content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">HEROES FOR A DAY

"Wow!" muttered Kawalsky as he whirled away from the group of gyrating bodies and landed in a heap on the mat. "Hey, Colonel, these people really know how to celebrate."

Beside him, Jackson chuckled. "Maybe that's because they finally have something to celebrate. I mean, you can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for them, living in slavery for generations... And it could so easily have happened on Earth... If the people of Ancient Egypt --"

O'Neill smiled knowingly to himself and tuned the conversation out. He had known the young archaeologist for just a few weeks, yet it was long enough for him to know when he was winding up for a 'session' on one of his pet subjects, and he pitied Kawalsky the experience. Clambering to his feet, the strong Abydonian wine lacing its way though his senses, he headed for the small, single-roomed dwelling that Kasuf had provided for the team during their stay.

"Hey, Colonel? Where ya goin'?" Kawalsky wailed in his wake. "You'll miss the rest of the party."

"Back in two. Gotta take a leak, " Jack lied. He had no intention of rejoining the festivities, they had an early start next morning and a long trek back across the desert to the Stargate. One of them had to be thinking straight if they were to stand a chance of getting home.

In the cramped, low-ceilinged room, he groped his way to the sleeping pallet and lay down. He could do with a cigarette right about now but he had given his lighter to that kid, Skaara, and thrown the last of the pack away. At the time it had seemed like a good idea - after all, he'd had no intention of surviving past the explosion that would seal the Stargate forever - but as the first itching of nicotine withdrawal began to weave its effects through the fluffy alcoholic cloud presently invading his head, it was a decision he was starting to regret.

Stretched out on his back, one arm across his eyes to shut out the thin glow of firelight filtering in from outside, he began to drift, reliving the maelstrom of events that had filled the short time since their arrival here. There had hardly been time to stop and think, to consider exactly where he was and what he was doing. It seemed incredible that a short step through a metal ring, even one as massive as the Stargate, and a few moments later he was on the other side of the galaxy. The galaxy for crying out loud! He'd reached the stage in his life when he had accepted that he would never even make it into orbit, let alone travelling - how many light years had they told him it was? Never mind, it was a long, long way from everything he knew and held dear. So far and so amazing that he felt swamped buy it, Earth quickly becoming nothing more than a memory.

There was a part of him that didn't want to go back, knowing there was little for him to go back for. His son was dead, his marriage too, though that had hit the rocks months before the accident. Sara needed him, he needed the Air Force. It was a kind of warped love triangle with the military as the third party, the two pulling him in opposing directions, leaving him bruised and battered, his mind only half on what he was doing. That was how he had come to slip up, leave the gun where Charlie could find it, the loaded clip still in place.

He shifted restlessly on the straw mat, wondering again how Jackson had managed to talk him into living. Not with words - there had hardly been time to draw breath, let alone discuss the reasons why he should or should not end the misery that was his life. But there had been a moment, in the chamber, as the countdown on the bomb ticked their lives away. A moment when he had looked at Jackson, and Jackson had looked at him, and for the first time in months he had seen a future. Thousands of light years away from home he might be, but he could still make a difference, and if saving the people of Abydos went some way towards atonement for the negligence that had cost him his son's life, then that was the price he would pay.

He drifted along the stream of thoughts, allowing sleep to reach out to him. At the age of forty-three he had finally come to terms with the fact that he had missed the boat as far as space travel was concerned. There were younger men than he already on their way up, leaving no room for a loser like him. No longer were his eyes on the stars, but on the desk waiting for him, a pension on the horizon and long nights reminiscing with others of his kind about the things they had done and places they had been. Things he would never now tell his grandchildren. He had been resigned to it all when, unexpectedly, everything had changed. General West had called for him and once again he found that he was needed. He had two people to thank for that: West, for putting friendship before protocol and Jackson for opening the door for him to a whole other world. Between them they had given him back hope and a reason to go on. But it was to Jackson he was most grateful. The geeky guy had refused to let Jack dismiss him, instead meeting prejudice with compassion, almost willing Jack to decide to live. It was, Jack decided now, a pity that he had elected to stay behind on Abydos. Something told him that, given the chance, they might just have the beginnings of a friendship here.

He was almost asleep when a sharp sound snatched him back and placed his pistol into his hand, flicking off the safety in one fluid, silent movement.

"Who's there?" he called, searching the darkness. "Come out where I can see you." Great, Jack. Like anyone from the settlement will understand English...

A shuffling of feet, a rustle of coarse cloth. He could barely make out the figure that inched into his field of vision and he raised the gun that little bit higher, aiming for a body shot, should the need arise.

"One-ell..." He recognised the attempt at his name, and the voice of the speaker as the young boy who had become his shadow in recent days.

"Skaara? What the hell are you doing here?"


Terrific. Another one-sided conversation. Maybe it is a good thing we're getting out of here tomorrow...

The boy edged his way closer, until the pale light touched his face, highlighting the sharp cheekbones and nose, throwing pools of shadow around the almond eyes. Jack caught his breath. Until now the kid had looked like any other of his age, scruffy, neglected and definitely in need of a wash. But here, in this light, away from the harsh desert sun, he looked - beautiful, dark and exotic. Something dark stirred within Jack, something that had been locked away for all of his adult life. A need? Or an aberration? He had never been sure and so he had erred on the side of caution and forbidden himself from ever venturing down that particular road. And it had been surprisingly easy. There were always plenty of willing females ready to satisfy the needs of a good-looking man in uniform and, when his wild oats had all been sown, along had come Sara, lovely in her own way, gentle and kind and so very different from all that had gone before. He had imagined himself in love with her, had married her within a few months of their meeting and before their first anniversary she was heavy with his child. His beautiful son. Such was the sand upon which they had built the foundation of their marriage.

But once in a while the old need would reassert itself - a face in a crowd, a laugh heard at a distance, a look or a touch in a crowded room - yet always he forced it aside, told himself how much was at stake, reminded himself of that time long ago and the wedge it had driven between himself and the family he had loved. The little self-respect and the lifetime's career he had were too important to be thrown away for a few moments of gratification. But that was on Earth, where his life was restricted by petty regulations outside of which he was too afraid to step, and things were so much different here. Values, customs, their whole way of life was so far removed from all that he knew and trusted. Barriers he had erected to protect himself from the daily pain of Charlie's death had been torn down by the need of the Abydonians and the devotion of their sons. One son in particular....

With the grace of a dancer, Skaara folded to his knees at Jack's side, his long fingered hand coming to rest possessively on Jack's midsection, and there was no mistaking the look in his eyes. Hunger. A hunger that Jack knew of old.

A wave of memories assaulted O'Neill, a painful past long ago left behind, locked inside a wall of shame. Memories of adolescent gropings, of hidden desires briefly given the freedom of hands and mouths and sweet, sweet flesh, and the joy of tasting and the wonderful pain of possession. And the guilt that followed. Memories too of voices raised in anger, of the hand that cracked across his face and the belt that split the skin of his back, of his mother's tears and his father's hate.

"No..." he whispered, trying his best to back away as the boy reached for him, but his protest was ignored, his wrist taken in a grip of steel and the weapon removed from his grasp, and he did nothing to stop it, mesmerised by the dark eyes smiling into his as his fingers were raised to dusty lips, each one kissed, the palm drawn briefly to curve against a tanned cheek as another kiss was placed against the inside of his wrist.

You can't let this happen his conscience argued silently, yet still he did nothing to stop it, his mind exploding with the knowledge of what had brought Skaara here. This boy, this child was attempting to seduce him - and making a damn good job of it into the bargain. Jack felt his cock twitch and wanted to scream with the long-denied pleasure of it.

"One-ell," the boy said repeated, murmuring something that was, to Jack, unintelligible. But words were unimportant as Jack felt his other hand lifted and kissed, and pressed back against the mat. Sensing command within the gesture, he left his hand there, tucking the other behind his head to lift himself enough so that he could watch. He had to be dreaming, some drunken fantasy coming unbidden to ease this last night before he went home to face his responsibilities. There was no other explanation, unless... The part of his mind that was still attempting to function was warning him that he should stop this, now, before it went too far, but that part of him was fast losing the battle. Who was he kidding here? He had watched the boy, teased and joked with him as much as the limitations of language would allow, and all the time the affection between them was growing, and each time he looked into those lovely eyes he had felt the implications through ever fibre of his being. He was wanted, and to his horror and delight, he found he wanted in return.

Young hands made old by years of heavy labour scratched at his skin as his t-shirt was pushed up, bunching beneath his armpits. The dark head lowered, and a needle of pain stabbed through his head and down into his groin as sharp teeth fastened on his left nipple. It left him in no doubt as to what had brought Skaara here.

Don't do this, Jack... his conscience warned once more. He dealt with it by telling it simply to shut the fuck up and leave him alone. Pushing himself up higher, he watched as the boy suckled, rosebud mouth moving from one tiny nub to the other and back again.

"Not so hard," he whispered as the pain turned to discomfort. But the mouth continued its work with enthusiasm and he reached down, grasping a handful of the black hair, surprised at how silky it felt as he gently lifted Skaara's face. Dreamy eyes greeted him above a mouth swollen with the pleasure it had bestowed, and Jack felt himself harden still more.

Time seemed to stand still. "How old are you, kid?" he asked, then shook his head. "Never mind, I don't think I want to know."

"He's seventeen," a voice answered from the doorway, startling Jack and sending him scurrying back into the shadows, tugging his shirt back into place.

"Jackson? What the fuck...?"

"I came to get my journal, didn't mean to - interrupt." He was sitting on the step and although he gestured to his own sleeping place, he made no attempt to move towards it. "You don't need to feel guilty, Jack, this is - natural to him."


"Boys and girls on Abydos can't - ah - 'do' anything together till they're married, so they're encouraged to... learn from others of their - um - sex. An older man taking a boy into his bed is considered - an honour. There are precedents in such cultural differences on Earth -"

"- Don't start with the lecture," Jack warned tightly. His head was aching, his cock was throbbing and Skaara had just found a whole new occupation for his hands, which were plucking eagerly at the fly of Jack's pants. Embarrassed, he tried to swat them away. "Just... tell him 'no', okay."

"No?" a soft laugh. "That would be an insult, Jack."

Skaara turned and said something to Daniel in his own language, which made Daniel laugh again and reach out to swat the boy's shoulder. Jack, anger increasing, asked what had been said.

"He can't understand why you don't want him now." He reverted to the boys language once more to ask another question, then: "He thinks the gift you gave him was a - bonding token."

"Gift? What gift?" Daniel relayed the question and, with an excited grin, Skaara dug into his pocket and produced the cigarette lighter Jack had given him. Jack groaned. "I just gave it to him, it wasn't supposed to mean anything."

A snigger. Jackson sure had a mean sense of humour. "Well, that's not what he thinks and - it's not what his father thinks either. To them we're gods, Jack. You turn the kid away and you'll be insulting the whole tribe, telling them they're not worthy. I.. don't think you want to go there."

Jack sat up, wrapping his knees within his arms." So what are you telling me here? Either I screw the kid or upset the whole of Abydos?"

"That's about it, yes." Cloth rustled as Daniel clambered to his feet and turned to leave. "Look at it this way, Jack - it could be worse."

"Oh yeah?" Jack yelled at his departing back. "You wanna tell me how? For crying out loud - do you realise what they'd do to me if West ever found out I was even thinking about this? He's seventeen, Daniel, and he's male. That's two honkin' great 'no's in their book."

"I know what the regulations are, Jack - but who's going to tell him? You?"

"Kawalsy, for a start, if he thought it'd get him my job." Jack replied bitterly, too aware of how the chain of command could be manipulated by those unethical enough to do so.

"Kawalsy's falling down drunk and Ferretti's - busy, and once we bury the gate I won't exactly be in a position to tell General West anything, so you're quite safe. If it's what you want, why not take the opportunity to enjoy it."

Jack looked down into the dark eyes, traced his finger across the soft lips. No one would ever know... He looked up again, still uncertain - but Daniel had already gone. He was alone, with this mysterious, beautiful, desirable boy just waiting for him to take the lead.

The dark eyes were on him still, waiting for his next move. Such beautiful eyes, such a sweet face - that smile was driving him so crazy with lust, even his toenails were throbbing. Daniel had said it could be worse, and the irony of it was, he was right. If Jack scanned back along the timeline of his past, he could think of a lot of things that were worse than getting a blow job from that beautiful mouth and... it had been a long time. Even before Charlie's death, he and Sara had been sleeping in separate rooms for almost a year. That's a long time to go without. A couple of times he had found himself in one of those downtown bars that catered for lonely men, but Jack had always prided himself that he had never had to buy what he needed, and he wasn't about to start.

On the other hand, when it was offered to him on a plate.....

He combed his fingers through the soft black hair and told himself to relax, let it happen. What was the harm in giving them both something to remember, when after tomorrow he would be far, far away. The kid was - what had Jackson said? - seventeen. But then, of course, the Abydos day was thirty six hours long, not twenty four like back home, so in Earth terms, Skaara was really... well... closer to twenty-five, which meant he really wouldn't be corrupting a minor....

Skaara reached up and back, pulling the leather tie from his hair and allowing it to tumble in a curtain of heavy dark locks around his shoulders. Jack moaned and shifted position, trying to find some relief for his aching manhood. Desire flashed through him. It was there for the taking, so why the hell was he holding back?

"One-ell... " It was the only word he could understand and he cursed himself for not having paid more attention to Jackson. He might at least have picked up something of the language.

"I don't know what you're asking, kid, but whatever it is the answer is yes. Do whatever you want." There, it was said, he was committed now.

"You... Wa-want.... Skaara...?"

Jack's eyes widened. He might not have been paying attention, but the kid sure as hell had. "Yes!" he said, almost shouting the word. "Yes, I-I want Skaara," and as he said it, he realised just how true it was. It was more than just the desire to take advantage of a pretty, willing body. Much more. His hands framed the slender face, thumbs rubbing lightly across the full pink lips. "I want you, Skaara - god help me..."

Wiry and strong beyond his years, the boy braced himself, allowing Jack to use him as anchorage by which to pull himself up, closer and closer, until their lips were almost touching. "Skaara - " he murmured.

"One-ell - " Whispered reply, and then words became redundant as the boy turned his head and opened his mouth for Jack's kiss.

It was the sweetest kiss Jack had ever known. The boy tasted of salt and spice, of the richness of Abydonian food and the hot dry taste of the desert. Having spent all his military life in adjusting quickly to different environments, Jack had stopped noticing the odour of what Daniel described as 'yak' within hours of their arrival, so it was easy for him to detect the dusky scent of the boys skin, a real human smell, warm and in a strange way, comforting.

He lost himself in their kisses, switching off the rest of his world. After tonight they could do with him whatever they wanted, throw him back into retirement or send him off to some war to die for a Cause, stick him behind a desk and let him crumble away until they put him in a box and planted him in some military graveyard. He didn't care, because he would always have this moment to look back on.

Mouth still locked to mouth, he eased their bodies apart, reached between them and tugged at the hem of Skaara's tunic. A momentary parting, a frantic gasping for air, and their mouths sealed together again, and the tunic lay in the dust. He skimmed searching hands over the naked torso, feeling dry, suede skin that his memory told him would be dark, like walnut shells, finding the tiny hard nubs that hardened still more as he pinched them, capturing the startled cry in his mouth before it could break on the air.

His own t-shirt joined the tunic, even as he was pulling Skaara roughly back into his arms, needing to feel that skin against his own, wanting to get as close as possible to this treasure. His cock pulsed so hard at that thought that he almost came, realising that the only way he would ever get close enough to the kid was to be inside him. Could he do that? Dammit, there wasn't even a way of finding out if this was the boy's first time. He could hurt him, damage him - scare him so much he might run away and never come back.

Jack remembered his own first time, how much it had hurt. But Scott had been gentle, had taken his time, made sure Jack was well-prepared in both body and mind, and in the end the pain had been momentary, washed quickly away in the pleasure that followed. But his conscience argued Scott had only been sixteen, and you were only twelve. Twelve and terrified, and yet so needy, so knowing.

Daniel had said same gender sexual activity was 'natural' for the Abydonian adolescents, so Skaara had to have some experience, even if it was only messing around with each other, exploring each others bodies. If he only had the words to ask him....

"Daniel." He wasn't even aware that he had said the name out loud until Skaara fired off a whole mess of businesslike chatter that was accompanied by much gesturing to the door and in the course of which he distinctly heard the name 'Dan-yell'. "Yeah I know where he is, kid," he muttered "I just wish I had him here - "

He sighed, feeling himself cornered. Daniel would laugh at him forever, but there was no way he was going to force himself on the kid without them both knowing what was going on. If the boy was willing to do this then that was fine by Jack - Skaara just had to know what it was he'd be doing.

"Stay here," he ordered Skaara, miming the instruction as best he could in a 'you here, me out there' kind of way. To his relief, Skaara nodded and turned to sprawl belly-down on the mat, his tight little ass waggling in the air, just begging to be fucked. Jack fought the temptation to return to him and instead pushed his way through the ragged curtain and into the cooling night air.

Daniel was over near the fire, dancing with Sha're - or at least, Jack assumed it was dancing. It seemed to him that on this planet anything was open to interpretation. "Daniel!" he called, hurrying over to him. Lazy, slightly unfocused blue eyes turned to smile at him.

"Jack?" A giggle. "Finished so soon?"

Jack sighed. That was all he needed. From the look of him, Daniel had clearly been enjoying more than his fair share of the local vintage. "I haven't even started yet," he hissed, grabbing him by the elbow. "We need to talk."

"I'm dan-ic!-dancing," the anthropologist hiccuped.

"Well she's not gonna run away! You got me into this, now I figure it's up to you to get me through it."

"Okay! 'kay!" Gathering Sha're into his arms, he kissed her gently on the cheek and murmured something Jack could not understand but which made her laugh. Jack bristled, then locked his paranoia away, deciding that if Jackson wanted to have a joke at his expense then he didn't want to know about it. Not tonight.

"So... WaddayawannaknowColonel?" Daniel asked, allowing himself to be led away from the fire and the party that seemed destined to go on for the next month.

Jack found a quiet spot, glad of the shadows to hide his own embarrassment. "There's some stuff I need to know before I... y'know... with Skaara..."

"Before you fuck him, you mean?" Another giggle accompanied a coy look from the younger man.

Uh-huh thought Jack, maybe the wine would make this easier than he had anticipated. Jackson certainly seemed less - inhibited than Jack would have expected. Somehow, he didn't think a word like 'fuck' had a regular place in the doctor's vocabulary, unless it was related to some cultural matter of course.

"Exactly. And since I don't speak Abydonian, and he doesn't speak English - you can see my problem."

"Oh!" grinned Daniel, as if a cartoon light bulb had flashed on over his head. "You want me to translate." A snort. "This should be interesting..."

"For you maybe," Jack threatened "But if word one of this gets outside of the two of us, I'll bounce your ass all the way back through that Stargate. Understand me, doctor?"

Daniel was all wide-eyed innocence. "Sure, Jack. Lips are sealed..." and he made a zipping motion across his mouth. Unfortunately, the whole effect was spoilt when he muttered "God, why do you military types have to make such a big deal out of everything?" Jack chose to ignore him and pushed him into the dwelling.

Skaara lay as Jack had left him, belly down on the mat. The green cotton of the BDU pants Kawalsky had given him was pulled tight across the raised butt, which pointed invitingly towards the door, the slightly parted thighs altogether too much temptation for both men.

"Oh my!" Daniel whispered, glancing quickly at the colonel, who swallowed audibly. "Jack, are you sure you need my help with this? If you ask me, he knows exactly what he wants."

Jack threw him a withering look. "I know what he wants," he insisted, "I just need to know that he's... that it's not his... " His voice trailed away into an embarrassed silence. After a moment, Daniel took pity on him.

"You mean, if this is his first time."


"Okay, I think we can manage that." Daniel responded, sitting cross legged on the end of the mat, upon which Skaara was still sprawled. To give the man his due, he took a long, hard and not unappreciative look at the body displayed before him and Jack could almost believe he sensed the tiniest trace of jealousy.

Jack sat down on the step and scrabbled both hands through his cropped hair. "I need to know if he's... ever been with a man before." A groan of frustration punctuated the words. "I need to know what experience he's got."

The blue eyes widened. "Jack, I already told you --"

"I know what you told me! What I need to know is how it applies to him. I know what the first time is like, Daniel, and I've got no intention of putting him through that if all we're talking about here is a quick hand job! Get it?" Frustration and need made the words run together, added a cutting edge to his voice.

Every trace of intoxication left Daniel's eyes as he nodded slowly. "I see what you mean. I'm - sorry, Jack. I never thought...."

"What?" Jack barked. "What didn't you think?"

"That - it would matter to you."

"What? You telling me you don't think I'd care if I hurt him? What the hell kind of a man do you think I am?"

"Military. The kind who walks roughshod over anything that stands in his way. I've seen it, Jack. You see a lot of things done in places like this that would make the rest of the world ashamed."

"Yeah, but not by me." Shaking inside, desire turning to anger, he looked past Jackson's shoulder and deep into the almond eyes. "D'you really think I could hurt anything as beautiful as that."

Daniel shook his head. "See, that's what I mean." Jack scowled but said nothing, his silence prompting the character assassination to continue. "You referred to him as 'something', like he's just there to be used."

"It's an expression, fercryinoutloud! I don't use people, Daniel. Christ! What the hell gave you such a low opinion of me anyhow?"

"It's not you... not exactly. Just the whole military ethos."

"In other words, you don't like us."

"Not much."

"So how come you joined the project?" Jack asked softly, sweetly - too subtle for Daniel to notice the change.

Wide-eyed, almost scoffing at the question, it sounded so ridiculous. "Are you kidding? Miss out on all of this, the chance to see things nobody has ever seen, go places other people on Earth won't go for another hundred years - if then? I might be a geek, Jack, but I'm not an idiot."

In the darkness of the tiny dwelling, Jack grinned, the jaws of the trap closing silently around the scientists metaphorical throat. "So in other words - you used us - used me - to get what you wanted."

"No! I mean - er - That's to say...." Words trailed away as he hung his head, slanting a defeated look at the colonel from beneath his sun-bleached hair. "I walked right into that, didn't I."

Gleefully. "Oh yeah." Jack grinned, then quickly sobered. "I give you my word, Danny, I won't do anything he doesn't want me to do. I just - I need to know. Okay? I want him, yeah, I admit that - but I will not hurt him."

"Even if it means going without?"

A nod. "Even then."

Satisfied, Daniel touched the boy's shoulder, dragging his attention away from the colonel. At first Jack tried to interrupt the flow of the conversation, wanting Daniel to explain each answer as they went along, then it occurred to him that more would be accomplished if he just stayed out of the way and let the linguist get on with it. It seemed to take forever. Daniel would ask a question, Skaara would answer, his voice low and surprisingly serious, his dark eyes flicking between the two older men, but never once did he get angry, or ashamed, or give any sign that the line of questioning disturbed him in any way. Only the last question was met with what Jack recognised as shyness, a downcast look, an almost imperceptible nod of his head, and Daniel's reaction, too, was different, more - sympathetic, as he stretched a hand to touch the young face and murmur something that only he could hear.

Jack waited... and waited... He waited so long he thought he was going to shrivel up and die from frustration. In the end he just had to know and, leaning forward, swatted his team-mate on the shoulder. "So? What'd he say?"

Daniel was all apology, until he noticed it only made Jacks frustration worse. " Well, you were right about him still being a - I mean, never having..."

"He's still a virgin?" Jack offered, swearing sharply when Daniel nodded. "I knew it.. Damn!"

Daniel laughed, which once again did not go down well. "Relax, Jack! I said he's never done it - didn't say he doesn't want to." Jack threw him the patented O'Neill 'I so do not believe that' look, but said nothing. What could he say? The fact that the boy wanted it didn't change the fact that they would probably be breaking a million and one taboos, and he kinda liked his head where it was, thanks.

"Do you want to hear this?" Daniel enquired. "He wants to give himself to you, Jack. He knows what will happen, he knows about the... the first time stuff... but he still wants to go through with it and... Kasuf has given his blessing. Said something about being honoured to have both of us in his family. They both trust you, Jack - you can't ask more than that."

"And... that bit at the end?" Daniel stared at him blankly. "You asked him something made him go very quiet."

"Oh... that.... " A deep sigh broke from the scientists lips. "I asked him if he understood you were going away in the morning, that after tonight he'll never see you again."

Jack felt his throat tighten. Skaara was still staring at the mat: Jack caught his chin and lifted his head so that he could look into those beautiful eyes again. "What did he say?"

"He - understands and - accepts it. He said it would be his... parting gift to you."

It was more than Jack could possibly have hoped for and he felt himself tremble as he raised his other hand to frame the olive face. "Tell him - " He fought for the words, not used to making fancy speeches yet needing to say something to match Skaara's dignity. "Tell him - I accept and that I'm - honoured by his gift."

Daniel repeated the words and Skaara, hearing them, let out a soft cry of joy and slid into Jack's arms, tilting back his head to offer his mouth to the older man. It was a kiss filled with desire and - Jack shivered - surrender, leaving him in no doubt as to what was to happen. Relinquishing his hold on reality, Jack turned the boy to rest across his lap, cradling him there as he began to gently stroke the slender body.

"Is it wrong of me to want him?" he asked, his gaze never leaving the tanned face.

"Only you know that, Jack. If you just - " there was a blush in his voice " - need to get off, then yes, I'd say it's wrong. If that's all you want, let him go and - take me."

Jack's head shot up, eyes wide and shocked. "You? You'd trade places with him - for me?"



"Because you're a friend and - I know what's expected. I've - already been there."

Silence, as Jack considered this, then "Are you telling me you're gay?"

"Not exactly." He scratched his cheek. "But when you're fourteen and alone, and a long way from home, things... happen."

Jack remembered - more than he wanted to. "But what about..." He made a gesture with his head towards the door, not wanting to mention Sha're's name in front of her brother.

"She knows. It's - not a problem here."

The two men looked at each other through the shadows, and Jack knew, instinctively, what Daniel meant. When he was gone, back to Earth and the misery awaiting him there, Daniel would take care of Skaara. The best of both worlds, a wife and a lover.

Skaara's small hand fluttered against Jack's cheek, drawing him back to the present, and he realised sadly that there was nothing he could do to change the future. All he could do was enjoy this moment in time. Capturing the boy's hand, he drew it to his lips, folding it open so that he could kiss the palm before bending to take the soft lips in the most delicate of kisses.

"Does it make it right if I - care about him? A lot..." he asked, gazing deep into the dark eyes.

Daniel sighed, a sound that echoed of both satisfaction and regret. "Do you?"

"I think so. I know it's him I want, not just the sex. I want him."

If Daniel answered, Jack didn't hear it, so lost was he in the sweetness of the boy's mouth. One arm cradled the slender body against his chest, the other hand gently stroked down his throat and across his shoulder, mapping him, learning him as his fingers found the tiny nubs once more. Breaking the kiss, he trailed his mouth along the path his hand had marked, circling the nipple with his tongue, feeling a shudder pass through the boy. His willingness was overwhelming and Jack felt humbled by so much self assurance from one so young, wishing he had been allowed such freedom in his youth.

His free hand moved lower, working loose the buttons on the front of the pants, slipping inside, lifting Skaara free of the cloth. Stiff with youthful pride, his erection nestled in Jack's palm, pulsing softly in time with the rhythm of his heartbeat. Jack's throat grew tight as he realised yet again what he was being offered. All that Skaara was, his hopes and his dreams, and his trust, had been placed into Jack's hands.

Movement caught his attention and he looked up to find Daniel kneeling beside them, watching them with a shy smile on his lips. "You'll need this' the scientist told him, holding out a familiar looking tube. "For lube?" he added at Jack's frown. "It's only the sunscreen Ferretti gave me but it's better than nothing."

"Thanks," Jack murmured.

Daniel reached out, hesitant, then ran his fingers lightly over the black hair. "He's very beautiful."

"D'you - want to stay - ?" Jack invited, surprised that such a thought would have occurred to him at that moment. But Daniel shook his head.

"Threesomes aren't my scene. I've - never been much good at sharing." With a swift touch to Jack's bare shoulder - a touch that in itself made Jack shiver - he stood up. "I'll make sure you're not disturbed," he promised, and was gone before Jack could say anything more on the subject.

Alone, Jack gazed down at the flawless face, tracing the angles with the tip of his finger. His, for one night. It hardly seemed fair, but that was the hand he had been dealt and there was more appeal in staying than folding.

"Ah Skaara... D'you know how hard it's going to be leaving you behind tomorrow? I wish there was some way I could take you with me - but they have to believe we blew up the gate and there's nothing for them to be afraid of."

The boy smiled, oblivious to the turmoil going on inside the colonel's head. His hand lifted, cupping against Jack's face and guiding it down to his own, taking the lead to stir Jack from his immobility. They kissed, long and hard, and as they did so Jack once more took the straining shaft into his hand, brushing his fingertips along it's length and feeling it quiver. He was lost in the wonder of it all, when he felt Skaara's hands begin to pluck at his own pants once more, trying to find a way inside. A soft laugh vibrated through his chest as he eased Skaara away from him.

"Not hot on patience, are you kid..." he said, clambering to his feet and reaching to unfasten his belt. But Skaara was ahead of him, rolling to his knees and brushing his hands aside. Jack laughed again and ruffled the dark hair. "Okay, kid, you go for it," he grinned.

Slowly - so slowly it became painful to just stand there and watch the expression of awe on the young face - Skaara worked the buttons loose, slipped his hands inside, gliding them over Jack's pale skin, around and over and down, taking pants and briefs together down the colonel's long legs, bending low to ease them over his bare feet. Jack's cock sprang free, hot and hard, jutting from him, waiting.

Slowly - so slowly that Jack wanted to scream with the waiting - Skaara slid his hands back up the lightly furred calves, over the bony knees where he paused a moment, tracing the scar of an old injury, and on up the muscled thighs. His thumbs found the softer skin between them and dug deep, marking him with overlong nails and Jack caught his breath, let it hiss out from between clenched teeth as the sensation shot straight to his cock. Fire sang through his veins as hands weathered by a lifetime of manual labour bracketed his groin and a dusky cheek nudged against his shaft.

"Oh.. yeah..." he sighed. "Skaara... Please..."

Separated by half a galaxy, their language became the language of need, of desire, of the sweet gift of hands and mouths. As the moist heat engulfed him, Jack could not help but think that Daniel had been right. A virgin Skaara might be, but he was a long way from being inexperienced and the word timid just wasn't written in his particular book. His hands were everywhere, his mouth and tongue driving Jack insane with their talent as he suckled and nipped and licked. Yet it was too much too soon, and suddenly Jack was pulling back, easing tender flesh from the swollen lips.

Skaara looked first stunned and then embarrassed, dropping his gaze to the dusty floor as he moved his hands to cover the evidence of his own arousal. It took only a moment for Jack to realise what he had done, what interpretation the boy must have put on his actions, then he was down on his knees, cupping the forlorn face between his hands and lifting it, touching his lips to the down-turned mouth. "Slowly," he urged, breath mingling with breath, tongue sliding between the soft lips, tasting the first traces of himself in the boy's sweetness. "We've got all night..."

Grasping angular shoulders, he turned Skaara, carrying him gently down to the rug-strewn floor.

"Oh God... you really are beautiful," he whispered reverently, a part of him delighting in the fact that he could say such things aloud and Skaara would never understand him and therefore never cause him to feel ashamed of his emotions, the way Sara had done, laughing at him whenever he tried to be romantic and telling him not to try to be something he wasn't.. For someone as emotionally insecure as Jack considered himself to be, this was the perfect solution.

Skaara simply smiled at the softness of his tone and moved his body to display it for Jack's pleasure, one arm tucked beneath his head, one leg drawn up and out to expose him to the chocolate gaze. Offering a silent entreaty to any entity willing to listen and look kindly upon him, Jack began once more to kiss his way down the young body.

Only once had he ever done this to another man, and that had been thirty years ago. Yet, as he took the slender shaft into his mouth for the first time, the years seemed to roll away and he was back in the hay loft on Aunt Jessica's ranch, learning how to make love to Scott, listening with growing satisfaction and awe to the sounds of pleasure vibrating through the older boys chest and knowing that he, and he alone, had made that happen. For the first time in his young life he had actually made someone happy.

Skaara's hand on his hair drew him back to the present and he looked up and smiled. "Like that, kid?" he asked, running the tip of his tongue over the rosy head. The boy arched his head back and sighed, thrusting upward with his hips. Jack laughed and reached for the tube of sunscreen, squeezing an over generous amount onto his fingers.

"Tell me if I hurt you," he said, knowing the boy would not understand him and he would have to watch very carefully every step of the way from now on for any sign that his young lover was in pain.

Sliding his hand beneath the raised ass, he very gently probed the warm cleft. For a moment Skaara's eyes widened in surprise... then he grinned and sank back to the floor, spreading his legs wide. Oh god! Jack thought, then Please, please, don't let me hurt him! Slowly, and with as much care as he could muster, he pressed the tip of his smallest finger against the virgin opening, his gaze never leaving the beautiful face as he breached the ring of muscle. Something of his concern must have shown itself in his face for Skaara, bottom lip caught between even white teeth, smile suddenly and nodded, urging him on.

Seconds lengthened into minutes as Jack worked to ease the way, exchanging the little finger for the thicker middle one... adding more of the lotion and a second finger... and then a third... and all the while Skaara watched, and learned, and smiled his willingness to have this done to him. When Jack was sure he was as relaxed as he could get him, he curled around the slim hips and took the weeping cock into his mouth, at the same time driving his fingers deep into the still-tight channel. He had to bring Skaara as close to the edge as possible because he knew that the moment that sweet little hole closed around his cock he would come. Such intense stimulation coupled with the years of denial would make endurance impossible. He sighed, saddened by the knowledge that their one time together would be so brief, jealous of what Daniel would inherit.

But Skaara, as willing as he was to be taken, was apparently not content to do so passively. Sitting up suddenly, with his arms braced behind him, he began rocking his hips in time with Jack's rhythm, pushing himself deeper and deeper into the older man's mouth, so deep that Jack gagged and pulled back sharply, his fingers sliding from their hot cocoon. Fighting to control his laboured breathing, he sat back, gazing with amusement and astonishment into the dark eyes. The kid must have been the best student in this particular class and while he might never have taken his finals, he had sure learned his lessons well! Okay, if he wanted to take the lead, that was fine by Jack.

Wiping his fingers on a corner of the blanket, Jack lay down, guiding the boy on top of him. Skaara went willingly, his enthusiasm leaving Jack standing. Stretching out, matching his length to Jack's he began to undulate, slowly at first, then with increasing speed and pressure, his trapped cock strafing over and over against Jack's. The temperature between them soared, skin sliding slickly against skin as the sweat poured from them. Jack spread his legs, allowing Skaara's to fall between them and so increase the contact of groin on groin. He could feel the heavy balls slap against his own and the beat of it was driving him crazy, carrying him to the edge of oblivion. His vision began to darken, shot through with tiny red pinpoints as the blood pounded his veins and he could hear the hammering of his own heart as he plunged towards completion --

-- only to be pulled back abruptly as Skaara shifted position, moving to straddle his hips with all the confidence of a veteran, lifting himself and positioning right over Jack's straining shaft.

"Yessssss!" Jack hissed. "Do it, Skaara... Please..." he begged as he reached to grasp him by the hips and pull him down.

Slowly... slowly... Skaara eased himself down, impaling himself on Jack's cock. For an instant his young face twisted with so much pain that Jack found himself struggling to pull away, break the connection and simply take him in his arms and beg forgiveness for having hurt him. He could almost see the moment when pain blossomed into pleasure. The dark eyes, squeezed tight shut a moment ago, opened halfway, dreamy and sated, the long neck arched back, ebony silk brushing erotically over Jack's thighs, and a low, rich purr of satisfaction broke from his throat. It was the most wonderful sound Jack had ever heard because, lost in there somewhere, he heard his name: "One-ell..."

It was over too soon, as he knew it would be, but Jack would never forget that moment, or the feel of the hot, tight flesh around him, or the sound of Skaara's voice calling his name over and over in a litany of lust and love. He came, hard and fast, his release exploding into the willing body and triggering Skaara's own, the sweet cream pumping forcefully over Jack's belly and chest. He scooped it up with his fingers and began to smear it over the silky skin, circling his sticky fingers over the tiny erect nipples and the hairless chest, rubbing them up the long throat until he reached the wet, parted lips, where Skaara seized on them, sucking and licking at them with a fervour that drew a nervous laugh from Jack. Learning fast, the boy ran his own fingers through the glistening trails on Jack's stomach and slid them into the colonel's mouth.

Overwhelmed by the boy's presence, Jack reached out and pulled him into his arms once more, at the same time drawing up his knees, wanting to maintain the fragile connection between them until the last possible moment.

"Thank you," he whispered, nuzzling the salty skin beneath the boy's ear. "Daniel was right."

"Dan-yell?" Puzzled, Skaara looked from Jack's face to the door, and back, murmuring something that Jack was unable to translate.

"I wish I could understand you, kid," the colonel sighed. "I wish you could understand me, so I could tell you how much this means to me." He wound a strand of the thick silk around his fingers, wondering insanely if Skaara would allow him to cut off a lock of hair to take home with him. "Maybe Daniel will teach you English after we're gone... not that he'll need to. Damn geek! He'll be in his element here..."

Skaara was only half listening to him as he peppered Jack's skin with tiny, succulent kisses that left little dark whorls on his pale skin. Love bites! He laughed. It was a lot of years since he'd had to explain away a hickey.

The kisses became more insistent, more passionate as Skaara worked his way down the older man's chest and, incredibly, Jack felt his cock begin to stir once again, swelling within the young body. Skaara must have felt it too because without warning he began to move, a writhing, undulating movement that sent tendrils of heat coiling through Jack's groin to fill him again, until he could feel the slick channel grow tight around him.

"Oh sweet jeezzzz - usssss!!" he sobbed as Skaara lifted his hips... and then slowly sank back down onto him.... repeating the movement over and over until Jack was pushing up into him, clawing at any part of him he could reach and crying his name repeatedly. It was sweet, so sweet, this second coupling, the edges of desire worn away by their earlier explosion, leaving a more delicate union in its wake. Skaara arched back, the steeper angle driving Jack's erection against his prostate, and he whimpered, spilling himself with a shudder over Jack's body once more. The sight and sound and feel of it was enough to tip Jack over the edge and he came with a sigh, too exhausted to do more than hold the narrow hips steady as he emptied himself into his young lover's body.

Shock waves still rippling through him, he eased his cock from its resting place and tipped them both onto their sides, gathering Skaara into his arms and burying his face in the thick, dark hair.

"You're amazing," he whispered, seeking and finding the pliant mouth and touching his own to it. Skaara murmured something unintelligible, already drifting into sleep, snuggled safe and warm in his colonel's embrace.

Jack knew that he should send the boy away, that allowing him to remain here was an open invitation to Kawalsky, but he was past caring. This had been the happiest night of his life and he was not about to send the boy away coldly, as if he were dismissing some nameless airman on the base. Skaara had given his body and his heart, and that was the greatest gift Jack could ever hope for.

Reaching beneath him, he snagged the corner of the blanket and pulled it over them as best he could. Sleep was already encroaching on him, the darkened room fuzzing out at the edges as he let consciousness go. With the last vestiges of awareness, he tipped the delicate face to meet his own and kissed the slack lips farewell. Tomorrow there would be no opportunity for tender goodbyes. Whatever had passed between them must end here, in this tiny room.

There was nothing else he could do.....


Daniel smiled softly to himself and leaned back against the wall. His gaze was fixed firmly on the celebrations still taking place around the fire, but his heart and mind lingered inside the tiny dwelling set aside for the team's use. He could hear them moving, Jack and Skaara, hear the rhythm of body against body, of voice mingling sweetly with voice. It was easy to distinguish one from the other, to pick out Jack's rough, guttural cries from the gentle litany of Abydonian which, Daniel knew, would embarrass the hell out of Jack if he ever found out exactly what Skaara was saying. That the boy had fallen in love with the irascible colonel was beyond question and, despite his own secret misgivings about the situation, Daniel could not help but be happy for him because now at least he was safe from the unwanted attentions of Kheruef, the man to whom he had been pledged for more than half his life.

He had to admit that the culture on Abydos took a lot of getting used to. Rooted in Egypt's past, it had evolved in its own way, no doubt because of Ra's influence over the millennia. He was finding that it was one thing to study the past and quite another to live it as his present. So much was superficially familiar yet, once the outer layer had been scraped away, so much of it was outside his experience and knowledge. It was intriguing and frightening at the same time and he had leapt at the chance to stay and explore it to his heart's content.

Different culture, different values - Kasuf's attitude towards his son was a point in fact. Had Jack not given Skaara the lighter - a simple gift prompted by the memory of a child's death - Skaara would still be pledged to Kheruef, a beast of a man who weighed close to four hundred pounds and smelled like a rotting yak. The fact that he was also Kasuf's younger brother had only made a bad situation worse. Kheruef was interested in the boy only as a pretty body to warm his bed and satisfy his lust. Once Skaara's looks began to fade he would have been cast aside in favour of another.

But all that was past now. Skaara was mated to a 'god' and could be touched by no other, just as no other could touch Sha're.

Thoughts of his bride-to-be troubled him. It had all happened so fast - too fast, really. One minute they were being welcomed to the feast, the next Kasuf was offering the girl to him - his own daughter! - and then they were alone, neither of them knowing what to do and Daniel still lacking sufficient language to ask what was going on. There had been no ceremony, no vows exchanged, and yet they were telling him that he was married to her, and all because he had been too afraid of disgracing her to tell them nothing had taken place between them. She was beautiful - any man would be a fool to turn her away - and in time he knew he might come to love her, but marriage had never featured very highly on his agenda, and even if it had, he had always assumed he would have some choice in the matter. That he resented, even subconsciously, the way she had been thrust upon him, he could not deny.

From inside the dwelling he heard Jack's voice cry out, one sharp profanity as he came, and Daniel felt his own groin twitch in envy. What he wouldn't give to be in Skaara's place at that moment, pinned under that incredible body. The thought surprised him because, until the day he had first walked through the gate to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, he had always considered the concept of 'love at first sight' to be a romantic cliché fit only for the trashy novels his foster mother liked to read. Stranger still was the fact that a part of him hated all that Colonel Jack O'Neill represented, and the knowledge that O'Neill had considered him a geek from the outset - and probably still did. Yet, there was something about him that had captured Daniel's attention, a vulnerability that in some way echoed his own feelings of insecurity, kindred spirits thrown together from opposite ends of the spectrum. What was more, he had quickly realised that Jack, too, was aware of the growing closeness between them. How many times had Daniel looked up to find those dark eyes watching him as he tried to decipher the seventh chevron? And who was it had talked General West into granting him a place on the mission?

Who was it Jack had trusted with his thoughts and feelings about Skaara?

Perhaps, given time, the developing friendship between them might have blossomed in a whole other direction, and Daniel had to admit, if only to himself, that he would have liked the chance to find out, but then Jack had seen Skaara and all bets were off. The colonel might not realise yet that he was in love with the boy, but it was as obvious to Daniel as the sun just starting to crest the distant sand dunes. Any hope Daniel might once have fostered was dead now, and would be buried along with the stargate.

"Hey, Daniel!"

A giggle accompanied the greeting and a breath heavily laced with the fumes of spiced wine washed over his face. Kawalsky and Ferretti, leaning against each other in drunken comradeship, the latter with his arm around one of the dancing girls. Daniel acknowledged their arrival warily. While it was evident that Kawalsky and Jack were friends after a fashion, the colonel's own words wound themselves around his thoughts, warning him that all might not be as it seemed between them.

"Kawalsky... Party over?"

"Nah... Just - taking a breather. Where's Jack?" he asked, attempting to ease past Daniel and into the room where Jack and Skaara lay.

"Asleep," Daniel said quickly, raising his voice and praying that Jack would hear him and stop whatever it was he was doing.

"He's miss-ssing the pa-arty," Ferretti hiccuped.

"Lesss wake 'im up...." Kawalsky leered.

Taking advantage of their unsteadiness, Daniel clambered to his feet and positioned himself between the two inebriates and the entrance to the dwelling. "I don't think that would be a good idea, Kawalsky," he cautioned softly.

Ferretti slapped him on the shoulder, hard enough to knock him back against the wall. "Y're a geek," he snorted. "Whass' a ge-eek know?"

Anger gathered in a small, irritating knot between Daniel's shoulders. It was one thing for Jack, a man he respected, to call him a geek, because on those few occasions when he had referred to him as such it had been done almost in fun and there had been an underlying thread of respect in return. This, on the other hand, was out of line.

"Well this geek knows that Colonel O'Neill gave orders that he was not to be disturbed. Now, you might want to take that up with him, Airman Ferretti - but I don't want to be around to see the results."

"It's Lieutenant Ferretti," the man in question protested, scowling at Daniel, who smiled sweetly and said "Not after you wake him up it won't be..."

He waited patiently, standing his ground like a mastiff at it's master's door, while the two men peered drunkenly at each other in a silent 'should we/shouldn't we?' debate. It amused Daniel that he, who had known Jack only a week or two, appeared to know and understand him better than the men under his command.

A full minute passed before Kawalsky reached around his companion and, grabbing at the girl's arm, pulled her between them. "C'mon... Lesss go see'f wassisname's got any more'v that booze..."

They ambled away, sharing kisses with the willing girl. Daniel watched them go, waited until they were out of sight before letting go his breath in a long sigh of relief. He waited another full minute, watching to make certain that they had not returned, then pushed aside the curtain and slipped into the room.

Sunrise spilled in through the window opening, falling in a broad swathe across the sleeping figures. Jack lay on his back, gloriously naked, his arms and legs wrapped around the boy's darker form as he lay between the colonel's spread thighs. They looked perfect together, like a classical sculpture come to life, each curve, each limb moulding itself to its counterpart, the only distinction the different tones of skin. If only he could call upon the gods to grant him the power to let them stay like this forever. Back on Earth such a union would be met with revulsion, Jack reviled as a pervert. Yet here, in this place and this time, there was a rightness to it that Daniel envied.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice, soft, still enmeshed with threads of sleep. He knelt down, leaning closer so that they could speak without waking Skaara. " 's the time?"

"Nearly dawn."

"I heard voices...."

"Just Kawalsky and Ferretti," he explained, reaching to give Jack's shoulder a reassuring squeeze when he saw fear flash through the brown eyes. "It's okay, I got rid of them. Go back to sleep."

Jack smiled, tightening his arms around his lover and touching his lips unselfconsciously to the thick mane. "Thanks," he murmured, "from both of us."

Daniel nodded and rose to leave, but Jack called his name softly, drawing him back.

"When I've --" he began, paused to moisten dry lips and snatch a measure of control. "After we go back through the gate... promise me you'll take care of him."

"He's part of my family now, Jack, it's my duty."

"Maybe - but I still need to be sure. If anything happened to him..."

Sitting down again, Daniel at last gave voice to the thought that had been nagging him all night. "You know, you could - stay..."

Jack's eyes widened. "On Abydos? And do what? Raise sheep?"

A grin split Daniel's face and he laughed softly, though not unkindly. "Now that's something I'd like to see!"

Jack blinked at him, then began to laugh with him, dropping one hand across his eyes. "Oh god! Can you imagine it? Hey, y'know my great grandfather's brother was a shepherd in Ireland? Maybe it's in the blood...."

"More like insanity," Daniel teased.


"You're welcome. I guess we could always set up a trade route through the gate, export genuine Abydonian sweaters to Earth."

They dissolved into laughter again, but when Jack's flailing hand brushed against Daniel's, and he caught hold of it and held it between his own, they sobered quickly, captured in the moment of closeness. The light in the room now was enough that Daniel could clearly read the expression in the colonel's eyes, and the affection he saw there - directed at him - touched him deeply.

"Stay," he said again. But Jack shook his head.

"There's nothing here for me."

"What about Skaara?"

Jack sighed. "It's not enough. I want it to be, but - it's not. I need - a challenge."

"And there's not one here?" Daniel heard his own voice rise on a thread of impatience. "These people need you Jack. Ra's gone, but we don't know what else might be out there. They're - they're farmers and - and miners. They need someone to teach them how to defend themselves."

"From what I saw they did okay - "

"They had no option! They won because the numbers were on their side and because - because we - we killed - " His voice faltered on the word. For the first time since it had happened he realised fully what it was he had been party to. He had killed another living being. He, Dr Daniel Jackson, who had fought since his youth to preserve life in whatever way he could, had destroyed another living being. No matter that it was an alien who had preyed on an entire race, had ripped them from the land of their birth and enslaved them for his own pleasure.

He stared at his trembling hands as he recalled how he had held the staff weapon, aimed - with all the precision of one used to taking accurate measurements on archaeological digs - at Jack's heart, and how, at the last moment, he had broken free of the trance-like state imposed on him by Ra and turned the weapon on the guards, and he remembered the way his own heart had raced as one by one the alien's fell...

"They need you, Jack," he heard himself whisper. "I can teach them to read and write, I can give them back their heritage, but I can't protect them. You can."

Jack closed his eyes and his hold on his lover tightened visibly. "Put weapons in their hands, you mean? Teach them to kill - and give someone else reason to kill them?" He shook his head. "I can't, Daniel."

"Because of Charlie?"

"In a way, yes. Y'see, Daniel, for every one of those boys there's a father - and I wouldn't put any father through what I went through when Charlie died."

"And you think by leaving you'll prevent that?"

"No," was the whispered response. "But at least if I leave - I won't be the one responsible."

Daniel stared at him in disbelief. "You don't mean that. You can't mean that...." he said.

Jack stared sat him bleakly. "Tell me that again - when you've watched your own son die in your arms. I can't go through that again, Daniel. Not for anyone," he added, voice dropping to a whisper as he looked pointedly at the boy asleep in his arms.

Releasing the hand he had been holding so tightly, Daniel stood up. "Then you're not the man I thought you were," he said coldly.


He turned to the door, speaking over his shoulder as he pulled the hood of his robe over his head. "I'm going to find Sha're. I'd say you've got another hour before the sun is high enough for you to get back to the gate... Make the most of it, Colonel."

"Danny, wait - !" Jack called, but Daniel kept on walking, out of the room and away from the dwelling, not stopping until Jack's voice had faded into the early morning stillness.

Let him go his conscience urged There's nothing for you there. Any argument, that an hour ago he might have made, was stillborn. He had been right all along, Jack was just another narrow-minded military jerk with no thought for anyone but himself. These kids, all of them - Skaara included - were nothing to him, despite all his fancy words. He cared nothing for them.

His footsteps took him to the edge of the settlement, to a precipice that looked out over the desert. There he stopped, watching the sun lift through the distant haze, feeling it's familiar warmth. His happiest days had been spent in the deserts of Egypt, first with his family and then, years later, with his lover. The technologically advanced world of his birth might be calling to Jack, but he could make a home here, a new start.

Pushing back the cowl of his robe, he shook his head, allowing the early morning breeze to comb its cool fingers through his shaggy, overlong hair. The past was passed, his new life began here, right now. Once Jack and the others were gone he and Skaara, and the rest of the boys, would bury the stargate forever.

After that - time alone would tell their fate.


Taking great care not to wake his sleeping lover, Jack extricated himself from the limpet-like embrace and rolled silently to his feet, searching around himself in the thin light, looking for his clothes. He needed to go after Daniel, stop him and try to talk some sense into him, salvage something of what had been damaged, but that part of his brain still able to function on a rational level warned him that it might be unwise to do so while he was still naked.

Pausing at the window as he tucked in his t-shirt and buttoned his pants, he peered out, trying to catch a glimpse of the wayward archaeologist, but Daniel was long gone. Sighing, he scrubbed unsteady hands over his heavily stubbled jaw. God, what a mess!

Even now he was not entirely sure what he had said to make Daniel storm out the way he had done, except that it had something to do with his own reasons for leaving. Why Daniel should get so uptight about that was beyond him - in his mind they were perfectly valid, logical reasons...

.... and maybe if he went outside right now he would find himself engaged in conversation about time management with a large white rabbit, wearing a waistcoat and carrying a gold watch....

Get real, Jack, he berated himself. The guy wants you to stay.

And wasn't that what he really wanted to do, if he was deep down honest with himself? Hadn't he already established in his own mind that there was nothing waiting for him back on Earth, except a desk and a pension? Okay, so maybe Daniel's suggestion that he stay behind and teach the kids to fight might have caught him off guard, and his immediate reaction had been to the thought of Skaara being made to put his young life at risk. It was all too rushed. If Daniel had only waited, given him a moment to fully wake up and get his head together. If they had only taken the time to sit down and talk, instead of yelling at each other.

He looked down at the sleeping form, allowing an appreciative glance to drift over the flawless skin, chart the dusting of body hair around his very adult groin, the slight swell of muscle in arms and thighs that had yet to lose the fragility of childhood. The dichotomy was enchanting, as alluring and ambiguous as Ra's looks had been, the veiled suggestion that Skaara was on the very brink of something new and wondrous. The feeling was something that Jack had never been allowed to experience in his own youth, taking that first tentative step from adolescence to manhood. What for others was a gradual broadening of horizons, had for Jack been a nightmare leap from childhood into the stark reality of self reliance. He wanted Skaara to have what he had been denied, yet even as he argued for it he knew that the boy's life had already been changed by what he had seen and done since the arrival of Jack's team on Abydos. There could be no turning back for any of them.

Kneeling beside the boy, he gently shook the bare shoulder. "Skaara... Time to wake up..."

Drowsy eyes, like sheltered fathomless pools, fluttered open, fixed and focused on Jack's face, above a smile that was unadulterated devotion. Rolling onto his back, he held up his arms for Jack's embrace, but the colonel held back, shaking his head.

"Not now. You have to get up," he said, trying not to look at the deep red furrows that marred the tanned skin, marks that he himself had made during the height of their lovemaking and which, he knew, were reflected on his own chest and back. Honours just about even then, he mused grimly, embarrassed now by the stark reminder of how uncontrolled he had allowed his passions to become. What Kasuf's reaction would be when he saw his son, Jack hardly dared think about.

Seeming to understand him, Skaara got to his feet, unashamedly naked as he moved around the room, gathering his discarded clothes. In the dawn light he reminded Jack of the androgynous faerie people found in one of the old Victorian storybooks Sara had collected over the years, ethereal, timeless, slipping in and out of the shadows in some magical dance as he wove a spell to capture Jack's heart.

Returning to the centre of the room, he dropped the garments in a pile at Jack's feet and looped his arms around the older man's waist, laying his head against the broad chest. The sight and scent and warmth of him were like a drug to Jack and, before he could stop himself, he gathered the slender body to him and dipped his head to the soft mouth, teasing his lips apart, sliding tongue against tongue in an echo of that first kiss, sweet and gentle and innocent. As the unique taste of Skaara overwhelmed him it drove sparks of desire deep into his groin, re-igniting the fires of the night before. It would be so easy to take him again, while the rest of his people slept away the night's excesses. Easy, maybe, but a part of Jack knew that if he followed the urges of his body he might never be strong enough to leave. And leave he must.

Kissing them apart, he reached down for the bundle of clothes and pressed them into Skaara's hands. "Get dressed," he said softly. "We have to go."

Unexpectedly - because Jack still assumed that not one word of anything he said was understood - tears welled in the beautiful eyes, but the boy lifted his chin proudly, as determined as Jack not to give way to his own misery. Jack waited by the door, his back to the room and its tempting occupant, listening to the sounds of clothes being pulled on over soft, smooth skin. He shivered. The sooner they reached the gate the better as far as he was concerned. This place and its people were undermining everything he had ever believed about himself, making him reassess his life. If only he had the strength to stay, to rebuild his life on what had begun here.

Dressed now, Skaara joined him at the door. For a moment they looked at each other, the memories of their night together flowing in a vibrant stream between them, and the world around Jack began to spin and twirl alarmingly, like the feeling he had experienced as he first stepped through the stargate. Then Skaara ducked his head and turned away, brushing by him as he stepped out into the sunlight and strode purposefully towards his father's home.

Daniel was there, waiting for them, clothed in the loose Abydonian robe that he had adopted so easily. It looked right on him, Jack thought, as if he had been born to wear such clothes. As if he had finally found his true home.

As Jack entered in Skaara's wake, Kasuf came forward to take his hand, babbling in his native tongue and firing looks of concern and approval between his son and the colonel.

"He wants to know if everything went well for you last night," Daniel informed him. There was no note of teasing in his voice this time, no smile of conspiracy twinkling in his eyes as Jack had seen last night. His whole face was closed and cold, a stranger once more, the tenuous link forged during their search for the final chevron and tempered as they united against Ra, destroyed now by Jack's own fears. He had to admit it was no more then he deserved.

Jack struggled for the right words. What did one say in situations like this? 'Thanks, Kasuf, your son's a great lay'? True as it was, it was hardly tactful.

"Tell him - " he said, clearing his throat. "- that his son honoured me. He should be proud of him."

Daniel translated, and Kasuf bobbed his head up and down in approval. Jack mentally shook his head in disbelief. For crying out loud, he had just screwed a seventeen year old boy - this man's son - through the floor, and now he was being thanked for it! Was it possible the situation could get any more absurd?

"Where are the others?" he asked, as Kasuf fell silent once more.

"Ferretti went to find some breakfast and I think Kawalsky is still sleeping off his hangover."

"Terrific! What do they think this is, a vacation?" Jack snarled, his mood clashing abruptly with Daniel's. "I want everything packed up and ready to roll in fifteen minutes. Sooner we get back to civilisation the better I'll like it."

Daniel snorted and turned to pick up the notebook, in which he had written the sequence of chevrons that would open the wormhole to Earth. "He calls that civilisation?" he muttered, just loud enough for Jack to hear.

"Y'see, that's just the kind of thing I'd expect a geek to say," he spat. "And I suppose you think this is civilised?"

"Well I'm sorry it doesn't come with cable t.v and indoor plumbing."

"Oh, so that's how you scientists are defining civilisation these days, is it?"

"Oh c'mon, Jack, you know better than that...."

"Well, I thought I did. I thought I knew you, but it seems like I was --"

Jack was really getting into his stride now, his Irish temper winding up for a real showdown, when, without warning, the heated tirade was halted in mid-flow as Skaara stepped between the two men, one hand raising to each heaving chest, pressing them apart. Wild, forbidding eyes turned first to Daniel, then to Jack, and his voice shattered the ensuing silence with an explosion of angry words.

Jack stared at him, wide-eyed, his brows climbing up his forehead as he listened. He didn't have a clue what the kid was saying, but he was damn sure he and Daniel were getting a very thorough dressing down. It was almost comical. Almost. Until he looked across at Daniel. The scientist was finding nothing funny in the outburst and stood with his eyes closed and his flushed face averted, every inch the picture of dejection and when at last the torrent ceased, Daniel reached out to the boy, cupping his cheek in one shaking hand.

"I'm sorry," he said, repeating the apology in the boys tongue. "I didn't understand."

Jack took a step closer, his own anger abating as he sensed something wrong here that went beyond the rawness of 'morning after' nerves and the pain of parting. "What's going on, Danny?" he asked, slipping easily into the diminutive, as if he had known him for years.

"He wants to know why we're fighting, why we've... stopped being friends," Daniel explained, his eyes bright with uncontainable emotion. "He thinks that's the reason you're going away, because I'm staying and you can't bear to... be near me now."

"What?" Jack's gaze flashed between man and boy. "That's crazy - "

"It's how he feels, Jack. He thinks... he thinks he's come between us, destroyed our friendship."

"So, tell him he's wrong!" Jack countered, his voice rising. Skaara, hearing him, pushed him roughly back. Gathering all of his fragile self control together, Jack turned and grasped the boy by the shoulders and looked intently into his eyes. "Skaara... it's okay... Really. Everything's okay. This isn't because of you..." He could hear Daniel translating as he spoke, his soft voice calming the fear from the velvet eyes. "... or Daniel. I can't stay, because there's nothing to stay here for."

"You can't tell him that," Daniel interrupted.


Daniel scraped a hand through his hair. "Jack," he hissed, "if you tell him there's nothing to stay here for, you're telling him what happened last night meant nothing to you. Is that what you want him to remember?"

"You want me to lie to him?"

"I want you to leave him his dignity! To be honest, I don't care if you've got any feelings for him or not, but I do care about him. He - " He paused, moistened his lips, almost as if he was wary of saying too much. Then, very softly, he explained "He loves you, Jack."

Jack stared at him, slack-jawed. That Skaara had feelings for him was the last thing he had expected - or, more importantly, wanted - to hear. "No..." he countered, shaking his head.

"He told me last night, before you --." A deep blush began to crawl up Daniel's throat as his self-consciousness reasserted itself. "That's why he wanted to - be with you. Kasuf wanted you to take Shef'tu, Sha're's cousin, but Skaara begged his father to let him be the one to honour you. It's a great honour to be the beloved of a god, Jack," he finished, a shy smile creeping over his face.

"He's just a kid --" Jack whispered in denial. "What I did to him last night -- Back home I'd be facing a charge of rape, Daniel. Maybe you should explain that to Kasuf. I'm not - I'm not proud of what I did."

"That's because you're judging it by Earth's traditions. Things are different here, Jack, age and experience are valued, not thrown aside, and a father would prefer to see his child with someone five, even six times their age, who will protect and guide them, than tied to someone so young and shallow that they end up hurting each other." He smiled at Skaara, trying to reassure the youth that all was well between them. "What you did last night was exactly what he wanted. Don't forget that. He wanted you, Jack... He still does."

As if he understood every word Daniel had said, Skaara took hold of a hand of each and brought them together, holding them palm-to-palm, tightly, between his own. "One-ell... Dan-yel... Friends.... Please? For Skaara?"

For Skaara. Looking deep into the troubled gaze, Jack knew that at that moment he would do anything for Skaara. "He learns fast," he said, flicking a sardonic brow at Daniel.

"They all do. They've been denied knowledge for so long, Jack, they're like - like blotting paper, waiting to soak up whatever comes their way."

"Reminds me of someone else I know," Jack smiled. Daniel nodded.

"Which is why I have to stay."

On an impulse, Jack reached out with his free hand and ruffled the blond hair. "Y'know, one day that brain of yours is gonna explode with all the stuff you keep trying to cram into it."

"You're probably right." Returning Jack's smile, letting it blossom into a gentle laugh, Daniel held out his hand to the colonel. "Friends?"

"Friends," Jack nodded, sliding his own fingers into the warm palm. Skaara, satisfied, released them and stepped back, nodding his approval. Jack, moved by his lover's need to see peace restored between them, wrapped his arm around Daniel's neck and pulled him into a rib-threatening hug. "Gonna miss you, y'know. Orders from above were this mission was just damage limitation, get 'them' before they got us. You turned it into something - incredible. I won't ever forget that."

"Then maybe it was worth it after all," Daniel replied, hugging him back.

"Maybe it was," Jack nodded. "Maybe it was."


The sun was riding high by the time they set out for the stargate for the last time. Kasuf and Sha're went along for the ride, bringing most of the boys with them, everyone needing to forestall the moment of parting for as long as possible. Skaara kept close to Jack's side, eyes seldom leaving his face unless to help himself negotiate a difficult sand bank. Daniel and Sha're walked a little ahead of them, Daniel with his arm protectively around the girl's waist. Jack wished he could hold Skaara like that, but Kawalsky and Ferretti were behind them, leading the ragtag group of boys, and so he kept his hands and his thoughts to himself.

All too soon they reached the chamber. The air inside was thick and cloying, heavy with dust and the smell of battle. The bodies of Ra's fallen guards had been taken away, yet for Jack the memory lingered of how close they had come to failure. A minute longer and all of Abydos would have been destroyed, not because of a known threat - the people back on Cheyenne Mountain had no knowledge of Ra's existence - but because of the xenophobic few who had the power to give such an order.

"Makes you think, doesn't it," Daniel said softly, as if he had read Jack's mind. Jack nodded, a cold, creeping feeling of dread welling up from inside him. If they could order it once, they could do so again, and next time they might just succeed.

"What do we do about the rest of the gear, Colonel?" Ferretti interrupted, gesturing to the weapons resting against the MALP. Jack's gaze drifted across, meeting Daniel's halfway. Was he right? Were there other, more dangerous, enemies to be faced here? Had Ra been the last of his race, or just one of thousands - millions, maybe? It was possible, and if it was possible, wasn't it their duty to do all that they could to help these people?

"Leave it," he said, unable to look away from the grateful blue eyes.

"Sir?" queried Kawalsky, coming to join his team-mate.

"I said leave it. Leave all of it."

"What do we tell General West?"

"You leave West to me. As far as he's concerned we had to set the bomb and get out. There wasn't time to worry about anything else."

Apparently willing to risk a charge of insubordination, Kawalsky caught hold of Jack's arm and drew him to one side. "Are you serious about this?" he asked. "I mean, leaving all this firepower behind... is it worth the risk?"

"Would you rather we left them with nothing?"

"No, but... Aw hell, Jack, we've known each other a long time. This just ain't like you."

Jack's immediate reaction was defensive - how dare the man question his orders like this? - but then he remembered all those missions they had shared, all the fire-fights when he had stood back-to-back with this man, all the bars they had dragged each other home from. If Kawalsky hadn't earned the right to challenge him on this, no-one had. "Maybe I've changed," he said softly. "There's a lot happened in the last few years, Charlie, stuff you won't ever know about. Just - accept I have to do this."

"For him?" the lieutenant asked, gesturing to where Skaara stood waiting.

"For him - for all of us."

A knowing light skipped through Kawalsky's eyes. "But mostly for him. Don't worry, Jack," he added, reading the look of startlement that crossed the older man's face, "your secret's safe."

Jack allowed a snort of laughter slip past his lips. So, Kawalsky was more observant than he had thought him to be. Well, at least it didn't seem to bother him and anyway, in a few minutes it would no longer be of any importance.

"You do realise I've got no idea what you're talking about," he said, slapping his old friend on the shoulder. "C'mon, time to go home. Daniel? You wanna knock on the door for us?"

He was aware, as he watched Daniel punch in the chevron code that would open the gateway to Earth, of Skaara standing beside him, and suddenly he felt the warm, leathery fingers slip into his, seeking reassurance. Uncaring of who might see them, he spread his own fingers, lacing them with his lover's. It hit him then that he was once again losing someone he had come to care for, and even though it had torn him apart when Charlie had died, this was much, much worse, because this time he was the one leaving, and Skaara was very much alive. He envied Daniel, who would be there to watch him grow and mature, from a beautiful youth into... His eyes drifted closed as he tried to imagine Skaara ten years from now. God, what a man he would become! The potential was already there, in his body as well as in his heart, except Jack would not be around to see it blossom.

With a swoosh! the gate sprang to life, the rippling event horizon like a polished jewel twenty feet high captured in sunlight, momentarily blinding them after the darkness of the chamber. It was amazing and intimidating at the same time and it saddened him to think that this would be the last time he would ever witness such a miracle. Once the team was home the powers that be, in their ignorance and fear, would no doubt order the Earth stargate buried forever.

"We're ready, Colonel," Ferretti announced. Jack nodded, a strange numbness creeping over him. Why did he suddenly feel like this was the end of everything?

"You and Kawalsky go on ahead," he ordered, needing one last moment alone with Daniel and Skaara, unable still to say goodbye. One after the other, they climbed the steps, said farewell to Daniel, moved into the event horizon... and vanished.

Turning to Skaara, Jack smiled a very fragile smile and raised his hand to touch the dark locks one last time. "I wish I could tell you what you've given me," he whispered. "I'll never forget you."

Skaara's eyes were bright with tears but he held Jack's gaze with pride and... love. Jack saw it then, and understood. Ignoring the others watching his every move, he leaned down and kissed him, pressing his tongue between the full lips, needing to take one last taste of him to add to the store of memories. Yet still it wasn't enough. It was not so much a case of something missing, as something that should have been done being left undone. Something that should have been said being left unsaid. Would it really cost him so much to say it, now, when they had only these few moments left together?

Kissing them apart, he pulled Skaara into his arms and buried his face in the thick waves that hid the delicate ear. Was the price really so high? He searched for the words and, to his relief, found that he could say them, and mean them, perhaps for the first time in his life.

"I love you," he murmured, willing him to comprehend - a wish that was granted by the dark eyes as Skaara stepped away from him, his smile radiant, his own emotions painfully raw. And then he did a most unexpected thing. Coming to attention, just as he had on the steps the day before, when the battle had been won, he snapped off a parade ground salute that Jack, moved beyond words, returned.

One of the hardest things he had ever had to do was walk away at that moment, but somehow he found the strength to do it, feeling Skaara's eyes on him every step of the way as he walked to the foot of the steps.

"So," he said as Daniel came forward. "This is it."

"Looks that way -- " Daniel sighed, unable to hide his regret. "We'll bury the gate as soon as you're through."


"Even though it means you - can never come back?"

"Yeah. Trust me, it's safer that way." Needing to do something to ease the tension flowing between them, he reached out and, with the tip of his index finger, pressed Daniel's glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Be careful you don't break them," he cautioned. "Won't be easy to find another pair around here."

Daniel shrugged. "I don't need them much anyway," he confessed, adding, when Jack raised an enquiring brow, "Someone once told me they'd make people take me more - seriously. I guess it didn't work."

"Oh, it worked," Jack informed him. "Trust me on this. If we hadn't taken you seriously, none of this would have happened. It's a cliché but, we really couldn't have done it without you, Danny."

The anthropologist smiled his most engaging smile. "You would have found the seventh chevron eventually."

"Maybe - but we'd never have found the way home. That was down to you." He held out his hand to shake Daniel's, snatching him forward at the last moment and hugging him tightly. "You done good, Danny-boy."

As he moved away, he caught sight of Sha're, waiting patiently at her father's side. At the next full moon she and Daniel would be married: what was the betting that in a year from now there would be a little Daniel running around in the Abydos sunshine. He wished he could be there to see it.

"You sure you wanna do this?" he asked, glancing back at Daniel.

"Yes. I'm sure."

Alone? thought Jack. Cut off from everything you've ever known? "You gonna be all right?"

Almost as one, they turned to look at Sha're, and Jack wondered if he could ever have given up so much for Sara. Did that mean Daniel loved Sha're more, or that he had loved Sara less?

Daniel nodded. "I'm gonna be all right," he said, then "How about you?"

How about me? I wonder, which one of us will be more alone? "Yeah," he said, knowing that his voice lacked any real conviction. "Yeah, I think so."

But it was a lie. He would go home, make his report and then get on with what was laughingly called his life. If he was lucky they would find some other dirty work for him to do, and maybe this time there would be no Daniel Jackson to save him from himself.

Moving away from Daniel, he mounted the final step and stood beneath the swirling event horizon that would carry him across the galaxy, back to Earth. Kawalsky and Ferretti would already be there, waiting for him, with General West and Catherine, and all the others who had worked to make this happen. He would be a hero - for a day, and then forgotten.

Easing his weight forward, he raised his foot, preparing to take that last step over the threshold. And then he heard it, the faintest whisper above the rippling of the wormhole.

"Stay alive, Jack. Please..."

Tearing his eyes from the mercurial disc, he looked towards the source of the sound and saw, not Skaara, but Daniel gazing up at him, his eyes still filled with hope, refusing to let it go until he had no other choice. He turned around a little more, and there was Skaara, his young face reflecting the same emotional turmoil. {{He loves you, Jack}} Daniel had told him, and that much he knew was true. But what he could also see now, as he looked from one to the other, was that Daniel had also been speaking for himself. Daniel loved him, too. The reality of it was shattering. Between these two there was more love directed towards him at that moment than he had ever known, or was likely to know, on Earth.

How could he walk away from that?

He could feel himself shaking as he turned to look at the open stargate one last time. Don't let me live to regret this, he begged of whatever entity was controlling his actions. Then, with a sound that could almost have been a sob, he turned and walked slowly back down the steps, not stopping until he reached the spot where Daniel stood.

"You'll have to help me," he said. "I can't do this on my own."

"Anything," Daniel promised, his own voice catching.

"I'll warn you now, I'm a lousy student."

Blue eyes crinkled with laughter as Daniel shook his head. "Why do I so believe that?" Then, more serious, he asked "Jack, are you sure?"

"No," he admitted frankly. "What I am is scared, Daniel."

"Then why?"

A shrug, a sigh, a swift glance towards the way home. "Because I suddenly realised there's a whole lot more here for me than I'll find back there."

As if on cue, the event horizon shimmered and began to dissipate, winking out as if some unseen finger had thrown a switch and taken the decision out of his hands. He realised he had been holding his breath and let it out now in a rush of relief. The choice was made and he could never go back.

Skaara, frowning, took a pace towards him, glanced at Daniel for reassurance. Jack, in his turn, held out a hand to draw Skaara to his side.

"I think you better explain it to him," he said, and Daniel patted him on the shoulder in token sympathy.

"Don't worry, Jack, a few days and you'll be speaking the language as if you were born to it." Climbing onto the steps, he gestured Kasuf and the boys to move closer as, in a few easy words, he told them that Jack had decided to stay. The cheer that arose from the small group was as deafening in the confined space as the victory chants of the crowd had been the day before, as they had watched Ra's ship destroyed. "So," he said to Jack over the noise. "What do we do now?"

"Now? We bury the gate. Kawalsky won't know what to tell them, so I don't want them sending another bomb through just to make sure."

"You think they would?"

"West is a good man... but he doesn't cut the orders and Washington is still scared of what's out there."

A soft laugh bubbled from Daniel's lips. "Don't you mean what's out here, Jack?"

"Yeah," Jack grinned. "I guess maybe I do." On impulse, he pulled Daniel into a hug, then turned and, no longer with any cause to be afraid of the feelings, bent to kiss Skaara lightly on the lips. Daniel grinned and slapped him on the shoulder.

"C'mon, Jack. Sooner we get the gate buried, the sooner we can get started on lesson number one. I think you're going to need it."

Surrounded suddenly by a throng of chattering soon-to-be soldiers, Jack threw the scientist a look of desperation. "For cryin' out loud!" he muttered. "What have I gotten myself into now?"