"Are they here yet?"
He turns his head away from the window and smiles at me gently. "Not yet." His voice matches his smile. He's so calm, so accepting.
"How long have we got?" My voice sounds hoarse, like I've been talking for too long. It's hard to swallow.
His fingers drop from the nasty, stiff satin curtains and he steps into the middle of the room. He stops a few paces from me, puts his hands in his pockets and shrugs, like he's eighteen instead of nearly fifty. "However long it is, it couldn't be long enough, could it, Love?"
He waits for me to answer, patiently watching me as my life implodes around me. How is he this calm? How can he possibly be this together now everything is crashing down around our ears? The final few grains of sand in the hourglass of our time are circling the hole and I can't think of a single thing to stop them. Years of study, more certificates and letters after my name than I can keep count of, and all for nothing now it comes down to the wire.
I sit down heavily on the horrible nylon bedspread. I don't know this place - we've never been here before, but Jack seemed to know where he wanted to go, so I just let him lead me. It looks like every motel room I've ever laid eyes on - tacky, tired and soulless. And yet, somehow, it's reassuring - maybe that's why he brought us here.
In the beginning, we always came to places like these. We'd drive as far as we could bear to before picking a random roadside motel. We'd take it in turns to pay in cash while the other waited in the car. Then we'd go to our room, lock the door and fall on each other like we were starving.
It was a space out of time where our normal lives ceased to exist and the world couldn't touch us. Between the rough, starchy sheets of a motel bed it was only him and me - no world to save, no decisions to be made, no price to pay.
Looking back, he was probably all that kept me sane. There are only so many missions a person can take without needing to recharge with whatever makes them whole – a family, a lover, a circle of close friends. Of course I didn't have anything but my work. Maybe that's why the first few times we were together were so desperate. I had years of being alone to make up for to add to the stresses of SG-1.
But Jack had been just as starved as I was. I remember the intensity of his eyes when we fucked. He always needed to see my face for the first three or four months. I'd wondered why that was at the time. Now I think I know. He wanted to know it was me – that it wasn't just mindless rutting, getting off to prove you were still alive. Not fucking to get the taint of the stress and struggle and brutality of our everyday lives off us. It was me – and it meant something.
No. It meant everything.
It was something we could give each other; it was a background we shared. He couldn't be taking from me, because I was taking just as much from him. We balanced each other's darkness out.
And after a while it became less frenzied. Our desire for each other notwithstanding, we'd take our time, prolong our passion until we'd be shaking apart with need. Each time we'd learn the other's body anew. The nights we shared were like a gift, something precious to be savoured so the memories could see us through the days in between, when we had to be Dr. Jackson and Colonel O'Neill.
Is that when we became sloppy? Is that when we started to give ourselves away? I don't remember there ever being a time when I wasn't aware of how dangerous this was. We took precautions, we considered the angles and we never took stupid risks.
We only started staying over at each other's places after six months and even now the care we take to cover our tracks is always of primary importance. The thrill of waking up with Jack in my bed, the delight of sharing the first coffee of the day together under the quilt is worth all the ridiculous lengths we go to to keep it invisible.
It's a heavy price. I'm not a man given to overt displays of affection; a kiss to me is something private and not to be flaunted. But keeping our relationship within the realm of friendship at the mountain is hard. Jack likes to touch, he always has, and finding the line between the playful arm around the shoulder of a friend and the accidental brush of a lover's hand is a battle we can't afford to lose. So he's stopped touching me at work.
We can pour more meaning into a small smile than a book full of sonnets; more promise in a glance than the most eloquent declaration of love. It's not perfect. Sometimes the need to reach over to him is overwhelming and I find myself with gritted teeth and pricking eyes, fighting against the urge to tell the world to go fuck itself.
We get through it.
The lying is the most difficult part for me. Sam and Teal'c are my family. Having to lie to them makes me sick inside. Like a tiny bit of me is dying with every casual misdirection or careless denial. Jack knows I hate that. He can never even meet my eyes when I've had to do it.
But I'd do it all again: the lying, the hiding, the guilt. I'd do all that and more if it meant we'd be together. In fact, it scares me to think of what I wouldn't give for him.
He's watching me with that crooked smirk on his face. Waiting for me. Giving me some time – the one thing we don't have. And that's when I get it.
We're not here because we're running.
We're here because we've stopped running.
He's brought us here because his house is the only place where we've ever felt even the slightest bit safe. He wants us to be able to keep that. He doesn't want our memories of there to be ruined by what's about to happen.
The early morning sun streams in through the sheers at the window, harsh and glaring, warm on my face and making the motes of dust in the air sparkle like tiny falling stars. With the light behind him, it makes his silver hair gold at the ends.
He looks rumpled and tired. Dragged from our bed by the call on Jack's cell at six this morning, we've had no time to shave or even shower. His shirt is clean, but his jeans are yesterday's, grabbed from the floor in our rush to leave his place. I don't know who tipped him off - someone who owed him a favour? A friend? I guess I don't need to know or he'd have told me.
The remains of last night's dinner are still in the sink. My books are still on the floor by the sofa, left open on the pages I was using. His beer bottles are still on the coffee table. Our bed is unmade, rumpled and smelling of sex. We left it all - a frozen moment in time that speaks to me of love and home, and to those seeking us, of guilt and victory.
Jack waits for me to speak. How can he be so sure? How does he know this is the right thing to do? How can he be ready for this?
"I'm not," I whisper. "I'm not ready. You should run. They can't do anything to me. I'm a civilian. Run, Jack. You could do it, you know. You're trained for this."
"The same people as trained me, trained them, Daniel. I'm not so egotistical as to assume we could outwit them. And I'm not as young as I used to be," he smiles at me in a way that makes a mockery of his words. When Jack smiles, he could be a kid again – it's his most honest and open expression. I love it when he smiles.
"You've saved the fucking world, Jack. They can't just lock you up for this. You're a hero. They OWE you." My voice is cracking, squeaky and deep in turns.
"It doesn't work like that, Babe. You know that. This isn't about you and me. It's not even about the Stargate. It's about politics. That's power. They have it - right now, we don't."
"I have skills. They need the things that I can do. If they want me to do those things…"
He steps closer and lays a hand on my head, hushing me. He threads his fingers through the strands of my hair and strokes them gently. "Oh Love, are you gonna hold the government to ransom? Do you think they'd let you do that?"
He sits down beside me, brushing the hair back from my face and rubbing a warm thumb along my cheekbone.
"You've come a long way since we met, Daniel. Man, I loved you even then. You had a way of looking at the world like everything was possible and no one ever cheated. You believed that truth was the answer and in the innate goodness of your fellow man. And we beat that out of you, didn't we?" He looks at me sadly, his lips pressed together as if he doesn't want to say these words anymore. But he continues. "This is just the same, Baby. This is just the same. They don't play by the rules…"
"This isn't fair…" I know I sound like a child. I'm not that naïve; I do know how this works. I've even played their game on occasion. But the injustice burns me. Jack has given more to this project and, by extension, to the planet than any of us. But now, with a change of administration and a new set of rules, he is going to be punished simply for falling in love.
"No, it's not. But there's nothing we can do."
"Jack…" My voice breaks. It's too much.
"Shhhh." He pets my hair some more and pulls me into his arms while I gulp and shake.
"This is my fault."
"I must have done something wrong. I gave us away…"
"Don't! Never, ever let me hear you say that again. Don't even think it. If you do that, they've won, don't you see?" He grips me fiercely as he speaks, pulling my head against his shoulder like he sometimes does after sex, while I'm still trembling from the intensity it. He does it to give me time to recover, to find balance again, and I think he's subconsciously doing that now. I breathe slowly through my nose - five seconds in and five seconds out, pulling my self together.
When I'm composed, I lift my head to find his eyes.
He nods a little bit, pleased that I seem to be back in control. "We can't let them taint this, Daniel. They are going to try and make this something we should be ashamed of," he explains softly, rubbing at his forehead. "They're going to try and say that what we are means that we're a security risk. They're going to imply that I took advantage of my position of authority to coerce you. It's going to be… unpleasant."
"What do we do?" I ask and I'm pleased to hear a hint of steel in my voice where none was before. He needs me to be strong. Snivelling won't help either of us. It's the very least I can do for him.
"I don't know yet, I won't know until we find out what they plan to do. I still have friends in positions of power and so do you. It might be that we can call in some favours. Or it might mean that I have to go away for a while."
I know what that means, and I nod numbly. The truth is that the SGC has been a law unto itself since the beginning. Nothing has prepared the military for an operation of this magnitude for all that they try to stretch the regulations to fit situations they have no experience with. This will come down to who has the most influential allies rather than the letter of the law.
So we have to wait and find out what they have in mind. Could be prison time or could be dishonourable discharge for him. Could be reassignment for one or both of us; with all the possibilities available to them through the Stargate, that could mean anything. Washington. Nevada. Beta Site. Pegasus Galaxy.
I feel the panic begin to well up inside me again and he must see it because he bends and tilts his head to kiss me; warm lips, inviting me to kiss back. I make my mouth soft and he grunts in satisfaction as he slips his tongue over mine.
His gentle reassuring kiss segues into something more urgent. My panic is dulled by the intensity of his mouth. I stretch my arms around him to stroke down his back and up under his shirt. The merest brush of his skin stirs something inside me, like a conditioned response. It's inappropriate really to be getting aroused now, but it's out of my hands.
As he takes me down onto the plastic slipperiness of the bedspread, I murmur to him, "How long do we have?"
His gaze goes liquid. "Forever, Daniel," he whispers and I close my eyes so he can't see the tears that I'm denying. Stupid time to say something so damn romantic.
I lift my head for his lips, capture them and kiss him with everything I've got. No matter what he says, I know it won't take long for them to find us and I have so much I want to say to him. So I pour all that into the point where our lips meet. I show him what he means to me, so he can't possibly be mistaken. And so he won't forget.
He sighs into my mouth, letting me have my way. I won't let desperation and misery touch this. With swift, confident fingers I unbutton his shirt and push it off his shoulders, lingering over the muscles of his upper arms. He stills above me and looks hard at me, wary and a tiny bit amused, even now. I gaze right back at him, not quite a dare and not quite a plea.
He leans back and pulls the shirt off his arms, then pulls me out of my t-shirt. In accord now, we strip silently, meeting each other in the middle of the bed again, naked and focussed. His eyes are dark, making my heart pound.
There are no words that we could say that wouldn't turn into goodbyes, so we say nothing. His hands glide, possessive and familiar over my body. My mouth owns his, our lips wide and soft as we try to kiss more of each other than ever before.
When he rolls onto his back, I know it's a request. He looks directly into my eyes, stretches his arms above his head and smiles. That's the closest to submissive you'll ever get from Jack O'Neill. And that's all I want.
I didn't exactly come prepared for this. In our hurry to get out of the house, lube wasn't at the top of my list of things to remember. Jack must see my hesitation, because his grin gets wide and he rolls half off the bed to pull a small white bottle from the pocket of his discarded jeans.
So this is why he brought us here – buying us enough time to make love once more before our fate is taken out of our hands. He looks askance at me as he passes the bottle to me, worried perhaps that I don't understand why he's done this. So I kiss him, hard and long. I understand completely.
When I sit back on my heels, he watches me through half closed eyes. His lips are swollen and spit slick; he looks utterly wanton and beautiful. I coat myself with the lube, my fingers shaking just a little bit. His eyes follow my hand as I touch myself and he makes a low growling noise in his chest.
"Daniel, I need you to…"
"Shhhh!" I say, and stop his words with another kiss. "I know what you need, Jack." I haven't been inside him since yesterday morning, so I should take my time to open him up, but I'm not going to.
I nudge his thighs apart on the bed and settle myself between them, running my nails lightly up the insides of his legs and feeling the prickle of his hairs. His cock twitches in anticipation, heavy and full against his belly. My fingers glide higher and with one hand I take the cool weight of his balls and roll them in my palm.
Jack's eyes close and he sighs. A bead appears at the head of his smooth, cut cock and I taste it with a broad, flat sweep of my tongue. His hand comes down and tangles in my hair while I suckle at him gently.
"Put your hands on the headboard. Don't let go," I tell him. His eyes open, dark with surprise and lust, and with a slow smile, he complies.
I lift his legs with my hands behind his knees and he wriggles down the bed a little, curling up on himself, lifting his hips. His cock bobs hungrily and I lean down and take him into my mouth once more, quickly, and let go. His thighs tense and he moans.
I spread my own knees against the mattress and scoot forward until I feel the heat of his skin against my dick. I'm so hard now I need no help in getting myself pressed against his hole. I hold his thighs wide, spreading him ready for me and I push in.
Gritting my teeth I keep it slow, as slow as I can, so I can feel every subtlety of his skin yielding to me. I feel the stretch as he accepts me, the sliding heat as his muscles give around me, and the delicious ache as I press forward. His eyes are closed, his mouth is open in a silent, 'oh', and he looks beautiful. The muscles in his arms work as he pulls against the headboard, lifting his lower back to take me deeper.
I'm shaking by the time I'm fully settled in him. I hold us there, Jack stretched to the point of delirium. I love to see him taken by the sensations, incapable of a coherent thought, his very speech stolen by the feeling of me inside him. I pant and wait for him to come back to me.
He opens his eyes, his lips turn up in the shadow of a smile and I move. Slow and deep. The tightness of him eases incrementally, his grasping heat stroking me with each thrust I make. I hook his knee over my shoulder to free a hand so I can touch him.
I scratch my nails through the hair on his chest, my hand eager to experience every single inch of him. My fingers trail to his belly and are captured by the ebb and flow of his stomach muscles beneath his skin as he lifts to meet me on each thrust. Perfectly in time. Like we always are.
I roll my hips a little and his hand flies from the bedstead to my forearm as his eyes squeeze shut. His grip pinches me as he fights for restraint. I slow my pace, but don't stop. The man has self-control to spare, as I know to my cost. He will keep me hanging for hours on his fingers, on his tongue, on his cock; a maddening dance of manipulation and exquisite need that he only lets me free from when he's ready. I tell him I hate it. He knows I love it. So does he.
He lets out a hissing breath and opens dark, dark, glittering eyes. I quirk an eyebrow at him in question as I keep our rhythm - languorous and intoxicating. Slowly, he releases my forearm and puts his hand back onto the headboard, so lazily as to be almost insolent.
I roll my hips once more, just to watch his chin jerk up. I have it now, and edge closer to him to press my advantage. I angle my hips and drag even slower across the spot inside that makes him twitch. He moans softly and turns his head on the pillow, gone again in the mindlessness of pleasure. I want to keep him there forever.
His eyes drift closed again as I stroke inside him, deeper now, the gentle pressure making him gasp and strain. I close my eyes too. To watch is too much. I concentrate only on what I can feel; his skin, his heat, his tight muscle and his unexpected softness. Every time we do this I am stunned. Jack is so powerful, so manifestly strong, and yet his body yields to mine with a gladness and an ease that humbles me and thrills me.
"Daniel," he whispers. So quiet. I know he's not trying to attract my attention. He's just saying it because he can. Because he loves to say the word. Because he loves me. "Daniel."
I open my eyes, knowing what the consequence will be. He looks flushed and shameless beneath me, and the image of him murmuring my name with kiss-swollen lips is more than I can bear.
I take his cock in my hand and he bites his lip. Together. It has to be together. He reaches down once again and wraps a hand around mine, warm and rough. I set my knees further into the mattress, harder, deeper, more, and stroke him in time with my hips. He throws back his head on the cover and groans.
He's gone on it. Somewhere else. My heart hammers to see him like this. It's indescribable, the joy that making him lose his grasp on the present gives me. His jaw works, but the words don't come. I know I have to hold on, just a little longer. Giving him this, as long as I can, as deep as I can, the best that I can.
I'm close. Soon now. Soon. I'm trembling, and rational thought is almost totally beyond me. My pace increases, becoming ragged and desperate. He opens his eyes and looks at me, all trace of insensibility gone. An instant of clarity. A moment of naked truth. And a confession.
He knew that this would come. He knew that we'd be discovered. He understood what he was risking and he did it anyway. For me. And for him. All of that, there in his eyes.
We hang for a frozen eternity, our bodies moving against each other instinctively, still reaching, but our gazes locked. Understanding. Accepting.
And we fall.
I can hear him, I can, but I can't hear the words over the rushing in my ears and my own hoarse yell as the world fractures into an explosion of brilliant shards. There's nothing but the clutching tightness of his muscles and the surge that rips through me, the squeeze in my balls and the pulse of his dick. And Jack, so beautiful, so perfect, moving under me, taking everything I've got.
Jack! Oh fuck. Fuck! Love you, Jack. Love you. Love you. Love you so fucking much. Always will. Always.
There's nothing left to say when he opens his eyes again. We roll apart on a gentle kiss and he goes to the tiny, tired bathroom. I stare at the ceiling and relish the sun, shining in and warming my belly despite the grimy sheer curtain. After a minute he comes back, takes my hand and pulls me into the shower with him. We kiss and let the water do its work.
As we're dressing again, he helps me to tuck in my shirt, a gesture that's trivial but says much. His expression is indescribable – so many emotions, so much conflict. I take my cues from him; we're quiet and unhurried until the cell rings on the nightstand.
Jack answers it. "O'Neill."
He listens, his face to the ground. I pull on my boots, tie the laces and wait.
"What took you guys so long? Did you stop for breakfast, because Daniel and I didn't get time, so if you…?"
A typically Jack response. Flippant or downright rude to cover that he's affected by something. He lifts his face to mine and flips his cell shut. Closing the distance between us, he reaches out to hold my cheek with a steady hand, lending strength.
The knock comes only a few seconds later. "Colonel O'Neill?" The outline of a man and the drab colour of a uniform are distorted by the tiny square of obscured glass in the door.
Jack kisses me, smoothes the collar of my shirt.
I flatten his still damp hair, and he smiles.
"Time to go," he says quietly, takes my hand and opens the door.