Contemplation by devra

"Go away," Jack said, trying to maintain as much dignity as possible even though he sounded like Elmer Fudd on helium. He didn't need to peek out from under the quilt to *know* Daniel was standing over him, cough medicine in one hand, spoon in the other. The bottle of water was already on the table, the two oatmeal cookies right beside it, to be eaten in haste to overcome the vile taste of the medicine once Daniel shoved two spoonfuls down his throat. In the three days that Daniel had been taking care of him, Jack had learned, if nothing else, Daniel was damned predictable in his mother henning.

"Don't make me call Janet."

"Idle threats." He harrumphed from under the blankets. "And anyway, *I'm* not scared of her."

Jack uncovered one ear just to listen. The 'I'm going to call the doc' was a warning that Daniel hadn't used before and he just wanted to threat assess Daniel's seriousness in carrying through with this particular threat. Fraiser had released him with great trepidation on her part, a pissy, infirmary-bound disposition on his part and a flutter of eyelashes on Daniel's part. That had been three days ago, and over the past seventy-two hours the only freedom he had been allowed was to pee on his own. Daniel was obviously taking his job as caretaker a bit too seriously for Jack's liking.

Medicine was dispensed like clockwork, bland diet except for the occasional cookie or two, pillows continuously fluffed, blanket smoothed and adjusted, damn, even his sanity-saving viewing of TV was being monitored.

"Hello. Okay, I'll hold."

"Damnit," Jack croaked, flinging the blanket aside. "Don't call Fraiser, I'm—you sonofabitch, I bet you don't even have a dial tone on that phone."

"Oh ye of little faith," Daniel warned with a wag of his eyebrows.

Jack made a grab for the phone, missed and began to cough from the exertion.

Daniel rolled his eyes heavenward, awkwardly balanced the phone between his shoulder and chin, poured a teaspoon of medicine for Jack, then with his pinky finger, grabbed a cookie and shoved it into his hands so Daniel didn't have to listen to what he perceived to be the over-practiced, very forced gagging.

"Oh, hi."

Jack grasped the bedpost with one hand and the quilt with the other. "They'll never take me alive, I'll fight—"

"I'd like to order two pies. Sure, no problem, I’ll continue to hold."

"I want one with everything." Jack coughed, cleared his throat, then coughed again and turned to find another teaspoon of medicine headed towards his mouth.

"Two plain pies. No. No extra cheese. Yup." Daniel rattled off the telephone number and address, then politely thanked the person taking the order before hanging up the phone.

"Plain?" Jack squeaked. He shoved the rest of the cookie into his mouth and wrapped his fingers around the bottle of water Daniel placed in his hands.


"Plain?" Jack said after coming up for air after a long gulp of water.

Daniel shook a finger at him. "Don't even go there, I could have been calling Janet."

"But you didn't," Jack smugly replied.

"No, I didn't, so don't complain about the pizza."

"But it's plain." He wasn't complaining, he was whining, which was different and definitely allowed when one was sick.

Daniel kissed his upturned forehead, and Jack smiled, because it really was a kiss and not a method to check for temperature, because there was something about how Daniel's lips lingered that made the distinction between a fever-checking kiss and an 'I love you' kiss.

The pillows were given the patented Dr. Jackson fluff treatment, then he tucked the blankets around Jack, catching him off guard with a tender kiss to his lips. Jack buried a cough into the crook of his elbow when they separated. The episode of harsh coughing lasted a few minutes and when he opened his eyes, Daniel was prodding his hand that still held the water bottle toward his mouth.

"Drink," he ordered.

Jack nodded, the coughing had left his throat raw and dry and he readily obeyed Daniel's order.

"You're going to get sick," Jack warned, handing Daniel the empty water bottle. "No more kissing of sick colonels allowed."

"Jack, dearest darling, I don't think you're in any position to stop me from having my way with your poor, sickly body."

"Dearest? Darling?" A look of mock horror filled Jack's face and he threw a hand over his heart. "Was the pizza really a subterfuge? Was that really Fraiser on the phone telling you I'm dying?"

"No, not dying, you're a colonel with bronchitis and a sinus infection, you'll survive." Daniel laughed and kissed Jack again. Not a ghost of a kiss, nor a temperature checking one, but a true honest-to-god kiss that curled his sock-covered toes.

Jack reached and grabbed Daniel's shirt, pulling him in closer, but a cough seconds later forced them apart. "Sorry," Jack said, grabbing a tissue and blowing his nose.

"That's okay." Daniel grabbed a tissue and wiped his face and glasses free of Jack's spittle.

"You're gonna get sick," Jack warned again, blowing his nose loudly.

"Then you'll have to take care of me, won't you?"

"Torture you," Jack whispered.

"Heard that," Daniel said, lifting up the wicker pail for Jack to deposit his used tissue.

Jack gave another blow for good measure and slam dunked the tissue into the pail. "Hand me the remote on your way out."

Daniel gathered up the spoon, the empty water bottle and tossed Jack the remote which had been sitting on the night table. "Don't get too comfortable, the pizza will be here soon."

* * *

Jack was weaker than he wanted to admit, his stomach protesting fullness after just one slice of pizza and a glass of juice. Daniel hadn't forced him to eat more, just asked if he enjoyed dinner before he brought the uneaten pizza into the kitchen. Jack melted into the couch cushions then grabbed the remote Daniel had conveniently left by his side and began to flick through the stations.

* * *

His own coughing woke him. As he struggled to sit up, it took him a moment or two to get his bearings, surprised to find both he and Daniel still in the den. Daniel was snoring quite loudly, stretched out in the recliner, while he had obviously fallen asleep on the couch watching TV. Tsk'ing over Daniel's transgression from what would be considered perfect mother henning up until this point, Jack forced a round of coughing, smiling evilly when Daniel awoke sputtering.

"Oh God, I'm sorry." Daniel jumped up from the chair, squinting at his watch, pushing up glasses that were no longer on his nose.

"It's twenty three hundred hours," Jack supplied meekly, pointing to the arm of the chair where the glasses where perched.

"Thanks," he said slipping them on and adjusting them before he slapped his forehead. "Medicine, right. How could I forget? Be right back."

"Don't worry." Jack threw in two coughs for emphasis, "I'm not going anywhere."

* * *

"Aren't you tired?" Jack tried to find a comfortable position on the bed, pushing and prodding the pillows.

"No, not really."

"Daniel. What you did in the recliner, before..." Jack cleared his throat, coughed, and totally ignored the worried look Daniel threw his way. "That was a precursor to sleep, not a nap. It's late."

"Oh, am I keeping *you* up? Jeeze, Jack, why didn't you say something. I'm sorry, I'll move into…" Daniel began to close the laptop, but Jack grabbed his arm.


"Are you sure?" Daniel didn't even wait for Jack's affirmation, and reopened the laptop.

"Sure, stay. I want you to stay." Jack moved closer to Daniel then folded his pillows, doubling them, so he could see the laptop's screen.

"Watcha working on?"


"Duh. Could you be more explicit?"

Daniel drew a breath, exhaling slowly. "SG-7 returned from PX6R83 with photos that indicate the remnants of a culture similar to, if not an exact replica, of Cimmeria."

"Thor's Hammer?"

"Yup. At least what was left of it."

"Well, that doesn't make sense, if it was an Asgard protected…" the rest of Jack's statement was lost in a round of rough coughing. When he was able to draw a breath and returned to the land of the living, Daniel was sitting with the box of tissues in one hand a bottle of water in the other.

He plucked a wad of tissues from the box, blew his nose and swiped at his eyes, then he gratefully accepted the water bottle and took a swig. "Ahhhhh, thanks," he croaked. "Go on," he waved, pausing, confused. "What happened to your research?"

Daniel shrugged. "It wasn't anything that couldn't wait until tomorrow." He took the bottle of water from Jack and put it on the nightstand, yawning, then flicked off the light.

In the darkness, Jack readjusted his pillows, tucked the used tissues somewhere under the depths of the bottom pillow, and sighed when Daniel placed a hand on his back.

"Are you sure you'll be okay alone tomorrow?"

"I'm sure. There's pizza for lunch, I have complete control over the TV and all the tissues and water at my disposal."

"Oh, I can see I'll be deeply missed."

"I'll be counting the hours."

"Ha ha."

Jack listened as Daniel settled in, adjusted his own pillows and moved into Jack’s space. His breathing was slow and controlled, but years of sharing a tent with Daniel told him that he was far from sleeping. He reached out into the darkness and by rote, began to rub Daniel's shoulder. "Something on your mind?"

"That research I was doing… SG-11 is shipping out to the planet on Friday, I mean, I think you'll be okay by then, and I really would like an up close and personal look at the…"


"I mean why would there be…"

"You can go out and play, just make sure you don't forget to come home before dark."

"I can wait a few days and join them, just to make sure you'll be on the mend by then."

"I'm on the mend now. Friday is three whole days away and I'm sure by then, I'll be running the Boston marathon."

"I just…"

"Worry." Jack dropped a kiss on the shoulder under his hand. "Me, too, now go to sleep so you can get up early and make me breakfast before you head off for work."

An hour later, Jack bit back words of reprimand and chose instead to lie quiet under the pretense of sleep, when Daniel tucked his laptop under his arm and sneaked out of the bedroom.

* * *

Daniel was yawning even before dessert.


Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then stretched until Jack heard bones pop back into place.

"Oh, let me guess… you spent the entire day in your office, bent over your keyboard."

"No, I didn't." Daniel straightened his shoulders and slipped on his glasses, but his indignation was lost in another yawn.

"Tell me another," Jack said, grabbing up the napkin and blowing his nose.

"I left my office."

"Lunch with Carter and Teal'c does *not* count."

* * *

Jack took his medicine without comment, causing Daniel to raise an eyebrow before he placed a hand on his forehead.

"What's the matter?" Jack asked innocently.

"Nothing, it's just that you really didn't…"

"Complain? Whine?"

"Are you feeling okay?"

"To borrow the words from you, 'I'm fine'. I loafed around today, took my medicine on time, napped, let my mind turn to mush as I watched the Game Show Network, napped again, made dinner…" He tugged on the waistband of Daniel's sweats, pulling him closer, lifting his shirt and kissing the abdomen staring him in the face, ignoring the fact that Daniel was literally petting the top of his head. He hadn't lied, today was the first day, since he had gotten ill, that he had felt halfway human. To prove to Daniel how fine he actually felt, he grabbed his ass, pulling him even closer, and smiled against Daniel's belly when the petting progressed to a little hair pulling. But the fact that he couldn't resist taking this one more step became his downfall when he decided to blow a raspberry on that sensitive area right around Daniel's navel.

The raspberry action led to a coughing fit, which made Daniel remove his hands from Jack's head, pull his hands off his ass and tug his shirt back down.

"Sorry," Jack sputtered between coughs.

"No, I'm sorry." Daniel stuck a glass of water in front of Jack. "I don't know what I was thinking… well I knew what I was thinking…"

"I was thinking the same thing," Jack replied with an apologetic smile. "The mind and certain body parties were willing but obviously…"

Daniel got up to refill the water glass and annoyingly patted Jack on the head again, but followed it up with a kiss, which made that okay. "Maybe we should wait until all body parts are up to par."

Jack took a sip of his second glass of water. "How about tomorrow?"

* * *

"You should have stayed on base," Jack argued, taking a moment to turn his head sideways and cough, ignoring the hurt look on Daniel's face. He cleared his throat and continued. "You have to ship out before dawn and one would think you would have just slept…"

"I heard you the first time." He angrily dove into his dinner plate, keeping his eyes downcast, managing two bites of the hamburger and one fry before pushing his plate away. "I have work to do." Daniel dumped his uneaten dinner in the garbage and stormed out of the kitchen only to return two minutes later and stand awkwardly, eyes downcast, leaning against the doorframe. "Jack… I'm…"

Jack dragged a French fry back and forth through the puddle of ketchup on his plate. "Me, too." He bit the fry in half and looked up at Daniel, pointing to the counter with the half fry still in his hand. "There's another hamburger…"

Daniel shook his head. "Nah, I had a late lunch and I really just want—"

"Coffee?" Jack shoved the remainder of the fry into his mouth.

"I’m going to opt for a bowl of cereal."

"Over a hamburger and fries, how un-American can you get, Daniel?"

"I don't know… should I have Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios?"

* * *

"Would you go to bed?" Jack complained as Daniel yawned for what seemed like the twentieth time in ten minutes.

"Just need to…"

"You said that twenty minutes ago." Jack stretched his body out the length of the couch, tucking his feet under Daniel's ass.

"You're not helping my concentration."

"How very observant, Dr. Jackson."

Jack wiggled his toes, but to his consternation, instead of playing along, Daniel powered down his laptop, stood and extended his arms over his head.

"Whaaat, not tonight honey, you have a headache?" Jack whined.

"Make up your mind," Daniel grumbled as he gathered up his laptop and paperwork. "Bed, sex, which is it?"

Jack thought for a minute, running his foot down the back of Daniel's leg. "Don't they both equal the same outcome?"

Daniel turned to face Jack, hugging his laptop to his chest, papers sticking out at various angles. "You obviously feel better."

"Ya think?"

Daniel raised his arms and hid a yawn behind the laptop and papers. "Go take your meds, I'm going to go shower…"

"I can wash your back or your…"

"No! Me, shower. You, meds."

"Me, Tarzan. You, Jane?"

"No." Daniel bent and kissed Jack. "Me, Daniel. You, pain in the ass."

* * *

Jack took his meds and then wandered back to the den, and was getting ready to flick off the TV when a rerun of one of the Lethal Weapon movies caught his attention. He sat down just to watch for a moment or two or three, and then became so caught up in the movie that it wasn't until he broke the silence by coughing that he realized forty-five minutes had passed.

He turned off the TV, the lights and did his final check of the doors and windows, then wandered into the bedroom, already pulling off his shirt before he even crossed the threshold. "Ready or not, here I…" Jack paused, his shirt crumbled in his hand, ready to toss it onto the bed to divert Daniel from his ritual bed reading. Except Daniel wasn't reading, there wasn't even a book within arm's length. He was already under the covers, sprawled not only on his side of the bed but taking up a good portion of Jack's side as well, snoring, and more than likely drooling on Jack's pillow.

Jack peed, washed up, changed and gently shoved Daniel over so he could slide under the covers. Daniel grumbled, acquiesced, then seconds later ended up curled against Jack, his nose infuriatingly pressed against Jack's neck, warm puffs of air acting like an annoying metronome as Jack attempted to find his own comfortable space to fall asleep.

He coughed once or twice and Daniel's hand swooped down and patted his face. " 'k?"

Jack grabbed the hand, squeezed, then returned it to Daniel's side. "I'm fine, go to sleep." He slid out from under Daniel, turned on his side and smiled into the darkness at Daniel's "oomph" as he bounced on the mattress. "Much better," Jack whispered, when two seconds later, Daniel spooned up against Jack.

* * *

Daniel blinked in the darkness, allowing his eyes a moment or two to adjust to the gloom. It was a total misconception, born of Jack's vivid imagination, that Daniel would oversleep. On their downtime, of course he slept later, flipping off his internal alarm clock. But on days that he needed to be at the SGC, he was usually there early. Oh, he always set the alarm clock as a precaution, but there was never a day that he even awoke close to the time the clock was going to ring. Except today, and with two minutes to spare he hurriedly pressed the button before the harsh buzzing would wake up Jack.

He got out of bed, slowly, lethargically, ruefully admitting that maybe getting up last night after Jack had fallen asleep to conclude his research probably hadn't been one of his brightest ideas.

Maybe a shower, coffee… or another hour or two of sleep. He almost lay back down and reset the alarm, 'cause if he timed it right, he *could* grab another hour of sleep but then... he shook his head at the thought and dragged his sorry, no-one-to-blame-but-himself ass out of the bed, to take a shower.

He poured a travel mug of coffee and propped the letter he had written last night on the table so Jack would be sure to see it. Nothing incriminating, just a reminder to take his meds and make sure he visited Janet today for a recheck. The apology for falling asleep last night would have to wait until his return in ten days. Jack needed his sleep, and he was doing it peacefully, without coughing, the first time in a while, so Daniel didn't want to risk awaking Sleeping Beauty with a kiss, so instead he just bid him a silent goodbye from the bedroom's doorway.

* * *

Daniel shifted his paperwork, lowered his laptop, put the bag with his breakfast on the table, then picked up the pen to sign in at the last checkpoint. "Dr. Jackson? Dr. Fraiser has requested your presence in the infirmary before you 'gate out today."

"Mmm? Me?" Daniel looked up from the paper and checked his watch. "I really don't…" He really did, but he wanted to go over his notes one more time, have breakfast and maybe catch a few more minutes of sleep on his couch.

The airman shifted from one foot to another, obviously uncomfortable under Daniel's scrutiny. "She, Dr. Fraiser, sir…"


The airman, who Daniel truly believed was younger that Cassie, stood at parade rest, trying to maintain a semblance of dignity. "Ordered, sir. If I recall her exact words they went something like…Tell Dr. Jackson, he better get his—"

"Never mind, Airman—" Daniel squinted at the nametag. "Flaherty. I'll make sure to see Dr. Fraiser to save both of our respective…"


"Yeah, jobs." Daniel smiled at the young man, picked up and readjusted all his various paraphernalia, gratefully accepting the bag with his breakfast that Flaherty handed him and began to walk down the hall.

"Dr. Jackson?"

He turned, and continued walking, albeit backwards, but he kept up the movement. "Is there a problem?" Daniel tried to calculate the steps before he embarrassed himself and hit the wall.

"The pen, sir?"

Daniel was very extremely grateful that Jack was home sleeping because he could just imagine the forgetful professor jokes he would be spewing the length of the SGC. Instead he held his valor and tossed the pen, which was stuck amongst his paperwork, down the table to the Airman.

* * *

"You wanted to see me, Janet?" Daniel knocked on her opened office door with his elbow.

"Daniel." She looked up from her paperwork, inspected him from head to toe and smiled. "Do me a favor, leave all your stuff on the chair and go hop up on one of the beds out there." Janet pointed past his shoulders, through the opened door to the main infirmary room.

Daniel opened his mouth to protest, but he knew that look. The raised eyebrows, lips set in a tight line, the glance that said he better act now and ask questions later, so Daniel smiled apologetically at Janet for even harboring the thought of asking why, then carefully arranged all his papers and laptop on the chair. With a hint of defiance, he walked into the infirmary, taking the brown paper bag containing his breakfast with him.

He placed the bag and his jacket on the nearest gurney and hopped up, then leaned over to grab his breakfast, only to have it whisked from his grip by Janet.

"Hey," he whined.

"Not exactly what I would call nutritious." Janet peaked into the opening before tossing the bag to the side.

"I know, but it's early and the… Janet what the heck are *you* doing here?"

"Give me your arm."

Daniel extended his right arm and watched as Janet expertly drew two vials of blood, wrote on the labels and handed them to a waiting corpsman.


"Shush." She waved his question away and ordered the man to take the vials to the lab and inform the technician to run them stat.

"I had this done yesterday." Daniel cringed as Janet shoved a thermometer in his mouth. "Just last night," he added the second the thermometer was removed.

"I know you did." Janet shook her head as studied the readout.

"What?" Daniel was getting more than annoyed at Janet, he was getting downright pissed at her elusiveness.

"You have a fever."

"No, I don't," Daniel stated succinctly.

"Yes, you do. One hundred and one to be exact and your WBC's from last night's blood were elevated, and I'm sure they'll be even higher now. I came in to check you over before you left this morning. But based on the fever, you won't be going anywhere but into scrubs and your usual infirmary bed."

"I-don't-feel-sick. I'm fine."


"Nope." Daniel didn't feel ill. The headache that had been his companion in the ride over to the mountain had nothing to do with a fever and everything to do with last night's interrupted sleep, the same for his stomach, which wasn't queasy. Those rumblings were obviously hunger pangs from the lone bowl of cereal, hence the chocolate donut waiting within arm's reach. The tickle in his throat would vanish with an allergy pill, the same for the burning in his eyes. This was not sickness, he knew himself well enough to know sick when he felt it, and contrary to Janet's accusations, he didn't feel sick.

"I'm not getting into the bed, nor am I getting in scrubs." Daniel resisted the urge to clear his throat.

"You going to sit here all day?" Janet crossed her arms and challenged more with her body language than with her words.

"No, I'm going to my office." Janet's sharp staccato burst of laughter cut through Daniel's resolve, making him quite aware that she'd have the SF's hauling him right back to the infirmary the second his foot strayed into the corridor. The woman had absolutely no shame. "Or I'll," Daniel patted the gurney. "I'll stay right here if I have to."

Janet shrugged. "Have it your way. Make yourself comfortable. I'm going to call the General and let him know you've been scrubbed from the mission." She threw the paper bag into his lap. "Enjoy breakfast."

* * *

Jack looked at the sleeping form on the infirmary bed, checked his watch then reached out his hand to shake the blanket covered shoulder.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Guiltily, Jack shoved his hand deeply into his pocket and whirled around. Damn it, that woman wore heels that made more noise on the floor than a herd of Jaffa, yet she always managed to sneak up on him. "I wasn't going to…"

"Tell me another one, Colonel." Wearily, she pointed to the bed next to the one where Daniel was sleeping. "Go, sit, let me examine you." She grabbed a chart from the pile and moved towards the empty bed, and Jack followed.

"Can I ask about… you know?" Concerned, he threw a glance over his shoulder as Daniel coughed in his sleep.

"It comes down to closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out. I had read both of you the riot act about keeping contact to a minimum, but obviously you chose not to listen to my words of wisdom. So he's sick, you look a hundred times better, Daniel's been scrubbed from the mission, you're going to go back home and he gets to keep the medical staff company for awhile."

Jack squinted at Daniel. "Is he dressed?"

"Breath through you mouth, please." Jack managed Fraiser's request, coughing only twice as she moved the bell of the stethoscope from his back to his front. He was even quiet while she took his temperature, gauged his respiration and stuck the little clippie on his finger.

"Yes, Daniel's dressed." Janet spoke while she made notations in his chart. "Fell asleep while I was reviewing his blood work from today so I just covered him up."

Jack patiently waited through the remainder of his physical with nary a complaint.

"You're doing very well, sir, and I'm signing you off for light duty starting on Monday, maybe progressing to full days by the end of the week. But I'm still going to err on the side of caution and hold back releasing you for off world missions for another ten days."


"Yes, keep up the meds, I'm going to make a slight change to the expectorant."

"I was going to ask, what about Daniel?"

"What about Daniel?"

"Can I take him home with me?" Jack could only hope his exemplary behavior during his examination would allow him some leeway with the doc.

"He's sick, you're sick." Janet winked at him. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Recovering. I'm recovering." Jack concentrated on taking a deep breath and not coughing. "See?"

"Yes, I see, sir. You're recovered enough to take care of Daniel."

Jack's satisfied smile melted when he realized he had played right into Dr. Fraiser's hands.

* * *

"Are you okay?"

Daniel buckled his seat belt and put Jack in his place with a scathing look while slamming the truck's door. Jack tried the question one more time as he situated himself in the driver's seat, and his only answer was a deep, raspy cough from Daniel, followed by words that sounded something like "This is all your fault."

Jack tried for a different approach. "I was able to spring you from the infirmary. I mean I could have left you there. Fed you to the wolves."

Daniel grunted.

"Fraiser, she keeps our… the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' – I mean, she could turn us in but she chooses…"

"Don't you get it, Jack? She knows we're like an old married couple. Janet doesn't have to turn us *in* for retribution. All she has to do is put us in a room, leave us to our own devices and it'll only be a matter of time before we kill each other. Which, when you think about it, leaves *her* hands free of blood and her mind without one iota of guilt.

Jack tapped on the steering wheel, thinking over Daniel's words. "She's one smart woman."

"Smart enough that she got you to take me home instead of having me gripe up and down the infirmary because I got scrubbed."

Jack handed Daniel a wad of tissues following his explosion of a countless number of sneezes. "So Hammond didn't scrub the whole mission?"

"Just me."

"So SG-11 and…"

"Drs. Rupolo and Peterson accompanied them with my notes. Two working video cameras—"

"I'm sorry." Jack paused waiting for Daniel to finish blowing his nose before continuing. "I know how much you were—"

Daniel leaned his head back against the headrest, pressing the heel of his palm into his forehead. "I was, Jack, probably more than you can understand right about now and definitely more than I feel like talking about."


He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, hunkered down in the seat, then closed his eyes, effectively putting an end to the conversation.

* * *

"I just want to sleep," Daniel begged, moving further down the mattress, hiding his face under the blankets.

"I know you do." Jack sympathetically rubbed his back, tugging the blanket low enough to expose Daniel's face. "Remember, I've been there, done that, as a matter of fact, still recovering."

Daniel creaked one eyelid open. "Go away."

"Can't. I've recovered enough that Fraiser will have my hide if you don't take your meds."

Daniel slid an arm out from the under the blanket and turned a waiting palm to him. "Give me the meds, then leave me alone."

"What fun would that be? Listening to you complain and whine is much more entertaining." Jack pulled at Daniel's hand. "You need to sit up, unless you want me to give you the cough medicine via a funnel."

"I don't whine," Daniel whined. Slowly, he pulled himself to a sitting position, holding the blanket up to his chin. "Is it still Friday?"


"Time flies when you're having fun," Daniel groused, rubbing his eyes with the blanket.

"Was that a mud slinging remark against my company?" Jack sat on the bed, and slung his legs up so he was mirroring Daniel’s position.

Daniel moved closer to Jack and dropped his head heavily onto Jack's shoulder. He wanted to reprimand Daniel, tell him to take his meds, but instead of words he brought his left hand up and smoothed Daniel's errant, bed head cowlicks. It wasn't until the pills in Jack's hand began to melt and congeal that he realized Daniel had fallen asleep, and recovering or not, Jack had been just two tiny baby steps behind joining Daniel in slumber.

* * *

Getting out of bed shouldn't be this much of a project, nor should it even register anywhere on the difficulty scale. But at the moment, Daniel was doing just that, contemplating how to get his arms and legs into gear to get his body to a sitting position. The act of relieving one's self at his age should be instinctive. The distance from the bed to the bathroom wasn't any greater now than it had been two days ago, but for some reason, it seemed insurmountable.

Maybe if he ignored the pressure on his bladder, the feeling would go away, but a small cough quickly convinced him otherwise.

It took to the count of three for him to lever his body up onto this elbows, then at the count of ten he was sitting up, but it took until the count of twenty five to slide his legs out from under the warmth of the blanket and all Daniel could do was pray that he wouldn't sneeze on the trek to the bathroom.

Daniel yelped in surprise when Jack burst into the bedroom with a shout. "What the hell are you doing out of bed?"

He just pointed to the bathroom, which was easier than formulating an answer.

"You shoulda called me," Jack admonished with a barely hidden hint of concern mixed with tenderness before he gruffly latched onto Daniel's elbow, steering him towards the bathroom.

"I…" and that's all the sound that Daniel was able to produce. He could feel Jack's lips curve into a smile as he kissed Daniel's neck.

"Sorry. Guess I need to tie a bell around your neck."

"Bell?" Daniel croaked.

"So I know when you get up and move around."

* * *

Daniel crawled back into bed, infuriated and embarrassed at how utterly decrepit he felt, weakly pushing away Jack's attempts to assist him. His "go away" was hoarse and almost nonexistent; the "please" that followed was just lip movements with no accompanying sound. Thankfully, Jack must have gotten the hint because he left. Daniel sighed, burrowed deeply under the mountains of blankets, and was just falling back into a restless sleep when Jack banged open the bedroom door and flicked on the lights. Daniel didn't even have a chance to grab onto his blanket before Jack whisked it away, exposing his body. He bleated out a cry of protest which Jack paid no heed to.

"Fraiser wants an update on your condition."

"Tell her to go to hell," he whispered, then attempted to curled away from Jack, only to be stopped by a heavy hand on his chest, or maybe that was a hand on his congested chest, he really wasn't sure. "I'm sick."

"You're obvious delirious, 'cause *no one* in their right mind would even dare think those words to Fraiser."

Daniel shivered as Jack pressed a cool hand to his forehead.

"Hmmm… not enough to fry an egg, but…" He waved the thermometer at Daniel who obediently opened his mouth. He managed to reach out and pat Jack's knee in sympathy when Jack coughed. The thermometer beeped and Jack removed it, holding the wand up to his eyes, squinting to see the readout. "You're cooking at a nice respectable 102.3. Which means—" Jack stood, then dropped the thermometer on the nightstand and rooted around in his pockets. "You get the prize of antibiotics *and* Tylenol, you lucky dog, you."

Daniel scooped the pills from Jack's outstretched hand, popped them in this mouth and stuck out his own hand for the water bottle Jack now held. Daniel drank greedily, gulping, satisfying a thirst he'd been unaware even existed.

His protest sounded like a squeak when Jack pulled the bottle down and pried it from his fingers. "Stop. Please, if you just took your pills, and you throw up, I *never* remember what the medical protocol is for re-medicating the patient."

* * *

Daniel knew time passed based on Jack's appearance in the bedroom and what he held in his hands. Meds. Juice. Food. Thermometer. He was grateful when Jack lay down next to him. Selfish or not, Jack's body heat was better than an extra blanket.

* * *

He opened his eyes, blinking in the dimness. It took a moment for him to adjust because the only light in the room was from the partially opened bathroom door, creating a mere sliver of illumination. Tentatively Daniel stretched. Stiff, achy muscles felt less stiff, less achy. The headache had dropped down a notch, leaving him feeling more lightheaded than murky. A deep breath produced a cough that didn't leave him lightheaded and a kiss to his shoulder left him smiling.

"Feeling better?"

"Think so."

He felt Jack's inquisitive nose sniff up along his neck and hairline. "Ya smile ripe."

Daniel really didn't care how badly he smelled, clogged sinuses would do that to a person, what he cared about was how he felt now compared to how he had felt just hours before.

"Don't care if I stink." Daniel swallowed once or twice, but still his voice was nothing more than a whisper. "I feel better."

* * *

"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Jack honked at the car in front of him, one-handedly maneuvering the Avalanche around a double parked Fed-Ex van while the other hand waved a tissue in Daniel's direction.

"Oh, thanks." He blew his nose, shoved the tissue into his pocket then went back to studying the photos in his lap. "Jack, do you realize…"

"Do *not* make me regret bringing that envelope home." The rest of Jack's sentence was lost in a sneeze.

"Bless you. Are you sure *you're* okay? Did Janet really say you could fly?"

"Yes and yes." Jack pulled the truck over the curb and turned off the engine. "Home sweet home." He hated that he had to leave, but the General had chosen to send him to Washington to make nicey nicey with the pencil pushers since Fraiser still had him on light duty.

Daniel looked upwards at the apartment building where he lived, then busied himself straightening the photos and slid them back into the envelope, looking up in surprise when Jack grabbed his hand.

"Don't get too swept up in discovery that you forget to follow Fraiser's instructions, no matter how much you disagree with her."

"Me?" Daniel looked as if the idea had never even occurred to him.

"Yes, you." Jack's hand slid down to Daniel's thigh. He wished they weren't so out in the open so he could tell Daniel goodbye without fear of inquisitive eyes. Daniel patted his hand, understanding the touch.

"I'll be good," he promised, looking at his watch. "You have a plane to catch. I need to gather up a few things, feed the fish, or whatever is left of them," he smiled guiltily, "then wait for the airman to pick me up in about thirty minutes."

"I could have dropped you off at the SGC."

"I know you could have, it's just easier…"

"Safer…" Jack interjected.

"Safer this way."

"Inquiring minds and all that stuff." Jack squeezed the muscle below his hand.

"All that stuff," Daniel answered, tightening his grip on the hand under his. "I've been sick…"

"Doesn't bode too well for your commanding officer to be taking care of you."

"People might misconstrue…"

"Can't have that."

"Go," Daniel said. "Safe flight." He hurriedly unbuckled his seat belt then unlocked the door. “See you…”

“Whenever I’m allowed to go home, but I’ll talk to you tonight."

Daniel just nodded, slamming the door, backing away from truck, starting to wave and then stopping, shrugging instead as he readjusted his laptop and the envelope filled with the printouts and photos the SGC had received so far from SG-11.

* * *

The infirmary was a madhouse. Various medical personnel were in a controlled state of havoc as they moved around the room. Daniel tried to make himself as unobtrusive as possible as he stood in a corner, waiting patiently until he was able to catch someone's eye, preferably Janet's, embarrassed that it was a round of sneezing that finally drew her attention.

"Daniel… can you come back—" Janet signed a ream of paperwork someone shoved in her hands. "Later?"

"Sure, no problem. I'll just go into…" Daniel smirked as the sound of retching came from behind one of the curtained off beds. "Stomach virus?"

"No," she sighed. "SG-3's participation in the 'hi, glad you're here with us' celebratory feast on PX6981 turned into a night of overindulgence and a little too much of the local hooch. The only reason the General forgave them is because they returned with a treaty to mine their naquada-rich caves. "

Daniel's face contorted into a grimace of sympathy. "I'll just go into my office, give me a shout when you're ready for me."

He stood as Janet took a second to assess him with her gaze.

"You're pale."

"I'm fine," he reassured her.

"Don't get lost," she kidded, a tiny, tired smile lighting up her face as she wagged a finger at him.

"I won't." The sound of retching caught Daniel's attention. "Your fans are calling for you."

"Funny. Very funny. But remember your butt is mine the moment things quiet down here so honestly, maybe, you should be very, very afraid."

* * *

Daniel stood in his office, blinking in shock at his inbox. Papers were overflowing onto his desk and any other flat surface within the immediate vicinity.

"Nice," he complained to the solitude of his office. Dropping his laptop and the envelope on the work table, he decided this called for a full pot of his strongest coffee.

* * *

Somewhere between the second and third hour of sitting at his desk, just as he brought a cold, bitter cup of coffee to his lips, it dawned on him that he hadn't a clue what he had even been reading for the past fifteen minutes. Daniel rubbed his liquid bloated stomach and realized that maybe he wasn't as fine as he'd mentioned to Janet. His head hurt, his muscles ached and his stomach was protesting being only fed liquid. His ass would never see the light of day if he appeared to their CMO feeling as he did now. Daniel stood, stretched, then used the remainder of his coffee to down his antibiotics, two aspirin and a decongestant. A change of scenery, a touch of food, a quick hello to Sam and Teal'c and hopefully the meds would have kicked in and he'd feel fine enough so he wouldn't have to lie to Janet.

He choked down a grilled cheese and two spoonfuls of hot tomato soup before his stomach decided it had enough. He was disappointed to find both Sam's lab and Teal'c's room empty. The gym had a number of people working out, none of them his teammates. A quick visit to the infirmary was enough to see that Janet was still up to her eyeballs in a number of bodily functions, none of them pretty, and Daniel headed back to his office, feeling strangely dejected.

He made a quick decision and changed direction, deciding to pay an impromptu visit to his archeological department. Everyone was immersed in a project and he was greeted with no more than perfunctory, harried waves as they barely lifted their heads to acknowledge his presence.

Daniel nonchalantly moved down the aisles, past the various work areas, stopping here and there, questioning people, annoying them, fighting back a smile as he realized his department had pasted on their faces the same expression he wore when Jack came to harass him.

Dr. Scott motioned for Daniel, pointing to a set of scrolls carefully spread out. "Here," he said the moment Daniel got within viewing range, "what do you think of that?"

The two of them exchanged ideas and the conversation moved comfortably into a small debate, drawing a number of people from their own work stations to add their two cents.

"I'll be right back," Daniel growled in mock exasperation, pushing his ass off the stool. "I have a book in my office which will clarify…"

"That I'm right?"

"I'll be right back," Daniel reiterated, backing out the door. "And no taking bets on who's correct this time, okay?"

* * *

Back in his office, Daniel gave into a sneezing fit before he cleared a section of his workbench, then he pulled an oversized book from the second shelf on the left. The words were smaller than he remembered, and he shoved aside random thoughts of old age and sickness, and chose to help his burning eyes by flicking on the desk lamp, directing the beam right onto the pages he was studying. And there was the passage, right there in black and white. He stuck a post-it on the page and with an indulgent smile of self satisfaction, he closed the booking, hoping that this time, the odds were two to one in his favor, that *he* would finally be correct.


He sniffed, then hunted for the box of tissues buried on his desk. "Sam. Hi. I was looking for you earlier." Daniel blew his nose, then picked up the book. "I just need to show Paul… Dr. Scott—Sam are you okay?"

Sam looked stunned, shell shocked, and his gut tightened. Unceremoniously, he dropped the book atop a stack of papers and hurried to her side, taken back when she stuck out her hand, forcing him to keep his distance. "No. Don't. Just let me talk."


"SG-11—there was an accident."

That was okay--accidents were doable. Hell, half their times at the SGC they managed to do the unthinkable and now would be no different, they would just call Jack back from Washington, and Janet would give him the…

"They're dead."

He must have misheard her and he adamantly shook his head, denying her words. "No, they aren't."

"I'm sorry. The team, the whole team and Drs. Pet—"

"That's impossible." Daniel wrapped his arms around his body, suddenly cold, frigid almost, stupidly wondering why the temperature in the lab had fallen to such an uncomfortable level.

He watched Sam as she began to pace, slowly at first, picking up speed, by rote stepping over papers and books in her path. Daniel knew this motion was a personality quirk of Sam's, her inability to make it right warring with her need for action. Wanting to correct something that was so cosmically wrong—something over which she had no control. He knew by her frantic strides and swinging arms that seemed so out of place in his cluttered—yup, he finally acknowledged as she stepped over a box of souvenirs that SG-8 had brought back to the SGC for study that everyone on SG-11 and, oh god, two members from his department, were truly gone.

He grabbed Sam as she brushed past him and literally redirected her towards the couch, sitting, then pulling her down next to him. "Talk to me," he uttered, as much as he didn't want to know.

She leaned back and then popped up like a sprung Jack-in-the-box, and Daniel grabbed her hand and tugged her back down next to him. "Stay," he ordered, cutting down the harshness of the word with a gentle squeeze to her shoulders when she sat.

The words came out in a rush, tripping over each other in their haste to be spoken. "There was a meteor shower at oh six hundred hours and Major Zacker contacted the SGC, opening up a visual, showing us the display. 'No danger, he said', and he kept the feed open so we could watch with him and enjoy the fireworks."

"Like on Edora?" Daniel asked. Hope springs eternal, he thought, maybe, just maybe, it had only been the 'gate that was lost and everyone had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Hell, Sam had been wrong before.

"No." Sam shook her head. "It was an earthquake… there must have been faults in the area, or one of the larger meteors hit a tectonic plate and there was a global shift. I don't know!" she shouted, then leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees, dragging her fingers through her already mussed hair. "We'll probably never know," Sam sighed, flinging her body backwards against the couch. "We lost the feed. Lost it." Her interest was drawn to a ragged cuticle on her thumb, and Daniel gave her space as she picked at it, eventually gnawing the nail into submission. "And when we reopened the wormhole, the camp was gone, the DHD as gone, there was a fissure where they had all stood…"

"Maybe they—" Daniel scooped up Sam's hand, the one with the problem cuticle, and held it tightly in his own.

She cupped her hand over his. "No."

"The General will okay a Search and Rescue."

"No, Daniel. There will be no S and R, the ground is too unstable to risk sending anyone though. The Stargate itself barely withstood the MALP we sent."

Daniel felt ill, and Sam's hand over his was uncomfortably hot and heavy. "We're leaving them behind?" After so many years with Jack, the idea was incomprehensible. The heaviness increased as Sam tightened her grip.

"We can't risk more lives."

"I'm willing to take *that* risk."

"Even if you were well enough, the General was adamant about no rescue. He doesn't want to risk—"

"It should have been me." The light bulb flicked on and he could feel Sam's grip tighten as he attempted to pull loose.

There was awkward silence. Daniel knew there wasn't a correct way for Sam to respond to his statement. Healthy, he would have died. Sick, he had sent another man, Dr. Petersen, to his death. The silence stretched, taut and inflexible, and horribly, Daniel was unable to draw comfort from Sam's presence.

They both jumped when the phone rang and with a false smile of apology, Daniel went to answer it, shoving aside a stack of papers, glad to be free of Sam’s cloying closeness.

* * *

Daniel stood in the center of the cold living room in Jack's cabin in Minnesota, blinking slowly as if he had just awakened from a nightmare. It was late, he was starving and exhausted and while the couch was empty and inviting, there were a list of chores that needed to be done before he could even think about closing his eyes to grab a few hours of relaxation. There were things that needed to be accomplished before he would even allow himself the luxury of thought or the self flagellation over the loss of good people.

There was wood stacked by the fireplace, he had managed to get a pretty decent fire going, a few days worth of staples and some not so essential things were put away in the kitchen.

Daniel finally dropped onto the couch, defiantly propping his legs on the coffee table, wiggling his sock-covered toes. He took a deep sip of wine, feeling its warmth spread through his body. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich really hadn't filled him up, but it was enough for now, he'd satisfy his hunger in the morning.

Daniel had been good. He had worked trying to cover enough of his bases without arousing undue worry. Janet had called to let him know that she was free to examine him. He'd gone, no questions asked, just like a good do bee. Daniel had even allowed Sam to walk him to the infirmary, shooing her away when she'd wanted to accompany him through the door.

He had listened to Janet, agreed with her in all the right places, appeared admonished when he'd answered truthfully about missing med doses, and had made a shit load of promises when he was dismissed, a bag of new meds in his hand.

Daniel had informed Hammond that Janet wanted him on down time for a few more days, which was the truth, then for emphasis he had shook the bags of meds, sharing an understanding smile with the General. He'd dropped the book off at his department, telling them that the CMO had kicked his ass home and they had all smiled sympathetically, glad it wasn't them that had received the talking to.

Daniel took another sip of wine, swirling it around in his mouth before swallowing. He truly hadn't lied to anyone, except to Jack. The telephone call to Jack was made before he boarded his connecting flight to begin the last part of his journey. He was tied up, working on a translation that required his immediate attention. Janet had given him a clean bill of health. The only truth to the whole conversation had been his hurried 'miss ya'.

Daniel refilled his paper cup with some more wine and raised it toast towards the fireplace in silent in memory of Sol Peterson and Gwen Rupolo. Hell, in memory of them all. Good people who didn't have to die. He took a swig and gave another toast to General Hammond, the last person in the world he wanted to be as he composed letters of condolences to family members.

* * *

Early morning found him hung over, with an empty bottle of wine and a headache for company. Daniel rolled over and buried his head under his arms, and allowed himself a few minutes of unmitigated misery before he got up and shuffled into the shower.

* * *

To a degree the shower helped, the clean clothes helped even more, the toast and coffee with the two aspirin helped a lot, but it was the three hour nap wrapped in the locally handcrafted quilt on the cold king-sized bed in Jack's bedroom that had done the most good.

* * *

The air was cold, brisk and invigorating. The view picturesque, reminding him nothing of Colorado, which was good. Nothing reminded him of home except the weight of the cell phone in his pocket, and with a sigh, he tugged it out and called the SGC to speak to the General.

The conversation between them was couched in unasked questions and vague answers. Hammond didn't ask where Daniel was, Daniel wasn't forthcoming with the information. Hammond had no problem with Daniel's need for time away and Daniel was sure that he understood why. "Don't ask, don't tell" was brought to a whole new level in their conversation.

After talking with Hammond, the cabin suddenly was stifling and Daniel frantically realized he needed copious amounts of air fresh air, and needed it now. He drove the rental SUV into town, parked, and walked up and down the main street a number of times, gulping down the clean mountain air, until his stomach reminded him of the time. The menu in the window of the local diner seemed unthreatening enough so Daniel stepped in and took an empty booth by the window. He ordered, pulled the local paper off the counter and began to lose his sense of self while reading. The ambiguity was great and he loved the constant refilling of his empty coffee cup without the guilt.

Four cups of coffee, a cheeseburger, three quarters of a helping of French fries smothered in ketchup, and Daniel was finished. He dropped a generous tip on the table, deposited the newspaper back on the counter, paid the bill with cash and a smile, then left the diner to drive back to the cabin.

* * *

Daniel was stretched out on the couch reading one the paperbacks that were overflowing from the bookshelves. Best sellers that Daniel never had had the time to read, despite Jack's constant nagging. But this trip was different, the SGC was where it belonged in Colorado and Daniel was in Minnesota without a laptop or a stitch of work.

* * *

Daniel stopped reading when the room became too dark to see, when even squinting didn't help him distinguish the words on the page. The fire had long since died out and guiltily Daniel realized he hadn't taken a single dose of the new antibiotics Janet had given him. He looked down and committed the page number to memory before closing the book and placing it on the coffee table.

Though the fire had been warm and homey, it actually screwed with the heating system in the cabin, forcing the other rooms into chilliness. Daniel noticed the change in temperature as he stood in the kitchen reading the dosage on the medicine bottles. He shivered and adjusted the thermostat up a notch to compensate.

It must have been the power of suggestion, because Daniel had barely coughed the entire day, but just reading the instructions set off a coughing fit. Patiently he rode it out, surprised when it left him both gasping to retain a normal breathing rhythm and a pounding headache. He downed the two pills, followed them up with a chaser of aspirin and washed the whole concoction down with a half glass of water.

Still cold, he raised the heat one more notch and decided to change into a pair of sweats. The bed was damned inviting, but it was too early, unless Daniel wanted to be roaming around the house by two am, so he chose to don the sweats, then snagged a pillow from the bed and went back to the couch.

* * *

Daniel closed the book, returning to reality with a few forced blinks and a sigh of contentment. He had been totally entertained and lost in the world of the written word. He turned to his side then yawned, giving his body a second to switch gears before he got up to walk around the cabin, securing the windows and doors.

* * *

Daniel shoved the pillow against his abdomen in abject misery. Due to his own stupidity, the pills Janet gave to him weren't sitting well at all. As a matter of fact, their adverse effects were enough to have woken him from a sound sleep and annoyingly enough the only person he could blame was himself. A hamburger eaten in the afternoon didn't constitute an accompanying meal for a pill ingested almost eight hours later.

Giving in to the stomach ache, he got up, went into the kitchen, opened a box of crackers, ate two, drank a mouthful of water, then rushed to the bathroom to vomit, which only helped for the moment. He rinsed out his mouth, brushed his teeth then fell back into the bed with a groan. Daniel tossed and turned the remainder of the night, and it wasn't until the first light of dawn crept into the bedroom that he drifted into a restless sleep.

* * *

Daniel woke, totally disorientated, unsure of where he was or what time it was. It was raining, hard, he was able to ascertain that much just from the sound on the roof and against the window. The memory of the cabin and being alone, flowed lethargically through his brain, though the time of day was still out of reach. He threw back the covers, staggered into the bathroom, peed, washed up and declined his mind's discussion for a shower. Just turning on the hot water and taking off his sweats seemed too much of an effort.

The clock in the kitchen read 830 am and Daniel dropped two slices of bread in the toaster. When they popped up, he buttered them and ate them standing up, followed by a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice before swallowing Janet's pills. He grabbed another handful of cereal, hoping to ward off last night's stomach discomfort.

Daniel rarely, if ever, allowed himself the luxury of sleeping late. Even on downtime, there were the aspects of real life that had to be taken care of, so sleep wasn't always an option. But here, in Minnesota, there was nothing but him and solitude, so in a very uncharacteristic move, he flipped the world a virtual bird, and went back to sleep.

* * *

Limbs and brain still heavy with sleep, Daniel turned over onto his back to stare at the ceiling and assess his situation. The intensity of the rain had lessened, but the sound was still omnipresent, not helping Daniel's need to pee, and he forced himself out of bed.

He peed, washed up, brushed his teeth, didn't shave, didn't change his clothes or even make the bed. There was no need, no one to impress, certainly no need to impress himself and he doubted with the weather, anyone would be coming knocking on the front door.

Daniel was shocked at the time. Not since college had he slept until 130 in the afternoon. He started a fresh pot of coffee, poured himself a glass of juice, then guiltily eyed his cell phone on the counter.

He flipped the phone open and viewed the incoming messages. He scrolled through, bypassing messages from Sam, Teal'c and Janet, and returned only the calls from Jack.



"Well, well…"

Daniel poured himself a mug of coffee, then braced himself for a snide remark from Jack.

"You got everything you need, buddy?"

Daniel was caught off guard, *those* words, spoken in *that* tone, certainly wasn't what he had expected.

"I'm fine."

Jack chuckled. "Fraiser would dispute that remark, but I'll let it slide and keep it between the two of us."


"You sound tired."

"I just woke up."

"You? Really?" Daniel could picture Jack checking his watch and shaking his head over the time of day. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm *fine*, Jack."

Daniel heard Jack's sigh over the hundreds of miles of telephone lines. "Why don't I call you later, give you a chance to wake up."

"Sure. Okay, bye." Daniel just closed the phone, effectively hanging up on Jack. Even though he had made the call to him, hearing his voice brought real life back to him via a freight train, and right now Daniel wasn't ready for it. Maybe tomorrow, or the next day. Just not today.

* * *

Daniel wasn't sure where the day had gone, but maybe that was what getting up in the afternoon did to one's sense of time. Today Daniel had tested out the true meaning of couch potato, watching one movie from Jack's extensive collection, putting in a second and falling asleep in an awkward position on the couch. He awoke, stiff and sore, spending ten minutes stretching and massaging the kinks in his neck and shoulders before he got up to go into the kitchen. Daniel made himself soup for dinner, dumped it into a coffee mug then slurped it down with a ham sandwich on the side, not even bothering to sit, leaning against the counter, gazing out into the darkness.

He dumped the dirty plate into the sink and took two pills, swallowing them down with the aid of his now cold, vile-tasting soup. Daniel opened a metal container on the counter and pulled out two candy bars from their stash, ripping the wrapping off one and shoving it into his mouth, justifying his actions as a counteraction against the taste the soup had left behind. As an afterthought, he grabbed two more candy bars and headed into the living room, grabbing another book at random off the shelf.

At nine o'clock, he found himself as tired as if he had spent a full day hiking offworld. He managed one more chapter of the book, drifting off without even doing his drummed-in perimeter house check. Somewhere around two in the morning, he unfolded his body from the couch, used an empty candy wrapper to bookmark his place, then went to bed.

* * *

Jack maneuvered the unfamiliar rental SUV up the dirt road to the cabin, parking next to an equally unfamiliar truck which was obviously Daniel's rental. He threw open the door and slid out, stretching and bending abused leg muscles the moment his feet hit the ground.

He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the fresh air of his youth, unzipping his leather jacket in preference of the warmer than normal temperatures.

Leaving his luggage in the car, he grabbed the bottle of wine he had purchased from the liquor store in town and was about to walk to the cabin's front door when he noticed Daniel on the dock. Sitting on a folding chair. With a fishing pole. Daniel, fishing. Perfectly still.

Even as Jack began to walk, he was taken aback by Daniel's stillness, and for one second, he thought that Daniel might actually be dead, because the man never was this still. Even when lost in the world of research, some part of his body was in continual motion, a foot, a hand, facial expressions, a twirl of a pencil, but as Jack continued walking, there wasn't even a finger twitch. This lack of movement was nerve wracking and Jack was just about to call out his name when Daniel sneezed.

"Bless you."

"Hi, Jack." Daniel didn't look up, but squinted off into the distance.

"Watcha looking at?" Jack bent down to Daniel's level, trying to figure out what was holding his interest.

Daniel pointed to the opposite shore of the lake with the fishing pole. "I'm mentally attempting to convince the fish to swim this way."

Jack tilted the metal bucket by Daniel's feet towards him. "It's empty. I'm thinking your foray into the world of telekinesis isn't very successful." Jack placed the bottle of wine on the deck and stood. "I wouldn't give up my day job just yet."

"That remains to be seen." Daniel shifted his hands on the fishing pole and Jack fought the urge to tell him not to bother because when the fish weren't biting, there wasn't any such thing as a *correct* grip on a fishing pole. Honestly, if Daniel had been sitting out here as long as Jack thought he was, the darned thing should've been tucked between his feet, leaving his hands free to do something Daniel-like, like reading a book.

"What are you doing here?"

"Fishing, I thought that was obvious." Grunting, he moved the pole to his left hand and bent down and slid a small cooler from under the chair to in front of his feet, then one handedly clicked it open. "Wanna beer?"

Jack trotted off down the deck, up the two stairs to the porch, grabbed the twin to Daniel's folding chair, then went back to the end of the dock where Daniel sat. He really didn't want to sit, he had had his share of sitting all day between the plane ride and the drive to the cabin, but Daniel seemed firmly ensconced in his perch, so who was Jack to rock the boat.

Jack unfolded the chair and sat, hiding a smile as Daniel awkwardly tried to open his beer and maneuver the fishing pole. With a sigh of exasperation, Jack took the pole from Daniel and stuck it firmly between his own two feet and reached to retrieve his own beer, twisting off the cap and flinging it in the lake.

"That's littering," Daniel commented, sticking his own cap into his jacket pocket. "A fish could swallow it."

"Can I let you in on a little secret, Daniel?" Jack's arm swept the length and breadth of the lake. "There aren't any fish in there." He took a swig of beer, ran his hand over his clean shaven face, then pointed at Daniel. "Forget to shave?"

"You like it? It's my new look."

"New look? Which is?"

"My retirement look… I'm trying it on for size."

"Aaaahh, I see." Daniel may have called it his retirement look, but whoo boy, a scruffy, unshaken, borderline grungy Daniel, in Jack's book, looked anything *but* retiring. "And this retirement thingie, do you think it's a good look for you?"

Daniel shrugged. "Jury's still out. It has its good points and its bad points."

Jack palmed the moist beer bottle, rolling it back and forth. "Do you want to share? Maybe I can help the jury make a decision."

"Jury tampering," Daniel took a swig of beer, his grimace of distaste not lost on Jack, "isn't allowed."

"I'm not tampering. Tampering would be telling you that you look sexy in a baggy white tee shirt, faded jeans, a two day growth of beard and bed head. But I would never say that."

"Never?" Daniel raised his eyebrows at Jack, obviously not believing a word he'd said.

Damn, even his retirement voice had a deep throaty quality that matched Daniel's outward appearance. "Nope, I'm going impartial, I *can* be impartial, no tampering. Just listening. I can listen. Listen to both sides before…"

"I'm going in, you can keep on fishing."

"Another stellar Jack O'Neill moment," Jack informed the fishing pole a moment later. He finished his beer and cocked his arm to fling the empty into the water. Guiltily, he glanced at the house, then lowered his arm and dropped the empty in the opened cooler, just in case there *were* fish in the lake.

The air took a sudden drop as Jack packed up, and he paused to zip up his jacket, gazing upwards, noticing the incursion of dark clouds obliterating the afternoon sky. Even more than the meteorological change, the physical ache in his knee made him think snow as he brought the folding chairs back up on the deck. With the bottle of wine tucked under his arm, he left the cooler on the back deck and cautiously entered the house.

Immediately, his mouth began to water, and his taste buds went on full alert as his sense of smell was assaulted by the odor of something delicious frying on the stove and an equally delicious something simmering in the pan.

"Smells great." Jack leaned against Daniel's back, sticking his head over his shoulder and sniffed. "Smells really, really great." He took a chance, and kissed, just one kiss to his jaw line, and his gut clenched as Daniel scrunched his eyes shut, as if he was in pain.

Jack backed up a little, just a smidgen, and he felt Daniel relax.

"You must be starving." Daniel stirred whatever was giving off that mouth water smell and Jack moaned appreciatively. Daniel chuckled. "I'm taking that as a yes."

"Peanuts. The last solid thing I ingested was a bag of peanuts."

"Making sauce."

"It's gonna snow. Please tell me now that you have everything you need…?"

Daniel leaned forward and glanced upward out the window. "Snow? Really?"

Daniel motioned towards the cabinets. "I believe I got it pretty well covered, take a look. I bought the usual staples."

"Staples?" Jack asked as he opened cabinet after cabinet. He flung open the fridge, finding it fully stocked with not only *food*, but fresh vegetables. "Daniel? When did a Sara Lee butter," Jack took the box from the freezer and rotated it in his hands, reading, then pointed into the freezer, "pound cake and chocolate ice cream count as a staples?"

"They are to me."

* * *

Jack's foot nudged his empty plate on the coffee table. "You're right, from now on I'm going to make sure my freezer is never without pound cake and ice cream."

Daniel placed his own plate on the table next to Jack's, squeezing his foot before leaning back into the sofa with a loud sigh. "You know I really should—" Daniel pointed in the direction of the kitchen, where the dishes and pots were piled in the sink.

Snow had begun shortly after they had sat down to eat and had settled into an intensity that promised a foot or more by morning. "Neither of us are going anywhere for a day or two. I'm thinking the dishes will keep."

One minute Daniel was sitting a respectable distance away from him and the next minute his fingers were holding onto Jack's shirt like a lifeline, pulling Jack towards him, sucking the breath from his lungs. A fleeting thought of protest whizzed through Jack's brain that maybe this behavior wasn't exactly kosher, and he wiggled in protest, but gave it up as Daniel shoved his tongue down Jack's throat while his usually dexterous fingers fumbled with Jack's belt. Unfamiliar whiskers were strangely erotic, and Jack's hands, which had been hanging by his side, came to life as they gripped Daniel's forearms, anchoring him to Jack.

All it took was two tries of Daniel's skittering feet on the floor to gain enough purchase to counterbalance his own weight, and he then managed to shove Jack backwards onto the couch, Daniel toppling down on top of him.

'This is wrong', Jack thought incoherently as Daniel worked his hands between their bodies as he still struggled to undo Jack's belt. They should be talking, discussing Daniel's desire to run. Jack had had the conversation all worked out, all played out in his head on the trip here. The sex was supposed to come *after* the deep conversation, certainly not before. The idea that this was Daniel's method of avoidance as to why Daniel was in Minnesota and not in Colorado Springs floated away like mist when Daniel sprang Jack's cock out of its boxer and Docker's prison.

Daniel's newly acquired facial hair burned a path down Jack's stomach, and he fought to stifle a strange sound he felt building in throat, a cross between a chuckle and a moan.

"Oh, like it?" Daniel teased, rubbing his chin back and forth right above Jack's pubic hair, and to make matters worse, Daniel had added a little tongue action to the mixture as he slowly meandered down to Jack's cock.

"You're killing me," Jack moaned.

"Yeah," Daniel agreed, licking the length of Jack's cock. "But what a way to go," he slurped as Jack slithered under him, "much better than being ribboned, or shot. Don't you agree?"

Jack just nodded. Daniel rarely was quiet, even during sex, and, in time, he had learned just to lean back, enjoy and go along for the ride.

* * *

They had ended up in the bedroom. Their height and the length of the couch just didn't mix. The bedroom had many advantages, the size of the bed, the proximity to the bathroom, less wear and tear on body parts, and the lube was just an arm's reach away.

Daniel chatted nonstop as he explored every nook and cranny of Jack's body. He had always had a problem leaving his doctorate at the door, but Jack had never complained. And he surely wasn't going to start now while Daniel's fingers massaged his hole with an action that had been perfected over the years while exploring fragile artifacts. Jack's own fingers gripped the quilt, pleading with him, but his whimpers went unheeded except for Daniel's lascivious grin.

Jack tried to extend the pleasure of Daniel's cock stroking his prostate by focusing on Daniel's one sided conversation. Many people were silent during sex. Others called their partner's name, an occasional dirty word, a moan, a gasp. But not Daniel. Whole words that built into sentences would start and stop in fits and spurts depending on how occupied his mouth was. Nothing was sacred while he was nailing Jack. Nothing! There was gossip, and tales of mythology, planet destinations and when Jack was ready to come, Daniel would repeat it all again in one of his twenty-six or so languages. Strange? Yeahsureyoubetcha. But for some reason, Jack found these filibusters a hot, sexy, integral part of Daniel.

* * *

Jack stretched cautiously. The ache in his ass and his limp, exhausted cock were a gentle reminder that the sex had been rougher than usual. Jack shifted to find a more comfortable position, disappointed, but not surprised, to find himself alone in the bed.

* * *

"Watcha doing?"


"Okay." Jack went back into the living room and added another log to the fire. He didn't see returning to bed anytime in the near future based on his stiff backed, now uncommunicative lover washing the dishes in the middle of the night.

Jack grabbed a dishtowel and began drying the plates already draining in the rack, stacking them on the table.

"Can I ask why you're—" Jack reached out a hand and intercepted the dripping dish Daniel was getting ready to place in the dish drain.

"I really didn't start out that way—"

"Then why are you in the kitchen in this ungodly hour of the morning?"

"Janet's pills and a bowl of cereal."

Jack didn't bother to ask for clarification, he knew Danielspeak well enough to fill in the blanks. "Feeling better?"

"Didn't feel sick before." Daniel bypassed the drain and handed a dripping pot off to Jack, then paused to wipe his nose on his shoulder.

Jack dried the pot and waited patiently for Daniel to restart their assembly line of wash and dry. "You came to the cabin so you could think, didn't you?"

"No, Jack, I didn't." Daniel scrubbed at a stubborn sauce stain on a plate. "I came here so I wouldn't think at all."


Daniel shoved the sparkling clean plate at Jack's midsection and began to wash the silverware. "You know you really need a dishwasher."

"I have a dishwasher." Jack dried the dish and placed it with its mate on the table, then hastily kissed Daniel on the nape of the neck before picking up the silverware in the drain. "He's a pain in the ass, but there are some perks because my dishwasher keeps me warm in bed."

"Yeah? You and the Maytag repairman got something going I don't know about."

Jack smacked Daniel in the ass with the wet towel.

* * *

The dishes, pots and silverware were all dried and put away. Daniel was standing in front of the sink, his hands still full of wet, soapy sponge, his mind a million miles away from Minnesota.

"Let's go to bed," Jack said gently.

"Okay." Daniel dropped the sponge into the sink, then turned towards Jack. "I was doing fine, you know. Until you came here and brought the SGC with you." He retreated from Jack's advances. "I'm going to bed."

Damn it! Jack wanted nothing more than to stamp his feet in frustration, go after Daniel and shake some sense into him. As a matter of fact, Jack actually took a step towards the retreating figure, but realized that action would only place him on the receiving end of Daniel's anger. So he retreated, annoyed that twice in less than twenty-four hours, Daniel had managed to slip away without talking. Jack looked out the window, then smiled. Later there would only be Jack, Daniel, snow, and no means of escape.

* * *

Jack slid his hand under the blanket, then under Daniel's tee shirt, placing his palm against the back that rose and fell in the depths of slumber. He had been coughing in his sleep, more than when he had been awake, and Jack just wanted to check. Daniel leaned into his touch and Jack could feel a slight wheeze which was more allergy-related than scary, too-much–snow-to-get-help-pneumonia-related.

" 'kay?" Daniel's response to Jack's hand on his body was more a reflex reaction than anything else because Jack could tell by the basic rhythmic sound of his breathing—Daniel was still asleep.

"Fine," Jack said, borrowing a line from the linguist’s book.

* * *

Daniel was awake instantly. Heart pounding, confused and unsure how he'd crossed the bridge from sleeping to wakefulness. Senses on alert, a habit born of years of stargate travel and Jack's influence, he lay awake in the darkness listening.


The bed moved with Jack’s frenetic tossing and turning and Daniel realized Jack's nightmare had pulled him from sleep. With another habit born of sharing a tent with Jack, Daniel waited a second to judge the severity of the dream before intervening.

He tested the waters first with a hand to the shaking shoulders, holding his breath, tightening his body, awaiting Jack's reaction and when there wasn’t any retaliation, he slid his entire upper body atop Jack's, effectively pinning him under his weight.

"It's okay," he whispered softly. It truly didn't make a difference what the nightmare consisted of, what demons haunted them in the night, a touch was usually all that Jack needed. The body below his quieted, but Daniel kept up the utterances and it wasn't until Jack's breathing turned to normal that Daniel moved off, left the bed and the room, closing the door behind him.

The house was cold and Daniel shivered, but he refused to return to the bedroom. Jack's presence made him think, and he didn't want to. Silence and solitude was what he craved. Things were clearer without interference and that was what Jack was, interference. He wanted his decision to be his alone without *seeing* what he would be leaving behind.

* * *

He was warm. And comfortable. So warm and comfortable that he burrowed deeper under the blanket tucked around his body, pulling it up and over his ears, effectively cutting out he interference of real life. Noises in the kitchen, banging of pots, the opening and closing of the fridge, Jack was trying to keep quiet and failing miserably.

Daniel turned to his side, burying his face in the crack of the couch between the back cushions and the cushion seats, but his body betrayed his mind. His nose had captured the brewing of fresh coffee and his stomach reacted with a loud growl at the odor of breakfast cooking. Daniel sniffed. Bacon? Had he bought bacon? He didn’t remember buying any and it was finally curiosity that pulled him off the couch and dragged him into the kitchen.

He dropped heavily into the chair and grunted a "good morning" to Jack.

"Check your watch, buddy," Jack said as he placed a mug of coffee in front of Daniel. "I'm thinking we’re bordering on early afternoon."

Daniel swallowed a mouth full of coffee, then closed his eyes, feeling the hot liquid slide down his throat and land heavily in his empty stomach. "Bacon?" Daniel used the mug and pointed to the meat frying on the stove. "There was bacon?"

"Yes, Daniel, there was, and a shitload of other things stuffed into the fridge." Jack moved over to the stove and expertly turned the bacon, then lowered the heat. "BLT's okay?"

"Sure." Daniel finished the coffee, ignoring Jack's look of consternation as he poured himself another cup. Daniel was actually surprised that Jack didn't continue his line of questioning about the food that Daniel had hoarded into every nook and cranny in his house. Obviously, he hadn't seen the number of clothes in the closet or the carton of books in the spare room.

They ate and Daniel watched as Jack sat down with a pencil and some newspaper’s crossword puzzle.

"Airport," was Jack's answer to Daniel’s unasked question as to where the paper had been acquired.

He took a bite of sandwich, then retrieved the book he had been reading and the two ate lunch in a companionable silence borne of good friends. He hadn’t even realized he had finished until he reached to the plate and his hand came up empty.

He peeked out from behind the paperback to find Jack engrossed in an article, his plate just as empty as Daniel’s. Daniel nudged him under the table. "More?"

"Huh? More?" Jack put down the paper and glanced at his empty plate.

"Half?" Daniel asked, eyeing the plate on the counter with a few strips of bacon.

"Half is good," Jack agreed.

Daniel stood and patted Jack’s shoulder. "I'll make it."

"Thanks," Jack mumbled, going back to his article.

While the bread was toasting, Daniel took his meds and chose a glass of juice instead of a third cup of coffee. "Snow," was all he managed when his noticed the snow through the window.

"Yup. Lotsa snow."

* * *

Jack was going nutty. He had given Daniel leeway all day, hoping that he would hang himself. But it wasn’t working. Daniel was happy as a clam, and just as closed mouthed. He had attempted reverse psychology on his lover and it was failing miserably. There had been plenty of openings for him to push Daniel as to why he was doing a wonderful Howard Hughes imitation and was willingly cutting himself off from civilization.

He had even called Carter and Teal’c, shoving the cell phone into Daniel’s unsuspecting hands then eavesdropping on the conversation, but it had been a no go. Daniel hadn't been any more forthcoming with them than he was being with Jack.

Patience turned to anger somewhere after dinner, when Jack found a package of coffee in the freezer, hidden behind the ice cube trays. He grabbed the frozen package and stomped into the living room, throwing it onto the coffee table.

"Care to explain?"

"It’s coffee."

"I *know* what the hell it is, Daniel. But what the fuck is it doing in the freezer?"

"Staying fresh."

"And you’re being obtuse because...?"

Daniel tossed the book he was reading aside and stood. "Because it’s annoying the crap outta you, that’s why. Why the hell won’t you just come right out and ask me, instead of beating around the proverbial bush, Jack?" Daniel stood, slipped out from behind the table and strode over to the fireplace where he picked up the poker and began to angrily stoke the fire.

"Okay—why are you here?"

Daniel dropped the poker and spun to face Jack. "Why are *you* here?"

"I asked you first."

"I needed to get away."

"Me, too," Jack agreed, slowing advancing on Daniel.

"I may be staying away." Deftly, Daniel sidestepped Jack’s approach, heading over to the window. "This is *my* decision." He leaned his head against the pane of glass and wiped the condensation with his hand.

"I know that." Jack pointed to the frozen bag of coffee on the table. "That’s an indication, the books in the garage, the clothes in the closet…"

Daniel slammed his fist against the glass and Jack took a step forward, fearing the worst, but the window just vibrated under Daniel’s anger, and held. "With you here, my judgment is clouded. My retirement shouldn’t affect you."

"Well, that’s one of the most asinine remarks you’ve ever spouted, Dr. Jackson." Jack was fuming and was within Daniel’s personal space in two strides. He could feel his pressure rise, the burn of fear coloring his remarks. "I obviously know where I rate if you think so little of us."

"This isn’t about you, Jack. It’s about *me*." Daniel pounded his chest. "*Me*. It’s not about how the team will deal with me not going offworld, or retiring, or even how you’ll handle not watching my six. It’s about my sanity, Jack. *My* sanity."

"I never realized what a selfish bastard you were, Daniel."

"Well, live and learn," Daniel snorted.

Jack knotted his hands behind his back, intertwining the fingers tightly. It was either that or wrapping them around Daniel’s throat and shaking an iota of sense into that stubborn brain of his. "Let’s try a different approach, okay?" His fingers were otherwise occupied, so Jack wagged his eyebrows at Daniel, satisfied when he understood the warning signal and snapped his mouth shut. "Good," Jack nodded, and drew a deep breath. His only hope of getting through to Daniel was speaking his peace in one breath, not allowing even a crack in the door for Daniel to stick his foot into.

"If SG-1 went on a mission and I was killed, lost, or something…"

"Or something?"

Jack ignored Daniel’s comment. "What would you do?"


"Do, Daniel. What would you do if something happened to me?"

"What happened to *me* happened. You’re talking…"

"Just answer the goddamn question. What would you do if something happened to me?" Jack reiterated slowly.

Daniel shrugged.

"It would affect you, wouldn’t it?"

Once against Daniel slammed his hand against the window, thankfully, Jack thought, with less intensity than before. "You’re a bastard."

"I never said I wasn’t, Daniel, I’m just surprised at how much a bastard *you’ve become."

"You already told me that, but that okay 'cause maybe for once in my life I need to think about me. As hard as this may be for you to understand, I believe,” Daniel pointed at the floor, "right here, right now, if I am to survive, I need to go forward. Retirement or not. Your following me to Minnesota is not about Jack O'Neill shoving his importance in my life down my throat, I would have hoped you would have known that. I need space," Daniel pleaded as he plucked his coat off the rack and slipped on his boots. One hand on the doorknob, he turned to face Jack. "More importantly, I need you to understand."

He struggled with the door, the fallen snow had drifted against the front of the house, but eventually Daniel opened enough of a space to squeeze though into the night air. Involuntarily, Jack shivered against the draft and pulled the door closed, kicking aside the snow that had snuck in.

Daniel needed space and Jack rolled around the question as to why he *really* had traveled to the cabin. Embarrassed at how hurt he felt over his exclusion, he'd turned to anger, which, as always, had done nothing but erect taller fences that he was getting too old to leap over in a single bound.

Jack poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. Besides the embarrassment and hurt, he was terribly confused. More than what the reason was for *him* traveling to Minnesota, why was Daniel here? For someone who declared quite emphatically his need for space, Daniel had moved into the cabin, hook, line and sinker. He wanted time to think, yet he was in the one place Jack was sure to look for him. What was up with that? Jack placed his mug on the counter, then went to grab his own coat and boots. Maybe it was time to find out exactly what Daniel was running to, more than what he was running from.

* * *

"Why are you here?" Jack’s question created tiny puffs of smoke that dissipated in the frigid night air.

"I told you already." The outside light shone over the two men, and right away Jack could see the redness of Daniel’s cheeks. Daniel patted his pockets and then settled on his coat sleeve to wipe his runny nose.

"Yada, yada. Yeah, I know, you told me, the need to think scenario, but why did you come here, because you had to...?"

"Do you have a problem with my being here?"

"Damn it…" Jack threw his hands up in frustration. "No, of course I don’t have a problem with that."

"I'll leave as soon as I can shovel—"

Jack’s hand shot out and grabbed Daniel’s arm. "Stop it! Just answer the question. You came to a place that you knew I would show up to the second I found you weren't at home. Just answer me why, considering I seem to be the last person on earth you want to spend time with. Why are you here?"

"Where else was I going to go?" Daniel gazed down at Jack’s hand on his arm, then shrugged. "You were out of town and I figured I had enough of a head start to buy me a day or two. There was never any question in my mind that you were going to show up. I was hoping by then I would have made my decision."

"Well, have you?"

"Have I what?"

Jack moved his arm, smoothing out the creases on Daniel’s jacket his grip had caused. "Have you made a decision?"

Daniel looked skyward. "Abydos is out there. On a clear night you can see it perfectly."

"Yes, it is." Jack pointed to the eastern sky. "They're all up there. People we've met and those that are still a figment in Carter's cold dialing system. Are you ready to give it up? 'Cause honestly, I’m not ready. Old or not, aching knees or not, I don't want to retire. Or… or sit behind a desk. What about you?"

"Maybe." Daniel sighed and Jack followed the plume of smoke from his exhalation. "I’m not asking you to."

"But you are," Jack insisted. "By coming here, not talking, making me play twenty questions, I could only think that you wanted your decision to influence me."

"That’s not what I wanted."

"I know." Jack pushed forward through the snow until he and Daniel were facing each other, and then cupped the face that was in badly in need of a shave in his right hand, the chill of Daniel’s cheek reminding Jack that he had been sick enough to be in the infirmary almost a week ago. "I’ve made my decision."

"And my decision may not be the same as yours."

"That’s okay." Jack dropped his hand onto Daniel's shoulder and squeezed. "But your decision needs to be made for the right reason."

Daniel's smile flickered and then blinked out.

"I can't help you," Jack whispered as he pulled Daniel into a hug. "But no matter what your decision, I’ll always love you."

"You'll understand?"

"Of course." Thankfully, Jack wasn’t facing Daniel, so he didn’t have to arrange his features to reflect the lies he was spouting. He glanced upwards, into the wide expanse of stars that sprinkled the night sky, knowing that he would never understand, and with a gentle kiss to Daniel's cold neck, he released him and walked back into the house, leaving Daniel to work through his demons under the star lit sky.

* * *

Jack stomped through the snow, mentally berating Carter for dragging SG-1’s ass to the farthest corner of the universe. He had even managed to *win* third watch and he *hated* third watch almost as much as he hated his 2IC at the moment.

He paused in front of the fire, stamping his feet and flapping his arms, hoping to bring some feelings into his limbs. Offworld, surrounded by unfamiliar landscaping below his feet and equally unfamiliar stars in the sky, Jack turned his attention from the fire to the sprinkling of light overhead. Even with his trained eye, it took him a while to locate Earth in the night sky. Home. Right there exactly where it was supposed to be, and he zeroed in on it with a smile because suddenly this world didn’t seem so alien as long as he had Earth in his sight.

Three more rotations around the camp and he gladly turned watch over to Carter with a nod and a freshly made pot of coffee. He winked at planet Earth before stepping into his tent.

It was too cold to do more than toe off his boots and crawl into his sleeping bag. He held his breath, then stiffened his body as the cold material permeated through his clothing. He turned on his side and slithered backwards until he and his sleeping bag made contact with a warm, snoring, immovable object.


“Go back to sleep, Daniel.” With great reluctance, Jack pulled his arm from the warmth of his sleeping back and flung it backwards where it landed on Daniel’s covered hip.

Daniel shifted his position under Jack’s hand, then moved closer to him, the two sleeping bags making a swishing sound that was as familiar to him as home. Jack moved his hand back into the sleeping bag, content.

The End!

Author's Comments:

This story was originally published in Ancient's Gate III: Heart and Soul, and has just recently timed out. To my beta, jo who has a well of patience and belief. To those closest to my heart, thanks.

If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:




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