Zero Plus One Hour
"You were missing for 3 days, Daniel. I was starting to worry."
"No, Carter and Teal'c."
Daniel could feel the power beneath his touch, the sharp twitch of muscles under skin as he trailed his hand upwards from thigh to groin to stomach. Flesh tightened in anticipation of what might come next, and the coarse showering of hair on Jack's chest felt as though it was rising to attention.
A soft moan of pleasure rose from Jack's throat and vibrated against Daniel's neck. Daniel steeled his left hand against the headboard, holding onto the intricately carved wood so tightly he could feel the muscles in his arms starting to quiver, while he rose on Jack's cock, driving his hips forward enough that his downward push and Jack's upwards thrust would claim them both.
If unwavering acceptance was the purest form of love, then Daniel was totally compliant. He tucked his chin to his chest and rolled his shoulders forward, lifting again off Jack and giving him enough space to reach behind Daniel and touch his cock as it slid in and out.
Jack groaned again but this time it was different, low and guttural, and chased by a string of short, quick breaths that signaled just how close Jack was to coming.
"Daniel," Jack ground out, and moved his hand back to Daniel's hip, tightening his hold, his thrusts suddenly sharp and uncontrolled. Daniel leaned further towards the headboard and dropped his right arm to his side and lowered his head to Jack's shoulder. "Now," he urged, even knowing that Jack was well past needing encouragement. Theirs was a moment of mutual want and understanding, whereby incisive urgings were eventually replaced by a gentle need that was slowly fulfilled. When Jack came, Daniel felt more than a sense of desire being sated. He felt a flowing of love that manifested as a welcome pain in his stomach. It was the ache that came from loving someone so much it literally hurt. He closed his eyes as the storm of his orgasm surged through every nerve ending, momentarily blinding him to everything except Jack.
"It's coffee, Daniel. If you want to wear it, then that's fine." The mug waivered in front of his face, and the smell of whatever blend Jack had in the cupboard wasn't exactly top-bean quality, but it would do.
"Up?" Jack urged again, this time pulling the mug away as Daniel shuffled his way up the pile of pillows and blindly groped for his glasses on the nightstand. "You know, most people settle for one or two pillows, not a whole fountain of them."
Daniel slid the frames over his eyes and looked over the top of his lenses, stifling a yawn and reaching for the offered mug. "Fountain? "
"Collective noun," Jack replied with a shrug. "Seemed to work."
"Pretty sure I've never heard of a fountain of pillows. A nest, maybe."
Jack sat down on the edge of the bed and held out a plate of buttered toast, which Daniel refused in favor of his liquid breakfast. "There isn't a collective noun you haven't met?"
"I didn't say--"
"An arcana of tarot cards?"
"Arcana. Of tarot cards. Or how about a phantasmagoria of phantoms?"
"How long have you been awake?"
"Couple of hours. Why?"
"So, long enough to digest the internet?"
"No," Jack grouched and rose to his feet. "Long enough to burn your toast and smash your coffee beans until they sang."
"Sure, why not. I was always fond of Caballe."
"Maybe if you'd ground the beans instead of smashing them, they might have come out singing like Callas."
"Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore'!"
Jack chuckled and reached out for the now empty mug. "I love it when you talk dirty."
"I lived for art, I lived for love. Come back to bed."
"Really? She said that?"
"Only the first part. The last bit was me." Daniel tossed back the covers and moved over to make room for Jack. "We could always take up from where we left off last night."
Jack kicked off his loafers and slipped into bed. "Repeat performance?"
"Let's call it an encore."
"Secret lab, huh?"
"Probably was once." Daniel turned onto his right side and hooked his left leg over Jack, snuggling in close and breathing in his scent of sex and sweat. "More of a storage room . Possibly a closet."
"I thought Carter said the place was huge?"
"Rooms always look bigger when they're empty. Or in this case, mostly empty. Whatever Anubis was doing there, he cleaned the place out when he left. Not much worth wasting our time on, anyway."
"But you checked everything, right?"
"Recorded and notated. What little there was." Daniel stopped the circle he was drawing on Jack's chest and looked up at him, frowning. "Something bothering you about our reports?"
Jack looked down at him with an expression of indifference that, to Daniel's way of thinking, did not quite match his line of questioning. Jack finally shrugged. "Just going over details in my mind."
"Well, we ringed in, albeit not intentionally, and found ourselves in a lab we couldn't escape from. At least, not at first."
"But you did."
"Obviously," Daniel replied dryly. "Took a while to find the hidden clues that led us to the hidden trigger that activated the hidden door that led to the hidden tunnel..."
Jack held up a hand. "I get the idea. Getting out wasn't your first priority?"
"What about this device you mentioned?"
Daniel rolled away from Jack and onto his back, gazing up at the ceiling. "Not much to say, really. Sam did a scan - no active energy signature. There was some writing on the front access panel. Goa'uld. I translated, Teal'c agreed with my interpretation. Unused holding tank for symbiotes."
"I did say unused."
"We opened it, Jack. Might have made a nice museum piece for the growing collection at Area 51, but as we could barely move it, there was no way we were adding it to the SGC souvenir collection."
"And that was it, nothing more?"
"A couple of shattered consoles, something that looked like an examination table. It's all in the recording I made."
"Which I've seen," Jack said flatly.
"Why do I feel like I'm being subjected to a second debriefing? You think we missed something? Left something out? Or is this a new type of foreplay I haven't heard of?"
Jack chuckled lightly and lifted his left hand to rest it on Daniel's exposed hip. It was later in the morning and the room was warm enough that they'd pushed the covers back completely. "No. Nothing like that."
But Daniel wasn't buying Jack's answer. "It's the time-frame, right? The amount of time we were missing and how come it took so long for us to find our way out?"
"How long after you ringed into the lab and realized you couldn't get out the same way, did you start looking for an alternative way out?"
Daniel stared at Jack quizzically, opened his mouth and then closed it again. They had already gone over this in the post mission briefing. Versions of events were re-hashed and pulled apart, and everything checked out. "About an hour," he said after a moment, when he looked to his right to find Jack holding his gaze and wearing an expression that told Daniel he was all business. "Maybe more."
"Why so long?" Jack raised a finger in the air. "Wait, don't answer that. I'll tell you why, because instead of securing the area and looking for another way out when you realized you couldn't reactivate the rings, you all went on a treasure hunt, right? Has to be close."
There was a beat of silence that seemed to stretch on forever. Daniel instinctively knew that there was something on Jack's mind that harkened all the way back to their initial debrief. Hell, probably all the way back to P2X-887 and the moment SG-1 cleared the event horizon. He likened it to Jack's sixth sense, or perhaps a lingering sense of responsibility for the team he no longer directly commanded. A measure of truth existed in Jack's 'version' of their events, and it was something Daniel had tried to gloss over in his report, simply because if he went off on a detailed narrative, he would be leaving the team open to unwanted scrutiny, most especially Sam. "Black and white," was all he could offer by way of an answer.
"And white. This is how I see you now. Perhaps not then," he waved a hand in the air in a representation of the past, and then flipped back on to his side again, "but it's what I see when I think back to when you were in charge of the team."
Jack looked confused. "How can this be about me?"
"It's not. But it is... in a way. I never realized it until this last mission, but the way you command, the way you assess every situation in the field, is very clear cut."
"Black and white."
"I probably should be." Jack closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. "No two people command the same way."
"No." Which was obvious, and Daniel knew this, yet since returning from the mission, it was also something that had kept him a little preoccupied. "Perhaps I'm not making myself clear."
"You haven't made yourself anything, yet."
"Tell me something. Is promotion a right given to time in rank over the need to have someone in that rank for the purpose of command?"
"You're talking about functionality of command within a unit. The SGC is unique in its command structure because we have sub-units being led by high ranking officers that would generally be commanding hundreds of men, not just three or four."
"And just how many SG team leaders have come from scientific backgrounds?"
"None. If we don't count Carter."
"Why? Because first and foremost, the SGC is a military operation. Our teams are staffed with well trained military personnel, supported by scientific consultants to cover our cultural and technological agendas. "
"While I scratched in the ground, you made sure that ground was secure."
"Basic, but true enough."
It was, and it had taken a good few years for Daniel to finally appreciate Jack's position on the team. "We might not have always agreed, but you always had my back."
"And Carter's and Teal'c's. There's more to leading a team than just looking the part."
Strangely, Daniel was more aware of Jack's former role on the team now that he had relinquished it to Sam, then he was when he was in command. He could see their arguments about rights and wrongs, when to stay and when to go, and when negotiating was doomed to fail, in a way he couldn't before. As revelations go, this one should have left Daniel with a feeling of clarity, but instead he felt a measure of anger at the often silly arguments had both in the field and at the mountain that could have easily been avoided had he understood Jack's position a little better.
"What happened in the lab?" Jack asked, as though he knew there was more to what the mission report had told him.
"Yeah. I trust her completely, but--"
"You don't trust her ability to command."
"No. It's not even that. At least, I don't think so. Once we'd ringed in, done a quick recon of the lab and realized we couldn't ring out, I thought her first instinct would have been to look for an alternate exit. I mean, there had to be another way or else how did Anubis build the lab in the first place?"
"It made sense?"
"To me it did. I think to Teal'c as well."
"Sam went straight for the pedestal. I knew we were on the clock, that there was a check-in to keep, especially since we'd found signs of recent Jaffa activity in the area."
"You left SG-3 hanging. They took some fire from a passing Alkesh."
"Figures that was how Ba'al knew we missed the check-in. What I don't get, though, is why he claimed to have captured us when there was the possibility we'd find a way out of the lab as quickly as we got in."
"Unless he'd already been there and knew the lay of the land."
"Doubtful. There might not have been a lot to find, but the place hadn't been visited in a long time. Dusty, and no sign of prints on the floor."
"You took the time to look?"
"Taught me everything you know."
"Too interested in the pedestal. She was taking readings while Teal'c and I were securing the area. The thing is, Teal'c reminded Sam that we were unable to contact anyone via radio and so it would be assumed that we were captured or missing. Finding a way out should have been a priority, but she appeared less interested in trying to get the rings to work or finding an alternative exit and more concerned that there was perhaps stuff in the lab we hadn't found."
"Which should have been your job."
Daniel nodded and pulled the pillow up under his chin a little. "Are you going to tell me this is all down to a style of command?"
"Honestly, I don't know, but I figured from your report and Teal'c's that there was something not quite right."
"I thought I was being careful."
"Brevity, Daniel. Hardly your forte when it comes to report writing. Now Teal'c I understand. Anything more than a hundred words and I start to worry."
"You think anyone will notice?"
"Hard to know, but as there were no cool discoveries and we didn't lose any lives trying to find you, it's more likely your reports will be handed to some clerk and filed away for future reference."
"What about Sam?"
"I told her you and Teal'c were praising of her command."
"Good. Wait... in how many words?"
"The abbreviated version. Very abbreviated." Jack turned in towards Daniel and pulled him close, kissing his forehead and draping his left arm over his waist. "I'll talk to Carter on Monday. No specifics, just enough to make sure she knows not to let her scientific curiosity get ahead of team safety."
"Time and place kind of thing?"
"Something like that."
"She'll be fine."
"Has to be, unless you want to break in another new colonel."
Daniel laughed into Jack's neck. "Why bother with colonels when I've got myself a general."