He Didn’t Die On K’lorel’s Ship …
It was dim in the living room, and Jack stumbled over the empty box the 12-pack came in and landed in a sprawl on the couch, his upper body over Daniel’s lap.
“Jack!” Daniel said, laughing, and holding up his own bottle. He hadn’t taken a sip from it and so he was sober, whereas Jack wasn’t.
“Oops,” Jack said, and he looked up at Daniel, who was grinning at him, and righted himself. “Sorry.”
“You’re on your way to being three sheets to the wind.”
“Four. No, five.”
“Why aren’t you drunk?”
“You know I hate beer.”
“Oh. I have bourbon.”
“Okay. But you just sit there and watch TV. I’ll get it.”
“Okay. You have some catching up to do.”
Daniel laughed on the way to the kitchen. “I’m not getting drunk. Why did you let yourself get drunk?” He didn’t get an answer until he returned with a tumbler of whiskey and coke. He’d made it a bit too strong, but the ice would melt and even things out.
He found Jack stretched out on the sofa and he paused at his feet, staring at him in consternation. Jack smirked at him. Rolling his eyes, he started for the matching sofa chair sat, but Jack put his leg out and stopped him.
“Jack. Am I supposed to sit on the floor?”
“No. I’ll move my feet.” He bent his knees, moving said feet, socked in white, out of the way.
He was hesitant to sit down. Jack had a juvenile sense of humor and it just mystified Daniel how he could be younger than him by nearly ten years but more mature in behavior.
“I won’t bite,” Jack said.
“No, but you’re … never mind.” He sat down slowly, prepared at any moment for the man to straighten his legs out. Relieved that nothing happened, he relaxed into the cushions. “So?”
“Why’d you get drunk?”
“You’re alive,” Jack said, plainly. His face was flushed from the inebriation. “I thought you were dead. It scared the shit out of me. Did I ever tell you how I hate it when people I care about scare me?”
“You …” Daniel began, thinking, care about me? But he said, “… never did, no.”
“Well, I do.” He nudged Daniel’s leg. “Don’t do it again.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Daniel said, trying not to show the shock he felt. He thought they were friends, and colleagues at the very least. Being a teammate had certain obligations, too. But ‘people I care about’ implied something else. Or maybe it was Jack’s way of expressing friendship. Daniel still had a lot to learn about this enigmatic pain in his ass.
“Not good enough,” Jack frowned.
He gave Daniel such an intense look that Daniel held up his hands. “Okay, okay. I promise. I won’t die on you again.”
“Thank you,” Jack said smugly. He nudged him again. “Turn that up, will ya?”
Daniel smirked and threw him the remote. “Do it yourself.”
“Why are you such a pain in my ass?” Jack asked.
“Why are you such a pain in my ass?” Daniel countered.
Jack thought about that, it looked like, and he shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“Same here,” Daniel replied.
A sitcom was on by accident because Jack had paused the channel changing to ask his silly question. He stared at it now and the two men onscreen, surrounded by dickheads, were making fun of some off-camera guy for being gay.
Daniel sighed. “Turn the channel, please.”
“You don’t like …” Jack peered closer at the TV without moving. “What is that?”
“I don’t like any program that makes fun of gay men. Or bisexual men. Women. Transsexuals. Transgenders. Et cetera, et cetera.”
“Transsexuals?” Jack asked.
“People born with both sets of genitalia.”
“Aren’t they called hermaphro—”
“Yes, but it’s derogatory and stupid,” he said, enunciating sharply. “Transsexuals.”
“Geez, Daniel, back it up there. I meant nothing by it.”
Daniel nodded, taking a deep breath. “Sorry, Jack.”
Jack turned the channel and stopped on a rerun of M.A.S.H. “Means something to you, doesn’t it?”
“What, specifically?” Daniel asked. Jack toed his elbow gently and Daniel slapped at him. They both grinned.
“Showing and giving respect to them.”
Daniel frowned at him, puzzled. “Shouldn’t it? Don’t you think so? C’mon, Jack. You’re not one of those assholes.” He gestured at the TV as he turned to face him. "When you allow it, you have the heart of a defender.” Jack started giggling. Actually giggling. “Shut up. You know what I mean.”
When he subsided, Jack said, “Yes, it should. I’d be a hypocrite otherwi—” His eyes widened, and he cleared his throat, pulling his feet away from Daniel.
Daniel stared at him. “You’re not gay, Jack. I know how much you loved Sara.”
“No, I’m not,” Jack said, turning up the TV.
Daniel reached over and took the remote and muted the TV.
“I’m Bi,” Daniel told him. Jack stared at him, not blinking.
“Seriously?” he asked.
Daniel nodded. “I’m telling you that so you’ll know that it’s safe to tell me you are, too.”
Jack dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling. “Don’t do that.”
“Come on to me.” He kept staring at the ceiling.
Daniel stared hard and backhanded Jack’s leg. “I wasn’t. I’m sharing. Jesus, Jack.”
Jack lifted his head and stared back again, his eyes wary. “Really? ‘Cause it sounded—”
Daniel was exasperated. “How in hell did it sound like a come-on?”
“Well …” Jack said, frowning in thought. “You … said …” He thought some more. “What did you say again?”
Daniel rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sipped from his tumbler. Water drops fell to his shirt and he wiped at them, then rubbed the water away from his fingers on his pant leg.
“Daniel?” Jack asked, and he sat up, dropping one foot to the floor.
“I said, ‘I’m telling you that so you’ll know that it’s safe to tell me you are, too.’”
Jack’s brows furrowed as he looked off and thought it over. He tilted his head, blinked, then shook it. “Okay, I was wrong. But its tone was … I just thought …”
Daniel gave him a curious, thoughtful look. “What if I had?”
Jack chewed at the inside of his cheek, then cleared his throat again. “Well. I would have said it’s against regulations.”
Daniel nodded, without realizing he was doing it. “What’s that mean?”
“Nothing. I think I just … it would make things awkward.”
“Oh,” Daniel drawled, feeling just a tad disappointed and he wasn’t sure why. He’d examine it later. “Well, don’t worry. I’m not and won’t. Scare averted.”
“Scare?” Jack asked, and he leaned forward. “Coming onto me doesn’t scare me. Doesn’t worry me. It’s what’s advisable and safe, given where we work. I don’t think we’re ready to risk being outed, do you?”
We? “No,” Daniel said, wondering what Jack would have done if he really had come onto him. “So, that’s it then.”
“I think so.” Jack sighed, and they watched M.A.S.H. reruns for the next hour, neither of them saying anything. Jack didn’t get any drunker, but he said, out of the blue: “Besides. I’m too old for you.”
Like hell, Daniel thought, but he didn’t reply.
“But you’re gonna die,” Jack said.
“Yes,” Daniel said, and sighed. He pushed off the gurney, pulled at his I.V., and scowled at it. He leaned across the bed and grabbed the bag.
“Where’re you going?” Jack asked, standing.
“To take a piss. And that’s going to hurt. I’ll be pissing blood soon. Janet will have to catheter me. Or one of the nurses.”
Jack grimaced. “Why?” he said.
Daniel knew what he was talking about. At least, he thought he did. “I couldn’t let everyone die.”
Jack ground his teeth, his jaw working. “Why couldn’t …” He shook his head, hesitated, and left the room.
“It is what it is, Jack,” Daniel sighed. The melancholy was intense, almost overwhelming, and he wondered if the radiation was partly responsible. He had been doing just fine, just plugging along, until this last year. Things didn’t make sense anymore.
. . .
He was swimming in pain and delirium. Jack was reluctant to say he cared. There were cameras. “Touching.” At least he still had his sarcasm. Daniel thought that his last breath should be sarcasm. It fit with his whole time here. There were other words; he wasn’t paying attention. And Oma. Jack wasn’t there. She was.
Was he hallucinating? Oma asked him, “Why?” The same as Jack.
“Because I’m tired.”
“No, Daniel. Why didn’t you tell him?”
“Because it’s hard to love someone when you’re not loved in return.”
“That is not what I asked.”
“He made it clear a long time ago.”
“Yes,” she said, sadly.
He frowned at her. “Why ask when you know the answer?”
“That is exactly my question to you.”
He groaned. “‘I love you, Jack.’ Is that what you want me to say?”
“No. It is what you should have said. And, in fact, you already have.”
He frowned, and then gateroom seemed to split in half. He was here, looking at her on the ramp. Then behind him, there was Jack in the isolation room. Jack was standing a few feet away from the bed. He had been leaving, but now he was staring at him, looking startled. “You do? Daniel?”
Oma. In the gateroom. “He’s calling you.”
“He said your name.”
“He doesn’t know how to feel about me. I tried to make it work as friends but he’s just too goddamn entrenched in his own …” He sighed. “You can only take so much of self-loathing or whatever is wrong with him. I wish I could’ve helped or … something.”
“Yes. You are like that.”
“Doesn’t help. I still love him.”
Oma smiled. “You’re talking out loud. He hears you.”
Daniel shook his head. “Doesn’t matter anymore.”
“No. It doesn’t matter anymore. But now, it’s about you and what you want to do.”
“Zen koans time?”
Daniel wondered as he got dressed, Was he here because he’d stood up for her?
He was still in Jack’s office, and his former team leader had sent an Airman to his locker to bring him his change of clothes. At least they were civilian clothes. Daniel needed to go home. He had a lot to think about.
He wanted very much to talk to someone about all the things he’d seen, and the myriad sensations that he experienced in that diner. That weigh station of the Ascended. It was an odd place. He’d figured out pretty quickly that The Others had been there to guard him and Oma, to observe without interfering, allowing her time with him while waiting for her to do something they objected to. It was like a trap instead of a waiting room. They hadn’t objected to his being there, that had been clear. They’d ignored him. Ignored Anubis. They’d ignored her. But what exactly had that diner really been? It had been constructed from his own memory. Why?
If Oma had wanted to give him familiar surroundings, she’d succeeded, but she’d also failed to grasp the significance of that damned diner. He remembered liking the waffles. He hadn’t liked why he’d gotten them. But had it really been a diner? It smelled like one. Sounded like one. The waffles had tasted real. But where had they been? Some ethereal location, out of phase from observational reality? On a planet? In space? Where the Replicator ship had been when it had disintegrated?
What was perfectly clear was that The Others had sent him back. They didn’t have to. They could have left him dead and released his soul. His energy. Or whatever that form of his had been while he’d spent time in that diner. But here he was, back in his body. Which had technically been destroyed. Right? Floating in the ether?
It was puzzling and maddening, and he wasn’t sure he wanted an answer. But Oma was gone. He’d never see her again. He felt a strong horror for her, how her existence would now be spent fighting for the rest of time. That was possibly the worst fate he could think of, next to being host to a Goa’uld. Well, okay. There were a few others. Still. Fighting your enemy for all eternity? He hated The Others’ indifference all the more.
So now what? He should be dead and wasn’t. While he didn’t want to die, what now? Move on to whatever came next. Teal’c was going to Dakara to be an advisor to Bra’tac. He had no wish to lead, which was a shame, because he’d be good at it. But like all good leaders, they’d hate that inevitable political quagmire. And Sam? She’d probably go to R&D. Daniel had a feeling she’d hover around Jack, working up the nerve to tell him she loved him. It was probably the only real flaw she had that was bad for her. Just say it, Sam.
In that he could relate. He couldn’t say it either. What a pair they were. The only difference being that Jack sort of expected it from her. He didn’t expect it from the very male Daniel Jackson. Once, maybe. But that had been a lifetime ago. And a lot of closeted thinking, which was probably now encased in cement. Or so it seemed to him. Damn shame, really. Such a wonderful mind rotting away within a shell of repression. He was probably still seeing Kerry.
Daniel set aside the pointless thoughts and massive regrets and pushed himself back to the big question: Now what? Atlantis could be a good fit, even if he had to deal with the massive narcissist, Rodney McKay. Honestly, the man needed a wake-up call or two, and if that place didn’t do it, didn’t smooth out the edges, he was going to be alone for the rest of his life.
Not your problem, Jackson. Your problem is deciding on what you’re going to do now. You only have to figure out how to let Jack know.
He shrugged that decision off like an irritating fly. Jack had no say, so what the hell was he thinking that for? Upon further examination, the answer was, drum roll, please: habit. Jack had always had a say, so it followed that his mind would go there out of habit. But wasn’t there going to be some changes soon? Hadn’t he heard that somewhere?
No. Wait. He’d read it.
That Ascended newspaper that Anubis kept giving him. What had that headline been? Some bit on the back page. He searched his memory by reconstructing movement and dialogue.
Jack O’Neill to be named head of Homeworld Security after the retirement of General George Hammond.
Was it true? Why now? It was just time, probably. General Hammond had been ready to retire eight years ago. And then again last year. If the headline was accurate, that meant Jack moving to DC. That made his decision simple. He was going to Atlantis. There was nothing left for him here except to run the sciences division and he really wasn’t going to be asked to do that. Daniel Jackson, head of science? Not in this lifetime. The academic world, if or when the program ever went public, would go into apoplectic seizures.
Oh crap. Who would head the SGC if that promotion was really in Jack’s future? Dread filled Daniel just then and his metaphorical bubble burst. Answer: The person who’d be in charge of letting him leave for Atlantis, that’s who. Daniel’s satisfaction at having come to a decision about Atlantis was now back to “How many hoops do I jump through to get what I want?” territory. One second, he was about to ride high and the next, he wasn’t. Well. Shit. The more things change …
“Hey,” Jack said, sticking his forehead in. And no further. Daniel rolled his eyes. “You decent?”
“No, but I’m dressed. You can come in and pretend you weren’t shocked by the fact that you saw my dick.”
“I wasn’t …” Jack hesitated. “Yeah, okay. But it’s not a shock shock.”
“I have no idea what that means,” Daniel said, pulling on the second sock. He purposely didn’t look at him. If he had, Jack would keep going on the subject, tying himself in knots. So, by not looking, he gave him permission to move on to whatever else was on his mind. Neat trick. And really annoying. It was astonishing, really, just how well he knew the man. He was such a twat sometimes, though. Honestly, what did he see in the man? Other than his being handsome. And … a few other things. But man. He slipped on his shoes. He really needed to get some sneakers. “I’ll be out of your hair in a second.”
“You’re not in my hair, Daniel.”
“Oh,” Daniel grinned back. “Well, I’ll get out of your office in a second.”
“What’re you doing later?”
“What?” Daniel asked, then paused. Jack was hovering by his desk. That wasn’t normal. It looked to Daniel like a long conversation about budgets or some other crap was in his future. Jack used him to vent, and while he didn’t mind a lot of the time, right now, he really wasn’t in the mood. “I’ll be doing a lot of thinking,” he said, and it was partly true. “Just give me some time to get my land legs, so to speak. Will you do that?”
“Sure,” Jack said. “How much time?”
Daniel chewed at his lip, and suddenly the idea of taking advantage of all that leave he had saved up looked very inviting. He could catch up on some new discoveries, new theories. Write a few papers that would drive people crazy. “I have no clue. But I’ll need some time off. Can we talk about it tomorrow?”
Jack frowned and fiddled with a pen in his hands. “Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like the talk?”
Daniel cracked a grin. “It’s not gonna be the first time, Jack.”
Jack was confused. “I’m sorry?”
“Not liking what I say. I seem to recall you saying something similar about three years ago.”
Daniel jogged his brows. “Never mind. It’s probably no more accurate than you telling me I never used to back your play. That’s not quite right.”
“It seemed like it,” Jack said, looking more thoughtful than annoyed.
“Yeah, it probably did,” Daniel said. “Anyway, I’ll hopefully have an answer tomorrow.”
Daniel shrugged, picked up his lightweight jacket, and started to leave. Jack sidestepped and touched his arm. Daniel gave him a puzzled look. “Jack?”
“Would you like to come over? Share a steak?”
“Uh,” Daniel said, blinking a few times. This was weird. And out of character. And weird. “Isn’t Kerry coming over?”
“Why not? I thought you were—”
“We’re not seeing each other anymore.”
Daniel’s brows shot up. “Oh. I’m sorry.” He had no idea what else to say, but he had a pretty good idea why they’d split up. “What about Sam?” He’d almost said, “Well, why isn’t Sam there? She couldn’t make it? Is there a reason you want me there? You bored or lonely or just … whatever?” That litany would be said in rapid-fire speak, and he always did it when he was nervous. Well, he used to, and irritating people had lost its charm. Now, he had developed the habit to say nothing at all.
“—her?” Jack was saying.
“Uh, I’m sorry. What?”
“What?” Jack frowned. “What about her?”
“Oh. Right. If you’re not seeing Kerry, isn’t Sam going to be—”
“Jesus, Daniel, are you coming over or not?”
Daniel narrowed his eyes, opened his mouth to snark at him, but … BUT. Jack was fidgeting with a few paperclips. Not a good sign. It meant he wanted to vent about other stuff and do it over dinner. Daniel wasn’t in the mood for that either, but … he relented. Caved would be a better word. Screw it. He closed his mouth. “Okay, Jack. What time?”
“I’ll be there.”
“See you later,” he said, giving him a puzzled frown as he left.
On his way to the elevator, he got a few nods, which were puzzling. He was usually ignored, which suited him just fine. Was it … oh, right. Base gossip was like wildfire. One whisper of half a sentence and suddenly it was everywhere. Yes, he showed up in Jack’s office naked. Laugh all you like. But as Daniel thought it about it, the expressions on those faces weren’t smirks. They were warier than a simple greeting. What was that about? No one knew he’d died so it couldn’t be about that. So … not a clue.
He drove his Jeep into the parking lot of a business building and kept driving all the way around back. There was a private entrance and it led all the way up to the third floor, where his new digs were. A large, open-spaced loft. He’d fallen in love with it. He hadn’t been about to stay in the house that Osiris had invaded. Uh, nope. No damn way. And besides. He had room for a bigger bed now. As he picked up the mail from the floor, he closed the door slowly, realizing that if he left for Atlantis, he’d have to give this place up. He sighed as he flipped a switch and a few soft lights popped up. One near the kitchen and one on the other end of the loft. Good enough to stumble around in, as his long-dead foster father used to say. Second foster.
He’d have to get rid of all this stuff. Sell it. Or just take the private things and give the rest to the realtor to sell or keep. Yeah. He’d have to do that. He didn’t have a music center or a pricey TV or any of the usual things. He had a desk. A bigger desk. His laptop, his PC, his drafting table. And he had a very large futon bed with the most wonderfully minimalistic base. Took him nearly forty years of his life to finally have a bed that didn’t bark his shins on a semi-constant basis.
He’d have to give all of this stuff up, along with a bunch more. He was a packrat, that was for sure. He had a lot of stuff that he accumulated over the years, outside of the stuff that Jack had tossed after he’d ascended. He didn’t need any of it. It was just things he’d stock up, never use, then ignore while he headed off with nothing but a pack into some wilderness dig. As long as he had his essentials, he was good. All he needed was a good pack, which meant one with lots of useful pockets.
He started up his PC by habit, then thought about shutting it down until he realized he needed to check, and clear, his email. He saved his newsletters for those times when he found the time to read. It hadn’t been often, so he had a backlog. Still, he could take the lot in a laptop and read on his days off on Atlantis. Providing they weren’t …
Wait. Didn’t they have their own version of the Goa’uld to worry about? Dammit. Wraith. Why did it always have to be something? For fuck’s sake. He plopped down in his desk’s chair, deflated. He really wasn’t in the mood for dealing with another goddamn species bent on galactic subjugation of humans, and in the Wraith’s case, it was using them for food instead of as hosts. Fucking hell. Staying at the SGC got a little more likely.
Suddenly, he perked up. He could just visit Atlantis now and again. He could study the database, interact with that library they’d reported about. Yeah. And he didn’t have to worry about much.
He looked at the clock.
He wasn’t sure about the sandals, but it was summer. He wasn’t sure about the jeans, but he wasn’t going somewhere formal. He wasn’t sure about the shirt. Light blue cotton. Airy. Sleeves. He rolled them up. It was warm, but he’d be inside and if memory served, Jack kept the house cool during the summer.
He stopped by the store and grabbed a six-pack of Guinness for Jack, then a bottle of Sauvignon, with some dry Chardonnay for back-up, in case Jack decided to serve something else. Daniel really didn’t care about matching wines to foods, but Sauvignons were good for steak. Chardonnay was good for fish. Everything else was dealer’s choice. Plus, the wine was necessary, regardless of its grape. He’d repeatedly told Jack over the years that he didn’t like beer. In one ear, et cetera. This time, he’d have his beverage handled. Hopefully, Jack wouldn’t make him drink it out of a tumbler glass meant for bourbon. Jack’s back-up beverage.
To Daniel’s intense relief, Jack was behaving like a grown-up this evening. No bachelor debris or half-ass smells of week-old burritos and old Chinese food. He even looked nice. Burgundy shirt, rolled up sleeves. And gods-be-praised, he was wearing jeans. It was a nice change. No baggy clothes. Daniel always suspected that some time in Jack’s youth, he’d been hounded by a lot of women for being a sexy pilot or some such shit and he’d grown weary of it. So, baggy this and baggy that. Damn shame, too. He had a nice ass. And a few other nice … things. For cryin’ out loud, he was also wearing sandals.
“I have beer. And wine,” he said when Jack didn’t ask what was in the recycle bag.
“Okay,” Jack grinned. He held up a plate with two steaks, marinated, then nodded at the bag. “Fridge.” He left Daniel standing there and walked toward the back door.
While Jack presumably went out on the deck to put the steaks on the grill, Daniel put the beer and white in the fridge and kept the red. Turning to his right, he didn’t know which cupboard to open so he just opened the middle one. It was the right one and he grinned to himself and took down a wine glass. When he closed the door, he jumped, because Jack was right there.
“Finding everything?” he asked, with a touch of sarcasm.
“Should I have waited, oh host?” Daniel asked, returning the sarcasm. “Corkscrew?”
“In front of you,” Jack said, opening the fridge. “Guinness! Thanks. I ran out.”
“You’re welcome,” Daniel said, closing the drawer, and took the corkscrew to the bottle. “What’re we having with the steak?”
“I got lazy.”
Daniel turned to see him taking a sip from one of the Guinness bottles. “Huh?” he asked, a comical frown between his brows. Maybe Jack didn’t hear him correctly.
“Baked potatoes, a la microwave.”
“Ohhh. That’s lazy?” Daniel asked, popping the cork. He sniffed the bottle. Heavenly.
“Aren’t you supposed to sniff the cork?” Jack asked.
“Only if you want cork smell with your wine nose,” Daniel said. Jack smiled, and for a second, he looked ten years younger. God, what the hell was the matter with him? Daniel raised his brows. “So. Lazy?”
“Huh? Oh. Baked potatoes are traditionally done in the oven.”
“Takes too long. The microwave is just as good.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Jack said, tipping his beer to him.
“Practical, not lazy,” Daniel said, pouring about a tablespoon’s worth of wine in the glass. “You’ve always been practical.” Jack snorted with supposed disbelief at the statement while Daniel sniffed the wine, liked it, then took a cautious sip. Satisfied, he still swilled it around in his mouth, then swallowed. Jack was still behind him. What was he doing? Daniel looked over his shoulder. “What?”
Jack’s eyes had been looking downward. Downward? Did he have something on his a … ss? No. He was not looking at his ass. And no, he was not going to ask if he had something on his jeans. Like a stain or a spot, because he knew he didn’t. All that passed in about half a second.
“Since when are you a wine snob?” Jack asked, eyes flicking upward.
Very odd, Jack. What were you looking at?
“I’m not. I just like tasting it first before, you know, drinking, it.”
“If you say so.” Jack went over to the microwave and hit the button for six minutes and turned it on. Inside, a container with two potatoes began to spin around. “Steaks should be done at the same time. Shit!” He quickly ran outside, and Daniel couldn’t help but grin. After filling his glass a third of the way, he walked out back and leaned against the house while Jack played with the steaks, getting them just right.
Daniel narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, peering at them. “It’ll take longer than six minutes, Jack. Those’re an inch thick.”
“It’s a good grill,” Jack replied.
“It’s physics,” Daniel said, smiling. “Unless you plan to char them.”
“Hush,” Jack said, and with that, he poured a bit of Guinness on them and they flamed up.
Daniel rolled his eyes. “I’m getting the less burnt one.”
“I said hush,” Jack said, grinning. The phone rang, and he rolled his eyes. “Dammit. Here.” He handed Daniel the tongs and went inside.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Daniel said and examined them. They weren’t scorched. He nudged them toward the center a bit and stood there watching them for a good five minutes. Watching fire was always mesmerizing. He looked over his shoulder occasionally, even though he couldn’t see beyond the blinds. He figured Jack was talking to either Sam or Kerry. Unless it was business. It could still be Kerry. He really couldn’t blame him for Kerry. She was smart, attractive, and had nice curves. But Sam? Well, Daniel couldn’t see it because he didn’t see Sam that way. She was also smart, attractive, and had nice curves, but the attraction escaped him. But then, she wasn’t his type.
Did he even have one? He really didn’t have much luck with women in general. He’d always had better luck with men. But that was about sex, not relationships, so why had he just equated Jack’s relationships with his own? Maybe because Jack didn’t know about the affairs he’d had with men on the base? Nah. Never mind. Wasn’t important. They hadn’t been serious. It was just filling a niche. A need. It kept him from being too lonely, and his work more than made up for the rest. Or it had. Time to move on. Start somewhere fresh. Atlantis was a good fit. But not permanently. So, either a new job at the SGC or … maybe somewhere else offworld?
He turned the steaks over, thinking about it. There really weren’t too many worlds he could go to and be relatively happy. Only the SGC could give him dig assignments, and he could force himself to be happy doing that, but it just wasn’t … No. He was done with just making do. He needed excitement. Atlantis fit the bill. And if it weren’t for those goddamn Wraith, he’d be putting in for a transfer whenever he got back to work. Visits to Atlantis were possible, thanks to the Daedalus. Ugh. Three weeks on board a starship with an asshole for a Captain. Well, there was a lot of work to prep for, so he wouldn’t be too bored.
“Sorry about that,” Jack said, coming back out.
Daniel handed him the tongs. “I turned them once.”
“Hmm?” Jack asked, studying the steaks, and tested them with a finger.
Daniel leaned back against the house again. “The phone,” he said, and took a drink, rubbing his lips afterward.
His tone told Daniel that he wasn’t pleased. He wasn’t upset, exactly, but he wasn’t pleased. “That bad?”
“No,” Jack said, then made a face. “A little. It’s not something I should talk about.”
“You can always talk to me about relationships, Jack. Doesn’t bother me.”
“There isn’t a relationship there,” Jack said, gesturing with his beer. “It’s just not gonna work out.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, genuinely sad for him. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Jack said. “No one’s fault. It is what it is.”
Daniel nodded and kept anything else he’d have said to himself because there’d be little point. “Listen, I’ll just go check on the potatoes and—”
“No need,” Jack said. “They’re on the warm setting. These’ll be done in …” Jack bent one a little. “Two minutes, assuming you like them medium rare?”
“A little rarer than that,” Daniel told him.
“Oh, well,” he said, removing one and putting it on the only plate. “Here.”
“I’ll grab you another one,” Daniel said, taking it. He did, and soon they were sitting down at the kitchen table instead of in the living room because … table. Daniel was happy with the minor banter that went on between them, with Jack teasing him about the fact that he’d made Sam blush when he’d left his office and, alternatively, made Bra’tac grin his fool head off.
“You sure Bra’tac doesn’t have a thing for you?” Jack asked.
Just like that, on and on. Daniel didn’t mind. He took it all in stride, as he usually did. He helped Jack with the dishes afterward, going so far as to wash, dry, and put them away while Jack cleaned up the grill. It was easy, comfortable work and for a split second, and only a split second, he imagined that this was what it would be like living with him. Or someone.
Finished at approximately the same time, Daniel handed him a beer and refilled his glass. When they sat down in the living room, Jack picked up the TV remote and turned the sound down. There were a thousand subjects to talk about, and none. But suddenly Daniel was curious about something specific.
“Why haven’t you asked me about where I was?”
Jack chewed at his cheek. “I figured that if you wanted to talk about it, you would have.”
“Right,” Daniel said, and sighed. Again. Couldn’t he just show a little interest in … no. Drop it. And just like that, he did.
“So, where were you?”
Daniel had fixed his gaze on the TV and was about to ask Jack to turn it up when the question startled him. “Uh.” He shut his mouth. “Well. A diner. Sort of.”
“Come again?” Jack asked, brows up.
“Um, technically?” His cheek twitched. “I died, Jack.” He looked away, staring at the coffee table. “Replicator Sam was pissed off that I’d managed to get inside her head and she skewered me with this big blade and …” He tapped his sternum. When he looked at Jack, he’d gone a bit pale. “Crap. Sorry about that. Anyway, then I was suddenly standing outside this diner and there was literally nothing around it. I mean, nothing. Just white. I went in, wondering, ‘Why am I here?’ I mean, I recognized it.”
“How?” Jack asked, studying him. There was an unreadable expression there. Daniel skipped over it by habit.
“Um, after my parents died, Nick took me to this diner. It was in New York or New Jersey. I don’t know. One of them. I ordered waffles. And that was it for recall until I walked into that diner as a dead man. Or whatever. I sat down at a table and Oma comes up to me dressed in some old-fashioned waitress outfit, chewing gum, and asked me what I wanted.” Daniel smiled wanly. “I said waffles. Like it was something I was supposed to say. And then I said nothing else. She took my order, came back with it, then went off somewhere else. I wasn’t paying attention but what I did pay attention to was that the diner wasn’t empty. I wasn’t the only one in there.”
“Who else was there?” Jack asked.
“The Ascended. There was no chatter. No eating. It was as if they were actors in a play. They were pushing food around, holding up cups of coffee, reading newspapers. An act. Except for one guy, who came into the diner whistling and asking Oma for a cup of coffee. She really didn’t like him and told him to get it himself.” Daniel paused. “The reason she didn’t like him was because it was Anubis, in some fake form he’d taken. He was there as part of this construct, and I don’t know who created it. Oma, or The Others. He was playing a part. Oma said I was in a kind of limbo and that I was being given another chance to decide.”
“What? To ascend?”
“I think,” Daniel said, but he shook his head. “I’m not really sure. Anubis kept bringing in these newspapers and showing them to me. One said, ‘Jackson undecided’ on the front page, and there was a picture of me below it and some article I had no interest in reading.”
Daniel shrugged. “I just wasn’t.”
“Sounds like he was goading you.”
Daniel nodded. “He was also goading her.”
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Well,” Daniel said, chewing at his lip. “Seems, uh …” He looked down, then up, and made a face. “Seems she was the one who ascended him in the first place.”
“What?” Jack asked slowly.
“Yeah. But she didn’t know who he was. He played her. The Others tried to get rid of him but only partially succeeded. They could have killed him, but refused to take anymore part in it. At least, that’s my theory. Oma, alone, couldn’t do anything.”
“So she could help him ascend, but that’s it,” Jack stated.
“Like me.” Daniel grimaced, making it clear he was angry and he made a fist and let it go. “He was so smug. After a while, the newspapers he brought in and talked about said he was closing in on Dakara. Now, during all this time, I had no idea who he was. But when he came in and talked about Dakara, making it clear he was rubbing her face in it, I found out who he was. And what he had planned.”
“Now that the Replicators were gone, he was going to use the weapon, reprogram it, and destroy all life in the galaxy. Or the stargate network. I’m not sure. But the weapon would be released through the gates.”
“Carter said that’s how the Replicators were destroyed.”
“Why’d he want to destroy all life?” Jack asked with a scowl.
“See Evil Incarnate. He wanted to pay back the ascended for trying to send him back, so he figured that he’d wipe out all the life they created. That was my gist, anyway.”
Daniel winced. Jack was probably still an Irish Catholic. Lapsed, but still a Catholic, with all those belief systems. “Um, it was in his head. He wanted payback. Kill everyone who might ascend at a later time, maybe.”
“I tried to get The Others to interfere. I was mad. I yelled at them, tried to grab one of them.” He gestured, imitating what he’d done. “But my hands went through them and that light appeared. You know, that Ascended light. When I took my hands away, the light went back inside them. It was as if their true appearance was being held behind these human costumes.”
Daniel jogged his brows. “Anyway. Anubis said there was nothing anyone could do. Oma decided to speak up. She said, ‘Yes, there is.’ That got The Others’ attention, but they didn’t move. They just looked up to watch. Anubis said, ‘You can’t kill me.’ She said, ‘No, but I can fight you.’ He said, ‘You won’t win.’ She said, ‘It won’t matter.’ And she came forward in a rush and he screamed. They turned into the glowy beings and merged, then rose into the ceiling and disappeared. I turned around, wondering where they’d gone. Then … nothing.”
“Nothing. I don’t know how long, but then, boom. Your office.”
Jack frowned. “Does time pass the same when you’re in ascended space or …” he asked, gesturing at the air.
Daniel shrugged. “I can’t remember whole blocks of time as an ascended being, so I have no idea. I was in that diner for maybe two hours. No more than that. From my perspective anyway.”
“A week went by between the time the Replicators died and Anubis disappeared.”
Daniel nodded. “I heard.”
“So you really don’t know where you were?”
Daniel shook his head. “No clue.”
“So, um.” Jack pressed his lips together and fiddled with his beer.
“You’re here. You didn’t want to ascend again? Or was it that you couldn’t?”
“I didn’t want to. Maybe they knew that, maybe they didn’t. It’s more likely that they felt it wasn’t their place to help me ascend. That non-interference shit they cling to. So they sent me back. They could’ve just left me to die. Wherever souls go in the cosmic ether. But they pulled the same shit on me as before and …”
Daniel noticed that he was trying not to smile, and he still managed to look embarrassed. At the same time. How someone like him could do both was beyond him?
“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m really glad.”
Daniel blinked at him. “You are?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah. I did a lot of thinking in the last week, Daniel.”
Daniel nodded. “Where we go on from here, I take it, right?” Washington D.C. Atlantis. Stuff like that.
Jack got up and went to the fireplace mantle. He picked up an envelope he’d put there, tapped it against his fingers, walked back over and sat down, then held it out for Daniel to take. It had a return address for the Pentagon.
“What’s this?” he asked. He had a feeling it was Jack’s new job assignment. This was how he was breaking the news.
“A letter from Hammond.”
Okay. Hammond’s the one doing the invite. “Why’re you showing it—”
“Just open it and read it.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and set his glass down on the coffee table, making sure to use the coaster. He withdrew the letter as he settled back against the cushions.
Huh. Official letters don’t start like that.
You will probably not be all that surprised to know that I am not too keen on continuing my life in the arena of politics. Unfortunately, that is what this job has boiled down to. However, while I would not wish this job on just anyone, I do believe that you would bring a measure of sanity to the position, should it be offered to you. Do not take this as an official offer.
I have been giving a lot of thought to this retirement, and it brings to light something that I had thought passed me by, but to my intense relief have found that that has not been the case. I have discovered in my long years that there are times when you simply have to stop and smell the roses. One’s greatest achievements cannot be fully appreciated if you have no one to share them with. I had found that joy, but had it taken prematurely, and life has seen fit to give me a second chance.
This position at Homeworld Security afforded me a great deal of latitude and the freedom to pursue other goals, despite the politicking. I found myself in the realm of unforeseen but happy circumstances that reacquainted me with an old friend. I believe I have spoken of her in times past. I bring this up because I believe that if you seriously consider the job here in D.C., you would be in a unique position to be at liberty to take a few chances yourself.
This is merely a piece of advice. I once told you that you had to put certain things aside. If you find yourself in a position to have what you have only dreamed about, then do yourself a favor and go for it. It will afford you some peace while dealing with its opposite and life is not worth living if you don’t take the proverbial bull by the horns.
Take care, Jack.
Yours Very Sincerely,
Daniel folded the letter. He was a little embarrassed, but its tone touched him. Its sincerity, and the frankness which General Hammond used with Jack, made it clear that their bond of friendship and respect went a lot deeper than just superior and subordinate. Of course, that wasn’t surprising. Still, a letter like this was unique. The man had a wonderful heart, reaching out to Jack like this.
Daniel didn’t need to ask who the General was talking about. He was clearly telling Jack to be with Sam. That his job as her superior was the reason “he had to put things aside.” If he took the job in D.C., he’d no longer be her superior. They would be able to be together. Knowing this hit a bittersweet chord within Daniel’s heart, but he still wished Jack all the best. Schooling his features so he didn’t betray anything negative, he grinned at Jack and handed him the letter.
“You going to take the job then? If they offer it?”
“They already have,” Jack said, looking down and tapping the edge of the letter against his leg.
“I said yes.”
“Well, congratulations, Jack,” Daniel said, smiling. The edges were crumbling. Careful. Careful. Don’t slip up. His smile firmed up. “She should be thrilled. Does she know?” he asked. His smile faded because Jack was frowning at him. He was either confused or puzzled or something along those lines. “What?”
“Who’re you talking about?” Jack asked.
“Sam. I’m guessing she’s why you and Kerry didn’t work out.”
Jack stared at him, then stared at the fireplace, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”
Daniel’s puzzled frown turned downward. “Well, I’m not a mind reader. I assumed. Color me bad.” It wasn’t Sam or Kerry. Someone new in his life. He sighed and wondered if his assumption was going to make their visit go downhill like some others had. It had been so nice up to now, but he’d inadvertently put Jack into one of his moods. He most certainly was not sticking around for the fallout, but he couldn’t just leave. Distance first. Maybe that’ll cool things down. He got to his feet. “I’ll, uh,” he said, thumbing behind him. “Just use the bathroom.”
He rolled his eyes at both himself and Jack and went to relieve himself. When he came out of the bathroom, Jack was there, in a mirror action of what had happened in the kitchen. Except he had a strange look on his face. Daniel couldn’t read it, either. He’s seen every conceivable look on the man’s face but this one went over his head and he was in no mood to decipher it. He stepped aside, thinking Jack needed to relieve himself, too, but instead, Jack slid a hand around his waist and put another on his chest.
“Jack?” Daniel asked as he was steered into the hall and against the wall. “Wait, what are you …” Jack’s hand, the one on his waist, kept going behind his back. The one on his chest slid up to rest behind his neck. “What in hell are you doing?” he asked as his eyes widened in shock. He put his hands on Jack’s arms and was distracted by the hard, warm muscle. He couldn’t move his hands now. But he moved his eyes and they sent a billion questions into Jack’s. He couldn’t even begin vocalize the big question: What in the hell did Jack think he was doing? Daniel waited … two seconds, three … then Jack was leaning in.
Oh, no he’s not. He can’t be. Aftershave. Beer-scented breath. That masculine smell that always said Jack to him. Was he really going to …? Daniel sucked in a breath as Jack brought their lips together. He was firm but soft and there was no hesitation whatsoever, but there was a bit of shaky newness on Daniel’s side of the equation.
Then Jack parted his lips and in response, Daniel did the same. He couldn’t stop himself. Jack gently thrust his tongue in his mouth and Daniel let out a soundless moan and met him. He tasted sweet. So damn sweet. His arms were tightening around him as the kiss deepened. There was all this contact all of a sudden. Hands, mouth, tongues, and …
Heart pounding like it would burst, Daniel pushed Jack away, keeping his arms out, elbows locked. “Okay, okay, okay. Stop. This is insane. This is …” He swallowed. Hard. Jack looked aroused. And smug. And happy. The bastard. He thumbed his bottom lip in a manner that said, “I want more, not less.” Daniel swallowed again. “Are you sure about this?” Holy shit, his voice was shaky. How in the hell was his voice shaky? He’d never in his life sounded like that. Nor had his heart been hammering like this. Was he having a panic attack or was he … was he …
He lost the strength in his legs as the shock set in and he sank to the carpet with a muffled thump. Jack was on the carpet in front of him, his hand on his cheek.
“Hey, Daniel. It’s okay.” He was smiling, the shit.
Daniel stared at him. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He’d blocked out most of his feelings for so long that it was just cursory dismissal whenever he’d had the random stray thought. None of it was serious because it had been made plain a long time ago that it couldn’t be. He was nothing if not loyal to the universal “Face Reality” facts of life.
There was one rule in life he had always stuck to: Don’t pine away for things that can’t be yours. He’d kept to it religiously ever since his parents died. Well, no. Since his second year in college. The first year had been rough, with flings and boyfriends and breakups. With every resistance, a victory, and a much thicker skin. But now Jack was messing it all up. What in the hell had gotten into him? This was a spell that would break very soon so he had to school himself now. Get with it, Jackson. Get that wall back up. The party is coming to an end, what little there was of it. Jack would realize he’d made a mistake.
Daniel cleared his throat and shied away from Jack’s hand, then raised his own to prevent it from returning. Just in case. “Uh …” He pushed against the wall, using it to get to his feet. “What the hell, Jack? Why’d you do that?”
“Why?” Jack asked in return, clearly stunned. “Why?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, as if it should be obvious. His heart was breaking in advance because this was just not possible. Not reality. It was an error. A glitch. Alcohol? No. Jack had drunk only two beers. Jack suddenly grabbed him by both arms and Daniel raised his in front, crossing his wrists protectively. Jack blinked at him, frowned in disbelief, and abruptly let him go.
“Did you think I was attacking you just now?”
“No,” Daniel lied. It was automatic, and he hated himself. “It’s a reflex I’ve developed. Ever since I met Chaka.”
“I wasn’t attacking.”
“I know that.” He really hadn’t, but now he did. “Why, Jack?” he asked, a lot more softly. He suddenly felt deflated and out of energy. A little nauseous. All that adrenaline. It hadn’t been used for anything … strenuous … so it … He swallowed again and sidled by Jack, heading back into the living room on shaky legs. He picked up his wine glass and drained it. If Jack wasn’t drunk, maybe he should be. He turned to go back to the kitchen for a refill but Jack took the glass out of his hand.
“Daniel. Why are you acting squirrelly?”
“Me?! You kissed me.”
“And you kissed me back,” Jack said, and there was a hint of a grin.
“Stop that,” Daniel said.
“Looking like that, and oh, damn.” He plopped down on the couch. “You’ve just ruined the wall.” He dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling.
“The wall?” Jack asked, amused.
“The wall I had built up, so I could block out the feelings I had.”
Jack grew a lot more serious. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
Daniel swallowed again, and he sat forward, looking up as Jack sat down next to him. “What’s this mean?”
“I got that letter a week ago,” Jack said.
Daniel blinked, confused again. “Okay, so?”
“Listen to me.”
Daniel’s head was swimming.
“Are you listening?”
“Yes,” Daniel said, resigned.
“Not long after you were taken by Nem and we all thought you died? I told General Hammond that I had feelings for you.”
The swimming in his head stopped. Well, not exactly. It kind of focused. Daniel’s mouth dropped open as he looked at him. “Feelings.”
“I told him I loved you,” Jack said, setting his jaw, as if daring Daniel to make fun of him. “After we figured out you weren’t dead, he told me that I had to put my feelings aside if I wanted to be part of SG-1 and Stargate Command.” Jack sighed. “He said he knew what he was asking, but that for the time being, I had to make the hard choice. So, I did.”
The letter’s meaning now sunk in. “And now you think he’s telling you the opposite?”
“I don’t think, Daniel. I know.”
“Is this … were you … was all that …” Daniel had too many questions about Jack’s conflicting bipolar treatment of him through the last … seven years. “Why …” He still couldn’t finish a damn question. “I don’t know what to say or do or …”
“Let’s try this again,” Jack said. He got to his feet and held out his hand. When Daniel took it, Jack pulled him to his feet and slid his left hand once more around his waist. The right was cupping his jaw and behind his ear. He stared into his eyes and Daniel stared back, and strangely, he started to shake again but this time, it wasn’t out of confusion. It was a sense of denial, thanks to years of it, because none of this was sinking in yet.
“Hands?” Jack asked.
“What?” Daniel asked, realizing he hadn’t been responding. He slid his fingers over the muscle of his upper arms and was once more amazed at the hard warmth under the skin. Why should he be amazed? Because it was Jack he was touching. He followed the line of muscle over the shoulder, across the clavicle, up the throat, and now he was hyper-aware of touching his face. His fingers stuttered over mild stubble and when he met Jack’s gaze, he realized that Jack had slowly pulled his body against him and now they were firmly nestled together. Even standing up. Perfect fit.
“I knew it would be like this,” Jack said, and he brushed a thumb over Daniel’s lips, following it with his eyes.
Jack looked up. “Perfect. And also, you’d be this skittish stallion. All nerves and doubts, thinking I’m not serious. So, I’m telling you now. I’m serious. This isn’t some going away present. It’s for keeps.”
“Keeps,” Daniel repeated, only half aware that he’d responded.
“Are you listening?” Jack asked, that sexy half-smile on his face again.
“Yeah,” Daniel said, staring at his lips. “No. I mean, yeah, but …”
“Kiss me,” Jack softly demanded and leaned in. He whispered it again and against his lips. Light and feathery and hot.
It was finally sinking in. He was real. This was real. And just as Jack spoke again, the lust and need and years of denial all slammed into Daniel at once. “If I let go, Jack …” He swallowed hard again. “If I let go, I won’t want it bits at a time. I’ll want it all and I’ll want it right fucking now.” He whispered the cuss word and infused it with a tone of need.
“Want what?” Jack asked, and it was goddamn sexy. It was the way lovers ask.
“Our first time.”
“Clothes?” Jack asked, the tease turning into a smirk.
“Am I being funny?”
He could live with that. And now he’d forgotten what Jack had asked. “What did you ask before?”
Daniel smiled and pulled in for a kiss, but then realized that not saying anything wasn’t an answer. Just as his lips met Jack’s, he did his own feathery whisper. “Off.”
And then his tongue was tasting Jack’s. That sweetness was back. His hands were roaming, fingers digging in. He wanted everything. Demanded everything. He was toeing off his sandals while he fumbled at his belt and zipper. He needed skin so badly. Jack was doing the same and it was tantalizing, exciting. And they were on the way to the bedroom. If Daniel remembered correctly, the bed was narrow. And it had a headboard. Images of grabbing hold of it made him swallow hard the moment he saw it. Jack only smiled at him as they took their time and removed each other’s clothes.
Skin. Jesus. Jack’s skin. Without a base shower to frame it and put it in its former perspective, this was all brand new. And there he was. It was clichéd, but he took a good look at the, well, center of his world at that moment, which was a really silly thing to call a cock. That wonderfully hard cock that was long and wide and … okay, not massive or anything but Jesus. Daniel’s body, his entrance, opened and contracted at the thought of having him inside and his own cock strained with need. He didn’t know what to do first. Jack made the decision, which was just fine. He pulled Daniel to the bed, guided him onto his back, then lay down next to him and rubbed his hand over his chest, fingers stopping at his nipples. He shivered.
“What do you want to do?” Jack asked and squeezed his right pec.
Daniel pulled him down for a long kiss and Jack pulled him forward and rubbed against him. Their groins met in hot, velvet heat.
Jack broke the kiss slowly. “What do you want to do?” he asked again.
“I don’t know,” Daniel admitted. “I …” His eyes flickered over the headboard, then returned to those caverns of deep, rich chocolate, and holy shit, he was going sappy. “It’s been a while,” he managed. “I haven’t bottomed in years.”
“You’re shaking,” Jack teased, and he was running his hand lightly over his back, his ass, the backs of his thighs. Soothing him, like a skittish colt. Stallion. Whatever.
“Because I want it too badly,” Daniel answered.
Jack gave him that smile again. “Want what exactly.”
“You,” Daniel managed to say, though it was mostly silent because his voice abandoned him. “Lube me,” he finally whispered. “Then lift my leg and …” He had to kiss him again. When he broke away, he looked down. “Which leg?”
Jack laughed a little through his nose and took hold of the one closest to him and lifted. “Over my shoulder. If you can.”
Daniel swallowed. “God, I want you to fuck me,” he whispered. And turned beet red. He hadn’t done that in years, either. He kissed him again, deeply, and Jack somehow intensified it, moving his lips sensually, changing angles, thrusting his tongue. He wasn’t wrestling his tongue so much as he was consuming him entirely. Daniel moaned and reached between them, taking hold of his lover’s cock. Hot. A velvet sweetness, and he was using that word too much but god, it applied. Velvet. He stroked him, and the touch was so consuming that he forgot everything else. He moaned in Jack’s mouth to let him know he approved and enjoyed the feel of him.
Jack moaned back. Loudly. He broke off and leaned over him to pull out a drawer. He withdrew something, and Daniel heard a plastic cap flipping open. Then there was a lot of cold spread over his anus. Jack quite deliberately paused, making sure Daniel’s gaze was fixed on his. He leaned in a bit, pushing Daniel’s leg forward, to lift his ass cheek higher. There was a tight resistance in his hip and Daniel adjusted his body to get rid of it.
“Still limber,” Jack said.
“Later,” Jack said enigmatically.
Daniel frowned, puzzled, but let it go because Jack slid a finger inside him. He grabbed his biceps and opened his mouth to take in a long breath. When Jack moved his finger slowly in and out, Daniel worked his jaw, wanting to say something but again, he couldn’t think of anything. Not a damn word. His eyes half-closed as the tiny burn transformed into a different kind of heat. Everything changed when Jack crooked his finger and pressed upward as he rubbed.
Daniel’s universe suddenly shrunk to that finger and what it was doing to him. There was an acute pleasure that made his cock spill pre-come and he couldn’t stop himself as he put an arm around Jack’s neck and buried his face against his neck as he closed his eyes and humped his finger in rhythmic need. “Oh god,” he gasped. With his tongue, Jack sought out Daniel’s throat and licked a long line up the center as he slowly pulled his finger out. Daniel let out a harsh sigh, frowning with disappointment at the loss.
“Just wait,” Jack said softly. His voice was silk over gravel.
“For?” Daniel asked. He felt cool lube against his anus again, then two fingers slid into him, moved in and out a few times without angling for that spot, then there was more lube.
“Look at me,” Jack said.
Daniel did, and without needing to look down, he knew Jack was slicking up his cock. He felt ready. More than ready. Jack rubbed the head over his anus, pushing slightly before backing off, then rubbed again. Over and over, he teased him until Daniel’s body was begging to be filled. He sucked in a breath when Jack rubbed and pushed once more, and this time, finally, he kept going. The shock of the size of him combined with a massive burn and his world shrunk again. He groaned and hugged Jack’s neck again.
“Breathe,” Jack whispered, and lube-smeared fingers touched his hip as Jack used his hand to guide Daniel’s body. “That’s it. Now look at me.”
Daniel did, but it was difficult. He kept closing the lids halfway. That stopped when Jack pulled back ever so slowly, then pushed back in with much more force. Daniel stared at him, amazed at how Jack’s cheeks and neck flushed with pleasure and arousal as he moved slowly, in and out.
“Okay?” Jack asked.
Daniel nodded slowly, in time with the strokes. It went on like that for a few minutes. Or seconds. He wasn’t quite sure. Then Jack moved between his legs and placed them both over his shoulders. He took Daniel’s hands and placed them on the headboard’s edge, then grasped the headboard himself. “Hold on.”
“Oh god,” Daniel groaned. It was exactly what he’d pictured, only Jack had been fucking him with abandon and there’d been a dimly-remembered pounding sensation again his balls. He longed to feel that now, but the burn was still there, and he was glad that Jack was taking this much gentler. There’d be that switch soon, from burn to heat, but suddenly Jack kissed him quickly, with a bit of panic on his face.
“What’s—” Daniel began.
“I’m gonna come soon,” Jack said, clearly hating the idea. “You’re too good. Feel too good.”
Daniel stilled Jack’s movements and dropped his legs into the crook of his arms. “Do me a favor.” He wasn’t asking because he didn’t believe he needed to.
“Anything,” Jack said, and thrust once and groaned.
“Pound into me.” He swallowed and gripped the headboard more firmly. “Please.” His cheeks burned while the feeling in his ass faded.
“Are you sure?”
Daniel nodded. “I want to feel it in my balls.”
“You’ll feel more than that when I get going.”
“What do you mean?”
Jack gave him a cryptic smile. “Haven’t you ever had your gland ridden?”
Daniel felt the blush of arousal turn to embarrassment. “No.”
“Then let me show you,” Jack breathed, thrusting again. Gradually, he increased the speed of his hips. The burn was indeed fading, and all Daniel could think about was the anticipation of having Jack pound his ass. He closed his eyes, preparing, having forgotten all about the gland comment. Jack increased his speed a little and then he leaned forward, pushing Daniel’s knees to his chest as his weight lifted his ass off the bed. “Here we go,” Jack gasped.
“What?” Daniel asked. Jack moved deep and quick and that acute pleasure returned. It was constant, nearly agonizing in the intensity of it. “Oh my god!” His balls rode up, tightening, and the deep internal heat rocketed through his body, his groin. “No, no, not yet,” he strained, hitting the headboard with the palms of his hands. His cockhead swelled, and the shaft thickened. Gasping rapidly, he managed to say, “Jack, no, I can’t, not yet!” He arched his neck and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Oh god!”
“Yes, Daniel,” Jack said, his hips flying now. “Let go!”
He wasn’t slowing down or stopping through his orgasm, and Daniel could only imagine the stranglehold around Jack’s cock. That exquisite friction. “Yes,” he said, and grabbed Jack’s face, passing his right thumb over his lips and the wonderful line of sweat above them. He slid his thumb into Jack’s mouth and thrust a bit, encouraging Jack to suck. Jack did. “Come for me,” Daniel urged, fucking Jack’s mouth. “Come for me.”
Watching Jack O’Neill orgasm was something he never thought he’d see. He pulled his mouth from Daniel’s finger and grimaced, almost in pain, with flushing cheeks and an even redder throat. He was gasping through his nose as he shut his mouth and refused to look away from Daniel’s gaze. It went on and on and Daniel clutched at him, tightening fingers in hair. He was wide open now and the burn was gone.
They rode the afterglow, moving back and forth, gently, like a rolling wave. The pleasure was past the point of acute and the sensitivity of both their cocks was extreme. Daniel dropped his legs down slowly and wondered how Jack would treat this part of the intimacy. He got his answer when Jack wrapped his arms around him and kissed him until his lips were numb.
The Last Thread
Daniel was sore on the last moving day. It was a happy sore, between his legs. An annoyed sort of sore where his arms and back were concerned. He shoved the last box into the moving container, closed the containing strap, then the doors. He walked back up to the empty loft and grabbed his keys, looking around wistfully. He’d miss this place, but at least he didn’t have to leave his stuff behind. As he headed back down, his phone rang, and he retrieved it from his back pocket. Jack.
“Yes. And I’m on my way over to help you with yours. But we’re not going to get done.”
“I know,” Jack said. “Can you hit the store for some Guinness? Grab some wine, too.”
“Drinking or cooking?” Daniel asked, knowing exactly what Jack would say, and he nodded as he did.
“You don’t cook with wine you won’t drink.”
“Are you smiling?”
“Nope,” Daniel said, biting his lips together.
“I know. I have one more stop to make, then I’ll get to the store.”
“Where are you stopping at?”
“You’ll find out.”
“Chill, will you?” he said, and hung up on him. Jack did it to him so often that he was getting it back. Daniel was glad when the phone didn’t ring. The man was getting the message.
. . .
Daniel stuffed the small package into his coat and drove to the store. By the time he got to Jack’s, the sun had just set. There was snow everywhere and more was coming down. Packing up his end of things was done just in time because they might be stuck at Jack’s half-empty house for a week. If the forecast was correct. These days, how could it not be?
He entered the kitchen, catching Jack tasting from a wooden spoon. “You started the sauce already?” he asked. He traded a firm kiss for the bottle of wine and licked his lips. “Mmm. Nice.”
“Sauce or me?”
Daniel smiled. “You,” he said, and tapped Jack’s jean-clad ass. No more baggy pants. Jack now had someone who wanted to see his gorgeous ass. He put the 12-pack and second bottle of wine in the fridge. “It’s coming down heavy now,” he said, retrieving one of the beers. He twisted the cap and set Jack’s beer down on the counter.
“Annnnd,” Jack said, pouring, and stirring. He paused. “Airports are closed. We’re snowed in.”
Daniel sighed. “Figures. Picked a helluva time to move to Washington.”
“Not much choice.”
“I know.” Daniel left the kitchen and went to the living room to turn up the TV. The first local news broadcast was on. “Any news?” he called.
“Not yet,” Jack called back. “It’s five-thirty, Daniel. Don’t expect to hear before seven, at least.”
Daniel grumbled, hearing the amusement in Jack’s voice. He seemed to find Daniel’s impatience funny. Or endearing. Daniel told himself this wasn’t a battle to win or lose. Let it go. He returned to the kitchen to set the table.
After dinner, he was antsy. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. He had four gifts for Jack and he had to wait to see if one of them was going to be given early. Or at all.
“Stop fidgeting and move,” Jack said. He sat sideways on the sofa, arm on the back and head propped in his hand. He moved to scratch the back of his scalp.
Daniel noticed and shook his head. “Why didn’t you use that conditioner I got for you?”
“It’s weird,” Jack said. He edged the chessboard away from the dip in the cushion, then moved a pawn.
“Why? How’s a hair product weird? And if you say anything about it being a woman’s thing, I’ll thump you between the eyes.”
Jack threw him a brief scowl. “Fine. I’ll use it later. Your move.”
Daniel moved. “It’ll help with the itchy scalp you always get after a shower.”
“Is there a point to this conversation?” Jack asked.
“It’s a conditioning wax,” Daniel went on, ignoring his fencing jabs because Jack was only partially paying attention. He really didn’t like losing at chess. “It’ll help keep moisture in the hair follicles and the water out.”
“Point. Hear of one?” Jack asked, grinning.
Daniel moved a pawn. “You’re trying to train those follicles to behave. Works best when they have something that forces them to.”
Jack gave Daniel an evil, filthy grin. “I kinda know something about that, actually.”
Daniel sat back, staring at him, pretending outrage, and getting warm at the same time. “Oh, my fucking god. I let you tie me up and screw me six ways from Sunday and you think you’re king of the mountain.”
Jack smiled with smug satisfaction. “Think that’s in store for later?”
Daniel threw back a look that promised something wicked. “Well …” He licked his lips and rubbed them together after. “I was thinking that it’s probably time to show you a little trick I learned with those Christmas peppermint candies.” Jack gave him a dangerous look. It said, “I’m officially jealous of all your former lovers.” Daniel pointed a finger at him chidingly. “Don’t go there. It’ll ruin everything and then we’ll just sulk all night.”
The dangerous look faded, but not completely. “Doesn’t jealousy turn you on just a little bit?” he asked as he captured a knight.
Daniel growled to himself. He should have seen that. He got rid of a pawn, sacrificing another. “Not …” He gave Jack an enigmatic look. “Exactly. If you were to exert a little dominance about it prior to sex, then …” Jack’s brows went up and Daniel gave him a slight smile that made promises, then he sobered his expression. “But other than that, no. It’s just a matter of trust, Jack.”
“I trust you.”
“I love you.”
“I know.” He leaned over and kissed him lightly, but Jack turned it into a longer, deeper kiss. Then he growled and set the chessboard aside, then pushed Daniel back on the sofa and lay over him, kissing him thoroughly as he passed a rough hand over his body before opening his jeans. Daniel loved it. He thought he shouldn’t, but he didn’t really care. He had a submission streak that applied only to sex, but then there were times when he would lay Jack out on the sofa and proceed to suck him into heavenly bliss. There was also the one time when he’d topped, and it was such a damn turn on that he wanted to do it again. He’d loved turning the tables on Jack: finding that magic button while fucking him into an orgasmic stupor.
Daniel blindly reached out, intending to turn the TV off, when the news anchor mentioned the Supreme Court. “Hey,” he said, pushing Jack off and sitting up. He turned up the TV.
“The Supreme Court reached a Seven-Two decision today, declaring that same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States.”
Jack grabbed Daniel’s hand and squeezed. Neither of them said anything as they listened to the rest of the report. When the anchor started to share the negative uproar over the decision, Jack turned the TV off. They sat there, thinking, and then looked at each other. Jack took Daniel’s face in his hand and kissed him, his tongue just as sweet as the first time. “Time to celebrate.”
Eventually, it was face down, with Jack spooning over him and gently thrusting, taking his time. Their time. “I love you,” Jack said softly in that deep, sexy voice he had during sex.
“I love you back,” Daniel replied. He dropped one leg to the floor as he spread himself and grabbed the sofa arm as Jack took hold of his hips and firmly and resolutely screwed him until he was begging for his climax. He surprised them both with two.
The scene was the sexiest ever. The sex had been the hottest ever, apart from that first time. Daniel writhed luxuriously over the sheepskin before the fireplace, his arms over his head. “You know this is the most clichéd scene in history, right?”
“Shut up,” Jack said, running a hand down Daniel’s body. “I think it’s time for an early present.” He sat up and reached across him to pick up a present from under the tree. Daniel slowly sat up and took the long cylinder shape from his lover’s hand.
“Okay. What’d you get me?” he asked pointlessly, unwrapping it. It was a message tube. Frowning, Daniel opened one end and pulled out a three-page stapled form.
Superior Court of the District of Columbia MARRIAGE BUREAU
He felt a lump in his throat, swallowed, and got up. He went to his jacket by the door, palmed something, and came back over. He sat back down, handed Jack the form in one hand, and held out the other, palm up. It was a black velvet ring box.
Jack stared at it, swiveled in place, and crossed his knees. They cracked, and he winced, but to Daniel, he didn’t seem to acknowledge it. He picked up the box and opened it. Inside were two gold and silver rings. Each one had a gold weave and a silver weave, and they wrapped around each other like interweaving threads.
“Merry Christmas,” Daniel said. “Will you marry me, Jack?”
Jack swallowed. “Yes. You stole my line, you little shit.” Despite the words, his tone was thick and emotional. He emptied both hands and pulled Daniel into a long kiss that eventually developed into another drawn-out scene of lovemaking. Daniel had his hands held over his head and his body rocked back and forth while Jack eased in and out at an easy, no-rush pace. “I love you,” he said.
Jack smiled and reached down to jerk him off. “Hush. It’s time for some nasty.”
Daniel smiled as Jack knelt and picked up one leg, holding it straight against him as he proceeded to hammer into him while he jerked him off. Daniel white-knuckled the rug, never taking his eyes from those dark brown depths, thinking he was the luckiest man in the world. His panting sped up and he grabbed the back of his other knee and held himself more open for the wonderful battering against his ass and balls. Jack’s hand matched his purposeful rhythm, but then changed tactics. He stopped pounding and started grinding while his expert hand pulled Daniel’s orgasm from his mind and body. Watching him do it, he came, too. “Hot,” he managed. “So fucking hot. I can’t believe I get to do this for the rest of our lives.”
Collapsing, he pulled Daniel into a searing kiss and they lay wrapped in each other’s arms as the afterglow faded. Pushing back, separating them, Daniel looked down at his future husband. The words rebounded in his head and he attacked Jack with kisses and caresses that eventually got them hard again. The second round of lovemaking took a long, long time and neither minded one bit.
Five months ago, he’d been contemplating leaving. Trying to find some place where he would fit in. He had been swimming in this quagmire of doubt and sadness, not knowing where his life was heading. He hadn’t known he was sad, but looking back on it, he had been. It was thanks to the wall he’d built to protect himself. It had taken Jack’s revelations, and that first amazing kiss, to bring it down.
Five months ago, Jack had once been this confusing dichotomy of immaturity and strength. And someone who was destined, in Daniel’s walled-up view, to be with someone else. Sam, specifically. Now, he was a sarcastic grown-up with the libido of someone ten years younger. He was a serious man when needed, then joking and loving at other appropriate times. And Daniel freely loved him.
Jack gave him a future to look forward to. A happiness he hadn’t really thought was his to have. And now, they had the final piece. Daniel would do what he could to make sure that this time around, they both got what they deserved. At long last.