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"Can I ask you a question?"

The question rang through Daniel's brain, jumping out at him like some annoying interloper.  He let the memory come, knowing that he'd never concentrate on his research if he didn't allow the momentary break.  He paused the holo-replay in the Atlantis library and sighed, ordering himself to get a better grip on reality.  He was hungry, that's what it was.  And this interruption was just a sign that he needed to take a break and go eat.

He left the library console and headed out to the cafeteria.  Hands stuffed in his pockets, his head dipped a little in private thought.

"You can ask me anything," he'd replied.

“Why aren’t you with anyone?”

Jack had asked that a week ago, back in Daniel’s office at the SGC.  That’s when Daniel’s personal life had changed.  Whether it had changed for the better was an unanswered question.  They’d had that talk, one Daniel had dreaded, and perhaps five or ten years ago, he would have lied to Jack.  But he’d been packing for a research trip to Atlantis, and there'd suddenly been no need to keep it to himself. After all, what if something bad happened and he'd failed to take this opportunity?

“The … the person I’d like to be with isn’t interested.  And I figure that I won’t waste my life chasing something unattainable.  So I just focus on my work.”

Then came the question.

“Can you tell me who she is?”

She.

“He.”

Jack’s eyebrows had launched an attack on his forehead and Daniel hadn’t been able to keep from smiling.  Jack always looked … okay, adorable … whenever he was taken by complete surprise.

“Yes, the secret’s out,” he’d said, turning away to return to his packing.

Jack had cleared his throat several times and the silence started to worry Daniel, but only for a moment.  He was leaving, after all.  He didn’t intend to return, either, and he figured Jack knew but hadn’t said anything.  He’d stopped Daniel from going once before, but had probably resigned himself to either letting Daniel go or put up with constant pestering.

“Okay,” Jack had finally said.  “Can you tell me who he is?”

Daniel paused the playback in his brain as he grabbed his lunch and sat down at an empty table.  He hoped no one would …

“Mind if I sit down?”

… join him.  He sighed and looked up at Rodney McKay as the man set his tray down anyway and sat down across from him.  Rodney wasn’t comfortable with silence, and he started to talk about his current aggravation—another project.  Daniel only half-listened.  He liked Rodney; he just wasn’t interested in company.  But here in the cafeteria, it seemed rude and isolationist to prefer to sit alone.  He’d already been lectured about that some eight or nine years ago, and from Sam.  She’d given him one of those sister talks, trying to get him to blend more. It hadn’t been hard to comply, though there were times where being a hermit had its merits.  Like now.  Rodney had asked him a question and Daniel answered, deciding that he’d think about Jack later.

 

. . . . . . . . .

 

“Would it make a difference if I asked you to stay?”

Daniel paused, the bite of his meatloaf dinner half-chewed in his mouth.  The memory of Jack’s words had jumped out at him again, and they'd echoed a much earlier memory: The illusion Shau’ri had placed in his mind while Amaunet had tried to kill him. He'd been packing to leave after she'd died.

When had that been? Daniel mentally calculated.  Seven years ago? He sighed, set his fork down in the dinner tray, and sat back in the chair.  He was now in his quarters, having decided to eat while going through translations.  And now here were his memories again.  Or perhaps his feelings.  It was becoming tiresome, his inability to shut everything out but the task at hand.  It had always been so easy for him.  So why now?

Because of the enormous issue that demanded to be addressed.

Jack.

“I don’t think you really need to know, do you?” Daniel had asked him.  Jack had had that expression on his face, the one where he was arguing with himself.  Daniel had watched the war on Jack’s face, then came the surprise.

“Yeah, I need to know.  I want to know.”

At that point, there’d been a ringing silence, the kind that happens when a loud racket suddenly ceases.  There’d been this look in Jack’s eyes and Daniel hadn’t bothered with his own inner war.  He’d stupidly—perhaps—blurted it out.

“You.”

Daniel had said it not because he was coming clean, to declare anything.  He’d said it because he’d suddenly grown angry and he wanted to take that look of … caring … off Jack’s face.   He hated that look.  It made him feel warm and happy and secure.  And it was always so fucking temporary.  And for once, Daniel wanted to wound him.  To get him to spew some sort of homophobic shit that would make him angrier and allow him to leave without regret.  But as with Jack’s feelings toward him, what came next had been just as unpredictable.

“Why?”

What a bizarre response. Daniel had ever expected anything homophobic from Jack, but a deep secret had just been revealed. Why the hell hadn’t Jack exploded with anger or resentment?  A normal response, non-phobic response, would have been to feel betrayed that Daniel hadn’t trusted him enough to ever tell him.  On the other hand, Jack was just as good at compartmentalizing his feelings as he was.  Jack was also just a bit narcissistic, but even that was shredded to hell with his question.

Why? Jack had asked.

“That’s a damn good question,” Daniel had told him, and he’d returned to packing, turning his back to Jack.  He hadn’t heard Jack move toward the door, but the mechanical whine of the bulkhead door closing was startling.  He'd turned around, eyebrows raised, and for a moment… just a millisecond… he’d been prepared for getting hit. He hated himself for feeling that way.  No matter how bad things had ever gotten with Jack, he knew the man would never hit him.  Well, not as himself anyway.

Jack had paused at the door, then he’d slowly, awkwardly, taken a few steps toward him.  “What if…” he’d begun to say.  “What if I said that … that I …”  He’d paused, and it felt like minutes before he’d continued.  “What if I felt the same?”

Daniel’s mouth had dropped open in shock.  Yep, unpredictable, unexpected. That was Jack.  “What?” he’d asked back.  And then the door had opened and Walter had walked in, papers in hand.  He’d paused at seeing Jack, but the pause was quickly over.

“Sorry, sir,” he’d said to Jack, then had handed Daniel his Atlantis paperwork.  “You’re set to go, Doctor Jackson.”  Then he’d turned to Jack and told him about a phone call waiting for him.

And that had been that.  Daniel had finished packing, stowed his paperwork in his satchel, and then he’d gone to the gateroom, the standard waiting area for getting beamed aboard their Battle Cruisers and Deep Space Carriers.  In this case, the Deep Space Cruiser, Daedalus.

He’d looked up through the control room window, taking a long look at Jack, as if memorizing his face.  Jack’s expression had been all business: his friendly I’m The Commander face.

Remembering that face, Daniel’s conceit made him second guess the look in Jack’s eyes, as if there’d been something … wanting there.  But should there have been?  No.  As inevitable as rain, Daniel pushed away the chance that Jack had been serious.  It had been a fluke, a fever, not enough grain in his diet.  Something.  But certainly not serious. If it had been ... no, it wasn't possible. Jack had misunderstood; he been thrown off by Daniel's admission, and he'd confessed friendship, not romance.

Now, here he was, in Atlantis, and still thinking of this. Good grief. With a long sigh, Daniel stuffed the distracting thoughts into a box and shut the lid.  That was enough! No more time given to purposeless thoughts, he ordered himself, and returned to his translations and dinner.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Unlike the SGC, Atlantis didn’t have an intercom system announcing an offworld activation.  What they did have were intercom announcements whenever the Daedalus came into orbit, and those visits averaged about every six weeks, depending upon whether or not the Daedalus left right away.

Daniel had been on Atlantis for nearly six months now, and he’d grown used to, and ignoring, the announcements.  So it was a surprise when Sheppard came into the library to announce the ship’s arrival.

“Doctor Jackson, did you hear me?”

“Daniel,” Daniel told him for probably the millionth time.

Daniel,” Sheppard amended with a sarcastic smirk.  “Daedalus is here.”

Daniel blinked at him.  “And … why are you telling me?”

Sheppard pointed behind him and said in a whispery voice, “Because the General is here and we’re having a staff meeting.”  Daniel again blinked at him.  “And you’re expected, capiche?”

Daniel was still confused.  “Sorry, but I’ve never been asked to attend a staff meeting, so why now?”

Sheppard sighed and shook his head as he turned around to leave.  “One minute, Daniel, or I send McKay after you.”

That got Daniel moving.  Even after six months, he and Rodney were still arguing.  Daniel knew it was Rodney’s way, and he genuinely liked him… some of the time.  The man made it difficult at times.  An unkind comment tried to blossom in his brain and he killed it off as quickly as a weed killer.

“Right behind you,” he said, and grabbed his coffee mug.

 

. . . . .

 

Daniel was nearly to the door when he caught sight of Jack’s profile at the far end of the briefing room.  His pace faltered only slightly, appearing only as if he’d slowed.  He’d actually forgotten that Jack was the “General” Sheppard had referred to.  Even after nearly two years at the job, he still wasn’t used to Jack as commander of the SGC.  He supposed he’d always think of him as his team leader, even if Sam had done an excellent job in his place.  Hypocritically, he’d had times where he’d been glad that Jack hadn’t been there.  Sometimes things went a lot more smoothly, although perhaps that was simply because he, Sam, and Teal’c were experts at their meet ‘n greets.

He took the empty seat closest to the door, realizing he was also sitting next to the newest member of Sheppard’s team, Ronon.  The man was dark and brooding and he looked at Daniel as if he didn’t understand him.  And in one sense, it was highly likely.  Ronon was a true warrior, like Teal’c, and warriors tended to have a bit of conflict with scholars like himself.  While Daniel had certainly learned how to defend himself over the years, he still carried himself as unthreatening.  No alpha male posturing.  Ronon was … well, he had the posture down pat.  It made Daniel smile at times because Ronon reminded him of Teal’c during their first few years as teammates.

“Doctor Jackson?” Weir asked.

Daniel blinked, realizing he’d just allowed himself to woolgather.  Used to it, though usually for science reasons, he brought up his instant excuse.  “Sorry, just a headache.”

“Is it serious?” Beckett, Atlantis’ CMO, asked.

“No,” Daniel replied, shaking his head, then nodded at Weir.  “Sorry.”

“Not a problem, Doctor,” she said.  “I was just welcoming General O’Neill to Atlantis.”

“Oh, right,” Daniel said lamely, and raised his mug to Jack, who sat beside her.  “Welcome to utopia.”

Sheppard snorted, and when Jack looked at him, he apologized.  “Sorry, General.  It’s just a private joke around here.”

“Ah,” Jack said, looking at Daniel.  “I guess my question about how you’re fitting in around here is moot.”

“He’s settled in quite well, General,” Weir said.  “And we’re happy to have him.  Now, to the matter at hand?” she went on, and gestured at Jack.  “We’re equally happy to have you here, General.  And might I say, you’ve got excellent timing.”

“How’s that?” Jack asked.

“It’s almost Halloween back home,” she continued.  Rodney made a small sound of disgust, earning a warning glare from Sheppard.  “So I thought it’d be nice to have a small party here.  Everyone’s encouraged to wear masks or dress up, though it’s understandable that costuming is not exactly available.”

“Can’t we just pretend Halloween doesn’t exist?” Rodney asked.

“Too much for you?” Jack asked him, grinning when Sheppard shot him an approving smirk.

Rodney looked slightly wounded.  “I just don’t like Halloween, that’s all.”

“Somebody made him bob for apples way too long, I think,” Sheppard said, and Rodney started to argue but Sheppard wagged a finger at him.  “I’m teasing, Rodney.”  He looked to the General.  “So as Doctor Weir said, we’re having a party, and everyone who can will either be available or on the job.”

“Where’re you having it?” Jack asked.

“Well, the cafeteria partly,” Weir answered, “as well as the gateroom.  We don’t have much alcohol, and that’s good, considering.”  Weir grinned at Sheppard, who looked around innocently.

“What?” he asked.

“Got in trouble did ya?” Jack asked.

Sheppard looked falsely offended.  “I think I fared better than McKay.”

“I hardly even—“ Rodney started, a bit too loudly, and Weir held her hand up and he shut up.

“Anyway,” Weir went on, though she smiled genuinely at Rodney.  “We’ve assembled quite a bit of food, thanks to the members of the Daedalus crew.”  She nodded at Colonel Caldwell, who barely smiled at her as he nodded back.

“On that note, I should get back upstairs,” Caldwell said as he stood up.  “I’ll let my crew know they’re more than welcome to join you here, when their duties permit.”

“Of course, thank you,” Weir replied.

Daniel knew Weir, Sheppard, and Caldwell did not get along, mostly because Caldwell was a hard-nosed asshole.  He more than a little reminded him of Colonel Makepeace, former head of SG-3 and an executed traitor.  Not so much the traitor part as the hard-nosed part.  Daniel didn’t like the man, but he also knew that Caldwell would lay down his life for him, even if he didn’t like it.

The meeting continued with Weir, Sheppard, Zelenka, McKay, and Beckett bringing Jack up to speed on all of Atlantis’ systems and projects.  When the briefing ended, Daniel rose, prepared to exit stage “get the hell out”, but Weir caught him before he could leave the room.

“Doctor Jackson, a minute?” she asked.

“Only if you stop calling me that,” Daniel smirked at her.  “How many times, Doctor Weir?” he added, now smiling at her.  Each of them had asked the other to call them by their first names, but every time, they’d start with Doctor.

“Probably until the end of time,” Weir answered, returning his grin.  “Habit, I guess.  As an ambassador, it’s not exactly a career that lends familiarity.  Titles are practically sacrosanct.”

“I hear you,” Daniel answered.  He was tingling now, his skin goosebumping everywhere.  Jack was getting closer, even though he was speaking privately with Sheppard.  “And if you’ll excuse me?” he said, and lowered his voice as he raised his coffee cup.  “Gotta go, if you know what I mean?”

She grinned back and nodded.  “I’ll see you later, I hope?”

“I promise,” Daniel said, taking a few steps away, “I just can’t promise when.”

“Today, I hope,” she said a little more loudly as he made his escape.

Daniel waved and nodded and he hurried to his quarters.  The moment he got in, he locked the door and took a deep breath.  “Get it together, you idiot.  He didn’t come here to see you.  Who’d risk that insanely long flight just to see me?  Jesus.”

He unlocked the door and headed to the bathroom, which he actually had to use.  He forced himself to concentrate on a translation of text in order to occupy his mind, and was still thinking of it when he headed back to his quarters.  He’d just closed the door when there was a knock.

Daniel turned and stared at the door.  He was nervous, antsy, his palms were sweating.  What the hell was the matter with him?  He didn’t get this worked up when something bad happened.  He’d better get a grip and get it fast.

He headed to the other end of the room to refill his mug from the coffee maker he kept there, then called out, “Come in!”  The door opened and he was glad to have his back to it.  He wasn’t ready.  Besides, his annoyance at him himself might just transfer to Jack and he couldn’t do that.  But why the hell should he be nervous?  Hadn’t they gotten the hard part out of the way?

And why was he assuming the person at the door was Jack?  But who the hell else could it be?  No one visited him, and the timing was, well, obvious.  Clearing his throat, he turned to look.

It was indeed Jack, who was just closing the door behind him.  “Glad to see you,” he said.

 

Daniel thought he looked just as uncomfortable and Daniel smiled to himself.  “Yeah, you too.”  He gestured at his desk chair.  “Go ahead, have a seat.”  He then grabbed the extra chair he kept by his dresser and brought it next to his desk.  He sat down and sipped at his coffee, watching Jack stand there, looking even more uncomfortable.  “Jack?” he asked, then set his coffee down and sighed.  “This is stupid,” he said, allowing annoyance color his tone.  “Sit down, Jack.”

 

```````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

 

Back in the briefing room, it hadn’t been the time to take Daniel in, but now Jack couldn’t help but stare at him.  He’d expected to see a half-grown beard, but he was clean-shaven.  His hair was a little longer, but not by much.  There must be someone on Atlantis who double-dutied as a barber.  He hesitated for another few seconds, then pulled out the desk chair and sat down.  He hated being uncertain.  Once he made up his mind, he went all in.  But with Daniel, things were always muddy.  And he wasn’t ready to talk yet.  Not yet.  He looked around the room, taking in its … bareness.  Compared to Daniel’s office back home, it was spartan.

“Not much of you in here,” he said, waving at the walls.

Daniel grinned.  “Not really had the time to pack rat.  I’ve been keeping busy with the library and exploration.”

“How’s that going?” Jack asked.

Daniel grinned sardonically.  “Still not reading my reports?” he asked, mostly rhetorically.  “I’ve made some progress.  I won’t bore you with the details.”

“I think I’m ready to be bored, Daniel.”

And suddenly, there it was.  Jack suddenly felt stupid about his resistance to Daniel.  His knowledge, his career, his feelings, his plans, his … desires.  And it all condensed down to one thing:  They had practically nothing in common but that had to stop being a barrier.  They had the same thinking sometimes, where they could finish each other’s sentences, but there were the days where they couldn’t read each other at all.  Didn’t everyone though?

They both loved exploration, and while Jack paid more attention to comfortable exploration, Daniel didn’t seem to care where he was.  The moment he saw a puzzle to work out, all other considerations went out the window.  Jack liked puzzles, liked solving things, but he didn’t want to be in a swamp or a desert while he did them.

At one time, Jack hadn’t really given a shit about solving anything but the Sunday crossword.  But ever since he’d been trapped on that moon with that idiot Maybourne, he’d found out that he’d liked solving the puzzle of those discs and the information about the plants they were eating.  He’d tried to take it easier on Daniel ever since he’d descended, promising to himself that it wasn’t Daniel’s field that he had difficulty with; it was Daniel himself.  But six months ago, Jack had discovered that it hadn’t been Daniel he’d been fighting, but his own love for the man.

What had spelled it out for him was a little conversation with Carter.  They’d been having lunch at this nice coffee house downtown Colorado Springs.  And she’d brought up the subject about relationships, about Pete, about her feelings for Jack.  Sure, he loved her, and he was kind of attracted to her.  Who the hell wouldn’t be?  But there was just something … off … about his feelings.  They weren’t enough for him, and he hadn’t known why.  He still didn’t.  He only knew that the thing he felt with Sara, the thing he felt for Daniel, he didn’t feel it with Carter.

Hell, he couldn’t even call her Sam.  He could blame the military in him, but just the idea of having sex with her was more on a par with a fantasy; turning it into reality just felt wrong.  It was just one of those cases of preferring the friendship over the possibility of romance.  And that’s just the way it was.  Sure, he was as horny as the next guy, and she wasn’t hard on the eyes.  But she just wasn’t … it… for him.

When he’d met Daniel, the friendship was difficult.  More often than not, he seemed to argue with him.  There was so much antagonism there and he knew that most of it was his own doing.  Jack had no problem with scholars and academic types.  He had his own doctorate, after all.  What it turned out to be was a thickly-disguised physical attraction.  He’d been so used to burying those feelings that he hadn’t even let himself see it for what it was it until after Daniel had died and ascended.

When he came back, it was like the universe was giving Jack another chance.  Except the universe had a sick sense of humor.  Daniel had been distant, different.  Hell, who wouldn’t be after all that happened.  But the old antagonism had returned and Jack hadn’t known what the hell to do about it.  So he’d done nothing, and told himself he wasn’t ready.

Then Daniel was going away, possibly for good, and Jack had made up his mind.  It was time, and he’d gathered up his doubts and cowardices and kicked them in the ass.  Then he’d told Daniel how he felt.

Sort of.

Daniel had beaten him to the punch.  He’d said it first.  And then he’d left.

Despite his feelings, Jack had been angry, at himself for waiting, and at Daniel for leaving.  His mind was logical about it, but his heart wanted to stomp around and break, slash, and tear.  So now here he was, and he was feeling that beastly heart, that animal side that wanted ownership.  Distractedly, he wondered if Daniel had ever felt that way.  And the internal answer was that if he would just stop fucking around and tell Daniel everything, Jack would find out.

“Bored,” Daniel mused.  “The look on your face tells me that was difficult to say.”

Jack blinked, not knowing that he’d practically mimicked Daniel perfectly.  “Not really,” he said softly, then made a face.  “It’s just …”  He sighed and looked over his shoulder at the door.  “Listen, come on home.  I can’t really talk with you here.”

Daniel stared at him and almost laughed.  “You can talk to me anywhere, Jack.  So … talk.”

“Goddammit, Daniel!” Jack said, growing impatient.  “It’s just like you to disagree with everything I say.”

“I’m not disagreeing!” Daniel shot back.  “And I’m not meaning to argue!  You didn’t need to say, ‘I can’t really talk with you here’.  You only needed to ask me to come home.  You don’t need another reason.”

Jack blinked at him and dropped his voice back to normal, if a little softer.  “What?  What are you saying?  That you’ll come home because I asked you to?”

“No,” Daniel said, softening too.  “I’d say ‘yes’ because I miss you.”  He gestured at the papers on his desk.  “Much as I’m enjoying all this, I’m missing home.  And you.  I’ve pretty much cracked everything the dicks at the Pentagon want to know.  Plus I’ve sort of become Weir’s unofficial mapping explorer.”

Jack grinned at him.  “It figures.  Anything cool?”

Daniel snorted at him.  “Pretty cool.”  He sighed then.  “Still.”

Jack raised his brows.  “Still?”

“I just …”  Daniel got up and began to pace.

“Your turn to spit it out,” Jack said, getting irritated.

Daniel sighed and flopped his arms in a gesture of resignation.  “Shit, Jack.  It’s so hard to talk to you about this.  I’m sorry, but I’m used to you shooting me down.”

“What?” Jack asked, confused.   He checked himself and knew he used to shoot Daniel down at a daily rate.  But it hadn’t been a matter of put-downs, just refusals for things Daniel wanted.  All business.  “Not with personal stuff,” he said, getting up and walking to him.  “I’m sorry it felt personal.  But this isn’t a shoot down.  Don’t plan to do it, either, Daniel.”  He reached out and tentatively took Daniel’s hand in his.  Warm sizzles went up his arm and straight to his groin when Daniel accepted the touch and squeezed his hand.  “Never about this.”

“You’ll never have me shooting you down for this, either,” Daniel said quietly.  Heat spread through him and his heart beat increased.  He dropped his gaze to Jack’s lips, thinking rapidly on how to kiss him.  Soft?  Slow? Let Jack start? How would they feel?  Did he have onion on his breath? What if—

They moved as one.  Daniel grabbed Jack by the side of the neck and Jack grabbed the back of Daniel’s head, clutching a fistful of hair.  Their lips met, and the soft touch of warm flesh turned hard and fierce and hungry.  They wrapped their arms around each other, feeling hard muscle through the cloth.

When tongues touched and tasted, both of them moaned softly into each other’s mouths.  Bodies pressed together and Daniel groaned louder when his groin touched Jack’s.  Just the mere hint of swollen flesh was enough to send spikes of raw lust through him.  And best of all was that he knew Jack felt the same way.  There was only one problem.  Where they were.

When he groaned and broke the kiss, Jack did too at the same time.  Their breaths mingled as they panted through dark-eyed desire.  Daniel cleared his throat and only slightly let Jack go.  Jack did the same, regret in his eyes.

“Yeah,” Daniel said, and he glanced at the door and took another step back, hating the distance created.  “People have a bad habit of walking in my room without knocking.”  He smiled at the look on Jack’s face; the one that said the General was gonna kick some ass.  “But …” Daniel began, and shot Jack a secretive grin.  “I have a solution.”

“Yeah?” Jack asked, rubbing his damp hands on his hips.

“I’ve discovered a bit of a sanctuary, where I go to be alone and just relax.”

“Away from the rude bastards walking in here?”

“More or less,” Daniel grinned.  “It’s a bit of a walk, but we can go there after the party.  If you want.”

Jack loved the idea.  “We can make it a midnight picnic.”

Daniel almost laughed.  “Weir knows I go somewhere, but not where.  She’s let me get away with not telling her because I don’t go there very often.  But for safety’s sake, I was gonna have to tell her soon.”  He paused, glanced at the door, then stepped up to Jack.  He took his hand, squeezed it again, then let him go.  “One last time.”

Jack nodded slightly.  “Deal.”

There was a loud knock, and Daniel stepped back before the door opened.  It was Ronon.  Jack scowled at him.  “Ever hear about knocking, Ronon?”

Ronon paused, eyes moving rapidly back and forth, but his face betrayed nothing.  “Sorry, but Weir’s asking for you two and I figured I’d come get you instead of McKay.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said, nodding.  “We’ll be there.”

Ronon closed the door.

Jack thumbed at the door.  “That what you mean?”

“Yeah, except it’s usually McKay.”

They headed toward the door, and with Daniel in front of him, Jack suddenly slid the back of his hand down the center of Daniel’s back.  Daniel turned, eyes wide, mouth open, and cheeks pink.  But he said nothing, glancing frequently at Jack as they went through the door.

Inside, Jack cheered.  This romance thing was gonna have some awesome perks.

. . . . .

Daniel didn’t know how Weir did it, or where her crew came up with the decorations and party favors, but the control room, cafeteria, and gateroom had paper pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, and other trappings hanging from the ceiling.  Everywhere.  And one of Zelenka’s assistants, Sergeant Alana Walters, was handing out party masks that Daniel suspected had been recycled from a Mardi Gras party somewhere.  She held a plastic box by its handles and studied him, and Jack, for about two seconds before she handed them masks.  Black for Daniel, Red for Jack.

“What’s this?” Jack asked.

“Leftover from last year’s Mardi Gras.”  At Jack’s expression, she quickly added, “They’re clean.”  She then walked off, doing the same thing to everyone she met.

Jack gave Daniel a look.  “She’s interesting.”

Daniel nodded.  “She’s got a strange version of ESP, and it usually applies to mechanics.  But she can also make quick judgments, which is sometimes needed around here.”  He looked at the mask.  “Don’t see how that ties in to this, but hey, she hangs out with Teyla and Teyla definitely has ESP about people.”

“She does?”

Daniel went on to tell Jack about the rest of the crew, and about some of the things that went on.  He was babbling, and Jack was pretending to listen.  Neither of them cared what they were talking about.  They put on the masks and headed into the cafeteria where games and food were to be had.  For the both of them, they had no particular interest in participating.  What they wanted was to be alone.  To talk.  And whatever else.

 

 

It was almost 8 p.m.  The party was in full swing.

“Where’re they going?” Sheppard asked Weir as he saw the General and Dr. Jackson leave the cafeteria.

“I think they’re bored,” she said, pulling a party streamer out of her hair.  “I also think Daniel’s ready to go back home but he’ll argue to stay.  Frankly, I think the General misses him.”

“Well, they’re friends, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Weir said, soft surprise in her voice.  “Been together since they discovered Abydos.”

“Right,” Sheppard said, and made a face.  “If I’m still here in fifteen years, shoot me.”

Weir laughed and handed him his refilled drink.  “Here,” she said, and winked at him.  “To going back home.”

“Cheers,” he said, then choked at the taste of alcohol.  “I see you found my stash.”

 

 

“You weren’t kidding about that explorer thing,” Jack observed.  He’d once taken a short tour, but didn’t recognize where Daniel was leading him.  Didn’t matter, either.

They’d ditched the masks in the cafeteria, along with any sense of Halloween.  As they walked along the green-lit metallic halls, down flights of stairs, and around circular bulkheads, the only celebration on their minds was each other.

Daniel grinned.  “It’s almost meditative.”

“Ever got lost in that meditation?” Jack grinned back.

Daniel started to answer about the number of times he’d actually gotten lost, but decided on smart-assery instead.  “Only when I thought about you.”

Jack looked up at the ceiling, in front, then behind.  Daniel noticed and his grin turned evil.  “Yeah, they’re monitored.  But not where we’re heading.”

“I figured,” Jack said, and backhanded Daniel’s shoulder.  A few seconds after, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and curled them into fists.  His hands itched with longing.  That smack did something inside him and he didn’t want to touch anything else, not even his own thighs.

Daniel noticed, albeit peripherally.  And he was suddenly assailed with memories of Jack making fists in his pockets.  What was he doing it for?  He did it himself when he was cold, or maybe resisting the urge to hit someone.  He knew Jack didn’t want to hit him; he didn’t get that vibe.  It wasn’t cold in these corridors, either.  He started to make a mental list of reasons to ball your hands up in your pockets when …

“That smack there was a substitute for grabbing your ass,” Jack said in a lowered voice.

Daniel coughed, taken completely off guard.  He couldn’t answer; tactile images flooded his brain.

“Tell me there isn’t audio with the video,” Jack added.

“There isn’t,” Daniel said, and looked sidelong at Jack, who was now returning the evil grin.  He looked away, clearing his throat.  “What are you doing?” he asked, feeling stupid for doing so.

“Foreplay,” Jack answered, and his tone was lower, heavily laden with playfulness.

It was a tone Daniel had never heard.  The sound sent hot signals to his dick, his balls, and brought up a particular sense memory of being fucked.  He was suddenly aware of how warm it was getting and wondered if the thermostat was up or if it was just him.

“We’re almost there,” he said a minute later, knowing how lame that sounded.

“We certainly are,” Jack replied.  He could tell he was getting to Daniel.  He had no idea how but it was apparently related to his voice change.  Interesting, he thought, and mentally made note.  The one thing he’d enjoyed throughout their friendship was getting Daniel’s goat.  And now there was another, more enjoyable, way to do it.  “Is there a bed?”

Daniel coughed again, more like a guffaw, and stared straight at him.  “It’s not a hotel room,” he said, laughing.  And blushing.

Score! Jack thought.  The last time he’d seen Daniel blush was … hell.  Ten years ago, when he’d popped up in his office, naked.  He couldn’t help but find it adorable.  “That’s so cute,” he teased.

“What?” Daniel asked, hating the burn in his cheeks.  “Don’t say it.  Please don’t say it.”  Jack started to answer and Daniel borrowed a Jack Move and pointed a finger at him.  “Aht!”

Jack kept silent, but there was a huge shit-eating grin on his face.  Daniel tried to ignore it and failed.  He growled in a very low tone and waved a hand over a sphere set into the wall.  They’d entered a cul-de-sac, almost a vestibule, and when the door opened, sea air hit their nostrils.

It wasn’t the only thing hitting Jack.  The growling sound from Daniel had made him nearly hard.  It was a sound he’d longed to hear, but with Daniel naked and underneath him.  On his back and … fingers clutching and …

Jack stumbled over his own feet as they entered the room and the door closed behind them.  Daniel only smiled to himself and twisted the sphere on this side of the wall.

“Locking it,” he said, glancing repeatedly at him as he walked forward to the room’s edge.

“Right,” Jack said, making a show of looking around for the thing that had made him stumble.  Daniel was still grinning and Jack immediately went into a laundry list of what to do about it.  He quickly settled between two options: Grab Daniel and take him to the floor, or avoid him, thus extending their quickening foreplay.

Jack chose the latter, making a show of looking around the place.  It wasn’t just a show, since his mind was zeroing in on comfort possibilities.  The room they were in wasn’t a room.  It was somewhere between a deck and a veranda, and Daniel had transformed it into something like a lanai.  The walled section behind him was curved into a half-circle and the open floor in front was shaped like half a hexagon.  It was truly open, without a railing, and gave Jack an almost unprotected feeling.  But the rest of the deck—he’d decided to call it that—was simply decorated, almost like an Ikea design.

A lounger extended from the right wall, covered with many plush blankets and pillows.  Beside it, Daniel had brought a military-issue crate, turned upside down for an end table.  On it was a battery-powered hurricane lamp, a clock, and an ashtray.  Ashtray?

“Ashtray?” he asked.  It was clean, but still.  Ashtray?

Daniel grinned at him.  “I told John about this place.  He likes to smoke his cigars out here, away from complaints.”

Jack smirked.  “I can guess who’d complain.”  His eyes sparkled at his own comment, but Jack quickly shut off the source and replaced it with a different kind of light.  His gaze moved to the lounger, finding it almost suitable.  The head didn’t rise too sharply.  It would be okay for …  He caught Daniel watching him.

“Does it pass muster?” Daniel asked, and then brought his fingers to his fatigue shirt and began to unbutton it.  Not waiting for Jack’s answer, he went on.  “It’s a warm evening, don’t you think?”

“I think,” Jack replied, and mirrored Daniel.

Once their shirts were removed, revealing olive t-shirts, Jack started to remove his dog tags but Daniel reached out and stopped him.  His hand rested on Jack’s, and he muttered, “No.”  The touch sparked action, and Daniel pulled Jack effortlessly to him.  They kissed, lips parting, tongues winding around the other, and they moved their hands to touch whatever they could.

They stood pressed together, a few feet from the edge, engulfed in desire.  Their kiss never wavered, making up for years of abstinence.  They breathed into each other and the sound was a hunger, a thirst for water denied.  As if on an internal cue, Daniel and Jack began removing each other’s t-shirts, and belts followed.  Daniel’s deft fingers followed Jack’s as they awkwardly unbuttoned their trousers.

Suddenly, they both didn’t know what to do next and covered their indecision by grabbing each other’s asses.  Then Daniel seemed to bring Jack’s desire to a decision when he rubbed his bare chest against Jack’s, their nipples touching.  Jack pulled Daniel with him as he dropped to the lounger.  It was surprisingly soft and giving, and Jack turned them over, lying over Daniel, and deepening their ongoing kiss.

The sensations set a fire in their flesh.  Daniel loved the weight of Jack on top of him; Jack loved the feel of Daniel under him.  A thousand secret fantasies worked on and polished over the years were coming true in this one moment, on a lounger, by an alien sea.

Jack broke the kiss, moving his lips over Daniel’s face, and Daniel lifted his chin encouragingly. “I need you,” Jack said huskily, and bit down over Daniel’s Adam’s apple.

The act was like ownership, a possession Daniel deeply and secretly desired.  He fumbled quickly at his trousers and underwear, pushing them downward.  Jack captured his mouth, kissing him hard while he lifted up and brought his own trousers and underwear down with one hand.  Daniel helped, and in seconds, their bared groins met air, only slightly cooled before their hot skin, lightly damp with sweat, touched.  The contact with each other’s cocks was like a volcanic hot spring.

Jack rubbed up and down quickly, and growled into Daniel’s mouth at the same time as Daniel growled into his.  Daniel grinned through the kiss.  “Yes,” he mumbled around Jack’s tongue, and pushed his pants down further, trying to kick them off without shoving Jack off him.  It was an inadvertent wrestling match between them as their trousers and underwear eventually hit the floor.

Realizing they were now naked and that Jack was between Daniel’s legs, he broke contact and pushed up, hands on either side of Daniel’s head.  He looked down at this man he’d loved for a long time, taking in the pinked cheeks and darkening blue eyes.  A mixture of resolution and realization spread over his face, but instead of saying anything, he moved his hips, rubbing his cock over Daniel’s.

Daniel kept the silence, and Jack’s gaze, and spread his legs, hooking a foot around Jack’s thigh.  Slowly, adamantly, he raised his hips to meet each of Jack’s … thrusts.  Thrusts, he thought to himself, and a sound of lust escaped his throat.  Jack smiled.  He actually, fully, smiled.  Daniel thought he was beautiful whenever he smiled and Jack never smiled enough.  The same could be said for himself, so he smiled back, a decisively shy one.  Jack’s eyes darkened.

“I love you,” Jack said.

Daniel’s lips parted, astonished by the abrupt declaration.  He wanted to say it, too, but didn’t want to sound as if he was obligated.  “Ditto,” he answered, and earned a mock frown.

“What?” Jack asked, trying to look annoyed but with a lift at the corners of his mouth.  He rubbed firmly against Daniel, letting his smile reappear, in the way of a satisfied Cheshire Cat.  “What was that?”

Daniel liked the playfulness and he returned the look but with mock ignorance.  “What was what?”

Jack growled at him and dropped to his elbows, bringing their bodies together.  Daniel’s eyes were close and he stared into their seductive … beauty.  Yes, he acknowledged it.  Beauty, and he wanted that beauty to change into animal lust, to reflect a desire for him that he’d longed for years.  But that desire came with a requirement to be inside him.  Jack didn’t know whether it was a good idea as their first time, unlubed, on an alien planet.  But his body continued to move as if it was separate and had made the decision for his conscious mind.

Daniel sensed it, saw the look in Jack’s eyes.  It was one he’d only ever seen in past lovers, and never quite like this.  Not in the eyes of a man he’d been in love with for a very long time.   And now here he was, rubbing against him, having said, “I love you”.

The words were on Daniel’s lips, and he was going to say them.  Then Jack’s thrust angle moved the man’s cock over his balls—closer to his ass.  And Daniel simply lost it.

“Fuck me,” he said roughly, and raised his knee and planted the heel of his foot in Jack’s back.  It was a cliché the way Jack moved his cock to perfectly line up.  It was a cliché the way he then moved his hips in short, slow thrusts in order to push inside.  And it was such a cliché the way Daniel moaned and half-lidded his eyes.  And he loved every goddamn second of it.

Daniel slid his hands over Jack’s back to rest on his ass with an encouraging grip.  The burn was quick and divine, and then came the full ache, the long-missed engulfment.  Both Jack and Daniel looked into each other’s eyes, breathing heavily, slowly, waiting for the fitting of Jack’s cock.

At that moment, Daniel raised his ass, undulating more encouragement, and the sudden sensation forced a loud groan from his throat and he hoarsely whispered, “I love you, too.”

Jack captured his mouth and thrust, and Daniel broke off, tipping his head back and closing his eyes.  “Now fuck me, Jack,” he croaked.

“Bastard,” Jack whispered reverently, and bit down once more on Daniel’s Adam’s apple as he began to establish a rhythm.  He wanted it to last a long time, to make this go on forever.  The heat of Daniel’s body was glorious, and because it was a first, and because the years of buried desire were screaming for release, Jack knew he wasn’t going to last long.  “No,” he growled to himself, muffling the sound over sweating skin.

“Yes,” Daniel said, eyes still closed, but he moved his hands to frame Jack’s head.  “Yes.  We have time.”

Time, Jack thought, and he let go, allowing the heat and lust and need to coalesce into a raging hot demand of thrusting hips.  He teased his hips, ramming them, easing them, and finally circled them, all aiming for Daniel’s little gland.  When he hit it, Daniel opened his eyes and attacked Jack’s lips with his own, tongue demanding a fight and getting it.

He moaned with each thrust, matching Jack with his own hips, trying desperately to open wider without falling off the lounger.  Sweat began to bead, and one dropped from Jack’s brow onto Daniel’s eyelid.  He absently rubbed his face against Jack’s, making it worse and not caring.  Slick with that sweat, Daniel rubbed his chest over Jack’s, nipples crushing on the others’, and he suddenly grabbed his cock and kissed Jack harder.

“Fuck me!” he mumbled, earnest and urgent.

Jack eagerly complied, and broke his kiss away to look down, to watch Daniel stroke himself.  “Jesus,” he whispered, and quickened his hips.  Daniel recaptured his mouth, moaning even more with both a demanding hand and demanding body.  Jack loved it, loved it all.  For a quick moment of awareness, he locked their first time into his memory, catching the sounds of the ocean, the heat of the sun, the sweat, Daniel’s skin, his noises of lust, and the way he fit like a glove around his cock.

He knew he could come, knew and felt that Daniel could too.  His body screamed for it, and his mind wanted this moment to last forever.  A cliché, and he didn’t give a damn.  This cliché was one he’d gladly repeat a million times.

The keen ache of pleasure was skyrocketing through Daniel, and he quickened the stroke of his hand.  Doing so brought about the same kind of minor indecision Jack had just gone through, and his mind won, slowing down his strokes.  Except it didn’t matter.  His desire for Jack to make him come was at the apex, and he thrust his hips back at his lover, the movement needing no words.

“Fuck,” Jack muttered through Daniel’s mouth, and he increased his rhythm.  “Now?” he asked, just in case he’d misread Daniel’s demand.

“Yes,” Daniel said, and he tossed his head back again, mouth open, hand rapidly blurring.

The look was beautiful, and Jack gave into his lover.  His lover.  Finally.  His lover.  And the happiness that brought to Jack made him thrust harder and faster.

“Oh god!” Daniel cried through clenched teeth.

“Shit yes,” Jack whispered, more to himself, as Daniel came, his semen shooting forth to coat the back of his hand and part of his abdomen.  His body stiffened, but his hips still moved, and the grip around Jack’s cock was fucking wonderful.  “Goddamn, yes!” he blurted out, and drew Daniel’s attention.  His lover gripped the back of his ass, and the touch of his hand forced Jack to speed up.

“Yes, Jack,” Daniel said, and with a deliberate lock into his eyes, he brought the back of his hand to his mouth and licked the warm come.

“Oh fuck,” Jack exclaimed, and he slammed twice, thrice, and came hard.  His hips jerked with each pulse, and Jack closed his eyes and rode out the pleasure.  Daniel had his arms around him now, and Jack didn’t remember dropping his body down on top of him.  The smell of sex and sweat mingled with satisfaction and that hateful regret that arrives when the come transforms into afterglow.

Daniel had no idea his thoughts matched Jack’s.  Still, nothing could remove how happy he was.  This was glorious, and inevitably, much too short.  But there was a silver lining.  They could have this again, and at home, in a large bed, with lots of time and after-sex kitchen snacking.

He opened his eyes and looked into Jack’s, who was watching him.  Daniel smiled.  “I love you, too.”

“You said,” Jack said back, then gently bit Daniel’s nose and was rewarded with a laugh.  A real laugh.  “That looks good on you,” he said with a grin.

“What, the afterglow look?” Daniel asked, trying to sound nonchalant, though he knew it was pointless.  He could still feel the pinky warmth of his cheeks and throat.

“Making you laugh,” Jack said, with a touch of soberness in his eyes.  “You don’t do that.”

“What?” Daniel asked, then frowned.  “No, guess not.”

Jack smiled then.  “Till now.”

Daniel moved under him, feeling the wrong kind of stiffness.  Still, he couldn’t help but return Jack’s smile.  “I finally have a good reason.”

Jack nodded absently in agreement, and moved slowly, separating their bodies.  There was instant cooling, despite the warmth of the day, and due solely to the fact that they were now in the shade.  Jack eased back down and gained another laugh from Daniel.  He was so enamored with it that it brought about a fresh need to be close and he kissed Daniel deeply and soundly.  With a moan and a strong arm, he turned them about, with Daniel’s help, until he had Daniel lying on top of him.

Daniel felt the same refreshing desire, and a twitchy interest in his cock.  He broke the kiss and stared down at Jack.  He was about to say something sarcastic but this new view was distracting.  “Hello,” he grinned.

“Hello,” Jack replied, and raised an index finger to draw a line over Daniel’s throat.  “I’m not completely married to being a top.”

Daniel blinked at him.  Not just for the sudden sex slang, but at the idea of being inside Jack’s body.  His cheeks felt warm again, though this time, it wasn’t from blushing.  “Me neither.  At the moment.”

“At the moment?” Jack asked, teasing.

“Sure. Maybe we can discuss it at length when we get home.”

Jack smiled more fully.  “Good.  Though will you still feel the same when we get home?”

Daniel growled at him.  “I have a feeling that you’re far more …”

“What?” Jack asked, and hooked his own heel over the back of Daniel’s knee, eliciting a deep sigh.  Satisfied, Jack said, “You were saying?”  Daniel started to say something, but stalled.  He tried to separate, to get up, but Jack clapped a hand on his ass and held him firm.  “Going somewhere?”

Daniel stared at him, and between them, felt a stirring from Jack’s cock.  “Anywhere you want, you asshole.”

Jack smiled, then gently pushed Daniel off of him.  “Home?”

“Home,” Daniel said, and bent down to get his underwear, tossing Jack’s to him as well.  Jack had risen to rest on an elbow, and he caught his underwear deftly.  Daniel stared at him, taking in his long, lean, muscular body and there came a heat that spread through him like the waves behind him.  Despite his desire to make light of this, the desire inside him was rising again.  “Any chance we can risk a return ride through the gate?”

Jack grinned at him.  “In a hurry to get home?”  He stretched and lay back on the bed.  “I’m not in a hurry.”

Daniel loved that look.  “So you want to go through three weeks on a ship with a bunch of regulations we can’t risk breaking?”

Jack groaned.  “Fair point,” he said, getting up.  He put on his underwear and snatched his trousers off the floor.  When he glanced at Daniel, he found him watching instead of dressing.  Seizing on the opportunity to tease, he walked over and brought their bodies together, sealed with a slap of his hand over Daniel’s very warm ass.  “Something else on your mind?”

Daniel frowned at him and backed up.  “Goddammit, Jack, don’t do that.”

The fake innocence was humorous.  “Do what?”

With a sigh, Daniel quickly removed his underwear and earned a rising eyebrow of surprise.

“Daniel?” Jack asked, knowing damn well his underwear was coming back off, but he decided to let Daniel do that.  He slid a hand over his sleepily responding cock.  “Something wrong?”

“Damn straight there is,” Daniel replied.  He looked down at his slowly filling cock, then at Jack’s.

Jack moved his hand again, then very deliberately, slid the tip of his tongue across the underside of his upper lip.  “Not sure what you mean,” he said, then dropped his gaze to Daniel’s cock.

Daniel gave in with a heavy sigh, laced with lust.  "You're dangerous."

"What do you mean?"

"Your seduction skills are devastatingly accurate."

“You have no idea,” Jack smiled, then brought Daniel close, taking his lover’s hand and placing it over his cloth-covered erection.  “But you will.”

“Fuck that, I already do,” Daniel breathed and with his mouth watering, he dropped to his knees.

 

~

 

End