Life Sure ain't Ever Easy

Pairing: Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson
Category: Angst, Drama, Family, Domestic, Children
Rating: NC17
Summary: Good things rarely last as the boys return to Earth with their daughter and get themselves into trouble... again.
Part 1: Your Mother Told you there'd be days like these...
Part 2: Tales to Tell Your Grand Children
⋄ Part 3: Life Sure Ain't Ever Easy
Part 4: Take a Chance and Roll the Dice
Notes: One character was sweetly on loan from babs and Devra with full permission. It has been returned in the same condition as it was received.
Thank you to Sharon, Brynn, Rachel, Terry for alpha/beta and everyone else who helped (nagged *g*)

Please note that this is part 3 of 4. All this will make a lot more sense if you read Your Mother Told You There'd Be Days Like These first.


Jack stirred lightly, the hammock swinging gently from side to side, the warm weight on his chest grounding him. Then the voice returned -- closer.

"Oh, there you are." A light kiss was pressed against his forehead.

Jack finally opened his eyes and looked into a pair of sparkling blue ones. "Something wrong, Daniel?" Jack wasn't overly worried, as Daniel was smiling and he didn't really seem to be as upset as he'd sounded at first.

"Mmm, no..." Daniel stole another kiss, this time on the lips. "I was just wondering where our daughter was."

Jack tightened his arm around the bundle of warmth lying curled up on top of him. Looking down, his view was obscured by a mess of straw-colored hair.

Daniel kept running his fingers through Jack's hair. The older man scowled at him, but he knew Daniel liked the length it had now after six months away from Earth. It was long enough for Daniel to bury his fingers in it, tug at it, play with it... like he was at that moment. Jack's eyes drifted shut again. Maybe he should skip having it cut when they got back?

"She's growing so fast it's unnerving." Daniel's voice was the barest whisper in Jack's ear.

Jack sighed deeply. Daniel was right. In the six months since Aislinn's birth, she had grown to the point that she appeared to be about five years old. Not only that, but her intelligence level seemed to even exceed her growth. Currently she was curled up on top of Jack, having shamelessly taken advantage of one of her dads lazing around. Jack tried to fill his days with something meaningful, but mostly he ended up hiking around the forest with Aislinn and Nefrayu.

The young Nox, along with Lya, had made their stay more than pleasant. Jack suspected that they did what they could to keep the two men from getting too restless, but considering that both Jack and Daniel were used to exploring, sitting with their hands in their laps just wasn't enough.

Daniel kept busy whenever Lya was around. The woman seemed to see Daniel's insatiable need to ask questions as endearing. Jack knew exactly how she felt, though he'd never tell Daniel that.

Sure, Jack enjoyed spending time with their daughter, but he missed the thrum of the SGC, of their missions -- and most of all he missed their friends. He knew that even though Daniel hadn't mentioned it, he felt the same way. As much as it was an experience to be with the Nox and as much as Aislinn was a true challenge to keep up with, the old days were missed.

"Has Lya said anything about the growth?" Jack rubbed his cheek against Daniel's hand as it strayed from his hair down to cup his face.

"She has... expressed some concern about it, yes." A light kiss was applied to the corner of Jack's mouth, the barest hint of the tip of a tongue teasing him.

Jack turned his face just enough to catch the smiling mouth, their kiss deepening in seconds. It never ceased to amaze Jack how they still couldn't keep their hands off each other. It was simply getting more difficult as Aislinn grew older and more perceptive.

A muffled yawn drew the two men apart again as sleepy blue eyes watched them with quiet amusement and interest.

Daniel grinned down at her and accepted her as she held out her arms to be lifted off Jack. "Having a nap, Aislinn?" he asked, holding the child close in his arms.

"Yes," she answered, giving him her most serious look. "Jack was feeling tired and I didn't want him to feel alone."

Jack hid a smile. Aislinn had been calling them by their names since she had learned to talk. It had been a surprise as she'd begun repeating words no more than a month and a half old. Though considering that she had physically equaled a two-year-old, it shouldn't have been any stranger than the rest of their life. The use of names was a precaution as much as for ease. It would make things easier if... when they returned to Earth. Besides, neither man wanted to explain to the little girl why she had two dads -- at least not yet.

"That's very nice of you, Aislinn," Daniel answered in his most serious voice, but Jack could see the laughter bubbling in the other man's eyes.

"Well, you said that Jack is easily bored," the child elaborated, putting her arms around Daniel's neck, giving him her most innocent smile.

"So you decided to keep him out of trouble?" Daniel nodded and kissed her cheek. "That's very sweet of you, honey."

The little nose scrunched up at the endearment, but Aislinn didn't say anything. It seemed she'd learned to live with her parents occasionally being sappy.

A rustle of leaves made the three of them turn their heads. The lush green forest seemed to open up to let a smiling Lya through.

Aislinn struggled to get down and Daniel put her down on her feet. He watched with fond amusement as their daughter ran as fast as she could over to Lya, who kneeled down and accepted the exuberant hug.

"Would you ask Jack and Daniel if you might accompany me on a little trip to the city?" Lya gave the child her entire attention when she spoke to her, something that always made Aislinn behave perfectly around her.

Jack sat up as much as he could in the hammock, nodding to Lya. They had been to the Nox city a few times, but as interesting and highly technological as it was, they could understand why most Nox chose to live on the planet's surface. Jack for one enjoyed the cottage the Nox let them use and it hadn't taken him long to get so well settled that he'd put up the hammock and started working with the clay like substance he'd found near the river. Apart from missing the action, he was feeling... contented.

"Can I?" Aislinn turned pleading eyes at her parents.

Jack snorted, he recognized that look and something told him that Daniel knew or suspected the origin of Jack's amusement.

"It's *may* I, and yes, you may." Daniel nodded at Lya. "Go pack your bag," he said to the little girl who ran for the door with a whoop.

Jack slid off the hammock. "You're taking her for an examination?" he asked.

Lya nodded, "Her rapid growth concerns me."

Daniel sighed as he leaned against Jack as if drawing strength from the older man. Slipping an arm around Jack's waist, he drew him a little closer, leaning his head on the older man's shoulder.

Aislinn came back out, her bag clutched to her chest, eyes sparkling with excitement. Jack caught the child mid-run. Hoisting her up, he looked into her eyes, making sure he had her full attention, even as he could feel her energy thrumming through his arms. "Make sure you listen to Lya, Aislinn, okay?"

The blue eyes flared and Aislinn sighed, then she nodded.

Jack grinned and pressed a kiss to her forehead before he pulled back to let Daniel do the same. As he put her down she skipped over to Lya's side, sneaking her hand into that of the Nox. Lya gave her a brilliant smile, nodded at the two men and disappeared into the undergrowth.

"Behave yourself, Aislinn," called Daniel after her, obviously knowing that they'd taught her well, but that the girl's curiosity equaled his own.

The light voice drifted back to them, "Yeahsureyabetcha."

Daniel turned slowly, eyeing Jack.

Putting his hands up in front of him, trying to look innocent, Jack started backing away. Too late he realized that he was displaying a clear surrender this way, as Daniel began slowly walking towards him, an almost predatory gleam to the darkened blue eyes.

"Now, now, Daniel, she could've picked that up anywhere..." he defended himself.

"Jack..." Daniel kept advancing on him.

"Okay, okay, so you never hear the Nox saying it, but that doesn't mean they don't, right...?"

"Ja-ack?" Daniel sing-songed.

The husky voice made Jack shiver. Before Daniel, Jack had never heard anyone say his name like that. It never failed to fray a few of Jack's nerve endings.

Slowly Jack backed away, towards the entrance of the home, never for a second taking his eyes off Daniel. He made it a few steps inside before Daniel moved quickly enough to catch up with him, grabbing the front of the soft woven shirt Jack was wearing.

"Jack?" Daniel's warm breath burst against Jack's lips.

Unable to force himself to answer, Jack ran his hands down Daniel's sides, feeling the muscles tremble underneath. Finally he managed to croak out a 'yes'.

"I need you..." words nothing but a whispered sigh.

"Anyway you want," groaned Jack as he raised his arms to allowed Daniel to pull the shirt up over his head.

"On your back... please..." Daniel still managed to blush as Jack pulled off his glasses and placed them on the table in the middle of the room. "Let me make love to you?"

Jack was amazed that after so long Daniel still asked. Sure, sometimes it was spur-of-the-moment sex, but whenever the younger man wanted it to be tender, well... he'd ask first, never assuming anything before he got his answer.

"Yes," was all Jack could say as he pulled off Daniel's remaining clothes and pushed his own pants down and off. A moment later he drew a naked Daniel into his arms. Warm lips closed over his, the lightest trace of a tongue sliding over Jack's lips, asking its wordless question. Jack willingly opened up to allow Daniel to explore and deepen the kiss... he never *could* deny Daniel anything.

Leading them both in the general direction of their bed, Jack let his hands wander, tracing the muscles rippling under his hands as he slowly kneaded whatever tension he came across, finally dropping to the small of Daniel's back. Without another thought he slid them a little lower, fingers tightening over Daniel's ass.

The movement caused Daniel to press even closer to Jack, who could find nothing to complain about. After a few more steps they fell onto the bed, never for a second letting go of each other. Scrambling up the bed until they were both securely positioned, Jack slipped his hand up under the pillow, drawing out a bottle. Sure, Lya had given it to him for use on his knee when it occasionally acted up, but they'd figured out more... fun ways of using the oil-like, clear substance.

Pressing it into Daniel's hand, Jack finally pulled away to spread out on his back, hands behind his head, watching Daniel while Daniel was watching him. With an almost giddy feeling of excitement, he waited for Daniel to make the next move. But the younger man stayed where he was, braced on one hand, looking down at Jack with a strange look in his eyes.

"What?" asked Jack with a chuckle.

"Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am, that's all." Daniel reached out and traced a finger down over Jack's chest, playing with the dog tags that Jack was still wearing.

Theoretically Jack was still an officer of the AF, and as a habit, he hadn't taken them off. Besides, he was fairly sure Daniel would object to his removing them. The other man seemed... fascinated by them, at times almost mesmerized. And there was no way Jack was going to deprive Daniel of one of his favorite toys...

Speaking of toys... Some days Jack felt as if he was merely Daniel's toy or some strange alien artifact. Not that he was complaining, not with the level of interest and intense study with which Daniel seemed to want to commit his old worn out body to memory. And there was nothing wrong with Daniel wanting a refresher course every once in a while. Not with the way he was trailing his fingers down Jack's body, dipping into every hollow, riding over every ridge of muscle and bone.

With a small contented sigh Daniel lay down next to him, working the bottle open. "We need to talk about Aislinn's future, you know..."

"I know," sighed Jack. "Let's wait until she and Lya are back and... enjoy ourselves until then." The last he said with a light smile. He was as worried as Daniel, but he knew that there was nothing they could do about it at the moment. All *he* could do was take Daniel's mind off it for a little while. And allow Daniel to do the same for him.

Daniel's half smile told him that he wasn't fooling him. They'd been in tune before they'd started their relationship. But now... well, sometimes it was ridiculous how easily they read one another.

"Sounds like a plan," grinned Daniel as he poured a little of the oil out into his hand and put the bottle on the bedside table. Then he proceeded with rubbing the oil into his fingers. "Lay back and enjoy, my Love?" Daniel's face was perfect innocence, but his eyes were laughing.

Jack snorted. "On one condition -- only if you stuff the endearments, Book Boy."

Daniel waved his hand lightly from side to side. "A little more respect, please, Air Head, I'm the guy who's about to stick his fingers up your ass."

Jack raised an eyebrow at the air head comment, but grinned nonetheless. "So..."

"So...?" Daniel leaned on his elbow, hand hovering over Jack's groin but making no movements whatsoever.

"Are you going to do something with that hand any time soon?" Jack gestured lazily towards the hand.

"I... might." Daniel looked as if he was giving the idea some serious thought.

"Anyone ever tell you you're a tease, Dr. Jackson?" Jack asked with a theatrical sigh.

"Um..." Daniel scrunched up his nose, seemingly trying to remember something. "I seem to recall some old guy telling me so repeatedly..."

Jack moved fast enough to startle Daniel as he flipped them over, pinning Daniel to the bed. "What do you mean... old?" He tried hard not to laugh out loud.

Daniel wasn't holding back however, his laughter ringing through the air. "I take it back." With a wicked grin he reached behind Jack and slowly slid his slick fingers into the cleft.

Jack moaned and rocked back and forward, urging Daniel to move a little faster. Not that it worked. The younger man was obviously set on taking his own sweet time... or Jack's... Closing his eyes, Jack let his head hang down.

"God, Daniel, *please* don't stop..." Jack couldn't help smiling as he felt Daniel's lips brush lightly over his forehead. Raising his head a little, but still keeping his eyes closed, he searched for those lips and when he found them he proceeded to show Daniel exactly how he felt about him.

It seemed to be working as Daniel's movements grew faster, urging Jack to roll over onto his back again, never for a moment breaking their kiss. A finger was pressed inside, and Jack couldn't help sighing into the heat of Daniel's mouth. Another finger was added and Jack felt the familiar sparks. Okay, so every time wasn't like first time, but it was always amazing. No one would believe that Colonel Jack 'Bad-Ass' O'Neill would just roll over for a civilian whenever said civilian wanted him to. And he'd go 'woof' if he didn't know that Daniel would stop and stare at him, wondering about the old man's sanity. No need to disturb the scholar's intense... studies.

Jack suddenly arched his back, trying to get enough air in through his nose as Daniel refused to break their kiss. Daniel wasn't making it any easier by repeatedly brushing his fingers over Jack's prostate, making him writhe with the insane pleasure.

Grabbing hold of Daniel's arm with one hand and holding the man's head with the other, Jack whispered breathlessly. "Stop Daniel, please, unless you want me to come before you do..."

"Mmm," Daniel nuzzled the side of Jack's head. "Can't have that, now can we?" He quickly rearranged himself to kneel between Jack's legs, carefully pulling out his fingers and smearing the rest of the oil onto his cock before he slowly pushed against Jack's opening to slide easily inside.

Jack had never before been too keen on being the bottom, but with Daniel it was different. It might be that Jack trusted him beyond anything. However, Jack suspected that there was more to it. He'd also learned right from the beginning, that while Jack himself was creative in bed as the top, but it was nothing compared to what Daniel could come up with when he was in a certain mood. So most of the time Jack enjoyed letting him call the shots, though he gladly did all the work when Daniel wanted it the other way around. It pretty much meant that whichever way Daniel wanted it, he got it. God, Jack was *such* a pushover... Not that he was complaining. As long as he had Daniel he was happy.

"Mmm, you feel good," mumbled Daniel, head resting against Jack's collarbone as he breathed deeply, trying to steady himself before slowly rocking back and forth with fluid motions.

"Oh yeah," moaned Jack as he ran his hands down over Daniel's back.

Daniel chuckled. "You know what I meant..."

"Mmm, a little less conversation, a little more action?" Jack asked innocently.

"Don't you dare quote Elvis on me when we're having sex," sputtered Daniel, trying to sound angry, but failing miserably as he couldn't bite back the laughter.

"Ah-aaaah," Jack arched again as Daniel found the exact right angle. "But so damned quaint, don't you think?"

"Come on, Jack..." Daniel whispered breathlessly against his lips as he lifted his head, the blue of his eyes almost eclipsed by the black of the pupils. "You *like* having conversations when we're in bed... want me to talk dirty to you?" he teased.

Jack growled low in his throat. As little as anyone would ever consider Jack rolling over for the civilian, they'd also never believe what a dirty mind said civilian had. "I'd love you too, but I'd prefer you put your mouth to better use..."

Daniel grinned as his lips closed over Jack's, his tongue almost curling around Jack's, coaxing it out, sucking on it. It didn't take long before the rhythm of it was driving Jack crazy. Daniel actually managed to keep the same damned rhythm moving in and out of Jack as he did sucking on Jack's tongue. At least for a little while.

Jack allowed himself to get completely lost in it, feeling nothing but Daniel's movements and enjoying the flexing of muscles under his hands. He smiled as he felt Daniel's hand snake in between their bodies to stroke Jack's cock. His hand slid back out, gripping Jack's hip, catching the erection between their abdomens as his movements became increasingly erratic.

"Jackjackjack," Daniel's whispered litany was enough to push Jack to his completion and the wet heat spread between their bodies. Daniel pulled back up onto his hands and knees, breathing hard as he slid his hands up Jack's thighs for extra leverage. Rising up on his toes he set a hard and punishing pace, causing Jack to gasp at the repeated pressure on his prostate.

The only thing escaping Daniel as he came was a soft mewl before he collapsed on top of Jack, panting for breath. A moment later he remembered where he was and drew back, out of Jack who almost felt it as a loss until Daniel slid back down into his arms with a small contented sigh. Jack smiled as he stretched his legs, feeling the familiar burn of the muscles in his thighs. Well, it might hurt a bit as he wasn't as flexible as he used to be, but it was all well worth it. Pulling Daniel closer with one arm, he reached down with his free hand and pulled the light covers up over their damp bodies. They had hours before Lya would return with their daughter and there was no harm in a little nap.

Jack grinned as he wriggled out from under his dozing... well husband might be a bit much since there hadn't been a ceremony, but they had a child together now... Jack's happiness sank a bit as he remembered the current problem. There was no knowing what would happen to Aislinn if they couldn't somehow stop her unnatural growth and aging.

Still, he knew better than to fret about it before they had more facts. Lya had been working with Aislinn since they'd noticed the problem, but she didn't seem to have found anything that might help them. Taking a drink of water Jack looked down at Daniel who was sprawled out on the bed, face down, taking up as much room as possible.

Too bad they didn't have anything that equaled coffee around here, though there was that tea Lya had left for them. Daniel had, quite by accident, discovered that it came close if he let it sit for a lot longer that it was meant to. Jack finally found his smile again as he prepared the tea for Daniel. They still had an hour or two before Lya returned with Aislinn, but he wasn't about to get into some wild sexual escapades... even if they did have their privacy.

They didn't let loose so often anymore... The sex was still beyond good, but it seemed as if most of their needs could be satisfied easily as simply as being near each other, or with light, reassuring touches. Then again, occasionally they caved more, like they'd done earlier as soon as they were alone.

Indulging in a little stroking while he waited for the tea to be ready, Jack sat down on the edge of their bed, running his fingers lightly through Daniel's hair. It wasn't as long as it had been when they'd met, but definitely longer than it had been. Especially since Daniel had decided to cut his hair closer to a more military style. Jack wasn't going to tell him, but he kinda liked it this way, much more to run his fingers through, to feel the soft strands tickling his skin.

Daniel grumbled something as he moved against Jack's hand, unconsciously seeking the nearness, the caress. Jack smiled at the grumbled curse as he drew his hand back, walking over to pour some of the tea. Always being prepared with Dr. Jackson meant 'always have something to negotiate with'... it was after all his life on the line. The people who considered bears and lions dangerous creatures had obviously never met Dr. Jackson de-caffeinated. Even Goa'uld system lords had nothing on this guy.

Sitting back down on the bed, Jack leaned forward, carefully setting the mug on the small table by the bedside. Slowly he kissed his way down from Daniel's nape to the small of his back, paying attention to every little ridge of the vertebrae. The skin was still slightly salty from sweat and Jack enjoyed the tangy taste on his tongue. Daniel didn't seem to be awake, but he was slowly moving under Jack's attention, burrowing further into the blankets. Daniel's breathing sped up a little as Jack slipped his tongue down the top of the cleft... Daniel began writhing under him and Jack threw all his good intentions out the window as he slipped down on the bed, straddling Daniel's thighs.

The first time he'd attempted this he'd almost had to scrape Daniel off the ceiling. The man wasn't just sensitive; he'd had one hell of a surprise as well. Jack had the feeling Daniel had considered him a pretty vanilla kinda guy in the beginning. Well, sufficed to say Jack had worked hard to lose that illusion. As it was now, he had an almost awake Daniel begging for him to finish what he'd started.

Parting the cheeks with his fingers, Jack ran the pad of his thumb lightly over the opening, feeling it contract at the contact. Smiling, he leaned down and slowly nipped his way from the small of Daniel's back to the warm, musky heat. Sliding the tip of his tongue over the puckered skin, he catalogued the salty tang, the musk, forcing his way in a little; he let out a light chuckle, making Daniel gasp for air. Jack was addicted to this... the sounds that Daniel made, the little whimpers, the way he pushed back against Jack, the way he tasted...

Daniel slipped forward a little, enough to rise onto his knees. Jack didn't hesitate as he reached around the other man and grasped his erection, slowly bringing Daniel to his climax. Collapsing on the bed, Daniel buried his face in the pillows with a contented sigh.

Jack grinned as he slipped the tip of a finger inside Daniel. A muffled grunt was all the response he got. Searching for and finding the bottle, he poured out a little oil and repeated the action. No response whatsoever.

"Too tired?" he asked, his breath whispering over Daniel's neck.

"Mmph..." Daniel wriggled a little further down into the blankets. "Go 'head, jus' don't 'spect me to participate..." came the muffled response.

"Fine," grunted Jack. "If that's the way you want it." It had taken some time after the birth before Daniel had allowed him to top again. Somehow both men still had the strange fear of another pregnancy even though they both knew that whatever had contributed to it was long gone from Daniel's body. As it was now, Daniel had gotten to a point where it didn't bother him anymore and Jack had dealt with his own fears as well. They'd even ended up talking about it, something Jack hadn't expected. Sure, Daniel was prone to talk, but he'd ended up dragging Jack into it as well.

Slicking himself up, he knew he wouldn't last very long himself. Jack pressed forward and moved until he was completely buried inside Daniel. With an evil grin he lay down on top of the other man, relaxing completely.

"I... hope you're planning on *doing* something." Daniel's voice was thick with sarcasm. So much for the magic of afterglow.

"Nah," mumbled Jack, "think I'll just stay here, like this."

Daniel squirmed underneath him, cursing Jack in several languages. "*Move*, O'Neill, or I swear..." he threatened.

Jack snorted and decided that he'd make Daniel pay. In the best kind of way, of course. Rising back onto his knees, Jack braced his hands on Daniel's hips and slowly pulled out before pushing back in hard again.

Daniel's howl was well worth it. "Hole in one," grinned Jack.

"Di-ditch theeee golf lingo, Jack, pleeeaaaaase." Daniel's voice was a mere whimper.

"Is that an order, Dr. Jackson?" Jack repeated the movement again, hitting Daniel's prostate once more.

"Oh *God* yes, dammit, Jack, just do it!" Daniel's voice was raw as he pushed himself up on his elbows, arching up to meet Jack's thrust. "Do it, do me, Jack, pleeeeaase."

Jack slowed his movements. "Do me, Dr. Jackson...?"

"Jack... dammit, I'm not kidding, I'm gonna *kill* you if you..." The rest turned to another whimper as Jack took up his task again.

Jack took pity on him and couldn't believe that Daniel's cock managed to at least twitch with interest. Jack groaned with his own release, slipping out of Daniel, and down into the bed next to the younger man.

"You'll be the death of me," mumbled Daniel as he accepted the cup of rapidly cooling tea. That the man didn't even comment on the condition of the tea was a testimony to just how mellow sex had made him. Jack wasn't complaining. It was one of the few ways for him to even the playing field... and by far the most pleasant.

A quick wash later and they were both back to being upright and dressed. Jack left Daniel to his studies and made his way down to the river. At least fishing was good here and the Nox had assured him that they didn't mind. Now, all he could do was wait for Lya and Aislinn to return. He hadn't let Daniel know exactly how worried he was, but in the end he wasn't sure what they could do. He'd thought about suggesting returning to the SGC, face what would be waiting for them there after months of being away. The mess that was probably there... the mess of fighting off anyone who'd try to get between him and Daniel... and their daughter.

With a sigh Jack leaned back against a log. The problem was that if the Nox couldn't help them, who could?

Jack made his way back to the cottage, following the narrow trail through the forest, his catch of two fish dangling from one hand. This sure beat the fish-less lake by the cabin in Minnesota. Not that Jack would ever admit to there being no fish, at least not out loud. As he kept pointing out, it wasn't the fish; it was the act, the art of fishing. For a moment Jack entertained the idea of living with Daniel and Aislinn in the cabin... that was if they ever did return to Earth...

Jack hesitated for a moment as he heard voices ahead, familiar and more than welcome voices. One was light, female, and one darker, deeper, and male. Picking up pace Jack was almost running when he came to a clearing near the cottage. A moment later he let go of the fish and accepted the armful of a blonde Major rushing over to him.

They hadn't seen their friends since the day they'd left Earth and frankly, Jack had missed the two of them.

"Whoa, Cater. Air. Need air!" said Jack, grinning widely.

Carter took a quick step back, letting go of him. "Sorry, sir... it's just, we've..."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, we've missed you guys too." Jack squeezed her shoulder as he took a step to the side to accept the steel-like grip from Teal'c. Jack had long since learned the trick of this grip, grabbing the other man's lower arm, not showing any pain. He was sure that this was a way to determine your opponent's strength, though why Teal'c had to always use it on him; was beyond Jack's comprehension. Maybe it was Jaffa humor, who knew?

"O'Neill, it is good to see you again, my friend," Teal'c said with what passed for a huge grin from him.

"Likewise, T, likewise... how are things back on Earth and what the hell are you doing here?" Jack grinned broadly. He just couldn't stop doing so. It felt good to have the team back together.

"Hectic and rather chaotic at the moment, sir," interrupted Carter. "We've had the Asgard breathing down our necks and this morning the Nox came knocking, asking for Teal'c and me to visit."

Jack raised and eyebrow as he followed his two friends back to the cottage. "Daniel?" he called, hoisting the fish up and hanging them on a nail in one of the carrying posts. "Daaaaniel? Where are ya, we've got guests." A moment later Daniel came outside and for a split second Jack feared the man's eyes would fall out of their sockets. He just stood still, staring at them; then started smiling as he accepted an exuberant hug from Sam and an enthusiastic handshake from Teal'c.

"Sit, please," interrupted Jack, pointing towards the makeshift seats and table he'd made a couple of months ago. Nothing much, just an old cleaved trunk of an old dead tree propped up on four thick logs; surrounded by six equally thick, but shorter logs that served as seating. Grinning, Jack let his team get reacquainted without him for a little while, as he set out to clean the fish he'd caught. Looked like, for once, they had dinner guests.

Jack didn't have to look up to see to whom the looming shadow belonged to, as he set the fish aside and disposed of the inedible parts. "So, Teal'c, I take it this isn't a simple friendly visit."

"You are correct, O'Neill, though I believe it would be better explained with both you and DanielJackson attending." The dark skinned man gave him his own equivalent of a smile as Jack looked up.

"I say we prepare dinner first. Then we talk." Jack waved his hand as Teal'c opened his mouth to argue. "Ah-ah, Teal'c, no argument."

The larger man nodded, accepting Jack's words.

Jack couldn't help smiling again. Half a year and Teal'c still took his orders at face value... though of course it hadn't much to do with chain of command, but far more with the fact that Teal'c respected Jack. Something that never ceased to amaze the Colonel and it made him strive to be the image that Teal'c had of him. Between being what his team expected him to be and what the man he loved expected of him as well, Jack O'Neill preferred to think of himself as a man with more than one moral guardian. And as much as he'd never admit it, as much as it could be a royal pain in the... mik'ta, Jack tried to grow with the added responsibility. Sometimes he succeeded; sometimes he failed, though it never truly seemed to make his team's trust in him waver much.

Sure, Teal'c expected him to be the warrior and brother. Carter saw him as CO and teacher... or maybe, sometimes when Jack's ego had a good day, mentor. But it was nothing compared to what Daniel expected of him... though it was a burden Jack gladly carried. Sure, to him Jack was team leader, protector... but above all that he was his companion for life, taken by choice, accepted with open arms... the father of their child.

"Are you well, O'Neill?" asked Teal'c, giving him a strange look.

Jack realized he'd zoned out for a moment. "Yeah, Teal'c, don't worry, just...thinking..." Straightening up, he called for Daniel. "You wanna do the cooking, Daniel?"

"You can prepare the fish, Jack; I've already put the vegetables in the pots." Daniel waved at him, letting him know that he could just carry on what he was doing. Jack snorted. He should've never let Daniel know that he could actually cook.

"Go sit with Daniel and Carter, Teal'c. I'll be over in a few minutes." Jack shooed the Jaffa away.

Teal'c cocked an eyebrow but did as he was asked. Jack watched with a light smile as the stoic warrior sat down to listen to their friends.

Jack set about his job as he wrapped the fish in the leaves from one of the huge trees that grew so conveniently nearby, before he carefully lowered them down into the embers at the edge of the fire Daniel was using for cooking the vegetables. Taking a deep breath he stood back up and headed back to the table. As much as he'd been wishing for a little more action, he knew where his priorities were now... and they had most definitely changed. He wasn't about to make the same mistake that he'd made with his marriage to Sara... or to repeat the... mistake with Charlie... he'd make sure that not only would Daniel always be safe, so would Aislinn. And he was positive they'd find a way to help their little girl. They had to... failure just wasn't an option.

"So," Carter asked curiously as Jack sat down, "where's the baby?"

Before either man could answer, they were interrupted by the sound of running feet. Out from the tree line burst Aislinn, coming to a full stop as she realized her parents weren't alone. With a look of curiosity she slowly moved closer, slipping in between Jack and Daniel. She seemed a little wary of the attention she was getting from both Carter and Teal'c, but otherwise she looked as if curiosity was winning out.

Jack quirked a smile as he swung the little girl up to sit in his lap, leaning her back against his chest. "Aislinn, I'd like you to meet Sam and Teal'c." He pointed at each as he said their names. "Guys, this is Aislinn, our... daughter."

Carter's eyes were wide with wonder, swirling with questions, and Teal'c's eyebrow climbed to never before seen altitudes. A process that seemed to captivate Aislinn's attention.

"Theoretically," grinned Daniel, "I guess you could see Sam and Teal'c as aunt and uncle... a bit like you see Lya, Aislinn."

As if summoned by her name, the Nox came out of the woods, heading for them with a wide smile on her face.

Aislinn stayed with Jack until her curiosity got the better of her and she slipped down and around the table to stand in front of Carter. Sam seemed a little unsettled by the scrutiny she was under. Jack hid a smile when Aislinn lit up and gave Sam a quick hug.

The touching and hugging was probably Jack's fault. Not having to hold back with Daniel, Jack touched a lot. He'd always done that, offering reassurance, showing his feelings and, as Aislinn had grown, Jack hadn't held back with her and, to his joy, he'd noticed that Daniel seemed to let go more often. At first merely receiving from the girl, who'd quickly taken to the art of hugging and cuddling like a true master. Man, was Jack proud of her. Between her and Jack, no one would ever be able to withstand their charm, least of all Daniel. As it was now, Daniel would touch almost as much as Jack did and physical touch for reassurance seemed to have become as important as their daily meals.

Carter managed to return the hug before Aislinn moved to stand next to Teal'c, who turned to face her, a grave expression on his face. Aislinn kept her examination up for almost an entire minute before she seemed satisfied and rewarded the huge Jaffa with a hug that the man returned, dark eyes sparkling.

Aislinn continued around the table until she came to Daniel who put his arm around her, giving her an approving smile.

"Sir, she's..." Carter began.

Lya nodded. She'd been watching the little exchange with great curiosity. "Aislinn is growing much faster than humans normally do."

Aislinn didn't say anything, but her clear blue eyes told Jack that she was listening. Lya had told them not to hide the problem from the little girl, that she was far better off knowing what they could tell her than finding out on her own.

They chatted about this and that as dinner cooked and Lya excused herself, promising that she'd be back later. Once dinner was on the table, Jack turned to Cater to finally ask, "So, why are you guys here?" Grinning he continued. "Not that we mind, but somehow having the Nox bring you here... well, color me pessimistic, but I get the feeling we won't like it very much."

"The Asgard came this morning, asking for us to bring you back to Earth," Teal'c answered as Carter was caught with her mouth full. "Though they did not say why."

"Why didn't they just swing by here?" asked Daniel, as he filled up Aislinn's plate and received a quiet 'thank you'.

"Well, sir, it seems..." said Carter, "that the treaty between them prohibits Asgard ships to even come near the Nox home-world."

"Oh?" Jack wasn't overly surprised. As much as the Nox and Asgard kept babbling about humans being children, it seemed that at least at some point the... 'higher' races hadn't been getting along either.

"So, how are you guys doing?" Jack gestured at both Carter and Teal'c. "Still running a team of some kind?"

"We've kept SG1 running, sir," Carter explained. "We've even gotten ourselves a third member."

"So, you're only three?" Jack raised an eyebrow.

"Well, all we really needed was a cultural expert to complete the picture and for about a month they tried to set us up with various team leaders, until Hammond lost his patience and turned it over to me," grinned Cater.

"And the cultural expert?" Daniel asked.

"He's not an expert as such, but he's learning. Just before you left, a team of diplomats were sent to Kelowna. There was some kind of accident and one of our men was accused of assassinating the First Minister." Carter shrugged. "It ended badly, but we got our team home and with it Jonas Quinn, who helped them escape. Sufficed to say we don't have any diplomatic relations with Kelowna anymore."

"But you trust this... Jonas Quinn?" Jack quirked an eyebrow. Sure, he was glad this guy had helped their people back, but still... he was an alien and if he'd betrayed his own people once... Jack halted his thoughts with a smile. Right. And what did that make Teal'c? One of the few men Jack trusted so completely? Right, duh, Jack O'Neill jumping to conclusions again. "Congratulations, by the way, Major; you finally got your own command."

"Only temporarily, sir," assured Carter with a smile. "Just keeping the seat warm for you."

Jack shook his head as he gave Daniel a little sideways glance. "I don't think so, Carter, I've got... other obligations now, other... priorities. Besides, I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job."

"She is indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c spoke up, giving Jack an approving look. The Jaffa seemed to have expected this from Jack and was in no way disappointed.

"We can't go traipsing around the Galaxy looking for trouble when we have a child to take care of." Jack grinned as he caught Aislinn looking at him, head lowered and peeking out through her bangs. She knew perfectly well when the talk came to her. There was no way Jack could ever bring himself to leave another child behind. He'd missed so much of Charlie's childhood and before he'd known it, it had been too late. Besides, Daniel wouldn't want to go risking his life either and Jack had a strong feeling Daniel would give him hell if Jack as much as tried to lead a field team again.

"So... we go back to Earth, talk to the Asgard, and while we're at it, we let them look at Aislinn," Daniel finished.

Jack squirmed in his seat. "I don't like the idea of bringing Aislinn back with us."

Daniel turned his head and raised an eyebrow. "You want to leave her here?"

"She'd be safer with Lya than she would be with us." Jack knew he was losing even before they got the discussion started. Daniel was right. They should let the Asgard have a look at Aislinn, maybe the little grey guys could figure out a way to stop the rapid growth.

"Then I'm staying too," Daniel said with an edge to his voice.

"Daniel..." Jack began, then stopped. The man was right. Jack knew it, but his instinct to protect had kicked in before his heart and brains had. Of course they couldn't leave Aislinn behind. He was no more capable of that than Daniel was. "You're right, of course... but we'll need to come up with a cover story... I'm afraid the NID will still be breathing down our necks."

"Maybe even more than you think, sir," interrupted Carter, giving the two men a soft smile.

"What do you mean?" asked Daniel.

"It will take some time to explain and I think Hammond would be a lot better at it than I would," Carter shrugged. "It involves a lot of political intrigues and such."

"So we return to Earth?" Daniel turned his attention back to Jack, who slowly nodded.

"It seems like it," he agreed. But what kind of cover story could they come up with? How did they explain that they'd left Earth empty handed and returned now, six months later, with a little girl?

They ate in silence, and when they had finished and once the dishes were cleaned, Jack took it all into the house. He stopped for a moment to watch Carter and Daniel talk, quite animated, as Aislinn watched them with rapt attention.

"She is an intelligent child," Teal'c said in a low voice, almost making Jack jump.

"That she is. She definitely takes after Daniel." Jack smiled as he noticed that Aislinn had started asking questions. Daniel never turned her away when she asked. He always tried to find a way to explain things to her.

"She has a few of your traits as well, O'Neill. Of that I am certain."

Jack wondered for a moment if Teal'c was joking; then shrugged. "With my luck it'll be my attitude," he grinned.

"Do not belittle yourself, O'Neill. As much as you hide your true potential, you will be a good father to her... as will DanielJackson." Teal'c's large hand descended upon Jack's shoulder, lending him a little support... not that Jack needed it... right?

Clearing his throat, Jack smiled at his old friend. "You're probably right, Teal'c." As they both walked out the door, they saw Lya coming out of the forest. Jack smiled. He'd really taken to liking these people. Never in a hurry, never hung up on things like memos and reports.

They sat down outside in the grass enjoying the warm air of the early evening. Jack leaned back against the trunk of a tree and Daniel sat firmly between his legs, resting back against him. No need to change their ways as they were still here and since both Carter and Teal'c knew about them. Aislinn sat down between the two of them and Lya, all eyes on the little Nox.

"I believe the Asgard may be able to help you," she said to Jack and Daniel, giving Aislinn a little smile.

Jack nodded. "Yeah, but I'm still a little worried about returning to earth with Aislinn."

"Daniel explained a few of the things that might give you trouble if you returned." Lya frowned. "As much as he managed to explain it, I still do not fully understand why humans would act this way."

Daniel shrugged, sighing as Jack began kneading the muscles of his back, which Jack was, of course, only doing to please Daniel... "We are, as you yourself once said; still young as a race. One can only hope we will eventually learn."

"We still need a way to explain Aislinn's presence," Jack said as he slipped his arms down and around Daniel's waist, resting his chin on the other man's shoulder.

"In that case we may be able to help," offered Lya.

"How so?" asked Carter.

"Tell them we found a human child a while ago, that we asked you to take care of her as she was of your kind and not ours." She turned her attention to Aislinn. "You would have to keep her birth a secret I'm afraid, but it would protect her against a lot, I believe."

"But they still might try to take her from us," argued Daniel, worry tensing his spine.

"Then we'll leave again," said Jack, smiling as Aislinn sidled closer to lean against his side. "Aislinn is staying with us or we'll be off Earth faster than you can say NID." He slipped an arm around Aislinn who willingly leaned closer.

"Do you have anything you need to pack, sir?" asked Carter. "I'm sorry, but we promised we'd return to the SGC as soon as possible."

Jack shook his head. They didn't really have a lot... at least nothing tangible. All they had were memories and they'd be taking those with them... wherever they were going.

"Aislinn..." Daniel turned a little to look at their daughter. "Go pack your bag if there is anything you want to bring."

"Are we going far away?" the little girl asked.

"Very far away," agreed Daniel. "Through the Stargate I showed you a little while back."

Aislinn was on her feet in no time, giving them a brilliant smile. "Sweet," she exclaimed as she ran for the house.

Daniel turned his head a little, trying to look at Jack, who merely grinned and planted a kiss on his cheek. He wasn't going to argue Aislinn's vocabulary with the man again. At least not until they were alone again, preferably in a soundproof room. Turning back to their guests, Jack noticed the smiles on their faces as well.

Lya stood and gave them a nod. "I shall meet you at the Stargate before you leave." And before any of them could do or say anything she was gone.

The four of them stood and a moment later Aislinn joined them, slinging her back pack over her shoulder, looking as ready as a little child could, and Jack knew which part of both him and Daniel she was taking after. Her eyes were shining with the prospects of adventure.

They began their trek towards the Stargate, Aislinn ahead of them, almost skipping along, followed by Carter and Daniel who were discussing the Nox and what Daniel had learned. Jack and Teal'c silently brought up the rear of their little party.

Once at the 'Gate, Jack stood still, turned back and looked out over the land that had been their home for the past six months... He would miss it, miss the people.

A moment later, as if the thought had produced them, both Nefrayu and Lya were standing in front of the large circular structure. Lya activated the Stargate and Jack was once again amazed by how they did this without the usual release of energy. The 'Gate was simply suddenly active. Carter sent their signal through and they prepared to follow.

"Take this," Lya held out a small device. "With this you can contact us if needed."

"I don't know what to say," Daniel smiled sadly at the Nox. "We'll miss you."

"As will we, Daniel." Lya gave them each a hug, favoring Aislinn with the longest. The little girl would most definitely be missed. Waving goodbye the five of them went up the steps to the shimmering surface of the 'Gate.

"Another adventure?" asked Daniel as he took Aislinn's hand.

Jack took the other small hand, keeping the child between them before he leaned over and gave Daniel a long lingering kiss. "It would seem so..." Taking a deep breath the three of them followed Carter and Teal'c though the wormhole.

The 'Gate room seemed almost deserted with only a few SFs on the floor. Looking up, Jack caught sight of Sergeant Davis working the dialing computer and at the same time the blast door opened, letting General Hammond through. The old man smiled broadly, greeting his team. "Colonel O'Neill, Dr. Jackson, good to see you again." He did a double-take when he saw Aislinn.

"General," Daniel smiled. "Allow me to introduce, Aislinn. Aislinn, this is General Hammond."

Aislinn let go of them both and stepped up to the General, putting him under the same scrutiny she had Carter and Teal'c. A moment later she put out her hand and the General shook it, a curious look on his face.

"Long story, sir," grinned Jack.

"Pleased to meet you, Aislinn..." Hammond greeted her with a soft smile. "And you can call me George." He looked seriously at her. "Would you mind going with Major Carter to the infirmary?"

Aislinn gave her parents a questioning look. Daniel nodded and the little girl broke into a wide smile before she slipped her hand into Carter's and let the woman lead her towards the infirmary, followed closely by Teal'c.

"Gentlemen, it's good to have you back." Hammond shook hands with Daniel and readily answered Jack's salute before accepting a hearty handshake from him as well. "We have a *lot* of catching up to do and we'll talk on the way to the infirmary."

"That bad, sir?" asked Jack, wondering what could have the old General so worried.

"Worse barely covers it, Colonel. There are the planetary conflicts, but more specifically the national ones."

"Problems?" Daniel's voice clearly told Jack that the man was wondering just how much trouble people could've gotten into during the six months they'd been away. Knowing mankind, probably a lot.

"We have an election coming up in a couple of months," said Hammond, worry clear on his face.

"What?" Jack did the count. This wasn't an election year.

"Something made the president step down and call an election, and I think you can guess who one of the candidates is..."

"Kinsey," Jack almost spat out. The look on Daniel's face told him the other man agreed.

"Of course," Hammond agreed. "And with him in the seat, he and the NID will want to either shut down the SGC or at least have one of their own take over my position."

"Either way, you'll be leaving," Jack finished for him with sadness. Sure, the man had been less than half a year from retirement when he'd taken over the SGC, but he'd stayed with the program out of loyalty to the men and women working there.

"Yes," Hammond nodded as they stopped for a moment outside the infirmary. "This brings us to the Asgard."

"What do the Asgard have to do with the election of a new American president?" asked Daniel. "I thought they didn't interfere with planetary decisions."

"So did we until we received a most 'polite' message from them."

Jack frowned and exchanged concerned looks with Daniel. "So what did they say?"

"Well, if they have it their way, you, Colonel, will be the man to take over when I retire..." Hammond grinned. "Safe to say that they did *not* agree with the idea of shutting down the SGC."

"Ah," Jack said, blinking with surprise. Him take over the SGC?

"Makes sense that they want someone who doesn't have a problem with them in the main seat around here," Daniel nodded. "Makes you wonder however, how they knew this was going to happen."

"Resourceful little grey buggers," grinned Jack.

"That they are, Colonel, and a race we really don't want to get on the wrong side of." Hammond sighed.

"So the higher ups have been giving you hell?" Jack guessed.

"Oh yes, they most definitely have." Hammond looked at the both of them.

Jack realized that he and Daniel were standing close enough to touch and with a sigh Jack stepped a little to the side. This would be difficult to remember after six months of no restrictions whatsoever.

Daniel seemed a little surprised for a moment then he caught on to Jack's reason for moving. The frown did not promise Jack an easy time; that was for sure.

"As for your... relationship, please tone it down." Hammond drew a deep breath. "There has been suggestions made to change military policy governing....relationships such as yours, but at the moment, it is pure speculation. Colonel, I don't need to remind you that being discovered in such a relationship right now would NOT do your chances for promotion any good at all."

"And we all know what would happen to the possibility of the rules ever getting changed if Kinsey took over the Oval Office..." Daniel finished with malice.

"So... we're keeping a low profile," sighed Jack. Not exactly to his liking, but no one had ever said that life would be easy. And Jack had seen it proven over and over again.

"For your own good, yes," agreed Hammond. "There is also the fact that we have to explain Aislinn's presence and make sure she can stay with one of you."

"Lya already fashioned a story, sir... but..." Jack bit his lower lip.

"Um... Daniel stepped forward. "General... sir, Aislinn won't be too thrilled about staying with only one of us..."

Hammond sighed deeply. They weren't exactly making it any easier for themselves or for him. "We'll go over this in briefing, Colonel, Doctor, but first I'd like you to go through the usual post-mission check-up and also I'd like to hear what Doctor Fraiser has to say about your daughter."

Jack looked at Daniel, waiting for him to walk into the infirmary before he followed himself. No, things would definitely not be easy, but Jack would do anything to keep his family together and so would Daniel, he knew that. Neither man would let anyone take Aislinn away from them.

Turning for a moment, Jack saw the look on the General's face and knew that the man knew it too. Jack wondered for a moment if that was why he and Hammond got along as well as they did. The military was important to them but the sense of family was even stronger. Problem was Jack knew he and Daniel would be torn if they had to make the choice. A lot of the SGC staff *were* like family to them. As he pushed through the door, putting his hand on Daniel's shoulder, he swore he would do whatever possible to preserve the *entire* family. Still, if push came to shove, Jack would put the core of his family above the world.

As the three men entered the infirmary, Jack couldn't help but smile at the sight that me him. He noticed that Daniel was not unaffected either, though he, at least, had the sense to act with some air of seriousness.

The infirmary was deserted apart from Carter, Fraiser and Aislinn. The latter was on one side of a bed, watching the short, dark haired doctor with wary eyes. Aislinn beat a hasty retreat to the door as the two women turned their heads to the newcomers. Teal'c was no where in sight, so Jack presumed he'd gone to Kel-no-reem.

Jack had a fairly good idea of what had taken place and his suspicions were supported as Aislinn hid behind him, her small hand slipping into his. "Wanted a blood sample, Doc?" he asked.

"It's okay, Aislinn," soothed Daniel. "It won't really hurt."

Jack opened his mouth but thought better of it. There was a time and place for his humor and this wasn't it. He looked over at Janet who shook her head.

"I tried to explain to her what I was going to do and she wouldn't let me." She smiled, "I should have waited for you guys." Janet put down the needle and went to collect a hug from both men, all the while under the close supervision of Aislinn.

"Yeah," grinned Jack as he watched the woman give Daniel a hug. Turning to Aislinn he continued. "It's okay, Aislinn." Jack gave the needle some thought. "I'm sure Janet needs to take a sample of our blood too, and I think we'll do it at the same time -- seems you get the smaller needles, honey... I think we should take advantage of that." Jack ignored the mock glare Janet gave him.

Aislinn bit her lip and for a moment it hit Jack just how much she looked like Daniel. The feeling of belonging with this child, of being linked with the man he loved through blood... He wasn't going to tell Daniel, no way. The man thought he was sappy enough as it was.

"You afraid of needles too, Jack?" she asked.

"Yeah," Jack confided in her with a whisper. He tugged her towards the nearest bed and as he sat down, Aislinn by his side, Daniel sat on the other side of her, a soft smile gracing his face. Jack leaned into their daughter. "But if you promise to hold my hand it won't be so bad."

With a sigh and a grave look to her face, the girl nodded. "If you and Daniel can do it, so can I," she declared in a steady voice.

Jack gave her a nod and rolled up his sleeve to let Janet take her sample. Daniel was up next and when it finally became Aislinn's turn, she only winced slightly as the needle broke her skin, but she refused to let her parents down. Jack gave her an encouraging nod. No matter what he might say about the SGC's resident Napoleonic power monger, she was a professional doctor and would never intentionally cause pain. Still, she was more intimidating than a six foot five Marine...

As they slid down to stand on the floor again and Jack pulled a sleepy Aislinn into his arms, he felt Daniel lean over to press a quick kiss to his cheek. Turning his face, he caught Daniel's expression. Ah, maybe he wasn't the only sap here today... Jack checked the clock on the wall. Or rather, tonight, since it was 0100. No wonder the place was almost deserted.

Jack wondered for a moment if they might be turned loose, but after a look at his CO he knew the answer would be no. Going home for a good night's rest, seemed out of the question. Jack wondered if anyone had looked after the house.

Hammond stepped closer again. "Well," he gave Aislinn a fond look. "It looks like it might be a good idea to postpone an actual debriefing until tomorrow."

Smiling, Daniel took Aislinn from Jack's arms, obviously noticing that she was fighting off sleep. She'd had a long day, first with Lya and then all this commotion. The blonde girl finally gave into a huge yawn and put her head on Daniel's shoulder, closing her eyes.

Jack quickly filled Hammond in on Lya's cover story and Hammond agreed that it was perfect in its simplicity.

"I've arranged for you to have two adjoining VIP suites for now." Hammond gestured for the two men to lead the way out. They said their goodnights to Janet and as the General went for his own office, Sam continued to walk withthem to their destination.

"Janet said that after the test tomorrow it shouldn't be a problem for you to go home and take Aislinn with you, though I think the General is a bit worried about the NID." Carter opened the door to the suite with her keycard. "But your cover story should do nicely; even the NID won't risk angering the Nox, if that's even possible."

"Oh, I'm quite sure it is," Daniel said with a yawn as he made his way to the other suite to put Aislinn to bed.

"It's just that they won't hit back, Carter, but it'd be a dumb idea to ruin our relationship with them, considering that they might some day consider us old enough to sit at the big table." Jack grinned as he took off his jacket.

"True," Carter agreed with a tired smile.

"Tough time, Major?" Jack asked.

"Just a little hectic, sir, that's all... though..." Carter hesitated but gave them both a small smile as Daniel rejoined them. "It's good to have the two of you back, sir." She cleared her throat and Jack didn't call her on rapid blinking. "How much good it will actually do we can only wait and see, but your return will definitely brighten up the place."

"Well, it's been a nice long... vacation, but we're glad to be back as well, Sam," answered Daniel.

Carter opened the door and before she closed it behind her, she turned her head. "Welcome back, guys," she grinned.

"It's good to be back, Carter," Jack smiled as the door closed. Turning to the other man he frowned. "Are you?"

Daniel frowned as he folded his glasses and put them on the nightstand. "Am I what?"

"Glad to be back?" continued Jack. Daniel had been happy on the Nox home-world, no doubt about it.

"It was interesting, but yeah, I'm really glad to be back on Earth... I've missed the others." He pulled the shirt over his head and before Jack knew it Daniel was climbing under the covers. "Coming?" he asked, patting the bed invitingly.

Jack raised an eyebrow. "Dunno. Don't think that's such a great idea."

"Jonathan O'Neill..." Daniel shook his head. "You know perfectly well that's not what I meant."

Jack grinned. "Yeah." He quickly undressed and slipped between the covers, curling up next to Daniel. "So, like before, no funny business on base and definitely not with Aislinn asleep next door."

Daniel snorted as he turned out the lights. "She's got a pretty good idea of what we're up to, you know."

"What?!" Jack almost sat up to turn the lights back on.

"Oh calm down, Jack." Daniel pulled him back down and closer. "She just asked some questions a little while ago."

Jack grumbled, knowing perfectly well why Daniel hadn't told him before. And on some level he was glad he hadn't been the one having to explain it. He did, however, promise himself he'd drag it out of Daniel when they'd had a little sleep. Jack yawned and drew Daniel just a little bit closer, burying his face in the other man's neck. He'd already checked the camera in the corner and found no flashing red light that would have indicated that it was recording. With quick mental thanks to Hammond, Jack decided to get a little sleep before they all had to get up and face the, probably, ugly reality of Earth, the NID, and people who might try to divide his little family. Well, just let them try.

"Mmph, Jack, stop thinking and go to sleep," grumbled Daniel, as he tightened his arms around Jack.

Jack smiled and bit lightly into the skin of Daniel's neck, making the other man squirm a bit.

"Jaa-aack, stop that," Daniel grumbled as he sleepily slapped Jack's ass.

Jack snickered but behaved for the time being, knowing very well that they shouldn't risk anything. Even sleeping together like this wasn't the best thing to do, but Jack knew that neither of them would get any sleep if they slept apart. Which, Jack knew, would pose yet another problem once they were released from the Base. Deciding that they'd find a way around it, Jack finally drifted off to sleep.

Jack turned the corner and entered the infirmary. A cheerful 'Jack!' greeted him as Aislinn deftly outmaneuvered Janet and ran to Jack, who lifted her up with a broad grin. This, being a father, never got old. As Aislinn matched his grin and leaned her forehead against his, he felt the familiar urge to go look for Daniel. The blue eyes twinkling at him were the perfect mirror image of the other man's.

After having spent so much time together even half a day apart felt... wrong. They were a family and Jack suspected that no matter what the Asgard wanted of him, he couldn't go back to being active on a team, and as for Hammond's spot in the sun? Well, it would complicate his and Daniel's lives and he *still* needed to talk it through with the younger man. The time where he made the decisions by himself were long gone. The 'I' was a 'we' now. Not that Jack regretted that, never in a million years.

"Where's Daniel?" asked Aislinn as if she'd read his mind.

Jack cocked his head. "We're meeting him for lunch in a moment, Aislinn." Jack shifted her to the side to support her with his hip while he turned his attention to Janet. "That is, if the good Doctor agrees?" He'd already talked to Janet earlier and she'd promised him that if the General okayed it, they could go home... Jack had already sent a couple of airmen to his house to make sure that everything was in order, that there was power and such, and to bring back his car.

"No problem, Colonel," Janet joined them, giving Aislinn an affectionate smile. "Aislinn's been sweet all morning and I've done all the tests I'll need for today." She answered Jack's unspoken question. "I'll need a few days to check her blood work."

Jack nodded. "So, we can leave the base?" At his words Aislinn lit up. She clearly missed the open sky as she'd never known anything else

"If the General approves, yes, and I'd like to see you, young lady," she turned her attention to Aislinn, "tomorrow morning, same time."

Aislinn nodded gravely. "Yes, Janet."

Jack swallowed his grin. "No problem, thanks Jan."

She shooed them out with a soft smile on her lips and Jack put Aislinn down to let her walk next to him. No need to carry her around. Jack felt a twitch of sadness that she was growing so fast. At least her mind seemed to be keeping up with her physical growth, but they still needed to slow it, to let her evolve at a more natural pace.

Jack was well aware of the looks they got. At least Aislinn didn't look too much like him, apart from the hair, and there was no trace of that color left on Jack's head any longer. Her soft features were definitely from Daniel and so were the full lips. It would have been hell to explain if she'd taken after the both of them. As it was, the most she had from Jack was his attitude and that at least could be explained.

A short elevator trip later and Jack and Aislinn entered the commissary. Jack dutifully greeted those who recognized him. Even with so many people still with the SGC after all these years, the past six months seemed to have meant a lot of new recruits, a lot of new faces.

Aislinn tugged at his sleeve and slipped her hand into Jack's. As much as she took this new adventure in a stride, the sheer number of people in the mountain did put a damper on her normally more active behavior.

Jack was about to ask her what she wanted to have for lunch as he caught sight of Daniel at the other end of the room. He quickly realized that something was wrong from Daniel's rigid body language and the angry look on the face of the man he was talking to. The guy, who looked to be somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties, looked as if he was seriously considering hitting Daniel.

Behind him were three other men Jack didn't recognize but their threatening posture made all his internal alarms go off. Aislinn seemed to pick up on Jack's tension as she squeezed his hand. Giving her a reassuring smile, he picked her up and made his way towards the little group. Thankfully the commissary was fairly empty at this point.

Before Jack reached them the little meeting was interrupted by two faces that were familiar to Jack. Ferretti was instantly recognizable, but the other man's name eluded Jack for the time being. Slowing down, Jack decided to let Ferretti and his companion take the first shot at calming things. Jack was, he knew, more than just a little biased. Better let the more level headed men take the brunt of the blow.

Major Pierce, as Jack suddenly recalled the man's name, spoke up. The man was fairly small for a Marine, but he had enough presence and personality to make up for it. "What exactly is your problem, Captain?"

The leader of the new batch of SGC members answered in a voice tinted with annoyance. "Civilians... sir!"

"And this particular civilian?" Ferretti gestured towards Daniel, who was standing in front of a smaller man that Jack hadn't noticed before. He couldn't remember the guy's name, but he was fairly sure it was one of the men who'd used to work with Daniel.

The Captain gave Daniel a scorching glare that only made the linguist roll his eyes and return it tenfold. "He reprimanded me... in public, sir," said the Captain.

Daniel shook his head. "You and your cohorts were harassing a *civilian* consultant."

"That gives you *no* right to do that," sneered the Captain.

Ferretti snorted. "That gives him *every* right to do so, Captain."

"Sir, this snot-nosed geek..."

"That's Dr. Jackson to you, Captain," Pierce corrected calmly. "Theoretically he outranks you in so many ways I'd cry if I were you."

"Besides," continued Ferretti in a cheerful voice, "you'll have to go through half the SGC to even get *near* him."

Pierce, half turned, caught Jack's eyes and a small smile curved his lips. "Sad thing, though, we won't get our hands on you once the Colonel's finished with you. I doubt there'll be enough left to identify."

"What Colonel?" snorted the Captain, but he was beginning to look slightly uneasy and his support was beating a hasty retreat.

"This Colonel," purred Jack, who was now standing almost behind the Captain. He suppressed the urge to laugh as Ferretti and Pierce gave him a text book salute complete with an almost deafening bark of "Sir, Colonel O'Neill, *sir*."

"At ease, gentlemen." Jack eyed the Captain who was now facing him, looking like he could think of several places he'd rather be. "Don't you have something important to do, Captain?"

The man almost bolted from the room, barely remembering to salute Jack before disappearing.

Aislinn's arm tightened around Jack's shoulder, reminding him that he had other obligations. Giving her a sideways glance he realized that the little display had interested her but, as most children, she was quickly looking around for other things to fill her time. A look at Ferretti, and Jack knew exactly what to do. "Aislinn?"

Her head turned back to him, blue eyes giving him full attention. "Yes?"

"This is Lou," he pointed at Ferretti. "Lou, this is Aislinn." Jack waited until the two had shaken hands. Jack smiled internally. The look on Ferretti's face already told him that the other man was toast and that Aislinn would wrap him around her little finger in no time. "Lou needs to eat, honey, how about you and him go find him some chow?"

Aislinn grinned and slid down to the floor. "Yes sir," she prompted as she grabbed Lou's hand instead and with him in tow set out towards the food line.

Jack exchanged a warm look with Daniel, who was still talking to the other civilian. He turned his attention to Pierce. "Sit, Major." He pointed at one of the chairs. "Thank you, Pierce." Jack gave him a warm smile. He didn't recall much more than the other man's name and that he'd been fairly impressed by the man's file.

"No problem, sir." Taking a deep breath Pierce continued. "We've had a few... incidents lately, but no one's reported anything, any names." The man shrugged.

Daniel slumped into the chair next to Jack. "Is there nothing you can do?"

"We do what we can, Dr. Jackson, but it's hard to catch them in the act."

"I'll have a word with the civilian staff. See what we can do solve the problem." Daniel shook his head. "Being afraid to speak up won't do anyone any good." He paused for a moment, giving Pierce an assessing look. "And it's Daniel, Major."

"John, Doc... eh, Daniel." Pierce shook his hand with a wide grin as he stood. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few reports to write up."

As Jack nodded his goodbye, he wondered for a split second if he should be jealous... snorting internally he told himself to knock it off. Just because he wanted Daniel's ass, didn't mean that the rest of the SGC did as well. Besides, he already had Daniel's ass.

Jack felt the brush of Daniel's knee against his own under the table. A soft smile was playing on the younger man's lips. Shaking his head and suppressing a goofy smile, Jack turned to watch Ferretti and Aislinn make their way towards their table. As the man and Jack's daughter exchanged strange stories, Jack couldn't help grinning at the tray Lou had set down in front of the little girl. Several different kinds of sandwiches and a large glass of green Jell-o.

A moment later the entire table seemed crowded, but in a good way, as SG-1 joined them. Carter grinned as she dragged a young man along and told him in no small words to sit. A quick introduction later and Daniel was in deep conversation with him. So that was Quinn? Jack shrugged internally. If Carter and Teal'c had adopted the kid, Jack wouldn't say anything against it. He'd trust their judgment. The guy seemed to be a little nervous around him, though, and Jack made a mental note to have a little word with Carter. Who knew what kind of lies she'd told the poor kid about the grumpy old Colonel?

Ten seconds later Jack decided that the new kid was a geek. Not that Jack minded terribly. Daniel had more or less changed his idea of a book worm, not that he'd ever tell the man *that*. Leaning back, Jack watched his makeshift family interact with his true family and realized that blood was no barrier when it came to this. For now he'd just sit back and enjoy the show.

Touring the house with Aislinn, Jack let Daniel take the keys to go shop. There was nothing anywhere in Jack's cupboards that could be even remotely mistaken for edible.

"Jack?" the sleepy voice drew him out of his contemplations.

"Yes, honey?" Jack turned to find his daughter rubbing her eyes sleepily.

"Can I sleep in the small room?"

Jack had already shown her the guest room they'd have to make into a room for her. It wasn't exactly bare, but it had nothing that said 'child's room' about it. "Are you sure you don't want to stay with Daniel and me for the first night?"

She shook her head. "No, I'm a big girl."

Jack hid a smile. "That you are." He gestured towards the couch. "You wanna go to sleep now, or stay here with me for a while?"

Aislinn gave it some thought. "I'll stay with you for a little while."

Sitting down and turning on the TV, Jack spent the next half hour explaining what they were watching until Aislinn's questions became more and more sporadic. Finally her breathing evened out as she fell asleep, curled up against Jack's side. Leaning back, he turned the volume down on the TV and closed his eyes.

The next time he opened them, Daniel was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, looking at the two of them with a light smile. 'Cute,' he mouthed.

Jack mock-glared at him but couldn't help the chuckle escaping him. Sleepy blue eyes looked up at him as Aislinn stirred. "Can I have some water?"

"Sure," Daniel said and held his hand out to her. The two of them disappeared out into the kitchen, Jack following them slowly, enjoying the almost domestic feel of it all.

The counter in the middle of the kitchen was littered with brown paper bags and colorful plastic ones. Jack began stowing the food away as he kept an eye on Daniel and their daughter. Aislinn quickly downed her water and watched with curiosity as the two men emptied bag after bag.

Jack's hands closed around one of the plastic bags and he managed to hang onto it even as Daniel moved to take it from him, red tinting his cheeks. Jack dug into it and was surprised as his fingers hit something soft and furry.

"Daniel?" he asked as he pulled the stuffed toy out of the bag.

"Um, it looked lonely?" Daniel gave him a sheepish smile.

Aislinn crawled up onto one of the chairs to get a better look. "What's that?" she asked.

Jack looked at the toy. "I think it's a camel, Aislinn."

The blue eyes lit up. "A camel?" Jack grinned as he knew Aislinn had continuously nagged Daniel for stories, especially about Egypt. She accepted the toy with great care. "Can he sleep with me tonight?"

Daniel raised an eyebrow. "Sure he can..."

"Aislinn has decided she wants to sleep in her room tonight... she's a big girl."

Daniel grinned. "Too big to let me tuck you in?"

"Puh," Aislinn scrunched up her nose. "I'll never get too big for *that*." She gave Daniel her typical 'don't be silly' look.

Shrugging Daniel followed her, trying not to laugh. Jack shook his head as he finished up and turned the lights off in the kitchen.

Later, as he was lying in bed, listening to the sounds of Daniel getting ready to come to bed, Jack thought of how odd it was to be home, to have Daniel there with him... to have their daughter there. He wasn't dumb enough to think they wouldn't have to fight to keep it, but Jack decided he'd give it a chance, that he'd let go and depend on his family and friends.

"So, come up with the meaning of life yet?" Daniel's voice was low and warm as he closed the bedroom door behind him, slipping into bed and into Jack's arms.

Turning off the bedside lamp and snuggling up with the other man, Jack chuckled. "The meaning of life? That's easy... you, Aislinn and me under the same roof..." Finding Daniel's lips in the dark, Jack took his time to kiss Daniel goodnight. Well, he had to work a little harder to find Daniel's taste under the minty freshness of the toothpaste, but it was well worth the 'hardship'. "And 42 of course," mumbled Jack, snickering as Daniel slapped his ass lightly. Checking for damage, Daniel's hand smoothed the offended area, squeezing a little on the way.

"Goodnight old man," mumbled Daniel as he was almost asleep already.

Jack decided to follow his cue and mumbled as he drifted off. "Goodnight, my little explorer." He grinned in his sleep as Daniel pinched his ass a little harder.

Something woke Jack from his sleep. Cocooned in Daniel's possessive embrace, he slowly opened his eyes and looked up into a wild array of straw colored hair and a pair of blue eyes. A quick check told him that it was a few minutes to 6AM.

"Something wrong, Aislinn?" he asked in a voice still thick with sleep. Daniel had managed to teach him the art of sleeping in instead of keeping his usual military inner clock. Still, the alarm was set for 6 AM sharp and since he was awake already, he reached out and turned it off.

Aislinn climbed into the bed, stuffed camel in tow. Holding up the toy she asked seriously. "What does this look like?"

Jack blinked a few times, a little confused. "A... camel?"

Aislinn sighed. "It says 'Camilla' on the box," she pointed out.

Jack hadn't noticed the night before when Daniel had brought it home. For a moment he wondered how much Aislinn had been able to read. She was frighteningly fast at learning and, if anything, Daniel was a good teacher. The girl *was* only half a year old, in reality, but her mind was evolving as fast as she was physically, so before he knew it she'd be a hell of a lot smarter than he was.

Patience not exactly a virtue of hers, Aislinn continued, pushing the fluffy toy at Jack's face. "Tell me, does this look like a 'Camilla' to you?"

Jack almost choked. "Um... no?"

"No, of course it doesn't." With that she slid off the bed and disappeared out the bedroom door.

Watching with utter amazement and the feeling that he'd entirely missed something, Jack watched her go. A moment later his attention was turned to his supposedly sleeping significant other. The arms around him had tightened a fraction and the lean body was shaking with suppressed laughter.

"Having fun, Book Boy?" asked Jack in a mock-threatening tone. Jack moved to get out of the iron grip, only to find Daniel pinning him down a moment later.

"I am now," whispered Daniel, eyes twinkling.

"Daniel," warned Jack.

Kissing the tip of Jack's nose, Daniel rolled off him, escaping the bed and finding temporary sanctuary in the bathroom. Jack grinned as he got up from the bed to check on their daughter. He found her in the living room, camel in her lap, as she was working on figuring out the remote. Seems like she'd managed just fine as she was currently watching some animal program.

Jack shook his head and sat down next to her. He noticed she'd already gotten dressed in the clothes Daniel had bought for her the night before. Jack shook his head. "I see the clothes fit fine," he said. Then he noticed her bare feet and realized that they'd have to teach her the concept of shoes as she'd preferred to run barefoot while they'd lived with the Nox.

"You gonna be okay while we get ready?" he asked. Maybe he could talk Daniel into sharing the shower, just to preserve water, of course. It wasn't as if they'd stopped having sex just because they had a child, and Jack's own house afforded them a whole lot more privacy for it than the hut had.

Aislinn waved at him, eyes glued to the documentary about tigers.

"You want breakfast now, or do you wanna wait for us?" Jack grinned as she reluctantly turned her attention from the TV.

"I'll wait, me and Lumpy are watching this," she pointed at the tigers currently lazing around in the shade.

Jack nodded, raising his eyebrows. "Okay," he said as he got up and made his way to the stairs. He stopped for a moment. "Lumpy?" He shook his head and went to find the wayward love of his life, hoping the other man hadn't showered yet.

"What took you so long?" asked Daniel, as he finished shaving.

"Aislinn's in the living room watching TV," grinned Jack.

"I don't want her to get too attached to the TV," frowned Daniel as he turned down the toilet seat and maneuvered Jack into a sitting position, waving the razor at him.

"I wouldn't worry too much," snorted Jack. "She was watching a documentary on tigers."

Daniel shook his head as he lathered up the foam and distributed it on Jack's lower face. "Sit still," he commanded as he began removing Jack's stubble with practiced ease. It hadn't taken Jack long to learn to indulge in Daniel's more eccentric preferences. Like letting the man shave him. To tell the truth, Jack enjoyed it a lot. They hadn't had mirrors while they'd lived on the Nox home-world, and Jack hated shaving without one, so Daniel had quickly taken the opportunity to do so for him. Closing his eyes, Jack felt the swift movements doing their work. Hooking his arms loosely around Daniel's waist, he sighed contentedly.

It was over quicker than Jack would have liked it to, but Daniel quickly wiped his face afterwards with a wet cloth, then pulled Jack to his feet. "Shower?" he asked huskily.

Jack's smile widened. "Thought you'd never ask."

Daniel licked his lips as he slowly pulled Jack's t-shirt up and off and continued to discard of Jack's boxers as well. Jack managed to return the favor as Daniel leaned to the side to turn on the shower. Grinning, the two men stumbled into the shower stall, kissing and touching as they soaped each other up.

Jack leaned his head against the tiled wall as he let Daniel's hands roam his back. He felt as Daniel slicked him up with something and slowly pushed inside. They could do quick if they had to. Jack had plans for the evening if he could get away with it. He was sure Daniel wouldn't complain and Aislinn was at the far end of the hallway. Besides, the two men had learned the art of holding back vocally when having sex.

He closed his eyes and let himself get lost in the sensation of Daniel moving inside him, slowly in and out while the strong fingers curled around Jack's own erection, slowly bringing him to a climax. Jack let out a low moan as Daniel picked up the pace and began hitting Jack's prostate repeatedly. A moment later Jack felt the familiar tingling sensation as he pushed into Daniel's hand, his release hitting the tiles, disappearing into the drain as the spray from the shower washed it off.

Jack tightened around Daniel, feeling the other man let go as another quick thrust resulted in Daniel slumped against Jack's back, panting for breath.

"Morning, Fly Boy," he growled into Jack's ear, reluctant to pull back.

Jack tried to will his tongue to work, to answer Daniel, without any success whatsoever. Daniel chuckled as he finally drew back and pulled Jack around to give him a good, long good morning kiss. The kind that said: 'I'll never get tired of waking up with you like this'. Jack returned it with a quick: 'ditto'. Nothing but a quick nip to Daniel's bottom lip.

"So, what's up for today?" Daniel toweled himself off, turning to give Jack a questioning look.

Jack looked down himself and was about to crack the most obvious answer as Daniel's damp towel hit him square in the chest. Deciding to take the easy way out and just capitulate here and now, Jack hung both their towels to dry. "More tests and if we're lucky, maybe the Asgard will come calling today."

Daniel nodded as they went back into the bedroom to get dressed. A few minutes later they entered the living room to find Aislinn watching cartoons. Somehow that made Jack feel a lot better. "What'cha watching?" he asked as Daniel went to the kitchen to get started on their breakfast.

"Cow and Chicken," she answered, giggling as some strange red guy kept flashing his naked ass at the screen. Jack shook his head and followed Daniel to the kitchen.

Leaning over, Jack stole a quick kiss from the other man before he pulled out plates for the scrambled eggs and toast. He sniffed as he watched Daniel beat a bowl of batter, while keeping an eye on the bacon already sizzling in the pan. Jack took over the scrambled eggs as he grinned widely. Sure, he could cook, but nothing beat Daniel making pancakes for breakfast.

Putting the breakfast on a tray, Jack carried it into the living room. Daniel followed a moment later with juice and coffee. Jack watched with a smile as Aislinn dug into her breakfast with gusto, arranging the stuffed camel on the couch next to her. Well, he thought, as odd a family this might strike most people, it's all I want. He almost choked as Aislinn proceeded to explain to Daniel that the camel's name wasn't 'Camilla' as it'd said on the box, but in fact Lumpy. They definitely had their hands full with Aislinn, but Jack wasn't complaining.

The morning seemed to set the theme for the rest of the day. When they arrived at the Mountain, Jack was told to report to the General, ASAP. Exchanging worried looks with Daniel, he kissed Aislinn goodbye and went to see his CO. The look on Hammond's face didn't exactly bode well. The older man looked worried, tired... and a lot older than Jack remembered him.

"Sir?" Jack knocked at the open door. "You wanted to see me?"

"Come inside and close the door... Jack." Hammond gestured at the chair across from him.

Jack raised an eyebrow, but did as he was asked, noticing the worried expression. "Sir?"

"George, at the moment, Jack, just... George." Hammond took a deep breath.

Sitting down, Jack braced himself for whatever the man could possibly want to discuss off the record. The list of things wasn't exactly small at the moment.

"The NID is asking questions, Jack." Hammond seemed to sink even further into the leather chair.

"What else is new?" Jack rolled his eyes. They could do without the NID... he preferred to do things without the NID. *If* he ever had things his way, they'd send the NID through the gate and destroy the DHD on the other side.

"They are asking questions; not only about Aislinn and her origin, but about you and Dr. Jackson as well," the General met Jack's eyes.

"Shit." Jack felt his world sink. The NID had been investigating them before they'd left for the Nox home-world. More the fool he was for forgetting that.

"Fairly good assessment, Jack, I'm afraid." Hammond tapped his pen against the file folder on his desk.

"So, you'd say they're..." What? Onto them? That they'd use it against them?

"Asking for Aislinn to be turned over to them or they go for your throats... either way, they'll have her." The idea sounded as if it sickened Hammond. Considering that they'd tried similar tactics kidnapping his grand daughters to force him to retire... Jack understood perfectly.

"But what the hell do they want her for?"

"Who knows? Maybe they think she's alien, maybe they think they'll find something... but I think they've somehow learned about her rapid growth... Then there's the fact that they'd get her and get rid of you and Dr. Jackson." Hammond chuckled without much mirth. "It's no secret that SG-1, and more specifically you and the good Doctor, have been a thorn in their sides for a very long time."

Jack nodded, then frowned. "How the hell could they know about Aislinn?" Jack sneered. "Only Janet knows and only for around two days."

"Major Carter's on it... but she seems to think that someone's had access to Dr. Frasier's computer files." Hammond shrugged. They tried to keep up enough security to keep even the NID out, but since the NID more or less answered to no one, they weren't exactly your average garden variety opponent.

"Great." Jack hid his face in his hands, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Why hadn't they stayed away? Why had the Asgard asked them back? And more importantly... where were the little grey guys when you needed them?

"What about the Asgard?"

Hammond shook his head. "As much as they have... nicely asked for you to take my seat, I'm sure the NID would love to have something on you to keep you on a tight leash. Whether that means intel on Aislinn or the two of you, I'm sure they'd put it to good use if you weren't... cooperating."

Jack sighed. "Yeah, of course they would. As much as I adore Thor and this place, I wouldn't ever risk the safety of my family."

Hammond nodded. "And no one would expect you to, Jack... no one."

"So what do we do?" Jack looked at his CO, hoping the man could come up with some kind of plan, because at the moment Jack had no ideas whatsoever. Well, okay, ideas, yes. Only problem was that the nature of his ideas varied between nuking the NID, nuking Kinsey, fleeing earth... None of them were particularly available -- at the moment at least.

"We'll take things as they come, but I'd prefer it if you would stay on the Base..."

"Sir..." Jack shook his head. "How can we do that to Aislinn?" Biting his lower lip, Jack continued. "We don't know for how long. The strain of staying apart, for both Daniel and me... not to mention Aislinn. We're all she knows."

"It is what will be used in defense of the two of you staying together." Hammond frowned. "I had Carter do a sweep of your house just before you went back to it the other day. Of course she found several bugs and cameras placed around the house. She removed the, but I think you might want to do a daily sweep."

Jack grunted. How could he have forgotten that when they'd returned? He was getting sloppy. It was a good thing that Hammond and the key personnel at the SGC were on their side. At least he hoped they were. Hammond would help when he could, so would Carter and Teal'c. No one seemed actually hostile towards them, so Jack hoped that wouldn't change. Well, apart from the moron the other day in the commissary.

"Jack, I'm not saying that it will be easy, but I'm not saying it'll be impossible either..." Hammond trailed off, an odd little smile on his face. "Truth be told, SG-1 have delivered the impossible time and time again, so my idea of impossible has definitely been moved a bit."

Jack grinned. "Yeah, I guess." Taking another deep breath he looked at the older man. "Thanks George... for everything."

"Just remember... *when* you take over this place... run a clean show and make me proud, Jack."

Jack stood. "Yes sir!" he saluted the man with a wry grin.

Hammond shook his head. "Dismissed, Colonel... and Jack?"

Jack turned, his hand resting on the door handle. "Yeah?"

"Be careful."

"Always, George, always." Nodding to the man, Jack left the office, feeling his guts clench at the thought of what they would have to face down the road.

Not long after their return, with a little help from people that were loyal to them, they managed to have Daniel adopt Aislinn and that night they'd all celebrated. Now, their family was a little bit closer, a little more secure. Jack only felt the pang that he'd never be able to put his name on the same piece of paper.

Daniel knew that and that night, as they'd laid down to sleep, the younger man had held him close, whispering to him why it wasn't important what some piece of paper said. In the end Jack only partly agreed. At least Aislinn was closer to becoming part of the world her parents called home.

Oddly enough things settled down fairly quickly and in less than a couple of months everything was more or less back to normal. Apart from the fact, of course, that Jack and Daniel didn't go off-world anymore. Aislinn's growth was still accelerated. She appeared to be closer to seven years old now, and was a regular sponge when it came to acquiring knowledge.

They were still waiting for the Asgard to show themselves, and Jack was beginning to feel antsy. Hammond seemed to have foreseen this, because instead of sitting Jack down with paper work, he had him working with the new recruits.

One Friday, Jack wasn't too sure Hammond was doing him a favor. God, had he ever been that green? That wet behind the ears? Probably, snarked his inner voice. Such times Jack truly felt how old he was. Nah, the recruits would be fine once they dropped that cocky attitude. Not all of them were bad, but some of them would end up dead or causing some one else's death if they kept it up.

Following the newest batch out of the gym, Jack hung back a bit as he overheard three of the recruits discussing their lessons.

"I still don't understand why they force us to sit through endless lessons in ancient history with Doctor Jackson." The dark haired youth that had spoken sighed deeply.

"*I* don't understand what the hell we need civilians for," his friend grumbled as he wiped sweat from his brow. The third guy nodded.

Jack cleared his throat, making the three men jump. "I'd like to remind you gentlemen that without said Dr. Jackson we wouldn't be going through the 'Gate at all."

The first one who had spoken frowned at Jack. "But sir, surely you see that a civilian in the field is a liability?"

Jack snorted. Some time in the past he'd have wholeheartedly agreed. Before he'd had the joy of experiencing Daniel. "Aforementioned linguist is one hell of a soldier, recruit and he's helped save our asses more than once, so I suggest you pay him the respect he deserves."

At the grumbled 'yes sir' Jack frowned. "I suggest you look into the mission reports that are open to you; I'm quite sure you will find them all very... informative and more than a little... thought provoking." Jack pursed his lips as the response was no more enthusiastic as the prior one. "I didn't quite get that, recruits," he said in a sterner voice.

"Yes sir!" The three voices rang through the now empty gym.

"Dismissed," grinned Jack as he pulled out the pen and noted a few things on the clip board. Actually, these recruits might make fine soldiers eventually, but damn, they had a long way to go.

As he made his way to his office, Jack's thoughts drifted off. Life was oddly easy at the moment. Sure, it was a bit out of the ordinary. He was living with a man under the pretense it was in the best interest of the child they'd brought back from the Nox home-world, to make sure she was in the same environment as she was used to. That in truth it was to keep the family together... well, that was something that no one had to know. Jack was by now used to sweeping the house for bugs and cameras when he got home from work and as much as it annoyed Daniel, the man knew how important it was. They were being careful, so damned careful.

Half an hour later Jack was ready to hurt someone. An hour after that he was prepared to kill. Because the shit had certainly hit the fan... big time, as two SFs turned up at the door to Hammond's office. Jack was going over some papers that he'd promised Hammond he'd have a look at while the General was in Washington for two days. Half his mind was on the thought of taking Aislinn to the zoo some time that weekend. And he knew that Cassie had asked to baby sit at some point. Jack was sure Aislinn would love it, and besides, it would be one night with Janet at Janet's place anyway. It would let Jack do to Daniel what he'd wanted for a long time. Cook dinner and seduce him properly.

The knock at his door disturbed Jack's thoughts. "Door's open," he called.

Two SFs entered the room, both trying to look extremely detached, but neither fully succeeding. Jack raised an eyebrow as another man entered behind them, this time a man in a dark suit.


"Colonel Jonathan O'Neill?" asked the man.

"Yes?" Jack felt the urge to make a glib comment but swallowed it quickly as his inner alarms went off.

"I am Colonel Green," started the other man. "Colonel O'Neill, you are hereby under arrest for conduct unbecoming an officer in the US Air Force, sodomy and fraternization." The man almost looked as if he was enjoying his task.

Jack stared at him for a moment. He almost opened his mouth to tell the man to go to hell, but that wouldn't be very productive. He had other things to see to, other things that had to be taken care of.

"Am I allowed to make arrangements for the base before I leave?" he asked, voice low.

"Yes Colonel, but hurry up."

Jack took the phone with heavy heart. This was what they'd feared, but it was all happening a hell of a lot sooner than he'd expected. Damn... he couldn't even tell Daniel, he had to... had to... A quick phone call later and he'd told Ferretti to run things until the General returned from Washington. As Jack had asked Ferretti to tell the team... Well, Lou had quickly understood why Jack was being taking away and Jack hated himself for leaving it up to Ferretti to tell his friends what had happened. To tell Daniel what had happened.

But Lou understood. He'd understood Jack's request to look after his house, to lock it up securely. They still had Daniel's apartment and it wouldn't look good if Daniel stayed at Jack's place while they got through this... shit.

Locking up Hammond's office, Jack let Colonel Green and the SFs escort him topside. He ignored the questioning looks he got on the way there, but they still cut. He just hoped Daniel wouldn't kill him for this, or do something equally stupid that would drag the linguist and Aislinn deeper into it as well. They had other obligations now than just themselves. They had to ensure that Aislinn was well, that she was with people she trusted. Daniel... Jack swallowed a lump. God, he'd miss Daniel...

Without looking behind him, Jack got into the car that was waiting for them. Somewhere he was glad they'd made it out of the Mountain without Daniel stopping them. It would only have made things worse for all of them.

Sitting back in the plastic chair in the almost bare room, Jack surveyed his surroundings. It was not for the first time, but he had very little else to occupy his time. Somewhere he guessed he was meant to think things over, but he'd never regret starting what he had with Daniel. How could anyone regret being with a man like that? Or for that matter, having a daughter like Aislinn?

Leaning forward he rested his head on his arms, crossed on the table in front of him. They should never have left the Nox home-world. They should have looked for a cure for Aislinn elsewhere...

A knock at the door and one of the guards came into the room. "Colonel O'Neill, we have a visitor for you."

"Who?" asked Jack as he stood to follow the man as they joined another guard waiting outside.

"General Hammond is here to see you," answered the guard.

Jack nodded, glad to finally have the opportunity to talk to someone he trusted. He knew that Hammond would keep the team away from him because of the process, as they too would be called as witnesses... against him, of course.

Jack was shown into a small room with a table and two chairs; one occupied by his CO. Standing to attention, Jack greeted the man.

"Please, take a seat, Jack." Hammond gestured towards the vacant chair.

"Sir," he said as he sat down, trying to get comfortable on the hard plastic seat.

"I can't say I carry happy news, my friend, but I wanted to check up on you." Hammond shifted in his seat, obviously uncomfortable. "We've gotten Dr. Jackson to move into one of the VIP suites at the base instead of staying at the house." Hammond continued as Jack nodded. "Aislinn is taking it in stride, though I wonder how long Dr. Jackson can keep her occupied because she keeps asking when you're coming back."

Jack sighed, not surprised at all. He missed his family like hell at the moment, but he knew he couldn't go back to the SGC... he wouldn't be able to stay away from them.

"Which brings me to another thing, Jack. You *are* allowed to leave this place, you know." Hammond gave him a searching look.

"It's safer this way, George... much safer for us all." Jack tried to let the other man know why and he somehow thought Hammond understood.

"Provided of course you stay away from Dr. Jackson and Aislinn..." Hammond shook his head. "I understand Jack; I do, though it doesn't make it any easier to live with."

"I know, George, it's not your fault... we brought it upon ourselves." Jack rubbed his eyes tiredly. He wasn't used to inactivity like this.

"Do you regret it?" Hammond raised an eyebrow.

"God, no!" exclaimed Jack. "Never in a million years."

Hammond nodded, obviously satisfied with Jack's answer. "I can't say that will help your case... though..." Hammond leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "You can't hide here forever, Jack."

"I know... but as much as I hate doing this to Daniel and Aislinn... how can I walk out of here and not straight to them?" Jack sighed deeply. He had to do this, had to keep Daniel and their daughter out of it. Even if he knew Daniel would probably kill him if given the chance after this.

As if Hammond had read his mind, the older man chuckled. "Dr. Jackson will have your hide for this."

"Don't I know it," sighed Jack with a quick smile. It would be a small price to pay if he ever got out of this mess.

Hammond's face took on a more serious look once again. "What they do have sounds a lot like circumstantial evidence."

Jack shook his head. "Even circumstantial evidence will damage my career, sir, so whatever the defense comes up with in terms of some kind of agreement, I'll probably take it."

"Jack..." Hammond sighed.

"Look, sir, I know you were hoping for me to take your place someday, but we both know that this is the final nail in the coffin that is my career." Closing his eyes Jack was silent for a moment. "Even if they clear me, sir, they'll be keeping an eye on us and frankly... thanks, but no thanks."

Hammond nodded. "You're right, of course." The man hesitated for a moment. "I'm just worried because we both know they'll call on Dr. Jackson as a witness."

Jack grinned. "Yeah, and we both know the mouth on that young man rarely speaks what others want to hear."

"Jack, I'm just concerned that his anger and resentment for the military will shine through and do more harm than good."

Jack sat up straight. "Trust him, sir, just... trust him, please, he's a brilliant man."

"That he is, Jack, that he is." Hammond stood as the SFs returned to show him out and take Jack back to his cell. "We'll do what we can, Jack, I have a few aces up my sleeve too."

Jack stood up straight and gave the General a crisp textbook salute, causing the older man to straighten his own posture and return it. With that Jack was led back to his humble accommodations to once again twiddle his thumbs. Sure, Daniel's quick mouth could get them into trouble, but Jack would trust the man with his life any day.

At least the trial would be behind closed doors due to their line of work, but he wished for a moment the public could see what was going on. Several states had gotten rid of their old laws concerning homosexuality. It didn't seem entirely fair that an institution like the Air Force should be submitted to following outdated laws. However, there had been talk of fraternization as well. Theoretically, Jack and Daniel hadn't been on the same team since they'd left Earth... theoretically...

Who was he kidding? Anything that would link him and Daniel together in any kind of relationship would ruin the rest of their lives... and his lawyer *had* added that it was a slim chance.

Jack closed his eyes and leaned his head back. If they ever got out of this he'd owe someone up there a great deal of thanks

Jack sat, back straight as a board, appearing completely in control. Too bad it was only on the surface, as his insides felt knotted and his mind was a whirl of 'what-if's. He kept his eyes forward, not really focusing on the three men sitting in front of him. One guy was NID, easily revealed by his civilian attire. The other he knew... General Vidrine. He'd have preferred Hammond, but the man would serve as a witness, so that was out of the question.

The last man on the three man panel was unfamiliar to Jack, but he knew very well that he'd be from JAG, to lend the farce the necessary air of justice. The guy, Higgins, seemed okay, but Jack would reserve his judgment for later. Vidrine would be fair, above all, *that* he knew. The NID guy, Culver... well, Jack was sure of one thing. He'd do what he could to drag Jack through the mud and would probably be happy to leave him there.

The three men sat down at the long table, and Jack sighed mentally. This would be hell to get through. He thought for a moment about pleading guilty, just to end it all here and now... to save Daniel from having to be a witness... But in the end it wouldn't solve anything. He'd still be cut off from Daniel and their daughter as there was no doubt as to the fact that he'd be kept under surveillance.

Besides, Hammond had mentioned that the evidence was circumstantial. Somehow he didn't have a hell of a lot to lose. Unless someone intervened he'd end up with roughly the same result. If he pleaded guilty he'd be stripped of his rank, maybe even thrown in jail. If he pleaded not guilty... they'd have the horror of the trial and even if they couldn't prove his guilt, it would still damage his career... probably beyond any hope of recovery. And he would still have to watch his step with Daniel. Damn, he really wished they'd stayed with the Nox.

"Colonel O'Neill," Vidrine began, "are you aware of the accusations against you?"

"Yes, sir, I am." Jack met the other man's eyes. He'd go through this, he had to.

"And how do you plead?" asked Vidrine.

"Not guilty," answered Jack, voice stronger than he currently felt.

A strangled noise from Culver had the three of them turning to look at him. The man however seemed to get himself under control. God, how Jack hated those NID guys in their suits and with their air of superiority. The feeling was probably mutual, Jack guessed. The NID had just been waiting for something like this to nail his sorry ass on.

"There is evidence against you, Colonel," Higgins, the JAG representative began. "However, the so called evidence that has been presented to me has been of the kind that would never hold in a court of law, as it has all been obtained through illegal means."

Culver opened his mouth to protest, but Vidrine held up his hand to silence him. "However, as the problem has now been brought to our attention, we will proceed with this, and call in the witnesses," continued Higgins.

Culver slumped in his chair, looking slightly pissy. Jack suppressed his insane urge to make a snarky comment. Wouldn't do to ruin this from the beginning. Jack might play dumb half of the time, but he had enough survival instinct to bite his tongue when necessary. Well, at least at this point. He couldn't make any promises for later if Culver rubbed him the wrong way.

"Colonel O'Neill, we are aware that your situation is a bit out of the ordinary, and that you deal with the strangest situations on a daily basis." Higgins flipped through some of his notes. "However, if there *has* been anything like conduct unbecoming an officer, you will be sentenced for such."

Jack nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Colonel *O'Neill*," began Culver. "Is it not true that you have been living with Dr. Jackson for the past few months, ever since you returned from the Nox's home-world?"

"Yes, but..." Jack almost growled as Culver cut him off.

"Yes or no will do, Colonel."

Jack cocked his head to the side. "World ain't black and white, Mr. Culver."

General Vidrine tapped his pen against the table, giving Jack a warning glance.

"I've lived with Dr. Jackson for the past couple of months to accommodate the girl we brought home." Jack finished his sentence before Culver could interrupt. Jack smirked at the man, before forcing his face back to blankness.

Higgins checked with his notes before looking up to meet Jack's eyes. "This... girl you brought back. Tell me about her. Why is she staying with the two of you?"

"Objection," drawled Culver. "That has nothing to do with this."

"I'd like to have all the facts, thank you very much, Mr. Culver," Higgins said, his voice dropping a notch or two in temperature.

"Go ahead, Colonel O'Neill." Vidrine gave him a nod.

"Shortly after we arrived on the Nox home-world, they brought a small girl to us, who according to them was of human origin." Jack stuck completely to the tale he and Daniel had cooked up with Lya's help. If they asked Daniel the same question, their stories had to be the same. "They didn't feel it was within their rights to bring her up as a Nox since she'll never be as advanced as they are, as... evolved."

"Evolved, Colonel?" Higgins raised an eyebrow.

"The Nox are capable of many things... healing, rendering objects and living creatures invisible." Jack shrugged. "She'd grow up without those abilities."

"So the Nox are powerful allies and you didn't want to turn them down?" Higgins asked.

Jack grinned. "They let us stay there, let Dr. Jackson study some of their culture. Besides, she's a cute kid, easy to handle."

"Now see, Colonel," Culver interrupted. "I can understand why Dr. Jackson would go to the Nox home-world to study it, since they so rarely have let anyone close." Culver's lips curled back. "But what was your function there?"

Jack almost snorted. That was easy. "Dr. Jackson is a valuable member of the SGC, we can't let him wander the Galaxy alone."

"But why you?" Culver continued. "Surely there was no *need* for a higher ranking officer to go with him."

"True," agreed Jack. "But the Nox don't trust us humans, so it narrowed the options down a great deal."

"Why not Major Carter, or... Teal'c?" Culver was beginning to look slightly annoyed. Jack wondered if the man had expected him to be dumber... Probably.

"Carter can hardly be spared here at the SGC." Jack shrugged. "She's invaluable with her knowledge of the 'Gate." Jack hesitated a moment. "Teal'c has a family he visits as often as possible and the Nox didn't let us use the 'Gate while we were there, so he'd have been stuck there."

"And you're expendable, Colonel?" Culver grinned. "What if the Goa'uld had come to the planet, taken you hostage? What about all the secrets you could have given them?"

Jack drew himself up, mentally. "First of all, I'd rather die than give away anything that could be used against Earth. I've been a prisoner of war before, Mr. Culver; I have my training and my experiences. Second..." Jack cut the man off. "The Nox would have hidden us from them, rather than face a confrontation, or let *us* face a confrontation."

"So the girl stayed with you, and you stayed together after returning to Earth to ease her integration?" Vidrine put in a question.

"Yes, sir," Jack nodded.

"The Nox never told you where the girl came from?" Culver cut in.

"No, they're a very secretive race," Jack answered truthfully. What he wouldn't give to get out of the room and out of his dress blues. He hated this farce.

"I believe that is to our satisfaction," Higgins said, getting a nod from Vidrine and a reluctant one from Culver. Nodding to the guard at the door, who slipped outside, Higgins turned his attention back to Jack. "We'll have your CO in here in a moment, Colonel, and we'll begin questioning him. You will remain seated and quiet during this procedure, am I making myself clear, Colonel?"

Jack grinned internally, wondering what this man had been told about him. Probably enough to know what a big mouth Jack could have. Oh dear, just wait until they had to question Daniel. Jack hoped, for both their sakes, that the linguist would keep a sober tone. He had a habit of completely ridiculing people without them noticing for the first two minutes.

The door opened and Hammond was shown inside. "Please, have a seat, General Hammond." Higgins gestured towards an empty seat next to Jack.

"General Hammond, you are aware that this is a classified hearing and that nothing will leave the room?" Vidrine asked. They weren't strictly following court procedure at the moment, but as always, everything was a game of smoke and mirrors.

Hammond nodded. "I am aware of that, General Vidrine."

"General Hammond," Higgins paused. "Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson have been serving under your command for a quite few years, am I right?"

"You are right, yes, for more than five years now." Hammond kept his eyes on the three men in front of them.

"So you'd say you know them fairly well?" Higgins tapped his pen against his lower lip.

"I'd like to think so, yes," Hammond answered warily.

Jack wondered just how blunt the next question would be. 'So, General Hammond, did you know your 2IC was screwing around with his linguist?' Clearing his throat Jack tried to swallow the chuckle. He really *did* have a horrible sense of humor.

"How would you describe Colonel O'Neill's relationship with Dr. Jackson?" Higgins clearly delivered the question to their advantage. Nothing directly asked.

"They've known each other since the first mission to Abydos and they've been friends ever since," explained Hammond. "They've literally been to hell and back and both have died in the line of duty... more than once."

"And such close calls do strengthen a team's bonding," Higgins finished for him.

Hammond nodded. "Yes, I am aware of how this might do harm in the military sense, but it has also meant that this team has gone through fire and water for each other on more than one occasion, in the process they've saved the Earth several times."

"General Hammond," interrupted Culver, "we are not here to praise the actions of SG-1, but to determine whether or not the team leader has broken USAF regulations."

Hammond turned to Culver, barely hiding his obvious contempt for the man. "As I was saying, the bond between the team members is beyond the ordinary, but it has proven invaluable in the past."

"Still, it seems that a Colonel who takes extra precautions for a member of his team, literally putting his well-being above that of the other..." Culver trailed off, knowing that he was getting his point across just fine.

"Dr. Jackson is a civilian advisor even in the field. He is given extra attention and extra protection because he does not have the combat training the others have. It's been that way since day one, and is that way for ALL of our civilian advisors on field assignments." Hammond took a deep breath. "The entire team are friends outside work, and frankly I encourage that -- as they know each other privately, they gain knowledge about their colleagues that might prove invaluable in the field."

"It is sound reasoning, General Hammond," Vidrine intervened. "Carry on with the original question."

"Dr. Jackson and Colonel O'Neill... cancel each other out," Hammond frowned for a moment, searching for the right words. "They often handle first contact missions and Dr. Jackson has a... mellowing effect on the Colonel, as the Colonel acts as a mentor to the Doctor. Their friendship is soundly built on mutual trust and understanding... and learning."

"The evidence we have against Colonel O'Neill...." Culver began.

"None of the so-called... evidence was procured through legal
means, and most of it merely shows a close friendship between the accused
and Dr. Jackson." Hammond sat down, back rigid, eyes alight. Jack suspected
the man was enjoying this particular opportunity to get one over anyone who
would endanger his men.

"Friendship?!" sputtered Culver. "You have *got* to be kidding me, General,
no *friendship* is *that* close."

"Not many friends, huh?" asked Jack before he could stop himself.

Vidrine took a deep breath. "Colonel, what did we agree to?"

"Sorry sir, won't happen again, sir," Jack tried to look repentant, succeeding partly, but he couldn't help a gleeful inner 'whoop' as Culver narrowed his eyes at him and looked about ready to explode. That man had a *serious* problem with his blood pressure... Maybe they should have Janet take a look at him, give him the full... physical.

Culver cleared his throat. "General Hammond, do you believe that Colonel O'Neill harbors... feelings for the Doctor?"

Jack almost rolled his eyes. Nice way of putting it.

"I know the Colonel considers the Doctor his friend and would put his life on the line for him. And that it goes the other way as well." Hammond took a deep breath obviously hoping his words were enough.

Of course they weren't. Culver snorted. "That's not what I asked, General."

"I do not have the necessary knowledge to fully answer that question, Mr. Culver," Hammond answered, lips thinning with apparent restraint. "You would have to address either Dr. Jackson or Colonel O'Neill for a clearer answer."

Culver took a deep breath and looked as if he was about to push the issue, but General Vidrine intervened. "At this point I suggest we call in Dr. Jackson." He paused for a moment. "I'd like to let General Hammond stay in here while we question Dr. Jackson. It would save time if more questions should surface."

Higgins nodded his agreement and Culver hesitantly agreed.

After a few minutes in silence, the door opened and Daniel was escorted into the room. Jack carefully kept his face expressionless, but inside he felt hot and cold at the same time. Every fiber, every nerve sang for him to get up and go to Daniel, to hold onto him and never let go.

The calm look in the blue eyes helped a great deal. Still, it looked as if Daniel had gotten as little sleep as Jack had. They'd grown accustomed to sleeping together, to the knowledge that no matter when they'd wake up there'd always be another body next to them. At least Daniel had been there for their daughter. A twang of loss made Jack sigh inwardly. Damn, he'd missed his family.

Another chair was brought forward and Higgins nodded at Daniel. "Please take a seat Dr. Jackson."

Daniel did as told, but otherwise kept his face carefully neutral. Or rather, it might seem neutral to others, but Jack knew the other man too well. He hoped Daniel could keep his sarcasm to a minimum. It was enough that Jack was itching to tell Culver exactly what he thought about the man and this whole situation, they didn't need two loudmouths in the room to damage their case. Talk about itching...

Jack concentrated on the three men in front of him, because looking at Daniel anymore wouldn't be a good idea. Damn, he had an itch he needed scratching. Nothing extreme, just... he missed touching Daniel. Missed a casual hand on his shoulder, the contours of a well trained body underneath the rough clothes. The feel of a man he knew physically just as well as himself, maybe even better. Jack pulled at his collar. Had the temperature gone up?

"Dr. Jackson, would you be so kind as to tell us briefly what your status with the SGC and SG-1 is?" asked Higgins. "Just to clarify."

Daniel, as calm on the surface as ever, nodded. "I serve as a civilian cultural advisor on SG-1, translator to both the team and the SGC."

"Do you think it wise to allow a civilian on a team that handles first contact situations that are often of the dangerous kind?" Higgins watched Daniel with the utmost attention.

"Would it be wise *not* to?" asked Daniel.

Higgins hid a smile. "Meaning?"

"Many dangerous situations could be far worse if we went with the military mindset and simply shot first and asked questions afterwards," Daniel shook his head. "We would probably be a few allies short if not for a more... civil approach."

"So you don't see yourself as a liability to the team?" asked Culver.

Daniel gave him a cold stare. Oh yeah, that was Jack's boy... eh, man. Always capable of taking care of himself. Not that Jack would ever tell Daniel that.

"I get the necessary training to handle myself in a dangerous situation and as I do what I'm paid to do, I can rely on the team to watch my back." Daniel straightened slightly. "We each serve a function; hence the 'team' in teamwork." The last came out slightly acidly. Yeah, Daniel definitely didn't like Culver. Quirking a small smile, he added. "Besides, you won't find much military personnel with the linguistic education and improvisational skills necessary to serve a first contact team."

"How would you describe your CO?" Higgins asked as he could obviously see where it was leading, if for no other reason than from the slightly flushed look Culver had.

"Colonel O'Neill is competent team leader, not adverse to listening when necessary." Daniel's voice was low, but sincere.

"So you never have any problems with him?" asked Vidrine.

Daniel cleared his throat, a small smile gracing his lips. "I didn't say that, General." Pausing for a moment before going on, Daniel bit his lower lip. "I think our ...discussions are quite legendary at the SGC. Jack and I don't always see things eye to eye."

"And still, you are friends?" Higgins injected.

"Yes," Daniel smiled again. "The only thing that ever makes it out of work and into our private lives is Jack's mother henning tendencies."

"So you're saying the Colonel makes an exception for you, pays you special attention." Culver smiled for the first time in a long time.

Daniel raised an eyebrow and Jack couldn't help think that Teal'c would've been proud of it. "Jack does his mother hen routine with all of us; it's just his way of showing he cares. Even Teal'c gets his share when Jack thinks he can get away with it."

Higgins hid a smile before asking his next question. "How about in the field, I take it the Colonel does pay you extra attention."

Daniel answered in a calm voice. "I get special attention and protection from the entire team because I'm a civilian and because the others respect what I'm there to do, what my job is on the team. Their protection is merely their way of giving me the opportunity to do the job the Air Force pays me to do."

Jack did what he could to hide his smile. Never try to out-talk a linguist. You'd lose every damned time. Jack could've told them so. He'd learned his lesson years ago. Not that it ever kept him from mouthing off to Daniel, putting himself at the receiving end of Daniel's sharp tongue... in more than one way.

"Dr. Jackson," Culver cleared his throat. "This is all well and good, but we are here to determine whether or not Colonel O'Neill is guilty of the charges, and if you don't mind, I'll cut right to the bone."

"Be my guest," said Daniel, "I'm not stopping you." Culver's color seemed to reach the red zone again as Daniel smiled sweetly at him.

"Just before you were called in here, we asked General Hammond about the nature of the relationship between the Colonel and yourself," Culver's smile grew a bit. "How do you think the Colonel feels about you, Dr. Jackson?"

Daniel smiled. "Well, how the Colonel feels about me is easily described. He considers me a pain in the ass, a damned know-it-all and valuable team member."

Jack almost laughed out loud. How he loved Daniel for this. Yes that was exactly how the Colonel felt about Dr. Jackson. It was of course only the tip of how *Jack* felt about *Daniel*.

"Dr. Jackson..." Culver warned.

"Dr. Jackson, I believe what Mr. Culver wants to know is if the Colonel cares a little more than he should," Higgins clarified, though it wasn't needed. No one was in doubt as to how much the men were dancing around the hot topic.

"Well, seriously, you'd have to ask the Colonel that, because he's a private man, and he isn't the easiest person to read." Daniel shrugged and shot Jack an apologetic look. 'Sorry, balls in you corner now.'

Jack took a deep breath. Daniel had done his part, answering the question, maneuvering around them.

Culver made a strange sound, but turned to Jack. "Well, Colonel? Care to answer the question?"

Jack bit back the urge to ask the man to repeat it, just to piss him off. "I've always cared more than was probably wise about my team, Mr. Culver."

"Please... Colonel, we both know that wasn't the correct answer," snorted Culver.

"If you're looking for a specific answer, why not just tell me what it is, instead of making me guess? I've always been an idiot at pallor games... no one ever wanted to team up with me when we were playing charades." Jack shrugged. "Bear with me, Mr. Culver, what answer are you looking for? I'm just a dumb-ass old soldier, only good for field work and battle." Jack felt an inner glee as Culver's eyes darkened and his brows drew down. Jack had obviously managed to piss him off. Wooohooo, a little victory, but a victory nevertheless.

Culver gritted his teeth. "Colonel O'Neill, I am *not* in the mood for one of your little games."

"Well, you seem so certain of what I *should* be saying, so I get the feeling we're all just wasting our time here," retorted Jack.

"Colonel, please," spoke Higgins. "I'm sure Mr. Culver didn't mean it the way it sounded."

Jack almost snorted but decided to play along. He might actually succeed in giving Culver a mental break down. Unless of course the others stopped him first. He really hoped they wouldn't.

"Colonel *O'Neill*... I will rephrase my question so that even *you* can't misunderstand it." Culver gave him a malicious glare.

Ouch, thought Jack. That was a bit low. "Fine... level with the dumb Fly Boy, Mr. Culver... I'm sure it'll be an memorable experience." Jack almost cringed at the cool look General Vidrine shot him. It seemed once again Jack's big mouth was getting him into trouble. A quick look at Daniel told him that Daniel thought he might be overdoing it too, but there was something else there. A definite show of pride in the blue eyes.

"Colonel..." Culver snarled, "when I said feelings, you know very well that I meant..." Trailing off Culver looked a little frustrated. "Fine... Colonel, are you in love with Doctor Jackson?"

Jack bit his lip. He knew he should say no to that, but his entire being was shouting for him to tell the truth. He'd always had it drummed into him. When asked, tell the truth... this was the military, his life... or rather, what had been his life until Daniel had turned it upside down and put himself and Aislinn right at the top of Jack's priorities. He didn't dare look at Daniel, but he could feel the weight and heat of the other man's eyes. He didn't need to look at Daniel to know that the man knew of Jack's inner conflict. Daniel was a man of honor and truths and he would understand Jack's dilemma.

Before he could open his mouth, the five men were blinded by a brilliant shimmering light and the contours of an Asgard command chair took on solid appearances.

No one said a word, all of them a little stunned by their little grey visitor. Hammond was the first to find his voice. Even though he was in the room as a witness, he was still the commander of the SGC and as such it was his duty to meet and greet their alien allies whenever they might appear.

"Supreme Commander Thor," greeted Hammond, a twinkle to his eyes revealing his amusement. Jack wondered for a moment if Hammond might have been hoping for something like this.

"General Hammond, it is a pleasure." Thor nodded slightly and blinked again. "I apologize for this sudden interruption, but I have a rather urgent request to make of Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson."

Hammond frowned. "I'm sure you would not choose this moment if it wasn't urgent, but we are in the middle of determining the Colonel's future."

Thor cocked his head to the side, the silence thick in the room for a moment. "Then I shall be swift to make my request and give you time to find an answer."

"What is the nature of your... emergency?" asked Hammond.

"We are in need of O'Neill's help once again and Dr. Jackson's abilities with languages are widely known. We would be most... pleased if you would let them come with us to the Asgard home-world to help us." Thor halted his speech, waiting for a reply.

Jack frowned. Was it just him or did this seem a little staged? For a moment he considered greeting his little friend with a hardy "Thor, buddy!" as he usually did, but decided that it might not come across very well... under the circumstances.

"If the outcome of this trial is to the Colonel's benefit, he may agree." Hammond turned to Jack. "But as it is," Hammond continued, gesturing at the surprised trio in front of them. "I am not in charge of this."

Thor turned a little and looked at the three men. "My apologies. We are used to addressing General Hammond as our liaison."

"That is... quite alright," Higgins said, finally finding his voice. "And from what I can deduce from the General here, you're Thor."

"I am," Thor said, his large black eyes staring unblinkingly at the man.

"General Vidrine," Culver said acidly as he turned to the man seated next to him. "Surely you will not condone this interruption?"

"Mr. Culver... I wouldn't like to be the one to explain to our Asgard allies that we put our own, what must seem to them as petty, causes above their requests." He held up a hand to silence Culver. "We will hear what the Asgard have to say."

"Fine," almost spat Culver. "We'll continue this as soon as Commander Thor has stated his... business."

"*Supreme* Commander, please," Thor held up a boney finger, as always reminding Jack of the old E.T. flick. He quickly hid a grin. It probably wouldn't be received well if he voiced that thought.

Vidrine fought down a smile as he exchanged looks with Higgins. "Please, Supreme Commander Thor, if we can be of any help at all, do not hesitate to ask." Another glance at Higgins had the other man continuing.

Higgins cleared his throat. "As it is, seeing that this case might get in the way of us assisting the Asgard, I'm in favor of postponing, perhaps even suspending it." He silenced Culver with a stern look. "If the Colonel and Dr. Jackson choose to go with the Asgard, we may choose to question the witnesses in the meantime, but there will be no actual court proceedings, and no actual verdict until Colonel O'Neill returns to Earth."

Blinking in surprise, Jack tried to gather his thoughts to give a straight answer. "I'd love to, Thor, but I can only speak for myself." He still didn't dare look at Daniel. He was afraid he'd start smiling and never be able to stop again.

Thor bowed his head. "I am sorry for this O'Neill. Of course we would need to ask Dr. Jackson as well." Thor turned his attention to the linguist.

Daniel smiled and pushed up his glasses, giving the small alien a nod. "Hello Thor. I'd be honored to help you and your people."

"Thank you, Dr. Jackson," acknowledged Thor. "I am glad to hear that."

"We will gladly help if we can," said Daniel, very matter-of-factly.

Stealing a quick look at Daniel's face, Jack raised an eyebrow. Daniel didn't seem at all surprised of Thor's appearance in the room. Sure, Daniel could be level-headed but this was... ridiculous. It had Jack wondering. First Hammond, then Daniel, neither man was *that* unflappable.

"Yes... we would be most pleased if you would accompany us to our home-world." Thor stilled for a moment. "This... trial, you speak of...?" He blinked curiously.

Daniel stood and went over to the little grey alien, knelt down and whispered something to the little alien. Jack was pretty sure it hadn't been in English as Culver, who was closest was straining to hear what was said. The sour look on his face told Jack that he hadn't gotten anything from it.

"I... see," said Thor, clearly not completely seeing it. Daniel leaned over again, whispering some more. "I am sorry to have interrupted such an... important hearing." Jack was almost sure he picked up sarcasm in the voice, but he wasn't sure.

"We know you would not ask unless you deemed it necessary, Commander Thor," Vidrine cut in.

Jack locked eyes with Daniel for a moment, feeling warmth spreading through is veins. The other man looked... tired. As tired as Jack felt. But still, there was something burning in those eyes, something akin to hope. Jack wondered for a moment that if they chose to go with the Asgard perhaps the little grey guys could help their little girl.

As he looked again and caught Daniel's gaze, he noticed, somewhere in the blue depths, Jack caught a flicker of reassurance and once more, Jack had to wonder. Daniel seemed very sure of himself, very sure of Thor, and not as surprised as Jack had expected.

"I shall leave you for now, then," Thor said, moving the stones on his console." The light shimmered again, transporting Thor out of the room. Jack took a deep breath. Things had definitely taken a turn to the weirder.

Jack, Daniel and Hammond were all send out. Jack, who was still under guard, was escorted to one of the holding cells. He paced the room, back and forth for what felt as hours. His mind full of worst case scenarios, Jack was finally called back in, once more expecting to face the three men. As he entered the room he immediately noticed that Culver was missing.

"Please be seated, Colonel O'Neill." Higgins gestured to the chair.

"I regret to inform you that Mr. Culver has left this little arrangement due to... some incriminating evidence against him that disqualified him from this case," Vidrine explained when he noticed Jack looking at Culver's empty seat.

Jack squashed the urge to ask exactly what kind of incriminating evidence, wondering if the Hammond had been at work again... or maybe Carter and Teal'c and their sidekick Jonas. The kid was bright enough to keep up with the rest of SG-1, so Jack had to wonder.

"We have had a little word with your commanding officer, General Hammond," Higgins began, eyes bearing into Jack's. "As most of the evidence against you was circumstantial, it has been decided to postpone another hearing until you return from the Asgard home-world."

Jack nodded, wondering if he'd stepped into an alternate universe. Damn if it didn't look as if they were off the hook for now.

"You will keep you rank and clean record... well, as clean as it was before this mess," interjected Vidrine, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. "We will continue to take statements from SGC personnel, but as Mr. Higgins mentioned already, there will be no decisions made about your future and the future of your career until you return."

Jack nodded, wondering what he'd done to deserve such luck. Okay, so it only pushed the problem a little further into the future, but it would allow things to cool down a bit. Damned, he'd really have liked to know what they'd had on Culver that had made the man step down from the investigation.

"Colonel O'Neill," Higgins said with a smile, "I believe you have a mission to prepare for... a little adventure."

"Yes sir... probably quite an adventure." Jack returned the smile.

"Well, Colonel, saved by the bell," Vidrine chuckled as he and Higgins stood and Jack scrambled to his feet.

Crisp salutes were exchanged. "Dismissed, Colonel," Vidrine gestured towards the door.

"Yes sir, General, *sir*," Jack barked with enthusiasm.

As Jack exited the room, more or less a free man, he stopped for a moment, leaning back against the wall outside, letting out a sigh of relief. It all seemed so damn unreal. Nothing to taint his records, he would keep his rank, and he'd just been assigned liaison to the Asgard. Chuckling with disbelief, Jack looked up as a deep voice tore him from his reverie.


Jack looked up to see Teal'c smiling at him, Carter at his side with Jonas. "Sir," Carter gave him a wide grin and Jonas managed a smile as well, even though for some odd reason the younger man still seemed slightly intimidated by Jack.

"Kids, let me tell ya, the day and age of miracles isn't over," Jack felt his own grin widen.

"So you're leaving for the Asgard home-world?" Carter stood forward, looking a little sad and a bit envious.

"Looks like it," said Jack.

"You will be missed, O'Neill," added Teal'c.

"You too, T-man, you too." Jack's smile sank a bit. "I'm sorry we can't stay for longer than we have..."

"We understand, sir," interrupted Carter. "We just wanted to wish you luck as it seems Thor is standing ready to beam you aboard."

Jack turned as he heard someone else approach and Hammond joined them. "Ready to go on yet another adventure, Colonel?" he asked.

Taking a deep breath Jack nodded. "I guess I am." Felt strange though, to be leaving Earth again so soon... and no one knew for how long. But what the hell, he'd have Daniel and Aislinn with him.

"Well, Thor is waiting for your go, so I suggest you say your farewells and join him in orbit." Hammond held out his hand and Jack shook it, topping it with a crisp salute a moment later. Hammond shook his head. "I'll look forward to hearing from you again, Colonel; this is one hell of a trip you're going on."

Jack nodded as he turned to what was half of his old team. "Guess I'll see you kids later, huh?"

"Hopefully, sir," sniffled Carter. "We've already said goodbye to Daniel, but just for good measure, tell him we said 'hi'."

"Will do," answered Jack, feeling sad about leaving his friends behind again. Grasping Teal'c arm he said his quiet goodbye to the stoic man.

"Quinn," Jack said as he turned to the last member of SG-1.

"Yes sir?" Jonas stepped forward a little, obviously wondering what kind of goodbye he'd get.

"Take care of our team for me, will ya?" grinned the older man, watching with amusement as a smile spread on the younger man's face.

"Yes sir," agreed Jonas, "with pleasure, sir."

Jack looked up at the ceiling. "Well, Thor, if you're listening in, I think I'm about as ready as I'll ever be." From the center of the shimmering light, Jack watched his friends disappear from view. A moment later his surroundings were the familiar dark designs of an Asgard ship.

As he walked down the wide corridor of the ship, Jack could hear the slap of running feet and a moment later he was almost tackled by Aislinn who threw her arms around him, burying her face in his neck. Jack picked her up and hugged her as hard as he dared. Damn, but he'd missed her so much.

"You okay, honey?" he asked as she burrowed further into his neck.

Finally looking up, she rubbed her eyes. "I am now, Jack, and Lumpy and Daniel have taken care of me." She broke into a shy smile. "But we've missed you."

Jack swallowed hard and tried for a glib comment, more or less succeeding. "What, even Lumpy missed me?" Jack put Aislinn back on her feet and took his time to study the stuffed toy. As his daughter nodded he grinned down at her. "Well, I've missed Lumpy too."

Aislinn worried her lower lip for a moment. "And Daniel too?"

"Oh yeah, I've missed Daniel terribly." Jack wondered where the other man was.

"And me?" Aislinn's voice was quiet.

Jack held his breath for a moment, then let it out slowly. "Oh yeah, more than I can ever tell you."

Aislinn smiled again, taking his hand and dragging him along the hallway. Jack willingly followed her, wondering if it would ruin his reputation if he shed a tear or two. A moment later he didn't care, because he had his arms full of one very happy linguist who was trying to suck the air out of his lungs.

"Miss me?" Jack finally managed to whisper when Daniel let up on the lip lock and merely held him tight.

"A little," coughed Daniel, his cheeks reddening.

"I can't say that things looked like they were going to work out earlier this morning," grinned Jack as he stepped back and picked Aislinn up as the three of them went to one of the large 'windows', looking down at Earth below.

A flash behind them brought them around to a Thor who almost seemed to be smiling. "I take it you are ready to go, O'Neill?"

"I think we are, Thor... and thank you."

"You are most welcome, O'Neill." Thor bowed his head a little, acknowledging the thanks.

"So what is this thing you need us for?" asked Jack. "This emergency?"

"Did I mention an emergency?" Thor looked perfectly innocent.

Jack raised an eyebrow and gave Daniel a sideway glance as the younger man strangled a chuckle. "Are you telling me...?"

"I believe it is you, O'Neill, and your family who were having an... emergency." Thor blinked a few times then fiddled with the rocks again. "Once that is solved... I'm sure something else will turn up that will need our attention. Shifting the stones on the chair, Thor looked up. "Would you like to join me on the bridge?"

Jack stared, openmouthed at the little grey alien. Never in his life would he have thought that... "Well, I'll be..."

Thor flashed out of the room again and Aislinn began pulling at Jack's hand. "Come on, the bridge is *so* cool." She finally gave up on her parents and ran ahead.

Jack slowed down to a stop halfway to the bridge. "Were you in on this?" he asked suspiciously.

"Um..." Daniel cleared his throat, trying not to grin openly. "A little?"

Jack stopped fully, pulling on the hand he was still holding, closing the space between him and Daniel. For a moment they just stood there, smiling and enjoying the nearness. "Dr. Daniel Jackson..." began Jack.

"Yes, Colonel O'Neill?" Daniel almost pulled off the innocent act... almost.

"Have I ever told you how much I love you?" grinned Jack, knowing just how sappy he looked and sounded.

"I'm not... sure." Daniel licked his lips as he leaned a little closer.

Not bothering with an answer, Jack closed the last inch and let himself get lost for a while in the firm pressure of lips against his own... God, how he'd missed that. Drawing back he couldn't help smiling at the flushed look on Daniel's face. "Shall we go find our daughter before she takes over the entire ship?"

"Oh yeah, might be a good idea," chuckled Daniel as they drew apart and made their way towards the bridge. Still, Jack managed to sneak closer and put his arm around the shoulder of the other man. If he had things his way, he'd never let go. Seemed Daniel had the same idea as a strong arm was snug around his waist and he was pulled a little closer.

Who knew what was waiting for them out there? All they could hope for was that the Asgard could help Aislinn and then take the days as they came. Still, Jack had the feeling their little adventure wasn't over... quite yet.

no lumpae where harmed in the making of this fic
lumpy, pl. -ae

The lovely camel was used with the permission of the ladies babs and Devra -- thank you girls, it added a certain touch to it *g* -- it IS a very therapeutical little creature.

The end of part 3 of 4