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Daniel was working at the dining-room table, barefoot in sweats and an ancient, faded T-shirt, when the doorbell rang. It startled him; he'd been listening to an alien language at half speed through his laptop's speakers, his mind trying to make a connection between the birdsong outside and the phonetics of the language, so the foreign chime was an intrusion, but no one ever rang Jack's doorbell; anyone who knew him knocked. He considered not going to answer it, but deep-seated fears that it might be a cop or an airman come in an emergency won out over irritation that it might be a salesman or a canvasser.

When he checked through the side window as he came around through the hall, he recognized Sara O'Neill immediately, and then he really considered not answering it.

It seemed to take a long time to flip the deadbolt, turn the knob, pull the door open.

She focused on him, processed that he wasn't Jack -- she was clearly steeling herself against the first sight of him -- then blinked and said, "Oh, hello, Doctor ... Jackson, right?"

"Yes, hi," he said, restraining an impulse to say something gauche and idiotic like good memory. It had been how many years? He'd only met her the once, although the circumstances had been intense. "But it's just Daniel. Um, please, come in."

She did, looking both ways down the hall, hesitating, unsure which way to go. It seemed profoundly strange to him that she did not know the house. But she'd never lived here. Their house had been in Winter Park. This hadn't been their house.

He gestured her into the living room. He almost put a light hand on her back. It was a habit he'd picked up from Jack, although Sam did it, too. A twinge went through him, to know he'd almost touched her. He could feel, through the shared medium of air, that she felt Jack in the aborted movement, although a lot of men guided women that way unasked and it wasn't a fair association to make. But accurate nonetheless.

"I'm afraid Jack's out," he said. "He's picking up snacks for the games." It was Sunday, football season, and he wasn't exactly lying; Jack would pick up munchies and burgers and dogs, but really he was just doing the weekly shopping, because it was his turn and because Daniel had this translation to work on. "Can I get you a drink or something?" He considered and discarded the temptation to say It's not really my place to play host, but ... His mind was working fast, the way it did during an unexpected negotiation or first contact. He'd gone into work mode, he realized -- offworld mode, or NID mode, or something. Balling up tight, deep inside, what he finally registered as a low, quiet panic.

"No, that's all right," she said, in a beautiful, clear contralto, looking around the living room. Her eye catching on the pictures on the mantel. Jack's father. Herself and Jack and Charlie. Charlie when he was a baby. He'd moved them there from the wall a couple of months ago. He'd been pissed that Daniel couldn't put pictures of his parents and foster parents up there, even hidden behind the others; pissed that Daniel wouldn't let him put the framed picture that included Sara in the box with the other loose snapshots of his past life. The same way he was pissed that Daniel still lived half time in his own rented house, that Daniel's stuff wasn't strewn all around the place, that any recognizably Daniel clothes were boxed in the closet, only generic more-or-less-Jack-size clothes in Daniel's bureau drawers and hanging on the clothesrod. This was why. No one ever came here, Jack hated having people over, when people came by unannounced he diverted them to the deck; except sometimes, like this, people did come here, and it could happen at any time.

Daniel did a quick, desperate mental rundown of the state of the back of the house. He'd tidied up after breakfast, changed the bedding, put out fresh towels; he was running a load of laundry downstairs. He was pretty sure he'd put his toiletries away, put the lube in the back of the nightstand; he didn't think he'd left underwear lying around, and mostly he wore the same kind Jack did, and there was no reason she would go to that part of the house; but he worried, anyway, that he hadn't aired the room out, that some scent of sex would still linger. It hadn't been more than three hours. If she'd only come in the afternoon, when the games were on. It was weird that he was here. No getting around it. It was weird that he was here and his car wasn't in the driveway. If he was here to work on a project with Jack, Jack shouldn't be out shopping.

And if she figures it out? Does that matter? They've been divorced for a long time. She has no reason that I know of to out him.

But it could matter. It might matter. A lot.


She took note of his laptop and books on the dining table, then wandered over to the deck doors, surveying the sunlit yard, the autumn colors. "I'm sorry to interrupt what you were doing," she said. "How long do you think he'll be?"

"Ah, I'm not sure. Not long. Half an hour? I could try his cell."

"No, it's not an emergency. I did try calling, but I must have had an old number, and of course the base wouldn't give me the new one, and it's unlisted." In a softer voice, she said, "He used to do yardwork on Sunday mornings. I thought I might catch him in."

"You sure I can't get you a cup of coffee? I just made some."

She turned. He'd forgotten how slim she was, slim with a wiry resiliency, a presence that made her seem taller than her five and a half feet. Her wheaten hair didn't show a trace of gray; she was a couple of years younger than Jack, if he recalled correctly, and despite the chiseled strength of her features she looked younger than she was. A strange combination of willowy, girlish youthfulness and casual, no-nonsense strength.

She looked like Jack. She looked like a younger, female, blue-eyed version of Jack. Like a piece of Jack. A piece of his life, a piece of himself.

A pang went through Daniel, low and deep and impossible to parse. The strangest thing was how it seemed to be mirrored in Sara's eyes.

"All right," she said, and smiled, as if relenting on more than the point of beverage. "I'd love some coffee, actually." She followed him toward the kitchen, but lingered at the curio cabinet, trailing a hand down the carved front. Clearly recognizing some of the items inside. Jack's mother's Belleek and Waterford. Daniel didn't know what the rest of the stuff was. She probably did. "I'm Mrs. Harris now," she said, coming in as he'd finished pouring. She pulled creamer from the fridge with the ease of someone who frequently visits and feels that kitchens are kitchens no matter where you go, that kitchens are familiar places even in starkly unfamiliar houses. "I'm just saying, you know, since I heard you hesitate before. But I do business under my maiden name. Anyway, call me Sara."

He didn't say Jack mentioned that you'd remarried. He had to be very careful not to say anything that ... christ, that the new wife would say to the old one. Oh, god. Oh, crap, what a weirdass ... The half-speed phonemes from P39-238 were still droning from his laptop. The formal inflections, used in diplomatic situations. He went to turn it off, leaving her to cream and sugar her own drink, and lifted his mug from the dining table. Galaxy's Best Archeologist, something Sam had given him years ago. It shouldn't be here. He shouldn't have a mug of his own here. He didn't remember how it got here; then he did -- he'd come here the night she'd given it to him, and just never brought it back to his place. Crap, crap, crap.

There was a bottle of olive oil out on the dining-room sideboard, where it had no business being. She wouldn't notice that, or think anything of it ... would she? It wasn't something you thought about when your radar was tuned to the nuances of traditional heterosexual arrangements. You looked for lingerie drying on the shower rod, right?

"I just happened to be in-state," she said, leaning back against the counter, both hands wrapped around her mug. "I don't like to fly. I was driving back up to Iowa from a business conference in Phoenix, and I thought I'd stop off at the cemetery, leave flowers for Charlie. Then I thought that maybe it was time I stopped avoiding Jack when I stop in Colorado to do that. So I tried calling, yesterday. It was on the late side; I didn't want to ... Well. I stayed overnight in Denver. I suppose it was almost on a dare. To see if I had the guts to just drop by today. Sunday morning seemed safer."

"He was probably at work," Daniel said, picking his way through the minefield of the personal and the classified. "There's a, you know, a project."

She waved past him, at the dining table. "So I gather."

A glint, a flash, something in her eyes implied a double entendre. The olive oil was out and out of place because Jack had done him on that table last night when they'd come back from base, late, after the thing on P39-238.

He started to say something small-talky, ask about her trip, something, anything, but he'd only just drawn breath when she said, "Does he make that deep-chest sound with you? The one that sounds like bronchitis, the end of a bad cold when the cough is way down in the lungs?"

He blinked at her, then flushed deeply. He turned away too late to hide it. Jack did make that sound. When he really lost it, when he came really, really hard, he'd groan from deep in his lungs like that, as if someone had punched him in the chest.

"Are you living here now?" she asked, still perfectly matter-of-fact, but more quietly.

"No, ma'am," he answered softly, toward the window. Half a lie was still half the truth.

They could hear Jack's truck pulling up into the driveway.

"Is he happy, Daniel?" she asked. This time her tone was gentle, but there were overtones of something else. Not quite pain, not quite wistfulness. Something ...

Daniel made himself look at her. "I think so," he answered, honestly, with direct eye contact. "As happy as he can be, under the circumstances. All the circumstances."

She nodded, reappraising him. Appreciating the straight answer. "And does he talk to you? Really talk? You seem like the kind of person that even Jack might open up to."

Daniel's gaze dropped. It was a terrible question. His heart was pounding wildly; he could hear the tailgate drop, he knew Jack would be kicking the door in a second, arms full of grocery bags. He wanted to tell her that it wasn't her, it had never been her, that Jack had changed; but Jack hadn't changed, not in that, and if he could talk to Daniel because Daniel had been through some of the same things he had, then it was her, it had been her, because she hadn't. A yes answer would condemn her. But she was the kind of person you told the truth to, and he was the kind of person who told the truth. The whole truth, when possible.

He nodded, forcing his eyes back up.

She smiled. There was only the faintest glimmer of tears. "I'm glad," she said, in a whisper. "I was afraid he'd always be alone."

Jack didn't kick the door. He let himself in, locking the door before he unlocked it because Daniel had left the deadbolt off without thinking; he let himself in because Daniel was supposed to be working, or because his surveillance radar had caught a ping off someone surveilling him or off a psychic sense of Sara's presence, or both, or all three. He never called out to Daniel when he came in. The default, even in casual safety, was always to play it safe.

Daniel had already dealt with the impulse to blurt a panicked, rising-to-a-high-note Jack, Sara's here. He'd been going to call out, Hey Jack, you've got company. But she'd had his number almost from the moment he opened the door. Subtle misdirection was pointless now.

Daniel's eyes were still locked with Sara's. For once he had absolutely no idea what to say.

Jack was unloading groceries into the hall. The way the door opened, it was easier to pile them all inside and then move them to the kitchen.

When they heard him go back out to the truck, Sara gestured past Daniel and said, "Go tell him. This shouldn't be an ambush."

He blinked. "Uh, yeah. OK." He went through. Jack was just straightening from depositing the last bags, pushing the door closed with his foot. His eyes lit with a quiet pleasure at the sight of Daniel, but he registered the look on Daniel's face before he said whatever flippant shopping-sucks thing he was going to say, and he closed his mouth and cocked his head and waited. Daniel saw the way he turned, subtly, to put his back to the door, to keep his vision clear to either side down the hall.

"Sara's here," Daniel said. When Jack's expression shut down, he realized the potential confusion of names, and said, "Your Sara."

There was a minute but palpable flinch, and then they heard her step into the doorway to Jack's right, and he turned to look.

"Want a hand with those?" she said, with a smile that was somewhere between apologetic and challenging, somewhere between nervous and amused, somewhere between abiding pain and poignant pleasure at seeing him again.

"Sara," Jack breathed, in a tone that Daniel hadn't heard since that night when they followed the unity crystal to the Winter Park hospital, and went to take her in his arms.

Daniel grabbed the plastic bags -- he'd badgered Jack until he used paper for everything but what had to be refrigerated -- and backed discreetly away to go around and put the perishables in the fridge. The pain he felt was intense, and had nothing to do with sexual jealousy, and everything to do with Sha're, and the fact that she would never turn up in his kitchen out of the blue one day, that there would never be the exquisitely awkward moment of recognition of the new partner, that there would never be that embrace of profound relief, as if for one moment all the terrible, unchangeable past had never happened and for one brief moment they could hold each other with all the sweet, aching familiarity of love that had never gone.

He never stopped loving you, he wanted to tell Sara. I know because I know him, and I know because I've never stopped loving her.

He heard the quiet is-something-wrong and no-nothing-it's-just-you-know-Charlie and apologies for not writing first and explanations about the phone, and a murmur of reunion that he only made out about half of and didn't want to hear any of. They'd been married for nine years. A little longer than he'd known Jack.

He tried to remember where he'd left his shoes.

He'd put the frozen stuff away and was working on the beer and dairy when they came in carrying the paper bags. "You're a better man than I am, Daniel," Sara said, in her strong no-nonsense voice. "I could never get him to use paper. Can't get Mitch to, either. No handles, he says."

There was only a fraction of a beat where Jack faltered before he said, "How is the old son of a gun? Been a while since your last letter." Daniel felt the look Jack shot him, and shrugged and shook his head without looking at him: I didn't tell her.

"He's fine, Jack, the business is fine, the kids are fine, the dogs are fine, the weather's been fine, and don't look at him like that, I figured it out all by myself." As the butter went in, Daniel ran out of things to put away, and turned, leaning against the door handle of the fridge, hands in his pockets; Jack stood with a box of Alpine in his hands; Sara somehow looked at both of them without pausing in sorting the cans of tuna and other canned things. "And if I hadn't, that box of granola would give it away, since you never touch the stuff. And if that didn't, the way you look at each other would. I sure hope you keep a lid on that at work."

"You know," Daniel said, "I hate to seem unsociable and everything, but there are some reference works back at my place that I could really use, so how about I go over and get those and leave you guys to catch up."

"OK," Jack said, looking slightly deer-in-the-headlights, at the same time that Sara said, "I wish you wouldn't, Daniel."

"Um, really," he said. "I really ... This, um ... " Get a grip, he thought. Be a grownup. "I would feel more comfortable leaving you to talk in private."

Sara looked at Jack. "Are you surveilled here? Audio, I mean?"

Jack's brows went up. "Not right now, near as I can tell. I got a promotion recently. Makes it a little harder for the bad guys to hassle me."

"And makes the stakes a thousand times higher, and you a bigger target." Her sigh conveyed and encapsulated long-standing disagreements over military demands and consequences, arguments she'd stopped bothering to have long ago. Then she looked at Daniel. "You belong here," she said, in a soft voice. "Everywhere I look I see how careful you've been not to let that show. I'm sorry to hear that you have to maintain a separate apartment or whatever it is as a cover. But I've already interrupted your work and I'm sure as hell not going to displace you from your own home." She cocked her head at Jack. "Take a walk with me?"

"OK," Jack said again, then looked at Daniel. "OK?"

"Of course," Daniel said, pained by what he saw behind Jack's eyes.

Then Sara was crossing to him, laying a soft kiss on his cheek, a press of flesh. She smelled outdoorsy, almost woodsy. The same way Jack did. He blinked at Jack, then focused on Sara as she drew back to say, "I'll just go, after. It was good seeing you again." She touched his collar. "Be happy, Daniel." She turned, smiled at Jack. "Finish with your groceries. I'll be outside admiring the landscaping."

When the front door closed, Daniel said, "I think it was very hard for her to come here."

"I guess I'm going for a walk," Jack said. "Put this stuff away later." He wasn't moving; he was still staring out the kitchen door. "What the hell do I say to her?"

"I don't think you have to say anything," Daniel said. "Just walk. Just be." When Jack still didn't move, Daniel crossed the kitchen and gave him a mock shove toward the door. "Go."

Jack caught him around the back of the neck, frowned into his eyes. "I love you, Daniel."

Daniel smiled. "I know. Now -- "

Jack leaned in for a brief, searing kiss, pushing his mouth open, a slide of hot tongue. It wasn't reassurance; it was a demonstration of possession. Only Jack would indulge in a gesture like that when he was the one whose ex was waiting outside. Daniel melted under it, the way he always did. And thanks so much for the inappropriate erection. Sure, I'll just dive right back into what I was doing. " -- go," he finished, when Jack drew back.

Jack looked like he'd rather stay in here with Daniel. Or maybe gate unarmed into a system lord's heavily fortified headquarters. Daniel pulled him back in and said in his ear, "It's only hard because you still love her. Be glad she can drop by and freak the crap out of you." Jack nodded, and Daniel released him and turned in the same motion, going back to his mug of cold coffee, his box full of phonemes, the niggling birdsong. There was something about the doorbell, too, the insistence of it, the chiming tones that weren't music and weren't language but carried a message; and something about the overtones in Sara's voice, in Jack's. He pushed the keyboard shortcut to resume the playback as Jack's steps moved reluctantly, then more purposefully into the hall. The door opened and closed. Those were message-bearing sounds, too. One sound for approaching steps, one for receding. One sound for a door opening, one for it closing. The null syllables, the ones he'd been assuming were rhythmic padding ...

Two hours later he had the translation almost complete. He went down and put the ballgame on the TV in the basement rec room, then came back up and put the rest of the groceries away. He brought a beer and a bag of chips back down with him. He hadn't slept much the night before; they'd come home, Jack had done him on the dining table, they'd cleaned up, brought a snack to bed, fallen asleep; he'd gotten up and worked with the headphones on for three hours, then gone back to bed for two; when the sun came up he'd been inside Jack, a long slow sleepy screw that had lasted for most of an hour, and after that it was breakfast and the paper, and he'd never made up the lost sleep.

At halftime, he woke up with a crick in his neck to the sound of steps above him. Jack stuck his head through the door at the top of the stairs and asked if he wanted coffee or more beer and should he make sandwiches, and for the rest of the afternoon it was like any other Sunday. He didn't ask Jack how it went. Jack didn't ask him about the translation.

When the late game started, Jack muted the set and said, "She was relieved, about you."

"About me," Daniel echoed, because there were too many ways to take that.

"She likes you. Seal of approval." A mischievous smile didn't quite make its way across Jack's lips, and Daniel didn't quite roll his eyes. Then, in the casual way that Jack frequently said the most important things, he went on, "One reason she resisted contact for all these years was that she didn't get the sense that I was moving on. She worked hard not to go into stasis, she said, spend the rest of her life paralyzed by grief. She thought I was living in a shrine to tragedy. Once we closed up the house, she didn't want any part of that."

"Those are her words, or yours?"

"Hers, mostly. Paraphrased."

"Well, that is what you were doing." The pictures all over the house, the snapshots in his locker; he'd made his private life a penance that had looked, for a long time, to be permanent. No thought of moving on, no thought that he deserved to do anything but live out his days alone, a long slow endless punishment for the way he'd failed his family. Nothing but work, a little entertainment now and then to pass the hours away from work. Daniel had done the same thing. He'd expected to finish out whatever was left of his life as a solitary widower. He'd had his shot at happiness and blown it. The flirtation with Ke'ra notwithstanding, he'd known in his bones that he'd never fall in love with another woman. He'd thought that meant he would never fall in love again at all. It had taken him a long time to see that he already had.

"Yeah," Jack said. "I know." He put his beer down, reached to ruffle Daniel's hair, threw an arm around his neck, moved close. "Sorry I was gone so long."

"Lot to talk about."

"Not so much. Mostly just walked. She had some things to say. I listened, for a change." He smiled again. "Plenty of practice with you. She told me to thank you."

Daniel didn't know what to say. He picked at the knee of Jack's jeans, absently. "I cracked that language," he said. "It was about birdsong and doorbells."

"Null syllables not so null, huh?"

"Nope." He'd stopped being surprised, a while ago, that Jack actually listened when he talked about his work, and actually understood what he was saying.

"I tried to -- " Jack started suddenly, and stopped hard, hitting a wall. "There's some freaking switch in my head. Year after -- " He stopped again. "Continental drift. Stellar drift. The house, the kid, the bills, those made sense. I couldn't -- what do you call it, parse? I couldn't parse anything else she told me about the life she lived while I was gone. I couldn't tell her anything about where I'd been. It's like ... talking to somebody from another planet. Still. No matter how much -- " He shoved his face into Daniel's hair, breathed deep. "That doesn't make any sense, does it."

"Sure it does." His thoughts, his work, his passions had been completely alien to Sha're. His love and respect for Abydonian culture hadn't stopped it from being their culture; he could put himself in their mindset but it never truly became his own. They'd tried hard to get past that, to find each other in the dark, hold tight. They'd talked all the time, about everything. Love wasn't always enough. Words weren't always enough.

"She's gonna come down, next anniversary. We'll visit the grave together. See how that goes."

"Good," Daniel said. I think Charlie would like that. A lot. He palmed Jack's knee in a slow, easy circle. "It hurt, though."

"Like a son of a bitch."

Daniel squeezed. "I'm sorry."

"I know. Me too. For you too."

"I know." He moved his hand up the inside of Jack's thigh. Felt Jack shift as he hardened inside his jeans. Jack slid his glasses off and set them on the table, tilting his head to breathe into Daniel's ear. Daniel reached around to pop Jack's fly, then followed his own arm, pushing the table away with his knee and rolling around and down between Jack's legs. Jack pushed forward to be unzipped, lifted for Daniel to pull his jeans off his hips. Daniel unbuttoned his shirt from the bottom up; Jack closed his eyes, let his head rest on the back of the old leather sofa, let his arms fall to either side as Daniel spread his shirt. They both moaned when Daniel took the head of Jack's cock into his mouth. He sucked gently for a long time, playing his tongue through the curves and furrow, dipping down the shaft every now and then. When he took all he could down his throat and pushed up for the leverage to work it, Jack's hand brushed over his head. He was getting close. A firm push down would be a request for Daniel to bring him off that way, hard. Daniel loved that push; he'd used to force Jack's hands down on his head sometimes, to make him push, because Jack's reflex was to hold back his impulse to force. The first time he got Jack to hold his head down and really fuck his throat, he came without anything else touching him. Jack believed him after that, but still required some encouragement sometimes. This time the hand brushed his head again, then reached down to grab a fistful of shirt at his shoulder, tug upward.

He disengaged reluctantly. Jack hadn't come in his mouth in a while. "Lose the shirt," Jack said, standing him up. As he pulled it over his head, Jack rubbed his erection through the sweats, and made a low sound to feel nothing under them. He pressed his face in, angled his head, bit down the length of the shaft through the heavy cotton. Daniel's eyes glazed. Jack hadn't blown him in a while either. When Jack tugged the sweats down and took him down in a long slide of tongue and suction, he let out a soft, high sound and nearly came, groping Jack's head to keep his balance. Jack slid off him gently but quickly. "Step out of those," he said, and groped down behind the seat cushion for the lube.

Daniel pulled his feet out of the puddled sweats and eased himself kneeling onto the sofa, straddling Jack's thighs. His hands braced on the back, fingers sinking into handholds where he'd grabbed on many times before. Bad telltale. The thought came and went; the sight of Jack underneath him, stroking lube onto himself, jeans pushed down and shirt spread open, didn't leave room for much else. Jack's free hand slid up his belly, up his chest. His eyes slid half closed under the warm, sure caress, the feel of Jack feeling him. Calluses roughed over his nipples, sending jolts down to his groin. A twinge ran up the back of him, still loose from last night. They switched positions at random almost anywhere else, but for some reason when it was here, or on the dining table, it was always Jack entering him.

Jack scooched down a little more and looked up at him. His eyes were hot, and dark, and adoring. His dry hand took Daniel's cock; his lubed hand positioned his own as Daniel lifted up and over.

Daniel pushed down on him with a low grunt. There was no burn, just fullness and cool slick lube. He moved on it, sliding up almost right away so that he could push down again, feel it spread him, fill him. "Oh god," he said, doing it again. His head dropped. "Oh god that's good."

Jack tilted Daniel's chin up with his nose and brushed his lips over Daniel's throat. "Slow down," he murmured.

"No." He pushed down, stayed down, circled his hips, grinding. He pushed his tongue into Jack's mouth, ground down on him, then lifted again to ride him in long strokes. He took his tongue back and pushed his mouth against Jack's and said, "Fuck me. Push. Jack."

Jack met him on the next stroke, pushing up into him. Daniel felt his thighs strain through the jeans, felt the cold bite of the zipper every time their bodies came together. He spread his knees, sank down. Jack was trying to angle himself but he was running out of couch. He let go of Daniel's dick and the cushion and pushed against Daniel's shoulders. "Up," he said, low and hoarse. "I've got you. Up. C'mon Danny. Lemme nail it."

Daniel let go of the back of the sofa and gripped Jack's elbows and straightened, and then every grunting thrust was raking his prostate and the world started to dissolve in a white acid wash. "Oh -- oh god -- Jack -- unnh -- " He came with his head thrown back, in an intense bucking tremble that Jack rode from underneath to keep them from jarring apart. Jack stayed hard through it, hands locked on him, pushing and pushing up into him. He needed more, harder, he needed to feel it burn --

Jack took him by the neck and the hip, jamming him down, locking their lower bodies together, and then shifted them back up solidly onto the seat and sat up, pulling Daniel against him. Daniel made a pathetic, involuntary sound as Jack's cock ground in him. It was almost enough, almost what he needed. "Hook your legs around me," Jack said into his ear. "C'mon, limber boy. C'mon. This is what you want." He slid one hand, then the other, down Daniel's legs, helping him unbend them, slide them around, supporting his back the whole time. All his weight came onto Jack's thighs. "Hang on," Jack said, "tight," and locked his arms around Daniel's tailbone, and pulled, and pushed.

"Oh god," Daniel groaned. The burn was deep and intense.

"Fuck," Jack gasped into his neck, pulling him in, driving into him. His own come slicked Jack's chest; his fingers clawed into Jack's rucked shirt; Jack's face ground into his pulse. Jack sucked, bit down, sucked; Daniel writhed under it and Jack groaned more deeply.

"Harder," Daniel choked out.

"Danny," Jack said, his head twisting down and in again. It was a warning, he said Daniel's name that way when he was close but he needed it harder than he thought Daniel could take, and Daniel answered by tightening on him, contracting on him, demanding it.

Jack's body clenched inside the lock of limbs, and he made that chest-punched sound and shot hard up into Daniel. The next moment he was groping up Daniel's body, his hands everywhere, his mouth everywhere, trying to stroke him and check that he was OK and eat him alive at the same time. Daniel loved that hungry, convulsive groping. It was Jack when he was least in control of himself, when he couldn't hide his craving or his possessive protectiveness or his need. Some people, when they came, went deep inside themselves. Jack tried to crawl inside Daniel.

"Ah, fuck," Jack rasped, shuddering. He kissed and sucked Daniel's neck, his collarbone, his throat, his jaw. Finally took his mouth and finished with his tongue sliding over and under Daniel's, with his hand fisted in Daniel's hair. Daniel was limp, cored; the hot, wet, desperate kiss melted him, and he had nothing to protest with when Jack eased them over sideways, a fantastically awkward position for Jack but better, he supposed, than all that weight on his legs.

They spent a long time coming down. The kisses got sloppy, sleepy; Jack licked spit off Daniel's lips and murmured blurred endearments to him. He never stopped stroking, even if it was just his thumb moving lazily along the arch of a rib. Finally Daniel touched Jack's sandpapery jaw in the flickering blue light of the muted TV. "Can't sleep like this," he said.

"I know," Jack said. "Just don't want to pull out."

Daniel smiled when Jack kissed him again, long and lingering, delaying the inevitable for another minute, and another. Daniel ended it with a nip and said, "You're half out already. Reach me some napkins. This one's gonna be messy."

"They're all messy," Jack said, reaching across him for whatever paper towels he could grab.

They cleaned up, had coffee, watched the end of the game, went to bed. In the dark, Jack said nothing. His interior life opened in spasms, shocking moments of articulation, inexplicable bloomings that subsided as fast as they came on. They were rare events. They as rarely told Daniel anything he hadn't already learned. He was always learning.

It had taken him a long time to recognize happiness. Longer than it took to recognize birdsong and doorbells in alien syllables. Not as long as it took to recognize that the Jack in this house, in this bed, in his arms, existed only for him.

He relaxed deeply into the thoughtless tangle of Jack's limbs and went to sleep.

syllepsis: A figure in which a single word appears to be in the same relationship to two others, but must be understood in a different sense with each of its pair. (Example: "I'm leaving for greener pastures and ten days.")