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Hot, humid planets populated by tiny grasshoppers that made a disconcerting crunching sound beneath AF-issue boots were a total pisser. Fucking pisser. Fucking pointless, messy, irritating, pisser. Jack added an extra epithet with every footstep back to camp.

He stalked ahead, taking point. Good place to be. Didn’t have to see the long-suffering glances he was sure were being exchanged between Carter and Daniel right now. Even Teal’c had given him the eyebrow when he ordered the team to “Pack the hell up. There’s a storm coming and it feels like a doozy and I want to keep my socks dry.”

He ignored the jointly uttered, “But Jack” and “But sir,” and warned off further dissent with a raised forefinger. Carter got that thin-lipped, quietly rebellious look on her face but knew when to shut up. Daniel, however, was Daniel, and didn’t.

“Another hour, Jack. By Sam’s calculations, the storm won’t hit until close to sunset. I can finish recording the walls of the temple in 40 minutes and Sam and Teal’c can be done with the sample retrievals before that.”

“In the event of the storm arriving sooner than expected, we could take shelter in the lee of the escarpment a mere ten minutes away,” chipped in Teal’c, the traitorous bastard.

“We could be packed up and there in 15 minutes, sir,” added Carter, emboldened by her never-know-when-to-quit teammates.

Jack gave them all the look. “Camp is nearer the Gate. If this storm really kicks in, we might need to bug out PDQ. And obviously, even though it doesn’t say Colonel on my uniform, last time I looked I was that man.”  

That did the trick.

When all else fails, pull rank.

Carter kind of sighed a little, Teal’c just sucked it up and Daniel ... Daniel pouted and wore that aggravating mix of hurt and defiance on his scrunched up, pouty face.  His sweaty, dirty, beautiful face. He’d spent the past couple of hours of the 48-hour stay-over mission lying on his back trying to read and record inscriptions carved into the lower sections of delicately chiselled stone pillars on P7X-112. He’d brushed soil and lichen from the stone and some of it had mixed with the sweat in the 90-degree heat.

Jack hated heat. Reminded him too much of dark, difficult places. He loathed the stickiness of sweat.

He responded like Pavlov’s dogs to sweaty, sticky, dirty Daniel, though, and that was the problem. Today – maybe because of the oppressive atmosphere or the fact that the smell of Daniel’s sweat made him want to lick Daniel’s neck and suck Daniel’s cock until he was smothered in his scent – he wasn’t coping very well with responding to those things.

Jack vented mentally at the universe and lengthened his stride. “Pick up the pace,” he half-turned and barked. “Carter’s wrong. There’s definitely a storm brewing and it’s brewing right now.”

“It’s been brewing all day,” he heard Daniel mutter. He thought he heard an answering sigh from Carter but chose to pretend he didn’t. He was in charge around here. It didn’t hurt to remind the alien, civilian and by-the-book subordinate of that from time to time.

Jack crunched through another half dozen grasshoppers and tried to stop thinking about Daniel’s sweat-stained bandana.  He harbored a desire to smooth the damp cotton off Daniel’s head, hold it to his face and inhale the pheromone-rich material, then wrap it round his own cock and jerk himself off, fast and hard and without finesse.

And shit, he wasn’t supposed to be thinking about this stuff. And now he was hard and uncomfortable and fuck could this day get any worse?

Well, hell yes. Of course it could. A flash of lightning on the horizon heralded a distant rumble of thunder and the first fat, warm drops of rain began to fall.

“Crap. Let’s go!” Jack began to run across the uneven grassland towards the campsite. They weren’t far away now. The tents were pitched on the edge of a clearing in a small wood. The trees were tall, with big broad leaves and offered some measure of protection from the elements.  Jack could see the site just up ahead.  Running with a hard-on was a bitch, and his right knee was aching fiercely. In his mind’s eye, he had a sudden, very clear picture of handing his retirement papers in to Hammond when he got back to the SGC.  A man could only suffer so much; painful joints, stubborn erections and even more stubborn sexy-as-fuck civilian consultants were enough to drive any man past the point of endurance.

The rain started to fall harder, but it did nothing to take the edge off the heat. The droplets were warm and splodgy and huge and they clung everywhere they hit. If this hard-on didn’t go down before they hit camp, it would show up nicely through his soaked BDUs. Great. Thank you god.

Jack squinted through the rain pouring down his face and turned his head to make sure he was being followed.

 Carter, Daniel and Teal’c, in that order, were forging through the long, wet grass. Carter half-stumbled on the uneven ground and held out a hand which was immediately caught and steadied by Daniel. Teal’c reached out and grabbed a fistful of her jacket, helping to keep her upright. They hardly broke stride.

Three drowned rats, three drowned rats ... see how they run, see how they run ...

Jack smiled to himself, and in spite of himself. It had been a while since he’d stopped to think how much these three had gotten under his skin; a damp, sweaty, Hallmark moment on an alien world. His life was weird.

Breathing hard and soaked through, they reached camp. Carter had her own tent, and Teal’c had always insisted on separate accommodations.  Sometimes, because Daniel needed the extra space to work, usually when he should damned well be sleeping, Jack and Daniel shared a large two-man.

This was one of those times, and Jack cursed his luck.

He really, really, didn’t want to be in close confines with a wet, filthy, sweat-coated Daniel right now. Luckily, his erection had subsided. Mostly. He was still aware of it, though, and if he was, Action Man with Eagle Eyes Daniel probably would be, too.

Christ. Could the universe not give him a break?

“Inside. Change into dry gear and stay inside until this eases off,” Jack shouted over the rain and thunder. It rumbled  again, getting nearer and louder. The sky was black, the huge thunderheads edged in ominous off-white and orange. This wasn’t going away anytime soon.

“It is only rain, O’Neill. I will take first watch if you feel it necessary,” Teal’c said. Jack watched the raindrops run off his bald head in a kind of fascination. He felt a sudden surge of gratitude that Teal’c was here. They’d so nearly lost him. Stuck in the Gate as nothing more than an energy signature. What a way to go.

“Forget it. The biggest sign of life is those damned grasshopper things.” Jack found himself spraying rain as he spoke. He could barely blink it away fast enough. “This is going to get nasty.  We sit and wait it out.”

Teal’c inclined his head, Carter nodded and a curtain of rain dripped from the peak of her cap.

Jack watched until he made sure they were safely under canvas, then followed Daniel into their tent.

The immediate lack of rain on his face was a blessed relief. The sight of Daniel peeling himself out of bandana, boots, sodden jacket and desert cammo BDU pants wasn’t.

Jack hit the radio and checked Carter and Teal’c were able to receive, then took off his cap and ran a hand through his hair. He was suddenly tired. The ache in his knee had transmitted down his leg and his calf muscle was tight and solid. A massage would be so good right about now.

Daniel’s jacket and pants hit the groundsheet by the tent flap with a squelch. He was down to soggy T-shirt and briefs in less than a minute. Jack checked the tent for water-tightness, then checked the canvas for greenness. Then ran out of things to check. In desperation, he knelt by his pack and pretended to check its contents.

“So,” Daniel said, pulling the T-shirt over his head.  The shirt hit the pile of clothing with a wet thud. Daniel’s hair stuck up every which way.  Jack wanted to run his hands through it. “You going to tell me why you’re being such an asshole today?”

Jack felt his defensive shields lock into place.

“No, actually, scratch that. You’ve been an asshole all week.” Daniel fished a towel from his pack and swiped it across his chest. Jack watched Daniel’s nipples peak at the touch of the rough cloth. Daniel scrubbed under his arms. Jack couldn’t look away from the damp tufts of armpit hair.

He saw Daniel seeing him unable to look away. Daniel’s usually open face was unreadable and the unreasonable anger and desire rose in Jack again. He swallowed.  His throat was so dry he made an audible clicking sound. To cap it all, it wasn’t only the anger and desire that were rising. Again.

“You’ve been an asshole since I got back from Moscow. Care to share?”  Daniel shoved the towel back in his day pack. His white briefs clung wetly to his package. Jack tried not to look at the shape of it. Tried not to want to put hands on it, cup it, squeeze and just ... hold the weight of it in his hand.

“I’m an asshole every day of the week, Daniel.  Today is no different than any other.” Jack took off his jacket and shivered slightly. God, he hated being wet.

“This is more than your average assholery, Jack.  Leaving aside K’Tau for a moment, when anything and everything seemed to irritate the hell out of you, me included, you’ve been like this on and off since we fucked that one and oh, as it turns out, only time. You’ve been more like this since Davis and I got back from Russia. My logically-inclined scientific mind is sensing some kind of connection, but I can’t quite join the dots yet.” Daniel punched into a clean T-shirt.  His body language said he was pissed; his voice was level, bordering on the mildly disinterested. From experience, Jack recognized this as a dangerous combination.

“Keep your voice down,” he hissed, pulling off his T-shirt and stuffing it into his pack. He watched Daniel watching him. Felt himself harden further under Daniel’s unrelenting gaze.  Felt Daniel’s eyes rake across his chest and fix on his dog tags. Daniel pulled down his own damp briefs, eyes lifting to fix on Jack’s, carrying some kind of unspoken challenge. Daniel touched his dick and balls with deliberate care, tugging a little, shaking them properly free of the confines of the wet cotton. He ran the towel over his groin, slowly. He started to harden.

Jack concentrated on breathing in and out.

Daniel pulled on dry white briefs, settling his package to his own comfort, smoothing a hand over the cotton, adjusting the waistband, drawing Jack’s eye to the reddish-brown treasure trail. The urge to run his finger down the soft hair, to reach into the underwear and touch, oh god, to touch him, was visceral.

“What are you worried about, Jack, really? They can’t hear us above the deluge and the thunder.” Right on cue, a massive thunderclap broke overhead. Jack jumped, startled by the noise and his response to Daniel’s question.

What was he afraid of?

“This is not the time or the place,” Jack ground out.  He really needed to shed his BDU pants but that was the last thing he wanted to do. He felt exposed enough as it was.

“For what?” Daniel asked, a small really not very nice smile curling at the corner of his mouth. “For talking about why you fucked me after you couldn’t bear what the memory stamp told you about Jonah’s feelings for Carlin?”

Jack tensed his hands on the dry T-shirt, his fingers clenching the fabric so hard he was frightened of tearing it.

“Only it wasn’t Jonah’s feelings at all. It was yours for me.”

Jack’s cock twitched at the memory of that night at Daniel’s place; a semi-drunken evening of obtuse conversation about other lives and what ifs, and then a hurried coupling of Jack in Daniel that was harsh and intense. It was difficult. It was mind-blowing. It was the greatest connection he’d had in sex with anyone, except for the early days with Sara. And the feel of Daniel’s skin beneath his hands, the way his body moved in response to Jack’s thrusting, the sounds Daniel made when he came ...

“It was a mistake. It should never have happened.” Jack heard the words as he spoke them and recognized them for the mealy-mouthed lies they were. He pulled the creased T-shirt over his head.

“You never were a very good liar,” Daniel said, a hint of amused tolerance in his voice that made Jack want to slap him, and god, but didn’t that thought jump straight from his brain to his cock. He was so hard he ached. The need to touch himself, to soothe, was immense.

Daniel pulled on clean pants and socks but left his boots off. “You needed that fuck as much as you wanted it. Something became clear in your mind after Jonah.”He rolled out his sleeping bag and lay down on top of it, facing Jack, propped on one elbow.

“Jonah was not me and Carlin wasn’t you. I have no idea what took me to your place that night. Since you seem to know more about what’s going on in my mind than I do, maybe you can tell me?”

“I had no idea. I have no idea since you haven’t deigned to talk about it. You came to me that night, remember? Any answers lie with you.” Daniel’s voice rose a little and got that slightly clipped tone to it. Pissiness warring with affected nonchalance. It was supremely aggravating.

“How could I forget, since you so obviously won’t let me.” He wanted out of this tent. He wanted out of this conversation. He’d managed to avoid it for months, and now he felt as though he were onboard some runaway train.  He wasn’t in control, here. Of anything.

“I remember a lot about that night,” Daniel said, like he was recalling the simple pleasures of a day at the beach or a successful shopping trip. He turned on his back and stretched, a full-body, tension-relieving stretch, splaying fingers and flexing toes. The play and shift of muscle and tendons was mesmerizing. He wasn’t built, but he was sculpted and toned. His body had lost the softness of his early days with the program. He was ... stunning. “I especially remember how you mouthed my name, over and over into my hair and neck when you came.”

Christ.

Daniel turned his head and pinned Jack with fierce blue eyes. “That didn’t feel like a mistake to me. It didn’t feel like it should never have happened.”

The rain was beating down so hard Jack couldn’t hear himself think. Just when it seemed it was raining as hard as it could, it came down even harder. The wind suddenly strengthened for a few seconds, too, and the sides of the tent were buffeted violently inwards, looking for all the world liked sucked-in cheeks. Microburst, Jack thought in the part of his brain that wasn’t flailing with the can’t-deal-with-this stuff. Can bring down planes on landing;  downburst, outburst, cushion. Deadly. Unpredictable.

Jack turned away from Daniel’s penetrating gaze. He couldn’t bear the intensity or the demand for a response. For the truth. The truth would kill him. Grateful for something to do, he reached for his radio.  “Carter, Teal’c, come in. You guys okay?”

There was a short burst of static and then, “Fine, sir. I think my tent may have sprung a leak.”

“That gonna be a problem?”

“No, sir. Nothing a couple of Band Aids won’t solve in the short term.”

Jack smiled.  This was great. A taste of normality. Routine mission banter, not tricky don’t-want-to-go-there stuff. “Brownie points for invention, Carter.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll take a pay raise instead, if that’s okay with you.”

“Teal’c, you copy?”

“I am fine, O’Neill. I will attempt to kel no’reem.”

“Yeah? Good luck with that. This thunder’s enough to wake the dead.”

“Kel no’reem is not sleep, O’Neill.”

Jack smiled. “I know, I meant ... Stay by the phone. O’Neill out.”

He placed the radio beside his pack, rolled out his sleeping bag a foot away from Daniel’s and sat on it, hands clasped on arms round is knees. He faced the entrance to the tent, not Daniel.

“Pants are wet.” Daniel said, apropos of nothing, back on his side, facing Jack and leaning on one elbow.

“I’ll live.”

“Kind of clingy, too.”

Fuck. “That’s what happens when pants get caught in the rain. I’m not trying out for Mr. Wet BDUs this year, if that’s what you’re thinking.” And can we not talk about pants right now?

“Clingy in all the right places.”

Jack snapped. “Okay. Enough. Stop it.”

“Not until you tell me why you’re so angry,” Daniel shot back.

“I’m not.”

“Are to.”

“I’m not doing this, Daniel.”

“Neither am I. Just tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

Daniel sighed. It was a frustrated, bordering- on-losing-it sigh. “Okay. If you won’t tell me why you’ve been such a shit since I came back from Russia, you can at least tell me why you’ve had a hard-on ever since we got in here.”

Jack shifted uncomfortably. The second the words “hard-on” left Daniel’s lips, his erection made itself known by twitching in the confines of his briefs. “It happens.”

“With you? Occasionally after repeated firing of your P-90 or some other honking big space gun, or when fast planes appear on TV coverage of air shows. Not while sitting in a tent waiting for a storm to pass.”

“I’m a guy, Daniel. Maybe I haven’t been getting much lately.” And why the fuck did he just say that?

Outside, the rain eased off a little. It was still beating down on the canvas, though. Loud and persistent.  Inside, the air was still and heavy, weighed down.

“I can help you with that,” Daniel said, softly. It was the gentlest, kindest tone of voice he’d used all day. Possibly ever.  Jack closed his eyes. He felt exhausted. Fighting this relentless Danielness was exhausting.

It was right there on the tip of his tongue; all the reasons to say “no.” The regs, the team, protocols, his own personal code of rules never to be broken.

Instead, he said nothing.  Just listened to the rain falling and rumble of thunder as it rolled across the sky. All sound and fury, signifying ...

“Let me, Jack,” Daniel said, even more softly. Jack heard the rustle of sleeping bag as Daniel edged toward him.  He couldn’t see him, but he could feel him, edging carefully as if approaching a wounded animal.

“Don’t,” Jack whispered, the first word in a sentence that could have taken them anywhere ...  don’t touch me, don’t make me do this ... don’t stop.

“It’s okay. It doesn’t have to mean anything.  Just one guy helping another guy out.” Daniel was moving closer. Closer and closer to the point of no return. For either of them. For any of them. “Happens all the time in the military. Stress relief.” Daniel’s breath was warm against Jack’s cheek. So close, he was so close ...  “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

Jack held his breath. If he didn’t breathe, he couldn’t speak, and couldn’t say the words that he needed to say.

“But it does. It does mean something,” Jack said, slowly and quietly. He could stop. Right now, He could stop and say nothing more. No harm done. But ...

“It means everything.”

The words fell into a well of silence broken only by the unceasing rhythm of the rain. Jack heard each word fall from his lips. Could picture them twisting and drifting one by one down into dark nothingness. He was falling, in freefall. More terrifying than any leap he’d ever made in the service of his country.

What had happened at Daniel’s place could be rationalized by him as an inchoate need, a one-off. Something that happened off-base and in the wake of a screwy, mind-fuck of a mission. This ... this was Jack knowingly, willingly saying “yes” to something that broke every rule in his book.

He felt a hand at his groin, warm, solid, resting on the bulge in his pants. “Ahhh,” he mouthed. It was barely a sound and was lost to another clap of thunder.

Time hung suspended in the humid, dense, confines of the tent. This was it. This was the moment Jack had fought to avoid for so long. And Carter and Teal’c were mere feet away.

Daniel’s hand didn’t move, just stayed there. Almost protective. Almost possessive. Daniel was waiting for Jack to make the next move. Jack either took hold of the hand and pushed it away – pushed Daniel away – or....

He thrust up, a minute, shuddering tensing of muscle, pushing the bulge of cock into Daniel’s hand. The pressure was exquisite. He relaxed a little, then thrust again, a little harder this time and Daniel’s hand pressed more firmly along the length of his shaft. It was perfect. Jack exhaled, a stuttering breath that ended in a soft, “huuh.”

“Lie down,” Daniel whispered.

Jack hesitated, then lay down, throwing an arm over his eyes.  He wanted to feel. He didn’t want to see. He fought not to tense as his fly was undone and bit his lip when Daniel reached inside for his cock. He was so fucking hard. Daniel palmed his shaft against Jack’s belly, using just the right amount of pressure. God.

Daniel’s touch lightened as he ran a thumb over the top of Jack’s cock, pushing slightly into the slit, rubbing pre-come. Oh shit, this was going to be fast. He didn’t want it to be fast.

“I want to take you in my mouth,” Daniel said, matter-of-factly. Like he was asking Jack to pass the salt. Jack almost laughed.

“Fuck,” Jack said. He couldn’t not say it.

“Maybe later.” There was a smile in Daniel’s voice it was like a cool beer to Jack’s parched soul. “Now, can I suck you?”

Jack nodded. He’d lost the ability to speak.

Daniel jerked his cock a few times, longer, stronger pulls that set Jack’s heart racing. Then, in a single smooth motion, he took Jack in his mouth and started a steady sucking while working the base of his dick.

It was bliss. Jack opened his eyes. Now, he had to see. He had to see to really know it, because Daniel was making love to him with an aching tenderness that hadn’t been Jack’s to give when they fucked. This felt like a first time. A beginning. An acknowledgement of something so integral to his sense of self that there was no arguing or reckoning with it. The sight of his cock in Daniel’s mouth, Daniel’s beautiful, Daniel-defining mouth, was too much. A muffled grunt escaped him, and shit, but he had to be quiet.  He lay back down with a thud and brought his arm up to his mouth. He bit down on his wrist to keep quiet. There would be a mark, and he was glad.

Jack thrust up into the warmth and wetness, pushed up into heaven. Pushed once, twice. Daniel made a “Hmmm” noise as he sucked. It went straight down Jack’s dick, the vibrations adding to the overwhelming sensation of being engulfed by tender heat.

And, god, but it was amazing and so fucking right. This blowjob, this simple blowjob was everything their first fuck wasn’t. It was laced with shocking familiarity and sense of rightness. It was healing and heartbreakingly honest.

It was, as Jack had known it would be, everything.

“Daniel, Daniel, Daniel.” He whispered the name in rhythm to the gentle lapping of the tip of his cock that had replaced the sucking. It was so intimate and so intensely hot. “Please,” he said, throat dry, heart beating hard enough to drown out the rain. “Please.” He wasn’t even sure what he was asking for.

Daniel held Jack’s cock softly in his mouth. Didn’t lap. Didn’t suck. Just let it rest there. “Ohhhh.” The gentle sound belied the fierce need Jack had to push his cock into that sweet mouth. Push and thrust and come. He wanted to come so badly. Needed to come.

Just when he thought he’d have to actually beg Daniel to get him off, Daniel started sucking again. Purposeful, focused, solely intent on Jack’s pleasure.

Jack edged up on his elbows. He fucking had to see this. He wanted to lay a hand on Daniel’s head and feel the soft strands of damp hair. He wanted to cradle the precious skull in both hands and fuck his mouth. He wanted ...

And the he couldn’t think at all because he was coming and, oh fuck, oh fuck, he had to make a noise. But Daniel had reached up and put his hand over Jack’s mouth and the sound was muffled between fingers that smelled of Daniel and him; Daniel’s sweat and Jack’s semen,  and the thought of that made him come harder still.

He pulsed into Daniel’s mouth, his cock twitching again and again as he came and came. He thought he could come forever. If Daniel would only hold his dick there, suckle and tease and gentle. Daniel made a small sound that Jack had never heard come from him before. He couldn’t parse it. Didn’t have the mental wherewithal or energy.

Breathing heavily, he touched the tip of his tongue to Daniel’s fingers, tasting sweat and come. He wanted Daniel to rub that hand all over him. Claim him. Mark him. So that there was no mistake.

Eventually, after what felt like a blissful forever, Daniel eased Jack’s cock from his mouth. He kissed the tip with an amazed adoring reverence and sat up, watching Jack intently as Jack lapped his fingers. He didn’t take his hand away. Didn’t make any move to back off. He was in this every bit as much as Jack was.

Jack stopped licking Daniel’s fingers and instead drew the hand to his face, pressed it to the shape of his cheek. He closed his eyes and reveled in the warmth of Daniel’s skin on his.

“Tell me,” Daniel began, and there was a sudden heartbreaking vulnerability about him, “please tell me that wasn’t a mistake.”

Jack shook his head and tightened his grip on Daniel’s hand on his face. “No mistake. And neither was what happened that night. It was the rightest thing in my life, Daniel.”

Daniel smiled, a cute, small, real smile. “Rightest?”

“Hey. Cut me slack. I’ve just come.” He swallowed. “I’ve just come in your mouth.”

“Yeah. I noticed.”

Jack glanced down at Daniel. “I should ... return the favor.”

Daniel stroked Jack’s cheek with his thumb. “No need. I think I need another change of underwear.”

That small sound ... Daniel had come from blowing Jack. My god ...

“If only you’d waited to change,” Jack said, for something to say.

“If only.”

Daniel sat back down on his sleeping bag. He looked ... calm. Not that aggravating calm that suffused him sometimes. Just peaceful. All the passive-aggressive confrontation smoothed away by the physical act of giving Jack head.  “Besides the fact that I came already, if you need to, for want of a better term, come to terms with this, I gave you a blowjob. I was the active participant here. If you were to go down on me or fuck me ... that’s something else. You can live with this, I think.”

Jack sighed.  Post-orgasm lethargy was hitting just as Daniel needed some kind of reassurance, or explanation. He owed him both. He lay down, facing Daniel.

Where to start. Gathering his thoughts was hard; he’d just come in Daniel’s mouth. And it was stunning and life-affirming and everything had changed. But the tent was still here and Carter and Teal’c were still out there. His mind was everywhere and nowhere.

“You were right. About Jonah. I remembered feeling  ... feelings. At first, I thought they were for Therra. It made sense but it didn’t feel right. When Jonah looked at her, there was attraction. When Jonah looked at Carlin, there was ... need. And I fought it. I watched you, him, Carlin, and I knew what I wanted, and I thought you, he, wanted it, too. Sometimes. I saw you watching me.  But I didn’t make the move because something , something from who I really was, stopped me I guess.”

Daniel was watching him intently.

Jack picked at a loose thread on the sleeping bag. “I went to your place that night to, I don’t know, sound you out? Talk if through? But I couldn’t. There was too much at stake. I didn’t want to lose the team and I couldn’t lose you. I was screwed. I had no idea we’d end up ...” He winced and closed his eyes. “I’m bad at this stuff.”

Daniel lay down, facing Jack.

“And yes, I’ve been a fucking asshole. I reached spectacular levels of assholery over the Moscow thing.”

Jack saw the second Daniel connected the dots. Just as he knew he would.

“My god.  You thought Davis and I ...”

“I’m a shit, Daniel. This should not be news.”

“You couldn’t have me but you didn’t want anyone else to have me either.”

Jack pulled hard on the thread but it was still connected and it ran further, puckering the material. “Like I said. Grade one shit. I watched him in the debriefing. I watched him watching you. He has feelings for you. And I thought, given how crappy we had been since that night, it was a possibility.”

Daniel frowned. He didn’t speak for a while. “I did pick up the vibe. I think, if I’d given him the smallest encouragement, something would have happened. He’s a nice guy, Jack. Straightforward, attractive ...”

“Not me.”

Daniel laughed. “Not you.”  He edged forward and reached out his hand, ran a finger down Jack’s T-shirt, coming to rest over his heart. “Nothing happened. I don’t want him. Not like I want you.”

“O’Neill.”Jack’s radio crackled into life. The intrusion of life outside the tent was startling and jarring. They looked at each in silence for a moment.

Daniel let his hand drop away as Jack answered. “Go ahead.”

“It has stopped raining.”

Jack cocked his head. The hiss of the rain was gone. The silence was almost eerie. They hadn’t even noticed.

“Sounds like.” He clicked off and crawled over to zip open the tent. He peered out, in time to see Carter doing the same. He ducked back in; no more time to talk.

“Daniel ...”

Daniel’s face was open and unguarded. “It’s up to you, Jack.” He waved a hand vaguely at his lower body. “I need to change. Just take a minute.”

Jack nodded.  So much he wanted to say, but life was waiting.

The ground was sodden. Water had gathered in deep-looking  puddles and the tall trees were dripping, but, up above, the sky was clearing to a washed-out blue-gray. The temperature had dropped a few degrees and the air was clearer.

Jack got out of the tent. His knee still hurt like a son of a bitch but the pain felt more manageable.

“The weather system passed through a lot quicker than I anticipated,” Carter said, smiling and futzing with an atmospheric doohickey. “Looks like the worst of the storm is over.”

Jack looked at Daniel as he exited the tent, inspecting his boonie before putting it on.

“Oh, I think it is,” Jack said. “Confidence is high, Carter. Confidence is high.” Daniel caught his eye briefly before looking away.

Jack took in a lungful of fresh air and let it out slowly.

For the first time in forever, he felt he could breathe again.