By: sharilyn

EMAIL: sharilyn


from 'Someone Digging in the Ground'

A lover is always accused of something.
But when he finds his love, whatever was lost
in the looking comes back completely changed.
On the way to Mecca, many dangers: thieves,
the blowing sand, only camel's milk to drink.
Still each pilgrim kisses the black stone there
with pure longing, feeling in the surface
the taste of the lips he wants.

Part One

It was the not knowing that was making Daniel crazy. As SG-1's civilian archaeologist checked himself in the mirror to be sure he'd buttoned up his shirt correctly, he gave his somewhat pale reflection a dour grimace and sighed with self-disgust.

I can't believe I did what I did last night, he thought dolefully, raising an absent hand to scrub it through his shower-damp hair. I can't believe I lost it like that, that I actually told Jack all those things and that he actually, that WE actually...oh, God, how will I even be able to look him in the face today?

And I can't even use the excuse that I was drunk or under some sort of alien influence to explain it all away, Daniel fretted morosely; both Jack and I know that I didn't drink enough to cause me to behave the way I did...But if a body wanted to get technical, then by the same token Jack couldn't use the wine he himself had imbibed as an excuse for HIS behavior last night. Interesting observation, that.

Oh, who are you kidding? Daniel growled mutely at his reflection; you know good and well that Jack only did what he did to help YOU out. He stayed with you last night because he's seen you freak out in the past, and he'd do almost anything to avoid nurse-maiding you through yet another emotional meltdown. This mission was too important for it to be jeopardized by another infamous Daniel Jackson 'episode,' Daniel mused grimly to himself; as the leading negotiator pressing for Earth/Garanian relations, Jack had a lot more on his plate right now to worry about than tending to an overwrought linguist on the side.

But he knew he was doing Jack a disservice with that remark; if he was completely honest with himself, Daniel had to admit that Jack had ended up staying with him for as long as he had last night simply because he considered Daniel to be a good friend and knew that the younger man really needed him there. The fact that Jack had been at all willing to temporarily set aside a lifetime of staunch heterosexual conditioning long enough to actually climb into Daniel's bed, take his friend into his arms, and proceed to pretty much kiss the troubled archaeologist senseless was a wonder that Daniel was STILL having trouble processing this bright morning. And he knew it hadn't just been some stress-induced fever dream; Jack really HAD been there with him in his bed, holding him, giving in to Daniel's silent, increasingly urgent need to be touched, to be safely and snugly cradled in the arms that had always meant strength and trust and safety to Daniel's deepest soul...

Oh, God, it really DID happen, Daniel realized in a sudden burst of stark comprehension, and the blue eyes that met his in the mirror were wide and dark with shock. As more and more memories of last night began rushing into his consciousness, Daniel groaned aloud and pressed one tight fist against the headache throbbing behind his forehead.

He'd always been able to control it before, he thought shakily; he'd always managed to deal swiftly and privately with these unpredictable outbreaks of stress and depression that sometimes washed over him almost out of the blue, slamming into him without warning even on days when he was feeling basically happy with his life.

But the terrifying abyss into which Daniel had almost tumbled headlong last night had come upon him so swiftly and with such terrifying strength that he'd found himself completely unable to cope with it. Frowning bleakly at his image in the mirror, Daniel sighed and tried to figure out what could have triggered the overwhelming wave of tormented emotions that had risen up from somewhere deep inside him last evening after he'd said his good nights to the others and had begun his solitary walk back to his quarters through the growing dusk.

Could it have been something in the food at that interminable dinner party earlier in the evening, maybe even something in the wine that had triggered some sort of delayed post-traumatic stress reaction? Daniel mused now as he absently picked up his comb and dragged it through his damp, finger-mussed hair. It definitely wasn't the wine he and Jack had consumed together in Daniel's quarters a good hour after the dinner party; in retrospect, Daniel realized that his ugly little emotional upheaval had already built up a considerable head of steam all on its own by the time Daniel had poured himself that first glass of wine in his suite last night.

Maybe he'd met someone at the party, Daniel ruminated doubtfully, some Garanian woman who might have displayed a slight resemblance to Shau'ri, or some other native whose voice or eyes or manner might have tripped some subconscious, post-traumatic switch deep inside Daniel's mind. Or maybe you've just over-extended yourself and your energy reserves one time too many, Daniel silently excoriated himself as he forced a stubborn spike of hair into submission with the comb.

This current mission was number--what?--in a long line of back-to-back jaunts to planets with strange foods, bizarre plant and animal life, unusual customs and cultures...and, Daniel reflected wearily, if you added in the neverending stress and strain of having to play nice and put your best foot forward as an official representative of planet Earth, then you had a perfect recipe for SOME sort of meltdown. And as much as he usually thrived in situations involving first contact with previously unknown races, Daniel knew that a relentless diet of such meetings tended to drain his energies almost to the dregs.

Maybe that explains it, Daniel mused now without enthusiasm as he set the comb down on the bathroom vanity and fumbled absently for his glasses. Maybe I just need to take a little time off, recharge my batteries somewhere that's as far from my daily routine as this planet is from Earth.

But as Daniel left the bathroom and moved back into his bedroom to look for his shoes, he knew he was just dancing around the REAL issue here; as worrisome as his dysfunctional behavior last night had been, the subsequent interaction that had occurred between Jack and himself as a result of Daniel's spontaneous mini-breakdown was even more disturbing.

But disturbing HOW? Daniel asked himself as he fished his shoes out from under his bed and sat down on a nearby chair to put them on. Disturbing because he'd let slip a lot of hidden emotional trauma in front of his best friend and commander, or disturbing because he'd basically ended up flat-out BEGGING Jack to kiss him, dragging the other man down onto the tumbled sheets of his bed and muttering feverish imprecations for Jack to just stay with him and make it all go away, asking Jack to help him forget the pain...

God, what was I thinking? Daniel sighed resignedly to himself as he stood up and went in search of his lightweight jacket. The Garanians were just entering springtime here, and while the morning sun was bright and friendly outside, Daniel knew the air would still be brisk for another hour or two before the day warmed enough for him to feel comfortable in short sleeves. As he spied his jacket draped over the back of a chair and moved to retrieve it, Daniel chewed distractedly at his lower lip and asked himself the really important question of the day: What must Jack be thinking right now?

He must really be upset; it's after eight and he hasn't even contacted me yet this morning, Daniel fretted as he absently slipped the jacket on and moved to the cluttered desk on one wall to collect the papers he'd need today. Instead of Jack's usual, snarky wake-up call, it had been Sam's voice that had prodded Daniel from a heavy sleep just a bit after dawn, her cap of silky blonde hair seeming to glow with an almost ethereal luster as she hovered at the side of Daniel's bed and gently shook the disoriented archaeologist awake.

She'd knocked first, Sam had explained apologetically once Daniel was able to unglue one eyelid and squint blearily in her direction;she'd knocked several times, actually, but when Daniel hadn't answered she'd become a bit concerned. Luckily one of the cleaning staff had happened along, recognized Sam as a friend of the esteemed Dr. Jackson, and obligingly opened the door for the worried astrophysicist.

No problem, Sam, Daniel had replied fuzzily, waving away her apology for having intruded into his bedroom; but inwardly his heart had begun beating a rapid tattoo as memories of the night before rushed in like some surrealistic video replay in his mind.

I guess it's lucky that Jack stole away into the night after I finally fell asleep, Daniel remembered thinking fuzzily as he'd tried to focus his attention on Sam's concerned face. It would have been decidedly awkward to say the least if Sam had walked in to find her c.o. and the team's linguist in bed together this morn, wrapped around each other like velcro.

Thank God at least one of us had enough sense to make a clean getaway and prevent last night's events from mutating into a total disaster, Daniel mused rather glumly now as he shuffled into the suite's living area and crammed his papers haphazardly into the thin leather satchel lying on the couch. Once he'd managed to convince Sam that he was suffering from nothing more than a bit of a hangover from too much wine and too many hours spent hammering out treaty stipulations the day before, Sam had relaxed her protective vigilance and gone her merry way, relieved that her disaster-prone friend was still all in one piece and basically well.

"Just don't take TOO long getting dressed this morning, Daniel; the Colonel wants us all to meet for breakfast so we can go over today's agenda before we have to return to the Council chambers," Sam had warned before heading out the door. Daniel had mumbled a less-than-enthusiastic acknowledgement to her departing back and had then dragged himself into the shower, vainly trying to organize his scattered thoughts and to make some sense of everything that had happened last night between Jack and himself. Sadly enough, the only conclusion he'd reached by the time he'd showered head to toe and had shampooed his hair was that too much thinking just gave him a worse headache than before.

"Well, Daniel, you can't put off the inevitable any longer," SG-1's linguist sighed fatalistically to himself now as he exited his suite and quietly clicked the door shut behind him. "Just march in to breakfast, look Jack straight in the eye like nothing's wrong--like nothing at all happened between us in my quarters last night...keep your mind focused on this mission, on the treaty negotiations and the fascinating history of the Garanian people, and all of this will blow over on its own and quite naturally fade away."

Yeah, and little blue monkeys might fly out of my ass and sing the national anthem, Jack's disbelieving snort sounded in Daniel's head. Face it, Dannyboy; there was a lot more going on in your suite last night than just knocking back a few glasses of wine and breaking a glass against the wall. That unmistakeable 'Jack' voice in Daniel's imagination sounded so real, so true-to-life, that the linguist had to stop walking as a brief wave of dizziness washed over him; for one dismal moment he thought he might even be sick, but a couple of slow, deep breaths went a long way toward restoring his equilibrium.

Get a grip, Jackson, he ordered himself in grim silence; you're making too much out of this whole thing. In all probability, as far as Jack was concerned that whole episode last night could easily be written off as nothing more than a brief glitch in Daniel's tautly-strung neural wiring. Jack was nothing if not practical, and in his book the events of the night before were probably not even worth remembering or dwelling on in the clear light of day. Daniel had freaked, Jack had done what he thought was necessary to settle his errant archaeologist back down, and hopefully that was the end of it.

Sounds good, Daniel reflected soberly now as he tightened his grip on the leather satchel and began walking once more to meet his team mates. That sounds REALLY good, actually, very sane and rational and well...practical. But as faint, disturbingly sensual images from last night slid unbidden into Daniel's thoughts--images of Jack's hands gliding across the bare skin of Daniel's chest, of Jack's mouth taking his in a deliciously warm, thorough series of slow kisses--Daniel had to bite down hard on the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning out loud with the sudden, sharp stir of desire that flooded through his system.

Oh, God, what was THAT about?! Last night, even as caught up as he'd been in the complex web of physical sensations Jack's touch had aroused in him, there had been nothing overtly sexual about the entire encounter. Last night's interlude had been more about simple comfort and the sharing of one man's deepest inner pain than it had been about the baser desires of the flesh. Daniel's desperate need to banish that pain, to have Jack's strength and force of will right there with him to drive the demons back into the darkness of oblivion, had taken precedence over any sexual aspects of their shared intimacy.

But now, looking back on the experience in the bright light of this new day, Daniel realized with a shaky feeling in the pit of his stomach that some part of both his body and his mind still held tightly to the memory of every look, every touch, every soft word murmured from Jack's lips last night as he'd held Daniel's desperate, trembling body against his own. Daniel couldn't get Jack's face out of his head, nor could he forget the silent compassion and empathy he'd seen in Jack's dark eyes as the older man had brought the younger into a place of warmth and safety and sweet forgetfulness, weaving a strange, comforting magic with each light caress, each long, searching kiss...

Oh, God, Daniel thought with a flash of desperate, rather morbid humor at this latest crisis he'd created for himself; what was that old saying, 'Out of the frying pan and into the fire?' As he plodded resolutely toward the communal dining hall and his first face-to-face glimpse of Jack O'Neill since last night's surreal interlude, Daniel could only hope that Jack's response to him today would be normal enough, practical enough, to drive all these bizarre, forbidden thoughts right out of the linguist's confused head.

Once more it seemed to be a case of Jack having to save Daniel from himself, the younger man mused dejectedly; but as he forced himself to pick up his pace and walk faster, Daniel vowed that he would break that pattern, starting right now. It was unfair of him to have placed Jack in such an awkward position last night, and no matter what disturbing new feelings the experience had stirred within him, Daniel knew he had to get control of himself and focus only on this mission, on turning his temporarily topsy world rightside up again. What he and Jack had shared had merely been an odd, strangely pleasant little detour along the path of their friendship's journey, and Daniel suddenly felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he realized he did indeed feel much better this morn, much closer to 'normal' than he had in quite some time.

You'll be all right, he told himself as he climbed the steps leading into the Garanian Embassy's communal dining hall; it's a whole new day, with a clean slate waiting to be filled with all manner of intriguing new experiences and possibilities. And as he entered the hall and spied three familiar heads bent close together in conversation across the large dining area, he knew he was damned lucky to be here and to have three friends like Jack, Sam, and Teal'c by his side to share this phase of his life with.

Part Two

"Daniel! You made it just in time for breakfast!" Sam called out cheerfully as she looked up and caught sight of Daniel standing rather hesitantly across the wide expanse of the dining hall. Beaming a smile of greeting his way, the willowy blonde scientist waved some sort of bright orange fruit in Daniel's direction as he made his way over to the table where the rest of SG-1 sat waiting for him to appear.

"You have to try this, Daniel; it's called a traiata, and it's sort of a cross between an orange and a grapefruit but not quite like either's really delicious," Sam finished enthusiastically as Daniel slid into the vacant chair next to her and accepted the sliced bit of fruit Sam was offering him.

"Major Carter is most enthused about the various types of produce grown on this planet," Teal'c spoke up in a deceptively mild tone; it took a closer look into his calm, dark eyes to detect the subdued glimmer of wry humor lurking in their depths, and Daniel gave the Jaffa warrior a small, appreciative smile as the two friends exchanged brief nods of greeting.

"I never would have noticed," Daniel volunteered innocently, and Sam gave him a half-exasperated, half-affectionate nudge with one shoulder before popping her fourth slice of traita fruit into her mouth with an expression of sublime enjoyment.

"For crying out loud, Carter, this is a public establishment," Jack drawled from across the table, his brown eyes glinting with a lazily humorous expression that did funny things now to Daniel's already-nervous insides. "If you keep eating that fruit like you're acting out a scene from some soft-core porn video, you're gonna get us all thrown out of here."

"I'm doing no such thing, Colonel," Sam retorted smartly, a flash of challenge sparking in her blue eyes. "I'm merely enjoying my admittedly delicious and no doubt highly nutritious breakfast; if certain parties choose to view such a normal, everyday action as something, well, DIRTY...then I believe that's THEIR problem."

"Are you calling me a dirty old man?" Jack purred silkily, and Daniel was dismayed to find his own heart rate going up several notches at the sultry tone underlying the words.

"Why, no, sir; I would never call you OLD," Sam returned innocently, and Daniel couldn't help the startled snort of laughter that caught in his throat.

"See what you miss, Daniel, when you show up late for breakfast?" Jack commented drily, sliding his gaze with predatory grace from Sam's feisty expression to Daniel's rather flustered stare. "I make one blisteringly insightful observation, and right away there's mutiny in the ranks. I'm not sure I like your tone, mister," he added to Sam with a mock glare, and Daniel studied his own slice of the sweetly tangy fruit before remarking in a conversational tone:

"Actually, Jack, you just might be providing Sam with legitimate ammunition for a sexual harassment suit. If I were you, I'd be careful about any insinuations I might make concerning the manner in which she consumes traiata fruit--or any other food, for that matter."

"Is that so?" Jack returned smoothly, an almost smoldering look of danger darkening his eyes. "But what if MY interpretation of the Major's blatantly lascivious manner of consuming the said fruit is truly the correct interpretation? I mean, I haven't noticed anyone else in here devouring the stuff with such EROTIC delight." A gleam of pure devilment sparked to life in Jack's eyes, and Daniel wondered vaguely if maybe he wasn't really still asleep and dreaming all this. Honestly, what was with Jack this morning?

"Take yourself, for example," Jack was saying, pointing one long finger across the table at Daniel. "There you sit, holding your own innocent little piece of fruit in your hand, and I'll lay a wager that when you eat YOUR slice, there won't be anything even close to the same level of, let us say--CARNAL enjoyment--in the act, as what Teal'c and I just witnessed with Carter. So, go ahead; eat the fruit. We'll all watch and decide just who's dirty-minded around here."

Are you CRAZY? Daniel wanted to cry out, his blue eyes widening at the half-challenging, half-sensual expression lurking in Jack's steady gaze. God, Jack, was last night so traumatic for you that you've gone completely, certifiably NUTS? Or is this some sort of sneaky, evil punishment for what I put you through, making me sit here now looking at a piece of fruit as if it's some sort of phallic monstrosity I'm about to swallow? And with Sam and Teal'c watching, no less...God, what am I supposed to do, here?

I'll get you for this, Jack, his quietly panicked blue gaze warned the other man, and Jack gave him a sudden, slyly mischievous smile that literally made Daniel's breath stutter in his throat. For a brief moment his senses were overwhelmed by the sheer force of Jack's presence across the table, and as he felt his own helpless gaze become trapped within Jack's compelling stare, Daniel wanted to whimper aloud with the force of the dark, nameless need that suddenly tingled down his spine.

"Just ignore Colonel O'Neill, Daniel," Sam was snorting inelegantly at his side now, her white teeth flashing in a wry grin. "He's just feeling feisty because he thinks we should be able to wrap up the negotiations today and get our butts back home in time for the big hockey match tomorrow."

"I beg to differ, Carter," Jack retorted indignantly, lifting one scarred brow in her direction. "I am a Colonel in the United States Air Force, as well as being Earth's temporary acting ambassador to the Garanians; I would hardly call someone in my position FEISTY. The term lacks...dignity, somehow."

"Excuse me, sir; perhaps 'satisfied' is the word I was searching for. Will that term do?" Sam smiled, and while Jack was giving her a suspicious frown, Daniel took the brief distraction as an opportunity to quickly and surreptitiously pop the sticky slice of traiata fruit into his mouth.

"Hey!" Jack cried in protest as he switched his gaze back to Daniel barely in time to see the archaeologist swallow the fruit down. "We didn't get to carry out the second half of our experiment in fruit and human sexuality; Carter, cut him another slice and this time NO eating till we can watch you, Daniel."

"I can't believe you just said the words 'human sexuality,' Jack," Daniel murmured, deciding that the best defense was a good offense. "You DID just say that, didn't you?"

"I'm a bit surprised, myself," Sam agreed with a downright evil glint in her eye. "Usually you're so...squeamish...about such things, Colonel."

"Indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c concurred placidly, reaching one powerful hand to scoop two generous slices of the traiata fruit off the platter sitting on the table before him. "Those words sound most...intriguing...coming from your lips."

And as Jack gaped at his treacherous team mates in sudden consternation, Teal'c rather slowly and deliberately slid the succulent, elongated curve of one fruit slice between his lips, his tongue flicking out to catch an errant drop of juice before it could trickle down his chin.

"Wow," Sam breathed almost reverently, and both Jack and Daniel were completely speechless, their mouths gaping idiotically as they watched the imperturbable Jaffa slip the second piece of fruit into his mouth with purely indecent finesse. Teal'c's full bottom lip gleamed with the luscious sheen of the fruit's wet sweetness, and for a brief moment Daniel half expected to hear the loud thud of Samantha Carter falling right out of her chair.

"Well. I--uh--I certainly can't top that, now can I?" Daniel murmured after a stunned moment, and as his gaze slid wryly to Jack's shocked face, the Colonel shook himself out of his mesmerized daze and sent the younger man a reluctant look of grudging good humor. "Hey, Jack; now maybe YOU should show us how it's done," Daniel added innocently.

"Okay, okay; I've learned my lesson," Jack sighed disgustedly, giving Teal'c a sidelong look of mixed vexation and admiration before turning his disgruntled gaze on Daniel. "I know when I've been ambushed. I guess that lets you off the hook, Daniel...for NOW, anyway."

And as Daniel silently studied Jack's lean face for any sign of some hidden message beneath the threat, Jack stared back at him with an expression that was suddenly, quietly intense. Daniel could only hold his stare, the frantic thudding of his heart slowly settling into a calm, regular rhythm at something sure, something gentle, that he saw waiting only for him in the depths of Jack's brown eyes. That one long, steady look told Daniel that Jack was thinking now about the events of last night, had most likely been thinking about it all along and was remembering everything that had taken place between them...and the expression of absolute tranquility in the older man's gaze as it held his released a warm flood of sublime peace throughout Daniel's entire body.

His agitated blue gaze softening behind his glasses, Daniel gave Jack the barest hint of a smile as he reached for a fruit slice, lifted it, and drew it into his mouth with a tiny sigh of hedonistic pleasure. Jack watched the linguist chew the half-sweet, half-tangy pulp of the fruit, his brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he did so; and as his gaze focused on the smooth movement of Daniel's throat muscles swallowing down the delicious breakfast, an indefinable expression of something that looked suspiciously like longing flitted darkly across Jack's eyes and then vanished. A crooked smile turned up the corners of his mouth as he pulled his gaze from Daniel's and studied all three members of his team.

"Well, people, we can't just sit here exchanging lewd glances all morning," he announced with mock regret, reaching for the thin sheaf of official-looking papers resting on the table at his left elbow. "Let's pack it up and move it on out; like Carter said, I think we really do have a decent shot at wrapping all this diplomatic folderol up in a nice, neat package today. And I just can't wait to gate back home and see the big, happy grin on Hammond's face when he hears the good news that the Garanians want to be our new best friends. So let's get to it."

"Lead the way, sir," Carter smiled; and as Jack hustled his charges out of the dining hall for their first diplomatic meeting of the day, Daniel clutched his own satchel of papers close to his chest and strode silently in the older man's brisk wake, his blue gaze fixed distractedly on the ramrod-straight line of Jack's back.

This whole mission was taking on such a surreal air, Daniel thought dazedly as he walked along listening to Sam and Jack discuss the first item on today's agenda; and the feeling had nothing whatsoever to do with this planet or the Garanians themselves. No, it was just him...or rather, it was Jack and himself and this strange undercurrent of SOMETHING that was still running just beneath the surface of their every interaction together.

A sense of fatalism growing with every step he took, Daniel sighed as he struggled with the dawning realization that--for him, at least--last night's strange, private interlude with Jack O'Neill wasn't just going to fade quietly away. Dammit, he thought with a mute shouldering of resigned defeat; this is going to be another one of those 'Jack, we have to talk' moments. And I know how much he HATES those.

As Jack turned suddenly on the wide, paved path to the council building, his astute brown gaze sweeping over Daniel from head to toe as if he could see right through his friend and into his soul, Daniel swallowed hard and glumly reminded himself that this was all his own fault. HE was the one who'd persuaded Jack into his bed last night, and now he would just have to have enough backbone to straighten this whole mess out at the first opportunity. But something dark and quiet in Jack's silent, assessing gaze gave Daniel the uneasy feeling that the task wouldn't be as simple as he might hope.

Part Three

"Daniel...we need to talk." The words sounded so quietly, so serenely on the clear evening air that Daniel had to stop in the middle of the path he was walking along, mentally press rewind and replay and assure himself that he had indeed heard Jack correctly.

"Yes, I guess we do," he replied in a subdued voice, and the gaze he lifted to the Colonel's was both pleading and resigned. "But where and when, Jack? I don't suppose you want to air private business out here in the Chancellor's garden."

"No, I don't guess that would be very prudent. Or appropriate," Jack agreed with the smallest of dry smiles. He stood on the winding, graveled path that meandered through two lush acres of gardens and trees and artfully sculpted statues and dug one preoccupied toe into the loose shale underfoot; slowly his eyes settled on Daniel's tense face, and the perturbed darkness in his gaze softened into a strange gentleness.

"We both tried, didn't we?" he murmured, his tone quietly sardonic. "I know I sure as hell did. But we can't just make believe that last night never happened. If nothing else, Daniel, I can't take the chance that you're you were last night, at least on some level. I can't just let that drop; dammit, Daniel, you scared me. A lot. Why the hell didn't you ever tell me that you have these--episodes--sometimes? Did you not think that they mightn't be the tiniest bit serious or important?"

Jack's quiet, deliberate tone had risen and sharpened as he talked, and now he was pacing agitatedly in short, hard steps up and down the path, his hands jammed angrily into the front pockets of his pants. Daniel stood off to one side, his shoulders hunching defensively as he moistened his suddenly dry lips and tried to retain some semblance of calm and composure.

"I thought you said this wasn't the appropriate place for this discussion, Jack," he spoke up softly, and Jack shot him a look of black frustration, muttering a vehement curse under his breath.

"Don't push your luck, Daniel," the older man muttered irately,but then he heaved a resigned sigh and withdrew his hands from his pockets, lifting one to gesture in the direction of the Chancellor's stately mansion behind them.

"We've been gone long enough as it is," he admitted reluctantly. "The others will wonder where we've gotten off to if we don't get our asses back in there and schmooze with the natives. So I guess you can consider this a temporary reprieve. But we're going home sometime tomorrow, Daniel, and I fully expect you to tell me EVERYTHING about these anxiety attacks you've been hiding. And you know I'm not just trying to pry into your personal business; you have to look at this from a bigger perspective and realize that when we're all in the middle of a mission somewhere, it isn't just you that's gonna be affected by one of these spells of yours. Dammit, you could endanger the whole team, don't you see that?"

Jack managed to keep his voice quiet and steady, but the very real anger and concern in his eyes cut through Daniel like a knife. As the Colonel read his friend's tense body language and took a half-conciliatory step toward the younger man, Daniel deliberately backed up and met the other man's bleak gaze with a closed-down expression of his own, one that brought a silent curse of chagrined frustration to Jack's lips.

God, trying to deal with Daniel was sometimes like trying to navigate a mine field, Jack mused moodily; when the archaeologist got like this, Jack was unsure just exactly where to step next and usually ended up terrified that the very next move he made would spell certain disaster, either for himself or Daniel or the both of them.

"All right, enough; this needs to be dealt with NOW, before we go back through the stargate," Jack bit out, impulsively deciding that it wouldn't be wise to put this uncomfortable but very necessary discussion off till a later date. Even as he silently cursed himself for bringing the team into it and adding to Daniel's internal guilt and stress, he knew he had to do something to shake his friend out of this latest round of self-absorbed anguish that had almost pulled him completely under last night.

Jack hadn't seen Daniel that bad, that overwrought, in a very long time, and he sure as hell hadn't liked the terrible, sickening rush of fear that had surged through him when Daniel had turned those desperate, empty eyes to his, begging mutely for help, grappling wildly for something to fill up the dark nothing rising up from deep within his soul.

"I'm coming by your suite later tonight, after everyone's turned in and it's quiet. Wait up for me," Jack ordered gruffly now; and though he was initially afraid that Daniel would refuse, the younger man finally nodded once, grimly, before turning to walk away.

"Daniel!" Jack called after him; and there was something in the low, terse tone of his voice that compelled Daniel to turn just in time to surprise a look of quietly desperate pleading in Jack's dark eyes.

"One of the things you're worried about--your concern about what I might be thinking of you because of what happened between us...Well, you can stop worrying about that. I'm fine with it, really; we can, ah, discuss all that later, when I come by. Okay?"

Jack held Daniel's gaze with his, half-commanding, half-importuning the other man to respond, to understand; it seemed that the very air around them went still and silent, as if all of Garania awaited Daniel's reply, and the linguist felt his pulse rate begin to pick up again, felt himself drawn deeper and deeper into Jack's intense brown eyes.

Damn you, Jack, he thought to himself, knowing the battle was over before it had ever even properly begun. You have no right to pull rank on me on this one, no right to use Sam's and Teal'c's and even YOUR safety against me...but you're right, you son of a bitch. You're right. It IS wrong for me to put anyone else at risk because of my own emotional problems; I DO need...someone...who can listen, who might understand...

"Come around one," Daniel spoke tersely now, his voice coolly formal. "I'll leave the back door unlocked." And he walked away through the growing dusk, back to the mansion and the celebratory toasts and music and the bright, noisy business of fostering universal good will between Earth and any sentient society willing to join them in the ongoing fight against the Goa'uld. Jack watched him go, a pensive frown cutting lines into his forehead; and as his best friend's slender form climbed the massive steps at the back of the Chancellor's mansion, all Jack could think about was the memory of the hot, desperate suction of Daniel's mouth on his in the silence of the night--and of the hungry grasp and clutch of Daniel's long, sensitive fingers on the bare skin of Jack's chest, stroking and coaxing the older man into his own turbulent storm of hungry need.

Oh, God, Jack thought dully to himself, his eyes lingering on one last glimpse of Daniel's golden hair under the festive lights over the mansion's wide-flung back doors as the archaeologist disappeared inside; oh, God, why didn't I see this coming? But the peaceful garden held its silence around him and would give him no counsel.

Part Four

"You did good, Colonel; we'll be looking forward to your return at O800 tomorrow. You and the other members of SG-1 can make a full report then and take some much-deserved down time."

Hammond's smiling visage peered out at Jack from the vidscreen the Garanians had so thoughtfully provided to Jack in his private quarters, and Jack forced his usual insouciant grin into place as he leaned in closer to thank the General for trusting SG-1 to get the job done. Signing off with the heartfelt comment that it would indeed be good to get home, Jack severed the link so tenuously connecting him to Earth and sank down onto the couch in his suite with a weary sigh.

That damned treaty-signing celebration had gone on for what seemed like forever, and now it was already after one a.m. Garanian time, which meant that Daniel was most likely wearing a hole in the floor of HIS suite, waiting for Jack to show. I'm getting too damned old for this shit, Jack grumbled silently to himself as he forced his body up from its comfortable slump against the overstuffed couch cushions and snagged his jacket from a nearby chair. Guess I'd better not put this off any longer, he thought dourly as he slipped out into another clear, quiet night. I just hope I handle this the right way, for the both of us. Sighing, Jack fisted his hands in his pockets and walked with silent purpose toward the sequestered outline of Daniel's suite some several hundred yards away.

"Sorry I'm a bit late," Jack sighed; he stood on the rug in the middle of Daniel's living area, his lean face etched with lines of strain and weariness in the muted glow of the one lamp Daniel had left burning in the room. "Hammond contacted me on the vidlink, and I've been regaling him with tales of SG-1's infamous escapades this evening at the reception."

"I'm sure he was grinning ear to ear," Daniel remarked quietly, and the tiniest hint of a smile chased itself across his face before he dipped his head and made a serious study of the patterns in the rug at his feet.

"He seemed...pleased," Jack allowed laconically, and Daniel merely nodded, his shoulders slumping as he denied himself the luxury of leaning back fully in his chair.

"Do you want a drink?" he offered absently after a long beat of silence, and Jack cleared his throat and murmured a polite refusal.

"Uh, no, thanks; I believe I reached my limit some hours ago at the party," he replied. For another interminable minute the two men merely hovered in an uncomfortable stasis, and then an irritated frown twisted Jack's face as he moved to stand directly in front of Daniel's chair.

"I only wanted to help you last night, Daniel," he began without preamble, his voice low and uncharacteristically gentle. "I...I'm sorry--truly sorry--if I just made things worse for you."

That last remark had Daniel's head jerking up in surprised denial, a grimace of protest curling his mouth to one side. Darkly shadowed blue eyes locked with worried brown ones, and Daniel sighed and shook his head. No. No. He didn't want it to go like this, didn't want Jack taking on the blame, the responsibility, for what Daniel had started himself.

"You didn't make things worse, Jack," Daniel murmured with quiet certainty, and a chagrined half-smile teased at his lips without ever reaching his eyes. "You DID help me through...through what I was struggling with last night. I couldn't believe you would even do it, that you'd go so far for me, do those things just because I asked you to..."

"And I'm still not sure I even understand WHY you needed it, Daniel; why you needed ME in that way," Jack broke in carefully, backing up just enough to sit on the edge of the nearby couch. "But if you're worried that the whole thing was a grim endurance trial or some such for me, then don't. It was...well, you were there. I think you know what it was--for both of us. And I guess that's something else, something NEW, that we'll both need to deal with on top of all this other."

"I guess," Daniel replied noncommittally, and Jack sighed as he wondered if the other man was determined to make this difficult. But something in the defeated slump of Daniel's shoulders told the older man that Daniel was still in a very vulnerable place emotionally right now, despite any bluster to the contrary, and it was all Jack could do to keep himself from going over and pulling the other man into his arms.

God, I'm as messed up about this as he is, Jack thought sourly to himself as a rising hunger for even a minimum of physical contact with Daniel surged up inside him. Get a grip on yourself, Jack-o; it's been a long, strange day, after a much longer, much stranger night last night. You're tired, you're stressed, you're overfed and half liquored-up; just say what you came here to say and then get the hell out.

"Daniel--" he began somewhat crankily, and in the same instant Danel's voice sounded low and plaintive in the air between them:


Two pairs of eyes locked together, two heartbeats suddenly accelerated and then settled into a slow, hard pumping that pushed what seemed to be some drunk-inducing elixir through every vein and artery in both men's bodies. Jack wasn't quite sure who moved first, who rose and stood and closed the short distance between them; all he knew in the next, dazed seconds right afterward was that Daniel was wrapped around him like some stubborn clinging vine and that he, Jack O'Neill, was doing his own fair share of grasping and clutching and clinging in return as they stood swaying on the rug.

"I'm sorry," Daniel was muttering feverishly into the right side of Jack's neck, his breath hot and gusty as his fingers dug into Jack's back. "God, I don't know what this is, WHY I suddenly need much, Jack, God-so-much..."

"'s going to be okay, we'll get this all worked out..." Jack heard himself whispering roughly, soothingly, against Daniel's left ear. His hands had risen, seemingly of their own volition, to twist themselves in the short strands of Daniel's hair, and before he was even fully aware of it, he found that his lips had moved from the enticing curve of his best friend's ear to trace a light, hungry line of warm breath and barely-there kisses along Daniel's jaw. With a low, helpless moan Daniel tilted his head back and slid one hand to the back of Jack's neck, tugging Jack's head closer and pressing the other man's mouth more firmly against the hot, yearning flesh just over his carotid pulse. As Jack's lips slid like rough velvet over the frantic beat of life just beneath the skin of Daniel's throat, both men groaned aloud and pressed their bodies as closely together as they could manage.

"Goddammit, Daniel, I didn't come here for this," Jack growled futiley against Daniel's lips just before the younger man took his mouth in a hot, ravenous kiss that had Jack seeing stars and lights and experiencing dizzying swirls of dark, stomach-clutching lust. Drunk and reeling from the overwhelming power of the sensations ripping through him, Jack tried desperately to pull away, to step back and gain some rational perspective on the situation; but the second he felt the chill of empty air between his body and Daniel's, he was desperate to re-establish contact, to have every available inch of his own skin touching every available inch of Daniel's.

"I'm no psychiatrist, Daniel," Jack panted as Daniel planted a series of searing kisses all over the older man's face, "but something tells me that this is SO not normal--not even for US. Daniel, we have to be reasonable here, we have to STOP this..."

But even as Jack half-heartedly slid his hands around Daniel's wrists and forced the other man several inches away from him, his groin tightened with painful arousal and his heart felt like it would burst through his chest if they didn't finish this, if they didn't keep touching, kissing, merging one with the other as close and tight as they could possibly fit...

"It wasn't like this last night, Jack," Daniel groaned desperately, his pupils dilated with drunken desire. "Last night I just needed you to be here, to be CLOSE, to make me forget...But now, this...God, Jack, I don't think I WANT to stop this, I don't WANT to be reasonable..."

"We can't do this, Daniel, not with you being so--so--vulnerable right now," Jack insisted with growing desperation. He knew he had to be the one in control now, had to be strong enough to stop this, to put a swift end to whatever madness this was that had taken the both of them. But his blood was a slow, boiling fire within his veins, reducing his thoughts to nothing more than the driving, heated pulse of desire that curled from his gut to his groin and exploded with white-hot brilliance somewhere in his brain. And as Daniel began to yank and tug Jack's shirt tail out of his pants, his hands almost violent in their urgency, Jack found himself surrendering to the incredible feel of Daniel's lips suckling and nibbling and gliding over his, Daniel's teeth tugging and biting at Jack's bottom lip until the older man was half crazy with lust.

"Shit...shit!" Jack groaned as Daniel's hands freed the Colonel's shirt from his pants and then slid up beneath the material, raking hungry furrows up and across Jack's chest. With single-minded determination Daniel shoved his partner flat on his back onto the couch and flung himself on top of the other man, pressing his desperate hardness down onto Jack's own painful erection as his mouth sought Jack's again in a deep, thrusting kiss.

"Don't make me stop, Jack; you know you don't want to stop this, you don't want to be alone, all alone tonight..." And as Daniel took Jack's face between his hands and covered the older man's mouth with his, Jack lost all will to fight against the langorous fire burning through him. With a feral growl he fisted his hands in Daniel's hair and thrust against the other man's crushing, unbelievably arousing weight atop him, his right leg sliding up and around Daniel's left knee to keep the younger man firmly anchored against him.

"God, Daniel, we are in SUCH trouble, here," Jack swore helplessly, and then the shocking eroticism of his favorite linguist's very skilled tongue made him forget that anything else existed.