Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Alternate Universe.  First Time.  Romance.
Synopsis: When a passionate, idealistic young English archaeologist meets his cynical, aggravating American patron, more than cultures clash.
Warnings: None.
Date: 17 January 2006
Notes: Originally appeared in the 2004 Points Of Departure zine.  The story was written in homage to the incomparable author Elizabeth Peters, who took care to write about the partnership of true equals.  Jack and Daniel's ages, nationalities and histories have been altered to suit 1897 but their essential characters I hope remain true to the boys we know and love in SG-1.  Archaeological history is borrowed from Flinders Petrie.
Length:  778 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story 


Tell-El-Amarna, Egypt, 1897

"Love is most nearly itself when here and now cease to matter." -T.S. Eliot

The first stars were lighting the night sky by the time Daniel arrived back at the expedition house. He was late - hours late. Hardly a good impression to make on General Hammond's friend and, more importantly, a potential sponsor for this season's excavation.

Daniel found he couldn't fault General Hammond for withdrawing his patronage, even though it left the excavation, and Daniel himself, in the most difficult of circumstances.

The drought which had struck at many of America's western states was taking too great a toll on the rancher's finances to allow him to continue to support what was after all merely a cherished hobby of his late wife. His retrenchment was a matter of necessity; he had his little granddaughters to provide for, as well as his many employees in Texas. Daniel could only admire General Hammond's generosity in sending this old military friend of his to Egypt in the expectation he would provide for his pet archaeologist.

It touched him, to not be forgotten when the general had so many more important matters to tend to.

He knocked politely on the sturdy wooden door to the house, dutifully extending the requisite courtesy, but walking into the house without waiting for a response, wryly aware his home for the past year could soon belong to the stranger who was visiting it for the first and possibly the last time.

"Hello?" he called as he made his way down the narrow hallway opening out into the central courtyard of the house. Squat and ugly when viewed from the exterior, inside General Hammond had spared no expense to secure his comfort and that of his guests. Amarna House boasted a large, well-appointed drawing room which was open its entire length to a small, fragrant garden bordered by several bedrooms, a bathroom, offices and storerooms, the kitchen and servants quarters.

"Colonel O'Neill?" Daniel called again as he walked cautiously from the garden into the elegant drawing room. The dining table was set for two, the lamps spilling light over the pianoforte and the comfortable furnishings, colour glowing in the heaped cushions of rich silk, the fine woollen carpets underfoot and the leather bindings of the many books.

Wondering if he would have to go to the lengths of searching through each room of the house for the absent O'Neill, Daniel took a moment to polish the lenses of his spectacles, ruefully aware his handkerchief was the only clean article he possessed. He was already terribly late for his appointment, but perhaps there was still time to wash and dress for dinner? Which would give more offence, tardiness or...?

"You're late," a cool, authoritative voice drawled from immediately behind him.

Startled by the unheard approach, Daniel quickly turned to find himself facing a tall, well-favoured man some years older than himself, with close-cropped roan hair, deep brown eyes and a tanned, wintry face. "Sir?"

"Jack," Colonel O'Neill corrected, a blinding smile warming his face as Daniel shyly shook his proffered hand. "Dr. Jackson?" he enquired. "Daniel," he amended smoothly, taking the liberty of Daniel's given name before he could make a reply, neatly hooking his elbow to lead him over to the gleaming mahogany dining table.

Looking cautiously at Colonel O'Neill's casual attire - the man was in his shirt-sleeves rather than evening dress - Daniel felt better about his own disarray. General Hammond had been very particular in his ways; the influence of his dear wife, he claimed. Daniel had always taken the time to change for dinner on the all too frequent occasions he had been unable to convince his employer he was more comfortable in his tent at the site, near the men. Regrettably, the general's wish had been perforce Daniel's command.

As would this man's be, if he chose to invest in the excavation a little of the fortune he'd reputedly made prospecting in the Klondike this past year.

"What did George tell you about me?" Jack gave vent to his curiosity as they took their seats.

After a year in General Hammond's employ, Daniel was growing more used to the directness of Americans than he had been, understanding there was no intent to be rude or ill-mannered in the entirely too personal questions they were wont to ask.

"He told me a little of your history," he replied politely. "In his letter of introduction, General Hammond wrote that you were a Colonel with the 6th Cavalry regiment and saw a great deal of action in the Indian Wars. In Arizona and against the Apache tribe, I believe?"

Colonel O'Neill was staring at him, a distinct gleam of amusement in his eyes. "You're very polite," he explained carefully in answer to Daniel's questioning look. "Precise." The colonel continued to eye Daniel thoughtfully. "Proper."

"No more so than any gentleman," Daniel suggested diffidently, surprised by this observation.

"I guess that explains it, then. I'm not a gentleman," Jack promised him with surprisingly solemnity. "I'm a retired soldier and speculator. I have to warn you that no one is more surprised than I am I got out of the Klondike with more than the shirt on my back."

Though Daniel would be happy to enquire more closely into these fascinating adventures when he got to know the colonel better and could be sure he wasn't encroaching, he would certainly keep his silence on some of the exceedingly personal matters General Hammond had tactfully disclosed to him in his letter.

It was the general's considered opinion Colonel O'Neill's risky speculative venture in the great Gold Rush arose directly from the tragic death of his young son more than a year ago. O'Neill's grief had been compounded when his wife sued him for divorce after they had buried their son. General Hammond had been careful not to allude to the specifics of this separation but instead urged his young protégée to think kindly of his old friend.

Daniel hoped he was fair enough not to pre-judge a man but rather to accept him on his own merits. Such suffering and loss were not a matter for idle speculation or gossip. Whether the colonel chose to discuss his family or not, Daniel would of course respect his wishes. In either respect, he would not allow it to become a matter for contention between them.

If O'Neill was restlessly searching for meaning in a suddenly empty life, it might explain his presence here in Egypt, though Daniel felt the more likely explanation was simply his obligation to General Hammond, always a good and generous friend and benefactor.

"George told me about you too," Jack hinted broadly to Daniel as the flustered cook and her young daughter arrived to serve their dinner of delicately spiced chicken and rice.

Daniel thanked Mina and Nadia politely, pleased to see the colonel graciously extended them the same courtesy. It was an attention Daniel had found to be beyond his countrymen, for whom servants did not exist as individuals. They were mere tools and ciphers to most, regarded as property by some. He didn't have wide experience of Americans or particular knowledge of their bloody history, but after seeing some of his countrymen at their worst, Daniel could only respect a nation founded on the tenet of equality.

"You're an orphan?" Jack went on with their discussion as soon as they were alone again.

"My parents died when I was young," Daniel explained stiffly, unhappy with this intrusive questioning and the circumstances forcing him to at least appear to tolerate it. The loss of his parents was an intensely private matter he was still after many years unable to discuss with even the most sympathetic listener, a wound he wouldn't have touched, certainly not by a man he'd known for a matter of minutes.

"I'm sorry," Jack told him, surprising him with an oddly knowing sincerity. "So your grandfather sent you packing off to school?"

Daniel had no desire to discuss his grandfather's pragmatic arrangements for his care with a man who would no doubt be as disapproving as General Hammond had been of what he had deemed to be Daniel's 'abandonment'. The general's opinion of English public schools was little better than his opinion of the long-absent Nicholas Ballard. Daniel also had no wish to offend the colonel, at least not before the man had committed himself to patronage of the excavation, so he chose diplomatically to keep his silence. "I prefer not to discuss it, Colonel, if you please," he disclaimed.

"Jack," Jack invited persuasively, choosing to let the matter of his question rest. "We'll get along a damn sight better if you'll just bite the bullet and call me Jack. After all, we're going to be spending a lot of time together," he added with a grin.

"We are?" Daniel blurted out in a mortifying lapse of decorum, a rush of relieved gratitude washing his face with heat.

"Sure we are!" Jack agreed heartily.

"You're interested in archaeology?" Daniel asked eagerly.

"I'm interested in-" Jack bit off his words abruptly. "In protecting my investment in you," he went on smoothly after a moment.

"Oh," Daniel subsided, disappointed and uneasy.

If the colonel didn't care for history or the connection of modern man and culture to history and the distant past, an individual of his intelligence and vigour would take little pleasure in the mundane challenges of methodical excavation. If Daniel had had any possibility of securing financing elsewhere, he would in all honour have refused the colonel's patronage, for there would be little return for O'Neill personally on his generous investment of time and funding.

A little disturbed by the inequity of their arrangement, Daniel found himself hoping that in time Colonel O'Neill would change his opinion of Daniel's vocation. After all, even the practical General Hammond had finally fallen victim to the romanticism of archaeology.

Though he wasn't a man to need or seek out the company of others, nevertheless Daniel was interested in the colonel, who was so very different from himself or anyone he'd known. He was pleased at the opportunity to become acquainted with O'Neill and his fascinating history, perhaps even in time to befriend him.

A nagging suspicion of selfishness on his part led him to speak up.

"I'm grateful for your generosity, of course," he began to give voice to his concerns, choosing his words with care. "I do question, though, if your decision isn't too hasty. Could we not agree that you will take the time to look at the site with me, to decide whether archaeology interests you and is worthy of your time?"

Jack smiled at him approvingly. "That's a fair offer, Daniel, and given your circumstances here, a generous one. Still, I've given you my word and I won't break it."

It was of course impossible to challenge a man's honour. Daniel was left with nothing to say except his thanks.

"Plus, there's no way in hell I'm leaving a boy like you out here all alone with a war raging right next door in the Sudan and civil unrest here," Jack informed him tactlessly. "I don't know what Hammond was thinking."

"I beg your pardon?" Daniel snapped, honestly offended by this condescending officiousness. "I'm not a child, Sir!" he argued indignantly.

"No-oo," Jack drawled, looking at him strangely, his eyes glinting amusement. "I'm well aware of all your amazing academic accomplishments, Daniel. George was full of them. If you can give me your word becoming a Doctor of Philosophy at the ripe old age of twenty-three doesn't mean you spent your entire life with your nose in a book, then I'm happy to take it."

Very annoyed he couldn't refute this aggravatingly pejorative judgement about the place of reading in a man's life, Daniel chose instead to argue an arrogant, unworthy assumption by his new employer.

"My foreman Kasuf and his men are completely loyal," he insisted heatedly. "The men of Abydos are experienced diggers, much sought after for their invaluable expertise. I assure you there has been no nationalist trouble in their encampment or in el Hagg-Qandil, the village where I recruited the local workers whom Kasuf and his men oversee."

Jack shrugged dismissively, looking sceptical.

"I'd advise you to accept my judgement on this, Sir," Daniel insisted firmly. "You know nothing of Arab culture, nothing of the people, their customs or their language, their religions. The locals are desperately poor, their co-operation and obedience to my orders guaranteed by the wage we - you," he caught himself up awkwardly. "You can pay them."

"I have no respect for a man I have to buy."

Daniel gritted his teeth, prudently turning his attention to his neglected meal until he could disguise his irritation at his arrogantly overbearing patron.

"We're very different, Daniel," Jack observed mildly after several minutes of uncomfortable silence. "I've lived my life in the saddle, many miles from the company of civilised folk, oftentimes bored to the point of insanity, sometimes fighting: hard, bloody, brutal battles, no quarter asked or given. I don't trust easily, but I promise you I do trust well."

"That's fair," Daniel conceded respectfully, grateful for Jack's honesty.

He could accept that war changed a man at the core, hardened him. It seemed he would have to have faith in Jack's intelligence and wait for him to meet Kasuf and the other Abydonians before the man would admit Daniel was right about them. He understood now it would take time for Jack to trust any of them and he would have to make allowances for a reticence the colonel had clearly learned through long, perhaps bitter experience.

"If you seem like a boy to me, I guess it's because you're young and untried by any standard I know," Jack observed thoughtfully. "A scholar who went straight from school to read classics at that fancy university in Oxford, then came here. To me, it looks like you've chosen to bury yourself in the past. You haven't seen anything of the world, Daniel, you haven't lived."

"You mean I haven't killed," Daniel riposted, offended by the colonel's low opinion of his worldliness but once again unsure how to counter the accusation of naïveté, which seemed to occur with annoying regularity in any discussion of the flaws in his character.

"Maybe," Jack admitted reluctantly.

"I would dispute willingness and ability to kill as a measure of any man, but confess I'm not a pacifist," Daniel explained stiffly. "I don't blindly follow any man or doctrine. Too much occurs that should be questioned but passes unheeded, or worse, is accepted, too much power is assumed and wielded by those who are the least accountable members of our society. I may be realistic about my ability to effect change in others, but at the very least, I try my utmost to not allow my beliefs to blind me to the truth. I can effect change in myself."

"George said you were an idealist."

"Perhaps." Daniel didn't care to be so neatly labelled, as if he were an exhibit in a museum, any more than he cared to see himself or any person robbed of their individuality by the unthinking narrowness and rigidity of others. It frustrated him so few people seemed to share his feeling for the past. Were they not truly the sum of all those who'd lived before them? Understanding of the past paved the way to better understanding of the too often difficult present and a future Daniel was sometimes moved to fear.

"I didn't say I fault idealism in a man," Jack reproved him. "You know, I'm not sure I was ever as young as you are," he suggested insultingly, with a rueful twinkle which failed to soften Daniel's ire. "Not when I grew up first in Chicago, then later out on the frontier, in Minnesota, but even I'm proud to admit it ideals founded my country." He smiled at Daniel. "I have to say it's a real pleasant change not to have to apologise for my existence or my country's ideals to an Englishman."

Daniel blinked at this sweeping condemnation.

"They're either weeping for the fate of the poor, ignorant savages we slaughtered or demanding to know why we didn't slaughter every one of the murdering heathen bastards when we had the chance," Jack explained helpfully.

"I don't have that kind of arrogance or hypocrisy," Daniel retorted dismissively. "English history is more replete with opportunistic conquests, imperialist slaughter and jingoistic rhetoric than with ideals. Pragmatism and vainglory are a poisonous mix, hardly qualifying the English to judge the actions of any other nation."

"George said I'd like you," Jack snorted amusedly.

Considering the barrage of criticism Daniel had been subjected to in the space of a few minutes, he was forced to wonder how the colonel behaved towards those he didn't like. "Thank you, Sir," he replied doubtfully.

"I know that to be on first name terms with you properly," Jack drawled with an aggravatingly sarcastic emphasis, "I should have been introduced to you in your cradle, but I'm insisting. Jack. Not Colonel, sure as hell not Sir, just Jack."

"Is that a diminutive for Jo-?" Daniel began.

"Jack!" Jack roared, goaded.

"Very well," Daniel conceded. "I prefer Dr. Jackson," he added innocently, failing to resist the urge to annoy the col- Jack - just a little.

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind, Daniel." Jack attacked his meal with gusto and a few bitter animadversions on the quality of cavalry rations. When he could eat no more of the spiced rice, he collected up the bowl of fresh fruits and drew Daniel over to the smallest of the several sofas placed about the room, sitting comfortably shoulder to shoulder with him while they shared sweet grapes.

"May I ask if you're aware of my professional reputation?" Daniel enquired conscientiously, feeling honour-bound to ensure Jack was fully conversant with all the pertinent facts before he handed over the funds.

"You may ask anything you like," Jack encouraged him, "but this time the answer is no. What reputation?"

"Archaeology is a new science," Daniel replied enthusiastically. "My particular interest is in philology. The science of language, its historical development, the study of culture through ancient texts."

Jack looked at him politely.

"My studies have had occasion to bring me into conflict with other philologians," Daniel confessed. "Also the Director of Antiquities." He considered a number of somewhat tempestuous encounters in reflective silence for a moment. "Both of them."

Jack choked slightly on his peach but waved an encouraging hand for Daniel to continue with his narrative.

"Monsieur Loret appears as rigid and avaricious as his predecessor, Monsieur Maspero. His concern is to cram the Bulaq museum full of artefacts without thought to the consequences - the valuable evidence destroyed by what is tantamount to vandalism," Daniel accused the absent Loret with more heat than was strictly polite even with provocation. "Admittedly, M. Loret has cause for concern with the cunning, persistent predations of the indefatigable Budge - Keeper in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum," he explained fluently. "The man has a wholly deserved notoriety for buying or otherwise acquiring every blessed antiquity in the land which isn't secured, smuggling them past the authorities and out of the country!"

Jack paused in his search for the best of the apples, looking suitably shocked.

"Budge appears unconcerned with the illegality, immorality or irresponsibility of his actions."

"That rat bastard!"

Heartened by this colourful colloquial pronouncement, Daniel accepted several juicy dates.

"Such activities encourage the native dealers to continue to strip tombs and dig sites of their artefacts, rendering moot attempts to deduce from their placement and function insights into life and culture in the ancient dynasties. Instead, important historical evidence is heaped in dusty glass cases to be ogled by the credulous masses while M. Loret continues the sanctions imposed by his predecessor. Native dealers and the villagers who supply them are imprisoned and on occasion tortured for engaging in their illicit trade while Budge proudly displays his spoils and accepts accolades for his scholarship he has not earned," Daniel grimly informed Jack. "This trafficking benefits no one but the museums, private collectors and Budge!"

"I take it you've discussed your views with Budge and Loret and the others?" Jack asked sympathetically.

Self-consciously smoothing the dusty fabric of his trousers over his knees, Daniel sighed.

"I can see where all this will make you real popular in Cairo," Jack remarked, grinning at him.

Daniel was inclined to be philosophical. His alienation from many of his influential peers had carried personal consequences he hadn't expected but had learned in time to live with.

"If you wish - that is to say, if you prefer a scholar of note and sound reputation," he suggested with difficulty, finding himself to be quite choked with mortification. "Any site which has been honoured by Flinders Petrie's attentions would draw-"

"I'll stick with you, thanks," Jack hastily refused this generous sacrifice. "No buried treasure?" he asked sadly.

"We are concerned with the application and refinement of scientific method in excavation and the systematic documenting of evidence," Daniel rebuked him repressively. "I hope this season to uncover artefacts which will shed light on the reign of the elusive Khuenaten and his fascinating monotheistic religion. So little is known of this man condemned by history as a heretic and failure, so much of what is known is mere supposition, conjecture and sensationalism."

"Whoah, there!" Jack held up a firm hand. "Why don't we start with the basics, huh? What's my contribution here?"

Daniel felt this was self-evident.

"Apart from the money," Jack acknowledged witheringly, a fugitive spark of amusement in his dark eyes.

"Would it be fair to say you have no interest in archaeology, no experience of excavation and no demonstrable aptitude in the application of scientific method?" Daniel enquired politely.

"It would be," Jack decided after giving this some thought.

"General Hammond's visits to the excavation site were infrequent," Daniel informed his patron suggestively.

"I'm used to commanding men in the field," Jack countered promptly.

Not my men, Daniel thought tartly. "Kasuf is a very experienced foreman," he reminded Jack of their earlier discussion with quiet insistence. "He and his men are from Abydos, the site of-"

"So I'll supervise you," Jack interrupted, smiling charmingly. "That way, you can teach me everything I need to know to supervise everyone else."

Daniel had a number of comments he wished to make on the subject of Jack's specious logic but refrained. He felt an introduction to the many glories of Amarna would be more effective in achieving his aim of preventing Jack from interfering in his excavation. Naturally, he needed to place the site in its proper historical, cultural and theological context for his patron to fully appreciate the worth of his donation to its study.

Where to begin?

"From the earliest of times, Egyptians believed in the immortality of the soul, the indestructibility of the human personality," Daniel benignly lectured Jack. "The Egyptian monarch or pharaoh was believed to be a God. He was an aspect of the totality of power in society and in nature. In those early Egyptian dynasties the land and the people were considered to be his property, controlled by him through his priests, generals and agents."

Daniel paused just long enough for Jack to begin to think the lesson was over.

Then he went on.

"Early in the fourth millennium - before Christ - there were indications the Egyptians tried to protect and preserve the physical remains of the dead and to provide them for use after death, food, clothing, tools and other funerary offerings. Such was the strength of their belief in the afterlife, elaborate tombs and inspiring pyramids were constructed."

Daniel glanced at Jack to see how this was being received.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I've had one heck of a day!" Jack announced heartily, rising smartly to his feet. "Let's say we turn in and pick this up again at the breakfast table?" he suggested.

"I'll be travelling to the site in the cool before dawn breaks," Daniel informed his employer amicably, pleased by how quickly he'd bored him. Well, not pleased, precisely. He would infinitely have preferred Jack to be an enthusiast, someone who would appreciate - share - his passion.

"I'll see you then," Jack said firmly, standing in front of Daniel until he too perforce stood.

Daniel wanted to ask again why Jack was so interested in both financing and participating in the excavation. Sadly, he didn't have the luxury of refusing what he sensed was an act of charity rather than of genuine patronage. Thus far the only thing to hold Jack's fleeting attention was Daniel himself. He puzzled over this as they made their way through the fragrant flowers and bushes in the garden, though he was no nearer to understanding Jack when the man bid him a pleasant good night and left him at his bedroom door.

With his errant employer's likely impact on Kasuf, the Abydonians and the orderly running of his excavation heavy on his mind, Daniel distractedly removed his spectacles and stripped off his scuffed, heavy work boots and grubby trousers, ruefully surveying the damage to his clothing. Mina was sure to scold. For all its pleasures and excitements, excavation was fearfully hard on one's wardrobe.

He poured some water into the china bowl set on top of his bureau, washed his face, neck and hands thoroughly, then conscientiously brushed his teeth before tumbling gratefully into the big, comfortable bed.

It took him a few minutes more to spread and tuck the mosquito netting, one task which could never be neglected no matter how exhausted he was from the day's work. Daniel plumped his pillow and lay down, intending to think how best to keep Jack occupied and out of the way. He found himself distracted from plotting by the quiet sounds of Jack moving around in the master bedroom next to his, not so tired, it seemed, as he claimed.

Daniel was smiling over this when he fell asleep.

Jack stood silently, staring watchfully down at the slim, graceful form of the sleeping boy, his outline blurred by the netting draped over the big brass bed. Daniel was on his side, his long legs comfortably curled, an arm resting on the curve of his narrow waist, a hand tucked neatly beneath the pillow, shining fair hair spilling over his perfect face. The thin white shirt he still wore rode up to bare enticingly a fine, muscular thigh, his smooth skin burnished by the silvery light streaming in through the small window set high in the wall above the bed.

Beautiful, beautiful boy, Jack thought, still stunned by the electric impact of profound blue eyes, lighting with shy pleasure as they met his.

He didn’t want to believe he'd fallen in love so fast. At sight, for God's sake!

It was easier for him to think about how much he wanted to bed Daniel, wanted and needed it badly, the unexpected, complicated surge of desire shaking him from his bitter, hard-won inner balance.

Jack was starved for physical intimacy; it fuelled in part his restlessness, and Daniel wouldn't be the first boy in his bed. He had lived too long on the frontier and cared too little for isolation to be overly concerned with either Christian condemnations or the expectations and damnations of others. He'd learned long ago to take his pleasures where they came.

The rest, though, the shock of gladness, of feeling, of recognition, almost, this was harder for him to explain away as anything but love. He was not used to people touching him so deeply and no one he could remember had ever touched him so quickly as Daniel.

A simple financial arrangement to help out an old, respected friend and comrade-in-arms, then he moved on south to hunt, that was his plan. Always to move. Jack had been terribly careless, Charlie had died because of him, Sara had buried their boy and their marriage both, and he hadn't stopped moving since.

A friend - a lover - was the last thing he'd expected to make of George Hammond's scholarly stray. He hadn’t been prepared to find a clever, passionate idealist, filled with charm and gentleness. An innocent.

Jack had to be out of his mind to even contemplate seducing a shy, straight-laced English virgin. He was still here though, quietly watching Daniel sleeping as deep and heedless as a child. Willingly embracing his insanity.

He hadn't looked for this, not for being drawn so strongly to a boy. The sticky, frustrated fumblings of his youth were nothing. They were a lifetime behind him, literally a world away. Jack had grown into a man, and not always a good one, but he'd never brought an unwilling or inexperienced partner to his bed. It was only with his wife he'd sought more than the physical act. No one had been led to expect or hope for anything more from him.

He had never thought to have so much feeling for someone his own sex.

A simple man, Jack felt it was right he should take time to be a friend to Daniel, show him respect for his principles and the delight he took in his sweet, serious nature. He would make it clear to Daniel there was a choice for him here, if he could take it. It was the right and fair thing for a man to do for his friend.

Only then would he teach Daniel to kiss, to touch, to take pleasure in loving as no properly repressed, guilt-ridden English gentleman should. He would be tender, opening Daniel up to love.

Unable to fathom the strength of his reaction to the boy, Jack stood staring down at him a moment more, then left him in peace. There was a greedy ache low in his gut it was too soon to share with him. Jack knew nothing of the boy's heart, if Daniel could care for him the way he hoped, or even if he could as a friend be receptive to Jack's desire for him.

Jack wanted everything he and Daniel could give each other, but his own hands would have to do for now.

"Tell el-Amarna is the modern name given to the city of Akhetaten, built around 1350 BC by the Pharaoh Khuenaten. It was the heart of a sacred tract of ground between Thebes and Memphis dedicated to the cult of the sun, the Aten," Daniel said softly, standing close to Jack, staring up with shining eyes at the high cliffs looming above them, surrounding the city.

Looking around at dryness and dust, Jack could only wonder at the vivid imagination Daniel was gifted with, to be able to see so clearly in his mind's eye a past buried deep in the dirt. He was beginning to understand what it was that drove the staid English to this mania for all things Egyptian. Under all their prim, proper behaviour and stuffy manners, people like Daniel Jackson were romantics.

"Khuenaten strove to unite all the people of Egypt in worship of Aten as the only true creative force in the universe," Daniel interrupted Jack's musings. "Aten represented both the God or the spirit of the sun and the solar disk itself," he explained.

His indulgence rapidly evaporating, Jack gritted his teeth against the relentless tide of facts Daniel seemed to consider essential for him to commit to memory before he would allow him to even set foot in the dig proper. He hadn't been lectured so ruthlessly since his days at West Point, which he figured was exactly what young Dr. Jackson had in mind. He didn't know why Daniel was so set on keeping him away from the dig, but it only fuelled his own determination to stay right by his side.

"Khuenaten didn't ask his people to take their God on faith, but rather to trust the visibility, tangibility and undeniable reality of the sun."

Suppressing a sigh with difficulty, Jack had to admit Daniel was succeeding in making him feel every minute of his advanced age. He'd always believed he'd earned the respect of the officers and men under his command. Green ensigns, troopers and lieutenants of Daniel's age who looked up to him and strove to emulate the tall tales of his exploits the veterans told around the camp fires or as they whiled away long days in the barracks.

Dr. Jackson didn't hang on Jack's every word or look to him for approval. He hectored Jack just as he or any seasoned sergeant would have done with some tenderfoot who lacked the sense to come in out of the noonday sun. Daniel's wilfulness and stubborn independence irked Jack considerably even if he did have a sneaking admiration for those very qualities in a man. In fact, if Jack didn't have his heart set on the boy, he'd be of a mind to teach him a lesson or two in respect for his superiors.

He looked around the small expedition camp without enthusiasm. "I've spent too long under canvas," he remarked idly, and was surprised once again by the ready understanding which seemed so much a part of who Daniel was.

"I think that's why General Hammond built the house," Daniel confided tentatively, as if he expected a rebuff. "He spent too many nights apart from his dear wife and family when he was with the army and again when he was on the trail with his cattle. He likes to have his people around him."

Jack knew and shared that same need but didn't feel this was the time or the place to discuss it. One night, maybe, when he had Daniel to himself. The boy's sensitivity was very attractive to Jack, maybe too much so.

Even with his wife, there'd always been a need to explain what he meant which made the effort to talk about himself too much to sustain. It had been easier on him to keep his silence and listen to Sara talking of her many small, domestic concerns. Charlie's schooling, the gophers eating their way through her kitchen garden, whether to buy the blue cloth or the green for her Sunday dress.

He guessed he hadn't given Sara much of a choice, when he wouldn't talk about the hard, clear memories that robbed him of sleep night after night in the all too brief times he was home with her. He'd hurt Sara with his silence, he knew that. She'd wanted to help him and couldn't, understood she wasn't allowed, that he set her at a distance. There was too much bad in the man he was, too much wrong he'd done. Jack had been loath to rob Sara of her peace and her pride in him, so he'd held his tongue. It was easier on both of them.

Harder memories than those of war had stolen his sleep since. His grief at losing Charlie and then Sara too had near killed him, but the passage of time had blunted his fury and self-hate, his memories even, forcing him slowly to live and feel again. Jack wondered if that was what this was, this strange rush of feeling for Daniel. A natural thing, quickly felt and maybe as quickly recovered from. He couldn't know if all the things he was feeling would endure.

"Jack?" Daniel prompted him delicately. "Sir?"

Restlessly, Jack prowled away from Daniel without answering, leaving him floundering and flushing at the snub, hovering uncertainly outside the large, neat tent he used as his office. Moodily Jack stared around at the arid plain, the broken-down ruins and the stark cliffs towering on all sides, the sky streaking with gorgeous colours above. Sometimes, it felt to him as if he'd spent most of his life trying to beat into submission a land and people who didn't want him and weren't worth near what they cost him.

"Where is everyone?" he asked impatiently, consciously shaking off his preoccupation as he came back to the tent to follow Daniel's sensible example and put on his Stetson, looking strangely exotic next to Daniel's sober broad-brimmed straw hat.

"Kasuf and the men are at prayer," Daniel explained quietly, looking alertly towards the Abydonian encampment.

Jack stole a moment to admire him, unseen. His archaeologist wore tight-fitting khaki breeches tucked into stout brown leather boots which reached to his knees, a collarless white shirt with sleeves rolled - daringly, he imagined, for Daniel - to the elbow, beneath a trim khaki waistcoat. He looked so good, his slim form so perfectly framed, Jack was fighting a terrible urge to just take hold of him and kiss some sense into him.

"La E Laaha Il Lal Laa Muhammadur Rasul Lullah," Daniel quoted respectfully. "There is no God besides Allah, and Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the messenger of God." Daniel came forward to stand at Jack's side, looking earnestly across at him. "The Abydonians are Muslims, Jack, the villagers I hired from el-Hagg Quandil are Copts, Orthodox Christians. The two faiths are allied in their battle to win independence and democracy in Egypt, but the alliance is at all times fragile, especially out here, so far from the city, its police and politicians. The Copts have suffered a history of oppression, violence - even systematic pogroms - dating back to 65 AD. There have been frequent clashes and even outright rebellion against the dominant Muslims. The tensions are always there, simmering beneath the surface."

"I take your point," Jack snapped in justifiable irritation. "It could take me months to understand all of this. It's not like I never had to do it before, Daniel. How easy do you think it was keeping the peace among the Apache?"

Colour rose in Daniel's cheeks. "I apologise," he said at once, his soft, refined voice stifled by yet another snub. "It wasn't my intent to embarrass you, only to inform."

Already regretting his sharpness, Jack turned to face Daniel and took hold of his shoulders. "If you want to help me, Daniel, don't keep telling me what I don't know and can't do," he ordered in a friendly voice, finding it no hardship at all to gaze into those brilliant blue eyes, soft now with apology behind the lenses of the absurd spectacles. "Show me what I can."

"We're excavating the Great Temple," Daniel confessed excitedly, his handsome face lighting up as he took Jack at his word. "The deal Budge struck with the antiquities dealers stripped Amarna of its famous Tablets a decade ago, but Flinders Petrie returned to survey the site in 1892. He was able to methodically excavate the Royal Palace, as you can see." Daniel pulled away from Jack to gesture energetically towards the low-slung ruins.

Jack stared obediently at the heap of broken-down walls and trenches, trying to look as if it made sense to him, as if he was interested in what he was seeing. He wished for a moment he could see what Daniel saw, the possibilities of the past, he guessed, not the present realities of dull dirt and digging. He was a pragmatist, though, a man who dealt in oftentimes harsh reality. It was easier for him to express cynicism than idealism.

"Mr. Petrie found a very beautiful fresco," Daniel went on, his enthusiasm muting when Jack didn't reply. "The Princesses Fresco. The style of Amarna art is," he glanced quickly at Jack. "Is unimportant for now," he said more quietly still.

"The men are coming," Jack commented, aware his lack of response had disappointed Daniel and he'd lost an opportunity to win his confidence which the boy wouldn't rush to offer him again.

"Ahlan wa sahlan, Dr. Jackson!" a joyful voice called.

"Ahlan bik, Kasuf," Daniel greeted the man warmly as his shoulders were clasped and a kiss ceremoniously placed on each cheek.

Jack found himself being scrutinised by a man many years older than him, with a strong, dignified face and thoughtful dark eyes. Kasuf wore both beard and turban, with loose flowing robes which looked far more cool and practical than Daniel's formal attire or even Jack's comfortable old denims.

"Kasuf speaks excellent English," Daniel praised his foreman, looking meaningfully at Jack. "Kasuf, this is Colonel O'Neill, our patron. He takes the place of Hammond-effendi and is his friend, in his trust."

"Col-o-nel," Kasuf enunciated Jack's rank carefully.

Mindful of Daniel's quick, frowning glance, Jack smiled and extended a hand to Kasuf. "O'Neill," he suggested.

"O'Neyer," Kasuf repeated.

Good enough, Jack thought.

"Kasuf's son Skaara is among the best of our men, Jack," Daniel told him, his arms absently crossing to wrap around himself as he stood off to the side, keenly watching all that went on between Kasuf and Jack.

"I look forward to meeting him," Jack said warmly.

"You share Hammond-Effendi's great love of our past?" Kasuf asked him, sinking down to squat on his haunches.

When Daniel smoothly copied Kasuf, Jack decided they weren't likely to get any real work done before noon and obediently hunkered down to parley.

"I don't," Jack responded readily, refusing to insult either Daniel or his foreman with an outright lie. "But I begin to understand the fascination," he added warmly, smiling benignly at his archaeologist. He had his reward as the tight lines at Daniel's mouth smoothed out. "I'm willing to learn," he promised.

"That is good," Kasuf praised him. "Listen to Doctor Jackson," he warned Jack sternly. "To me and to my men also. That is better."

"I was a soldier. We always learned by watching the veterans," Jack replied easily.

"You have fought a great many battles?" Kasuf asked, his dark eyes bright and inquisitive.

Jack was amused to note Daniel wasn't entirely immune to the romance of the Cavalry either. Eyes eager, he was leaning so far forward, Jack was surprised he didn't fall on his face. "It seems I've fought half my life," he replied straight-forwardly, showing Kasuf that courtesy. "Not always winning."

"Did you have respect for your enemy?"

"I was taught it," Jack admitted dryly.

"In these battles you lost?"

Jack nodded eloquently. "Also in the way the Indians led their lives, their laws and customs, the way they and the land were one. It was part of them, in their blood." He looked at Daniel as he spoke, enjoying the spark of admiration he saw. "The land we drove them off."

There was no point prettying up a bloody, ugly conflict, not to himself when he'd lived it, as a much a part of him as the land was to the Indians, and certainly not to a young man who cared very much for the truth. Having Daniel's respect mattered to Jack, more so maybe because it would be granted to him for the man he was, not for the things he'd done.

"It is man's way to covet and to take that which he covets," Kasuf commented cynically.

A truer word was never spoken, Jack thought, unable to resist stealing another swift glance at Daniel. He wondered if a better, less bitter man would have left the boy in his innocence, if it was weakness or strength to not want Daniel to be so alone, so closed off to other people.

"We go now to the dig, Doctor?" Kasuf asked Daniel.

"We do," Daniel agreed, rising gracefully to his feet.

"These Copts are lazy," Kasuf told Jack disapprovingly as he began to lead them towards the cliffs. "Always they have something to complain about."

"The villagers are good workers," Daniel contradicted with a weariness suggesting he and Kasuf argued about this particular sore point all the time.

"They work well when I am there to watch over them," Kasuf retorted superbly, calmly taking the credit.

Behind Kasuf's proud, rigid back, Daniel grimaced at Jack. "They're too poor and too much in need of the wages we can pay them to give anything but satisfaction," he explained quietly.

Kasuf snorted. "How many times have the head man and that priest of theirs come to you with their bleeding hearts and their tales of trouble and misery in the village, Doctor Jackson?" He sniffed disparagingly. "Many times."

Jack looked interestedly at Daniel.

"How many times have I agreed to pay them more than what was agreed?" Daniel riposted, apparently feeling he had a point to make to Jack here.

"Sometimes you show the good sense Allah gave you," Kasuf admitted grudgingly, "and not the soft heart."

"I think those were two insults disguised as compliments," Jack decided, grinning as Daniel scowled malignantly at the back of Kasuf's turbaned head.

"The young master is a great scholar," Kasuf pronounced smoothly, "but he would try the patience of Mohammed himself."

The foreman and his young master continued to bicker amicably as they led Jack towards the gathering men, the ground ahead of them already beginning to dance and shimmer as the sun rose to beat down on them with almost physical force.

Jack took Kasuf's point. He was making his esteem and affection for Daniel clear for Jack to see. It was a none too subtle warning that if Jack crossed Daniel, if he hurt the boy, he would have Kasuf to deal with. Jack wouldn't fault the man's protectiveness, however inconvenient it might prove to be. His private affairs with Daniel were not Kasuf's concern, but to keep the foreman on his side, he would make it clear he had Daniel's best interests at heart.

This was the truth, after all. Jack had no intention of hurting Daniel, just of helping him to live a little.

Reflecting on the very brief time he'd known the colonel, Daniel found himself unable to reconcile the illogic of seeming to want Jack to be near him yet at the same time away from the excavation. Daniel was reluctant to bore him, or perhaps reluctant to see Jack bored by the endeavour consuming his every waking moment. He couldn't afford to be distracted, but wasn't sure quite what it was that distracted him so readily, if it was Jack's larger-than-life, consuming presence or simply his own innate response to the man.

Securing Jack's good opinion seemed to matter to Daniel more than he felt it should. His interest in Jack was merely a personal matter, after all. He would readily admit to being drawn to the man and hoped in time to make a friend of him. He considered General Hammond a friend, yet his presence or absence had never disrupted the dig or Daniel's ability to concentrate. Jack had the power to affect both and Daniel was at a loss to understand why this should be.

His priority should be the orderly running of his dig, not the enjoyment he took in Jack's stimulating company. He seemed to be having difficulty keeping this in mind.

Aware his attention had drifted shamefully while Jack stood good-naturedly fahddling in the time-honoured tradition with the intrigued Abydonians gathered closely around him and Kasuf, Daniel decided it was past time to get the men to work. He issued a series of brisk orders, very conscious of having Jack's fascinated eye on him as his men cheerfully went to do his bidding, laughing and enjoying a joke or two as they went. Daniel hoped Jack took note of the men's good spirits. It was as he'd stated. There was no unrest among the Abydonians, and where they led, the cowed locals followed.

"I find the presence of an Abydonian man in each sector of the excavation steadies the unskilled work-parties from the village," he offered in explanation.

Kasuf bowed, gratified by Daniel's merited praise. "I will check on that boy of mine," he suggested, waiting for Daniel's quick nod of approval. "He leads the men who are excavating the King's House this season," Kasuf informed Jack, his casual tone imperfectly concealing his pride over the honoured position granted to Skaara by Daniel, despite his youth.

"You are both a great help to me," Daniel acknowledged at once, unstinting in his approval. "I could not be without you, not when we have so much to accomplish this season."

"Then it is best we begin now, young master," Kasuf chuckled, blandly ignoring the active lead he'd taken in the extended grilling of their exotic new American patron. "You wish me to continue the search for the temple walls this day?"

"Please." Daniel turned to direct an assessing stare to the south. "Continue the trenches in the sectors to the north, Kasuf," he decided.

Kasuf inclined his head in ceremonious acknowledgement.

"There is a quartzite stele - still standing! - which I believe forms part of a great temple to Aten," Daniel enthusiastically explained for Jack's benefit. "It's inscribed with ancient hieroglyphics which describe in detail the programme of food offerings in the temple."

Jack seemed quite impressed by this revelation.

Taking heart, Daniel leavened the exciting news with a caution. "However, my men and I have been unable to locate the boundaries of the temple. The only structure we've uncovered near the stele appears to be a pen, perhaps for livestock which were sacrificed to Aten. I found coprolites," he added vaguely. "I confess this site is challenging my assumptions about temple construction, for it appears to be unlike any other discovered."

"How so?" Jack asked encouragingly.

"There is great uniformity in design," Daniel replied readily, smiling at this evidence he was beginning to engage his patron's interest. "With each temple fronted by a massive pylon gateway leading into an open peristyle courtyard where the common people would congregate to worship, giving them a sense of belonging to the temple complex. The outer courtyard serves a transitional purpose, forming an interface between the outside world and the sanctified regions deeper within the temple. The commoners weren't allowed to know anything of the religious mysteries and so could penetrate no further into the temple. The open peristyle courtyard would lead into a hypostyle hall, with repetitions of the courtyards added behind that over time."

He decided to leave detailed explanations of peristyle, hypostyle and other glories of ancient Egyptian architecture until later, perhaps at dinner. The type of column affected the purpose as well as the construction and style of each courtyard. There was so much to discuss, so much for Jack to learn which would be of help if he was determined to assist in the excavation. Daniel didn't want to tell him too much at once!

"We haven't found any structures near the stele," Daniel announced, cutting to the heart of their difficulty.

"So we dig," Kasuf observed dryly.

"There is an avenue which leads past the palace from the small Aten temple we excavated last season." Daniel gestured sweepingly from north to south as he spoke, mapping the imaginary road for Jack. "The small temple naturally is oriented towards the east," he mused, frowning. "The greater temple must share the orientation."

"Naturally?" Jack questioned, abruptly finding his voice again.

Daniel looked at him inquisitively.

"Why is it natural for the temple to face the east?" Jack elaborated patiently.

"Khuenaten's faith was based on worship of the Aten, the sun disk, and the sun-"

"Rises in the East," Jack chimed in to give the answer in tandem with Daniel, breaking off to smile at him. "That almost makes sense to me," he grinned. "You're exploring to the north because?" he asked invitingly.

"Because Petrie uncovered a number of lesser structures and dwellings to the south," Daniel explained brightly, happy he truly was engaging Jack's interest. "The Pharaohs lived deliberately remote from the ordinary people, distant figures of worship and adulation to their subjects."

"Hence, north," Jack signified his understanding.

Staring at the palace, Daniel made a decision. "I'm going to map out additional sectors to survey closer to this road, Kasuf. I want you to concentrate the men on digging there when I'm done."

Kasuf frowned heavily over this.

"I fear we must abandon our preconceptions of New Kingdom temple architecture," Daniel proposed to his foreman and his patron. "Finding the stele still standing naturally led me to first survey the surrounding area," he explained. "I begin to question that. The placement of this road is significant, for the Great Palace, the King's House and the Small Temple all border it. Each of these structures possesses huge courtyards, Kasuf. Perhaps the great temple will too."

"That is so," Kasuf admitted.

"Khuenaten encouraged his people to worship him, not the Aten direct. The royal family kept their distance, even to the extent of building a bridge to connect the palace and the King's House across the road." Daniel turned excitedly to stare at the palace ruins. "Petrie's excavation suggested a gate here in the centre of the north wall," he observed thoughtfully. "It was in line with an identical opening in the inner courtyard wall and in the main structure of the palace. Perhaps the Pharaoh and his family had a processional route to the temple?"

Kasuf and Jack stood shoulder to shoulder, respectfully and somewhat apprehensively watching Daniel eagerly hypothesising.

"Yes! The road!" Daniel ordered decisively. "We'll begin with the area which would form the axis for where the two buildings to meet, temple and palace."

"And here I was thinking you were just poking around in the dirt in the hopes of finding something," Jack suggested provocatively, with an eloquent look at the scenes of controlled chaos before them.

Kasuf snorted unkindly and left his young master to fend for himself.

"My men and I are methodically surveying the site, yes," Daniel informed Jack with freezing emphasis on 'methodical'. He turned to lead his aggravating patron towards the men working a little to the north of them. "There are no maps or charts of the ancient city to aid our progress, so we must draw up our own maps as we work." It occurred to Daniel that this was something he did need to explain to Jack, as it was a simple enough process in which he could usefully assist. "I divide the area to be surveyed into a grid. The corners of each square in the grid are assigned a unique reference which is applied to both the site map and to any artefacts recovered. The work-parties are allocated systematically to dig test trenches in each of the grids. This way, I have a complete record of all activity and findings on the site."

A West Point graduate, Jack had no difficulty in following the logic of this.

"Thus far, I've found the city to be buried beneath a thin layer of sand and rubble, easily accessible. However, we must proceed carefully as the buildings were constructed not of stone, but of shoddy sun-dried mud bricks."

"Which is why I don't see much of anything," Jack remarked, grinning at Daniel.

"The city was built quickly because Khuenaten wanted a virgin site, one which had never been dedicated to the worship of any other God in the Egyptian pantheon. He challenged the might of Amen-Re and his priests, but he failed to win the people over to worshipping him in place of their gods. Even here, the seat of Aten's power, Petrie found inscriptions to Amen-Re," Daniel explained, slightly defensive on behalf of his site and the year of back-breaking, immensely rewarding work he, Kasuf and the men had expended on Amarna. "His city of Akhetaten was torn down after Khuenaten's death, excised from the land as if it never existed."

Jack ambled willingly along at Daniel's side, looking about him with fresh eyes.

At least, Daniel hoped so.

"Why the urgency?" Jack asked at last. "You said you had too much to do this season," he reminded Daniel.

"There is a momentum to an excavation, Jack," Daniel confessed with a sigh. "The site will be overrun with a veritable plague of tourists when the comforts and entertainments offered in Cairo begin to pall. They strip away artefacts as if they have every right to them, destroying all I'm trying to accomplish here. How can I learn more about the lives of these ancient people if I can't see what they touched with their own hands?"

"You expect me to answer that?" Jack asked cautiously after a brief, pregnant pause.

"No." Daniel's lips twitched at Jack's gusty sigh of relief, playfully exaggerated for his benefit. "So many of the earliest archaeological expeditions were focused on what could be retrieved for museums and the private collections of the aristocratic patrons sponsoring the excavations," he complained bitterly.

"Buried treasure?" Jack interpolated.

"Exactly." It was Daniel's turn to sigh. "So much has been lost or stolen away, Jack. Commonplace articles such as pottery are discarded as detritus instead of being studied in the place they are found in order to begin to frame our understanding of the daily lives of these ancient Egyptians. The archaeologist is also in competition with the locals, who will invariably attempt to strip any discovery of its valuables to sell to unscrupulous antiquities dealers."

"Is that what you meant by the Abydonian men being a steadying influence on the locals?" Jack enquired thoughtfully. "They're not just supervising the work of the locals but the people themselves."

"Precisely so," Daniel agreed, pleased by this continuing evidence of Jack's ready understanding. "Any significant discoveries will have to be secured and guarded while I record and study them."

"Why don't I just hire more staff?" Jack suggested jovially.

"You can't," Daniel denied hastily, colouring.

Jack raised an arrogant eyebrow. "I can afford a few extra pairs of hands to help us - you - out," he dryly corrected Daniel.

"I wasn't commenting on your financial circumstances, Jack," Daniel miserably corrected his patron, his face flaming. "I mean you literally cannot hire anyone to assist me in the excavation," he announced with flat finality. He felt some kind of explanation was called for but the truth was so mortifying he found himself hesitating.

"Daniel?" Jack drawled his name with a certain insistence.

Daniel sighed mournfully. "They won't work with me."

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |

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