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It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that's why they call me
They call me the working man

 


 

Carlin was groggy when he woke, but that was negligible compared to the pain. Assisted to sit up in what he absently recognized as a bed, he brought his hands instantly to his head when the pain from the headache worsened.

"My head hurts," he complained.

"You will be given something for that in a moment," a woman with a soft voice told him.

Carlin was aware just then that his eyes were covered in cloth. A blindfold? He started to remove it but unknown hands prevented him.

"Keep your eyes covered."

"Why?"

"You've done damage to them and until you're given medicine, you shouldn't open them."

"Where am I?" he asked grumpily.

"In the medical area after being transferred from the mines."

The mines? Carlin couldn't remember the mines, though something at the edge of his thoughts told him they existed.

"I don't remember the mines."

"No, you have suffered from a gas overdose and it has affected your memory."

"Oh." He couldn't think of anything else to say as the pain in his head wouldn't allow him to concentrate. Minutes passed as he listened to the movements around him. The room was still for another minute more, then a man spoke, startling him.

"How do you feel?"

Like the woman's voice, Carlin didn't recognize it, but the man's voice he didn't like. It sounded light and pleasant but it had an edge to it, as if the owner didn't care one way or the other how Carlin felt, and perhaps would prefer it if he felt awful. Carlin wanted to tell him what an asshole he was for asking such a stupid question, but something told him not to.

"My head hurts and I'm dizzy," he answered in a mumble, rubbing his forehead.

"Understandable. The aide will give you something for that shortly."

"So she said," Carlin replied. He dropped his hand from his forehead to scratch his chest in a subconscious gesture. His chest was bare, and he made a startling realization that he was nude. He wondered why he hadn't noticed his lack of clothing, but when he began to shiver, that question took a back seat.

"I'm cold."

"Put these on," a second unfamiliar male voice told him.

"Why don't I have any clothes on?"

"Examination requirements."

"Why?"

"That's all I was told."

"Where are the other two people that were just here? A woman and a man?" he asked.

"They have left."

Carlin frowned, wondering why he hadn't heard a door open and close. He wanted to argue for some reason, but the headache stopped him. He was helped to stand, and then assisted into shorts, a loosely woven sleeveless tunic and rough-textured pants. A jacket was forced on him and he felt the irrational need to shove the jacket away, just to be contrary. When a cup was placed carefully into his hands, he paused to smell it. There was a faint citrus odor but that was it.

"What is this?"

"A drink to replenish your body's needs and soothe away the pain."

Carlin drank cautiously but the thin liquid was so demanded by his body that he found himself gulping it down. He was given another full cup of the bland tasting liquid, and after he gulped that down too, something happened. One moment he was considering tossing the cup away and the next, the desire to do it abruptly left him. As did the headache and accompanying dizziness.

"How do you feel now?" the second male voice asked.

"Better."

"Good. It is time to leave."

"Back to the mines?" Carlin asked.

"No, to the colony."

Carlin was told nothing else as he was taken through a doorway and turned down what he thought was a long, empty corridor, judging by the echoing sounds. He felt the need to shake off the hand that held his arm just a little too tightly, but he made no movement to do so. It bothered him and he didn't know why, but figured it was leftover moodiness from the headache and moved his thoughts elsewhere.

"Are you taking me to the colony now or later?" he asked.

"Now," came the answer.

"What's it like? I've never been there."  Though somehow he knew about it even before he'd been told where he was going.

"It's the place where we work to help our people survive the ice age."

"Ice age," Carlin repeated, feeling as if the answer was a rehearsed one, but a second later dismissed that thought, too. A few memories surfaced, telling him that his people had been living underground, trying to keep huge furnaces working that would allow them to live. But he couldn't remember how long they'd been down there and if they'd accomplished anything. To what point was living day to day if nothing was accomplished? But the memories in his mind told him that there was nothing to accomplish except survival until the ice age passed. But how long would that be? There still had to be a point to their lives. Didn't there?

Sighing, he kept walking, guided carefully when he and his escort had to turn right or left. For a long while, he walked forward without any turns, and felt a sense of claustrophobia because of the blindfold. He wished he could see, even if it was just a long corridor.

Minutes later, it seemed, he was halted and heard the jingling of keys. He reached out and felt a door, cold, hard, probably made of iron or steel. It was then that Carlin became aware of the man's scent. A masculine odor that wasn't sour with the tang of old sweat, but almost sweet with the odor of musk.

Against his will, or in some bizarre support of the inappropriate timing Carlin didn't know, but his escort's odor aroused him.

A key slid into the lock and the door was opened. Carlin was guided through and after the door was shut and locked again, he was startled by the sudden change of behavior by his escort. Hands turned him around roughly and his escort stepped so close behind him that Carlin could feel the heat from his body in the already warm room.

"What're you..." Doing was what he was going to say, but fingers were at the blindfold, answering the question. When blindfold was removed, his voice was at his ear, deep and aggravatingly erotic.

"Don't open your eyes yet. Rub them."

"Rub them?"

"Yes."

Carlin did as he was told.

"Now, slowly open them, but keep your eyes on the floor and away from the lights."

Carlin complied but this time without comment. His escort didn't wait for him to adjust and hastily escorted him through a doorless entryway. Carlin couldn't help but look up, finding that they'd entered an immense underground industrial plant. The smell was a bit unpleasant with the faint odors of old and new sweat and the tang of coal and oil. The colony, apparently.

To his surprise, Carlin's eyesight adjusted rather quickly and he couldn't help but wonder what the fuss with the blindfold was about. The lighting of the plant was dimmed, with a lot in shadow. The color was amber, with just a hint of reddish hue. Carlin thought it gave his new surroundings a very odd mixture of romanticism and oppression. A strange atmosphere to say the least.

They made their way up three flights of metal stairs and entered the office just to the left of the top level. Carlin squinted at the bright bluish-white lighting, too harsh after the dim setting outside. Was there a point in making a visitor ill at ease? Such a thought also made Carlin ill at ease, so he suppressed it, hoping for a more optimistic mood.

That was given, but by his escort, not himself.

"We will wait here," the escort said.

Carlin had been scanning the sparsely furnished room, but his attention was caught by the man's curiously intimate tone. It was then that he finally took a good look at him.

He was perhaps half a head taller than Carlin, and strongly built, and both of these Carlin had already surmised. His square-jawed face was handsome in a rugged sort of way, covered with light facial hair around his mouth and chin. Light brown hair, cut close to his head, set off the dark blue eyes that peered from under arching, expressive brows. The man's nose was long and sharp; the feature of arrogance, Carlin thought. His lips were full and wide, and Carlin wondered what they would feel like. The deep voice, now quietly used, added to what Carlin felt was an overall allure which had an interesting effect on his libido. He suddenly had to look away, returning his focus on the room.

"Who are we waiting for?"

"The colony supervisor, Brenna."

"And then what?"

"You will be assigned a work shift and escorted to the living quarter. There, you'll be given a bed and left to rest up for tomorrow's shift."

Carlin didn't miss the strange smile, nor the way he kept himself close. It suddenly occurred to him that this man might want him, and while the idea didn't bother him, what did was that Carlin couldn't remember ever having been with a man. Or a woman, for that matter. But he did remember what to do when he found himself with either. So just how was that possible? Instinct did not go that far. Sexual appetite was a learned behavior and sexual methods gained only from experience. He then remembered the woman's voice telling him that his memory had been damaged. But to be that fragmented? Something told him that wasn't possible. As he tried to focus on the problem, his escort's gaze on him became too much of a distraction to ignore.

"What are you staring at?" he asked.

His escort suddenly passed a hand over Carlin's buttocks and Carlin did not stop his covetous caress.  It was shocking to him to realize that he did not want to, but wasn't he supposed to reject the advances of a stranger? Something told him he should, yet it wasn't what he felt like doing.

He smiled again as Carlin met his gaze defiantly. "Your actions give away your experience but that may be deception."

"Excuse me?" Carlin asked.

"I am hoping for deception, as it has been a long time since I have serviced someone...pure."

Pure?

"As in virginal?"

"Yes. But it does not matter where you are concerned," he said cryptically. "I very much look forward to your initiation."

"Initiation?" Carlin asked, wondering why there were no memories that clued him into what that meant. He knew without being told that whatever the initiation was, it was sexual. The concept had an appeal he couldn't explain.

"You'll see."

When Brenna, a woman with dark brown hair and fair skin, entered her office, the escort's expression and body language altered. He became subservient in a way that Carlin did not like yet did not feel the need to challenge. Brenna smiled at him and Carlin felt the aura of authority from her. She appeared to be a cautious leader; fair but firm.

"It is my honor to serve, Brenna," Carlin's escort said. "I have brought the new worker."

"Thank you, Owen. Welcome to the colony, Carlin," she said kindly as her eyes moved quickly from Owen to him.

"Carlin?"  Somewhere in the back of his mind he was processing the escort's name and whether or not it fit him.

"Your name."

"I don't remember," he said with a deep frown.

"No, and that's not surprising with gas overdose. From what I have been told, you've been ill from a leak produced in the mines. You remember the mines?"

"Just a couple of vague images."

"Well, I should inform you that your memory may not return, as the type of gas overdose you received tends to cause permanent memory loss."

"Oh."

"You may return to your work, Owen. Thank you for bringing Carlin to us."

"It is my honor to serve," Owen said and with an enigmatic smile for Carlin, left the office.

"Does he work here, in the colony?" Carlin asked.

"Yes, he does. Why?" Brenna asked as they left the office and proceeded downstairs.

"Just wondering."

She gave him a strange look.  "You'll probably see him later."  She was just as cryptic as Owen had been.

He gave her a startled look, but said nothing. Dismissing the subject, she began to recite rules and regulations for the plant as she gave him a short tour. Carlin looked over his shoulder at one point and found several pairs of eyes watching him, their attitude sometimes curious, sometimes suspicious, but every one of them looked him over like some...prize. Carlin thought he shouldn't like that, but he had to admit that he did.

"Carlin, are you listening?"

He turned back to her. "I'm sorry, Brenna. Yes. I have a question."

"Go ahead."

They stopped near a small table filled with tools that looked old and worn. Carlin picked one up. "So we mine the ore for the fuel, and man the machines that heat this complex, all of which serve to keep us alive, is that right? We don't do anything else?"

"We grow the plants we harvest for our meals in the greenhouses, and we use the furnaces to heat the greenhouses. That is all."

"Nothing else supports our life down here?"

Brenna frowned a little, which sparked Carlin's curiosity. "No."

"Doesn't make any sense," he mumbled, looking around him. A few people passed them, giving Carlin more strange looks.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" she asked, frowning again.

"It is my honor to serve," came out automatically, and it felt so normal that Carlin didn't question why he'd said it.

. . .

After the tour of the work area, Brenna brought him to a separate area of the plant. The living quarter was a huge room, filled with dozens bunk beds, some single, most of them stacked two-high. Along the scuffed and worn walls of the three-sided room were doors without knobs or handles. As they passed one, he heard a muffled, frantic panting inside and knew immediately what it was. It sent a message to his cock. He recognized the sudden desire to be in that room, to see what was happening...to join in. But instead, he affected surprise and turned to give Brenna the silent question.

"Those are the servicing rooms, Carlin."

"Servicing?"

"Servicing. Our word for sexual relations. And it is our only means of recreation and stress relief from the rough lives we lead. You may use the rooms before or after your shift, or you may go elsewhere. There is no rule against it, but you will not conduct that activity during your duty shift, ever. Understand?"

"I understand."

"And?"

"It is my honor to serve."

"Enjoy the time off today. You will start your duties in the morning on 1st shift, which lasts twelve hours. Kegan?" and she called a short, slim, dark-skinned woman over. "This is Carlin. Please introduce him to all that he needs to know and assign him a guide until his memory allows him to retain the rules. He has had gas intake from the mines."

"Yes, Brenna. It is my honor to serve."

Brenna turned to Carlin. "Again, welcome, Carlin, for what it's worth."

Kegan waited till Brenna moved off, then gave Carlin a huge smile and proceeded to take him around the plant one more time, this time explaining where he would be working with her, and who to watch out for and who to stay away from.

When they returned to the living quarters, she pointed to the servicing rooms. "Brenna told you about the rooms?"

"Um, just that they were for servicing, which I've been told means sex."

"I don't know why you don't know that, but it must be the gas. Yes, it means sex, and we devote a lot of time to it when we're not working or sleeping. Not that it's much time, but we take what we can get. Do not go outside the quarter for servicing unless you are beyond the boilers. It's too dangerous."

"Why?"

She gave him a long, hard stare. "The heat from the boilers is too intense. You will see tomorrow what I mean."

"And we have sex wherever, whenever? Sounds ideal at first but..."

"It's not, not really. We grab what pleasure we can, Carlin. You understand that reasoning, right? Survival?"

"Right, survival. What's wrong with my memory? I don't understand."

"It's the effects of the gas in the mines, didn't Brenna explain that?"

"Yes, but...it doesn't make any sense. I can't remember anything before I got here. Just a sense of darkness. Is that the gas, too?" he asked, puzzled.

"Don't press the memory too hard, Carlin. You'll only receive a headache for your trouble. Lasting effects of the gas, I'm afraid."

"Oh. Anything else I should know?"

She laughed, loudly and inappropriately he thought, and showed him to a cot. "This is yours for now. Next to mine. Rest now. I'll see if I can bring you something to eat, as you've missed evening meal."

She disappeared and Carlin laid on the bunk, fingering the hole in his tunic, wondering where it had come from, or if it had been there when he'd received the shirt. The room grew quiet for a moment as activity momentarily halted outside and he heard Brenna addressing the plant, calling the workers 'colleagues'. He wondered if he should be paying attention, then decided it wasn't worth the effort to get up. He was very tired.

. . .

It was dark when he woke, having been roused by touches to his body. He pushed up on his elbows but was prevented from sitting up completely. As his eyes focused, he found Kegan straddling his knees. He frowned when he found that he was nude--again--and wondered how the hell he had been undressed without his knowing it?

"What the hell's going on?" he asked, looking around him.  Seven people surrounded him, all of them nude, including Kegan. None of them answered him, which was okay with him as he figured Kegan would tell him what he needed to know. He looked just off to the right of Kegan and made eye contact with Owen. A somehow familiar stirring began in his balls and cock. Then he remembered Owen's words about the initiation.

"Lemme guess. Initiation?"

"Yes."  She smiled with that same air of condescension she'd had when she'd given him the tour. "There are two major rules, Carlin, separate from life in the mines. The first is that the plant operation goes on at the exclusion of everything else, except food and sleep. The second rule is that along with food and sleep, servicing is taken very seriously."

He could appreciate that.

"One of the rules is 'everyone who first arrives receives the initiation'. It's a small tradition we've developed that never gets overlooked. We have lotteries to determine who will participate in the next one."

Carlin looked up at the people who surrounded his cot, then back to Owen, who gave him an almost predatory smile. Instead of being repulsed by it, Carlin was interested. And growing more interested by the minute. Between those that surrounded him, Carlin glimpsed several dozen others sitting or standing, observing him with keen interest.

Kegan slowly got up, still giving him that condescending little smile, which turned seductively teasing. To Owen, she winked and said, "He looks pure. Don't hurt him." She patted him on the shoulder and walked away, signalling to two nearby women who eagerly followed her. Carlin watched after them as they left and Kegan pushed on one of the doors to the servicing rooms and disappeared, the two women following soon after.

Owen stood at the foot of the bed now and Carlin turned his attention to him.

"What if I refuse?" he asked.

"Then we will leave. But life may be lonely for you, as people will assume you aren't interested."

Carlin looked at the faces around him and noted that they didn't appear to be all that interested in him, anyway. Their expressions seemed bland, yet their eyes held something he couldn't quite name.

Owen was the exception. He was clearly interested, as evidenced by his large erection that pointed upright, full and heavy. Looking at the body in front of him, Carlin's arousal heightened and he couldn't help but wonder he would feel like.

"I don't think you want to refuse," Owen added as he watched Carlin's groin.

"Perhaps not," Carlin admitted, then waved a finger at the others, and the larger group watching him. "But shouldn't we be in one of the rooms?"

"No. The point of the initiation is to give the others an idea of what they'd get should any want to ask you for servicing."

The idea of being watched held both embarrassment and excitement, and with the added odor of recent sex, Carlin's feelings were compounded.

"Do you have a preference?" Owen asked him next.

Carlin knew what he meant and without hesitation, nodded. "I'm okay with both, but I think I prefer men." He was quite certain, actually. But Owen seemed to like the idea of Carlin being a virgin, and Carlin liked the idea that he could manipulate him just a little. The virgin aspect didn't seem too farfetched, considering that Carlin couldn't remember having sex.

Owen's expression altered slightly. "Then Kegan is wrong and you are not pure?"

"Does it really matter when I can't remember one way or another? All I do know is what I prefer. Is that satisfactory?"

"That answer will do nicely," Owen smiled. He stepped up, and without explaining what would happen, gently took Carlin's ankles in hand and spread them wide, a few feet off the bed. The six others, two women and four men, abruptly dropped down, descending on him like ravenous animals. Carlin shouted in surprise, inhaling sharply as he was thoroughly explored by hands and mouths; licking, biting, and sucking without regard to their subject.

When a wet mouth encompassed the head of his cock, Carlin felt himself harden rather quickly. A second later, he couldn't believe the acute pleasure of being sucked on repeatedly by two mouths. The six people beguiled his skin, teasing his sensitive points while Owen looked on, stroking his cock almost absently. Carlin's skin was so thoroughly teased, from nipple to inner thigh, that when they withdrew, it was left reddened and tingling.

"Lovely," Owen said as he looked him over. He inclined his head sharply to Carlin's right, and the four men moved off.

Carlin was more than aroused now. He needed to get off. He met Owen's gaze, his eyes reflecting his hunger, but his line of sight was suddenly obstructed when one of the women, the one with short brown hair, straddled him. Without warning, she impaled herself on his cock and began to move.

Carlin groaned in surprise and grabbed at her hips, his instinctual need forcing him to thrust. She rode him, swift and eager, while her hands caressed her skin. She reached out, pulling at the other woman, a blonde, who settled in behind her. Fingers sought the swollen clit and erect nipples, caressing with almost brutal manipulation. The brunette was gasping with expectant need and she startled Carlin with a cry, arching backward in pleasure as she came. Her partner, obviously not Carlin, whispered something in her ear as her fingers severely twisted both nipples.

Carlin was lost in the show, his cock throbbing as the woman's muscles squeezed him. He was almost ready to come when she rudely came to a stop and pushed off, shakily moving from the bed. The other woman guided her away, caressing her as they went toward one of the rooms.

"Fuck," Carlin muttered, and dropped down onto his back, his breathing harsh and heavy. He looked down at the foot of the bed, all the while completely aware that there was no one blocking the view from his observers. Carlin didn't want to look at them; couldn't look at them. He didn't want to risk freezing by the sight of all those eyes on him.

Owen bent down and brought up a few items from something at the foot of his bed. Carlin hoped it wasn't the floor. While clean, it wasn't that clean. One of the items was a container of something; the other, a damp cloth, which Owen used to clean off his cock. Carlin couldn't help but moan at his touch, and his moans became frequent when Owen lowered himself down and took him inside his mouth. He hummed his enjoyment, though Carlin couldn't tell if it was from what he was doing or the sounds he himself was making. When Owen backed off, not letting him come, Carlin grit his teeth dangerously.

"If this is what you plan for me, I'll get myself off rather than--"

"Relax, Carlin, and turn over," Owen said smoothly, and brought the container forward.

Carlin didn't ask, because at that point, he didn't care. With carnal need, he turned over onto his hands and knees, and willingly spread himself open, raising his ass. He gasped with relief as his puckered hole was soothed by cool, slick fingers, thick with the oily substance they used for sex. It had a strange odor to it that was vaguely familiar, but Carlin couldn't remember.

Owen's fingers rubbed and slowly pushed inside, making Carlin gasp with surprise. He groaned into the flat pillow, loving what Owen was doing to him, and when the weight of his body lay over him and the large muscle began to invade him, he tensed. The fear of being hurt shot through him and he wondered if he could take his size safely.

"Do not worry," Owen told him excitedly as he pulled his cock away. "I'll make this good."  Owen's fingers returned, with more of the slick substance, and penetrated him, one at a time. For a while, Carlin forgot all about Owen's cock, consumed as he was by the fingers that drove him wild. His hips twisted and jerked each time the gland inside was rubbed, and when Owen's fingers corkscrewed and thrust in quick, short strokes, Carlin was sure he'd come. But each time, Owen seemed to know just when to back off.

At last, he lay over him again, and this time, when Carlin gasped at the intrusion, he didn't pull away.

"Slow, deep breaths, Carlin. Concentrate. Slow, deep breaths," Owen told him as he paused.

Carlin complied, and he was so consumed with that that it was a shock when Owen pushed, hard, and buried most of his cock inside him. Carlin's head reared back and he heard himself roar. Not from the pain, as there amazingly wasn't any, but from the astounding burn.

"Oh yes," Owen said, grunting as he pushed himself all the way in, grinding against Carlin's ass, seeking his gland.

Carlin shouted with pleasure, his body shaking as he seized the edge of the mattress in his fingers.

"Please," he managed to say, and lost his voice when Owen began to thrust. The burn was good, and he felt it not just in his ass but everywhere. It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps he'd never been penetrated, and if that were true, he damned the gas for destroying his memory.

His body continued to shake with undeniable lust as Owen fucked him, slowly at first, but eventually his hips increased their speed. The sharp heat of pleasure that was touched off when his gland was hit only made Carlin want it more.

"Harder," he demanded, holding on in preparation for it. Owen made him earn the tight grip, and forced several cries from Carlin's throat, jarring the bed, his body. Overwhelmed by the cock inside him and the harsh slapping against his ass that vibrated through his balls, Carlin found himself repeatedly chanting, "Yes." He'd closed his eyes without realizing it so when he opened them, his sight was hazy, lost in the need he now demanded be satisfied.

Amidst the people watching, Carlin's attention was drawn to his left and ahead. Reclining on a bunk was a handsome man in his late forties. His silverish hair was flattened and sweaty, as if from wearing a cap all day. He watched Carlin with a peculiar intensity while his hand moved under the blanket that covered him to the waist.

Carlin kept his eyes on him, lured by his hand movements, and when Owen began to fuck him hard and fast, Carlin imagined that it was the silver-haired man. It was what he needed, and with a loud moan, he came hard, nearly tearing the blanket between his clenched fingers. The silver-haired man appeared to have flinched before dropping onto his back, but Carlin couldn't be sure. He'd had to close his eyes as his orgasm took control of him.

Before post-orgasmic sleep claimed him, Carlin wondered if the silver-haired man had actually come from watching him, or Owen, or both. It really didn't matter to him though. He only knew that he wanted more.

. . .

The next few days were hard where work was concerned and Carlin's body was sore from it. However, the entertainment he received nightly allowed him to forget much of that. It became habit very quickly, his body demanding a nightly release after working hard on equipment while Kegan annoyed him with her not-so-subtle teasing.

On the fourth night of his time in the colony, Carlin finished his meal and headed for the showers, hoping that he could get his servicing done there. He was damned tired.  Inside the communal square, he found a shower head free and after wetting himself down, he began to wash, absently doing it as he surveyed the few men and women fucking with almost desperate need.

When he was almost through washing, and two of the couples left, Carlin spotted the silver-haired man, whom he'd learned from Kegan was called Jonah. He was facing away from him, but his head was turned slightly, as if looking at him through his peripheral vision. Carlin waited for man to approach him, hoping that he would, but when Jonah made no advance, Carlin decided to approach him himself. When he moved toward him, Jonah grabbed his towel and left quickly.

As he nodded in response to a woman's voice, Carlin stood there wondering if he'd read Jonah wrong. Dismissing the thoughts as a useless waste of time, Carlin refocused and threaded his fingers through the woman's hair as her mouth quickly sought his release.

. . .

Carlin couldn't remember. Had he always had such a high libido, even in the mines? Even with the explanation of mine gas, he was worried about his memory. Was he getting nightsick? He made a note to speak with Brenna as he wove his way through the plant machinery.

He certainly couldn't talk to Kegan about it. That woman was positively paranoid about nightsickness. But she did give him one thing that satisfied him. A good show. While she was pretty and servicing her would have been great, Carlin knew that he held no interest for her. There was someone else who did. A tall, beautiful blonde with nice breasts.

Carlin had entertained notions of having her, but when Kegan set her eyes on a woman, she was determined to have them, and would have made Carlin's life miserable if he'd interfered. She already had two female lovers and was very possessive of them, but she always wanted more, and this time, she wanted Thera.

Carlin knew that that night was the night she'd make her move on Thera, and he wanted to know what Thera's reactions would be. The blonde hadn't been with anyone, not that he'd noticed, but she had been spending a lot of chatting time with Jonah. The idea of the two of them servicing each other sent waves of jealousy through Carlin, and perversely, he wanted Kegan to succeed with her just so Jonah would be his to go after.

Carlin spotted Thera near one of the boilers and smiled to himself. She was in the right place and didn't even know it. She was also working...on her own time. Again. Did the woman ever stop thinking? He stepped behind the boiler and waited. It was the one place he'd found to observe Kegan's nightly services, and Kegan knew he watched her. Apparently, Thera was oblivious. As he watched her work, he stared at her hands, her ass, her mouth, the rise and fall of her chest. He thought of what she'd look like when he filled her, how she'd breathe then. Thera was a hot woman, and began to wonder why she hadn't selected anyone. It was a curious development in the social order of...

Carlin had no idea where that thought had come from and shook his head, getting rid of it. He was losing his mind.

Thera was reading gauges now, and Kegan approached her from behind. Carlin couldn't hear them over the din of the ongoing running of the machines, but Thera was surprised. Thera tensed with shock when Kegan touched her face and turned away when the woman's hand lowered to her breast. Kegan only smiled and spooned against her back, her swift and persuasive fingers moving very quickly under her clothes, getting to her goal.

Thera grabbed Kegan's hands, but when the bud of her clit was found, she froze, her eyes half-lidding. Kegan was whispering to her and Thera suddenly grabbed a pipe overhead, holding on. Carlin hoped for this and elation filled him, partly because he'd have his way, and partly because he wanted a show to get off on.

He began to stroke himself as Thera turned a flushed red as Kegan manipulated her desire, her hand moving in rapid circles. The other hand pushed up the fabric of her tunic until it cleared her breasts. Stretched from her arms held over her head, their roundness was still there, still tantalizing, and Carlin imagined his lips around one of the hard, red nipples. Anxiously, Kegan pinched them, turning them a deeper red, and when she began to mold and squeeze, Thera found her own rhythm and began to thrust her hips in time with the finger at her clit.

Licking his lips, Carlin's hand sped up.

Kegan's caresses elicited gasps and cries from Thera and Carlin knew she was close. He stroked his cock faster, his hand nearly a blur. Kegan stopped her attentions and quickly moved around, taking hold of Thera's breasts, sucking the nipples so hard they became sensitive to the touch. She then knelt, pulled Thera's pants and underwear down, and planted her mouth on the throbbing bud. Thera moaned through her open mouth and the sounds grew louder until she was shouting through her first orgasm. Carlin knew from experience that Kegan wasn't finished.

Thera made the most amazing sounds, her facial expressions a mixture of pleasure and pain, and when Kegan inserted three fingers inside her, she came a final time, nearly screaming.

Carlin was about to come and he dropped to his knees to prevent himself from propelling forward into the boiler. That was when he was blindsided. From behind, there was a push and he lurched forward, bracing one hand on the floor. Hands pulled down his pants, exposing his ass, and a long, smooth oiled cock slid inside him. Without a thought or care for who it was, he continued to pump his cock as he was drilled from behind. He came hard, his body spasming uncontrollably, and was plenty grateful when his companion came soon after. After all, holding his weight up with one hand was tiring.

. . .

The next day, Carlin was looking forward to a repeat of the previous night, hoping that Kegan would bring Thera to the same spot. Once in the servicing rooms, the protocol was not to disturb the busy parties inside, so Carlin couldn't enter the room and watch.

He approached the area where the boilers were and saw Kegan standing off to the left, her arms folded, her body language impatient. When she whirled at the noise behind her, Carlin halted. There were sounds of sexual release, and the voice was Thera's. Unable to move, his eyes widened with first surprise, then anger, as Thera came out from behind the boiler, with Jonah right behind. Her face was flushed, her lips puffy and bruised, her pants slightly askew, as if Jonah had been dipping his own fingers where Kegan's had been the night before. Jonah's defiant stare to Kegan was also very smug. He'd won Thera from Kegan.

Kegan was pissed, that was certain. But Carlin was now confused. Every time he'd been serviced in bed or elsewhere outside the rooms, he'd only to look around and he'd find Jonah, watching, and if he was in bed, that hand would be moving.

So if Jonah preferred Thera, then what the hell was he watching him for?  It was all Carlin could do to keep from seducing Thera out from under him. But he would then have two enemies, and he wasn't so sure Thera would receive him anyway. Watching them, Carlin felt an anger he didn't understand. He was jealous, that much he knew for certain, but he felt as if Jonah were his, just as he had been doing, and he couldn't figure out why. It was possessiveness, he knew that, but where the hell did it come from? He'd only been there for eight days.

"Forget them," Kegan said behind him, making Carlin jump. He watched her walk off, fuming under her new hatred. Hatred for Thera, hatred for Jonah.

The following morning, Carlin found that Kegan was making up reasons to hate them, pushing away any thoughts that Jonah had stolen Thera's attention and loyalty from her. While that attention and loyalty had been barely secured, Thera had made her choice, and it had been Jonah. Instead of reacting normally, Kegan's selfish personality reacted with revenge. She decided that the two were garnering favor with Brenna, and that seemed to satisfy whatever plots she had in her head.

"I'm going to make their lives miserable," she said, and stalked off toward the kitchen like a pouty child.

It put Carlin on alert. Someone that flighty would eventually turn on him.

. . .

A day later, Carlin woke up fifteen minutes before shift with a mouth around his cock. He pushed up on his elbows and grabbed the head of short brown hair, pulling the man back roughly.  Owen.  Prompted by an intensely sexual dream with a mysterious, blue glowing puddle, he pushed his cock back into his mouth and thrust until he was stiff and aching. Jonah was walking down the aisle of beds and when he looked over, he froze. Their eyes met and Carlin encouraged Owen to move faster. Jonah couldn't move and his hand twitched.  Perhaps because he wanted to jerk off?  Carlin wanted to provoke him, to make him act, but how?

Jonah abruptly turned around and went back to his bunk.  When he sat down, his eyes returned to Carlin. He looked strange. Trapped.

Carlin pushed Owen off his cock, but unable to leave him hanging, he jerked him off with quick, rough, motions. He found himself fascinated by the expressions his sometime-lover displayed, but it was an absent fascination as it was a means to an end.

Wiping his hands, Carlin got up and walked over to Jonah's bed, determined to force the issue. Either they would have sex, or Jonah would stop watching--and driving Carlin crazy. As he moved, his painful erection tented in his coarsely woven trousers, making him wince. He approached Jonah, who lay on his cot, watching him closely. Carlin stopped a few feet away with an obvious invitation on his face.

Jonah didn't move. He simply kept his eyes on him, on his cock. He had that hungry look, though, Carlin decided to see if he'd really act. He stepped up, his groin now right in front of Jonah's face. All Jonah had to do was sit up and take him in hand. Or mouth. It took him by surprise when Jonah sat up quickly, his eyes moving back and forth between Carlin's face and the tenting in his pants. He pulled them down in one fluid motion, surprising Carlin further, and held onto the back of his bared thighs.

Carlin was sure that he'd finally accepted him, and his cock twitched with the anticipation of having Jonah's mouth on him.

Except that Jonah abruptly pushed him away and stood up, shaking his head. "I'm sorry," came the faint apology and he strode rapidly from the large room as if he couldn't get away fast enough.

Carlin felt the rage build. He pulled up his pants and returned to his bed, lying down to relieve the pressure in his cock. As he fucked his fist with an intensity that alarmed him, Carlin found that he wasn't able to come quickly enough. He kept trying but the need to get off was mixed with anger, and it ended up inhibiting the process. Unfortunately, it also ended up making him late for shift when the loud horn sounded its beginning.

Swearing at himself, Carlin made for the plant.

. . .

The foreman assigned to his section was pissed, and as punishment, he reassigned Carlin to the furnace to help shovel coal for the remainder of the day. It was a hard job, occupied by only the largest of the colony's men. Carlin hoped he wouldn't be hurting too badly by the end of the day.

Shoveling coal wasn't the worst part. He'd had to endure the shift by working with a man named Tor. Large, dark-skinned, with a body that sent erotic shivers down Carlin's spine. His face had a solemn intensity to it, and at times, a kindness. Since showing up yesterday as the plant's newest worker, Tor had only two expressions for him:  disinterest, or a scowl that intimated the need to rearrange his anatomy. Carlin simply figured that Tor hated him on sight. It was possible.

Because of Tor's size, he was in charge of one section of the large furnace, throwing in fuel with a large, heavy shovel. After the Foreman left him in Tor's charge, the big man with the interesting tattoo on his forehead thrust a smaller shovel in Carlin's hands and set him at one of the mining carts, separating coal ore from the whitish bits that wouldn't burn. One of the more boring tasks in the entire plant.

If he wasn't certain before that Tor hated him, he was now.

He did his temporary job, trying to keep out of the big man's way, doing what he was told without complaint. At mid-day meal, he was aware of Tor watching him with his dark, penetrating eyes. Carlin had a feeling that Tor was sizing him up for something, but for what, he wouldn't even guess. Too scary.

But after evening meal, Carlin found himself completely at a loss for words when Tor pulled him aside after he'd placed his meal bowl in the dish cart.

Tor clasped his right hand's fingers with Carlin's, and pulled gently. "I require your company," was all he had said before leading Carlin to one of the rooms.  Carlin's heart rate dove through the roof. He couldn't help but wonder what the hell Tor had in mind, and though he felt fear, curiosity was the victor of the emotional battle. He had to know precisely what Tor wanted of him. Sex, it was obvious, but what kind?

Just before disappearing through the swinging door of the servicing room, Carlin looked over his right shoulder. Sure enough, he caught Jonah's gaze. An intense frown furrowed his face and Carlin felt a perverse thrill because of it. He smiled, hoping that Jonah was jealous.

His attention back on the room, and Tor, Carlin found out that Tor didn't hate him as much as he liked to pretend. He wasn't exactly loving, but he was very thorough. Tor wasn't interested in kissing, nor much of anything else that didn't involve his cock inside Carlin's ass. However, Tor did like Carlin's mouth for another reason. Just as he loved Carlin's cock and scent.

When he dropped to his knees and took Carlin's cock into his mouth, the image of Jonah's frowning face left Carlin's memory immediately. All he could feel and sense was what that amazing mouth was doing to him. With a fervor that was almost scary, Tor sucked him hard and quick, forcing an explosive orgasm from Carlin's body, holding onto him to keep him from falling.

Without pausing for a moment of rest, Carlin found himself whirled around and shoved face down on the room's bed, his hips held high in the air by the dark man's massive hands. Spreading his buttocks almost painfully wide, Tor used his tongue first, making Carlin moan and squirm as he prepared him. Carlin wished he could remember if he'd ever done this or not, and the position of his ass so high in the air, with that tongue rapidly fucking his hole, made him wish it badly so he'd know what next to do. He reached for his cock, stroking once, but his body seized up when there was a sudden shock to his ass.

The skin of his right buttock stung hotly as he realized that Tor had just slapped him hard.

"You will be still," Tor growled at him, and slapped his left buttock for emphasis.

Carlin started to pull away, angry at being hit, but even as he moved, he realized something else. He'd liked it. The warmth on his skin created by the two hard slaps sent a tingling sensation to his balls. Tor sensed it, or seemed to, and Carlin cried out in astonishment as Tor moved around grabbed hold of his waist, holding him so that his ass was in front of him, easily accessible.

Carlin's dick lengthened and swelled to hardness under the tantalizing administration of Tor's hands as they slapped him again and again, massaging his buttocks between each hit, heightening the stinging heat. When Tor's tongue went back to work again, Carlin tried not to squirm.

"You are nearly ready," Tor suddenly proclaimed before inserting a wet finger into his ass, twisting it.

Carlin gasped, his hands fisting the mattress, and when he raised his head to look over his shoulder, Tor shoved his large, meaty finger deep. Within an instant, he located Carlin's gland for some rather intense inspection and Carlin was unable to help bucking into it, trying to fuck himself. Carlin's body trembled from the onslaught and when he thought he couldn't take anymore, Tor surprised him by removing his finger and administering the thick oil.

Panting, Carlin's breath was nearly stolen from him when Tor grabbed him by the waist once more and effortlessly turned him around on the bed, only to drop him in the position he'd just been in. Carlin somehow knew it for a display of strength. With a hard shove, Carlin was on his stomach, his buttocks clasped between the huge muscular thighs of the large man over him.

Carlin felt the heat of the huge cock pressing slowly into him and he had to hold his breath as his body was breached. He was much larger than Owen. Much. He couldn't breathe. The intense feeling of being filled so completely overwhelmed his senses. Only a few moments passed before Tor began his relentless drive to make him his. And that was exactly what Carlin felt was happening. He was being branded.

He wanted to help, to bring Tor off with his own skills, but the large man would not allow it, lost as he was in giving Carlin exactly what he wanted. With his face mashed against the pillow, Carlin moaned with each ruthless slap against his ass, clutching tightly at the thin blanket and mattress. When a strong hand wrapped around his cock and stroked him in time with the deep, plunging thrusts, Carlin stopped thinking. A gravelly roar was ripped from his throat as his body shook with release, the shudders continuing when Tor growled and spilled his hot seed against Carlin's gland.

Carlin couldn't move when he came to, realizing that he'd greyed out. Part of him was afraid, but most of him felt a strange giddiness as Tor slept beside him, an arm curled possessively around him. He knew then that he was owned, and an even stranger feeling swept over him when he found that he actually liked the idea a little bit.

. . .

The next day, the big man became Carlin's shadow before and after shift-change. Sex between them was a long, thorough, arduous affair, combined with a limited amount of spanking that brought the stinging heat to the skin of Carlin's buttocks.

The day after that, Tor surprised Carlin yet again by coming to him before morning call, waking him with a blow job that Tor delighted in taking his time with. When Carlin looked over his right shoulder, he found Jonah watching them. With a smug smile, Carlin turned his attention back to Tor, who did not look pleased that his attention was not on him. As a result, he made sure that Carlin never strayed from his attention again and Carlin's legs felt weak for the rest of that day.

That night, Carlin demonstrated for Tor his own considerable ability. It took ten minutes of patience, but he was rewarded with Tor's spill down his throat. In fact, he seemed so impressed with Carlin that he showed it by falling fast asleep. Carlin let him rest, staying with him in the servicing room, and the following morning, Tor woke him in exactly the same way.

That night, Carlin found another surprise waiting for him when he discovered himself in the one position he never thought to be in with Tor:  With his own cock buried deep inside the gorgeous, muscular brown ass -- and Tor enthusiastically responding to his forceful, hard thrusts. Afterward, Carlin wondered who really belonged to whom, until he thought that maybe it was mutual. He very much liked that idea even better.

. . .

For three more days, Carlin's days with Tor were bliss. His lover was difficult, but fair, and he had sex like nobody's business. Jonah was still a concern, but the looks of jealousy were worth it.

Then came the fourth day and Carlin felt his world turned upside-down. There was a feeling of worry the likes of which he hadn't felt...well, since he could remember. Something was wrong with Tor, Jonah was edgier than ever, and the strange dream about the blue puddle returned, filling him with dread instead of arousal.

Carlin's lip throbbed from the punch he'd taken from Jonah, but it was only a mild shock compared to the deeper one at seeing Tor yelling as he was dragged away. Part of him was dragged away with him and he couldn't help but grieve for the loss. What the hell was going on?

And Kegan. She'd gone too far. Carlin had felt a small amount of loyalty in defending her, but what had he gotten for his pains? A split lip and a snubbed rebuke from Kegan when he asked repeatedly what was wrong with Tor.

He decided that hiding his feelings from Kegan was the wisest course and that decision was only made more concrete when she began to nag, reciting a litany of things that he should not do and should not say. She was becoming meddlesome and alarmingly paranoid.

When Tor returned five days later, he didn't know him. The veiled threat left Carlin feeling fear for the first time. Not so much for himself, but for what the hell was going on with everyone, including himself.

The dreams were worsening, and he had vague flashes of a place he didn't recognize, images of Jonah, Thera, Tor. They felt familiar, but not. Carlin was beginning to panic.

What made that day complete was Jonah's stare of pity about Tor and Kegan's incessant warnings that if he didn't keep his mouth shut about his dreams, people would think he was night sick. Angered by her threat, that she'd report on his dreams, he pretended that he believed that she wouldn't ever do such a thing. But the truth was, he no longer trusted her to watch his back.

He was now alone.

. . .

After shift-change, Carlin saw Thera and Jonah huddling together at evening meal, talking, and decided that he would figure out a way to approach them about what Tor had said the week before. No matter what his feelings toward Jonah were, Carlin was beginning to feel uneasy about where he was and why he was there. And he had the same feeling for Jonah, Thera and Tor. Why?

. . .

The erotic dream returned, with Jonah and the blue glowing puddle. But the dream altered when Kegan appeared, warning him to stay away, which only made Carlin more and more curious about why. Then Jonah was dressed in black, holding some sort of weapon, and he approached Carlin with an expression of grief. There was blood everywhere and the smell of burnt flesh. Jonah stroked his face and Carlin felt a different pain dig deep into his own heart.

Yet all the while, there was a comforting knowledge that he wouldn't die, that Jonah would be there, beside him. Forever.

When Carlin awoke that morning, he found his hand and belly sticky. He'd jerked off in his sleep.

. . .

Carlin was more worried than before as he lay down that night, having returned from his secret meeting with Thera and Jonah. Events during the day confused and excited him and he didn't know what to make of them.

Tor had been taken away, sick with something, and though Brenna did not seem to know what it was, she called it nightsickness.

Then there was the automatic way he, Jonah, and Thera had worked together to solve the coolant crisis. It was as if they'd been doing that their entire lives and the feeling was both deeply familiar and scary.

The look on Jonah's face when he'd helped him up from behind the steam overflow had been one of a friend. That hadn't made any sense as Jonah had never given a damn about what happened to him, but he had been just as surprised as Carlin for showing it.

Carlin had felt a deep emotional bond with him, all because of the compassion Jonah had shown him. It was obvious that his attraction to Jonah went far deeper than just lust. He was somehow in love with a bastard he only remembered knowing for three weeks. How was that possible?

Jonah's and Thera's unheard of expressions hadn't helped matters, either. All they served to do was bring up something unnamed but once again familiar. Things were not as they should be, fear or no fear, and Carlin was determined that no matter what, he'd find a way to restore things to order.

. . .

That night, the dreams came again, clearer but just as confusing. He woke up, sweating with anxiety.

Carlin knew he didn't belong where he was but where the hell did he belong? He also knew that his name wasn't Carlin, but who was he?

What he did know only made things worse.

He, Tor, Thera, and Jonah were part of some team, scientific perhaps, but that wasn't quite it.

Tor was his long-time friend. And sex wasn't part of it. They may have destroyed that friendship all because of the colony, and if all of them managed to find their way out, Carlin had to find a way to fix things between them. He knew that he loved his friend far too much to give up.

Thera was also a long-time friend and he knew there was nothing sexual between them. And thank all the gods that nothing had ever happened and that he'd never made a move toward her. It was bad enough that he'd watched her having sex with Kegan and had seen the aftermath with Jonah. He loved her...like family. And would therefore pretend that he'd seen nothing whatsoever.

Jonah. Also a long-time friend.

Whom Carlin, or whomever he really was, wanted to fuck through the floor. Always had, and probably always would. But there was something in the way. Something that implied it was a lot more serious than some feelings Jonah might have for Thera. What the hell were they, and why did Carlin think that Jonah might consider male sex wrong?

What the hell was wrong with that?

Carlin was startled from his thoughts by a presence near him and looked up to find Coren stooping over him, holding out a cup.

"You looked like you were having a nightmare, Carlin," the blond man said. "I think this helps prevent nightsickness, if that is what is causing the dreams. Would you like to try?"

"What the fuck," Carlin said, and without a thought, he downed the drink, grimacing at its sweetness. A second later, his sleepy mind realized who'd given him the drink and he groaned, "Kegan, you bitch," right before he passed out.

. . .

Carlin awoke disoriented for the second time, only this time, he remembered why. And a murderous rage began to build. It didn't feel normal to him either and he tried to suppress it. But when he realized that he was no longer on his cot, and was, in fact, nude, the rage came back.

As his mind cleared from the drug he had been given, he tried to move. The action was followed by hands on his ass and he tried to flinch away.

"Nowhere to go, Carlin," came the voice he detested.

"Let me go or you'll regret it."

"Nope, and you can't make me," replied Coren.

"What's Kegan giving you for this?"

"Only you, Carlin. You crossed her and now, I reap the benefits. It's all the payment I need."

Carlin's head was turned to the left, and when he focused his eyes, he saw his wrist tied to a loop in the metal table. A flick of his right wrist informed him it was in the same predicament. Oddly, he was in a position he wouldn't have minded, had the person behind him been anyone else.

He moved his feet and ascertained that was bent over a table with his feet tied to the table's legs. He could feel his dick swinging freely under the table and wondered what Coren had in mind. He was answered by a warm wetness over the head of his cock. He was being sucked and he squirmed to free himself, though it was of no use.

Coren gripped the back of his thighs and dug his fingers painfully into them, trying to force Carlin to thrust. Which he did. Coren was good. He'd made him hard. Which was ironic, considering that Carlin knew damn well that Coren excelled in this sort of thing, and loved to torture the climax from his...victims. He wouldn't let Carlin come for hours and the proof was Carlin's balls in Coren's free hand. He was massaging them even as he tugged them downward. A threat and no more, but the pain would come.

"Think I plan to keep you from coming?" Coren suddenly asked as he let Carlin's dick slide free from his mouth.

"Crossed my mind, yeah," Carlin croaked as he continued to thrust, trying to make himself come anyway--anything to thwart the motherfucker.

"I won't, Carlin. I want you to come and come and come, until it hurts so much that you scream for mercy."

Carlin groaned. He'd been given the drug then, the one he had heard was used a long time ago for stud services. When the colony was still producing its own.

"No, no, nonononono." He was doomed and he knew it. He cursed himself for taunting the evil bastard the week before.

With a gasp, he felt the mouth around him again, and a lubricated finger at his hole. He desperately wished Tor were around.

Coren played with him for a while, sucking his cock and fingering his hole, doing neither very fast or in any sort of rhythm.

When something else was placed against his balls, Carlin could only breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn't something with spikes. Until Coren flipped a switch and whatever it was began to vibrate.

"You fucking bastard!" Carlin yelled and felt himself close to climaxing. With the drug he'd been given, he was afraid of what it would do. He'd heard too many rumors, too many half-truths. He didn't want even half of them to come true so he did the only thing he could. He begged. "Please, Coren, stop!  Stop!  I'll do anything, just...stop!  Stop!" He hated the words that had come out of his mouth, but fear tended to make you say anything just to be able to get the chance to retaliate.

"You heard the man," came the quiet voice from the door.

Carlin couldn't see as he wasn't facing the door, but he knew the sound. "Jonah, thank god."

"Got yourself into a mess, haven't you, Carlin?"

There was something familiar about that tone, but Carlin ignored it. When he tried to talk, he heard something drop and then Coren was in front of him, grabbing him by the hair. A knife was too quickly at his throat and Carlin dared not move.

"One more step Jonah and I slice him."

"I think you're through with this sort of thing," Jonah said calmly.

"I think you've lost your mind. Keep to your own business, Jonah. If you want to fuck him, do so. I won't stop you. He'd love it, I'm sure."

"Not this time."

"Then leave."

"'Fraid not."

"Then I'll slice him."

Carlin inhaled as the cold blade pressed in, just under his jaw. No wetness yet but there would be. He squeezed his eyes shut. "Jonah..."

"Shut up, Carlin," Coren spat.

"Do you want to die?" Jonah asked.

Coren went mysteriously quiet. He must've heard about what happened to the moron that had tried to rape Thera. Carlin couldn't help the hysterical laugh that bubbled up. One more bit of irony. He'd hated Jonah's attachment to Thera, but for that one occasion.

"Good thing for him, and you," Coren sneered, "that I've another boy waiting."

Carlin breathed with relief as the knife withdrew and he heard Coren run from the room, the door slamming shut behind him.

"You alright?" Jonah asked, reaching for the rope that held Carlin to the table.

"I am now," Carlin automatically replied.

When he was free, Carlin tried to stand up but his legs wouldn't work and he started to crumple. Jonah grabbed him and with difficulty, dragged him to the mattress on the floor.

Carlin felt a sinking fear as embarrassment and shame overwhelmed him. This would be the only time Jonah would ever touch him willingly. How fucking aggravating.

Carlin pushed up on a shaky elbow and read the concern...and conflict?...in Jonah's eyes. "I'm fine," he told him. The words made the two of them pause. Something else familiar.

"Yeah, I can see that," Jonah said sarcastically.

Carlin had the huge desire to grab and kiss him, hard. But he knew the result that would come and with a groan, dropped onto his back, whispering to himself. "Forget it, Carlin."

"Jonah," his silver-haired rescuer said with even more sarcasm.

"I was talking to myself."

"Oh. You're um, clothes are right next to you."

Carlin looked over and shook his head. "Can't."

"Why?"

"I need you to help me once more. Think you could do that?"

"Sure. With what?"

"Help me to the showers. I really need a cold one."

He watched as Jonah looked down--and stared for what seemed too long. "Right," Jonah suddenly said and hauled Carlin to his feet.

The shower helped, but Jonah's presence didn't and Carlin was finally forced to ask him to leave. Before he did, Carlin stopped him. "Jonah?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"No problem," Jonah said, and he hesitated a moment, his eyes looking down at the floor but Carlin wasn't fooled. Jonah was looking him over. Carlin had to turn away, unable to watch the denial in front of him.

. . .

Something was definitely different at evening meal the following day.

First, Kegan gave him a smile, which he had no wish to return.

Second, he'd zeroed in on Thera and Jonah, and had given her his bread as if it were the thing to do. After all, she liked bread and he wanted to please her. Despite his feelings for Jonah, he couldn't be mean to Thera if he tried. He also knew that his idle thought to seduce her away from Jonah wouldn't have worked. He wouldn't have been able to go through with it. It simply wasn't in him to steal, no matter who he was. Or so he hoped, anyway.

Third, he'd shared his dreams with them, as he had a few nights before. Only this time, Jonah had flirted with him over it. It hadn't been his imagination either because Thera had given him a strange look. Jonah had looked at him not Thera when he had said that he dreamed of "mining...naked."

What did that mean?

When Jonah made no other comments or moves later that night, Carlin decided it meant nothing. Besides, Jonah was preoccupied with a white bowl and if it jogged his memory, so much the better.

 

 


 

Daniel was tired when he returned to office. He looked forward to going home and resting up for a week. Thank god for his ability to get Janet to listen to him. They all needed the downtime and she'd cleverly decided that until all of their memories returned, they should be put on medical leave. Fortunately, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had caught on and had gone along with her prognosis.

Picking up his backpack, Daniel stared at it and set it aside. He wasn't going to bring work home with him this time. This time, he needed only to relax. If he could.

Contradicting himself, he picked up the pack and placed his packed laptop inside. Looking around, he found a few books, a few VCDs, and placed them inside, too.

He tried not to think about the last three and a half weeks he'd lived as someone else. He tried not to think about the fact that he'd had more sex in those weeks than he'd had in the last fifteen years. He tried not think about what that said about him, either. If anything.

He couldn't escape the recent memories made however, because he was rather proud of those. Seeing the look on Calder's face when SG-4 had escorted the population of the colony, minus Coren's criminal ways, to the gate...that was almost worth the three weeks' enslavement. The new planet was good, and tropical, and already had an indigenous population. Hopefully someone like Kegan would learn from those people just what the penalty was for trying to manipulate others.

Sex, fortunately, wouldn't be a hindrance, so she didn't have to worry about being separated from her lovers. But her lovers might just find freedom a bit too tempting. Then Kegan would discover what the true meaning of loyalty was. The people of the planet were already free with it, as they were with sex, but betrayal was their biggest crime.

Remembering Kegan, Daniel cringed. She'd been sickeningly contrite, and he'd had to get the hell out of there before he'd heard another apologetic word from her. He'd nearly been raped by a madman because of her hate and jealousy. There was no forgiveness for that. Not for a while, anyway.

Brenna should find life less stressful and Daniel had wished her well.

As he zipped up the pack, his eyes rested on a statue, a gift from Teal'c, and all his regrets and guilts came flooding in on him. He had to talk to him, get it over with. There was no getting round it. Jack would be next, though there was no telling when they'd talk. Jack wasn't the only one practicing avoidance, except Jack's form of it was to perform his own version of amnesia. He'd pretend that nothing ever happened and while nothing ever did, exactly, it made Daniel angry. He hated what was going on, hated Jack for denying his feelings, hated himself for not ever confronting him with it.

And hated it even more that he'd probably let Jack get away with it all.

Daniel shook his head and knew that he was stalling, thinking of Jack when really, Teal'c was the much larger issue. There were real feelings involved, along with a very healthy sexual appetite. He had a feeling that this would be one very difficult conversation.

Pushing himself to get the hell out of his office, Daniel made his way to level 27, where Teal'c's quarters were.

. . .

Daniel raised his fist to knock but froze, nearly hitting Teal'c in the face, when the Jaffa opened the door and stepped forward to leave. He too froze in place and the two stood there trading long, uncomfortable stares.

Daniel cleared his throat, the first to break the silence. As he always was.

"Hey, Teal'c."

Teal'c tilted his head in that bow of recognition. "Daniel Jackson."

"Um, I'm here to um, talk, you know, if you..." He sighed angrily, hating it when he stumbled over his words. "Shit. Do you want to?"

Teal'c's brow lifted.

"Talk," Daniel said hurriedly. "Talk." He cleared his throat several times.

"That would probably be best," Teal'c finally said and stood aside to show Daniel into his room. When the door was closed, and locked for once, Daniel stood by the mass of extinguished pillar candles and stared at them.

"Were you going somewhere?" he asked.

"To see you," Teal'c told him.

"Oh, so then my being here isn't exactly..."

"Unwelcome. No, Daniel Jackson, it is not."

Daniel narrowed his eyes, then began to unlace his boots before taking a seat on the floor. He wasn't going to sit uncomfortably for this conversation. Teal'c raised another brow at him, then deciding not to question him, copied his actions. He removed his boots and sat down in his usual spot.

"How do you do that, Teal'c?"

"Do what, Daniel Jackson?"

"Sit and meditate with boots on."

"They do not bother me."

"Right."

There was a bit of silence as Daniel looked about the room from his seated position -- and Teal'c observed him as he did it.

Finally, Teal'c spoke. Daniel had no idea what he wanted to hear, but Teal'c's first words to the point weren't it.

"I wish to apologize for my actions on the planet, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel held his breath and nearly thirty seconds later, let it out slowly. "Why?"

Teal'c seemed surprised by the question. "I do not understand," he said.

"There is no reason to apologize, Teal'c, unless you are ashamed by what happened."

Teal'c considered the words, bowed his head once, and took back the apology. "Then I withdraw my previous words as they were not my true feelings. I now wish to apologize for misleading you."

Daniel couldn't help but smile at his formality. "There is no need, Teal'c. Were you not thinking of my feelings?"

"I was. I am."

"Then there is no need because I am fine."

"Very well. I have a question to ask of you."

"Shoot." Teal'c frowned, making Daniel smile. "Expression, Teal'c. It means go ahead."

"Is what happened between us on the planet something that would happen under normal circumstances, that is if male relationships were allowed?"

Daniel's mouth worked, silently trying to find the proper words. "I don't know how to answer that, Teal'c. Maybe. I can't guess what might have been, I mean, maybe we would have, maybe not. But that doesn't mean that we can dismiss what happened so blithely."

"Agreed," Teal'c said, speaking more softly, and to Daniel's mind, more at ease. There was a longer pause and he sensed that Teal'c had more to say so he remained quiet. Now that he sat there in front of his friend, Daniel realized that there was indeed an attraction between them that he'd never paid attention to. He felt it, the power of it, and knew immediately what it was that kept him from seeing it before: Teal'c's symbiote. No matter how he tried to hide the fact of it, Daniel knew he could never forget that it was there. And Teal'c knew that.

A bittersweet lump rose in his throat and he looked down at his hands, nervously scraping his fingernails, hoping that the regret in his eyes wasn't too obvious. But this was Teal'c. The friend who noticed everything.

Everything.

That included Daniel's feelings for Jack. Shit.

Time appeared to slow down as Daniel pushed Jack from his mind and the memories of being with Teal'c flooded it instead. The very specific feelings of being filled, and of Teal'c's mouth around him, made Daniel's skin flush and sweat.

"Are you alright, Daniel Jackson?"

Daniel blew out another breath, this one faster. "Teal'c, could you please dispense with using my last name, just this once. I will not take offense, I promise."

"Very well."

"And I'm fine...sort of. I mean, uh, I was...remembering."

Teal'c swallowed, a sound Daniel heard many times when Teal'c was nervous about something. He glanced up, his own nervousness showing, and looked back down at his hands.

"I have to be honest with you, Teal'c."

"Have you not been honest before?"

Daniel smiled briefly. "Yes, but you know what I mean. I wish to share something with you rather than keep it to myself."

"Would it not be wiser to keep your feelings hidden in this particular case?"

Daniel looked up. This time, he swallowed. "Do you wish me to keep them hidden?"

"That is not what I asked."

Again, Daniel flashed a brief smile, another trait of his nervousness. "In this case, Teal'c, I think it's only fair to let you know how I feel."

"I would not think it unfair if you did not."

Clearly, Teal'c was afraid of what Daniel would say, but in which direction, Daniel didn't know. He had to take the leap and hope that it didn't backfire. Their friendship depended on it.

"I was not a virgin when I had sex with those other men, and with you. But it had been a long time."

"You are bisexual then?" Teal'c asked, surprised.

Daniel let out a nervous laugh. "I'm glad you know the Earth word for it, Teal'c, 'cause I'm nervous enough without having to explain what that means. And yes, I'm bisexual."

"I understand, and I do know what it means as it is a warrior's word on Chulak."

Daniel was surprised. "Really?"

"Yes," he replied, pausing. "I need to be honest with you as well."

Daniel heard the regret in his voice and his heart sank. He didn't know why, either. It wasn't as if he and Teal'c could have a relationship. The military forbade it and then...well, there was junior. The ick factor rose on that one and during sex, if he so much as felt junior's presence, Daniel knew he'd freeze up. That would only hurt Teal'c and himself in the end.

"Okay, go ahead," he finally said.

"Either as Tor or as myself, I must tell you the truth."

"Okay." Daniel wondered if the floor was about to open up and swallow him whole.

"I enjoyed being with you."

Daniel's mouth fell open in shock. "Um, what?"

Teal'c smiled. "You wish me to repeat it?"

"Um, no, I mean, um, if you want to, but you know, you don't have to or..."

"I enjoyed being with you, Daniel. Very much."

"Wow," Daniel whispered after a long pause. "Um, lame as it sounds, me, too." It was an automatic response, but he meant it. "Is there anything else you wish to...?"

"There is," Teal'c replied, his face very open and loving. "Once you let down your guard, you proved to be a most responsive mate and I have never met a more sensual person than you, Daniel."

Daniel swallowed again and for nearly a minute, couldn't say anything. He couldn't explain it but he grew half-hard hearing the words. When he was able to breathe again, he said, "I could say the same about you, Teal'c. Um, and I do, I mean. You are, um, dammit." Daniel promptly blushed against his will.

Teal'c smiled sadly as he reached across the short space between them and caressed his cheek. "I understand what you mean to say. I only wish that it was permissible to continue our relationship."

"Um..." Daniel's eyes inevitably fell to Teal'c's pouch. "I think I would like that, Teal'c, but I'm afraid of my reaction to junior."

Teal'c gave him a tender smile and slowly withdrew his hand. "I am aware, and even if you should overcome your revulsion of my symbiote tomorrow, we still could not resume our previous relationship."

Daniel felt heat rise to his cheeks and realized that he had just heard Teal'c say 'no'. "I know this is...um, why not?"

Teal'c sighed and gave Daniel a very serious look. "The culture within the small military community prohibits homosexual relationships, yes?"

"Yeah, but it doesn't mean there aren't any."

"Of that I am sure, but there is one thing you must understand, Daniel. The mate that I choose to be with will not be shamed or hidden away. I would be proud to be with you openly, but since that is not possible while we work for the SGC, our continuing friendship and status as teammates will have to be more than satisfactory."

Daniel hadn't ever intended to continue his relationship with Teal'c, but now that Teal'c had said it, he felt absurdly rejected and let down. "Oh." Again, he swallowed, nodding in agreement because he knew Teal'c expected it of him. "I understand and you're right, of course."

He was at a loss for anything else to say and the other questions he had had could wait for another time. What he suddenly needed was to be alone because he had the unnerving feeling that he might make a fool of himself. He couldn't risk doing that, not to Teal'c. He wasn't afraid of making a scene, but he was afraid of showing any now-inappropriate desires.

He grabbed his boots and rose to his feet in a graceful move he hadn't thought himself capable of--under any circumstances. Clearing his throat, he stepped slowly toward the door, his eyes locked on the sole pattern of his boots; a strange concentrative tool, but it seemed that he needed it because if he looked back at Teal'c...

...Whose hand was suddenly on his shoulder.

Daniel stopped and held his breath.

"Daniel," Teal'c said softly, an entreaty.

Daniel turned around, staring into dark eyes filled with emotion. "It's okay, Teal'c. It's just...this is going to take a while for us to get over, isn't it?"

"Yes, I am afraid it will. But we will persevere and become better friends than before."

Daniel watched Teal'c's jaw clench repeatedly, a signal for when he was upset. "We will," Daniel whispered, and without thought, reached up and placed his hand on the side of Teal'c's neck, sliding down to squeeze his shoulder knot. Then he froze once more and found that he could not remove his hand. Teal'c was very warm to the touch, the near-velvety skin soft but hard under his fingers.

He leaned up, very slowly, his eyes flitting back and forth between Teal'c's eyes and his lips.  Daniel realized that he couldn't recall ever kissing Teal'c on the planet. As he turned his face up slightly, he found Teal'c bending his. Teal'c was leaning down!

Daniel felt the pounding of his heart and heard his breathing increase.  It was the closeness, and he suddenly wanted Teal'c very badly.

"Did we ever kiss, Teal'c?" he asked, finding his words a bit shaky.

"No, Daniel. We did not." Teal'c's words were soft, almost seductive, and as Daniel neared his lips he suddenly realized that Teal'c was pulling back a little. Daniel couldn't help but think it a tease and leaned in more.

"Daniel," Teal'c said, his voice still soft, but more firm than before.

Daniel halted, then slowly moved back. "Teal'c?"

In the most regretful, sad tone, Teal'c said, "You must leave."

At first, Daniel wasn't listening. He felt his cheeks flush again and all he wanted at that moment was to kiss him, to feel Teal'c's arms around him once more. "Leave?" he asked.

"Before I am forced to halt something neither of us should be doing, yet we both desire...very much."

The words sunk in slowly and Daniel took a full step back, reaching the door. "Right," he said quietly and blew out yet another breath. "Damn, this is going to take a long time."

"Yes, I believe so."

Daniel hesitated and suddenly Jack came to mind. He had to ask Teal'c's opinion. "Um, about Jack and Sam..."

Teal'c's face became almost impassive, another sign that he was upset.

"Well, do you think that they...are they serious, Teal'c?"

Teal'c seemed to consider the words very carefully, but he shook his head without confidence. "I do not know. If you feel you may ask either of them, then that is what you must do. For myself, I truly hope not."

"Why?"

"Because their sort of relationship is also prohibited, and Major Carter's emotional attachment to O'Neill is not what I would consider...healthy."

"Oh. And Jack's?" It was an innocent question. He only wanted to know what Teal'c thought.

"O'Neill is not in love with Major Carter, Daniel. He is in love with you."

Daniel's eyes widened and he immediately shook his head. "No, no, no, Teal'c, you're wrong."

"I do believe that I am right," he said gently. "Just as I am right about your feelings for him."

Daniel's mouth dropped open once more. "No, no, I mean, okay, I have feelings for him, but they will never be realized, Teal'c. Ever. Jack won't permit it, for one, and for two, I'm too pissed off at him most of the time."

Teal'c frowned. "I do not understand. I was led to believe that you and he..." He paused, his frown increasing. "Did you not get together while I was ill?"

"When you were...um, no. Who led you to think that?"

"Owen, your former lover. He observed your rescue from Coren."

"Oh shit," Daniel whispered, and leaned against the door, covering his eyes. "I didn't want you to know about that. But the answer is no, Teal'c. Nothing happened. Jack only rescued me. He won't allow anything else." Daniel abruptly straightened, ignoring the flush of emotion in his cheeks. "Just as you won't."

He opened the door, and since there were no guards required outside Teal'c's door, he took the risk and looked over his shoulder. "I'll never regret what happened, Teal'c."

"Neither will I, Daniel."

Nodding, he stepped through and closed the door... and let himself breathe.

. . .

Daniel checked his email and found himself chuckling at the outrageously coded subject lines for porn. Staring at the email as he hit delete again and again, Daniel's smile faded as memories of the planet filled his mind again, in gorgeous technicolor; how he'd fucked and been fucked. He should be embarrassed, but he wasn't.

He enjoyed what he'd done--and more accurately, what he'd been able to do. He didn't want to forget any of it, not with Teal'c, not with any of them. Carlin had had the freedom to do what Daniel could not. Fuck openly and honestly with whomever he chose without fear of judgment or persecution.

Daniel envied Carlin. And after two days at home, by himself, he realized that that was partly the source of his anger. The other source being Carlin's desire for Jonah, and his own desire for Jack. The consistent denials and refusals only added fuel to that fire. Daniel had wanted Jack since their first meeting, but had quietly and purposely stuffed those forbidden feelings away, never once taking them out and examining them. Carlin, and Jonah, had brought them to the surface.

Now, Daniel couldn't stuff those feelings back inside. He could go on, go back to work, act as if he didn't have them, act as if he'd never offered himself to Jack. He was good at pretending.

But the horrible truth of the matter was that his feelings for Jack were now in his conscious mind and could never go back into the dark.

Ever.

Daniel wanted so badly to be Carlin just one more time.

. . .

Insistent knocking on his front door brought Daniel out from a sleep that had been assisted by couple of glasses of old cognac he'd been saving for...doomsday or something. He was still buzzed but not drunk. He rarely did that anymore. What was the point if you did it alone?

The knocking continued and Daniel pushed himself up from the couch and went to the door. Moving back the deadbolt, he opened it and found Jack standing there, leaning one hand on the frame. It took Daniel a moment to realize that Jack looked like shit.

Well, not totally true. Jack looked hot no matter what so the point here was that he didn't look okay. Not one bit.

"Whaz..." Daniel started and cleared his throat and stretched his mouth to loosen it up. "Sorry, was asleep. What's wrong, Jack?"

"Can I come in?" Jack asked, his tone brusque, rude.

The anger rose quickly and Daniel assumed that Jack wasn't there because he wanted to be, he was there because he thought he had to be. Which meant a long, involved round of It Never Happened.  Well, nothing had, so Daniel was further confused and angry, and all the calm he'd tried to achieve was blown to hell.

Stepping aside, he gestured with a flourish for Jack to come in. The alcohol in his system made him a bit more free with his actions, which was one reason he rarely drank around Jack anymore.

"Some things change, some things stay the fuckin' same." He slammed the door shut and returned to the couch, falling onto his back, aware the entire time of Jack's surprised expression. "Help yourself to whatever, Jack, then say whatever it is you came to deny and then get out."

"What the hell bug crawled up your ass?"

Daniel wasn't about to sit up for that one. He covered his eyes. "If that's how you're going to speak to me, then get out right now. You started with the bad attitude, Jack, not me. Don't blame me for responding to it with anger."

Jack was quiet for a minute as Daniel heard him approach the back of the couch.

"I'm sorry. I've had a bad night."

"Well, I'm sorry too, and you're not the only one. In fact, I've had a few bad nights. So what."

"Daniel...have you been...are you drunk?"

"No, I'm buzzed. But it makes me talk more than usual, as you well know. I'm also angry, again as you well know. I'm angry at being ignored, angry at what happened, and didn't happen, on that miserable excuse for a planet." He heard a sigh come from Jack and figured it was relief. Well, he was about to unsettle Jack even further and for that, he may as well look him in face. Daniel moved his hand away and looked up into Jack's face as he now sat on the back edge of the couch. "You look like hell, Jack. Having trouble sleeping?" Jack opened his mouth to speak, but Daniel went on. "I am, too. Wanna know why?"

"Sure, why not."

"Sarcasm, thy name is Jack."

"Hey, you started that one."

Daniel sat up. "Damn right. Because I'm pissed off. I'm not just angry, I'm pissed. Although the British would find that funny since I've had a few drinks and to them, being pissed means being drunk, only I'm not drunk, just buzzed, and I ramble way too much when--"

"Daniel, the point?"

Daniel hated it when Jack did that, but even more when he gave Jack a reason. "I'm pissed because of you."

Jack didn't answer. He only looked at the bottle of cognac. "Okay, then if I'm going to get yelled at, could I at least have some of that?"

"Sure, I told you to help yourself, but as usual, you never listen to me."

"Daniel, just stop it."

"Stopping, sir, yes, sir." He dropped onto his back, knowing quite well how his anger had turned pissy. He had to get a hold of the immaturity and behave more rationally, even if he was...a little more buzzed than he thought. He heard ice clinking in a glass, then the pouring of liquor. Jack returned to the living room, only this time, he pushed Daniel's bare feet out of the way and sat down. Daniel tried not to glare at him as he pulled his feet in, more than necessary.

After Jack took a long drink, he sighed. "Okay, commence with the rant."

"Funny. You should go on the road."

Another sigh and Jack retreated into silence. Daniel stared at him and hated him. Hated him for being handsome, courageous, a hero, an asshole, a sarcastic prick, and for being too fuckable to live. He took a deep breath, sat up, took a small sip from Jack's glass and handed it back.

"Okay, here's a little bit of the rant. I'm angry at you, at Jonah, for refusing Carlin, for refusing me."

Jack's mouth dropped open as he stared at him. Daniel shrugged. "I'm not the least bit sorry for what happened on the planet, for what Carlin did, and you want to know why?"

Jack was nearly white as a sheet.

"I'll tell you why," Daniel said, dropping one leg off the couch as he scooted closer, not forgetting for one instant that all he had on were his white boxer-briefs. "Because Carlin had balls, that's why. He did what I've always wanted the freedom to do."

"Are you saying you've always wanted to fuck guys, Daniel?" Jack asked, finding his voice, and clearing it when Daniel's brows rose significantly. "I mean, you fucked a lot of guys. Is that what you wanted?"

"Considering that I haven't had sex in over five years, yeah, that's exactly what I wanted. And the freedom with which to do it."

"Was getting fucked by Tor part of that?"

Daniel leveled such a hard look at Jack that he made him look away briefly. "Teal'c and I aren't bothered with what happened, Jack. We're still friends and that's all that matters. Not that it's any of your business."

Jack leveled him with a penetrating gaze that Daniel refused to look away from. "Just as your fucking Sam is none of my business.  Is it?"

Jack's mouth dropped again, as well as his skin color. "Carter and I never had sex, Daniel."

Daniel snorted. "Shit, ask a man to tell the truth," he said with disgust and rose off the couch, grabbed his glass, and made his way into the kitchen. "I need another drink."

"I'm telling you the truth, dammit!" Jack shouted, walking after him.

After taking a long gulp of straight cognac, he poured another and added ice. He felt the alcohol go straight to his system even faster than before. "I remember, Jack," he told him vehemently, letting everything out. "I saw Thera come out from behind that boiler after Jonah seduced her away from Kegan, so don't you dare lie to me. Don't you fucking dare. If you haven't the balls to tell me the truth, then get the fuck out and don't ever come back."

Inside, Daniel was screaming at himself at the ultimatum he'd just issued, but his pride demanded that Jack act as honorably as Teal'c had. In a quieter voice, he added, "It's the least you can could do for our friendship, if we're still friends, that is."

"I never said we weren't," Jack argued, surprise now added to the clear anger.

"Then don't you think I deserve the truth?"

Jack frowned and looked away. "I never said that either."

"Then tell me the truth about you and Sam. I saw it, and even if it was Jonah and Thera, it was still you and Sam. Are you two continuing where you left off on the planet?"

"Daniel..."

"If you don't want to talk about what happened on the planet, or your feelings about it, then why are you here?"

Jack ground his jaw as he stared back at him.

"Want me to tell you why I think you're here?"

Jack sighed and tipped his glass at him. "Why not, Daniel. You're on a roll."

"Well, I'm the only one talking."

"You're not giving me a chance to."

"Yes, I am. You're just taking an awful long time to say nothing at all."

"God you can be such a prick sometimes."

"So can you, and you're better at it."

"Can we quit trading insults and talk?" Jack suddenly asked, completely aware of the hypocrisy.

Daniel snorted. "Go right ahead then."

Jack took a drink, staring at him, and for a couple of minutes, nothing was said.

"Jesus," Daniel said with disgust and returned to the living room sofa.

Jack slowly returned to seat next to him on the couch, and when he sat down, Daniel dropped his head against the back of the couch and turned to look at him.

"Did you come over here to tell me that what I saw on the planet, where Jonah is concerned, never happened?"  Jack looked away and Daniel sighed. "If I imagined it all, then of course Jonah never saved Carlin's life. That must've been wishful thinking but I can't remember how I escaped that room or that man."

When Jack kept silent, though it was obvious that he was struggling for something to say, Daniel lost any remaining patience he had with him. He rubbed his eyes and sat forward. "You know what, Jack?  Deny it all.  It's not my life, it's yours."

He got up and headed for the hallway.

"Daniel, I didn't come here to deny anything. I just wanted to spare you...I...shit, I don't know."

Daniel turned to look at him, disbelieving his ears. What was it with Teal'c, and now Jack, that made them think that he was some innocent virgin, homosexual or not? He slowly made his way back to the couch, sat down, and turned to face Jack squarely. "Listen to me, Jack. I'm gonna say this only once, okay?"

"Okay," Jack answered slowly, warily.

"I don't have a problem fucking guys and I resent the tone you took when you said it in a manner that was accusing, as if I'd done something wrong. Well, I haven't. I fucked about six different guys down there and about three women. One of the guys was Teal'c and he was the one I preferred over the others because both Carlin and I gravitate toward relationships, not free-for-all fucking. But that didn't keep me from enjoying myself when I could. Also, that wasn't my first time, when you saw me with Owen. I'm definitely not a virgin, so if you have any notions of protecting me from the big, bad wolf, just put a fucking sock in it."

As he spoke, Jack's eyes grew wider and wider. "You mean, you're really experienced? That you've..."

Another flush rose to Jack's cheeks, but there was another look in his eyes that Daniel hadn't seen before. On Jack. But he'd seen it on Jonah. The day that he offered himself to him and Jonah had resisted and walked away. He thought that Jack was about to reject him once more if he offered and Daniel held up his hand.

"You can say it, Jack. Oh, and don't worry. I'm not going to stand up, drop my drawers and offer myself to you again. I think one rejection is enough for me to get the hint."

"Except that was Jonah," Jack said quietly.

Daniel grit his teeth again. "And if Daniel did the same to Jack, he'd get the same response. Only in your case, Jack, I might also expect to get a punch across the jaw for threatening your poor, abused heterosexuality."

"Ex-fucking-scuse me?" Jack spat, pissed off now. "How dare you call me homophobic."

"Your fear-based reactions tell me you're homophobic. If Jonah had any desire--"

"Who said he didn't, Daniel?" Jack asked, indignant and even more pissed off at Daniel's assumptions.

"I never once saw you with a guy, Jack."

"Doesn't mean I didn't have feelings. And you're assuming an awful lot."

"Don't try that defensive shit on me. The proof is in your actions and hiding behind excuses isn't going to convince me that you, as Jack, think I'm disgusting."

"I don't! I'm just...scared and...very confused."

Daniel knew that took an effort for him to say, but it didn't do anything to erase the unmistakable insult he felt. "I can understand why Jonah didn't go to Carlin, Jack. I can even understand hesitating to talk to me. But to lie, to cover it up, to pretend and bury your head in the sand?"

"It's not that, you sonofabitch. Do you think that Carter's having an easy time remembering being with a woman when she'd always thought of herself as straight? Do you think it's possible that maybe the same thing is happening with me? That perhaps Jonah liked watching Carlin and that maybe it scared him to know that because it was in my subconscious to react that way? Do you think it's possible that I could feel the same way?"

Daniel was suddenly clued in on something he stupidly hadn't considered. Jack wasn't just pissed off. He was hurt.

"Did it ever occur to you that perhaps neither Carter nor I would be as freely accepting of an open sexuality as you or Teal'c?"

"Um...actually, no. It hadn't." Daniel felt the guilt swarm over him. "I'd always thought of you and Sam as completely straight. It's why I was so confused and well, torn up, about Jonah's jealous reactions to Carlin."

He couldn't believe how he'd misread that and he gave Jack an apologetic look. "I'm sorry."

Jack shook his head but Daniel didn't know why. Until he was told otherwise, he could only assume that the reason was that Jack didn't accept the apology. He needed distance and got up and went before the front window, folding his arms and staring out of the large pane of glass. Everything was screwed up. Nothing made sense. Jack wanted him but wouldn't allow himself the feelings because he was scared of them. Teal'c wanted him but wouldn't allow himself the feelings because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Junior.

"This isn't fair."

"No, it's not," Jack answered.

"So why did you really come over, Jack?" Daniel asked, his tone considerably lowered. "After all, you'd waited two days. You could have just avoided this whole thing--"

"I wasn't going to ignore it, Daniel. I did that with Carter and it bit me on the ass."

"Except you went on flirting with her, which is something you can't openly do with me if you wanted to. With her, it's not okay, but it's also not a big deal."

"Don't ask, Don't Tell is also Fraternization. It can get us into some serious trouble. Hammond won't pursue it, as long as it doesn't interfere with our jobs, but others would object, and they'd tell some others who'd put pressure on Hammond to act. So no matter what, he'd have to do something. I'm not going to destroy a friendship and working relationship based on a little pent up desire."

Daniel looked over his shoulder, grateful that Jack had said so much. He also knew damn well that Jack wasn't just talking about Sam. He gave Jack an understanding nod.

"I can respect that, even if I don't like it. I hope Sam can, too."

Jack got up and walked over to him. He seemed to hesitate when Daniel took his eyes off the sunset.

"Wanna hear something completely fucked up? This'll make you laugh, so I think you'd better have a talk with Teal'c and straighten him out."

Daniel's inner voice was screaming 'no' just as Jack replied, "What?"

"Teal'c thinks you're in love with me. How fucked is that? Of course, he also thinks that I'm in love with you, and how fu..."

Daniel's voice halted as he saw movement. Then Jack's hand was reaching toward his neck and he let the rest of his words fumble out of his mouth. "...cked up is that? Jack, what're you doing?"

"I...just this once. I have to know."

Harder and with more fear than he had on the planet, Daniel's heart pounded in his chest as Jack held the back of his head and kissed him. His warm lips were firm over his own and Daniel wanted to fold under him, bring him to the carpet, wrap his legs around him and never let go. The feeling intensified when Jack licked between his lips and sought out his tongue. In two more seconds, he was kissing the hell out of him, his tongue now deep in his mouth.

Daniel's fingernails scratched against the window as he dared not touch Jack. The moment he did, it would be over. He'd suffer endless dreams and fantasies and it was bad enough remembering the touch of his hands on the back of his thighs. When Jack's arms encompassed his body and one hand passed over his ass, Daniel moaned and somehow managed to keep his hands free. His cock was hard and the mounting desire had him kissing Jack back with an intensity that surprised him.

But he couldn't take it. He couldn't. 'Cause Jack wouldn't let him have it. And neither would Teal'c.

He stumbled a few feet away, bringing his hand to his mouth as he made sure he wasn't looking at Jack. He didn't even want to know if he was near and closed his eyes. "Okay, there. You've had your taste. Now do me a huge favor, Jack, and please leave. This hurts more than you'll ever know."

"I have an idea, Daniel," Jack told him. His voice was behind him.

"I don't see how, Jack. I'm willing to risk being with you because I think you're worth it. I also believe that, unfortunately, Teal'c was right. Trouble is, I think he was wrong about you."

Jack's hands were on his shoulders then, but the went nowhere else. "He wasn't."

Daniel squeezed his eyes tighter, not wanting to hear that. "Shit, don't say that."

"Have to. I also have to say I'm sorry. And I'm asking for time and a shitload of patience. Can you give me that?"

Daniel opened his eyes and with all he had left, forced himself to turn around and look into Jack's eyes. He kept his arms tightly wrapped around him, however. He didn't trust himself at the moment because the look in Jack's eyes was extremely clear.

Daniel could seduce him, right now, and he'd get him. But he didn't want that. Not anymore. Jack had to come to him freely, without shame or regret.

He gave Jack a quiet nod and Jack leaned in and kissed his temple. Daniel had to keep himself from leaning into the small kiss. When Jack moved for the door, Daniel followed him.

"Are we okay?" Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged. "Right now, no, but I hope we will be. Teal'c and I came to an understanding, Jack. This will take a while. And that goes double for you and I."

Jack considered that as he stared into Daniel's eyes, then leaned in an kissed him once more, on the lips. Daniel let him, but stopped the kiss by opening the door. Jack walked through the threshold and looked over his shoulder. With a shared, sad look, Daniel closed the door.

He stood there, stunned for a moment, his lips burning with need, then he turned round and slid down the door, coming to an abrupt halt as his ass hit the wooden floor.

"Shit," he said aloud, and briefly covered his eyes with the palms of his hands. His life was so much more complicated, now that Carlin had woken everyone up. Everyone meaning his teammates.

As he sat there, unmoving, Daniel examined everything, including the stuff he wasn't proud of, like his outbursts to Jack. Daniel couldn't find it in himself to regret a single moment of what had happened, not even the bad parts. Especially not what had happened this evening.

Carlin had been what he couldn't be, and while Daniel wished to be Carlin again once in a while, he was glad that he wasn't. Carlin had been an edge, an extreme, and someone Daniel had needed to be. Perhaps, as time would tell, Daniel Jackson would be needed, too.

~

end