Captain Carter was pleased with the progress she had made. Rubbing the back of her neck, she groaned softly at the stiffness she felt in her muscles. It was late; the sun had gone down hours ago. Stepping away from the tablets and papyrus she had used for her research, Sam walked over to look out one of the portals. The city was still bustling with activity; she smiled as she saw a pair of lovers strolling along one of the streets. The smile disappeared as she remembered the rest of the team. Where were they? Were they safe? Had they found the Heart of Ahriman? The questions rumbled through her mind as she heard a slight coughing sound behind her. Turning, Sam took in the sight of a middle-aged woman. Dresses in the long flowing blue robes Sam had seen on the younger girls earlier, she assumed that the woman was part of the staff. "You are finished for the night?" the woman asked. Carter nodded her head.

  "Have you heard anything yet? Are they back?"

  "Your men have not returned. The elders have decided to provide a chamber for your use. If you will follow me." The woman turned and walked towards the door. She paused to see if Sam was following.

  Shrugging her shoulders, the captain gathered her data and left with the woman. She was lead through a maze of corridors, until at last they arrived at a huge nicely decorated room. There were the pillows strewn about the floor around a low oval-shaped table. Off to the side, there was a smaller room containing a large brass tub. Stretching her aching limbs, Carter noted with pleasure the steam already rising from the hot water in the tub. However, the most notable feature of the chamber was right in the center of the main room. Surrounded by billowing sheer curtains was an enormous bed.

  Staring at the bed, Sam muttered "Whoa! That thing is big enough for a party!"

  Looking back at the captain, the woman smiled and nodded knowingly. "Please, make yourself comfortable. We have already drawn a bath for you, food and drink will soon be provided, if there is anything else that you should require please just ask, we are here to serve you." She indicated a small bell set on the table, bowed her head and left the bewildered Samantha Carter on her own.

  For a moment, Sam thought of her friends and the dangerous quest they had taken on, but only for a moment. The aromatic bath oils caused the air to be filled with the scent of flowers. Tired and aching, she gave into the temptation and went into the other room. Sam deposited her folded uniform on a small chair near the tub. She slowly eased herself down into the heated soothing water. Leaning her aching body back against the cushions provided, Sam allowed herself the luxury to enjoy this moment of solitude. She rarely gave herself the opportunity to just relax and soak up the pleasures of a bubble bath. Back at the base there was little time for such frivolous activities, it was only when she was at her own apartment that she would finally give in and relax. Knowing that this was something that she would not have done had the rest of the team been there, Sam enjoyed the simple pleasurable experience even more.

  Closing her eyes and allowing the remnants of the day's hectic activities to slip from her mind, the young woman was startled into awareness when she heard a scraping sound. Alert instantly, she turned her head as one of the young girls from earlier in the day came into the room. Bowing slightly when she saw Sam staring at her, the girl then picked up the fatigues and replaced them with a long lilac gown. The girl smiled at Sam as she left the room.

  "Hey! Wait a minute, come back here with my uniform!" Sam called out, to no avail. Glancing at the gown that now lay on the chair, she sighed. "Well, this is getting interesting," she told herself. Not being able to change the situation, Sam leaned back into the tub and finished her bath.

  A short while later, Sam entered the main room wearing the silken lilac gown, which fit her perfectly. Running her fingertips over the material, she felt the smooth satiny texture. "If it weren't for that comet I would definitely be enjoying this mission," she said aloud.

  Noticing that the table was set with plates of food and drink, Sam sank into one of the larger pillows, positioning herself comfortably. Munching on the fruit, she began to think again of her comrades and wondered idly if they were anywhere close to finding the Heart of Ahriman.

  Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock at the entranceway. Looking up, she saw the woman who had brought her here enter. Also entering behind the woman were three men. The men stood in a line as the woman spoke to Sam.

  "The elders have consulted and have decided to make your stay here a pleasant one. The chosen one, his protector, and the strong one are your men, yes?" The woman continued despite the protests that Sam had begun to make. "It is for us that your men are not here to bring you pleasure. Please, we offer our humble servants to you." The woman stepped back, giving Sam a full view of the servants.

  "Wait a minute! You people have this all wrong, I'm not...I mean they're not..." Sam paused trying desperately to gather her thoughts. How was she ever going to explain all of this in her report? That is if she was to survive after Jack and the others found out about all of this. Taking a deep breath she started again. "Look, you have the wrong idea about my relationship with my friends. We work together, that's all. They are not my men," she contended.

  The older woman turned back to Carter. "My dear, it was not our intention to upset you over the temporary loss of your men. Please accept our apologies. If these servants are not to your standards there are others we could find."

  Sam knew when she was losing an argument. Running her hands through her blond tresses, she sighed. 'They mean well,' she thought to herself. She then glanced over at the three men who stood perfectly still throughout the women's conversation. 'Well, it wouldn't hurt to play along. They obviously aren't going to listen to reason, this could go on all night, so what other choice do I have," she reasoned to herself. 'Hmm, this could be kind of fun. I could gather a lot of information from them. After all, we're just going to talk, that's all.' Turning her attention back to the men, Sam strolled in front of them. The older woman seemed pleased by this turn of events. Stopping in front of the first man, Sam looked him over carefully. He was fairly tall, finely muscled, but not overly so. As she looked at him, he blushed slightly and shifted on his feet. He smiled at her, a warm inviting smile that made Sam wonder what talents this man could offer. 'Cute,' she thought. 'He would have to be the replacement for the chosen one.' She moved on to the next man. He was a little taller than the first, with a well-muscled chest and arms. For a moment Sam thought about what it would feel like to be held in those strong arms. 'This one is the protector, all the way.' Sam shivered as she passed him. The third man was tall and very well built. His darker skin made it quite obvious as to which of her men he was replacing. She paused in front of this man, her eyes gazing up and down the lean, fit body. Now this was a man, who under different circumstances she wouldn't mind getting better acquainted with. While he had a very attractive body, his eyes held Sam mesmerized. The brown eyes held tenderness in them, but Sam somehow instinctively knew that they could turn fierce under provocation. Looking into those eyes, she knew that she could get lost in them forever.

  The elder woman had done well in choosing these men. They each held similar characteristics to Daniel, Jack, and Teal'C. It was her response to these men that surprised her the most. She was actually, physically, attracted to them. It had to be the turn of events leading up to it, that had made her mind and body react. She wasn't attracted to any of the guys, was she? No, of course not, it had been a long, tiring day. But still, her heart gave a flutter as she glanced back at the men. 'Okay, now what do I do? There's no way I can jeopardize the mission by getting involved with any of these men, but that old woman won't be satisfied until I choose one or more of them to stay the night.' Drawing back her shoulders and trying to look in command, the best she could wearing that gown, Captain Carter made her decision.

  Dismissing the last two, she allowed the first to stay. If this guy were anything like Daniel, then she would have a better chance of distracting him with conversation. Those last two were just too physically tempting for her. Sam thought that Daniel was attractive in his own charming way, but he was more like a brother to her. Yes, she would be able to control her feelings with this one. After the other two men and the older woman had left, Sam led her "man" back to the table. Once settled, they began eating. Sam could tell that this guy was unsure of how to proceed, so she decided to set the terms.

  "Look, I'm sure that you're really a nice guy, but I don't cheat on my men. So how about if we just enjoy each other's company and talk for a while."

  She was surprised to see the man's body relax, as the nervousness left him. Although the hour was late, they spent the rest of the evening talking about the legends of the gods, the dragon in the sky, and the Heart of Ahriman. Sam was right, she had chosen the one who was quite comfortable in conversation. ***

  The next day, the morning sun filtered through the trees and Jack stirred. Opening an eye, he saw Teal'C standing over them, peering down at him and Daniel who, by the sounds of soft snoring, was still asleep in his arms.

  "Colonel O'Neill, you are awake," the Jaffa commented.

  "Yeah Teal'C, I'm awake. How long have you been up?" Jack asked softly, so not to disturb the younger man in his embrace.

  "Long enough to find food for us," the dark man answered, pointing to a collection of fruits on the ground near the fire that had long since burned out.

  "Well thank you, though we still had some of my rations left," Jack responded, trying to move his arm from under Daniel's head without waking him. Daniel sighed a little and moved closer to him.

  "Yes, but we should keep those in reserve if we can since we don't know how long we'll have to use them," Teal'C reasoned. "I have already eaten, so I will go forth and investigate the surrounding area."

  Jack was about to suggest that the Jaffa wait a little bit so they could all go, but Teal'C had already started off before he could speak.

  As he walked away, Teal'C smiled to himself. The sight of the young archaeologist sleeping peacefully within the Colonel's arms had been an endearing sight. He suspected that the two men would appreciate some time alone, but wouldn't ask or even hint for it, so Teal'C had taken the initiative.

  Back at the clearing, Jack took the opportunity afforded to him to engage in one of his favorite activities...watching Daniel sleep. He recalled the very first time Daniel fell asleep in his arms, the time in the cave, and had remembered how even then he had thought about how innocent and peaceful Daniel looked. He still did, Jack thought. The soft sunlight shown down upon Daniel's features, sleep relaxed muscles of his face made him look younger than he actually was. Jack had noticed quite awhile ago that Daniel's mouth formed a pout when he slept, his bottom lip pushed out so temptingly, like he was begging to be kissed.

  Jack considered it for a minute. He could eat some breakfast, let Daniel catch up on much needed sleep. That's what he should do, he told himself. Yeah, he'd do that. Why then, was he leaning over the younger man and pressing his lips gently to him?

  Softly he nibbled on that bottom lip, sucking on it as his mouth meshed over Daniel's. The younger man stirred in his arms, responding to the gentle pressure without even opening his eyes. Daniel's body slid and stretched against Jack's, his hands sliding over Jack's back and under his shirt. The archaeologist's mouth opened up and his tongue pushed into Jack's mouth, the tip teasing and prodding until Jack's mouth opened up to him. Daniel left no recess within unexplored.

  "Mmmm, and a good morning to you too," Daniel murmured, and finally opened his eyes when his mouth was free. One of his hands coming up to stroke the nape of Jack's neck while the other one ran the length of his spine.

  "Good morning, feel better after a good night's sleep?" Jack asked, his eyes studying his lover's.

  "Definitely," Daniel whispered back, though what had done more good than the sleep itself, was spending the night nestled in Jack's arms.

  "I'm glad," Jack murmured back, moving his lips over Daniel's throat and up his cheek, the stubble of a days growth rubbing against him.

  A thought suddenly came to Daniel. "Where's Teal'C?" he asked, angling his head around to see if the Jaffa was around.

  "He's off scouting the area," Jack answered. Reaching over, Jack picked up one of the green apples that Teal'C had found and held it by Daniel's mouth. "Care for breakfast in bed?"

  Daniel gave him a sleepy smile. "You're sure full of surprises this morning."

  'You don't know the half of it,' Jack thought to himself with a wicked smile.

  Daniel raised his head and bit into the juicy fruit that Jack offered. The juice squirted out and dribbled over his lips, giving them a shiny luster.

  Daniel took another bite, his lips wrapping around the fruit and biting a piece off to take into his mouth. This time though, Jack leaned down and covered Daniel's mouth with his own. Daniel let out muffled exclamation as the colonel's tongue forcefully entered the startled younger man's mouth. Driving, wrestling, and stroking as he found the piece of apple and pulled it into his own mouth.

  "Can't expect me to go without breakfast, now can you?" Jack asked innocently, even though there was a decidedly impish gleam in his eye.

  "Of course not, you've got to keep your strength up after all," Daniel answered just as innocently and took another bite of the apple.

  Again Jack leaned in to Daniel's willing mouth, his tongue probing, hunting the piece of fruit with slow deliberance. He found it and claimed it. Daniel let out a small moan as his own tongue darted into Jack's mouth, found the piece of fruit for himself and drew it back into his mouth once more.

  "That was my piece," Daniel whispered hoarsely.

  "Mmmm, yeah it was wasn't it, must have forgotten," Jack whispered back, his tongue tracing the younger man's kiss swollen lips, licking at the sweet, sticky, juice still on them.

  "Jack?" Daniel asked, his hands running over Jack's back, shoulders and arms.

  "Hmm?" Jack murmured, still kissing and nibbling at the archeologist's sweet lips.

  "I not that hungry...for breakfast," the younger man whispered.

  "Oh? And just what are you hungry for?" Jack asked huskily, moving his lips over Daniel's neck, sucking at the hollow there.

  Daniel's hand slipped down between them and pressed his palm against the firm bulge in the colonel's army green pants. Gently, he kneaded and squeezed. "You're what I'm hungry for," Daniel uttered in a raspy voice.

  "What are you going to do about it?" Jack challenged in a deep voice, his eyes loosing all pretense of teasing.

  "This," the younger man answered and moved to roll on top of the colonel, effectively pinning him down with his body.

  Taking Jack's wrists in his hands, Daniel brought the older man's hands up over his head and held them firm. The archaeologist was straddling Jack's hips. The younger man's hardness was pressed blatantly, demandingly, against O'Neill's. "I'm not the only one in the mood for surprises am I?" Jack asked in a weak voice as Daniel's groin grounded into his own.

  "Not quite lover," Daniel answered back before sealing his lips over Jack's hot, moist, mouth.

  Daniel's tongue thrusted in and out, mimicking another familiar movement as his hips swiveled and pivoted over Jack's in a slow and sensual rhythm that promptly drove any protests Jack might possibly have had clear out of his mind. Jack groaned into Daniel's mouth as his hips moved in countermeasure to the seductive, maddening motion.

  Jack could feel the gradual, pulsing, yearning starting to rise throughout his body as his member began to stir against the sweet friction. Daniel moved his hands to the bottom of Jack's shirt and raised the material up and off then set his sights on a pink button of a nipple. Drawing in between his teeth, Daniel sucked and licked at it until it was a hard little nub while he rubbed and pinched its neglected partner. Rolling it between his thumb and forefinger, Daniel gained a gasp from the impatient man under him.

  Jack ran one hand down Daniel's back while the other threaded through his hair and held him still as he sucked and lapped at the mistreated peak. Jack murmured softly as Daniel worked his way down. Down his lips traveled over the broad expanse of Jack's chest, nibbling hard enough to leave little marks that branded the older man, marking him as Daniel's. Daniel's mouth then traveled, with tender, airy, open mouthed kisses over the reddened skin.

  The archaeologist then gently licked and tongued the hollow of Jack's navel, making the older man squirm against him. Down Daniel moved until he was level with the band of Jack's pants. Deft fingers quickly opened the fastening and pulled the material down over his legs and off, leaving Jack in nothing but a pair of black briefs. The black fabric outlined the colonel's thickening erection. The taut material was already snug against Jack's frame to begin with and was pulled tight to his body even more, leaving nothing to the imagination as his raising passion made it's claim obvious.

  Daniel's hands lovingly and tenderly stroked over Jack's muscular legs before come up to cup and massage the tight testicles of his scrotum. Jack moaned and moved under the pressure, seeking a stronger touch that was still denied to him. Daniel's fingers then moved to caress the hard length through the material, still able to feel the heat radiating up to him. His thumb moved and stroked the tip through the briefs, rubbing the pad of his thumb back and forth against the engorged head. Jack moaned softly and arched for more stimulation as Daniel gently squeezed him.

  "You like that hmmm?" Daniel purred.

  "Oh yeah," Jack groaned, his hips still jerking, seeking Daniel's touch. Daniel smiled provocatively at him "Then you're going to love what I'm about to do next."

  Grasping the band of Jack's briefs, Daniel quickly pulled them down and off, finally freeing Jack's straining member. The length was a flushed crimson, standing out in stark contrast from it's patch of dark hair. The tip already had a tear of jeweled moisture collected on it in readiness and want.

  Daniel leaned forward for a moment and just enjoyed the sharp, rich, heady scent of Jack. The intoxicating aroma wafted up to Daniel's nose, increasing his own arousal. Looking at the older man though, Daniel knew that Jack was battling the fine line of control and was quickly reaching the breaking point.

  The archeologist then leaned in and swirled around, swabbed and dabbed at the swollen tip, flicking his tongue back and forth teasingly as he took in the spicy, tart flavor of Jack. The colonel was now moving restlessly against him and murmuring nonsense syllables while Daniel cradled and massaged his testicles. Daniel knew Jack wanted more and drew it out deliberately, taking his time as he ran his tongue over the length back and forth. He could feel the textured pattern of heavy veins and traced over them before he finally relented and drew it into his mouth.

  Jack's hips jerked and spasmed as the wet warmth of Daniel's mouth encompassed him. Daniel's cheeks tenderly worked to squeeze him, surrounding him with the gentlest of pressure as Jack was drawn over and over again into the warm sanctuary of Daniel's mouth. Daniel's throat relaxed to take in the entire girth as his tongue never stilled in its torturous pleasure.

  The younger man's eyes looked up into the burnt umber eyes of Jack's. A warm and tender look had filled the deep, dark hazy eyes. Daniel wondered if Jack even realized that he would follow those eyes to the end and back. Daniel saw a look of such pleasure and satisfaction, of such tenderness and trust, in Jack's eyes that it warmed him to the center. Did the older man even realize how much Daniel enjoyed this, giving him such pleasure? Daniel enjoyed being pleasured himself, but to be able to give it to Jack, to show him how much he cared for him, to watch his body respond and ache for his touch, was so powerful that it turned him on as well and made him just as painfully hard as Jack was. His own raging erection was trapped within the confines of his pants uncomfortably, but he would wait to remove them, his sole focus was on the man under him.

  Jack felt as though he could drift away on the swells and curls of sensation that rocked through him. A throbbing, burning sensation began gnarling within his stomach, a slow fire licking at ever nerve in his being. The sweet agony was driving him insane and threatening to overtake him completely.

  Daniel knew that Jack was testing his restraint and pushing it to the very limits, and the younger man upped the stakes. Slowly reaching in-between O'Neill's legs, Daniel gently teased and rubbed lightly at the muscular opening of Jack's body. Jack jerked and gasped when the agile finger dipped into his heated channel. Jack moaned and murmured as the invader stretched and massaged him while Daniel's mouth continued to absorb him. Jack felt defenseless against the duel onslaught, he felt like his entire body was being consumed by Daniel's talented mouth and knowing, questing fingers that were everywhere at once. A second digit breached the tight, muscular ring and joined its partner in the assault.

  Jack writhed, rocking his hips back and forth as his fingers were grasping, scraping at the leaves on the ground in search for something to hold on to, finally coming to entangled themselves in Daniel's hair, urging him on with gentle pressure.

  The younger man held fast as he continued the gentle, steady rhythm of his fingers and mouth working as one to drive Jack higher and higher and closer to the looming edge.

  "Oh god, need...need more," Jack moaned breathlessly.

  Daniel's free hand wrapped around Jack's length while he managed to pull his mouth away. "What do you need lover?" he asked huskily.

  " in me now," Jack groaned out, somehow finding his voice, as Daniel's fingers found a certain pleasurable spot.

  Daniel smiled and moved over to the satchel that had been discarded on the ground near them. At the removal of the younger man's hands, Jack let out a frustrated sound that was a mixture between a growl and groan. He felt so suddenly empty and his body ached in need.

  Daniel searched in the pack and produced the tube of lubricant that Jack had remembered to bring. Dexterous fingers quickly opened the fastening on his own pants, as Daniel slid them down his hips and off, releasing his own hardness that was aching painfully, the slick, damp, aroused member glad to be freed from the restriction. Grasping the tube and popping open the lid, Daniel squeezed a liberal amount onto his fingers and then coated his rigid member thickly with the cool gel. He then squeezed out some more and reached in between Jack's legs to coat the muscular opening thoroughly and completely. Jack murmured at the touch and drew his legs up allowing for easier admittance.

  The archaeologist then removed his finger, which gained a frustrated protests from Jack, but the protest died on his lips when Daniel moved forward to nestle his member against the colonel's cleft and tenderly rubbed it up and down. Jack fidgeted and groaned, moving and arching to the gentle teasing.

  "Oh Daniel, please," Jack murmured weakly, closing his eyes tight, giving himself up completely to the feelings Daniel was evoking.

  Lord how Daniel loved it when Jack said his name in that breezy tone. Ripples of hunger and desire tore and rolled through him. Closing his own eyes, Daniel enjoyed the growing anticipation, feeling it as it grew and burned within him as he pressed the tip of his member to Jack's opening. Opening his eyes again, Daniel gazed down at Jack, making sure he was ready. Jack's eyes were still closed, his chest heaving and rising, his body moving ever so lightly and tantalizingly in expectancy. Very gently, Daniel pushed forward until the head passed the muscular ring and into the depths of Jack's yielding body.

  The younger man stilled himself for a moment before pressing the rest of the way in with slow care. Oh gods, he was surrounded with moist, heat. Jack's body opened to him, took him in, drew him within the torrid depth until he was completely encased within Jack's body. Daniel, momentarily robbed of breath, stayed motionless while Jack's body adjusted around him, holding him so snuggly. Before he realized it, Daniel's body was bent against the soft curves of Jack's buttocks, completely one with the older man.

  Daniel felt he was finally where he belonged. Even when he was in Jack's arms, he never felt like he could be close enough to the older man, as close as he should be. It was only when they came together like this, this joining of body and heart, becoming a solitary entity that Daniel felt the completeness of himself that didn't exist otherwise. Jack soothed his soul like a balm, touched him in a way no other, even Shar're, had managed to do. There was a wholeness when he was with Jack, making him better than he ever was alone. How he longed to express this to Jack, but words failed to express all he felt so he showed Jack in a way that went beyond words.

  Leaning forward, Daniel captured Jack's hungry mouth with his own as his body began to move slowly inside of Jack's body. The gentle slide making the aching, the longing, grow inside Daniel. Jack wrapped his legs around Daniel's waist while his fingers dug into Daniel's back. Jack's hips moved in time with Daniel's thrusting, rising and falling as he was filled and stretched to capacity.

  Their bodies blended and melded together, fused by desire and longing. Daniel's body began to speed up on it's own accord, lost in the surf of sensations of being completely surrounded and absorbed by Jack. His own body pressing into Jack over and over again while the intensity and friction grew stronger and stronger.

  Daniel's heart was pounding heavily in his chest, beads of sweat breaking out over his chest and arms under the exertion. Jack's body rose to meet every driving thrust. Daniel's tongue mimicked the motion as he stroked and drove into Jack's mouth.

  Jack's back arched up off the ground as Daniel's hips continued rocking back and forth faster and faster. Both men knew they were balancing too closely on the border for it to last much longer, even though Daniel would have been happy to have it last forever, not ever wanting to have to break the connection they forged with heat, lust, and passion.

  Jack's hard need was pressed against Daniel's stomach and the younger man reached in-between them to take the slick, moist, ruddy member in hand and stroked it eagerly.

  "Dan..Daniel, I'm goin..going to come!" Jack called out, pulling his mouth free from Daniel's.

  "Do it lover, come for me," Daniel whispered urgently, working the stiff erection in his fingers harder and faster, as his body slammed into Jack's over and over again.

  Jack's body erupted, a hot stream of pearly, thick, seed burst forth covering both his own and Daniel's stomach in scalding heat while he cried out in ecstasy.

  Feeling Jack's body tighten and spasm all around him finally caused Daniel to tumble headlong over the brink to soar to the crest of bliss, his enter being exploding in maelstrom of sensations that tore through him. A stifle cry broke free from his throat as his own essence surged forth and filled his lover's body.

  The archaeologist's body trembled as he gently worked himself out of Jack's body. Crumpling next to the colonel, Daniel tried to regain control of his rapid, ragged breathing, the gentle breeze blowing through the trees chilling his overheated and sweaty body. Jack moved to pull the younger man to him, their legs entangling with each other as Jack's mouth found and claimed Daniel's. His hands roaming and stroking over Daniel's muscled arms and back. As Daniel rested his head against Jack's chest, the fingers of one of O'Neill's hands threaded and stroked the younger man's mahogany hair.

  When the younger man turned his eyes back up to Jack, the colonel saw such a ferocious look of devotion, trust, happiness, and open adoration that Jack had to avert his eyes from the intensity of it, drawing the man into a tight embrace. Jack continued to rub over Daniel's body while he placed a kiss on top of the younger man's head.

  Both men satisfied themselves listening to the birds flittering from tree to tree, feeling the warm sunlight shining down and warming their bodies. ****

  Teal'C slowly made his way into gaping jungle-like terrain. Various trees sprouted up sportatically along the forest bed, blocking his way. Lush plants provided adequate coverage for the numerous animal life that Teal'C could hear scampering and scurrying when they heard him coming. The Jaffa moved slowly with care and caution because of the thick overgrowth that could hide all types of unknown obstacles. The smell of vividly colored flowering plants mingled with the other smells of the forest and Teal'C found it was hard to distinguish one scent from another.

  The Jaffa took mental note of the way, paying particular attention to the areas that would be the most difficult and present the greatest danger. The dark skinned man had entered into a swampy area. The way was difficult with the wet, thick, mud that sucked his feet down, but Teal'C managed only mildly annoyed. Watching his path as he walked, Teal'C barely side stepped a particularly large, thick, brown puddle of mud. Suspicion reining in his mind, Teal'C knelt down on one knee and inserted the base of his staff into the puddle. As the staff continued to sink to the top where Teal'C maintained his grip, the Jaffa knew he had discovered a patch of quicksand.

  Teal'C stood and looked around him, pausing in order to determine how the Goa'uld would have traveled. Teal'C turned and all of a sudden spotted a path that was nearly hidden and would have been easily missed if something about it hadn't captured his attention. The path was dense with what seemed to be years worth of trailing vines and bushes. The Jaffa could see various snakes slither in and around the trees and undergrowth, and took note to remember to tell Colonel O'Neill.

  As he entered the path, birds of all kinds took to the air in a noisy frenzy of screeching, annoyed at having their haven disturbed. Slowly, he began clearing the way. His strength served him well and made clearing the debris of the jungle easy to handle and he was able to make good time. He thought about how his two Human friends back at the clearing would have a more difficult time than he was having. The heat and humidity no doubt would quickly take its toll on his young friends and their strength would falter where his would not. A smile curled the edges of his lips as he realized that his two friends would also be tired from the 'rest' they were presently taking. He must remember to ask Captain Carter about Human stamina for such activities.

  Teal'C stopped, shaking himself out of his musing. His senses were on alert, though he did not know just why. There was something different, unusual about the way the path was taking. Using the length of his weapon, Teal'C carefully pushed back the growth in front of him. A snap then a crack was heard. Teal'C's Jaffa reflexes kicked into action and served him well as he leaped back from the resulting whoosh as pointed, deadly, razor sharp, spears rose up from the ground and swooped down from the surrounding trees. All of them landed directly in front of the Jaffa, missing his foot by scant inches. The dark man mused that he knew now for certain he was indeed on the right path. ****

  Back in the clearing, Daniel continued resting against Jack's chest, content and relaxed as Jack continued stroking his hair.


  "Hmm?" the younger man asked groggily.

  "You know don't you, that we need to get moving around," Jack commented, regret obvious in his voice.

  Daniel stirred and kissed Jack's chest. "I'm too comfortable."

  "I know, I'd rather stay here too," Jack responded, taking his hand and gently stroking Daniel's cheek, "but 'Chosen One', we've got a job to do."

  Daniel rubbed over Jack's chest before sighing heavily and setting up. "Yeah, I know you're right," Daniel remarked, grabbing his T-shirt and shook out the leaves before putting it back on.

  Jack moved to find his clothes too. "What's the next clue anyway?"

  Daniel found his glasses and pushed them on as he dug into his pocket for his notebook. Daniel frowned as he read the clue. "Your strength will clear the way, follow the path to the burning waters. Two may go forward, one will safeguard the passage."

  Daniel looked up at Jack, his eyes were full of fear and confusion. "You know, it's almost like these clues were written...specifically for me, but how is that possible?" Daniel asked, perplexed. "First, there was the 'heart' clue, and now 'strength'? That's got to be Teal'C, but how can the clues be referring to three people? How would they have known?"

  All Jack could do was shrug. "Honestly I don't know, all I know for sure is that we've come this far and we've got to keep going. If we want to save time, we should follow Teal'C's tracks. That shouldn't be too hard since our 'strength will clear the way'."

  Jack smiled at his comment, but Daniel didn't even look at him. The archaeologist was too preoccupied in his own thoughts. Jack could almost see the mental wheels trying to sort everything out in the younger man's mind. Finally, the colonel grasped Jackson's arms, practically pulling him to urge him on.

  They had barely made it from their campsite when they spotted Teal'C heading towards them. Taking them to the path Teal'C had cleared, the Jaffa then pointed out some of the more interesting sites along the path, like the quicksand. He also made sure to tell Jack where all the snakes were hidden, which the Colonel was very grateful for.

  Soon, they came to where Teal'C had set off the trap, the spears still standing tall, the sharp points buried in the ground.

  "Colonel O'Neill, I must insist that I take the lead from here, I would be more likely to be able to identify and intercept the various Goa'uld traps that may be laying in wait for us," the Jaffa explained.

  O'Neill was about to protest, but then looking at Daniel, he remembered the third clue. Squelching his natural instincts, Jack made no argument and simply nodded his agreement. Teal'C moved out, carving through the overgrowth blocking their way with Daniel following suit and Jack bringing up the rear.

  The Jaffa moved with speed and grace through the lush, thick flora. As they walked, Daniel's foot caught on something sticking out from one of the bushes and he landed with a thud on something hard, jagged pieces of something splintered dug into his stomach.

  The younger man swallowed a gasp as he looked up into the face of a skeleton's skull, the empty orbs of eye sockets starring at him while the decayed jawbone hanging open in a ghastly grin. A hand landed on his shoulder as Jack helped him back up to his feet.

  "You okay?" the colonel asked him.

  Daniel tried to shake off the shiver that was running through him. "Uh, yeah...sure," he muttered, moving his glasses up and rubbing the bridge of his nose. "It..ah, looks like at least some of the ones after the Heart made it at least this far," he observed.

  Looking around the area, Jack noticed more decaying bones scattered around, the grotesque remains bleached to a dull yellow from baking under the sun.

  "Jeez, think it's too late for them to get a refund from their travel agent?" Jack mumbled to himself.

  Teal'C was knelt down near the path. Picking up some dirt, the Jaffa sniffed at it before letting the breeze carry it away.

  "Colonel O'Neill, come look at this," Teal'C called.

  Jack knelt down beside him. In front of the Jaffa and looked at several sets of large tracks. The shape and spacing was similar to a large cat, but Jack wasn't certain.

  "Looks like animal tracks of some kind," Daniel commented. "A big animal by the looks of it."

  Teal'C nodded. "Yes Daniel Jackson, you are correct. Look here," he said and pointed to the patterns in the dirt in-between the paw prints. "It looks as though the victims were dragged to this location."

  Loud howling and clattering were heard in the distance as though two animals were fighting.

  "Come on guys, the natives are getting restless and I'm not planning on sticking around long enough to become fast food," O'Neill commented as he rose.

  Teal'C stood as well and picked up where he had left off with cutting down the growth, working faster though then he had been. The men behind him were keeping surveillance with alert eyes and ears.

  As the trio made their way hacking through concentrated verdancy, they came upon a river. This however wasn't a typical river.

  "Follow the path to the burning water," Jackson mumbled as his wide eyes took in the water.

  Steam rolled off the top like a thick fog, the subtle sizzling hissing out a warning. Large bubbles were breaking on the water's surface. Several sections had a large plume of fire shooting upwards in erratic patterns of orange, yellow, and blue.

  Jack and Teal'C stopped at the edge of the water, but Daniel, unable to ignore his curiosity, stooped down and gingerly stuck his finger into the water. He jerked it back almost immediately and began shaking it to ease the burning sensation. The archaeologist then looked around at the various rock formations standing around and in the river. Daniel thought they appeared to be igneous rocks. Daniel picked one up in his hand and examined it more closely. It was dark rich black in color and as smooth as glass in his palm.

  "Hey guys, notice the shiny metallic luster of these rocks?" Daniel commented, continuing to turn the stone over in his fingers.

  "Yeah, but what's all of it suppose to mean?" Jack asked, stooping to pick up a stone himself.

  "Well, you see, judging from the different rock formations and the temperature of the river, it appears that there may be a magna flow beneath the river," the younger man explained. "Actually, many of the Earth's volcanoes originated under water. There are fault lines on the ocean's floor that when the steam and heat builds up will slip and rupture and..."

  Jack could see the animated look in Daniel's eyes and realized that this was going to turn into a lengthy geological lecture if he didn't stop it. "Daniel," he called out softly. The younger man didn't acknowledged him until he said his name a couple of more times.

  "What?" Daniel asked.

  "You know how talking science turns me on, but can we save the impromptu lecture for later?" the colonel asked with a teasing smile.

  The younger man blushed slightly and smiled sheepishly, realizing he had been gently scolded.

  Teal'C, who had moved off to look around the river came back to the two men.

  "Doctor Jackson, Colonel O'Niell, there appears that there is no craft available. We could perhaps build a raft, but I believe it would more than likely burn from the various explosive bursts that the river contains," Teal'C reported apologetically.

  The three men fell silent, their eyes surveying the boiling water and were all curious about how to proceed. "Can't we be cut at least one break on this trip?" Jack grumbled to no one particular. "Daniel, what was that last clue?"

  "Your strength will clear the way, follow the path to the burning waters. Two may go forward, one will safeguard the passage," the younger man repeated, and sighed deeply with frustration.

  "Well that isn't doing us a bit of good in telling us what we're suppose to do next," Jack responds testily. "What about the next clue?"

  Daniel's eyebrows furrowed as pulled out the notebook and read. "Behind the river's mirror, follow the downward spiral to the serpent's nest. There beats the Heart of Ahriman. Beware the golden serpent, only the Chosen One, pure and gentle of heart, can touch the soul of evil and survive. The Eye of Ormuzd will protect him." A small shudder ran through him as he recalled the dying stranger's last words in life.

  "Serpent's nest, golden serpent,...the soul of evil," Jack repeated aloud. "Well kids, this sounds like it's going to be fun," he remarked with a slight shudder himself.

  Daniel and Teal'C both looked at each other and each man made a mental note to try and find out the story behind Jack's aversion to snakes.

  "Daniel Jackson, while you repeated the clues, I noticed that neither of the last two clues indicated a need to cross the river, perhaps it is not across the river but on this side," the Jaffa explained.

  "That's true Teal'C, it couldn't hurt to look," Daniel said, looking at Jack.

  "Well, let's see if we can find the river's mirror," Jack said with a shrug before turning to move off further downstream.

  It didn't take long at all before they came to a huge outcropping of the same glasslike rock that Daniel had found earlier on the river's edge. Thought it might have had the appearance of natural rock, Daniel didn't believe that they were natural at all. They were much larger than the other rock, boulder sized and a dark reddish brown in color, but still containing the metallic luster that reflected the flaming river. As the sparks and flames danced over the shiny surface, Daniel noted that they appeared to have been arranged up against the a natural rock formations, apparently the part of the same mountain range they had been traversing through.

  All three men started to inspect the rocks closely.

  "Behind the river's mirror," Daniel murmured to himself. "So how do we get behind it?"

  Jack, taking a closer look, discovered a very fine line of connection between the lustrous rocks and the granite they were pressed against. "Okay, come here 'strength'," Jack called over to Teal'C and surpressed a grin at how high the Jaffa's eyebrow arched.

  Daniel watched as the dark skinned man and his lover put their shoulders to the boulder and the archaeologist put his weight with theirs and helped to push. Ever so slowly, the large boulder rocked and shifted and an opening behind it was revealed. Teal'C's well muscled arms bulged and strained as the Jaffa gritted his teeth and worked his body to manage to push it further open so that there was a small enough opening for them to enter.

  O'Neill and Jackson entered quickly, but when it was Teal'C's turn, the began to slip back into it's original position when the Jaffa let loose of his grip. He tried to squeeze through, but Daniel put his hand on the dark man's hand.

  "Teal'C, remember the last part of the clue, 'two may go forward, one will safeguard the passage'," Daniel gently reminded him. "I think you'll have to stay behind since you're the only one strong enough to move the rock to let us back out," the archaeologist pointed out.

  Jack and Daniel could tell that Teal'C was far from happy with the arrangement, but couldn't argue over the clues as they had gotten them as far as it was.

  "As you wish Daniel Jackson," Teal'C conceded.

  "Don't worry, we'll make sure we won't have any fun without you," Jack said with a smile as Teal'C allowed the opening of the cave to seal over once more.

  The blackness surrounded them, but soon the cave was washed in light as Jack lit a couple of torches he had brought with him. The older man looked at his lover and then into the depth of the cave.

  "Tally forth Gieves," he muttered as they made their way into the cave.

  Even with the list torches, the passageway was still dark and shadowed. There was only direction to choose from in the passage, straight ahead.

  "All right, stay close to me," Jack ordered as he started off in the lead.

  "Don't worry," Daniel muttered, he wasn't planning on being far from Jack and their only source of light.

  The younger man followed Jack through the twists and turns of the damp, musty smelling cavern walls that were leading downwards. As they rounded the curves, the tunnel seemed to become narrower and narrower until Daniel was forced to stay behind Jack whether he chose to or not. Jack made a third turn and then stopped short. Daniel abruptly knocked into his back causing both of them to stumble.

  "I said follow close, not joined at the hip," Jack responded, slightly annoyed.

  "Sorry," Daniel mumbled. "Why'd you stop?"

  "This," Jack said and hedged the torch closer to a huge spider web that completely veiled three fourths of the nearly seven foot walkway. "Early Addams Family, how quaint."

  Daniel squinted his eyes to see in the darkness over Jack's shoulder. The gossamer, nearly transparent, silky web clung and hung to the stone walls like a cloth curtain. Daniel couldn't help shuddering.

  "Um, think the owner of this web is still around?" Daniel could only imagine the size of the creature capable of weaving such a web.

  Jack knelt down and moved the torch closer. "See that?" Jack asked, pointing out how the ends of the web that were attached to the passageway and handing down in tattered, ragged edges. "A spider isn't likely to let its home fall apart like this, so it's a pretty safe bet whoever spun this has taken off awhile ago," Jack assured the younger man.

  Both men let out a small sigh of relief as Jack allowed the torch to fall closer to the web and sent it up in a spark of fire. When the way was clear, they continued downward. *****

  Teal'C was waiting outside. After O'Neill and Daniel had entered the cave, he allowed the covering rock to slide back into place. His two younger friends had entrusted him with the task of keeping watch while they explored, and though he worried about his two Human friends, he didn't allow that to interfere with that task. His senses were on alert and his hearing judged the distance of the various animal sounds he and the others had heard before. Looking skyward, Teal'C's eyesight made out the glow and trailing fires of what Captain Carter had referred to as the comet. It was moving in a steady and sure course across the cloudless, lazuline blue sky. It wasn't hard at all for the Jaffa to understand why the people on this planet believed the comet to be a dragon. The sun appeared to be growing stronger and brighter, flashes of yellow-orange flames danced and shot out from the very center of the blazing star.

  Teal'C's eyes came back down to the covered entranceway. Silently the Jaffa offered a brief prayer to whatever gods that the people of this planet believed in that the colonel and Jackson would be kept safe and was returned to him with the Heart in hand. ****

  Back in the caves, Jack and Daniel continued to follow the spiraling downward path that the walls were leading them. They made a turn around one of the curves when there started to glow a light that filtered through the shadows. They kept walking, following the glow that grew brighter and brighter in intensity as their walkway widened enough for them to walk side by side.

  Both men stopped as there appeared an opening in the cave where the light originated from. They paused at the entrance and both took a deep, steadying breath.

  Jack looked at his younger lover. "Are you ready?"

  The archaeologist looked from the entrance and back at the colonel. Daniel squared his shoulders and nodded his head affirmatively. "Yeah," the younger man whispered resolutely.

  Jack's lips pressed together in a thin line. "Okay, it's showtime," he said and took the step that took him into the next section of the cave with Daniel right beside him.

  The two men where bathed in rich light. At the bottom edges of the cave walls, they could see the same blue - orange flames appearing from the water that had seeped into the cave from the river water. The flames shooting forth provided a steady source of light.

  "Jack, the magma flow must be directly under us," Daniel commented, breaking the silence in the room.

  The archaeologist stooped down and felt the stone floor of the cave to discover it was hot to the touch, reaffirming his thoughts on the magma.

  Suddenly the younger man's shoulders were grabbed as Jack grasped him and brought back up to his feet. When Daniel stood, he was face to face with O'Neill and the colonel's brown eyes were wide and stunned, a look of disbelief in them.

  "What's wrong Jack?" Daniel asked, concerned over his lover's suddenly strange behavior.

  Without a word, the colonel turned the archaeologist to face the center of the cave. In the cavern's core, was a flat glasslike rock set in the middle of a fiery pond where a huge red stone was held. Curled around the stone was something golden yellow and moving.

  "Oh boy," Jack muttered when the golden object took the shape of a giant golden cobra.

  The loud hiss rang in O'Neill's ears as the creature's jade green, slitted eyes landed on the two intruders. The forked tongue darted back and forth out of the animal's mouth as its body wound, looped, and entwined around the stone.

  "Did I mention that I 'hate' snakes?" Jack whispered in Daniel's ear.

  "Yeah," Daniel whispered back, not able to take his eyes off the slithering creature.

  "Just checking." The golden serpent's eyes didn't waver from the men as it watched them. Its tail whipped back and forth as its massive head bobbed and moved. The glinting green eyes glowed as it followed Jack and Daniel's painstakingly slow movements. Neither were making any quick movements that could unintentionally startle the slithering beast and Jack was none too delighted to find out that the snake seemed more focused on him than his younger lover.

  "Jack, that thing has got to be about twenty-five feet long," Daniel exclaimed in near awe as the golden creature's body unwound the more it moved and its length was reviled.

  "Daniel, I can see this Stevie King nightmare on steroids is huge, I really don't need to be reminded of the fact," Jack responded testily.

  Jack moved a short distance away from Daniel with slow, measured steps. As suspected, the snake's head followed Jack's motions.

  "It likes me, don't I feel special," Jack murmured, sweat breaking out over his brow. Without looking at his lover, Jack continued to speak softly. "Daniel, looks like I can distract it while you grab the stone."

  Daniel was about to protest. He wasn't about to allow Jack to face the beast head on when he knew how Jack felt. Before he could say anything though, Jack had knelt down on the ground to lift up a large branch that spiked out on the ends and formed a 'V'. Jack jabbed the stick at the slimy reptile and tried to shove the snake off of the rock, but lunged too far and missed his mark.

  "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," Daniel whispered the clue the dying man had given him aloud to himself and tried to figure the clue out. 'The eye of Ormuzd will protect you'...but how was a bracelet suppose to help against a cobra, Daniel wondered?

  Daniel glanced down at the golden bangle around his wrist and as it caught the light from the fires in the cavern, it gave off a sparking, reddish reflective glow.

  "Um, Daniel, Daniel, pissed off python at twelve o'clock here," Jack said, trying and failing to keep the rising panic out of his voice.

  The cobra hissed loudly, its tail slicing through the air. The large golden scaled head of animal reared up as its hood flared out in anger. Glistening white fangs were bared as its eyes narrowed and it crouched dangerously low.

  Jack froze in an instant. He knew if he so much as blinked wrong, the snake would be on him within a second. His heart thumped loudly in his chest and his palms were growing moist. An eternity seemed to pass as Jack's eyes locked with the cobra's.

  Suddenly the snake moved, and Jack gasped. Instead of striking though, the creature turned its head towards the reddish glow of light that was shining in its eyes.

  Jack watched with a mixture of relief and fear as the cobra's eyes was drawn to Daniel. The archaeologist moved slowly, with small, sure steps to the opposite side of the rock and away from his lover, hoping the snake would follow. The snake's hooded head bobbed, swayed, and careened in a nearly hypnotic rhythm as its fascinated eyes stayed fastened on the moving light source.

  Jack's racing pulse slowed slightly, the rush of adrenaline wearing off as he no longer held interest for the scaly serpent. As he watched Daniel make his way around to the opposite side of the rock, the colonel realized his lover had more than a slight problem. Jack knew that the stone could only be touched by someone pure of heart, obviously which was his Daniel, so how was the archaeologist suppose to snatch the stone and distract its guardian at the same time?

  Jack looked down at the pole he still had in his sweaty hands and a plan began to formulate in his mind. Slowly, he moved around to the back of the snake. His breathing was soft and shallow and he tried to still his shaking fingers. There was only one chance for his plan to succeed and if he failed... Jack didn't want to think about that and shuddered, for it would most certainly be Daniel who would be struck by the angry serpent. That was 'not' an option!

  Jack silently stalked up with the heavy stick, his fingers flexing and testing the pole's strength as well as his own. Ever so slowly, Jack reached out with the stick until the 'V' was hooked under the cobra's hooded head and then flung with all of his strength. The snake flew through the air and landed into the fires that burned along the cavern's walls.

  Both Daniel and Jack jumped to the other side of the rock as quickly as they could while the slithering beast writhed and struggled to free itself from it's pyre, the lava covering the creature as it screeched in agony.

  Jack dropped the pole when he saw the snake was unable to free itself. The cobra's emerald green eyes met Jack's. The colonel could feel the torment in the animal's gaze before they rolled back into the reptile's head as it hissed for the last time.

  Daniel, taking the chance given him, gingerly stretched himself across the lava flow around the stone. The heat came in waves across the archaeologist's body, but he was careful enough not to get burnt. With care, Daniel reached out his hand to the bright red stone. His fingers brushed against it and then he snatched his hand back. When nothing happened when he touched the gem stone, he reached once more until his fingers wrapped all the way around the stone and then very timidly, pulled the stone into him, taking care as to not drop it into the steaming lava.

  Once Daniel stood with the stone in hand, Jack let out a loud whoop and grabbed Daniel up and placed a sound kiss on Daniel's lips.

  "I 'knew' you could do it Danny Boy!" Jack said with a laugh as he kissed the younger man again in enthusiasm.

  "Jack, be careful!" Daniel exclaimed and tried to keep a hold of the red stone as Jack jostled him.

  Jack stopped, but didn't release his hold on the younger man. "Right," he said and deftly kissed the man once more. "Come on, we'd better get that thing back as soon as we can."

  Daniel was about to say something when he was stopped by a loud hissing sound. As Daniel looked at Jack, both of their eyes grew large before Jack's eyes squeezed shut.

  "No, no, no!" he called out. "Do 'not' tell me that's what I think it is."

  Daniel looked over in the direction of the hissing to a large hole on the far side of the cavern. Through it appeared a second snake, looking just like the one they had just killed, only slightly larger. It's huge head bobbed around and sniffed at the air, it's fork tongue darting across the reptilian lips. Slowly it slithered over towards the edge of the wall, close to where the first snake had been.

  "Um, so you don't want to know that's the first snake's mate whose bound to get upset when he notices she's dead?" Daniel suggestion.

  "I told you not to tell me. I am getting 'such' a headache," Jack sighed.

  "Can I make a suggestion?" Daniel whispered, still holding still as to not draw attention to them.



  Both men turned in unison and bolted for the archway of the exit, Jack barely taking the time to grab a torch on his way out. *****

  Up at the surface, while standing guard, Teal'C noticed that along the sides of the glasslike reflective rock, there were some etchings very similar to the ones that Daniel Jackson had been reading to get his clues. Teal'C vaguely wondered if he should bring this to the young archaeologist's attention when they returned.

  The Jaffa was pulled from his musing when he heard the sounds of the wild animals once again. Teal'C was distinctly growing uneasy because the sounds appeared to be getting closer. 'I wonder if Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson are in need of my assistance,' Teal'C wondered to himself. 'Perhaps I should attempt to follow them?' The clue might have been specific in choosing him to stay behind, but if his friends needed him....

  Looking up into the sky, the Jaffa noted that the dragon seemed to be getting closer to it's destination of the sun. They would have to hurry if they were to stand a chance in preventing the destruction of the planet and its inhabitance.

  That was all it took to convince the Jaffa in making up his mind. Teal'C rose and began to push at the rock slab coving the opening. It was heavier without the assistance of the two other men, but slowly it began to move. Teal'C shouldered the stone slab and rocked it back and forth until the opening was large enough to allow entrance.

  Just as Teal'C was trying to determine how to keep the entrance pried open while he entered, he was caught off guard by the sight of his two Human friends racing towards him at top speed.

  "Close the opening Teal'C!!" Daniel cried as he flew by the Jaffa. followed by Jack.

  "Teal'C seal the cave..NOW!" Jack exclaimed as he panted.

  Sensing it wasn't time for questions, Teal'C started to let the slab fall back into place. Jack and Daniel both rushed to assist him and the Jaffa could hear the sound of angry, volatile hissing rushing forth, getting closer and louder until the stone finally rolled back into its resting place.

  With the cobra effectively trapped behind the stone wall, Daniel and Jack collapsed in a heap in front of the rock structure. Both men where huffing and breathing heavy after the race with the cobra and pushing the slab.

  "Doctor Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, what happened?" Teal'C asked with curiosity.

  "Got the Heart," Daniel panted holding up the stone in his hand.

  "Protected by snake," Jack added.

  "BIG snake!" Daniel wheezed.

  "Pushed it into lava."

  "Snatched the stone."

  "Snake had mate that was 'not' happy."

  "Started chasing us."

  Daniel and Jack had started talking so fast that they were overlapping each other. At seeing the confused look on Teal'C's face combined with an adrenaline high, Jack and Daniel looked at each other and started busting out in a fit of hysterical laughter.

  Teal'C's stoic expression didn't waver as he asked, "I do not understand how being chased by a giant snake can been seen as humorous."

  Jack and Daniel were holding their sides by now as they started laughing even harder. Gasping for air, finally the two men's laughter started subside.

  "Colonel, Daniel Jackson, the dragon in the sky is getting nearer to its destination, we must hurry," Teal'C reminded them as he looked up into the light blue sky where the sun was flaring up.

  "Yeah, okay, you're right," Jack conceded, having pulled himself together again. "All right, I'll tell you one thing though, I am definitely 'not' going back the way we came thought."

  Neither Daniel nor Teal'C wanted to repeat the journey either, and both also knew to do so would take too long in getting back with the stone.

  "Then we are agreed, we must find a quicker route in which to travel," Teal'C responded.

  "Yeah, but how are we going to do that?" Daniel questioned.

  "Daniel, check and see if there are any more clues that might help us out," Jack suggested.

  Daniel pulled out the notebook and read through what he had written. Jack watched as a frown creased his lover's face. "No good, the clue about the Heart was the last one I had written down. Now what?" he asked looking expectedly at Jack.

  "What about these markings Daniel Jackson?" Teal'C questioned as he pointed out the strange etchings he had found on the glasslike rock to the archaeologist.

  "Good job Teal'C!" Daniel exclaimed as he took a closer look at the drawings that were in fact identical those on the ancient scrolls.

  The younger man gently set the Heart down on the ground and moved in closer to inspect the hieroglyphics and began deciphering them.

  Jack moved behind Daniel as the younger man worked. In the back of his mind, he noticed the sound of the roaring of jungle cats and other creatures in the distance, but paid little attention to the sounds. It barely registered when the sounds suddenly stopped.

  Teal'C became more alert and strained as he listened. the sounds had been drawing closer before the silence had settled in around them, now even the birds appeared to have left the area. The Jaffa's eyes narrowed as he surveyed the jungle beyond the river's edge. Teal'C knew from experience the direction in which the roars were coming from, but now with the silence, the animal could be anywhere.

  Jack seemed to have picked up on Teal'C's tension, as he too noticed the sudden silence. Unconsciously he moved closer to Daniel, who was still unaware and completely absorbed in the sketchings.

  The colonel exchanged a quick glance with the Jaffa. Wordlessly, Teal'C cautiously removed his staff from his sling, hefting the weapon in his hands, his fingers curled and ready for action. Following his lead, Jack removed his gun from its holster.

  Suddenly there was a flurry of movement downstream. Jack and Teal'C turned instantly to the noise, their bodies tensed and ready for battle. Looking through the site of his gun, Jack saw a small animal resembling a monkey fleeing further downstream.

  Almost instantly, both men came to the realization that if the animal was fleeing downstream, then what it was afraid of was upstream, and was behind was Daniel.

  Both men began to turn slowly, each in the opposite direction of each so that all sides were within clear view of one or the other.

  Jack's body stiffened, his heart skipping several beats at what he faced. Stalking his precious Daniel, moving within pouncing distance, was the biggest stripped tiger he had ever seen.

  Jack's mind raced in fear. Daniel wasn't aware of the what was happening or the danger he faced and the tiger was dangerously close and moving in closer. He knew if he didn't do something and soon, Daniel was going to be attacked. All Jack could think of was that he wasn't about to let anything happen to his Daniel.

  Leaping into action, Jack moved closer to the river's edge. His movements drew the tiger's attention away from Daniel. The large feline crouched down on all fours, tail swishing back and forth dangerously low as it bared it's sharp teeth. Jack dropped and rolled on the ground and came up in a shooting stance. As the huge beast leaped towards him, Jack fired.

  There was a blast. Dropping down from mid-air to hit the ground, it's claws within inches of the colonel, the tiger took it's last breath. Its chest held a huge gapping scorched black hole where Teal'C's staff had hit it.

  "Oh my God, Jack!" Daniel exclaimed, braking the ensuing silence and he rushed forward to grab Jack into his arms.

  Still somewhat shaken, but not about to admit it, Jack looked over at Teal'C. As the colonel was held in Daniel's tight embrace, a silent look of gratitude was sent towards the Jaffa. Teal'C merely returned a silent nod in answer.

  Daniel continued holding Jack, running his hands back and forth over colonel's back until Jack's heart, as well as his own, started to calm down.

  "I'm okay Daniel," Jack assured the younger man, who was squeezing him nearly painfully.

  "But you could have...and it almost..." Daniel muttered, burring his face against Jack's throat.

  "I know, I know," Jack murmured and pulled back to take Daniel's face in his hands. "But I'm all right, okay?" Daniel nodded and Jack smiled. "Did you decode the etchings?"

  Daniel nodded again. "Yeah, it's another clue, I think it's the way back, a faster way back," the archaeologist explained and looked over at Teal'C and then back at Jack before pulling out his notebook.

  "Burning waters flow downward to swirl and twist with cooling mist. Ride the churning river to the edge. Safest in the center, the cascades will lead the way home," the younger man read aloud.

  Jack looked incredulously at Daniel. "A waterfall? We have to down a waterfall?" The colonel heaved a ragged sigh when the archaeologist nodded affirmatively.

  Picking up the Heart, Daniel safely tucked it into his shirt, wrapping one arm about it as if to keep it protected. With Teal'C in the lead, the trio set off downstream.

  A white veil of mist was spun as the air became lighter as the hot water met with the cooler water. The river seemed to pick up speed in its movements, the rapids were a swirling mass of white capped foam. The forceful churning caused waves to be slammed against the rocks.

  The group quickly divided up and began searching for a means of transport through the rapids, each investigating a different area.

  "Hey Jack, what about these?" Daniel asked as he pointed out the huge leave on some near by trees.

  Jack came over and inspected them. "Nope, wouldn't work Daniel. They're big enough that several of them strapped together could work, but only on a slow moving stream. The ride we're going to be taking would rip them to shreds," the colonel responded, but began to finger the branches the leaves were attached to. They looked to be very thick and sturdy. "Although, these might work to build a makeshift raft," he said as he bent and manipulated the branches to test them.

  Daniel started to help Jack gather the branches and began to assemble the raft. Neither man had noticed that Teal'C had moved further inland.

  "You know, to make a sturdy enough raft, it's going to take us quite awhile, even with Teal'C's help, time we really can't spare," Daniel commented as he lifted and pulled another branch and set it down next to the others.

  "Yeah, I know that, but what else are we going to do? Unless you have a better idea, this is our only option," Jack countered, while pulling down some vines to be used to tie the branches together.

  Anything Daniel was about to say in return was interrupted when both men turned to see Teal'C reappeared dragging behind him a huge log. When the Jaffa brought the log closer and dropped it in front of the men, they were able to see that the log had seemed to strategically altered for their use.

  The large log was long enough that it would hold all three straddling its wide girth. Pounded into the wood, were a series of six iron wickets, altering from small and large.

  "O'Neill, Jackson, I do believe this was made for our journey," Teal'C commented as the other men moved in to look at the raft.

  "This is the way I suspect it is used," Teal'C went on to say as he straddled the log between two of the wickets. As he sat, his back was firmly pressed against the larger one while his hands were able to hold firmly to the smaller one in front. It was quite noticeable that in this way, there were enough for three to occupy the log.

  "How strange can you get?" Daniel muttered, shaking his head back and forth in disbelief. "Everything since this entire mess started seems like it was planned just with us in mind. How could they have known? They couldn't possibly."

  Even as he said it, Daniel noticed that the middle section was even equipped with leather-like straps, apparently to help keep that particular rider upright and firmly in place, leaving Daniel to be capable of using at least one of his arms to hold onto the Heart without the fear of falling loose from the log.

  "I don't know what to tell you Danny Boy, but I'm sure not looking a gift horse in the mouth," Jack responded as he began helping Teal'C pull the log towards the river.

  Once with the log held in place by Teal'C, Jack helped Daniel to get strapped into the middle section. Testing the restraints, Daniel knew he would be able to stay balanced and felt secure that he could maintain his grip on the Heart.

  Jack then positioned himself in the front section of the log. Once settled in, Jack and Daniel used their feet to keep the log steady while Teal'C took up the last position.

  Upon carefully releasing their footholds, the men where quickly swept up into the river's swift currents. They began moving faster and faster through the rushing rapids. In the distance the roaring of the waterfall grew louder and louder in their ears.

  "Surf's up!" Jack called out as they were swept away.

  The ride was faster than anything Daniel ever remembered experiencing, and he had been to countless amusement parks rides in his life. The archaeologist thought he could hear his lover's gleeful shouts and whoops over the noisy rush of the currents and his own thundering heartbeat as they sped up, heading closer and closer to the edge of the waterfall.

  'At least Jack's enjoying the ride,' Daniel thought to himself as his stomach was tossed and lurched when at one point, the churning waters had twisted them around full circle.

  Pressing his back against the solid iron wicket behind him, and holding onto the Heart for dear life, Daniel's own heart skipped several beats as they narrowly avoided an outcropping of rocks on their left.

  The young man let out a low moan and concentrated on his lover's back. Daniel tried desperately to image the two of them out sailing together on a calm blue sea, the soft muted colors of a beautiful sunset all around them instead of taking a deadly ride through the rough waters of a river that seemed determine to outmaneuver them.

  Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, his body trembling either from the coldness of the water that was now thoroughly soaking him or from his own fear, he didn't know which. All he did know was that he wished that Jack could have been sitting with him, the older man's arms wrapped about him, keeping him safe.

  The younger man let out a cry as they encountered a particularly rough section of the rapids, and he clutched at the Heart with one hand while holding on with white knuckled strength with the other. With the approaching waterfall getting closer on the horizon, Daniel's shivering increased.

  The log lunged and lurched and Daniel jumped violently, grateful for the straps holding him down. The archaeologist then felt pressure on his legs. Opening his eyes, he looked down and was surprised to see that Teal'C had stretched out his own legs and had wrapped them around the younger man, effectively securing Daniel even more so to the log. The archaeologist relaxed slightly at the gesture and closed his eyes again just as the log began to take its downward plunge.

  From his position on the front of the log, Jack was able to get a good look as the log tilted downward.

  'Whoa, this is some waterfall!' the colonel thought in awe. 'This is definitely not a cascade, it has got to be even bigger than the Victoria Falls!' he thought to himself as the log began to descend over the four hundred foot drop.

  Through some amazing feat, the log stayed upright and seemed to flow through the center of the mile wide waterfall.

  The icy cold water sloshed and splattered against the sides of the log, thoroughly soaking Jack's body. The colonel was almost giddy with excitement as he was filled with the rush of adrenaline as their descent continued. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought about all they had been through so far and how he was going to help Daniel relax once they had a spare moment to themselves. It was then he heard the ear-splitting wailing from behind him.

  'Daniel!' his mind cried. He had all but forgotten the younger man's fear of heights! To be on a downward flight of a four hundred and then some drop must have his younger lover terrified.

  Jack tried desperately to twist himself around to see Daniel, but the force of the fall was simply too strong to let him do it. Instead he offered the only comfort he could by shouting out words of encouragement at the top of his voice and hoped that Daniel was able to hear him over the roaring water.

  'I'm going to have to give him a lot of TLC to get him to calm down after this,' Jack thought to himself and a smile curved on his lips. 'Well, that doesn't sound like such a big deal, I've got a lot in mind for that TLC too!'

  Behind him, unaware of his older lover's thoughts, Daniel continued to have a white-knuckle grip on the wicket in front of him, his other arm clutching close to his body with a fierce grip in an effort to protect the Heart.

  The archaeologist's stomach rolled and was tossed all around, threatening to come up through his throat and he battled to keep it settled even though he felt dangerously nauseous. His heart was pounding like a tribal drum in his chest and was nearly deafening to his ears.

  'Why'd I have to open my eyes?' he moaned to himself. 'It's bad enough knowing where we are but to watch us going down like this? Am I crazy or just masochistic? This thing is huge! Does everything come big on this planet?'

  Daniel leaned further back, and tried to tug Teal'C's legs closer around himself. He wished they were Jack's legs, but right then he really could have cared less who the legs belonged to. He was scared, wet, and falling headlong at speeds he really didn't even want to ponder. There was no way he was going to be concerned about whose legs were wrapped around him at the moment. He clung onto Teal'C's legs like they were a lifeline and didn't try to squelch the screams that were ripped from his throat.

  Being at the end of the log, Teal'C was capable of seeing even more clearly the situation they were in. The drop was in incredibly long one. If they survived, there would be the speed of the impact to face once they reached the bottom. His mind worked in trying to think of a way that would lessen that impact. He was aware that having O'Neill in the front and himself in the rear, that would help to lessen the force on the front of the log. His own weight would counterbalance them and should bring them down more in the rear, hopefully keeping them from tipping over head first into the river below. Then if they succeeded in staying upright, they would have the great rush of the water below to contend with as well as the river's fast movement. Looking straight down, the Jaffa could see many outcroppings of rock jutting out of the white foamed bottom waiting for them.

  'This god, Ormunzd, had protected us so far, perhaps it would be best to let this god continue to watch over us and not worry needlessly,' the darker man thought to himself.

  The Jaffa's focus then shifted to the younger man before him. With O'Neill in the front, there was no way the colonel would be able to protect his young lover. The clues had referred to him as Daniel Jackson's strength and he decided that it would be his strength that would protect the younger man. Teal'C knew that not only were his legs strong, but that the man before him was in need of the touch of another person. He offered his young friend his strength and comfort in the only way he could think of and was rewarded with Daniel's grateful acceptance.

  As Jackson clutched at his legs with numbing strength, the Jaffa briefly wondered what O'Neill would have to say about his boldness in touching the younger man so intimately, but then brushed it quickly away. 'He will understand,' he thought as he tightened his legs' grip about the archaeologist.

  Water flew and jetted in all directions, as Jack held his breath when they neared a huge rock that rose out of the waterfall - it looked like they were headed right for it.

  "Hang on!!" he cried out to others in warning as he held on tightly himself.

  Squeezing his eyes shut, yet still peering out through the slits, Jack couldn't believe his eyes. While the boulder was in the direct path of the log, somehow they had veered off to the right and smoothly missed it and then swung back into the center as though nothing had blocked their way.

  "This is too weird!" the colonel said aloud to himself. Jack was able to see the bottom clearly, the white waters slashing upward in a scattered spray as the falls hit. Beyond that, there were swirling, rushing, waters of the river.

  As much as he had been enjoying the ride down, a sudden thought flash through his mind. 'Oh great, when we hit bottom, guess whose the first to get smashed?'

  Faster and faster the bottom rushed up to meet them. Jack could feel the slashing water coming upward and jostling the log as they approached. He wished vehemently that he could be holding Daniel when the end came, all he could do now was hope for the best.

  "Here we go!"

  The log plunged downward almost in a vertical line. Just as they were to hit bottom, the log shifted slightly, somehow turning horizontal, carrying the three riders with it outward as road on a cushion of air. The long skimmed and skipped over the bottom, as if held in place by an unseen force. Then with a gentle plop, it was dropped into the river below. Somehow they had been spared from the bottom of the falls and landed with a jolt on the rushing river beyond.

  The swiftly moving currents of the river started to carry them along, and when they were far enough from the falls, Jack turned around and looked at his lover.

  Daniel sat with his eyes still tightly shut, one arm around his chest still protecting the Heart and the other around Teal'C's legs, holding on with a death grip. Jack couldn't resist smiling at the sight of his frightened lover. 'Wait a minute here! What's wrong with this picture?' he thought to himself. The colonel looked again. 'Teal'C's legs, wrapped around Daniel's hips?' Jack looked up at the Jaffa with an arched eyebrow, but the Jaffa merely stared back.

  Jack gently reached back and shook the archaeologist. The younger man jerked slightly but didn't open his eyes.

  "Jack!" he screamed out several decibels too loud.

  Jack realized that Daniel still thought they were on the waterfall.

  "Hey babe, you can open your eyes now," Jack assured him softly. "The ride's over and we made it."

  Daniel peeked through one squinted eye and saw Jack's face smiling at him. The younger man's body then visibly slumped against the iron wicket as his eyes opened fully.

  As Daniel released his grip on Teal'C's legs, the Jaffa pulled them back, moving them through the water as he tried to increase the circulation that had been cut off.

  Jack and Daniel said nothing, their eyes just met and held one another's in a steady stare as the log carried them closer to the city limits.

  "O'Neill, Jackson, we have arrived," Teal'C spoke, breaking the silence and bringing the men's attention back as the rounded a curve in the river. The outskirts of the city had come into view.

  The three weary adventurers soon came to a stop at the edge of the river and Jack helped Daniel unstrap the leather harness and gave him a hand up to the river's bank. Teal'C was the last to get off and the men then made their way to the palace and the elders.

  As they neared the great dwelling, villagers from all over left their houses and the market place to crowd around the returning trio. All were anxious to see the results of the quest.

  Daniel held the Heart of Arhiman up high over his head so that all could see. Jack and Teal'C moved closer to the younger man just in case someone tried to grab the Heart, or worse yet to Jack, make a grab for Daniel.

  All the men were more than a little surprised when they were greeted at the grounds of the main building by the elders and a very skimpily dressed Captain Carter.

  "Taking a vacation, are we Sam?" Jack asked Carter as he passed by her.

  The captain blushed furiously as both Daniel and Teal'C also stared at her when they walked by. Both men held a look of appreciation in their eyes for the pretty blonde as they made their way to the observatory.

  Through the carved out ceiling, the intense changes of the sky was easily seen. The sky above had darkened with the comet passing directing in front of and blocking the yellow-orange sun, yet rays of the light were being directed downward towards the city as the huge glowing star emitted solar flares of huge proportions.

  Sam looked curiously at the Heart, still being guarded closely by Daniel's arms. Though she was curious, she didn't dare touch it, remembering all too well how she had gotten burned when she tried to touch the bracelet Daniel had wore.

  "That looks like a ruby," she stated matter of factly and Daniel nodded his agreement.

  Everyone in the room stepped back as Daniel walked over to the curved golden pedestal and gently placed the Heart in the indentation on the top.

  Immediately the building began shaking violently. The solar flares increased in their intensity and all watches as the flares reaching the planet's surface were drawn to the Observatory and headed directly towards the Heart like a beacon.

  As the beams of light hit the ruby stone, it began to glow and hum. Within moments, the stone was a glowing fiery red that kept growing in intensity.

  The building surrounding the small group continued to be rattled on its foundation and by the shouts from outside, they knew that the entire town was also being shook and rocked with the tremors.

  "Carter, please tell me this is a 'good' thing?" O'Neill requested with a calm he didn't particularly feel.

  "Well, from what I learned in my research, the mass of solar energy will build up in the stone and then be thrown back out, with the Heart acting almost like a giant laser," Sam explained. " According to what I read, the laser is going to shoot this beam back towards space right at the comet's tail. It should hit with enough force to knock the comet off it's course and return it to a more normal orbit."

  All watched in complete silence. Jack reached out and took hold of Daniel to keep the younger man from falling as the building continued to quake.

  The Heart of Arhiman glowed even more brilliantly. It hummed and vibrated as the pedestal it rested on rocked back and forth on its base. Suddenly a huge burst of bright red light beamed, heading out the Observatory portal directly over head and into the vastness of space.

  Daniel, Sam, Jack, and the elders were forced to cover their eyes and turn their heads against the enormous glare. Only Teal'C was able to watch as the mass of energy was directed at the comet.

  Seconds passed like hours as everyone held their breath and waited. The beam of energy struck its target with deadly accuracy, causing a loud boom of an explosion.

  A massive earthquake erupted as the comet was drawn away from the sun and forced off into a less dangerous path.

  The building shook and rattled even worse. Chunks of mortar started falling around the group and the elders as the walls cracked and the parchments fell to the ground.

  "You all need to stand in the doorways for protection," Jack called out to the elders as he moved to a doorframe himself and slipped an arm around Daniel's chest and pulled him in close. Teal'C had done similar with Carter.

  The elders wasted no time in doing as they were told, as several of the men made sure that the women were well protected. Through the open portals, they watched as the city crumbled around them.

  Suddenly, almost as quickly as it had started, the violent shaking and jostling stopped and all was quite.

  "Is it over?" the leader of the elder asked, looking at Jack.

  "I think so," he answered and reluctantly dropped his hold on Daniel.

  The elder then moved to one of the open widows and peered out into the city.

  "So much damage," the elderly man whispered softly to himself.

  "Yeah, but at least your still here and able to rebuild," Jack pointed out.

  "What shall we do now?" one of the female elders asked, moving out of one of the doorways.

  "Well, you should start by sending out messengers to check on the amount of damage to the city and the rest of your people," Jack responded, taking charge.

  "Make it so," the leader of the elders said to a young male servant and the boy skittered off quickly to carry out the order.

  Jack and the rest of the team began to clear the debris and rubble that littered the observatory. Daniel noticed that the Heart had returned its original status. The archaeologist noticed a slight change, something he wasn't readily able to identify, but he felt reasonably certain that it was safe for others to be able to touch the Heart.

  Jack, who seemed to be tracking his lover's thoughts, look at Daniel and then at the Heart. Very gingerly, he reached out and tapped a finger against it. Nothing happened.

  "What do you think happened?" Daniel asked, looking at Sam.

  "I don't know, it could have been that the energy in the Heart was released when it sent out the laser beam," Sam answered.

  The entire crew knew that they would never know for certain.

  After some time had passed and the observatory was starting to look like it had before the quake, the messengers who had been sent out had started to return.

  "So what's the news?" Jack asked a young man who had entered.

  "There were no fatalities," the messenger reported with a broad smile and the group let out a sigh of relief. "The city's buildings that were damaged are also thought to be easily repairable."

  The head elder clapped his hands together joyously at the information.

  "In honor of the defeat of the Dragon in the Sky, I declare that a city-wide celebration will be held this very evening!" the elderly man exclaimed happily.

  The elders gathered about excitedly making plans for the big celebration. Soon they and their servants left the observatory.

  Jack turned to survey his team.

  "Well, I guess we can stay for the party, we do deserve it. Besides, Captain Carter, you look like you're already dressed for a party."

  He moved towards Sam, a mischievous twinkle lighting his eyes. Daniel noticed the look and also moved forward until both men stood facing the captain. Teal'C remained where he was, one eye cocked in a curious manner.

  Fingering the silk and lace gown the captain was wearing, O'Neill slowly circled about her, shaking his head in wonder.

  "Care to explain why you are out of uniform, Captain?" he demanded in a serious tone of voice.

  Sam swallowed nervously, deep down she knew that Jack was not really concerned about it in the military sense, but she dreaded having to explain what happened while the men were away. Her new found status as the Goddess Hathor, would not be so easily explained.

  "Well, Sir," she began, thinking furiously. "My uniform was taken and these clothes were left in its place."

  "Taken, how?" Daniel asked as he carefully cleaned his glasses before replacing them in his shirt pocket.

  "I was taking a bath..." Before Sam could continue, she was interrupted.

  "A Bath? We were out braving the elements of a hostile world and you were taking a bath?" The colonel's voice echoed off the walls.

  "Had to be a bubble bath too," Daniel deadpanned.

  Jack looked over at his lover, pleased that the younger man had picked up on his little game so quickly. 'Now we can have some fun,' he thought wickedly.

  "Captain," O'Neill continued, while standing directly in front of the young woman, "do you realize what dangers we faced? Snakes, piranhas, wild beasts, did I mention SNAKES!"

  Daniel picked up as Jack shuddered in remembrance.

  "Climbing incredible heights, tigers, and big snakes."

  "Really BIG snakes," Jack added for good measure.

  Teal'C had moved closer during this encounter and he also added to the conversation. "Burning river, a waterfall..."

  "A big waterfall," O'Neill interjected.

  "A really BIG waterfall," Daniel added with a shudder of his own.

  Carter looked from man to man before breaking out in laughter. "Okay, I'm sorry that the three of you big brave men had to face so many dangers, but you are not going to make me feel guilty over it!"

  "The dangers we faced were very real, I do not see the reason for laughter," Teal'C spoke evenly. "Colonel O'Neill's own fear of...."

  "Whoa there, let's not get carried away with the story," Jack interrupted.

  The last thing he wanted was for Carter to know about his fear of snakes. For some reason, he felt she would never let him forget that fear.

  Just as Sam was about to question the Jaffa further, a noise at the doorway attracted their attention.

  Standing just inside the room, stood the three 'replacements' from the previous night. Sam gritted her teeth as they approached. Eyes wide, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'C stepped back to allow the approach.

  Looking the men up and down then looking at Sam, Jack emitted a low whistle. "This going to be some report, Captain. I for one, can't wait to read it!"

  Sam groans at the thought of writing all of this into her report. Her thoughts are interrupted as one of the men speaks.

  "Goddess, we are at your service for the celebration tonight, if your men are too tired to please you."

  The tall O'Neill look alike glanced over at the men in question, a look of obvious superiority on his face.

  Teal'C cocked his eye in surprise. "Your men?" he questions.

  Jack moved closer to Sam. "Too tired to please you?" He stared back at the other man, glaring his own look of disapproval.

  Daniel coughing on trying to contain his bubbling laughter asked "At your service?"

  Taking control of the rapidly crumbling situation, Sam gathered the three doubles about her. "All right, guys, out you go. I'll talk with you later."

  She herded them out of the room as fast as she could. She then turned back to face 'her' men.

  Jack suddenly straightened up, "Wait a minute, did they say 'Goddess'?"

  "Colonel, I can explain," Sam began.

  "Darn right you will, Captain. How about starting right now! And just who did that overgrown ape think he was, looking at us that way? You have a lot of explaining to do, Captain."

  This time, Sam could tell that all traces of the infamous O'Neill humor was gone. He was serious and she was in trouble.

  A soft clearing of the throat brought all of their attention back to the doorway. This time two young girls stood with nervous smiles on their faces. "Goddess, we were instructed to lead you back to your quarters where your men may freshen up before the celebration."

  Feeling the heat of three pairs of eyes on her back, Carter followed the two girls. Entering the spacious room, all questions were apparently forgotten. The first thing noticed was the huge bed in the center of the room.

  Sam blushed as both Jack and Daniel turned to face her and then looked back at the bed.

  "A lot to talk about," the colonel murmured.

  As their exploration of the room continued, Daniel wandered towards the smaller room off to the side.

  Grinning broadly he practically shouted, "Jack, look at this!"

  O'Neill entered the room behind his lover. The steaming hot bath was already prepared. Noting that the tub was large enough for two, Jack released his own grin.

  Turning back slightly, he spoke to Teal'C and Carter, "Uh, you two rest, relax, whatever. Daniel and I will check this out." He then drew the curtain across the doorway and reached to help undress his lover.

  "Jack, what do you think your doing?" Daniel asked as the colonel deftly pulled the dirty, wet, T-shirt off from the younger man's body.

  "What does it look like I'm doing?" Jack asked mischievously as he moved to unsnap the archaeologist's pants, despite the protesting finger that tried to shoo him away.

  "Jack, Teal'C and Sam are in the next room!" Daniel exclaimed.

  "And we're here, what's your point?" Jack asked with a wry smile as he drew the younger man into his arms and kissed him long, hard, and thoroughly until he felt Daniel's knees buckle.

  "No point, no point at all," Daniel whispered breathlessly as his smile matched Jack's.

  "That's what I thought," Jack whispered back huskily, his dark eyes smoldering as he looked into endless blue.

  Slowly both men finished undressing, and submerged themselves into the steaming bath water. They both let out a groan as the water warmed them up from the icy water of the falls.

  "Oh god, this is heaven," Daniel murmured as the heat soaked him and infused through his body.

  "Oh yeah," Jack groaned his agreement, moving around in the water as the stiffness was worked from his aching muscles.

  They each rested for quite awhile in silence as they let the hot water work it's magic on their bodies, washing away the stress, and fatigue from their harrowing journey. Daniel moved to pick up the sponge and lathered it up with soap and began to scrub himself with it.

  "Come here," Jack called to him and reached out.

  Daniel moved over to his lover and turned over the sponge into Jack's outstretched hand. Turning the younger man around and pulled him back between his legs, Jack began lathering up Daniel's back and Daniel murmured happily.

  Sitting the sponge to the side, Jack then began running his hands over the slick, soapy skin. His finger kneaded the taunt muscles of Daniel's neck and back and dug into the knots he found.

  "Oh yeah Jack, right there," Daniel moaned, his head dropping forward to give Jack better access.

  Jack happily continued his massaging of the younger man. Daniel's moans and whimpers were more than enough encouragement to keep him doing it. Daniel scooted further back in-between Jack's legs and Jack could feel the heat of the other man's skin against him.

  Jack then picked up the sponge and suds up Daniel's chest, taking the time to tease the younger man's nipples with it while he pulled Daniel to rest against his own chest and the back of Daniel's head nestled against his shoulder. He then slid the sponge up over Daniel's shoulder and neck and back down over the younger man's muscled stomach.

  "Mmmm, that feels so good Jack," Daniel said softly, his eyes drifting shut as his hands moved under the water to caress Jack's legs around him.

  "You feel good," Jack whispered back into Daniel's ear and gently placed a kiss behind it.

  The colonel's hands drifted farther down and began stroking Daniel's legs as well. "Have I told you yet how proud I am of you?" he asked in a low voice.

  Daniel opened his eyes and turned his head towards Jack. " You're proud of me?" he repeated, not sure if he had heard correctly.

  Jack moved and turned Daniel around on his lap until the younger man faced him, their bodies pressed closely together. The colonel ran his fingers through the archaeologist's hair before running both hands up and down Daniel's arms.

  "Yes, I'm actually very proud of you," Jack replied in all seriousness as he tenderly looked at his lover.

  Daniel stared at him wide - eyed. "What for? Finding the Heart?"

  Jack smiled and caressed Daniel's cheek. "No, because I know there was a lot you had to face you didn't really want to. Still, you knew there was something that had to be done and you didn't let your own fears stand in the way of your determination." Jack leaned in and tenderly kissed Daniel's soft lips. "And that's what I'm proud of you for."

  The younger man blushed and turned his eyes away. "I really didn't do anything, I wouldn't have even been able to manage it without having you there with me."

  Jack tipped the younger man's face back up to his. The pad of his thumb traced over the archaeologist's bottom lip. "Don't belittle yourself Daniel. I may have been there to help you out, but in the end it was you who faced your fears and succeeded."

  "Thanks," Daniel whispered softly, his eyes shining brightly.

  "Just telling it like it is," Jack shrugged.

  Daniel leaned in and covered the colonel's mouth with his own, sealing his lips over the pliable and willing mouth of the older man. Gently, Daniel's tongue pushed against Jack's lips, seeking entrance into the warm and inviting mouth. The colonel opened up and Daniel's tongue slid against his, caressing the inner recesses.

  Jack's hands traveled up and down Daniel's back and slid under the water to cup the curved flesh of the younger man's buttocks. Daniel moaned into Jack's mouth when the older man pulled him hard against him.

  Chest to chest, the water lapped and swirled around them. Jack moved slightly and Daniel found his groin pressed against the colonel's. Both could feel the other's semi-rigid length against them.

  One of Jack's hands moved up to rub the nape of Daniel's neck as he deepened the kiss, his other hand still under the water and full with Daniel's tempting behind.

  "Mmm, Danny my boy, what you do to me I think can classify as a sin," Jack murmured as his mouth trailed hot kisses over Daniel's throat. He could feel the ripples of the muscles against his lips when Daniel groaned.

  "Is that a complaint or observation?" Daniel asked weakly.

  "Oh an observation, definitely an observation," Jack assured him with a squeeze to a rounded cheek. The older man then gasped when Daniel began swiveling his hips in the water, gently rubbing their growing erections together.

  "You are 'so' wicked!" Jack moaned into Daniel's shoulder.

  "I was well taught," Daniel countered, enjoying the feel of their chests brushing against each other.

  Both men moaned as Daniel continued his teasing movement under the water. Looking into the darkening eyes of his older lover, Daniel knew Jack's passion was starting to simmer as much as his own.

  Jack kept up his gentle caresses over the younger man's back and bottom while his lips nibbled and sucked on Daniel's. The younger man whimpered slightly when Jack's finger trailed up and down over the cleft in between.

  "Mmmm, so hot and sweet," Jack murmured as he probed a little deeper.

  Daniel moved down the colonel's chest to capture an erect nipple between his teeth and nibbled gently. A hand hidden under the water drifted up Jack's thigh and lightly teased the older man's thickening member. Jack wasn't able to bite back the groan that escaped him.

  Jack's own hands worked in-between their bodies and began a gentle manipulation of Daniel's testicles. His fingers softly rolled and caressed the weighted flesh before wrapping around Daniel's shaft.

  "Gods Jack," Daniel moaned out.

  The younger man's head tilted back and Jack took the advantage to bite the tender flesh hard enough to leave a mark, and knowing Daniel wouldn't mind. Daniel gasped out loudly at the mixture between pain and pleasure.

  Suddenly there was a rapping on the doorway.

  "Colonel O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, are you all right?"

  Both men were startled to hear the concerned voice of the Jaffa coming from nearby. They had nearly forgotten that Teal'C and Carter were in the other room. In addition, they also heard Carter's soft laughter.

  "Yeah Teal'C, we're fine," Jack called out to reassure the Jaffa and nudged his younger lover.

  "We're all right," Daniel added loudly, his face flaming up.

  "Come on Teal'C, let the boys play," they heard Sam say, apparently tugging the Jaffa back into the other room.

  Jack groaned and shifted Daniel slightly on his lap.

  "Looks like this is going to have to wait," Jack whispered, his hands still caressing Daniel's bare bottom.

  "Wait, Jack, I don't want to wait," Daniel protested and moved to swivel his hips against Jack's so the older man could feel his erection. "Or can't you tell?"

  Jack murmured and pulled Daniel's head down for another taste of soft lips.

  "I know Danny," Jack said when he pulled back. "I don't like it anymore than you do, but we have a party to go to, and not to mention an audience in the next room. I think we're going to have to wait until later tonight when we have some privacy."

  Daniel's hand slid back under the water to once again seek out and caress his lover's erection while his lips nibbled and licked along Jack's neck and up to his ear. Jack moaned softly.

  "I can wait if you can," Daniel whispered huskily into the round shell of Jack's ear. "Oh, you are asking for it Danny Boy," Jack growled and pinched one of the fleshy cheeks.

  "Better believe it," Daniel countered with a purely devilish smile.

  The two quickly finished bathing, but their eyes still burned with longing as they watched the other. When they stepped out of the enormous tub, Jack pulled Daniel to him and used a fluffy towel to dry the clinging beads of water that sparked off the younger man's body. Daniel returned the favor and the pair moved to put on fresh clothes they had taken in with them.