A BEAUTIFUL NECESSITY BY BIBLIO


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG-13
Category: First Time.  Friendship.  Humour.  Off-World Stuff.  Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 7.  An episode tag for "Enemy Mine."
Synopsis: After seven years of being broken in, Jack is pretty much used to giving Daniel whatever he wants. Caving *works* for him. It's just that this time, what Daniel wants is Jack.
Warnings: Warm fuzzies abound.
Date: 18 October 2005
Notes: Originally appeared in my 2004 Biblio Phile zine.
Length:  417 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story  Download desktop illustration

PART ONE

Jack looked around him with calm satisfaction.

Running field exercises wasn't exactly the thrill of a lifetime for him, but this one was shaping up to be moderately okay. Colonel Edwards' men were at least efficient. The generators were hooked up and the Command Post was fully operational. As well as the C.P., the armoury, infirmary, field kitchen and barracks tents had all been erected, latrines christened, laptops were powering up, communications were being tested and the coffee pot was simmering.

"Camp's in good shape," he remarked casually. "Which is more than can be said for you." He smirked at the hapless Edwards.

"What the hell happened here?" Edwards demanded, more in sorrow than in anger.

"DanielJackson," Teal'c supplied accurately if unhelpfully.

"I know that!" Edwards flared. "I mean?" He didn't appear to know what he meant, deflating into baffled, bristling silence.

"You mean what the hell happened here?" Jack offered, feeling Edwards' pain.

"Vengeance," Teal'c informed them with a certain warm approval. "DanielJackson was most perturbed that your men failed to exhibit the proper reverence for important archaeological artefacts."

"How can you tell?" Edwards appealed to them both. "How do you know when junk that's in your way is an important artefact?"

"It is the stated opinion of DanielJackson that all artefacts are important and should be respected accordingly," Teal'c informed him. "You are in fact in their way." He gave this bleak message time to sink in before administering the coup de grace. "Nor does DanielJackson care for the appellation 'junk'."

"If you hadn't moved them?" Jack shrugged, wincing over the memory of hissy fits past, and present, mentally bracing himself for hissy fits future. Which were pretty much a given if Edwards' men were as clued in for this little training exercise as they had been back there with the Unas. "You might, and I stress might, have gotten away with it. He never, ever forgets these things but he does sometimes forgive."

They ambled gently around the perimeter of their small camp, watching various wary members of SG-11 scuttling anyplace Dr. Jackson wasn't, with the sole exception of Major Lorne, who was stuck right in front of him. Daniel was in full flow and the poor man was visibly alarmed, trying to back away from him without actually embarrassing himself in front of the rest of the unit by moving. It made for some interesting body language, even from this distance.

"Where, exactly, does Dr. Jackson fit in the command structure of the SGC?" Edwards asked thoughtfully, watching his 2iC failing to explain something to the archaeologist's satisfaction.

"That's a question I've asked myself more than once," Jack admitted, ignoring one of Teal'c's blander smiles and a smugly cocked eyebrow. "About the only conclusion I've reached is that Daniel talks me into things I don't want to do and out of things I either do want to do or the Air Force wants me to do. He talks Hammond into and out of things too."

"Also General Vidrine," Edwards interrupted sourly, dwelling on another unpleasant memory.

"Along with the Joint Chiefs, the President and assorted unsuspecting aliens."

"Me too," Edwards confessed manfully, glowering at the offensively pretty wildflowers clustered around the camp.

They both looked at Teal'c and were treated in return to his best poker face. The big guy wasn't about to admit to anything, even though Jack knew and Teal'c knew most of the time he didn't even put up a token resistance when Daniel had his dander up and was insisting on doing something insanely dangerous.

"Teal'c let Dr. Jackson romp off to his pow-wow with the Unas unarmed," Edwards obligingly filled in the blanks for a curious Jack. "Something I would not have signed off on had either of them bothered to inform me what they were up to."

"Then you would have been wrong. Acting upon the advice of the Unas Chaka, DanielJackson was certain all would be well. He was proved correct in his assertion," Teal'c said coldly.

"He talks Teal'c into stuff too," Jack noted for the record. He also made a mental note to discuss with Daniel this vexed matter of giving him vicarious heart attacks, at their earliest possible convenience. "And you could not have known at the time all would be well. Haven't we had this conversation?" he complained to the big guy. "Don't let him do shit you know I wouldn't let him do!"

Teal'c was very amused by this. "Had you been present on this occasion, O'Neill, you would merely have disarmed and accompanied DanielJackson, since you would have been unable to prevent his departure."

Edwards seemed unsurprised by this insulting pronouncement on Jack's leadership abilities. "So what we're saying," he drawled, drawing some unflattering conclusions, "is there's a command structure which Dr. Jackson is basically at the top of."

"I tend to think of him being kind of off to one side," Jack explained.

"Does it help?"

"No."

They watched the abject Major Lorne some more, still stupidly attempting to defend whatever his point of view was, which simply egged Daniel on to greater heights of eloquence in his attempt to guide the major towards a deeper, fuller understanding of his archaeological inadequacy.

"That guy is drowning, not waving." Jack didn't bother to hide his grin. Daniel explained things to him all the time so it seemed only fair on this exercise he got to enjoy himself watching Daniel explain things to everyone else. This was one of the few perks of command, at least on field exercise. So far as Jack was concerned, anyone dumb enough to argue with Daniel deserved everything they were asking for and would assuredly get, and he wanted to be around when it happened.

"Should we help Lorne out?" Edwards asked, not making a move.

"Do you wish to take his place?" Teal'c enquired politely.

"It's character building," Jack suggested, smirking again, while Edwards, generally a caring C.O., wavered.

After a protracted pause, Edwards self-consciously chose to stick with Jack and Teal'c, strolling on when they did, apparently abandoning Major Lorne to his fate. "Dr. Jackson likes you." This came out as a definite accusation.

"Well, he doesn't actively hate you," Jack retorted, taking this personally.

"He broke you in, Jack."

"At least I'm man enough to know it," Jack admitted lightly. He patted Edwards' shoulder with suitably insolent pity. "And I've got news for you."

"Colonel Edwards is also broken," Teal'c beat Jack to the punch.

"Look who's talking!" Edwards sneered.

"Daniel is a very sweet, very gentle guy." Jack angled them towards the C.P., figuring he needed to know now how bad the coffee was. A decaffeinated archaeologist was an unhappy archaeologist. "Nice. And an absolute, once-in-a-generation genius."

"Mostly for getting his own way." Edwards was fighting a tiny, rueful grin too. "And for being a pain in the ass."

"Daniel excels in a number of fields."

"I believe Major Lorne has capitulated," Teal'c observed, smiling at their now cheerful archaeologist, once more victorious on the field of verbal battle.

Jack looked at his watch. "Seven and a half minutes. Not bad." He beamed at Edwards, who growled, fished into a pocket, grudgingly handing over his twenty bucks. Jack snapped the notes to crispness, folded them neatly before Edwards' regretful face and slid them into his own pocket. "These defensive bets are gonna kill you." Not that he could blame the man for backing his people, even in the face of overwhelming odds. "Let's just hope there's something fascinating behind those big honkin' doors in the cliff face."

"You mean if he gets distracted, he'll go easy on us?"

"No."

Teal'c's flat pronouncement appeared to daunt Edwards.

Jack looked at him sadly. "You moved artefacts, Edwards. He'll never be that distracted."

He was beginning to quite enjoy all of this. Daniel had spent six days keeping the Unas from re-enacting the Alamo with SG-11 in starring roles as assorted martyrs while Edwards' men trained the Unas to mine the naquadah deposit. By some miracle of the archaeologist, this had not led to the expected massacre. That was good, Jack supposed. No one dying was good, especially not Daniel. He should be satisfied with that.

Six days, though. Six whole days. Days which dragged. He'd missed Daniel. He did not care who knew this. Not that he went into specifics, of course. He simply loomed up at sundry airmen and happened to them.

Everyone was pleased to see Daniel return to the SGC. Jack modestly accepted his due accolade as the entire base breathed a collective sigh of relief and rolled out the proverbial red carpet and killed the fatted cheesecake for their prodigal.

Of course the mission debriefing was hijacked by the burning issue of the rape of the artefacts, very much on Daniel's mind, and once he got going, he made sure it was on Hammond's mind too.

After surrendering the mining operation to the Unas, Daniel, Teal'c and Edwards' team had all been technically left with a window in their busy, busy schedules. Daniel was obsessing over some very tempting aerial photographs and MALP video footage from the unexplored world of the Odokai, and dying to get at whatever was behind those massive carved doors in the cliff. With Jack recuperating from a clawed shoulder and sadly very much at his disposal, all Daniel needed was a team for the dig survey and manual labour. Unfortunately for Colonel Edwards and his team, they needed – according to Daniel - training in surveying archaeological digs and a variety of other vital field skills the Air Force had never let on they'd need, including Jack's personal favourite, inter-species diplomacy. He and Teal'c had themselves one helluva double act on that one.

It took Hammond mere moments to add Daniel and SG-11 and make mission, and when a bright-eyed, hopeful look was turned on him, even less for Jack's spine to dissolve. He tended to notice how very, very blue Daniel's eyes were at the most inopportune times.

Having made General Vidrine a very happy bunny indeed with the prospect of a fat fleet of battle cruisers, Daniel had definitely earned his treat and he got it mostly because no one had had the heart or, more to the point, the energy to say no to him.

Edwards was inclined to be entertainingly bitter about how hard, how fast and how unexpectedly Daniel had hit him. Why it had come as such a shock was anyone's guess. Edwards knew Daniel was a pain in the ass. Having worked with him in person, it wasn't as if he needed to go digging for proof.

Jack was very happy to be around to enjoy Daniel making SG-11 suffer as only he could.

He was even happier he'd have Daniel alone with him in a nice roomy tent for the best part of a week and he could make Daniel talk about stuff while he lolled idly on his bunk and listened.

He beamed as Daniel and Lorne joined them. "Gentlemen, welcome to Field Archaeology 101!"

Daniel gave him a shy, distinctly pleased smile, sidling closer as Lorne appealed to his C.O. Edwards for a command ruling over some inanity in a futile attempt to salvage some dignity.

"Field archaeology?" Daniel murmured, his eyes sparkling. "I'm impressed."

"You should be."

"Weird how you didn't even know what Sam was doing this past week and yet you can make a distinction like that over my area of expertise," Daniel said confidentially, leaning in a little.

Jack leaned in too. "Don't spread it around," he ordered teasingly. "People might think I care."

"Yes," Daniel agreed softly, looking at him very directly. "They might." He glanced across at Teal'c, standing nearby, serenely watching their by-play. "Sam gets annoyed when you show that kind of disdain for what she cares about."

Carter would live.

"I do too."

Jack shrugged, not willing to concede but ruefully aware his willingness or otherwise was often a moot point where Daniel was concerned.

"Just be careful, Jack, please." Daniel squeezed Jack's arm meaningfully. He meant be nice.

Jack was easy with Daniel being close to him these days. Easier than he could ever have imagined in all the time Daniel was taken from him. Having Daniel safe and home, having this chance with his friend he'd believed he'd lost, made him easy with most things. Jack had lost his cutting edge, had moved past his need for distance almost without knowing, and so Daniel was open to him again, safe, relaxing into their old rhythm, his weary defensiveness forgotten.

There was so much warmth between them, such trust, he was simply going with the flow of their friendship, feeling they were getting closer, going deeper, all the time. It was good. It was all good. He was easy and he was making sure this time.

No more grief, not for either of them.

He found himself smiling now, as he so often did, liking Daniel's answering smile, liking the confidence and faith he saw. Daniel smiled more for him now than he ever had before. For all of them.

"Time for chow, I think," Edwards commented casually, his attention now on his men. Playtime was clearly over. "Be dark soon and I need to check on my men." He marched off, Lorne in attendance.

Daniel was looking up at the sky. "Sunset," he noted inconsequentially.

"I will remain with you, DanielJackson, if you wish to observe," Teal'c offered graciously.

"Me too." Jack squeezed Daniel's shoulder encouragingly and they wandered down through the long, sweet meadow grasses, starred with wildflowers bordering the camp, aiming for a bleached log stranded on the broad shale shore of the wide, serene river. Everywhere they looked there was a burst of colour, among the grasses, among the leaves, in the sky above.

Daniel didn't seem to notice, or at least to not mind being kept tucked safely between Jack and Teal'c when they sat. "It's beautiful," he sighed, drinking it in, pulling off his bandana, lifting his face to bathe in the sun.

Jack's fingers were twitching to smooth his rumpled hair. "What did you say they called this place?" he asked, prudently hanging onto his P-90. He tried half-heartedly, but he couldn't feel bad about being so distractible. They weren't exactly surrounded by ravening alien hordes bent on mass destruction. The locals were mostly startled, that he recalled.

"Odokai," Daniel said dreamily, watching the sun dance on the clear water, flickering the reflections of the slim, graceful trees on the far shore. "Their name for themselves and their home."

"They are a quiet people," Teal'c observed with masterly understatement.

The few natives who'd showed their faces when Jack and his people came through the gate were extremely timid of strangers, but cautiously welcoming after a substantial gift of food. Their gratitude wasn't an overreaction. A long winter was just ending and it was too soon for them to begin to hunt. Jack appreciated the way the locals seemed to care not only for their land, but also for each other, a trait he tended to see far less often. People weren't exactly a cash crop.

The Odokai homes were simply constructed of what looked like reeds. Reed igloos, for want of a better word. The domes were oddly graceful, barely standing out from the forest surrounding them. From what little the team had been allowed to observe, technology appeared non-existent but Jack had the feeling it was because they didn't want material trappings, that they'd chosen not to go down that road rather than had it denied them. Daniel kept harping on about the Odokai being organic something or other. Even Jack was curious about why.

"They're accepting of our presence, but don’t want significant contact with us," Daniel said regretfully. "I would've liked the opportunity to learn more about their culture and history but I guess we have to respect their earnestly expressed wish to be left alone." He sighed, despondently scuffing his boot in the shale. Then he straightened up. "What?" he asked suspiciously. "Why are you both looking at me like that?"

"Once more with feeling, Daniel," Jack urged him. "If you like, Teal'c and I could go round a few of them up at gunpoint for you to interrogate."

Daniel was horrified yet strangely drawn to this heart-warming offer, despite his best efforts at radiating disapproval. "Would you?" he asked feebly.

Jack beamed at him.

"As would I," Teal'c agreed generously.

"That's. No." Daniel was somewhat lacking in conviction. "No."

"Yet you feel no such compunction to respect the wishes of the men of SG-11," Teal'c pointed out an apparent ethical contradiction.

"The Odokai aren't storming around the galaxy destroying the extremely limited body of archaeological evidence and eradicating the historical record because it's quote 'in the way'!" Daniel argued hotly.

"We get the point!" Jack interrupted rapidly.

"Indeed," Teal'c seconded him. "It has been several years since O'Neill last destroyed irreplaceable archaeological evidence he felt was impeding him."

"You know, when you feel the need to share, don't let us hold you back or anything," Jack scowled malignantly at Teal'c.

"O'Neill is proof your brainwashing methods are successful, DanielJackson," Teal'c went on, taking Jack at his word.

"Brainwashing?" Daniel nibbled his lip musingly over this. He seemed quite pleased with the analogy, glancing around speculatively at the men in the camp behind them. A swift, mischievous grin dimpled.

"How's it going, by the way?" Jack asked, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the cliff and its massive carved doors. He was conscious of a need to focus, however vaguely, on his responsibilities.

"I have digital images of each section of the door," Daniel reported ebulliently, breaking out into an anticipatory smile. "Of the entire cliff-face in fact. I downloaded them onto my laptop for further study."

This tragic enthusiasm sadly suggested an evening of exciting cross-referencing, not Travel Scrabble, chess or Daniel's endearing rants and meanderings about life, the universe, sports, Jack and everything.

"You know," Jack said slyly, deciding to make his own entertainment, "the entire camp are already taking bets on whether you'll get those doors open or not."

"Start another book on when," Daniel instructed crisply, "not if."

A nice thought occurred to Jack. "Any insider information forthcoming on exactly when?"

Teal'c frowned over this broad hint, then got awfully pensive too.

"Watch the sunset, Jack," Daniel advised him kindly.

"What could it hurt?"

"Get over it, Jack."

"But?"

"Jack."

Teal'c watched the tree line, Daniel watched the sunset and Jack watched Daniel. He did this a lot, more than he ever had before, knowing it wouldn't be questioned. Daniel never noticed these things and everyone else knew how Jack was that whole year without him. He'd grieved more than he thought was possible, more than he imagined he could. Nothing had touched him so deeply since he lost Charlie. No one moved him the way Daniel did. It was only in losing Daniel that Jack opened himself to everything he meant to him. Daniel was the best friend he'd ever had.

Looking at his friend now, his vivid face serene, Jack had to ask himself again how he could ever have seen Daniel as some kind of threat to him, how he could've treated him the way he did. It was an error he'd promised himself he would not repeat or compound. Daniel was never going to pay the price for Jack's emotional failings, not ever again.

Hell, it was past time he cared more about Daniel than he did about himself.

He sat patiently, waiting for Daniel to snap back to reality as the sky streaked rosy with gold and peach, slowly darkening to an intense tangerine. Waiting and watching, his eyes were drawn lazily to trace the way Daniel's fine, fair hair hugged the contours of his head, with errant curls and tendrils here and there. He didn't even realise he was so tuned out until he missed Daniel's quiet question to Teal'c.

"I continue to find Kel'No'Reem difficult, DanielJackson. I would prefer to be alone."

"If you're sure?"

"I am."

Daniel accepted Teal'c's reassurance reluctantly.

Jack was inclined to be indignant. Daniel's assertiveness was great, he was behind it one hundred and ten percent, except when Daniel wanted to do something he didn't. Such as, random example here, inviting half the camp to share his tent!

Someone's stomach rumbled and Daniel got up, looking pained. "I guess we can't hold out forever," he grumbled. He always tried. He was not a fan of MREs and he was a man who would eat bugs and weird alien goo without hesitation and act as if he were grateful for the honour.

Jack thought it would be a calculated cruelty to tell Daniel that Edwards hadn't weaselled a good cup of coffee out of his team in three months. This was simply too much for him to take on top of the boil-in-the-bag dining experience for the second week in a row.

With the sun almost gone and the air sharpening, the camp was quieter, most of the men settled inside their tents. A CD player was spilling out Barry Manilow of all things from one barracks, while a spirited poker game was underway in the other. Several smaller tents had been erected for Edwards and his officers, one for Teal'c, plus one Jack and Daniel would be sharing.

Carter had excused herself without compunction for another science project Daniel would be pissed Jack hadn't cared enough about to catch the name of. She was ready to gate through if they found something techy and interesting but Jack doubted they'd be seeing her any time soon. The Odokai didn't exactly strike him as conspicuous electronic consumers.

The field kitchen was a fancy pants name for a tent with a few tables and chairs where everyone could grab a coffee, fresh drinking water, or boil a bag of whatever allegedly balanced nutrition the SGC had inflicted on them this trip.

Edwards was the only occupant, sitting scowling darkly over a tall, polished steel cup of coffee, and what, if given the benefit of the doubt, might be described as pie. It was actually a toaster pastry but Edwards was really making it work for him.

Daniel's face fell. He trailed unhappily after Jack and Teal'c to inspect the tempting array of delicious blue-plate specials, petulantly picking out the spaghetti menu almost at random. After unpacking, sorting the contents and irritably dumping his bag into the field stove to boil, he dragged himself and the rest of his three-course meal with whine over to the table to sit with the colonel.

"Vanilla cappuccino?" Daniel asked, eyeing a beverage sachet he'd just unearthed in his spaghetti/meat sauce menu pack.

"Don't even try it," Edwards warned him, holding out his cup for inspection.

Daniel slumped.

Jack decided to live dangerously with beef teriyaki while Teal'c, after careful perusal, risked the western beans for some inexplicable reason. Possibly for no other reason than he owned a Stetson. It certainly wasn't for anything fun. The guy wasn't even sharing his tent. Then they closed in on Daniel to begin the traditional barter session in the hopes of reconstructing a meal one of them actually wanted to eat.

Teal'c had applesauce and traded Jack a chocolate mint pound cake for an almond poppy seed one. After some thought, Daniel decided to keep his fudge brownie but traded crackers with cheese spread for Jack's chocolate chip cookies. Jack assured himself that as a sign of affection, giving up his cookies was waaay less obvious than notes in Daniel's locker or asking Teal'c to ask Daniel if he liked Jack.

No one was willing to risk the vanilla cappuccino, so Daniel ventured over bravely to investigate the coffee pot, with everyone watching anxiously. After a horrified shudder, he pronounced it caffeine. Teal'c got some water.

"The really frightening thing is," Edwards observed gloomily as he sipped his hot beverage, "these are the new and improved Happy Meals." It seemed to perk him up, reducing Daniel to a state of inchoate dread, his gaze fixed on the field stove.

They retrieved their entrées. They stoically ate their entrées. Then they ate everything else extremely quickly in an effort to take away the taste of their entrées.

"So, Dr. Jackson?" Edwards prompted as Daniel munched on his appropriated cookies, looking slightly more human than he had pre or even during the spaghetti/meat sauce menu. "What are your plans for tomorrow? The general was vague about what this exercise entailed. Deliberately so, I thought."

"Instant, total, unquestioning obedience," Jack interpolated cheerfully before Daniel could speak.

Edwards was disconcerted to see Daniel nodding agreement to this sentiment as he gamely swallowed his last mouthful of cookie.

"Jack is exaggerating," Daniel informed Edwards reassuringly. "I don't mind questions."

Edwards appeared to have no response to that.

"He has his reasons," Jack prompted evilly.

"There are three main causes of accidents on digs," Daniel responded guilelessly and with frightening earnestness. "Ignorance, heedlessness and most ludicrous of all, machismo. There is no place on an excavation for unthinking or uncivilised behaviour," he pronounced with calm finality.

"Your team can get the three-minute version of that tomorrow, or the three-hour," Jack added, grinning fiendishly. "I should point out the choice is not yours."

"The fact you've been running a geological survey on P3X-403 suggests you and your men have some transferable skills," Daniel acknowledged, eyeing Edwards as dubiously as he had the coffee pot earlier. "I have to effect entry to the site and conduct a preliminary survey." He looked slightly more hopeful as a thought occurred. "Do you have anyone who's good with the video camera? We'll need a complete record of all artefacts and possible texts in situ."

"He means don’t move anything," Jack translated, his grin widening.

"The resonance scanner and other geological equipment may also prove to be useful," Daniel speculated happily, oblivious to any possible mutinous military undercurrents. "Major Lorne can help me with mapping the site, and with the CAD software you have, even prepare a computer model."

Jack had a strong suspicion Daniel's fondness for computer models of his precious sites were the main reason Carter had cried off from the mission. The woman had serious smarts and approximately the same level of resistance to Daniel's wiles as Jack did. It was bad enough doing something boring as crap without Daniel batting his eyes at you and making you happy to help.

Cheerfully admitting he existed in this exact mental space, Jack settled back to appreciate Daniel painting for Edwards a beguiling picture of ruthless exploitation he was the only one not to see. In fact, he had the warm certainty of a man whose passion and enthusiasm would be embraced and shared. This was where Jack and Teal'c came in. They were experts at the looming, visible threat thing.

Jack doubted Edwards would prove to be too much of a handful for Daniel to handle. He had the punchy look of a cobra which hadn't worked out the cute, cuddly, little bundle of bouncy fur was a mongoose until its ass was being served up as steak tartare. And Daniel was just getting warmed up.

He adored watching Daniel's unquenchable mojo at full force. His personal, complementary contribution to the exercise would be crowing over the stunned discomfiture of the stricken victims littering his innocent archaeologist's energetic wake.

Archaeology was great when Jack was watching it knock the socks off other people, even people he thought were okay. The best thing about it, though, was what it did for Daniel, lighting him up with passion and an unstinting kid-at-Christmas wonder Jack guessed professional archaeologists were supposed to have shaken off their first week at school. Daniel loved his research, he lived for it, and he didn't care who knew it. Jack cared. He cared a lot. Daniel was better than all of them. He was original. This was why he opened the Stargate when no one else could and why he was here.

"Look," Jack told Edwards. "This is a training mission. Your men are here to learn. Daniel is here to teach. This is not a pointless exercise. We actually want to know what's behind those doors and the chances are, whatever it is, we'll be able to use it somehow. This stuff is, well, er, it's, er, kind of, er, important."

He was impressing the hell out of Daniel. He could tell. The man was all big blue eyes, flushed cheeks and dimpling grin. Edwards was staring too, but definitely not for the same reason and not cute by any stretch of the imagination.

"The sooner you accept that archaeology is effectively intelligence gathering out here, the better for you and for your men," Jack elaborated firmly, trying to claw back some semblance of command credibility. "Plus, like it or loathe it," and he left his rapt audience to decide which on side of the fence he was sitting, "on the direct order of the President, the SGC is obligated to bring back not just the doohickeys and the rocks you've been looking for, for the past three months, but the pots, the bones, and where possible, the scrolls too. We have to evaluate the scientific and cultural value of every mission as well as fulfilling our standing orders to locate tech, weapons and allies. Eventually, this will make sense to you."

"I agree with Jack," Daniel backed him up emphatically to the shock of no one seated at the table. "Archaeology does have a place at the SGC whether you appreciate that or not. These are not dead cultures." He gestured eloquently around him. "Our enemies are living out what we popularly consider to be myth and legend, not history. The past is our key to understanding, and hopefully, eventually defeating those enemies, like the Goa'uld, but it’s also part of what's helped us to forge the alien alliances we have and to assess how the neutral races might react to given situations."

He leaned forward, unconsciously reaching out across the table with clasped, compelling hands. "Communication is vital. It’s the single most important function of a first contact team like SG-1. Every mission, every dig has the potential to yield scrolls, tablets, pictographs - vital texts which aid in the translation of the many written and spoken ancient and alien languages we've encountered. Language!" he said passionately. "It's the one universal constant of sentient beings."

Edwards met Daniel's eyes. He nodded gravely, sober as a judge. "I've got work." He pushed back his chair and exited the tent with impressive speed and zero dignity, leaving Daniel sitting seething with indignation and Jack pleased he still had more credibility as a sonovabitch than Edwards did. Daniel hadn’t made him run away for years.

"A tactical withdrawal," Teal'c noted.

"He's even ruder than you are," Daniel bitched, apparently blaming Jack for this.

Jack patted Daniel gently. "You can get him tomorrow," he promised. "I'll order him to stay put until you're done with him and if he tries to get away again, I'll let you shoot him."

"Good!"

Jack decided it was time for him to execute a tactical withdrawal too. With the ease of long experience, he took one of Daniel's hands and pulled. Where his hands went, Daniel tended to follow. He was unable to communicate without them. Once he was on his feet, Jack gently propelled him towards the exit, glancing back at Teal'c before they went out. "I dare you to drink that cappuccino," he taunted.

Teal'c's eyebrows soared.

Jack loved when he did that. No one rose to the bait quicker than the big guy did.

"Jack?"

"Hmm?"

"Colonel Edwards isn't under pressure."

"Not right this minute, no," Jack acknowledged carefully, wondering where Daniel was going with this. "Apart from you, obviously."

Daniel took this unflattering observation well. "You still think he's a good man?"

"Meaning you don't?"

"Meaning I want to know what you think."

"Makepeace was a good soldier. You remember him? Tall, balding? Gung ho? Jerk?" Jack prompted.

Daniel's lips thinned. He remembered.

"He used to call Teal'c 'the Jaffa.'" Makepeace had names for Daniel too. "You see Edwards treat Teal'c different than anyone else?"

"No," Daniel said softly, smiling a little.

"He's a good man who needs experience of all the insane crap which can happen out here."

"Intelligent and willing to learn?"

"Intelligent and will learn," Jack corrected, erring on the side of honesty.

Daniel shivered, hugging himself as he walked, glancing up now and then at the stars. The sky was clear, the air cool and nature-scented. Pretty near perfect. "No matter how many times we sleep under alien skies, I never get used to it," he said quietly. "It's the stars more than anything which remind you how far you are away from home."

It had been a long time since Jack was really certain what home was. Mostly, home was his team, along with Hammond and Fraiser. Not a place at all. He wondered if it was the same for Daniel.

Daniel ducked into the tent while Jack walked beyond it, taking one last look around, checking the sentries had good positions and all was quiet in the C.P, close by them. He was nominally running the exercise, but he didn't want or need to ride herd too closely on Edwards. All the guy needed was to loosen up a little. There was a time and place to be a hard-ass and it wasn't always where or when you expected. Daniel had already started to help Edwards see this. This exercise would let him see a little more and when he was least expecting it, when he thought the worst was over, Jack and Teal'c would hit him with their patented alien diplomacy double-act, and Daniel would show him how that worked too.

He went inside and found Daniel brushing his teeth, shrugging off his jacket and trying to log onto his laptop at the same time.

Jack rolled his eyes disapprovingly at the haphazard multi-tasking but said nothing. He was saving his strength to mediate bigger, badder arguments. They were sure to come, especially once Daniel got them inside those doors and started to investigate whatever was buried in the mountain.

"I hope we find something cool," he remarked absently, securing his weapon, shucking his jacket and parking his ass on his bunk with a gratitude he didn't want anyone to see.

"We always find something cool."

The dignified, toothbrush-muffled retort had Jack grinning again. His grin faded as he guiltily jerked his gaze away from Daniel's ass, his fatigues clinging faithfully to the tight, perfect curves. Daniel grabbed his tin cup, hustled outside, gargled, rinsed and came back in a better mood than he left. He liked to brush his teeth. He liked the taste of the mint. It was one of those things.

Daniel stood by the camp table a moment, ignoring his laptop in favour of looking seriously at Jack.

Jack quirked his eyebrows, wondering if a mean game of Dirty Scrabble was on offer after all. He was surprised, but definitely okay with it, when Daniel chose to come over and sit next to him. The cot creaked but held up to their combined weight quite well.

"I wanted to talk to you," Daniel confided, staring straight ahead at the wall of the tent.

"I figured." He could feel the heat from Daniel's thigh and shoulder, pressing into him. "What's up?" he asked, keeping it matter-of-fact. Something was on Daniel's mind and he was offering Jack a rare opportunity to finesse it out of him.

"The mission to P3X-403?" Daniel said hesitantly. "Not so much Edwards and his men, I've been through a similar dance with most of the teams we've worked with and he got the point I was making quicker than most." Daniel thought about this. "Actually, he got the point Iron Shirt and the massed tribes of Unas made. There's nothing quite like an imminent massacre to focus even the most rigid military mind."

Jack was sure Colonel Edwards would thank Dr. Jackson for this glowing tribute.

"It was the Unas," Daniel confided. "A thriving, evolving society with a healthy value system and a level of honesty and honour which far exceeded our own in that situation. Negotiating with them, working closely with them in the mine this past week, seeing how direct and generous they are, totally without duplicity or the comfortable self-deceit which seems to typify our own culture." Daniel glanced at Jack to see how he was taking this. "Seeing the value they as a culture and as individuals place on honesty, it got me thinking, it helped me realise some things."

Patience was required. Daniel would eventually explain, if Jack waited him out and didn't piss him off in the meantime. "Unas?" he queried carefully.

"Thank you for not referring to them as big stinky monsters this time."

"You're welcome."

"The Unas. Their lives are simpler."

Tooth and claw, mostly, with the occasional clubbing thrown in for good measure. It didn't get any simpler.

"They don't lie." Daniel turned to him, mildly watching Jack's face and his responses to this. He couldn't seem to emphasise this particular point enough. "They don't dissemble. Their language is rudimentary but it serves to communicate their wants and desires, their expectations, their laws and responsibilities. The essence, the spirit of what they want to share with you. It isn't masked by misunderstandings. Their vocabulary, their body language, their social structure, all designed around honour and respect not just for one another but for their home, their world, and even for their enemies. Like their culture, their language has integrity. It, it doesn't get in the way."

Okay, this was new. He'd never heard Daniel talking quite like this before. "You love language," he reminded him. "You get giddy when people use your favourite words. You have favourite words. Now, suddenly, words get in your way?"

"Sometimes."

"I'm sorry, Daniel, I'm not following this at all," Jack admitted, frustrated at how slow he was tonight. He was usually better at this stuff. As long as he didn't have to talk, that was. Listening, he could do. Usually. It bothered him that words were definitely getting in his way. Daniel really didn't do this confiding thing a lot and Jack felt he should be offering back something more than polite incomprehension. Strong, silent support wasn't quite cutting it here.

"You don't think we use language to frame our thoughts, our feelings?" Daniel asked him, earnestly. "The compromises we make, the lies we tell each other and ourselves? We use language to hide as much as we use it to communicate intent."

Daniel was focused and resolute, clearly knowing where he was going with this, while Jack was pissed and feeling he was just along for the ride. There didn't seem much he could do to contribute until he figured out what was going on with Daniel. Sometimes, he just went too deep for Jack.

"Well, as I said, I've been thinking. I guess I've been thinking and questioning a lot recently. My assumptions, my memories, my judgements and decisions. I remember everything up until the point I ascended, Jack. I know why I made that decision," Daniel said slowly, his eyes very far away, looking inward. "I needed to feel I belonged."

This left Jack wincing. It wasn't anything he hadn't thought himself this past year, but it still hurt to hear Daniel prove him right. All he could do was take Daniel's shoulder in a comforting clasp and hold onto him, like he should have held onto him before.

"I wouldn't unmake that, I've changed too much because of it, but I understand now why I chose to come back. Not only because I could do more here, but because I could be myself. The compromises of ascension were too great for me. I don’t remember, not details, specifics, I just, I feel it." He seemed to really need Jack to understand this.

Jack wanted to show Daniel he was with him, that he understood and could even accept. They'd moved beyond blame, both of them. He slid his arm right around Daniel's shoulders, hugging him into his side.

"Everything I needed was here, Jack. I - I know that now. Everyone I care about. My family. You were here. It took me so long to learn and accept what you were all trying to tell me when I was dying. That I made a difference to you."

Daniel's voice was so strained.

"If you know you made the choice?" Jack offered, finally finding his voice, embarrassingly gruff and grateful.

"I know," Daniel interrupted, gently insistent.

"Then that's good," Jack assured him warmly. Better than good, but he didn't want to get carried away, not when he was already hugging and this was serious stuff.

"You see?" Daniel shook his head, eyes rueful.

No. He didn't. He was still hoping they'd come to the eureka point. The executive summary. Soon. He liked hugging Daniel way too much to allow himself to really get into it like this. It was very difficult for him to let go. So, he worked, he kept it easy.

"Sometimes, language is a hindrance and words can't frame what you need to say." Daniel reached around, took Jack's chin in his hand and turned his startled face. He looked at Jack, very intense and very afraid, and then his eyes cleared, he smiled, and he kissed him.

You were here.

You.

Oh.

Oh, god.

Sweet, serene kiss, because Daniel knew, knew exactly. Tender, murmuring pressure, lingering over his mouth, strong body leaning into him, arms coming around him. Jack was flaming and shaken, kissing back, he couldn't help that, holding onto Daniel, holding him tight, couldn't stop. It was good, it was so good. It was Daniel.

Daniel, sitting back from him the small distance Jack's arms allowed, dreamy-eyed and determined, his fingers resting over Jack's cheek.

"No," Jack said blindly.

"No?" Daniel smiled waveringly and kissed him again, his gentle hand cupping around Jack's head, keeping him close as their mouths moved tenderly. Moved together. "No?" he whispered.

"No. I can't. I can't." Jack didn't deny he wanted to. At this moment. Dammit, dammit! He couldn't lie. He wanted this so badly and Daniel knew it as well as he did. They both wanted. "I made a promise!"

"I made a promise too," Daniel said, solemn and determined. "A promise to myself. Now I'm making one to you. I'm going to seduce you."

"Daniel!" Jack hissed. It didn’t help he hadn't let go and Daniel's curious fingertips were delicately tracing the lines of his throat. His skin burned where Daniel touched and he found it hard to swallow. Impossible to push Daniel, in all his gentle reverence, away.

"Better be prepared to defend yourself, Jack," Daniel warned him, "because I won't quit until you give in."

"I can't. I shouldn't have to explain why!" Sitting here in the middle of the camp, surrounded by the men he was commanding, kissing his friend, wanting him, barely maintaining enough control not to just push him down, take it all the way. He couldn't be more compromised. He wouldn't let himself think about Daniel this way. He'd never allowed...he, he couldn't. Everything inside him lashed out and he'd promised, not again. He wouldn't be that way.

They were friends.

"You'll have to explain why we can't be together if I'm going to demolish all your denials," Daniel explained patiently.

"Daniel."

"No more compromises, Jack. I've decided."

"What about what I've decided?" Jack demanded, unable to take in what he was hearing, what was happening. That Daniel could possibly want him.

"Fight you for it," Daniel retorted with a flash of grimacing humour. "You can take care of yourself."

"I intend to!" For Daniel's sake, not his own. One of them had to make sense, had to keep their head. This wasn't possible. It couldn't happen. Wanting was not enough. Wishes weren't horses and beggars didn't ride.

"Good," Daniel assured him. "You'd better make a start, then, because I intend to have you." Looking decidedly impish, he brushed a tiny, teasing kiss over Jack's mouth and slipped away, quite pleased with himself.

Jack just sat there, speechless with shock, while Daniel sat down in front of his laptop and pulled his journal towards him, his hands hardly trembling at all as he took up his pen and started a fresh entry.

He wanted to say he was an absolute bastard, that was why this couldn't happen, that he knew his own limitations. There wasn't anything he could say Daniel didn't know about him too.

Daniel wanted him anyway and Jack truly didn't know what to do.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

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