company. They spent so much time together that being separated always hurt. Daniel had been on an exploratory mission with SG-1 for four days and had been about to return when the message came through that he and his own team had to rush off to the rescue. Three days had been spent in negotiation, trying hard to get the release of the team. Paul had no idea if Daniel was even on Earth. In theory, he should be, but theory rarely held up. Sighing to himself, he turned off the water, put on his robe and wandered out to the locker room, his head in a towel as he tried to get the worst of the wet out of it.
He didn't see the large body standing in front of him until he crashed into it. Dropping the towel from his head, he looked up, ready to apologise for not looking where he was going. To his relief, he saw a very, very familiar pair of blue eyes looking at him.
"Hey," Daniel said quietly.
"Dan. Oh thank God," Paul whispered back. He was about to say more when he noticed that Harvey and Eduardo were looking at them both.
Daniel noticed and said, "Gentlemen, I'm sure that you will find that bit of wall fascinating for a minute or three." He pointed at a wall in the opposite direction to where he and Paul were standing.
With huge smirks, they turned, Eduardo saying, "Wow, Doc, you're right. I'd never noticed that bit of plaster before. What do you think, Lieutenant?"
Ignoring the teasing that came from Paul's teammates, Daniel pulled him close and kissed him. It was a fairly brief kiss, but enough for Paul to know that Daniel had missed him as much as he'd missed Daniel. When they broke away, Daniel mouthed, "Missed you," getting the same from Paul in return. He hugged him hard then let him go.
"So, I hear you guys are heroes," he said clearly, letting the others know it was safe to turn around. They both turned slowly, smiling broadly as they did.
"Heroes?" Eduardo said nonchalantly as he pulled on his trousers. "Nah, just another day in the office."
Harvey and Paul sniggered at that as they got dressed themselves.
"There was something weird going on there, Dan," Paul finally said, his shirt on but undone, his trousers on but his feet bare. He was sitting on the bench and looking shattered. Daniel sat next to him, barely touching him but close enough to be offering silent support.
"What was that?"
"I don't know. They knew the Tauri. I'm betting it had something to do with the rogue NID group that were out there at one time."
Daniel shuddered. He'd hated that time. Makepeace had been a total prick and Daniel had detested the implication that Jack had been a thief, even a pretend one.
"What did they say?" he asked.
"Nothing specific. Though they were keen to point out that they were a vengeful people. I'm guessing that the NID stole something of theirs that didn't get returned. Maybe the Asgard will know about it?"
"Maybe. We'll ask Thor when he turns up next." Paul nodded, finishing getting dressed as he did. His stomach let out a growl and Daniel insisted that he get something to eat.
"Oh, I will. You two, too," he ordered the other men. "Eat, debrief, then go home. And thank you. You really were great out there."
He got warm smiles and acknowledgement from the two men as they exited the locker room, leaving Daniel and Paul alone for a moment.
"It wasn't pretty," Paul admitted. "They kept threatening to execute them, then us."
"I don't know how you keep so calm," Daniel said, his voice filled with admiration.
"It comes with practise," Paul replied with a humourless laugh.
"Well, before you debrief, I'll see if I can take some time off. I'm guessing you're being sent on leave?"
"We are. And if you can, it would be wonderful. We haven't had any time to ourselves in ages, have we?"
Daniel shook his head, then dropped a kiss on Paul's cheek.
"C'mon. Food. I want you to keep your strength up, Major Davis. I've got plans for you."
With a wicked grin which belied how tired he was feeling, Paul headed off to get something to eat.
Paul's eyes were feeling heavy when he approached the briefing room. Daniel had stayed with him until he'd sat with his meal, then he'd taken off, saying that he'd get the leave arranged, then go home and get the house warmed up and ready for Paul's return. Paul knew what he meant. It was the beginning of December, so the temperature was dropping and Daniel wanted Paul to come back to a home, one that was warm and welcoming so that he could just get into bed and crash without having to worry about getting heaters on or a bed made.
He knocked on the door, his team flanking him as he stood there, waiting for the call to come in. After a moment, he heard the General's voice calling 'enter', so he opened the door, took a few steps inside and stopped dead. In front of him was a man in an army lieutenant colonel's uniform. Fair-haired, hazel-eyed, he was staring at the Major.
"Paul. You look tired."
"I am," Paul admitted. "Exhausted, actually."
"Gentlemen?" Hammond's voice broke through to them.
Paul shook himself and then greeted the General formally. "I'm sorry, Sir. This was just a bit of a surprise."
"I take it you know each other?" the General asked in a kindly manner.
"We should do," Paul replied. "Um, he's my older brother, Sir."
Paul's team were surprised. They didn't even know he had a brother. The General was aware that he did, but Davis wasn't an uncommon surname, and the men looked nothing alike so he hadn't even connected the two.
"Well, this is a surprise," Hammond said carefully, picking up on the fact that the brothers seemed to be awkward around each other.
"Yes, Sir, it is," Paul agreed. "If I may, Sir?" he turned from the General and then looked at his brother. "Why are you here?"
"I am here at General Harper's request. He wishes to see if there is anything the Army can do to help out with the SGC. You know, supplying units and so on."
Paul's face furrowed and he turned back to the General. "Surely that could have been hashed out at the Pentagon? Is Major Williams aware of this?"
"I'm not sure, Major," Hammond said, his tone of voice speaking volumes to Paul. He was not happy about this. Not that he had any problem with army units joining, per se, he had marine units under his command after all. It was just the manner in which this was happening - the fact that they were being thrust on him with no discussion.
Paul nodded, then decided to see if he could get anything out of his brother later.
"If it's at all possible, Sir, could we do the debrief, please? My team and myself want to get home. We've been very busy lately and we're very tired."
"Of course, Major. Take a seat."
The debrief seemed to last an age, Matthew Davis watching the proceedings but saying nothing, Paul calmly and diplomatically wording the account of the events leading up to the release of the hostages. His team noticed that he hadn't mentioned the NID connection, so they said nothing, realising that he would have his reasons and that he would explain them later. Something had put their CO on edge and they'd do their best to help him out.
Finally, they were dismissed. Paul stood and invited his brother to come home with him. One thing he had to do was get him away from the SGC before word got out of their fraternal relationship. If anyone was going to tell him about Daniel, it was going to be him. Matthew accepted, but the surprise on his face said it all. Theirs was a very estranged relationship.
"Before I go, General, may I see you in private, please?" Paul asked.
Hammond guided him into his office, then shut the door.
"What is it?"
"The natives, they'd met the NID team that were out there."
"And you didn't mention that in the debrief, why?"
"What if we still have NID around here, Sir? My team will say nothing, I'm sure of it. But, oh, I don't know why, I just feel the need to keep any operational details between us. I don't like the idea of others coming in. I certainly didn't like the thought that the Asgard didn't give people their things back which turned them against us. Something's going on and my radar's gone off and I don't like it."
Hammond watched as the normally unflappable Major paced up and down.
"You've convinced me, Major. We'll be careful. I doubt it will be important that the NID know about the mission, and the reasons for it, but as you say, there's something odd about the whole set-up. You did the right thing."
Paul calmed down, then yawned, apologising profusely as he did.
"Go home, Paul," Hammond's voice was now fatherly. "Rest. I've granted Daniel the same leave as you. Three days. Sorry it can't be more, but you know how busy we are."
Paul smiled and thanked him, then left his office, wordlessly picking up his brother on the way. He made his way to the locker room, glad that no one was there, then threw his civvies on before heading back out of the mountain. Matthew said nothing the entire time, just observed his younger brother and knowing that Paul had something to tell him in private.
They chatted all the way to the house, saying little of consequence, Paul carefully directing the conversation to neutral matters. Matthew noticed that Paul was twanging with tension when he pulled up onto the drive.
"Come in, Matt," Paul said with a sigh as he opened the door. He heard Daniel humming some song that he'd never heard. It sounded Mexican to him, but he was no expert on the subject. "Dan? I'm home. We've got company."
Something in Paul's tone put Daniel's senses on alert. Somehow, he knew that Paul was upset about the company of which he was speaking. He emerged from the kitchen where he'd been cooking something, just in case Paul was hungry again. It was a stew of sorts, something that would sit in the huge stewpot on the stove and cook for days, ready to be eaten whenever they felt like it. It was full of meat, potatoes and other vegetables, the sauce thick and slightly spicy. As a treat, Daniel had bought some pre-made bread dough from the old-fashioned baker's shop that was near them. It was not something that they sold out of habit, but if Daniel got his timing right, he could buy their risen dough and take it home to cook. There was nothing like home-baked bread. He'd bake it from scratch if he wanted to, but this would save hours of rising time. He'd ground up his favourite blend of coffee too and that was currently percolating. All in all, Paul had arrived to a warm home (the log fire was crackling in the living room) which smelled of everything you'd want a home to smell of. He physically relaxed as the atmosphere started to wash over him.
"Hey, you okay? You look exhausted," Daniel greeted him, taking Paul's coat and hanging it up before doing the same for Matthew.
"I am. The house smells incredible. You baking?"
"Sort of. I'm cheating again."
"The bakery? I don't know how you persuade them to let you buy uncooked bread, Daniel."
"It's all part of the charm," Daniel grinned. "I've been flirting with Mrs. Dooley for years." He cocked his head to one side then looked at the fair-haired, uniformed man that stood behind Paul. "You going to introduce us, or do we have to play twenty questions?"
"Oh God, I'm sorry. Where are my manners?"
"Left behind with your sleep on the last mission," Daniel said gently.
Paul smiled at him, grateful that he never had to explain a thing to Daniel. "This is Matt. Or rather, I should say, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Davis. My brother, Dan."
Daniel's eyes opened wide. He'd heard about Paul's family, of course, but the only picture he'd seen of Matthew was one when he was a teenager. The man was in his early forties now and there was precious little resemblance.
Paul introduced Daniel to Matthew. "Matt, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson, head of the anthropology department and part of SG-1, the flagship team," he said, not a little proudly. Then he added, "My partner."
Before Matthew could say anything, Daniel ushered them all into the kitchen. The warm glow of the wood-burning stove that he'd had installed in there gave off a friendly atmosphere and the heat it generated thawed Paul's frozen toes.
"Partner?" Matthew asked, eventually.
"Yes, Matt," Paul sighed as he slipped into his favourite chair. "Partner. Other half."
"Better half," Daniel muttered with a grin.
"In your dreams," came the snapped reply from Paul, but his eyes, tired as they were, were laughing.
Daniel poured Paul a coffee, offered one to Matthew who accepted, still stunned by Paul's statement.
"Partner?" he said again.
"Oh for fuck's sake," Paul muttered. "YES. Partner. For life. Lover."
"Twink," Daniel sniggered.
Paul did a double take and smacked him before laughing out loud.
"You are way too old, babe."
"Damn! I always wanted to be one of those. Ah well, another dream shattered."
Matthew wasn't sure what to make of Daniel, his natural reaction to his brother's statement being one of shock. But he was a keen observer of people and realised that Paul had relaxed and cheered up immensely since entering the house, his coming out not withstanding. He wasn't nervous anymore, just looked happy. And whereas he and his brother were not close friends, they were brothers and he did love him - at least he had a fraternal need to protect his younger sibling. So, apparently, did Daniel. All of the little things that Matthew had seen, the cooking food, the coffee, the fire, the taking of the coat and teasing, spoke of someone that cared about Paul. He'd reserve judgement on how happy he was for Paul till later, but in the meantime, Daniel had done himself no harm in Matthew's eyes from that point of view, though Matthew was far from thrilled about the news. He kept that to himself, for the moment.
"I'm just surprised, that's all," he said. "You never said anything, Paul."
"No, I didn't. How could I, Matt? You know what our father would have said if he'd found out."
Major General Davis, now the late General Davis, would have probably killed Paul. It was bad enough that Paul had gone into the Air Force and not the Army, but to have been gay and Air Force... it would have been too much.
"Yeah, I know. I take it people know? At the SGC, I mean."
"Sure. The General has officially known since the day after they dropped that ludicrous law."
"We didn't tell him, he didn't ask. But we've lived together for six months longer than we've been allowed to. He's not stupid."
"No, I don't suppose he is. How did you get away with it?"
"I officially lived next-door. It's a connected house, built for the maiden aunt of the people that lived here," Paul explained. "Different address, different phone number, but with the connecting door open, one house. It worked for us."
"How does it affect your team?"
"It doesn't. They've known since they were allowed to."
"They'd had a bet going longer than that," Daniel added with a snigger, getting a laugh back from Paul as he remembered that night.
Matthew looked at Daniel, suddenly annoyed that he'd spoken up. Daniel saw that and decided that he didn't really care what Matthew thought.
"Would you like something to eat? The stew's cooked, the bread's just about cool enough to eat..."
"I ate at the mountain," Paul complained.
"You picked at the mountain. I was there, remember? A sandwich does not constitute a meal, Paul Davis. Besides, I was offering to your brother. You are going to eat."
"Or else?" Paul replied, trying to sound snarky, but failing.
"I'm bigger than you," Daniel teased.
"In some ways," Paul shrugged. "In others, however..."
Daniel burst out laughing and dished him up a bowl of stew. At the sight of it, Paul's stomach growled, triggering the same response in Matthew's. Daniel laughed again, shook his head in exasperation and served him one too, his body language saying that he wasn't taking no for an answer. He put the bread on the table, along with some butter, then, after dishing out his own bowl, Daniel joined them, pointedly sitting on Paul's side of the table.
"This is good," Matthew said with surprise in his voice.
"He's a good cook," Paul shrugged.
"Winter food. It's something that I do as soon as September comes," Daniel chuckled. At Matthew's quizzical look, he elaborated, "I grew up on the edge of the Sahara. It's always too damned cold for me here."
Matthew said nothing to that, but his eyebrows raised in mild surprise. He wanted to hate Daniel, a part of him was feeling decidedly snarky, but he also found he couldn't. He just nodded at Daniel's words, tucking into his meal as a cover for not having any reply.
Eventually, though, he felt he had to know more.
"How long have you been together?" he asked, looking pointedly at Paul.
"Over three years," Paul said, his voice sounding decidedly tired.
"That's a lot longer than you've been allowed." Matthew's voice was almost reprimanding.
"Stupid fucking law anyway," Paul said. "Being gay never stopped me doing my job, not from the minute I signed up."
This was the point at which Matthew spluttered. "Y.y.you mean this isn't ..."
"Isn't what, Matthew?" Paul asked coolly.
"Excuse me?" Daniel watched as he saw Paul's back stiffen. They both knew what Matthew was implying. That Daniel had somehow seduced Paul, influenced him, made him take the chances inherent in being gay in the military. Daniel was about to answer when Paul carried on. "You think that Daniel's my first boyfriend?" he emphasised the word in spite. "For fuck's sake. You want to know who my first was? Do you?"
Matthew was taken aback by Paul's belligerent tone. All he could do was stare blankly at him.
"Do you remember Andrew? Your best friend at school?"
A dumb nod came his way.
"Well, Matthew, when he was coming over early, supposedly being nice to your little brother while waiting for you to come home from whatever activity Mother had you doing at the time, he was being nice in ways you wouldn't begin to imagine." A dangerous smile crept over his face. "Getting my first blow job from my big brother's best friend when I was fifteen was one heck of an experience."
Daniel had to bite down the laughter that threatened to erupt. Matthew was white with shock. Paul, however, tired as he was, was feeling very bitchy.
"Oh, and do you remember your friend from West Point? Cadet Aran Schneider?"
Another dumb nod.
"My first fuck. Both ways."
"Wwwha? He's not gay! He's married!"
"So was I," Daniel pointed out. "I'm bi," he shrugged. "Or at least I was. It's a moot point now."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"This is it," Paul spat. "The last relationship for either of us. Daniel and I are as married as he was to his wife."
"Well that didn't last," Matthew sneered.
Daniel held onto his bowl, getting ready to throw it.
"Shau're died," Paul said, his hand on Daniel's back, stroking gently to calm him down.
That brought Matthew up short.
"Oh God, I'm sorry. I didn't know."
Daniel took a deep breath.
"Perhaps you should find out your facts before you spout off." Daniel stood up and cleared his bowl, moved the stewpot to the back of the stove and damped down the fire. "I don't know about you, Paul, but it's late and I want to go to bed."
"Yeah, me too. I'll just show Matthew to the guest room, okay? Why don't you make the fire in the living room safe and then we'll go."
Daniel nodded and made his way into the living room.
"Paul," Matthew started, but Paul held up his hand.
"Not here, not now."
He cleared up the bowls and led his brother to the other side of the house. When in there, he made sure that there was fresh linen on the bed before allowing Matthew to settle.
"I had no idea about you, Paul," Matthew said quietly. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"How could I? I knew how you and the others would react if I told you. I love my job, Matt, but not as much as I love Daniel. Don't even try to come in-between us, it will only cause you pain."
"I'm kind of getting that. Are you sure that you don't get any problems at the base?"
"None, not really. Occasionally some of the new intake will be snide, but they're shouted down pretty quickly. I'm not na´ve, I know it's because I'm with Daniel specifically that I'm protected. His team would tear anyone that hurt him apart, and if I were hurt, he'd be hurt, so I enjoy their protection. My own team are protective of me too. Most of the people there are sensible, we can't afford to have rednecks at the SGC. We meet too many people whose ways are different from our own. Going out there with a narrow mind would not only reflect badly on Earth, but could get the team involved killed. They can't be bigoted and be on an SG team, understand?"
Matthew nodded, beginning to see what his brother was saying.
"Matt? Are we okay?"
"I can't say that I'm not shocked by this, Paul, and I can't say that I'm happy about it either. However, I'm not going to stop talking to you or anything. God only knows our family's links are tenuous at best. I'm fed up of that."
"I'm glad," Paul replied, relief evident in his voice. "I don't want to be estranged from you anymore."
They shook hands, wished each other goodnight, then Paul retreated back to Daniel.
Daniel was lying in bed and waiting for him, having quickly shed his clothes and got ready. He was quietly fuming. Paul saw the tension radiating from his lover and he shook his head with silent exasperation.
"Dan," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "It's okay. He's okay really. I know that he and I haven't been close but I don't think that we are going to cause any problems between me and him. Just give him time to get used to the idea, all right?"
"Are you sure, Paul? He didn't seem very happy to me."
"No, he's not happy. But he will adjust, I'm sure of it."
Daniel said no more about it, he just nodded. He knew how precious family could be, so he didn't want to be the cause of a split in one.
Paul got up and as quickly as he could, he got ready for bed, joining Daniel in minutes.
"I am shattered," he said as he got under the covers.
Daniel pulled him into his arms, dropped a kiss on his head and wished him goodnight. He got a quiet 'mmrrph' in reply. With a small smile on his face at his lover's reaction, he shut his own eyes and went to sleep.
Matthew woke up early, as was his wont. He went to the bathroom, then dressed smartly in his uniform, ready to go back to the mountain, looked out of the window and got changed into the one set of civilian clothes he'd brought. No way was he going anywhere. It looked like the entire quantity of winter snow had fallen overnight, silently blanketing the region in many feet of the white stuff. He let loose a shiver, then headed into the other side of the house, taking his time to look at the rooms in-between.
He saw that both sides of the house had the same set-up. The front door on the side of the house, opening to a hallway, at the top end of which was one bedroom with en suite bathroom. To the side nearest the other house, one living room with an open-plan kitchen/diner tacked on towards the back. The connecting door to the other side of the house was in the living room.
On his side of the house, the living room was obviously in the process of change, being turned into a study of some sort. A large, antique desk was the centrepiece, with many book shelves on the walls, laden with books of all sorts. Politics and law - obviously Paul's, he thought to himself. Then book upon book about history and literature, language and culture. Realising that he hadn't asked what Daniel's speciality was, he guessed that he was some sort of linguist, given that many of the books were in other languages. That would explain why he was on a field team.
The kitchen was full of modern equipment and fitted units, in direct contrast to the old-fashioned kitchen in the other house, which was complete with wood-burning Aga, individual cupboards which looked good together but didn't match, it even having a retro style refrigerator. Funnily enough, both kitchens had a mark of taste about them, as if they were set up for different moods. The table and chairs in the 'modern' kitchen were stylish and a matching set. The set in the other house more farm style, each chair being similar but different, all oak but some had wraparound backs with arms, the others with the straight backs.
The living room in the other house was the 'den'. The TV and other entertainment equipment lived there, comfortable sofas, chairs and bean bags seemed randomly placed, but somehow, Matthew thought that it was deliberate. There were lots more books, but this time light reading. Modern stories, comedy. Matthew had to grin when he saw sci-fi there. Without thinking, he picked up a book, not really reading it, but when he flicked through it and read a paragraph, he nearly dropped it as if it would burn him. Erotica. Gay, male erotica. Curiously, he opened it again and read as if the words would give him some insight into his brother.
"Cameron Snow," (that's apt given the weather, he thought) "looked across the dance floor. The thump, thump, thump of the heavy music beat seemed to be in sync with his heart. He'd seen him. The one. The one that had been looking at him in the record shop. He knew now what he'd suspected then. He had to have him."
Matthew skimmed the next bits till he got to where he was really going.
"Against the wall behind the dance floor, Cameron was turned, facing the wall, looking away from the man that hadn't even introduced himself. He didn't care. He wanted him.
"Have you got everything?"
The deep, sensuous voice sent shudders throughout Cameron's body. Wordlessly, he grabbed some things from his pocket. Handing them back, the stranger took them. Cameron gasped when he heard the unmistakable noise of zipper being lowered and condom being unwrapped. The stranger yanked Cameron's jeans down, growling when he saw that Cameron had gone commando.
"Hands on the wall and bend forward."
The instruction was snarled, but Cameron was happy to oblige. He dipped his head and looked back, wanting to see the cock that was about to impale him. It was every bit as wonderful as he had imagined. The stranger stepped forward, he felt his cheeks being pulled apart and then the delicious pain as he made himself right at home."
A noise at the front door had Matthew slamming the book shut, quickly returning it to its place on the shelf. Heart beating fast, he headed directly to the source of the noise. A tall, grey-haired man was inside the house, peeling off his coat and kicking off his boots.
Jack looked up and saw the strange man in the house. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"Who are you?" Matthew replied.
"I asked first," Jack snapped back, ready to kill the intruder.
Matthew saw the hostile body language radiating from O'Neill and he decided that discretion would be the better part of valour, especially as the man apparently had a set of keys to the house.
"I'm Matthew Davis," he said. "Paul's brother."
"OH!" Jack was surprised. He didn't know that Paul had a brother, let alone what he was called or looked like. "I'm Jack O'Neill. Daniel's CO."
"Yeah, that's Colonel O'Neill," Jack expanded, noticing the military hair cut on his 'opponent' for the first time.
"Oh, of course. I'm Lieutenant Colonel Davis, Sir. Army. I'm General Harper's representative. I was visiting the SGC on his behalf. I didn't even know my brother worked there, let alone lived..."
Jack let out a low growl, telling the man to be careful with his next few words.
"Here," he continued.
'Good choice', Jack thought. In reply, he nodded, then asked, "Have you put the coffee on?"
"Oh God. They're not awake yet, are they?"
"Not as far as I know, no."
"Well then, kitchen, now. We need to get the coffee on before it's too late."
Heading into the kitchen, Matthew asked, "What do you mean?"
"You don't have any academics in your family, do you?"
"No, not really. Not professional ones."
"I can tell. Trust me on this one. Daniel's going to wake up soon, and when he does, it's safer for all concerned if he has his coffee ready and waiting. Paul's usually up before him, but I'm guessing that the poor guy's fucked after that rescue."
Matthew refrained from making the obvious comment.
"He did seem tired last night."
Jack started the percolator off and then looked under the lid of the stewpot.
"Oh, great, one of Daniel's 'not fast enoughs'."
"Give it a couple of days and he'll start adding stuff to it. Anything that doesn't move fast enough gets cooked. Actually, by the end of the first week, his stews are usually to die for. If they don't kill you first."
Matthew wasn't sure what to make of Jack. He seemed gruff, but underneath the abrasive voice there seemed to be a tinge of compassion. He certainly seemed to know his way around the kitchen.
"If you don't mind me asking, Sir, why are you here?"
Jack looked at him for a moment, then answered. "You haven't tried switching any lights on, have you?"
"Well then. The electric's out. Daniel has a coffee pot that perks on the stove. The wood-burning stove."
"Which you all teased the crap out of me for getting, I seem to remember."
Matthew jumped a mile at the sound of Daniel's quiet voice. He hadn't heard the barefoot man silently padding up behind him. Jack had seen him though, so he was just grinning.
"Is it ready yet?" Daniel asked, his question aimed at Jack.
"I've only just got here. Snow day, Danny. No way will anyone make it to the mountain today."
Matthew looked at Daniel and saw that he was only wearing a pair of sweats. He was surprised by the sheer size of the man's build. Much as men didn't do a damned thing for him, he could see why Paul was attracted to him. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw Jack wrap his arm around Daniel's shoulder and give him a hug. It was the sort of hug a big brother would give his younger one, the sort that he should give Paul. Unfortunately, he'd been brought up to shake hands, as that was what gentlemen did. He wondered whether Paul would be as tactile.
Daniel was still half-asleep, staring at the pot as if willing it to finish its job.
"Is Paul awake?" Matthew asked, a little too loudly.
"Shh," Daniel scolded, "he's still asleep. He's exhausted. Let him be, will you?"
"Of course. Sorry."
Jack grinned. "You do realise that we're likely to have company soon, don't you?"
Daniel still wasn't with it.
"C'mon, Danny. I had to walk over here because there's no electric. The ladies live only two streets away." He left it at that, knowing that like the coffee, the information would soon percolate and get through to his friend.
"I'll go wake Paul as soon as this is done then. I think a gentle rousing will put him in a better mood than being set upon by those three."
Matthew looked confused, but as he didn't ask the obvious question, the others didn't see fit to enlighten him.
The coffee was finally done. Matthew watched in bewilderment as Daniel poured one mug, downed it, then poured another two.
"Get some breakfast on, Jack," Daniel instructed sleepily. "Lots of it. I have a feeling I know how this morning is going to turn out."
With that, he left the kitchen and headed back to the bedroom.
Jack turned and looked at Matthew. He thought for a moment, considered this man's position in Paul's life, then said, "Jack. At least while we're here. It'll look silly if everyone else calls me it and you don't."
Matthew nodded, then he continued. "You're okay about, um, Daniel being..."
Matthew nodded again, then blushed slightly.
"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"But he's on your team."
"Doesn't it reflect on you?"
Jack was getting pissed off with this. "Look, I've known Daniel for years. I've shared a tent with him for years. Hell, I've shared a sleeping bag with him when the situations have demanded it. I don't care. He's my friend. He's my best friend. Most of the people up at the mountain know this. They know that he's happy. They're happy that he's happy. Daniel's been through too much shit in his life and he deserves to be happy. No one would dare say or do anything to spoil that. There were rumours about me and Daniel from the word go, none of which were true. I'm straight. If ever I'd had some sort of epiphany and decided that I wasn't as straight as I thought I was, Daniel would be the reason for it. But it's never happened, it's never going to happen. That message has finally got through the thicker skulls up there. As far as I'm concerned, Daniel's my little brother. I love him. I'm not afraid or ashamed to say it either. If you're afraid to acknowledge your brother, or ashamed of him, then I pity you. You are the one that will lose out. Paul's got family. He's got us. He doesn't need people he never talks about suddenly coming back into his life and then making out like he's some kind of freak. He's not. He's a damned fine officer, well-respected by those of us that know him. Especially by all of the teams that he's got out of tricky situations. He's not afraid to go in fighting if he has to - God only knows he's done that often enough. But he's smart enough not to need to more often that not, and that is something that we all appreciate. Do not try to interfere with his life. You will not like the consequences."
Matthew stepped back with surprise at the venom in Jack's voice. He figured that there was a lot more to the speech than he was likely to find out.
"I... I'm not going to have a go, honest," he said, his hands up in submission. "I was shocked to find out, but as you say, he's my brother. God only knows that our family could do with a kick up the ass on many occasions. I decided last night that I wasn't going to say anything about this. Paul looks happy, so that's okay with me."
Jack looked at him for a moment, then grunted before pouring himself out a coffee.
"Make yourself a drink," he said, "I'll make some more before they get up. Do you like pancakes?"
"Um, yes," Matthew replied, heading for the nearly empty coffee pot.
"Good." Jack raided the cupboard and pulled out all the packets of pancake mix that he could find.
"Who's coming over?" The previous conversation with Daniel finally coming back up.
"I'm guessing that Doc Frasier, Cassie, and Carter, will come over."
"Who are they?"
"Doc Frasier's our CMO. Cassie's her daughter. She's not from these parts," Jack added with a grin. "Carter is Major Sam Carter, my second and Daniel's big sister, so to speak."
"You keep talking about people as if you're family. How's that?"
"We've been through a lot together," Jack sighed. "Daniel's only got a loony grandpa - ack, he's not really loony, it's a long story. But they don't see much of each other. My dad's dead. I still have my mom, thank God, and my brother and sister, but I don't get to see them much unfortunately. Carter's dad is Tok'ra. You've heard of them?"
"Yeah, General Harper briefed me on the set-up before sending me here."
"Good. Her brother is out in California so she doesn't see him much. Truth be told, she's closer to Daniel than she is to Mark. Our fourth is an alien, so he doesn't have anyone here. He's stuck up at the mountain, though I know him. First sign of a few days off and he heads off to his son."
"I take it his son's not on Earth?"
"No, he's elsewhere," Jack grinned. "The Doc is one of our closest friends. She and Carter raise Cassie together. Carter wanted to adopt her, but she couldn't because of our job."
"Are they, er, together?"
"Yeah. Came out a few months back. Didn't surprise anyone. They've always been close. It's not easy being a woman in a man's world, which, despite all of the damned hard work the women do in the forces, the military still is one. It's ridiculous."
"I take it you don't mind women being in the Air Force, then?" Matthew was more and more intrigued by Jack now. His physical presence was that of a hard man, shut out from the outside world. But the more he spoke, the more Matthew realised that Jack was a multilayered man.
"Why should I? Carter's a geek. That annoys me from time to time," he said with a grin. "But her brains have got us out of seriously bad situations. Between her and the book boy," Matthew looked confused so Jack sniggered. "Daniel. It's one of the poor guy's many nicknames. Anyway, as I was saying, between them, they've used their brainpower to save the planet on many occasions. Not that they won't fight to save it, they will. Hell, Daniel was mortally wounded once and made us leave him while he watched our backs. We were going off to blow up the ship that he was on."
"How did he escape?"
Matthew was now sitting at the table, his head resting in his hands as he listened with fascination.
"With a bit of luck and a lot of intelligence. Daniel, thank God, is remarkably difficult to kill - permanently. He's died on a number of occasions. But for whatever reason, the Fates have decided that he's still needed. Who am I to argue with them?" Jack's brown eyes twinkled as he said that, silently offering up a prayer of thanks to whomever was listening.
There was a knock on the front door, so Jack headed off to answer it, knocking on the bedroom door in warning as he passed it.
"Good morning, ladies," he said, ushering them in. "We've been expecting you."
"Well, Sherlock, your powers of deduction are amazing," Janet sniped. "Shift out of the way. We need to get these wet things off."
Jack shut the door and then backed off.
When the introductions had been made (much to the women's surprise as they hadn't heard of Matthew either, though they kept it well-hidden), Matthew said, "I'd better go see what's keeping them."
"Aht! Best wait," Jack put in quickly, but he was too late. Matthew had already scooted out of the kitchen. Jack followed him, about to try to stop him opening the bedroom door, but Matthew was standing at the doorway, stunned.
Jack's knock on the door had pushed it open a little and Matthew was looking inside it.
On top of the bed, Paul and Daniel were naked and making love.
Matthew jumped when he felt Jack's hand on his shoulder and snapped around to look at him. Jack put his finger on his lips to indicate silence. Matthew nodded, then followed Jack quietly into the living room of the other house.
"I tried to warn you," Jack said, his voice low.
"I didn't think..."
"Matthew, you seem like a smart guy, but you have to open your mind. They're in love. Just as much in love with each other as I was with my wife when I was married. They're also guys. Paul's just woken up. What do you feel when you wake up most mornings?"
"Horny," Matthew groaned.
"And if you have a willing and able partner?"
Matthew nodded in understanding.
"Daniel's not really with it, yet. He's running on instinct. They've forgotten that we're here."
"I saw what they were doing," Matthew whispered.
"And?" Jack had also seen what was happening and he was amused by Matthew's reaction.
"It's just more, I don't know, real now."
"Matthew, your brother is gay, for fuck's sake. He's always been that way. He's not interested in women at all. Never has been. Didn't the thought that he might like to bottom it enter your head?"
"I can honestly say that my brother's sexual taste had never entered my head in any form."
Jack laughed. "Yeah, it's kinda like parental sex."
Matthew sighed. "I think that this is going to take some getting used to."
"Probably. But in the meantime, don't say anything that will upset him. If you upset Paul, you'll upset Daniel. If you upset Daniel, you'll not only upset me, you'll upset the ladies, Teal'c, our other teammate and I can assure you, you don't want to do that. You'll also upset Paul's team, um, SG's 2, 5 and 11 specifically, and quite likely you'll hack the marines off. Not recommended."
"Why the marines?"
"They love Daniel," Jack shrugged. "Oh, and the nurses. And, er, the canteen staff. The personnel department. Oh, and pretty much all the civilians on base. Of course, there's the General too - he thinks of Daniel as a son."
"He's popular," Matthew snorted wryly.
"He's loved. He's also highly respected. So's Paul, by the way. I'm not kidding. People who piss off Daniel have a habit of waking up dead."
"Understood. I will try not to do or say anything that will upset them. I can't guarantee I won't say anything unintentionally, though."
"Just apologise quickly if you do," Jack chuckled, then he led him back into the kitchen.
If Matthew had been surprised by Paul's friends before, it was as nothing compared how he felt as they all settled in front of the roaring fire after breakfast. They'd all sat around the large kitchen table, some extra chairs brought in from the other side of the house, and the sparring over the meal had been warm and friendly. There had been a lot of teasing, bickering and laughter, Paul in the thick of things in a way that he never had been at home. Okay, Matthew conceded, mealtimes at home had never been that much fun. In fact mealtimes in his own home, with his wife and teenage children were usually held in virtual silence.
Yet more coffee was making (Matthew wasn't sure, but he thought that it was the fourth pot already) and the friends sat comfortably, Sam and Janet sharing one sofa, Daniel and Paul the other. Matthew and Jack chose the sinfully soft armchairs and Cassie picked the largest bean bag, drawing it close to the fire. Matthew noticed that Daniel was stretching across the entire length of the sofa, his legs parted and Paul sitting in-between them, resting against Daniel's chest, Daniel's arms firmly wrapped around him.
They chatted, joked, told stories and so on, Daniel often taking centre stage as he regaled them with tales of digs and expeditions that he'd been on. Coffees were poured, snacks handed out, and later on Daniel, Paul and Jack took Cassie outside for a snowball fight, coming in not much later for some hot chocolate with the obligatory marshmallows. They'd stayed until the electricity had gone back on about three in the afternoon, needing to warm their houses again before nightfall.
By the time Matthew got into bed that night, he was feeling jealous. It wasn't fair. He was the older one, the higher ranked one. He was the one with the wife and kids, the one that would inherit the most from the family line, so to speak. So why was Paul happier than him? Why was Paul the one with a near permanent smile on his face, getting hugged almost constantly, and not just by Daniel. Sam and Paul had spent a fair bit of time snuggling together, a remnant of their months of pretending to be together. They'd discovered that they felt comfortable with each other's presence back then and hadn't wanted to lose that feeling of love and friendship. Seeing as Daniel and Janet were just as comfortable with each other, it didn't seem to matter. The only one it mattered to was Matthew.
"Dan?" Paul climbed into bed, looking with trepidation at his lover.
Paul snorted. "Typical. Do you want me to do something about that?" he asked, his voice coy.
Daniel waggled his head. "Hmm," he said, as if he was thinking about it. "I was considering going to the other side of the house and asking Matt, but seeing as you're here..."
He got no further but found himself flat on his back, pinned to the bed by Paul (who was trying to look outraged but only succeeded in looking like he was about to burst out laughing.)
"Oh God, Dan," he gasped when he finally gave in to his amusement. "Trust me, you don't want to do that. Not him."
"As if I'd need to. Got me one Davis already, think that's enough, don't you?"
"Absolutely." To underline it, Paul laid a kiss on Daniel that would have melted Europa. "Gotcha," he whispered against Daniel's mouth.
"What are you going to do with me?" Daniel tried to sound innocent, didn't make it and ended up sounding seductive.
"Mark you. Make you mine."
"I'm yours anyway. But go ahead. Mark me, Major. Bite me. Show the world I belong to you."
Paul did. Gently nibbling at Daniel's skin at first, he increased the pressure, getting the desired response from his partner. Daniel's breath hitched as he felt the harder bite, just at the base of his neck (somewhere his shirt collar would hide the evidence, but still high enough to see if he wore a T-shirt.). Paul moved down, alternately licking and biting, leaving a trail of faint red marks down Daniel's bare chest. By the time he arrived at his goal, Daniel was jumping to nearly every touch. Paul looked at the hard dick which was waiting for him and licked his lips with anticipation. When Daniel said, "Bite that and I'll knock your fucking teeth out," he laughed out loud. Then he took it into his mouth and sucked hard.
Daniel moaned loudly. No matter how many times Paul did this, he always loved being on the receiving end. Paul was good at it. Daniel stopped thinking, letting his sense of touch rule his body and gave himself over to the incredible sensation of tongue, the gentle rasping of teeth that he loved, the suction... and came.
He opened his eyes and saw Paul kneeling astride him, a smug grin on his face.
"Hey," Daniel said, not a little goofily.
"Hey. You want to help me with this?" Paul was grinning from ear to ear now and pointing to his cock.
"Oh yeah. Whatever you want, babe. You're in the driving seat tonight. Told you, I'm all yours."
Paul thought for a moment, then took Daniel's hand in his, wrapping the clever fingers around his dick.
"Like this?" Daniel asked. "You sure?"
"C'mere then." Daniel's voice had turned sultry, and he sat up, moving the pillows behind him. Then he pulled Paul closer so that Paul's balls brushed his own. When he was satisfied that Paul was in place, Daniel started to work. Slowly at first, he ran his fingers up and down the shaft, teasing the head and loving the feel of the warm skin in his palm. His mouth sought contact with Paul's, found it, his tongue pushing inside and playfully battling with Paul's. They didn't have their arms wrapped around each other, just relying on their other body parts for contact. Paul had his hands on the bedstead, either side of Daniel's shoulders. Daniel had one hand on Paul's cock, the other rolling Paul's balls, brushing his own at the same time. He was getting turned on again and he was a touch surprised. He thought he'd gone past the two orgasms in one session thing a while back.
Paul nearly howled when he felt Daniel taking both of them in his one hand, the other massaging all over his ball sac, perineum, gently tickling his asshole from time to time. He broke the kiss.
"More, baby, please. I need ..."
"Shh, I've got you."
Daniel sped up his movements, breaking the kiss. Both men had their heads bent, panting hard as Daniel worked them. They watched his hands, almost in awe. Then it happened, Paul first, closely followed by his lover. Thick liquid covered Daniel's hand and then his stomach, branding him anew.
"You just wanted me to get messy, didn't you?" Daniel groaned.
Paul looked at him and grinned. "Marking my territory," he said.
With a snort, Daniel pushed Paul off him and got some wipes to clean up. When they were settling down to sleep, Daniel said, "Just wait, Major D. I've got some interesting ways to mark you, I promise."
Daniel smiled as he felt Paul laughing against him.
A few days later and they were back at work. Matthew had returned to the mountain the day after the 'snow day', the roads having been cleared enough, and stayed there, leaving the men to have some time together and in peace. He'd been okay to Paul though, having told him that he had to be back on duty and that given the vagaries of the weather, it would be safer for him to stay there. It had made perfect sense, but Paul still felt a little saddened. Matthew was doing his best, but he wasn't really coping very well with the news. At least he hadn't gone off at the deep end, Paul had thought to himself. They were still talking - possibly more than they ever had done. That had to count for something.
The usual organised chaos of Daniel's department greeted him on his arrival. Paul had accompanied him to his office so that he could pick up some information for his next briefing, took one look at the paperwork that had accumulated on Daniel's desk in his absence, laughed in sympathy, kissed Daniel's head and left.
"If I don't see you for lunch, Dan, I'll send out a search and rescue team, okay?"
He'd got a one-fingered salute in reply.
Hours later and Daniel was turning his lab upside-down. Paul stood at the doorway, cross that Daniel hadn't met him for lunch.
"Daniel? What's wrong?" Before he'd had a go at his partner, he'd taken in the scowl that he was wearing. Daniel was not happy.
"Something's missing. I need that new data from P5S-98C. It's essential, Paul and it's missing. It's not in the language lab, it's not in any of the labs. Nobody has claimed to have borrowed it or even seen it. It's ridiculous. It was on my desk before I went on leave. In a brown folder. And before you ask, yes, I have gone through EVERY fucking piece of paper on my desk. It's not been hidden."
He stopped pulling out files from his drawer and glared at Paul, not that he was cross with him, Paul knew that.
"I think it's been stolen."
"Shit," Paul muttered under his breath. "Who would have done that?"
"It could have been anyone, Paul. I lock up my office, but this is the lab! Everyone has access to it, they have to have or else they can't do their jobs. This data wasn't any more classified than anything else here, but I need it for the A'kari translation I was about to start working on. The two planets seem to be connected."
"What was in the data?"
"It was digital photos of writings, Paul. We don't know what they say yet, I only had a very brief look at them before I left for the time off."
"So why are they so important?"
"Because they're the same as the A'kari. I only have a small amount of writing from there - a bit from some walls and a little more on a device we're trying to figure out. This was adding to my database. The more of the language I have, the easier it is to decipher it. I went to look at the original images from the camera, but they've disappeared too. It's like someone doesn't want us to decipher the language."
"You'd better let the General know, then."
"Yes," Daniel agreed. "I'm not looking forward to it, either."
"I don't suppose you are," Paul muttered.
Daniel had a huge surprise when he knocked on the General's door and explained the loss of the data - and the A'kari data which had also apparently disappeared - to him. Far from being cross with Daniel, he was sympathetic. Jack was also in there, as was Sam, both of whom did not seem shocked by the news.
"It's not the only thing that's gone missing, Doctor. Major Carter has told me that some of her scientific data from the A'kari mission has disappeared, too."
"Something's going on, then," Daniel stated, rather pointlessly.
"What do you think is going on?" Jack asked.
"I'm not sure," Daniel sighed as he slumped into his seat. "We don't know enough about that device found on the A'kari world to even guess. We're only calling them the A'kari because of the information that Teal'c gave us about that legend. And according to that legend, the people there had a device that could make people 'disappear'. What that means is anyone's guess. The trouble is, without either the A'kari photos or the extra data from 98C, I doubt I'll be able to figure out the few glyphs on the device, they're pretty faint as it is. Um, we do still have the device, don't we?"
"We do," Sam said. "I've got it under lock and key till we find out who's stealing the data."
"And why," Daniel sighed.
That was met by three identical sighs.
Jack picked up a pen and twisted it through his fingers. He took on the look that said he was about to say something that he really didn't want to say.
"Jack, spit it out," Daniel said, getting a wry grin in return.
"Is Paul's brother still here?" Jack grimaced as he said it and Daniel knew why.
"You don't think that he...?"
"These things have only disappeared since he's been here."
Daniel nodded reluctantly. "Don't say anything to Paul, please," he begged, praying this wasn't true, that Matthew wasn't the thief. "It would kill him. Much as those two aren't close, this would be devastating for him. If it's true - and I don't believe that it is, by the way, but if it's true and we get proof of it, then I will tell him. Please, General, let me do this my way, at least where Paul is concerned."
Hammond couldn't see any reason why not, so he agreed. After all, no one knew Paul better than Daniel. Having said all of this, Hammond called Teal'c to his office. They'd set a thief to catch a thief once before. It had worked, but at a great cost to the morale of SG-1. As Daniel and Sam were the heads of department affected by this, they needed to be involved. Jack, as their CO and second-in-command of the base would obviously need to be involved. And not one of the occupants of that room wanted to leave Teal'c out of it. Daniel wanted to tell Paul, but he promised that he wouldn't. Should his brother be involved, and should Matthew get wind of the investigation, it would be difficult to prove that Paul wasn't involved in it. It was a hard decision for Daniel, especially as Paul already knew about the missing data, as did the rest of his department.
With a collective sigh, Hammond called for Teal'c to join them and then they started to set the trap.
Daniel was exhausted when he entered his house, more from the tide of emotions that had run through him than from physical exertion. It wasn't late though, so he was hoping to spend some time with Paul before collapsing into bed. His heart sank when he heard voices.
"Paul?" he called out as he headed into the living room where he'd heard the voices.
"Hey, Dan, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Just a bit tired, that's all. Been turning the place upside down for that paper. Latest thought is that it fell on the floor and a janitor threw it away. The data card from the camera seems to have been reused. Typical." It was a lousy cover story for the theft but the only one the team had managed to come up with in the time they'd had in an effort to not sound like they were onto something. Daniel entered the living room and saw, as he'd expected when he'd heard the voices, Matthew sitting on the armchair.
Paul stood up and moved swiftly to his side, putting his arms out and hugging Daniel to him briefly. It was a lot more circumspect that the usual welcome he'd get, and even though Daniel understood that Paul wouldn't want to be overt in front of his brother, he was irrationally annoyed by it.
"Have you eaten?" Paul asked, his voice full of his usual concern for him.
"Um, yeah, I grabbed something at the mountain," Daniel lied. In truth, he was feeling too tired to eat.
"Oh, okay," Paul replied, his voice telling Daniel that he had something in mind.
"Paul? What's up?"
"Nothing. It's just that this is Matt's last night here and I was wondering if you would mind at all if he and I went for dinner?"
Daniel blinked as he processed that information.
"Of course not," he replied, then he asked, "will you be at the mountain tomorrow?"
Matthew looked a little surprised by the question but he answered. "Yes, I have a few things to finish off in the morning and then I'm going back to DC. Why?"
Daniel thought quickly, then said, "Oh, I'm just going to be in bed when you get back. I wanted to say goodbye now if I'm not going to see you then."
It was the polite answer, so Matthew accepted it.
"I'll see you in the morning, Daniel," he said. "Would you mind if I stayed in the guest room tonight anyway? Save me having to go back to that cell which purports to be quarters up there."
Daniel snorted as he laughed. He understood that description all too well.
"Feel free. I'll see you at breakfast. If you'll excuse me, I'm off."
Paul followed Daniel into the bedroom, a little concerned by Daniel's decision to go to bed so early.
"Dan? Honey, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Paul, honestly. Just tired." He waggled his head and then scrunched his nose a little. "Okay, you got me, I have a bit of a headache. Ah!" he said as he saw Paul's face take on an 'I knew it!' look. "It's just a bit of a headache, Paul. I'm not even going to take anything for it. I just want to sleep. You be careful out there in the snow, please. Don't make me come and get you."
Paul hugged him close and then kissed him; slowly, deeply, putting all that he felt for Daniel into it.
"Hmm," Daniel said when they broke apart. "That's more like a welcome home. Go on, you enjoy your dinner. It'll be good for you two to talk for once."
"If you're sure."
"Shoo! Go! I'm positive. I'm not going to be good company tonight anyway, so you may as well go. I'll see you when you get back."
Paul was already dressed to go out so he just kissed Daniel again and left.
Daniel waited till he heard them leave and then picked up the phone.
"O'Neill," Jack's voice sounded through the earpiece.
"Jack, it's me."
"Hi Daniel. What's up?"
"Matthew's going to be at the mountain in the morning, then he's going back to DC."
"Okay, I'll let the General know. Time to move Operation Whoops up a notch."
"Operation Whoops?" Daniel burst out laughing.
"Yeah, you know. Whoops - the thing's gone."
On the other side of the phone, Jack smiled to himself as he heard Daniel laughing.
"You do that," Daniel finally got out.
"I will," Jack agreed. "Night, Daniel."
"Yeah, night Jack."
Paul crept into the bedroom to try not to disturb Daniel. He'd had an enjoyable evening, Matthew desperately trying to be nice to him. Paul figured that Matthew was feeling a touch jealous. He knew precisely what Matthew's wife was like; as career an army wife as Matthew was career army. She was a shrewd political player and Paul was convinced that she'd only married the high flying officer because she knew it would give her status. After all, their father, by the time Matthew married, was a brigadier general and had the ear of the various politicians that were at the DOD. It didn't hurt her social standing at all.
All in all, there was no love there, no warmth. Matthew's kids were older teens; cold, uninterested in anything with feeling. Paul was the happiest one in the family and he knew it.
As Paul got into bed, Daniel turned in his sleep, putting his arms out to find his lover. Paul grinned. Daniel always looked for him, even when he was semicomatose. He snuggled into Daniel's arms and shut his eyes. Hopefully Matthew would see sense, he thought as he drifted off. Ditch the bitch and look for some happiness.
When Paul woke up, he realised that he was alone. Thinking that Daniel would be in the kitchen or bathroom, he got up and went in search of him.
There was a note on the kitchen table. Paul picked it up as he heard noises coming from the guest side of the house.
Paul, got called in early. Sorry about that. I'll see you up at the mountain, okay?
Matthew saw Paul looking at the note as he walked in.
"Paul? Where's Daniel?"
"Oh, he's been called in early. It happens from time to time. I see he's left the coffee on and some breakfast on the side. Typical of him," Paul smiled.
Matthew settled down to a mug of coffee and some thickly buttered bread. Various sweet and savoury spreads sat on the table waiting to be tried.
"Daniel's favourite breakfast is pancakes. His second favourite is this," Paul said with a grin. "He'll have gone mad and buttered so much bread to make sure I eat something."
"Don't you eat breakfast?" Matthew asked in surprise.
"When I have time. I can eat a lot. I just don't tend to. I put on weight far too easily. Unlike Daniel."
"He's a, er, well-built man," Matthew said, almost embarrassed.
"He's a big guy all right," Paul sniggered. Then he said, "You should have seen him when we first met. He'd always been skinny, or rather, he was just slender. A lot stronger than he looked, but then he is an archaeologist. You can't shovel tons of sand - which it usually is in his case - and not build up a lot of strength. But he wasn't as he is now."
"How did he change?"
"More to the point, why did he change," Paul corrected. He spread some marmalade on a slice of bread and then said, "He felt that he should become more like Jack. He needed to prove that he was as strong, as fast, as able to fight as anyone else there. He took lessons, worked hard in the gym, trained on the firing range. It turned him into a soldier, all right, but in the meantime, we lost our Daniel. His warmth, his compassion, the light that was in his eyes just went. Somehow, we managed to get it back, managed to show him that he could be all of the above," Paul said, relief written on his face as he said it.
"He loves you," Matthew said carefully, as if trying out the concept in his mind.
"He loves me," Paul agreed. "And I love him."
"I kind of got that. Look, I know I wasn't too happy the other day, you know, when I heard about your relationship. But it's okay, Paul. I'm okay. I'm sorry I was a jerk."
Paul beamed at him and patted his arm. "That's all right, Matt. You took it better than I thought you would anyway."
After breakfast, Matthew stood in the den, waiting for Paul to get ready. He looked around the room again, taking in more of his surroundings, but his eyes shied away from the books, almost as if he was afraid to look at them for fear of what he might see. He scolded himself, but still found it hard to accept the change in his perception of his career-minded brother. He was mildly surprised to see a computer games console tucked down the side of the TV.
"Matthew? Are you ready to go?" Paul's voice called out to him as the younger man walked into the den.
"Sure. Um, whose is this?" he asked, pointing at the Playstation. Mark 2, naturally.
"Dan's," Paul said. "Why? What's wrong with it?" He asked that as Matthew's face took on yet another look of surprise.
"Daniel's? I thought you said he spent half his life buried in a book."
"Sure, but he is a geek," Paul chuckled. "He does geek things. Besides, he and Jack have a private competition going on between them. Some war game or other. Daniel's winning at the moment, but they trade positions with virtually every session."
"I find it hard to imagine those two doing that," Matthew replied, heading out of the den and grabbing his coat on the way to the front door.
"I don't know. I know they both have a sense of fun, that was obvious when you had everyone here on that snow day, but... oh, it just strikes me as odd." He paused for the moment as Paul locked up the house, then headed to the garage. Within weeks of moving to the Springs, he'd ditched the soft top Beemer and traded it for a Land Rover, much to Daniel's relief. They got in, Matthew waited till Paul had pulled out of the drive and then he asked, "Do you get jealous of the time that they spend together?"
"Daniel and O'Neill."
"Uh, no. There's nothing to it, Matt."
"No, I know that. O'Neill told me that he and Daniel are like brothers. I guess they just seem to spend a lot of time together, even for that sort of relationship."
"Matt, they spend what would appear to be a normal amount of time together for two brothers that live close to each other and work together. They love each other very much, but more than that, they need each other."
Paul sighed, carefully watching the road as he drove. Explaining a close relationship wasn't going to be easy to do, especially when the recipient of the explanation had grown up learning to keep everyone at arm's length.
"Before I met them, they were already close. They'd saved each other's lives, died for each other, were prepared to go to hell and back for each other. Daniel saved Jack's life right back in the beginning, and when Shau're was taken, Jack helped Daniel hold it together. He took him in, gave him a place to live, a place on a team, went in to bat for him against the General and so on. They're as much a couple, in some ways, as Daniel and I are. Just without the sex, naturally," he sniggered.
Matthew ignored that last remark.
"I still don't get how you can accept it."
"More to the point, why don't you question how Jack can accept me in Daniel's life? He wants Daniel to be happy. I want Daniel to be happy. Making Daniel happy is a full-time job. Having the two of us at the task makes it easier. Jack doesn't mind, when he comes over, seeing Daniel and me wrapped in each other. I don't mind watching them messing about, wrestling or having snowball fights or playing chess ... "
He turned onto the main road to take them to the mountain and finished explaining. "When Jack found out about us, Daniel was in a bad way. He'd been captured and tortured, beaten till he was literally a walking bruise."
Matthew shuddered and let out a moan of sympathy. Irrespective of his feelings about Daniel and Paul, which were still confused, he wouldn't wish that on anyone. He was a bit of a cold man at times, but he hated to see mistreatment of anyone or anything. It wasn't 'playing fair'.
"He'd also lost the ability to speak English," Paul continued. "Fortunately for us, he speaks lots of other languages." Paul let out a humourless laugh as he remembered that. "Anyway, it was just over a year ago, before they repealed the law. I fucked up, in private, but I let slip a few words that 'just good friends' wouldn't say. Jack just looked at the ceiling. He wouldn't let me 'tell' him anything, but in his way, he got out the information from us. He protected Daniel - protected me. He helped me with the nightmares that Daniel suffered, helped me take care of him, encouraged me to love him openly - at least among friends. He was an absolute rock, Matt. He became a damned good friend of mine too. As soon as he realised how much I loved Daniel, and how much Daniel loved me, he was there for us. I was very grateful for it. He was grateful that Daniel wouldn't be alone. Daniel's been through more shit than most people would even go through in ten life times, Matthew. He shouldn't be alone."
"Are you sure you're not just feeling sorry for him?" Matthew's tone was genuinely curious and not snarky as it could have been with a question like that. Paul answered.
"No. I know what you're meaning, Matt, and it's a fair question, but no. I love him, he loves me. He's a man that will walk away from a fight, unafraid of what people will think of him, but when it comes to protecting those he loves, he'll go against everything he believes in. He executed a man that was about to do the same to me. No worries, no nightmares after, nothing. I was about to die so he killed him."
"He doesn't strike me as being that cold," Matthew said thoughtfully. Then he added hurriedly, "But I'm very glad he did."
Paul smiled warmly at that. He didn't mention his own part in the proceedings, the killing of the one with the gun to Rayner's head. Instead, he gave Matthew some more food for thought. "Daniel had a gun to his own head at the time. He'd been smacked around for issuing orders in other languages too, but he wanted me to duck at a certain moment to keep me safe."
"How wasn't he shot?"
"I was able to convey to him, with a single look, that Jack was nearby with a gun trained on Daniel's would-be executioner. He was able to read me, Matthew. He also trusted that Jack would act the second Daniel said to. The level of trust between those two is incredible - the level of trust between Daniel and me is the same."
He let Matthew mull this over for a while, then he said as the gates to the complex approached, "Do you understand us better now, Matt?"
"Yes, I think I do."
"Do you approve?"
Matthew stayed silent for a few moments, then he said, "I can't say I'm jumping for joy, Paul, but having said that, I'm not sure you'd ever have found anyone more suited to you, or better prepared to watch out for you. So, I promise that I will do my damnedest to accept it. I won't cause any problems for you with Mother. If she doesn't like your relationship, I will stick up for you, you have my word. Yes, I'd have rathered you were straight, married, and so on, but you should be happy. He obviously makes you happy. I doubt I'll ever be comfortable about it, but I'm going to try."
They went through the check-in with the guards at the gate before Paul answered.
"Thank you," he finally said quietly. "That means a hell of a lot to me, Matt. Do you think that maybe you and I could see a bit more of each other?"
"I'd like that, Paul," Matthew said warmly. "I'd like that a lot."
The trap had been set. The A'kari device was on the table in Sam's lab, Sam and Daniel working on it together. The camera was on, the red light covered with a piece of black insulating tape so it wouldn't appear so. The phone rang and they knew that Paul had arrived with his brother. Daniel wasn't happy about the situation but he had to play along, if only to prove that Matthew was innocent.
Matthew wanted to say goodbye to Daniel, wanting to make a good impression on his little brother's other half. He'd concluded his business at the mountain, come to an agreement with Hammond about the sort of units that could be installed at the SGC, and was about to leave. He asked Hammond where he'd find Daniel and was directed to the lab.
At the lab, he saw some things on the desk but no people. Intrigued by the odd-looking device, he went across to it and picked it up. It was a very curious item indeed and his interest was piqued.
He nearly jumped a mile when he heard footsteps approaching. Turning, the device still in his hand, he saw Steven Rayner, not that he knew who he was.
"Um, I was looking for Doctor Jackson. Would you know where he is?"
"Probably in the commissary," Steven replied, looking at the device in Matthew's hand. "I was looking for him too. He's not in the anth. labs or his office. This is usually the next place to look. After that, follow the scent of coffee."
Steven nodded out towards the corridor and said he'd be going there. He was out of sight in seconds.
A few moments later, kitbag in hand, Matthew followed.
Finding Daniel with Sam in the commissary, Matthew had been polite and warm, putting the man's jumpy attitude down to his early start and an overdose of caffeine - Paul had warned him of that side effect to his personality. He'd already been to Paul's office, said his goodbyes, sympathising with the mountain of paperwork his brother had to do, then with promises to meet up more often, and to certainly keep in contact, he'd left. So, after saying goodbye to Daniel, he was in the elevator and heading to the staff car that awaited him in moments.
Daniel had made his way to the lab with Sam rapidly after Matthew had left them. It was on a different level from the one they were on and the elevator was ascending while they stood outside, impatiently waiting for it. By the time they got in it, they were virtually jumping around.
Rushing to the lab, they found that the device had gone. Or rather, the copy of the device that Sam had hurriedly made in secret the night before. It was an intriguing shape, but with the use of a soldering iron, and the metalworking tools she had, the facsimile was pretty convincing. Daniel had gone in early that morning to help her inscribe the symbols on it. Inside, the copy just held bits of spare metal, enough to give it some interesting weight. For a thief that wouldn't have time to inspect the object, it was enough of a lure.
"We should stop him," Sam said.
"And what if it wasn't him?" Daniel said. "The door was open, it could have been a number of people. Come on, up to the security room."
They called Jack and Teal'c, who had been quietly patrolling the area, watching out for people going up and down that corridor, making lists of those that may have reason to be there, and those that wouldn't.
All four met up, Jack told the sergeant currently in charge of the security cameras to play back the tape to the lab and all four moaned in frustration. Matthew was seen going in, picking up the device, Steven appearing at the door... then nothing.
"I had to change the tape there, Sir," the sergeant said. "It's one of the downsides to this sort of security system."
"Are there other forms of system?" Jack asked, now angry about the lack of evidence.
"Sure, Colonel. There are digital ones, that record directly onto a hard drive. The larger the hard drive, the more images we can store. Then the ones that have been recorded can be backed up onto other discs, without disturbing the recording process. Trouble is, they're not cheap."
"Nothing is here, Sergeant," Jack muttered. Then he thanked him and ushered the others out.
"So, what are we going to do?" Sam asked.
"We can't go after him," Daniel said, still not wanting to believe that Matthew was involved. "Think about it, that device was a weird-looking thing, he's not seen much in the way of alien stuff, it's only natural that he'd pick it up and look at it. You saw yourself that he wasn't the only one there, that others had come in and gone out. Maybe one of them came back?"
"What about Steven Rayner?" Teal'c asked.
"What about him?" Daniel asked back.
"He was there at the same time."
"What are you suggesting, Teal'c?" Jack asked. "You think that Rayner's involved?"
By now, all four were back in the elevator, so they felt free to talk.
"It is a possibility. He has had the opportunity to take all of the items. The question should be, does he have a motive?"
Coming out of the elevator on the same floor as Hammond's office, the team headed up to see him in silence. Daniel ran Teal'c's question over and over in his mind. A motive wouldn't come off-hand, but something nagged at Daniel's subconscious.
Before speaking to the General, Daniel phoned and checked up on Steven's whereabouts. He wasn't comforted to find that he had gone home a few minutes before, complaining of feeling ill. His lab assistant said he did look pretty sick. Together, they told the General what had happened, and then Sam added the bit about the security camera. Hammond agreed to looking into the continuous recording system, on the grounds that they couldn't have too much security there.
"Doctor Jackson, do you have any possible motive for Doctor Rayner to be involved?"
"I don't, Sir, not at the moment. But I can't think of one for Matthew either. I'm really hoping it's not him. He and Paul are talking properly for the first time, trying to build up a relationship. If this is true, it will devastate Paul."
"So, how are we going to go about this?" Sam asked quietly.
"We'll have to watch Steven. If he shows no sign of having been involved, then there's going to have to be an investigation into Matthew," Daniel said. "Nothing that has been taken will cause any problems on Earth, as long as we have the real device here. If there is something to the legend about it and NID get hold of it, then maybe things will move up a notch. But in the meantime, we're safe."
They discussed more surveillance, more ideas, came up with nothing in particular and then left. They'd need to do a lot more research.
"It's a fake." The uniformed man looked at the device in disgust.
"They know then," came the reply from the other man. "Our man should have taken the real device at the same time as the data."
"It wasn't available. Chances are it's locked up. We need to get it."
"How is the translation coming on?"
"Slowly. Our translator is nowhere near as good as Jackson and he keeps telling me that he does not have enough data to work with. They should return to the planet where the device was found, the other one as well, to see if there is more data to be found."
"And if we manage to arrange that?"
"Then we copy the information. Our man is ahead of Jackson, so we will have the advantage. As soon as the device is released from its hiding place, we take it."
The non-uniformed man smiled, a small, wry smile. They'd have that device soon.
"You'll need to get back to the planets where the A'kari device came from and the other data was found," Paul suggested to Daniel over dinner that night. "If the data was stolen rather than lost then whoever has it has a head start on you when it comes to translating. Given my worries about the NID involvement on that other mission, I'm concerned that there's something bigger going on."
Daniel's blood ran cold for the briefest of moments as Paul spoke. Why would he suggest that? Did he know that it had been stolen for real? Or was he just being his usual self; analytical, calculating, working the angles. Daniel didn't even want to consider that Paul had any possible connection to the disappearance, none whatsoever. He didn't believe it. He couldn't believe it.
"Paul. I'm going to say something to you now and I do not want you to question me, okay?"
Paul nodded slowly, unsure of where this was going.
"Under no circumstances will you bring up that subject again. Not unless it's spoken of to you. Please, babe, do this."
Daniel's voice was as serious as Paul had ever heard it so he just nodded again. Underneath, though, he was as curious as a whole planet full of cats.
Lovemaking that night was cautious on both sides - like a pair of spiny anteaters, careful not to do the wrong thing, but the emotions were not there in their usual amount. It caused Paul to question Daniel.
"Dan? Are we okay?"
Daniel's response was to hold him tight, so that their bodies seemed glued together. All he could say was, "If anyone does anything to hurt you, or tries to take you away from me, I will skin them alive. Nobody will come between us."
Paul heard the fervour in Daniel's voice and knew that something was seriously wrong and that Daniel was trying to protect him. But from what? It had something to do with the data, he was sure of it. How could he find out more without it looking like it, though? He ran Daniel's earlier words through his mind and wondered at them. The only thing that he could think of was that he, Paul, was a suspect. But that didn't make sense. The data had gone missing when he was away from the base. He knew that Daniel wouldn't believe that in a million years either. Too tired to think further, he made himself comfortable and shut his eyes.
Daniel lay with his eyes shut, but his mind working overtime. He was terrified that Paul would dig further and cause others to be suspicious of him. But he couldn't tell him, couldn't say that his brother was a suspect. The pain would be too great.
"I'm under pressure to retrieve the data," Hammond announced to SG-1 at an off-the-record briefing.
"Oh? Who's pressuring you?" Jack asked.
"The Pentagon," Hammond admitted, "but I have the feeling that the NID is behind it."
Daniel mentioned Paul's idea, but without saying that Paul had suggested it. He got nods from the others, but they weren't sure how they'd accomplish this without alerting the NID. They obviously had someone at the SGC supplying them with information.
"We should create a screen of smoke," Teal'c announced. None of the others corrected his phrase, they just looked at him in the manner of people wanting him to go on. "We should send a MALP to our next destination. While there, we should dial up the planets of the A'kari and where the other data was discovered. We can go, retrieve the information, then return to our original destination. No one will be any the wiser."
Hammond looked at his favourite team and grinned.
"I knew there was a reason that I kept you on the team, big guy," Jack snorted.
"Indeed. I have considerable experience in planning covert missions. This solution was obvious. It will be, as you say, a slice of confection."
Again, Jack stopped himself from correcting Teal'c, laughing as he nodded in reply.
"Your official briefing is being held this afternoon, people," Hammond interrupted the by-play. "We'll go through that as normal. Dr. Jackson, if you or Major Carter can discover a reason for me to add some extra time to the schedule, it would be a help."
"Of course, General. I'm sure that I'll think of something. How much time should we have?"
"We know where the information came from on the A'kari world and P5S-98C," Sam pointed out. "It will only take us a couple of hours maximum to get it."
"Good, good," Hammond answered. "I'll leave it in your capable hands. I have no need to point out that this has to be kept between us, do I?"
He was answered by four shakes of the head, but Daniel couldn't look him in the eye. Hammond noticed this, dismissed the others and asked Daniel to remain behind.
"Do I have to worry about you, Doctor?" Hammond asked, his voice stern.
"NO! Of course not," Daniel insisted. "I'm just worried about Paul, that's all. I still don't believe that his brother had anything to do with this." He thought quickly and then came up with a cover for his lover. "You know what Paul's like though," he said imploringly. "He's smart, savvy. He'll put two and two together. I'm scared that he's going to start to get suspicious about the missing items, maybe start to look into the disappearance. It could look like he's involved, even though he's not."
Hammond put his fingertips together and looked over the top of his hands as he thought on Daniel's words.
"I see. Do you have reason to suspect that he may be getting concerned?"
Daniel sighed, unsure as to how to proceed. He regrouped, then said, "Not yet. But you know how protective he is of me. If he thinks that someone is doing something that can hurt me or even just annoy me, he'll go after it. Given the fact that his brother is a suspect, I'm scared that you'll think that Paul is in some way involved."
Hammond nodded in understanding. "For the record - or at least, it would be if this conversation was being recorded - I don't believe for one second that he's involved. His brother... I'm not so sure. Paul seemed genuinely shocked to see him in the briefing room, so he certainly wasn't expecting to meet up with him. And seeing as he had his own suspicions from the last mission he was on, I can't see that he'd suddenly change sides. Go and do your job, Daniel. I shall watch over him and stop him from digging too deep."
"Thank you, General," Daniel sighed. Then he turned and left the office without another word.
They stepped out onto the surface of M56-26B and as soon as the wormhole had disengaged, they hurriedly dialled up the A'kari homeworld. Sam whipped out her laptop and watched the screen as it booted up, while Daniel sent the MALP through to check that the planet was still uninhabited. As soon as her computer was ready, she opened the MALP telemetry receiving program and watched carefully. Using a remote device, she directed the video camera to look around and soon called the all clear. They waited for her to switch off the laptop and put it away, then the four stepped through.
The area where the device and initial data had been found was right next to the gate, so it didn't take long for them to arrive there and start recording. Daniel pulled out his digital video camera and took images of every word he could find, placing them in the context of the building in the hopes that that would aid his decryption, but not really taking the time to look at what was there. Teal'c and Jack stayed at the gate, as Sam took some scientific data. She'd given them the computer and Teal'c dialled up P5S-98C, Jack sending the MALP through to save time for when the scientists had finished. By the time he was able to give himself the reassurance that they were safe, Sam and Daniel were at his side.
"For the record, that is the quickest you guys have ever been," Jack said in admiration. It hadn't taken them more than thirty minutes to get what they wanted.
"We knew what to look for and where to look for it, Jack," Daniel answered with a shrug. "Though I get the feeling that there's more to that site than meets the eye. If I don't manage to decrypt the language with what we get today, I'm going to want to come back."
Jack rolled his eyes at the prospect but said nothing. Instead, he ushered them both through the wormhole.
It was a similar set-up on 98C, enough that Daniel could see definite A'kari patterning in the remains of the building near the gate. He removed the memory card from his camera and replaced it with another, then recorded everything he could see. Sam took some more readings while Jack and Teal'c watched their backs. Again, they were done quickly, but this time it took a little longer as there was more to record.
"Time to go back to 26B," Daniel called as soon as he was finished. He replaced the memory card and hid the one with the recordings on in his backpack next to the other one from the A'kari world. He wouldn't even acknowledge their existence when they returned to Earth.
Hammond knew that he was going to have to officially send other teams to do precisely what SG-1 had done to replace the missing data, but by shuffling the off-world schedules, he was hoping to give Daniel a head start on the translations. Something else would happen to assist his work, something that was also off-the-record.
The mission to 26B went as planned, and they barely needed the extra time that had been built into the mission schedule. There wasn't a great deal to see and the ruins that had suddenly become a 'must see' for Daniel - to get the extra time - had turned out to be little more than a deserted barn. Needing to kill a couple of hours, they returned to the gate, and while Jack made dinner, Sam and Daniel wrote up their mission reports. It would save time back on Earth. Given that they were 'we came, we looked around, we got bored and we went home', they wouldn't be riveting reading for the recipients.
As soon as they'd finished their meals, they headed home. As usual, Hammond was there to greet them. As usual, they went straight to the infirmary for their check-ups.
Not as usual, Daniel and Sam suddenly felt 'ill'.
They allowed themselves to be subjected to a battery of tests and Janet's professional opinion was that they were both quote, unquote, fucked. Too much work and not enough rest. Her recommendation - go home for a couple of days.
Ever the benevolent leader, Hammond excused them the debrief, after their quick reports to him in the infirmary that nothing had happened. Jack did his 'If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times, you need SLEEP before a mission!' thing and Teal'c hovered and looked threatening until they agreed to go home.
Gathering up their things, they got changed, grabbed their bags and left in separate cars. Sam parked at home then sneaked out the back way, bag over her shoulder and went directly to Daniel's house.
Daniel got home only to discover that Paul had left a message on the answerphone. "Dan, honey, I'm sorry, but the General has asked that we change the schedule for the negotiations with, well, you know - the next lot. I'm going to be gone for a day or three, I think. Love you, and I'll see you when I get back."
Daniel grinned wryly. At least George had kept his promise. Daniel knew which negotiations Paul was talking about - they were going to be long, complex and very, very boring. With Paul out of the way, no one could even begin to implicate him should things go wrong now.
Sam arrived a few minutes later and they settled down to work together. It was going to be a long day or two and they'd need a damned good sleep when they were done. They knew that it would be all the time that they'd get on this, so choices, they didn't have.
Daniel put the coffee on, Sam found the chocolate, then they set to work.
Day one was spent poring over streams of data, Sam excitedly doing calculations as she put bits of information that Daniel threw her way together with what they'd figured to be numerals. Almost as soon as he had begun, Daniel had realised that the A'kari language was, in fact, a variant of Sumerian cuneiform, the grammar and sentence structure being the same, but the wedge shapes being just different enough to have thrown him to start with when he hadn't had enough data. It was only when he had the whole lot printed out in front of him that he realised the patterns. As soon as he had made that initial guess, it all fell into place. Day two was spent finishing off the translations on the device (a picture of which was stored on her laptop) so that Daniel could help Sam to solve the riddle of the machine. The symbols on it were instructions, along with the mathematical calculations that she had been working on the previous day.
A phone call alerted the duo that Paul had wrapped up the negotiations earlier than had been previously estimated, so Sam grabbed her things and Daniel's work, and made her way out of Daniel's place, sneaking back to her own house and to Janet. She hadn't even gone home the night before. Daniel hurriedly got the house ready for Paul's return and was sitting in the living room reading a book when he entered their home.
"Dan! Hey, hun, you okay? I heard you got sent home with exhaustion."
"Ah," Daniel answered sheepishly. "I guess I'd been running too hard." He and Sam had come up with a cover story when they realised that Paul would know that Daniel shouldn't have been that exhausted.
"Yeah," Daniel answered shyly. At least he hoped it was that. He detested the thought of lying to Paul, it wasn't something that he had ever done before this sorry 'case' and certainly didn't plan to do it again. "See, before we went on that mission, we'd been working out in the gym and teasing each other about getting older and fatter." That, in fact, was the truth, so Daniel's bashful look was genuine there. "When we were on the mission, she challenged me to a race, and of course..."
"You didn't want to lose a race to her?" Paul prompted.
"Uh, no," he replied, shaking his head and blushing a little. "Um, Jack and Teal'c were checking something else out when this happened, and met us at the gate. We'd only just got our breath back when they turned up. They don't know about it, okay?"
"Okay," Paul answered with a grin. "Go on."
"Well, basically, when we came back through the gate, and seeing as we'd both skipped lunch and forgotten breakfast," he cringed, "we both started to feel sick and Janet did her Napoleon thing. Or rather, she read the riot act," he added with a dip of his head.
"Oh, Daniel, what am I going to do with you?" Paul scolded.
"Well," Daniel replied, "I've got some good ideas about that, if you're interested?"
Paul burst out laughing and knelt in front of him, both men feeling comfort as they held each other closely. The romantic moment was shattered when Paul's stomach rumbled.
"Food," Daniel said adamantly. "Food first, then I'm gonna welcome you home, Major D."
At yet another off-the-record meeting the following day, Daniel explained to the General what they had found out about the device. It was similar to the devices left during the foothold situation that they'd had, but basically camouflaging the area surrounding it. As they only had the one device, they were not sure how much use it would be on a larger-scale, so its military value was minimal. However, as Jack pointed out, it would be a great way to hide an individual, making political assassinations a lot easier if the wrong people got a hold of it.
"Now all we have to do is let people know," Hammond said as he reviewed the data. "I've already sent a couple of teams off-world to retrieve the same data that you had. How are we going to go about this?"
"I've been thinking about that," Daniel said. "I'll give Steven the translation work. I won't tell him that it's already done and won't drop any hints as to its nature. He's going to need to see the connection to cuneiform before he can even start to make any headway with it. I will likely be called on at that point, as I can read it and he can't."
"Do the NID have anyone that can read it?" Hammond asked.
"I have no idea," Daniel replied. "I really don't know who they have on board. It's not a commonly read language, so it wouldn't be easy for them to take someone without the linguistics world knowing about it. It's a small community, relatively speaking. Whereas modern language specialists are common, ancient language specialists aren't and tend to be known well by the others. Only a few ancient languages are read fluently by a lot of people, mostly Latin, Greek and Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Other languages have a much smaller base."
"What are we going to do with the device, Sir?" Sam asked.
"I want you to build another replica," Hammond directed. "This time, make it as near perfect a replica as you can. Just leave out one part, any part, a small one would be best, just to make sure that it doesn't work. If your translation is correct, Doctor Jackson, then Colonel O'Neill's suggestion of the device getting into the wrong hands and being used for the wrong reason would become a likely scenario. I do not like the sound of that."
"I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this," Sam informed him. "I mean, it's a device that I haven't been able to open yet, so how can I replicate it?"
"That was before we had the translation, Sam," Daniel pointed out. "If we work together, maybe we can do it?"
"I'll try," she sighed.
"What about security?" Jack asked. "No one can know what they're going to be working on."
"I'd like Siler's help," Sam put in before anyone could answer. "He's brilliant at stuff like this and he's extremely good at metalwork. He does sculptures in iron as a hobby, really intricate things. It gives him an edge when it comes to doing the delicate pieces," she added with a shrug.
"Very well, Major," Hammond agreed. No one doubted Siler's loyalty; the man had proved time and again to be dedicated to the SGC and was known to hate the NID with a passion.
"O'Neill. You and I shall arrange their security," Teal'c stated. "No one shall pass."
"Not if you're the doorman," Jack laughed. "Okay, we'll do that. No cameras in your lab though, Carter, we don't want anyone looking at what you're doing."
An hour later, and Sam and Daniel were in the lab, sitting next to each other, with Siler facing them across the desk.
"You want me to make that?" Siler asked, his eyes opened wide in astonishment.
"Sort of," Sam agreed. "We already made one 'cheap knockoff', but now we need to make it look like the real thing. Inside and out, so that an engineer couldn't tell why it doesn't work."
Siler let out a groan, but underneath he was relishing the challenge. It was way better than changing light bulbs or getting electrocuted by the base's 2IC.
With the data that had been retrieved by the other teams, Daniel had set Steven to work. He'd told him that he had to help Sam with going over some data they had on the items from Ma'chello's lab that were now at Area 51 and probably would be busy for a while. Because they had a tough code to break, he wouldn't want to be disturbed, either. The fact that Steven hadn't complained about being given the data to work with had set Daniel's warning bells off. Steven wouldn't usually look at anything which wasn't either hieroglyphic, demotic or Greek. Hoping that his internal alarm system was playing him up, Daniel had then retreated to the lab with Sam.
Jack and Teal'c had organised the security system. The new digital system had been approved, but would take a while to get installed. With no camera on in Sam's lab, they needed more in the corridors. Working with the sergeant in charge of security, they used the excuse that the more cameras they had on their old system, the more they'd get for replacement with the new, so they wanted overlapping views from one camera to the next. That way, they were able to get more trained on the area near the lab without arousing the suspicion of the sergeant - who just thought that they were helping him out. It wasn't that he was under suspicion, but no one that shouldn't know about the plan could know.
Sam, Daniel and Siler worked quickly and efficiently. While Siler made a shell that looked just like the original, the others worked at opening it. Using the knowledge that he had from the translation, Daniel told Sam what each bit said. One area of writing explained the device's nature, another told that it had been given by the gods (which gods, Daniel wasn't sure, but he had a feeling that they were not Goa'uld) to aid in hunting, and the final bit was the thing that Sam was looking for. How to open the device.
Carefully, Daniel pressed the areas of the device as the instructions said. At first, nothing seemed to happen, then, with a small pop, the top of the device opened. Inside, there were a few bits and pieces, looking like wires and condensers and the like. A small glass vial held what looked like a power pack for a staff weapon.
"How are we going to replicate that?" Daniel asked.
Sam screwed her face up in concentration, then she grinned.
"Easy. What we need is a sealed glass container. Then we make up the rest, put the vial into it, then break it. Burn the rest of the inside, to make it look like there was a small fire. Nothing we can do to fix it as the power supply will then be unknown. What do you think?"
Daniel grinned and leaned close to her and kissed her head.
"I think it will work," he said.
"Uh, Major," Siler said, "it may be a good idea to miss out one or two of the wires or something. Just in case they decide to rebuild it."
"Good thinking, Sergeant," Sam replied, beaming at him. "You think we can do this?"
He peered into the device and looked at the workings. With a grin on his face, he said, "Sure. No problems, Major. A bit of disguising will need to be done on bits we get from Earth, like stripping down wires to the bare metal, but I think that it's going to be fairly simple. Let me get the casing made up, then if you and the Doc will do the etching on the case, I can build the mechanics."
"I knew that you'd be the right man for the job," Sam said. "The General will be glad to hear about this, I promise."
Siler blushed a little, then he shrugged. "Just doing my job, Ma'am."
Daniel had called Paul to tell him that he wouldn't be home that night, citing some developments with something that Sam was working on. He'd stay in their quarters on base. Paul wasn't too happy about that, saying that Daniel really would be exhausted if he did. Daniel had to promise faithfully that he'd get some sleep before Paul would let it go.
"I'll make it up to you," he vowed. "We do have two weeks off over New Year. Once the Christmas shifts are out of the way, the two of us can leave town. What do you think?"
Paul loved that idea and said he'd give a destination some thought overnight. Thinking that he might regret that later, Daniel even said that Paul could choose where they'd go and what they'd do.
Daniel did get some sleep. About three hours' worth.
It had taken them till the early hours of the next morning to finish the etching of the symbols onto the casing, delays happening because Sam kept stopping to help Siler. By the time Daniel had finished, Siler and Sam had managed to make a remarkably realistic copy. Siler carefully spot welded the mechanics into place, just as the real device had it. Then, with all of their hearts in their mouths, Sam broke the once sealed vial and then used a Bunsen burner to create scorch marks on the rest of the inside.
"I hope that will do," she sighed as she closed the lid.
"You can't tell which is which from the outside, that's for sure," Siler said encouragingly.
"There's only one way to find out," Daniel added. "Lock the real one away in my lab, put this one away in yours. That way we won't mix them up. There's no one on my floor this time of night, so they won't see me doing it."
Daniel put the device inside his jacket, which he did up, then watched as Sam locked the fake away in her safe. Siler then helped her clear up the evidence of them working on something like that, then he bade them goodnight. Daniel, while they were tidying up, called Jack who was staying in his quarters on base.
"O'Neill," he barked.
"Jack, it's ready."
"Stay put till I call you."
Jack put the phone down and as he was already dressed, headed out of his room to Teal'c's, picked him up and then they went to follow their plans. Jack headed up to the security office. As soon as he got there, he ordered the security officer out of the room, with a nod and a wink saying that he wanted to "check up on something that should be kept quiet" (which got a grin from the corporal watching the screens), then he called the lab to let Teal'c know it was okay for them to leave for Daniel's office. He panned the camera in Daniel's office to the door and away from the safe, so that they could watch any comings and goings, but not record Daniel hiding the device, and then he switched on the camera in Sam's lab. Teal'c had gone straight to the lab and when he got the message from Jack, he escorted Daniel to his office, using some pretext of wanting to talk to him about Chulakian practises as an excuse to be with him - they weren't taking any chances on their real motives being discovered. Sam went directly to her own quarters.
The bait was ready. All they had to do now was finish setting the trap.
When he woke up in the morning, Daniel was surprised to see Paul standing over him.
"I'm glad to see you did as you promised," Paul said with a wry grin.
"Yeah," Daniel yawned. "I always do. Sorry about last night, babe."
"That's okay. I'm just glad you gave in and went to bed."
"I'm not as young as I once was. There was a time I could do forty-eight hours straight on caffeine alone. I think twenty-four's my max these days. It's tragic," he added, putting the back of his hand dramatically on his head.
Paul groaned, then he put out his hand and pulled Daniel up off the bed. "Come on, get yourself ready and we can go and have breakfast together, okay?"
"Sounds good," Daniel agreed, yawning again and pulling Paul close for a hug before kissing his head and letting him go. He looked at his watch and saw how little time had passed since he had gone to bed and had to fight down a groan. He was just glad that he wasn't going out on a mission that day.
They had their breakfast together, finding themselves joined by the rest of Paul's team within minutes of them sitting down.
"You okay, Doc?" Eduardo asked. "You looked fucked."
"Hardly," Daniel muttered. "I was on base all night."
The others chuckled as Paul rolled his eyes. "I should hope you weren't then," Paul replied. "Seeing as I was at home."
Daniel turned his head and batted his eyelashes. "I was with Sam, okay? You really think that I'd try something with her?"
"Sam? No, I don't think so," Paul sniggered. "Janet however..."
Daniel clipped him up the back of his head and then returned to his coffee. There had been constant teasing about Daniel with Janet ever since they'd pretended to be together. The fact that both of them played it up didn't exactly help their cause.
After a quiet discussion with Jack, Daniel decided to push the translation ahead. He really, really didn't want it to be Steven behind the missing data, but all the - admittedly small - circumstantial evidence pointed his way. It was either him or Matthew and Daniel wanted it to be him even less. He strolled into the lab after lunch and chatted briefly with his anthropology team, then turned to talk to Steven.
"Hey, Steve," he said, his voice calm and light, belying the dread that really lay inside him.
"Daniel. You okay? You look tired."
"Yeah, just working on those Ma'chello codes last night. Sam and I don't get much opportunity to do that, so we tend to overdo it when we do."
Steven nodded in understanding, keeping his eyes on the printouts of the pictures from the A'kari world.
"There's something familiar about those symbols," he said to Daniel. "I just can't put my finger on it."
Daniel picked up one of the printouts and stared at it hard. "I didn't get much chance to look at the original data before it ended up in the bin," he said with a shrug. "Hmm, let's see." He twisted the photo one way, then the other, cocking his head to one side as he did. "Can this be printed off without the background?" he asked the room in general. "I mean, if we could see the symbols on their own, perhaps they'd be easier to place in a grammatical context."
One of the techs said that with the information which was in the computer, they could try running a forensic photographic program that they had. Daniel agreed, telling them to only run a copy of it through and to preserve the original data. He was praying that the attitude that he was holding would come across to the occupants of the room as his normal state. If he let any hint drop that he had already figured it out and done the translation, it would destroy the whole plan.
Once Daniel had used the data that he and Sam had worked on at home, and he had realised the connection to Sumerian, he hadn't even needed to actually translate the pictures of the walls from A'kari or 98C. But without the pictures, he would have taken a lot longer to make the connection. Now all he had to do was to work with Steven to make the connection in a believable timeframe. He was really grateful for his reputation for figuring out puzzles a lot faster than anyone else. It would mean that a shorter timeframe would actually be credible.
While the tech was working on the computer, Daniel chatted to Steven about a number of unrelated projects, sounding for the world as he usually did.
"You seem to be broadening your horizons, Steve," Daniel said with a smile. "I've noticed you with your fingers in other areas than your normal expertise."
"Is that a problem?" Steven looked a bit worried by this observation.
"No! Absolutely not!" Daniel was emphatic in his reassurance. "I've had to learn Viking Runes, for crying out loud," he added with a shrug. "The more you know, the better. We deal with so many different civilisations that it's impossible for us to have specialists in all fields. We need you to expand your abilities, Steve. I'm really pleased with what you're doing."
For the first time since he'd arrived at the base, Steven gave Daniel a genuine, warm smile, but it was tempered with another look.
"Thanks," he said quietly. "You've been kind of inspiring," he added with a shrug. "I'm really sorry about how things went in Chicago, Daniel. It must have been hard for you to know you were right and yet to be unable to prove it."
Daniel stared into Steven's eyes as he heard those words and his blood ran cold. The genuineness of Steven's smile was made a lie when Daniel saw what looked like hate or jealousy flash across Steven's expression. It was only there for the briefest of moments, but it was something that Daniel had seen a lot of when he'd started to go out with Sarah, or when Dr. Jordan had given him the lion's share of attention. He knew the look all too well. If Daniel was looking for a motive for Steven to steal the data, then he had found it.
He thanked Steven and patted his arm before moving away. He needed to get out of there, and fast.
"I have to go see the General for a minute. If I don't, we're going to have to wait a while before the mission to M46-7RX gets approved," he announced to the room. "I'll probably be back in my office when you've got that completed," he added. "Could someone come and get me when it's ready?"
He received an affirmative, then headed just as he said he would to the General's office. He knocked on the door and entered when bade, his heart sinking the moment he did.
"Matthew? What are you doing back so soon?" he asked, his voice light and curious.
"General Harper wanted a few more details clarified," Matthew replied, standing up to shake Daniel's hand. "And, well, let's just say that I wanted to see Paul again."
Daniel recovered from his shock quickly and smiled broadly at him. "He'll be thrilled to bits," he replied. "Have you seen him yet?"
"No, I was going to as soon as we'd finished here." Matthew turned to look at the General as he spoke, so he missed the pleading glance that Daniel shot Hammond's way.
"I think we can continue later, Colonel," Hammond said kindly, picking up immediately on Daniel's need to talk alone. "Go and see Major Davis. I'm sure he will be very happy to see you."
"Thank you, Sir," Matthew replied, his voice full of gratitude. "I'm sure that General Harper will be most satisfied with the answers you have given me."
He saluted and left, giving Daniel a surreptitious wink as he did.
"Doctor?" Hammond prompted as Daniel watched Matthew leave.
"Oh, yes, General. I'm sorry," he answered, a little flustered. "I wasn't expecting to see him again so soon. Neither will Paul be."
"Will he really be pleased to see him?"
"I think he'll be very happy, Sir. Paul hasn't spoken to most of his family in years. Matthew wants to open up their relationship, and coupled with the fact that while Matt's not exactly happy about Paul being with me, he has at least accepted us and has promised to support Paul against the rest of the family should it become necessary... well, I think that makes Paul actually quite excited about seeing him."
Hammond nodded in understanding, then went straight to the point.
"You wished to see me?"
"Yeah," Daniel sighed. "I was just in the language lab..."
He told Hammond about the events in there, and the look in Steven's eyes.
"So you think that he will sell us out to someone, most likely the NID, just for revenge?" Hammond asked.
"It sounds petty," Daniel answered, "but it's a whole lot more believable than Matthew's involvement."
George nodded again, thinking that made sense.
"Okay. Let Colonel O'Neill know what you've told me, then keep an eye on Dr. Rayner. I take it everything is ready?"
"Yes, Sir," Daniel answered. "We're all set."
"Good luck, then," George replied. "Let's hope that things go well for us this time."
Daniel called Jack from his office and told him what was going on. He in turn alerted Teal'c and Sam. They had to be ready to act as soon as they got the word.
Daniel waited for the call from the lab, working quietly on some other translations for a couple of hours. He was only half-surprised when Paul knocked on his office door and entered, Matthew in tow.
"Hey, guys," Daniel greeted them with a smile. "Everything good?"
"Yeah," Paul answered, pleased at seeing his brother, but a touch nervous.
"Paul? What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Daniel," Paul answered. "It's just that..."
"I've invited Paul to stay in DC for the New Year," Matthew interrupted. "You, too."
"Oh!" Daniel answered in surprise. "Are you sure you want me there?" he added seriously - to them both. Before they could answer, he added, "I won't be offended if you say 'no'. Family is extremely important. Not having one of my own helps me see that," he said, staring Paul in the eye. "I don't want to come in-between you and the others."
It wasn't Paul that answered, it was Matthew.
"Listen, Daniel, you are family. When I said that I would support Paul, I meant it. I won't let him down, and I certainly won't let the others come between you two, or him and myself. It's up to them to accept him, accept you. Paul's nervous about this, but mainly because he doesn't want you to go rushing to his defence if they start up anything bad." He said that with a grin and narrowly avoided being smacked by his younger brother.
"Paul," Daniel sighed. "You know I'll support you in whatever you choose and however you choose to deal with it. It's up to you. If you want to go to Matthew's and you'd rather I stayed at home, then it's your choice, okay? I promise I won't be hurt if you decide to go alone."
"If you two will let me speak?" Paul said, gritting his teeth in annoyance. "I appreciate you both wanting to protect me, and I really appreciate you both supporting me, but you have to realise that I'd long ago written off the family. I am thrilled, goddamn delighted in fact, that Matt's here now and that we're friends. But what the rest think of me is irrelevant. What I'm really afraid of is that we'll go there and Mother will be her usual self - in other words, obnoxious - and that, please forgive me, Matt, Virginia will decide to put the knife in."
Matthew grimaced as Paul said that, but he had to agree with his brother's opinion of his wife.
"If she sees Mother making a fuss, then she will too," Paul continued. "You know how she sucks up to her."
Matthew nodded. It was one of the reasons he had never seriously contemplated divorcing her. His mother would have made his life a living hell if he did as she adored her daughter-in-law. Both of the women were political-military-wives. Traditional, in a DC kind of way. Both pushing their husbands through the ranks so that they could gain their own social advancements. Both coming from families with long histories of politics and army, and both coming from inherited money. Neither of them prepared to work any harder than organising the social events such as cocktail parties and so on. Even the children hadn't been important to either woman, except as a means to an end - a future for the family name. As far as they were concerned, producing a son and heir, and preferably a 'spare heir' should something go wrong, was their duty. Once the child had been born, their duty was over in that respect. Nannies were for bringing children up, not mothers.
Matthew had been a lot like his father, just accepting this as the 'norm'. He hadn't expected Virginia to love him, just as his mother certainly hadn't been in love with his father (and vice versa).
Paul continued with his mini-diatribe. "It will be awful," he moaned. "We'll have to dress in a particular way, act 'just so'...," his hands waved as he spoke and his face scrunched up in distaste. "No offence to you, Matt, but you know what I mean. Mother is tiresome."
Daniel couldn't help it, he burst out laughing.
"Oh, Paul," he said as he got himself under control. "You sound so damned posh sometimes," he joked.
Paul scowled as even Matthew started to chuckle.
"Oh, laugh it up," Paul growled.
"I'm sorry," Daniel put in quickly. "Honestly, Paul. I understand what you're getting at. How about a compromise?"
"What's that?" Matthew asked.
"What if we visit and see how things go. If it's intolerable, we'll leave and go somewhere else. I'm sure we can find a booking somewhere on short notice. With no plans and no expectations, it won't really matter where we go. Matt can come with us," he added, then turned to the shocked colonel, "if you want to, that is. After all, Paul wants to spend time with you, he just doesn't want to have to endure a gauntlet of abuse to do it, that's all. What do you think?"
"Are you sure that you would want me around?" Matthew asked Daniel.
"Matt, you're Paul's brother. Why wouldn't I? If push comes to shove and we end up doing this, I'll call Jack and get him to come too. That way none of us will feel left out at any time. Okay?"
The Davis brothers looked at each other and grinned. "Sounds good to me," Paul said enthusiastically. "Matt?"
"For the first time in years," Matthew said sincerely, "I'm looking forward to a holiday. It's a deal!"
A knock on the door got their attention. A lab tech stood there and told Daniel that the printout run was done. Daniel was torn. To prove that Steven was the only one involved in the theft, he should really drop hints to Matthew. If Matthew was nowhere near the lab - should things go missing again - then that would prove beyond doubt that he had nothing to do with it. But he didn't want to take any chances. Looking at his watch, he saw the time.
"Isn't it about time you were off duty?" he prompted.
Paul checked his own watch and agreed that it was.
"I'm going to be late," Daniel said, "but hopefully I'll be home tonight. We've been waiting for some data printouts, so I need to go there to direct proceedings. It all depends on the guys in the lab. Why don't you two go and I'll meet you there?"
They said their goodbyes and Daniel hurried off to the language lab. He found Steven and the others poring over the printouts, humming and hawing as they all agreed that it looked familiar. As Daniel entered the room, the techs stood to one side so that he could see them.
Picking one of the pages up, he bit his lip and narrowed his eyes, then traced the patterns of the wedges with his fingers.
"I think I know..." he started, then put down the paper and headed for one of the book shelves. Looking at the books, he ran his fingers over the spines. "No, not that, nor that... hmm, possibly, no, definitely not... ah yes! Look!"
He put a book on the table and opened it up. Steven and the techs saw what he was getting at.
"Sumerian cuneiform," Daniel announced. "Not identical, but close enough. See? The grammatical and lexical structure are more or less the same... I'll bet that if you exchange the wedge of the cuneiform for the more curved pattern on the printout, you'll get a translation. This set looks like 'tu', the word for 'home'," he added. "I'm sure that the lexis is the same. Well, almost sure," he added with a shrug.
"Damn," Steven cursed. "I don't read this, Daniel. Only you do here."
"I'm sure you'll manage," Daniel said with a smile. "Think of it as a challenge. If you get really stuck, give me a shout. This book is a really good grammar instructor anyway, and this..." he said getting another book, "has a fairly comprehensive lexicon." At Steven's look of shock, he said, "Think of it this way, Steve. You're learning other languages as it is. When I work on new and alien languages, I have to start from scratch, usually with no help at all. You're getting an instruction manual. Just try this, will you? If you really can't manage it, then I'll do it. But I have a lot to do as it is. If it's left to me, it's never going to get done. Try the translations of the 98C work first."
"But that isn't the A'kari data," Steven complained. "If you want to know what that device is, surely we should work on that first?"
"I see what you mean," Daniel said. He picked up the pages and scanned each one. "This one is relatively simple," he said. "Use it as a test run. I'll double-check it for you when you've done it. If that's right, then you can do the rest easily enough. It will be a gentle start for you, helping you in the long run. Anyway, I've got things to do. If my hunch pays off and this is Sumerian, then tomorrow I can translate the glyphs on the device. I need you to do this as soon as, Steve," he said apologetically. "The holidays are starting soon, and if we're going to get everything done that needs to be done by then..." He let his voice trail off as if his words were explanation in themselves.
He knew that he had to get Steven in contact with the device, but not deliberately. Thinking to himself quickly, he came up with a solution.
"Look," he said, sounding like he was saying something he didn't want. "We need all of these things translated anyway. You work on them, and I'll go work on the device now. I'm sure that Sam's still around here somewhere. How about that?"
Steven nodded slowly, as if he was thinking about something else.
"Okay then. I'll go find her, you get on with this. The rest of you, if you don't want to be collared into working late..."
He was nearly trampled in the rush to get out of the lab.
"At least it's going to be quiet for you," Daniel said to Steven with a chuckle as the last off-duty techs and linguists left. Only one or two others remained, working on projects that couldn't be left.
"Yeah, thanks," Steven replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Aw, c'mon, Stevie," Daniel cajoled, his own voice reminding Steven of their time together all those years ago. Daniel had used that tone to persuade him to do things he wouldn't normally do. "It'll be okay. It's not as if I'm knocking off and leaving you to work on your own, is it?"
"No," Steven agreed with a deep sigh. "You've always led from the front. Go on. Work on the device. Maybe we can meet up for coffee later?"
"Sounds good to me," Daniel answered, then patted his back before leaving.
He called Jack up from his office and then arranged to meet Sam and Teal'c in her lab. The four were soon inside the lab, the fake device on the table in front of them.
"You think it's going to happen tonight?" Jack asked.
"I don't know," Daniel sighed. "I hope so. Matt's here," he added with a grimace. "He's gone home with Paul. I just hope that it's over before he returns."
"So do I, Danny. So do I."
Soon, Teal'c and Jack left the others to it. Jack retreated to the security office to watch out and Teal'c headed for his quarters, waiting for the call. The red 'on' light of the lab's camera was covered again, this time with the hope that it would catch whoever was there.
Jack explained nothing to the corporal in the security office, just taking his place in front of the cameras. He excused the man, telling him to find something else to do for a while. The corporal left, thinking that Jack was watching out for illicit behaviour again. A rumour had been going around on the base since Jack's last foray into the security room that 'inappropriate' behaviour was being cracked down on. Jack enjoyed that rumour, thinking that it sounded realistic and that it was a mile away from the truth. If nothing else, people were behaving better than normal.
He put a brand new tape into the machine that was recording in Sam's lab and sat back and watched.
Daniel called up Paul to say he'd been held back for a while and if he could get home, he would, but not to wait up. If Paul was suspicious, he said nothing, but the tone of his voice had more of less threatened Daniel to make sure that this was the last time - for a few nights at least - that this happened.
Sam and Daniel whiled away the time, waiting for an appropriate period to pass before going for a break. After a couple of hours, they decided to spring the trap.
Jack called Teal'c and told him that it was a 'go'. He left his quarters and started to 'prowl' the corridors. When he arrived at the language lab, he entered it and saw that Steven was the only one left.
"Doctor Rayner. You are well?"
"Oh, hello, Teal'c. Yes, thank you. Yourself?"
"I am, thank you," Teal'c replied. "I am just walking the corridors to make sure that everything is functioning. We have had a breakdown in the security systems and while the cameras appear to be working, the receivers have malfunctioned. It should be repaired soon, they say it will be in the next half hour, but to be sure, I am seeing that things are well with my own eyes."
Teal'c's natural tendency to protect all at the SGC was aiding his cover story - which was also the final piece of the trap. As he finished speaking, the phone rang in the office.
"Excuse me, Teal'c," Steven said as he picked up the phone. Teal'c bowed slightly and retreated from the lab, making his way to the same corridor as Sam's lab as quickly as he reasonably could.
Hey, Steve, coming for that coffee? Daniel asked over the phone.
"Yeah, Dan, that would be a great idea. I'm done here for tonight anyway and I could do with a coffee before I drive home. You go on to the commissary and get them in. I'll be there in five, okay?"
Great. See you there.
Steven got up, grabbed his bag and left the office.
Sam put the device back in the safe. It wasn't that they didn't want Steven to take it, they just didn't want him to think it was a blatant set-up.
She locked the safe, then left the key in the top, slightly open, drawer of her desk.
Jack watched the screens carefully, not taking his eyes off the lab, but somehow diverting his attention to the cameras in the corridors at the same time. As soon as he caught Steven in his sights, he grinned. He'd never liked him, and whereas he wasn't overly keen on Paul's brother, only accepting the man because Daniel had accepted him, he really hoped it wasn't Matthew.
His heart sank when he saw Matthew and Paul walking down one of the other corridors in the direction of Sam's lab at the same time as Steven.
What to do?
It was nearer ten minutes after putting the phone down that Steven turned up at the commissary.
"Sorry I'm late," he said, rolling his eyes. "I wasn't thinking and got off the elevator on the wrong floor."
"Been there, done that one," Sam said in sympathy.
The three chatted as they drank their coffees, Steven looking like he was itching to go home, Sam and Daniel desperate to get the nod from either Jack or Teal'c. They had no idea what was going on. Steven kept directing the conversation to the translation and Daniel found it harder and harder to keep the information from being specific. He wanted to tell him enough to tempt him, if he hadn't already been tempted, but without making it irresistible if he was innocent.
Daniel's heart sank, however, when he saw Jack entering the commissary, Paul and Matthew in tow.
"Look what I found wandering the corridors," Jack announced loudly.
"Paul? What are you doing back here?" Daniel demanded, his voice a little edgier than he really wanted. "Ach, I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I'm tired and cranky and getting nowhere."
"We came to get you," Paul told him. "Matthew agrees with me that you work too hard, so he came to help me get you if you decide to be awkward. Come on, Daniel. Home." He made the emphasis and Daniel knew that he would have to give in to save there being a scene. He put his hands up in surrender.
"Okay, okay, I know when I'm outnumbered." He turned to Sam and said, "We'll finish up tomorrow, shall we?"
"Yeah, I'm kind of tired too. Guess we're not as fit as we were, eh?"
They stood up and started to make their way out of the room, Daniel's eyes pleading with Jack to help him out. He saw a look of smug satisfaction in the older man's eyes and he didn't like it one bit. As they all left the room, Jack caught hold of Daniel's arm and whispered, "Just wait, Danny. See you up top."
Daniel nodded, then caught up with the others.
"Let me get my stuff and get ready and then we can go home."
Sam kissed his cheek and disappeared, Jack called out a quick 'goodnight' and followed her.
"See you tomorrow, Steve," Daniel said as Steven headed towards the elevators.
"Yeah, Daniel," Steven said. "I'll be seeing you."
As Daniel walked towards the locker room with Matthew and Paul, Paul asked, "What did he mean by that?"
"By what?" Daniel asked, his mind elsewhere.
"He said, 'I'll be seeing you.' Doesn't sound like he'll be in tomorrow."
Daniel froze for a moment, then he shrugged. He knew he'd have a lot to explain later, but for now, he had to keep cool.
"I don't think he meant anything by it, Paul. Steve's a bit odd sometimes. Come on, let me get my stuff and then we can go."
Daniel's stomach was churning as he emerged from the elevator. Signing out of the mountain, he headed directly to the car park. A shout rang out and his attention was quickly caught.
He turned and saw Steven who was taking off on foot as fast as he could. Without thinking, Daniel charged off, leaving Paul and Matthew standing for a moment as they tried to figure out what was going on. Their instinct took over and they, too, ran. One ran one way, and the other towards the shout.
Steven ran towards the exit, blindly trying to escape from the mountain, his backpack flapping as he did. He didn't even see Daniel as he literally piled into him, sending him crashing to the ground.
"Get off me!" Steven yelled as he fought for breath.
Daniel avoided his one-time friend's flailing arms, using his superior body strength and weight to hold him flat. He gulped when he saw a handgun on the ground next to them and leaned quickly across Steven to get it first.
"Jack!" Daniel yelled as his best friend seemed to be taking a long time to get to him. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder and turned his head.
"You need help?" It was Matthew. He was the last person Daniel wanted there at that moment, wanting to keep him as far away from Steven as possible.
"Go see to Jack!" Daniel ordered.
Another strong hand was placed on his other shoulder, this time Daniel didn't need to look to see whose it was.
"Teal'c," he gasped. "Please."
"Stand up, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said quietly. "He shall not escape."
Daniel carefully got to his feet and saw Teal'c and a couple of security guards standing behind him, weapons drawn and pointing directly at Steven.
"Why?" he asked. "Wasn't this exciting enough for you?" he prompted, waving his hand all around him.
Steven said nothing, he just glared.
"Daniel!" It was Paul's voice. He turned and went towards his lover, his heart stopping when he saw that he was on his knees, shirtless.
"PAUL!" He took off at a run and was quickly at his side.
He realised straight away what was wrong. Paul had taken his shirt off and was holding it against Jack, who was on the floor behind him.
"There's a medic coming," Matthew said, heading straight back to them. He had obviously run back to the security post to call one.
"Shit, Jack, what happened?"
"Bastard shot me," Jack answered through gritted teeth. "Fucking shoulder again."
Daniel helped him sit up and held him closely, holding Paul's shirt tightly against the wound. Paul sat back on his haunches, letting his breath come back to his shocked body.
"Try to relax, Jack," he whispered. "You'll be dealt with in a minute, okay?"
"Who are you trying to reassure?" Jack laughed humourlessly.
"How did it happen?"
"I didn't really know what to do when I saw Paul and Matthew here," Jack gasped as another wave of pain hit him. "So I called Teal'c and got him up to the security room asap. As soon as he got there I went and got them out of the way. Teal'c confirmed by radio that the cameras caught the thieving bastard, so I went up in the elevator with him. I wanted to make sure he was taking the thing off-base, ya know?"
"I know, I know," Daniel soothed, then turning his head up and yelling, "where the FUCK is that MEDIC?"
A noise from the elevators alerted him that they were nearly there.
"Anyway," Jack continued, "I tried to stop him as he got to his car. Bastard pulled a fucking gun on me! I underestimated him, Danny. I didn't think he'd pull the trigger."
"Where the fuck did he think he was running to?" Daniel asked.
"Dunno. Maybe there's someone waiting for him?"
"Doubt it. He didn't know about the device being worked on or the fact that it was Sumerian till this evening."
"Still, I wouldn't mind betting that NID's around somewhere."
Jack was then taken out of Daniel's hands by the medic, so their conversation, peppered as it had been with the grunts of pain from Jack, was ended.
Daniel stepped back and got out of the way, feeling Paul's bare arms around him in moments and Matthew's presence on his other side soon after.
"You guys okay?" he asked.
"We're fine. Are you going to tell us what that was all about? Why was Jack so concerned about getting us out of the way, Daniel?" Paul asked firmly.
"Not here," Daniel said, looking into Paul's eyes as he spoke. "Let me see how Jack is, then I'll come home and tell you all that I can."
The three headed back into the mountain silently. Matthew was confused by the events, Paul seemed furious about something and Daniel seemed very sad.
Daniel hadn't left the mountain until he had seen Jack installed in an infirmary bed. Paul waited for him, silently watching his lover and concerned by the events. He'd given his keys to Matthew and told him to take his car and go home and wait for them. After a few words with the General, who had been called back in, and Teal'c and Sam, Daniel had given up and gone home, letting Paul drive as the shock of seeing Jack's injury started to percolate through his system and he had started to shake.
Inside the house, he headed directly for the whisky, pouring himself a drink, knocking it back in one, then pouring another while offering the others some, too. They accepted, then the three sat in the living room together.
Daniel explained as best as he could about the suspicion that Steven had been under. He had to admit to there being an element of suspicion falling on Matthew, but that was only because of the coincidence of him turning up when the items had gone missing. He strongly emphasised the fact that it had only been the slightest suspicion and that Daniel had not been prepared to believe it. It was why he had kept Paul out of the loop. The less they knew, the better off they were, and the easier it would be for Daniel to prove that Matthew was innocent.
When he stopped talking, silence fell for a few minutes, then Matthew stood up.
"It's been a long day," he said. "I think I'd better go to bed. Daniel?"
He looked up from his drink by way of an answer.
"Thank you. You had no reason to believe in me, but I have no doubt that you did. Your faith in me is quite overwhelming. Paul is a very lucky man to have someone as loyal and protective as you. I am very grateful to you. One day, if the laws change that way, maybe I'll be able to call you my brother-in-law. I should be proud to do so."
Daniel's face broke into the first smile that evening. He put down his drink, stood up and put his hand out to Matthew, then found himself in a very uncharacteristic hug.
"Thank you," he whispered. "That means a lot to me."
"Come home with us over New Year, Daniel," Matthew said. "I want all my family there."
"I will. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'll be there."
Matthew let him go, said goodnight to Paul and went to the other side of the house.
Daniel wasn't sure how Paul was taking this, he hadn't said a word since they were in the infirmary.
"Paul?" Daniel needed to know what was going on in his lover's mind, but he wasn't sure how to ask the questions.
"I, er, need time to process this," Paul replied quietly.
"You don't think that I ever believed..." Daniel started, his voice filled with panic.
"No. No I don't. I'm just overwhelmed, Dan. It's a lot to take in." He poured himself another drink then sat back down. "Tell me, did you want me to know what was going on?"
"Of course I did!" Daniel replied forcefully. "I hated keeping it from you. I've never lied to you before and I wouldn't have done it now if it wasn't to keep you safe. You have to know that."
"I do," Paul replied, but Daniel wasn't sure that he really did.
Upset by the events of the evening and now by Paul's reluctance to accept the news, he was fighting back the urge to cry. He got on his knees in front of Paul, grasped his lover's hands and held them tightly.
"I wouldn't do a thing to hurt you," he said, his voice pleading with Paul to believe him. "I only wanted to protect you, to prove that Matthew couldn't have had anything to do with it. Don't you see?"
Paul's heart was breaking as he looked into Daniel's eyes, seeing them bloodshot, tired and most of all, filling with tears.
"Babe, I'd rather die than hurt you. You know that. You know that. Don't let this come between us, please!"
Paul's stoic face crumpled and he gathered Daniel up into his arms and held him closely. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean it to sound like that," he continued as he rocked Daniel gently. "I'm just snowed under by all of this information. I guess I was feeling left out, as if you didn't trust me or something."
"I trust you," Daniel insisted. "So did everyone else. They were as afraid for you as I was. We know how you could have worked things out if you'd known only some of what was going on. The problem would be later, with those that will prosecute, you see? They don't know you the way we do. If, by some stretch of the imagination, it had been Matthew, it would have been nearly impossible to stop them thinking that you were involved. I never believed it was him - you can ask the General if you want - but I had to plan for that possibility. You might have come to the same conclusion about possible suspects too, if you'd had the same information we did. That could have driven a wedge between you and Matthew that was neither necessary nor desirable. You see why I kept it from you now?"
"I do," Paul answered. "I really do. Thank you for protecting me, Dan. And thank you for believing in Matthew. It couldn't have been easy going after Steven, could it?"
"No, no it wasn't easy. I didn't want it to be him either. I, er, I used to love him, Paul. I can't stop loving people, you know that."
"I still do love him a bit. Nothing like the way I love you. He's not even in the same game, let alone the same league. But my time with him wasn't all bad. Doing this, finding out that he's been betraying us, most likely to the NID, especially after what happened in New York... well, it hurts. It fucking hurts."
Paul said nothing more. He just held Daniel closer still and let him work through his emotions.
In bed, neither man knew what to do. They both felt the need to reaffirm their relationship, but both were tired and wanted to sleep. Daniel was still afraid that Paul would withdraw from him and Paul was irrationally miffed by Daniel's secrecy - even though in his heart he knew why he had done it. There was the danger that they would just fall asleep, not touching each other, and that would be so out of character for them.
Daniel plucked up his courage and turned to face his lover. "Paul?" he whispered. "Come here, please."
He put out his arms. Paul hesitated for a moment, not for long, but long enough for Daniel to think that he was going to turn him down. But before Daniel could give up, Paul mentally kicked himself and wriggled until he was inside Daniel's arms. He felt Daniel's tense body start to relax, and his own rigid posture started to do the same.
"I'm sorry," Paul whispered.
"I know. Me too, babe."
"I do love you."
"So do I, Paul, so do I. Not going to give you up."
"Don't give up on me, either. I shouldn't have been like that to you. I know you were doing your best to protect me."
"I wish I could have told you everything," Daniel insisted. "It was so hard keeping it from you. I hated lying to you."
"Don't do it again," Paul mock-scolded.
Daniel pulled back and stared him in the eye. "I promise that I will only ever lie to you to protect you. I will never keep anything else from you. I can't say that I will never lie to you, because you know as well as I do, things happen that are beyond our control. Could you promise me, that in similar circumstances, you wouldn't lie to me?"
Paul thought for a moment, then he shook his head. "No. I couldn't. But, like you, I'd only do it to protect you. I do understand you and your motives, Daniel. I promise."
Paul heard a heartfelt whispered 'thank God' as Daniel pulled him as close as he could get him. He wrapped his top arm around Daniel and held him tightly rocking his body against his partner's. Daniel felt him wriggle until their faces were in contact, their lips finding each other quickly and then they started to kiss hungrily.
Their fatigue was quickly forgotten as the relief of them being all right again took over. Paul pushed Daniel until he was on his back and lay himself on top of him, barely breaking the kiss as he did it. Their tongues battled as their bodies collided, Paul grinding his groin against Daniel's, their cocks clashing as he jerked up and down. They broke the kiss, gasping for air as they did, Daniel thrusting his hips up as Paul pushed his down. Concentrating only on that, it didn't take them long. A few sharp thrusts had Daniel spiralling out of control, the tilt back of his head and arching of his back triggering Paul soon after.
They lay, sticky and sated, happy that they had got over one of the tougher emotional barriers that had been between them. In the years they'd been together, they'd been fortunate never to have anything major to trouble their relationship. The hiding out when the old law had been in effect had been the most emotionally draining, but they'd long learned to accept that. In the year or so since Paul lived in the Springs, things had gone fairly easily and they both were grateful for that.
After a quick clean up with the wipes that they kept on the table, Daniel snuggled back under the covers. This time, Paul didn't hesitate to wrap himself up in Daniel's arms.
The next couple of weeks went in a blur. Jack was let out of the infirmary after a few days and went to stay at Daniel's place so that he could be 'taken care of' as per Janet's orders. Matthew had returned to DC the day after the incident, making Daniel promise once again to visit over the New Year. Steven had been taken off to a military prison to be held, but had mysteriously disappeared on the way. No one knew whether he was dead or alive - and only Daniel really cared. When the order had come for the A'kari device to be sent to Area 51, Hammond gave the order for the fake one to go. As it was being transported there, he had put Paul in charge of SG-1 for a single mission, ostensibly to check up on the people of Cimmeria. What wasn't on the record was that the real device was in Daniel's backpack.
When they arrived on Cimmeria, Daniel - after greeting the locals and catching up with them - led the others to the Hall of Thor's Might. There he was able to contact Thor and they discussed the missing item from the mission that Paul had gone on to rescue SG-4. Thor promised to look into it, saying that the next time he was in the neighbourhood, he would scan the contents of Area 51 and see if there was anything there that resembled it. Then Daniel brought out the device. He told him what had happened, and what the device was supposed to do. Thor knew about the A'kari and told them that their suspicions about it being used as camouflage was correct. Whereas it would be a very useful device for the SGC, having it there could cause problems for Hammond if the NID should find out about it and about him defying orders. In the end, they decided that it should be left in the Hall. No Goa'uld could get at it there, and no human would know about its presence. Should SG-1 or another trusted team have need of it in future, it could be borrowed and brought back without anyone on Earth being any the wiser. As the A'kari had long since died out, Thor had no problem with them owning the device.
They said their goodbyes and found themselves back outside the Hall a moment later. To aid their cover story, they stayed on the planet a little longer and went home with stories from the Cimmerians telling of their history and the events since their previous visit.
At home that night, Daniel told Jack all about it and he agreed that they'd done a good job.
"Hope you're not after my command, Major," he teased Paul.
"Uh huh, Colonel," Paul answered as he put some food on the table in front of him. "You're welcome to SG-1. Don't know how you keep them under control as it is."
"Hey!" Daniel complained. "We're a great team!"
"We are," Jack agreed. "A little unconventional maybe, but we be de best!"
Daniel raised his coffee mug and Jack raised his, knocking them together gently in salute. Paul just shook his head as he laughed at them.
Jack was off on medical leave all over the holidays, but he felt lousy about not being there on Christmas Day. It was an SGC tradition that those with young children (or grandchildren) would be off that day - and as many days as possible either side (the ones on duty then having the New Year holiday off instead). He insisted on going in with the others so that Hammond wouldn't have to go in, something that George only half-heartedly fought against. Christmas Day was spent just as the others were, but the more senior personnel stayed on base until the evening of the 26th. It was quiet, with no missions in progress and none planned for a few weeks. The infirmary had little going on and so card games and board games were in full flow. The security team were happy because they had their new system up and running, Christmas having come a few days earlier for them.
SG-1, Paul and Harvey, along with many others, pretty much camped out in the various rec. rooms, cafeterias and so on. Jack organised a competition in the gym, in which Daniel was forced into taking part. Under Jack's orders, there were obstacles set up, with ropes for climbing up, mats to crawl under and so on. Needless to say, Jack didn't take part in the actual races - which were held with much complaining at first, giving way to mass hilarity as time wore on. Teal'c won the weightlifting contest to no one's surprise. Daniel didn't win the obstacle race, but he was the fastest civilian by a mile and beat a number of airmen and marines along the way. All in all, they had some fun and when they went home the next day, they were exhausted but happy.
Jack was going to his mother's on the 27th, but he stayed with the men the night before. Teal'c, Sam, Janet and Cassie came over and they spent the evening of the 26th in front of the log fire, snuggling up and drinking hot chocolate (spiced up for the adults) and exchanging presents.
Naturally, Cassandra was spoilt rotten. She received new clothes (bought under direction from Janet), make-up, jewellery, CDs, computer games... all of the things a girl in her teens would enjoy. Daniel and Paul had a tendency to spoil 'their' women too, so Paul had bought Sam a delicate gold necklace with a diamond pendant and Daniel had bought Janet a bracelet to match the necklace he'd given her for her birthday the year before. He also gave her and Sam some silk underwear, saying nothing, but leering in a joking manner when they opened the boxes. Needless to say, he'd done that when Cassie had excused herself to go to the bathroom.
"You want I should model it?" Janet asked, her voice low and sexy.
"Yes!" Sam said quickly, then she blushed furiously when she realised that she'd said it out loud.
Laughing louder, Janet leaned over and kissed her nose. "Wait till we get home, honey," she said. "You can model yours too."
"Now, what wouldn't I give to be a fly on that wall?" Jack said, waggling his eyebrows as he spoke.
"You and me both," Daniel answered.
Paul smacked him before Sam could.
"Why would you wish to be an insect, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
They all looked at him in disbelief then fell about laughing. Giving the lie to his austere tone, Teal'c's eyes were dancing. He was happy because he had got some good presents for Christmas. New DVDs, some new hats and bandanas and an 'Aliens' T-shirt with a picture of the alien bursting out of the front. Also, needless to say, Jack had bought that particular present.
Jack had been bought a number of gifts including a new hockey stick from Daniel and a T-shirt with the phrase 'I've gotta learn to duck' on it under a cartoon picture of a bullet wound near the shoulder, from Janet. A very expensive bottle of whisky from Paul had been greeted warmly (and possessively).
Daniel and Paul had received the usual sort of presents that they liked - books, clothes, things for the house and so on. However, they hadn't exchanged their own gifts yet. Cassie decided to bring that subject up.
"So, guys, when are you going to give each other your presents?"
"Uh, later, maybe," Daniel said guiltily, Paul saying pretty much the same in the same way.
"Guys?" Jack prompted. "It's not embarrassing is it?" he teased.
"No," Daniel replied. "Just kinda personal, that's all."
Knowing that the others wouldn't let up, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. Paul raised his eyebrow and did the same.
"You knew?" Janet asked Paul as she saw his almost identically wrapped box.
"Uh huh. I don't know what's in there, either," he said pointing at the one in Daniel's hand.
"Well, why don't you guys exchange them and find out?" Jack prompted.
Swallowing hard, Daniel gave his box to Paul and took Paul's box when offered it. Carefully, they both opened them, looking directly into each other's eyes and grinning like idiots when they saw the contents.
"Guess I don't have to ask, eh?" Daniel said as he put his hands out to Paul, who was sitting right next to him.
"I was thinking the same thing," Paul answered with relief.
"Guys? You going to show us? Have you got some new, embarrassing body piercings you don't want us to know about or something?" Jack teased.
"Nothing like that, Jack," Daniel replied, his voice quiet as he was unable to take his eyes off Paul. "May I?" he asked.
"Please do," Paul answered. "May I?"
"Oh yeah," came the reply.
Daniel reached into the box that Paul was now holding and took out its content. Taking Paul's left hand in his, he slipped the wedding band on the fourth finger, not letting go until it was sitting in place. Paul then repeated Daniel's actions, placing the band that he had bought on Daniel's wedding ring finger. As soon as they were done, they leaned into each other and kissed, just closed-mouth and briefly, but it was enough.
There was silence in the room, so the others heard the whispered 'I love you' from Daniel and 'love you so much' from Paul. When the men broke apart, they turned to look at their friends, unsure of quite what reaction they would get.
Jack was smiling fit to burst, even Teal'c was smiling broadly. Janet and Sam had tears streaming down their faces and Cassie looked like she was about to scream. As soon as the men had processed the emotions in the room, she did just that, standing up and hauling them to join her, then she flung her arms around them both, hugging them tightly and kissing their faces. Before they knew what was going on, they were surrounded. Janet and Sam taking Cassie's place and squeezing them hard, Teal'c patting them firmly on the shoulders and gripping them tightly, wishing them well - then Jack stood close. He put his hand out to Paul first, pulling the younger man into a brief hug when he accepted it.
"Congratulations, Paul," he said quietly. "I'm really, really happy for you."
"Thanks, Jack," Paul answered. "I think I'm floating."
Then Jack turned to Daniel and grinned. He put his arm out to him and loved it when Daniel stepped into his one-handed embrace. "It's about time he made an honest man out of you," Jack joked, his voice choked up with emotion as he spoke. They held each other tightly for what seemed an age before breaking apart. Both men had tears running down their faces when they let go.
"Uh, guys, would you mind if Jack and I stepped outside for a minute?" Daniel asked, his voice barely audible.
The others stepped aside and let them go. They went through the kitchen and out onto the back garden's deck.
"Why did it take you so long, Danny?" Jack asked, his uninjured arm naturally finding its way around Daniel's shoulders.
"Lots of reasons, I guess," Daniel answered. "None of them to do with Paul, either. I never had any doubts about him being the right one for me."
"No, that was obvious. So?"
"Guilt, I guess," Daniel went on. "I still miss Shau're, you know. Still want her with me. I feel guilty, as if I'm cheating on her - then I feel guilty, as if I'm cheating on Paul by still loving her."
"He's never made you feel that way, has he?"
"God, no. He's always accepted her as a part of me, part of the package, I guess. It's not him, Jack, he's right for me and I know it. I think I just get overwhelmed sometimes."
"My feelings. I grew up so alone, Jack, even when my parents were alive. They were always so interested in their work. They loved me, they told me that and they hugged me if I wanted a hug and so on, but the hours they spent doing their work made our time together rare. Only my ayah spent all day with me."
"Yeah. Nanny, I guess. Fatima, an Egyptian lady. Whenever we were over there, which was pretty much all of my life till they died, I spent my time with her and her family. Her husband was one of my father's chief diggers - a really knowledgeable man. Her kids became like siblings for me. But even then, I was the boss' son, you know?"
Jack didn't really know, but he was able to guess.
"I've had lovers, some better than others, one or two very special to me, so I knew what it was like to be loved, Jack. Shau're and I grew to love each other so fucking much. It didn't happen overnight. We sort of fell for each other, but it wasn't until we had our first fight did we realise how much it hurt," he added with a grin. Jack said nothing, he just hugged him tighter.
"After her, I didn't think I could love again. Then along came Paul. At first, we hardly had a chance to see each other and it made things difficult. But we soon realised that we had to make it work. As time went on, he became so important to me, so essential, that I don't think I could survive without him."
"You've got us," Jack offered.
"I know. That's what made tonight so overwhelming. I've always thought of you guys as family. Always loved you all more than my own life. In there, when you were all so pleased for us, I actually felt the love in the room, Jack. It was tangible. It was like I could reach out and touch it. It was the difference between knowing and knowing, if you see what I mean."
"I do, Danny. I do. I kind of knew like that - at least about how you felt about me - when you forgave me for being such a prick. If you hadn't loved me, there was no way you'd have made that effort." He dropped his arm from Daniel's shoulder then stepped out onto the grass and looked up at the night sky. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he said.
"Oh yeah," Daniel replied with a sigh. "So many beautiful places and people out there. Wish all the ugliness would go away."
They let a companionable silence fall for a minute, then turned to walk back in.
"So, you gonna change your name?" Jack teased as they walked in.
As the men turned to enter the kitchen, Paul stepped back from the door, Janet at his side. They scooted into the hall quickly.
"You okay?" she whispered.
"Fine. I guess I just had to know..."
"I know, honey. He's never going to leave you for him, you know that, don't you?"
"Oh God, yeah!" Paul replied quickly. "That wasn't it. I just detected that he was upset by something. Now I know what it is, I can deal with it."
"You're okay with his feelings for Shau're?"
"I always have been. I should have realised that this would be an emotional black spot for him."
"You're glad Jack was there?" she asked, slightly unsure.
"Definitely. He wouldn't have told me that. I doubt he'd have been able to tell me that for fear of hurting my feelings. Jack's his rock, Janet, just as he's there for Jack. On Charlie's birthday and the anniversary of his death, Daniel goes over to Jack's place. Sometimes they go to the cemetery together. But whatever he needs to do, Jack can't really get through that day without him. I'm not jealous. I got over that nasty emotion a year ago," he ended.
The others had gone into the living room, so they slipped back inside. Daniel sought Paul out and as soon as he found him, he hugged him tightly.
"Sorry for running out on you like that," he said.
"No problem, babe, none whatsoever." Paul kept Daniel's hand in his and then turned to Janet and Sam. "So, when are you two going to tie the knot?" he asked.
"Who knows?" Janet answered before Sam could. "Maybe I'll ask her soon?"
"Maybe I'll ask you?" Sam countered.
"Maybe I'll go puke," Jack interjected. "Too much mush for one evening, folks. Let's liven things up a bit, shall we?"
The others had gone home, Jack had retreated to 'his' side of the house and the men were left alone. A few more days' work and then they'd be heading off to DC to face off with Paul's family.
After getting ready for bed, they snuggled under the covers together, kissing and touching each other, laughing as they tickled and teased.
"Hmm," Paul purred as Daniel's lips and tongue drew patterns on his neck. "That's nice."
"You sound like a cat," Daniel joked as he went further down.
Before he could go any further, though, Paul caught hold of him and stopped him.
"Just a minute, honey. Please."
Daniel wriggled back up the bed and looked him in the eye. "Paul? Anything wrong?"
"No, Dan, nothing is wrong. I just wanted to savour the moment."
Daniel rolled off him and lay on his side, propped his head up with his hand and smiled as he looked into his lover's eyes.
"You happy?" he asked, waggling his ring finger as he did.
"Very," Paul confirmed. "Guess this is our wedding night?"
"At least I'll be getting more action than I did on my first one. I hope," Daniel sniggered. "Poor Shau're, she looked like a lamb to the slaughter."
Paul laughed kindly and caught hold of Daniel's hand then laid some kisses around the ring. "I never thought I'd be in a situation like this," he whispered. "Before I met you, there was always the 'oh my God, I could get caught' thing, the fact that other officers didn't want a long-term relationship and so on. But when I met you, or rather, when we got together, I knew that career wasn't important anymore. I wanted this for the first time in my life."
Daniel really didn't know what to say to that, so he leaned in and kissed him. "Better be the last time too," he finally managed to get out when they broke apart.
"Definitely," came the very pleased reply.
Gently, Daniel tipped Paul onto his back and continued to kiss and touch him, moving back to suckle on Paul's nipples and making him writhe around as he did. Soft bites had Paul's dick jumping and his back arching off the bed. Grinning maniacally, Daniel moved further down and trailed his tongue as he went, dipping it into Paul's navel when he got there.
"God, Dan, do something," Paul pleaded.
"I am doing something."
Chuckling, Daniel reached up under the pillow and got the lube. He knelt up, straddling Paul's thighs, stopping him opening his legs in welcome.
"Uh, huh, hun," Daniel said, "watch me."
Paul propped himself up on his elbows and groaned hungrily when he saw Daniel cover his fingers and start to prepare himself. Slowly, and very dramatically, he fucked himself on his fingers, using his other hand to jerk off steadily.
"Watch," Daniel repeated. "I'm doing this for you, babe. Gonna get myself ready and then I'm going to sit on you, ride you."
"More, please," Paul begged. "Lie back, let me see more."
A filthy grin plastered to his face, Daniel shifted until he was lying down inside Paul's now-open legs. He lifted his own, bending his knees, continuing to fuck his fingers and jerk off.
Paul watched enraptured, unable to take his eyes off the unfolding scene.
"God, Paul, I'm gonna come," Daniel gasped. "Can't hold it."
"Do it," Paul ordered. "Come for me, Dan, I want to see you."
Daniel's fingers slipped out of his ass, shifting around and grabbing his balls, rolling them his hand, all the while his right hand jerking harder and harder, faster and faster. Daniel's hips started thrusting up uncontrollably and finally he came, pouring hard over his hand and stomach.
"Oh shit," Paul cursed, making a grab for his own balls to stop himself going off just by watching.
They lay there panting hard, Daniel trying to get his breath back as Paul tried to regain his control.
As soon as Daniel was with it, he got back onto his knees, grabbed the lube again and covered Paul's cock with it, feeling it recover its hardness in moments. Unwilling to have Paul come in his hand, he scrambled back into position and just sat, pushing down, moving himself up and down, taking more and more of Paul inside him with each manoeuvre until he was finally all the way in.
Paul sent his mind anywhere, desperate to hold on a bit longer. Daniel's floor show had been so totally hot that he was having a hard time thinking of anything else.
He kept his eyes shut, knowing that if he looked at Daniel as he shifted up and down, fucking himself on Paul's cock, then he'd just blow. Instead he felt it, felt the friction and the heat, the tightness, the movement. He hardly breathed, just lay there, savouring every single moment.
The only sound in the room was that of panting breaths and the thick slap of thigh on thigh, occasional moans and gasps punctuating the rhythm that Daniel set up. Soon all of the mind-distracting techniques in the world couldn't stop Paul from letting go and his hips reacted, automatically pushing up to meet Daniel coming down.
"Ye-ah," Daniel drawled as he felt Paul move. "Tha's good. Fuck me."
That spurred Paul on and he thrust harder and harder, finally opening his eyes to see his lover. He saw that Daniel was hard again, surprising them both, but the sight of the hard, red cock was Paul's undoing. He thrust once, twice and then came, shoving his hand in his mouth to muffle the sounds as he yelled.
"Come here," he panted as he started to come down from his high.
Daniel shuffled forwards on his knees until he was kneeling on all fours over Paul's face, and the next thing he knew, Daniel felt his prick engulfed by Paul's mouth. No way would he last long, not with the near breathless Paul sucking hard and fast, holding onto his ass and reaching around until he could slide his fingers inside him. Paul homed in on the hot spot, using the fact that he was slick and open to get four fingers inside of him, not letting up until he found what he was looking for, then combining some really hard sucks with a couple of fairly brutal thrusts with his hand he forced Daniel to come.
"Oh... my... God..." Daniel groaned. "That was..."
"Mind-blowing?" Paul offered.
"Something blowing, that's for sure. How many fingers did you use?"
Paul waggled his hand, showing Daniel the four fingers.
"Wow," Daniel said, falling down onto the bed and pulling Paul into his arms. "You can do that again."
"Oh? Maybe you can do that to me?"
"Anytime you want, baby. Anytime you want. That was amazing."
Reluctantly moving, Paul grabbed some wipes and cleaned them both up, quickly snuggling back into Daniel's arms and resting his head on Daniel's chest.
"So, if we're married," Daniel whispered as they started to drop off, "which one of us is the wife?"
"It'll have to be you," Paul answered just as quietly. "I'm allergic to make-up."
There was silence for a moment, then Daniel asked, "How on earth do you know that?"
Paul said nothing. He was already asleep.