Comes The Dawn by pinkdiamonds
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Alternate Universe, Drama, Established Relationship
Rated: Adult
Warnings: Adult Themes, Sexual Situations
Series: None
Summary: The SGC attempts to cope in an unsettled world when an act of terror changes both the world and the SGC.

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Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.
WILLIAM ARTHUR WARD

George Hammond spent the plane ride from Washington DC to Colorado Springs deep in thought. The low ranking airmen who were there to serve him stayed in the front of the plane after he'd snapped that if he needed anything he'd damn well ring for it.

George tried to work out how in the hell the world situation had gotten so bad. The meeting with President Hayes and the Joint Chiefs had scared George to his core. His mind couldn't keep from going to his daughter and grandchildren.

After heading up the SGC and dealing with the threat from the Goa'uld for the last four years, George found it difficult to process it was other humans who seemed most willing to tear Earth apart.

Terrorist groups based in South America, the Middle East, Africa, China, Russia and a half-dozen other places promised to throw the world into war. The have-nots were attacking the haves along with other groups fighting over religion, territory, and resources.

As detailed by the President, some of these groups had access to dirty bombs. Other terrorists groups backed by rogue nations were developing chemical and biological weapons.

As many attacks that were prevented on U.S. soil by the FBI, the CIA, the ATF, local police, and other government agencies it was only a matter of time before an attack succeeded. The borders were so porous between Mexico and even Canada, it was impossible to keep those determined to wreak havoc out of the United States.

The President had wanted to disclose the existence of the Stargate. The current crisis, which began six months ago when oil-rich nations first announced they were cutting oil production by a fourth and then by a third, was the impetus behind his decision.

He felt if the world worked together to cover the costs of mining naquadah, the Earth would shortly have a clean and unlimited supply of power. Unfortunately, there was no way to introduce naquadah without revealing the Stargate.

George and the Joint Chiefs had argued vehemently against the President on this point. Exposing the Stargate now would only serve to further incite the anger of many of the terrorist groups, not to mention throw the world's economy into chaos. There was also the religious aspect to be considered. Even the United States was becoming deeply divided between those who favored science and those who used the Bible to explain every aspect of life.

These were the dark thoughts going through General Hammond's mind as he prepared himself for the meeting he'd be holding shortly after he returned to the SGC.

*****

General Hammond entered the meeting room and took his place at the podium in front of the room. He looked at the men and women seated before him. All heads of the twenty-five SG teams and their 2IC's were present as were Doctor Jackson, Teal'c, Doctor Fraiser, Doctor Warner and two dozen other key personnel.

He could feel the anxiety in the room. None of the men and women in the room were stupid; this meeting was unusual and that was enough to crank up the tension. George thought he was hiding his own anxiety well. He couldn't tell these good men and women the full truth; that was his burden and he carried it alone.

There was none of the usual jesting and one-up-man-ship that usually characterized any interactions between SG teams. There wasn't any of the normal jostling for position that would be expected with so many alpha males in the room. All the people seated before George were subdued, as if expecting bad news. Only George, the President and the Joint Chiefs knew the true potential for how bad things might get.

"Good Morning. As some of you may be aware, I've just returned from Washington from a week-long meeting with the President. The situation as it stands is not good. The political situation is such that the mandate of the SGC has been redefined, effective immediately."

Jack, the only other person in the room privy to the overhauled mandate snuck a peek at Daniel, expecting and finding the look of anger he now saw. No, Daniel wouldn't be happy with the SGC's new mandate, but Jack happened to agree with the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in this case.

"Let me guess, Sir. We're no longer interested in obtaining allies or investigating new or transplanted cultures," Daniel called out, unable to contain himself. Whenever there were budget cuts or a shift in the political winds, it was Daniel's mandate that got fucked with and he was tired of having to go over old ground time and again.

"You're partially correct, Doctor Jackson. I believe when I've fully explained the situation you may even agree with our decision. But whether you do or don't, it won't change the situation we find ourselves in.

"As it stands, the Administration is more worried about the threat from various terror groups right here on planet Earth than the threats that may come from other worlds. There are numerous hot spots throughout this world just waiting to explode.

"The President wants all SG teams out looking for uninhabited planets that are capable of supporting human life. The Alpha and Beta sites are compromised due to the current split within the Administration and we need to establish at least two new sites as soon as possible.

"To that end, Major Carter and Teal'c have been searching a list of planets given to us by the Asgard after they brokered the Protected Planet Treaty with the Goa'uld. These planets should all be capable of supporting human life but we don't know what if any dangers they might hold.

"In addition, a number of scientists will begin arriving today to speed up the work of analyzing soil, water, plant, mineral, insect, and animal samples. We'll also be getting a number of people from the CDC to work on any problems in the event of a worst-case scenario involving biological or chemical weapons.

"Twenty teams will go investigate the planets and five teams will go and solidify relations with the allies we have managed to make in four years of travelling through the Stargate.

"As of now, all leave is cancelled until further notice and you are to remain on base in quarters while otherwise not occupied. Please make sure these orders are passed on to the rest of your teams. All personnel will be notified shortly as will each incoming shift.

"Doctor Jackson, if you know of any scientists you would recommend to help get this off the ground, let me know," General Hammond now asked the SGC's top civilian scientist.

"I'll have a list for you in one hour, Sir," Daniel answered, still unhappy but seeing the need to secure a safe base offworld. He only hoped once that was accomplished he could get back to the job he'd been trained to do.

"If anyone of you has any input, please put it in a report and get it to me ASAP. Dismissed." Meeting the eyes of his 2IC, Hammond added, "Colonel O'Neill, I'd like to see you in my office."

General Hammond left the room, Jack following close behind. Jack could see his CO was exhausted and he wondered how long this current emergency would last.

The two men entered the well-appointed office and sat down. General Hammond reached into his bottom drawer and took out a bottle of Scotch and two glasses.

He carefully poured two generous drinks and handed one to Jack. "My daughter got me this for Christmas and every now and then I have a small glass. Usually when SG1 comes home safely. It's become a bit of a tradition since I've taken over the SGC. Every year she buys me a bottle of really good Scotch. This has been the best one yet."

Jack took a taste and smiled in appreciation. "She's got good taste, Sir."

"Yes, she does. I told her five hundred bucks for a bottle of Scotch is too extravagant but she never listens. This is one of those days when I'm glad she doesn't."

"So the situation is worse than you're letting on?"

"I can't tell you everything, Jack, but I'm sure you can guess most of it."

"Yeah, I'm sure I can."

"Jack, the President has created a new cabinet position of which I'm now the head. Under the new powers granted President Hayes at the start of the current emergency, he created what will be officially known as The Department of Homeland Security."

"And unofficially?"

"The Department of Offworld Security. President Hayes will be announcing the new cabinet position tomorrow before the House and the Senate."

"And how did Vice President Kinsey take the news?"

"He doesn't know yet. The President cut him out of the loop in the interest of national security. President Hayes will be asking for his resignation sometime today. The President will be informing the nation about the new cabinet position during a brief press conference next week. He'll also be announcing the imposition of a curfew until the current emergency is manageable. By the time he gives the State of the Union address next month, he'll be in a better position to impose more stringent measures, if needed."

"Martial Law?"

"It's only a matter of time, Jack."

"Will you be in Washington for the State of the Union?"

"No, the President wants me out of Washington for the duration."

"For your own safety?"

"And that of the nation. If anything happens, the President wants the assurance the Stargate is in safe hands."

"So, the scientists are coming, so we can... what? Protect them and make sure we're able to carry on when the shit hits the fan?"

"Let's just say the President is not optimistic. He feels it's only a matter of time until we're hit and hit hard. Because of the Stargate, we have the ability to ride out anything that that may happen to the country - or the world for that matter.

"I spent the last week with the President and the Joint Chiefs preparing for every contingency we could come up with. I've gotten direct orders from the President for any and all disasters this country may be facing," his tone hinting at how serious the situation was.

"Are they orders you can live with, George?" Jack asked. He'd followed some morally questionable orders himself and he wondered if George would be able to follow any order that went against his moral code.

"For the most part, yes. But I've got a few of my own ideas and I'll be putting some of my own plans into effect immediately."

"If I can help you in any way."

"Thanks, Jack. I'll let you know," George replied. He looked at his 2IC and felt a rush of affection and gratitude. Jack O'Neill would not have been anyone's first choice as second in command but George had been able to overlook his insubordination and irreverent attitude toward life. Jack was a born leader who inspired loyalty from the men and women under his command. He was also a perfect fit with the brilliant and decidedly unmilitary Doctor Jackson.

"Jack, I need to know Doctor Jackson is on board. If this situation deteriorates, we're going to need him."

"Don't worry about Daniel, Sir. He'll do what needs to be done. I'll make sure of it."

"Forgive me for prying, Jack, but right now you and Doctor Jackson are two of the most valuable assets this planet has. Will the new mandate create friction in your relationship?"

Jack flushed, uncomfortable his private life seemed open for discussion with his CO. "Ah, are we talking as friends or General to Colonel?"

"Friends, Jack. You know I've never agreed with 'Don't ask, don't tell' and right now that particular regulation isn't on anybody's radar."

"What about after this emergency, George?"

"It'll be even more of a non-issue than it is right now. As discreet as you've been, I've known about you and Doctor Jackson from the beginning. It's never been a problem."

"Okay, then let's just say Daniel's gonna be pissed I didn't prepare him for the new mandate. But we'll get through it just like we get through everything else."

"Good. I wouldn't want this to get in the way.

"Major Carter has twenty-eight 'gate addresses MALP telemetry indicates are currently unoccupied and suitable for human habitation. I want you to draw up a 'gating schedule for those planets as well as a schedule for the diplomatic teams.

"All the teams will give their reports to Major Davis who will report their findings to you. Based on the intel on the ground, I want you and Doctor Jackson to go to any planet with potential, Jack. I'd like three locations ASAP."

"Why Davis?" Jack asked. He was curious why General Hammond would tap the Major rather than one of his old cronies'.

"The President gave me carte blanche in picking someone to coordinate all the scientists, the supplies that should start rolling in anytime and any and all intel regarding suitable planets. I trust Davis and he has superior organizational skills. Normally, my 2IC would handle all that but your talents can be put to better uses and frankly, I need you out in the field for now. There's no one I trust more, Jack, which is why you're my 2IC."

"Thank you, Sir. I won't let you down."

"Jack, I'm asking all my senior staff to double up in quarters. I take it you won't have a problem sharing with Doctor Jackson?"

A sly grin appeared on Jack's face, as he said, "No, Sir. No problem at all."

"Good, I'll have an airman deliver a cot to Doctor Jackson's quarters."

The phone broke into whatever comment Jack had been about to make. General Hammond ran a weary hand over his bald head as he said, "Show him in, please."

Major Davis stepped into the office with his usual brisk energy. "General. Colonel," he said in greeting.

"Have a seat, Major."

Major Davis sat in the indicated seat, turning to look at Jack.

"Colonel O'Neill is my second in command, as you well know, Major. He's privy to nearly everything I am and quite a bit more than you," General Hammond answered Paul's unspoken question.

"Very well, Sir. I've taken the liberty of assigning quarters for the scientists as well as reassigning quarters for the senior staff."

"Do the scientists know they're here for the duration?" Jack wanted to know. He knew men and woman cooped up underground could create massive security problems and he wanted as much of a heads up as possible.

"They know they've been conscripted for the duration of this emergency. That's all they know. They have no idea where the samples they'll be required to process will be coming from. The words 'National Security' were mentioned."

"How many of them are buying it?" asked Jack.

"Right now? All of them. That might change once they realize they're doing jobs any qualified tech could. In so far as possible, we've chosen men and women who know how to play ball and with as few ties as possible."

"Just tell us what you need, Major."

"The first group will be arriving within the hour and I'll need personnel to escort them to quarters and show them where they'll be working and eating. I'm also going to need all available personnel to set up the additional labs and to offload the supplies that will begin arriving at 02:00."

"You'll have them."

"Sir, I'm also recommending we convert Level 17 into Isolation rooms."

"Do you know something I don't know, Major?"

"No, Sir. But the rumor mill at the Pentagon has been working overtime. Some of what I've been hearing is disturbing."

"I'd like Doctor Fraiser to oversee the Isolation rooms so they meet with her specifications," General Hammond ordered. He'd been planning to convert two or three large storage areas for just that purpose but considered Paul's plan more in line for what he had in mind. He wasn't ready to discuss those plans with anyone just yet as they were not part of his official orders.

General Hammond pushed a button on his phone to alert the man waiting just outside his office, "Sergeant Harriman will assist you in coordinating everything."

Harriman poked his head into the office and Paul took that as his cue to begin the massive job he'd been saddled with.

Once Paul had left the room, Jack looked thoughtfully at his CO. "He didn't exactly have to twist your arm there, George."

"You know I always like to give my people the freedom to bring new ideas to the table, Jack."

"I do know that, George. Pretty sweet when they give you just what you wanted anyway."

"That it is."

"This have to do with some of your own ideas?"

"Jack, anything I do beyond the scope of my orders can result in a court martial. I'd rather keep you out of it."

"I appreciate that, George. But like you said, what you don't tell me, I can pretty much guess."

"As long as you don't officially know about it, you're protected."

"I'll make this easy for you then. Neither Daniel or I have maintained ties with anyone outside the program."

George started to speak but stopped when he saw the truth of Jack's statement in his eyes. For a brief moment he let Jack see the weight of all he was carrying, allowing Jack to take some of the burden from his shoulders.

"Okay. Go work out that 'gating schedule, give the teams their orders and make sure they're all prepared to go the day after tomorrow. And talk to Doctor Jackson."

"I was just on my way to do that, Sir."

After Jack left the office, George allowed the steel in his spine to soften a bit as he slumped in his chair. He was tired, couldn't remember ever being so tired, but his day and his work were far from done.

George left his office to begin making his rounds of personnel. He spent the rest of that day and the next having brief conversations as preparation for putting his own plans into effect.

*****

Jack left General Hammond's office in search of Daniel. He tried Daniel's office, the commissary and Carter's lab, growing increasingly frustrated when he was unable to locate Daniel. He left word at the commissary and with Carter and a note in Daniel's office detailing the need to speak with him ASAP.

Playing a hunch, Jack decided to check Daniel's quarters and finally found the object of his search quietly seething.

"Daniel, just the person I wanted to see," Jack said, closing and locking the door. He tried to take an uncooperative Daniel in his arms.

"Why the fuck didn't you warn me?" Daniel rasped.

Suppressing a sigh, Jack sat on the one chair in the room for what he hoped would be a brief conversation. "It wasn't a done deal until it was, Daniel. And there wasn't a fucking thing I could do about it."

"Even though you agree with the new mandate, Jack?" he stopped his pacing to level a withering look at Jack and then resumed.

"It won't be permanent and yeah, I think right now we've got to secure what we can."

"A little hint might have been nice,"

"Orders, Daniel. I'm still in the Air Force."

"Resign then!"

"I wouldn't be allowed to. At least not now and not for the foreseeable future."

"What about me?"

"What about you?"

"What if I resigned?"

"To do what, Daniel? Unless something's changed and your reputation's been magically restored."

"What if I said I didn't give a shit about all that?"

"You'd be lying. They wouldn't let you go right now anyway."

"I'm not a prisoner, Jack. I could leave if I wanted to."

Jack moved fast and grabbed Daniel in an all encompassing hug. He burrowed his face into Daniel's neck, kissing softly.

"I won't let you go, Daniel. Not now, not ever."

Jack held onto Daniel until he felt his tension melting away. He held on until Daniel leaned into him and held him back.

Daniel's anger came from two places. He wasn't happy about the new mandate although he understood the need for it. Daniel knew he was using the interruption of his work as an excuse for his anger. He was primarily angry Jack hadn't trusted him enough to give him any hint what was coming when it had been obvious to Daniel that Jack knew.

He'd been doing nothing more than venting steam with his threats of resigning. Daniel understood, better than those in charge, how important the work he and Jack did at the SGC was. He had just needed the reassurance of his place in Jack's life.

Jack knew this, knew Daniel, and gave him what he needed. He took Daniel's face in his hands and kissed him, gently and deliberately, his mouth soft as it covered his lover's mouth.

Daniel responded, kissing back just as softly, just as deliberately. When Jack's lips moved back to his neck, Daniel whispered, "Jack, should we be doing this now?"

"Probably not. Which brings me to my next bit of news," Jack said, releasing Daniel. "All senior staff are being doubled up in quarters. Guess who gets to share your quarters?"

"Teal'c?"

"Nope."

"Um, Major Davis?"

"Hey! How'd you know he was here?"

"I saw him when I went to leave my recommendations with General Hammond. He apologized when he informed me I would be sharing quarters with a certain grouchy, hardass colonel."

Jack briefly faked a look of outrage and then asked, "You okay with that, Daniel?"

"The better question is, are you okay with that?"

"Considering it was Hammond's idea and he let me know he's known about us since the beginning, I'm fine with it. Besides the obvious perks, it'll help my concentration knowing where you are at least part of the time."

"Jesus, Jack. Is he angry?" Daniel asked, his eyes wide and shocked.

"Angry? No, just concerned the new mandate is gonna come between us. He's a good man, Daniel. If any other CO found out their 2IC was involved in an illegal, homosexual relationship with a member of their team, the consequences would be pretty severe and immediate. Thankfully, Hammond's got a different playbook and, right now, much larger problems. Anyway, you know he's got a soft spot for you."

"Good thing I'm so damn lovable."

"How about I buy you dinner tonight and then I can show you how damn lovable you are?" Jack asked.

"It's a date. What time?"

"I'll call you when I've worked out the 'gating schedule," Jack said, as he opened the door. A small smile briefly crossed his face as he asked, "I'm assuming I've got a copy of your scientist request list?"

"Of course, Jack. I do follow some military protocols."

Jack grinned at this old faux argument between them. He knew Daniel followed his command when it was important and followed his heart at all other times.

Jack made his way to his seldom-used office wanting to complete the 'gating schedule as quickly as possible and fired up his computer.

He took his time reviewing all the MALP telemetry as well as the images, both still and moving acquired by Carter and Teal'c. Carter had also included a list, in order of preference, of the planets she believed held the most potential and which she believed SG1 should check out. Jack noticed none of the five planets that held ancient ruins made it to the top ten.

After a careful study, Jack assigned SG1 three of the planets that indicated a previous civilization and assigned the other two to other SG teams that included archaeologists. Although Daniel would have valuable input on any planet, it made sense to go with each team's strengths. Jack was curious why Carter would not have taken that logical step when advising him.

Jack put that little puzzle aside to be pondered another day while he e-mailed the schedule to General Hammond, the CO of each team and Major Davis.

As concise as Carter's report had been, it had still taken Jack hours to do a thorough examination of the twenty-eight planets in question. It was 19:00 hours by the time he was finished. He called Daniel to let him know he was on his way to his office; he knew if he waited for Daniel to meet him at the commissary the chance of eating dinner alone was high.

Jack collected Daniel and they headed for the commissary deep in conversation. The mess was unusually busy but Teal'c and Carter had managed to secure a table. Jack and Daniel joined them after procuring their dinner.

"Hey, kids, okay to join you?" Jack asked, as he sat.

"Sir. Daniel."

"O'Neill. DanielJackson."

"So, how was your day?" Jack asked, directing the question to all three of his team members.

"I have been in disagreement with Major Davis. After speaking with General Hammond, I have successfully evicted the roommate Major Davis thought to assign to me," Teal'c intoned. "Major Davis now understands that I must have my privacy in order to Kel'no'reem."

"That's good, T. We need you in top shape. How 'bout you, Carter?"

"The usual, Sir. Making sure we're ready to go. Do we know where we're going yet?"

"I'll be briefing SG1 at 09:00 tomorrow."

"You, Sir?"

"Yes, me, Carter. Problem?" Jack asked, annoyance clear in his voice. Carter often seemed to conveniently forget he was the SGC's 2IC.

"No, Sir. It's just that General Hammond usually runs the briefings."

"Not tomorrow. He's got other things to take care of. I'll be briefing all the teams tomorrow. By the way, thanks for the bullet point approach."

"You're welcome, Sir. Did you go by my preference list?"

"It was taken into consideration," Jack replied. Taken into consideration for a very brief moment and then discarded, Jack thought to himself. Again, the niggle of discomfort regarding Carter's lack of logic crossed his mind and again Jack put it off knowing it had to wait. There were other priorities that were much more important at the moment.

"Thank you, Sir! Based on the telemetry, the first five planets on the list have the most potential."

Jack interrupted before Carter could go on and on about the scientific benefits each of the planets held. While Jack valued her opinion, there were many more factors to consider other than the scientific ones. Which was why Jack was in charge of identifying the three top potential sites rather than Carter. It was also the reason why Carter wouldn't be commanding any team or site in the near future.

"How about you, Daniel?"

"Um, I finished a translation I've been working on."

"Well, that was a waste of time, given our new mandate." Sam bit out sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

"It's what I do, Sam," Daniel explained.

"What makes you think this mandate's gonna last forever, Carter? We'll be back in business before you know it," Jack said, giving Carter a puzzled look. "You two have a tiff or something?"

"Nothing to worry about, Jack. Just a minor difference of opinion," Daniel said as Sam snorted.

"Make sure you two work it out before we 'gate out."

"Yes, Sir. If I may be excused now? I'm not as hungry as I thought," Sam managed to grate out, as she stood. She waited for Jack's nod, taking her half eaten dinner with her.

"What bug crawled up her ass?" Jack demanded.

"I will attempt to talk to her, O'Neill," Teal'c said.

"You do that, T. I need everyone in peak form for the next few weeks."

Jack waited until Teal'c left the commissary before he began questioning Daniel. "When were you gonna tell me about it, Daniel?"

"Jack, I really think this is a conversation we should have in private. I'll tell you about it later."

"Finish eating, Daniel."

Jack and Daniel spent the next few minutes in silence, finishing their meal. Jack was angry Daniel hadn't mentioned any problems with Carter. Daniel may not have had a problem with her but it was becoming apparent she had a problem with Daniel. Jack couldn't imagine what Daniel could have done to put her in such a snit.

They left the commissary, making their way to Daniel's quarters. As promised a cot had been delivered and now crowded the room. Jack lay down on the cot so it would look slept in although he had no intention of sleeping on a narrow cot when Daniel and a sizable bed were inches away.

"Start talking, Daniel."

"It was just a disagreement, Jack."

"Daniel."

"Sam's been a bit obsessed since Doctor Carter came through the mirror," Daniel started.

"Obsessed how?"

"Obsessed with you... and her. She wanted me to help her set the two of you up."

"Me and Carter?" Jack asked in disbelief.

"She's taken a rather extreme case of hero worship and the fact Doctor Carter was married to an alternate Jack O'Neill and come up with the two of you fated to be together."

"Holy shit, Daniel. What did you tell her?"

"I told her we weren't in high school and if she was interested she'd have to deal with it herself. I also told her I thought she was wasting her time."

"And that's what got her so pissed off at you?"

"No, not exactly. She didn't get really mad until I told her the two of you together would not only be a huge mistake but wrong on every level I could think of and it didn't matter what was going on with you two in an alternate reality."

"Do you think she knows about us?"

"I hate to tell you this, Jack, but as much as I love Sam, she's incredibly self-absorbed."

"Yeah, no kidding. I guess she'd have to see us fucking before she caught on."

"I asked her how she thought she'd get around the regs and she said the rules didn't really apply at the SGC."

"Well, she's right about that, Daniel. We need the best here and the regs have to take second place to that."

"I know, Jack. It's just that I can't imagine Sam breaking the rules. She really lives her life based on the rules."

"But she'd be willing to break them for me?"

"Actually she said she's thinking about resigning or requesting reassignment. There'd still be a place for her at the SGC if she resigned and there are plenty of civilians on SG teams. And she wouldn't have any problems finding a place on another team if she asked to be reassigned."

"Is there any chance whatsoever she heard what you said to her?"

"I don't know, Jack. She'll probably step back for now, weigh her options and decide based on the evidence, even if the evidence is only in her own mind. Honestly, I think it's still gonna be an issue. She's getting more obsessed, not less."

"Jeez, Daniel. When were you gonna share?"

"I was hoping after we talked she'd stew for a few days and then come to her senses."

"Let's just hope she can keep it together until we've gotten our new Alpha and Beta sites."

"What will you do if she brings this to you?"

"I'm not going to do anything, Daniel. I'll just shut her down. Hard. I'm also going to be keeping a close eye on her in the field. If her anger at you or obsession with me starts to affect her judgment, she'll be off SG1." Jack didn't miss the look of relief that passed over Daniel's face. He didn't want to tell his lover he thought Sam's judgment might already be impaired.

"I think you'll have to be brutally direct, Jack."

"I will be, Daniel, don't worry," Jack said. His eyes glinted as he decided to drop the subject of Carter, "I'm gonna hop into a shower, care to join me?"

Daniel leaned over Jack, kissing him, then stood and held out his hand.

Jack took his hand, anticipation coiling low in his belly. It never failed to amaze him. His reactions to Daniel were just as strong and immediate nearly two years into their relationship as they were the first time.

The showers in the civilian quarters were slightly larger than those in the officer's quarters but they were still small. There wasn't much room but more than enough to hold two large and horny men in love.

Thanking every power that existed in the universe Daniel had successfully lobbied to have the cameras removed from all civilian quarters, Jack stripped quickly.

Daniel stripped just as quickly and Jack smiled when he saw Daniel was already half hard.

Jack entered the cubicle, turned the water on and adjusted the temperature. When the water was warm, he pulled Daniel inside and took him into his arms.

Letting the warm water wash the tensions of the day away, Jack and Daniel clung to each other for a long moment.

Jack took the soap and began to wash Daniel. He ran the bar over Daniel's arms, then reached around his lover to run soapy hands down his back, and ass, dipping into the cleft between his cheeks.

Daniel moaned softly and Jack felt himself hardening at the sound. Turning Daniel, Jack lathered his chest and belly, finally reaching down to cup Daniel's balls.

Daniel nestled his ass into Jack's groin, knowing his circling hips would provide the friction Jack needed.

Jack took Daniel's hard cock in his hand and began to pump.

"Tighter, Jack," Daniel groaned.

Jack gripped tighter with one hand as his other arm slid around Daniel's waist to draw him closer.

Jack started to thrust against Daniel's ass, stroking and pumping Daniel in time with his thrusts.

Daniel kept his ass firmly snuggled against Jack's cock, letting Jack's thrusts push his aching, swollen cock into Jack's tightly gripping hand.

Daniel came, moaning Jack's name.

Jack bit down on Daniel's shoulder as he pushed against Daniel. He felt his balls drawing tightly against his body and shattered.

"Love you, Daniel," Jack whispered, as he rode the waves of his orgasm.

They finished washing - both of them sated, and exhausted from the stresses of the day.

When they climbed into bed, they murmured sleepy goodnights, knowing tomorrow would be another long, stressful day and they fell asleep holding each other.

*****

Sam left the mess, her stomach and mind roiling.

She decided to go to the gym and hit the punching bag to work out some of her anger and frustration. She hadn't meant to lose her temper with Daniel but his mild response to her carefully chosen words pissed her off.

She was furious that he thought she'd be wasting her time in seeking out a relationship with Jack. She put it all down to jealousy. Jealousy that he'd get to spend less time with his best friend. Daniel really needed to get a life. She'd tried to set him up on numerous occasions in the past but Daniel had refused to even consider going on a date, claiming he was mourning his wife.

When she'd met Daniel, he'd been in shock over Sha're's death at the hands of Apophis' Jaffa during the raid on Abydos, as well as the kidnapping of his brother-in-law and several of the friends he'd made during his year on Abydos.

Sam had been confused at first as to why Colonel O'Neill had fought so hard to get Daniel on his team. It was only after she got to know Daniel that she understood the contribution his inclusion would make.

They'd quickly become friends, feeding off each other's intellect. Daniel had brought out all her maternal instincts too. He'd been so lost, and sad - and brave. It had been beyond her not to love him.

Daniel had also brought out Colonel O'Neill's paternal instincts. He'd taken Daniel under his wing and a deep friendship had evolved. Sam understood he'd needed friends badly that first year but she was unclear why Daniel refused to enter a romantic relationship after he'd gotten past the worst of his grief. He had so much to offer and he was too young to live his life alone.

Sam felt Daniel relied too much on his friendship with the Colonel. It was preventing him from finding happiness. She thought the time was long past for Daniel to get out from under the Colonel's wing.

She also failed to fully understand the friendship between her two teammates. They were so different, seeming to have nothing in common. Sam thought back to a few years ago when she thought their fighting and different worldviews would tear the team apart. Whatever problems they'd been having seemed to work themselves out and the team was now stronger then ever.

Sam let her body punch mindlessly at the bag, while her mind continued to analyze the argument she was having with Daniel.

Sam had been by turns intrigued and shocked when an alternate Sam had walked through the quantum mirror several months ago. She'd spent a lot of time with her alternate and the possibility she represented refused to leave her mind.

When not talking about science, her alternate had talked about her relationship with Jack. According to her, Jack was about the most perfect man in the universe.

Sam understood. She'd always had a talent for getting involved with the most inappropriate men possible. She intimidated most men and those she didn't often needed to dominate her.

She didn't intimidate the Colonel, who was secure in his masculinity and intellect. He wasn't the domineering kind; yes, he could be intense but he also had an easy-going nature.

Sam thought he was as much an equal as she would find anywhere. She knew when she first met him she had developed a slight case of hero-worship but she'd put that firmly behind her.

She always worked hard to impress him and he was generous in his praise. Sam felt the Colonel respected her, the contributions she made to the team and her intellect. And after seeing his ex-wife, she knew she was attractive to him physically.

After her alternate returned to her own reality, Sam couldn't get the thought of her and Jack out of her mind. She burned each day, dreaming of his large, callused hands sweeping up and down her body. She wanted him in her life and in her bed.

When she had approached Daniel with the hopes he would talk to his best friend, Sam had been confident it would only be a matter of time before she and the Colonel were in a relationship.

Although the Colonel broke the rules as he saw fit, Sam knew it would be more difficult for her to do so. She'd thought about it from every angle and knew she'd be willing to give up the military for Jack. He was the only man she'd consider it for. She'd still be able to work at the SGC, perhaps even be allowed to stay on SG1. She was there for the science and it wouldn't matter to her if she were a civilian or a soldier.

But Daniel had reacted to her shy request with derision.

Daniel had tried to reason with her, detailing what he felt were the many reasons a relationship between Sam and Jack would be wrong but Sam disagreed with each and every point Daniel had made. She had a counterpoint to each argument Daniel made, giving her reasons why her and Jack together would be the best thing that ever happened to either of them.

When he'd told her to go out and find herself a real life she had seriously considered smacking him, settling for telling him to take his own advice. Sam had left the quiet restaurant she'd brought him to in order to talk, embarrassed and angry.


Sam was still angry but she knew she'd have to try and put it aside for the sake of the mission. She loved Daniel and still hoped to convince him to support a relationship between her and Jack.

Deciding she'd approach Daniel after tomorrow's briefing, she finished her work out feeling better since her argument with Daniel began.

*****

Major Davis spent his day coordinating the first and second group of scientists. More would be arriving tomorrow. He made sure the conversion of the labs was well underway and spoke with Doctor Fraiser to offer his assistance with the Isolation rooms should she need it.

He grabbed a quick bite to eat and was back in quarters by 20:00 hours to catch a nap. He hoped his roommates would be quiet when they came in. He set his alarm and was asleep within minutes.

At 02:00, looking fresh and pressed he began giving orders as to where supplies should be stored. Truck after truck and load after load entered the SGC.

Had any of the citizens of Colorado Springs seen the armada of trucks snaking their way up the mountain road, they would have had cause to wonder at the unusual activity.

Paul was preparing for a siege he hoped would never come. Beside the usual supplies of MRE's, toilet paper, office supplies, tools, and other equipment and goods used in the day-to-day operations of any military base, other more unusual supplies were being brought in.

There were bags and bags of seed, cartons of over the counter medications, rope, building supplies, prefab buildings, books, games, blankets, cots, bedding, farm equipment and more.

Once the sites were chosen, jeeps and the parts needed to put together helicopters and planes would be brought in, as would animals. He hadn't quite worked out the logistics of getting some of the larger animals such as horses and cows through the 'gate, but he would in time.

For the moment, Paul was glad to be out of Washington. The SGC felt much safer to him and he planned to make himself so indispensible General Hammond wouldn't think of sending him back.

*****

Jack woke the next morning with Daniel spooned closely behind him, his arm thrown around Jack.

Waking up with Daniel in the same bed was something that would never get old for Jack. Although they spent as much time together as they could, that time didn't extend to many overnight visits.

The rules may not be fully enforced at the SGC but Jack was the 2IC and had made enemies throughout his career. It was that knowledge, and the limits his job placed on his relationship with Daniel that had him contemplating retirement and accepting a civilian post at the SGC more and more.

The one thing stopping Jack was Daniel. Jack knew Daniel wasn't ready to give up the challenge the Stargate offered. Not yet. And Jack wouldn't allow Daniel through the 'gate without him. Not anymore. They'd both had too many close calls; both lost too much to risk losing the love they'd found with each other.

Jack planned on sticking it out as long as he could for Daniel's sake. Once Jack was retired, Daniel would give up the 'gate for Jack's sake.

It was something they'd discuss on occasion. Jack found it hard to believe Daniel would be happy behind a desk, doing translations and analyzing data but Daniel told him it couldn't be any other way.

Jack lightly pushed his ass against Daniel's morning erection hoping he could wake Daniel and entice him into another shower.

"God, Jack. You're fucking insatiable," Daniel growled.

"Yeah, well I can't help it if you're irresistible," Jack responded. He got out of bed aware that Daniel was never at his best this early.

"Catch me later, okay?"

"Count on it, Doctor Jackson."

Jack ran through his morning routine, hunger and a craving for caffeine adding speed to his actions.

He indulged in a large breakfast and several cups of coffee thinking he'd be burning off any extra calories over the next few weeks.

He stopped by his office to grab the schedule he'd prepared yesterday along with a notepad and several pens. He sent an e-mail off to Daniel, Carter and Teal'c making a spur of the moment decision to brief SG1 last and alone.

As Hammond wanted the teams to begin 'gating tomorrow, Jack would be briefing several teams at once.

He had scheduled the first meeting at 07:30 hours allotting ninety minutes for each briefing. He'd told each team leader to have their team assembled and ready to brief thirty minutes before the scheduled time.

Jack was using the large room where yesterday's meeting took place. He wanted everybody comfortable enough to ask questions without worrying that people would miss something because they were crowded and cramped in the usual briefing room.

He needed to make sure each person in the room heard and understood exactly what he was saying. He wanted to make sure his unspoken words were made clear as well. It was an advantage that out and out idiots were quickly booted off the teams.

Whether the team was made up of all military or a combination of military and civilian, every member of each team had to be able to function in any situation in which they might find themselves.

To that end, in order to maintain a position on an SG team, each person received training in areas such as diplomacy and hostage negotiation. The ability to handle weapons was a requirement, not an option. Daniel ensured every person who walked through the 'gate was able to recognize the signs of previous civilizations and the proper methods to handle any artifacts they might return with.

Teal'c took on the responsibility of training each team member on basic Jaffa fighting methods as well as language basics. He ran advanced classes for those who were interested, and many were.

Each member of every team was able to properly collect plant, water, soil, mineral, insect and animal samples. In addition, each team member was taught how to assess topography looking for signs of volcanic activity, flooding, and earthquake damage as well as severe weather damage.

Once someone was assigned to a team, the learning curve was steep and continuous. Those that couldn't or refused to expand their knowledge were quickly replaced.

Jack began his day of briefings with the five SG teams that included diplomatic specialists. These three men and two women were members of the Air Force who had earned legal degrees.

All twenty members of the diplomatic teams had had extensive conventional diplomatic training and more training with Daniel in the methods to approach cultures for which there were no equivalents on Earth to avoid giving offense.

As Earth had diplomatic relationships already in place with the people these five SG teams would be visiting, their main job would be to strengthen the relationships and find out how open the various people would be to future trade.

"Good Morning, people. You've all got your assignments and most of you are familiar with the folks you're going to be visiting. Anyone have a problem with their assignment?"

Jack waited a beat, not expecting any complaints but giving the teams a chance to speak up. "Great. You'll spend three days on each planet making sure that our allies are happy with us and trying to figure out what they need.

"The main purpose of your mission will be to find out what would they be willing to take in trade if trade becomes necessary."

"What do we want back in trade, Sir?"

"A place to stay if needed, food, and supplies for a start."

"What are we authorized to offer?"

"Ah, that depends. Find out what they want and bring it back to us. Don't go beyond what we'd normally offer but if you think it's doable, it probably is."

Jack fielded questions for the next thirty minutes, reminded his people not to forget their daily check in and dismissed the teams.

Jack didn't mind briefings because it gave him a chance to observe SG teams that he didn't have much opportunity to interact with. He was second in command but his own duties kept him from knowing the people he served with as well as he would have liked. And it beat the hell out of paperwork.

The last briefing ran an hour and Jack was now ahead of schedule. He'd built in extra time for each briefing but was hoping he wouldn't need it. The missions were straight up collect what you can, threat assess and come home.

The next five teams entered the room, their high spirits very much in evidence. Jack smiled and gave them a few minutes to settle themselves.

"Okay, folks, let's get started. By now you've had the chance to review the MALP telemetry for your assigned planet. Keep in mind we didn't have the chance to use the UAV and the MALP gives us a fairly limited view.

"Each mission will last three days and we want every possible item collected. That includes tree bark and sap. You're to go at least fifteen klicks in a straight line away from the gate then begin your collection from that point and work your way back to the gate.

"You're each to make a threat assessment based on your observations. We're looking for the ability to defend the 'gate, any indication of the length of seasons, severity of winter and summer, seismic activity and the like. I want you all to pretend you'd need to spend the rest of your lives on each planet and make your recommendations with that in mind."

"What if we need more than three days?" someone called out.

"Let Major Davis know why you need more time and he'll make his decision based on the intel provided.

"We're also asking that you check for signs of any recent visits. And Doctor Jackson will thank you if you find any indications of ruins," he said, with a laugh.

As everyone in the room had trained with Daniel, this got a huge laugh, which broke some of the tension in the room. Jack thought he'd be using it in the rest of the briefings.

Jack advised that each team take a week's worth of rations just in case and the list of planets now being explored. He also wanted each team to memorize at least one address of a known ally.

There were a number of questions and Jack had to clarify a few points but the briefing lasted just over an hour.

The three other briefings went much the same way and Jack was able to eat lunch by 14:00 hours. SG1's briefing was scheduled for 16:00 hours.

*****

After her workout Sam showered and quickly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. She'd been so deeply asleep she never stirred when Janet came into their shared quarters.

When she awoke she found Janet still fast asleep. Sam dressed and went to get breakfast. After her usual sparse meal she went to her office to check her e-mail and to get her notes in preparation for SG1's briefing.

She opened the e-mail from Colonel O'Neill and readjusted her schedule for the later briefing. Sam decided to get in a little work before she talked to Daniel. She wanted him in as good a mood as possible. She promised herself she wouldn't lose her temper again.

At 11:00 hours, she grabbed a bag of cookies from her secret stash and went to Daniel's office, feeling confident. SG1 spent a lot of time in Sam's lab and in Daniel's office. It had always felt comfortable to Sam. As she knocked on the door, she realized she hadn't been to Daniel's office in months.

She'd never needed to knock before and she wondered why she was doing so now. Her feelings of confidence evaporated as she was assailed by a sudden bout of nerves. She didn't like the feeling; it put her on the defensive before she'd stepped through the door.

She heard Daniel telling her to come in. Putting a happy expression on her face, she entered the room.

She saw Major Davis seated comfortably on Daniel's couch. "I can come back if you're busy."

"Stay, Major Carter. I needed a short break and I figured no one would find me in Daniel's office. I was just about to leave," Paul answered, rising from his comfortable sprawl. "Thanks, Daniel. I'll see you later."

"Sure, Paul. Anytime." Daniel turned to Sam, a wary look on his face. ""Um, hi, Sam. What can I do for you?"

Sam awkwardly held out the bag of cookies, "Peace offering."

"Thanks?"

"Look, Daniel, I don't want this to come between us. I was wrong to ask for your help but I'd like your support if the Colonel and I start seeing each other."

"I don't want this to come between us either, Sam, but there's no way I can support a relationship between you and Jack."

"I don't understand you. Are you worried if we're together we're gonna leave you out? You've got to know that won't happen," Sam argued in her most persuasive tone.

"This isn't about me!"

"Then what is it about?" Sam hissed.

Daniel closed his eyes in an attempt to order his thoughts. "It's about you and Jack not being right for each other. It's about your happiness and his. It's about the fact you'd make each other miserable inside of a month," Daniel explained.

"I disagree, Daniel. I think we're more right for each other than you can even dream about. I have had some proof, if you recall. I think this is about you being jealous and worried you're going to lose your best friend."

"Sam, I'm not worried about my friendship with Jack. I am worried about what this is doing to you," Daniel said calmly, in an attempt at reasoning with Sam.

"It's natural to be concerned, Daniel. You spend a lot of time with the Col - with Jack. If I'm in the picture, he'll be spending more time with me than with you. But I think this could be a good thing for you," Sam continued, not bothering to address Daniel's last statement.

Daniel made another stab at logic hoping to convince Sam to give up her fantasy. "How can you want a relationship with someone you know nothing about?"

"I know enough. Besides, my alternate told me everything I need to know."

"That was a different Sam and a different Jack."

"Not that different, Daniel. No difference at all when it comes to the important stuff."

Daniel was at a loss. He didn't know the words to get through to the woman standing in front of him. She'd never be convinced until she forced Jack to stomp all over her heart. He didn't think the team would survive Sam's infatuation and he suddenly didn't care.

"You know what, Sam? You're a big girl. Do whatever you think is best. Just try and remember, I'm your friend."

Sam wasn't so sure of that anymore. "Not that I need your permission but I will be doing what I think is best. Best for me and best for Jack. I'm sorry you don't see it that way. But I really don't think you have to worry about losing Jack's friendship," she taunted, thinking she'd have no compunction about destroying that friendship.

"I'm sure I don't," Daniel answered quietly.

"You know, Daniel, as your friend, let me say I think you need to get laid," she said, in a falsely sweet voice.

"I'll take care of it as soon as possible," Daniel choked out.

Sam turned and left Daniel's office without another word. She was proud she'd kept her temper under control and proud she'd stood up for herself. Once the new Alpha and Beta sites were chosen and set up, she had every intention of going after Jack and landing herself a 6 foot 2 inch, rock hard, badass Colonel.

*****

Sam left a stunned and angry Daniel in her wake. He mentally reviewed their conversation and couldn't figure out how it had turned to shit so fast. He'd tried to clue Sam into reality but she seemed to be living in her own private fairytale where Jack was concerned.

He couldn't tell her the truth and he knew she was going to be very hurt at some point in time. He was seeing an ugly, illogical side of his friend he would have sworn didn't exist. He would never have believed she could be so petty and spiteful.

He'd always known she was self-absorbed and lacked the ability for self-analysis as well as the ability to fully empathize with others. He had never before this day seen her as a spoiled brat so focused on what she wanted she was willing to hurt whoever got in her way and disregard the reality of the situation.

Daniel was not looking forward to telling Jack.

*****

SG1 gathered in the usual briefing room at 16:00 hours.

Daniel had found Jack an hour earlier and haltingly explained his last, disastrous conversation with Sam. Jack had decided to play things by ear before he came to any final conclusions about Sam's place on the team. He would have no problem insisting she take leave until she got her head out of her ass.

Jack had gone so far as to review the list of other scientists available should he decide against taking her on the upcoming missions. The only thing preventing him from grounding her at this point was the almost guaranteed lack of danger. Had they been on the 'normal' 'gating schedule, he would have already spoken with Hammond.

Jack sauntered in the briefing room, taking in the seating arrangements. Sam had planted herself where Daniel normally sat, while Daniel, looking ill at ease, sat as far away as possible, Teal'c beside him.

Jack took his usual seat next to Daniel, as clear an indication her power play had failed as he could make. She knew it too, the look in her eyes betraying her. She turned her gaze on Daniel who met her eyes directly.

He let her see he wasn't backing down and he wouldn't be putting up with anymore of her shit.

"Okay, kids. I thought we were here to talk about the upcoming mission but clearly that's gonna have to wait. Carter, Daniel, okay if Teal'c stays in the room?"

"It's fine with me, Jack. This affects the whole team."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Sir," Sam said stiffly.

If that's the way you want to play it, Jack thought. "Daniel's told me," he stated coldly.

A panicked look passed over Sam's face before she got herself under control. "I see."

"I'll ask you again, do you want Teal'c to leave?"

"I'd like both Daniel and Teal'c to leave."

"That's not going happen, Carter. Given the nature of your argument with Daniel, I'm not about to put myself in a compromising position. Now we could keep this between us or we could go to Hammond. I'd like to see if we can work it out on our own."

Teal'c dark-eyed gaze took in the three people seated around the table when he heard the word 'compromising'. He thought he had some idea as to what the nature of the upcoming conversation would be.

"This won't affect my work, Ja - Sir," she stammered.

"Well, see, I think it already has. I wasn't planning on saying anything when I walked in here but I couldn't help noticing where you chose to sit. And that's not even mentioning your preference list, which didn't include sites SG1 would normally be assigned. Or did you forget the head of the Archeology Department is a member of SG1?" Colonel O'Neill barked, not bothering to hide his temper.

"This is supposed to be about finding a new Alpha and Beta site, not giving into Daniel's need to go exploring! I chose the most viable sites to achieve the stated goal."

"As a decorated officer, you should be aware personnel are assigned to maximize use of their expertise. There is no reason to believe an astrophysicist's or an archeologist's time is best spent gathering soil samples - even if the soil is on viable sites. And has it occurred to you there may be technology we could use in those ruins? How many times have we found technology because of Daniel's exploring?" he said coldly, talking to Sam as if she were the rawest cadet.

"How did this become about Daniel?"

"It became about Daniel when you let your argument with him cloud your professional judgment," Jack drawled, his voice dripping ice.

"I disagree, Sir."

"My opinion is the only one that matters, Carter," he enunciated clearly. "Now, let's get back to your argument with Daniel."

"Permission to speak freely, Sir?"

Jack nodded his head, giving silent consent.

"I really didn't want to do this with an audience but you've given me no choice. I'd like you to consider a relationship with me. I'm willing to request a transfer. I really think we'd be good together," Sam pleaded.

For a moment, Jack was shocked speechless. Carter had crossed so far over the line of expected behavior it was like looking at a different person. Jack had been trying to give her an easy out; he'd expected her to metaphorically slap her head and say 'what the fuck was I thinking?'

Jack looked at Daniel and Teal'c and saw his shock reflected in their eyes.

Turning back to Carter, he bit out each word, his anger visible, "You and me, Carter," he said, waving his hand between them, "never going to happen. Never. I don't care if there are ten thousand realities out there where our alternates are together, it will NEVER happen in this one. I want you to report to the infirmary for a complete medical check up. I'm relieving you of duty as of now. Teal'c will escort you."

When Sam did not immediately comply, Jack barked, "That's an order, Major!"

Sam, her shoulders slumped in defeat, rose to her feet and gave Daniel a withering glare. "This isn't over," she directed his way.

Teal'c gently took Sam's arm and led her to the infirmary.

Jack stomped over to the phone to call Fraiser. When she answered, Jack explained the problem. He answered a few questions and hung up, his shoulders hunched as he gave the orders that might destroy Carter's career.

"Holy shit, Jack. What the fuck just happened?" Daniel asked. The past few minutes had deeply shocked him. He'd wanted to go to Sam, to embrace her, but had been unable to move from the conference table, and he had a sick feeling the gesture would have been rejected.

"I'm not sure, Daniel. I've got to inform Hammond. Find Teal'c and I'll meet you back here when I'm done."

*****

Two hours later, Jack joined Daniel and Teal'c back in the briefing room. Daniel called the commissary to have three meals sent down to them.

"O'Neill, what is the situation?" concern for his teammates was evident in Teal'c's voice.

"I've spoken to Hammond and he's allowing us to postpone our mission for one day. We'll need to pick a fourth. I just got off the phone with Fraiser and Carter's sedated and sleeping. Oh, and she has no idea what could have caused Cater to suddenly lose her mind."

"I believe Major Carter was greatly affected by Doctor Carter's visit."

"I get that Teal'c. It would be enough to rattle anybody's cage - but to this extent?"

"Jack, I think there was an attraction to begin with and after finding out her alternate was married to an alternate you, she became a little obsessed. She's got a pretty intense and focused personality," Daniel said sadly. "I'm so sorry, Jack. I feel responsible."

"DanielJackson, none of this is your fault." While waiting for Jack, Daniel had told Teal'c about his argument with Sam. Teal'c felt Daniel had done everything to dissuade his teammate from a disastrous course of action. Major Carter had simply refused to listen to sound advice.

"I know, it's just that... Sam's my friend. She's going to feel humiliated."

"That is not your doing, DanielJackson. Major Carter is solely responsible for her actions."

"Somehow I don't think Sam will feel the same, Teal'c." Turning to Jack he said, "I wish she hadn't forced you into relieving her of duty."

"Daniel, there was no other way this was going to play out. Carter crossed a line and after what you told me she said earlier, I don't think there was anyway to let her down easy. Do you?"

"No, I don't think there was."

There was a knock on the door and an airman rolling a cart entered and delivered three trays to SG1. They began eating while Jack described the three planets he'd assigned the team. He passed over the still photos and watched Daniel's eyes light up.

"Why am I only getting this now?"

"My fault, Daniel. I made the assumption Carter sent you the images taken by the MALP. It never even occurred to me to ask you about it."

"I'll forgive you this time but only because you've had a few things on your mind," Daniel teased distractedly.

Exchanging an amused look with Teal'c after they both gave Daniel an affectionate glance over his distraction, Jack directed his question to Teal'c, "Any ideas for a fourth?"

"How about Bill Lee?" Daniel mumbled around a mouthful of food.

"He's aware of collection procedures?"

"I'll make sure of it."

"What do you think, Teal'c?"

"I concur, O'Neill. Bill Lee seems - competent."

"Cool. Find out tomorrow if we can have him and let me know. We'll meet again by 10:00 hours and bring Lee up to speed."

The men finished their meal in companionable silence. Although it was only 19:30, the last several hours had taken their toll on them all. Teal'c stood and took the dinner trays, mentioning his need to Kel'no'reem.

Jack and Daniel thanked him, bid him goodnight and left for their own quarters. The moment the door was closed and locked, Jack took Daniel in his arms.

"God, Jack. What a fucking mess."

"You were the one who said I had to be brutally honest. And you were right, Daniel. You know I didn't have a choice but to relieve her of duty?"

"I do, Jack. This might sound terrible but I almost hope Janet finds something wrong with her. I was angry with her but I didn't want it to end this way," Daniel whispered, his body leaning heavily into Jack's.

"Tell me what you need, babe."

Daniel made an effort to put his guilt aside, knowing he'd tried to stop this particular train wreck. What he needed was a way to redo this day and erase the complete meltdown of his friend. "I need to be inside you but I'm not comfortable doing that on base."

Jack thought if Hammond was right about the current crisis it wouldn't be long before Daniel was comfortable enough for penetrative sex on base. "Let's go to bed. I have something else in mind."

"What about the cot?"

"Fuck it. I'll take care of it later."

Both men stripped. Jack slowly kissed his lover, pushing him down on the bed. He nudged Daniel's knees apart and fit himself to Daniel's body.

"I want to suck you, Daniel. I want you to fuck my mouth."

"God, yes. I need you, Jack," Daniel begged, needing the touch of his lover, needing Jack's love to wash away the day's ugliness.

Jack slid down till he reached Daniel's balls. He licked at them, rolling them with his tongue. Hearing the low moans coming from the top of the bed, he started sucking. Daniel's legs spread as he canted his knees to give Jack better access.

Jack licked his way up the throbbing cock, hitching himself up a bit so he'd be able to take his lover's cock all the way down his throat. He sucked hard on the flared head of the swollen penis before him, his tongue probing the slit. Running his hands up Daniel's thighs, he pressed down on Daniel's hips to gentle the inevitable thrusts his mouth was sure to elicit.

He felt Daniel sliding over his tongue, flattening it. He could now smell the musk rising from Daniel's groin as he slid up and down on the cock in his mouth.

Jack released his grip on Daniel's hips giving silent permission to his lover to thrust and push into his mouth.

Digging his toes into the mattress and fisting the sheets tightly, Daniel thrust rhythmically into the hot, wet mouth surrounding his painfully hard dick.

Sweat began to dew his body and he was lost to everything but sensation. When he felt Jack's throat muscles working the head of his cock he turned his head into the pillow to muffle the impending scream.

He pushed into the mouth surrounding him a few more times and then he was pouring himself down Jack's throat. Exquisite in its intensity, his orgasm started in his cock and balls and then spread to encompass the whole of his body.

Afterward, Daniel was boneless and unable to move as the aftershocks stayed with him, wracking his body for some time.

When his breathing returned to normal he turned his attention back to Jack. He kissed him, sweet and slow.

Jack reached over to the small nightstand next to the bed and took out a small bottle of sandalwood scented massage oil. He pressed it into Daniel's hand and whispered, "Jerk me off?"

Giving his lover a wickedly seductive look, Daniel drizzled some oil onto his hand, warming it and eagerly took Jack's shaft into his large hand. This was a familiar dance for him. He knew how close his lover was and knew what he needed.

They began kissing as Daniel gently stroked Jack's penis from base to tip, and then from tip to base, slowly. Again and again and again.

When he heard Jack's breathing speed up and felt his body twisting, Daniel concentrated on the head, squeezing firmly as he moved his hand in short, hard jerks.

Jack tore his lips away from Daniel's mouth and came into his hand, groaning deeply, his hands clenching and his lower body thrusting off the bed.

They held each other, kissing softly and whispering words of love.

Daniel got up to get a washcloth. He cleaned his hand and Jack before getting back into bed.

"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said softly, staring with wonder at the complex man looking at him with such love. "I love you."

"You're just saying that cause I gave you a great blowjob," Jack teased.

"That's true, you did give me a great blowjob," Daniel said, blushing, even as he shivered remembering the feel of the Jack's mouth on him.

"You gonna be okay?" Jack asked, knowing Daniel would resume his worrying.

"I will be."

Jack left it at that. If Daniel needed to talk, he would. They said goodnight and were both sleeping by 22:00.

*****

The three remaining members of SG1 and Bill Lee met in the briefing room at 10:00 hours. They discussed the first planet they would 'gate to tomorrow. Teal'c volunteered to check the equipment and supplies they would need. He also offered his assistance to Lee should he have any questions about what to bring for this mission.

Seeing Bill's small nervous smile at Teal'c offer, Daniel gave him a reassuring grin in return.

Jack saw the byplay and nodded his head in approval. He was pleased that even with the addition of Bill Lee, a scientist they'd worked with infrequently, his team operated smoothly and as a cohesive unit.

At 11:00 hours, Jack dismissed Lee and SG1 remained in the briefing room waiting for General Hammond and Doctors Fraiser, Warner and MacKenzie.

The General began immediately. He was extremely concerned about Major Carter but unfortunately had much larger problems. "Have you found anything that would cause this - unusual behavior, Doctor?" he asked, directing his question to Fraiser.

"Major Carter has been undergoing tests since 04:00. We found two small anomalies in her EEG and MRI. We've also questioned Colonel O'Neill, Daniel, and Teal'c."

"What sort of anomalies, Doctor?"

"We're not exactly sure, General. Truthfully, if Major Carter hadn't exhibited such unusual behavior, we never would have noticed. All I can tell you at this point is the EEG and the MRI are slightly different from her baseline tests."

"Any theories?"

"Actually, yes. Major Carter is the only person to have spent so much time with an alternate version of herself. We know what close proximity did to Doctor Carter. I think this unusual behavior is the result to our version of Sam."

"Janet, how is that possible. Wouldn't it have shown up before now?" Daniel wanted to know.

"We're dealing with a complete unknown. But look at the evidence. Doctor Carter wasn't in the military or on SG1; she was however, working in the Stargate program and married to General O'Neill. It's almost as though our Sam has assimilated Doctor Carter's feelings, perhaps on the quantum level. Anyone who knows Sam knows how much her position on SG1 means to her. And, no offence, Colonel O'Neill, but can you really see her resigning to live happily ever after with you?" Janet explained. As Sam's friend, she'd known there was a bit of attraction on her part but not this obsessive, over the top need.

Jack snorted at Janet's last remark. As Janet was his doctor, she had long ago figured out which way he leaned.

"Doctor MacKenzie?" General Hammond turned to the SGC's beleaguered psychiatrist.

"If I were presented this case without the evidence Doctors Fraiser and Warner found and without the knowledge of the quantum mirror, I'd say Major Carter had suffered a major depressive episode brought on by the stress of 'gate travel. But I think Doctor Fraiser's theory has merit," MacKenzie said mildly. He was fully aware of the animosity directed his way by the three men on SG1.

"Recommendations?" General Hammond barked. He'd wanted the damn mirror destroyed the second he found out what it was. Major Carter was needed; her skill set was unique and damn near irreplaceable.

"I have placed Major Carter on medical leave. I don't see any problem allowing her to work but not on any SG team, not at the present time. I also think that for the time being there should be no contact between her and Colonel O'Neill or Doctor Jackson," Janet said slowly, reluctantly. She didn't add that if Daniel were anywhere near Sam she would be required to be under guard given her violent reaction this morning to his name.

"Will that fix things?" Jack asked the room in general.

"Unknown, Sir," answered Janet. "I also recommend we find a quantum physicist. He or she may find something I don't know enough to look for." Janet allowed her frustration with her own lack of skills to show through. Sam was her friend and she'd felt deep pity for her when she'd broken down in uncontrollable sobbing after Teal'c left the infirmary.

"That's a good idea, Doctor. Get Major Davis on it right away. And keep me or Colonel O'Neill apprised of any change. If that's all, people? Dismissed."

*****

Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c left the meeting and went their separate ways. They agreed to meet for lunch and to call if they thought of something before then.

Jack strolled into the control room overlooking the 'gate. There were ten teams scheduled to go offworld today, with ten more, including SG1 leaving tomorrow and five the day after.

The control room as well as the 'gate room would be staffed 24 hours a day until all the teams were back. Jack wanted round the clock staffing in the event of emergencies, check ins, questions, or if any teams decided something had to be checked out by the scientists immediately.

That this was all happening so fast was a sign of just how serious the situation was. Jack had spoken with Paul and listened in growing admiration as he detailed all he'd accomplished thus far.

There were now three dozen new scientists, in addition to the resident scientists, scheduled to work around the clock once the intel started coming in. A dozen new labs, each with enough space to house five workers were up and running. A massive amount of goods and equipment were packed neatly away awaiting transport to whichever two planets proved to be most suitable.

The Isolation rooms would be completed within a week. Jack had been impressed and didn't hesitate to let Major Davis know. He was glad it was Paul and not him in charge of coordinating the details.

Jack spent the rest of his day answering last minute questions for the teams still on base and catching up on paperwork. He spoke to Janet to find out how Carter was doing and if there was anything he could do to help. Jack wasn't surprised to hear there had been no change and the best way to help was to stay away.

By the time he made it to quarters, he was ready to go to bed. He showered, got into bed and pulled the blankets over his head. When he heard Daniel come in he surrendered to sleep.

*****

SG1 stepped out of the wormhole and found themselves at the top of a high, broad platform. The air was crisp and clean, and held a slight chill. The sky was a deep blue dotted with wispy clouds that did nothing to conceal the bright sun.

The height of the platform allowed for a comprehensive 360-degree view. They spied the ruins the MALP had filmed but a half-mile beyond and to the left of those ruins stood a large, seemingly intact town.

Despite the town, the planet had that indefinable feeling of being uninhabited. Even Lee felt it, though he hadn't been offworld often.

There were large fields of tall grass surrounding the Stargate, the town and the ruins. Beyond the town, a mature forest loomed. In the far distance, snow-capped mountains could be seen.

Jack looked through his binoculars and saw a wide river snaking its way up to and beyond the town. He spied a herd of deer-like animals on the far side of the river. As he continued to look, he saw several large flocks of birds and a number of large birds spiraling high in the sky.

"Jack, I need some help here and a lot more than three days," Daniel said, excitement forcing the words quickly out of his mouth.

"Daniel, that's going to have to wait, we need to see if this planet is viable for a new Alpha or Beta site before we bring in more archeologists. Dial up the gate, I want a UAV to do a flyover." Jack hated to disappoint his lover but they had to complete the survey first.

Despite what he'd told Daniel, to his eyes this planet seemed ideal. He'd be keeping it at the top of his list unless there were some serious problems or two other planets turned out to be paradise. If this planet didn't pan out, he'd beg Hammond if he had to in order to give this to Daniel at a later date.

"Jack, do you know what the chances are of finding so many well preserved buildings?"

"You don't even know how old this place is. For all you know it could have been abandoned last week. I'll tell you what, I'll request two people to help Lee and Teal'c with the collection and we'll take the whole three days to explore that town."

Daniel looked at his lover with gratitude. He didn't expect special treatment in the field and he didn't get it. Jack knew him well enough to understand he wouldn't ask for something unless it was important. Daniel had a gut feeling the town would hold many secrets.

Once a wormhole was established, Paul was quickly tracked down. When he heard Jack's request he agreed to send both the UAV and two additional personnel.

Jack ordered Teal'c and Lee to begin their collection, asking them to also collect some droppings from the deer-like animals he'd seen; seeing animals near the 'gate was unusual. The droppings might give some indication if the animals Jack had seen were edible and safe to eat.

Jack was feeing better and better about this planet. The presence of animals near the 'gate was another indication the planet was uninhabited and had been for some time.

Jack keyed his mic, "Teal'c, Daniel and I are heading for the town. Keep your eyes open. Radio contact every two hours."

"Acknowledged, O'Neill."

They headed for the town, Daniel practically dancing in excitement. Jack gave him an indulgent smile; he loved seeing Daniel like this.

They stopped at the ruins first and Daniel had a quick look around. Daniel estimated there were about fifty small buildings, of which only the foundations could be seen. Large slabs of rock littered what might have once been pathways.

"I don't think we're going to find much here. I need to see the town before I can figure out what these building were used for."

"Lead on."

As they neared the town, Daniel's excitement grew. It had been apparent even from the 'gate the town was largely intact. As they neared the town, excitement turned to amazement. The entire town looked as though it had been built last week.

Daniel didn't recognize the building materials at all. He'd thought the entire town was built with marble but upon touching the first small building he reached, the material proved to be much harder than any marble he'd ever encountered. He scraped a small sample, bending his scraper in the process. Despite his difficulty, he was able to get a sizable sample of the pale pinkish-white material.

While Daniel was getting his first sample, Jack's radio broke the silence. "Colonel O'Neill? This is Nita Patel. I'm here with Conrad Look. Where do you want us to start?"

"Walk south of the 'gate at least ten klicks, then make your way back east. Radio contact every two hours." Teal'c and Lee had gone north and would be working their way back west. Jack wanted as much ground covered as possible.

He recognized the names Patel and Look from his perusal of the list of available scientists. Patel was a geologist and Look a climatologist. Both had been offworld several times and they were among the scientists included in Hammond's meeting.

Both would have input on whatever planets were eventually selected for the new sites. Paul had chosen brilliantly and Jack was getting an idea why Hammond had tapped him in the first place.

"Jack, I need to walk around a little bit," Daniel broke into Jack's thoughts.

Daniel turned right and began walking the overgrown path. When they'd passed several identical buildings, he walked into the town.

The town was circular with the buildings increasing in size the closer they got to the center. The first two rings of the circle contained buildings identical in size and shape. Daniel guessed the first three rings would also contain a similar number of structures.

The next three rings contained almost identical looking buildings except for their increasingly larger size.

Each house was well spaced from its neighbor and the pathways leading to each house and each circle were broad and graceful.

The sixth circle had houses that were larger still and had carvings on the faŤade of each building.

The next circle contained twenty even larger and more ornately decorated buildings.

The space between the houses in the sixth and seventh circles gave the illusion of privacy.

The eighth and ninth rings held ten and four buildings, all of which were beautifully built, elaborately ornate, and large enough to hold hundreds if not a few thousand people. There were large spaces in front of each building in these circles, each open area flowing into the space of the adjacent buildings.

In the center of it all a huge, multi-story structure rose as though grown from the ground. The front entrance was elegant, with its wide porch and towering columns. Wide, graceful steps led up to the porch. The double doors leading to its interior were massive. Its craftsmanship rivaled any building Daniel had ever seen on Earth or offworld.

This building was surrounded by overgrown gardens, in which walking paths could still be seen.

Daniel had never seen any habitation built or laid out in quite this way.

It was difficult to estimate how large the town was but at a guess he thought it was at least three miles from the innermost circle to the outer ring, making the town at least six miles in diameter.

He knew the most important building lay in the center. It couldn't be clearer. He was reluctant to start there, feeling it would entice him away from the whole.

He turned to his lover, "Jack, we've got to go back to the first circle. I've got a hunch."

Jack straightened from his hunker, swung his P-90 into his grip and asked, "What sort of hunch?"

"I'll let you know as soon as I confirm it."

"Daniel."

"Just give me a few minutes to work it out in my mind."

They walked back to the first ring of buildings and Daniel stood aside to allow Jack to threat assess. Although he didn't think there was any danger, it wasn't worth an argument.

Jack entered the building, his senses alert. The moment his entire body crossed the threshold, overhead lights turned on and a low hum filled the house.

Jack was in a large, empty center room. The back wall contained a large counter and what appeared to be a sink. There were two short hallways, one to the right and another to the left that led to two other rooms. Jack went right and found a small empty chamber with three windows set high. When the door to this room opened, overhead lights turned on. Jack, still alert for danger checked out the last room. Again, lights came on when the door was opened. He found another empty room, this one somewhat larger with six windows set mid-way between the floor and the ceiling. A door on the far wall opened to what appeared to be a bathing chamber.

Jack walked back to the open door and told Daniel to come have a look. He entered the building and had a quick look around, nodding his head and muttering to himself. When he'd checked the three rooms and the bathing room, he took a look at the larger counter. Running his hands under what appeared to be the sink's faucet produced a stream of water. He waved his hands over the counter, finally touching it but nothing happened.

Jack watched him with his usual interest. Daniel, intent and focused on his job, fascinated him. It was watching Daniel do his job that had drawn Jack's eye initially. It hadn't taken him long before he'd found himself deeply in love with the archeologist.

Daniel stopped his fiddling and told Jack they could go.

"You want to tell me what's going on?"

"I think these smaller buildings are homes. Probably the first seven rings are houses based on their shape. The higher the status, the larger the house."

"What about the big buildings?"

"I won't know that until I take a look around. And unless I find some writing or someone's left some stuff laying around, we may never know."

Daniel insisted on returning to the center building. Whatever it held it was the focal point of this culture. He thought the chances of finding anything would be greatest there and that's where he intended to concentrate his efforts.

A tentative push on the massive doors had them swinging inwards with ease. They entered the large building together. The building was simply too large for one man to go in without backup. They walked into a large lobby and watched as the lights came on. High open arches led to other rooms. An elegant double staircase led to the upper levels. There was a huge, round table in the middle of the echoing room. Daniel approached it and picked up a plastic like sheet. There were symbols somehow etched upon it.

"Squiggles?" Jack asked, amusement coloring his tone.

"Yep."

By unspoken agreement, they went further into the room and through the arch ahead of them. The room they entered was filled with tall shelves that lined the walls. The shelves were filled with volumes of bound sheets of plastic.

"It's a library, Jack! A huge fucking library!"

"I got that, Daniel."

"Jack, you need to go look at the other buildings. Now," Daniel said, certainty and authority clear in his voice.

"I'm not exactly comfortable leaving you alone here."

"I'm assuming you noticed the lights going on when we stepped into the building. Dark buildings mean no one's at home. Did the MALP telemetry show an energy source?"

"No, but you're right, there's got to be one somewhere. Any suggestions where to look?"

"Not a fucking clue... but if I had to guess, I'd say in one of the buildings in the third circle."

*****

The three days went by quickly. Each night SG1 and the scientists met and discussed their impressions and what they'd found while sitting around a fire and eating dinner.

Jack had explored the third circle of buildings taking some time to investigate the ten structures as carefully as possible.

As the buildings were largely empty it was difficult to say what function some of them had served.

One building had what Jack took to be a stage with seating surrounding it so he concluded it was used for entertainment. Another building contained several large and empty pools. There were many other empty rooms but it still felt like a gym to Jack. Yet another structure contained long tables made of the same material as all the buildings with massive storage units in another room and counters similar to the one he'd seen in the first house investigated. He assumed it was a communal eating area.

There were no similar clues in the remaining buildings. What purpose they'd served would have to remain a mystery for the time being.

Jack found what he took to be the power source but it was entirely alien to anything he'd ever seen before; it would take a team of engineers and other experts to figure it out.

Daniel investigated room after room in the central library and found thousands of books. Jack came with him as they explored the four buildings in the second circle, finding various size rooms and more books. He found three separate and distinct systems of writing. He had taken a number of them, carefully noting where they came from and was eager to begin his translation.

Teal'c, Lee, Patel, and Look had collected samples of soil, roots, leaves, twigs, bark, animal droppings, flowers and anything else they could find growing on trees, bushes, plants and underground. Teal'c had also brought down one of the birds with his staff weapon.

Patel told them the land seemed to be seismically stable based on outcrops she'd seen as well as the lack of ash in the soil, which would have indicated volcanic eruptions. There was more work to be done before she was absolutely sure but her preliminary assessment looked promising.

Look would need much more data before he'd be able to determine the planets long- range climate. A look at tree rings from a fallen tree suggested no extreme climate problems but he'd need more than that in order to be accurate.

None of them wanted to say so out loud but their excitement was palpable. This planet seemed perfect for their needs. The Stargate was in an easily defensible position, there was ready-made housing, and technology waiting to be discovered and exploited. If the water proved to be safe, and the soil fertile with a long enough growing season, this planet would be at the top of the list for an offworld base.

The three days allotted were over far too soon. Jack could have ordered more time on the planet but there would have been no point. They'd collected enough samples and two more days would not garner them any more information. Even Daniel agreed that two extra days would be insufficient for the task of translating three new languages.

It was time to go home and time to let the scientists test their samples.

*****

SG1 and their borrowed experts returned to the SGC in triumph. They were ordered to the infirmary for their post-mission check ups. Jack and Daniel entered the infirmary with some trepidation, expecting to see Sam.

Fraiser explained she had been moved to a private recovery room but was currently in her lab. There had been no change in her EEG or MRI in the three days they'd been gone.

Janet released them and they hurried to write up their mission reports and get them to Paul. Both Jack and Daniel had a private word with him and he promised to make the samples they'd collected a priority.

The next two weeks saw a flurry of activity and the SGC's corridors, commissary and labs were busy around the clock.

Supplies continued to pour into the base and they were all carefully stored.

SG1 and Bill Lee surveyed two additional planets with signs of previous civilizations but the ruins were so ancient as to be worthless.

As Paul had predicted, some of the scientists were kicking up their heels at having to do the menial task of processing samples. Jack caught him in action as he soothed ruffled feathers, and was understanding and stern in turns. He stayed on top of them, constantly pushing and soon the first results were coming in.

Paul had updated Jack once all the teams were back and he had their reports. He consolidated the reports and gave Jack bullet point summaries. His hard work would ultimately make Jack's job easier.

Of the twenty-eight planets visited, ten were immediately taken out of the running. While it might be possible to survive, they weren't ideal for long-term occupation. Problems included feral bear-like creatures and poisonous thorns that didn't kill but produced painful swellings that lasted for days. One planet had primitive hominid-like creatures and one planet's oxygen levels were extremely low. One planet's Stargate was located high in the mountains and another near an active volcano.

Major Davis also briefed Colonel O'Neill on the results of the diplomatic missions. All their allies but one were willing to host members of the SGC and were open to trade. As a goodwill gesture, the teams sent medicine and tools to those allies asking for a future exchange of food if it were needed. The food would have been offered even without this goodwill gesture as gratitude for past help. The only thing the majority of Earth's allies asked for was that SGC personnel work and live as true members of society if they were to live among them.

As the preliminary test results came in, Paul requested another meeting. Fourteen planets were eliminated for various reasons, including infertile soil and prolonged drought. That left Jack with four planets, including the first planet he'd surveyed to choose from.

Jack called his team together to brief them. They'd be going to the four final choices in order to give Hammond the three locations he'd requested. Jack knew the General would take any and all recommendations seriously and he'd wanted to get it clear in his own mind that the planet he considered ideal, was. He didn't want there to be any question his relationship with Daniel had influenced his decision in any way.

They would be spending a day on each planet unless problems developed. They'd 'gate from each planet to the next rather than return to the SGC. Jack wanted the comparisons to be fresh in their minds.

Jack told Daniel and Teal'c to be ready to 'gate in two days time. It felt a bit like a preparing for a vacation. There would be no samples to collect, no aliens, no people, and no goal other than to poke around and record their impressions.

*****

During the two-week period the SGC was waiting on the results of all the samples collected, Doctor Fraiser oversaw the final construction of the Isolation rooms, which had taken a bit longer than anticipated. She also continued to look for a solution to Sam's problem.

One of the nation's leading quantum physicists was brought in and was now working closely with Janet in order to find a solution. Doctor Cary Feinstein insisted the mirror be brought into the SGC so he could examine it. In his first week, he had informed General Hammond and Doctor Fraiser the chances of him finding a quick solution to Sam's problem were zero.

He agreed to stay on at the SGC and continue to work on solving the problem. The Air Force arranged to move his family to Colorado Springs and take care of the many details involved in moving half way across the country. His wife, Brenda, an astrophysicist was also brought on board to help Sam.

The anomalies discovered in Sam's EEG and MRI were still present in each subsequent test and her mental state remained unchanged.

Janet spent many hours in her office reviewing Sam's test results and attempting to find answers. Her mind constantly replayed her conversations with her friend.

Sam was furious she'd been relieved of duty and blamed Daniel. She couldn't believe he'd told Jack about their last conversation, forcing her into making a premature declaration. She had refused to believe Jack wouldn't even consider a relationship with her; she also refused to give up her belief Daniel was influencing him due to his jealousy.

Sam had heard Jack's no, but was convinced she could change his mind if she were allowed to talk privately with him. Janet wouldn't even consider it.

Janet explained what she believed happened but Sam dismissed her theory with a wave of her hand, saying it was impossible.

As Sam refused to see the situation for what it was, Janet now insisted Sam see MacKenzie for an hour each day. She was afraid her friend had lost touch with reality. Jack's 'no' had been clear and quite emphatic according to him, Daniel and Teal'c.

Janet was deeply troubled by Sam's refusal to accept Jack's answer as well as her anger toward Daniel. As their doctor, she had her suspicions about the true nature of their relationship. She feared for their safety should Sam discover this, which had prompted her to insist on MacKenzie.

The fact was, Sam was not entirely rational right now, not when it came to her longing for Jack. Janet was hoping MacKenzie would force her to accept the reality that Jack wasn't about to change his mind and was uninterested in a relationship with her.

If Janet and Doctor Feinstein couldn't find any way to fix the problems she believed were caused by close contact with Doctor Carter, the only alternative was to allow Sam time to mourn and get over her infatuation with Jack.

*****

SG1 returned from their latest mission and debriefed with General Hammond and Major Davis.

They'd designated the planets Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta for ease of conversation. The planet with the deserted town was being called Gamma for the moment.

Jack, Daniel and Teal'c were all in agreement as to which two planets should be used for offworld bases, Gamma being one and Beta the other. There was little difference on the surface between Beta and Delta but the 'gate on Beta was in a better defensive position. Also, the initial survey of Beta indicated a large amount of fossil fuel.

Alpha was eliminated almost immediately. The five men discussed the merits of all three sites for a time and soon eliminated Delta. Beta was re-designated Alpha and Gamma would now be called Beta.

Hammond wanted the scientists on Alpha and Beta ASAP, along with two SG teams each. Although the preliminary tests had yielded up much information, Hammond wanted more extensive and detailed testing.

Once the experts could inform Hammond about important details such as long-range weather, food and water sources, and the adaptability of Terra flora and fauna of each planet with more surety, he wanted the sites set up and ready for occupation.

He gave SG1 two days downtime to take care of any personal business and to relax. After that, he wanted them on Beta to oversee the scientists. Should everything check out, Hammond wanted them in place to set up the base. Jack was given command of Beta. Once SG1 'gated to Beta, SG4 would return home and SG2 would remain to assist Jack.

Hammond gave temporary command of Alpha to Colonel Edwards. He and his team, SG5 would be joined by SG7.

Major Davis would be the liaison between the SGC and Alpha and Beta, coordinating all their requirements and shipping out all needed materials to the sites.

After SG1 was dismissed, the General asked Paul to remain behind.

"Major Davis, how many people can the new Isolation rooms hold?" Hammond asked.

"About a thousand at full capacity."

"Can that be stretched to fifteen hundred?"

"Provided no one is ill, we can probably stretch it to eighteen hundred. It wouldn't be very comfortable but it's doable," Paul replied in calm and measured tones.

The General held Paul's eyes, taking the full measure of the man. "Major, if you have someone you're close to, it may be a good idea to have them stay in Colorado Springs for awhile," Hammond said, having made his decision.

"Sir?"

"Major Davis, I think we're going to need a few more supplies. Enough for two thousand people. Is there anyway we could - let's say, sneak them in under the radar?"

"I think I can - sneak them in, Sir. I take it you would prefer Washington remains - unaware."

"Yes, Major. I would absolutely prefer Washington remains unaware."

"Understood, General," Paul said, acting as though this was any other order he'd been given in the course of a normal day. It was anything but. He knew his decision to follow these particular orders without reporting back to the Pentagon or the Joint Chiefs could end his career.

Paul had been keeping close tabs on the rumor mill at the Pentagon. He was well-liked and well-placed to hear them all. He'd been disturbed about the rumors before he arrived at the SGC and the current rumors had him even more concerned. Concerned enough that he was willing to put his career on the line and back Hammond's play.

*****

SG1 'gated to Beta and found SG2 and SG4 had been busy. A large command tent had been set up midway between the 'gate and the town. Neat rows of tents had been set up surrounding another large tent being used as the mess. Other tents, serving as temporary labs and offices stood behind the smaller tents.

Jack, Daniel and Teal'c headed for the command tent, finding Majors Coburn and Richards looking over a large schematic drawing of the town.

As they noticed SG1, Coburn and Richards, jumped to their feet, smiling.

"Colonel O'Neill," they said in unison.

"At ease," Jack grinned. "You two look busy."

"Yes, Sir. You'll be happy to know the engineers have decided the structures designated as housing are ready for occupation," Major Coburn said. Seeing the look of displeasure on Daniel's face, he continued, "We haven't touched any of the buildings in the three centermost rings with the exception of the building where the power source is located, as per Doctor Jackson's instructions."

Daniel's scowl eased as he asked, "Was anything found?"

"No, every single house was completely empty."

"Has there been any progress toward figuring out the power source?" Jack asked.

Coburn and Richards exchanged a look. Richards turned back to Jack, saying "They pressed a few buttons and that brought the power fully on but it's going to take a lot longer to figure out how it works. The houses are fully powered up though. We were just waiting for you to give the orders before we start moving in, Colonel."

"Good job," Jack replied. "I'll need to speak to the head of every department before that happens. Major Richards, thank you for your help. You can take your team and 'gate back whenever you're ready."

"Thank you. Sir. I look forward to coming back." Richards saluted Jack and left to collect his team.

Jack turned his attention back to Coburn. "I know you haven't had much time but I'd like you and your team to bring us up to speed. I want to hear all preliminary reports."

Coburn keyed his mic and asked his team to come to the command tent and to corral an engineer or two along the way.

Five days later SG1 had heard from all the scientists, in detail. Some were able to provide them with needed information, while others said the information needed might take months or even years to gather. None foresaw any major barriers to opening Beta as an offworld site immediately.

Jack now had as complete a picture of Beta as he could in the short time that had elapsed since SG1's initial survey of the planet. He reported to Major Davis who would begin sending supplies and personnel through the 'gate within the next three days.

Jack had Major Coburn assign housing to the personnel planetside, reserving one of the larger houses for himself and Daniel, claiming they both needed offices within their dwelling for the long days of work ahead of them as well as for ease of communication.

Coburn designated one of the twenty largest homes to them, saying Doctor Jackson needed to be close to the library.

Daniel opened one of the smaller libraries and assigned office and lab space to each team of scientists. He also opened what he and Jack assumed to be the communal dining area. As soon as cooks and fresh food started to arrive, meals would be taken there.

By the time Paul began to send supplies and personnel through the 'gate, all the tents had been struck, with the exception of the mess and the command center. Until Jack decided which building would best serve as a command center, the tent was convenient.

Paul also sent dozens of piglets, kids, and lambs along with several flocks of chickens, twenty head of cattle, a dozen horses and two-dozen puppies of various breeds. The pens and stables for the animals had been built and were awaiting their occupants. The brass wanted the offworld sites on a paying basis as quickly as possible.

As each person arrived, they were given quarters and then put to work receiving their instructions from Teal'c or Coburn, while SG2 ensured those orders were carried out. Daniel began to work on translating three new languages. Jack oversaw it all.

*****

Ali Nader finished busing his last table and went to collect his pay from Joseph and Anna DeMartino. Six months ago he had asked Anna to hold some of his tip money aside as he wished to buy his girlfriend a gift.

Tonight he asked Anna for the money which amounted to two hundred and fifty dollars. He had no intention of buying a gift for his non-existent girlfriend. Along with his weekly salary of three hundred dollars, he was hoping he had enough money to buy his freedom.

Ali said goodnight, acting as though he'd see his employers the next night, just as he'd done six nights a week for the last year.

Three days ago, he'd been given the small package now hidden deep within his backpack. The five other men he shared the cramped apartment with had been given identical packages. They were each told to have the package with them at all times, along with the beeper they'd each been handed.

Two weeks ago he'd been required to start taking two pills a day as protection from the contents of the package. Ali had dutifully swallowed the pills and had secretly inquired about buses leaving the Denver area.

When he was sent to this house in Denver, he and the other men were told they would be required to spray various metropolitan areas with an irritating chemical in order to prove the high and mighty United States was not immune to attack from within her own borders.

Last night, a van had taken away his roommates. He was to remain in Denver.

But Ali had no intention of letting loose any chemical on the citizens of Denver. He no longer believed the pills he'd been given would protect him from anything, just as he didn't believe the contents of the package were merely an irritating but ultimately harmless chemical.

Ali was scared. Six months after he'd arrived in Denver, another man sharing the apartment had started to ask questions. When that man never returned to the apartment, Ali began to make his plans. He was certain that other man had been killed, although he had no proof. He'd learned asking questions could be unhealthy.

He'd been keeping his head down, making his careful plans slowly.

Ali found himself wondering how he'd landed in this mess. Two years ago, he'd been a seventeen-year-old boy, living in his father's home in a village too small and mean to even appear on a map.

The village consisted of his extended family, the nominal head of which was his uncle, Mohammad. They eked out a living on the poor soil, every year's yield decreasing as they had no money for good seed, fertilizer, or much else.

When two men, richly dressed and driving a gleaming black car offered Ali a job and his father five hundred dollars, American, Ali couldn't turn it down. He left despite his mother's tears, thinking to help his family and himself at the same time.

Ali would sometimes accompany his father to a nearby town where he was exposed to music and newspapers and on one memorable occasion, the miracle that was television.

He heard a lot of talk in the town about the evils of America and the West but he didn't pay much attention. His father never engaged in what he called 'politics' and Ali took his cue from him. They were too busy trying to earn enough money to put food in their bellies to care much for what was happening elsewhere.

Ali had dreams and longed to leave his village and a life already mapped out for him. If this was the only way to leave, he was ready to take a chance. He longed for things he could never have if he stayed.

And so, Ali had left with the well-dressed men in their gleaming black car. A six-hour car ride, a two-hour plane trip and a four-hour bone jarring truck ride later, Ali was at a camp with dozens of other young men just like him.

There were a number of languages being spoken and Ali would sometimes see men in suits and sunglasses being ferried in and out the camp in the early morning hours. He kept his ears open and unobtrusively watched everything that went on.

He'd been able to figure out the people seemingly in charge weren't. The men truly in charge were those who visited between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. He knew some of them were Iranian; he heard rumors the others were North Korean.

By the time he was sent to New York, where he lived and learned English for a year, he was still unclear as to what sort of job he'd been hired for.

Ali was now all too clear about what was expected of him. He didn't trust the men who visited the apartment once per week and he didn't trust any of the men he lived with. He was afraid he would endanger any of the people he did trust should he confide in them, so he kept it all inside.

Ali found he liked the States. He liked the openness and childlike ways many Americans had, eager for each new thing, grabbing out with both hands. He'd made many friends, both in New York and Denver. He was staring to feel he belonged among these people, all signs of his old life blasted away in the frenzy that was New York.

Whatever was contained in the package hiding in his backpack would never be inflicted on the people of Denver, not by his hands. His suspicions that the contents were dark and deadly spurred his plans. Tonight, he was leaving for Colorado Springs where he would turn himself and his package over to the military working out of Cheyenne Mountain.

It was a journey of only seventy miles, but to Ali, running scared, the journey seemed far greater.

*****

Although the bus ride to Colorado Springs lasted only ninety minutes, it took Ali some time to make his way to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which was his starting point to the base. He had memorized the route weeks ago. He hadn't arrived in the Springs until 2:00 AM and buses going to the zoo had stopped running long ago. He had been forced to walk a great deal further than anticipated.

As Ali walked, he found himself looking over his shoulder every few minutes. The closer he got to the base, the better the chances of getting shot were. He thought it was better to be killed trying to do the right thing than to get killed for failing to do the wrong thing.

The base was situated within two miles of the zoo and Ali had walked for several hours before he reached the zoo; he expected to be arrested long before he made it anywhere near the entrance of the base. He hoped it wouldn't take long before he was able to speak to someone in charge. He knew he was racing the clock.

Moments before he was arrested his beeper went off.

*****

It was two hours before Major Davis appeared in Ali's holding cell.

He'd had a very bad moment when his backpack was searched and the package discovered. The SF ripping into it laughed when it turned out to be a can of deodorant. As he was looking for weapons or explosives he returned the deodorant to the backpack.

When Ali saw Paul's eyes and air of calm command, he felt himself breathing a sigh of relief. He quickly explained what had brought him to Cheyenne Mountain.

Paul immediately called for a Hazmat Unit, the CDC doctors and then quarantined himself, Ali and anyone who'd had contact with him.

*****

When Ali's beeper went off, so had dozens upon dozens of others throughout the world. In major urban centers around the planet, young, desperately poor and in many cases, ignorant young men began spraying the contents of aerosol cans. They'd been promised immunity from the chemical they were spraying.

They were the first to die.

*****

The rogue governments of Iran and North Korea - run by paranoid megalomaniacs, hostile to the rest of the world - had carefully planned this moment for years. That the disease, which would soon spread, would not spare their own people was immaterial.

All that mattered was they had made the final and decisive move.

*****

Hammond had been notified five minutes after Major Davis called for the quarantine. Far too late to stop what appeared to be on the surface yet another incremental step in the escalating acts of terrorism.

But not too late to enact his back up plan carried out without official orders. If he were wrong, he'd be court martialed and most likely jailed, ending his fairly impressive career in disgrace. But George made it a habit to listen to his gut and it told him he was right. He got on the PA system and spoke the words many had never expected to hear, "It's time to load the boat, people."

George then went to his office and called his daughter, while many SGC personnel pulled out their cell phones, desperation and fear in their eyes. Sergeant Harriman sent out the prearranged e-mail and phone alerts to the families of those who were currently offworld before making his own phone call.

Hammond would wait three hours before putting the mountain on lockdown and before calling the President.

*****

As the spouses, partners, children and grandchildren of SGC staff began arriving, they were greeted by personnel in self-contained Hazmat suits and placed in the Isolation rooms on level seventeen.

The visiting scientists and CDC doctors and virologists were not made aware of their presence. They were busy with an innocent looking can of deodorant, treating it as a level four pathogen.

Doctor Fraiser felt the family members arrived well before there could have been exposure to any biohazard or chemical agent. To be sure, she was recommending a ten-day quarantine.

It was pure luck the SGC had uncovered a terrorist attack within hours of it occurring. Even if Ali had made it to the mountain before his beeper went off, there would have been no time to stop the attack.

General Hammond spoke with the President who was due to give his State of the Union address in a few short hours. The President decided he would go ahead with his speech and not alert the nation or any other government about recent events.

George wished him 'Godspeed', trying and failing to prevent the hitch in his voice.

The next few days saw another flurry of activity within the SGC. The General consulting with Paul by telephone had the supplies put aside for just such an emergency shipped through to Alpha and Beta.

Hammond ordered all equipment not being used be readied for transport. Daniel's office was packed as were all personal belongings of the people offworld and unable to take care of these details.

The deodorant can was found to contain what was being called weaponized H1N1. One of the virologists who had worked on mapping the genome of the 1918 Spanish influenza realized the virulent bird flu they were now studying contained bits of the 1918 strain.

A cure had never been found and mixed with bird flu he predicted a devastating pandemic wouldn't be long in the making.

The first cases of flu were being reported three days after the terrorist attack took place.

Two days later, the first deaths were being reported and hospitals and private physicians stopped reporting new flu cases, as they were quickly overwhelmed. The flu was now global.

Everyone in the mountain remained healthy.

The President called to inform the General he was sick and his wife had died. He knew of no one within the government's chain of command who hadn't fallen ill or died. No one in the press corps was well enough to have reported the illnesses or the deaths. He reiterated his orders to save what could be saved and wished George and the SGC good luck.

It was entirely possible George would shortly be the acting President.

George was deeply shocked and saddened. He assured the President he'd do everything within his power to secure a future for the United States.

General Hammond had a wormhole established to Alpha and asked Colonel Edwards to 'gate to Beta where he would meet with both him and Colonel O'Neill in two days time.

*****

George 'gated to Beta, relieved to be out from under the oppressive weight of the mountain. He had a look around, pleased with all he could see.

Jack and Daniel met him at the 'gate, glad to see him. George hadn't yet informed Alpha or Beta about the recent events on Earth but he was sure Jack clued in once he saw the type of supplies being sent.

"General, it's good to see you," Jack declared. "Edwards hasn't arrived yet."

"I know, Colonel. He won't be here for another two hours. I wanted some time to speak with you and Doctor Jackson," Hammond confided. "Is there anyplace - private?"

"Sure, we'll take you to our quarters," Jack said nonchalantly, hoping Hammond wouldn't comment on the fact he was sharing quarters with his lover. "Daniel's home office is about as private as it gets."

The three men walked side-by-side, Jack or Daniel occasionally pointing out the local sights. Hammond took it all in, a satisfied look on his face.

When they were all comfortably seated in the spacious office, George took in a deep breath. He held each of their gazes for a long moment before he began speaking in an almost monotone voice. He reported the facts as he knew them. To do anymore that that might cause him to lose the tight grip of control he'd been maintaining for weeks.

"Six days ago, a young man found his way to the SGC. He had been part of a terror cell and was unwilling to go through with it. Unfortunately, no one else had any such reservations.

"The plan was to spray the contents of aerosol cans. This young man, Ali, was to have ridden his bicycle around Denver, spraying every so often until the contents were gone.

"The signal to start spraying was given moments before he was taken into custody by us. Too late to stop it and given the probable scope of the attack, six months wouldn't have been enough time.

"The President wanted the ability to safely move the government and other leaders offworld which was why our mandate changed. Unfortunately, no one anticipated the scope or the severity of the attack.

"We discovered the attack in a little over two hours of it taking place. I enacted some of the contingency plans I'd been working on and soon after, the spouses, partners, children and grandchildren of SGC personnel were in the mountain under quarantine."

"Your daughter and grandchildren, Sir?" Jack asked in a soft voice.

"Safe, Jack."

"Thank God," Daniel whispered.

"I gave the family members three hours to get to the base and then I locked it down. In the time since the attack, the folks from the CDC have identified the contents of Ali's can as a bioengineered bird flu containing DNA from the 1918 Spanish flu.

"Our government had no reason to restrict travel or close borders and no other countries were even aware an attack had taken place. The disease had a foothold before anyone had a chance to react. Truthfully, it wouldn't have made any difference. It was too late the second the disease was let loose. It kills hellishly fast.

"Since the disease is airborne, it's spread rapidly and it's deadly. They're estimating a fatality rate of at least 95 percent or better. We're unaware of any country not affected."

"Has anyone figured out it's not natural?" Jack wanted to know.

"Rumors only and of course that's sparked riots in cities across the world. Those few who have natural immunity are busy killing each other, " George continued bleakly.

"Surely it can't have spread everywhere," Daniel said, thinking of how many isolated populations existed throughout the world.

"We have no way of knowing, Doctor Jackson. As of last night, we have been unable to make contact with anyone in Washington. The fact is, I'm probably the acting President."

General Hammond let that information sink in for a few moments.

The shocked looks on Jack and Daniel's faces told the General they finally understood the situation in full.

"My direct orders were to secure what I could so that our society could continue in some fashion. I went far beyond the scope of those orders when I told all SGC staff to have their dependents ready to leave.

"As soon as their quarantine is over I'm going to start sending them and the rest of the SGC to Alpha or Beta. What I want from you two are suggestions on the best way to split them up."

"General, how many personnel didn't have any dependents?" Daniel asked.

"About a sixth of SGC personnel and none of the new civilian scientists had any reason to have their families in Colorado Springs."

"You might consider splitting up people that way at first, at least the men. It won't be a problem right away because people are gonna be in shock but pretty soon they're going to figure out there is no more military or government or anything else," Daniel explained.

"Why would that matter, Daniel? We're all in the same boat," Jack said.

"No, Jack, we're not. You have a large group of men without available women. I suggest you send the families and women to Beta and start appealing to some of our allies for wives. Husbands too, if any of the women are interested. Things could get ugly otherwise.

"Oh, and we need to get food crops in the ground as soon as possible since we can't count on Earth for food. Not only on Beta but on Alpha as well. It can't hurt to have backup."

"Anything else, Doctor Jackson?" George was used to thinking and acting from a military standpoint. Starting a new society was way outside his experience; hell, it was outside the experience of all but the anthropologists and sociologists on staff. And Daniel was the only one who'd spent a significant amount of time living offworld without support from Earth.

"We need to get people into a new routine as fast as possible. That means everyone gets a job and we start school up for the kids. And everyone needs to be seen by MacKenzie."

"No, Daniel."

"Yes, Jack. Especially those who have no family. People are going to be in shock and mourning. Are any of the unattached personnel gay? Because if they are, they'd do better here."

"A handful of same sex partners showed up at the mountain. I don't know about the rest," he said, sounding worn beyond his years.

The General looked overwhelmed as he tried to take in all of Daniel's suggestions. As soon as Daniel made each suggestion though, he immediately understood the reason and need for it.

"One last thing, General Hammond. You need to offer everyone the choice of staying on Earth or finding a new home among our allies."

"Doctor Jackson, we're going to need every single person we have," the General said firmly.

Daniel looked at the General, allowing the respect he felt for him to show clearly before he gently said, "Yes, Sir. But if people have made a choice, they're liable to do whatever it takes to make this work. If they haven't been given a choice, they'll end up being resentful. For what it's worth, I don't think you'll lose anyone."

A knock at the door ended the conversation. Colonel Edwards walked in and Hammond hastened to reassure him his wife and children were safe. He was then informed of recent events and what was to happen within the next few days.

*****

General Hammond and Colonel Edwards stayed on Beta and took their dinner with Jack and Daniel. Major Coburn escorted Hammond and Edwards back to the 'gate under strict orders Jack and Daniel were not to be disturbed for anything less than an attack by air or through the 'gate.

By unspoken agreement, Jack and Daniel didn't mention the events that occurred on Earth once their guests left. There'd be time enough to talk and weep later.

Daniel went to Jack's room and laid out the sleeping bags, stripping as soon as he'd fixed a cozy nest.

Jack, who'd read his lover's mood correctly, joined him, letting his clothes drop to the floor.

At this moment, all they'd been told was simply too big for words. The loss was unfathomable. Friends and family, old lovers, even old enemies; all were likely gone.

It was too big to look at closely just yet, the weight of it, unbearable.

They needed time; time to come to terms with it, to make the first step of thousands toward peace.

Right now, in the hours after they discovered the end of the world, they needed each other. Needed to connect, to express unspoken grief and their gratitude they still had each other.

They moved into each other's arms, kissing - kissing with heat and passion, their mouths reaffirming they lived, that they were still here, still together.

Passion spiked as they knelt on the sleeping bags, never leaving their kiss, an occasional moan breaking the stillness of the room.

Holding each other, hands caressing over muscle and heated flesh, lingering over thundering pulses.

When Jack felt Daniel begin to push into him, sleek and strong, he opened to his lover, pulling him inside in a long and wickedly slow glide that went right to the heart of Jack.

Daniel powered up into him, Jack's legs wrapped tightly around him. They fucked, harsh and fast, looking into each other's eyes as they came.

Jack loved opening himself to Daniel like this. Loved that he was able to show his vulnerability, loved turning control over to Daniel.

Daniel, in his turn took that openness, that vulnerability and protected it. He loved the slide of hard flesh into tender, welcoming heat.

It was only when they were making love like this that Daniel felt his power over Jack. He knew his lover trusted him, loved him as he'd loved no other, but it was while making love that Daniel knew how easily he could destroy Jack.

Daniel needed to know this, needed to feel it, because Jack was the only person who had the same power over him.

They needed each other.

Jack and Daniel would survive the end of the world as long as they had each other.

*****

Jack lay in Daniel's arms after they'd made love, exchanging small nibbling kisses.

Daniel had needed to make love, needed to feel Jack's pounding heartbeat and his muscles contracting around his cock in order for him to know he was still alive and Jack was with him.

But, now his mind turned back to Earth and the genocide that came from the hands of humans and not the Goa'uld.

He knew the one person Jack would be thinking about and he had to ask. "Sara?" Daniel asked, dozens of questions embedded in one word.

Jack gathered his thoughts. Sara had been on his mind from the moment George told them what had happened on Earth.

"Even if I had tried to get her in place, she wouldn't have come," Jack acknowledged, love, regret, and something else coloring his voice.

"Not even to save her stepchildren?"

"When she told me she was getting remarried, it felt like a betrayal, Daniel. I tried to be happy for her but I'm a possessive bastard. I'm sure you remember I didn't take it very well?" Jack said, his eyes unfocused as he thought back. He clutched Daniel closer to him when he recalled how close he'd come pushing the man in his arms away permanently.

"Be pretty hard to forget. You weren't exactly the nicest guy to be around," Daniel snickered.

"That's because I had a few other things on my mind," Jack said, in a hurt, dignified tone. He'd been in love with Daniel by then and hadn't wanted to move forward with a relationship because he was conflicted over Sara. Daniel had borne the brunt of his indecision and conflicted feelings. He hadn't really wanted Sara anymore but he was afraid Daniel would never be his. He still regretted his ill treatment of Daniel during that time.

"Yeah, my ass."

"Not just your ass. It was just that you kinda exploded into my life, in an unexpected way."

"If I remember correctly, it was you who exploded all over me - thirty seconds into our first kiss," Daniel teased. He'd been shocked at the kiss and had been returning it enthusiastically when Jack stiffened and came in his pants - and Daniel had been flattered beyond words.

"You ever gonna let me forget that?" Jack demanded. It had been the most humiliating experience of Jack's life. He had been waiting in front of Daniel's apartment, seething with jealousy. Daniel had gone to dinner with Paul Davis at a new Mexican restaurant that boasted the 'best guacamole this side of the border'. When his teammate had arrived home, Jack shoved him through his apartment door and then shoved a wet and willing tongue down his throat. Jack had fantasized having Daniel for so long that having even a small part of his fantasy come true had been overwhelming and he'd been utterly unable to hold back his orgasm.

"Nope."

"Well, putting aside my - eagerness... I told Sara I was involved with you right before she moved to San Diego. She didn't take the news as well as I thought she would. I think she thought that me being in love with a man somehow reflected on her femininity. She kicked me out of the house and told me never to contact her again," Jack continued, his bitterness clear.

"That was extreme," Daniel agreed. He moved closer to Jack, lending him strength.

Jack gave a short, harsh bark of laughter, "Yeah, no kidding." Jack's voice lowered and cracked, as he confessed, "I've never forgiven her, Daniel. And it just seems so fucking petty now."

"Are you still angry with her?"

"No, not really. Just sorry we couldn't be happy for each other." Jack had already mourned Sara and the life they'd lost, now he had to mourn the loss of her life. And he would, in time. "How 'bout you? That girl Sarah or your old friend, Rayner?"

"General Hammond asked if I had anyone. I told him the only people I had were already at the SGC."

"I told him the same thing."

At this, they turned to each other and kissed. A slow and luxurious dance of tongues, lips soft, teeth gently biting. Their kiss was as tender as their love was fierce.

They dozed lightly for a while before Daniel woke and brought his cot into Jack's bedroom, putting it next to Jack's. Although they'd set up two bedrooms for appearance's sake, they seldom slept in their individual cots, preferring the sleeping bags in order to sleep together.

"Daniel, what are you doing?"

"It's not the best solution, but it'll do until I can make us a real bed. At least we can be near each other and the cot's gotta be better for your back than the floor. Come on, get into bed."

"Uh, Daniel. Military here." Jack climbed into his cot despite his comment, Daniel close enough to hold.

"Not really, Jack -- not anymore. Anyway, General Hammond is going have to abolish 'Don't ask, don't tell' and ease the fraternization rules. I just thought it would be better if it seemed like his idea, rather than a suggestion from me. He's already made the first step whether he knows it or not."

"How do you figure that?"

Daniel laughed as he replied, "He used the word 'partners' and he didn't mention any plans to court martial anyone when their partners showed up at the mountain."

Daniel now looked thoughtful as he continued, "You can't possibly think we're the only ones who ignored regulations to have a relationship? The General has an obligation to keep his people safe; if he doesn't ease the fraternization rules, the potential for rape is there. If military personnel develop feelings for each other, they should be allowed to pursue them, as long as there's no coercion. And in the absence of women, some of the unattached men are going to form relationships so he's got to get rid of DADT as well."

Jack looked at his lover, eyes narrowed. "You are one hell of a sneaky bastard, Daniel. What else did you forget to mention to Hammond?"

"Well, Alpha and Beta are going to have to be merged at some point -- the sooner, the better. We can use Alpha as a secondary site to grow food and people can 'gate there whenever they need to," Daniel said, snuggling into Jack's arms.

"Why can't we just have two sites?"

"If I was in the military and had just lost all my friends and family and was then put on a planet with nothing but other men and no real amenities, I'd be thinking mutiny, wouldn't you? Especially when you've got a nice little setup a 'gate away."

Jack's eyes widened as he considered Daniel's words. It wouldn't matter if the men on Alpha were unarmed, the women and children of Beta would be in harm's way if the two colonies weren't integrated. He knew how easily and how fast mob mentality could take hold.

As professional and well trained as SGC personnel were, they were men first and it wouldn't take long before they decided they were being left out of whatever good life remained. If Beta looked unwilling to share, the inhabitants of Alpha might be willing to just take.

"It's a good thing we've got an iris then. We need to install it ASAP," Jack responded, tightening his arms around Daniel in a fiercely possessive grip.

"Good for us, but what about our allies? We can't be responsible for letting loose highly trained and potentially dangerous men on them because we didn't think far enough ahead."

"Good point," he said, moving in for a brief kiss. "So what else should we be doing, Daniel?"

"I'm playing with some ideas. We need to give everyone hope, Jack. They're all going to be in rough shape. We need to keep people busy and focused on the future," Daniel said with passion.

"If anyone can do that, it's you," Jack breathed into his lover's mouth. Unable to resist, he covered Daniel's mouth, his tongue licking at the lips beneath his, in a gentle kiss.

Breaking away, he said, "Let's get some sleep, we've got a lot to do tomorrow."

*****

General Hammond 'gated back to the SGC, thinking about all that still needed to be accomplished. When he'd accepted the new cabinet position, he was at the bottom of the chain of command for the Presidency and had never believed the position would fall to him. Now that it had, or seemed to, he wanted nothing more than to resign or go back to the simplicity of running the SGC. But giving up was not in his nature; he shouldered the responsibility and was glad good and ethical people were on hand to advise him.

He didn't know how much country was left to run and it felt like a dereliction of duty to not try and make his way to Washington but he still had his standing orders. Any attempt to make it to Washington to try and take control of the country would be pointless if he died. The CDC scientists had assured him the disease would be around and contagious for quite some time and that on top of the diseases caused by millions of unburied bodies.

It would have to be left to the survivors to claw what they could from the ruins. He focused upon the fact he had a remnant of society who could one day come back to Earth and start over if they wanted. That and the hundreds of precious children in the Isolation Unit.

Replaying his conversation with Doctor Jackson and Colonel O'Neill, he knew some important changes needed to be made to the military structure in a hurry. If he were to save anything of America as his orders dictated he needed to make changes while still maintaining discipline and structure, at the same time allowing for liberties the civilians would expect. It would be a fine line to walk.

The next morning Hammond gathered the three dozen recent additions to the SGC for his first meeting of the day, insisting Doctor MacKenzie sit in. George intended to have as much forewarning as possible if there were potential problems with any of the people who would be relocating to the other side of the 'gate. He'd rather intervene beforehand rather than react to violence or other problems after the fact.

It had proved impossible to keep the scientists in the dark about what was happening outside the mountain and their reactions ran the spectrum from depression to shock and anger. He had been forced to confine several of the more belligerent ones to quarters. One or two had insisted on continuing the work they'd been brought on board for and the remainder were in deep mourning as they learned their families, colleagues and friends were sick or dead.

Hammond was forced to tell them about the Stargate. He offered them the choices Doctor Jackson suggested, explaining that if they choose to live anywhere other than Alpha or Beta they should expect to find less developed societies they would then be expected to conform to. He then dismissed them, sending Sergeant Harriman with them to answer questions, so they could discuss the situation among themselves and decide where their futures would be.

George's next meeting would be more difficult on a personal level. None of the young men and women he would be addressing had had any dependents and George wanted them to understand they'd all gained a large extended family. And he needed them to understand the hope to build families of their own still existed.

He watched as nearly one hundred men and two-dozen women entered the room and took their seats. He looked at their faces, drawn and resolute, the finest the Air Force had to offer, and felt a swell of pride.

He began without preamble. "You all know why we're here. The disaster that has overtaken our nation is without precedent. Let me offer each and every one of you condolences for friends and family that are gone."

Bowing his head in a moment of silence that seemed to stretch on and on, he finally raised his head and continued, "You now have some decisions to make; decisions that I'm going to ask you to think about very carefully. I could order you to walk through the Stargate and help us secure a future of sorts for the people of Earth. But I won't do that.

"I'm told the pathogen will be active and contagious for an unknown length of time but if any of you want to take your chances and stay, I'll allow it. Conversely, if any of you feel you'd be happier living with one of our allies, I'll allow that as well. I'd be unhappy to lose any one of you but if that's how it has to be, I'll respect your individual decisions."

George steeled himself for his next statements. He looked at the men and women before him trying to gauge how they would react. Their faces remained resolute and determined, all eyes fixed upon his face. To a person, they seemed ready to follow his command.

With Major Davis' help he had written a carefully worded memo to the service men and women who were not attending this meeting, detailing regulation changes he felt were essential to implement after spending several hours thinking about Daniel's remarks. Doctor Jackson hadn't been as subtle as he'd thought but George could see the wisdom in throwing out or easing regs that might hamper the chances of success.

"For those of you who chose to remain under my command, you must prepare for a very different reality than a simple military command. We're going to be without resources from Earth and we have a large number of civilians that we're responsible for.

"For these reasons, I've made some changes to military policy. Changes you need to be aware of before making your final decisions as to which of the three options I've outlined would be best for each of you. I've thought very carefully about these changes and it's my belief if we're to have any success in saving anything of our way of life, we need these changes.

"We will be facing unique circumstances and to minimize the risk of coercion or force, the fraternization regulations will be eased. I want to make it clear to you, and I'll be making it clear to every service member, that coercion or force of any kind will be punished swiftly and severely.

"In addition and for the same reasons, I'm rescinding the 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy," he stated.

At this Hammond saw several shocked looks, a few angry faces, but he also carefully noted that most of the service members were nodding their heads in approval.

"I know I've given you all a lot to think about so I want you to take the rest of the day and weigh your decisions carefully. I wish I could give you more time but once the quarantine ends we're going to start shifting people offworld. I'm going to need your decisions before that. If you have any questions, please direct them to Sergeant Harriman or your CO. Dismissed."

As the room emptied, animated conversations could be heard as Hammond gathered his notes and began to focus on the next task.

*****

Paul didn't know if he'd make it to the end of the quarantine. The thought of spending ten days in a room had been bad enough but the addition of spouses, partners, and children of all ages had pushed him to the edge quickly.

Unused to having so much time to do nothing, he'd demanded work eight hours into his first day. A laptop was delivered and he was able to contribute to the massive effort required to move the whole of the SGC and their dependants to Alpha and Beta.

He kept in touch by phone with General Hammond and was instrumental in helping draft the changes in regulations. The General informed him as to how he planned to divide up personnel and with the schematics of the housing on Beta he was able to assign housing based on rank and seniority for the civilian staff as well as family size.

He also assigned quarters for the unattached personnel who would be living on Alpha.

There was no question he would be staying on in whatever capacity required. He requested assignment to Beta where he felt he could be the most useful and continued to ponder the arrangements he'd made for Major Carter.

The rumors he'd heard before quarantine and his conversations with Daniel had him worried. Daniel was his friend although once he'd wanted more. Paul's thoughts returned to a day nearly two years ago when he happened to be on base during a vicious argument between Daniel and O'Neill.

Paul had invited Daniel for dinner hoping for more. He'd been surprised when the archeologist said yes and didn't stop to question Daniel's motives. Dinner had been pleasant and both men found they had quite a bit in common.

Unfortunately, O'Neill had been waiting for Daniel when they returned to his apartment for coffee, the look on his face more than enough for Paul to leave quickly, making some lame excuse. The next time he showed up on base, Jack had made his claim on Daniel painfully clear. Friendship wasn't what he'd wanted but he was grateful for even that much.

Due to his concern over Major Carter's current feelings about Daniel, he'd spent a great deal of his enforced confinement thinking about security or more specifically, crime and punishment.

Traditional methods of incarceration would be difficult if not impossible to carry out. There simply wouldn't be enough personnel on Alpha or Beta to waste man-hours on guarding malcontents or lawbreakers.

Paul thought the Amish concept of shunning could be employed. Both Alpha and Beta were large, uninhabited planets. People unwilling to follow laws set down could be taken to the other side of the planet in question and - left there. Their length of banishment would be determined by the crime.

He had put his thoughts into a detailed memo and had been told this morning he could implement his plans upon arrival on Beta.

He couldn't wait to get started as long as it meant he could get out of the Isolation room.

*****

When Jack and Daniel woke the morning after General Hammond's visit, Jack decided to hold the general meeting shortly after breakfast in order to bring the people on Beta up to date on recent events and assure them their families were safe.

There was also a detailed letter from Hammond in a sealed envelope waiting for them, hand delivered through the 'gate by Sergeant Siler. George had sent him to Beta to apply his varied talents in readying Beta.

Jack opened it, quickly read it, let out a long, low whistle, handing Daniel each page as he was done reading.

Hammond explained his abolishment of 'Don't ask, don't tell', the easing of the frat regs, as well as providing a first draft list of Alpha and Beta personnel assignments and their dependents. Paul's preliminary list of assigned quarters and his suggestions for punishment of crimes were also included.

"Guess you were right, Daniel," Jack said, smiling. "So when do we get married?"

"Don't be an ass, Jack."

"What, you won't marry me?"

"Just because DADT's gone doesn't mean we'll be allowed to get married."

"Yeah, but if we could?"

"Ask me then."

"I will, Danny, believe it," Jack said quietly.

Hammond also let them know of his intention to command Alpha, at least in the short term. He'd come to the same conclusion Daniel had, and recognized Alpha and Beta would need to be merged. Their numbers were too small to maintain two sites. He intended spending several days a week on Alpha with the rest of his time spent on Beta with his family.

"I think my town meeting is gonna go a little longer than expected," Jack declared, switching gears. He contacted Teal'c and Coburn who arrived five minutes later.

Addressing Coburn, Jack ordered, "I need everybody in the theater in two hours for a meeting. Post two of your team on the 'gate but everybody else has to attend, no exceptions. And make sure I've got some sound. I'm putting you in charge of setting up quarters," Jack ordered, handing over Paul's list of assignments, knowing Coburn was smart enough to have guessed what was going on without him spelling it out.

When Coburn left, Teal'c was steered into Daniel's office and given a cup of tea while Jack and Daniel brought him up to date on recent events.

After Daniel's reaction, Jack's primary concern when the SGC mandate had been redefined had been losing Teal'c. He'd joined SG1 as a means to fight the Goa'uld but he was family now and an indispensable part of the SGC. It wasn't only the knowledge he brought with him or his fighting skills.

With Earth's reduced circumstances, Jack feared he would lose Teal'c. Jack felt Beta needed Teal'c and he personally didn't want to lose his friend.

"Teal'c, I know what's happened changes some things... but I'm gonna ask you to stick with us if you can. We still need you and who knows? Maybe Daniel will find something to help your people win the fight against the Goa'uld."

"I have no doubt the Tau'ri will overcome even this, O'Neill. I had not planned on leaving," Teal'c replied, with his usual formality.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jack asked, "Would you consider a short trip to Chulak to try and get us a Tel'tak or two?"

Giving a slight bow of his head, he said, "When do you wish me to leave?"

"As soon as you can get ready. If at all possible, I'd like you back before we start receiving people. We're going to need all the help we can get."

"As you wish, O'Neill. As the iris is not yet installed, I shall 'gate to the planet where the Stargate was located atop a mountain and return to Chulak from there."

"It'll be up by the time you come home, but I don't think you should fly or 'gate directly back from Chulak either. We're in no position to fight off anyone. " Jack said handing Teal'c a GDO and giving him the code. He watched Teal'c leave with a wistful look.

Jack took a seat, slumping as he lifted anxious eyes to Daniel, "Do you think he meant it?"

"Yes, Jack. Teal'c is a man of his word. If he planned on leaving, he'd just say so," Daniel reassured him.

"Good. I'd really hate to lose him."

"I would too. And you were right; we do need him. Teal'c has a - calming effect on people, once they stop being scared of him," Daniel said. "What's next?"

"We need to pull people off all noncritical projects, find out what other skills they have, and get ready to receive a couple of thousand people. The iris needs to be installed before they get here and we have to be ready to deal with the family members," he ticked off on his fingers.

"Piece of cake," Daniel said, smiling. "I'll be happy to set up the school and take a turn teaching but I have no experience with young kids."

"I'm sure there'll be a teacher or two among the civilians. I also want the gym up and running and some game rooms set up for the kids and we need to get signs up in front of the housing so there's as little confusion as possible. These people haven't been trained to deal with any of this shit."

"Nobody has, Jack. The service members might be more in control of their reactions, but it's going to hit them at some point. Speaking of which, we need to find anyone who's been through drug, alcohol or grief counseling or any kind of group therapy and get them to run bereavement groups. Even someone who's minored in psych will help. MacKenzie can supervise and see anyone who needs more intensive care. There are too many people for him to deal with it alone," Daniel said. He didn't volunteer his time in this direction and the look of distaste on his face spoke volumes about his feelings towards MacKenzie.

"Speaking of psychos, you know Carter's getting shipped here too."

"I saw her name on the list. Do we know how she's doing?" Daniel asked, guilt coloring his question. With all that they'd had to do over the last weeks, he hadn't given much thought to Sam or her mental state.

"No, but you can bet I'll be asking for an update from Fraiser and MacKenzie. I just hope she's not reading anything into the frat regs being eased up," Jack said decisively.

"One problem at a time, Jack."

*****

Jack stood on the stage, his all in one mic in place and was waiting patiently for the audience to arrive and be seated. He had chosen to give this meeting here to underscore the serious nature of what he had to say.

As each person entered the building, they were given a list of the family members now under quarantine on base. The service members and scientists knew the worst had happened and were quiet and subdued as they took their seats.

Scanning the small audience of one hundred and twenty men and women, Jack explained what was known about the pandemic on Earth. He took in their shocked looks and noted a number of people quietly weeping.

Jack found Daniel, seated in the first row and saw the knowing look in his eyes. He shuddered, thinking how much worse this could have been if not for Hammond and his contingency plans. At the very least, most of the personnel would have a loved one and their children to help them cope with the staggering loss of parents, siblings, and other family and friends.

It was Jack's job to get them focused and thinking about the future.

"Okay, folks. I know how difficult this is. I'm sorry about your losses, more sorry than I can possibly say. I know how easy it would be to give up but you haven't lost your children or your wives or husbands," Jack stated.

He knew how they felt, knew better than most how very easy it was to give up in the face of devastating loss. He'd been there, lost his only child, and the only reason he was alive was Daniel. Daniel had given him a reason to live. The Stargate had given him something bigger than his anger and pain to focus upon.

"We're going to have a large influx of people in a few days and most of them are civilians with no idea about the Stargate. To say that they're going to be shocked is putting it mildly.

"I don't know about you, but I want to make their transition as easy as possible. We've got wives, husbands, partners and a whole bunch of kids coming. A small part of what's left of our planet you might say. I'd rather think of them as the future of our planet."

Jack scanned the audience and was gratified to see people begin the attempt to pull themselves together at the mention of their families. It gave them something real and worthwhile to focus upon.

He didn't fool himself, he knew Beta was in for a rough ride and the people in front of him would need time to come to terms with their losses, but they were trying. They were holding it together, at least for now, knowing the families coming would need them.

Jack then told them about the changes in military policy and offered each of them the same options Hammond had offered to those still on Earth.

The people on Earth had had some time to absorb the initial shock of the terrorist attack; the men and women sitting here didn't have the luxury of time.

The change in military policy was background noise, just one small thing to understand amid much larger changes. Ultimately, it was immaterial; it didn't matter when placed against the loss of much of the world's population and an entire way of life.

There was no question for any of those hearing Jack where they belonged. None of them wanted to leave Beta, certainly not for the charnel house Earth had become. All they wanted were their families, here, safe and alive.

They would do whatever they had to, including putting their grief aside for a time, in order to see their loved ones settled. The place where they did their work may have changed, but helping those who went through the Stargate was partly about keeping their families safe. It was work they knew, work they loved. They couldn't do any less now.

"I'm asking for your help. All noncritical work is to be stopped until we've got everyone settled. If you're unsure if what you're working on is critical or not, ask your department head or speak to Doctor Jackson and they'll run it by me.

"I've got a good handle on what you've all been doing and the only project I consider critical at this time is the installation of the iris. I want it up before the SGC starts sending our people through the 'gate," Jack instructed. He knew the scientists considered their work important and he didn't want to get caught up in any of the petty battles they often engaged in.

"Daniel's gonna need some help setting up the school and I want the gym set up with game rooms for the kids. It might be nice if Sergeant Siler there," Jack said, pointing, "or one of the engineers can figure a way to get the pools filled up, give the kids something to look forward to.

"Major Coburn is in charge of setting up quarters. That means labeling the houses with names and numbers and distributing supplies.

"I also want you to start thinking about your other skills. If you have skills, other than the ones you were hired for, that could help make the transition for our people easier, we want to know about them," Jack appealed to his audience. His strong, confident voice rang out, giving the listeners purpose.

"We've got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it in, folks. Just keep in mind who we're working so hard for. Any questions?" Jack scanned the audience and saw nothing but determination.

"Okay, then, let's get started. If you come up with any questions, come find me or Daniel."

The audience milled around for a few minutes, some gravitating towards Daniel, others toward Major Coburn. Siler grabbed most of the engineers, intending to install the iris first and fill pools second.

*****

Teal'c 'gated back the night before the families were due to arrive with assurances Master Bra'tac would be piloting a Tel'tak to Beta within the week. Jack was just glad to see him.

The family members began coming through in groups of about fifty, with the first flush of dawn. They were escorted through the 'gate by members of SG teams.

Jack, Daniel and Teal'c were there to meet each group and direct them to the lines of tables staffed with those already familiar with Beta to take names and personal information.

The shocked look on the faces coming through the 'gate was startling and, to Jack, deeply disturbing. The kids were quiet, too quiet and they were pale, their eyes wide and in too many cases, blank. Even Jack's offbeat sense of humor didn't make a dent in the blank stares.

Daniel, who didn't have a great deal of experience with children was a calm and centering presence for Jack. His soothing voice could be heard directing people all day long.

Teal'c, who normally frightened people with his quiet, large, and looming presence, seemed on this occasion to inspire feelings of safety. Many of the people coming through the 'gate patted his arm or gripped his hand as they thanked him.

Once the heads of each family had given their information, they were escorted to their quarters and shown where to go for meals. The mess, gym, auditorium and the building Daniel had designated as the school were marked off on the maps provided.

When Major Coburn's dependents 'gated through, it provided a moment of levity and temporarily eased Jack's mounting disquiet in the face of so many shocked kids.

Coburn had neglected to inform his two dependents about each other and Paul had failed to catch the problem. When Andrew Black and Erica Clifton met each other for the first time, it had taken them each a few minutes to understand they were both with Coburn. They began by screaming at each other before they turned on their mutual lover.

Jack pulled aside a sheepish Coburn and told him to fix the problem and then went to assure himself their assigned house had three bedrooms. He left shaking his head, thinking about the balls it would take for Coburn to keep both his man and his woman happy.

The families continued to pour through the 'gate, a new batch every hour or so.

The cooks had been in the mess since before dawn, cooking and getting ready to feed the huge influx of people. As each family were shown their quarters, they were instructed to go to the mess after they had finished unpacking their belongings.

After they were fed, they were encouraged to go to the gym or to walk around. The only area they were asked to stay away from was the Stargate. There was enough confusion for the arriving families without adding to it.

Jack planned to address the entire population in a few days, but he wanted everyone through the 'gate and somewhat settled in their homes before he gave them the details of their new lives.

He hoped to have the kids in school as soon as possible and the adults working. In order for Beta to work it would require effort from every person.

*****

It took three full days and part of the fourth for the families to come through the 'gate. Daniel had realized early on the first day the SGC was sending too many people too fast. He'd brought his concerns to Jack who'd agreed immediately.

The folks coming through needed more time to get their bearings than they'd been allotted; they had a lot to deal with, the shock of 'gate travel, their fears while under quarantine, and the losses they'd probably sustained because of the pandemic.

Jack explained the situation to General Hammond who slowed the flow to a more manageable level.

Despite the slow down in the influx of people, the people of Beta worked from before daybreak till hours after sunset.

Jack and Daniel were both so tired that at the end of each of the first three days, they fell into their bed and were asleep within moments. They awoke early and went straight back to work.

After the first day, Daniel had noticed Jack become quieter and more withdrawn.

Jack put a good face on and no one who didn't know him well would have seen anything amiss. He seemed fine on the outside, laughing when appropriate, talking, and working hard to make each person welcome.

But his eyes lacked their usual sparkle and none of his smiles went past his mouth.

When the last person came through the 'gate on the fourth day, Daniel convinced Jack to join him in the mess for a late lunch.

Over lunch, Jack insisted he was fine, just tired.

Daniel let it go, pretending not to notice when Jack did nothing more than rearrange the food on his plate.

"Jack, call Paul or Coburn and let them know you're taking the rest of the day off," Daniel commanded. He was worried about his lover and he had a plan.

"Now why didn't I think of that?" Jack proclaimed. He knew the one thing that would serve to lighten his mood but he'd been reluctant to ask Daniel who was just as tired and had worked just as hard as he had.

The two lovers walked home quickly, wrapped in anticipation and exchanging hot, needy looks.

When they entered the house, Jack slammed the door shut and pushed Daniel against the wall.

Jack's hands were impatient as he pulled Daniel's shirt from his pants. When he felt flesh, he began to stroke roughly, shaking with need.

Forcefully grinding his groin against Daniel, he moaned when he felt his lover respond.

Daniel's response fueled his own and he was achingly hard and throbbing.

Jack shoved Daniel to his knees; unbuttoning his BDU's and lowering them just enough to grab his cock and push it into Daniel's waiting mouth.

He swelled slightly and thrust deeper into the wet heat, back arching and moaning low in his throat. He fucked Daniel's mouth languidly, waves of pleasure wracking his body. He knew if he didn't stop soon, he'd come and he needed to come harder than a blowjob would allow for.

Threading his fingers into soft hair, he groaned, "Daniel, let's go to the bedroom."

Hitching up his BDU's with one hand and reaching for his lover with the other, Jack stumbled to the bedroom, clumsy with his need.

Jack stripped quickly, his eyes never leaving his lover, his breath coming fast.

When Daniel was naked, Jack pushed him to the cot and grabbed the lube, kissing his way down and reveling in the satiny skin.

He fumbled the lube open and began lovingly stroking inside Daniel. He was unbelievably tight and Jack's penis twitched at the thought of breaching him.

He mouthed the head of Daniel's penis, using two fingers to open him.

His fingers went unerringly to his lover's prostate, rubbing firmly.

"God, Jack. That's so fucking good," Daniel gasped, as his body twisting and arching beneath Jack's talented hands and mouth.

It had been awhile since he'd been loved like this and his pounding heart and cock seemed to be chanting 'more, more'.

He pushed against the fingers in his ass and thrust deeply into the mouth surrounding his cock, moaning and begging.

When his hips began to leave the bed, Jack couldn't wait any longer. He needed to be inside Daniel, needed to feel his lover taking in the hard length of him, wanted nothing more than to thrust and push into the beautiful ass beneath his hands.

Hands shaking, he slicked himself up, Daniel's moans encouraging him to move faster.

Bending Daniel's legs up, Jack entered him slowly, fighting not to just plunge into the sweet heat as fast as his dick demanded.

It was a struggle that seemed to last forever and after an endless time, Jack was buried to the balls. He stilled his movements, now fighting not to come while Daniel adjusted to the hard, pulsing length sunk so deeply within him.

Reaching up for a kiss, Daniel caressed Jack's sweating, strained face. "I'd forgotten how fucking good this feels," he murmured.

"Yeah, me too," Jack managed to grunt out. He was nearly at the end of his control. Only love stilled him.

Daniel unfolded his legs and wrapped them tightly around Jack's waist, hoping to hold on for the ride.

Jack tried to insinuate his hand between their bodies and got his hand slapped for his effort.

"Don't need it. I'm close as it is," Daniel whispered, rolling his hips.

Jack groaned and ground his body into Daniel's, his head thrown back as pleasure flooded every nerve ending he possessed.

Muscles straining, sweat dripping, and his face flushed, Jack withdrew slowly and then slammed back into the deliciously tight heat.

Again and again and again.

Unable to contain himself any longer, Jack pounded into Daniel, knowing nothing but his need.

Daniel met every thrust, white light behind his eyes every time Jack slammed into his prostate.

It was fast and primal, driven by need and lust and love.

Daniel came in long, slow pulses, his body arched so far off the thin mattress he lifted Jack with him. He groaned throughout his orgasm, unable to even moan Jack's name.

Jack's relentless thrusting into Daniel's ass didn't slow or stop. He held on for as long as he could, the clenching of strong muscles around his cock spurring him on.

And when he shattered, breath sobbing, it was with Daniel's name in his mouth.

*****

When it was over, Jack held Daniel in his arms. "Sorry, babe, it just all hit me, y'know?"

"No apologies, Jack, There were two of us in the bed. Are you okay?"

"Christ, Daniel. I don't even know how to explain it. But those kids - those blank faces. It just kept hitting me over and over how much we've lost," he answered slowly.

"Were you thinking of anything in particular, or just in general?" Daniel asked, really wanting to know. He didn't want Jack burying his pain, something they were both very good at doing.

"It's fucking everything. But I just keep obsessing over the stupid stuff, like pro hockey and Devil Dogs and those dumb fucking catalogues I get way too many of. Well, used to anyway," Jack replied, both anger and pain clear in his voice. He swiped at his eyes, willing the tears away.

Daniel ignored the tears that had slipped down Jack's face. He snuggled deeper into the strong arms holding him and rested his head on the broad chest, idly stroking a nipple as he considered Jack's answer.

"I get you'll miss hockey, but please don't tell me you'll miss catalogues, Jack," he said, in an attempt at humor, but also understanding.

"No, I won't really miss catalogues. I just miss the idea of catalogues. It's the same with Devil Dogs. I haven't eaten one in years and now I can't stop craving them."

"It's hard to take in and it's going to hit everyone at some point, Jack; today was just your turn. It's just the sheer loss and stupidity of it all."

"I don't even know who to be mad at, Daniel, I just am. I'm so angry I can barely breathe and I feel so fucking - helpless and I hate it."

"There is no one to be mad at, Jack. God, maybe, or whoever financed the terrorist attack. But they're most likely dead as well, so why waste your energy?"

"I can't function with this level of anger."

"So, does that mean I can expect more of what I've had tonight?" Daniel inquired with a leering grin and a small shimmy of his hips.

"Will that be a problem?" Jack wanted to know, his eyes soft and one finger running gently along Daniel's jaw.

"Not at all," Daniel said, smiling. "Fucking as anger management, I like it."

"Well, it's not the worst idea we've ever had, Doctor Jackson," Jack said, rolling Daniel underneath him and diving down for a kiss.

Daniel arms snaked around Jack's back and he held on to him tightly, letting his lover know he was with him now as always.

Not many people could have stood up to Jack in this mood. Even his wife would leave the house rather than confront him. As strong as Sara was, she had been unwilling to test her strength against Jack's.

His reputation as a stone cold killer and a Black Ops Specialist preceded him. That's what his fellow service members expected to see and when they met Jack that's all they saw.

Daniel had seen that man as well, on the first trip through the Stargate, but he'd also seen beyond his reputation and badass military facade.

Daniel had seen a man worth dying for, had seen a man he was proud to call friend.

Jack in his turn had seen beyond the shy, damaged academic. He'd seen to the core of the man, had seen his bravery and his deeply held principles and had been willing to claim Daniel as his friend.

It was the first bond between them and the ties went deep. It was perhaps inevitable their friendship had caught fire and turned to love.

Daniel alone stood toe-to-toe with Jack, giving as good as he got, right from the start. He never backed down, was never afraid Jack would go too far in his anger or his love.

It was a small part of why they worked so well, why they loved each other so completely.

Daniel reached his mouth up to meet Jack's and one kiss flowed into the next. They fell asleep between one kiss and the next.

By the time they awoke the next day, Jack was ready to throw himself back into work.

He wondered if he should tell MacKenzie he'd discovered the real secret to anger management.

*****

Two Months Later

Sam was pissed. The world had fucking ended, the frat regs were pretty much gone and still she couldn't see Jack. With everything changed there were no longer any barriers against a relationship between the two of them.

In her sessions with MacKenzie and her daily talks with Janet, she said everything she knew would be expected, everything they wanted to hear. And they still wouldn't let her talk to Jack.

Sam knew where and how she'd fucked up. She let her own insecurity over Jack's friendship with Daniel get in the way and then she'd blown it big time with her admittedly unprofessional planet list. She tried not to think of the disastrous briefing when Jack had relieved her of duty.

She knew Jack had had to do it. The regs being what they were at the time and her stupid, pathetic begging had forced his hand.

But she couldn't go on with things as they stood now. She'd spoken with Janet and Paul about the housing situation. Janet as CMO and a mother was entitled to a larger house. Sam was sharing quarters with them in the fifth ring, about as far away from Jack as could possibly be managed while still acknowledging both her rank and Janet's.

All she wanted was ten minutes alone with Jack, ten minutes to feel him out, to see if there was any hope for the two of them. She couldn't go on this way. She thought with the changes in the regs and this desperate attempt to save something of humanity they had a real shot at happiness. She hated the thought of either of them being alone.

Sam had planned for this carefully. She'd done everything asked of her, kept her appointments with MacKenzie and stayed away from Jack. After two months of following the rules, Janet no longer felt the need to sit by Sam's bed till she had fallen asleep. The leash she'd been on had been loosened considerably.

Tonight was a near perfect opportunity. Beta's first marriage was being celebrated and the party spilled from the mess into the space in front of the building. Tiki torches had been rigged and were placed next to outdoor lighting. Seating lined the area in front of the mess and beyond, and a number of speakers were set up and most people had spent at least part of the night dancing.

All of Beta and Alpha had turned out to celebrate Chloe Wagner's marriage to Doctor Jay Felger. It was odd to see such a large party with people dressed so casually. Sam herself was wearing blue fatigues and a sequined t-shirt borrowed from Cassie.

Nearly the entire base had contributed to the meal with many households baking pies, cakes, and cookies, using up most of the flour supply. The cooks were still experimenting with local grains and, while they'd found an acceptable substitute, it was decided the occasion was important enough to justify the use of the flour. A number of people had gone hunting and the aroma of grilled meat reminded many of backyard barbeques.

Children ran after each other, squealing and grabbing baked goods from the tables that held the bounty. Their parents smiled indulgently and didn't call them to order. The teens and young adults were busy dancing and flirting with each other. The adults added to the din, talking and laughing, as they hadn't since coming to Beta.

It was amid this controlled chaos that Sam stalked her prey. She kept a close eye on Jack all night, staying away but always aware of where he was. She carefully noted Daniel never left his side except to take a turn dancing, first with Janet and then Cassie. He turned down a number of other offers, preferring to walk around socializing with Jack.

The party was still in full swing when Sam noticed Jack and Daniel leaving. She waited nearly an hour before edging away from the square slowly but steadily.

She remembered what Daniel had said about dealing directly with Jack and her interest in him. She just hoped Daniel would respect her enough to allow her the time to do so.

When she reached their quarters, she knocked and waited anxiously for an answer, the anticipation making her palms sweat. When there was no answer to her knock, she knocked again. And again. She waited a good five minutes before she opened the door and let herself in.

Sam and the engineers were still attempting to figure out if the houses had locks or if locks could somehow be installed but they'd had no luck yet. She was so focused on her goal it never occurred to her that her unasked for visit might be unwelcome.

She slipped into the house quietly and stood in the entrance listening. Thankfully, they'd figured out the lights and they no longer came on automatically whenever an empty room was entered

She heard nothing, thought Jack might have gone to bed and hoped she wouldn't startle him when she entered his bedroom. She would have liked to crawl into bed with him but she knew from experience that waking Jack suddenly was dangerous.

She had no idea if Jack had taken the largest room but it made sense. She'd had the schematics for all the buildings downloaded into her computer weeks ago so she knew exactly where to go.

She found the room she assumed Jack would be sleeping in and was surprised to see the door slightly ajar and a pool of soft light spilling from within. It was then she heard the sounds spilling from the open door.

The sounds resolved themselves into words and she could hear Jack moaning, 'Oh, fuck yeah, Danny' while Daniel groaned out Jack's name over and over.

*****

Jack and Daniel had enjoyed themselves at the wedding immensely. There had been little time over the last months for leisure activities. Even hobbies were being used to improve conditions on Beta and to keep people busy and occupied while they learned to cope with their new reality.

Jack -- as CO of Beta -- and Daniel -- as the top ranked civilian -- rarely found spare time. But, as the entire colony was coming to find out, when they were home, behind closed doors, they wished to be left alone.

Teal'c, Hammond, his grandchildren, Janet and Cassie were the only people they'd shared any of their private time with. Today's celebration was a way for them to relax and socialize.

Jack made it a point to seek out and spend a few minutes with many of the men and women under his command, saying hello to spouses and children. Daniel was content to join him, happy to be out with his lover in relaxed circumstances.

They were no longer as careful about hiding their relationship but neither did they flaunt it and many people were aware they were together. The response thus far had been positive on the whole with most people not caring at all.

When Jack and Daniel found the happy bride and groom and finished offering their congratulations they decided with a quick glance at each other to go home.

The noise from the celebration gradually faded as each step brought them closer to their home. Taking advantage of the solitude, Jack grasped Daniel's hand, intertwining their fingers. It felt incredibly liberating to hold hands in public, not having to think they were committing a crime or breaking rules or regs.

They walked slowly, stopping every so often for a brief kiss.

They headed straight for the bedroom after they entered the house. Jack undressed quickly, turned to Daniel and slowly stripped him. He unbuttoned his shirt letting his fingers glide up and down the smooth chest, the palms of his hands rubbing small circles against Daniel's nipples, eliciting soft moans.

Jack eased the shirt off, exposing muscular shoulders and well defined biceps. He trailed his fingers lightly up and down Daniel's arms, finally cupping his throat and leaning in to lick at the slightly parted lips before him.

Daniel looked at Jack, eyes shining and drew him in for a long, slow, deep kiss. He felt Jack unbuttoning his jeans and inching the zipper down, his fingers grazing Daniel's erection.

Sliding jeans and briefs over slim hips, Jack knelt and pushed his face into Daniel's groin to breathe him in. He slid his lover's cock in his mouth, concentrating on the sensitive glans and lapping up the dewy drops of precome before wetly sliding up and down the hard shaft.

Daniel reached down for Jack, pulling him up and then pushing him gently down on to the bed he'd made for them. Staring down at the long, lean length before him, he climbed on top of Jack, hands roaming where his eyes had been.

Daniel loved the feel of Jack's skin stretched over hard muscle, soft in some places, hair roughened in others. His mouth followed his hands and he slid down Jack's body, sucking, kissing and licking, enjoying the noises his mouth forced from his lover.

Jack's body twisted and writhed beneath the sensuous assault of Daniel's mouth, and he longed to feel the wet heat of his lover's mouth on his cock. "Daniel, you're killing me," he groaned, thrusting his hips.

Daniel coaxed his lover to the edge of the bed, put some pillows under his head, and lifted his hips as he slipped yet another pillow under him. "Bring your legs up, Jack."

Following Daniel's request, Jack lifted his legs, his scrotum stretched tight. His cock was throbbing, aching and he longed to pull and pump himself.

Kneeling on the floor, Daniel spread Jack's cheeks, licking up and down, gently biting and kissing and sucking. Jack's trembling legs and tight grip on the bedding told him exactly how much he loved being rimmed.

He heard muttered curses being groaned out amidst the harsh panting. The taste of Jack, the scent of his sweat and arousal had Daniel aching to bury himself in the smooth, tight heat.

He reached under a pillow for the lube and slicked himself up, using as light a touch as possible.

Daniel stood and lifted Jack's legs to his shoulders. He entered him, trying to go slow, trying not to push as he longed to do. Tender thrust after tender thrust soon had him buried deep inside of Jack, his face strained and sweaty.

Jack lowered his legs and wrapped them around Daniel's waist. They rested for a time, hands stroking languidly, lovingly.

Jack pushed up, a silent signal and Daniel began thrusting, long and slow. He angled his body, searching out the small nub with the broad head of his penis. When he found it, fire danced up Jack's spine and back down and his head thrashed in ecstasy in the soft down pillows.

Daniel loved making Jack lose control, lose all semblance of the strong, always in command Colonel. He loved that he got Jack past the point of control, loved that he could make Jack come so hard he would scream in pleasure, and loved how Jack softened in his arms, eyes filled with love and desire, all for Daniel.

When Jack thrashed and moaned and cursed and trembled beneath him, Daniel was helpless to do anything else but groan out Jack's name in a deep and nearly unrecognizable voice.

Daniel stroked into Jack, tagging his prostate with every forward thrust. He felt Jack thrusting back, the sleek muscles gripping his cock, pleasure seizing his body. He felt sweat rolling off of him and knew he was close.

Grabbing Jack's shaft, he pumped firmly, his thumb rubbing circles on the head as his hips stuttered against Jack's, his balls slamming against the tight, sweet ass he was buried in.

"Oh, fuck yeah, Danny," Jack moaned, while Daniel groaned out Jack's name over and over.

They lost their rhythm, straining, striving, and racing toward orgasm. Jack's body arched off the bed, a ragged scream torn from his throat as he came, ribbons of come hitting his belly and spilling over Daniel's hand.

The spasms his orgasm set off squeezed the length of Daniel's shaft and he pumped madly, groaning out Jack's name one last time as he came.

Daniel collapsed on top of Jack, both their chests heaving and sweat rapidly cooling. Daniel carefully slipped out and rolled himself and Jack fully onto the bed.

Holding each other and kissing, they were unprepared for the screech of rage.

*****

Sam heard the groans and harsh breathing and wasn't able to process what she was hearing. She opened the door just enough to see what was happening on the bed in the middle of the room.

She watched in disbelief as Daniel fucked Jack, watched as they came and watched as they held each other and kissed. Watched, as they got lost in each other, so focused on making love they never sensed her presence.

Sam completely forgot she had essentially broken into their house, violating their expectation of privacy.

Storming into the room, she glared at Daniel and viciously hissed, "You sick, twisted, perverted bastard! Is this why you wouldn't help me?"

"Sam, calm down..."

"Shut up, Daniel."

"Hey, where do you get off talking to Daniel like that? And what the fuck are you doing here?" Jack shouted.

"How'd he do it Jack? Were you so lonely that he made it seem alright?"

"Yeah, that's just what happened because I'm so damn malleable."

"That's not what I meant!"

"Just so you know, Carter, I chased Daniel. I'm in love with him," Jack declared. He wasn't trying to be cruel but each word stabbed into Sam with the force of a deeply plunging knife.

"I - I don't believe you," she stuttered. Her refusal to believe him stirred his anger.

Jack got up from the bed, making no attempt to cover his nakedness and grabbed Sam's arm. "I don't really care what you believe. You just crossed the line, Carter.

"Here are your choices; you can leave Beta, pick a planet and just go, you can stay and either get over this, maybe try for some acceptance, or you can stay and leave us the fuck alone. If you stay and don't leave us alone, Paul's got a nice island all set up," Jack raged.

"You'd have me banished?" Sam asked in complete amazement.

"In a New York minute."

"Don't worry, Sir," she sneered. "I wouldn't go near either one of you again. You're both sick perverts. I think the rest of your command will be quite interested in what you've been up to."

Daniel couldn't hold in his brief, horrified snort of laughter.

Jack, who had been in the process of physically pushing Sam out of the room, grabbed and spun her around. Getting in her face, he snarled in white-hot anger, "If you weren't such a self-absorbed, selfish bitch you'd realize everybody already knows."

At that, Sam crumbled to the floor, weeping. Jack looked at her with a mixture of pity and disgust, angry that she hadn't been able to accept his no the first time. He threw his robe on and asked Daniel to call Fraiser.

*****

Two Weeks Later

Fraiser entered Jack's office, nodded at him and Daniel and took a seat. She was here to report on Sam's condition.

It had been decided the night of Sam's second breakdown to keep it as quiet as possible and to see if there was any way to solve the problem without resorting to exile on another planet or banishment on Beta.

Jack had once considered Sam a friend and a teammate but he was bitterly angry she had invaded his privacy so thoroughly.

Jack signaled Fraiser to begin. He was disinclined to engage her in small talk; he blamed both her and MacKenzie for failing to recognize Sam's mental state hadn't improved.

"For the record, Sir, I'd like to apologize. I think now it would have been better to allow Sam to talk to you. Finding out about you and Daniel that way was - was traumatizing."

"Do you think that would have helped?" Daniel inquired.

"I'm not sure, Daniel. I think I should have told her about you two. It's not like it's a secret anymore and that might have helped her to put this, this obsession behind her. She's made some progress in that direction already."

"What kind of progress?" Jack barked. Beta couldn't afford problems like this. Earth's resources were gone and attempts to contact the Tok'ra or the Asgard had been futile thus far.

"Well, we've got her on anti-depressants and a mild tranquilizer which seem to be helping. She is also starting to accept that her thinking process may have been affected by Doctor Carter's visit. She now recognizes her thinking isn't entirely clear or even her own.

"She's also written each of you a letter, an apology of sorts."

"And you know this, how?"

"I insisted she allow me to read them before I agreed to turn them over to you, Colonel."

"What do we do with her in the meantime?"

"I think it's in her best interest to work. It'll give her something to occupy her mind which is healthier than sitting in a room obsessing over you."

"I hate that I even have to ask this, Doc, but is Daniel in any danger from her?"

"I would say no, not anymore."

"Can you guarantee that?"

"Not with a hundred percent certainty, no."

"And you're willing to let her work?" Jack asked in disbelief.

"Not on anything critical or sensitive, not until her mental state is more stable."

Sometimes Jack hated being in charge. The decision was his to make and he'd been thinking about it for the last two weeks. He took his personal feelings out of the equation, trying to be fair to Sam. He knew she wasn't wholly responsible for her actions but he had to also consider Daniel's well-being. He kept seeing Sam's face twisted in fury and hate, all directed Daniel's way.

"The only thing Carter's got in her favor at this point is that she hasn't been violent. I'm not comfortable with her wandering around with no supervision though.

"I'll allow her to work on one condition, I want her under guard at all times until she shows significant improvement. And I want to make it clear to you; one more incident and I'll have to consider other options. You should make it this crystal clear to Carter, Janet. One more incident and she's through at Beta."

"I understand, Sir," Janet said. She then handed over the two letters and looked sadly at both Jack and Daniel. "Permission to speak off the record, Sir?"

Jack nodded. He was angry at Janet but he wasn't willing to jeopardize their friendship over a mistake. It wasn't Janet's fault Sam had been a witness to such an intimate moment. Jack had no problem making himself vulnerable to his lover but that was by choice. Sam had taken that choice away from him and he hated the helpless feelings that had given rise to.

"I just wanted to let you both know how happy I am for you. You both deserve to be happy," she said, her warm brown eyes taking in the men across the table. She smiled to herself, thinking she wasn't the only woman on Beta disappointed that Jack and Daniel were together.

After she was dismissed, she made her way to the dog kennels where Sam and Cassie spent a great deal of time drooling over the puppies. They were almost ready to be released to their new homes, which would be decided by lottery.

When Janet told Sam the results of the meeting, Sam's eyes lit with determination. She had another shot at getting her life back on track and she was damned if she was going to screw it up this time.

Janet was thrilled to see even a small sign of the woman she used to know. She'd come to the conclusion Doctor Carter had some serious metal health issues and everything she'd told them was now suspect in her eyes.

If they ever returned to Earth, Janet would recommend the mirror be destroyed or sent to a planet where it could do no further harm.

*****

Sixteen Months Later

In the eighteen months Beta had been up and running, much had changed since those first desperate days when a few thousand refugees from Earth arrived.

It had taken some time to integrate Alpha into Beta but it had been done in under a year. Daniel had in large part been responsible for enticing allies to come live and work on Beta, bringing the population into balance.

There had been some formal marriages with General Hammond presiding but more people just set up housekeeping together and held commitment ceremonies. Some of those couples were same sex and Major Coburn was not the only person living in a happy threesome. It was as if all the old moral standards died during the pandemic that had decimated Earth.

In the first six months, a number of people had died, most by suicide. MacKenzie had expected it and was only surprised more hadn't taken that choice.

Also, in the first six months, the stress resulted in a number of fights, several of which resulted in severe injuries. Teal'c stepped in and arranged supervised 'competitions' between the combatants.

Paul's banishment island was never utilized in the way it was meant to. Rather, new couples used it as a place in which to be alone for a few days, the closest thing they could get to a honeymoon.

A few dozen people were unhappy with their work assignments and were allowed to live offworld, learning new trades that would benefit Beta. Two of them refused to come back to Beta and were permitted to make new lives for themselves.

Nearly one hundred babies were conceived and born on Beta. Neither Daniel nor MacKenzie were surprised, both feeling this was a perfectly normal reaction to the circumstances the population had run from.

Janet was always busy, not only as Beta's CMO, but training new doctors. She and Doctor Warner had desperately needed help and now had five new assistants, in addition to eighteen nurses, one of the assistants being Ali.

Ali had been incredibly grateful to even be allowed through the 'gate. He'd started on Alpha and when allowed to live on Beta had made a real impact. Because he'd been unwilling to follow through with the terrorist attack Beta, in its present form existed.

He had married the eldest daughter of one of the SGC's cooks, having met her at Wagner/Felger wedding. Months of careful courting on his part paid off when she said yes to his marriage proposal. The day his wife gave birth to their daughter was among the best days of his life and he didn't hesitate to let the world know.

General Hammond was content to consult, allowing Jack, with Daniel's help to run Beta as they saw fit. The contingency plans he'd worked on during the initial crisis seemed to have sapped something from him. After Alpha was integrated, he gave up his place in favor of Jack. He much preferred to take a turn in the classroom and watch his granddaughters than to be involved with the day-to-day business of running Beta.

Major Paul Davis was in heaven. He'd had numerous offers from both men and women and he took advantage of them all. He was fulfilled in his work as Jack relied on him for many things. He was reluctant to commit to anyone, holding out for someone like Daniel, with whom he enjoyed a deep friendship. When he saw how Daniel bloomed under Jack's somewhat intensive love he recognized he was never the right person for the equally intense archeologist.

Samantha Carter eventually gave up her dream of Jack O'Neill. She still wanted him but understood he belonged to Daniel. She watched as they showed Beta their complete devotion to each other and the only one to see her tears was Molly, a second-generation golden lab. She was now working closely with Daniel and they'd taken the first tentative steps to regain their friendship.

Teal'c brought his son Rya'c to Beta to study under Daniel. After more than a year, Daniel had finally been able to translate and understand all three languages in the main library. The books were all in triplicate, so when he'd deciphered one language all three were opened up to him.

He'd recognized how much of the library contained technological information and was now working closely with other scientists to begin ferreting out the massive amounts of data left behind by the original inhabitants of Beta. He was certain they would be able to use some of the technology to help the Jaffa win their battle against the Goa'uld.

*****

Jack looked at the scientists gathered around the conference table and shook his head in disbelief. "And you think this is a good idea - why?" he inquired, looking at Janet and MacKenzie for answers.

"Sir, people need closure, or as much as they're going to get," MacKenzie replied.

"Most people want to stay, Colonel, but they also want to know they can go home. Some of them need to check on extended family. They know they're probably dead but they have to see to believe," Janet explained.

"What are the chances of the virus still being around?" Jack asked the doctors, who in another lifetime worked for the CDC.

"Almost none, Colonel O'Neill. It's been long enough for full decomposition of the dead. We can go in with Hazmat suits, take samples and quarantine ourselves at the SGC while we work on the samples. We should know quickly if the virus is active or not," Doctor Garcia said.

"And what if it is?" Jack asked. "The last thing we need is the virus on Beta."

"We don't come back to Beta until we're sure. I agree with Doctor MacKenzie. People need the closure this will give them."

"I can't let you go alone and I can't order anyone to go on what may very well be a one way trip," Jack stalled.

"So ask for volunteers, Sir," Janet said, in her usual forthright manner, cutting right to the heart of things.

*****

Jack sat, leaning against a boulder on a hill overlooking the town. Daniel was held in between his legs and firmly against his chest, their view to the town and the horizon unobstructed, waiting for dawn.

"So, Daniel. It's safe to go back."

"I know, Jack. I was there when the doctors and volunteers came back, remember?"

"Yeah, Danny, I do. Sooo - have you given any thought to what you want to do?" Jack asked, trying and failing to keep his tone casual.

"What I want to do? Um, no, not really. What about Minnesota and your lake?"

"Plenty of lakes here, Daniel," Jack said, trying to let his lover know he would be happy to stay on Beta.

"It was always your dream."

"Dreams change. I'd be happy with any lake."

"There's a lifetime of work in that library, Jack."

"And a whole planet to dig up through the Stargate, Daniel." Jack felt the pressure of duty. It would be difficult for him to abandon Beta but infinitely more difficult to see Daniel unhappy. If Daniel wanted to go back to Earth in order to continue working as an archaeologist, Jack was willing to give up his dreams and his duty.

"You're asking me to decide? That's a little unfair seeing as there's two of us in this relationship."

"I know, but I'm asking, what do you want to do?"

"I don't see how it's my decision. You're needed here, Jack. I know a lot of people are planning on going back but most of them say it's only to check things out. They want to live on Beta, at least that's what they're telling me. And it's all pretty contingent on you being in charge," Daniel said quietly. He was unsure what Jack really wanted, whether he wanted to return to Earth or continue to run Beta.

"Daniel, I know folks would like me to stay in charge, but I gotta tell you... I'm not exactly thinking of anyone else but you. If you want to go back, we'll leave tomorrow."

Daniel turned in Jack's arms and looked long and lovingly at him. Daniel didn't care if they went back to Earth or stayed on Beta. He only wanted to be with Jack, wherever that might be. He had more than enough to keep him occupied on Beta but would also be happy to retire early and spend the rest of his life in a small cabin in Minnesota. He just had to convince Jack that he loved him enough to agree with either choice.

Jack was being noble for his sake and Daniel knew his lover, if asked, would forsake the duty that defined him.

He thought of and rejected a dozen things he could say to express the depth of his feelings. He finally settled on a phrase from a book both he and Jack had stopped believing in a long time ago.

Daniel hand skimmed Jack's jaw and throat, coming to rest on the nape of his neck. He looked into warm and loving eyes and smiled. Paraphrasing, leaving out God, but meaning every word from his heart and soul, he spoke; slowly, softly, clearly, putting as much meaning into the words as he could.

"Entreat me not to leave you, or turn back from following you: For wherever you go, I will go: And wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people. Where you die, I will die and there will I be buried." (Ruth 1:16)

The words struck Jack, one by one, and he swallowed hard before replying, "Me too, Danny. Me too."
Chapter End Notes:
Many thanks to the incredibly talented Spacewolfcub, whose insight and wit is always welcome and appreciated. She beta'd Comes The Dawn and took on far more than she expected. She earned my deepest gratitude. I only wish I had her talent.
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