Milestones by sideburns
Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: First Time.
Season/Spoilers: Season 5.  Set after Menace.
Synopsis: New planet, Daniel recognizes the significance of the date, ruminates about the many foster homes, and ultimately, two men come to terms with their feelings. Beware of monkeys. 
Warnings: In spite of early appearances, this story requires NO warnings. Just keep that in mind. 
Length:  89Kb

Milestones by sideburns

Daniel hadn't thought about foster homes for years. Okay, two years. But before two years ago, he hadn't thought about them for years. Now, out of the clear blue, he had Foster Care on the brain. Daniel took off his glasses and let them drop onto the table. He knew exactly what this meant. It meant that in the next few days he was bound to meet up with someone from one of the foster homes he'd been "sent".

No, wait. That was actually highly unlikely considering that in twelve hours he'd be going off-world. In all probability he wouldn't be running into anyone from his past, at least not here in Cheyenne Mountain. And he'd bet a year's salary (a nicely amount, if he was saying so himself - and he was) that he wouldn't run into anyone from his foster past on P2U-119. Although, the way Goa'uld's were popping up on Earth, maybe that wasn't so farfetched after all.

Daniel put his glasses back on and shook his head. No, a foster-care alumni was probably *not* a Goa'uld now. So that meant that P2U-119 was definitely foster-care alumni free.

What was he talking about again?

He really needed coffee. Daniel got up, mug in hand, and walked over to his very own personal coffee-maker. He poured, then cursed in Swahili. He was out of coffee. Daniel reached into the cupboard below and finding nothing, cursed in Farsi. He was really out of coffee. Which meant a trip to the mess hall. Sighing, he headed out.

As he walked down the near empty halls of the SGC, Daniel wondered why there were so few people around. He checked his watch and slapped his cheek. It was three in the morning, good reason for empty halls.

By the time he arrived at the mess hall, he'd decided he was also hungry. Pancakes? Yes. Coffee and pancakes. To go. Stella would be on duty right about now, getting the food ready for the six am breakfast rush. He'd not only be able to snag her special coffee blend (blended with him in mind), but one of her fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits. Biscuits and pancakes? Hell, why not.

"'Morning, Doctor Jackson."

"Morning, Stella. I don't suppose you have--"

"Your coffee? Sure do. Hang on a minute." Stella, fifty-two, grandmother of six, Air Force civilian employee for twenty years, hustled back into the kitchen and returned with a bag of her coffee in one hand and a plate holding two hot biscuits in the other.

"Here you go, Doc." She handed her gifts over and Daniel took them gratefully, a huge smile on his face.

"You're tops in my book, Stella."

"And you're lucky. I just finished creating a new pancake recipe. Can you tear yourself away from your work long enough to indulge?"

Daniel made a show of deep thought, then nodded. "You know, I think I just might have the time to try out your new recipe. Probably my duty as a civilian to try out new recipes for the Air Force." He winked and she grinned.

"Give me five minutes, and you'll have a plate of the best pancakes you've ever tasted, Doc."

Daniel held up the biscuits. "I think these will keep me busy for a few minutes. Take your time, Stella. And are you sure Mr. Ingersoll won't give you a divorce?"

Stella gave him her best "go on with you" look, then said, "And people say you're shy. Not hardly."

Chuckling, Daniel headed over to a near-by table, set his biscuits down, then got a cup of hot coffee and a couple of jelly packets. Back at the table, he pulled open one of the flaky biscuits, slathered it with the grape jelly, then popped half of it into his mouth. The Air Force had some very good qualities. Like Stella and her biscuits.

As he munched, the door to the mess hall opened and a man in civvies walked in. Daniel looked up, surprised. At three in the morning, he was usually the only mess hall inhabitant, even in the SGC where the hours were definitely flexible. As the civilian walked over to the coffee, Daniel frowned. The guy looked familiar. Very familiar.

Daniel took the other half of the biscuit and absently bit down as he continued to watch the man. Amazingly enough, the guy hadn't noticed yet that he wasn't alone.

Big hall, fifty tables, one geeky guy.

Daniel was trying to get a fix on the man, on where he knew him from, when Stella came out of the kitchen with a tray. She walked over to his table and with great flourish, placed a plate stacked with pancakes in front of him.

"There you go, Doc. And if you can identify the secret ingredient, my pork roast is yours for dinner tonight."

"Um, Stella? Doesn't everyone get your pork roast tonight?"

"No, Doc. Everyone else will get my ham, my meatloaf and my cornflake encrusted salmon. *You* will get my fruit stuffed, apricot glazed pork roast."

Ignoring the civilian for a moment, Daniel immediately dug into the pancakes. He chewed, closed his eyes, tried to separate out the flavors--

"Okay, beside the usual ingredients, I'm tasting -- sour cream, vanilla, nutmeg, mmm, got it. Cardamon, right?"

"You just tasted your way to my pork roast, Doc. You *are* good. Cute, twenty-some languages, and the best taste buds in the country."

He grinned, then forked more pancakes into his mouth. Smiling, Stella headed back to the kitchen. As Daniel washed down the pancakes with a swallow of coffee, a hand landed on his shoulder.

"Daniel?"

Naturally he looked up into the face of the civilian. A face that while still familiar, was giving him no clue as to why.

"Um, do I know you?"

"If you're Daniel Jackson you do. In 1977, I had to spend the six months before my eighteenth birthday as a ward of the State after my foster parents died. We shared bunk beds."

Daniel was pretty sure he was in an elevator. And it was falling. What had he said to himself? Next few days he'd be running into someone from his past? Try minutes.

"Steve Lawson," Daniel finally managed to say.

"Yep, that's me." Steve indicated the chair opposite Daniel and asked, "May I?"

A few years ago, Daniel would have nodded, but he'd been around Jack O'Neill too long. "Why? If memory serves, I'm the last person in the world you'd want to be 'seen' with, Lawson."

"Come on, Daniel. I was a kid."

"You were seventeen. A big seventeen."

Lawson was still standing. His eyes narrowed, then he seemed to relax. "Hey, water under the bridge, Danny. Water under the bridge. We should talk about how we both ended up here, in Cheyenne Mountain. Very odd. The Daniel Jackson I remember would certainly *not* be in the military."

Years with Jack O'Neill needling him served Daniel well at that moment. He simply smiled as he said, "No, not military. Just a civilian consultant. One of those weird military projects that tax payers are always complaining about. You?"

"I'm with Ellison Industries. We supply several--"

Daniel raised his hand. "TMI, Lawson. You probably make some vitally important part that goes on some vitally important -- something -- so congratulations."

"Well, well. WhineyDanny has learned to whine like a grown-up. You should be so proud."

Exposure to Jack was really coming in handy. Daniel smiled, then said, "You were an exemplary model, Lawson. As a guest of the State, I figured out early that the key to survival was to watch and learn. You just never knew when you'd discover the secret to life."

Eyeing the empty chair, Lawson said, "You had plenty of opporunity to listen and learn, didn't you, Danny? I almost felt inferior to you. Me with only one foster home and all. How many did you have again?" Lawson asked snidely.

"I was going for the record of most homes in a five year period, but sadly, I never made it. I think some kid in Tallawhoso, Alabama won those honors."

Lawson smiled dryly. "So, why *are* you here? Not to change the subject or anything."

Daniel indicated his plate of pancakes. "Eating, Lawson. Eating. You seemed to have lost your observational skills with age."

"And you seem to be under the impression that you've found a sense of humor. I'll leave you with that delusion. So, I ask again, why are you here at Cheyenne Mountain?"

Daniel made a point of peering at Lawson's ID badge, then gave a helpless shrug of his shoulders and said sadly, "Sorry, Lawson, your clearance isn't high enough."

He knew he shouldn't have said it, but he couldn't deny the thrill it gave him to watch Lawson's face go beet red. Daniel decided it was time for the great exit. He pushed back his chair, smiled benignly, and said, "Gotta get back to work, Lawson. Good seeing you again." Daniel picked up the plate of remaining pancakes, the other biscuit and his coffee, then walked out at a leisurely pace.

Okay, not the greatest exit in the world. In fact, kind of cumbersome with all the food, but hey.

By the time he returned to his office, his food was cold, but that wasn't a problem. He liked cold pancakes. Daniel set everything down, made more coffee, thanks to Stella's bag, then sat at his worktable and started picking at his food.

Foster homes. Foster families. How many *had* he been in over the years? Daniel pulled a legal pad over, picked up his pen and started writing.

1) The Simpsons. Best of the bunch. Eleven months.

Daniel looked at the words and smiled faintly. He remembered that at the time, the last thing in the world he'd wanted was to be adopted by the Simpsons. He'd wanted Nick to come back and take him. He'd *believed* that Nick would come back. In hindsight, the best thing would have been the the Simpsons making him Daniel Jackson-Simpson. He picked up his pen and wrote the rest, then read them back to himself.

2) The Wilsons. Five months. Hell on Earth. Drunk Mr. Wilson. Beauty Queen Mrs. Wilson. Quiet Sally Wilson.

Daniel remembered Sally. She'd been all right in spite of her parents. She and Daniel had made a life of hiding from them. Daniel wondered where she was now. She'd be, what, forty?

3) The Hamptons. Only two weeks. They separated then divorced.

What had they looked like? He couldn't remember.

4) Maxine Colter. Two years. Tough old bird.

Daniel smiled in memory. He'd -- loved -- her. Now that he thought about it, she'd been the perfect introduction to the military. Yes, he'd hated taking orders from her too, but the difference was that when he *did* obey, he got a hug, a nose full of Shalimar perfume, and chocolate walnut cookies. Maybe he should suggest that to Jack? Not the Shalimar, no, Daniel was quite content with a nose full of Jack's aftershave. But he could certainly use a hug and some chocolate chip cookies when he obeyed. His grin widened. Daniel could see the headlines now.

"United States Air Force institutes new reward program involving hugs, Dakkar, and chocolate chip cookies. Don't ask, don't tell."

Okay, back to his list. As he looked down at the pad, his grin faded. With a sigh, he added: Maxine - deceased.

She'd died in his arms, in the backyard. Aneurysm. They'd been raking leaves.

5) The State of New York for eight months.

Daniel had withdrawn after Maxine's death and he'd been impossible to place. For eight months, he'd slept with ten other boys in a place that was little more than a jail. Probably why he was so comfortable in the bowels of the SGC.

Okay, enough with the maudlin thoughts.

6) The Cabots. Eighteen months. Miriam Cabot was a dream. Bill Cabot was a salesman on the road ten months out of the year, home one weekend a month.

Bill Cabot got fired and promptly turned out to be a nightmare. It had taken Miriam five months to finally acknowledge what her husband was doing to their foster child. Once she'd reported her 'loving' husband, Daniel had been taken away and once again placed in the care of the State. This time it had been almost a year, what with all the therapy and no one willing to take on an abused teenage boy.

7) Wilhimena Stockton. One year (give or take).

Willy had been one of the women who'd cared for him while recovering from life with the Cabots She'd finally talked her superiors into allowing her to take him. They'd agreed. Willy had been forty-five. Daniel had remained with her until he started college at sixteen. Thanks to her, he'd also recovered from several months as Steve Lawson's personal punching bag. But it had also been Willy who'd been responsible for Daniel's first scholarship.

Willy had been gruff, undemonstrative, but she'd loved him with her all her heart. She'd been killed by a drunk driver less than a year after Daniel had left her home.

So. Seven foster homes. Suddenly Daniel picked up the pen again.

8) Abydos. One year. Kasuf, father. Skaara, brother. Shau're, wife.

Couldn't forget Abydos. Home for one glorious year. At the time, the best year of his life following the death of his parents.

Daniel picked up the pen again.

9) The SGC. Five years. Father, General George Hammond. Mother, the United States Air Force. Big sister, Major Samantha Carter. Big brother, Teal'c. Ex-best friend and favorite wet dream, Colonel Jack O'Neill.

Doing some quick math in his head, Daniel figured that he'd averaged eleven months per home. Ninety months divided by eight homes. Gee, by those calculations, the SGC could almost be announced as a permanent. He was definitely on a roll with them. Five whole years.

Of course, his roll seemed almost over, but it had been a good run and he really shouldn't be surprised by the fact that he was finally wearing out his welcome. After all, he'd only lasted an average of eleven months everywhere else.

Daniel took the last pancake, rolled it like a taquito, then ate it. He really needed to ask Sam about Ellison Industries.

At seven forty-five, Daniel walked into the 'Gate room, ready to depart for P2U-119. He was the first to arrive. Jack was going to faint. Daniel's first mission since being released by Doctor Frasier and he was not only on time, but early. At that thought, Daniel glanced down at his left wrist. Looked good. Physical therapy had done wonders and the scar was barely visible.

"DanielJackson, you are early."

Daniel turned to see Teal'c approaching him. "Hey, Teal'c. Yeah, I am. Gotta keep Jack on his toes, you know."

Teal'c frowned and Daniel had no doubt in the world that in spite of five years with humans, he was currently seeing Jack O'Neill dancing around on his toes. He decided to take pity on his friend.

"Keep him off balance, keep him guessing, Teal'c."

"I see. On his toes or off balance, I am certain that O'Neill will be very happy to have you back. I know I am. I have missed you on our missions."

"Thanks, Teal'c. I've missed -- all -- of you as well."

Before anything else could be said, Sam entered, her face lighting up at seeing Daniel.

"Daniel, and you're on time. The Colonel will faint."

"DanielJackson likes to keep O'Neill off his--"

"On--"

"On his toes and off balance, Major Carter."

Sam gave her head a little shake, then settled for a tolerant grin as she gave Daniel a rather stiff and self-conscious hug.

"It really is good to see you back, Daniel."

"I haven't been anywhere, Sam," he said without thinking.

Sam's cheeks went pink, then she said, "Of course not. I just mean, you know, on missions."

He nodded, but was prevented from saying anything else by Jack's arrival.

"Well, well, the prodigal son returns. How's the wrist and how did you manage to make it on time?"

Okay, it was true he'd missed the actual briefing on P2U-119, but it wasn't as if the rest of SG-1 didn't know he would be joining them. Swallowing his sudden discomfort, he said, "Wrist is fine, and was I on time? I thought I was early."

"DanielJackson is correct, O'Neill. He was early."

"SG-1?"

They all turned as one unit to look up at the control room. Hammond stood staring down at them.

"Doctor Jackson, welcome back."

"Thank you, General Hammond. It's good to be back."

The 'Gate began to turn then and chevrons were locked into place. Nodding, Hammond said, " Colonel, you're good to go."

Two minutes later, SG-1 walked up the ramp and through the wormhole.

"Well what do you know? It really is a tropical paradise." Jack looked behind him and said, "Carter, I don't believe we've ever walked out and into the off-world version of Hawaii before, have we?"

"We believed Urgo's planet was a -- paradise, did we not, O'Neill?"

"Fake doesn't count, Teal'c. This is the real thing," Jack said with a grin that quickly faded. "Uh, right, Carter? This *is* the real thing?"

"Unless we're looking at the greatest hologram of all time, yes, this is real."

Jack stepped down from the 'Gate platform and onto soft grass. Palm trees surrounded them and all four could hear the sound of what could only be crashing waves. Overhead, large colorful birds glided through the bright blue sky and a cooling breeze kept them all from feeling the heat to the point of discomfort.

"Carter, why are we here again?"

"Research colony, Sir? UAV picking up a heat signature? *Single* heat signature, but no one visible? Planet in the throes of redevelopement and -- this."

"Right. So. Possibly one lone inhabitant. You picking anything up on your doodad?"

Carter, eyes on the instrument in her hand, grinned. "Nothing showing yet, Sir."

Daniel pushed the booney back off his head and gazed around as he said, "Anyone else get the feeling that we're being watched?"

Without looking at him, Jack said, "No."

Teal'c narrowed his eyes and concentrated on the area surrounding them. Finally he said, "I do not, DanielJackson. I believe we are alone."

Daniel gave his friend a self-deprecating shrug.

"Well, let's head toward the sound of water. Maybe we'll spot something on the way," Jack posited. He put his sunglasses on, adjusted his cap and started forward. SG-1 fell in behind him.

In the absence of anything even remotely Goa'uld or Egyptian, Daniel spent the walk recording the planet's flora and fauna. He'd be taking samples later, per his instructions from Doctor Saranjo, the SGC's top botanist. Gee, if he wasn't spying, attempting to assassinate system lords or avoiding Jack O'Neill, he was taping flowers and taking samples. And keeping quiet.

As he walked -- quietly -- and taped -- quietly -- he wondered if Jack would ever forgive him for what he'd said in the 'Gate room with Reese. He'd apologized, but in all honesty, Reese had simply been the camel's back-breaking straw. Okay, if he were honest with himself, he was still a bit ticked off by the Reese episode too. If he were honest with himself, he'd admit that he'd taken the whole thing very personally.

The whole situation had been another sign that for Jack, every member of SG-1 could be trusted *except* Daniel Jackson. That every member's opinion mattered, except Daniel Jackson's.

Why had it been so easy for Sam to see and understand that Urgo had somehow become a sentient being, yet she couldn't, or wouldn't, see the same thing with the child-like Reese? Forget that Jack had *never* seen Urgo as a living being, he'd at least given into the idea once Sam had championed it.

The dark truth of the matter was; Daniel simply didn't think on the same plane as Sam or Jack, and after all these years, there'd been little to no movement toward joining Daniel on his plane, let alone understanding it. Daniel was still the big mouth that Jack usually wanted to throw head first into a wall.

Why was that?

The team stood on the brink of the beach and watched as aquamarine blue water slid up and over the creamy white sand while only a few feet further down, magnificent waves crashed over huge dark rocks. Overhead, the same colorful birds dipped, swayed, and flirted with gravity just before plunging toward the water only to break off at the last moment and head heavenward again.

"Sweet," Jack said as he gazed out over the ocean, the view captivating.

"Sir, I really should take samples. Test the water?"

Jack looked down at his 2IC and grinned. "Right. Test the water. Probably should take off your boots too, right, Major?"

"Couldn't hurt, Sir."

Shaking his head, Jack gave the go ahead sign and they headed off across the sand. When they were a few feet from the shore, he said, "Teal'c, you sense any possible Goa'uld in the water?"

"I sense nothing, O'Neill."

"Carter?"

"Same here, Sir."

Daniel, a foot or so behind Teal'c, said, "They couldn't sense the larve in the water on Chaka's planet either."

Jack looked at him over his sunglasses, then turned to Carter. "So, do your thing, test the water, let us know if dipping a toe is going to result in glowing eyes, death by an exotic poison, or transporting to some underground laboratory where some alien will use our brains as ping-pong balls, okay?"

Carter shot Daniel a covert look, then nodded and stepped toward the water, knelt down and opened her pack. Teal'c stood by her side, eyes scanning the water.

Fifteen minutes later, she straightened. "Sir, according to all my testing, the water is safe. The make-up is very similar to our own oceans."

Jack immediately handed his P-90 to Teal'c, took off his pack and jacket, then sat down and began to remove his boots and socks. Smiling, Carter did the same. As Jack rolled up his fatigues, he said, "Teal'c, watch our six. I'll trade you places in a few."

Teal'c nodded and watched as Jack and Carter approached the water. Daniel stayed where he was. Without taking his eyes from the water and his teammates, Teal'c said, "Are you not going to join them, DanielJackson?"

"No. I'll take Jack's weapon, Teal'c, if you'd like to join them."

"I do not believe getting my feet wet will accomplish anything, DanielJackson."

Smiling, Daniel gently took the P-90 from Teal'c's hand and said, "Teal'c, after five years on Earth, you've yet to experience an ocean. You got close with the pleasure palace, but no cigar. Take your boots off and give it a try. I think you'll enjoy it. Trust me."

Teal'c gave Daniel a look of disbelief but when Daniel shrugged, he sat down and began to remove his boots.

"I do not understand, but I promised you that I would try everything at least once, did I not?"

Surprised that Teal'c remembered, Daniel grinned. "Yes you did, Teal'c."

In one fluid motion, Teal'c was on his feet. "You are smiling, DanielJackson. A true smile. I have missed that."

Daniel jerked his head toward the water. "Go, Teal'c. Dip."

Teal'c lowered his head, then walked toward the water, Jack and Sam.

"Who's watching our backs, Teal'c?" Jack asked as the Jaffa came up to him, dark eyes fastened on the approaching wave.

"DanielJackson. There are four of us once again, O'Neill."

Jack looked over his shoulder to see Daniel standing guard, his face expressionless. Something clutched at his heart and he quickly turned back to the water and Teal'c.

"Yes, we are four again," he said quietly.

Daniel was having that feeling again; the feeling of being watched. He rubbed at the back of his neck even as he continued to scan the beach and water for anything dangerous. Sam was knee deep in the water, Jack thigh deep, and obviously uncaring that he would soon be wet from the waist down. Daniel gave a brief thought to Jack's discomforwhen the salt dried. He smiled faintly when he noticed that Teal'c was still only ankle deep in the water.

Daniel knew damn well that any minute now, Jack would start to splash Teal'c. All bets would be off then.

A strange tremor beneath his feet caused Daniel to jump back, eyes wide. O-kay, this was strange.

"If there are weird prehistoric creatures under this sand, I swear--"

The ground rumbled again, then shifted and before his eyes, the ground opened up, sand rapidly disappearing. Daniel's mind just had time to scream "SINKHOLE!" when the ground beneath his feet gave way. The whoosh that accompanied the drop of his body literally pulled the P-90 from his hands, then he was sinking and the blue sky was disappearing.

Jack was just about to give into the impulse to splash Teal'c when something captured his attention. He stopped, turned, cocked his head.

"Sir?" Carter asked, concerned.

"Did you feel that?"

Carter stilled, then said, "I don't know--"

"Like the ground is--"

"DANIELJACKSON!"

At Teal'c's yell, Jack whipped around to face the beach. His jaw dropped open as stunned, he watched his P-90 fly into the air and Daniel drop out of sight. An instant later, heart in his throat, Jack was charging up the beach, Teal'c close behind, Carter bringing up the rear. When Jack got to the spot where Daniel had been standing seconds earlier, there was nothing but sand. He dropped to his knees and began to dig. Large dark hands soon joined him, as did smaller pale hands.

"Sinkhole," Carter said breathlessly as the sand flew beneath her fingers.

"He's here, keep digging," Jack commanded.

Two minutes later, Jack's hand hit something fleshy. "I'VE GOT HIM!"

Jack gripped what he realized was a wrist and he began to pull. Teal'c dug his hands in deeper, made a connection, and a moment later, they were pulling a sand-covered Daniel up.

"Sir, we should move away in case of another--"

Jack nodded as Teal'c immediately slid his arms under Daniel and stood. With Daniel clasped to his chest, he began to run, the others following. When Teal'c reached the edge of the beach and the lush tropical jungle, he stopped and gently dropped to his knees. He placed Daniel on the grass just as Carter and Jack dropped down on either side of the prone man.

Sam rested her cheek close to Daniel's nose and mouth, looked toward his chest for five seconds, then rested two fingers against his carotid. A moment later, she shook her head."He's not breathing and I'm not getting a pulse," she said, her voice holding an edge of panic.

"You take his chest, I'll do the breathing, Carter," Jack said tonelessly.

She nodded and watched as Jack gently brushed the sand away from Daniel's nose and mouth, then checked his airway. He tilted Daniel's head back, pinched his nose, then puffed two breaths into Daniel's mouth.

Sam placed the heel of one hand on lower part of Daniel's sternum, then placed her other hand directly on top of first. Looking up at Teal'c, she said, "Count for me, Teal'c. Fifteen compressions."

Teal'c nodded and Sam began.

"One, two, three--"

When she reached fifteen, Jack breathed twice into Daniel's mouth, then checked his pulse. Nothing. They continued. Fifteen compressions, two breaths, fifteen compressions, two breaths. Teal'c's voice remained steady and low as he counted for Sam. Each time Jack shook his head after checking for any sign of breathing on Daniel's part, Teal'c's jaw would tighten before he'd begin counting again. As Sam compressed, time moved slowly, and inevitably, tears began to track down her cheeks.

After six minutes, Sam said, "Sir, we've lost... him."

"Keep going, Carter," Jack ordered tersly.

"Sir--"

"Keep. Going."

"I will take over, Major Carter," Teal'c offered. He slid over and as Carter rose up from a compression, Teal'c replaced her hands on Daniel's sternum. "This is ten," he said. Sam nodded and took over the counting and timing.

Fifteen compressions, two breaths, fifteen compressions, two breaths. They kept going and going and Daniel continued to not breathe.

As Jack breathed again for Daniel, Sam checked her watched. She had to blink away the tears to see, but when she could finally make out the numbers, she almost sobbed. Jack's head shot up as Teal'c started the compressions again.

"It's been over twenty minutes since we saw him disappear, Colonel. Even if--"

"...thirteen, fourteen, fifteen," Teal'c's voice intoned as he counted his compressions.

Jack didn't move. His hand remained in the position of cupping Daniel's chin. Slowly he lowered Daniel's head. Teal'c had stopped at fifteen and now sat back on his heels and waited. He looked from Carter to O'Neill.

"He's... gone, Sir," Sam said gently.

Jack's face went slack as he moved his fingers through Daniel's hair, dislodging sand.

Blue sky, blue water, colorful birds. Same old, same old. Daniel blinked. Same planet, but no sinkhole. No P-90. No Jack, no Teal'c, no Sam.

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," he said to no one."

Daniel looked up the beach, then down.

Empty.

"JACK?"

Nothing.

He considered yelling for Carter and Teal'c, but he knew it would be of no use. They weren't here. Wherever here was.

"HELLO?" he yelled.

God, he hated it when this happened and damn it, it happened way too often for his peace of mind. He started to move in a circular pattern as he yelled out, "MY NAME IS DANIEL JACKSON. WE'RE -- I'M -- A PEACEFUL EXPLORER FROM EARTH."

He decided to dispense with the rest of spiel. He waited.

"My name is Moab."

Daniel spun around and found himself facing a man with silver skin, silver hair, and matching eyes rimmed with gold. He wore a black robe and was barefoot.

"Moab?"

The man smiled. "No, Moawwb."

"Ah. Moab."

The man nodded.

Daniel held up one finger and said, "Would you mind clarifying something for me?"

"Of course, anything, Daniel."

"Am I -- dead?"

"Not at all. You are very much alive."

"Okay. Would you mind sharing where my friends might be?"

"They are -- here. I've simply shifted their perceptions," Moab said.

"Shifted perceptions?"

"It would be difficult to explain."

"I see. Would it be too difficult to explain," he gave a little wiggle of his head, "*why* you shifted perceptions? Why I'm here and they're -- there -- wherever."

"It is quite simple. This is my world. I am the last of my people. You arrived, I need to understand you. Are you safe? Are you here to do me and my world harm? You have one among you who carries a Goa'uld, yet none of you are self-proclaimed gods."

"Oh, I don't know about that. Jack might--" Daniel waved his hand in the air. "Um, never mind. Forget I said that. And you're talking about Teal'c. He's a Jaffa, but he turned away from the false gods and now fights with us against them. How do you know of the Goa'uld?"

"The Goa'uld destroyed my people," Moab said simply.

Daniel was having trouble digesting that information. In the last five years, the SGC had certainly come across worlds that had been destroyed or enslaved, but to find a world where *one* person remained? The only time it had happened, it had been a trap.

"Come, Daniel. You are hot and you are hungry. I must be a good host. You shall eat and I shall share information."

Moab began to walk up the beach toward the jungle. Daniel frowned, poked his glasses back up on his nose, then reluctantly followed.

"Moab, my friends *are* all right, aren't they?"

"As I said, they are fine, alive, unharmed. When I am certain that you and your people can be trusted, I shall return you to them."

As Daniel plodded after the man of silver, he thought if only he had a quarter for every time someone had said that to him, he'd own, maybe, Hawaii by now.

Moab led him away from the beach and once in the jungle, the breeze that had kept him from going crazy, ended. The humidity and heat increased, but his discomfort didn't stop him from enjoying the scenery.

The lush tropical paradise was full of animal life, most of which apparently comfortable with Daniel's presence. Unless he was mistaken, the animals swinging in vines over his head, chittering and chattering away, were monkeys. Lots and lots of monkeys. Black ones with white tails, gray ones with red and gray tails, white ones with black faces, and all of them curious but unafraid.

At one point, one of the monkeys dropped from a low branch, swung by its tail, and as Daniel passed underneath, the little devil tried to take Daniel's booney.

"Hey! Cut it out, buddy! Get your own hat."

The little guy chittered wildly, hands waving in the air. Moab stopped to watch as Daniel waved his arms right back at the monkey, then mimicked the chatter. The monkey froze, then let go of the tree branch and dropped onto Daniel's shoulder.

"You appear to have picked up a guest, Daniel. That is Lodi. He is harmless."

The monkey was playing with Daniel's glasses, his furry cheek pressed against Daniel's as he tried to peer through the lenses.

"He has a name? Or is Lodi the type of monkey?"

"Lodi is his name. I have named them all."

"We have monkeys on my world, Moab. Your planet is very similar to many places on mine."

Moab had started walking again, Daniel and Lodi following.

"I am glad you find my home pleasing," Moab said as he pushed through several vines, then held them back so that Daniel could pass through.

"At home, we call places like this a 'paradise'," Daniel said, smiling. The sound of water caught his attention and he turned away from Moab to find the source.

"My God," he said quietly.

He was facing a lagoon. But a lagoon like none that he'd ever seen. The water put the color cerulean to shame. Huge, magnificent flowers in bright red, pink, violet and yellow, sprang up out of the greenery, their fragrance surrounding Daniel, causing him to momentarily close his eyes and sigh happily. At the far end of the lagoon, a waterfall sent spray across the water to drop gently against Daniel's face.

Lodi chattered happily, one hand clinging to Daniel's ear. With a huff of breath that momentarily fogged Daniel's glasses, Lodi jumped up, grapped a low branch, and swung into the tree.

"Please, Daniel, swim, cool down. When you are finished, I will return with food. I promise that you are safe, that your friends are safe. After you have eaten, I will tell you of my people, the Haldanas."

With that, Moab stepped away and before Daniel could blink, he'd faded into the jungle.

Daniel looked at the water, then gazed around him. He looked back at the inviting blue of the peaceful lagoon.

"Jack, something tells me that no matter what I do, you'd be angry. I could sit down and wait for Moab to return, or I could go looking for you. I could go back to the beach, or to the 'Gate. Or," he took off his hat and let it drop to the ground, his jacket following a moment later, "or -- I could go swimming."

Daniel took off his glasses and set them on his jacket, then stripped off the black tee shirt. He sat down and started untying his boots."I'm going swimming, Jack. I believe Moab. Yes, I know, you wouldn't trust him, but for some reason, I do. So -- I'm going swimming."

With boots and socks neatly arranged next to his jacket and shirt, he stood, unfastened his belt, then unzipped his pants and stepped out of them. Stripped down to his boxers, he walked to the edge of the water, then stepped in.

"This is great, Jack. I hope you're hearing this."

He dove in.

For the next thirty minutes, Daniel swam, dove, floated, then swam some more. He climbed to the top of the waterfall, then dove off. Lodi watched from his perch, then swung to the ground and began to jump up and down on the grass, chittering loudly, demanding that Daniel play with him.

Standing up near shore, the water waist high, Daniel grinned at the monkey as he ran his fingers through his wet hair.

"Hey, you could always come in and join me, Lodi." He sent a light spray of water toward the little guy, which sent the monkey jumping up, shaking his fur and jabbering loudly. Daniel laughed delightedly. "Okay, okay, I'm coming out. Jeesh, you're worse than Jack."

Daniel walked out of the water, skin glistening. He wasn't worryied about drying off, he simply dropped down onto the soft grass. On his back, hands clasped behind his head, he let the rays of sunlight that shot through the palms above, warm him and dry his skin. Lodi scampered over and immediately made himself comfortable on Daniel's jacket.

"You better not have fleas, young man."

Lodi answered him by immediately biting at his flank, then curling up and going to sleep.

Chuckling, Daniel lifted his face to the bit of sun and closed his eyes.

Only one thing spoiled the peace, warmth and beauty, but Daniel decided not to dwell on what was missing. It had been missing for months.

"Sir? We need -- we need to take him -- home."

Jack hadn't moved an inch in the last thirty minutes. Now he gazed over at Carter, eyes narrowed. Finally he surrended.

An hour later, they stood before the 'Gate, Sam dialing home, Daniel's body in Teal'c's arms. When Sam punched in the last symbol -- nothing happened.

"Carter?" Jack asked quietly.

"I don't know, Sir. Maybe I misdialed." She did it again, more slowly this time, but again, when the seventh symbol was pushed, nothing happened.

"Sir, I'd better," she waved a hand at the DHD in a gesture eerily similar to Daniel, "check it out."

Jack nodded. Teal'c lowered Daniel to the ground, careful to cushion the dead man's head as if he were still alive. He straightened up. "I will assist Major Carter."

Jack walked over and sat down next to Daniel's body while Teal'c and Sam silently went to work.

As Jack sat there, his body touching Daniel's, he noticed Daniel's left arm, or rather, left wrist. Jack could see the scar. The scar signifying the operation that had been required to repair Daniel's wrist after Reese had broken it in the 'Gate room. He ran his finger over the pale line.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," he whispered.

Daniel sat up long enough to grab his journal from his pack. He pulled out the pen, opened the book to today's date, then frowned.

The date.

Today's date.

June 26th. The date he'd come back from the dead, thanks to the sarcophagus on Klorel's ship.

Four years ago to the day.

Guess he'd have to call this an anniversary of sorts. Of course, it hadn't been the first time he'd returned from the dead. but hey, it *had* resulted in a hug from Jack -- and a smile from the older man that to this day, Daniel carried with him. A smile he'd never seen again. At least not directed at him.

He shook himself. He was getting maudlin again. Daniel glanced back down at the journal and something else hit him. June 26th had also been the last day Bill Cabot had hit him -- among other things.

Hell, June 26th was a real red letter day.

Daniel ripped the page from the book, crinkled it up, then tucked it into his pack. No littering for Daniel Jackson, no, sir.

"Daniel?"

Twisting around, Daniel looked up and found Moab standing a few feet away, a tray in his hands.

"I have brought you lunch." He moved to Daniel's side, sat down without jarring the tray, then said as he laid out the food, "I hope the swim was enjoyable?"

"Very," Daniel responded, eyes locked on the array of what appeared to be exotic fruits, cheeses and breads.

"I believe the food available on my world will be most pleasing to your palate. I have also brought a drink made of something called 'cheriko', a sweet fruit. It is quite potent, so sip lightly."

Moab handed him a goblet and Daniel sniffed appreciatively. The scent was very similar to a good chardonnay. A very pear-like chardonnay. He took a sip and immediately smiled. Earth should have such a chardonnay. He held up his glass and said with a grin, "My world would give practically anything for this. We call this type of drink a 'wine'. But we have nothing this smooth or enjoyable."

"I am glad you like it." He pointed to a white cheese, then to an almost translucent green fruit. "Please, try those two together. I find them extremely pleasing."

Daniel took a hunk of the creamy cheese, then wrapped a slice of the fruit around it and plopped it into his mouth. As he chewed and enjoyed, Lodi jumped onto his shoulder again, awake thanks to the scent of food. Chittering, he held out a small furry hand, fingers wiggling. Laughing, Daniel admonished, "Beggar. You're nothing but a beggar, Lodi. Here." He handed him a piece of bright red fruit and nearly bouncing, Lodi took it and popped it into his mouth.

"I believe you have adopted my Lodi. Or he has adopted you."

Daniel smiled and shrugged, then reached for some of the bread. It was earthy, coarse and deliciously sweet.

"Thank you for this," he commented after swallowing.

"My pleasure, Daniel. While you eat, allow me to share with you all that my world has to offer yours, then I will tell you our history."

"Sounds fair. I will, in turn, tell you about my world."

Moab smiled his agreement, then he began to speak.

Over an hour later, worlds shared, Daniel took a final sip of the wine and said, "Maybe now you'll share the history of your world?"

Moab nodded, his silver and gold eyes crinkling in a smile. "You are delightfully unsubtle, Daniel, but I find your curiosity and love of knowledge very refreshing."

Daniel fed the last piece of fruit to Lodi as he said, "What can I say? I'm a scientist. I was born to question and to find the answers. And Moab," he said pointedly, "you have been alone for a long time, anyone would be refreshing."

"Very true, Daniel. Would you like to take another swim while the day is still with us?"

Daniel shook his head. "Moab, this has all been very nice, but my teammates and I do need to return home. If any alliance is possible with you, Moab, we'd be interested, but I do need to know--"

Moab held up a hand, stopping Daniel's words. "I understand. I will begin. My people lived in the sky above this planet. Our ancestors had destroyed all of this with their wars, their lack of respect for the environment, and their technology. I will not bore you with *how* we evolved to what you see before you, but suffice it to say that we did. We became one with our surroundings, and one with ourselves."

"Like the Nox," Daniel exclaimed eagerly.

"You know the Nox?" Moab questioned, surprised.

"Yes. We've been to their world."

"My people were aware of their existence, but uncertain how to contact them. This is amazing."

"You said you became one with yourselves. What did you mean?"

"Our minds melded into a single entity even though we remained individuals living our lives."

Daniel frowned. "A collective? What, like the Borg?"

"The Borg? I know of no--"

"Sorry, Moab. The Borg are a fictional -- um, never mind. Could you explain this collective thing to me?"

"Simply put, our minds became connected. We could speak to the entire collective from hundreds of miles away, could feel what others experienced if we chose to do so. We began to attempt to heal our world as we built our homes in the sky. But then -- a powerful Goa'uld, surrounded by his Jaffa, arrived through the Circle of Certiz. By that time, we'd evolved into a people of great peace and in our naivete, we showed ourselves to this man who proclaimed himself a god. My mate, Aruan, was chosen to speak for us. He met Anubis--"

"Did you say Anubis?" Daniel quizzed urgently.

"Yes, Daniel. Do you know of this god?"

"Oh, we've -- run into him a couple of times. I'm sorry for interrupting, go on."

"All right. Aruan met with Anubis in the cleared portion of our world around the Circle of Certiz--"

"Circle of Certiz, you said that before. Do you mean the ring we came through? What we call the Stargate?"

"Yes. We'd managed to cleanse that area. Anubis and Aruan met there."

Moab's face went still, his silver eyes darkening in memory. "It was a -- mistake. Anubis appeared kind in the first meetings, and Aruan revealed our cities in the sky. That's when Anubis showed his true colors. He decided to claim this world for himself and Aruan along with it. Aruan spoke to us all, warning us, but it was too late. I -- we all -- were forced to live through the horrible things done to my -- to Aruan. My people would not fight back. By that time, we'd lost the ability to do so. Our beliefs were so ingrained, that the collective chose to die rather than fight the Goa'uld."

Daniel quickly poured more wine into Moab's goblet, then handed it to him. "I'm so sorry, Moab."

"Thank you, Daniel." He took the wine, took several sips, then said, "I watched them lie down and cease living. All over our cities, my people simply -- died."

"But not you?"

"No, not me. My anger and pain at losing Aruan was too fresh and it blocked out the collective. I lived. And I destroyed as many Jaffa as I could before Anubis escaped through the Circle of Certiz. I turned my rage loose, used all the power at my command, all that we'd trained our minds to do as we evolved, and he ran like a frightened child in the face of such power."

Moab finished speaking and the jungle around them stilled. Even Lodi seemed to freeze on Daniel's shoulder as if saddened by Moab's tale. The silence lengthened. The food sat untouched as shiny tears fell down Moab's face. Daniel reached out and placed his hand on Moab's, trying to give what little comfort he could.

"You remind me of Aruan," Moab finally said. "I suppose that is why I chose to bring you here and not one of the others. Also, I sensed a sadness in you that mirrored my own."

There didn't seem to be anything Daniel could say to that, so instead, he asked, "Just what *are* you capable of, Moab?"

Smiling, Moab said, "Look, Daniel." He pointed to the waterfall and when Daniel turned to look, the water froze in its downward path.

"O-kay -- that's -- impressive." He turned back to Moab. "Is this real? This lagoon, the beach, is any of it real? Or is it all an illusion?"

"It is real, Daniel. My world is healing itself, but I could not bear to be in the empty cities above, so I -- hurried -- the healing of this small area. Here I can walk amongst the plant life, watch the animals, birds, insects and reptiles, be with them, and I am not so alone."

Daniel stared hard at his host and suddenly asked, "Am I dead, Moab?"

"No, Daniel, you are not. But neither are you with your body."

Daniel's face paled. "Do my friends -- believe -- that I'm dead?"

"Yes, they do. I am sorry for that deception, but there was no other way to take one of you and not alert the others. Even as we speak, they are at the Circle of Certiz -- with your body. I have locked out its mechanism and for now, they can not go through it. Of course, when I return you, the Circle will once again function properly and you will all be able to go home."

Daniel should have been angry, but he wasn't. The friendship and sense of family that had once existed between the members of SG-1 had been absent for quite awhile. He doubted that there was much grief being expended on his account at the moment. He actually tried to envision Jack, Sam and Teal'c with a dead Daniel, but all he could envision was SG-1 going about their business with Daniel's dead body nearby.

He gave a slight shake of his head, then smiled when Lodi tried stick his finger in Daniel's ear. Daniel was aware that Moab was staring at him and as he reached up to pull Lodi into his arms, he asked, "What?"

"I -- wish to offer you a place here, with me and my world, Daniel."

Daniel cocked his head and said in surprise, "Excuse me? What do you -- what--"

"Stay here with me, Daniel. I believe I can teach you many things, things that are beyond anything you have been able to experience in the form you now know. I would give you all my knowledge and do so gladly."

Daniel stared at the man opposite as if he couldn't possibly have heard him correctly. His right hand stilled, the hand that been petting Lodi's back. As his mind finally took in Moab's words, the words of another filled his brain. Words from Shifu.

Choosing another path.

Was this to be foster home number nine?

His movements deliberate, Daniel put Lodi down, picked up his shirt and slipped it on, then stood and stepped into his pants. He was still damp, but he didn't care. As he buckled the belt, he said, "I think it's time you returned me to my friends, Moab."

The man rose easily to stand next to Daniel. "You will not even consider remaining here, Daniel?"

"I don't think it would be wise. You're lonely, Moab, and we're the first ones to come to your planet since the Goa'uld left. It's not me you want, you just want *somebody*. Company, Moab."

A pale hand rested on Daniel's bare arm. "No, Daniel. I do not understand the pain I find inside of you, but I wish to be given the opportunity to assuage it. This pain is a blackness within you and ultimately it will destroy all that you are, Daniel. Here, on my world, you can free yourself of it."

Daniel stepped away. "No, Moab. What you offer is an escape. A beautiful escape, yes, but still, an escape."

"Daniel, it is possible to run away, put it is also possible to run *to*."

"Take me back now, please? Surely you have enough information to decide if any alliance with us would be possible?"

The glow that seemed to always surround Moab, dimmed. Slowly he nodded. "As you wish."

Jack stared at his hand. He had it resting on the top of Daniel's head and while he could feel Daniel's hair, he couldn't feel any warmth coming up from Daniel's body. It seemed so strange. Daniel was always warm. Anytime Jack had ever touched him, he'd always been struck by the warmth of the man. Comforting, real, alive -- warm.

Jack supposed everyone was warm, after all, the average temperature of a human was 98.6. But when he touched Carter, or Teal'c, or Hammond, or Janet, or anyone else, it was normal. Like touching himself. But whenever he'd touched Daniel, he'd felt the difference every time. Warm. Was it a reflection of the man? Warm Daniel? Jack didn't know, but he missed that warmth. Daniel was without it now.

Daniel was dead.

Jack wondered in a vague way, how he'd get through a day without Daniel being alive? In the last weeks, there'd been a distance between them, yet Jack had *known* Daniel was there, had taken comfort (in a subliminal way) in knowing Daniel was nearby. It had never occurred to Jack that they wouldn't mend the differences between them. Of course they would, didn't they always? Jack hadn't counted on Daniel dying.

He looked at Daniel's face, absently brushed more sand away, then said, "You weren't supposed to die, Danny. It's not fair. You said you were sorry, but I was supposed to have the time to say the same thing."

Jack ran a finger along one perfect eyebrow and it hit him. Just like that. Out of the blue.

*He loved him.*

Oh, God. I love Daniel. But -- Daniel was dead.

Too late, O'Neill. Too fucking late.

"Sir, it's no use. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this DHD. Everything says it should work, but it won't."

Jack gave a little jerk as he realized that Carter was speaking to him. He glanced up, saw the worried, tired, sad expression on her face, and nodded. He took off his jacket, carefully and methodically folded it, then gently moved Daniel's head from his lap to rest it on the jacket. With more reluctance that he'd have believed possible, he stood and moved away and up to the DHD.

"Crystals good?" he asked, his tone clearly indicating that he really didn't care.

"Yes, Sir. There is absolutely no reason why the DHD shouldn't work."

"So we'll go through this one step at a time, Carter. Don't worry."

As Daniel followed Moab to what he hoped would be his teammates and the 'Gate, he pondered the wisdom of his recent decision. He'd been offered -- what? This paradise? Knowledge beyond his dreams? A new path? Another -- home? And he'd turned it down.

Why?

As they walked out of the jungle and into the sandy clearing that would lead to the 'Gate, Daniel understood why. He still held out hope that someday, Jack O'Neill would see Daniel Jackson. There was another reason too. He was tired of giving up homes and families.

"Daniel, I have removed your essence from your body, your energy, so to speak. When we arrive at the Circle of Certiz, you will see your body. It will take a moment for me to reunite you both. Your friends will see me, but they will not -- see you."

Daniel smiled wryly. "Been there, done that, Moab."

They crossed the clearing and as they crested a small hill, the 'Gate came into sight. Daniel stopped, the sight below looking so much as he'd imagined, that it hurt -- because as prepared for it as he thought he'd be, he wasn't. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were at the DHD and seemed to be working on it. At the foot of the platform that held the 'Gate, Daniel spotted -- his body. He bit back a shocked gasp.

His own body. Just -- lying -- there.

Daniel felt something strange steal over him at the view and his throat seemed to close up.

Everything looked so -- normal. Except the body. Sam was shaking her head; Jack, cap turned backwards, sunglasses glinting in the sun, arms resting on his P-90, one finger-less-gloved hand dangling over the edge of the weapon, was gesturing with his other hand at the DHD and Sam; and Teal'c was squatting down, one hand on the base of the DHD.

SG-1, doing what they did, and on the grass -- a body alone.

Daniel turned away for a moment, and with a clumsy, shaking hand, he pulled his snap-on shades out of his pocket and slipped them on his glasses. He coughed in an attempt to clear his clogged throat, then put his glasses on.

"Daniel, are you all right?"

He couldn't speak, so he simply nodded. Moab started toward the 'Gate and Daniel followed, even as he slipped his finger under the glasses to brush angrily at a strange bit of moisture.

Jack checked his watch. "All right, it's almost three and we're due to check in with Hammond at four. When we don't, he'll send in a team. If the problem is this DHD, then they'll have no trouble connecting to us, right, Carter?"

"Yes, Sir. *If* the problem--"

Jack held up a finger and shook it. "Ah, ah, ah, Carter, let's not borrow trouble."

"O'Neill, we have company," Teal'c announced. He stood and pointed north and to a strange looking man in black.

"He's silver," Jack observed unnecessarily.

Teal'c brought his weapon up, as did Carter. Teal'c immediately moved to stand before Daniel's body, but he could never have explained why.

As the strange man approached the platform, he stopped and held his hands out, palms up.

"I am Moab. This is my world." His slivery gaze flicked to Jack. "You are Colonel O'Neill of the SGC." His gaze moved to Sam, then to Teal'c. "You are the Jaffa, Teal'c." Teal'c inclined his head. Moab's gaze went back to Sam. "And you are Major Carter."

Sam nodded, then with her eyes still on the stranger, said, "Colonel, he must represent the heat signature we registered."

"So it would seem, Carter." Jack moved to the edge of the platform. He wanted nothing more than to go to Daniel, to sit with him, to rest his hand on Daniel's head, but that wasn't going to happen now.

"How do you know us?" he asked.

"I have spent the day first observing you all, then with -- Doctor Jackson, Colonel."

Jack never even blinked, but inside, the hope born of years witnessing more Lazarus-type moments than any human should, flared anew.

"Where is he?" Jack asked quietly.

Moab raised his left hand and from it a long trail of bright light flowed. It seemed to spread out and finally encompass Daniel's body. All eyes turned to follow the light and when it disappeared, and their eyes adjusted, Daniel was gone.

Jack blinked, then took off his glasses and let them drop to his chest. He stared at the spot where moments before -- Daniel had lain.

Daniel was really gone.

Daniel watched the bright light just as his teammates did. Somehow he'd expected to be put back into his body, not the other way around. When the light faded and his body disappeared, he felt only a slight tingling sensation to mark the fact that he and his body were once again joined. He looked over at his friends and was shocked by the fact that none of them seemed surprised by his missing body. His shock lasted until Jack spoke.

Without turning away from the grassy spot, a spot with a slight indentation showing where Daniel's body had been, Jack said, "I'd better get something back, like an alive Daniel, or you'll be privy to a part of me I'd prefer to think doesn't exist," Jack said, his voice holding a very dangerous edge to it.

"Look beside me, Colonel O'Neill," Moab said.

Jack turned and came face-to-face with Daniel.

"Jack," Daniel said.

"Daniel."

Daniel watched as something flared up in those dark brown eyes, something that looked suspiciously like anger. He turned away from it and looked up at Sam and Teal'c.

"Sam. Teal'c."

Neither of them said anything, they just stared at him, open-mouthed. He thought Teal'c looked odd that way.

"Colonel, I apologize for my method of determining whether you were harmless or not. But I am the last of my people and this," he waved a hand at the land, "is all that I have. I believe, as does Daniel, that there is much my world can offer you. I would welcome your research team gladly."

Both Sam and Teal'c came down to stand next to Jack and Daniel had the ridiculous feeling that a line had just been drawn in the sand -- a line that separated Daniel and Moab, from SG-1. He closed his eyes for a moment, then said, "Moab, over here a minute." He jerked his head to indicate a spot several feet away.

When they were far enough away so that his teammates couldn't hear them, he said, "I've changed my mind, Moab. I'll stay with you. But let me do the talking with my friends, all right?"

Moab smiled brilliantly, then nodded. "You will not regret your decision, Daniel."

Back in front of SG-1, Daniel said, "Moab's people were destroyed by the Goa'uld, Jack. He saw Teal'c, and, well, you can figure it out. He decided to try and talk with one of us and when you three went wading, he had the opportunity. He does apologize for how he had to do it, but no harm done, right? This planet is rich in plant and animal life, in foods we've never seen, but could use. He has offered us seeds, samples, and as he has already stated, he would welcome any research team we might send." Daniel paused, then took a deep breath before saying, "I'll be staying here -- as well."

Jack felt the earth give way beneath his feet and wondered why he hadn't moved. Shouldn't he have fallen? Damn, he could really use being swallowed up by the ground right about now. His world had just disintegrated, fractured into too many pieces for him to understand, let alone put back together.

Jack retreated into his faithful stand-by; anger.

"You're staying here, Daniel? Is that what you just said?" he bit off.

Daniel nodded, his expression impassive.

"Could you define 'staying here'?" Jack couldn't have kept the snide tone from his voice if he'd tried.

Daniel's eyes could spark with intelligence, humor, befuddlement, or anger. At the moment, all Jack could see was a cold kind of blankness as Daniel answered, "Stay here, as in, stay here, Jack. As in 'Daniel, don't let the door hit you on the way out'. As in, 'Finally, the guy's on the receiving end of our message'. As in, I'm not going back to the SGC, or Earth."

Jack's eyes narrowed dangerously as he said, "So Carter and I spend untold minutes trying to breathe life back into you, and while we're doing that, and Teal'c is counting every God Damned compression, and we go so long that he finally has to take over for Carter, and while all that is happening, you're what? Having one of your famous Daniel Jackson talks with Moab here? While we sit and try to figure out what we're going to do and how we're going to survive without you, you're just sitting there letting us wallow in our grief? Allowing us to believe you were dead? Well, maybe this decision of yours isn't so bad after all. In fact," Jack leaned in so that is nose was almost touching Daniel's, "*Don't* let the door hit you on the way out, and while we're talking about hitting, it would be a very wise move on your part to get the hell out of my sight before *I* hit you."

With a look that managed to make impassive appear almost jubilant by comparison, Daniel said, "Moab, I'll be at the lagoon."

Without another word, Daniel turned away and walked off, four people watching in shock until he disappeared from view.

Jack swept a hand over his face, the pulled his cap from his head. He was suddenly aware that someone was staring at him. He looked up and found -- everyone staring at him. Sam looked ten years older, her face flushing a dull red. The vein in Teal'c's neck was threatening to bust out, and Moab was staring at him with an expression that could only be called -- calculating.

Moab finally broke the silence. "I believe I misunderstood the deep sadness in Daniel." He took a step closer to Jack and added, "He did not know of the method I used to separate him from the rest of you. Not until a short time ago. He did not seem to feel that any of you would be too greatly distressed by his apparent demise. I can see now, that he was wrong. Again, you have my most humble apologies. I did not mean to cause you grief."

Moab looked over his shoulder, then back at Jack. "I do not believe he should be left alone, Colonel O'Neill. Perhaps you should go after him?"

Daniel hadn't believed that his teammates would be upset by his death? Jack felt the anger leech from his body to be replaced by a great sadness. He settled his cap back on his head, put his glasses on, and said, "Carter, Teal'c, you remain here, get to know," he waved his hand at Moab, "this guy. I'm going after Daniel."

With every step closer to the lagoon, Daniel's anger grew. By the time he'd pushed his way through the jungle to the spot where he'd had his swim, his anger was spitting fire.

"God damn you, Jack O'Neill. God damn you to Hell," he said loudly. In a stiff, angry gesture, he tore at his booney and finally ripped it from around his neck to toss it behind him. He pulled his jacket off, his glasses, then his shirt. Like he'd done earlier, he sat down, still muttering and cursing Jack in seven different languages, and tore at his boots and socks. He jumped up, got his pants undone, then stepped out of them. Kicking them away, he walked over to one of the rockier edges that surrounded the water and immediately dove in.

His anger, along with a great many emotions he'd rather not give name to, drove him across the water when he surfaced. He stroked ferociously, taking a breath only when he absolutely needed to. He never noticed Lodi, who swung out of a tree to land on the discarded clothing. The little animal cocked its head as its eyes followed the swimming man. Finally he just settled down to wait, knowing his new friend would have to come out -- eventually. Lodi picked up Daniel's glasses and began to play with them, flipping them up, twirling them around his long, furry fingers, the popping them onto his head.

Oblivious, Daniel swam.

Jack followed the trail left by Daniel. As he walked, he tried to find the words that would put Daniel back in his life. Words that would somehow, wipe the last months off the face of the map. He knew instinctively that today was it -- do or die, sink or swim, and several other cliches he could rattle off. If he didn't find the words, he would, in all likelihood, lose Daniel. And having just been given a miracle in the form of an alive Daniel, he wasn't all that eager to be placed into a position where he'd never see him again.

Jack could hear the sound of -- splashing? He followed it and a moment later, found himself in the "lagoon". A part of his mind took in the beauty, even took in the small monkey sitting on a pile of Daniel's clothes and wearing Daniel's glasses, but the rest of him--

Wait. Jack looked over at the monkey again.

A monkey wearing Daniel's glasses? Jack took off his and squinted. Yes, a monkey was indeed wearing Daniel's glasses. Jack gave himself a little shake, then turned his attention from the odd sight to the water and Daniel.

Had Jack ever seen Daniel -- swim? No, he was pretty sure not. Damn, the man was a good swimmer. Smooth long strokes, strong balanced kicking and -- oh, yeah, Daniel was mad. Jack smiled. An angry Daniel he could deal with. An angry Daniel was infinitely better than then the quiet, almost expressionless Daniel of late.

Jack walked to the edge of the water and waited. When Daniel turned and started back to this end, there was no way he'd miss seeing Jack standing there and Jack was a patient man. He waited. Behind him, Lodi had stopped playing and, like Jack, seemed to be waiting.

Daniel turned around and headed back. When he reached the halfway point, Jack spotted the exact moment that Daniel spotted him, glasses or no glasses. His stroke faltered, then his head lifted. Daniel paused and for a few seconds, he treaded water, blue eyes fixed on Jack.

Jack did the only thing he could think of to do; he waved.

Daniel brought his hand out and actually started to wave back, then caught himself, frowned, stroked close to the shore, then stood up. The water at that point was waist high. Daniel ran his hand over his hair, then his nose and eyes. Finally he dropped his arms to his side and cocked his head.

Jack was on.

Only problem with suddenly being on was the fact that Daniel Jackson was standing there, waist high in blue water that matched his eyes, and he was, for all intents and purposes, naked. The thin boxers he wore hid nothing from Jack's eyes and the water was beautifully clear.

But he *was* on. His turn at bat. Jack rolled his eyes. God, more cliches. But there was Daniel, looking like -- don't go there, O'Neill. Just say what you need to say.

Right.

Jack took a deep breath and -- said -- nothing.

Way to go, Jack. He looked down at his boots, at the crusted sand and he was immediately back at the beach, dragging a sandy Daniel out of some God damned sink hole and the words came quietly, but powerfully.

"The first thing we saw was the P-90 flying up in the air, then you disappeared. We ran out of the water and dropped to our knees in the spot where we thought you'd gone down. I started digging, we all started digging, sand was flying everywhere, and I can only imagine what we must have looked like to anyone seeing it. Like three weird looking dogs trying to bury a bone, maybe."

Jack went on, his voice quiet and steady.

"So much time passed, but I knew, just knew, you were there, but it had been *minutes* and how could you be alive? Then my hand hit something hard and it was your head, no surprise there. Teal'c and I managed to latch onto an arm and we started pulling you out. You were covered in sand and I couldn't even see your face. Somebody, I think it was Carter, said we should move away, that maybe it wasn't safe there, so Teal'c just lifted you up in his arms, the way he'd carry a child, and we ran up the beach.

"When we were fairly certain that it was safe, Teal'c lowered you to the ground. Carter did her whole 'I have medical training' thing and then told us you weren't breathing and that you didn't have a pulse. I did the mouth-to-mouth thing, she did the heart compressions and Teal'c counted. Fifteen compressions, then I'd breathe into your mouth twice. I had to brush the sand from your face, you had sand everywhere, in your mouth, nose, hair, everywhere. I thought I'd never get rid of it, never be able to get air into you."

Jack's eyes took on a far away look to them as he remembered--

"I don't know how long we compressed, counted and breathed. But nothing happened. You never took a breath on your own, your heart never started beating. It was Carter who called it. She was crying, but she called it. I kept giving you mouth-to-mouth until she said that it had been -- over -- fifteen minutes. Then I just stopped. It was over. You were dead. Gone."

Daniel hadn't moved during Jack's recitation, so Jack took another breath and went on.

"We decided to go home. Carter's face was red and she was trying to hide her crying, but she couldn't. Teal'c carried you in his arms again. He wouldn't let go. His steps never faltered, he never looked at either of us, just kept his eyes focused straight ahead until we reached the 'Gate."

"Circle of Certiz," Daniel said absently.

"What?"

"Circle of Certiz. That's what Moab's people called the 'Gate."

"And this is important why?"

Daniel shrugged helplessly.

Lodi chose that moment to jump onto Jack's shoulder.

"Whoa! Wha' the hell?"

"That's Lodi. He's harmless."

Looking uncomfortable, Jack leaned back to get a good look at the animal. "Handsome devil. Your glasses add a certain--"

"Geekishness?"

Jack looked back at Daniel. "Geekishness? Is that an actual word?"

Daniel shrugged again.

"You cold? Care to come all the way out? Get dressed maybe? Steal your glasses back from King Kong here?"

Daniel didn't move.

"Daniel?"

"I think -- I should stay here, Jack."

"You'll get all wrinkled and the world will mistake you for a prune, Daniel."

"No, I mean -- stay -- here. Too many 'I'm sorrys'. Too much tension. Think of how relieved you'll all be."

"Oh, yeah, Daniel. We were relieved all right when Carter called your death and we carried your body back to the 'Gate. Real relieved. First thing I thought about. 'Boy, what a relief' I said to myself."

"Jack--"

"NO, Daniel. Let me share more of our relief--"

"Jack, you can't give me what I want and need and I can't live with what you can give me, which, let's face it, ain't much."

"Excuse me? Did you just say 'ain't'?"

"Jack--"

"What do you need from me that you think I can't give you?"

Daniel sighed unhappily, then said, "I -- well, you're going to find this hard to believe, I know I do, but I've -- I fell -- I've fallen in love with you."

Jack stared at his best friend, stared hard. Sheesh, Daniel was embarrassed. He was actually, his skin was actually flushing pink. Something settled inside Jack's stomach and he smiled. He lifted the monkey off his shoulder, set it down and quickly stripped.

"Um, Jack? What are you doing?"

"I'm getting unclothed, Daniel. The water looks good, cool. I'm hot."

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Me and King Kong both, Daniel."

"Huh-uh."

When Jack was down to his boxers and dog tags, he walked down to the edge and watched as Daniel walked backwards in the water. It was almost funny. As he walked in, he said, "Do you know what today is?"

"Yes."

"No, I mean, do you know what today is?"

Daniel moved farther into the water as Jack walked closer and closer to him.

"Yes."

"Kind of an anniversary, you know?"

The water was now up to Daniel's neck. Jack stopped his forward movement. "The anniversary of your -- what, rebirth?"

Daniel was treading water now. "Yeah, guess you could call it that."

"Like now. Dead one minute, alive the next. A real Comeback Kid, that's our -- my -- Daniel."

"*Your* Daniel?"

"My Daniel."

Daniel stopped treading water backwards and held his position. He wasn't smiling yet, but Jack could definitely see something sparkling in the depths of those myopic blue eyes.

"Your Jack?" Jack asked hopefully.

"Just like that? We barely speak for weeks, Sam and Teal'c following your lead, and now, it's 'Jack's Daniel' and 'Daniel's Jack'?"

"Life is too short, Daniel. Too damn short. How do I know that the next time you die, you won't come back?"

Daniel frowned. "Uh, Jack?"

"Did that come out wrong?"

"I think so."

"Well, you know what I mean. Next time you die, it might be for real and I'd at least like to have tasted you by then."

"Tasted me? As in -- taste me?"

"As in taste you. All of you." Jack dove under the water only to come up in front of Daniel. He placed his hands on Daniel's hips and with both of them kicking to stay afloat, he leaned in and said in a husky voice, "Every. Square. Inch. Of. You."

Daniel slid his right arm around Jack's waist. "You do realize that sounds suspiciously like -- an offer. A promise."

Jack kissed a line down Daniel's jaw. "It did, didn't it?" he said between kisses.

"So it really is going to be this easy?"

Eyes dancing with laughter and relief, Jack nodded. "Hey, I'm an easy kind of a guy, Daniel. And I *know* you can be easy."

"Me? Easy? I don't think so. You're going to have to work damn hard for me, Jack."

Jack nibbled behind Daniel's ear, the tugged on it. "Hard? Like this?" He took Daniel's other hand and guided it to his dick.

They were still kicking to stay afloat and with his hand palming Jack's cock, Daniel whispered, "I'd rather not waste all our energy keeping our heads above water, Jack. Let's take this to the shore?" To emphasize his words, he gave Jack's cock a little tug.

"Right. Shore. Now."

Laughing, they dug in and hurriedly swam for shore. Walking out, Jack turned and extended a hand to Daniel. When the younger man took it, Jack pulled him into his arms.

"So much wasted time, Daniel. I'm so sorry."

Daniel put a finger on Jack's lips, then replaced the finger with his own lips. When they parted, Jack murmured, "Feel free to shut me up in that manner any time you want."

Grinning, Daniel said, "The next briefing with General Hammond?"

"You might want to just kick me in the shin at briefings."

"Deal."

By mutual and silent agreement, they stripped off their wet boxers, then dropped to the grass, Jack ending up on his back, Daniel on top. A chittering sound to his right caused Jack to twist his head and he came face to face with Lodi.

"We seem to have company, Daniel."

Daniel ignored the monkey and dove in for Jack's neck. He licked the area around Jack's adams apple, then sucked at the sweet spot to the left. Jack forgot about the monkey.

"Okay, this is -- good."

As Daniel kissed, licked and tasted every inch of Jack's body, Jack sent up a prayer of thanks for the man doing the licking. Daniel apparently made love the same way he cleaned and studied a valuable artifact: With great love, appreciation, dedication, and precision. No part of Jack was left unexplored and every part of Jack received the same deliberate and thorough treatment.

Now Jack knew why he'd always felt jealous of those dusty artifacts and translations.

On the other hand, it was now obvious that Jack would never be dusty again. He sighed in contentment, a sound that soon turned to one of deep, husky passion. Daniel had reached his straining, needy cock.

Never... he'd never -- felt -- anything -- like this --in his -- life.

Jack arched his back, bent his head back and up, and opened his eyes. He stared at the patches of blue that could be seen through the canopy of leaves and palms and he couldn't believe that it was Daniel doing this to his cock.

Aw, God, he was too old for this.

The hell he was.

Dear God in heaven, Daniel had just swallowed him whole.

The world narrowed down to pure feeling. To heat and a wet mouth. To cheeks that sucked in and puffed out, to teeth that just barely grazed his sensitive flesh. To a tongue that was truly gifted and to hands that soothed, teased, and rubbed gently.

Daniel had done this before.

Thank you, God.

Jack could feel his balls tighten and he gave in to it all. His orgasm ripped through him and he found himself gripping Daniel's head, tearing at the younger man's hair as he screamed Daniel's name loud enough to send Lodi scrambling for shelter.

When he came to, it was to find Daniel on his side, head held up by his hand, a smile of sweet satisfaction on his face.

"Tell me I didn't pass out," Jack asked as he captured the hand that was tracing a line over his scarred eyebrow.

"You didn't pass out."

"Your nose is growing, Pinocchio."

Daniel grinned.

Jack reached up and palmed Daniel's face. "I love you, you know."

"I know."

"You okay?"

Daniel nodded. "Very. You?"

"Very. We have a new reason to celebrate this day now, don't we, Space Monkey?"

"You know, that was quite -- insulting -- when you said that four years ago."

"Insulting? How do you figure?"

"Like I wouldn't get the comparison? Space program? Ignorant chimpanzees shot out into space?"

"And this is insulting, how?" Jack asked innocently.

Daniel thwopped Jack's temple.

"Ow! Hey, come on, the endearment fit. You're an archaeologist, fer crying out loud, not an astronaut. Yet you not only managed to stay alive, but you made it back, against all the odds." Then Jack pinched Daniel's cheek and said with a mischievous grin, "My little Cheetah."

Daniel bit Jack's earlobe, then said, "Aw, Jane, the things you do to me. Not that you have, mind you. Not yet, anyway. So far, the only tasting that's been done is by me, but hey, you need time to recover. I understand that."

Jack's eyes glittered dangerously. "Need time to recover?" he asked, voice low and deadly. Slowly he rolled over, then pushed Daniel back. Before Daniel could say, "Covert Ops", Jack was straddling him. Leering down at Daniel, he said, "Prepare to be boarded, Doctor Jackson."

The moment could have remained dangerous and sexy, except Daniel burst out laughing.

"Prepare -- to -- be -- *boarded*?" he finally managed to gasp out.

"Hey, it sounded good," Jack said, grinning down at the beautiful man below.

Daniel spread his arms wide and dropped his head back. "Do your worst, mon Corolnel."

"Don't you mean, 'do your best'?"

"Only time will tell, Jack. Only time will tell."

Jack O'Neill dove in.

"They have been gone quite awhile, Major Carter."

Sam shaded her eyes as she peered out over the clearing. "Almost two hours now, Teal'c."

The Jaffa stepped down to stand beside Sam. "They would not -- come to -- blows, would they, Major Carter?"

"No, no, of course not. Colonel O'Neill would never hurt Daniel."

"He has done exactly that, Major Carter. They have both damaged each other, have they not?"

"The Colonel will fix this, Teal'c. Daniel will come back with us."

Teal'c looked down at Carter. "Do you truly wish that, Major Carter?"

Stunned, Sam faced her friend. "Teal'c, how can you say that? Of course I want Daniel to return."

Forgetting that a stranger stood with them, Teal'c said, "Your feelings for Colonel O'Neill have changed then?"

Sam gasped. "How -- how, oh, God."

"You can not be unaware of DanielJackson's feelings for O'Neill."

Sam could feel her face heat up. "Teal'c, Colonel O'Neill and I -- we -- there is nothing between us but respect and admiration. He loves us all and we're a family, Teal'c."

Teal'c continued to look impassively at her, one eyebrow arched.

"You're saying that Daniel is -- in love -- with the Colonel?"

"I am."

Sam was speechless.

"O'Neill returns the emotion," Teal'c added.

Sam turned away, trying hard to regain some composure. How could she not have seen it? And Teal'c, for all his observational skills, had her figured all wrong. In a way.

"Teal'c, I'm not in love with Colonel O'Neill. But for awhile, we were both confused. I admit that. But--"

"Then you would not be adverse to a relationship forming between O'Neill and DanielJackson?"

Sam digested the question, turned it around in her head, even tried to feel righteous anger about it, but couldn't. Somehow, the idea of the Colonel and Daniel, together, seemed... so right. Certainly more 'right' than the idea of she and the Colonel.

"No," she finally answered, "I'm not bothered by that idea, Teal'c. And I sincerely hope that you're right."

"You do not fear that such a relationship would tear SG-1 apart?"

Sam thought about that, and realized that on some level, she *had* recognized the signs of the attraction between Jack and Daniel. She also accepted the fact that the subconscious knowledge was, at least in part, responsible for her failure to support Daniel with Reese. A strange form of jealousy, or fear of losing both men and thus the team?

Probably both. But her fear was certainly groundless. Had to be. It would be rough for Daniel and the Colonel, what with the current mindset of the military, but they'd be surrounded by a family that not only cared, but would protect. Like Teal'c. And... her.

Feeling as though the proverbial great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, she finally answered Teal'c.

"I think SG-1 will gain in strength, Teal'c. We haven't been a team for several months. Maybe now, it'll all come together again."

Teal'c nodded in satisfaction. "I believe you are correct, Major Carter."

"We should get back, Jack."

"Mmm, probably."

Daniel smiled. Jack was on his side, head resting on Daniel's chest, one tan hand rubbing lightly up and down Daniel's arm.

"We should get back *now*."

Jack opened his eyes only to find himself staring into the inquisitive gaze of Lodi, minus Daniel's glasses.

"Good God, you don't suppose he watched us the entire time, do you?"

"And if he did, Jack? What, you think he might be a spy sent here by the NID to get the 'goods' on us?"

"No, but we could have just been responsible for warping his entire life view."

Daniel looked over at Lodi, who chittered happily at him. "Oh, I don't think so, Jack."

Laughing, Jack got up, tossed Daniel's damp boxers at him, then started dressing himself.

"Alas, romance is dead," Daniel mourned.

"We get home, I'll show you romance, Daniel."

"Sweet," Daniel said with a grin.

"They are returning, Major Carter."

Sam looked up from the instruments she'd been showing Moab. Seeing the two men in question walking toward them, she stood hastily, Moab following.

As they got closer, both Teal'c and Sam couldn't fail to notice the damp clothing, or the small monkey on Daniel's shoulder. Moab stepped in front of Sam and Teal'c, then said sadly, "I do not believe that Daniel will be staying here with me."

"You won't be alone for long, Moab," Daniel said. "The research team will be arriving in a few days and you'll have more company than you'll know what to do with. But I really believe you should use the Star -- the Circle of Certiz -- to join the Nox. They would welcome you, I know."

"You do not wish me to share my knowledge and abilities with your people, Daniel?"

Daniel looked hopefully over at Jack, who stood silently behind the Haldanan. Jack smiled at him, a smile that spoke volumes about trust, and said, "Moab, trust me when I say that we're not -- ready for your abilities. There are people of my world who would try to exploit you, to use your talents in a less than noble fashion. I really think Daniel is right. The Nox would welcome you with open arms."

"That would mean... leaving my world."

"Moab," Daniel said, "the one thing I can assure you of is that we will take good care of this world. What we can learn from it will aid my planet, yes, but we will protect your world, I promise."

Moab nodded his acceptance, then looked at Lodi, who was still perched on Daniel's shoulder. "I do not believe you should leave him here, Daniel. He truly has adopted you."

Daniel grinned and Jack, reaching over to scratch behind Lodi's ear, said, "I think the SGC could use a new mascot."

"I was not aware the SGC ever had a mascot, O'Neill."

Jack scratched behind Daniel's ear.

"Ah. Yes, I see."

Daniel glowered as he swatted Jack's hand away.

"So you'll go to the Nox?"

"I will, Daniel."

Sam moved to the DHD and immediately punched in the symbols for the Nox home world. When the wormhole burst out, Daniel said, "We'll stay here for a bit, just to make sure that everything is all right and you've been able to contact the Nox."

Moab nodded, then ascended the platform.

Stopping just before entering, he turned back. "Thank you, Daniel." He gazed over their heads, then with an enigmatic smile, added, "I believe my world will be of great help to you in your fight against the Goa'uld."

Moab walked into the wormhole.

The 'Gate disengaged.

"Well, let's hope the Nox really do welcome him."

"They will, Jack. They will."

Fifteen minutes later, the wormhole re-established. For a moment, nothing happened, then, to everyone's surprise, Moab's face appeared in the center of the shimmering blue circle.

"Thank you, my friends. I have a new family. I have been asked to give you a message, Daniel. The Nox say that you have entered," he seemed to turn away, then back. "You have entered the teenage stage."

The members of SG-1 stared at the glowing face, then Daniel said, "Um, please tell the Nox... thank you."

Moab smiled, then disappeared with the wormhole.

"Yes, well. That was... interesting," Jack said as he peered over his sunglasses. "Carter, dial home," he added.

"Yes, Sir."

The klaxons sounded and General Hammond nodded as Davis informed him that it was SG-1 returning. He made his way to the 'Gate room to wait at the bottom of the ramp.

How many times in the last five years had he done this? And how many horrible ways had SG-1 returned?

George Hammond prayed that this time, SG-1 came through intact and unharmed.

A moment later, he had his answer.

Major Carter came through first, followed immediately by Teal'c. Then, in almost amazing unison, Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson came through. To Hammond's relief, all looked not only well, but -- good. Happy. Hammond found himself smiling.

"Welcome back, SG-1."

"Thank you, Sir," Jack said as he took off his cap and ran a hand through his hair. "Daniel brought back a souvenir you might be interested in, Sir. Daniel, show the man."

Grinning, Daniel stepped forward and from the depths of his jacket, he pulled out--

"Doctor Jackson, that would appear to be a monkey you're holding."

"Yes, Sir. Meet Lodi. Lodi, meet General Hammond."

Lodi, knowing which side of the bread was buttered, and by whom, immediately launched himself toward the General. Hammond caught him.

"Colonel?"

"New mascot, Sir," Jack said as he headed down the ramp.

General Hammond whirled around, monkey now on his shoulder and patting the top of his head. Teal'c nodded as he walked down, as did Major Carter.

"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond called out to the disappearing man, "I thought Doctor Jackson was the mascot?"

Jack simply waved a hand as he walked through the doors.

Hammond stared at the monkey, then smiled. Damn sight better than some of the stuff SG-1 brought back.

Smiling, Hammond headed for the briefing room.

It was good to have SG-1 back.

FINIS
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sideburns, 2002.
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Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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