Take a Chance and Roll the Dice

Pairing: Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson
Category: Ensemble, Canon Compliant, Alternate Universe - Canon, Angst, Drama, Love, Romance, Family
Rating: NC17
Summary: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark or, in this case, at the SGC
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:Spoilers for most of Season 6 (Nightwalkers, Allegiance, a tiny bit for unnatural selection)
Thanks to everyone who's pushed and pulled this along. A special thanks to Nicci for suggestions and beta and Brynn for a kick-ass beta that truly rooted out the worst of my bad habits *g*

Please keep in mind this is part 4 of a series of 4 stories. It won't make all that much sense without the 3 other parts... Your Mother Told You There'd Be Days Like These... part 1

Leaning against the metal wall, Daniel looked out at the busy city. Small pods were zipping to and from, reminding him of a busy beehive. He touched the shimmering barrier that passed for windows on the Asgard world of Brimer. Daylight was slowly fading, making the illuminated city shine clearer.

A slight 'whoosh' of the door, made him turn around. He gave Jack a bright smile as he watched the older man walk silently through the room with their sleeping daughter cradled in his arms.

Jack answered his smile with one of his own. One that never ceased to make Daniel's heart skip a beat or two.

Daniel followed the two into Aislinn's room, going to Jack's side as he pulled off Aislinn's jacket and shoes, before gently laying her on the bed and covering her with the blanket. The place hadn't held any of the conveniences necessary in a home for humans when they'd arrived, but the Asgard had been more than willing to provide them with whatever they'd needed.

Slipping his arms around Jack's waist, Daniel leaned against the other man, enjoying the body heat against his front and the feel of the soft garments they had received from their hosts. For a race unaccustomed to clothing, human food and habitat, they were enthusiastic about keeping their guests happy. Not that Daniel was complaining. He placed a light, dry kiss on the nape of Jack's neck, feeling the shiver it elicited. Reluctantly letting go, he stepped over to a control panel, shifting a few colored stones with practiced efficiency, and the energy barrier darkened, leaving the room in semi darkness and only the faintest outline of the city remained visible.

Jack pulled the blanket a little higher before dropping a light kiss on the child's forehead, making her smile in her sleep. Returning to the bed, Daniel did the same, before lifting the blanket a little to push Aislinn's stuffed camel down beside her. Then they both left the room, silently shutting the door behind them.

The moment they were in what served as their living room, Daniel felt the strong arms fold around him, pulling him into a heated hug, strong body pressed against his back.

"Hello," rumbled Jack, heated breath making Daniel shiver and lean back a little more.

"Hello yourself," replied Daniel with a grin.

"Does the revered Dr. Jackson and his two PhDs have anything special planned for tonight?" Jack's right hand strayed a little lower, brushing against the waistband of Daniel's pants.

A sigh escaped Daniel as he relaxed completely. "Nothing much, though I was hoping for a certain Colonel to keep me company."

Jack chuckled as he took a step back, gently keeping Daniel upright with his palm resting against the small of Daniel's back. Staying like that for a moment, Daniel moved forward with a grin.

"Dinner?" Daniel asked. It was late in the evening, but if Jack hadn't eaten yet...

"I'm fine, don't worry." Jack stripped off his shirt, revealing the almost skintight tee underneath, the dark, charcoal grey material clinging to his chest.

Daniel licked his lips as the older man went to sprawl on the couch-like thing in the middle of the room. Pursing his lips he slowly walked over to join Jack, all the while aware of the appreciative glances he was getting. Not saying a word, Daniel slipped down to sit so he could lean back against Jack.

Strong fingers slid up his arms and began kneading at the knotted muscles of Daniel's shoulders and neck. With a sigh Daniel let his head loll forward, closing his eyes and simply enjoying being loosened up.

"Hard day?" Jack's voice was silky and low, his breath warm against Daniel's neck.

"Mmm, so much to go through. The Asgard have a very extensive database on their history." Squirming a little he closed his eyes and let Jack do what he was so damned good at.

"Good thing there's something to keep you occupied while we're here." Jack dug a little harder into a knotted muscle, making Daniel groan.

"How are you doing?" asked Daniel, well aware that *he* could fill his time with studying the texts to which the Asgard had so graciously given him access. Jack, on the other hand, spent most of his days with Aislinn, which of course wasn't bad, but Daniel wondered if it was enough to keep Jack occupied. Too bad Brimer was nothing like the Nox home-world they'd left. There at least, there had been nature, water, fishing...

"I'm okay... though I wouldn't mind getting back to Earth at some point." Taking a deep breath, Jack continued. "At least whatever the Asgard did has slowed Aislinn's growth to normal."

"So how did the check-up go?" Daniel pushed back a little and smiled as Jack's hands slid down over his shoulders, engulfing him in a light embrace, Jack resting his head on Daniel's shoulder.

"Fine... and I heard from some of the others today that Thor is recovering fine."

Daniel nodded. They'd been worried for a while as at first only Thor's body had been recovered, then later, his mind... or soul, or whatever. Both had been courtesy of SG-1. For a moment Daniel felt the loss, then decided that they owed it to their family life to take it easy. Wandering around the Galaxy, fighting off Anubis, who seemed to be the latest threat against Earth and her allies, just wasn't their lot in life anymore.

The idea that somewhere out there was a system lord that seemed to be worse than Apophis had been made Daniel shudder. They'd heard from the other Asgard that Thor had tried to protect a planet under the treaty from a Goa'uld mothership, but where the sight of an Asgard ship would normally send the snake running, this one had opened fire and caused Thor's ship to crash. The shields that had always been impenetrable, were suddenly no more efficient than a thin veil against this Goa'uld's new weapon.

Daniel shook off the thoughts of the past and turned a bit, inside the strong hold. "Are Aislinn's tests really that necessary anymore?" Maybe they could return to Earth at some point. He wouldn't mind terribly, no matter how interesting it was to be allowed a peek into Asgard history. He still missed their friends, and he knew Jack felt the same way.

"Well, I had a talk with... Heimdall today," Jack began, his irritation with the Asgard scientist showing a little.

Daniel sniggered, interrupting Jack's answer. "Still asking about our sex life, is he?"

Jack sighed. "It's not that I don't like the little guy, but he's driving me nuts, asking about the... technical side of our sex life, he even asked to be PRESENT during..." Jack waved his hand, lost for words.

Daniel couldn't help laughing. He kind of liked Heimdall, but he wouldn't tell Jack that. The little guy had Jack in knots half the time, with his curiosity.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Curious George," Jack snorted, bringing up a hand to ruffle Daniel's hair. "Actually, Heimdall said today that he might have found something in Aislinn's blood that they can synthesize and maybe use to solve their problems with procreation and cloning." Jack nuzzled his neck for a moment before continuing.

Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Oddly enough hearing Jack use scientific terms just like that was a huge turn-on for him. Grinning, Daniel squirmed to get more comfortable. Jack picked up a lot when he was at the lab, and he wasn't keeping up his dumb act as much as he used to, especially not around Daniel. He might not understand everything the Asgard threw at them, but he picked up a lot more than he let on.

"Seems they found something in my blood work that might help. Then when they tested Aislinn, it turned out that whatever it was, it was far more prominent in her."

"Oh?" Daniel sat up, shifted around and put an arm around Jack's waist, leaning his head on the other man's shoulder.

"Yeah. According to the tests, the rapid growth also caused whatever it is that's got Heimdall's panties in a knot, to evolve a lot faster than it normally would've." Jack slid a hand up under Daniel's shirt and sighed contentedly. "And since it doesn't involve testing on our daughter, I gave them our consent to continue the tests on the blood samples."

Daniel nodded. As much as he wasn't thrilled about having their daughter involved in an Asgard science project, he felt, as Jack did, that they owed the little grey people a lot of gratitude. And if some of it could be returned by letting them examine Aislinn's blood, who was he to say no?

"So it's okay with you? That they try to synthesize whatever it is in Aislinn's blood?" Jack nudged at Daniel's head to gain access to a bared expanse of neck.

"Uh-huh," Daniel said, closing his eyes. There were days when he was more than glad that Jack knew exactly which buttons to push. Sure the man could be infuriating, pushing all the *wrong* buttons sometimes. But then there were other times, like at this very moment, that he got everything right.

Jack's other hand dipped below the waistband of Daniel's pants, rubbing the soft skin underneath. "Bed?" he asked, his voice low and rough.

"Mmm," Daniel stood and pulled Jack up against him. "Tell me more about what you've learned today..."

"You're such a word slut, Jackson," Jack grinned, but his eyes and body belied the light teasing tone.

Daniel grinned. "Only for you, O'Neill. Only for you."

Sighing theatrically, Jack pulled him towards the bedroom. "Other people enjoy actually talking dirty, but you, you get off on scientific mumbo-jumbo."

"Only when it's coming from you, Jack." Daniel managed to switch off the lights before Jack manhandled him into the bedroom. Not that Daniel minded, not at all.

Daniel blinked and looked down into the steaming dark liquid in the cup being held under his nose. Grinning, he accepted the treat and collected a nice long kiss hello from Jack. Daniel had been so immersed in the data he'd been working on, that he hadn't heard the door opening.

Standing to pick up their daughter, Daniel couldn't help feeling the heat inside from the thought of them finally being what they were supposed to be; a family.

"Thor took us for a trip in his new ship," Aislinn told him feverishly, almost bouncing in his arms.

"Well, hello and welcome home to you too," pouted Daniel, trying to suppress a laugh, noticing that Jack had similar problems. Their daughter's aging may have been slowed, but she looked and behaved like any 8-year-old. Hyper, curious and a bundle of energy one couldn't help but love. Even the Asgard they saw on a regular basis weren't immune to the little girl. Daniel suspected that whatever it was about Jack that intrigued the Asgard, Aislinn had it ten times stronger, almost wrapping their alien friends around her little finger.

Aislinn looked a little annoyed at being interrupted, but a moment later she planted a big wet kiss on Daniel's cheek, letting him know that he had been forgiven. "Love you, Daniel... wish you'd been there with us, it was *so* cool."

"Well, go get ready for dinner, and you and Jack can tell me all about it after we've eaten." Letting her down, Daniel couldn't help grinning at how quickly she sped away.

Daniel turned around to put his arms around Jack, who looked as happy as their daughter. Nothing like a little action to get the old man going... speaking of action. Leaning in, Daniel stole a quick kiss, though Jack had other ideas, wrapping his arms around Daniel and kissing him as if there was no tomorrow. Warm tongue flickered against Daniel's lips, finding its way inside. Slow, languid stroking and exploration and Daniel quickly lost his ability to think straight.

Grinning, Jack took a step back, letting Daniel catch his bearings. Everything seemed a little hazy as Daniel drew a deep, shaky breath. How could he ever forget that Jack's approach to kissing was the way an artist would labor over a work of art?

Dinner was as bland as always. Though at least the Asgard had made sure they could get food that suited humans, well, better than little colored cubes anyway. Aislinn hadn't been capable of waiting and between bites she enthusiastically described the new ship to Daniel.

"And Thor asked Jack to find a name for it, since the O'Neill was destroyed," Aislinn explained breathlessly.

Daniel gave Jack a sideways glance, for a moment remembering when that had happened. The thought of the Replicators still made him shiver and they occasionally still gave Jack hellish nightmares. Daniel's own part, back then... he still remembered the worry and fear he'd felt, when he'd been forced to make the decision to order the attack on the Dallas, the sub that Jack and Teal'c had been caught in with the Replicators. At least it was in the past, Daniel consoled himself. Still, he wondered what Jack's screwed up sense of humor had come up with for a name. Bracing himself he jumped in, feet first and asked.

"So, what did Jack ask Thor to christen the ship?"

"Christen?" Aislinn stopped for a moment.

"Name," interjected Jack, looking positively innocent. They both tended to forget that Aislinn might look like she was eight, and she might be extremely intelligent, but a lot of words they rarely used still had to be explained.

"It was named The Millennium Falcon." Aislinn beamed with pride.

Daniel slowly turned his head back to Jack. "So Teal'c finally managed to convince you to watch Star Wars?" He should've expected this. He'd have put his money on Jack naming the ship The Enterprise, but this...

Jack grinned broadly, but didn't answer. A moment later they were interrupted by a bright flash on the wall, a screen coming to life, showing them the image of their little grey friend.

"Hello, Thor," greeted Jack, pushing back from the table. Daniel doing the same, wondering to what they owed the interruption. Usually they were left to their own devices during the evenings and nights. The Asgard honored their guests' need for privacy. But it was still good to see Thor's face again, Daniel decided. It had come close for their friend at the hands of Anubis.

Aislinn's smile rivaled Jack's as her enthusiastic "Thor!" rang through the room.

Thor nodded his greeting before continuing, and for a moment Daniel wondered if it might be the Asgard equivalent of a smile crossing the grey alien's face. Of course he couldn't be sure... he'd have to ask Jack. He suspected the other man had become fairly good at reading their allies, at least when it came to Thor.

"I am sorry to disturb you my friends, but we have received a rather strange message from the location that you use as your alternate command post."

Daniel frowned then came to the same conclusion that Jack did, pretty much at the same time.

"Our Alpha Site?" asked Jack, immediately dropping his merry, carefree attitude. They might not be on Earth, they might not be actively working with the SG teams, but any kind of message from their secret off-world base... well, they wouldn't have sent a message if it hadn't been urgent.

"Yes, we thought it best to tell you as soon as possible." Thor fiddled with something and a small text message appeared on the screen. "We received this a moment ago, coded of course."

Jack went to the screen to read the message as Daniel answered Aislinn's whispered inquiry about the Alpha Site, though all she needed to put her curiosity to rest for the time being was that the message had been sent by SG-1.

Jack looked up at Daniel, both men wondering what was going on, why they shouldn't contact Earth. At their last check-in, the previous week, nothing had seemed out of the ordinary. They had another one scheduled in four days, and Daniel wondered for a moment if they should try their luck or if Jack would be wise and listen to Sam. With relief he realized that there was no doubt that Jack would heed Sam's advice. As much as they trusted General Hammond, a lot could've happened on Earth and there was no reason to give away that they might be aware of something being amiss.

"I take it you wish to visit the Alpha Site in three days," said Thor.

"Seems like it," agreed Jack.

"But we can't go directly to the planet by ship," interjected Daniel.

Jack nodded. "True, we'll have to use the 'Gate for this one."

"And if you should need our help?" asked Thor.

"How about we use a ship to get to the 'Gate nearest the Alpha Site. That way you'll be close if something happens, but we won't risk giving away the location of the Alpha Site by having a big honkin' Asgard ship orbiting the planet." Jack drummed his fingers against the wall, leaning forward to double check the message.

"As you wish, O'Neill. I shall take you to the Stargate myself," Thor agreed.

Daniel turned back to their daughter as she tugged on his sleeve.

"Can I come too?" she asked, her eyes bright with the hope for a 'yes'.

Daniel reluctantly shook his head. He'd hate to leave her behind, but considering they didn't know what to expect, they couldn't allow her to come along. The look of disappointment in the blue eyes made him sigh. They really couldn't bring her along.

"I'm sorry, Aislinn," said Jack as he turned around, back to Thor's image on the screen.

"May I make a suggestion, O'Neill?" Thor's even voice broke the moment.

"Ye-eah?" Jack turned back to the screen.

"Would your daughter not be safe aboard the Millennium Falcon?"

Daniel almost laughed out loud. To actually hear someone use a name like that, for a space ship named after a piece of Earth pop-culture was pretty amusing. Apart from that, Thor's question made sense. The new ship was built as an answer to Anubis destroying Thor's old ship. It had been modified to withstand a lot more than the old model.

Daniel caught Jack's eyes as the other man silently seemed to ask for advice. A minute nod from Daniel was all that was needed. "She would probably be as safe there as she is here, Thor... but are you sure you can handle her?"

"I'll behave," whispered Aislinn, just loud enough for Daniel to catch it. And he was sure she meant it. As adventurous she could be, she had the utmost respect for the Asgard. Daniel suspected it came from the fact that they never treated her as a child. He and Jack, on the other hand... they felt a little cheated out of her childhood, since she had passes through her youngest years as quickly as she had. Besides, she deserved to experience being a child even more because of that. So she had fun with their friends, but at home, she was their child. Daniel knew that Jack would never forget Charlie, but having Aislinn had definitely helped him a great deal.

And Daniel himself? Well, he'd had a difficult childhood, so he'd do anything to make Aislinn's as memorable as possible. To give her the attention that she needed and the tutoring that was necessary to sate her curiosity. Between him and Jack, Daniel was sure she'd turn out more than okay. Daniel was aware of being a little too serious at times, but it all evened out when it was balanced with Jack's *lack* of seriousness. Not that he'd let Jack know that, no need to encourage the madness.

"Sounds like we have ourselves a plan, Thor." Jack's voice drew Daniel out of his contemplation.

"We'll probably need to bring a few things with us," began Daniel.

"Please list what you deem necessary," said Thor. "We will provide what we can."

The two men exchanged a quick look. So much for boredom being their biggest problem. Aislinn, however, was more than thrilled at the prospect of going on a little trip.

Watching the shimmering surface in front of them, Daniel smiled. He didn't have to look at Jack to know that a similar one was gracing the older man's face. Thor had dropped them off and they'd said their reluctant good-byes to a very subdued Aislinn. She'd worked up to a temper tantrum, but a few quiet words from Jack had kept her from blowing up on them. Still, it hurt to leave her behind.

"We'll be back in no time," said Jack.

"Yeah, it's probably nothing..." Daniel chided himself. No reason to jinx things before they even got started.

A nod to each other and the two men stepped forward, through the shimmering surface. The cold, bone-freezing ride came to its abrupt end and the momentary surge of disorientation followed.

"Halt!" barked a voice and the sound of safeties being disabled and the *snikt* of zats unfolding stopped them dead in their tracks.


Jack and Daniel looked to the side. A smile quickly formed on Daniel's face as he recognized the voice and visage of SG-2's CO.

"Ferretti," barked Jack, raising an eyebrow at the welcoming committee.

"Sorry about that, Colonel, but we're a little short on personnel at the moment." Ferretti gestured for them to follow as he headed towards the various barracks that made up the Alpha Site command post.

"Oh?" Jack had instantly switched to what Daniel usually referred to as 'Colonel-mode'.

"Yeah, only SG units 2 and 11 are here at the moment. SGs 3 and 5 are off with the rebel Jaffa to help the Tok'ra... Their base is under attack." Ferretti held the door to one of the barracks open for them.

"So we've dumped down in the middle of the line of fire?" Jack's demeanor became more serious. Daniel was intrigued with how Jack could switch between 'the Colonel' and 'Jack' without getting multiple personality disorder.

"Nah, I doubt it. Though they'll be bringing everyone back, evacuating them, no one will let the address to this 'Gate slip to the enemy." Ferretti waited for the two men to follow him inside the artificially lighted barrack. "Not our boys, nor Jacob Carter."

"And SG-1?" Jack asked.

"They went after the others about twenty minutes ago. They went out to find SG-11, whom we knew we had to stop from returning to Earth," answered Ferretti.

"Yeah, about that," said Daniel. "We got a rather odd message from Sam. Any idea what that might have been about?"

Ferretti sighed. "Well, things haven't been easy lately, but the last week or so... well, safe to say it all went to hell in a hand basket."

"What happened?" Jack was about to pull out a chair as they heard the well-known sound of the 'Gate powering up.

The three men looked briefly at each other, then double timed it back outside, towards the 'Gate. On their way there, Daniel did a double take as they almost ran into Paul Davis and two SG-11 members.

"Davis?" Jack accepted the P90 one of the men offered him and Daniel did likewise with the zat held out to him.

"I was out with SG-11 as Major Kovachek is ill." Davis hastily explained as they went to the rest of the soldiers guarding the 'Gate.

"Important pow-wow?" asked Jack as they watched the sixth glyph light up and the large circle began its spinning dance anew.

"You might say that, Colonel. Trinium deal we couldn't let get away." Davis slid into place next to Daniel, giving him a searching look.

Daniel groaned internally. He'd completely forgotten how Paul had asked him out almost a year back and Daniel had turned him down. He was quite glad that he had, as it had been less than two weeks later he'd had his own little involuntary gender switch and he'd landed the only man he'd ever really wanted. Sure, Paul was nice, well-educated, well-spoken, well-mannered... well-everything *but*... compared to a certain old, grumpy, but still damned sexy Colonel, the Major was pretty boring. At least Daniel suspected so, as he'd never gotten to know the man well enough to truly be the judge of that. And as things were now, he never would. Besides, Jack would probably kill Paul if he suspected that the man was interested in Daniel. Daniel reminded himself to warn Paul off as soon as possible... for the man's own sake. Activating the zat, Daniel watched as the seventh and final glyph lighted and the 'Gate burst out, a wave of energy roaring through the air.

The next twenty minutes were a blur as Daniel rushed alongside the others to help the wounded coming through the 'Gate. Knowing full and well that SG-2 and Jack were more than capable with their weapons, he'd deactivated his zat. He then did what he could to help move the wounded away from the 'Gate... Jaffa and Tok'ra alike. The occasional stray staff shot burst through the wormhole and they all tried to keep low enough to avoid getting hit.

Daniel had seen flashes of familiar faces coming through the 'Gate. He was aware of Sam having made it through, half carrying another SG soldier. Teal'c had emerged a few minutes later, assisting both another SG soldier and a Jaffa. He was also pretty sure he'd caught a glimpse of Jonas. So once again, it seemed, SG-1 had made it through safely.

For several minutes no one came through, then a Tok'ra stumbled through, holding his left arm close to his body, face contorted in pain. Closely behind him came a face that was more than familiar and Daniel found himself smiling as he let out a sigh of relief.

"Master Bra'tac." Jack's voice rung through the air.

The old warrior lifted his staff weapon in greeting, then held it lightly, but at the ready, at his side, as he stepped to the side of the dais and watched the portal intensely. A moment later Jacob Carter came running through, everyone watching as the wormhole blinked out of existence.

Jack stepped forward and Daniel stood to join them. There wasn't much he could do. The worst injuries seemed to have been inflicted on Jaffa or Tok'ra and they had their symbiotes to take care of the worst.

"Hello, Jacob," Jack greeted the former General.

"Jack." If Carter was surprised to see Jack and Daniel there he didn't show it.

"No one saw the symbols for the 'Gate, I take it." Jack's question was put casually, but Daniel could feel the tension beneath it. The last thing they needed was a Goa'uld invasion. Especially if there were problems with the SGC back on Earth.

Jacob grinned, though mirthlessly. "I made sure the DHD was blown up a few seconds after I went through the 'Gate."

Jack let out a breath he'd been holding. "Let's get the wounded taken care of, and we'll meet in the main barrack."

No one questioned Jack taking over the leadership of the outpost. It didn't matter that they'd been gone for so long, didn't matter that some of the people present knew what Jack had been tried for. They all as one did as they were told. Granted, a few of the Tok'ra looked as if they'd like to object, but they seemed to catch on to the idea that Jacob agreed with the grey haired Tau'ri.

Daniel wondered for a moment how many of the Tok'ra had recognized Jack and knew exactly who he was. Not that it mattered. The Jaffa did as they knew Master Bra'tac would want them too. They took care of the wounded. Tok'ra, Tau'ri or fellow Jaffa. It didn't seem to matter to them. Daniel couldn't help the surge of hope as he watched them. Still, it didn't escape his attention that a few of the Tok'ra refused their help. Ah well, he could only hope that it meant that there were no serious wounds.

Daniel wouldn't have thought it possible that things could get any worse. Before the day ended, he found himself unfortunately corrected. He'd gone back to helping with the few wounded soldiers. He knew Jack had used their communication device to check up with Thor. As the wounds weren't life threatening, they'd opted for giving the victims the medical attention they could with what they had at the Alpha Site. They didn't want to risk announcing the whereabouts of their off-world base by asking Thor to assist. They'd lost two SG members, five Jaffa and he didn't even dare think about how many Tok'ra had died. With all their intel they'd been taken by surprise. Only a hasty request from Jacob Carter had meant that they'd had what little support and help the Alpha Site could offer. As the site currently also served as temporary stay for a large number of rebel Jaffa, they had suddenly found their numbers strengthened. Bra'tac was no fool. Honor told him to help; logic told him that helping the allies of the Tau'ri could very well hold a certain positive outcome for the course of the Jaffa.

Late in the afternoon, Daniel wasn't so sure about it, though. The air seemed so tense you could pick up a knife and cut through it. Daniel stood back with Teal'c, Sam and Jonas, watching Jack calmly interrogate a handful of Tok'ra and Jaffa.

It had all started out with Sam checking up on the naquada reactor that was used to power the place. Someone had tinkered with the device, enough that it would have overloaded in another twenty minutes. She'd told Jack as he had, without anyone voicing objections, been silently accepted as their leader. He *was* the highest ranking, but he'd been out of the loop for a while. Still, they'd followed standard AF regs to a tee, apart from one deliberate omission - they hadn't contacted earth.

Ferretti and Davis had started briefing Jack and Daniel on what had happened, but they'd only made it through the shocking news that Hammond had stepped down and that the SGC was now under NID watch and control. Turned out that Hammond seemed to have been suspecting that something like that might happen, because he'd made sure off-world teams had been told to stay away. Ferretti also told them that according to Hammond's short message, the address for the Alpha Site had been locked out of the computer and removed from any document that might yield the glyphs. It really did seem as if Hammond had feared something like this, because removing information from classified documents and logfiles... it couldn't be done on a whim.

Still digesting that intel, Sam had joined them, telling them about the reactor. She'd had no trouble stopping the overload, but it would be wise to put guards with the reactor, as it seemed someone was out to kill them. Sam hadn't been kidding when she'd explained what damage it would have done, especially considering that the explosion could react with the naquada of the 'Gate itself, enhancing the explosion. Not that it would matter to them, as they'd all be dead once the reactor blew.

Daniel rubbed his tired eyes. Things just *had* to get worse, he thought, as he watched the Tok'ra wave and give an aloof answer. Turning to the Jaffa, Jack asked his questions, getting a headshake, raised hands, palms up in answer. One Tok'ra had been killed and all evidence pointed towards this Jaffa.

On top of it all, it seemed the Tok'ra had brought something back with them, something that was currently residing in a box outside, well-guarded by a group of Tok'ra, who wouldn't let anyone near it.

"I can assure you, Colonel," Malek began again. "There is *nothing* in that box that you would have any interest in.

"Look..." Jack drew a deep breath, looking very much like he wanted to strangle the Tok'ra. The only thing keeping him at bay was Jacob's calm hand on his arm. Closing his eyes for a moment before carrying on, Jack's voice came out a lot more controlled than Daniel had expected. "Malek, this post is under my command, it is up to *me* to keep things running smoothly. Now... how do you expect me to do that if I don't know *every* little thing that might be causing us problems?"

"I can only agree with that, Colonel O'Neill, but rest assured, there is nothing..." Malek's voice might have been trying to soothe, but all it did was make Jack look slightly murderous.

Daniel let out a sigh of relief as Jacob intervened.

"Malek, please..." Jacob sighed, lowered his head, and as he looked up again, his voice and eyes indicated that he'd switched places with Selmak. "I am truly sorry about this, Colonel O'Neill." Selmak gave Malek a light shake of the head before returning his attention to Jack. "The box holds a zay'tarc detector."

Daniel heard the light catch in Sam's breath, the woman standing next to him. None of them were too thrilled about what had happened back then. Daniel didn't blame her for feeling that way. The detector *had* found some of their people to be under Goa'uld mind control. Unfortunately, because of confused emotions and loyalties, it had also claimed the same about her and Jack. The whole affair hadn't been to Daniel's liking back then, and the fact that they had one of those machines at the Alpha Site... well, safe to say it *still* didn't make him feel any more at ease. When he and Jack had gotten their act together, Jack had taken the time to explain things to Daniel, but it didn't escape the younger man that a change went through the Colonel at the mention of the detector, letting out a little more of Jack.

"Ah, I see, and you didn't tell us that because...?" Jack gestured, eyebrow raised.

"It had no significance." Malek looked as if he had no idea where Jack was going with his questions and accusations.

"But if that is so, what would be the harm in telling us?" The other eyebrow followed the first.

Malek looked a little off balance and Daniel quickly hid a smile. Yeah, Jack could do that to people, especially those who weren't used to dealing with humans. "I did not see any advantage in telling, Colonel."

"Now, see?" Jack's voice sounded as if he was talking to a little child, and as Daniel caught Jacob's eyes, he knew it hadn't escaped the other man either.

"I... I fail to see your point." Malek looked around, obviously wondering what was going on, what he was missing.

Jack gave an exasperated sigh. "What I'm *trying* to say, Malek, is that if we aren't open around here, towards each other, we'll get trouble like this."

Malek looked as if he finally caught a little of what Jack was trying to explain to him. Before he could answer, Jacob interrupted.

"Jack," Jacob said, his voice back to normal. "Maybe we should let things calm down a little."

Jack nodded and turned to Bra'tac. "We should probably take this Jaffa into custody." They all saw Bra'tac's back go rigid, mouth opening to argue. Jack shook his head. "For his own sake."

Bra'tac seemed to consider it for a moment, then nodded and drew the young Jaffa aside, who looked as if he couldn't believe what was going on. Daniel didn't really blame him. There had to be something else going on. None of the Jaffa were actually hostile towards the Tok'ra and unless they had someone under false pretenses there, which he doubted, there was no reason to suspect that a Jaffa had killed the Tok'ra.

As darkness descended over the camp, Daniel drew back to the bunk he'd been assigned. Damned, he knew very well that he and Jack would have to stay apart for the time being, but it still didn't make things any easier. Tapping the edge of his journal with the pen, Daniel tried to get his thoughts together, just enough to write down what had happened. The place had been quiet since the death of the Tok'ra, but the tension in the air was almost tangible.

Pushing his glasses up, Daniel rubbed his eyes. He was about to put the journal away as a shout from outside reached him and he went outside to investigate. The lights of the place created a strange eerie scenery of shadows as people ran to find out what was going on.

Jack came up next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. The short, reassuring touch was like a ray of sunlight to Daniel after the long day. It had been bad enough during Jack's trial; that he had to stay away from the other man, but to have him this close now, and being able to do nothing about it? Pure torture.

They made their way to where the center of the commotion seemed to be... the barrack that served as a holding cell for the Jaffa that had been accused by the Tok'ra... Jack and Daniel exchanged glances. This definitely did not bode well.

"What's going on?" Jack's voice was calm and commanding and everyone went quiet. Bra'tac stepped forward, staff weapon held casually in his hand.

"We now have a dead Jaffa and a Tau'ri as well." The old man shook his head, a frown gracing his weather worn face.

Daniel heard Jack swear under his breath. Turning a little he noticed Sam coming up next to him, looking a little sleepy.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"I think someone killed the Jaffa and the Guard." Daniel returned his attention to Jack and the others. He didn't miss her whispered 'crap'. Yeah, that pretty much summed it all up.

"Maybe the Jaffa killed himself *after* killing the guard." Malek stepped forward.

Daniel mirrored his move, standing closely to Jack. Somehow he had the feeling the Tok'ra here grated more on Jack's nerves than his kind normally did. Which would mean a *lot*. A light touch to Jack's elbow had the other man relaxing a little, a light tilt of the head indicating that he appreciated the gesture. Daniel smiled internally. It still surprised him after all this time, that he and Jack could work without words. Actually, they often worked *better* without words.

"That's highly unlikely," snorted Jack. "But all theories will be tested. I want this area sealed off, I want to know of *every* little thing that is found in here, no matter how insignificant it may seem."

Looking around, he gave everyone a menacing glare. "Well? What are you waiting for?" Shooing them out, Jack stopped outside. "I don't want to hear of anyone else getting into trouble with each other. I'll be in the office barrack if anyone needs anything. For now, those not on duty at the moment, go get some sleep, the rest of you, return to your posts. I don't want anyone inside this barrack until we've had a thorough look at things."

After that tirade, Jack turned and stomped towards the barrack they used for an office. Daniel sighed as he watched the gathered people depart, everyone shooting each other speculative glances. If the Jaffa hadn't killed his guard and then himself, then they had a killer on the lose. And from what he heard Bra'tac mumbling to Jacob he knew that it just wasn't the way of a
Jaffa. Daniel could only agree, having worked with Teal'c all these years, he knew his fare share of Jaffa

"Think there's more than meets the eye here?" a voice behind Daniel startled him.

Turning around, Daniel found Jonas giving him an apologetic smile. "Yeah. One thing I've learned over the years is that things are rarely what they seem when working with the SGC."

Jonas nodded. "Yeah, I get that feeling a lot."

Daniel had to smile despite their situation. "I'd like to say you get used to it, but seriously?"

"Yeah?" Jonas slipped his hands into his pockets.

"My guess is that *if* you ever get used to it... and that's a strong 'if', that'll be the day you realize it's time for you to turn in your resignation." Daniel wondered if he had ever been that young, that... wide eyed. Well, if he asked Jack, he was sure he'd get a resounding 'yes!'

Walking back towards the barracks, Daniel let out a sigh as he noticed a figure waiting for them. He still had to have his little talk with Paul, and perhaps now wasn't the best of times, but the sooner he got it all sorted out, the better. Taking a deep sigh he patted Jonas on the shoulder and bid him good night.

"Daniel." Paul greeted him with a small smile.

"Paul... go get some sleep." Daniel went over his options for a moment. It was more important for Daniel to check on Jack than getting sleep or setting Paul Davis straight.

"Just give me a moment, Daniel, please?" Paul gave him a searching look.

Daniel gestured for him to walk with him towards the office barrack... and Jack. Not that Daniel intended to hide behind Jack, but he wondered how he was going to explain things to Paul without giving away the identity of his lover to Paul and thus endangering the older man's career a second time. Pushing his glasses up, he took a deep breath and finally spoke.

"I'm sorry Paul, but if you're asking what I think you are, the answer's no."

Paul chuckled. "I *was* going to ask if you were with someone at the moment..."

Daniel snorted. "Right, in that case the answer would be 'yes'."

Paul nodded, not meeting Daniel's eyes. "I kinda figured as much."

"Look, Paul... whatever you think... whoever you think I'm with..." Daniel searched for the right way to put it without telling Paul the truth.

"I know, Daniel. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." Paul's voice was low and soft.

"Oh...?" Daniel blinked a few times. Then why was Paul asking for a moment of his time?

"I just want to make sure you're happy." Paul finally looked up at him as they came to the door of the barrack. "Are you?"

Daniel slowly nodded. "I am."

Paul gave him a sad smile. "That's all I wanted to know."

"Yeah?" Daniel was surprised as he watched the other man nod.

"Goodnight, Daniel," Paul gave him a nod, as he left him standing by the door.

"Night, Paul... and thank you." A small smile formed on Daniel's face. Finally something that went the right way.

"Your secret's safe with me, Daniel, don't worry... though..." Davis turned around and walked back to him.

"Yeah?" Daniel wondered what would be next.

"The girl...?" Davis voice was low and Daniel leaned forward to answer.

"She's was put in our care by the Nox... and she's safe and well at the moment." Daniel felt bad about lying to Davis, but they couldn't risk letting too much slip. Bad enough that Paul suspected who Daniel was with, but they still had to protect Aislinn. It made Daniel wonder what would happen when they solved the current situation. Unfortunately the hope of returning to Earth and to a semi-normal life... well, it wasn't exactly growing bigger... on the contrary.

"I'm glad to hear that, Daniel." Paul nodded and turned to walk away.

"Thank you, Paul, and thank you for keeping this between us." Daniel knew the other man had heard him and a moment later a quiet answer drifted back to him.

"You're welcome, Daniel, that's what friends are for." With that Davis disappeared towards the sleeping barrack.

Daniel let out his breath explosively. "Whew," he mumbled to himself as he opened the door behind him, almost running into Jack. Quickly finding his equilibrium, Daniel threw the older man a tired grin. "Eavesdropping?"

"Practicing my stealth technique." Jack looked as if he was trying to get out of the situation with a little pride.

"Yeah, gotta practice that Spec Op stuff, huh?" Daniel snorted.

"Damn straight," grinned Jack, looking relieved.

Closing the door behind him, Daniel quickly locked it and checked that the blinds were covering the windows. "Not quite straight, Colonel, and I've got a suggestion for you." Daniel knew it probably wasn't a good idea, but he also knew Jack needed it as much as he did.

Jack backed away slowly, a gleam in his dark eyes. "And what might that be, Dr. Jackson?"

"Let's practice that stealth technique of yours a little more..." Daniel unzipped his jacket, pulled it off and dropped it over a chair. He strangled a laugh as Jack grabbed him and drew in for a nice long kiss.

"Sounds like a plan," Jack said, the tension around his eyes easing a little. Daniel decided that whatever Jack was willing to do in the middle of a military camp, he'd go along if it could help Jack relax. Yep, just add martyr to his résumé... Daniel grinned internally as Jack dragged him off towards the bunk in the corner. Such hardship being Jack's safety valve...

Commotion woke the two men an hour before dawn and Daniel stayed back for a few minutes, letting Jack get dressed and go outside before he donned his own clothes. They both knew that there was no reason to draw attention to the fact that they were exiting the same barrack. With a heavy sigh, Daniel pushed the door open. How he missed their uncomplicated life with the Asgard or the Nox. He missed their daughter and he knew that it was on Jack's mind a lot of the time as well.

Shivering in the cool morning air, Daniel made his way towards the gathering at the center of the yard. Jaffa, Tok'ra and humans alike were standing around, and the hostility seemed almost tangible.

Jack's voice rang clear from the center of the gathering. "One at a time. Tell me what happened."

Making his way through the crowd, Daniel found Jack standing with his hands on his hips and a grim expression marring his features, as he was facing Malek. Ah well, Daniel should have guessed. Something about the Tok'ra seemed to completely rub Jack the wrong way. Not that he didn't try to be nice to the Tok'ra, he *did* have certain obligations as the site's commanding officer. Still, Daniel couldn't blame him; Malek really was grating on their nerves.

"The 'Gate was activated... or rather, halfway activated." Malek tried to look superior, but something in Jack's eyes must have told him to tone it down, because he looked as if he was fighting the urge to back down.

"So? We've got guards by the 'Gate, so who the hell fiddled with the DHD?" The words came out calm. Daniel was amazed that Jack could manage that, as the set of his strong shoulders clearly said, to those who knew him, that he was about to blow.

"Colonel O'Neill." Commotion to the right of the gathering and Bra'tac entered the little circle.

Jack's shoulders lowered a little; the old Jaffa's presence seemed to have a calming effect on Jack. "Master Bra'tac, please tell me you can shed a little light on this..."

"I'm afraid not, Jack," Jacob Carter answered as he stepped up behind Bra'tac. "We've had a look by the DHD and talked to the soldiers who were on guard." Jacob took a deep breath. "We've got one Jaffa wounded and an unconscious SGC soldier."

Mumbled comments filled the morning air. Jack gestured to the two men. "So?"

"No one has seen anything..." Bra'tac shook his head. "And the ground by the DHD is full of footprints, making it neigh to impossible to make out if there might be a set not belonging there."

Jack nodded and muttered something under his breath. Then he raised his voice, "Pierce!"

"Yes sir?" Major Pierce made his way to Jack's side.

"Double the guards by the DHD. Call in an equal number of Jaffa and SGC personnel..." Pursing his lips, Jack continued, "and Tok'ra."

Daniel saw the raised eyebrows, silently glad that Jack had made that decision. Equal burden, equally shared intel. Anyone coming near the DHD would be met by unity and no one could hold one race responsible if something happened.

"Think it might be the saboteur?" Davis' question made Jack shrug.

"Probably," Looking around Jack scowled at the assembly. "Don't you people have chores to take care of?"

Everyone suddenly looked very busy and Daniel noticed the small smile on Jack's face. The smile was replaced by a frown as Jack turned to face Bra'tac and Jacob. "I know I can't order you guys to do anything, but do you think you could...?" Jack's gesture encompassed the entire camp.

"Keep an eye on things?" Jacob smiled lightly. "I think that might be a good idea." With a nod he and Bra'tac left.

"Major," Jack continued as he turned to Davis.

There was nothing about Jack that gave away his knowledge about Daniel's little conversation with Paul the night before, so Daniel relaxed. Not that Daniel would ever have expected Jack to put his personal feelings and attitude before his duty. The man wasn't stupid and Daniel had rarely met a man who was in that much control of his feelings. Well, most of the time anyway, at least with some of his feelings he let go once in a while.

"Yes sir?" Davis stood to attention.

"Take an airman with you, check out the holding cell." Jack paused for a moment. "Find a Tok'ra and a Jaffa to take along... better yet, ask Bra'tac and Jacob to assign you one of each."

"Jack?" Daniel frowned, wondering what was going through the man's mind.

"Just making sure we don't get any trouble. If we continuously let one from each group into our investigation, no one's gonna be accusing the other side of fraud."

"Yes sir," Davis nodded and went to carry out his orders without questions.

"Sir?" Sam stepped up next to them. She and Teal'c had been keeping quiet in the background.

"Any ideas as to what's going on?" Jack asked, looking worried.

"Not at the moment sir, though..." Sam was cut short as a yell from the south side of the camp broke the morning air.

Swearing under his breath, Jack turned and hurried towards the sound of zats and staff weapons, SG-1 and Daniel close behind him.

As they arrived at the scene, they found almost everyone there already. Daniel heard Jack making sure that there were plenty of guards by the Stargate. He couldn't help letting the pride and respect he felt for the man fill him. The whole thing had everyone spooked, including Daniel himself. Jack? Well, if he was spooked, he hid it damned well.

The sight that met them made Daniel's heart and hopes sink another notch. Jaffa and Tok'ra had drawn their weapons, all looking like a large, ridiculous version of a Mexican standoff. On the ground lay an unconscious Jaffa and bushes and grass carried sure signs of a fight having taken place. SGC personnel were standing to the back, hands on their weapons.

With a sigh, Jack walked forward, between raised staff weapons and zat guns, an annoyed look on his face. Daniel swallowed hard. He was fairly sure Jack knew what he was doing, but watching one of the two most important people in your life walking through a row like that... Daniel could definitely have done without it. He was torn between ripping Jack a new one and joining him out there. All he could do right now was hope that the Jaffa respected Jack enough as a warrior and the Tok'ra... well, that the Tok'ra were intelligent enough to see the ally that Jack was.

"Now what?" asked Jack, putting himself in the middle, scowling at both sides. The silence that greeted him was almost deafening. Jack threw up his hands, then stuffed them casually into his pockets. "Am I the only one who considers this absolutely ridiculous?" he asked.

There was a general shuffling of feet.

"Why don't you each go to your corners, we'll question these people when they wake... *and*" Jack held up a hand, the scowl returning tenfold. "We're still awaiting the search of the cell." He looked right and left. "Well?"

For a moment there was silence, then Jacob and Bra'tac stepped through the lines, talking in low voices to their people. Jack stayed where he was, watching with a stern expression.

Daniel tried to keep calm as he watched how the weapons were still pointing at the opposite line... and Jack was still in the middle. He let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding when everyone finally began to drift off towards their parts of the camp.

A moment later Jack was standing in front of him, a slightly worried look on his face. "You okay, Daniel?"

Daniel nodded. "Yeah, I am *now*." He shook his head as he noticed the look on Jack's face. "I know it's your job, but I hate seeing you risk your life like that..."

Resting a hand on Daniel's shoulder, Jack smiled ruefully. "I know I... *we* have other obligations now, but we have to try and make this work... somehow."

"I know, Jack... I know." Taking a deep breath he started to turn around, as Jack's hand tightened on his shoulder. Turning his head and looking at the hand, he couldn't help smiling. Even after the disaster with the almost-court-martial, Jack still touched him in public. The stray thought reminded him that they were missing a rather important part of their little family.

"I miss her too, Daniel... but it's far too dangerous to bring her here at the moment." Jack's warm, brown eyes shone with worry and the same yearning as Daniel felt.

"I know, Jack..." Daniel repeated, placing his own hand lightly on top of Jack's. It might only have been little more than a day since they'd left Aislinn with Thor, but both men missed her.

Daniel had feared things might not be solved in the near future or that perhaps they'd all end up killing each other. He couldn't have foreseen that things would end as violently and quickly as they did. From the moment Paul reported back to Jack with the facts they'd found in the cell and Jack had discussed it with Jacob and Bra'tac, everything seemed to go almost too quickly for them to keep up with it.

Early evening and they were all standing, backs to the Stargate, waiting for anything to happen. They'd sent out groups to search the area once it had become evident that they were dealing with an outsider who was obviously trying to turn everyone against everyone else, to make them kill one another, occupy them so they'd leave the 'Gate unguarded

Daniel checked the zat he was holding for the umpteenth time, idly listening to the whispered conversations around him. They'd been standing around for the past hour and even though they were trained soldiers, the waiting and the nervousness they all felt at facing an enemy they might not be able to see when he came for them, had them fidgeting.

They'd tried to come up with theories about what might be lurking out there. Many were pointing towards cloaking technology like the kind Nirrti had created and used once before. Daniel had opted to stay outside, taking his stand next to the rest of the troops. Sam and Jonas were busy trying to find a way to disable the cloaking device, to reveal their enemy to them. Both were currently bent over one of their MALPs, modifying it.

Jack was standing a few feet away and a clearing of his throat made the troops quiet down. As he turned his head his eyes lingered on Daniel, softening a little. The lines around the brown eyes were more pronounced than they had been during the past few months. Worrying over the fate of the troops, the Jaffa rebels, the Tok'ra and the Earth... well, it was all taking its toll on Jack. Daniel offered the other man an encouraging smile. What he wouldn't give to close the distance between them, to comfort Jack... But it would never be accepted. They'd get in trouble and besides. Jack needed to be the strong one at the moment. Needed to set a good, strong example for the men and women he was leading. Daniel would have to be the strong one later. No doubt about it, Jack would let him... hell, he'd need it.

One thing Daniel had learned since he and Jack had hooked up, since Aislinn had come into their family, was that Jack needed to be able to let go at some point, to let someone else be the strong one... Silently, Daniel vowed to always try to be there for him. Taking a deep breath, he hoped they'd see their daughter soon. As much as *he* could help Jack, the worry about their child wasn't exactly making things any easier. Still, better to have her with the Asgard than to put her in danger at the Alpha Site.

Speaking of danger. A moment later all hell broke loose. It seemed almost surreal as soldiers, Jaffa and Tok'ra were lifted into the air and thrown aside like puppets, by some invisible force.

Daniel strengthened his grip on the zat he was holding, but as the rest of the people around him, he didn't dare fire at something he couldn't see, in fear of hitting some of the others.

There was yelling and screaming all around him. Daniel clenched his teeth and for a moment he wondered if maybe he should pull back and see what he could do for the ones who were down. Unfortunately that plan had to be scrapped as something grabbed him by the throat and he was lifted off his feet, dangling a good few feet above the ground.

Daniel swallowed hard, wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into this time. Adrenaline rushed through his veins and for a split second the only thing running through his mind was 'God, Jack's gonna kill me for this... and I'll never see Aislinn again...'

Suddenly the air around them crackled and even through his hazy eyes, Daniel saw his opponent sizzle into view as it seemed Sam and Jonas had completed their task, making the damned thing visible to them. Cold eyes were all Daniel could see. Inhuman. Daniel moved almost as if he was under water, arms rising, hands outstretched, as he grabbed for the only vulnerable spot he could reach.

Daniel tried not to think about the soft tissue tearing under the pressure of his thumbs, but the creature howled and a second later, Daniel found himself lying on the ground, gasping for his breath, as the air was thick with weapons fire. Looking up, he saw their enemy towering over him, swaying as it was hit several times, before it toppled backwards, hitting the ground with a loud *THUD*.

Leaning back, eyes closed, trying to find his bearings, Daniel felt a cool hand upon his forehead. Opening his eyes again, Daniel found Sam looking worriedly down at him, then she and Jonas helped him to his feet. Somewhere Daniel could hear Jack barking orders, but it was still hard to hear over the rush of blood in his ears.

"Are you okay, Dr. Jackson?" Daniel let Jonas steady him while Sam took a look at his neck, 'hmpf'ing as she checked the bruised skin.

"I'm fine," croaked Daniel, surprised at how rough his voice was, how much his throat burned. Glancing sideways, Daniel saw Jack turning to give him a quick, worried look. Daniel nodded and was glad to see Jack relax, if only a little. What helped Daniel feel a little better as well, was seeing Teal'c at Jack's side, almost like a rock in the middle of a stormy sea, looming over everyone.

Sam snorted at his 'line', but didn't comment on it. Daniel gave her a small smile. Yeah, yeah, it was almost an old joke. Dr. Daniel Jackson was *always* fine... Even when he wasn't. Daniel's smile widened into a grin. "Seriously, Sam, I've had worse bruises," he rasped, trying not to wince at the pain.

Finally smiling back, Sam nodded. "True, but I still want to get you inside and treat the worst of it." She gestured towards the their fallen opponent. "It had a pretty good grip on you, and the skin is broken in a few places. Nothing serious, but I want it cleaned."

"Sam," Daniel began, meaning to warn her off. He didn't like being fussed over.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice was low and controlled, barely concealing the worry.

"I'm fine, Jack." Daniel held up a hand to ward of the normal response to that. "I *am*." Except his throat really did hurt like hell and he could easily do without Jack's overprotective attitude. It didn't matter what they felt for each other, what they *were* to each other. Daniel was a grown man who could take care of himself.

Jack frowned for a moment, then nodded. Reaching out, he pulled down the collar of Daniel's uniform. "But you need to have that looked at."

"Already on it, sir," answered Sam, slightly amused.

Daniel gave them both his best glare, but he couldn't help smiling. He'd learned years ago to live with the fussing of his makeshift family.

Jack grinned at him, then turned to Sam. "Take him to my office, there's a field bed there." Jack glared back at Daniel, but the brown eyes showed both relief and mirth. "Yes, you'll take it easy for the rest of the day, Dr. Jackson." Jack nodded to Sam. "We'll be taking care of the wounded out here. We've got surprisingly few, it seems, all things considered."

"Jack, I don't need extra care." Daniel frowned. "I'm not fragile."

Closing his eyes for a moment, Jack nodded. When he looked up again and met Daniel's eyes, he looked almost apologetic. "You're right, Daniel, of course. Just the old mother hen routine rearing its head."

Daniel grinned. "I'll let Sam clean the skin, check my throat for any damage, *then* I'll join you out here and help with the wounded." And maybe he should cut down on the talking as well, because it wasn't getting any easier.

Jack opened his mouth to argue.

"That is *not* negotiable, Jack." Daniel drew in a deep breath and to his surprise he almost double over, a coughing fit racking his body.

He waved his worried friends back. Damned, but he hadn't expected this. There might actually be some kind of damage that he hadn't noticed.

"Just do as Carter tells ya, Daniel, okay?" Jack looked like he wanted to put his arms around Daniel, who gave him a small, reassuring smile.

"Deal," rasped Daniel. He really hoped there was nothing seriously wrong.

Daniel sat in silence as Sam checked his throat and neck. The less he fought it, the sooner it would be over.

"I'm not exactly a doctor of medicine, Daniel," she began, as she cleaned the scratches. "But you might want to go easy on your voice for a while."

Daniel gave her a tired smile. He could have told her that. His throat felt raw and he thoroughly regretted having spoken earlier.

Leaning back on the chair he was sitting on, Daniel let Sam talk, listening to her tell about some of the things that had happened back home since they'd left. Not much of the 'official' stuff, just news about their nearest friends. He'd have to wait for things to calm down before they could all sit down and be thoroughly briefed on the more serious situation on Earth.

A few minutes later, the barrack that served as Jack's command post cum office cum quarters seemed almost full, as Jack entered with Ferretti, Pierce, Davis, Bra'tac and Jacob.

"I left Teal'c in charge," grinned Jack as Daniel lifted an eyebrow.

"He is a capable warrior," added Bra'tac.

"As arrogant as Malek may seem, he'll do as he's told." Jacob took a seat next to Daniel.

"You mean, Teal'c will loom over him and intimidate him?" grinned Ferretti.

"That too, Major, that too," agreed Jacob.

"Okay, kids," Jack broke in as he took the seat on the other side of Daniel, watching as Sam applied the last ointment to take the sting out of the scratches. "Status report."

Sam rose to her feet and took her seat next to her father, who in turn opened their little pow-wow, smiling slightly at Jack's description of them, in no way taking offense from it.

Daniel wasn't that surprised. It had taken a while to get used to, but Jack always saw the people he was responsible for in the field as his 'kids'. There was nothing mean or condescending about it, it was simply the way things were.

"From what we can guess, the Goa'uld that attacked us was an Ashrak," Jacob began. "We have surprisingly few wounded from the final run in with it," he continued. "The worst was a sprained knee and a broken arm."

"The Ashrak is dead," Bra'tac picked up as Jacob sat back. "It does indeed seem as if it was trying to turn us against each other and escape while we were occupied."

"Where'd it come from?" asked Sam.

"It probably slipped through the 'Gate during the evacuation," Jacob shook his head. "It would explain how our base was revealed to the Goa'uld, leaving us open to attack."

Jack pursed his lips. "So everyone's cleared?"

Davis nodded. "Yes sir, it seems both the sabotage and the assault can be traced back to the Ashrak."

"Hmm... Still, I take it it'll be a while before there's real trust between our three races..." Jack rubbed his eyes tiredly.

"Of course it will be a while, but right now things actually look okay," said Ferretti. "Out there you have Jaffa, Tok'ra and our guys helping each other, tending to each other's wounds. Give it a little time, Colonel, I'm sure things will look brighter."

Jack nodded and stood. "Fine, let's boost the morale of our troops, shall we?" Leaning against the table he looked over his makeshift command. "I'm scheduling a briefing in one hour. I'd still like to hear why we were asked here and not to Earth."

Daniel met his eyes and gave him a small nod. Their alliances were still fragile. A show of unity from the leaders wouldn't harm. Daniel wondered for a moment why, at times, it had seemed Malek had been in charge of the Tok'ra, when Jacob seemed far more capable. Then again, maybe having a human... a Tau'ri as host had added to that. Daniel hadn't known Jacob before the man had blended with Selmak, but he seemed like a levelheaded man, whereas Malek seemed like a hothead at times.

As they all stood to leave, Jack sidled to Daniel's side, obviously trying to hide his worry. A warm hand descended onto his shoulder, and with a smile Daniel covered it with his own.

"Daniel will have to go easy on his throat for a couple of days," explained Sam.

"Hey," Jack said, visibly brightening, both with relief and mischief. "Does that mean we have a *quiet* Daniel for once?"

Daniel answered by smacking the back of Jack's head lightly, mock glaring at him. He didn't need words to keep Jack where he belonged. Biting his lower lip, Daniel tried to keep from smiling too widely at both Jack's widening eyes and the muffled laughter from the others.

"So, you're saying that basically we don't know what's going on back home?" Jack sighed as he leaned back on the chair, watching the people around the table.

Daniel made his own observations as he tried to digest the news. All in all most of the teams had been off-world when a message had come from General Hammond, asking them to gather at the Alpha Site instead of returning to Earth.

"Basically the order was to gather at the Alpha Site and wait for further orders." Ferretti leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Problem is we tried to dial the SGC just before you came here, Colonel, and the 'Gate wouldn't activate."

Daniel gestured his question, annoyed that he couldn't voice it. He'd tried using his voice earlier and Sam had resolutely told him not to.

Pierce got it and took up the tale. "We couldn't get it to accept the final glyph."

"It's as if there is no 'Gate back on Earth," explained Sam. "Or something's really wrong with it."

"But the message came a lot earlier, right?" Jack frowned. "So either someone knew this would happen, or feared it might."

Silence descended upon their little group.

"Most of the teams were on routine missions," Paul said as he gave Jack a worried look. "I was with SG-11. Even that was a simple mission. The outcome was a good naquada deal." He shrugged. "Which was why I was asked to take over the negotiations when Major Kovachek reported in ill."

"You don't recall anything that might have contributed to the General's orders?" Jack honed in on Davis, obviously hoping that the man knew something from the Pentagon that might shed a little light on their mystery.

Davis shook his head, then frowned again. "Well, unless there's a link between that and Senator Kinsey..."

Daniel sat up, far more attentively. The one man who'd made the most enemies within the SGC and he might be involved? That was hardly a surprise as the snorts and grunts around the table agreed upon.

Jack looked like he'd tasted something really bad. Of them all, Jack *really* carried a dislike for the Senator. Daniel didn't blame him. The man was a pure nuisance.

"Did something happen while Daniel and I were away?" Jack managed to ask, casually leaning back again.

"Well, there were rumors that he'd fallen ill, but from one day to the other he was on his feet, making everyone dance to his pipe," Davis explained.

"Just like that?" Jack raised an eyebrow.

"That's all we were told, Colonel, but from what I heard he was seriously ill for a month or two. I guess many blamed it on the stress from running for presidency."

Jack snorted. "Yeah, I remember hearing that. I really don't want to think about what our county would be like under that man's administration."

"I doubt the SGC would stay active for long, and if it did, it would be with an entirely new crew." Davis shook his head. "Even though there are those in the Pentagon who prefer Hammond in charge, there are unfortunately quite a few who agree with Kinsey on turning things over to the NID."

Sam gave them all a dark look as she spoke up. "I think we all know what would happen to our little handful of alliances, right?"

Jack held up his hand and slowly ticked off. "The Nox..."

Daniel gestured upwards. Yeah, they'd definitely lose the Nox. The Tau'ri were considered very young, and the SGC was only tolerated because they'd showed a willingness to grow and learn the right way.

Jack nodded as he caught Daniel's eyes. "The Asgard..." He turned to Jacob, who'd been silent since they'd sat down.

Jacob shook his head. "I can't speak without having run it through the High Council, but I doubt we'd hang around... as much as it pains me, Jack, I doubt we'd deal with anyone but Hammond and you guys." The older man smiled mirthlessly. "I don't think I can call it real trust, but it's the closest way I can describe why we deal with the SGC. Anyone having their strings pulled by Kinsey and the NID? I don't think we'd go for it."

"It's okay, Jacob. I can't blame you for that." Jack chewed his lower lip. "If anything, I find it strangely satisfying that the Tok'ra won't stoop to his level."

Jacob grinned.

Daniel couldn't help smiling. Good thing Jacob knew Jack as well as he did, or he might have taken offence at such a comment. It wasn't exactly a secret how Jack felt about the Tok'ra. Jacob was tolerated because he was from Earth and because he was Sam's father.

Still, as they'd made their rounds, it had seemed Jack had been keeping a lid on how he felt. Either that or he was getting used to the Tok'ra and maybe even starting to understand and accept the difference between them and the Goa'uld. Daniel knew how he felt. He hadn't been too comfortable around the Tok'ra in the beginning either. It had felt wrong... almost as if he'd been betraying Sha're by trusting them.

"Bra'tac?" Jack turned to the old warrior, who'd been listening intensely.

Daniel smiled at the obvious respect in Jack's voice. As much as he'd bitch and moan and at times be almost rude to the Jaffa, it was no secret that Jack valued the man's intelligence and prowess as a warrior. Jack had even at some point revealed to Daniel that he felt like a school kid who'd gotten something right when Bra'tac praised something about Jack and his team. It had been a strange feeling to Jack that he hadn't had in years. Daniel wondered if Jack had ever strived for a teacher's approval the way he did for Bra'tac, however oddly he chose to show it.

"It is not an easy decision to make, O'Neill," Bra'tac began. "But I believe we would prefer to deal with people who have earned our trust." The dark eyes sparkled with a certain approval in itself.

Daniel bit his lip to keep from grinning openly as he caught Jack's eyes. He was fairly sure Jack knew exactly what was going through his head, since the older man looked like he wanted to stick his tongue out at Daniel.

"It makes sense, Bra'tac and it's appreciated. Worst case scenario..." Jack's expression darkened. "Worst case scenario we're cut off from Earth."

"So what do we do?" asked Ferretti.

"For now I'd say we try to make this a functioning outpost," Jack began, then turned to their allies once again. "I take it the Tok'ra are already planning to re-locate?"

Jacob nodded. "We'll be going as soon as possible, probably tomorrow. We have coordinates for a world suitable for a base."

"I thought as much," agreed Jack, hiding his disapproval of the 'hit-and-run' tactics of the Tok'ra.

"Once we're settled I'll see what I can do about helping out here," added Jacob, giving Jack a small, knowing smile.

Jack nodded. "Thanks Jacob, it's greatly appreciated."

"Most of our Jaffa will leave to find others, to aid them in seeing the truth about their false gods, but quite a few will stay behind to help here, O'Neill." Bra'tac gave Jack a slight nod.

Jack nodded. "Your warriors have already helped a lot, Master Bra'tac, thank you. We do need all the help we can get since I guess we won't be getting any help from Earth in the near future."

"Sir," Sam began. "Our supplies are dwindling and we'll need to replenish soon."

Jack agreed. "Any suggestions?"

Daniel scribbled on his notepad while the others voiced their ideas.

"All is well and good... that we can pick whatever wild berries we can find," said Jack. "But we'll need a lot more."

"There are quite a few wild animals around," began Ferretti. "So there's a bit of a chance for hunting. And the river a klick from here seems to have plenty of fish."

Jack nodded. "Anything else?"

Daniel pushed his notepad sideways to let Jack have a look. Yeah, it was all well and good with hunting and gathering, but they still needed extra things, like clothes and additional food wouldn't hurt.

Jack leaned to the side to read Daniel's notes, his presence solid and warm against Daniel's shoulder. "Yeah, makes sense to ask Tuplo if the Land of Light might be able to lend us a hand with supplies. The Nox? Well, we can ask and the same goes for the Asgard."

The others agreed and Jack held up his hand for a moment to get their attention again. "I want SG-1 to go to the Land of Light. It won't hurt having Jonas along, I get the feeling he'll enjoy it." Jack grinned and gave Daniel a sideways look. It obviously wasn't lost on the older man that Daniel and Jonas had a few things in common. One definitely being their curiosity with people and culture.

Daniel grinned. He'd have loved to go visit their old friends, but without his voice he doubted he'd be of much use. Besides, SG-1 would be more than enough and they had plenty that needed done at the Alpha Site. An idea formed in his mind though, and Daniel began scribbling again.

Jack dismissed the rest of their friends and turned to Daniel, who shoved his notepad at Jack.

Jack nodded as he read. "And get Thor to take a look at your vocal cords while you're at it."

Daniel agreed. He could go check on their daughter, get his voice checked over again and see what Thor might have to say about lending them yet another hand.

"See what you can do about getting us clothing too. The garment the Asgard gave us was light but warm, so it would be great to have that for uniforms."

Daniel grinned and scribbled a little more and Jack read out loud, leaning over Daniel's shoulder, arm slung around Daniel's waist, chin resting on his shoulder.

"Yeah, definitely. It's fairly warm at the moment, but according to Carter it will get very cold in a month or two and we just don't know for how long we'll be stuck here." Jack's arm tightened around him. "I wish I could go with you, see Aislinn... And I don't like letting you go alone."

Daniel frowned and jotted down a word on the notepad.

"Overprotective?" Jack chuckled as he read it. "No, not really, but damned, that time during the trial was something I don't ever wanna go through again. I mean," he continued as he pulled Daniel around to face him. The warm, brown eyes spoke volumes on their own.

Daniel nodded and brought a hand up to cup Jack's face, smiling as the other man nuzzled into the touch. That short period had felt like an eternity to the both of them; well, for all three of them. He didn't ever want to be parted from his family for too long again and he knew that was what Jack was referencing.

"Tomorrow night, Daniel. That would fit with early in the day where we left and you won't be stepping out of the 'Gate into a dark night." Jack's instructions were delivered in a low voice, while he planted soft kisses in the palm of Daniel's hand.

The following day proved to be something of a challenge to Daniel's patience. He prided himself of being a calm man, but even he was having trouble keeping up a professional facade in the face of a familiar opponent.

Daniel was in the supply room, making a list of things he should ask Thor for as he felt the unmistakable feeling of not being alone anymore. Turning slowly he came face to face with the same AF Captain with whom he had had a face-off in the SGC's commissary during their last visit to Earth. Daniel cocked an eyebrow, but kept scribbling notes on the clipboard he was holding. With a sigh he chose to ignore the almost predatory smile on the man's face.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't everyone's favorite little civilian." The man closed the door behind him, leaning back against the door frame.

Daniel sighed and raised an eyebrow. Some people grated on his nerves more than others. Considering he'd put up with Jack for so many years, it was amazing how some other people simply rubbed him the wrong way. Slowly counting to ten, he kept ignoring the airman, hoping he'd go away.

A hand landed heavily on his shoulder and Daniel rolled his eyes before turning around. He really seemed out of luck. This just wasn't the time or place for grudges and the Captain should have been professional enough to see that. Daniel turned his head, looked at the hand, then looked at the smirking Captain. Fastening his pen unto the clipboard, he took hold of the hand and removed it from his shoulder.

As he turned to continue his work, the other man obviously wasn't having much fun anymore, because he promptly grabbed Daniel by the shoulder again. Letting years of training take over; Daniel grabbed the man's wrist, twisted around and wrung the arm back behind the Captain.

"Hey!" The man tried to work his way out of his predicament, but Daniel was used to training with his team and even though he'd never be able to hold any of them this way, it worked wonders with his current opponent. Daniel suspected that it might not work for much longer, as the element of surprise was what had gained him the upper hand. The moment the Captain regained his senses and the man's training kicked in...

Pushing the man forward until he hit the floor, face down, Daniel planted his knee in the back of the Captain, effectively pinning the arm against the man's body. Slamming the clipboard into the ground less than an inch from the Captain's nose, he quickly scribbled a few words unto the paper.

"So the Colonel's plaything has claws?" the man spat. Unfortunately he seemed quite strong and it would probably only be a matter of moments before he would twist free.

Daniel growled as he pressed his knee down a bit more, feeling his throat flare with pain. Shit, he really shouldn't be trying to use it. Scribbling another line he waited impatiently for the man to read it.

The Captain snorted. "You're a civilian, you're a liability."

It was Daniel's turn to snort. Then he grabbed the clipboard, ripped off a piece of the post-it attached to it. Scribbling one word he pinned it to the man's back before writing on the notepad again and putting the clipboard down in front of the Captain.

Daniel made sure to underline 'important' several times. Then he snatched the clipboard back and both men were startled by the door opening, admitting Ferretti, who gave them a strange look.

"What's going on in here?" he asked.

Before the Captain could get to his feet and salute, Daniel stood and wrote down another word and showed the clipboard to Lou.

"Practice?" Ferretti asked, disbelievingly.

Daniel nodded, giving the man his best poker face. Not that it mattered much, because Lou kept eyeing him with suspicion. Still, the Major chose to leave it at that.

"Don't you have a job to do, Captain?" Ferretti asked frostily.

"Yes sir!" the man answered, saluting Lou and beating a hasty retreat. As he went out the door, Ferretti almost lost it.

"Did you put that note on his... never mind, who the hell else would use that as an insult." Ferretti couldn't stop laughing. Then he sobered. "The Colonel wants to see you before you leave, Dr. Jackson."

Daniel grinned wryly, nodded and went to get the last few things he'd need before he could leave, then went to find his friend. Finding Jack in the command barrack, he closed the door behind him and made sure they were perfectly alone, before pulling the other man into a warm embrace.

"Well, hello there, Dr. Jackson," breathed Jack just before Daniel shut him up with a long, sweet kiss.

Jack chuckled. "I can't get over how eloquent you are, love." He graciously ducked as Daniel smacked his shoulder. Just because he wasn't supposed to speak, didn't mean he wouldn't fight back.

"Say hi to our daughter from me, will ya?" Jack's voice was sad when they parted enough to speak.

Daniel nodded. He understood that Jack couldn't leave the Alpha Site at the moment, but he knew that as much as he and Jack missed Aislinn, she was probably missing them even more. She wasn't even among people of her own race. Still, Jack trusted Thor so Daniel would too. Rubbing his cheek against Jack's, Daniel tried to convey his feelings.

Somehow he managed, as Jack drew him in for another long, tender kiss that left Daniel slightly breathless. He reluctantly drew back and pointed at his watch. Jack agreed.

"Yeah, time to go..." Jack bit his lip but stopped as Daniel reached up to put his finger on the man's lower lip. Softly smiling, Daniel brought the same finger to his own lips then to his heart.

"Sap," accused Jack with a sad smile.

Daniel scrunched up his nose and grinned. Oh yeah, Colonel, you better believe it, he thought to himself. He'd learned from the best.

Taking Daniel's bag, Jack walked him out the door and over to the DHD. "Take care, Daniel, and hurry back."

Patting Jack's shoulder, Daniel turned to punch in the coordinates for the world where they'd left Thor and Aislinn behind. As they waited for the chevrons to fall into their sequence and the 'Gate to burst to life, Jack held his arm for a second, warming Daniel's heart with a wide smile.

"Oh, before I forget to ask, why is Captain Smith wearing a post-it with the word 'Budge' written on it?" Jack tried to hide his amusement.

Daniel gave him his best and most innocent smile in return and shrugged.

Jack laughed and pointed at the 'Gate. "Godspeed, Daniel. See you soon."

Daniel gave him a little wave before stepping through the shimmering blue portal.

Daniel coughed lightly, finally daring to put his voice to the test as he turned and smiled to Aislinn. "It's okay, Aislinn, I think it's back to normal."

The girl broke into a wide smile, reminding Daniel very much of Jack, as her eyes sparkled and she hugged him hard. "I missed you and Jack," she whispered.

"I know," Daniel replied, his voice low and warm. Even though it had only been a few days, they'd all gotten so used to living together that any time apart felt like ages. "We missed you too."

"Can I come back with you?" she asked, looking pleadingly at him.

Daniel sighed. "I'm sorry, Aislinn, but it's still too dangerous for a child." Daniel bit his lip and tried not to laugh as the child tried to hide her pout, not succeeding too well. It hit him for a moment what it was that made Jack refer to Daniel's pout as 'cute'. Shaking his head, Daniel took Aislinn's hand and they made their way to the command bridge of, and it still made Daniel grin, The Millennium Falcon.

"Ah, Dr. Jackson," Thor's voice greeted them as they stepped through the wide doors of the bridge. "I take it your voice is now back?"

"Yeah, thank you, Thor." Daniel and Aislinn wandered over to the command chair. "I hope Aislinn hasn't given you any problems," Daniel said, smiling down at his daughter, who gave him a look that could only be described as overbearing.

Thor turned the chair to face the two. Tilting his head slightly to the side he looked at them, his large black eyes blinking slowly. "She has given me no problems. I have let her learn."

"Learn?" Daniel couldn't help his eyes widening. Well, sure she'd have to have been doing something. "Learn what?"

"She has already learned a fair part of our written language, more than enough to communicate with our computer at a satisfying level." Thor moved a few of the colored stones and then seemed to sit back at rest. "She is a quick study."

"Children have always had it easier with learning," grinned Daniel as he gave Aislinn a wink. Even though that was true, he was proud she was learning as fast as she was and that her curiosity seemed to be insatiable. Then a thought struck him.

"Thor, when you slowed her aging, did you slow her learning ability as well?" Daniel wondered if he should be worried.

"Only as much as was necessary. Her learning ability is now as it should be, though it is still high." Thor seemed to think for a moment. "If we had left it unattended, Heimdall feared that if we had left it unattended, it might damage her brain later on, as she is human and her mind still has your race's limitations."

Daniel nodded. They'd never really been told why Aislinn had aged as quickly as he had, apart from the assumed malfunction of the device. It was obvious that something had gone wrong with it, or the uterus would have disappeared at the same time he'd returned to his normal physical self. Not that Daniel was complaining. He and Jack both adored the little girl and somehow the Asgard had managed to slow her growth to normal human standard. Even though they'd more or less lost a lot of her childhood, the important thing was that she was with them, she was alive and that she was well.

"But I have no doubt that you will supply her with sufficient learning material, Dr. Jackson, and so will I, where possible," Thor said, giving him a nod.

Daniel blinked in surprise. Wow, he'd never imagine anything like that, though some little voice in the back of his mind told him that the Asgard were probably conducting some sort of experiment to see how and how much the child could learn. Then again, maybe he was getting paranoid. Working for the SGC seemed to do that to them.

"Thank you, Thor," Daniel finally managed, giving the little grey alien a wide smile. "Is it okay if Aislinn stays with you a little longer? After the trouble we had with the Ashrak, I have to admit the Alpha Site isn't my first choice of places to have Aislinn." He looked down at his daughter. "Even though we miss her terribly."

"As she missed you, but I understand, Dr. Jackson, and Aislinn is welcome to stay for as long as it is possible."

"And that would be how long?" Daniel asked, wondering if that might be worry he was picking up in Thor's voice.

"If anything comes up that needs my attention and I have to leave to take care of it, then I shall make sure you are notified and Aislinn is reunited with you."

"Thor, you're beginning to worry me a bit," Daniel said, frowning. Having an Asgard worried really didn't feel good.

"There is nothing to worry about, Dr. Jackson, I am merely stating things as they are." Thor's voice was level and emotionless. Still, Daniel didn't feel too reassured.

"Thor, you've helped us a lot already, but there are a few things we need while we're trying to figure out what's going on back on Earth. And frankly, we were hoping that you could help with it. Or tell us where we could get the things we need." Daniel took a deep breath and hoped that the Asgard would be willing to once again lend them a helping hand.

"I will help where I can, Dr. Jackson."

Daniel pulled out his list and gave it to Thor. "I hope you can, because we've got more people than supplies and the temperature will be dropping in less than a month. Most of all we need clothing and such."

"I shall see what I can do, in the meantime, I shall leave you with Aislinn." Thor sounded almost amused. "As much as I have been capable of coming up with distractions, I am afraid I am no match for you or O'Neill."

Daniel grinned. "Thank you, Thor. We really do appreciate what you're doing for us."

Thor nodded and activated his transportation device, disappearing from their sight. Daniel turned to pick Aislinn up into a bear hug. "I'm so glad to see you again, Aislinn. Been keeping Thor busy?"

"Yup." The girl put her arms around his neck and gave him a dazzling smile that reminded him very much of Jack, eyes sparkling with happiness. Daniel leaned his head against hers, sharing a silent moment with her.

"Do you want to show me what you've learned?" he asked, and his answer came promptly as she slid down from his embrace, grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the control bridge, down the hallway and into what was clearly hear quarters. After that they both became completely lost to the world, digging through language tutorials and historical texts. None of the historical texts were as much about the Asgard as it was about the races they'd taken under their protection.

Daniel returned to the Alpha Site and requested two FREDs to take back with him to pick up the crates of essentials Thor had managed to get them. It had panned out far better than any of them had hoped, but Daniel was sad to leave his daughter behind again. Still, she seemed content for the time being with whatever Thor could give her to learn. And Daniel had other obligations at the moment, as little as he liked them. The only good thing about going back would be Jack... And yet he had something he really needed to discuss with the other man as soon as possible.

The run-in with Captain Smith the previous day didn't bode well for them. It was one thing hiding a relationship on a huge base like Cheyenne Mountain where they went home almost every night. Hiding it in the middle of the Alpha Site... Daniel sighed deeply as he watched the last FRED go through the Stargate and with one last look back, Daniel returned to their temporary base.

It was early morning at the Alpha Site when Daniel rematerialized. Everyone was busy unloading the FREDs and Jack came toward him, a broad smile on his face.

"So I take it Thor was more than helpful?" Jack asked loudly.

Daniel merely nodded. It did kind of speak for itself.

As Jack stopped right in front of him, the brown eyes softened with welcome. "How is Aislinn?"

"She's good, Jack, keeping Thor busy," Daniel answered, aching to put his arms around the other man. It hurt to have to leave Aislinn behind again, but Jack hadn't even seen her. Daniel had no problem imagining what it felt like for the other man. "She is, Jack, but she misses us both..."

Jack sighed and dropped his gaze for a moment before meeting Daniel's eyes again. "I know, Daniel, but we've been over this before. The Alpha Site isn't safe at the moment. We've barely gotten over the attack of the Ashrak."

"I know, Jack, I know." Daniel gave him a soft smile.

"Well, we better get busy," Jack finally managed, clearing his throat. "Jacob and the Tok'ra have already left and some of the Jaffa are helping them set up a base. Teal'c went with them to make sure no... misunderstandings surface."

Daniel nodded. "That's probably a very good idea." Daniel let him lead him over to the side. "Can't have them killing each other."

"See, I knew you were smart, Dr. Jackson," grinned Jack.

Daniel couldn't help answering the smile with one of his own. Then he sobered a little, remembering what he'd decided. "Jack, we need to have a talk."

Jack's expression turned serious. "Yeah?"

"Can we go somewhere private?" Daniel asked, dreading what he knew would happen. Jack wasn't going to let go that easily.

Daniel nursed his cup of coffee, sitting across from Jack at the desk the man used as work space. The small office cum sleeping quarters was quiet and Daniel realized that it might have been a bad idea to choose the last place he and Jack had made love as the place where he would have to tell Jack they should cool it down. Damn. He didn't *want* to cool it down. It wasn't fair...

"Is this about Captain Smith?" Jack finally asked, taking a sip of his own coffee.

Daniel looked up and frowned. As much as he found the Captain annoying, he didn't want to cause more trouble, draw more attention than he already had by, well, kissing and telling.

"Look, Ferretti told me that something wasn't right between the two of you." Jack poured himself another cup of coffee and topped Daniel's mug as well. They didn't have much left, but Thor had made sure they had something vaguely similar that would have to do.

"Yeah, it's partly why I wanted to talk to you, Jack, we... you and I..." How the hell could he tell Jack to cool it off, that he would be moving to the sleeping quarters that the others used. That Jack would be sleeping alone... and even if Daniel was sharing a bunk room with several others, he'd be feeling more alone than ever before. "Jack, he commented on you and me and I'm afraid that..."

Jack held up a hand to cut him off. "Are you suggesting we sleep apart?"

"Jack, this is a *very* small command post. We can't hide it." Daniel ran a hand through his hair. He'd known that Jack wouldn't exactly make it any easier, but if they were to get through it all... It would feel as bad as back when Jack had been taken into custody. And back then Daniel had lived with Aislinn. This time he'd be alone with his thoughts.

Why, for once, couldn't Jack just lose the facade? He could be so damned flippant when it was only himself at risk, but Daniel knew that he had to get a good grip on the part of Jack that understood that he wasn't alone in this. That there was more at stake.

"Look, this isn't some one way street, Jack. You're not the only one who's gonna miss..." Daniel shook his head and rested his forehead against his hands. "Just... Jack, it's your life, career and when Aislinn eventually comes here it will be her life as well."

Jack paled visibly and his eyes filled with remorse. "It's yours too, I'm sorry, Daniel. The future of our family." Jack took a deep breath. "It's not just about the sex, Daniel it's..."

Daniel nodded. "I know, Jack, but still..."

Nodding, Jack seemed to reluctantly agree. "It won't be easy, Daniel," he warned.

Daniel rubbed his eyes. No, it wouldn't exactly be easy. "I never said it would be."

"It's for the better," Jack said, obviously not much belief behind that sentence.

"For the better," Daniel answered, feeling sick to his stomach. Why couldn't they ever be allowed a happily ever after. It wasn't as if Daniel was asking for a white wedding, a picket fence, two dogs, two cars and two point five kids. He just wanted a little everyday happiness with his family of three. He didn't even *want* dogs. With his luck and his allergies he probably wouldn't last long.

"Daniel?" Jack asked, worry evident in his voice.

Daniel shook his head. "Just let it go, Jack."

"Maybe I should bunk with the rest of..." Jack began.

"Oh no," warned Daniel, he had no trouble imagining what that would be like. "Jack, that would be cruel torture. Having you near, within sight and reach?"

"Yeah?" Jack gave him a small smile.

"Oh yeah," grinned Daniel, but he still felt sick to his stomach.

"Maybe you're right." Jack scratched the stubble on his chin. "We're adult people, we're no strangers to making difficult decisions. I'm sure we can handle this..."

Daniel gave him a small, sincere smile. "We have to, Jack, there's no other way around it." Getting on his feet, Daniel leaned against the table and watched the other man. "We don't need the extra trouble. Trust me, Jack."

Jack stood to follow him to the door. As Daniel put his hand on the handle, Jack's hand came up to cover it. "You know I'm only doing this for the greater good, right?"

Daniel nodded and waited silently for Jack to let him out. Daniel needed to get away or he'd end up ruining everything their little chat had just achieved.

Jack finally let him open the door, but as Daniel walked away, he caught the muttered words that escaped Jack.

"Doing things for the greater good really sucks."

Daniel bit his lower lip as he walked away, feeling as if he was wearing boots of lead. "Couldn't agree with you more, Jack," he whispered under his breath as he went to see if he could hi-jack a bunk somewhere. Preferably in a dark corner where he could curl up at night. Alone.

One week went by and things were semi-normal. At least as normal as they could get. They had most of what they needed from the Asgard and Tuplo had been more than happy to help them with supplies.

All things considered, they should be glad that they managed as well as they did. Daniel *tried* to be happy, but with most of the hard work done, he still had far too much time to think. There was nothing much for him to do once the initial things were taken care of. He'd always been there for translations or first contacts, now he was needed for neither.

And Jack? Jack was a royal pain in the rear. And that was putting it mildly. It hadn't been that bad the first couple of days, but Daniel began seeing the signs. Jack was worried, stressed, but all there was to notice on the outside was the way he held his shoulders, a little higher, a little tighter; the way his eyes would narrow, how his patience would hit its limits a lot faster than it had used to.

All in all Daniel knew he was going to blow, eventually. Before Jack had been capable of de-stressing by concentrating on Daniel or their daughter. Now he had neither. To make matters worse, Daniel himself was within sight, but strictly off-limits. Daniel was quite aware that this was adding to Jack's stress, but that is what they had agreed to, and neither man would go back on it, since both knew exactly what they stood to lose.

After almost two weeks Daniel was beginning wonder if he'd go crazy from not having anything with which to challenge his mind. It was as if he could feel Jack's eyes on him where-ever he went, even when he knew perfectly well that he was alone. No one had dared call Jack on his deteriorating mood, but it was clear that most were affected by it. In the end it felt as if the entire camp was walking around on eggshells, trying to stay as far away from the Colonel as they could.

Daniel didn't blame them. He'd noticed lines around Jack's eyes that shouldn't be there, a constant frown seemed to mar the strong features and there was nothing Daniel wanted more than to reach out and smooth out those lines.

It didn't help matters any, that Paul had a tendency to show up exactly at exactly the moments when Daniel *didn't* want company. To make matters worse, it seemed that Jack always walked in on them when they were having a conversation.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what would be going through the older man's mind. Thankfully it didn't seem as if Jack had tried to take it out on Paul... yet.

Daniel was getting so desperate for things to take his mind of the problem that he started going through the old reports of the Alpha Site. He came across references about some caves a few clicks to the North. They had been filmed, the writings on the walls discarded as not being of great importance and filed away. Still, even if there was nothing significant about them, they were perfect for Daniel to pour his energy into. The only problem would be to get permission to leave.

He knew from the files that there were no larger predators on the planet, that the wildlife in general wasn't dangerous; that there were no plants that were overly poisonous to them. Still, he knew perfectly well that now wasn't the best of times to ask Jack for it.

Playing with the thought of merely leaving and checking out the caves, Daniel leaned back against the wall of the sleeping quarters, enjoying the warm rays of the sun. There wasn't much they could do until they had more intel from Earth, or until either Jacob or Bra'tac returned with news of some kind.

Bra'tac had gone with a few of the Jaffa to search for more rebels and Daniel knew that he'd talked to Jacob about helping the Tok'ra with their new base. So that left the rest of the Jaffa and the SGC personnel at the Alpha Site. And frankly, Daniel was beginning to feel a little antsy.

"Taking a rest, Doc?" Ferretti's voice broke the silence and Daniel's contemplation.

"Is there much else to do at the moment?" asked Daniel with a small smile.

Ferretti leaned against the wall next to him. "That seems to be the problem," he answered, casually watching the tips of his boots.

Daniel grinned but didn't say anything. If Ferretti just wanted to hang out it was fine with him. But Daniel suspected there might be more to it than that.

"The Colonel's in an awful mood... going stir-crazy." Ferretti kicked at some imaginary dirt. "Everyone's making bets on why."

"Jack prefers to have something to do," Daniel answered before he thought about it. Okay, bad choice of words. Jack preferred to have *someone* to do, preferably Daniel.

Ferretti stopped his dirt mutilation for a moment, then continued, the only difference being the grin he was trying to conceal. Oh yeah, it hadn't gotten past him, that was for sure.

"Okay, I give up, Ferretti," Daniel finally said. "What are the bets and what are the odds?"

Ferretti snorted, but nevertheless answered. "Well, safe to say that the popular belief is a lover's tiff and it's getting the most bets."

Daniel didn't even find it necessary to answer that. Ferretti may at times play as dumb as Jack, but it seemed to be almost the norm with some of the team leaders. To hide that they actually were leaders for a reason. There was no way Lou hadn't figured it all out. Well, at least figured most of it out.

"Lou, you know as well as I do..." Daniel began.

"Look, Doc, I know it's none of our business, but you're not doing yourselves nor the rest of us any favors with this."

Daniel closed his eyes for a moment. "Really Lou, there's nothing I can do."

"Doc, you're not feeling any more at ease here than he is." Lou gestured at the camp. "You've got nothing to be preoccupied with and the more you think about it, the more..."

"Please, Lou... don't get into that now." Daniel really didn't need the extra pressure. Neither did Jack. "I've been thinking about taking a look at the caves North of here." He'd made up his mind. It was still early in the day and he really needed to get away from the camp. Away from Jack and away from whomever thought they were having a problem.

"Just a quick look?" Lou asked casually.

"Yeah, it's still early morning. If I leave now I can be back before sundown." Daniel made up his mind at that moment. He was going to do this, to take his mind off the current problem. "Just don't tell Jack. If he asks, just... make something up."

Ferretti grunted something that sounded like an agreement and later, as Daniel made his way through the undergrowth, he began wondering how wise it had been. Not the trip in itself but telling Ferretti. The man was fiercely loyal to Jack and Daniel wasn't sure he wouldn't tell the Colonel if he felt it was a help to them.

Still, Daniel really needed the time away. A little space to breathe; to not think about Jack; to not wonder what would happen when Aislinn came back. How the hell were they going to explain their living apart to her?

And the rest of the camp? He and Jack had agreed on keeping their hands off each other for the greater good. Now it looked as if they weren't doing anyone a favor with that.

Daniel suspected those who thought he and Jack had had a fallout, thought it was sex related. Sure, they were partly right. Both men tended to use their love life as a safety valve. Daniel *knew* that, but he'd hoped they could get beyond that. Daniel suspected that Jack missed the same things he did. The closeness, the opportunity to let go with someone they could trust.

Daniel felt the ground under his feet become harder and a quick check told him that the soft undergrowth had partly given way to rocky ground. A moment later and a quick check with the map and he was standing at the opening to a cave. Hoping the light from the flash light wouldn't do any harm to the paintings he stepped inside and let his backpack slip to the ground. He'd have preferred to use mirrors, but he didn't have that type of resources at the moment.

The ground of the cave was covered with fine sand, making his movements a lot easier than if it had been rough rocks. Moments later Daniel let his mind go and concentrated on the things he did best. He'd checked his radio before he started though; making sure it was on in case something happened. He just prayed the first thing he'd hear wouldn't be a pissed-off Jack, ordering him back to the camp.

The radio never did break the silence. Still, at some point Daniel began feeling strange; as if he was being... watched. He checked the entrance several times, but there was nothing there.

He would have told himself he was going paranoid if it wasn't for years of training. Daniel kept telling himself that there were no dangers to him, at least not from nature's side.

The minutes ticked by and Daniel felt the creeping realization that he was indeed not alone. The occasional glance around and at the opening of the cave didn't reveal anything. Daniel wasn't normally prone to panic but the current situation had him thoroughly spooked.

Taking a deep breath he returned to his studies, jotting down his thoughts in his notebook. Still, he had trouble fully enjoying it as he normally would. The feeling of being observed kept interfering with his happy place, making it neigh to impossible for him to completely get lost in the work. Hmmm, happy place... The unbidden thought of Jack elbowed its way into his mind.

Daniel realized a few moments later that he'd zoned out completely. Damn, but he missed the other man and daydreaming wouldn't help him get any work done. He'd gone to the caves to take his mind *off* the other man, not to lose himself in memories. Hell, they'd agreed to have this time apart. They couldn't risk their relationship in the long run by flaunting it in front of a camp full of military personnel.

Then again, no matter how professional he and Jack were trying to be, the fact that they were not there to take the edge off each other, shone right through. Daniel knew he'd been drawing into himself for the past two weeks and that Jack had grown more and more agitated, until he was nothing but the military man and obviously that wasn't what made people follow him in the field. Daniel *knew* what that was. The ability to be human as well as career military. One didn't exclude the other.

They *had* made their choice based on what they *thought* would be for the greater good but it seemed they may as well get back together. Maybe he should pack up and head back to the camp. Confront Jack and just...

Sudden movement to Daniel's right drew his attention, but not fast enough. A large weight hit him sideways and threw him to the ground. Looking up groggily, Daniel found himself held to the cave floor by one *very* annoyed AF Colonel.

"What the hell did you think you were doing, Jackson?" Jack's voice was raw and full of emotion. But what hit Daniel the most was the worry in the dark eyes, beneath it all.

Daniel could have kicked himself. He should have known that Jack would find out about him leaving the camp. A fleeting thought hit him. Ferretti. Oh, the man was going to *pay* for telling Jack.

Shoving at Jack's shoulder, Daniel tried to push him away. "Jack, get off me."

Dark eyes narrowed and Jack's lips were nothing but a narrow line. "No."

"Jack..." Daniel forced himself to relax. This man wasn't an enemy he needed to fight off. Unless of course Jack had been possessed by some alien entity. In that case, all bets would be off.

Daniel tried to lift his arms, but Jack turned out to be faster. Within seconds Jack was sitting astride Daniel's waist, the younger man's wrists caught in an iron grip.

"Don't even try to get away, Daniel." Jack's voice was low, but bore an edge to it. "I think we need to have a little word, don't you?"

"Look..." Daniel began. "I'm sorry I left camp without telling you, Jack. I really am, but I needed..." The rest of his sentence never made it past his lips... never mind Jack's as they closed over his in a bruising kiss.

Trying frantically to draw enough air through his nose, Daniel arched and felt how Jack slid down to pin him to the floor, using his weight and strength to combine a hold that Daniel had no hope of breaking. The sheer force behind it seemed to lessen little by little, as the kiss went from punishing to raw and needy, Jack's tongue thrusting ruthlessly between Daniel's lips.

Not that Daniel minded. To him it was exactly what he needed. Two weeks of not having the nearness of the other man, two weeks of nothing to take the edge off their stress... Some small part of Daniel's mind that still seemed to operate on a fairly productive level knew this, understood this. The rest, however, only knew one thing and that was that any action had an equal *re*-action.

Somehow he managed to free his hands and slide them down over Jack's shoulders, fingers digging into the other man's biceps, feeling the wiry strength flex under his grip.

Daniel struggled against Jack, not to get lose, but to touch as much as humanly possible and then some. Refusing to let go of their lip lock, both men fought to undo straps, zippers and belts, hands clashing, fingers entangling. Still, somehow they managed undo what could be undone and Daniel grunted into the kiss as he felt Jack push the jumpsuit down and take a good grip at the hem of his t-shirt and rip it from bottom to top.

Rough hands burned against his chest, roaming up, down and around his waist, gripping, rubbing and probably leaving bruises in their wake. Daniel didn't care; he was far too occupied, trying to force Jack to roll over so he could do some exploring of his own. Growling into Jack's mouth, he sucked on the man's tongue and finally bit down, not enough to really hurt, but enough to make Jack yelp out with surprise. And that was all he needed.

Daniel braced his left foot against the floor and forced Jack around and a moment later he had the other man pinned underneath him. Not that Jack was complaining. He was far too busy slipping his hands down the back of Daniel's underwear pants, fingers closing in a vice-like grip on his ass.

Breaking the kiss to try to get enough oxygen to his brain to actually do something other than just search for friction, Daniel pushed himself up to sit astride Jack's crotch. Looking down, Daniel took in the entire view under him. Jack was panting like he'd run a marathon, his lips were red and slightly swollen and his eyes were so dark that it was hard to make out any brown edge around the black of the pupils.

Daniel wasn't doing much better himself. Drawing a few deep breaths, he wondered what he might look like himself. His uniform top was hanging halfway down his arms, the t-shirt in tatters. And the front of the jumpsuit was open, stressed so much they were almost ripping at the zipper as Jack stubbornly still kept his hands in a steel grip, firmly and possessively planted on Daniel's ass.

Daniel slipped his hand inside Jack's uniform and found what he was looking for. Feeling Jack's body trembling underneath him, he leaned forward and whispered into Jack's ear: "Stalemate?"

As Daniel leaned back, he caught Jack's eyes again, and couldn't look away. He felt Jack's fingers slip down between his cheeks, rubbing lightly down the cleft. Daniel bit his lip but steeled himself. Gripping a little harder he leaned forward again.

"Please?" Jack gasped out, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead.

Daniel slowly shook his head. "No," he said firmly.

"No?" Jack choked out, voice thick with disbelief and eyes wide with surprise.

Daniel slowly pulled back, feeling Jack let go of him, however reluctantly. Still, Daniel didn't let go of his own little conquest. Though, at the moment, little wasn't exactly the word he'd use. Slowly getting to his feet, Daniel urged Jack to follow him. Not that the other man had any other options.

"Daniel?" Jack asked, frowning as he did what Daniel wanted him to and a moment later they were standing, face to face.

"Take off your clothes," Daniel told him, still not relinquishing his prize. He was determined to get as far as possible with this.

Jack's frown turned into a knowing little smirk, but he did was he was told. He even managed to do so without Daniel once letting go of him. As he stood again, back straight, in front of Daniel, he sighed deeply. Then slowly, he began rocking back and forth, moving into Daniel's grip.

Daniel strengthened his grip and Jack stopped immediately, glaring at Daniel, almost pouting. Daniel slowly shook his head. Then he pushed Jack back, gently, until he stood against the wall, then he let go of him, and earned himself another glare.

"Turn around, Jack, hands on the wall and don't say a word." Daniel took a step back and waited until Jack did exactly that. Then he dropped his vest, pushed the jumpsuit down and undid his boots, until a moment later he was as naked as Jack. A quick search in the pockets of the vest yielded what he needed. A small tube of sunscreen.

Squirting out half the sunscreen of the small tube, Daniel went to Jack and plastered his full length against the back of the older man, then leaned forward and nibbled his way up Jack's neck until he reached an ear. Pausing he licked the lobe, then blew on it, feeling the small shivers running through Jack's body.

"Keep you hands where they are, Jack, no matter *how* tempting it will become, keep them there." Resting his head against a naked shoulder, Daniel drew a deep breath, then reached down between their bodies. He'd wanted to prolong the preparation for as long as possible, but Daniel realized that that might not be as easy as he'd thought at first.

Biting into his lower lip, Daniel slowly slipped his finger down the cleft and teased the puckered opening, feeling it contract at his touch. Concentrating on holding himself back, Daniel began reciting any boring old text that came to mind, counted backwards in ancient Greek, doing everything he could to not lose it before time.

All he could hear was his own heavy breathing mixed with Jack's rasped intake of air and all he could smell was their combined arousal. Pushing a finger in he began preparing Jack for what he feared would be a very short session.

"Just do it, Daniel, please..." Jack's voice was nothing but a rasping whisper, his head bowed down, tilted slightly to the side to rest against his arm.

"Shush, Jack, be patient..." Daniel opted for three fingers a he finally felt Jack relaxing. Angling it right, he hit Jack's prostate, making the other man shout out incoherently and rising to his toes. Daniel couldn't help grinning as he pulled his fingers out and quickly slicked himself up.

Not wasting his breath on any more talking, Daniel lined himself up, took another deep breath and pushed slowly inside. He wasn't sure who was trembling more, him or Jack, but finally he slid the rest of the way in and rested his entire body against Jack's back. Daniel pulled back a little before pushing back in. When he was met with nothing but Jack moaning wordless encouragement, he began moving faster, feeling every nerve ending in his body burning with fire.

"Mood lifting?" Daniel forced out between breaths. Jack merely grunted in reply. "Don't tell me it was just the need for sex?"

Jack grunted something more, rocking back to meet Daniel's thrusts.

"Can't hear you," breathed Daniel into his ear, reveling in the shivers it caused.

"Davis," growled Jack.

Daniel chuckled and licked at a drop of sweat running down between Jack's shoulder blades. "What's Davis got to do with it?" Daniel made sure that the next thrust was so hard that Jack couldn't answer right away. At least not using coherent speech.

"He wants you..." Jack finally managed to sneer.

"Can he have me?" asked Daniel, licking a trail across the shoulder until he came to where neck and shoulder met. A few more thrusts and he found Jack's prostate again, feeling the man tightening around him, going up on his toes again.

"Hell no," gasped Jack.

"Why?" Daniel kissed the sweaty shoulder, but kept moving as he slid his hands down Jack's sides to grip the man's hips.

"Because you're *mine*," growled Jack, his voice rising as Daniel sunk his teeth into the shoulder. The bite was harder than he'd intended as he caught the metallic taste of blood on his tongue. Still, his grip on Jack's hips tightened and he lost himself in the erratic rhythm.

Knowing he wouldn't last much longer, Daniel slipped a hand down and around Jack's hip to grip his erection, feeling it twitch in his hand. It didn't take more than a stroke or two and another frantic thrust from Daniel before Jack's voice rose into a howl and warm slickness filled Daniel's hand. He kept up the stroking while he thrust into the tight contracting heat and a moment later he joined his love in a long awaited release. Slumping against Jack's back, he slowed his hand and thrusts to a still-stand. Daniel let go of Jack's cock, but stayed plastered to his back, resting against the other man.

As Daniel's mind slowly returned to normal, he nuzzled Jack's ear. "You do know there is no one else, right?" he asked. He didn't really doubt Jack's trust in him, but no one ever said love was easy or logical.

Jack took a deep breath and grabbed Daniel's arm as he tried to step back. "Stay..." he whispered. "I know, don't worry, but..."

"I know Paul has a certain... interest in me, Jack, but I'd never leave you, you know that." Daniel sighed and leaned forward again, feeling the sweat on his body cool rapidly. "I'd hate to spoil the moment, Jack, but we need to get dressed. It's not exactly warm in here."

Jack nodded and with a sigh he let Daniel pull back. As he slowly dressed he finally addressed what had gotten them into the current situation.

"Just... don't run off like that, Daniel. I know there are supposed to be no dangers around here, but still..." After a moment's silence he continued. "And I know that my fear of Davis coming between us isn't logical, but the man's a hell of a lot younger than I am." Jack shrugged, looking ill at ease.

Daniel buttoned and zipped his pants then put his arms around Jack. "But he's not you, Jack. No one is."

Jack leaned his head against Daniel's looking into his eyes, a small smile playing on his lips. "Getting sappy on me?"

"You better believe it," grinned Daniel. Then he sobered. "Jack, about this staying apart for the greater good..."

"Fuck it," snorted Jack.

"I think we just did," snorted Daniel, joining Jack in his laughter.

"*You* definitely did," grinned Jack, before pulling Daniel into a long, soft kiss. As he pulled back snorted, "It's kinda moot anyway, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I think staying apart is doing more damage than being together ever could." Daniel rested his head on Jack's shoulder, glad to once again be able to just hold on.

The two men finally parted and finished dressing, though Daniel chose to forego his t-shirt. "I think we have a casualty," he grinned, holding it up for Jack to see.

"Yeah, um... sorry about that," Jack chuckled, then tried to look contrite. Failing utterly.

"No you're not," snorted Daniel, before bunching it up and stuffing it into his backpack. Then he zipped his jacket to hide his naked chest. "Let's go back, huh?" he suggested.

"Yeah, we have a few things to see to," agreed Jack. "I think Jacob and Bra'tac are returning later today and Jacob said something about a good surprise for us in his transmission."

"We could use one," said Daniel, securing the straps of his backpack, indulging Jack's double-check.

Jack finally pulled him in for another kiss. "Yeah, we sure could," he grinned. Daniel had a feeling things were looking up at the moment. At least he could hope it was.

The two men split up before entering the camp, though Daniel had no trouble guessing why Lou was smiling the way he was. Especially when the Major beat a hasty retreat the moment he realized Daniel had spotted him... not that Daniel would carry a grudge, plot revenge or anything similar. At least not at the moment, not while he was still on high from his little... run-in with the camp's CO. Later... well, later would be later.

"Ah, Dr. Jackson," a voice said, startling Daniel who turned around to find a smiling Jacob behind him.

"Jacob," Daniel grinned. "When did you get back?"

"I came back with Bra'tac and his Jaffa around ten minutes ago." Jacob walked alongside Daniel as they made their way towards the command center. Just before they entered, Jacob put a hand on Daniel's shoulder and turned him around. "I suggest, however, that you go change before joining us."

Daniel frowned. Sure, he wasn't wearing a t-shirt underneath his jacket, but it was zipped all the way up...

Jacob reached out and gently put a finger on Daniel's neck. Wincing, Daniel realized that the skin was sore.

"You might want to find something that covers a bit..." Jacob gestured, a light smile on his face.

Daniel coughed; embarrassed at having been caught by someone who was a friend. Like some teenager caught by his father after having necked with a girlfriend, well, in this case, a boyfriend in his room.

"I'll see you in a moment, then," Daniel said, excusing himself and making his way towards the supply tent. The new uniforms provided by the Asgard would do nicely. Warm, light and more importantly, high-necked.

As he made his way back to the barrack, Daniel ran into Sam, who waved a piece of paper at him.

"Daniel, good, you're here. We've gotta go find the Colonel." She grabbed him by the arm and jogged in the same direction Daniel had been going.

"What's happening, Sam?" Daniel sped up to keep up with her.

Sam frowned. "We got a transmission from Thor, wanting to talk to you and the Colonel."

"Something wrong?" Daniel felt his pulse speed up, his thoughts immediately with Aislinn.

"Thor's message was just that you and the Colonel go to the planet which Thor's ship is orbiting, ASAP..." Sam held the door open for him.

Inside they found Jack at the table with Bra'tac and Jacob, the three men looking up as Sam and Daniel joined them.

"Sir, Thor wishes to talk to you, he said it was urgent." Sam leaned on the table and sent her father a quick smile.

"Trouble?" asked Bra'tac and Jack at the same time.

Sam shook her head. "The transmission didn't say."

"We're going through, then, right now..." Jack's eyes met Daniel's, who nodded. They had to check up on it. It might be nothing, but they couldn't risk it, not with Aislinn in Thor's care.

"Would you gentlemen mind waiting until...?" Jack began.

"Go, Jack, We'll wait for you here." Jacob held his hand up.

"We shall wait for your return, O'Neill," Bra'tac agreed.

"Want SG-1 along, sir?" asked Sam.

"If you can get the team together in time, we're leaving in five minutes," Jack said, a grim expression on his face.

Daniel took a deep breath. "It might be nothing, Jack," he said, trying to convince not just the other man, but himself as well.

"I know, Daniel, I know." Jack grabbed his vest and put it on. "Saddle up, we're going."

Daniel went with Sam to get the rest of the team while Jack went to find Ferretti and turn command over to him. Sam and Daniel found Teal'c patiently teaching Jonas the secrets of Kel-no-reem.

"Gear up, guys," Sam announced as she and Daniel interrupted them.

"We have a mission?" Teal'c asked calmly, as he gave Jonas a hand up.

"Thor called," Daniel explained.

"Aislinn?" Jonas asked, then he looked a little embarrassed.

Daniel forced a smile. His imagination was working overtime as well. "We don't know. Thor just asked us to meet him."

" Then we should wait no longer," Teal'c interrupted and the four of them hastily made their way to the supply tent.

The familiar tingle of the Asgard transporter subsided and Daniel looked around them, searching for any welcoming they might get. Still, the corridor was empty as they exited the transporter room. A moment later they heard the slap of small feet flying down the corridor, just around the nearest bend. A flushed, but very happy Aislinn was grabbed and pulled into a hug by a smiling Jack.

Daniel took a deep breath and moved over to properly greet their daughter.

"Are you okay?" Jack asked her, frowning for a moment.

Aislinn nodded, eyes sparkling as she let go of Jack to end up in Daniel's arms. "I'm okay," she replied. "Thor's on the bridge and he wants to see you..." with a winsome, though slightly shy smile she waved at the rest of SG-1.

Daniel held their little girl tightly as they walked on their way to the bridge. Aislinn in turn hung on tight while she held a whispered conversation with Sam, who inquired as to how she was and if she was keeping busy.

For a moment it struck Daniel, that even though they weren't at a specific place other than an Asgard ship, he felt oddly at home. As Jack turned a little to give Daniel a small smile, while still continuing down the corridor, Daniel understood why. It really was a bit of a cliché to say that 'home is where the heart is', but Daniel couldn't help seeing the truth of it. He was with his family, both what passed for biological and adopted.

As they entered the bridge, Jack took point once more, getting right to the core of things as he went to confront Thor, who seemed to be busy working the controls, but still took the time to greet his guests.

"Welcome aboard SG-1," Thor said, giving them a little nod.

"So? What's the emergency?" Jack asked, though far more at ease now that they'd seen that Aislinn was alright and didn't seem to be in danger.

"I fear I must go back to the Asgard home-world of Brimer, O'Neill. There has indeed been an emergency." Thor gestured at the screen materializing in front of them.

Everyone took a step back as the image of a Replicator appeared. It might not have been more than an image, but each of them had very bad memories when it came to the bugs... all except Jonas. But the man quickly picked up on the tension the bug created in the room. Besides, Daniel mused, Jonas had probably read the reports from their previous run-in. A shiver ran through Daniel as he remembered his worry over Jack and Teal'c, as the two men had seemed doomed in that damned submarine. And even though he'd forgiven Jack for asking him to give the order to destroy them, he hadn't forgotten it. It still caused him nightmares.

"Ah... the bug repellent wore off..." Jack muttered, eliciting what would have to pass as a strange look from Thor, but the image changed and Thor gestured at it. A planet, dusty brownish-red, appeared on the screen instead.

"We have managed to find the base of operations of the Replicators and we are hoping that we now have a chance of ending the threat once and for all." Thor turned off the screen and returned his attention to his guests.

"And of course Aislinn is no longer safe here," Daniel continued for him. "Even though I wouldn't consider the Alpha Site the safest place at the moment, it's a matter of it being a lot safer than here."

"That too, Dr. Jackson," Thor answered. "Also, as much as we would prefer to handle this alone, we are in need of the help of SG-1."

Jack turned to his old team, looking at the three people who in turn were watching him with the utmost attention. Jack seemed to think about it for a moment, then obviously wanted more information before making the final decision.

"Why should you need our help? I thought you guys could work wonders." Jack received a little nod from SG-1's current leader, as Sam volunteered the team. They were ready to help a valuable ally, and even more, they were there for anyone who was considered a friend. Jack gave the three of them a quick nod, then turned to hear Thor's explanation.

"We have procured an older Goa'uld vessel that will be of no interest to the Replicators, but we lack the... physical proficiency to control the ship and to place the device."

Sam nodded. "So basically it's a low-tech ship that the Replicators should ignore."

Thor nodded.

"I won't tell you to do this, Carter, but I will be asking for volunteers." Jack gave them level stare.

Daniel feared for a moment that the older man was thinking about going himself, but Sam seemed to have caught the idea as well.

"You do know that you can't go, right sir?" Sam said.

Jack sighed. "How can I ask you to do this?"

"You have other obligations," Teal'c put in, his large frame looming over Jack. "Not just the Alpha Site..."

Jack gave Daniel a quick glance, half an apology shining in the dark eyes. Sure, he'd obviously thought about it, but even he knew where his place was. Daniel was glad that he knew it too. Still, Daniel had a fairly good idea how Jack was feeling. The man hated not being in the front, not being in control when it came to his job...

"I know, T, don't worry... well, SG-1? Do we return to the Alpha Site and ask for volunteers, or...?" Jack watched them with the utmost attention.

Sam turned her head and got first a nod from Jonas, then from Teal'c before giving Jack a small smile. "SG-1 would like the assignment, sir," she answered, giving him a text-book salute.

"Make us proud, Major," he said. "And come back in one piece. SG-1..." Jack shook his head, a small smile on his face. "You have a go."

"Where are they going?" Aislinn asked; a whisper just loud enough for Daniel to hear.

"To fight the metallic bugs," Daniel answered, holding the girl close.

Aislinn nodded, a serious expression on her face. "I don't like bugs," she finally said.

Then she slipped down and went to Sam, who kneeled in front of her. "Well, if we do this right, there'll be a lot fewer bugs around," she explained.

Smiling, Aislinn gave her a quick hug, then did the same with Teal'c as he, to the surprise of the others, kneeled down to accept his own hug. Daniel smiled, a little surprised as she gave Jonas a hug as well. He wasn't the only one and for a moment he wondered who was taken more by surprise. He and Jack...? Or Jonas himself? Still, the younger man graciously accepted, a rosy hue to his cheeks.

Jack nodded to his team. "We'll let Thor beam us down to the 'Gate, return to the Alpha Site and I'll be expecting you guys back ASAP... All of you."

Daniel quickly said his own good-byes, hoping they'd see the others as soon as possible. But if they had any chance of ridding the galaxy of the Replicators, then they had to take it.

"Aislinn..." Daniel took her hand for a moment. "Are you ready to go?"

The little girl nodded, let go of him and went to her backpack, sitting on the floor in the corner. Picking it up she put it on and returned to take first Daniel's hand again, then Jack's, looking up at the both of them.

Jack gave the team one last look, then the familiar tingle of the transporter kicked in and they stood in front of the Stargate, bathed in the early morning sun.

"Ready to go home?" Jack asked them, a smile playing on his face, for the first time in a long while reaching his eyes.

Daniel looked down at Aislinn who gave him a quick nod. "Yeah, dial us up, Jack," Daniel answered.

As Daniel put Aislinn to bed that same night, he couldn't help smiling. The girl was practically asleep before her head hit the pillow. A low rustling noise behind him alerted him to Jack's presence.

"Sleeping like a baby," the older man whispered, as he sneaked an arm around Daniel's waist.

"It was a long day," Daniel answered, keeping his voice equally low.

"Yeah, never imagined seeing marines and airmen go completely goo-goo over a little girl, huh?" Jack's other arm did a roundabout sneak attack and encased Daniel from the other side.

"Oh, I don't know..." Daniel began, he had to catch his breath as Jack nibbled at sensitive skin right below Daniel's ear. "I... I would say she's got her father's charm."

"Oh... Does that mean I've lost it?" Jack's hands began roaming.

Daniel put his hands on Jack's stilling the other man's antics. "Jack... we're not alone here at the moment..."

Jack sighed, but kept his grip on Daniel. "I know, but hopefully that will change in the near future..."

"We don't have quarters enough for that, Jack." Daniel caressed Jack's hands, now clasped tightly over Daniel's abdomen.

"That's one of the things I had a little talk with Jacob about." Jack pulled Daniel to the other side of the room, where a very narrow bunk would make the night more than interesting.

"Oh?" Daniel turned in the embrace and was rewarded by a long, slow kiss.

"Yup," Jack grinned as he drew back. "Jacob's gonna try and get us some of those nifty crystal thingies... so we can build an underground base instead. Better shelter from nature and if we were ever discovered."

"Ah... nice and big?" Daniel managed to get out of Jack's grip for long enough to dress for bed. Then he was unceremoniously dragged down into a tight hold and the blanket was pulled down around the both of them.

A chuckle was all he got, then with a sigh, Daniel squirmed into a more comfortable position... using Jack as a mattress. "You, Colonel, have got the mind of hyper teenager sometimes..."

"Yeah, yeah, love ya too, Daniel," came the murmured reply.

Daniel merely smiled and closed his eyes, letting sleep claim him. After those two weeks apart this was exactly what he'd needed. Their daughter was with them and he and Jack were back together.

A week passed as the base slowly began taking its form, soon looking more like an alien version of the SGC. Level after level was created as a few Tok'ra worked their crystal magic.

Daniel checked the outdoor temperature. It had been slowly dropping these past few days, and it seemed that what passed for winter on the planet was well on its way. Turning from his work, Daniel put the computer on standby, and made one final check of his office before leaving for the night. There were basically no doors, except in the personnel quarters. They'd gone a bit overboard on the crystal thing, Daniel knew that. Still, the Tok'ra had graciously shared a rather large supply and since their numbers weren't more than twenty-eight SGC soldiers and ten Jaffa, they'd simply made sure that they had more than enough rooms.

Daniel greeted two of the guards who were on their way to relieve the guards topside. It had taken a bit to get used to the eerie light of the tunnels, but still, it was actually far more comfortable than the lighting they'd had at the SGC.

Daniel drew open the door to one of the two rooms he shared with Jack. They had a room each, but no one had said a thing as they'd let Aislinn have one of them and had moved their few belongings into the other. Aislinn had been more than happy to have her own room, especially when she'd found out everyone else on base had the same privilege. Besides, as she'd told them, quite frankly and very seriously, she was a big girl by now. Neither man had mentioned that in reality she wasn't even one year old.

Jack had argued for a while that they should send her off to the Land of Light. He wasn't happy about having a child roaming the Alpha Site. Daniel had reasoned with him. It had taken some convincing on his part, but he really thought it for the best if she stayed with them for the time being and preferably for the time to come. They'd already left her for a longer period with Thor and she needed her parents, no matter how dangerous their surroundings were. And frankly, they needed her as well.

Knowing that Jack had still carried some doubt, Daniel had finally told him that if she couldn't stay with them, Daniel would go with her to the Land of Light. Jack had been torn between keeping the ones he loved safe and actually using his brains for once. Their numbers were few as it was, no reason to deplete it by sending Daniel away.

Daniel closed the door behind him and with a soft smile he walked silently to the desk Jack had managed to get into their room. Apart from two mattresses they'd placed on the floor, it was the only piece of furniture in the room. They'd argued about their sleeping arrangements and in the end, they had stripped two field beds and turned them into a double.

Jack seemed to have decided to take a nap. The older man was slumped over the desk, head resting on his arms. Daniel shook his head. He'd get a stiff back and neck if Daniel didn't wake him... if that wasn't already the case.

"Jack..." he whispered lightly, lips close to the other man's ear.

A snuffling sound was all he got, as Jack buried his face even more into the arm of his uniform jacket. Daniel put a light hand on Jack's shoulder, keeping back a little as he knew that if Jack was too deeply asleep, he *could* react before he realized it was Daniel and not some unseen enemy.

"Ja-ack?" Daniel shook the man's shoulder lightly, finally rousing him.

"Daniel?" Jack blinked at the light. The crew quarters were of a slightly darker crystalline material, generating far less light. Still, the desk lamp seemed to make it all glow with an otherworldly light. "You're back early."

"No I'm not, Jack. It's 11 p.m." Daniel pulled Jack to his feet, slowly stripping him of his clothes. The older man let him, an indulgent smile on his lined face.

"That's 2300, Daniel," he corrected, the old joke of the difference between civilian and military making them both smile.

"You don't say," Daniel said, as he pushed Jack under the blankets. It wasn't uncomfortably cold in the tunnels, but still, having a Colonel to cuddle up with wasn't exactly bad, thought Daniel, as he snuggled under the blankets as well. "So, how was your day?" he asked, as he put his arms around Jack's waist.

"We tried to contact the SGC today." Jack paused for a moment.

"I thought you'd decided against contacting Earth." Daniel was a little surprised.

"Well, don't tell anyone, please. Not at the moment." Jack sighed deeply as he settled in for the night. "Jacob, Lou and I decided to try. To simply inquire about the situation on Earth, not tell them that you and I were here, of course."

"And?" Daniel was almost afraid to ask, but he had to know.

"We couldn't get any signal through, Daniel... I'm sorry."

"I'm worried too, Jack..." Who knew what was going on back on Earth? The scary question was if there *was* an Earth left... Daniel scolded himself for even daring to think it. Whatever was the reason for the lack of communication it had to be something a bit smaller and less theatrical. The scans the Asgard had provided showed that the planet was still there and no disasters had occurred. All had seemed quiet and nothing had looked out of the ordinary.

"Do you know when we can expect the team back?" Daniel suddenly asked. "Heard anything?" There'd been no communication with SG-1 either, since they'd left with Thor.

Jack shook his head, rubbing his cheek against Daniel's collarbone. "No, nothing yet..."

"They're okay, Jack, don't worry..." Daniel steeled himself, not allowing dark thoughts to poison his hopes. "Let's face it, Jack, it's SG-1 we're talking about..."

Jack snorted. "Yeah, we've always made it back before... more or less in one piece. Right Daniel?"

Daniel smiled into the semi darkness of the room. Now that the desk lamp had been turned off, the room was bathed in a soft bluish light, barely enough to make out the shape of the desk and the location of the door. "Well... there was once or twice where it almost went wrong."

"You know I hate thinking about those times we left you behind... where I left you behind..." Jack's voice was low and full of regret.

"That's okay, Jack. I know why you did it... I even asked you to leave me the last time... all you did was your job..."

"It still sucks," mumbled Jack, nearly asleep.

"Shush, Jack... sleep." Daniel closed his own eyes and felt Jack relax against him.

"I'm still sorry, Daniel..."

"I know... it's really okay, Jack." Daniel placed a soft kiss on the top of Jack's head. "I forgave you a long time ago... you should try doing the same."

Jack mumbled something unintelligible, though Daniel had a feeling he knew what it was.

"You're getting sappy in your old age," he whispered.

All he got for answer was a soft snore and the whisper of breath against his skin. Ah well, no one said you should carry deep conversations before bedtime. Even if a sleepy Jack was far easier to get things out of than a fully awake and alert Colonel.

"Incoming traveler!"

The words rung down through the communication's system and the hallways. SG-1 was currently the only team off-world, so Daniel hoped it was their friends returning in good health. They'd been gone for a little more than a week, and though no one mentioned it in words, they were all a little worried about SG-1.

Hurrying along the hallways to the hidden exit near the 'Gate, Daniel counted under his breath. If the alert had been sounded at the activation of the first chevron, he should be able to make it topside before the 'Gate would burst to life. A little out of breath, he nodded at Anderson, the guard on duty, who looked more than a little worried at the activation. Still, Daniel held his hopes high as he finally joined Jack and SG-2, who were waiting, weapons drawn; behind the old barracks they'd left standing for look's sake.

The 'Gate came alive with a roar and as the shimmering surface settled, they waited for whoever would step through. A collective sigh of relief seemed to be let loose, as SG-1 came out unto the dais.

Daniel smiled as he greeted their friends. Sam beamed at him and seemed to be telegraphing that the plan had worked.

As if she'd read his mind, Sam nodded. "It took a while to get the ship from our starting point to the planet in question, but in the end it worked... time is going a lot slower there now and the Replicators are caught in it."

They all seemed to relax visibly and the guards who'd overheard the conversation seemed to smile a little wider. One less threat to worry about at the moment.

"Go put away your packs and Major, debriefing is in half an hour." Jack patted Teal'c's arm and put the other hand on Jonas' shoulder. "Let's get it over with so you guys can take it easy for a little while."

"Sir," Sam interrupted. "We received a message from Earth... encoded... more or less gibberish."

"You tried to crack it?" Jack asked.

"Well, we were aboard Thor's ship for a few hours, before we were dropped off by a 'Gate." Sam shrugged. "But neither Jonas nor I could make heads or tails of it... I thought maybe Daniel...?"

Daniel smiled. Finally something to concentrate on. He took the notebook and crystal Sam handed him. Good thing Thor had provided them with some Asgard technology to use at the site. That way he could view the original transmission.

"Daniel?" Jack sounded slightly amused. That would probably mean he'd zoned a bit. Hey, he didn't have much else but Aislinn and Jack to keep him occupied... he was going stir-crazy. Jack couldn't hold it against him that he got a bit high having something to do, work wise.

"Already on it, Jack," Daniel replied.

"Let me know what you find..." Jack didn't have to say why. They really needed some word, good or bad, from Earth. Everyone was worrying over friends and family.

They began walking towards the entrance to the sub-levels as Teal'c put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "O'Neill?"

"Yeah, T?" Jack tilted his head to the side and looked questioningly at their big friend.

"The Millennium Falcon?" the Jaffa asked, eyes twinkling with mirth.

"I thought about the Space Monkey, but I doubt I'd gotten away with it." Jack smiled innocently, quickly ducking as Daniel swiped at the back of his head.

The sight of Aislinn racing for them, wanting to welcome home some *very* missed friends made Daniel smile. As she had said her hello's and made sure to check up everyone of them... by of course hugging them tightly, they continued inside their base. Daniel hid a smile for a moment. Their daughter thrived on physical contact that was for sure. A heavy hand on his shoulder reminded him exactly where she'd gotten that from.

"Want to give me a hand with the translations?" Daniel asked her.

The beaming smile she shot him was more than enough answer.

"Daniel?" Jack's hand on his shoulder did that little squeeze thing Daniel enjoyed more than he should.

Daniel put his own on top of Jack's hand, keeping it in place for a moment, enjoying the warmth. "It's okay. She's good at cracking codes -- to her it's a game. And it's good training."

Jack nodded. "Let me know when you've got something."

"We will," Daniel promised before he let Aislinn drag him towards his makeshift office. He really enjoyed Jack's attitude and faith. *When* they had something... not *if*.

As they parted from the others and went down the hallway, Paul met them and fell into step.

"Daniel, can I have a word with you for a moment?"

Daniel nodded and let Aislinn run ahead.

"You okay?" Paul gave him a worried look.

Daniel shot him a questioning look. "Why shouldn't I?"

"When I went with SG-9 to the Land of Light, you weren't exactly happy and when I returned the other day, everything was fine?"

"Jack and I were trying to do the sensible... the right thing." Daniel shrugged. He hadn't let Paul think there was a chance since he'd gotten together with Jack, but the other man had become something of a friend... especially while Sam was gone. He had never thought of how much he relied on her friendship and he had missed having someone to talk to. Daniel still preferred to confide in her. So did Jack. Jack would never be jealous of Daniel's friendship and sibling-like relationship with Sam, but his friendship with Paul was a... sore topic.

"Backfired?" Paul asked, breaking off Daniel's train of thought.

"Yeah, kinda... Safe to say it did more damage than good." Daniel caught Aislinn, as she came running back because he was falling behind. Damned, to have such energy again...

"Paul... I've got work to do, talk to you later?" Daniel let the little girl pull him forward.

"Work?" Paul raised an eyebrow as he turned to walk down another tunnel.

"You'll hear it later. When we know if it's anything or not," Daniel assured him.

Paul stopped for a moment, then looked around, checking they were alone. "Daniel, about Aislinn...?" they both looked at the little girl in question, who had disappeared around the next bend again.

"I shouldn't ask, but she looks a lot like the Colonel..." Paul shrugged.

Daniel saw Aislinn's face poking around the corner, eyes pleading for him to hurry up. "No, Paul." Daniel gave him an apologetic smile. "You shouldn't." With that he walked as fast as he dared, without making it look like he was running away. Damn... if Paul had noticed then how many others would? Paul wouldn't mention it to anyone, but all it took would be one other person with less tact to notice the same thing... and if anyone found anything that might resemble Daniel...

Aislinn took his hand and silently walked with him until they were inside the sanctuary of his office. As Daniel sat on his chair, Aislinn crawled up into his lap. She was getting too big for it, but Daniel couldn't say no as she put her arms around his neck and cuddled up to him for a few minutes. Yeah, she definitely had that from Jack.

"What did Paul want?" Aislinn asked, voice low, her blue eyes more worried than they should be for a child her age.

"Paul's just a little... worried, I guess..." Daniel shrugged. He wasn't entirely sure why Paul had brought up Aislinn's appearance.

"He's no Jack," declared Aislinn, nose scrunched up, eyes serious.

Daniel almost choked then started laughing. "No, he's definitely not Jack... Jack's unique."

Aislinn grinned and went to sit on the other side of Daniel's desk, waiting to be assigned something to work on.

Daniel shook his head and pulled out the crystal, getting ready to do his job. If neither Sam nor Jonas had been able to crack it, it would mean hours or days of work for them.

Daniel rubbed his tired eyes. He'd been at the coded document for two whole days and he had been reluctant to rest as much as Jack had wanted him to. It pained Daniel to play upon Jack's need for the translation, but he couldn't put it down... anyone who'd risked getting a message to the Asgard, coding it with something neigh to impossible to crack... well, it *had* to be something important.

Daniel looked over at Aislinn, who was sitting on the floor. The little girl had built a nest of blankets and pillows, explaining to him that she couldn't concentrate by the desk. Spread around her on the floor, were printouts of the transmission, filled with strange doodles she'd made in the margins. Daniel wondered if she'd given up on helping him, but he could see his own stubborn streak in her. She didn't seem to want to give up trying to crack the code either. Daniel suspected she knew it was important, but, because she saw it as a game, she didn't have the same stress level Daniel had. Actually, she seemed quite contented with the opportunity to concentrate on anything at all.

It wasn't exactly easy for her at the Alpha Site. There were no other children around and as much as the SGC personnel and the Jaffa spoiled her rotten, she needed something to do. First she'd aged way too quickly, due to alien influence, now she was growing up fast, in an entirely different way.

Daniel had no idea what time it was when he heard Aislinn pushing her papers around, almost frantically. Lunch had come and gone, Jack, as always, making sure his family got something to eat. Daniel suspected that Jack thought Aislinn might learn a bad habit or two from Daniel when it came to getting caught up in whatever they were doing and that way skipping meals.

Looking up from his own notes and the screen he was cross-referencing, Daniel shot the girl a questioning look. He watched as she ignored him and shuffled the sheets of paper around again. Suddenly she looked up and gave him a wide smile.

"Got something?" Daniel asked, wondering what might be going on.

"I think so," she said as she rolled out of her little nest and got to her feet to join Daniel by the desk. Crawling up into his lap, she put her notes on the table, then pointed at a segment in the middle.

Daniel took another look. He was still working on the first half of the document and so far it had been complete gibberish. It went on for around a page and a half, then was repeated, over and over again. Still, the section Aislinn pointed out may have seemed similar at first sight, but as Daniel looked again, he could make out a few differences.

"It's not the same," Aislinn pointed out, and Daniel agreed. There were subtle differences in the text compared to the previous sections.

"You're right, Aislinn," he said slowly. Frowning he sensed his mind working up in speed, comparing, lining up theories... and shortly after he was deeply immersed in his work. Still, he didn't miss the overbearing smile on his daughter's face.

Aislinn gave him a light peck on the cheek then slid down to the floor. "I'm gonna go find Jack," she declared, as if she'd completely lost interest in the coded transmission. Maybe she had, maybe all she'd been looking for was the opening and now that she'd found it, she'd grown restless.

"Thank you," Daniel accepted her hug before she turned around and disappeared out the door, leaving a very surprised Daniel behind. Oh well, she'd definitely shown him what might be an opening. All he could do now was try to find out why there was a significant difference in the segments.

The next time he looked up was as Aislinn came into his office, tip-toeing to his desk, putting down a few pieces of fruit they'd gotten from the Land of Light. He looked up and gave her an absentminded smile which she gladly paid back with interest. Sidling over to his side, she stood on her toes to look at the various sheets of paper on his desk. Daniel was slowly working out the subtle little differences in the transmission and he felt he was fairly close to cracking it.

"Did it help?" Aislinn asked, nose scrunching up as she tried to read Daniel's scribbled notes.

"Oh, very much, Aislinn, it gave me the entry angle I needed." Daniel put his arm around her shoulder again. "You have good eyes," he praised.

"I'm still young," came the cryptic answer.

Daniel shot her an assessing look. If he didn't know better she was slowly getting just as snarky as her parents...

Aislinn graced him with a sweet, innocent smile and pointed at the fruit. "Jack says you need to eat..."

Daniel snorted and tried to hide his laughter, but the girl gave him a mischievous grin in return. She seemed to be picking up on a lot of their habits. Daniel would just have to keep an eye out for the worst of them rubbing off on her. He didn't need two loved-ones mother-henning him.

Checking his watch, Daniel realized it was late in the afternoon. He had plenty of what passed for coffee, the stuff he'd been drinking while they had been living with the Asgard. As usual he hadn't needed anything but his coffee-like substance and his work. Still, he took one piece of fruit and bit into it. He'd forgotten just how good the produce of the Land of Light was.

Giving Aislinn a sidelong glance, Daniel smiled. "You can go tell Jack that I'm eating."

Aislinn sniggered and turned to leave him to his work.

"Aislinn?" Daniel suddenly realized that Jack probably didn't have time to look after her. "What are you doing at the moment?"

"Jonas and me are learning how to meditate," the girl told him.

"Jonas and I," corrected Daniel.

"No, you're working," Aislinn said, displaying a perfect poker face.

Narrowing his eyes, Daniel shot her a mock-glare. "Just come back here if they have to do other things," he warned.

Aislinn nodded. "I won't get in the way, Daniel," she promised before leaving him with a wave.

Daniel shook his head and smiled to himself as he got lost in the transmission once again.

Daniel walked down the hallway, his steps quick as he made his way to Jack's office, having checked that the man was in at the moment. Jack had sounded distracted on the radio as Daniel had called him.

Turning the final corner, Daniel had to sidestep Lou and Aislinn, who were on their way up. Aislinn stopped briefly to give him a hug and tell him that Lou was going to show her how to make a kite. Daniel smiled as he sent the two off, wondering just who was looking more forward to the experience, Lou or Aislinn? For a moment Daniel regretted not being the one who was out there, making kites with Aislinn. He'd very rarely partaken in such... rituals as a child, but maybe Aislinn would show him how, if they ever got past the huge task that lay ahead of them...

Shaking the mood that had overcome him, Daniel reached out and knocked at the door to Jack's office, opening the door a bit and slipped inside. He smiled at the man who was bent over the paperwork on the desk, looking almost suicidal.

"Daniel..." Jack's voice was thick with gratitude of being interrupted. It seemed even with the little personnel they had at the base there was more than enough for Jack to do... and anyone who knew the man also knew how 'fond' he was of paperwork.

Daniel let the older man pull him down for a long slow kiss. The risk of being interrupted was there, as always, but Daniel was the only one who ever entered Jack's office without waiting for the 'come in', so they occasionally risked it. Still, never more than a kiss or two... There was self control and then there was the lack of it.

Reluctantly breaking the kiss, Daniel took a step back, waving his notes at Jack. "I got it, I know what the transmission means." He wasn't sure how Jack would take the news as it wasn't exactly from what any of them would call a reliable source. Still, it was news from home, though still cryptic in its choice of words.

Jack sat up a little straighter, his 'almost-but-not-quite-pout' forgotten. "Good news?" he asked.

Daniel put the notes on the table in front of Jack. He could go into a description of how he'd cracked the code with a lot of help from Aislinn, but he knew at the moment the contents mattered far more to Jack than how they'd found it.

"It's from an old ...friend of ours, Jack," Daniel said, waiting while Jack read the notes.

"Well, I'll be damned," swore Jack, reading the message again. "Maybourne?!"

Daniel nodded. Actually, the message was very short, compared to the overall transmission. Most of the gibberish had been just that. Mere smoke and mirrors to cover the small part that was the actual message.

Jack began reading it again, this time out loud. "... message is for Jack O'Neill and his cohorts..." Jack snorted and picked another sentence. "Earth is not safe... trust no one..."

Jack shook his head. "This really is an odd message to send us."

"You think it's genuine?" Daniel asked, leaning against Jack's shoulder, reveling in the heat from the other man's body.

"Well, it fits a little too well with the fact that we can't dial Earth, doesn't it?" asked Jack.

Daniel had to agree. "Briefing coming up?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. This is really great work, Daniel, at least it means there's an Earth left, right?"

Daniel nodded. The Asgard scans had shown that much, but still... "Don't thank just me. Our daughter helped more than you might think."

Jack raised and eyebrow. "Speaking of, where is she?"

"Making kites with Lou." Daniel smiled lightly.

"Aw, damn it, I wanted to do that," mock-pouted Jack, hiding his grin.

Daniel ruffled the already spiky grey hair and planted a kiss on top of Jack's head. "Briefing in an hour?" he asked.

Jack agreed. "Actually, would you do me a favor?" he asked.

Daniel cocked his head to the side. "What?"

"Get in touch with the Asgard, hear if they can spare us some transport back to Earth... maybe we can catch a lift from the same 'Gate we came through." Jack waved a hand in the air. "We'll decide what to do in the debriefing, but I get the feeling we're going back to Earth soon. We need fresh intel and going there by 'Gate is out of the question."

"Yeah," Daniel went to the door, giving Jack one last smile. "I'll see what the Asgard may say."

The smile that answered him seemed less troubled than it had for the past couple of weeks. And really, they needed some kind of news from back home, or they'd all go crazy.

Daniel leaned against the cool metal of the ship, looking into outer space. A light touch to his shoulder brought him back to the present.

"Hi, Sam," he greeted, giving his friend a soft smile.

"Deep thoughts?" asked Sam.

Daniel's gaze drifted across the room to where Jack was standing, seemingly sorting out the last things with Thor, who'd been the one to come to their aid. Heimdall was there, as well, and was currently running check ups on Aislinn. Turning back to Sam, he nodded.

"Yeah. I'm not too hot for the idea of bringing Aislinn with us." Daniel paused for a moment. "Still, it seems we keep leaving her behind and it's not... it's not good for any of us."

Sam nodded. "I can imagine..." She rubbed his arm. "Though I've gotta admit, parenthood looks good on you guys, Daniel."

Daniel felt his face flush slightly. The few people who knew of their real relationship with Aislinn rarely mentioned it. There would always be the risk of letting others know, of the NID finding out, resulting in them losing their child. Still, the praise warmed his heart and he gave Sam a thankful smile.

Jack's voice broke the small talk around the room. Most of the SG units were there, having left very few behind with a handful of Jaffa warriors to take care of the Alpha Site. And to Daniel's surprise, Jack had left Paul in charge. The original commander, Colonel Hastings, had been killed during the evacuation of the Tok'ra base.

"Listen up, kids. We're leaving in ten minutes," Jack checked his watch. "We're just waiting for a little additional help, then we're off to see the Wizard."

Daniel wondered what additional help Jack was referring to, as the air shimmered and two figures appeared. Somehow it felt right when Daniel realized who their last minute guests were.

Sam went to give her father a hug and Daniel couldn't help smiling as he watched Teal'c more or less light up as he greeted his old teacher and mentor. Who knew if they had a chance? Who knew what was waiting for them back on Earth? Still, Daniel would take things as they came. His family was together, both his biological and his adopted. With that, all they could do was set a course for Earth and hope for the best.

Most of the personnel were in the storage room they'd converted into temporary quarters. Only Daniel, Aislinn and Ferretti were on the bridge. Daniel smiled as he watched Aislinn explain this and that about the Asgard equivalent of a computer system. Daniel had given up long ago. He'd learned a lot from working with the systems while still on Brimer, but he envied Aislinn her ability to pick things up as quickly as she did. Still, it amused him to watch it blow Lou completely away.

Thor's soft voice broke the silence of the command bridge, making the three of them break off their little session.

"We are currently approaching Earth. Our estimated arrival will be in ten minutes." Thor's command chair shimmered into existence and Daniel held his hand out to gesture Aislinn to his side. The little girl quickly stood and went to stand beside him, watching with interest as the SGC personnel began filling the bridge.

Jack entered as well, expectant expression on his face. He went to Daniel's side, giving their daughter a little smile.

"SG units, stand by for your missions," Jack ordered. They were only sending down SG-2 at first, the team that would get them sufficient clothing. It was late autumn in the US at the moment and even though their uniforms of Asgard origin would keep them warm, they would stand out like a sore thumb.

Jack turned to address them all. "I know it won't be easy to sit back here, but at first it will be necessary." Jack gestured at the screen that lit up, giving them a nice view of the planet they were closing in on. Home...

Daniel listened as Jack went thought their objectives one last time. As he and Jack still had some of their civilian clothing they'd brought along to Brimer they were going to go down first and find Maybourne. Daniel wasn't too hot for the idea, but Jack seemed to think that it was the only way. Then they'd have to figure out where the General was. That, however, was the task of SG-1, who were to use the computers on the ship to try and locate him, and if possible, pick him up as well. And if not, they were going down there for more info.

SG teams 3 and 15 were to stand by in case of emergencies, both teams being combat teams and for a moment Daniel wondered how SG-9 and Paul were doing at the Alpha Site, where they'd left them with the original crew of the site.

Daniel took a deep breath as he knelt next to Aislinn. "We'll be back as soon as possible," he promised.

Aislinn nodded, but Daniel didn't miss the sadness of being left behind once again. "I'll show Lou more with the computer," she said, putting up a brave face.

Daniel gave her a quick peck on the cheek before watching Jack say his good-byes to her. They had to change their clothing and get ready to go and a prolonged goodbye wasn't a help to any of them. They'd just have to hurry up and return to the ship as soon as possible.

Jack stood, ruffled the little girl's hair while he told her to play nice and not give the others a hard time, which of course she promised. At least she liked their colleagues and friends and got along with them brilliantly. It would help her during their time apart.

"Let's go get changed," Jack said, breaking Daniel's train of thoughts.

Daniel nodded and followed the other man down the hallway towards their supplies and the backpack with clothes. Nothing fancy; just everyday stuff, jeans, shirts and boots. Oh, and of course their jackets to keep out the cold. Daniel hadn't known fully what to pack back when he'd done it for himself, Aislinn and Jack, while Jack was still waiting for the hearing to finish regarding his future with the Air Force. So he'd packed a bit of everything.

Stepping inside the storage room, they quickly discarded of their clothes and changed into civvies. Pierce and Griff returned with their teams, reassuring them that Ferretti's SG-2 and their own 3 and 15 were ready to bail Jack and Daniel out should it be necessary.

Jack grinned and accepted the shouts of good luck with grace, whereas Daniel had to smile to himself as the teams treated him with a little more respect than they'd done Jack, much to the older man's obvious amusement. Daniel realized that he'd come a long way since being the SGC's resident geek. It helped to know, as they stepped into who knew what, that they'd be sincerely backed by both Air Force and Marine corp. Somehow that resembled earlier missions in a way that made Daniel take a deep breath of relief. These people had never let them down before, and he would put his trust in them any day.

Besides, Daniel thought to himself as he turned to give Jack a nod, he was with Jack and the man seemed to know Maybourne well. Hopefully it would be enough to smell a trap if it was one. The message had held an address in New York and thankfully the Asgard transporter system could put them down anywhere.

"Take care Majors," Jack told them. "Major Ferretti is in charge until Carter returns.

They all saluted the two of them and Daniel touched the communications console by the door. "We're ready to go, Thor." Daniel waited as the tingling feeling rushed through his body and he and Jack materialized where Thor had found an old church, abandoned, only a few blocks from the address mentioned in the message. They didn't want to risk beaming directly into the apartment, fearing there might be some things the Asgard couldn't detect. Anything that might be a trap.

It was a few hours before noon and the old building seemed eerily silent. Not much of a risk of having been seen, but both men were armed, zats hidden under their jackets.

"Ready?" asked Jack, as he pulled at Daniel's arm, moving in the direction of the backdoor of the church, obviously not wanting to go out the front, straight into the streets.

"Yeah, let's get this over with and get back to the others," answered Daniel, following the older man, who quickly found their exit.

"Just stay close, Daniel." Jack opened the door and took a quick look outside.

Daniel looked over Jack's shoulder and into a narrow alleyway, more than dark enough to hide them until they could reach the street. No reason to attract any kind of attention by coming out from an old, abandoned church.

"You think there's much risk of anyone recognizing us here?" asked Daniel as he fell into step behind Jack.

Jack half-turned as he made his way down the alley, towards the waning daylight. "Nah, I doubt it, but I'd rather not advertise our arrival."

Daniel grinned and took his place at Jack's side as they reached the street, mingling with the people rushing to and from only God knew where. It seemed they'd hit late rush-hour and Jack grabbed Daniel's hand to keep them from getting separated.

As they neared their destination, a thought struck Daniel and his low laughter made Jack slow down a little, turning to give him a questioning look.


"I just realized," said Daniel, as he held up their joined hands. "You're holding my hand in public." Somehow it amused Daniel to no end. Jack had at some point mentioned, as Daniel had accused him of being an old sap, that at least they weren't skipping down the street, hand in hand...

Jack frowned for a moment, then couldn't help smiling as well. "Well, I'll be damned," he laughed.

Daniel smiled, then pulled Jack to a standstill as he pointed out a doorway on the other side of the busy street. "That should be it, Jack."

Jack sobered immediately, letting go of Daniel's hand for a moment, then frowning. A moment later he pulled Daniel close and they stood, breaths mingling, close to the wall. He pushed his jacket a bit to the side to reveal one of their Asgard communications devices, looking a lot like a plain colored crystal.

Daniel nodded as he understood. Jack wanted to check before they went in, but he didn't want to look strange by standing in the middle of the street talking into a, well, stone. Not that Daniel thought it might pose a problem, considering what cell-phones looked like nowadays. Still, he wasn't going to object to standing close to Jack. Daniel sniggered internally. Yeah, even he could be as shallow as the next guy sometimes.

"Thor?" Jack asked, his voice low.

"We hear you, O'Neill," Thor answered, barely audible.

"Could you do another check of the building?" Jack pulled his jacket closer as the cool evening air made him shiver.

Daniel zipped his own jacket as they waited for the answer. It had been a while since he'd been to New York and he'd forgotten how busy the city could be. And wet, he added as a light rain began falling. Pulling his glasses off, Daniel put them in his inner pocket, knowing that he'd be able to see better without them, especially once they stepped inside. The last thing he needed was even worse eyesight just because his glasses would be not only wet, but fogged up.

"The building has much activity, though I detect no weapons, O'Neill," Thor finally answered. "The room mentioned in the message seems completely void of furniture and life signs."

Jack frowned at the sky and the rain. "Wish we could've beamed right in there," he said. "We'll contact you later, Thor." With that he ran a hand over the stone and it lost the light glowing effect. Daniel waited for Jack to zip his jacket as well. The rain wasn't extreme, but it was a cold drizzle. Jack took his hand again and they started looking for a slowdown of traffic so they could pass.

Daniel held up his captured hand while they waited. "Just so I don't get lost?" he asked with a smile.

Jack gave him his best poker face. "Of course," he said as he began moving across the street, pulling a smiling Daniel behind him.

As they left the street and went inside the building, Daniel tugged at Jack's hand, making the other man stop for a moment. "You think there might be a booby trap of sorts in there?" he asked.

Jack shrugged. "I've learned one thing with Maybourne. Better safe than sorry."

Daniel nodded and followed Jack up the stairs, hoping they'd find something to help them once inside the apartment.

They met no one as they ascended the stairwell. The steps were old, wooden and well-worn and the walls were kept in a fairly light color, making the narrow place a little lighter.

Without anymore exchanges of words, they climbed the stairs until they came to the third floor. Daniel followed Jack to the left along the hallway they came to. Then both men came to a stop in front of an anonymous looking, white door. Daniel watched as Jack's hand hovered over the door knob. Jack flexed his fingers for a moment, then opened his jacket to call Thor again.

"Thor? You read anything from the room or the door?" He shook his head as Daniel gave him a questioning look.

"I do not, O'Neill," came Thor's answer. "The door seems to have a normal lock." There was a moments silence while Jack searched his pockets and drew out a plastic card. Daniel cocked an eyebrow. He'd never seen anyone do this in real life, surely it only worked on film...

"Do you require assistance?" asked Thor.

Jack grunted as he slid the card between frame and door, frowning for a moment. As the door gave a click, he turned and shot Daniel a grin. "It's okay, Thor, I've got the door open." Turning his head slightly he gave Daniel a grin. "Just ruins the card you're using, but what the heck -- it's better than busting down the door."

Daniel was caught between admiration and wanting to know where the heck Jack had learned to do that. Still, they had a job at hand so he slowly followed Jack into the apartment, both men pulling out their zats, even though Thor had said the rooms would be empty.

A quick search told them exactly the same. No furniture. No one there, no Maybourne...

"Daniel?" Jack called from the main room. Daniel left the kitchen where he'd been checking the cupboards. He found the other man standing by the window, holding up an envelope.

"Well?" Daniel asked as he crossed the floor to stand next to Jack, tilting his head to read the printed letters on the front. "To Starsky..." he read out loud. Both eyebrows came up this time. "Do we open it here or...?" he asked.

Jack bit his lower lip for a moment, then nodded towards the door. "Let's get back to the ship, I've got a bad..."

"O'Neill," interrupted Thor, the voice a little higher this time. "It seems there are people entering the building... armed."

Jack swore under his breath and Daniel wondered how anyone could've found them so fast.

"They probably keep an eye on the apartment... I'm *such* an idiot," growled Jack. "If they know something about Maybourne, they're probably keeping an eye on many places like this," he explained as Daniel gave him quizzical look. "Maybourne normally has a few places like this one; just for safety's sake... it might be the NID coming right now..."

As they heard commotion outside the door, Daniel felt the tingle as the transporter logged onto them and returned them to the ship. He let out a sigh of relief as he saw they had materialized on the bridge.

"Damn, that was close," grumbled Jack. "Thanks for the warning, Thor. If I hadn't wanted a lay of the land, we could've just beamed right in there, but..."

"It was wise, O'Neill. We do not know what we are up against and it would be foolish to make assumptions," Thor replied. "Did you find anything?"

Jack opened his mouth to answer as Ferretti and Pierce entered the room. "Ah, Colonel," Lou greeted with a smile. "Mission accomplished. We have procured civvies for all of us."

"Good, Major and SG-1?" Jack asked, their little find temporarily forgotten.

"We're awaiting their report in around ten minutes," replied Ferretti.

Daniel undid his jacket and accepted the cup of coffee Pierce handed him with a smile. It had been cold down in the streets of New York. A sniff and Daniel gave Pierce a grateful look. *Real* coffee. "You found more than just civvies, huh?" he asked with a widening grin.

Pierce took a drink of his own coffee as he returned the smile. "Well, yeah, we took the time to replenish our supplies as well... so it'll be ordinary food now."

Daniel noticed the wistful look on Jack's face as the older man eyed Daniel's cup. Daniel curled his fingers protectively around the mug. "Mine," he mock-growled.

Lou laughed out loud and Pierce shook his head. "I'll get you one as well, shall I, Colonel?" he asked.

"Now see, *that* would be *very* nice," Jack sniffled as he undid his own jacket.

As Pierce rolled his eyes and went to get Jack a cup of coffee as well, Ferretti continued. "So, you find anything?" he asked as he joined Thor in looking expectantly at the two men. Well, Daniel at least *suspected* that the Asgard was expecting an answer too. He'd never learn to read their emotions, that was for sure.

"Ah, yeah, I suspected Maybourne would find a way to hide a message." Jack held up the envelope.

"And you're sure it's from Maybourne?" asked Ferretti.

"Well, if it *was* the NID trying to get to us, I'd say yeah, besides, the envelope is addressed to 'Starsky' and I'm sure the sender is one 'Hutch'."

Daniel cleaned his glasses, finally getting them dry and gave Jack a questioning look. "Is there something I should know about you and Maybourne, Jack?" he asked.

Jack glared at him, then rolled his eyes. "Nah, it was merely a last minute name change when we ...visited Kinsey."

Daniel grinned. Ah well, Jack could take the taunts as well as he could give them. "So, what does the letter say?" he asked.

Jack opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper, folded in thirds. As he unfolded it, he read out loud:

Long time no see, old buddy. If you're reading this, the message I sent via your friends has reached you. I miss our tantalizing conversations and would like to get together for maybe dinner and a little talk, as soon as possible. I'm not a man of big words, but neither am I easy.


Jack stared at the message, frowning.

"That's an odd way of putting it..." said Daniel, something tugging at his thoughts, in the back of his mind.

"The whole *letter* is odd," answered Ferretti.

"There's a hint in there," mumbled Jack.

"I fail to see the hint, O'Neill... to what are you referring?" Thor cocked his head to the side.

"There might..." Daniel hesitated. "May I see the letter, Jack?"

Jack handed him the letter. "Got an idea, Daniel?"

"I might..." Daniel studied the letter until he was sure it was the only thing that could remotely point towards a location. "The Big Easy," he finally said. It had to be that.

"Come again?" said Ferretti.

Jack, however, caught on almost at once. "New Orleans," he said. "Can it really be that simple?" he asked.

"Well, if you know what names to search for, I suggest we check New Orleans." Daniel shrugged. "Though it still sounds like looking for a needle in a haystack."

"Not necessarily," said Jack, a speculative look on his face. "Thor?" he finally asked, looking up at their little grey host.


"Can you tap into the computers of the hotels and motels in New Orleans?" Jack asked.

"Easily," answered Thor.

"Of course it is easy," interrupted Heimdall, who entered the bridge, blinking at them with his large, black eyes. "The technology is not very advanced. Simply tell me what we are looking for," chattered the little creature on as it went to one of the consoles.

Daniel almost got the feeling, that had it been possible, even Thor would have rolled his eyes at the scientist. A strange thought shot through Daniel's mind and made him cringe. Maybe Heimdall was to Thor what he was to Jack? Shaking his head to get rid of the unwanted images, Daniel turned his attention to Jack.

"Look for either Hutch or Butch Cassidy," answered Jack, shaking his head as Daniel gave him a raised eyebrow. "It's... don't ask," Jack shrugged, "it's a weird in-joke kinda thing."

"Uh-huh," grinned Daniel, draining his cup as they waited for the result. As Pierce came back with Jack's coffee, he held another one for Daniel.

As Daniel shot him a strange look, the man merely grinned. "Major Ferretti warned me," he explained.

Lou wisely moved to have Jack between them, eyeing Daniel as if he expected some kind of retaliation.

"That's very nice of you, Pierce, thank you very much." Still, Daniel pretended he didn't see the looks Ferretti and Pierce exchanged. Pierce's was a smirk and Lou looked a little disappointed. Jack seemed to struggle with a smile as well.

Daniel shook his head. If he didn't know any better, he'd think the average human age in the room was below fifteen.

"I believe I may have something," Heimdall finally said. The three men looked up at the screen that materialized in front of them. "There is a man by the name of B. Cassidy listed at Prytania Park Hotel."

"We'll wait for SG-1's report, then..." Jack gave them all a grin. "Next stop New Orleans."

Daniel sidestepped a couple of people who were rushing down the street. He grinned as Jack looked slightly more homicidal. Well, they *could* have checked New Orleans a little better before jumping into the thick of it. New Orleans did love to party and early October seemed to be no exception as the city was bursting with locals and tourists alike. They'd left their jackets on the ship as the weather forecast had promised sunny weather.

They'd gone to the hotel where they'd checked at the desk, being told that there was, indeed, a message for one 'Harry Longabaugh' from Mr. Cassidy. Jack had later enlightened Daniel that it was the real name of the Sundance Kid.

Daniel shook his head at the thought. The note had been left the same morning. The concierge had told them that a similar note had been left every morning for the past three days.

"Think Harry might have better taste than to hide in New Orleans during fucking Mardi Gras," grumbled Jack, as he grabbed Daniel's hand and tried to find the little café that had been mentioned in the note.

"Not Mardi Gras, Jack, it's eh..." Daniel hesitated for a moment. He'd already seen the signs and he wondered for a moment if maybe he should let Jack figure it out for himself. Smiling, he decided he could share what he'd noticed. Daniel walked a little faster until he could slip his hand from Jack's and loop an arm around Jack's waist. The older man seemed a little startled at Daniel's open display of affection. It was mid afternoon, the streets were packed and they were in plain sight of everything and everyone. Daniel pointed at a large sign in the window of one of the cafés they passed. The sign announced that the street was along the route of the Pride Fest and Parade.

Jack rolled his eyes but grinned as he slipped his own arm around Daniel, holding the younger man close to his side.

"Besides," Daniel said as he enjoyed the possibility of being 'out' in public. "It's a good idea. Hiding in plain sight in the middle of God knows how many people."

"Bingo!" Jack interrupted and pulled Daniel to the side, towards the entrance to a restaurant called 'Petunia's'. Daniel let Jack pull him inside. A quick check yielded nothing and definitely no Maybourne.

"Now what?" asked Daniel as he watched the menu.

"We wait?" asked Jack. "Not much else we can do."

"Hmmm, how about brunch?" asked Daniel as he eyed the menu. He couldn't help laughing as Jack's stomach answered for him, with a loud rumble.

Jack shook his head, grinning at Daniel. "We may as well. Go ahead and get us a table, I need to go to the little boys' room."

Daniel rolled his eyes but nevertheless let go of the other man, turning to catch the attention of a waiter. It didn't take more than a few seconds before an older man came up to him, a wide smile on his face. He was a little shorter than Daniel, but what he didn't have in physical height, he seemed to make up for in personality.

"Ah, welcome. How may we help you?" he asked enthusiastically.

Daniel had to smile at the energy exuding from the man. "A table for two and brunch for the both of us."

The man nodded and led him to a small table next to one of the windows. "I am Jeffrey, I'll be your waiter for the duration of your stay. Is there anything we can tempt you with while you wait?" he asked.

"Coffee?" Daniel asked before thinking. Well, he'd lived without for so long. Even though the stuff the Asgard had given him had been okay, he really missed the real thing.

The man seemed to pick up on Daniel's blush immediately. "I take it you want it black?" he asked.

"Like God intended it," grinned Daniel.

"And your companion? Coffee as well?"

Daniel nodded. It seemed Jack was beginning to see the light that was java. Jeffrey nodded and with a twinkling smile he straightened to leave Daniel.

"If I may be so bold?" he asked before leaving.

Daniel nodded. He felt at home in the place. It was nice, and if the man was curious about anything, Daniel would answer if he could.

"You and your friend make a most handsome couple." With that and accompanied with Daniel's stuttered 'Thank you', he left Daniel to his own devices. He was still blushing when Jack came in and found him. The older man sat down in the chair opposite Daniel's.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

"Um..." Daniel began. As much as he liked the idea of being open about their relationship, the comment from Jeffrey had knocked him a little off course. Seemed to fit as Jeffrey bought him some time by bringing a silver platter to their table with two cups and a nice big French press coffee maker, giving off the most titillating scent.

"Your order will be with you in another ten minutes," Jeffrey informed them, and he gave Daniel a wide smile that made the younger man blush even more.

Jack gave the retreating waiter strange look, then turned his attention to Daniel. "What was that all about?" he asked, a puzzled look marring his features.

Daniel coughed, then smiled a little. "Before you came back he commented on what a... um... handsome couple we make," he finished in a rush.

Jack blinked in surprise for a moment, then his smile widened into a smirk. "Couldn't agree with him more."

Daniel ducked his head. He should be used to it, but during the last couple of weeks, they'd been so damned busy with everything that he hadn't had time to miss their quiet dinners, when they took time to make compliments that were fit *outside* the bedroom. There was a certain difference to hearing sweet words like these rather than 'God, you're fucking gorgeous, Daniel!' Not that Daniel had anything against Jack's ...vocalization during sex, but sweet-talk had its merit.

"What'cha thinkin' about?" asked Jack, voice soft as he poured coffee into their cups.

Daniel grinned. "Just that I'm lucky to have you by my side. Our entire family."

Before Jack could answer, a voice interrupted them. "Aw, ain't that just sweet?" Maybourne pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, eyebrow raised as he looked from Jack to Daniel and back. "I think I'm gonna be sick."

"Maybourne," Jack said, voice controlled but carrying a certain menace to it.

"Ooh, glad to see you too, Jack," Maybourne snorted. "Dr. Jackson," he greeted as he gave Daniel a smirk.

Daniel let out a deep sigh.

"Whoa, Doc. Was that the weight of the world?" Maybourne looked up as Jeffrey came over with their dishes. "Just a cup of coffee," Maybourne told him when the waiter gave him a questioning look.

When Jeffrey had once again left them alone, Maybourne stole a piece of toast from Jack's plate. Daniel feared for a moment that perhaps his friend would stab at Maybourne with his fork, but Jack seemed to take a deep breath and calm down.

"Cut the crap, Harry." Jack took a sip of his coffee. "Why the game of cat and mouse?"

"Aw, come on, Jack." Maybourne leaned back in his chair, watching Jack intently. "You don't think I have to be careful?"

Jack scratched the back of his head, then nodded. "Yeah, we almost ran into some of your friends when we went to that apartment."

Maybourne frowned. "That's what I was afraid of -- but you managed to get in and out without leading them here, right?"

"Yeah, we have our ways," Jack said, avoiding telling the man exactly what ways that might be.

"So, you must've gone through all this trouble for a reason," Daniel stated, watching Maybourne over the rim of his glasses, savoring his brunch and his coffee.

"No, Dr. Jackson. I do this for fun," snorted Maybourne.

"Harry, stop insulting the man and tell us what's going on," said Jack, voice low and menacing.

"Or what?" Harry sat back and waited as Jeffrey put down a cup of coffee for Maybourne and left them alone again. "You think you scare me after I've learned the things I have? Seriously Jack, you're a teddy bear compared to these guys."

Jack rolled his eyes and glared at Maybourne. "Oh for cryin' out loud, Harry, you're such a drama queen."

Maybourne snorted. "I'd be careful who I called a queen if I were you, Jack."

"Well, if you're about through your repertoire of insults, Mr. Maybourne, I believe you should go," Daniel stated, feeling less than open towards the man. Daniel knew Maybourne could give them important intel, but he also knew that Jack's temper probably wouldn't stand for it all much longer. Maybe a change of tactics were in order.

"Hey, you need me more than I need you," grumbled Maybourne, but Daniel caught a flicker of doubt in the man's eyes. Really, Daniel had expected the man to have a better poker face.

"I'm sure your help would be nice, Maybourne, but none of us are looking to make things any harder than it already is." Daniel lifted a hand with a warning in his expression. "*Don't* make the mistake of turning that into a bad pun."

"He sucks all the fun out of it, doesn't he, Jack?" asked Maybourne, but the look he gave Daniel seemed somewhat more respectful.

As Jack coughed and opened his mouth to answer, Daniel cleared his throat and lifted an eyebrow. No way would Jack...

"Now, I wouldn't exactly say *that*," replied Jack, quite innocently.

Maybourne finally seemed to relax as he looked from one man to the other. "No, I guess it isn't exactly the way you'd put it."

Daniel let out a deep sigh. He tried an inner chant of 'we need the man, we need the man, we need... aw to hell with it. "Oh for God's sake, Maybourne. Piss or get off the pot, will ya?"

Maybourne blinked a couple of times, clearly taken aback by Daniel's outburst. However, he did seem to find his footing fairly quickly again. "I see Jack's rubbed off on you... personality wise as well."

Jack still sat, staring at Daniel, trying very hard not to laugh, but Daniel knew the signs. The corner of the brown eyes were crinkling slightly and the corners of his mouth were twitching.

"Well, are you gonna let him talk like that to me, Jack?" mock-whined Maybourne as he settled back into the chair. "I thought you had him trained better."

"No way, Harry, I'm not getting into this. Do as the good Doctor says and let's get on with this." Jack mirrored Maybourne's casual pose, but Daniel didn't fail to notice the assessing look on the older man's face. "And Daniel?"


"Stop goading Harry." Maybourne seemed to light up a little at Jack's words. "It's not fair to bully the dumb kid of the class." As Jack said that, Maybourne rolled his eyes and shrugged.

"Okay, okay... calm down." Maybourne seemed to think for a moment. "I take it you somehow got back here without the use of the Stargate."

Jack nodded, but didn't say anything.

"You haven't figured out why you can't get in contact with the SGC, have you?" Maybourne asked.

"Since Earth is still here, we can strike out the fear of Earth having been taken over," said Daniel. "I take it something happened while we were away."

"Yeah," Maybourne sighed. "As much as I made things difficult for you guys for a while, I really have no love for Kinsey, so you're getting my vote of confidence... and help."

"Kinsey?" Jack asked, voice almost dripping with contempt. Daniel knew exactly how he felt.

"Yeah, Kinsey... he somehow managed to get his hands on the Stargate project and promptly had Hammond removed and one of his own cronies put in charge." Maybourne took another sip of his coffee.

"When you say removed..." Daniel asked, almost fearing the answer.

"Oh, don't worry, Doc. He was given the choice of transfer or retirement... and let's face it -- he's been ripe for retirement for years. The only thing keeping him on active duty was the SGC." Maybourne scratched his stubbly chin. "It took them around a day to close down the entire base, they put the personnel on downtime until they could find other places for them. Basically from one day to the next, there was no SGC anymore..."

"What about the teams off-world?" asked Jack.

"Well, seemed no one tried to get back or get in contact, so the general explanation was a huge accident or something, but I don't know the details."

"Well, Kinsey always *did* want to shut down the Stargate." Daniel shrugged. "But how could he have done it so fast... gotten control of the SGC so quickly?"

"He must have had some pretty important people behind him," Jack mused.

"Well, I'd love to give you the full report, but I don't think this is the place..." Maybourne trailed off for a moment, his expression serious. "I'm not just doing this for the greater good. I seriously think having Kinsey in charge is a bad thing, plus there are other facts that you need to know."

"So you're coming back with us," stated Jack, voice stern.

"I have a few things I need to check up on first." Maybourne shrugged. "There's also the thing about safe transportation..."

"Don't worry your head over that, Harry," Jack interrupted. "Let's say we pick you up at 1400 hours... if that's enough time for ya?"

Maybourne nodded. "It is... where?"

"Just pack your bags and check out of the hotel. At 1400 hours you make sure you're somewhere alone." Jack nodded at Daniel who got the idea. Both men carried the Asgard communicators just in case they got separated and Daniel handed his to Maybourne.

"We can track you with that, Maybourne," Daniel explained. "Just make sure you're alone... don't want to give anyone a scare..."

Maybourne turned the rock in his hand, then slipped it into his pocket. Draining his cup, he stood. "Pleasure as always doing business with you gentlemen." With that he left them.

The two men sat in silence for a while, slowly eating their brunch. Daniel was the one to finally break the silence. "Think we can trust him?"

Jack bit his lower lip for a moment, then looked up, dark eyes troubled. "You know what they say, right? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?"

Daniel nodded. Oh yeah, he'd heard that for years from his grandfather. "So you think that we can trust Maybourne just because he doesn't like Kinsey?"

"To say he doesn't like Kinsey is a bit of an understatement, Daniel. When we carried through the sting operation and booked Harry, Simmons and Kinsey turned their backs on him." Jack sighed. It didn't seem he liked remembering that situation anymore than Daniel did. "We never could prove anything, but both Hammond and I suspected that we only got the tip of the iceberg."

"And the off-world operation was probably more than Maybourne could've come up with on his own," Daniel finished for him, nodding. It made sense. And having met both Simmons and Kinsey, Daniel wasn't really surprised by the possibility of the two men being involved. "So we trust Maybourne?" Daniel asked again.

Jack snorted and drank the last of his coffee. "I trust Harry Maybourne about as far as I can throw him." He shrugged as he nudged his knee against Daniel's under the table. "But do we have a choice?"

"Well, we can always hope that Sam, Teal'c and Jonas have found the General and that he knows something," Daniel reminded him.

"Still," Jack argued. "Maybourne has a certain knack of always knowing more than everyone else and let's face it; we really need fresh intel on this and as much as possible."

Daniel nodded reluctantly. He still didn't like Maybourne and certainly didn't trust the man. Furthermore, something else seemed to rub him the wrong way. Normally Daniel wasn't the jealous type, but he didn't like the kind of banter Jack had with the man. It sounded too much like his and Jack's -- and most times their banter was nothing short of flirting. Daniel really hadn't needed his thoughts going in that direction. Maybe he should just confront Jack about that later.

Something must have shown on his face, however, as Jack's hand slid across the table cloth and came to a rest on top of Daniel's. The light caress made Daniel look up and he couldn't help giving the other man a little smile. Maybe he was just being plain stupid. Jack had proven time and time again that he wasn't looking for anyone else.

"You look so serious, Daniel. Something up?" Jack asked, fingers playing over Daniel's hand.

Daniel turned his hand under Jack's, grasping the rough hand in his own and squeezed a bit before he let go. "It's nothing, Jack. Just worried about it all." He hated lying to Jack, but now wasn't the time or place to be suspicious of Jack's relationship with Harry Maybourne.

"Let's finish up here, Daniel and return to the ship." Jack polished off the rest of his brunch. "Carter's last report said they had found the General and were checking out the neighborhood. If we can get Hammond to join us without risking his family or drawing attention to our little operation, I'll be a happy little camper."

Daniel nodded and drained his own coffee cup. Then he stood. "I'll take the check, Jack -- let's go back."

"Eh, Daniel? Money?"

"Lou lent me some before we left, don't worry." Daniel dug into his pocket as he went to get Jeffrey and pay for their brunch session... and probably Maybourne's coffee as well.

Jack closed the top of his uniform as he entered the bridge of the Falcon and Daniel had to give the Asgard quite some credit. The uniforms they'd provided them with, back when they'd received their supplies for the Alpha Site, were quite flattering in cut. Especially on Jack.

The dark blue material reminded Daniel a bit of the dress A uniforms of the Air Force. Not a bad thing at all, considering how good that looked on Jack. This just looked a little less formal and was a jumpsuit instead of a two-piece uniform. The material was thin, but as warm, if not warmer, than their standard SGC uniforms. And they did accentuate the firm body of the wearers... *especially* Jack's, it seemed.

With a smile, Daniel shook his head and fastened the last of his own uniform. He still wasn't too crazy about enlisting Maybourne, but if they had to, they had to... for the greater good. Daniel couldn't help but roll his eyes at the thought.

"Ah, Jack, Daniel, welcome back," greeted Jacob, who was leaning over one of the consoles. "How was the trip?"

"Interesting," replied Daniel before Jack could open his mouth. "We seem to be the lucky recipients of Mr. Maybourne's help."

Jacob raised an eyebrow and shot him a wide grin. "So he can be trusted?"

"Not for a second," snorted Jack and Daniel didn't miss the gleam in the brown eyes. Jack wasn't blind nor was he fooled by Daniel. The older man had to know that Daniel harbored very little trust when it came to Maybourne.

Not that Daniel feared that Jack and Harry would start anything... well, other than a fight of course. However, that didn't mean that Daniel felt at ease around the man. He'd been branded a traitor once already. Daniel would give him the benefit of doubt when the entire thing was over.

"Sam and SG-1 called in around ten minutes ago. They're still looking for a way to get a message to George."

"Trouble?" Jack asked, frowning.

"Nothing we didn't already suspect. The NID is keeping an eye on his house." Jacob gestured at the screen where they could see an overview of Hammond's house, complete with infrared readings. A little red dot indicated that only one person was in the house.

"So the General's alone, then?" asked Daniel as he took a look at the screen. That might help things a little.

"From what they could find out, Hammond's family has disappeared," Jacob answered, a worried look on his face.

"NID?" Jack's shoulders sagged.

Daniel flinched. If the NID had the General's family, there wasn't much they could do. There wasn't much the *General* could do.

"We have to get a message down to Hammond, have to find out if we're endangering more than just ourselves in this" pondered Jack, frowning as he went over their options. "Is Thor around?"

"He and Heimdall are in the lab," Jacob said. "Want me to beam you guys down there?"

"Eh... Jake, you know how to operate that... thing?" asked Jack, raising an eyebrow and looking slightly disturbed.

"Sure, Jack. Trust me." Jacob's smile was positively evil.

Daniel shook his head. It seemed he had something to look forward to when he got older. It seemed very much as if the older they all got, the more childish they became.

As Jacob manipulated the stones on the console, Jack's voice rose a little. "It's just I recall watching that damned sci-fi comedy and the guy's head came on backwards..."

The next moment they materialized in the lab, startling both Lou and possibly the two Asgard. Still, who could tell with those inexpressive faces?

The two men noticed Aislinn sitting on the examination table in the middle of the room, looking a little embarrassed. Jack quickly went to her while Daniel turned to the others in the room.

"Something happen while we were away?" Daniel asked as he made his way to Jack's side.

"She collapsed twenty minutes ago," explained Lou. "Pierce and I were playing cards with a couple of the guys and Aislinn was studying by one of the consoles in the room. One minute she was fine, the next she simply fainted."

"But what's wrong?" asked Jack, clearly trying to keep his voice under control.

"We did not think this was a problem when we did the last tests," began Thor, only to be interrupted by Heimdall. That brought what Daniel could only see as an overbearing look from the Asgard commander.

"Your daughter will be fine, O'Neill, do not worry," the little scientist assured them.

"But why did she faint?" asked Daniel as he rubbed Aislinn's arm, giving the girl a small, reassuring smile.

"Her blood sugar dropped far faster than we anticipated. We have slowed her rapid aging, but her body still needs time to slow down." Heimdall pointed at the screen next to them. "She will need to keep her blood sugar up."

"Aw, man," Jack exclaimed, keeping his tone light to cover the how much it had scared him to find their daughter like this. Daniel couldn't blame him and in a way, he felt grateful for the man defusing the situation the way he did. "That means I have to nag *two* stubborn mules into remembering to eat."

"Stubborn?" snorted Daniel as he met Aislinn's eyes and saw the smile beginning to form on her face. She'd obviously gotten quite a scare herself. "You're calling *us* stubborn?"

"Pot, kettle," chuckled Lou in the background.

"This is... intriguing," exclaimed Heimdall.

They all stared at him. Even Thor blinked a few times.

"Wha'?" Jack looked at him with surprise.

"This... human interaction is most intriguing."

"But not the issue at hand," Thor said, interrupting his slightly hyper scientist.

"No... you are quite right," said Heimdall. "I do apologize, my friends." He patted Aislinn on the shoulder and continued. "I have given her an injection that will help her feel better for now, but she will need to eat properly and quite often for a while."

Jack nodded and smiled as he picked Aislinn up and Daniel almost laughed out loud as he heard the little girl's comment.

"I'm a big girl, I can walk myself," she told Jack.

"Aw, indulge your old man, Aislinn," whined Jack as he held her tight and gave the Asgard a nod. The little girl gave a huge sigh, but nevertheless settled into his arms. "Come on," he said in a low voice. "Let's go get something to eat."

Daniel drew a deep breath and turned to an equally relieved Ferretti. "Just a minor scare, then," he said.

Lou nodded. "Yeah..."

Jack was partly out of the room as Daniel turned to the Asgard and gave them a grateful smile. "You've done so much for us; I'm not sure how to thank you."

"It is our pleasure," answered Thor as he followed them out of the room. "You have never turned us down when we have come to you for help. I believe what we are doing here is but a small way of repaying our debt."

"Then we thank you," said Daniel. "Oh, and if you have the time later, I know Jack is interested in your input as to what to do next."

"I shall go to the bridge immediately -- you may tell O'Neill, that he can find me there." With that the little grey alien disappeared in a shimmer of light.

"Hey, how did the trip to New Orleans go, Doc?" asked Ferretti as they made their way back towards the bridge.

"Well, I'll tell you on the way to the bridge," Daniel said. "One thing's for sure, it was an interesting little meeting and we've got a few things to prepare for and not much time to do so."

"Nice digs, Dr. Jackson," Maybourne exclaimed as he found his cool remarkably fast after having materialized in an empty room aboard the Falcon. "But if you ask me, a little color wouldn't hurt.

Daniel rolled his eyes and wondered for the tenth time in as many minutes if it was Jack's warped sense of humor that had made the older man send Daniel here to pick up Maybourne. "Well, no one's asking you, Maybourne and if you wanna discuss interior decorating, I suggest you take it up with Thor."

"Ah, yes... you do have friends in 'higher' places," snorted Maybourne.

"Maybourne..." Daniel took a deep breath. "Are you planning on being a nuisance through all this?" Daniel sincerely hoped not as he gestured for the man to leave his bag behind and follow Daniel.

A hand on his arm stopped him. Looking down, Daniel watched the hand, then turned his head and looked at Maybourne, then back to the hand again. Raising an eyebrow he looked the other man in the eyes again.

Something must have registered, because Maybourne removed his hand again. "Look, Doctor Jackson... I don't know what you think you know about me, but..."

"Just forget it. The others are waiting for us," Daniel cut him off. Whatever Jack thought about the man, or whether they needed him or not, Daniel didn't like the idea of having him on board. Then again... keep your friends close and your enemies closer?

Maybourne opened his mouth again, but Daniel held up his hand, shaking his head. "Do the both of us a favor, Maybourne... don't make it any harder than it is."

Lifting his hands in a surrendering fashion, Maybourne seemed to finally concede and kept his mouth shut for the rest of the walk to the bridge. Daniel wondered what had made the former USAF Colonel contact them. It was a rational act to not trust a man who'd once betrayed the SGC. But still, he'd helped them in the past... though always for a personal gain. Never just because it was the right thing to do.

The tension had begun to get to Daniel by the time they entered the bridge. Daniel was thankful that Aislinn wasn't there, but currently with Heimdall, who found her absolutely intriguing. And safe to say, Aislinn did what she could to learn as much as possible from the Asgard. Daniel felt like joining her, but he was quite sure Jack wanted him there... and even if the older man could do without Daniel's presence, part of him really didn't like leaving Jack with Maybourne. Not that he didn't trust Jack... because he did. It was Maybourne he didn't trust.

Entering the bridge without exchanging another word, Daniel went to the side, preferring his spot at the sideline, where he could keep an eye on the whole procedure. He caught Jack's questioning look, but merely shook his head. He knew Jack picked up on his mood and he would be answering questions later. At least it seemed that Jack didn't trust Maybourne any more than Daniel did. A quick look told him that most of the people in the room probably felt the same way Daniel did.

The main team leaders were there. Ferretti, Pierce and Griff stood at the sideline, and to most people they were probably very intimidating, Jack was leaning against one of the consoles, next to Jacob and Bra'tac, who'd finally joined them. Daniel suspected that the old warrior had been Kel-no-reem'ing earlier, before he and Jack had left the ship.

"You should train your linguist a little better, Jack," grumbled Maybourne as he came to a standstill at the center of the gathering. "He's really quite rude."

"Well, whatever he might have said, Harry, I'm sure you were practically begging for it." Jack straightened up, eyeing Maybourne with a slightly impatient look to his dark eyes. "Come on, spill, Harry. You sounded as if we couldn't even begin to imagine what we're up against."

"Seriously, Jack... you can't." Maybourne rubbed his eyes. "Just trust me. What I'm about to tell you may sound crazy, but believe me... we're not just up against Kinsey... we're up against something even worse."

"You always were so damned dramatic, Maybourne," said Jacob, voice flat and emotionless. "Why don't you just tell us and we'll judge just how severe it is."

"Fine, have it your way," Maybourne answered easily, shrugging. "What would you say if I told you that there's a Goa'uld loose on Earth and that it's taken some one up high as a host?"

The statement was met by deadly silence as all eyes were upon Maybourne

"Ah, got your attention, thank you very much," snorted Maybourne.

"Come on, Maybourne. Stop sounding like the world's coming to an end," said Jacob. "It can't be all that bad."

"Actually, General, it can and it is." Maybourne shrugged.

"Okay, Harry. Spill," Jack said as he leaned forward a little. "You're here because you know something we need."

"I'd hate to sound like a cliché, Jack." Maybourne chuckled. "But what's in it for me?"

Daniel tilted his head to the side, frowning. First Maybourne had willingly lead them to him and then he'd willingly followed them... now he was making demands? A thought struck him. The man had been afraid before... obviously whoever was on his heels weren't nice people and Maybourne felt safe now. At least more safe than before. It didn't mean Daniel liked him any more, but he started looking for things now. Minute changes in attitude, voice, body language... there was something he'd overlooked...

"Aw, Harry, damn it!" Jack's brows drew down, giving the other man an angry glare. "We don't have time for these Christmas games."

"Like I said, Jack. I want something from this as well." Maybourne gave him a stubborn look.

"You know I can't make any promises..." warned Jack.

"Fine... Then obviously you aren't interested after all, so if you'd just put me down somewhere, I'll be on my way." Maybourne turned around, as if to leave, but Daniel put himself directly in front of him.

It was a chance to take, but Daniel had the feeling he knew why Maybourne was there. At least, he hoped he did. The man's way of thinking and acting wasn't exactly easy to follow.

"I don't think so, Maybourne..." Daniel began. As the man opened his mouth to disagree and possibly ask Daniel to step out of the way, Daniel held up his hand, silencing him.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice was low, and although it held trust, it was also tainted with mild confusion. It wasn't as if Daniel liked Maybourne, but if they needed the man, they needed him. Apart from that, Daniel was fairly sure that Maybourne's stubbornness and attitude was a mere facade. The man wouldn't be there at that very moment if he didn't believe they had a chance against whatever it was they were up against. Somehow Maybourne just didn't want to look like a submissive dog crawling home to its master.

"Why are you here, Maybourne? Why are you *really* here?" Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, trying to look as non-threatening as possible.

"I told you, I had hoped to sell my knowledge to you." Maybourne watched him with a wary expression.

"And what exactly had you hoped to be paid for it?" Daniel raised both eyebrows. "I can imagine it isn't money."

"Money would be nice, but I was hoping you guys could help me start a new life... one where I wouldn't have to look over my shoulder every minute." The man's voice was low and controlled, not showing any emotions at all. Neither was his face, for that matter.

"You're hoping that we'd get you pardoned? Is that it?" asked Daniel.

"That wouldn't be bad." Maybourne frowned a little, obviously not sure where Daniel was heading.

"But you have another reason, don't you?" Daniel had the nagging feeling that he'd missed something in his initial assessment of Harry Maybourne.

"What?" Maybourne took a step backwards. "Are you saying I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart?"

Daniel exchanged a look with Jack and saw the small smile on his face. He couldn't help the feeling that he'd caught on to something that might work. And might change his first impressions of Maybourne... Then again, it was no use looking for miracles.

"I just think there are things even you won't stand by and watch." Daniel cocked his head to the side. "I refuse to believe that you would want to see the Earth taken over by the Goa'uld and if helping us is going to get us the same thing, I think you'll be helping us anyway. Pardon or not."

"Anyone ever tell you you're too smart for your own health, Doctor?" grumbled Maybourne.

Daniel avoided Jack's eyes this time. "Oh yeah, occasionally."

Their guest turned to give Jack a look. "I keep to my first statement. You haven't trained him well enough."

"Oh, Harry. He doesn't need training. He's perfect just the way he is." Jack belatedly realized his mistake and coughed as a few raised eyebrows were turned in his direction.

"Yeah, the Colonel taught him how to be a smart ass," came the snorted reply from Griff.

"Hey!" Jack looked from one to the other. "A little respect, if you don't mind."

"Yeah," Lou joined in. "The good Doctor is perfectly capable of being a smart ass without the Colonel's help."

Daniel drew a deep breath. Sometime in between the tenseness of the moment had been broken and now would be a good time to get on with the more serious stuff. He looked up into a pair of slightly confused eyes.

"Welcome to the mad house," sighed Daniel.

"Ah, thanks..." Maybourne answered. "...I think."

"You'll probably regret it." Daniel shrugged and held out his hand. "Since it sounds like we'll be here for a while... call me Daniel."

Giving the general melee in the room a raised eyebrow, Maybourne held out his own hand. "Harry. I take it now we can get on with the more serious part?"

Daniel turned his head and shot Jack a look. Everyone but the older man was smiling and Daniel wondered what was wrong this time. He was playing nice with Harry just like Jack wanted. Why couldn't the man just make up his mind?

"Yeah, we better." Daniel stood back, nodding to Jack, who still kept eyeing him strangely.

"Fine, go ahead, Maybourne," Jack said. "Dazzle us with your knowledge."

Harry nodded and smirked at Jack, but nevertheless began his explanation. "Some six months ago, I was asked by an anonymous business man, to procure something from the Russians." Maybourne paused for a moment before continuing. "I had to steal a Goa'uld larva that was being transferred from one facility to another."

"The Russians had a symbiote?" Jack shook his head. "Where the hell did they get that?"

"Well, back on their second mission, when their 'Gate was still active, they had a little run-in with a group of Jaffa, which I believe you know about." Harry gave him a questioning look.

Jack nodded. "Yeah, it was in their report."

"What I doubt you know, is that they brought back one of the Jaffa... alive. They kept him in custody until the symbiote matured sufficiently... which was why they were moving it to one of their genetic research facilities."

"And you went and stole it for this unknown person?" Jack's voice was thick with disbelief. "How could you not think that would go wrong?"

"Look, Jack... in the right hands with the right kind of research, a lot can be learned from a symbiote... even things that could benefit us humans." Harry shrugged.

"Oh yeah, and you did it *all* for the greater good of mankind." Jack rolled his eyes.

"Anyone ever tell you you're an ass, Jack?" Maybourne shot him a quelling look.

"Actually, yes, quite often," replied Jack, gesturing for Harry to continue. Daniel hid his smile and concentrated on the story.

"Problem is, it ended up in the hands of the NID..." Harry closed his eyes for a moment. "They used it for cloning... and tested the outcome in a small town..."

"Ah, that's just brilliant," snorted Jack. "Let me guess... it got out of hand."

"Not too far from the truth," agreed Harry. "But they managed to get it contained before it got too far out of hand... unfortunately they 'lost' the original symbiote... and no one is quite sure where it is, though... I think someone up high has been taken over... at least, that's worst case scenario."

"Well, in some way that might explain about the SGC so suddenly being shut down," mused Jacob. "Break up the SGC, but still... I'd expect a Goa'uld to try and get off Earth as soon as possible... especially a young one that would have no backup from other Goa'ulds... let alone Jaffa."

"True," nodded Harry. "Which is why I think someone up high has been taken over... if there is the slightest chance of this thing taking over a nation on Earth, wouldn't it try?"

"Well, it would be something to present to the rest of the System Lords, that's for sure," said Jacob. "But it would need a queen to breed so it would eventually have to open the 'Gate to get in touch with other Goa'ulds."

"So for the time being we're fairly sure we're only dealing with one snakehead, right?" asked Jack.

"I think that's the case, yes," said Maybourne.

Jack nodded. "Do you know anything about Hammond?"

"Just that he's 'retired', why?" Maybourne cocked his head to the side.

"Because we'd like to pick him up, but we don't want to endanger his family." Jack shrugged. Daniel had to agree. They could really use a little more help and it would be nice to have the General aboard. Still, Jack was doing a good job of running the show so far.

"Oh, you could... though I'm afraid you might attract a little attention," said Harry.

"His family?" asked Jacob.

"Have gone underground, disappeared. Even the NID don't know where they are." Harry smiled. "Hammond must have some pretty high connections."

"He probably does," agreed Jack. "We... need to get in touch with him, but it does make it a bit easier that we don't have to worry about putting his family in the line of fire."

The bridge was silent for a moment, no one saying anything, digesting what they'd just learned. Then Jack turned his full attention to Maybourne again. "Well, Harry, what do you say? Wanna join in the fun?"

"It's not like I have anything else to do at the moment," grinned Maybourne. "So you're not gonna turn me in?"

"I doubt it," said Jack, smirk on his face. "Just watch your step, because that overwhelming desire to shoot you might just come back."

"Aw Jack, you're such a comedian," snorted Harry.

"What makes you think I was joking, *Harry*?" smirked Jack before dismissing them all.

"Maybe you should be the one to do it, Daniel," said Sam, shooting their CO a strange look. SG-1 had returned less than fifteen minutes earlier and Jack had decided that they'd risk getting in touch with Hammond; maybe even get him aboard the ship. They'd asked Thor for a little help and the holographic technology would be their best bet. Question was merely who was going to be 'playing' with it.

"Why's that, Sam?" asked Daniel, ignoring the pout Jack put up. The man had more fun with that stuff than any normal human adult should.

"Well, you're more..." Sam gave Jack a strange look, then seemed to think for a moment before deciding what word to use. "... diplomatic," she finally said, looking absolutely innocent.

"Yeah, and he won't scare the crap out of George," chuckled Jacob.

Jack gave the older man an evil glare, but wisely kept his mouth shut. There were certain people even he couldn't keep up with. The combination of Jacob Carter and Selmak was one... or two, depending how you saw it.

"Yeah, sure..." Daniel shrugged. "Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it."

"That would be an entirely alien concept to you," muttered Jack as he waved Daniel towards one of the consoles.

Daniel stopped for a moment, wondering if he should make a comment in public, but decided against it. Even if most of the people in the room suspected what was between him and Jack, half of them knowing it for a fact, there was no reason to rub their faces in it.

Leaning against the console, he let Jack do his explanation and before he got up onto the small platform, he leaned against the other man, smirking. "I've been known to follow orders, you know that, Jack." With a raised eyebrow he turned his back on the older man, whose cheeks went slightly pink with the knowledge of what Daniel was referring to.

Daniel quickly did as Jack had told him, then looked over at Thor. "Where in the house is the General?" he asked.

Thor checked his readings. "He is currently in the largest room at the North-West side of the house."

Daniel nodded and checked the settings of the projector one last time before finalizing the commands he'd fed it with. The air around him shimmered for a moment and suddenly he was in a rather large room, partly lit by the setting sun. His projection materialized far to the side and Daniel did what he could to stay close to the wall.

Hammond was sitting in a large chair, reading, but stood and opened his mouth, then shut it again as Daniel held a finger to his lips. Turning he attention back to where he really was, Daniel looked over at Thor.

"The house is under surveillance..." Thor hesitated for a moment. "Audio surveillance only. Every outgoing signal has been blocked, Dr. Jackson. Please carry on."

Daniel gave the grey alien a quick nod, then returned his attention to the figure in the living room. The projection technology was amazing. It was like being in two places at the same time.

"Dr. Jackson?" Hammond finally asked, voice low and barely audible. He looked like he couldn't believe his own eyes.

Daniel pointed at the windows. "You might want to close the drapes, General..." he warned. If the house was bugged it was probably safe to assume that it was under visual surveillance as well... that the house would be under a 24 hour guard.

Hammond quickly got to his feet and pulled the drapes closed. "Can we speak openly?" he asked as he gestured at the room.

Nodding, Daniel straightened up and gave the old man a reassuring smile. "It's good to see you again, General"

"I must say the same, Dr. Jackson," answered Hammond, giving him a tired smile. "I take it you're here with a little Asgard help?" Hammond gestured at the Daniel's holographic projection.

"Yeah. Actually, we wanted to see if we could convince you to join us up here... there..." Daniel shrugged and gestured upwards.

"You're in orbit?" Hammond seemed to lighten up.

Daniel nodded and grinned openly this time. "If you can disappear without putting anyone in danger, we're all set to beam you up here."

Daniel was momentarily disturbed by movement to his physical right, but it turned out to be Jack pacing the floor. It was a little surreal to be watching two places at the same time, but quite fun as well. Daniel was beginning to understand why Jack liked the technology as much as he did.

Hammond smiled at him. "I must say you've come at the right time, Son. Much has happened since you and the Colonel left Earth."

"We know some of it," said Daniel. "But if you're up for this, I suggest we continue our conversation aboard the ship instead."

"Ah, yes. Of course," agreed Hammond. "I've got a weekend bag all packed in case I had to leave, just let me get it."

Daniel waited patiently and a moment later, Hammond returned with the bag.

"I simply didn't expect to be leaving quite in this fashion," grinned the older man.

"That's the beauty of it, General," said Daniel as he turned his head and gave Thor a nod. A moment later the holographic projector shut down and Daniel was fully back on the bridge of the Falcon.

"General Hammond has safely arrived in the transporter room," said Thor and Ferretti immediately set out to get their old CO and bring him to the bridge.

"One less to worry about," said Jack as he put his hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel put his own hand on top of Jack's and nodded. With the General aboard the ship they had less to worry about and the man could help fill in the blanks about what had been going on at the SGC since Jack and Daniel had left with Aislinn.

"Quite impressive. That I must say, Colonel," said Hammond as he leaned back in his seat at the table that had been set up in one of the cargo rooms. Around the same table he was watched by the team leaders, Jacob, Bra'tac and SG-1. Even Harry had joined them.

As Daniel leaned back in his own seat, he had to marvel at how fast they'd gotten the troops together. Still, it was no guarantee that things would work out without complications.

While the others had made sure that General Hammond had a place to sleep and had gotten reacquainted with the older man, Daniel had gone to get Aislinn from Heimdall's care. The little girl had been quite tired, but satisfied that she'd been left with the Asgard. She seemed to enjoy going through their databases and learning a wide range of things. As she'd sleepily told him as they'd made their way towards their quarters, she was currently browsing what the aliens had on Earth. Amazing reading if her mumbled comments were anything to judge by.

Daniel had put her to bed and met up with the others again, as they'd sat down by the table to tell the General what had happened so far. Hammond had been very impressed as they'd explained what they'd done to the Alpha Site and now everyone was waiting for the old man to tell what had been happening at the SGC.

"The worst thing was that no one could, or would tell me if the teams were safe," began Hammond. "I had been fearing that something would happen and I was right. So I made sure the teams were told to go to the Alpha Site and I had the site address erased from the computer."

Jack nodded and leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Well, I for one am glad to turn over command to you, sir."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Jack, but I doubt I have the necessary intel and general knowledge about... this," Hammond said, as he gesture at the ship in general. "At least not enough to use it to the full extend."

Jack gave him a surprised look. "What do you mean?"

"I'd love to help, but I can't take command of this." Hammond gave him a small smile.

Daniel frowned. Well, the man had a point. It was just strange to think of having Hammond aboard and not following his orders.

"Sir, I can't just..." Jack stopped as Hammond held his hand up to silence him.

"Please, Jack. I retired and even though I did so under pressure, I think it's best if you stay in charge of this." Hammond shook his head. "Don't for one second think it's easy for me to let go, but I'll have to do this eventually and you already know far more about this operation than I do."

Jack let out a deep sigh. "Just for the record, I'll be doing so under protest."

"Duly noted," grinned Jacob. "But you're still in charge, Jack."

Jack rolled his eyes at the older man, but didn't comment on it. After a moment he finally looked around the table. "Guess you're stuck with me, then," he said.

"Aw, could be worse, Jack," said Maybourne. "We could all be stuck on Earth, under Kinsey's thumb."

No one argued with that reasoning and Jack finally stood. "Well, we'll get a fresh start in the morning. We need to track the Goa'uld and we need to get our hands on Kinsey." He paused for a moment before going on. "I want all teams ready by 0600 tomorrow morning. I suggest we all get a good night's sleep so we're ready for the offensive tomorrow."

Everyone stood and after having said their goodnights, they all went to their assigned quarters.

Daniel waited for Heimdall to finish his tests on Aislinn before she was going to join him for breakfast. Jack had asked Daniel to stay on the ship while SG teams 1, 2 and 3 went to locate Kinsey. Daniel still couldn't believe that the older man had entertained the idea of going with them. At least Hammond had backed Daniel up and Jack had receded. Daniel figured it was a habit that was hard to kick. Jack had always been used to being in the front, leading the troops.

Speaking of... Daniel grinned as a hand landed on his shoulder and slid down along his spine, sending the most delightful shivers through his body. Jack rarely touched him unless they were alone. Daniel suspected the man wasn't sure he could stop once he began and somehow neither man thought it good for Jack's current position to rub their relationship in anyone's face.

"Ready for breakfast?" asked Jack, as he came to stand next to Daniel, leaning lightly against his shoulder.

"In a minute or two, Jack. So far Aislinn's tests are looking fine and it seems they'll stay that way as long as we make sure she eats." Daniel nudged Jack's shoulder, giving him a small smile. In less than an hour three teams would be beamed down and for all the world Jack O'Neill looked perfectly calm. Only to those who knew him were the signs of worry evident. A slight frown and pursed lips and the brown eyes seemed darkened by thoughts.

"Don't worry, Jack. They'll be fine," assured Daniel.

"They're good people," answered Jack in a low voice.

"That they are," agreed Daniel. "And stop pouting just because you can't go with them." Daniel turned his head just in time to see Jack sticking his tongue out at him. "Oh yeah, Colonel O'Neill, that is *so* mature. Just don't teach Aislinn your bad habits."

Jack grinned and a moment later he dutifully took Aislinn's hand and they made their way along the hallway. A few steps along, Aislinn grabbed Daniel's hand with her free one and as they entered the room converted into commissary Daniel didn't miss the smiles they got. At least they'd left Captain Smith behind at the Alpha Site. Daniel wondered for a moment how Paul would be dealing with him. Then again, Paul was used to Washington; he could handle Smith without problems.

Breakfast was, for once, a quiet affair. Everyone was thinking how their tasks would go and Daniel was torn between feeling out of the loop because he was staying behind on the ship and glad that Jack had suggested he'd help with the search using the Asgard hi-tech systems. They'd had a long discussion whether or not Aislinn should be allowed on the bridge during the mission, but as Daniel had argued, she probably knew more about the systems than the rest of them put together -- if, of course, you didn't bring the Asgard into the equation.

Thor had been called back to the Asgard home world and none of them knew quite why. Either Heimdall didn't know either or he wasn't telling. Another Asgard ship had picked Thor up. As it was, it did seem the Asgard considered their little mission important enough to leave their top of the line war ship behind... in the hands of a band of renegade humans and a single Asgard scientist. Somehow that idea made Daniel chuckle a little.

"What's so funny, Daniel?" asked Jack as he sipped the last of his coffee.

"Oh, I was just thinking about our merry little band of thieves," joked Daniel.

"Hey! We're the good guys," grinned Jack.

Daniel looked across the large table at Harry, who was going through some of the day's papers to see if there was any news they could use. "Well, I guess if you say so..."

"Yeah, even Harry's good enough at the bottom," agreed Jack. "If you dig deep enough."

Daniel snorted. "Be nice, Jack. He's here to help us."

"Yeah, Jack, be nice." Harry dumped into the seat next to Jack and put the paper on the table. "Look what I found for you."

Jack read out loud. "Senator Kinsey in the lead..." Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Well, we kinda expected that... and the election's in less than a week..."

The others got up from their seats and gathered around the table. "And of course people don't know what we know and they'll vote for him," frowned Lou as he leaned over to read.

"Since the President resigned it's been crazy with the media and he's their little favorite," said Maybourne, pointing at another article. "Back then it happened rather fast. One day there weren't even rumors and in less than twenty-four hours, the President stepped down and Kinsey announced he was running."

"Does that sound suspicious to anyone else?" asked Pierce.

"Oh yeah," snorted Jack. "It's quite clear that he must have been ready for this for some time. No one can get a campaign in the works within 24 hours of the President dropping that bomb."

"So it's pretty safe to say that whatever made the President resign, it has to do with Kinsey," stated Jacob as he read over Jack's shoulder. "Anyone surprised?" Looking around he smiled mirthlessly. "Didn't think so."

"So we're dealing with a lot more security, right?" asked Daniel. Heads bobbed in acknowledgment around him. Why couldn't things ever be easy for them?

"Daniel? Sam here -- what can you say about the building?"

Daniel checked the readouts. He could see the dots representing SG-1, Bra'tac and SG-3 outside the building Sam was referring to. "You've got five people in the building at the moment, Sam. Everyone else has left."

They'd been playing cat and mouse with their prey and gathering as much information as possible during the day. This late in the night they might finally have the chance they'd been looking for.

Jack was standing a little to his left, almost at the center of the room. The older man had hardly moved for the previous hour and Daniel could almost feel the tension thrumming through him. And Jack had finally agreed that having Aislinn help hadn't been the worst idea. Daniel had put her to bed a few hours earlier, but she'd helped him get a pretty good grip on the system. More than enough to deal with the situation at hand. And for the more tricky stuff they still had Heimdall, who'd taken Thor's place in the command chair, keeping an eye on various read-outs. The little grey alien hadn't been as chatty as he normally was, clearly understanding the severity of the situation.

"I'm sending in SG-3," said Sam, her voice a mere whisper.

Daniel caught the short nod from Jack out the corner of his eye. "You're cleared to move in," Daniel told her. For a moment he allowed himself to be slightly amused by the fact that he had long since started sounding like a military man. Well, when they finally found the time again, he'd make sure Jack knew who was to blame. And that Jack would pay for it.

They'd agreed that they couldn't send in SG-1 or Bra'tac -- they were the first line of backup. They had a clear indication that one of the persons left in the building was indeed a Goa'uld and they'd be able to feel both the two Jaffa and Sam and give the game away. As it was, the plan was to send in SG-3 and keep units 2 and 15 on standby.

They had argued back and forth about whether or not to simply beam whomever it was into a safe holding in the ship, but Heimdall had warned that even though they weren't picking up anything, the Goa'uld might very well possess a device that could block the transfer. Something very much like the force field most Goa'ulds had or knew how to construct.

Daniel felt Jack's presence at his shoulder, as the man watched the dots on the screen. Two of the dots left the building and Daniel tapped back into the communications system "Sam. Two of them are leaving the building. Both humans." At least with a search as narrow as this one, the Asgard technology could make out who was infected and who wasn't.

"We see them, Daniel, thanks." There was a moment of silence. "Colonel, as you can probably track, SG-3 has moved into the building... standing by to assist if necessary.

"Looking good so far, Major. Over and out." Jack's voice was tight, but calm.

Daniel changed the visual setting and the flat overview changed into a 3D version, showing them every floor. Activating the communications system again, he found SG-3's frequency. "Griff, the Goa'uld is on the sixth floor. Left when you come out of the stairwell. Five doors down to the right."

"Got it, Doc. We're starting our ascent now."

"Move with caution, radio contact only when absolutely necessary," Jack ordered, watching the screen intently. "We'll let you know if the Snakehead moves... Over and out."

"Yes sir, Griff out."

Silence filled the room as everyone concentrated on the screens showing various parts of the building. What took only ten minutes felt like half a lifetime. They tracked the progress of SG-3 as the team moved towards its goal.

Daniel tilted his head to the side as he felt Jack's hand land heavily on his shoulder. Rubbing his cheek against it, he tried to give Jack some kind of reassurance, but it was hard since Daniel was feeling pretty damned tense himself.

The order was to go in, secure the Goa'uld, preferably without harming the host and then make sure that any defense shield was off and beaming back to the ship. It sounded so damned simple, but they all knew that a hundred things could go wrong in the split second between one breath and the next.

When Griff's voice finally rung through the system, it was as if they all let go of a collective sigh and everything went as they'd planned. Daniel hit the controls and locked on to the signatures, activated the transporter and transferred SG-3 and their prisoner to where the cell was.

"Sam?" Daniel called into the comm system.

"We're here, Daniel, go ahead."

"I'm gonna bring you back up -- we've got our catch and it all went according to plan." Daniel smiled as he heard her acknowledge it and he transferred them to the transporter room.

"Major Ferretti, you have the bridge," Jack ordered and got a short nod from Lou. Gesturing for Daniel and Jacob to follow him, Jack made his way towards the holding cell.

The three men stopped dead as they joined the two teams, Major Pierce and Maybourne. In the cell was a lone figure, pacing back and forth. The moment he turned and saw the newcomers, he stopped and stared, a slightly crazy look to his face.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Colonel and his sidekicks."

"Kinsey?" Jack stared at the other man. They'd suspected the Goa'uld to have taken over someone close to Kinsey, but the man himself?

"Not... quite," sneered the man, eyes blazing golden.

"No, I guess not," agreed Daniel.

"Ah, Doctor Jackson... how... intriguing. This body has the most interesting memories of you and your friends... so much knowledge." Kinsey took a step forward. Everyone else seemed to take a step back. "Now, now, no reason to fear me," soothed Kinsey, the effect only slightly ruined by the eyes and the voice.

The yellow eyes glowed again as Kinsey looked at something over their shoulders. "Ah... Hammond, so *nice* to see you." Kinsey's eyes narrowed. "I should have know you'd be the leader of this little game."

"Sorry to disappoint you, Senator. The Colonel's in charge of this," answered Hammond, as he went to stand next to Daniel.

"Come now, George, you can't be serious," Kinsey snorted. "Well, I guess even a blind pig can find an acorn."

"You just about through with the insults, Kinsey?" drawled Jack.

"Aw Jack, moving in on your turf, am I?" Kinsey blatantly eyed up Daniel, who simply chose to meet the man's eyes, however unsettling it was. "Then again, I don't really swing that way," said Kinsey with a smirk.

"And we see your impressive people skills once again, Kinsey," snorted Harry.

"Maybourne, I can't believe they let your traitorous ass in on this." Kinsey eyed him with a lot of malice.

"They're smart people, Kinsey. If you'd remembered that, you might still have been free." Harry shrugged.

"Oh, this is merely a minor setback, Mr. Maybourne. I'll be out and back to my little games in no time." Kinsey fiddled with something at his wrist and the next moment seemed to slow to an almost standstill. The force field holding back Kinsey flickered and died and the Senator launched himself at Jack, glowing eyes shining with even more madness than previously.

Daniel pulled Jack back and Pierce and Griff pulled their zats, the air charged as Kinsey was hit with two blasts. The man crumbled and hit the ground in front of them all.

Maybourne looked down at Kinsey and finally broke the silence. "I guess that solves the issue of what we were going to do with him."

Jack's fingers dug into Daniel's arm, all of them staring at the body on the ground. "Never could fool ya, huh, Harry?"


"Jack!" Daniel leaned against the banister of the stairs. Looking up he frowned as he heard the older man swearing, walking down the hallway, fighting with his tie.

"Who was that on the phone?" Jack asked as he descended the stairs, still wrestling his tie.

"Aislinn saying good morning and..." Daniel broke off as Jack reached him, pulled him close and gave him a proper morning kiss.... Just about the fifth one since they'd gotten up -- not that Daniel was complaining.

Jack leaned back a bit, not letting go of him. A wide grin graced Jack's face and for a moment Daniel forgot what he'd been trying to say. Who could expect him to think *and* function when Jack was literally sweeping him off his feet, wearing his dress A's and the most mischievous grin imaginable.

"So... what did our daughter say and why didn't you call me down so I could hear it too?" pouted Jack.

"Just... good morning and to tell you she loves you too -- as does Lumpy. Janet then took over the phone and told me that we are to attend dinner with her and Cassie when we go to pick up Aislinn." Daniel frowned for a moment. "And stop pouting, you're too old for that."

"I'm not pouting." Jack looked slightly insulted. "I'm a USAF Colonel, soon to be retired, and as such, I do not pout."

Daniel leaned in and stole a small kiss. "Do too."

"Do not."

"Do too."


"Too. And you argue like a pre-school kid." Daniel made sure that Jack had no air to answer with for the next few minutes.

"Sneaky bastard," muttered Jack when Daniel finally pulled back.

"Admit it. You wouldn't want it any other way." Daniel gave him a wry grin.

"Oh yeah. And I'm kinda glad Aislinn asked to have Cassie watch her from yesterday until tonight." Jack pulled at his own tie, trying to get it to behave.

Daniel batted his hands away and quickly tied it for him. "Yeah, you've been driving us nuts for the past week." Jack had tried to hand in his resignation, but Hammond, who'd been reinstated, had asked him to wait until the ceremony they were trying to get ready for.

"I don't get it," grumbled Jack. "Why won't they just let me retire and get rid of me?"

"Jack, you headed the team that saved Earth... again -- you can't just expect them not to pull out the big guns." Daniel gave him an overbearing smile as the older man straightened Daniel's tie. Not that it needed it, but Jack seemed very antsy... and an antsy Jack touched -- a lot.

"Damn, Dr. Jackson, you do clean up nicely." Jack relaxed visibly as he pulled Daniel close again. "You don't think there's a risk they might arrest me and throw me in jail when we get there, right?"

"Well, I think they'll probably wait until the ceremony is over and done with," grinned Daniel, though it wasn't the first time they'd talked about it. Sure, they'd helped save the Earth... again. The President was back where he should be. All had been explained one way or the other, though there were still questions as to what had happened to Kinsey. Daniel still couldn't believe the discussion they'd had on the ship after Kinsey had been killed. And in a way he understood why Harry had done what he had. The man had actually taken a zat and fired the third and disintegrating shot, claiming he was tired of discussing what to do with Kinsey's body.

Daniel still wondered how easy it had been to write up similar reports. To tell the truth, they all feared what might happen if the public ever learned of what had happened to the Senator. As it was, there were investigations going on, but nothing linked it to the SGC. All tapes from the security cams had been destroyed and the general belief was that Kinsey had either gone off his rocker and disappeared or had been kidnapped.

"So..." Jack's voice brought Daniel back to the present. "You think medal for lunch, Leavenworth for dinner?" It was meant as a joke, but it was quite a possibility.

"Maybe they just want to give us the goodbye they think we deserve, though I'd have preferred slipping out the backdoor." Daniel shrugged. He knew Jack felt the same way. The man hated ceremonies and dressing up, but he loved his job and he loved the old General. There was no way he'd ever have said no to the request.

Daniel moaned and tilted his head to the side as Jack nuzzled against it, breath hot against Daniel's skin.

"Mmm, as much as I love this, Jack, we better get going or they'll send an S & R team out for us and I doubt we can talk our way out of the situation they'd find us in." Chuckling, Daniel pushed Jack back a bit.

"And speaking of cleaning up nicely, Colonel O'Neill. Not bad." Daniel ran his hands, palms flat, down over Jack's uniform jacket. "Not bad at all."

"Well, if you're really nice today, Dr. Jackson, you get to help me out of it tonight."

Leaning in, Daniel stole one last kiss before he stepped back and pointed at the door. "Now, Colonel, or I will not be held responsible for whatever I might do next."

Laughing, Jack took his coat and opened the door, waiting for Daniel to grab his own coat and joining him.

The drive to the Mountain was done in silence. Not the hard kind, but the kind of silence that Daniel loved most of all about Jack. The silence that spoke for itself. They didn't need to fill their time with words. Being together was more than enough.

"Jack" Daniel turned his head and watched Jack maneuver his way through the morning traffic.

"Yeah?" Jack turned his head a little, but kept his eyes on the road.

"I think you've rubbed off on me in more ways than one."

"Oh, how's that, Daniel?"

"I'm thinking horribly sappy thoughts at the moment," grinned Daniel.

"Hey, it's your fault anyway, you know."

"Mine? You're the one who's always so damned sappy."

"I didn't even *know* the meaning of the word before I got involved with you, brat."

Daniel smiled widely as they pulled in at the checkpoint, Jack mock-growling next to him. The airman on duty gave them a strange look but obviously found it wiser to not address any odd behavior in the car so he simply checked their passes and let them drive right through.

After parking the car, Jack turned off the engine and sat back, staring ahead, unseeingly. "Ready for this, Daniel?"

"You know, I think I can handle another sappy thought." Daniel cocked his head to the side.


"How's: Where ever you go, I go?"

"So you'll follow me to hell and back?"

"I said I'd go where you go... you know I don't follow... besides, the hell thing? Been there, done that, didn't want the t-shirt." Daniel chuckled and undid his seatbelt before getting out of the car.

Jack seemed to relax a bit and a moment later the car was locked and they went for the elevator. As they waited for it, Daniel finally addressed an issue that he'd almost forgotten about with all the things that had happened.



"Did you and Harry ever...?!

Jack gave him a puzzled look. Then he caught onto what Daniel was asking and his expression turned to mock-horror. "Daniel!" He shook his head. "Ewwww. Thanks Daniel. Now I have the worst images in my head... I mean...yuck!"

Daniel smiled. "I take it that means no, then."

"Ya think?" Jack snorted.

"Well, at least Maybourne got something from all of this too."

"Yeah, he'll never work for the military again, but at leas he won't have to hide anymore." Jack shrugged. "As much shit as he's put us through over the years, he's helped us solve a few things as well."

"Yeah," Daniel agreed as they entered the elevator and began their descent down through the Mountain.

They all watched as Hammond stood on the podium. The President hadn't been there, but they'd received a live feed via satellite, congratulating them on their mission. Currently no one wanted to let the President out of sight. Not with the things that had happened to lead to his resignation and the disappearance of a senator.

Not that Daniel minded terribly. Had the President visited, they'd have had to have extra security and he hated all the extra check-ups during the day. As it was, at the moment, they were waiting for Hammond to finish the closing speech. After that, Daniel knew Jack and he had to go to Hammond's office and turn in their resignations. Jack had argued that Daniel could keep acting as the SGC's linguist, but Daniel had told him in no small words that if Jack was going, so was Daniel. He wouldn't turn it down if they asked for his help, but he wasn't going to hang around a base that would feel so damned empty when Jack wasn't there anymore.

Daniel caught Sam's eyes and answered her small smile. Sure, he'd miss their friends, but since they were staying at Jack's old house, they'd be seeing the others whenever they were on-world. Maybe he could even talk Jack into doing the civilian consultant thing for the SGC, but he was fairly sure Jack had a few ideas of his own. The man simply wasn't cut out to sit with his hands in his lap and do nothing.

Daniel mused that his civilian department had been doing okay without him there for a long time. First he and Jack had been with the Nox, then the Asgard... Why would they need him for anything? He'd concentrate on his family instead. Maybe even work on some non-classified papers... maybe teach?

Hammond cleared his throat and everyone stood to attention, watching the old man as he looked down at them, a proud smile on his face.

"Ladies and gentlemen, officers and soldiers of the SGC... It is with both great news and sad heart that I stand here before you today." Hammond paused as he swept his gaze over the crowded 'Gate room. "The sad news is that as of Monday morning, I am a retired General of the USAF."

The silence of the room was deafening, all eyes riveted to the man on the ramp. Daniel sighed internally. That did it. They had to leave now. Hammond had turned his blind eye to Jack's and his relationship... even helped them. No way would they ever get a CO who would do the same. Who knew? Maybe soon the facility would be fully military again... The thought didn't sit well with Daniel, but he knew that once they left the SGC behind there wasn't much they could do about that.

"I have had six great years running this place... although it could truthfully be called a madhouse at times..." as he said that, Hammond cast a sideways glance at Jack, who looked little surprised at the General's announcement, but still couldn't help a small smile escaping. Daniel knew very well that the SGC would have been a dull place if not for one crazy 2IC.

"Were it not for the amazing things and the truly even more amazing people I dealt with on a daily basis, I'd have left the AF a long time ago. But who could say no to such an adventure? I surely couldn't." Hammond took a deep breath. "The good news... well, the good news is actually in the lead today, though closely related to my retirement."

"First I have a promotion to announce. Two actually." Hammond smiled. "Major Ferretti, would you join me up here?"

Daniel watched with a surprised smile as Lou walked up the ramp, and was joined by Jack. Hammond and Jack stood on either side of Ferretti and pinned his new rank to the uniform.

"Colonel Ferretti." Hammond saluted him and got one in answer. Lou turned and did the same with Jack, expression severe, but eyes sparkling with pride. As Jack turned to walk back to his place next to Daniel, Hammond put a hand on his arm. "Would you wait a moment, Colonel?"

Jack frowned, but nodded in agreement. Daniel wondered for a moment what was going on, but since Hammond was still smiling, he didn't really thing anything big was up. He couldn't have been more mistaken.

Hammond took a deep breath before continuing. "The second promotion is for Colonel Jonathan O'Neill. So it is with the greatest pleasure that I impart upon him the rank of Brigadier General."

Jack looked completely stunned. Oh well, thought Daniel. It was a nice gesture to do for him just before his retirement. Daniel watched with amusement and pride as Sam walked up the ramp to join Hammond and with a smile do what they'd done for Ferretti a moment earlier.

Daniel noted that Jack was slightly flushed when he came back to take his spot next to him. Giving the older man a reassuring smile, Daniel wished he could reached out and put his arms around Jack. The man looked like he could use it.

"The next part is a little... tricky," Hammond paused and looked out over the people in the room. "We have received word from the Asgard and even though the President isn't allowed to show favoritism, there seems to be only one name that has come up for my replacement." The General frowned for a moment. "Although I tried to tell them that it might not work, everyone seemed very stubborn about it -- and as for the Asgard, well, their final transmission came in this morning. I wouldn't say that it was a threat, it was merely a small warning that we were to be *very* careful with who we named as the next Commander of the SGC..."

Daniel blinked a couple of times. The man couldn't possibly be saying...

"So it all comes down to whether or not one man agrees to the job... The Pentagon has grudgingly given me consent to offer the title of CO of the SGC to Brigadier General O'Neill."

One look to the side told Daniel that he wasn't the only one who hadn't foreseen that outcome. Actually, everyone seemed surprised. Someone began applauding and a moment later it was hard to hear anything above the noise of the room. Jack was herded up to the microphone, but the look on his face told them all that they might not like what they were going to hear.

"I..." Jack coughed to clear his throat. "I'm not normally the greatest speaker here..." He looked up at the ceiling, but nothing happened. Daniel had a fairly good idea that the one time Jack really wanted the Asgard to beam him up, they didn't.

"Up until a moment ago, I was actually contemplating my own retirement..." Jack closed his eyes for a moment before looking out over the crowded room. "I'm simply not sure what to say to this..."

Daniel wondered if they might actually have a chance this way... If they stayed with the SGC they would both be doing what they liked the most. Were they fools for taking that chance? Would they be fools if they didn't? Catching Jack's eyes, Daniel smiled and gave a small nod. Take it, take the risk -- hadn't they proven people wrong over and over again? Who was to say they couldn't do it again?

Jack's frown seemed to loosen up and a smile began spreading on his face. "But if you're willing to put up with me for another long run, then I'm more than ready for the challenge," he finally said.

Applause once again drowned out everything else. Daniel held Jack's eyes and couldn't help laughing. Who had ever claimed life had to be easy anyway? Who wanted easy when easy might as well equal boring? If necessary they could leave again -- life without change and challenges just wasn't worth living. Besides, Jack looked so damned good in that uniform, who could blame Daniel for wanting to keep him on active duty and in the dress blues?

The End