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Esprit de Corps

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co-written with dear G.

J. J. Ruadh stared up at Daniel, her long braid coiled around her shoulder like a snake. He stared back, feeling his lip curl in frustration with her. "Doctor Jackson," she said coldly, and turned.

"J. J."

She turned back, sighing with impatience. "J. J., you need to remember that SG-1 is a field unit." He couldn't believe he was parroting Jack back to her. "That means I won't be here. I need to be able to rely on the department to function in my absence."

"I understand." She looked offended. "Are you suggesting that I can't function in your absence?"

"No, no, of course not." He resisted the temptation to rub his aching head. "However, you've made it very clear you think I should be here more often. That just isn't possible. I can't be here and do my work with SG-1."

She just stared at him. They'd had this conversation before; he could only assume they'd have it again. But Jesus, it was getting old.

"Knock, knock," Jack called, and Daniel looked away from J. J. with relief. "Ooh, bad time."

"No, Jack. Come in. J. J. was just leaving." She nodded at Daniel, ignored Jack, and walked out, bristling with irritation. Daniel half-fell into his chair.

"She's a rare handful," Jack observed, his eyebrows raised.

"You're tellin' me." Daniel realized again how much he sounded like Jack.

"What's it about this time?"

"You don't want to know." He turned away, but Jack caught him by the elbow.

"Pretend I do."

Daniel raised his eyebrows and sighed. "Okay. But shut the door. I'll make coffee."

He busied himself, relaxing into the ritual. He loved coffee, everything about it -- its history; its effect; the smell that evoked a childhood spent in Arab countries, a people who really understood coffee. At last he stepped back and turned to find Jack seated on the battered sofa, watching him, a fond smile on his face. Jack nodded, and gestured for Daniel to start.

"Well, it's politics, I guess. Departmental politics. J. J. thinks I should be here more. She wants a stronger presence. Says the other members of the department need more guidance."

"What do you think?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. They do all right." He realized he sounded a little defensive. "They do fine. I'm not off-world *all* the time."

"When you are here, on base, what do you do?" He looked blankly at Jack, who added, "You know. Have meetings? Review their work? Stuff like that?"

"Well. Not really. I mean, they're all grown-ups. They don't need their hands held." Jack rolled his head back, looking at him oddly. Daniel was reminded of a skittish horse. "What. What?"

"Can I make a suggestion?"

"Yeah, sure. Fire J. J.?"

He smiled. "Naw. Not just yet. First, though, I think you need to do a little team-building."

"Oh, come on. We're not in the military. We're academics. We don't do teams." Jack just looked at him. "What? What?" When he didn't say anything, Daniel said slowly, "You did something. You did team-building with SG-1."

"Bingo." Jack gave Daniel one of his rare full-bore smiles, and Daniel felt himself smile helplessly back. "I had to, Daniel. We had to become a team fast. Hammond wasn't wild about having you on it; you know that. A civilian, the guy I lied about and left behind. And Teal'c -- my god. A fucking *alien*. And then Carter, Ms. Feminist Nation.

"I had to bind you guys together -- to me, and to each other. And I had almost no time to do it."

A little embarrassed, Daniel nodded. "Well, from my perspective, it worked. What did you do?"

"Lotta things. Some stuff you only do in the field, so it wouldn't apply to your department. But some stuff would."

"Like?"

"Hmm. Like, who's your enemy? Nothing brings people together faster than joining against a common enemy."

"Well, the Goa'uld, of course."

"Yeah, but they're out there --" and he waved his coffee mug. "What about here? Who's the enemy you all face?"

Daniel smiled, a little evilly. "The military."

"Again, I say bingo. You guys hate us. Dunno why -- I like the uniform. Is it the ribbons?"

"Ha ha."

"No, really, I understand. I even agree a little. You don't like the rigidity, the rules. My experience of academics comes almost entirely from working with you, so obviously it's a little skewed," and Jack grinned as Daniel made an exasperated face at him, "but you get frustrated by having to follow procedures. You think first, and value your independence.

"But, see, Daniel, we're a team first and individuals second. Especially out in the field. We have to think of each other first, or else someone could get killed. You know that."

Reluctantly, Daniel said, "I do know that, Jack. I've learned a lot from you over the years. But I don't like so much of it."

"And that's okay. I've never asked you to like it, have I?"

Daniel stared at him. "No," he said at last, a little surprised at the realization. "No, you never did."

Jack shrugged. "See, liking the military doesn't enter into it when you and I work together. How many times have you referred to me by my title? Which technically you should, *especially* in the field. But forcing you to do that would have defeated my purpose, which was to form a team. You'd have been pissed at me every single time you opened your mouth."

"Yeah, I would've," Daniel agreed, but he was remembering the course of their relationship. First a purely working one, slightly antagonistic, but soon -- too soon, for Jack, Daniel knew -- they'd met each other on personal ground. The loss of Jack's son, Kasuf's gift of Sha'uri to Daniel, their decision to save Abydos, had bound them into a forced complicity that held them even now, now that these were no longer secrets.

"So, you got a bunch of academics working for the Air Force on a top secret project. They can't tell their families shit. Some of them go off-world; some of them get killed. What ties them to you, as their department head?"

Daniel shook his head.

"You gotta assess each one. Like J. J.; she's easy. She wants you here. I dunno what for -- to check her work? Maybe she needs a lot of approval? Or Dave Crvk. I like him a lot. Real easy-going guy, likes sports, drinks beer, but show him a rock and he's gone for days, yadda yadda yadda. He's good at connecting with folks. He talks to everybody -- you ever see him in the commissary? He'll be talking to the jarheads, to the SFs, to Carter, to Hammond, to the goddamn cook. And everybody calls him 'Dave.'"

"So what does Dave need from me that would help me form a, a team?"

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Jesus, Daniel. He's a talker. Just sit down and *talk* to him once in a while. Let him tell you about the Packers; he's nuts about them. Did you know that?" Daniel shook his head. "Christ, have you been to the guy's office? And he's from Georgia. So you could ask him: how'd a nice Georgia cracker like you end up rootin' for Green Bay?"

"You could ask him," Daniel said, a little embarrassed. "He'd report me to the infirmary."

"Okay, so not football. But something. You give great small-talk. Hell, that's half of what the Air Force pays you to do, that's why you're on the first-contact team." He nudged Daniel's elbow. "Right?"

Daniel nodded ruefully. "Right." He thought for a minute. "So you're suggesting I do a needs analysis of each of the members of my department, and then give them what they need."

"Well, when you can. You're a busy man, and you already work long hours. You can't do much. But yeah, basically. Spend a little time with each one, once you've figured out what they need. Most people are just dyin' for someone to talk to. Just sit there and look interested. Tell J.J. what a great job she's doing. The Packers just beat the Forty-Niners; congratulate Dave. Ask Lori how her boyfriend is doing; he's a Mormon missionary in South America. See if Emmett's little girl is better; she's got real bad asthma and the altitude here isn't good for her."

Daniel stared at him. "How the fuck do you know all this?"

Jack shrugged. "It's my job. They report directly to you, but they're all SGC."

"So you know everyone on base?"

"Not everyone, no. But I recognize a lot of faces. Say hi, how are ya. Try the meatloaf, it's not too toxic."

Daniel laughed, half in amusement and half in amazement. "Jesus, Jack. I don't know what to say. I've known you all these years, but I don't know you at all."

"Well, you didn't need to. But the social scientists are breedin' like flies and now you got yourself a department that never existed before." He slapped Daniel on the back. "You're a smart guy, Daniel, and you're a world-class talker. You can do this."

They stared at each other a moment, and then Daniel nodded. "I can. And I will. Uh. Thank you, Jack. Really."

The next day, Daniel saw Dave Crvk, talking to the cook in the commissary, just as Jack had described. He stood next to him, staring at the selection of entrees, and eavesdropped. Sure enough, they were discussing the Packers. "But they're playin' the *Rams*," Dave said, and the cook, Daniel thought his name was Bill, laughed.

"Piece of cake," he said, and Dave rolled his eyes, then pointed at the sauteed chicken breasts.

"Me, too," Daniel said, and Bill scooped them both out two breasts, with rice and green beans and big chunks of garlic bread.

"So how'd a Southern boy like you end up pulling for the Packers?" Daniel asked, hardly believing he was doing so.

Dave turned to him in delighted pleasure. "Shit, Daniel. I can't believe I haven't told you this story. You knew I went to grad school at Michigan, right?"

Daniel nodded, only half listening, but mostly watching Dave's face as they made their way to a table and settled. He ate, not tasting the food, as Dave explained meeting a girl from Green Bay at a Michigan football game, and then visiting her, and then going with her dad and brother to a Packers game. "And even though we had an ugly break-up -- shit, Daniel, I mean *screaming* at each other as the Greyhound pulled away --" he still loved the Packers, and the dad called on his birthday every year.

"I thought you'd tell me you married her."

"Fuck, no. Betty *hates* football. She thought 'Firstenten' was somebody's name the first few years we were married." Daniel laughed and felt near tears. Who was this delighted man laughing with him? So happy to be talking about his wife, his team? This was the geologist, not even a social scientist, but part of Daniel's team, and he didn't even know him.

After lunch, back in his office, he thought again of Dave's pleasure, and how he, Daniel, had been an agent of that pleasure, by asking a simple question, and then remembered his first night back on earth. How Jack had taken him home, plied him with bad beer, and asked him questions about Abydos and Sha'uri. How he'd cried, but Jack hadn't passed judgment, only hugged him and comforted him, and put him in the guest bedroom where he'd lived for nearly a month.

That's how Jack had started to bind Daniel to him, he realized. Jack had been there for him, let him cry, had listened, and Daniel had never realized how much work it must've been. He was a little embarrassed in retrospect, but even more grateful to Jack than he'd been in his ignorance.

Late that afternoon Jack dropped by Daniel's office. "I gotta get off base," he said, and Daniel saw he was angry. Without a word, he powered down the computer and closed up his office, following Jack through the labyrinth of security checkpoints to the surface. They climbed into Jack's pickup and took off, heading into Colorado Springs.

"You wanna talk about it?" Daniel finally asked him.

"No." But Daniel remained silent and, sure enough, in less than a minute, Jack said, "Just the fucking politics of this place. Senator this, Congressman that, somebody's aide-de-camp wants to meet SG-1, somebody else wants to go through the gate, somebody's father wants to have his fucking ashes scattered on another world --"

"You're kidding."

"I wish I were. Hammond was speechless."

"How'd you learn all this?"

"Oh, that fucking Major Davis is here." Jack sighed. "It isn't his fault, really. He thinks the requests are as stupid as we do. But it's his job to pass them on. He's helping Hammond write up polite refusals, but I couldn't do it." He glanced at Daniel through his lashes, almost shy. "I was kind of a jerk."

Daniel laughed. "Paul knows that, and so does General Hammond."

"Well, fuck you very much, Doctor Jackson."

"Ja-ack."

"Yeah. I know. Just."

"Yeah."

They drove in silence a while longer, and then Jack slowed the truck. "I don't even know where the fuck I'm going."

"You're going to The Leaping Goat. My favorite coffee house. It has great coffee for me, and incredible pastries for you. Head toward my place; it's just around the corner and up a block."

"I know that place. You took me there once."

"Yeah. You had too much to drink. I think your hockey team lost or something."

"Great. Remind me of past failures."

"Oh, get over it, Jack. Paul does an incredible job of fending off shit like that. When we went to Moscow, he told me stories that would curl your hair. Well, curl it even more."

"So it's Paul? Not Major Davis?"

"I don't follow military procedure, as you remind me several times a day."

"I guess not. It's a wonder you don't call Hammond 'George.'"

"Well, he's different." Jack glanced at him. "I respect him."

At first, Daniel thought Jack was going to be angry, but then he laughed. "Did I really deserve that?"

"You certainly did, Ollie."

"Oh, so it's another fine mess?"

"Is there any other kind?" Daniel directed Jack into the coffee house's shared parking lot, and they climbed out of the truck.

"Pastry, hunh?" Jack rubbed his hands together. "Good idea. Good idea."

General Hammond cleared SG-1 for a mission to another planet Sam's cold dialing technique had discovered. The initial MALP readings had been intriguing, and subsequent MALP and UAV probes had revealed the region near the stargate to be dotted with small villages. Daniel had reviewed the footage and thought the technology appeared comparable to seventeenth century Europe. Cow-powered, Jack had called it, and Daniel smiled each time he remembered.

So they were scheduled to go through and he was working frantically to prepare. He had once estimated to Jack that each mission required forty hours of preparation; he was trying to fit those forty hours into three days, but he just wasn't mathematician enough. Then he bumped into J. J. Ruadh getting a flu shot. He'd had his two weeks ago, and was in the infirmary for the antihistamine cocktail Janet had devised for his off-world missions.

"Hey, J. J.," he greeted her, rubbing his arm. Jack said the nurses liked him, but he doubted it; their shots always hurt too much.

"Daniel," she said disapprovingly, and he remembered her complaints about him going off-world.

"Where are you off to now?" he forced himself to ask.

She looked as surprised as he felt. "Back to work, of course."

"Come have coffee with me. Or tea, maybe, would be better. My mother used to give me tea when I was sick."

"I'm not sick."

"No, of course not, J. J. But usually I feel a little sickish after a flu shot. I just thought . . ." He trailed off, not knowing how to finish. He just thought he'd try one of Jack's techniques on her. He should've known it wouldn't work.

To his surprise, she smiled at him. "My mother used to give me tea, too. Tetley's."

"That's what I'd get." He smiled back at her, pleased. Maybe Jack did know something about this team-building. Horrible phrase, but.

"I have to go off-world again in a few days," he told her, feeling slightly guilty. "I thought maybe we could check in with each other, on our projects."

"I think that's a very good idea."

Daniel ducked his head to hide a smile. "So. How's the translation going from P5X-679?"

"Oh, I struggle along. At first I thought it was a variation of Welsh, but there appears to be a good deal of what I think might be a variation of Portuguese mixed in."

"That's an odd combination."

"I thought so, too, until I did a little research. I was surprised at the amount of cross-pollination between Wales and Portugal during the early Middle Ages."

"Due to pilgrimages?"

"Yes, exactly." She looked at him in surprised respect. "But it's hard. The Welsh and Portuguese languages of today are so different from what they were six hundred years ago, when they were taken away from earth, where they've continued to evolve. And, of course, certain Goa'uld words have been incorporated. The culture has changed."

"All the usual problems, then."

She sighed. "Yes. The usual."

He smiled to himself, that something so unusual as cultures removed from earth could have become *the usual*. "Well, if it helps, I try to remember that Saint Jerome said that all translations were 'non versiones sed eversiones.'"

"They're not versions, they're perversions," she said thoughtfully, and nodded. "I guess that's what we have to do then. Pervert the original."

"Because it's all we can do." They stood in the doorway to the commissary. "Tea, I think," Daniel said, and led the way in.

While he listened to J. J. ponder the ways in which languages evolve in isolated environments, Daniel thought again about the phrase "team-building." He'd first run into it when he'd been an undergraduate, working at a copy place not far from UCLA. That had been back in the days when copy machines had been intricate, stinky, cacophonous behemoths. His boss, a well-meaning Berkeley grad, had gone in for orientations and mini-retreats and team-building exercises; he must've been a psych major, Daniel realized twenty years later, working on a graduate degree at UCLA. Daniel had just thought he'd been an idiot.

He could still remember some of the exercises his boss had had them do, like draw pictures of how they thought others perceived them. Daniel was a good draftsman; he had to be, as a student of archaeology, and had made a very precise drawing of one of the fussier copiers. His boss had been so disappointed; everyone else had drawn themselves as flowers or cats or ocean waves, but Daniel drew the copier, as if he himself were the machine. He remembered his boss's rueful face as he looked at the sketch that Daniel had been so proud of.

Jesus. No wonder he was a little hostile to Jack's notion of team-building. Well, at least he'd never make any of his staff draw pictures of themselves. And he was positive Jack never would, either.

Three days later, SG-1 stepped through the gate to the cow-powered planet. Jack took a deep breath and said, "Smell that? Rural life. Ahh." All Daniel could smell was cow shit, which smelled a lot different from the camel shit he'd grown up with. But shit was shit, as Jack had told him, referring to politicians. Daniel thought it could refer to the military, too, and made a mental note to tell J. J. that. She'd enjoy it, in her quiet way.

He'd slowly been making the rounds of his department. He tried to be casual about it, but knew people were noticing the difference. He was usually so reserved and focused only on the tasks at hand. Jack had often complained that his nose was always in a book or scroll or papyrus, and he'd been right. So he had followed Jack's advice and, once a day, visited some other scientist. Lori Edwards had actually cried when he'd stopped by her office to ask about her fiance, stood before him with tears running down her face as she described the dangers he was in. Daniel didn't approve of proselytizing, he didn't approve of Mormonism's tenets, but instead of lecturing, he'd put his arms around Lori and let her weep into his Air Force blue shirt while he'd stared over her bowed head, into some middle distance of embarrassment and compassion.

When she'd finally stopped, sniffing and wiping her nose, he'd simply smiled kindly and asked when she'd last heard from him. She'd happily pulled out a battered postcard with a picture of the Andes on it, and he'd settled down for a discussion of the indigenous people of La Montana region of Peru.

He'd left nearly an hour later, emotionally drained and a little cross with Jack for suggesting he do this, but the next time he'd seen Lori she'd given him an enormous smile, and her friend Doug Hobarts, an anthropologist specializing in South American cultures, had smiled and waved, too. He'd felt gratified, and forgave Jack right then.

The teammates walked cautiously down what was obviously a trail for oxcarts, judging by the piles of manure in various states of decomposition. Teal'c was, as usual, on point, then Daniel, then Jack, and finally Sam, the four spread into a diamond-shaped position. Fields of some kind of grain spread out on their right, and to their left was an orchard of elderly trees, planted in neat rows. He stared at them, wondering if he could guess what kind of fruit they bore, but they were in blossom: small pale pink petals with dark brown flecks. He'd need to bring back a few samples for the botanists.

They stepped across a cow crossing, thick slats set perpendicular to the road, and the orchard and fields gave way to gardens, small rectangular patches. A few people, mostly women, were working in them; they stopped and stared at SG-1, but no one screamed in alarm. A little boy dressed in something like overalls approached them, but one of the women called him back sharply. Daniel smiled at the boy, who smiled back and put up his hand in greeting.

"Hello," Daniel called to the women. "We are peaceful explorers from another world, come to learn about yours."

The women stared at him and then at each other. One was young and very pretty; she giggled behind her hand at him. "Allo," she called, and giggled again. Daniel didn't have a lot of patience with giggling girls; he remembered them from his days as a TA, though, and knew how to deal with her. "Where is your mother?"

"Eh?"

Must be Canadian, he thought, smiling to himself. "Mother? Madre? Mama? Mere?"

Her eyes widened dramatically and she turned to look at an older women standing near her. "Mamay?" she called, and the woman stepped forward, raising her head.

"Mamay," Daniel murmured, wondering if that came from an earth-based language and, if so, was it one he could pick up quickly. "Allo," he called. He pointed to himself. "Daniel." After a moment, he repeated the gesture. "Daniel," he said, and then pointed to his teammates. "Jack. Sam. Teal'c."

They stood quietly, waiting to see what would happen. After a long moment, the woman pointed to herself and said, "Ellerss," and then pointed to her daughter. "Lohssa."

"Allo, Ellerss, Lohssa."

"Allo," Lohssa called, smiling delightedly, and the women drew nearer, talking among themselves. Ellerss stepped carefully around Teal'c, eyeing him curiously and staring at Sam, before stopping in front of Daniel. "Vahn zhoo," she said, or something like it.

"Bon jour," Daniel replied, crossing his fingers, and she smiled. "Comment allez-vous?"

"Vahn, vahn," she cried, staring at him in amazement and then turning to her friends. "Il parll frahhnz."

He speaks French, Daniel translated to himself, and smiled. Okay. This he could do. He glanced at Jack, who was smiling at him. "Tres bien," Jack murmured, and Sam giggled.

The people were very nice, but very poor. They'd had a hard couple years, apparently; the country had suffered much from recent droughts. This was the first year the rains had returned and, while they appreciated the rains and praised the gods for bringing them back, there was too much to do to celebrate.

During Ellerss' childhood there had also been, Daniel learned late that night, an epidemic, killing mostly adult males, leaving many widows and young women with little chance of marrying. "No wonder that girl was eyeing you up," Jack told him when they were settling down for the night. "You're probably the cutest guy on the whole planet." They were staying in their tents; the village's accommodations for guests were shabby and Daniel had insisted they not bother getting them ready for SG-1. They had enough to do, and he liked sharing a tent with Jack.

"You think I'm cute?" Daniel asked Jack, who ostentatiously ignored him.

The young women built a bonfire in the center of their little village, and the older women, with Teal'c's and Jack's help, carried out trestle tables from several homes, that they arranged in a long row, like a banquet table. Sam helped with the bonfire, and Daniel ran back and forth, trying to translate everything for everyone. He was exhausted.

And Jack was right, Daniel had been eyed up during the meet-n-greet session, but so had Jack and, especially, Teal'c. Who was, Daniel admitted, a very fine specimen of a man. Those muscles and broad shoulders had even the older ladies attentive. "What about other villages?" Daniel had asked Ellerss, who shrugged a very Gallic shrug. "La meme," was all she'd said, the same, but her eyes had slid to her daughter, dancing with friends by the fire, and Daniel wondered if Lohssa had ever had a boyfriend.

The feast, such as it was, ended early, for these people worked long and hard days. Teal'c had insisted on doing much of the cleaning up himself: moving the tables back, putting out the fire, helping the women carrying their pots and casseroles home. Jack had put up two tents, and Sam and Daniel had helped the younger women feed the cows and goats.

At last, they said goodnight, bonne soiree! bonne soiree! they'd all called, the villagers laughing at their odd accents, and then the night had fallen silent, with only the occasional stamp of a cow's foot or the wheeze of a goat to disturb the quiet.

"What a dump," Jack said when he pulled off his boots, and Daniel had to agree.

"So sad. Do you think the gene pool here is viable?"

"I doubt it. You wanna contribute?"

"Jack."

"Kidding. You know I'm kidding. Besides, I think they want Teal'c."

"No kidding."

They undressed quickly, stripping down to their underclothes before rolling into their sleeping bags. Sam had drawn the longest straw and was taking the first watch; Daniel could hear her soft footsteps as she walked the perimeter, and knew he'd sleep better because of it.

Jack sighed heavily and stretched. Daniel could hear his bones popping in the night. "Jack. I keep forgetting to thank you. I started meeting with the people in my department, and I think it's making a difference. At least, J. J. hasn't lectured me on being absent so much."

"Good. I'm glad to hear it." There was a pause, and then Jack said, "Was it hard to do?"

"Yeah." Jack laughed, but Daniel continued. "I'm serious. It's not something I would ever have thought of. Plus I'm not very good at it. The needs analysis stuff especially."

"Well, it doesn't come naturally to most folks, I don't think. But to be a leader, you need to know your people. And it's the only way I know to get to know them."

"Yeah, it makes sense. Just." Daniel sighed. "And it takes so much *time*."

"Oh, man. Got that right." They lay quietly for a bit, while Daniel thought how to formulate his next question. At last, Jack said, "What? What? I can't sleep when you're thinking so hard."

"Well, it's just -- it feels so manipulative. That bothers me."

"What does? The needs analysis? You do that all the time -- when we're off-world, on a mission. I watch you do it."

"That's different."

"No, it isn't."

"Well, it sure *feels* different."

"Maybe. But think about it. When we're off-world, like tonight, you're constantly doing needs analysis, right?"

"Well, I don't conceptualize what I'm doing in those terms, but, yes, I am. Figuring out the language, of course, and how to approach people. What their needs might be, can we meet them, can we keep from threatening them."

"Exactly. It's the same thing you should be doing with your department. And for the same reason."

"Well, hardly. Here I do it so we don't get killed or have to kill anyone unnecessarily. That's not the case on earth."

"Daniel, it is." He heard Jack twist around in his sleeping bag and saw him sit up. "What if one of your people was in trouble? Really upset, or depressed, or angry. Isn't that important information?"

Daniel thought of Lori crying in his arms. Of how angry J. J. had been with him about being off-world so much. "Well, yeah, it's important. But nobody's going to be killed if I don't do this."

Jack didn't say anything. Daniel thought again about Lori. Could she become suicidal in her fears for her fiance? Or take off for Peru without telling anyone? "You think someone might be hurt."

"I don't know anything, Daniel. If I did, I'd tell you. It's just I've served in a lot of units. And you need to be aware of your surroundings all the time, and that includes the people there. Who's having a nervous breakdown? Who's going off the deep end? Or who's just so fucking miserable that they can't sleep, and are a danger to themselves and others when driving to and from work?"

I was, Daniel thought, remembering when he'd first come back from Abydos. I was a danger. If Jack hadn't watched out for me, I don't know what would have happened.

But he just said, "You're right. I never thought of that before."

Jack lay back down and sighed again. "You're doing great, Daniel. I don't think any of us are natural leaders. And I don't think natural leaders are in general the best leaders. The best leaders are people who think about what they're doing, and try to get better at it. And that describes you to a tee."

"Thank you," he murmured, embarrassed. He really hadn't thought about any of this. He thought people either were leaders or they weren't. Jack was a leader, and he wasn't. Except he was, now. And he needed to get better.

He lay in bed thinking for a long time, remembering all the things Jack had done in the early days of SG-1. He'd been so focused on finding Sha'uri that he really hadn't paid attention. It was all military mumbo-jumbo to him. Sam had kindly taken him aside a few times, to explain procedures and policies; sometimes he'd listened, but mostly he'd blown her off. And now he realized that she, too, had taken care of him. Like a baby, he told himself, embarrassed at his younger self.

But that's what leaders do. He knew that's what Jack would tell him, were he to confess his embarrassment. Like Jack, she'd made a needs assessment and taken care of him. And he'd never known, and he'd certainly never thanked her. Well, he could still do that. His comrade-in-arms. His beloved friend, and adopted big sister.

He rolled onto his side and watched Jack. He could tell Jack wasn't asleep yet from his breathing, so he quietly asked, "What does Sam need?"

Jack smiled, understanding immediately. "She needs not to be reminded that she's a girl. Still doesn't like that. When we first met, I teased her about being a scientist, and pretended not to notice she was gorgeous. If a little pissy."

Daniel laughed. "Yeah. She still can be."

"That's why she liked you so much, right from the start. You were so fucking married to Sha'uri. I mean, I know you well enough to know you noticed what Carter looked like, but you guys just started babbling about stars and shit and that was it. You even looked alike back then, when your hair was long and, I dunno, blonder. Coulda been her little brother."

Daniel nodded, smiling in recollection. "That was a great moment. I felt like I'd found a friend."

"You had. And you gave her what she needed: your respect and intelligence. Carter would die for you now, Daniel, and in part it's because of those first few minutes you met."

"Yeah," he murmured, and closed his eyes. Outside, he heard Sam moving, and fell deeply, safely asleep.

Teal'c woke Daniel for his shift, then left him to dress. He sat up, sniffing and rubbing his face, trying to wake up enough to be useful. He could see the flicker of a fire, so he could brew himself some tea; that would help. He pulled on a second tee shirt as well as his BDUs; the night had gotten colder since he'd fallen asleep.

"Hey," Jack said, his voice fuzzy with sleep.

"Sorry," Daniel whispered. "Go back to sleep. It's my watch. I'll wake you in two hours."

"S'okay." He sighed heavily and shifted under the covers.

The tea was heartening. Daniel sat by the little fire Sam or Teal'c had built, enjoying its warmth in the cold dark night. The sky was different here. After all the nights he'd spent on all the different worlds, he still never got used to a different sky, to different stars. Only on Abydos had he grown accustomed to the night sky. He wished he were there now. He had accepted that Sha'uri was forever lost to him, but Abydos would always be home. Kasuf and Skaara were still there, and other friends, and the night sky that he and Sha'uri had made love under.

Daniel thought again of Jack's suggestion that he bind the members of his department to him. He realized that meant that Jack had done these same deliberate calculations. That he'd sat down over coffee in the commissary and thought: What does Sam need? What does Teal'c? What would bind Daniel to me, make him loyal to me?

For a moment, he flushed with embarrassment at being analyzed so coldly. He knew Jack was military, but he was also a friend, the best friend Daniel had ever had. How could Jack think so analytically about a friend? Was that why he took Daniel to coffee? Put his arm around him? Hugged him and called him goofy nicknames?

Daniel felt breathless and a little upset; he took a deep, calming breath. It was time to walk the perimeter again, anyway, a welcome distraction from his thoughts. He tossed the little bit of tea in his mug out and set it carefully aside before rising and shouldering his weapon. He needed to stay frosty, as Jack would say; not sulk about something that might or might not have happened years ago.

Besides, Jack *was* his friend. He was different now than when he and Daniel had first met, and he treated Daniel very differently. Yeah, he probably had done some kind of needs assessment, but surely that wasn't all there was to their relationship.

He promised himself to think about this more later, but he was keeping watch over his teammates now. He needed to focus on that task, not his hurt feelings.

But they kept tugging at his attention. Festering, he told himself when he crawled back in the tent to wake Jack. Let it go. Just let it go.

"Hey," he said quietly, and Jack rolled to face him. "Your turn."

Jack swiftly dressed while he undressed. "Get in my sleeping bag," Jack told him. "It's warmer, and I won't be going back to sleep."

Jack had done that before. At first, Daniel had been a little embarrassed to crawl into his sleeping bag, like a kid crawling into his parents' bed. Except Jack was a warm sleeper, and it was a cold night, and he'd done it so often by now that he was already snuggled inside before realizing he'd done so again.

Was that a needs assessment? he asked himself, but it was too comfortable to worry about. Jack's scent rose around him, and he closed his eyes, soothed by his invisible presence. "Thanks," he murmured, knowing Jack couldn't possibly hear him but still needing to say it. "Thank you, Jack."

As he cuddled into the sleeping bag, he wondered for the first time how Jack always paired the four of them off in the same way: Jack and Daniel, and Sam and Teal'c. Had that been to let them form attachments to each other, as well as to their commanding officer? Especially Sam and Teal'c; Daniel was already, in significant ways, connected to Jack, and he and Sam had hit it off early on. But Sam and Teal'c had been strangers to each other.

As he had been to Teal'c, but he couldn't imagine being forced to share a tent with Teal'c in the early days of their relationship. Not when the loss of Sha'uri was so near, so horrifying. A rip in the fabric of his soul, slowly mended, but always with him. No, Jack would have kept Daniel away from Teal'c in the early days; it was more important that Teal'c's attachment be to Jack's second-in-command.

He could visualize the four of them as a nexus, with Jack as its node. Around him they moved, yet they always returned to the center. To Jack.

He pulled his arm over his face, as if to block out these thoughts. The night was the wrong time for memories of Sha'uri, of how angry Jack had been when they'd first met, and how angry Daniel had been at Teal'c. He needed to rest, not brood over the immutable past.

They spent two more days on the planet, meeting the people in nearby villages. They heard the same stories: drought, and the epidemic that had killed so many, mostly carrying off the men. The four of them had done what they could to help, which was almost nothing, but the people seemed appreciative. Some of the women's approaches become pretty blatant; Daniel had been propositioned four times in as many hours, and he wondered if either Jack or Teal'c had taken anybody up on their offers.

Of course not.

The upside was no Goa'uld had been here in centuries. They had no stories of gods with glowing eyes. Their creation myths all included the stargate, but their stories said it was the gods' vagina, through which they'd given birth to the people here. Jack had blushed when Daniel had translated this, which he thought charming, but he also pushed it a bit, asking Jack if he didn't think the stargate looked like a vagina. "A really big birth canal," he said, staring at it.

"You've been with different women than I have, Danny," was all Jack would say. Sam had laughed, and even Teal'c had seemed amused.

"We should send help to these people," Sam told them, and Daniel agreed.

"We'll talk to Hammond. Doesn't look as though there's much they can offer us, and you know the politicians won't approve money to help off-worlders when they won't even approve money to help inner city kids," Jack said. "Still. Maybe some horses or grain. Something."

"Some token of our esteem," Daniel had murmured to himself. Jack looked at him oddly, but didn't say anything.

They said goodbye to Ellerss and Lohssa and the others they'd met, leaving behind all the food they had, but not promising them anything. Ellerss had hugged Daniel, kissing his cheek sadly before returning to the gardens. They were too busy to say goodbye at the stargate.

"I'm gonna ask General Hammond if we can at least send a botanist through for a few days. Maybe he could come up with something that would help them," Daniel told Jack as they stood before the DHD and watched the wormhole form. "It's just so *sad* here."

Jack nodded, but remained silent. Teal'c said, "They need mechanical assistance, Daniel Jackson. A way to lift and move heavy objects." That's what Teal'c had spent the day doing. Daniel nodded. Well, he'd try. He was pretty sure Jack would back him up, and certainly Sam and Teal'c would.

Daniel started his rounds again once they'd been cleared from the infirmary and he'd had a night's sleep in his own bed. That was how he thought of them now: as if he were a medical doctor making his rounds each day. Making sure his people were well and productive and as happy as he could. He tried to vary the rotation, but J. J.'s wise eyes told him he wasn't as successful as he might've been.

"That's okay," Jack told him when he confessed one morning. "Are you and J. J. getting along any better?"

"Well, yes, actually we are."

"So. That's all that matters. She's off your case about departmental meetings."

He nodded thoughtfully. Plus he'd helped Lori write up a request for a three week leave of absence, so she could fly to Peru to meet her fiance for a while. She would be doing work on possible Goa'uld influences on the Mayan culture while she was there; Daniel's idea, so she could get paid for going. And when Emmett's little girl Esther had a bad asthma attack, he'd visited them at the hospital, bringing her a hypoallergenic teddy bear and the book Minou, about a tiny kitten exploring Paris. Esther had been delighted, and Emmett had had tears in his eyes when he'd thanked Daniel.

"Okay, so maybe it's a good thing, but it's so manipulative. So calculating."

Jack stared at him; for a moment, Daniel wondered if he'd made Jack angry. But he said, "I think our definition of 'calculating' must be different. It's just a form of analysis."

"A form of self-interest," Daniel corrected.

"Is self-interest bad?"

Wow. That really was the question. Daniel thought for a long time, and Jack, for once, was patient with him and gave him the time to think. To calculate, he realized, and looked up at Jack suddenly. "Yes and no," he said firmly, and Jack laughed.

"I love it when you're decisive," he said, but Daniel knew what he meant.

"Yes, it can be a bad thing. Self-interest can be the same as selfish; you can use other people to get what you want."

"But Daniel, we do that all the time."

"Yes, but." he stopped, frustrated at his inability to express himself. Shit, why was this so hard?

And then he knew. Because he was really asking Jack about the needs assessment he'd done of Daniel. And he didn't want to know.

"I'll get back to you," he murmured, and Jack nodded. More needs assessment, he thought bitterly. Jack just figured out that I need more time to process this. He felt sour, as if he'd been drinking bad coffee.

To Daniel's pleasure, General Hammond did authorize return to what Jack called the cow-powered planet. Bill Knight, a botanist, was coming with him; only his third time through the stargate, he was nervous and excited, so Daniel did a quick needs assessment and spent the day before with him, talking about Bill's last times off-world.

Okay, okay, he told the Jack who lived in his head. So it was a bit manipulative. But Bill needed to talk, and I'm the logical person for him to talk to. He'll be better tomorrow because of today.

It still rankled, to be analyzed like an algebra problem, but Daniel's sense of fairness wouldn't let him condemn Jack for what he himself was doing.

The inhabitants of the village nearest the stargate, where Ellerss lived, were delighted to see SG-1 again. A bridge leading to the next village had been damaged; an oxcart had gone straight through the rotted wood, killing the ox and badly damaging both the cart and the bridge. The women had been working hard to dig out the old wood, and had been collecting grain to trade for replacement timber.

Jack heard that the first night, as Daniel translated at the dinner SG-1 had provided for the village, and said, "We'll do it." Daniel smiled at him; he was so proud of Jack. As soon as Ellerss had told the story, he'd known Jack wouldn't let them trade away their winter supplies. "Teal'c and I will take care of it. Carter, you stay with Daniel and Bill, keep them out of trouble." Daniel could tell that Bill was a little offended by this, but he covertly signaled him to remain quiet, and to Daniel's relief, he did.

He and Bill shared a tent that night, so there were three tents around the little fire that Teal'c built. As they were getting ready for sleep, Daniel said, "Don't let the stuff Jack says bother you, Bill. Half the time I don't think he's aware of what he's saying. And the other half I think he just wants to get a rise out of us."

"Well, he's your friend," Bill said doubtfully, straightening the sleeping bag out. "And at least these folks can't understand what he's saying."

"That's often a blessing," Daniel agreed, and fell asleep thinking of Jack and Jack's ways.

Bill wanted to see the grain first, so Lohssa led Daniel, Bill, and Sam out into the fields in the morning, where she showed him their planting, cultivating, and harvesting techniques. They ate lunch there, in the cold sunlight, sharing their MREs with an excited Lohssa, who had already learned to say "okay" and "crap."

They headed back to the silos; Bill was worried about some kind of fungus, but Daniel was having a hard time finding the words to translate. Bill and Lohssa seemed to understand each other better simply by pointing and gesturing, so he stepped back a bit and let them, laughing when Bill lifted a handful of grain to his nose and said, "Eeuwww." To his surprise, Lohssa nodded her head vigorously. "Eeuww, oui, la odeur infecte."

"Where? Ou?" Bill asked, and she led them to an older barn-like structure. "La-bas," she said pointing, and they wound their way through the stalls and mangers to a large box or chest.

"What's going on?" Sam asked.

"Well, I'm not sure. But I'm afraid it might be a type of grain rot -- this seems very similar to barley, and there's a kind of poisoning that can occur when barley is stored improperly. A fungus can cause a kind of ergotamine poisoning. I'm wondering about this epidemic of theirs in the last generation."

"This building certainly was here then," Daniel commented, kicking idly at the flaking wood post. "I thought ergotamine poisoning came from rye, and caused hallucinations."

"Rye, yeah, but from wheat, oats, and barley, too. And hallucinations, but also convulsions. It produces a mycotoxin that can also cause dry gangrene, which can result in death. Besides, that's on earth. Who knows what's here."

"Good point."

"Thanks." Lohssa flung open the top of the chest and a rich yeasty odor boiled out. "Phew!"

"That it?" Daniel asked.

"I need to do some tests, and I'd like to hear how the men died. But this is definitely worth investigating."

"Do what you have to, Doctor Knight," Sam instructed him. "Take all the time you need." She went outside, and Daniel knew she'd be circling the barn, making sure they were all right.

Daniel sat on the floor in a pool of sunlight and focused on translating Bill's questions and Lohssa's answers. Before they'd really got started, though, their radios crackled to life. "Carter? Daniel?" Jack's tinny voice called.

"I'm here, Jack."

"Here, sir," Sam's voice chimed in.

"We need everybody at the river. Got a little problem. Take the trail out of town, away from the stargate; we're about a mile and a half away. Bring rope. A *lot* of rope."

"Um, Lohssa. Je voudrais aller a le pons, avec cordage."

"Cordage?" She stared at him for a moment, and then dashed off. "Allez, allez," she shouted at them.

"Shit, I've scared her," Daniel mumbled as he jumped up from the floor to follow, Bill at his heels.

"Daniel? Where's she going?" Sam called to him and she trotted into place behind him.

"To get rope. I think I scared her -- she probably thinks somebody is drowning. Dammit. Attendez, Lohssa! Attendez!"

"She's young," Bill puffed out from behind them. "Let her burn off all this energy."

Daniel had to smile; Lohssa was darting about gathering up all kinds of rope and cord, obviously preparing for any catastrophe. Soon they were jogging down the piste to the river, Daniel starting to sweat even in the cool air. Bill fell a bit more behind, but Daniel didn't slow; despite his demeanor, which he hoped was calming to both Bill and Lohssa, he was nervous about what he'd find at the bridge, whether Teal'c or Jack would be all right.

"Here they come," Daniel heard Jack call when they turned the bend in the trail that let them see the cluster of people at the bridge. Daniel saw that Teal'c was standing in the water, looking unhappy, while Jack knelt next to him, holding onto a long heavy plank.

"Mamay, Mamay," Lohssa cried out, and sped up, her long legs stretching out as if at the finish of an important race. She spun her mother in a circle, hugging and kissing her.

"I'm sorry," Daniel panted, resting his hands on his knees when he reached the bridge. "I didn't get a chance to explain. I think she thought something had happened to her mother."

"Well, not to her mother, but to Teal'c."

Daniel looked down and saw that Teal'c looked more than unhappy; he looked in pain. A long thick board lay at an angle from the bridge. "Are you okay?" he called down.

"I have been better, Daniel Jackson."

Well, shit. Daniel scrambled down the bank of the river, slipping in the mud and mud-slicked grasses, till he splashed into the water, and walked around the board to where Teal'c stood. Next to his friend, he realized the board was wedged against one part of the bridge and the opposite bank, and that Teal'c must've been standing directly under it when it fell.

"Jesus, Teal'c. You might've been killed." He grabbed the board, nearly a foot wide and three inches thick, but it might as well have been made of steel.

"We need to use the rope, Danny," Jack said. He scrambled out of the water and up the bank, then leaned over the edge of the bridge to drop him a length. "Wrap it around the board and we'll lift it up using a pulley; I think it's too heavy otherwise."

He quickly wrapped the rope around the board twice, keeping it loose so he could hand the end of it back to Jack.

"Here, sir," Sam called; she'd already rigged up a kind of pulley-system by having Bill and the others lift a pole crossways across the handrails. Jack threaded the rope over it twice, and then got on the other side.

"Okay, Danny, keep your hands on that board; don't let it fall back down on Teal'c. Teal'c, the minute the weight becomes less, fall back and away, okay?" Teal'c nodded. "Now the rest of you, grab hold and when I say 'trois,' pull like hell. Daniel, tell 'em what I just said."

"I think they know." Lohssa, Ellerss, and three others stood behind Sam, parceling out the rope, like some kind of tug of war. Which, Daniel thought, it kind of is.

"Okay," Jack shouted. "Un, deux, trois!" They all leaned into the rope, groaning with the effort. The pole Sam had selected bent alarmingly, but they kept pulling and Daniel felt the board begin to move. He tugged as hard as he could.

"Now, Teal'c!"

With a heart-rending moan, Teal'c obeyed Jack and literally fell back, splashing into the icy water. If he'd been a swearing man, the air would be blue, Daniel thought. He pushed at the board and stepped back quickly, keeping an eye on it as he moved to Teal'c's aid. There was a shot, the sound of the pole breaking, and the board smashed back down into the water, splashing Daniel but settling away from him and Teal'c. Simultaneously, Jack said, "Shit," and fell onto his ass, bringing down Sam, who was caught by Bill and Lohssa.

"Are you okay, Jack?" Daniel called up anxiously from where he knelt by Teal'c, looking at his foot.

"Just bruised my dignity. How's Teal'c?"

"How are you, Teal'c?"

"Daniel Jackson. I believe my foot may be broken."

Daniel carefully untied the boot, but it was obvious he couldn't get it off without causing a lot of pain to Teal'c. "I think we're going to have to cut your boot off."

"Do so."

He pulled out his knife and hesitated. Jesus, what if he cut Teal'c? But he had to do something. He opened the boot as much as he could and slid the blade between Teal'c's sock and the boot, with the edge pointed out, then began to cut. To his surprise, the knife slit through the leather without much effort, although he had to be careful not to put pressure on Teal'c's foot.

He cut the top of the boot so he could peel it back, and then gently eased the remainder from Teal'c's foot. He could see it was already swelling, and despite the cold water, it felt hot to the touch. Just then, Jack leaned over him. "We need to get him to the infirmary," he said, and Jack nodded.

"Carter! MALP back to the SGC and let them know what's happened. We need a stretcher, and have them send SG-11 to finish this job."

"Yes, sir." She took off at a run, her bootheels thumping on the boards above their heads.

"T, my man. How ya doin'?"

"I have been better, O'Neill."

"I'll bet you have."

"Jack, we need to get him out of this water. It's freezing cold."

"My symbiote will protect me, Daniel Jackson."

"Please. Jack and I can carry you to the bank."

"It's probably good for his foot to be in that cold water."

"For his *foot*, Jack; not for him, symbiote or not."

They managed, despite Teal'c's bulk, to deposit him gently on the side of the river nearest him, away from the village, leaving his foot in the icy water to keep down the swelling.

"I'm really sorry, Teal'c," Jack told him when all three men settled on the muddy bank. The women from the village had dispersed, promising to return with food and hot drinks for the soaked men.

"It was an accident."

"Yeah. Still. My brilliant idea."

"Jack. It's okay. Accidents happen."

Jack sighed. Daniel glanced across Teal'c to Jack; he looked tired and cold himself. Before Daniel could speak, though, Jack said, "Teal'c, here's how it's gonna go down. When SG-11 gets here, we're gonna put you on a stretcher and take you back through the gate to the infirmary. Daniel and I will stay here with Doctor Knight so he can finish his work. Carter'll go back with you.

"We'll get back to the SGC in a day or so, and I'll check up on you then. But I'll be checking in via the MALP tonight, and I want to hear a report from you, as well as from Fraiser, okay? Give Janet a message to give me."

Teal'c just nodded, his face impassive again. Daniel sighed, and tossed a pebble in the water.

Daniel had had a long day, during which Teal'c had been laboriously carried back through the stargate and SG-11 had started work on the bridge while Daniel followed Bill around as he investigated the orchards, taking samples from everything he saw. He pulled the first watch, and brewed himself a pot of strong tea to help him stay awake. The three hours passed quickly, though. He walked the perimeter of their campsite; SG-11 were camped by the bridge, keeping an eye on all their hard work, while they'd remained in the village.

He also wrote in his journal, his private one, about how he'd felt when he'd realized Teal'c had been injured. Even after all these years and all the injuries his teammates had sustained, he was shocked and distressed at seeing his friend hurt.

"Hey." He looked up to find Jack climbing out of his tent.

"You still have almost an hour."

"I know. Can't sleep."

Without asking, Daniel poured Jack a mug of tea and sweetened it heavily; he knew how Jack liked it by now. Then he broke out his secret stash, an organic milk chocolate truffle bar, and shared it. They sat quietly, staring into the flames, drinking their tea and enjoying the chocolate.

"Thanks," Jack said, his mouth full, and Daniel smiled.

"For medicinal purposes only," he joked, and Jack nodded. "Listen," he said suddenly, turning to face Jack. "Why'd you tell Teal'c that at the end? Was that part of the team-building thing?"

Jack continued to stare at the fire, and took another sip of tea, blowing on it first. At last he said, "In a way. By now, you all are so --" He stopped abruptly, and Daniel thought he might be blushing, although he couldn't be sure in the flickering light.

"You care about us," he said softly, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah. I care about you. I really do. You guys --" And again he stopped. Daniel was very moved by this side of Jack; he so rarely saw it in the field. He scooted a little closer, so their hips and shoulders touched, and was pleased when Jack relaxed into him. "I don't have to work at binding the team together," he finally said, his voice clearer. "Maintenance is easier. And partly it was for me. I need to know that Teal'c is all right."

"Because you're bound to him, too."

Jack didn't answer, but he didn't need to. Daniel still felt uncomfortable with all this; it seemed too manipulative to him. Yet clearly Jack was right -- he was just as bound to his teammates as they were to him. As an anthropologist, Daniel could almost see the bonds: thin, glowing trails linking each of the four members of SG-1 to the other three, a densely braided social network.

"What does Teal'c need?"

Jack finally looked at Daniel, smiling a little. "To be second in command. To still be First Prime."

"First Prime of Jack O'Neill."

"Kind of. To be depended on, relied on."

"Is that why you told him what was going to happen? You wouldn't have done that for me or Sam, would you."

"Probably not. Sam is military through and through; it wouldn't occur to her to ask for more information than the orders I give. And I wouldn't have to tell you -- you'd be telling me, or asking me, or arguing with me.

"But Teal'c wouldn't have said anything. But I know he likes it when I let him know my plans. He has to know how much I trust him, and value his opinion. If there had been a problem with my plans, I know he'd tell me, and he knows I'd want to know."

"So it works in both directions."

"Well, sure."

They were silent a while longer, and then Jack said, "Go to bed, Daniel. My sleeping bag is still warm; take it."

"But where'll you sleep when you wake Bill?"

"Oh, I'll find some place."

Daniel stared at him for a moment, but a warm sleeping bag smelling of Jack really did sound good. "Thanks," he said.

"Thanks for the tea and chocolate."

SG-11 had the bridge repaired by the next afternoon, and in better shape than probably any other bridge on the planet. The younger women were quiet and shy around the men, since they hadn't seen many men in their lives, but the older women invited them to a feast. Daniel MALPed back a request for food, and the SGC commissary came through with better stuff than he'd ever eaten there: dozens of chicken breasts, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy -- a little lumpy, but still good -- and a variety of pies he swore came from the Marie Callendar's in Colorado Springs and not out of any SGC oven.

With the food had come the requested messages: Teal'c's foot was indeed broken, but, as usual, his symbiote was hard at work helping him heal more rapidly than anyone else could've. And Janet added, "Teal'c says to tell Colonel O'Neill that he will be ready for the next mission. Which," she added ruefully, "he probably will. He doesn't need much help from me."

"Thanks, Janet."

"Enjoy the feast, Daniel."

"Shit, this is good," Jack said later in the evening, forking up another mouthful of stuffing and gravy. Daniel could only nod; his own mouth was too full to speak. Bill sat with Ellerss' friend Ohlone, a woman near his age with a dimpled smile that took years off her worn face. Jack pointed his fork at them. "True love," he said, and snickered.

"Should I, um, say anything? To Bill?"

"About off-world activities? Already did. He's just flirting."

Daniel stared at Jack. He often thought of Jack as insensitive, but since he'd started teaching Daniel team-building techniques, he'd been revealing himself as a man of great insight into others. Daniel was astounded. He always considered himself the expert on human behavior, but Jack was impressing the hell out of him.

But why? he asked himself. Jack couldn't have made colonel by being stupid. And he certainly couldn't have commanded by being insensitive. I'm an idiot, Daniel told himself. But he felt even more uncomfortable. If Jack was that insightful, then what did it say about his relationship with Daniel? Was there a real relationship, or was everything they did together the result of careful planning? A long-term strategy to keep SG-1 functioning?

He didn't like thinking about Jack in these terms.

"Pie?" Jack interrupted his reverie. "Got pumpkin, mince, apple, lemon meringue, and chocolate silk."

"Guess," Daniel said, and Jack returned with two big helpings of chocolate silk.

"Damn, I'm good," Jack said, smiling at him as he handed him the pie.

"So's the pie," Daniel said a minute later.

Daniel was happy to return to earth the next day, to see that Teal'c really was doing well, and to sleep in his own comfortable bed. Even if it didn't smell of Jack.

He quickly resumed making his rounds; J. J. was cross that he'd been off-world again, but a long lunch with her off-base and a department meeting cheered her up again. Bill Knight was pleased to be working on a task he considered genuinely important: helping understand what had caused the epidemic as well as looking to increase production of the grain the women of the village near the stargate had been growing. Emmett's little girl had had another bad asthma attack; his wife and child had moved to a lower, warmer altitude during the winter. And the Packers had beaten the Forty-Niners, so Dave Crvk was in football heaven. Not a place Daniel really wanted to spend any time, but all he had to do was listen and Dave was delighted.

Such little things, he thought as he wrote all this down in his journal one evening. Things I never would've thought of, if Jack hadn't suggested them.

And how much of what he does for me is the same: stuff he endures so I'll be a team player? The words were ugly on the page, but Daniel didn't cross them out.

He was in his office, staring at a new dialect of Goa'uld that SG-6 had discovered when Jack showed up, whistling and cheerful. "Hey. Got any more of that chocolate?"

Daniel raised his eyebrows, but obediently opened a locked desk drawer and pulled out another bar, tossing it to Jack. "Don't you want some?" He shrugged. "What's wrong, Daniel?" Jack came further into his office and settled against the desk, almost in Daniel's personal space. Daniel was tempted to pull away, but hell, it was his office. "Come on," Jack said, his voice light and teasing.

"You got your chocolate."

He set the bar down. "Look. I didn't really come by for chocolate. I came by to see how you were doing. What you were doing. You wanna go for a beer after work? And a pizza? I haven't had pizza in a week; my body's suffering from withdrawal."

"Look, Jack. You don't have to do this anymore. It worked. I'm a member of SG-1. I'm loyal to you. You ask me to jump off a cliff, I'll jump. You ask me to die for earth, I'll die. I have died. There's no need to coddle me anymore."

"Jesus, where'd that come from?"

Daniel took off his glasses, so he couldn't see Jack clearly, and looked at him. "What was your initial, early assessment of me?"

"Look, Daniel . . . "

"No, Jack. You look. I figured it out. You don't have to do it anymore. Like I said: it worked. I was just curious, you know. When you did your needs assessment of me, what did you decide I needed most?"

Jack hesitated so long that Daniel thought he might not answer. At last, he sighed, and said, "My first take was that you needed to be touched. And to be protected from any further abuse."

Daniel was shocked. Of all the things he'd imagined Jack saying, never had he imagined those words. He felt himself blush furiously, his face burning with embarrassment.

And then his stomach turned in distress. All those moments with Jack -- sharing his sleeping bag, going to hockey games, the hugs and casual pats on the back, the comfort when he was addicted or scared or crazy -- it was all just some *strategy*, some manipulation to get him to obey Jack. He trembled in anger and hurt.

"You shit," he said very quietly. "You piece of shit. You were telling the truth, weren't you, when you said we really didn't have a foundation to our friendship. Because there's no fucking friendship at all, is there. It's just -- it's just --" But Daniel couldn't say what it was. "Get the hell out of my office. Get the hell out of my life!"

Even without his glasses, Daniel could tell that Jack was shocked, and angry. "For cryin' out loud, Danny! You know it's the truth. You know how much you want me to touch you. Be honest with yourself, if not with me. Shit, you'd take even more if I offered it. You'd take it all."

"Fuck you," Daniel said, or tried to, but he was trying too hard not to cry, because he realized Jack was right. He'd take everything Jack could ever give him and it still wouldn't be enough. He was just as pathetic and needy as Jack had assessed him to be. "I loved you," he finally said, and wiped his eyes angrily. "I was stupid enough to love you."

He put his glasses back on, to defend himself against Jack's words. "Why are you doing this? Just leave, Jack. You win. Just leave."

"Oh, Christ, Danny," he said, and then turned to go. Daniel put his face in his hands and when he heard the door shut, let himself cry. Fuck, he was a *moron*. The brilliant Doctor Jackson, who opened the goddamn stargate, was a fucking emotionally-crippled moron.

Except Jack hadn't left. His arms came around Daniel and he pulled him to his shoulder. "Go," Daniel whispered, but Jack said, "No." He held him and rocked him. "Daniel, Danny, I love you. You have to believe me."

Daniel leaned into Jack's arms, against his welcome body, sighing with relief. Jack hadn't gone. He hadn't left him. But then he remembered -- Jack was a manipulator. He'd admitted as much to Daniel, and had advised Daniel to manipulate others for their own good as well. He pulled away angrily, refusing to look at him and shoving Jack's arms away.

"What the fuck are you doing? You made your point."

"Daniel, look at me."

"Why? So you can laugh at me? Point out all the mistakes I've made? You've spent weeks at this; that's enough. I'll take it from here."

"Okay, then. Take it from here. Ask yourself what my needs are, Danny. Do a needs assessment of *me*."

Daniel sighed. "Jack," he started, but Jack touched his shoulder, trying to turn Daniel toward him. Daniel finally raised his head and looked at Jack, who was as red as Daniel knew he must be. "What do you need?" he asked tonelessly.

"Yeah. Come on. You've done it with your people; now do it with me. What do I need?"

For a moment, Daniel just stared at him. Jack looked steadily back, although he flushed even redder under Daniel's gaze, and swallowed hard. He looked more uncomfortable than Daniel could ever remember.

And Jack's discomfort and embarrassment hinted to Daniel what he wanted to know, more than any words that Jack could offer him. He closed his eyes, wondering if he was seeing only what he wanted to see. Jack gently shook the hand that still rested on Daniel's shoulder.

Could Jack really mean his words? Daniel opened his eyes again; Jack had moved closer, but his face was just as red and his eyes were worried. The heat and weight of his hand burned into Daniel's shoulder, and his eyes were too near, too warm. Daniel closed his eyes against the sight of him.

He remembered standing on the steps of the pyramid on Abydos, holding Sha'uri's hand, Jack next to him, looking out over the celebrating people who were to become his family. He'd felt so close to Jack at that moment, and when Jack had agreed to lie so he could remain there with his new family, he'd been so grateful and relieved.

And yet, when that kleenex box had materialized on the Abydos side of the stargate, he'd been grateful that Jack had remembered him. Later, when he'd learned that a bomb could just as easily have come through, he'd been even more grateful that Jack had had the courage to tell the truth and face the consequences of his earlier lies on Daniel's behalf.

And since then so much had happened. He'd died for Jack, not once but many times, and he knew from base gossip and official reports that Jack had mourned him profoundly. Jack had been there for Daniel in ways no human being ever had before.

Daniel remembered something else, too. Years ago, while on another world, some P2X-who-could-possibly-recall, a book had fallen from his pack while the team had rested. When they'd reached their destination and Daniel had begun to videotape and photograph the pictographs they'd come so far to study, he'd realized it was missing.

Jack had been furious with him, or so Daniel had initially thought. He'd explained loudly why they needed to be discreet in their presence on any planet: who knew what was out there, what dangers they might be in? They didn't need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs or books for the bad guys to follow.

But that evening, Jack had returned the book to him. Quietly and a little shyly, he'd handed it to Daniel while they sat around the fire, one of the many they'd shared on the many worlds they'd visited. Daniel had been so moved. He had assumed that they'd retrieve the book the next day, on their return to the stargate. But Jack had hiked all the way back to their earlier resting place and then all the way back to their camp, just to bring Daniel the book he might need for the work he was doing.

As it turned out, he hadn't needed the book at all. But he'd never admitted it to Jack. He'd been too touched by Jack's effort. And Daniel remembered, all this time later, Jack's face when he'd handed Daniel the missing book: a little shy, a little embarrassed, and a little hopeful. As if he'd been looking for something in return besides the surprised thank you he'd received.

Perhaps Jack wasn't manipulating him. Perhaps he was genuinely asking Daniel to look at the real Jack, the Jack who didn't have to be somebody else in order to meet that person's needs. To look at the Jack who, after an exhausting and potentially dangerous day, would trek miles on an alien world to bring a small gift to Daniel.

Daniel opened his eyes again, and saw a Jack who needed someone to know what he was doing, and to appreciate his efforts. To realize that he was more than his appearance. And he knew that Jack's words to Daniel weren't cruel, they were true: Daniel did need, and still needed, to be touched, and to be protected. But Daniel also knew that, just as importantly, Jack needed to touch and protect him.

"You need me," Daniel told him, and Jack smiled shyly.

"Yeah. I do. Danny, this is so fucking against regulations -- I couldn't say anything. I needed you to figure it out."

"Jesus, I took forever."

Jack shook his head. "I did wonder if you'd ever get it."

"You knew I loved you?"

"I was pretty damn sure. And I knew that I loved you."

"God, Jack. I don't know what to say. I love you so much. You've done everything for me, from the minute I came back to earth you were there. You're always there."

"Always. Always." He embraced Daniel again, and Daniel permitted him to, letting himself be held and comforted. Jack kissed his cheek, but Daniel turned his head slightly so their lips met. Jack sighed and kissed his mouth tenderly, gently sliding his tongue between Daniel's lips.

"So this is real," Daniel murmured when they rested their heads together, breathing heavily.

"My feelings for you are so real. I didn't want to manipulate you."

"You could've."

"Yeah, I know. But I was good, Daniel. I tried really hard not to."

"You were good. You had me completely fooled."

"Too good," he said ruefully, "But I need it, too, Daniel. I need to be touched as well as to touch," Jack said, and Daniel thought there was a hint of urgency in his voice. He stood still and let Jack's strong hand warm him. "There's no one else I can . . ." His voice trailed off, but Daniel nodded in understanding. It was true. Only they had that connection.

His heart felt swollen with affection and gratitude for Jack. They stood in his office in the SGC, and Daniel thought how dreamlike their lives were. His eyelids fluttered as he relaxed into Jack's touch, and then he focused again.

"Thank you."

"Christ, Daniel. Don't fucking thank me. Just love me, okay? You're the only one who can."

Daniel looked into his deep brown eyes that saw so much more than he'd ever let on, and then tilted his head slightly so he could kiss Jack again, taking a little more control this time. Because in his needs assessment of Jack, he realized that Jack needed to relinquish control occasionally, and that only Daniel could afford him that opportunity.

"I do love you," he whispered, pulling Jack into his arms, cradling him tenderly. "I've loved you forever."

And so he had.