The Ring Series # 2 Christmas Day by Jude
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Alternate Universe, Romance
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: The Ring Series # 1
Summary: Jack and Daniel come out to Hammond. Decisions are weighed about their future, as they find the plans they made are suddenly questioned.

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*Comfortable bed*. I was awake, but couldn't open my eyes quite yet. *Contented*. I moved my hand over to the other side of the bed, to reach out to Daniel. *Nope. Not there*. The bed was cool, too. He'd been gone at least a little while. Mmm. I could smell coffee. *Okay, Daniel's not far away*.

I smiled to myself a little, stretched and slowly opened my eyes to a bedroom full of sunshine. It was Christmas Day. I remembered my new ring that Daniel had given me, and looked at it there on my left hand for a moment. Yeah. So where was he? I looked to my right, and wasn't really surprised to see him there in the room with me.

He was sitting cross-legged like an Indian on the floor next to the bed, sitting right in the full bright sunshine streaming in the window. He had his laptop in his lap, intently reading something. I could see his coffee cup sitting in front of him on the floor. Obviously, he'd been up for a while.

I just looked at him for a few moments, appreciating my beautiful lover. The sun lit him up like an angel. Of course, he always looked beatific to me, even in his sweats, unshaven and with bed head.

I sighed, and he still didn't look up, although I caught a little bit of a smile there. I glanced at the bedside clock. 1045 hours! Wow, I'd really slept in.

"So," I heard him say softly, still looking at his laptop. "You decided to join the land of the living, huh?" He snorted to himself a little.

"Hey, big guy," I said. He turned his head and looked at me finally. I could see the joy and contentment on his face. I was sure mine looked the same way. We'd had a wonderful Christmas Eve together, and this day was probably going to be just as special. Would be, if I had anything to say about it. And I did.

He closed his laptop, grabbed his coffee cup and stuck it on the bedside table, and crawled the small distance to the bed on his hands and knees. Kneeling there beside the bed, he reached out and grabbed my hand. I scooted over toward him a little, and we just looked at each other. No words were necessary. It was just so damned wonderful to be together. I pulled at him a little and started to push my head towards him, looking for a kiss. He tasted like coffee. I probably tasted worse, so didn't push at him very hard, and that was okay.

"You been up for a while?" I asked him.

"Yeah, actually. A couple of hours. I made the coffee and stuck the turkey in the oven for later. You were really dead to the world." Sly grin.

He knew why I was dead to the world. Neither of us would soon forget the lovemaking we'd had the night before and again early that morning. I had nearly fifteen years on him, and he wore me out but good. And no one would ever hear me complain, especially Daniel himself. Woof. I grinned back at him with a knowing nod.


"Mmmm," he agreed. "I was waiting for you." He lifted his eyebrows and blinked at me in that little flirty way he liked to use to melt me. Perfect innocence, and perfect lasciviousness. What a package. And all mine.

I threw off the blankets and sat up quickly. "Yes!"

He was up off the floor and meeting me around at the end of the bed before I knew it.

We looked at each other. "Must brush teeth first, though," he told me. "And shave." Oh, yes, first things first. We headed for the bathroom, shedding our clothes as we walked.


Jack had splurged on a bathroom remodeling when he'd bought the house. He'd had to lose a couple of closets to get some extra room, but it was all worth it. The bathroom had a huge corner shower with two showerheads. There was plenty of room in there for the two of us. There also was a deep jet whirlpool tub. He'd done the room in white with deep malachite green counters and maple woodwork. There was a skylight in the ceiling to let in natural light. It was a guy bathroom, but with all the comforts anyone could ask for.

We used the double sinks to brush our teeth and quickly shave.

As soon as I finished, I got the hot water running in both of the showerheads. I gathered up the towels and tested the water. Soon, Jack was there too, and we climbed into the shower together and closed the glass door behind ourselves. The water felt good. We let it cascade over us, using our hands to get our hair wet. We'd done this so many times before, we knew what we liked and didn't have to discuss procedure this time. This mission was a given. One half of SG-1 was good to go.

I reached for the shampoo, and poured some into my hand. Jack came over to me and bent his head down, almost touching my chest, so I could work the shampoo into his hair and massage his scalp. He hummed to himself a little. I spent a minute or two, because I knew he enjoyed this and fact is, I enjoyed doing it.

Finally I turned him around so he could rinse his hair. I helped with that, too. He just stood still, eyes closed, and let me manipulate his head and make sure the shampoo was all gone.

Then I took the vanilla scented soap that Jack liked so much and lathered him all over with my hands, starting with his face and neck and working down. Did the interesting parts of him last. That was always fun. I could see how interested his interesting parts were. Like always, of course. More rinsing followed, and then it was my turn.


*God, this is why I spent all those big bucks doing this room over. Look at my Daniel. *

He sighed a little as I started to shampoo his hair, working the suds around, and copping a good feel of him while I was at it, making us both smile. The soaping him up and rinsing him down went just the way I expected, too. Mission accomplished.

The look he was giving me was the sexiest thing I had ever seen. I never got tired of his looking at me like I was Sunday dinner, and he was gonna be the only diner. I could tell he was getting off just thinking about us, looking at me, knowing what I was going to do to him.

When Daniel got turned on, he never stopped talking. Of course, Daniel never really stopped talking anytime, but when we were together, and he knew he was about to get laid, he loved to tell me what he wanted, what he wanted me to do to him, what he was going to do to me. And he never seemed to be able to stop saying my name.

Sometimes when we made love, English was a forgotten language, and I was treated to his favorite bedroom language, French. Didn't understand a word of it, of course, but whatever he said in those moments was so hot, I'd almost come just listening to him.

He was mumbling to himself in French again. Head thrown back and hands reaching for me, his eyes were closed most of the time. Every once in a while, he'd force his eyes open and check me out all over again as I stroked his cock and leaned my whole length against him.

"Jack... mon coeur... mon amour... Dieu, tu es mon amour... je t'aime, je t'aime..."

*Je t'aime. Okay, that one I do understand. I love you too, Danny*.

He was fully erect, and I could hear his breathing catch. He didn't seem to be able to stop touching whatever parts of me he could reach. For the third time in twelve hours, I could see and feel that Danny was ready, willing and able. Ah, to be young again.

I gently pushed him against the shower wall. I could see the gleam in his eyes as I moved in to nuzzle his face with my nose and mouth. He sighed a little and then sought out my mouth for a kiss that was at first seeking and then increasingly passionate. Our arms went around each other and we ran our hands over each other's wet skin.

I murmured into his ear, "You ready?"

I felt him nod, and he sighed again, releasing me from the hold he'd had on me. I knew he was much more than just ready.

*Life is short, have dessert last*, I thought foolishly to myself as I knelt in front of him and took him in my mouth. His hands were in my hair.

"Oh, Jack," I heard him murmur in pleasure. "Oh... oui...."

The water was cascading down over both of us, warm and comfortable. I loved doing this for us. It gave me as much pleasure as it did him. We'd never actually talked about it, but from our groans and murmurs of delight, not to mention all those French words pouring out of Daniel, we had come to know what we liked best. And Daniel loved this. No reason to wait and try to prolong anything.

He pushed into my mouth quickly, greedily, and very soon I was busy swallowing him whole. After only a minute or two, he cried out my name again as he came into my throat, long pulsing ribbons of heat pouring into me. Gradually, I could feel him relax back onto the shower wall, his hands still lightly in my hair. Then I slowly released him and stood up again.

I leaned into him and held his face in my hands. Beautiful, relaxed, satiated blue eyes looked back at me with lids half closed. I pressed my mouth to his and our tongues met. I knew he could taste his own come in my mouth, the way I always could when it had gone the other way with us. I felt his tongue languidly exploring mine.

His hand went down to my cock, and he started to stroke me as we kissed. It was so good, I felt myself start to build up to my own release.

I sighed to myself, and then removing my mouth from his, I murmured, "Daniel, my love, give an old guy a break, will ya?" I swallowed, my head thrown back a little, and closed my eyes.

"Wow...oh....yes..." I sighed again, and reluctantly reached down to take his hand away. Forcing my eyes open again, I pulled his hand up to my face and kissed his palm.

"I want to have something left for tonight. You're worth waiting for. And you're all I need," I told him. He looked at me with a little doubt.

"Are you sure?" he asked me softly, his hand caressing my cheek.

*No, Daniel, I'm not sure, with you here like this, and looking at me like that*. But I just nodded, and we kissed again, slowly, deeply and satisfyingly. I pressed my palms against his and pinned him gently to the shower wall while I explored his mouth, and he explored mine, our hands on either side of his head. Then I stepped back from him a little.

Our eyes were locked onto each other. Being together like this is what we had decided we had come to live for.

"I love you," I told him quietly. I released one of his hands so I could knead his shoulder and upper arm with my fingertips, and he smiled a little. Oh, yeah, the feeling was mutual. His relaxed face said it all.


Back in the bedroom, we started to get dressed and straighten up the room a little. The bed looked like there'd been a really good time there recently. No reason for our friends to have to see that later. I grinned to myself a little at that thought.

What?" Jack asked me, catching my expression. He was pulling on his favorite dark green Henley sweater, buttoning it up and leaving the last button undone at his throat. He ran a hand back and forth through his short hair more out of habit than anything, and looked at me expectantly.

I stood still and looked him over. I never got tired of just looking at him. He was so handsome and masculine. His dark brown eyes were intelligent and warm and caring. I loved his perfect, smooth skin and his silver and gray hair.

I knew he was in awe of all my degrees and academic abilities, but he had more than a few of those himself. His career path and mine had been so diverse, though, it was like a miracle that our lives had crossed. And now here he was, literally the center of my world. I wanted so badly for that center to be there for the rest of my life. He made me laugh. He loved me in an intense and precious way that no one, male or female, had ever loved me before. I would have been worse than a fool to have not wanted that to continue forever.

I came around to the other side of the bed and stood in front of him, looking into the black depths of his eyes. I knew he never got tired of looking at me either. At least, I figured that was true. We sure spent a lot of time when we were alone just filling up our eyeballs with each other. I felt a shiver of pleasure run up my spine.

"I dunno, Jack. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed right now... in a good way. You know...

Oh, yeah, I could hear him think to himself. He just smiled in a knowing way, lifting his eyebrows at me, and nodded a little. So? He cocked his head at me.

I paused for a minute. "I was thinking before you woke up this morning. I know, I know," I told him as I saw him start to roll his eyeballs in a teasing way. *Always thinking too much, Daniel...* We smiled at each other.

"But I was thinking about us, and about how we've planned to tell everyone the truth today. Bring us right out of that closet we've been holed up in. I think we're both more than ready to make a new beginning together.

"I was wondering what you would think about the idea of telling General Hammond about us before the others hear the news. I imagine he might be pretty shocked. I mean, Teal'c and Sam would have to be half blind and stupid not to know something is up with us, after all the missions we've been on together. But the General may feel kind of... I don't know... blindsided by this news, and that's the last thing I want to do to him. He's been our friend, not just our CO. He really cares about us, not just about what SG-1 can accomplish for the SGC. I think we owe him a little extra consideration."

He paused, waiting for my reaction.


Of course. Slowly, it dawned on me that Daniel certainly had a point. Our heart to heart talk and decision-making session of the night before had been partially planned by each of us, but separately. We hadn't really thought out how the revelation of our relationship to our closest friends and coworkers was really going to go down.

George meant a lot to me. I valued his friendship as much as I did his guiding and protecting hand at the SGC. I would never want to hurt him, or blow him out of the water. It would come as enough of a shock to be informed that he would have to reform part of SG-1 with new personnel. The personal news of Daniel's and my relationship would be another mountain for him to climb. I couldn't fault him for that.

I'd been pretty overwhelmed myself back when Daniel and I had taken the huge step to become lovers a few months ago. George didn't know what was coming. So I'd have to make sure I told him the whole truth privately and as sensitively as I could manage.

I opened my mouth to answer Daniel, but before I could, the phone rang. I held up one finger to Daniel, to let him know I'd get back to him on all that, and sat on the edge of the bed to answer it.


Jack answered the way he always did, at home or at work. "O'Neill."

I moved away to find the rest of my clothes, listening in to Jack's side of the conversation.

"Oh, good morning, George," I heard him say. Speak of the devil. Jack's eyes found mine across the room and he shrugged.

"Yes, Merry Christmas to you! Daniel says hi, too. Yeah, he's right here." He put his hand over the receiver and pulled a face at me. I just grinned at him and continued to pull on my jeans. He went back to listening.

"Yeah, well, Daniel and I were wondering if you could come over a little earlier than what we'd planned. Yeah, dinner should be around four. But come and have a couple of beers with us! We just have to finish getting stuff together to eat, but you know you're welcome any time. Don't have lunch. Come hungry, we have a ton of food... Yeah, Daniel bought out the whole grocery store yesterday."

I looked over and saw him smiling. He and George had been friends for so long, had trusted each other with just about everything in their lives. I certainly hoped that the reality of Jack and I wouldn't do anything to upset that.

"Okay, great. See you about fourteen hundred hours. Bye, George."

He hung up the phone and looked at me standing there half dressed.

"Hey, Daniel," he said, holding out his arm in a welcoming way. "Come here for a sec, will ya?"

I went to him immediately. I let his arm encircle my waist and pull me down to sit on his lap. We just looked at each other for a moment. He leaned in to kiss me.

I let my forehead rest on his and sighed contentedly. I had never felt so much peace. Surely the reality of Jack and me would be okay. Surely the ones who loved us most would understand, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they wish us well? It was my fervent hope.

He moved his head down to nuzzle my bare neck. Nice.

"That was George." Nibble, nibble. His tongue started lapping at me a little. Ticklish, but nice. Mmmm... I didn't say anything. *I knew it was George, silly.* English was one of the languages in which I was pretty much fluent.

"He's coming at two. Now listen for a sec..." We pulled back to see each other's faces.

"Let me do the talking. I'm not sure what I will actually say. You know, besides the facts and only the facts. But I feel like it has to come from me, since he's my CO, and the difficulty in our relationship, yours and mine, is only the fact of my military position. In my opinion, we don't have a care in the world once I resign. Everything else can be managed or straightened out in time.

"Do you agree? I mean if you don't, I'll listen to whatever you think is right."

"That's fine, Jack," I told him. "You want me with you when you tell him? I understand if you want to be alone with him. I mean, how do you think he'll react?"

He made a wry little face. "Not sure. Not sure. But he and I are tight. Whatever he says and does today, I'm pretty sure he'll come around eventually. After what we've all been through together the last few years, a lot of life's power to shock 'Hammond of Texas' has disappeared. I know he feels like he's seen it all. And heard it all.

"And yes, I need you there. Please."

We both smiled. Somehow, it would be all right. If Jack thought so, that was enough for me. And if he wanted me there, there is where I would be. I nodded at him.

"So! Merry Christmas, Daniel," he told me. His hands patted me where they were holding me at my waist. "And get undressed again, because I have a couple of presents for you."

"Get undressed?" I asked him incredulously. "What happened to 'let's wait for tonight, Danny'?"

"C'mon!" he laughed at me. "Wait here, and I'll bring them to you."

He unceremoniously pushed me out of his lap and loped out of the room. I started to pull off my jeans with a sigh. Obedient to the last, I thought to myself. I sat there in my boxers and socks. I didn't have to wait long. He came back with two big boxes all wrapped up.

"Here," he indicated to me. "Open this heavy one first."

Oh, it was heavy, for the size of it. I started to remove the ribbon and tore off the paper. The box was from Zander's, a men's shop Jack and I liked up in Denver. What had he done?

I opened the box, as it lay balanced on my lap. Wow. Inside was a pair of buttery soft leather jeans. I took them out and felt them all over. They felt so soft, almost like velvet.

I held them to my nose and smelled them, catching Jack's eye as I held them over my lower face.

"These are great, Jack. And they're navy blue. I don't think I've ever seen navy blue leather." He just smiled at me.

"You should always wear blue, Danny. You should have been an Air Force officer just so you could wear those dress blues."

We knew that. As a joke, I'd tried on Jack's dress uniform one day. We'd had quite a laugh, until he'd jumped me and thrown me down on the bed and shoved them aside just enough to have his way with me. I'd managed to keep his cap on through the whole encounter. The uniform had had to go to the cleaners right after that day. The memory still could make me smile.

"Put 'em on. I'm dying to see how they look."

Without a word I stood up and slipped them on. There was a navy blue leather belt too, with a silver buckle. They fit just right. Jack had done good. I ran my hands down over my thighs. What a sensuous feeling. I'd never splurged on anything like these jeans before.

Then I noticed Jack, still sitting on the bed. He was looking at my legs with rapt attention. His hands were still in his lap.

"Wanna touch, Jack?" I asked him softly. He nodded, eyes still on my legs.

I turned around so he could see the view from the rear. I heard his intake of breath. Then I felt his hand on my ass, caressing it softly.

"You are fantasy stuff..." he breathed at me. "Too bad you have to put something on up top. These work. I knew they would."

I turned around and bent down to put my arms around his neck. I kissed him, and then rested my head on his shoulder.

"Thanks, they feel great," I told him.

"They look even better," I heard him whisper in my ear.

Then he sat back and told me, "And now you need to open the other present."

Oh, the other present. I went over and picked it up. I sat back down on the bed and tore into that one, too. This was also from Zander's. This was my day to be wardrobed, obviously. I could live with that. I caught Jack's expectant look for a second as I opened the box.

It was the softest cashmere sweater I had ever had in my hands. It was navy blue like the jeans. Exactly like them, I noticed. Made of a fine weave with a subtle vertical ribbing, it felt like a cloud in my hands.

I quickly stood up and slipped it over my head and down around my hips. It enfolded me in the most luxurious softness I'd ever had against my skin. I ran my hands over my own arms, feeling the wonderfully soft texture.

"You are the most beautiful creature I have ever known, Daniel," Jack murmured.

I lifted my eyes to him. "I love you, too, Jack.

"Oh, you have really outdone yourself this time," I told him. "You cannot imagine how wonderful these things feel. Next time we go to Zander's, I might have to buy you a couple of things like this."


When I'd bought those things back in November, doing some shopping during a run up to Denver for some kind of deadly boring official meeting, I'd just known they would look perfect on Daniel.

He so rarely took the time to buy himself anything special. When I'd seen them in the store, my mind just "went there", and the sales person helped me with the sizes after I described Daniel's height and weight and stuff. The way they looked on him exceeded everything I'd hoped for. I sighed in happiness. Success!

I could see how much he loved them, too. The dark navy color set off his blue eyes and light brown hair. He was standing there with the sun filled room reflected in his glasses. Looking at him, I felt like I was standing on heaven's doorstep. My Daniel. All mine.

"Can I take those off you tonight?" I asked him, only half kidding. "Slowly?"

I leered at him, and then got serious and swallowed.

He just nodded, then lowered his head a little and looked at me out from under his thick eyelashes. I watched the high color flood into his cheeks. I was embarrassing him. Again. I never could help it. I tried hard not to embarrass him in public, but in our bedroom, well... let's just say I felt a certain license.

He recovered nicely, though. "C'mere," he told me in a low voice.

I swallowed again, and I felt my feet take me the two steps over to him. Our chests and bellies were touching. He smelled of new leather and vanilla soap and young, vibrant health. He was the better half of me. I knew it. Had always known it. Would always know it.

My knees were shaking. God, I couldn't be like this all day. I'd never fucking make it. I took a breath and eyed him.

Gently his hand came up and caressed me through my jeans. Most of my blood slammed to my groin, and instantly I started to jump to attention. I felt my eyes close. My hands went out to his chest in order to steady myself. He was killing me, and I didn't care. * Lead me around like this all day, Daniel...I will be your slave...whatever you want...*

"You can take these off me right now, if you want..." I heard him say, as if from some great distance.

He continued to stroke me. I could feel his breath on my face. I felt as if I'd turned to stone as the world rocked around me, finding some new kind of crazy axis on which to revolve. I was holding my breath. Literally, I was forgetting to breathe.

Now or later? Now and later? Now, later and in between? What a delicious decision to be faced with.

Finally I found my voice. It was a little raspy, but it came out pretty well, considering. "Nooo..." I told him with difficulty. "Later will be fine."

I finally got my eyes open and saw the twinkle in his kind eyes. He wasn't deliberately trying to torture me. I knew he meant it, and I could have taken him right there, right then, if that's what I wanted. But I really could wait. In fact, having that wonderful scenario in my mind all day was going to be fun. If I fucking lived through it, like I said. And tonight our time together would be all the better. If possible.


I let go of him and kissed his cheek. I had to stifle a little chortle. I could tell he would be holding me to that 'later' promise in the not too distant future. It'd be later, all right, but as little later as he could make it. Finally it seemed like Jack was breathing again.

"You don't need an ambulance or anything, do ya?" I asked him. I started to turn away from him but took the opportunity to dig my elbow into his side.

"You just wait," he replied. "You are going to be one sorry mother..."

I just laughed at him, and left him there and headed out to the kitchen. We had George coming at two, and a house full of company coming soon after him. I knew we'd better get out of the bedroom, or no one was going to eat anything at our house that day.

As I headed down the hall, I could hear Jack coming after me, mumbling to himself. Probably planning my evening recreation.

In the kitchen, I started getting some stuff together to go in the oven later. Sam and Janet were bringing lots of food, so besides the turkey we only had to get a few other things made.

"Jack, I'm gonna start putting the stuffed mushrooms together. I had a little breakfast earlier. Are you going to eat something, have some coffee?"

I drew my head out of the fridge to look at him, my back still partially turned. I caught him standing in the doorway, one shoulder leaning on the doorframe, his hands in his pockets. God, his eyes were on my ass again.

"Jack!" He snapped his eyes up to mine as I turned to look at him. He gave me a goofy grin and shrugged. Busted.

I just shook my head and grinned back at him. He managed to pour himself some coffee and sit down at the kitchen table. I shoved a blueberry muffin at him.

"Here," I told him, "Eat this so you don't fall over. You're gonna need your strength today."

For once, there was not a word out of Jack. He just took the muffin and started tearing it apart and eating it.

I was pretty sure he wouldn't be content to sit there for very long. I already could see him looking restlessly around the room. His mental wheels were turning, as he wondered what he could do to keep himself occupied for the next little while. He'd already told me he was more than happy to stay away from the food. Except to eat it, of course.

That day I was doing the food, because Jack had done Thanksgiving back in November. We each had about five things we could cook, and I happened to know how to fix turkey and stuffed mushrooms. I'd learned from a roommate's mother back in college, probably during that year's Thanksgiving, when I was seventeen. So when we'd planned the menu today, we made sure to tell Sam and Janet that they had better bring the veggies and dessert if they wanted any. Jack and I weren't completely hopeless in the kitchen, but a lot of the finer points were sure lost on us.

Finally Jack stood up with a sigh.

"God, Daniel. Part of me wishes I could take you and just head for the hills. But everything else in me is dying to tell the team about us. I am so sick and tired of keeping us a secret, of 'don't ask, don't tell'. I'll feel so much better after we've told! I admit the idea scares me a little too. I want so badly for them to understand, and for it to be OK."

I turned to look at him again, and leaned back on the kitchen counter. His hands were in his pockets again. His face showed his worry, and the strain of the responsibility he had as the military half of us. I went to him then and put my hand on his arm, looking up slightly at him.

"Jack, why don't you go out and clear the snow away from the steps and the doors? You know you'll feel better if you get busy doing something."

He nodded at me. "Okay, I'll go out and get some fresh air and gets some sun for a few minutes.

"I know that things will probably go okay with George. It'll have to. It may take him a while, but he'll hopefully understand eventually."

He didn't look completely convinced. Hopeful, but not convinced. Just a few minutes before, back in the bedroom, it had been him reassuring me. But now he needed a little encouragement. I put one of my arms around his neck and pulled him close to me, taking a half step to close the space between us. His forehead went down on my shoulder. We just stood there for a moment. I heard him sigh.

I kissed him gently on his ear and spoke softly into it. "Colonel O'Neill. You have faced down way bigger bad guys than this. I've seen ya do it. Over and over again. This will be a piece of cake... Let me see your ring."

He pulled back a little, bringing his left hand up between us. Yup, there it was, golden and black, with the little miniature Jack eagle sparkling there. We looked at it together for a second.

"Just remember, Jack. I'll be with you all day today. Whatever happens to you also happens to me. And if the whole damned world falls down around our ears when we step out of our closet today, so be it. We will get squashed together." I saw that gave him a little tentative smile.

"But I think our friends will surprise us. Don't you?" I asked him.


*I don't know, Daniel. I sure hope so. You are right, whatever happens, there will always be an us. I'm counting on that. Big time.*

"Sweet..." I told him, meaning both him and the great possibility of our friends' understanding and love.

I patted his cheek, leaving him to his food prep. I went out by the door and gathered up my coat and boots to go outside. I could already hear Daniel banging the dishes around.

*Ah, domestic bliss. Such is the stuff of life, especially when it ends up with good food on the table. And my better half in my bed with me at night. Nothing else is needed on a day like this, or maybe on any other day either.*

Outside, I had to put my sunglasses on against the glare of the bright sun on the snow. There was a ton of snow in the yard from the snowfall the day before. My truck and Daniel's car would need a little cleaning off too. But I noticed the plow guy had been there again during the night, and there was plenty of room for our company's cars. Picking up the snow shovel from its corner of the porch, I got busy clearing the steps. Daniel was right, it felt good to be busy with a chore. While I shoveled, I deliberately let my mind wander.

A few minutes later, the walkway was clear enough, so I decided to work on the snow cover on the vehicles. Over by my truck, hand on the door, I stopped and leaned back to look up into the sky.

The day was pristine. Not a cloud in the sky. No motherships up there either, as far as I knew. Were to God it stayed that way. Damned snakeheads.

I looked back at the house and thought about Daniel and me again, and where we'd live after I retired. He didn't know yet that I'd decided to talk to him about selling the place, getting rid of his loft, and getting a new house together. I loved this house, always had, and I had some great memories from my time living there. But I was convinced that Daniel and I had to stop that part time living in our two places. If we meant to really have a joined life, we needed one bed, one kitchen, one sofa, one TV and one washer and dryer. I had no intention of continuing our nomadic life, and hoped he would agree.

I also knew that Daniel needed room for his books and computer and all his archaeological treasures. I wanted him to be able to keep his wedding bowl, from his marriage ceremony with Sha'uri on Abydos, on our bureau, or wherever he wanted to display it. I wanted him to have space for his precious mementoes in my rooms, even while I would have mine in his, because all the rooms would be ours.

Actually, I was kind of afraid of his stuff. I never liked to touch it or dust it or anything. What if I crashed into something or dropped one? I usually wasn't like the proverbial bull in a china shop. But around Daniel's treasures, I found myself so nervous and awkward, I felt like anything could happen. His artifacts (I was proud of myself for even using that word) looked priceless and probably were.

But they were part of him, and I wanted so badly to have them around. They just needed to be protected, away from my TV and LaZBoy, hopefully, and placed where Daniel could see them every day. And then he could dust them and touch them if he wanted.

Finally I turned back to the truck and got out the ice scraper brush thingy to get the snow off the roof and hood. I set to work. Next I'd take care of Daniel's Subaru. I wanted to get back inside to help Daniel with the food, at least the eating part, and start setting the table for later.

I was starving again, and dying for a beer.


Jack had said to come at 1400, and to come hungry. I was early. It'd be more like 1300 when I got there, but I was pretty sure he wouldn't mind. Hell, I could even help him and Daniel get ready for the rest later if they wanted. And I sure was hungry. I had refused lunch at my daughter's, when she'd offered, knowing there would be a ton of food at Jack's. I didn't get a chance to eat with Jack and Daniel very often. Sharing a meal and a beer or two would be fun.

I had had a great time visiting with the girls that morning. God, they were getting big so fast. The Christmases seemed to come so much closer together in these years since they'd been born. It was wonderful being in their home, seeing their excitement over the gifts they'd received.

I loved them both so intensely, it always surprised me. Wrapping my arms around their little shoulders and giving them kisses, I felt young again, the way I had when our kids were little themselves. People had always told me that having grandkids made all the work and worry of raising your own kids worthwhile, and now I finally understood that.

I was grateful that my family lived in the same area as me. I had friends whose grandchildren lived halfway across the country from them, so I knew I was blessed to be able to see the girls so often. I looked forward to my own retirement, to being able to spend more time with them someday.

In the back of my mind, I knew I had to broach that subject with Jack in the not too distant future. He and I had some decisions and recommendations to make about the SGC. Our work was so damned important, and so easily misunderstood by the political and military powers that surrounded us, I felt like I wouldn't be able to retire until we could find someone to replace me who would share our viewpoints. My pick for my replacement was Jack himself, but he didn't know that. Not yet anyway.

As I turned into Jack's street, I marveled again at the height of the snow banks at the sides of the road. It was unusual to have so much snow so early in the winter. But we were fortunate. The snowplows had done a great job, and the bright sun was already melting the snow on the streets themselves. Driving had not been a problem at all. We got a lot of snow in our part of Colorado, but many times it melted as fast as it collected. Being a mile high in elevation had its advantages.

I pulled into Jack's driveway, and was a little surprised to see him outside. He was brushing snow off Dr. Jackson's little black Subaru, and had managed to get covered with it himself. As he turned to watch me drive in, he smiled at me and brushed at the snow on his jacket and jeans. His face was pink from the cold, his hair sticking up a bit from the winter air. No hat on his head. I thought maybe he must have been freezing. He looked happy enough, though.

I climbed out of my car as Jack was walking over to it, taking his sunglasses off as he approached me. He left them hanging on that string around his neck that he liked to use. He gave me a big welcoming smile and held out his gloved hand to shake mine.

"Hey, George, Merry Christmas!" he told me. As we shook hands, he took a second to grasp my forearm with his other hand, and give it a squeeze.

"Jack," I told him, "Happy holiday to you, too." I looked at the driveway, the porch and their cars.

"It looks like you've been working away at all this snow."

"Yeah," he agreed, looking around, too. "Daniel threw me out of the house. I was getting antsy. And of course there was a ton of snow out here to move around." He clapped me on the shoulder.

"I'm all done here. I'm starving, are you? Come on in before we both freeze."

We trooped into the warm house and quickly shed our boots and coats at the door. Daniel came out of the kitchen through the dining room then and greeted me.

"General! Merry Christmas!" Another handshake.

"Merry Christmas, son. Jack got you hard at work in there?" I smiled at him.

God, he looked pretty happy too. Well, Christmas was a day for feeling some joy. And it was definitely catching. This home of Jack's had always been a place where we'd had good times.

My eyes took in the big Christmas tree and the fire in the fireplace. The sun reflected off the snow in the yard and lit up the whole interior of the living room.

"Daniel!" I heard Jack say. "You've been busy! The table is all set already? And you made the fire. That's great. It's so cold outside!"

Jack and Daniel just beamed at each other. Yup, I could see there were no arguments that day.

The dining room table had its extra leaves inserted into it to enlarge it, and had been set with seven place settings. There was a huge red Poinsettia plant in the center of the table. The house really looked festive.

We all just stood there for a moment and looked at each other. It was a pleasure not having to worry about work stuff for a few days.

Finally Daniel spoke up and looked at me. "I was just throwing together some sandwiches. Why don't you two go sit by the fire and I'll bring them in for us?" He indicated the living room, and started to turn back into the kitchen.

"Go ahead, George," Jack told me. "I'll help Daniel carry stuff. We'll be right there."


"How long was I outside?" I asked Daniel quietly. "You've gotten so much done! Is George early?"

Daniel just smiled at me. "Time flies, you know... Here, make yourself useful. Stick some chips on these plates. And get the beer and stuff out of the fridge." He turned his back to me and stirred something on the stove. I went over to look in the pot.

"Hey, you made chili? I mean you thawed out chili? It smells great." My stomach was agreeing.

Daniel didn't answer, just started ladling out the chili into three soup bowls, and stuck a spoon in each. I found the chips and put some on three plates, like he'd asked me. Soon I saw he was putting big thick ham and cheese sandwiches on each plate. He grabbed a plate and a soup bowl and headed out to the General. I followed along behind with the beer.

After a couple more trips into the living room, the three of us settled around the fire, and started eating in companionable silence. I felt like I hadn't eaten in about a week.

Eventually, we chatted a bit about the weather, and about George's morning with the girls, and the latest Nuggets game. George had season tickets up at the Pepsi Center in Denver and took me along sometimes.

I could tell that Daniel was listening politely. Most sports stuff was a big bore to him, which was one of the things we had to come to terms about when we'd become more than just friends. But I could see he was not bored so much as more than a little distracted. He knew I would soon broach the subject of us, of my retirement, with the General. I remembered his words to me... I'd faced down way bigger bad guys than this and lived to tell about it. Problem was, George wasn't a bad guy, and neither was Daniel nor I. This needed Daniel's diplomatic skills, not my usual bluntness.

"Great food, guys," George told us. "Breakfast was a long time ago, and this tasted good." He paused and looked at us.

"Is there anything I can help you with to get ready, before everyone else gets here?" He looked expectantly at first Daniel and then at me.

I got up and started piling our dishes together to carry them back to the kitchen.

"No," I told him, "But I'll bring you another beer." I stopped and looked at him for a moment.

"There's something Daniel and I need to talk to you about. We were glad you could come over early today so we could see you before everyone else gets here."

I could see his eyebrows lift. He settled back on the sofa a bit and nodded. Daniel couldn't seem to meet my eyes, or George's. He was fussing with the empty bottles and plates, too. God, we were a pair. I actually had to hold back a smile.

"I'll get this stuff, Daniel. Sit with George a minute, and I'll be right back."

I left the room, plates and bowls piled precariously together, praying I'd make it without dropping everything. Out in the kitchen, I got more beer out of the fridge, and a Pepsi for Daniel, since I knew he always liked to switch after one beer.

I stuck the bottles on the kitchen counter, and leaned on it with both hands, my head bent down. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply in and out once or twice. *You can do this, Jack*. I could hear Daniel chatting with the General. I couldn't hear their words, but the General's laugh floated back to me. *God bless you, Danny. I'll be there in a minute, really I will.*


The General and I were making small talk. My voice and smile felt forced to me, but he didn't seem to notice. *God, Jack, what are you doing in that kitchen?* I decided to give him about 30 more seconds, and then I'd go in there and look for him. Now that we were so close to coming clean with the General, I was more than a little anxious to get it done.

Finally Jack came in with a couple more beers and a Pepsi for me. Instead of sitting back on the couch, he got down on the floor and sat right in front of my chair, off to the side a little. He leaned back and took a drink of his beer. All of us took a drink and looked at each other. The silence was like a physical presence in the room. I sighed.

I felt for Jack. Talking wasn't his most favorite activity in the best of times. And I knew he had to be under an enormous amount of pressure right then. He wanted to start the long road to making it right for us to continue our relationship in honesty and openness. I also figured he didn't want to hurt me by saying the wrong thing. And of course George's friendship and loyalty were very important to him, too. I wondered if I should take the proverbial bull by the horns and just start opening up the conversation myself.

I scooted my leg over a little and put some pressure on Jack's right side where he was sitting at my feet. I wanted him to know I was there, I sympathized, and I was rooting for him, and for us.

George drank his beer, looking around the room and then back at us, first me, then Jack. The eyebrows went up again. I could almost hear him think, yeah? What?

Finally Jack put his beer bottle up on the coffee table, leaned back against my leg, and put his right hand down on top of my foot. I could feel him squeezing it. I knew he was telling me, *we're together, I love you, this is okay, this will all work out, don't sweat it, I'm handling it.* Not sure how, but I got all of that through his hand.

I reached past him and put my Pepsi down, too, and put my left hand on his shoulder and gave him a squeeze, too. I could see the General sit up a little taller. He put his drink down, too. Okay, it was now or never. And 'never' wouldn't do.

"George," I heard Jack start. "Daniel and I... we have some news to give you. This is going to come as quite a shock to you, so I just want to warn you." Jack turned to look at me over his shoulder. I smiled at him a little and nodded, and squeezed his shoulder again. He turned back to the General.

"I'm telling you this here, at my house, rather than on base, because at work we... ah... can't really bring this stuff up. And Daniel and I, we.... we need badly to tell you about... about us... well, we... we've been partners now for about five months... life partners."

George was really sitting up straight now. In fact, he'd moved forward on the couch until he was right on the edge of his seat. Absolutely silent, and absolutely serious. His blue eyes moved from Jack's face to mine and back again.

I could see the General's mental wheels turning. *Yeah, I just heard Jack O'Neill tell me something about him and Daniel being He said 'life' partners. What the hell?*

"I'm in love with Daniel, Sir," Jack pushed on. "And he's in love with me. It's forever with us. He was my best friend for ages, and then... well, back in July, we just decided that what we were feeling for each other was way more than just friendship. I know this is a shock... believe me, we had some shocks of our own to deal with when we decided to pair up." He paused for a moment while his words registered with the General.


I didn't really plan it. It just happened. I stood up. I just stood there and looked at the both of them.

Doctor Jackson's blue eyes were as wide open and round as I'd ever seen them, blinking behind his glasses. Jack's face was almost grim. His lips were set in a straight line. I could see his determination to make me understand. He didn't achieve the rank of full bird colonel by being a wimp or afraid to face the hard stuff of life. A seasoned war veteran, he'd taken down the enemy here on Earth as well as across the galaxy.

But damn it, I was his CO. He wasn't supposed to be telling me any of this. No one knew that better than Jack O'Neill. I wasn't supposed to ask, and he wasn't supposed to tell. I just stood there and couldn't think of one thing to say.

Then Jack also stood up, stepping in front of Daniel as if to protect him. We just looked at each other. In that moment, I couldn't remember that I was this man's friend, or that I was a friend to both. I was Jack's commanding officer. And he was in serious breach of protocol.

Daniel stirred around in his chair, watching the two of us face off. Finally Daniel got up too. He stepped up beside Jack, and put his hand on Jack's arm. He pulled at Jack a little to get his attention.

"Hey, Jack, relax," he said in a soft voice, almost in his ear. I could see him looking at Jack's stony profile, and then at me. His look pleaded with me to understand, but how could I? What the hell was I supposed to do with this information?

Daniel turned fully into Jack and asked him, "Do you want me to leave you two alone? I know you said you wanted me here, but really..." I saw him look over at me, then back at Jack.

"Maybe if you two could just sit for a few minutes, with me outta here. It's okay with me. Really. Okay?"

Jack couldn't seem to get his eyes off my face. Reluctantly, he turned his head for a second and looked at Daniel. Then I could see his reluctance to take his gaze off Daniel. His face softened considerably. He put out his hand to take Daniel's and hung on.

"Danny..." he said just above a whisper.

God, they were holding hands. And I'd never heard Jack call Doctor Jackson that before. They were so obviously devoted to each other. How had I been so blind all these months? I felt like a fool. But I also knew they had been very careful on duty. I wondered dully who else knew, and asked myself all over again how I could have been so dense. But damn it, this was Jack O'Neill!

Without planning it, I was sitting down again. I leaned my head forward into my hands, elbows on my knees. I just sat there, feeling very old and tired all of a sudden. At what seemed like great length, I found my voice.

"No, you two. Daniel, please stay. Please sit down again." I motioned with my hands for them to sit down. I swallowed a couple of times and searched my mind for what to say.

"God, you've shocked the hell out of me. You weren't kidding when you said you had some 'news'. I guess the hell you did." I looked up at them. I knew my mouth was hanging open.

They slowly sat down again. Daniel was back in the chair and Jack was perched with one hip on the arm of it. Their hands were still together. Both of them looked exhausted. I could see that this must have weighed heavily on them.

I took a couple of deep breaths and managed to close my mouth and give them a tight little smile.

"So you two are... ah... together?" Two heads nodded at me.

"And Jack?" I looked at him. I shook my head at him and made a little gesture with my hand, like... what are you going to do? Tell me what I should do.


I took a deep breath. All I was really aware of was Daniel's hand in mine, and his warm presence at my side. I suddenly remembered the ring he'd given me the night before, and all the promises we'd made to each other. Damn it, nothing was as important as Danny. I turned to look at him.

"I'm sorry. I don't think I'm saying any of this right."

He looked at me, his face full of love and trust. I was in awe all over again of his absolute dedication to me and to us. I had waited all my life to see someone look at me like that. The only one who had ever come close was Charlie.

*Dear God, let me live long enough to give back to Daniel everything he deserves. And help me to take care of him.*

"It's okay, Jack. You're doing fine. George is just in shock. Remember, we said we thought he would be. Who wouldn't be? Just tell him the rest. We will all be okay, as soon as the whole truth is out. Go ahead."

I nodded at him and slowly turned back to George. I took a deep breath and started in.

"Daniel and I have talked it over, and we've decided that the best thing for everyone is for me to take my retirement. I've got over thirty years in, George, just like you. I'm tired. I'm in love. I want to be with Daniel, in every sense of the word.

"He's agreed to retire from SG-1, too. To stop being on a first contact team. We don't want to risk our lives anymore. We've done all we can do already. We want to be safe, for each other.

"We want everyone to know about us. We want anyone who will be, to be happy for us. We're not stupid. We know there will be some who won't understand, but that's okay. We just need to be together, to get whatever happiness we can grab for whatever time we have left.

"I'm your friend, George Hammond. We've been to hell and back together. A couple of times. And now I... Daniel and I... we just want a little heaven here on earth. We need our work, but we need each other more.

"We know we've shocked you to death today. I apologize, but we couldn't think of any better way to tell you. We plan to tell Teal'c and Sam and Janet and Cassie this afternoon at dinner. Teal'c and Sam may already know, although Daniel and I have always been really careful to stay professional on our missions."

I took another deep breath.

"We know there'll be lots of details to work out about our work at the SGC, but as our friend, we just hope you'll try to understand. And try to help us out." I shrugged at him and tried to smile a little. I squeezed Daniel's hand and felt him squeeze back.

I gave George credit. He didn't attain the rank of Major General because he was deaf or blind or slow. He was catching on fast to what I'd been telling him.


What had started out as a joyous day was rapidly becoming a day I knew I'd never forget. I was in a kind of shock.

I searched around in my head for something supportive to say to these two. They were as close to me as any sons could be. I loved Jack O'Neill as a comrade in arms, a confidant, a rock in a hard place. I had leaned on him, and he on me, for many years.

And Doctor Daniel Jackson was simply the most awe-inspiring man I had ever known.

I had known leaders of men, people of great rank and privilege. Hell, I had a private line that led directly to the White House, and a President who listened when I advised him. But Daniel was in a class by himself. A genius, yes, but also a wonderful, warm, compassionate and caring human being who could fight with the best of them and had many times. He fought with guns and zats, but he also fought with his idealism. I had counted him as the heart of the SGC.

I felt privileged to have known both of them. That they had chosen each other was hardly surprising, if I allowed myself to 'go there' in my thinking. They were virtually isolated in the work we had chosen. They were strong, vital, healthy human beings with needs of their own. That they had choseneach other as life partners was not surprising. Not at all. But still a shock to old, staid me.

"I admit I need to think this over more. I hardly know what to say to you both. You have made some important decisions already, and I realize there are more to be made. I want to tell you something, though, Jack." I paused while they looked at me expectantly. I couldn't seem to stop looking at their joined hands, and kept forcing my eyes back to theirs.

"I am contemplating my own retirement. Hopefully very soon. You have been placed on a short list, a very short list, of candidates to be promoted to Brigadier. A star, Jack. I have dreamed of that for you. And I think you've let yourself dream about it a little, too.

"I want you and Daniel to really decide that your retirement is absolutely the right decision at this time. And I don't want you to give up the idea of being General O'Neill, and CO of the SGC, and everything that would mean to you and to us, without being absolutely sure. Doctor Jackson could stop going offworld if that is still your wish."

Then it was Jack who had his mouth open in a perfectly round O. Daniel was looking at him.

"When you both come back to work on Monday, come and see me first thing. The three of us will sit down and makes some decisions about your futures with the SGC. You are both valuable, whether civilian or if you stay in, Jack. I know you want to be happy and together, and I will keep your confidence if you want me to, and say nothing of this to anyone until you decide something."

I stood up again. "I think it might be best if I went home now. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and hope the rest of the day is a peaceful one for you. I appreciate how hard this has been for both of you. I'm sorry I can't stay."

Jack and Daniel both stood up again too. Daniel especially looked concerned.


Jack looked dumbstruck. Could he really have had no idea that he would be up for promotion, after all we'd accomplished, all we'd done for the country and indeed, for the whole world? The stubborn, prideful, arrogant, know-it-all, undiplomatic love of my life was also still humble enough to not have 'gone there' in his life plans. Did he think that if he stayed in, he'd be denied promotion indefinitely? Whatever, he and I had never talked about this, and I knew we needed to, desperately.

I stepped into the silence. Literally. I stood in front of Jack, shielding him the way he had me earlier.

"General! Please don't go! Please stay, and see everyone, and have dinner with us." I reached out my hand to his, and he shook it. It was warm and dry in mine, not like Jack's moist one I had just let go of. I could feel Jack sag against my back a little. It felt great having him back there, but I knew he was worn out from all of this talking and reasoning, all of which made him uncomfortable. Not to mention the worrying he'd done ahead of time.

I could see the General hesitate. He really did want to stay. He'd planned on being with us until the evening. He looked over my shoulder at saggy Jack. Something in George's face told me he knew that Jack needed a break.

I had never really been able to understand their military minds, not fully anyhow. Even though I had been in their company almost daily for years, I still had only a glimpse of the reality of the military mindset, especially in these long-term career men. Jack wanted to have a life beyond his rank and responsibilities, a life with me, but I knew that the US Air Force still took up a large part of his everyday consciousness. Their values and vows were ingrained and hard to leave behind. I respected that, even as I didn't pretend to understand.

God, how to reach these two hard headed men? The diplomat in me was struggling with a heartfelt desire for peace between them, for an answer to the tension they were feeling. How to help?

The General spoke to me gently. "I'm sorry, son. I don't want to upset your plans. I'm fine, really. We are friends, not just coworkers. Whatever you two decide, I will support. Please hear me. I will support you. I just want to give you some room together for a while before the others arrive. I can go back to my daughter's for dinner."

He smiled at us. "Actually, she will be real pleased to see me show up again. She didn't want me to leave when I did. So everything will be okay."

I felt Jack sag back into the chair behind him. Finally he spoke.

"Thank you, George. It's been a long day already, huh?"

The General just nodded.

"Would you give him his gifts, Daniel? Find them under the tree there," Jack said softly.

I turned to the tree and found the two packages there that we had wrapped for him.

"I'll see you to the door, General," I told him. I started to walk towards the front of the house, carrying his gifts. Then I noticed he wasn't following me. Looking back, I saw he was bent over Jack. I couldn't really make out his words to Jack, but Jack was nodding, tears standing unshed in his eyes. Oh-oh. Jack and I were going to have to communicate again. And soon.

Straightening up, giving Jack a pat on the shoulder, the General turned back to me and headed for the front door.

As he bent to put on his boots and then his coat, he took his gifts from me. He looked me in the eye. For a few seconds, neither of us spoke.

"I don't think I need to tell you this, but I will," he told me. "I am happy for you. Both of you. Really, I am. I have been in love before, and I especially remember new love.

"I am surprised as hell, and in shock about the two of you. But none of that should matter to you. Or to Jack. You don't need my approval to live your lives the way you see fit."

His eyes searched my face. I could see him trying to work through this new understanding he had about Jack and I.

"Just a piece of advice. Whatever you two decide, make it the right decision for you, too, Daniel. Not just for Jack. Remember that although you both want to be together in every way, you have to be true to yourself, too. Figure out what you really need."

I felt his fatherly concern and advice deep in my heart. I wanted to hug him, but I never had before and guessed this wouldn't be the best time to start. So I just ducked my head a little and smiled at him. I swallowed.

Thanks, General," I told him. "Have a good night. We'll see you Monday, eight AM."

He nodded once more, and then opened the door to let himself out. I stood there, the open door letting in the cold outside air, watching him as he climbed into his car and started it. I lifted my hand to wave good-bye to him, and quietly closed the door to go back to Jack.

I turned then and went down the two steps back into the living room where Jack was still sitting.

Please, give me wisdom in this, I silently prayed to whoever might be listening. Let me support him, and show me what loving him really means in this situation.


Wow, that had been way harder than even I had imagined it would be. I still wasn't sure how George would deal with the reality of Daniel and I. I'd just give him time and space, and let him figure it out.

Daniel was uppermost in my mind. He just had to be okay. Provided for emotionally. I was sure above all other things that I didn't want to hurt Daniel or let him down in any way. What I needed now or ever was way down on my list of priorities compared to what I needed to give to Daniel. I just wanted to be there for him however I could.

If I had to go tend yaks in Tibet for a living, I could do that, as long as Daniel was there too as my assistant herder. That crazy idea actually made me smile a little.I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

Daniel loped down the stairs and came right over to me, bringing a little cold air with him. I shivered, and held my arms out to him. He immediately slipped onto my lap and put his arms around my neck.

He took his glasses off and dropped them on the floor beside the chair. His head nuzzled into my shoulder. I could feel his warm lips on my neck.

God, how I loved him. I tightened my arms around him and hugged him as hard as I could. He hugged me right back, and we hung on to each other for dear life. He was so precious to me, I couldn't even imagine going a day without him. I was an emotional wreck right then, but somehow I was a happy, albeit mixed up, wreck. He'd told me the night before that he "used to be sane". Well, me too, Daniel, I thought to myself. Now I have you where my sanity used to be. And that's just fine with me.

"Ssshhh..." he whispered in my ear. He was putting soft little kisses on my cheek. "Ssshhh..."

A couple of minutes went by while he just let me shiver in his arms. He felt like a solid rock against me. I clung to him. I wanted the whole fucking world to go away so I could just be with him. Why did everything have to get so damned complicated?

"I love you, Jack," he whispered. He squeezed me even tighter, which I hadn't thought possible. I just nodded my head where it was resting on his hair.

"I know, Daniel, I know," I told him. "I love you, too... more than my own life." I took a shuddering breath.

"I told you last night that I was scared about us, and I'm feeling kinda blown away by... I dunno, everything right now. I couldn't believe what George told me about being promoted. I wasn't prepared for any of that. I guess I should have known it was coming. I'm so sorry."

I blew my breath out between my lips, and rubbed at my gritty eyes with my fingers. I thanked God for Daniel's solid warmth, bundled up in that soft sweater I'd given him earlier.

He pulled back to try to look at me. For some reason, I had trouble meeting his eyes. I pretended that I needed to wipe at my eyes some more. His gaze was like some kind of x-ray beam. Superman and his x-ray vision had nothing on my Danny. He just waited.

Finally I hauled my eyes over to his, and we exchanged a telling look. I knew that Daniel could read me like a book. I wasn't smart enough to ever be able to win a war of wills or wiliness with him. I could out shout him, and had in the past, but no one was angry or feeling threatened now. I was just desperate to do the right thing for me, for him and for us.

Even as he searched my face, I knew intuitively that he understood what I was struggling with from front to back, and left to right too.

"Jack?" he murmured. I blinked at him a couple of times.

"Nothing's really changed, you know. Nothing. We are still telling our closest friends about us today. We are still not going to go to unprotected planets and into dangerous situations. We are still going to be valuable to the SGC, together and separately," he told me in his strong professor's voice.

"Colonel O'Neill, did you have a question?" He peered at me with his beautiful blue eyes. I just shook my head, awed at his perception and caring.

"Okay, then. This is the deal. We will decide this weekend once and for all. Well, you will decide, and I will back you up, whatever you decide. Deciding is a pain in the ass, especially after we thought we'd already settled everything. But that's life," he told me, shrugging.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. We had plans, and we still do have plans, but Jack..."

He placed a hand on my face and turned it towards his. He lowered his head and kissed me, chewing gently on my lower lip. I could feel his tongue licking my mouth a little, but not pushing inside. He lifted his head to look into my eyes again.

"You want my opinion? Here it is. I want you to get that star. You've worked your whole life for that promotion. The General told me, right before he left, to decide what I really needed, not just what you needed. And I think we both need those stars on your shoulders.

"I am so proud of you, you know that. And I will always be proud that you and I belong to each other. I would be proud if you were promoted to dogcatcher." He smiled at me a little. "In fact, knowing you, you'd probably like that job!!"

He had me smiling a little too, bless his heart.

I kissed him again. A little slower, a little deeper this time. What a prize I had earned for no reason I could ever fathom.

"We'll see, Danny." I breathed a big tired sigh. "Let's just get through the rest of this day, and we'll talk tomorrow, okay? I don't know what I want, except that I want to be with you. And I don't want anything to spoil what we have. I want you to be as happy as I can make you. I want to protect you, even though I know that's not always possible."

"Okay, Jack, you got a deal," he told me. "Don't worry, we'll figure something out somehow.

"You got me, babe, and I got you. Like the old song says. You know, the song that Sonny and Cher sang back before I was born... the one you danced to back in high school?"

He reached over and pinched me gently on the arm. I loved seeing his hopeful grin. He was trying to get me to lighten up.

"Ha, ha," I said to him sarcastically. "Very funny. Wise ass!"

I pulled him close and kissed the shit out of him, just to shut him up. And to feel his wonderful lips on mine again, of course.

"Merry Christmas, Daniel. And here's to about a hundred more, 'kay?"

He nodded. I caressed Daniel's face and gazed into his eyes. As my hand moved, I saw the multicolored lights of the Christmas tree catch the diamond cuttings on the wings of the eagle on my new ring.

Last night Daniel had said I was an eagle. * Okay, Daniel, let's fly. Together.*

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