by ALF

Saturday, November 03, 2001

_____________________________________________________________ Part One

Jack and Daniel were watching hockey together at Jack's house. It had become a Saturday afternoon ritual for the two men, and whilst Daniel still didn't exactly love hockey like Jack did, he could bear it. For Jack, he was willing to put up with a lot. And he got his revenge by making Jack watch documentaries.

The two men were lounged companionably together on Jack's sofa, Jack with beer in hand, yelling and cheering the antics of his team. Daniel held a can of soda, but was a lot more restrained. He did however, cheer as loudly as Jack when their team scored.

Just then, a knock sounded at the door.

"Pizza!" Jack cheered, heading for the door.

"I'll get more drinks," Daniel said, going through to the kitchen.

Jack opened the door, wallet in hand, but was surprised to find that instead of the pizza guy at the door, a woman and young girl stood there.

"Czech or German?" Daniel yelled from the kitchen, as Jack stood in shock.

"Hello Jack," the woman said. "How are you?"

"Rachel," Jack stuttered in shock. He seemed to have lost the ability to think or speak as he stood staring at the couple on his doorstep.

Daniel stuck his head round the kitchen door, wondering what was taking Jack so long to reply. He was surprised to see Jack still stood in front of the door.

"Jack?" he called, curious. Jack looked round blankly, shock clearly etched on his face. Daniel hurried down the hall, wondering what could have had such an effect on his friend.

"Can we come in?" the woman asked, indicating the rain falling heavily outside. "It's kind of wet out here."

Jack took a step back, allowing them to come through the door. Then he closed the door behind them, but still stood with one hand on the handle.

"What's going on?" Daniel asked.

"I'm Rachel Grey, this is my daughter Laura," the woman said.

Daniel reached out to shake hands. "Daniel Jackson," he said. "Are you friends of Jack's?" he was curious as to what was going on, and why Jack seemed so dumbstruck.

"Sort of," Rachel replied. "I knew Jack a long time ago. Jack, can we talk please?" she turned to where the Colonel still stood by his door. He crossed now to sit on his couch.

"Why?" he asked, the question coming out in a harsh tone that Daniel hadn't heard him use before. "It's been ten years."

"There are things we need to discuss," Rachel said. Just then another knock sounded on the door. Daniel went to answer it; this time it was the pizza delivery guy. Daniel paid him and took the boxes through to the kitchen. He had a feeling they wouldn't be eating any time soon.

"Perhaps I should go," he said as he returned to the lounge.

"No, Daniel, you don't need to leave," Jack said.

"I think perhaps I do," Daniel said. "Whatever Rachel needs to say to you, it's obviously private, so I should leave you to it." He reached for his jacket off the coat rack. "You can call me later if you want, Jack." With that he waved goodbye and headed out the door.

The next day, although a Sunday, found Daniel at the Base bright and early. He had so much work to do, he rarely had a whole weekend off. Saturday afternoons at Jack's, though, were one luxury he couldn't do without. He was grateful of any chance to spend time alone with Jack, to try and maintain an illusion of friendship between the two men.

As he left the elevator, he saw Sam in the corridor up ahead and called out to her. She stopped and waited for him to catch up.

"What are you doing today?" Sam asked, smiling at Daniel, trying not to look concerned at how tired he seemed, or the dark circles under his eyes

"Translations on that artefact SG7 brought back from P2X778," Daniel replied. "What about you?"

"Helping Janet with the plants from M2C999," Sam said. "We're hoping to find out something about their medicinal properties."

"Do you have time for coffee first?" Daniel asked. Sam looked at her watch.

"Sure, I'm not meeting Janet till 0800; I was just on my way to the Commissary for breakfast anyway."

Once in the Commissary, Sam tried to persuade Daniel to have some breakfast.

"You know that Janet's concerned that you've lost weight recently," she pointed out gently. "Man cannot live on coffee alone." She tried to make it into a joke.

"No, but Daniel can try," Daniel said. He didn't seem to have any appetite at the moment. Jack had not called him the evening before, and Daniel was concerned about him. He had spent a restless night, wondering who the mysterious Rachel was and what exactly her relationship with Jack had been.

"Daniel?" Sam called his name, concerned about her friend. He was lost in thought, with a worried expression on his face that she didn't like. He looked up, startled, when she put a hand on his arm.

"Oh Sam, I'm sorry," he said, noticing the look of concern on her face. "I was miles away."

"Are you going to have some breakfast?" she asked again.

"I guess I could manage some toast," Daniel said. He wasn't really hungry, but didn't want Sam telling Janet that he wasn't eating, as it would only cause more trouble in the long run.

The friends sat at a table in the corner of the Commissary, which was deserted this early on a Sunday morning.

"Are you ok Daniel?" Sam asked, wondering what was weighing so heavily on his mind.

"I'm fine, Sam," Daniel said. "Just a lot on my mind at the moment." At that moment, Janet came into the Commissary. Sam waved at her, and she came over to their table.

"Hello Janet," Sam said.

"Hi Sam, hello Daniel," Janet said.

"Hello Janet," Daniel said, doing his best to smile, but failing miserably. Janet said down at the table.

"What's up?" she asked, her doctor's instincts alerted by the way Sam was looking at Daniel, and the way Daniel himself looked.

"Nothing," Daniel said, in a not too convincing tone of voice.

"Daniel?" Janet persisted.

"I'm just tired," Daniel said.

"Not sleeping properly again?" Janet asked. "Maybe I should give you a check over later?"

"It's nothing, Janet," Daniel said. "Please don't worry. I'll be fine."

"It's my job to worry," Janet told him.

"You know we only want to help," Sam told him. "We care about you Daniel."

Daniel smiled at that. "I know Sam, I promise I do. But it's nothing you can help me with. Now, I need to go and get to work." And with that, Daniel stood up to leave the Commissary.

"Ok," Sam said, "but promise me that you'll let me know if there's anything we can do to help.

"I promise," Daniel said and smiled at the women as he left.

Daniel was glad to get away from the two women and escape to his office to work. He hoped that concentrating on his work would help him to forget what was on his mind. He couldn't stop thinking about the day before at Jack's house and the mysterious Rachel. He had noticed that the little girl, Laura, had not spoken during the brief time they had been at Jack's. He wondered why Rachel had brought the girl with her to see Jack.

Sighing heavily, Daniel decided all this speculation was getting him nowhere. He had decided not to discuss the visitor with Sam and Janet, knowing instinctively Jack would not want it broadcast even that far. He reached his office and sat down in front of the plaque, which was on his desk surrounded by books and paper. He switched on the lamp and got down to work.

It was several hours later when the phone ringing disturbed Daniel.

"Hello?" he said.

"Daniel, it's Jack," the voice at the other end of the phone said.

"Jack!" Daniel was surprised. "Is everything all right?"

"Um, yeah, it's fine," Jack said. "I just wanted to apologise for yesterday, you having to leave like that."

"Oh, that's ok, Jack," Daniel said. He was glad Jack couldn't see him. His face was burning, as it often did when he lied. He had never had a poker face when it came to lying, unlike Jack.

"Well, that was all I wanted to say really," Jack was saying now. "Sorry that our afternoon was spoiled."

"Thank you, Jack" Daniel said.

"Ok, Daniel, bye then," Daniel heard Jack say and then the line went dead. He put his phone down slowly, puzzled by Jack's behaviour. Why had Jack rung him just to say sorry? He could have easily waited until the next day to have the conversation.

Before he had a chance to puzzle over it any further, Sam came into the room.

"Hey, Daniel, are you ready for lunch?" she asked.

_____________________________ Part two

"Sam," Daniel looked up in surprise. "Is it lunch time already?"

"It's 12.30," Sam said. "Janet and I have finished our work so she's gone home to Cassie. I thought you might like to have lunch with me before I go and do any of my own work."

"Ok," Daniel said. He stacked his papers neatly and turned off the desk lamp. He knew that it was pointless to refuse Sam, as it would only get back to Janet.

Once they reached the Commissary, Daniel was surprised to discover that he did actually have an appetite. He took a plateful of chicken salad and his inevitable cup of coffee. He and Sam sat at the same table they had that morning.

"How's the translation going?" Sam asked.

"Pretty well actually," Daniel said. "It's quite an interesting language, a mixture of Aramaic and Latin, but with the odd bit of Egyptian thrown in for good measure." Daniel got enthusiastic as he spoke, showing some of his old excitement. Sam smiled at him, pleased to see the transformation in her friend as he continued to talk about the translation. Whatever had been bothering him that morning had obviously been forgotten in the joy of his work. The colour returned to his face, and he was eating lunch one-handed, gesturing with the other as he spoke. Sam wished that he could always be this happy.

Eventually, Daniel ran out of steam and stopped talking.

"Sorry, Sam," he said. "I got a bit carried away."

"That's ok, Daniel," she replied. "It's good to see you getting into your work again. You've haven't been this enthusiastic for a while."

"I know," Daniel said.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Sam asked, almost holding her breath as she did so. She thought she knew what the problem was, but needed Daniel to say it. If he didn't recognise the problem, she couldn't tell him. He needed to work it out for himself.

"Not really," Daniel said in reply to her question. Sam sighed internally. Somehow that response didn't surprise her.

"Ok, but anytime you change your mind, Daniel, you know where to find me." It was the best that she could do. She and Janet had discussed the situation during their work that morning, and Sam knew she couldn't force Daniel to talk if he wasn't ready. They could only be patient and hope he opened up eventually, either that or the situation would resolve itself another way, although as that would require the minor miracle of Colonel Jack O'Neill opening up to his feelings, Sam wasn't holding her breath over that happening.

Daniel nodded his appreciation of what Sam was saying. "Thanks for the offer, Sam, I appreciate it," he said. He could guess some of what Sam was thinking, but because she was part of the problem, although through no real fault of her own, Daniel couldn't talk to her about what was bothering him.

Finishing their lunch, the two scientists went their separate ways.

The next day, Daniel was back at the SGC bright and early. SG1 were scheduled to go on a mission later that day, and had an early briefing. Having worked till quite late the night before, when he had finally gone home, Daniel had fallen into bed and gone straight to sleep.

He headed for his office to pick up the information on the translation he had done the day before, which he would be briefing SG7 on after SG1's briefing. Once in the briefing room, he poured a cup of coffee before settling down at the table. He was the first one there, which wasn't that unusual.

A little while later, Sam and Teal'c came in, saying good morning and taking their seats. A couple of minutes after that, General Hammond arrived. However, Colonel O'Neill was still missing.

"Before we start on the briefing, SG1, I have some news for you," General Hammond had a serious look on his face. "Colonel O'Neill will not be joining the briefing today. He has requested a leave of absence from the SGC."




The rest of SG1 spoke simultaneously. Even Teal'c had been surprised out of his usual stoic silence by the General's announcement. The General looked at the team carefully. All three faces registered shock and surprise at the news. He had known that this information would hit the team badly and their reactions bore this out.

It had been a shock to the General as well when the Colonel had phoned him at home late on Saturday night to make the request for a leave of absence for personal reasons. Despite the General's efforts to get an explanation from his best officer, Jack had given nothing away. He had pointed out to the General that he did not have to give a reason for his absence, regulations permitted an officer to take personal leave without giving a detailed explanation. So the General had had no choice but to agree with him and accept the request. Nor had Hammond been able to get an idea from the Colonel as to how long he would be away.

"It'll be a while, sir," was all Jack had said.

"What do you call a while, Jack?" the General asked. "A week, a month, what?"

"I'm not sure at the moment, General," Jack replied, sounding apologetic. "Possibly weeks but not months. I'll let you know as soon as I do."

The General had sighed and agreed. "Very well, Jack, but please try and let me know as soon as possible how long you'll be away. And in the meantime, if there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know."

"Yes sir, I will," Jack agreed. And he had put the phone down with no further comment.

The General sighed again now as he looked round the table at his lead team. Coping with the Colonel's absence would not be easy for any of them. SG1 were outstanding as individuals, but together they were so much more than any four such disparate people had the right to be. The Colonel was the glue that held them together. He was more than just an officer or team leader, he was a father figure to the group, and he made the mix work. He would not be easy to replace, as the disastrous period when Colonel Makepeace had briefly taken over had shown. At the moment, there was no one else in the SGC who would be suitable to take over the leadership of the flagship team. Which made his next announcement doubly hard to make.

"For the moment, the Colonel has not indicated how long he will be absent for, therefore in the short term, Major Carter I would like you to lead SG1. I will assign another officer to you for the interim. Once I have a better idea of what will be happening, I will decide whether to look for someone else to lead the team."

"Yes sir," Sam spoke first, nodding at the General. She had mixed feelings about leading the team. Whilst she welcomed the opportunity, and knew that she could do the job, she had no illusions about her long-term ability to replace the Colonel. He was too unique, too special to replace easily. She did not have his flair for leadership or his individual style, which allowed him to handle the three of them and balance their skills to the best advantage of everyone, making them greater than the sum of their parts.

"Did Colonel O'Neill say how long he would be gone for?" Teal'c asked.

"No, Teal'c he didn't," the General replied.

After his initial reaction to the news, Daniel sat in stunned silence. He didn't know what to say. Somehow, he knew this must have something to do with that woman Rachel who had turned up at Jack's on Saturday. The thought of an extended period without the Colonel's presence was a painful one.

The General moved on to the briefing for SG1's mission. At the end, he spoke again about the Colonel.

"I know it will not be easy for you whilst Colonel O'Neill is absent, but I trust you will not let this affect your work. The fourth member of your team will join you after this mission."

Sam and Teal'c left the briefing room together, but Daniel stayed behind ready for his briefing with SG7.

"Is everything all right Dr Jackson?" the General had paused on the way back to his office. The briefing with SG7 was not due to start for 15 minutes, and he had calls to make in the meantime.

"Oh, yes, sir," Daniel said. He shuffled his papers awkwardly. The General nodded.

"I know how much you will miss Colonel O'Neill, Daniel," Hammond said, surprising Daniel by using his first name.

"As will Sam and Teal'c," Daniel said, making the rote response, in the same way that Jack had talked about the loss of Sam during the incident with the Entity. The General nodded, knowing that in actual fact, Jack meant a lot more to Daniel than just a work colleague, but he had to respect Daniel's privacy. He carried on into his office, leaving Daniel to stare at his papers in despair.

Once the briefing with SG7 was over, Daniel returned to his office to prepare for SG1's mission to G3X777 later that day. It was a routine exploration and survey of a planet, which seemed to be uninhabited. Daniel needed no special equipment or books so he spent the time until he needed to go and get ready to read and answer emails.

______________________________________________________ part three

He did this absently, thinking about Jack at the same time. He wondered whether he should call Jack or wait to see if the Colonel called him. When Sam came into his office to accompany him to the gear up room, he jumped in surprise. He had been lost in thought, remembering again everything that had happened the previous Saturday.

"Daniel, time to go get ready," Sam said.

"Huh?" Daniel looked up. "Already?"

Sam nodded, "already," she confirmed. Daniel shut down his computer and got up to follow her.

Once they reached G3X777, the team set out on their survey. A UAV had already been sent to the planet as well as the usual MALP probe, and both had shown signs that there might once have been habitation on the planet. The team would also take samples of soil to check for the presence of Naquadah and other useful minerals.

As they headed off into the almost inevitable forest to look for signs of life, humanoid or otherwise, Sam raised the topic that was at the forefront of everyone's minds.

"Why do you think the Colonel asked for a leave of absence?" she asked, looking from Daniel to Teal'c. Teal'c shrugged his shoulders.

"I know of no reason why he should wish to be absent from the SGC," he said.

Daniel hesitated, wondering whether to say anything about Saturday. In the end, he decided to say nothing, after all Jack had clearly not even said anything to General Hammond about his reasons for his absence, and Daniel did not have any real proof that it was anything to do with Rachel, just suspicions. He would wait a while before saying anything.

"I don't know either," he said, turning his head away, not liking the fact that he was technically lying to his friends.

"What was he like on Saturday?" Sam asked, sensing that Daniel was being evasive.

"Oh, you know," Daniel said, waving a hand. "He was Jack."

Sam stared at him for a moment, and even Teal'c looked a little surprised by Daniel's response. Daniel however, wandered off to examine a large stone set in a small clearing, which seemed to have markings of some kind on it.

"This looks interesting," he said over his shoulder. Sam headed over to join him, dropping the subject of Colonel O'Neill for the time being. Daniel required patience and coaxing to part with sensitive information, but Sam was willing to take the time.

The rest of the mission was fairly routine. The markings on the rock turned out not to be a language and the soil samples were quickly gathered. The supposed ruins the UAV had shown on its flight turned out to be more large stones of a similar type to the one near the Gate. Closer inspection showed that they were not buildings of any kind. Eventually, Sam called for their return to the 'Gate, and home.

Once back on Earth, they went through the debrief and routine medical exams quickly. Their next mission was not for a couple of days, and they would meet their new team member that day.

Whilst SG1 were trying to come to terms with their loss, their team leader was trying to come to terms with the life changing news he had been given on Saturday when Rachel had arrived back in his life with Laura.

After Daniel had left, Jack had given Rachel an angry look.

"So what are you doing here then?" he asked. "What's suddenly so important you need to turn on my doorstep after 10 years without some much as a postcard, letter or phone call?"

"Laura, honey, why don't you read your book," Rachel had pulled a paperback out of her coat pocket and handed it to the girl. Laura took the book and went to sit on the steps up to the rest of the house. She opened it and started reading. Rachel went to sit next to Jack on the couch.

"There's no easy way to say this Jack," she said, "so I'll just come out with it. I want you to look after our daughter because I'm dying and I can't look after her any more."

Jack sat looking at her in shock, mouth hanging open. He couldn't believe what he had just heard.

"What the hell are you talking about?" he yelled. He stood up and walked over to the window.

"Do you have to shout?" Rachel asked quietly. "It upsets Laura." She gestured at her daughter, who was looking at them warily. Rachel crossed the room to crouch in front of her. "It's all right honey," she said. "Carry on with your book." She patted the girl on the arm then walked over to stand beside Jack, who stood resting his forehead on the cold glass.

"Why don't we talk outside?" Rachel gestured at the garden. "It's stopped raining for a bit, and there are things I'd have to say that I'd prefer Laura not to hear."

"Why bring her then?" Jack snapped, not looking round.

"I had no choice," Rachel said. "I don't know anyone in Colorado Springs but you. We only arrived here this morning. Please, Jack," she put a hand on his arm tentatively, but Jack immediately flinched away, so she let it fall to her side again. He did however, slide the French window open and step outside. Rachel followed him on to the patio, where he stood looking at her.

"So talk, then," he said. "The sooner you're done, the sooner you leave." His face was set like stone, lips compressed in a thin line. It was a look that terrified his subordinates, but Rachel seemed unimpressed.

"You don't scare me Jack," she said. "I've seen your other side, remember?"

"Just get to the point," Jack said.

"The point is, Jack," Rachel said, "that I'm dying of lymphoma and my child needs someone to raise her. As you're her father, you seem to be the best candidate."

"How do I know you're telling the truth?" Jack asked, still unyielding.

"I don't know," Rachel said, puzzled by the question. "What reason would I have for lying to you?"

"Oh, I can think of plenty," Jack said sarcastically. "Starting with money and going downhill from there."

"This isn't a scam," Rachel said. "I've changed since the last time we met."

"I find that hard to believe," Jack said. "You'll have to work a bit harder than that to convince me."

"I don't know how you expect me to do that Jack," Rachel said, frowning. She couldn't believe that Jack was being so difficult about things. She had not realised that he had such a hard side to him.

When she had known him before, Jack had been going through a difficult patch with Sara after the birth of Charlie. She had conned her way onto the Airforce Base where Jack was based at the time and into a job in the Officers' Club. Jack had got to know her when he had frequented the bar before a Special Forces mission. They had only slept together once, when Jack had been drunk. Two days later, he had gone abroad on his mission, and when he returned, he heard all about how the barmaid at the OC had run off with a lot of money from the till. That had been the last he had heard of her. Until now.

"Well," he said now, "You can start by telling me why you think I would want to bring up a child that I don't know. And how do I even know she's mine? For all I know you were sleeping with half the Base!"

Rachel flinched back from that remark. "How dare you?" she said. "What sort of person do you think I am?"

"Well, I don't know do I?" Jack sneered. "That's the whole point I'm trying to make here."

The argument had gone on for a long time, round and round. Laura had eventually come out into the garden to say that she was hungry, so Jack had put the pizzas he and Daniel had been planning to share into the oven to reheat and made a salad to go with them.

Whilst they had been eating, Jack had taken the opportunity to study Laura without seeming to, trying to see if there was any resemblance to himself, or to Charlie. He couldn't see any, but didn't know whether this was because there wasn't any, or because he didn't want to see any.

After they had eaten, he agreed to drive Rachel and Laura back to the motel where they were staying. Afterwards, he had sat up half the night, wrestling with what to do next. However, he couldn't seem to decide. He saw the face of Charlie in front of him as he thought about Laura. If she really were his daughter, it would go a small way to making up for the loss of his son to have another chance to raise a child. He sipped whisky whilst he sat in the darkened lounge, thinking.

Eventually, the only conclusion he came to was that he couldn't decide what to do. So he decided he needed some time off to think. He rang General Hammond and requested a leave of absence. He had been deliberately vague in his conversation with the General because he did not know himself what he would be doing yet.

The next problem was what to say to his team, if anything. He felt guilty abandoning them, but knew that he had no choice. He would not be able to do his job properly whilst having this problem weighing on his mind. In the end, though he had opted for the coward's route and decided to say nothing, leaving it to Hammond to tell them. Knowing Daniel, he would probably guess it was something to do with Rachel, but Jack couldn't face the thought of telling his friend the truth. He didn't like the idea of seeing the disappointment in Daniel's face if he told him about Rachel. Although he wasn't actually married to Sara any more, he had still cheated on her and he couldn't help feeling that Daniel wouldn't approve of that.

However, he felt he owed Daniel something for the way he had ruined their Saturday afternoon, so on Sunday he called Daniel at the Base to apologise. He had phoned the SGC first, guessing that Daniel would be in his office working, rather than at home. The conversation had been brief, but Jack could tell that Daniel was unhappy about things. Daniel not only couldn't lie worth a damn, he couldn't disguise the curiosity in his voice either. However he was too much of a gentleman to ask questions of Jack. Instead he waited - in vain - for Jack to volunteer information. When it wasn't forthcoming, he said goodbye, thanking Jack for his apology.

After he had put the phone down, Jack had sat there wishing he could have said more to Daniel, he hated to let his friend down. He worried most of all about how the archaeologist would cope without him there leading the team. Sam and Teal'c were competent warriors, but Daniel was different, a fact that few people appreciated. They rarely saw past the genius exterior to the real man underneath. Daniel was so much more than just an archaeologist or linguist.

As he sat there, contemplating Daniel, the phone rang under Jack's hand, surprising him. He picked the receiver up reluctantly.

"Hello?" he said.

It was Rachel, phoning to ask if they could talk some more. Jack thought about it. He thought it was probably pointless, but he couldn't just ignore the situation, so he agreed to meet and talk.

"I'll pick you up from the motel," he offered. "If we go to the park, Laura can play safely whilst we talk."

"Thanks, Jack," Rachel said.

So they had sat in the park all afternoon, watching Laura playing on the swings and climbing frame whilst they talked. Jack had asked Rachel about the incident on the Base in Florida.

"I'm not proud of what I did," Rachel said, "but I was desperate at the time. I felt trapped by my situation, and needed a way out. Taking the money seemed the only way I could do that."

"Why didn't you ask me for help?" Jack asked.

"Because after we slept together, I felt bad. I know you were having a difficult time with your wife, but you were totally hung up on Charlie. I couldn't do anything to break that connection you had, and I didn't want to. Being a parent is a very precious thing."

Jack looked at her, and suddenly saw the woman that he had known all those years ago. He had liked Rachel a lot, she had been fun to talk to, and hadn't been impressed by his job in Special Forces. She hadn't been bothered that he didn't talk about his work either.

"Look, Rachel, I'm still not sure about this whole idea of bringing up Laura. My job isn't really suited to me being a single parent, even if she is my daughter, which I'm still not convinced of," Jack said.

"Well, there's only way to find out for sure," Rachel said. "A paternity test."

Jack nodded his head in agreement. "Ok," he said. He was a bit surprised that Rachel had suggested this way out, but realised that this was the only way to find out the truth about Laura's paternity. "We can go to the hospital tomorrow and arrange the test. I know a doctor who will do it for us."

"Are you sure?" Rachel asked, surprised that Jack had agreed so readily to the test.

"Yea, I'm sure," Jack replied. "I want to sort this out."

The next day, Jack picked up Laura and Rachel and drove them to the hospital. He had arranged an appointment with Janet for late in the day. He knew the doctor was curious as to what was going on, and that she was aware of his current absence from the SGC, but he trusted in her role as his doctor to be discreet.

The test was short and painless, but Janet worked her charm on Laura any way to ensure the little girl was not upset by the procedure. Afterwards, Rachel took her outside to wait whilst Jack had his blood test done.

"Is everything ok, sir?" Janet asked as she prepared to draw his blood.

"You ask me this whilst you have a needle in your hand?" Jack asked jokingly.

"Come on, Colonel, this is me you're talking to," Janet said. "You can trust me, I'm bound by patient/doctor confidentiality. There must a reason why you're doing this, I take it it's connected to your current leave of absence from the SGC?"

"There is a reason for it," Jack admitted cautiously. "And yes, it is related to my current absence."

"Are you going make me draw out the answers with this blood?" Janet joked as she put the needle into his arm.

"I'd really prefer not to talk about it Janet," Jack said as he watched the vial fill up with his blood. "It's a difficult situation, which I'm still trying to sort out for myself."

"Talking about it might help," Janet suggested to him. She carefully withdrew the needle, then put a piece of cotton wool over the puncture mark. Jack automatically bent his arm as Janet reached for a plaster.

Jack looked at the petite doctor, who was all seriousness now. He wondered how she would react to the news of his adultery. He used the harsh word deliberately in his head, because that was what he was guilty of, even if it had only been a drunken one-night stand.

"Perhaps when I get the results," he said. "But right now, I don't think talking would help me."

Janet nodded. "Ok, Colonel, but remember, I'm always available if you change your mind."

"Thanks, Doc," the Colonel nodded his appreciation of the offer. "When will the results be ready?"

"A couple of days," she told him.

"And how's things at the SGC?" he asked casually as he watched Janet label the vial of blood and put it down next to the sample of Laura's blood she had taken earlier.

Janet looked around at him, senses alert. She wasn't fooled by the casual tone for a second. She knew exactly what he was asking - more to the point, who he was asking about.

"Everything's fine," she said. "Sam lead the mission today and it was pretty routine stuff. She's leading the team for the moment."

"Who's the fourth?" Jack asked.

"At the moment, no-one," Janet told him. "I think the General is going to bring in a lower ranked officer until he finds someone suitable to lead the team. Unless, of course, you come back first."

As she made this last comment, Janet looked at the Colonel carefully. He just nodded at her, face in neutral.

"I should get going," he said, standing up, "Rachel and Laura are waiting."

"Ok, Colonel. You can make an appointment to come back in two days for the results, or if you prefer you can call in for them," she told him.

"Thanks Doc," he said, nodding his appreciation.

The next two days, Jack spent time with Rachel and Laura getting to know them. Laura was a quiet, studious girl, who spent a lot of time reading. She was totally different to Charlie had been, and she was a lot quieter than Cassie was as well. Jack liked her though; she was well spoken and endlessly curious. In some respects, she reminded Jack of Daniel, and he had an idea of what the archaeologist must have been like at that age.

To Jack's surprise, Daniel had not phoned or called round during the two days. Neither had Sam. Jack wondered briefly if Janet had said something to them, then dismissed the thought. She was too professional to do that. They were probably both too busy to find the time to call him.

Finally, the time had come for Jack to get the results of the paternity test. He had decided to call for the results, knowing he would probably only have to speak to a secretary rather than Janet if he did it that way. He had told Rachel that he would call her with the results of the test when he had them, and she had agreed. He was glad she had not wanted to be there with him when he found out. It gave him a chance to digest the news privately and control his reactions before he spoke to Rachel.

The secretary was polite and helpful. "Yes sir, the results have arrived," she told him. Jack waited patiently through the medical jargon until she got to the point.

"So there's no doubt?" he asked.

"No sir, none at all," she told him.

"I see," Jack said slowly, "thank you." He put the phone down gently, taking a deep breath as he resisted the urge to yell. He went into the kitchen to fetch a beer, drinking it down in three gulps, then took another bottle from the fridge, which he sipped from slowly before going back into the lounge.

He picked up the phone ready to call Rachel. Before he could dial the number though, the phone rang. He pressed the button to answer

"Hello?" he said cautiously.

"Jack?" a voice said equally cautiously.

"Daniel," Jack said, recognising the voice instantly. Daniel's tone was guarded, and Jack could sense he was worried about the reception he was going to get.

"How are you?" Daniel asked.

_________________________________________________ Part four

"I'm fine, Daniel," Jack replied, hoping he sounded more convincing than he felt. He didn't want to talk to Daniel right now, the timing was awful as he had the whole Rachel situation to try and sort out.

"I was wondering if you wanted to go out for pizza with us tonight?" Daniel asked hopefully,

"Aren't you going on a mission tomorrow?" Jack asked.

"Yes," Daniel agreed, "but not until late in the day, so we thought we'd have a team night out first."

"I'm not on the team at the moment," Jack pointed out gently, not wanting to hurt Daniel's feelings.

"The important phrase there, Jack, is 'at the moment'," Daniel said.

"Now you're splitting hairs," Jack countered, a little more forcefully. He winced as he said it, almost feeling Daniel's hurt down the phone, but he couldn't help himself. He just couldn't deal with Daniel at the moment.

"Fine, Jack," Daniel said, anger in his tone now. "If you're not interested in spending time with the team and sharing with us whatever is happening in your life right now, I'll make sure I tell Teal'c and Sam to leave you well enough alone. I thought we were family, Jack, but obviously I was wrong."

With that, the phone was slammed down loudly in Jack's ear, leaving it vibrating with the aftershock of angry archaeologist. Jack hit the off button on his phone and swore loudly. He hated what he had just done to Daniel. It was almost as bad as when he had gone undercover to find the mole in the SGC and he had said all that stuff to Daniel about not being friends. It had taken months for him to properly make that up with Daniel, even though Daniel had tried to dismiss it by saying that the team had drawn straws to see who would come see him. Jack, however, had not been convinced by that remark, and had eventually got Carter to admit to him that it wasn't true, it was Daniel's way of trying to even things up with Jack for the hurt he had inflicted on the team.

Jack drained his second beer in a few seconds, then slammed the bottle down on the table. He needed to call Rachel, who would be waiting for the news of the paternity test, but right now he was so angry, he didn't think he was capable of holding a rational conversation with her. Sighing heavily, he went and fetched a third beer from the kitchen.

Back in the lounge, he picked up the phone again, ready to call Rachel. He didn't want to make the call, but couldn't put it off any longer. He dialled the number quickly, and the phone was picked up on the first ring. He wasn't surprised, Rachel had obviously been waiting for his call.

"Rachel," he said as she answered the phone. "It's Jack. I've got the results."

"And?" she said.

"Laura's mine," Jack said flatly. "You were telling the truth."

"Thank you," Rachel said softly. She knew how much the admission had cost Jack, the pain in his voice was evident even on the phone. "So what now?" she asked.

"I don't know," Jack said, the shrug in his voice travelling down the phone line.

"We should talk," Rachel said.

"Again?" Jack asked, unable to hid the sarcasm in his voice.

"Please Jack, don't make this any harder than it need be," Rachel said.

"Oh please, not clichés," Jack groaned. "Look, I'll call you in a day or so, ok. I need time to sort things out." He didn't bother saying goodbye, just hung up. He really couldn't handle this right now.

After sitting sipping his beer for a few minutes, he finally came to a decision. What he needed right now, he decided was a change of scenery. He would go to his cabin in Minnesota and spend a few days fishing and thinking. With the decision made, he went to his bedroom to pack. He threw a few things in a bag, then went through to the garage to pick up his fishing gear. Once the car was loaded up, he went through the house making sure everything was locked up. Finally, he switched on the answering machine before heading out the front door and locking it behind him.

Before setting off across country, he stopped off at the store to pick up some food and beer, which he loaded into the back of the car with his fishing gear. Once on the Interstate, he turned up his CD player to top volume, blasting opera through the car. He whistled along as he drove. The further he travelled from home, the more he relaxed.

Daniel slammed his phone down so hard he cracked the case. He couldn't believe Jack could be so insensitive! It was like the whole mole business all over again.

"Daniel?" Sam looked at him concerned. She hadn't seen Daniel this angry for a while.

"He's not interested in seeing us," Daniel said, throwing the phone aside.

"I got that," Sam said. "What did he say?"

"He's not on the team at the moment," Daniel said. "Which is a technicality really. But that doesn't seem to bother him. He's regressed back to Colonel Robot again." There was a bitter tone to his voice that Sam didn't like.

"Well, you know what he's like," Sam said. "When something bothers him, he retreats. He doesn't know how to deal emotionally so he shuts down. We just have to be patient."

"I don't know how much longer I can be patient for, Sam," Daniel said, his voice cracking a little with emotion. Sam moved to sit next to him on the couch. She put a hand on his arm.

"Don't say that, Daniel," she said. "He'll come round eventually."

"Do you really think that?" Daniel asked, a pleading note in his voice.

"If he doesn't he'll have me to deal with," Sam said, a note of menace in her tone. Daniel actually managed to smile at that remark. The thought of Sam having a conversation with Jack on the subject of his relationship with Daniel was a scary one.

"Well, anyway, let's forget about him for the time being and concentrate on having a good night tonight," Daniel said resolutely.

Sam nodded agreement "that's a good idea, Daniel," she said.

SG1's next mission was a three day one to S4C222, where they made contact with a friendly race of aliens whose culture was matriarchal, much to Sam's delight. It was a straightforward mission, just what was needed to break in their new team member, Lieutenant John Michaels, who had transferred to SG1 from SG3, where he had been doing good work. He was a little overawed to be joining the legendary SG1, but Sam and Daniel worked hard to make him feel welcome, and even Teal'c was almost talkative during the course of the mission.

After the mission, the four of them went out together to O'Malley's for dinner. It was a light-hearted evening, full of laughter, which they all really enjoyed. Afterwards, Daniel drove Sam home. In the car, Sam looked at Daniel.

"That was a good evening," she said.

Daniel nodded agreement, not looking round from the road.

"Michaels seems nice," she added. That did make Daniel look round.

"Nice?" he asked.

"Friendly, intelligent, hard working," Sam elaborated, smiling.

"And you're his team leader," Daniel said with a grin.

"Oh, I don't think that matters," Sam grinned back, enjoying the banter. "It wasn't me he was staring at for the whole three days."

"What do you mean?" Daniel asked as he stopped outside Sam's house.

Sam looked at him. "You mean you didn't notice?" she said in surprise.

"Notice what?" Daniel asked.

"The way Lieutenant Michaels stared at you the whole three days we were on the mission," Sam said slowly and patiently, as if talking to a child.

"I don't know what you mean," Daniel said.

Sam sighed and smiled at Daniel affectionately; he was totally clueless about the effect that he had on both men and women alike. Which was just as well really, because otherwise it might have gone to his head, making him pretty unbearable and thus not the Daniel everyone knew and loved.

"Never mind," she said now. "I'd better get going. I'll see you next week, Daniel," she leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Bye Sam," Daniel replied, smiling at her.

Sam got out of the car and went into the house. She turned to wave at Daniel before closing the front door. The fact that he waited till she got into the house before driving off was typical of Daniel, even though she was more than capable of defending herself.

Daniel drove home slowly, wondering if it was worth calling round to Jack's house the next day. He missed Jack more than he thought he would, even though it had only been a week since he had seen him. He wanted to apologise for the argument they had had on the phone, but more than that he wanted to find out what was keeping Jack away from the SGC.

The next day, a Sunday, Daniel was up early. He had hardly slept the night before because he had been wondering whether to try and call on Jack. In the end, he had decided that he had to give it a try. The current state of his relationship with Jack was unbearable and Daniel wanted to try and sort things out. Even if they couldn't go back to the easy relationship they had had at the start of the Stargate programme, Daniel wanted to reclaim some sort of relationship with him. He just hoped that Jack felt the same way.

Deciding that surprise was the best form of attack, in order to ensure that Jack had no chance to get away or refuse to see him, Daniel set out without phoning first. He left fairly early because that also increased his chances of finding Jack at home.

The drive was a short one and the town was fairly empty, which meant that it was only a few minutes later that Daniel found himself pulling up in Jack's driveway. He looked around as he got out of the car, but couldn't see Jack's jeep anywhere in sight. He frowned to himself. Walking up the path, he could almost sense that the house was empty even before he knocked on the door. Sure enough, Jack did not appear. Sighing with frustration, Daniel turned to head back down the path and almost collided with the woman whom he had met at Jack's house the previous Saturday.

"Sorry," he apologised, stepping back.

"No, my fault," she said. "I did kind of creep up behind you."

"It's Rachel, isn't it?" Daniel asked, remembering the name at the last second.

"And you're Daniel, Jack's friend," she replied.

"That's right," Daniel nodded agreement.

"Is he not in?" Rachel asked.

"Apparently not," Daniel replied. "Where's your daughter?" he asked suddenly, realising that she wasn't there.

"Staying with a friend," Rachel said. "So how do you know Jack?"

"We work together," Daniel said.

Oh. So what do you do? Only you don't look like any pilot I ever met." She smiled as she said it, taking the sting out of the remark.

"Oh, no, I'm not in the Air Force," Daniel smiled back. "I'm an archaeologist."

"What's that got to do with the Air Force?" Rachel asked, curious now.

"Um, well," Daniel hesitated, not sure what to say.

"Look, it's ok," Rachel said. "I guess it's none of my business anyway. Have you any idea where Jack might have gone? I really need to speak to him."

"Well not really," Daniel said. "Sorry."

"Ok. Well I guess I should head back anyway," Rachel headed down the path to her rental car, which was parked behind Daniel's.

She drove away, leaving Daniel standing on the path looking after her. He wondered exactly what was going on between her and Jack. As he got back into his car, his mobile phone rang.

"Hello?" he said.

"Daniel, it's Sam," the voice at the other end said.

"Sam, how are you?" Daniel asked. A laugh sounded down the phone.

"One too many last night, I think," she replied.

"Oh," Daniel said. He had not really noticed how much Sam had been drinking the night before.

"Are you working today?" she asked.

"No," Daniel said. "I'm actually at Jack's house."

"Oh, I should go," Sam said. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything."

"It's all right, Sam, he's not here," Daniel quickly reassured her. "I guess he decided to go away for a few days."

"Oh, right," Sam said. "Perhaps he went to his cabin."

"That's what I was thinking," Daniel said.

"Are you going to go up there?" Sam asked.

"I'm not sure that would be a good idea," Daniel replied. "He obviously wants to be left alone."

"That doesn't mean he should be," Sam pointed out. Daniel wasn't sure about the logic of that remark.

"I don't know, Sam, I got pretty mad with him the other day, I'm sure he doesn't want me turning up there," he said.

"You don't know till you try," Sam said. "I think you should go. We're on stand down for two days, and the time off wouldn't hurt you. You've been working harder than ever lately. You know what Janet said to you last week in the Commissary."

Daniel pulled a face as he remembered that conversation. He thought about it for a second. "Well, I guess it won't hurt to try," he said finally. "The worst that happens is Jack gets even more angry with me."

"I don't think that's likely to happen," Sam said. "Anyway, I have to go, just promise me you'll call me when you get back."

"I promise," Daniel agreed. As he said goodbye to Sam and shut off his phone, he wondered whether he was in fact doing the right thing. But one way or another, this confrontation with Jack had to come. Putting it off wasn't doing either of them any favours. So he drove back to his apartment, picked up a couple of things and then set off for Minnesota.

Jack was lying on his couch, dozing, when a sudden loud knocking at the door startled him awake. He got up cautiously, wondering who could be at his door. It was late at night and his cabin was well off the beaten track. He opened the door to find a soaking wet Daniel stood there.

"Daniel!" he said in surprise, ushering him inside. "What are you doing here?" Daniel sneezed several times and Jack stepped back from him. "Never mind," Jack said. "Tell me later. You need to change and fast. Come on." He pulled Daniel after him to his bedroom.

Daniel followed behind Jack, squelching as he went. He was shivering with cold and his teeth were starting to chatter. In Jack's bedroom, he stood waiting whilst Jack pulled clothes out of the drawers. He was uncomfortable being in Jack's bedroom, but knew he had no choice. Jack handed him the pile of clothes and then ushered him through to the bathroom.

"Go ahead and shower before you change," Jack suggested, "It'll warm you up."

"Thanks," Daniel said, sneezing again as he said it.

Jack waved a hand, "No problem Daniel," he said. He left Daniel alone in the bathroom, going through to the kitchen to make a hot drink.

Daniel stripped off his wet clothes and left them in a heap on the floor whilst he had a shower. He turned the water up as hot as he could bear for the first few minutes, then turned it back down again to a more manageable level. As he towelled himself dry, he wondered how Jack was going to react once he explained why he was here.

A few minutes later, Jack looked up as Daniel came out of the bathroom dressed in a pair of his sweatpants and a sweatshirt. His hair was still damp and tousled from the shower and Jack had to resist an urge to run his fingers through the hair to straighten it out. He couldn't believe how gorgeous Daniel looked dressed so casually.

"Hot chocolate?" he finally managed to ask, holding out a mug to Daniel.

"Thanks," Daniel took the cup, dropping his eyes from Jack's gaze. He was embarrassed by the scrutiny.

"Where are your clothes?" Jack asked. Daniel gestured behind him at the bathroom.

"I don't have a washing machine," Jack told him, "but I have some lines in the kitchen you can hang them on."

"Ok," Daniel put down the mug of chocolate and went to fetch his clothes. He looked around at the cabin as he followed Jack through to the kitchen. It was quite a bit bigger than Daniel had thought it would be, but was still fairly basic. Although there was obviously electricity, because of the hot water for the shower, Jack had a fire burning in the grate and several lamps and candles spread around the room, rather than electric lights.

"You have an Aga!" Daniel exclaimed in surprise as he followed Jack into the kitchen.

"Yea," Jack said, smiling. "Don't sound quite so surprised, Daniel."

"Just not what I was expecting to see," Daniel said.

______________________________ part five

Jack shrugged, "They're economical," he said "and fairly practical. The power here isn't too reliable, so this ensures I have warmth and food in case I ever get trapped."

"Trapped?" Daniel asked, eyes widening in surprise.

"Don't worry Daniel, it usually only happens in the winter, if we have a lot of snow," Jack reassured him.

"Oh," Daniel said. He let Jack take his clothes and hang them on the lines he had strung across the kitchen.

"So what exactly are you doing here, Daniel?" Jack asked as they went back into the lounge. "And why did you turn up on my doorstep looking like a drowned rat?"

"Um, well I came to apologise," Daniel said.

"You came all this way just to apologise?" Jack asked incredulously.

"Well, that and to see if you're all right," Daniel said. "We're all concerned about you Jack."

"Right," Jack said. "You're all concerned about me. And this has nothing to do with the fact that you saw this stranger at my house last week."

"Actually, no, it doesn't," Daniel said.

"Don't bother lying Daniel, it doesn't suit you," Jack said.

"I'm not lying," Daniel denied the accusation angrily. "I am worried. We're all worried," he corrected himself, hoping Jack hadn't noticed the slip. "And for your information, Rachel is looking for you as well. I called by your house this morning and she was there, wondering where you'd disappeared to. I didn't say anything to her. Oh and just for the record, I haven't said anything to anyone at the SGC about her either." He crossed to the far side of the room to put as much space between himself and Jack as possible.

Jack watched Daniel's back, which was giving off waves of anger. He could tell by Daniel's posture that he had his arms crossed and was hugging himself in the way he always did when angry or upset. He sighed. This was not what he had wanted to happen. Deciding that there was no point putting things off any longer, he crossed the room.

"Daniel," he said softly. Daniel ignored him, resting his head on the window. "Daniel," Jack said again, putting a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry for yelling."

Daniel turned to look at him. "Is that it?" he asked.

"No, that's not it," Jack said. "But will it do for a start?"

Daniel looked at him thoughtfully. Jack offered him a tentative smile. "You still haven't told me why you arrived looking like a drowned rat," he said.

"My car broke down," Daniel said abruptly, turning around fully to face Jack.

"Where?" Jack asked.

"About three miles away," Daniel admitted.

"You walked three miles in the rain to get here?" Jack asked, surprised.

"Didn't have a lot of choice," Daniel said.

"You could have called me," Jack suggested.

"The battery on my phone was flat," Daniel admitted with a blush.

"Oh Daniel," Jack said. "What are we going to do with you?"

"I'm sorry Jack," Daniel said softly. "I don't mean to be so hopeless."

"Come and sit down," Jack said, taking Daniel's hand and leading him over to the couch. "I'll tell you what's going on. I'd already decided to come back and tell you what was happening, and to apologise."

"Apologise for what?" Daniel asked, his curiosity piqued by what Jack was saying.

"I'll tell you the whole story," Jack said. He settled into a corner of the couch, then stretched his legs out on the coffee table. Daniel sat at the opposite end, turning so that he could see Jack as he talked.

"Basically, it's a simple but not pleasant story," Jack began. "I knew Rachel 10 years ago when I was based at Florida briefly. It was just after Charlie was born, and Sara and I were going through a bad patch."

As Jack told the story, Daniel watched him carefully, noting the play of expressions over Jack's face as he talked. Jack, however, seemed to find the table fascinating. He stared at it as he talked, deliberately avoiding looking at Daniel. After he had told Daniel everything, he couldn't turn and look at the other man, he was too afraid of what he might see on Daniel's face.

Daniel sat in silence for a few minutes, digesting what Jack had told him.

"So what are you going to do?" he asked at last.

Jack turned finally to look at him. "Is that all you can say?" he asked, surprised.

"Well, there's obviously lots of things I could say," Daniel told him. "But that seems the most important question. I know it's probably the most selfish question to ask, but I'd like to know if you're going to leave SG1 to be a father. I would say the two things were mutually exclusive."

Jack looked at Daniel, who looked back at him, challenge in every line of his body. Finally, Jack looked away, unable to face the challenge.

"I don't know," he said finally. "I don't want to give up SG1, but at the same time, I could never be a desk jockey. You can understand that can't you Daniel?" he appealed, looking for some understanding in his friend's expression. "You feel the same way about going through the 'Gate."

Daniel nodded his head slowly. "I understand that Jack," he agreed. "There's always retirement, though."

Jack laughed humourlessly at that. "I know," he said. "I guess I could go for the world record of most retirements in any one career."

Daniel frowned. "Not funny, Jack," he said. "This is a serious business."

"I know, Daniel, I know," Jack said. "But you know how hopeless I am about dealing with this stuff. It's more your type of thing."

"Don't belittle yourself, Jack," Daniel said. "This isn't an easy situation to deal with. You just have to do the best you can in the circumstances." He reached out and put a hand on Jack's arm. "We'll be here to help you," he told him earnestly. "SG1 is a family, remember. That's means we help and support each other."

"Thanks Daniel," Jack said. "It means a lot to me that you feel that way. I was worried that you'd condemn me for the fact that I slept with someone else when I was still with Sara."

"You're only human," Daniel pointed out. "We all make mistakes."

"Not you," Jack said, shaking his head, "not this sort of mistake."

"Don't assume you know me that well," Daniel said. "Anyway, let's not argue about it. The point is, this is the situation you're in, what are you going to do about it?"

Jack looked at Daniel, who was leaning forward, studying Jack intently. He bit back the urge to reach forward and kiss Daniel. He turned away and stood up, suddenly restless. Having Daniel this close, and this intense, was playing havoc with his emotions, which were already mixed up enough from the situation he was in with Rachel and Laura. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he went to stand by the fire, looking down at the flames.

Daniel sat watching him, aware of the strong undercurrent of tension in the room, but not sure what was causing it. He waited patiently for Jack to decide to answer his question. He wanted to go to the other man and hold him, tell him it would be ok, but couldn't quite bring himself to cross that divide. He was too afraid of how Jack would react to take that risk at the moment. The fact that he was also more or less trapped here, dependent on Jack to get away also held him back.

Eventually, Jack turned back to face Daniel. "What would you do?" he asked.

"Not fair," Daniel pouted. "I can't answer that question."

"Why not?" Jack asked. "Suppose Share had asked you to bring up Shifu, what would you have done?"

Daniel squirmed uncomfortably in his seat, remembering the dream Shifu had given him on his last visit. He had told no one about the details of the dream. He had been too embarrassed by the thought that what the dream had shown him about himself might actually be true, to tell anyone what he had seen. Instead he had merely told the others that he had seen a version of the future, which had convinced him of the dangers of trying to extract any information from the boy, and left it at that. Thankfully, General Hammond had accepted this explanation.

Looking at Jack again, as he stood waiting for an answer, he decided that he owed it to Jack to be as honest with him, as Jack had been with him.

"You remember that dream I had when Shifu was here?" he asked Jack. Jack looked puzzled, unsure of the relevance to the conversation, but nodded agreement. "Well, the future that it showed me was a pretty uncomfortable one," he said.

"Why?" Jack asked. He came to sit down again, intrigued by what Daniel was saying. He had been curious as to what Daniel had dreamt about, but Daniel had refused all attempts to get him to discuss the subject, so in the end Jack had given up. Daniel explained the dream and the vision of the future it had given him.

After he had finished, Daniel was the one refusing to make eye contact.

"Why are you so embarrassed by this Daniel?" Jack asked. "It was a dream, not real."

"But it could have been real," Daniel said. "It made me face a darker side of myself which I hadn't faced since I was addicted to the sarcophagus. And I didn't like that Daniel. One of the things that happened in the dream was that Shifu came to live with me, and I made a pretty bad job of being a father. I didn't enjoy the experience at all."

Jack looked at Daniel with sympathy in his eyes. He reached out and put a hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"I'm sorry Daniel, I had no idea," he said. "No wonder you didn't want to discuss it with anyone."

Daniel turned to look at him. "Do you see why I can't answer your question though? Anything I say will be coloured by that experience, even if it was only a dream."

"I do understand," Jack nodded his agreement. "The thing is though, if I do say no to Rachel, what happens to Laura then?"

"Why should that be your problem?" Daniel asked. "I know she's your flesh and blood, but Rachel chose not to stay around and tell you that. Why should she have the right to turn up in your life now and demand that you make this decision? It's her responsibility to sort out some sort of provision for Laura, but she doesn't have the right to dump that responsibility on you just because you happen to share some genes."

Jack was shocked. "Wow," he said. "I never expected you to react like this." He stood up and began to pace. "I never really thought about things like that before."

Daniel slid to his feet and stood in front of Jack, forcing him to stop pacing. "Look Jack," he said, "this is emotional blackmail. Rachel is asking you to take on Laura out of guilt. There's no reason why you should do that if you don't want to. Why sacrifice your life, your career for someone you never even knew existed until a week ago?"

Just then, Jack yawned widely. "Sorry, Daniel," he said. "I'm pretty tired. This emotional stuff is pretty draining."

Daniel yawned himself, then laughed. "I know how you feel," he said.

"Well, that walk must have tired you out," Jack said. "I'm afraid I don't have a spare bedroom, though."

"The couch will be fine," Daniel said.

"I don't think so," Jack said. "It's falling apart. You wouldn't sleep a wink all night."

"So what do you suggest then?" Daniel asked.

"Well, my bed is king size," Jack pointed out. "We've slept in a tent together often enough. This will be no different to that."

"Well," Daniel hesitated. It was a tempting prospect, but he was nervous about the effect such close proximity to Jack would have on him. "Ok then," he said. "I guess the couch doesn't exactly feel that comfortable."

___________________________________________________ part six

"Exactly," Jack grinned. "You go on ahead and get ready, I'll just lock up and sort out the fire."

Daniel nodded agreement, and headed off to the bedroom. He paused for a while, unsure of himself. Finally, he removed his sweatshirt and pants, but kept on the T-shirt and boxers he was wearing. It was a compromise between his usual nakedness when sleeping at home and staying fully dressed as he did when they were on missions. He slipped into bed and pulled the duvet around himself. He hoped Jack didn't have any strong preferences which side of the bed he slept on, because he could only sleep on the left side of the bed.

When Jack came into the bedroom a few minutes later, Daniel was curled up on his side under the duvet. He was already half asleep, exhausted by the events of the day. Jack undressed quickly then slid into bed. Daniel turned over as he did so, woken by the movement.

"Sorry," Jack said.

"S'ok," Daniel said sleepily, blinking at Jack. He turned onto his side to lie facing Jack. "I really am sorry about yelling at you the other day, Jack," he said sincerely.

Jack smiled at him "don't sweat it Daniel. I deserved to be yelled at. I've been a complete asshole the last week. I'm sorry for the way I behaved."

"And for running out on us?" Daniel asked.

Jack sighed. "You're determined to make me pay aren't you Daniel?" he said rhetorically. "Yea, I'm sorry I ran away as well. I'm no good at dealing with this stuff, so I run away. I apologise for being a coward."

Daniel smiled at Jack. "Apology accepted," he said, repressing an urge to sound too smug. "Are you coming home tomorrow?"

Jack hesitated for an instant, then agreed, "I guess so," he said. "I need to talk to Rachel, let her know my decision. Now can I go to sleep?"

Daniel grinned, "Yes, Jack," he said, "you can go to sleep." And with that, he rolled away from Jack again.

Watching him, Jack sighed to himself. He turned out the lamp quickly and turned away from Daniel. It wasn't the same as sharing a tent at all, sharing his bed with Daniel. He could hardly bear the closeness and the fact that he couldn't touch Daniel. But he didn't want to scare him off, having just worked so hard to repair their friendship. As he lay there, mind and body in turmoil, he listened to Daniel's breathing gradually deepen as he went to sleep.

Jack woke suddenly and lay for a moment, wondering what had disturbed his sleep. Then he heard the noise again. He frowned, unsure what it was. The noise came again and Jack suddenly realised what it was. Daniel was making noises in his sleep. Jack lay there wondering what to do. It was obvious Daniel was dreaming, but Jack couldn't tell whether it was a good dream or a bad one. Then he heard Daniel say his name and moan loudly. Jack lay frozen, that moan didn't sound like Daniel was in pain. He was also writhing around on the bed.

Jack carefully eased himself away from Daniel and out of bed. This was more than he could stand. A glance at his watch in the light from the window showed him that it was 3am. It was still a few hours till dawn, but he didn't think he'd be able to sleep next to Daniel any more tonight. Instead he put some clothes on and went through to the kitchen to make some coffee.

A hand on his shoulder woke Jack a little while later. He sat up in surprise, having dozed off slumped across the kitchen table.

"Jack?" Daniel stood there barefoot and tousled. Jack buried his head in his arms again with a groan. He couldn't believe how gorgeous Daniel looked standing there half dressed and sleepy-eyed.

"What do you want Daniel?" Jack said, his words muffled by the fact that he had his head down.

"I was wondering where you are," Daniel said, sliding into the seat next to Jack. "I woke up and you were gone. I just wanted to make sure you're ok."

Jack sat up and turned to look at Daniel. "I was having trouble sleeping," he said.

"Didn't look like it to me," Daniel said with a grin. "You were sound asleep just now. But I bet you weren't comfortable. Why didn't you come back to bed?"

Jack had to stifle a groan at that remark, said in all innocence by Daniel, but loaded with meaning for Jack.

"I didn't want to disturb you," Jack said. "You were sound asleep."

"Well I'm not now," Daniel pointed out the obvious, "so there's nothing stopping you coming back to bed now." He stood up and held out a hand to Jack, "Come on," he said.

Jack stood up, ignoring the hand and carried his half-full mug of cold coffee over to the sink.

"You go ahead, I'll be there in a second," he said over his shoulder as he emptied the cup and rinsed it out.

When he finally turned around again, he was surprised to see Daniel still standing there. "Daniel?" he said cautiously, "what is it?"

Daniel sighed and ran a hand through his hair, tousling it even further. He had woken up from a particularly vivid dream about himself and Jack, the memory of which was enough to make him blush, and it had left him feeling more than a little frustrated. Jack's casual dismissal of him had annoyed him. He was sure that Jack felt something more than friendship for him but didn't know how to get him to show it.

"Nothing, Jack," he said eventually, "I'm going to bed." He turned and walked out of the kitchen, frustrated with his inability to communicate with Jack on a more intimate level. Jack followed him a few minutes later, puzzled by Daniel's behaviour, but unable to fathom what it meant.

When Jack reached the bedroom, Daniel was again lying curled up on his side. Jack turned out the lamp and slid into bed. He lay on his back, hands under his head, staring at the ceiling in the darkness. He had a feeling he wouldn't be going back to sleep again. The memory of how Daniel had looked when he was dreaming wouldn't go away, however hard Jack tried to think about other things, and it was making Jack frustrated.

Daniel was lying equally frustrated on the other side of the bed, back to Jack. He rolled onto his back with a sigh, unable to sleep. Jack heard him move, and automatically turned away, even though it was still too dark for Daniel to see him. Closing his eyes resolutely, Jack decided to count sheep. In contrast, Daniel was running through the names of pharaohs in his head. Eventually, both men fell asleep again.

The next time Jack opened his eyes, it was to find Daniel's face a few inches from his own. Jack smiled instinctively at the sight of Daniel's face in repose, long lashes covering the beautiful blue eyes. He lay there enjoying the opportunity of looking at Daniel without the archaeologist being aware of the scrutiny. Gradually, he became aware that his arm was dead, where Daniel was lying across it. His legs were also tangled with Daniel's. Jack breathed in hard, there was no way he could extricate himself from Daniel without waking him up, which could only prove to be embarrassing for both of them. He would have to wait for Daniel to move first. In the meantime, he would enjoy the scenery, he decided with a grin.

Daniel opened his eyes slowly, unsure where he was at first. He lay there, waking up gradually, until he realised where he was - in bed with Jack. As that memory dawned on him, he also became aware that he was literally in bed with Jack - their limbs were tangled together, and his head was on Jack's shoulder. He sat up suddenly, feeling his face flush bright red as he realised exactly what a compromising position he was in.

"Morning Danny," Jack said with a grin as Daniel slid out of bed and tripped over his own feet in his haste and confusion.

Daniel ignored him, grabbing his clothes and bolting for the bathroom, burning with embarrassment. He quickly threw off his T-shirt and boxers and dived into the shower, turning the cold water on full blast in an effort to cool himself down and regain control. He leant his head against the tiled shower wall, berating himself internally for having been so stupid as to agree to share a bed with Jack in the first place. Waking up in such a compromising position was not part of his plan for getting Jack to admit to his feelings.

He was so lost in the turmoil of his thoughts, barely aware of the cold water continuing to pour down on him, that he didn't hear the shower door slide open or notice the rush of cold air that came with it. However, the sudden presence of a pair of hands on his shoulders startled him from his miserable introspection. He started in surprise and twisted around to see Jack standing facing him.

"Jack?" he said the name hesitantly, not sure exactly what was going on, but painfully aware with his whole body that Jack was standing there naked in front of him.

Jack didn't say anything, instead he reached up to change the temperature control on the shower so that the water was warmer.

"Don't want you catching cold, Danny," he commented casually, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he was standing naked in a shower with another man. Although they had had showers together on Base, this was hardly the same. Teal'c was usually there at the SGC as well, and they were usually in different shower stalls, not the same one.

Jack then turned back to Daniel and smiled at him. Daniel smiled back tentatively, still unsure exactly what was going on.

"Need your back scrubbing?" Jack asked, the tremor in his voice belying the casual tone this time.

Daniel gave him a searching look. "What exactly is going on here Jack?" he asked. Before he agreed to anything, he needed to know where he stood and what Jack's intentions were. He hoped they were dishonourable intentions, but he needed to be sure.

In answer to his question, Jack once again proved that, for him, cliché or not, actions spoke louder than words. He swayed forward and gently touched his lips to Daniel's, the touch feather light but at the same time electric in its intensity. Daniel moaned, licking his lips where Jack's had touched them. Jack moaned in response to that movement and moved closer to Daniel, pinning the younger man against the shower wall with his body as he bent to kiss him again. This time, though, the kiss deepened and became more passionate, tongues probing the other's mouth, teeth and lips scraping together, until the need for oxygen eventually forced them apart.

The two men stood panting, chests heaving. Their eyes were locked together, pupils dilated by arousal, expressions slightly dazed by the intensity of the passion between them and the way it had suddenly exploded into action. Jack ran a hand through his hair, which the shower had plastered against his head. Daniel licked his lips again, tasting Jack as he did so.

"Um, what just happened?" Daniel asked.

Jack chuckled at that. "I think that's pretty obvious don't you?" he said.

"You know what I mean!" Daniel protested.

Jack groaned. "Don't pout, Daniel, it drives me wild!" he said.

"Really?" Daniel asked, a little shocked by that.

"Well, actually, you pretty much drive me crazy just by existing," Jack admitted with a small smile.

Daniel smiled back. "I feel pretty much the same way about you," he said, reaching out to caress Jack's face as he said it.

"So what do you say to getting out of the shower before we turn into prunes and going back to bed?" Jack asked hopefully. Daniel reached up to turn off the shower and gestured to Jack to lead the way. Jack grinned and reached out to open the shower door. He passed Daniel a towel before wrapping another around himself.

Back in the bedroom, they both paused, suddenly shy.

Jack sighed loudly. "I'm too old for this," he announced abruptly.

"Too old for what?" Daniel asked nervously.

"To feel so damn nervous about sex," Jack said. He went to sit on the edge of the bed, needing to put some distance between himself and Daniel before he embarrassed himself. Daniel, however, was having none of it. He crossed the bedroom to stand in front of Jack.

"Why nervous?" he asked.

"Because," Jack said. He didn't want to discuss this with Daniel, but knew he had no choice. That didn't mean however, that he was going to go down without a fight.

"Tell me, Jack," Daniel said. He sat down next to Jack on the bed, taking Jack's hand in his, lacing their fingers together. "Trust me?" he asked.

Jack looked at him sideways. "Always," he said.

"Then talk to me," Daniel said. "We've taken a big step here and we both need to be comfortable before we go any further."

"Ok," Jack said slowly. "I guess I'm nervous because I've never been in love with a man before. And I don't want to hurt you, Daniel. You've been through enough in the past, without having me happen to you as well."

Daniel smiled. "Don't worry Jack, I trust you," he said. "I don't think you're capable of hurting me. And just for the record, I love you too."

______________________________________________ Part seven

Jack pulled Daniel close to him, overwhelmed by his emotions. Daniel put his arms around Jack, liking the feeling of skin to skin contact with him. He ran his hands across Jack's back and down to the edge of the towel around Jack's waist. He slipped one hand under the towel to caress the base of Jack's spine. Jack shivered in his arms and he immediately stopped and pulled back.

"Jack?" he said, surprised to find tears on the other man's face. He ran his fingers lightly across Jack's cheeks, brushing the tears away. Then he softly pressed his lips to Jack's. The kiss stayed chaste this time, until Daniel eventually pulled back again. Jack looked into the blue eyes in front of him.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Daniel smiled at him, "you're welcome," he murmured. Pulling Jack back with him, he eased the two of them onto the bed side by side.

"So now what?" Jack asked.

"Whatever you want," Daniel said a hopeful note in his voice as he looked at Jack.

"That sounds like an invitation to trouble," Jack said. "Are you trying to corrupt me Danny?"

"Actually, I was hoping it would be the other way round," Daniel said honestly. "This is all a new experience for me."

Jack looked at him in surprise. "You could've fooled me Dannyboy," he said. "As it happens, I do have some experience, but I'm not going to tell you about it."

"That's all right, I'd rather not know," Daniel said. "There are some things it's best not to share."

Jack nodded his agreement with that statement. Daniel wriggled closer to Jack, "so corrupt me then," he said in a husky voice. Jack grinned at that and put his arms around Daniel, moving in for a kiss. He probed Daniel's mouth with his tongue, nibbling at his lips at the same time. Daniel moaned deeply in his throat, feeling his arousal growing as Jack pressed against him with his full length. With only towels between them, each could feel the weight of the other's groin trapped between them.

Jack reached down a hand and pulled the towels away, throwing them on to the floor. He then started to grind his hips against Daniel's, keeping the kiss going between them the whole time. Eventually though, he had to stop to breathe. Daniel's head fell back on the pillow, exposing his throat. Jack immediately pounced, licking and kissing the skin there. At the same time, one of his hands roamed across Daniel's smooth, well-muscled chest, not stopping until it encountered a nipple. Once there, Jack began to rub across the sensitive skin with his fingertip. Jack's roughened skin increased the pleasure for Daniel, who was moaning constantly from the full sensual assault he was receiving. Jack was still grinding his hips against Daniel's at the same time.

Jack switched his attentions to the other nipple now, rubbing it to hardness. He was also kissing his way along Daniel's jaw line to his ear. When he put his tongue in to the ear, Daniel bucked wildly beneath him.

"Gods, Jack," he cried out. "Don't stop." Jack paused for a second to grin at him.

"Enjoying yourself?" he said teasingly. Daniel nodded his head wordlessly, unable to form a coherent sentence any more. Rational thought seemed to have fled from his brain as the blood had pooled in his groin. Jack looked into the darkened eyes below him.

"Do you want more?" he asked, suddenly serious again. Daniel nodded again without hesitation. Jack nodded too and slid his body down Daniel's. He paused again to look at Daniel, who had lifted his head to see what Jack was doing. Seeing only love and trust in Daniel's expression, Jack bent his head to Daniel's groin. He took the tip between his lips, licking gently. Daniel shuddered under him, and Jack reached out to hold him steady.

"Easy Daniel," he murmured. Daniel immediately stilled beneath him, chest heaving as he struggled to regain a measure of control. Jack allowed him to recover before going any further. He was acutely aware that this was Daniel's first time with a man and wanted it to be the best it could be for him, to repay the trust Daniel was giving him.

Once Daniel was calm again, Jack went back to licking at his cock, gradually working his way down to the base, nipping lightly at the skin from time to time. He could hear Daniel's breathing become more ragged again, as he became more aroused. Finally, Jack slid the length of Daniel into his mouth, enjoying the taste and feel of him. It had been a long time since he had been with another man, and he realised now how much he had missed it.

Jack worked his mouth along the length of Daniel, sucking and licking slowly to start with, but gradually building up speed. Daniel was thrusting his hips in a counterpoint rhythm and moaning constantly at the same time as he writhed around on the bed, fingers tangling in the sheets. His face was bathed in sweat and contorted with passion. Jack marvelled at how responsive Daniel was and how enthusiastic. As he sucked harder, Daniel finally came with a yell, pouring himself into Jack's waiting mouth as he shuddered out his orgasm.

When he was finally done, Daniel lay boneless and sated on the bed, eyes closed and breathing harsh. Jack lay beside him, stroking back Daniel's sweat-soaked hair from his forehead, running his fingers down Daniel's face and across his lips. Daniel's tongue came out and licked the fingers, sucking them into his mouth. His eyes opened slowly and looked into Jack's, a smile curving his features.

Jack bent his head to replace his lips with his fingers. He was still painfully aroused, but didn't want to rush Daniel, instead contenting himself with a slow, gentle kiss, tongues gently tangling together. Daniel however, surprised him by suddenly rolling himself on top of Jack, breaking the kiss to nibble at Jack's throat. Then he moved down to lick at a nipple. At the same time, he rubbed himself against Jack's still-engorged cock, making Jack moan.

"Daniel," Jack called. Daniel looked up, a question in his eyes. "I love you," Jack said.

Daniel smiled one of his rare, earth-shattering smiles, which lit up his whole face. "I love you too Jack," he said.

"I want to come inside you," Jack said now, "will you let me do that?" He watched Daniel carefully, looking for a hint of doubt or hesitancy, but seeing only the trust in Daniel's expression.

Daniel nodded. "Ok," he said. "Tell me what to do." Jack rolled them over again so that he was on top. Then he pulled open the drawer of his locker, digging around until he found the tube of lube, which he then dropped onto Daniel's chest.

"Just be comfortable and trust me," Jack said. He opened the tube and put some onto his fingers. Daniel lay watching him closely, nervous but determined. He wanted this - he wanted to prove to Jack how much he loved him. Jack slid a finger slowly and gently into Daniel's cleft, at the same time putting his other hand on Daniel's hip, caressing him gently. He watched Daniel closely, gauging his reaction. Daniel had his eyes closed, a look of fierce concentration on his face.

Jack slowly added a second finger, working them in and out gently. He could see Daniel respond, his legs widening and his cock swelling again, as he became aroused once more. Adding a third finger, Jack gradually began to thrust harder and quicker. Daniel's breathing came more quickly, and his feet drummed on the bed. Jack slowed down again, not wanting Daniel to get too excited before he was ready. Taking up the lube again, he carefully applied some to his cock, in readiness to enter Daniel.

Daniel opened his eyes, straining to see what Jack was doing. Jack looked up and caught the glance and the anxious look on Daniel's face. Smiling reassuringly, he moved up Daniel's body to kiss him.

"Ready?" he asked. Daniel nodded, spreading his legs wide. Jack took a pillow and slid it under Daniel's hips for support. Then he moved forward and started to slide his cock into Daniel's cleft. Daniel started to tense up and Jack paused. He kissed Daniel again slowly and deeply. "Try and relax," he said. Daniel nodded agreement and closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

As he relaxed again, he felt Jack push forward again. Concentrating fiercely, Daniel managed not to tense up this time. Finally, Jack was all the way inside and paused there to allow Daniel to get used to the sensation of being filled in this way. Once he was sure Daniel was ok, Jack began to thrust against him, at the same time taking Daniel's newly erect cock in his hand and starting to stroke him in time to his thrusts into Daniel.

Daniel put his legs around Jack's back, drawing the other man closer and deeper. Jack adjusted position slightly as he thrust, and suddenly he was hitting Daniel's prostate for the first time. Daniel yelled in surprise at the sensation, head falling back on the pillow, hands gripping the sheets again. Jack smiled in satisfaction and thrust forward again, hitting the sweet spot once again. Daniel pushed his hips forward, encouraging Jack to continue.

Jack needed no encouragement, starting to strike harder and faster, at the same time keeping up his pressure on Daniel's cock, pausing only to change hands.

"More," Daniel said breathlessly, "oh god, don't stop."

"Not going too," Jack ground out, feeling himself teetering on the edge. Finally, he could hold back no longer and with one final thrust he came with a yell, pouring himself into Daniel, who came a second time as well.

Exhausted, Jack slumped across Daniel, head on his chest, gasping for breath. Daniel was breathing equally hard, overwhelmed with what he had just experienced. Finally, Jack slid off of Daniel and lay beside him

"Wow," Daniel said finally. Jack grinned at him.

"Wow indeed," he said.

A couple of hours later, Jack was tinkering with Daniel's car, trying to work out why it had broken down. Daniel hovered at his side, watching him work.

"For crying out loud," Jack finally said, "relax, Daniel, it'll be ok."

Daniel looked at him, "I'm sorry Jack," he said. He turned and walked a short distance down the road, scuffing his feet in the dirt. Ever since this morning, he had been nervous and edgy, worried about what would happen when he and Jack got back to the SGC. He was also worried about the upcoming meeting between Jack and Rachel. Although he had encouraged Jack to feel free to refuse Rachel's request, he was now concerned that he had done the wrong thing, in persuading Jack to deny Laura a chance to grow up with her father, simply because he didn't want to lose Jack's daily presence at work.

Just then, a hand on his shoulder made him jump. He spun round to see Jack standing there. "I'm sorry for yelling," Jack said softly.

Daniel shook his head. "I'm the one who should apologise, Jack," he said. "I've been acting like a baby all morning. I'm sorry for being such a coward."

"Don't let's start trying to assign blame here," Jack said. "This is a major change in our relationship, it's bound to take some time for us to adjust."

Daniel smiled at him. "When did you get so wise?" he asked.

"Old age," Jack said with a grin. "It does have some advantages, Daniel. Your car's fixed, so let's go home, ok?"

Daniel nodded his agreement and turned back towards his car. Jack went to his own car, and headed off first, with Daniel following close behind.

The journey back to Colorado Springs was long and boring. The two men drove in convoy, stopping several times on the way back to eat and rest. Finally, though, they reached the outskirts of the town late in the evening. Daniel followed Jack all the way to his house without hesitating, knowing that for him, at least, it was too soon for them to be separated.

Once inside the house, Jack immediately turned to kiss Daniel, surprising the other man, but he quickly responded, tangling his fingers in the hair at the back of Jack's head to pull him closer.

The phone ringing loudly startled them apart. "It's all right," Jack said, "the answering machine's still on." He moved forward again, ignoring the message being left on the machine. Then Daniel's mobile, which was in his jacket pocket, rang. Jack swore as he stepped back again, allowing Daniel to pull the phone from his pocket to answer it.

"Hello?" Daniel said. Jack tried to kiss Daniel on the cheek, but Daniel fended him off, walking away from Jack. When he saw the serious look on his face, Jack immediately backed off, going through to the kitchen to put some coffee on.

Daniel's side of the conversation was fairly monosyllabic and short. Afterwards, he wandered through to the kitchen.

"I have to go Jack," he said. Jack spun round.

"What's up?" he asked, worried by the tone of voice Daniel was using.

"Um, something came up at the Base," Daniel said.

"What?" Jack asked impatiently.

"An emergency with SG9," Daniel said. "I have to go in."

"I'll go with you," Jack said immediately.

"Are you sure?" Daniel asked, following Jack as he headed back through the house.

"Yes," Jack said. "If it's an emergency, I should go." Just then, Daniel's phone rang again.

"Hello?" he asked.

"It's Sam," the voice on the other end of the phone said.

"Hi Sam," Daniel said, raising his eyebrows at Jack. "I'm just about to leave now."

"Do you know where the Colonel is?" the voice on the other end of the phone asked.

"Here," Daniel replied. "He's coming in too."

"Can I speak to her?" Jack grabbed the phone out of Daniel's hand. "Carter, what's going on?" he asked abruptly.

"Uh, sir," Carter stammered. "All I know is that there is some sort of problem with the mission that SG9 are on at the moment. I'm just on my way into the Base now."

"Right, we'll see you there," Jack said. He switched the phone off and handed it back to Daniel. "Let's go," he said.

Daniel took the phone, shaking his head as he did so. He was bemused by the sudden change in behaviour from Jack. He followed Jack out of the house.

"We may as well go in my car," Jack said as they walked down the drive.

"Ok," Daniel muttered. He got in the car and fastened his seat belt, slumping down in the seat. He was glad not to have to drive, as he was still tired from having driven to Minnesota and back in two days.

___________________________________________________________ part eight

"Daniel, we're here," Jack shook Daniel awake. He had fallen asleep before they had barely left Jack's house.

"Huh?" Daniel looked up in surprise, glasses askew on his face. He straightened them up and looked around. They had reached the Base and Jack was looking at him patiently, waiting for him to get out of the car. "Sorry, Jack," Daniel scrambled out of the car quickly, then joined Jack for the journey through Base security to the briefing room where General Hammond was waiting.

"Colonel O'Neill," the General was surprised to see the officer arrive with Daniel Jackson. He noted that both men looked tired and rumpled, but decided not to comment. Time was short for SG9. He gestured them to seats. Major Carter, Teal'c and Lieutenant Michaels were already waiting.

"Hello sir," Jack nodded to the General. "Hope you don't mind me joining the briefing, it sounded urgent."

The General nodded agreement, "good to have you back, Jack," he said. "Let's get started. SG9 have been negotiating for access to medical technology on S4C200 for the last few days. Things appeared to be going well and Major Kovacek reported that they were close to a conclusion when he last reported. That was 12 hours ago. Their latest report is 4 hours overdue and when we opened the Gate to attempt communication, we were unable to raise them."

"What about the probe sir?" the Colonel asked as soon as the General paused.

"The probe shows nothing untoward in the immediate vicinity of the Gate, but unfortunately this is of little use because the town where the team were working is several miles from the Gate. We have sent out a UAV to do a survey and are waiting for the results from that now. However, I want SG1 on stand by ready to go through the Gate if necessary."

"What do we know about the indigenous people?" Daniel asked.

"They are probably as advanced as the Tollan," the General replied. "They have been very friendly since SG5 first encountered them a few weeks ago. They are peaceful, with no sign of any weapons technology on the planet. They are aware of the Goa'uld, but don't have anything to do with them."

"What can you tell us about the technology that SG9 were negotiating for, sir?" Daniel asked next.

"It's mainly medical technology," the General replied. "They have a number of interesting drugs and machines which has Dr Frasier and her team very excited. The Myerlings all seem to live to at least 150, with few diseases or illnesses. The technology could be a huge breakthrough for us."

Sam nodded. She had heard some of this from Janet already. "It sounds exciting stuff," she said. "The possibilities are intriguing."

"I'd like you to be ready to go through the Gate as soon as we have the results of the UAV survey," the General said. "You're all dismissed."

He stood up and SG1 followed suit. "A word, Colonel," he said, indicating his office.

"Yes sir," the Colonel replied, following behind him. Daniel watched him go anxiously.

"Daniel," Sam put a hand on his arm and he looked round.

"Hey Sam," he said.

"Walk with me?" she asked. He nodded agreement and fell into step beside her. Teal'c and Lieutenant Michaels had already left for the gear up room. "How did things go?" Sam asked.

Daniel smiled at her, "Ok," he said.

"Just ok?" Sam persisted, smiling too.

Daniel looked around, but the corridor was empty. "Better than ok," he admitted his smile growing, "very well in fact."

"Good," Sam said with satisfaction. "I'm pleased Daniel. What about the situation that made him leave though?"

"That's still to be resolved," Daniel said carefully. "But I think he's close to sorting it out."

Sam nodded. "Ok," she said. "So long as you're sure."

When SG1 assembled in the Control Room to await the results of the UAV survey, Colonel O'Neill and General Hammond joined them. It was the first time Daniel had seen Jack since the briefing, and he was pleased to see that Jack looked fairly relaxed. He was newly showered and had changed into his uniform.

"Lieutenant Michaels, a word please," the General said. As the two men left the room, Jack went to stand next to Sam and Daniel.

"What's the survey saying?" he asked Sam.

"The town looks fine," Sam said. "There's no sign of any trouble or disturbance. I can't see any reason why SG9 would be unable to contact us."

"Guess we'll just have to go in on foot and find out then," Jack said, not sounding concerned by the prospect.

"How far is it from the Gate to the town?" Teal'c asked.

"Ten miles," Sam said.

"A few hours then, to walk there and back," Daniel said, sounding less than enthusiastic. Although he too had had a shower and several cups of coffee, he was still tired out from the journey back from Minnesota. It was now nearly midnight and he was feeling pretty strung out.

"Piece of cake," Jack said cheerfully. In contrast to Daniel, he seemed full of energy and raring to go.

"SG1, you can disembark when ready," General Hammond said as he and Lieutenant Michaels rejoined them in the Control Room.

"Yes sir," Colonel O'Neill said. He turned and led the team down to the Gate room briskly.

A few minutes later, the team was on the other side of the wormhole and looking around for trouble. Although the MALP had shown no signs of problems, it was second nature to the team to check for potential threats as soon as they arrived on a new planet.

"Area secure sir," Sam reported.

"All right, let's head out then," the Colonel responded. "Teal'c you take point, Carter, you have the six."

The team headed off on the trek to the Myerling town at a steady pace. Jack and Daniel walked side by side just behind Teal'c, with Lieutenant Michaels just behind, but ahead of Sam who brought up the rear.

"So how did you get on with General Hammond?" Daniel asked quietly as they walked along.

"Oh, fine," Jack said. "I explained the situation with Rachel and he was very understanding. He said that I can have some more time off if I need it."

"Are you going to?" Daniel asked. Jack shook his head.

"I don't think so," he replied. "I just need to tell Rachel my decision, then it's over."

"I hope so," Daniel said softly.

"What do you mean?" Jack asked.

"Well, do you think that she'll give up that easily?" Daniel asked.

"I don't know," Jack said. "But let's change the subject, Daniel."

When SG1 eventually reached the Myerling town, they were greeted by a group of people just inside the town boundaries.

Daniel introduced the team and explained they were looking for SG9.

"They are not here," one of the men, who had introduced himself as Caris said. "They left many hours ago to return home through the Stargate. Our negotiations were successfully concluded and they said they must return home to report the outcome."

"Ok, how the hell does an entire team just disappear without trace?" Jack asked impatiently.

"We will help you look for them," Caris said, seemingly unperturbed by Jack's outburst. "If you would like to rest first, whilst we organise a search party."

"What sort of predators do you have on your planet?" Sam asked as they followed Caris into a house nearby.

"Predators?" Caris asked, puzzled.

"Large animals or birds that might attack people," Daniel clarified.

"There is nothing of that sort on Myerling," Caris replied. "This is a peaceful world."

"What do you think might have happened to our people?" Daniel asked, sensing Jack was becoming impatient again behind him. He sat next to Caris at a table in the room they had been shown into.

"I don't know," Caris admitted. "The only thing I can think of is some sort of accident, but even that seems unlikely. They knew the route from here to the Gate well and there is nothing dangerous along the way, as you know yourselves from having walked here."

Another man came into the room, carrying a tray of refreshments, which he set on the table in front of the team. Daniel immediately took a cup and sniffed it. It was a spicy smell, which reminded him of Jack's after-shave for some reason. He took a cautious sip, but found it was a fruity taste with a pleasant after-taste. He drank some more, finding it cool on his tongue after the long walk across country.

"Daniel?" Jack asked. Daniel looked up to find him watching him closely. He smiled and Jack smiled back.

"Give it a try, Jack," he said. "It's delicious."

Jack sat down opposite him, and the rest of SG1 finally sat down as well. Caris passed cups around and plates with small cakes and fruit. Everyone ate quietly for several minutes and Caris excused himself to go and talk to someone outside.

"What do you think sir?" Sam asked, looking up at the Colonel from her empty plate.

"They seem friendly enough, and willing to help," he said. "I don't understand how SG9 could just disappear. Caris was right about the lack of apparent threats on the walk here, and we've no reason to think he's lying about there being predators here. We'll just have to get out there and beat the bushes I suppose."

Daniel sighed to himself at the thought of yet more walking. He was starting to have trouble keeping his eyes open just sitting here.

"Daniel!" Jack's voice startled him and he looked up. "Not falling asleep are you?" Jack asked.

"Just thinking," Daniel lied, ducking his head to his plate to try and hide his blush.

"Well, do it with your eyes open in future," Jack said with a grin. He knew that Daniel was exhausted and he was starting to feel tired himself, but for the moment, none of them could afford to rest.

Just then Caris returned. "If you are sufficiently rested, we are ready to begin searching. We have several hours before darkness falls, so should be able to retrace the route back to the Stargate in that time. We will begin a wider search in the morning if we have not found SG9 in that time."

Jack nodded appreciation and understanding, getting to his feet and heading out the door, eager to get the search under way.

A few hours later, the search was well under way. SG1 had been joined by over a dozen Myerling citizens and they were sweeping up the path in pairs, searching for any trace of SG9. Jack had paired himself with Daniel so that he could keep an eye on the archaeologist, who was tiring more and more as the search went on. He had also placed them in the centre of the search so that they mostly kept to the path, which was well worn, making it easier to traverse. Still, Daniel stumbled from time to time as they walked along, unable to keep to his feet properly. Jack had got a second wind and was keeping up a steady pace.

Daniel looked up as he heard a yell from Jack, who was slightly ahead of him. Startled out of the trance like state he had been walking in for the last hour, Daniel raced forward as he saw Jack fall to the ground in front of him. At the same time, he yelled his lover's name.

"Daniel, stay back," Jack yelled as Daniel charged at him. He was falling into a ravine in the earth, which had suddenly appeared under his feet, as he walked along.

As Daniel reached the spot where Jack had been standing when the crack opened, he threw himself forward full length on the ground, reaching for Jack. However, before Daniel could reach him, the ground suddenly closed up again in front of him and Jack was gone.

"Jack!" Daniel howled, unable to believe what he was seeing. He scrabbled through the dirt with his hands, searching for evidence of the other man, or the ravine he had just seen. But it was as if both man and hole had never existed, so completely had they vanished.

Several Myerling converged on the spot just then, alerted by the yells of the two men. Caris reached the spot first and crouched down beside Daniel.

"Dr Jackson, what is it? What happened?" he asked, putting a hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel threw himself away from the touch, shuddering in surprise.

"The ground opened up and swallowed Jack," he stuttered out, pointing to the ground where it had happened. Just then, Sam, Teal'c and Lieutenant Michaels all reached the group of Myerling surrounding Daniel, who had staggered to his feet. Caris knelt on the ground, examining it closely.

"I can see no sign of such a thing happening," he finally said, standing up again.

"Daniel, what happened?" Sam came up to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

Daniel explained again what he had seen. Sam looked around, baffled.

"But Daniel, Caris is right," she said, "if the ground opened up, there should be some evidence of it. And we felt no tremors either. It just doesn't seem possible."

"I know what I saw," Daniel said, glaring round at the group. "The ground opened up and swallowed up Jack, right there," he pointed again at the ground.

"Daniel Jackson, surely there should be some sign of such an event?" Teal'c asked.

"I know, I know," Daniel said impatiently. "I've been in earthquakes, I know what they're like. But I'm telling you, it happened just like I said. How else can you explain Jack's disappearance?"

"I don't know," Sam admitted, at a loss to know what was going on. "This seems impossible." She turned to Caris. "Have your people any experience of this sort of thing happening before?" she asked.

"No," he replied promptly. "We do not have ground tremors or anything like that here. The land is benign, as are the animals. I cannot explain this event any more than you can. How do you think we should proceed Major Carter?"

Sam was surprised to find him deferring to her over what to do, after all it wasn't her planet. She thought for a moment.

"Let's mark this spot clearly so we can find it again," she finally said. "And then I think we need to get back to the gate as soon as possible in order to report the Colonel's disappearance to General Hammond. We need to work out a proper plan of action before we go any further."

Caris nodded his agreement with the plan, so they set off in a group for the Gate, once they had carefully marked out the ground where Daniel had seen Jack disappear.

_______________________________________ part nine

Jack felt himself falling through blackness for what seemed like forever, until finally he hit the ground, hard. He yelled out in agony, feeling his ribs cracking as he landed on his gun, which he had somehow held on to the whole time he was falling.

He lay stunned for a few minutes, trying to recover his breath and wits. At the same time, his eyes slowly adjusted to his surroundings, which weren't quite as dark as he had first thought. At last, he gathered the strength to sit upright, yelling again at the pain in his ribs as he did so.

"Definitely cracked those," he told himself as he felt his side gingerly. It was the same place that he had broken the ribs when he and Sam had landed in Antartica. However, the difference in pain told him that at least this time they were only cracked, not broken. Cautiously, he stood up. He seemed to have survived without breaking or spraining anything else, apart from the bump on his head. He pulled his torch out of his pocket and turned it on. Nothing happened. Muttering a curse, he shook it and tried again, unsuccessfully. Shrugging resignedly, he threw it aside and set off down the passage he could just about see, one hand trailing along the wall, the other stretched out in front of him.

He carried on in this fashion for a while until he stumbled over something and fell to the ground, yelling as his ribs protested at the rough treatment. Deciding he needed a rest anyway, he rolled over and sat against the wall, pulling out a canister of water as he did so to take a sip.

Having reached the Stargate, Sam dialled Earth and reported to General Hammond via the MALP. He ordered SG1 back home immediately, to report fully in person. Sam spoke to Caris, who assured her that the Myerling would continue to search at first light - night was falling on the planet now. Sam thanked him, then led the team back through the Gate to Earth.

SG1 reported straight to General Hammond in the briefing room, without pausing to shower or check in at the Infirmary first. Hammond asked Daniel to explain exactly what he had seen when Jack had disappeared. Daniel did so slowly and carefully, exhaustion and worry slurring his words slightly.

"Thank you, Dr Jackson," General Hammond nodded once Daniel had finished. "I want all of you to go and get checked out then go home to rest," he said. "I will send SG3 through in 8 hours, when it should be light again to join the search with the Myerling."

"What about us, sir?" Daniel asked. "We'd like to continue searching too." As he said it, Daniel looked around the table for confirmation, and the rest of the team nodded agreement.

"Not until you've had at least 12 hours rest, Dr Jackson," General Hammond said. "You've been searching for hours and you need to recuperate before you continue. Report back here this evening and we will see what the situation is then. Dismissed." Before Daniel had a chance to protest, the General was striding from the room back to his office.

"That's it?" Daniel asked, stunned. He stood up, staggered and sat back down again heavily.

"He's right, Daniel," Sam said. "We do need to rest." She crossed round the table to where Daniel was pushing himself upright. "You can hardly stand, you're so tired. Let's get Janet to check us out, then I'll drive you home so you can get some sleep."

Daniel snorted. "Fat chance of that," he muttered. Sam looked around, but Lieutenant Michaels had left the room.

"Come on Daniel, you know the Colonel, he'll be all right," as she said it, Sam rubbed her hand across Daniel's back.

Daniel sighed wearily. "Maybe," he said. "Then again, he could be dead already, along with all of SG9." He allowed Sam to lead him from the briefing room and to the Infirmary.

Once in the Infirmary, Janet checked them over quickly. As other teams had already visited the Myerling world, and returned safely, it was just a superficial check and they were soon ready to leave.

"Just a minute, Daniel," Janet put a hand on his arm as he stood to go. "How are you getting home? You're in no state to drive yourself."

"It's ok Janet," Sam said from the doorway, where she stood waiting for Daniel. "I said I'd drive him home. You don't have your car here anyway, do you Daniel?"

"No," Daniel shook his head. "I came in with Jack." As he said Jack's name, he dropped his eyes, seeing again the awful sight of his lover falling into the earth. He shuddered at the memory and begged fate, or someone, to let Jack be all right. Having just found him, he couldn't bear the thought of losing him again.

Janet put a hand on his shoulder. "He'll be ok," she said. "You know Colonel O'Neill, he's almost as indestructible as you Daniel."

The small joke raised a ghost of a smile on Daniel's face, which quickly disappeared. "Can I go?" he asked Janet. She nodded agreement, so he slid off the bed and followed Sam out of the Infirmary.

Just as Sam was taking Daniel home, Jack O'Neill was again feeling his way through the underground caves he had landed in. Turning a corner, he could sense, as much as see that the space had opened out into a much larger cavern. Jack paused, cautious about going on across such a large area without any illumination. Deciding the safest option was to stick close to the wall, he put his back to it, stretched out an arm to feel his way and started inching his way along.

Part way along, he tripped over something he couldn't see and fell yet again. As he did so, he heard a faint metallic sound. Rolling over, he called out in the darkness.

"Hey, anybody there?" he asked as he felt his way upright again.

"Colonel O'Neill is that you?" an incredulous voice spoke out of the darkness.

"Major Kovacek?" Jack called.

"Yes sir," a torch came on in the darkness, hitting Jack straight in the eye.

"Christ, man, you trying to blind me?" he called out.

"Sorry," the light dipped away from his face and Jack rubbed at his eyes. When he looked up again, he could see Major Kovacek standing in front of him, with the rest of SG9 just behind.

"You're all here?" Jack asked, struggling to his feet.

"Yes sir," the Major replied. "Are you ok?" he had noticed Jack holding his chest as he stood up, and could see in the light from his torch how grey the Colonel's face looked.

"Cracked some ribs on the way down," Jack replied matter of factly.

"If you come this way sir, Captain Martin can take a look for you," the Major suggested.

"The last time a Captain fiddled with my injuries I had internal bleeding," Jack said. "I'll be fine."

"At least have some aspirin, sir," Major Kovacek pulled them from his pocket and handed them to the Colonel with his canteen of water.

"Thanks," Jack accepted the tablets and swallowed a couple with some water. He then eased himself down to the floor next to Major Kovacek. The team had their gear spread around the cavern, which torchlight showed to be large and mostly bare, apart from lumps of rock strewn liberally across the floor. It was one such lump that had tripped Jack up this time.

"How long have you been here for?" Jack asked, pulling a ration bar from a pocket.

Kovacek looked at his watch. "Just about 13 hours," he said.

"Really?" Jack looked at his own watch. "Did you fall through an opening in the ground?"

"Yes sir," it was Captain Martin who spoke this time, from the other side of Jack. "It just seemed to appear out of nowhere as we were walking along the path. We found this cavern shortly after and Major Kovacek decided we should stay here to await rescue."

"Have you explored any further?" Jack asked, waving a hand at the cavern.

"Yes sir," Major Kovacek took up the report again. "There are a few passages leading away from the cavern on the far side, but they all peter out within a few metres, ending in solid rock. There's no way out through any of them that we can find."

"I see," Jack nodded. "Well we have a problem then."

"How so sir?" Kovacek asked.

"Well, as far as I can see," Jack replied. "This cavern opens up in the ground every few hours allowing people to fall into it, but it's going to be impossible to climb back out of it. And given that no one knew where you were until I fell down here too suggests that there's nothing on the surface to indicate where we've gone. So how do we let people know we're down here, and how do we get back out again?"

"Can't we just go back to the entrance and wait for it to open again?" Captain Martin asked.

"And then do what, exactly, Captain?" Jack asked.

"Try yelling to the surface, in case there's anyone there. And we still have our flares, perhaps we could throw one of those out of the hole," Martin suggested.

"It's a hell of a long way up," Jack pointed out. "I doubt anyone would hear us, or that a flare would get to the surface."

"And even if they knew we were down here, how do we get the ravine to stay open long enough for us to climb out?" asked Lieutenant George, who had been silent so far. "It only opens for a short time, so even if were to try and climb out, we would probably either fall back or be crushed halfway out."

"Good point," Kovacek said.

"Could they dig us out?" that was from Captain Marshall, the fourth member of SG9. "If we can find some way of communicating with the surface," he added quickly, sensing the comment that Jack was about to make.

"Possibly," Jack admitted. "But the problem is still how we communicate with the surface."

"We haven't tried our radios," Captain Marshall said suddenly. "We've assumed they won't work with all the rock and stuff above us. But if we try and use them when the ravine opens, perhaps they'll work."

"Good idea," Major Kovacek said enthusiastically.

"It might work," Jack agreed grudgingly. "We've got nothing else to lose, so we might as well give it a try."

"When do you think the ravine will open again, sir?" Lieutenant George asked.

"Given that you've been down here 13 hours and it didn't open until we were searching for you in the direction of the Gate, I'd say every 12 hours," Jack said.

"So we just have to wait another 101/2 hours then," Captain Martin said, glancing at his watch.

"We should try to sleep," Major Kovacek suggested.

"I agree," Jack nodded.

So the five men settled down to wait as best they could on the rocky floor of the cavern.

__________________________________________ Part 10

Daniel lay sprawled on his couch, watching TV and sipping coffee. It was nearly 3 o'clock and he couldn't sleep. He had never been able to sleep in the daytime anyway and now, despite being totally exhausted, he still couldn't drop off. Every time he closed his eyes, all he could see was Jack falling into the Earth beneath him.

Restlessly, he got to his feet and wandered around his apartment, fiddling with things. He looked at several books aimlessly, opened and closed his journals and played a few notes on his piano. Nothing could hold his attention for more than a few seconds, though. Finally, he went into his bedroom and lay down. He grabbed a pillow to his chest for comfort, remembering holding Jack to him the day before, in Minnesota. As he lay there, tears slipped down his face, as his overworked emotions got the better of him. Eventually, though, he drifted off to sleep.

The alarm ringing loudly woke Daniel at 6 o'clock. He batted it off and sat up, not feeling at all refreshed by the little sleep he had had. He went and had a shower, switching the water from really hot to really cold in an attempt to wake himself up. Then, wearing just his towel, he made some fresh coffee to drink whilst he dressed.

His doorbell rang on cue at 6.30, as Sam came to drive him back to the Base. He opened the door, putting on his jacket at the same time.

"How are you feeling?" Sam asked as he closed the door behind him. She could see that Daniel had dark circles under his eyes, suggesting he had hardly slept.

"Terrible," Daniel admitted. He followed Sam down to her car slowly. "I couldn't sleep."

"I can see that," Sam said. "And the General will be able to as well. I don't think that he's going to let you go back to the Myerling home world, Daniel, not looking like you do."

"He can't refuse me!" Daniel said hotly as he settled into his seat for the drive to the SGC.

"He can, and he will," Sam said gently. "He'll see you as a liability Daniel. You should go and see Janet for a sedative and get some sleep."

Daniel didn't answer, merely staring out his window at the darkening sky as they drove through the town.

Once on Base, Sam and Daniel headed for the briefing room. General Hammond wasn't there, and neither were SG3, who were supposed to be going through the Gate to help the Myerling search. Just then, Lieutenant Michaels came into the room.

"Major," he said. "General Hammond is waiting for us in the control room. Caris is on the radio from S4C200."

Daniel and Sam hurried down the stairs into the Control Room. They had left a radio with Caris before leaving the Myerling in case of news on the Colonel or SG9 during the night.

"Sir?" Sam hurried over to the General's side. He was talking to Caris on the radio. Sam could see Caris through the MALP's video camera, on the other side of the wormhole.

"So you definitely saw the ravine open?" General Hammond was asking Caris.

"Yes, and we heard a message through the radio you left with us," Caris replied.

"A message?" Daniel stood on the other side of General Hammond.

"That is correct, Dr Jackson," Caris replied. "It was Colonel O'Neill. He has found all of SG9 and they all alive. There is a large cavern some way from the ravine, which the Colonel suggested we might be able to excavate down to in order to rescue your personnel. There does not seem to be a safe way to extract them through the ravine."

"Thank you, Caris," General Hammond spoke into the radio. "I will send through personnel and equipment shortly to begin digging."

"We have all the necessary machinery here, General," Caris replied. "I have already requested that it be brought to the site immediately. We should be ready to begin digging in an hour's time."

"Very well," Hammond said. "I will send some personnel through anyway to be on hand to assist if need be."

"I understand," Caris said. "I would wish to have my people present also, if the situation were to be reversed. We will have some waiting for your people when they arrive. Now I must return to supervise the search for the cavern, so that we are ready to dig as soon as the machinery arrives."

"Thank you," General Hammond said. "Hammond out."

The wormhole shut down and General Hammond turned to SG1 and SG3, who were standing behind him waiting.

"SG3, you may stand down," he said. "SG1 will go through to assist the Myerling. Dr Frasier will also go in case of any injuries."

"Yes sir," Sam and Major Lewis, the leader of SG3 spoke simultaneously. SG3 filed out of the control room as General Hammond got on the phone to the Infirmary.

Half an hour later, SG1 were geared and ready to go through the Gate, along with Dr Frasier and a couple of her staff.

"Bring them home safely, Major," General Hammond said to Sam as she stood with the group waiting for the wormhole to open up.

"Yes sir," Sam replied, nodding agreement. She was surprised that the General had said nothing to Daniel about the fact that he still looked exhausted, but decided to say nothing either. If the General chose to turn a blind eye, she could understand that. She had a feeling that the General saw more than what was on the surface between Jack and Daniel, but had decided to adopt the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

A few hours later, Sam led the team back through the Gate, with SG9 and Colonel O'Neill. Janet was beside the Colonel, hand on his elbow. He had insisted on walking, but the pallor of his face showed that he was in pain. Daniel was hovering just behind them, trying not to be too obviously concerned with Jack's plight. However, his anxiety was unmistakable to everyone watching, but at least he no longer looked as though he was about to pass out from exhaustion.

Janet led Jack straight off to the Infirmary whilst everyone else went to be debriefed before going for their own medical checks.

When Daniel got to the Infirmary, Jack was nowhere in sight. He submitted to the quick check over Janet gave him quietly.

"How are you feeling?" Janet asked him as she checked his blood pressure.

"I'm ok," Daniel said softly.

"Do you want something to help you sleep tonight?" Janet asked.

"No, I'll be fine," Daniel said. Having Jack back was all that he needed to help him sleep. "How's Jack?"

His ribs are cracked, but he'll be fine," Janet replied. "He needs to take it easy for a few days though, to give him a chance to heal. Perhaps you can try and persuade him of that."

"I'll try," Daniel said. "But you know Jack, he's not the world's best patient."

"Well do your best Daniel," Janet said. "I'm putting SG1 on medical stand down for 4 days though. You all need some time to recover from the past few days. That will allow the Colonel's ribs time to heal as well."

"Thanks, Janet," Daniel slid off the bed.

"Oh, and Daniel," Janet said as he headed for the door. "The Colonel said he'd be waiting in his office for you to drive him home."

Daniel turned and smiled at her. "Thanks, Janet," he said again.

Once they had reached home, Jack and Daniel went straight to bed, too tired to even eat first. Daniel cuddled up to Jack, putting his arms around him carefully to avoid the strapped ribs.

"Glad you're home," Daniel said, kissing him softly.

"Me too," Jack said, running a hand across Daniel's face. "I hated that place, all that darkness and rock." He shuddered convulsively and Daniel hugged him a bit closer. "I was just so glad you weren't there too."

"You're safe now, so let's try and get some sleep," Daniel suggested. He reached out to turn out the lamp, but Jack put a hand on his.

"Leave it, please," he said. Daniel looked at him, a question in his eyes. "I don't want darkness," Jack said, eyes downcast, embarrassed.

"It's all right, Jack," Daniel said. He rubbed a hand across Jack's shoulder. "If it makes you more comfortable to leave it on, then we'll leave it on."

"Thank you," Jack said, relieved Daniel wasn't teasing him for what he felt was childish behaviour.

"Sleep, Jack," Daniel said. He tucked one leg between Jack's and pulled his head against his chest. Running his fingers through Jack's hair, he tried to reassure Jack that it was ok to relax and let go, to allow himself to sleep.

And eventually, it did work. Jack's breathing gradually evened out and became deeper as he relaxed and drifted off to sleep. Daniel relaxed himself as he realised that Jack was asleep, finally allowing himself to fall asleep too.

The next morning, the two men woke late to see the sun streaming through the window. It was a beautiful day. Jack stretched slowly, careful not to hurt his ribs.

"How do you feel?" Daniel asked him, admiring the view.

"Actually, not too bad," Jack admitted with a smile. "Just need a shower to get all the kinks out."

"Are you sure about that?" Daniel asked with a leer.

"Daniel!" Jack said. "You know we can't. Janet said I have to take it easy, and I'm sure that sex doesn't fall into that bracket."

"I can wash your back," Daniel suggested.

"Don't tempt me," Jack said with a groan. "Go make some coffee."

"All right," Daniel said with a sigh. He slid out of bed and picked up a t-shirt to put on.

"That's my t-shirt," Jack said.

Daniel smiled. "I know, it smells of you," he pulled the t-shirt on, then added a pair of pyjama bottoms.

"And those are my jammies," Jack protested again. This time Daniel merely nodded in agreement.

"Weird," Jack said, shaking his head. Daniel smiled again and went to the kitchen to make the coffee.

Jack went through to the bathroom and put the water on, singing off key as he did so. He was looking forward to 4 days of just himself and Daniel at home together, cracked ribs or not. He had forgotten for the moment about Rachel and Laura.

A little while later, a loud hammering on the door startled him.

"Jack," he heard Daniel's voice calling. He opened the door to see Daniel standing there blushing bright red.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Visitors," Daniel stammered, retreating to the bedroom as he did so. Jack followed him, oblivious of his nakedness.

"Who?" Jack asked, watching with concern as Daniel ripped the t-shirt and pyjama trousers off and started to put his own clothes on.

"Rachel and Laura," he said.

Jack sighed, no wonder Daniel was so upset. "And you went to the door dressed in my clothes," he said. "I'm sorry, Daniel." Reluctantly, Jack started to dress himself.

Daniel crossed to stand in front of the window, quivering still with upset and embarrassment at what he had done. After he had dressed, Jack crossed to stand behind him. He put his arms around Daniel, who stood stiff and unyielding at first, then relaxed into the embrace. Jack leant his head on Daniel's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," he said again softly. "I'd forgotten all about them. I didn't expect Rachel to just turn up like that." He kissed Daniel's cheek. "I'll go get rid of them."

"You can't do that," Daniel said, twisting his head to look at Jack. "You know you have to talk to her."

"I know," Jack sighed. "This is such a mess."

"I'll go," Daniel said abruptly, pulling away from Jack's embrace.

"That wasn't what I meant, Daniel," Jack said, reaching out to him.

"It'll still better if I go," Daniel insisted, putting the bed between him and Jack.

"Better for whom?" Jack asked. "I want you here, with me. I need you." That remark made Daniel look up, wide-eyed. "I mean it," Jack said insistently. "Don't go please, Daniel."

Daniel sighed. He was helpless in the face of Jack's need for him. "I'll stay," he agreed.

"Good," Jack smiled, pleased he had got his way.

"You'd better go talk to Rachel," Daniel reminded him gently.

"I know," Jack sighed. "Will you come with me?" he asked.

"I'll take Laura in the kitchen whilst you talk to Rachel," Daniel said.

Jack nodded agreement, thinking it was probably a good idea for them not to be around as Rachel was bound to cause a scene when Jack turned her down.

__________________________________________ part 11

When Jack walked into his lounge, Rachel and Laura were sat on the couch, heads together. They were looking at a copy of National Geographic.

"Jack," Rachel jumped to her feet when she saw him. "You're back then?"

"Um, look's like it," Jack said. He stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets nervously.

"I came to see what was going on as you've been avoiding me for the last few days," Rachel said, watching Jack closely. She was puzzled by the fact that Daniel was there as well, sensing that something was going on between the two men. She had been surprised when Daniel had opened the door, dressed only in a shirt, despite the fact that it was nearly lunchtime.

"Laura, would you like to go and have some ice cream with Daniel?" Jack asked.

The little girl nodded shyly as she looked up at Daniel who smiled encouragingly at her. He held out a hand, which Laura took and allowed herself to be led away. Jack watched them disappear into the kitchen and the door close. Then he turned back to Rachel.

"So," he said, "how are you?" He sat down on the opposite side of the room to Rachel, who resumed her position on the couch.

"Not too bad," she said. He nodded awkwardly, not sure what to say.

"Have you sorted things out?" Rachel asked, remembering the words that Jack had used on the phone the last time they had talked.

"Yes," Jack nodded.

"And?" Rachel prompted when the silence made it apparent that Jack wasn't going to say any more.

"I can't look after Laura," Jack said, studying the floor as he said it. The silence lengthened again, and eventually Jack looked up. Rachel was looking at him. "Say something," Jack said.

"Why?" Rachel asked, standing up. "Why won't you take her?"

"I can't," Jack said, standing up as well. He paced the length of the room. "It just wouldn't work."

"You're being selfish," Rachel said.

Jack looked at her. "I'm being realistic," he said. "It wouldn't work on so many levels. I hardly know her, my work, the hours I keep, my whole lifestyle is not geared up to raising a child."

"You could change that, though, couldn't you?" Rachel asked. "Get to know her, change your work."

"Maybe, maybe not," Jack said, stern and unyielding in his expression.

"So you don't want to do this then," Rachel concluded wearily. "You're not prepared to sacrifice anything for your daughter," her voice rose as she said it, and Jack glanced at the kitchen door. There was no sign of movement and he turned back to Rachel.

"I don't want to do this, I can't do this," he said. "I wish you could accept that. You don't know me Rachel. You never really knew me." He turned away from her with finality as he said it, sitting down again.

"So that's it then?" Rachel asked. "You've made up your mind, no compromise, no discussion, subject closed?"

"Yes," Jack said deliberately, emotionlessly. "It's not going to happen, Rachel. So please, just take Laura and go."

He continued to sit there, stony-faced, ignoring Rachel's agitated pacing in front of him. She was reluctant to give in, though.

"Please, Jack, won't you think again?" she pleaded. Jack continued to sit implacably, ignoring her. It was hurting him to do it, but he knew he had no choice. There was no way that this would work. He couldn't give up SG1, give up Daniel, retire again. He couldn't.

Seeing that there was nothing to be said right now to change Jack's mind, Rachel sighed suddenly, defeated.

"I'll go then," she said. "But this isn't over yet, Jack. I'm not going to give up that easily." She went to the kitchen to collect Laura. Jack sat on in the lounge, not moving, eyes closed. He heard the front door open and voices mumbling, then the door closed again. Still he sat there, unmoving, feeling tears slide down his face. A minute later, he felt arms around him, and his head cradled to Daniel's chest.

"It's ok, Jack," Daniel murmured. "I've got you." He held Jack close, whispering words of comfort in his ear, hands rubbing Jack's back as he cried.

Jack let Daniel hold him and soothe him, glad of the comforting presence. Eventually, though, he stopped crying and eased back slowly, but allowed Daniel to keep his arms around him.

"Thanks, Danny," he said with a tremulous smile.

Daniel smiled back, stroking a finger across Jack's cheek. "I love you," he whispered.

"Love you too," Jack whispered back. He pulled Daniel forward for a kiss, fingers twining in Daniel's hair.

Daniel allowed Jack to control the pace of the kiss, sensing it was what Jack needed. It went on for a long time, Jack probing Daniel's mouth with his tongue and nibbling at his lips. Eventually though, he pulled back, breathing heavily. He fell back against the chair, drained by the tumult of emotions he was experiencing. Daniel remained kneeling on the floor in front of him, hands resting on Jack's thighs. He caressed Jack's legs through the jeans Jack was wearing, trying to comfort him.

Jack rubbed his hands across his face, trying to pull his control back together. He was acutely aware of Daniel's presence in front of him and of the fact that he had exposed himself to Daniel in a way he had never really done with anyone else before, not even Sara. He was more used to running and hiding than dealing with his emotions. It said a lot about his relationship with Daniel that he felt able to open himself up to him in this way.

At last, he looked down at Daniel, who was now sitting silently on the floor by his feet, hands still rubbing across Jack's legs periodically.

"Will you take me to bed?" he asked Daniel, who looked up in surprise.

"What about your ribs?" he asked.

"I'm not asking for sexual gymnastics, Danny," Jack said wryly. "Just some reassurance and bodily contact. It'll be more comfortable horizontal than on the couch."

Daniel looked at him. "Ok," he said. He had never seen Jack this open and raw before, and it hurt him to see the pain Jack was going through. He was more than willing to do anything he could to try and assuage that pain for him. He rose to his feet gracefully and waited for Jack to stand up. Then he put an arm around Jack, pulling him close for the walk to their bedroom.

Once there, he kissed Jack slowly and softly on the lips, careful not to put any pressure on Jack's ribs as he hugged him again. Jack moaned into Daniel's mouth as he again thrust his tongue into Daniel's mouth. Daniel slid his hands down Jack's back to caress his backside through his jeans. Jack moaned again, and nibbled at Daniel's bottom lip. He kissed his way along Daniel's jaw line to his ear. As he started to lick the ear, Daniel groaned deeply and ground his hips against Jack's, letting him feel Daniel's arousal hard against him.

Jack pulled back slightly, reaching for Daniel's shirt buttons blindly and trying to pull them undone. He fumbled one undone, then Daniel's hands came on top of his, helping him. Jack pulled the shirt open and out of Daniel's trousers. He kissed his way down Daniel's throat to his chest, pausing only to lick at first one nipple, then the other. Daniel ran his fingers through Jack's hair, enjoying the feel of the strands. He loved Jack's hair, finding the grey sexy.

"Bed," Daniel said. Jack looked up and nodded. Daniel reached out and undid Jack's shirt.

"I can undress myself," Jack said.

"I want to do it," Daniel replied. "Let me take care of you, Jack."

"Ok," Jack sighed, revelling in the touch of Daniel's long, strong fingers running down his shoulders as he peeled the shirt away from Jack's body.

Daniel undressed Jack slowly and carefully, conscious all the time of Jack's damaged ribs. He then took off his own clothes a lot more quickly. Jack stood watching, glad to let Daniel to be the one in charge for a change. Once undressed, Daniel led Jack to the bed by the hand.

"Make love to me," Jack said as he slid into bed beside Daniel. He knew that Daniel would be careful and gentle. It was what he most needed right now.

Daniel nodded agreement, reaching out to caress Jack's face gently. He pulled Jack into a close embrace and kissed him softly all over his face and lips. Then he moved to straddle Jack's legs and kissed his way down Jack's body, hands caressing and stroking him at the same time. When he reached Jack's ribs, his fingers became even more gentle, the touch featherlight. Jack groaned at the touch, and Daniel stopped immediately, a look of concern on his face.

"You're killing me with kindness," Jack said breathlessly, awed by the care and reverence Daniel was showing him.

Daniel smiled at him. "I'm not rushing this, Jack," he said.

"Pity," Jack said. "I might just die from bliss before we get to the main event at this rate."

"Patience is a virtue," Daniel said primly. Jack laughed, then groaned as his ribs twinged with pain.

"Jack?" Daniel said anxiously.

"I'm all right, Danny," Jack said. "I can take a little pain."

Daniel hesitated a moment longer, then nodded agreement. "Ok, but if it gets too painful, you have to tell me, Jack."

"I will," Jack promised. Daniel nodded once more, then returned to his exploration of every inch of Jack's body, kissing, licking and nibbling his way across Jack's skin. Finally, he turned his attention to Jack's cock, and sucked it into his mouth slowly. Jack gasped loudly as he felt Daniel's tongue on him at last. Daniel paused and gave him a look from under his lashes, checking that Jack was ok. Jack smiled down at him, encouraging Daniel to go on, so he did.

Jack lay back on the pillows, eyes closed, revelling in the sensations Daniel was producing within him. This was totally different to their first time and it was a new experience for Jack to be this passive during sex, but he was enjoying it. Daniel continued to suck the length of his shaft, nibbling gently on the skin at the same time. Jack moaned appreciatively and started to thrust his hips against Daniel's mouth.

Daniel paused and looked up at Jack.

"In the top drawer," Jack said before Daniel could speak. Daniel nodded and reached across to the drawer. He put some lube on his fingers, then slid one slowly and gently inside of Jack, who groaned in appreciation of the sensation. Daniel returned to his suckling on the shaft at the same time. A second finger joined the first, and gradually Daniel picked up the pace of his thrusts.

"Oh yeah, yes, Daniel, yes," Jack moaned his appreciation of what Daniel was doing. He was enjoying the feel of Daniel's gorgeous mouth on him, all heat and strength. The long fingers thrusting inside him were increasing their pressure and starting to strike his sweet spot. "God yes," Jack said again, "don't stop." He gripped the sheet beneath him tightly, knuckles showing white from the intensity of his feelings. Finally, he felt his climax start to come and with a loud yell he poured himself down Daniel's throat, shuddering convulsively from the release.

After he had finished, he lay shaking from the intensity of the emotions. Daniel lay with one arm across Jack's chest, caressing him gently, one foot rubbing across Jack's leg. He was a little stunned by the way that Jack had reacted to the sex and concerned that he hadn't hurt him.

Jack lazily opened his eyes and smiled down at Daniel. "Sorry," he said. "Got a bit carried away there."

"It's all right Jack," Daniel smiled back at him. "Are you all right?"

"More than all right, Danny," Jack said. He rolled carefully on top of Daniel, feeling his lover's still erect shaft below him. "Your turn," he said, grinding his hips slowly against Daniel's.

"Jack, don't," Daniel said. "You don't need to do this." He put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "I don't want you to hurt yourself on my account."

"Daniel, relax," Jack said, reaching down to grasp Daniel's cock in his hand. "I'm going to be careful."

Daniel groaned, unable to resist the sensations as Jack began to stroke his hand purposefully. He couldn't disguise that he needed release as he began to thrust back against Jack's hand. Jack kissed Daniel, plunging his tongue into Daniel's mouth and making Daniel moan against him. They kissed until they were breathless and gasping for oxygen. Jack had kept up his pumping of Daniel's shaft the whole time and finally he came with a scream, head falling back against the pillow and eyes closing against the intensity of his orgasm.

The two men spent the rest of the day in bed, sleeping or talking. Daniel made the occasional trip to the kitchen for supplies, but Jack stayed put at Daniel's insistence. As they lay entwined together, dozing, Jack's phone rang startling them both. Jack reached out a lazy hand to pick up the handset.

"O'Neill home for the terminally insane," he said, laughing at Daniel who was sprawled across him in a heap.

"Hello sir," Sam said.

"Carter," Jack replied, raising an eyebrow at Daniel who shook his head. He had no idea why Sam would be ringing Jack.

"I wondered if you and Daniel were free for dinner," she said. Jack frowned at the clock. It was nearly 6 o'clock.

"What did you have in mind?" he asked, not bothering to ask how the Major knew that Daniel was at his house. She spent a lot of time with Janet, and he had a feeling that that theirs was another relationship the military establishment wouldn't approve of if it got wind of it.

"Just O'Malley's," Sam said, referring to the steak house SG1 frequented regularly after missions. "The three of us, Janet and Teal'c."

"I'll ask Daniel," Jack said, hitting the secrecy button on the phone.

"Do we want to go to O'Malley's for dinner?" Jack asked Daniel, who looked surprised.

"With whom?" he asked.

"Sam, Janet and Teal'c," Jack said.

"Do you feel up to it?" Daniel asked.

Jack shrugged. "I feel fine," he said. "My ribs are ok."

"Wasn't actually referring to your ribs this time," Daniel said, "I was thinking of your emotional health. Do you feel like being in company?"

Jack shrugged again. "It's not a big deal," he said. "It's the team. My family remember," he used the phrase Daniel had used when they had argued. "It's about time they knew the truth about this last week."

"In that case," Daniel said, "let's go."

Jack nodded and turned back to the phone. "Sorry Carter," he said. "You know how bad Daniel is at making decisions." He grinned at Daniel who had a shocked expression on his face at such an outrageous lie. "O'Malley's sounds fine. Is an hour's time ok?"

"Yes sir," Sam said. "We'll see you there."

"Later, Major," Jack said, then clicked his phone off. "Better hit the shower, Daniel," he said.

Daniel groaned. "Not right now," he said. "I'm way too comfortable."

"Now Daniel," Jack said. "You need to shower alone or we'll never get out of the house." He winked at Daniel as he said it. Daniel laughed at that.

"If you put it like that," he said, "I guess you're right. And we need to stop by my place so I can get some clean clothes. I refuse to meet the others wearing your clothes."

Jack sighed and nodded, "I guess that would be a bad idea," he said. "Even though you know none of them would comment."

"Not the point, Jack, I'd know what they were thinking and that would be enough," Daniel said. He didn't wait for a further comment from Jack, but turned and headed into the bathroom.

When the two men arrived at O'Malley's an hour later, Sam was waiting outside for them.

"Hello sir, Daniel," she said. "How are you both?"

"We're fine, Carter," Jack said. Daniel nodded agreement, and Sam could see that they both looked a lot better than they had the day before.

"Where are Janet and Teal'c?" Daniel asked.

"Janet got held up on Base," Sam replied. "They should be here soon."

"Let's go get a drink whilst we wait," Jack suggested. Sam nodded agreement so they went into the restaurant and sat at the bar whilst they waited.

_________________________________________________________ Part 12

They didn't have too long to wait for Janet and Teal'c to arrive and soon they were seated round a table chatting whilst they waited for their food.

"There's something I'd like to talk about," Jack said as the waitress left the table once they had been given their meals. Daniel looked at Jack, wondering what he was going to say.

"What is it O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.

"I want to tell you why I had last week off," Jack replied, concentrating on his plate as he spoke.

"Are you sure that's necessary sir?" Sam asked.

Jack looked up. "As Daniel so kindly reminded me last week, we're a family, and families share things. And another thing," he said. "A new rule, if you like; when we're out like this, off duty, I think it's about time we dropped the whole sir, Major, Colonel thing and called each other by our names."

Sam and Janet both stared at Jack in surprise as he said this and even Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Jack's comments. Daniel merely smiled encouragingly at Jack, who smiled back briefly before going back to studying the contents of his plate, carefully cutting his steak into pieces whilst he waited for a response.

Finally, Jack looked up again, surprised that no one had said anything. "For cryin' out loud, someone say something," he said. "Anyone would think I'd just said I was taking up archaeology the way you're all doing the guppy act there."

Daniel laughed at that, which broke the moment of tension and the others laughed too.

"I think it's a great idea," Daniel said warmly.

"You would Daniel, you've never been big on calling people by their rank anyway," Jack pointed out.

"No, he's right," Janet said. "We are a family, Jack." She smiled as she said the name and Jack smiled back at her, pleased.

"Ok then," Sam said. "I can go along with that. We have known each other for a few years now."

"Good," Jack said with satisfaction. "Now about last week."

"You don't have to tell us, Jack," Sam said.

"I'm determined to do this, Sam," Jack replied, "but it's kinda embarrassing, so please be patient with me."

"Ok, if you're sure," Sam replied.

So Jack told them the whole story of Rachel and Laura, including the scene at his house that day. He omitted only Daniel's part of the story, figuring that there were still some things that were best kept private. After he had finished, he pushed away his plate, still half full. He had lost his appetite during the telling of the story.

Sam reached across the table and put a hand over Jack's. "Thank you for telling us," she said softly. "If there's anything we can do to help, please ask." She indicated herself and Janet as she said the last part.

"Thank you, Sam," Jack said, patting the hand which lay over his. "I appreciate that. But I don't think there's really anything anyone can do to help in this situation."

"We will do our best to help in any way we can, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Is there no other family that can take the child in?"

Jack shook his head. "Not as far as I know, certainly no one that Rachel has admitted to existing."

Just then, Janet's mobile phone rang. "Sorry," she apologised, fishing it out of her bag to answer. She listened carefully to the caller, face intent.

"Are you sure?" she asked. The others chatted quietly about nothing in particular whilst the call went on. "Ok," Janet said finally, "I'll come in." She paused to listen again, as Sam glanced at her. "Yes I do," Janet said. "I'll do what I can. I'll be there in 20 minutes." She switched the phone off and put it back in her bag, a serious look on her face.

"What is it Janet?" Daniel asked, concerned it might be an emergency at the SGC.

"It's Rachel Grey, "Janet said, watching Jack closely as she spoke. "She's just been admitted to the local hospital. She's given my name as her doctor, so they called me. They also said that she was asking for you, Jack."

Jack looked up, startled, by that comment. "Oh, hell," he said. "I'm sorry about this, Janet, I never thought that you'd get stuck with this when I asked you to do that paternity test."

"It's all right," Janet said, touching his hand briefly. "But I do have to go. Are you going to come with me?"

Jack looked at Daniel, biting his lip anxiously. Daniel looked back steadily, saying nothing. This was one decision Jack needed to make alone. Finally Jack looked up at Janet.

"I guess I have no choice," he said. "I'll go."

"Ok," Janet said.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Daniel asked. "Someone should be there for Laura's sake."

"Thank you," Jack said simply.

"You still shouldn't drive," Janet said to Jack as Sam went to the counter to pay the bill.

"Daniel can drive us in my car," Jack replied. "Then Sam has your car to take Teal'c back to the Base and go home. We can drop you back at home later, if you want."

"Ok," Janet said, seeing the sense in that. "We should go then." She waited for Sam to come back and handed over her car keys.

On the drive to the hospital, no one said anything, each being lost in his or her own thoughts. Once there, Janet quickly led them to the floor where Rachel had been given a side room to herself. Laura sat at her bedside, clutching her mother's hand tightly. Janet stopped to speak to the doctor who was treating Rachel and Daniel took a seat outside the room, whilst Jack went inside. After a couple of minutes, Laura came out of the room and sat down next to Daniel.

"Hello Laura," Daniel said softly.

"Hello Daniel," she said.

Janet came to join them and Daniel raised his eyebrows questioningly at her. She shook her head slightly and Daniel nodded. He turned back to Laura.

"Would you like to go and get a drink?" he asked.

"Ok, will you tell me about Egypt again?" she said, standing up and slipping her hand into Daniel's shyly. He nodded and smiled at her, then turned to Janet.

"See you later," he said. Janet nodded agreement.

As they walked away, Janet heard Daniel start to tell Laura about riding camels. She was smiling as she went into Rachel's room, but once inside, she became serious again. The Colonel was standing by the window, hands shoved deep in his pockets, his version of Daniel's arm-folding defensive gesture. Rachel was watching him from her bed and Janet could see she was unhappy.

"Hello Rachel," Janet said briskly. She saw Jack snap round, startled, when she spoke. She went over to the bed and picked up Rachel's chart. "Could you give us a minute please?" she said to Jack, who nodded wordlessly. He was so tense, he was practically shaking.

"Where's Laura?" Rachel asked Janet as Jack crossed the room to the door.

"Daniel took her to the cafeteria," Janet said. "She's ok."

Rachel nodded. "You won't leave, will you?" she asked Jack as he opened the door. He turned back briefly.

________________________________________________________ Part thirteen

"I'll stay a little while, but I'm not taking Laura," he said tautly, then stepped through the door quickly, pulling it closed behind him, resisting the urge to slam it.

After he had gone, Janet turned to Rachel, who gave her a small smile.

"Sorry to land you with this," Rachel said. "I didn't know what to do and you're the only doctor I know here."

"It's ok," Janet said. "But I'm not an oncologist, so I can't do much."

"You can tell me the truth, in language I understand," Rachel said. "That's what I really need right now."

"Ok," Janet agreed. "It's not good news, though."

"I guessed that," Rachel said.

Jack decided to go to the cafeteria to find Daniel and Laura. He slouched along slowly, hands still in his pockets, thinking about Rachel. He was determined not to give in to her demands to take Laura. However, he also was unhappy about the idea of her going into foster care. All he could think of was Daniel, who had grown up with foster parents. He didn't like the idea of Laura going through the same experience. It was obvious to Jack that it had scarred Daniel, in ways that were not readily apparent to most people but clear to Jack.

As he reached the cafeteria, Jack paused just inside the door, scanning the room to find Daniel and Laura. He spotted them across the far side of the room, sitting talking. Jack smiled as he saw them. Their conversation looked animated, Daniel was waving his hands around and Laura was laughing at something he was saying to her. Jack crossed the room slowly, reluctant to break the moment. He had never really seen Daniel interact with children before, but was not surprised to see that he did so easily. Daniel had a knack of building a rapport with more or less anybody he spoke to, which was one of the reasons why Jack loved him.

As he reached the table, Daniel must have sensed his approach, because he suddenly looked up straight into Jack's eyes. Daniel smiled and Jack couldn't help but smile back at the look of joy and pleasure in Daniel's face as he saw Jack.

"Hey," Jack said softly, sitting down next to Laura.

"Hi Jack," Daniel said. "Are you ok?" he could see that the strain was back in Jack's face and he felt a spurt of anger at Rachel for putting Jack through so much. His face darkened momentarily then cleared again as he smiled at Jack.

Jack nodded wearily, saying nothing. He was trying to swallow his anger and pain at the futility of the whole situation. All he really wanted was to go home, take Daniel to bed and forget about the whole mess.

"How are you Laura?" he asked.

She smiled up at him. "I'm going to be an archaeologist," she said excitedly. "I'm going to go and dig up things, like Daniel does."

Jack raised his eyebrows at that. "Daniel, what have you been telling the child?" he said.

"Nothing, really," Daniel said. "We've just been talking about Egypt, and I told Laura about what I do."

"Right," Jack said sceptically.

"Can I go and see mommy?" Laura asked. "She's not very well and she needs me."

Jack closed his eyes, feeling a stab of pain at that innocent remark.

"Of course we can," Daniel said. "We'll go now shall we?" Laura nodded eagerly and stood up. She pulled on Jack's arm.

"Can I hold your hand this time, daddy?" she said.

Jack took a step back in horror at that. He turned and rushed blindly from the room and down the corridor. Spotting an exit sign, he threw the door open and charged outside. Turning a corner, he collapsed against the wall, legs unable to support his weight any more. He put his head in his hands and started crying, harsh sobs that tore through him, making him shudder.

Daniel stared after Jack, horror stricken. He had seen that look on his lover's face before, when Jack talked about Charlie. A tugging on his arm caught his attention.

"What's wrong?" Laura asked. Daniel looked down, then looked away, unable to meet the girl's clear, innocent gaze.

"He wasn't feeling very well," Daniel said blankly.

"Is he sick like mommy?" Laura asked.

Daniel shook his head, trying to pull himself together. All he wanted was to go after Jack, but he couldn't abandon Laura.

"No, he hurt himself yesterday and he just felt unwell," Daniel said finally, unable to think of a convincing lie to tell Laura. "Let's go back to your mom's room." He took Laura's hand and led her from the room.

Part way down the corridor, he was glad to see Janet coming towards him.

"Can you take Laura to her mother?" he asked urgently. Janet looked surprised by Daniel's tone of voice, but agreed without hesitating. "Thanks," Daniel said. He turned on his heel and headed to the exit he had just passed. He guessed that Jack would have fled the building as soon as possible.

Once outside, he turned the first corner he saw. One thing he knew from personal experience was that when running away, you moved blindly, following the most obvious route. Normally you were too upset to do anything else, and despite his military training, right now all that was all Jack was: a hurt person running away.

Jack was still lying against the wall, crying when Daniel turned the corner and saw him. A pang of pain shot through Daniel when he saw him, and he fell to his knees in front of Jack, gathering him into his arms.

"It's all right, Jack, I've got you, you're ok," he whispered, running his hands across Jack's back.

The two men stayed there, sprawled on the floor for a long time before Jack was finally able to bring himself under control again and stop crying. He pulled back from Daniel's embrace, and took one of Daniel's hands in his own.

"Thank you," he said simply.

Daniel kissed the hand that held his. "Any time," he said. He smiled at Jack. "I love you," he reminded him gently.

"I seem to be making a habit of crying in your arms, Danny," Jack said wryly. "I thought I was the strong one out of us, but I'm not. You're way stronger than I am. I'm sorry I ever doubted that. I love you."

Daniel smiled and hugged Jack to him again. "We should go back inside," he said gently. "Janet will be worried."

"Yea," Jack agreed wryly. He staggered to his feet. "I should wash my face," he said. "I must look like death."

"Not quite that bad," Daniel said with a grin. "But you don't look too good."

"Thanks, Danny," Jack said. "You know how to boost a guy's ego." He laughed as he said it and Daniel smiled again, pleased to see Jack's natural humour resurfacing.

The two men went back into the hospital together and Daniel waited for Jack to wash in a restroom before going back to Rachel's room. Janet was sat in the corridor outside the room, but got to her feet as soon as she saw them coming towards her. She guided them into an empty office and shut the door.

"What happened?" she asked, looking from one man to the other.

"Laura called me daddy," Jack said, turning to the window. Janet raised her eyebrows at Daniel in surprise.

Daniel crossed over to stand beside Jack, putting a hand on his arm. Janet watched the two of them carefully, seeing the protective way that Daniel stood next to Jack. She was surprised to see this apparent reversal of what she normally perceived their roles to be. Jack was usually the protector, lending support to Daniel. Seeing Jack this vulnerable was unusual, but Janet welcomed it as a sign of Daniel's positive influence on him.

"Is Laura all right?" Jack asked without turning. "I hope I didn't scare her running off like that."

"She's fine," Janet said. "Daniel told her you felt unwell."

Jack did turn round then. "Was that a good idea?" he asked.

"It was all I could think of on the spur of the moment," Daniel replied. "I was worried about you."

"Sorry, Danny," Jack said softly, leaning his head against Daniel's shoulder. "I never meant for you to get involved in all this mess."

"Bad luck, Jack," Daniel said. "I knew what I was getting into when I got involved with you. That means the good and the bad."

Both men had forgotten for the moment that Janet was there, as they were so engrossed in each other. She cleared her throat gently, embarrassed at being present at such an intimate moment between the two men.

Slowly, they both looked round, and Janet blushed.

"Sorry," she said.

"No, we're sorry," Daniel said crossing over to her. "Kinda forgot you were there for a moment."

"It's all right, Daniel," Janet said. "I do understand."

"So, what's the story with Rachel then?" Jack changed the subject abruptly, surprising Janet. Daniel was getting used to Jack's sudden mood swings and didn't let it worry him.

"Things are progressing," Janet said.

"What exactly does that mean?" Jack asked harshly.

"I can't tell you a lot because of patient/doctor confidentiality, Jack, you know that," Janet told him warningly.

"Right," Jack said flatly.

"She did talk to me about you, though," Janet said. "She asked me to try and persuade you to take on Laura. I told her I couldn't do that."

Jack dropped his eyes, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Janet," he said apologetically. "You didn't ask to get involved in this any more than Daniel did. I never thought she'd ask for you like that. It's pretty unfair."

"It's ok," Janet said. "I don't mind. There's not a lot I can do for her anyway. She just wanted to talk to someone who would be honest with her about her condition, and she thought that I would do that. I didn't expect her to try and use that to then to get you, though. It's an unfair tactic, trying to manipulate me, but I won't let her get away with it."

"Thank you," Jack said.

"What about Laura?" Daniel asked. "She needs somewhere to stay whilst her mom's in hospital."

"Could she stay with you, Jack?" Janet asked. "It would be better than the alternative."

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Jack said. "I don't feel comfortable with the idea."

"Why not?" Daniel asked. "She is your daughter, Jack, and it would be better than the alternative even if it is only for a little while."

The look on Daniel's face was enough to convince Jack. He could see that Daniel had some bad memories he was trying to suppress.

_____________________________________________________ Part fourteen

"Ok, she can stay for a little while, just whilst Rachel is in here. But you'll have to stay with us as well, Daniel. She likes you. Don't you agree Janet?" he appealed to the doctor for support.

"Definitely," Janet nodded her agreement.

"Oh, I don't think that would be a good idea," Daniel said shaking his head.

"Why not?" Janet asked. "Jack's right, she does like you, Daniel. It'll be good for her to have as many friendly faces as possible around at the moment."

"If you're sure it's a good idea," Daniel said, "then I guess I can stay."

"Good," Jack said with satisfaction. "We'll stop by your place on the way home to pick up some stuff."

Daniel suspected Jack of an ulterior motive in having him to stay, but he knew there would be nothing going on whilst Laura was there. It wouldn't be a good idea.

Janet took them back to Rachel's room to let her know what was happening. Rachel was pleased that Jack had agreed to take Laura home with him. Jack suspected she thought it was the first step on the road to him eventually agreeing to take her on permanently.

The next day, Jack contacted the General to ask him about tracing any of Rachel's relatives. He didn't believe Rachel's assertion that she had no relatives at all, it just didn't seem possible. Even Daniel had turned out to have a grandfather in the end, despite the fact SG1 had spent years thinking he had no one.

General Hammond agreed to do what he could. He asked if Jack was getting enough rest, reminding the Colonel that he was supposed to be on medical leave.

"I don't want you overdoing it, son," the General said.

"I'm fine sir," Jack said, a little surprised by the question. "Dr Frasier will be watching over me anyway, as I'll be spending a lot of time at the hospital in the next few days."

The General accepted that and promised to let Jack know as soon as he had any news about the search for Rachel's relatives.

For the next two days, Jack spent most of his time at the hospital whilst Laura visited her mother. He took piles of paperwork with him and Janet arranged an office for him to use so that he could write his reports undisturbed. Daniel spent as much time at the hospital as he could as well, but it was harder for him because a lot of his translation work involved artefacts he couldn't take off base. However, he called Jack or Janet regularly for updates.

Rachel was not getting any worse, but she didn't seem to be getting any better either. She had given Janet her permission to tell Jack about her condition.

"She may stay like this for a long time, without getting better or worse," Janet told him, one afternoon as she sat having a cup of coffee with Jack.

"So what happens then?" Jack asked. "Does she have to stay in hospital?"

"Probably not," Janet said. "Provided there is someone to look after her, she could be at home just as easily."

"Right," Jack said. "Well, I'm NOT volunteering for that job."

"No one expects you to Jack," Janet pointed out gently. She was getting used to Jack's prickliness on the whole subject now, and didn't take offence if he got angry. It wasn't directed at her, just at the situation, and his frustration with it.

Just then, the phone rang. Jack grabbed it up, hoping it was Daniel, as he hadn't spoken to the archaeologist for a while. Daniel was refusing to sleep in the same bed as Jack whilst Laura was staying with them, and that was another reason for Jack's current frustration, even though he understood on an intellectual level the reason behind Daniel's argument.

"O'Neill," he said curtly into the phone.

"Colonel, it's General Hammond," the voice on the other end of the line said.

Janet could tell from the expression on Jack's face that it wasn't Daniel on the phone. She watched his face carefully as he listened to what was being said to him. A look of relief came over his face, and she was surprised by the transformation. Suddenly, Jack looked a lot younger as the worry lines smoothed out.

The door opened and Janet turned to see Daniel come into the room. He raised his eyebrows at Janet, wondering whom Jack was speaking to. She shrugged, unable to tell from Jack's occasional monosyllabic comments who was on the phone.

"Ok, thank you, sir," Jack said finally and put the phone down.

"Jack?" Daniel asked, advancing into the room.

"Daniel!" Jack jumped up and hugged the other man to him enthusiastically. "Good news," he said.

"Was that the General?" Janet asked.

"Yeah," Jack said. He released Daniel and perched on the edge of the desk. "They've managed to find an aunt of Rachel's in Kansas."

"That's great, Jack," Daniel said, smiling at him. He too could see the transformation of Jack's face from strained and tense, to relieved and relaxed. Despite what Jack said, he knew that he cared a lot about what happened to Laura and Rachel, Laura especially.

"So what happens now?" Janet asked.

"Now I call her," Jack said holding up a piece of paper on which he had written a name and phone number.

Half an hour later, Jack was in Rachel's hospital room, telling her the news about the aunt, whose name was Martha. Laura had gone to the cafeteria with Daniel, whilst Janet had had to head back to the SGC.

"So, she's agreed to come here to meet you and Laura," Jack concluded the story of his conversation. Martha was a widowed school teacher, who had been shocked to discover that her sister's daughter was so ill. She had not heard from Rachel for 15 years and was not aware that she had a child of her own.

Rachel looked at Jack carefully. She could see the change in him as well, and recognised it for what it was.

"Do you think she'll be willing to take Laura in?" she asked him.

"I think she'll be happy for you both to go to her," Jack told her. "She was thrilled to find out that you had a daughter and might be willing to go and stay with her. She sounded kinda lonely."

"You're pleased about this aren't you?" Rachel said.

"I think it would be the best thing for both you and Laura," Jack said.

"Will you tell Laura?" Rachel asked next.

"No," Jack said firmly. "This is something she needs to hear from you. Martha will get here later tonight. She's booking into the airport hotel for the night, and then I'll bring her out here tomorrow morning."

Rachel put a hand on Jack's, which was resting on the end of the bed. "Thank you for doing this, Jack," she said.

Jack pulled his hand away, expression stern. "Why didn't you tell me about Martha in the first place?" he asked. "Why did you make me go looking for her?"

"I didn't think she would want to know about me as I hadn't been in touch with her for such a long time," Rachel said.

Just then the door opened, and Laura came running in, followed by Daniel a minute later.

"What's the matter, honey?" Rachel asked as Laura climbed on to the bed beside her mother.

"I missed you mommy," Laura said.

Jack looked at Daniel, who shrugged his shoulders. He didn't understand why Laura had suddenly wanted to be with her mother again, but she had. So Daniel had brought her back.

The two men left the room together. "How did she take the news?" Daniel asked Jack.

"Pretty well, I think," Jack said.

Daniel looked quickly around them and slipped his hand into Jack's, and squeezed. "Good," he said.

Jack pulled him into the office and pushed the door closed with his foot. Then he pushed Daniel against the wall and kissed him hard, plunging his tongue into Daniel's mouth. Daniel responded just as avidly, thrusting his hips hard against Jack, who felt the force of Daniel's arousal hard against him. Jack thrust back, pushing Daniel back against the door again. He was just as aroused as Daniel was.

The two men finally broke apart, chests heaving as they sucked in oxygen.

"Sorry," Jack said breathlessly.

"What for?" Daniel asked.

"Starting something we can't finish," Jack replied.

"Did you hear me ask you to stop?" Daniel asked.

"No," Jack said.

"So why can't we finish?" Daniel pulled Jack to him for another kiss, his hands roaming all over Jack's body at the same time.

Jack felt Daniel pull his trousers undone and his hand slip inside the zipper. He gasped in shock and tried to pull back.

"Don't," Daniel pleaded.

"It's not very private," Jack said, trying to be sensible, surprised at the way Daniel was behaving.

"I don't care," Daniel said. "I want you Jack, I NEED you. We've been good for too long. I can't wait any longer. I'm sorry."

"Ok," Jack nodded. He reached behind Daniel and locked the door. Then he pulled the blinds closed. He was pretty sure that they wouldn't be disturbed, thanks to Janet, who had arranged the office for him in the first place. Then he turned back to Daniel and led him to the couch in the corner of the office.

"Let's try and be a bit more comfortable," Jack said. "I'm too old for stand up sex."

The two men undressed quickly, then Daniel straddled Jack's thighs and reached in for a kiss. He took Jack's cock in his hand at the same time and started stroking. Jack moaned involuntarily at the sensations. Daniel's long fingers were very talented at this and Jack enjoyed it to the full. Daniel kissed his way down Jack's throat to his chest, licking and nipping his nipples to hardness.

Jack held Daniel close, enjoying being loved by him. Daniel was a generous lover, his passionate nature translating into this area of his life as well. Daniel slid down from Jack's lap to kneel on the floor in front of him. Jack guessed what he was doing and moved forward to allow Daniel room.

Daniel smiled up at Jack from under his lashes, a wicked look that made Jack shiver with anticipation. Then he bent his head and swallowed Jack, making him groan. Jack's fingers slipped into Daniel's hair as he felt Daniel suck on him. He closed his eyes, breathing hard, trying not to make too much noise, conscious of where they were.

Daniel continued sucking, enjoying listening to Jack's moaning and groaning. He slipped one finger inside Jack, making him buck wildly from the unexpected penetration. After a second finger joined the first, Jack moaned loudly and felt himself come, pouring into Daniel's throat.

Afterwards, Jack lay shattered, feeling Daniel kiss him, but without the strength to respond.

"Jack," Daniel said, "I want you."

Jack forced his eyes open and saw Daniel smiling down on him. "Love you," he stuttered.

Daniel smiled back. "Love you too," he said. He kissed Jack across his face, finally kissing him on the mouth softly. "Can you move?" he whispered.

_______________________________________________________________ Part fifteen

Jack forced his eyes open again, conscious that he was denying Daniel gratification. "Try," he grunted, struggling into a more upright position, with Daniel helping him to move.

"Lie down, Jack," Daniel said, helping him to swing his legs up onto the couch. Jack grimaced as a twinge went through his ribs, but fortunately Daniel didn't see as he was going through the pile of clothes on the floor. He came back with a tube of lube in his hand.

Jack grinned. "Didn't know you were a Boy Scout, Danny," he said. He was starting to recover.

Daniel grinned back. "Never hurts to be prepared," he said.

"I can't believe you came here prepared to do this," Jack said.

"Told you I needed you," Daniel replied. He looked at Jack carefully. "Do you want to do this?" he asked.

"Whatever you want, Daniel," Jack said seriously. "I can't deny you anything. Surely you've worked that out by now?"

"This is a partnership, though," Daniel said.

"Go ahead, already," Jack said, "before we're disturbed."

Daniel nodded agreement. Jack opened up his legs and Daniel slid a cushion underneath his hips for support. Jack lay back against the couch and waited for Daniel to prepare them both. He felt Daniel poised on the brink of entering him and pushed himself up slightly. Daniel looked the question and Jack nodded that he was ready, so Daniel slid slowly inside, both men groaning as he did so. Carefully, slowly, Daniel began thrusting into Jack. Gradually he built up speed and thrust harder and harder until he was hitting Jack's prostate every time. Jack had put another cushion over his face to stifle his cries and moans. As Daniel came, he bit his tongue so hard he drew blood, in his effort not to scream out loud his climax. Then he collapsed across Jack in a boneless heap, both men exhausted and spent.

Several minutes passed before Jack finally stirred. He was starting to feel a little uncomfortable having Daniel sprawled all across him. He put a hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel looked up.

"Sorry, Jack," he said hastily, suddenly remembering Jack's injured ribs. He sat up quickly. "Are you all right?" he asked anxiously.

"Fine, Daniel," Jack said. "Apart from having no feeling in my legs."

"Sorry," Daniel said. He scrambled into a sitting position.

"S'alright," Jack said. "But we should really get going. Rachel's gonna be wondering where we are. It must be time to go home for dinner by now."

Daniel reached for the pile of clothes on the floor and started sorting them out. He passed Jack's clothes to him, then dressed quickly in his own clothes. Jack went to unlock the door, checking no one was around before he nodded to Daniel and they crossed the corridor to the restroom before heading down to Rachel's room. Once they were both satisfied it didn't look like they'd just been having sex, they left to fetch Laura.

Early the next morning, Jack left to collect Martha from the airport, whilst Daniel took Laura to the hospital. They had agreed that for Laura's sake it would be better for them all to meet at the same time.

Jack brought Martha into the hospital room, where Rachel was sitting up in bed. She was nervous about how her aunt would behave, and what she would say. Laura was sitting on the side of the bed, fiddling with her skirt hem. She was also nervous. Daniel had left them alone together, deciding it was better if he waited outside.

Jack introduced Martha to Laura and Rachel then left as well. "We'll be in the cafeteria when you're done," he told them.

"Thank you, Jack," Martha said. She was a tall woman, with greying hair and an air of calm authority. Jack nodded to her, then left them to talk.

When Martha finally came to fetch Jack and Daniel, Janet had joined them. The four of them sat together at an outside table, taking advantage of the sun, as well as some privacy.

"Rachel and I have agreed that she and Laura will come and stay with me in Kansas and that I will become Laura's legal guardian after Rachel's death," Martha said.

Jack nodded agreement. "Thank you," he said. "I think Laura will be very happy with you."

"You're taking a lot on trust here," Martha said. "You don't know me. You are Laura's father, are you sure that this is what you want as well?"

Jack looked her in the eye. "This is the right thing for Laura. I couldn't bring her up properly alone. She needs a stable home life and I couldn't give her that. I go on my instincts when it comes to people, and my instinct is to trust you."

"Thank you," Martha said, a bit surprised by what Jack had said. "Then I must see to the arrangements for us to go home." She stood up. "You are welcome to call or visit whenever you want, Jack," she said. "I don't want Laura to lose contact with you."

Jack nodded at that. "Thank you," he said. "I will keep in touch."

After she had gone, Daniel put a hand over Jack's. "Are you really ok with this?" he asked.

"Yes," Jack said. He looked at Daniel and smiled. "It's the best thing for everyone."

Daniel nodded his acceptance of that comment.

Epilogue - one month later

SG1 had just returned from a mission and were in the locker room changing when Ferretti came running into the room.

"Colonel O'Neill, a call for you," he said. "The General said it was urgent."

Daniel looked at Jack, who went white and rushed from the room. Daniel finished dressing and dashed after him. Daniel still couldn't change as fast as the others, but he was getting quicker.

When he reached the briefing room, Daniel paused. Jack was in the General's office, visible through the window. He was standing with his back to Daniel, talking on the phone. The General was standing in the briefing room, watching Jack as well. He turned as Daniel came up to him, but didn't say anything. They stood watching in silence as Jack talked for a few minutes more, then put the phone down and came out of the office.

"Jack?" Daniel was at his side in an instant, not liking the look on his lover's face.

"It's Rachel," Jack said. He reached out blindly towards Daniel, who grabbed his arm and led him to a chair. Sam and Teal'c had now joined them in the briefing room. General Hammond dismissed the technician working at the corner desk.

"What is it?" Sam asked.

"Rachel's dead," Jack said. He put his head down on his arms. Daniel hovered anxiously, uncertain how to react. All he wanted was to put his arms around Jack and hold him, but he was aware that this was a public place - there were still SFs in the room as well as General Hammond.

"Colonel, you're free to go as soon as Dr Frasier has checked you out and we've debriefed," Hammond said.

Jack raised his head. "Thank you, sir," he said.

"Dr Jackson, you can accompany Colonel O'Neill, if you wish. I believe you are quite close to Ms Grey's daughter."

Daniel nodded his appreciation. "Thank you General," he said.

"We will debrief as soon as you return from the Infirmary," the General said.

Later that same night, the two men arrived in Kansas, where Martha was waiting for them at the airport.

"Laura is at home with my daughter," Martha said. She looked tired; the month that she had spent caring for Rachel had obviously taken its toll on her. She drove them back to her house, where they met Ruth, Martha's daughter.

"Laura finally fell asleep about fifteen minutes ago," Ruth told Martha as she brought them all coffee.

"Can I see her?" Jack asked.

"Of course," Martha nodded. "I'll show you her room." Jack followed Martha out of the room, leaving Daniel alone with Ruth.

"This is a nice house," Daniel said sincerely, looking around the room. It was decorated plainly and simply, but looked to be a much loved room.

"I love this house," Ruth said simply, "I grew up here. Um, can I ask you a question?" She looked at Daniel curiously.

"Yes," Daniel said cautiously, wondering what she was going to ask.

"You and Jack are together aren't you?" she asked.

Daniel blushed and stammered out, "why do you ask?"

________________________________________________________________ Part sixteen

"You seem connected," Ruth said, "and it's obvious you're not related to each other. I'm sorry for embarrassing you. But I think you complement each other. I've never seen two people who were so close before, you're very well suited."

Daniel blushed again. "Um, thank you," he said. Just then Martha came back into the room with Jack.

"So, how long can you stay?" Martha was asking.

"A couple of days only, I'm afraid," Jack said. "It's hard to get away from work for any significant amount of time."

"Laura will be pleased to see you both," Martha smiled at the two men. "I'll show you your room," she said. "I hope you don't mind sharing. It's the room my nieces and nephews share when they come to stay."

"That's ok," Jack said. "I'm used to Daniel snoring when we have to share a tent on missions." He smirked at Daniel as he said it. Daniel ignored him: he was used to Jack's snide comments by now.

The funeral was the next afternoon. It was a small affair because Rachel had been ill the whole time she was in Kansas, so had not had a chance to get to know anyone. Afterwards, they went back to Martha's house for the wake.

Laura had been really pleased to see both Jack and Daniel, but disappointed they were only staying such a short time. However, Jack had promised that they would return during her summer vacation and try to stay for longer.

The day after the funeral, Jack took Laura out for the day, whilst Daniel stayed with Martha. Martha took Daniel all over the house and the archaeologist had a great time discussing the house and its history with her. When Jack got back, he found them deep in a discussion about the differences between Shaker and Amish styles. He grinned at Daniel, amazed by the breadth of his knowledge yet again.

A little while later, the two men were on the flight back to Colorado Springs.

"Thank you Daniel," Jack said.

"What for?" Daniel asked.

"Being here with me, understanding, getting me through this whole experience," Jack said.

"I love you Jack," Daniel said softly, aware that they might be overheard, "this is what partners do." He squeezed Jack's hand, which was on the armrest between them. "I'll always be here for you."

"I love you too, Daniel," Jack said, twining Daniel's fingers with his. The two men smiled at each other, each glad to have found the other, even if the path to togetherness had been a long and rocky one.

The end.

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