Jack noticed the emptiness the first time SG-1 went through the gate without him.
Adjusting to the new office had been surprisingly easy. Adjusting to his new authority had been everybody else's problem. Watching the wormhole closing behind his team had been the hardest thing he'd done since his promotion.
P5X-296 had strong indications of a thriving civilization paralleling Earth's advancement. It wasn't a guarantee that there was no Goa'uld presence or observation of the planet, but it was usually a good sign.
"What could go wrong?" flickered across his thoughts. Unbidden the image of following Daniel through the Stargate -- knowing that he'd been poisoned by radiation, knowing that Daniel might still be ambulatory and lucid but was no less a corpse -- flashed strongly. How had Hammond done it? Especially with a team that attracted trouble like SG-1.
How many times had a mission gone bad? Intelligence faults, human mistakes, hostile environments, ignorant or vicious inhabitants -- the permutations for disaster were endless.
What was worse, SG-1 was now officially a split command team. Daniel couldn't leave -- at the President's personal request. Jack said a private thank you to heaven for that. It had prevented huge arguments over Daniel's possibly heading the Atlantis program.
Carter wouldn't leave the team even though she'd been offered unqualified command of a tech and science team. Jack was convinced that the prestige of SG-1 and the pull that it represented even for a Lieutenant Colonel was a tremendous influence on her decision.
Teal'c was more complicated: his defector status precluded his ever heading a team, but he was a welcome addition to a team for many types of mission. He could have become the SGC equivalent to a free agent -- picking and choosing from all the assignments offered to him. Instead when Jack made the offer, Teal'c had asked, "May I not remain with SG-1?" Of course he could.
The command split had come because Carter had turned down the proffered tech and science team. Daniel hadn't wanted him to do it, but, after the first preliminary briefing, it had become clear: Carter liked the authority but wasn't used to it. She was willing to lean on Teal'c for tactical suggestions, but it was apparent that she was more nervous about the first contact situation on this planet.
It had ended with Carter feeling a little full of herself and telling Daniel that she outranked him. Jack had called a quick end to the meeting and asked Carter to stay.
Very quietly, he explained that Daniel's civilian equivalence ranking had been higher than Jack's since just before that whole nonsense with Reese. Daniel'd started out with a higher equivalence than she'd had -- major to her captain -- and as his department and authority had expanded his equivalency rank had increased.
Carter had blinked at Jack for a moment before asking, "So, if he was a brigadier general equivalent when he ascended and he's the highest ranking civilian now..."
"Daniel still outranks me. He's equivalent to Hammond."
"He doesn't treat you like he outranks you."
"Some of it's friendship, most of it's not having the field training that I do. My point about that is, neither do you."
She nodded. "Do you think he's going to give me trouble in the field?"
"Hell, yeah. He'll bother you about archeological finds or not shooting the natives or..."
"I meant would he disobey a direct tactical order?"
"If he thinks that you're making an immoral -- not just a wrong decision or a bad decision -- an immoral choice, yes. He's done it to me. You've seen him. But any officer has the right to refuse an immoral or illegal order."
"Had I taken the tech squad, would you have given SG-1 to Daniel?"
"Had you taken the tech squad, I'd have reconfigured the first four teams so that Ferretti or Edwards headed SG-1. They'd never have been friends, but Edwards respects Daniel's knowledge. I didn't think that would be a problem with you."
"Sir, the mineral deposits on P5X-296 are extraordinary. They're also away from the town and the 'temple' that Daniel wants to study."
"SG-1 is first contact. When you go through the gate, you head for the town unless the natives are there to greet you. Especially as advanced as they seem, you have to think that the inhabitants might have something that could let them know someone was taking samples without their permission. Go. Contact. Negotiate."
Jack hated it when Carter got that tense jaw. "Colonel. You know your mission. I'm asking you frankly, off the record, are you going to have a problem with this?"
"Daniel's in charge of the negotiations. If it comes to a firefight, you're the ultimate authority. But from the moment you first meet the natives until it goes FUBAR -- if it goes FUBAR -- this is Daniel's show. Got it?"
"Carter, no one's going to know about this little talk but us. Trust me, I've had more than one commanding officer remind me that a promotion doesn't change much. It's just that the expectations are a little higher every time. You're an ltc. in a colonel's slot. If you prove yourself, and I have every reason to think that you'll do us all proud, then you're on a much faster track for full colonel and general. You didn't make a mistake, you just needed to be told a couple of things."
That earned him a smile. Carter saluted. "Thank you, sir."
Jack smiled as he returned the salute.
Colonel Lincoln was waiting for Jack in his office. Their weekly meeting had become a high point. She had come to the SGC from the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (OACSI). Having her was like an inoculation against the NID as Lucille was jealous of her territory.
Kinsey might be gone, but congressional leaders were still balking at the SGC's price tag. She'd found ways to cut the SGC budget by cutting back on genuine inessentials while convincing the esteemed members of the Senate Oversight Committee to allow an increase in civilian personnel and the concomitant budget increase to pay them.
In addition, she'd been able to convince the committee that profits from patents that were coming out of SGC research should be weighed in the balance against the overall budget. Thanks to her analysis and ability to process paperwork, the SGC was beginning to be viewed as a financial asset by the US government rather than a liability. On paper at any rate, this year's SGC, which had five times the personnel that General Hammond had started with eight years previously, cost the government one billion dollars less than it had the first year. Colonel Lincoln might be a bean counter, but Jack was proud that she was the SGC's bean counter.
Other than lunch and taking the team check-ins -- all three off-world teams seemed fine -- Jack spent the day at his desk reading mission reports, doing the routine paperwork until Sergeant Davis came in with more papers for his inbox and reminded him that he had his annual physical the next day at 16:30.
"With your permission, sir?"
"I'd recommend that you change into fatigues before the physical. If you leave your class A with the base laundry, it will be cleaned and pressed by 07:00. I can assign a quartermaster private to repin your decorations for you..."
"I'll do it myself in the morning, but thank you for the thought. It's an excellent suggestion."
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Jack nodded. "Sergeant."
"Go home tonight and after your physical tomorrow too, sir. There's nothing in the new paperwork that's urgent. You'll be called if there's an emergency, of course, but it's been at least four days since you've gone home. If you live on base when teams are off world, well, sir, you're risking burnout."
"You have a point. I won't worry any less, but I can do it in comfort. Thank you. And Sergeant?"
"You're good at this. I'm glad you stayed on for the transition."
"Thank you, sir."
"Please tell the dry cleaners that I'll be bringing in my second class A for cleaning tomorrow too. I don't expect anything to go wrong, but belt and suspenders."
Sergeant Davis saluted, picked up the papers in Jack's outbox, and left.
Jack resumed his paperwork.
Jack sat up in bed completely alert -- like a fire alarm had gone off. His cock was pulsing, and all he was left with was an image of soft lips and searing blue eyes.
Moments like these had become more frequent since Thor revived him. He got up to shower. He hadn't really had wet dreams since he was a teenager. These were explosive and vivid. Tonight's had involved a whole body sensation of being completely wrapped in arms and legs.
The water was finally warm enough, and he stepped in. Had the download and revival dredged up memories of Sara? Some memories were certainly closer to the surface now. And the whole having her sitting on his lap -- on his dick -- with their arms and legs embracing each other had been a favorite in their sexual repertoire.
He thought about that as the water sluiced over him. The memories were surprisingly good, but there was no reaction in his body, not even the half-hearted "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" tingling that he got if he was aroused too soon after orgasm.
When he'd first come back from Iraq, he'd been a basket case. He and Sara had made love, but she was more aggressive in bed, touched him differently, suggested things they hadn't done in a while or ever before.
The evening that she'd come home from her day of volunteering at the hospital to find him packing had brought it all to a head. Jack had accused her of having an affair while he was gone. It wasn't that he minded. He understood need, but the thought that she hadn't been honest with him rankled.
Sara had laughed so hard, he thought she'd hyperventilate. She walked over to her side of the bed and opened the drawer. In it was a little vibrator with a couple of slip on gloves, an old silk scarf that he'd given her, a picture of him wearing only a smile, and two books. One was just erotic short stories and the other was a better how to manual than he'd ever seen before. It even had marginalia in Sara's handwriting.
"Jack, you're an idiot. All I wanted was my husband back. I thought I could learn something new and exciting and show him how happy I was that he was with me again."
"I'm an idiot." After a long kiss, Jack had picked up the manual. He ran his thumb over the pages and stopped at random. They both looked at the picture and smiled. For the next six months they'd tried a new picture every time they made love. It was like a second honeymoon, and the best therapy that a man just out of prison could have.
Jack stopped the shower and got out. He'd loved Sara. He wished he'd been a better husband to her after Charlie's death. He'd seen other parents turn to each other in their grief and come out with a strong marriage. Guilt and pain had kept him and his wife apart. The passion that he'd felt for her was no longer a factor. Whatever had awoken him, it wasn't memories of her.
Rank hath its privileges. Picking his own physician was one of them. Had they not lost Janet, there would have been no question. Jack had no prior relationship with Doctor Brightman, and while she was one of the top researchers of diseases, parasites, and things that go bump in the night that the SGC brought back -- Brightman didn't know his history.
Jameson did. He'd been on the staff for three years and often did SG-1's routine physicals while Janet had been off handling an emergency or a quarantine situation. And just as Carter had been relieved that there was again a woman on the staff, Jack felt the need to see a man about some things.
"You're in great shape, General. Better now than you were when you were in the field."
"Less wear and tear on the knees."
Jack followed the motion of Jameson's hand and got ready for his least favorite part of any exam. "Now, turn your head and cough, sir."
It seemed to take longer than usual. "I'm sorry sir, please do that again." Jack did, and Jameson mumbled to himself as he made a note in the file.
"Anything wrong or alarming, Doc?"
"No, sir. My finger slipped." Jameson looked a little sheepish. "If you'll have a seat sir, we just need to go over the routine questions."
Jack asked, "Can't I put my fatigues back on? I'd feel much more comfortable if I were wearing clothes."
"I'm sorry, sir. The answers you give may indicate another test that needs to be done. It's easier and cuts back on cleaning costs if you don't have to get undressed again."
Jack turned around and sat down keeping his hands over his crotch.
Jameson noticed the hands and hunched posture. "It's a perfectly normal reaction, sir."
"What is?" Jack's voice dropped the words coldly.
Looking him dead in the eye, Jameson said, "Getting an erection when your prostate is palpated."
"It's not exactly something that I think of as erotic, Captain."
"No, but physiology is physiology. That actually brings me to my first question. I assume from the immediacy of your reaction you're not having problems with getting an erection."
"Any problems with softness or premature ejaculation." He looked over at an embarrassed and underdressed General.
"I'm sorry that I have to ask these questions, but these things can be harbingers of other problems. Doctor Fraiser laid out very strict guidelines about this."
Jack stopped bristling a bit at the mention of Janet. "I know."
"How many sexual partners have you had since your last physical?"
"Well, if you count my left hand, two. But it was only a one night stand. My right hand got jealous."
He still wasn't sure where the fire was, but the alarms were definitely going off as he sat up in bed for the second time in two nights. Jack's belly was sticky with come and he definitely needed to change the sheets.
Blue eyes were still chasing him. The light in them was warm and gentle. Whomever they belonged to, Jack felt safe -- and apparently very aroused.
With the sheets changed, Jack went to take another warm shower. Was his subconscious still chasing Carter?
No doubt about it, she'd always been a beautiful woman and still was, but Jack thought that he'd already hashed out that little issue, oh, three years ago or more.
He'd been surprised when he got back from Edora. Fraiser had told him that he'd been badly missed, which was gratifying. Janet had also hinted around that Carter had been more affected than anyone had expected.
For the first time since he'd been told that Carter was "smarter than you are, Colonel," Jack had really looked at her. Carter had seen him looking and responded warmly to the attention. Daniel's appendectomy and the shared exile after blowing up replicators had created a bond among the three active members of SG-1.
But Sam was different when she operated under an attraction. She wore more make-up, which didn't bother him until he saw her touching up her lipstick in the field. She also stopped listening to other people -- sometimes including Jack. Worst of all, he'd reacted to it and encouraged it.
Finally, it had gotten to a point where Jack had heard rumors that he was boffing his female team member. After about fifteen seconds of gratification that anyone thought he was eligible for a woman that much younger and smarter, he got angry -- not at the rumor mongers but at himself.
Not only had he endangered the team by allowing himself to bask in the glow of attraction, he'd hurt Carter's career. True, the hurt wasn't likely to be permanent, but even if Hammond's efficiency ratings hadn't reflected or commented upon their poor behavior, everyone who served at the SGC during that time would know about it and wonder if Carter had slept her way onto SG-1. His consequences were minimal, but hers would be whispered behind her back until she left the military.
The single most troubling thing was, while Carter would never sleep her way to the top, her acquiescence to some of his stranger orders from that period would never have happened before they began eyeing each other. He hoped nothing that egregious had happened since.
Jack looked down at his flaccid penis. Whoever was behind the blue eyes causing the extreme sexual reactions he was getting, it wasn't Sam Carter.
Maybe the blues eyes belonged to some ancient who'd been dead for millions of years. With their technology, it could happen.
SG-1 had been required to check-in at eight hour intervals. Jack always figured that they got into more trouble when there were civilizations present than when they gated into a planet that looked empty. SG-1 had missed the 07:00 check-in after making the previous five check-ins precisely at the minute.
In requiring the more frequent check-in schedule Jack had agreed to allow more leeway on the timing. Usually if an SG team missed a check-in, they were given an hour before they were considered missing and further action was taken. SG-1 had three hours before that would be a consideration. He'd ordered the MALP to do a full pan of the area before disengaging the wormhole.
After leaving instructions with Sergeant Davis, Jack went to prepare for his 08:00 meeting.
With the class A on, even Jack had to admit he looked like a general. This morning he had to be one. Diplomacy was expected.
There were five men sitting at the conference table when Jack walked in. The highest ranking was a Norwegian admiral, the rest were full colonels in the Dutch, British, German, and Greek armies or air forces: the policy and planning committee of the International Military Staff at NATO.
Jack squared his shoulders and introduced himself, shaking hands all around. He suggested that everyone refresh their coffees and brought the meeting to order.
Admiral Voss handed him a folder with a précis, a list of names, and a detailed report in it. "I must ask, General O'Neill, where your list of requirements is?"
"I figured, 'why kill trees for one line item?' Our only requirement is that anyone we accept into Stargate command go through our training program."
Admiral Voss didn't even blink. The Dutch and German colonels exchanged a look, and the RAF man -- Chester, was it? -- visibly bristled.
It was Admiral Voss who broke the long silence that followed Jack's statement. "Group Captain Chester, you wanted to make a comment?"
"Sir." He turned to look directly at Jack. "I can assure you, General O'Neill, anyone we agree to exchange with your command will already be trained to the highest standards."
"I hope, Group Captain, that nothing I said implied otherwise."
It was the Dutch colonel who picked up the thread. With a head tilt and smile worthy of Teal'c, he said, "Perhaps if we knew what the training was meant to do, we could assure you of our preparedness? After all, we all train together at NATO."
Jack thought he could hear, Tsavdaridou mumbling something about "and have this argument every time."
Diplomacy called for selective deafness, apparently.
"When Stargate command got up and running -- right after we were re-funded -- General Hammond instituted the training requirement. Civilians who will never go off-world get anywhere from a week to a month of specialized training in their field and general 'this is what is expected of you in an emergency' protocols.
"Civilians going off-world get a more thorough grounding including basic weapons training, if they haven't had any before. This culminates in two off-world tests: one long-term stay at the Alpha site or other secured research facility and one field dry-run. Both of these are with the team to which we expect to assign them. If for some reason they're not a good fit with the team -- as opposed to being a bad off-world risk -- we'll take them through these last two tests until we find the team where they fit."
Colonel Tsavdaridou snorted, "Civilians. Of course. But I would match our military training against that of the U.S. any day."
"We require anyone coming in from the U.S. military to undergo the same three month training period -- at least if they expect to go off-world. If they're filling a research or maintenance niche they get a more intensive civilian type one training."
It was Colonel Reifkohl's turn to run interference Jack noticed. "And this three month training consists of...?"
"The first six weeks are similar to boot camp. Face it, even those of us who go into the field every day often lose our physical edge by the time we hit major. I'm not familiar with your military's fitness requirements for senior officers, but does it include a 25 mile run with a fifty pound pack?"
"Only for the SAS." Chester was speaking. It was probably a good sign.
"Trust me, gentlemen, the boot camp component is necessary. The civilians going off-world get a modified version of it too. More important for the military is the training in Jaffa tactics and strategy plus their hand combat techniques, training with both zatnikatel and staff weapons, and training in all the little ways the Goa'uld can make life hell. Most motherships, for instance, have the same basic layout. Knowing whether to turn right or left to get to the ring device can mean the difference between life and death."
Jack took a sip of water and looked at the men at the table with him. Chester was still bristling, Voss seemed almost sleepy, but Reifkohl and Van den Elst were nodding quietly to themselves. Tsavdaridou looked open, but unconvinced.
"Group Captain, are the men who choose to be transport pilots rather than fighter pilots cowards?"
"No. Not everyone is temperamentally suited to fighter planes."
"Not everyone is suited to walking through the Stargate.
"After the first six weeks, there are day long briefings by each of the technical departments. That's followed by two weeks on base security, and then the test runs with the potential teams. I will say that we allow the civilians more latitude about who they get along with than we do the military. The military people have volunteered for this assignment; the civilians have been recruited."
"I understand your viewpoint, General."
"Thank you, Admiral."
"Were we to stipulate to this retraining, we'd still want a guarantee that, like the Russians, we get our own teams."
Jack settled in for the long haul.
He'd called a break at 10:30. Since Sergeant Davis hadn't interrupted, SG-1 hadn't called in. Jack asked for a meeting with Colonels Edwards and Todd while their international guests were given the ten dollar tour.
Lieutenant Colonel Todd and a diplomatic team were sent to P5X-296 to make polite inquiries into the whereabouts of SG-1. They were to check in hourly.
By the time the SGC's visitors had returned from their tour, Jack had finished reading the précis and the list of names he'd been given. He'd also ordered the blast doors opened in the conference room. It was time they saw the gate in action.
He was waiting by the window when they returned. The foreign delegates joined him as the phrase "Chevron seven locked" came over the speaker system. The gate roared to life and SG-17 headed through on a trading mission to the Land of Light.
Once the silver blue light had winked out, Colonel Tsavdaridou said, "I see why some might choose not to go. It's too big."
"And the first few times through it, you freeze to death." Jack gestured toward the table, "Shall we gentlemen?"
"For a man with only one requirement, you certainly seem to be balking at the idea of individual teams."
"Colonel Van den Elst, unless we kick NORAD out of this mountain -- and right now, I can't see that happening -- we're approaching full capacity for this command. The secrecy means our turnover isn't high. However, this is a dangerous posting. The ... attrition rate is ... higher than we'd like."
"I'm certain it is, General."
Jack let everyone pick up coffee or tea before he continued. "It's the main reason that we're requiring fluency in English. Everyone has to be able to communicate. We have specialist teams for most things."
The silence seemed to drag a bit. "If you like we can put together one, possibly two, NATO teams. However, it would give you fewer people and a lesser presence as part of the Stargate program. Is that what you want?"
Reifkohl spoke, "Our presence is to reassure our people and to make your President look good when the program is made public. I don't think people should be reassured. You've been putting the planet in jeopardy. And while your current president is acceptable, you vote every four years."
"Thank you for your candor." Jack thought for a minute. "I was very impressed with the list you compiled of potential candidates. The first two names on the list particularly. I believe Doctor Jackson has been trying to recruit Herr Professor Freiss for nearly two years."
"I've no doubt he has, General. Unfortunately, they won't be coming here -- neither on a NATO based team nor as integrated personnel." Admiral Voss was smiling.
Jack wasn't. "Then why put them on the list?"
It was Colonel Van den Elst who responded. "Because we know Doctor Jackson's been trying to recruit Freiss and because Freiss would love to come here and work with his former pupil."
"Great, put him on the next plane. We'll find him an office and a salary."
Jack saw Sergeant Davis over Admiral Voss's shoulder. "Gentlemen, I apologize. I need to call a break."
SG-9's check in was interesting. It seemed the society that SG-1 had approached was built on the backs of slaves. A group of runaway slaves had kidnapped SG-1.
The good news was that as a sign of good faith, they were willing to let one member of the team go. The other two would be kept as bargaining chips, and, if the demands weren't met by an unspecified deadline -- which Lieutenant Colonel Todd insisted was at least one week hence -- executed. The only thing the kidnappers wanted at the moment was to know which one the SGC wanted released.
General O'Neill's choice was clear and unhesitating. "Teal'c."
It was more embarrassing when it happened at the SGC. Most embarrassing of all was that Jack now knew to whom the blue eyes belonged.
Jack sat up and checked the clock. 04:00 shone back at him in large, red letters. Teal'c and SG-9 were due back at 06:00.
As he headed for the shower, Jack started the coffee pot in the corner of the room. At least he'd been sleeping on his back. His chest and belly were slick with come, but no one would know that the general needed to change his sheets like some high-hormoned teenager.
The warm water felt good on his skin. Personally, Jack felt like blaming Thor for the whole problem. Maybe if Jack hadn't awoken inside the DanielJackson, he wouldn't be thinking about being inside Daniel Jackson.
Jack looked down. His rigid penis looked back at him. At least it was confirmation, the blue eyes he dreamt were Daniel's all right.
He watched a drop of precome form. In his mind's eye, Daniel smiled at him. What would it be like to be buried in the tightness? What would Daniel sound like as Jack thrust into him?
Suddenly another image came back to him. Usually Jack slept through the night after his watch, but this night something had brought him back to consciousness. Sounds from Daniel's sleeping bag caused him to fake sleep and turn over. Daniel's back was to Jack, but the movements of his arm and the breathy little noises were familiar to Jack from his own silent masturbation attempts.
Neither Jack nor Daniel -- he thought -- made a habit out of getting off on other planets. Jack knew that on the rare occasions that his need overcame him, he told whoever was on watch that he was going to take a leak. The night that he'd listened to Daniel had been very cold, and Daniel had obviously thought Jack was soundly asleep.
Oddly enough, Jack had drifted back to sleep as soon as he'd heard the tight grunt that meant Daniel had come. It was comforting somehow.
Jack could feel the tingle in his balls that meant he was nearing orgasm again. He really hoped that there were no cameras in the showers. His thoughts drifted to wondering what it would be like to thrust into Daniel, his ass or his mouth.
His mouth. That was a huge distraction. Daniel had a full bottom lip that Jack wanted to nibble and tease and tongue and... that was all it took to send him over the edge -- imagining his mouth on Daniel's.
Jack came and then washed himself. Coffee would be ready by now, and he needed time to think.
As he put on his old track pants and sweatshirt, visions of kissing a willing Daniel came back to him. Heaven help him. Jack wasn't just lusting after someone totally inappropriate: he was in love.
Jack somehow thought the revelation that he was now homosexual should have been more... revelatory. It was so much like his realization that he was in love with Sara, that, really, he felt he should have clued in sooner. But, of course, there was the whole "I'm now gay" issue to consider.
How could he approach Daniel about this? What were the pick-up lines -- "want to rub two dicks together and see if we can make a spark?"
Unbidden a memory came back to him. He had only been in prison four months, but waking to find another prisoner shoving his dick into Jack's mouth had stayed with him. And the memory probably stayed with the other guy too; Jack had bitten down hard. He'd fought so hard against the men who tried to hold him down. He'd seen how some of the other men were victimized -- it was what it did to their minds that bothered him far more than what was done to their bodies. What it had done to the minds of the fellow prisoners who inflicted the horror had been worse. Jack might have assassination training, but he was pretty sure he still had a soul: well, pieces of one at any rate.
Now, he was General O'Neill who killed space aliens and saved Earth every other year or so. Loving Daniel was one thing, but inappropriate erections and messy wet dreams were definitely urging the non-platonic version. He could love Daniel all he liked. Jack just couldn't touch him.
Jack grabbed a yogurt out of the mini-fridge -- he'd have to see about the commissary stocking something better when he was staying -- and eating it, headed to the gym.
Pounding on the heavy bag was a great way to ease some tensions. Jack often used it as a way to think things through. There was no question in his mind that he cared for Daniel. There was a huge question about whether Daniel cared for him.
Cared for him. Of course, Daniel cared for him. Daniel cared about and for everything and everyone, the Goa'uld excepted. Kinsey, Maybourne, and the NID could be exceptions too, now that he considered it.
Tangents weren't helping.
Jack loved Daniel. Loved him and was interested in becoming lovers.
Certainly there were few people as open-minded as Daniel, so Jack's courting wouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
Jack finished with the heavy bag and changed into his swim trunks. Now that he was behind a desk he could be kind to his knees. Two miles every morning and another mile before he went home at night was keeping him in pretty good shape. He dove in and began a steady crawl.
Daniel might be completely straight. Worse, Daniel could be completely open-minded and still think "not with Jack."
That was the kicker.
No. The kicker was that no matter how mutual the attraction was, nothing was going to happen. Jack had been in the military for twenty-nine years. He owed the Air Force another two years due to the promotion to general. And for the career he'd had, the life he'd lived, the planets he'd seen, Jack owed the Air Force adherence to their regulations and orders.
What had he told Carter? Any officer could defy an immoral order. Was "don't ask, don't tell" immoral? If it were, then his duty was to inform the top brass that he intended to defy the order before doing so -- which came straight back to talking the whole situation over with Daniel.
At the very least, Jack could be sure that Daniel would listen to him. He was also pretty sure that he could make Daniel understand that this was it for him: last love, lifetime love. It would then be in Daniel's hands to say "yes" or break the "no" to Jack gently.
Then they could discuss the moral choices, and what actions could and should be taken. As he pulled himself out of the pool and headed for the showers, Jack realized that the ultimate decision might be a "long engagement." Two men planning to share a future together and both virgins until the wedding night. How could Daniel trust him to keep promises about the future, if Jack wasn't willing to keep his promises to the Air Force?
Right. It would be a long engagement.
Jack was dressed in his Class A and standing in the gateroom at 06:00. Coffee was being prepared in the conference room and the commissary had set up warm trays of Teal'c's favorite breakfast foods in there as well.
The meeting with the NATO crowd had been postponed to noon.
The gate activated and SG-9s code was confirmed. The iris opened and the team came through. Jack walked up to Teal'c.
"There's breakfast in the conference room. Are you injured?"
"No, O'Neill. Colonel Carter and Daniel Jackson have also been treated well. They left us our MREs and provided screened plumbing and fresh water."
"Glad to hear it."
"They were interested in my people's enslavement. Daniel Jackson's discussion of your Emancipation Proclamation may have saved our lives. These rebels would like to negotiate directly."
"Let's get to the conference room."
Three hours later the preliminary plans had been laid and Teal'c had gone to the infirmary for his check-up and a shower.
The SGC, represented by SG-9 for now, would offer to arbitrate between the rebel slaves and the dominant government. If this were turned down by the slaves, the rescue attempt would begin at 16:00 hours. If it were turned down by the government, then the SGC would attempt to negotiate directly for the remainder of SG-1 to be released. In either case, Jack's recommendation would be to lock the coordinates out of the dialing computer for the future.
Teal'c had suggested that a week's worth of MREs for 40 people would be a good opening gambit with the slaves.
Jack looked at the map on the conference table in front of him. Teal'c had drawn as complete and direct a path to the cell where Sam and Daniel were being held as possible. His abilities to track, remember routes, approximate sizes and numbers of people, and estimate timing had allowed them to put together a rescue operation that might get everyone out alive -- including the idiots who'd kidnapped Jack's people in the first place.
Not for the first time, Jack wondered if having Teal'c on their side was what kept this reality out of the clutches of the Goa'uld.
"I've picked out an office for Herr Professor Freiss. What flight did you say he was on?" Jack figured there was nothing to lose by starting out aggressively.
Admiral Voss picked up the ball. "I reiterate, Herr Professor Freiss will not be coming here."
"Lieutenant Colonel Verhaegen has terrific qualifications. He and Freiss could be the nucleus of an extremely good first contact team."
"Perhaps they could. However, Colonel Verhaegen is the reason that Herr Professor Freiss will not be coming here either."
"Run that one by me again?"
It was Van den Elst who answered. "Your military's policies are at odds with our own. Lieutenant Colonel Verhaegen and Herr Professor Freiss have been in a relationship for many years. One will not come without the other. Neither will come while your odious 'Don't ask; don't tell' policy is in place."
"Is that their decision or yours?"
"Ours," said Admiral Voss.
"Twenty years ago, homosexuality would have meant a section 8 discharge, and for someone serving in the intelligence corps it could mean jail time at hard labor. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is an interim step."
Colonel Tsavdaridou asked, "Is it one of which you approve?"
It was Van den Elst who next spoke. "You think they should all be sent to jail? Go back to the old ways?"
The delegates realized they'd never seen General O'Neill angry.
"You don't know me, so I'll let that pass." Jack let out a deep breath. "I've seen the results of gay bashing. I've seen the results of a lynching. I've seen good women driven out of the military by rape from their fellow officers.
"We've spent over fifty years dealing with the results of racial integration. General Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was the culmination of years of ...
"Gentlemen. I think we can all agree that we're our countries' elite killers. We've helped train others to be killers. We then tell them to live at close quarters. Friction occurs. And in a country like mine with its long history of racism, we put people who have been brought up to hate each other in the same barracks. Miraculously, it works most of the time.
"But we still have racial violence. For thirty-five years we've been dealing with women in our midst. That's longer than any of your gentlemen's militaries have allowed women to serve -- other than in times of war. That integration still isn't complete. None of us will allow women to serve on our submarines, right? Direct combat? Infantry?" Jack looked at the silent men. "I thought not."
It was Van den Elst again. "In the Dutch army, we've had openly gay officers since the 1970s. They fought for their civil rights."
"And how many black officers do you have?"
"A very few whose families come from our former colonies. The British, French, and Belgians have more than we or the Germans do." Colonel Reifkohl nodded in agreement.
"You can afford to be farther ahead on gay issues. You live in a far more liberal society than the United States, and you have conscription. I'd like to see full social, racial, and gender integration in all our services, but not at the expense of the lives or sanity of good people."
"General O'Neill, you can see why we don't want a gay couple to come here. If we feel that any of our people would be discriminated against, we won't permit any of them to come."
Jack took a deep breath. "We have a half-dozen gay civilian personnel that I know about in this facility. Not one has had a problem.
"Your assumption that good people won't accept that an officer serving in another military won't be subject to other regulations sells those under my command short.
"Ask the Russians. The only officer they've had any trouble with on this base is me, and that speaks to my past alone.
"Hell, this command has aliens -- actual people from other planets -- serving here. Teal'c's never had any problems."
Jack thought it over for a minute, "Teal'c's six foot five and built like the proverbial brick house, but Nyan who's barely five foot four has found acceptance here in spite of coming from another planet.
"I resent that you think that Herr Professor Freiss and Lieutenant Colonel Verhaegen will be bashed, battered, or baited if they come here."
It was Group Captain Chester who braved the long silence. "Well-spoken, General."
From Colonel Reifkohl came, "I believe we were to meet the alien, Teal'c."
"And Doctor Jackson." This last was from Colonel Van den Elst.
"They are currently on an assignment. It lasted longer than originally intended. Since you'll all be here through the weekend, would meeting up with them on Monday be acceptable?" Jack hoped that he wouldn't be announcing anyone's death instead of dozing with his eyes open come Monday.
Admiral Voss collected the others by eye. "Of course, General O'Neill. That will give us a chance to make your offer to Freiss and Verhaegen."
Jack gave a small smile as he nodded. "I'll pass along your concerns to the Pentagon." The small smile widened into a grin. "And I'll be certain to cc General Hammond and the President."
Group Captain Chester smiled back. "Yes. That should put the cat among the pigeons."
The meeting broke up for lunch. And Jack went to take the check-ins from his off-world teams.
The slaves had agreed to mediation. So had the dominant government -- the Mastans according to Daniel's check-ins. They'd been ruled by Kronos, so there were Ancient Greek implications. Maybe they should have expected slavery. Well, it would be nice to get everyone out without having to fight.
The meeting began at dawn, planet local time. Jack would see SG-9 off at 02:30. Lieutenant Colonel Todd had been ordered to have someone check-in via radio every two hours. They were on an eight-hour MALP check-in too.
A FRED was being prepped with the recommended gifts. SG-3, SG-5, and SG-11 had been put on high alert for the next seventy-two hours. Teal'c was assigned to them as a guide, and Colonel Edwards was in charge -- belt and suspenders.
In the meantime, Jack had caught up on paperwork and asked Colonel Lincoln's advice on how to word his report requesting the SGC be an experiment in openly gay military service.
As a black woman, Lucille had been amused at his recounting of his reasoning to the IMS representatives. It was good that she had a sense of humor; Jack wasn't sure he could take her in a fair fight.
Now Jack had a chance to nap. He took it.
Sleep had been good, but Jack was worried enough to wake up just over half an hour before he needed to. He did his off-world exercise routine in the "living room" section of his VIP room. Fifteen minutes later he felt stretched and ready to face the day.
Who was he kidding. It was never a good time to face sending his people into danger.
Jack picked up his towel and headed for the shower.
He'd verified that there were no cameras in the shower earlier. There was enough time.
Daniel would be home soon. They could talk.
Jack looked down at his rigid cock. Just the thought of Daniel, and he felt like he could drill granite. He squeezed himself and began a slow stroke as the water fell over his shoulders.
He wondered how tight Daniel liked it and whether he'd be allowed to touch Daniel this way. Better than that he wondered what rhythm the strokes would take when it was Daniel's hands instead of his own rubbing up and down the length -- always assuming that Daniel said 'yes' after their little talk.
How tight would Daniel like it? Guys liked things surrounding their cocks.
In spite of his ability to play stupid, Jack thought of himself as a smart man. Right at the moment he was re-evaluating his intelligence. He'd thought about Daniel stroking him, sucking him, accepting him. But Daniel was a guy, and at least sometimes it would have to be the other way around.
His knees gave out, and Jack sat down and let the water beat on his shoulders. He couldn't do it. It wasn't just the bad experiences in prison. Things weren't supposed to go up that particular orifice. Ever. And to let another man...
Wait a minute. Jameson had had his finger up Jack's ass less than a week ago. That couldn't be the issue. Though, having seen Daniel in the shower, Jack was pretty sure it wouldn't feel like a finger.
But it still felt wrong. Not felt like physical, but inside -- no pun intended. For one man to penetrate another with his penis was the ultimate act of dominance. Jack just couldn't let another man do that to him.
So. He and Daniel could do other things. Stroke each other's cocks or fondle each other's balls. They could kiss. Jack would kiss Daniel all over, everywhere, even the dimples at the top of his butt. Maybe Jack would give in to his oral fixation and try using his tongue on Daniel.
Jack let that thought sink in. His balls tingled with excitement as his cock leaked. He wiped it off with his fingers and, rather than letting it wash away, he cupped the precome in his hand and licked it off. Another little remnant of his heterosexuality flitted away as he realized it that as long as it was Daniel's cock and Daniel's come, he could do this.
If Jack could contemplate blowing his best friend, his lover, then why couldn't he think about having a penis that had been in his mouth, er, elsewhere.
The reaction during his physical had been embarrassing. It wasn't the first time it had happened, either. Even with the awkwardness of the situation, something about having his prostate touched was a turn on.
As he stood up, Jack picked up the tube of aloe vera gel that he'd brought into the stall with him. He usually just used it for a smoother sensation when he jerked off. But it was here, this -- penetration, dammit -- was on his mind. A large dollop of gel went on the middle finger of his left hand. He slid the finger deliberately between his cheeks.
It was a real kick that maybe Daniel would want his sorry old ass. Well, maybe not that sorry. He'd heard one of the women in the linguists' area comment on how nice it was.
A little more aloe vera and this time he deliberately penetrated his asshole. If he wanted to do this to Daniel someday -- and he had to face the fact that he wanted to do this to Daniel -- then he'd have to be willing to have it done to him. A little practice couldn't hurt.
It was weird, but not bad. The worst thing was the odd angle that he had to cant his arm at. He spread more lube on his fingers, bent forward, and braced his other hand on the wall. Two fingers slipped in. He was losing a little of the stiffness in his erection.
Jack flexed his shoulder a little and twisted his fingers so that they slipped a little deeper. He'd found the spot, and his cock was standing to attention like it was the first week of bootcamp.
He spread his fingers a little, and everything seemed to accomodate them. Another little readjustment and he hit the spot again. It felt good. It felt extremely good. He couldn't get too much movement, but Jack managed to do a little slip, slide rhythm with his fingers. He bent a little further forward, and that seemed to improve the angle and the slide.
Jack knew his own rhythm from the outside. He was surprised to find that he liked it a little different from the inside. Every third or fourth stroke was a little deeper. He slid his fingers out completely and stood up.
Looking down at his weeping dick, he knew what he had to do. More of the gel went on his fingers. He could feel some of it sliding out of his ass. Jack quelled a moment of panic.
He leaned farther forward and slowly slid three fingers inside himself. It was painful for a moment. A deep breath, then another one, and finally the tight circle eased. The width was probably still a little smaller than Daniel might be, but that flashing sensation behind his eyes felt so good.
For just a second it felt like Daniel was there with him. Jack almost thought he could hear the murmur of reassurance. He relaxed completely, and then found his rhythm.
Jack's cock perked up -- way up -- at the internal sensations. It didn't take long before he came in long ropes all over the shower wall. His ass clenched so tightly that he was afraid he might have broken a finger.
As he lathered up, Jack let his mind think about how good it would feel to bury himself in Daniel and feel that clenching milking everything out of his balls. It might almost be as good as having Daniel stroking inside him.
The 06:30 check-in from SG-9 contained an agreed upon code word. The talks were in trouble and so was SG-1. A second code word which would have indicated that SG-9 was also in trouble wasn't used. Jack's reply included a request for a face to face discussion with SG-9 at the 8:30 check-in.
The Mastans agreed to take a break so that could happen.
Jack ordered the three team commanders and Teal'c to meet him in the conference room in fifteen minutes. The plans would be reviewed and any changes made and agreed to.
At 07:30, Jack sent the teams out. SG-11 was to hold the gate until SG-9 came for the meeting. In the meantime, Teal'c led the other teams to the slaves stronghold.
Jack kept staring at the plans and the map. Every time he checked his watch, he verified what should be happening on P5X-296 at that moment. Over and over, the thought went through his mind that no one should die. The rescue had been planned carefully, so no one should die.
Admiral Voss knocked on the conference room door at 08:15.
"May I stay with you?"
" Who gossiped?" Jack gave a little snort at the Admiral's expression. "Never mind. I'll have to head down to the control room in a few minutes, but you're welcome to stay."
"Thank you, General."
The two senior officers waited in silence and sipped their coffee for the next ten minutes.
"If any of your committee wants to see the bad parts of this command, they may watch from here, Admiral."
Voss picked up the phone and let Chester know; the others would be there in a few minutes.
"Care to join me, Admiral?"
They went to the control room. Jack motioned Admiral Voss to a seat where he could watch the proceedings and be out of the way of any emergency.
"Incoming wormhole, the IDC is SG-11, sir." Sergeant Davis looked at Jack expectantly.
"Open the iris." SG-9 was the first through. The observers could hear weapons fire via the MALP. Apparently, the Mastans had energy weapons.
Jack ordered the camera turned on. SG-11 was holding the 'gate clear. Two members of SG-5 broke into the open under SG-11's cover, then a minute passed and they were in the gateroom ducking an energy blast that hit the wall under the control room. The other two members of SG-5 came through carrying one of SG-3 between them. They were followed by two members of SG-11 and another member of SG-3.
Suddenly Teal'c was there with Lieutenant Colonel Carter carrying one of SG-11 who'd been badly hit; Jack thought Lieutenant Billings might lose the leg. He heard himself give the order for emergency medical teams to the gateroom.
Another weak energy burst came through the open gate. The final member of SG-11 came through with Colonel Edwards supporting him. It looked like an injured arm. They'd barely cleared the ramp when Daniel dove through shouting the order to close the iris.
Sergeant Davis didn't even check with Jack as he obeyed the order. Jack glanced at the clock: 08:40.
Admiral Voss came up behind Jack. "I don't envy you your command, General."
"You shouldn't. If you'll excuse me, Admiral?" Jack started for the gateroom as Voss climbed the stairs back to the conference room.
Entering the gateroom, Jack surveyed the damage. Medics were already treating the three wounded.
Colonel Edwards came up to him. "All present and accounted for, General."
Daniel stood to one side watching Jack take command of the room.
"Good job, Colonel. All teams should report to the infirmary. Debriefing will be at 10:00 hours unless I hear differently from Doctor Brightman."
Carter came up to him. She looked haggard. "Do you want a preliminary report, sir?"
"The Prime Minister wanted to accompany us to the gate to greet you personally. It seemed like a good idea diplomatically, but it's what attracted the rebels. They were trying for him. We were badly outnumbered, so they got us, too."
"And the Prime Minister?"
"We freed him on our way out, sir."
"Glad to hear it, colonel. See you at 10:00."
"Yes, sir." Carter turned on her heal and walked out.
Teal'c stopped before him. "It went well, O'Neill." Jack nodded and watched Teal'c head for the infirmary.
Daniel looked at Jack.
Jack glanced up and locked eyes with Daniel. They just stared at each other for a moment. Jack swore that he could see when the penny dropped behind Daniel's eyes. It seemed that Daniel might not be as surprised about talking to Jack as Jack feared.
Daniel walked up to him and, for the first time that Jack could remember, reached for Jack -- his hand grasped Jack's shoulder.
His voice was quiet. "We're back. All of us made it home." Daniel's smile was slow and shy.
Jack's smile answered it. Whatever they discussed, whatever decision they came to, they'd be all right.
So what if it might be a long engagement?
September 25, 2004
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