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Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson

DANIEL

"DANIEL!"

I jump violently as Jack's voice lashes out from behind me. A moment later powerful arms are hugging me forcefully back to him, literally lifting me off my feet, urgently dragging me back inside the apartment. Jack releases me so abruptly I stumble, then lunges over to slam the balcony door closed.

His hands are trembling.

"Jesus!" he snarls, turning on me. "What the hell were you doing!"

"I was just trying to understand, Jack," I reply softly. "Trying to process the feelings that took me out there in the first place." I barely remember my Light-induced suicide attempt. I don't feel I owe Jack an apology for attempting to understand all of this, to make such a defining and yet frustratingly vague experience real. If I don't learn something from it, if it doesn't take me forward as a person, then what was the point of it? I don't want to bury it, as much as Jack would like me to. I want to grow.

Jack's eyes are forbidding in a wintry face. "The withdrawal took you out there."

End of discussion? I don't think so, Jack.

"The withdrawal amplified feelings that already existed within us. It didn't create them," I chide him gently. I'm beginning to frame those feelings, to understand maybe I haven't dealt with my failures – my many failures, large and small, important or personal – and losses so well as I'd like to think.

Burying memories and feelings isn't the same as dealing with them. Isn't this what the monk on Kheb, Oma Desala, Shifu and even my own subconscious have been trying to tell me? Dreams teach, Shifu told me. My attempt at suicide is like a dream. It's no more real to me than that, but I am going to learn from it.

I am going to effect change in myself.

Jack doesn't want to hear it. Doesn't want to be reminded of an experience he'll scarcely speak to me about, even though he can hardly deny I have the right to know. In fact, he shudders away from the implications of my suicide attempt and from me as I push him to help me understand it. His eyes shift past me to the door, he takes a single step forward. "There's no - "

I stand in his path. "Stay." I make a request but the man before me seemingly hears a command. Jack freezes for a moment, then steps back. Away from me. I follow, coming close to him. Too close for Jack. Way too close for him when I lay a gentle hand on his shoulder, my skin feeling distractingly warm against his neck. "Please. I'm trying to make sense of what happened here and I need your help for that, Jack. I'm failing, because I'm thinking my way through an experience I should be feeling. I don't remember, I only know what you told me." Only the bare facts, the minimum he could get away with telling, not anything of what Jack thought I was doing or feeling or what I made him feel.

It all goes away.

Jack is forcing me to work for the meaning of all of this alone. He won't face what happened to me and he won't help me to face it myself.

It scares me that only the light touch of skin on skin is enough to hold him here with me when he wants to go. Jack is lost right now, as lost as I am, and he's denying it with every fibre of his being. He's desperate for the feelings which led me onto the balcony to have been solely due to the withdrawal so he can avoid dealing with his own. He's so filled with anger and concern for me it hurts me to see it. I want to help him too. We're friends. What we're feeling, what we're trying to understand, we should be sharing. We should be in this together.

"You're wearing exactly what you were wearing the last time," Jack capitulates wearily.

I didn't know. No wonder he overreacted. "I'm sorry, Jack. That wasn't an intentional choice. I really don't remember," I apologise remorsefully. I wear these clothes a lot at home. They're comfortable; there's nothing more to it than that.

"I need a drink," he growls.

"Coffee or tea, juice or milk?"

"Single malt or beer," Jack contradicts.

I sigh. None of those will help him at all. They're just more forms of avoidance. "Wine?" I've got a little Chardonnay left, not enough to get either of us drunk.

Jack prowls along behind me towards the kitchen. I feel the weight of his concentrated regard playing across my back, just as I've felt it the whole three weeks we were stranded in the haunted Goa'uld palace on P4X-347. Just as I've watched him. I've seen the anger roiling in him, stronger than any Light-induced 'high', the depths of his concern for me, an intensity of thought and feeling he couldn't disguise.

And I've seen other things. Finally opened my eyes to reality. It took neither of us being able to get away from the other, no matter how much we may have wanted to, for me to finally begin to question that strange edge to our friendship these past months. We've both had to work at what was always at its core easy and natural for us. No matter how much we might argue and disagree, the foundation of our friendship has always been solid. And then from what felt like nowhere to me, we were both having to work at it. We didn't have the luxury any longer of simply accepting we were friends despite all the odds against it; we had to work to maintain our friendship despite those odds. We didn't always succeed too well.

Now I can see it. Jack wants. Jack desires. His need is eating him alive because he won't, or perhaps he can't, face feeling this way for me.

I've had to face it for us both. I was no more ready to accept Jack desired me than apparently Jack is to feel that desire. Our addiction to the Light has forced to the surface emotions I at least wasn't consciously aware of, and now we're both bitterly aware, Jack is refusing to even acknowledge he has feelings for me, let alone act on them.

Three interminable weeks, trapped in what amounted to a prison. Luxuriously appointed, filled with treasures from the past, but still, to all intents and purposes, a prison. Weeks filled with work and purpose, and the careful mending of fences with Sam. Careful because we neither of us acknowledged they had ever been broken. Our team began to reconnect. Yet they were also weeks filled with Jack, trying to avoid me, failing, returning to my side again and again. Watching over me. Watching me. Wanting me. Not trusting himself or me enough to open up about it.

I had too much time to think there, too much quietude; too much of Jack, his unique, compelling presence flowing over me, filling me in ways I wasn't prepared for. There have been so few occasions this past year when our friendship has been as strong, as uncomplicated as it can be between us. That time in Chicago lingers, warm and clear in my memory. A time when Jack had made a consistent, conscious effort to make things right between us, culminating in that insight, that inclusion in his private life, making me a part of his family, in however small a way. Everything was right between us, then. We've stayed close but there's always this hint of effort from Jack, this – consciousness – of his I could never quite fathom.

I'm sorry for it now. I want to help Jack as much as I want to help myself. I wish I'd seen the trouble he was in sooner than I did. I'd give anything to have made it easier for him to accept what he was starting to want from me. If I hadn't been so oblivious then, maybe it wouldn't be so hard for us to be honest with each other now.

Jack can't read my mind. How is he supposed to know whether I'm dumb and blind or seeing him just fine and wishing he'd get over himself already? I haven't given him anything.

The events provoked by my withdrawal from addiction proved how hard I've made things for both of us, how difficult I've made our friendship. The withdrawal from the unnatural high of Light broke down my defences and overturned all my comfortable assumptions. I didn't just begin to see Jack's feelings had changed and deepened, I began to question my own.

I'm not good at this. Love – it's one of those things that 'go away' for me. I struggle to hold on to the people who care for me. My friendship with Jack is the strongest, the most enduring relationship of my life. I couldn't bear to lose Jack but when I think of having more than friendship, of being allowed to express my affection for him openly – I want to be able to love him. I want Jack to want me. To need me. I want Jack to love me. I think he does. I hope he does, but I don't feel it. I don't know it. I'm not sure of anything. Intellect has brought me to this point, but feeling must take me to Jack.

I understand what holds him locked in this stasis, unable to deny his feelings yet equally unable to own to or act on them. He was a husband and a father. Though Jack isn't an overtly prejudiced man, is in fact a man I believe could see beyond gender to become my lover, I can understand how hard it would be for him to relinquish hopes of ever again becoming a husband and father. I've lost my wife too, and I know how hard it was for me to accept her loss, to know I would never marry again.

Jack is also a principled man, with a strong sense of duty, who embraces responsibility, whose instinct first and foremost is to protect. I know he belongs in the uniform he wears and I do understand the commitment he's made to the Air Force. I know he feels himself to be responsible for me. I don't think he would ever act on his feelings, for fear he was breaking faith with me not just as his friend, but as a member of the team he leads.

So I think I must act on my feelings. I must trust Jack to be honest, once he sees that he can be, that it's safe for him to love me and more than that, it's welcomed.

It's not an easy decision. I've never seduced another person, never kissed a man, never been held intimately by any man except Jack. Only Jack has ever had the temerity to barge through my defences as if they don't exist, to hold me close to him, touch me with all his insouciant, confident charm. Over time, I've grown accustomed. I've grown to welcome his touch, even to look for it. His warmth, the strength and reality of his friendship have always felt safe to me. I've always turned willingly to him.

The very thought of Jack's hands upon me now fills me with fierce longing and intense desire tinged by dread. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Fear for Jack, that he won't be able to live with a choice I'm making for him. One of us has to do something. We can't go on as we are, not able to go back to the simpler friendship we had, but not willing to take the risk of opening up to each other and deepening it either.

Jack can't do this so I think I have to. I know the risks and hard as all of this is, I know Jack is worth it to me. He'll either love me with all his heart and soul, or never forgive me. We'll have it all, or I guess we'll have nothing. I only know I can't bear to lose what may be my only chance to be with him because I was too scared to try to change us or reach for something more than we have.

He's leaning against the bench beside me, this man I've fallen in love with, filling every inch of this space with his presence; filling me.

"Daniel?" Jack's soft voice, softer touch, feather light on my cold fingers as he patiently takes the bottle and glass from me; pours us a little wine. "Hell, I curl up and die when I have to get in touch with my feelings." His tone is light, self-deprecating. "I'm not exactly nature's choice for sympathetic listener, here."

"Were you afraid when you found out me there?" I ask him quietly. I'm afraid. I'm more afraid than I've been since Sha'uri was taken from me, afraid to take this leap of faith. Afraid I'll lose him forever. Afraid he'll love me back and I won't be able to hide from him what I've hidden so well from others. I do worry that I'm a small person, disconnected from the people around me and having to work insanely hard to maintain the few real relationships I have. I'm a loner and as cliché as that may sound, it's real to me. I do best alone. As friend and lover, Jack, being Jack, will not rest until he's reached the very heart of me. Until he knows all of me. I hope he won't be the less for knowing. I hope that my reaching out to him now, making this stand for us, will count for something.

Jack steadily pours the second glass of wine. He precisely places the bottle on the counter and takes a measured sip from his glass. He pulls a face. "Dry."

Philistine.

"Jack?" I prompt, when he refuses to break the drawn-out, tautening silence.

"Afraid?" Jack echoes. "You want to know? You really want to know?"

I nod, swallow convulsively, pilloried by suddenly harsh eyes and his harsher tone. It's hard on Jack, so very hard, but I can't, I cannot throw myself at him without the faintest sign he won't just let me fall.

"I choked," he snarls. "Big, macho, tough-guy hero choked. All that training, experience - nothing. You needed me and I had nothing for you. I was making it worse, making it harder on you. You saved yourself, Daniel. I couldn't pull you back from the edge. You came back to me. I could only move when it was all over."

I flinch back from his savage self-condemnation, horrified he could put himself down like this. If I know anything, it's that Jack has the power to reach me. He's had me since we met. How can he not know this?

"There was nothing I could do. I had to talk and I had nothing I could say to you, no way I could think to reach you. You tell me if I was afraid." Jack tosses back his wine, slams the glass down; he's flushed, furious.

With himself? With me?

"You're still afraid," I recognise, boldly closing the gap between us even though my heart is in my throat. Jack leans back with studied casualness against the counter, as if my movement and his aren't in any way connected.

"Don't," Jack warns me, low-voiced and cool. "Don't start with me."

"I didn't come back on my own," I say gently, inexorably, urging him to see the truth with me. "You know what brought me back."

"Don't!"

"You."

His hands shoot out, clench painfully into my shoulders as he holds me away from him. Holds and then can't let go. Jack's livid face pales when I curl my hands around his forearms, slowly slide up to cover his hands, exulting in the feel of taut muscle trembling beneath my palms, the breadth of bone, the warmth of his skin.

Such a simple act, but already I'm flushing. He's so beautiful, so heedless. A pang of desire slams through me, fierce, exultant. I want him. God, how I want him. No abstract thought or imagining, this. Real and true and devastating. I'm feeling this. Knowing this.

I can't be the only one burning for connection. I can't.

I wrench forward, break Jack's grip long enough to reach him. Ignore the sickening thud of my heart, my terror. I see him, only him. Feel him. The arch of his jaw beneath my clutching fingers, thin lips firm and unyielding beneath mine for the few seconds it takes him to adjust, defend, push me away. Shut me out.

"What the hell!" Jack howls in astonished anger.

I'm as pale as he, shocked as he. Thwarted as he. If I were any other man - Jack has never knowingly raised his hand to me and he can't do it now as much as he might want to.

Am I wrong? I can't be wrong. I was blind before, but not now. Not now.

Jack's anger melts to kindness. Pity.

A rough hand cups my head. Shakes me.

"You're confused, is all. Don't sweat it, Daniel."

Kind voice. Kind face. He's fast. Damnably quick to find his balance, attack. Quickest of all when he's attacking from a position of weakness. I'm not wrong. I'm not. Jack's eyes aren't kind. Jack's eyes are dying.

Going to be so much harder this time. Kissing him again. He'll break me or take me. No choice, the way I'm planning to kiss him. God, I hope I can do it. I hope I'm strong enough.

I permit him to lead me to my couch, permit him to treat me like a hurt, confused child. I stand, passive, until Jack realises I'm not going to sit without intervention.

Is this an ambush I'm planning? A feint? I don't know the terminology. I'm only hiding in plain sight.

"You're in shock. I'm calling Doc Fraiser," he decides.

He's not 'choking' on me now. He's dealing. Stuffing me back into my allotted place in his life while he takes refuge in being the colonel, the guy-in-charge. Hiding behind the security of giving and taking orders and knowing his place and yours in precise relation to everyone else. That comfortable discipline and regimented certainty are Jack's comfort zone.

Coming closer. Hands gentle on my shoulders this time. Urging me down.

No.

My fingers tangle in his hair this time, pulling him to me, pulling him down as I tumble, off-balance, sprawling beneath his weight. Not fast enough, O'Neill. Not this time. I hold him with arms and legs and vehement lips. No room for the colonel here. Give me Jack. I want Jack. I love him. Fight to the death for him. Fighting now. Kissing him.

I writhe beneath Jack, groaning, shuddering from the betraying fury of his arousal, hard against me, driving against me, beyond the 'colonel's' control. Beyond mine. I raise my head and steal his lips as his heat and weight and strength overwhelm me. He's fighting the kiss even as his hips grind down, rock, thrust. A harsh, staccato coupling, this. Wild, resistant, clumsy. Jack is all wanton, focused demand. It's all about his body, mine. His arms hook around my shoulders, hold me still as the power of his thrusts jolts through me. He shudders, grunting with effort as we strain furiously into each other. Both of us sweat-soaked, passion-flushed, exhausted, trembling.

Out of our minds.

I feel utter frustration when I come, far too soon. I can't find the connection. I can't reach him.

Jack goes absolutely still above me, poised on the brink. "I love you." He tears the kiss from me, tongue plunging ferociously into my mouth. Wrenches free. "God. Love you." He grimaces, teeth clenching. "Daniel," he grinds out desperately, hips spasming violently against me as he comes, finally, in deadly silence, and collapses over me, burying his face in my neck.

"Sorry. I'm so sorry." I hold him close to me, soothing him as much as shaking hands and ghosting after-shocks of pleasure permit. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Jack." I wrap myself around him even more tightly, nuzzling my face into his hair. "I love you, Jack. I love you."

"Shit. Shit. Shit! Daniel."

"Sorry."

"No." Jack lifts his head suddenly and finally looks at me. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I was the one doing all the pushing." I knew the risks and accepted them and I was right to do it if it means he can be this honest. He loves me, he can't take that back. I won't let him shut down on me again.

"What made you do it?" Jack asks softly as he rolls us onto our sides and cradles me close, one long denim-clad leg draping heavily over mine. The air lies heavy with the musk of arousal and drying semen. "Talk about coming out of left field," he puns clumsily.

"I wanted to make it easy for you." My voice is trembling just a little. Reaction I guess. "I thought if you knew, that it was okay, I felt the same?" What just happened between us was a lot of things, but easy is not among them.

"The shit-hot animalistic sex kind of swallowed the words whole, Daniel." Jack is wry, but he's holding me a little tighter, a little closer. "You had no idea what you do to me. Now you do. Possibly," his beautiful mouth twists, "no, definitely the best sex I've ever had. Home run. Touchdown. He shoots, he scores. Not what you were shooting for, huh? I'm guessing something warm and civilised, where I wasn't coming in my pants before I admitted what a selfish, confused bastard I am for falling in love with you. Am I in the right neighbourhood, here?"

"You need to fire your realtor," I snap, letting my irritation show. A lot of this semen is mine. "I'm pissed because I didn't get more."

Jack snorts stunned laughter, a lot of his defensiveness deserting him. There's a limit to how stupid he'll knowingly and willingly be.

"I never had another man touch me. Only you. I didn't come into this with expectations, but if I'm frustrated now, it's only because I want more from you. I want you to open up to me." I've never gotten intimate without an honest attempt at permanence. Never really been carried away by shit-hot animalistic anything.

"So tell me, Daniel," Jack invites me. "Have you ever even been attracted to a man, and if the answer is still only me, how long exactly has this been going on?"

I know where he's going with this. Oh, I know. My skin is so hot, flavoured and scented with Jack. I'm cold inside. Determined. "Since P4X-347," I snap, not about to let him get away with this.

"Since you got high and then went cold turkey. Died. Went back to the planet and got high again. So-oo?" Jack drawls, his meaning very clear to me. "Maybe you haven't gone through the full twelve step programme."

"You bastard." I pull away, fall off the couch and on my ass, shaking too much to get up, stay put, glaring up at him. "Get out of here. Go home. If that's all the value you place on yourself - it - it doesn't matter what you think of me." I take a deep, steadying breath. "God, I should be used to it by now. The constant battle to get you to extend to me any of the faith you automatically put in them." Sam and Teal'c, I mean. "You don't love me. You can't. You don't have any respect for me."

"Of course I do. Don't be -"

"Tell me one time you ever took me on faith, Jack. Just one."

Jack shoots me an irritated 'indulge the kid until he's making sense' look. "Kheb."

"You dropped your weapon like a hot brick," I agree softly. Jack starts to relax. "Right after Master Bra'tac said you should. I'll see you Kheb and raise you the quantum mirror."

Jack does not like what he sees in his immediate future. Me.

"Riddle me this, Jack. Just how, exactly, did I get a wound in my shoulder, stuck in the middle of an abandoned complex where the Stargate was the only way in or out? Miss Scarlet with the staff weapon in the locked room?"

He's absolutely fucking furious now but I'm just getting warmed up here. He is not pulling this on me. I won't allow it! 'It's not that we don't believe you, Daniel. It's just that we don't believe you.' 'On a good day, you can be a little flaky.' 'Shut up, Daniel. Too subtle for you?' He's said all of this to me and more. How many times have I been right? How many times has he? "I can't believe you have the gall to hide behind this crap!"

I do make it to my feet this time. "Just go, Jack. Leave." I point at my front door. "There's no point in you staying right now. Not if it's easier for you try to believe the withdrawal triggered this, that it's something inconsequential I'm going to get over real soon, than for you to accept we could fall in love." I'm really, really going to need some time to figure out how to fight back on this one. Stalking him sexually on a daily basis for months and months is not my first choice for convincing him my feelings are not conveniently going to go away.

"Daniel, I..."

"Did you stop to think how your denial would make me feel?" I rally a bit. "Because it only works if we both believe you!"

"Dan..."

"This is how it reads to me, Jack. I'm not enough for you. Not worth a leap of faith, not worth the commitment. Not even because I'm a man, right? Just because I'm me."

I march over to my bathroom door. I'm exceedingly angry at having to have this deeply humiliating argument when I'm standing here with a damp spot at my crotch because neither of us could wait long enough to undress before we had sex. His come and mine. Why can't that be all the answer he needs to his feelings and mine?

"I see you clearly, Jack. I wish you could see me."

"Daniel."

I was prepared to accept he didn't love me and I thought he was worth taking the risk regardless. To find out he does love me and he's too afraid to admit it, even now, after what we just did together on the couch, it's too much for me. I could smack him one! I desperately need some time to regroup before I go after his cowardly ass again.

"Daniel!"

I stalk into my bathroom and start the shower, running the water as hot as I'll be able to stand it.

"Daniel! For God's sake!"

I hear Jack storming around the apartment, venting his temper on anything stupid enough to get in his way. It occurs to me he can't leave in his current condition. He might be the most infuriatingly obtuse and stubborn man who ever lived, but that's no excuse for poor hospitality. I'm not mean enough to send him home soaked with semen. He'll need some fresh clothes and the shower before he can go, which frankly can't be soon enough for me.

Gratefully, I peel off my sticky clothes and toss them in the hamper. The bathroom is blessedly warm and I sit shivering with reaction on the toilet for a while, listening to Jack apparently destroying my wilfully uncooperative kitchen, possibly in lieu of myself.

I can smell him on my skin. A spicy tang that torments, whispers of what's going to be denied me for months, unless he starts acting like a mature, responsible adult.

Ha!

Defeat is not in my vocabulary. Death hasn't slowed me down and I'm not about to let Jack get away with it either. I am not going to get upset here. I am going to stay good and angry instead. If I end up in a sodden heap of humiliated misery, it won't be anywhere near him.

Determinedly, I wrap myself in my towel and stalk back out into my dining room, ready to be mad again the moment I've discharged my duties as host, offering him whatever clothes he likes to get him home. If Jack showers first, I can get him out of here quicker.

I freeze in my tracks. Jack is slugging back his birthday present, right out of the extremely expensive bottle. $180 worth of expensive, to be exact. He has the Middleton's Very Rare in one hand and my phone in the other, tersely ordering a cab. It's Irish malt. It was specially imported for me. For him. Supposed to be special. A gift to him and one he's just helped himself to, without asking, without even seeing what he's taking. It's there, so he's having it. Unlike me. Is he trying to piss me off?

"Jack!" I snap.

"I need something to wear," he snaps back, "then I'm outta here."

He hasn't deigned to make eye contact. Why? Too mortified to look his best friend in the eye because he just did me, resoundingly, right there on the couch, didn't even get naked for it?

"Take this!" I holler, making him jump. I yank off my towel and hold it out on one hooked finger. Jack freezes, gaping at me standing defiantly naked in front of him.

Look all you want, buster. You don't get to touch.

Jack looks absolutely terrified. His mouth is opening and closing but no sound is coming out. I've never seen him so utterly at a loss. Curling my lip, and justifiably proud of the fact I haven't bolted or – or anything – I drop the towel to the floor.

Jack's jaw drops with it and then he drops the phone. He stares at me. Blatantly.

Oh, my.

I'm conscious of a growing heat in my face. Throat. Chest. Blushing. Defiantly naked and blushing. I attempt to ameliorate the effect by tilting my chin and since I don't know what to do with my hands, I clamp them on my hips to stop him seeing the tremors. Being scared is getting old. I hope my paralysed immobility is coming off as confident haughtiness, rather than the fact my legs no longer appear to be functional.

Jack is still staring. Darkening, glazed eyes tracking over every single part of me, up and down and – God – he's – he's...Oh. Oh, boy. We have a resurgence of interest there. Quite definite. Emphatic, even.

"I'm a selfish, insecure asshole, and it isn't you, it's me. I'm sorry. Come here," Jack singsongs in a rapid monotone that shades towards outright command. He's as flushed as I am; eyes glittering, fervent.

"No," I say firmly, quelling a few treacherous twitches of interest from a part of me that's already seen more action in the last twenty minutes than in the past year. No way, no how am I going down with a whimper just because he's gone all apex predator on me.

"Coming there, then," Jack growls throatily. "Now."

My highly trained Special Forces colonel treads heavily on the fallen phone, stumbles and almost falls on his face at my feet. It might help if his gaze wasn't riveted to my – um – he's taking off his shirt. Tearing it off. Fumbling at his belt.

Oh, God. All I did was kiss him and look what happened the last time. Oh! Now he's naked. No. Not naked. I see socks. He's hopping madly in socks. Tugging. Now, he's naked now. God, he's fast. Gotta go! "Shower," I yelp and bolt with more speed than dignity. I get possibly three steps before his arms wrap around me, lift me up and he gets off on half-carrying me into my bathroom. I feel like a bug spattered on a windshield.

My bathroom is deliciously hot and steamy now but not as hot or steamy as Jack as he manhandles me, breathless, indignant and sadly quite excited, into the shower and pins me up against the wall. A lot of the pinning seems to be happening at hip height, and we both get a lot more excited.

"Now, where were we?" Jack growls, eyeing me up and down in frank astonishment. Wonder even. Coveting. Starving. "You were forgiving me."

"For being a selfish, insecure asshole? No. I was yelling at you because you're still being a selfish, insecure asshole." My voice is much steadier than my knees, unfortunately. In fact, I may be going down any second, only not the way Jack's hoping for.

"I love you and I want to kiss you," Jack blithely ignores my negativity. Taking my hands, he lifts first one palm and then the other to his lips, planting a hungry kiss on each that makes me quake inside.

"No."

"Christ, look at you. Look," Jack's voice is strangled. "Water – God." He presses closer; warm, slick, glistening as the water cascades down on us. "C'mon, Daniel. Let me off the hook here."

He's so aroused I don't think he could actually come up with a more comprehensive apology if I waved a gun at him. Certainly not one that involved the word or indeed the concept of 'sorry'. Most of the blood firming up his interest against my abdomen seems to have come from the language centre of his brain.

I don't need the gun. He's gone. He's mine. His eyes are eating me all up and his lips want their fair share. Along with the entire length of firm, unmistakably masculine body moulded forcefully, compulsively against mine.

"Not going to let you off with anything." This is not a good time for me to get nervous. Really. "Mmm." Nice shoulder. Niiice arms. Nuzzling too. Spoiling me. Seems mean not to – "Not giving in either," I sigh into his nice, welcoming shoulder as I slip my arms around his nicer broad back. No suggestion of clinging on my part.

"Absolutely not," Jack whispers into my hair. His hands are clutching. Firm. Insistent. Possessive. 'Mine' Jack's hands whisper on my skin.

"Going to make you pay."

"Stick it to me," Jack encourages.

"Suffer."

"Lying naked next to you all night would be intense suffering. Torture even," Jack murmurs suggestively.

"You're going home. Just because my hand is on your – "

"Butt," Jack supplies graciously.

"- doesn't mean you can get cocky."

Jack snorts at this but heroically refrains from comment. "I'm not going home." His voice is a little choked and unsteady. "No way am I leaving you like this."

"I'm fine. My butt is fine too, so just leave it alone."

"What's this?" Jack is exploring, since his hands need constant occupation. "Shampoo? Smells nice. Smells of you. Herbs. Mmm. Nice. Heads up," he whispers, honeyed huskiness sending an uncontrollable shiver down my spine as gentle fingers massage into my scalp.

Jack is washing my hair. Enjoying himself. Me too. Oh, me too.

"Quit your worryin'," he mutters distractedly. "It's just a cunning ploy to get my hands on your loofah."

I surprise us both by laughing. Jack drops a light, approving kiss on my brow then busies himself rinsing me off. I emerge sputtering indignantly, all acid comments about apparent versus actual ages of each of us respectively dying on my lips as Jack slowly, sensuously begins washing me. With his hands. It's tender, caring and unbearably erotic. I – I lose myself in it, acquiescent, boneless beneath his hands; just letting him take care of me.

Caring. Warmth. Enveloping, intimate. Stealing through my defences. Stroking. Heating. Rocking. Wanting.

"Kiss me." Now it's Jack who's asking.

"Isn't this how we got in trouble in the first place?"

"What does it take to make you monosyllabic?"

"Tell me you love me."

"I do."

"You won't pull any more stupid stunts like this or tell any more ridiculous lies to either of us."

"I won't."

"You think we're worth the effort."

"We are."

"You're not just telling me what I want to hear so you get sex."

"Would I?"

"You know you damned well would." Smiling, I kiss him anyway.

This time, I find what I've been looking for. The sense that Jack is here, he's with me when I'm reaching for him. Hands on each other, we take our time, touching to communicate feeling as much as sensation. The water slips down, forcing us to slow and deepen our movements, to exaggerate every lingering touch. We found our bodies moving not against but with one another, rocking, rubbing. We slow again, wanting to take the time, to make the moment last. We want to be close as much as we want to come.

Such small things in and of themselves, but they mean the difference between sex and making love.

 


JACK

How long has Daniel been gone now? A week? All eternity?

These frigging light-bee burns itch and of course I can't touch them and I've got nothing to do but sit here feeling sorry for myself and think about him. I miss him so damn much I'm ashamed of myself. I've been in such a blue funk of Daniel-deprived depression, I've done everything but bawl like a little kid.

I mean, I can't believe Daniel upped and left me, not after everything that's happened!

We've happened. Him and me. Together. All over. I mean, even couches are significant in my life at the moment. A lot happens on couches, including this one. Daniel and me. We happen on couches. At his place and mine. In showers. In bed. On tables, indoors and out, in kitchens and under a piano. We happen everywhere. All the time. All of this rolling around necking like crazed kids and energetically mutual groping with him, I've never had so much fun in my life.

How could the selfish little shit leave me to go off on some dig? Doesn't fondling my ass whenever he feels like it have some meaning to him? His value system is so screwed. His definition of fun, too. He should be able to tell my ass from a hole in the ground, right?

Stuck here at home, my Daniel-less options are severely limited. Brooding. Thinking. Missing him. Worrying about him gating off through the big bad blue without me. Just me and my big empty house and my big empty bed, even this stupid, empty couch.

Pity, party of one!

I should be at work. That would be something. Medical leave, my sorry ass. Doc Fraiser couldn't wait to get me off the Mountain. She had a lot to say about my attitude.

What attitude?

I hate this couch. All I get to do is sit on it and miss Daniel. Miss him, think about him. Think about us. Why in hell there is an 'us'.

Daniel is stronger than me. I think I've known that forever, and resented the hell out of him for it, from time to time, about as long. Strange this gentle bookworm has had a harder life than a Special Forces colonel. Stranger still all the things about him that madden and delight me, the fearless explorer side of him, those all outweigh the fact he's a 'he'.

How exactly did a Special Forces colonel fall in love with a bookworm? Passionately, incoherently, desperately, totally gone on him, in love?

Why the fuck did Dammit Janet send me home? I've got minor scarring on my face. I can work. I want to work. I don't want to sit here pining for Daniel and thinking, asking myself all these dumb-ass questions I don't want to know the answers to.

What the hell did Fraiser mean, anyway? Venting? Venting what? On who?

So, okay, maybe a little venting. Daniel did go off and leave me all alone. I didn't vent enough to deserve being stuck at home all alone, thinking. Not enough to be told that while my face might not be bothering me, it was bothering everyone else on base.

Okay, okay. I admit it. Maybe there was a lot of venting. Even Teal'c, the big guy, turned on his heel and hauled ass the hell away from me, a first for us both. So I miss Daniel? It's not as if I'd sacrifice the entire human race to get him back home with me a second sooner or anything. Not even close. Not even when home is the size, shape, colour and texture of Daniel Jackson.

Screw thinking! Thinking's for dummies. Gimme my Daniel. He'll cure what ails me. Stop with the thinking, start with the fantasising. That'll work. Forget being in love is more than making love. Forget it takes work. Forget I told Daniel not to go easy on me. Just focus on how he tastes, how he sweats, the way he bites his lip and stiffens up to stop coming too soon when my hand is...

Christ, all that sex, my brain puddling out of my ears and Daniel is still talking.

Daniel said he would always give me the respect of honesty, so I guess I've got to suck it up and give it right back. There's only room in this relationship for two adults. I can be lover, friend, even leader. Daniel is fine with all of that. What he doesn't need is a big brother or a substitute dad. Those are unequivocally not needed, not wanted. Daniel requires from me the right to fuck up too, without me taking the blame from him. That, he says, is not respect.

Soft voice. Hard words. Point very well taken.

Control. That's the heart of the matter. The crux. I'm stuck in parent mode, seem to want to keep Daniel stuck in child mode. Keep him safe. Protected. I protested. USAF colonel, here. Got away with that cop-out for about two seconds. Stuff he let me get away with before we got in bed together and started sharing all this feeling, he won't let me get away with now.

What made Daniel so fearless, so open? How can he make himself so vulnerable emotionally? Maybe – maybe that's why he's stronger than me. I'm not strong enough to cry. I rage against the machine. Storm and vent, and if that fails, I cut and run.

I can't run when Daniel pins me down and tells me it is not only my instinct, but my choice, my need to keep him the child to my parent. The 'colonel' is a get–outta-jail-free card Daniel tells me I wave whenever it gets too hot for 'Jack'. He doesn't believe I've entirely let go of the old us, or the old him, the one who always turned to me first.

I'm the original completely unreconstructed, unapologetic, Alpha Male. Of course Daniel kicked my ass for that. He's an Alpha too, when he feels like it. He also licked my ear, which took some of the sting out of having to admit that maybe – just maybe – I'm a little freaked out about being in love with a man, let's not even start on that man being Daniel, and truly fucked over just how much I love him.

Daniel is an adult. He can multi-task. He can handle being simultaneously teammate, friend, confidante and significant other, all without breaking a sweat or losing track of the point he's making.

I'm the one who's having the trouble adjusting. Hanging on to the old roles, the old us. The old, I guess I have to face up to this one, the old me. I'm making love with the guy I love and I'm still sublimating my feelings. I've got it. Daniel doesn't have to beat me over the head with a Freudian impulse. Or a textbook on Ancient Phoenician Symbology. Reverse phrenology, I was told. Daniel-speak for beating some sense into me.

My lips curve into a smile, just as they did then. A week ago that feels like forever. I kind of like the idea my hands have always known the warm, welcoming shape and texture of Daniel Jackson are what I want and need and get to have again. Maybe 'thinking' leave isn't so bad if what I get to think about is Daniel. Daniel and his wish-list. He's expecting to find the new, improved, reconstructed adult me when he gets back from his little jaunt with SG-5, and if he doesn't find what he's hoping – expecting – to see, I will have hell to pay. Short of sticking his tongue out at me, Daniel couldn't have been more emphatic on that.

Daniel attempting to be stern and commanding is a delicious turn on, mostly because he's so goddamn adorable I could eat him with a spoon. Daniel could never be me. He could never be Air Force. Impossible. Not with those eyes, that hair, the skin. The generous mouth. Pouting. Begging to be kissed. You can't have a guy who's Air Force going around with lushly curved lips that beg to be kissed. The squadron would be dazed and drooling, dropping their weapons and tripping over their own feet. Myself, I'm thinking of a combo of dropping to my knees and abject yet sincere pleading to regain lip-lock privileges.

I don't think Daniel would be happy to learn my thinking about his wish-list, my growing the hell up and learning to let go, has been mostly post-coital. Me, my hand and the Daniel of my dreams. I'm a bad, bad man who's been all alone. I've been trying to take the edge off, I don't want to be crawling all over him like a horny teen the second he bounces in through my door. As much fun as all of the rolling around is for us, he wants to make love; slow, serene and sure. He hasn't seen himself naked, not the way I've seen him. He doesn't know how beautiful he is or what it does to me to see him standing there in all his glory. Like a Greek god from one of his books. Stunning. Not soft, not soft at all. Tall, slender strength and sleek, smooth skin.

I'm doing my damndest not to think of endless legs and a beautiful, character-filled face and ivory skin, not to think of what I could do to him, with him, over him, deep inside him. Trying desperately to think of what I can do for him.

It's hard and getting harder. No pun. Daniel leaves and look where it gets me. Jacking-off leave and more colour co-ordinated new sheets than I should decently know what to do with.

There's a key! I hear a key turning in my lock. I've got company, Daniel-shaped company. I have to be cool. I have to be adult. I don't get to maul him. I wait. I wait right here and be cool. Prove I've learned something. I sit and I wait. I sit. Sit!

"Jack! Let go!"

"Not a chance," I growl, hugging him so hard he squeaks, scoop him up energetically, his feet dangling a good foot off the floor. For a moment he's laughing down into my face, eyes sparking blue fire; warm, alive, here.

Being an adult is about choices, decisions. Consequences. The 'colonel' manages it just fine in the field, but 'Jack' sometimes needs a kick in the butt. Or simply legs wrapping around me, feet caressing my calves. Daniel's face raising to mine, his lips tenderly pressing to each spot marred by a burn. Trailing fire up my left cheekbone, to my temple. My blood boils and slams down.

"I missed you." This is honest. I can say this. I feel a little embarrassed but that's not so bad when I can make him light up with pure happiness.

"I missed you too, Jack."

Daniel has so much, he's all that, and he's the one who can't quit staring. How'd I get this lucky and this fucked? When will he take a good hard look and see who he's really saddled himself with? A guy playacting at being mature and giving. I want, I want, I want. Self-centred even if not always actively selfish.

"You want some coffee?" I offer. "Food? Did you eat?"

"I grabbed a burger at the drive-thru." Daniel feels silly he couldn't wait to see me.

"You want dessert?" That would be nice. We could sit all tangled up on the couch, get used to being with each other again. He can talk, I'll listen. "I've got ice cream if you want it. Espresso Almond Fudge from the Chocolate Shoppe, not exactly easy to get hold of down here. You've got to eat that kind of ice cream with company. If it costs more than your house, it's one tub, two spoons minimum. Anything else is anti-social."

Daniel smiles and lets me take him by the hand and lead him to the kitchen. If I've worked out one thing this week, it's that I shouldn't let us being two guys stop me from trying this stuff. If Daniel doesn't like it, he'll let me know. If he doesn't, or I don't, we try something else. Liking this particular thing just fine, Daniel entwines his fingers with mine.

I'm envious. He's not working at this stuff. He is this stuff. It's his instinct, his choice and his need, to do for others all the wonderful things they so rarely do for him. He has so much beauty, inside and out, which has its price, takes its toll. It makes him vulnerable. It makes me try to stand between him and the people who hurt him. However much I may bitch about it, I love him playing with pots and books and holy places. They keep him safe, keep him from having to play with people.

One arm on the open door for balance, Daniel roots through my freezer, every finely honed cultural instinct alert to pick up clues on just what he's dealing with in my abandoned, wounded psyche. I felt sorry for myself, jacked-off, pigged out. Nothing to hide behind. Nothing in the world but Daniel's behind.

"Can you not do that!" I yelp.

"What?" Daniel asks vaguely, delving into the next shelf down and doing it even more.

"Writhing. Waving that around," I say wildly.

I hear a hastily suppressed snort of laughter freezer-wards. "This?" Daniel wriggles his ass just a little more.

"Uugh."

"Why don't you sit down, Jack. I'll bring out the ice cream. You can tell me all about your mission to M4C-862."

Colour me bat outta hell. I tumble onto my couch and cover my indignity with a cushion.

"Geeks from hell. Made me realise all over again what a sweet deal you are for SG-1. If I never thanked you before for having a clue, I'm thanking you now," I call cheerfully. Some of the flush is subsiding, the sweat isn't standing proud on my brow. My breathing is levelling out. Okay. I'm okay now. We're not dealing with an imminent eruption. A throaty chuckle echoes from the kitchen. Or maybe we are. I never heard Daniel laugh before we started making love. I love I can do that for him.

"Carter brought along the cadet from hell. A scrubby know-it-all brat, a four-foot-nine fighting machine. The two of 'em argued day was night." I used to think only Carter got that 'tone' in her voice, but the kid had it too. Hailey thinks it's tough trailing in the footsteps of the Major Doctor? She should try commanding her. Scratch the major's polite protocol-bound surface and the doctor bites you on the ass. Thank God, Daniel never makes me feel dumb. "I got zapped by a swarm of alien glow-in-the-dark bees on light-speed. Same old, same old. Are you getting that hideously expensive Chocolate Shoppe ice cream or..."

Oh. My. God.

"Just getting comfortable," Daniel says gently. Glasses. Jacket. Shoes. Socks. Sweater. T-shirt. Gone. Jeans unbuttoned. Riding low at his hips. My sanity. Gone too.

The only comprehensible sound I make is 'help'. I'm thinking it, certainly. My actual delivery is more strangulated. And abbreviated. More of a grunt-wheeze. Daniel strolls towards me, turns and puts the ice cream on the floor. He just bends gracefully from the waist, leaving me gaping at the ripe curves of his perfect ass and the hollow at the base of his spine. I almost come in my pants, right there and then. It gets worse. While I'm still doing the beached guppy thing, Daniel peels off my sweatshirt, retrieves the ice cream just as gracefully and then straddles me comfortably, his thighs settling warm against mine.

Breathe, O'Neill, breathe.

Daniel is sultry, spectacular, sheer sensual overload. He's emanating so much sexual tension he's quivering. He's got me and I'm scared spit-less. Petrified.

I swallow painfully.

Oh God, those eyes. Glowing. Pure and clean and strong. Deadly. Daniel is absolutely deadly. Gentle, curious hands skimming my chest and shoulders. Tracing the lines of muscle down each arm. I flex slowly, deliberately. No surprises here. Just two men and all that means. We're both strong, both built. We know the bodies of men. Daniel is fascinated, his fingers clinging as the muscles swell and ripple beneath my skin. He lifts my hand and slowly kisses his way down from fingertip to palm and wrist.

I feel dazed, suffocated with the intensity of my arousal, the scent of Daniel mingling with mine, imprinting indelibly on my senses. "I love you."

"I love you too, Jack. My Jack." Nursing my hand to his cheek, his lips and then his tongue gentle on the wound there. Tears standing in those glorious eyes. "Look at you."

Pretty crappy, huh? Mom was right. I'm spreading, slowly but surely. Slowing down. Softening up. Greying.

"So beautiful, Jack. You're so beautiful," Daniel's soft voice is awed, aching, as he reaches out to explore the sharp collar bones, the hollow at the base of my throat.

Me? My God, he's got it as bad for me as I have for him. Daniel means it, breathes it, soaks it in through his pores as his hands cup and cradle the back of my head, and he leans against me, gasping as flushed, smooth, sweat-slicked skin glides. I want to joke, lighten the unbearable tension – look, Daniel, finally got hair on your chest! I can't say a word. He's coming closer. Closer still. His lips against mine. The lightest of brushes and we both moan.

And then he brings on the ice cream.

A spoonful suckled in gently. I'm incoherent. Can't – can't – soft lips – shocking icy richness – smooth and bitter-biting, the taste of Daniel behind. In me, on me, oh, God. In my arms, eyes wide open, we have to see, have to know, love – tongues stroking urgently, passionately. Falling, I'm falling for him, collapsing in shock against the couch. His kisses are dancing over my lips, running on and on in shocks of pleasure, his chilled tongue darting, teasing; hips sinuous, rocking, gliding. My hands pushing down his jeans and onto naked skin.

Feel the muscles flex beneath my clutching, coveting fingers as his tongue flexes and plays joyously in my mouth. Moaning. Groaning. Rosy. Needing. Beautiful. Never seen anyone so beautiful in my life but my son. I love this man as much as – I love this man.

I know what this is now. I know where this intensity came from. Ah, Daniel, I'm still here. Still in one slightly singed piece. You didn't lose me. It's not your fault you weren't there helping me baby sit those dumb geeks. You weren't to know I'd go jump on a swarm of light-bees the moment your back was turned. I'm supposed to be the smart one.

"Jack," he whispers with such yearning.

"Let it go, Daniel. Okay? I'm good," I promise him.

He kisses me again, not quite there yet. "Let me make love, Jack, please let me make love."

I guess he needs to really feel me before he can know I'm good.

"Please, Jack. I love you. Please."

It takes me a second to get what he's asking me. He wants to make love to me. My gut gets all tight and I think, I can't do this. I've never done this.

"I won't hurt you, I'd never hurt you."

Can I do this? Can I trust him the way he's supposed to trust me? Is that adult enough for both of us?

"Let go, for me, Jack. Please let go. Trust me."

Trust. It's all about trust. Daniel isn't some game player so this means something to him. He's not messing with my mind. If he's even asking me for this, then it means a lot to him if I can give it. Maybe it means everything. It means I trust him enough to give.

I've got to try this. For him. I guess for me too. Daniel won't hate me if I can't do it but he'll be hurt if I won't do it.

And if I can? If we get there, do this? What's the worst that can possibly happen? No one but me and Daniel will know. It won't be branded on my skin that Colonel O'Neill got fucked by Dr. Jackson.

"I trust you," I tell him. "I even love you, for reasons that escape me at this moment in time."

He grins and bites me on the lip. Kisses me better.

I already think it's worth it when I look in his eyes and see what I put there. He's what I focus on. The pure, incandescent joy blazing out of him as I lead him around to my bedroom. I'm almost proud he can't see how scared I am. How he's overturned every single thought and plan I've made for us. I always imagined it was going to be me in him when we reached this place.

But he's sweet, this guy of mine. So gentle and loving and wise. So very, very dangerous. He thinks the world of me and I can't refuse him anything he wants, not if it only hurts me. He asks for so little and he gives me so much. He's giving me everything. Himself. Daniel is all I need to get me through this.

We're both adults. Equals. I can get through it, I think, even if I can't enjoy it. This is not the end of the world as I know it. I'm only letting the guy I love fuck me. I take far worse and crack jokes about it every day.

I help Daniel out of his jeans, goose him. I make him laugh. As I strip, I look at him. Hard for me to believe the sight of my naked body has him straining, twitching. He loves me, he wants me that much. I got lucky. So fucking lucky. He can't hurt me, not Daniel.

"Jack? Are you sure?" Daniel is tender. Terrified too.

"I'm not sure at all," I admit frankly. "But I want to try."

"It's good to try," Daniel agrees, smiling. "If it doesn't work out for us, then we can try something else."

What did I say? I'm the luckiest bastard alive.

"No expectations?" I ask him.

"Only that you're honest. I won't hurt you, Jack."

I can do this. I make some lame-ass joke about Daniel getting into the lion's den as I pull him down on top of me. Can I do this? I'm going to have to get us started. I know what to do up to the point – the point I've got to get beyond. I did this with Sara a time or two. I get as comfortable as possible as Daniel squirms all over me to reach the bedside table and the tube of lube, which he actually reads. If I could laugh, I would. Bless him, he's so far out of his depth he's drowning. And so determined to make me happy. Show me it's okay. If we trust, if we love, we can do anything. I can trust myself with him if I can do this. Open up. Commit. Move on from the past.

I cant up my legs invitingly. Daniel puts the lube close to hand, looking slightly bewildered about it all, but so sexy, so heart-stoppingly aroused by me. "C'm here!" I growl. He laughs and scoots up to kiss me passionately. Tells me how much he loves me. How lucky he is to have me. How he thought he'd be alone forever, how he's so happy right now. I see it. He's radiant as he slips down the length of me and eyes me thoughtfully.

"I don't know where to start. I want everything you've got, right now!" Daniel is excited, drunk on only the sight of me. "So what do you want, Jack?"

Honestly? I want this over and not to have choked. Me or you.

"If you want to do this, no pressure here, but my favourite torrid fantasy is of having your mouth on me," I tell him, trying not to pant and beg or make with the pleading puppy eyes. If we're outside of our comfort zone, we might as well be right outside it. Sex is supposed to be give and take.

This is no sooner asked than offered gladly. I balance on my elbows to see him as I feel him kiss the very tip of my cock. The thoughtful, processing expression as my bitterness fills his mouth. The smile and the slow licking of those lips. The purely naughty look I get peeping up through his lashes. The sultry, "Mmm." Liar, I think fondly. Then his tongue extends carefully and licks. Swirls around the head. Another swift look up from Daniel, who wants to know if he's doing good. He's doing better than good, better than perfect. I'm purring here. Not gonna give you any less even if I've got to do a Meg Ryan and fake my way through it.

Daniel nibbles oh, so very gently, anxious not to hurt me. I'm feeling a little better about what's to come. No pun. Daniel is considerate and careful. He doesn't have a clumsy bone in his body. He's an archaeologist for God's sake. He knows how to touch, touches me with exquisite care and attention, and patience to burn. Cataloguing every reaction, every hint of pleasure as he licks the length of my cock and ventures farther. Ver-ry sensitive here, not so fond of having my balls touched but his delicacy makes it my pleasure too. Oh Lord, does it. My moaning is heart-rending now. I pull myself together a little. I'm seeing stars.

"Don't try to take me in all at once. Be comfortable." Time to go for it, I guess. "Lube up your finger and me before you – uugh," I finish on a strangled gasp, sultry flashes going off behind my eyes as he follows instructions to the letter and swallows as much of me as he can and lets his long slender fingers caress the rest. I'm completely undone by the sight of Dr. Daniel Jackson, all bright eyes and moist silken heat around me as he suckles.

"JesusMaryandJoseph," I whimper inadequately. "Daniel, oh God, oh Daniel." I've got to lie down. I'm dizzy. Got to close my eyes. I find the room spinning more with my eyes closed. I'm dizzy with pleasure. Profound, sullen pleasure pangs roiling through my gut as Daniel loves me. Studies to please me. Learns me. I'm making more noise than Meg Ryan ever did on the silver screen and I mean every gasp and whimper. Sullen is edging to sweet, pangs to waves. I throw an arm over my eyes. There's coolness, probing inside me. Seeking. Infinitely careful. Respectful. Seeking and finding. I arch off the bed with a yelp. "Daniel!"

I feel his smile on my cock as a second finger pushes inside. Long strong, subtle, sure fingers, thrusting harder than Sara ever did. Deep inside, oh, so deep, so good.

"Love you, love you, Daniel, love you!" Love what he's doing to me. Gibbering, I'm arching again. Three fingers rocking in as he sucks emphatically, drawing the pleasure wave out, crashing through me, sparks flaring and finally pin-wheeling behind my eyes; pressure in my gut, pressure behind, thrusting, seeking; finding, finding, finding. I holler incoherently as pleasure slams through me, lifting me high, balanced on my neck, to come down Daniel's throat. He gamely swallows and then kisses my belly, wanting to know if it's okay, if I'm okay, can he love me?

He can do anything he wants to me. I wriggle my ass invitingly.

Methodical to the end, Daniel does this by the book, as in the sex book we bought. Hips lifted. Check. Supporting pillows under ass. Check. Jelly legs hooked over shoulders. Check. Lubrication. Check. And check again to be sure.

"Go for it!" I whisper, using the last of my strength. He's blown my mind, literally, it seems. Never felt anything like – oh, god. In me. He's in me. Slow. Serene. Sure. He has patience to burn. I've got tremors like a tea clipper in a gale; his soothing hands and voice, loving me. Daniel loving me, rocking gently in, stretching me. Burning. Oh God. Oh, Daniel.

"Let go, Jack. I love you, please let go, please trust me, let me in. Let me love you. Look at me."

Responding instinctively to the order, I snap my eyes open and see him, every muscle straining, corded with the effort of holding still. He won't take what I don't give. His eyes are glowing. I'm everything in those eyes. Everything to him. Maybe – maybe I can do this.

"Oh, Jack. My Jack." He's sliding sweetly in.

What gave?

Me. Crap. I gave.

Deep inside. So deep, I'm not sure now where I end and he begins. I didn't expect this to be so...intimate.

"Bite me," I plead.

Daniel lowers his weight carefully, slowly, balancing on trembling arms until I stop clenching and groaning. Leans in and takes my lips in a sinfully sensual kiss, thrusting deep in my mouth, thrusting deep in me, thrusting, finding.

Ah, god, it's good, he feels so good. I didn't expect this. "Again. Again!"

He's laughing at me now, so relieved we can do this together. "Well, only if you're certain, Jack."

"AGAIN!"

Rocking, thrusting, finding, hitting that spot, there, the sweet, sweet spot. He's done this forever. He does this. What he does. He makes love. He can just stay here and do this. Forever. "More. Again." Make love to me. I thought maybe I could do this for him and now I don't want to stop doing this for me. I like this, I love him, I love being loved.

The colonel loves being fucked by the bookworm; smooth, slow, serene, sure. The colonel wraps his legs harder, higher, round the strong, slender waist. The colonel will be frigging limping and smug as hell for days. "Deeper." More. Again. "Harder." More. Again. "Kiss me. Mmm. Mmm. M-"

"More, I know, I've got it."

"Well, give it to me then!" More. Again. "Now."

He sounds worlds away. Stunned. Me too. Who knew who I was such a slut? Don't rush this, don't. Want to let go forever, want to trust, and be open, and let it all go. "Slower, Daniel, slower," I whisper into his mouth. Daniel looks wild, desperate, his clenched teeth and effortful care taking their toll. He stops. Rests in me. Not a selfish bone in his body. Totally fucking awesome altruistic boner in mine.

I decide I really can't get him any closer and stretch luxuriously, feel him shift deep inside me and hear him groan. Oh yeah, gonna gloat for days. "NOW."

He's not slow now, he's driving into me, steady, sure; he knows when he'll be there, knows when I can meet him. He knows what I can take. God, the feel of him; the sight and taste of him, filling me up, making me whole, making me his, making my body sing, too good, impossibly good, straining, unbearable, shattering need. "My Dearest, Darling Love!" I sing out triumphantly.

"PRIIIIICK!" Daniel curses as he convulses and heat pours into me, his back arching so hard he drives us both up the bed and I have the second coming.

After, when everything stops spinning and we both start breathing again, we sprawl in a limp, boneless heap of contentment in my – our - bed. More clean sheets. A vivid blue of which Daniel is highly suspicious. I've assured him three times already I'm not sappy enough to go looking for stuff that matches his eyes. I flip him on his back and kiss him senseless. It matches his eyes exactly.

That would be a newsflash, huh?

The colonel lives for Dr Daniel Jackson, colour co-ordination and getting fucked. Oh my, yes. My ass throbs painfully every time I move and I get a reminiscent spasm of joy from my cock every damn time I look at Daniel's sated, rosy face.

He's quietly pleased I've found a whole new interest in life and agreed to participate fully in my plans to thoroughly embrace my newfound slutdom.

My sultry, confident lover is now quite, quite certain I'm alive and well – hell, I hollered the place down and threw in a few war whoops for good measure when I could see straight – and now he's gone all shy.

My spine seems to have permanently turned to mush because I find his shyness utterly enchanting. I feed us both a lot of melted coffee ice cream, which was really good with all the cherries I - er - happened to have about the place. A glowing, sated, shy Daniel naked in one's lap whilst nibbling cherries from one's fingers is a sight one will be having smug wet dreams over for years. Possibly forever.

Now I've got Daniel snugly tucked up in a full body embrace and I'm wondering what's coiling through that mind of his. Can't be the earth-shattering sex we've both just enjoyed to the full, Jeez, I couldn't have embarrassed myself more if I'd tried, so – what? I'd call him darling again just to get a reaction, but I've still got a cosy glow from watching him chow down on the cherries, so I'm waiting him out.

"Jack?"

One long finger is tracing a maddening path around my navel. Um hmm. Daniel is a quick study. He's gone tactical on me already. I've no strenuous objections to him distracting me with sex, so I just lie back and enjoy it. It doesn't in any way distract my mind from getting to the bottom of this problem, but then that's one of the most annoying qualities of the 'colonel' part of me. Daniel's isn’t the only mind that never switches off.

"Do you want to do that with me?"

"Ye-es. But only if you want it and only when you're ready to make love that way," I assure Daniel emphatically. What the heck is this? If I'd been having any better a time I'd be dead from sheer bliss. Nothing to be scared of. Voice of one-time soon to be repeated experience, here.

I tilt Daniel's mutinous chin. "What is it, Daniel? You can tell me," I encourage him. No BS for once. I stroke his hair gently.

"I'm not good at – at sex," is Daniel's staggering response.

I have to bite down hard on an incredulous 'Excuse me?' Then what the hell was that? Even my hair is still smug.

"That's the first time ever I really, truly got it right," Daniel cringes. He never remembers to do the obligatory guy stuff and swear from the rafters he's an unstoppable sex machine.

"Do you honestly think you could disappoint me? Not possible, Daniel, not possible, except when you think like this." I can't allow myself to think how weird it is to talk with Daniel about our intimately personal lives. I've got to get used to it. He is my intimately personal life. My ecstatic little three-ring circus just intimidated the hell out of him, which was about the last thing I intended with all of that positive reinforcement. He's sure he can please me this way, sure he won't please me the other. I have never asked exactly what Hathor, Shyla and Linea did to him. You don't question a friend about rape, coercive sex and manipulation. You have to convince your lover he's not frigid, that he is in fact beautiful, sensual and responsive, and it's your very distinct pleasure to make love to him however he pleases.

"Do you trust me enough to let go, Daniel? Yeah? So, that's all you have to do."

The troubled look clears a little. I nudge his head back down to my shoulder.

"Jack? When did you fall in love with me? You know when I – I mean – when I realised? I was for a long time, I think, I just didn't know. I was on the wrong path," Daniel's voice stumbles and falters, "So – so when did you know?"

"Seriously?"

Daniel nods vigorously, which brushes a lot of soft hair under my chin. Nice.

"I know the exact moment, but it took a while for me to realise it too, though there was an immediate – er – impact on my behaviour." I'm hedging.

"You're hedging."

"I'm not!" I protest. "Get your tongue out of my ear; you've got a hundred percent success rate with that so far. No fair." Daniel obeys like a good little – "Jeez! Hand!"

"Sorry, Jack. My hand slipped."

"Taking a long time to un-slip."

"Just resting. I could move it."

"You certainly could," I leer involuntarily. "I don't mind trading sexual favours for information." I slip my hand onto the corresponding part of Daniel's anatomy, making him gasp, writhe and shake all over me. "Easy, da –"

"That better be 'Da-' as in Daniel," Daniel threatens.

"Naturally," I say coldly. "You have to know?" I stroke him smoothly, confidently, as I explore just what does it for him. He's not much help. Everything I do makes him quiver and whimper with ecstatic shock. I relax and decide to just go with the flow.

"Please, Jack," Daniel pleads.

Obligingly, I stroke him more vigorously, and his hips thrust him deeply into my waiting hand. I'm plumb tuckered. Got no snap in my snake after two separate mind-blowing main events so close to – Hand! "Oh, Christ, what you do to me! Don't stop, Daniel, don't stop." I should just shut the fuck up about this stuff, I know nothing! "Ah, do it to me, do it." Whoa boy. "Just there, just there. And there. And – oh – o-oh – go-od-d!"

"No!" a fake little Dannyboy voice responds. "Just me. J-J-J-Jack!"

"Serves you right, you smug little – "

"Smug? This from the man who – Mmmph," Daniel gasps as I plunge my tongue into his mouth. I can think of far too many occasions where I was 'the man who' and too many things I've done.

"If you really must have it, I fell in love with you that last morning we were with the folks in Chicago. I woke up with you in my arms, and your t-shirt was all over the place and my hand was on a lot of warm, bare skin. Your leg was draped over me." I love the warm fuzzies, my hand was clamped to the thigh of the very same leg, though in a strictly comforting kind of way, and the sun was slanting down on his face from the Oriole window. "I should have freaked out to be in such a compromising position with you, but I didn't."

"That's why you gave me hell over my seat on the plane! You sandwiched me between you and a nun! You were jealous!"

"I was not."

"You were."

"Not."

"Were."

"Was."

"Weren't. What?" He glares at me for faking him out. It's not my fault he's easy. "Prick," he grumbles. "Um. How are Kate and Joe?"

"Good."

"Did Kate ever finish my portrait?"

Moment of truth here. "Yes."

"Will I ever get to see it?"

This could be bad.

"Jack?"

Very, very bad.

"Jack?"

Possibly even perverted.

I sigh and scoot over to the end of the bed, lean down and feel a kiss on my behind.

"Mmm."

Sweetest guy in the world. He so does not deserve having me happen to him like this. I turn the other cheek as I slide something incriminating out from under my bed.

"Mmm." Then he sees what I'm holding. "Oh, my God! You've been sleeping with me under your bed!"

Daniel is inexpressibly shocked. He doesn't spend much time in front of a mirror so he can't fathom why I'd want him here – in my bedroom - where I could look at him whenever I wanted to, not when I see him everyday on base. Like I'm gonna tell him if he can't figure it out for himself.

"Yeah, well," I fudge. "Now I get to sleep with you in my bed."

"There isn't room for all three of us."

"Don't get smart with me."

"Have you been, you know?" Daniel gestures to a warm intimate spot on me he's just had his hand on, doing what he thinks I've been doing. "While you were looking at my painting?"

"Certainly not!" Yeah, every chance I got. I'm a stranger to shame. Lost it decades ago. No forwarding address. "Daniel, darling? Be brave." I know people who have less shame. Three of 'em.

"What? Why?" Daniel seems to have decided to table a full investigation into my portrait-perversions until later, because he slides the painting back under the bed, shooting me reproachful little glances the whole time until he achieves a boneless sprawl all over me.

He weighs a ton, but I weigh more than he does and I'm tough. He's cuddly. He's also really shocked I've been jacking-off over him. I'm not going to tell him just how often I've come, whimpering his name.

"We're going to have to tell the folks. I can't lie to them, not about this."

Daniel's face lights up with utterly inappropriate pleasure for a moment, then falls. "Will they be hurt?" He's hurt just thinking about it.

I don't know what to say to him. I've got no idea how Mom and Dad will take it. It honestly never crossed my mind I'd be slinking back home to tell them I'm in love with their darling Daniel. They love me, which helps. They're crazy about Daniel, which helps more. Still, they won't be doing back-flips because their forty-five year-old, previously straight, career military son has a boyfriend. Jokes about me waking up gay because I had a wet dream about Johnny Weismuller apart, this is not anything they wanted for me. What they wanted were Sara and Charlie. The ordinary stuff.

They won't yell at Daniel. Or blame him.

I shudder. The minute Mom finds out I'm boning her dearest boy every chance we get, it will hit the fan and then it will hit me.

"Jack?"

"Hurt? I hope not, Daniel, I hope not. They have ways of sharing the load."

I feel a snort snuffling against my shoulder. "You have something to say?" I enquire coldly.

"Love you," Daniel says promptly. "You know, you're quite bony for someone who worries about his –"

"Don't you start!"

"But I have to agree with Ruth. You're very manly." Daniel waits for an explosion and eventually raises his head. "You're blushing." He's astonished.

Me too. My vocal chords have just petrified at the thought of what Ruth is going to make of all this.

"That's so sweet," Daniel sighs, snuggling back in, poking a few spots here and there on me in the vain hope I'll be more comfortable.

"Sweet?"

"Darling?"

"Prick."

"One track mind." Daniel chuckles. "Don't worry, Jack. I'll protect you from Ruth."

I know Ruth. She'll probably be up for a threesome.

 


JACK

Daniel has all the natural joie de vivre of a man taking that last slow walk to the electric chair as we take what he hopes is not the last slow walk to my parents' front door. I press as close to his side as I can without climbing into his clothes with him, which wins me a grateful smile. A very brief one.

I'm expected. Me, myself, and I. I decided surprise was the essence of attack and my weapon of choice is Daniel. He's gone through agonies of apprehension since we saw Carter off on her flight to San Diego, and had to face the reality we were coming here to – er – come out. He's terrified it's all going to go hideously wrong and my folks will throw us out, ordering me to never darken their door again or some such, and it will be all his fault. I told him I had the honeymoon suite at the Four Seasons in reserve specifically for that eventuality, but the joke fell a little flat. Daniel might be strong, but he is also way too sensitive. I figured the more fuss the folks made over him, the less time he'd have to worry about 'ruining their lives'.

I smile reassuringly and open the door. Daniel looks a little shocked by my cavalier attitude. One of the things I've learned about my lover of almost two months is that he has exquisite manners and instinctive courtesy. Someone, somewhere along the line, convinced him this shit was important and the lesson has stuck. With our hellish schedule, it's the little stuff we don't know about each other that keeps surprising us. We spend a lot more nights apart than we can together and I'm already making adjustments to being in love with a perfect gentleman. I give him a hard shove and send him staggering through the door he doesn't think I should've opened.

Mom is actually trotting down the stairs. She freezes as Daniel stumbles into the hallway, and I close the door behind us, smirking. Then she screams and hurdles down the rest of the stairs like a gazelle. I got her to stop sliding down the banisters a couple of visits ago. Visions of broken hips were keeping me awake at night.

Daniel drops his bag and shows a vague instinct for self-preservation, burrowing back into the nearest place of safety, i.e., me.

"DANIEL!"

I love you too, Mom.

"Daniel!"

I missed you too.

"C'm here!"

Daniel takes a tentative step forward and literally staggers as Mom hurtles into his chest and ecstatically hugs every inch of him, laughing and – aww – crying.

"Kate," he says softly, trembling with nerves and excitement and impending doom.

"Darling!" Mom finally steps back an inch or so and clasps his face tenderly between her hands. She gazes up at him, searchingly. Then she turns to me. Hands on hips. I burrow into the safety of the door. "What the hell have you been doing to him!"

"Son!" an eager voice calls from the kitchen.

"Hello, Gorgeous," Ruth beams from the top of the stairs.

I decide she's a safer option than Mom right now, and lope past the three-way lovefest playing out by the front door to fetch her. The folks will remember I'm here too, once they've reassured themselves Daniel is real, and here, and they can talk about those adoption papers while he's still dazed from the force of his welcome.

Halfway up the stairs, I glance down. They each have one of Daniel's hands and they're towing him off to the kitchen for emergency resuscitation measures. Daniel has coffee, cake and cuddles in his immediate future. I've got Ruth in mine.

Sweet Home Chicago.

I smile. "Horny old harpy," I say fondly.

Ruth smiles. "Jerk. If you wanted to make an old lady happy, I wouldn't stop you."

I lift her into my arms, gently as a child, and wait until she settles one arm around my neck and the other – "Ruth, for God's sake. I just got here!"

"Mmm."

"Flippant enough for ya?" I snarl.

"I'll say," Ruth drools. "Cheeky."

"On the stairs, here!"

"What a way to go."

God help me. She won't let me put her down when we reach the hallway. I have to carry her into the kitchen, her hand clamped to my butt in full view of everyone.

Daniel's honoured status is reflected in the fact he is being permitted to cut his own piece of cake, even though Mom is hovering anxiously as his side, supervising. It's a privilege I haven't been granted in forty-five years. Her hand is on his – "Mom!"

Dad sniggers. "We're converting, son. Gonna be Mormons. Your mother has a yen for polygamy. She's got some fairly exacting requirements for the lucky boy who gets to join our little ménage-a-trois."

I put Ruth carefully into the nearest chair and step smartly out of range. She still manages to goose me before I get away. "Lemme guess. Six-feet tall, blue eyes, answers to Daniel, Dr. Jackson or darling?"

Both Mom and Ruth sigh as one. "Ay, caramba," Mom says huskily. Daniel drops his cake and blushes furiously. The only coherent word I hear stammered out is 'um'.

"Leave him alone, Mom," I order. She shoots me a defiant look, catches my eye and suddenly I see myself in her. Weighing. Assessing. Really, Mom. Not right now. He's not up to this. Her eyes soften suddenly and then it's my turn to stagger from a forceful embrace.

"Missed you, love. Missed you terribly," Mom sighs into my chest.

"Yeah, right." I'm drawling, but I'm smiling. I feel her smiling too. Then she stands on tip-toe and kisses me on the cheek. "Gettin' misty eyed, here. Take a minute, Mom," I suggest as I stroll over and hug Dad. "The name might come back to you."

Daniel turns and solemnly holds up a sheet from Mom's kitchen notepad. "We've got name tags," he says kindly. Mom chokes and then I get a good look. It says 'Jack' and has a sketch of something that looks suspiciously like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

"For the last time, I am not fat!" I howl as everyone cracks up. Daniel manages his sweet little smile, but it takes some effort. I was kind of hoping to edge up to the moment of truth, but every second I delay is putting Daniel through the wringer. He thinks too much of the folks and I can't convince him this is going to go well. I get where he's coming from too. Mom and Dad and Ruth opened up and chose to let him in; they can choose just as easily to shut him back out. It doesn't matter how badly I fuck up, or what lousy choices I make, I always get to come home. Daniel hardly knows what home is. He's never had that luxury.

He sidles round the table clutching coffee and cake for both of us, and gratefully sinks down next to me as Mom takes her accustomed place next to Dad.

I smile reassuringly and investigate my cake. Looks interesting. Spicy. Fruity. Rich. "Nice. What is it?"

Mom's gaze is dwelling lovingly on Daniel's increasingly pale face. She's starting to look worried. Knowing Mom, she'll be demanding answers with menaces any minute. "Cut and Come Again."

I manage to inhale a fair bit of my Come Again cake before I get the choking under control. And the sniggering. Another look at Mom's face and I see she's not gonna last much longer. Daniel is picking at his cake, unable to meet anybody's eye, and worst of all, not talking. We're all watching him anxiously. He hasn't touched his coffee. This is unprecedented. The end of the world is well and truly nigh if Daniel can't drink his coffee.

"Well, I've got news," I say calmly.

My news emits a low moan of distress. "Jack," he whispers.

"Hey, now, come on. No need for this, Daniel," I say gently, cradling his reluctant face between my hands. "You're among family, here." I manage to punch up his anxiety levels to sheer panic. He's afraid there won't be any family, après the Revelation.

"I should go." He nods very definitely at this but doesn't budge an inch. I'm not sure he can move. "I really think I should go."

"Daniel..."

"Jack, I think this is a stunningly bad idea."

"Why didn't you think it before you got on the plane?"

"I did. But you were wearing those damned jeans."

"So now it's my fault?"

"Trust me. That's what you said to me before you stuck your hand in my..."

"Okay!" Can't he let that one go?

"Trust me. That's what got me on the plane. You and those damned jeans."

"Okay, okay!" Jeez, talk about obsessing! "How about we forget the blame thing and stick with the trust thing, huh?" I ask him, reaching around to hug his neck comfortingly.

"I do trust you." He caresses his forehead against mine. "But you love your family and I don't want anything to change that. It's too important."

"None of that talk," I dismiss this briskly. "I love you. I wish you'd get that through your thick skull. I'm not going to 'come' to my senses, Daniel. I already did that, okay?"

"Okay. There's no need to get offensive about it all, but okay."

I can get away with anything in these jeans, I know I can. Daniel lays his head on my shoulder and hugs me back, which is pretty damn okay by me. "For a smart guy, you're not too bright, Daniel. Just leave it to me. I'll break the good news gently and –" Daniel slowly lifts his head and stares into my eyes, beyond terror now. Then we both slowly turn and look at the folks.

Daniel instinctively clings a little closer as we take in Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil. "Surprise!" I say weakly. They look like they've been stuffed. Mom is shaking. Dad is grimacing. They can't look at each other, let alone at us.

"Damnation!" Ruth snarls. "Spot me, Joe?"

Ruth. My eyes and my mind just won't go there.

"Sure thing, Ruth," Dad says equably. Then he solemnly hands Mom two twenty-dollar bills, which Mom fusses over, smoothing them out flat on the table and making a show of counting them. Both of them.

"Mo-om," I growl. I know gloating when I see it.

Dad slides over an extra twenty-dollar bill, which Mom then formally returns to him.

Ruth raises a questioning eyebrow.

"Side-bet," Dad apologises.

"Bet?" I holler.

They all crack up, roaring with helpless laughter, sputtering every time they catch sight of my outraged face.

"Bet?" Daniel's soft, hurt voice chides.

I gloat as the old reprobates hit the kill switch on their Laugh-In, falling over themselves, shamefaced, to reassure, soothe and generally pet their precious darling. Daniel's big reproachful eyes and tragic mouth secure better results than sodium pentathol. I extract and graciously accept a full apology from each of them. Then I go for my pound of flesh.

"What the hell is going on? Bets?"

"After your last visit, Kate insisted she saw a – what was the word, honey?" Dad asks calmly.

"Frisson," Mom rolls the word off her tongue with palpable relish.

"Thanks, hon. A frisson between you and Daniel."

"Frisson?" Daniel asks weakly.

"Frisson?" Ruth is incredulous.

"Thanks, Ruth," I agree with her for once. It's utterly ridiculous. I was no different with Daniel than I've ever been.

"If Jack had been smouldering any harder he would have spontaneously combusted," Ruth states flatly.

"Excuse me?" I sputter, outraged.

"You touched Daniel, son. A whole lot," Dad says kindly.

"I did not."

"He didn't!" Daniel objects.

"You didn't seem to mind, darling," Mom says indulgently.

Both of us are blushing. I remove my arm from around Daniel's shoulders. Mom scowls ferociously. I put it back.

"The two of you were off in your own private little world," Dad reflects.

"You were connected," Mom finishes triumphantly.

"Horny," Ruth corrects. "Jack, was anyway. I watch National Geographic. I know a full-on mating ritual when I see one."

"A what?" I never laid an impure thought, let alone an impure finger on him. Never even occurred to me. Well, it barely even occurred to me.

"Hugging. Caressing. Eating food off Daniel's plate. Sleeping together," Mom supplies.

"That was your fault! Don't try to shift the blame on me. You stuck us in there together because there was no spare room," I snap.

"I checked on you both several times, each night, after I checked on Ruth," Mom says calmly. "You were, most definitely, sleeping together."

"How old am I?" Ruth and I complain as one, and then scowl at each other.

"How 'together'?" Daniel asks, clearly knowing he won't like the answer.

"I nearly insisted Jack slept with his father."

"Oh."

"I insisted Jack slept with me, but who listens to me?" Ruth complains bitterly.

I shudder convulsively and the old harpy laughs.

"Were we really?" Daniel waggles a mortified hand from him to me.

"Truly," Mom says solemnly.

"Madly," Ruth agrees.

"Deeply," Dad smiles at us both.

"Just clueless," Mom says brightly.

"Hence the bet," Dad is twinkling.

I think Daniel is beyond speech at this point. He just keeps emitting these soft snuffs of air instead of words.

"I had every confidence in you, love," Mom tells me proudly. "I asked you if you loved Daniel, and you were honest enough to admit it. I knew you'd get there eventually."

"We didn't," Ruth says meanly.

"You did?" Daniel's eyes are luminous. "You said you loved me?"

I nod weakly. Damn, those eyes. He knows he's not supposed to look at me like that, not if he doesn't want me to –

"When?"

It seems terribly important to him. "While you were sleeping. Mom was showing me those photographs of you and – I knew you were thinking about the most important person in your life. She asked and I had a moment of weakness." He was dreaming of Sha'uri.

"You," Daniel says softly. "I was thinking about you."

"Oh," I say even more softly. "You got stuck with the King of Clueless, here." All that time wasted. "Sorry, Daniel."

He smiles that smile only I get to see.

"Don't mind us," Mom says breezily.

We snap our heads apart, reality intruding.

"Connected," Mom crows.

"Horny. Sheesh!" Ruth chuckles malevolently, making a great show of fanning herself.

"You're okay about this? About us?" Daniel asks, looking hopefully at each of them in turn.

"Nah. You could do better," Mom sniggers.

"Much better," Dad chuckles.

"I love you too." The Brady Bunch, we ain't. "Are you okay?" I ask seriously. I think they've grasped Daniel and I aren't just drooling over the Ikea brochure in bed.

"Let me see. You're obsessive," Mom says.

"Possessive," Dad picks it up.

"Jealous," Ruth supplies.

"Over-protective," Dad says a little sternly. "Daniel isn't a little boy."

He certainly isn't. "I – er – I had noticed," I say meekly.

Daniel chokes down a chuckle and avoids my eye. He's infuriatingly strict about making love. I want him to just throw me down and fuck me through the mattress, but he'll only play if it's beautiful and tender and loving. I've not outmanoeuvred him yet, and by God I've tried. He's no fun at all.

"Masterful," Ruth sighs.

Daniel and I catch Dad's eye and we all shudder.

"Smug."

"Gloating."

"Sweet," Mom sighs.

"Sappy," Dad corrects grimly.

Daniel laughs out loud this time.

"Well, who can blame you?" Mom beams. "Daniel is such a darling."

My darling is snarling.

"Basically, you're about as happy as we've ever seen you, so yes, son, we're okay with it," Dad says judiciously. "Got a little sympathetic sugar shock going on, from all that cosy romantic glow you boys are putting out, but I guess you won't set my teeth on edge forever."

"I'm – overwhelmed," I drawl sarcastically. "What was the side-bet?"

"That you'd totally screw up 'coming out' to us," Dad gloats.

"Thanks!"

"No, thank you, son. Your Mom would have been unbearable if you'd managed to get both things right."

"Both things?" Daniel is snorting with ill-suppressed laughter.

"Not sure how to put this?" Dad looks for help.

"Seducing Daniel?" Mom suggests.

"Putting the moves on him? Making a bootie call? Getting jiggy wid' it?" Ruth looks as if she could go all day on this one.

"Hey! Little pitchers. It never occurred to you I might just ask him out to dinner or to a movie or something?"

"No."

"Nope."

"No way, hon. You were smokin'," Ruth says firmly.

"He didn't."

We all look at Daniel.

Daniel, contrary S.O.B. that he is, rallies under the scrutiny. "I kissed him." His eyes on me are sheer wickedness. "And he tried to run away."

I only ran as far as the whiskey bottle. Daniel dropped his towel, crooked his finger, and I fell over the phone to come running. That about says it all for romance.

"What!" Mom howls. "Dammit!"

"Pay up, Kate," Dad gloats as Mom hands over a twenty, snarling. Ruth crooks one of her claws and gloats over her twenty every bit as much as Dad.

I'm glaring at Dad. "Are you seriously telling me you put money on me screwing up with Daniel and with telling you about us?"

"Yep," Dad is unrepentant. "You're hopeless at this stuff, son, you know you are."

Daniel dissolves into helpless laughter, which has Mom and Ruth cooing.

"It's lucky I don't take this stuff personally," I growl. "Mom. Mom! Mom!"

"What!"

"Your tongue is hanging out. Knock it off. He's spoken for."

"Ha!" Mom looks me up and down, her lip curling. "I'll fight you for him. I can take you, sweet child of mine."

My sense of humour gets the better of me. "You think you can take me? Bring it on, Mom. Bring. It. On." Mom jumps up and we take it over to the window. "You don't make a fist like that. Like this," I gently fold her thumb over her clenched fingers. "Want me to sit down so you can reach?"

"Who said I was going to hit you in the face? I can reach what I was aiming for just fine."

We both look down. I blush furiously. "Mom!"

"You fight like a girl," Mom sneers.

"Mom."

"Blush like one too."

"Dad! Make her stop!"

"A-any more re-rev-elations bef-before we break up the p-party?" Daniel stutters, still laughing helplessly.

"Son? Is this a good time to tell you that you were adopted?" Dad asks gravely.

I spin around. "A guy can dream!" I holler.

 

DANIEL

"Jack, it's over. I'm sorry. I belong to another now. You're – you're just going to have to be brave. Pick up the pieces and move on," I say, voice all aquiver with noble suffering.

"If I could move, I'd crawl over there and kill you both," Jack stirs lazily. "It was a sucker punch and you know it, Mom."

"Special Forces, my ass," Kate crows. "Beaten up by his dear, grey-haired old mother." I feel Kate's fingers on my hair again, stroking gently. "Mine. Mine. Mine." I find myself leaning into her hand, welcoming her light, warm caress.

"Just keep your hands where we can all see them, Mom. Daniel especially."

"Oh, I like where Kate has her hands on me just fine, Jack," I say innocently. I feel a little kiss as my reward for bad behaviour and stretch luxuriously. Oh, this is nice.

Jack isn't so stuffed he can't manage to open his eyes, but he makes a production job of it. Smirks softly at Kate and me cuddled up side by side, then sinks back down into the sinful embrace of his couch. Everyone is groaning from Kate's fabulous cannelloni, from popcorn and red wine, firelight, and good company. An evening of 'do you remember?' stories for my sake, and generous inclusion. I'm warmed through and decidedly drowsy, Kate on one side of me, Joe on the other. A feast of Jack before me.

Nice? This is perfectly wonderful. The feeling of inclusion is so strong, it finally gives me the nerve to ask them a question very important to me.

"This is not what you wanted for Jack, is it?" I ask diffidently. "I know he's giving up a lot to be with me and I guess, well, I understand it means you are too." I don't feel I've taken Sara's place in Jack's life. They had essentially moved on from one another when I first met Jack. His acceptance of the suicide mission to Abydos severed their relationship to an extreme it could never recover from. Refusing to be frozen out, Sara rejected Jack's game of brinkmanship and acted to protect herself. He's long past the point of blame.

"We want our boy to be happy," Joe says placidly.

It's a good answer. Maybe I'm overly sensitive. I don't know. I can't help but think and feel Kate and Joe once had a family that included a woman they loved as a daughter and a grandson. I have no doubt they loved Sara dearly; it's who they are. When Jack and Sara lost Charlie, and then each other, Kate and Joe lost out too. Jack once brought them home a wife, with all that potential for family. Now there's only me. I don't know if I represent hopes so much as the ending of them.

"Sweetheart," Kate begins, her eyes very gentle. "If anything we've said has made you feel..."

"No!" I deny quickly. "It's not you. Honestly. It's me." I gesture speakingly at Jack. "This is still kind of new to both of us and not something I think either of us went looking for. We just sort of...happened to one another. I mean, we argue so much and we disagree so vehemently, so fundamentally and so often, we couldn't be more wrong for each other. On paper, anyway. We shouldn't even be friends. I don't know why being together is working out for us, only it that it is."

"Hard as it may be for you to believe, Daniel, we learnt a long time ago we can't make Jack's decisions for him," Kate assures me. "He's annoying that way."

I don't know how she can keep a straight face.

"One of those choices was to be alone after Sara..." Kate catches herself up guiltily, not wanting to talk out of turn, bring up a name I haven't mentioned and more importantly, that Jack hasn't. "He made a choice to be alone. Five years is a long time to not even look for someone to fill that void in his life. If you want to know how we truly feel about all of this, then I promise you, we're happy for it."

"I'm better than nothing?" I enquire courteously.

Kate scowls and punches me with mock ferocity in the arm. "Wiseass." A resonant snore from Jack has her giggling. "Bless him, you've worn him out," she stage-whispers.

How did I know this would be my fault?

"Scarfing down three helpings of cannelloni and most of the lemon meringue pie possibly contributed to his current state of collapse," Joe suggests.

"And the energetic sneering," I say, making a conscious effort to lighten the mood. "He loathes that movie. With a passion."

Kate and Joe look at one another and then at me and then they pull me up from my comfortable seat. My heart starts to pound. I know I opened this particular can of worms but - oh, dear. I'm not used to this. It can't be anything good if they won't talk about it with me in front of Jack. I guess they know he was faking them out, playing possum with all the snoring. Curiosity kills the colonel as well as the archaeologist, I've learned. Jack wants to know what the folks are thinking as much as I do.

Or it could simply be that we're both looking for reassurance. There's no one but Jack's family we can share 'us' with. No one we wouldn't compromise by telling them or who wouldn't compromise Jack by knowing. It's only human to look outside ourselves and hope to have someone see the good in us.

The comforting sense of taking the initiative is rapidly disappearing along with the ground from under my feet. Jack and I, we have this one ground rule: we're open to each other, even when it's really rough on us. Sticking with it is what's helping us get along so well. It feels wrong on so many levels to be talking alone with Jack's parents about us. I hope Jack outsmarts them and comes to rescue me!

I allow them to lead me off to my own interrogation, grateful when the Chief Executioner slips her arm around me and hugs me close, chuckling at the look on my face. The look on hers says 'darling'.

It's the same word Jack uses when we're in bed, when he's teasing, aggravating, bouncing around like Tigger trying to get a rise out of me. There are worse pet names he could use but this one, this is a cue for fun. I haven't had so much fun – outside of books - I'll willingly pass on Jack's athletically interactive version. I guess it's left me a little jealous of the word. It's Jack's word.

"It's a great movie," Kate argues.

"Fast planes," Joe grins.

"Tom Cruise," Kate counters.

"Fast bikes."

"Tom Cruise." Kate narrows her eyes at Joe.

"Kelly McGillis," Joe says innocently.

Kate stops in her tracks. "What did you say?"

I know that soft, menacing tone. I know the flinty look in those velvety eyes. I look at Joe's twitching lips. He's a kindred spirit.

"I was talking to one of the college tutors in the Poor Richard Bookstore," I confide in Joe. "Allegedly, he was – he – um - "

"Looking at you?" Joe is all sympathy and understanding for my plight. And poorly suppressed amusement.

"He certainly was," an equally soft, equally menacing voice sends a shiver down my spine as my lover spoons up behind me. Jack coolly plants a kiss on my cheek which makes me feel awkward, but I'm the only one. I can't keep track of all the complicated, competitive games these lovely people play.

Kate sniffs. "Give it some gas, son. You don't want Daniel to think the thrill has gone." She eyes my burning face with vast satisfaction. "Kelly McGillis! Ha!" She snorts and turns on her heel to storm off into the kitchen.

We know perfectly well she just wants to get the coffee on, but nobody grudges her the dramatic exit.

"Nice try with the ambush, Dad," Jack says pleasantly, slipping his arm around my waist as we follow Kate into the kitchen. The arm tightens. "Tom Cruise?" he says silkily, playing along with the silliness.

"I merely suggested the strenuous physical activity entailed in volleyball had – um – raised his body temperature somewhat," I argue defensively, trying not to grin. Double entendres are one sex game a linguist can excel at.

"You said he was hot," Jack growls.

"You thought the planes were hot."

"You're very good," Joe admires.

I beam at him, relaxing now that the confidential talk crisis is over. "Lots of practice."

"Nice recovery, Daniel. Didn't even mention 'impressive musculature'," Joe says dulcetly. "And your little talk on the – er – 'compensatory' nature of really big, really fast jet planes was very instructive."

We laugh softly as Jack storms off into the kitchen to join his mother. And to stake his claim on the lion's share of whatever snacks Kate may happen to have about the place.

I match my pace companionably to Joe's.

"Is it a problem?" he asks seriously. "It's easy for protective to shade into possessive. Jealous. They don't love by half-measure, either of them, and they know how to hold their own."

After a tiny hesitation, and placing Jack in that mental picture, both of us snigger, wickedly.

"It's not a problem, Joe," I assure him. "It was Sunday morning, and he had just patiently escorted me through Hooked on Books, Born Again Books, Books and More, Beth Anne's, Poor Richards and The Chinook. He just needed a little attention."

Especially when what he'd actually had in mind was staying in bed and feeding me cherries. Cherries have no nutritional role in Jack's life. I was amazed he had them in the house, that first time we made love. He has them for me. I love cherries and Jack loves watching me love cherries taken from his fingers; the combination is irresistibly erotic to him.

"It's a game, Daniel. Playful. Don't ever let it get serious. Jealousy will eat even the strongest relationship alive."

I nod, knocked off balance again, still not used to this, not used to this at all, not used to being loved and cared for; Joe's hand hugging around the nape of my neck for a moment in a gesture I know well. A rough, tender caress that says Jack to me. Home. Comfort. Friendship.

"We hoped you'd keep in touch, Daniel," Joe says softly as we walk slowly into the kitchen. "We've missed you."

"I wanted to." My wretched tongue stumbles and falters. I don't know what to say, to make it right. Even though some of the time we were trapped off-world recuperating from the Light, it still feels like a pathetically lame excuse for letting them down.

"My fault," Jack says calmly. "I didn't exactly embrace my good fortune. Things got pretty tough there for a while for us."

Kate slips into the seat next to Jack and takes his hand, smoothes the hair back from his brow, just as he does with mine. And Charlie's, I realise suddenly. I bet it's something Kate has been doing all Jack's life. She snuggles in and kisses his cheek. "Bad, love?" she asks gently.

"Worse for Daniel," Jack has to tackle things his way. Head-on. "I took it out on him. Didn't have the balls to face it. Went down fighting every step of the way." Kate leans her head on Jack's shoulder, sighing a little, smiling a little more. "Getting all girlie and sentimental on me, Mom?" Jack murmurs, nuzzling his cheek into her hair.

"Pfffft," Kate snorts. I'm sure the kiss is just for emphasis.

"Daniel kicked your ass," Joe says definitely, as he eases himself into his usual seat.

I kind of fall into the chair next to him. Are families usually this frank? Shatteringly open and honest? Do they talk this way? Is this what family is? My family is Jack. Sam, Teal'c and George. Janet and Cassie. A family formed by what we do, and bound by the rules of what we do. Some things can't ever be said, or shown, or known. Kasuf and Skaara are family too. Abydos was home, but there were rules and taboos binding my life there, also. This – is new. Truth and openness, fearful and rich; commitment and consequences known, accepted, sought. This is how Jack loves, why he fought so hard against loving me. I didn't know just how much of himself he would give me.

It covers me with shame that for all my talk, I haven't been able to match his generosity in bed. Jack is - No rush, he says. No explicit judgement. When I'm good and ready. An easy segue into something light and playful, or fast and fun and frenzied. Teasing laughter out of me. Joy welling through us. Still, I'm denying him what he so freely gave to me. I've had all of him, and I think I've given him only the surface of me. Jack readily compensates. Allows me to stay above him, free and clear and choosing to be where I am. He's made sure to ask what's good for me, he asks every time. I do too, but it's not the same. He gave me that amazing gift of himself, and in return, when his weight settled over me the first time, when he wanted me that way too, I tensed up shamefully. I was so bewildered. I'm so sorry.

I'm not afraid of him, yet still, I'm denying him. He wants to make love to me, wants to love me, be inside me, gift me with that pure, sublime connection he felt and covets so dearly. I told him I never got sex right, but I don't think he believes me. I seem to get it so right for him. I don't know what to do. If the sex is about him, giving pleasure to him, it's my pleasure too. The moment I feel it's about me I shut down. I'm drunk on him, drunk on giving. He's growing concerned about taking.

Skin on skin is my favourite thing, the easiest thing. That feels like it's about us, sharing, equals. Bed, shower, wall, stairs, kitchen, couch, fireside, front door. Surprise and seduction. I'm getting better at that, at simply being physical with him. I can let him crowd me against wall or door or freezer anytime without a tremor. Crowd him right back with vengeance. I'll get better with the other too, I know it. It won't always be Jack laughing up at me. I won't exhaust his patience. I will open up to him. I – I know it.

"Beat some sense into me," Jack says equably. "Actually made me sit down and get in touch with my feelings," he says bitterly, face theatrically disgusted. Soft eyes sparkling at me.

Look at him. So beautiful. So sexy. So wanting, needing, loving, giving. Mine. All mine. I want – I always want him. I want him now. He wants to be good. And I want to be bad, oh, so bad. I've never had this. Never fooled around; never felt the rush, the thrill of defiance. Breaking the rules. Rebelling. I want to. Now.

Battling a cat-smug smile, I ease off my sneaker. Demurely sip my delicious coffee. Slip my bare toes onto Jack's denim-clad shin and slide up. Right under the noses of the folks. God, I love him in these jeans.

Jack gasps, inhales. "H-hot," he stammers to Kate, who's still lingering at his side, all tender, maternal concern.

I've never been naughty before; I'm feeling deliciously naughty now. "Very hot," I say sweetly. Ver-ry. His right knee, the one that pains him so much. He's feeling no pain now. My toes are massaging him firmly, slowly.

Jack is breathing hard, blowing over his coffee to hide it. Velvety eyes snapping, ordering me to cease, desist, stop. Be good, darling Daniel.

I'm not feeling good, colonel-mine, but I can stop. And what do I believe, colonel-mine? Your eyes or your thighs? Parting, welcoming me in. Quivering as I glide my toes sinuously between. I was blessed with long legs, just for this. Teasing, tormenting, capturing my Jack. Utterly helpless. Speechless. Eyes disbelieving. Surely not? Not in front of the folks. Not your little Dannyboy.

Oh, yes. Yes. Just there, Jack? Just there? Want more? Oh, I feel that you do. Much more.

"You're very quiet, Jack," I say softly. "Getting in touch with your feelings right now?"

I have his rhythm now, flex and curl my toes against all that heat and hardness, admire the soft flush high on his cheeks, the rapid rise and fall of his chest, impeccably controlled. The sheen across his brow. Fighting to the end, colonel-mine? No retreat, no surrender?

"Going to be getting in touch with yours real soon," Jack says easily, sipping his coffee. Giving me hell with those eyes. His hand stealing beneath the table, stroking over my foot, lifting it.

Changing the rules of engagement? Mmm. Show me what you've got. Jack's large, warm hand is cupping my foot. Settling it on his thigh. Strong, broad fingers curling around; one caressing the arch. Maddening, sensuous. Deliberate. Making love to my flexing, arching foot. Making me quiver; wanton, wicked, wilful.

"Well, you seem to be adjusting just fine, son," Joe says dryly.

"Leave Daniel alone," Kate warns.

"What?" Jack snorts indignantly.

"Put him down!"

"Me? He started it!"

I've never done this. I've never 'gotten away' with anything. Ever. I've always had rules and prices to pay. Responsibility and consequences. Always. I turn to Kate. Wide-eyed little archaeologist lost, that's me. Helpless. Innocent. Sweet.

"For shame, Jack! Taking advantage of Daniel this way." Kate is small and stern and terrible.

"Oh, I think Daniel can take care of himself just fine, Kate. Just fine," Joe's approving voice rises above the storm of vigorous protests, denials and effortlessly exerted parental authority.

Ah, Jack. The terrible unfairness of it all.

I'm just loving this. Loving them. I think I should be bad more often. Very often. Ver-ry bad. Positively sinful.
 



Jack is at bay, bathed in moonlight from the oriole window. Magnificent in his nudity and undeniable need.

"Come to bed," I murmur.

"Safer here." He swallows painfully. "Much safer."

I deliberately turn on my side, curling up the way he most likes me to be. Jack admires the 'sweet' curve of my body from hip to waist, the curve where his inspired, trembling hand unfailingly lingers longest before gliding up to my nape and into my hair. His fingers are magnetically attracted, made to twine in my hair.

"Let's make love." I smile at him.

"With Ruth on one side, and the folks on the other? Are you nuts? The way I - that's way more than they need to know about my sex life," Jack argues in a low-voiced hiss. "And the neighbours."

"Make love to me."

"Oh, God. Do you mean?" He doesn't know how to react to my sudden invitation to skate out with me onto the thinnest ice. "You're not doing anything, not just to please me," he insists quietly, willingly taking the pressure off me.

"Can't it be to please me?" I whisper. "I need you."

A moment later I have him, all of him, wrapped around me. Warm, firm lips in my hair.

"Want to know what I think, Daniel?" Jack asks.

"Always," I say, honestly.

"I think you're afraid of your sexuality. You're afraid of what draws people to you, what makes them want you. Take you," Jack's voice and arms tighten. "Like - how can you arouse this passion in others, when you've never felt it? Never trusted it, so you never get it quite right. That's what you said to me, right?"

I nod, shivering. If he'd just do it, give in, take me, I'll be fine. We'll be fine. I don't want to talk. I don't want to face this. I don't want him to know this about me. I just want to do.

"Getting personal here, kid. Who was your first?"

"Sha'uri."

Jack won't rest until he reaches the very heart of me. Until he knows all of me. He's quick, damnably quick. The name he was expecting to hear was Sarah Gardner's or even one he hadn't heard before at all. Not this one.

"I guess I just proved your point, huh?" I sigh acknowledgement.

"I'm not trying to make one," he counters generously. "I'm only trying to help. The way you helped me out when I got a little blinded for a while there."

I give him a kiss, so grateful for how often he says exactly the right thing to me. He's so much more giving than I deserve. He's a rare man, my Jack. I'm trying to love him the best way I can, but sex – physicality has never been my driving need. I have limitations I'm afraid of. It's threatening to me to even admit to this. I guess I don't understand why I can intellectualise and vocalise my feelings so well and still find it so damned hard to change them.

"Sha'uri was a gift. An obligation," Jack's voice is gentler still. "I guess I know why you stayed with her. In a way, it was a chance to love someone on equal footing, right? The rules were changed for you. You got to deal with her expectations, the limits her people put on you two. An entirely different set of pressures to the ones here. I think I get that. I understand."

"Not as simple as that. I did love her very much." There was none of that weight bearing me down the way it had with Sarah; no high expectations and disappointments over even the smallest things passing between us. No consuming focus on my researches, but a breathing space. A chance to just live for a while. Making love was about gentle curiosity satisfied and allowances made. In Sha'uri I found a rich vein of humour, delightful practicality and wonder at the universe. She was both teacher and student. Unstinting indulgence and pride in me in equal measure. Husband. Her Dan-yel. So different, but in that place, never less than an equal. I'm so glad Jack can see that. See her. I loved her and I know I disappointed her because I allowed my obsessions to take me again. I left her alone more than I should have and missed her too little. She didn't complain that I recall. She made it too easy on me and I let her. She married a man not of her culture, she made the choice, and she lived with it. It was my fault, again, that she also died with it. "Not simple at all."

Jack chuckles, a rich honey sound that makes my toes curl.

"Never is, kid. Never is. And that brings us to me."

"Most of our conversations do."

"Apart from me being the wrong gender," Jack begins in his best repressive tone. Don't know why he bothers. It's never worked for him yet.

"And a selfish, insecure asshole," I interject firmly.

"And that, yes, thank you for your contribution, Dr. Jackson," Jack says tartly.

There is a short pause. "Wrong gender," I prompt. I snuggle into him, pressing close the whole length of him, making him sigh. "Feels like the right gender to me," I nuzzle at his chest, feeling his heartbeat spike as I take firmly him in hand.

"Daniel," Jack emits an agonised whisper as he removes my hand and holds onto it for safety's sake. "Jesus, you'd tempt a saint. Be good. Be still."

"I want to be bad, Jack. I give you fair warning." I rock gently against him.

"How bad?" There's a needy, whiny note I recognise in his voice.

"Not that bad," I say crisply.

"Prick. First time out you turn me into the Happy Hooker and then you cut me off," Jack grouches.

"The happy what?" I choke.

Jack beams as I struggle to formulate a response to this outrageous statement and takes ruthless advantage of my paralysed vocal chords to go on with his lecture.

"Penetration is a biggie for guys," he asserts with what he fondly believes to be innate authoritativeness. "Trust me. For a while there, the screaming could have been girlie."

I struggle free of my warm Jack-haven to see him clearly. He cups my face gently.

"Hey, you asked, I chose." He shrugs and smiles blindingly. "Who knew?"

No trauma, just wall-to-wall lasciviousness and much sultry licking of lips. I barely get a taste of those lips before he's pulling me back down to what he believes is safety on his chest. He's still not comfortable, but I'm learning to live with it. No more prodding, at his request. I have to accept prodding doesn't help. The man is bony. His heartbeat lulls me to sleep each night we spend together.

"I mixed up all the signals, right? Did the whole smouldering thing from a safe distance. Drove you crazy."

I'm saying nothing. His ego is too big for the both of us as it is.

"Right?" The hopeful little-boy voice melts me.

"Right," I say weakly.

"Cool. Because of my – " Jack searches for a suitable synonym for arrant emotional cowardice – "restraint – "

And that's not it!

"You mumbled something?" Jack asks suspiciously.

No. About to kiss something though. Something wonderful. Something I never knew could do that. Make a grown man arch off the bed, whimpering and shuddering, and not girlie at all. Two seconds later I'm on my side with an indignant Jack spooned up behind me, holding on grimly to every single bit of me that keeps getting him in trouble. Except my butt, which is just about where I was hoping it would be. I wriggle back against him and get a firm expression of interest. Jack groans something about heavy artillery.

We lie trapped in delicious stalemate. I've learnt enough about my sexuality I love what I do to him.

"Jeez! All that research and you won't let me get a word in edgeways," Jack growls.

"Research? You did research for me?" Oh. Wow! That's major brownie points and he knows it.

"Why'd you think I was in such a foul mood on Sunday morning?"

"That tutor –" I suggest tentatively. Research. Mmm. Jack reading. Turning pages. Licking his finger and turning pages. The spicy tang of Jack sharpening the rich, mellow scent of words.

"Apart from that, and he totally frigging was undressing you with his eyes, and if I hadn't come along just then, probably his hands too."

"Did you use the indexes?" Jack looking things up. Cross-referencing. Mmm.

"You okay, Daniel? You're breathing a little shallow here."

"Fa-abulous, Jack. Do go on," I urge him.

"I was ticked off 'cause I got caught red-handed in the Relationships section by Beth Anne herself. Came staggering out of the store with a couple of personal recommendations."

"Bad, love?" I ask anxiously. If he's had a bad research experience, he might stop. I don't want him to stop. I want to watch.

"Still blushing. She's the same age as Mom. Got them stashed under the bed with your – um – never mind," he back-tracks hurriedly. "Oh, yeah, I've got to tell you, around about page hundred and seventeen, I was nearly spontaneously unfaithful to you and the portrait both. Er - No."

"What?" I ask demurely, writhing a little and hearing again his hiss of pleasure. Piqued a little more interest there. Pique. Peak. Mmmm. Pikes Peak Public Library. Stunning natural beauty. Me. Jack. Books. So many, many books. Booths. Active member of the library, Jack? Wanna check me out? Jack in me on books in booths.

"No. You're too young to look at either of those books. I'm too young. I didn't realise most of the stuff we do, they got names for. I kind of dipped – you know?"

"Skimmed," I sigh. Hands that have skimmed books are now skimming over me. I feel – weird. Hot and cold all over. Shivery. Breathing quick, shallow. Holding my hands, he's just holding my hands, I can't be – a point deep and low inside; sweet, heavy waves rippling out; faster, stronger, pulsing. I am. My god. "Jack!"

"Easy, Daniel, easy, I got ya. Let go, Daniel, just let go."

Hands on me, urgent, strong, loving. Barely there and I spasm into them, back arched in extremis, wrenching cry stifled behind my hands, world overturning, spilling, spilling out all over him, over and over. He's there for me, with me, all the way, always. I know nothing but Jack. My heartbeat steadying, his hands soothing, his warmth and love wrapping around me, as long as I need them. Just Jack.

"Now, please, love me now."

"Daniel –"

"Please." You can't refuse me. Don't. Please don't. His heat is withdrawn from me, leaves me adrift, bereft, shaking with need for him. Smell him, taste him in the air before he touches me, makes my body sing for him. Coolness, probing. My hand clenched around his wrist, supposed to be my signal, tells him stop, no. My lifeline, hanging on for his dear life. My begging hand tells him yes, only yes, and please and soon. There's pressure behind me. Jack's soft, soothing voice as to a child. His warm, confident lips at my throat. Trust is here. Love is here. Jack is here. Jack in me. Home. Sighing, I'm relaxing into that awesome delicacy of certain, patient touch.

Loving. Loved. Letting go of me, in Jack. Safe in Jack. A touch inside that sends me arching; arcing into wildfire, shuddering and stammering, begging for more and soon. Jack's tongue pulsing deep in my mouth, kisses catching me as I fall from every touch deep inside.

Still spooned behind me. Lifting my leg a little. Easier this way? Gentle. He can hold me at the centre of his world this way. Lovely thought. Am I ready? For you, always. "Love me." Love me tender and true, Jack.

Pressure, pain, pleasure ebb and flow with that pulse of Jack's tongue and Jack coming into me slowly, but surely. Jack, in me and all around me. Nothing and no-one but Jack and this. Hurts to welcome him in, even as gentle, as generous as he is.

"Oh, Jack," I groan, tears starting to my eyes. So much of him, filling me so deep, deeper with every gentle rock and thrust.

"I'm hurting you." Jack's voice is strained with effort. He knows. I hurt him too. "Let go, open for me, let go, trust me."

I do. I can. I will. I – I am. Pushing back, relaxing, Jack sliding sweetly in, a deep moan wrenching from his throat.

"Oh, God. Oh, Daniel. Oh, Christ, the feel of you." His rapture humbles me. I can't believe I'm capable of making him sound like this. "Let - god - let me love you."

Asking, always asking. He never assumes. Never takes. "Oh, yes, Jack, yes. Oh, yes." I'm whimpering as I feel that magical touch deep inside, so much better, stronger this way. Jack is contained strength, taut with controlled power and driving need, bound by his will to love and give no pain, only pleasure. Only pleasure. More, and more again as his hard, heated length moves inside me. Jack is grunting with effort. He needs more. Wants more. Wants all of me. Deserves all of me, nothing held back. "M-more. Deeper."

"Not this way, not like this. Deep enough, Daniel. You're enough. Ah, Christ," he murmurs into my nape. "Loving this, loving you. Wanted – so long – so much of you. Given me everything, this - it's enough for me."

"Not for me." My voice is as weak, as strained as his. Those soft, maddening, slow rocks of his are massaging that sweet spot; gentleness shocking through me, gentleness so intense it's almost pain. "Not nearly enough."

A nod and kiss against my sweat-soaked back, then infinite care settles me down on crisp cream sheets, a pillow beneath me and Jack's satin strength weighing me down, his voice hoarse, triumphant, love-filled as he finally glides home, has all of me to himself.

So different from loving Jack, thrilling to his surrender, his willingness to embrace vulnerability for me, his utter trust and faith in me. This is Jack raw, primal, wild for me; I feel his compulsion to drive into me, to claim, own, possess, feel it shivering against my back, Jack poised, balanced at the uttermost limit of his control. Love and only love holds him to this; tenderness, respect, infinite loving care. I'm driving him wild with my moans and stifled cries of pleasure, moaning into the pillow as he touches, touches, touches, with each smooth, sure stroke inside me. With all that Jack could do and take, all he will do is give. Jack's passion isn't stronger than his love, and every tranquil thrust drives only ease, comfort and home into me.

I push back against him, shyly, hesitant, hear the sob wrenched out of him as his rhythm falters and adjusts. My own sob a moment later as he scrapes that spot deep inside. Want to scream with joy as those sweet, heavy ripples roil through me, stealing the breath from my lungs and thought from my mind. Only Jack, hot and heavy and hard against me and in me, his loving irrevocable, immutable as we strain together, falling away from the world and into each other.

Those ripples deep inside me are electrifying stabs now, surging through me closer and closer together. "Ja-ack," I sob, wracked with pleasure.

"Love you, oh god, I love you, Daniel," Jack whimpers into my shoulder and drives deep into me; his heat flooding through me and mine out of me, onto him.

"Love you too, Jack. My Jack." All of him mine.

"You're stuck with me," he swears.
 


JACK

"Mmm. Mmm."

Kissing Daniel awake is just about the best way to start both our days. He purely loves to kiss, and those tiny sighs and moans of his boil the blood in my veins. I roll on top of him, sure of a warm welcome and new heights of enthusiasm.

Oh, Daniel's been a clever boy. Such a clever boy. Broke through his block. Exploded through it. Shattered it into a million pieces. Three times. Four if you include his first solo flight. And all it took was a totally Daniel-like fantasy of sex in a study booth in the Pikes Peak Public Library. The first time he'd fantasised me inside him. I see reading in my future if it gets results like this. He went into some kind of orgasmic meltdown right in front of me. Couldn't believe it happened. Either of us. I've never been so flattered in my life.

"Mmm. Tom, Tom," he moans.

Ah, God save us all. He's still feeling 'naughty'. Won't be happy until I've gone up in flames or been busted for something indecent. If I ever want out of the Air Force quick, the Pikes Peak gig is definitely the way to go.

"Jet propulsion," I moan right back. "Come on, kid. Time to get up."

A curious hand verifies. Daniel pouts. "Liar, liar, pants so not on fire. Sleeping now. Crack of dawn."

"Crack of noon," I say dryly. "Come on. I fear the Wrath of Mom."

Daniel's sweet lip curls. "Wuss."

"Hey! You ate half that caramel pecan ice cream, you know. You're in the shit, just as deep as me. The least you can do is face your share of the music."

Daniel's eyes open at last. Big, blue, guileless and sparkling with mischief. He's gonna give me hell. Hope we can make the bail money.

"Not me," he breathes into my ear. "I'm Kate's darling."

"Want me to read to you in bed tonight?" I counter.

Daniel blushes to the roots of his hair but the very eloquent look I get tells me the answer is YES, JACK, YES! Possibly a WHOO! in there somewhere.

"So get up and be a good boy."

"All work and no play make Jack a dull boy." Daniel is all little-boy winsomeness in voice, but those eyes could get me arrested for what I'm thinking about doing.

"I've seen the way you play. I still owe you one for the footsie last night," I growl. "Now get your ass out of that bed and hit the shower." Daniel pouts and snuggles into me. "Poetry?" I hint obliquely. He shows an amazing turn of speed, out from under me and through the door in less than a minute. Motivation is definitely the key to good leadership.

I grabbed my shower while he was still sleeping. Cold, hence my uncooperative mood. That and the thought of turning up at the kitchen table with Daniel mussed, sated and thoroughly kissed, right where Mom can see what I've been doing to her precious darling. And hurt me for it. I dress while I wait for him. Daniel likes me in jeans, so jeans it is. Plus a green shirt he's particularly fond of, reminds him of frosted grass. I hesitate, then decide what the hell. He wouldn't have packed these clothes if he didn't want to wear them. Navy blue chinos that fit like a second skin. I felt that blood rush the moment I laid eyes on him wearing these. And the sky blue shirt. Mom will drop on the spot.

I can hardly believe the trust he gave me last night, letting me love him like that. He gave me my dearest wish. Tried to give it again but hey, if he won't let me, I won't let him. If Daniel can't sit down this morning, Mom will drag me outside and shoot me dead. So he got to find out what oral sex felt like on the receiving end instead, and hell, I'm just as good at that as ever. Daniel didn't have a great deal to say. Too busy whimpering into the pillow he had stuffed over his face, but I'm taking that as a good sign. He was dazed and speechless for about five minutes after, so I'm making careful note of it for the future. Woke me up at around four this morning and said he needed to feel my weight on him.

Like I could refuse him? Especially a request like that. Somewhere along the line, I think I convinced Daniel I loved him far more than I wanted him and that was it. That was the key. I still think he thinks sex is about me, what I want, what I need, but he's wanting, he's asking. That's a good start. Hell, it's way more, way quicker than I was dreaming. And I've got plans for tonight that might help him further on the way. Chapter thirteen of book number one had a lot to say about a healthy fantasy life. Just point me at the cherries.

Daniel shoots back into the bedroom and closes in on me purposefully. I automatically hold out my arms and find myself rocked back on my heels from the force of an insouciant kiss. I get dancing eyes and that sweet little smile of his. God, he's so beautiful. I do not know what this man sees in me, stroking my shirt, admiring me the way he is. He thinks I'm beautiful.

Daniel peels himself off me, reluctance in every slow movement, then he catches sight of the clothes spread out temptingly on the bed. I flush and can't meet his eyes. I can't actually come out and ask him to wear those for me, can't tell him how good he looks in them, how much I enjoy seeing heads turn and jaws drop as my gorgeous lover walks by oblivious, seeing only me. I get to wonder how many people know, how many can tell we're together, wonder what in hell I've got if a man like Daniel can go for me, and envy the shit out of me for being the too-lucky, undeserving bastard I am.

"Mom wants to take you out and show you off around town," is all I say, teasing. Ruth has some kind of field trip planned with the folks down at the Senior Citizen's Centre. God help the denizens of the Lincoln Park Zoo, that's all I can say. Ruth is up for anything. Daniel nods gravely and dresses without a word of protest, not seeming to mind that I sprawl on the bed and watch him. Admire him. He doesn't make me say things. He just – knows. He knows I'd quite like to hold his hand on the way down stairs, so he takes mine. He knows I want to kiss him. So he kisses me, right outside the kitchen door. Smiles. I smile back. I think I look goofy, but he just looks stunning.

For safety's sake, I make him go through the door first. Mom and Dad look up as Daniel is propelled into view and I get into my seat without fuss as Mom makes a beeline straight for Daniel's arms. She's really pushing the envelope with this hugging thing. Really pushing. That hand is headed straight for what makes the roof of my mouth go dry when he wears those pants.

"Mom! Enough already. Stop sexually harassing Daniel."

"Oh, yes, Jack, yes!" Mom says sweetly. "Brunch, boys?"

Daniel is sniffing the air gently. "Pancakes?" he asks eagerly.

"With Canadian ham, eggs, maple syrup, waffles, biscuits and all manner of good things," Mom says cheerfully. "I'll just get Daniel set up on his caffeine drip, then you can dig right in." Mom ruffles Daniel's hair affectionately as he slips away. He keeps trying to be shy, but they won't let him.

Dad's smile is warm and reassuring.

"Um – can I help with anything?" Daniel calls just as he's sitting down.

"Not in front of an audience, no." Mom chuckles meanly as Daniel blushes.

"Ah! Intercourse," Dad crows.

Daniel and I both freeze.

"Twenty-seven across. Another word for conversation," Dad says mildly.

Daniel relaxes infinitesimally.

Mom bustles out with two steaming mugs of coffee, has the nerve to ruffle my hair and bustles back to the counter again for food. She won't let Dad help, and Ruth can't. But why she won't let me or Daniel, I don't know.

"We'll cook dinner," I offer impulsively. "French. Daniel is good with herbs and I'm good with knives. Okay, Daniel?"

Daniel is deep in a pancake. The other good things included blueberries. He's only capable of a vigorous nod.

"Done, then. Aww, take that look off your face, Mom. I'm not a complete Neanderthal. I cook."

"Sometimes," Daniel supplies. "Usually when he forgets to pay the phone bill."

"Domino's Pizza call me if I don't call them," I joke smugly.

Mom gives us both a long, steady look. "So, I'm curious."

I try the eggs. "Yeah? What's new?"

"Now that we're officially a dysfunctional family and all," Mom begins.

"Whaa?"

"Can't tell you how proud we are, son. We can't actually tell anyone about our big gay son unless you annoy us to the point we want you doing hard time in Leavenworth, but the next time Doris Obermeyer drones on and on about her Phyllis, we'll have the comfort of knowing," Dad beams.

"Won't get near the Hockenberry's," Mom says gloomily. "Not unless you've taken to wearing dresses and we don't know about it." They both look at me hopefully.

I have to smack Daniel on the back quite forcefully, I think he inhaled a blueberry. I'm inured to the folks. Years of bitter experience. "Only on the weekend, Mom. The heels kill me."

Daniel drops his fork and makes those little snuffs of air instead of words. Bless him, he's totally out of his league here. If they didn't worship the ground he walked on, and tone it down for his sensitive nature, he'd never survive a two-day visit.

Mom beams at us both. "So, boys, you want to tell me about frottage?" she invites us brightly. Dad's newspaper trembles.

I slice into my ham. "Frottage? That's French for cheese, right?"

Dad's wide eyes appear slowly over the top of his newspaper.

Daniel brightens up. "Well, it is French. From frotter, to rub. It's a noun. It refers to the use of rubbing to obtain a textured effect in a work of art. I do it a lot."

A tremor shoots right through Mom and into Dad. The newspaper shakes.

"You do?" Dad asks in a failing voice, transfixed by Daniel's pleased little smile. I don't know why Dad is so taken aback. Surely they've learned by now there's nothing Daniel likes better than an audience.

"On digs. With Jack. He usually grumbles he's got better things to do, but he always comes regardless," Daniel says cheerfully.

"That's good to know, sweetheart," Mom gasps. She looks intently at Dad. Dad looks intently at her.

Weirder than usual. Definitely. Whatever. Now, these are good pancakes.

"So-o," Dad drawls. "Jack. Daniel. You don't actually know what frottage is?"

"Huh?" I mutter, checking out the blueberries for myself.

"I do. To rub," Daniel begins to explain again, patiently.

"Rubbing, yes. Art, no. Not in this context," Mom snorts.

"Spit it out, Mom."

"Cast your mind back to around – when was it, honey?"

"Four forty seven am," Dad says promptly.

"Thanks, honey. Four forty seven am precisely. If you boys don't know what frottage is, then what the hell was all that screaming about?" Mom asks triumphantly.
 



"Breathe, Daniel, breathe."

He's prostrate on me. I'm prostrate on the bed.

"I didn't faint," Daniel protests faintly.

"Of course not!" I agree heartily. "You just zoned out for a minute there from sheer heart-stopping embarrassment." Me too. Jesus. They nailed us but good. Couple of innocent little lambs taken out by a pair of goddamn wily old wolves. I could kill them.

"'He always comes regardless'!" Daniel shudders convulsively.

"I know, I know." I keep up the soothing petting.

"I could die!"

"You gave it your best shot," I sympathise. "Daniel, you've got to pull yourself together. We've got Art."

"I hate museums!" Daniel whimpers.

"No, you don't, that's me. We've got to go, Daniel. If I've learned anything from living with them it's that you can't show fear. We stick together, watch each other's backs. Okay? Just like with the team. We can do that. We can stand up to them." I hope he doesn't ask me if I've ever managed it. He'll be under the bed, next.

"It's hopeless."

"Come on," I coax, "Museum of Contemporary Art. Lots of opportunities for revenge."

"Revenge?" Daniel shows faint signs of resuscitation.

"Not just Art, Daniel. Weird Art. You know about this stuff. You can do this. Do your stuff. Anybody looks at you funny, I'll take 'em out back and beat seven kinds of shit out of 'em." Including Mom.

"We'll be banned from the MCA for life."

"We can dream," I say gloomily.
 


 

"How much? It's a bunny. It's a bunny in a meadow. Not even a very good bunny. Bad Bunny in Mangy Meadow. What's the catalogue say?" I ask loudly and indignantly.

Daniel makes a great show of reading the entry. "Schizophrenia."

I lean over and read the entry too. We look at one another. We look at the bunny. No. No way!

"Who are they trying to kid? The damn thing isn't worth what we paid for the catalogues!"

We both turn slowly and look at Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad both look as if they have nothing to do with either of us, even though we came in together and one of us looks a lot like both of them. Daniel and I sneer as one and move on to the next exhibit.

"Sculpture in marble, circa 2000, a bust," Daniel reads before he sees. Then he drops the catalogue from nerveless fingers. "How right I was."

"A bust? Well, they called that part right at least. Lemme guess the name. Duckhead?"

Daniel retrieves his catalogue and takes refuge in something he thinks makes sense, even if the sense has failed to translate off the page so far. "The Subconscious Mind."

"A duck?"

We both look at the bust of a man with a duck on his head.

"Mallard?" Daniel suggests, curiously eyeing the duck's bill. A finger is poised to prod but he's too well-trained in museum etiquette to give in to the urge.

Me, I'm coming back some time with my P-90.

"A duck!" I utter in disbelief. Forget the P-90. Maybe I should try a grenade launcher. I want to see that duck in flight.

"Jack!"

"Mom?"

"The artist!"

"Oh, really? Wherefore art thou, duckhead?" I track hasty movement on my periphery. Someone skinny and very pale is beating a rapid retreat. "Is that a photographer in hot pursuit?" I ask innocently.

"It's an exhibition opening. Of course the press are here!" Mom fires the words out like bullets.

"The same photographer from before?" Daniel asks even more innocently.

Mom fights it. She does. She gazes up into those lovely, guileless eyes and I just watch her spine melt. "Yes, darling. The very same. He's been following Jack since the performance art, just waiting for him to happen to someone else."

"Hey! That guy had it coming. He put his hand on Daniel's ass right in front of witnesses. It absolutely screamed sexual harassment suit to me."

"Funny. I thought he just screamed," Dad marvels.

"You should have hit him harder, Jack," Mom snarls, forgetting whose side she's on for a moment and fifth column-ing it over to Daniel's side to give him a supportive hug and a little check-it-out kind of a thing on the violated portion of his anatomy.

"I got one hell of a round of applause," I say smugly. "Livened up the show considerably. Okay, Mom. Move it along."

We all move it on to find a huge white canvas. Vast. Blue dot. Minute.

"Dot?"

Daniel delves into the catalogue again. He reads the entry. Looks at the canvas. Reads the entry again.

"Not Dot?"

"The Dichotomy of Violence," Daniel reads dubiously.

"The dot isn't even in the middle. The guy could've measured it. I mean, how long would it take? To measure it? It makes the whole thing look lop-sided. It's wrong. On every level it's just wrong the guy didn't take the time to measure up where to put the dot. It's annoying the crap out of me."

"I know the feeling," Mom snaps.

"Hey, I have a legitimate gripe here!" I argue. "I know violence and this." I stab an accusing finger at the canvas. "Is not it."

"We could come back some time and shoot it?" Daniel suggests, keen to soothe the offence to my artistic sensibilities.

Finally, he's on my wavelength.

My mom growls.

"And we're walking," I singsong. We do manage to turn the gallery corner without mishap and Mom and Dad are starting to unclench a trifle when..."Jesus!" I reel back in shock.

"Oh, my," Daniel gasps.

"Don't look, Mom. We've got adult content here. What were you saying about overcompensating, Daniel? That's a – "

" - really – "

" – big – "

" – gun – "

"What's this one called?" I ask.

"The Reconstructed Male."

"I'll say," Mom looks dazed, fighting back when Dad tries to put outraged hands over her eyes. As they struggle, they both start to laugh.

Exasperated, I roll my eyes at Daniel. See? There's no point playing if they're only going to cheat and have fun on us.
 



"Do I need to frottage the fromage, Daniel?" I ask, embracing my part with gusto. "Or can I beat it?"

"Not so hard," Daniel says softly. "Just – rock – gently." He takes my hand and guides me into the correct motion.

So we're playing to the gallery. So sue us. Mom, Dad and Ruth are irrepressible. They can take it. I slip my clean hand onto Daniel's butt.

"Plump and perfect," I gloat.

"Premium quality," Daniel agrees placidly as he deftly shapes the stuffing. "Balls."

The little beauties spread out before us cost Daniel a fortune.

"I live for the pleasures of La Fleche," I say throatily.

Ruth is chuckling.

Daniel turns in the crook of my arm and stares into my eyes. "Jack," he breathes. "I need you."

He's exuding sweet sin from every pore but his voice is all husky, melting, little-boy hesitancy.

"Now, Jack, now." He's urgent, needy.

I lean in too. "Tell me what you need, Daniel."

"I need you to – " He tries for downcast eyes and stammering shyness.

"Yeah?" I lean closer, a breath away from soft lips and dancing eyes.

"Please?" An aching plea.

"Whatever you want," I whisper for the audience, rubbing my cheek against his. "It's yours."

There's a breathless hush as we all strain for the next throaty whisper.

"Hold my coq."

And the crowd goes wild!

"Daniel! Enough already! You're startin' to turn me on!" Dad hollers over the uproar before he surrenders and laughs himself sick with the rest of us.

Daniel looks around at each of us in turn, smiling like he's done something wonderful and I realise what all of this means to him. He's feeling part of it. Not an outsider, not an observer, but one of us. He's trusting us, letting go of the loner distance that's protected him most of his life. He's absolutely thrilled skinny he made the always easy O'Neills laugh.

For the first time, I don't feel I'm the one who got the sweet deal when we got together. From time to time, I put myself down, he picks me up, I get that little buzz of reassurance. It's a game, sure, but I mean some of those things I say. Maybe I should start letting go of the self-deprecation. Being with me is doing Daniel good. He's confident enough to take risks not only with his life but with his feelings. I don't remember him being this way before.

He's grown.

Which means he's going to turn right around and kick my ass until I do some growing too.

That's my boy.

I'll just have to screw up from time and grovel about it. I get make-up sex and he gets to fool himself I'm learning something.
 



" - but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought.
Not a kiss nor look be lost."

I'm sprawled against a heap of pillows, Daniel caught hard against my chest, resting his head on my shoulder. My legs entwined with his. Daniel is holding the book and I'm holding him. He's sheened with sweat, rosy and moaning his passion. I don't know if he's lost in the words or in my touch, but lost he is.

"Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head."

Sitting in absolute stillness, seeing nothing, feeling only me, hearing only the sound of my voice. The book is like a lifeline. The tremors in Daniel's body are making the book dance in his clenching, desperate hands. He's poised on the cusp of surrender. Not to me, I realise that now. To himself. I didn't know how hard it would be for him just to sit here and feel.

"Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough."

A quiver runs through his hips as he arches into my purposeful, patient stroking. Just for a moment, then he holds himself to stillness again. So afraid of what will come boiling up if he surrenders to his own needs, his own desire. If he falls, I'm here to catch him.

"Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers."

I take a risk here, as the tremors grow more pronounced, the moans aching; I free one hand from its mission and ease the book from his grasp. He's too far gone to protest, but he doesn't know what to do with his hands. I know. I hold his hand beneath mine and slide it down the length of his slick, trembling body, down and onto his pounding, weeping cock. A soft cry echoes in the stillness as he feels both our hands moving on him, the spell I'm weaving over him faltering for a moment with his resistant hand.

"Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love."

He asked me to choose the poem and this is what I picked, caught and held by the first line as I skimmed through the book to please him. 'Lay Your Sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm'. Opened a damn book and there we were in black and white, Daniel and me. 'Mortal, guilty, but to me the entirely beautiful'. Like this guy read my mind or something. Entirely beautiful, that's Daniel all right.

I lean in and finally kiss him, a deep, sensuous pressure against his salt-tanged throat. Lap my way up to his jaw and take his lips at last. He sighs into my mouth and cups his hand against my cheek as I glide my tongue against his. His hand beneath mine teaches me a new dance – his dance – a different way to touch him than any I've tried.

I follow and he comes alive in my arms, breath sobbing in his throat as he balances on the knife-edge of climax and holds. Calms. I soothe with lips and tongue, and our hands dance anew, more certainly this time; Daniel accepting, trusting, this knot of whatever it is holding him back slowly untwisting, giving him ease, letting him thrust, now, into our welcoming, guiding hands. Thrusting and rocking, soft cries of my name and love growing more urgent, more demanding.

Daniel wants. Daniel needs. Daniel feels and at last he falls, free and clear, driving into our waiting grasp and shattering climax.
 


DANIEL

"Dessert? Jack, it's two o'clock in the morning!"

"The perfect time to eat this dessert," Jack says mischievously.

He's standing in front of the oriole window again. Very knowing, moonlight illuminating his glowing skin, looking heart-stoppingly sexy, deliciously rumpled, barefoot and half out of those clinging jeans he's barely wearing. He's definitely piquing my interest. Mm-hm. Absolutely.

"If nothing else, it'll throw the folks off the scent by a couple of hours. Mom presses a glass up against the wall at four am this morning, all she'll hear is you snoring."

"I don't snore."

"You do. You woke me up."

"You woke yourself up, Jack."

"So-o?"

"So?"

"You wanna play, Daniel? You told me yourself, all work and no play make Jack a – "

"Big boy," I say admiringly. I spread myself temptingly over the pillows and crook a beckoning finger. "Come to Poppa!"

I see Jack's predatory smile flash in the moonlight and then something wicked this way comes, exuding animal magnetism. What did I do, to get so lucky? Must have been something amazing if it earned me my Jack. "Mmm. No rush for the jeans," I suggest, innocently. No rush at all. Sometimes less is more. Way more. Smooth, satin skin, sleek muscles and butter-soft denim, drenched in moonlight and desire. Dear Lord.

Jack simply straddles my hips, smiling still. He has a small crystal bowl and a silver spoon. He scoops out the first spoonful and looks a question. Go ahead, my love, go ahead. I'm yours. Do with me as you will. The cool silver slides between my expectant lips. Cherries, brandy, cream. Sultry, spectacular. An explosion of warm and warming tastes and textures. Delectable. A second spoonful and Jack there with it, the richest taste of all. Licking the brandy cream from the cherry on my tongue. Divine. The next spoonful into Jack's mouth. Take your cherry, Jack? Won't be as sweet a taking as the other, but now I've learned the luscious taste of sharing.

Cherry-sweet brandy-rich cream-smooth kisses paling before the taste and texture of Jack, my Jack, eating me up with a silver spoon and honeyed lips and tongue. Easing me down beneath him, trailing cream over my chest and lapping it up. "Just there, Jack. Just there," I moan, arching into maddening, slow provocation. Never loved like this. Never, before Jack.

He'll know the heart and soul of me, alright, and he'll learn them through this, through the loving. God, what he does to me, trailing cream and brandy-flavoured fire down my quivering, yearning body. Never known this, never been shattered and made whole like this. All my life I've waited for this, for him. All my life, coming closer to him and to this.

"Love you, I love you," I snatch him up to me, steal his breath away in a searing clash of lips and teeth and tongues, a fury of affirmation and desire. Loves me. He does, and he will. Now. Like this. Have to have his weight on me, wrap myself around him, feet gliding up and down his long denim-clad legs, hands pushing down the jeans, slipping beneath, kneading, devouring his ass. Jack driving his hips against mine in slow, deep, powerful glides. His hands firm, cradling me close as we love. Every deep glide of our hips met and matched by a deeper, softer glide of tongues.

Our first time. Not his, not mine. Ours. There's so much more than passion between us. There is affinity. Love; known, accepted and shared in full measure. No wild resistant coupling here, only surrender in ourselves, in each other; passion played out in sensuous ease. Loving and loved; soaring into shattering pleasure that means everything to me. Means Jack.

Boneless, breathing hard and blissed-out beyond speech, Jack spoons up behind me, every beloved inch of him mine, all mine; sleepy, sated and scrumptiously sticky.

"Poppa's got a brand new bag," I murmur, gloating.
 



"No. N. O. No, Daniel, no."

I sigh and try the big pleading eyes from under the lashes routine. Usually, this works as well on him as the sight of him half-out of his jeans works on me.

"No."

I lay my head on Jack's shoulder for a moment.

"No."

I put my hand on his ass and just smooth down all that chic dove grey cloth. Jack simply cannot stand there wearing those mouth-watering chinos and that skin tight T-shirt that goes so beautifully with his hair, and his black leather jacket, and those sunglasses, and not expect me to want to take him out and show him off around town.

And he can't blame me just because my gloating presence at his side means the family will be a gloating presence at my side and a thorn in his. He's going down fighting, but he is going down. No way he's getting out of another dysfunctional family outing. Why is he whining to me about fun? He's not supposed to be having fun. We're on vacation!

I lean in close and lick that little spot on his throat that always makes him shiver convulsively from head to toe.

"Okay, grab your coats and move it on out! Come on, let's go! Show some hustle!"

"Daniel, darling, if licking my sweet boy worked so well, what will smacking him accomplish?" Kate asks sourly as Jack selects a coat from the hall closet at random and throws it to – or rather at – her.

"So where are we headed now?" Jack demands in a voice heavily accented with blame and recrimination, keeping a wary distance from me. He's whipped and we know it.

"Um – how about we throw out a few suggestions, take a vote?" I ask innocently. "Go with the majority decision." My lips feel a little dry. Perhaps I should lick them. Maybe a little gentle nibbling, too, while I'm in the –

"Vote. Whatever," Jack's sunglasses seem to be steaming up.

"Museum of Science and Industry? Show of hands please?" I say crisply.

"Five for the museum?" Jack says coldly.

"Five?" I ask. There's only four of us with Jack opposing. Who's cheating?

"I can think of somewhere better for this other hand to be," Ruth says sweetly. "Daniel's just got it nicely warmed up for me."

"Five it is." Allowing Ruth to cast his vote for him, Jack steps prudently out of her pinching range, his ass to the wall.

"Coward!" Ruth scowls at this abject display of self-preservation.

"I can't believe I'm in love with a museum bigot," I mourn.

Kate shoots a sparkling look at Joe. "You think he came out of a box this way, love? They can be trained, you know."

"Rehabilitated?"

"Almost," Kate slips her arm through mine. "Just remember you're dealing with an O'Neill male. It'll take years, but eventually even Jack will realise resistance is futile. You look good enough to eat, by the way," Kate beams.

"K-Kate!" I stammer, blushing.

"I'll say!" Ruth crows and then returns Jack's possessive scowl with interest.

"Oh, you do," Kate says indulgently. "Cream is such a classy colour. Natural and warm. Those pants are linen, too, if I'm not mistaken."

"Peaches and cream," Jack says dulcetly.

Kate snorts with ill-suppressed laughter.

"Mom! You got our room bugged or something?" Jack hollers as I blush to the roots of my hair and tug my sweater down involuntarily.

"You think it was sheer coincidence you yanked open your bedroom door this morning and your Mom fell through it?" Joe asks, fascinated and slightly pitying.

"I was dusting," Kate says serenely. "I didn't see a thing."

"You heard plenty!" Jack snarls.

I was embarrassed enough hearing a cheerful good morning from Kate in the hallway outside as Jack was licking the last drops of cream off my – er – cheeks, but knowing she heard every single word and – and moan? Jack was indulging me with some aural sex. He always starts out talking downright filthy and winds up with the sweetest of sweet talk. Jack – like that – it's – it's private!

I give Kate a hurt look. Kate utterly fails to look guilty and compounds the offence by stealing a kiss. A couple of – well, a few – um - "Kate!"

"Unhand Daniel, woman!" Joe chortles. "Wait until the wedding night."

"Ah me, always a bridesmaid, never a bride," Ruth sighs. She grins up at me. "My love is like a red, red rose."

I'm a grown man. How is it the O'Neills – Jack included - make me blush like a schoolgirl? Sighing, regrettably still blushing and very flustered, I stoop and give Ruth a sound smacker on her handsome cheek.

"Well, hello, Gorgeous," Ruth breathes huskily, winding her thin arms around my neck. I melt before those laughing, wicked, wise old eyes and kiss her again.

Jack clears his throat as Ruth's arms linger. And again as she ignores his very existence, clinging a little closer.

"I'll carry you out to the car if you put him down," Jack offers heroically.

"Sucker," Ruth mouths at me. "If you insist, Jack, my lad, and only to please you."

Jack rolls his eyes as he stoops to scoop Ruth up into his arms. I don't even attempt to hide my grin as I turn and head out to the car behind Joe and Kate. Ruth is clinging to Jack like a burr. He's just too damn easy. For her, it's like zatting fish in a barrel.

"Where would you like to go to lunch, Daniel? Our treat, seeing as you boys are leaving us tonight." Joe hugs Kate as her face falls.

"Giordano's is nice. They do a fabulous stuffed cheese and sausage pizza. It's not too far from the museum," I suggest.

A resonant cry rends the air. We all spin to find Jack pale and wild eyed, shivering convulsively from head to toe, with Ruth the picture of innocence.

"Oh. My. God!" Jack groans piteously.

"What? What is it!" I call anxiously.

"She – she - she," Jack whimpers.

"Well, whaddya know? That licking thing? Works like a charm every damn time," Ruth gloats.
 



"Admit it, Jack, the submarine was fun."

Jack delves deeper into his vanilla fudge sundae and sullenly refuses to admit to any such thing.

Kate sneers. "Just because you wanted to go down the coal mine. We voted, love."

"Democracy sucks," Jack says sourly. "Fairy goddamn Castles."

"I didn't vote for the Fairy Castle," I object cheerfully.

"Neither did I," Joe smirks. "Just remind me who had the casting vote, Daniel?"

"That would have been – ah – Jack," I say brightly.

"And all I had to do was offer to lick him," Ruth leers horribly, making poor Jack shudder, "into shape. Hiding behind his mother like that," she sniffs disparagingly.

"You did enjoy the RoboCup, Jack," I prompt my pouting, foul-tempered love, "even if you did get a tad competitive."

"I wonder if little Robbie has stopped crying yet?" Kate wonders.

"It said kids – aged eight and up - needed to be accompanied by their parents and I am more than eight and I was accompanied by my parents, so I was perfectly entitled to participate, and can I help it therefore if I kicked that kid's ass? So I'm naturally gifted with Lego and Artificial Intelligence. So sue me."

"In lieu of having any real intelligence." Kate snaps. "And it would serve you right if little Robbie's parents did sue you."

"It was an interactive learning experience," Jack says smoothly. "Me and Robbie interacted and he learned a hell of a lot. Crocodile tears, Mom. Trust me, it's my job to read people. The kid was a sore loser and a manipulative little bugger. He went straight for the weak link on our team."

Everyone looks at me.

Jack sneers. "Bleeding heart liberal do-gooder. Kicked yours and Robbie's asses."

"What was that our precious little angel was hollering as Robbie was led away sobbing?" Kate asks the world at large. "Lemme see. 'Mess with the best, die like the rest', I believe. We're just so proud of our darling boy."

Jack scoops out a vast spoonful of melted fudge and suckles it slowly off the spoon, smirking maddeningly at Kate.

"I swear to God, I'm putting you over my knee the minute we get home, Jack O'Neill! Gonna paddle some sense into you if it kills you!" Kate swears.

I clear my throat gently. Kate's stormy eyes meet mine for a long moment of perfect 'leave Jack to me' understanding, then she grins and vigorously fights Jack for the last scoop of sundae.

I decide Kate needs an assist and head straight for the weak link on Jack's team. The merest brush of my fingers over Mister Happy and Jack's gloating goes up an octave. Kate promptly wrenches the spoon from his slackened grasp, smacks him firmly over the knuckles with it, making him yelp, and eats the last of his sundae with obvious enjoyment.

Jack's wounded hand clamps over mine and pins it against his thigh. I smile tenderly as Jack melts with desire and unsatisfied need.

"Daniel," the soft, breathy plea curls my toes as Jack leans in, eyes fixed on mine.

Longing.

Yearning.

Craving.

"Jack," I whisper huskily, giving him a solid dose of what he refers to as The Eyes.

"Yeah?" he murmurs fondly.

The moment his coyly reaching hand settles, I smack it with my spoon. Hard.

"Get your own damn cheesecake, O'Neill."
 



I'm drinking in the sight of Jack, bare chest, bare feet, soaked to the skin and screaming with joy as he lands the fish.

Jack's hand is gentle in my hair. "The ever-elusive crappie," he chuckles. "My first." His knees hug me hard for a moment, then relax.

I'm curled up at Jack's feet treasuring up every single moment of his childhood preserved in what he described as hokey old home movies. I lean back and smile up at him. It says a lot about who the O'Neill's are that he doesn't hesitate to lean down and kiss me.

"No tongue, mother present," Joe calls.

"Who asked you?" Kate argues indignantly. "Takes me right back to when Jack was courting," she sighs gustily.

Jack goes rigid and tears himself away from courting me with unflattering promptitude. "Mom! Don't you dare start on that. Like I haven't suffered enough?" There is a brief silence while we all consider this. "Okay, stupid question," Jack shrugs, embarrassed.

"Tell me more," I demand.

Jack groans as Joe sniggers. "Mom was a holy terror, that's all you need to know."

"I was not!" Kate snaps. "All of Jack's girlfriends adored me."

"All of them?" I ask weakly.

"All of Jack's girlfriend's parents adored you," Jack contradicts her bitterly. "But the girls themselves wouldn't give me the time of day. Bad news like Mom spreads fast."

"How bad?"

"Mom liked to say hello."

"That's nice?" I suggest cautiously.

"Oh, yeah," Jack says witheringly, "She used to wait until things got – interesting – and then saunter in and say hi."

"Oh," I say uncertainly. This is a little outside my experience. Kate smiles sweetly at us both.

"After the screaming stopped, obviously," Jack says lightly. "And on one never to be sufficiently regretted occasion, after first aid was rendered."

"First aid?"

"Sprained wrist. Don't ask."

"I – okay."

"And if they were made of stern stuff, Mom critiqued."

"Critiqued?" I echo weakly.

"It was my duty as a loving mother to maintain a healthy, supportive, guilt-free dialogue and guide my sensitive son through those difficult early steps of exploring his sexuality," Kate explains fluently.

"That almost sounds plausible," I admire, trying and failing to picture a sensitive Jack, particularly one being supported and guided through an exploration of his de facto celibacy.

"Guilt-free?" Jack yelps incredulously. "Try completely shameless, damnably pushy and chronically manipulative."

Kate winks at me as I fight down a smile. No, doesn't sound like anybody I know. Not even close.

"We got off lightly," I realise, eyeing Kate with real trepidation.

"You have no idea," Jack says grimly.

Kate bats her eyes at me. "Only for you, Daniel, only for you."

"So your career choice was – um – " I glance up at Jack.

"Compensatory," Jack says flatly. I can see the dangerous sparkle in his eyes.

"Well, he couldn't kill me," Kate says ingenuously. "It's un-American."

Joe smiles gently at us all. Ruth is dozing by the fire. Kate is snuggled up at his side on the couch. Me, I'm curled up on the floor with Jack's legs splayed on either side of me, Jack idly playing with my hair. "I kinda like this dysfunctional family malarkey," Joe says softly.

"Me too," I sigh. "I could stay here forever."

"You could," Joe agrees as Kate smiles softly, eyes shining. "But we're throwing Jack back," Joe grins mischievously at Jack. "We love you, son."

"Oh, yes, yes we do," Kate agrees mistily.

Oh, that's nice. I mean, it's obvious they love him dearly, but they all hide behind the teasing. Or perhaps it's just that the feelings are so strong, so accepted and certain, they don't need to be vocalised. They all just know. I wonder if –

"Daniel."

"Hmm?" If –

"Daniel!" Jack nudges me in the shoulder.

"What is it?" If -

"You ever hear them get that gushy over me?" Jack asks plaintively. "And he wonders why?" Jack marvels to the room at large. "They're talking to you."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't hear, what were you saying?" I apologise, embarrassed at being caught daydreaming.

Kate sits up straight. "Joe and I were just telling you that we've grown to love you dearly," Kate tells me gravely, despite a quivering lip and the little chokes of laughter trying to get away from her.

"Oh," I say helplessly.

"And we're very glad you've taken pity and thrown yourself away on Jack, even though we all know you could do better," Joe grins.

"Way better," Ruth pipes up from her nest by the fire. "Ditto on the lovefest, Gorgeous. You're a good kisser; not as good as Jack, but still, pretty good."

"I'm overwhelmed," Jack says ungratefully.

They all seem to be expecting something, and since my vocal chords appear to be quite paralysed, I scramble to my feet and hover, hoping someone will help me out here.

"Aw, for cryin' out loud, hug them, Daniel, before they explode," Jack prods me in the butt with his foot, making me stagger.

"Ignore him," Kate sniffs. "Kissing is good."

"No tongue!" Jack orders emphatically as Kate bounds over and grabs me, grinning like a fiend.

"Pfffft," she snorts at Jack as she cups my face gently in her hands. "Always knew we'd get to keep you, darling. Welcome." Then she kisses me and holds on tight until Joe gives her a little shake and moves her on.

"Welcome, son," Joe engulfs me in an O'Neill Special, cupping my head just like Jack did when he –

"Spacemonkey," Jack drawls whimsically.

"Yeah?" Kate looks me up and down, inquisitively. "Yeah!"

I emerge from Joe's embrace flushed, smiling and stammering incoherently, which is a considerable improvement on how I was doing before. People can't just go around telling me they love me. I'm just – I'm not used to it.

"My turn. Deal on the table, Jack. You can kiss me, or the Spacemonkey can kiss me, but if it's him, I'm definitely slipping him the tongue," Ruth cackles as we all look at Jack.

Jack looks at me, weighing, assessing. "You know how I told you I loved you? And there was nothing I wouldn't do for you and a lot of other stuff we needn't go into right now," he says hurriedly, catching Kate's fascinated eye on him, "About that?"

"Yes," I say softly.

"I lied my ass off. You're on your own on this one, kid."

Ruth throws up her arms dramatically, leering dreadfully. I've seen that exact expression on Jack's face a few times, usually as he's trying to sneak me into some kind of skin to skin interface while I'm intent on doing something sensible like taking my coat off or closing his front door. As I stoop to reach her she strokes my cheek and smiles. "Welcome, child," she whispers and kisses me, looking embarrassed at being so sappy. No tongue, but she does moan very artistically.

Ruth finally releases me and beams at Jack. "Your friend was magnificent."

Kate and Joe take one look at Jack's stiff, disapproving face and promptly break out into a rousing chorus of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling', which, as they very well know, is the song he hates most in the universe, apart from –

"Whoa! My love, my darling, I hunger for your touch!"

Apart from 'Unchained Melody', which has the same effect on him as fingernails scraped down a blackboard. I decide it's only fair to be supportive and join in. Loudly.

"Woe indeed," Jack snarls.
 



"Haven't we done this before?" Jack grouches as he fusses over Ruth's blanket, thinking we're not looking. He snaps bolt upright the instant he realises we're all watching every move he makes, and has a pretty rough time of it fending off a dreamy-eyed Kate and a horny Ruth, who attacks from the rear as always.

Jack holds Kate away at arm's length, as if he's afraid she's going to bite him, and looks apologetically at me. "Usually she's okay, she hardly ever gets this mushy. I blame you entirely for the rocketing sap levels round here."

Kate looks up at Jack, wide-eyed. Then her face crumples and a single tear wells up and rolls slowly down her cheek.

Jack, as his family is wont to say, melts like butter under a blow torch. Kate waits until she's clasped urgently to his chest before she yells sucker, but the rest of us saw it coming.

"You are such a pushover," I tell Jack sadly.

"It's my only feminine accomplishment," Kate beams, as she forcefully blocks Jack's attempts to get away from her.

"Oh, for God's sake, Mom! Yes, I love you and only you, desperately. Worship the ground you walk on. Okay? Happy now? Then get off me!"

"Brings a tear to the eye," Joe says gravely. "A boy's tender love for his mother."

I'm so glad I made my dignified goodbyes in private.

"Mom, Daniel is waiting to say goodbye too," Jack wheedles. "Last chance before we board the flight."

Kate drops him like a hot brick and hugs me so fiercely my ribs are in serious danger. "Love you," she whispers, gurgling with laughter as I blush and stammer something incoherent again. She gets the gist though. Love you too, Kate. Love you all. Feel so lucky I found you and that you let me in.

I'm grinning like an idiot as Joe hugs first Jack and then myself, and then Ruth is demanding her kiss and then the last call for the flight comes and Jack has to tear me away, looking back over my shoulder and waving, not wanting to break the connection with them a moment sooner than I have to.

Ever.

Jack smiles at me, matches his pace to mine and patiently steers my erratic, distracted course in more or less the right direction.

"So, Daniel, you wanna join a club with me? I guarantee you'll love being inducted," Jack asks brightly.

"Sure, Jack," I agree vaguely, straining for a last glimpse of the family.

"Yeah? Not gonna back out on me, are you? It's a joint membership deal," Jack wheedles. "Promise me you'll give it a try?"

"Of course, Jack, anything, if it makes you happy."

"It will, Daniel, believe me, it will. Kinda got my heart set on it, y'know?" he confides happily, "It's always been a lifelong ambition of mine."

"I'm all yours," I say encouragingly.

Jack spins around as we reach the final corner and we both wave, the folks waving madly back until we really, truly have to go.

"Cool!" Jack exults.

I sigh. I'm missing them already. Jack slips companionably into step with me as we board the plane and take our seats.

My mind is still very much on the dear ones left behind us, so it takes me a while to realise Jack is revelling in barely suppressed excitement, sporting an evil smile and a disturbingly predatory gleam in the glittering eyes dwelling so lovingly and lingeringly on me. "Um – Jack – just what is this club we're joining?"

"The Mile High Club."

FINIS