The roadway was a complete disaster. The heavy rains on P4X-010, also known as Candara, were giving an excellent reason why paving was a good idea. Between the gate and the Candaran capital, there was only one road. While it was wide, that only allowed for more mud. The biggest issue, as far as Jack was concerned, was that the road wound around a mountain side. With the rains, the chance of landslides were high.
Jack wanted to go home. He hated torrential downpours and clingy, damp, drizzly weather. Why did every planet—okay, not every planet—have to be overcast or rainy? Candara had started out very promising. Sunny days, friendly people. And then yesterday, the planet turned into Colombia. Next to crappy weather, Jack hated Colombia. Nasty damn place.
His boots squished in the mud as he walked on the far right of the road. He had the ominous feeling that every step of his right foot would find that piece of earth ready to give way. Behind him, Daniel was dictating into his small recorder, talking about parallel patterns and cross-pollinations and …
A raindrop zeroed in and found Jack’s eye, despite their ponchos and boonie hats, and Jack growled and whirled in place. “Daniel, record a note to remind me to get better goddamn rain hats!”
Daniel grinned at him in sympathy and raised his recorder and pushed the stop button. “Just did, Jack.”
Jack growled again and stepped aside, walking next to Daniel for a few yards until he realized why he couldn’t do that. The damn mud suction-cupped his damn boots and he was damn tired of it. He moved behind Daniel and growled even louder. “When we get back to the SGC, I’m reassigning us to another mission.”
Daniel looked over his shoulder. “But I’m not done with—“
“I know, I know,” Jack said glumly. “You can come back when the weather’s fairer.”
“I can just stay here,” Daniel offered, giving Jack that wise-ass look. Privately, Jack loved that look.
“Forget it,” Jack said, trying to keep his tone mild and failing. “We can come back. I’m not loaning you out again.”
“Why Jack, are you saying you can’t do without me?” Daniel asked, smiling and looking back in front of him.
“Yes, wise ass, I’m saying that,” Jack said, wiping his eyes. “And if you ask me that again in front of anyone but Carter and Teal’c, I’m saying something else.” He could tell Daniel was still smiling just by the up-tilt of his glasses’ left temple. Oddly, knowing he was smiling but without making a sound was distracting, and it sent Jack into wondering why Daniel rarely chuckled. Everyone else, including himself, made short laugh sounds. Why didn’t Daniel? The man could talk up a storm, so he wasn’t exactly a quiet person, so why didn’t he ever chuckle? Jack considered asking him but talking about it in the middle of a squall sounded depressing.
Daniel looked over his shoulder, then moved to his left until he was walking beside Jack. “What other missions do we have waiting?”
“I haven’t checked the results of the MALP recons so I don’t know. All I know is that I’m gonna get an ear infection if I stay here much longer.”
Daniel jogged his brows, and once more, Jack wondered why he didn’t just make a sound with it. Why didn’t he do that? Everyone else grunted, harrumphed, chortled, chuckled, and snorted. Daniel just coughed. Or sighed. Or cleared his throat and muttered under his breath.
Jack found a deeper mud pill with his right foot and the water soaked into his boot, creating a tiny puddle under his socked toes. “Sonofabitch!” he said, halting and picking up his foot. “I am sick of this shit!” At that, Daniel half-smiled. Jack stared at him. “That’s funny?”
“Well … yes.”
Overhead, a spider web of lightning spread across the dark clouds. “Oh, that’s just freakin’ perfect.” He’d had enough and expression screamed it as he stared at Daniel. Unfortunately, Daniel picked that time to chuckle. This was what did it? “Shut up,” Jack growled at him and started walking. When the sky erupted into an ear-shattering roar that made Jack cringe, he threw up his hands. “Even more perfect!” he yelled against the thunder.
“You knew it was coming, Jack,” Daniel chided loudly.
“Not that loudly, dammit!”
The rain came down harder and the sound of it drowned out any normal conversation. That was too funny, since Jack didn’t think he could even have a normal conversation during this shit. Echoing rumbles spread around them, then another flash lit up their faces and was immediately followed by a window-breaking explosion. That meant the storm was directly overhead. Perfect. There was nowhere to go for safety.
Jack touched Daniel’s elbow as he started to jog. “C’mon!”
Daniel wrinkled his nose and called after him, “No, I’ll just walk back if you don’t mind!”
Jack shook his head as he passed a dead branch sticking up from a brushy pile of plant refuse, and he turned to yell at Daniel to move his ass. The ground, however, had other ideas and it collapsed under Jack’s feet.
“Jack!” Daniel yelled, taking a step to run after him but his own ground gave way and pulled him down the side of the mountain like a kid on a water slide. Debris whipped past, slapping his arms and legs as he rode the wave of mud.
Beyond him, somewhere, Jack screamed in anger and fear, afraid that they were falling to their deaths and he hadn’t had a chance to clear the air. To talk about the dumbass stuff that had happened two nights ago. He called out Daniel’s name, not knowing what the hell else to say, or if Daniel could even hear him, and then he couldn’t even hear his own voice.
As Daniel fell, he saw the ground in front of him suddenly disappear. A drop off! He tried to grab something that was still rooted in the ground but nothing would hold. He suddenly wished he’d told Jack how he’d felt when the chance came up two nights passed. He wasn’t even sure if it would have mattered or made any kind of difference in his life, but at least it could have been said. But really, now that he was about to d—
The ground beneath him disappeared and Daniel felt soft mist on his cheeks before recognizing the sound of a waterfall. Upside-down, he caught sight of granite cliffs before he hit a body of water like a stone. It stung, badly, and there’d be some nasty bruised ribs, but he didn’t care. He was too busy thinking “I’m not dead!” over and over. However, experience warned him that he was still in danger from falling debris and he ducked under the surface to swim for calmer water.
Perhaps five minutes later, Daniel broke the surface near what he hoped was a wide enough beach. As soon as his sight cleared, he breathed a sigh of relief and swam the few strokes to shallower water. Straightening up, he wiped the excess water from his eyes and hair, smoothing back the latter, and turned to look up at the obvious rent in the slopeline. He keyed his mic, knowing it was waterproof, and prayed it hadn’t been damaged.
“Sam? Teal’c? This is Daniel, come in?”
“Daniel?” said Sam. “You’re coming in through static. Where are you?”
“I, uh,” Daniel said with a bark of sad laughter. “Jack and I were caught in a landslide on the way back to the gate. I’m fine, I think, but I don’t know where Jack is.” As he said that, he spotted Jack lying on his back in the water about twenty yards away. His eyes were closed. “Hang on!”
Despite his exhaustion, a renewed energy created from panic helped him to swim out to get Jack and bring him to shore. As soon as he pulled Jack to safety, he carefully dragged him to a small grassy area closer to the granite cliffside. He felt for Jack’s pulse, which he found steady, and looked him over for wounds. There was only a bloody bump on the right side of his head that wasn’t bleeding too badly, as scalp wounds go.
“Daniel, is the Colonel alright?” Sam asked.
She sounded so normal, but he knew that was just theatre. Inside, she’d be scared for them. “Jack’s got a lump on the side of his head so he must’ve been knocked out,” he said, panting. It then occurred to him that Jack could have landed face down and that would’ve been bad. Dead bad.
“I’m dialing home to get a rescue set up. What’s your position?” Sam asked.
“Well, I favor a woman’s right to choose,” he said as he turned in place, looking up at the walls of the lake. “I definitely favor equality for all and …” He paused, knowing she’d be rolling her eyes about now. “Okay, sorry. I’m a little punchy after that near death experience. We’ve fallen maybe … five hundred feet? Can’t really tell the angle of declination but that probably doesn’t matter. I can’t even see the road where we are. There’s a lake down here, fed by a waterfall, and except for the side that collapsed, we’re surrounded by high granite cliffs. Can’t see where the lake lets out so I don’t know if that’s a viable method of escape, but I’m not leaving Jack while he’s unconscious so please don’t tell me to check it out.”
“Daniel Jackson. Major Carter is talking to Hammond via the MALP. A rescue operation is underway. Stay where you are.”
“Not exactly a problem, Teal’c,” Daniel answered with an edge of sarcasm. He looked around for a better place to drag Jack, but there really wasn’t anything else but this lip of land and sparse clump of grass. Overhead, the sky was clearing and he imagined what Jack would be saying if he were conscious.
He took off his field vest and set it beside him as he sat down by Jack’s shoulder. As he looked down at Jack, he held the panic at bay. The seriousness of Jack’s condition would be revealed by however much time it took to wake up. Daniel took off his fatigue shirt and folded it into a workable pillow and set it under Jack’s head. Wet or not, it would help cushion him.
There were large, dry rocks to his right and Daniel considered taking off his t-shirt to let it dry faster but the newly unclouded sky might make him burn. For the umpteenth time in his life, he wished he could skip the burning and go straight to tanned, like Jack and Sam did. He decided to keep his shirt on. It wasn’t all that important and why was he bothering about that at a time like this?
“We’re on our way, Daniel,” Sam said, her voice making him jump slightly. “Switch to IDX. We’ll be out of contact but it shouldn’t be too long, maybe an hour or two. If longer, switch back for an update.”
“No problem, Sam. Switching now.” The IDX was the homing beacon, and he turned the channel button to AUX, activating it. Thankfully, this one was silent. Their old radios had homing beacons that beeped and a few years ago, when they’d been in a running firefight and had gotten trapped in a cave, the waiting for rescue had turned into a study in stress management. It hadn’t just been the incessant noise, but more a case of “Here I am, come kill me!”
As the minutes passed and the sun began to dry his shirt as well as parts of Jack’s uniform, Daniel spent the time looking at his surroundings and watching Jack’s face. A deep ache resided in his chest and he was used to burying it, ignoring it. But sitting here worrying about Jack made that ache front and center. Adding to it was the bizarre thing that had happened two days ago.
They’d all had just a little too much of the local hooch during their welcome banquet. It hadn’t been their fault; the hooch was the type of stuff that snuck up on you and bit you in the ass when you weren’t looking. The Candarans had given them a room together. Sam and Teal’c had shared another. At first, it had been okay, but that night, the conversation that should never have happened, happened.
“You seeing anyone?” Jack had asked.
They’d been stripping down to skivvies when he’d said that and it had damn near caused Daniel to fall on the floor. Jack had never asked that. Even if he was curious, he’d never asked. It was a team taboo to talk about private lives while on mission. Jack rarely talked to Daniel about private stuff like relationships even when they weren’t at work, and Daniel had always assumed it had been because Jack simply didn’t give a damn. That drunkish question, however, had said differently.
“Why?” Daniel had asked.
“I just wondered.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about that.”
“Remember, Jack? You established rules from day one. NO talking about personal stuff like relationships while we’re working or offworld on a mission.”
“I was mostly talking about you and Carter,” Jack said.
“What does that mean? That makes no sense, Jack.”
They’d been in t-shirts and boxer shorts by that time and there’d been only the one bed. To cut Jack off from his strange topic, Daniel had gotten in bed. The tactic hadn’t worked and Jack had just gotten in next to him. He’d turned to him, hand under his head.
“She’s a girl and you two are thick as thieves. Didn’t want any gossip.”
“Oh, no you didn’t just say that, Jack.”
“Yes I did. What’s wrong?”
“It’s sexist as shit, that’s what’s wrong. Just because she’s a woman, you expect her to gossip.”
Daniel had started to turn away from him but Jack had grabbed his arm as he’d sat up in bed. It had forced Daniel to either sit up with him or crane his neck uncomfortably; he’d decided to sit up.
“Shit, I’m sorry about that,” Jack had said.
“If you feel that way, why’s Sam on the team?”
“Because she’s a smart egghead, that’s why.”
“That’s sort of redundant.”
He’d said it with a smirk, and with a contrariness because he’d been about to laugh. Sometimes, when Jack pissed you off, he also made you laugh. It was aggravating as hell.
“Whatever. So are you?”
“Am I what?”
“No,” Daniel had told him. Then with heavy sarcasm, he’d asked, “Are you?”
“I wish I was,” Jack had said.
“Who?” Daniel had asked, and right after, he’d wanted to chew his own tongue off. He’d been certain that Jack had been about to confess feelings for Sam.
“You,” Jack had said.
Daniel had frozen, as if time had come to a standstill. He hadn’t known what the hell to say to Jack, possibly for the first time in their friendship.
Then Jack had waved his hand drunkenly. “It’s impossible, of course. But …” He’d given Daniel an unreadable look, filled with an intensity that had been felt below the waist. Then suddenly, Jack had abruptly lain down and closed his eyes. “Nah, never mind. ‘Night, Daniel.”
It had taken almost all night for Daniel to get to sleep, trying to figure out how to explain what had just happened, or how to whitewash it the next day. It had proved unnecessary. Since that day, Jack had acted as if he’d never said anything at all, and Daniel had let him. It had been a scary moment, what Jack had said. A life-changing moment. And like Jack, Daniel had gladly run away from talking about it and that damned alien hooch had turned into a ready-made alibi.
But now, it had taken falling down a damn mountain to get Daniel to think about talking to Jack about their feelings. He was alive. Jack was alive, albeit unconscious. What happened when he woke up? Daniel closed his eyes and groaned, bowing his head. Negative experience answered the question of what would happen when Jack woke up:
Things would go back to the status quo. So Daniel had to decide. Would he swallow the honesty and lock it away? Or would he take that courageous plunge and tell Jack how he felt. Either way would be hard. He took a few deep breaths, and when he opened his eyes … Jack was staring at him. Silently. Studying him.
Startled, Daniel shuttered his mind and reached for his vest pocket and the pain pills there, then grabbed his canteen. “Jack!” he said excitedly. “We’re okay. We got caught in a landslide. We’re now stuck in an isolated canyon or wherever this is, but rescue’s on the way.”
“Great,” Jack said, his brows knotting as he struggled to sit.
“Headache?” Daniel asked, immediately putting an arm under Jack to help him up.
“A bit, yeah,” Jack said, reaching up to feel the knot on his head and wincing. “Figures. Goddamn concussion probably.” Daniel handed him a pill packet and Jack ripped it open, dumped the two pills in his mouth, and took Daniel’s canteen to wash them down. “How long was I out?”
“Maybe twenty minutes,” Daniel guessed, looking at his dirt-encrusted watch. “It’s 1439, so maybe half an hour. I forgot what time it was when we left the village.”
“Your internal clock’s about right, as usual,” Jack said, looking around, moving his neck carefully. “It was close to 1400 when we left.”
“Right,” Daniel replied. “My radio is on IDX. Rescue’s on the way.” He filled Jack in on the conversation he’d had with Sam.
“You can’t even see this place from the road,” Jack said, squinting at the lake and the waterfall directly across. “I mean, we should have at least heard that waterfall.”
Daniel nodded. “We should have, yeah. The place feels like a canyon so it should have echoed, too.”
Jack sighed and looked overhead, shading his eyes. “’Least the sun’s out.”
“There’s that,” Daniel answered, stifling a grin.
Jack rummaged in his vest, which he too removed, and brought out two chocolate granola bars. He handed one of them to Daniel. “I know you ate yours already.”
“I’ve more in my pack,” Daniel said, taking the granola bar with a bit of defensiveness.
“Which isn’t here, Daniel. That’s my point.”
“Right,” Daniel said sarcastically, wishing he’d think up a different standard response to Jack’s criticism.
Jack picked up on the tone and he sighed more loudly and tapped Daniel’s knee. “I’m sorry. Not exactly helpful right now, am I?”
“Both our pack’s are on the FRED, Jack. Remember?”
Jack frowned and closed his eyes, then remembered when he’d asked Carter and Teal’c to take their packs to the FRED. “I forgot. Sorry, Daniel.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Daniel said, rewarding Jack with half a smile, but he quickly looked away, focusing on the hillside, then the cliffs behind him. “That ground’s too unstable. They’re gonna have to come over the cliffs to get us out of here.” All of a sudden, he knew Jack wanted to talk and panic hit Daniel like a Mack truck. He didn’t want to hear what he had to say. No, no, not at all. He was convinced that Jack would apologize. He’d walk it back.
Jack wasn’t looking anywhere but at Daniel’s face. That drunken moment a few days ago was his only concern at the moment. He’d been waiting for Daniel to say something about it after they were sober, despite his dumbassed standing order about keeping things strictly business while on mission. Daniel had obviously taken that standing order to heart, despite other past orders he hadn’t. Why? Was he mad? Was he embarrassed? Daniel wasn’t someone to let things slide, so what the hell was going on? Sooner or later, they’d have to talk about what had happened because Jack had to explain himself.
Was Daniel waiting till they got home? It seemed unlikely. They didn’t spend much time off base anymore. That was his own damn doing, too. Possibly that was something else he had to explain. The one thing Jack would not do was apologize for what he’d said a few nights ago, and … wait. Was that why Daniel didn’t want to talk about it? Was he afraid Jack would walk it back?
Maybe. But there was no way Jack could take back the feelings he’d long held for Daniel, now that they’d been let out of the bag. The only problem now was getting Daniel to understand the real reason Jack hadn’t wanted to talk about it. That, while he would welcome a relationship with Daniel, he didn’t want and would never allow a relationship to be started on the basis of a drunken confession. It would be as deplorable a thing to do as taking sexual advantage of someone while they were drunk.
So now, here he was, alone with Daniel after a fall that should have killed them both. It was a sign. As he watched Daniel carefully, there warred inside him a deep desire to grab the man and kiss the hell out of him. Jack rattled off a pros and cons list in his head and the pros side was seriously shorter. It had only one entry.
“Daniel?” Jack ventured, hating the heat that swarmed over his cheeks that had nothing to do with the sun.
“What?” Daniel asked, staring at the waterfall now.
“I’m … glad you’re not dead.” Jesus, Jack, he told himself. Way to man up.
“Backatcha, Jack.” Daniel ordered himself to keep his gaze away from Jack’s. Once he looked at him, it would be all over. Jack would say, “But …” and deny everything. Daniel would rather Jack never said another word to him.
“Look at me,” Jack asked, tugging Daniel’s bicep.
Daniel stringently ordered himself to disobey. Something’s gonna happen! Don’t look! He looked down instead as he turned his head, and grabbed his vest, deciding now would be a good time to inventory what he had. From his peripheral vision, Jack moved closer, and he’d stretched out his hand.
Daniel froze. Moving only his eyes, he looked up slowly … and Jack’s hand was coming toward him … passing him … what the … it headed for the back of his neck and oh shit oh shit oh fucking hell….
Soft lips met, and were warm, firm, and sweetly chaste. It was divine. Then seconds passed and Jack opened his mouth. When Daniel did the same, a warm sigh came from Jack before his tongue went in search of a fight. The safest fight in the world.
Then came the buzzing sound of a UAV and Daniel and Jack parted quickly, blushing red, and before they looked up at their inconvenient rescue camera, there was a long look between them and a silent promise quickly made. A promise to put a pin in this until they got home, where they would finish it, start it, allow desire to boil, to get to a bed, this time with naked abandon and need, with shaking hands and steady cocks, where they would indulge in the insanely wonderful power of sex.