But I'm With You by Oliver Twist
[Reviews - 1] Printer
Category: Teal'c/Sam, Jack/Daniel
Genres: Alternate Universe, Crossover, First Time, Romance
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Jack & Daniel have been best friends for over 10 years. Can they move to a strange new planet on the other side of the galaxy create a change for Daniel's "straighter than a board" best friend.

- Text Size +
Is there a higher power out there or what?

It's a damned cold night,
Trying to figure out this life,
Won't you take me by the hand,
Take me somewhere new,
I don't know who you are,
But I - I'm with you.
Avril Lavigne "I'm with You" from Let Go

A Damned Cold Night

I missed him more than I'd thought possible. It sounds corny, but it was true. At first, I assumed I'd feel better after a year had passed, but instead I felt even worse. Sometimes, it was like a hard splinter of wood lodged deep in my heart, and the pain was going nowhere. The harder I tried to push it away, the deeper it dug down into my soul.

The rest of the time I was simply numb with loss. There was something inexplicable about it, but inexplicable was the perfect word to describe my relationship with Jack. I'd always known that some day he'd leave, get the big promotion and go onto another phase of his life, but that didn't make it any easier.

When he was still a Brigadier General at the SGC, he used to make me angry at least once a month. When he was the head of our team SG-1, he made me flaming mad at least once a week. We screamed and bitched at each other, and made up over and over. There were no half measures in my feelings about the man. Put simply, he was Jack O'Neill.

He'd been the sole possessor of my heart since he'd given me that look of absolute certainty almost nine years ago when Sha're had been kidnapped by Apophis, and he told me, "We'll get her back." That had been it. Nine years and a million arguments later he was still the inspiration behind my waking and sleeping dreams. Unfortunately, he was as straight as a board.

In one of the many foster homes in which I spent my childhood, one of my foster mothers had read me a fairy tale in which a young boy's heart had frozen after the touch of an immortal called the Snow Queen. As a kid, I would have liked to feel nothing. I'd lost my father and mother, and I couldn't and wouldn't let anyone else in especially after I'd been rejected by Nick, my grandfather. And that was what I wanted to be now -frozen to the core.

Or maybe I just wanted my heart to turn into a facing of carved rock, like so many of the archaeological tablets I'd catalogued and brought back to my lab from distant planets. There were so many of them stockpiled in the back storerooms of the SGC by my assistant Nyam that sometimes I felt that I'd lost my passion for archaeology completely. Although in guy-like fashion, I just kept on working at them as if everything were normal even though most the joy had disappeared from my life on the day that General Jack O'Neill left for Washington.

Of the two of us, not surprisingly, Jack was the tactile one - he'd put his large warm hand on my shoulder at the drop of a hat. Right now, I craved that touch more than anything. Anyone who thinks being gay automatically makes you more sensitive and touchy-feely had obviously missed out on my past and continuing sexual experiences with other men. Or didn't know me. I loved it when Jack touched me, but I almost never initiated contact.

Not that there was ever anything between us except an amazing friendship, a friendship that neither Vala nor Colonel Cameron Mitchell could replace. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. It was simply a product of what Jack and I had been through together. As for myself, in spite of my seemingly friendly facade, I'm actually a very private person.

I'd bonded with Jack on that first trip to Abydos ten years earlier. Jack had been sent along with the gang to threat assess the situation, and blow up the planet and himself at the same time. Those were black days in Jack's life; Charlie hadn't been dead for very long, and I think he would've accepted any mission that resulted in his own final destruction.

So, I blundered into his path to self-immolation in my own ham-fisted, idealistic fashion, and demanded to know why he was so willing to die. That 'meaning of life kind of stuff' creates a bond between two people, even when they're as dissimilar as Jack and me. I met Sha're there, and stayed behind although I thought a lot about Jack during my year on Abydos. A lot.

Don't get me wrong, I really loved Sha're. She was the exception that makes the rule. I've only had limited sexual experiences with women, but there was no polite way to give her back without embarrassing her family. And I was persona non grata in the archaeological community after attacking two of the most important academic figures in my little world. So, that was it. Either my wet suitcase and I left Washington with Catherine Langford to work at some hush-hush government project or I could find grunt work on any dig that would hire me. My carrel at the University of Chicago had been cleaned out. Steven Rayner had been given my classes, and Sarah Gardner had taken over as a research assistant to my old professor. There was nothing left for me on Earth.

If Sha're hadn't been taken hostage by Apophis, I'd probably still be on Abydos surrounded by a flock of kids and the best archaeological ruins anywhere outside of Egypt. However, I reopened the Stargate after making the discovery of a lifetime in the Cartouche Room and I wanted to show them to someone. I thought that guarding the Gate around the clock was enough to keep Abydos safe. But in my darkest hours in the middle of the night, I've thought that my feelings for Jack O'Neill had something to do with my decision to unbury the Stargate. Of course, I've never known anyone who's actually buried their Stargate - even when they swore they were going to do it. That makes me feel marginally less guilty - but only marginally.

Even then, I knew that I couldn't compare the gentle feelings I had for Sha're to the intensity of my feelings for Jack. My passion for Jack was a once in lifetime kind of thing. Fortunately, Jack knew nothing about it whatsoever. And with true Jackson stubbornness, time hadn't changed my feelings about him one iota.

So, when Jack had left the SGC for Washington, he and I had the ubiquitous last buddy night together, with pizza, beer and heartfelt confessions. Now that he wasn't in charge of the SGC, he was finally dating Colonel Sam Carter. And it was serious - or at least he was serious.

She wasn't working at the SGC any more, and she'd already been sent to Area 51 to pore over some new techno-artifacts. I didn't get what Jack saw in her. A very long time ago, I used to see Sam as my compassionate, older, sister in arms. However, time changes everyone, and the feelings between us had cooled long ago. This was particularly true after Janet died. Sometimes, Sam would give me a long, hard, speculative stare as though she thought I was some kind of threat. I could have laughed out loud! Did I mention straight as a board?

Since Janet's death, I'd felt that Sam just hadn't been the same person. Her heart had turned into one big hard-wired circuit board. She spent most of her time buried in her lab. Then Jacob died, and he must have said something to her about Pete because she started pulling away from him. She dropped Shanahan cold like yesterday's news, and went after Jack with single-minded determination.

I felt things would have played out differently if Janet had been alive. Janet would have asked Sam what she was doing with Jack. But Jacob had always been lukewarm on the subject of Pete, and for all I knew he'd told her so on his deathbed. Sam was always the typical kind of army brat who would do anything to please the old man.

It was heartless, really, watching it all from the sidelines. Pete Shanahan had moved down from Denver just to be with her, given her a gorgeous ring and put down an offer on a house. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of him around the Springs after Sam dropped him. He looked like he'd been swatted by Sam's purse, packed with a solid red brick. I wasn't all that happy about leaving Jack in her tender, loving care in her present frame of mind.

So, when Jack and I had our last night together, and he told me all about his new relationship with Sam, how smart she was, how she'd waited patiently for him all these years, how he was the luckiest guy in the world, I was concerned. He was impressed and bewildered at the same time. Not the best scenario for a potential bridegroom.

"I just don't see," he confessed to me, "what Cart - I mean Sam sees in a beat up old guy like me, Danny. Bad knees, gray hair, scarred body." I could have told him exactly what Sam Carter saw in him: sensational soft brown eyes, a really nice face with a quirky wide mouth that was filled with ready laughter and stupid jokes, legs that were beaten up but still strong and lanky as a teenager and a really nice tight ass. Yeah, I had it bad! Luckily, I'd never told Jack that I was in love with him, and I wasn't going to start on his last night with me.

"I'm not exactly the catch of the month, if you know what I mean," he continued guilelessly, as though half of the women on the base hadn't wanted to date him. "She told me she doesn't even mind fishing." Again, I bit my tongue and didn't say anything. Even I would have agreed to sit in a canoe watching him cast a line for half of the afternoon, if that had been what Jack wanted to do with me, especially if the evening had ended up in Jack's bed.

He blathered on, "I guess I'm a really lucky guy. She waited for me all this time. And you know, when Kerry ended it with me because she told me she thought that there was somebody else I really loved and cared about, I guess she must have been talking about Sam. I can't think of who else she might have meant."

I didn't want to disillusion him, even though in some ways he was more innocent about women than a teenager. If he'd been going to marry Dr. Janet Fraiser, I would have been overjoyed. Janet was a good woman, and she was more than capable of handling any O'Neill bullshit. But to me it looked like Sam Carter had been trolling for a better husband than Pete. If I hadn't been sure that Jack was as straight as a board, I might have thought Jack's ex-girlfriend had been talking about me. If she meant Sam, I thought that Kerry and I needed to have a serious discussion.

Now, all I was getting from Jack were emails and the occasional fly through visits. I missed him more than words can say. Just to hear him make one of his stupid jokes, to smell the faint scent of piney soap and aftershave that hung in a room that he'd just vacated or feel his big hand clasped on my shoulder, would have really made my day. I guess the truth was I'd loved him for so long I didn't even remember when it had really started. All I knew was that after I came back from my brief sojourn on the celestial plane with Oma, Jack O'Neill had felt like the biggest reason behind my return. I just had no idea why, unless it was to torture me with the knowledge that he could never be mine.

It's true that I had my own man to think about. I hadn't spent the long years after Sha're's death pining over Jack, at least not sexually. In spite of my apparently innocent looking exterior, I have needs like anyone else. There had been a couple of flirtations with a couple of guys, but my relationship with Paul Davis had filled most of my sexual needs for the past five years now.

The relationship was a convenience that suited us both. He was mine when he blew into town from the Pentagon to work at the SGC every month or so. We had an amicable arrangement. Paul and I, well, we went our separate ways the rest of the time. If there had ever been a time in this relationship when Paul could have replaced Jack in my heart, that time was long gone. He never spent an entire night in my bed with me because he was too worried about what might happen if people realized that we were having a sexual relationship.

Last night, Paul and I had had an enormous argument about the diplomatic mission I was going on in the morning. The truth was, I didn't really have to go, and it had originally been Paul's mission. However, I'd argued so persuasively with General Hank Landry and General Jack O'Neill that I'd managed to cut Paul out completely. I'd pointed out that I knew more languages than anyone else they could find, and that I'd been on diplomatic missions before. I also knew how to yank Jack's chain to make him take me along, instead of Paul. It was a dirty trick, and I understood that completely. But as they say, all's fair in love and war.

Jack had known about my relationship with Paul ever since he'd arrived unannounced at my bungalow late one night a couple of years or so back, with a case of beer and two pizzas. The odor of sweaty sex hung in the air when I answered the door, and it had taken Jack about two seconds to put the situation together. Always the gentleman, he was going to leave - but Paul had left instead, which left Jack and me with a large case of beer and something new to talk about. He was curious, and had asked a lot of questions about Paul and Sha're and whether I'd always been gay, and how I felt about women compared to men.

However, right now, with a strong cold blizzard wind blowing thick snow right in my face that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face, I felt distinctly worried for the first time in several years. Although I'm usually fairly cool in the face of stress, I'd lost most of the feeling in my feet and hands for at least fifteen minutes, and I could sense anxiety coming off Jack in waves as he went about setting up the tent.

We'd been on our way to the Pegasus Galaxy, but we'd definitely taken a wrong turn somewhere. After several months at area 51, Sam Carter had finally McGyvered a power source strong enough to get us to Atlantis and back, and Teal'c was going with us on the mission. We were supposed to meet up with some new allies, exchange technology, make a bunch of new friends and initiate some trade discussions. However, after an extremely rocky ride that seemed slightly longer than usual, Jack and I had tumbled through the Stargate without Teal'c. Within minutes of our arrival, we both knew we were screwed. We didn't have the technology with us to get back to Earth, and I suspected that the supercharge Sam had used in the dialing program had sent us a long, long way from our intended destination.

"Where's Teal'c?" Jack yelled into an icy gust that put the windy city to shame. I suspected that only some out of the way villages in Nunavut or Siberia without actual street names ever witnessed weather like this on Earth. The kind of place where toothless patrons in the local bar had honking big guns in the back room somewhere. Where you'd need lots and lots of roubles to avoid being thrown out on your ass in sixty below zero weather, and where the local cop would run you in for giving him a crooked sideways glance.

The wind took Jack's voice and bore it far away into the distance, "And have you noticed that our GDO's are missing? Not to mention, the crystals in the DHD are smashed beyond recognition. This Gate hasn't been used for a hundred years at least."

"It's the first thing I looked at," I pronounced gloomily, getting close to him and talking right into his ear. "I guess the Stargate bounced Teal'c back to the SGC." I was finding it increasingly hard to breathe in the high winds and extreme dry cold.

"Why in hell would it do that? He doesn't have a symbiote anymore." Jack grabbed his hat and turned it around. He'd been wearing his dress blues and shades when we left the SGC, certainly not his old Cubbies hat, which was usually strictly for weekends. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure that he still owned a Cubbies hat anymore. And I'd been pretty sure that I had on a new navy suit, not my present outfit that strongly resembled my BDU's.

"How should I know?" I snapped back at him, "I'm not even wearing the same clothes I was wearing when I left the SGC. And you were wearing your dress blues as I recall. Do you have a weapon with you?"

"Daniel, at this point, if I had a weapon with me, I think I'd consider shooting you right now!" Jack had half of the winter tent up already although he was fighting with the strong winds. He kicked at the snow on the ground with the toe of his boots in exasperation, trying to hammer in the tent pegs.

"Thanks so much!" I commented sarcastically. We'd had this kind of interchange so many times, people often thought that we weren't friends - but they were very wrong. Even now, as I coughed out my guts in the dry cold of this bizarre planet, I couldn't stop arguing and kibitzing with him like we were an old married couple. There was something comforting about fighting.

Then I coughed again as the wind took my breath away. This small act energized Jack into action. It wasn't for nothing that I thought of him as my big bear protector. Colonel Mitchell just didn't do it for me at all!

Jack helped me get the strangely familiar pack off my back. My rescue and corticosteroid inhalers were located in the same place in the waterproof inner zipped pocket that I usually left them in when I went off world. I coughed again. Jack grabbed them, turned the disc on the rescue inhaler, and wordlessly applied it to my lips. Silently, he slipped the purple corticosteroid inhaler into my empty hand.

As I was temporarily breathless, I said nothing while Jack searched further in our knapsacks to see what was inside them. This was definitely weird. And it was not simply because we were geared up and dressed differently than when we left the SGC. The boots, pants, jackets and packs, while they were clearly not standard USAF issue, resembled them in almost every other particular.

Although we had no weapons, our pockets and equipment were in the same familiar places that they were whenever we used to go off world. Our boots looked the same, but they were warmer and more comfortable - although my toes were still numb from the frigid temperature. I was getting colder by the minute, even though our clothes were also made of light, warm materials in bright reds and yellows. As I said, it was inexplicable. I tried to worry about what it all might mean, but I felt too ill to bother and sat on the ground until Jack fixed up the equipment for the night.

A few minutes passed and Jack had finally finished pitching the winterized tent, zipped two sleeping bags together and made a small cooking fire. He installed me on one side of the sleeping bags, minus my damp cold boots that he'd left in the tent's vestibule. He'd also found something that resembled coffee that he warmed up and served to me in a mug he'd found in our knapsacks.

I felt like an idiot. My asthma had been under control for years, or it had been until Dr. Janet Fraiser had died two years ago and Jack had left. After that, I'd kind of let things slide because I hated taking the puffers that seemed to make me fidgety and sleepless at night, and Dr. Warner didn't ask as many probing questions as Janet Fraiser or Jack O'Neill. As for Dr. Lam, what can I say about a medical doctor who wears low cut tops at work? I mean, really!

When I used to go off world with Jack leading the team, he'd sit up with me, playing chess or checkers by the hour, and he wouldn't sleep until he was sure I was good and tired. Colonel Cameron Mitchell was a quiet, no-nonsense kind of guy who went straight to sleep at night and left me to my own resources. Or I was stuck playing mind games with Vala, all of which were very boring, especially after she realized that I wasn't sexually interested in her. In fact, Teal'c had told me privately that after Jack O'Neill, he found Mitchell unbelievably predictable and boring as well.

Anyway, I lay back, exhausted by my asthma attack, which had been caused by the extreme dry cold, and by irregularities in my medication schedule. For a while, Jack said nothing. I accepted the mug he prepared gratefully and without argument.

"You feel better?" Jack inquired, lifting an eyebrow at me.

"Sure," I gasped at him. My lungs wheezed like a broken bellows. As I breathed, I could hear a gurgling squeak following each breath. I was in serious trouble, and Jack knew it. As usual under these circumstances, he started to get angry as though it was my fault I had asthma. I thought he should cut me some slack, but I was too unwell to tell him that. Come to think of it, he always got angry when I became ill. As I lay plopped over, like an unhappy jellyfish, I pondered the meaning behind Jack's anger and came up empty-handed. He didn't do this to anyone else. I felt picked-on. Maybe it was the geek thing. Clearly, I was special, and right at that moment I could do without being special.

"Liar, that's a such a crock Daniel! For crying out loud, what the hell is Colonel Cameron Mitchell good for if he isn't keeping an eye on you? I told him before I left, gotta' watch Daniel like a hawk or he'll cheat on his asthma meds and overwork all the time. When I saw you yesterday, I thought you looked peaky and overtired. But I assumed that Mitchell was keeping his eye on you. I should've known better!"

"You're such a mother bear, Jack! I don't need a keeper." I grumbled half-heartedly. I hate to admit this, but I liked it when Jack was overprotective with me.

"You do so need a keeper," Jack said emphatically.

"I'm a grown man," I said lying on my side like a dying fish.

Jack pursed his lips, brushed my icy damp hair back from my forehead and sighed heavily, "Yeah, sure you betcha'! Daniel, you're such a rebellious kid at heart. If Janet was still around, you'd be in big shit when we got home!" He looked encouragingly at me, and gave me one of his patented crooked O'Neill smiles. In spite of my condition, my heart flip-flopped in my chest at the sight of that grin.

He was, in spite of the storm and our rough ride through the Stargate, looking remarkably handsome. I wondered whether Sam had gotten him to dye his hair, as there seemed to be less gray in it than usual. As attractive as Jack appeared, the thought of Sam Carter handing Jack a package of "Grecian formula" was an unwelcome intrusion into my private time with him. Still, I just couldn't seem to let the idea go, and the image of Jack with Sam kept popping into my head.

I watched him as I gasped for breath. He fished out an MRE from each backpack, tore one open and passed it to me along with a spoon. I must have made a face at that point, but that was when I noticed that he'd substituted his cap for a knitted toque. He pointed his spoon at me and gave me a serious look with his maple brown eyes, "No arguments about food, Daniel," he said gently. At that, I took the package from his hands without complaint; then he leaned forward and stroked my face gently with his index finger in a gesture of concern. This was pure Jack O'Neill, and I wished with all my heart that it meant more than just the love of one friend for another.

"Geez, what am I going to do with you?" He shook his head sadly.

I took a bite of the MRE, and an odd expression must have come over my face, "Is something the matter?" He asked immediately in alarm.

"No," I wheezed, "It's just that it's good. You know, it actually tastes good. I've never had an MRE that tasted good before. You know, MRE - meals rejected by everyone. They always taste sort of unnatural." I wheezed and coughed hard as some phlegm temporarily blocked my airway. Jack slapped me on the back with unaccustomed vigor.

"For Pete's sake, stop talking! One thing I don't have is a damned oxygen tank here." He barked, his eyes opening wide in alarm.

After a couple of more puffs on the rescue inhaler I was breathing clearly, although there was a nasty rumble in my chest. "I've been fine lately," I gasped through the pain.

"Absolutely peachy! I can see just how fine you've been for myself," he rolled his eyes heavenward. "So, what were you doing yesterday?"

"Reading, you know, books, Jack," I said with as much dignity and sarcasm as I could muster under the circumstances.

"Old books were they?" He cocked his eyebrow at me. There was something weird about his eyebrow too, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

"They might have been," I said defensively.

"Covered in mold and spores, two of your most dramatic allergies as I recall." He handed me a white pill, "Go ahead and take it! Whoever the powers are that brought us to this cozy little planet, they seem determined to keep us alive since that snowstorm could have killed us without a tent and supplies. Not to mention your meds."

A half an hour later, I was breathing more easily. Jack relaxed. He was sitting up beside me, "You know, although I shouldn't feel comfortable here, I feel really good. I mean, aside from the fact that you're not doing so well, I'm glad to be here with you." A whistling gust of wind shook the side of the tent like a leaf. "This place feels almost familiar, it's odd."

"No," I wheezed again, "I'm glad you're here. I've missed you. Missions aren't the same with Mitchell. And it probably feels familiar because we've been in this dilemma so many times before."

He flushed slightly, "Hey - a guy over here. I don't do the emotional thing, Daniel."

"Speaking of crocks - as I recall, I'm the one with the emotional issues. That was a big admission for me about missing you! For a straight guy, you're Mr. Emotion, and you know it."

"Yeah, well," a spot of color burned on his cheek, "I've missed you too!" He moved closer beside me, and I could feel his body radiating heat on the side of my leg and arm.

We ate our dinners in companionable silence. There was really nothing to say, unless I decided to tell him I loved him - which I certainly wasn't planning on doing. Once he brushed my hand, and he apologized - but there was really no need. It was clear we were going to be sleeping together again. Under normal circumstances, I usually had to go out to the woods to take care of business before retiring for the night with Jack because I was so attracted to him. But right now, I was much too sick to worry about that. So, under my eyelashes I examined him again. I could have sworn he had less gray hair.

"Washington must agree with you," I blurted out.

He appeared startled, "Why would you say that?"

"Oh, you seem to have less gray hair Jack. Don't you remember, you said I caused all your gray hair?"

"I don't think you should talk with that asthma. Less gray hair? That's just crazy Daniel. Carter and I," he cleared his throat in the tone of one who was about to make an announcement, "Well let's just say that I don't think our relationship is going anywhere, anytime soon. We've decided to take a," he blurted the word out hastily, "a hiatus. I think she's realized what she had with Pete, and that she's seeing him again."

"A hiatus? That sure sounds like a Sam Carter word for the big kiss-off. It certainly doesn't sound like the Jack O'Neill I know. And after all the fuss she made over fishing with you at the cabin, too," I coughed again in disgust.

"Aw Danny, Sam Carter deserves something better than my sorry old ass," he said as he started to clean up after we finished eating.

"Is that why you've taken to coloring your hair? I must have missed it under your hat," I wheezed again and then lay down on my side.

"What the hell are you talking about Daniel?" Jack had a puzzled look on his face, "Do I look like a guy who dyes his hair? Or waxes his chest? That's definitely somebody else."

"It must be the light," I said hastily, "but I'd swear you look less gray. As for waxing your chest, I haven't seen the evidence. But I think chest hair is becoming on an older man." It was meant to sound consoling. Hell, Sam Carter had finally kicked Jack to the curb - he must be feeling the loss. However, he blushed slightly and turned to face the other direction for a moment before as he put away the medications and cleaned off the spoons we'd used. Then he pulled two pillows out from his pack, and gave both of them to me.

"Don't bother saying you don't need them, Daniel because I know you'll breathe better with your head up high," he said clearly as he zipped us both into our sleeping bags. We were both so well padded in our layers of winter clothes, I needn't have worried about getting hard from his proximity to me. "Good night Daniel," he said slightly awkwardly, "I hope you're better in the morning." I felt his coated arm hug me, a minor aid against the howling blizzard winds and extreme cold. It felt good, I thought. It was too bad we'd get rescued, go home and he'd disappear from my life again.

"Have you thought about whoever sent us here? They must be technologically advanced because they thought of everything, even removing our guns," I whispered to him in the dark.

"Yeah, I'd thought about that as well. But they obviously don't intend to harm us because they've provided us with supplies," he speculated, "With this kind of weather I wouldn't think they get very many guests. Still, they wanted us to come here, and not Teal'c. But I don't know what that means." I could feel his breath on my face, and could have leaned forward and planted a big kiss on his lips, which probably would have embarrassed the hell out of him.

"I'm glad you're here with me Jack," I coughed again slightly, "Even if this isn't exactly the reunion I had in mind."

"I feel the same way. Go to sleep," he advised before patting the top of my head.

I woke up in the morning feeling distinctly worse. I had a pain deep inside my lung that felt like pneumonia, and I propped myself up. My breathing had become noisy, and each breath cut into my side like a knife. I also had that disjointed and distant feeling that comes with a fever. It wasn't a good sign.

The day was crisp and clear, and the sun was already up. Jack was still asleep, which gave me a first hand glimpse of what I'd noticed the night before. His hair was less gray, a lot less gray. In fact, I didn't know whether it was the morning light, but some of the smaller wrinkles around the corners of his eyes and his mouth seemed diminished. He looked a lot like the Jack O'Neill I'd first met on the mission to Abydos. Suddenly, his dark eyes opened and they focused on my face, studying me intently. He sat up hastily when I coughed. Then I spat into a tissue.

He grabbed my hand as I drew the tissue carefully away from my mouth, still coughing slightly. He took the hand with the tissue, "No, you don't!" He looked down at the contents, "Aw Danny, that's a sign you're getting worse! Why didn't you wake me up?" He tenderly ran his fingers over my cheek and forehead, "Damn it, you've got a high fever and you clearly have an infection in your lungs! Don't think you're getting out of any work by getting sicker, do you hear me Daniel Jackson?" he barked angrily, as though I had any say in the matter.

He wrapped me in one of the sleeping bags, while he struck the camp quickly. The day was bright and clear, and a light dusting of snow covered the ground. I could see from our position that we were on the highest point of a moor or plain that looked down into a deep, long green valley. In the distance, sloped rooftops of stone houses showed the presence of people and animals. On the far side of the valley small herds of wooly sheep-like long necked creatures were being herded toward the upper pasture by an animal that could only be a border collie. The dog deftly surrounded the animals pushing them toward an enclosure in the gate, and the shepherd's whistle reverberated in the still, cold air.

It was so green, and yet it was winter. We set out unsteadily for the lower valley where a group of tiny houses were clustered several hundred yards above a clear running river that ran along the bottom of the valley. I was so ill that these details appeared to me through a haze, and Jack scolded and dragged me along with him.

"It's no use," I said after some fifteen minutes had elapsed, "I'll never make it. You go ahead and get help."

He favored me with a hard penetrating look like the Jack I remembered from the early days, "Like hell I will! Put your arm around my neck," he ordered briskly.

"Your knees," I protested weakly.

"My knees haven't felt this good for ten years," he scoffed dismissively, "I left you behind once on Apophis's ship, and I swore I'd never do it again. Just do what I say! Put your arms around my neck." I was too sick to argue with him, and he picked me up and cradled me in his arms like I was a small child. This was a Jack I hadn't seen in almost five years - since his last knee replacement - because I'm no lightweight. He looked so good. It was amazing. At least, the man could have the decency to start to look old at fifty.

I smiled weakly, "My hero," my head lolled back against him, and I was hit by another bout of heavy coughing and asthmatic breathing.

"Save your energy," he said gruffly, but he looked down at me with affection.

Held in his strong arms, the comfort of his presence was the best thing I'd felt in a long time in spite of my illness. Nothing in any of the temples in the hundred or so of the planets I'd excavated and sweated at could compare with it. It penetrated my skin through to the bone.

As a rule, I hate having people really close to me. Memories of the smell of sweaty, apprehensive and nervous social workers hovering over me overpowered any need I had to become close to most people. Only Jack and Sha're had cut through those feelings of apprehension, and made me feel really comfortable in their presence.

Rolled up in Jack's arms, I could smell the piney scent of his soap and minty toothpaste. Count on Jack to wash his face and brush his teeth, even after a snowstorm. I could also smell something else, something that was my visceral reaction to the musky male odor of his body. Vaguely, through my heavy breathing, I thought that it was a good thing that I was so ill; otherwise I would have had an erection, making my feelings for him very obvious and possibly embarrassing. I'd always been careful not to let Jack get even a hint of these feelings.

I coughed heavily, and felt the uncomfortable and familiar stabbing feeling in my lungs. I was getting worse, I thought as the world suddenly faded out around me. My last conscious thought was of a concerned hand pressed to my hot forehead.

Trying to Figure Out This Life

Physically, I hadn't felt this good in years. But all I could think about was how shit-scared I was that Daniel wasn't going to make it. I don't know what made me think the people in this small backward looking village in the middle of the back end of the universe would be able to help me, but I had to convince somebody to help me. There was an elixir of fear working it's way through my system, and it said over and over in my head "Daniel is dying." I hadn't said it to Daniel because I wanted him to think that I was sure he was just swinging the lead. If I'd had my P-90, I'd have used it as a convincer to make someone fix him if it was necessary.

I carried him down into the largest cluster of houses toward the river. The town consisted of tiers of small, narrow, stone streets winding up the side of the valley nearest us. I also noticed the absence of technology, and I wondered how these people could have been responsible for our presence on this world.

They didn't seem technologically advanced. What I saw suggested that they were an agrarian people: horses, dogs, some furry animals that resembled sheep and the divided fields on both sides of the valley. The children were running around the village, like all children do when it's the first snowfall, throwing snowballs at each other and laughing. I could tell too that the snow was too wet and slippery to last, and as far as I knew snow was an unusual occurrence in the valley.

They looked human. That too was good, because there was a better chance that they'd be able to help Daniel. I just hoped that there'd be a healer in the village who was half-way competent, because Daniel had slipped into unconsciousness, and he looked much sicker than the night before. I'd seen him have acute asthma attacks and it had required Fraiser, antibiotics, an oxygen tank and a fleet of nurses in the infirmary to fix him up. I could almost bet that there was nothing like that here.

A young girl came running toward me, and then ducked behind me suddenly. A large and sloppy snowball hit me in the face, "For crying out loud," I cried in exasperation, "I need help, not wet snowballs." The kids immediately quieted down, and then one - a boy with dark hair and blue eyes - yelled something in an unknown language at the other children who immediately halted their play. I was in the middle of a group of about ten or so children. It was hard to tell because some of them were hiding shyly around the corners of the stone houses.

"I need help," I emphasized, wishing that Daniel were conscious because his knowledge of languages was so extensive that he would've been able to figure something out.

The dark haired boy approached me, gravely observing the unconscious man in my arms, "You are expected," he said in somewhat stilted and halting English.

I must have looked surprised, "How do you..." I began.

"Please, sir!" The dark haired boy reiterated, "You are expected. Marja has been waiting for you, these many years."

"Years?" I questioned, gesturing with my head at the cluster of stone houses nearby where I assumed this Marja lived. I raised my eyebrow. The girl who had ducked behind me earlier came to stand beside the boy. She had reddish-brown hair and freckles.

"Dyrk, does not explain well enough," she gestured dismissively with her hand, "He is younger. I am the eldest of the children. Marja will be here soon. I will take you to her house. We are telepaths." She said more gently seeing the astonishment on my face, "Your thoughts are easy to discern, as is your language. Marja will explain all to you when you meet her."

"And this Marja she's what to you? Your leader? Your healer?"

"We do not have leaders among us, only those who are appointed for a time to administer our affairs," she said patiently as though she was talking to a child. She glanced at Daniel and shook her head, "We could not anticipate that your friend would sicken in this way. Such ailments have been non-existent on Furander Prime for many thousands of years. Fortunately, the programming in the Stargate would have provided him with the drugs he needs."

"Nice for you," I grumbled, "Where in heck are we anyway?"

"Furander Prime is many light years away from Earth in your galaxy. It is past an area in your galaxy called the Badlands. In the Badlands, an alien entity draws you into the far quadrant of the galaxy. This area is normally called the Delta quadrant."

"But that's light years away from our intended destination point in Pegasus," I tossed my head in concern. "I've only heard of the Badlands from Asgard legend; they say that no space craft can enter this region."

"Yes, this is true. But the Delta quadrant is many light years away from the Badlands themselves. It is, actually, on the same trajectory as the Pegasus Galaxy, but in reality much further from Earth - your point of origin. We study the geography of the galaxy in school."

"You don't use the Stargate anymore?" I asked.

"It has merely activated an ancient program to call you home to us. Marja will tell you more."

"I don't understand. I have a job back on Earth."

"Your people will manage well enough without you," she said calmly as though the entire matter had been decided long ago, "for now, it is enough that we have called you home." She led the way over the threshold of a house nearby. It was a room with low timbered dark beams. Some pleasant smelling wood burned in the fireplace. I ducked to avoid hitting my head as I went down a small flight of stairs.

At the bottom was a cot with woolen blanket, and I lay Daniel gently on top. I brushed his hair softly away from his forehead. He looked so very young, so vulnerable, the way I remembered him in the old days before my life had gotten out of control. The young girl put her hand on his forehead, and he stirred and moaned slightly in his sleep.

"He's very ill," I said helplessly.

She shook her head, "He will recover well in a short time. Wait here for Marja. She will come to you shortly."

As I walked around the stone cottage, I noticed many books bound in leather with strange writing on the spine. This was Daniel kind of stuff. He'd love this, if only he'd wake up. A long wooden trestle table was loaded with books with diagrams of what looked like some kind of ruins. I walked around them slowly, taking careful note of my surroundings. I noticed a small mirror on the wall, and stepped over to look at my face.

The first glimpse was a shock. I couldn't believe it, but when I looked at Daniel's face I'd seen the same phenomenon by the daylight. We both looked about ten years younger.

Daniel was right; I had less gray hair. There were fewer wrinkles around my eyes, and my trademark - the scar over my left eyebrow - wasn't there. I pushed my hair around, looking for gray hairs, and finding very few. I'd always told Daniel he'd caused my gray hair. I guess I'd have to stop.

"Is it so hard to believe?" A voice spoke behind me, and I whirled around. The person behind me remained in the shadows.

"You took me by surprise," I commented, "and that isn't easy to do."

"You were preoccupied. Have you always been a warrior, Jack O'Neill?" A woman's melodic mezzo voice filled the room as she stepped into the dim light.

"Yup," I responded warily, "Since I was eighteen. And you would be Marja?"

"Yes," she responded, "Buy you are you tired of fighting." It was an assertion of fact, not a question.

I shook my head, unsure how she knew that about me. It was true, I was tired, bone-tired of fighting, and it was clear she'd picked this up from my mind, "Maybe, it's been a long war." I said cautiously. "But I'd like you to look at my friend before we do any more talking."

Her face was strong. There was a singular beauty in her dark honey hair, dark blue eyes, long nose with a narrow bridge, golden-white skin and a wide, tender pink mouth in which humor lurked in the corners. She was tall for a woman, almost as tall as Sam Carter, but not slim. She was generously wide-hipped and big-breasted - there was a sensual cat-like quality to her movements that suited her. I thought that Daniel would probably have seen her as a latter day mother goddess.

She leaned over the cot where Daniel lay unconscious, and pushed back his hair from his forehead with a sigh of concern, "I'm sorry. We haven't seen this ailment for many generations," she muttered half to herself. He stirred and moaned slightly on the cot. I pulled the wool blanket higher on him. She examined him briefly and then rubbed something on his upper lip, and I noticed that he was soon breathing more easily in his sleep.

She spoke to me reassuringly, "It's an old-fashioned remedy for lung ailments. We use it very seldom, but it won't hurt him. It helps to open up the airways and also alleviates some of the pain. He will sleep for some time, before waking. The healer has medications to fix his problem better. This is simply a temporary stop gap."

I came closer and leaned over Daniel. It was true. He was sleeping peacefully for the time being. I thought about the fact that I had no weapons, and realized that I'd have felt a lot more comfortable with a P-90 at my side.

"Your guns are neither helpful nor necessary here." Marja commented on my thoughts, "they will not allow you to serve your friend better. And he is much on your mind."

I raised one dubious eyebrow at her, "I've always found that a good P-90 was my best friend. Is my mind so easy to read?"

She laughed long and hard. "Oh, I think you know everything you already need to know about weapons. You're quite accomplished at killing. You don't need to hone those skills here. It's a burden you no longer are forced to carry. You will find we have other gifts to give you." I noticed as she spoke to me longer, that she'd already begun to pick up English contractions. Something, I hadn't been able to get Teal'c to do for the most part since he turned up on Earth.

"Okay, so what could you teach me?" I folded my arms defiantly.

"Oh," she reached her hand out to hold my jaw and look directly into my eyes, "things about yourself perhaps? Things about your abilities, about your heart."

"I'm a soldier." I said impatiently, shaking off her touch. "The sooner you send me back to where I came from to do that job, the better off we'll all be. I don't want to know about my heart."

"Being a soldier is just your job, it isn't who you are Jack." The compassion in her eyes almost brought tears to mine. I fought hard to repress them. I must be tired, I thought.

"All I know how to be is a soldier," I said simply and openly.

"And we can teach you to be human again. Perhaps, for him you will want to do this?" Her gentle smile seemed to offer something I knew I couldn't have or couldn't be. I hadn't been a real human being since the day Charlie had died.

"Ah, home," she went and leaned over the fire and put some wood on it. A piney smell arose in the room, "But we have called you to another home now. And getting back to Earth may prove more challenging than you think. We will discuss this later."

"Listen lady, I don't have time for your riddles," I rubbed the back of my head impatiently. "What use could you possibly have for me? Just send us back where we came from, and I can forget about knowing my heart."

"Don't you want to know your heart's greatest desire?" She gave me the same kind of annoying, knowing look that the old Nox Atanaus had once given me long ago. It was a look that said 'I know something that you don't,' but I'd spent hundreds of hours on hundreds of planets finding out that the Nox and their peaceful ways were the exception. Fighting was the universal planetary constant. Fighting, killing, stealing and destruction - I'd seen it all over and over in every corner of every galaxy.

Fear gripped at my heart. Did I even know what my heart's desire truly was, or had I been a soldier for so long that fighting and killing had destroyed all the heart I had left? Maybe, that was why Sam had left me. There was nothing left but the husk of an empty, old soldier, too old and tired for passion.

"Your fears are groundless," Marja said simply, gesturing at Daniel, "the fighting and killing is destroying his soul. Wouldn't you do anything to stop his pain?"

It was true. The killing hurt Daniel more than the rest of us. He'd told me so, and I would do almost anything to give him his heart's desire.

Still, this woman scared me and I moved further away from her, afraid of what she could tell me, but she closed the distance between us with slow, even steps. I felt that our very closeness made it possible for her to read my mind, and I didn't like the feeling.

It was strange. At one time, another Jack O'Neill would have found her a good bedmate, but for some reason that wasn't even in my mind. She was dressed in a loose tunic of what appeared to be unbleached cotton with no decoration, a long brown woolen vest, darker woolen pants and leather boots. A small object glittered in her left hand.

"What are you going to do?" I demanded nervously and backed up until I hit my back against a bookcase on the wall.

She opened her hand. In it, she held a tiny metal object. "It's merely a small device to allow you to understand us better, a translator. It inserts into the back of your neck on the cerebral cortex. You won't even know that it's there."

"Oh no!" I held my hands up, making my feelings on this score immanently clear, "I don't allow anyone to put things into my head. That's how I got snaked."

"You may examine it, if you wish," she said with some amusement, "it's harmless. But you have met the Goa'uld and the Tok'ra, and are naturally suspicious. I will not do anything against your will."

"Who are you people? And what have you done to me? I look younger - is this process going to stop or will it continue?"

She smiled, "We are the fourth race of the ancient alliance. We are the Furlings. It was written, in the books of prophecy of the Ancients, that we would be visited in the 3,343rd generation by two men from the stars who have met with the Ancients. One of these men will have strong telepathic abilities."

"That will be him," I gestured to Daniel, and went to stand beside his cot protectively. I ran my hand over his hot cheek, and an intense wave of feeling hit me as I did so. I'd felt it before when I was around Daniel, the desire to protect him - but I'd always felt that he vaguely resented my mother hen attitude so I was careful about how far I went. When he was unconscious, like now, I could touch him without him taking umbrage. And as worried as I was about him, I liked touching him.

She came closer and laid her hand on my shoulder as I stooped over him, and I felt it again - stronger, this time and surer. The feeling swirled into my heart, and images from the past flashed into my mind.

I remembered my intense joy at finding Daniel alive at the SGC after I left him on Apophis's ship to die and the heat of his tears on my arm in the storage closet after his experience with the sarcophagus on Shy'la's planet. The dreadful feeling of loss when he'd died and joined Oma De Sala, and how the emptiness in my heart reverberated when he left us as a glowy light being.

Then I recalled my confusion when he'd visited me twice when he was ascended. I still didn't know why he came to see me in Ba'al's prison or in the elevator of the SGC to tell me about the Eye of Ra. It had really annoyed the hell of out of Sam that Daniel hadn't visited her. I have no idea why. It's not like it was a contest or something.

Then we'd found him again, and the silly bastard wanted to go off to Atlantis almost immediately. Images of stupid arguments about Atlantis, and the times we'd spent making up and laughing together about it flashed through my mind. I don't know what any of this meant to Daniel, but my own feelings were suddenly crystal clear.

I hadn't wanted to take the promotion and move to Washington, but I'd told myself that I had a new girlfriend and a new life and Daniel had Paul Davies. Paul would take care of him. I'd always assumed Daniel loved Paul, and that Paul loved Daniel. I was a straight Air Force General with my career to think about, and I had Sam Carter at my side - the smartest, the best and the brightest.

Or so I told myself until Sam Carter and I actually tried a relationship. I couldn't call her Sam; she couldn't stop calling me 'sir'. Of course, there was the ultimate humiliation as well. There just wasn't any snap in the old snake when I finally got into the sack with her. Judging from my quick perusal of Daniel, I wasn't going to have that problem if I plastered myself up against his hard male body.

As I raked my eyes over the familiar face with the stubborn set of the jaw, the pale pink lips and the soft light brown hair, all the passion I hadn't felt for years for anyone came flooding through my system. Oh, I might delude myself longer if I wanted, but I knew that my body never lied. During all those years, alone in the desert with other soldiers or in jail in Iraq, I'd never once thought about doing what I was imagining doing with Daniel this very moment. My hands clenched at my sides as I tried to regain control. I reached with one trembling finger to stroke Daniel's cheek briefly. I wanted him so much it hurt.

Somebody pushed a chair up behind me, and I fell into it, and my legs gave way underneath me. The smartest and the best - the brightest star in my galaxy was lying in the cot in front of me. I reached out again and gently patted his hair. I stared at him. How could I not have seen it, the truth that now penetrated every cell in my body? I loved him. I'd always loved him. Whatever he wanted, even if it was to stay in this strange place, I'd do it if only he asked.

Marja's hand reached out to grasp mine, and I turned back to look in those infinitely old wise eyes. "You had no idea that you loved him?" There was a deep sadness stemming from her knowledge as she gave me a compassionate glance.

"Not in this way! I knew I cared too much on so many levels, but I had no idea! " I gasped. The fresh knowledge had left me feeling stunned. I wasn't upset, but the sudden vision of just how much I'd wanted Daniel and for how very long had literally rocked my world. It was going to take some time to get used to the idea. "In our world, this kind of love," I gestured at Daniel, "isn't allowed."

"You forbid love," she tilted her head inquiringly, "I'm afraid I don't understand. I sense worry in your heart, but not its cause. How could love be forbidden?"

"Love between two men isn't allowed because of my job," I felt myself flush red.

"Soldiers may not love one another?" she questioned in almost total disbelief. "Even in our most ancient histories, the love that arises from bonding in war has been written about. I had thought, your ancient writers - Homer and other poets from your world had written about this kind of love - Achilles and Petrocles or Alexander the Great."

"How do you know this much about our world?"

"Until two millennia ago, our race used to voyage among the stars. We are old in comparison with the Goa'uld that once enslaved your planet. Once, we gathered the best works of literature and music from all the galaxies of the universe. We still sometimes bring hitchhikers."

She nodded her head at the Border collie that could be seen from her window on the opposite side of the long valley, "The animal, the dog came back with one of my friends who went voyaging almost two hundred years ago. They brought several kinds of these animals. They are unique to your world, and they are valued among our people for their loyalty and valor. I would have thought that a race that bred the dog in such a diversity of sizes and shapes would value love in all of its diversity as well."

"Not all love is equal on our world," I explained carefully, "I loved my son and my wife, that's not forbidden. But my wife and I parted company a long time ago."

"When your son died," she stated narrowing her eyes questioningly, "Charlie?"

"I don't discuss him," I said shortly, "it hurts too much."

Her eyes kindled with fresh understanding, "An individual with telepathic abilities who hides his feelings so well from himself and others, would not be aware of his abilities. That would account as well for your unawareness of your feelings for your friend."

"What are you saying? Daniel was the one who spent time with the Ancients. This telepathy/empathy thing, it's right up his alley. It's not me at all!" My voice rose slightly in protest.

"Daniel has many fine qualities - love, loyalty, strength, and gifts of the intellect. However, you were the one who had the database at The Place of Our Legacy downloaded into your head, Jack. Not Daniel! You didn't think we knew this?"

I emphatically denied her assertion, "I don't think so. I'm not the communicative one with a big interest in other cultures here. That would be Daniel."

Her eyes were soft with sympathy, sympathy I wanted no part of, but I could almost feel her thoughts rifling through my unwilling mind. She reached out her hand to hold mine, "Even though the knowledge at the Place of Our Legacy was removed by the Asgard because your mind could not contain it, that wouldn't have happened to you unless you were telepathically compatible. Although the raw data was removed, the telepathic knowledge from the Furlings remains. It cannot be taken away from you without killing you. When you ventured further out to the Pegasus Galaxy, the Furling biochemical imprint in your mind called you home to us."

"And the clothing we're wearing?"

"The Stargate was programmed to provide for your physical needs, and it scans your mind to discover if you have any specialized needs such as the drugs Daniel has in his pockets."

"I suppose that makes a kind of sense," I said begrudgingly.

"I can show you that you have telepathic abilities Jack," she pushed her long hair back out of the way. "If you look into my eyes I believe that you can tell me the name of my son? He is always in my thoughts."

I shook my head vigorously, but she took my hand, "Open up and consider. If you free your mind from all other thoughts you will find it before you." I stared into her dark blue eyes, noticing nothing but a sea of dark blue. I was about to tell her she was mistaken when a thought popped into my head. "Sola," I said, "Your son's name was Sola." Just as if it were my own, I felt a pain coming from her heart, "but he's lost to you - fifty-four years ago this harvest. But he isn't dead."

"No," she responded, "he went voyaging many years ago now. I pray daily for his return."

"How can I be sure this is true?"

"You can ask anyone in the valley, and you will discover that most of the older ones remember Sola well."

"You believe in God," I was surprised. I'd stopped talking to God the day that Charlie had died. I believed, but could not bring myself to speak to a deity that had taken my son from my life. Daniel had forced me to rethink my original religious beliefs even more. What kind of faith could believe that someone as gentle and self-sacrificing as Daniel would burn in hell simply for being gay? It was unthinkable.

Marja nodded at me with a penetrating look, "We do not have organized religion, in the sense that you understand it. We are not like the Ori or some others you've encountered on the other side of the Stargate."

"Why did your son leave?" I asked her.

She gave a heavy sigh, "Sola chose to leave Furander Prime, and see the distant galaxies beyond. Many of our young do so. Our way of life is simple. We have chosen to live close to the land, without technology to assist us, for the most part. We believe it brings us closer to the joys and pleasures of the world. We live long, and it affords us a taste of the simple pleasures life can bring. It's one of the reasons we broke from our allegiance with the Ancients. We chose the way of simplicity, not ascension. Death comes when it will, and the wheel of fortune turns again. But," she sighed, "sometimes the very young feel they must see the worlds beyond for themselves. We do not stop them, and await their return patiently."

"You know the Nox," I said quickly picking up on the word, young. That was how the Nox talked, and she sounded like one of them even if she appeared completely human.

She moved her head slightly from side to side in a slight, unwilling, acknowledgement, "We know them," she stressed carefully, "And our worlds used to correspond in the past millennium, but they are different from us. Our world is guarded by deep fractures in time and space that surround our home planets. And those under our protection."

"Under your protection?" I felt my eyebrow lift dubiously. After all, I'd heard about this protection thing before. What kind of protection, I wondered? Did she mean benign force shields such as the Asgard used to protect more primitive planets or did she mean protection in the Goa'uld sense, complete with the harvesting of humans as symbiotes.

"You don't trust anyone, do you?" She shook her head, "No, we aren't like the Goa'uld. Once we had an empire that stretched far beyond the reach of these planets, but we have neither the will nor the interest in governing others any more."

She tucked a stray strand of honey-colored hair behind her right ear, and moved over to the other side of the room busying herself in her simple kitchen with what was apparently an oven. I could detect no electricity or gas as I examined it.

"What is the heat source for your stove, your cooker?" I asked her.

"Ah yes, electricity," she considered, "We use no source of energy that is not renewable, simple. Wood fires and solar power for some things, but you will find we do most things by hand. "I'm going to make some tea while we wait for Sabina, the healer, to arrive from the far side of the valley. She's busy with the herds of keem'a. They give birth to their young at this time of year, and often require assistance." She gestured to the large glass window that appropriately had large stain glass panels inserted into the top of the window. I thought they would be magnificent if the sun ever came out on this dark, rainy planet.

I looked across the valley, noticing divisions in the fields that I assumed were piled flat rock walls. This place had obviously been farmed for many generations, "Those animals are keem'a, those wooly ones? We have an animal like them we call sheep. Do you eat them?"

"Their wool is used in a lot of our clothing which we send to the city, and their flesh is tough, greasy and unpalatable. However, we used to eat them at one time." She directed me to a chair beside her at the wooden table in the window.

I moved warily over to the large plate glass window and lowered myself into a chair. My knees had made not even the smallest protest when I sat down. That wasn't normal. My problem with my knees - and the two knee replacements I'd had - were a large part of the reason I'd taken a promotion to General. I really wasn't - as I'd told my team at the time - 'the man' at all. Administration wasn't my thing.

After my promotion, I'd come to detest Washington and its backroom politics. I was just biding my time until I could retire. At first, I thought I'd spend my retirement with Sam Carter, but our relationship imploded before it ever got off the ground. When she left me to go back to Pete, or do whatever it was that she wanted, I was more than a little relieved even if my pride smarted.

Well, now I knew why I wasn't interested in Sam - and I was more nervous than a teenager on his first date. Anyway, I knew about Daniel and Paul, and I figured my beaten up old body wouldn't interest Daniel any more. Then suddenly I remembered it wasn't so old, or so beaten up. Then I was even more nervous than I had been.

"You were talking about planets under your protection," I said to pass the time.

"I use the word protection loosely. They are pre-industrial and sparsely populated. They have no idea that they exist within spatial and time fractures. We don't make them aware of us unless they reach out to us first."

"And that has happened?"

"Once," she acknowledged, "A long time ago."

"What if Daniel and I don't want to stay here?" I asked her.

She poured me some tea, which I sipped cautiously until I realized that it seemed to be nothing more than what it was purported to be - tea, ginger tea in fact. "We will make it possible for you to go back through the Stargate, but it will require several meetings with the High Council and an agreement to create the technology to make it possible."

"What about space travel?" I asked, "This is good, by the way, it tastes sort of like ginger tea."

"I'm glad you're enjoying it. We find it reviving." She continued on the subject I'd raised, "Space travel would be practically impossible. It would take years to build the ship you would require. You should know that we are many, many light years from your home here, and even at maximum speeds the journey would take several decades. Although there is a way to navigate through the spatial and time fractures surrounding our planet, that knowledge is usually kept secret from outsiders. And the council would want to be really sure that you and Daniel don't want to stay here."

"What makes you think we'd want to stay here?" I asked her.

"As I said, there is a book of prophecies," she said patiently. "As you know the Ancients were time travelers, and they gave the book to us. The presence of the one who had the database from The Place of Our Legacy downloaded into his mind was mentioned, and that your presence here will make a bridge with our cultures that will one day make your world the fifth race in a new alliance of planets that will happen several hundred years in the future."

I shook my head, "I'm not sure Daniel will want to stay here. He leads a very full and valued life on our home planet. And this age thing, what is that about?"

"You will not regain your years back, if that is what you are asking."

I considered briefly, "No, um I guess I was asking how old you were? Although I don't know whether in your culture, it's polite to discuss your age."

"I am one hundred and fifty-three," she said succinctly. Then added curiously, "Why would this upset me, it is not as though I can change it?"

"Of course not, it's just that asking a woman her age in my culture is considered rude."

"How strange!" she commented and then added hastily, "Not that I'm judging. Do women and men lead such different lives in your world?"

"Well yeah," I said quickly, then I thought about Sam Carter, "And no. It would take a long time to explain. I'm just a little concerned that I'm going to start looking even younger than this." I was thinking in the back of my mind about my clone Jon, and I really didn't want to end up looking like a teenager again.

Her lips twisted slightly in amusement, and I noticed that her eyes were dancing with mischief, "The image you have of yourself as a young man is - well, I guess - uncomfortable, as well as slightly funny, would be the best way I have of describing it."

I flushed slightly, "Adolescence," I made an expansive gesture, "isn't a comfortable time for people from our planet - pimples, discomfort about sex, lack of confidence, school - I could go on but it wouldn't mean much to you. I guess that's why I joined the Air Force, you know, to become a real man." At that, the memory of punishments I'd had when I was in the Academy ran through my head. The ten extra miles or two hundred push-ups I usually had to do went through my head - most of them on account of my smart mouth. I winced at the continued look of amusement in her dark blue eyes.

"Adolescence lasts thirty to forty years here," she explained gently, "I do not fully understand the function of the punishments your mind is showing me. But tell me, why are you afraid that Daniel will find out about your feelings for him?"

I looked across the green valley and blinked, finding that I had temporarily lost my voice, "Yeah, I'm afraid. We're friends, and I don't want anything to damage that. He's my closest friend, even though we're complete opposites."

"Sometimes, friendship proves the strongest base for love," she suggested gently. At that I felt myself get hot and blush, "Do not worry, I will not talk of it again. Or tell your friend about your feelings." she soothed.

We sat for a number of hours waiting the return of Sabina, the healer. Marja discussed several things, including the offer of the use of a small stone cottage on the other side of the valley during our stay. It seemed they had some ancient ruins for Daniel to work at. They didn't appear to have a monetary system, but Marja suggested that I could work at herding the Keem'a with a dog. Apparently, their present shepherd was only doing the job temporarily. She also explained to me that she would be more than happy to help me develop my telepathic abilities. I thought that Daniel would probably have a lot to say about that.

After about two hours he awoke with a cough, "Jack?" he husked out in a low, gravelly voice in the darkened room.

"Hey," I said, trying to keep my hands off him and failing utterly. I finally settled for drawing a chair up beside him, and stroking the damp hair off his forehead, "How are ya' doing?" I asked him softly.

"A little better," he coughed, "Still hurts in here." He gestured to his chest, and I massaged it gently.

"I wish Fraiser were here!" I groused, "She was the best for this kind of stuff. She'd have you all fixed up by now. You silly sod, you scared me half to death."

"I'm sorry. I wasn't taking all my inhalers. They make me so speedy." He had a sudden bout of coughing, then he spat into a tissue I slipped into his right hand. He gave me a fixed stare. His big, blue eyes were doing incredible things to my libido. My sexuality hadn't felt this out of control since I was eighteen. Fortunately, Daniel couldn't read my hormonal mind and was looking apologetic. "Sorry Jack, I wasn't expecting any problems with my chest. It kind of stabs in here. I was stupid."

"Nah, you're gonna be just fine," I stroked his face some more, and he didn't push my hands away. Parts of my anatomy really wanted to tell him how much I cared about him. It should have felt wrong, but nothing had ever felt so right. I wondered if I worked at wooing him, if I could win his heart. I sniffled slightly, and an unwanted tear dropped from my eyes onto his face.

His blue eyes looked big and defenseless without his glasses, "I can't see so well, but you're crying."

"Yeah, it sure looks that way," I said quite annoyed, dabbing at my cheeks, "You just scared me. That's all. I thought I'd lost you - again. I carried you all the way here."

"What about your knees?"

"Aw, you're a light weight Danny," I said defensively, "Anyway, my knees seem to have received a new lifeline. They feel just like they did when I was twenty."

"I'm not a light weight anymore. But I am too stubborn to die!" Then he reminded me, "Remember, this is me. I came back from the dead just to see you guys."

"It's getting old Danny," I told him softly, "You're going to have to take better care of yourself."

"Jack?"

"Yeah Daniel?"

"Your hair," he gestured wearily with his hand, "Not so much gray. And your eyebrow's looking different. You look younger. What the heck is going on?"

I sighed. Daniel would, of course, require explanations sooner rather than later, "Okay, we seem to have stumbled onto the land of eternal youth, sort of. It's hard to explain. They seem to have been waiting for us."

"Our Stargate was programmed several millennia ago by the Ancients to recognize the brain chemistry of the individual who had the database at The Place of Our Legacy downloaded into their mind, and bring them here to Furander Prime at the appropriate time," Marja had come over to the cot.

"Hello," Daniel said awkwardly, "I see you understand English."

"This is Marja, Daniel," I explained, "She's the administrator of this village. And she's a telepath. She can read your thoughts. That's the way she understands English although they apparently have a neural transceiver that attaches to the brainstem so we can understand them. I thought we would wait a bit before using it."

She smiled, "Hello Daniel, I'm Marja, and this is I guess you would say, my village."

"Thank you for taking us in. Are you a healer?"

"No," she said, "Sabina is our healer, but we haven't had anyone with health problems like yours for a very long time."

Daniel coughed slightly, "So, at The Place of Our Legacy, was the database intended for only one specific individual? I thought the Asgard restored Jack to normal, and that the information was too much for his mind."

"There were things that we, the Furlings, placed in there that couldn't be removed," she explained.

"What if I'd tried to use it?"

She tilted her head and gave him a wise look, "Oh I think you know the answer to that question Daniel."

"It wouldn't have worked," he said, "But Jack almost brought someone else. Didn't you Jack?"

I looked embarrassed, "Not exactly. When you hotfooted it into Landry's office, we were just discussing how best to tell Major Paul Davies that he wasn't going. "

"I'm sorry," Daniel coughed again and looked around him, "I don't see evidence of technology here. So, you don't use it anymore?" Count on Daniel to get right to the point.

Marja shook her head. "We find a lot of technology distracts us from the fabric of living."

"They don't use the Stargate anymore," I explained, "We'll need to petition their High Council if we want to go home and it will take time. Probably several months."

"The Ori or the Goa'uld? Are they here?"

"No," I grinned, "No one out there, but a bunch of sheep called keem'a. Apparently, their shepherd is anxious to pass the job on to me."

At that he laughed softly, then coughed, "Jack O'Neill, peaceful shepherd. I can't believe it."

"There's more," I sat closer to him and Marja went outside and left us to talk. "They've been waiting for us. They seem to think that we belong here."

At that he smiled, a beatific Daniel smile if ever I'd seen one. It was so beautiful I nearly broke down again. I had to remind myself sternly that I was an old Air Force General, and that I couldn't cry. To be honest, I didn't know how I could go back to Earth now, looking like a twenty-five year old wet-behind-the-ears-pilot instead of General Jack O'Neill. "You look like the pictures of you in your office before Iraq, before you even met me."

"Well," I assured him, "when you see your own aged countenance, you'll be sorry you said that. You look even younger than the geek I remember. Your appendix scar is really missing this time. I know, I checked."

"Pervert," he held my hand, "Count on you to peek. Did you see anything you liked?" he'd teased me about this before, but right now it felt a little too real. In fact, in spite of the temptation, I hadn't checked out the rest of the package. I'd seen him naked in the locker room at the SGC plenty of times, but Daniel was a fast dresser and propriety demanded that you not ogle another man's cock too openly. I blushed again because I suddenly realized that I had wanted to look even though I'd always respected his privacy.

"Hey," I said defensively, "My knee scars aren't there either. I just wanted to check if the healing thing was universal."

"So what else is going on?" His blue eyes softened.

"Oh," I said casually, "It seems that they think that I might," I looked at his face which was looking at me with more than his usual look of casual interest, "Oh it's ridiculous, so I'll just say it. They think I might be telepathic because of my contact with the database at The Place of Our Legacy."

He didn't say anything for a long time, then he squeezed my hand sympathetically, "Poor Jack, I can tell you don't like this!"

I glanced at him again, seeing good will shining out of his eyes, "You're not upset? You've got a lab full of stuff back at the SGC and Paul of course. The telepathy thing is just silly. "

"No, I don't think it's silly. You just don't like the idea of being special. Remember how you can link to Ancient technology. I can't do that."

"I'm just a soldier, Daniel." I said firmly.

"Whatever you say," he coughed slightly and smiled again, "I don't mind being stuck here with you for awhile. We'll just take it one day at a time."

"You like this idea?" I raised an eyebrow at him in disbelief.

"You know old man, the eyebrow just doesn't look the same without the hole in it," he snickered slightly, "You're going to be downright scary without age to slow you down. I ask you, will any women be safe on this planet?"

"Oh, for crying out loud Daniel," I protested, "I'm too old for those antics."

He gave me a puzzled look, "Whatever you say Jack!"

"You're sick and tired of fighting," I added, "but I don't need to be telepathic to know that."

"Yeah," he agreed, "Lots of change, lots of death - Janet, Jacob - the list goes on and on, and it just sucks the heart right out of my chest. Some days, most days, I've had more than enough."

"Yeah I know," I said in a low voice. "I feel kind of I don't know," I shivered slightly, "kinda' creeped out about the Stargate pulling us in here. How is that possible? The Ancients told the Furlings about us hundreds of years ago. It's just - I don't know, weird."

"Well, we know the Ancients traveled in time, and left prophecies behind them. We know that from the planet where Maybourne was king. They made the Gate, and they could have programmed it. Maybe, we're the advance party. Remember Thor said that one day we might be the fifth race," Daniel reminded me.

"That's what Marja said. We'll be stranded here together, maybe for a long time," I said uneasily. "What about Paul? And the life you've left at home?" I stroked his face without thinking.

His eyes blazed at me, "Together again, Jack - once more into the breach, just you and me. I can live with that, instead of the fear of death in a hundred different ways every day. This is, as you're always saying," he spat into a tissue in his hand, "getting old. And for what it's worth, I've missed you more than I need Paul. Sex I can find in any number of places, but friendship doesn't grow on trees."

"Maybe at your age," I grumbled.

"Or yours," he reminded me.

"I didn't get any respect from you before this age thing," I whined, "But now I'm clearly in trouble."

"Oh Jack," he coughed, "I respect you. I just don't listen to orders, sort of like someone else I know." Well, he had me there.

At this, there seemed very little more to say except to wait in silence for the healer Sabina. I held his hand, and I felt a kind of light-hearted happiness that I hadn't experienced in years.

I had absolutely no idea at what to do about my new feelings for him, the feelings that had always been there. Could I woo him, I wondered, sort of like I'd once wooed Sara? His relationship with Paul seemed very casual, at least from what he'd told me about it, and I didn't do casual. I didn't want to share Daniel with half the village. Maybe, I should just be happy being his best friend.

Anyway, it was as though everything that had been bothering me for so long was now clear. For example, why I'd hesitated before getting involved with Sam, and why, when I finally got around to it, it had worked out so badly.

His hand felt warm in mine, and I was sheepishly pleased that he was there at the end of the rainbow with me.

Don't Know Who You Are

The house was silent. Our clock glowed in the hallway, but I could see from the growing dark outside that it was almost dinnertime. That meant that Jack would be back soon. People at the SGC used to say we argued like an old married couple, but they hadn't seen us during the past five months. We hadn't argued, not even once.

It felt odd. I wanted to ask where the real Jack O'Neill had disappeared, and who the gentle, young stranger was that had been left behind in his place. Sure, he had the same shy smile that Jack used give me over a beer when he was telling me some detail of his life when we'd go drinking together. However, there seemed to be something else on Jack's mind these days.

He was quiet and agreeable, clearing away the dishes every night without being asked. He'd carved a wooden chess set for us. Every night, we'd sit by the fire in the main room playing a game of chess. He'd even beat me about half of the time. Then he'd sneak a rather intense look at me with the dark eyes of a stranger and wish me a pleasant good night before trekking off to bed to prepare for another day.

There were two rooms upstairs. One was large with a big, old wooden bed, big enough for two men. The other was tiny with a long trundle bed, which Jack insisted on sleeping in. I'd been unwell for the first month we'd moved into the cottage, and the trundle had been beside me the whole time. Now, it was back in the small room.

He'd been like this almost since we'd arrived, and the last time he'd threatened me with bodily harm had been in the tent on the top of the icy moor. I kind of missed it. To me it had always been a sign that he really cared about me. This shy, tall man who went everywhere with his shadow, a black and white border collie called Trooper, wasn't the Jack I knew. He was stronger than I'd remembered, probably more like he'd been before Special Ops had cut the heart out of him. He whistled tunelessly when he thought I wasn't listening, and slipped shy sidelong glances at me before heading on to a new job around the house. We'd only been in the house for four months, and there wasn't as much as a squeaky board around the place due to his diligence.

We'd moved to the other side of the village as soon as I was well enough after my bout of asthma mixed in with a good sprinkling of pneumonia. Jack had slept beside my cot at that time, refusing to budge from a small makeshift bed that he'd set up beside me on the floor.

The healer, Sabina, had encountered some difficulties dealing with my illness, and it was a month before I was well enough to move out of the front room of Marja's cottage. It seemed that, like the Nox, they preferred to live without technology most of the time. A great deal of huddled discussions had taken place about whether I should be sent to a clinic in the city where other methods of treatment were available.

Even though I weakly offered my opinion during these discussions, Marja, Sabina and Jack ignored any of my suggestions on the subject of my health. Normally, I would have argued vigorously, but as I began to gather my strength again I could see their way was the best. My immune system was stronger, and the new treatments to strengthen my lungs had prevented further infection.

Sometime last month, Jack and I had been to the nearest city once, to look at some books in the main library, which proved a scholastic goldmine of information. Their libraries were thousands of years old, and filled with ancient books from all parts of the universe including Earth. There were books at this library that hadn't been seen on Earth since Julius Caesar's army had burned down the Library at Alexandria.

Thinking that I'd like it, Jack had pointed out that I could get a position in the city any time that I wanted one. He could stay in the village, which was as we discovered called Styrll. He was working outdoors herding the keem'a, and learning more about using his telepathic abilities from Marja. She was making some smaller attempts to teach me as well, but I was making less headway than Jack. All of which was very ironic, considering that I'd once been an ascended being.

Anyway, when I told Jack that my work cataloguing the ruins in Styrll was just as important as any work in the city that I could do, he'd didn't argue with me. In fact, he seemed pleased and gave me one of those searing O'Neill glances that melted through my bones.

I reached for another book and switched on a light, and I felt a soft paw pulling insistently on my elbow. I ignored it for moment, knowing full well that a whine would follow soon. I looked down at our second dog, a female Spaniel named Jet after some Paul McCartney song. In a moment of weakness, I'd accepted her as a present when I was getting better.

Naturally, Jack had already named her. Dogs were one thing that the inhabitants of Furander Prime had in abundance. Our other dog Trooper spent his days with Jack, herding on the far side of the valley, and I spent my evenings with my willpower wilting under the soft gaze of one set of brown eyes or another. No one who knew me intimately would have believed it if they'd seen my family life. This was me - Daniel Jackson, a man who'd been notorious for neglecting any relationship in favor of work. It appeared that the irresistible force had finally met the immovable object.

"It's not time for dinner, Jet," I said firmly. Two pathetic doggy eyes met mine with a heart-rending look. She whimpered again, barked, then jumped onto a couch-like cot under the window and stared out into the growing darkness.

"What do you see, girl?" I asked, knowing full well that any moment I'd hear Jack's footfall on the flagstone entrance.

Her tail wagged frantically, "Is Jack there?" I asked, putting down my pencil. I was in the middle of a drawing of some ancient local tomb, but it could wait until tomorrow. The dog began barking frantically and spinning. As usual I opened the door, and Jet barreled out quickly. Another, deeper, bark rung out across the valley, then both dogs rushed back inside the house.

"Lucy I'm home!" came the call of a familiar tenor voice.

"I don't know why you say that when it really isn't that funny!" I complained.

A soft chuckle was all the response I got in return as the steps came closer. I could hear someone else's steps with him, someone who had been chattering animatedly before I'd spoken. It was Dyrk, the child from the village Jack had met on his arrival. As usual, Jack had bonded with several of the local children, and one of them often came back with him at the end of the day.

"Why don't you tell him that you say that because you like him, Jack?" The young adolescent's voice rang out. It was disconcerting to realize that although Dyrk looked fourteen, he was actually closer to thirty-five.

"It's not polite to read people's minds when their thoughts are private," Jack responded carefully.

"What do you mean by private?" Dyrk asked him, "When we're out on the hills, you don't bother to hide your feelings for Daniel."

"Things I'm not ready to talk about," Jack shot a look at me.

He stood in the doorway and blinked in embarrassment. I glanced over at his tall athletic build which was even more alluring than it had been before Furander had stripped the years off his physique and tightened his arm and leg muscles. It made my mouth salivate every time he bent over. For one moment, he stared at me and I could have sworn that he knew exactly what I was thinking, and that those dratted mind reading lessons were beginning to pay off. I looked away first.

He bent over further began scraping his boots with more energy than usual. He shot me another smoldering glance. It was freaky Friday. It must've been because I could feel the heat of his sensuality in that quick glimpse.

Jack began to speak half-apologetically about Dyrk's words, "He can read my thoughts so easily. He knows what a mother hen I am, and how much I worry about you."

"He likes you a whole lot," Dyrk burst out defensively, "On Furander, we would say that these are things that shouldn't be hidden. Daniel deserves to know how you feel. You've been in the house four months. He wants you to share his bed."

"Dyrk," we both burst out in protest at once, and then Jack laughed uncomfortably.

"I guess I need to go home for tea," Dyrk said with deliberate carelessness, "Goodbye then. I'll see you tomorrow in the afternoon."

"Goodbye," I called after his disappearing back. I looked up at Jack as he passed me in the doorway, "Okay, what was that about Jack? And the look you gave me?"

"Nothing," Jack responded shortly.

"It didn't sound like nothing. What is going through your mind these days?" I went and got into his face in the way I used to when we were having disputes off world.

"Daniel, drop it," Jack said trying to move past me and get to the sink, which I was effectively preventing. One thing I learned from years in foster care was how to stick to someone like a burr if there was something I wanted. He smelled wonderfully of the outdoors, male sweat and a certain indefinable something that was simply Jack.

"What was he talking about?" I asked, stubbornly blocking his way, "You barely talk to me these days. We never fight. What the heck is going on?"

"Nothing," he said irritably, but I continued to press him. I never backed down with Jack no matter how irritated he became, never from our earliest encounters. I put my hand around his upper arm, feeling the hard bicep underneath my hand.

Suddenly, I was against the wall and Jack was against me, squeezing me with the full strength of his strong muscular body. I felt the heat of his breath. I shivered with need. Without hesitation, I pulled his head down toward mine and our lips met.

It hit me with the force of a breath of fire - the smoothness of his lips, his tongue slipping inside my mouth, tasting me, pushing into me, telling me a story of suppressed passion and longing. I held him tight in my arms, finally letting go when I sensed his discomfort.

With an upset moan, he threw himself onto a padded stool in front of the cot. The dogs sat down side-by-side and examined us both quizzically as though we were the contestants in some new and interesting game show for dogs. "Oh God," he pulled his hair, "I can't do this! I don't know what I'm doing, what to do to you? I have no idea. Just feelings. You don't do relationships, and you have Paul at home."

My eyes blazed at his, "What are you trying to tell me, Jack?"

He looked up at me, his dark brown eyes smoldering, willing me to come closer to his heat, "I, I have feelings for you," his eyes skittered away and focused on a spot just above my shoulder. "I never knew. I swear it. I had no idea, even when things went so wrong with Sam. I just thought I'd gotten too old and," he hung his head before he breathed the word, "useless. But the first day, when you were sick in Marja's cottage on the bed, I felt it. It was," he studied his heel on the stone floor and then glanced up at me almost shyly, "overwhelming. Marja told me that it was because of the telepathy, because I kept all my feelings bottled up inside. When we came here, they just came spilling out when you were sick. And I've been trying to figure out what to do ever since."

I came closer. He'd never ever told me anything about his sexual feelings. It was true, I realized; he'd never had a long or meaningful relationship with a woman since Sara. I wondered if that meant something.

As I got closer, I felt his emotions hit me like a rock. I'd spent a little time with Marja, working on developing my telepathy with little success. She'd been more than patient, but I knew that Jack had gotten much further. And strangely enough, I'd been able to read his emotions from time to time. Marja said this was natural because we were close friends.

However, the intense passion he was feeling went far beyond friendship. It was love. It was a love so strong I felt that I should leave the room, turn away and not interfere in his struggle. But it was all for me. Times he'd spent in my lab, in the old days, laughing and talking flashed through my mind. How he'd gathered me in his arms when we'd arrived here, and I'd gotten sick.

I understood that what he felt for me was not some fly-by-night fantasy, some moment of desperation in which I'd gotten my wish and Jack had finally kissed me back. We had belonged to each other since that day, so very long ago, when I'd asked him why he was so willing to die. Unwittingly, I'd brought light into the dark, dark place he'd arrived at after Special Ops was through with him, Sara was leaving him and Charlie was dead. No, I wasn't very proficient at telepathy but I could read his feelings for me like an open book. I really was the person that Kerry Johnson had been talking about, the person Jack really loved.

"You have Paul at home," he repeated again, looking at me expectantly. There were times he could be so dense, it was no wonder it had taken him so long to find out about his own feelings for me.

I wanted him so much. It took all of my energy not to launch myself at him full force. I went over to him and squatted on the floor in front of him, and touched the top of his bowed light brown head gently. I caressed the softness of his hair, something I'd only previously attempted when we'd been in close quarters on missions and he was fast asleep.

"But I don't love Paul," I said softly putting my hand on his cheek, feeling its roughness against my thumb as I stroked upward.

He glanced up at me, a flame of hope in his eyes. He tilted his head, his eyes searching mine for understanding, "But you've been together for two years plus. And Daniel, I don't do casual. I'm too old for musical beds and all that crap!"

I took off my glasses and tossed them on the table and rubbed the bridge of my nose wearily. Some hard-core honesty was obviously required. I had to make him understand what Paul did and didn't mean to me, even if it didn't cast me in a very flattering light. "I um - Paul is just a - well I guess a fuck buddy would best describe it. Maybe, it could have been more than that once upon a time, but Paul doesn't love me anymore than I love him. I guess that sounds kind of crude but it's how it is. So, you knew about how you felt right after we arrived here?"

His hand reached out to my cheek and warmed my inner core, "Tell me," I breathed.

"You were unconscious," he turned his head away slightly, "To be honest, I don't know what I'd have done if I'd known about this at the SGC. I have to be honest. It would've been a real problem. You remember the bad patch we had, just before you went all glowy..." He screwed up his mouth, "I can hardly bear to think about that year when you were gone. I guess that was why I kept so far away from you. Why I was so angry!" His hand with clenched with feeling, "And then you came back. And then, geez Daniel - it's all about feelings you know. And I don't know how you feel. So, maybe you just do casual. "

"I can do real," I burst out.

"Yeah," he stared at me, mesmerized like a deer caught in the headlights. "I'd like that," his hand returned to my cheek.

I slipped my hands underneath his outdoor woolen vest and then worked my way under his soft woolen shirt, and finally onto the bare skin underneath. I stroked his pecs, then worked my way around to his back. He shivered slightly and I felt his skin bristle into goose bumps, but he didn't move away.

I gave him a soft kiss, and he blinked down at me. I stroked his cheek some more, "So this is why you've been so cautious and careful around me lately?"

"Partly," he admitted, diving in on his own and kissing me again with a bit more force, "you know if you keep doing that I can't be accountable for my actions."

"That might be nice," I threaded my fingers through his hair.

He flushed slightly. "I was so shocked to find out that I was in love with you when we first arrived here. And I'm not Mr. Experience with these things, for crying out loud."

"That's okay," I said holding onto his hand. I gave him a mischievous look, "I'm sure you're a fast learner."

He confessed, "I've never been with another man sexually, even when I was a teenager. I can't say it never crossed my mind exactly. But those feelings for you must have been buried under my sense of responsibility when we were both part of the same team. When I was with Carter, I missed you terribly. I'd be doing something with her, and I'd think Daniel and I would have done this or that thing together. Or about how we would have laughed at this thing or that thing. When Marja showed me that I could read her thoughts, the way I felt about you hit me so hard. It was as though," a slow smile spread over his face, "everything about me suddenly made sense. My world clicked into focus."

"My coming out might have happened when I was sixteen, but that's pretty much what happens to everybody Jack," I told him, "And if we were at home, I could give you more information about it. As it is, you'll have to trust me."

"What about Sha're?" He asked in puzzlement.

"She was a remarkable woman and I loved her very much. She was the exception that proves the rule."

It's just," he pulled me in closer and traced a line across my jawbone with an exploratory finger, "I don't know what to do about this thing. How to proceed," he looked at me hopefully.

"Perhaps, we could get naked and let nature take its course," I teased him slightly. He turned crimson. I'd never met this Jack before, but I could get used to it.

"There's such a difference between us," he grumbled, "I'm probably just a dirty old man to you." At this point, I hauled him up to his feet and over to the wood framed mirror near the doorway.

I placed my hands on his shoulders, and shoved him in front of me, "You see an old man there, do you Jack?" I peeped over his right shoulder, and my eyebrows went up meaningfully. I could feel the warmth of his body in front of me, and I pulled him backwards me, "Feel that, old man? That's my cock telling you what you look like to me! And you looked great even before you got your youth back! At least as far as I'm concerned." I said quietly.

He whirled around, his brown eyes dead serious, "Daniel, I don't know how this will work out, but I have to tell you that if it does work out, I can't go back to the way things were on Earth. It's hard enough, for crying out loud, the idea of me being the youngest looking General in recorded history. But you know the gay thing won't fly at the SGC. You could get hurt. And I won't be there to make sure that you're okay!"

I felt confused by his words, and raised my voice in anger. Then I stamped my foot and jumped. Only Jack could make me so angry, I'd jump. "Damn it," I growled, "I've managed this long without your help! So, you don't want to do it even though we could be lost here for the rest of our natural lives? I can't believe after all you said, you'd pick the Air Force over me. Even I can't wait forever for you - General Jack O'Neill!"

Tears rose in my eyes, at the thought that he valued his job on Earth more than me. I didn't care what it looked like. I'd go and live on the other side of the valley, away from this aggravating man who I loved with all my heart. I went and stood in the window with my arms wrapped around me, feeling wretched - so close and yet so far.

Suddenly, I felt arms slid around my waist, and a low voice in my ear, "Oh Danny, I'm such a klutz! I'm no poet, and I've got no fancy words to tell you how I feel about you. It's just the opposite. I can't be your man and General O'Neill at the same time. I'd have to spend all my time hiding and pretending. I love you!" His hot breath made the hairs in my ear prickle, "You mean too much to mean for that! Is that what you want?"

"No," I said wretchedly, "I don't want some clandestine affair, either. So, I guess we're back where we started!"

"No Danny, I'm just saying if we work this out between us, I won't ask you to go back to Earth and become Jack O'Neill's dirty little secret!" His voice tickled my ear.

I turned around and gazed into his eyes for one long moment. The rest of the package - his long lanky body, his tight muscular build was great, but that was nothing compared to the heart of the man. This was the unexpected bonus. Happiness hit me like a wave. Finally, I understood what he was trying to say to me. He'd pick me over the Air Force, over being a General, over Sam. He'd pick me forever. It was what he wanted, and it was what I wanted.

I closed the gap between us, and his mouth slid down to meet mine. He nibbled briefly on my upper lip before diving back into my mouth. He moaned softly. Oh, I liked that! I closed my eyes, feeling his tongue slide over mine. I felt his hands ghosting over my hair, which had gotten slightly longer in the time we'd spend on Furander Prime.

His lips were on my neck, biting, nipping gently then his tongue stroked its way upward to my earlobe and ear, "God Danny, do you know how hard I've fought to stop from doing this since we got here? How much I've wanted you at night? How much I've wanted to share your bed? I've been so afraid you wouldn't want me - we've been friends so long. I've been so scared I wouldn't know what to do, how to be good for you."

I responded by burrowing underneath his wooly keem'a vest, and I triumphantly hauled it off. We kissed and tripped our way from the main room into my bedroom with the large bed, dropping clothes along the way until finally we were lying naked side-by-side in bed together. I was worried that he'd freak out - but he didn't. In fact, he seemed more than okay with everything that was going on, which made me realize how much my straight as a board friend had been hiding from himself all this time.

Jack's weight felt good on top of me, just like I'd thought it would. He kissed me and whispered soft foolish words of endearment that were for my ears alone. As I told you before, this wasn't my usual experience with men - but I could get used to it. I made a pass at saying a few sentimental, tender things back. And if you think I'm telling you what they were, you're reading the wrong story. All I'll tell you is that if my heart had really been frozen solid, it would have melted on the spot.

Then suddenly, he stopped, held my head between his hands while his dark eyes focused on my face. I knew, because of what he'd already said, he was trying to hold the picture of our first time in his mind. He'd told me that he loved me. Then I realized he was reaching out to sense my feelings for him. I shivered.

"Just make sure you know, I don't do casual," he said softly and definitively, letting me know where he stood.

I leaned in and kissed him, deeper this time, "I love you," I whispered to him as if he didn't already know.

But that seemed to be the right thing to say. Our bodies rubbed together, generating sparks of need and lust. Shyly, almost tentatively, he laid a trail of kisses down my chest, and teased my nipples with his teeth. I moaned and pushed forward to show him how much I wanted him. I was harder than I'd been in a long time when he finally made it down to my throbbing dick. I reached down to touch myself, but he batted my hands away and gave me a big kid-like grin.

He snuffled at my cock like a dog. It bobbed upward, and when he finally put his hands on it, he gave me a sly, triumphant smile. Look, the smile said, I really want to do this. I really want you - and guess what, I'm not what you thought I was.

A bead of pre-cum lingered at the opening, and he spread it gently over the shaft before tasting its length with a swipe of his tongue. I moaned and my damp hands balled up the linen-like sheets, leaving a pattern of wrinkles behind.

The heat of his mouth embraced my cock, and he took me deep, deep into his throat and then pulled out. His lips pressed down harder on my cock, and he suctioned me into his mouth. For a beginner, sans instruction manual, sans experience, sans diagrams - he was doing great. I moaned and sighed loudly, and that seemed to encourage him. I wanted him to know that was hitting all the right spots.

He touched my balls with gentle exploratory fingers, and ghosted across the sensitive skin of my perineum. Then I felt his tongue tickling me there, and he moved to my entrance with another couple of delicate swipes. He pushed me over and rimmed my entrance with his hot, hardened tongue. I hadn't expected that, and I cried out.

"Ye Gods!" The words were wrung from my throat. "Please," I begged opening my legs. I turned to stare at him, and pushed my ass back at him. "Come on Jack," a husky whimper arose deep in my throat, "Fingers. Please."

Then I realized why he was hesitating. I turned again, and pulled his arm forward and our lips met. We kissed for a long time, "Jack," I breathed in his ear, "I have some oil that I use for rubbing your back when you're sore. It's in the drawer beside the bed. You can use it to penetrate me with your fingers, one at a time."

He kissed me, "I don't want to hurt you," he breathed.

I kissed him again and smiled, "It'll be good. You'll see. It won't be a problem. Just go very slow and easy with lots of lubrication. I'll show you what I want."

His hands quivered slightly as he coated them more than liberally with the oil. He scooted up behind me and stroked my cock gently with his left hand while he used his right hand to insert one finger very carefully. He pushed inside slowly, feeling the muscles first grip his finger then relax, signaling him to go further. I turned my head, and took his tongue deep in my mouth, showing him what I wanted.

"Do it. More," I insisted.

Two less tentative fingers followed, "Scissor," I commanded, and I felt sparks deeps inside me as he brushed that sweet spot. I pushed myself harder on to them and he realized I wanted more. Three fingers pushed inside, stretching out the passage. I felt an electric surge and he brushed harder against my prostate. God how I wanted him! I groaned loudly and appreciatively as he fucked me with his fingers.

"Do you want to come inside?" I demanded.

He looked very surprised, "I've never, so I thought..." he trailed off and looked expectantly at me.

"It'll be great," I assured him, "It's more than okay." I rolled onto my back. I pulled him in closer and traced a finger over his lips, "It'll be so good. I promise."

For a second, a vulnerable look crossed his face. He swallowed hard, met my eyes and said gently, "Like I said, I thought that the first time maybe I'd be the one on the bottom, you know," then he stopped in embarrassment. "It's just that I know you want to do it to me. I get like these images in my mind. You know like pictures, kind of like a guidebook." He touched the side of his head, "It's kind of sexy. I want you to know that I want to do it all, everything."

The idea that he was reading my mind like a kind of sexual guidebook was a total turn-on. I pulled his head down our lips met. Whatever I'd expected it hadn't been that hard-ass O'Neill would tell me he'd expected to bottom for me.

"There's time for everything," I assured him, "I didn't actually expect, even if we had a first time, we'd do this right off. Touching and rubbing - you know, frottage, is very nice too."

"But you like this? Don't you?" He sounded anxious.

"Yeah, you're just more adventurous than I expected for a beginner."

"I want you to be happy," he said sweetly.

"I am happy," I whispered, "I just want you to know that with the way your skin feels against mine, frottage would've been great too. For a guy, your skin is," I teased, "pretty soft."

He looked at me through his dark eyelashes. "It's sort of an O'Neill thing, soft skin." His eyelashes fluttered at me, teasing me.

"I see," I drew him out some more, "So if I met your brother then..."

"Unfortunately," he bridled slightly, "I'm an only child. You'll have to settle with me. But this inside thing?"

"You'll like it," I urged him, smiling to let him know that I wanted it. "And if you're as soft on the inside as the outside, it's probable I'll like it when it's my turn too."

He moaned in response to my words, and nibbled at my neck gently while he lined up with my entrance.

"Just go slow, to let me get used to you," I instructed softly, kissing his lips to assure him that he was doing well.

He took me at my word and was very careful and slow in his movements, almost holding his breath as he entered me. The reverential look on his face was more than I could bear. I wasn't a piece of Dresden china, and I couldn't wait any longer. I levered my hips upward, taking in all of him in one movement.

"Oh geez, Daniel!" sweat beaded on his forehead, and his eyes opened wide, "I was trying to be careful."

"Sshh," I kissed him on the mouth, and opened it wantonly as I kissed him. He pushed back harder, getting the idea. I breathed in his ear, "I'm not made of ice or sugar. I won't break or melt."

"Just trying to be careful," he looked down at me through his dark eyelashes.

I withdrew part way and then slammed back onto him harder canting my hips higher. I'm no size queen, but he had a nice cock - about an inch longer than average and wide. I wanted to ask him, who'd said he could come to bed armed with a P-90, but I knew the minute that I had him inside me that I'd fall in love with the damned thing - which is why I'd wanted him to take me face-to-face, so I could see him when he finally got deep inside. I bore down with my inner muscles, and his face reddened and he closed his eyes with the force of his feelings.

"Oh God, that's so tight and hot! If you do that again Danny, I won't last very long. It's never felt this good," he gritted out through his teeth. I helped him until it was angled just right to hit my sweet spot every time, and our bodies slammed together again. I moaned loudly. He teased me again with his mouth, his tongue pushing hard against mine.

Our bodies built up a rhythm that felt good. He was working me inside with his cock as he reached out with his hand to stroke the smooth column of my own cock. It was getting harder by the moment, and jutted out against the gently furred surface of my lower belly. It felt wonderful being worked so thoroughly, inside and out at the same time.

For a first time, it had gone on for a long while. He was straining harder to make it last longer, and he pulled at my cock in time with each thrust. I gasped with the strength of the feelings I saw on his stunned face.

"Oh sweet Mother of God," his dark eyes met mine and he dripped sweat from exertion, "Oh God Daniel," he looked at me with his dark eyes, "I didn't know that it could be like this!"

Those soft brown eyes with that look of complete wanton lust pushed me over the top. Everything let go at once. My world shrank to our cries of mutual need and lust. He reached out and grasped my shoulder hard, his lips reaching for mine. He was holding me tight and hard, so very hard.

I let go. I came harder than I could ever remember in my life. I yelled his name. My sperm hit him in the chest, coated our groins, sprayed up into his face, and he released his burden into me. I felt the force of his orgasm pulse through me with a staccato rhythm.

"Yes, yes oh God oh yes, Danny," he bit down on his lips very hard. I saw a drop of blood, and he kissed me again. We were one, and suddenly my tears dampened my cheeks. I had never expected this, and was at the same time so happy that it had finally happened.

We rolled sideways, "Why are you crying Daniel? I didn't hurt you?" His voice was anxious.

"No, I just never thought we'd ever do this," I told him, "No it was great. Better than great, it was earth shattering."

"You're okay?" His anxious voice tickled my ear.

"I'm perfect,' I said, sealing my assurances with my kisses.

"Got to move," he said quietly. I felt suddenly bereft as he slipped out of me. We kissed some more, and I felt his arms slip around me and my head settle onto his chest.

"I love you," his voice was soft.

I looked up at him, "That's what the problem was, wasn't it? You actually care."

"I wouldn't have touched you, if I didn't care or wasn't sure. That's why nothing could happen with Sam."

"You didn't screw Sam?" The words sounded harsh in my mouth, even if that was how I felt about it, about the possibility that she'd bedded Jack.

"No Daniel," his dark eyes sought mine, "I wouldn't have done that to Cart- that's Sam. I couldn't. But after this," he drew his arms across me tighter, "I can't just go home now, and live the life I was living and pretend that this never happened. But I'll do whatever you want." his hands stroked the back of my neck. I breathed easier knowing that there was no unfinished business on Earth with Sam Carter.

"Don't you want to go home and be a general anymore?" I asked him.

"I hate it," he said forcefully, "I only took the promotion because my knees weren't all they used to be. Mitchell can do the job better. He's younger, stronger, faster."

"Not now," I reminded him, "You're good as new."

He shook his head. "I don't know Danny, would you want to spend the rest of your life with me? I'm nothing special. I'm just an old pilot. I'm not as smart as you. And you have Paul at home."

I stretched up and kissed him, "But I love you and not Paul. And I want you, not Paul. Paul knows. There are other ways to fight Jack, other than with guns. I'm so tired of the killing, of finding newer and more deadly enemies behind every corner. We can stay here, and become better people, learn more about your gift, and become closer."

"You can learn too!" Jack spoke up quickly, "Marja told me. I know it's been harder for you, but you can still do it."

"There's a sense of poetic justice that you're the one who's telepathic. Remember Kheb, how I thought I was making the flame when it was Oma all along. There are lots of ancient ruins here that haven't been explored. It'll keep me busy. They're infinitely older than anything we've seen on Earth. Some of them are at least as old as the Ancient Outpost in Antarctica, and go back to the original alliance of the four great races."

Jack shifted slightly, "But your expertise is in languages and the neural implant makes translation unnecessary. Won't you miss doing that part of your work?"

"I can still make a catalogue of the ancient languages. And where better to do it, than a place where I can find them all. My skills in archaeology are far from irrelevant here, and at the SGC now I generally shoulder a gun and fight like any other soldier. Sometimes, I negotiate - but I can really do much more here in a way than at home."

"What about the Ori?"

"Someone else will beat them Jack, if we don't. And I'm not enough of an egoist to believe that my presence will make the difference between winning and losing."

"You made a big difference about opening the Stargate," Jack objected.

"This is different," I said stubbornly, "And if you're staying here, I'm hanging up my dancing shoes. I like it here. The natural unspoiled environment, the chance to have a family of our own one day, the possibility of being close to you in a way that would never be possible on Earth - forget it, I want to stay. Anyway," I took his hand, feeling rather than knowing that I'd already won the battle.

He fluttered his eyelids at me, "Yes Daniel?"

"You know, you do that eyelash batting like you were born gay as a three dollar bill," I touched his cheek.

He gave me an evil grin, "Well, I've never had sex that felt this wonderful before. So, it's safe to say I'm not entirely straight."

"Flattery will get you everywhere," I informed him.

"I was counting on it," he laughed, moving toward me.

By morning, neither of us had gotten much sleep, but we looked and were happy. The question of our sexual compatibility was clear, and both of us had several large, itchy hickeys. I'd introduced him to the art of male on male frottage, given him a mind-blowing orgasm with my mouth, had my own dick planted deep inside of him and had pleasant wake-up sex in the shower.

In between sleeping, the occasional foray into the kitchen and the earth-rocking sex, we'd settled where we were going next. Nowhere. This planet offered us the opportunity to live openly, to get married if we wanted and to understand each other in a way we'd never be able to on Earth. There would be no lies and prevarication between us, only honesty. We were here to stay.

Six Years Later - But I'm With You

Sam Carter hadn't felt comfortable with the way she'd parted from Jack O'Neill since that fateful day six years, three months, two weeks, nine hours and forty-eight minutes ago. But who was counting?

She blamed herself. Jack had been shaken, deeply shaken, by their complete lack of sexual compatibility. She'd felt heartless doing it, but there was something so basically wrong with their lack of chemistry in bed that she knew it couldn't be fixed. They'd talked about it and had broken-up in the morning, each believing it was for the best.

She'd pointed out to him that he could barely manage to use her first name nine times out of ten, and that that wasn't a good basis for any successful future relationship between them. She felt slightly guilty about how she'd dumped Pete, and then gone after Jack O'Neill with single-minded purposefulness after he'd been promoted. Their first and only attempt at consummating their relationship had ended unsuccessfully, and Jack had spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom afterward - doing what, exactly, she wasn't sure - but he'd come out looking hot, steamy and clean. She wondered if she should have discussed the scientific ramifications of using naquadah in reanimating and boosting power crystals while they were kissing.

Later, when Jack was asleep, something had happened that she'd only discussed with one other person. Jack turned over, and whispered a phrase in his sleep. "Where are you Danny?" he breathed. The words were barely out of his lips when she realized what was wrong. It wasn't her he needed; it was Daniel.

It was Daniel he watched over like a shepherd on every mission. It was Daniel's ascension that had left a path of desolation in his heart. It was Daniel who could make him angry, Daniel who could make him laugh and Daniel who could cut him to the heart. The two men had fought, had argued and had danced around each other in the age-old dance of love in all four corners of the galaxy. Jack O'Neill might not know it, but he was in love with his very male civilian advisor. She was devastated, and when she spoke quietly but firmly to Jack about their sexual incompatibility that morning, she knew she was doing the only thing she could.

To his credit, he merely flushed and tried to apologize. She'd shaken her head, and told him that there was no reason to apologize. She would have liked to tell him what he'd said when he was asleep, but a lifetime of avoiding any discussion that involved sexuality stilled her tongue even when she wanted to help her friend. She was thinking it over when he went missing.

Before she'd gotten around to deciding how to tackle the subject, O'Neill had gone on a diplomatic mission to Atlantis with Daniel Jackson and Teal'c. Teal'c had promptly arrived back at the SGC after a short round trip, and had nothing enlightening to relate to her regarding the whereabouts of either Daniel or Jack. The automated Stargate dialing program, which should have help her in finding them, had erased almost all of the data regarding their destination. Another program on some distant Stargate had turned on and had effectively rerouted the two men while erasing the destination. Sam was left in the dust about where to find her lost comrades.

Nevertheless, she hadn't given up hope of finding them over the past six years. Nor had her life stood still. After losing her best friend Janet and then her father several months before Jack and Daniel's disappearance, she would never have believed that her life could right itself. If and when she found both men, she had a lot to say to them - particularly Daniel who had once been like a brother to her. Now, her persistence was paying off and she'd managed to track a path of possible trajectories for the two men.

She felt someone bite her neck gently, "I'm trying to work. And one of the recruits from Bra'tac is bound to turn up!" she smiled as she shrugged her shoulder at the man behind her.

"Indeed not, Samantha. I have ascertained that there is no one in the immediate vicinity, and if a man can't nibble his wife, what is he to do?"

"He is to wait until we get home," she giggled, turning around.

"There are two small children that take all your attention at our home," Teal'c complained slightly.

"Well, you were right there when we made them," she snickered, "It's too late to complain now."

He put his arms around her, and she leaned back. He felt so good, so right. "I love you," he said softly in her ear. And that was how it had happened between them. After Jack's disappearance, he'd found her working late in her lab at night as usual. She'd been desolated for the first four months after Jack and Daniel had gone missing, and had worked every night late into the early hours of the morning like a woman possessed. He'd found her asleep, her tear-stained cheek downward on her arms.

He'd awoken her with curt words, "This will not aid you in discovering the whereabouts of Daniel Jackson or General O'Neill," he said crisply and carted her off to the canteen for coffee and food. They'd talked for a long time. The room was deserted. Teal'c had found a slightly mangled piece of pie for her to eat and some barely drinkable coffee.

"It's cherry pie, the General's favorite," she said glumly, putting down her fork and almost breaking down.

"You are still in love with him?" Teal'c asked her gravely, watching her carefully to study her emotions. There was so much more he wanted to say, but there was no point if she was still in love with O'Neill, as disappointing as that outcome might be for him. He began to feel his way around the subject at hand, "You have not been seeing that police officer, Pete Shanahan again?" he sounded faintly disapproving.

"No! I'm not seeing Pete, that's over."

"But you are in love with O'Neill?"

Sam sighed heavily. Why couldn't things just be simple? Why did Jack O'Neill have to cut such a swath through her life? Why couldn't military regulations regarding gays be more civilized so she could discuss this with Teal'c? It was just a mess! "Not exactly Teal'c. I'm not in love with the Col - I mean Gen - oh what the heck, I mean Jack O'Neill. You understand - I do care about him a lot. Just not in any romantic way! I should've understood when I met Grace two years ago, the answers were all there. I just had to pick up the information."

She thought about how she felt about Jack O'Neill, how she'd felt since that first day she'd reported to him and he'd informed her in that impudent voice "Oh I like women, it's scientists I have a hard time with." She should've seen what he meant when he swaggered past Dr. Daniel Jackson. There was insolence in the dark eyes that were fixed on one object - Skar'ra. Behavior all meant to make Daniel look at him. It was the same way he'd looked when Sha're drew Daniel in close for a kiss. The brown eyes said, "Hey, you can borrow him for a while lady, but he's mine."

Blind, she'd been blind. Not seen the woods for the trees. Teal'c was an incredible man, looking over at her with sympathy and understanding. He wasn't Jack who was so in love with his civilian advisor that his every gesture was an extension of that love. She just hadn't seen it.

Neither was he Pete, who worried about her night and day, and wanted her to quit her job at the SGC and work in a lab where it was safe. She could never accept that, Sam thought. She liked the action and would miss it if she'd left the team. She was sure if O'Neill's knees hadn't gone on him, he'd still be there too. Jack had never really liked being 'the man'. He hated Washington, with its political machinations.

Teal'c was always there, with sympathy and with kindness after her father had died. He was a good man, a dependable man, and a damned sexy man, but until that moment she'd thought he was unobtainable. She wasn't a prophetess like Shaun'ac, who he'd once loved. No, Sam thought, she was a warrior, and right now he was looking at her with intense interest.

"You are referring to the incident on the Prometheus? I read the report." His dark eyes lit up with understanding of her dilemma on the Prometheus, and her strength in dealing with the situation. She thought she'd unburden her cares a little further to her teammate.

"Yeah. Well, I care about all of you guys, and Daniel too! I feel so stupid. I just didn't realize that a relationship with the General - I mean Jack- wasn't what I wanted. I've made such a mess of things, and I've hurt Pete badly. But he wasn't happy when I was working here, and in the long run that would've been a problem." She tried a mouthful of pie. It really wasn't bad, and she hadn't eaten for hours.

"It is better that you injure Detective Shanahan temporarily rather than marry him and destroy both your lives."

"I guess so," Sam looked up at him, thinking what an incredible man Teal'c was - compassionate, understanding and not at all threatened by her mind. Why hadn't she noticed this before now? She ate another mouthful of pie, and found when she looked into his dark eyes her throat felt dry. She swallowed convulsively.

Teal'c reached out and took her hand "Shanahan wasn't right for you Samantha." He'd just used her first name for the first time. It rolled off his tongue so easily that she could imagine the number of times he'd practiced using it. It sounded good. So much better than the Cart-Sam that Jack had inevitably used or just plain Sam that Pete had always said.

Samantha, her whole name in all its beauty, sounded so good in Teal'c's mouth. And was looking at her like she was a woman and a warrior - the whole package wrapped up in one person. Nobody had really looked at her like that since Janet had died. Janet was her best friend, and knew how tough being woman in this man's air force could be. She missed her companionship terribly.

However, Teal'c's glance said even more to her than this. For the first time in a long time, someone seemed to be looking at her like they really got it - Samantha the scientist, Samantha the warrior and Samantha the woman.

She concentrated on his words, "You need someone who appreciates that you are a warrior and also a woman. It is not your fault that you didn't realize that O'Neill was in love with Daniel Jackson, and that Daniel Jackson was in love with him," he said sotto voce, ensuring that nobody could hear his words.

"How do you know about that?" Her mouth hung open as she dropped her fork and looked at him in total disbelief.

"It was obvious during the time that Daniel Jackson was ascended that there was a particularly close tie between him and O'Neill. He kept returning to visit O'Neill. And of course, Daniel Jackson is gay," he declared calmly.

Her face froze temporarily, and she turned her head away as she concentrated on the feeling this knowledge evoked in her, particularly because she hadn't known, had been left out of the loop, "Gee," she tried to be calm, "how do you know that Daniel is gay? I didn't know that!"

Teal'c's look was one of benevolent, tender concern. "He told me, Samantha, but it was a secret. I ascertained his feelings toward O'Neill during an intimate discussion in which he told me of his inner resolve not to tell O'Neill about his feelings. This kind of relationship," Teal'c got much closer to Sam, "is very common on Chulak. I told Daniel Jackson this. Even Master Bra'tac had a long relationship with a beautiful priest with green eyes from a monastery on the red sands near the Sea of the Shining Pearl, two days west of our capital city. He died very young, and even though Bra'tac had children from an earlier marriage he took a vow of perpetual celibacy in Tah'een's name."

Tears rose to Sam's eyes, "That's a beautiful story Teal'c. I'm sorry our military doesn't sanction these relationships. That's gotta be wrong. I wish Janet were here. She was always my sounding board." She sighed.

Teal'c nodded, "This has been a grave loss to you Samantha, but I offer you my confidence unreservedly. I noted that you came back from your visit with O'Neill in an extremely short time. I concluded all did not go well. It may comfort you to know that I believe that O'Neill loves Daniel Jackson in the way that Bra'tac loved Tah'een. A warrior does not give his heart lightly," he gave her a meaningful glance.

She blinked, "God Teal'c, you are so - I don't know - incredibly perceptive. Why didn't I know this until I tried to get into bed with him? I only realized after I went out with the Col - I mean Jack, I mean the General." She shook her head, "No wonder we couldn't really get it together." She snorted, "I mean, imagine my being in bed with someone you want to salute every two minutes. What was I thinking?"

"Your relationship was unsuccessful?" Teal'c tried to look disinterested and failed.

She picked up her fork, took another mouthful of pie and pointed it at him, "A lady shouldn't say." She moved a little closer to him, "But he said something about Daniel in his sleep."

"I will respect your confidence," he bowed his head, "And if he is dreaming about Daniel Jackson, we can only hope that they've both finally fixed the situation between them."

"Exactly," she stuffed some pie in her mouth. "But I'm still single," she said giving him a doe-eyed look that never failed to achieve its objective with most men.

"I think, rather it is that you have been," he shot her a slightly stern glance, "in the words of a young woman I met here on Earth, looking for affection in all the wrong locations. Master Bra'tac used to say that one must not overlook the larger clumps of trees when trying to locate an enemy in the woods. Behind even the smallest building, a crucial Death Glider may be hidden."

She pointed her fork at him again, and then she thought for a moment. "Are you saying you're a Death Glider Teal'c?"

"Quite," he said solemnly, "And I'm looking forward to your unconditional surrender Samantha. Or do you object to my being a J'affa? I can give you everything that O'Neill could not - including nights of sexual bliss. You will find that J'affa are skillful and accomplished lovers. This is, in my opinion, the very thing that is missing in your life. And of course there is one other thing I have to offer." His eyes twinkled.

"Well," she finished up the last mouthful of pie, "You might as well say it."

"I love you," he said solemnly. "I have loved you for many years."

"Hot damn," she said out loud then added, "But I guess we should date first or something before we just leap into the sack."

"I've known you for over nine years. Surely, that is enough unless you feel we should pay homage to your feminine modesty. I have noticed that women on Earth can be reticent about proceeding with sexual relationships, Samantha. I am willing to wait; it doesn't matter to me. But if we do proceed and you are unhappy with me, it will not change our relationship at work. I care about you too much to force any unwanted affections upon you if things, do not, as they say, work out."

She hesitated one moment before jumping over the table straight into his lap. The canteen staff was starting to take notice. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked him before kissing him soundly.

"I wanted you to find out about O'Neill first. Truthfully, I was beginning to get restless. I was afraid I was going to have to take more dramatic measures to get O'Neill together with Daniel Jackson."

She took him home with her that night. Remarkably, it seemed that he'd been modest about his sexual prowess. The next morning she asked General Landry for a transfer after explaining tactfully about her budding relationship with Teal'c. Unsurprisingly, things had worked out perfectly between them. It had been a long time since Sam had felt so secure in a relationship, even though they'd agreed to take it one day at a time.

They got married six months later. Three years later, Earth finally clinched its position and overcame the threat posed by the priors and the Ori. However, these occurrences were unknown to most of the citizens of the planet because civil strife, terrorism and world war had become more important than revealing the existence of the Stargate to the citizens of Earth or their secret alliances with the other races beyond the Gate.

Things worsened quickly. Civil unrest and religious fanaticism created two major fractures in the American government. The country to the north, Canada, was riven in two by similar political misalliances, and the Eastern half of that country joined in an alliance with the semi-socialist European Community. The northern border was permanently closed.

A stray suitcase bomb from Islamic extremists from Kabul destroyed Tel Aviv. The Middle-East, their oil reserves used up, descended into economic and political chaos. A Third World War was on the horizon.

No government, no matter how well intentioned, wanted to tell the population about the Stargate program now. The Prometheus had been destroyed during the conflict with the Ori. The Alpha site was abandoned. The Stargates on Earth were destroyed or buried, and all knowledge of them was locked deep in top-secret government files.

In this atmosphere of conflict and unrest, Teal'c was forced to go back to Chulak. Sam and the children - Jacob Daniel and Janet Jacqueline went with them along with Cassandra, Vala and Colonel Cameron Mitchell. General Hammond, who'd temporarily taken charge of the SGC, had allowed Sam to take most of her laboratory equipment along with her to Chulak before he blew up the site to avoid the Gate being taken over by the Eastern Coalition at any time in the near future.

Vala and Mitchell had taken a Death Glider and disappeared into the distant horizon more than two years ago. Sam was sure they'd never see them again. She didn't really care; she was happy. More than happy, content.

However, Sam had never given up her goal of finally finding Daniel and Jack, especially after the dramatic turn that events on Earth had taken. Now, Sam felt she was close to a solution to the problem of where the two men had disappeared. Chulak had recently made an alliance with a race of blue-skinned people from a planet close by who were called the Bolians.

From the Bolians, they'd obtained better starcharts of the various regions of space that were possible locations where the two men had disappeared. Using her computer to simulate the charge that had driven the two men outward to a really distant Stargate, Sam had finally narrowed the area down a part of the largely uncharted part of the Delta Quadrant where it was likely that the Furlings, one of the races in the ancient alliance had lived. You could only get there by going through an area called the Badlands, which was on the edge of their quadrant of the galaxy. At this time, after the conflict with the Ori, almost no Stargates were still operational. Most planets had long since buried their Stargates. If they wanted to find Jack and Daniel, they'd have to use the good old-fashioned method of space travel - a spaceship.

"It's amazing," Sam sighed to her husband, "But since pretty much every Stargate was buried after the problem with the Priors and the Ancients, I thought that finding Jack and Daniel was virtually impossible. But the Bolian maps and logs have clarified so many points I never thought possible. The problem is that once we get to the Badlands, there is an entity there that will make getting back here almost impossible."

"Yes," Teal'c said, "But you did go over every to the possible Stargate address and it seems that this is the best way."

"Well," Sam explained, "some Bolian ship got lost out there, and arrived home sixty years later. And the Bolians were lucky! They found a wormhole - well an interspatial flexure really. Until recently, I didn't understand the difference between the two."

"Is that so?" Teal'c's eyes caressed her, "And all I had to do was obtain a used spaceship for our family from those wretched, stingy businessmen on Ferenginar. All it cost me was all the worthless latinum you told me not to pick up on P5X-1G2 when we went there to look for Daniel and Jack."

"A girl can be wrong," she giggled when he kissed her neck, "but seriously Teal'c, this is a one way ticket. Are you sure that the whole family should go?"

She felt her old used lab stool turn around, and she was facing him now, "Together Samantha or not at all, isn't that what we said at the beginning? The information we got from the Bolians confirms the existence of an entity called "The Caretaker" which will teleport us to the other side of the Galaxy. They held the Bolians for three days for some kind of genetic testing."

"That's exactly my point. They could hold our children," she said seriously.

"The Asgard know a great deal about the entity. With our shipboard computers adjusted as they instructed us, the Caretaker can receive data on our genetic makeup and it will know that we are of no interest," Teal'c pointed out.

"Here," she said pointing to her a spot on her computer which contained a map, "right here, where there are significant time and spatial rifts. I spoke to Thor, and he verified that the race here was one of the ancient alliance. They're called the Furlings. They're some kind of back to basics sort of aliens. They live simply, without much technology. He is certain that Jack and Daniel are with them. He believes that the Furlings left information in the database in The Place of Our Legacy that was downloaded into Jack's genetic encoding. It activated the Stargate on their world when they were supposed to go to the Pegasus Galaxy. You can see that their trajectory lies directly over it."

"I was there for the conversation," he reminded her. "The Asgard also told us, in the words of the famous actress Bette Davis, to hang on it was going to be a bumpy ride, and advised the use of seatbelts."

"Everything will be strapped down tight," Sam said with a determined curl of her lips, "And I'm ready to go tomorrow."

"All shall be as you wish it," Teal'c advised his wife, "But getting there still involves finding the correct interspatial flexure to get to the correct spot in what the Bolian map calls the Delta quadrant."

"A piece of cake," she assured him, but of course it wasn't.



By the time the small ship Endurance, named after the infamous ship of the fateful 1915 Shackleton expedition that was crushed in the ice, finally made its way to Furander Prime - the largest planet in a group of two habitable planets and three moons, it was battered but still in one piece.

They hadn't been taken prisoner by the entity known as "The Caretaker" because he already knew that they didn't have the genetic material that could help him complete his objectives. That was due to an automated computer read-out complete with diagrams that allowed him access to biological data on the crewmembers of the Endurance. That had been Thor's idea. It made Samantha sad to think that future generations wouldn't know the Asgard because they were dying out due to the genetic problems inherent in their cloning.

There'd been a tense moment when their son Jacob, who was the first person to wake up after they were suddenly teleported to the other side of the galaxy, had tried to go closer to the spatial array in front of them. Fortunately, Teal'c had woken up next and steered them away without any further comment.

With the help of the Asgard shields, they'd avoided several other enemies including a tribe that called themselves the Kazon and an even more formidable foe that called themselves the Borg. Getting close to the round Borg moon had been a mistake that they didn't make twice. They broke free with reasonable ease by using a modulating harmonic shield frequency; another tool recommended by Thor and tuned up by Sam, so that the Borg could not maintain a hold on their craft. After that all of them - Teal'c, Sam, Cassie, Jacob and even four-year-old Janet, watched carefully to avoid any further entanglements with either the Borg cubes or the large moon-shaped craft.

They'd cut their power when they approached Furander Prime, and allowed the spatial rifts to roll them into an orbit where they were then hung up. Samantha wasn't worried because she'd been prepared for this. They couldn't land without the help of the Furlings, and they couldn't go back without hitting the spatial rifts. It was almost seven years to the day that Daniel and Jack had gone missing. They'd put out an automated distress call, knowing from the Asgard that the Furlings would take their time in responding to it.

They'd been drifting for forty-two hours straight, and Sam had decided to take a nap and left Cassie at the controls. She felt a hand shake her shoulder, "Too tired," she mumbled and tried to turn over.

"Sam, Sam, you've got to come right away. I've got a representative of the Furlings on the communicator and a bad picture on that junky viewscreen the Ferrengi sold Teal'c. I had to bash it twice just to get it to work. Next time, I'm going to kick it, I swear."

"Sleep," Sam insisted and Cassie's hand continued to shake her. "No, come on Sam gotta' wake up, they say they know about Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel."

"Jack," she said sitting up suddenly and hitting her head on the low ceiling. She swore loudly as Teal'c entered the room wearing a pleased expression on his face.

"Seven years, woman," he boomed loudly and lifted her up into the air. She squealed, and her daughter Janet came running in, and tried to grab her ankle. "Your hard work has paid off. It seems they know about O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. Your mother," he beamed at his daughter, "Is a genius. It is beyond doubt!" He kissed her happily. "They are bringing our spaceship into their harbor."

The Furlings guided their spaceship into a large docking bay on what appeared to be a snow covered plain. Doors opened in the landscape, and closed behind them, swallowing the ship seamlessly with a resounding clunk. They were in the dark, although they'd been told to leave their rear doors open. For about a half an hour, Sam wondered if they were going to simply forget about them and leave them in the docking bay forever.

They were all grouped in the bridge of the spaceship - herself, Teal'c, Cassie, Jacob and Janet. Nervously, she examined Teal'c's face and thought he appeared slightly younger. It was hard to tell because he didn't change much over the years. Another slight change was evident in the physique of Cassie. She seemed more lithe, and that made her appear at least five years younger. Sam absent-mindedly wondered if the spatial rifts had anything to do with this phenomenon. Perhaps, she too looked different.

Jacob sat cross-legged on the floor, "Mom, do you think they've forgotten about us?" he asked in a small voice.

"Don't worry," Teal'c reassured his son, "I'm sure they will be here soon. And we have a backup plan if there are any problems."

"What is it?" Jacob looked at the floor. He was always the anxious one.

Janet rolled her eyes. "They're just going to blast us out of here if there's a problem. Don't you know anything?"

"The door could be blast-proof," Jacob glared at his sister. She had blue eyes while his were dark brown.

"Duh, Mom can blast her way out of anything! She's the best."

Just then, they heard the noise of scraping boots outside the spaceship and a representative of the local government came into the spaceship to speak to them. She was a humorless looking woman with short, very straight iron gray hair and a reddish woolen tunic and loose fitting woven pants and leather boots.

"See, I told you," Janet hissed.

"Both of you, behave yourselves," Teal'c said sternly.

The representative cleared her throat, "My name is Tamina, and I am the local administrator. I am told that you are related to the ones who came to us several years back, the ones who were foretold by the Ancient's prophesy. Otherwise, we would not have allowed you to land on Furander Prime. We're concerned about how you discovered their whereabouts. Why don't you begin with that?"

"My name's Sam Carter, and this is my husband Teal'c. We have come from Chulak in the Alpha quadrant. We obtained this spaceship from the Ferrengi in return for latinum."

"Well, some things in the Alpha quadrant never change," Tamina shook her head, "The Ferrengi are always open for business. And their merchandise is often shoddy!" She ran a disgusted finger over the top of the viewscreen that Cassie had recently been complaining about, and looked slightly censorious when she found dust.

Sam sighed and brushed at the back of her head where her old USAF cap used to rub. It was an old habit, she'd picked up from O'Neill. Teal'c smiled; he'd seen her do it a million times when they were both members of SG-1. "Well," Sam looked apologetic, "this spaceship may not be much but we call it home. It's hard keeping it clean with two children and avoiding death at every turn. But it works! With a few improvements, we've avoided several entanglements that would've slowed us down. We almost met up with some cyber-beings known as the Borg."

"Yes, there are many Borg in this region of space. But I'm not sure why you came here from Chulak. We normally do not contact species that cannot travel faster than light."

Cassie gave Tamina a hostile stare, "If we hadn't had to bury the Stargates because of problems on Earth, and we hadn't lost the Prometheus during the conflict with the Ori, we'd have been capable of speeds that are faster than light. Earth is facing the most serious conflict of its long history. We were forced to leave."

"Yes," Tamina commented, "We have information that several million people have died in this conflict."

"How many millions?" Sam's blue eyes became large with distress, "And how do you know?"

"We have recent intelligence from travelers from our planet to the Alpha quadrant," Tamina said quietly, "I understand that over 30 million have already died. And many more will die before the carnage is over."

"Oh God," Sam's legs gave out from under her and she sat down on the nearest chair. "We had such a hard time getting here. We wanted to make sure that our friends here were all right."

"Well, you had considerable help that you shouldn't have obtained from the Asgard," Tamina was slightly irritated, "otherwise, you'd never have managed to build Prometheus or made it here with your own technology. "

"Yes," Teal'c interrupted, "but my planet Chulak has had the technology to fly faster than light for many years."

"That you obtained from the Goa'uld," Tamina's eyes suddenly flashed fire.

"A technicality," he shrugged his shoulders, "We freed ourselves from that enslavement with our own hands. You know I do not carry an enfant Goa'uld in me any longer, and that although this has shortened my lifespan, I have made this sacrifice for the good of my planet."

"Yes," Sam took up the discussion, "You can see our technology is used, but the programs I used to find Jack and Daniel were entirely mine. We also have Cassie here with us. She's a Hankan. We took her in after the Goa'uld Nerrti destroyed her entire planet. We are not strictly speaking, simply an Earth ship. We are a multi-lateral ship."

"They're really," a familiar, friendly voice came at Sam from the back of the spaceship, "a kind of Swiss Family Carter or a Swiss Family Carter-Teal'c, I guess. It's a story from our home planet."

"I wasn't aware that anyone had informed you about our visitors," Tamina's voice sounded slightly deferential toward the speaker.

"It's okay Tamina, they're friends. Good friends - they're just the same as my family." Jack O'Neill stepped forward out of the dim light in the hallway into the brighter light of the bridge while Daniel remained in the shadows. Initially, she gasped. He looked almost twenty years younger than when she'd seen him last. He looked so young that for one moment she wondered if it was Jack's clone Jon, but a second glance assured her that it was indeed the Jack O'Neill she knew. It must be, she thought, the spatial rifts that surrounded the planet that accounted for this.

"It's unbelievable Sir!" the exclamation was wrung from her throat as she felt the full warm impact of an O'Neill body-on-body hug. Even though they hadn't parted under the best of circumstances, she realized Jack didn't care. It hadn't changed his opinion of her one jot. Her eyes swam with tears, and something seemed to be caught in her throat. Her emotions were too heavy for her to speak.

"Oh, for Pete's sake Carter," Jack grumbled at her. Then he dragged Daniel forward into the light of the bridge. This second change was not quite so shocking after the first one, and Daniel had been younger in any case than O'Neill. Nevertheless, the sight of a slighter Daniel with lighter brown longer hair was still a shock. She'd missed her friends so very much, and finally she'd succeeded in finding them. She rubbed her cheeks and found that they were wet with tears.

"Daniel, Daniel," Sam's eyes teared as she hugged him briefly, "Oh God, you look so young! I've missed you so much!"

"I missed you too!" Daniel looked around at her family, "Kids, with Teal'c, wow that's great!" Daniel grinned at her, and it occurred to her that she'd never seen him smile like this before. A long time ago when Daniel had died, Jack had reported that there was a rueful smile on his face when he'd taken the ramp to ascend to the higher plane with the Ancient Oma De Sala, but she'd never see this wide grin of childish delight on his face. He looked carefree, happy and quite, quite different.

For a moment, she eyed Jack hesitantly. Then he moved forward, and grabbed her by the waist again, and kissed both her cheeks, and wonder of wonders, his eyes were glossy with tears as well. Maybe, it had been a long time for him. "For crying out loud," he grumbled. "Missed you a lot Sam, Teal'c. I'm so glad you're here!" His hand reached out and clasped Teal'c's shoulder, but Teal'c was having none of it. He hugged both men a long time before letting go of them.

"Well," Sam giggled slightly nervously, "These are my kids - Jacob Daniel and Janet Jacqueline."

Her daughter Janet eyed Jack critically, "You don't have gray hair. Mom said you had lots of gray hair. I don't see any gray hair. Will you show me the big scars on your knees?"

"Hey Janet, that's not polite honey," Sam looked apologetically in Jack's direction, "I told her a few things, and I guess I mentioned your gray hair. Remember how you used to joke that Daniel was responsible for your gray hair!"

"Um, it's the planet! Gray hair, wrinkles, knees scars are all gone. So, I can't show them to you I'm afraid." Jack stooped down to talk to Janet, "I'm a friend of your Mom and Dad's from before when you were born."

"Yeah, you're the one Mom usually calls the Colonel, and then changes her mind and calls the General," Janet supplied.

Jack reached out and grasped onto Daniel's hand, and brought him forward to the children, "That would be me, but you can just call me Uncle Jack like Cassie used to when she was younger. And this is my husband, Daniel O'Neill-Jackson - so he's Uncle Daniel to you." Sam looked and noticed that both the men were wearing matching rings.

Jack realized that she'd seen the rings, and he'd called Daniel his husband. He was so used to it; it was second nature to him now. He said in a clear voice, "We, as they say here, were handfasted almost six years ago. Mated for life to the best looking man in all four quadrants, if I do say so myself, it was a screaming deal."

Daniel nudged Jack with his elbow, "Why don't you tell everyone what you really think?" He said half-jokingly, and received a gentle kiss on the lips from Jack. It should be strange, Sam thought, to see the two men kiss each other so openly, but they were obviously so right for one another. She was glad that Jack had finally realized how he felt about Daniel, and had acted on those feelings. After all, her own feelings for Teal'c had completely altered her life.

With child-like enthusiasm Jacob informed them, "Mom will be so relieved that you got married. She and Dad worried about you guys all the time, but I didn't think there was any reason to worry. There were lots of guys who got married on Chulak."

"Well, you both," Jack tousled Jacob's brown hair, "are named after two very important people who died before you were born," Jack stooped down. "I'm sorry Sam, I guess we should have let you know somehow that we were safe."

"I guess we didn't need to worry about you two being lonely on some deserted planet," Sam observed dryly.

"I told you so, Samantha," her husband lifted an eyebrow, "it was obvious that they were deliberately brought to this planet."

"I'm sorry Sam," Daniel blinked, and gave her a meaningful glance, "If we had chosen to leave, it was a one-way trip back for us. And we didn't want to leave. We decided that if anyone turned up, we'd explain that to them. We have a family, a son here. And the gay thing wasn't going to work back on Earth because Jack was a General. He'd have lost everything: his job, his pension and possibly his liberty, unless we chose to hide. We were better off staying here."

"Oh Daniel," Sam stepped into her friend's personal space and put an arm around him. When he'd left, things had been tense between them. She knew part of the reason behind that was Jack, "This is the best outcome we could've hoped for. I'm sorry. I wasn't much of a friend to you for the last couple of years that you were on Earth. I guess I knew that there was something between you and the Gen- I mean Jack. I was jealous and stupid."

She wasn't sure what she expected, but it wasn't the warmth of the hug she received back from Daniel. This was a very different Daniel, a happy Daniel, a loved Daniel - one who smiled a lot more, one who clearly didn't see putting in long hours at his job as his first priority. "It's okay Sam - Sister Sam. I remember you told me what you thought of me when I was dying. I'm glad that Sam's back!"

"Hey," Janet looked up at Daniel, "Is it true that you know twenty-six languages? And that you opened the Stargate before it was buried back on Earth?"

"Yeah," Daniel knelt down, "But that was a long time ago. We heard that there was a lot of trouble back on Earth - over five years ago. How old are you Jacob?"

"I'm almost six and my sister isn't five yet," he said proudly.

"He's the same age as Jeremy, Jack," Daniel squinted up at his partner.

"Who's Jeremy?" Jacob demanded.

"Well," Daniel said quietly, "We have a surprise for you guys. Marja could you bring Jeremy in here?" He called out to the bow of the ship.

A handsome woman of an indeterminate age with long honey-colored hair and blue eyes entered the bridge of the ship holding the hand of a young boy, "Hey, Jeremy some new friends to play with," she said gently. He appeared a little nervous, and clung to her hand. Sam noticed that he had Jack's dark eyes, and very light blonde hair. She remembered that Daniel had been fair when he was little.

"This is Marja; she was the administrator of our village when we arrived seven years ago," Jack explained. "She's been a good friend to us. And this is our son, Jeremy Nicolas. He's our little miracle." He ran his hand over his son's head gently and nodded to him, "Say hello Jeremy."

"Hello," his big brown eyes assessed them from the safety of Marja's arms.

Marja nodded at Sam, "You've made a long journey to find your friends," Marja took their hands in turn after slipping Jeremy onto the floor of the bridge, "You're most welcome here."

Sam shook her hand, "They're more than friends, like Jack says, we're family."

Jacob watched Jeremy, the boy who was supposed to be almost six. In terms of size, he looked more like he was around four and he clung shyly to his Dad, Daniel's leg. "Hello, I'm Jacob Carter-Teal'c. And that's my little sister Janet. Your Dad, Uncle Daniel said that you were the same age as me. But I'm six and I'm way bigger than you. You're a bit puny for almost six."

"Jacob," Teal'c's tone was severe, "You are big for your age, but we have discussed that physical size is nothing to be proud of. I am sure you will find Jeremy has many other gifts besides his size."

Jeremy grasped Daniel's hand tightly, "Everything here grows slower. Low and slow, my Dad calls it. My Papa says the mightiest oaks grow from small acorns."

"That's right," Jack took the boy and lifted him up high. Jeremy smiled in delight, "My little acorn." Jack's face creased in a bright smile of pleasure. Sam gasped, side-by-side, Jeremy's resemblance to both men was astonishing, and yet it was genetically impossible.

"Is it true that you died and came back?" Jacob's voice was awed when he remembered his mother's stories about Daniel.

"Dad isn't going to die," Jeremy said a trifle anxiously to Jack.

"Of course not," Jack hugged him, "Your Dad died and came back to be with us."

"I won't leave you sweetie," Daniel soothed, "Like Papa says, I'm here to stay. Why don't you show Jacob and Janet our home, and the place that they'll be staying in Styrll."

"Okay Papa," Jeremy looked up at Jack.

"And don't go to the river, the water is too high," Daniel said sharply to Jeremy.

"Okay, I won't go near the river," he sighed.

"Even to throw things off the bridge and watch them float underneath," Daniel gave his son a sharp look, "Even pine cones. The water is almost to the top of the bridge, and it's ice cold."

Jeremy looked over at the other two children and rolled his eyes, "Telepathy is so annoying sometimes because Dad always knows what I'm planning. You can't keep any secrets from him. But don't worry," he said to Jacob, "this is a good place to live. You've got nothing to worry about. I can tell you're worrying. We'll go and look at your house."

Jacob found himself thinking that this seemingly little kid, Jeremy, seemed to understand a great deal. Maybe, he really was almost six. He looked up at Teal'c and Sam, "Could we stay here, Mom and Dad?" he asked wistfully. "It's a long way home. And those Borg were really, really scary."

"Maybe," Sam said hesitantly. "We'll consider it."

"Actually, I'll take them all to my house in the village and give them some biscuits and a drink," Marja said hastily, "If that would be all right with you, Sam? I'm sure you all have things to discuss. Let's go, Tamina."

"It's okay Sam, the kids are really safe with Marja. You have nothing to worry about!" Jack nodded. Sam considered - if Jack wasn't worried, there was no need to be concerned about, she was sure. Jack was nothing if not overprotective, although she noticed, to her amusement, that Daniel was the disciplinarian in the family.

"Okay," she said, "And listen to what Marja says."

"Yes, Mom," both children chorused.

"I'll go too," Cassie said hastily, "If everyone wouldn't mind. I'll leave you guys to discuss things."

"Go ahead," Sam and Teal'c said at the same time, then laughed because they'd both had the same thought.

As soon as the children were gone, Sam turned back to Jack. She was bursting with curiosity, "What I want to know Jack is, who is Jeremy's father? "

"Both of us," the two men said at the same time.

She tilted her head, "But how did you overcome the problem of the Y chromosomes? You need an X chromosome to make a child."

"Well, one of us had to be genetically modified temporarily to carry an X chromosome," Jack said patiently, "So technically speaking, one of us had to be a woman in order to make Jeremy possible."

"So I guess Daniel..." Sam began to say.

Jack's eyes twinkled at her, "No actually he didn't. I suppose that you could say technically I'm his mother, but we don't really think of it like that. Jeremy belongs equally to both of us, we just had to make some compromises to make him possible."

"Well," she began again, "Did Daniel carry..."

"No, Sam I didn't," Daniel said quietly, "We both did, in a sense. There is some technology we use here that makes some things easier - artificial wombs, maturation chambers. One of us carried him inside when he was very small, and that wasn't me if you must know."

He glanced affectionately over at his beloved partner, who always seemed to be such a macho man in so many ways, but who had not hesitated to offer up his body for genetic manipulation and to carry their small son for the first five months after his conception. Even with the genetic engineering, Jeremy had still needed to be in an artificial womb outside the body for the last four months of his maturation. Then, they'd both carried him.

Daniel had thought that, after Charlie, Jack would completely reject the notion of having another child. Moreover, the genetic manipulation had caused some interesting side effects, which took several months to go away.

Jack had borne it all with patience. He had insisted on giving this gift to Daniel. Sometimes, Daniel still couldn't believe that they'd done it together. Right now, he was amused by the funny look on Sam's face as the truth sank in that macho Jack had had their baby inside him. She would've been even more bewildered had she been there when Jack's hormones were rocking and rolling, and when he couldn't keep his hands off Daniel. Daniel was a little sorry when it had stopped.

"Oh," her mouth was a round circle of inquiry, wondering about a much younger looking Jack O'Neill carrying a baby inside of him. 'Geez,' she thought to herself, "he must really love Daniel. Wow!'

"So what's your job here?" She asked him.

"I'm a shepherd. We harvest the wool from an animal we use to make a lot of our garments," Jack said. He held out his arm, "Feel that, it's keem'a wool."

"Soft," she said, "Kind of like alpaca."

"Yeah," Daniel said, "And I'm cataloguing the archaeological ruins near Stryll."

"I see," Sam said seriously, "What about technology? Electricity? Solar power? New developments?"

Daniel nodded, "Yeah, that's the thing. There's no money here. It's an incredibly old civilization, and they only use technology for some very specific things - like Jeremy, for example. The population is very small, and much of the planet is preserved just as it was for thousands of years. Probably at least half the people are married to members of the same sex. The Furlings have been everywhere, and done everything. Sometimes, a young person goes walkabout in a spaceship, but they always come back. Marja's son left for almost sixty years. He came back."

"What about the Ancients and ascension?" Teal'c inquired.

Jack began to explain, "Well, they had a major disagreement with the Ancients after the Ancients decided to ascend, basically to live almost forever. The Furlings reject ascension as not being part of the natural cycle of life. They feel when the Ancients moved to the other plane, they went against the natural order. The Furlings live to be very old, and death is just part of the cycle."

"Yes," Daniel took up the narrative, "they believe in the cycle of life. Death is part of the cycle. It's natural. The Nox feel much the same way. And I agree with them. Remember, I was an ascended being for a time."

"So when you die?" Sam asked him.

"I'll go to the underworld," Daniel took Jack's hand, "Like all of the rest of you, to be judged, to have my heart weighed against a feather, to move on. Surely you don't believe that all good things just die? Like Oma once said to me, all that is important is whether you are good or evil. After meeting the Priors, I don't believe that only the truly good ascend. After Oma's fight with Anubis, I don't believe all the ascended Ancients are necessarily good either. I don't even believe that the people of Abydos are still with the ascended."

"Then where are they?"

"Dead," he said shortly, "Look, after Oma took on Anubis, the others would have thrown the Abydonians out. Remember how they treated Orlin, and he was one of them. They're dead - like Sha're, like Jacob, like Janet. I believe I will die and move on to where they went. But even if I don't, even if this is all there is, in this world the memory of our goodness will linger on here as part of what we leave behind for our children."

"So, you just live simply," Sam considered.

"Sorry Sam. No gizmos," Daniel said, "But we could really use a new miller in our village, if you want to stay. It's simple work, but its good. And from time to time, when someone goes walkabout, Marja said you could help build the spaceship."

"But what do you get out of this, aside from being with Daniel?" she puzzled.

"Just this," Jack moved closer to her. Then he reached out, putting his hand over her heart.

"Oh God, "she thought, "I really felt that." She gasped. There it was: his love for Daniel, his love for the beauty of Furander, his pain for Charlie and his responsibility for Jeremy. It was all there. She felt his love for her and for Teal'c too. She saw how Daniel had saved him from the dark place his soul had gone to before his first trip to Abydos. He hadn't lied when he'd told her that he cared more for her than he should. He cared that much for them all. It was why he'd taken a promotion, fearing that he no longer had the agility or quickness that he needed to keep them safe. Her misty eyes sought his soft ones, and he folded her into his arms.

"It's okay," he whispered, "You don't have to decide now. You could petition the council to get crystals for the DHD and go back to Chulak if you want. But this is the first step, just like Thor told me, in becoming all we can be - the fifth race. We're the first step, and I'm hoping you'll stay here and become part of it all. One day, when a ship from our planet finally reaches us here in the Delta Quadrant, our children's children will forge a new alliance with Earth and bring a new era of change and renewal."

Epilogue: Three Hundred & Sixty Three Years in the Future

The Starship Voyager was in bad shape. She'd avoided the Vidiians, the Borg, beaten back the Kazon and reclaimed their ship. They'd recently had a bad experience with the Hirogen in which they were hunted like animals on their own holodeck, and killed or badly injured again and again. It was an experience that their EMH - Emergency Medical Hologram - was delighted was over.

If they'd known about the interspatial flexure that the Bolians had once mapped out, and which the Teal'c/Carter family had used, it would have made it possible for them to reach the spot they were at in roughly one quarter the time. In fact, the maps they had of the region known as the Delta Quadrant were spotty at best.

When Captain Kathryn Janeway considered the vast spatial rifts surrounding the planet, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. If they could get through those rifts, there might be something interesting on the other side.

She was one of the few people on Earth who'd actually read Colonel Samantha Carter's unexpurgated journals. Every now and then at top levels, a discussion about the long buried and destroyed Stargates would take place and then those discussions were swiftly silenced. Sam Carter's journals as well as the journals of Dr. Daniel Jackson sat at the centre of this very controversy.

No one wanted to change the basic belief that people on Earth had that First Contact had taken place in 2063. They didn't want people to know that it had, in fact, taken place in the late twentieth century on a primitive planet called Abydos. The legend of Dr. Zephrem Cochrane, warp drive and first contact with the Vulcans was well entrenched. Janeway knew that she was going to rock a few minds, but she and Chakotay were of one mind about this. It was time that some people from Earth knew about the Stargate, and here in the Delta Quadrant it was even possible that some Stargates might still be found.

"Lieutenant Paris," she said crisply, "Cut impulse power now."

"Ma'am?" he inquired politely with just the faintest hint of impudence in his tone. And Captain Janeway saw fit to ignore this undertone, He was lucky, she thought, that he was such a good pilot.

Seven of Nine stood on the bridge above the Captain in her electric blue suit. It was very sexy, Tom thought, except when you realized that the suit was intended to facilitate healing in the areas where Borg implants had covered her body. She stood with her legs wide apart staring at the planet. "Species three," she murmured, "the Borg have never gotten past the spatial rifts. The Furlings can destroy a ship in an instant by moving them."

"Three?" Chakotay said aloud, "I've never heard of any species with a Borg designation like that."

"Species three, the Furlings - the third member of the ancient alliance that once dominated the known universe," Seven explained, "The races who bonded at the Place of Our Legacy. None of them were ever assimilated. The Nox, The Ancients, the Furlings and the Asgard."

"I thought that place was a myth, like the Asgard," Harry Kim concentrated on the shields.

"No myth," Chakotay said shortly, "I've been there. It's quite real. Only a handful of archaeologists have seen it."

"Yes," Captain Janeway added, "And the Asgard are extinct, not a myth."

Tom asked, "What exactly did this Place of Our Legacy do?"

"It was an ancient database on a planet, but it only worked once. Or so they say," Chakotay commented.

"So who used it?"

"A human called Jack O'Neill. It was an accident. The Asgard helped him." Kathryn Janeway stood up and watched as the spatial currents allowed them to drift into an orbit of the planet.

"Why don't we know about this?" Tom asked, "Was he one of the early explorers on space freighters after Zephrem Cochrane?"

"No, he was part of the Stargate program," Janeway exchanged a meaningful look with Chakotay.

"Oh come on," Tom burst out, "Now that is a myth!"

"No," Janeway said firmly, "It's not. There was a Stargate on Earth, and on many planets around the galaxies. It was a secret program after the first Stargate was found at Giza by the archaeologist Professor Langford. We sent explorers from Earth to planets all around the galaxies, and even further away to other Stargates."

"Well, why haven't we ever seen any of these Stargates?" Tom asked.

"They were buried," Seven said clearly, "And their locations were never disclosed. Not one Stargate has ever been seen by the Borg despite their best efforts. It is a very ancient and sophisticated technology. Our Borg wormhole technology is based on much the same system, but it is less efficient. It opens a wormhole to another address along the Gate system."

"Well, I'll have to see this Gate thing before I believe in it," Tom shook his head.

Seven watched Voyager take the orbit without difficulty. "This is usually when the Borg cube is destroyed by the spatial currents," Seven said a trifle tersely.

"Nice," Tom said, "I hope they'll like us better than the Borg. No offense."

"None taken," Seven nodded in agreement, "The Borg have been most determined to find a Stargate intact and study it. Only the two Ancient races - the Nox and the Furlings - have access to the technology. And they will not speak with us."

"No one's ever seen the Nox home world," Chakotay noted, "Even though it's not that far into the Beta Quadrant. They're total isolationists, and all attempts at diplomacy have ended in a stalemate."

The picture of a handsome brown-haired, blue-eyed man filled the viewscreen. "Greetings! You are travelers from Earth, from the spaceship Voyager."

"Yes," Janeway spoke to the person, "I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway. And this is my First Officer, Commander Chakotay."

The blue-eyed man smiled, "We've been expecting you. Welcome. I'm Daniel O'Neill-Jackson."

"I beg your pardon?" Captain Janeway queried, "You were expecting us?"

"Oh I'm sorry," the young man's impudent grin widened, "We have books of prophecies from the Ancients. They're very old, but, according to them, you were expected. I didn't mean to upset you. This is the next step your race will take in becoming the fifth race, or so it was prophesized."

"Are you related to Dr. Daniel Jackson the archaeologist?" Chakotay asked him, "His work on the intermingling of planetary cultures is required reading for any archaeologist in the field."

"And to Jack O'Neill?" Kathryn Janeway added.

"Well, yes. They were my great-grandfathers, but they are no longer alive. The time rifts around the planet extend our average lifespan on this planet a long time, but not that long."

"Both of them were your great-grandparents by different women," the Captain clarified.

"No together. Our technology makes it possible although we live a basic, simple life for the most part. Jack and Daniel were married. They were life mates, soul mates if you prefer. You do still have marriage on Earth?" the young man grinned again. It was a wide, engaging smile - a smile Kathryn Janeway remembered from the picture of SG-1 in the top-secret file. It was O'Neill's smile, and Jackson's face.

"Of course," Janeway shook herself, "I didn't mean to be rude. I should have realized from Dr. Jackson's journals, as well as Samantha Carter's, that they finally bonded. They wouldn't have returned to Earth because it wasn't allowed at the time."

"What wasn't allowed?" Seven tilted her head inquiringly.

"Relationships between two men or two women weren't allowed in the military in what was the United States," Tom shook his head in disbelief, "As though you can regulate people's feelings."

"I see," Seven sounded puzzled, "I thought from the Doctor's lessons that relationships between members of the same sex didn't have quite the same quality as relationships between members of the opposite sex."

"Aw come on Seven, what about Lieutenant Megan Wright and her partner the exo-botanist, Rikel Narisse or Major Doug Blain and Ensign Michael Deverel in tactical," Tom cut in, "Those people are all devoted to one another. At the Academy, my roommate had a boyfriend, not a girlfriend. No, it's the relationship, not the sex of the people in it that counts."

"But would you try it yourself?" Seven's voice was skeptical, but Tom's response surprised her. "When you're young, you experiment a little. Sometimes, the experiments go in different directions. It doesn't make you less of a person for it."

The person on the other end of the viewscreen coughed, "Well, my partner Elijah Carter will be glad to hear you feel that way."

"So, we can land?" Janeway asked, returning to the matter at hand.

"We're bringing you in," the young man grinned even wider, "But first I need to speak to your Doctor."

"We have an EMH on board, an Emergency Medical Hologram. Our doctor died over five years ago." Janeway said, "Why do you need to speak to him?"

"Well, I need to get him to use your information about nanotechnology so that you can avoid the anti-aging effects of the spatial currents. Unless, of course you want to return to your youth."

"I quite understand," Janeway said crisply, "I'll put you through to the Doctor right away."



The visit had proved to be both puzzling and an eye-opener for Seven of Nine. She actually got to see a Stargate. It was true that the DHD was fried, and that there was nowhere she could think of to go with it, but seeing it was enough. There, buried somewhere in the back of her cerebral cortex, was the memory of some Borg who'd seen one in a distant part of the galaxy before they were assimilated.

Then there was the relationship between Daniel O'Neill-Jackson and Elijah Carter-Teal'c. All around their stone cottage were pictures and mementos of their great-grandparents, two men who'd lived there before them and had been dead for over a hundred years. Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill had spent almost a hundred and fifty years together as a couple, and before that had been comrades in arms for ten years.

Seven had stayed at the cottage, and she'd read Daniel Jackson's life journal. O'Neill had given up everything for him - a responsible position on Earth, the respect of those around him, and had chosen to live and die far away from his homeland. The meaning behind this passion dazed her.

Furthermore, their friends had endured considerable danger and difficulty to get to them in the Delta Quadrant. She remembered that Jackson had written that General Jack O'Neill had cared too much about all the members of his team; it was something she'd seen and felt from Kathryn on board Voyager all the time. Kathryn, like Jack O'Neill, cared for each and every individual on her team - but that team was even larger. She admired Kathryn for her large heart, but she felt that Kathryn - like Jack - was missing an important part of her life.

When she returned to Voyager after her sojourn on the planet, she had a new determination. Kathryn Janeway was alone, alone like Jack O'Neill had been for ten long wasted years. Years during which, as Daniel O'Neill-Jackson had put it, they might have been happy. There was nothing barring a relationship between her and Kathryn. In fact, technically she wasn't a part of Starfleet.

She'd talked to Daniel O'Neill-Jackson and Elijah Carter-Teal'c about this while they sat in front of the fire at night. A little aged brandy had loosened Seven's inhibitions about talking to the two men.

The recipe for the brandy was, admittedly excellent. It had come down through the Carter-Teal'c family from Samantha Carter-Teal'c who had started making brandy shortly after her arrival, as her contribution to the community. Although the residents of Furander had many alcoholic beverages, Samantha Carter was the first to provide the residents with brandy. It had been an astonishing success. Even the food replicators on Voyager couldn't provide anything to match it, and Seven's enhanced taste buds had enjoyed this beverage every night of the two weeks she'd spent with the two men.

They were all sitting by the fire at night. She was feeling relaxed after one brandy, and was sipping on a second beverage. For her stay on the planet, she was wearing the same kind of clothes as the locals - loose pants in a cotton type fabric mixed with Keem'a wool, a long tunic in natural colors, and an over vest.

Her legs were stretched out in front of her, and she felt replete following the excellent meal, "I'm sorry that this will be my last night in your home. But I've wanted to ask you, when I look around me why there are so many pictures of your great-grandfathers in the house?"

"It's to remind us," Elijah said, "Not to waste time in our lives, nor to take anything for granted. Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson worked together for almost ten years. You may not know this, but Daniel Jackson lived for a long time on a planet called Abydos. It no longer exists. It was blown up by the Goa'uld, Anubis."

"The Goa'uld," Seven's eyes narrowed, "they were a parasitic race of no value. Their only aim was to dominate, hurt and control others. They were found wanting by the collective, and destroyed whenever they were located. Their sister race, the Tok'ra was of much more interest."

"You know Seven, it's downright spooky, when you say that," Daniel's blue eyes took her in.

"I mean nothing by it," she said half-apologetically, "My social skills are lacking. Our ship's doctor is helping me to improve. I have gone out on several dates with crewmen."

"What about crew women?" Elijah asked, "You don't seem very interested in men. I detect no interest when you're around men."

"They are often bored and nervous with me," Seven admitted, "We have little in common."

"And yet," Daniel put a drop more of brandy into her glass, "I detect something when you talk about Janeway - as well as when she visited here on Furander."

"She is a superior commander," Seven felt the brandy was making her babble slightly, "I admire her leadership and strength. These are qualities I seek in a mate. I also admire her ability to negotiate her way through many difficult situations through compromise. Of course," Seven added owlishly, "she is a loner, unaccustomed to companionship."

"Jack O'Neill was alone for many years, deprived of love because of his sense of responsibility. It was a great strength as a leader, but it nearly destroyed him as a man!" Daniel stated, "I think your captain might find that you both have much in common. There are no rules to hold you back."

"So you think I should try?"

"Yes," Elijah said firmly, "You know, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

"I also feel that Jack might have wanted to know about Daniel's feelings earlier if only the rules had been different," Daniel added, "If you have feelings for your captain, you should ask."

Seven went over and looked at a chalk portrait on the wall. It was signed Cassandra Fraiser, "How old was Daniel when this was made?"

"About a hundred and thirty," Elijah said, "I will permit you to take copies of his journals with you, if you want."

"I would like that," Seven said thoughtfully, "He was much interested in ancient cultures, and many of the objects he studied are no longer available. I would like them to take a place of honor in some of the great libraries on Earth. To let people know about the Stargate finally, and what they did. It's the first step to building a bridge between our cultures, a step toward our responsibilities as members of the fifth race and a new beginning for humanity with heightened abilities such as telepathy."

"Here's to building bridges," Elijah said giving her a little more brandy.

Three days later, she stood nervously in front of Janeway's door. When she'd come home from her last night at Daniel and Elijah's, she'd had a four-alarm hangover. She'd never experienced anything like it before and had gone to the sickbay where she was warned by the irritable EMH about the dangers of alcohol that wasn't synthehol. By today, she was feeling much better. She pushed the button.

"Come," said a familiar voice.

She opened the door and there was Kathryn in her ready-room, staring out the window with her much loved teacup in her hand. The door whisked shut behind her.

"You have a problem, Seven?"

Seven moved a little closer, "I have learned a great deal from our stay on Furander."

"Yes," Kathryn sipped at her cup, "Finally, Jack O'Neill, Sam Carter, Daniel Jackson and Teal'c will get the credit they deserve as pioneers in galaxy travel."

"What you say is true. But I was moved by the courage of those two men in deciding to stay together, especially since they came from such a homophobic time."

"Yes," Kathryn Janeway laid her cup down, "Courage is a great quality."

"But of course," Seven considered, "it always takes courage to decide to try something new, don't you think? As Elijah said to me, hope won't keep you warm at night."

"No, I guess not."

"So, I was wondering how brave you were." Seven raised one quizzical eyebrow.

"My bravery?" Kathryn stopped, "Oh I see, my bravery of the heart."

"Yes," Seven stepped closer, "I wanted to try some of my French cuisine on you. Tomorrow perhaps, we could make it a date. That is, if you feel brave."

"You're willing to take this risk?"

Seven swallowed, "It has not been on the list of the Doctor's suggested dates, but I felt I could pass up small talk with a man I do not wish to see in favor of a more meaningful discussion with a woman I admire. I carefully studied same sex relationships before speaking to you, and I have come to a new understanding of my own," Seven lowered her eyes to the floor and then raised them to meet Janeway's with serious intent in her glance.

"I see," Kathryn nodded, "Why don't you elaborate further?"

"It would be," an emboldened Seven admitted, "a wholly new experience for me. Elijah, Daniel's partner informed me that the bond between two members of the same sex has it rewards as well. And that maybe you had some ideas of your own."

Kathryn Janeway favored her with a crooked smile that made her heart go clunk in her chest, "Yes, the bond between two members of the same sex can be particularly strong. If they are the right two people - two people who share an attraction that is strong."

Seven stared at Janeway fixedly, "But what if only one of the two people felt this attraction?"

"I'm sure," the other woman responded slowly and carefully, "That the other woman wouldn't accept an invitation on a date in that case."

"You have had dinner with Commander Chakotay many times," Seven pointed out.

"That was work," Kathryn raised her eyebrow humorously. "And as for my burnt offerings, they've never constituted a dinner date. I would hope," she placed her hands on her hips, "that the Commander would be having a little more fun on his dates. So, how soon would the date you have in mind happen?"

"Tomorrow evening around nineteen hundred hours?" Seven suggested.

"That sounds like a good plan," Janeway acknowledged, "I'll bring a bottle of that cider Neelix has kept hidden."

"Very well," Seven turned to leave, but a quick hand grabbed her wrist, "Hey," the soft voice urged, "stay for a while, and drink some tea. Congratulate yourself on being the first interested party through my door in five years."

"There was Kashyk from the Devor Imperium," Seven tried not to look speculative about something that had had half the ship gossiping about the Captain's love life.

Kathryn smiled, "That was chess, not a date."

"Chess?" Seven questioned. "Oh I see! A game of strategy, pitting your will against another's in a game of wits."

"Precisely," Janeway made an expansive gesture, "Whereas you and I could discuss the stars, the visit to Furander. Whatever you want, just for a little while."

"I love him now more each day," Seven reminisced, "That's what Dr. Jackson wrote a month before he died. O'Neill only outlived him by a week. Do you think that is possible?"

"I think," Kathryn Janeway paused for a moment to think before draining her cup, "that we could go out, and if it works, give it damned good try Seven! A damned good try!"

Seven would have liked to grin widely like Daniel O'Neill-Jackson, and had experimented with the look in the mirror, but had abandoned it because it had looked unnatural. So, she smiled a trifle severely at Kathryn Janeway, who smiled back at her - without words the other woman seemed to understand the strength of her feelings even without the wide grin.

THE END
You must login (register) to review.