Family by Cat
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Category: Jack/Daniel, Sam/Janet
Genres: Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Daniel's foster brother comes for a visit and dangerous assumptions are made.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
This was published for the 2006 Pride festival and includes discussions and depictions of homophobia. There should probably also be at least a mild language warning as well as violence warning. Special thanks to my wonderful partner Elena for the beta and for the kick in the butt to actually finish it.
Daniel Jackson idly drummed his fingers against his desktop, lost in thought. The screensaver for his computer had kicked in some time ago, but he paid no attention the images scrolling by. He did not even register the knock on the door until it was repeated, this time with the very distinctive clearing of someone’s throat.

“Uh, hi, Jack,” he said, startling back to reality and away from the memories he had been lost in. “Can I help you with something?”

Jack O’Neill simply smiled at the man’s absent-minded behavior, more than used to it after all the years he had known him. Often times he, or another member of his team, had to drag the archeologist away from some life-defining translation to remind him of simple things like meetings with the General, or the need to eat. “Busy?” he inquired, looking around but seeing no telltale signs of any work in progress. There were piles of paperwork everywhere, but each stacked neatly in a form of organized chaos, and the tomes of books were still tucked away on the shelves and not in disarray on his desk.

“No, not really,” Daniel admitted with a shrug. He took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes before glancing over at the clock radio. A good twenty minutes had gone by without him realizing it. Damn, he was out of it.

“That’s gotta be a first,” O’Neill commented with a grin, inviting himself in and leaning up against the side of the desk.

Daniel’s simply rolled his eyes in response. Seeing that the other man was not leaving, he sighed and repeated his earlier question, “Can I help you with something?”

Jack eyed his friend and noted the fine lines of stress etched across his face. He decided not to push his luck and bit back several teasing replies before cutting straight to the point. “Just checking to see if we’re still on for tonight,” he shrugged. At the blank look he received, he prompted, “Dinner? Game? My place? Tonight?” They had been attempting to fall back into what had once been their usual routine. If they happened to be on this side of the galaxy, Friday nights involved good food, good company, and whatever the particular host of the night decided they were going to do. It was Jack’s turn tonight, which naturally involved sports of some kind. Both Sam and Teal’c had already bowed out less than gracefully but O’Neill was determined to have normalcy even if he had to beat it into submission. Nights with Daniel rarely turned out the way they had planned, but that was an entirely different matter and usually related to the fact no one could say no to him, least of all Jack.

That seemed to jolt the younger man’s memory to something far more recent than where his mind had been only moments ago. “I am so sorry! I completely forgot!” the scholar exclaimed.

“Well, it’s not like you made other plans, right?” Jack asked, blinking his eyes in as much of an innocent expression as he could manage.

“Um,” Daniel hedged.

O’Neill raised his eyebrows at the unexpected response. “Whoa, Danny, you mean to tell me you actually made plans with something other than some old artifact on a Friday night?” he teased.

“Very funny,” the other man muttered dryly, obviously less than amused.

“You gonna spill the details or am I going to have to force it out of you?” the Colonel mock threatened. He cracked his knuckles and tried on his best ‘Intimidating Special Forces’ look. The look was wasted as it just caused the archeologist to snort. On the up side though, it was some sort of response, so he went with it. “Well?”

“It’s nothing,” Daniel promised, still laughing and thankful that Jack had been able to break his dour mood as usual. “One of my foster brothers, Mike, is stopping by and we’re going to go out for coffee.” One of the many traits his surrogate sibling seemed to have picked up from him over the years was the caffeine addiction that helped him make it through many a day. It only made sense the two of them would choose a coffee house over a bar or some other location to meet.

“Only you would have a date with a foster brother on a Friday night,” Jack joked. The archeologist let the comment slide, offering him a quick look and nothing more. Obviously not the response O’Neill was looking for, he continued, “So what’s the deal? Why haven’t I heard of this guy before?” He neglected to mention the fact that Daniel rarely talked to anyone about any of his foster families. He knew they still kept in touch, at least a couple of them, but there were some things the man preferred to keep private, and he respected that.

“Michael Johnston, the only biological son of Jerry and Karen Johnston. They were my third, no, technically fourth foster home. Nice people, kept me as long as they could, but when Jerry lost his job the state made them give me up,” Daniel recited as if it were nothing, which, Jack assumed, was likely the case for him.

O’Neill was military, through and through. He had been stationed in various places for various lengths of time, but he still could not imagine what it had to be like for a child to simply be shipped from home to home with no say and no idea how long this time would last. He figured the experiences probably made it easier on Daniel when he moved to Cheyenne, to Abydos, and back to the mountain again. Well, as easy as it could be, considering the circumstances. He didn’t pity him; he knew that would never be allowed. He just tried to make this home a real home for him, and was lucky enough to have two great teammates to help. They were his surrogate family, and he’d like to think they were closer than any of the temporary families had ever been. At the very least, they had been together longer, and at the very most, they had shared more emotional experiences and aftermaths than most biological families ever would.

He mentally shook himself, bringing him out of his thoughts and back to his so-called interrogation. “So what’s the deal? Why is he coming here of all places?”

“We wrote each other for years, emailed, sent little gifts and such for holidays. We happened to get back in touch again shortly after I came back from Abydos,” Daniel explained. “He was my ‘little brother’, even after I moved away, and it turns out I was some sort of influence on him after all. He went into Archeology as well, worked his way through school, and just got his doctorate a few months ago. He’s shipping out for a major dig in three weeks, and thought he’d stop by first since it’s the first time in years we’ve both been free at the same time.”

“Ah, get a few tips from the expert?” O’Neill hazarded a guess.

The archeologist in front of him snorted again, this time with derision. “Not likely. Remember, my name is a big no-no in the field, even now.” He shrugged as if it didn’t matter, but his eyes betrayed his true feelings. “He just wanted to chat in person before he’s gone for a while, that’s all. His plane gets in late tonight so we’re going to grab a cup of coffee at Oscar’s and probably dinner sometime this weekend, barring any intergalactic emergencies, of course.”

Jack smirked at the little joke before asking, “Oscar’s?”

“It’s a new coffee shop downtown Janet recommended. They supposedly have a chocolate cake to die for,” Daniel explained. He felt like he was reporting to mother, which, considering O’Neill’s mother hen tendencies, wasn’t that far off. On the other hand, he knew any information Jack got out of him would be shared with Sam and Teal’c and spared him from having to repeat everything later, so there were worse things in life.

“Ooh, she brought some of that in before. Good stuff! Grab me a piece?” Jack pleaded.

“Only if you’re good,” Daniel teased with a smile.

“When aren’t I?” the Colonel feigned innocence. He received a raised eyebrow that would have done Teal’c proud in reply. “Yeah, so, whatever,” he brushed off the implied insult. “So why are you all stressed about the whole thing? Sounds like you’re going to have good time with a friend, with family.”

“I’m not stressed, I’m just... okay, stressed,” the younger man relented. “We’ve been emailing whenever either one of us actually remembers to do so, but I haven’t seen him in person for a couple of years. I’ve just thinking about how to explain things to him. You know, what I’m doing, how’s my life going, if I was truly serious about my pyramid theories...”

“Same old, same old?”

“Pretty much,” Daniel agreed, forcing a small smile.

“You know, I think it’s easier to be military,” Jack mused. “If someone asks you something you don’t want to answer, you just say it’s classified.” He saw his words were hitting a bit too close to home and weren’t offering as much comfort as he originally intended. “Hey,” he said, resting a reassuring hand on a very tense shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, right? This guy was, is, like a brother to you. The fact that he still wants to get together, knowing the whole pyramid fiasco - which, by the way, I personally feel worked out for the best - it probably means he accepts you, warts and all. Hell, he even went into the same field as you, right? He probably looked up to you as a kid and nothing is going to change that.”

“Sure, just add on some more stress,” Daniel told him sourly, but there was a smile in his eyes and the tension in his shoulders eased ever so slightly.

“That’s what I’m here to do,” Jack agreed proudly. He pushed himself away from the desk and slapped the younger man on the back. “Rain check on dinner, and I still want a piece of that cake,” he ordered before wandering back out into the hallway.

“Deal,” Daniel whispered, knowing there was no one there to hear it anyway. Sighing, he turned back to his computer and the scrolling images, knowing there was little chance of him doing anything productive for the rest of the day. His mood had improved, but he still had to figure out a way to explain the past several years of his life without involving the words ‘Stargate’, ‘planet’, or ‘Goa’uld’ - something easier said than done.

~~~~~

Daniel glanced at his watch as he locked his car door. Five minutes to spare, and that was if Michael even showed up on time. He had lucked out on his second pass and found a parking spot only about a block and half away from the coffee house. Janet had neglected to mention the night club across the street that was apparently quite the hot spot on Friday nights, and it seemed any and all available parking was taken. He smiled as he watched the groups coming and going from the club, with a random single here and there obviously hoping to meet that lucky someone that night. It seemed like forever since he was part of that crowd, and he just wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing anymore. Maybe he would suggest going out for the sake of going out for the next Team Night. Nah, he thought with a grin. Nobody would believe it coming from him. Maybe he could get Sam to bring it up, and reluctantly agree... based solely on Teal’c’s need to experience more of the Tauri culture, of course.

He opened the door to the coffee shop and let the rich smells of roasted coffee beans and freshly baked sweets wash over him. Looking around, he noticed it was still relatively quiet and there were still quite a few places to sit available. He figured that would change as the night went on and the club goers stopped by for a shot of caffeine before heading home. He headed towards the counter and took a place in the short line that had formed. He had only moved up one place when he heard a tentative voice over the slight din of the shop. He turned around just as the voice repeated, “Danny?”

He tracked it back to its owner and couldn’t help but smile in response. “Mikey!” he called out, greeting the other man with a hug. He pulled back and eyed him critically, noting the changes in the now nearly thirty-year-old man. The curly dark hair was shorter, the shoulders a bit broader, but the green eyes showed the same boy who used to follow him around and hang on every word of every myth he had the patience to explain. “I missed you,” he said honestly, all his previous fears melting away now that he actually held his ‘little brother’ in his hands.

“It’s been too long,” Michael agreed, giving him another quick hug before it was his chance to size up his ‘sibling’. He squeezed the larger biceps briefly before tugging on a strand of the close cropped sandy hair. “You’ve changed,” he commented.

Daniel shrugged shyly. “Yeah,” he agreed, not bothering to deny it.

“Still the little bone-digger though?” Mike prodded with a smile, poking him in the shoulder good-naturedly.

“In a sense,” Daniel laughed. He still got the odd archeological mission here and there, so it wasn’t really a lie.

The barista cleared her throat to let them know they were next in line, and subtly motioned to the growing line behind them with a patient look. Several of the people simply smiled, but a couple of the people glared in their direction.

“Sorry,” Daniel apologized sheepishly.

“Don’t worry about it, honey,” she waved it off. “What can I get you?”

They placed their orders, Mike laughing at Daniel’s infamous chocolate obsession making itself known with the purchase of a huge piece of Janet’s favorite cake. They found a small table and set to work on both the confections and the catching up. Daniel commiserated on the trials and tribulations of getting a doctorate and shared a few horror stories of his first major digs. Mike brought him up to date on everything his parents had been doing, and he was pleased to note they were as active as ever and that though they no longer fostered children, they still volunteered at children’s charities whenever they got the chance.

As expected, Michael got around to asking just what it was that was keeping Daniel busy these days. He hedged a bit before admitting he was working as a cultural and anthropological attaché to a military project. Again, it wasn’t quite a lie, and he found it far more comfortable to tell an abbreviated truth than avoid the issue all together.

“In other words, if I were to ask you for details, you would probably just say it was all classified, right?” Mike laughed, unknowingly striking quite close to home with his comment. He took Daniel’s nervous smile as an affirmative. “Don’t worry, I won’t push,” he promised. “I tried to access some military research for my thesis and the sheer amount of red tape involved was scary. I can only imagine the horrors you must have to go through sometimes just to look up a single temple or get your hands on a sherd of pottery.”

The double doctorate, military attaché stopped himself from snorting coffee through his nose. “You could say that,” he agreed with a grin.

“I gotta ask, and please be honest here, Dan. Was this the only job you could get after that presentation from hell?” Michael asked kindly.

It was the question he had dreaded, but he found that, when the time came, there was only one way to answer. “Yes and no,” he answered honestly. “I was approached by the military for a project shortly after that wonderful little event, and I took the job, knowing I was not likely to find work anywhere else anytime soon. Since then, though, it has become something more, something I truly enjoy. I get to see things and do things few people get the chance to. I don’t know if I could give it up so easily.”

Michael seemed to consider his words for a moment, staring at the remains of his second refill of coffee before looking up to meet his blue eyes with a hint of trepidation. “So there’s no chance of me talking you into joining me for this dig and stopping me from making a fool out of myself in front of everyone?” he asked with a hopeful smile.

“Sorry, no,” Daniel turned him down, offering a sympathetic smile of his own. “You will do fine. You got through the hard part when you faced the inquisition panel for your PhD; everything else is smooth sailing from here on out. Everything you need will come back to you when you need it, and if it doesn’t, you simply ask. You’re not going to be the only one out there. Everyone there is going to be there to learn, and to teach,” he reassured him. “Besides, aren’t you talking to the wrong person about not making a fool of themselves?” he asked with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.

“True,” Michael laughed. “I gotta ask, Danny: aliens built the pyramids? Where did you come up with that?”

“I never said that!” Daniel exclaimed, jumping headfirst into what was an old argument with many of his peers. “I was merely presenting the theory that the pyramids were far older than originally believed. In fact, I specifically said I didn’t know who built them as we did not have enough evidence at that time. Some ass in the audience came up with the aliens thing and it all spun out of control since then.” He neglected to mention the fact that he now had more than enough evidence as to just who built them, nor did he mention that they were actually aliens, or more than likely humans working as slaves for aliens pretending to be gods. He figured that definitely fell into the whole ‘classified’ realm and he rather liked his paycheck the way it was, not to mention his life. “It was like he was purposefully trying to make me look like a fool and discredit me, right at a time when I could really use the support to get the job I wanted at the Institute in Chicago.”

“Weren’t you up against Raynor for that? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a plant from him. He always was such an ass,” Michael snorted, surprising Daniel. His little brother still supported him unquestioningly, despite his ruined reputation in the field over the whole event. Both remembered who he had been up against for the position, and both had similar feelings about the competition. It was reassuring to know the younger man still stood behind him, no matter what, even after all these years.

“I did read that last article you published though, the one supporting your theory of the cross-pollenization of cultures,” he was commenting, quite obviously changing the subject away from something he knew was a sore spot. “I thought it was fascinating that they found Egyptian-style hieroglyphics in a tomb in South America. You should have followed it up with more studies, or at least more papers. It could have helped you get an in back into the field.”

Daniel was suddenly very interested in the remaining crumbs on his plate. “I got too busy with the project I’m on,” he said lamely, knowing he would never be able to use the full evidence of Hathor’s tomb to support his findings. He had been asked to publish something as several civilians at the dig had seen the sarcophagus and many of them even knew it was shipped to him. To have kept quiet about it would have aroused more suspicion than a simple publication. He knew no way of reanalyzing the data without drawing from Goa’uld related references and materials and there was no chance of that happening until the Stargate project and everything involved with it was declassified. He figured by then he, like all remnants of his career, would be dust.

“Just don’t sell yourself short, okay? You do, and have done, some great work. I know of several people who were intrigued by that paper and would love to see a follow up if you can ever tear yourself away from the military enough to write it,” Michael told him, offering him the same unwavering support.

Daniel smiled, wondering why he had been so afraid just earlier today about discussing these very topics. Though they rarely saw each other, and only kept in touch intermittently - Michael had been only mildly surprised when Daniel had not contacted him for the year he was on Abydos - they were still friends, and still, at some level, family.

They talked for a while longer, until Daniel caught himself trying to fight off as many yawns as the younger man, before deciding it was time to call it a night. As expected, the crowd from the night club was starting to filter in and they had taken up the table for more than their fair share of time. They stood and bussed their dishes before Daniel headed up to the line one last time.

“I promised someone I would pick him up a piece of that cake,” he said in explanation. Michael nodded and smiled in understanding, staying to chat while the chocolately confection was boxed up to go.

He paid the cashier and held up the box in indication he was ready. They pushed their way through the growing crowd, careful of the precious cargo he carried until they made it outside. Daniel turned to look at his surrogate brother, a look of apology crossing his features. “I completely forgot to ask, did you get a hotel room or did you want to go back to my place?”

“You know me, always prepared,” Mike grinned. “I got a room a couple blocks away. I didn’t want to presume anything so I figured it was the safer bet.”

“No, I won’t hear of it!” Daniel protested. “I’ve got plenty of room for both of us at my place. Save yourself a few bucks and come on over.”

“Room’s already paid for, for tonight at least,” Michael yawned. “Not to mention all my stuff is already there. Tell you what, I’ll stay there tonight and give you a call in the morning to see if that offer’s still open. Deal?”

Daniel stifled a yawn of his own. “Deal,” he agreed. “Okay, heading for the car now,” he laughed, gesturing down the block to roughly where he remembered he parked. “Want a ride?”

“Naw,” Mike waved him off. “The hotel’s not that far.” He paused and eyed the obviously tired man critically. “You want to crash with me for the night? You look exhausted. I’m sure we can find somewhere to put the cake until...” A snort of derision behind them caught their attention, cutting him off mid sentence.

Both men turned around slowly to face a group of four rather casual looking, rather large looking men behind them. Daniel vaguely recognized them from the line in the coffee house, but nothing more. Seeing that they were not making any move to leave, he asked, “Can I help you with something?”

“You make me sick,” one of the men sneered, curling his lip before spitting on the ground near the archeologist’s feet. He and one other finally moved, knocking against Daniel’s shoulder as they apparently went on their way.

Daniel fought the urge to shake his head and simply sighed as he looked to the two remaining men. Both stood their ground, arms crossed in front of them, and their body language screamed out warning signals from the back of his brain. He looked to Michael and tried his best to look nonchalant as he shrugged and turned back around. Not surprisingly, he found the first two men on his other side. He opened his mouth to speak when one of them swung forward with an uppercut to his jaw.

He had expected it and had widened his stance, surprising, and more than likely angering, the man when he did not go down with a single shot. His head had been tossed slightly to the side and he calmly turned back to face the man that hit him, rubbing at what he knew was going to be a decent bruise. “Ow,” was all he said, again forcing himself to remain calm.

“Danny?” Michael asked, worry coloring his tone.

“Everything’s fine, Mikey,” Daniel replied, keeping his tone as quiet and neutral as possible. “These men were just leaving, and then we are going to go home.” His eyes never left the pale gray pair across from him as he spoke. He had already assessed the situation and did not like what he saw. They were outnumbered and each of their opponents easily had several pounds on them. This was bad. The men had also stopped them near the shadowed entryway to what appeared to be an abandoned alley. This was also bad. The men had no idea that he had spent the last four years training with a Jaffa and an ex-Special Forces Air Force Colonel, taking on System Lords and their henchmen. This was good.

“I don’t think so,” the first man said, clearly the spokesperson for the group. He wore jeans and a button-up shirt emblazoned with the words “Lawrence Automotive” on it. In Daniel’s mind, that made him Larry. He mentally decided the other three were therefore Moe, Curly, and Shemp, accordingly. He also decided he was perhaps spending way too much time around Jack and his reasoning skills lately, but brushed that thought off for now.

“Why not?” Daniel asked reasonably. He heard what he assumed was Curly cracking his knuckles behind him and fought the urge to roll his eyes.

“People like you deserve to be taught a lesson,” Larry told him, smug as ever.

Daniel batted his eyes several times, feigning misunderstanding. “People like me? Like us?” he asked, gesturing between Michael and himself. “Do you mean men? Coffee drinkers? Archeologists? People who happen to be walking to their car at night?”

“Danny...” Michael hissed, but the older man ignored him. He figured at this point there was no way they were going to get out of this easily anyway, so why bother?

“Listen to the little man, Danny,” Moe mocked.

“Little man?” Michael mouthed, not believing the stupidity that just reached his ears. “I think you guys have the situation totally wrong,” he said, louder now so the others could hear.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Larry sneered. “We heard you at Oscar’s.”

“My place or yours?” Moe quoted in a high-pitched voice.

“Oh, I have a hotel room, don’t worry,” one of the men behind him, he could not tell if it was Curly or Shemp, joined in.

“Bone-digger?” Larry asked. “I have to admit that’s new one.”

“Don’t forget the public fondling,” Moe pointed out. “They were all over each other before they even ordered.”

Michael opened his mouth to object, but Daniel silenced him with a look. “What is your problem?” he sighed, returning his gaze to the ringleader.

“My problem is that here I am, a hard working American man, trying to get a cup of Joe with my buddies on the way home from a long week at work. Beer’s out - gotta keep up the physique for the ladies, you know,” he laughed, patting a decent sized stomach, and not surprising Daniel with the knowledge he was somehow single, even with all of his charms. “We hear tell from some of our lady friends that coffee places are all the new rage and where we should go if we’re out looking. So we go to this place close by, this new place that’s supposed to be good, classy even. Instead we’re subjected to fucking queers, trying to ruin the reputation of the place before it’s even off the ground.” He paused, probably trying to be dramatic as he ground the fist of one hand into the palm of the other. “We simply can’t have that, so I’m here to fix it.”

Daniel saw the man tense a split second before he swung out again and was able to duck and avoid the blow. He followed through with a swing of his own and sunk his fist into the bulk that was the other man’s torso. “Get out of here, Mikey,” he growled, shoving him slightly to the side and hopefully out of harm’s way. Incredulously, he realized he still held the box with the piece of cake in his hand and shoved that at him as well. He saw the other three men tightening the circle around him and simply hoped it wouldn’t hurt too much.

Larry and Moe swung at him from both directions while Curly seemed to be trying to trip him from behind. He noticed Shemp following Mikey down the alley and was thankful he was the one on the receiving end of the bulk of the attention. He decided thankful was perhaps not the best description as something impacted just below his ribcage, nearly knocking the wind out of him completely. His body instinctively doubled over on itself and he saw Moe’s fist retreating and readying itself for another attack. He used his lowered position to ram shoulder-first into his would-be attacker, nearly losing his own footing as the other was knocked to the ground, taking Curly with him. He felt Larry’s combined fists connect with his back, feeling the reverberations along his spine as he shot his arms out to catch himself before face-planting into the asphalt. He rolled out of the way and up onto his feet again as a booted foot swung through where he had been only seconds before.

Moe pushed himself up from the ground, lunging at Daniel’s lower legs in an attempt to take him down again. Daniel kicked out and managed to hit just enough of the other man’s chin to cause him to drop back to the pavement. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, dialing blindly as he avoided another attack from Larry and punched out with his free hand. He did not know if he hit the auto-dial for Jack, Sam, their cell phones, or the mountain, but figured anything would do.

A rather groggy, but definitely male, voice answered with, “Hello?”

“Jack?” Daniel asked before deciding it really didn’t matter and continuing on before he could answer. “I’m just outside of Oscar’s and some friends have decided to do a meet and greet of their very own,” he managed to get out before having to pause to block another punch from Larry. “Stop it!” he growled in annoyance, briefly pulling the phone away from his ear as he hit back.

“Daniel?” he heard Jack’s voice, louder now, on the other end of the line.

“Sorry,” he replied quickly. “I missed whatever you just said, but a little help here would be greatly appreciated.” He paused as he saw both Larry and Moe redouble their efforts and come at him at the same time. “Hurrying would be good,” he added before the phone was tossed from his hand and he was tossed against the brick wall of the nearby building with a grunt. Considering Larry and Moe were still in front of him, and the push came from the side, he figured Curly was finally joining in the fun.

He thought he could hear Jack’s voice, sounding tinny through the still open phone that was laying somewhere near his feet, but had no idea what he was saying. He concentrated instead on the rather large man ramming his head against the brick. Through the rushing in his ears, he noticed he couldn’t hear Jack’s voice at all anymore, but he did hear Larry ordering one of his minions to, “Go get the other one!”

There was no way he was going to just stand there while they beat on him and dragged Michael into the fray. He twisted out of the grasp Moe had on his head and lunged at him instead. He didn’t take him down with the first try, but did manage to push him a fair distance across the alleyway before sweeping his foot under the man’s scrambling own and finishing the job. Unfortunately, Larry was there as well, and used his own momentum to knock him off balance. He managed not to fall, but was tossed into the cement and plaster wall across from the brick wall that had previously made an impact on his skull.

He pushed himself away from the wall right before Larry’s fist made contact, the impact sending chips of flaking paint and plaster flying. He kicked out at Moe once more, keeping him down as he grabbed Larry’s shirt and spun them around, throwing him up against the wall. He held him there and punched him in the face, hoping to knock him out, or at least out of it enough for him to get away. When the man continued to struggle, he pulled his arm back to hit him again, and hopefully for the last time.

A voice shouted out across the alley, causing his whole body to freeze up and stop mid-swing. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Curly warned. As Daniel slowly turned to face him, some part of his mind noted with satisfaction that he had aptly named the man as his voice was much higher than one would think for a man his size. He lowered his fist, fighting the urge to close his eyes, already knowing what he was about to see.

Both Shemp and Curly held on to Michael, Shemp with a knife near his surrogate brother’s throat as Curly nailed him once in the ribcage for show. He had no idea where he had found the weapon, but did not appreciate the additional prop in their little performance. He forced himself to look away from the knife, focusing instead on Michael’s bright green eyes, wide with fear and highlighted by a stream of light coming in from the street. There was a small cut above his left eye, dripping down the side of his face, and it looked like he had the beginnings of a bloody nose.

Daniel felt his arms being grabbed behind him by one of the men, but did not dare fight back for fear of what would happen to his friend if he did. Obviously satisfied their prey understood the situation, Curly stepped away from Michael, allowing Shemp to hold him securely, the blade edging closer to the skin. “Smart,” he commented as he approached.

“Well, I have my moments,” Daniel commented, earning him a punch in the jaw.

“Hold him,” Larry ordered, stepping away to allow Curly to grab one of Daniel’s arms from Moe. Daniel pulled slightly, testing the hold, but knew not to risk it. There was a knife at Mikey’s throat. Jack had already been called. There would more than likely be help arriving at any moment. He just had to hold out until that moment came.

He tried to track what was happening with Michael, but found it increasingly difficult with the man pacing in front of him. He found it even more difficult when he saw Curly toss Larry a folding knife from his own pocket. Larry licked at the dribble of blood that had formed when Daniel had split his lip earlier, then chuckled a deep and rather disturbing laugh. A look of disappointment crossed his features when his prey did not flinch away. Daniel simply grinned internally. He had faced down System Lords and won. This man was nothing. At least that’s what he kept telling himself to avoid hyperventilating.

Larry’s fist closed around the handle of the knife, then swung forward. The extra force from the added weight of the wood stung as it collided with Daniel’s face, but he was thankful it was the handle and not the blade that had reached him. Larry began to pummel him in the chest and stomach until Daniel was almost grateful for the extra support the two goons provided as the hands that originally restrained him helped to hold him up.

He could hear Michael’s voice, though somehow it sounded a bit distant, as he cried out for the man to stop, to listen to reason, to realize what it was that he was doing. “You want me to stop?” the attacker spat, a habit Daniel found truly annoying. He flipped the knife in his hand, the blade now shining in the flickering streetlight. “But I ain’t hardly finished,” he laughed, grabbing Daniel’s sagging head by the hair with his free hand, pulling his head up to meet his gaze.

“Oh, I think you are,” a new voice cut in, his comment accentuated with the sound of a gun cocking.

Daniel’s head shot up at the same time Larry’s snapped around to see a very large man holding a hand gun to Shemp’s head, with at least another seven or eight fairly decent sized figures behind him edging closer. He felt Moe and Curly’s grip on his arms loosen and, instead of falling forward, he pushed off of them into Larry, grabbing the hand that held the knife as they both landed on the pavement, his would-be assailant cushioning his fall. He slammed the wrist into the asphalt once, twice, and the knife was released. He rolled to the side and tossed the weapon what he hoped was a safe distance away, his body fighting between tensing for another fight and the need to preferably collapse.

The sound of rushing feet pounding past his head caused him to turn towards the shadows, where he saw several of the figures take down the shapes formerly known as Moe and Curly. He turned to his other side to see two more people manhandling Larry into a secure position. “Careful,” he heard the one with the gun say. “We don’t want to actually hurt them if we don’t have to. That would make us no better than them.”

He tried to make out the voice, but realized he didn’t recognize it from mountain security. He blinked several times in an attempt to bring the world into focus, a task proving quite difficult with a throbbing head and AWOL glasses. He pushed himself up for a better view, fighting the wave of vertigo that threatened to overwhelm him as he took a good look at his saviors. The adrenaline rush was already fading and the pure exhaustion was edging its way in. “Um, you’re not Jack, and you’re definitely not military police,” he managed to get out, taking in their appearances with more than a fair share of confusion. Most were in jeans or leather with t-shirts or tank tops that could only be described as “club wear”.

“That’s for sure, honey,” one of the men laughed as he squatted down next to him, offering him a hand up. He took it cautiously, levering himself up with a wince. The blonde man next to him gave him a look of sympathy, so obviously he looked at least as bad as he felt. He was definitely going to be feeling this tomorrow, and possibly the next day as well.

“They tend not to want our kind,” another man, this one with close-cropped dark hair, added with a grin. “Something about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, our little minds are going to hell’ I believe.”

“Speak for yourself,” a woman’s voice cut in. She had nearly florescent red hair pulled back into a loose ponytail that revealed the multiple pairs of earrings lining both lobes. She wandered closer and handed Daniel an ice pack. “I got this from Oscar’s, put it on your eye or pretty soon we won’t be able to see those baby blues,” she winked at him. Turning her attention back to the first man and wiping the condensation from the pack on her black t-shirt, she added, “I happen to know several of ‘our kind’ in the service. They do good work, don’t flaunt it, and their commanding officers don’t care.”

“That sums up what I know about the military,” Daniel agreed. He squinted, finding Michael surrounded by people helping him to sit up against one of the walls. He eyed the small crowd, trying to get a better look at who was talking. It was hard to see around the ice pack, but he took in enough to figure out what happened. “You’re from the night club across the street, aren’t you?” he asked.

“J.J.’s the bouncer, Allen’s the doorman,” the first man agreed, indicating the man with the gun and someone beside him. “They saw what was happening and thought they should put a stop to it.”

“Bad for business,” J.J. called out.

“That, and he probably thought you’re cute,” Allen shrugged with a smile, laughing lightly when he saw Daniel blush.

The sound of screeching tires caught everyone’s attention and caused the conversation to come to an abrupt halt. The doors flew open on a non-descript black SUV, and the sounds of booted feet hitting the pavement echoed in the new stillness. A second vehicle pulled up with the same fan fair and what appeared to be a full strike team poured out into the alley. “Everybody freeze!” a voice commanded as black-swathed, well-armed men surrounded the area.

“Lou?” Daniel called out hesitantly, lowering the ice pack as he took in his red-headed friend. The man seemed dwarfed by the rest of his team and the various SFs surrounding him, but there was no doubt he was the one in charge of the operation, at least for now.

“Doctor J?” the Major called back. “You okay there?”

“I’ve been better, but we’re good here,” he answered honestly. “Stand down.”

A nod from his friend and as one the armed team lowered their weapons, though he was not surprised to see most kept them at the ready. Lou Ferretti came sauntering over, eying the ruffled archeologist with uncertainty. “We got a call from the Colonel, said there was a situation of some kind but didn’t elaborate. All he knew was that there were some unwanted friends trying to pay you a visit,” he explained, looking over the group of frozen, open-mouthed people and obviously trying to size up the situation.

“Daniel?” a very familiar female voice interrupted before he got the chance to answer.

“Sam!” he said with as much of a grin as his bruised jaw would allow. Rapid footsteps signaled her approach, and he noticed no one dared to stand in her way. He bit back a groan as her arms wrapped tightly around him.

She pulled back, and he knew she was cataloging everything she saw. “I was still at the base when the call came in. T- Murray and I hitched a ride with Ferretti and his team.” She buried her face in his neck again as she whispered, “I’ll be damned before I let some NID thugs get their hands on you.”

He squeezed her back gently and told her, “It wasn’t NID.”

She pulled back almost angrily. “Then who in the hell did this to you?” she demanded.

“Um, that would be them,” he said, jerking a thumb backwards towards the corralled Stooges.

She nodded slowly and he could almost feel her blood boil beneath his fingertips as her own dug into his skin. “And the others? Did they just stop by to see the free show?” she snapped.

“No, no, no,” he soothed. “The rest of these people came from the club across the street. They saw what was going on and, well, came to our rescue,” he shrugged, slightly embarrassed.

The large man with the gun stepped forward, carefully lowering it to the ground when he found a squad of airmen with their sights trained on him. “J.J. Arnet, ma’am,” he introduced himself, offering out his hand. “I’m the bouncer at the Metro. We saw those thugs beating on a couple of unarmed men and thought they might need some help.”

“Major Samantha Carter,” Sam said, taking his hand in greeting. “I owe you a world of thanks for saving my teammate here.” She squeezed Daniel’s shoulders in another hug, noticing him visibly wince this time. “How bad is it?” she demanded, her attention on her friend once more.

“I’ll live,” Daniel assured her.

“That is not what Major Carter asked,” Teal’c pointed out in a low rumble.

Daniel looked over to the large man, smiling as he realized the Jaffa was suddenly the center of attention in the small crowd; not that Teal’c noticed or cared in the least, but he still found it amusing. The large, well-muscled man certainly made an impression; J.J. in particular seemed to be eyeing him with interest. “I hurt, but I’ve had worst,” he answered honestly. “I’m more concerned about Mikey.”

“Who is this ‘Mikey’ and for what reason does he hold your concern?” Teal’c asked, eyebrow raised in his usual expression, though it was nearly lost beneath the watch cap he wore to conceal his tattoo.

Daniel tried to look over to where the injured man still sat, surrounded by several other club-goers, receiving impromptu medical attention with what was apparently available. “Michael Johnston is my foster brother, and the person I went out for coffee with. Larry and the boys there jumped both of us. I tried to get him out of here, but they caught up with him.”

“Michael Johnston, are you injured?” Teal’c called out, turning to face the party against the wall.

The small sea of bodies parted until there was a clear view of a slumped man with an ice pack on his face. He dropped the pack and looked up wearily. “That would be a ‘duh’,” he deadpanned.

Ferretti grinned. “Yup, he’s definitely with Danny,” he laughed.

“Speaking of Danny, see if you can get him to keep the damn ice pack on his face,” Michael called out.

“I warned him,” the woman from earlier joined in, now that the tension was definitely cut. “Told him if he didn’t keep it on he wouldn’t be seeing out of that eye for long.”

“Daniel, use the ice pack,” a new voice ordered. No one missed how every officer present seemed to jump to attention.

“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir,” the civilian mumbled, but raised the pack to his rapidly swelling eye anyway. The pack hid both his grin and his sigh of relief at seeing the final member of his team. Somehow, now he knew everything was going to be all right.

Sam quickly stepped away as Jack strode up, letting her commanding officer assess the situation, and the damage, for himself. “Report,” he ordered.

“Doctor Jackson was jumped by people of unknown intention. Several civilians from a nearby establishment offered their assistance and the situation was brought under control before our arrival,” Ferretti reported formally.

“Danny?” O’Neill asked, hoping for clarification.

Daniel sighed, but bit the bullet and dutifully reported, keeping his voice low enough that hopefully only his teammates on Lou would overhear. “The Stooges over there jumped us after we left the coffee house. They thought Mikey and I were a couple and they were up for a night of gay bashing. They didn’t think we’d actually fight back. It was fine until they brought a couple of knives in to play with. After that, we met some friends from across the street who kicked their asses. Any questions?”

“For what reason do you refer to your attackers as ‘Stooges’? There appear to be four, not three of them,” Teal’c asked, head inclined to the side in as close to a look of confusion as he ever got.

Jack met Daniel’s eyes and smiled. “They always forget about Shemp, don’t they?”

Ferretti bit back a grin before clearing his throat to get the Colonel’s attention. “What would you like done with Moe and the boys?” he asked, louder as so his men could hear what needed to be done.

“Take them back to the mountain for lock up and questioning,” Jack ordered. “Make sure it was completely random and not something more professional.” He did not need to elaborate. They had enough enemies at the SGC, both offworld and on, and no one was about to take any chances in any way.

Lou nodded and signaled his men who easily gathered the already contained men. “And the civilians?”

Jack looked over to Carter, who nodded. “Take down their information, thank them and let them go. They did good.”

“Yes, sir,” Ferretti agreed before heading off to follow orders.

Once he was gone and only SG-1 remained, Jack turned to Daniel with a serious look. “Knives? How bad, really?”

Daniel lowered the ice pack and studied his friends carefully, one by one. He could tell it was taking all of their restraint not to pat him down and physically check him over. “They preferred to use me as a punching bag, but Shemp had Mikey by the throat at one point. I don’t think it’s serious, but it should be looked at.”

“You’re both going to be looked at,” Jack told him. He opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off. “By professionals. You need more than an ice pack and we both know it. Your choice, Fraiser or Academy.”

Jack’s tone left no room for argument, not that that would usually stop him, but something inside of him gave in. It wasn’t just him who was hurt this time, he had managed to drag someone else along for the ride, and he had to take responsibility for it. Daniel sighed, for what felt like the hundredth time, and scrubbed a hand over his face, immediately regretting it as he pulled at his new injuries. “Michael should have medical attention and he’d have less questions at the Academy than at the mountain. He already knows I work with the Air Force, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Jack nodded, a bit worried that the normally stubborn Daniel gave in so easily, but figured his foster brother was involved and his concern for others always seemed to win out over concern for himself. “Ambulance?” he offered.

“Oh, please no!” came the rushed, and almost pleading response. “You got me to say yes to getting checked out, please don’t make a bigger deal out of it than that.”

Jack studied him for a moment before nodding in agreement, deciding not to push it. He saw Daniel let out a deep breath and winced along with him. The ride would not be as comfortable, but at least he was going without a fight. The man looked like he had seen better days. His left eye was swollen and bruising, as was his jaw, and he was holding his ribs as if it hurt just to breathe, which it probably did. The right side of his face was covered with little scrapes, and he noticed the scholar randomly swipe at the freshly dripping blood in annoyance. Looking up into tired blue eyes, he could see the hint of anger there that told him he had been caught in mother hen assessment mode. Instead of apologizing, he casually asked, “So, what happened to your glasses?”

Daniel reached up to his face instinctively before running his hand through his short hair as if checking for them on top of his head. “I have no idea,” he finally admitted.

“Looking for these, sugar?” Allen asked, offering out a pair he found nearby.

“Yes, thank you,” Daniel said, putting them on and pointedly ignoring both the shattered glass on the right side and the wide-eyed look Jack was giving him as he mouthed, “Sugar?”

“Don’t think they’re going to do you much good though,” the other man shrugged sympathetically.

“They’re better than nothing,” Daniel assured him. The glass was cracked on the side he could see out of and perfectly fine on the side he could not, matching his apparent luck so far that evening. At least he found them; usually they completely disappeared.

“We also found this, is it yours?” J.J. asked, handing him the still opened cell phone.

“That’s how he called in the cavalry,” Jack smiled, watching as the phone was finally turned off and closed. He didn’t tell anyone how he had listened in the whole time, keeping the line open until he heard Ferretti’s voice, making all of the rushed calls on his other phone. “Not that the cavalry was needed, you guys seemed to handle everything just fine.” Someone to the side cleared her throat and he quickly amended that to add, “And girls, you all did good.”

They paused as Larry was escorted past, kicking a few stray rocks in their direction and cussing up a storm. “Fucking queers! You’re the fucking military for Christ’s sake and you’re protecting a bunch of queers!” he shouted.

“I believe I shall assist Major Ferretti and his men in detaining the Stooges,” Teal’c intoned seriously. One look at the Jaffa’s bulk, and Larry surprisingly had little to say.

Allen rolled his eyes and presented him with a final item. “Cake?” he asked, pointedly ignoring the rest of the ruckus the remaining men were attempting to cause.

Daniel took the rather smashed styrofoam container and laughed. He opened the lid and peeked inside, seeing the once beautiful piece of chocolate cake smashed into an unrecognizable mush. “How did you guess it was mine?” he grinned, trying hard not to wince when the bruised muscles of his jaw reminded him of Larry’s rather mean uppercut.

“Honey, nobody leaves Oscar’s without taking something home with them,” he explained. “And, no offense, but you look like a chocolate cake kind of guy.”

“Actually, I already had mine, this one’s for Jack,” Daniel explained, still smiling as he handed over the damaged container to his friend.

Jack took it, opened it, and ran an enthusiastic finger through the mush, bringing it up to his mouth with relish. “Still good,” he nodded in appreciation, ignoring the raised eyebrows he received from the little gathering of people around him.

“So, I take it the club’s a gay bar?” Daniel asked conversationally and a bit unnecessarily. “The guys who did this are going to love that.” He tried to look over to Michael again for his view on the situation, but found he was still surrounded by ice pack wielding people with good intentions.

“You mean you’re not gay?” J.J. asked in exaggerated surprise, adding a quick wink at Daniel and a knowing look in Jack’s direction. “Oh no! The rescue was for nothing! I should have told everyone to back off and let the straight men fight it out.”

“No, no, no!” Daniel chuckled. “The rescue was very much appreciated. Gay or straight, it doesn’t matter to me and never has. You guys saved us both from a lot of pain, and it is very much appreciated.” He only hoped his voice sounded as grateful as he felt.

Allen leaned in conspiringly. “Okay, so if he’s not you’re partner, who is the cutie you were with and do you happen to know if he’s single?” he asked, sparing an almost hopeful look in Michael’s direction.

“Allen Marcus!” the woman from earlier chided.

“What? It can’t hurt to ask,” he shrugged.

Daniel laughed at their antics, subtlety clutching his ribs as he did so, certain they were good friends if their behavior was anything to go by. It seemed oddly familiar, and reassured him as much as anything else. “Michael’s my foster brother. We were having a reunion of sorts and these guys got the wrong idea,” he explained, jerking a thumb towards where Larry and the gang were being hustled off. “As for which way he leans, you’ll have to ask him that yourself.” He smiled when the formerly flamboyant man suddenly shut his mouth and tuned pink.

“Not so bold anymore, huh Allen?” the woman teased.

“Ah, leave him be, Susie,” J.J. admonished. “Besides, the one he really likes is taken,” he added with a wink in Daniel’s direction, causing the archeologist to turn several shades of red.

“Dare we even ask why an Air Force strike team was involved?” the recently named Susie asked, crossing her tattooed arms in front of her and daring them to deny the observation.

“Doctor Jackson is a civilian consultant currently working on some top level studies with us,” Sam jumped in to answer, using the story they had come up with years before. “We wished to ensure his safety, both as a member of the program, and as a friend.” She smiled as she bumped shoulders with that friend, who suddenly found the ground incredibly fascinating. He hated the cover ups, and she knew it as well as anyone else, which is why she went for the partial truth instead of outright lie.

“A civilian? Who fought like that?” Allen whistled. “What’s he a doctor of, kicking ass?”

“Allen!” Susie snapped, please to see him look suitably cowered.

“Uh, that would be...” Daniel started.

“Classified?” the woman guessed with a knowing grin. “Don’t sweat it,” she waved them off. “Now go get that eye looked at, and those scrapes on that pretty face of yours.”

“Actually, the fact I’m a doctor of Archeology and Anthropology is not classified, just what I do is,” Daniel muttered as Jack and Sam started to steer him towards the waiting cars, Jack with the already smashed package of cake shoved under his arm.

“Yes, Daniel,” the older man told him placatingly. He nodded sagely at the less than amused look received, trying to keep a serious expression on his face. “Goodnight, folks, and thank you again!” he called to the remaining civilians, hooking an arm around his injured teammate’s waist when he stumbled. He decided it was best to get the scholar out of there before exhaustion got the best of him and he babbled on more than he intended.

“What? I’m on the internet, they can look me up,” Daniel complained around a yawn.

“Yes, Daniel,” Jack agreed in the same neutral tone.

He stopped, forcing his companions to do the same. “Hey, we’re not headed towards my car,” he pointed out.

“No, Daniel,” Jack told him, just as calmly and fighting back a grin at the normally very astute man’s sluggishness before leading him on once more.

“You’re not going to let me drive, are you?” the archeologist asked, narrowing his eyes.

“No, Daniel,” Sam agreed, mimicking her commanding officer’s tone as she opened up Jack’s truck for him.

“You better not let Sam drive, she’s like a maniac,” Daniel muttered, oblivious to the look he received from his female companion.

“Yes, Daniel,” Jack laughed, angling him into the car and tossing Sam the keys he had snuck out of the archeologist’s pocket.

“I’ll go get Mr. Johnston,” Sam said, shaking her head as she headed back to where Michael was already being helped to his feet.

“That’s Doctor Johnston!” Daniel called out in correction.

“Yes, Daniel,” Jack nodded, hearing his second in command echo his words. He busied himself with fastening the seatbelt around his slouching charge and was willing to bet even money on the fact at least one archeologist would or should be passed out by the time they reached the Academy hospital.

Allen, J.J. and Susie watched the antics as the last of the crowd cleared out. “That’s one lucky civilian,” J.J. pointed out.

“Huh,” Allen shrugged. “I was going to say that that was one lucky Colonel...”

“Yes, Allen,” Susie laughed in the same tone the other group of friends had used only moments before. She wrapped her arm around his shoulder and pulled him towards the curb. “We better go lock up the bar. I think it’s way past closing time.”

~~~~~

“But I feel fine!” Daniel complained for the sixteenth time. Jack knew; he was keeping count. He figured by the twentieth, the pain meds they had slipped into the I.V. would kick in enough for the injured man to pass out.

“It’s just for the night,” O’Neill insisted, again. “They want to keep you here for observation, and you’re free to go once you’re checked out again in the morning. Considering it’s past 2 A.M. already, you don’t have that long to go.”

“I’m fine!” the archeologist insisted, again. This time, he crossed his arms in front of him, somehow tangling the I.V. line with the pulse-ox monitor clipped to his finger.

As the tired genius was trying to figure out how to untangle himself, a groggy voice piped up from the bed on the other side of the room. “Just shut up and sleep, Danny. Damn, you’re worse than when we were kids,” Michael muttered before rolling over to face the wall.

Daniel stopped fighting with the wires as a terrified look passed over his face. “Your mom is going to kill me,” he whispered.

“Naw, she’ll just make you take out the trash for the next two weeks and keep your room clean for a month,” Michael yawned as he pulled his blanket up a little bit more.

“No way, this is way worse than the time we put the goldfish in the dishwasher,” Daniel protested sleepily, getting raised eyebrows from Jack for his comment. “I took her baby boy out for coffee and ended up putting him in the hospital.”

Michael turned to face him again, a look of seriousness in his swollen eyes. “Daniel, you got the crap beat out of you trying to protect me. We’re not even going to mention the fact that I’m nearly thirty years old and spent the better part of my life in inner city New York. In her eyes you will be, once again, the Great Savior.” He paused and let the words sink in for a moment before adding, “So now shut up and get some sleep before this baby boy tells mom that his Great Savior kept him up all night and she really gets pissed.”

Daniel opened his mouth to say something, before closing it with an audible swallow. He looked to the younger man once more, watching as he turned back to the wall, before pulling up his own blankets, tangled cords and all. He very methodically folded his hands in front of him and closed his eyes, all in silence. Within minutes, that silence was broken by his deep, rhythmic breathing.

“Damn,” Jack cursed softly, carefully straightening the wires. “We should keep this guy around. No one’s been able to get you to stop fidgeting and pass out this quickly in years.”

He looked down at the slumbering man and sighed, taking in the numerous cuts and bruises against the sleep-paled skin. Part of him wondered what the repercussions would be for sending in an assault team to break up a gay bashing. Part of him figured he could talk his way around it, mentioning the fact Daniel was an important part of not just SG-1, but of the SGC as a whole and that, as such, he did what needed to be done to protect the integrity of the program. Part of him figured General Hammond would simply go along with whatever he said and smooth out the edges later. Most of him didn’t care. Most of him was just happy to see Dr. Daniel Jackson, best friend he ever had, safe and sound. “You did good, Danny,” he whispered, pressing a quick kiss to the top of his head.

He stood up and glanced around quickly, making sure no one had seen his momentary lapse of hard-ass Colonel shell. He swiped at his betraying eyes before they could give him away, then rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. As much as he wanted to, he knew he couldn’t pull up a chair and crash in the room for the night. Besides the paperwork and explanations to work through back at the mountain, this simply was not Doctor Fraiser’s infirmary, and he couldn’t talk his way around the doctors without raising more questions than he was prepared to answer at this ungodly hour.

He walked stiffly out of the room, nodding to the two SFs stationed at the door. They had not yet ruled out the NID or their friends completely, and no one was going to take any chances. Even if they were not involved with the initial incident, he would not put it past them to capitalize on it. Plus, it made him feel better knowing at least someone from the mountain was watching over Daniel and Michael if he and his team were not allowed.

He made the short trip to the mountain in silence, not even bothering with turning on the radio in the car. He was exhausted, letting his inner autopilot take over as he flashed his ID to the guards and pulled into his parking place. He turned off the ignition and simply sat there for a moment, the urge to pass out warring with the urge to bang his head on the steering wheel in an attempt to both wake himself up and get out some of his pent up aggressions. He knew one of those things wouldn’t happen, and the other would do him no good in the long run, so he slipped back into his professional Colonel persona and headed for the elevators.

When he signed in, one of the sergeants on duty stopped him before he could continue on his way. “Major Carter requested she be notified when you came in, sir.” He quickly checked something on a clipboard before adding, “She said she would either be in her lab, or in the Security Services office.”

“Thank you,” he told him, before continuing on his way. Somehow, he was not surprised at the information. Carter had spent most of the night playing with her experiments, stopped off to rush to her teammate’s rescue, then headed straight back to the mountain, probably to see to the interrogation of the men they took into custody. He briefly wondered if she ever needed sleep, then broke it down to the standard Samantha Carter arguments numbers three and four: “Go home, Carter,” and “Get a life, Carter.” These, of course, came right after standard Sam Carter arguments number one and two: “Don’t touch that, Carter,” and “No, seriously, don’t touch that, Carter.” He smiled to himself, realizing those two were pretty much identical to his standard Daniel Jackson arguments as well. Teal’c seemed to be the only one with a sensible head among them.

Yep, those were his teammates, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

He checked her lab first, not surprised to find her sneaking a candy bar from one of her desk drawers, probably the closest thing she had had to a meal in the past 24 hours, quickly trying to hide it when she noticed him in the doorway. “Sir,” she said, sitting up a bit straighter in her chair, but at least not jumping to full attention. He had been able to talk her out of that a long time ago, the first step in his multi-step program to try to get her to relax.

“Eat it,” he ordered, motioning towards the desk drawer. Before she could feign confusion, he added, “You probably need it anyway. If nothing else, eat it for Daniel, he might not be eating much beyond soup for the next few days anyway.”

“How is he?” she asked, taking the bar out of its hiding place. She unwrapped it and took a bite of the crunchy confection, fighting the urge to sigh in appreciation.

He watched her for a moment and decided he should probably keep a stash of her brand of bars in his desk next to his stash of Daniel’s brand. Neither one of them tended to remember to eat once they got into things, usually pushing themselves too hard for too long. Besides, a little appreciation could go a long way. He sighed, knowing he was trying to avoid the question. “If you ask him, he’s...”

“’Fine’,” she quoted with him, rolling her eyes at their younger teammate’s stubbornness. “But I’m not asking him, I’m asking you,” she pointed out, taking another bite of her bar and chewing thoughtfully, daring him to say something and addressing him as a friend and not a commanding officer, something she rarely did.

Jack sighed again and pulled up one of the stools next to her desk. He sat down heavily, resting his elbows on the desktop before answering. “He’s not saying much, but you can tell he hurts. His left eye is pretty swollen and his face is all black and blue. They’ve got his hands all wrapped up, so I’m guessing the blood we saw on them wasn’t just the Stooges’. I tried to look at his chart when the doc was in there, but all I saw was something about ribs and he wasn’t exactly spilling the details. I’m willing to bet one or two are probably cracked.” He rubbed his hands across his face before raising his head again to look at her. “It just doesn’t make sense, you know?”

Sam folded the wrapper over her half-eaten bar, meticulously folding the edges and playing with the loose bit of torn foil. When she looked up again, her blue eyes threatened to spill over with tears. “Why him? Why now?” she asked, her voice barely containing her anger.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the one telling me that?” O’Neill countered, but there was no malice to his tone.

She threw the bar down on her desk, and now it was her turn to run her hands across her face as she sighed. “I questioned them, the men Daniel was calling ‘the Stooges’, the men who did that to him,” she began, her voice wavering as she fought for both control and the right words. “As far as I could tell, there was no reason, no reason for any of it. I found no ties to the NID, nor to any other known entities that might want to get their hands on him, or on one of us. Nothing. I still have some leads to follow up on, but it doesn’t seem like they were after him in particular. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s no sense, no reason to it.”

“They thought he was gay,” Jack interrupted, his own voice hoarse with barely controlled emotion. Anger, hate, rage, and sadness all fought with the knowledge there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

“He was with his brother!” Sam exploded, slamming her hands down on the desktop.

“They didn’t see it that way,” Jack told her, trying to keep his tone quiet as his second in command struggled to do the same.

Sam stood up and began pacing the small area behind her desk. “It didn’t matter, you know?” she said, crossing her arms in front of her. Her entire body was shaking with rage and she took several deep breaths to try to calm herself. She glanced up and saw the question in her teammate’s eyes. “That’s what they told me, that it didn’t matter. I told them he was with his foster brother and they said they didn’t care. They said they knew his ‘type’ and if it wasn’t the guy he was with, it was probably someone else. They didn’t even try to deny it.”

“Did you get everything on tape?”

“Of course,” she shrugged, her energy from before beginning to wane after her outburst. “I got it all. They admitted to the assault and admitted to their reasoning behind it. If we don’t find anything linking them to anything by tomorrow, we’ll probably have to turn them over to the civilian police. At the very least, the tape can be used as evidence against them.” Her anger was turning to annoyance and fighting with grief as both knew that, even with the evidence, the attackers would probably only get a slap on the wrist for punishment.

O’Neill nodded in agreement. “Hammond will want to see the tape and look over anything else you’ve found,” he informed her softly. He took the tilt of her head as acknowledgement of his words. He stood and crossed over to behind the desk, resting a hand on her shoulder for a moment before pulling her into a hug. “Daniel will get through this, we will get through this, okay?” He squeezed her a bit tighter for a moment before releasing her.

She sniffed, regaining control of her emotions once more. “But we shouldn’t have to,” was all she said, and he was forced to agree.

“Does Janet know?” he asked, leaning against the edge of the desk and giving her the room she needed.

Sam sighed, again. “She’s going to be pissed, but no, I haven’t told her yet,” she admitted. She swiped at her eyes before they could betray her, accentuating the shadows that lines them. “I figured at least one of us should get a good night’s sleep, or as close to it as possible considering she’s got a house full of teenagers with her right now. There was nothing she could have done other than tire herself out, and she’s going to need everything she’s got to deal with Daniel in the morning.”

Jack smiled at the truth in her words. “You know, Michael is almost as bad as he is,” he mused.

Carter forced a little grin. “Not possible,” she took the bait.

“Daniel told me his foster brother followed in his footsteps, and he wasn’t far off,” Jack told her. “The thing is, there’s some sort of familial thing going on or something, because Daniel actually listened to him.”

“No way!” She gave in to his efforts and actually chuckled a little.

“Yup, it was a sight to see,” O’Neill swore. “I’ll tell you all about while we get something more than a candy bar to tide us over,” he said, gesturing to the door.

“I...” she started to protest, but he cut her off.

“We both need food, and you need sleep. Let’s grab something from the cafeteria then I’ll go play with some red tape and you actually lay down for a few hours, okay?” he reasoned. When she hesitated again, he added, “Do I need to make that an order?”

The corner of her mouth turned upwards in a half-smile. “No, sir, you do not,” she relented.

“Good,” he said, pushing her towards the door. “Besides, you’re going to need everything you’ve got to deal with Fraiser when she finds out we held out on her,” he grinned, playing on her own words.

“Don’t remind me,” she sighed, shaking her head as she followed him down the hallway.

They walked in silence for a moment before Jack seemed to remember something she had said. “House full of teenagers?” he asked.

Carter nodded in confirmation. “Cassie’s having some friends over for the night. We figured it’s only fair considering how many times she’s stayed over at someone else’s house when we’ve had stuff going on here.”

“So that’s why you were hiding out on base,” O’Neill smirked.

Sam opened her mouth to protest, but stopped herself and let out a sheepish smile. “It is that obvious?” she asked. At her friend’s nod, she shook her head in disbelief. “Janet was so careful to schedule this whole thing on a weekend when she was fairly sure there would be nothing going on: no missions, no life threatening emergencies. She told me about it last week and I started frantically searching for something to do instead. Just the idea of that many teenage girls in one place...” She faked a shutter of horror.

“So the experiment you were working on tonight?” Jack prodded.

“Totally not necessary. I mean, it’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and the results were impressive, but it’s not life-threatening important that I do it right now,” she confirmed. “I figured I’d lock myself away in the lab and leave her to the wolves. She deserved it after... Well, let’s just say that she did something that deserved retribution. I figured it would be a nice quiet evening for me and nothing the CMO of a high-stress, high-security project couldn’t handle on her own. I got a call from her at about seven tonight and she was already sounding frazzled. I was seriously tempted to go help, but had already started the experiment. By the time I finished, I got distracted, and then I got the call from you and headed out to...” She trailed off at the end, unsure of how to continue.

“To deal with Daniel?” Jack supplied, voice suddenly devoid of any humor and more than tinged with a bit of anger. Both knew the anger was not directed at her, and both knew there really was no outlet for it right now, at least none that could be justified.

They had finally reached the cafeteria doors, Jack pausing as he reached to open them, when they heard someone volunteer to be that outlet.

“I heard that it was a gay bashing,” the voice said. “And that part of town, at that time of night, you’d have to be asking for it.”

“What?” It took Jack a moment to realize it had not been the woman at his side who had exclaimed her disbelief. Her face most certainly registered it, but he put out an arm to stop her from raging in when he recognized the voice that did not even try to hide the disbelief and anger as it said, “You have got to be kidding me!”

“Look, Lou,” the first man dared to continue what he started. “I know he’s a friend of yours and all, but come on. He was outside a gay bar with a male ‘friend’ on a Friday night. What are we supposed to think?”

There was the sound of several chairs moving back and boots hitting the floor. O’Neill peeked in through the window to see Ferretti leaning heavily on a table, getting right into the face of some nameless punk in a uniform. The remaining members of SG-2 were forming a semi-circle of intimidation behind him.

“What you are supposed to think is that maybe you should be getting a few more facts before you start yapping that trap of yours, Lieutenant,” Lou began in a calm, yet malicious tone. “What you are supposed to think is that this is the man who damn near started this whole program that you are talking about and that perhaps you should not make any accusations without a hell of a lot of support to back them up.”

“But,” the unnamed Lieutenant tried to interrupt, but was bowled over as Ferretti simply ignored his attempts.

“Had you done even the tiniest bit of research, you would have discovered that Doctor Jackson, the man who saved the planet several times, the man who spent three years looking for his kidnapped wife only to have one of his best friends kill her in front of his very eyes, the man who spends countless late nights going over every scrap of information for missions that are not even for his own team just to make sure people are safe, the man who has literally died to protect your sorry ass and the asses of most of this planet, went out for a cup of coffee with his foster brother and, being the bad-luck magnet he tends to be, got himself into a bit of a situation when some people jumped to conclusions instead of looking for a bit of information to support their dumb ideas.”

Jack could not see the Lieutenant’s face, but could only imagine what he must of looked like by the stunned silence of the room. The next man to speak was neither the Lieutenant nor the Major, but Captain Sojourn from SG-2 and he appeared to be addressing the room at large. “Based on what we know of Doctor Jackson, which makes more sense: the widower geek with the legendary caffeine addiction decided to try a new coffee place with his foster brother who happens to be in town, or that he was out trolling gay bars on a Friday night?”

A deep chuckle from one of the corners of the room seemed to crack the tension. “We’re talking Daniel here, people,” one of the orderlies from the infirmary was laughing. “Considering I’ve seen people, both men and women, damn near throw themselves at the good doctor and all he does is ask for another book? The man’s clueless about anything that hasn’t been dead for a couple hundred of years, people. The only time I’ve seen him even attempt to flirt is to try to get a cup of coffee after Fraiser’s cut him off.”

Several people began to laugh at that point, truly breaking the tension once and for all as the more usual conversations started up again, and Jack decided it was as good of time as any to make his entrance. As the Colonel and Major Carter appeared, some of the laughter and random noise turned almost nervous before trickling down to almost nothing.

“Problem, Major?” O’Neill asked, noticing several people straighten their stance but Lou make no move to back away from the Lieutenant.

“Not at all, sir,” Ferretti replied smoothly.

“Good to know,” Jack commented, continuing on to grab a plate and some of the gruel that was passing as food at this late hour.

As he passed, he heard Lou add something in no more than the barest whisper. “Just remember, Lieutenant, you open your mouth with that kind of crap again and it’s not me you’ll need to worry about facing off with. I’ll be lucky to get the scraps when those two finish with you.”

By the time O’Neill and Carter got their food, the man was long gone with a clean spot at the table mysteriously cleared for them.

~~~~~

Sam fought back another yawn as she pulled her car up beside the familiar house. She had forced down the cafeteria food, knowing the Colonel was right and she had needed to eat but, for some reason, instead of giving her more energy it just seemed to suck the little reserves she had dry. She had turned over the tape and all of her notes on the interrogation and investigation to O’Neill, promising him both a written report and at least four hours of sleep before 10 am.

She turned off the ignition and sighed. Part of her had seriously debated staying at the mountain, grabbing a rack in one of the barrack rooms and simply crashing. Another part of her told her she would never live it down if she did. Janet deserved to know what happened. Hell, Cassie deserved to know what had happened to her favorite uncle. She couldn’t bring herself to keep it from them for much longer.

She stepped up to the porch, trying to search for the correct key by feel alone, when the door swung open. Before her stood a small, disheveled, robe-clad woman looking up at her with intense brown eyes. “What happened?” Janet demanded.

Sam tried to form a coherent response, but could only come up with, “Wh-what?”

Janet shook her head, making tsking noises as she grabbed the keys from the other woman’s hand and led her into the kitchen. Tossing the keys to the table, she pulled out a chair and pushed her into it. “You’re late even for you, you’ve been sitting out in the car staring into space for the last ten minutes, and I just waved goodbye to Serviceman Richards who more than likely followed you here all the way from the mountain without you realizing it,” the doctor ticked off on her hand. Grabbing a chair of her own, she sat down and tucked her fists under her chin. “Again, I ask, what happened?”

Sam sat there for a moment, simply blinking, taking in her friend’s words.

Janet sighed. “You don’t appear to have any injuries and made it here under your own steam, more or less. Did something amazing happen with that experiment of yours? When you were two hours overdue and not answering the phone in the lab I called in to the infirmary and no one had seen you or heard of any accidents yet. What happened between then and now that threw you for a loop?”

“Must not have hit the rumor mill by the time you called,” Sam muttered under her breath, wiping her hands across her face before folding them in front of her on the table.

“So something did happen at the mountain?” Janet probed, her curiosity, not to mention sense of worry, not piqued.

“No, not the mountain, just Daniel,” Sam replied. She tried to smile, but just could not get it out.

“Sam, honey, nothing is ever ‘just Daniel’ and you know it,” Fraiser said, the corner of her lips quirking with the statement. “What did he do now? Find some artifact he was convinced was the key to the meaning of life, drag you in to do some tests only to find out it was the ancient equivalent of a ‘no parking’ sign?”

Sam decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. “Daniel’s at the Academy hospital after getting beat up outside of the coffee shop you recommended,” she said, all in one breath.

“Daniel’s what?” Janet demanded, her voice rising far above her usual softer tones.

“Daniel’s at the Academy hospital,” Sam repeated, much slower this time. She grabbed her friend’s wrist as the smaller woman tried to push herself up from the table, effectively stopping her. “He’s resting comfortably and you will be allowed to see him and run all of your own tests in the morning if you want to, but until then I am supposed to keep you here and get you to get some sleep.”

“Fat chance of that happening,” the doctor snorted as she sat back down. “I’ve spent the last ten hours in a house full of teenage girls, their hormones, and bad movies full of supposedly ‘to die for’ guys who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. I’ve spent the last four of those hours wondering where the hell you were and what happened to you and now I find out that you’re fine but Daniel’s in the hospital? Start talking, and start talking now,” she demanded in a voice that would have made full-fledged Generals squirm.

The Major sat back in her chair and bit back another sigh as she crossed her arms in front of her. “Daniel went to that coffee shop you recommended - the one with the really good chocolate cake - to visit with his foster brother that happened to be in town. We’re not sure of all the details yet, but Colonel O’Neill got a phone call from Daniel saying he was in some sort of a fight. The Colonel in turn called the base and I rode out with Ferretti and SG-2. By the time we got there the fight was over, thanks to some civilians from the club across the street. We took Daniel and Doctor Johnston to the Academy hospital to be checked out and they decided to keep them there for observation.”

“And you got Daniel to agree to this?” Fraiser asked, eyebrows raised.

“With the help of some pain meds and his foster brother,” Sam confirmed.

“How bad is he, really?”

“I don’t know,” Sam answered honestly. “From what I saw, he had some decent bruising and the Colonel said something about his ribs, other than that we’ve been told very little about his condition and Daniel seems to want to keep it that way,” she shrugged in a ‘you know how he is’ sort of way but her eyes gave away her true feelings. “We told the doctor not to discharge him without your approval and they are expecting you in the morning.”

“Who?” the small woman demanded. From her tone, it was clear she was not discussing the medical staff at the hospital put in charge of their friend’s care.

“As of right now, it looks completely random,” Sam answered, this time not bothering to hold back her sigh. “We haven’t found a single thing linking the attackers to the NID or any other government agency.”

“Let me get this straight, Daniel was attacked with no apparent motive or provocation?” Janet asked, disbelief coloring her tone. She saw her friend open her mouth to say something, hesitate, then close it again. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Sam ran her hands through her hair before holding her head in them, massaging her temples to fight off the impending headache she knew was only moments away. Finally, she looked up and met the steady brown eyes of the woman probably closer to her than her own family members had ever become. “They think it was a gay bashing,” she whispered, closing her eyes at the admission.

She heard Janet let out a deep rush of breath before releasing a string of profanity that would have made even the Colonel blush. The small woman was up and pacing now, the soft soles of her slippers slapping against the linoleum flooring. “Because of The Metro, right? The club across the street? Yeah, it’s a gay bar, but straight people go there too. And the places around there are about fifty-fifty - half gay and half straight. I didn’t even think about it, you know? I just thought, ‘Hey, Daniel wants to know a new place to try out and they’ve got killer cakes.’ I should have... So, Daniel goes to hang out with his foster brother, a guy, at a place with a large homosexual patronage. Then, with the typical Jackson luck, he gets targeted.” She stopped her pacing and plopped down heavily in her chair. “Shit,” she muttered.

“That about sums it up,” Carter agreed.

“How is the base handling it? I assume ‘the rumor mill’ as you put it has gotten a hold of this and had a field day already?”

“There were a few murmurings, but they’ve been slapped down,” Sam admitted.

“If the Colonel goes around doing that, it’s only going to raise their suspicions, not squash them,” the smaller woman pointed out.

Sam nodded in agreement. “True, but it’s not Colonel O’Neill slapping them down,” she told her. At the look of confusion she received, she clarified, “Daniel’s earned his fair share of supporters and friends over the last few years and none of them will tolerate any crap being said about him. They’re working to spread the word he was with his foster brother and that the attackers were misinformed.”

“And the attackers?”

“In lock up, but we’re probably going to have to turn them over to local police,” Carter informed her. “Civilians targeted by civilians outside of military property with no hints of any government tie-ins, we’ve got no chance of holding them.”

“When can I see them?”

“The attackers?” Sam asked in confusion. The lack of sleep was starting to get to her, and the effort of sorting through her muddled thoughts now that the danger had passed seemed like too much.

Janet smiled in understanding. “No, honey, Daniel and this brother of his. When can I see them?”

“Morning rounds,” she yawned in reply. “Though apparently my face is not to be seen until at least ten. Something about sleep and dire retribution from a certain Colonel and possibly you for staying up too long.” She waved her hand lazily as she shrugged, knowing it was mostly for show, but that she probably should get some sleep if she was going to be coherent in the morning. Besides, it felt kind of reassuring to have people care about her enough to be concerned, even if that concerned showed itself through idle threats. It brought back that sense of belonging and family she had felt when so many people had rushed to Daniel’s aide without question earlier. They were a team, not just SG-1 but the base as a whole, and they were going to look out for each other.

Janet stood, offering her friend a hand up from the table. “Let’s get you to bed. I’ll go to the hospital in the morning, run my tests and see for myself what our friendly neighborhood archeologist got himself into this time. I promise I’ll call you before I release him, okay?” She added the last part knowing what protest was about to be uttered.

Sam blew out the breath that would have given voice to her concerns, knowing the closest thing to a compromise she was going to get was already reached. “Fine,” she relented, letting herself be steered through the sea of sleeping bag encased bodies in the living room and to the bed with her name on it.

“I’ll let Cassie know you’re here when I leave and try to get her and her friends to let you sleep in a bit,” she told her reasonably. “You can tell her the full story and answer her questions when you get up,” she added with an evil grin.

“Hey!” Sam exclaimed as she collapsed onto the side of the bed. “That is so not fair.”

Janet simply shrugged. “You held out on me for how many hours? Think of this as retribution.”

Sam groaned and tried to pull the pillow over her face. Dealing with a perky, sugar-high, inquisitive and concerned teenager first thing in the morning was not high on her list of preferred things to do. On the other hand, Janet was letting her off relatively easily when it came down to it. She kicked off her shoes and closed her eyes, drifting off within minutes, all the while hoping the morning would be far less exciting than the evening had turned out to be.

~~~~~

A loud crash woke her from her exhausted slumber. She started to jump out of bed to investigate, then remembered where she was: Janet’s house, big comfy bed, houseful of teenagers outside pretty oak veneered door.

Cassie’s voice called to her through said pretty oak door. “It’s okay, we’re totally going to pick everything up.”

She flopped back down onto the soft pillows and pulled the thick comforter up over her head after a quick peek at the clock on the bedside table. 0723. She did not want to know. She so did not want to know.

~~~~~

Doctor Janet Fraiser was all business as she strode down the hall, her heels clicking against the tile with each carefully measured step. To an outsider, she was an efficient, concerned physician. To those that knew her, she was on the warpath.

Her target was in sight and nothing was going to stop her, no whining, no pleading, no batting of eyes. She’d seen it all before and was immune to it.

A figure emerged from one of the side rooms, quickly joining her and matching his long stride with her shorter, quicker clip. “Colonel,” she greeted him, not bothering to slow down. “Fancy meeting you here, and before visiting hours even. Care to explain to me why you thought you could keep this from me?”

“Janet,” he sighed, reaching out to grab her arm and pull her to a stop beside him. She looked up to meet his gaze and, to his credit, he did not even flinch from the intensity he saw in the dark depths of her eyes. “I know you’re pissed and have every right to be,” he began.

“You’re damn right I am,” she snapped back.

He cut her off before she could continue, knowing his rank and friendship were probably the only reasons he was getting away with it. “There was nothing you could have done that wasn’t done already. Most of the staff here were trained personally by you; you know that they know what they are doing. They examined both Daniel and Michael and took care of them.”

“I should have been here,” she replied, and he could not tell if it was anger or remorse tingeing her words. Only the way she bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and kept batting her eyes to keep the moisture out gave her away.

“It was the middle of the night on your night off, not to mention the fact I later found out you apparently had plans with Cassie. We decided to let you sleep and take your own look, make your own judgment in the morning. It was only a matter of a couple hours and he was asleep anyway,” O’Neill tried.

“I should have been here,” she repeated, clutching the files she was carrying closer to her. “If not as his doctor, then as his friend,” she choked out. A lone tear escaped, splashing down on the manila folder labeled “Jackson, D.” She swiped at her eyes angrily before letting her gaze drift to the room with the two guards stationed outside. “He needs to know that we are there for him, that he’s not alone, that he’s not going to be alone as long as any of us can help it.”

Jack pulled her into a hug, not caring if the guards saw the unprofessional display. She was a friend first, and right now she needed this as much as he did. “He does, and he will,” he whispered to her.

She nodded against him, accepting the refuge he offered for just a moment longer before pushing away. “Sorry, sir,” she sniffed, blinking away the last of the moisture from her eyes.

“Not a problem,” he told her, watching as her professional mask slid back into place. “What can you tell me about our patient’s condition?” he asked.

“I only just got his file and have not been able to get in to see him yet, either of them actually,” she reported, resuming her walk towards the room at a much more sedate pace now. “The only thing I know for certain at this point is that Daniel got the crap beat out of him but it could have been much worse. That, and he’s going to be pissed at me for telling him not to drink any coffee while he’s on the drugs I’m going to prescribe him for the pain.”

“You so called it, man,” a groggy voice laughed from the other side of the open door.

“Told you, that’s why I’m enjoying this while I can,” another tired, but far more familiar voice sounded from inside the room.

Janet walked in and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the scene before her. Daniel sat, propped up in bed by a mess of pillows, half his face a Technicolor painting of bruises, his bandaged hands gripping on to what had to be the largest cup of coffee sold in the cafeteria. “Oh no you don’t, Doctor Jackson, hand it over,” she demanded, shifting her files to one hand and offering out the other for the illegal beverage.

“Sure thing,” he chirped, upending the cup and downing the last of the still steaming contents before offering her the now empty container.

“You...” she simmered, still not sure if she should give in and laugh at the situation. Looking at Daniel, she knew she couldn’t stay angry, she never could when he was injured. Instead, she turned her attention to the Colonel at her side. “And I’m sure you know nothing about this?”

Jack put his hands up to protest his innocence, but Michael came to his rescue. “Don’t blame him, he knew nothing about it. All Danny did was bat his baby blues at the cute nurse and, voila, he got what he wanted,” he explained. He paused, then added thoughtfully, “Even though you can’t really see one of those baby blues right now, I wonder if that helped or not...”

“And you...” she started, only to be politely cut off by her other patient.

“I would be Mister, now Doctor, Michael Johnston, former foster brother to the scamp in the other bed,” he introduced himself, offering out a hand to shake but finding it trapped in the too short cording of the IV.

She reached across and grabbed the offered hand. “Doctor Janet Fraiser,” she greeted him. “And anyone who has put up with that man and his attitude for this many years deserves a little leeway,” she smiled.

“Hey, Danny, I think I like her!” Michael laughed at the other man’s mock pout.

“You say that now, just wait until she runs all her tests and you’ll rethink that opinion,” Daniel promised.

She turned and gave him an evil eye which, considering it was Daniel, did not do much. “Just for that I should find extra just for you,” she threatened, stifling a laugh of her own.

“Like you don’t do that already,” he waved her off. He turned to his brother and stage whispered, “You should see some of the stuff she comes up with sometimes. Scary doesn’t even begin to describe it.” He mock shivered to accentuate the words.

Janet caught the wince he tried to hide at movement and returned to her usual, no nonsense bedside manner. “Okay, Doctors, let’s get down to business, shall we?” she asked, her tone broking no room for argument.

As she focused first on the patient she knew the best, Jack wandered over to the other bed in hopes of getting to know the closest thing Daniel currently had to an actual relative a bit better. They chatted about nonsense things for a bit, each getting a feel for the other and each keeping an ear on the activity at the other side of the room as they did so.

“He hurts, doesn’t he?” Michael asked quietly after a pause in the conversation. His eyes kept drifting towards the fabric curtain separating his corner of the room from his brother’s.

“Hell, I hurt just looking at him,” Jack admitted, leaning heavily against the edge of the bed. He lowered his voice to match the other man’s, knowing Daniel would have a fair idea what they were talking about anyway, but at least trying for privacy. He turned to face Michael, looking him in his swollen eye as he confessed for the first time, “I heard the whole thing, you know? From the moment he called me until the moment I got out of the car. I couldn’t put down the phone even while I got everyone else on the move. It was like, if I could hear him, if I could know where he was, he was going to be okay, you know?” He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He had no idea why he was confiding in this man. Maybe it was the sense of trust that permeated him much like a certain other archeologist he knew. “I know it’s silly, but I just couldn’t let go. It was like, to hang up the phone would have been to leave him behind, and I made a promise to myself to never let that happen again.”

“You care for him,” Michael said. It was a statement, not a question.

“He’s my best friend,” Jack confessed. “We’ve been through way too much together to be anything less than that. I can’t tell you what, or I’d have to shoot you, but we’ve been through more than our fair share of nightmares together, and made it through to the other side.”

Michael nodded, and it seemed to be the end of the conversation until he commented, “He had one last night.” He said it so quietly, O’Neill was not sure he had heard him at first until he continued, “Not just the thing with the Stooges, either. Here, at the hospital, he had one. I didn’t recognize the names, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just about last night.” One look at the older man’s face, and he was certain this was not a first time thing. “He shook himself out of it pretty easily after I tried to wake him up and we talked until those guards you had posted at the door just gave up and the nurses brought us some coffee.”

O’Neill swallowed heavily, seeming like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders which, for all Michael knew, could be the truth. When he finally spoke, his voice was soft, hoarse, and filled with an emotion that belied his casual posture. “I should have been there for him, normally it’s enough. I’m glad someone he trusts was with him.”

Michael was not sure what to say in the face of what he knew to be both a confession and a compliment rolled into one. Instead, he simply nodded, and waited for the other man to regain the self control that was obviously threatening to slip.

“So,” Jack said, shoving his emotions back into their little hideaway for the time being. He could deal with them later, when no one was around. He looked around for something, anything, as a conversation starter that did not involve any references to the previous topic at hand. All he saw were bruises. Well, he reasoned, it was a hospital after all. “Looks like you got quite the shiner.”

“Hurts like a son of a bitch too,” Michael cheerfully confided. “Thing is, I know Danny got the brunt of it, so I don’t have much to complain about.” He paused as he heard the curtain pull back, looking over to where his surrogate brother was propped up in his bed. Daniel was chatting away with the little doctor as if he didn’t have a care in the world, even though his face wore multiple shades of pain. “I’d blame the whole military ‘take it like a man’ school of thought for him not complaining, but he’s always been like this. He once broke his wrist while we were climbing Ms. Patterson’s tree, and tried to convince everyone he was...”

“’Fine’?” Jack guessed, knowing the other man too well.

“You got it,” Johnston replied. “I don’t know much of what his life was like before he came to us. We knew about his real parents, but none of his previous placements. For him to be so insistent on never being a bother, they much have well and truly sucked. It took me months to convince him it was not only okay, but expected of him to get into trouble and make our parents lives more colorful.”

Jack couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he thought of the ‘color’ one Daniel Jackson had brought to a rather bland military installation. “He’s certainly gotten good at that, huh?”

“Gotten good at what?” a very familiar, if slightly petulant voice sounded from across the room.

O’Neill looked over to see his friend leaning over the side of his bed, trying to listen in on their conversation. The man looked uncomfortable, but Jack could not tell if it was from his position on the bed, or simply the knowledge of just how many bruises were currently being squashed and/or pulled. Doctor Fraiser stood to the side, pointedly ignoring his antics and making notations in a chart as she finished with whatever she had been doing. “Never you mind,” he haughtily told his teammate. “We were having a private conversation over here.” He tried to keep a straight face, but failed miserably, much to Daniel’s amusement.

“Yeah, private,” Daniel snorted. “About my life so spill,” he demanded.

“Oh, you know, something about you and making our lives colorful,” Jack shrugged as if it were nothing. “He hasn’t gotten to the ‘trouble magnet’ part yet, but I think that’s next.”

“Oh, like either one of you are ones to talk,” Daniel huffed in mock exasperation.

“Oh, really?” Jack baited, drifting from the side of Michael’s bed over to his teammate’s to let the doctor begin her exam on her second patient. The two bantered back and forth for a while, each trying to one-up the other without listing actual place names or planet designations in front of their guest.

Michael listened to them and shook his head before returning his attention to the petite woman at his side. “Are they always like this?” he asked, jerking his thumb at the curtain that once again separated them.

“Pretty much,” she agreed, tucking her supplies away. She grabbed the second folder and jotted down a few notes before signing off on it and closing it. “You should see them when they really get going,” she teased, pulling back the fabric with a flourish.

“Hey, we resemble that remark!” Daniel protested with a grin from across the room.

Janet allowed herself to smile in return. Her friend looked awful, but it could have been worse. The fact he was able to joke around so soon after the attack was testament to both his resiliency and his condition. She hated what those men did to him and Doctor Johnston, but was grateful the two men had made it out relatively unscathed considering what could have happened. What if the people from the bar hadn’t seen them? What if Ferretti’s team had been a few minutes too late? What if there had been a gun instead of a knife? There were too many what ifs and maybes for her liking but, thankfully, the men before her happened to have just enough luck to pull it off: enough bad luck to attract trouble, and enough good luck to survive it.

“So, what’s the prognosis, Doc?” O’Neill asked, drawing her from her thoughts. He leaned against the hospital bed casually, but his eyes belied his concern.

“Scrapes and bruises for the most part, though the x-rays in the file show Doctor Jackson managed to crack two ribs and Doctor Johnston severely bruised one of his,” she reported dutifully, knowing she was addressing more than a commanding officer. She turned her attention to her patients. “Both of you will be free to go as soon as we can get the discharges processed and the pharmacy to deliver drugs I fully expect both to take. I’m prescribing a mild antibiotic for the scrapes because who knows what was in that alley, and a pain reliever that is also an anti-inflammatory to take down the swelling so I don’t want to see you try to out-macho each other by not taking it.”

Daniel opened his mouth to protest, but changed his mind at the look he received. “How about I just take it until I don’t hurt anymore?” he wheedled.

“Don’t hurt for real, or don’t hurt because you don’t want anyone to know?” Jack asked, earning him a scowl.

“I want you to take it until it’s gone,” Janet directed. She paused, already seeing the cogs in his mind turning. “And I mean gone as in you have taken every dose as prescribed; it doesn’t count if you accidentally lost or flushed the bottle down the toilet,” she added. She smirked at his frown, having caught him in his scheming phase for a change. “Don’t make me have to assign someone to dole out the pills,” she threatened.

“Oh, I think someone has already volunteered,” her patient muttered petulantly, giving a certain grinning Colonel the evil eye.

Janet ignored the attitude from long years of practice. “I’ll have some food sent up while you wait,” she informed them, earning disgusted faces from both men. “I know you had some breakfast already, but eating the toast and leaving the eggs on the tray does not constitute a real meal,” she told them, clearly having seen the cart in the hallway.

“Can’t we just go out to breakfast or brunch or whatever it is now instead?” Michael asked. “I mean, how long is this going to take?” He batted his green eyes at her in a perfect imitation of the man across the room from him.

“Definitely family,” Jack chuckled. It would appear that at least some of the famous Jackson Mannerisms could be taught. Turning to the man who had just spoke, he said, “You, son, have never dealt with the military. Take any estimation you may have and triple it – one time for every copy of every form they have to fill out.”

Fraiser, for her part, simply sighed and headed for the door where what she saw made her sigh again. “Does anyone listen to me? Ever?” she asked the tiled ceiling above her. Turning to the approaching figure, she accused, “You were supposed to wait until I called you. What happened to not seeing your face until 10:00?”

“It’s 10:01,” O’Neill pointed out proudly, checking his watch as his second in command strolled up to the room. “She’s right on time.”

“Not helping, sir,” Janet growled under her breath. Louder, she demanded, “Hand it over.”

Sam dutifully pulled a small thermos out of the inside of her jacket, hesitating only slightly before handing it to the other woman. “It was worth a shot,” she shrugged, still holding on to a paper bag. “You know how he is without his morning fix.”

Janet simply shook her head in exasperation and tucked the metal container under her arm. A quick peek at the package her friend carried, and she gave her nod of approval. “Did you get any sleep at all? And do I dare ask what happened to the houseful of teenagers?” She tried to sound harsh, but her true exhaustion showed instead.

“I slept,” the taller woman defended herself. “And the houseful of teenagers headed to their natural habitat of the mall with a twenty and the hopes of replacing your mixing bowl which they are all seriously hoping was not a family heirloom. Everything else has been relatively cleaned up and we’ll do the rest when we get home.”

“Mixing bowl?” the smaller woman echoed, a look of disbelief on her face.

“Don’t ask, you don’t want to know,” Sam rushed to assure her, though it was clear by the physician’s expression her words were less than effective. “Though that reminds me, we need to add flour to the shopping list, I couldn’t get all the pieces out,” she said more to herself than anyone else.

Taking advantage of Janet’s guppy impression, she darted around her and into the room. A few quick strides and she was at her teammate’s bedside. “Daniel!” she exclaimed, her apparent enthusiasm at contrast to the gentleness she used when she wrapped her arms around him. She pulled back, eyeing him critically, cataloguing all the scrapes and bruises she saw. “You look like crap,” she announced.

The object of her current attention leaned back against his pillows with a laugh. “Aww, you always know just what to say,” he mock sighed. Normally he would have batted his eyes at her and clasped his hands to his chest like the fabled heroine, but one eye was barely moving and his hands were still a mass of wires and bandages. From the wry smile he received for his efforts though, she still got the joke.

“I try,” she agreed cheekily. Turning to the other patient, she said, “Good morning, Michael! You look so much better this morning, and conscious!”

He smiled, only wincing slightly when his split lip pulled at the action. “And good morning to you, Miss – or is it Major – Carter,” he replied graciously. “A pleasure to see you again.” His over the top formality forced a giggle from the military woman’s lips.

“You two know each other?” Daniel asked, a bit confused. His memories from the end of the night were hazy at best, but he figured that had been due to his lack of being fully conscious.

“Oh yeah,” Carter enthused. “We go way back, hours at least.”

“I’ll never forget the time I passed out in her, I mean, your car and had to be hauled into the ER. Fun times,” Michael added wistfully, playing along.

“Just how bad is my car?” Daniel asked wearily.

“It’s fine, I swear,” Sam promised.

“You can barely tell where she took out that sign post,” Michael stated solemnly.

Daniel just glared at them, or at least attempted to. The effect was pretty much lost as, without his glasses, his gaze ended up roughly at their shoulders.

“On that note, I’ll go get things started,” Janet announced. She headed out the door with a shake of her head and a smile on her lips. She had the test results in her hands, knew for certain that Daniel had suffered no more than cuts and bruises. She felt the tightness that had encircled her chest when she first heard the news last night begin to loosen and actually felt comfortable letting her friend out of her sight for a few moments. Sam and the Colonel were there, things were going to be fine. The fact she would be back in there in a matter of minutes didn’t hurt either.

“Okay, she’s gone, give it up,” Daniel demanded the moment Fraiser was out of range.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sam replied demurely, tucking the bag behind her. She even had the audacity to bat her eyes at him.

“Like you would visit and not bring anything,” her injured teammate huffed. He tried snapping his fingers, but the bandages got in the way of producing any real sound. Seeing the sympathetic look he received at that realization, he figured he could work it to his advantage. “Come on, Sam, I’ve only had one coffee this morning, you can’t expect me to be that patient.”

Carter sighed, giving in. She never could resist the combination of both the eyes and the voice, and he was playing it for all it was worth right now. She tossed the white waxed paper sack to him, watching as he tore into it. “I figured chocolate walnut cookies were out what with it being morning. I know, I know, ‘It’s never to early for cookies,’ right? I also didn’t know if you’d be up to chewing anything hard, thus the croissants,” she explained. “But, hey, they’re chocolate, so that counts,” she defended herself, carefully extricating two of the confections from the bag and handing one to Michael.

“Most definitely counts,” the other patient agreed. He took a bit of pastry and hummed with pleasure. “So much better than the rubber they tried to pass off as eggs this morning,” he commented.

Sam made a face, only imagining how awful military hospital food was at the Academy. The SGC was not known for its gourmet chefs, but even they had better food. She munched away at her treat, watching as the Colonel tried to steal bites from Daniel’s until the linguist finally gave up and handed him the last half of the one he had been working on and grabbed a fresh one from the bag. “Ooh, I almost forgot,” she said, snapping her fingers. Reaching into her coat pocket, she pulled out a shiny metal flask and flipped it onto Daniel’s bed.

“Carter?” O’Neill asked wearily.

“French roast,” she explained, watching as the man on the bed twisted open the top and a puff of steam rose like mist at dawn. “I couldn’t find the Kona blend, she must have hid it,” she apologized.

“Got another one of those?” Michael begged hopefully. He was rewarded when she dug in her other pocket and tossed a nearly identical flask his way. He opened it to find his own little piece of heaven, about eight ounces worth to be exact. “I thought the doctor confiscated your stash,” he commented after taking a deep pull from the top.

“Flasks are like knives,” she smiled. Her toothy grin told him she may have had a lot of experience with both.

“Have one to find and one to keep?” Jack guessed, perching himself on the edge of Daniel’s bed and taking a sniff to ensure the contents were caffeinated and nothing more.

“Or, in this case, one for Janet to take and a couple to pass out to the addicts,” she confirmed. She reached behind her and pulled out a third, circular shaped one from roughly the small of her back. Single-handedly, she thumbed open the top and took a sip before happily munching on the rest of her croissant.

“Bet it’s hell going through airports with you,” Michael muttered with raised eyebrows, but the gleam in his eyes let her know it was all in fun.

“Naw,” O’Neill drawled. “That’s what security clearances are for.”

They chatted for a while longer as they finished their impromptu meal, with Carter quickly collecting the emptied flasks when the SFs warned them that Doctor Fraiser was returning. Surprisingly, she did not return alone.

“It would appear that you have visitors,” she informed them as she stepped into the room.

Daniel looked at her, then to the people already in the room, then back to her while raising the only eyebrow he could comfortably move at that time.

“Oh, hush,” she admonished. She sniffed the air with suspicion before leveling her gaze on one overly-innocent appearing Major. She gave her a look that promised the matter would be addressed later before retuning her attention to the injured man. “More visitors,” she amended, motioning to the towering hulk of their missing teammate who had just entered the room.

“Daniel Jackson, it is good to see you are doing well,” Teal’c intoned, approaching his friend’s bed. “And you as well, Michael Johnston,” he added with a nod towards the other man.

“I wouldn’t say ‘well’ just yet, but definitely better,” Daniel told him. “Not that I’m not glad you’re here, but how did you get here? And what’s with the hat?” The last was asked with a hand waved roughly in the direction of the Jaffa’s headgear of choice, currently a baseball cap emblazoned with the Air Force logo. True, Mikey was there, but they could always explain away the tattoo as a tribal custom as they had in the past.

“General Hammond assigned an Airman to drive me to this Academy Hospital in which you currently dwell. He sends his wishes for a timely recovery,” Teal’c replied, answering the first part of the question. “As do they,” he added, turning slowly towards the doorway in silent answer to the second part.

Framed by the metal doorway and the two SFs were a trio of would-be strangers, smiling over-bright and extremely nervous toothy grins while staying neatly behind the doorjamb. It was the giddy little wave from two of the three visitors that really made the scene.

Daniel squinted to try to bring the fuzzy image into better focus while the Jaffa answered what he knew to be the next question. “J.J. Arnet, Allen Davies, and Susie Courtland are employed at The Metro and were participants in the capture of the Stooges last night.”

“Ah, the rescuers,” Jack clarified. “Let them in,” he ordered the guards. The two men stepped to the side and allowed the three civilians to enter, and Jack tried desperately not to laugh at the expressions on their faces as they edged past the armed soldiers. “What brings you here?” he asked as they formed a neat little line centered right between the two beds.

Seeing that the two big and usually bold men she was with were suddenly at a loss for words, Susie spoke up. “We just wanted to stop by and see for ourselves that everything was alright. It’s not everyday we’re involved in a little escapade like last night,” she shrugged. She tried to look nonchalant, but O’Neill noticed the way her gaze kept drifting around the room, settling on certain people more often than not.

“And your involvement was very much appreciated,” Sam told her, earning her a winning grin.

“To say it was bad for business would be trite,” Susie told her honestly. “Frankly, I don’t think a single one of us could have stood by knowing someone was getting hurt and we could do something to stop it.”

“I believe that goes for everyone in this room,” Janet agreed, startling the young woman by suddenly appearing at Sam’s side. She was so little she had faded into the background a moment before. But, Janet being Janet, that never lasted long.

Susie’s winning grin lost a few watts at Janet’s proximity to Sam, but other than that, she seemed to take everything in stride. “Right, well, we won’t stay long,” the bartender promised. “We just wanted to check in and drop off a few ‘get well’ wishes, that sort of thing,” she said, regaining a bit more of her bravado.

“We come bearing gifts,” J.J. interrupted, finally speaking for the first time and digging his friend out of the hole she was rapidly finding herself in.

“You really didn’t have to,” Daniel protested.

“We wanted to,” Susie insisted. She handed Jack the large white box she had been carrying. “A gift from Oscar’s,” she explained, watching as the older man peeked under the lid.

“Score!” O’Neill enthused. “It’s one of those chocolate cakes, but the whole thing this time – enough for both Danny and me!”

Carter pointedly cleared her throat next to him.

“Okay, so we’ll share,” he amended, a little less enthusiastically.

“The manager wanted to do something for you, he felt so bad that everything happened right outside his shop. I mentioned the chocolate cake love going on and he insisted I give this to you,” Susie explained, shoving her hands into the back pockets of the jeans she wore. “He also promised free drinks the next time you come in,” she added, smiling when she saw matching black eyes light up at the mention of free coffee.

“That goes for the Metro too, for all of you, if you ever stop by,” J.J. added, knowing the likelihood of military personnel visiting an openly gay establishment. “Let’s just say we know the owners and they would be more than happy to have you.” He smirked at his own double-entendre.

“And free virtual drinks for those of you on painkillers,” Allen chirped with a knowing look between the two patients and the small woman in the lab coat. Doctor Fraiser rewarded him with a smile.

“We’ll see if we can make it,” Jack promised, surprising the impromptu crowd.

“Just in case you can’t, we also brought you something a bit more tangible,” J.J. said, offering them an out. His hands were still tucked around his back, like his cohort’s, but with a nod they both presented their presents at once. The bouncer headed over to where Daniel lay, offering out a small, fuzzy, stuffed raccoon. “We figured he would bear an uncanny resemblance to you by now,” he explained, motioning to the black eye and bruises covering the archeologist’s face.

Daniel chuckled his thanks, taking the toy gratefully and placing it proudly on the bed next to him. “What did you get, Mikey?” he called to his foster brother.

His injured sibling held up the stuffed animal Allen had proudly given him, this one covered in soft red fur. “Um, a fox,” Michael answered, confusion coloring his tone. He had dark hair, not red like the animal, though both had nearly the same shade of green eyes. He did not understand the correlation.

“Because you are one,” the doorman said with a wink, causing the man to rapidly turn the same color as his new companion.

“And, with that, we’re out of here,” Susie laughed, dragging the other two with her in a near mad rush for the door. In her wake, she left one open mouthed recent PhD and a crowd of crowing SGC workers behind.

“I think he likes you,” Daniel pointed out once he was able to get his laughter under control. He clutched at his aching ribs, but even the pain could not dull the mirth of seeing the shocked expression on Michael’s still crimson face.

“I never would have guessed,” his brother deadpanned, trying to regain both his composure and his dignity.

“I would have,” Jack helpfully chimed in.

“Really?” Daniel innocently asked, still gasping for breath.

“Really,” Jack confirmed with a nod. “The phone number and email address written on the tag of that thing really give it away.”

~~~~~

“Jack, were you serious earlier?” Daniel called from his place on the couch. On his lap was the little stuffed raccoon from earlier, now outfitted with a pair of paperclip glasses courtesy of one odd astrophysicist.

He and his brother had been discharged from the hospital and sent home, to his apartment in this case, with strict instructions to do nothing strenuous for the next several days. Jack was taking the orders seriously for once and had assigned one archeologist to one couch, and the other to the other. Neither were to lift a finger if he could help it. They had already stopped by Michael’s hotel and packed up his belongings. The bags were currently tucked off to the side and out of the way with the little red fox proudly standing guard over them.

“Huh?” the ever-eloquent Colonel asked as he puttered around in the other room.

“Earlier, at the hospital, when you took up J.J.’s offer of free drinks, were you serious?”

“That? Yeah, of course I was,” Jack shrugged, walking into the living room with extra pillows for the two injured men. He tossed one to Teal’c to give to Michael to get himself situated, and personally tucked the other one behind Daniel, ignoring the eye roll he received for his actions.

“Are you sure you want to do that? I mean, you know as well as I do, if not better at this point, what kind of rumors have to be flying around the mountain. Won’t we just be setting ourselves up to get the crap beat out of us, and by our own people this time?” the civilian asked with a wince. He was nervously fiddling with his new toy, rebending the metal to better fit its pointy ears.

Jack pushed his friend’s feet out of the way and sat down at the end of the couch, turning slightly to face him as he spoke. A quick nudge ensured he got his full attention and even eye contact for a change. “The way I see it is this: we go once out of thanks of the people who stepped in and saved a good friend from possibly being a dead friend. We like it and the people there who went above and beyond the call of duty by stepping up to make a difference. Hell, even Ferretti’s talking about stopping by. He thinks it will help to kill the rumors if more of us show up and let it be known it’s a friendly place to be.”

“Plus, having a military presence there will help deter crap like this from happening in the future,” Sam chimed in from the kitchen. She leaned over the buffet bar and poked her head around the corner. “Where are the plates? The little ones, not the dinner ones.”

“Top left corner by the sink,” O’Neill called back. Turning back to the topic at hand, he added, “It may also help with acceptance in the long run. If military personnel can be friends with openly gay people, it will help take some of the stigma away.”

“It is a sound strategic maneuver,” Teal’c advised, seating himself in one of the overstuffed chairs. He had previously had long discussions with his teammates regarding the social implications of homosexuality and how they differed from those of his own people. He, like they, did not agree with the current predominant views, but understood acceptance and change took time and patience.

“Plus, we might have just found another place to party,” Janet called from the other side of the kitchen. Daniel could hear her grin without even seeing it. The little doctor usually ended up drinking them all under the table, with the exception of their Jaffa friend who refused to imbibe. She claimed it was her Southern upbringing. He reasoned it was actually her years in Med School, knowing her down time there was probably pretty similar to his down time in Grad School. “Where are the glasses? And before you say it, they are for milk and nothing more,” she chided, knowing her own reputation.

“Middle shelf, top cupboard, next to the sink,” Jack answered. He had been told to keep the two patients company and make sure they were comfortable while the Majors doled out the cake. Personally, he was thinking it was their way of making sure everyone got their fair share and he didn’t hog it for himself. He really could not fault their reasoning. The friendly bickering from the other room gave him another reason to stay clear of the area. A quick look to the others showed they agreed it was a wise tactical move.

“I can reach them, you got the plates,” Fraiser was saying. There was a very unladylike snort that sounded suspiciously like his second in command followed by a certain petite physician growling, “Are you trying to imply I’m short? Answer carefully, as if your life depends on it.”

“I’m not trying to imply anything,” Sam replied cheerily, before adding a barely heard, “Facts are fact, no implications necessary.”

“You, Major, just guaranteed yourself downtime,” Janet declared.

From where they were in the living room, they could not see what was going on, but all four men could imagine how the scene was playing out. “Oh, don’t even try that!” the doctor exclaimed. “It’s going to take far more sucking up than that to get over that comment. Well, okay, maybe not a lot more... Now you’re just trying to distract me. Get out of here!”

Michael’s eyebrows were nearly at his hairline when he cleared his throat and commented, “So, I, um, take it the two of them are together?” He blinked a few times as if trying to wrap his mind around something.

“Yup,” Sam confirmed, coming into the room and sitting down on the floor across from him. “Janet’s in the kitchen using her surgeon skills to demolish the cake,” she explained in an aside to her friends, jerking a thumb in the direction of the other room.

“I heard that!” came the expected call. “You’re so not helping your case for leniency.”

Carter simply shrugged with a wolfish smile, obviously used to such behavior and most likely looking forward to the making up part of the argument.

Michael looked between the two men on the couch opposite of him, noticing for the first time the way his brother’s feet rested in the Colonel’s lap, the officer’s arm draped casually over the top of his ankles. “And, you?” he asked, swallowing heavily while waving a hand in their rough direction.

Daniel looked at his lover for a moment, seeking and gaining permission with a single glance. “Yup,” he echoed the confirmation proudly. Letting only a hint of the nervousness racing through him come to the surface, he asked, “It this going to be a problem?” He made a conscious effort to loosen his hold on his stuffed animal, feeling a reassuring squeeze on his foot offer any and all of the support he should need.

Michael seemed to study him for a moment, pulling his lower lip between his teeth before he remembered it was split and still healing. “No,” he finally answered. “But it does make a lot of things make a lot of sense,” he conceded.

“Do you blame me... for this?” Daniel asked, his eyes tracing every mark on his brother’s face and neck. “Those men, they said they knew the type. If I did anything, said anything, to clue them in, to set them off...”

“No!” Michael vehemently protested. “Those guys were asses, plain and simple. Nothing you did made any difference to them. They had probably never seen two guys show any real emotion, do anything more than slap each other on the back and move on. We didn’t fit their little preconceived notion of how real men should act and that made us less to them. Being that their collective IQ was probably somewhere around the average street rat’s probably didn’t help any either.”

“But,” Daniel started.

“No buts,” the younger man cut him off. “I have friends who are flamboyantly gay and friends that are straight as a stick and we all hang out, all the time, in all sorts of combinations, and no one thinks anything of it. We don’t act differently or have different expectations of each other when we go out. Sexuality doesn’t define us. Some of the straight guys fit the stereotypes for being gay and some of the gay guys fit the stereotypes of being straight. Do we care? No. The only difference it makes is who we tease when someone hot walks by.” He added the last part with a smirk, effectively ending his rant.

Before his brother could get a word in edgewise, Michael asked, “Did you go around screaming to the hills ‘I’m a fagot, come use me as a punching bag’?”

“Of course not,” Daniel scoffed, reluctantly getting the point.

“Well, he does occasionally scream things to the hills, but I don’t recall those words ever making it out, or really coherent thoughts in general,” Jack mused, earning him a throw pillow tossed in his direction. He easily batted it away before returning his focus to the man on the other couch. “Are you okay with this, really?”

“Yes,” Michael confirmed, stressing the word. He looked the other man in the eye as he said, “My big brother is happy and very clearly loved. What else could I hope for?”

“How about some chocolate cake?” Janet tried, appearing at the doorway to the kitchen with a plate in each hand. She had heard the entire discussion and waited to make her entrance until there was some sort of resolution.

“That would be lovely,” Michael said with a sigh, flopping back against his pillow and signaling the end of the debate. He gratefully accepted the plate and fork from the doctor, biting back a chuckle as he noticed his pain pill and antibiotic serving as decorative garnish for the sweet confection.

Teal’c rose from his chair to help pass out the plates while Sam dutifully handed out the glasses of milk. Jack watched as Daniel swallowed his own pills down with a sip of the drink, commenting on how maybe Fraiser had finally found a way to get the linguist to take his meds and wondering if she was going to get the patent on the chocolate coating. They bantered for a while, enjoying the treat, and the company.

Daniel soon finished his last bite and reached to put the plate down on the table beside him. Sam helpfully took it and added it to the stack of her own and Janet’s. “So, how much trouble are we in?” he asked his partner, tucking his toes under the older man’s thighs, purely for warmth of course.

“Which we and what for?” Jack yawned. The past twenty-four hours were starting to catch up with him and he was getting ready to pass out.

“Me for getting myself into this mess, and you for sending in an armed squad to stop a civilian matter,” the archeologist clarified.

“Don’t forget me for being part of that armed squad,” Sam chimed in.

“Or I as well,” Teal’c intoned.

“No one’s in trouble,” Jack promised. “Well, maybe the Stooges are,” he amended after a pause.

“What did the General have to say about all of this?” It was now Daniel’s turn to yawn, silently cursing the pills Janet had given him while doing so. He knew he most likely would not be awake for much longer. A quick glance over to his brother showed he was not doing much better.

“General Hammond stated, and I quote, ‘that given the information available at the time of the attack, the correct action was taken to ensure a valuable member of the program was not compromised,’ end quote,” O’Neill replied, doing his best imitation of his commanding officer as he spoke.

“Ooh, Danny, you got called valuable! I guess you weren’t lying about liking where you work after all!” Michael teased.

Daniel ignored the ribbing, still not certain he was getting off the hook so easily after all. “And the aftermath? What happens now?” He was imagining a possible trial and needing to coordinate both being on the planet for it and avoiding any intergalactic emergencies until it was over, not to mention covering up what he did for a living or the probability that the fires that had been put out at the base last night would flare up again as everything was rehashed, only this time in the public eye.

“No aftermath.”

“What?” Daniel demanded, noticing he was not the only one showing surprise at the declaration. Even Teal’c raised his eyebrow at the news.

“The Stooges admitted to everything on tape and a plea bargain was reached to avoid any formal testimony or military involvement,” Jack explained. He saw his lover scowl at the possibility of the men getting off lightly and quickly reassured him. “They are getting the maximum penalty available, don’t worry.”

“If they’re getting the maximum penalty, how exactly is that a bargain for them?” Michael asked, screwing up his face in a look of confusion.

Jack shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, but not quite making it what with the smirk on his face and all. “They may have possibly been a bit intimidated by the squad of Marines guarding them when the offer was made,” he admitted.

“Heh, Danny, you certainly live an interesting life,” his little brother chuckled.

“You don’t know the half of it,” he muttered in response. He was not fully comfortable with the intimidation factor of the proceedings, but had to admit it was the best possible result. The military could not hold them because it was technically a civilian matter. If it had come to a civilian court, it would have taken a lot of maneuvering to get around the top secret aspects of his life, not to mention the likelihood of flat out being asked if he was gay while under oath. A plea bargain was the best way to get around any of that, but he hated the idea of the thugs getting off easy and going out to do this to someone else later on down the line. This way everyone got what they needed, and what they deserved.

Jack’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “I almost forgot! Hammond also said you were to take three days down time to recuperate before coming back to be reviewed to be approved for duty.”

“My flight doesn’t leave until Wednesday, so that works out great,” Michael stated with surprise.

“What a remarkable coincidence,” Sam smiled.

“That’s certainly one word for it,” Daniel mused, figuring Jack may have had something to do with the timing aspect of it.

“Indeed it is,” Teal’c commented, and his friend could have sworn he saw the briefest hint of a smirk on the larger man’s face.

“And I fully expect to see you both at least once during that time,” Janet declared. “I want to make sure everything is healing the way it is supposed to before I release Doctor Johnston to the wild and Doctor Jackson to his team.”

“I think we’ve might have been insulted,” Sam mock pouted.

“I think there’s no ‘might’ about it,” her commanding officer confirmed. He caught both injured archeologists yawning, again, and struggling to keep their eyes open. “How ‘bout we call it a day, kids?” he suggested, subtly motioning to the two men.

Carter and Teal’c gathered the plates and glasses and loaded them into the sink for the Colonel to wash later while Janet did one last cursory check of her patients. With a nod of satisfaction, she brushed a bit of hair off of Daniel’s forehead. “Sleep well,” she whispered before heading towards the door.

Sam said her goodbyes to Michael and placed a gentle kiss on her teammate’s cheek. “I’ll call you tomorrow to see if you need anything,” she promised as she walked away.

Teal’c said his simple farewells to his new and old friends and joined the two women at the door. A final nod and the three left, leaving Jack as caregiver for the time being. Sam had left several takeout menus behind and Janet had left a list of explicit instructions, so neither woman was concerned.

“Do you want to sleep here, or the bed?” Jack asked after closing the door behind them. Daniel did not have a spare room, but he did have one of the most comfortable sofa beds around, and Jack was more than willing to set it up if needed.

“Here now, bed later,” Daniel yawned, snuggling under the blanket he had pulled off the back of the couch. Jack noted with glee the stuffed animal still held in his hands as he did so.

Michael gratefully accepted the cover Jack had found for him and readjusted his pillow to a more comfortable position. He rolled his eyes as his little fox was placed next to him. “These pills better not knock me out like this every time,” he muttered, struggling to keep awake just a minute longer.

“Why, you got big plans?”

“I wanted to go over the expedition notes one more time before I leave, and would love your input if you would be so willing,” he began, addressing the other archeologist and taking the nod from the man on the other couch as acceptance. “I’d also like to take advantage of this time and actually hang out with you for the first time in like forever.” Another drowsy nod, another acceptance. “Oh, and I need to call Allen and see where things go from there,” he ended with a wink.

Daniel’s eyes shot fully open as he cranked his head in the direction of his brother, ignoring the twinge of pain at the action. His mouth hung open for a moment as he stared at the man across the room before breaking into a fit of laughter.

“Yup, apparently they did know our ‘type’,” Michael confirmed, joining in with a chuckle of his own.

Jack simply shook his head and turned off the lights in the living room. “Definitely brothers,” he muttered as he wandered off to the other room, leaving his lover alone with his family. They may not be family by blood, but then the deepest bonds rarely were.

End.
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