Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R
Category: AU, first time, angst, drama
Season/Spoilers: None
Synopsis: Jack plays baseball for a living and finds something completely unexpected as he contemplates retirement.
Warnings: None
Length: 139 Kb


Jack O'Neill walked into the silent clubhouse and set his gear down at the first available stall. He methodically emptied his bag and neatly arranged his meager possessions... gloves, bats, shoes and a variety of personal items. He'd lost count of how many times he had performed this ritual over the past twenty years.

Most of his career had been spent bouncing around baseball's triple A minor leagues, changing teams as many as four times in a single season, his personal record. His resume included more teams than most people knew existed. He had been a Mud Hen, a Bull, a Star and a Snake, just to name a few. And, for a few brief, shining moments he had proudly stood on a baseball diamond as a Cardinal, an Oriole, and a Blue Jay, and just to prove it wasn't a bird thing, his favorite season of all time was the six glorious months he spent as a Chicago Cub.

Jack O'Neill was 4-A. A scout's description of players considered too good for triple A, but not quite ready for prime time. Jack hated the label. Over the years, he had discovered that once a player made triple A, making the big leagues had less to do with skill and more to do with luck, circumstance, injuries, and timing, not to mention heart and fortitude. Jack kept himself in top physical condition and no one had ever questioned his desire. On the other hand, luck, timing and circumstance were a bitch.

On the days Jack was being honest with himself, he admitted the game was losing its once powerful grip. He no longer played for the camaraderie or the love of the game. Years ago, he realized that baseball had taken as much as it had given. He stopped kidding himself into thinking that under perfect conditions he could still make the big show. Baseball was not the addiction it had once been, he could walk away anytime he wanted to. The forty-one year old ex-third baseman turned first baseman held on for one pathetic, lonely reason... he really had no place else to go.

The clubhouse was deserted for now, but in an hour or so it would be bursting with activity. His locker was the last one in the row. He checked the one beside him to see who would be annoying him for the next four or five months. The name JACKSON was written on a piece of masking tape over the neighboring stall. That wasn't much help; baseball was home to countless Jacksons . He quietly wandered around the clubhouse and read the rest of the nameplates above each cubicle in search of ex-teammates and old friends. Bouncing around baseball for twenty years meant he was bound to know a few of the guys.

JACKSON turned out to be Daniel Jackson, a twenty-nine year old rookie who looked more like a college professor than a professional athlete. Jack decided to be neighborly and strike up a conversation. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself.

Jackson was pulling a pair of spikes off the upper shelf of his locker and ducked when a ball, a pair of dirty socks and a large book tumbled out and glanced off his head, nearly knocking off his wire frame glasses. “Hi,” he finally managed after he gathered his belongings up off the floor.

Jack picked up the book and read the title before handing it back to the embarrassed, klutzy Jackson . “You're a ballplayer, huh?” Keeping his sarcasm in check was never easy.

“Yes. Well, a pitcher.”

A smile broke out on Jack's face. “Of course, you're a pitcher.” That explained a lot. Pitchers tended to be oddballs.

“Between you and me, I don't really ‘play' baseball,” Jackson said, leaning closer to Jack's ear.

“You don't? So, what? You're just... pretending to play baseball?” Jack tilted his head and raised an eyebrow in confusion. That was a new one.

Jackson let out a deep sigh. “No, I mean, yes, I am a player but, well, I'm also an archaeologist.” He whispered the last word.

“Ah, that explains it.” Clear as mud. “So, what's a nice archaeologist like you doing in a place like this?”

Jackson leaned in again and spoke quietly. “It's an unbelievable story.”

“Why are we whispering?”

The secret archaeologist frowned but didn't raise his voice. “I was on campus demonstrating how a curveball works to the baseball coach and he dragged me to an open tryout and voila, here I am.”

Jack watched in fascination as Jackson 's hands illustrated his point. “So, you gave up being an archaeologist?” Jack whispered, same as Jackson had.

“No. No, not really. And please call me Daniel.” His voice sounded distant and passionate as he glanced around the locker room before whispering, “I'm trying to make enough money to finance my own dig. Most of my colleagues don't agree with my ideas and theories, which makes it difficult to get a grant. I decided it would be easier to get the money together myself. It's in Egypt. I mean the dig, the dig will be in Egypt.”

“Ah, Egypt.” Repeating the name of the country didn't help, for one of the few times in his life, Jack O'Neill was rendered speechless. Twenty years in baseball and this one really did take the cake. Okay, it's official, Jack thought. Now I have heard it all.

“Have you ever been to Egypt?” Daniel asked, sounding relieved at having shared his secret.

“ Egypt, hmm, let me think about it... NO.”

Daniel hung his head at the obvious sarcasm. “It's a beautiful country,” he mumbled.

“I've been to Lebanon,” Jack chirped.

“Really?” Daniel's eyes lit up in surprise.

It crossed Jack's mind he should be insulted that Daniel was so shocked. “Yes, really. Lebanon, PA, 1983 to 1984, Double A with the Lebanon Mavericks, if you must know.”

Daniel sighed loudly.

“What? What did I say?”

Before Daniel could answer, an infielder named Gomez emerged from the shower. "Hey, five oh, throw me a towel, will ya?"

Jack smiled at Daniel's obvious confusion.

"Are you ignoring me?" the naked man growled.

Daniel pointed to himself. "Me? No, I'm not. I didn't realize you were speaking to me." Daniel tossed Gomez the towel and turned to make a face at Jack. "What did he call me?"

"Five oh." Jack gestured toward his stomach. "You're wearing number fifty."

Daniel looked down at his jersey. "Oh, cool, a nickname." An excited smile lit up his face. "Does this mean I get to call you 'eight''?"


"Oh eight?"


"Eight ball?"

"I don't think so."

"Crazy eight?"

"Fraid not."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm older and I said so."

"What can I call you?"


"That's it? Just plain old Jack? No cool baseball name?"

"Nope, sorry, just Jack."

"Okay," Daniel reluctantly agreed. "Just Jack."

Jack would never admit it, but he began looking forward to coming to the ballpark again, if only to chat and banter with the eccentric archaeologist in the neighboring locker.

"I don't particularly like our name," Daniel announced while dressing beside him.

It took a second for Jack to realize Daniel was speaking to him. "What? The Warriors? It's obvious you haven't been around the minor leagues very long. The Warriors is a perfectly fine name, actually, an awesome name compared to some. What's wrong with it?"

"It's a little... violent."

"Violent? It's supposed to be. Names are picked to strike fear into the opposing team. At least it's not a wimpy animal."

"Striking fear? I can't agree with you there, Jack, especially in light of teams with names like the Angels, the Twins, and the Royals, not to mention the colored 'sock' teams. I doubt many opposing players have an inordinate fear of laundry. But regardless, let's say for the sake of argument that I agree with you about the fear thing... animals can strike fear. Lions, Tigers and Bears, just to name a few."

"Oh, my." Jack chuckled at his 'oz' reference while Daniel's blank look clearly conveyed his lack of understanding. Jack didn't bother explaining the joke. Humor lost its punch when it needed a translation. "The minors, Daniel. I'm talking about the minor leagues. They have more dog and cat names than the actual species."

"Dog and cat... what do you mean?" Daniel frowned in confusion.

"I mean there are the River Dogs and the Alley Cats, the Muck Dogs, and the Rock Cats, oh, and not to be out done, the Rock Hounds and the Mud Cats, and let's not forget those Prairie Dogs. I won't even get into my objections to being a Bat, a Wart Hog or a Sand Gnat."

"You're making those up."

"Am not." Jack was pleased his dissertation on names evoked a Daniel smile. "You can look it up. And for the record, the day I'm traded to the Yipping Chihuahua's or the Slinking Siamese is the day I'll retire."

Jack had to give Wagner credit; at least the veteran pitcher was making an attempt to include the quirky, mad scientist. One did not need to delve too deep to conclude that Daniel Jackson was different. Jack was of the opinion that all pitchers were a bit off, some more than others, but Jackson 's quirks were through the roof. He was glad Daniel had kept the PhD/archaeology/Egyptian stuff to himself.

"Hey, five-oh, great curve you had going today." When Wagner patted Daniel's shoulder, Jack noted the slight flinch.

"Um, thank you," the pitcher replied awkwardly.

"Yeah. How exactly does that work?"

Jack had to hand it to Wagner for his effort at friendly conversation.

"Oh, well..." Daniel pushed his glasses further up his nose. "It's simple physics really. The curveball is based on the dimensions of velocity, air pressure and gravity." The scientist's eyes lit up as he warmed to the subject matter. "As the ball is thrown, the air pressure above the ball is greater than the pressure below, causing the ball to curve downward."

Jack found himself fixated on Daniel's elaborate hand gestures.

"Gravity, combined with the effect of the air pressure assures that eventually, as its velocity is reduced, the ball will fall to earth." Daniel glanced up and nervously licked his lips before continuing. "And since gravity makes objects move faster over time, its effect will be most pronounced when the ball reaches home plate."

The look on Wagner's face made it difficult for Jack to keep from laughing. He almost lost it when the man nodded as if he actually understood.

"Smart ass," Wagner mumbled as he walked away, leaving a confused Daniel in his wake.

"Did I say something wrong?" Daniel glanced at Jack with a puzzled look.

"It might have been just a tad too... technical." Jack risked a light touch to Daniel's shoulder.

"He asked,” the scientist replied in a slightly defensive tone.

"He wanted to know how to throw it. It was the grip he was interested in."

"Oh." Daniel blushed at his misunderstanding.

Jack smacked him on the back. "Hey, don't worry about it. I was really interested in that velocity, gravity stuff."


"Oh yeah. I'm a big fan of physics. I can't get enough."

"I don't care that it would just be on the road, I'm not rooming with him. He's crazy. And there are a lot of road trips." Wagner was adamant, and there was little room for argument about the number of upcoming away games.

"He's not crazy. He's just a little... odd," Jack conceded.

"A little? He reads hieroglyphics, Jack. No one should know how to read that shit. I can't believe you're not busting his balls over this stuff."

Before meeting the crazy, quirky, geeky Dr. Jackson, Jack would have been doing just that. But the proximity of Jackson 's locker to his and their subsequent conversations had changed those preconceived notions. Although he was forty-one years old, the only word Jack could come up with to describe his feelings toward the nerdy pitcher was 'infatuation'. He was definitely having trouble getting Daniel Jackson out of his head. In truth, the smooth boyish face, the wide-eyed innocence of the impossibly blue eyes framed by the studious glasses, along with the full lips and the incredibly sexy body were driving Jack O'Neill to distraction.

Jack had no idea if Daniel liked men. Personally, he kept his own preferences to himself. Baseball was not exactly an enlightened, accepting profession. The military's official dark ages 'don't ask, don't tell' policy could not hold a candle to baseball's unofficial, 'don't ask, don't tell, don't be, and if anyone finds out, quit' policy. In the world of baseball, as in all professional sports, it was imperative to keep personal preferences, personal.

Jack found himself making excuses to be near Daniel, engaging the pitcher in conversation, listening to him chatter endlessly, keeping close watch on the hands and eyes and eyebrows as they animatedly expressed his thoughts and opinions. Jack was enamored by Daniel's kindness, even to those who had nothing but harsh words in return. Daniel's lack of ego and willingness to let others be right enthralled the crusty old veteran. But mostly, if he were being honest with himself, Jack longed to be close enough to imagine his hands on Daniel's body, to run a finger along the expressive brows and the pouty bottom lip, close enough to smell the unique scent of the amber hair...

"Okay, okay, I'LL room with him." Such a sacrifice. "Will that make everyone happy?"

"There it is, the number one reason we voted you captain," Wagner laughed and patted him on the back. "Good luck, Jack."

He played the martyr role to perfection, but in reality, he couldn't be happier. Dr. Daniel Jackson intrigued him, and no one had intrigued Jack O'Neill in a very long time.

After practice, as he and the pitcher in question dressed side by side at their lockers, Jack broke the news. "On the road, you're rooming with me."

"Why?" Daniel turned with a surprised, blank look, a combination of innocence and confusion that for some reason traveled straight to Jack's groin. "I thought I'm supposed to room with the pitchers." The archaeologist bit his lower lip. A habit Jack found most appealing.

"Nope. You're with me." He gallantly fought to ignore the gesture and keep a casual tone.

"You drew the short straw?” Daniel raised his index finger to his newly moistened lips. That particular movement seemed to indicate deep thought.

"No, just thought it might be interesting. In all the years I've been around baseball, I've never roomed with someone like you."

"An archaeologist?" Daniel asked, sounding hopeful.

"No, that's not what I meant. I doubt anyone in baseball has ever roomed with an archaeologist."

"Ah, you meant a geek?" His face fell with disappointment.

"For cryin' out loud, Daniel, a pitcher. Twenty years and I've never roomed with a pitcher. I've always avoided them like the plague. Too flaky."

"Flaky?" Daniel seemed confused by the word.

"Damn flaky." The man was unaware that he was flaky? He had a PhD, how could he not know that? Jack struggled not to laugh and end up insulting the good doctor. If pitchers were flakes, the completely unaware, 'archaeologist slash baseball player' was their undisputed king.

"Do you think I'm flaky?"

Noooo, not at all. Jack barely controlled himself. "Nope," he finally answered honestly. "Flaky does not even begin to scratch the surface where you're concerned."

"Jack, did you just insult me?" Daniel rubbed his hand across his jaw.

Ignoring the question seemed like the best bet. "Grab your gear, roomie. Bus leaves in twenty minutes."

Being the last player on the bus was a Jack O'Neill rule. Nothing made the veteran feel older than the bus rides that ranged anywhere from a mere hour to ten hours of hell. Anything over two guaranteed Jack stiff knees, along with a bad back and sore shoulders. These days, his body constantly rebelled against his mind's foolish decision to play a young man's game after the ripe old age of forty.

The first thing he noticed upon boarding the bus was the looks he was getting from the pitchers. Most of them, particularly Wagner and Miller, were smirking at him. It only took a second to figure out why. He usually sat with Wagner. The list of possible seatmates that could tolerate Jack's brand of sarcastic wit was extremely limited. Two buses were the norm for road trips. Bus one was by invitation only, that was another one of Jack's rules, imposed to guarantee he would not be riding eight hours with a bunch of testosterone driven kids screaming at WWF matches. The exception to the 'invitation only' rule was if you were over the tender age of twenty-seven. Jack was of the opinion that anyone still knocking around the minors at twenty-eight years or older, deserved to sit wherever they damned well pleased.

Daniel Jackson was sitting alone about three quarters of the way down the aisle. He was twenty-nine years old. How did Jack know that? All it had taken was a little research. Curiosity on how someone who looked so young could have a PhD had gotten the better of him. So, sue me, he thought as he made his way down the aisle to the only available seat.

"This seat taken?"

"Uh, no."

Daniel must have been daydreaming by the way he jumped at the question. The scholar clumsily cleared the seat of the books stacked beside him. A few of them crashed to the floor in the process. Jack glanced up the aisle to see most of his teammates snickering at the ruckus. Despite being innocent of any wrongdoing, he felt a twinge of guilt and quickly helped the bespectacled archaeologist pick up the mess, then plopped down in the empty seat.

"Thanks for saving me a seat."

That elicited a chuckle. "I don't think I'm very popular."

Jack admired the fact that Daniel did not seem the least bit concerned over his status with his teammates. Could be your choice of reading material. The quip was on the tip of his tongue, but he let it die there. Instead, he patted Daniel's knee. "You'll be fine. Sometimes, it takes a while to get to know people."

Pretending to doze was the perfect cover for archaeologist watching, a sport Jack suddenly could not get enough of. Daniel was oblivious to his presence, silently perusing one of his monstrous books. Although Jack had no idea what the book was about, he certainly had no trouble interpreting Daniel's thoughts on the reading material. The forehead scrunched and furrowed in disagreement or doubt at some of the passages. Other times, the blue eyes lit up with delight. Shock was Jack's reaction when the bus pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of the Scranton Holiday Inn. It was the shortest five-hour bus trip in memory.

"Hey, come on, let's go." Jack gave Daniel's knee a shake.

"I'm not hungry." The avid reader barely looked up.

"It's not a rest stop. We're here. Home, sweet home, for the next four days, anyway."

Daniel nodded and began jamming his books into his backpack.

They retrieved their bags and room keys. "I always sleep by the door," Jack informed his new roomie as he tossed his bag on the bed.

"That's fine. I don't care."

Jack blushed slightly at Daniel's amused tone. The last thing he wanted was for Daniel to think of him as a crazy old, superstitious cliché of a ballplayer. "I don't have many superstitions. It's just that..."

"Jack, it's okay. I really don't care. I can sleep anywhere."


"Pretty much."

"Lucky you," was all Jack could think to reply.

"You okay?" Daniel asked as he began to unpack.

"Me? Yeah, why?" A moment of anxiety flashed and then passed as Jack assured himself that no matter how smart the man was, he was not capable of mind reading.

"You're limping."

"No, I'm not." Jack silently cursed himself for the defensive tone. He hated the idea of Daniel thinking of him as old and decrepit.

"Yes, you are."

"Bus trips," he mumbled, trying to maintain what was left of his dignity.

"I can help you with that. I'm very good at massage. There are pressure points in the knee that I can work on. It should really help." The blue eyes shone with enthusiasm.

"No. Thank you anyway," Jack croaked out. For a second he had been too stunned to speak. Daniel Jackson wanted to give him a massage? His first instinct was to search the room for hidden cameras. He doubted he would be able to control himself if the object of his desire suddenly had his hands all over him. What could be more embarrassing than a raging hard on from an innocent knee massage? He could envision Daniel laughing his ass off before informing him of a girlfriend or fiancé back home. Yep, he could live without that humiliation.

"Let me know if you change your mind." Daniel sounded genuinely disappointed.

"Yes, you'll be the first to know." Jack went back to neatly organizing his pants and shirts on hangers while Daniel haphazardly stuffed his clothing into dresser drawers.

Three nights later Jack lay on the hard motel mattress with two ice packs, one on each knee. At least his suffering was for a good cause. After two tough losses, the Warriors had managed a win, thanks in part to Jack's heroics in the eighth inning. He hit a two run triple to bring home the tying and winning runs. God, he hated triples. All that running was agony on the knees and a strain on his lower back. To make matters worse, he'd actually had to slide into third, a move he tried to avoid as often as humanly possible. It was his own damn fault. He didn't get all of the pitch, just missing a homerun. A little better timing and he would have been jogging lazily around the bases instead of running and puffing and sliding. His bat speed was not what it used to be. He felt sure that last season he would have easily nailed that lame-ass pitch out of the park. Even though the hit was good enough to win the game, it served to remind him he was slowing down.

Jack was so lost in thought he failed to notice Daniel until the bed creaked beside him. The pitcher's hands were already removing the ice pack from one of the aching knees.

"Daniel, what are you doing?"

"Relax. I'm going to try an eastern massage technique on your knee. If you don't like it, I'll stop."

"Hey! I said no." Jack jerked his leg out from under the warmth of Daniel's hand and sat up on the bed. "I don't want you touching me."

Surprise and then anger flashed in the passionate eyes as Daniel immediately withdrew his hand and retreated to his own bed. "Well, I guess it's safe to assume you've heard the rumors."

"Rumors?" Jack kicked himself for overreacting.

"Don't play dumb, Jack." Daniel leveled a glare in his direction and angrily folded his arms across his chest.

"Hey, for you're information, I'm not playing." When the self-depreciating humor did not even evoke a smile, Jack turned serious. "I have no idea what you're talking about. What rumors?"

"The rumors that I'm gay."

Daniel maintained steady eye contact while Jack's eyes nearly popped out of his skull. "No," he said weakly. "I haven't heard those rumors." And he hadn't.

"Right." Daniel was skeptical. "For the record, I was hoping to relieve some of your knee pain with the massage. Nothing more."

Jack cleared his throat. "So, for the record, are you... gay?"

Daniel's gaze never faltered. "Not that it's any of your business but, yes, I am. If you want me to get another room assignment, that's fine, I'll leave right now."

"No," Jack said softly.

"I know you're stuck with me because you're the team captain. You were being nice because you had to be, you felt a responsibility. I understand that. I'm not very good at hiding who I am, but this dig is important to me. If this makes you uncomfortable, I'll be happy to move to a single. Of course, I'd appreciate it if you didn't talk about this with the other guys. This entire baseball thing is complicated enough."

"Are you finished?" Jack's eyes twinkled in amusement.

"Yes." Daniel opened a drawer and began emptying the contents into his duffel bag.

"What are you doing?"

"Packing. I thought..." The tough attitude finally disappeared.

"I don't care that you're gay. I just didn't want the massage."

"Oh, okay." Daniel's voice was tinged with surprise. "Don't I feel silly?"

Jack thought the slight blush was cute. "I'm going to turn out the light now and get some sleep."

"Um, yeah, me too."

The beds creaked as they both stretched out in the dark.

A few minutes passed before Jack whispered the name of his obsession, "Daniel?" As tired as he was, he needed to clear something up.

A sleepy grunt was the only response.

"I was not being nice to you because I'm the captain and I have to be."


"No, I just wanted to be... well, nice." Damn, he hated trying to say meaningful words. They never came out right.


Jack was relieved that Daniel's soft acknowledgement indicated he was already half-asleep and would probably not remember the clumsy attempt at friendship. Jack's own effort to sleep was futile. He spent most of the night listening to Daniel's light, steady breathing, wondering why it was painful being this close to the nerdy scientist. He fervently wished he were ten years younger and doing something a little more interesting than knocking around the minor leagues like an old dog incapable of learning new tricks. He finally fell asleep an hour before dawn.

Two cities and one bus ride later, they were home, the Warriors road record a mediocre 5-5. It was 2:00AM when the bus pulled into their own ballpark's parking lot. A few hearty girlfriends and newlywed wives waited faithfully. Those who had cars offered rides to those who didn't. Jack wrinkled his brow in concern as he watched Daniel gather up his bags and head out. He knew for a fact Daniel did not own a car.

Jack jogged to catch up. "Come on, I'll give you a lift."

"That's okay. It's just down the street."

"You're living downtown?" A number of the young, single guys opted to live in the city, close to the ballpark and within walking distance of restaurants and nightclubs, making the expense and hassle of owning a car unnecessary. Fully aware that it was none of his business, Jack bristled at the thought of Daniel hitting the bars. He preferred to think of the young scientist sitting alone in his room, reading his books and working on his laptop, possibly visiting libraries and museums during their rare down time.

"Yes," Daniel answered, shifting his bags. "It's cheaper and easier."

"Come on, throw those in the trunk. I'll drop you off."

Daniel agreed and directed Jack down Main Street to the front of a dingy motel.

"You're living at the Budget Inn?" That did not sit well. Someone like Daniel should be living at the Hyatt or the Hilton, a Marriott at the very least. The Doctor of Archaeology was too good for this cheesy, rundown dive.

"It saves money. No one needed a roommate, so this was the cheapest option I could find. I don't mind. I don't need much." He sounded slightly embarrassed by the accommodations. "Pop the trunk. I'll grab my gear so you can get going."

Daniel was already removing his bags when Jack made a quick decision. He jumped out of the car just as Daniel closed the trunk. Jack reopened it and threw the bags back in.

"Uh, Jack, what are you doing? I need those." The slightly troubled expression made Jack wonder the same thing. What the hell was he doing? How was he going to be able to live in the same house with Daniel and not touch him?

Hell, he'd already gone this far. "You're not staying here."

"I'm not?"

"Nope." Jack took the backpack of books out of a confused Daniel's hand and threw them into the trunk as well. "You're staying with me."

"I can't do that. I don't want to impose."

"I have a very nice, furnished apartment with two bedrooms and two baths and I live there by myself. You're not imposing." Jack could practically see the wheels spinning in Daniel's head as he worked this out.

"How much is it?" Of course the good doctor was worried about the rent.

"Daniel, it's going on three in the morning. Let's get you out of this fleabag motel and back to my place. We can worry about the details later." Jack had no intention of taking a dime away from Daniel's dream. He was just too damn tired to argue the point in the dimly lit parking lot of the Budget Inn.

"If you're sure..."

"Positive," Jack assured him, hoping this was a move they could both live with. "You can stop back here tomorrow to check out and square up your bill."

Daniel hesitantly agreed. Once inside the car, Jack's new roommate was asleep in minutes, his face pressed up against the passenger window. Daniel hadn't lied, he really could sleep anywhere. Less than twenty minutes later Jack pulled into his parking spot outside the second floor suburban condo. It was owned by the Warriors and rented to him at a discount until the end of September, another perk of being a veteran.

Jack woke Daniel and led him up the stairs. The sleepy pitcher collapsed on the spare room bed while Jack ran downstairs to unload the remaining bags.

When he returned, he debated over whether or not it would be proper to undress his new roomie. In the end, he decided it wouldn't be right in light of his feelings. Compromising, he pulled off Daniel's shoes and then gently removed the wire frame glasses, allowing himself the luxury of letting his hand hover a few seconds over the perfect face. He stroked a finger down the unconscious man's cheek before getting a grip on himself.

"Good night, Daniel." He whispered the sentiment before turning out the light and retreating to his own room, wondering if he'd ever have the courage to express his true feelings, and worrying about Daniel's reaction if he did.

"Good morning, sunshine!" That earned him a glare from the sleepy archaeologist. "You're up early. It's only 11:00." That was not sarcasm. Eleven was early for ballplayers. Their lives functioned on a different time schedule than the rest of the world. The majority of the games were played at night. Most of the players, young and old, went out afterward, the only time available for any semblance of a social life. Plus, win or lose, the adrenaline rush, combined with the massive amounts of coffee consumed during the games, made sleep virtually impossible for hours afterward. Afternoon wake-ups and soap operas were the norm.

Jack O'Neill was an exception to the rule. He had always been an early riser regardless of how little sleep he logged in the night before. He thought as he got older he would require more sleep but he was finding the opposite to be true.

"I'm up because I smelled coffee." Daniel sat down at the table

Jack set a steaming mug in front of him along with a plate of eggs, toast and sausage.

"Jack?" Daniel tilted his head and cocked an eyebrow at him.

"You don't like?" A faint pink heat rose up Jack's neck at the scrutiny.

"I like, but you shouldn't have gone to the trouble."

"It was no trouble. I was making myself some anyway." Jack attempted to cover his effort with casualness.

"What time did you get up?" Daniel was not buying it.

"A while ago. Are you going to eat or ask questions?" Couldn't people just be grateful without making a federal case out of things? Geez. "Eat."

Daniel stared another second or two before letting out a sigh and digging in. Between bites, Jack snuck glances at him, pleased at how much Daniel seemed to be enjoying the meal. Tomorrow he'd fix him a real breakfast, maybe an omelet and potatoes, or some crepes. Christ, he had it bad.

"I'm not sure this is such a good idea." The food was pretty much demolished by the time Daniel spoke.

"You don't like sausage?"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "The sausage is fine, Jack. I was thinking that living in the suburbs without a car is going to be difficult. I won't be able to get around very well."

"Where do you want to go?" Jack eyed him suspiciously. "I can drive us to the ballpark."

"Anywhere, the library, the mall, the supermarket. Just... anywhere."

That's my nerdy boy. "You can use my car any time you want to."

Daniel stared intently. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but why are you being so nice to me?"

Why did he have to ask so many damn questions? That last one was a real stumper. Why indeed. Jack concentrated on sounding indignant and not stuttering. "I'm trying to help out a teammate, for crying out loud. Is that a crime?"

"No. Sorry. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I just don't want to put you out, and there is the matter of rent."

God, the man was infuriating. "The place is paid for through September. I don't need your money."

"Paid for by you. I'm not going to take advantage of you by living here for free. I insist. I'll pay my own way or I'll move out."

Daniel Jackson, curveball throwing pain in the ass. "How about you pay me what you were paying at the Budget Inn. If you feel the need to pay more, you can send me the difference after you get back from your Egyptian thingy. Would that work?"

"It's called a dig."

"Right. Your dig."

"Okay," Daniel slowly agreed. "I'll send you the rest of the money as soon as the dig is over and I'm back to teaching."

"Fine, whatever. Where do you teach?"

"At the University of Chicago."

Jack's eyes lit up. "You do know that I was born in Chicago . Is that where you grew up?"

"No, it's not really home. I grew up in Egypt and then in foster care in New York."

Jack nodded solemnly, deciding not to push. "I have a house on a lake in Minnesota. That's where I live during the off season. Life is beautiful there, simple and completely uncomplicated. You'll have to come up and visit some time."

Damn! Daniel was giving him an odd look he couldn't quite read. "I mean, if you're ever up that way," he quickly amended.

A side benefit of Daniel staying with Jack was the pitcher's newfound punctuality. Skip Granger, the Warrior's manager, had come up with a slogan he posted below the clock on the clubhouse wall. "Be professional, be on time," it read in bold, black letters. Daniel, and a handful of others, were the reason behind the posting. Riding with the team captain guaranteed timeliness. To Jack's pleasure and Daniel's expressed annoyance, they were often the first players to arrive at the ballpark.

After this afternoon's batting practice, Jack sat in the dugout to watch the pitchers, one pitcher in particular, shag fly balls in the outfield. Granger settled in beside him, shaking his head in amusement as Daniel ran in for a ball that eventually sailed twenty feet over his head. " Jackson 's quite a character. He doesn't have a clue how to catch a baseball, does he?"

"No, I don't believe he does," Jack agreed with a smile. "Luckily, he doesn't need to catch one, as long as he remembers how to throw one."

"I don't expect him to win a gold glove, Jack, but he does need to field his position better, especially the bunts. And it would be nice if he had a vague idea of what base to cover and when to cover it. Do you think you could work with him on that?"

"Sure," Jack agreed.

Granger wasn't finished. "I heard he's staying with you. How's that working out?"

"Fine. He's not as crazy as people think he is."

Granger smiled at that one. "One thing I will say, the man has an incredible memory. I don't even check the book anymore. He remembers what each opposing batter did on every previous at bat. He's very smart."

"Yep, that he is." And sexy, too, Jack thought with a sigh.

"Even though we're not championship caliber, it's been an interesting season, so far." The manager stood up to leave.

"Oh, yeah, interesting," Jack agreed. That was one word for it.

Jack and Daniel put in an extra thirty minutes of practice. Wagner helped out, and the three of them worked on Daniel's fielding skills. They all came to the same conclusion... it was going to take a while. It wasn't that Daniel didn't try, he was just awkward in his movements and slow to react, natural for someone inexperienced at the game. Jack decided they'd put in an extra thirty after every work out.

An hour later, the team captain and the archaeologist were sitting in Arby's, one of Daniel's favorite penny pinching restaurants. "I'm not a very good ballplayer, am I?"

It was funny hearing the scientist lament over his baseball skills. "Hey, you're a very good pitcher," Jack offered diplomatically. He took a second to frown down at his super-sized meal, disturbed by his increasing addiction to Arby's fries.

"Not really. Once I figured out the dynamics of the curveball and how gravity affected..."

"Ack!" Jack raised a finger. "Headache looming, Daniel." If he had to listen to that explanation one more time he'd scream, and although he'd never admit it to his favorite scientist, he hadn't understood the dynamics the first time around.

"Sorry. Thank you for practicing with me, Jack. I'm sure the last thing you need is to stay late for an extra work out. I don't know why I can't get that throw to first down." Daniel was rambling. "And I seriously doubt I'll ever know which base to cover on a hit to the outfield. I understand it logically, but once the game starts, I freeze up. If it weren't for you out there yelling to me where I should be, I'm sure I'd make a complete fool of myself."

"You're welcome, and I don't mind yelling. Remember, I've been at this for a long time. It really just takes practice, that's all it is. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Another few weeks and I guarantee you'll see a big improvement. The other guys are no better than you are; it's just a matter of repetition."

"They're no better than I am?" Daniel raised a doubtful eyebrow.

"Okay, maybe a little, very small, teensy tiny bit better than you. Pass me the horsey sauce, will ya?"

Jack smiled at the sound of Daniel's laughter.

"I've never been very athletic," Daniel confessed.

Jack bit back a brilliant, sarcastic retort. "How many baseball games have you played in?"

"In my entire lifetime?"

"Yes." Jack found himself getting lost in the bright blue eyes and the dab of catsup clinging to the corner of Daniel's mouth.

"Um, what's our record?"

"Twenty and twenty two."

"Okay then, forty two games. And I've actually only pitched in maybe a third of those, right?"

Jack was flabbergasted. "You mean you've never played in a single game before now? Not even Little League?"

"Believe it or not, Jack, there is no Little League in Egypt ."

"I know that. You never played at all, not in New York?"

"Nope. This is my first year. I went to spring training, pitched really well and they sent me here."

"Then you, Daniel Jackson are a true novelty, a marvel, really." Jack leaned forward and then stopped short in horror. He had leaned in to kiss Daniel's lips and relieve him of the errant catsup, right there is the freakin' Arby's. His face burned as he quickly retreated and settled back in his seat. What the hell had he been thinking? If Daniel had noticed or was concerned, he didn't show it. Damn, he was going to have to be more careful.

Later that night Jack tossed and turned, wondering what it would have been like. A part of him wished he had followed through with the kiss. If he knew Daniel's reaction, he could stop torturing himself with 'what if' scenarios. The fear that his roomie wouldn't reciprocate his feelings and become uncomfortable enough to move out was what prevented Jack from confessing. He'd rather have Daniel living with him as a friend than both of them living alone, and Daniel back to calling the Budget Inn home.

The home stand was winding down. Today's Sunday afternoon game was history, a stat in the win column, and tomorrow was getaway day. They would bring their bags to the ballpark and at the end of tomorrow night's game board a bus for Ottawa. Jack hated getaway day with a passion.

To celebrate their last meal at home for the next ten days, Jack made penne pasta in a pesto sauce. He bought Italian bread from Russ's bakery and topped off the meal with an extravagant olive salad. As much as he liked to cook, he absolutely loved watching Daniel eat. The archaeologist was appreciative and so expressive that it was impossible not to stare.

"Is there something you want to tell me?"

Oops, apparently, he was being a bit too obvious in his observation. Jack raised a finger to his own face. "You have some sauce on your lip, right there," he pointed out. That should throw him off the track.

Daniel chuckled and swiped his mouth with a napkin. "Anything else you want to tell me?"

This was ridiculous. He was going to be living with the man until Labor Day. It was time. It might not be necessary to express his feelings of attraction, but they were sharing an apartment and Daniel deserved to know the truth about his sexual orientation.

Jack tried for lighthearted. "Yes, as a matter of fact there is something. I should have told you this earlier." He took a deep breath and folded his hands together to keep his fingers from nervously tapping out a tune on the table. "Like you, I am, I'm... not exactly straight."

Daniel actually laughed. So he knew... the little shit.

"How many of the guys know?"

"None," Jack answered, surprised by the question. "None of them know and I want to keep it that way."

"None?" Daniel seemed shocked by the answer. "But they're your friends. Not even Skip or Wagner?"

"None as in... NONE. This is baseball, Professor, not a college campus. I don't need the hassle. I need to be discreet. You understand?"

"Sure, Jack, discreet." Daniel looked down at his plate. "Is there something else you want to tell me?"

"That's not enough? I just spilled my guts and shared my life secret. You need something else?"

"You like me." Daniel was playing with his pasta, his tongue nervously gliding over his bottom lip.

"What?" Jack felt his heart pounding in his ears.

"You don't like me?" The brows were in a holding pattern, staring at him over the rim of the wire frames.

"What makes you think I like you?" Jack asked weakly.

"You made me pesto."

"I'm old, over the hill." Jack decided to beat Daniel to the punch and provide reasons and excuses on why it would never work out.

"I like you," Daniel interrupted.

"You do?" Was that his own voice sounding so surprised and unsure?

"Yes, I do. A lot," Daniel freely admitted.

The sentiment was hard for Jack to believe. "I'm pretty much washed up in baseball."

"I don't care about baseball," Daniel laughed. "Believe it or not, there is life after baseball. And you're not old, only in the world of professional sports."

Reading people was one of Jack's strong points. Daniel appeared to be sincere, still... "My knees are shot. When it rains I practically have to..."

"Jack, shut up and kiss me."

He didn't wait for a second invitation. Jack took the plunge and quickly covered the tantalizing lips with his own. Daniel was warm and passionate and Jack couldn't seem to get close enough to touch and kiss all the parts he had been fantasizing about for weeks. When Daniel's hand made contact with his groin, Jack thought he might explode, spontaneously combust. A few minutes later, to his complete embarrassment, he came without warning in Daniel's hand.

"I usually have better control," he mumbled, ducking his head.

Daniel didn't answer. Instead, he took Jack's hand and placed it over his own rock hard penis. "Make me lose control, Jack."

The team captain happily did as ordered. Later, they climbed under the covers and held each other close, exploring one another's bodies and bringing each other to climax again.

Jack carefully held a sleeping Daniel in his arms, not daring to move and risk waking his new lover. Yesterday, he had nothing. He'd simply been playing out the string, nearing the end of a less than stellar career with no plans for the future, no dreams. Secretly, he had sworn this season would be his last, and so far, the disappointing year was reinforcing his fear of going out with a whimper as opposed to a bang, until fate threw him this unexpected, late breaking curve.

In the blink of an eye, everything had changed. The season was suddenly splendid, shining, spectacular, holding more promise than Jack had felt in years. Today he had a new attitude, he felt younger. Daniel was right; he was only old in the world of baseball. Jack vowed this relationship would be different from his past relationships. Daniel was special and unique; he deserved everything. Jack hoped he'd have the courage to give it to him.

In the morning, they argued over where to go for breakfast and what time to leave for the ballpark. To Jack's relief, it was business as usual, almost as if nothing had changed, but deep down in his heart of hearts he knew everything had.

The only thing worse than getaway day was getaway day after a loss, with a road trip to Canada on the horizon. Add to that, sitting beside a hot archaeologist whose hands and tongue had been all over your body the night before and you had a recipe for disaster, the road trip from hell.

Jack decided against giving his patented, 'we are entering Canada, don't act like an ass' speech. The bus was quiet after the loss, it was late and the lecture didn't seem necessary.

It was 1:00AM by the time a tired looking customs officer stepped on to the bus. "Aside from these people," the official read the names of the players whose papers he held in his hand, the players born outside of the United States, "was everyone else born in the U.S.?"

Four hours and several thorough searches later, the Warriors were back on their merry way to Ottawa. The record-breaking border hold up was courtesy of one, big mouthed, Egyptian born archaeologist. If only Jack had seen Daniel hesitantly raising his hand a second sooner, he could have tackled him, and then bound and gagged him if necessary.

It was 9:00 AM by the time they arrived and unpacked their gear in an Ottawa motel room.

Daniel sat down on the edge of the bed and broke the silence. "Jack, are you going to be cranky all night? I said I was sorry."

Jack was ready for him. "See that big, bright, shiny ball outside the window? That's the sun. It's morning, Daniel. The night is long over. We spent the night being interrogated at the border, you remember that, don't you, Doctor 'I was born in Egypt' Jackson ?

Daniel bristled at the sarcasm. "What did you expect me to do? Lie?"

"Are you in fact, a citizen of the United States?" Jack was not about to cut him a break.


Jack ignored Daniel's moan and continued. "Are you a terrorist?" The question earned him a tilt of the head and a stern look.


"Then, to answer your question, yes, Daniel, lying is exactly what I expected you to do."

The apologetic pitcher hung his head for a second but did not appear ready to concede total defeat. "I thought once I explained the situation..."

Jack cut him off; he was actually beginning to enjoy himself. "Yes, speaking Arabic to them was a brilliant way to prove your point. That went over REALLY well. It probably only added, what would you say, an extra hour to the inquisition?"

"More like an hour and a half, but that's not the point."

"Okay, I'll bite. In your opinion, what is the point?"

"The point is that at least I told the truth," Daniel stubbornly declared.

"Yes, we are so pleased for you. We all take comfort in that."

Daniel made a face. "Jack, everybody's mad at me."

"No, ya think?" Daniel looked so miserable Jack decided to let it go. He put a comforting arm around his contrite friend's shoulder. "Hey, don't worry about it. They'll get over it. Come on, I'll treat you to breakfast."

"No, I think I owe you a breakfast." Daniel finally smiled. "I saw a Denny's across the street."

Jack hated when Daniel spent money on him. The pitcher needed every dime he earned to finance his trip, but some days Daniel wouldn't take no for an answer. This was one of those days. Jack grabbed his jacket, stifled a yawn and headed out for his free, grand slam breakfast provided by his extremely honest, Egyptian born, pain in the ass.

Ironically, the trip to Ottawa proved to be a huge success. The Warriors swept the Lynx in four straight games, their most successful road trip of the season. Daniel's border blunder, combined with his crisp curveball, increased his popularity among his teammates and earned him a place in Warrior folklore. Within a week, players were claiming to have been held up in customs for twenty-four hours and strip searched in the process. A local sports writer got wind of the player's version of events and wrote an article that began, 'Warrior pitcher finds out honesty is not always the best policy'. Daniel was embarrassed, but Jack found it hysterical and saved all the clippings. In the end, it worked out for the best. Daniel Jackson was still considered a flake, but a popular, likable one.

"I've been thinking." Jack gently twisted and played with the short brown strands of hair beneath his fingertips.

"Oh, no," came the sleepy reply. "About what?"

" Egypt. "

" Egypt?" That sparked some interest. Daniel's voice lost its lazy, carefree tone.

"Don't sound so shocked. I have other interests besides baseball." The attempt at indignation was lost in the loving touch that kept up the tender scalp massage.

"Oh, yes, I forgot... hockey," Daniel offered generously. "And let's not forget football," he added playfully.

"Hey, what can I say? I'm well-rounded, a man for all seasons." Jack went silent for a minute, wondering if deep down, Daniel Jackson, DOCTOR Daniel Jackson thought of him as a dumb jock. The relaxed head beneath his hand pulled away to gaze up at him.

"I'm joking, Jack. Your interests never cease to amaze me."

The incredibly smart archaeologist must have sensed his misgivings.

"Okay, now I know you're mocking me." Jack looked into the impossibly blue orbs, hoping for a contradiction.

"Mocking you? No. Cooking, history, astronomy, your pilot's license, just to name a few. It's refreshing to find a ballplayer with diverse interests. For the most part, the vast majority of players are enamored with the same three hobbies. I call them the trifecta."

Jack wrinkled his brow. "The trifecta?" One of Daniel's charms was the fact that most times, Jack had no idea what the man was talking about.

Daniel nodded knowingly. "Ever read the team media guide? Ninety-nine point nine percent of all ballplayers list sports, hunting and fishing as their interests outside of baseball."

Jack laughed out loud.

"It's true. You can look it up," Daniel assured him.

"Oh, I'm sure it is. That's not what I'm laughing at." Daniel raised his eyebrows in confusion. A look that always made Jack's heart pound a little harder. "And for your information, I like to fish."

"There's nothing wrong with fishing. It's just boring and unimaginative if it's the only thing you do."

"It's a media guide." Jack noted Daniel's smile at his sarcastic tone. "Dare I ask what you listed?"

Jack was surprised by the mumbled, "Never mind."

Daniel further evaded the question by leaning in and soundly kissing his mouth. That the kiss was a blatant ploy to shut him up made no difference to Jack. A few seconds later, he was happily distracted by Daniel's mouth and hands that suddenly seemed to be everywhere at once. The slender fingers rubbed at Jack's nipples while the moist tongue licked at the back of his neck and shoulders. Jack tried to be patient, but while most of his body was melting, becoming soft and pliable in Daniel's capable hands, one part was becoming stiff and agitated, demanding attention. His cock was standing up at the ready, hard and aching from the contact. His lover's touch had an immediate effect. A few minutes after the pitcher's deft fingers began working their magic on his erection, Jack came in long, luxurious spurts, calling out Daniel's name.

After Jack sufficiently recovered, he returned the favor and Daniel fell asleep entangled in his arms, happy and satisfied. Jack stared down in wonder at his young lover, unable to calculate the astronomical odds of finding the likes of Daniel Jackson, curveball throwing Doctor of Archaeology, hidden away in a second rate, minor league ballpark.

It was noon when Jack decided he needed to wake Daniel if they were going to have any time together before heading out for this evening's game.

"Come on, rise and shine, buddy." Jack flopped down on the bed behind a sleeping Daniel. He lightly kissed the back of the pitcher's neck until Daniel yawned and swatted at his hand, then pulled the covers up over his head.

Jack pulled them back down and waved a cup of coffee under his nose.

"It can't possibly be morning," Daniel whined.

"Correct. It's 12:02. Technically, it's afternoon."

Daniel sat up in bed with a groan and accepted his first caffeine fix of the day. Jack cheerfully bounced down on the bed beside him and pulled a booklet out of his back pocket.

"Would you stop being so damned perky," Daniel complained as he sipped the coffee.

Clearing his throat for dramatic effect, Jack flipped to the page he had folded over and read. "Jackson, Daniel. Born July 8, 1973. Who the hell is born in 1973? I still say that any one born in the seventies should not be considered a grown up." After making the point he winked and added, "Someone I know has a birthday coming up."

"I don't celebrate birthdays. Give me that." Daniel reached for the guide, but Jack was too quick for him.

"Hold on, I'm getting to the best part. Interests..."

Daniel's lips were pursed, his head slightly bowed and cocked to one side, the blue eyes blazed irritably over the frames, the coffee mug the only thing preventing Daniel from folding his arms impatiently across his chest.

Jack chuckled as he read. "Archaeology, hieroglyphics, Egyptology, ancient cultures..." Daniel made another grab for the booklet but Jack again swatted his hand away. "Wait, wait," he choked out between laughs. "I'm just getting to my personal favorite, etymology. Etymology?"

"It's the study of words." Daniel finally managed to snatch the book away when Jack gave in to peels of laughter.

The indignant scowl made Jack laugh harder. "I know what it is," he managed, getting a hold of himself. "And you wonder why the guys had a hard time accepting you? It's a media guide, for crying out loud, not a resumé."

Daniel smiled in spite of himself and flipped through the guide to the 'O's'. "O'Neill, Jonathan. Born October 20, 1964. So you're going to be thirty-nine this year?"

Slight color crept up Jack's neck at the clichéd deception. The little white lie was for the nameless, faceless crowd, not the man he was rapidly falling in love with. "Forty-two."

"You lied on your bio to appear younger?" Daniel smirked and his eyebrows reached new heights.

"No. Well, not exactly. The PR guy thought it would play better to the fans if I didn't appear so... ancient."

The only response from Daniel was a wiggle of the brows.

Jack relaxed at the playfulness. "Enough of that." He reached for the guide, now sorry he had dredged it up.

Daniel was not letting him off the hook that easily. "Interests," he read. "Sports, camping and fishing. Jack!"

"I LIKE those things." Jack loudly defended himself. "Besides, what did you want me to say, astronomy and cooking? I was not going to risk being labeled a geek."

"Like?" Daniel prodded.

"I'm not mentioning any names." Jack reached over and removed the guide and the near empty mug from Daniel and placed them on the nightstand.

"And sex," Daniel added. "You forgot to mention sex. Astronomy, cooking and sex, now that would have made for some interesting interests."

"Might have sold more media guides," Jack observed.

Daniel snuck a kiss behind Jack's left ear lobe. "Tell me the truth, aren't you glad I'm a lover of ancient cultures?"

"Hey," Jack chuckled. "Down boy. Don't start what you can't finish. We have to leave in an hour."

"I know." Daniel planted one last kiss on Jack's cheek before pulling away. "Jack, why did you mention Egypt?"

"I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't."

"You did. Last night. You said you were thinking about Egypt. What were you thinking?"

Damn. The man never forgot a thing. Jack wondered if he should share his idea or if Daniel would think it was ridiculous. He decided to tread cautiously. "I was thinking I've never seen a dig and I might want to check it out. You know, broaden my horizons."

"YOU are interested in archaeology?" Daniel sat up, his eyes wide.

"Sure. I could help you... dig." Archaeology? Not exactly. Duh. How dumb could someone so smart be?

Instead of answering, the normally serious archaeologist broke out in unrestrained laughter, not exactly the reaction Jack had been hoping for.

"Never mind." Although Jack constantly encouraged Daniel to laugh more often, he certainly had not meant at him. He couldn't help feeling a little hurt.

"Sorry, Jack, it's just that I'm having a hard time envisioning you as an archaeologist."

"Well, I'm glad I could brighten your day." Jack rose from the bed in a huff and stomped out for a quick tour around the neighborhood to walk off his embarrassment, the sound of Daniel's laughter still stinging his ears.

A half hour later, he swallowed his pride and returned to an unrepentant, lightly dozing, smart-ass archaeologist. Jack had half a mind to leave him in bed. It would serve him right. The only thing stopping him was his responsibility to the team. He gave his sleeping roommate a shake. "Hey, let's go."

Daniel didn't argue. Within twenty minutes he was ready to walk out the door. It was a bitch getting the man up and moving, but once out of bed, Jack had to admit Daniel was usually ready in a flash.

The ride to the ballpark was quiet until Daniel broke the awkward silence. "I was not laughing AT you. I was laughing at the thought of you as an archaeologist."

"Oh, big difference." Jack was not above playing on Daniel's sympathy and milking this for all it was worth. Besides, he really had felt insulted. "How hard can it be? You dig all day and hope you find something old," Jack muttered.

"Okay, picture this... you're digging and you find something that looks really old and really important. What would you do?"

Jack thought hard, not wanting to screw this up and prove his ignorance. A light went on, he removed one hand from the steering wheel to point his index finger in Daniel's direction. "I would... throw it in a plastic baggie thingy for safekeeping."

"You're right." Daniel smiled sweetly. "Eventually, you would do that."


"If it was an important find you would first need to mark its location and catalog it, then photograph it in its original position, if possible. Then you'd need to decide how fragile it was before you attempted to move it." Daniel's eyes lit up as he spoke of his passion.

"So, you're saying I may not have the patience for the job?" Jack interrupted before Daniel could go galloping off on a tangent or two, or three.

"Probably not," Daniel answered kindly.

Jack sighed in relief. It was better than saying he didn't have the brains for it. "That's okay. Digging is not the job I'm interested in anyway."

"It's not?"

Jack slowed at a yellow light, intentionally missing the signal so he could sneak a glance at the archaeologist when he made his next suggestion.

Daniel raised an eyebrow in anticipation and waited.

"I was thinking that I could be the executive assistant to the chief."

"You want to be an assistant to the, the... chief?" Daniel wore the same blank look he always sported when Jack confused him.

"Yes. The chief, the captain, the head honcho, the king of the sand pile." He poked a finger into Daniel's chest. "You. I want to be your assistant."

"Hmm, well, I haven't filled that all-important, top position yet. As my assistant, what would you do for me?" Daniel wrinkled his forehead slightly and smiled.

"I'd keep you warm," Jack said confidently, sighing happily at the thought.

"It's a desert."

Smart-ass. "I'd get you coffee."

"Keep talking."

"I would..." Jack faltered. "I would take care of you." The sincerity of the words turned his voice to a hoarse whisper. A blast of a horn broke the ensuing silence, alerting Jack that the signal had long since changed to green.

"You really want to come to Egypt with me?" Daniel's hand found its way to his knee.

"Yes. If you want me to." Jack kept his eyes focused on the road.

"I do. I'm not sure how long we'd be gone. You might miss the beginning of next season."

"I'm forty one years old, I'm fairly certain these old knees won't tolerate another season."

Daniel grabbed Jack's hand just as they pulled into the parking lot. More than anything else, Jack wanted to raise the hand to his lips and kiss it, right there for anyone to see, but he didn't have it in him. "Not here, okay?"

"Okay." Regret tinged Daniel's voice as he let go. In two months the season would be over, making things easier on both of them.

Jack tried to refocus his thoughts on the upcoming game, but his mind wouldn't cooperate. It kept returning to images of sand and heat and sweat. Of Egypt and archaeology... and archaeologists.

The game had gone into extra innings, it was midnight by the time they were home and settled.

"Bet you thought I forgot what day it is, huh?" Jack stood in the bedroom doorway, watching Daniel sprawl out on the bed.

Daniel gave him a puzzled look. When the realization of his birthday hit, Jack saw sadness flicker in the blue eyes. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Too late now.

"Open it," Jack encouraged, waving a box in Daniel's direction.

The reluctant birthday boy took the package from Jack's outstretched hand and half-heartedly tore open the clumsily wrapped gift to reveal the leather bound journal.

When the silence became uncomfortable, Jack jumped in. "It's a planner to help you stay organized, and it has blank pages to record all your important discoveries. I thought you could use it on the trip."

Still no response.

"You don't like it? Dumb idea. It's okay, I can take it back. You can pick out whatever you want."

Daniel ran his fingers along the leather. "No, no Jack, it's not that. I do like it, it's so thoughtful, it's just..."

"You don't celebrate birthdays?"


"What do you have against birthdays?" Jack made himself comfortable on the bed.

It took a few minutes for Daniel to answer. "After my parents died, birthdays didn't feel right. The few I do remember felt staged, fake. Nobody was sincerely interested in celebrating the day of my birth."

"Do you remember your parents?" Jack couldn't even begin to imagine what that must have been like. They had never discussed it.

Daniel lowered his head and spoke in a reverent whisper. "They kissed me goodnight and called me Danny."

Jack nodded as if he understood. He wanted to understand. "How old were you?"


"Where did you live afterward?" Grounding Daniel with a touch was all Jack knew to do. He rested a hand on his friend's shoulder, realizing it would be impossible to truly understand.

"With different families over the years. I was never abused, I just wasn't... important." Daniel blushed at the admission. "I didn't matter as much. I was no longer the center of anyone's universe."

A lump rose in Jack's throat, preventing him from arguing the point. It was something he knew nothing about.

"What about you?" Daniel asked, effectively changing the subject.

"What about me?"

"Your parents must be proud. You being a ballplayer, every parent's dream, right?"

"Not really." Some secrets Jack kept to himself, closely guarded, buried deep. A joke rose and then died on his lips when he saw the sincerity in Daniel's eyes. In light of what Daniel had just shared, he didn't have the heart to joke, or worse yet, lie.

Daniel was waiting expectantly for him to continue, so he did. "My father wanted me to join the military, he thought I needed discipline."

That elicited a faint, non-judgmental smile.

"More specifically, the Air Force. He was an Air Force Major for twenty years and that's what he wanted for me. He was disappointed that I played baseball. He told me I'd never make it."

"Guess you showed him." Daniel's hand found its way to his thigh.

"Not really. I never played consistently in the major leagues. In his eyes, I failed."

"That's crazy. You've made a great living doing something you love. Not many people can say that. It's an accomplishment, something to be proud of."

"Tell that to my father," Jack half-heartedly joked.

"I will." Daniel's gaze never faltered "What does he think of your... alternate lifestyle?"

"He doesn't know. Not many people do." Jack ignored Daniel's surprised look and attempted a diversion. "What about you? Would your parents be more proud of the fact that you're a baseball player or an archaeologist?"

"They'd want me to follow my dreams, so I'd have to say an archaeologist."

Jack nodded, that made sense. "What did your parents do for a living?"

"They were archaeologists."

"Of course they were.” Jack shook with laughter. “How did I not see that coming?"

"You walked right into it," Daniel agreed.

Jack wrapped his arms around his own personal archaeologist and whispered, "That stuff about my father... I never told that to any one, ever. I keep it to myself, hidden under my jovial personality. I don't know how or why, Daniel Jackson, but you make me want to tell you everything."

"You can tell me everything, Jack. You can trust me. I'll never hurt you."

The words pulled at Jack's heart and at his groin. "Tell me something about you, Daniel. A secret you've never told anyone else."

The silence stretched for a few long minutes before Daniel's soft words penetrated Jack's mind and soul. "I'm in love with you."

Unexpected tears blurred Jack's vision. "Me too," was all he could manage. He laid Daniel down on the bed and because he was incapable of saying the words, sought to express his love with his mouth and hands, deep kisses and gentle touches. For the first time, he took Daniel's enlarged penis into his mouth and carefully moved in a slow, steady rhythm until Daniel cried out and came full force in his throat. He readily swallowed the semen and then joyfully kissed his lover's mouth.

It was a while before either of them spoke. "Jack... "


"I just that was just... amazing. I've never been loved like that before."

Jack responded with a kiss to Daniel's temple. "Get used to it, five-oh. There's plenty more where that came from."

It was late and Jack was attempting to sleep on an extremely firm motel mattress in Syracuse , while Daniel was downstairs playing a game of cards with the guys.


The card game must be over. Something was up. Jack could tell by the way Daniel said his name. Yep, the blue eyes appeared anxious as Jack flipped on the bedside lamp and sat up to give his undivided attention. "I'm awake. What's the matter?"

"I, uh, I have something to tell you."

"What? What is it?" Jack's pulse raced. The look on Daniel's face had him wondering if the genius had finally come to his senses about spending all of his time with an aging, cranky, soon to be unemployed jock.

Daniel took a deep breath. "I got the call."

"From?" Jack impatiently tried to hurry Daniel along.

"You know, the, the... the call."

Rushing him usually made him stutter. It took Jack a second to interpret Daniel-ese. "You got called up? To the big leagues?"

"Yes. Can you believe it? What should I do?" The pitcher actually seemed distraught over the exciting news.

"What should you do? I have an idea... how about... GO!"

Daniel frowned, apparently not appreciating the sarcasm. "I told Skip I'd think about it."

"You told him you'd think about it? HELLO!" Jack would have paid good money to see the look on Granger's face when Daniel spouted that one. "What did he say?"

"He told me to go pack."

"Well, he's right. Come on. Let's get you packed."

"I don't want to leave you," Daniel murmured.

As always, Jack was taken aback by Daniel's honest display of affection and emotion. As much as Jack loved Daniel, he had trouble expressing those sentiments out loud. 'Me too' was usually the best he could do. If it bothered Daniel, he had never said anything.

Jack took his lover's hand. "You are not leaving me. This is what you've been waiting for. With the big league salary boost and the bonus for getting called up, you can finance your dig. Don't think of it as going to Detroit , think of it as going to Egypt."

A smile broke out on Daniel's face at the logic and he rested his head on Jack's shoulder. Dumbfounded, Jack's fingers gently soothed the head beneath his hand. Twenty years in the game and Jack had never seen that particular reaction to getting the call most minor leaguers could only dream about. Of course, Daniel Jackson was not 'most' players. There was nothing typical about him. He was the smartest, kindest, sexiest man Jack had ever met. Throw in geeky, irritating and stubborn, and you had the complete Dr. Daniel Jackson package.

"Come on, let's get you ready." Jack attempted to pull the major league's newest rookie up by the hand.

Daniel resisted. "I don't have to leave until tomorrow morning at 8:00," he practically whined.

"That only gives you twelve hours and you know you're not a morning person. We'll get you all ready and then we can relax and spend the night together."

"You know, there is such a thing as being too organized," Daniel mumbled as he swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"You'll thank me in the morning."

After Jack helped Daniel pack, they headed next door to an all night Walgreen's to pick up a few items Jack deemed necessary. It was midnight by the time the veteran was satisfied the rookie had all the essentials for his first trip to the big show.

The two of them collapsed on Jack's bed, the one closest to the door. "Thanks, Jack."

"You're welcome." They were finally under the sheets together, Daniel safely wrapped in his arms. Jack held on tight, worried that once they were apart, Daniel would realize he could do so much better.

The next morning Jack felt empty and helpless as he stood in the parking lot of the Syracuse Holiday Inn and waved goodbye to the cab that was whisking Daniel off to another world.

"Guess what?” Richie, the Warriors 'not so bright' right fielder, buzzed around Jack like an annoying mosquito.

“I'm not in the mood to guess." Jack tried to wave him away with a sweeping hand gesture.

Richie was undaunted. "The player replacing Daniel is named D. Jackson. Derek Jackson. He's an infielder. They won't even have to change the tape over Daniel's locker. Weird, huh?"

"Yeah, weird." Jack didn't care about the quirky coincidence. There were a ton of Jacksons in baseball. He was only interested in the one who threw a sharp breaking curve and held a PhD in archaeology.

An hour later, the new D. Jackson was in the locker room, making the rounds, shaking hands and introducing himself. After the introductions, he unloaded his stuff into Daniel's locker. Daniel's EX locker, Jack reminded himself, making a concerted effort not to hold the new kid's name and cocky attitude against him.

"Hey, what the hell is this?" Derek Jackson pulled out Daniel's book on carbon dating.

"That's Daniel's. I'll take it." Jack smiled at the unpronounceable title.

"I heard that the other Jackson was a real nut case," this Jackson smirked.

Richie glanced nervously at Jack. "Drop it," he suggested to the rookie.

"What? I'm just saying that I heard he was a faggot and...”

Jack got in the rookie's face, cutting off the arrogant words. He went nose to nose with him, barely able to restrain himself from shoving this D. Jackson up against the wall. "While you were striking out against double A pitching last weekend, DOCTOR Jackson pitched three scoreless innings of relief in the major leagues to help Detroit get a win. YOU are the 'other' Jackson . And no one here is real interested in your opinions. Got it?"

"Sure. Sorry," Jackson muttered, sounding anything but. "I guess you guys were friends."

"ARE, we ARE friends. Let me give you some free advice, kid. You'll get along much better in this game if you don't bad mouth people who aren't around. Baseball has a funny way of biting you in the ass. Sooner or later, if you stick around long enough, somewhere down the line you're bound to end up playing with former foes. It's best not to make any unnecessary enemies."

The kid tried to be polite but Jack knew a brush off when he heard one. Unlike his Jackson , this Jackson did think of him as a washed up old man who was taking a younger guy's spot on the roster. So be it. Some people had to learn for themselves. Jack didn't hold a grudge. Baseball could be a cruel teacher. He thought back to Daniel's first day and missed his Jackson even more.

That night Jack was lying on his lonely bed, staring up at the ceiling, fantasizing, when the phone rang. It was the object of his fantasy, calling from Boston.

"Hey! How'd ya do?" Jack covered his longing with enthusiasm.

"We lost. I watched. Jack..."


"I really miss you."

Jack closed his eyes at the easy admission. While he was covering up his longing, Daniel had no problem wearing his heart on his sleeve, pouring his soul into their relationship and leaving himself open and vulnerable in the process, the ultimate expression of the faith he had in their future.

"Me too." Silently, Jack vowed to reciprocate Daniel's trust and be the first to express the sentiment some time soon. Very soon.

"Good." Daniel sounded pleased. "You know, Jack, people take this game way too seriously, don't they?"

"Why, what happened?" Jack tensed with misplaced worry. Daniel Jackson could more than take care of himself. The PhD, boy wonder was smarter than all of them. It was just that Jack wanted to be there, to show Daniel the ropes, and as silly as it sounded, to protect him. Not from physical harm, but to protect his feelings and ideas from ridicule and misunderstanding. Baseball was not always kind to guys who were different. He knew it was foolish. He cared more about acceptance and being one of the guys than Daniel ever would.

"Two of the guys got into an argument over which game to watch on television and it escalated until someone threw a chair across the locker room."

"It didn't hit you, did it?" Anger rose in Jack at the thought.

"No. It took out a light fixture, though."

"Tempers always flare after a loss." It was true. The hotheads that permeated today's game annoyed the hell out of Jack. Too many players ignored the line between competitiveness and stupidity, using the game as an excuse to behave badly. To Jack, playing baseball for a living was a privilege. He did his level best to uphold the integrity of the game. He was old school. He never showed up an umpire by turning around to argue balls and strikes and he didn't charge the mound when a pitcher tried to establish the inside corner. And he certainly had more self-control than to throw furniture across the clubhouse.

"No, actually, that happened before the game even started," Daniel explained calmly. "After the game, they turned the television off so we were forced to listen to everyone rant and rave about what went wrong and whose fault it was that we lost."

Jack laughed out loud. "Did you contribute any analysis?"

"Of course not. I'm taking your advice and keeping my mouth shut. Besides, it was an opportune time to hit the buffet table. Jack, they have the best food here. I'm going to hate to leave Boston . The seafood is fabulous. And the best part is... it's all free."

Daniel's unrestrained, enthusiastic ramblings were Jack's favorite part of their long distance conversations. He could easily envision Daniel's facial expressions and hand gestures that went along with the words.

"I told you that before, didn't I?" Jack could practically see the faint blush that accompanied the words. Daniel must have mistaken his lack of response for lack of interest.

"Yes, you did, but it's okay. The first time I made the majors, that amazed me, too. Tell me more."

"Sorry, Jack. Here I'm going on and on and I didn't even ask about you and the guys."

"It's the minors, Daniel, everything here is exactly the same. Jarvis is still sleeping with any girl that will have him, Gomez is trying yet another new diet, Reiman hasn't quit complaining since you left, apparently no one on the planet has headaches as bad as his, and Richie still hasn't bought a clue. Same old, same old. Go on, tell me more about the food."

"Jack!" Daniel admonished softly between giggles. "Well, the food, let me just say that I haven't eaten at Arby's once since I've been here. I kind of miss those five for five deals, remember?

Jack chuckled. "I miss'em, too." The strange thing was, he really did.

"How can you miss it? It's right across the street. You can go any time you want to."

"It's no fun without you."


"Yeah, really."

After a slight pause Daniel picked up where he left off. "You know what's really weird?"

Jack didn't bother answering; he knew Daniel would tell him regardless.

"In the minors, we have $18.00 a day to cover three meals. Up here they give you $70.00 a day and free buffets. And, most of the players are so rich they could easily pay for their own meals anyway. It doesn't seem fair does it?"

"No, it doesn't, but look at it this way... if we had all that money and free food we wouldn't have had any fun in Arby's." Jack was rewarded by Daniel's distinct laughter.

"Thank you for that, Jack. I know you have enough money that you didn't have to eat fast food. I know you just did that for me."

"Hey, smarty pants, for your information, I happen to like Arby's. Where else can I gorge myself for five bucks?"

This time a sleepy yawn permeated Daniel's quiet laughter. "Anyway, there's so much good food in the clubhouse that I'm saving most of my meal money and putting it towards the dig."

"Good idea. You sound tired."

"Yeah, I am." This time the yawn was long and deep. If Jack closed his eyes, he could visualize Daniel's scrunched up eyes and wide opened mouth.

"We better say goodbye before you fall asleep on me."



"Did I tell you that I miss you?"

"Yeah, you did, first thing."

"Oh, good," Daniel whispered sleepily.

"Good night, Daniel."

"Good night, Jack. Wait! Did I mention that I love you?"

"No." Damn it, he was doing it again. Just once Jack wanted to beat Daniel to the punch and say the words first, but he stumbled over them and could never seem to get them out.

"I love you, Jack."

"Yeah, me too, Daniel." Next time, Jack promised himself.

It was a blessed relief when Labor Day rolled around and the Warriors' mediocre season and Jack's career came to an uneventful end. His mind finally joined his body's rebellion against the grueling schedule, the tedious bus rides and the lumpy hotel mattresses. There was no fanfare or grand send off. Jack quietly cleaned out his locker, same as he had for twenty seasons prior, the only difference being that he would not be returning next spring. Jack was sure baseball would get along fine with out him. He had no doubts or regrets. It was time to say goodbye.

The big league August call-ups were kind, with Wagner getting one last chance to strut his stuff in the majors. Jack was happy for him and secretly glad that Daniel would have someone to watch over him. Jack had not expected a call and had not gotten one. He didn't care. The only calls he looked forward to these days were the ones from a curveball pitcher wearing a Tigers jersey with the number fifty sewn across the back.

Although the minor league season was officially over, the majors still had a month to go and Jack wasn't sure what to do with himself. A month suddenly seemed like a very long time. For the first time in years, he wasn't anxious to return to his lakefront home in Minnesota . He could opt to stay at the apartment until the end of the month, but that seemed kind of silly.

He spent his time checking Tiger box scores. They were in Toronto tonight. Jack smiled at the memory of Daniel's previous visit to Canada . On Tuesday, the Tigers would be in Cleveland. Cleveland was close, so close, and yet so far. Jack would have liked nothing better than to go to Cleveland and meet up with Daniel, maybe even surprise him. But it would be tough explaining himself to the rest of the Tigers and ex-teammates he was bound to run into. He could imagine the scene as it played out in his mind... 'Hey, hi, how ya doing? Me? I'm here visiting Daniel Jackson. You know, the flaky relief pitcher rumored to be gay. Yep, that's him'.

Jack took a moment to despise himself. He was such a goddamn coward.

A phone call from an extremely hyped up Daniel solved his boredom problems. "Jack, guess what?"

Before Jack could get in a word, much less venture a guess, Daniel continued. "The Tigers are playing the White Sox, the twelfth through the fourteenth. Can you meet me there... in Chicago ? We can stay at my apartment. I can show you where I live and work and all of my favorite places. It will be great. Please, say, yes."

The last sentence was a whisper, Jack wasn't even sure if Daniel intended for him to hear it. He did the calculations in his head. Six days and he would be holding, kissing and having sex with Daniel. Six days. It beat the hell out of waiting until the end of the month.

"Jack? Can you come?"

"Slow down, of course I'll come." The uncertainty in Daniel's voice bothered him.

Relief, tinged with excitement, rang through the pitcher's words. "I'm going to send you a key to the apartment and directions. If you get there before I do, just make yourself comfortable. There's a great place for pizza down the street, it's called Nick's. Oh, and Jack, there are a lot of artifacts, very old things, in the apartment, please be careful around them. Should I send the keys to the condo or are you going back to Minnesota ?"

Geez, buddy, take a breath. Jack smiled at the unrestrained enthusiasm. That was the Daniel Jackson he knew and loved. "I'll stay here until I meet you in Chicago."

"Okay," Daniel agreed. "Could you do me a favor and be sure to bring the journal you gave me?"

"Sure, where is it?"

"It's in the back of my top dresser drawer."

"You got it, five-oh." It was settled, he was going to Chicago.

Over the next few days, Jack reluctantly cleaned out the condo. Normally, he couldn't wait to get out of these cookie cutter housing units with their white walls and white counters and white floors, but this one was different. It was the place where he and Daniel had eaten their first meal together and had their first argument. It was where they kissed and made love and shared a bed. He was going to miss it.

It was amazing how much junk two guys could accumulate from April to September. Daniel had left behind almost as much stuff as Jack. It took a while to sort through it all and decide what to pack and what to toss, not to mention, where to send it all. Jack was almost finished cleaning out Daniel's room when he remembered the journal. It hadn't turned up in his initial run through. He checked the dresser again. The gift was pushed so far back in the drawer he might have missed it completely had Daniel not mentioned it. The box was opened, the top cover tucked beneath the bottom one, the tissue paper folded over, displaying the journal. The kid-like, balloon birthday paper was carefully folded beside it. Jack noted that the silly card he had picked out was tucked inside the pages. He smiled happily. The care Daniel had taken made it obvious he had liked the gift after all.

It was almost midnight when Jack decided to take a break. He cracked open a beer and collapsed on the sofa. He was lonely. Without Daniel, the place was nothing more than boring, interim, seasonal housing. It bothered him that he and Daniel no longer had a shared place. Jack had his house in Minnesota and Daniel had his apartment in Illinois . He couldn't help worrying about how it would all work out.

As always, life was rapidly becoming more complicated. Where would they live after Daniel's dig? The archaeologist would most likely need to stay in Chicago to be near his work, assuming he planned to continue teaching. Did Jack really want to live in the city? He doubted Daniel would be interested in living in a fairly isolated house on a quiet lake. To make matters worse, he had absolutely no idea what he would do with his time now that he had retired from the game that had all but consumed his adult life. It was depressing. When things got complicated, life usually kicked him in the ass. Jack finished his beer and packed two suitcases for Chicago and sent the rest of his belongings on to Minnesota.

Daniel's apartment was a surprise. The memory of the Budget Inn usually flashed through Jack's mind when he thought of Daniel and housing. He had to remind himself that Dr. Jackson was a PhD college professor, not some young, snotty, first year rookie ballplayer. The archaeologist had not been kidding about the junk, er... artifacts, they were everywhere. And books, the man had a ton of books.

As surprised as he was by the apartment, the bedroom floored him. It was large with the usual assortment of dressers and a mirror. What 'wowed' him was the bed. It was huge. It seemed bigger than a king, though that might be an illusion because of its height. It was on a platform and higher up from floor to mattress than most beds. Falling out could be dangerous to one's health. He plopped down on it, testing it for comfort. Oh, yes, it was comfortable. Damn, the monstrous bed was more than comfortable, it was wonderful. How ironic that the man who could sleep anytime, anywhere, on anything, had such luxury at home. It was so comfortable Jack removed his shoes and lay down. Even though it was mid-afternoon, he began to doze.

The next thing he was aware of was a naked body pressing up against his t-shirt. "Daniel?" It better be Daniel.


It was Daniel. There was no mistaking that 'Jack'. "You're naked."

"Is that a problem?" Daniel whispered as he kissed Jack's neck.

"No, no problem." Jack tugged at his own shirt and Daniel helped pull it over his head. He was undressed in seconds.

"Game tonight?" Jack worked the question in between frantic kisses.

"Nope, travel day."

The promise in that answer intensified the wild groping. They wrestled and struggled for a few minutes until Daniel ended up on top of Jack, straddling him, playfully pinning his wrists over the partially gray head. They both paused, Jack staring up into blue eyes gone dark with passion.

"I want you, Jack." The meaning was unmistakable.

"You have me," Jack consented.

Daniel expertly, almost unobtrusively, prepared him between loving ministrations. It was difficult for Jack to give up control; he had never enjoyed sex on the bottom before loving and trusting Daniel Jackson.

The initial, painful burning sensation faded quickly as Daniel gently opened him up and eased himself inside, just as he had done in Jack's life. It only took a second for Daniel to find Jack's prostate and skillfully pick up the pace, pleasuring him again and again. Although Daniel was close to climax, he reached down for Jack's cock and seemed pleased to find it hard and leaking. He stroked it a few times and within seconds they both came in a perfect moment of panting, ecstatic relief.

"I missed you, Jack." With the words, Daniel collapsed on top of him, smearing semen across his belly.

Jack held on tight. "Yeah, me too, Daniel. Me too."

The four days flew by, especially with Daniel spending a major portion of the time at the ballpark. After Daniel left, Jack decided to fly home to Minnesota for a day or two to be sure his belongings had arrived safely and check up on his house. After that, he returned to Chicago to wait the ten or so days for Daniel's season to officially end. From Chicago he could help organize and coordinate the dig and fulfill his duties as the self appointed executive assistant to the chief. Daniel spent every spare minute on the phone or on his laptop. The chief could definitely use some assistance.

By the time October rolled around and Daniel was home for good, Jack was feeling pretty pleased with himself and the world of archaeology. He had ordered supplies and pretty much filled everything on Daniel's extensive list. He had even helped a few panicked archaeology student assistants obtain the proper visas and solve various other immigration problems. Who knew he could get so into this? Six months ago he had barely heard of archaeology, much less knew an actual archaeologist. Daniel spent most of his time coordinating with the Egyptian authorities. Apparently, the approval he received for the dig was almost a year old and about to expire. Jack had no doubt Daniel's determination would win out and solve the paperwork problems. He was right... they celebrated with champagne and sex the day the updated permit arrived.

As hectic as their lives were, the chief archaeologist assured him things were running as smoothly as could be expected with the trip just a few weeks away. But today was not running smoothly at all. Today, Jack was angry with Daniel. Truly angry. Counting to ten had not helped.

Daniel was busy confirming final travel arrangements, but to hell with that. This couldn't wait. Jack headed into the den to confront him. The archaeologist was engrossed in reading something on an Egyptian web site and Jack had to clear his throat to get his attention.

"What's up?" The passion Daniel had for his work was obvious. The intensity of the fire in the blue eyes never burned so bright in Daniel Jackson, baseball player, as it did in Dr. Daniel Jackson, archaeologist. Ignoring the fire was not easy, but Jack stubbornly held on to his anger.

"Did you tell Wagner that I was living with you?" For some reason, the confusion on Daniel's face further irritated him.

"Yes, I did," Daniel answered slowly. "He asked me where you were staying." The initial casualness was gone. "Are you upset about that?"

The tenor of Daniel's voice sounded odd, but Jack ignored it and forged ahead. "You're damn right I'm upset. I thought we agreed to be discreet. You have a PhD, I assume you know what the word 'discreet' means. I just got off the phone with him and he asked me why I was living with you. Then I had to listen to him joke about how people might talk. What the hell were you thinking?" Jack was on a roll, a sarcastic roll and there was no stopping him.

"What did you tell him?" Daniel's neutral, calm tone was in stark contrast to his own.

"I told him I grew up in Chicago and have some business to take care of here and you offered to put me up. He seemed to accept it."

Oh, fuck. Daniel looked as if someone had just kicked his puppy. It wasn't like they hadn't discussed this.

"I guess I didn't realize it was still a secret," Daniel said quietly. "I thought after the season ended and you were retired it would be okay if people knew. I thought..." he let the words trail off mid sentence. "I didn't understand. It won't happen again. I didn't tell him anything, Jack. Only that you were staying here. I'm sorry."

Suddenly, Jack felt like an ass. "It's okay. No harm done." But there was a whole shitload of harm. He could see the harm clearly reflected in the hurt eyes. One good look at Daniel and all Jack wanted to do was to take it back. All of it.

"This has nothing to do with how I feel about you," Jack said awkwardly. "You know that, right?" The spark that had fueled Daniel a few minutes earlier had faded completely and Jack longed to re-ignite it.

"I'm going to finish up my research now. It's fine, Jack. It's not you, it's me. You never promised me anything." The downcast eyes and slightly bowed posture belied the words. "Sometimes, I have unrealistic expectations." Daniel turned toward the computer screen, away from him.

Oh, shit. What the hell did that mean? He was such a dumb jock. He had devastated Daniel and was not even sure of how or why.

Reluctantly, Jack allowed Daniel to return to his work while he donned his sweats to go out for a run. Exercise cleared his head and helped him think.

When he returned, Daniel was right where he'd left him and Jack didn't waste a minute. He barged in for a confrontation, hoping to fix what he had royally screwed up.

"Daniel?" The archaeologist stopped typing at the interruption but did not turn around. At least he was listening. "Why do you think I'm so adamant about being discreet?"

"I don't know." Daniel stretched his arms over his head, but displayed no emotion.

"It's about me, not you. I'm a coward. That's all it is. It has nothing to do with you and me, and how I feel about us."

"Okay." Daniel crossed his arms and swiveled his chair around to face him.

Jack took a deep breath. "Okay, good." One down, one to go. "Do you know I love you?"

"I-I don't know." Daniel hesitated, unconsciously biting down on his bottom lip.

"You don't know?" Jack nearly bellowed. "Now see, I don't understand that. How could you not know?" The unexpected response cut like a knife.

"You never actually say it, Jack."

"Yes, I do."

"No, you don't. You always say 'me too'. It didn't bother me before, but now, well, now I just don't know."

"Let me clear it up for you. I do. I love you and I'm sorry I never actually said it."

"It's okay."

"Don't, Daniel. Don't let me off the hook so easily. It's not okay if it bothers you." Talking about emotions was not Jack's strong suit, but this was Daniel. He had to figure it out and make it right. Honesty was his best chance. "I was so worried about disappointing my father and shocking my friends that I disappointed you, the man I never want to disappoint. It's my fault and it's definitely not okay."

Daniel fidgeted anxiously in his chair. "I just need to know what this is. I've been in relationships before, some serious, some not so serious. But I've, never been this in, in... in-volved."

Jack's heart ached at the words. Daniel had been going to say 'in love', Jack was sure of it. Daniel had changed the words, not because he didn't feel the emotion, but because he wasn't sure if Jack felt it. Before he had a chance to respond, Daniel continued.

"Maybe someday you'll meet someone who will make you want to tell the world. If what we have is companionship or best buddy sex, I can deal with it, but I need to know so I, so..." Daniel took a deep breath before finishing. "Well, I just need to know."

Jack's stomach lurched. That's what Daniel thought? That in Jack's eyes he was not worth losing friends over or risking his father's disappointment. Jack finished the sentence for him. "So you can protect yourself... from me."

A shrug was the only response.

"Look at me. Please." When Daniel gazed up, Jack laid it all on the line for him, initiating, speaking and meaning the phrase that in the past had been so difficult. "I'm trying to tell you that I love you, that I'm in love with you."

"You already said that."

"Well, I'm saying it again, to make sure you believe me. I know I haven't said the words, but you gotta know it's true. I've loved you since we met. Hell, I'll go shout it from the top of the Sears Tower for all the world to hear if you want me to."

"What about your friends? Your father?"

"I'm forty one years old. They'll get over it or they won't. You're worth more. You're worth everything to me. Give me another chance and I'll spend the rest of my life proving it to you." It was true, he would. He knew that now, whether it would be in Minnesota or Chicago or Egypt or wherever the hell Daniel needed or wanted it to be. Jack would be there, too, for as long as Daniel would have him.

Relief filled Jack when Daniel stood up and came to him, wrapping his arms tightly around his waist and whispering in his ear, "You can start proving it right now."

And Jack did. He pulled Daniel closer and kissed him soundly on the mouth. They never made it to the bedroom. Jack proved it on the sofa and then again on the living room floor. He proved it the only way he knew how as Daniel squirmed and moaned beneath him on the carpet. When Jack was positive Daniel couldn't stand another shred of evidence, he entered him, leaving irrefutable proof of his love buried deep inside his lover.

They lay still, exhausted in each other's arms. Jack marveled at the turn his life had taken. He knew for certain that whatever he ended up doing, he wanted to do it with this incredible man in his arms. Putting his faith in that simple truth was all he needed to do. To hell with life and its infuriating complications. Jack had not trusted life since he was nine years old and Santa left the bike of his dreams under the tree. Thirty-two years and one archaeologist later, he was willing to trust it again.

"I love you." He needed to say the words as much as Daniel needed to hear them.

"I know, Jack. I know you do." Daniel whispered the confident words of absolution into his neck.

For years, Jack had dreaded this season, with his inevitable retirement and uncertain future. Of all the hundreds of scenarios he had gone over in this mind, love had not played a role in any of them.

'Life is full of surprises' had never been high on Jack O'Neill's list of clichés. He was more of a 'there's nothing new under the sun' kind of guy. He squeezed Daniel tighter and planted a tender kiss in the sweat soaked hair.

That life was still capable of surprising him, was what surprised him most of all.

"Hey, give it a rest, huh? We have another nine hours up here." The trip was barely underway and Daniel's fidgeting was already driving Jack nuts. He gripped Daniel's knee to bring the incessant jiggling to an abrupt halt.

Daniel glanced at his watch. "Eight and a half."

"How about a glass of wine?" Jack bit his tongue and forced a smile.

"Maybe," Daniel shrugged.

"Take a deep breath and slow it down, buddy. Are you okay?" Jack placed his hand lightly over Daniel's chest to feel the accelerated heartbeat.

"I'm sorry, Jack. It's just that I've had this dream since I was a little kid tagging along after my parents. For all the digs I've been on and all the discoveries I've uncovered, I've never been in charge. I'm nervous. I want everything to run smoothly."

"Would you relax? Everything is going to go just fine. You have the permits, the assistants, the equipment; you are totally prepared for this. Right?" Jack took Daniel's hand in his and intertwined their fingers in a firm grasp.

"Right," Daniel determinedly agreed. "Uh, Jack, the flight attendant is coming."

"So... what?"

"So... this." Daniel raised their combined hands and loosened his grip, but Jack held on.

Obviously, Daniel thought he still had a phobia with all forms of public affection. He did, but he was working on it. What better time to test his progress? When the attendant was still a few seats away Jack raised Daniel's hand to his lips and kissed it before releasing his hold and making his request. "Excuse me, ma'am, my friend and I would like a glass of wine."

"No problem, sir. It'll just be a minute."

The baffled expression on Daniel's face made the effort worthwhile.

"Close your mouth, Daniel. Impressed?" Jack flashed an annoying grin.

Daniel chuckled and shook his head. "Yes. And see, Jack, she didn't think anything of it. I'm not even sure if she noticed."

"Oh, she noticed all right. Actually, I think she may be jealous." Joking was Jack's way of deflecting the implications of his actions.

Daniel gave him an impatient look. "My point is, contrary to your beliefs, she did not run down the aisle screaming in disgust. She didn't care."

"I get you're point," Jack quietly acknowledged.

Five minutes later they were sipping wine. "Feeling better?"

"Yes, thank you." Daniel took Jack's hand and held it against his chest as proof. His heart was back to beating out a normal rhythm. "You probably think I'm crazy for getting this worked up, but you must have felt the same way when you fulfilled your dream."

"My dream?" Jack squirmed uncomfortably.

"I assume it was your first major league at bat. Did you get a hit, by the way?"

"Yes, as a matter a fact, I did get a hit in my first at bat. And, it was quite a thrill. But..." Jack hesitated to share the rest.

"But what?" Daniel encouraged.

"But, that wasn't my dream. Don't get me wrong, it was a goal and it was exciting and I was on cloud nine for weeks afterward."

Daniel nodded. "So, what was your dream?" When Jack didn't answer, Daniel pushed. "You said you could tell me anything."

"This was my dream." Jack wasn't sure how to explain it.

"You wanted to... go on a dig?" Daniel's eyes blinked in confusion.

"No, you idiot." Jack kissed Daniel's furrowed forehead. "That. That right there was my dream."

"To... kiss an archaeologist on the forehead?"

"You're getting closer." Jack leaned over and whispered in Daniel's ear. "To love someone and be able to show it. To love someone and not be terrified of it. That's always been my dream. I love you." Before Daniel could answer, Jack moved his mouth from Daniel's ear to his lips and kissed the stunned archaeologist.

"Jack!" Daniel quietly admonished, taking a quick glance around. No one was paying any attention to them.

"What? No one's looking. Don't be so paranoid," Jack said cheerfully as he settled back in his seat.

"I've created a monster," Daniel groaned.

He could be right, embarrassing Daniel might be fun. In the meantime, Jack was still waiting for his, 'I love you, too'. "Hey, I said, 'I love you'." He nudged Daniel's knee with his own.

Daniel glanced upward, his eyes dancing with mischief. "Me too," he answered smugly.

"Smart ass," Jack mumbled happily. "Drink your wine, five-oh. You are so going to need it."



They had been home from Egypt a week when Daniel found the folded up piece of paper on the dining room table. " Egypt 'TO DO' list," he read out loud. "Jack, what is this?"

"Just what it says. I wrote it before the trip."

"Did you accomplish all of your goals?" Daniel turned the paper over in his hand, checking both sides.

"Most of them. Go ahead and read it."

"You sure?"

"Yep, go ahead. Let's see how I did."

"Okay. Number one... desecrate a temple. Jack! Tell me you did not do that."

Jack would have laughed at the indignant scowl if he were not so nervous about numbers five and ten. "I did and you helped me. I believe the words, 'oh god, Jack' were uttered repeatedly."

Daniel relaxed. "That was not 'desecrating'."


"Christening, maybe."

"You're such a stickler for semantics."

"Let's move on. Number two... throw a baseball onto the base of the Sphinx." Daniel shot a serious, disapproving stare over the top of his glasses. "Is there a baseball on the base of the Sphinx?"

"Yes, there is." Despite the chiding look, Jack could not keep the pride out of his voice. "It took eight tries. A lesser man would have given up."

Daniel glared and moved on. "Number three... make love to an archaeologist in the sand."

Jack wiggled his eyebrows at said archaeologist.

"Not much of a challenge there," Daniel commented dryly. "Number four... skinny dip in the Nile." The eyebrows inched up in curiosity. "Did you accomplish number four?"

"No, I didn't, but I did try. I would have been successful on my second attempt if not for a mean old lady who started screaming and pointing when I got down to my skivvies. I would have ignored her but I heard whistles blowing in the background and didn't want to take any unnecessary chances with the local authorities, so I hightailed it out of there."

"These aren't true, are they?" Daniel's skeptical expression made the stories worthwhile.

"Of course they're true. You were present for one and three. Besides, who could make these up?"

"You," Daniel answered with a hint of a smile. "All right, number five... find out if it's okay to call Daniel, Danny." Daniel looked up from the paper. "You didn't do number five."

"No. I chickened out."

"It's okay."

"That I chickened out?"

"It's okay for you to call me Danny."

"Ah. I wasn't sure if it was a kid thing or something special between you and your parents."

"It was a family thing, a love thing, so it's okay... for you."

Daniel was looking at the list in a new light. "Number six," he chuckled and shook his head at the next entry. "Ride a camel."

"Yeah, let me explain. I wrote that one before I discovered what vile, dirty, disgusting creatures camels actually are. But I showed them who's boss, didn't I?"

"Yes, you certainly did," Daniel agreed. "Ahmed said that was the first time he had ever seen a tourist spit back at a camel."

"That flea bag will be a little more careful about who he messes with in the future, won't he?"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah, that camel won't forget you any time soon. Number seven... learn to say, 'Where's the can?' in Arabic." Daniel looked at him expectantly. "Well?"

"Ayna alHammam?"

"Close enough. You know I could have helped you with that one. Did you get to use it?"

"Oh, yeah, I tried it out several times."


"And, I did get a few responses. I just couldn't understand any of them. One guy kept pointing at his shoes. I have no idea why. I asked him three times, 'Ayna alHammam'? Every time he pointed to the shoes. I was beginning to wonder if these people could actually speak their own language."

"Yes, well, I'm sure it had nothing to do with your pronunciation. Number eight... carve initials into a pyramid. Jack!"

If looks could kill, Jack was sure he'd be coughing dust. "Keep you're pants on, Daniel. My pocket knife and I couldn't get a moment of privacy in that damned pyramid."

"So you didn't get a chance to try?"

"No. But... "

"Does there have to be a 'but'?" Daniel sighed.

Jack was unflappable. "BUT... the sentiment, J.O. loves D. J. is now carved into the door of a men's room not far from the pyramid."

Daniel's nose wrinkled in thought. "Okay, which pyramid?" he asked suspiciously.

"Khufu, the biggest one, of course. Nothing but the best for you, Daniel."

"And where exactly is this bathroom located?" Daniel's brows rose in doubt. "You know I can check this out."

"Knock yourself out. I have nothing to hide."

"Jack..." The one word expressed Daniel's skepticism over the validity of number eight and the location of the nearest public restroom in proximity to the Pyramid.

"Yes, Daniel?" Jack smiled sweetly.

The archaeologist opened his mouth and then closed it. "Never mind. Number nine.... ride in a rickshaw." Daniel snickered. "How'd that work out for you?"

"Not too well. I was mistakenly thinking of India when I wrote that one. However, no, perhaps it would be best not to dredge up the sordid details of that minor misunderstanding."

Daniel closed his eyes for a second. "Yes, perhaps you're right. Thank you, for not dredging, Jack. Number ten..." He stopped short of reading the words out loud.

Jack closed his eyes for a second to recall number ten; he knew the words by heart. ‘Tell Daniel that he is the center of someone's universe'. Number ten was the reason for leaving the list in plain view. Some things needed to be understood, even if they were difficult to say out loud.

"Go ahead. Read it."

Daniel read the words slowly. "Jack?"

"Remember? You said that on your birthday. Ever since then I've wanted to tell you, but I couldn't."

This time when Daniel opened his mouth to speak, Jack placed a finger on his lips to shush him. "Don't talk. I need to say this to you and I can." He took the stunned archaeologist's hand in his own. "You, Daniel Jackson, are the center of my universe. I will always and forever celebrate the day you were born."

Daniel's eyes glistened with a genuine smile. Jack proudly realized he had rendered the man speechless. "Are you going to say something?"

It took a few minutes. "Thank you, Jack. Wow."

"All you can come up with is 'wow'?" Jack smiled warmly. "It's the truth."

That elicited a chuckle. "The truth... like skinny dipping in the Nile and a baseball in the Sphinx?"

"Not exactly like that." Jack struggled to keep a straight face. "I can tell the truth. Go on, ask me anything."

Daniel bit his lower lip. "Okay. Is there really a baseball team called the Muck Dogs?"


"The Sand Gnats?"


"The Yipping Chihuahuas ?"

"Not that I've actually heard of, but I have no doubt there's a team out there contemplating that name as we speak. Did you know there's a team up in the Northern League..."

"Jack, shut up and kiss me."

He started to lean in to do as he was told, then stopped. "You know, you've said that to me before, Daniel."


"And, right after I obeyed, my life suddenly became extremely... complicated."

"Complicated?" Daniel's eyes expressed his amusement. "Complicated how?"

"Complicated," Jack huffed impatiently. "Like... attempting a suicide squeeze or sending the runners on a full count, sacrifice bunts, hacking away at a three and oh pitch, you know... complicated."

"So, complicated in a good, exciting kind of way?" The sound of Daniel's laughter filled the room.

"Oh yeah, five-oh." Jack happily agreed. "In a very good way."


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