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Force of Habit

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Being back home felt strange. Strange but good. What felt stranger, however, was having his own home...his own house. As an adult, he'd never lived in a house, except his two brief stays with Jack; coming home from Abydos and then from that Ancients' planet. Being back at Jack's had felt weird, but that also was in a good way. He hadn't thought that Jack would have invited him to stay again, as the man seemed a lot more distant than he'd ever known him to be. But when he'd had asked, Daniel had jumped at the chance, glad to be out of that damned VIP room finally.

Those three months in that room underground had driven him nuts. Though he was surrounded by people and not alone, he was in a controlled society, with artificial air and no sunlight. There were times where he'd asked Hammond if he could sleep on the mountainside. Less comfortable but a hell of a lot more peaceful. That had its own comfort, in a way.

Things had been...well, again, weird, for those few weeks there. Going home with Jack, sharing a shower, a kitchen, going to work. Daniel hadn't quite known what to do with himself. He'd felt like he was walking on eggshells sometimes, and periodically, that was still true. There was a deep pain behind Jack's eyes that hadn't been there before Daniel had ascended. Daniel had always wondered if it had been caused by Baal. It certainly couldn't have been his...death, his absence. After all, it practically took an executive order just to get Jack to say he cared about anyone. Anyone except Charlie.

And Sara. Daniel never wondered why Jack hadn't tried to get back together with her. It was the job. It was hard on relationships, and with Jack's already reserved personality, keeping secrets would only ruin things once again. There were times, many of them, where Daniel had wished things had been different. Wished things were different. But Jack was...heterosexual. And Daniel...

Wasn't.

Didn't matter. Jack was his friend, and probably, for all intents and purposes, his best friend. They'd been everywhere together, short of a tropical island in the South Pacific (and that wasn't an image Daniel should think of). They'd seen everything, done almost everything, and they knew each other well. But Jack was still an enigma to Daniel. Always would be. Such a wall of stone, lined with sarcasm, covering a soft, loving center. Some of that had seeped out apparently or Daniel wouldn't have been invited back to Jack's. Grateful was what Daniel felt. And relieved.

Now he was here, in his own...home. A house. It wasn't big, just a two-bedroom, but it was cute, quaint, like an old eccentric cottage, including the large stonework chimney and the multi-sectioned windows. How Hammond had pulled this off just four months after he'd returned to the SGC, Daniel couldn't begin to guess. But he did have a sneaking suspicion that Jack had been the one to find the house. Jack knew him, what he liked, and the house was simply perfect.

It had his things in it, things Jack had kept and saved. Some things changed, some things never did. Jack showed how he cared by action, not word, and this was one of them. Plus, Jack had brought a Christmas tree to decorate Daniel's first house. A nine foot tree that he and Teal'c had stuffed through the front door like Grinch in that silly-assed cartoon. Of course, the tree was brought inside, not taken out.

Sam and Teal'c had just left, having been called to Janet's to help her with her own tree. Daniel stood looking at all the new boxes of decorations, holding one of the small ornaments in his hand. Not as gaudy as ones he'd remembered in the past. Neither was it the typical ball ornament. Jack had bought him shapes. Moons, suns, stars, snowflakes, angels, snowmen. Every shape Daniel could think of that said 'Christmas'. Except the easily breakable tin spheres.

Daniel looked over at his friend, who seemed to be done--finally--putting the lights on the tree. Jack seemed so...engrossed. Daniel walked over to him just as Jack flipped the switch and stood back, satisfied.

"There," he said proudly. He looked over his shoulder at Daniel and grinned. "Looks cool, doesn't it?"

The man's eyes seemed to will Daniel to say 'yes', and though the tree did look cool with the lights on it, some strings blinking, some not, Daniel didn't feel much in the Christmas mood. Even so, he couldn't rob Jack of his enthusiasm. He nodded and smiled.

"It does. Very cool." He paused, then added, "You didn't have to do that, you know. I could have."

"I know, but I wanted to."

"And you mostly did it all, too," Daniel said. It wasn't a criticism but Jack hesitated as he picked up a silver garland. He stared at the tree, the garland, then Daniel. He immediately looked sheepish. "Force of habit, I guess. Sorry, Daniel."

Daniel gave him a brighter smile. "It's okay, Jack. Really. It's been an age since I've seen you so...animated."

A darkness seemed to settle over Jack for a moment before the man willed it away. "Hey, it's Christmas." As if that answered everything.

Daniel wished it did. Wished it would heal whatever was wrong with Jack. Forcing himself to be cheerful, he handed Jack a box of ornaments. "Well, thanks. Now let's get the rest of this decorated." Jack smiled, held his gaze just a little too long and for the rest of the evening, Daniel wondered what the look had meant.

~

It was Daniel's seventh Christmas Eve dinner with Jack, and it had been wonderful. This time, they'd been alone, and Daniel was thankful. For some reason, he didn't want a whole lot of company and it seemed as if Jack had read his mind. Relaxing near the fireplace, Jack suddenly got up from his stool perch near the fire--he'd always been the one to tend the fire and always would be--and reached underneath his tree to pull out a small square package. He shyly handed it to Daniel.

Sitting in the armchair next to the fire, Daniel blinked in surprise. They'd never bought each other presents, something that had been established a long time ago. By Jack. He had never never explained completely, and though Daniel had his own ideas why Jack would have instigated such a 'rule', all the man had ever said was that it was too hard to buy things for people. Daniel understood that quite well as he'd couldn't possibly guess what sort of gift Jack would like and not having to get him anything was almost a relief.

Which was why he was now very puzzled. Daniel looked up from the gift box. "Um, thanks. I...didn't get you anything."

Jack stared back, his gaze fiercely penetrating and Daniel began to fidget. Jack suddenly turned away, sat down, and started tending to the fire. "You came home. That's present enough."

That had to have been the bravest, hardest, thing Jack had ever said to him and Daniel knew it. He had no idea what to say. So he began to open his present instead.

He frowned in confusion. It was a large snowglobe. Inside, a snow-covered cabin, trees, and of course, sparkly white snow.

"Shake it," Jack said, startling him slightly.

Daniel shook it, not really knowing why, except that's what you did with snowglobes. He watched the snow fall onto the little cabin and was suddenly reminded of Jack's cabin, and the fact that he'd never been there. Still pondering why Jack had changed his mind about gift-giving, Daniel pushed himself out of the chair and stood in front his friend as he set the globe on the mantle.  "Thanks, Jack."

"You're welcome," Jack said, his voice tinged with a bit of emotion.

Daniel read that as Jack getting ready to say something else. He looked down at him, cocking his head to one side. Nervous, he looked into the fire, then back at Jack. "Was there something else?"

A tiny smile formed on one side of Jack's mouth as he stood up to look Daniel in the eye. Briefly. Then the man's gaze was back to the fire. "Yeah, actually. That's not really your present."

"It's not," Daniel half-stated.

"No."

"Okay." Daniel waited but Jack was driving him nuts. He looked at the red and black plaid flannel Jack wore and had a sudden urge to grab the collar and pull his best friend against him. The urge was almost like being hit with a furnace blast. Must be the fire, Daniel mused. He cleared his throat, about to ask for the 'real' present, but Jack saved him the trouble.

"I um...remember that site SG-14 discovered, the one that had all that archaeological stuff?"

Daniel's brow rose in surprise. "Yeah."

"Well, I kinda sorta got us assigned to it for maybe a week. Or thereabouts." Jack then cleared his throat several times and refused to look at him.

Daniel had to process that. He wasn't sure he'd heard or even understood what the man had just said. But an enormous amount of excitement started to well up inside him, if he'd understood Jack correctly.

Daniel had really wanted to turn that site SG-14 had discovered into a proper dig. He'd even contemplated asking Hammond for a leave of absence from the team to do just that. But it hadn't taken him long to decide otherwise. One reason was that Daniel hadn't wanted the past repeated. But the more important reason was that he hadn't wanted to work without his teammates, especially Jack. There were some things Daniel would not sacrifice anymore.

"So, what you're saying is that I'm actually going to get a chance to--"

"Dig around in a pile of dirt and look at old fossils and stuff, yes."

Daniel's heart began to race. "You said 'us'. That means--"

"That I got SG-1 assigned to it. Well, along with SG-15 and the remanned and refitted SG-8. SG-11's still on that naquada planet, digging up ore and--"

Jack's explanation was cut off as Daniel abandoned composure and hugged him. Then...kissed him.

It was a brief, friendly, non-sexual kiss of excitement. But it was also a firm kiss.

On the mouth.

Daniel's eyes widened when he realized what he'd done and his hand went to his mouth, still feeling the 'zing' Jack's lips had left. He then reached out, as if to wipe his kiss from Jack's face, but then realized that was stupid and pulled his hand back.

"Shit, I'm sorry, Jack."

Jack's reaction...well, it was interesting. He was dumbstruck. He stood there staring at Daniel with wide, surprised eyes. "Um, a simple 'thanks' would have sufficed, Daniel."

"I, I know, I'm sorry, I...shit." Daniel promptly blushed with embarrassment and sat down, staring at his hands, nervously lacing his fingers together. He cringed, forming a mask of regret and pain. "Fuck." What the goddamned hell was the matter with him? Had he lost his fucking mind?

Without looking up, he saw movement as Jack sat back down across from him. He heard his friend sigh, then flinched when Jack reached out to still his nervous hands.

"Daniel, look at me."

Schooling his features and preparing himself for a hopefully short conversation of I'm not interested, Daniel forced himself to look up. He didn't see anything but kindness on Jack's face, the man's amber-brown eyes bright not dim. Confusion returned, replacing his fears and regret.

"It's okay, Daniel."

Daniel shook his head and dropped his eyes, looking back at his hands...which Jack continued to hold. "No, I don't think so. I kissed you."

There was silence. Then Jack brought a hand up, lifting his chin, forcing Daniel to look at him again. "That wasn't a kiss."

Daniel misread him, thinking that Jack was dismissing it. "Oh, right, of course. That was definitely not a ki--"

"No," Jack interrupted.

He then leaned in and kissed him back.

Soft at first, but it firmed quickly. Then Jack's lips parted and Daniel inhaled quickly. There was no mistaking the reason for Jack to do that. For anyone to do that. His mind suddenly seemed to think that none of this was real, but his libido said it was and responded appropriately when Jack's tongue slipped into his mouth for a momentary taste. The kiss deepened for just a few seconds, their mouths hungry, then the action gentled and Jack pulled back slowly.

Daniel didn't remember closing his eyes, but he opened them. Jack's face was deadly serious but his eyes were the warmest Daniel had seen them since he'd returned home.

"Jack."

"That was a kiss."

Daniel's turn to clear his throat. "Yes, yes that was. Why?"

"Because it's about time. Don't you think?"

"Um...I hadn't actually thought about that, no."

Jack smiled then. "I have." He leaned in once more, his lips barely touching Daniel's. "Merry Christmas, Daniel," he said, and as he kissed him again, Jack left no doubt in Daniel's mind, and body that this--whatever it this was--very real.

 

~

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