DIVERSION - PART ONE BY BIBLIO


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Action/Adventure.  First Time.  Hurt/Comfort.  Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4.  An AU version of The Light.
Synopsis: Diversion:   1.  Deceiving your enemies.  2.  Finding another way.  3.  Playing for keeps..
Warnings: Minor character death.  Violence.  Language.    Intense situations.  Creative and persistent sexual harassment.
Length: 1.06 Mb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story


Jack winced and caught Hammond’s eye.  It was time to put an end to all this useless speculation.  He glanced at Carter’s flushed face.  More than time.  “Carter.”

Daniel patted Sam’s arm gently.  “You WILL live it down Sam.  Everyone who knows you respects you…they’ll know you’re ONLY sleeping with Jack for the sake of the mission.  It won’t be held against you.”

Sam’s face softened at Daniel’s evident desire to comfort her.  He was completely wrong of course, but she couldn’t resist the kind sentiment behind the words.  She reached up and squeezed his hand for a moment.  Nobody on base would imagine, for a second, that it was just sleeping.  More like droit de seigneur. Goddamn boy’s club…

“CARTER.”

Sam belatedly picked up on the edge in the colonel’s voice and the look on his face.  She stiffened and returned the look with one of her own.  Maybe Daniel’s assessment had been a little less than complimentary to the colonel but still, he’d only had the best of intentions towards HER.

“Colonel O’Neill and I have already discussed the matter at length, Major, " the general’s voice broke in.  "I’ve made a TACTICAL decision on the disposition of the team for this mission.  Teal’c has confirmed that my decision is the best one for the, er, situation you’ll have to deal with.”

Sam wondered what the hell was going on.  She hadn’t missed that slight stress on ‘tactical’.  Why, exactly, had she and Daniel been excluded from these discussions?  It was a clear breach of protocol, all the more surprising because the general not only knew about it, but clearly condoned it.  Sam stiffened.

Jack and the general exchanged eloquent glances.  Carter was suspicious and getting just a little pissy.  Daniel was obviously bewildered by these undercurrents.  He’d never come to grips with the whole chain of command thing.  Jack sighed.  This wasn’t going to be pretty.  A Goa’uld pleasure palace.  Oy!  Goddamn Tok'ra, he thought bitterly.

“Dr Jackson?” Hammond ‘s face softened a little as it always did when he spoke to Daniel, and his tone was soothing.

Daniel dragged his attention away from the obvious tension radiating from Jack and Sam.  “General?”

“Colonel O’Neill and I have decided that Major Carter can’t be tied to the colonel’s side.  She needs to be able to roam the palace as freely as possible in order to locate the double agent who is selling the list of Tok'ra operatives.  She is the only one apart from Teal’c who can sense the presence of a Goa’uld, and the only one with Jolinar’s memories of the Tok'ra to draw on.  Major Carter has the best chance of identifying the Tok'ra traitor.  She can’t do that unless she takes on the persona of the colonel’s Factor.”

Daniel had to agree that made sense.  It would give Sam the opportunity to run lots of ‘errands’ around the palace on Jack’s behalf and good reasons to be in places a paying guest wouldn’t be found.  He gave a little nod to signify his understanding.

Sam froze. She shot the colonel a hard look and saw him smirk. She knew EXACTLY where this was going.  This was worse.  Far worse.  Daniel obviously didn’t have a clue.  Poor Daniel.  Sam sighed.  He hadn’t lived down the Spacemonkey episode yet and it had been two and a half years.  It was her turn to pat his arm sympathetically.  She reached out to Daniel without taking her eyes from the Colonel.  If he took advantage of this he’d have HER to deal with.  She waited with calm certainty for the boom to lower on their hapless archaeologist.

Hammond was having a little difficulty with this but Jack wasn’t about to touch it with a ten foot pole.  This was why Hammond was paid the big bucks.

“Son…I’ve decided that it’s best if YOU play the part of Colonel O’Neill’s…” Hammond searched for the right word “…er… paramour.”

Jack watched this sink in.

“WHAT?”

He stiffened a little at the sheer horror in Daniel’s voice and on Daniel’s face.  Hey!  Watch it there big guy!  Is the thought of being with me so disgusting…?  Jack realised he was a wandering a little off-topic here, and made a conscious effort to rein in his ego.  Time for the team leader to smooth things over.   “Not like we haven’t shared a tent before, Daniel,” he said jovially.

“This isn’t a tent!” Daniel contradicted him indignantly.

Perversely, Jack was starting to enjoy himself.  It had been a long time since he’d seen Daniel so off-balance.  The Daniel of recent months was far more assured and independent than Jack could cope with at times.  It was like Daniel had grown up all of a sudden and cut himself loose before Jack had even known it was coming.  It wasn't that he wanted Daniel all vulnerable and dependent and leaning on him…not that way at all.  He just thought maybe this new Daniel was a little TOO sure of himself at times.  It was nice to know he could still scratch the surface and shake hands with the old Daniel.

That Daniel was stuttering now.  “You…you…wa…want me to share a…a…BED?  With JACK?  I’ll never live it down.”

Jack happily nailed him. “It’s only for the sake of the mission Daniel," he parroted.  "Everyone who knows you respects you.  You will live it down.  I on the other hand…”

“O’Neill.”

Teal’c’s quiet interjection held just enough warning to freeze the rest of the comment on Jack’s lips.  He settled for what he hoped was an unsettling smirk in Daniel’s direction.  He had damn good reasons for arranging things this way - sound tactical reasons - but still, he could NOT resist the prospect of squiring an inhibited and occasionally shy archaeologist around a Goa’uld pleasure palace for a few days.  Especially one who would have to bite back every sarcastic comment and waspish aside for the sake of the mission.  He could have a lot of fun in public with a meek, co-operative, submissive Daniel.  Enough fun to off-set the fact that Daniel would make him pay and pay and pay for it when they got back.

Sam caught the smug look on the colonel’s face and felt her heart sink.  Damn him and his off-the-wall sense of humour anyway.  Daniel was in for it.  She kept up a steady comforting pressure on Daniel’s arm.  They were a heartbeat away from the classic ‘Daniel in distress’ self-hugging, something they rarely saw these days.  It pained Sam to see it now.  She made a firm mental resolve to take the colonel down a peg or three when the mission was over, whatever it took.

“Why me?”

Daniel’s plaintive question was answered by several people at once, but Hammond silenced them with a firm glance.

“You’re needed to help translate the data device that the Tok'ra traitor is using, so Major Carter can determine if any copying or transfer of the operatives list has occurred before she destroys it," the general said soothingly.  "And I needn’t remind you this is an excellent opportunity for US to get a clearer tactical picture of Tok'ra espionage activities.  We’ve been caught out by their hidden agendas before.  Your role is vital to the success of the mission.  I’m sure you can rely on Colonel O’Neill’s discretion not to make this situation any more uncomfortable for you than it has to be.”

Jack squirmed a little at that.  “Daniel, it can’t be Carter and it can’t be Teal’c, he’s our designated Jaffa bodyguard for this gig.  It has to be someone I know well enough, and who knows me well enough, to make the charade convincing to anyone who’s watching, and by process of elimination, that means you.”

“Jack, have you really thought this through?”  Daniel tried to keep an even, reasonable tone.  “Do you really want this going down in a mission report, going on public record?  That Colonel Jack O’Neill had to sleep with Dr Daniel Jackson on P3X-232?”

Daniel knew that Jack had a lot of baggage from a long and often unpleasant career.  He hated the thought of this being something else Jack would have to live down.    He thought about people like Kinsey and Maybourne salivating over a report like that and felt physically sick.

If he was being honest, Daniel wasn’t only concerned about the damage to Jack’s reputation.  He had earned his place on SG-1 and he didn’t want anybody thinking there was no smoke without fire and concluding maybe he was on the team purely for Jack’s personal pleasure.  Like he was some kind of catamite.

“Daniel, believe me, I’ve done worse things.”

Daniel waited in vain for Jack to mention specifics.  “Well…er…Jack, what about being convincing?” he asked desperately.

“That’s why you’re it, Daniel.  We’ve been friends long enough not to have to work on making it look good.”  Jack realised that might not have come out quite the way he meant it when he saw Daniel’s eyes widen.  “I mean, we’re used to being around each other, we’re comfortable with each other.  We get along fine.”

“Er…not always, Jack," Daniel argued vehemently.  "Some days I can’t string together three sentences without you losing interest and interrupting, we’ve never managed yet to disagree quietly on anything, even in public, and we’re both sarcastic and stubborn.  We just know each other and our faults far too well.”

“Like an old married couple?”  Jack’s voice dripped sarcasm.

Daniel scowled across the table. “And in Jack’s case, you can add condescending,” he said pointedly.

Jack matched him glare for glare.

“And juvenile," Daniel couldn’t resist adding, smiling sweetly at Jack. “I mean…even if we COULD last three days without just being…ourselves…," he went on, "EVEN then I don’t think anyone who didn’t know us would believe I could ever go for Jack.”

Daniel had seen for himself that to people who didn’t know Jack at all he could come off as a mouthy hard-ass, downright arrogant.  If you got on his wrong side, he was a bad enemy to make.  Nobody ever saw through his defences the way Daniel did, and very few people saw the way he reigned back his instincts and training and gave his team room to work when they needed him to trust them.  Trust his COMMAND?  You just had to trust Jack.

He didn’t think Jack would ever be convincing as a guy who just wanted to have fun, not when he was in a room full of Goa’uld; they brought out all his worst character traits.  No.  No way.  “People just wouldn’t believe it.”

Daniel also couldn’t get his mind off the appalling consequences of having to share a bed with Jack.  It was impossible.  The moment his guard went down he’d be cuddled up to Jack like he used to cuddle up to Sha’uri.  He couldn’t help it if he was asleep.  There would be too much material for Jack to work with; he would tease Daniel mercilessly.  Forever.  “He’s too…he’s so…he’s…” Daniel faltered.

Jack stiffened.  “What?  He’s…so…what?  Exactly?” he drawled in a silky voice, glaring at Daniel.

Daniel realised that his distraction had led him to be tactless in the extreme.  Since the only coherent image he had in his mind right then was one of him sprawled decadently all over Jack in a bed, he tightened his lips and refused to answer what he considered to be a very loaded question.

Jack was aching to point out forcefully that plenty of people in the SGC believed he and Daniel were together right now.  Their being an item was more or less the majority opinion.  He’d never let what the gossips thought bother him, and anybody who actually dared to say anything would have him to deal with, so it had never been allowed to bother Daniel either.  He was obligated to protect Daniel from it even now, when it would have done Daniel the world of good to get a little reality check, because…dammit …because the gossip was all his fault.  He’d been so thrilled to see Daniel still alive he’d just rushed in where colonels feared to tread and he SHOULD have known better than to think the whole Space Monkey thing would never come back and bite him on the ass.  Plus the fact the two of them were virtually joined at the hip on and off world.  And he was a tactile kind of guy, more show than tell, and it was easier to hug Daniel, or whatever, than it was to have to say how he felt about him at any given time, or to have to watch the guy hug himself.  It was an unbreakable habit now.  It wasn’t Daniel’s fault all that put Jack into the VERY exclusive and highly visible circle of people with the key to Daniel’s personal space.  It just gave the gossips all the ammunition they needed.  Since he had to keep his yap shut on this one, he settled for just sitting there, simmering.

Hammond’s intervention died unspoken as Teal’c entered the fray unexpectedly, and with all of his usual gravitas.  “It is O’Neill’s contention that you are in fact eminently doable, Daniel Jackson.  In that respect the subterfuge would be acceptable.  In fact…”

The technician at the corner computer console had abandoned any pretence of working.  Everyone waited in the paralysed silence for Teal’c to finish.

They knew Teal’c very well.  A quirk of his eyebrow told them just how much he was enjoying the breathless hush.  He went on serenely, smiling gently at Daniel.  “I would contend that O’Neill’s apparent ability to secure the affections of one such as yourself would make him an object of envy and will indeed greatly enhance his status within the closed environs of the pleasure palace.”  A brief, measured pause.  “However, I do concede that it is less clear what YOU would see in O’Neill.”

A choked gasp from the corner console allowed Jack to vent his slightly irrational fury on a safer target than Teal’c.  A scorching look made the technician subside into a semblance of professionalism as he hunkered down and started to type furiously, Jack’s eyes following him all the way.

Sam quelled an urge to giggle and gave Teal’c a quick approving grin.  As put downs went, that one was sheer perfection.   She watched her affronted C.O. with barely concealed glee.

“’Doable?’”  Daniel’s tone could have etched glass.  Friends? BEST friends for over three years now and the only adjective Jack could find for him was doable?  As in ‘It’s Saturday night at O’Malley’s, I’m hammered, got this itch I need scratching, there’s nobody better on offer so I guess Daniel looks doable.  Hey, I won’t enjoy it but I’ll do it anyway, any port in a storm!’  And even that STILL wasn’t enough to get that image of him and Jack in a bed rooted out of his mind.  Daniel ground his teeth.

“Eminently.”  Teal’c confirmed.

Jack winced.  That was a TAD out of context.  “I only discussed that in a TACTICAL way, Daniel, just within the context of this specific mission.”

The curl of Daniel’s lip told them all that this wasn’t nearly enough to get Jack off the hook.  Not nearly enough.

Hammond decided that Daniel had had enough bad news to contend with for one briefing and dismissed them.  “Colonel O’Neill, I suggest that you and Dr Jackson take some time to define the parameters of what will be acceptable behaviour for the duration of this mission.”  As they all stood, he glanced at Daniel’s stormy face and gave in to an irresistible impulse.  “And you can explain to Dr Jackson your reasoning for disposing the team in this way.”

Aw, crap.  Jack watched as Sam gave Daniel one last little pat on the arm and headed for the door.  She paused and gave him a glare that promised this was all far from over.  He jerked his head at Teal’c and got an incline of the head in understanding.

“I will explain to Major Carter.”

Oh well.  With any luck Teal’c would bear the brunt of Carter’s over-protective ‘big sister’ act.  That just left him with…“Daniel.  Let’s go to my office.”  This was going to be bad as it was without giving his pissy archaeologist the advantage of home turf.


Daniel followed Jack into his office and carefully shut the door behind them.  He refused to sit down when Jack did, choosing to lean up against the wall instead, for whatever meagre advantage that gave him.  Jack seemed to be having difficulty meeting his eyes.  Good.

Daniel ran through the whole interchange in the briefing room and realised that maybe he had more of an advantage than he thought.  Jack’s ego had gotten away from him a little when he’d realised the consensus of opinion on his ‘tactical’ disposition of the team was that it could only be chalked up to Daniel slumming it in the worst possible way.  He called down blessings on Teal’c’s head for helping him salvage some semblance of dignity.  ‘Doable’?  What the hell did that mean to Jack, anyway?  He scowled at Jack.  “Jack?”

“Daniel.”

“Jack!”

“Dan…”

“Don’t start with me, Jack.  I’m not in the mood.  Just tell me what you’re up to.”

Jack projected offended innocence.

“‘Doable’?" Daniel asked, enunciating every syllable with crystal clarity.

Jack looked up at Daniel reluctantly.  He nodded.  “Cute.”

“CUTE? " Daniel’s voice went up an octave.  "That does not in any way palliate using an adjective like ‘doable’.  In fact…”

Jack cut him off before the linguistic tirade could gather force.  “It’s a pleasure palace, Daniel.  Most of the people there will have only one thing on their minds.”  He waited a beat and couldn’t stop himself from joining the dots just in case Daniel didn’t.  “Pleasure.  Sex.  Whatever.  Neither the general nor I would choose to expose you or Carter to that kind of environment, but we have no choice.  The stakes are too high.  However,  I WILL do everything I can to keep you both as safe as possible.”

“Then why are you encouraging Sam to go wandering around the palace on her own?" Daniel demanded.  "She’ll turn every head in the place.  Whereas I could just…”

“As my Factor," Jack ruthlessly interrupted, "Carter will be seen as my property and anybody messing with my property will pretty much get Teal’c in their face.  She’s protected to that extent.”  Jack was dancing around the issue that anybody messing with Carter in that way would have to first deal with the more immediate problem of having Carter in their face at the time.  He just couldn’t bring himself to say that of far more concern to him, Hammond and Teal’c was the fact that if anybody messed with Daniel in that way, the most likely outcome would be Daniel ending up on his back.  The three of them were pretty much on the same page on this one.

This was the very same chasm of exactly how much information to share with Daniel he’d hovered over in Hadante.  He’d seen the danger to Daniel clearly enough, even before Linea had intervened, placing Carter under her personal protection and effectively taking her out of the running.  Both the kids were doable - in context - but Daniel, being Daniel, was far more vulnerable than Carter could ever be.  He wouldn’t even see it coming.  Daniel’s mind just did not go there.

Jack couldn’t bring himself to MAKE it go there.  It was dangerous and self-serving in a way, but after all the disappointments and hurts inflicted on Daniel during his time with SG-1, Jack couldn't bear to add this one.  He’d settled for sliding off Daniel’s glasses and warning him obliquely about the dangers of showing signs of weakness.  Daniel hadn’t even questioned why he’d sent him off with Teal’c to do recon while Jack, himself, had gone with Carter to question Linea.  Teal’c had afforded Daniel the maximum protection.   They tried to be tactful about Daniel needing protection - nobody would ever be cruel enough to tell him he needed protection - but it didn’t change the fact that he was the most vulnerable member of the team.

Jack settled for a compromise.  “Daniel.  Doable?  Stay with me here.  Teal’c can watch out for Carter and given that you’ll be right next to me the whole time…” Daniel stiffened at that unfortunate reminder so Jack hurried on, “yours truly will do his humble best to watch out for YOU.”

“Why are you so insistent that I NEED watching out for?  I’m thirty-five years old, Jack.  Cute…”  Daniel spat that word vituperatively,  “does not apply.  Kittens are cute.  Puppies are cute.  I’m not.  Look at me!”

Jack wasn’t in the habit of eyeing up guys in general and his closest friend in particular.  He cursed the damned Tok'ra for getting him into this. What exactly could he say?  Jack looked up and tried to threat assess Daniel objectively in the context of a Goa’uld pleasure palace.  He looked at the wide-spaced intensely blue eyes, the flawless skin, the perfectly curved lips, the strong clean sweep of the jaw line, ruffled short dark hair and arched eyebrows.  Despite himself, his eyes wandered appreciatively down.   Daniel always looked slight in those fatigues but he had a decent musculature on that slender frame; flat stomach, narrow hips, long legs, nice ass…

Jack absorbed all of this and could only think of one word to describe it.  It wasn’t a word he had previously associated with any man and he hated the fact that he’d had to acknowledge it now, even in his own mind, about his friend.  His threat assessment was - beautiful.  Bewilderingly so.  Jeez.  He wouldn’t admit to that out loud under torture so he settled for a grumpy acknowledgement… “So maybe cute was the wrong word.  Let’s just say you weren’t exactly beaten with the Ugly Stick and then let’s just leave it.”

That crack in the briefing room about people who didn’t know them never believing Daniel could ever go for Jack, that crack still rankled.  It shouldn’t matter.  No way Jose should it matter.  But it did.  What?  Did people take one look at Colonel Jack O’Neill and decide he was a loser?  Jack was certain Daniel didn’t think he was a loser.  They were friends after all.  Daniel wouldn’t hang out with a loser.  He couldn’t help thinking that Teal’c had made it perfectly clear he didn’t think Jack was good enough for Daniel.  Hell, for all he knew, JUNIOR didn’t think he was good enough for Daniel. It shouldn’t aggravate him so much.  It was only an abstract after all.  An abstract that would never have even crossed his mind if not for this mission.

Even when he tried to think of something else, it kept sneaking up on him.  Why the hell wasn’t he good enough?  He could ask Teal’c and didn’t doubt he’d get an honest answer.  He did doubt it would be anything he wanted to hear.  It wasn't like he had a poor self-image or anything but Jeez, that was a pretty stinging condemnation.

Jack brightened a little.  Maybe he just wasn’t Teal’c’s type.  That would explain it.  Yeah.

After a moment’s quiet reflection, it finally occurred to him the only answer he needed, right now, was why he was sitting here speculating about why he did or didn’t ring the bells of his teammates.  Either of them.  He remembered the look on Carter’s face.  Any of them.  He needed to get a grip.   He couldn’t ask Daniel to tell him if he was doable.  There were problems whichever answer he got.

He wrenched his mind back to assessing the all-too-probable impact Daniel could have on the closed society of a pleasure palace.  Daniel had an appalling track record where the snakes were concerned.  Must be pheromones or something.  On a good day they seemed to get off on torturing him.  On a bad day…He just didn’t want Daniel getting Hathored again.

Daniel flushed under that steady, musing regard and was furious with himself for doing it.  Jack and beds. Beds and Jack.  Some sort of freaky word association loop he couldn’t seem to get out of.  He and Jack and beds.  Jack and he in bed.  It was getting worse.

He was furious with Jack too, for assuming he couldn’t cope with somebody making a pass at him, in the unlikely event somebody did make a pass at him.  He was the cultural expert after all, his job here was to communicate.  He could certainly communicate a clear, comprehensible ‘no’ in a tactful manner and a variety of languages and dialects.

Then it finally sank in.  The whole time…right next to him?  They…JACK thought he needed protection.  Sam could wander the palace at will, but he had to be kept right under Jack’s nose, right where Jack could take care of him.  Because he clearly couldn’t be trusted to take care of himself.  Just how pathetic did they think he was for cryin…?  He bit down hard on that errant thought.

Jack was hard enough for him to take in the flesh at times without sidling into his psyche, too.  Speaking of Jack…Jack was still staring.  At him.  This was too weird.  Daniel sincerely hoped he wasn’t staring too.  It was like a veil had been lifted.  On him and Jack and a bed.

“I’ll be beating them off with a stick.”  Jack belatedly realised that he’d spoken that last thought out loud when he caught the frozen expression on Daniel’s face freeze just that little bit more.  Uh oh.  He couldn’t think of any way to explain that remark without digging himself in even deeper.  Time for a diversionary tactic…he decided to go for low cunning.  Daniel was far too tender hearted to refuse outright a plea for help.

“I’ll need you with me.  I’m gonna be the focus of attention and I need you to keep me from making any obvious mistakes.  While people are looking at us, they won’t be looking at Carter.  We’re running interference for her.  C’mon, Daniel.  Cut me some slack here.  We just need to stay close to each other, stay visible and look as if we ARE…er…close.”  That was the nearest Jack could get to stating the obvious.  He’d wheedled shamelessly, knowing Daniel would never let Carter down and he relaxed as Daniel visibly climbed down off his high horse.

“For Sam’s sake, of course.  Er…what exactly do you mean by close?” Daniel asked awkwardly.

Jack shifted in his chair.  He hated talking about this, he knew he could do it, it was just tactics, but God he hated talking about it.  “Affectionate.  Y’know?”  A tiny shrug.

“I DON’T know.”  Daniel didn’t want to know.  His imagination was getting away from him as it was.  Anyway, he’d always thought Jack WAS affectionate.  Suddenly Jack DIDN’T think so? Given the way Daniel’s mind was sliding down into a fluffy pillowed gutter, he wasn’t about to risk any surprises.  He eyed Jack thoughtfully.  If Jack couldn’t SAY ‘affectionate’ to his best friend without getting embarrassed, then Jack wouldn’t be able to DO anything to his best friend; he’d try and he’d choke.  Daniel was certain of it.  He was going to call Jack’s bluff right now.  Daniel had lost enough money to Jack to know he didn’t have a poker face, but he gave it his best shot anyway.

Jack scowled into ingenuous blue eyes and jumped up from behind his desk, rapidly closing in on Daniel.  He reached out and slid his right hand around Daniel’s neck, gently cradling the back of his head.  After pulling him close enough that their breath mingled he then brushed their lips lightly together.  Daniel flinched, and jumped back.

Jack was a little put out Daniel looked so dazed.  He’d assessed Daniel as doable, but from that reaction he guessed it didn’t cut both ways.  Alright already, so he was starting to obsess on that one!

Daniel was getting panicky.  He and Jack and beds and…lips.  Seriously panicky.  He was licking his own lips in…Oh God, it was getting worse and worse…licking his lips in anticipation.   What was wrong with him?  Maybe he should get out more.  No.  That would just mean more Jack.  It was Jack who got him out…he was rambling here and…and Jack was supposed to choke!  For once, couldn’t he just DO what Daniel wanted him to?  Why did Jack always have to…?

Oh God, here it comes again!  Daniel braced himself.

Jack leaned in and kissed Daniel gently again.  “Affectionate, Daniel," he said with as much patience as he could muster.  "Just simple little gestures like that.  We’re FRIENDS, Daniel, so I can kiss you like this and the sky won’t fall.  I’m not gonna stick my tongue down your throat in front of the snakes, if that’s what you’re worried about.   It’s not difficult.  We’re friends; this is just MORE," he coaxed.  "I just have to be able to reach out and kiss you, or whatever, and make it look like it happens all the time.  Which means that you don’t get to jump two feet in the air every time I do it.”  He couldn’t help sounding just the tiniest bit hurt.  “You never jumped like that before.”

“You never kissed me before.”  Daniel’s voice seemed to have to come from quite a distance before he could articulate that response.  He was quite proud he’d managed it.

“Daniel…I would never hurt you.  You’ve got to know that?”

Jack was relieved when Daniel told him vehemently “Of course I do, Jack!”  He still looked a little dazed though.  Jack decided to just hang in there until Daniel calmed down.

Daniel tried to ignore the very large, very warm hand that was cradled around his neck.  It wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t staying still.  It was moving, up and down his neck, in little strokes that were clearly meant to be soothing, but were in fact shooting pleasurable little chills up and down his spine.  Daniel was utterly disconcerted.  People… especially Jack… just weren’t in the habit of rushing up to him, stroking his neck and kissing him.  It just wasn’t the first reaction he usually got.

Being strictly honest here, having JACK stroking his neck and kissing him…well it was probably the LAST thing he’d ever thought of.  None of which changed the fact he couldn’t come up with any strenuous objections to Jack kissing him again.  Right now.  Which meant that he really shouldn’t let Jack kiss him ever again.  For the sake of his sanity, which was definitely teetering on the brink.

Daniel had to wonder if his so-called best friend was telepathic, because Jack suddenly leaned in and their lips met and lingered until Daniel got over the first shock and, somewhat to his own annoyance, relaxed against him.

Jack was worried.  “Daniel!  You yelped!  We’ve got to work on this.  We leave in two days, we need practice.  This has to look NATURAL.”  Daniel was trembling.  Jack frowned.  “Lots of practice.  You’re afraid.”

“I’m not!”  Daniel was.  He was afraid he was starting to enjoy this.

“We’ve obviously got issues of trust to resolve here, Daniel.  I can’t have you yelping in front of the snakes.  This is going to take some work.”  It was certainly no hardship for Jack to have to kiss Daniel.  It was quite pleasant in fact.  Maybe he should expand his repertoire.  Man did not live by kisses alone.

Quite apart from the whole kissing thing, Daniel was still angry with Jack for not trusting him to take care of himself, and this little touch taboo Jack apparently thought he had clearly wasn’t helping his case.  He’d defy any man to just stand there and not react if his friend suddenly pinned him up against a wall and kissed him.  Even a man who suddenly wanted his friend to pin him up against a wall and kiss him.  It had been a bit of a leap from theory to practice.

Daniel realised that he had been quiet a beat too long, and his mouth clicked into gear because his brain frankly wasn’t up to it.  “I did not yelp!”

“You did.”

“Didn’t.”

Jack smiled suddenly.  “Daniel, just trust me.  We’ve got a little lead-in time before the mission.  I’m gonna reach out to you and you’re gonna let me.  Simple as that.  Nothing to worry about.  All you have to worry about is keeping me up to speed on local customs and practices.  I’ll take care of the floorshow.  Okay?”

The hand lingered for one final little stroke of Daniel's neck and then withdrew. Daniel let out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding.  “Okay.”   The only tactic he could come up with to counteract this staggering shift in his world view was to give as good as he got, and there was no time like the present to start.  He let Jack get back to his desk while he opened the door and made ready to bolt.  “Jack?”

“Yeah, Daniel?”

“Just keep your hands off my ass.”

Daniel thoroughly enjoyed Jack’s double take and smiled sweetly at the two SFs just outside in the hallway before he headed off towards Sam’s lab. He was sure Sam could provide him with the working definition of ‘doable’ Jack had been so reluctant to divulge.

Jack made eye contact with the SFs just long enough for them to realise that any repetition of that remark could only result in - if they were real lucky - death.  It might shut them up long enough for him to get them quietly transferred to Greenland.  Only when they were gone did he allow his face to relax into a grin.  Maybe the new grown up Daniel wasn’t so bad.  This was gonna be fun.  Daniel had just upped the stakes.

“Bring it on, Danny.  Bring it on.  You’re playing with the big boys now.”


“Ja-ack.  Stop.  Okay?  Just stop.  I don’t want to…We need to…No,” Daniel protested, squirming desperately in Jack's arms.

“Daniel, just relax.  This is the way it has to be, and the sooner you accept that the better it will be for both of us.”

Ferretti eased in front of Daniel’s office door, just enough to get a good view of the unfolding drama.  He was struck dumb for a moment by the inconceivable sight of Colonel Jack O’Neill playfully sticking his tongue in Dr Daniel Jackson’s ear.  It was lucky Ferretti had heard about the mission beforehand, because he could hardly believe his eyes as it was.  The urge to get one up on the colonel was too much for him.  The colonel had his back to the door and he had his hands full - Ferretti winced at his own pun - which gave Ferretti all the advantage he needed to pull this off without the colonel knocking him on his ass.

One moment Jack had a wriggling armful of Daniel Jackson and the next he had a faceful of Daniel Jackson’s desk, a firm hand at the back of his neck and a grip twisting his wrist back at an angle that kept him stock-still if he didn’t want his wrist to snap under the pressure.  Something about the grip told him that whoever was holding him down could happily increase the pressure more or less indefinitely.

“I guess ‘Stop’ and ‘No’ are a little too subtle for ya, huh, Colonel?” Ferretti purred menacingly.

Jack spat out a post- it note that had wandered into his mouth and went for as flippant a tone as he could manage in this very embarrassing position. “Very funny, Ferretti.”

“Um…Ferretti…”  Daniel made a half-hearted protest.  Ferretti winked at him.  Since Daniel wasn’t the one spread-eagled on the desk, he settled back to enjoy this for as long as Ferretti could keep it going.

“The colonel was all over you like a cheap suit, Dr Jackson.  You don’t have to take it.”

“CHEAP SUIT?”

“Did you catch that move Daniel?  Want me to show you again?”

“Ferretti, you know perfectly well I’m helping Daniel with mission prep.  This is getting less humorous by the second,” Jack snapped.

“And you slobbering all over Daniel helps him how exactly?” Ferretti asked interestedly.

“SLOBBERING?”

Daniel was thoroughly enjoying himself.  Jack’s indignant voice was muffled in Pennick’s ‘Pagan book of days’.   Poetic justice.  This was very book Daniel had been reading when Jack decided it was time to start fondling.   Daniel sighed loudly.  “We’re headed to a Goa’uld pleasure palace, Major.  Jack and I…well…we have to…to…pretend…make everybody believe that we’re…y’know…?”

Daniel glanced over at Jack and with an eloquent little hand gesture told Ferretti more than he really needed to know.   “You could show me that move again though,” Daniel asked mischievously.

The pressure on Jack’s wrist and neck was suddenly eased and Ferretti stepped away.  Jack stood up and ostentatiously rubbed his wrist, scowling at Ferretti’s wall to wall grin.

Ferretti turned to Daniel.  “You two really gotta pretend you’re…?”

Daniel nodded sadly.

“Hot damn,” Ferretti commiserated, shaking his head sadly over the tragedy of it all.

Daniel cranked up the noble suffering.

Jack figured he was out of the woods with a molecule of dignity still intact when Ferretti eyed him incredulously and then shook his head with the air of a man who knew this shit was way beyond him.

A moment later, Jack realised he was wrong about the woods thing.

Ferretti saved the unkindest cut of all until he got to the door.  “Jeez, Dr Jackson.  You guys draw straws or something?  You lost, right?”

Jack bitterly regretted not locking the office door when he'd had the chance.  He got a front row seat for Daniel’s best impression of ‘beaten down and victimised’.  Ferretti cast a final, sorrowful glance at Daniel and then he was gone.

Jack eyed Daniel’s smirking face bitterly.  They drew STRAWS?  The LOSER got Jack?  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  It wasn’t funny the FIRST time, Dannyboy.  Jack could picture Ferretti telling this story in the commissary.  He could picture the punchline, something like ‘You guys hear SG-1 drew straws? Again.  Daniel shoulda known better.  The loser ALWAYS gets Jack’.  A real crowd pleaser.

Jack’s scowl deepened as Daniel fluently picked up his lecture at the exact point Jack had made him break it off.  Jack did his best to tune him out and plotted revenge.  He was gonna get the smug little S.O.B.  AND Ferretti.

Daniel was droning on and on in the background while Jack brooded.  Ferretti felt sorry.  Not for Jack, for Daniel.  Because he had to be…with him.  With him!  Like Daniel Jackson having to be with Jack O’Neill was an occasion for sympathy.  Maybe Hallmark had a card for it?  ‘Sorry to hear you’re with Jack O’Neill’.  Like there was something wrong with him or…something.  Ferretti seemed pretty sure about it.  He was wrong of course.  Well, he was.  Wasn’t he?  Crap.  Now Jack was arguing with himself and losing.

First Teal’c, then Carter, now Ferretti.  Maybe there was a notice up in the commissary?  ‘Jack O’Neill’s ego needs a reality check: Form an orderly line’.  If he got much more of this crap his ego might start believing its own bad press.


Ferretti was gonna have a LONG talk with Carter about this.  He’d been lucky to get out of that office alive.  Jeez, everyone on base who was in the know had heard about this mission, and everyone sympathised with Daniel.  He was up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.  There wasn’t a malicious bone in the colonel’s body but his sense of humour often got the better of him.  When Carter told him that the colonel was pushing this one about as far as it would go and then some, well, he’d allowed himself to be talked into helping tilt the balance a little more in Daniel’s favour.

He’d had all the stuff about drawing the short straw ready, Carter had grinned from ear to ear when she’d suggested that comment, but when he’d actually gotten to Daniel’s office and seen…well, he knew nuzzling when he saw it…and Daniel’s protest…the whole thing had just gotten away from him.  It wasn’t often a major got to put one over on a colonel.  All those provocative comments?  It was only the colonel’s shock at being caught with his tongue in Daniel’s ear that stopped him putting Ferretti on his ass, right then and there.

It might take the colonel a little while, but sooner or later it was going to dawn on the him there was no way in hell Ferretti could’ve taken what he'd barged in on and seemingly broken up at face value.  Not for a minute.  Which meant when the colonel finally connected the dots the major was in for a lot of grief over the strong-arm tactics.  So it seemed only fair to find Carter and share some of it, seeing as how she was the one who had persuaded him to put his ass in a sling in the first place.

He wouldn’t have gotten into this shit for anybody but Daniel.


Sam strutted her stuff around her lab.  She felt a little stupid, but if Daniel needed a sexy walk, he was damned well going to acquire one however stupid she felt in the meantime.  She glanced back hopefully.  Teal’c nodded measured approval, but Daniel looked even more apprehensive.

“You have to give it a try, Daniel,” Sam urged him.

Daniel wavered.  He could see the sense in it but he honestly didn’t know if he could pull it off.  Verbal comebacks were one thing, but this was strictly Terra Incognita, with the emphasis right now on the terror.

“This is a good idea, Daniel," Sam tried the hard sell.  "The colonel is becoming very territorial where you’re concerned.”   Like that was news.  Sam could remember any number of incidences of that particular character trait from the past few years.

“I noticed that too, Sam.”  Daniel’s tone was crisp.  Jack was determined to do what he insisted was his duty with all his usual verve, especially as he was convinced it was for Daniel's sake.  Ferretti’s analogy was quite apt.  Jack HAD been all over him like a cheap suit in the past two days. Especially during the unfortunate moment Ferretti had picked to go walking past his office.  Three minutes into a briefing on formal Greek dining, Jack's boredom threshold had kicked in and he'd decided to switch subjects and go for Advanced Nibbling 101., all the while cheerfully refusing to accept Daniel couldn't talk and be nibbled at the same time.

“O’Neill is becoming most possessive of you, Daniel Jackson.”  Teal’c sounded disapproving.  “You are not his property.”

Daniel thought Teal’c should be telling Jack that directly.  Jack’s interpretation of how their psuedo-relationship should be played out to the audience was not one Daniel viewed with approbation.  Jack’s interpretation was alarmingly reminiscent of his behaviour while infected by the ‘Touched’ virus.

“I think he’s been watching Star Trek again," Daniel said bitterly.  "You know, that one on the space station?  The doctor dreamed of the science officer, and she wound up with some alien duplicate that was all meek and submissive, and just followed him around like a love-puppy.  He’s patently drawing his inspiration from that.  He’s in for a shock though, because I won’t do that for Jack.  I refuse to let him order me around for three days.  He’s been unbearable enough these past two days as it is.”

Sam closed in for the kill.  “Once the roles are established you can’t step out of them, Daniel.  Either of you.  Three days of full on Alpha Male or three days of Platonic older-guy doting fondness?  You both get your jobs done either way and remember this is only your public persona.  The choice is yours, Daniel.  Get the colonel off balance and KEEP him off-balance.”

Sam knew the vague Plato reference would seal the deal.  Daniel liked things to be reasonable and rational.  Colonel O’Neill’s relapse into Alpha Male mode this past two days was anything but reasonable and rational.  He was getting a little too territorial with Sam's favourite archaeologist for her comfort.  Not like he didn’t have those tendencies where the team was concerned anyway, but still, the last thing Daniel needed was Jack O’Neill thinking he had carte blanche to boss Daniel around as he pleased.  And only for his own good, of course, because Jack O’Neill knows what’s best for Daniel Jackson.  Or sure thinks he does.  Hence the reason she’d conned Ferretti into making his little incursion.  It would take her some time to get back into Ferretti’s good books but it had been worth it.

“That is sound tactical advice, DanielJackson," Teal'c agreed approvingly.

“Daniel, trust me," Sam said sincerely.  "This will work.  The colonel won’t know what’s hit him.  You’ll confuse the hell out of him.”  Something Sam wanted ringside seats for.  The colonel was way too cocksure.

Daniel thought it would make a pleasant change from Jack confusing the hell out of HIM.  Jack had some terrifying contingency plans in case their double act looked shaky.  He hadn’t only been watching Star Trek.  Daniel hated Adam Sandler with a deep and abiding passion right now, thanks to whose movies Jack was very taken with the concept of ‘church tongue’ and ‘porno tongue’.  Daniel wasn’t ready for either.  Some of Jack’s Alpha Male tendencies were actually very nice when he was on the receiving end of them, far too nice for him to want to get used to them.  Jack’s approach for the past two days had been ‘resistance is useless’…more Star Trek…and he was right.  All of Daniel’s resistance had just melted away.  Hence his trip to Sam’s lab.  He needed coping strategies.  Jack had found that the surest way to shut him up was to kiss him.  It worked like a charm, every time.  Daniel couldn’t hold his own verbally if Jack wouldn’t let him talk.

“You came to us for assistance, DanielJackson.  This is the assistance we are offering.  You would be wise to accept it,” Teal'c said smoothly.

Sam beamed as Daniel looked up with a distinctly wicked gleam in his eyes.  “Show me that walk again, Sam?”


“Dad!” Sam darted up the ramp the moment her Dad was clear of the event horizon.

Jacob’s grin was ear to ear.  He came forward to hug Sam and kissed her soundly.

Sam was reminded all over again that his becoming host to Selmac had opened him emotionally in ways she’d never dreamed when they’d taken those first terrible steps.  Selmac had saved more than Jacob’s life.  He’d saved their relationship, too.  She wasn’t afraid to hug back, even though there were eyes - and cameras - on them here in the gateroom.

“I couldn’t resist, Sam," Jacob chuckled.  "I’ve always thought O’Neill was fun to be around but this…this is something else!  Even by O’Neill’s standards.  He’s really going to go through with this?” he asked incredulously.

“Yep.”

“Poor Daniel.  O’Neill will eat him alive.”

Sam ducked her head and stifled her grin.  She and Teal’c had done enough to get Daniel a level playing field, but there was no doubt in her mind that the colonel would rise to the challenge and retaliate in ways it would do Daniel no good whatsoever to worry about.  He had some confidence in his ability to carry this off, and that was the best they could hope for.

“I brought all the necessary gear and clothing with me.”  Jacob shot Sam a twinkling look. “Anise picked out the wardrobe for Jack and Daniel.  I want pictures, Sam.  LOTS of pictures.  Gonna be a Kodak moment.”  Jacob’s grin was pure evil.  “Anise feels there should be some kind of formal gifting ceremony for when Daniel is handed over to Jack as his property for the duration of the feast.”  Jacob waited a beat. “Y’know?”  Sam looked puzzled and Jacob couldn’t resist pushing it that little bit further.  “Like a present,” he hinted.

“Dad?”

Jacob’s voice shook with suppressed laughter.  “I think Anise has some…personal…issues where young Dr Jackson is concerned.  She’s having him gift-wrapped.”


Daniel looked earnestly at the team gathered around the briefing table.  “We need to be very clear about this.   We’ve got exactly three days, from midnight on the first day to midnight on the third day.  The neutrality required by the festival expires promptly.  We have to be out of there by midnight or…”

“All bets are off?”

Daniel was halted in mid-flow by Jack’s laconic interruption.

“We get the picture, Daniel.  Move it right along,” Jack ordered impatiently.

If ever Daniel had any doubts about the wisdom of taking Jack on, all it took were little moments like this one to remind him EXACTLY why he was doing it.  “We’ll be using names we’re familiar with," he went on, ignoring the interruption.  "Sam will be Thera, Jack will be Jona, I’ll be Carlin, Teal’c will be…”

“I do not care for the name Tor, Daniel Jackson.  It has no meaning.”

“Ah yes.  Good old P3R118," Jack bitched.   "‘It’s my honour to serve' my ass.  Why can’t I just be Jack?”

Daniel ground his teeth.  Counting to ten never helped because he only sniped more after the enforced wait.  “As in hi, I’m Jack of the Tau’ri, please shoot me?”

“Neutrality remember?  They can’t shoot me,” Jack drawled.

“Jack?  In your case, I’m sure they’ll be happy to make an exception.”

Jacob was losing it, so Selmak stepped in.  “It is unwise to draw unnecessary attention," Selmak's resonant, metallic voice compelled everyone’s attention.   "These other names are nondescript enough to pass for Rigan.  Riga is not under the control of the System Lords and is sufficiently far from the trading routes to ensure that no Goa’uld who does not know you personally could identify you with the Tau’ri and not with the Rigans.  Colonel, Doctor, your presence at the festival as mates will not in itself be remarkable, and the Rigans would not make the journey from their system for any lesser trading opportunity.  The neutrality required by the festival will protect you from molestation, as will your status as the designated Rigan traders.”

“Will the snakes really be interested in trading for these baubles?” Jack sneered at the vulgar display spilling out of the casket onto the table.

Daniel sighed.  There he goes again; Jack O’Neill, intergalactic goodwill diplomat.

“Those ‘baubles’ could ransom a small planet, O’Neill," Selmak’s tone was even chillier.  "They are amongst the rarest precious gems and metals in the galaxy.  They are intended only to provide the traders with a taste of what Riga can offer them.  We expect them to be returned to the Tok'ra at the conclusion of the mission.”

Jack shrugged.  “Whatever.”

“Questions, people?”  Hammond looked carefully around the briefing room.  “SG-1, you have a go.  Departure at 00.00 hours.  Dismissed.”

Sam headed straight out the door with Jacob in tow.

Teal’c paused for a moment in front of Daniel.  “I do not care for this deception, DanielJackson.  I must hide my face and endure a name with no meaning.  It is not an honourable way to fight.”  He bowed and walked away.

“I think I should have a little talk with Teal’c.”  Daniel’s vague move after Teal’c was halted by Jack’s hand curling around his arm and drawing him back to Jack’s side.

“Teal’c will be fine.  It’s you who needs a little talk,” Jack informed him coolly.

“Me?”

“Better get all that sniping out of your system while you can, Daniel.  When we get to the pleasure palace you’ll have to co-operate or this thing will blow up in our faces.”

Daniel was stung.  “I think I can manage to be professional," he snapped at Jack.  "Define 'co-operate'!”

“Obey my commands.”  Jack’s tone was as facetious as ever as he smiled sweetly, slid his hands into his pockets and strolled out the door without a backward glance.

Daniel was speechless with indignation.


Janet knocked politely on Daniel’s office door.  She wasn’t exactly sure why she was here if Daniel wasn’t sick, but he needed her help and that was enough to fetch her.  The fact she had to knock on his door was telling.  She frowned.  Daniel usually left his door open.

Daniel asked her in.  He was hiding out behind his desk and even in the dim light of the computer screen she could see he was blushing.

“Daniel!  Are you okay?" Janet asked, concerned.  "Look, if you’re having second thoughts about this mission, just say so.”

“It’s not that, Janet," Daniel said miserably.  "I have to go on the mission.  I need some help with…er…”

Janet stepped forward.  “Help with what, Daniel?  You can tell me,” she coaxed gently.

“These.”  He held up the problem.  “They’re skin tight, Janet.  Literally.  I can’t get them on without help, and God knows how I’m going to get them off again.”

He gave her that helpless little boy lost look that generally melted her resistance to anything he wanted, short of avoiding requisite medical treatment.

“If you don’t help me, I’ll have to ask Jack.  It’s bad enough knowing he’s going to have to do it when we get to the pleasure palace, but here on base?  I can’t, Janet.  I just can’t.”

Janet caved.  “You did the right thing, Daniel.  I’m your doctor.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”   She put in a call to the Infirmary for talcum powder to be double timed straight up to Daniel’s office, inspected the pants he held out to her, and tried to work out the path of least resistance to get Daniel into them.  She fingered the material carefully.  It looked like leather but was clearly a fabric of some kind.  There was some give.  They’d be reasonably comfortable once they were on, but they would fit Daniel like a second skin.

When the talcum powder had been delivered, Janet kept a tactful distance as Daniel dusted everywhere he could reach and got the pants up to about knee height on his own.  A small voice called her over, and between them they managed by main force to get the pants the rest of the way up.  Daniel had to lie down to get them fastened, but after that he got up and was able to bend over quite freely to pull on the knee high boots.  Janet adhered rigidly to her usual calm, professional manner and Daniel seemed to find it comforting.

The waistcoat was of the same material as the pants, and fit just as snugly.  Daniel buttoned it on and Janet carefully pulled in the lacing at the back until it fitted like a glove.

Daniel finally felt covered enough to switch on the light.

“Oh my!”

“Janet?”  Daniel gave her a shy look.

“You look just fine, Daniel.  Decently covered.  You’ll pass muster,”  Janet said briskly, lying through her teeth.  More like indecently covered was closer to the truth.  Talk about less is more!  Woof!  “Keep the talc handy and I’ll pass on instructions to Colonel O’Neill.  It’ll be fine.  Just fine.”  As long as she kept him away from any mirrors.  She took another look, swallowed and offered to walk him to the gateroom.

Daniel tried very hard indeed not to notice the heads turning as he slunk through the hallways in Janet's wake.  Not being able to wear his glasses helped.  The blur was comforting.  He glanced down at Janet.  She had the same look on her face that Jack got right before he shot something.  Nobody was messing with 5.2” of solid, ‘in your face’ attitude.  Not a word had been said to him, even though he knew perfectly well he looked like somebody who quoted you an hourly rate before you could spend quality time with them.  Teal’c couldn’t have done a better job as escort.  They were going to make it.  Just a few more minutes and he'd be safe.

Carter was saying fond farewells to Jacob, Teal’c was talking to General Hammond, and Jack was just hanging, waiting for Daniel.  Jack glanced up casually as Janet rolled into the gateroom obviously locked and loaded for bear, and then he got an eyeful of Daniel just coming into view behind her.  “Jesus, Daniel!  If you bend over in those pants one of us could get arrested!”

“Sir!”

“O’Neill!”

“Colonel O’Neill!”

“Sir!”

“Colonel O’Neill, I singularly fail to see the humour in that remark.”  After glaring at the man he was reprimanding, Hammond turned to Daniel. “Colonel O’Neill has the officer part down pat, Dr Jackson, but he needs a LOT of work on the gentleman.  I’ll be making some time to help him with that when you return.”  He gave the colonel another glare before turning back to Daniel.  “Good luck, son, ” he said softly, patting Daniel consolingly on his regrettably bare shoulder.  Hammond suppressed a sympathetic sigh.  As if Jack in this mood wasn't enough, poor Daniel had to walk around dressed like…like…words failed him.

Jack subsided in the face of universal condemnation, and settled for an apologetic look that fell on very stony ground.  Daniel pointedly stalked over to the farthest side of the ramp from him with Carter and Teal’c radiating disapproval between them.

Janet tugged on Jack's arm and he dragged his attention away from Daniel to look at her.  She stretched up to whisper in his ear.

“Please try and restrain yourself, Colonel.  Don't embarrass Daniel.  This is very difficult for him.  He needs help getting into those pants.  So HELP him.  Use the talc. And be nice.  Or else…”  Her face was unforgiving as she stepped back, leaving the unspoken threat hanging for his imagination to do its worst.

“Daniel?” Jacob’s voice rang clearly around the gateroom.

Daniel turned reluctantly to look at Jacob.

“If the colonel annoys you again, shoot him.”

Daniel’s face softened slightly.

Jacob shot a sidelong look at O’Neill.  He couldn’t resist adding to the overall effect. “Aim low.”

Daniel’s sudden smile was dazzling.

Jack figured he’d taken more than enough crap for one night and it was time to get going. The atmosphere in the gateroom was colder than the wormhole.  “Carlin?  You’re with me.  We go through the gate together, remember?  Thera, you’re last.  Tor, you head through first as the honour guard.”

“Your wish is our…co-operation, Jona," Daniel said sarcastically.

“Carlin!”


Jack watched as Daniel prowled around the palace gateroom sneering at the entablature.  The pissy purist in him had taken instant exception to the ornate and lavish decoration.

Jack decided it was in his best interests to be supportive. “Not so much Classical Greece as Classic Caesar’s Palace.”

That earned him the warmest look he’d received from Daniel since the ‘pants’ moment in the gateroom.  Admittedly, it was barely above freezing point, but it was a start.

Daniel sighed.  “And it can only get worse.  Vulgar…ostentatious…just look at that architrave!”  He gestured at the offending feature, shuddering.

Verbal communication!  Jack eased a little closer to Daniel, and went out on an architectural limb.  He started by looking up at what he figured was more or less the right place, and offered a tentative suggestion. “It should be undecorated, right?”  He was relieved to see faint signs of thaw.  He threw in a double whammy with a literary reference. “Not my idea of Xanadu.”

Daniel was looking puzzled, obviously waiting for some punchline at his expense if he responded to that comment seriously.  Jack decided any reference to Olivia Newton John on roller skates could only get him in deeper at this point and elaborated.  “Always figured Kubla Khan to be the austere type.  This isn’t anybody’s idea of stately.”  Home run.  Definite signs of warmth, there.  Thank God for the Discovery Channel.  He and Daniel were both on the same page here, and without any embarrassing mention of Coleridge out loud.

Sam watched the colonel’s attempts to charm his way back into Daniel’s good graces with mixed feelings.  Daniel was so tender hearted he wasn’t able to stay angry with anyone for long and was utterly incapable of bearing a grudge against anybody who wasn’t a System Lord.  The colonel’s decidedly insouciant charm would melt him just like it always did and then he’d be back to square one.  Give O’Neill a three-day pass into Daniel’s psyche and he’d want to take up permanent residence.  All of those frustrated nurturing instincts just begging for an outlet would get the better of him without him even realising it.  Daniel winked at her suddenly and Sam felt a whole lot better.  He was going to kick Jack ass or kill the colonel in the attempt.  Go, Daniel!

Oh.  Showtime.  The Palace Factor himself was hurrying into the gateroom, full of apologies for keeping them waiting.  The tiny, insignificant looking jewel Teal’c had selected as payment had done the trick royally.  The Factor was almost salivating.  He was a Jaffa, not a Goa’uld.  Not a pretty specimen, and she didn’t like the way his eyes kept roaming over Daniel.  Ah.  Neither did the colonel.  He stiffened and the resulting blast of sheer arrogance fired at him point blank should have nailed the Factor to the opposite wall.  Biting down a laugh, Sam scurried forward in response to an imperiously beckoning hand.

“How may I serve you, Honoured Master?”  That sounded good.  Servile.  Sam tried not to shudder too visibly at the sound of her own voice saying those things.  The Rigans couldn’t have come up with a better form of address?  The colonel was lapping it up too, just look at him.  They were going to have their hands full when they got back.

“I have no patience for this," Jack sneered.  "Deal with this lackey and prepare our rooms.  Tor, you will accompany us to the feast.”

“Honoured Master.”  Teal’c inclined his masked head.

That had been her idea too.  After all, it had worked perfectly for Apophis on Netu.  Out of all them she had the best deal for clothing.  Lovely light grey pants and robe that reminded her of the way Vietnamese girls dressed. Teal’c’s chain mail was lighter and looser than his Serpent Guard armour, but still looked hideously uncomfortable.  The colonel looked absolutely magnificent in jet black - well, the closest she could come to the material in Earth terms was velvet.  At least he had a decent tunic, kind of knee length, with a high mandarin collar.  The tunic was split to the waist on either side and tied around the waist with a sash.  What with the skin-tight pants, and the knee high boots completing the ensemble, for some reason she kept thinking of pirate kings.

As for Daniel…the colonel was right.  Sam knew several states where he could get arrested just for walking down the street in that outfit.  It left just enough to the imagination to be positively indecent.  They were lucky Daniel hadn’t had a good look at himself because he was likely to drop on the spot when he did.  The colonel had been speechless when she’d told him who had picked Daniel’s outfit.  She still wanted to get to the bottom of his comment about Anise being interested in Daniel on an intellectual level.  Neither of them could imagine what she’d do to him on the carnal level if this was 'intellectual'.  Her Daniel was dressed from head to foot in stellar skin tight navy-blue leather looking fabric, which did amazing things for his eyes and clung distractingly to his body.  Suited Daniel just fine on both counts!  Turned out the way he was, when she looked at Daniel the only thing she could think of was jailbait.

Sam suddenly realised that the Factor hadn’t budged an inch.  He was petrified to speak to the colonel directly so she stepped in.  “I’m Thera, my Lord Jona’s Factor.  Why are we being kept waiting in this manner?”  Sam wasn’t any happier with my Lord Jona than she was with Honoured Master.

The Factor fearfully confessed that bodyguards were not permitted in the Banqueting Chamber.  Only the High Born could attend the Festival Gatherings.  They’d already known that, but it gave the colonel the chance to squash the Factor even further underfoot. “Lord Jona” promptly went ballistic, launching a tirade that would leave the entire palace with no choice but to believe that the man currently shooting his mouth off was about as High Born as they came.  Sam saw first hand the benefits of being an opera buff; a perfect blend of histrionics and sheer volume flavoured the invective.  She and Teal’c were to be escorted to their suite of rooms, the very best the palace had left to offer, where their first job would be to sweep the rooms thoroughly for surveillance devices.

Having annihilated the Factor beyond all possibility of his being able to recover, the colonel summoned a slightly distracted Daniel to his side.  The vulgar friezes were clearly playing on Daniel’s mind.  Sam noted with interest that Daniel didn’t get the imperious summons, just a gentle “Carlin?  Ready to leave now?” and a hand held out to him that, when he was in reach, slid around the small of his back and settled comfortably on his hip.  After the tiniest hesitation, Daniel slipped his arm around the colonel’s waist.  Without a backward glance, they followed the Factor into the palace proper at a stately pace, heads held high.

Sam wished them luck, even though she knew luck had nothing to do with it.


Jack realised he was in severe difficulties the moment his arm went round Daniel. This was not a good time for an epiphany of any kind, let alone a heart-stopper like this one.  His head was fighting his hand.  It wanted to be on Daniel’s ass; was kinda insistent on it, as a matter of fact. His hand was currently behind…he cut that thought off at the knees …on points, but only just.  He was personally going to kill Anise with BOTH his own two hands next time he laid eyes on her.  He’d known those pants were just asking for trouble the moment he’d laid eyes on them.

He guessed he’d been pathetically slow on the uptake.  It had only taken him what?  Three and a half years to figure out his closest friend and confidante was doable in the abstract, and about three and a half days to make the leap from the abstract to actuality.  Daniel didn’t just look doable, he looked absolutely edible.

Which was a bit of a bummer after forty-five years of life, and a long and colourful career of heterosexuality.  Try as he might, his mind kept roaming into places that could get him actual jail time.

Daniel’s arm around his waist was not helping him to think this through rationally in any way.

Where was he?  Oh yeah.  Jail time in the future, and probably a swift knee to the balls in the here and now if he tried any of the moves he was thinking of.  Although, this being Daniel, he might have to first make sure Daniel understood he should knee first and reason later.  Much later.  And from a safe distance.  He could picture that training session.  'Hey, Daniel.  Gonna teach you how to knee some goomba in the balls.  Why, Jack?   You’re looking right at that goomba, Dannyboy'.

Daniel WAS looking right at him.  Looking a little anxious, there.  No wonder.  Maybe he’d been a little too-off-hand about this mission.  There were Jaffa and Goa’uld everywhere.  Jack squeezed Daniel a little closer to his side and smiled.  Then he cringed.  God, he thought pleadingly, PLEASE don’t let that come off as doting!

As he surveilled the palace hallways, memorising the layout and tried to establish possible escape routes, Jack realised Daniel was right, the architecture was getting worse.  Jack looked up at the friezes and could only be glad Daniel didn’t have his glasses on.  Those friezes could get jail time too.  Speaking of which…he had a little treat for Daniel.  If Carter gave them the all clear from visual surveillance he was gonna give Daniel the pair of glasses he’d sneaked into his personal luggage.

“It’s just awful.”

Jack promptly sympathised. “Should the colours be this garish?  And so many of them?”  Jack winced reflexively.  Carter was gonna eat him alive if he couldn’t bring himself to stop Daniel from talking about ceremonial rocks, cracked pots and holy places while they were on missions, or, even more unnerving, he started talking back to Daniel about them.  It would be painfully obvious he had a crush the size of the planet on his archaeologist if he wouldn't let Carter get a word in about the sciencey stuff while he encouraged Daniel to whitter on.  Jack hoped this was a temporary aberration that would wear off.  Quickly.  A man could only watch so much Discovery Channel before a Doctor of Archaeology called him on it.

“The colours should be simple," Daniel sniffed haughtily.  "Natural stone in the ashlar masonry and orthostates, stone peristyle columns,  plus stone or, in a rich temple, marble columns; earth tones and black in the entablature, and terracotta in the roof and acroteria.  Clean, pure and simple.”

Jack knew he was in a bad way because even though Daniel had lost him completely after ashlar, he hadn’t tried to shut him up.  Poor Daniel.  He had to put up with a Jack who was both horny and infatuated.  A truly terrifying prospect.

With all the nightmare scenarios he’d imagined Daniel needing to be protected from, why had it never crossed his mind that Daniel might need protection from him?  Dear God, don’t let him get drunk.  After the past two days, he was already way too touchy feely with Daniel for his own peace of mind.  He wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off the off-limits parts.  Which tragically included Daniel’s ass.  He could not imagine what would happen if he tried a little lip lock on the big guy now.  The two of them kissing was just friendship, only more?  The Nox wouldn’t fall for that one.  No wonder Daniel had been looking so dazed.  The two of them kissing was just hot sex; gimme more!

Probably faint dead away.  Daniel might too.

Jack almost stopped in his tracks as he remembered The Pants.  The talcum powder.  Thank Anise this tunic was knee length or he’d embarrass them both.  For Daniel’s sake he’d have to be good.  He would not allow himself to take advantage.  He hoped.

As they walked at a majestic pace through the interminable hallways of Caesar’s Palace on LSD, Jack desperately tried to recall all the Very Good Reasons compelling him not to try anything.  Ever.  Jail time was a biggy.  His career going down the tubes was right up there.  The inconvenient fact that he was straight.  He thought about Daniel’s ass again and decided to quit while he was behind on that one.  He was Daniel’s C.O.  Team leader.  Closest friend.  All good and sufficient reasons, but still not enough to outweigh the lush curve of his friend's delectable ass under those damnable pants.

Teal’c didn’t think Jack was good enough for Daniel.  He wasn’t alone in that.  Jack thought about all the people giving him attitude about HIS attitude the past two days.  Carter, Ferretti, Fraiser, Jacob and the general, to name but a few, were all right behind Teal’c.  If he was serious about Daniel, he wouldn’t have time to worry about the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy.  If they found out, the mood his friends and colleagues were in right now, they’d probably settle for tarring and feathering him, then riding his ass out of the SGC on a rail.

Much more importantly, what was wrong with him?  Daniel said he was ‘So’, he was ‘Too’.  So what?  Too what?  He had three days of Daniel’s undivided attention to identify exactly what was wrong with him, determine if it was fixable and whether it was WORTH fixing in order to get Daniel to go for him, right now.

How come everyone knew what was wrong with him except him?

If he had to make a list of reasons why Daniel would never find him doable he guessed ‘on a good day you can be a little flaky’, and the never to be sufficiently regretted 'Plant Boy' would loom large.  Along with geek, dweeb, shut up Daniel, etc, etc, and the many other instances when he’d treated Daniel like a wilfully fractious child.  The whole, shameful, ‘couldn’t relate not much of a foundation to the friendship’ thing was probably right at the very top of that list.  Daniel wasn’t one to bear a grudge, thank God, but that stuff had to imprint on the psyche somewhere along the line.

The friendship thing was the ONLY thing that outweighed his need to put his hand on Daniel’s ass, and indeed on many other parts of Daniel.  His mind was pretty much in his shorts right now, or would be if he was wearing any, but he had enough fizz left in his synapses to figure out that he couldn’t make a pass at Daniel.   Either Daniel would turn him down flat or worse, infinitely worse, he’d allow himself to be sweet-hearted into it because he was enjoying the physical contact he hadn't had for so long, because he had such a hard time refusing anything Jack wanted as a friend.  After all, Daniel had put up with Jack for the past two days, and let’s be painfully honest about it, here…he’d been full of it.  It would drive him nuts not knowing why Daniel was with him.  The only way to play this was to make himself so irresistible to Daniel that Daniel would throw himself at Jack.

Jack couldn’t pass, but he would be more than happy to receive.

Oh yeah.  Right.  Like that was gonna happen.  He’d been passing as hard as he could for two days and Daniel’s regrettable independence of mind and general flakiness of spirit had let him go so far and no further.  If Daniel had any hidden longings they were just that.  Hidden.  So what was it going to make him hurl himself into Jack’s waiting, if inexperienced, arms?  He couldn’t think of anything.  He tried, but he couldn't.  Not a single goddamn thing.  Sweet.  Jack O’Neill, catch of a lifetime.

Jack cut off that gloomy thought and tried to pay more attention to their surroundings…Maybe if he just gave Daniel a HINT…like ‘Hey, Daniel, wanna get naked and horizontal with me?’  God.  That was a thought.  Okay.  Nothing fancy, horizontally, until he had a chance to work out the mechanics.  He’d rather have ‘Yes, Jack, yes’, than ‘Jesus, Jack, get off me, do you know what you’re doing?’  Which was much more likely given his current position on this particular learning curve.

His gut tightened.  A whole buncha snakes were milling around up ahead, doing the snake equivalent of networking.  They hadn’t been ribboned yet, so maybe being a Rigan was better than being a Tau’ri.

One of the snakes was eyeing Daniel up.  Jack slowed their pace and gave her a Look he’d perfected in his Special Ops days.  BD.  Before Daniel, when he was still a loveless bastard.  He’d tried the loveless bastard routine on Daniel when they’d met, but the first cracks in the façade had appeared in the briefing when Daniel had proved his theory about the Stargate.  Only two weeks before, he’d been ready to eat his gun and Daniel, just being Daniel in a room full of clueless military types and jealous geeks, had forced the tiniest of tiny smiles out of him.  More of an upwards lip twitch than a smile.  Lasted about a nanosecond but still, he should have realised then the writing was on the wall.  Even that little smirk was more than he’d been able to offer Sara.

Whaddyaknow!  He was quite pleased that the Look worked on junior miss snakes too.  She was backing off.

Daniel had completely lost interest in the disappointing and…he eyed the frieze tentatively…disturbing architecture.  Jack’s face was worth a thousand pictures right now.  My Lord Jona seemed to getting away with shit that would have gotten Jack O’Neill charred on the spot by any self-respecting Goa’uld.   That female one had just WILTED and backed-off.  Daniel didn’t know exactly what she’d done that Jack had taken such strong exception to.  They were just walking along a hallway after all.  And now there seemed to be some sort of…well, argument…going on in Jack’s head.  Daniel wasn’t sure who Jack was arguing with or why but Jack seemed to be getting the worst of it.  Daniel was fascinated.  He tentatively squeezed Jack and got Jack’s familiar shit-eating grin right back, along with a little squeeze of Jack’s hand.  The one curved over his hip.  The one that was almost in a pre-defined off-limits area.  It was VERY distracting, as if he didn't have enough on his mind already.

The Factor was ugly.  Daniel didn’t like him one bit.  He was spiritually ugly, had none of the sense of honour, however misguided, that characterised the warrior caste Jaffa.  Teal’c would think the Factor was beneath contempt.

The palace was huge.  They’d been walking for ten minutes and hadn’t reached the Banqueting Chamber.  He wasn’t looking forward to it.  It was likely to be the most objectionable room in the whole palace and not just because of the architecture.  He hoped they weren’t going to run into any orgies, but from the little he’d been able to pick out on the frieze, he wasn’t ruling it out either.

Jack glanced again at the man clasped to his side.  Daniel was off to see the wizard again, totally lost inside his own head as they walked along.  It was taking so long he should maybe gate back and get his truck.  Be quicker.

He had to figure that Daniel absolutely could not do worse for himself, if you kept the snakes out of the equation, whereas Jack O’Neill…Dammit.  Jack O’Neill really couldn’t do better than Daniel.  So what were the odds Jack O’Neill will ever get the chance to do Daniel?  Astronomical, to use exactly the right word.  He’d have to check that out with Carter.

Carter.  That pretty much summed up the whole sexual orientation debate right there.  Daniel was always Daniel, no matter what the circumstances, even during their…vigorous…exchange of views in front of those intergalactic Nazis bent on global annihilation.  Even when he kept beaming up to the Gad-Meer space ship although he KNEW Jack was going to blow it up.  Independence of mind didn’t begin to cover it some days.  Daniel was always Daniel.

Carter on the other hand was always Carter, even in the zanax brain drain thingy, he still called her CARTER.  Even in his most mushy, brain drained moments, she was Carter.  That pretty much said it all.  The last hetero gasp.  He’d resigned and kissed her once, in the time loop fiasco.  All those loops, just the one time, just as the loop was resetting.  In front of Hammond and everyone else.  Whoop de doo.  Hadn’t exactly gone for the tender private moment there, had he?

Maybe he was just brainwashed by all those alternate realities where him and the civilian Carter got it on.  All those?  Well, being strictly accurate, BOTH those. The ones where, coincidentally, he was dead.  Hard not to draw conclusions from that.   Like maybe he and Carter together were the kiss of death for the whole planet. Still, on the upside, if there were billions of them, well maybe there might be a lot more alternate realities where he and Daniel were getting it on, maybe even right now.  This minute.

Jack cheered up a little.  The prospect was kind of cool.

Damn.  That whole time loop fiasco?  What a wasted opportunity.  He could have tried the ‘church tongue’ on Daniel.  Kind of a trial run, try before you buy, no pressure thing.  If it worked out, ‘porno tongue’.  There had to be alternate Jack O’Neill’s out there with more smarts than him who figured this shit out in time to make the most of all those loops.  Daniel would have been none the wiser.  What had HE done with Daniel?  Let him get knocked on his ass a coupla times.  Learned Latin with bad grace.  Did some translation with worse grace.  Juggled.  Rode a bike, worked on his back swing and did a little pottery.  How sad was that?

Maybe he didn’t need anybody to tell him what was wrong with him.  The evidence was stacking up just fine, all on its own, thank you.

The Banqueting Chamber doors seemed to have snuck up on him.  And once they’d been ushered through them with due ceremony and announced, well, all things considered, the last thing Jack was prepared for was Daniel slipping out from under his arm and sauntering off into the crowd the moment they were settled.

What the…?  Where in hell did Daniel…DANIEL…learn to walk like that?

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

On to Part Two

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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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