A Slip of Metal by Lady Grey
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Category: Jack/Daniel, Jack/Other Male, Daniel/Other Male
Genres: Angst, Drama, First Time, Romance
Rated: Adult
Warnings: Adult Themes, Character Death
Series: None
Summary: Relations with an alien race lead Jack and Daniel to explore a deeper side to their relationship. Jack has trouble dealing with the aftermath, resulting in a long separation for the men. Years later, they are brought together again by these same aliens and discover in each other the soulmate each believed they had lost forever.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
Warnings: Graphic sex. Multiple partners. Minor character death.
"We haven't done so well demonstrating to our Jinn allies that we're a species worth saving," General Hammond intoned unhappily, glancing over the reports on the briefing table before him. Paper after paper described incidents where the aliens made polite 'observations' about human prejudices, violence and bad manners. "Suffice it to say that these people have been exceedingly generous with us over the past year. They welcomed us with open arms when we came through their newly discovered Stargate but once they got a good look at our world and all its problems, they started to question whether or not helping us against the Goa'uld was a good idea."

"As have we questioned others we have discovered in our travels," Teal'c agreed. "Like the Kelownans."

"We've worked really hard to garner the Jinn's approval on a lot of fronts, sir," Daniel added, "but there's not a lot we can do about changing human nature."

Jack looked down at his tablet and the doodles he'd scrawled all over it.

" 'Course, it also doesn't help when one of our strapping young military types decks one of their guys for making a pass at him."

Hammond sighed. "They were understandably unhappy to discover our stance against homosexuality but our population breakdown is vastly different from theirs," the general returned thoughtfully. He'd read the reports on Jinn society brought back by SG-3 after first contact and some of their practices made perfect sense for the aliens.

"It is a necessity for the Jinn," Teal'c reminded them evenly, "if they are to continue as a species."

"If things were different for the Jinn, their attitudes might be, as well. As it is, they've been unhappy with us on so many fronts that continued relations with them are pretty shaky as it is. One more incident might well be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I'm certainly not advocating doing whatever they want but we should keep an eye toward the ultimate goal with every interaction from now on."

Major Paul Davis nodded in agreement. "Relations with these aliens hold great promise in our war against the Goa'uld. With their technology and space travel capabilities they could certainly make the difference between the survival of the human race and annihilation. We need to make sure we watch our step with these people."

"That does not, however, include breaking military regs to get us there," Hammond added. "They have agreed to abide by our... sexual preferences so a polite refusal is all that's necessary if one of their men should approach one of ours."

Jack frowned. "See, that's something I just don't understand. They have women, just not many of 'em. And apparently, they're all okay with--" He hesitated, searching for the word, hands scooping the air. "Polyandry," Daniel supplied instantly.

"That. Yeah. One wife and a houseful of husbands. So, while it could understandably make things... tough for the womenfolk, why go the other direction?"

Daniel eyed him with an impatient look. "Women make up a mere twenty percent of their population, Jack. With four husbands each, the women would never get any sleep. They don't exactly have a choice. If they, as a race, expect to find sexual fulfillment they're going to have to look at other options and that's exactly what they've done. Homosexuality doesn't carry the same kind of stigma with them as it does for us. It's a necessary way of life."

"Theirs is also a matriarchal society," observed Teal'c, "which may be why they have had such an extended reign of peace. It is unfortunate that the scarcity of females also makes them a precious resource..." he paused, one eyebrow arching, "...which is never left unguarded."

"Makes life very restricted for Jinn women," Major Davis added. He smiled, shaking his head. "It's hard to believe it took an act of their congress to allow one of them to leave the planet."

"Kamashanti is one of their most skilled administrators, an ideal choice to run their Stargate program," General Hammond pointed out. "She's made suggestions for streamlining the way we do things that could save us money, time and labor. I feel fortunate they agreed to let her come. I mean, she's supposed to be in training here, learning how we run this program so they can get their own off the ground but she's also been helping us become more efficient. Damn nice about it, too."

He checked his watch. "Dr. Jackson, you'll be meeting with Kamashanti in about half an hour to discuss the academics section, correct?"

Daniel glanced at his chronometer. "Yes, sir. We've already had several sessions to discuss the importance of Earth history to what we've found out there in our own travels. I plan to get into setting up a teaching program for Jinn universities next and how our worlds might disseminate the information we both acquire."

"Very good. Keep me apprised." He looked up at Colonel O'Neill. "How's it going with training their teams?"

The colonel's eyebrows lifted. "Oh, fine. Considering the concept of war was practically non-existent on their planet and they tend to trust everybody at first sight..." Jack's moment of sarcasm waned. "Sir, they're learning the tactics and strategies well enough. They're picking up on the hand-to-hand okay. They're smart people. Use a lot more of their brains than we do... Weirdest eyes I've ever seen, though. I make the Jinn kids wear sunglasses during training exercises so I don't have to look at 'em."

Everyone at the table grinned and nodded. Though the Jinn looked human enough, like the Enkarans their eyes marked them as wholly alien. The irises were larger than human eyes and changed color with the Jinn's mood. The effect was beautiful and hypnotic and more than one human being had completely lost their train of thought while watching the alien eyes ripple through a rainbow of color.

"You think they'll make suitable soldiers, colonel?" Hammond wouldn't encourage the aliens to start exploring unless he was certain they were ready for the challenge.

"If we can ever teach them to be suspicious from the moment they walk through a Stargate, sure. But that's gonna be the hard part, sir. They're innocents." Jack cleared his throat. "Um, in that respect, anyway. Not so much in...others."

"Just so long as they don't feel their time here has been wasted." Hammond shuffled his papers together and glanced at Major Davis. "Please convey to the Pentagon that we should be ready to send Jinn teams through to previously explored sites as off-world training missions as soon as they complete their exercises here. Colonel O'Neill, your estimated timetable?"

"Thirty days."

"In thirty days, major," Hammond finished. He glanced up at Daniel, recalling the team's most recent brush with death. He missed the Major Carter's ready smile and bright eyes at the conference table. She had surgery to repair the damage done when she fell three stories from an alien temple after the flooring gave way, but had done well since returning to the base. Dr. Fraiser reported that the major would make a complete recovery, in time. "How is Major Carter today, Dr. Jackson? I haven't seen her since I checked in this morning."

With a smile, Daniel said, "She's getting cranky. Dr. Fraiser is thinking of letting her go home in a few days."

"Excellent. Good news, son. She had us all worried for a while." "I've come to the conclusion that SG-1 may well be impossible to kill," Jack declared. "At least, I hope so." He waved a hand at the archaeologist beside him. "I mean, Daniel spent an entire year dead and just look at him now. Shuffling papers like the rest of us. No daisies being pushed up anywhere," he beamed.

Daniel glanced up at him, his expression unreadable. He returned to shuffling his papers.

Hammond smiled and glanced up at the Jaffa. "Teal'c, please give Bra'tac and your son our fond regards and enjoy your time off." "I shall, General Hammond," Teal'c intoned, rising and offering a slight bow.

"You leaving in the morning?" asked Jack.

"At oh-seven hundred hours," the big man confirmed.

"Then I'll be here to see you off, buddy. My best to Brata'c and Rya'c."

Teal'c nodded.

General Hammond closed his leather brief and made eye contact down the table.

"Thank you, gentlemen. Dismissed."

He rose and walked Major Davis out as they discussed other matters informally. He'd be walking the major to a waiting staff car that would take him to the airport, returning him to the Pentagon. After that George would be stopping by to see Major Carter, then leaving early for the day. His granddaughters requested his presence at a ballet recital and since there were no emergencies pending, he wanted to take full advantage of the light schedule.

"...so I think it's imperative that we scout our universities for human academics who would be suitable for relocation to your homeworld as teachers," Daniel summed up. "There have been many that the SGC have turned down as being unsuitable for field work but who might be just fine in an academic setting on an alien world. Once they get over the shock of traveling to another planet."

Kamashanti eyed him, her irises swirling from brown to dark orange and back again.

Daniel recognized that as her mental cogs were turning, she was dissecting the information she'd been given and was storing it away. It was lovely, watching Jinn eyes. He found himself staring at the Jinn, any of them, just to see the colors. This time, he drew his eyes away and started stacking the books he'd been using as illustrations for reference material.

"We will need such a staff, yes," the Jinn woman agreed, "but we will also need some of your military experts and academic field personnel, to help our teams learn field operations and train new teams. Your society is so closed..." She looked around at his office, several levels underground. "...this great endeavor is undertaken in such secret, that I fear you may not be able to spare the people we might need."

"That's possible, yes." He lowered his voice and leaned toward her. "I think you may also find that there might be those who would volunteer to relocate to your homeworld. People who might find the Jinn way of life more suitable to their inner natures."

The man standing just behind Kamashanti's chair smiled, understanding immediately. "What we do not need is an influx of more males to our world, Dr. Jackson," Chodes'ca returned lightly. "While our society is far more amenable than yours to love between men, women would be a far more desirable addition. Even though our species cannot interbreed, additional females would be a welcome relief to our own female population." He put his hand on Kamashanti's shoulder fondly.

She looked a little uncomfortable, her gaze dropping to the floor. The Jinn woman was never allowed to go anywhere alone. Even now, there were two of her subordinates in the office with them. While she was definitely in charge of the men she had brought to Earth with her, there were times when their authority as males superseded hers, always in relation to Jinn custom. These two were her bodyguards and never left her side -- not even in the bathroom. Daniel wondered privately if she ever felt suffocated by that. Looking at her expression, he thought she probably did.

"True, but if the immigrants are only interested in other males or are already in committed relationships, you really haven't lost anything and they will have gained acceptance and freedom not available to them here."

Daniel had been thinking about that very subject since he became acquainted with the Jinn and their alien ways. He found their society intriguing, superior in many ways to most human societies. Still, the price their women paid cut heavily into the positives. While Jinn women might have tremendous freedom in the bedroom and the boardroom, Daniel knew that Kamashanti dreamed of life with a single mate. They had discussed that subject on several occasions and he always felt tremendous sympathy for her. "Considering the fact that any human women integrating into your society would be bound by Jinn laws, I think you'd have trouble luring any to join you."

"Why is that?" Chodes'ca asked politely.

Daniel cleared his throat and tried not to look at Kamashanti, who was still gazing at the floor and remaining politely silent. "Because most women who are drawn to such academic subject matter as archaeology and anthropology are not typically sexually adventurous," he explained. "Granted there might be some open minded women in the field, I'd say the majority are pretty monogamous- minded. Which means they'd be expecting one-on-one relationships. I think they'd bolt when they found out about the group sex requirements."

Kamashanti's gaze flicked up to meet Daniel's, a slow, suggestive smile shadowing the corners of her mouth. Her eyes flashed deep blue, shifting to green and back, the colors of pleasure and desire. The effect was startling and he found himself glad there was a desk between them to hide the reaction in his pants. He was incredibly drawn to her and was all too aware that the feeling was mutual.

Chodes'ca chuckled. "We find the one-on-one arrangement strange," he admitted. "Though since you have brought the subject up..." He glanced down at the woman seated before him. "My grandmother has expressed an interest in you, Dr. Jackson. She would like the opportunity to experience the pleasure of your intimate company... with you and your closest friends, as our customs decree. At least two must participate in the union to meet our requirements. "

Heat shot through Daniel's groin at the thought of sex with this woman. She didn't look a day over thirty, though he knew she was older than Teal'c and that all the men on the Jinn team were her grandsons. She was attractive enough but he'd been fascinated with her mind in addition to the pretty package. From their first conversation about Earth history as applied to the Stargate program, he'd found himself flirting with her and truly enjoying her company. To find that she was just as attracted to him was a powerful aphrodisiac. He wanted her.

That desire, however, obviously came with a price. In order to have her, he would have to be willing to share her with another man, one of his teammates, in fact.

"Uh, Teal'c will be leaving tomorrow for some time with his family," Daniel explained. "Since Major Carter's in the infirmary, General Hammond has been generous with our down time and Teal'c's earned a vacation. He'll be gone for about a month, till Sam's back on her feet."

Kamashanti looked a little relieved for a moment but then concern drew her fine, pewter-colored brows together. She glanced up at Chodes'ca. "Will this be enough to satisfy our laws, son of my son?" He eyed her, considering, and then shot a glance over his shoulder at the other Jinn bodyguard, who nodded. "Yes, Kamashanti. Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson will suffice. As long as you are not left alone with either of them." He aimed a pointed gaze at Daniel. "You will abide by Jinn law, doctor?"

"I'm not sure Jack will go along with this arrangement," Daniel admitted frankly. Visions of a threesome scrolled lazily through his mind. His face grew hot and he couldn't look up from the desktop. A threesome with Jack would be...

He gasped, heat and desire like an arrow to his groin.

"In fact, I'm fairly certain he'll decline." Those pictures just wouldn't go away, himself and Jack, naked, in a bed together, with erections. Oh, God. "But I'll ask."

Hammond's words from earlier that morning echoed in his mind. He pushed the sexual visions into a dark corner and raised his eyes to Kamashanti's. She would be safer to look at than Chodes'ca at the moment. "Just so you know, I've done that sort of thing before. I'm not averse to the arrangement at all. I'm--"

There was such hope, such expectance in her face. She wanted him but Daniel was pretty sure she wasn't too certain about Jack. He hated that she didn't have a choice in the matter.

"Maybe Jack could just stay in the room with us? Just watch?"

Cho's alien eyes darkened. "No," he snapped. "He must participate sexually in the interaction. It is Jinn law."

Daniel felt his desire wilt suddenly as another shocking thought came to mind. "There won't have to be any... observers or bodyguards present, will there?"

"No." Chodes'ca didn't look too pleased. "We trust you to be a man of your word, Dr. Jackson. If you agree to comply with Jinn law, we believe you will do so. However, Kamashanti will not lie for you. If she reports that you disregarded our rules afterward, the Jinn will not be forgiving."

Jack naked; Jack naked and aroused. Daniel's mouth went suddenly dry. He closed his eyes and felt himself stiffening again. His eyes popped open. "I understand that, Cho," Daniel returned, his voice cracking. He reached for his coffee cup and swallowed a mouthful of the cold brew just to lubricate his throat.

"Something is bothering you?" Kamashanti asked. She leaned forward and laid her hand on his as he toyed with the handle on his mug. He didn't raise his gaze from the cup; aware that his face must be scarlet if the heat he was experiencing was any indicator. "It's just that... Once I started thinking about... seeing Jack..." He couldn't finish the thought. His mind just stopped.

"He is a beautiful man, and I have seen how the two of you are... so close." She smiled. "Of one mind. You speak to each other without speaking. You are attracted to him, yes?"

Daniel sighed, knowing she had already seen the answer to her question. "He doesn't know, Kamashanti. He can't know. It's forbidden here, as I'm sure you understand and Jack wouldn't be comfortable with me if he knew. We-- I mean, Jack's not-- He-- I- God, I don't know." He cut himself off, aware how pathetically mindless that idea made him. He was blathering. He put his hands in his lap and bowed his head in shame.

Oh, he wanted Jack, all right. Which would never happen in a million years. Jack didn't look at guys that way... but then, until Jack O'Neill plowed into his life like a bull in a china shop, Daniel hadn't either, in spite of what happened between himself and Stephen a lifetime ago.

Kamashanti's eyes were warm and sympathetic.

"Perhaps the intimate situation may prove beneficial to your relationship," Cho offered kindly. "You will get to know each other better, as well as Kamashanti."

"If Jack will go along with it," Daniel reminded them, finger waving in the air. "Which I doubt he will. But I'll ask. For you, Kamashanti."

"Very good, Dr. Jackson," Cho said approvingly. "We shall await his answer on the matter."

Kamashanti smiled warmly. "It will be a beautiful encounter, sweet Daniel," she promised. "You and I will enjoy each other. Your colonel will also have pleasure and perhaps... if we are lucky, he may surprise us both in a way that we both desire."

Daniel shook his head, not daring to hope. He knew Jack too well for that. He flexed a polite but sad smile. "I hope we can do this, Kamashanti, because I'd really enjoy being close to you and continuing our relationship even after you go home. We've become very good friends and I'd like to see where it leads. It's just... please understand that not all of the Tau'ri will be as accommodating when it comes to sex. There are a lot of us who take it personally and I don't think Jack does casual relationships unless he's under the influence of drugs. He'll probably say no, regardless of how I put it, because it'll go against his principles. I just don't want it to cause any hard feelings between our people and I'm afraid it might."

"Would it help if I explained the matter?" Cho asked gently.

"Let me talk to him first. If he won't even consider it, then you may need to take it up with him yourself." Daniel sighed, his insides quivering from the war between desire and fear. He took a deep breath and tried to steer his mind back to the task at hand.

"Now, as to sharing the information we respectively acquire," Daniel began again, returning the conversation to business. He fell into the subject eagerly, letting his mind play with various scenarios that might allow the Jinn to have what they needed and still allow humans to remain outside Jinn customs. This would be a difficult diplomatic stance for them but if they could come to some sort of compromise, both worlds would benefit greatly.

But in the back of his mind, Daniel could not get rid of the picture of Jack O'Neill naked and ready for love.

Shutting the door behind him, Daniel leaned against it and sighed. "Daniel?" asked Jack, seated at his desk and diligently working on his stack of neglected paperwork.

"You remember Hammond's talk this morning about being nice to the Jinn?" the archaeologist asked.

"Yeah, so?"

Daniel took a seat in the guest chair. He leaned forward, shoulders hunched, hands shoved between his knees. His lips pursed. He shifted in the chair, trying desperately to find a way to phrase this very difficult request. An inordinate amount of time passed and Daniel continued to squirm, aware that he was giving off signals that Jack could easily read, though he wouldn't know exactly what the body language meant.

"Did somebody hit on you? It was that horny Yanni, wasn't it?"

Apparently, Jack read him rather well. "That's Yan'nei. And no, Jack. It was Kamashanti but she didn't exactly hit on me. She made a polite request for my... uh... participation in a cultural exchange." He frowned and looked at the floor. "Actually, Cho made the request; the formal request. Very formally."

"So he's pimping for his granny now, huh?" Jack teased. "She sure doesn't look like a grandmother."

"Jinn women live three times as long as the men," Daniel clarified. He lifted his glasses slightly and pinched the bridge of his nose. "She may be old by our standards but she hasn't hit middle age yet by Jinn standards. She's still young to them. Younger than me." The grin hadn't left Jack's face. "So, you gonna boink the old lady? She is hot. I wouldn't mind a piece of that, myself."

Daniel's chin came up. His glasses dropped into place. He smiled. "Funny you should say that, Jack, because Jinn customs require her to... uh... 'date' my closest friends at the same time. Since Teal'c is going off world, that leaves you."

The only sign Jack had heard was the disappearance of the grin. Jack O'Neill never looked shocked but this was close to it. "You mean..."

"A ménage a trios," Daniel assured him.

"A threesome?"


"You and me?"

"No. You and Kamashanti, and me and Kamashanti; all at the same time."

Seconds of silence ticked off without a single movement. Then the bomb went off. Jack practically jumped out of his chair. "What the fuck?" He hesitated, realizing what he'd just said. "No pun intended, Daniel. Are you sure that's what she was asking for? No language barrier thing getting in the way?"

"Uh, no. The Jinn speak English fluently, way better than any of us speak their language, so far, anyway. I'm working on that." He coughed nervously. "At any rate, I told her you probably wouldn't be interested and I repeat my reminder about General Hammond's talk this morning. Jack, we can't turn her down. No matter how embarrassing it might be to either of us, we can't afford to tell them no to a form of sex we've already told them we accept."

"I don't do threesomes. No audiences, thanks."

"I'm not gonna be watching or taking notes, Jack. I'll do my thing and you'll do yours."

"Not with the same woman at the same time. No way."

"No choice," Daniel reminded him. "Or do you want to be the one to tell General Hammond we had an opportunity for a diplomatic encounter and blew it?"

"Oh, so this is diplomacy? I didn't know that's what they were calling it these days. I thought it was still called fucking."

Daniel winced at the crude word. "Jack--"

"No, Daniel. How many ways do I have to say it?"

Jackson glowered. His C.O. obviously wasn't getting the depth of this issue. He sighed. "All right, then. Chodes'ca will be coming to see you shortly, so you can explain it to him. If he can't change your mind, then you get to announce your decision to the entire Jinn delegation. In front of General Hammond." He stepped away from the door and reached for the handle.

"Wait." Jack sighed. "It's really that important?"

"Yes. It is." Daniel sighed and returned to his seat across from O'Neill, hoping his longing for Kamashanti showed in his face. "I like her, Jack, and she likes me, too, but she has to take you into the bargain. This is a lot more than a diplomatic encounter for both her and me but it has to be on their terms. I'm not fond of this idea any more than you are." Jack didn't need to know the truth behind that lie.

"Dammit," Jack snarled roughly. He frowned at the paperwork on his desk. "Daniel, you are a shit magnet, you know that? If it hits the fan in Alaska, somehow it's gonna blow on you wherever the hell you are. Even if you're on another planet." He sighed. "I'll think about it. That's the best I can do for now."

Daniel nodded. "Let me know when you've made your decision and I'll make the arrangements. One way or the other."

The archaeologist wisely withdrew and left his teammate and friend to contemplate this latest fiasco in their lives.

Jack stared at the paper on his desk, not seeing a word of the print on its surface. Daniel had the worst luck in history with relationships and Jack felt sympathetic for the younger man; however, getting dragged into the middle of Daniel's latest relationship was stretching things. If Daniel wanted this alien woman, he ought to be able to go after her on his own. When in Rome, and all that. The Jinn should learn a few Earth customs while they were visiting, rather than keep so rigidly to their own.

Jack had already quietly fended off a couple of invitations from the Jinn contingent, though he hadn't told anybody about it and no reports were filed. That was how it should be. They were an attractive and interesting people, sure. He'd worked enough with Kamashanti to know that she was way smarter than him and had felt a smidgen of attraction to her himself but there was no way he was going to get naked with her and Daniel all at the same time.

Daniel seemed a little uncomfortable with the idea himself but based on the Tau'ri track record with these people, he seemed to think he had no choice in the matter. He liked her. She liked him and Daniel was always up for the occasional cultural exchange.

This one, however, was different.

Jack remembered Lt. Franklin, ages back, when his Black Ops team had been stuck between a rock and a very hard place for weeks, unable to move their position until the Iraqi troops camped all around their hiding place moved out. They rationed supplies and sat on their hands, waiting in near silence, with nothing to do but sleep and keep watch. One by one the soldiers succumbed to ennui, desperate to find some way to maintain their sanity and focus. Jack devised games that could be played in silence or drawn in the dirt but eventually the tension rose to such a degree that it needed to be relieved or he'd lose control. Franklin approached one of the others and in clear view of everyone, since there was no privacy in their cramped quarters, the two men satisfied each other sexually.

Jack had never told anyone about that. No one included it in their reports but each of the men, including Jack himself, had participated in the forbidden interaction. As fortune had it, they moved out before O'Neill had to take anyone on himself, though he'd been intimate with Franklin and never quite got over it. Just remembering was an embarrassment, because he had enjoyed it and never let himself admit that.

Being in an intimate situation with Daniel, even with a woman between them, brought all that far too close to the surface. Closing his eyes, he could picture Daniel naked. He'd seen the man in the base showers, of course, though Daniel usually showered alone when he could, and Jack knew that the archaeologist was strong and well built. Daniel was an attractive man for all his geekiness and Jack recognized that fact.

What bothered him most, however, was the stirring in his groin that accompanied the thought of Daniel naked, on a bed, with or without a woman. Things could happen in the heat of the moment, things that might totally wreck their friendship forever. Jack didn't want that. He didn't want to hurt Daniel or make his friend afraid of him. Only Jack couldn't exorcise the image of Daniel in bed and forbidden fantasies played out in his mind, twisting up his guts and making him sweat and shake.

"Dammit, Daniel," he breathed. "We can't do this. I'll lose it. I know I will, and then you'll know."

He rose from his desk and wandered out into the corridor, looking up just as General Hammond stopped in front of him.

The general's brows drew together in concern. "Colonel, are you all right?"

"Uh..." Jack felt himself wilting inside. "Something's come up with the Jinn, sir."

"What happened?"

"Nothing yet," Jack assured him. The alarm in Hammond's eyes spoke volumes and Jack felt the weight of the morning's briefing settling over him like a lead blanket. "I'll handle it, sir." Relief flooded the older man's face. "You'll keep me abreast of any developments?"

"Abreast," Jack repeated, his mind sticking on the image of Kamashanti in the weight room, pumping iron with her grandsons, wearing a form-fitting tank top that showed off her lovely breasts. He could do her, no problem. It had been a long time since he'd gotten laid, so that would be both welcome and enjoyable. But doing her with Daniel... "Uh, yes, sir. I'll let you know how the... diplomatic encounter goes."

"Sounds promising," Hammond agreed with a slight smile and continued on his way down the corridor.

Jack sighed and hung his head wearily. There really was no graceful way out of this that he could see, unless he could get Kamashanti alone and talk her out of this whole deal. Only Jinn women were never left alone and even trying that tactic could get him into serious trouble. He trudged down the corridor to Daniel's inner sanctum and stepped into the doorway of the semi-darkened office. "Well?" asked Daniel, looking up from his desk expectantly. Jack's eyes swept him up and down. "You sure you can... perform in mixed company?"

Daniel didn't pause. "I'll manage."

"Crap." The colonel rubbed at the back of his neck. "They've got us over a barrel here."

The archaeologist just shrugged and nodded, looking at the floor. "I'd rather not do it on the base." Which was precisely where Daniel's quarters were, as well as Kamashanti's.

Jack started pacing, staring down at the floor. "Will the Jinn let her leave it? We could go to my house."

"I'll ask. When's good for you?" Daniel couldn't look him in the eye. Jack was silent for a long time. "Daniel, they're not expecting anything more than us with Kama, are they?"

Shaking his head, Daniel assured him, "No. There will be no bodyguards present. Nobody will be watching, so we can do whatever we're comfortable doing."

"Which will be her," Jack clarified. "Tomorrow night. I'll have to clean the house, buy some condoms, that sort of thing."

"Condoms shouldn't be necessary," Daniel told him. "Unless you just like wearing them. There's zero pregnancy potential and Janet has checked us all out thoroughly, so no diseases."

"Friday, then. We'll pick her up after our shift is over. And Daniel..."

"Hmmm?" Jackson rose, finally making eye contact now that the worst was over. He was blushing.

"This feels like blackmail. I don't like it."

"They don't intend for it to be," Daniel returned soberly, "and I'm trying to not think about how Kamashanti must feel. She was prepared to take on all three of us, Jack - you, me and Teal'c -- just so she could be with the one she wanted. I suspect that's the great tragedy for Jinn women." He sighed. "I'll make the arrangements with them."

He rose and left the office, walking with his head down. Jack returned to his desk, staring off into space, his work untouched, images of Daniel in bed romping mercilessly through his mind.

Kamashanti strolled after the colonel as he finished up the tour of his home with a flourish.

"And this is my bedroom." He gestured into the room and dropped his hand as she wandered inside. "Now what? You hungry?"

"Can we eat later?" she asked, grinning up at him. She liked that he was so tall. He was funny and charming, playful as a child in the right circumstances and she liked that about him. She turned to regard the other man, leaning against the doorframe.

Daniel was quiet and serious for the most part but there was a wry sense of humor buried under all his tragic past. He was gentle, kind and sensitive and cared deeply about the people closest to him. He was also a little lost after his return to human form and she thought an experience like this might do him some good. He intrigued her and was the reason she had made the request in the first place. He reminded her of her first husband, long dead, and Daniel's gentle nature made him impossible to resist.

"You mean, you want to just get right to it?" Jack asked hesitantly. "Yes, please." Kama went to the nightstand and set down the small bag she had brought with her. Glancing up at the two men, she gave them a reassuring smile. "You may begin to disrobe, if you like." Jack and Daniel exchanged a glance. Jack stepped into the room and whisked off his T-shirt, dropping it on the floor. Daniel took off his shoes and socks and slipped them under a chair.

Kamashanti opened her bag and removed a small squeeze-bottle, a device about the size and shape of an egg with a flat bottom and holes in the top, and a mesh sphere that sat on a little pyramidal base.

"What are those?" the archaeologist asked, watching her.

"This..." She picked up the sphere, covered it with her hand and gave it a little squeeze. "...is for what you call white noise. It emits a specific set of sounds chosen to stimulate and enhance sexual response."

"Yeah?" Jack cocked his head, listening. "Sounds like a porno soundtrack." He grinned. "What about the egg?"

Kamashanti twisted the top portion, releasing scent into the air. "The kanjit contains chemicals that do the same thing."

"Pheromones," Daniel suggested. "Will they work on humans?"

"We shall see," Kamashanti told him happily. She picked up the squeeze bottle. "And this is ootra. It is a lubricant that also stimulates. It gives the body a pleasant warmth and delightful tingle." She looked at Daniel. "Your Dr. Fraiser has tested it and found it acceptable for human use."

"Oh. Okay. I wouldn't want to have an allergic reaction in the middle of..." One hand flailed in the air as he searched for a polite word and then abruptly gave up.

"Speaking of which, Daniel," Jack shot back, dropping trou. "You're falling behind."

"Kamashanti's not undressed yet," Jackson retorted. "We've got all night, Jack."

"We have the weekend," Kamashanti corrected. "I have told my people and your Hammond that we will be busy until Sunday evening. I hope I was prophetic."

Jack's eyebrows shot up his forehead. "You told General Hammond what we were gonna be doing?"

She smiled broadly, remembering the general's shocked expression at her announcement. "Yes. He seemed quite pleased for you both." She remembered that several people reacted that way to her announcement and was confused. "Your Major Carter has told me that you each had wives at one time. Do you not seek out others, or take comfort in each other?"

The men looked at each other, then back at her.

"Are you asking if we have sex with each other?" Jack queried uncertainly.

"Yes. You care deeply for each other. I have seen this. Why not--"

"It's that pesky military thing," Jack cut in. "And we're not... uh... wired that way. Daniel and I both like women in our beds." Kamashanti frowned. "I do not understand this prejudice, gentlemen. Love between men is just as beautiful as love between a man and woman. Sometimes, infinitely more wonderful."

Daniel lifted a finger in the air. "The military is very strict about that sort of thing. Something about battlefield tensions if you know the guy next to you is looking at your ass and you're not interested in his. They don't want sex to be an issue in war."

"Then why do you allow women in your military? Is not the issue the same?"

"Beats the hell outta me," Jack answered with a shrug. "If they have one, they ought to allow the other."

Daniel stared at him. "Jack, that's the most open-minded thing I've ever heard you say."

Jack stepped out of his pants where they had pooled on the floor and reached for his shorts. "Why, thank you, Daniel. Are you still dressed?"

Reluctantly, Jackson began to unbutton his blue-and-white-checkered shirt.

Kamashanti swept her eyes down Jack's long, lean body with anticipation and wandered to stand between the men. "You are a lovely man, Colonel."

"That's Jack, Kama. If we're gonna be naked together, you can call me by my first name." Jack looked down at himself, watching his sleepy erection come to life. Desire was in his eyes. He looked hungry. "I'll go turn down the bed," he suggested and started pulling the sheets and blankets back, folding them down to a neat, narrow strip at the foot of the bed.

Kamashanti went to Daniel and helped him with the buttons. She pushed the garment off his shoulders and let it drop, then went for his belt. She was aware of him watching her face, looking at her eyes. "Do not be nervous, sweet Daniel," she advised, her voice low so that only he could hear her.

He cleared his throat. His tongue darted out to moisten his lips. "Um... I'm not nervous. I'm just not... I mean Jack is..." He swallowed hard and lifted his eyes to take in the other man's body. Heat intensified until he felt like he was on fire. "This is just kinda... too close for comfort. Do you understand?"

She looked up into those guileless blue eyes and understood perfectly. "You desire him," she whispered, "but he does not know." "He can't know and I'm afraid he might, once this is all over. I don't want to screw up our friendship."

"Do not worry about it, sweet Daniel. I will help you. All is well in this room for the next many days." She unfastened his belt and trousers and reached up to kiss him.

His mouth was warm and gentle, his tongue gliding against hers with exquisite skill. She pushed at his pants and felt him bend a little, shoving them down far enough to drop. Warm hands smoothed over her shoulders from behind and then she could feel the radiant heat of Jack's body at her back. His fingers reached up under her hair to untie the halter-top she was wearing and released the second tie around her ribs.

The top fell off.

Daniel pulled away to look down at her bare breasts. "Wow," he breathed. His eyes grew brighter, glittering with desire.

Jack peered over Kamashanti's shoulder, reached around her and filled his hands with the soft globes. "Nice rack, Kama. You got some hot body."

"I am pleased you like the way I look," she returned with a smile, reaching up behind her to run her fingers through Jack's silver hair.

Daniel squatted down and slipped his fingers into the elastic waistband on the long skirt she wore, pulling it down her long legs while Jack continued to massage her breasts. Kamashanti leaned back against him, lifting first one foot, then the other for Daniel to remove her sandals. She could feel Jack's erection pressing against her lower back, hot and silky. His hands felt wonderful and she moaned her approval as Daniel began to kiss her knees.

He moved slowly upward, nuzzling into the nest of curls between her legs, teasing her with a swipe of his tongue just before he stood up.

"Oh, yes," she sighed. "This will be wonderful."

Daniel kissed her again, his hand smoothing down her belly, fingers probing between her legs. He groaned into her mouth just as Jack started to play with her nipples, lightly pinching them to hardness. That shot heat straight to her groin, where Daniel had discovered her pleasure-center and a wave of dizziness threatened to make her knees buckle. She panted, trying to maintain control for a little longer but it was hopeless. The men's fingers worked her harder and she came, whimpering into Daniel's mouth, pulsing around his fingers.

"Damn," Jack breathed. "Did she have an orgasm?"

"Oh, yeah," Daniel panted, forcing himself back from her mouth. He licked his lips, breathing hard now. His eyes were so dilated with passion that they were nearly black.

"Bed," ordered O'Neill.

"Wait," Kamashanti called, trying to catch her breath. "There is something you must do first. Part of the ritual." She pushed Daniel gently back and struggled to maintain her balance enough to walk to the bed and sit down. The men followed her, standing before her and waiting. She looked up at them; at how beautiful they were... and how far apart they stood. "You must face each other."

They angled their bodies in the proper direction, looking at her rather than each other.

"Look into each other's eyes."

Reluctantly, they obeyed.

"Move closer and touch."

Each man put a hand firmly on the other's shoulder and left it there. Their expressions were set, rigid. Kamashanti stood. She pushed them closer together. Their erections touched and they vaulted apart.

"If you are both going to be inside me, you will need to be comfortable with touching each other intimately," she explained patiently. "Come, stand close together. Look at each other. Explore the other's body, as if you were getting to know mine."

"I'm not comfortable with that," Jack told her, making eye contact.

"There is a point to this exercise," she told him gravely. "It is not done merely because I wish it. You must not recoil from the other's touch, as you just did, if we are to be intimate together. You will need to accept each other fully, because you will be touching intimately when you are intimate with me."

"She's right, Jack," stated Daniel with certainty. "We're gonna have our... uh... Johnsons in close proximity. We might as well get okay with being close. This is sort of an ice-breaker."

Jack nodded but his expression was filled with doubt. "Okay." His trust of Daniel, however, made up for his hesitant trust in Kamashanti. He reached up to take off Daniel's glasses and lay them aside and then touched Daniel's cheek. "You've got really soft skin," he observed wonderingly.

Daniel's hand went to Jack's hairy chest. "I always wanted a chest like that," he admitted. "It's... so manly."

"You've got great pecs," Jack assured him, moving his hand to splay over Daniel's broad, thick pectorals. He looked down between them, at their straining erections, then back up at Daniel's face. "I'm gonna touch you there, pal. Don't--"

"I know," Daniel finished for him. "It's okay."

Jack's fingers wrapped around Daniel's cock and Jackson groaned, throwing his head back. Jack let go but Kamashanti put his hand back and guided him to move slightly, gliding up and down Daniel's shaft. "Jeez, that's good," growled Daniel. He reached down blindly for Jack's cock and fondled it, smoothing his hand down to the soft sac beneath. O'Neill yelped and ground out a curse word.

"God, Daniel, we better stop or we're gonna come right here," he advised.

Looking at Kamashanti, he asked, "Okay with you?"

"First, you must embrace each other. Just for a moment, until you can relax when you are so close."

Jack's face closed up but he moved in, putting his arms around Daniel's shoulders. With a sigh, he angled closer until his body lightly pressed up against the other man's, their erections pinned between them. Daniel relaxed after a moment and laid his head on Jack's shoulder with implicit trust.

At first, O'Neill stiffened and Kamashanti whispered her instructions again. He looked into her eyes and after a moment, his hands began to stroke up and down Daniel's back. His eyes closed and soon a look of pleasured acceptance drifted across his features.

There was love in that look, she recognized. These two just needed a little push. She intended to give it to them before she returned home.

She smiled and touched them on the shoulders. "Yes. You are better now."

They eased apart as she arranged herself in the middle of the bed and Jack lay down beside her. Daniel moved around to the back of the bed and joined them just as Jack leaned over for his first kiss. O'Neill's fingers traced over her breasts and Daniel scooted down to kiss her there. He licked and kissed the soft mounds, tasting her skin in the wake of Jack's fingers. Settling on her left breast, he drew her nipple into his mouth just as Jack's hand caught her flesh at the base, squeezing it upward toward Daniel's lips, feeding her to him.

Kamashanti moaned, her hands stroking over them, smoothing into their hair, squeezing ridges of flexed muscle, enjoying the lovely men enjoying her. She inhaled deeply, breathing in the stimulating perfume of the kanjit mixed with the personal scents of the two males, distinctly different from each other. Jack smelled of earth and outdoors, while Daniel carried traces of old books and coffee that never seemed to wash off, each markers of their personalities as well as their individual chemical composition. They smelled good, clean and healthy... and incredibly masculine.

Daniel's left hand drifted over her belly, down one thigh and up the other. He traced the curves of her hips, dipped a finger briefly into her navel and up to explore the shape of her right breast. She moaned, arching upward into his mouth as Jack's kiss deepened. She began to writhe beneath them, her body on sensual overload. Then Daniel's hand swept down between her legs and she gasped.

He found her pleasure-center again, stroking lazily across it, just enough to make her jump. Delicately, he slipped past it, exploring her depths with two fingers, sending shivers of pleasure throughout her body. She felt Jack release her breast and slide his hand down to join Daniel's, slipping his fingers in beside the other man's, dancing with him inside her.

O'Neill groaned and raised his head, looking down at Daniel suckling her breast, then at their fingers delving into her slick, warm flesh. "Oh, my God, Daniel," he whispered wonderingly. "I've never seen anything so sexy."

Daniel rose up to make eye contact with him, and Kamashanti saw the way they looked at each other. Messages were being sent and received but not understood. Passion crackled in the air all around them, but they weren't ready to follow it to its natural course. That would take a little time and she would enjoy the journey.

She strained past Daniel's shoulder for the ootra and handed it to Jack. "Put a little in your hand and rub it wherever you like," she instructed. "On any of us."

Jack withdrew from her and sat up, squeezing the bottle into his palm. The liquid was a pale pink, and he inhaled the scent with a sigh of pleasure.

"Smells like sex," he commented. Reaching down to his own member, he coated it liberally and handed the bottle to Daniel. This was definitely going to take some work, Kamashanti observed privately.

When he was finished with himself, Jack reclined again and nudged Kama's right leg upward with the back of his hand. She smiled as she raised it, rolling slightly toward Daniel to allow Jack access to her backside. His fingers were gentle as they explored her ass, slicking her entrance with the liquid. She closed her eyes and moaned as he added a second finger and then a third, stretching her and probing her depths.

"Oh, yes," she cooed. "That feels lovely, Jack."

She opened her eyes and saw Daniel leaning over her, watching Jack's fingers thrust into her from behind. He licked his lips, his hand slipping back between her legs, fingers plunging in to match the depth and rhythm of Jack's thrusts. Jack looked at his younger friend wonderingly.

"I can feel you inside her," he breathed.

Daniel turned to regard her. "I can't wait, Kamashanti," he growled. "I'm ready right now."

She pushed on his shoulder, rolling him onto his back and nearly off the bed. With a little laugh, she suggested that Daniel lie in the middle of the bed and moved back with Jack to give him space. He reclined on his back and she straddled him, high above his erection. Then she turned to look at Jack, who sat beside them on the bed. "Guide him inside me, Jack," she told him.

O'Neill knelt over Daniel's knees and reached up to grasp his friend's cock.

Kamashanti lowered herself gradually and Jack held on as she impaled herself on that column of thick, hard flesh. Daniel swore, grunting as he arched up into her. She gasped, settling herself until she had taken all of him into her body.

Then she leaned forward, rolling her hips back and looking over her shoulder at Jack. "Join us," she whispered seductively.

He moved fast for an older man. "Are you sure you're ready?" he panted. "I don't wanna hurt you."

"A little pain is good sometimes," she teased. "If it is too much, I will tell you to stop."

She felt him pressing against her sphincter and relaxed to allow him entry. Looking down into Daniel's face, she felt him tensing, expecting something but she wasn't sure what it was. Then she recalled the look on his face as the two men held each other and understood. Daniel didn't just desire Jack... he was in love with his teammate and was afraid this coupling would bring out that fact. He was terrified that Jack would turn him away if he knew. There were ways around that sort of obstacle and this was just the first step.

Jack's cock slid into her in an easy glide. The warmth from the ootra helped relax her, desensitizing just enough to dull the discomfort of a too-eager entry but Jack seemed to have done this often enough to understand the pace and force necessary to make it pleasurable. "You are very good, Jack. You must have had much practice with this technique." She moaned as he started to move. "It's my favorite," Jack answered without thinking. "Asses are always soooo tight..."

Daniel groaned.

"Be still, Jack," she suggested. "Let me move for both of you." Instantly he obeyed and she slid upward and then slowly back down on them both.

"Jeez, Daniel," Jack growled. "I can feel your dick. It's like we're fucking each other." He moaned and gasped, struggling for control. Daniel moaned and closed his eyes. His hands came up, smoothing over her belly to her breasts, massaging them, toying with them until she felt herself tensing, preparing for another climax. Jack's hand reached around her, sliding between her and Daniel, feeling with his fingers as Daniel's erection filled her and withdrew. Jack reached for her clitoris, skilled fingers drawing across it, pressing against it, circling it faster and faster until he pushed her over the edge.

She cried out, head thrown back, body arched against Daniel's hands, her whole body shuddering with spasms of pleasure. She vaguely heard the men groaning in response and just as she began to recover she felt Jack's cock thrusting fiercely up into her backside, hard and fast, teeth clenched around his frantic grunts of effort.

"That's it, Jack," Daniel panted. "Come on. Fuck her ass. I wanna feel you come."

O'Neill roared, jamming himself so deeply that he almost lifted her completely off Daniel. Kamashanti felt him throbbing inside her, filling her with his pleasure. She looked down at Daniel, his eyes closed in bliss as he reveled in the sensation of his friend's orgasm pressing so close to his own straining flesh and then he, too, pitched over the edge into ecstasy, hips jolting her upward off the bed.

"Jack!" he cried, his hands grasping Kamashanti's hips to hold her onto him.

"Here, Daniel," Jack panted, leaning heavily against Kamashanti's back, spent and delirious with pleasure.

Kama smiled, her eyes closed. The men spoke to each other more than to her. Their cries of passion and reassurance were for each other. They were connecting and soon they would see the truth of what they felt for each other.

She felt O'Neill's hand slide out from between her and Daniel, to slip around between her and the older man. His fingers flexed beneath her bottom, massaging Daniel's balls. Jackson howled, his body tensing up again as another aftershock passed through him, relaxing into a chuckle as he sprawled bonelessly on the bed. "Jack, you're a sadist," Daniel observed, a big smile spreading across his face.

"What is this word?" Kamashanti asked.

"Someone who enjoys the pain of others," Daniel explained. "Pain turns them on."

Kamashanti frowned. "That was painful for you? It seemed all pleasure, from where I sit."

"Oh, I didn't hurt him," Jack assured her, kissing the back of her neck. He nibbled her shoulder. "I just wanted to make sure he got all his ya-yas out."

"How kind of you," Daniel teased.

"I believe we all got our ya-yas out," Kamashanti observed with a grin. "Some of us several times."

"Yeah, women can do that." Jack slowly withdrew and reclined beside and partially on Daniel, since the younger man was taking up most of the mattress space on the king-size bed. "'Course they deserve it, too."

"Why, thank you," Kamashanti said with a gracious nod.

Jack looked down at his relaxing cock. "That ootra stuff feels great, Kama. I'd like to keep some around the house. You never know when you might need some."

"Yeah, I'll bet it's a great enhancer for solo sex, too," Daniel observed, bouncing her playfully on his pelvis with a wicked grin. She shook her head. "I do not understand why you would seek to fulfill your needs alone when there are others who might gladly offer you the release and comfort you need."

"Ours is a pretty inhibited society, all right," Jack agreed. "Yours sounds wide open."

"You should come and visit us on my homeworld, Jack," Kamashanti said happily. "Perhaps you might even choose to live there one day." She looked at Daniel. "Both of you."

"Too much for us to do here," Jackson returned. His hand caressed her breasts, fingers strumming over her nipples. He sat up, slipping his arms around her and kissed her deeply.

She sighed when he let her go and reclined again. With reluctance, Kamashanti got off him and left the bed, heading for the bathroom. "I will shower, then you two will shower and then we shall eat."

"And after that?" Jack asked.

"We will indulge in each other again," Kama said with a laugh from the bathroom.

Jack smiled at the man on the other pillow. "Shove over. You're hogging the bed."

Daniel dutifully rearranged himself to give Jack more room and rolled onto his side to regard the older man. "So, what did you think?"

"This has to be the most mind-blowing sex I've ever had. Ever. In my whole life. Even in my dreams, it was never this good."

"You're okay with being that close to me? It didn't bother you?" "Maybe a little, at first, but I got over the oogies real quick. My mind was kinda... in my dick." Jack hesitated. "You okay with it?" Daniel rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. "This wasn't my first time in a ménage a trios, Jack."

O'Neill jerked up to a half-reclining position, instantly interested. "No shit? When? With whom?"

Blue eyes slitted open to regard him warily. "In college. With Sarah Gardner and Stephen Rayner. That was why Sarah and I broke up." His eyes closed, signaling the end of that story.

Jack didn't understand exactly what Daniel meant but knew he was treading on old wounds by even asking. Still, he had to know. Sarah as Osiris seemed verrrrry confident, so Jack could see her being a domineering kind of woman, one for whom one man just might not be enough. "Because you had a third in your bed?"

"No." Daniel's sighed. "Leave it alone, Jack. You don't want to know all the details."

"Why? Did you have sex with Stephen, too?"

"Not at first." Daniel didn't move. He just lay there, breathing with his eyes closed.

Jack felt something shift inside him. He could actually picture that, the three of them in bed together, banging away, changing positions and partners. Things could happen when passions were aroused and people weren't thinking clearly. He understood that. Jack lay down and closed his eyes, picturing another scene. He imagined Daniel and Stephen together, tangled up as they strained to completion, just as Sarah walked into the bedroom, catching them in the act. The vision sent a shaft of heat into his groin, waking the sleeping giant between his legs. The more he tried to resist those thoughts, the hotter they became. Jack wanted to watch Daniel with a man. That would be even hotter than seeing him with Kamashanti.

"What are you thinking?" Daniel asked softly.

"Wondering if you did Stephen, or if he did you."

When there was no reply, Jack opened his eyes and looked at the man on the other pillow. There was pain in Daniel's eyes as he stared at Jack. Those memories wounded him and O'Neill was instantly sorry. "Daniel, its just curiosity. I didn't mean to hurt you."

Jackson turned away, looking at the ceiling.

"Hey, I'm sorry." Jack scooted closer; reaching out to cup Daniel's face with his palm and turn him so Jack could look into his eyes. "I don't think any less of you for it, you know." He hesitated. "In fact, I think it's... kind of... hot." He glanced down at himself and saw that he was completely hard again. "Maybe it's that pheromone stuff or the porno soundtrack machine but I'm definitely turned on by the thought of you with a guy."

"What if you were the other guy?" Daniel asked pointedly. "Would that still turn you on?"

O'Neill thought about that for a moment, looking into those bluer- than-blue eyes. Daniel's skin was so soft, so smooth. Jack let his hand drift downward, across those broad, bulging pectorals that he had appreciated before, tracing over the rippling abdominals to the thatch of curly brown hair below. Daniel's cock was still slick with the ootra and Kama's juices and as Jack's fingers slid across it, the shaft began to thicken and lengthen. Daniel grunted and closed his eyes.

"It's gotta be the stuff Kama brought," Jack observed, "but I'm thinkin'... yeah. I don't know. We'll have to see how it goes."

The two men soaped up, thoroughly cleaning themselves and exiting the shower with hard-ons waving in the air.

"Think dinner can wait a little longer?" Jack asked with a grin. He glanced at his teammate. "It's gotta be the enhancers. I haven't been this horny or this quick to get back in the game since I was a teenager."

Kamashanti chuckled. "I will leave the toys as my gift to you, Jack, but you and Daniel will have to share them."

"Yahsureyoubetcha, snookums," he quipped in full-on Minnesotan. Jack gestured toward the bed. "After you, Daniel."

The younger man wasted no time. He prowled up from the foot of the bed, greedily suckling her left breast. Jack followed a moment later, descending on the right one to the merry sound of Kamashanti's laughter. Which faded quickly into moans of pleasure as things escalated quickly.

Jack sat up and retrieved the ootra, pouring some onto his palm. He reached down between Daniel's legs and trickled the solution onto his erection, grinning as the cool liquid contacted hot flesh and made Daniel grunt. Jack coated the length of Daniel's shaft, fingers swirling and gliding over that satin skin. O'Neill felt his own cock respond, stiffening and twitching, aching for friction. He was stunned by how much he wanted to hold onto that part of Daniel, amazed at how turned on he got stroking his teammate's erection.

Kama spread her legs wide and Jack reluctantly moved his hand there, coating her already slick tissues with the warming liquid. He reached behind her, probing her ass as Daniel moved between her legs. He nudged her hips upward and once again, Jack gripped Daniel's cock and guided it into her body, this time into her beautifully rounded ass. The younger man reclined on top of her, his hips thrusting slowly, languidly, flexing and relaxing with hypnotic power. Jack watched Daniel fucking her, watched them kissing, saw Daniel's buttocks stiffen and soften with his every movement and he had to have them, to fuck them both. He couldn't wait.

Jack knelt behind Daniel, straddling his legs, quivering with fear and desire. He placed his hands on Daniel's ass, stroking over his cheeks, massaging, hoping Daniel wouldn't object. Reaching for the ootra, he poured a little more over his fingers and coated them thoroughly, then pulled Daniel's left cheek aside to locate his target. Hesitantly, he slipped his middle finger inside. Daniel grunted but his strokes never slowed. Jack's heart was pounding with excitement, arousal and terror.

This was Daniel, his closest friend and confidant. Jack was going to fuck him... unless Daniel didn't want him. He waited for a sign; gently probing with his finger his breathing ragged, heart slamming against his ribs, dick so swelled it hurt.

"Yes, Jack," whispered Daniel roughly, lifting his head from Kama's mouth for a moment.

Gently, he stretched Daniel's sphincter, adding more and more fingers, thrusting deeper, twirling them, his left hand massaging Daniel's balls and circling the base of his dick as he slid out of Kama's derriere. It was so arousing Jack thought he'd come just from that but he held back, his balls aching with need. Finally, he withdrew and, using both hands to part Daniel's cheeks, aimed his hard-on at his prize. Already the opening was pink and swollen, glistening in the soft lamplight and he pushed himself slowly inside, watching his entry until every inch of his cock was buried inside Daniel Jackson, drawing the most delicious moans from the man.

Jack's eyes closed. It was astonishing, how good it felt, how deep that pleasure went in him. Daniel's body accepted him instantly, taking all of him deeply, rolling up with each thrust to take more of him. Jack didn't move, just knelt there behind Daniel and let him impale himself on Jack's cock each time he withdrew from Kama's wet heat.

"God, it's so good," Jack moaned. "Daniel... Oh, Daniel..." His hands stroked over Daniel's buttocks, mapping the delicious curve at the small of his back.

"Yes!" Daniel gasped, coming up for air. "Kama, Jack's fucking me. Oh, God..." His rhythm increased, pounding against her, slamming against Jack.

Jack's hands caught at Daniel's hips, pulling him harder onto his cock, pushing him harder into Kama. Teeth closing on his lower lip, Jack grunted his enthusiasm. "Go, Daniel. Fuck me."

"Yes, my sweet lovers," she panted. "Love each other. It is right and good. It is beautiful."

"God, yes," Jack wheezed. He forced his eyes open and looked down at them, at Daniel's ass as he penetrated that beautiful woman and jammed himself fiercely onto Jack. It was beautiful and the sight pushed Jack over the edge. He came with a ragged shout, jerking into Daniel's backside, collapsing onto the lovers. Daniel's cheeks caught at him, squeezing like a vise around Jack's pumping cock, intensifying the waves of pleasure beyond what Jack could tolerate. He cried out, a sob of pleasure-pain ripped from his throat and felt his body shuddering with a surge of emotion beyond his control.

Slowly, he realized Daniel had stopped moving.

"Jack, are you all right?"

"Ohhh," Jack blurted, sniffing back tears. "Waaaay more than all right. That was just... wow."

"I think we all came at the same time," Daniel panted softly. "Um... you're kinda heavy, Jack. Can you get off before we suffocate Kamashanti?"

She giggled breathlessly.

Reluctantly, Jack struggled to get to his knees. He felt himself slip out of Daniel's ass and watched with possessive pleasure as a trail of thick white semen -- his semen -- dripped slowly down Daniel's balls. With a sigh, he lay down beside the lovers, still joined together and smiled up at Daniel.

"You got a terrific tight ass, Danny-boy."

Daniel grinned at him, pure pleasure sparkling in his eyes. Without thinking, he leaned over and brushed his lips against Jack's, lowering gently into a kiss. For a moment Jack froze, startled to be kissing another man. Then he remembered what he'd just done with that man and relaxed, smiling into the kiss. Daniel's tongue flicked over his lips, teasing him. He chuckled.

"What?" Daniel demanded happily.

"Fate. Destiny. Cosmic irony. The whole nine yards, Daniel."

"Yeah. I know what you mean." He moved back over Kamashanti and kissed her again.

Jack touched their faces, fingers tracing over their cheeks, their lips, joining with them as best he could. Kama was right. She was a wise woman but then he supposed that might have something to do with the fact that she was older than she looked. She'd been around a while and learned a few things and in spite of the fact that she was still a hottie, she knew how to open the eyes of the narrow minded around her.

The Jinn had the potential to be great allies to the Tau'ri, if their good relations continued. Kamashanti was due to go home in another few months but until then, Jack hoped she'd be spending what free time she had in this bed with himself and Daniel. They could learn a lot from her and he intended to pay close attention to her wise counsel... and enjoy as many orgasms with her and his teammate as they could squeeze out.

Daniel moved off Kama and onto Jack, stretching out on top of the older man and taking his face in his hands. For a moment, Jack just stared into Daniel's eyes, those beautiful, mesmerizing eyes that he knew so well. Then Daniel kissed him, pouring all the emotion he'd been holding back into that gentle, sensual contact. Jack's arms came up around him. His hands cradled the back of Daniel's head, fingers carding through his hair. He felt Kama's hands on them, stroking and caressing, her voice soft as she began to hum.

Jack felt light headed, his brain so full of endorphins from his orgasm that it was hard to think. He moved to the pressure of hands pushing or pulling him without thinking, lost in Daniel's kiss. The man was great with his mouth, his lips stroking, tongue gliding and dancing, drawing soft moans from Jack as he felt himself growing harder again and Daniel's cock swelling against his belly.

Then they were turning, rolling onto their sides and Kama's hands were moving across his buttocks. Slick fingers slid into him and he understood what they were doing. He felt himself tense, eyes opening in alarm. Daniel looked at him a second later from beneath his lashes, eyes black with desire and need.

He didn't want that, didn't want anyone inside him but denying Daniel that pleasure would be unfair. If Daniel would let Jack do it to him, then he should do it for Daniel, but if he didn't like it...

He closed his eyes, concentrating on kissing. He remembered how glorious it felt to fuck Daniel and as Kama's fingers teased and stretched him, Jack decided it wasn't that bad. Daniel rolled him onto his back again, kneeling between Jack's legs. Kama's hands encouraged Jack to lift his legs, placing them on Daniel's shoulders.

And then Daniel was pressing into him, asking permission with his eyes, so filled with need and desire... and something more. Something bottomless and achingly beautiful, as vast as the star- filled sky.

"Tell him, Daniel," Kama whispered. "He needs to hear it."

"I'm in love with you, Jack. I have been for a long time."

Resistance melted away and Jack felt Daniel slide deeply, fully into him. He gasped, head thrown back against the pillow, body arching at the incredible sensation. He needed this, ached for it. "Daniel," he whimpered, his voice cracking with emotion. This went far deeper than mere sex. Jack was lost, totally without control.

He wanted this moment to last forever.

"Oh, Danny," he moaned. He pulled that wonderful mouth back to his as Daniel rocked him, surging fiercely into him over and over, joy building inside him until it overflowed, senseless words of love and passion spilling out his lips. He couldn't see, couldn't look into those eyes because it was too much, too beautiful, too good. He grasped at Daniel's flanks, reaching for him, trying to pull him closer, deeper, all the way up inside his soul. Daniel's rhythm picked up, pounding into his backside as the pleasure rose, blasting into ecstasy as Daniel's hand closed around Jack's cock, jerking him off and spewing semen all over his chest and belly. Jack opened his eyes to watch Daniel come a moment later, that beautiful face pulled with a grimace of completion, smoothing into a look of bewilderment and affection.

Daniel stayed where he was, trying to catch his breath. "God, how I love you," he murmured, touching Jack's face with his fingertips. "I was so afraid for you to know, Jack. I should have told you a long time ago but I didn't believe you could ever look at me like you're doing right now."

Utterly defenseless against this brightly shining love, Jack sunned himself in it, soaking up the warmth. Tears formed in Daniel's eyes, bringing another wave of emotion up from the depths of Jack's soul. "Don't cry," he whispered, caressing Daniel's cheek and lips. "It's okay now. It's okay."

Kama continued to stroke and caress them, singing her soft, pretty song in her native tongue, watching them together.

Daniel didn't seem to notice she was even there. All he could see was the man beneath him. "I know that now. I just never dreamed this could ever happen, not for real."

Jack just smiled and nodded, too caught up for words.

Daniel kissed his nose. "We were..."

"Fucking," Jack finished with a grin. "Jeez, Daniel, we were fucking."

Jackson looked suddenly shy and innocent. He pulled away and sat back on his heels on the bed. He shook his head. "No, Jack. We were making love."

Tenderness swept through Jack's heart. He sat up gingerly, his ass still tingling and warm from the sex. It felt great. He reached out and took Daniel's face in his hands and said softly, "Yes, Daniel. We were."

He kissed his lover, savoring the taste of Daniel's mouth, exploring it, learning the shape of his tongue and teeth from the inside, because he planned to spend a lot of time there. He felt Kama's lips on his shoulder and the back of his neck and then she shifted to kiss Daniel's body, her hands stroking them both.

"So, now that we've thoroughly checked each other out," Jack said lightly, nibbling at Daniel's lower lip, "what say we have a change of scenery?" He lay back against the bed, grinning rakishly and smacked his lips. "I've worked up a pretty good appetite with all this exercise. Anybody else hungry? I mean, for food?"

"Dinner sounds good," Daniel agreed, bending over and sucking Jack's tongue back into his mouth for a moment. He smiled broadly as he came up again.

"Yeah. I mean, we could eat each other, but there's not a lot of nutritional value in that." Jack waggled his eyebrows and smiled.

Kamashanti giggled delightedly. "Yes, we must keep up our strength. Shall we go downstairs to the kitchen?"

They rose as soon as their legs would hold them.

Jack slipped on his robe and gave Daniel a pair of sweats. They made their wobbly way downstairs while Kamashanti showered again. When she joined them, she was beaming, her eyes a bright golden in the light from the kitchen, wearing Daniel's shirt, open down the front.

"Hey, Kama," Jack smiled. "What's that look for?"

"Because what you shared with each other was love of a kind I have rarely seen. Even among my people such devotion is rare. We have a word for those like you and your Daniel. Shai-ku-shai. It means... sacred lovers. They are revered in our culture, rather as your saints are here."

Jack looked at Daniel. The younger man's feelings were right there in his eyes. Jack turned away, looking for his stash of food in the refrigerator. He couldn't bear the beauty he saw shining out of Daniel. It hurt and as Jack stared mindlessly into the fridge, a lump began to form in his throat. Jack was terrified of what had just happened upstairs. Daniel had seen his heart in his eyes and doubtless would see it again many times before Kama went home, but carrying on an affair with Daniel alone was just impossible. It was too risky and Daniel would have to face up to that fact, eventually.

Daniel was a reasonable man. He was bright. He was probably way ahead of Jack, even now searching for ways to keep his emotions in bounds. Jack took a breath and finally saw the food cartons he'd stashed just for this occasion. Reaching into the cool, he poked around looking for the wedge of watermelon that he'd bought for Kamashanti to try.

"Should we turn off your toys?" Daniel asked leaning against the dining table with Kama wrapped in his arms.

She laughed. "I did that when you two were in the shower."

Jack stopped digging in the refrigerator and glanced at Daniel. "So, all that... the last two times..."

"You were very hungry men, indeed," Kamashanti grinned up at them.

Looking at her bottom peeking out from under Daniel's shirt, Jack couldn't help grinning. "Oh, yeah. It's been way too long for both of us."

They left the bed only to move to a different room or to eat, bathe or relieve themselves. Sometimes they slept and Jack would awaken with Daniel and Kamashanti rocking quietly beside him. Sometimes Jack would watch Daniel sleeping while she rode him to a softly panting climax but he did not touch Daniel without her somewhere beside them. He didn't want to think of Daniel as his lover but it was all right as long as there was a woman in the bed with them. She made the difference, made it acceptable for Daniel to make love to him or the other way around. Jack just couldn't imagine touching Daniel without Kamashanti there to make it right.

The long looks Daniel gave him proclaimed without words how deep the younger man's feelings went, yet every time they made love Jack felt himself pulling farther and farther away. He was afraid of the intensity of his own feelings, of the passion that threatened to burn him to a cinder when he gave in to his desire for Daniel. He never said the words again during their long weekend but the well of emotion was there in those water-blue eyes every time they turned Jack's way.

On Sunday night Jack took Kama and Daniel back to the base and returned home alone, exhausted and satisfied beyond imagining. For the rest of the month they spent every free moment together, while Kamashanti learned about the organization of the SGC program as a base for the Jinn to develop their own. They grew closer and closer with deepening intimacy, then on a fateful Monday morning, after a long weekend of delirious sex, Jack arrived bright and early to watch Kama and her Jinn unit go off on their first field exploration, wishing them well and brimming with good humor.

Twenty-four hours later, he saw her return through the gate filthy and bruised, hanging onto Chodes'ca and calling for medical assistance. Jack heard her weary plea to General Hammond for a rescue team and then SG units 1 and 3 were suiting up to go back through the gate with her to rescue two of her team. Her grandsons had fallen through a collapsed floor in a ruined building that the SGC had explored years earlier.

When they returned hours later with the wounded men, Jack watched her ignore her own needs, waving away the medical personnel who came to clean her minor cuts and scrapes as she sat by the bedsides of her people in the infirmary.

One of the young men died of his injuries as she held his hand and sang a sad, sweet song to comfort him on his journey.

After that, she went to the locker room and showered, changed clothes and let the nurses attend her minor wounds.

Jack and Daniel hovered nearby, wanting to offer her their moral support, but she didn't seem to need them. She gave her remaining teammates all her attention until they were out of danger. Following a brief visit to General Hammond, she began to pack her things to return to her homeworld.

"Rumor says you're leaving," Jack said solemnly, standing in the doorway to her quarters. For the first time since her arrival, she was alone. He was aware of that, aware that his visit to her was taboo, but he had to see her; had to tell her goodbye.

"Yes, Jack. I must see to my people. I will send someone else to finish my part of our bargain with the Tau'ri. There are many who are capable of teaching your scientists our technology but few who can see to the beginning of our Stargate program."

He nodded, understanding completely. "I'll miss you," he ventured cautiously, knowing it was true. He felt closer to her than he ever had to his ex-wife, though they'd had only a month together. He didn't want to let her go, for a lot of reasons.

"Close and lock the door, Jack," she suggested, her eyes grey with grief.

She stopped packing and began to take off her clothes.

"That's not why I came here," he assured her. "I was worried about you."

"I know. You wish to comfort me." She sighed and stretched out on the bed. "I wish to be comforted. Please."

Somehow it felt wrong without Daniel, as if he was betraying a trust of some kind but he recognized the genuine need in her eyes, such a dark, somber grey, and went to her. He made love to her tenderly, sweetly, filling her with his pleasure, giving her climax after climax, until she lay drained and sated beneath him on the bed. When they were finished, she kissed him and helped him to dress before walking him to the door.

Jack returned to his office to ponder what things would be like in her absence. He had a choice to make and it terrified him. She wasn't even gone yet and already he felt as if he was starting to come apart at the seams. He was headed for rough territory but it wasn't because Kama would be gone. He cared about her, all right. She was a good friend and she was fun and affectionate. More importantly, however, she was a bridge to something he wanted far more and was not allowed to have. He needed to talk with Daniel, to make sure he understood what had to be done and how hard it would be to accomplish.

Jack headed for Daniel's barracks room, stopping in the hallway as he saw Kamashanti step inside and close the door. A moment later, Jack heard the bolt lock into place and knew that she had come to say her private goodbyes to her other lover. He strolled away, giving them their space. Some hours later, as he was helping to send her people home through the wormhole, he realized she would admit to Jinn authorities what she had done. She would pay for their goodbye and he had no idea what the penalty might be.

Daniel had said that Jinn women never went to a man alone. When they mated, it was always in social groups. Kamashanti had broken a Jinn taboo by having sex alone with Jack and then going to Daniel separately.

Jack would stand up for her, if necessary; take her punishment instead if that was possible.

He headed straight for General Hammond's office to make an official request to accompany her home as an honor guard from the Tau'ri.

Jack sat on the sofa in Daniel's office, thinking hard. Daniel had closed and locked the door, telling Jack without words that this conversation would be personal. Intimate.

"We need to talk," Daniel said again from his perch on the other end of the couch.

"Be specific, Daniel," Jack shot back morosely.

"You had sex with Kamashanti," he accused. "Alone. I could smell you on her."

"We were saying goodbye," Jack returned evenly. He finally made eye contact with his teammate, hoping not to glimpse the bright glow of love and need that he had seen so often over the last month. He relaxed a little when it wasn't there, just uncertainty and sadness gleaming back at him. "And I'll bet you screwed her good, too."

Jackson actually blushed. "I was upset and so was she. We... lost control."

"She needed comfort. So did I. So did you."

Sighing, Daniel paused thoughtfully. "What happened when you took her home?"

"I wanted to make sure she'd be okay; that they wouldn't hurt her. She got a slap on the wrist, because she was doin' it with aliens and too caught up in grief to be thinking clearly."

Daniel nodded. His face relaxed, grew pensive. Fear and hope crept into his gaze. "So... what about us? Where do we go from here?"

Jack looked at his hands so he wouldn't have to see his friend's face. This would be the hard part, if Daniel weren't the usual two steps ahead, if he hadn't pulled things into perspective yet. Jack stood up, wandering aimlessly around the office, dark except for the light from the single desk lamp painting them in slashes of washed- out color and deep shadows. "There is no us. What happened with Kama can't happen without her."

"Yes, it can. We can be discreet." Daniel moved closer, confronting the other man.

"It would show. Someone would figure it out. It can't happen, Daniel. There is no 'us' without Kama." Jack resettled his black ball cap on his head and gazed at the younger man from beneath it.

Daniel reached out to grab him, pull him close. He snatched up a handful of T-shirt and caught the beaded chain of Jack's dog tags in his fist. He eyed the metal ID dangling from his grasp, then shifted his anguished gaze to his teammate's face.

Jack cocked his head back, putting a little distance between him and the irresistible force that was Daniel Jackson.

The archaeologist's voice was thick with pain. "So, what I told you-- "

"Doesn't matter. It can't."

Daniel grasped the hem of Jack's T-shirt and pulled it off over his head without resistance, hat dropping to the floor with it. He looked down at the flash of silver, lying in repose on Jack's left shoulder, the chain dangling in the white hair on the older man's chest. Daniel embraced him, taking Jack's mouth aggressively, as if he owned it. Jack's arms wrapped around him, holding on to him for a moment. Then his hands caught at Daniel's jacket collar and he pulled the man back, away from his lips. He was breathing hard. Something inside him was screaming. He ignored it, but it wouldn't lie quietly. He pummeled it into submission in the depths of his soul, locking it away in that place where he kept such things.

Jackson grabbed the tags in his fist. "You'll let this--" He held the ID up between them. "--a slip of metal, come between us?"

O'Neill looked down at the gleaming surface, stamped with his name, rank and serial number, his blood type and religious preference. Jack O'Neill at his most basic. That tag was who he was.

"Read it, Daniel," he commanded softly.

"I don't have to. I know exactly what it says."

Blue eyes stared into brown. The message was clear. Daniel didn't need any further clarification. For several moments he was silent, his heart shattering behind his eyes. Defeat registered and he dropped the tags. He took a deep breath and stepped away, looking at the floor.

Jack retrieved his shirt and ball cap and put both items back on, not bothering to tuck in his shirt.

"You can do this, knowing how I feel about you?" Daniel's soft voice was a ripple of pain.

Jack nodded. "It doesn't change how I feel about you," he assured the man. "We're friends. I'm flattered that you feel that way about me... but it doesn't go both ways." He looked down at his hand, remembering how he'd touched Daniel so intimately with it. "Will you be all right with that?"

Agony screamed from the grimace on Daniel's face. "Will I be all right with friendship?" he asked incredulously. "After what we did in your bed, Jack? Oh, hell, no!" He pivoted, taking a step away, hands coming up to his head, rubbing at his face as if trying to keep himself in one piece. He turned and made eye contact again. "I love you, Jack. I'm in love with you. Don't shut me out. Don't do this to me." He hesitated, a breath squealing out in a whimper not quite suppressed. He struggled to maintain some hold on composure, his face twitching with the effort. "I'm begging you, Jack. Give me a chance. We'll find a way to work it out so no one will know. Just... please, don't... don't cut my heart out like this. I... I've never felt this way about anybody before, Jack. Not even Sha're."

Clenching his teeth, Jack fought to keep up the walls he had so carefully rebuilt after the ill-fated Jinn mission. Terror had helped him lay those stones, one by one, and his feelings for Daniel were threatening to shake them down. He was being an asshole and he knew it, but he had no choice. He looked down at the dog tags dangling against his chest, gleaming softly in the lamplight. That was safety, certainty, the only world he'd ever known. What Daniel was offering him was a shapeless landscape without boundaries, with no road map and no way to go home once he set foot on the path.

"I can be your friend, Daniel," Jack said quietly. "I can't be anything more than that. Not in this world... and this world is what we're fighting for. Don't forget that."

"But Jack..." Daniel was desperate now. He wobbled a little, his arms hanging limply at his sides, as if his bones were dissolving. "Please. Please. I need you." He reached out, arms folding around Jack's neck, holding on so tightly Jack could hardly breathe.

His resolve was quivering and he needed to act before it gave. He pulled Daniel's arms off him and pushed him gently backward. "I'm sorry, Daniel. This is how it has to be." He turned to leave.

Daniel's face was a war zone, emotions exploding across it. He was shaking, eyes wide with shock, burning with pain, hands trembling as they came up to remove his glasses. He didn't have to make a sound.

Jack knew Daniel was falling apart, and that as soon as the door closed the tears would come in an unstoppable flood. He heard Daniel drop to his knees, felt the man covering his face with both hands. Jack walked silently away, offering the younger man some privacy for his grief.

There was no place in a unit like theirs for complications like love. No matter how much Jack might want Daniel for himself, it was necessary to keep things simple, follow the rules. He couldn't afford to have even a hint of attraction to another man if he wanted to remain in the military. What had happened between him and Daniel would simply have to be forgotten.

Jack headed for the gym. Putting on his sweats, he tried to run it off but the demon of what he'd done outpaced him, taunting him cruelly. Jack wanted to go back down there and take Daniel in his arms, kiss his tears away and make love to him until neither one of them could stand, but the colonel in him couldn't do that. The colonel couldn't be in love with any man, most certainly not one on his team.

Jack had plenty of experience doing the hard thing. There were places in his soul, places so deep he could hardly reach them anymore, where things like pain and grief were kept so they couldn't interfere. This was killing him, what he was doing to Daniel, doing to himself, but he couldn't make the other choice. This was his life. This was his destiny, not shacking up with a beautiful, brilliant, compassionate man and living on love. That was an impossible dream that he'd enjoyed briefly and now had to put away. Daniel would understand, eventually. This was his mission, too, his life's work. They would find a way to get back on the path, side by side, and in time, the cries from the dungeon in his soul would fade and he would be at peace with his decision.

He put on some boxing gloves and moved one of the young recruits off the heavy bag dangling from a support beam. Rage at circumstances fuelled his first few punches, the shock of impact traveling up his arms to his shoulders. He pounded the bag until his hands started to hurt and then hit it harder, needing the pain. He was perspiring heavily now, great drops trickling down his face and neck. The vision of Daniel on his knees returned with a vengeance and he did not fight the tears that filled his eyes, knowing the sweat would camouflage them if they fell.

Daniel, he cried out in the silence of his mind, I'm sorry! I love you. I didn't want to hurt you but I had to. I love you. I love you and I know you'll never understand. God, help us. Help Daniel, because I love him. That wasn't supposed to happen. It can't happen.

But it had, and now all that was left for both of them was pain and purpose.

Two months later, Daniel stepped out of the Jinn Stargate into the bright of sunlit day. He glanced overhead at the fluted translucent dome stretching above him, taking a second to appreciate its beauty. The room was sealed until the gate shut down and he glanced up into the control booth with a smile and wave at Kamashanti. She gave a command and the door to the gate room slid open with a soft hiss.

Chodes'ca met him just outside and escorted him up to the control room. He greeted Kama with a kiss on the cheek, which she returned with one on the lips, lightly and with open eyes. He noted that her irises were a deep magenta. He'd never seen that color in Jinn eyes before.

"We welcome you to our world, Daniel," she said formally. "I would be pleased if you would be my guest at my home while you are here."

"I'll be going back to the base tomorrow," he told her. "I made up a good enough official reason to come here but my motivation's entirely personal. I needed to talk."

She shot a glance at her grandson and then eyed Daniel again. "We will not be alone but Chodes'ca is discreet with personal matters. I must finish my shift here and when I am done, my time will be yours."

Cho gave him a respectful bow.

Daniel returned it. "I appreciate that. I'll look forward to seeing you later, then."

"Cho will take you there," she said, and kissed his cheek. "Be welcome, honored shai-ku-shai."

The Jinn stepped away and led Daniel off, another of her personal guard stepping up to take his place at her side. Daniel walked through the building, taking note of the lovely architecture, functional as well as pleasing to the eye. Their Stargate program was public and while the appearance of the occasional alien caused a stir, the Jinn were always unfailingly polite.

Watching the people as he passed them down the halls and outside into the landscaped grounds of the Stargate Travel Center, he felt a little ache start deep inside. There were couples everywhere, some holding hands, some engaged in quiet flirtations, other kissing in the sunshine, oblivious to anyone else. Most of them were men with the rare sight of an occasional woman, always in the company -- or under guard -- of a handful of Jinn males watching over her.

The sexual freedom these people enjoyed made Daniel envious. He wanted that for himself and Jack, for attitudes among the Tau'ri to be accepting of same sex relationships but that would be a very long time coming, if it happened at all. As long as Jack was in the military, the man wouldn't even consider the idea that there might really be something deeper than sex between them.

Daniel rode on the little antigrav sled with a sense of wonder and a little trepidation, afraid he might fall off the thing at some point during the journey but Cho was an able pilot and they didn't travel more than a few feet off the ground. Kamashanti's house was a modern- looking structure with flowing lines and layers of balconies, each with a great view of the beautifully landscaped city spread out all around them. They were high up in the mountains, where the air was cool and fresh and the landscape stretched out around them for miles. It was breathtaking but Daniel didn't appreciate it for very long.

Other things were on his mind.

Cho showed him to a spacious room on one of the upper floors with a private balcony overlooking the back of Kama's property. He busied himself with unpacking the satchel of books he'd brought with him and when there was nothing left to do, he wandered about the house as he had been invited to do. He saw a wedding image of Kama with her first group of husbands. Daniel's eyebrows shot up as he counted five men in the traditional wedding garb. There were other subsequent pictures of a smiling Kama with her children and presiding over the wedding of her sons to another young Jinn woman.

There were also other images of Kama sitting alone in her yard, her belly rounded in pregnancy, her expression pensive. Those magenta eyes were full of secrets and Daniel was sure there was a trace of sadness in them as well. He wondered which of the five men in that wedding picture had been the one who held her heart. Moving back to study it, he knew instantly which one it was.

Of the men clustered around her, she was touching only one, reaching out to hold the hand of a man with long, pale hair and eyes only for her. There was a certain physical resemblance between the man and himself, which Kama had mentioned to him early in their relationship. Daniel closed his eyes, imagining her wedding night, remembering how she had described their customary union. All the power rested with Jinn women and she was allowed to choose her first lover. The other husbands took their pleasure with each other, participating only marginally in her deflowering. While she educated him to the many wonderful aspects of group marriage, there was also a trace of wistfulness and obvious love for the one man of the group who truly held her heart.

Kama would have preferred to have only one mate, had that choice been available but she had still enjoyed the freedom and variety of her handful of husbands. She made sure Daniel understood that the arrangement was one that Jinn women expected and anticipated with great joy, for the most part. That little trace of sad wistfulness, however, told him that part of her envied the human custom of monogamy. He thought about that and wished circumstances could be different for her... and for himself as well. Daniel found Jinn acceptance of same sex relationships infinitely preferable to the attitude on his own world.

Others of Kamashanti's grandchildren came and went in the house throughout the day. Daniel chatted with them, asking them questions about their city, their culture, their history. He began to relax a little and enjoy himself, forgetting his troubles for the moment but as he let his mind drift, it began to return to the situation that had brought him there in the first place.

"It has only been a few months since we saw each other last," Kama said from the kitchen doorway as she arrived home. "You look tired."

Daniel stood under the trees, barefoot in the long, cool grass, enjoying the feel of it against his soles. He looked up at her and nodded. "I am. Tired of fighting. Tired of a lot of things."

She drifted toward him gracefully, her long silver skirt flowing about her ankles, winking in the afternoon sunlight. "Then rest here with me, my friend. Tell me your troubles." She reached out to him, gathering him in her arms for a fond embrace.

Daniel glanced up and saw Chodes'ca in the doorway, sauntering into the yard to observe Jinn protocol. He kept his distance, allowing them a little privacy but remained visible, keeping Kamashanti in sight at all times.

Daniel put his head down and closed his eyes, his forehead touching hers. "It's Jack," he murmured softly. "I shouldn't have told him how I feel. We shouldn't have... done what we did with you." He heard the tears in his voice, felt them gathering in his eyes. "Jack pretends nothing happened. He won't talk about it. About us."

"He loves you, Daniel," Kamashanti whispered. "I saw it in his eyes, every time he touched you. He was gentle with you, until you both lost control, until you needed him to be rough, or he needed to feel the power of your love. You did not need to be told what the other wanted. Words were unnecessary between you. Your souls spoke to each other. I cannot believe that has ended. Sacred love does not just stop. You are shai-ku-shai."

"No," Daniel argued gently, losing control of his voice and his tears. "Jack's not in love with me, Kamashanti. We're just friends. Fuck buddies, while you were there. I don't expect you to understand that concept. Just-just know that what we both thought we saw was an illusion. A 'heat of the moment' thing and I can't bear..." He took a deep, shaky breath and looked up at the sky. "I can't bear to see him every day, work with him like we do and know that what I thought was so real and beautiful was all an illusion."

She reached up and took his face in her hands. "It was no illusion," she told him harshly. "Never believe that, my Daniel. It was real. Jack loves you as deeply as you love him. For some reason I do not understand, he hides that truth from himself."

"Because of the military. Because of our world and the way it sees men who love other men," Daniel growled, his voice a ragged tear in his throat. "I don't understand this myself, Kamashanti. I'd been with another man before but I couldn't handle it, didn't want it. Stephen wanted my heart and I couldn't give it to him. And Sarah -- the woman who brought us together -- well, I think she was more in love with the power she had over me than anything else. When she lost that, when I refused to allow Stephen in our bed anymore, she left me."

He breathed out a long, shuddering sigh and held her closer, whispering in her ear. "Nothing I've ever been through could have prepared me for how I feel about Jack, Kama. I can't breathe without him. Not touching him is slowly killing me. I need to walk away while I still can."

"I am so sorry for causing you this pain," Kama murmured against his cheek. "I wanted only to share something sweet and intimate with you, Daniel. Then when I saw the love between you and your Jack, I truly believed I could help him over the walls he has built up in his mind. I thought I had succeeded but I see now that I have failed in the most terrible way possible -- by giving you a taste of something you cannot have."

"Uhnn," Daniel groaned, his breath and tears catching in his throat. He clamped his eyes shut and clutched at her, desperate for some kind of anchor. He was falling apart, his heart ripped in two. His knees gave and he sank down onto the grass, letting go of Kama to keep from pulling her down with him. She came anyway, kneeling on the grass beside him. He wept openly, hanging onto her as she whispered to him, her hands soothing his face and body.

"Shhhh, Daniel," she murmured, kissing his forehead, her lips sliding into a soft smile. "All is not lost, my sweet. There is yet the promise of--"


Cho's sharp reproach startled both of them. Daniel looked up to see the Jinn man standing close by, his eyes dark red with disapproval.

"I'm sorry," Daniel sniffed, wiping at his cheeks. "Should I not be touching her?" He looked around him, utterly lost.

Chodes'ca smiled warmly at Daniel. "You did nothing to offend, my friend. Kamashanti is the one who treads dangerous ground." He frowned at her. "Do not let your hearts run away with your head, mother of my father."

Kama looked up at Cho, guilt sliding across her features. "I apologize, Chodes'ca," she said contritely, head bowed, sliding away from the man in her arms. "I meant no harm; only to ease Daniel's pain. I will watch what I say more carefully."

Cho remained silent but his eyes said plenty. He was very angry with her for something but Daniel didn't have the slightest idea what either of them had done.

Kama held out her hands to Daniel, helping him to his feet but keeping her gaze on the ground, head bowed.

"Do not despair, Daniel," she said stiffly. "Please, I beg you to stay with Jack! He needs you, though he cannot admit it to himself. Though it will cause you great pain, your place will always be beside him. One day, he may come to know that, but if you are not there when he makes that discovery, it will be for nothing."

"I'm not sure I'm strong enough to endure that kind of torture." Daniel ran a shaky hand through his hair.

Kama looked up at him, meeting his eyes as her palm caressed his cheek. "You are far stronger than you know, my Daniel. You are stronger than Jack. He needs your strength if he is to survive. He will be lost without you."

"Jack would be just fine without me," Daniel bit back. He remembered the prickly O'Neill he first met at Cheyenne Mountain, not realizing how broken the man was, in the beginning. Or how close to the edge O'Neill was walking during that first mission. Jack was better now, his wounds healed. He was unbreakable. "I was gone for a year and he was fine. He doesn't need me."

"I disagree," she said quietly. "You are his strength, Daniel. I believe you have been for some time." She hooked her arm in his and led him back toward the house. "Come. We will go into the house and talk about pleasant things. I will do what I can to help you find peace and when you need someone to help you gather it about you again, you will come to me. Agreed?"

He gave her a wistful little smile. She was trying so hard to rectify her mistake; to support him in his loss but nothing she could offer would help.

He would wait a little while longer before making his decision whether or not to ask for reassignment, tolerating Jack's attitude for as long as he could manage but it wouldn't be easy. Just making it through each day was the hardest work he'd ever done in his life.

One Year Later

Jack dropped his gear in the off-world digs, checking out the newly built accommodations. He'd been in worse places but Beta Colony wasn't supposed to be comfortable. Not yet, anyway. While Alpha Colony was designed as a hedge against total annihilation should Earth be destroyed by the Goa'uld, Beta Colony was supposed to be an all-military secondary command post and it was all his.

Brigadier General Jack O'Neill.

The promotion was a surprise but due to the desperate nature of Earth's military machine, the Pentagon thought it best to spread out a little. That called for people experienced in running off-world operations and he was at the top of that very short list. Despite his record as a maverick, he'd gotten the nod and packed up his most necessary gear, leaving everything else behind until he chose to retire, or there was no home left after the Goa'uld got through with it.

He'd considered taking the rest of SG-1 with him but there would be no need for Daniel's skills in this new operation and he wouldn't feel right taking Carter and Teal'c and leaving Daniel behind alone. He wanted Jackson with him, dreamed of sharing his quarters... sharing his bed. That couldn't happen. Especially not now.

It was better to leave the team together and let them continue to support each other. They'd get a new soldier in their ranks and eventually they'd stop missing him. They'd get over it.

Jack didn't think he ever would. It had been a year since they had said goodbye to Kamashanti and not a day had gone by that he didn't think about Daniel in his arms. About how right it felt to be inside him, or to have Daniel inside him. Jack had done the buddy-fucking thing once during his long military career. That sort of thing happened when the hormones were high, tension so thick you could cut it with a knife and no female outlet was available. People tended to look the other way and ignore that.

Only they didn't ignore two men shacking up together, unable to keep their hands off each other and if he got Daniel alone someplace where he felt safe, he was sure he'd be all over him. He was in love with Daniel. He was sure about that and the idea rocked his world. But that wasn't the man he could be.

Jack's relationship with all his SG-1 teammates was far too deep for military standards. It was better for all of them that he separate himself from them and let them get on with their lives. The past year had been hell for all of them, especially for Daniel. Jack had watched him suffering, working himself to death so he wouldn't have time to think about what Jack was doing to him. Everybody felt it by the end and when the new command came through, Jack jumped at it.

He started taking his personal gear out of the duffel bag at his feet, finding places in the Spartan space of his new quarters for everything. He folded his clothes neatly into drawers, hung up the dress blues he didn't think he'd be using off-world and set up his toiletries in the tiny bathroom. Last of all were the few truly personal items he'd brought -- a few favorite books, a photograph album of his family and a handful of framed pictures to hang on the wall.

One of them was a picture Carter had taken on some dreary off-world archaeological site. He'd been taking a nap, stretched out on the dirt while Daniel unearthed some artifact with the aid of a few small brushes and one very worn, very dirty toothbrush used for vigorous scrubbing. Jackson had gotten a wild gleam in his eye, according to Carter, and gently starting scraping up toothbrush loads of dirt from the hole in the ground, carefully depositing them in various places on his colonel's uniform and his forearm exposed beneath the sleeve of his T-shirt. The photo caught him in mid-dump, eyes sparkling and mouth so soft and sweet.

Daniel had been playing with the bull on P3X-whatever; sticking his fingers in the fire; daring the big, bad monster to come and get him.

Carter recognized the importance of the event and caught it on film. Jack stared at the picture, at that face, at the innocence in it. His insides twisted up. His breath caught. Daniel Jackson never played. He didn't know how. The one time he'd actually done it, Jack had torn him a new one when he woke up covered in little mounds of dirt. He'd darn near decked the other man, he was so pissed off.

Daniel never played again; at least, not to Jack's knowledge. He swallowed the lump in his throat, his fingers touching the glass briefly, stroking across that soft cheek.

Daniel's had a hard life, but he's stronger for it. He's a good guy. He'll be fine without me.

He set the picture with the others, intending to find a hammer and nails later to hang the photos where he could see them. For now, he was pretty well squared away. He had the rest of the evening to himself and was due for a rest. He made the cot with the linens that had been put out for his use, then stretched out on the little bed and sighed.

The moment his eyes closed, he saw Daniel's face bending over him as he made love to his friend, his love, his life, eyes glowing with passion and peace. Daniel smiling as his fingers reverently touched Jack's face. Daniel as he came, back arched, eyes gently closed, his face the picture of joy, always with his lover's name on his lips.

Jack O'Neill had turned away from that.

And regretted it every moment afterward.

Five Years Later

Chodes'ca came through the Stargate dressed entirely in white. A translucent veil was draped over his head, which Daniel recognized as a symbol of Jinn mourning. This visit was a surprise, not the regularly scheduled one, and chance found the archaeologist in the control room when Cho arrived. Daniel hurried downstairs, into the 'gate room and up the ramp to meet the young man, holding out his hands in the Jinn gesture of greeting.

"My grief attend you," Daniel said sincerely. "How may we help?"

The Jinn's eyes were black with suffering, red-rimmed from weeping. He looked tired but that was an expected side-effect of mourning. "I must speak with you and General O'Neill," he said softly. "It is a private matter. I know he is stationed at Beta Colony but I have come to collect you first. Then we shall go to him."

Daniel stiffened. "A personal matter," he repeated suspiciously.

"Yes, my friend. We must go to Beta Colony at once," Chodes'ca said quickly. "From there the three of us will return to my homeworld."

Glancing up at Hammond gazing down at them from the control room, Daniel turned back to their visitor. "What's this about, Cho?" He had come to know the young Jinn well over the past few years. The Tau'ri partnership with these aliens had made the difference in defeating the Goa'uld just a few months earlier and Earth was very much in their debt. Neither society had come away unscathed but both were recovering.

Chodes'ca looked up at the general, then at the linguist. "As I said, it is a personal matter." He cleared his throat and his voice grew thick and rough with grief. "Regarding Kamashanti. She has gone to renew the Great Cycle."

Shock bolted through Daniel. "When did she die?"

"Only days ago. We have been preparing her to join the circle of souls. Our preparations are almost complete and it is imperative that you and O'Neill come."

"Of course. I'll need an hour or so to pack. May we serve you in any way while you wait?"

The Jinn shook his head. "I will speak with General Hammond and return here to wait for you, Daniel."

The linguist nodded and left the base for his apartment to gather a few things for the trip. He expected to be gone a few days, not certain how long the Jinn funeral would take but wanting to be sure he had everything he would need.

He'd kept in touch with Kamashanti through the years, visiting her whenever he could manage the time and he knew Jack had done the same -- just never at the same time.

The thought of seeing O'Neill again brought up painful memories. Things had never been the same between them after Kamashanti's return to her world. Daniel did his job, avoiding every opportunity to spend free time with the colonel, even when invited. Gradually the gulf between them widened to such a degree that, when O'Neill's promotion and off-world command had come through, Jack snatched at it and was gone. SG-1 went on with the newly promoted Lt. Colonel Carter in command and a young recruit joined the team as the fourth man -- or woman, in the case of Captain Sue Jameson. She had performed well and was a good fit but Daniel never got over the hole left by Jack's desertion.

Which was exactly what he felt it was. O'Neill could have taken his team with him, if he'd wanted. There was a need for technology whizzes and Teal'c could certainly serve as Jaffa liaison or security. Daniel could've found something to do. A place could have been made for all of them, if O'Neill had wanted them.

Daniel never forgave him for that.

Now he'd be facing the man again, together in grief, mourning an old friend and lover.

He changed into his best suit, grabbed his suitcase and headed for the base.

Jack watched the two men step out onto the ramp and felt his heart clench. He'd been expecting someone from the SGC by the iris code but Daniel was the last person he expected to see coming through the event horizon. He stood in the observation room for a few more moments, heart pounding, trying to get control of himself and school his expression into impartiality before going to meet the visitors to Beta Colony.

Daniel looked good, if a little tense but Chodes'ca's outfit could only mean one thing. O'Neill had taken the trouble to learn some of the Jinn customs and he knew what that veil represented. He also knew that Cho was Kamashanti's grandson, as well as her second in command of the Jinn Stargate program, so this mourning was both personal and professional, or he wouldn't be on Beta Colony.

O'Neill turned to his aide and informed her that he would be making a brief visit off-world for a state funeral, setting the wheels in motion for an absence from his command. He waited for the gate room doors to open and admit the off-worlders to the base. Jack had a hard time dragging his eyes from Daniel's face to look at Chodes'ca. "My grief attend you," he said formally, holding out his hands. "Kama?"

The Jinn bowed. "She wished for both you and Daniel to be present for the Sending, Jack. I know this will be difficult but it must be done."

"Understood." He looked at Daniel then, meeting his eyes for the first time in nearly five long, dark years. "We'll manage. Won't we, Daniel?"

"For our friend, Kamashanti," Daniel agreed. His eyes were blazing, his jaw set.

Jack's heart sank. Apparently there was no forgiveness to be had from the man. He had been simmering all those years, rather than his anger fading away. Even now, Daniel stood stiffly with his chin high, hands clasped behind his back, not offering a handshake or embrace, just cold formality mixed with hot resentment.

"I have some arrangements to make," Jack said stiffly. "It won't take me long to pack but I can't just leave the base at the drop of a hat. My aide will take you two on a tour, if you'd like. Something to pass the time while I'm setting things in motion."

"I'll wait in the 'gate room," Daniel shot back, "so we can go as soon as you're ready."

Cho gave him a sadly reproachful look. "There is plenty of time, Daniel. You should go outside. Let us see what Jack has made of this place."

"You go on ahead," Daniel told the Jinn, his gaze steady on Jack. "I'll be fine right here." He turned and headed back into the embarkation room and the door closed behind him.

"I am sorry, Jack," Cho said gently. "I will wait with Daniel. Perhaps if we talk of gentle things, of Kamashanti, it will cool his temper."

"He's got a right to be pissed off at me," Jack returned. He finally pulled his gaze away from that door and looked at Cho. "I'll talk to him when we get there. Make sure he'll be able to put his feelings for me aside so we can get through this. There's no need to make the rest of you suffer because we can't get along."

Chodes'ca bowed again and followed Daniel back into the fortified room.

Jack left for his quarters, changing into dress blues and packing what was necessary for the trip. Once all the arrangements were made, he officially turned over command to Colonel Edwards and gave the order to dial up the Jinn homeworld.

They stepped out into the sealed room that housed the alien Stargate, greeting their hosts with the proper protocols. The formal announcement of Kamashanti's death was given and Jack was surprised to learn it had come after the Jinn's final battle with the Goa'uld. She had been severely injured in the attack and lingered for several months until passing just a few days earlier. He wished they had called him sooner, so that he could have seen her while she was still alive.

Jack looked at Daniel, knowing the same thought was going through the other man's mind but Daniel didn't see him. He was looking at the floor, his expression closed, his grief pulled deeply inside where no one else could witness it. O'Neill could still feel it echoing inside him and wanted to offer his comfort. He stepped toward his old friend, but Daniel moved away.

"Don't," the younger man growled under his breath in warning. "Just don't, Jack."

O'Neill stiffened. His heart was so heavy with grief and regrets that it was hard to stay upright. He could smell Daniel's aftershave; feel his body heat through their clothes. All his senses seemed to be focused on the man, hypersensitive to his every movement or word. Jack wanted nothing more than just to touch him, just once.

With every passing year his need for Daniel had steadily grown rather than waned. On every anniversary at Beta Colony, those stationed there would celebrate their accomplishments and the commanding officer was required to give a speech, but every year, once the formalities were over, General O'Neill would shut himself up in his quarters and tie one on, mourning in his bunk for the love he gave up. He would dream silly dreams about retiring, going back to Earth and being welcomed home with kisses and forgiveness. Those dreams were all that kept him going... and what kept him on Beta Colony. He was terrified they would be nothing but wishful thinking and Daniel's reaction made it very clear that whatever they had once was gone.

"Gentlemen, if you will please come with me," Cho requested. "We have rooms prepared for you in Kamashanti's home. She wished you to stay there, when you came for the Sending."

They got into a small antigrav sled just outside the facility and traveled over softly rolling hills of verdant grass and flowers. Daniel busied himself looking at the buildings but Jack couldn't see anything but his old friend. Memories scrolled through Jack's mind, most of them painful but precious because Jackson had been at his side. The ache of separation from him never went away. It had grown over the years until it seemed every breath Jack breathed was tinged with it. The lump in his throat was the size of Minnesota and no matter how he tried, it would not go away.

It was a good thing Daniel didn't want to talk just then, because Jack wouldn't have been able to say a word. Daniel was ignoring him, cold as stone. Jack deserved that kind of treatment, after what he'd done to the man. O'Neill turned away, pretending to look at the scenery, the vision of Daniel on his knees in his office all that Jack could see.

The sled stopped just outside a smooth white structure with curving balconies and hanging gardens on every level. The arched doorway led into a shaded courtyard dominated by a gleaming metal fountain in the shape of a mythical Jinn beast and beyond that was the main entry. Flowering shrubs grew up beside the door and Jack followed Cho and Daniel into the great hall.

Kamashanti's entire family stood assembled to greet them, bowing deeply as a sign of respect.

Daniel bowed in return and then knelt to meet the eyes of two little girls standing in the front row. He smiled at them. "Hello," he said softly in their native language. "I don't think I've seen you before. I'm Daniel. Kamashanti and I were very good friends." He held out his hand to them, a smile curving his lips when one of them shook it like a Tau'ri. The other followed suit a moment afterward.

The little girls looked at him, then up at the young Jinn man, Yan'nei, now holding their hands. "Dr. Jackson," he said warmly, "this is Naisha and Shanai." He turned to a Jinn woman standing by his side. "This is our wife, Nissandra. Chodes'ca, Chimas'ca and I are her husbands."

She held out her hands to him in greeting. "We bid you welcome, Tau'ri friends."

Jack's eyes roved over the assembled group. He counted twenty-seven people; seven about his own age who he recognized as Kamashanti's sons, three women who were probably wives of most of the group and the rest her grandsons. Her husbands had all died long ago and she had not re-married.

Tentatively, the blue-eyed child stepped forward and shook his hand. "I'm Shanai," she said soberly. "Our mother told us much about you, sir."

Naisha's chin lifted and she sniffed, struggling not to cry.

Jack looked into those intense brown eyes and swallowed a lump in his throat. She reminded him of Kama, but there were obvious contributions of whoever her father was. Naisha's face was strong, square-jawed, with thin lips and a hint of dimple in her chin, while Shanai's face was rounder, softer, with a full mouth and big eyes. The girls looked like they were probably the same age, and he wondered which of the assembled family group were her parents.

Then again, the way Jinn families worked, one would never be sure exactly which man in a marriage would be the father. It could be any of the males married to the mother, which was why they passed property down through the mothers, rather than the fathers. He smiled at the little brown-eyed one and wondered what she was thinking so hard about that gave her eyes that particular shade of chocolate.

"Come," Cho called softly. "I will show you to your room."

"Room?" both men said in unison.

Cho's smile was sad. "It was Kamashanti's wish that you share her room while you are here."

Jack and Daniel exchanged a glance. Daniel stood, took his bag and followed Cho without a word. The Jinn showed them into the room, then withdrew and closed the door in his wake, giving them time alone to make peace.

The room faced a beautifully manicured yard, the balcony extending outward beneath the shade of several huge trees. A waterfall cascaded close to the end of the projection, spray keeping that end of the balcony perpetually wet. Moss grew over the stone walls and floor in that area, coating it in velvet green.

Their baggage at their feet, the two men glanced around the room, so evocative of the woman who had lived there. At the same moment, they looked at the big bed and then at each other, remembering. Jack wanted to say something but with those blue eyes looking into his, all he could do was recall the past.

"She loved us, Jack," Daniel said huskily, glancing back at the bed. "All these years, every time I came to visit, she talked about you, keeping us connected even while we were apart. What you did the last time you saw her, what you said, how you were. She told me..." He frowned. "Never mind. I didn't believe her anyway." He turned away.

Jack already knew what he was going to say. He remembered those conversations he'd had with Kama, the confessions he made to her, knowing they'd be repeated.

"I love Daniel. Love him more than I've ever loved anybody but I can't. I shouldn't. I have a job to do and it's important. Fate of my world, and all that. I can make a difference at Beta Colony. I can make a difference with the SGC. If I chose Daniel over that, I couldn't do anything but dry up and wither away. Which doesn't change how I feel about him one bit. I love him, Kama. I always will."

"You don't have to be the one to save your world, Jack," she had argued gently. "You deserve love. So does Daniel."

"We can't have that in our world."

She had smiled then. "You can in mine."

Jack couldn't do what she asked. He couldn't give up Earth. Couldn't live among aliens for the rest of his life, not even for Daniel. It would take something far more powerful than satisfaction of mere human desires to make him take that step. "I'm sorry, Kama. I can't."

Yet every year, every visit he made, she kept trying to get them back together, playing mediator between them, keeping the flame of love alive. Jack let her. Apparently, Daniel had, too.

The younger man made eye contact again. "I've missed you, Jack. Missed us." He laughed bitterly. "Hell, there hasn't been an 'us' for so long it seems like I imagined it all... but I remember." He stepped toward Jack.

Without thinking, Jack backed up and instantly regretted it. He couldn't make himself step up again, couldn't move. He swallowed hard, watching as Daniel's expression shuttered closed.

Picking up his suitcase, Daniel moved toward the bed with it.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," Jack choked out, his voice gruff and raw. "I'm always saying that to you, aren't I?"

Daniel said nothing. He opened the zipper on his bag and flipped back the lid without acknowledgment.

Jack felt himself quivering inside. "God, I'm so fucked up... Listen-"

"No, you listen, Jack!" Daniel whirled around to face him, fuming. "I don't know what the future holds for either of us but nothing has changed for me. You decided for both of us. You walked away from me, from what I wanted to give you, and as hard as I tried to make what I felt... what I feel go away, as much as I wanted not to care, I still fucking love you, you stubborn son of a bitch! So just give me my space while we have to be here, don't try to make nice like you did when we got here and we'll get through the next few days without making Kamashanti's family more miserable than they already are. Okay?"

He didn't wait for an answer, just turned around and started unpacking as if he had a grudge against everything he'd brought with him.

Jack wanted to tackle the man and climb inside him. He wanted to crawl into a hole and die. He wanted to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness. His insides were a tangled mess and his brain had short circuited, leaving nothing but a storm of chaotic emotions in charge. He stood completely still for a few minutes, unable to think, watching Daniel move about the room and then wander out onto the balcony, still trying to pull himself together.

Mechanically, without anything but instinct in the driver's seat, Jack picked up his duffel bag and began to put his own things away. By the time he finished Daniel had gone downstairs to visit with the rest of the family. His absence gave Jack a little breathing room, time to let his head clear. He sat down on the bed for a while, looking aimlessly around the room at the remnants of the wonderful friend he had made among these people.

Regardless of Kamashanti's wishes, he was going to find some other place to sleep, even if it was on one of the lounge chairs on the balcony. The weather was nice and it might be refreshing to sleep under the stars. He hadn't done that for years, since his last mission with SG-1. Beta Colony had expanded and grown less primitive but it still wasn't home, wasn't comfortable like this place.

Swallowing down the lump in his throat, he explored the room. Every time he'd visited the Jinn homeworld, he stayed with Kamashanti but had never been allowed entrance to her private quarters.

It would have been unseemly for her to be alone with a single man and though he didn't understand that custom at all, he'd been bound to observe it for her sake. He saw traces of her personality everywhere and he missed the brightness of it, her warmth and laughter. It was hard to believe she was really dead.

After a while, Cho came up to fetch him and took Jack and Daniel to the temple to help with the final preparations of her body. The two men were instructed how to bathe her and dress her in the veils that would cover her for the Sending. As Jack sponged purified water over her corpse, he saw how devastating her injuries had been and knew she fought hard for her life before losing the battle. Her face was unmarked and still incredibly beautiful. He leaned down to place a chaste kiss upon her lips, his eyes filling with tears that he blinked away.

A sound made him look up. Daniel's tears streamed down his face and onto her body as his hand moved with the sponge, gently cleansing her skin. His hands trembled as they moved over her and when he was finished, he stroked his hand over her hair and began to sing.

Jack stared in wonder at the man. The song was beautiful, familiar somehow but he couldn't place where he'd heard it. The Jinn language was fluid and lovely and rolled off Daniel's lips in velvet tones, his eyes closed as more tears leaked out from between his lashes. Jack never knew Daniel could sing like that, had never heard him sing. He had a great voice; one that should be raised in song often, yet in all the years he'd known the man, Jack had never witnessed anything like this.

He was stunned. He watched Daniel's face as he grieved in that alien song and felt pressure in his chest. Jack could hardly breathe, his insides shredding with grief and loss. He watched as the last note vibrated in Daniel's throat, fading into silence. Then Daniel bent down and covered her with himself, embracing what he could reach, his cheek nestled next to hers.

Jack's hand settled on Daniel's shoulder. He stroked gently, pouring his regret into that contact, hoping Daniel understood. Only he wouldn't, not without the words.

"I was wrong, Daniel," he said softly. "I'm sorry."

The other man rose slightly, kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her lips, and slowly straightened. He met Jack's tortured gaze, mouth trembling with grief, his voice a pained whisper. "I know you're sorry, Jack. I know. I am, too. She loved you. Me. Us. She loved us... but right now, this is about Kamashanti, not about us. I want to honor her, for what she tried so hard to do and for what she was. What she was to us. Okay?"

He laid his hand gently on Jack's shoulder for just a moment and then pulled it away.

Jack nodded, unable to speak, his throat completely closed.

Daniel began to place the veils over Kamashanti, discreetly covering her body with the layers of sheer fabric, leaving her face open to view. Placing the last veil over her face in the Jinn tradition, Daniel turned away and left the room with Jack in his wake.

They returned to Kamashanti's house with Cho, shaken and quiet. They bathed separately and dressed in Jinn mourning clothes that had been laid out for them, their heads covered with veils. Jack felt weird with the thing on his head but was determined to observe their traditions. The family invited them to join the evening meal, during which the veils were removed.

He and Daniel sat on either side of the two little girls and Jack took pleasure in helping Naisha with her food, getting her extra helpings, cleaning up spills and carrying on a conversation with her. She was bright and asked him lots of questions about what he did and where he lived.

Sometimes she would turn to the other child and whisper with her and they would giggle and slowly get back to their meals.

Interacting with her made Jack feel much better and he stole a glance at his human companion on the other side of Shanai. Daniel was smiling at the little girl, teasing her about something she'd said. He put his head down as she crooked her finger at him and she whispered something to him. His eyebrows shot up his forehead in mock surprise, his mouth drew up into a half-squelched grin and he covered it with his hand as if to try to hide it further.

Daniel was playing with the little girl.

The sight choked Jack up, brought tears to his eyes. He wasn't prepared when Daniel glanced up at him. Instinct told him to look away, not to let Daniel see what he was feeling. Only he couldn't. He locked eyes with the other man, held them and Daniel straightened up, staring back. The unspoken communication they shared kicked in, even after so long apart. Messages were sent and received with just a look.

I'm sorry, Daniel. I should have let you play. I should have loved you.

Jackson's gaze slipped back to his plate and he ate quietly until Shanai tugged at his sleeve again.

O'Neill blinked back his tears, took a deep breath and let it slowly out. He set his chopsticks down beside his plate and just stared at it, trying to compose himself. He'd gotten the message Daniel's eyes relayed, loud and clear.

It doesn't matter anymore, Jack. You made your decision and it's done. We're here for the family. For Kamashanti, not for us.

Jack was beginning to believe that was true. He hadn't seen the other man for nearly five years. His few tentative attempts at talking to him on those rare occasions had been met with silence if the chat was informal, or terse answers if they were work-related. Jack kept track of SG-1's missions, read all the reports, worried whenever Daniel was sick or injured until he'd heard the man was well again. As far as Daniel knew, Jack never went to see him, not even when things looked bad.

This was the price he paid.

Jack found himself willing to sell his soul to take it all back... only nobody wanted it now.

As night fell, the two men were ushered to their room, where they removed their veils for the night while the rest of the family went into the back yard. They began to sing the same song Daniel had crooned to their departed lover and as he listened, a single tear traced its way down his cheek, slipping into his mouth and disappearing. Daniel licked his lips and started to wipe the tear away but Jack beat him to it.

"Don't," Daniel whispered hoarsely but his body leaned hungrily into the touch.

Jack pulled him into his arms roughly, holding him close even when Daniel resisted. The younger man pushed hard and Jack let go, clasping Daniel's face in his hands instead and kissing him firmly on the mouth. All resistance vanished and Daniel's arms swept around him, devouring his lips with a starved kiss.

"Jack," he cried softly when they broke apart. "Jack... You can't. Don't do this to me."

O'Neill let him go, his heart burning. "I love you, Daniel. I've been such a fucking asshole. God, all I can think about is you. All I see is you. Six fucking years since I walked away, a universe apart, and you're still right there, right with me, every moment of every day." He massaged his chest, trying to ease the pain that had Daniel's name all over it but it only grew hotter, sharper, aching deeper in his soul.

"You're sorry," Jackson rasped hoarsely. "I get that. Doesn't change a thing, does it?" He left the balcony and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Jack demanded. "We're not supposed to leave here till morning."

Daniel didn't answer. He fled the bedroom without a backward glance, grabbing his veil on the way out. Jack wandered over to the balcony, looking down at the family assembled below and after a moment he saw that Daniel had joined them, raising his voice in that haunting song. Only the two little girls had their heads uncovered and he saw them come up to Daniel and take his hands, one on each side of him.

After the funeral, Jack intended to spend time with them, enjoying the sound of their little-girl voices raised in laughter. They were beautiful children and he liked having kids around. It made him feel younger than his fifty-plus years.

Now that the war was over, Jack thought about going home more than anything else. He was tired and he wanted to lay this life down and have something just for himself for a change.

He knew exactly what topped the list; only Daniel wasn't available anymore. There was too much pain between them now and Jack didn't see any way past it.

Putting the veil back on his head, he wandered downstairs, moving up quietly beside Daniel, listening to that beautiful voice. He closed his eyes and let the foreign words flow over him, wondering what they meant. As if reading his mind, Daniel switched to English, singing the Jinn song in words the man beside him could understand.

"Our song rings out through space beyond the stars We sing of renewal of the lost, in fields and forests, homes and streets, We offer our love and dreams to all the sacred beings In grateful thanks to those who guide us along the ancient way; The heart speaks in silence, burning with a diamond flame The sword of wisdom cleaves me and I weep, for you are gone But you will return to me in dreams, in dreams In memories, I am yours without end We send you forth We send you forth We long for your return."

No one seemed to mind the translation. Not a single head turned their way.

As the last verse echoed away into darkness, the family began to turn away one by one and return to the house. Daniel took Jack's arm and led him back to the bedroom, walking out onto the balcony alone without bothering to remove his veil.

"What was that?" Jack asked. "I know I've heard it before. Before... today."

"It's their mourning sutra," Daniel replied automatically. "The first time we heard it, Kamashanti sang it in the infirmary, after one of her grandsons died."

"Oh, yeah. I remember now." Jack took off his veil and laid it on the table by the door. "Is that why you sang it over her at the... funeral home?"

Jackson nodded. "I'm tired, Jack. Where do you want me to sleep?"

"In the bed. With me. Just sleep, that's all."

"I can't do that."

There was such resignation in Daniel's eyes, not a flicker of hope left. Grief might have temporarily dampened the pain of seeing Jack again but it was still there, still throbbing beneath the surface. All Jack wanted was for it to stop, for Daniel to be happy again.

Suddenly that became the most important thing in the universe to Jack O'Neill.


"Jack." He started to turn away but Jack caught his arm, holding it gently but firmly.

"You don't really believe I was ever sorry for what happened, do you?"

"That's just it, Jack. I know you were. It just doesn't make any difference."

"What would?"

Daniel just stared at him. "Nothing comes to mind. You can't change the past. I can't make it hurt any less to see you. There's no point, Jack. That horse is dead. Stop beating it."

"You're right. I can't turn back the clock." Jack hesitated. He was going out on a limb, ready to step into that shapeless, undefined landscape that he had refused to discover so long ago. "But I can offer a clean start. I can resign, right here and now, if that's what you want me to do."

He stepped closer, sliding his hand up Daniel's arm, over his shoulder, lightly clasping the back of his neck. "I love you, Daniel. I've missed you every day; even when we were still together, that last year on the team. I missed our friendship. I missed..." Jack closed his eyes as the pain-bright memory of Daniel's silken kisses sliced across his mind, cutting deep. God, how he needed that back.

"You can't make up for shutting me out, Jack. Please stop trying. I wasn't worth risking your career while the war was on. Things aren't any different now and I'm not sleeping with you because it would fucking kill me."

"Yes, they are. Everything is different. I'm different. I need you, Daniel."

"I needed you, too, Jack, but that didn't matter to you. I was the one who had to deal all those years ago. You hurt me and hurt me and kept on hurting me and I let you, hoping that, if I stayed with you, something would happen to change your mind but it didn't. I hate you because I can't hate you and I'm not making any sense so we should just stop talking right now." Daniel turned and walked farther away, leaning on the balcony near the waterfall, looking out at the yard, his body quivering with grief.

Jack turned away, aching to go to Daniel and just hold him but he knew the other man would just push him away. Jack went into the bathroom and changed into sweats, laying the mourning clothes aside for use the next day. He spent a while brushing his teeth, wondering if there was anything else he could say that would change Daniel's mind, help heal his broken heart. Jack had been trying but the gulf between them seemed impossible to cross now.

He left the bathroom, grabbed a pillow and blanket from the bed and padded barefoot to one of the lounge chairs on the balcony. Without a word, he stretched out on it and closed his eyes, pretending to sleep. He could hear Daniel moving about in the room, getting ready for bed but Jackson didn't get into the bed either. He brought the other pillow and a blanket to a lounge chair on the other end of the balcony, made his bed and lay down on it, facing the wall.

Apparently, Daniel didn't trust Jack not to crawl into the bed with him sometime during the night.

Time had certainly changed him, made him harder, less forgiving.

Then again, maybe that was the result of what Jack had done to Daniel when the colonel told the archaeologist they could only be friends and nothing more.

O'Neill hoped this funeral thing would be over soon, so he could go back to the SGC on Earth and turn in his resignation. This was killing him, and there seemed to be no way to win Daniel back. He made it eloquently clear that the damage had been done and there was no forgiveness to be had. Jack had made his choice and had nothing left but regrets.

The dog tags against his chest were a cold reminder of the choice he had made.

Daniel watched the little girls from the balcony, seeing their mother in their sweet faces. They seemed like happy children, subdued at the moment from their loss but recovering. He saw how they clung to each other when something would jog loose a memory and freshen their grief, how they seemed to move in tune with each other. Naisha appeared to be the dominant one, positively bossy with the other child but Shanai rarely obeyed Naisha's orders and headed off to do as she pleased. Invariably, Naisha would tag along, complaining loudly until she got involved in Shanai's adventure and both girls would laugh and squeal with delight as they played together.

He was impressed with their perfect command of English and placed the veil over his head before leaving his room. He glanced at Jack, still sleeping in the chair, lifting the veil so he could study the man. Jack's hair had gone completely white, losing the last remnant of youthful darkness. There were more lines around his eyes and mouth. He looked older. He looked tired but still ruggedly handsome.

Daniel shut out the attraction, tucking it back into the prison in his soul that he had built for it.

As he watched, Jack moved in his sleep, turning his face away restlessly. He twitched, one arm lifting slightly, then dropping back onto his bare chest.

He hugged himself tightly, curling up on his side, his face pulling into a grimace of pain. "Daniel," he whispered hoarsely. "Hold me. Don't leave..."

He started to whimper.

Daniel bent down, aching to touch, to comfort. He shouldn't and he knew it. Jack was dreaming but Daniel wanted so much to love him; just one small touch that Jack would never know about, not consciously, anyway. Only he couldn't make his hand move toward the man.

With a gasp, Jack started, eyes popping open. He vaulted off the lounge chair, blanket flung to the ground. Gasping and stuttering, he reached for his head, for his heart. He looked down at his hands, shaking and clenching into fists. He seemed to realize slowly where he was and glanced around for his roommate. His gaze collided with Daniel's and he turned around abruptly, drawing in on himself, head down, arms held close to his body. It was a posture of shame.

Without a word, Daniel turned away, heart shattering all over again. He straightened his veil and held onto the pieces of his heart as he left, heading downstairs to breakfast with Kamashanti's family. He didn't want to feel this way. He'd achieved a kind of empty equilibrium in Jack's absence and this was rocking the boat.

Despite that dream, Daniel knew Jack had been the one to do the leaving. Jack was the one who had run away. Any gestures O'Neill made here in this place where love between men was accepted would be cast aside again when it was time for them both to go to their separate homes. Daniel couldn't risk being devastated all over again. Jack would just have to leave him alone.

Daniel settled the veil in place and left the room. The girls ran by him down the long hallway, headed for the stairs, giggling and screeching in pure fun. He smiled. "Hey, don't run down the stairs!" he called after them.

They stopped and looked at him, their expressions sobering slightly. They took a more sedate pace down the stairs, their silken curls bouncing with every step. As soon as they reached the lower floor, they were off again, a streak of silver laughter.

He couldn't help smiling.

"Beautiful, are they not?" Chodes'ca observed.

"Yes. I can see a strong resemblance to Kamashanti. Whose kids are they?"

Cho sobered, his expression closed. "Would you like some coffee, Daniel? Kama insisted on keeping a supply for you and Jack, though the Jinn do not like it. It is... bitter." He smiled and shrugged. "And intoxicating to us."

"The caffeine does that to you," Daniel remembered aloud. He followed Cho into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of his favorite blend, already made and piping hot. Cho served up a plate of sweet, crumbly pastries and Daniel sat down to breakfast.

A moment later, Jack wandered in, still in his sweats, his hair askew, dark shadows under his eyes. Cho poured him a cup of coffee and set it before him. "Thanks," Jack murmured.

Daniel eyed him. Jack was always a morning person, bright and alert at the crack of dawn, probably from early rising during his long military career. Today, however, he looked positively forlorn. Shabby. Worn out.

He stirred his coffee mindlessly with his spoon, even though he hadn't put anything in it.

"G'morning, Sempais!" Shanai called, dashing up to them. She put her fingertips on the edge of the table and peered at the dish of pastries. She licked her lips, eyes fixed on the sweets, gleaming azure with pleasure.

Daniel recognized the Jinn term of endearment for very special friends.

"Good morning, Sempai," he returned. "Would you like a cake?"

She beamed, dimples flashing in her chubby cheeks. "Yes, please!" She held out her hand, standing on tiptoes to reach over the table. Daniel placed one of the cakes into her hand. She immediately held out the other. "One for my sister, too?"

Dutifully, he put another into her other hand and she dashed away, out the kitchen door onto the patio just beyond.

"Sisters?" Jack asked, turning a clouded gaze up to Cho, who leaned against the kitchen counter with a mug of Jinn chala in his grip.

"You would call them fraternal twins," the Jinn explained. "Multiple births are not uncommon for us. Identical twins, however, are very rare."

"They speak very good English," Daniel observed, turning his gaze outdoors to watch the children enjoying their treat.

"Their mother insisted upon it," Cho explained. "We are fast becoming a multilingual society, due to our relations with other worlds." He smiled at them and lifted his mug in salute. "Thanks to the Tau'ri."

He sipped his chala, then set his cup down when a timer went off in his pocket. He fished it out, reset it and slipped it back into his jacket.

Clapping his hands, he called to the girls, who came racing into the kitchen. From a cold storage cabinet, Cho pulled a bottle and poured up two small doses of a thick pink medicine, doling them out to the children.

They took the medication, made appropriately yucky faces and noises, accepted another cake from Jack and dashed back outside with their prizes.

"They don't look sick," Jack observed.

Cho's expression closed up again. His eyes turned a dusky brown. "They have... physical problems that will require them to always be on some form of medication," he explained. "Their general health is good but they have frightened us a few times."

"What sort of problems?" Daniel asked.

"They each have only one heart, whereas all other Jinn have two. This creates a strain on their systems and the medication is to help regulate their energy, make them slow down."

Jack stared out onto the patio in awe. "That's slowed down? Jeez, I'd hate to see what they're like full steam."

"Does your family have a history of this condition?" Daniel watched the girls run off to a shady spot farther back in the yard.

"Not in Kamashanti's line, no. It is from their fathers that they have inherited this." Cho stored the medication and began to clean the little measuring cups. "They will live fairly healthy lives, though perhaps not the full length of what a Jinn woman may expect. And... they may not be able to handle the... demands of marriage according to our customs. Only two husbands, at most. If that."

Jack and Daniel exchanged a glance.

Good for them.

Amen to that.

Jack got up and left his coffee behind, his step getting springier and more alert as he neared the children. Daniel watched him, trying desperately not to feel anything. Jack rolled on the ground with the kids, tickling them, letting them tickle him, chasing them around the neatly trimmed lawn and letting them catch him, then collapsing on the grass as they climbed all over him. Jack O'Neill loved children; he was in his element with them.

This sight was too much. Daniel dragged his eyes away, looking down into his cup. "As long as they're happy, that's what counts," he mused to Cho, "and they do look happy."

"They will miss Kamashanti," the Jinn observed. "There is so much she will not be able to teach them now."

"She was a very wise woman," Daniel agreed. A flash of memory made his breath catch. Kamashanti was young in Jinn years, vibrant and strong. He remembered the taste of her, how she felt beneath him when she came to say goodbye to him at the base. That moment was theirs alone and they had relished it but as always, there was a trace of Jack between them. He could taste the other man in her mouth; smell his seed in her. He had always wondered why she had gone to Jack first.

He couldn't ask Cho, because none of the Jinn contingent knew she had been alone with them.

Then again, now that she was dead, she couldn't get into any trouble for breaking the law.

"She always wanted to be with just one man," he mused aloud. "She picked me, you know, but I think she grew to love Jack, too."

"I know, Daniel. She told me what she did, that last day on Earth." Chodes'ca smiled sadly. "There were many questions for her, when we returned home." He set his cup in the cleaning stall and pushed the button. The dish was sterilized and automatically placed back in the cabinet. Cho wandered back into the great room with Daniel walking with him, still carrying his cup.

The archaeologist stopped by the wall that held the Jinn version of photographs; digital images held in wafer thin slices of material adhered directly to the stone. Cho touched one in the corner and Kamashanti's laughter rang out, the image moving through the moments captured on the thin screen. Daniel noticed there were some new pictures, taken through the years of himself with Kama and others of the Jinn woman with Jack.

Curious, he touched one of those. Jack had his hands on her face and looked very serious, gazing down into her eyes.

"You're wrong," O'Neill told her firmly. "That's not how I feel about Daniel. We're just friends."

"No." She shook her head. "I saw, Jack. You love him more than life. Why can you not admit this? He needs to hear it from you."

Jack said nothing. The image stopped and shifted back to the original poses.

Daniel touched another one, this one with Jack eyeing the camera and Kama looking wistfully up at him and playing in his hair.

He laughed and she kissed his cheek. "Hey, you're not s'posed to do that!" Jack teased.

"We are not alone," she shot back, glancing at the photographer with a wink.

Jack waggled his eyebrows at the camera and then tackled her, kissing her out of the picture.

The image reset and Daniel felt that old familiar stirring in his gut. He dragged his eyes away to another image, one of his first trip to see Kama after her return home. He stood with her in his arms, looking somberly at the camera. Her eyes were a deep magenta. Daniel glanced at several of the other photographs but there were few that showed her eyes that particular color. It occurred to him that he had never seen a male Jinn's eyes turn that shade and wondered what it meant. That one wasn't in his mental repository of Jinn lore.

He meant to ask Cho but the other man had faded quietly from the room, leaving him alone with his thoughts. Daniel finished his coffee and carried the cup back to the kitchen, poured another and headed up to his room to shower and change for the funeral. When he exited the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist, he spied Jack stretched out on the bed, waiting, his eyes on the ceiling.

"Bathroom's free," Daniel told him.

"Thanks." Jack got up off the bed and headed that way at a leisurely pace. "They're great kids," he observed. "You should go play with them, Daniel."

"I wouldn't know how."

"You were doin' fine last night at dinner. Shanai thinks you hung the moons."

"I'm not good with kids. I never know what to say to them."

"You're good at listening. That's what they want. To be listened to. You should play with her. Let her teach you how to play." He paused in the bathroom doorway. "You need to learn how to do that, Daniel. It'll be good for you."

"I'm too old."

"You're a shade past forty. That's not old. I'm old."

"Jack, you're eight years older than me. If I'm not old, how can you be?"

With a sigh, O'Neill turned away. "You're as old as you feel, and I feel... pretty much dead." Head down, he walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

Daniel dressed slowly, donning the mourning clothes and putting on the veil before meandering back onto the balcony. The veil made enough of a haze that he couldn't enjoy the view, so he wandered into the room again, looking at Kama's things. He tried to ignore Jack when he came out of the bathroom stark naked, hair still damp and standing on end from a vigorous toweling.

O'Neill didn't look at him; just went about the business of getting dressed in his usual efficient manner.

Daniel couldn't help how the sight of naked Jack affected him. It took some work to get his hard-on to go away. Memories of their brief affair with Kamashanti scrolled through his mind, reminding him just how good it had been and it took dredging up painful memories of the aftermath to make his desire wilt.

When Jack was dressed and veiled, they went downstairs to meet the rest of the family and prepare to leave for the first part of the Sending, the Jinn funeral rites.

As the family gathered in the great room, Chodes'ca proudly drew his wife, Nissandra, to the front with a big smile. "It is an auspicious Sending," he announced and lifted her veil so they could all see her face.

Nissandra was beaming back at them with magenta eyes.

The Jinn assembly all gasped, a murmur of approval and surprise running through the crowd. Everyone congratulated her husbands. Jack and Daniel looked at each other through their veils.

"Good news?" Jack asked, bouncing up on his toes.

"We will be parents soon," Cho explained. "Nissandra carries our firstborn." He placed his hand possessively on her belly, kissed her and lowered her veil into place again.

"Congratulations, then," Jack cheered. He came forward and hugged Nissandra and Chodes'ca then shook hands with the other potential fathers.

Daniel did likewise and then the family went outside to sedately walk to the temple where Kamashanti's body would be committed to the great cycle of renewal.

As they walked, Daniel pondered, his brows pinched together. There were a handful of photos showing Kamashanti with magenta eyes. In one of them, her belly was distended with her coming child. If that particular eye color went along with a physical condition rather than a mood...

Kama might have taken lovers after leaving the Tau'ri base but Daniel had never seen any sign of such a relationship, not in all the years that stretched between then and now. Pictures of himself and Jack had been placed with family photos on the wall in her home, marking them as people of personal distinction and familiarity in her life. He looked at the family walking ahead of him and noted that Kama's silvery hair was present in all the males who were her offspring as well as the two little girls. Most of Kama's first husbands had the same hair color but all of the sons' and grandsons' wives were brunettes. Daniel had asked twice now who the little girls' parents were and Cho had never answered.

Things were starting to add up in the impossible column.

He dug back into his memory, trying to recall Kamashanti's eye color before she stepped through the Tau'ri Stargate that last day to return to her homeworld. He struggled to remember that tiny detail but it eluded him completely. Looking to his right he saw Jack trudging somberly beside him, head down in thought.

"Jack, have you ever seen Naisha's eyes change color?" he asked quietly. "Or Shanai's?"

O'Neill shrugged. "Never paid much attention. I just... sort of... try to screen all that out and think of 'em as human."

"Of course, you would. What was I thinking?" Daniel mumbled aloud.

"Why? Don't they?" Jack was looking at him now.

"I don't think they do." Daniel felt alarm skittering up his spine. "They only have one heart, instead of the normal two. Their hair is the same color as Kama's and they look like her." He turned to eye the other man through their veils. "I'm guessing they're a little under five years old. What does that add up to for you?"

"Bad genes?"

Daniel sighed. "Maybe you're right. I was just... Never mind."

Jack was still looking at him. "You okay, Daniel?" His hand settled gently on his friend's shoulder, rubbing lightly.

Moving away from that familiar touch, Daniel struggled for composure. "I'm fine." Only he wasn't. Being this close to Jack, spending every waking moment in his presence brought everything back as if no time at all had passed. He wanted desperately to fall into Jack's arms and express his sorrow at Kama's passing. He wanted to feel Jack's mouth on his, Jack's hands smoothing over his skin, setting him on fire with need. Only he dared not allow it, because Jack would be leaving again, returning to being The General and leaving Daniel behind once more.

"I'm sorry," Jack said again head down. "I had no right to do what I did to you. I should've..."

"You did what was best for you," Daniel murmured, his voice husky with regret. "I just had to learn to live with that."

"I had no right," Jack insisted. "You were my friend. There should have been a compromise."

"That wasn't possible, given who you are."

Jack paused. "Who I was," he corrected, "but I could have asked you to wait for me. I could have promised you something. Only I didn't. I cut it off between us when Kama went home, and left you with nothing. I was cruel, Daniel, and I've never gotten over that."

Daniel understood what the other man wasn't saying. It didn't matter, though. Jack might be willing to indulge in a little comfort sex while they were together but the end would be exactly the same. When the funeral was over, they'd be going their separate ways. Jack was still Jack. He might play at having a relationship for a while, but he'd get scared and run off again, and Daniel couldn't risk his heart a second time.

He kept his head down until they reached the temple and he steeled himself against anything else Brigadier General O'Neill might have to say.

Jack looked at Daniel.

Daniel glanced away, drawing his eyes slowly back to the image.

"Behold a miracle, my loves. Something neither of our people thought possible."

The image shifted as Kamashanti moved out of sight for a moment and then returned with two small bundles in her arms. She was beaming. The bundles were moving.

"Oh, my God." Daniel's mouth hung open. "Jack..."

O'Neill stood up. He felt light headed. The little girl with brown eyes -- they never changed color like all Jinn's eyes did. Her sister had blue eyes; big ones with pupils twice normal size... and round, like human eyes.

Like Daniel's.

Kamashanti looked up. "Because females are so rare among my people, I was not allowed to reveal their birth to you, for fear you would come to claim them and persuade us away to your world." She sobered. "But if you are seeing this, then I am dead and our daughters need their fathers to raise them."

Jack bowed his head. He was falling apart inside. This could not be happening. He had visited her several times over the years and never once saw the girls. They had been hidden from him and he'd have given anything to know, to be there for them and their mother.

"My people will release them to you now," Kamashanti continued. "Family is the most important thing, our most sacred foundation but the Jinn must place conditions on giving my children to you. Naisha and Shanai are twins and must not be separated; therefore, you must live together to raise them.

"According to Jinn law, you must also be joined. I have arranged for you to be bonded to one another in the ceremony of the shai-ku-shai, for sacred lovers. There must be a legal union or you cannot participate in raising our daughters."

Jack's eyes went to Daniel's. The younger man went white. He nodded, lips pressed firmly together. This was what the younger man had been trying to figure out on the way to the funeral. As always, Daniel was two steps ahead.

Kamashanti's voice went on. "You may raise them wherever you like but once each year they must return to my world, to retain their connection to the Jinn, to my family. When they are of age..." She smiled. "I hope they will return here, to find husbands who will love them as I believe their fathers love each other. Let them grow up in the glow of that love, my shai-ku-shai. That will be the greatest gift you can give them."

She looked down into those two little faces, her own glowing with joy, and then the image froze.

"We determined that conception occurred during reintegration through the Stargate upon Kamashanti's return home from your world," Cho announced without looking up. "It was an unexpected miracle, which we hope may one day be repeated. Your daughters are the first of a new species of being, and will require specialized care. They are aware that they are different from other Jinn children, but they are also family whom we love." He hesitated, looking each man in the eye. "You will need time to think and to talk with each other. Please let me know what decision you make."

"What do you mean, what decision?"

The Jinn looked at Jack. "You might choose not to raise your daughters," he explained. "They have family here. We will take care of them, if you do not want them." His cheeks reddened and he dropped his gaze to the floor in embarrassment. No Jinn could imagine such a thing but Kamashanti must have warned him that the Tau'ri were different and that they didn't always think correctly. Especially when it came to love.

General O'Neill was the perfect example of that.

Jack had discussed it with her on several occasions. Now he understood why she kept trying so hard to get him and Daniel together, why she issued those invitations to come and live with her people, take up the Jinn way of life with the man he so obviously loved. Had he done it, he would have been in his daughter's life from the beginning... and maybe Kama would still be alive.

"I don't need to think about it," Jack declared firmly. "I'll need to go back to Earth to resign, clear up a few things, but I want to be here for the girls. I want to watch them grow up." He looked at Daniel.

The other man's lips were pressed together in a thin line of anger, eyes narrowed and gleaming unpleasantly.

Jack shrugged. "They have a Stargate program here. You can still do your Dr. Jackson thing and come home to your family when you're done. Besides, this isn't about us anymore. It's about them and I cannot imagine you turning your back on your own child. Not after what you went through as a kid."

The thought of sharing a home with Daniel and their daughters rocked him. He could get lost in that fantasy, but reality was a cold blue gaze pointed right at him.

"I won't sleep with you, Jack."

"You must," Cho stated emphatically. "It is a condition of the union."

Those blue eyes looked daggers at the Jinn man. "And how the hell is anybody gonna know if I do my spousal duty in the privacy of my own bedroom?"

"By your attitude in public, Daniel," Cho returned softly. "You obviously did not make love with Jack last night. You are still angry with him. Even if the sacred rites are performed, it will not be considered legal until you behave in public as shai-ku-shai, content with your mate."

Daniel lifted his chin, glaring at Cho down his nose. "Then I'll just have to learn how to act the part." His gaze slid over to Jack, eyes accusing, daring him to argue.

Cho cocked his head, studying the linguist. "The Tau'ri are strange people," he declared.

Daniel sighed. "Would you rather live here, or on Earth?" He didn't look at Jack.

"This is their home," Jack observed sagely. "They've just lost... their mother. They don't need another shock just now, so I vote for here." He cleared his throat. "Besides, their daddies wouldn't get funny looks from people for kissing in public here. Nobody gives that idea a second thought on this world and I find that a lot healthier for our daughters."

"My daughter is not your daughter," Daniel snapped. "She's not related to you in any way, Jack. She and your daughter just had the same mother."

Steam must have been curling out of Jack's collar as he leaned toward his erstwhile lover. "If you treat my daughter in any way other than your own flesh and blood, Daniel, you'll regret it. Is that clear?"

Jackson glared defiantly his azure eyes ice cold.

"You will not make a little girl pay for what I did to you. Understood? This is not her fault. It's mine and you will love her like your own... or you'll answer to me." Jack narrowed his eyes. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"Look, Jack, I know. I'm... I'm just in shock here. Calm down, all right? Don't worry; I'll do my part with both girls. I didn't mean anything." Daniel bent his head, ran his hands through his hair and sighed heavily. "Boy, I didn't see that coming."

"Yeah, you did," Jack challenged gently. "You were still figuring it out, but you'd have gotten there all by yourself eventually. I missed the clue bus entirely."

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

"I'm a father," Daniel whispered, staring at the floor. He raised his eyes slowly to the image of Kamashanti with the babies in her arms. "She tried to tell me that, didn't she? That first time I came to visit. To give me hope."

Cho's face reddened. "Yes, Daniel, but I could not allow it."

"Jinn law couldn't allow it," Daniel corrected kindly. "I understand. I just wish... I could have been here for all of it. I'd have dropped my life on Earth for this in a New York minute, if I'd known."

"Me, too," Jack added, his eyes on Daniel. Those blue eyes met his and locked.

"You never told her about Charlie, did you?"

Jack shook his head and dropped his gaze to the floor.

"She didn't know how much it would have meant to you," Daniel assured him. "If she had..." He looked at Cho, then back at Jack. "She'd have broken the law again. For you."

"And I'd have come here to be with her." Jack lifted his gaze to Daniel's face; blue eyes glimmering with unshed tears. "And with you. I'm sorry, Daniel. We should have listened to her. She tried to tell us, and I wouldn't listen."

"We're listening now." Daniel sighed, rubbing at the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses. He glanced up at the Jinn. "What about living arrangements? I really don't know much about Jinn law."

"Your daughters own this house," Chodes'ca told him. "As their parents, you are entitled to live in it as well but you cannot sell it unless approved by a Jinn court, or until they come of age to decide for themselves. All property passes through the female line."

"When does the ceremony have to take place?"

Cho sighed and shook his head. He frowned and his eyes changed to a disapproving dull orange. "Take as long as you need, Daniel. The girls will be fine here with my family until you are ready to take up your role as father."

"Then I'll leave when the Sending is finished later today and return as soon as I can. It may take a week or so. I'll have some... things I'll want to bring with me. Archaeological artifacts I've collected over the years, my library, personal things..."

"This house may not be big enough," Jack quipped, trying to lighten the mood. "Got any empty museums we could move into instead?"

His attempt at humor crashed and burned.

"Don't think this shotgun wedding changes anything, Jack. This is blackmail, kindly intended but still blackmail. You're doing this because you have to and it doesn't make a rat's ass worth of difference between us." Daniel stomped off upstairs to pack.

Cho eyed the general. "That is not the Daniel I have known and loved for so many years, Jack."

Jack frowned at the Jinn, bristling. "Uh... loved in what way, Cho?" He advanced a step on the man.

Cho blanched when he saw Jack's feral look, even his eyes going white. "Not in a sexual way," he assured the human. He showed the small, intricate black tattoo on his left hand that marked him as a married man. "I have only lusted after him in my heart, I promise you. I never touched him."

"Good," Jack growled. It had been nearly six years since he'd been with Daniel himself and wondered if the younger man had taken any other lovers in that time. Jack decided he didn't want to know. His own celibacy was punishment enough. "So, what do I do about getting hitched to that blockhead?"

With a chuckle, Cho extended his hand. "Come, Jack. I will show you information on the ceremony for shai-ku-shai."

"Why did Kama call us that, exactly?"

The Jinn's eyes rippled with a rainbow of color. "Because she saw a single soul stretching between you as you loved each other, my friend." He bowed formally. "It is a great honor to be called this."

Jack's heart clenched. "If only it were true," he said softly.

Cho's arms opened and he embraced the taller man fondly, offering his sympathy and affection. "Come and I will show you how the shai- ku-shai are wed."

The general swallowed hard, remembering how, for one brief period of his life, that honorific actually applied and how he had turned away from it for what he believed was a greater good.

Naisha was waiting for them at the top of the stairs.

"Did my mommy talk to you yet?" she asked impatiently.

"Yes, honey. She did."

She wiggled, hardly able to contain herself. "So, may I call you daddy now?"

Jack's heart stopped beating. He couldn't breathe. Tears gathered in his eyes. He scooped her up in his arms and hugged her, feeling her little half-human heart beating against his cheek. He held her tightly, her small arms embracing his head.

"Yes, baby," he promised fervently. "You can call me daddy now. I'm so proud of you, Naisha. You were very brave to keep this secret, but now I know you're mine and I'm so glad." He kissed her chubby cheek. "I'm so happy to be your daddy."

"Will you and my other daddy be shai-ku-shai now?"

Jack pulled back from her, looking up in her adorable little face, his eyes looking back at him; his chocolate brown, never-changing human eyes. He could see himself in her now, that hint of a dimple in her chin, deep dimples cleaving her cheeks when she smiled. There was so much of him in her face it was scary, softened and made beautiful by Kamashanti's contributions. He wondered why he didn't see his stamp on the child at first glance.

Because he simply hadn't believed that was possible.

"I hope so, baby, because I love your other daddy, too."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized they were true.

He did love Daniel. Daniel was his best friend, had been for ages. Somewhere along the way as they walked back and forth through the Stargates scattered in their path, a connection had grown between them, one that went far deeper than any other relationship Jack had ever known. The weeks he'd spent sharing himself with Kamashanti and Daniel were the happiest of his life and of those moments, the best were when he and Daniel had been together.

Even now, years later, he could recall the feel of Daniel's body beneath his hands and mouth. The ecstasy of coming inside him, or feeling his lover climax in him, propelling him into heaven. His memories of Kama were vague but pleasant, as if she had been a bystander rather than a participant in those nights of love. That made him feel a little guilty, since she had given him this priceless gift that he held in his arms. Still, she understood what she saw and was in awe of it.

How humbling that must have been for her. She respected their love and tried desperately to get him to see it, only to fail at every attempt. Only now, when she was gone and her greatest secret revealed, did he finally see through her rainbow eyes.

He would be living with Daniel now, sharing his bed, raising their children together. Fate conspired to bring them back together but Jack was certain it was too late. This was the perfect ending to the mess he'd made of his life, his own personal Torment of Tantalus, temptation always present but never close enough to touch.

"I love you, Daddy," Naisha told him and kissed him on the lips.

This, however...

Jack smiled, gazing into those intense brown eyes.

This would make up for his every sin and then some.

Jack looked around the great room, completely redecorated now with an eclectic but tasteful mix of remnants of Kamashanti, spiced with a little O'Neill and a healthy dose of Jackson. For two days he had made himself scarce while Daniel moved into Kamashanti's home, carefully placing his personal things among the others. It had taken Jack three days to gather what he wanted to keep from Beta Colony and Earth, put his house on the market and get settled on the Jinn homeworld. Daniel, however, took almost two weeks tying up loose ends and moving into his new home.

The two men hadn't spoken during the handful of days their unpacking took, sleeping in separate rooms at the opposite ends of the house. Naisha and Shanai were staying with Chodes'ca and his family until the ceremony was completed - however long that might be to achieve official Jinn sanction - and Jack determined to mend the fences between himself and Daniel somehow before they exchanged vows. To do that, they'd needed to talk. In order to talk, Daniel had to be out of excuses to avoid it.

Preparations were under way for the ceremony, which would take place the following day. Jack had been fitted for his traditional Jinn outfit and the tailor had just left after the final adjustments on Daniel's costume. All was in readiness, the guests gathered from off world and squared away in rooms in the big house. Most of them were gathered for a little pre-wedding visitation in the great room, along with both of the shai-ku-shais, as the late afternoon sun sparkled through the high windows looking out onto the green and flower-filled back yard.

Daniel looked wonderful. Dressed in Jinn clothes now, he seemed perfectly at home in them. The off-white linen pants clung to his body, showing off his long, heavily muscled legs and the sheer high- collared black tunic gave an excellent view of his chest and arms. Jack couldn't stop staring at him, heart in his throat, eyes burning with the need to blink.

Jack felt his heart was in his mouth as he regarded his future mate, now avoiding his gaze, and tried to swallow down the lump in his throat. All that pain in Daniel's face was his fault. He'd been enduring it for years, since Jack rejected his love.

It wasn't because of the SGC or military regs, Jack knew now. Daniel had been sacrificed on the altar of Jack's cowardice and it was time that everybody knew. Jack cleared his throat and called everyone to attention. He didn't look at Daniel. Instead, he eyed each familiar face fondly.

Carter and Teal'c, now officially an item in the romance column, were holding hands in public and Jack couldn't help but smile at them. Beside them stood Jacob/Selmac of the Tok'ra and Captain Sue Jameson, who had taken Jack's place on SG-1, but as a junior member under Carter's capable command. Janet Fraiser was at General Hammond's elbow - not the same Fraiser they'd had in the beginning but still the same woman who had earned her place in their hearts.

All the most important people in Jack's extended family were staring right at him, smiling as if they expected some sort of grand toast. As his former commanding officer, Jack felt this confession should be addressed specifically to Hammond, so he gazed steadily into the general's blue eyes and spoke softly, gathering what was left of his heart and plunging headlong into the cleansing fire of truth.

"You should know that I'm in love with Daniel, sir."

He saw the look of surprise flit across those familiar features and then settle into recognition and acceptance without approval. That was expected. Hammond had a hard time with this and only the fact that it was a requirement to gain custody of their daughters had made it all right. Now, Jack was damning himself in Hammond's eyes but he didn't care. He had to do this.

"I have been for... oh, ten years or so, but I couldn't admit it because I thought it would make me less of a man. I didn't want the people I worked with to know how I felt about him, so I hurt him. I turned away from him when he gave me his heart, because I was afraid." He felt his eyes fill and didn't care. "And now, when I'm not afraid anymore, it's too late, because I hurt him so much he can't ever forgive me." Tears spilled down his cheeks. He couldn't see any of the people looking at him. Didn't want to see them now. They deserved to know what he'd done, what a jerk he truly was. "This should have been a happy occasion. I'm sorry."

He turned blindly and felt his way to the patio doors, moving by instinct. He wiped his eyes with one hand when he thought he might be out of sight and made his way into the back yard alone. He sat down on a chair and let go, grieving for his loss, holding himself the way Daniel used to do when he needed comfort.

When he needed Jack.

He had never felt so alone in his life.

A cool shadow fell across his knees. It was a Daniel-shaped penumbra but Jack didn't look up. He couldn't meet those accusing, triumphant eyes.

"I want to give the girls a good life," Jack said quietly, eyes downcast, voice trembling with restrained emotion. "I want them to know they're loved." Jack wrapped his arms around himself, desperately needing comfort, knowing there was none to be had.

"They are."

"I won't bother you, Daniel. I'll try to stay out of your way. Let's just pretend to be happy for them."

Daniel's hand touched his face, trying to make Jack turn to look at him.

O'Neill moved out of that gentle grasp and looked the other way. "Don't. Please, don't. I'm trying to live for the kids now. My life is over."


Jack closed his eyes. He hugged himself harder. Daniel moved closer, his body pressed against Jack's shoulder, moving in close, crowding him. Daniel's hand touched Jack's shoulder, resting lightly there.

O'Neill rose and stepped away, his body vibrating with grief and shame, putting his back to his fiancé.

"That was the bravest thing I've ever seen you do, Jack," Daniel said softly. "I didn't know you could be that true to yourself." He paused. "Or to me."

"Too little, too late." Jack wandered further out into the enclosure beneath a huge tree with fern-like leaves, hands trembling at his sides. "I know you can't forgive me, Daniel. I'm not asking for that. I just thought... they should all know the truth. It'll explain a lot... and it makes me... feel better...sort of. Admitting it to myself was the hardest part."

"I think they understood that." Daniel came up behind him. "So do I." He slipped his arms around Jack's ribs.

He moved away, struggling just to breathe, the ache making his body quiver. "Please, Daniel. It hurts for you to... touch me like that. I know I deserve all the punishment you can dish out. After what you had to suffer through all those years, I'll..." His voice cracked. He swallowed hard, cleared his throat and tried to modulate his voice. "I'll learn to live with it, just... please, not today. Just leave me alone, this one last day. Then you can torture me all you want."

"No, Jack", Daniel argued gently. "You need me, today most of all. We'll be joined in holy rites tomorrow, shai-ku-shai. My soulmate."

Jack clamped his eyes shut, hope for a few moments of peace deserting him utterly. He bent over, soul-deep pain so great he couldn't stand it. Jack deserved all the retribution Daniel wanted him to endure and more. He squatted down on the grass, folding in on himself, hands over his ears, trying to shut out Daniel's heartless taunting. His knees screamed and the sound came out his mouth.

Daniel's hands were suddenly all over him. "Jack, what's wrong? What is it, baby? Are you hurt? Let me see." He pushed Jack over, right onto his butt on the ground. His hands smoothed over Jack's face, his chest and belly, his arms and knees, checking for injury, leaving trails of glorious warmth in their wake.

Then Daniel was holding him and the pain stopped, just for an instant and Jack could breathe again. He tried not to reach out but his arms disobeyed him and swept around Daniel's back. Jack heard this pitiful keening and realized it was coming out of his own mouth as his hands scrabbled at Daniel's clothes. His body was shuddering with need and then his mouth was covered by something warm and wet and Daniel was kissing him, holding him, easing him back against the cool grass, hands caressing him everywhere through his clothes.

He laid his cheek against Jack's, murmuring softly in his fiancé's ear. "Jack... Jack... I tried so hard to hate you but I couldn't. I couldn't. I love you, you stubborn ass. I never stopped loving you." Daniel's words whispered against Jack's face between kisses that danced over his mouth, his eyes and his cheeks. Daniel's hand shook as he stroked it through Jack's hair, longer now than the other man had ever seen it.

Daniel pulled back a little and looked at him then, his fingers carding through that snowy thatch. "When did you lose the brown? And don't they have barbers on Beta Colony?" He stroked a lock outward from Jack's scalp, checking the length, then stroking it back downward and brushing it back into the rest of the glistening whiteness.

Tears filled Jack's eyes again and faded away. "None I trusted," he said hoarsely, looking up into those cerulean eyes at last. "I died on Beta, Daniel. That's when my hair went white. Without you, I was dead inside. Nothing mattered. Just dreams of you." He almost smiled, his grief lightening just a little, knowing that Daniel was touching him, holding him. "I can die happy now. Thank you."

Only he didn't die. Minutes continued to tick away as Daniel held him, just looking down into his eyes. Jack finally struggled to sit up under his own power, scrubbing at his face with his palms. "Well, that was just... embarrassing."

"You're okay? You're really okay?" Daniel was still breathless, worried, his hands still nervously stroking over Jack's face and body.

"Aside from being old and stupid, yeah. I guess I'm okay." He shrugged. "Don't think I've got any pride left, though."

Daniel sat back on his heels with a reproving look, hands resting on his thighs. "You're not old, Jack."

"Tell that to my knees." He struggled to get up and had to make a second try before he managed to get back to his feet, groaning all the way, Daniel hauling him upright with obscene ease. "I shouldn't have run away from you, Daniel."

"I should have tried to make you stay, or make you let me come with you. I let you go, Jack. I gave you up without trying. I should have fought for you."

"Fought who?" Jack eyed him, wiping his cheeks dry. "The only one keeping us apart was-"

"You, you stubborn bastard," Daniel teased. "I should have kept telling you how much I loved you, till I battered down your resistance and owned your tight ass, only I didn't. I just kept doing the job, feeling sorry for myself and doing my damnedest to hate you. We were fools, both of us. Big honkin' fools. Huge."

Jack couldn't help smiling at hearing his pet adjective come out of Daniel's mouth. "Yeah, we were... but not anymore. We've got a family now." Full realization finally dawned and he beamed. "We're fathers, Daniel. You've got a beautiful, sweet, brilliant baby girl who looks just like you."

"I thought she looked more like her mother." Daniel's cheeks suffused with a slight pink undertone.

"We can argue about that later. Can I sneak into your room after lights out tonight?" Jack grinned madly, waggling his eyebrows at his partner.

Daniel blushed, a full, deep red from the roots of his hair to the base of his neck. "Um, no, I'm saving myself for my wedding night, thanks."

For a moment, Jack just stared at him, a thousand things shooting through his brain at light speed. "We've never been together before, just the two of us," he observed breathlessly. His heart swelled inside him, bursting with love. "We'll be... sort of... virgins... in a way. Daniel, I... I want us to be the way Kama saw us. Do you think we can?"

Daniel's mouth drew up slightly, his eyes gleaming, head cocked in thought. "I want you vulnerable to me, Jack. I want to be that way for you, too. I've spent a lifetime keeping people out, not letting them get too close, because I knew I'd lose them eventually, like I lost my family." He patted his chest. "You got in there somehow and if we're gonna make this work, vulnerability is something we both need to learn. Neither one of us is good with this sort of thing but I'm willing to give you the keys to my soul, if you'll give me yours."

His hands lowered slowly from his chest, clenching into fists at his sides. He lowered his gaze to the ground and his face colored again. "You asked me once about Stephen Rayner." He swallowed hard. "I never..." Daniel fumbled for words, unable to make eye contact with his fiancé, shifting his gaze to Jack's chest. "I never let him... have me. He wanted to, but I just couldn't go there. Couldn't see myself like that with another man. I could fuck one... but I couldn't be fucked by one." He paused. "Until you. I knew exactly how you felt when you tensed up our first time but I thought... when you let me in... that you were okay with it. That you... that you... wanted... m-me."

Daniel's eyes narrowed beneath uncertain brows as he raised his hopeful gaze to Jack's. His mouth flexed into a grimace that was meant to be a smile. He was hoping for understanding, laying himself wide open.

Jack's fingertips smoothed along Daniel's jaw. "I did, Daniel. I was the same way. I did a guy once. Buddy fucking, nothing serious. Until you. I wanted you. So much it made me crazy, scared the hell outta me."

"Is that why you shut me out?"

"You know how I am," Jack murmured guiltily. "With me, it's is all or nothing. I thought you understood that." He lifted his gaze to Daniel's eyes. "If I had given in, Daniel, I'd have had to resign right then. I'd have had to do what I did today, in front of God and everybody. I was terrified of what that would have made me."

"It would have made you mine."

Jack nodded. "Yes... and I am." He gazed into those beautiful, trusting eyes, still so wounded, carrying six years' worth of pain. Jack knew Daniel would let go of it quickly enough but some of it still lingered. He needed this most intimate give and take if he was to heal and Jack found that he wanted to give Daniel that intimacy, one borne of words, of confessions that no one else would ever hear, to sanctify their union.

"Last year, when you went missing on..."

"PX4-727," Daniel supplied, his face blanking out as he remembered. His breath quickened and grew shallow. He looked away so Jack wouldn't see the fear in his eyes.

"I heard the reports. I waited, but there was no sign of you. It was as if you vanished off that planet."

"Not exactly vanished." Daniel still had a hard time talking about that mission. The difficulty showed in his face.

"No," Jack agreed. "You were listed as MIA and they'd given up hope of ever finding you. Nobody knew you'd been taken to another world."

Daniel stared at him, thinking hard. "That was in my mission report. You read those? You knew what happened?"

Jack hesitated. He stroked his fingers over Daniel's chest, remembering. The scar was still there where those aliens had hurt him. They wouldn't hurt anyone else, Jack knew. Not now. "Nobody at SGC knows how you got home, do they?"

"Not even me," Daniel admitted softly. "I was so far gone that..." He closed his eyes, trying to shut out the memory. "I was unconscious when I came through the 'gate. Somebody punched in SG- 1's iris code and pushed me through, because I couldn't have done it myself. I was barely alive at that point."

"I know." Jack swallowed hard. "I was on leave at the time, Daniel. On Argos." He waited, but Daniel wasn't getting it. Or else he just needed to hear the words. "Only I didn't stay on Argos. I went after you. Alone."

"Jack!" Daniel's eyes were tearing up. "You could've been killed!"

"It took me almost a week to even find you, and when I did..." Jack felt his eyes filling; saw Daniel's shocked face swimming behind a layer of tears. He blinked and let the overflow seep down his cheeks. The memory of Daniel so near death seared him, made him shudder. He reached out and took that beloved, beautiful face in his hands. "You were dying. I had to get you home but I also couldn't let anyone know who helped you. I'd have gotten in deep shit for going commando by myself... I wasn't supposed to feel that way about you... but your life has always been more important to me than my own. Always."

"Jack." That whispered name was a plea for mercy from all that truth, a murmur of gratitude for it.

"I survived Charlie's death because of you," added Jack softly, his voice a breath of love, "but I couldn't have survived losing you. Not again. Not after loving you."

Daniel started to embrace him but Jack's hand in the middle of his chest kept him in place.

He made eye contact, his heart about to explode or rip in two in his chest.

"I want you to know something, Daniel. From the moment we first met, I thought you were arrogant and full of shit. Which you pretty much still are." He smiled a little and watched Daniel recover slightly with a half grin and embarrassed nod of agreement. "I thought you'd get us all killed, once I found out you couldn't dial us home from Abydos on that first mission. You were worthless, in my book... until you stepped in front of that staff blast meant for me and I saw what kind of man you really were."

"You'd have done the same thing," Daniel assured him, his heart in his eyes. He stepped a little closer, hands smoothing around Jack's ribs, holding him.

"No, I wouldn't have," returned Jack softly with a slow shake of his head. "If I'd been standing where you were and Ferretti had been in my shoes, I'd have let him take the hit and been thinking tactically, angling around to get the staff from that Jaffa and turn it on Ra. I'd have been going for the kill, not going for the life. That's part of what makes us so different from each other, something you've never really been able to acknowledge about me. I'm the darkness, Daniel. You're the light."

Daniel shook his head. "I kept hoping you'd change. I think you have."

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Because of you, shai-ku-shai. You made me a better man than I was ever meant to be, because you believed there was something here worth saving." He spread his hand over his own chest, feeling his heart beating against his palm.

"And I was right." Daniel smiled at him, bright and beautiful, dimples flaring.

With one finger, Jack traced the depth of the big one cleaving Daniel's right cheek. "You have that effect on people, Daniel. You make them want to be better than they are."

Daniel pressed into that light touch, still smiling. "You getting mushy in your old age, Jack?"

Smiling back, Jack shook his head. "Nah. I've always been mushy. You just never got to see it before. I expect you'll be seeing a lot of mushy O'Neill in our future." He leaned down a placed a chaste kiss on Daniel's lips.

A cheer went up and both men turned in wonder to see their guests assembled in the patio doorway, watching them.

"Busted," whispered Jack delightedly.

"It's okay. We're getting married tomorrow," Daniel assured him with a playful gleam in his eyes.

"We could make out now, give 'em a good show," suggested Jack hopefully.

"We'd be ignoring our guests," Daniel countered with a brilliant smile. "Though while that has definite possibilities, we should probably go back in and be proper hosts. There'll be plenty of time for kissing, starting tomorrow."

"I love you, Daniel."

"Shaiyun jo es, Jack," the younger man said, repeating the sentiment in the language of their new people. They turned in unison and strolled back toward the house, Jack's arm around Daniel's shoulders, Daniel's hand firmly, possessively, on Jack's butt.

Jack walked out of the bower into the bright sunshine, dressed only in a long, brightly colored skirt that reached down to his ankles, slit up the sides to his waist. It was really just a long loincloth, revealing most of his middle-aged body to the crowd assembled to watch the ceremony. He walked stiffly up to the altar, back straight; chin up, eyeing the other man coming toward him in an identical outfit.

Daniel looked gorgeous, still firmly muscled with just the slightest bit of extra fat around his waist and a touch of gray at his temples. He was beaming but as he stopped on his mark, he schooled his features into an expressionless mask. He glanced at the crowd, drawing Jack's gaze with him.

Carter, Teal'c, Hammond and Jameson sat in the front row. Sam had been thoroughly amused by the idea of the wedding and Teal'c gave it his hearty approval. Jameson he didn't know too well, but she seemed happy for Daniel. Jack's revelation and their obvious affection had General Hammond a little rattled; however, in time Jack knew the older man would come to terms with the idea. Besides, Jack wasn't in the military anymore, so even if Hammond couldn't accept their union, he didn't have to make an official commentary. Jack suspected that George would eventually be all right with it, given time to adjust to the shock.

Jack faced his lover and listened as a Jinn priest chanted over them. He instructed them to dip their right hands in red paint and press their handprints on each other's chest, over their hearts. They washed and dried their hands, then clasped each other's left forearms. Their attendants began to paint an intricate design that flowed over both of them from fingertips to elbow while the priest talked about love and commitment. When the artwork was finished, the priest held a small red lamp over the paint, moving it around until it had illuminated every line, then across the handprints on their chests. There was more chanting and some singing, which Daniel did beautifully but sounded like fingernails dragging across a chalkboard when Jack tried it.

The audience tried very hard not to laugh.

Jack turned to give them permission and they did.

Daniel rolled his eyes and chuckled in spite of his attempt at decorum.

The priest tied a white ribbon around their arms and prayed, then gave them a polite bow that meant they were to kiss.

Jack's shai leaned over and brushed lips lightly. As Daniel pulled away, Jack hauled him close with their bound arms, hooked his free arm around Daniel's neck and gave him a good one, tongues and all. The crowd cheered wildly. General Hammond blushed beet red and glanced away.

Daniel staggered when Jack let him go, stared at his new mate, then lunged at him and bent him backward with a passionate lip-lock that had the audience hooting and clapping. Both men were a little dazed when they came up for air and put their backs to the crowd, since their attire reflected just how passionate that kiss had been. It took a few moments for them to recover the remains of their dignity, after which the priest presented the newlyweds to the community with a hearty laugh and official sanction.

Naisha and Shanai rushed up from the audience and were lifted into their fathers' arms, the men exchanging another brief kiss before leading the procession to the hall where the reception had been set up. There was feasting and a citywide celebration and the little girls spent most of it on their respective father's laps or shoulders. Jack discovered with a touch of dismay that the stuff that had been painted on them stained the skin like a permanent, painless tattoo, announcing to all the world that they were "taken." The surface paint washed off easily enough but the coloring underneath clearly showed the negative space where Daniel's arm and hand had been touching his own.

As the party drew to a close, Jack and Daniel were ushered to a private room to change out of their wedding clothes.

"Now?" asked Jack eagerly, reaching for the silken rope around his waist holding up his loincloth. His groin was already taking interest, tingling in anticipation. He was grinning like a madman and leered at his mate.

Daniel smiled shyly and shook his head. "Not yet, love. Not till we're in our bedroom, shut away from the rest of the universe."

"No kissing? No groping? We're private in here."

"Patience, shai. Our guests are waiting." Daniel looked up at him, his eyes twinkling beneath those sinfully long eyelashes.

Jack stared, mouth dry, cock standing at attention. "God, you're beautiful, Daniel Jackson."

The younger man blushed. "We... um... need to get changed, Jack," he mumbled, looking suddenly innocent and virginal.

"You go first," Jack advised. "I need a cold shower."

They managed to shed their costumes back to back, dressing without stealing a single glance at each other, heightening the anticipation for later in their evening. They exited hand in hand and walked with their guests to Kamashanti's house, now their new home. A meal had been prepared for their off-world guests and the new couple presided from each end of the table, hard pressed to keep their eyes off each other.

As the hour grew late the little girls began to yawn and the new fathers excused themselves to prepare their daughters for bed. Jack helped with changing clothes and brushing of teeth, while Daniel chose the story for the evening and read to them as Jack tucked them into bed. Each man gave the girls a kiss on the forehead as they slept.

For a moment, they didn't move, standing side by side at the foot of the child-sized beds, their eyes on the children. Their children.

"I love you, Daniel," Jack whispered, his heart so full as he looked into those little faces he thought it might burst.

"Jack, I..." The new shai hesitated, his eyes full of emotion. He caught up Jack's hand in his and brought it to his mouth, kissing Jack's knuckles. Silently he gave his lover an invitation with his eyes and led him down the hall to their bedroom. He shut the door behind them and as soon as it was closed, Jack turned and pulled him into a firm embrace.

"Mine," he growled softly against Daniel's mouth.

Daniel pushed him back. "Wait." The younger man looked at Jack, his gaze going up to those white locks for a moment before shifting back to make eye contact. His expression settled into an unreadable mask and then he left the room without a word.

Jack started to undress for bed. He remembered his wedding night with Sara, how eager they had both been, burning each other up in a bright haze of sex that was over quickly, leaving them with nothing to say until he could get his second wind. Jack didn't want his first night with Daniel to be like that. He wanted to take his time, to savor the discoveries they would make with each other but he was getting older now. He could feel himself slowing down and Daniel was still strong and virile. Jack wondered if he'd be man enough for his mate.

Confidence flagging, he put his shoes away in the closet, dropped his shirt and pants in the hamper, then headed for the bureau for some sweats for the night. When the bedroom door opened again, he stood in just his boxers, watching Daniel come into the room and set three small items down on the nightstand that he had retrieved from his temporary quarters at the other end of the house.

There was a small bottle of liquid, a mesh sphere on a pyramidal base, and an egg-shaped thingy that Daniel twisted slightly before he set it down.

With his eyes on Jack, he started to disrobe, laying his glasses aside on the nightstand. The red print on his chest looked almost like a sunburn, in the shape of Jack's own hand. He'd know that silhouette anywhere, with that insanely curved thumb that was uniquely his. He could see his left hand in the blank space on Daniel's left arm, the back side of it covered with tight little scrolls and curlicues and dots. It was a beautiful design, mirrored on Jack's left arm. With the artistry of that mark and the Jinn ceremony, each one would always be holding the other.

He looked down at it, holding his arm out in front of him, turning it and flexing his fingers.

"Married," he said softly. "That's pretty much what this means, doesn't it?"

"Shai-ku-shai," Daniel corrected. "It's way more than married. More than the regular unions Jinn males experience when they commit to each other. We're soulmates, Jack. Kamashanti always knew that."

"She was a wise woman." Jack flexed his arm, watching the pattern shift with the play of muscles beneath his decorated skin. "I loved her."

"So did I." Daniel turned down the covers on the bed, neatly folding them across the foot of the mattress, "but I loved you more and she saw that. I didn't want to admit it, either. Not until she made me say the words."

Jack shook his head. "She didn't make you say it. You told me because you saw my heart in my eyes and knew I needed to hear that it was more than just fucking with us. That was the happiest moment of my life, Daniel... and I threw it away."

"I don't think so." Daniel sat down on the bed, gloriously naked, legs spread, knees bent and arms resting atop them. "I think you held onto it somewhere down deep, as your consolation prize for what you thought you couldn't have." He reached over and gave the little sphere a squeeze, starting up the gadget's stimulating soundtrack.

"Right, as usual, Dr. Jackson." O'Neill wanted to pounce but held back.

"So, what are you thinking we should do?" He finished undressing for the evening, taking his time sliding his boxers down his long legs and leaving them in a pile of gray cotton on the floor.

Daniel grinned and patted the bed beside him. "It's our wedding night. I'm planning to screw your brains out, shai." He patted the bed again. "What are you waiting for?" He reclined against the headboard and loosely gathered his stiffening cock in his well- decorated left hand, letting his fingers drift idly across his swelling flesh. "You want me to start by myself?"

Jack's eyebrows lifted. "No. No, ah... just trying not to look too eager. There might be just a teeny little dab of pride left in me." He sauntered over to the bed, stroking his left hand over himself as he lusted after that gorgeous body. "You coulda done a lot better than me, you know."

He sat down on the bed and looked over at his mate.

"There is no one better for me than you," Daniel said softly as he leaned over to capture Jack's lips in a tender kiss.

"Sap," Jack teased.

"Ass," Daniel growled against his lips.

"I deserved that."

Daniel's teeth grazed over Jack's mouth possessively. "That was an order, not an assessment, baby. I want your ass."

"Ooh, fuck me till I scream," Jack shot back, his dick stiffening so fast it jumped. When Daniel turned away to reach for the ootra, Jack bent over his lover's lap, swallowing Daniel's erection in one gulp.

The linguist gasped his way through a stuttered breath, clutching fistfuls of white hair as his eyes rolled closed, the bottle dropped somewhere between his legs. "Oh, ohohohohohohohGodJackit'sbeensixyearsstoooooop!"

It was too late. Daniel's hips jerked, his body spasming with bliss as he came in Jack's mouth. He flopped back against the headboard, panting and swearing in a dozen languages. Blue daggers shot from his eyes as he regarded his wickedly smiling lover.

Jack licked his lips. "Tasty. I could like that." His grin widened. "That was my first blow job, by the way. We never did that before."


"Speaking of which..." Jack grabbed the bottle of ootra and slicked himself up with it.

"No. You are so not doing me first!"

"Already did, shai. Don't you want me?"

Daniel crossed his arms over his chest petulantly. "I'm inclined to make you wait for me to recover. Your ass is sooooo mine, Jack."

"For the rest of my life, lover. Spouse. Shai-ku-shai." Warmth filled him up inside and seeped out all the cracks. He thought he must have been glowing. His cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

Daniel got up. He picked up one of the pillows and held it in front of his crotch. Opening the bedroom door, he shouted down the hallway for Cho. When the Jinn appeared in the corridor, Daniel leaned head and shoulders out and asked, "Hey, is ootra edible?"

Cho laughed out loud.

A moment later, Daniel shut the door and threw the pillow onto the bed from where he stood. "You're in trouble now, Brigadier General O'Neill," he growled. With a wild gleam in those nearly-black eyes, he advanced on the bed, crawling across the mattress on all fours like a stalking tiger. He pounced on Jack's hard-on with ferocious intent, swirling his lips all over the heated flesh like a starving man. The noises he made sent Jack into space, fireworks exploding behind his eyelids moments later.

"Holy buckets," Jack panted. "Now, that's linguistics, Daniel! I think I'm done for the night. Damn, and I was hoping to make it last." He slid down against the pillows, sated, drained and defeated.

"Oh, we haven't even gotten started, flyboy," Daniel promised darkly. "You've got six years of me jerking myself off to make up for. By morning, I'll be amazed if you can still walk. The Jinn will be talking about this wedding night for generations."

Jack stared at him. "I'm dead, aren't I?" His hands fluttered in the air around him. "All of this, you, the kids, the house, the whole fucking planet -- I'm in Heaven and I'm dead, right?"

Daniel leaned over and laughed softly, his voice tinged with sweet evil. "Nope. I'm the devil, Jack O'Neill. Welcome to Hell." He took possession of Jack's mouth, kissing him soundly, his hands stroking, touching and squeezing everything they could reach.

Cradling Daniel's face in his hands, Jack reveled in the feel of that strong body against his. He felt himself opening up, peeling off layer after layer of regulations, restrictions, armor and defenses, laying himself open to the man who had secretly owned his heart for so long. It was frightening, like the first time falling out of an airplane, only this time Jack knew he didn't have a parachute to catch him. This freefall would be endless. There would be no ground to hit, just Daniel's incandescent soul enveloping him forever.

"I love you," he whispered against Daniel's throat.

Daniel's talented mouth was busy with Jack's eyelids stroking feather-soft kisses against them. "Love you, too, Jack," he murmured happily.

Jack felt that mouth slide into a smile against his skin. Daniel's hands caressed his chest, his face, his shoulder. His body spooned up against Jack's side, undulating against him with delicious, tantalizing gentleness.

"What?" Jack asked, smiling back.

"I want mush on my wedding night," Daniel growled. "I want romance. I want poetry. I want..." He lifted his head and looked down into those chocolate eyes, his thumb stroking Jack's cheek. "I want to see the real Jack O'Neill. The one nobody else has ever seen. I want the key to your soul, no walls, no doors, no windows, like I said yesterday. Absolutely as naked and vulnerable to me on the inside as you are against my skin right now."

The humor in those blue eyes at the beginning of that teasing request was gone by the end.

Jack was already there. Briefly he wondered if Daniel had somehow read his mind, or if they had some sort of supernatural spiritual connection between them, because this request was the perfect segue for the wedding gift Jack had prepared for his lover. Daniel was all about words, and Jack had gone to great lengths to find just the right ones for this moment.

"Did you know my degree's in English Literature, Daniel? I read a lot when nobody's lookin' and I've been thinking about some things I wanted to say to you. I'm no poet, but if I could have written these words for you, I would have, just for tonight. You ready for the literate Jack O'Neill?"

Daniel nodded, his face alight with joy, expectant, enchanted and adoring.

Jack took a deep breath and let it out slowly, gazing deeply into those fathomless blue eyes.

"'Love means the body, the soul, the life, the entire being. We feel love as we feel the warmth of our blood, we breathe love as we breathe air, we hold it in ourselves as we hold our thoughts. Nothing more exists for us.' " Jack's hands reverently touched Daniel's hair. His eyes roved over that beautiful face that had haunted his dreams for so many years.

" 'If you could only love enough, you could be the most powerful person in the world.' " Jack searched Daniel's eyes, seeing the soul of the man he loved wide open and trusting. "You are that, Daniel. You're the most powerful man I've ever known. Nobody loves more deeply than you do."

Daniel's eyes were sparkling with need. "God, how I love you, Jack. Don't stop."

"'Love is a friendship set to music. Love is friendship set on fire, a single soul inhabiting two bodies.' That's us, Daniel. Friends first and always, lovers forever after today. Sacred lovers."

"Mine," Daniel whispered, his fingertips stroking Jack's lips reverently as he continued to speak.

Nodding, Jack whispered, "Yes, Daniel. Always." He took a breath and reached for the last quote, the one that had painted Daniel's portrait in Jack's mind when he read them. "'I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes - - and the stars through his soul.' That was you, when we first met, beloved. A broken, beautiful man in love with knowledge, with the stars passing through your soul. I can't believe I walked away from you, from this. Forgive me, Daniel, please."

"I do. I have. Oh, Jack..." Daniel's eyes were filled with tears. He was smiling, breaking open, his hands caressing Jack's face, pouring his soul into the man who lay beside him.

Jack wasn't finished. "We don't choose our friends or lovers, Daniel. By some miracle of mercy they choose us and I'm damn grateful for that, because I didn't make it easy for you to pick me," he breathed. "Or to love me. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to care about anyone. I'm on fire inside, Daniel; a phoenix rising from the ashes of the life I used to lead. I'm gonna be different now. I'm going to live every day trying to be worthy of you, of your love, because you're all that matters to me now. You and our children."

"Jack." The younger man stretched out on his mate, chest to chest, arms sliding beneath Jack's back. Descending slowly, Daniel's mouth hovered above Jack's, breath warm and soft. "You were worth the wait," he declared. His tongue darted out to wet his lips and flicked against Jack's.

"I thank God you still think so," Jack whispered. "Thank you, Daniel. I want to thank you every day, for the rest of our lives, for being mine." O'Neill's hand cradled the back of his lover's head, trembling fingers sliding through Daniel's hair, lost in the feel of it.

"And I will love you like you never dreamed it was possible to be loved," Daniel promised fervently.

Jack pulled Daniel down into a kiss that made the younger man groan. Daniel's hands smoothed possessively over his body and Jack couldn't get enough of it. He felt the thick ridges of smooth, bulging muscle in Daniel's back and shoulders sliding beneath his own palms, so uniquely Daniel, hard and soft, curved and deliciously flat, all at once.

Jack's eyes closed as Daniel's mouth moved away from his own, concentrating on his senses of touch and smell alone. The perfume from the kanjit was heady and mixing with Daniel's personal scent, Jack felt himself tingling all over, intoxicated with love and desire.

The soundtrack machine did its job, too and he released his natural inclination to keep silent, letting moans of approval and surprised delight come out unhindered. He was utterly relaxed as Daniel rolled him onto his side and spooned up behind him, delirious with joy and passion.

He felt Daniel's fingers probing for entrance and rolled a little more, lifting his upper leg slightly to open himself to his lover's touch. This would be the first time he and Daniel made love together, just the two of them. Their wedding night.

"Shai-ku-shai," he breathed as one finger breached him.

"Ehku," Daniel whispered against the nape of his neck. "It means--"

"My soul," Jack finished softly, arching back toward those lips. "I speak Jinn, too." He gasped as Daniel pushed another finger into him, thrusting with exquisite slowness. "God, that feels so good."

Daniel's teeth scraped gently against his shoulder, nibbling him, tracing hot trails with his tongue.

Jack rolled back against those fingers, matching Daniel's thrusts with his own. He groaned, needing more. "Don't wait, Daniel," he pleaded. "I want you inside me now."

"No," Daniel said against his hair. "I won't hurt you. Not tonight. You don't want me to be rough with you right now, so be patient. Let me get you ready."

Jack nodded, shuddering as another finger entered him. He grasped at the sheets, aching to be filled. "More, please, God! I need you inside me."

"Almost there, love."

Daniel's cock rubbed against Jack's cheeks tantalizingly, hard and ready. Daniel's body undulated and rippled against his back, their legs tangling together. "I need you," Jack choked. "God, I can't breathe without you, Daniel."

"I'm here, baby," the shai promised.

Jack cried out when Daniel's fingers left him, his muscles bunching up, his breath coming hard and fast. He felt Daniel roll away and turned to look over his shoulder, watching with a sense of relief as he saw his lover slicking up his erection with the ootra. Jack made eye contact for a second and rolled onto his back, lifting his legs.

"As you were, soldier," Daniel commanded gently. Then with a voice heavy with love, he added, "I want to be in you for a long time, Jack. I want to talk while we make love. I want to hold you while I love you."

Without protest, Jack returned to his former position. Daniel pressed his body up against Jack's back, his fingers skimming over the curve of Jack's hip, sliding down to his flaccid cock. "Maybe I should wait a little," he murmured against that white hair, planting a kiss there.

Jack understood instantly. "I'm getting older, Daniel," he said shyly. "When I told you I was done for the night, I wasn't joking... but I want to feel you inside me. Please." His hand smoothed down over Daniel's, gently holding his limp flesh. His fingers trailed over Daniel's arm and down between their bodies, reaching for that slick, hard cock brushing against his buttocks. Daniel gasped at the contact. Jack guided him, his heart slamming in his chest, pounding against his ribs. He held Daniel's erection in place against his sphincter. "Push, baby," he murmured breathlessly. "Come inside me. I belong to you now."

There were tears in his eyes. He had never done this before, never like this, one on one. It was scary but he was so ready for it. Ready for Daniel to enter him.

Daniel eased inside, breaching Jack with just the head of his cock. He rose up on one elbow and smoothed his left hand up to the middle of Jack's chest, looking down at his face. With deliberate gentleness Daniel's hips rolled upward until he was fully encased in Jack's willing flesh.

O'Neill turned his head slightly to the side so he could look up at his partner. Those eyes said it all, glowing with love such as he had never seen and was sure he did not deserve. "You're too good for me," he breathed.

Daniel's fingers moved up to his lips, silencing him as he shook his head. "Love you, Jack," he insisted. "No one but you for me."

"Always," Jack agreed. "No one's ever touched me like this. No one but you." He wanted to touch Daniel's face but he couldn't. He settled for placing his left hand on Daniel's hip, holding on as it rolled away from him with maddening slowness, then surged just as slowly back into place, firmly against his backside. He closed his eyes, lost in the incredible sensation of Daniel filling him up, moving inside him, making love to him.

He lost track of his body, only aware of the places where Daniel was touching him, the sound of Daniel's breathing, the feel of his lips and teeth and tongue exploring what they could reach. Daniel's soft voice was his anchor, holding him there, preventing him from fading into oblivion. He felt tingly, as if he wasn't quite real, his mind unable to hold a coherent thought, other than one word.


"Jack," came the breathless reply, far more than just a name on those soft lips. "I love you so much, baby. I want to give you everything. Everything I am."

"You're all I need." A tidal wave of emotion was rising in Jack and for once he did not struggle to contain it. He let it wash over him, greedy for it, throwing himself wide open to it as it covered him, driving him into the ground. He shuddered in its wake, helpless and vulnerable. He was crying and didn't care. These were Daniel's tears. Jack owed them to him. "Don't stop. Oh, God, Daniel, don't stop loving me. Not ever."

Daniel's thrusts were faster now, driven by passion and need. He held on to Jack, those articulate fingers trembling as they caught desperately at Jack's face, his chest, his arm. "Jaaa..." he cried, his whole body shaking now, fingers scrabbling for purchase against Jack's skin, sliding beneath him as Daniel covered his lover, holding on tightly.

Jack looked up at him, at that face grimacing with pleasure that was shifting into pain. Daniel's face was beaded with sweat, his teeth bared as he struggled to climb inside his lover, his hips pounding against Jack's ass. He was ferocious, trying so hard to give all of himself, holding back nothing. He was the most beautiful thing Jack had ever seen.

Jack's right hand floated upward on its own, his thumb stroking over that tense lower lip, his fingers stroking that soft cheek just beginning to roughen with whisker growth. Daniel leaned into his touch, needing it, aching for it.

"Come inside me, baby," Jack urged him gently. "I wanna feel you come in my ass. I want to feel how much you love me."

With one powerful thrust, Daniel buried himself deeply, freezing in place, every muscle tensed. His mouth opened, teeth closing on Jack's shoulder, biting down just hard enough to hold on without hurting. Jack felt Daniel's cock pulse, heard him grunt and those teeth closed tighter. The surge of quick pain made him gasp and sent a reaction straight to his groin.

"Oh!" he cried, his dick suddenly hot and swelling. "Jeez, Daniel!"

"Sorry," he blurted between twitches.

Jack pulled Daniel's hand out from under him and placed it on his rapidly filling cock. "Don't be sorry," he panted. "I liked that. Sent chills all over me."

"Yeah?" Daniel was breathing hard, his fingers closing around Jack's hardening shaft. "I thought you were done for the night, old man."

Jack turned slightly, looking his lover in the eye with a grin. "Apparently, you have a positive effect on my dick."

"So, you're ready for more?" Daniel was catching his breath.

"Yeah, but are you?"

Daniel poked him a little, grinning wickedly. "There are plenty of things we can do till I'm ready again. I've got lips and teeth and tongue and fingers and all sorts of fun things I can do with 'em."

Jack stared at him. "I am in hell," he moaned melodramatically. "And the devil's got his dick up my ass."

With a velvet laugh, Daniel let his hand drift down toward Jack's balls, giving them a little squeeze. "Toldja, baby. I've got six years to make up for and I intend to collect on that debt tonight."

A big smile spread slowly over Jack's face. "Good," he returned darkly. "Punish me all you want, Beelzebub."

"I prefer Mephisto," Daniel growled. He nibbled at Jack's shoulder, nipping harder until he got another gasp. "Satan's nice, too. Rolls off the tongue so nicely." He laved Jack's nape, trailing heat up to his ear.

Jack shuddered, cold chills racing heat down his spine and across his shoulders. "Jesus!"

"Oh, He's not here," Daniel assured him. "Just you and me, Brigadier- fucking-General O'Neill." He abruptly withdrew from Jack's backside and rolled the man onto his back. He devoured Jack's erection until his own began to rouse and then stopped when Jack's noises indicated that he was close.

"Don't stop, baby," Jack urged him, half sitting up to reach for him.

Daniel dodged those hungry hands and pushed him back down onto the pillows.

He scooped his hands under Jack's buttocks and lifted, blue gaze locked with brown. "I'm not done fucking you, Jack," he said huskily, "and this time, I'm not gonna be so gentle."

"God, I hope not," Jack breathed eagerly. He lifted his legs, settling his heels on Daniel's shoulders. Then Daniel was on him, pushing inside him, hard and fast. Jack arched away from that savage penetration, gasping at the heat and brief pain. It set all his nerve endings a-tingle, made him quiver with need.

Jack looked at his lover, at that beautiful body, those arms and that chest bulging with muscle. This was a powerful man, someone who could hurt him easily if he wanted but Daniel was all about gentleness. Even now that impressive strength was chained, releasing just enough to let Jack know he was being handled with care and that he could do so much more. Suddenly Jack found himself hungry to feel that body unleashed, to have Daniel lose himself completely in him. He wanted to see it in Daniel's face when he let go.

"Fight me," he rasped.

Daniel shook his head. "No. I won't, Jack. Don't want to hurt you."

"Hurt me," Jack demanded. "Do it hard, Daniel. I need it. Want it."


Jack came up off the pillows, on fire inside, determined to push Daniel over the edge. He grabbed a handful of Daniel's hair, his other hand holding him up off the bed and got in the man's face. "Fight me," he ground out between clenched teeth. "I want you to hold me down and take me. I want to feel your strength."

Daniel resisted. He tried to shake loose from Jack's grasp but O'Neill only tightened his grip. Those azure eyes turned cerulean with anger and Daniel bared his teeth, threatening.

"Let me go, Jack," he snarled in warning.

"Make me."

The reaction happened so fast it startled Jack. Daniel's left hand came up, grasped Jack's wrist and twisted it away from his hair. Hot pain shot up his forearm and Jack went down with it, falling hard against the pillows. Instinctively he reached up with his right hand, fingers wrapping around Daniel's throat, seeking control. Daniel pulled that hand away, too, wrestling with Jack as he pressed him down into the bed, thrusting harder, never breaking contact with Jack's ass.

Daniel's grip on his wrists was unbreakable and for a moment Jack felt a surge of panic to be so overwhelmed. His back hurt from the awkward position they were in, with Daniel pinning him to the mattress, his genitals squashed uncomfortably between them but the look in Daniel's eyes, that fierce beauty glimmering back at him, was breathtaking.

This was most definitely a man.

Jack lay still beneath his lover, unable to move with him, thoroughly conquered. Daniel's eyes roamed over his face, his body, possessiveness written all over him. Slowly he eased his body back a little, releasing Jack's arms, allowing him room to gasp a deeper breath.

"Beautiful," Jack panted. "God, Daniel, you're so fucking beautiful."

Daniel splayed his hand over Jack's chest, his palm pressed into the permanent print imbedded into the skin. "Mine," he declared roughly.

"Yes," Jack agreed. "Only yours." He reached up to fit his own hand into the print on Daniel's chest. He didn't have to say the word.

Daniel's eyes rolled back in his head. His chin tilted up, his hands clutching at Jack's hips, pulling him closer with every thrust. "Mine," he whispered blissfully. "You're finally mine, Jack." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he started to come, his face relaxed, breath halting with each spasm, sighing out of him in the spaces between pulses.

Jack looked down at himself, his dick still rock hard, his hips in the air, buttocks resting on Daniel's thighs as he knelt between Jack's legs. The sight was amazing. Utterly beautiful. He wished he could take a picture of that and keep it forever.

They stayed that way for a long time, Daniel's hand stroking Jack's cock just enough to keep it up. Eventually Daniel slipped out of him, drained and sated, and stretched out by his side. They lay face to face for a little while, touching each other, kissing, talking quietly. Daniel rolled onto his belly into a contemplative pose, propped up on his elbows, and Jack took advantage of that opportunity. By the time he finished, Daniel was ready to go again and Jack collapsed onto the bed with a chuckle, thinking that he must be the luckiest man in the entire universe.

"If this is hell," he observed as Daniel claimed him again, "then I pity all those poor folks who ended up in heaven."

Daniel grinned and proceeded to torture him further, drawing gasps and cries of ecstasy from his lover until the last of his strength was gone, and they slept.

Jack awakened early, checking the clock on the bedside table. He was sore all over, thoroughly abused by the night's activity and a huge grin spread across his face as he remembered what they had done together. He had been well and truly fucked, and loved every minute of it. Turning his head on the pillow, he watched the dark shape beside him gradually achieve a discernable form with the slowly rising sun.

His heart was full, so full it staggered his imagination. No one could be this lucky. He hadn't done anything to deserve this embarrassment of riches but it had happened to him, Jack O'Neill. Daniel Jackson was in his bed, in his heart, his mate for life and then some.

For the first time in ages, he closed his eyes and said a prayer of thanks. Lifting his arm to cross himself as he finished, he became aware that those blue eyes were open and watching him. He didn't look back but sat up and gasped at the reminder of his lover's fierce passion.

"You okay, Jack?" Daniel asked, lifting his head from the pillow, hair adorably tufted up all over his head from having his lover's fingers in it all night.

"I may not be able to sit down today but I'll be ready for more by tonight," Jack promised happily. With great care, he rose and took a few tentative steps toward the bathroom. When he finished his morning ablutions, he headed for the closet where he kept his clothes. "Get up, Daniel. Let's watch the sunrise together."

"Why don't you come back to bed and cuddle me?" Daniel stretched beneath the covers languorously, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Something interesting might come up."

Jack shrugged into his robe and poked his head out of the closet. "C'mon, humor the old man just this once. It's important."

With an impatient sigh, Daniel slowly pushed back the covers and left the bed, padding gracefully toward the bathroom. Heedless of his nudity, he wandered out onto the balcony to join his lover just as the sun began to rise. Slipping his arm around Jack's waist, he looked up into that familiar, loving face and smiled. "What could be more important than this?" he murmured softly, stealing a gentle kiss.

"Nothing," Jack agreed. He reached into the pocket of his robe and fished out a long beaded chain threaded through two flat pieces of stamped metal. He held the dog tags up in the air, his gaze clear and untroubled as it shifted to Daniel's face. Jack handed them over with a soft smile. "A wedding present," he murmured. "All or nothing, Daniel... and nothing will ever come between us again, my shai-ku-shai. I belong to you now, Daniel, body and soul."

"We belong to each other," Daniel corrected gently, bowing his head so Jack could put the necklace on him. He wrapped his arms gently around his sacred lover's waist, pulled him close, and kissed him as the sun rose on the alien world they would now call home in a time of peace and plenty.

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