Daniel was starting to hate coming to Atlantis. Oh, he still loved its stained glass spires and miles of undiscovered secrets, but it seemed like every time he came to the city, something went wrong, or something was trying to kill him. Well, no one was shooting at them this time, but this could certainly be filed under "wrong".
McKay had only asked Jack to activate the console, that was it. It was a different kind of interface, he’d said, and wasn't reacting to any of the natural or artificial ATA gene-bearing people who'd tried it. Jack had stepped up onto the platform, there had been a sizzle of light, and then someone else stood in his place.
No, not someone else--somewhen else. It was still obviously Jack, but instead of the silver-haired fifty-something Daniel was used to, there was a much younger man, sandy-haired and slightly dwarfed by the suddenly too large general's uniform. "Um, guys?" he said, and it was definitely Jack's voice. "Why did my knees suddenly stop hurting?"
McKay was already arguing furiously with Zelenka about what had just happened, while Daniel took a minute to assimilate what he was seeing. This Jack was younger than Jack had been when Daniel had first met him, but only a little. "Jack, um...I think I need to get you a mirror."
"No, I can see," Jack said, and Daniel turned to see that the wall behind him was reflective. "Is my hair brown again?"
"From what all my tests say, you're now about thirty years old and in perfect health," Keller said. She seemed almost apologetic.
The infirmary was crowded. Woolsey was there (Daniel could practically see him trying to figure out the paperwork necessary for reporting that one of his superiors was now twenty years younger), plus a few assorted scientists. Other medical personnel were wandering around, trying not to gawk. The weirdest thing was Jack, who had changed into a set of BDUs that actually fit, giving Daniel a particularly strong case of deja vu.
"Any idea how someone just pushed the rewind button on me? Or why?" Jack asked, and Daniel couldn't help a small smile.
"We are not yet sure," Zelenka said. "Eh, the device did not come with an instruction manual."
"That's why we wanted to turn it on and see what it did," McKay said. "Hmm, maybe it only activated for the General because of his age."
"Still here, you know," Jack said. He turned to Keller. "I'm not continuing to get younger? I'm in no obvious danger?"
"I'd like a second opinion from Dr. Lam, but no, I think you're perfectly safe now," Keller said “For now, anyway.”
“For now?” Daniel was slightly aghast.
“Well, we can’t always tell with these things.”
"Alright then," Jack said, hopping up off the table and bouncing on his heels slightly. "You," he said, pointing to McKay, "figure out what happened. I'm going home."
"But there are other tests--" McKay started, but Jack glared at him.
Jack looked at Daniel. “Want to grab a beer? I want to see if I get carded.”
Daniel shook his head, following him out of the infirmary. It wouldn’t be worth arguing that he couldn’t show them his ID.
"So Lam agrees with Keller. I'm fine, just half as old as I was two weeks ago."
"Not half." Daniel handed Jack a beer and settling on the other side of the couch. They’d compromised on the beer, though they hadn’t actually been able to sit down and drink it until almost two weeks later. "You were not sixty."
"Close enough," Jack muttered mutinously, clutching his beer and sinking back into the couch.
"You seem to be taking this rather well," Daniel said mildly, but from the look Jack shot him, he wasn't fooling anyone. "What? You are."
"I haven't felt this good in...well, in decades," Jack said. "No more bad knees, no more aching hands, no more stubborn extra weight around the middle.” Jack poked at his stomach, grinning. “I get to do it all over again. All the interesting parts, anyway."
"What, you're going to rejoin a 'gate team?" Daniel asked, incredulous.
"Nah." Jack signaled a negative and took a long drink. "Think I'll give the civilian thing a shot this time. I'm sure there's non-classified knowledge and skills I can put to good use. Or I can work at the SGC in some other way. Leave the exploring to the kids."
Daniel shot Jack a sideways glance. Jack was one of the kids now, but he looked so satisfied, working on his beer, that Daniel didn't think he should say it.
"So, what are you going to do for now?" Daniel asked. "You can't just leave Homeworld with no head. And it's not like you can go back to your old office and be seen by people."
"I was going to work remotely, from the SGC," Jack said lightly. "I already have a replacement in mind for when I retired, I can just fast-track that up. I was hoping...I could crash with you, at least until I decide what I'm going to do next."
"Anytime," Daniel said, and he meant it sincerely, though he was a little surprised at Jack’s hesitance. "You know you're always welcome here." Daniel stood, stretching, wincing when various parts of him went pop. "Let me get sheets for the couch."
Daniel was drifting in that half-aware space between wakefulness and sleep when he heard the bedroom door open and almost soundless footsteps come over to the bed. “Just me, Daniel,” came Jack’s voice, just as Daniel was debating going for the sidearm. “Did I wake you?”
“Sort of,” Daniel said, sitting up and turning on the reading lamp, rubbing his eyes. “Only been a week; I’m still not used to having a roommate. Did you need something?”
Jack shook his head, but he still came over to the bed and sat down at Daniel’s feet, pulling his feet onto the bed and crossing his legs. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“You’re welcome to use the TV; it won’t keep me up.”
Jack’s body language hadn’t changed, but his shoulders were tensed like Jack wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to put it. “I was thinking...”
“Generally a good idea,” Daniel bantered back, smiling softly.
Jack’s mouth lifted in a lopsided grin. “I've got a second chance and can live my life a totally different way. Frat regs be damned.” And before the words had even really sunk in, Jack leaned over Daniel and pressed a chaste but confident kiss to his mouth.
Daniel caught Jack by the shoulders, suddenly realizing that Jack was bare-chested, and pushed him back gently. They stared at each other for a moment. In the dim light, Jack’s eyes were very dark. Daniel found himself stroking the skin under his hands, and forced himself to stop. “I won’t be some kind of experiment for you,” he said finally.
Jack’s smile returned, but with a distinctly bitter edge. “Since when do I run experiments?”
That left Daniel speechless, and Jack pressed his advantage, leaning in and stealing another kiss, and another. Something in Daniel, some long ignored place where he’d shoved all his attraction to Jack over the years, some dam broke, and Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack’s back, pulling him close, whimpering when their bare chests pressed together. Jack seemed to approve, if the muffled sound he made was anything to go by.
Daniel let Jack set the pace, trading deep, unhurried kisses until they were both breathless with it. Jack sat back on his heels and traced his fingers over Daniel’s face, exploring the contours of his lips and chin, the curve of his eyebrows, the delicate crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes. Then he leaned in, pressing his forehead to Daniel’s. Daniel thought of hongi, the Maori tradition of pressing noses and foreheads together to share the breath and become family. He thought about the way he could feel every place where Jack’s skin touched his, the tips of each of his fingers, each strand of hair that fell against his face.
It was nothing like his fantasies, but that made it even better.
“Tell me what you want,” Daniel said softly, unwilling to break the spell. It had been a long time since he’d had sex with someone he loved, and he was torn between wanting to feel everything and not wanting to rush. “Have you ever...ah, done this before?”
“Long time ago,” Jack said, sitting back slightly, sliding his hands down to cup Daniel’s shoulders. "Before Sara. It was never worth the risk." He trailed his hands down Daniel's chest, seemingly without a particular goal in mind. "But I’m a civilian now, and I'm free to decide what I really want...I want this. All of this."
Daniel leaned up to steal a kiss, sliding his hands down Jack's back to cup his ass through his boxers. Jack groaned bucking forward, his half-hard cock brushing against Daniel's own. "Let me," Daniel said, squeezing slightly then bringing his fingers up to trace the skin just under the waistband of Jack's boxers. "Let me make you feel good."
Jack nodded mutely, and then Daniel was rolling them over, tangling them in the sheets. In the dim light, the age difference wasn't so weird; this Jack looked like his Jack, Jack from those years when they went through the 'gate together, the Jack he'd fallen in love with.
Jack laid there, hair mussed against the pillows, hands above his head. Daniel untangled himself from the sheets and shoved them aside. Then he was kissing Jack, mapping the skin of his neck and shoulders, nibbling at his collarbones, licking at the hollow of his throat. He explored the broad expanse of Jack's chest, playing with his chest hair, learning if Jack liked his nipples licked or sucked. He seemed ambivalent so Daniel moved on, finding a ticklish spot on Jack's ribs, a patch of freckles worth closer examination.
Eventually, he reached the edge of Jack's boxers, and he looked up for permission. A pink blush suffused Jack's face, neck, and the top of his chest, which Daniel thought was a good look on him. He nodded, and Daniel slid the fabric down, tossing it to one side. Jack's hard cock rose to meet him, rising from a patch of wiry brown curls. Daniel pressed his nose to the base, taking in the scent of sweat and musk and Jack, then came back up to flick his tongue over the tip. Jack made a muffled grunt, and Daniel smiled, wrapping his hand around the base of Jack's cock and taking the head into his mouth, sucking hard. He was going to do more, but then Jack was pulling him up for a scorching kiss, wrapping one leg up over Daniel's waist. The position caused Daniel's hard cock to press against Jack's upturned ass, and he groaned against Jack's mouth, pulling away to bury his face in Jack's shoulder. Jack ran his hands over Daniel's back and then palmed his ass, pulling their bodies more tightly together, Daniel's cock lining up perfectly in the crack of Jack's ass.
Daniel lifted his head. "You want that?"
Jack frowned. "What, you surprised the big, bad general takes it up the ass?"
"A little, yeah," Daniel said. "But I was more concerned about easing you back into this."
"Pft," Jack said, bucking his hips up against Daniel's, all but making Daniel's eyes cross. "Put me through my paces, Daniel."
Jack was leering, and who was Daniel to deny him something he wanted? He untangled them enough to push down his pajamas the rest of the way, then dug around in the bedside table for lubricant. Weighing the mostly-full tube in his hand, he had an idea. "Roll over, Jack."
Jack blushed even pinker. "I, uh...I wanted to watch you."
"You will," Daniel said, feeling his heart clench. He kissed Jack softly. "I just want to do something else first." Jack seemed to get it, because his eyes widened. "Unless you're not into that."
"No, it's fine," Jack said faintly. "More than." He separated from Daniel just enough to roll over, laying his head on his crossed arms and spreading his legs. Jack had trusted Daniel to watch his back through the 'gate, but this was something entirely different, entirely new, and so much deeper. He trailed one hand down the smooth, strong curve of Jack's back, then knelt between his legs. He kissed his way down Jack's spine and over the curves of his ass, then spread his cheeks, revealing the small, puckered hole between them. He pressed his tongue to it and then blew on the moist skin, smirking when Jack's hips bucked against the mattress.
Daniel pulled Jack's hips up so he was on his knees before, kissing and sucking, opening Jack with his tongue. He loved doing this and, based on his moans, Jack loved being on the receiving end. He moved against Daniel's face, but Daniel stopped him from wrapping a hand around his cock. "Just tell me when it's too much, ok?" Jack whined, and Daniel added a couple fingers, spreading them slightly to stretch him. Jack was deliciously tight, but he was loosening beautifully. Daniel curled his fingers in, brushing Jack's prostate, and Jack moaned his name.
"Enough, enough," he gasped.
Daniel removed his fingers, gave one last swirling lick to the rim, and then sat back. He quickly spread lube over his cock, rubbed more into Jack's hole, then Jack was rolling over, wrapping one leg around Daniel's waist and the other hooking up over his shoulder. Daniel looked down at him, memorizing the sight of Jack spread out beneath him, waiting for him, and then he was lining himself up and pushing in slowly, inch by careful inch, watching Jack's face for any hint of pain. Jack was concentrating hard, but didn't even wince, and soon enough Daniel was balls deep, hips pressed against Jack's ass.
"God, you feel so good." Daniel turned his head to press a kiss against Jack's knee--Jack's new, unscarred knee. Daniel rested his forehead against it, letting Jack adjust.
"Moving is good," Jack said eventually, shifting his hips slightly. "Moving is definitely better than not moving."
"Yes, bossy," Daniel said, bracing his hands on Jack's hip and thigh. He slowly slid almost all the way out, and then thrust back in, almost laughing when Jack squeaked. Daniel set a smooth, rolling rhythm, shifting around slightly until Jack cried out, and Daniel assumed he'd found Jack's prostate again. Then Daniel settled in and hammered along that path. He was so close, but he wanted to make Jack come first, wanted to show him how good they'd be together. "Come for me, Jack," Daniel panted. "Come on."
Jack nodded mutely and reached for his own cock, pumping it only a few times before he was coming, splattering his stomach and chest. Daniel pumped in once, twice more, and then he was coming, too, moaning Jack's name, as his orgasm shattered him into a billion pieces.
When he came back to himself, he'd slipped free but was laying on top of Jack, one of Jack's legs still curled around his waist, Jack's fingers tracing aimless patterns on his shoulders. Daniel tried to get up, go to the bathroom to get something to clean them up, but Jack stopped him. "But we're gross."
"Clean up later," Jack said. "Indulge in hedonism with me now. We can wallow in our filth for a little bit."
Daniel chuckled, but didn't protest further. He shifted so he was laying on his side with his head on Jack's shoulder, one arm around Jack's waist. He pressed a kiss to the skin beneath his lips, and before he realized it, he had fallen asleep.
"Jack, I know you're not going through the 'gate these days, but you were the one who was always hounding me to stay in shape," Daniel said, after Jack wandered back through their living room. It had been four months since the incident in Atlantis, three since they'd bought a house together, and now the growing changes were starting to worry him. Last month, Jack had been throwing up most mornings, and now it was clear he was putting on weight, and it wasn't muscle. Jack had insisted nothing was wrong and forbade him from mentioning it to Lam, telling Daniel he’d been too lax with his diet now that he didn’t have as much as heartburn. Daniel had respected that, even though Jack was showing a definite paunch, but now he seemed to be walking funny, too.
Daniel had noticed some other changes, little things, though he had no idea what to make of them. Jack's nipples had gradually gotten darker over the last few weeks, and he'd started developing big, light-colored freckles whenever he went out in the sun. He was moody, too, and more expressive about it than Daniel had ever seen him.
"I'm in perfect shape!" Jack said irritably, bringing one hand down to rest on his belly. He didn't even seem to realize he'd done it.
“Maybe you should see a nutritionist or something,” Daniel said. “I know you’re enjoying eating what you want and everything, but--”
“Aht! Enough.” He seemed about to say something else, but he gasped and looked down in shock.
"N-nothing," Jack said, hurrying to the door, where he slipped into his shoes and grabbed his keys. "Realized I forgot something at the mountain. Be back soon."
Daniel blinked. It was Sunday, and Jack worked a nine-to-five schedule teaching new recruits. What could he have forgotten? Daniel settled back into the couch, pondering that for a moment, before going back to the academic journal he'd been reading. He read the same sentence five times before he finally shut the journal, cataloguing the number of physical changes in Jack again. It couldn't still be the device, could it? That had been four months ago and these changes had been gradual, most of them easily explained by Jack's diet, which primarily consisted of beer and fried foods. It was nothing more than that, Daniel tried to rationalize, nothing more.
He opened his journal again, and after a paragraph was able to put Jack out of his thoughts.
Daniel hurried down the corridors of the SGC, ignoring the weekend shift personnel who tried to greet him as he ran past. Jack had left the house, and then four hours later Daniel had gotten a call from Dr. Lam, saying that he needed to come in right away--it had something to do with Jack.
He skidded into the infirmary, distantly gratified that it seemed calm. One of the nurses spotted him and waved him over to one of the private rooms.
"And I can't have my clothes back yet why?" Jack was saying to Dr. Lam when Daniel came in. In the fitted scrubs, the slight curve of his belly stood out starkly.
"Because I'm not done with my tests yet, General," Lam said, not in the slightest bit intimidated. "Dr. Jackson, there you are."
"I got here as fast as I could," Daniel said. "Is Jack alright?"
"From what my tests say, he's perfectly healthy," Dr. Lam said, and Jack grimaced at her. "He's also about three and a half months pregnant."
"Excuse me?" Daniel was sure he’d misheard that. "He's...what?"
"You heard her," Jack said. "I'm with child. Expecting. Knocked up. I have a bun in the oven. I felt the baby kick, dear. Need I go on?"
"No," Daniel said faintly. "How did this even happen?"
Dr. Lam gave him a pointed look. "Apparently, the Ancient machine General O'Neill activated doesn't just cause a deaging effect. It served a very specific purpose, which the Atlantis scientific team did not see fit to share with us until now." Lam sound annoyed, huffing as she rifled through her notes. Daniel caught Jack rolling his eyes. "According to the records that Drs. McKay and Zelenka were able to eventually access, the Ancients in Pegasus had a population problem, in that the men greatly outnumbered the women. The purpose of the device was to return older members of the community to their prime years...and allow them to have children."
Daniel reached out blindly behind himself, encountered a visitor's chair, and sat down. "And they didn't tell us this as soon as they found out because..."
"They didn't think it was relevant," Jack said derisively. "Goes to show what they know."
“Maybe we should have had that engagement party you wanted,” Daniel said faintly.
"From what I can tell from the tests I've already done, the pregnancy is perfectly viable, and perfectly safe," Dr. Lam said. "Of course, a C-section will be necessary, but as long as he takes care of himself properly, both the general and the baby will be fine."
"Is it..." Daniel began, and then stopped. He refused to look at Jack, instead focusing on the floor. "Is it too late to terminate the pregnancy?"
"No," Dr. Lam said slowly. Daniel could see her turning to look at Jack, but he didn’t look up. "It would have to be done soon, but it could still be done at this point. I'm going to let the two of you talk," she added before hurrying out of the room.
"I'm not aborting this baby, Daniel," Jack said as soon as the door had closed. "I never expected it, of course, but I'm glad it's happened."
Daniel looked up quickly, surprised by the hopeful look on Jack's face. "How can you even say that?"
"You think I never wanted to be a father again? To get it right?" Jack took a deep breath. "Now I'm going to get another chance. And not even an adoption or through a surrogate or something. Our baby, Daniel." He squared his shoulders, one hand resting on his belly.
Daniel couldn't help the wave of disgust that rolled through him. "It's...it’s not right, Jack," he said finally. "You know as well as I do that sometimes the Ancients meddled in things they had no right to. This is just too much."
Jack's expression hardened. "What, so it's ok for two men to have sex, but not for two men to have a baby?"
"This isn't about homophobia," Daniel countered. "It's about what's natural. You're not a...a seahorse, Jack."
Jack frowned. “I’m keeping this baby. It’s my decision.”
“No, it’s our decision,” Daniel said. “This is my b-baby, too. Think of how it’s going to change our lives. Think about what it would be like for a child to grow up with two fathers. I’m not ready to be a parent. You can’t just shut me out because this is what you want.”
"What, I’m the one being selfish?" Jack was angry now. "Get out. Don’t come back until you’ve grown up a little."
"Fine, I will," Daniel said, standing. He slammed his way out of the room, out of the infirmary, left the base just as quickly as he'd come. He needed to go home. He needed to pack.
By the time Jack got home, Daniel would be gone.
Daniel ran, and he didn’t stop running for two years. He got permission from Paul Davis--the new head of Homeworld--to work in a satellite position, making sure people weren’t digging up anything Goa’uld by accident. He spent six months on a dig in Japan (clean), another six in Guatemala (not clean, and they’d had to send a team down to deal with it), that kind of thing. He didn’t think about Jack, about those four perfect months when he’d had everything he wanted. He didn’t think about Jack going through a C-section alone. He didn’t think about the baby. He didn’t wonder if he had a son or a daughter.
And by the time he did start thinking about them--the family he’d abandoned--he didn’t know how to go back.
Eventually, Daniel settled in Chicago and got a job teaching at his old alma mater. Teaching the unclassified version of history was a little weird sometimes, but worth it; Daniel hadn't realized how much he'd missed the academic community. It wasn't the challenge that the SGC had been, but it was...safe.
And then, after Daniel had been at the University of Chicago for seven years, the Program went public. Daniel happily took a sabbatical to polish up a number of papers he'd written in his spare time, and spread them around to academic journals, which were suddenly clamoring for his work. He'd told Sam about it, and she asked if he'd told Jack, but he'd just made an excuse to get off the line after that. He never got close to his academic peers, and he never dated. He kept a tidy house in one of Chicago's better neighborhoods, the perfect size for an aging bachelor. He’d never considered a family home.
And that's how the the next ten years went: writing articles, teaching at the University of Chicago, traveling occasionally as a guest lecturer. The Air Force tried to trot him out for publicity purposes, but he always refused, leaving that to Sam and Cameron and the younger teams. After a while, the requests stopped.
Which was why he was surprised to hear the doorbell ring one Saturday morning. When he answered the door, there was a girl on the stoop, maybe nineteen or twenty. She was tall and gangly, dressed in jeans and a hoodie. Her light brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her eyes were very blue behind her glasses. Daniel blinked at her. She seemed familiar, but he couldn't place her.
The girl shoved her hands in her pockets and looked at him with a lopsided smile that was so familiar it took his breath away. "Hi, Dad."
She liked her coffee black, it turned out, which Daniel was sure meant something but he wasn't sure what. They were sitting at the kitchen table, Daniel's breakfast and newspaper abandoned, and he could tell she was trying not to stare.
So was he. She looked so much like Jack, now that he was looking for it, but she had Daniel's eyes.
"So, um...I don't even know where to start," Daniel said.
"The beginning, I guess?" Clara said--Clara Sha're O'Neill, his daughter. "Dad left the SGC for a little while after I was born, didn't want to put me in daycare. He went back to teaching when I started preschool--he's still there, by the way, at the SGC. He dated some, when I got older, but he's never settled down."
"Tell me about you," Daniel said. It hurt to hear about Jack.
Clara shrugged. "I don't know. I'm a junior at UCLA, majoring in anthropology. I'm good with languages.” Daniel felt something like pride, that she’d followed in his footsteps; it felt foreign, but good. “I play baseball on the school's extramural team. I like to cook. I, uh...I have a girlfriend; we've been dating since high school." She looked up from her coffee cup. "I'm not sure what else to say."
"You're happy?" Daniel asked. Clara nodded. "Why did you...why come find me after all this time?"
Clara was silent for a moment, and Daniel could see her thinking. He looked over her face again, seeing Jack in the shape of her jaw, Daniel’s own mother in the curve of her nose. "It felt like the right time," Clara said finally. "You were never a forbidden topic. I remember...one time, I was like five or six, I asked where you were, and he said that you'd gone away because sometimes adults are afraid, too." She took a nonchalant sip of her coffee, but she her glance was assessing in a way that reminded him of Jack. "But yeah, I'm a grown-up now, or near enough, and I wanted to...get to know you, see if everything Dad said was true."
"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "For abandoning Jack. For abandoning you. I...I still don't have any good excuses for that, just pathetic ones.” He ducked his head, embarrassed. Clara reached out a hand, but stopped before she touched Daniel’s own. Daniel pushed ahead, clearing his throat to cover her hesitation. “I'm glad you found me. I was...well, I didn't know how to come back when I finally realized the mistake I'd made."
Clara nodded, though Daniel was pretty sure she didn't understand. "He wants to see you, too, you know," she said, and Daniel forgot how to breathe. "He's in the car, down the street. Sent me in first to soften you up." She flashed a quick, stunning smile. "I told him he was being a coward. He said it was just strategy."
"That certainly sounds like him," Daniel said. Was he ready to see Jack, after all this time? Did he even deserve to?
Then he thought about Jack. Jack wanted to see him. Who was he to say no?
Daniel stood, running a hand through his thinning hair. He wasn't as young as he used to be, but then again neither was Jack. Again. "Come on. I think we'd all be more comfortable if I invited him in, don't you?"
Clara's smile was brilliant.