Negotiating Life by Sunraven
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: None
Rated: Teen
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: This is a completely AU story where ex-Air Force Colonel Jack O'Neill is an international kidnap and ransom negotiator and Dr. Daniel Jackson is an expert on middle eastern cultures and extremist Muslim terrorist groups.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
Primarily Jack/Daniel, but mention of Janet/Teal'c/Sam.
"Damn, I'm late for the debriefing! Shit, T, let's get a move on."

Not that telling my friend, driver, bodyguard, and man Friday to hurry is ever successful. In all the years we've been together, he's always taken his own sweet time to do things. I'm not sure if it's a bi-product of the hot African village he grew up in, or whether it was natural. The only time T, short for Teal'c, which means strength, moves quick is when someone's after my butt. Then he's like greased lightning. So I guess that's why I feel guilty when I get mad at him going slow when I need speed. Like now.

"O'Neill, we are stuck in the middle of a traffic jam in downtown Manhattan. Getting a move on is an impossibility that fits right up there with little gray aliens."

Glaring at my friend's bald black head is useless. Fifteen years of partnership and friendship has finally taught me that T is impervious to even my scariest glares. And those are the ones that, if I looked in the mirror when I flashed one, would scare even me!

"Damn it, T, use that fancy driving you learned at that driving school that cost me so much, will ya? If I get there too late, George will tear me a new one."

"Might I suggest that you call Samantha and ask her to let George know of our predicament? I am sure that *she* is there on time."

That's a great idea. My silent partner in the hostage business, Samantha Carter, would be able to cover for me. She's my research and money-handling partner. T is my right arm. I'd like to say I was the head of my company, but that is Sam, completely. I guess I'm the attitude man, and the guy who knows the kidnapping business.

After pulling my cell and quick dialing Sam's, I started in as soon as I heard her rather breathless hello.

"Sam, it's me. T and I are stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of Manhattan. Will you tell George that we're going to be late? He might as well start the meeting without us."

"Wuss, tell him yourself!"

"Now, Sammy, is that any way to treat your partner?" Okay, dammit, I'm whining by now, I admit it! But George is a scary dude when he's pissed.

She laughed at my whininess. "I call them as I see them, Jack. All right, I'll tell George, but you owe me another one! See you when you get here."

Oh, oh. Maybe calling her wasn't such a good idea. The last time I owed Sam a favor, she made me take her cousin Betty out on a date. Betty is a Sergeant Major in the Marines, and could eat steel for breakfast. I was Air Force Special Ops for ten years, and that woman is the toughest person I've dealt with in my life. She and I have an armed truce now. Surprisingly enough, T and Betty get on like a house afire. If it weren't for the fact that he's got the hots for Sam and Sam's girlfriend, Dr. Janet Frasier, I wouldn't be surprised if he suddenly tucked all two hundred-some pounds of Betty under his arm and ran off with her.

"We are there, O'Neill. I will let you off in front so you can receive your very-much-deserved lecture from Mr. Hammond as early as possible. Perhaps next time you will be ready when I suggest you should be."

"Et tu, T?" I grabbed my briefcase and opened the door as he came to a stop in front of the Fidelity Insurance Group building.

As I walked inside the meeting room, the chill in the air, which wasn't from the air conditioning, almost turned me into a Popsicle.

"Got caught in traffic." My mumbled explanation didn't seem to thaw the air much.

Now for the bad part. I looked up to meet George Hammond's blue eyes, stealing myself to endure his quiet disappointment. After a minute of rather excruciating Hammond-punishment (the effect of one of the ex- Brigadier General's looks could make the Marquis De Sade look gentle), he finally decided to let up and continued the meeting. It was worse than when I was in the Iraqi prison, I swear. Don't know how the man does it. Wish I did, though. Know a few flunkies that could use the look.

"At 1400 two days ago, in the village of Hafithak, Afghanistan, the CEO of Deity Conglomerates' grandson was kidnapped by what has now been identified as Rahat-Rahal, a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist group that is active in the area. Davis?"

George's assistant Walter Davis darkened the room lights and a slide lit up, showing a handsome young man of Arab descent smiling into the camera. He was surrounded by the ubiquitous grubby children who frequent any middle eastern town.

"What was a rich kid like this one doing in a one-flea village like Hafithak, George? And without bodyguards? That whole area is completely destabilized and is pretty dangerous even for the natives."

"Apparently, the boy, whose name is Klorel ma'at Apophis, recently graduated from Harvard University. Instead of joining his father and grandfather's company, he decided to serve a year in Peace International, an organization like the Peace Corps that only serves Arabic nations. I gather this Klorel is rather headstrong, and went against his parents' wishes to do this."

"They didn't think to assign him any bodyguards?" I asked again, appalled at the security fuckup.

"He refused to allow any, Jack. They were assigned anyway, of course. However, when the boy was kidnapped, they were outfoxed, apparently. We know now they weren't successful in keeping him out of the kidnappers' hands."

"I gather the parents have gotten the first call?"

"Yes, except the call came into Peace International headquarters in Feyzabad early this morning. The first demand is for fifteen million dollars. Peace International is not insured by us, however, Deity Conglomerates has a rather large kidnapping and risk policy with Fidelity Insurance. That will be who you will be working for."

"So I guess T and I are bound for Teyzabad, then, George?"

"Yes. There's something else, Jack, something that I'm afraid you won't like much."

Oh-Oh. If George says I won't like something, chances are it'll drive me ballistic!

"What?"

"Both the Security Director at Deity, Apophis Ma'at Ra and the President of Peace International insist that you utilize the services of an expert in middle eastern cultures and splinter religious groups when you reach Afghanistan."

George made a sign at Davis, who put up another slide. It was a picture of a young man, maybe about mid-thirty or so, who stood by a camel next to the great pyramid in Egypt. You couldn't see much of him, what with the Bedouin robes he wore, but with those blue eyes that blazed out at the camera, he definitely wasn't Arabic.

"Who the hell does he think he is, Lawrence of Arabia?" God I'm bad sometimes, but I just couldn't help myself, I hate getting civs foisted on me!

"Now Jack, be good. This is Dr. Daniel Jackson, who currently is the chairman of Arabic Studies at Beirut University, as well as a consultant with Peace International. Dr. Jackson is brilliant, from all I hear, and is one of the world's top experts on Muslim terrorist groups. The man has a PhD from Harvard in Arabic History and Culture, another PhD from the Chicago Institute of Egyptian Studies in Muslim archeology, and a third PhD from Oxford University in Arabic Archeo- linguistics, supposedly speaks twenty-three languages, I've heard. He has spent his entire life in the middle east. His parents, who were both Egyptologists, were killed when he was a young child, and he was adapted by his father's close friend and associate, Dr. Thempus Philbin. Apparently the boy didn't fall too far from the tree in his choice of career, erh, careers. Jack, my contacts at the pentagon tell me that Dr. Jackson has been advising them throughout our military interventions in the middle east for the war on terrorism."

"I don't care if he's advising Homer Simpson, George, I don't take unknown civilians out in the field, and you know it."

"I'm afraid that we have no choice in this matter, Colonel. Doctor Jackson is part of this package, whether we want him or not. I've given Samantha the files of all the pertinent information, including the risk and kidnapping contract for Deity Conglomerates. Good luck on this, and bring that boy home."

I knew better than to argue any more. The only time George called me "Colonel" any more was when the situation was final. If I was stupid enough to argue, it would be my head on the block, for sure. Damn it! A fucking civilian Lawrence of Arabia wannabe tagging along! Shit!

After the meeting was over, I got with Sam and T for a quick conference.

"Hey Sammy, how's it hanging?"

My partner flashed her baby blues at me and said, "As usual, you got the equipment wrong again, Jack. I've downloaded all of the information we have into your laptop with hardcopies in this envelope." She handed me a thick manila envelope. "Also in there are your travel arrangements."

"Great. Could you get in contact with Bray and arrange for him to meet us in Feyzabad at the hotel? Tell him to bring some of his most efficient and less offensive muscle with him, okay? Can you dig up anything on this damned professor they've saddled me with?"

"It's in the envelope, and Bray will probably be at the hotel at the same time you and T get there."

I leaned down and kissed her cheek, which started her blushing. "Have I told you how great you are today yet?"

My partner grinned. "No, but telling me that won't get you out of the favor you owe me, so turn your charm back onto the guys it actually works on, okay?"

"You're in a feisty mood. Is Janet getting those weird cravings again in the middle of the night and waking you up?"

Sam's life-mate, Janet, was pregnant with T's baby, who was life-mate to both ladies. The tiny physician was not a happy camper at the moment, with only two months until she popped. She had both her mates running around like chickens being prepped for dinner. All of us would be damned glad when that kid got here.

She sighed. "Last night, while T was noticeably absent, she just had to have green tea ice cream and those weird garlic potatoes from Fu's. We spent the rest of the night with her indigestion!"

T, lowered an eyebrow to half mast, looking suitably guilty for his absence. The T-man could say more without saying anything than anyone I know.

"Well, don't be too hard on his ass, Sammy. He was guarding mine, after all, and we wouldn't want anything to happen to my gorgeous behind, would we?"

"Heaven forbid if your ass became grass, then Stuart, or is it Ewan, or Greg? Shit, Jack, I lose track of all your lovers, wouldn't forgive you. Don't you think it's time you settled down and got committed to some nice guy, instead of being the gay calendar boy, with a new love every month?"

"One of us has to do the traveling, Sammy, and I'm too afraid of Janet to suggest I stay here and you go and get your ass shot off on these jobs for a while. So I guess I'll just have to settle for Mr. Right-now, rather than Mr. Right until I finally stop doing this stuff. Besides, who needs a family, when I got you guys?"

Both Sam and T gave me that "Yeah, right, you'll finish the job when you're in a box, and not before" look. They're right, I guess. I'm hooked to the adrenalin high the kidnap and ransom business brings. I can't imagine giving it up completely. Though, since I'm pushing fifty in a few years, it won't be long before I'll have to give up the rescue side of the business. That's a job for the young, not old flyboys like me. But I ain't giving up without a fight.



The flight to Feyzabad lasted over twenty hours, and by the time T and I stepped out of the privately chartered plane onto the runway tarmac, I was buzzing with fatigue. The breeze was like being hit with the air stream from a mutant killer blow-dryer, and I felt the sweat start up in reaction. I'd been working K & R in the middle east for over ten years and had never gotten used to the heat.

T and I grabbed our luggage and made for the customs desk in the small air terminal. Before we got there, though, an incredibly beat- up old Jeep Wrangler swooped across the asphalt towards us. When the Jeep got near us, I couldn't believe the sounds that came from the straining vehicle as the driver attempted to stop. A continuous drabble of other languages came from the robed figure's mouth.

"What the fuck? T?"

"I have no idea, O'Neill."

The Jeep finally careened to a reluctant halt about five inches from my shoes.

"Hey! Watch the distance, will ya?" The idiot almost hit me!

The robed figure crawled out of the jeep and came over to us. Once he stood in front of T and me, I realized that he wasn't Arabic. For one thing, he was too big for the usual middle eastern man, almost my size. The bluest eyes I've ever seen peered out at me from a tanned face after he politely took off his sunglasses. Damned eyes looked like pieces of the desert sky had fallen into 'em.

In a quiet voice, he said, "Um, hello. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stop so close to you. Are you Colonel Jack O'Neill, from Fidelity Insurance?"

"Yeah, that's me. My associate is known as T. Who the hell are you, and where did you get your drivers license, Montgomery Wards?"

Apparently deciding to ignore my attitude, he reached over to shake mine first and then T's hands. Pretty strong grip, there. "I'm Dr. Daniel Jackson. Actually, you don't need a driver's license in Afghanistan."

"We weren't told we'd be met by anyone."

"Well, since we're all staying at the same hotel, which is well off of the beaten tourist path, I figured I should pick you up just to make sure you get there. I have also got you cleared through the gangsters that run customs as well."

"You expect us to ride in that?" I pointed at the relic on wheels. "Is that Jeep Vietnam War surplus?"

Daniel looked at his ride fondly. "No. She's only three years old. That's what the desert environment does to vehicles." Those blue eyes moved back to me. "Can I take one of your bags?"

"What? Do we look like we're crippled? Let's go." Damned pencil- pushing geek, trying to butter me up already.

T and the stuff sat in back, and I made to jump into the drivers seat.

"Um, Colonel, I'll drive."

I gave him my best "Argue and you die - mad Colonel here" glare. Hey, it always worked before.

"No, *I* will, Professor, now hand over the keys. This isn't a university parkway, ya know."

My attitude didn't phase this guy at all. He just got more polite, and dug in his heels in front of me. Kinda reminded me of Carter that way. She was never taken in by my 'evil colonel' routine either. Of course, that's because she'd been bowled over by the evil midget doctor she fell in love with first. After dealing with Janet, anyone else would seem like a creampuff after that.

"Um, I should know, since I've spent the last six months here helping what authorities there are dealing with the war refugees. There are sixteen checkpoints between here and the hotel. All of the staff at all of them know me, no matter how corrupt they are, and will let me through with a minimal delay. I gather you don't want to spend the next three or so hours having guns pointed at you and being insulted and questioned in Pashto? Do you even speak Pashto?"

Damn, I *really* must be losing my scary Colonel touch. "Oh, fer crying out loud, drive the damned thing, then."

Famous last words, those. I tell you, by the time we finally made it to the Behn Sackarit hotel, I had several more gray hairs in my head from sheer terror. This nut drove like all the demons of hell were behind him. I know Arabic drivers are horrible, but Doctor Daniel Jackson, geek of the week, made them look like Nascar drivers. Even T, who doesn't have a nerve in his huge body, was slightly pale when we finally screeched to a stop in front of the hotel.

"T," I whispered to my friend, "If I ever consider letting that nut drive me again, just shoot me, okay?"

"Indeed. I will do that."

"Thanks."

"My pleasure."

I have to admit, Dr. Lawrence of Arabia was quite a help with the usual haggling at the check-in desk. A torrent of hot-sounding words passed between the clerk and the good Doctor, who finally turned to us.

"There seems to be a problem with overbooking. There aren't any extra rooms available. I suggested that you two share with me, as I have two beds and a couch in my suite."

Before I could voice a suitably sarcastic reply, T's friend Bray's voice spoke up from behind me.

"Ah, O'Neill, I see that I have come just in time."

I turned and looked at T's old friend. Bray was in his sixties, yet I hope that I look as good and am in as good of shape when I get to that age. The ex-Mossad agent looked as tough as old boots, like usual.

"Hey Bray. Look's like we don't have enough rooms, here."

"I heard. Teal'c, you can share with me, my old friend. There is not enough room for both of you, though."

I looked at the Doc. "Well, law ...er Doc, I guess it's just you and me, then."

He just looked at me for a second, then he licked his lips, which were dry from the heat. Suddenly I was hit with a flash that, despite the robes and all the PhDs, this guy was kind of *fine*. Hmmm. Wonder what he looks like underneath the sheets? Down, Jack. He's probably not even gay. Who knows, he probably has an entire harem here, with those looks.

"I need to talk with the guys guarding the kid, and to the person who took the first call. We should probably set up a base of operations in the building where the call came in."

"That's why I chose this hotel, Colonel. It's next door to the Peace International headquarters. Actually, I also have the largest suite in the place, so that we could set up our base of operations there. It's more setup for electronics here, as the wiring in my room has been modernized for me. I've stayed here my entire time in the country."

"Sweet. Good thinking, Doctor Jackson."

"Call me Daniel, please. The only people who use my title anymore are the heads of my university when they're turning down my raise requests."

"Okay, Daniel, call me Jack. I haven't been a Colonel for ten years." I looked over at Bray and T. "Bray, I want round the clock surveillance of the doors leading into and out of this place, and one man in front of the ops-com door. If these guys follow SOP, they'll keep us watched. T, get one of Bray's guys for gopher work. Buy us a new Landrover with strenuous off-road capability." I grinned at Daniel. "Make sure the brakes work."

"It will not be easy to purchase such a vehicle in this country, O'Neill."

"I know. Have it flown in from Egypt or Saudi, then. I want it yesterday. We might have to set up a rescue operation, and I want the best."

"Um, Jack, you might want to purchase some camels as well. If you need to do a deep desert rescue, no vehicle can make it through the deep sands."

"You know where we can get some, I gather?"

"Yes. I'll give T directions. Perhaps I should go with him to translate."

T broke in, surprising Daniel by addressing him in fluent Pashto."

"Oh. You speak Pasto quite well, um, T."

"Thank you, Doctor. Coming from one like you, who speaks so many languages, that is a great complement."

Well, the kid did something then that fixed it for me just good. He smiled at T. The smile lit up his face, and I found myself having difficulty breathing for a second. The Little Colonel decided to raise his annoying head in interest as well. Damn, but this guy was hot! From what I could see, he didn't have a clue what he did to people, either.

"Daniel, I'll need you to translate for me when we speak to witnesses, anyway. Bray and T know the middle east like their own back yards, they'll be fine. Also, I'm going to need to meet the parents of this Klorel, to make sure they understand the situation. Let's get set up in the room, we'll arrange for the interviews, and I need a shower, bad."

Now he smiled at me. Whew! "Well, I had noticed, but it didn't seem polite to say anything when we'd just met."

Oh, oh. I'm in for it with this one as a roomie, I can tell.



After a nice cool shower, an even nicer long ice tea drink (with boiled water, sheesh, the kid thinks of everything!), and the air conditioner on and set to high, I started earning my fee.

After checking with me, Daniel ordered room service for us, then came to me with a list of interviewees.

"Okay, I've asked the President of Peace International, Khaiz Bhel Khaduin, to come at one o'clock. He's the one who took the call from the kidnappers."

"The one where they asked for fifteen million dollars?"

"Um, yes."

"I want the family here next."

"Yes, I arranged to have them come at three. I figured that you might need some time after seeing Khaiz."

I smiled at him, standing there so apparently confident, yet looking at me with that lower lip caught between his teeth.

"Great. You seem like you know what you are doing here. Have you been through this before?"

"Actually, yes, several times. Unfortunately, kidnapping is an epidemic in these parts about now. Peace International has had three of their people taken in the last three years, and my university has had two taken. I interpreted and translated for all of them." Daniel shrugged. "It is what I do best."

"Oh, I expect that you do lots of things good, Doctor, um" God, can't believe I said that, sounds condescending even to me! Shit! "I mean, from looking at these reports you wrote up for me on the kidnappers, Peace International, and Deity Conglomerates. I haven't had time to read them in detail yet, but they look like they've got a lot of useful insights."

He blushed again when I complemented him, which didn't help me, because I could feel my face heating up as well. Damnit O'Neill, you're acting like a fucking adolescent over this guy! Just because he has a great ass now that he's out of the robes, nice shoulders, hot pecs, kissable lips, SHIT! Mind out of the gutter and back in your pants, Colonel. Time to get back to business.

"Um, thank you, Col, um, Jack. I hope you'll find them useful for getting Klorel back. He's a nice young man."

"You know the kid?"

"Yes. I do a lot of consulting for Peace International. Klorel wanted to help out his mother's birth village, and I helped with the negotiations to get him approval from the village elders."

"I'm surprised they'd even talk with a, erh, ..."

That smile again. Sheesh, the kid's trying to kill me.

"You mean because I'm European? Like Lawrence of Arabia?"

The heat really hit my face then. "Hell, did I say that out loud? Sorry."

His laugh was almost as hot as his smile. "No, you haven't. But since Peter O'Toole had blue eyes and similar coloring as me, it's almost inevitable. I hear it all the time."

"Hey, Peter O'Toole ain't got nothing on you kid. I'd want you instead of him by me anytime."

God, I hope I didn't leer at him.

"Well, I think you remind me of Russell Crowe in his movie "Proof of Life," only I expect that you're better at what you do."

"Not better looking?"

"Well, um, he is Russell Crowe, after all."

It was my turn to laugh. "Yeah, that he is. The movie sucked on technique, though he was pretty hot in it."

"Actually, I like your hair better than his."

Startled, I stared at him blushing again down to his roots. "This short gray stuff? Really?"

"Not gray, but more of a silver, god am I embarrassing myself! I'm sorry, Jack, didn't mean to be so pushy."

"Hey, all you did was call my hair silver instead of gray. Can't complain about that. Here, Daniel." I handed him the hardcopies of my reports that Sam had put together. "Read these, while I read yours, okay? I want your thoughts on what's going on here."

"All right." His eyes lingered on my hair. What, did this kid have a father fetish? I mean, you try to do some of the things that I did in the military, and you see how dark your hair stays! I earned every damned one of the gr, uh, silver shitheads! I mean, I have other things that aren't so damned worn looking, but he ain't even going there. I've been told that I have an ass to die for, and no, I didn't have to pay someone to say that. In fact, the first one to say it was my ex-wife, Sara, and the second one to say it was my first male lover. I wasn't beaten with the ugly stick, and this walking hot- wings comments on my hair. Why the hell am I thinking like this? I should be thinking about the job. Fuck, O'Neill, maybe Jan's right, maybe you are going into a mid-life crisis.

The food came then, but not before I responded to the knock with a gun in my hand and standing to the side of the door. I motioned for Daniel to open it.

He rolled his baby blues at me! The little shit.

A spate of Pashto went back and forth, then I heard T's voice as well. Good, T was guarding my door, as usual. Having that big African on my six was comforting.

After the stuff was brought in, the waiter tipped, and sent on his merry way, Daniel turned to me.

"What in the hell did you think you were doing, O'Neill? Do you think that the terrorists are dressed up as waiters? I've known Hashim for years, and you embarrassed me and him with your fucking military paranoia."

Wow, the lamb had teeth, it seems. "Oh, fer crying out loud, I had a member of the IRA dress up as a room service waiter and try to fucking kidnap me as well as the first victim, Jackson, and he gave me this." I raised my tee shirt up and showed him the scar that ran across my upper belly. "If T hadn't had a harder head than the asshole thought he did, I would have had more than just some buckshot in my belly. That was only my sixth job, and it taught me not to trust anyone until they've been okayed by my people. Why in the hell am I explaining myself to you, anyway?"

The blue eyes were fixed on my belly, even after I dropped the shirt again. "I'm sorry, Col, uh, Jack. It's just that I spend a lot of my time keeping the military Neanderthal's from shooting people just because they have differing looks and customs. I reacted automatically."

"Hey, I should have asked you for a list of people in the hotel who you trusted, so it was me who was wrong in startling you. Hey, take it as a complement, Doc. After all, if I didn't already consider you one of us, I would've explained myself more."

"Come on, let's eat before it gets cold. I remember hearing that your stomach is easily upset, so I had them make some dishes with very little spices in them."

"Where'd you hear that from?"

His grin caught me by surprise again, it just lit up his face like a sun. "Um, Mr. T told me while you were showering. He said that I would not be able to stay in there if I didn't keep the spices down."

"Remind me to kill T later. After we get Klorel back."

The food was good, and the reports that Daniel had prepared even better. His insight startled me. This geek really was something.



After a nice cool shower, an even nicer long ice tea drink (with boiled water, sheesh, the kid thinks of everything!), and the air conditioner on and set to high, I started earning my fee.

After checking with me, Daniel ordered room service for us, then came to me with a list of interviewees.

"Okay, I've asked the President of Peace International, Khaiz Bhel Khaduin, to come at one o'clock. He's the one who took the call from the kidnappers."

"The one where they asked for fifteen million dollars?"

"Um, yes."

"I want the family here next."

"Yes, I arranged to have them come at three. I figured that you might need some time after seeing Khaiz."

I smiled at him, standing there so apparently confident, yet looking at me with that lower lip caught between his teeth.

"Great. You seem like you know what you are doing here. Have you been through this before?"

"Actually, yes, several times. Unfortunately, kidnapping is an epidemic in these parts about now. Peace International has had three of their people taken in the last three years, and my university has had two taken. I interpreted and translated for all of them." Daniel shrugged. "It is what I do best."

"Oh, I expect that you do lots of things good, Doctor, um" God, can't believe I said that, sounds condescending even to me! Shit! "I mean, from looking at these reports you wrote up for me on the kidnappers, Peace International, and Deity Conglomerates. I haven't had time to read them in detail yet, but they look like they've got a lot of useful insights."

He blushed again when I complemented him, which didn't help me, because I could feel my face heating up as well. Damnit O'Neill, you're acting like a fucking adolescent over this guy! Just because he has a great ass now that he's out of the robes, nice shoulders, hot pecs, kissable lips, SHIT! Mind out of the gutter and back in your pants, Colonel. Time to get back to business.

"Um, thank you, Col, um, Jack. I hope you'll find them useful for getting Klorel back. He's a nice young man."

"You know the kid?"

"Yes. I do a lot of consulting for Peace International. Klorel wanted to help out his mother's birth village, and I helped with the negotiations to get him approval from the village elders."

"I'm surprised they'd even talk with a, erh, ..."

That smile again. Sheesh, the kid's trying to kill me.

"You mean because I'm European? Like Lawrence of Arabia?"

The heat really hit my face then. "Hell, did I say that out loud? Sorry."

His laugh was almost as hot as his smile. "No, you haven't. But since Peter O'Toole had blue eyes and similar coloring as me, it's almost inevitable. I hear it all the time."

"Hey, Peter O'Toole ain't got nothing on you kid. I'd want you instead of him by me anytime."

God, I hope I didn't leer at him.

"Well, I think you remind me of Russell Crowe in his movie "Proof of Life," only I expect that you're better at what you do."

"Not better looking?"

"Well, um, he is Russell Crowe, after all."

It was my turn to laugh. "Yeah, that he is. The movie sucked on technique, though he was pretty hot in it."

"Actually, I like your hair better than his."

Startled, I stared at him blushing again down to his roots. "This short gray stuff? Really?"

"Not gray, but more of a silver, god am I embarrassing myself! I'm sorry, Jack, didn't mean to be so pushy."

"Hey, all you did was call my hair silver instead of gray. Can't complain about that. Here, Daniel." I handed him the hardcopies of my reports that Sam had put together. "Read these, while I read yours, okay? I want your thoughts on what's going on here."

"All right." His eyes lingered on my hair. What, did this kid have a father fetish? I mean, you try to do some of the things that I did in the military, and you see how dark your hair stays! I earned every damned one of the gr, uh, silver shitheads! I mean, I have other things that aren't so damned worn looking, but he ain't even going there. I've been told that I have an ass to die for, and no, I didn't have to pay someone to say that. In fact, the first one to say it was my ex-wife, Sara, and the second one to say it was my first male lover. I wasn't beaten with the ugly stick, and this walking hot- wings comments on my hair. Why the hell am I thinking like this? I should be thinking about the job. Fuck, O'Neill, maybe Jan's right, maybe you are going into a mid-life crisis.

The food came then, but not before I responded to the knock with a gun in my hand and standing to the side of the door. I motioned for Daniel to open it.

He rolled his baby blues at me! The little shit.

A spate of Pashto went back and forth, then I heard T's voice as well. Good, T was guarding my door, as usual. Having that big African on my six was comforting.

After the stuff was brought in, the waiter tipped and sent on his merry way, Daniel turned to me.

"What in the hell did you think you were doing, O'Neill? Do you think that the terrorists are dressed up as waiters? I've known Hashim for years, and you embarrassed me and him with your fucking military paranoia."

Wow, the lamb had teeth, it seems. "Oh, fer crying out loud, I had a member of the IRA dress up as a room service waiter and try to fucking kidnap me as well as the first victim, Jackson, and he gave me this." I raised my tee shirt up and showed him the scar that ran across my upper belly. "If T hadn't had a harder head than the asshole thought he did, I would have had more than just some buckshot in my belly. That was only my sixth job, and it taught me not to trust anyone until they've been okayed by my people. Why in the hell am I explaining myself to you, anyway?"

The blue eyes were fixed on my belly, even after I dropped the shirt again. "I'm sorry, Col, uh, Jack. It's just that I spend a lot of my time keeping the military Neanderthal's from shooting people just because they have differing looks and customs. I reacted automatically."

"Hey, I should have asked you for a list of people in the hotel who you trusted, so it was me who was wrong in startling you. Hey, take it as a complement, Doc. After all, if I didn't already consider you one of us, I would've explained myself more."

"Come on, let's eat before it gets cold. I remember hearing that your stomach is easily upset, so I had them make some dishes with very little spices in them."

"Where'd you hear that from?"

His grin caught me by surprise again, it just lit up his face like a sun. "Um, Mr. T told me while you were showering. He said that I would not be able to stay in with you if I didn't keep the spices down."

"Remind me to kill T later. After we get Klorel back. He's too useful to me to do it before."

The food was good, and the reports that Daniel had prepared even better. His insight startled me. This geek really was something.



Bhel Khaduin looked the part of the leader of a charity relief organization. A man of Bedouin ancestry, he wore the beard of a Muslim religious elder, though it was trimmed neatly. He spoke excellent English, which isn't surprising considering where a lot of his funding came from.

After having T escort him out when I was done going over what I needed from him, I put the tape cassette of the ransom call into the player. It was in Arabic, not in Pashto, which I picked up right away.

"Daniel, can you translate this, please? In writing, preferably. I speak and understand Arabic fairly well, but I don't want to miss anything."

"I already have, actually. It's in my briefcase. I'll go get it."

I grinned at him. "You want a job? I could use someone like you, ya know that?"

The only answer I got was the blush as he left to get the translation. God, this guy was going to kill me! I was serious. I wanted him for my team, and my determination solidified right then. He was mine!

The translation was pretty typical. It essentially said "Pay us fifteen million American dollars or the merchandise dies a very painful death, yadda, yadda. The next call was supposed to come in tomorrow morning. I had already instructed Bray to have his electronics guy put a tie in from Bhel Khaduin's phone line at Peace International to mine here. Khaduin had been instructed to hit a button as soon as the phone call came in, and I would pick up over here and manage the call.

"Daniel," I had read over the translation twice. "What do you think of Mr. Bhel Khaduin?"

His blue eyes narrowed in thought as he chewed on the end of his pen. "Well, he's of Bedouin ancestry, and holds the rank of "high teacher" in the Muslim faith. He graduated with a PhD..."

"I got all that stuff. What do you think of his opinions, his attitudes, his actions, that sort of thing? You said you've done a lot of work with the guy, haven't you?"

"Yes. Well, his PhD in business from Harvard seems to have helped him make this organization a success. It didn't hurt that he managed to seduce several children from very wealthy families to join the cause. Most of the time the parents, though worried about their children, were proud that they wanted to make a difference in this way, and donated money to the "cause" afterwards, accordingly."

"Were these kids posted into potentially dangerous situations like Klorel?"

"No, actually, most of the time, after receiving some very large "donations" from the parents, those kids were posted to relatively isolated, less politically and medically exposed places to do their work. I've heard and read accusations that Bhel Khaduin comes near to extorting money from his members' rich families to keep them safe, then puts them into what is almost the equivalent of a charity club med setup until they get tired of it. But Peace International has enough legitimate programs where they do ease the sufferings of the poor in the Muslim countries that these accusations have never been taken seriously."

I picked up my encrypted cell phone and speed-dialed Sam in New York. The call went through immediately, which was pretty unusual. That told me that Sammy was hard at work on her gizmos, and probably trying to escape the mother-to-be from hell for a bit.

"Hey, Sam. Listen, pull everything you can find on previous kidnapping events for members of Peace International. Also, I want their financial records, as much as you can dig up."

I held the phone away from my ear as she raised her voice a bit. When she had finished, I said, "Yeah, I know they're a privately owned company, not public, but I also know those magic fingers of yours can find out anything, ya know? If you can get it to me within six hours, a pound of your favorite Belgium chocolates will be on your desk by tomorrow morning, and a raise will be on your next paycheck, okay? Great. Tell Jan T and I love her, and to eat some ice cream for us."

Once I hung up, Daniel said, a glint in his eyes, "Ice cream? Belgium chocolates?"

"Hey, it's knowing stuff like that, that has kept my brainiac with me for so long. Samantha Carter doesn't need my beatup old ass and attitude, she could go anywhere and ask for a hell of a lot more than I can pay her. So I stock up on chocolates, bath gels, and new toys for her, pay her as much as I can't afford, and she keeps hanging in. It helps that T is one of her partners, as well. He won't leave me, and that's an additional incentive."

"Partners?"

"Yeah. Sam has two life mates. One of them is a five-foot tall redheaded doctor who would have Napoleon groveling at her feet begging for hardass lessons. Jan's also seven months pregnant with T's baby, and isn't a happy camper at the moment. That's where the ice cream comes in. We'll be glad when that baby's born, I can tell you."

He was smiling at me. "They sound like a family. What about your own family, Jack? Wife, kids, that sort of thing?"

I debated on telling him, but decided to go ahead, for some reason. "Only an ex-wife. We had a son, but he's gone."

I was surprised when he got up from his seat and came over to me on the couch. The blue eyes were vivid with compassion, which I usually hate, but again, for some reason, it didn't bother me coming from him.

Daniel put his hand on mine. "I'm so sorry, Jack. I don't have children, but I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose one."

I caught his eyes with mine. "You married, Daniel?"

The bluest eyes I've ever seen clouded with caution. Then he came to a decision. "No. I, um, I'm gay, Jack. I've never been married."

"Got a partner?"

Now his face looked surprised at me asking. "Um, no, not for awhile now. I travel so much that it makes dating pretty difficult. My last partner got fed up and sent me on my way four years ago."

I smiled. "I know what you mean. It does suck."

"So you don't have a girlfriend either?"

I watched him lick that fuckingly kissable lower lip in nervousness, and I fought down an urge to grab Daniel and give him a tonsillectomy right then and there.

"Nah, but not because I travel too much, kid. I don't like women that way. Didn't know it when I got married, after all, I was in the Air Force. Sara figured it out before I did, and helped me discover what I really wanted and needed, and we parted friends. She's great."

"Oh God, you're gay?"

The color had dropped right out of his face in surprise, and he looked like he was going to pass out for a second. I reached out and grabbed him, worried and about ready to call T for help.

"Daniel? You okay?" He really looked white now, and his face was all sweaty. I felt his head, and it wasn't hot, more like clammy and cold. I finally realized it wasn't because of his shock that I was gay. The kid was sick!

"Pills, Jack, my pills, in the pocket of my robe, please, and a glass of water."

Heart hammering like I was in the firing line again, I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and rooted inside his robes until I found the pills. I got one out, hurried back to where a very white- looking Daniel sat with his head between his legs, and gave him the medicine.

"Here, lay down on the couch, put your head down on my lap. That's it, don't pass out, Danny!" I knew sleeping sickness when I saw it. The Arabic plague, they called it. It was kind of like Malaria, and could crop up years later. I had it myself, and so did T. It wasn't dangerous if you kept up with the medicine. If you didn't, you died. It was simple as that. If Danny passed out, he would be at risk of never waking up. The attacks were always short and hard like this.

I just sat there for a while talking to him, Daniel's head on my lap, my hand of it's own volition running through his drenched hair. Gradually the pallor left his face, and his breathing eased. Finally he opened his eyes.

"Whew. That one hit fast."

"Tell me about it. And I thought at first that you were just overwhelmed to find out I was gay."

The smile creeped out like the sun from the clouds, and he said, "Well, it was a surprise. You don't really seem like the type. You sure didn't trip my gaydar."

"Right. That's because I spent ten years hiding it in a "don't ask, don't tell" environment, where, if they found out, I'd end up with my butt sitting in Leavenworth. It's a habit to keep it toned down, kid."

He sat up, which was good because the Little Colonel was definitely starting to show some interest in the back of his head.

"I know what you mean. I do the same because of the closed minds in the academic and the Muslim world. It's even worse over here than in the military. You wouldn't get a trial here, if the religious police found out you were sucking dick. They'd beat you to death, then pray over your soul afterwards."

"They try that with me, and T and I'll shoot 'em. There's no love lost between those religious fanatics and T, I'll tell you. He was forced to leave his country because of them, after they killed his wife and son."

"What country?"

"Chulak."

"Oh, yes, they're pretty bad down there. Well, um," Daniel looked at his hands, then back up at me through his eyelashes. Flirting with me, huh? Bring it on, you hot thing. "Now that I've swooned all over your lap, we'd better get ready for our meeting with Klorel's family. Somehow I don't think you'll care for them too much."

I laughed, reaching out on impulse and ruffled his hair. He grinned, and the twinkle I saw didn't look shy, all of a sudden. Gulping, I felt the Little Colonel stir again. He definitely liked this guy.

"Danny, you'll know it if you really swoon on my lap. This was just a shadow swoon, ya know?"

The twinkle turned into genuine mischievousness. "Well, if or when that time comes, Jack, you'll have to warn me, okay? Otherwise I may miss something. I'm pretty clueless that way."

"Not that clueless, Daniel, I don't think."

I couldn't wipe the silly smile off my face, for some reason. I, like my dick, really liked this geek with two PhDs, go figure it.

I didn't like the father and grandfather of the kidnap victim. The two of them, looking like mincing little pricks with delusions of grandeur, strutted into our room like they smelled something bad. The one called Ra didn't say much, just shot flirty looks at Daniel and looked down his nose at me. Klorel's father, the Director of Security for Deity Conglomerates, handled all the business.

He also tried to tell me my job, which pissed me off royally.

"You will, of course, have one of my operatives in here with you at all times, and I expect to have updates at least twice a day, more if anything of significance happens."

"Actually, no one from your firm will be allowed in here under any circumstances, uh, Sir, and if anyone tries to get in, my friends T or Bray might accidentally shoot them. Sorry, but my security is pretty tight, it has had to be under these type of conditions."

Apophis started into an angry spate of Arabic at Daniel, which was in a dialect that I didn't know. Daniel responded back, from his tone he was trying to reason with the asshole. But the dude looked like he was having none of it. The other one just smiled a fucking Mona Lisa smile and checked out Daniel's ass.

I got fed up. I would get these assholes' kid back, but damned if I would have them in my face the entire time. They didn't act like grieving relatives to me, either. But I know that their company is a big client for George's insurance company, so I had to bite my tongue and kiss some ass. Gross thought, there, kissing that skinny ass. Yecch!

Finally, after calming myself down by the old tried and true biting my inner lip method, I broke into the spate. "Sir, Mr. Apophis, listen to me, please. I understand that you want to help get Klorel back. But this situation is really precarious right now, this group that has him could lose it at the slightest hint that I'm not doing what they want. I give you my word, I promise, that I will give you twice a day updates, and immediate ones if anything happens. This could take a while, and to minimize the stress to yourselves and your family, it would be better if you could continue running your business, or keeping busy in some other fashion. You've been briefed on my team's credentials. I'm one of the best kidnap and ransom consultants in the field, and I do know what I'm doing. My record of rescues and returns speaks for itself. Can I count of your trust in this?"

My groveling worked, which it always does with these power-tripper types. Apophis gave me a royal "make it so" nod, gave me the number to reach him anytime I needed him, then he and flirty eyes left, finally.

"Shit, what a bunch of creeps. You say the kid is nice. Wonder how he came out that way with those relatives?"

"They are definitely powerful men, and, from what I've heard, totally without ethics. Klorel's mother Ammonet left Apophis when the boy was young, and never went back. I guess that's how he got to grow up different."

"Well, the old guy, Ra, he seemed like he was a few french-fries short of a happy meal, there. All he did was make eyes at you, and check out your butt."

That damned blush came over him again.

"I know. He's asked me to come work for Deity Conglomerates for years. Offered me three times what I'm making at the university and consulting. He also made it clear as to what my most important duty would be."

"Shit! He didn't. That scumbag. He's old enough to be your father. Well, if he gets out of hand here, Daniel, then I'll have T shoot him, okay?" I was only half joking. For some reason, Danny brought out my protective instincts.

"I can handle myself, Jack. I'm not a child, you know."

"I'm not saying you are. Hell, don't you think I've noticed that you aren't a child, here? It's kind of obvious."

Daniel grinned, all annoyance at me gone suddenly. He stepped into my space and said, "Do you find me as attractive as I find you, Jack?"

"Well, to put it bluntly, Danny, the Little Colonel has stood to attention about six times since I met you. It's been a while since he showed that much enthusiasm for someone. Or as much taste."

His laugh was adorable. Not that I would tell him that, of course. I did want to live a bit longer, and this fiery academic would drill me a new one if I came across too sappy, or queenly. I could tell that from the first time I met him, when he almost ran over my foot.



The guards who were hired to guard Klorel were losers to the likes I haven't seen since the Air Force. While Daniel translated, I questioned them.

"Where were you and your colleague when the boy was taken?"

"Shru'ue'eth Sach urhesh bru'neareh srah?"

There was a long answer, they were obviously trying to cover their exposed rears big time.

"He says that they were sitting in the shade of the hut they were sleeping in. Klorel had made it clear he didn't want them any where near him."

"For crying out loud, these guys are worthless. Did they even see the snatch?"

Daniel queried the guard, then answered. "No. They didn't see anything but the back of the vehicle that took him."

"Get rid of this asshole, Daniel, before I do something I regret. Christ, why can't it ever be easy? If they had been doing what they'd been hired for, then we wouldn't even be here."

The younger man quickly got rid of the last guard, then came up to me, a worried look in his eyes.

"You aren't giving up, are you, Jack?"

"No, Daniel. This just means things are going to get a lot more complicated. The first thing I'm going to do tomorrow, is take charge of the ransom negotiations, and demand a proof of life."

"You think they might have already killed Klorel?"

"It depends. That's where you'll come in, one of the ways at least." I decided it was time to relax a little bit. I went over to the fridge and grabbed a Bud, which T knew where to get in every dry Muslim country we worked in. I normally didn't drink much on the job, but a beer a night settled my stomach and was doctor's orders. "Time to relax. You wanna beer?"

"Um, no, but a glass of juice would be nice." I poured him his drink, then walked over to the couch. Daniel was chewing that damned lower lip, looking kind of out of it.

"Here." I checked the tactical situation out. Couch, arm chair facing it, table in between. Hot archeologist sitting on couch chewing on that lip I wanted to kiss.

The couch it was.

Hey, don't look at me like that! It was technically off duty time for us. I'm no slacker, but I'm only Human!

Daniel took the glass, raising his eyebrows a little when I sat on the couch next to him. We weren't touching, but the sparkage was so strong I felt my throat dry out in reaction. Damn, feeling like a horny teen on his first date, here!

"What did you mean about it getting complicated, and where I come in?"

"It'll buy us some time with the demand for a proof of life. They'll expect that, so it shouldn't alarm them. I've got all the reports on this group, Daniel, but I've never worked with them before to negotiate a ransom. Tell me about this Rahat-Rahal, their philosophies, behaviors, that sort of thing."

He steepled his hands in front of his nose. "Let me try to summarize their history, without going into details of Muslim religious differences, which I expect, will bore you."

Daniel peered up at me through his lashes with a small smile, one that reminded me of Charlie when he'd decided to try to fool his old man. I felt a lump come into my throat at the expression, and it had nothing to do with my son. A flutter in my belly accompanied it, but I just ignored the feelings as I tried to concentrate on what the man was saying, not the man himself.

"The group was started in 1966 by a renegade religious leader, Sadi Ben Latoum. The man was considered too radical even for the radical conservative sects of the time. He took his followers and moved them into the desert of Libya, set up a training facility for terrorists, and the Rahat-Rahal, meaning the "Light of the Prophet", was born. His people have been responsible for bombings of civilian works, sabotage of all kinds, and more recently, kidnappings. Latoum died in 1993, killed by agents of the Israeli Mossad. But his son continues the group activities in his name in the old man's tradition. Hell, he's even expanded on them."

"Traditions?"

He smiled at me, a sad kind of smile. "Yes, with no moral or ethical pretenses at all, despite how against these kinds of things the Muslim religion is."

"So cynical, Doctor Jackson, and so young." I teased, not sure I could get away with it. He was pretty serious, this brilliant young man.

"I was born in Egypt, Jack. I've lived among Muslim politics and corruption, studied the languages that surround the religion and the cultures of its followers. I stopped believing in a God before I was ten years old. I guess I've seen too much evil perpetuated at the hands of so called "God-fearing" men to believe in anything any more."

I moved closer to him, took his hand in mind like he had done earlier to me. "Danny, I believe in people, in what we can do with these hands of ours. I've done some damned distasteful things for my country when I was in Special Ops, I've seen the worst that man can do to other men, even did some of them myself. I held my little boy's broken body after he was gunned down by a crazy man in a McDonalds, even though I had tried to protect him with my own body. I lived, Charlie is gone." I shrugged, suddenly feeling tight in the chest. It's been a while since the memories have been able to choke me up. "I don't know if I ever believed in a god who would allow things like that to happen. But I do believe that if we quit fighting the evil with our own hands, then what's left of goodness in the world will sift through our fingers, a little at a time. If we don't do what we can, no matter how little that might be, then we won't deserve it anymore. I believe in T, and his honor and integrity, his need to do the right thing in memory of his first family. I don't know you too well yet, but I see that same thing in you. That's where you'll find goodness, not in some kind of supernatural person who couldn't give a shit about us down here." I reached down and took both his hands, entwining them in my own. "In hands like these, doing what we can to help, that's where you'll find it."

Daniel looked down at our entwined hands, then back up at me, hope springing into his sad blue eyes. "You make me want to believe you, Jack, god help me."

I let go of his hand and reached up and stroked his face. "Stick with me, kid. I'll make a believer out of you yet." I wanted to kiss his upturned face more than my life was worth right then. But there was no way I was going to rush this thing between Danny and I.

Breaking the intensity, I sat back and drank some of my beer. Taking my cue, Daniel did the same with his juice. Our only physical connection now was where our shoulders brushed each other's.

"Have these people always been into kidnappings, Daniel?"

"No. That was Yasul's idea, the son. They're basically a loose, fanatical group with a simple cult-like hierarchy. Their religious leader also is the leader of the tactical side as well. The kidnappings were started to raise money, since they've had difficulty with recruiting wealthy youngsters from prominent Muslim families in the last few years."

"Why the difficulty in recruitment?"

"Because the major Muslim sects have banned the group, sort of like excommunicating them."

"What will determine if this is going to work is whether or not these crazy people will treat Klorel's kidnapping like the business it is to them. They have a commodity we want, and they will keep the commodity safe and in good shape until they get paid. If we negotiate it right, and if they do see Klorel like that, then we have a good chance of getting him back. Do you think they'll do that, Daniel? Or will the fanaticism interfere with business?"

"I'd say that we can't count on anything from these people, Jack. If their leader, who they feel is a god to them, tells them to kill Klorel to make a statement, they'll do it without hesitation. Deity Conglomerates has taken a lot of flack for years from the fundamental religious groups, who hate them for wallowing in the same mud as us infidels."

"That makes it more difficult, then. We're going to have to try to locate where they are holding him, talk to locals who saw the snatch, that sort of thing. I'll keep pushing this as a business, to keep reminding them that Klorel is more valuable to them alive than dead. But I'm afraid that we can't count on that."

"I have a feeling that no matter what happens, Colonel, that you'll make it come out all right in the end."

My eyes met his with an almost electric charge running through me from it. "I've lost my share of people, Danny. Not many compared to the total I've negotiated for, but I dream of every single one of them often enough to insure I'll never forget them, and how things can get royally fucked up in a heartbeat."

"Yes, I think can see the shadow of those losses in your eyes. Yet you keep doing this, despite them."

"Not despite them, Danny. Because of them. I'm good at this, and I stay at it because I am, because I can bring them home, if there is any chance to do it."

A big yawn caught me suddenly, making me realize how tired I was.

He took my empty beer bottle out of my hand. "I think the jet lag is catching up with you. Off to bed with you, Jack O'Neill. Sleep on it, then after the phone call, you'll figure out what to do next."

Daniel's right. I'm pretty zonked. I grinned as he helped me up by my hand and I asked gently, almost afraid of his answer, "Care to join me?"

"Mmmm, don't tempt me! You need sleep more than you need, um, other things, much as I would love to indulge myself. Talk to me in the morning about it when you're rested, okay?" His smile and the way he squeezed my hand let me know his regrets were real.

"I'll do that, Danny. I'll do that. Night now." I leaned down and kissed him on those lips of his, lightly, leaving with him a promise. Then I took my tired old ass to bed.



I dreamed of blue, blue skies in the gaze of a man. Daniel held out his hand to me, and I took it, caught up in dry heat and secret treasures as his gaze captured my own. Suddenly, roughly, the hand and eyes were ripped from me as the scene shifted. Daniel was on the ground, with me on top of him covering his body with mine. But we weren't making love. Gunshots rang out, and I struggled to get more of him under me, to keep him safe from the evil lifetakers.

The quiet told me it was over. I got up on my knees, in my dream they didn't hurt like they do all the time now. Finally I looked down, fear choking me. The desert-blue eyes were sightless, looking up at me almost with accusation for not saving him...

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!"

"JACK! Wake up, you're having a nightmare!"

I came to myself again straddling Daniel, who was now on the thick rug where I had thrown him after he naively tried to wake me. My fingers were hooked back, ready to tear out his throat. He had hold of my forearm, stopping its movement forward, holding on with all his strength.

"Shit!" I pulled back my hand and jumped off of him, my heart pumping like it would vibrate right out of my ribcage. "God Damn it, Jackson, I could have killed you!"

Shaking with adrenaline overload, I backed away from him. "God, I'm sorry."

He got up rather gingerly from the rug and came slowly over to where I crouched against the bed.

In a gentle voice, Daniel said, "It's okay, Jack, I'm fine, you didn't hurt me. You wouldn't ever hurt me. I know that. I just needed to hold onto you until you woke up and realized it was me, I knew that."

He reached out to touch my shoulder, moving slowly so as to not startle me if I wasn't completely awake yet. "Come on, you had a really bad nightmare is all. I'm here, and you'll be fine now."

It was the feel of his hand on my naked shoulder that brought me completely back to myself. I looked into his eyes, not dead but gloriously blue and filled with life. "I dreamed we were being shot at, and I couldn't protect you, like Charlie, and you were killed..."

Before I knew it, I was being gathered into surprisingly strong arms, and he maneuvered us both back onto the bed. That's no easy feet, since I'm 6'2" and weight 180 on a good day.

"Come on, back to bed with you. Shhh, I'm very much alive, and plan to stay that way. I'm here, Jack, and you're safe. I won't let anyone get to you. Go back to sleep, now."

The feeling of being held in Daniel's arms tightly was the final weapon to annihilate the trailers of the dream, and I realized that I did feel safe, for the first time in a very long time.

As sleep started to claim me again, I moved my body closer to his, instinctively wanting to feel as much of his blessedly alive flesh as I could. That's when my sleepy brain finally discovered the fact that fear had made me miss.

Daniel was as naked as the day he was born. Sleep flew out the window like Poe's raven, screeching "Nevermore!"

"Um, Daniel?"

"Mmmmm?"

"You're naked."

I could feel his breath as he turned his face down to mine. "Yes, well, the bloodcurdling screams kind of made stopping to dress seem rather inappropriate."

"Um, I'm not complaining. Just an observation."

"So, should I counter-observe that the Little Colonel has been happily making himself at home down there? Not that I'm complaining at getting poked like that, or anything."

I couldn't help it. I started laughing at his droll tone, and before too long he joined me. After we settled down, I pulled up on my elbows to peer at him in the pre-dawn dimness.

"Thanks, Danny."

"You're quite welcome, Jack. More snuggling?"

"You betcha, kid. Commere." I pulled him into my arms this time, and he came there like it was where he had always been meant to be. Hell, for all I know, maybe it was. We were both turned on, and both too damned tired after the tough night to do anything about it but sleep.

The sun hit my face like the laser guide of a P-90.

"Shit! Whatza?"

"It is time you are up, you lazy heap of infidel bones!"

Sanity returned as I became aware of my surroundings. A warm both hard and soft lump was plastered all the way down my body and practically on top of me. Daniel. His longish hair was tickling my chest, I noted absently.

Bray's gnarled old face was right above mine, grinning and reminding me of an Indonesian Death mask. It about scared me to death until I realized who owned that ugly mug.

"You have been very busy this night, haven't you?" He whispered.

Danny was just starting to stir, obviously he was a deep sleeper.

"Keep it down, old man, and don't wake the kid. He tried to wake me up during one of my nightmares last night and I almost killed him as thanks." I gently slipped out, replacing my chest and arm with my pillow under Daniel's face. He made a face, woofed a little, took a deep breath of my scent on the pillow, and settled back down to sleep.

Bray sobered. He and T had been with me for years, and they both had had their share of my nightmares to deal with, and me with theirs. They both knew how dangerous I could be if wakened suddenly, as well.

I grabbed my shorts and put them on, then my pants. Finally I followed my friend out into the kitchen, where T was putting on some coffee.

"I am sorry, O'Neill, I should have realized you might have one of your night fears. One of us should have been with you on this first night."

"It couldn't be helped. What I should have done is warn Daniel and show him the safe ways to wake me. Sheesh, guys, I could'a killed him!"

"You would not kill a friend, O'Neill, even in your deepest sleep." Bray grinned again. "And from the way the two of you looked, you have become quite good friends, have you not?"

I glared at him, feeling my face heat up. "No, we have not, I mean, not what it looked like. He stayed with me to get me back to sleep. Nothing happened." I drank several deep swallows of the coffee, the warmth and the caffeine waking me up completely. "Pour me another cup, will ya, and I'll bring it to Daniel."

I came into my room and moved over to the bed. Daniel was spread over the entire mattress on his belly, the sheet off and on the floor. I enjoyed the view for a second or two, then felt guilty at invading his privacy. I picked up the sheet and draped it back on top of him.

"Daniel. Wake up, guy, we have to get up now."

"Mmmph shusher...ooomph gurgle proofth?"

"Huh? To hell with this." I put the coffee under his nose, thinking that the smell might help wake him. His nose started twitching like a rabbit's, his hand reached for the cup with almost automatic precision, and he said something that sounded like "gimme!"

The liquid in the cup disappeared like he had beamed it into his stomach, and he held out the empty. "More please?"

I had to grin. The blue eyes weren't even open yet! "Sure, Danny."

By the time I had returned with a refill, he had turned over, and slits of blue were beginning to show under the eyelashes and sleepy lids. The beast stirs.

"Are we a bit of a caffeine freak, Dr. Jackson?" I asked as the hand reached out and took the second cup for a repeat disappearance of the liquid. When that was empty, he looked at me, looked down at himself with the sheet covering his nakedness, then at my room.

"You had a nightmare, a bad one last night."

"Yeah. Thanks, by the way. But I'll need to show you how to safely wake an ex-special forces guy so we won't have a repeat of me almost killing you. Okay?"

"Okay." He answered matter-of-factly.

I slapped his hip lightly, stroking it afterwards. Nice hip. "Up and at 'em, sleepy head. We have the phone call from the kidnappers coming in to us in less than an hour now, and I'll probably need you to interpret.

"Oh. Sorry."

Daniel showered first while I reread his translation of the first phone call. When it was my turn, I handed it to him, asked him to reread it over his coffee, and went to shower.

Right on time the phone tied into Peace International's headquarters beeped. Daniel had been instructed to pick it up, listen to what language they spoke, and ask if they spoke English. If they didn't or wouldn't, then he would tell them he was interpreting for the hostage negotiator.

I listened to Daniel's first words, making sure for the tenth time that the recorder was working properly. It was, of course.

"He won't speak English, Jack."

"What language is he speaking?"

"Pashto."

"Tell him you'll be interpreting for me both ways."

"He didn't seem to object. Go ahead."

"Tell him we need a proof of life before we discuss the fee, and we aren't going to pay for it."

Daniel did, and listened. "They made some threats about hurting Klorel, but have agreed."

"Good. Tell them I will be the one in charge from now on, with you interpreting for me."

"They said to wait for the next call to be told where to collect the proof of life. Then they hung up."

"You did great. Thanks. T, you know the drill, make a copy for Daniel and I, and overnight the original to Sam for analysis."

"Analysis?"

"Yeah. She'll put it through a background sound analyzer, stuff like that, to see if we can get any hits on where they've stashed Klorel. You'd be surprised on how easy it is to pinpoint locations of atypical sounds."

"That's brilliant, Jack."

"Embarrassin' me here, Daniel."

"What now, while we wait for the next call?"

"That probably won't come for at least a day or two. Let's get some breakfast, then, hey T, you got the LandRover?"

T just raised his eyebrow, which was T-speak for "You insult me by asking".

"Great. Later, after the sun starts to drop, we're heading out to the village where Klorel was snatched. Then you, T and Bray are going to start interviewing the villagers, and we're going to see if we can track these assholes down."

"They probably will be too afraid to be next to tell us anything, Jack."

"We'll see, Daniel."

"The village is pretty far from here. We'll have to camp out, I'm afraid."

"I know. T and Bray will have everything we need, Danny, even coffee."

He blushed at my tease, then smiled at me. "Got another cup there, by the way?"

"Sheesh, kid, do ya got any kidney's left? That's your fifth cup in an hour and a half."

"I'll repeat my mantra to you, Jack. Not a child. Not a child."

It was my turn to blush as I remembered just how not a child this man was.



"Shit, Daniel, you're heading right for that sandbank!"

"Shut up, Jack, I know what I'm doing. I've been driving deserts for twenty-five years."

The grin on Daniel's face as he told me off let me know he was almost enjoying my back-seat driving.

"The way you're going at it, it looks more like twenty-five days."

"No, that's you Jack, not me."

He glanced over at me to throw out the last insult, and we almost landed in a wadi!

After we had righted ourselves, pulled our hearts out of our mouths and all that stuff, T had finally had enough.

"O'Neill, say no more, or I will gag you."

I turned and gave my friend a wounded look, especially in light of Daniel's laughter at my expense, but I knew better than to keep talking. I'd already decided to shut up and let the kid drive. Even if he did laugh when I closed my eyes for a while and just held on. Well really! It isn't every day that we almost take out a pack of camel. I'm getting on, here, and have to take care not to have a heart attack, ya know!

We drove for four hours, and as it was getting dark, I said, "Let's call it a night, guys. We still have about two hours to go before we get to the village, and I want to catch them in daylight. Those rocks over there will make good shelter."

T and Bray pulled out what we would need for the night, ya know, just the basics: completely encapsulated two-man tents to keep the desert crawlies off of us and the cold desert night out; generator to operate the perimeter motion alarms; ammunition and automatics for guard duty; rations and water; extra gasoline cans moved away from us and from the landrover so if they were hit with a bullet, they wouldn't take out us or our transport; sleeping bags; and sterno stoves for heating water for Danny's coffee, of course.

"Good job, guys. Daniel, you can skip guard duty. T, you first, Bray the middle watch, and I'll do the last one."

"Um, Jack, why should you three stand watch and not me?"

"Because you're a professor, Daniel, not a soldier."

"D'you think that because I'm an academic I don't know how to use a gun, Jack? Or don't know how to stand guard duty? Who the hell do you think guards our finds from grave robbers, who would cut our throats for a couple of dimes, until the authorities can arrive? Lawrence of Arabia?"

I winced at that one, too close to home. "Have you ever killed a man, Daniel?"

"No, I have never killed anyone, Jack. Because I was able to use my brain to get out of doing it. But I have come close, and would have done it to protect my archeological team or my life."

The kid, no the man, was really glaring at me now. I guess he had a right to be mad, since I'd just assumed he'd be an idiot with a firearm. Still, it rankled to have my command questioned. Finally I looked at T, to see what he thought. He just raised his eyebrow, T- speak for "you make the decision so that I won't have the doctor angry at *me*".

"Okay, you get first watch. Relieve T at 2300 hours. Walk the perimeter, inside the motion sensor wires, Daniel, every half hour. Don't sit near the Landrover, 'cause it's a big, fat target. If you see anything, wake me quietly, don't alert them that you're on to them. Got it, Daniel?"

He nodded, and I handed him my handgun. I didn't want him using the automatic, because they were tricky for newbies. T and Bray headed towards their tent, but I stayed a little longer, after fetching Daniel a field jacket because of the rapidly descending temperature that was a part of the desert night.

When I handed him the jacket to put over his robes, he nodded. "Thank you. I'm not usually out without blankets at night."

"We should probably put our sleeping bags together for warmth, but I didn't want to assume anything with you."

"Nice of you. Will T and Bray have theirs together?"

"Of course. Those two are old hands at camping in the desert. Even having tents and bags are a luxury for them."

"Then fine, Jack, put the bags together." He finally smiled at me a bit. "Try to keep the Little Colonel from getting so enthusiastic this time, hmmm?"

I'm definitely beginning to regret telling him my nickname for my dick. He seemed to like using it to tease me too much. I'll show you, Doctor Jackson!

I moved into his space grabbed his robed arms and said into his face, "If you weren't so damned hot, he wouldn't be doing it, you little prick tease!" I pulled his body into mine hard, so he couldn't get away, and kissed Daniel's lips in the way I've been wanting to do since I first saw them.

I should've known that I wouldn't keep the upper hand for long. Danny put his arms around my waist hard, pulled me even tighter, and pulled his lips away long enough to growl at me, "I'll show you what it means to tease prick, flyboy!"

He not only took over the damned kiss, he also started applying friction to me with his whole body in such a way that I almost blew right then and there. It was sheer will power that kept me from shooting my wad like a fucking teenager with no control. Before it got too far for me to stop, I pushed him away, and said through my panting breaths, "Guard duty, Jackson, now!"

The little shit giggled at me! He is so going to be mine when he gets off guard. Look out, kid, they didn't call me Colonel "Never Lose" O'Neill 'cause I bet good on hockey, ya know. You're out of your league, here.

As I crawled into the joined sleeping bags, I finally admitted it to myself. Colonel "Never Lose" O'Neill had met his match in Dr. Daniel Jackson. I'd only known him two days, and I was falling harder and faster than I had for anyone in my life. One look at me with those frigging blue eyes, and I was gone.

I didnČŘ™t sleep much for the rest of Danny's watch. Partly it was anticipation, and partly sheer nerves. Much as Sam teased me about my "boyfriends", I hadn't really been with anyone for over a year, and that had only lasted a few months. My schedule was a killer for having a lover, and I was getting too damn old to want to do casual any more. Hell, before Danny, I was beginning to wonder if I could even get any snap in the old snake anymore. I rarely bothered to jerk myself off, rarely even felt the urge these days.

Well, I felt the urge now, big time. But I forced myself to wait, to see what that wicked archeologist wanted to do. I was teasing when I'd called him a tease. Daniel didn't have a selfish bone in his body, if I'd read him right. I thought he would be a good lover. I reached down and started slowly stroking myself, enjoying the hardness and the excitement of the chase. I didn't bring myself to completion. Not alone.

I pretended to be asleep when he crawled into the tent. After zipping up the door flap, he turned and whispered my name.

Fuck pretending! "Yeah."

"Not asleep, yet?"

"Nah. Waiting for you."

I heard him take off his boots and start crawling in the bag.

"Danny?"

"Yes, Jack?"

"Clothes?"

He was quiet for a few seconds, then I heard further movement. When he was finally beside me, he had nothing on except his socks.

"Socks?"

"Sorry, my feet get really cold."

My throat got a lump in it again, and I pulled him into my arms. He came readily, all teasing gone in his eagerness to be with me.

"What do you like, Jack? Tell me what you want me to do."

"I want to please you, Danny. I've been wanting to since I almost killed you. Let me?"

"Of course. My body's all yours."

I kissed him, licking that lower lip of his and asking his permission for entry. He opened under me, and I tasted him, coffee and spices with a touch of Daniel. I bit that lower lip lightly, then tongued it again lightly and felt him shiver. My mouth moved down to his chin, and I bit his stubbled skin there lightly. With my tongue I tasted the salt and the gritty sand of the desert on his exposed neck. When I came to the center of his collarbones, I bit the bone and cartilage their with a bit more pressure. I felt him gasp, and he stretched to give me better access. No, I would leave it for later. I moved again, sucking and kissing his chest muscles. When I got to his left nipple, I bit hard, then sucked hard.

"Shit! Oh, God, Jack!" He used his pecs to shove it deeper into my mouth, and I sucked it again. It was time to move on. I attacked his other nipple, and by the time I was finished, Danny's body was shaking in anticipation and excitement. He was so fucking responsive, that I almost came again, just glorying in what I was doing to him.

By the time I had gotten down to his belly, he was impatiently trying to push his hard as nails dick against me to get my attention. I rubbed my face in his pubic hair, smelling sex, arousal, and that unique Danny smell.

When I finally took his dick into my hands and licked it, surprised to find that he was still intact.

"You're not cut?"

"Born in Egypt, remember? They don't cut here unless you're Jewish. Don't stop!"

Couldn't help but grin at the command, and I used my tongue to lick underneath his foreskin at the sensitive head. He gasped louder, and couldn't help but thrust into my mouth. I was ready for it, and soon had Danny deep-throated. I swallowed a few times around him, then pulled him out to a more comfortable depth. Holding on to his root, I started nibbling him lightly, scraping gently, then using my tongue and lips to ease the pressure afterwards.

"I'm coming! Jack! Oh god, I'm gonna blow... JACK!"

His hands tightened on my short hair until he was pulling hard, but I didn't care. I just concentrated on swallowing all that Danny could give me. When he was dry, he pulled me up to him and kissed me.

"That was incredible. Now it's your turn. I, um, I want you to make love to me, Jack."

Surprised, I asked, "It's pretty soon for that, Danny. Are you sure?"

"It's what you want too, isn't it?"

"Shit, yes, more than anything. But it doesn't have to be now, here, in the desert. It's a special thing, the first time you give yourself to me, and me to you. I want it to be in nice conditions, where I can spoil you first. Do ya mind to much?"

He kissed my nose. "You're a romantic, Jack!"

"That's Colonel Romantic to you, Danny."

"What can I do for you, Jack?"

"Jerk me off, Daniel, with those damned long fingers of yours! I've wanted you to touch me with them all day."

He did as I asked him, using his long sensitive fingers to drive me mad. By the time Danny got to home base, the Little Colonel was way more than ready, and exploded after only being squeezed and pulled a few times. I swear I passed out for a few seconds afterwards, it was so intense.

"Jack? Jack, are you all right?"

I came back to the sound of his slightly worried voice. "Yeah, kid, I'm okay. You kind of knocked me for a loop there. That was unbelievable. Thanks."

"Clothes?"

"Too tired. You can get 'em if you want 'em."

"Too tired, too. G'night, Jack."

"Night, Danny."

Before I drifted off I remembered something. "Danny?"

"Yes?"

"If you have to wake me up, touch my temple, either one, lightly. I've been trained to wake up peacefully to that touch only, okay? That way I won't nearly kill you again."

"Your temple. Right. G'night Jack." He snuggled closer to me, and I put my arms tightly around his strong body.

"G'night, baby."

"Don't call me baby!"

I fell asleep with a grin plastered on my face, ready to face anything tomorrow.



I woke up to a heavy weight covering my body, with my neck being tickled by both Daniel's breath and his hair. He was completely on top of me, using me as a six feet two inch body pillow. I smiled, despite the ripe smell of our bodies and the fact that he was crushing the Little Colonel under him. From the little guy's reaction, he didn't seem to mind at all, though my full bladder didn't care for it much. I brought one arm up and stroked down my new lover's long body, smiling even wider. For that was what he was. Daniel's my lover, and if I had anything to say about it, he would be the only one I'd have for the rest of my life. That is, if I could just somehow convince this beautiful, brilliant, serious young man who could have anyone he wanted, that he wanted an old, broken down ex-flyboy with baggage that was heavier that he was. Oh, well...

Wait a minute. I glanced out to the sun shining against the tight mesh of the tent. I should have been standing watch by now!

"Danny, move, big guy, I've got to get up."

He was still mostly asleep, but through some type of pre-caffeinated haze of ESP, he must have sensed that his pillow was trying to leave him. Suddenly I found myself in an almost death-like grip, as Daniel clamped his body and limbs around mine.

Incoherent mutterings of negation were spoken into my neck until he finally started to make sense.

"Don't leave me, Daddy, don't want you to go..." Daniel's voice was barely audible, and it had such a lost little boy quality to it that I stopped moving as soon as I heard it. I remember reading that the kid's parents were killed in a museum accident when he was only eight years old, while he watched. He must be dreaming about the accident, the same way I dreamed about Charlie's death the other night.

Nothing would have moved me after hearing that, and I stilled my body, only tightening my arms around him.

"I'll never leave you, Danny," I whispered in his ear, stroking his back and hair gently. "Never. You're stuck with me, guy."

I felt him relax again in my arms, then start waking up. The dream must have been one of those that come in that interim period between sleeping and being awake.

"Mmmmm, Jack?"

"Hey, I guess I should be flattered you remembered my name, huh?"

"Mmmmm, didactic memory, don't ever forget anything." He started nibbling on my chest hair, took a big sniff, then wrinkled his nose. Raising his head, Daniel said, "God, we really stink."

"That's what happens when you spend a day in the desert and a night making love all over each other. But it was worth it, even so." I smacked his beautiful ass. "Now move over. I need to find out why Bray didn't wake me for my watch."

He rolled over. "Do you think everything's okay?"

"It's fine. If it wasn't, we'd have been woken up, one way or another."

"Well that makes sense. I need some coffee."

"I'll go get some for you, and talk to Bray." I climbed out of the bag, slipped on my shorts and pants, then crawled out of the tent. Bray and T were enjoying a morning cup of java, talking.

Bray saw me coming and grinned. "Ah, so sleeping beauty is awake!" T handed me a cup of coffee and a pita with spread on it.

"Why didn't you wake me to take watch, Bray?"

"I went over to your tent to do just that, and you two looked so sweet that I did not have the heart to wake you."

I snorted at his offhanded compliment, feeling my face heat up. "Yeah, well next time, follow my orders, no matter how cute we look, got that?"

"Yes, Oh Mighty Silver One! I hear and obey you."

T handed me a second cup, which I took over to Daniel in the tent, ignoring Bray's laughter. Bray was gay, like me, and as the illegitimate son of a Jew and an Arab, it was a wonder the Israeli Mossad ever took him in. He didn't follow orders, he did exactly what he liked, and he was almost as sarcastic of a bastard as I was. I expect that their decision was made because at the time he had been one of the best field assassins in the market, if not the best. He was retired from them now, and worked for me as needed. Needless to say, I kept him pretty busy, with the K & R market growing like it was.

Daniel was still lying in the sleeping bag, but he had pulled it open because of the growing heat in the tent. I stuck my head in, thinking to just hand him his coffee and withdraw, but the sight of him, naked and sprawled on his back like that, changed my plans for me.

I put the cup down inside the tent, climbed inside, and stretched out to kiss him. At the last minute I changed my mind and headed south instead. That morning wood looked so good I just couldn't resist.

I started at the juncture where thigh met groin, nipping and licking my way over to his balls. The smell of dried semen was pungent, but I ignored it. I took one of his sacs in my mouth, gave a little hum, smiling as his legs dropped open in response.

"Slut." I said fondly, and took the other ball in and did the same thing. This time the hips rose up in entreaty, and my tongue moved south and started on his perineum. At the same time, I moistened my finger with saliva, and stuck it up inside him.

"Shit, Jack, yes!" His moaned response made me smile, and I moved my mouth up to hit pay dirt, tasting the bitterness of old come juice as I started going down on him. My finger moved in and out, touching deep and hitting his sweet spot every time. I sucked on his head and foreskin, drawing it in and putting strong suction on it. My reward was that in less than a minute he groaned as though he was in pain, said my name, and came with explosive force. I decided I wasn't in the mood to swallow this morning, so I pulled off when I felt his balls and ass tighten and used my hand for the rest of it. That way I could watch his face as he came, which was almost as exciting as Danny doing me himself.

When there was nothing left to milk, I removed my hands, leaned up, and kissed his lips lightly. "Morning. I've got coffee here for you. We've got a long hot day ahead of us, so as much as I love seeing you lying there like that, you should probably get up."

His blue eyes were on my face as he said, "No paybacks?"

"I'll store it up for you for tonight, okay?"

"Mmmmm."

I left him to his coffee orgasm, and went to help the guys get everything packed up.

As we were putting things away, Bray stopped me and said, "Do not hurt that one, O'Neill. He is special. I will kill you if you do."

I could feel my eyes blink in surprise at the old man's words. Bray usually acted like he hated everyone, except T and Janet. He got a real kick out of Janet, for some scary reason. She scared the shit out of everyone else except Sam and T.

I didn't even have to think about my response. "If I do hurt him, Bray, over hopefully the rest of our lives, I give you permission to kill me, okay?" Bray was one of the few men who could probably do it, too.

The old man nodded. "Good. You see him as you should."

"Yeah, I do. What I can't figure out, is what he sees in me. But I'll go with it anyway for as long as he'll have me."

The village looked like most of the rest of this cursed country. It was war-torn, haggard, and tired.

"Since I'm pretty much useless for questioning, I'm going to act as guard. The rest of you, look around, ask around, and see if you can get someone to open up to us. There could be infiltrators in the village, but if there are, then they'll be living better than everyone else, so they should be easy to spot. T, see if you can track the truck that took Klorel, even though it's been five days. Who knows, we might get lucky."

I settled myself in the shade of a hut to watch the road, and got ready to wait.

Unsurprisingly, it was Bray who managed to get them to talk. The man was an unbelievable chameleon. In Arab cultures he became completely Arab, in Israel he could be as Jewish as the most fanatical Hassidic, in New York he could become one of the boy's of the hood, I'd even seen him play a rich playboy once in order to get to a mark. It was my job to protect the mark that time, and he nearly got through me. He didn't, though it had been close, and he got clean away. After that he decided to retire, and he showed up after I left the Air Force and started my business, offering his services. T and I had been friends for several years, and it ended up that T and Bray went way back.

"O'Neill, this man, the boy helped to heal his son. He saw the kidnapping, but was afraid to help."

"Great. Tell him we're trying to help Klorel, and we want to know everything about the kidnapping. Anything might help, you know the drill. And record it, so Daniel can translate it for me. T, find out if there was anyone else there who might have seen anything."

T nodded, and went to do what I asked. Daniel was talking animatedly with some of the villagers, and I settled back down to watch him. I knew my two friends would do what needed to be done, but Daniel, he was the wild card in the deck. He seemed to make friends wherever he went, and this tiny village was no different. I expect that he would pick up something we could use, if there was anything to pick up.

The longer I was on this job, the worst I felt about Klorel's chances if we stuck with the standard negotiating package. It's like the kid was sitting on a powderkeg of Muslim fanaticism that would kill him in the end. I'd done so many of these, I just knew it deep in my gut. The only chance Klorel had was if we got enough information to do a run and grab where he was being held. As much as I wanted to get him back, though, I wouldn't risk my team to do it unless the odds were better than even. I didn't need another face to haunt my dreams, god knows, I had enough of 'em.

"Jack!"

Daniel's eyes were shining, even bluer than the sky we were under with it, he was obviously excited about something.

"Yes, Daniel?"

"Klorel has family here, and he made a lot of friends with the work he did. Several of them know a lot about who took him, and the place he's being held, everyone knows everyone else's business around here, just like I thought."

I stood up and looked at him. He was right, news traveled fast here. Rahat-Rahal would know we were here within the day, if not sooner. That would probably sign the kid's death warrant. "That's good, did you record the conversations?"

"Yes."

"I think we've probably got what we came for. Do you see any reason to stay any longer?"

"No, um, unless we need detailed information about where Klorel's being held."

"Right. Let's get T and Bray, and get our asses out of this desert."

None of us talked much for the first hour. When we came to the canyon area north of the village right before we turned onto what passed for the main road, I said, "Pull over into the neck of that canyon, Daniel, out of sight of the roads."

"Um, why?"

"Because we're going to set up out here, and we're going to go in and get Klorel. You said that they're holding him in that old fort just south of Zhaspat, right?"

"That's what Faruk said."

"Did you get the layout of the fort from Sam printed out, T?"

"Yes. The helicopter will be here in," He looked at his watch. "Approximately sixteen minutes, O'Neill."

Daniel pulled over where Jack had dictated, then turned to the ex- Colonel. "You knew where they were holding him, Jack O'Neill, and you didn't tell me?" He waved at T, who was out and pulling out equipment from the LandRover. "You knew you were going in and you didn't bother to tell me that, either? What's the matter? Afraid the geek professor would get in your way, maybe trip over one of your damned automatics or something?"

"Not now, Daniel. I've got a fucking rescue to plan." I got out of the car and went to help T and Bray.

"Don't you walk away from me, O'Neill. Didn't you even think I could help? I know these sands like you know your own ass!"

"No."

I should have known that my word wouldn't shut him up. But god help me, I thought he would have the sense to realize that this run was likely to be a bloodspree, if any of at least ten factors were off.

A hand on my shoulder yanked me around to face Daniel. Like I said, he's stronger than he looks. "Don't discard what I can contribute, Jack." His blue eyes blazed at me, he was way in my personal space. "I'm not a soldier, I admit it. But I know that fort, I've been there several times. Tell me how you figured it out, and I might be able to draw up a rough blueprint, and where I think they'll have Klorel."

God help me, I knew better than saying what I then did. "I don't want you at risk, Daniel. This could get ugly."

"For the last fucking time, Jack O'Neill, I am not a child. I saw my parents crushed by a goddamn corner stone when I was eight years old. I left childhood behind then, and I've never looked back. Let me help."

I grabbed his arms tight enough to cause bruises, somehow I needed to get through to him. "I've never thought you were a child, Daniel. Your strength is in your mind, in what you know, in how you care for people, even losers like me. I'm not good for much, but this is what I do. If I have to worry about you in there, it might be the difference between success and failure."

"Jack, there are only three possible places they can safely hold Klorel and still be able to guard and care for him. I can lead you to those places. No one else can do it as quickly."

Bray spoke up from behind me. "O'Neill, I will keep Daniel safe. You have my word on that. If he knows this place, we have a better chance of success if he goes."

Shit, Shit, SHIT! Now I know why they have rules against loving a team member in the Air Force.

I tried one last time. "Danny..."

"I'll be fine, Jack. You said yourself that Bray is the best. You need me." He smiled and took my hand. "If you meant what you said about me coming to work with you, you have to start trusting me sooner or later. No time like the present."

"I have a feeling I'm setting a bad precedent here, Daniel. If I don't stand my ground, I may never be able to say no to you."

The little shit knew he had me then. He smiled. "Well, if I'm always right, then it will be okay, won't it?"

"Shit, yeah, it will be okay."

We both heard the rotors of the helicopter at the same time. T went to guide it down for a landing. Daniel, curious as to what and who were coming, followed the big man.

I took that moment to have a private chat with Bray. "Bray, if anything happens to him, you had better be dead, because you'll wish you were after I get through with you."

"If anything happens to Daniel, Jack O'Neill, I will be dead, for that is the only way they will get to him."

I nodded, and turned to greet my 2IC.

Sam jumped out of the helicopter, dressed in combat fatigues and holding an Uzi strapped over one shoulder.

"Hey, Carter, glad you could make it."

She grinned. "Well, Janet wasn't happy, but she didn't trust you to bring T home safe to see his son's birth, Sir." Her blue eyes turned to Daniel. "Is this Dr. Jackson?"

"Yes. This is Daniel. Do you have an extra outfit for him? He's going in with us."



The plan was simple. We were going to fly and land near the fort behind a huge rock pile at midnight. That would put us a kilometer from the fort on the ruined side of it, the windward side. Daniel said there was a sand-worn wall there that was crumbling, and would make a decent entry zone. The problem with that angle of entry was that we would have to scale a small cliff to get to it.

"It's going to require full climbing gear, Jack. Can everyone handle that?"

"Yeah, all of us can climb. I'll go up first and place the pitons for everyone else. Carter, you go last to guide the packs of equipment up."

"Um, Jack?"

"Yes?"

"I should probably go first. I'm the youngest one here, and I've been climbing these kind of cliffs and wadi walls my entire life, including night climbs. I know the type of rock in this area, and know where not to put the pitons because of striational weakness in the stones."

"If there are guards up there, you'll also be the first to die, Daniel."

"You've got infrared goggles, Jack, and a handgun with a silencer. I'll do the last part of the climb up that rain chimney, which ends in a ledge below a hill. That will give me the ability to see and not be seen." He pointed at the satellite photos Sam had brought of the fort and the area around it.

I could feel my teeth gritting together, and I forced myself to relax. He was right, he knew the land, but going point was a major risk for someone who'd never killed before.

"Daniel, we're sure there are at least one, maybe more, guards up there. You've never killed a man. They'll have to be taken out. We can't leave them behind us to block our exit."

"O'Neill, that ledge is large enough for two men to stand for a short time if Daniel reinforces the weak side of it. Send him up first to place the pitons, then I'll come next to take care of the guard and take point. Neither of us are large men, so the ledge should hold us."

"That's a lot of ifs, Bray. Do you think you could do the climb first as fast as Daniel?"

"No. He is used to these cliffs, where I have not done much climbing in this country for a long while. He should go first."

"All right. Daniel, you'll take over point from Bray once we reach the cliff. Before that, and after you're up there, you'll stick with him like the two of you are superglued together. Give me your word on it, Daniel, or I won't take you."

"Right. Superglued to Bray. You have my word, Jack. I do know my limitations, you know. I don't even want to kill someone."

I just hope you don't have to, kid. That's one piece of your virginity that I don't want to touch if I can help it.

"Okay, everyone, let's get some rest for, oh, about five hours, over there in the shade of those rocks. Drink lots, and if you feel like you're getting heat exhausted, go sit in the Landrover with the AC on for awhile. Don't forget sunscreen, either." I looked over at Daniel, who was plucking at his night vest absently, his mouth pursed in thought. "Danny, you're with me."

The blue eyes when he raised them to catch mine had a smile in them. He came up to me and said quietly, "There is a nice three-cornered overhang over there around the corner, it's as deep as a small cave."

"Sounds good. Let's get a blanket."

The shade was wonderful after the full heat of the afternoon sun. Daniel laid out the blanket while I took off my Uzi and my vest.

After he had divested himself of the bulky vest and my handgun that I had leant him, he collapsed down on the blanket next to me.

We didn't say anything for a bit. I was too afraid that if I opened my mouth I would tell him that I was crazy about him. He would probably think I was a desperate old man looking for a sunset fling, or something.

Daniel silently decided to take charge, because he reached back into his vest, got out some sunscreen and came back over to lie even closer beside me. When he finally raised his eyes to mine, I saw fear in them.

"Are you afraid of tonight, Danny?"

"No. I mean, I'm not afraid for myself, Jack. I guess, um, I'm terrified that I have finally found the man I've been looking for my entire life, and he might be killed tonight before I really get to know him. Know you."

"I'm pretty damned hard to kill, Danny." I looked down where he was fiddling with the sunscreen. "Do we need sunscreen in the shade like this?"

"No. Um, I want to make love to you, Jack, and you make love to me. If something does happen to either of us tonight, I want to have been inside of you, and had you inside of me. We can do the romantic thing later, if we both get out of here alive. Now, I... I just want this."

I stroked his cheek, feeling the rasp of his bristles against my hand. "I'm afraid that I've fallen in love with you, Daniel. Are you sure that I'm what you want? I've never been real good with relationships before. You've seen it yourself. I'm a sarcastic, arrogant bastard who likes having my own way. You deserve better, you know."

"Why don't you let me decide what I deserve, Jack? Now, shut up and let me come inside you!"

"Sir, yes, Sir!" I pulled off my boots and pants, and watched him do the same.

"I'd like to do it face to face, Jack. Would that be too much for your bad knees?"

"How the hell did you know about my knees?"

"T told me. He figured that I should know."

"Remind me to chat with T once this is over. How about if you do me from the side, and I'll love you face to face? You are younger, ya know." I grinned.

He smiled at me, and I felt my stomach and throat constrict at what I saw in his eyes. The kid really did care. Hot Damn!

"Okay. That works for me. On your side, O'Neill, and let me prep you!"

Not that I'm eager for it or anything, but I was over on my side before he had even finished talking.

I felt Daniel kiss my neck as he snuggled behind me and lifted my left leg up with his hand. Before he went for me, he reached over and stroked my dick and my balls, using his fingernails on the head until I had to stop him or come way too soon.

When his lubed finger moved inside me, I grunted, trying to relax. Penetration had never been easy for me, I was too damned alpha for that. But for Daniel, I would do a lot more than take a dick up my ass.

"You're tense. Here, get on your hands and knees for a bit and let me help you relax."

I did it, having no idea what he was going to do next. When his tongue touched my asshole I jumped, but Daniel's strong hands held me in place. The rimming he gave me had me quivering in response, and if he had kept it up much longer, I would have come without anything touching my dick. Shit, that man's tongue was talented. I hardly noticed it when the tongue was replaced with a finger, then with two. I had a tight grip with one hand on the root of my dick to keep from exploding from what he'd been doing to me.

"Are you ready?"

Never! "Sure, come on in." Before he did, though, I felt his hand grab my cock, and start tugging and twisting it. The feelings he brought up in me took my attention from my ass so that when Daniel entered me, I was still pretty relaxed. I closed my eyes and fought to remain relaxed, even though he was splitting me in two.

"Jack, relax, baby, I love you, and I don't want to hurt you."

Danny said he loved me! Hot Shit! Joy filled me suddenly, and I forced my body back on the pole that impaled me until he was completely buried in me.

"Make love to me, Danny, make me hot, come on, move harder! Faster!" He was good at this, he angled it just right to hit my sweet spot every time he thrust into me. When he leaned forward over me and grabbed my cock and started pumping, I didn't have a chance. I came so fast and hard I thought I'd died. I swear, my heart felt like it stopped for just a second. Danny kept pumping into me, hitting the good spot so much that I was getting hard again right after coming.

"I'm coming, Jack, oh, god, you're so fucking tight, GOD!" I felt him bury his face in my jacket in order not to scream so the entire team knew what we were up to. Then the heat of his come seared my gland, and I almost screamed myself. God it was hot.

Daniel pulled out of me and said, "Now, sit up against the cliff, Jack, I'm going to straddle you!"

"Shouldn't I prep you, Danny?"

"Fuck that! I want you face to face, and I want you now, do you hear me, flyboy?"

"I hear you, Doc, come on down."

When he lubed me up with sunscreen, I couldn't help but groan, he was being rough with his urgency. When that beautiful man sat on me, bringing me inside himself with no preparation, I almost let loose right there. But something in Daniel's face made me use all my willpower to hold back. He wanted a slow, romantic lovemaking, and that's what he would get.

I pumped him at the same rate he rose and fell on me, and our tongues worked each other's mouths at the same pace. When I figured he was ready to explode from the prostate work, I took hold of his dick, started squeezing and pumping it, and he came like a freight train, shooting all over my chest, my chin, and the rock above us. His tightening up squeezed me to the brink of pain, and I shot my wad in him at the same time, marking my Danny as mine, MINE, forever. I bit his collar bone at the same time, sucking hard on it afterwards, adding to the marking. Mine.

When he finally pulled off of me, he pulled me down and snuggled up to me, his face in my neck.

"Hey, let's put our pants back on, Daniel, so Bray or Carter don't have teasing materials for the rest of our lives, eh?"

He complied with a lazy smile. "I like the sound of that, Jack, for the rest of our lives."

I pulled him back to me. "Yeah, me too, Danny, me too."

Sleep came to us both, with no dreams to interfere with our rest.

It was time to go in. There had been two men guarding the back of the fort, not one, but they both now littered the sand at the bottom of the cliff. Bray was still efficient at killing, that was for sure.

By the time we had everyone up, it was almost three in the morning. Time to get our package and get out. The worn down part was big enough for all of us to fit through, though there was a bit of a risk of collapse where the stone had become friable. Daniel led us, quiet and deadly, through the ruined passageways until we came to the dungeon pit.

"This is where the Sasha used to leave prisoners to die, it's kind of like an obliette. I bet he's there."

Before we could find out, we had to take out the two guards that played stones and squares at a table in front of the pit trap. T and Bray did the deed, and we all helped to lift the heavy trap, after spraying it with oil to stop it from squeaking.

Daniel called out in Arabic, and the weak answer told us we had hit pay dirt. So we lifted the kid out of there, he was in pretty bad shape, and got the hell out of that fort.

In hindsight, hitting them in the middle of the night was the best time, and the alarm wasn't started until we were halfway down the cliff with our package. T finally ended up carrying Klorel through the deep sands to the helicopter, to expedite matters.

As we took off, Daniel grinned at me through his dark war paint. I grinned back, happy that it had come off with no one hurt.

"So, you going to offer me a job, Colonel?"

"Yep, Dr. Jackson, we can use a man of your skills, if you want to get into the kidnap and rescue business."

The smile dropped off. "I think I'd like that. I'd like to spread a little good with my hands, more than I can as a university professor, I think."

"Commere, you!"

He came into my arms and I just held on to him, knowing that no matter what happened, we would be negotiating this life together.

The End
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