Hero by Jude
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Angst, Drama, Established Relationship, Romance
Rated: Mature
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: An emergency rescue earns Daniel the admiration and gratitude of many.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
This is a Meridian free, S6 free zone.
Daniel slumped over the bathroom sink, eyes closed, brushing his teeth, letting the water from the faucet run down the drain. It was mid-morning at Jack's house, on their Saturday off, and he knew if he just gave himself a few minutes, gradually his brain cells would start working. With a final rinse and spit, he shut off the water and straightened up to blearily look at himself in the vanity mirror.

God. One of these nights, he and Jack would actually have to do a little serious sleeping. Neither of them wanted to sleep apart anymore, those days were long gone, but lately, it was like neither of them could keep their hands off the other long enough to really rest.

He used his index fingers to try to rub the sleep out of his eyes. He bent over the sink again, turned on the cold water, and splashed some directly onto his eyes and forehead. Grabbing a towel, he rubbed furiously at his face. When he looked back at himself in the mirror, at least he had some color in his cheeks. As he reached to turn the faucet off, he found himself smiling. He certainly had an interesting life. At work or at home, neither place was exactly what anybody would call boring.

With a sigh and a shake of his head, he put his glasses on, hung up the towel, and shut off the bathroom lights. He padded down the hall barefoot, following the delicious smell of his favorite coffee. When he came into the kitchen, he saw Jack with his back to him, sitting hunched over his morning paper, which he had spread out over the table. Jack had his elbows on his knees, his face about six inches from the paper. The remains of Jack's breakfast were all around him.

Daniel tiptoed up behind him and then leaned over to put his lips on Jack's neck. "Hey." Straightening up, he massaged Jack's shoulders for a second.

Jack sat back and turned to look at him with a smile. He reached around to grab Daniel's arm and pulled him over beside him. "Hey, Sleepyhead. Thought you'd sleep till noon." He put one hand on Daniel's butt and lowered his head to nuzzle the front of Daniel's tee shirt with his nose, loving the feeling of the hard stomach muscles there.

Daniel sighed and put his hands on Jack's shoulders. "Wanted to, Jack. Believe me. I might have to go home tonight so I can sleep." He looked down at Jack's head, watching him as he kissed and bit at his stomach through his tee shirt. "Alone," he emphasized.

Jack chuckled. They had talked about this many times, and he knew Daniel was kidding. He looked up at Daniel with a grin. "Nah, I'll be good. I promise." He kneaded his fingers into Daniel's buttock, and then moved his face in to start nuzzling Daniel's stomach again, not exactly adding credence to his words.

Daniel leaned down and kissed Jack's hair, running his hand through the short, thick, silvery gray mane. He straightened up and studied the top of Jack's head. "You need a haircut, Jack. But don't get one." Jack looked up at him. "I like it like this. Let's both retire and grow our hair down our backs and wear ponytails, wanna?"

"What?" Jack asked. What the hell was Daniel going on about now? He gave him a puzzled look.

"Never mind." Daniel smiled down into his eyes. "And you won't be good, Jack O'Neill. You never are." With a last gentle tug on Jack's hair, he turned to go get his first cup of coffee of the day. "Never," he grumbled good naturedly, more to himself than to Jack. "And anyway, if you didn't grope me all the time, I'd have to wonder who I was sleeping with."

Daniel started to pour his coffee with his back to Jack. He heard Jack get up and come over to him. Jack spooned up behind him and slipped his arms around his waist. Daniel sighed happily and put his head back into Jack's shoulder, his eyes sliding shut, his coffee forgotten for the moment.

"It's Saturday, Danny," Jack murmured in his ear. His warm breath sent shivers right down Daniel's spine. "Let's just stay in bed today. You're right, I love to grope you." He ran his hands down onto the front of Daniel's sweatpants and gave him a nice, firm demonstration grope, just for emphasis.

"Mmm," Daniel agreed. He sure did. He got his eyes open and wriggled around to face Jack. "But you know, I am worn out." At Jack's skeptical look, he put his hands on Jack's shoulders and pushed him away just a little. He smiled into Jack's eyes. "Don't give me that look. I really am."

Jack smirked at him. "Liar. Tell that to someone who might believe you. I don't. Who was that a couple of hours ago, screaming "don't stop, God, Jack, don't stop" at the top of his lungs?"

Daniel kissed him, his hands on the sides of Jack's neck, and then tilted his head back to look him in the eye. "No, Jack, you're the liar," he told him in his best little quiet voice. He stuck his nose in the air and looked down it in a superior way, doing his best not to smile. He sniffed. "I never scream."

"Okay, yelling then. But I think I did have your monologue correctly committed to memory, right? Want me to repeat it?" With a knowing smile, he gave Daniel a final pat on the shoulder and went back to the table to sit down with his paper.

Daniel crossed his arms, gave a big, theatrical sigh, and clucked his tongue. He spoke to the back of Jack's head. "No, you got it right, I suppose," he admitted in an exaggeratedly patient voice. "I admit it. That was me." He turned around to finish pouring his coffee. "It'd better have been me," he said in a quiet voice, knowing he was likely only talking to himself again. "No one else better be begging you to not stop."

He went over to the table to sit down with Jack. He reached over and poked Jack's arm, making him turn his head to look at Daniel. "But I don't scream," Daniel reminded him. He took a long gulp of his coffee, watching Jack over the rim of his mug.

Jack just cocked his eyebrows at him and gave him a little shrug and a wry grin. "Hmph." Screaming, yelling, whatever Daniel wanted to call it was more than okay with Jack as long as whatever it was continued.

He shoved a bowl and a spoon at Daniel, and then moved the milk, sugar, and cereal over where he could reach it.

Jack sat back in his chair and enjoyed watching Daniel do those simple things-- pouring cereal and milk, dumping too much sugar into his bowl, shoveling Cheerios in his mouth. Behind his glasses, his beautiful blue eyes looked tired, red rimmed and completely happy, all at the same time. They exchanged a look. Jack smiled at him, letting the expression on his face speak his heart. Daniel grinned back, chewing happily, glad to be right where he was. He wouldn't trade his life with anyone in the whole world. He had it all with Jack, and he knew it. Some uninterrupted sleep would be nice, but there were worse ways to go.

Putting down his cereal bowl with a thunk, Daniel reached over to take the front section of the paper away from Jack. Soon Jack had his face back in the comics. For several minutes, they sat in companionable silence, sipping their coffee, eating, and sharing sections of the paper back and forth. It was a beautiful morning, a hot July day, and the sun was streaming in the kitchen windows, beckoning them to come outside, to do work or just for fun, to see what the new day would bring.

Finally Daniel sat back in his chair, stretching his arms up over his head. He watched for a minute as Jack quickly filled in the paper's daily crossword puzzle, using a pen instead of a pencil, as sure of himself as always. Daniel knew that when Jack had made too many mistakes, he would cluck his tongue in disgust, throw down the pen, and leave the crossword puzzle partly done. The man didn't know what a pencil and an eraser were for.

Daniel was just opening his mouth to broach the subject of their agenda for the day when they were both shocked to hear a deafening squeal of a car braking out in the street. The sound made both of their heads snap up. The squeal was followed immediately by the sound of a dull impact, and then utter silence.

Daniel jumped to his feet, Jack right behind him. As they started to leave the kitchen, heading for the front door, they heard the revving of a car engine and then the sound of the vehicle speeding away.

Daniel wrenched open the front door and they both looked outside. They could see a child's bicycle, crumpled in the middle of the street. And just a few feet away, their neighbors' little boy lay quietly on his back, his arms and legs sprawled out, right on Jack's lawn at the edge of the road.

"Jack! My God. It's Andrew." Daniel turned to him, clutching his arm. "I'll go out and see what's up. Call 911. Tell them we need the police and an ambulance. Hurry!" He gave Jack a little push to get him started away from the door. Jack's face was white with shock and he couldn't seem to move his eyes away from the child's still form.

"Jack!" he said again. "Go!" He pulled Jack around until he could look into his eyes. Daniel's voice gentled as he took in the sight of Jack frozen with indecision, something Daniel had seen so rarely, maybe never. "It's okay, Jack. Just go call 911. We can handle this." He pushed at him again. "Go!"

Without a word, Jack took a couple of steps backward, distancing himself from the door and the heartbreaking sight of their neighbor's kid lying so still. He nodded at Daniel and finally turned to go into the kitchen to make the call. His thoughts tumbled through his mind, ' Andrew. Not Andrew. Please. Not like Charlie.' He dialed the emergency number in a numb fog.

Daniel took off down over the porch at a dead run, heedless of his bare feet. He rushed up to the injured boy and found that he was unconscious. At the same moment, the boy's brother Tim skidded up on his bicycle, coming to a halt right beside them. He jumped off his bike, leaving it in a shapeless heap, and threw himself on his brother.

"Andrew!" He was shaking Andrew by the shoulder. "Andrew!" Tim looked up at Daniel, and Daniel quickly knelt down on the other side of Andrew. He started to run his hands over the small body, assessing his condition, wondering about wounds, searching for a reason for his unconsciousness. The only blood he could see was a small trickle from his nose.

Daniel leaned over the boy and patted his face. "Andrew!" Getting no response after a few seconds, he used his knuckles to gently grind them into the child's breastbone. He called out his name again. "Andrew! Are you okay?" There was no response of any kind.

"Daniel!" Tim gasped. He reached across his brother's still form to jostle Daniel's arm for a second. "Do something!"

Daniel was aware of Tim, but for the moment his focus was on the injured boy. He leaned down and placed his ear by Andrew's mouth, searching for signs of breathing. He watched to see if his chest was rising and falling, but it was not. Quickly he held his index and middle fingers to Andrew's carotid artery on his neck, searching for a pulse, and he found none.

Daniel's own heart was in his throat, his mouth dry. His breath came in ragged gasps. He turned to Tim and took the boy by the shoulders. "Run, Timothy, get on your bike. Go get your mom or your dad. Tell them to come here. Tell them that Jack is calling an ambulance, so that's all taken care of." Tim was looking at him in shock. Daniel shook him gently and then released him. "Go! Go! Hurry!"

With a nod, Tim stood up, got on his bike and sped away to his house, just next door to Jack's. Daniel turned his attention back to the injured boy. He noticed that Andrew's lips and face were already turning a dusky blue hue.

Everyone at the SGC had been thoroughly trained in CPR, and the Heimlich Maneuver. Janet had made sure that they were recertified in both every year. All of the SGC personnel had also had extensive training in first aid. Daniel felt confident that he at least knew where to start until help arrived.

He had no idea if the child had a neck or back injury, but he knew that breathing and a heartbeat took precedence over everything else anyhow. He gently moved Andrew's arms and legs until the child was completely on his back. He used his fingers to check his mouth for anything that might be obstructing his airway. Finding nothing, he tipped the child's head back with his left hand. He grabbed his lower jaw with his right, hooking his thumb inside his mouth to gently bring Andrew's jaw and tongue forward, clearing his airway. He lowered his mouth onto Andrew's to start breathing for him.

He blew two breaths into the boy and then felt for a pulse again. There was none, so he started doing chest compressions as he'd been trained, arms straight, using the heels of both hands, one on top of the other, in the center of Andrew's chest, leaning into his arms to use the weight of his whole body to compress Andrew's heart. Daniel had been trained to use too much force if anything, never too little, taught that it was better for the victim to end up with a cracked rib than to have been insufficiently compressed. He mentally counted to fifteen compressions. Then he did two more rescue breaths. He was satisfied to see Andrew's chest rise when he blew into this lungs. That was a good sign.

He was dimly aware that a couple of the neighbors had come out of their houses and were gathered around them. Pausing for a moment, he sat up and pointed at them. "Mrs. Murphy? Mr. Littlefield? Please keep an eye out for traffic, will you? I'll be busy here until the ambulance arrives. Jack has called them."

Without waiting for their answer, Daniel resumed sets of fifteen compressions, alternating with two breaths, over and over. Every minute or so, he checked to see if there was a pulse, but there was none. He was glad to see that Andrew's normal color had returned to his face, so Daniel was pretty sure he must be helping.

He knew this kid. He knew his brother. He knew their parents. He and Jack had baby sat for the boys on occasion. Andrew was eight, his brother ten. They had a dog, a mutt of a Heinz 57 variety named Jack. He and his Jack had "babysat" for that Jack, too. Jack O'Neill thought it was hysterically funny that he and the dog had the same name. Totally appropriate, he said, since dogs were the best people he knew.

The kids came to Jack's house all the time, raiding his fridge, playing with his Sony PlayStation. Jack was teaching them to play chess. Sometimes they came to the door and asked Daniel if Jack could come out and play. Jack had joined their impromptu softball and street hockey games on many occasions, while Daniel sat on the front porch, smiling to himself, pretending to read while in reality he watched Jack's antics with the kids.

These kids were like family to Jack and Daniel. They and their parents were probably the only people outside the SGC who knew about the guys' true relationship. They had been nothing but real friends to Jack and Daniel, supportive and discreet, for months. And now-- Andrew's life was leaking out into the street right in front of Daniel, and he didn't even have time to be horrified.

One of their neighbors, a teen-aged boy from down the street who had happened to be out walking his dog came over to help if he could. He knelt down next to Daniel, watching him. He spoke softly. "Hi. I'm Brian. I live down the street. Is there anything I can do to help?" Daniel turned his head to acknowledge him and gave him a little smile, never interrupting the CPR.

"No, Brian, I don't think so. But if you can stay nearby, I'll give you a holler if I think of anything, okay?" Brian nodded at him, staying by his side, holding onto his dog to keep him away from Andrew.

Dimly aware that the minutes were passing by, Daniel wondered where Jack was. And where were Andrew's parents? He kept doggedly on, well trained enough that he was sure of the process, the rhythm of it seeming natural to him. Fifteen compressions, counted out one by one, then two breaths. After two of those sets, a short pause to check for the pulse, which was never there.

"Come ON, Andrew," he urged quietly. One-two-three-four... Daniel was sweating, the sweat running into his eyes, making his glasses slip down on his nose. He ignored everything but the reality of the injured child in front of him, totally aware that Andrew's young life hung in the balance, and that that balance was completely in Daniel's hands at the moment. God, where the hell was Jack? And where were Barry and Sue? Ten-eleven-twelve...

Finally Andrew's Mom, Sue, came running up, her husband Barry right on her heels. Timothy was there too, standing and watching the adults. He couldn't take his eyes off the still form of his little brother. Their neighbor from across the street, an older lady named Mrs. Murphy, stood with Tim, her arm around his shoulders. Tim's face was a white mask of fear.

Sue knelt down next to Andrew, her eyes taking in his condition, watching Daniel working so hard to save her son. She was crying, tears coursing down her cheeks. She put her hands on Andrew's arm. "Come on, baby, breathe. Help Daniel. Please be okay. Oh, God, don't do this to us." A ragged sob came out of some deep place in her soul. She clung to one of Andrew's hands, unable to tear her eyes away from his still face.

Her husband knelt down beside her, his face grim. He placed his hand on his wife's shoulder. His heart was in his throat. He couldn't tear his eyes away from his son's face.

Daniel continued on, pausing only once to take his glasses off, use the front of his tee shirt to wipe the sweat from his own face and then replace his glasses. He took a couple of seconds to give Sue and Barry a little smile. "Try not to worry, guys. Jack called the ambulance. They'll be here soon." And then he quickly went back to work.

Barry was aware that Daniel had to be really tired. It was unbelievably hot out in the sun, and he could see Daniel sweating with the exertion of the compressions and the anxiety they were all feeling. When Daniel took a break to check for a pulse for what felt like the fiftieth time, he put a hand on his arm. "Daniel. Do you want one of us to take over?"

Daniel glanced at him only briefly with a shake of his head, and then went back to work. Nope. He had to do this. He knew he was probably the best qualified of anyone there. He was strong, well trained, and he could keep this up a lot longer if he had to.

The next time he paused, he looked at Barry even while he was checking for Andrew's pulse. "Barry. Can you go see if Jack is okay? Would you make sure he got through to 911 okay, and see why he hasn't come out?" Without waiting for an answer, he bent over Andrew again. Barry gave his wife a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, and hurried off to Jack's house.

Barry was back in record time. He watched Daniel working over his son for a few moments, then leaned over Daniel and touched his arm, making sure he had his attention. He spoke into his ear. "Jack is on the phone with the 911 operator. They want him to stay on the line until help arrives. Jack said he'd be out as soon as they let him hang up. They're on their way, Daniel." Daniel gave him a curt nod and Barry knew he had been understood.

It wasn't long before the sound of a wailing siren could be heard in the distance. Sue looked up. "Oh, thank God." She and Barry exchanged a relieved look. "Stay with Andrew," she said to Barry. They both stood up. "I'm gonna go see about Tim." Barry nodded to her and moved over to sit where she'd been, grabbing up Andrew's hand.

Sue found Tim in the small gathered crowd, standing with Mrs. Murphy, and went over to him. She put her arms around him. "Help will be here in a minute, Tim. Look, Daniel is working so hard for Andrew. He'll be okay, baby. Don't worry." Tim turned his face into her shoulder and wept silently. "I know you're scared, honey." Tim nodded his head, never lifting it away from his mom's comforting embrace.

Daniel continued on, doing the compressions, doing the breathing, checking for a pulse. He knew the ambulance had to be right in the neighborhood, but he didn't dare stop the rescue, knowing that every second counted. His arms were on fire, and he could barely breathe himself. He was very glad to know that help was almost literally in sight.

The ambulance pulled to a halt just a few feet away from the accident scene. The siren stopped suddenly, filling the air with a complete silence. Daniel continued doing the compressions, never looking up. Seconds later, a young man in an EMT uniform, stethoscope wrapped around his neck, a large medical case in one hand, came to kneel opposite Daniel. His trained eyes immediately took in the small injured victim, Daniel's sweating face, his determined look, the proper compressions being done. He started opening up his medical supply kit. Another EMT strode up and came around behind Daniel to stand over him.

"Sir?" He leaned down to pat Daniel's shoulder. "Sir? You can stop now, we'll take it from here." Daniel continued, barely hearing the man's voice. "Sir?" The EMT pulled at him a little more insistently. "Sir?" He turned to the crowd. "What is this man's name?"

"Daniel," came the chorus. The EMT leaned over Daniel again.

The EMT leaned down to speak right in Daniel's ear. "Daniel! You can stop now!" He pulled Daniel away more forcibly, giving him a small shake. Finally Daniel looked up, his arms collapsing. He looked at the EMT kneeling across from him. The man nodded at him with a small smile and then bent over Andrew. The EMT behind Daniel pulled at him again.

"You did good, Daniel. Can you move away now so I can get in there?"

Daniel nodded. He tried to sit back on his heels. He'd been kneeling on the hard ground for so long, his lower body was a weird combination of numbness, pain, and pins and needles. He rolled back to a sitting position and then scrabbled as best he could sideways to try to get out of the way. The EMT kneeled where he had been moments before, taking over the CPR he had been performing. His partner wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Andrew's arm and then started to get their portable defibrillator opened up and ready to use.

Finally released by the 911 operator when informed that help had arrived, Jack ran out of the house. He was a bundle of pent up energy. Staying in the house and waiting had been the hardest thing he'd done in ages. Everything in him had wanted to be outside, helping if he could, supervising if he could, doing anything but just waiting. His command training had kicked in with a jolt that was not unlike a kick in the guts, and it had been all he could do to be patient with the operator and remain on the phone as she had requested.

Carrying a bottle of water he'd grabbed out of the fridge, he came up to Daniel and hunkered down beside him. Jack's eyes quickly took in the scene, doing the threat assessment that was such a big part of his experience. He could see that Andrew was in the best hands now.

He turned his attention to Daniel. Daniel was sitting hunched over, rubbing at his legs, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He was bathed in his own sweat. Jack could see his tee shirt sticking to him. Jack put the water down. He stripped off his own shirt, kneeled down next to Daniel, and spoke to him.

"Danny. God. Are you all right?" He reached for Daniel's glasses and gently slipped them off him. He took his shirt and wiped at Daniel's face and neck. Daniel put his hand up to help him, rubbing the shirt over his eyes and into his hair as if it were a towel. Jack heard him take a deep breath, which he blew out between his lips. When Daniel was done wiping himself, Jack took his shirt from him. He handed him back his glasses and Daniel put them on.

Jack picked up the bottle of water and showed it to Daniel. "Here. Drink this." Daniel still hadn't said a word, and he was worried about him. He knew that Daniel had kept up that CPR for over twenty minutes, out in the broiling July heat. "Here," he urged him again, uncapping the bottle and pushing it into Daniel's hand. He was relieved to see Daniel tip the bottle up and take a long drink that half emptied the container. Jack pulled his damp tee shirt back on.

Finally Daniel looked at him. Their eyes held for a moment. Jack patted his shoulder for a second. "You did good, Daniel. He'll be okay, huh?" Jack tried to give him a hopeful look, but in reality, he was despairing himself. He and Daniel both really cared for Andrew and Tim. What was happening right on his front lawn was too damned close to what had happened to Charlie so many years before. Both accidents were literally too close to home.

Daniel tried to smile at him, he really did. He knew how worried Jack was, about him and Andrew too. He closed his eyes and put the water bottle to his lips again. He drained it in several big long gulps. The cold water felt great running down into his stomach. It revived him considerably.

"I dunno," he murmured to Jack. He took a big breath. "I hope so." He was thoroughly exhausted.

His eyes moved back to Andrew, to the EMT's. They had opened Andrew's shirt and were preparing to use the difib paddles on him. They placed protective pads on the little chest in the proper places. Daniel turned his eyes away as the first EMT put the paddles over the pads and spoke to his partner. "Set to 200." After that had been done, he heard, "Clear!" and Daniel felt rather than saw Andrew's body jump as the electrical charge burst through him.

Daniel looked back and saw them try to find a pulse. The EMT shook his head. "Set to 400." After an adjustment, he heard, "Clear!" again and this time he continued to watch as there was another jump from Andrew. When he checked again, the EMT found a pulse. He pulled his stethoscope off his neck and hurriedly listened to Andrew's heart. "I have a pulse," he announced. A murmur went up from the crowd.

Daniel felt tears well up in his eyes. Thank God. He brought his knees up to his chest, wrapped his arms around them, and lowered his forehead onto his arms. Jack rubbed at the small of his back in little firm circles, trying to reassure him.

As the others gathered around watched, they were thrilled to see the child take a breath on his own, shifting around a little and groaning. A sweeter sound had never been heard by any of the onlookers.

"He's breathing," Jack murmured to Daniel. "Look."

Daniel lifted his head to look over at Andrew. He and Jack exchanged a relieved look.

Barry, Sue, and Tim clung to each other and cried. A couple of groups of neighbors had gathered now, one around Andrew's family and one around Daniel and Jack. Many different hands were reaching out to pat Daniel's shoulders.

Another siren could be heard in the near distance, and within seconds a Colorado Springs police car arrived. Two officers came over, taking control of the crowd, moving people back. They talked to Barry and Sue quietly. Jack noticed Sue pointing at Daniel, obviously telling the cops what had happened as best as she knew. She was still crying, in total shock, but trying to be helpful.

One of the EMTs started an IV on Andrew. The other one got a backboard and cervical collar out of the back of the ambulance. Together, they put the cervical collar around Andrew's neck to protect his spine and then they carefully rolled him onto the backboard. Andrew's parents and brother gathered around, talking to the emergency crew about transportation to the hospital. It was decided that Sue would ride in the back of the ambulance with her son while Barry and Tim followed with the family car.

Daniel and Jack stood up, brushing the grime from the street from their sweatpants. Daniel's knees felt unsteady and he reached out a hand to Jack's arm for support. Jack looked into his face. "You okay?" Daniel nodded, but Jack wasn't so sure.

One of the police officers came up to them. "Is one of you Daniel Jackson?" he asked.

Daniel lifted his hand and gave him a weary smile. "That's me."

The officer shook his hand. "Well, I've been told that you saved that boy's life, sir. Just wanted to say thanks. I have kids, and I wanna tell you. If more people were more prepared for an emergency and more willing to help out like what you did here today, my job would be a lot easier. And a lot happier. You are a hero, Mr. Jackson. And I don't mind telling you that." He smiled at Daniel.

Daniel shrugged with a shy smile and lowered his eyes. "Just doing what I've been trained to do. It wasn't so hard." He looked back up at the officer. "Do you think he'll be all right?"

The officer glanced over at where Andrew and his mom were being loaded into the ambulance. "I hope so. I've seen these things go either way. My partner and I are just here to make sure traffic is controlled and to see if anyone knows anything about the person who did this and just drove off."

He included Jack in his gaze and looked between him and Daniel. "Did either of you see anything that could help us?"

Daniel shook his head. Jack said, "No. We were in my house." He indicated his house with a wave of his hand. "Heard the screech of the brakes and heard whoever it was drive away. Don't know anything, really. I wish I did, I'd like to get a hold of that guy myself," he said grimly.

The police officer looked sympathetic. "We're questioning everyone. I think the kid's brother might have seen something."

Suddenly Daniel remembered Brian, the teen-ager who had been walking his dog. He looked around, and saw him still standing in the crowd. He pointed at him, and told the officer, "The kid with the dog. He was out here in the street from the beginning. He might have seen something."

With a nod, the police officer said, "Good. We'll make sure to ask him what he saw. Meanwhile, here's my card. If you think of anything that might help, please call, night or day." He handed Jack and Daniel each a business card and then turned to go talk to his partner.

The ambulance backed up and turned around in the driveway of a neighbor's house across the street and everyone watched as it hurried away, lights flashing.

Barry and Tim hurried over to talk to Daniel and Jack. Barry stretched his hand out to shake Daniel's hand. Neither man smiled. It was a tough moment for both. Impulsively, Barry put his left arm around Daniel's neck and hugged him close for a second. Pulling back, he looked away, fighting back tears, still hanging onto Daniel's hand.

"Daniel." He swallowed and then looked into Daniel's face. "I can never thank you enough for what you did. Tim and I are going to the hospital now. They're taking him to Memorial Hospital over on East Boulder. We'll call you as soon as we know something, okay?" He released Daniel's hand.

"All right, Barry," Daniel said quietly. He wrapped his arms around his own waist. "I hope everything goes well for Andrew. Jack and I- " he hesitated, a sudden lump filling his throat. Jack stepped over close to Daniel, seeing him struggle with tears.

Jack looked at Barry. "We love your kids, Barry. You know that. We'd do anything for them. We'll keep a good thought for all of you today. We don't want to intrude and come to the hospital before Andrew's awake. But please call when you know anything. We'd appreciate it."

Jack glanced at Daniel. "I'm going to take Daniel home. I think he's beat." He reached to shake Barry's hand. Barry looked at Daniel again and gave Jack a little nod of agreement. Daniel did look very tired, probably as much from the emotional upheaval as from the actual rescue.

Barry was very anxious to get on their way to the hospital, so with his arm around Tim, they started to hurry away. After only a few steps, Tim turned and looked back at Daniel. Quickly he left his dad and returned to Daniel's side. He threw his arms around his waist. Daniel returned the hug, exhausted and speechless, overcome with the events of the last few minutes.

"Thanks, Daniel. You saved my brother." Tim released Daniel and then looked up at him. He could see Daniel start to shake his head. "Yes, you did. You did." Tim looked over at Jack. "Didn't he, Jack?"

Jack stepped over to Tim and tousled the boy's hair, giving him a little smile. Looking at Daniel, Jack agreed. "He did, Tim. We're all real proud of him." Daniel lowered his chin, thoroughly embarrassed, but he was able to smile. Jack leaned down and spoke into Tim's ear. He pointed at Barry. "You better get going, Tim. Your dad is waiting for you."

Tim loped back to his dad. With a final nod and wave, Barry and Tim walked away to head for home and get their car. Out in the street, Barry picked up Andrew's crumpled bicycle and carried it along with them as they walked. Slowly all the neighbors started to return to their homes, the urgency of the situation under control for the moment.

Jack turned to Daniel, who was swaying on his feet. He bent down to pick up the discarded water bottle, and then took hold of Daniel's elbow to propel him towards the house. "C'mon, Daniel. Let's get you inside."

The house felt cool when they came in. After the heat from the street, it was a welcome relief. It was nice to be out of the bright sunshine, too. Daniel headed to the kitchen and immediately got another bottle of water out of the refrigerator. He leaned his butt against the counter and swallowed the contents of the whole bottle in several long gulps. Jack saw his closed look, obviously lost in his own thoughts.

Jack wanted to give him a little space, so he went to the table and started putting the newspaper back together. He gathered up their breakfast dishes and their mugs that were still half full with cold coffee and turned to go put them in the sink. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Daniel standing quietly. Jack turned his head to look at him directly. He put the dishes down again, meeting Daniel's eyes.

"Jack?"

One little word, combined with the look on Daniel's face, and Jack hurried right over to him. In one fluid motion, Daniel took off his glasses and laid them on the counter, slipped his arms around Jack's waist and pushed his face into Jack's neck. They clung to each other.

Daniel was trembling, Jack didn't know from fatigue or released emotion or both. "Shhh," Jack said into his ear. "Andrew will be okay, Daniel. You'll see. He'll be over here eating us out of house and home again and messing with all our stuff before you know it. Shhh." Daniel nodded and hugged him even harder.

Jack was pretty upset too. He had a soft spot for kids, anyone's kids, that was almost bottomless. He loved the noise and constant activity that Andrew and Tim had brought in to his home. As he held Daniel, he said a silent prayer to whatever god might be listening that Andrew and his family would be okay. He buried his face in Daniel's shoulder. Thank God too, while he was at it, that he and Daniel had each other.

Gradually over the space of a few minutes, both of them calmed down somewhat. Daniel stirred, putting his lips on Jack's neck and nuzzling him. "Love you so much, Jack."

Jack's answering rumble of laughter, deep in his chest, said it all. "Oh," he murmured in his ear. He tightened his arms around him. "I know. I love you, too. What would we do without each other?"

Daniel pulled back to kiss him. He rubbed his nose on the stubble on Jack's cheek. "Never want to find out," he murmured. "Never." He looked into Jack's eyes again. "Hey. You know that thing you teased me about before. About me screaming?"

Jack smiled and slipped his hands down to Daniel's ass, pressing their groins together. "Yeah. Yelling. Yeah."

"Well, I need to take a shower. And I was thinking."

"Oooo, what a surprise. A shower and thinking."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Shut up, you." With a little grin, he moved in to kiss him again, pushing at Jack with his hips. He was rewarded with a little hum of delight from Jack.

Jack pulled back for a second, just long enough to murmur, "Shutting up now," as he clamped his lips back onto Daniel's, looking for more. He cupped Daniel's ass in a possessive grip. They kissed for a while, thinking about anything else completely forgotten.

Finally Daniel stepped back. With a knowing smile, he took Jack by the hand and started pulling him out of the room. "Come shower with me," he invited over his shoulder. "I wanna see about that screaming/yelling question. See which it is."

Jack looked into his eyes, seeing that Daniel needed to reconnect, put the horror of the last hour behind for a while, and just delight in being alive. He happily followed him.

When Daniel woke up, he squinted at the clock over on Jack's side of the bed. 3:23. The afternoon sun was trying to work its way through the slats of the window blinds. He reached for his glasses, put them on, and looked around the room. No Jack. He lifted up the blankets and looked down at himself. No clothes. It was cool in the room, the air conditioning keeping things comfortable.

With a sigh, Daniel dropped his head back into his pillow and then rolled onto his side. He knew he should get up, get dressed, and go see if there was news about Andrew. Lying there with his eyes shut, he mentally reviewed everything he'd done out in the street earlier and couldn't think of anything he would have done differently. He hoped Andrew would be all right. He felt sure he'd done everything he could for him.

He remembered that the phone had rung while he was sleeping. And it seemed like he remembered hearing the doorbell ring too. In his exhaustion, he had slept for almost four hours, right straight through anything else that might have happened, letting Jack handle whatever came up.

Jack had been there at first, right after their shower. Jack had held him, kissing his hair, whispering about getting some sleep, everything would be okay, don't worry. But he had no memory of Jack getting up, taking care of the phone, answering the door, or anything else. Watching his six, as always.

Daniel threw back the covers and got to his feet. Pulling open dresser drawers, he got out some khaki shorts and one of Jack's old Air Force tee shirts and pulled them on. He went out into the hall to find Jack.

"Jack?" he called out as he approached the other end of the house.

"In here," Jack said. Daniel found him in the kitchen, dressed in dark jeans and black tee shirt, his dog tags dangling outside his shirt. He was just getting out some mugs to pour coffee. He smiled at Daniel. "Hey, look at you. You look better. Sleep okay?"

Daniel gave him a quick kiss. "Yeah, I feel better. But did I hear the phone and the doorbell?"

Jack pointed him over to the table. "Here. Sit down.

"Yeah, the phone rang a little while ago. It was Sue telling me they didn't know much yet. I would have come and wakened you if I'd found out anything.

"And look at what Mrs. Murphy from across the street brought over for you." He slid a Tupperware container over to him, leaving Daniel to open it up and explore its contents. Jack went over to pour them some coffee.

"Ummm,"Daniel exclaimed. When Jack looked back at him, Daniel was jamming a chocolate walnut cookie in his mouth, eating the whole thing in two bites. "Ummm."

Jack laughed. "I know, huh? Your favorite." He watched Daniel start on a second cookie. "Hey, Daniel. Life is short. Have dessert first," he teased.

" She had a message for you, by the way. She wanted to talk to you personally, but I told her you were sleeping."

Jack brought the coffee over to the table and sat down with Daniel. Daniel was busy shoving cookie number three into his mouth, but he lifted his eyebrows at Jack as he reached for his coffee, wondering what the message was.

"She said, 'tell Daniel he is a hero. He was magnificent'." Jack smiled at him, thoroughly enjoying embarrassing him.

Daniel cackled around the cookie in his mouth, trying not to choke. This was too much. Magnificent?

"Yeah," Jack said. "Magnificent. That was her word." Jack reached over and rubbed Daniel's forearm. He cocked his head at Daniel, looking him over. "Mine, too, you know. That word says it all."

Daniel sat back in his chair, a little smile playing around his mouth, the love in his eyes shining out at Jack. He wasn't accustomed to mushy Jack with his cookies, but the combination was working for him.

"And I'm also supposed to tell you that these cookies are all for you," Jack continued, pointing at the plastic container they were in, "and you're not supposed to share them with me."

Daniel smirked at him. "Well." He reached for a fourth cookie. "What if I wanna share them with you?"

Jack perked up, his eyes going to the cookies. "That'd be okay with me. And I won't tell," he promised.

Daniel shoved the box at him. "For the man who makes me scream. I won't tell either."

Jack actually blushed, making Daniel snicker. "Oh. So it IS screaming, huh? So is this payment?" Jack asked. Not waiting for an answer, he helped himself to Daniel's stash, before he could change his mind.

Daniel just grinned at him and shrugged. Sure. Whatever.

They sipped their coffee and ate a couple more cookies.

The phone rang. Both of them looked up. Jack got up to answer, dying to know what was happening but scared of what they might be told.

"O'Neill. Yeah, Sue, what's up?" Daniel watched Jack's face. Jack was silent while he listened. He put a hand up to his forehead and rubbed wearily at his eyes. Daniel heard him let out a long breath. He dropped his hand and looked across the room at Daniel, meeting his eyes. A big smile broke Jack's face in two, and he gave Daniel the thumbs up signal. He was glad to see Daniel's tense face relax at what was obviously good news. Daniel stood up and came to stand in front of Jack, his eyes searching his face.

Jack's eyes were far away as he spoke into the phone. "Oh, God. That is great news. Thank God." He listened again. "Tonight? Until eight? Yeah. Sure. I'll pack him up," Jack smiled at Daniel. "And we'll both be over to see Andrew." Jack shifted from foot to foot, all keyed up energy. "Okay. Right. I know. Sure, of course I'll tell him. And Sue? Thanks so much for calling. Bye."

Jack hung up. He put a hand on Daniel's shoulder, giving him a squeeze. "He's gonna be okay. The doctors think he'll be just fine. Lots of bruises and scrapes. A broken nose, of all things. He was knocked down pretty hard. But no long-term problems, they're saying. I told Sue we'd be over after dinner to see him." He took a big breath and ran his hand back and forth in his hair.

Daniel had tears in his eyes, but he was smiling. He grabbed Jack and hugged him. "The kid scared the shit outta all of us, huh?" He moved back, keeping his hands on Jack's waist and they exchanged a look.

Jack nodded. For sure. He looked into the sky blue eyes he loved so much, putting the palm of one hand on Daniel's cheek. "Yeah, and guess what? Sue just used the same word as Mrs. Murphy did, a minute ago on the phone with me. Hero. You are, you know. A hero. There is no other word for it. You saw what had to be done, and you did it, Danny."

Daniel blushed and ducked his chin. "Oh, stop," he said to Jack's shirt. "This is so embarrassing. I'm just glad we were there to help, and that the accident didn't happen at some time when we weren't home." He thunked his forehead into Jack's shoulder.

Jack knew that Daniel would always underplay his importance of his role in the events of the day. The fact was that one little boy was still alive because of his training, quick thinking and God's grace. But Jack decided that he'd probably been sappy enough, and had embarrassed Daniel enough for one day, so he changed the subject.

"Hey." He put his fingers under Daniel's chin and lifted his face so he could look into his eyes. "Let's get some decent clothes on. I'll take you out to dinner, and then we'll go over to the hospital to see that little friend of ours."

Daniel nodded. "But no more hero talk today, okay?" Jack just looked at him, so he repeated, "Okay? Promise me, Jack, or you can go out to dinner alone!"

"Okay. Okay. Sheesh. But no promises about Monday. I have to tell everyone in the SGC all about it when we go back to work." Jack waggled his eyebrows at him, daring him to contradict him.

Daniel just rolled his eyes, knowing for sure he had no control over who Jack told what. He wasn't going to touch that one. With a smile, he patted Jack's chest and they went to get changed.

A JANUARY SATURDAY - SIX MONTHS LATER

Normally any Saturday they had off was a busy day, with lots of errands and shopping and chores to get done at the loft and Jack's house. But when they'd driven into the driveway at the house the night before, Daniel pulling his Subaru in next to Jack's truck, the skies had opened and sheets of thick snow had begun to fall. By the time they'd gone to bed, there was at least six inches on the ground.

Saturday morning had found about a foot of snow in the yard. Over breakfast, Jack and Daniel had talked it over and decided to take a mental health day and really rest. The roads were passable, but it would be a real hassle to go out, and both of them, just coming off SG-1's last hard mission, were glad to have an excuse to stay home.

It was unusual for their area to have such heavy snow. The local TV stations had suspended normal programming to chat endlessly about traffic snarl ups, cancellation of activities, emergency procedures and even the beauty of the huge piles of the white beast.

Daniel was standing at the kitchen window, watching the snow swirl in eddies around the edges of the house, piling up in drifts against the walls, blowing in the wind at the base of the large shrubs lining Jack's back lawn. "Wow, Jack, come and look at the snow."

Jack got up from the kitchen table and came up behind Daniel to look out the window over his shoulder. After a quick look, he put his arms around Daniel's waist and lowered his face to nuzzle the soft place at the base of Daniel's neck.

"Shower with me?" he murmured into Daniel's ear. "Afterwards, we can get comfy and snuggle in the bed and read and stuff."

Leaning his weight back against Jack, Daniel snickered. "Okay. Reading and stuff with you sounds good."

And so after their shower they spent the next few hours in bed, getting up only to use the bathroom and to get lunch, snacks, and drinks. All food and beverage found its way back to the bed, where they curled up under the comforter together. They shared whatever they'd found to eat, feeding each other, oblivious to any errant crumbs, and having a laugh. Some reading did get done, since Jack had his latest "Car and Driver" and "National Geographic" magazines to look over. Daniel had the new John Grisham novel he was working through, as well as the current issue of "Archaeology" magazine to peruse.

It felt good to languish in the rich luxury of free time, the relaxing hours of the snowy afternoon spread out around them. Well fed, satiated by shared intimacy, they enjoyed just being together. When one wanted the other, magazines and book fell to the floor beside the bed, forgotten, as they reacquainted themselves with the look, feel and taste of each other's faces and bodies. Long, slow kisses led to passion at times, and at other moments they found themselves dozing in each other's arms, the warm comforter pulled up under their chins. The afternoon wore on in a haze of loving hibernation.

As the room grew dark in the late afternoon, Jack rolled over on top of Daniel one last time. Dark brown eyes gazed down into blue. Jack held Daniel's face in his hands, loving the feeling of their naked bodies, of Daniel's arms and legs wrapped around him. He wished again that he had the power of language that Daniel had, so that he could find some new way to convey his love to this man who was his heart.

Daniel, on the other hand, for all his linguistic skill, often found himself speechless and inarticulate when he and Jack were together. The look in Jack's eyes, all for him, was something that Daniel understood on every level. Mere words, for all their power, could never convey the depth of their love for each other.

"I love you, Daniel Jackson," Jack whispered, not for the first time that day.

Daniel lifted his head to capture Jack's lips, running his hands down his back. He caressed the back of Jack's legs with his feet. The easy familiarity between them warmed him to the core of his soul.

"Mmm," he murmured at last. "Me too, Jack."

Jack tilted his head back and looked at him again. Daniel had his eyes closed, a look of contentment on his face. "You love you too?" Jack teased quietly, lowering his mouth onto Daniel's, placing little kisses all around his lips. He'd known full well that those words would end the sappy moment they had been enjoying.

Daniel's eyes snapped open. He snorted. He started to push Jack back to get him off him, wriggling around in a delicious way that just made Jack more determined to hang on to him. "No, dummy. You. I love YOU," he growled.

Jack wouldn't be budged. He wasn't done kissing. Daniel gave up trying to get away and got very still, allowing Jack to continue, "Good. Right answer. And who ya callin' a dummy? I picked you, didn't I? Pretty damned smart of me, I think." As he spoke, he concentrated on kissing first one side of Daniel's mouth and then the other, rubbing noses as he switched from Daniel's right to his left and back again. Was there any part of Daniel he didn't like touching with any part of himself? Jack thought not.

"Smartest thing you ever did. For sure," Daniel laughed softly. He pushed at Jack's shoulders, starting the wriggling thing again. "But you weigh a ton. Oof. I can't breathe. Have you gained weight recently?"

That got Jack's eyes snapped open. Quickly he moved his hands to Daniel's sides, digging his knees and elbows into the bed in an attempt to hold him down, and proceeded to tickle him. Daniel howled, and Jack allowed himself to be pushed off onto his side. Then Daniel rolled over away from him, falling out of his side of the bed in one smooth motion. Jack was killing himself laughing. Daniel stood beside the bed, hands on his hips, glaring at Jack and trying not to smile. "You don't play fair, Jack. It wasn't my fault you were squashing me."

Jack lunged for him, missing him by a mile, since Daniel quickly stepped back to dodge him. Jack scrambled out of the bed and immediately Daniel allowed himself to be caught. No fun being chased, and getting caught was much better. They put their arms around each other. Jack lowered his head to snuffle in Daniel's neck.

"Um. You smell so sexy. Sorta nice and funky. Um." He bit gently at the soft skin at the base of Daniel's neck.

"Sex machine."

"Takes one to know one, "Jack agreed. Now he was licking where he'd bitten, Daniel arching his head up to give him better access.

"Mine."

"Un-uh. Mine."

"I said it first," Daniel reminded him.

"Um. Okay. Let's eat. I'm starved." Jack was still working on Daniel's neck and shoulder. "Let's shower again first, though. You really are funky," he informed him good-naturedly, going around to kiss and nip the other side of Daniel's neck. "I'll bet I am too."

"Hey, Jack?"

"Yeah, baby?" Jack was showering little kisses in the region of Daniel's ear, working down along his jaw line.

"Don't call me baby," Daniel suggested half-heartedly. The way Jack was working on his neck, he thought Jack could call him any damned thing he wanted, actually.

"Can't help it. Um. So sweet." He tilted his head back to look into Daniel's eyes again. "Don'tcha wanna be my baby?" he teased with a happy smile. He knew full well he wasn't supposed to use that particular B word.

Daniel lifted his eyebrows and gave him a tiny shrug. He finally nodded with a wry grin and a small cock of his head. "Yeah. I suppose. Just don't say it out loud." He loved seeing Jack so content. "C'mon, let's go shower. And eat." He looked Jack over for a moment and then started walking towards the bathroom. "Baby," he threw over his shoulder.

This time he allowed Jack to chase him.

Clean again and dressed in their sweats, they brought their beer and the pizza they'd had delivered into the former guest room, now their TV room. It had become their favorite place to hang out.

Jack had been thrilled with the idea when Daniel suggested the room be converted. He had bowed to Daniel's good taste when the plans had been drawn up. Daniel had an unfailing eye for color and design, and Jack just liked comfort and convenience, so between the two of them they'd come up with a winner.

The room had been redecorated under Daniel's watchful eye with a large flat screen TV and all the other electronic gizmos two single guys with healthy salaries could manage to bring home from Circuit City. The room also had a big, deep couch, a LaZBoy recliner, and a huge entertainment center with bookshelves. A computer on its own small desk was wedged into one corner.

Secretly, Jack always thought that when Daniel was ensconced there, the room's beauty was complete. Daniel in his house was all he really needed. A thirty-six inch flat screen TV situated in front of a LaZBoy was just gravy. The proverbial frosting on the proverbial cake.

They curled up on opposite ends of the couch, the pizza boxes on the coffee table in front of them. As always, there were two boxes. One held Daniel's ham and pineapple Hawaiian pizza, which Jack would never touch, and the other held Jack's sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and extra cheese pizza, which Daniel said was a heart attack waiting to happen, and which he would never touch.

Jack opened the pizza boxes, gave Daniel a couple of napkins, and grabbed his beer. Popping open the can of Coors, he pointed with one finger at the remote control. "Stick the TV on, will ya? It's time for the news."

Daniel switched the TV on to the local affiliate in the Springs. He popped open his Heineken and took a couple of swallows. He grabbed a piece of his Hawaiian pizza and took a big bite.

"They're still talking about the stupid snow," he groused, his mouth full. The grousing was phony. They'd had a great time all day because of the snow and neither of them would be complaining about it now.

Jack just nodded, settling back on the sofa, and started shoveling a huge piece of his pizza into his mouth. Did life get any better than this? He was warm and comfortable, he had Daniel alongside him, he had his favorite pizza and beer, and there was no place he had to be. Just great. They could talk about the damned snow on TV all night if they wanted. As long as he didn't have to go out in it, the whole world could skid to a stop as far as he was concerned.

Each of them ate three pieces of pizza in a matter of minutes. Comfortably full for the moment, Daniel took a breather. He moved sideways to stretch his long legs out along the couch. He nudged his toes under Jack's legs, taking his attention off the TV. Jack turned his head and looked at him. He looked down at Daniel's feet and rubbed at his ankle with one hand.

"Happy, Jack?" Daniel's blue eyes radiated his own happiness. He felt like a big old comfortable bear enjoying some kind of break in his winter doze.

"You bet I am," Jack said. He smiled at Daniel. "And I'd come over there and show you how happy I am, but you have worn this old man down to a frazzle. Don't ask me to move for the next two hours." He gave Daniel's foot a last squeeze.

Daniel laughed low in his throat. "Deal." He reached for another slice of pizza.

The news was as they predicted, almost totally about the snowstorm. At close to 7PM, Daniel went to shut off the TV with the remote. Just as he was about to hit the button, the TV announcer abruptly changed the subject. "And coming up after this break, a special story about some local citizens who will be receiving the first annual Colorado Springs Fire Department citation for using CPR in an emergency. Back after these messages."

Daniel slouched back with a groan. "Oh, no. I never thought that would get on TV."

Jack just grinned at him. "Live with it, Hero. You were the Man of the Hour back in July, and your past has come back to haunt you."

Daniel shook his head. "But on TV, Jack? Sheesh." He fidgeted, waiting for the story to come on, trying to ignore Jack's teasing, self-satisfied smirk.

After an interminable number of commercials, the talking head newsperson started the brief report. "On Monday, five Colorado Springs citizens who within the past year stepped forward during difficult and frightening circumstances to perform emergency CPR will be honored by the Colorado Springs Fire Department." She went on to briefly describe each emergency scenario, including Daniel's rescue of Andrew. "The public is welcome to attend this recognition of our unsung heroes. The ceremony will be held at eleven AM at city hall." While she talked, pictures of the five recipients were flashed on the screen behind her head. Daniel was shown last.

Daniel groaned again, sliding down in his seat and closing his eyes. "Ohhh...the public? Ohhh. Bad enough with Andrew and his family, most of our neighbors, and then Hammond and Sam and Teal'c and you and Janet and Cassie all being there. Ohhh." He put his hands over his face.

Jack laughed, standing up and going over to take the remote away from Daniel. He reached around and switched off the TV. Daniel uncovered his eyes. In the sudden silence, Jack stood and looked down at him. He bent down and touched his lips to Daniel's. Daniel's arms went around his neck and he kissed him back.

"Thought you weren't moving for two hours," Daniel reminded him softly. They smiled into each other's eyes.

"My hero," Jack murmured. He quickly came to a decision. "Hey, Daniel?"

"Hmmm?"

"I've got something to give you."

Daniel sat up a little, dropping his arms from around Jack. He loved gifts. "Yeah? Now?"

Jack snickered at him. "Yeah, now. You are worse than a kid," he teased him with a gentle poke in the shoulder. "Wait here." He straightened up and loped out of the room to go get the gift from their bedroom.

When he came back into the TV room, he had a small black velvet box, about four inches square, in his hand. Daniel's intelligent eyes never missed details of any kind, but this was especially fascinating. A surprise gift from Jack? Jack could see him wondering and thinking, two favorite Jackson activities.

Jack plopped down beside him on the couch. He cleared his throat. A couple of heartbeats went by. Finally Daniel nudged him with his shoulder. "C'mon, big guy," he said softly. "What's up with you now? It's just me. You getting shy or something? That'd be a new one." Daniel was dying of curiosity, but he knew Jack had to do whatever it was he was waiting to do in his own time and in his own way.

Slowly Jack twisted around in his seat, bringing one leg up under himself so he could face Daniel. He played with the small box while he spoke softly. "We've only been together like this for just a little less than a year." He looked up into Daniel's face. "It was a big step, for both of us, huh? Deciding to be more than just friends. Best decision I think I ever made, though."

Daniel nodded in agreement, wondering where this was going. No argument there.

Jack took a deep breath. "I've never let anyone into the inside of me like I have you. No, not even Sara," he answered the unspoken question in Daniel's eyes.

"You see, I'm older and hopefully wiser now. I have learned the hard way to get real with the person I love. To stop hiding behind all that colonel, Air Force, hardass stuff." He signed again and gave Daniel a little smile. "So I got you something."

Daniel waited quietly. He knew verbalizing feelings was not Jack's strong suit. When he thought about it, he could still remember the rush of emotion between them when Jack had first used the "L" word with Daniel. That had been a big step, the first of many. Daniel sensed this might be another one. Another O'Neill wall coming down.

Jack flipped open the little box and reached inside to pull out a long gold chain from which a medallion dangled. He held it up for Daniel to see, putting the box to one side. Daniel reached out to cup the medal in one hand, turning it around so he could examine it. "A medal?" he asked. "Who is this?"

"It's Saint Jude," Jack told him. He lowered the necklace to his lap and then used one hand to cup Daniel's chin, turning his face towards him so they could look into each other's eyes. "Look at me for a minute, Danny. I want you to try to really understand why I bought this for you." He saw Daniel open his mouth to answer him. Jack held up a warning finger. "Uh! Uh! No. Wait a sec. Just give me a minute to explain."

Daniel nodded. Jack's eyes went back to his lap for moment, as he turned the medal in his fingers. Then he looked back at Daniel's earnest face.

He touched Daniel's cheek, an almost reverent expression on his face. "You know, I've always been the big show off with the medals all over my uniform and out in the living room in the frames. Uncle Sam made sure to give me a medal for every damned thing I ever did for him, and they are right out there for everyone to see." He took a breath and plunged on. "But it struck me a couple of months ago, when we found out about the fire department giving you that commendation -- you don't have any medals. And I thought maybe it was time you did."

Daniel didn't look convinced. Jack was sure he was just confusing him. He wanted so badly to make Daniel understand.

"Well, see, I just need you to know something. When you rescued Andrew last summer, I saw you in a new light. I don't know why it never occurred to me before. But you are my hero, Daniel. You always have been, right from the first Abydos mission. You threw yourself in front of that staff blast and saved my life. And you've been right there for me ever since. I look up to you, Daniel. I need you. All the time. Everywhere. Here," he pointed at his own heart, "Or out there in the galaxy." He pointed at the ceiling. "Everywhere."

Daniel was quiet, smiling his sweet Danny smile at him, so Jack took another deep breath. "So I went ahead and bought you this medal. I hope you will get used to wearing it. I'd like you to wear it all the time, if you will. From me, to you." He held it up between them.

Daniel examined it again. The chain was shiny gold, of a medium weight rope design. The medal was heavy, round, an engraving of a man in a robe holding an icon of some sort in the middle. Around the raised outer edge of the medal were the words, "St. Jude the Apostle" at the top and, "Pray for Us" along the lower edge.

"This is Catholic, Jack?" Daniel asked softly. "You know I don't-"

"I know," Jack interrupted him. But I do. Sort of." Daniel looked up at him. "I don't talk to the Big Guy Upstairs very often. You know that. But having some extra help watching your six is a good thing in my book." He paused. "Saint Jude is the patron saint of the impossible or difficult situation. He's a reminder to persevere when something hard is happening or when you find yourself in a really tight spot. Will you wear the medal, Daniel? For me?"

Jack leaned forward to kiss him, a soft, chaste kiss. He sat back to look into Daniel's eyes. "Know anyone around here who gets into impossible situations sometimes?"

That made Daniel smile. "It's a beautiful medal, Jack, and I'd be honored to wear it." He took it away from Jack and slipped the long chain over his own head. He looked down at it as it lay on his chest.

Jack leaned forward and tucked the necklace inside Daniel's tee shirt, using his other hand to pat it into place over Daniel's heart. He reached over and pulled Daniel into a tight hug. "I love you so much, Danny. My hero."

"Jack-- " Daniel said in a warning tone. But then Jack heard him giggle. Jack knew he understood.

~~Finis~~
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