Daniel found Jack in a makeshift office half a mile out from Atlantis's control tower, lurking behind a budget report, three stacks of manila folders, and half a dozen boxes of women's lingerie.
He grinned unrepentantly at the series of contortions Jack' eyebrows made when he saw him, raised his own, and said, "What, you expected me to miss this?"
"You'd better have flown commercial," Jack said.
Daniel patted his filled-to-bursting shoulder bag. "Oh, I'm on official business. Woolsey's been after me for weeks to come out here and audit the language labs. Why not today?"
"Why indeed," said Jack. He tipped his chair back, sinking down out of sight behind his paper blockade, and propped his feet on his desk, teetering only a little. A hand rose above the stacks and waved airily. "Have a nice time with the geeks."
Daniel said, "Yeeah," and stepped into the room. "How long have you been hiding in here, anyway?"
The pile of folders looked affronted. "Hiding, my ass! What was I gonna do, swoon on a hospital cot for ten hours, waiting for McKay?"
"Well, when you put it that way.... I thought you might be stuck in quarantine with the rest of the victims, though."
"I'm not contagious," Jack said dryly.
"Really? No cooties or anything?"
Jack loosed a cackle. "That's exactly what Doc Keller told the chair of the JCOS."
Daniel made a move toward Jack's desk. Jack scooted in his chair, keeping his line of sight cut off. Daniel advanced. Jack, realizing the end of the game was imminent, sniffed with dignity, and propelled himself all the way back to the wall. His feet dropped from desk to floor with a thump. Their eyes met. Daniel had half expected a sour, harassed, caged badger expression, but the face peeping up at him was impish. It was unmistakably a Jack O'Neill expression, right down to the "What, who, me?" eyebrows. The face it was sitting on wasn't Jack's at all.
Daniel said, "Well, stand up, then." Jack snorted, but complied. He held his hands out from his sides and did a little slow-motion pirouette. The desk lamp and overheads glinted on his stars and the block of badges on his chest. Daniel had to step back again to take him all in.
Major General Jack O'Neill, transmogrified into a woman by alien technology, was a stupefying sight. The Lantean gizmo responsible had had, naturally, zero effect on any cultural signifiers of femininity: his hair was the same tufty inch of gray, his brows the same unpruned hedgerows. Nor had it messed with the quantity of matter Jack was made of, just its distribution. He was still taller than all the Joint Chiefs except for Morganbotham. He had long legs, a stout middle, and, well, it was hard to tell what else he had under the jacket, but it wasn't nothing. The net result was six feet and change of grizzled Penthesilea by way of Maurice Sendak's Nutcracker.
"Ho-lee Hannah," said Daniel. Then, "Hmm, I think your ears stick out more. Which makes absolutely no sense, so I'm probably imagining it."
One of those unpruned brows began a Teal'c-ish ascent toward the hairline.
"Sorry," said Daniel. "I can also do hysterical laughter."
"I suspect McKay'll be happy to cover that angle."
"Oh, yes, I'm sure. We beamed in together, by the way. Davis bustled him straight down to the lab; said he'll beep when he's ready for a guinea pig."
"Oh, goodie," said Jack.
"Eh, it wasn't the geek's fault," Jack told him over lunch, "unless you count leading a bunch of paper pushers on a tour through a magic city without zip-tying their wrists to their belt loops."
Daniel inhaled, then couldn't pick an answer out of the several dozen that presented themselves. He bit into his tuna melt instead, knowing Jack would read everything—all ten years of history, really—on his face anyway. Jack did, and laughed at him.
"You remember the layout of Pier Five at all? Big mess of moveable walls. They had one of them open because they were dismantling the lab. Live interface everywhere. Shouldn't even have been walking through there; shortcuts, long delays, yadda."
"Open walls and they had a widebeam transposer powered up?"
"Ah, no. You ever meet Senator Horton?"
Daniel listened to a silly story, all too similar to all the other silly stories, and wondered if a day would ever come when there were none to tell. He rather doubted it. People would always be people, klutzy and distractible, no matter how much education and experience you layered on top, and the alien tech they handled was just too alien, not only in the trappings, but in the most basic assumptions of its makers. Of course an Ancient would build a matter-shifting device in the middle of a hallway.
"It almost sounds like something out of the Cold War," he decided. "You know, 'Let's make a gas that'll turn all the Soviets into homosexuals, so they'll all start humping each other and forget to fight America.'"
"I do love the historical perspective you bring to the table," said Colonel Davis, plunking down a lunch tray and kicking out a chair. Davis was as male as ever; he'd been three feet outside the blast radius, fielding a junior senator's question about using Atlantis's amphitheatre for his daughter's piano recital.
"How's the president?" Jack inquired.
"Among other things, not on his way to Geneva for the disarmament summit."
"As we speak, a crack team of professional prevaricators is concocting a cover story to explain his absence to the public."
"Really?" Daniel asked. "They do realize this'll probably be fixed within hours. Right?" Daniel looked from Jack to Davis. "Now that McKay's arrived, we just sit back and wait for him to find or manufacture a reset button..."
"I've just come from the lab," said Davis. "According to Dr. Sing, the machine's been throwing error messages since it was activated. And there's some hardware that looked pretty fried. 'Hours' may be pushing it."
"If it lasts more than hours," said Jack, "I'm busting this joint and going home."
"Oh, go ahead, by all means," said Davis. "I'll just be here, babysitting the bureaucrats."
"I have work to do!" Jack protested. "Crucial, highly classified work that can't leave my desk at the Pentagon! I may, at times in my life, have been accused of doing all my thinking with my dick, but—"
"What happens if it is significantly more than hours?" Daniel interrupted.
"Well," said Davis, scrubbing a fist over his eyes, "as far as the POTUS is concerned, the prevarication brigade has not taken 'killed in a horrible explosion' off the table."
"Wait, they'd rather say the president is dead than that he's a woman now?"
Davis peered wearily out from between his fingers.
Daniel said, "Even the Goa'uld are more progressive about this shit than we are."
"Interesting way of looking at it."
"Hey." Jack fingerwaved. "The preferred term is 'female-bodied'."
Down in Pier Five, Rodney and a minion Daniel didn't recognize (female; Pegagonian, by the accent) were comparing tablet specs to the laboratory mainframe. The minion was perched on a stool; Rodney was prone under a console.
"The more stupid questions you make me answer, the longer this takes!" Rodney hollered from under the table. Then he craned his neck around, the better to peer at some piece of circuitry, and caught sight of them. "Oh, it's you two. Oh, hey!" He wriggled out, thick body surprisingly maneuverable in the confined space, and poked a finger at Jack. "Put your hand here." Screens lit up around them as Jack complied: medical data, showing Jack's before and after states. "Genome-locked, of course, idiots," Rodney muttered to himself, and homed in.
"You know what this program reminds me of, sir?" said the minion, peering at the screen closest to her. "That gaming console you and Colonel Sheppard found a few years ago."
Rodney, interestingly, said, "Hm!" and nothing else for several minutes.
"This is quite the relic," Daniel remarked, activating and peering at the console next to Rodney's, tapping through touchscreens. Rodney made an aborted lurch, like he was about to bark him off, before recalling that Daniel was not Senator Horton, thus capable of distinguishing an Alterran grapheme from a Tetris block. Instead, he grunted in agreement and kept typing. For Jack's dubious benefit, Daniel continued, "It's older than much of the tech here: before the Ancients started striving for ascension in earnest, they experimented with altering their corporeal forms. Like The Once and Future King. Spend a day as a badger." He paused and glanced up. "If you're going to turn into a badger, though, you probably only need a week or so to properly experience badgerhood ... whereas the nuances of human sex and gender, being so culturally determined, take more time to fully assimilate."
Jack assimilated this. "How much more time?"
"Five years," said Rodney.
"It is not going to take five years," Jack told the chair of the JCOS. He leaned against the conference table with his arms folded under his breasts, looking like the only thing bothering him was the fact that he had to talk to you people.
"Why five, anyway?" wondered a civilian woman with a leather-backed clipboard and a bun stabbed full of pens.
"Time sufficient to experience the joys of pregnancy and motherhood..." speculated Daniel, idly.
"Maybe Ancient moms breastfed longer than we do?"
Colonel Davis rethreaded the conversation. "I have perfect confidence in Dr. McKay, despite his taste for dramatics. He's rewriting the code as we speak, and then it's only a matter of scavenging a bit of hardware from Atlantis's other labs, and cross-checking with Dr. Keller to ensure the procedure is safe to reverse so soon."
"What he said," said Jack. "Tell the press the president has a stomach bug. Give the rest of them a clean pair of pyjamas and some cocoa and we'll call them in the morning. I am abusing my powers and beaming back to D.C.."
"If I may say so, General," remarked the chair, "you seem to be handling this whole situation with a remarkable lack of concern."
The look Jack shot him was only mildly sharkish. "Oh, you know," he said, waving a hand, "it's not as weird as that time I was a spaceship."
"You willing to drive in this town?" Jack asked, after Hammond's tech on duty had obligingly beamed them back to the secure pad at the Pentagon.
"Sure," said Daniel, surprised, and caught the keys Jack flipped him. Behind the wheel of Jack's Jag, he took no more than a few seconds to glance at a map, and peeled out of the lot, admiring the smooth purr of the V6 and the way the seat fit his long frame.
Next time Daniel glanced over, Jack had his head tipped back and his hands flat on his thighs. He looked three quarters asleep, but his remaining attention wasn't on the road; it was on Daniel's forearms, which he was watching through slitted eyes. Daniel smiled to himself, and rolled up his cuffs.
A few minutes later, Jack fished out his cell phone and placed a food order using Daniel's name, and later instructed him to turn right at the next light and pull into a little Middle Eastern eatery to collect two steaming paper bags that made Daniel whimper out loud. Jack grinned at him sidelong and dug around in a bag for a sambusa, which he tore in half and offered to Daniel. Daniel burnt his tongue, groaned at the heavenly taste anyway, then blinked at Jack, whose groan had drowned out Daniel's.
"You don't even like Middle Eastern that much!"
"Yeah, well, there's a nostalgia factor since I left Colorado, and also, different taste buds; who knew?"
Daniel licked his fingers, left hand braced on the wheel at twelve o' clock. He stuck his right hand back out and waggled until Jack fed him again.
Back in Bethesda, Daniel toed out of his shoes, and that felt so good that he kept going and pulled off his socks right there in the cool, dim hallway of Jack's townhouse. Then he turned; Jack had got as far as removing his cover and locking the door behind him, and then he'd apparently run out of steam; he was sagging against the door. They regarded each other, Jack holding the food and his cover, Daniel holding his satchel and Jack's keys and his socks. This just sort of epitomizes everything, Daniel thought even as he was leaning in—their luggage bumped, but they didn't otherwise touch—and caught Jack's lips with his own.
Jack sighed through his nose and kissed back. Same lips. Slightly different jaw line, different brow, but Daniel was having really amazingly little trouble processing the fact that the womanly body in front of him belonged to the mind and soul he'd known and loved for a decade. Daniel didn't try to deepen the kiss—not here in the hallway—but before he pulled away Jack dropped his cover on the gueridon and lifted his hand to the side of Daniel's face, brushing lightly past his ear and thumbing his cheek in a classic Jack gesture that made Daniel's heart turn. Connection established. Then Daniel stepped back and headed for the kitchen, while Jack took off his own shoes and padded down the hall.
Jack assembled plates and forks while Daniel rooted in the fridge, then Daniel cracked open the beers he'd found while Jack laid out food and stuffed the bags under the sink.
Daniel cast glances sideways, at Jack-not-in-Jack's-body, and thought of Jack as he'd first known him: the long, loose-limbed length of him, the rangy stride, the mussed hair, the dark, watchful eyes. He spent a minute fetishizing the girl version of that Jack: BDU pants with a gun belt slung low on her hips, black tee. Thigh holster, yeah. Daniel realized he'd been still for several minutes, caught googly-eyed and day-dreaming.
He refocused on the person in front of him. Jack banged his hip on the edge of the table as he turned, and plunked harder than usual as he sat down. Daniel realized abruptly that he'd been suppressing this all day. It took a genius, he thought, to hold two contradictory thoughts in the mind at once: Jack saw the humour in the situation, was milking it for all it was worth, enjoyed giving his colleagues a fright, but he was discombobulated, too, and, now that Daniel was looking, he could see that his muscles ached, that he was in fact locked in a body that did not move the way he had needed and expected it to move for more than fifty years. He looked tired and dismayed and awkward.
He suppressed an urge to scoot around the table and fold Jack up in an embrace, because he couldn't imagine how to do it without feeling foolish and affected.
Jack O'Neill, in certain settings, was all performance, but he wasn't all gender performance. He didn't perform that masculinity, or if he did, it was self-conscious and ironic, a parody of himself. Daniel's mind flashed on the gag reel from Emmett Bregman's documentary: "My favourite colour is peridot." After a decade's worth of silly conversations in cargo holds and on long hikes, Daniel knew damn well Jack didn't have a favourite color, but if he had to choose, it sure as hell wasn't BDU green. The snark packed into that solitary little word, on the military, on masculinity, the entire circumvented essay on Jack's commitment to the former and performance of the later, was dazzling. Daniel had a reputation as the Mountain's go-to word guy. Taciturn Jack O'Neill put him to shame.
Daniel thought about his own self-presentation, his own body-history, and how it had wobbled and shifted over the years, tilting him increasingly toward a military stereotype. Back in the early days of SGC, it had been part practical self-preservation, and partly about gaining acceptance, and fitting into a tight-knit, insular little community nearly as bizarre, to Daniel, as the cultures he studied on the far side of the Gate. By the time he'd noticed the profundity of the change, he'd participant-observered himself into a corner. It was stupid, the mass of norms he'd normalized—the postures, the convoluted assumptions about speech and silence; when he caught himself at it, he stopped. But even now, even in private, the impulse was there.
"It must be love," Daniel informed Jack out loud.
Jack blinked in surprise, because that was one of the words they didn't throw around a lot.
"I was just thinking about how hot you were when I first met you, and what you would have looked like, like this...and how much I don't want to go back."
Never in a million years would Jack say, "Really?" out loud. He'd never let himself ask for that kind of confirmation, but Daniel read suppression of disbelief all over his face anyway, and responded to the need, not the verbalization. "Really. I...like knowing your body's history. I like having been there. Knowing things about you—about where you came from, and what you react to—turns me on."
Jack looked down at the table, absorbing that. "That's mutual."
They gossiped, over the remainder of the meal, about Teal'c's grandkids, Teal'c's love life, Satterfield's promotion, Cassie's scholarship. Phone calls and emails had already taken care of most of the facts, but it was a luxury and a balm to sit with a glass of slowly mellowing ale and let a conversation expand into three-dimensional space.
Eventually, after Jack had been swirling the dregs in his glass for ten minutes without getting up for a refill, Daniel said, "It's after ten. Do you want to move onto the couch, or...?" and Jack looked at him and said, "I'm about done with this day." Daniel nodded.
And then in the bedroom it was strange again. And funnier still to realize the aplomb with which he'd been able to ignore—almost forget about—Jack's appearance over dinner. Not as weird as a spaceship, indeed. "Baselines: I have none," Daniel muttered to himself, staring at Jack's ass as he followed him into the room. They'd been sitting down; they'd deliberately steered their conversation elsewhere; their brains had needed a break. But: bedrooms, bodies... It was in a room much like this, and actually on that very bed, that Daniel had first touched Jack's naked cock. Daniel slowed to a halt next to the dresser and propped himself on his elbow. Jack turned at his mutter, arching an eyebrow. Their eyes met, and Daniel just shook his head minutely, and in another few seconds they were both silently chuckling at each other, rueful and too-old-for-this-shit and god-what-else.
Then Daniel lowered his gaze, and looked—really truly stared—at the body standing there. It was a bit like switching focus on an autostereogram. He'd spent the whole day watching Jack with his eyes crossed, doggedly seeing and responding to the three-dimensional soul hidden in the 2-D picture. The picture was...
"I'm sorry. You really do make an awful woman."
Jack's startled bark of mirth filled the room. "Think you'd do better, do you?" A ponderous silence fell as both men tried to imagine how the hell Daniel's dense torso would redistribute itself.
"So," Jack inquired brightly, "...think we should have sex?"
Daniel felt his mouth drop open. Yes, his brain informed him, in spite of the verdict it had handed out just a second ago. Yes, yes, oh please yes. For science! Instead of answering the question, though, he narrowed his eyes. Jack looked exhausted. "Are we assuming you're safely menopausal? Because I'm afraid it didn't occur to me to pack condoms for the trip."
Jack scrubbed his face and said, "Oh my god."
Daniel turned and scooped a clean pair of boxers and a t-shirt out of the bureau.
Jack extricated himself from blouse and bra with unsurprising dexterity—the man had been trained for parachutes, after all—but sat on the end of the bed to pull his pants off, likely mistrusting his balance. Daniel padded over and held out his hands for the clothes. He brushed his knuckles over Jack's collarbone, but Jack took hold of his hand and squeezed, subtle redirection, so he just handed Jack the boxers and tee, then turned away to bin the shirt and underthings and hang the pants neatly on the rack in the closet. Jack wandered into the bathroom.
"I just brushed my tonsils," Jack informed him a moment later, in a peeved contralto. "Different fucking jaw."
Daniel squeezed in next to him, bumping his shoulder, and suggested, "Brush your tonsils on that side of the sink."
Jack spat and rinsed, then leaned on his hands on the counter, waiting for Daniel. Daniel set his hand on Jack's shoulder, stroked down the long, firm back muscles. Came back up to cup Jack's neck, thumbing carefully along the tendon. Jack dropped his head, exposing his nape.
"Bed." Not a come-on.
They climbed in, zapped the lights. If they weren't fucking, Jack usually flopped onto his belly and was asleep in two minutes flat. Tonight, though, he log-rolled more than once, finally settling on his side with a weary sigh. Daniel woke a few times to his tossing and turning, and then once more to muffled curses from the bathroom, after Jack had managed to slip out of bed unnoticed; either his balance was even crappier in the dark, or he'd forgotten to sit down. Daniel held the covers up for him when he returned, and was surprised when Jack rolled straight in under his arm. Jack usually woke up first in the mornings, and didn't like having to extricate himself from under another body when he rose. Daniel took the aberration gladly, and tucked himself around the warm body in front of him. Jack scooched back until he could pull Daniel's forearm over and snug it in between his breasts. "Oh ho I see how it is," Daniel mumbled into Jack's hair. "I'm a prop."
"Yeh whuz new," Jack wuffed, and fitted his arm over Daniel's.
Daniel woke several hours later in the same position exactly, excepting the sturdy erection curving up into an ample feminine behind. Daniel took stock, a little surprised he hadn't woken up in a panic because the person in bed with him smelt wrong, but his subconscious was apparently either very smart or very stupid. Given certain past experiences, mostly, but not all, having to do with his professional life, he'd have bet on stupid, but today it was just as well. The hard-on felt delicious, pressing up against Jack. Daniel sighed gently. Kissed the hair his breath had ruffled, and began to pull away to stretch and flop on his back, stroking his hand along Jack's arm as he did. There was no point in stealth; Jack was either already awake or would be within seconds.
"You gonna use that?" Jack's sleep-rough voice stopped him.
Daniel curled back in. "Hullo." Threaded his arm back under Jack's, palming his stomach. "Sleep okay?"
Jack turned; Daniel responded, managing blankets and sliding thigh across thigh in slow, lovely coordination. Jack's face was a shock. It reflected on Daniel's face, and Jack's turned resigned. Daniel pushed in immediately, scooping under Jack's shoulder and kissing his lips. The shock and the pained look wilted his erection a little, but he kissed with all the love he had, and Jack shut his eyes and kissed back. For a couple minutes they just made out, sweetly.
"So..." said Jack, and wiggled his hand down in between their bodies until it was touching Daniel's half hard cock.
Daniel pulled back just enough to stare at him. "Are you serious?"
"No, Daniel, I have my hand on you because I woke up this morning and thought, 'Gee, what a great day to be a cocktease.'"
Daniel frowned back and said cautiously, "I just didn't want to assume you'd be up for anything."
"Woman, here, not invalid."
"You're uncomfortable." That just made Jack look uncomfortable, which made Daniel realize he hadn't really, before.
"Fine. I'm uncomfortable," Jack snipped. "I'm a shambling, dispraxic mess, never mind," and he started to heave up to sitting.
"No! Jesus," Daniel burst out, and grabbed hold. "You're not—I—crap. This is messed." He shifted his grip, drifted his hand across Jack's breastbone. The outlines of Jack's nipples were just visible beneath the faded t-shirt. "I'm interested," he said honestly. "In this body, in this, this you—I been fascinated since I set eyes on you—I'm just trying like a heroic idiot to—"
"Be good to me, yes." Jack's tone softened. "Got that."
Daniel abruptly lightbulbed. "You're suggesting this to be good to me." Jack made a duh face. "I just, I assumed of course that it'd be the last thing you'd be up for. You really hate not being yourself. It's—really kind of ridiculous how much evidence I can cite in support of this fact, but there you go." Daniel thought it made a sad sort of irony that he himself would have adored the whole experience, the understanding to be had from it. Jack, given the choice, would probably have been more interested in the knowledge to be got from taking a spin in a fighter jet as a female than in having sex, but that was right out: for the first time in thirty years, he'd let his quals lapse.
Finally, he said, "I will not do this unless it's okay for you." He invoked a dimple. "Not even for science."
Jack folded his arms behind his head and narrowed his eyes. After five seconds of study, he nodded once and rolled into motion. "Shower."
"C'mon. Help me up, willya!"
Daniel scrambled off the bed and reached out hands for Jack to tug. They migrated to the bath, where Daniel, following orders, stripped one-handed and bent to start the water while Jack more methodically wiggled out of his shorts and shirt. They climbed in with their hands on each other. Jack handed Daniel the soap. "If you'd be so kind."
"You have really great breasts for a middle-aged woman," he observed, taking the bar and lathering. Truth: two days old, they were entirely unabused by gravity. Daniel buried his nose between them and took a whiff. Jack poured shampoo on his head. He commenced a sudsy massage, and Jack reciprocated, sliding hands up underneath arms, across traps and deltoids, up over strong, straight collarbones and back down to the fascinating, alien breasts. He palmed them, circled inward. Thumbed the nipples. Let the soap rinse away so he had a little more friction to play with. "Does this feel good?"
"Weird, mostly...I'm not turned on."
"I'm starting to be."
"Really?" Jack looked down for evidence. The eyebrows, the surprised, upturned mouth...there was no word in the world for his expression but "boyish". He reached out and tugged lightly on Daniel's cock: a friendly, familiar gesture.
Taking his task seriously, Daniel went to his knees to wash Jack's legs and feet, carefully kneading the long, defined muscles, caressing the scarred knees. Jack braced on his shoulders. You're a canny bastard, Jack, Daniel thought, as the touching, the task and the warmth did what they were intended to do and soothed and calmed them both. On his way back up, he abandoned the soap and pressed his thumbs firmly, gently, along the creases where thighs met trunk, and once standing, cupped Jack's genitals and rubbed his fingers back and forth, just a bit.
"That does feel interesting, but I trust my balance about as far as I can throw my back out."
"I've got you," Daniel murmured, but he withdrew his hand.
Jack leaned in abruptly, wrapped both arms around Daniel's torso and kissed. Pushed him open and licked hot and deep: an unambiguously sexual plunge. Daniel gasped around Jack's tongue and clutched back. One foot went back on the shower floor, automatically strengthening his stance, and Jack groaned to feel it, as if he found being held steady, held safe, by Daniel's arms and Daniel's body, some kind of turn-on. He was heating up the kiss on purpose, working Daniel's mouth and skritching fingers up into his hair in all the ways he knew got Daniel going. And Daniel was getting hot with it, curiosity and the novelty of it all, but more than anything by the fact that Jack had done it: by the evidence that he wanted Daniel to do this, have this.
He reached back and killed the water flow; they staggered out. Daniel dried himself in a fast scrub, then dried Jack by reeling him in for a lip-lock and rubbing down the back of him, then turning him and lipping his neck while he stroked the towel across belly and breasts.
They returned to the bedroom, where Daniel followed Jack onto the bed, followed his body right down into the pillows. Pressed him down, aligning first their hips, then pressing his belly against Jack's belly, then chest against chest. He slid his toes down Jack's calves, and his palms against the sheets on either side of Jack's arms. Nuzzled his face against Jack's face: nose and lips and eyelashes. Gave a lazy, friction-hindered thrust without lifting. "Huh," Jack exhaled, breath hot at the corner of Daniel's mouth. Daniel kissed into the opposite corner. He let himself lie heavy, let Jack feel himself taking Daniel's weight.
"I know you," he breathed into Jack's damp skin. "I know you...perfectly." He brought his hand up to cup Jack's jaw and throat.
Jack's most powerful erogenous zones were exactly the same ones that triggered his defensive reflexes: balls, anus, major arteries. It was an intriguingly one-way valve: in a skirmish, aiming for his carotid or his nuts was equally threatening and equally non-sexual; they were just vulnerable places to be defended. But in private, Daniel's thumb brushing over the pulse at Jack's throat connected some circuit in Jack's brain: it was a turn-on for Jack to permit those places to be touched. The first time Daniel had got him face down on the bed, slid down his body and softly touched his lips to the small of his back, right over his kidneys, Jack had let out a tiny, ragged cry, and opened for Daniel like the pages of a book.
Just now, every inch of Jack's skin counted as a vulnerable part. Today, it wasn't necessarily so straightforward.
Daniel kissed Jack's breasts, but didn't linger. He stayed a little longer over the comfortable softness of belly, smoothing fascinated hands over its curve. Jack flexed; feeling it, Daniel dug his thumbs down to feel the steely abdominals underneath. Jack made a noise that was part pleasure and part self-mockery, and meant, Well, thank goodness those are still there. His hand drifted down (as always) to rest on Daniel's hair. Daniel laughed into Jack's pores, then followed the stream of air with his tongue, licking along the furrow, such as it was, at his navel. Jack made a predictable aagh! noise and shoved Daniel's forehead with his palm: "Git!" Daniel snickered his way south.
—To the crux of the matter, Daniel thought dryly, in the prudent confines of his own head. He lipped and nuzzled along the top of Jack's pubic hair. Opened his mouth and breathed out, softly, as if he were fogging a glass to draw on with his finger. Jack shuddered. He stroked his hands up Jack's thighs, warming the skin, setting atoms jostling. Inviting Jack, through touch, to open himself a little more. And waiting, patiently, trying to afford a little trust in his own adaptable anthropologist's mind, until he could look at Jack's sex and see something other than absence.
Daniel loved cock well and truly; Jack had not been his first experience with a man, and he loved Jack's male body with a ravenous hunger he had trouble explaining even to himself. But until he's fallen so deeply and permanently in love with Jack, he'd have considered himself on the straightish side of bisexual. He had used to love cunnilingus. There was really nothing else he knew that was such an intense sensory experience: the heady, tidal smell, his nose right there, up close, juices on his chin. He'd been able to make Sha're hot and slippery within seconds, she was that sensitive and eager. So it was odd to lie there, resting on his elbows between his partner's spread thighs, combing meditative fingers through surprisingly soft hair, smoothing it outward, away from the dark, mouth-watering folds of labia, the prominent clitoral hood—and find himself thinking about deviance.
It was all in the framing. The frames you built for your life and the expectations your subconscious started accumulating, whether you were paying attention or not. After such-and-such number of years with Jack (he'd never figured out which anniversary to privilege), the act he was about to perform felt—kinky.
Daniel said out loud, laughter tugging at his lips, "Gay sex is so normal." He caught Jack's eye across Jack's body, watched his brows pull together as he absorbed that.
"Your lunacy is so normal," Jack retorted, and then inhaled the rest of his reply as Daniel bent and licked a long, broad stripe from perineum to clit.
Jack didn't quite achieve the proverbial arch off the bed. "Normal is a verb," Daniel said breathlessly, and licked again.
After that he ignored Jack's clitoris. He stroked the pads of his thumbs down the soft, pillowy skin on either side of it, used his tongue on the slippery topography underneath. Pressed his fingers up against the hymen and pushed in gentle circles—not in, but on, still on the outside, in a sort of delicate mimicry of the rhythm of intercourse. He slipped his middle finger a little way inside. It was promisingly easy, not at all virginal. Jack's hips moved awkwardly and restlessly.
In a soft, quiet voice, Daniel began to describe Jack to himself.
"Your clitoris is engorged. A few minutes ago it was tucked out of sight, protected, but now it's on display...your whole vulva is dark and full and shiny, like an overripe fruit someone split in two with their thumbs. It tastes good, starchy." He touched as he talked. He liked the sound and feel of the Latin: "clitoris" a light, agile tongue-flick, "vulva" dark, convex and stately. The most beautiful words he knew for the female body were Abydonian, but those had no place in this bed, not now.
Jack didn't comment. Jack said, "Yeah," in a shaky alto as Daniel slid two fingers cautiously inside. Jack said, "'s good. More."
He stroked, feeling the space, slid in to the knuckles and began a deep, gentle, but insistent press and rub. Jack grunted. His hand crept over his stomach and pressed down just above his own pubic bone as though he were trying to cup and hold the vibrations Daniel was causing. Daniel brought his other hand up and cupped Jack's. Then he took over, nudging Jack's hand aside, and rubbed the spot in slow circles.
When Daniel looked up, Jack was not looking back. He had settled his head and shoulders on the pillow, and was breathing slowly and very deeply, quiet and controlled. Focused.
Daniel dipped his head and flicked Jack's clit very lightly with his tongue. He tried to imagine it, an arrowhead of sensation focused in such a small place. Jack's breath hitched gorgeously. Daniel settled into a pattern, with his lips and tongue and hands, and Jack's breath finally transmuted into voice, and started climbing. He sucked hard, and Jack gave a needy cry, a shocked sound, soprano. And then again, and Daniel realized with a shock that Jack was getting aroused by his own vocalizations. He raised his face, needing to see, keeping his fingers inside Jack and pressing his thumb against his clit to replace his tongue. What he saw made him rear up and brace on all fours above him. He kissed his mouth, his upper lip, getting Jack's own smell under his nose, then dragged himself down and got his mouth on Jack's neck. So he wouldn't stop the sounds.
"Maybe y—maybe—you could go in, now," Jack's voice rasped from just above his ear.
"Come first. Come like this, come on."
Jack whined. "Don't give a fuck about that. Want you in me, while it feels like this."
"Really? God, are— Okay—okay." Daniel pulled back a little, tried to collect himself. "Do you want to trade spots? It's a good position for"—virgins—"controlling the depth of—"
A belly laugh puffed out of Jack. "A thousand kinds of no. 'mnggood here."
"Okay." Daniel knelt up. Prayed to the cosmos at large that doing this condomless was not a monumental error waiting to happen. Reached for the lube again, because that, at least, he didn't need to be dumb about. He lubed himself, lubed his fingers and put two of them back in Jack—but Jack was ready: wet and swollen and unresisting. Daniel positioned, bracing on knees and fist, and found Jack reaching down to help, fingers fumbling eagerly on his penis. Daniel looked for Jack's gaze again and, when he had it, reminded, "Usual rules for firsts apply."
Jack's flushed face cracked into a grin, and he stroked thumbs down Daniel's shaft in a reflexive gesture of comfort, however oddly placed. "Babe. It's just sex. We've been doing this for years."
Ruefully, Daniel grinned back. "Yeah, yeah, insert Tab A...okay." And he slowly, carefully probed his way past the slick, complex folds of inner labia, nudged across what passed for Jack's hymen, and slid all the rest of the way in in one long, sweet push.
"Holy...are you? please..."
"'t's okay. good. Just rest a sec..."
Daniel didn't talk then, just stayed, straight-armed, head hanging, over Jack's breathing body. He was thinking, This is a might-have-been. This is your alternate universe, come to visit for a minute. He was thinking, This would never have been, because if Jack had really been female, he never would have—and then he shuddered with reflexive loneliness and clutched Jack's arm—and found Jack trying to get his attention.
"Hi," said Jack.
Daniel rallied and said, "Check us out!" and they lay for another half dozen heartbeats, feeling each other, the strange, smooth fit, the pulse of their blood.
Jack leant up a little, straining at the shoulders, and Daniel leant down so Jack could say, in confidential tones, "This is the time in sex when we move."
Daniel burst out laughing, and did as he was told.
He tried to stay gentle, moving in small, experimental pushes, but Jack didn't seem interested in that: he palmed Daniel's ass and squeezed, hard.
"What's it like?"
"B'sides—easier on the spine?"
Daniel took that as a challenge, gathered Jack in closer and circled his hips, deep and fluid. "What's it like?"
Jack groaned in surprise. When Daniel caught his gaze and held it, still moving inside him, he blurted, startled into verbosity, "It's like—spreading—I—god, Daniel, I can't describe—you know, dammit—"
The poor man was inarticulate in bed even under normal circumstances. "'S okay," Daniel shushed. "Yes. I can feel. I can feel you." And he turned to the task of doing just that.
He was right, though. About the firstness of it. Typical sex between them was an exercise in learned perfection. It was intense, varied, shockingly intimate. But even when they were trying something new (and if Daniel brought more suggestions to the table, Jack was a creative bastard when he felt the need to be), they knew each other so well that "challenge" was never really a word that applied, anymore. But this was. Before long, Jack was panting in deep, voiceless exhalations punched out from the diaphragm, but his hips weren't moving much. His body, bracketing and bracketed by Daniel's, felt, perversely, bigger than usual, as if its clumsiness were taking up extra space and slowing them down, like a bulky winter coat in a footrace. His brow was creased. They weren't getting anywhere.
Daniel said, "Here, let me—" and wiggled a hand under Jack's shoulder. He hooked an ankle around his calf for good measure, telegraphing his intent, and when Jack gave him a look of extreme dubiousness but didn't actually stop him, hugged and rolled, putting Jack on top. He slipped out in transit, but that was fine.
Jack pushed himself up to sitting, looking disgruntled and uncertain. Daniel set a hand on his thigh and said, "I think this needs to be your show."
"Don't know what the fuck I'm doing, Daniel!"
"So? Then do it wrong."
Jack looked down. He sighed a bit, but reached down between them, to where Daniel was lightly grasping his dick, and curled his fingers over Daniel's. "Yes?" Daniel confirmed. In answer, Jack raised up, and sank down, sheathing Daniel to the hilt.
He balanced there for a moment, frowning down at himself, seated like a precarious stack of horseshoes on Daniel's hips. "I feel ridiculous."
He looked ridiculous. "You look ridiculous. Don't worry about it."
And like that, Jack relaxed, and his body stopped looking ridiculous, and became compelling. Morning had broken while Daniel had had his back to the room; light seeped in through the crack in the curtains and glanced off Jack's hair and the muscular curve of his shoulder. "Huh," breathed Daniel, mostly to himself. Jack's expression turned inward, brow creasing in a completely different way, and then turned engaged, smoothing out as he tested his seat, got his balance, flexed. Daniel felt his face suddenly split in a smile. He was looking at Jack's cockpit face. Yeah, he thought, but didn't say aloud, that's right. You can fucking well fly anything. Instead, he gave an easy, but attention-stirring thrust, and pulled gently on Jack's arm. "Kiss me."
Jack curled down, moaning a little with the change of angle, the pressure. The point was to pull his attention away from his hips, and distract him into motion. After a minute or two of luxurious, gradually intensifying petting, Daniel felt the ploy succeed. Jack noticed a moment later, and retreated enough to tuck his chin and look. Daniel pulled his arms in and palmed Jack's heavy breasts, cupped them as Jack moved.
"Yeah," Daniel told him hoarsely. "Like that, just like that."
"Oh," said Jack.
"Harder," said Daniel. "Come on. That's it."
"Daniel," said Jack. "Ah, Daniel!" and he reached down, unseeing, unerring, and tugged Daniel up to meet his mouth. His whole body gripped Daniel's, knowing what it wanted, striving for it, grinding against his pubic bone, sucking him in. Daniel clutched Jack's ass—fingers pushing into the crack, denting muscle—and scrunched against the mattress, letting Jack's body show him the angle it wanted. He felt engulfed, carried by and subordinate to Jack's sexuality: if the touchstone of heterosexual sex was penetration, Daniel felt this as its Ruben-vase opposite. Jack cried out against Daniel's mouth and then reared up again, clearly close now, and it was the sight of him, skin mottled, head thrown back, breasts pushed forward, that shoved Daniel abruptly, irresistibly into climax. He felt a word drag out of him. He clung to Jack, buried impossibly deep, and, however strange it felt, he was home.
Some minutes later, from beneath the comfortable, familiar weight of Jack's collapsed sprawl, Daniel asked, "Did you come?" and was served right when Jack hesitated.
"Honestly," Jack admitted, "I'm not quite sure." Daniel tried to shift, and got an "Aht!" and a tightened arm around his waist. "Leave it," Jack rumbled. "Anyway, I—definitely somethinged. Doesn't matter. I feel good. If there's more, we'll continue the voyage of discovery later."
"Daniel! It felt—still feels—really, really good. Happy, here. I don't want more right now. I'm sorry that's all I can tell ya."
"You realize what a horrible line you've just fed me, and how grievously you've wounded my masculinity."
"I'm feeling some belated sympathy for my wife, yeah."
Daniel subsided, and they lay quietly for while. Their sweat cooled and their breathing synched up. Watery sunlight slid lazily up the window glass. Zen and the Art of Sunday Morning Afterglow.
Jack's phone beeped from the bedside table. Jack unwound an arm and scooped, propping himself up on Daniel's conveniently wide chest. It was quite the view, those breasts smooshed together between his elbows. Daniel bumped his hand in underneath the phone so he could fondle the cleavage. "Text from Davis," Jack reported absently. "Ah. McKay's ready for us. Er, me."
"Already? Ha, no dead presidents after all." Daniel stroked his index finger down the soft crease between Jack's breasts. "I'm...only a little sorry. I was constructing plans."
"Daniel, you realize that real women practice having orgasms for years."
Daniel let his eyes widen. "What, can't you wear a body for a day and know intuitively exactly how it works?"
"Strangely," said Jack, "no." He grinned, then leaned down and kissed Daniel's exaggerated pout. "And while you may be irked to have finally found a piece of alien tech you can't instantly read, it's one that I have absolutely no investment in mastering." He kissed again. "I prefer"—kiss, nuzzle—"the gay."
"Lucky for me," Daniel breathed, tilting his head back. And then nearly bashed noses when he tipped forward again to catch Jack's gaze. "Me, too," he said. "I'd want you any way I could have you, that goes without—But I want—" He ran his hands up Jack's arms, and failed at articulating what he wanted.
Jack loomed over him, dark-eyed. "Lucky for you," he rescued him, "you got everything."