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Daniel was drooping. It hurt Jack to look at him. They were all exhausted but Daniel looked bad. Now that was unusual because Jack didn't think Daniel was capable of looking bad, but the younger man was pale and there were dark circles under his eyes.

It was obvious Daniel had been struggling to stay awake during the late briefing, sinking deeper and deeper into his chair. Carter had propped her head up with one hand while Teal'c sat still as a stone next to her. It wasn't outwardly obvious but Jack was almost sure the big guy was already halfway into a state of Kel'No'Reem. Even Jack had fought back a yawn or two. When General Hammond took pity on them and dismissed them, SG-1 made their exits as gracefully as possible despite their numbing exhaustion.

Jack stuck close to Daniel, putting one hand on his arm to prevent him from walking into the doorframe a second time after he bounced off it. Daniel managed a fleeting smile, letting Jack lead him to his office where he struggled with his jacket until Jack helped him put it on.

"I'm not sure I can find my way home tonight," Daniel mumbled.

"I'll drive you."

"I wasn't looking for..."

"Yeah, I know. Just let me take you. You're too tired, can't see straight, and you might drive into a lake or something."

"Jack," Daniel laughed, "there aren't any lakes between here and my apartment."

"Maybe not, but there are some pretty steep ravines and the road winds like a&snake," he finished saying, distaste at the image that brought to mind leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He would never again be able to look at even a garter snake without thinking of the Goa'uld.

Daniel nodded. "Okay. You are now my official driver."

"Good. I knew you'd see reason."

"But aren't you tired, too? Should you be driving?"

"I'm fine. Tired, yes, but a hell of a lot more awake than you are right now. So, quit arguing with me and let's go."

"Aye, sir!" Daniel affected a salute. It wasn't half bad for a man without a military bone in his body.

Jack grinned at his friend. "That's more like it. I always knew I could make a soldier out of you."

Some of Daniel's good mood evaporated. "I hope you're joking."

Smiling softly, Jack told him, "I am, Danny. I am. I like you just the way you are."

The smile that statement brought forth took Jack's breath away. A simple compliment got that kind of reaction? What would happen if he praised Daniel to the skies? He knew the answer to that. Danny would become suspicious and, after being convinced of Jack's sincerity, he would become noticeably embarrassed. So the idea was to be sincere in a low-key way and the reward would be that smile. Jack loved that smile on Daniel.

He threw an arm around his best friend's shoulders and steered him toward the elevator.

 

The ride to town was made mostly in silence. Daniel faded out before they made it off the mountain, and Jack found himself making small talk with himself when he asked a question but did not received an answer. He glanced over and saw that his friend's head was resting against the passenger-side window of the 4x4, and his were eyes closed. Jack turned his attention to the road, he was more tired than he had let on at SGC and needed to concentrate on his driving.

Pulling up in front of Daniel's building he parked the truck and shut off the engine, and then reached over to give his passenger a gentle nudge on his shoulder.

"Hey, sleepyhead. We're home."

Coming around with a start, Daniel blinked and pushed his glasses up on his nose. "What? Oh. My place."

Jack heard an odd note in the archaeologist's voice in that last sentence. "Of course it's your place. Where did you think we were?"

"Hmm? Oh. Never mind." Glancing over at Jack, Daniel said, "Well, guess I better go up."

Jack nodded and then had to cover his mouth when a yawn surfaced. "Sorry."

"Jack, you look pretty wiped yourself. You shouldn't be driving either."

"Nah. I'll be okay."

"You might drive into a lake or a ravine or something."

"Ha. Ha. Funny. It's not a problem now that I'm in town, Danny."

"You can stay here tonight."

For the space of a heartbeat Jack thought about accepting the offer. There was something very tempting about sleeping at Daniel's place but he was too tired to pursue that thought. His own bed was calling his name fairly loudly. At least he thought it was his bed. Things were getting a little fuzzy. Giving his head a shake, he said, "Thanks. I'll be fine."

"All right." Daniel opened the door and slid out of the cab. Turning back he said, "Promise me you'll phone when you get home."

"Aw, Danny. I'll just wake you up. You need your sleep."

"I won't sleep until I know you're all right." The younger man didn't quite pout.

Hell. Who could argue with that face?

"I promise to call as soon as I get home."

"Swear?"

"Daniel."

The hint of a smile told Jack that his friend was teasing.

"Good night, Jack."

"Night, Danny."

Closing the door of the truck, Daniel said something. Even though Jack couldn't hear the words he could read the lips and, besides, he knew his archaeologist.

"Phone me."

Jack waved his acquiescence, put the truck in gear and drove away. In the rear view mirror he watched Daniel watching him until finally the younger man entered his building.

 

As promised, Jack made that call. He picked up the phone in his bedroom, sitting heavily on the side of the bed to remove his shoes while waiting for Daniel to pick up on his end.

After two rings he heard a somewhat anxious, "Jack?"

Suppressing a laugh, Jack said, "How'd you guess?"

"You're home?"

"Yes, Danny. I'm home. I'm in my house and about to go have a quick shower before I hit the sack."

"Good." The soft voice in his ear sounded relieved and pleased. "I'll do the same."

Both fell silent but neither seemed inclined to hang up and break the connection. Anyway, Jack knew he was reluctant to do so.

Finally, Daniel said, "I guess I'll go do that."

"Yeah, me too."

"Night, Jack."

"G'night, Danny. Sleep well."

There was a quiet click and then a dial tone. Jack hung up and flopped back on the bed against the pillows. He fell asleep like that, fully dressed; his last waking thought was of Daniel's face in repose.

 

Two weeks passed and another off world mission before SG-1 was able to go out together for a meal and unwind. The four of them showered and dressed in street clothes at the Cheyenne Mountain base, and then went into Colorado Springs for a steak dinner. Actually, once they got to their new favourite place to eat - sought out after they had trashed O'Malley's while under the influence of the Tok'Ra armbands - Jack and Teal'c had steak while Carter and Daniel ordered fish. Jack eyed Daniel's salmon when it arrived and sort of wished he had ordered the same. That fillet looked mouth watering.

"Jack? If you stare any harder at my meal you're going to make it feel self-conscious."

"Sorry. It just looks good enough to eat."

Carter spoke up, "My trout is good, too, sir."

"Is it a Minnesota trout, Carter?"

"Uh, I'm not sure."

"The best trout come from Minnesota, Major. Never forget that."

"Yes, sir." Carter smiled and dug into her meal, obviously enjoying it.

"My salmon is from the Atlantic, Jack."

"That's nice, Danny," he grinned, pleased that his best friend was pursuing the light tone he had set.

"And my steak is from the Midwest, O'Neill. The Great Plains, I believe."

Jack stared at Teal'c. He swore that the man from Chulak was also making a joke. Now that was a surprise. Sometimes he was convinced the big guy missed most of the colloquialisms that everyone else took for granted, and yet here he was telling jokes; it was a rare occurrence. Carter and Daniel were also looking at Teal'c in open wonder.

"Thanks for telling us, Teal'c. Well, Major. That leaves you to introduce your fish to us, and then we can get on with eating our new friends."

"I think it's a cousin of Daniel's salmon from near the Eastern Seaboard."

"Just visiting?" he asked her.

"Oh, no. This fish is moving here for good," she assured him, patting her stomach.

The three humans laughed out loud at that remark and Teal'c's eyes to crinkle at the corners. The rest of the meal passed in good humour. They even managed not to talk shop.

It was getting late. The restaurant's wait staff was clearing away dishes and sending pointed looks in the direction of the group at the only occupied table. Getting the message, the teammates split the bill between them, paid it, and left.

Out in the parking lot Carter said she would take Teal'c back to the base as he had arrived with her. They said their good nights and drove off. That left Jack and Daniel standing next to their vehicles, once again reluctant to part company.

Daniel shoved his hands deep into the pockets of the leather jacket that Jack had persuaded him to buy last year. It looked good on the younger man, really good, the black supple leather emphasized his broad shoulders, and when it was zipped up, it drew a guy's&a person's attention to his narrow hips and long, denim-clad legs. Jack found himself wishing Daniel would turn around so he could see him from the back.

"Jack? Is something wrong?"

"Wrong?"

"You're staring."

He was staring. Not good.

"Uh, sorry. Just thinking about...fish."

"Fish?" Daniel had an odd expression on his face.

"Something wrong with that?"

"Oh. No. I just thought," he waved his right hand. "Never mind."

"Tell me."

"No. It's nothing."

Jack let it slide. If they pursued it he might have to confess that he had been staring because he wanted a glimpse of Daniel's cute ass. It was still new to him, this revelation that he found his best friend attractive. And it was a revelation. It was a shock. Jack thought he was straight; at least, he had never allowed himself to entertain the notion that he could find another man attractive. He didn't think so, anyway. His entire life he had loved women, as in made love to women, had sex with them. His relationships with men were different. Sure, he guessed he loved Kawalsky in a comrade-in-arms kind of way. And it was the same thing with Cromwell, once upon a time&back in the dark ages of his days with Special Ops.

Daniel, on the other hand, was his best friend in ways he never knew he could be best friends with a guy. He and Daniel had shared combat experience many times, so they had that in common. Their relationship wasn't based solely on macho posturing -very little of that, actually - it went deeper than that. It covered much more territory than that which he had ever shared with anyone, male or female. Not even with Sara had he bonded this deeply. That thought disturbed him. He had been married to Sara, for God's sake. They had had a son together, and experienced the joys and sorrows of raising Charlie and losing him. That should have been the defining relationship of his adult life, but, no, it seemed that prize belonged to Daniel Jackson.

They had been friends for four years now, and somewhere during that time Daniel had gotten under his skin and into his heart in a way that Jack knew he never wanted to lose what they had together. There was one thing lacking in their relationship, the one thing that would make it complete. Jack laid awake most nights at home, alone in his bed, writhing and arching under his own hand, Daniel's name on his lips when he reached that orgiastic high. And later, when he lay heavy and sated on the brink of sleep, sweat soaking his skin, Daniel's face was the last thing he saw. It had taken him months to admit to himself while wide awake in the cold light of day that he wanted to make love with Daniel, that he wanted to feel him moving against him, frantically thrusting as they climbed together, chasing that elusive feeling of ecstasy. He wanted Daniel, and once Jack made up his mind to pursue something he did not let up until he achieved his goal. Until now, that is. He just could not do that to Daniel. He could not risk losing his friendship. It was too important to him. Daniel was too important to his well being, to his sanity. He needed Daniel in his life, and if that meant not having him in his bed, too, then he could accept that albeit with great reluctance.

"Jack?"

"Huh? Yeah." He plastered a smile on his face.

"Do you ever," he stopped talking and looked at the pavement beneath his feet.

"Do I ever what?"

"Nothing. Forget it." He looked up with a grimace and nodded. "It's nothing."

There was something about Daniel tonight that drew Jack like the proverbial moth. It was an apt description because he felt like he had been smashing himself against Daniel's incandescent light since shortly after they met. He took a step forward. Daniel watched him advance with wide eyes. What exactly was going on here?

"Daniel," he said slowly.

"I&you." Delightfully flustered, the archaeologist cranked his hand in the air as if it would help him grind out the words that were presently stuck inside. Finally he stilled and heaved a deep breath. Straightening, he said, "Okay. Here's the thing. I feel that we - you and I - need to talk about something."

"Go ahead. I'm all ears."

"We're friends, right?"

"Youbetcha," Jack beamed. He was damned proud of their friendship. If anything it was his most treasured accomplishment, apart from Charlie, of course, but he really had not had a lot to do with making Charlie the successful human being he had been for all too short a time. This thing he had with Daniel was something he had to work at to sustain, and Jack had a long track record of not making the effort to keep his relationships going.

Daniel swallowed hard. Jack heard the gulp he made and wondered what had him so scared. Daniel was one of the bravest men he knew.

"What's the matter?" he asked with concern.

Glancing around the deserted parking lot as if looking for something, perhaps searching for answers to whatever was going through that brilliant mind, Daniel shuffled his feet. His restlessness was palpable, contagious even. Jack started to pick up on it, a shiver of anticipation rushing through his body, confusing him because he did not understand what was unsettling Daniel.

His friend kept shifting his feet in a way that should not have carried him forward and yet somehow Daniel was now standing inches away from Jack; so close his breath grazed Jack's cheek. Those adored blue eyes were filled with mind-numbing fear.

His mouth dry, Jack asked quietly, "Danny, tell me what's wrong?"

"N-nothing. Just that I want to do something so badly and I'm afraid you'll hate me but I can't not do it anymore."

His heart rate picking up speed, Jack replied, "I'm worried now. I actually understood that."

"You get what I'm trying to say?" Daniel's tongue swept out over his lower lip and Jack tracked it with his eyes. Daniel's full lip fascinated him.

"I not only get it, I think maybe I feel the same way. That is, if you're trying to say what I think you're trying to say."

Looking stunned Daniel said, "You f-feel the same way?"

Releasing a shaky breath, Jack said, "Oh, Danny. I really hope we're on the same wavelength here."

Just barely past the part where his brain was telling him to reach for Daniel, his hands lifting from his sides and moving forward, he found himself with an armful of tall, lean and hot pressed up against his front. His arms closed around Daniel's back while the other man hung on for his very life. They stood like that for a few minutes, with Jack's face pressed against soft hair that tickled his nose, and Daniel's forehead resting on his shoulder. Snuffling noises were coming from that vicinity.

Concerned, Jack pulled back just enough so that he could take the beloved face into his hands where he could look directly into Daniel's eyes. To his relief there were no tears, only laughter.

Puzzled, he asked, "Care to let me in on the joke?"

"I've been worrying myself sick for weeks, trying to work up the nerve to tell you this - I'm in love with you, Jack O'Neill. I still don't know how you feel about me but suddenly it isn't such a traumatic thing. If you say you only want to be friends I'm okay with that. I've expressed how I feel and the world didn't come to an end." He paused and pleaded, "Tell me the world didn't just end."

Tightening his grip just a little Jack said, "I pretty much had this same conversation in my head just a few minutes ago."

"You did." He blinked. "You did?"

"Yup."

"How&how did that go?" Daniel tilted his head to one side.

"I never finished it. I was afraid to."

"Afraid? You? Of what?"

"You. You're reaction if I did something I very badly want to do."

"Maybe you should take a chance like I did."

It was like there was a live wire strung between, stripped bare of protective insulation. If either of them moved there was a good chance of immediate electrocution.

His entire body trembling Jack drew Daniel closer, maintaining his hold on that sweet face in case he lost his nerve. Closer still until their lips touched. It was the slightest brush, soft and sweet, and then Daniel parted his lips and Jack was drawn into a swirling vortex that he never wanted to escape. The connection was complete. The only sparks were good ones, invigorating, stimulating.

When they pulled apart Daniel asked, "Can we go slow with this? As much, God, as much as I want to be with you&"

"I want to get inside your skin, Danny," Jack blurted.

"Oh, me too. I mean I would love to be as close to you as humanly possible, but I need to take this slowly."

"I can do slow. I waited three years for this moment."

"That long? I thought, I thought I was the only one."

"Three years, Daniel. I can wait for another&well, maybe not quite that long but I can wait. Watch me wait."

Grinning delightedly, Daniel said, "I doubt if I'll need quite that much time, Jack. I was thinking maybe a few weeks."

Practically bouncing on his toes Jack said, "Even better. I'll be patient. Promise."

"Maybe it won't be that long."

"Sure. Whatever you say."

"Um, maybe we should go now."

"Home? Alone or together?"

Daniel's face altered then. A truly terrified look settled over him.

"Danny? You're scaring me here."

"We need to leave, Jack. Now."

His heart thudding erratically in his chest Jack unlocked the truck and got behind the wheel. He shot worried looks at his companion but all Daniel would say was, "Hurry!"

 

They barely made it through the door of Jack's house, going there at Daniel's insistence, when Daniel slammed Jack against the wall. He was all over him kissing and clutching, whispering words Jack could not hear but he understood the intent behind them. They wrestled with each other, tearing at their clothing all the while not breaking their physical connection through lips and hands and groins. Their feet got tangled up and they fell, crashing to the carpet in a breathless heap. Daniel squirmed on top of Jack, hot, needy, and frenzied. All Jack could do was meet him thrust for thrust as they slid against each other's body, slippery with sweat and weeping come. All too quickly Jack arched upwards and held there, gushing his essence against Daniel's belly. Seconds later Daniel thrust one last time and emptied his seed all over Jack. They laid still, tangled together and breathing hard.

Jack lifted one tired arm so he could stroke the bangs out of Daniel's eyes whose glasses had vanished soon after their explosive arrival at the house. "I thought you wanted to wait."

"I did until I realized that with the kind of life we lead there might not be a next month or even a next week. I didn't want to risk never showing you how much I love you."

"Not sure how much weight this is going to carry so soon after we made out like crazed bunnies, but I would have been okay with waiting. Just knowing that you love me is enough."

"I believe you, Jack," Daniel said with what sounded like the utmost sincerity. And then he snorted.

"Hey! It's true."

"Right. I believe that you believe that but can you honestly say that if we never did this again you could live with that?"

Twirling a strand of hair around his forefinger, Jack said, "Y-no. I want to haul you into the bedroom and pound you into the mattress right now."

"How romantic," Daniel grinned and kissed Jack's chest. "I want you to do that, too."

"So much for going slow."

"It sounded good in my head after rehearsing for the past year what I wanted to say."

"Did I tell you yet that I love you?"

"Um, no actually, you haven't."

"Well, I do. I get all sappy just thinking about you when we're apart."

Lifting his head Daniel stared back at him and blinked, his mouth open. "Wow. If nothing else convinced me that would be it. That doesn't sound like something you say every day."

Pushing Daniel's head back down onto his chest, Jack buried his fingers deep in the silky hair. "It's not and I won't say it again."

"Sure. Whatever." Daniel didn't believe him.

Jack belied his belated attempt at machismo by steadily stroking his hand up and down Daniel's bare back. "S'true."

"Yup. Not arguing with you here."

Then Daniel reached down between them and did some stroking of his own. He had a firm grasp on Jack's dick and moved his fist up and down the length, rubbing his thumb over the tip.

Jack groaned. "Ah, Danny. I'm an old man. You cannot seriously expect me to get it up again so soon."

"You're not old. Middle-aged, maybe, but not old."

When Daniel shoved his own hips forward something hard and insistent poked Jack in the thigh. A surge of lust roared through him and to his immense surprise he felt his body respond in kind. He moaned his happiness, his skin flushing with the fever invading him.

"Then again I've always believed in leadership by example, so I'll just follow your lead."

He rolled them both over so that he leaned over Daniel, propped up on his elbows. "Think you can wait a minute or two?"

Gazing up at him in a lust-filled haze, Daniel stole a kiss and then another one. "Sure. Why?"

"This floor will kill my knees or my back or both. Let's take this to the bedroom. There's a nice soft mattress in there. Lots of support but with enough give that I won't need a knee transplant when we're done."

Daniel pushed gently to get Jack off him and rolled gracefully to his feet, reaching down to pull him up beside him.

"Then we better go there. We're going to be doing this a lot. Might as well do it in comfort."

Allowing himself to be tugged by the wrist through the living room and up the stairs to the bedroom, Jack smiled. His life just got a whole lot more appealing and the best part was that Danny loved him.

# end