Disclaimers:

One of the worst parts of being famous in today's world is the constant scrutiny of every detail of your private life by the world at large. This is a major theme of this series of stories. I applaud the responsible reporters who are motivated by a desire to give the public the information it needs to make informed decisions and who avoid intrusive reporting on private lives. I do not intend to include ethical journalists in my portrayal of the damage done by the bottom feeding segment of the media that is less concerned about truth or impact on the subjects of stories than in how many readers/viewers a story will attract.

This story was written strictly for the purpose of entertainment. No attempt has been made to copyright any characters which may not have been originally created by the author, and no profit is made from this work of fiction. Any original characters and the stories themselves are the property of the author.

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There it was, Daniel's star, not part of any well-known constellation, not particularly brilliant, just a dim fleck of light that was hard to spot in a hazy Minnesota night sky. Still it was star enough to be shining down on Daniel right now, light years away and, once again, effectively dead to all those who cared about him on Earth. Jack always finished a session with his telescope by locating that minor heavenly body that sheltered Daniel. It was oddly comforting, even though the starlight shining on Jack at that moment had began traveling toward him years before Daniel ever exiled himself to the distant star's fourth planet.

Jack pulled back from the telescope and stretched, finally ready to go in. The air was damp and more than a little chilly and his flannel shirt and jeans weren't keeping him warm enough any more. The dog echoed his master's stretches. Mayborne had been ready to call it a night long ago, much preferring to lie in front of a warm fire, but, in his doggy heart, the only place to be was next to Jack, no matter how foolish a place Jack may have selected. Jack was a little stiff but not as stiff as he should have been, considering that he was, chronologically speaking, a man well into his 70s. The "gate effect" which dramatically slowed aging after repeated trips through the gate was first observed as he and the other the members of SG-1 got older. It kept him to all intents and purposes a vigorous 55. He still averaged a few letters a week from strangers who thought he was hot and wanted to have his baby or some other damn fool thing.

Jack wanted to finish the DVD for Daniel before he went to bed. He had already copied the news clips and TV shows and other items of interest he'd collected through the month to the disk and all that was missing was his traditional opening message. He slipped through the sliding doors from the weathered deck into the comfortable living room where the camera was already set up facing his favorite chair, an overstuffed recliner covered in buttery soft brown leather. Before he started, he went quietly to the door of the master bedroom, checked to see that Sara was still sleeping soundly, and then closed the door carefully to ensure that he wouldn't wake her.

Jack grabbed a beer, pulled a mug out of the freezer, filled it, and put it next to the chair. He started up the camera and settled down in the chair. When he first looked into the camera, he had to start out by quashing the knee-jerk reaction he had to being faced with a camera after more than twenty years in the limelight. Cameras in the hands of sensation seeking so-called journalists had nearly ruined his life until he had run away, just like Daniel, and isolated himself on this little island in the middle of a lake in Minnesota. He willed himself to see Daniel in the darkness outside the window behind the camera and began talking to his best friend.

"Well, Danny, our boys have stuck it to us again, or, more precisely, your boy. All three of the Golden Brothers were on 'Live in Your Face.'" Jack hesitated for a moment, disgusted with himself that he had used the public's nickname for Sam's sons but it was easier than saying Johnny O'Neill, Jake Jackson, and Jonas Smith. The nickname had attached itself to the boys in response to all that blonde hair and no common last name to use for the two rock stars and the popular young actor. "We all get co-opted," he thought and resumed.

"In response to a question about why the boys were the way they were, Jake said the main thing for Johnny and him was not to be anything like their fathers which you probably remember happens to be you and me. Johnny didn't exactly disagree. You'll get the pleasure of hearing it first hand. I put the show on the DVD. Oh and it's got Jake and Johnny's new video from "We Die Free"'s latest CD which just went double platinum. Jake and his girl friend, Phoebe Barrymore, go about as far as you can and still sell your stuff in Wal-Mart in the love scenes it includes. Johnny keeps his clothes on and just plays the guitar, thank God."

Jack shook his head. "The tabloids say your boy's already cheating on his Phoebe. Johnny continues to be more reclusive than Howard Hughes and Axel Rose and the Star and the like hint that he's gay. Considering how scandal sheets destroyed my marriage to Sam with lies about Sara and me and about you and Sam, who knows what's going on? They didn't do you any favors either when you and Sam were married. You got to love 'em.'"

Jack paused to take a drink from a mug on the table next to his chair. "Okay Jonas. Our boys' kid brother had his TV show came out numero uno in the March sweeps. Jonas' expletive deleted movie star father dropped out of that movie he talked Jonas into doing. Jonas is going ahead with it, mainly because Jake was added to the cast. I read an interview where Jake said that he thinks the music won't last forever for him and he's thinking doing a Mark Wahlberg."

Jack sighed. "I would have loved a chance to spend some time with Jonas when he was growing up, help fill in the Dad gap, but I practically had to go to court to get my time with Johnny like you did with Jake. Ancient history and not the kind I like to dig up any more than you do."

Jack ticked off the first two topics on his fingers and went on to the third. "Okay, the Sam report. I talked to Teal'c after the "Live in Your Face" appearance. Sam still has no use for either one of us so she didn't much care about Jake's remark but it really bothered Teal'c. You have to give him credit for doing the best he could with the boys after he and Sam got married but Jonas was the only one salvageable by then. Teal'c says the two older boys still aren't speaking to him since he put his foot down about the way they were treating Sam. Since Sam supports their stepfather, they aren't talking to her much either but I think things are okay between Teal'c and Sam. After helping to ruin three marriages for Sam, maybe the media won't be able to muck this one up."

He scratched his head. "What else…. Sara and I are fine. The new Parkinson's medicine is doing really well for her. It seemed to be preventing any further deterioration. Some fool reporter broke his leg on one of my little no trespassing deterrents. He wants to sue but that's why I moved to Minnesota. They respect your property rights around here."

Jack leaned forward and got to his real point. He pleaded with Daniel to rejoin the living. It wasn't particularly eloquent, this was Jack after all, but he hoped the heartfelt feeling made up for the uninspired choice of words.

After he turned off the camera, Jack's mind was turning a mile a minute, speculating on what chance his plea had of bringing Daniel home. He undressed but instead of getting in bed, he sat on the window seat in their bedroom and watched Sara sleep. He'd been doing this ever since she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. He was terrified that the disease would take away his Sara and leave someone else, someone delusional, someone he would have trouble loving as he should, because it wouldn't be Sara any more. His beloved aunt Kate had slipped away from him that way when he was in his teens. He'd go to the nursing home and she would be sure that she was at an airport and her plane was about to be announced, fussing at him about her luggage and worrying about making her connection but not connecting with him.

Maybe he lacked confidence because before Sara, Sam had slipped away from him. What had been between them had been so strong, so white hot but then, one day, it was gone. For the first eight years of SG-1, he had denied his attraction to her but the day had come when it gotten to be too much for both of them. And, curiously, it hadn't been a major romantic moment. There had been no roses and swelling mushy music in the background. It hadn't been one of the many times when she had almost died and he'd been forced to contemplate her loss or he had almost died and been forced to reevaluate what mattered most. It had been a puddle of icy, dirty water.

They'd all been at his place, watching DVDs and having a few beers. What the actual DVD's were was the sort of romantic detail Sam probably remembered, if she ever allowed herself to remember Jack, but Jack certainly didn't have the slightest. Teal'c and Daniel had just left in high spirits, laughing again over a Mayborne story Jack had told them just before they went out the door. Jack remembered thinking back then, back before there were any television series or movies based on the Stargate, "If they ever make a television series out of our lives, Mayborne will definitely be the source of our 'Trouble with Tribbles' episode." Sometimes he hated it when he was right. Jack had been watching Sam go to her car. Sure she was a major military threat packaged in one person, but she was still a woman and he felt like he ought to do it.

It was toward the end of the winter and there was a puddle of very cold water in the ditch next to the road where Sam had parked because the driveway was already too congested. Her feet went out from under her and she slid, all arms and legs wind milling and the DVDs she was carrying flying in all directions, to land in a heap in the water.

Jack was out the door like a shot and nearly landed in the same ditch. He got his footing and gave her a hand as she got to her feet, one sorry, sodden, shivering mess. "Sam, you can't go home like that. It's too cold out here. Come on back inside and you can borrow some dry clothes from me."

She was enough of a realist not to argue with him over it. The wisdom of her decision was obvious, evidenced by the fact that she was shivering violently by the time they got back inside his place. Sam followed him to the master bath and he scrounged around for a towel, not wanting to give her the ratty things that he had been using ever since he got some cheap towels at a K-Mart after leaving Sara. There wasn't a clean one in the closet in the bathroom anyway it turned out. Sam said, her teeth chattering, "Please, Jack, I'm dying here. I don't know what the hold up is but I'm begging you, please leave the room. I've got to get these things off."

"Sure. I'll get a towel and leave it just inside the door for you." He located one in the laundry room, clean and dry but part of a crumbled heap of unfolded laundry. Jack went back to the bathroom with it and opened the door just far enough to put it inside. Sam called out, "I don't want to drip all over the place. Would you bring it over and put it next to the tub?"

Jack always maintained, both to himself and to Sam that he, quite honestly slipped in water on the floor next to the tub. Next thing he knew, he was recapitulating her slide into the puddle with a fall forward into the tub. He grabbed the shower curtain for support and ripped it away, ending up in the tub, Sam knocked against the controls. Much colder water cascaded down on both of them. There was yelling and cussing and a great deal of floundering around and then there they were. The shower was off. He was wet. She was wet and naked and clutching the remnants of the shower curtain to her. There was still a lot of Sam on display as was his reaction to it.

They just stared at each other for what seemed like forever and then he recovered himself enough to try to hand her the infamous towel. By now, it was also wet. He backed up a few steps, grabbed his used, but not particularly dirty towel, from his towel rack and tossed it to her. He retreated out of the bathroom and went into the bedroom to find her something to wear.
A few minutes later she found him in the living room. She looked incredibly adorable in a pair of sweats and a University of Minnesota sweatshirt, her hair damp and sticking out from her head. He had taken his wet clothes off and was now wearing a near twin to her outfit. "This is really awkward," she said, standing uncertainly a few feet away.

Jack never said a word. It was the tipping point, the proverbial last straw. He reached up, grabbed her hand and pulled her down on his lap and kissed her very hard. He might have stopped at that one kiss if she hadn't given him any encouragement but she moaned his name and they were lost.

They maneuvered things so that Sam could continue to work with the Stargate Program but would be under the command of a different part of the Air Force. That took three months, three months of sneaking around that was driving both of them crazy. As soon as the transfer happened, they asked Teal'c and Daniel over and broke the news to them. The two men exchanged glances and Teal'c took out his wallet and handed Daniel a wad of bills. Jack said, "I take it you were expecting this Daniel?"

Teal'c said, "I was also expecting this GeneralO'Neill. We were only in doubt about how long it would take you to tell us. So, when is the wedding? Not even undomesticated stallions could keep DanielJackson and me from attending the ceremony."

Only Jack and Daniel knew that Daniel's reaction was staged. The night before Jack had met with Daniel, one on one, knowing more about Daniel's true feelings than Sam or Teal'c. It would be easier for Daniel to deal with the news before the smallest possible audience, even if he had to hear it from Jack. Daniel had heard him out in silence and continued sitting silently after he was finished. Jack kept quiet, waiting for Daniel to say something but after a few minutes, he couldn't keep sitting there looking at Daniel's still face, everything turned inside. "Daniel, I wish Sam and I could be happy without it hurting you."

Daniel finally made eye contact with him then. "I truly am happy for the two of you. Really. It's ridiculous for all of us to walk around never having what we want. And, quite honestly, I never expected anything but there must have been a tiny dream buried too deep for me to even to know I had it." He laughed just a little. "I really am a romantic fool, I guess. Just leave me alone Jack, okay? I'll be fine by tomorrow night."

Two weeks after the wedding, the general public found out about the Stargate.
The administration countered criticism about the money spent and the alien threat by serving up heroes. They wanted photogenic, self-effacing but confident, well-spoken heroes. Jack and SG-1 were definitely photogenic. When it came to the other qualifications they were less suitable. As a hero, Teal'c was better suited to being cast in bronze than being fun to interview. Jack was frequently undiplomatic. He was later told there was someone in the administration's PR effort whose full time job was to run around and clean up the fallout from his ill-timed and/or tactless remarks. In contrast, Daniel had everything they were looking for, the last remnants of any social awkwardness left behind certainly by the time he Ascended but, unfortunately, the government's pleasure at his fit for the role was not reciprocated. He hated being in the public eye with every fiber of his being. Sam was by far the most viable candidate from those with an epic Stargate record. She was photogenic, not arrogant but definitely poised and confident, tactful and a good communicator, and, somewhat to her surprise, she found she rather enjoyed the limelight.

At first, Jack and Sam, "Mr. and Mrs. Stargate" as one paper had tagged them, had seemed like the ideal PR package. After a few disastrous appearances, Jack was called into the office of a five star general. After the opening round of salutes, General Leland said, "Please have a seat General."

Jack sat, gingerly, in the nearest chair. These little get togethers never went well in his experience. "You wanted to see me, Sir," Jack prompted. The sooner this ended, the better.

"General, you have an extremely effective record with the Stargate Program. I believe you are credited with saving the world at least twice."

Jack didn't want to correct a superior officer at a point like this so he let the inaccuracy slide. "Thank you, Sir. I just did my best and there were others shoulder to shoulder with me in the world saving effort."

"Exactly. Your wife, for instance, and Dr. Jackson." General Leland paused for a moment and then said, "There have been a number of instances that have pointed out that public appearances are not the best use of your abilities. We think it would be a good idea if you stepped back from that role. Do you agree?"

Jack nodded, quite grateful for the change in assignment. The General wasn't finished. "We have a whole series of visits lined up abroad. The suggestion was made that Dr. Jackson should accompany your wife. What do you think of that idea?"

Jack thought it was slightly strange that he was being asked since it seemed to imply that he might actually have some reason to have a problem with it. "Dr. Jackson is an excellent man, Sir."

It was General Leland's turn to nod. "To be quite frank, General O'Neill, the reason I ask is that we have heard a couple of rumors about their relationship and we don't want to walk into something that could compromise their effectiveness."

Jack felt a lot of emotions that were not appropriate to the time and place, no matter how appropriate they were to the general's words. He contented himself with saying, "I have to object quite strongly to those sorts of innuendos, Sir. Sam and Daniel have been best friends and frequent scientific collaborators for more than 8 years. Perhaps some people don't understand the sort of friendship. In addition, both are extremely honorable people who would never cheat at anything."

Leland had been satisfied and Sam and Daniel had started out on their tour. Days later the story came out about how Charlie had died, accidentally shooting himself in the head with Jack's pistol. The bottom feeding elements of the media made a huge deal of it and dragged Charlie's mother, Sara, who never asked for fame, into the spotlight. She was a private citizen with a middle class income and no resources to enable her to preserve her privacy and hide from those who hounded her. Despite a plea by one well-regarded commentator to respect the parents' grief, the story continued to get wide play. The media had trouble getting to Jack so they went after her. He couldn't stand what she was going through because of him. He felt compelled to act when he turned on the television one night and saw Sara besieged as she came out of Jim Bridger Primary School where she taught third grade. A couple of little kids were actually pushed aside by an overzealous reporter so that he could get close enough to jab a microphone in Sara's face and demand, "Ms. O'Neill, how do you feel about your ex-husband being the darling of the public after he allowed your son to die using his gun?" Sara was a strong woman but it was one cruel question too many and she pushed the microphone away, put her head down, and fought her way to the parking lot but not before he saw the tears on her cheeks. The next day, the principal asked her to take leave to spare the children from the turmoil that was being inflicted on the school because of her.

Jack called Sam. She had already offered to come home to help him face this but he didn't see how she could change anything. Sam and Jack lived in a gated community with reasonable protection from the general public. With Sam's consent, Jack invited Sara to stay with them for a while. Jack unapologetically used his influence to get her a rapid security clearance and a job in Cheyenne Mountain to provide a protected work environment for her. She was now physically safer but the move made the story that much bigger.

Sara and Jack went swimming in the community's pool. A paparazzi got access somehow and took some photos. The angle, the way he cropped them, and some subtle doctoring made it look like something was happening when it wasn't. They appeared in the best selling tabloid with the headline "Spousegate" and circulated all over the Web. Jack explained it all to Sam who seemed to believe him.

The story just wouldn't die. It wasn't quite as bad as Jon Benet but it was bad enough. Jack never sunk to the level of wishing some other little girl would be tragically kidnapped and murdered to divert the supermarket tabloids but he did sink pretty low in some of his fantasies as to how to deal with them. Repeated shots with a force lance would be only the beginning. He couldn't stand to go to a grocery store any more because of the chance that there would be a picture of Charlie, Sara, Sam, or himself.

The government was in a quandary now. If they brought Sam home, it would appear to give credence to the rumors but everyday she stayed away they got worse. There were really scurrilous stories circulating on the Web. That was where it went to the next level. A German blogger started the rumors about Daniel and Sam. Jack trusted Daniel with his life and had more then once. He knew that Daniel would never betray him. As time went on, however, he found himself adding "if he could help it" to that thought. A tiny mustard seed of doubt was planted by all the rumors in both Jack and Sam. Like the biblical mustard seed, it had potential to become something much bigger.

Sam came home as originally scheduled. The general public observed Jack, Sam, and Sara living amicably together and Daniel very infrequently in the immediate vicinity. The story finally began to fade away. There were a few inappropriate jokes about a menage a trois but, for some reason, most people seemed to think that was going too far. While things quieted down outside, inside the Carter-O'Neill home things were heating up.

Jack came home one day to find that Sara had gone somewhere, perhaps to the home of a neighbor she had become quite friendly with, leaving him alone with Sam. He discovered that the table in the dining room had been beautifully set and there were candles and an arrangement of fresh flowers. Following the smell of his favorite dinner into the kitchen, he discovered his wife taking a cake out of a box with the name of the best bakery in town. He put his arms around her and kissed her neck. "Did I forget an anniversary or something?" he asked, only half joking. It had been too long since either of them had made this sort of gesture. She had probably imported the entire meal but that was actually something to be grateful for and did not detract from the gesture one bit.

She turned, reached up, and framed his face with her hands. "No but maybe it's about to become an anniversary," she answered somewhat mysteriously and made a major production out of a kiss, starting out with brushing her lips against his gently, then nipping at his bottom lip, before sliding her tongue into his mouth. Her hands were busy too and by the time she finished, he wasn't so sure if he wanted to waste time on dinner. She laughingly stopped him saying, "Anticipation will make things better."

The meal was fabulous and they even got into feeding each other and deliberately making it as seductive as possible without the least embarrassment at acting out the scene from "Tom Jones" that only Jack was old enough to even vaguely remember. Then when they had finished with the food and Jack took her hand and started to pull her out of her chair on the way to going upstairs, she stopped him and said, "I have something wonderful to tell you."

Jack had his doubts about that. She was smiling all right but he knew her too well. She was hiding nervousness under the smile. He sat back down still holding her hand and simply said, "Yes?"

"It's a surprise. I mean it was a big surprise to me at my age and it took a little bit to get adjusted to but I'm really happy about it now." She could tell she was starting to make him impatient. "Jack, I just found out I'm pregnant."

"PREGNANT," he almost shouted at her. With a great effort he reined himself in. "What do you mean, you're pregnant?"

"As in I'm going to have a baby," she said sounding hurt.

"We've been using condoms faithfully. You tell me how you managed to get pregnant." Jack said, tightening his hold on her hand.

She pulled it away from him and massaged it. "What is that supposed to mean?" she demanded hotly.

"Oh, let me think. Hummmm. Could someone else like, say, Daniel, shed any light on this situation?" Jack retorted. As soon as he said it, he went cold all over. He didn't really believe that, did he?

Sam believed he believed it. She didn't say another word but got up from the table and walked straight out the door, not even slowing down as she picked up her purse from the table in the front hall. He made one of the biggest mistakes in his life just sitting there until he heard the car start. He spent hours trying to find her after that but if she had gone to any friends they weren't admitting it and she hadn't checked into any area hotels under her own name.

The next day, Daniel came to see him. Sara let him in and then went for a walk, believing it not to be her place to hang around. Daniel stood in the doorway to the family room, fiddling with his keys, waiting for Jack to make the first move. Jack said, without looking up, "You might as well sit down until I have to knock you down."

"She's not with me, Jack," Daniel said evenly, sitting as commanded.

"Oh, you're just here because you're collecting for the "Nerds in Need" fundraising drive?" Jack said wearily.

So far Daniel was controlling his temper well. "She called me Jack. On my cell. She told me what you said."

"And you're here because?" Jack replied, still seemingly engrossed in the coffee mug in his hands.

"Damn it Jack. At least look at me." Jack thought about it but eventually did as Daniel asked.

"I'm here because it isn't true. I haven't even so much as kissed her on the mouth. Unless you can get pregnant from a hug, there is no way she could be having my child. Jack, condoms are not a completely reliable form of contraception. They can tear. They can have leaks."

"She discussed our form of birth control with you?" Jack said, flabbergasted.

"Jack, you accused her of adultery with me. I think the rules on what gets discussed have gone the window here. Look, have I ever lied to you? Have I ever betrayed you?"

"There was that time with the princess and the sarcophagus?" Jack said, admittedly having to dig for an instance.

"Okay. Have I ever betrayed you when I was in command of myself?" Daniel amended, finally beginning to loose it.

Jack reluctantly shook his head. "Do you have any idea how much this hurts me to think you would believe that I would do something like this, caring about you as much as I do? It certainly makes me wonder what you really feel toward me." Jack was ashamed and it showed on his face. "All right. Then please try to make this up with Sam. You are about to have a child. One that will have to be marvelous because it will be Sam's. Do you really want to miss out on that?" Daniel got up then and left.

With more intervention from Daniel, Teal'c, and Sara, they did finally talk it through. He apologized and told her that he had no doubt that it was his child. In truth, the misstep was only papered over. It exacerbated other points of disagreement. Jack wanted to retire and move Sam, the baby, and himself to a remote location in Minnesota. Sam didn't want to live in the middle of nowhere and didn't want her child growing up in such an isolated situation. When the public found out she was pregnant, the rumors about Sam and Daniel were trotted out again.

By the time Johnny was born, Jack had issued an ultimatum to Sam. He was retiring and moving to a remote location and they were coming with him. He was not going to have his son growing up hearing rumors that Daniel was really his father, or whatever else got dreamed up in the meantime. He didn't want to be assaulted, or have his family assaulted, every time he went to a public place. And he was really weary. In his head and in his heart, he was bone tired, feeling his age even if he didn't look it. Sam didn't like having her decisions made for her and she wasn't excited about being isolated with a man she doubted really believed in her. She asked for some time apart and he countered by filing for divorce. It was a ploy and didn't work. Sam signed the papers without a murmur of objection two weeks after Johnny was born.

A few days after the divorce was final what Jack years later mentally labeled the Secret Brotherhood of Sam's Husbands was founded. Jack didn't consider Sam's third husband, the movie star, to have ever been much of a husband so his exclusion didn't count.

Jack knew he had to talk to Daniel but the problem was where. There was nowhere public they could go that one of the other of them wouldn't be recognized. It was imperative that not happen. Finally he asked Daniel to meet him at an old friend's cabin.

Jack prowled around the porch impatient to get this over with. He hated, absolutely hated, talking about feelings and he was about to have a whole feeling fest. And he would be to blame for starting it. At last, a half an hour late, a car came slowly up the drive, gravel spitting out from under the tires. By the time it stopped, he realized that Daniel wasn't alone. It made him sad that Daniel didn't want to trust a one-to-one conversation but he understood. They hadn't talked since Sam left him. Daniel had felt forced to choose between Jack and Sam and his choice had been clear.

Teal'c followed Daniel up to the porch and there was a brief tense moment and then Jack used his secret weapon. He pulled Daniel into a brief hug. It was gesture so rare for him that it always got attention. "It is good to see you GeneralO'Neill," Teal'c said in his typically serious tone of voice.

Daniel was clearly moved by Jack's gesture of friendship. "It IS good to see you Jack. I was afraid we …"

Jack cut him off. "That's the first thing on the agenda. I want you to know I don't blame you for what happened, I hope you don't blame me, and I want the three of us to stay tight. But I can only take all this relationship stuff in short bursts so that did it for the first 15 minutes. Let's grab something to drink and walk down to the lake."

Jack turned to lead the way and Teal'c and Daniel exchanged a relieved look. Daniel had feared something much worse and Teal'c had been trying to find something in his training that would tell him how to limit the damage and protect both his friends. Fifteen minutes later, Daniel looked at his watch and said, laughing, "Is it time for another burst of feelings? What's on the agenda next?"

Jack seemed to find a clump of dirt really interesting at his feet. He nudged it and finally gave it a sharp kick into the water. He blurted out without preamble, "I want you to marry Sam, Daniel."

Teal'c actually gasped, the first time either of them could recollect him ever doing that. Daniel sputtered a moment and finally got out, "You want ME to marry you ex-wife?"

"I thought it was a pretty straightforward statement," Jack said. Daniel was staring at him, his mouth hanging open. "Close your mouth. You'll catch flies. Look I still love her and I don't want her out there alone as vulnerable as she is now. I want her with someone I trust. Someone who would be a good father to Johnny when I'm not around."

"Jack, she may have divorced you because she couldn't live with you but that doesn't mean she stopped loving you."

"So?" Jack asked innocently.

"So? If she's in love with you, she isn't going to want to marry me," Daniel said patiently, as if he was talking to a toddler.

"Except she's in love with you too," Jack responded in the same exaggeratedly patient tone. "She has trouble with that. She had to pick one of us and I think she picked me because I'm a lot like Jacob. But now she's free to acknowledge how she feels about you."

"I don't know what alternate reality you're in – and may I remind you that all the alternate realities we've found had you with Sam – but she sees me as her friend. Period."

"You can change that, Daniel. She's really vulnerable right now and you're there. We can figure out a game plan."

Daniel was shaking his head vigorously. "Not happening."

"Oh come off it Daniel. You've always wanted her. Remember telling me that there wasn't a good reason for all three of us to be unhappy?"

Daniel shook his head again. Jack turned to Teal'c. "Help me out T. I'm having trouble getting this show to Broadway."

Teal'c was puzzled by Jack's Broadway reference but he had plenty of experience in building up young warriors and energizing them to go into battle. Daniel was treated to an inspired riff of Teal'c "We Die Free" speech that actually, to Jack's amazement, having trouble not bursting into laughter at times, worked.

Jack, Teal'c, and Daniel met at the same cabin about a year later after Jacob Daniel Jackson was born. Jack clinked his bottle of Guinness against Teal's and Daniel's as they stood on the back porch looking out at a small but pristine lake. "Here's to us 'cause we are damn good," he toasted.

Daniel said, "What's this 'we?' I do believe I got the lady pregnant all by myself."

Jack snorted. "Come on now, Daniel. You wouldn't have made a move if I hadn't suggested it and Teal'c hadn't given you his paraphrase of the "we die free" speech for sending reluctant warriors into battle. You've heard of the power behind the throne. I like to think of Teal'c and I as the power behind the…"

Daniel cut him off right before he went irretrievably too far. "All right, all right. Let me take a page from the Oscar winners and just thank all the little people," Daniel said.

"What the hell does that mean," Jack said only half jokingly.

"She didn't say a word, Jack," Daniel retorted and Teal'c held Jack back from a concrete expression of his opinion of this line of banter.

Teal'c said, very gravely, "We are both very happy for you DanielJackson and very glad that Johnny has a little brother. It would seem that ColonelCarter is happy now. This is what we all want."

"What about you, Jack? Sara moved up to Minnesota with you. Are you going to go on in limbo forever?" Daniel asked. He was so happy and he owed Jack. He wanted Jack happy too.

Jack couldn't suppress a smile. Teal'c said, "I believe DanielJackson that GeneralO'Neill has already moved from limbo."

Daniel whooped and hugged Jack. This happened every once in a while and mostly Jack just suffered it, ruthlessly suppressing the pleasure he felt at the close bond between them so concretely expressed. This time, though, he hugged back.

"When, Jack?"

"We got married two weeks ago. It was just us and Teal'c. I would have liked you there Daniel, you know it, but Sam wouldn't have understood."

Daniel was not insulted. They had agreed that it would make entirely too much trouble if Daniel and Jack's improbable friendship was common knowledge or even known to Sam and Sara. Teal'c then stunned them both by inviting them to Chulak for his wedding. Given Teal'c influence with the Jaffa, his wedding had become a state affair that he could get both Jack and Daniel to without it being too tricky.

The year that followed found Jack with Sara, Daniel with Sam, and Teal'c with his bride, a brief moment of happiness that was all the sweeter in Jack's memory as he sat watching Sara because it was so fleeting.