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Maybe It Was Memphis

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From black, fade in on four servicemen, finding their table in an after-hours club on Beale Street....

~~~~

Jesus, this better have been worth it, Jack thought, settling into his creaking captain's chair and looking carefully around for a waiter. No one in the crowd around him met his eyes. Boyd was shushing Kawalsky, for the third time, as Kawalsky complained loudly that he didn't see any unattached babes and that O'Neill had promised them babes, dammit. He slapped the white tablecloth to make his point, and the little candle flame jumped in its smudged globe.

 

"He did no such thing," Ferretti hissed, as he brought up the rear and took the chair on the far side of Kawalsky. "And put a sock in it!" The jazz fans at the next table were glaring at them. Jack was about to lean in and say something himself when Boyd's sharp whisper finally made Kawalsky subside, scowling.

Jack rolled his eyes and turned to the stage. They'd gotten in the door at the tail end of a song, and Jack hoped it wasn't the tail end of the set. It wasn't quite one yet, though, so they were probably arriving right on time. He'd been advised to come late. The quintet was trading off the short "fours" of its finale, and Jack's attention was quickly caught by the gorgeous callbacks of the drummer, who was elaborating on the quirks he heard in each "four" in an astonishingly complex way, given the short time he had to make his musical points. Jack felt a grin spreading across his face, and then he was sucked in to the music so fast and so deeply that Boyd had to elbow him when the waitress, her cruelly plucked eyebrows raised high, had asked him, "What can I get you, sir," for the second time. She had fluffed-up bangs and a starched, streaky pageboy. Ferretti was waiting for Jack to order, because this was Jack's mission and Jack's dime. That had been the deal they'd made, back at the air station.

"Shots -- Southern Comfort -- and beers, all the way around, thank you," Jack said, and the waitress nodded and turned away. Ferretti smiled approvingly, and Jack saw Boyd restrain Kawalsky from pinching her tempting ass as she headed off, effortlessly hefting her full tray of beers and mixed drinks on one palm.

The place was crowded, and smoky, and, as Jack had figured, the four of them upon their arrival had just about doubled the number of whites in the big, low ceilinged room. The doormen had done a lot of glaring, and Jack had watched a bouncer pace them, over against the far wall, all the way to their table. No one he'd glanced at seemed the least bit reassured by the uniforms. But they were in, and seated, and so far, so good. He'd had to do quite a sales job on his buddies to get them to agree to come at all, to say nothing of the tips he'd bestowed and the favors he'd begged from everyone from the cab driver to some of their trainees from town, to get the right information to get them in the door. But Jack had vowed he wasn't leaving Memphis without hearing some real blues, even if it meant doing some outright pimping for Kawalsky later tonight. That guy was no music fan; he just wanted to get out on the town and get drunk and get laid, preferably in that order. Jack could skip the getting laid part. He wanted to get a taste of this music in person, and enjoy their all-too-brief leave, and he wanted some friendly company for it.

Kawalsky had subsided, distracted by the ritual of pulling out his cigarettes and lighting up. Boyd passed Jack a cigarette and lit one for himself, and Jack grunted his thanks. As he caught the lighter Ferretti tossed to him, he glanced around their immediate area. Yup, about six tables over was the other group of whites -- two couples, probably locals. They were better dressed than most of the downtown crowd. And there, closer to his own table, at a small table in the shadow of a pillar, a white guy in a linen suit was sitting all alone. That made Jack do a quick and invisible double take, first, because he was surprised to see someone so obviously upscale in here alone, and second because when he focused in on the guy, the guy was staring straight at him.

Leaning one elbow on the table, a half-full cocktail tumbler before him on the otherwise empty spread of tablecloth, the man held Jack's eyes long enough for Jack to start to wonder what was up. The guy was handsome, and that and the surprise were more than enough to prompt Jack to hold the gaze and not look away. Then, the guy let one corner of his mouth relax into something that would have begun a smile if it had gone on longer, and he turned his head away and lifted his glass to his lips. Jack let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding and looked down to see he'd let half his cigarette burn up. He tossed it in the ashtray, got the pack and lit another before he let himself look again. Whoa. That was definitely not the kind of eyefuck he'd been expecting in here. He quieted his breath and glanced across the room.

The guy was like someone you'd see at Rick's Cafe Americain, and he was definitely slumming. He was wearing an open-necked dress shirt under the jacket, and Jack let himself admire the clean-shaven profile, the lingering almost-smile. The man's auburn hair was cut almost as military-short as any of the guys at Jack's table, and he looked relaxed, yet as if he was waiting for something. Jack got the feeling that even though he was still examining the ice cubes in his glass, the guy could tell Jack was looking at him.

Jack took a deep breath, and another drag of his Camel. The music claimed his attention again. It was the guitar player in the lead this time, and indeed -- these were the real blues he'd come downtown to hear. Jack narrowed his eyes and got lost again in the music.

The waitress surprised him, sliding an arm between him and Boyd to serve their drinks, and then waiting in expectant silence. He put some bills on her tray, and stole a glance at the man in the linen jacket. Yeah, he was looking again, right into Jack's eyes, intent. The shot of bourbon was just slightly cool, a smooth burn that went into him like the saxophone solo, and Jack closed his eyes to taste it.

But he coughed on it, just barely managing to set the glass down without splashing, because the waitress had blurted, "Hey!," and that slap was her hand, connecting hard enough with Kawalsky's face to rock him back in his chair.

Jack was on his feet in an instant, and the bouncer and a guy in a suit that Jack figured for the manager were already closing in.

"Hey, we don't want any trouble," Jack said, spreading his hands, palms out, and easing between Kawalsky and the others.

"Doesn't look like it from here," the manager said, folding his arms. The bouncer hovered.

"Stupid honky pinched me in the butt, Mr. Keller," the waitress said, gripping her empty tray as if ready to whack Kawalsky with it.

"Thank you, Audra." Keller was pulling out a chair at their table, and sitting down. The musicians had never faltered, and Jack, looking around, decided to pull out a chair and sit, too, sparing a glare for Kawalsky. Out of the corners of his eyes he saw several men around them returning to their chairs, except for the guy in the jacket, who, it seemed, had taken an interest, because he was coming closer, looking concerned.

"You gentlemen over here from Millington?" Keller was demanding, as he helped himself to a Camel from the pack on the table. The diamond on his pinky caught the light from the big Zippo, sending a flare of blue toward Jack. He wore a nice dark suit, narrow tie, but if you looked a little closer the suit was well worn, a little shiny around the shoulders. Jack leaned back at the overwhelming hit of hair pomade. Keller dragged on his cigarette and smiled without warmth.

"That's right," Jack answered, into the cloud of smoke. He felt Boyd relax beside him.

"Most of you Navy boys we get down here are good customers, but to be honest," and he leaned on his elbows, ostentatiously blowing smoke toward the ceiling, "I've seen that these music-only spots get a little tame for your tastes. Why don't you let me steer you toward some more interesting entertainment."

"Like what?" Kawalsky said, perking up and leaning in.

"Across the alley, for example, if a person was to go out the back way here, if they had a friend who could show them the way, you understand, the joint is more ... jumpin', if you know what I mean."

"Lead on, my friend," Kawalsky said, getting to his feet and draining his beer. "We're all for it. And I'm sorry about -- you know -- Audra."

Keller didn't answer Kawalsky. He just looked at Jack, obviously waiting for him to endorse the plan. Jack clamped down on his temper. They'd just arrived, goddammit, and Kawalsky had to go and ruin it.

Movement behind Ferretti caught Jack's eye, and he straightened, then frowned. The guy with the too-perfect mouth and the jacket was standing beside Kawalsky, who looked him up and down.

"Are you going to have to eject them, Mr. Keller?" the stranger said, mildly, looking at Jack.

"Why, good evening, Daniel," Keller said, easily, not seeming the least bit surprised at the intervention. "Friends of yours?"

"Not yet," Daniel said, folding his arms. "Surely you're just going to send them on over to the Side Door?"

"Looks that way." Keller stabbed out his Camel, easily and without hurry, and got to his feet. "J.B. over there by the far pillar can show you the door to use. Just tell them you're friends of mine, looking for a good time on Beale Street." He slid the chair in and nodded his farewell. "Daniel."

Jack shoved at the chair leg with his foot, pushing it out again, and Daniel hesitated just a fraction of a second -- Jack saw it -- and then pulled it out and sat down. Kawalsky was still standing there with his arms outstretched, overplaying his disappointment. "Come on, Jack -- you heard the man! Jumpin'! Fun! Babes!"

The musicians were finishing their number, and the trailing notes of the big bass, and the shivery final touches of the crash cymbal, matched the strange thrill that had started down Jack's spine the minute he caught sight of Daniel coming toward the table.

Jack shook his head. "You had to do it, Charlie. You had to screw up a perfectly good concert."

Kawalsky shrugged, and put on his "who me?" expression.

"So you're the jazz fan of this bunch, eh?" Daniel said.

"Yeah, well, I'm alone here apparently. You can lead a whore to culture...." Jack waved his hand dismissively at Kawalsky and Ferretti, both of them clearly eager to scram now that they had a good excuse. Jack leaned back defiantly. "Don't catch any diseases, guys. I won't wait up."

At that, Boyd put his hands on the table and slowly stood. Jack glanced up at him and Boyd held the glance. His eyebrows moved, just a bit, silent question, and Jack cocked his head toward Kawalsky, just a bit, silent answer. Boyd didn't look happy, but he shot a glance at Daniel, assessing, and then he straightened and edged around the table to herd the others out.

Kawalsky tried to turn back for some sort of parting shot, but Boyd stopped him, gripping his nape and pushing him along the narrow aisle, toward the back door Keller had indicated. Jack watched them recede through the crowd. He drew a breath, trying to quiet his heart, and reached for the pack of Camels Ferretti had abandoned. He kinda needed the buffer of the lighter and the smoke to meet those eyes -- so surprisingly blue, and now, so close.

"So. Your friends weren't really out tonight for the music, I gather," Daniel said, folding his hands on the table and leaning in slightly.

"Not so much," Jack said, frankly staring now, not trying to hide it. Daniel's smile brightened, and he held out his hand across the table.

"Daniel Jackson," he said.

Jack quickly transferred his cigarette to his other hand to shake. Warmth, and a strong dry grip, exploding whatever shadowy stereotypes were floating around the edges of his mind in association with the linen suit. "I'm Jack." He hesitated, considering giving a fake name, but then thought, Ah, hell. "Jack O'Neill."

Daniel's glance swept to his uniform shoulders and back to his face, and he would have asked some follow-up about Jack's rank and his business in Memphis, Jack was sure of it, but the bass man was counting off the next tune and then the musicians were off -- this time a screaming bebop piece that showcased the considerable talents of the saxophone, and Daniel let all conversation drop in favor of music.

They didn't say another word to each other until the next break, but soon Audra came around again, and Jack watched Daniel's mouth while he ordered himself a gin and tonic with lime, and another shot and beer for Jack. Jack noted that Audra had gone right to Daniel, obviously avoiding Jack's side of the table. When she returned, Daniel paid, and Jack let him, without commenting. He tasted his whiskey and found it was Southern Comfort, and he knew he hadn't been imagining the other man's earlier attention. The music crashed around them, an ornate tumble of virtuosity. Daniel was rapt, still, not even tapping his foot or swaying, as so many in the audience were. His chin was slightly lifted, his lips parted.

Just like in a poker game, it was time to raise the stakes, and Jack decided that he definitely had the nerve. He extended his hand, brushed the back of Daniel's, and got his attention. He held Daniel's eyes and lifted his shot, and they toasted, a little salute without touching glasses, and drank. Daniel took a careful swallow; Jack tossed back his shot. And when he set the empty on the table, and turned back to the stage, he grabbed the arms of his chair and scooted it a few inches closer to Daniel. Then he was still, waiting, and watching the musicians, but in a few minutes, he felt Daniel's foot slide to touch his, and he didn't move away.

The whiskey warming him, he let himself focus on the music, yet he was never unaware of the man beside him, sitting so near.

As the second set ended, the applause and cheering was raucous, and Jack and Daniel joined in enthusiastically. The musicians put their instruments to rest and drifted toward the bar, and Jack glanced at his watch. It was a little after three. He looked up to see Daniel watching him, and he smiled.

"Turning into a pumpkin?" Daniel said. The smile seemed to turn shy.

"Nah -- the evening is young."

At that, Daniel's smile changed. It bloomed, becoming pleased, warm, even eager. He squared his shoulders and drained his third cocktail (Jack had been counting, and Jack found himself watching the muscles move in his neck as he swallowed) and he put the tumbler down with a thump.

"I can drop you somewhere." He tucked in his chin as he spoke, and his hands were in his lap, under the table's edge, out of sight.

"Sounds good," Jack said, trying for neutral. He was in this now, all the way. He'd made that very clear, he hoped. Though he'd ditched the others, he had no qualms when it came to taking care of himself, even in this neighborhood. And he was ... ready ... to see what Daniel might have in store for them. Okay, that was an understatement. His head had been turned; the music and the company and probably the whiskey were all combining to make him ready, willing, and eager to get this Daniel guy alone -- he was about as eager, now, for that as Kawalsky had been to find some girls. Jack had done this dance before, but not often enough to feel a hundred percent confident of the steps. Still. He wanted this. No doubt about it. He stood up, and Daniel did, too, and Jack followed him out of the club. Daniel moved through the crowd easily, and a couple of people greeted him as he passed.

Beale Street was much quieter than it had been at midnight, but as Jack looked around, he could see lights in some windows, and the faint sound of music from a couple of after-hours bars, further up the street. The heat of the day had long since bled from the pavement, but the air was heavy and damp. Jack breathed in -- asphalt and garbage and rotting brick and the distant hint of mimosas, and Daniel yanked a handkerchief out of his pocket and sneezed.

"Bless you," Jack said.

"Thanks," Daniel said, stuffing the handkerchief away. "I'll pay for it for a week -- hanging around in all that smoke all night, but it was worth it to get to hear Zoot Sims."

"I'd better have my nightcap now, then, and not smoke in your car," Jack said, and Daniel looked at him, and his look said, how polite; amazing.

Jack lit a Camel and put away his lighter, and Daniel watched him, hands in his pockets, as they walked along. Jack was casting around for something to say.

"I'm pretty sure your friends are fine," Daniel said before he could collect his thoughts. "Mr. Keller thinks he's the real Mayor of Beale Street, and he's mostly a pimp, but he's not known for letting his customers get clubbed over the head or anything. At least not for pinching waitresses."

"Oh, I wasn't worried about them. They're big boys."

Daniel smiled sidelong at him, and pursed his lips as if he were changing what he was about to say. "Good. Wouldn't want you to worry."

They walked along in silence, Daniel watching the sidewalk, Jack watching him. Daniel seemed to come back to awareness of where they were; his thoughts had been a million miles away.

"There's my car," Daniel said, pointing to a newish glossy black Pontiac at the curb, and he came around to Jack's side to unlock it and open the door. As he did so, he glanced up and smiled, a little sheepishly, a little self-consciously, as if he knew how calculated this all was. Jack smiled back, not sheepish, not self-conscious, and threw away his cigarette and got in the car.

He settled in the corner, so that he could watch Daniel drive.

"Where're we going?" Jack said softly. He felt, suddenly, like he didn't know what to do with his hands, so he interlaced his fingers and rested them on his stomach.

Daniel drew a visible breath. "I thought we'd go to my place."

"Sounds good."

Daniel shot him a look. "It's not far; well, it's out of downtown, but as Memphis goes, it's not far. Not over in Germantown or something, I mean."

"It could be clear out of Shelby County and I'd never know. I just got here a month or so ago."

Daniel glanced his way. "You -- you're at the NAS, right?"

"That's right. Pilot training."

"You're training to be a pilot?" Daniel sounded incredulous.

"No, we're training the pilots. The four of us; they brought us in to give the latest batch of guys some finishing touches, I guess you could say."

"Ah," Daniel said. He seemed to run out of words, then, and Jack was content to let him drive, out of the battered, dying downtown, through a rambling neighborhood of run-down historic houses, and then on into a band of forty- or fifty-year-old homes that reminded Jack of his own suburb, back in Chicago. Eventually Daniel wound off the main streets and into a neighborhood, and he pulled the Pontiac into an alley behind a corner house -- a massive brick foursquare with a red tile roof. Dad would have appreciated that roof, Jack thought. But just now, thinking about his dad was definitely striking the wrong note.

Daniel killed the engine, and they got out. The block was quiet with that chilled, almost-dawn hush. A dog barked in the distance.

"Time for the milk trucks," Jack said, just to fill the silence, as Daniel led him up a brick path, between two huge magnolias, to the back steps. There was a deep, brick veranda on the back of the house, just like the front, and Jack could see the kitchen light was on inside. Daniel didn't answer, but Jack looked at his back and figured he was smiling.

Some impulse, some wish for confirmation before he actually stepped inside, made him reach up and touch Daniel's arm. He stopped immediately and turned.

Jack left his hand on Daniel's elbow, searching his face, narrowing his eyes a little. The path was dark. What did he want to say? Why had he stopped?

"It's just me," Daniel said. "I live alone here; it was my mother's house, but she's... It's just me."

"Okay," Jack said, and he slid his hand up Daniel's arm, feeling he was groping, fumbling, but he kept sliding, over the firm swell of his shoulder, on across, until he cupped Daniel's jaw. They stood there, staring at each other, and Daniel put his hand over Jack's. It was clammy now, as if Daniel was nervous.

"I'm from Chicago, originally," Jack blurted, because he was looking at Daniel's mouth, and he was fairly sure he wasn't supposed to lean in and kiss him.

"Chicago," Daniel echoed, like he was thinking of something else, and he dropped his hand and turned, and without thinking, Jack grabbed it. Daniel held on, and before Jack had time to feel stupid about such a teen-age gesture, they were up the back stairs and on the veranda and Daniel let go. There was a porch swing, and a willow at the corner of the porch, Jack noted, stupidly, and the feel of Daniel's cheek was still burning in his palm. Daniel opened the door, and they stepped into the kitchen.

The floor was black and white tile, and the cabinets were tall and glass- fronted and stuffed with crystal and china. The light was dim, and Jack only got a glimpse of the room, because Daniel went right on, cutting through a butler's pantry and emerging in the dining room. The crystal chandelier over the big table glittered in the light from the street. Daniel moved to a lamp on a corner table and clicked it on, creating a bubble of warm light around the two of them.

"Would you like a drink?" He wasn't looking at Jack. There were crystal decanters on the gleaming side board; several of them, all different shapes. That's where Daniel was looking.

"Maybe some water. I think I've had enough to drink."

Daniel, without a word, went back to the kitchen. Jack stood there, hands in his pockets, looking up at the chandelier. There was a red satin sock over its chain. There were at least five different patterns of crystals. Its arms held tiny white candles, half burned down.

Daniel came back with two glasses of water, and he'd left his jacket in the kitchen and turned up his sleeves. Jack accepted the water, and when their fingers brushed it took an effort to stop his flinch. He needed to calm down; he was wound as tight as the E string of Zoot's guitarist.

He gulped down half the glass and set it on the table. Daniel hadn't touched his. He'd set it on the table, and was watching Jack with an expression that Jack could only describe as hungry. It made Jack impatient, and it made him happy.

You want it? Good. That's good.

Holding Daniel's gaze, he took off his coat and hung it on the nearest chair. Daniel swallowed. Jack came toward him and took him firmly by the shoulders, backing Daniel up until he was pressed against the plaster, between a little ornamental orange tree and the bay window with its gauze curtains. Jack leaned in, still gripping Daniel's shoulders, leaned right up against him, chest, hips, groin, thighs. He put his face in Daniel's shoulder.

The loose drape of the linen suit had been deceptive. This guy was strongly built; his shoulders were as broad as Jack's and he was almost as tall. He gave under Jack's touch, softening all over -- well, not quite all over. Oh yeah.

Daniel's hands came up and scrabbled at Jack's back, then pressed, hard. He made a choked sound and his hips jerked forward. They were both hard, both holding back -- Jack could feel it. He opened his mouth, tasting starch, wishing for skin, and eased his hips forward in a slow rolling grind. Daniel's scrabbling had loosened his shirt tail, and a warm damp hand was smoothing up under his shirt, as far as it could get.

"Upstairs," Daniel choked out, and Jack squeezed his shoulders and reluctantly stepped back.

"Sure," he said, and he had to clear his throat to get the word out. Just a simple little word.

The master bedroom was big, spanning the entire front of the house, and Jack didn't have time to check it out. He had a quick impression of a fireplace at the far end, muted silvery wallpaper, a camelback sofa, the big oak bed, and then his attention was wholly on Daniel. Because Daniel was taking off his clothes. Hurriedly. He shoved out of his dress shoes, and he was unbuttoning his shirt, skinning out of his undershirt, opening his belt and his pants with quick, almost frantic, tugs. Jack tried to keep up, and when he'd gotten his pants mostly open, but was still in his undershirt, Daniel made that choked noise again and came toward him, his belt dragging the linen slacks and his boxers to ride below his hipbones.

He went to his knees and pushed in, moving Jack's hands away from his fly. Jack's knees went to jelly, and he gasped.

"Let me; I want to, all right? All right?" He didn't really seem to expect an answer. Jack's hands hovered; he didn't know what to do with them. It wasn't until a little later, when Daniel had yanked down both the zip of the uniform pants and Jack's briefs, when Daniel, eyes closed, was running his tongue and his lips along the shaft, tasting, gripping Jack's hip with one hand and digging in to his hair with the fingertips of the other, that Jack realized he'd rested his hands on Daniel's skull -- softly, cupping it, holding it.

Daniel was making this "Mm," sound, almost a purr, as he moved his mouth all along and around and over Jack's cock, prompting him to spread his feet as much as he could, pressing his thighs against his sagging waistband, trying really hard to keep his balance. Stranded in the middle of the room like that, no wall to lean on, no chair to fall into, staying upright was a real effort, and, he thought, that was probably a good thing, to have to concentrate so hard on something other than his dick.

Jesus, he thought, and he probably said it, blurted it right out, when Daniel finally eased his mouth down and around, taking Jack deep, but slowly, slowly. Oh, shit.

The cloud of ecstasy came down, blinding -- it was wet, tight warmth, and that probing, dancing tongue in the middle of it.... It was fantastic. It was too much. Way, way too much. His hands tightened, and he had to use more force than he wanted to to push Daniel's head back. Daniel's hands tightened, and he protested -- another of those sexy incredible sounds in his throat.

"God," Jack managed. "Lemme lie down."

"Okay," Daniel said, his hands still at Jack's groin, his face turned toward the floor. "Good idea." He let his hands drop, and Jack almost tripped, getting out of his pants. As an afterthought, halfway to the bed, he remembered to peel out of his undershirt.

The bed was golden oak, with a big head board and footboard of vertical squared-off spindles. The comforter and the sheets were all white, Jack saw, as he dragged them down and then turned to sit. Daniel was coming to him, naked now, too, and Jack couldn't take his eyes off Daniel's erection, shoving at him from a knot of reddish hair. Daniel climbed onto the bed and Jack leaned back, propping his head on a bent elbow. He wanted to see this. All this.

Daniel surged up between his legs and went right down on him again, taking him in, then easing back to lick his way along the shaft, then taking him down again.

"Christ, slow down," Jack said, amazed to see he mostly had control of his voice. "I'd like to enjoy this a while and if you keep that up...."

Daniel let Jack's dick slide free and bounce a little. He watched it, then smiled, and met Jack's eyes for a moment, and put his palms on Jack's thighs. "I'm kind of an impatient person, I guess," he said. "But I can slow down."

He moved, arranging Jack's leg to bend across his, leaning on an elbow, and in the process spreading Jack's legs a little wider than Jack was comfortable with, but hey. The guy was going down on him, so he could deal with that okay. Then Daniel started licking him again -- slow, broad-tongued licks, and gently tugging at and fondling his balls while he did that, and Jack groaned and closed his eyes.

He felt Daniel smile.

This went on for quite a while, and Jack was aware of Daniel noticing his responses, and adapting to them, just as that drummer had woven his riffs out of the material the other players handed to him -- listening, paying close attention.

And when Daniel sank his mouth over the tip again, sucking and bobbing and giving Jack the feeling of fucking his tight gorgeous mouth, Jack bent his neck up until it hurt, and watched, and watched, and marveled, until his head fell back and he cried out because he was coming. It felt like Daniel swallowed it all, but Jack was a goner by then. He couldn't really tell.

He groped for Daniel's head, and found it, petting and combing with his fingers. Daniel settled against his legs, pressing his erection against a convenient section of calf, and Jack swore Daniel started to kiss his hip but turned it into more of a nuzzle, a smear of lips, at the last second.

They lay there for a while, Jack smelling lavender and old linen and furniture polish and his own come, petting Daniel's head the while.

"Wow," he said, finally, and Daniel chuckled, a throaty low rumbly sound that went straight to Jack's chest and made him smile. He found he could move; he got an elbow under himself, then the other, and raised up to look down at the man tangled in his legs. "What... what would you like?"

"What do you do?" Daniel returned, evenly. God, no assumptions. That's right; that's how the game was played. It was always so hard for Jack to remember the rules; there were rules. Strict rules. Like the no-kissing rule.

"I could do that," Jack said, indicating with a jerk of his head what Daniel had just done to him, and he was rewarded by Daniel's slow smile.

"No kidding?" Daniel said, and he ran his hand along Jack's thigh, letting it come to rest cupping Jack's soft package.

"I said it, didn't I?" Jack's tone was sharper than he meant it to be, and Daniel's face shut down. He slid from between Jack's legs to lie on his back beside him, not touching, looking at the ceiling.

"That would be very nice," Daniel said. "I just didn't think.... Usually guys who like to get.... Oh, hell. Never mind. Yes. That would be very nice, thank you."

Jack was staring at him, staring at that movie-star profile again, so close, there on the pillows. This was unique, the way this guy thought out loud. Jack had never experienced anything quite like it before. Usually the sex was quick, and conducted with the bare minimum of verbal communication.

He sat up, and Daniel looked at his face, then quickly shifted his glance down to Jack's chest, his arms, and then away. Jack frowned. He put out a hand and smoothed along Daniel's chest, much less hairy than his own. That was nice. He did it again, a rough edge of skin in his palm snagging on a nipple, and Daniel's breath caught.

What the hell. This would be new -- the men in Jack's past weren't much for the nuzzling and the soft stuff -- but the girls always seemed to like it. Jack bent a knee, allowing him to lean against Daniel's side, and he put his mouth to the nipple, sucking a little, using his tongue, and Daniel flinched, hard, and his hands came to Jack's shoulders.

"Easy, now," Jack said, grinning, and sucked some more, his free hand sliding down Daniel's abs to find his very hard, very ready dick. It was wet already, jerking in Jack's hand as he squeezed.

"Ah," Daniel said, and then he muttered something that didn't sound like English. Jack shifted his weight so that he could keep one hand on Daniel's dick, and he let the firm nub slip away. He teased the nipple with his thumb as he moved his mouth slowly, slowly, from one hand down toward the other. He savored the smooth skin, not kissing, not really, past Daniel's waist and the shallow dip of Daniel's navel, and finally arrived at that patch of curly hair. He inhaled and pressed his lips to the base of the shaft, nuzzling in, getting a big hit of the musky clean scent of the man.

Maybe Daniel would know Jack had never done this before, and maybe not. But Jack was here, moved by some strange offer of parity, and if he knew what he himself liked, maybe that would be good enough.

Daniel grunted, and writhed against the sheets, bumping his dick against Jack's cheek, making Jack's dick twitch though he was a ways from getting hard again.

"Okay, taking pity here," Jack said, smiling, because he realized how long it'd been that Daniel had been working him over, how long Daniel had been waiting. It was true that Daniel was apparently getting off on sucking Jack, but not, you know, getting off. Not yet.

Time for some relief, then. Jack swallowed, and moved slowly, winging it. He opened his mouth enough to let Daniel's dick sink in, shaping his lips around it. Strange -- the heavy thick shape of it; filling his mouth. He wasn't going to be able to match the deep action he'd just been treated to, he concluded regretfully, but he wrapped his hand around the base and pulled up, licking the welling tip, then pushed Daniel's dick into his mouth again.

So. Not so hard. And Daniel was liking this -- he'd grabbed the sheets with both fists, from what Jack could see, and was straining up, all his muscles taut.

"Easy," Jack murmured, the tip against his lips, on the way up, and squeezed a little with his hand. He tried not to smile, tried to seal his mouth around Daniel's cock, but it was just so good, the taste, the feel of it in his mouth. He couldn't remember why, exactly, he'd never wanted to do this before. This was good. He closed his eyes. Slow, slow, up and down, licking, tasting.

"I'm coming," Daniel said, suddenly, distinctly, and he bucked and squirmed and groaned and pulsed into Jack's mouth. Jack couldn't manage it all -- there was so much of it, but he swallowed what he could and let the rest run out, remembering what he liked when guys did this to him, letting Daniel's dick rest gently in his mouth, not licking, not sucking, just waiting it out. Daniel kept groaning, and jerked again, and he took a while to run down, the pulses coming from deep in his groin getting weaker and slower. Finally he was done, starting to soften, starting to sag a little, and he moved his hands from the sheets to Jack's head, petting. He moved like his hands felt heavy. Jack knew exactly what that was like. Feeling very pleased and accomplished, Jack shifted, and put his head on Daniel's stomach and closed his eyes. Daniel made one last muffled, groaning sound, and rested a hand on Jack's shoulder.

Jack must have dozed, because he woke himself up with a startled twitch. His jerk woke Daniel; Jack felt him move. Jack sat up. He hadn't been out long; it was still dark outside. He'd left his watch in the wreck of his slacks and socks on the floor. Daniel regarded him solemnly, one leg crooked, one arm behind his head. Jack let his eyes wander, trying to memorize the view -- the tuft of hair at his armpit, the smooth pale skin, the dick, either still half hard or getting interested again, lying against Daniel's thigh, the sag of balls that he'd not even spared any attention for, yet. A touch of regret, at that. He bent his knee and sat up straighter, wondering what to say. Again, Daniel was faster. He sat up and scooted back just a bit, so that their legs weren't touching any more.

"Do you have to go now?"

The implied invitation was a complete surprise. If he'd thought it through, which he hadn't, Jack would have assumed he would go -- that as soon as the sex was over, they'd get dressed and Daniel would take him back downtown, or perhaps call him a cab from here. But Jack had not thought it through, caught in the tumble of anticipation. And it almost sounded like he was being invited to ... not leave. Not yet. He did what his hand had itched to do from the moment Daniel had sat up and edged away. He reached, and cupped his fingers around the warm muscle of Daniel's calf.

"No, not right this minute. Unless you want to."

Daniel looked at Jack's hand on his leg. He looked up again. His hair was mussed. Jack wanted to muss it even more, but he sat still.

"Well, good. That's good. I ... want some coffee." Daniel looked down at Jack's hand again, and then he slid to his side of the bed and went to the closet. The long mirror on the closet door flashed, showing Jack himself, looking rather disheveled, as it swung by. "Do you drink coffee?"

Daniel, not looking at him, was tying the belt of a blue chenille robe and walking away. Jack scrambled up and found his pants and underwear, pulling them on and calling after his host, "Isn't it kind of un-American to not drink coffee? Isn't it kind of like a, a staple food or something?"

"I'll make some, then," Daniel said, still not looking back, and Jack followed him down into the big kitchen, snagging his water glass as they went through the dining room. The sky outside was just starting to turn gray. Daniel had a glass percolator that he put on the gas range, and he leaned on the limestone counter and watched it intently.

Jack didn't know what to do after he'd drunk his water and gently set the glass in the big porcelain sink, so he just stood there, leaning in the doorway, watching Daniel watch the coffee brew. For the first time, the silence seemed awkward. Yet Daniel had all but asked him to stay. Jack wished for a cigarette, considered getting his jacket and going out on the back porch to smoke, but he just stood there, watching Daniel. Jack'd had his dick in his mouth, just a bit ago, just upstairs. Now he was making coffee, in his own ordinary kitchen, in an old blue bathrobe, watching it as if it were some kind of dangerous science experiment.

"So you're a pilot." Daniel spoke to the percolator.

"Yeah."

"Navy pilot."

"Yeah."

Jack didn't want to be evasive, really, but he didn't want to talk about the Navy. He must have sounded evasive, though, because after a minute, Daniel said, "Sorry. I'm asking questions, and I shouldn't be."

"No, it's okay," Jack said, and crossed the tiles toward him. "I'm just, a little, distracted." Without thinking, he put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, and Daniel turned, and Jack could see his face. He had a thinking look. He had the barest glimmer of stubble along his jaw. Jack watched his mouth until he realized what he was doing, and then he squeezed Daniel's shoulder and let his hand drop.

Daniel turned back to the coffee. "You can smoke on the porch, if you want to, if you don't mind."

"Read my mind," Jack smiled. He retrieved his pack and his lighter, and went out the way they'd come in, leaving the door open, making sure he didn't slam the screen. He sat down in the porch swing, and watched as the coming dawn made the manicured lawn turn gray, put the color back into the old red bricks.

He finished one cigarette, tamping the butt carefully and putting it in his pocket, and then lit another. He could smell the grass. It had been recently cut. A little breeze came up, moving the leaves of the big willow at the corner of the veranda. Someone's windchimes rang, not too far away. The floor of the porch was a geometric mosaic, worn very smooth by years of footsteps. There was a tile missing, next to the wooden threshold. Daniel came backing through the screen, carrying two cups of coffee.

"Black okay," he asked, offering one.

"Black's fine," Jack said, holding his cigarette away self-consciously. Daniel hesitated, then sat down gently on the swing next to him. Jack sipped the coffee.

"I can take you back to the NAS, if you want. Or we could.... If you have a deadline."

Jack regarded him, the mussed hair, the reserved glance, the way the fronts of the bathrobe had opened when he'd sat down in the swing, opened so that Jack could see the nipple he'd sucked on earlier. He'd made that wonderful, growling moan when he'd come, up there in that big comfortable room. In that big white bed.

"It's a three-day pass," Jack offered, and took the last drag of his cigarette.

"Oh," Daniel said, and sucked in a big breath. He looked over the rim of his coffee mug at his lawn, squinting a little in the gray light. "That's ... nice. That's very nice."