The Power Of The Heart


Diana Bloomfield


Joanne Spizzirri

  Daniel was currently spending a Saturday afternoon at his apartment off base. Instead of studying, reading, or watching a rented movie as he would have been doing a month ago, he instead was doing something that had someone told him he would be doing on this day, he would have had them committed for a psych evaluation. He, Daniel Jackson was packing boxes and bags, preparing to move in with Jack O'Neill.

  The archaeologist looked around the room at the many boxes that littered the hardwood floor of his small room, seeing the nearly empty closet standing wide open, and the dresser with the drawers pulled out and emptied. It still hadn't sunk in yet. He and Jack were going to live together! The thought still boggled the younger man's mind. What boggled it even more was the fact that it had actually been the colonel who had been the one to suggest the move.

  How had this happened, Daniel wondered? After they had returned from 'the' cave...the very cave where they allowed themselves to admit to the attraction, the desire they had for each other, Jack and Daniel had begun spending the nights together either at Jack's house or Daniel's apartment. They'd had every intention to be discreet, to take things slow and see how they played out. It hadn't worked out that way at all.

  The nights had always started out so innocently; ordering dinner, watching a video together, going to basketball hadn't mattered what they done as long as they had been together. Unfortunately, when it was time to say good night and say their good-byes, they found they couldn't. A simple good night kiss had always led to such more pleasurable activities and Daniel hadn't been able to get enough of Jack. The feeling of waking up in the morning, whether in his own bed or Jack's, with O'Neill holding him in his arms had just felt so wonderful.

  Then last week, O'Neill had asked him one morning over breakfast what Daniel thought about moving in with him. Daniel hadn't been sure about it at all in the beginning. What if Hammond asked questions, he questioned. He reminded O'Neill again that he didn't want Jack's career to be put in jeopardy. That's when O'Neill informed him to let Jack worry about his career himself, this was something he wanted. He then told Daniel it only made sense because as it stood now, they had half of each other's belongings strung between two places, and that if an emergency arose, it would make it easier for them to get their things together for a mission if they didn't have to guess where their belongings were. Daniel knew from the beginning that there was more than simple convenience to the suggestion and though the idea of waking up to Jack every morning was thrilling, he still couldn't help but be concerned of how living with him would complicate things for them. Then he looked into Jack's dark, deep, brown eyes and every last doubt melted from him. If Jack was sure then why should he have doubts about it? The next day he put out an ad to sublet his apartment. The new tenant was going to be moving in within the next two days and Daniel would be moving into Jack', 'their' soon.

  Daniel was removing some books from his bookshelf when he felt strong arms wrap around his waist and was pulled back against a broad, firm, chest. Warm, moist lips caressed the side of his throat.

  "Nearly done?" Jack asked in-between nibbles of the soft skin.

  "Almost," Daniel answered, trying to suppress the shiver that still ran through him every time Jack touched him.

  Jack's lips suddenly stopped their venture over Daniel's throat and O'Neill's hand reached out to grasp a small stone statue that was sitting one of the shelves.

  "Now this I haven't seen before, what is it?" Jack asked and fingered the statue in his hand. The six inch object was in the shape of an Egyptian male with a long beard, one arm extended over his head holding a thunderbolt, and nothing hiding a prominent erection he was sporting between closed legs.

  Daniel coughed and Jack noticed the flush of embarrassment creeping into his cheeks. "Umm, that's a statue of the Egyptian god Min," Daniel explained. "He..uh..was a predynastic god, known as the god of rain and...." Daniel mumbled the rest.

  A smile crossed Jack's face. "What was that last part? I didn't quite catch that." He had made out what Daniel had muttered, but he wanted the archaeologist to repeat himself.

  Daniel's cheeks grew even redder. " I said he was also the god of male fertility," he said in a rush.

  The smile broadened on Jack's face. "Oh really, now isn't that interesting. Male fertility huh?" Jack sat the sculpture down and turned Daniel around in his arms. At Jack's teasing grin, Daniel couldn't help smiling himself.

  "Yep, he was the god who was believed to bestow all of a man's sexual power," Daniel replied, linking his fingers behind Jack's neck.

  Jack gently brushed his lips against Daniel's. "Mmm, think we've been good enough that Min has bestowed some of that power to us?" he asked in a throaty voice.

  Daniel leaned to claim Jack's lips again in a more substantial kiss. "Hmm, well, I don't think we've exactly been behaving ourselves lately," he murmured when his mouth was free again.

  Jack began nuzzling the base of Daniel's throat. "Then maybe we ought to put it to a test and find out," he suggested in a sultry voice before claiming Daniel's lips once more.

  Daniel's mouth opened up to Jack's gentle prodding and was invaded by O'Neill's warm, familiar, tongue seeking access and claiming Daniel's in a slow, sensual duel. Daniel let out a small moan of contentment as his hands stroked Jack's back and up to cup the back of his head as Daniel took all that Jack's plundering mouth had to offer and giving just as much back. Daniel's hands traveled under Jack's grey T-shirt, relishing the feel of firm, warm, skin under his fingers. One of his thumbs found Jack's nipple and rubbed back and forth against it, turning it to a hard, erect peak. Jack moaned softly and caught Daniel's tongue in his mouth and sucked on it hard as he maneuvered the younger man back to his full - sized bed.

  Jack pushed Daniel back onto the mattress. Daniel landed with a soft thud and pulled Jack into his arms and kissed him hungrily, loving the feel of Jack's satisfying weight on top of him. Jack moved quickly and straddled the younger man's hips. Daniel could feel the rising heat between them even through Jack's tight denim jeans and through his own gray sweatpants.

  Jack leaned in and kissed him thoroughly while he rubbed their bodies together, and even through the clothing, the friction caused the beginning of longing and desire to stir within Daniel's body. Daniel lost himself easily in the sensations. Being here with Jack, feeling the warm heavy body covering his, able to smell the familiar masculine scent that was all Jack, feeling the intense heat starting to burn within him, Daniel was able to forget that anyone else existed in the outside world, his entire universe becoming made of one small bedroom and the man sending his body soaring to greater hights than he'd ever known before. It never ceased to amaze Daniel how each touch, each kiss, had the same intensity and passion as their first.

  Jack's hands ran under Daniel's black T-shirt and lifted it up over Daniel's head and past his extended arms. Before he tossed it to the floor, Jack let his tongue flicker across both nubs of pink flesh. He loved the way Daniel tasted, hot, sweet flesh he couldn't get enough of. Daniel's hands, not wanting to be still, worked Jack's shirt off and pulled the bare-chested colonel down on top of him. The feeling of flesh against flesh was electrifying, sparking the glowing ember of need and want into a greater fire within them.

  Jack broke the kiss with Daniel and rolled to the younger man's side. His hands then went to pull the loose band of the archaeologist's sweatpants down, very slowly exposing the rapidly hardening length that gave testimony to Daniel's rising ardor, Jack delighting in the fact that Daniel hadn't worn anything underneath to hinder his view. The heavily musky scent of Daniel's desire rose and filled Jack's nostrils, causing the severe wanting he was feeling to increase.

  Daniel found himself disrobed and on display for Jack's avid and predatory gaze that swept over his supine form. Jack took the time to appreciate Daniel's lean, muscular form before leaning in and trailing light kisses over exposed flesh. Daniel couldn't help squirming, as Jack's lips brushed over his super-sensitized skin so gently and lightly that it felt nothing more than the barest breeze, but it wove strands of white-hot hunger throughout his entire aching body.

  The younger man's fingers raked through O'Neill's dark hair encouraging as the older man feasted on his body. Nibbling, kissing, licking, his way down, Jack ventured over Daniel's smooth, muscular chest, tracing each line etched in his firm stomach with his tongue, dipping into the hollow of Daniel's navel while Jack's hands gently massaged over Daniel's limbs. Down his lips went, lower and lower until it grew closer to the younger man's achingly hard erection. The heavily veined member was plump, a drop of jeweled moisture at the flushed tip, and was lifted magnificently at call, boastfully declaring it's need for Jack's attention. Jack denied the need, as his lips traveled over the satin smooth skin of Daniel's inner-thighs, nipping at the vulnerable tissue while Daniel restlessly moved under him, little moans trying to urge Jack to the area that needed his attention the most. Still Jack denied him.

  The colonel his way back up Daniel's body, up the same path he had traveled down, until he was near Daniel's ear. Gently he licked and nibbled at a particularly vulnerable spot that sent quivers down Daniel's body. He could practically feel the humming vibrations of demanding, unanswered desire welling within the younger man.

  "Daniel," Jack whispered in a think, raspy voice.

  Daniel didn't answer him, only the sound of soft mewling served as a response.

  "Daniel, look at me," Jack requested. Dark, hazy azure eyes tried hard to focus on Jack's umber ones. "Daniel, I want you touch yourself for me," Jack requested in a soft voice. "Will you do that?" he asked, tonguing the groves of Daniel's ear.

  "Why? Want your hands on me...want you touching me.." Daniel pleaded, moving his body fretfully, searching for the stimulation that wasn't there.

  Jack moved his lips to cover Daniel's pliable, hungry mouth and kissed him hard.

  "I know, but I want to watch you," Jack explained after the kiss. "Will you? For me?"

  Hesitantly Daniel's hand moved down his body, roaming over his own pectoral muscles, lightly playing with the fine trail of dark hair on his stomach that led down a thicker forest of hair below.

  Jack leaned on an elbow, contenting himself with playing with Daniel's nipples while his ardent gaze followed the path of Daniel's hand. Daniel could almost physically feel the heat from Jack's fixed, smoldering gaze as his fingers came down to cradle his testicles. His fingers squeezed slightly and Daniel moaned his delight softly and could have sworn he heard the same moan rising from Jack. Daniel opened his eyes that had drifted shut momentarily to look at Jack. Eyes, a rich dark umber simmering with desire, watched with longing as Daniel's slender fingers wrapped around his rigid length. Jack's angular face was held taunt and Daniel knew Jack was battling his control.

  Daniel's fingers started to caress his length, slowly, languidly. He could feel his own heat, feel his own slick moisture as it was rubbed all over, making the slow and steady pumping of his fingers even easier. Mmmm, this felt so good, he thought to himself as his eyes drifted shut. He could feel the gradual dull throbbing growing bit by bit. He knew Jack's eyes were still locked onto his fingers, watching avidly, and knew that Jack was getting just as hard as he was merely by watching him. That thought alone held such erotic appeal to Daniel, gave him a sense of power that was addictive. His hand sped up slightly. He allowed himself to become lost in the ceaseless waves of sensations rocking through him, his sleek body writhing to the motions. His hips rocked back and forth in sync to his hand and he cried out when he gently squeezed the pulsing head of his member. He heard Jack whimpering from nearby.

  Daniel's eyes popped back open and his own gaze took in Jack's state. The colonel's body was shivering ever so lightly, almost undetectable, but Daniel noticed it and smiled. His eyes raked over Jack's bare chest, down to the front of his tight jeans. The material was tented, pushed and straining against the large bulge pressing against it. The material had a small spot of moisture showing through where Jack's fingers were gently rubbing restlessly on their own accord. O'Neill loved watching Daniel. He loved how responsive Daniel's body was; how the flushed skin glowed when it was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, how his hips moved and angled to his ministrations, how that rich, deep voice called to him with hungry need, how the muscles of his slender throat moved and rippled when Daniel took him hard and aching into his mouth. Vivid memories ran through Jack's mind as he watched Daniel's lean body and his hand pleasuring himself. If he wasn't careful, this was going to be over much sooner than he planned just from watching Daniel, and he had more plans than that in store for his archaeologist.

  Languorously, Jack moved in-between Daniel's parted legs. Bending his head over the hot, pulsating erection and teased the tip with a gentle flick of his tongue. Daniel groaned loudly, trusting his hips upwards toward the moist mouth, but Jack continued to bath the entire length tip to base and tease the hard, drawn up sac of his testicles several times before relenting and taking the whole length past his lips and into his mouth.

  "Oh gods Jack, oh yes, more please, more!" he begged.

  Daniel cried out, arching his body, seeking the warm depth that Jack offered. O'Neill tasted the salty, molten fluid seeping from the length and treasure it, knowing it unique to Daniel. Taking him in deep and hard, he felt Daniel tensing, fighting hard against the desire that was threatening to overcome him. Jack redoubled his efforts, sucking hard and fast, feasting on the inflamed length while Daniel thrashed under him, uttering half-words and mumbling too faint to catch. He loved it when he reduced the multi-lingual archaeologist to incoherent babbling.

  Harder, faster, deeper Daniel was taken, only to be released and taken again over and over in a torrential wave passion, lust, and desire that seemed infinite in it's sweet torture.

  Jack felt the familiar rumbling that was sweeping through Daniel and knew it wouldn't be long at all before he crossed the edge. His tongue worked in harmony with his cheeks and lips to drive the younger man on and on without pause. Daniel's hips was bucking hard now, meeting Jack's mouth with a driving force and the fingers in Jack's hair tightened their grip nearly painfully.

  "Oh don't stop, more, so close, please!!" Daniel cried out as Jack continued his fervent assault. Jack smiled inwardly,he had no plans on stopping.

  Quicker, deeper, he drove Daniel on, higher and higher as his own desires were becoming so painful, the need tremulously shaking within his own body, but he was going to see Daniel fulfilled before answering his own body's call. Daniel's entire body stiffened and tensed under his hands and Daniel's strangled voice called out as his body exploded with the strength of a supernova. Hot, thick, salty fluid flowed into Jack's mouth and down his throat that worked to take it all contentedly. He licked lightly and bathed the deflating member as Daniel quivered under him, still riding the waves of blissful completion.

  Daniel laid, limp, exhausted, and satisfied against the mattress as Jack moved to gather him into his arms. The younger man laid complacent in the colonel's arms for quite some time before his rapid breathing slowed down and his pounding heart stopped feeling like it was going to burst from his chest.

  When the younger man felt some of his strength returning to his tired, weary muscles, Daniel rolled over to reach the nightstand where he produced a large tube of lubricant that was already half empty.

  Jack took Daniel's hand in his own. "Daniel, you don't have to..."

  Daniel leaned over and kissed the older man, while his fingers busied themselves unfastening and pulling down Jack's jeans. The older man lifted his hips and wiggled as the material was pulled down his hips and off his legs. Daniel's hand drifted down to stroke and caress the colonel's hard, erect, member that was raised and ready, summoning Daniel to lead him to his own completion.

  "I want to all right?" Daniel whispered against Jack's lips. The moan that broke free from Jack's lips told Daniel that the colonel wasn't going to stop him if he insisted.

  Daniel opened the top and poured some of the cool gel onto his fingers. He then reached down and slowly rubbed the congealed, slick lubricant over Jack's searing, seeping, rosy erection. Starting at the mushroomed head, Daniel mixed the lubricant with the natural moisture leaking at the tip and worked it all over the length of the throbbing shaft. Jack moaned lightly, his hips already responding to Daniel's gentle touch.

  Daniel then took some of the mixture still covering his fingers and coated the muscular entrance to his body before moving to straddle Jack.

  Jack watched as Daniel's body hovered over his aching need, moving to position himself just so over the tip until it pressed against him. Jack's eyes squeezed shut as he felt the younger man ever so slowly lower himself onto Jack's rigid shaft. Inch by inch the younger man moved until Jack's entire length was sheathed within Daniel's heated cavern. Jack reached out to grasp Daniel's hips, steadying the man as he moaned his delight. Oh lord, Daniel was so hot and tight, and wrapped completely around him. Jack sunk deeper and deeper into the warmth. In a lightheaded daze, he wondering if the heat would absorb him whole.

  As if the tight, moist, heat wasn't enough to drive Jack senseless, Daniel began moving. Slowly he moved at first, enjoying the feel of being stretched to capacity, filled so utterly completely with Jack's body, celebrating the intimate connection that Daniel thirsted for. So full, so hot, so good, always so good when he was with Jack.

  Though he started out slow, Daniel was unable to keep his desire and want tamed. Before he knew it, Daniel had sped up and was riding Jack faster and faster, their bodies thrusting together in perfect time. Jack's hips thrusted and bucked up meeting him with hard, unrelenting need. Fingers dug hard into Daniel's hips as his legs pumped on and on. Jack's body arched and met the delightful force of Daniel's welcoming weight. Their bodies drove on harder and harder. Daniel felt such a deep, unnamed, ache Jack seemed to meet in such a way that made Daniel feel starved without it.

  Jack watched Daniel's head tossed back, his eyes partly closed, and sweet, slick sweat breaking out over his chest and arms. So, so sexy and erotic, Jack thought to himself, and all his. This passionate man was his completely, he owned him body and soul just as completely as Daniel owned him. There was no denying it when they were joined in this wild abandon. Every move, every touch, every thundering heartbeat claiming them, binding them as one.

  Burning fire tore at Jack's stomach and it warned him that it wouldn't be long before his frazzled control faltered completely. Daniel's erection had been reawakened and was salient, jutting forth from the thatch of dark hair at his pubis, and fevered with hunger as Jack's fingers closed around it.

  "Who do you belong to?" Jack asked in a harsh, throaty voice, his grip tightening painfully on the younger man as he was slammed over and over again into the welcoming body, manipulating and tugging on the steely member in time to Daniel's thrusting.

  " You," Daniel moaned out, the force of their union reaching fevered pitch.

  "Say it again," Jack groaned through gritted teeth.

  "You, only you, ever!!!" Daniel cried out, both men groaning out in unison, the fire, the desire, almost like a tangible deity between them, guiding them higher and higher.

  "Always," Jack moaned back, his head thrashing from side to side against the soft pillow under his head.

  He felt his body tightening up, knowing that the razor's edge was so near, so close...not yet, wait for it...wanted, needed more. His fingers worked furiously over Daniel's hardness, he knew the younger man was just as close.

  A choked, loud cry, was ripped from Daniel's throat. Jack's name ringing and vibrating in the colonel's ears as the younger man's pearly, thick, essence flowed hot and free to cover Jack's stomach and fingers. Within a scant moment, Jack tumbled over the brink himself, climbing higher and higher as the raging, torrential, surging, bliss sailed him up and up only to drop him spiraling into sweet oblivion as his body crashed with a whirlpool of sensations unleashed on his trembling body. His own creamy, scalding, seed forth, filling the chasm of his lover's body.

  Daniel gently released himself of their connection and fell, wilted, against Jack's chest. Jack's arms went around him and held the younger man close.

  "God, Jack, you're going to kill me," Daniel groaned as he nuzzled against Jack's chest.

  "Yeah, but at least you'd die happy," Jack smirked back as Daniel stretched his long body out against him.

  Daniel chuckled softly. "Yeah I guess I would, and you'd be pretty proud of yourself wouldn't you?" Daniel asked, trailing light kisses over Jack's chest.

  "I could sure think of worse ways to go," Jack replied with a cocky, self-satisfied smile. "Couldn't you just see the obituary? Renowned archaeologist dies from heart attack, found naked and sprawled out on bed with smile on face," he quipped as his hands ran the length of the younger man's body, stroking the muscles under his palms.

  "I'd like to see how you'd explain that one to Hammond," Daniel smiled back, his lips closing over a nipple.

  "What? You think I'd want to be the cause of two heart attacks?" Jack asked teasingly. "No thanks."

  Daniel chuckled, but his eyes turned serious before long, the teasing glint leaving his eyes. "You know don't you, that you 'do' make me happy don't you?"

  Jack kissed the top of Daniel's mop of dark chestnut hair. "Yeah, I know," Jack replied and tightened his hold on the younger man.

  Even though Daniel craved to hear the words in return, it wasn't necessary. Jack may not be the type of person to express himself vocally, but his body spoke volumes and that had told Daniel a thousand times over of the feelings that laid under the surface. He could feel it in Jack's touch, in his kisses, could see it in his eyes every time he looked at him. It was enough.

  They laid in silence, enjoying the warm aftermath that left them devoid of energy, but joyful and gratified. They very easily could have fallen asleep if a loud ringing hadn't interrupted their peaceful state.

  "That's the door bell," Daniel commented groggily.

  "You expecting anyone?" Jack asked, making no effort to move himself. There was a heavy knocking coming from the livingroom.

  "No, I don't...." Daniel stopped short as a grimace crossed his face. "Oh no, I asked Sam and Teal'C to come help me move!"

  Daniel and Jack both hopped up from the bed and clambered around for their discarded clothing.

  "Just a minute," Daniel called out when the knocking became more persistent.

  Finally dressed, hair smoothed down in place, and presentable, Jack and Daniel made their way to the door.

  Opening it up, they were greeted with Sam's wicked grin as Teal'C stood behind her. "And just what took you so long?"

  "We were, uh, occupied," Daniel replied, cringing inwardly when he smelled the faint scent of sex lingering in the air.

  "Yeah, I bet you were," Sam teased, eyes twinkling brightly.

  "Jackson here was just teaching me a few things about the ancient gods of Egypt," Jack offered. With a secret smile aimed at Daniel, he added, "You'd be amazed at some of the powers they claimed to have." Daniel blushed furiously.

  "Uh huh," Sam muttered, totally unconvinced. "I didn't know you had such a fascination with Egyptian mythology."

  "Depending on the research material, it can be inspiring," Jack responded, and couldn't keep the grin off his face.

  "I can imagine," Carter said playfully. "Though if you're wanting to keep things private, then you'd better learn how to wipe that grin off your face or else everyone is going to know about your...research."

  At Teal'C's look of confusion, Sam leaned in and whispered a few things to the Jaffa in explanation.

  "Ah, I see," the Jaffa replied and looked over at Daniel, whose face flamed even more.

  "So are you guys going to help me move or what?" Daniel asked, not able to change topics fast enough to suit him.

  "That depends, just how are you going to pay us?" Sam taunted.

  "How about dinner at my place?" O'Neill offered, his arm wrapping around Daniel's waist.

  "You forget O'Neill, I've had your cooking before, are you wanting to pay us or poison us?" Sam quipped.

  "Ha, ha, very funny," Jack said indignantly. "How about Chinese take-out then?"

  "Now you're talking. What are we waiting for?" Carter asked, moving into the room and began scouting the area for where they would begin. ****

  Three hours, and just as many trips later, the small group found themselves at Jack's house, clustered around his small dinning-room table. The small oak table was piled with tons of white cartons that had just been delivered. Jack passed around plates that the other piled high with beef low mien, egg rolls, pork fried rice, and steamed vegetables.

  "Sorry we couldn't help you unpack," Sam said, maneuvering a egg roll around on her plate with her chopsticks. Dipping it into the sweet and sour sauce, she brought it up to her lips and took a bite. She let out groan of appreciation. The food was excellent. "I didn't realize how much you were going to pack."

  "Yeah, I didn't realize I had so much stuff either, I guess you don't till it's time to move," Daniel explained, using a fork and tasting the pork fried rice, one of his favorites.

  "Don't worry about it, we've got a week's break from the base," Jack reminded them. Hammond had given them all a week off after their last mission, and glancing over at Daniel, Jack decided he was going to enjoy his vacation thoroughly. "We've got plenty of time to get you unpacked and settled in."

  Daniel allowed himself a smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Sure you've got the room for all of it?"

  "We'll make the room," Jack responded. He reached under the table and patted Daniel's leg assuringly. When he looked up, Jack caught Sam's smile. "What are you grinning at?"

  "Nothing...not a thing," Sam replied, shaking her head slightly. She let a long piece of low mien fall into her mouth. Jack sure has changed a lot, Sam mused to herself. So had Daniel for that matter. She couldn't ever remember seeing the two of them any happier, more relaxed, or mellowed, than they had been since they found each other. Carter sighed wistfully. 'That's what happens when you're in love,' she thought to herself, though refraining from saying so out loud. She remembered that feeling, though it had been awhile, and hoped she'd feel it again one of these days. She was pulled from her rumination with the sound of a ringing phone.

  Jack reached across Daniel and picked the handle up from its cradle. "Hello," he greeted. "Oh, General Hammond, what can I do for you?" A pause. "But we were suppose to have the week off Sir, are you sure..." There was another pause as Jack met each of his teammate's eyes. "Yes Sir, I understand. I'll tell the team. Good-bye."

  Jack slammed the phone down with a little more force than was needed. Looking regretfully at Daniel, he said, "Sorry, but it looks like we're going to have to put the unpacking on hold."

  "What's happened?" Carter asked, finishing the last bite of rice on her plate.

  "That was Hammond, we're suppose to be on the base first thing in the morning," Jack informed them bitterly.

  "What happened to our week off?" Sam asked.

  "You tell me, I guess there's a mission that they aren't able to push back," Jack explained.

  There was grumbling and disappointed looks all around the table. Daniel was irritated, he had been looking forward to having Jack to himself for the entire week, celebrating their new living arrangement right.

  "Some vacation," Sam muttered. She stood up. "I guess if we're suppose to be there bright and early, I need to be getting back home."

  Teal'C rose as well. "Yes, I will be needing to return to the base."

  Daniel and Jack followed the other two to the door.

  "Thanks for helping me move," Daniel said as Jack opened the door for them.

  "No problem, I'm so use to moving around, I almost like it," Sam remarked.

  "We will see you tomorrow," Teal'C said as he prepared to make sure Sam returned home safely.

  "Yeah, don't you boys stay up too late...wouldn't want to wear yourselves out," Sam smirked and winked before turning to leave.

  When the door closed, Daniel turned to Jack. "I hate it when she does that," he mumbled in annoyance.

  Jack just smiled. "I know, why do you think she does it?"

  Daniel looked around Jack's living room. Stacks of cardboard boxes were piled high all throughout the spacious room. He let out a deep sigh as Jack came up behind him and wrapped his arms around him.

  "Don't worry, we'll get to it later," he assured the younger man and in a lower voice said, "Come on, let's get ready for bed."

  Jack took Daniel's hand and led him towards the direction of the bedroom. Jack was right, Daniel thought, they could worry about the unpacking later. He was here with Jack, that was what mattered. ****

  The next morning, the crew assembled around the long table in the conference room. All except Teal'C had steaming mugs of coffee siting in front of them. Hammond entered carrying a cup of his own and a stack of files.

  "Mind if I ask what's so important that you have to cancel our vacations?" O'Neill asked in between sips.

  Hammond met his eyes without amusement. "Good morning to you too O'Neill."

  "Well General, we are curious about why you called us," Carter said, blowing over the rim of her cup.

  "I wouldn't if I didn't have to, but a new planet has been discovered and I'm wanting my best team on it," Hammond explained. The compliment did little to placate the four sets of eyes regarding him.

  "What have you found out so far?" Daniel asked finally, breaking the silence.

  "Planet P3J62938 is its name. We sent a probe in yesterday and it came back with strange atmospheric readings. It couldn't be said for certain what was going on, but there had been some strange solar readings maybe caused by flares. There was such a variance in readings that we weren't able to pin point what the reason behind it was," the General explained.

  "So you're wanting us to put in a personal appearance and take some reading of our own right?" Jack asked.

  "That pretty much covers it," Hammond answered.

  "What else do you know about the planet?" Daniel asked, wondering if it would give him a chance to study a new society.

  "From the readings, we gathered it's a planet with a desert terrain, beyond that we're not sure," Hammond explained.

  With his eyes trained on the file in his hands, Jack muttered, "Desert terrain huh? Better make sure I pack my sunblock."

  Daniel sputtered on his coffee, nearly choking. Sam and Teal'C looked at him with concern as Jack reached over and pounded him on the back.

  "Are you okay?" Jack asked with a look of utter innocence on his face.

  "Yeah, I'm fine," Daniel gasped, slowly catching his breath. No one noticed the kick he delivered to O'Neill under the table.

  "Uh, yeah, back to what I was saying," the General interrupted, bringing the group's attention back to himself. "It is a desert terrain. Even though there's no proof yet, we also suspect that it is inhabited, so watch yourselves. You leave in a couple of hours." A chorus of 'yes sir' was heard around the table.

  "Shall that be all General Hammond?" Teal'C asked.


  "Then I shall excuse myself," the Jaffa said, already standing up.

  "Yes, your all free to go," the General dismissed.

  Daniel and Jack followed Teal'C out, but Sam remained behind. She was studying the file more depth. The readings were fascinating from a scientific standpoint. There were vast fluctuations that there were no answer for. Sam sensed there was more to the explanation than solar flares, but just what, she wasn't sure. It took several minutes before she felt a pair of eyes on her. Looking up, she saw that General Hammond was still in the room with her.

  "Is something wrong General?" Sam asked curiously.

  The general shifted slightly on his feet, his eyes were grim, and a nervous twitch played on his upper lip. "Carter, I need to ask you something," he began hesitantly.

  "Yes," Sam encouraged.

  Hammond's eyes nervously scanned the room before landing on Sam's. "Umm, have you noticed any difference in Daniel and Jack recently?"

  "Difference in what way?" Sam asked cautiously.

  The General coughed, and cleared his throat. Sam noticed a tenseness in Hammond's features. "Well, it just seems to me that O'Neill has become somewhat... over protective...of Jackson recently." Carter started to protest, but the general stopped her.

  "There's also the...ah...issue of Jackson's change of address that he put in's the same as O'Neill's."

  It was Carter's turn to squirm in her seat. "Well, with both of them being single, they decided that it made sense for them to share finances. Also, they thought it would be a better arrangement if they had to be contacted quickly." Sam could feel the weight of Hammond's heavy stare. "If there is some kind of problem, perhaps you should discuss it with the Colonel."

  Hammond continued to stare at Carter wordlessly for a long moment, as though digesting everything she had said.

  "Dismissed," Hammond ordered abruptly and turned to leave himself, the door slamming on his way out.

  Two hours later, Sam was standing next to O'Neill in the gate room as they prepared to go through the iris. They were making the final calculations before dialing up the coordinates to the new planet. While Daniel was occupied, Sam pulled Jack aside.

  "We need to talk later," she warned him, her eyes very serious. At Jack's questioning look, she continued. "Seems Hammond is getting suspicious about how close you and Daniel are getting, he senses something's up."

  "Damn," O'Neill swore softly. "Okay, look, right now keep this under your hat and don't tell Daniel. He's been getting a little edgy about this as it is and I don't want to make it worse if we don't have to." Jack ran his fingers through his tousled hair. "I'll handle Hammond."

  "All right, I won't tell Daniel right now, I just wanted to warn you ahead of time," Sam responded.

  "Thanks," Jack said softly, "for watching out for us."

  "No problem, " Sam shrugged, before heading towards the ramp and the iris.

  Jack joined Sam and the rest of the crew as the coordinates were dialed up by Teal'C. The room shook and vibrated as the iris came alive. Electric white sparks made the latticed pattern over the inside of the arch as the humming started and it was filled with the shimmering, blue opaqueness that would lead them to another world. ****

  When the team stepped out of the other side of the gate, they appeared on a mesa overlooking a desert landscape barren of much plant life or growth of any kind. The sand beneath their feet was a fine crystalline white that glistened and sparkled as the bright glowing yellow sun beat down from overhead with a blinding force. It was hot, much hotter than Sam knew that it should be. Dry winds blew across their bodies and was so warm that it felt like a furnace blasting. The whirling winds picked up stray granules of sand that raked against their exposed skin.

  In the horizon, a small city could be seen. The buildings were very small, sandstone structures, though some of the buildings were greatly more ornate than others suggesting different levels of wealth among the inhabitants. Some were whitewashed, others were a natural dark red. A ringing bell heard in the distance suggested a place of worship beginning service. Also over the wind, sounds could be heard coming from the large city market where people could be heard bustling from stall to stall, looking over all the merchants' goods and wares. Along the fringe of the town ran a river. It's swift waters bending, twisting, and diverging along the jagged path of the shoreline until it disappeared into the shadows.

  "I'm going to check things out down there," Jack said and motioned to the town with his head.

  "I will accompany you," Teal'C replied, ready to head off.

  "Fine, I'm going to start taking some readings," Sam replied, starting off in a direction of her own.

  "I'll do some scouting, see what's here besides the village," Jackson offered.

  Suddenly a sound of a loud, deep voiced, scream echoed from somewhere nearby. Startled, the team members looked to one another.

  "What was that?" Sam asked, her thoughts of readings pushed aside.

  "I don't know, I'm going to check it out though," Daniel replied and took off in a run in the direction of the screaming.

  Jack and Teal'C had already put some distance between Sam and Daniel, but hearing the cry himself, Jack turned in time to see Daniel running off down a steep slope.

  "Daniel! Stop!!" he called, but was too late, the archaeologist was already out of shouting distance. Sighing, Jack took off at a run after him.

  Daniel, following the cried still emanating in the distance, came to stop at the edge of huge rocky cliff. There he saw a large, middle aged, tanned skinned, dark haired man dangling perilously off the cliff's edge, desperately trying to maintain his grasp with bloody, raw fingers.

  Daniel fell to the ground on his stomach and reaching out, clasped the man's forearm with his hands. The man's eyes were wide and terrified as he struggled against Daniel's grip.

  "Easy fella, I'm here to help you," Daniel explained, trying to keep his voice calm and steady as to not frighten the man further.

  Both of his hands went around the man's sweaty forearm. The man's other hand was precariously clutching at an outgrowth just below the edge of the cliff. Dammit, where was Teal'C, Daniel wondered? Bracing himself, he tried to haul the man back up over the ledge. The man was dripping with sweat, and his weight was like lead. With those combined, Daniel felt himself loosing his grip.

  "Hold on, just hold on," Daniel said, trying to reestablish a better grip, the man slipped further.

  "Daniel! Where are you?" From the distance, Daniel heard Jack calling for him.

  "I'm over here!!" he yelled back, his arms straining with effort. "Hurry!! I need you!"

  Daniel felt the man slip just a little more. Sweat was breaking out on himself as his eyes locked with the dark, black, eyes of stranger he was trying so desperately to maintain his hold on.

  "Only one pure and gentle of heart can touch the soul of evil and survive its power. Beware of the golden serpent. The eye of Ormuzd will protect you." the stranger said.

  Suddenly the man let go of the overgrowth he had been clinging to and grabbed for Daniel. The archaeologist put all of his weight into trying to pull the hefty man the rest of the way over the ledge and to safety. Without warning, the man slipped a golden bangle onto Daniel's left wrist before smiling once more at the archaeologist, his hand slipping from Daniel's completely.

  "No!!!" Daniel cried, scrambling to reach the flailing arm.

  Before he could grasp it, it was grabbed by another set of hands. Daniel looked over to Jack, who grunted with the pull of the weight and Daniel's hands clasped around O'Neill's. Both men tried with desperation to heave the man up, but the weight and the sweat won out as the man slipped further and further until his fingertips finally slipped from their grasps.

  A wail tore painfully from Daniel's throat as Jack pulled him back and into his arms, trying to block his view of the helpless falling man. Daniel buried his face against Jack's neck and even though his sight was blocked, he could still hear the bloodcurdling screaming howl and the sickening thud of the man's final moments.

  As Jack held Daniel, the colonel saw that Sam and Teal'C arrived just in time to see the man slip and hear the cries as he fell to his death.

  "I...I..tried, I just...he was so heavy, I tried," Daniel said in a shakily tone, his voice muffled against Jack's neck.

  "I know you did, I know you did," Jack murmured, rubbing Daniel's back soothingly.

  "It was my fault, I couldn't hold on," Daniel moaned.

  Jack held him back to look into the younger man's blue eyes that shown with unshed tears. "No, it was 'not' your fault, you did all you could do, it was no more your fault than it was mine," he reassured the archeologist and pulled him close again.

  Teal'C moved closer to look over the side of the cliff. A man he did not know was sprawled over the jagged rocks below. His limbs were bent in unnatural angles, and the white sand was colored crimson from the free flowing blood of the many gashes and lacerations from when he had hit.

  "Daniel Jackson, that man was very muscular and large, there no way you would have been capable of pulling him back up over the cliff without more assistance, you were not the cause of his death," Teal'C replied.

  Sam went over to Daniel and put her arm around him in comfort as well. After a few minutes, Daniel caught his breath and had slowly started to calm down.

  "We should go down to the village, I'm sure he probably had family that needs to know," Daniel said softly.

  Jack and Sam nodded and was about ready to stand when they heard a commotion headed towards them. The team was suddenly surrounded by a troop of heavily armed men clad in togas. Bows, spears, knives, and swords were held on them as the men circled the group, sealing off any possible exit.

  Teal'C raised his staff, but Jack motioned him to stand down.

  "What's going on here?" Jack demanded, looking around and meeting strange, angry eyes of the small army of men poised and ready to do them harm.

  A young man came forward, his spear trained on Jack. "You will come with us to the city, you must see the Elders."

  "Look, we're not going anywhere with you until you lower your weapons," Jack snapped.

  "Why should we lower our weapons? What reason do we have to trust you won't try to escape?" the leader asked, his eyes narrowed in distrust.

  "Oh, I don't know, maybe because you have us outmanned five to one?" Jack suggested.

  The leader's eyes looked over the group wearily, he frowned when he met Teal'C's eyes. "You will go willingly?" he asked finally.

  "Do we have a choice?" Jack snapped back.

  "No," the man answered.

  "Then lead on," Jack said.

  With a wave of the leader's hand, the small army of men lowered their weaponry. With a nod of Jack's head, the group made their way forward and left the mesa and led towards the town.

  As they were led down the center of town, the crew felt the eyes of the town upon them. Women and children stood in doorways, men looked out from window, all pointing and whispering at the fair skinned intruders and casting evil looks at Teal'C. Eventually, they were taken to building with stone steps leading up to a large opened archway. The building itself was huge compared to the other dwellings in the town and it looked magnificent as it dwarfed the surrounding buildings, it's large ivory pillars were topped with golden onion-shaped adornments.

  As they walked up the steps and entered the establishment, Jack had reservations, he wasn't sure what was going to happen, but his gut instinct told him he wasn't going to like it, whatever it was. The inside was spacious, though sparse in the way of decoration. Many hand-woven tapestries of every shade gave the place rich color, breaking the monotonous monochrome of the ivory-shaded walls.

  In intervals along the length of the walls stood carved marbled sculptures. Daniel noticed that the figures were shaped very similarly to gods in Egyptian mythology and was able to even recognize who many of them represented.

  As they moved further inside, they were led a platform that held a large oblong wooden table where a group of elderly gentlemen and ladies were knelt around. They too wore robes similar to the team's captors.

  "Anyone have a clue as to why we were brought here?" Sam whispered.

  "Well, somehow I don't think it's their welcoming committee," Jack whispered back.

  "I believe it's the town's group of Elders, so we need to show them respect," Daniel whispered.

  "They haven't been very respectful of us now have they?" Jack asked testily.

  "Silence!" one of the elderly men ordered and stood.

  The man that stood was slim and fragile looking. He had long grey hair that was tied back and hung down the middle of his back, and a long grey, shaggy beard fell to his chest and hid his mouth. Though he was fragile looking, Jack felt that this man held a good deal of power in the city. His demeanor seemed to command respect and authority. Slowly, the man approached the group.

  The man then addressed them. "You have been brought before the high counsel because you have committed a murder. The man who fell from the cliff died at your hands."

  "What? You're crazy!" Jack protested, taking a step forward. Two guards raised their weapons, Jack stopped short. "We didn't kill anyone," he insisted.

  Daniel stepped forward. "Now that isn't how it happened, that man was already hanging off the side of the cliff when we got there! We were trying to help him before he slipped from our hands."

  "Liar!" one of the woman called. "No one else was found at the cliff besides you," she said.

  The man held his hand up to silence the woman before turning his eyes back on Daniel. "What proof do you have for your claims?" he asked.

  "Proof?" Daniel asked in a frustrated voice. "How can we prove that we didn't deliberately let him fall?" He ran a shaky hand through his disheveled hair, brushing it back from his eyes. As he did so, the elders let out a collective gasp when they saw the bangle on Daniel's wrist.

  The group watched with confusion as the guards immediately backed away from them. The leader of the counsel slowly came forward and started to approach Daniel. Jack instinctively placed himself between Daniel and the stranger without pause. The elderly man then stopped and smiled at the colonel.

  "So the chosen one has a protector. That is good, for he will be in need of one soon," the man said enigmatically.

  With a clap of his hands, the guards disappeared and several young women carrying trays of food and pitchers of drinks took their place. The trays were set upon the table and just as quickly as they came, the girls too were dismissed. The elder then motioned them to join him on the platform.

  "Please, come," the elder asked, taking his seat at the head of the table.

  Hesitantly, the group moved to make their way to the platform and took seats on the abundant, multi-colored pillows that were strewn around for their comfort. One of the ladies moved to provide a seat for Jack near Daniel.

  The elders filled plates and goblets and placed them in front of the team.

  "Eat with us, please," one of them offered.

  Since most eyes were on Daniel, the archaeologist was the first to select a piece of fresh melon and bit into it. Several of the elders smiled approvingly as they began eating as well.

  "Do you have any idea what this all about?" Jack asked in a whisper, leaning over to Daniel. He was definitely anything but conformable with such an abrupt change of attitude of these people. Had they done something to make them believe they were gods, as had happened numerous times before? And what about the comment of Daniel being the 'chosen one' and he being his 'protector'?

  "Not a clue," the younger man whispered back.

  "Does something trouble you, friend?" the leader of the elders asked, sipping his wine slowly.

  "Well yes, a minute ago, you called Daniel the chosen one, what did you mean by that?" he asked.

  The elder smiled mysteriously and his eyes locked with Jack's. He held the colonel's gaze as he reached over to grasp Daniel's left wrist. When he noticed the way Jack tensed in his seat, the elder very gently pulled Daniel's wrist forward to expose the bangle. It was made of the purest looking gold, the yellow glistened in the sunbeams radiating through the room. In the center, surrounded by carvings etched in the gold, was an amulet shaped like an eye and made of the blackest onyx Daniel had ever seen. The side of the bangle was opened to allow easy removal, it had no clasp.

  "This isn't what you think," Daniel said hastily, fearing that they would think he had stolen it from the deceased man. "The man reached up and put it on my wrist right before he slipped, I don't know why. I can assure you though, that I didn't take it from him."

  The elder leaned back. "I believe you Doniell," the man said, the thick accent he had mangling Daniel's name slightly. "For you see, had you murdered Obideous and took the bracelet from him, the amulet would have burned your hand." The elder then pointed to Daniel's hand. "You have no such burns."

  Daniel looked from his wrist, to Jack, and then back to the elder. "Uh, yeah, well, I'm sure the man's family would prefer having this. It rightly belongs to them," Daniel stated and tried to pull the bracelet off of his wrist. To the archaeologist's surprise, even with the opening, the bracelet didn't budge.

  "This thing is stuck," he said helplessly, continuing to try and work it off.

  "Here, let me," Sam offered and reached across the table to try to see if she could manage to get it off. As soon as she touched it, she jerked her hand back with a yelp. Looking down, she noted the skin of her fingertips were pinkened where the bracelet had burned her.

  Jack took Daniel's forearm in hand and tried to dislodge the bangle, he too had to release the bracelet because his fingers were singed as well.

  "I don't feel heat at all," Daniel said, touching the bracelet quite normally, as though it were any other piece of common jewelry.

  "I can't explain it. It's not anything like I've seen before," Sam said with a shrug.

  "Just what's going on here?" Jack demanded.

  The head elder sighed heavily. "Please enjoy you're meal while I tell you of the quest you shall be embarking on."

  Jack and Daniel looked hesitantly at each other, both confused, but they began eating the fresh fruit, meats, and other foods set before them, as did Sam and Teal'C.

  "Let me begin by asking if any of you are familiar with Ahriman or Ahura Mazdah," the elder started to speak, bringing a honeyed orange slice to his mouth. Daniel decided that was his cue to speak. "Well, on our world, Ahriman was know in Egyptian mythology as representing the devil...a dark spirit that was the personification of everything evil. He was seen as the cosmic enemy of Ahura Mazdah. Ahura was know by Egyptians as the supreme god who created both heaven and Earth. It is said there was a mighty battle between the two to see who would rule."

  "Yes! I am glad the chosen one knows the story well, it shall make the journey less tedious," the elder explained enthusiastically. "You see, on this world, that mighty battle is still being waged. It is told that every one hundred years, a war erupts between Ahura Mazdah and Ahriman. If Ahriman were to win this battle, our people will be plagued with disease, starvation, and devastation throughout the land."

  "Just how does this affect Daniel?" Jack asked curiously.

  "Patience my friend," the elder said. "You see, Obideous was on a very special quest that related to this great war. You see, here is known to exist a precious treasure called the Heart Of Ahriman. Our people believe that if we find the Heart before this battle begins and offer it to Ahura Mazdah, it can serve as a weapon in Ahura Mazdah's defense against Ahriman's evil. Unfortunately many years ago the Goa'ulds took and hid the Heart from us. Only the chosen one is capable of undertaking the task of securing the Heart for our people. The time for the battle is close at hand," the elder paused as he looked Daniel straight in the eyes, "and the chosen one has been selected."

  "Wait a minute here, what makes you think Daniel is the chosen one?" Jack asked impatiently.

  "He wears the eye of Ormuzd," one of the other elders spoke up and pointed to Daniel's bangle.

  "That doesn't mean he has to go off searching for this heart, it sounds too dangerous, look at what happened to the last one looking for it," Jack insisted.

  "Which is why he needs his protector," the head elder explained calmly.

  "Uh uh, no way. I'm not traipsing around an unfamiliar planet on some wild goose chase," Jack exclaimed.

  "Please, you must. Without the Heart, our people will surely be destroyed," the elder countered and then turned to Daniel. "Please, you must convince him, we must find the Heart," he pleaded.

  Daniel saw the raw fear reflected in the man's eyes and it was mirrored in the rest of the elders at the table. Whether the fable was true or not, these people seemed convinced of it's authenticity. They truly feared for their lives.

  "Jack, could I talk to you for a minute," Daniel requested and stood from the table and walking to a corner of the room. Jack begrudgingly followed.

  "Daniel..." Jack said in a warning tone, folding muscular arms across his broad chest.

  "Jack, they need us," Daniel insisted.

  "You don't have any idea what we have to do, where this Heart is, or how dangerous it is! Look at what happened to Obideous!" Jack hissed.

  Daniel ran a hand through his hair nervously and Jack saw the bangle again. "Jack, I can't explain why, but I think we owe it to him to try...we owe it to his family, his friends, and the rest of the people in this city."

  "Daniel, we don't owe them anything. You didn't kill him," Jack stressed.

  "Fine, don't go if you don't want to, but I am," Daniel returned. Jack could tell by Daniel's set jaw that he was serious about this.

  "Oh no you won't, I'll order you if I have to," Jack countered, just as serious.

  Daniel's eyes leveled with Jack's. "No you won't," he said with certainty.

  Jack stared into Daniel's bright blue eyes for long time before finally speaking. "Is this really that important to you?"

  "Yes," the younger man said assuredly.

  Jack let out a low, deep, growl. "Fine, but I'll be damned if you're going by yourself."

  "I hadn't expected to," Daniel smiled victoriously, "without my protector."

  "Right," Jack mumbled, feeling like he had been played for a patsy.

  Why was it so hard to say no to him, Jack wondered as they made their way back to the platform and the elders. Sam and Teal'C watched them with curiosity.

  "I except the quest for the Heart Of Ahriman," Daniel announced. Catching Jack's annoyed gaze, he corrected himself. "We accept."

  All the elders smiled happily, relief flooding their faces. The leader of the elder approached them yet again. The old man clasped both of Daniel's hands in his own.

  "Bless you, Doniell, you have been blessed by the gods themselves and I am certain they have chosen wisely. You will bring my people much honor and secure our victory against Ahriman," the man exclaimed with joy. "Now, you and your protector must come. There is much to prepare for."

  The elder then led O'Neill and Jackson towards the entrance of another room off to the side. Sam and Teal'C wasted no time in following them, curiosity getting the best of them. The room they entered was not a typical side room. Just from one look around, Sam realized that it's main function was that of an observation room. There were large openings carved within the dome shaped ceiling, strategically placed for the tracking of stars. Discolored pieces of papyrus hung from the walls and charted in faded ink star formations and the different course pattern of the different solar and lunar occurrences throughout the years. The sandstone walls that made up the room were filled with different hieroglyphics etched in their hard surface. The worn appearance told Daniel that these particular hieroglyphics were thousands of years old, some symbols having been worn completely unreadable.

  The room only contained one adornment, a pedestal that was several feet tall and made from the whitest gold Sam had seen. The base was etched with large ivy vines that climbed and rose and scattered throughout were large oak leaves. The base arched upwards and divided into two perfectly curved sides that continued upwards until they met in a perfect peak at the top, leaving a hollowed cavity of it's center.

  Sam moved over to inspect it more closely. "This looks like it was created to hold something," she commented to no one in particular, running a fingertip within the hollow.

  The elder smiled at her and nodded his head. "Yes, that is where the Heart belongs and needs to be returned to before Azhi Dahka crosses paths with the fire in the sky."

  "Fire in the sky? Daniel, do you know what he's talking about?" Sam asked with confusion. The archaeologist was busy studying the hieroglyphics along the walls. "Daniel?" Sam called when Daniel continued to ignore her.

  "I am pleased that the chosen one is such a diligent student in the ways of our beliefs. The gods have selected with great wisdom," the elder said with pride. Sam merely smiled while Jack snorted at the comment.

  Daniel, finally pulling himself away from the symbols on the wall, walked over to the group. "Azhi Dahaka, also known as the great dragon of the sky, was created by Ahriman to bring ruin to the Earth. Atar, the son of Ahura Mazdah, as was Ormuzd, captured the dragon and bound it in chains in a high mountain," the younger man explained.

  "But how could it be that a dragon could exist in the skies?" Teal'C questioned, his forehead furrowed in puzzlement.

  "I believe the answer to that question is held over here," the elder explained, leading the four of them over to a particular section along one of the walls.

  The image etched was that of a huge winged dragon, it's mammoth wings outstretched as it headed towards the symbol of the Earth. The dragon's sharp talons were wrapped around a round symbol with wavy lines trailing in it's wake.

  "You know what this looks like to me?" Daniel asked as he met Sam's eyes, pointing to the circled shape the dragon carried.

  "I may not be an archaeologist, but if you ask me, it looks like a comet," Sam explained. Carried by the dragon's razor sharp talons, looked to be a small circular object with a flame shooting from behind it. "You know guys, if that's true, this myth could have a real foundation to it," Sam exclaimed with enthusiasm beaming in her eyes as she looked at a skeptical Jack. "No, try to follow me here, what if a comet appears every hundred years and travels so close to the sun that it causes some kind of tremendous outbursts of solar flares or an increase in the electromagnetic radiation flow? That in itself could cause some form of devastation on the planet. Now this is only a theory, I have to study the charts before I know for sure what's happening," she explained.

  "Are you sure you're going to be all right by yourself while we're gone?" O'Neill asked with concern.

  "A friend of the chosen one and his protector is kept safe from harm's way and is an honored guest within this city. I assure you, she will be cared for," the elder insisted. It was all the reassurance that Sam needed as she began pouring over the various charts along the wall.

  "All right, then would you mind telling me just how and where are we suppose to begin this guest?" Jack asked, satisfied that Sam felt secure.

  The elder produced a parchment. The faded paper was rolled up and tied securely with a leather strap. He then handed the parchment to Daniel. The younger man opened it hesitantly and unrolled it with due care. Jack watched as Daniel read the unfamiliar scribbling that he himself couldn't make out, and the younger man's eyes grew large in their sockets. Forgetting himself, Daniel grasped Jack's arm.

  "Jack, this is an eyewitness testament as to where the Goa'ulds took the Heart of Ahriman!" Daniel exclaimed.

  Jack watched Daniel for a few more moments, lost in confusion as he looked over Daniel's shoulder at the ancient text. It was Teal'C who broke the silence and voiced the question Jack had himself.

  "If you have the location of the Heart why is it that you have not recovered it as of yet?"

  "Yeah, I'd like the answer to that question myself," Jack said irritably. "Okay, out with it, what's really going on here?"

  The elder sighed wearily, but responded nonetheless. "True, the testament does give locations, yes, but there are many perils to be crossed before the chosen one can safely retrieve the heart. For over fifty years, my people have sent our chosen ones out to find and bring back the heart." The man then seemed to pause, as though considering whether or not he should speak any further. All eyes of the group were upon him, even his chosen one had discontinued reading and was watching him with interest.

  "What else?" Jack pressed.

  "Not one has ever returned from the quest," the old man said quietly.

  "What do you mean no one's returned!?!" Jack exclaimed. His eyes were now burning with undisguised anger. "Just how many men gone off in this search and why haven't they came back?" he demanded.

  "For over fifty years, we have sent a chosen one at the beginning of every solstice," the elder responded softly.

  As Daniel did the mental calculation, the parchment slipped from his lax fingers. "One hundred?" he stammered in a weak voice.

  Jack grabbed Daniel's arm painfully and dragged him to a corner of the room. "Now listen and listen well, there is no way, repeat, no way that you are going on that quest! I don't care what you say about it either. One hundred men have disappeared Daniel, one-hundred-men!!" Jack gave the younger man no chance in interrupting his tirade.

  "Please, you must..." the elder started to plead, but Jack cut him off swiftly.

  "No we mustn't! You've lost a hundred men and for what? For some icon that you don't even know exists!" Jack roared.

  "Hey boys, I know you're busy but I have some news that you just might find interesting," Sam interrupted. "Now, I can't explain everything right now, but from the best I can figure out, the comet is due to cross paths with the sun in a matter of days. When it does, it appears to be on a track that will bring it into the sun's orbit just long enough to cause the sun to react as a nova might. The thing that I don't understand right now is that all the charts and records seem to refer to the Heart as the means to control the solar flares. Now I'm not sure how just yet, perhaps the heart is made from some element or mineral that can divert the suns rays, whatever the reason, the planet needs the Heart in order to survive. If we don't find it, there will be devastating destruction on the planet," she explained, a grim look marring her features.

  Silence filled the small room. Jack was silent for what seemed to be an eternity while he went over every option he could think of. Finally he turned to Daniel. "What exactly is written on that scroll?"

  "It's a set of directions, but it seems to be written in riddle or code. More than likely that was so as to not let the Goa'uld know what it really contained," Daniel explained.

  "Do you think you could follow these directions?" Jack asked. Daniel nodded affirmatively in response. Jack then turned his attention to the elder. "So just what kinds of perils was you referring to before?" he asked tersely.

  "You see, the ancient followers of Ahriman had also seen the parchment before it was passed on to the high council. Since they wish to have Ahriman rule the world, they had set traps along the way. Even the followers of Ahriman today know not what lies in wait for whoever tries to reach the heart. Now, this is in addition to the security around the heart itself as set by the Goa'uld. I do not know all of the perils or entrapments that will await you, for none of the chosen ones have returned to tell of the tales," the elder explained regretfully. "All such knowledge was placed on the scroll," the elder stated with a wave of his bony hand to Daniel.

  Jack turned to Sam. "Are you positive that only the Heart can save them?"

  "If I wagered percentages, I'd say I'm at least ninety-eight percent positive of it," she assured him.

  "I was afraid you were going to say that," Jack mumbled under his breath. He then turned back to the elder. "All right, even though it 'really' goes against my better judgement, I don't see any other alternatives since we can't leave the planet to be destroyed. We'll help." Jack's eyes held no amusement as he regarded the old man with a cold stare.

  "Fine, let's get started then while there's time," Daniel suggested, grasping the testament firmly.

  The elder stopped him. "Please, you mustn't remove the scroll, it is the only copy in existence."

  Daniel nodded his head in understanding and began scribbling notes down on a piece of paper he dug out of his pocket.

  When Daniel had copied the notes to his satisfaction, he, Jack, and Teal'C prepared to head out. Before they got outside, one of the female elders stopped in front of them and took Daniel's hands.

  "Bless you, and may the Gods grant you fortune on this journey," she spoke softly.

  "Thank you," Daniel said respectfully and gave the woman a hesitant, yet warm smile and stepped out into the brilliant sunlight.

  They walked through the center of the city, through the open market, past houses and as they did so, people came out to see 'the chosen one'. Women, children, and men they did not know came forward to shake Daniel's hand and wish them safe passage on their traveling. Some of the women even tried to push food and supplies at them, but they declined, wanting to travel as light as possible.

  It didn't long for them to reach the outskirts of the town and Jack looked expectantly to Daniel.

  "All right where to?" the colonel asked, looking around at the unfamiliar territory.

  Daniel pulled the paper from he had pocketed and read it aloud. "By the river's edge set sail to the eyes of Ormuzd. Give homage to Ormuzd and the twilight's gleam will guide your way."

  Jack and Teal'C looked curiously to Daniel while they repeated the clue in their minds.

  "All right, off to a river's edge," Jack said with a shrug.

  "Might it be the river we saw from the cliffs earlier?" Teal'C asked.

  "It's probably our best bet, after all, it was the only river we've seen," Daniel remarked and moved off to follow Jack.

  Within little time, they came to the river's shore. Thick, colorful bushes dotted the shoreline while the gently rumbling of surging river. The waters flowed swiftly and beat against the shore.

  "Now just how are we suppose to set sail?" Jack asked, his eyes scanning the surroundings. Daniel shrugged helplessly.

  "What is that?" Teal'C asked, pointing with his staff to a shadow in a patch of bushes some way down the shore.

  Walking over to check it, Jack discovered that it was small pirogue, hand-made and hollowed out by birchwood. Jack grabbed hold of it and hauled out of the undergrowth.

  "Is that thing even water worthy?" Daniel asked, giving the old wooden dugout a once over.

  "We'll find out, now won't we?" Jack asked, wanting to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but failing miserably.

  Teal'C helped Jack to tow the canoe down the sandy shore to the water's edge. Once Daniel was settled in, Jack climbed into the boat in front of him as Teal'C shoved the boat into the river. The current was stronger than it looked to be and the Jaffa had to keep a firm hold to keep the vessel from being swept away. The dark man found himself submerged up to his knees before he realized it, but was able to climb in with little problem. Picking up one of the wooden paddles, Teal'C began helping O'Neill to paddle. Scanning the distance, Daniel began scouting for the eyes of Ormuzd.

  The river's course took the boat on twists and turns, the city becoming left further behind in the distance until they were unable to see it.

  The late afternoon sun set the skies ablaze violet, indigo, and magenta. All three men were oddly quiet, not wanting to disturb the tranquility surrounding them. Jack though, was starting to feel uneasy. They had been traveling for awhile, yet there had been no further indication that they were even heading the in the right direction. Daniel hadn't said anything more about the clue since the start of the river trip.

  "Daniel, do you even know what we're looking for? Maybe if you told us, we could all keep a look out we'd find it sooner," Jack suggested. "Besides, it's starting to get dark and we're going to have to be stopping soon."

  Daniel looked at Jack. "I don't know exactly, I can't really describe what I'm looking for, but I think I'll know when I see it," he remarked hesitantly.

  "Oh yeah, you'll know it when you see it, okay," Jack muttered. Daniel frowned and kept looking down the river.

  Teal'C's brow shot up questioningly. "Dr. Jackson, how are you able to find something if you don't know what it is?"

  Daniel ran a hand through his damp hair. "I don't, like I said, it's something I'm not sure about, but you're going to have to trust me." Teal'C and Jack just looked at each other and Daniel let out a frustrated sigh, knowing neither of them were satisfied with that.

  Daniel became quiet again until they rounded the next bend. Something caught his attention and he grabbed at Jack's arm in excitement.

  "Hey, look!" he cried and pointed.

  Straight ahead the way was blocked by the side of a massive, jagged mountain. However, the river forked and diverged into two directions leading directly into the mountain. The caverns entrances were shaped very similar to the shape of the amulet on Daniel's bracelet. With the inky blackness of the caverns beyond, the two openings look like two huge dark orbs staring at them.   Daniel tried to remember everything and anything he had ever learned about the god Ormuzd. For some reason his usually active mind was drawing a blank. Panic began to slowly grip him as he thought furiously.   "Give homage," he repeated over and over almost as if it had become a mantra. "Okay, okay, homage--to give an offering of some sort." His expressive blue eyes searched the faces of his companions hoping for some assistance.   Teal'C, who had also been lost in thought, raised his eyes to meet Daniel's. "Perhaps, Daniel Jackson, we are to present a gift of some sort. We are on a river, we could capture some fish." The archaeologist thought about the suggestion, then looked around at their surroundings. Slowly he shook his head. "That's a good idea, Teal'C, thank you. However, where would we offer it, there's no sign of an altar. There's nothing, nothing but water." Daniel removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, he was beginning to develop a major headache.   Jack then made his suggestion. "Giving homage also means showing respect. Think Daniel, were there any prayers or chants associated with this Ormuzd?"   Holding his head in his hands, Daniel thought for a while longer. "None that I can remember. Most of the prayers were to Ahura Mazdah, the supreme god." Frustrated even more now, he put his glasses back on and stared at the two "eyes," almost willing them to show him the direction to take. Nervously, Daniel ran his fingers through his hair, pushing the fallen locks out of his eyes.   "We have to offer something, but what and how?"   They sat in silence, the water lapping at the boat as Teal'C and Jack treaded the water with the oars. O'Neill could feel the tension building in his younger lover. Seeking to alleviate some of the stress he deadpanned, "Know any virgins?"   Teal'C looked questioningly at the colonel, while Daniel shot his lover a mildly annoyed look.

  Holding the oar with one hand, Jack raised his free hand in mock defense. "Well, what do you want, Daniel? Maybe we should all just get on our knees and pray for an offering." As Daniel's eyes grew rounder and his mouth hung open, he thought 'Could it really be as easy as that?' He remembered the hieroglyphics on the walls of the observatory back in the city, nodding his head he knew that it really could be that simple. Slowly, Daniel shifted position in the boat to kneel facing the "Eyes of Ormuzd," then he raised his hands above his head, holding both palms together, in representation of the pictures he had seen.

  As he raised his arms, his shirt sleeves dropped, revealing the bangle he wore on his wrist. As the sun's evening light lit upon on the amulet, the bangle began to glow. The three men watch in awe as the amulet, brightly shining as if afire, emitted a beam of light shining in the direction of the cavern to the right.

  With not a word said, Jack and Teal'C began paddling into the darkened cavern, the only light guiding their way being Daniel's bangle. When the water started to recede and flow beneath the rock formations within the cavern, the boat was allowed no further. In front of them and to their sides, was a smooth, flat, granite surface that Teal'C led the dugout to. After they all climbed out, Teal'C secured the boat to one of the heavy protruding rocks that were nearby.

  Jack looked around, trying to get his bearings when he noticed several thick, wooden sticks, which had tops covered in a fluffy, brown cotton-like material. Picking one up, Jack brought it back and handed it to Daniel.

  "Here, hold this for me, I think I've got my waterproof matches somewhere," Jack said, patting down his jacket pockets.

  Daniel took the stake in his left hand and within moments, the cotton began smoldering and simmering until it ignited in a puff of flame, apparently the nearness of the glowing bracelet was more than enough to set the stake ablaze. Daniel jumped and would have dropped the stick had Jack not caught it in time.

  Teal'C brought two other torches over and using the lit one, soon had the cavern bathed in ample light. He handed one to both O'Neill and Jackson. Jack noticed that Daniel's bracelet shimmered brightly for a moment longer and then slowly faded until it died completely.

  Jack motioned to Daniel's wrist. "Nice trick, but can it compare to a good old Swiss Army knife?" he asked with a grin.

  Daniel chuckled and it sounded good to O'Neill. He had been concerned about the younger man's quiet, brooding mood since their river trip.

  With the light from the glowing flames, Teal'C was now able to see easily into the shadows of the cavern. There appeared to be only two opens for an exit, the opening behind them where they entered and an opening along the far right wall.

  "Shall we see where this leads?" Teal'C suggested and pointed the torch to the opening in the wall.

  Jack looked at Daniel out of the corner of his eyes. The younger man was staring off into the distance, a glossy look over his eyes as though lost in his own thoughts.

  "Why don't we wait awhile," Jack answered, feeling like Daniel could use the time to pull his thoughts together.

  They settled themselves against the side of some flat rocks. Jack still noticed that Daniel had that far away look in his eyes.

  "Are you okay?" Jack asked quietly, placing a hand on Daniel's thigh and was surprised when his lover jerked slightly.

  Daniel sighed with frustration. "I'm just feeling a little uneasy about all of this. I've got a feeling that something is going to happen."

  "Like what?" Jack asked gently.

  " I..I just don't know," Daniel said hesitantly. "I don't know what's going to happen or even why I feel like this, but it's making me nervous," the younger man confided.

  Daniel longed to lean into Jack, seeking the comfort he could give, and the archaeologist could tell by the look in Jack's eyes that he wanted to provide the comfort. As much as Daniel would have liked to submit to the comfort, Teal'C's presence made him hesitate to do so.

  Teal'C could see the looks passing between the two men. "Perhaps, Daniel Jackson, you would feel more comfortable if you were to sit next to the Colonel for awhile, while I explore what lays beyond the opening in the rock wall." With that said, he rose and moved off into that direction.

  Daniel scooted over towards Jack, who's arms were open in invitation. Resting his head on Jack's shoulder, Daniel felt the older man's hands running up and down his back and over his arms and slowly, he felt himself relaxing somewhat. Jack could feel the tension ease up and subside in his lover's muscles. Feeling the pounding heartbeat inside Daniel start to calm down, Jack drew the younger man in a tight embrace.

  Teal'C entered the new cavernous area. the air was damp and musty within the narrow walkway. There was also, Teal'C noticed, three other openings. One laid directly ahead, while the two others were on each side. Over each of the wall openings was shaped as though they were a doorway, with ornate sketchings that ran the length of the top and sides of each. Teal'C moved closer, and as he did, he noted that the drawing looked very similar to those he had seen on the walls in the observation room back in the city. Faint rays of moonlight spilled through from a small opening at the top of the cavern and illuminated the cave in silvery light causing an eerie glow throughout. Teal'C checked each doorway, but did not enter. He remembered too well what the elder had said about the use of traps and there being perils that even he did not know about along the way. The Jaffa knew that it would be better to check out each one before actually entering. He paused and listened closely for any clues on what might be in each of the rooms. To his left, he could hear the sound of bubbling water. The one directly ahead, he heard the sound of...wind blowing? And the final one on the right held a detectable hissing sound. Peering in, Teal'C was dissatisfied to find that it was too dark to see clearly within any of them. He then decided to return to Jack and Daniel where they were waiting. ****

  In the observation room, Sam was busily working over the star charts and astronomical data that had been collected over the span of their history. She had been working steadily since the men had taken off to only the gods knew where. She hoped that the boys were having better luck than she was having. For all the hours she had spent over the charts, she was still no closer to answers than when she had first began.

  Carter was distracted when she heard noise from nearby. Looking up from her notes, she saw two servant girls enter carrying a tray of fruits and some drink. The girls couldn't be barley in their early teens. Both were tanned in skintone with rich ebony hair that framed their youthful faces, and had deep rich dark brown expressive eyes, but where one was tall and slender, the other was shorter with a more rounded figure.. Sam went back to reading her notes, expecting the girls to leave. They surprised her by staying there after sitting the tray down and she could feel their eyes on her, studying her curiously. Hearing giggling, Sam stopped her work and smiled at them, walking to the table they sat the food on.

  The slender girl bowed slightly to her, turned to her friend and giggled again.

  "What's going on?" Sam asked with a confused smile.

  The shorter girl giggled again. "Our apologies, we have never seen a woman in such manner of clothing before," she explained, her voice a rich soprano.

  Sam looked down at the uniform she was in. "Well, I have to wear this clothing, you see it's required in my line of work.

  The girls said nothing further, they simply stared at her with a very odd expression on their faces. Sam couldn't shake the feeling that they wanted to ask her something, but just wasn't sure how to go about it. She picked up an apple slice and began nibbling at it, patiently waiting for the girls to get the courage to ask her whatever it was they were curious about. They were silent for a few more moments before the shorter one finally spoke.

  "You must be blessed by the goddess Hathor," she spoke softly and blushed slightly.

  Sam cocked her head. "Who's Hathor?" she asked and was met by another round of giggling.

  The taller girl responded. "The goddess Hathor is the goddess of love, who was the protector of women, bringing them much happiness. You must indeed be a favorite of Hathor, for you have been granted happiness three times over."

  "Yes, you must tell us, how do you keep up your strength with three such virile men when you eat so little?" the shorter one asked, her eyes on the apple slice Sam was still chewing on.

  Sam's eyes widened in shock as realization set in. "Whoa, wait a minute girls, just where did you get that idea about me?"

  "All of the women in the city are talking about it and you, how you must be quite extraordinary to have the attentions of three males." The slender girl smiled broadly at her, merriment dancing in her eyes.

  "Girls, I..uh, ...those men that were here are men I work with," Sam tried to explain, but from the looks in the girls' eyes, she knew they didn't believe her.

  "You spend your time with three handsome men and yet you claim to not have relations with any of them?" the smaller one asked skeptically.

  "That's right, we're only friends," Sam explained.

  "I wish Hathow would provide me with some friends of my own like that," the slender girl whispered to her friend.

  Sam started to say something further, but the girls simply laughed and walked out. Well, Sam thought, why not let them think what they want to? It didn't seem like there was any use in explaining herself anyway.

  If Sam had any doubts that the girls weren't alone in their thoughts of her relationship with Jack, Teal'C, and Daniel, they were erased when throughout the evening more women came by the room and looked in just to see her. A few made comments about her being quite an amazing woman. Sam merely smiled at them and enjoyed her new found fame as the local love goddess. She only hoped Jack wouldn't get wind of what the women were thinking about her. ****

  Teal'C had returned to Jack and Daniel and had explained the strange noises he had heard from the three opening within the walls. Neither Jack nor Daniel could offer any ideas of what it could possibly be waiting for them on the other side.

  "What's the next clue, maybe it'll tell us something," Jack suggested.

  Daniel pilled out the notebook and read aloud. "Listen to your heart and the way will be shown. Clear and cleansing follow this route."

  Jack shook his head in disgust and ran a hand through his hair. "I hate riddles. This is starting to get on my nerves. All right, Daniel start listening to your heart."

  He got up and helped Daniel to his feet. All three men then headed into the other section of the cavern.

  Daniel began studying the carvings around the various entrances. " Listen to your heart and the way will be shown...listen to your heart.."

  Daniel mumbled the clue to himself like a mantra while trying to read the writings. They were no help in letting him know what laid ahead, all saying the same thing, referring to a cleansing ritual of some kind. Daniel stood in the center of the walkway, slowly turning in a circle to face each doorway and then back to Jack and Teal'C.

  "Perhaps the sounds coming from the rooms are also a clue of some kind," Teal'C suggested.

  Shrugging his shoulders, Daniel moved to listen to one of the doors while Jack and Teal'C took the other two and then they switched off.

  "I don't know, I can't make anything out of it, it doesn't seem to relate to the clue at all," Daniel responded with annoyance.

  "Well, since you're the chosen one, maybe it has something to do with the way you react to the sounds...your heart rate even," Jack offered.

  "Well, maybe," Daniel said, unsure but not having any ideas himself.

  He walked over to the first archway and listened as Jack slid his hand under Daniel's shirt and placed his palm over Daniel's heart. They did this twice more with no noticeable changes.

  When this failed, all three just stared at the doors and wondered what they were going to do next. They seemed to be at a standstill and one wrong move would set them back with dire consequences.

  "Dammit, I don't know what to do and time is running short here," Daniel mumbled, feeling defeated and longing for a sign or something that would lead him in the right direction.

  "Well, I for one am tired of just standing around," Jack grumbled.

  Grabbing one of the torches, he headed to the door off on the right. Tossing it in, the torch lit up the cavern and Jack jumped back as it did. All over the floor, all over the walls, all over everything hung masses and masses of writhing, slithering, snakes. Diamond backs, rattlers, asps and others of various shapes and sizes were moving, hissing with agitation, moving with furious speed to get away from the flames.

  Daniel could see Jack was visibly shaking, his breathing was in short and shallow puffs and the blood had drained from the colonel's ashen features.

  "I 'really' hate snakes," Jack said, an unrepressed shudder running through him. "Okay, I think we can definitely count that room out."

  Taking a second torch, he tossed it in the middle doorway and took a huge step back. They watched with surprise as the torch was sucked in a rush upwards. Teal'C leaned in slightly and felt a rush of the air pulling on him.

  "There is some sort of airflow that pulls everything in it's path upwards," the Jaffa explained.

  Jack shook his head in irritation. "All right, two down, that leaves only one more. Let's hope our luck gets better."

  He took the third torch and tossed it into the last of the doorways. When nothing happened, they peered inside. There in the center of the cavern was a large, dark, shimmering pool of water. Various rock formations stood like sentinels around it, guarding it.

  Jack looked to the others. "This is the one." Daniel simply stared at him, speechless at the moment.

  They were about to enter when Teal'C spoke. "I do not understand how the clue had anything to do with the way Colonel O'Neill determined the way to follow."

  Daniel suddenly stopped and Jack could see the furious blush rising to heat the younger man's cheeks. Both he and Teal'C stared at Daniel.

  "What's wrong?" Jack finally asked his lover.

  "It can't be...How? How could the writer of the clues have known? There was no way they could have," Daniel stammered.

  "Mind letting us in on what you're talking about?" Jack asked.

  Daniel met Jack's eyes for a moment before looking away, the heat growing further on his face. "Well, it said to listen to my heart. Well,'s you. You're my heart Jack."

  The three men stood in silence, each lost in thought about the clue and how it had related to Daniel. Jack stood up straight and started for the doorway.

  "Riiight," he said in his lengthy tone.

  Entering the cavern, the three men took in their surroundings. There was the underground lake, the waters bubbling as though fed from some unknown origin. It was surrounded by rocks of all sizes and shapes, and the lake encompassed nearly the enter floor of the cavern, leaving nearly no walking space at all around the sides. On the other side of the cavern, across from the lake, was another opening that seemed to be their only exit.

  Daniel stopped down and tried to peer through the clear, bubbling water. It was clear enough that Daniel could see the graveled bottom.

  "It doesn't seem too deep, we could probably wade across to swim if we have to," he said and stood again.

  A shudder ran through him once more, he again had that feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was not quite right. He had the urge to mention it to Jack, but he didn't want the older man to worry, so he remained silent.

  Jack didn't notice Daniel's shudder, as he was staring into the depths of the water. 'Was that something moving?' he thought to himself. Daniel was just about to enter the water when Jack reached out and grabbed him, yanking him back.

  "What did you do that for?" Daniel asked confused.

  "Just look," Jack said and pointed to a spot in the center of the pool.

  Daniel adjusted his glasses and looked again, but couldn't see anything besides the bubbling that was consistent throughout the entire small lake. He was about to question Jack when Teal'C pushed past them, aimed his staff and fired.

  Floating to the surface of the water, were some now boiled, medium-sized fish that were pale in color and had spots. Leaning in closer, Daniel could make out the mouth full of very fine, razor sharp teeth that lined the creatures' jaws.

  "They look like piranha," Daniel remarked, his skin paling visibly as he thought about how he nearly became lunch to the hungry scavengers.

  "Yeah," was all Jack said.

  O'Neill's eyes scanned the cavern. With the floor taken up mostly by the lake, he wasn't sure how they were going to get to the exit on the other side of it. Looking upward, he noticed that the far side of the cavern, there appeared to be a small rocky ledge farther up in the cavern wall that ran the length of the stone wall. Just to the side, there was an outcropping of rocks that climbed upwards and nearly reached the beginning of the ledge. Jack knew if they could climb up the rocks and reached over it, they could possibly be able to grab hold of the ledge, and from there make their way across.

  "If we can make it up to there, we could work ourselves across," Jack told the other two and pointed to the ridge.

  Jack went first, climbing up the rocks, some crumbled and fell at he got to the top. Stretching his body to it's full length, he reached up and grabbed at the edge and was able to pull himself up and over. There was barely enough room for Jack to sit on as his legs dangled over the side, waiting patiently for Daniel to climb. The ledge was narrow, but with some caution, they could make it. Daniel reached and grasped the ledge, his fingers digging into the stone. Jack scooted over to make more room and reached down to grasp Daniel's wrists and helped him up the rest of the way. Both men remained perched perilously on the edge of the ledge until Teal'C climbed up. The Jaffa secured his staff in a strap to his back and was able to reach over and swing himself upwards with no problem at all.

  Jack rose slowly to his feet and held a hand out to help Daniel stand. Teal'C also stood. The ledge barely had room for their feet, but inch by inch, the men began moving, literally having to hug the wall of the cavern as they made their way slowly across.

  Step by step, Daniel made his way, keeping his eyes trained on Jack, trying desperately not to think about how high they were. Beads of sweat broke out on his upper lip and forehead as his fingers dug into the side of the smooth rock that seemed to grow increasingly slick. Midway across, a chunk of the ledge broke off under Daniel's toes. He stumbled and faltered, but was able to maintain his balance and kept from falling, but unfortunately made a mistake of looking down in the process. The archaeologist's breathing became irregular and rapid, his chest pounding loudly in his ears, and his legs feeling as heavy as lead. He willed them move, but his stubborn muscles wouldn't cooperate.

  "What is wrong Doctor?" Teal'C asked, having come to a stop beside him.

  "I...I can't move," Daniel said, panic growing in the bowels of his stomach, his body shaking violently as he clung to the wall.

  Jack had stopped and looked back to Daniel. Remembering Daniel's fear of heights, he moved back towards the younger man.

  "Daniel?" he called out, but the younger man didn't respond. "Daniel, we need to move," he gently coaxed.

  The sound of his voice must have gotten through to Daniel because he turned his head to Jack. The colonel could recognize the terror and panic in Daniel's dilated blue eyes. The younger man's muscles were trembling uncontrollably. Jack cautiously reached over and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder, the muscles were painfully taunt under Jack's fingers. He rubbed gently over it and gave little squeezes.

  "Come on babe, you can do this," Jack urged softly. "Teal'C and I aren't going to let you fall, you can make it."

  "I...I don't know if I can," Daniel whispered.

  "Do you trust me?" Jack asked gently.

  "Yes," Daniel softly answered without hesitation.

  "Then trust me enough to know I'm not going to let you slip," Jack encouraged.

  Resolutely, Daniel nodded, his jaw clenching in determination. Slowly he tried to slide his feet over, but his legs were trembling so badly that they almost gave out on him. Jack grabbed hold of Daniel's arm while Teal'C grabbed around Daniel's waist.

  "It's okay, it's okay, we've got you," Jack cajoled. He waited for several minutes, allowing Daniel's racing heart to slow down before asking, "Are you ready to try again?"

  Daniel nodded and tried once more to move his stubborn feet. Taking miniscule steps, slowly Daniel started making his way across the ledge. Jack and Teal'C remained huddled up around Daniel as they held him close to the wall. Slowly the three of them moved in this way until Daniel, starting to feel more secure, began moving more on his own. Feeling Daniel was able to handle himself, Jack and Teal'C were then able to get a better grip on the wall for themselves.

  Finally the other side was within reach. Jack eased himself down on another lower rock formation and slid to ground level. Daniel was next.

  "Here, lower yourself down on the ledge and I'll help you," Jack called to him.

  Daniel lowered himself until his legs were dangling over the edge, then he hung by his arms as Jack climbed back partway up the rocks and grabbed hold of Daniel securely enough to help ease the younger man down. Teal'C had no problems effectively jumping down from the perch and landed solidly on his feet.

  One having his feet firmly on the ground, Daniel looked at Jack in embarrassment. He was ashamed of the fact that Jack had seen his fear. Would Jack think less of him after seeing how the fear had paralyzed him?

  "I'm sorry about what happened up there," Daniel said softly.

  When Jack turned and looked at him, his doe brown eyes softened a bit. "Just be glad there weren't any snakes up there or else we'd both be fish food."

  Jack then turned to follow Teal'C out of the opening in the rock wall. Daniel stood there for a moment in surprise before following. When he reappeared through the opening, Daniel found himself in an almost jungle-like setting. Huge large-leafed trees loomed over their heads, the ground being illuminated by the light from a full moon. They could hear all kinds of nocturnal animals scurrying around the soft sodden moss of the jungle's floor. The sound of chirping crickets and other bugs could be heard in the distance.

  "Well, this is certainly different from the rest of the planet," Jack remarked.

  Scouting around a short distance just to make sure the area was free from any immediate danger, Jack led the other two men to a grove of trees.

  "We can settle down here for the night," Jack suggested as he pulled together some kindling for a makeshift fire. Digging for his waterproof matches, Jack soon had a roaring fire going.

  Daniel certainly wasn't going to argue matters any. It was late, they'd had a long and harrowing day - which Daniel still shaking a bit, hadn't recovered completely from. He was tired and wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep.

  Teal'C collected large piles of leaves from nearby to create a soft mat for bedding. He had collected enough for both himself and the two other men. Surreptitiously he placed his mat on the opposite side of the fire, a good distance away.

  After a quiet, light, dinner of rations Jack pulled together, the three men decided they'd had enough for one day and moved to their mats for the night.

  Daniel laid in the dark, his eyes watching the flames of the roaring fire. How had he managed to have been drug into this, he wondered? He had only been trying to save the life of another man. Lord, had it only been that morning since the man had fell to his death? It had felt like a lifetime ago to Daniel now. Would they find the Heart? Better question, he wondered, would they find it in time? Daniel wondered about Sam and how she was doing. He hoped she was having better luck with the comet than they'd had with finding the Heart. Even if they found time, would they know how to use it? Daniel felt the weight of such a heavy burden acutely. Him a chosen one? He seriously wanted to ask these gods just what they had in mind when they chose him for this.

  Then there was Jack, if anything happened to him because of this quest, Daniel would never be able to forgive himself. Would Jack be taken from him as quickly as Shar're had been? Daniel didn't think he had the strength to go through something like that again. Once had been hard enough...but twice? The Fates couldn't be...wouldn't be that cruel..would they?

  As Daniel looked across the fire to Teal'C's sleeping form, a tremor ran through him at the thought. A great sense of relief flooded through Daniel when he felt Jack's reassuring presence as the colonel moved behind him and put his arms around him. The older man's hand moved under Daniel's T-shirt and started stroking the soft skin of his stomach, rubbing back and forth across it soothingly.

  Daniel turned in his arms and was met with a tender kiss. Daniel closed his eyes and allowed the seeking tongue access instantly, longing to have Jack kiss away the lingering ache left behind from his earlier thoughts. The soothing caress of Jack's tongue sliding against his own felt so good that he wouldn't have minded if it lasted forever. Daniel's hands roamed over Jack's back, taking pleasure in Jack's warmth and nearness. Jack's lips moved from Daniel's mouth to caress his tender throat and up behind his ear.

  "It's been some day hasn't it?" Jack whispered, nuzzling Daniel's neck, altering between nipping and sucking at the flesh.

  "You could say that," Daniel murmured, pulling Jack down for another deep, hard, kiss.

  When his mouth was free again, Jack pulled back slightly and starred down into Daniel's eyes, resting on an elbow while his free hand kept rubbing over Daniel's chest and stomach. Searching the dark blue eyes, Jack knew that something was troubling his lover, but for some reason the younger man wasn't telling him what it was. Jack suspected it had to do with the very odd day they had been having so far.

  Jack's hand came up and he ran the tip of his thumb over the archaeologist's bottom lip. "What's going on in that head of yours? You still thinking about the cave?" he asked.

  Daniel shook his head. "No...yes, oh I don't know," he whispered in irritation. "Jack, why'd they have to pick me? I'm no chosen one, I can't do this," Daniel confided.

  Jack moved his arm around Daniel's waist and pulled him closer in. "Now you just hold on there, I don't know just why you've been chosen, but what I do know is that you can this. Look at how far we've come all ready," Jack reminded him.

  "I just don't want to let them down," Daniel whispered.

  "What makes you think you will?" Jack question. "Answer me this, with your knowledge, can you think of anyone else better suited for this?"

  Daniel didn't answer him, couldn't answer him. Jack ran his hand over Daniel's arm and back. In the silence, Jack sensed that the city wasn't the only thing on Daniel's mind, that there was more than Daniel was telling him. Maybe it was the way Daniel was holding him almost too tightly, or the distant, far off look in his eyes.

  "What else is bothering you?" Jack asked softly. "And don't tell me it's nothing," he said when Daniel opened his mouth.

  Daniel looked at Jack for a long moment, thinking about what he wanted to say. He thought about making something else up, but knew Jack wouldn't buy it. He turned his eyes away from Jack, but O'Neill promptly turned his face back to him.

  "What?" he gently persisted.

  "Jack, what if something happened to you?" the younger man blurted. "I-I mean because of this quest I dragged you on?"

  "Is that what's bothering you?" Jack asked.

  Daniel eyes desperately sought Jack's. "Yeah, I...I mean, what if something happened to you because of this...because of me?"

  Jack sighed. "Daniel, you know as well as I do that being part of this team puts you naturally at risk, I know that and there's nothing either of us can do about it," he reasoned.

  "I know there's risk," Daniel insisted, "but I just don't want anything to happen to you. I don't want to loose you like..." Daniel paused, a lump forming in his throat. " Shar're," he whispered in a choked voice.

  Jack didn't say anything for a moment, he didn't trust his voice enough to speak. He'd had similar thoughts about Charlie and Sarah. Damn, when had Daniel gotten so close to him? When had the archaeologist sneaked past all his well placed defenses? He didn't want to care, but damn if he didn't and it thoroughly scared him whenever he examined it too closely. Most of the time he didn't have to think about it, he could just go on and take things day by day, but then there were other times....

  Jack sighed deeply. "Daniel, I can't promise you much, you know that. What I can promise you though is that I don't have plans on going anywhere as long as I have any say over it...okay?"

  "Okay," Daniel mumbled.

  Jack took his chin and tipped the younger man's face back up. "All right?"

  "Yeah, I know what you're trying to say," Daniel assured him.

  "I'm not 'trying' to say anything, I mean it," Jack professed. "Now tell me you believe me."

  "I believe you," Daniel whispered in a horse voice.

  Jack leaned over and placed his lips over the younger man's in a long, heartfelt, kiss that left both of them completely robbed of breath.

  "Good," O'Neill said faintly and pulled the archaeologist tightly against him.

  Daniel's head rested on Jack's outstretched forearm and his arms were wrapped around Jack's waist as he snuggled in closer. O'Neill continued rubbing Daniel's back, running his fingers under the shirt, wanting to feel the warmth of Daniel's skin, and kissing Daniel's pliable lips. He continued with the soothing touches and warm kisses until he felt Daniel becoming more willing to relax. Soon Daniel's breathing became deep and regular. Jack's finger moved up to stroke Daniel's soft chestnut hair as the younger man's eyes drifted shut, exhaustion finally setting in.

  Even after the younger man drifted off to sleep, Jack found himself continuing to caress Daniel's supine body. It was surprisingly comforting to him as well, feeling his warmth, feeling the steady rhythm of his heart.

  'Daniel, what am I going to do with you?' Jack wondered to himself. Brushing his lips against the younger man once last time, Jack tightened his hold on the archaeologist and his own eyes drifted shut.