Jack hadn’t said a word since they left the base. Daniel knew he was furious by how he held the steering wheel and kept staring forward. The colonel had made it clear that he didn’t approve of Daniel’s attitudes, with a language that probably shouldn’t have been used in front of the natives with whom they were trying to establish a treaty.
"I just want to know one thing: why?" Jack finally broke the silence, but didn’t establish eye contact.
Daniel sighed. They had had the same conversation other times, and Jack just couldn’t understand. "I was just trying to save her."
"By jumping off a cliff?!" Jack grabbed the wheel harder.
"I couldn’t let her die!"
"Saving people isn’t the problem, almost killing yourself is!"
"I just wanted to save her!"
Daniel realized they were screaming. Not a good way to start the night. Dr. Fraiser was worried that the alien technology that saved his life could have some side effect, and didn’t want him to be alone for the next twenty-four hours. He would was going to be stuck at the base until Jack offered to watch him at home. Daniel didn’t understand why he did it if all he wanted to do was to criticize his behavior.
"But you were not saving her, Daniel. Nothing would have happened if you hadn’t interfered." Jack said calmer.
It was true. After the commotion was over, the girl informed them that the practice of jumping off that cliff toward the colored rays that were at the bottom was a rite of passage for her tribe, and that the still unexplained phenomenon protected them. Apparently, a proper psychological state was also necessary since Daniel’s fall was much more violent than hers was.
"I didn’t know that when I jumped. How can you say you wouldn’t do anything to help someone in that situation?"
"I'm not saying that, but sometimes nothing can be done. What was your plan? Jump and die with her?" Jack sounded tired; they had discussed the same thing on the planet and back at the SGC.
"I don’t know, something, anything."
"I don’t know, Jack. But I won’t let any more people die in front of me without doing something."
Jack pulled over, and looked at Daniel for the first time since they left the SGC. The concern in his eyes caused Daniel’s chest to tighten, he didn’t know how to handle it.
"Is this about your parents?" His voice was softer now, gentler. He knew it was a touchy subject.
Daniel looked down, suddenly wishing that Jack were still focused on the road. "No."
"Do you trust me, Daniel?"
It took him a moment to answer, still keeping his eyes downcast. "Of course."
"So don’t lie." It wasn’t a reprimand, Jack was still using the same gentle tone.
"They aren’t the only ones that I let die in front of me." He said almost in a whisper.
"You didn’t let them die, Daniel. You were a child, what could you have done?"
"Taken them out of there somehow." He kept his eyes fixed on his fingers, not wanting to face Jack’s look.
"Was everything the gamekeeper show you useless?" Jack placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder.
"He cheated, my mother would have come if I said I had hurt myself."
Jack began to caress his shoulder gently with his thumb in an almost instinctive movement. "You can’t know that, and you had no reason to take them from there."
"Still, I should have done something. I let them die."
"No, they died, and you were there. This doesn’t mean that you let them die. Not everything you can’t prevent is your fault."
Daniel felt his eyes sting and bit his lip, trying to hold back the tears. Finally, he looked up to meet Jack’s eyes. "Can we just go home? Honestly, this was a long day and I want to get some sleep."
Jack sighed, removing his hand. Daniel had raised his barriers again, forcing a conversation at the time would be useless. They went back onto the road, and a few minutes passed in silence.
"Was saving her life so important?" He asked finally.
"More important than your life?"
Daniel answered without thinking. "Yes." Once the word passed his lips, he realized he had said too much.
The question surprised him. He frowned, trying to understand what Jack meant by that. "What do you mean? For me, of course."
"For you her life was more important than yours?"
"Yes! I mean, saving her life was more important."
The mood was heavy. Daniel feared he had revealed too much about his motives. Some things he didn’t admit even to himself and couldn’t let Jack get the truth out of him.
Daniel didn’t answer, there was nothing he could say. They remained silent until they parked in front of Jack’s house. Daniel was about to exit the car, but Jack was faster, locking the door.
"You want to stay here in the car?" Daniel sneered.
Jack sighed, and turned to Daniel. "Daniel... Daniel, look at me." Daniel hesitated for a moment before facing him, the proximity made him nervous. "I jumped after you, there on the planet. Teal'c pulled me back and we almost fell together, but I wanted you to know that I tried to save you."
Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, buying time to think. "What am I supposed to do with this?!"
"I just wanted you to know."
"You spent all this time fighting me because I jumped when you jumped too? What is your problem?"
"I just wanted you to know that it wasn’t just your life that you were risking. It's always like this, you're always taking risks, but it's not just your life at stake. Sam and Teal'c and me, we risk our lives every time you do this, so next time think a little bit before trying to kill himself."
Daniel looked away and tried to force the door. "I want to get out." He said forcing the door again.
Jack unlocked the door and Daniel hurried, but stopped outside when he realized he had no way of unlocking the house. Jack passed him and left the door open. "You can come in anytime."
Daniel spent a few minutes leaning on the car, wondering what had happened. As much as he hated to admit it, he didn’t know how to deal with demonstrations so direct and prolonged of concern. He didn’t know how to handle the conversation that Jack seemed so willing to have, so maybe it was better to stay outside until he got the message and understood that he didn’t want to talk. Finally, he decided it was too cold to stay there and that maybe his behavior was a bit childish.
He got in and locked the door, dropping the keys on the kitchen table. Jack had just taken a lasagna from the oven and was putting in a pie. Daniel didn’t realize he had taken so long to get in, and now he felt ashamed.
"Need any help?"
"No, all done. Unless you want to get us some beers from the fridge."
Daniel grabbed two bottles while Jack finished setting the table. They began to eat; the silence between them was heavy. "Uhm... This lasagna is very good."
"Family Recipe. I assembled it before the mission."
Jack stared at Daniel; if the situation continued like this, the night would be long. Daniel licked his lips unconsciously, trying to think of some way to hold a conversation.
"I was reading about some interesting findings on..."
Jack put down his fork loudly. "So you just want to pretend nothing happened?"
Daniel sighed. "I just want to have a civilized conversation."
"Funny, that's what I'm trying to get. But you just want to make small talk, not have a conversation."
"Okay, just tell me one thing and we can stop talking about this. I have an idea of why you behave this way, either you trying to kill yourself or you think these people's lives are worth more than yours. So what's the answer?"
Daniel paused for a moment in shock. "You can’t really think I'm suicidal!" The indignation clear in his voice.
"I don’t know, Daniel. All I know is that you risk your life at every opportunity."
"I don’t want to die, Jack. I thought you knew that much."
"Unless it's to save someone else’s life."
"My life isn’t worth any more than anyone else’s." Jack got up and circled the table, standing next to Daniel. He crouched beside him to meet his eyes.
"To me, it is worth so much more."
"All I can think is that these people may have families, people who care for them, a place to return. And I..."
"Not like this."
"I care about you, I don’t want to lose you. Don’t you understand that?"
Daniel looked away. "I understand you don’t want to lose anyone under your command..."
Jack touched his chin, turning Daniel’s face to face him. "No, that's not why I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose you because the SG-1 is the closest thing I have to a family, and because I love you."
Daniel closed his eyes. "Okay, we're friends, you care for me. But Major Kawalsky also was your friend and you got over his death pretty quickly."
Jack moved his hand from Daniel’s chin to his cheek, and Daniel shivered at the contact. "No, Daniel. Daniel, look at me." Daniel opened his eyes; his melancholy expression aggravated by the blue eyes that began to moisten. “Daniel, I love you. And I don’t mean that I love you because you are my friend.” Jack sighed. “Look, I know this is inappropriate and if you want to I promise I’ll never talk about this again, but I need you to know how important you are to me.”
Daniel's heart was beating so fast it hurt, and for a moment, he thought he was having a heart attack. He couldn’t breathe, and felt as if time was standing still. He couldn’t believe those words could be true. It wasn’t the idea that Jack had fallen in love with another man, the very notion that Jack could love him like that was what he couldn’t believe. And before he could stop himself, he said. "I don’t believe you."
Jack felt a tightness in his chest. He didn’t think it was possible, but having his feelings rejected didn’t hurt as much as having their veracity denied. "I wouldn’t lie to you, not about this."
"You can’t love me back, you can’t." He said lowering his face.
Daniel's words gave him hope. It wasn’t a rejection, he just needed to make Daniel believe. "Can’t? Now, Daniel, it would have been impossible not to fall in love with someone like you. You are dedicated, loyal, brave, affectionate, always cares about others... It's so hard to believe that I could love someone like that?"
Daniel didn’t answer, his fists grabbing his pants as if he needed something to hold on to. He wanted to believe, but he couldn’t, he just couldn’t risk it.
Jack gently removed his glasses and placed them at the table. "Daniel, let me prove what I'm saying. Can I kiss you?"
Daniel tried to answer, but couldn’t find his voice, so he nodded. Jack put both hands on his face, and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Daniel let his instincts take over and gave himself completely. In his eagerness to get closer to Jack, he lost the support of the chair, and Jack had to move his hands to Daniel’s side to break his fall. They didn’t separate despite the uncomfortable position, it was only when the fire alarm began to ring that they came back to reality.
Jack growled. "Fuck! The pie. Stay there, I'll be right back."
Daniel was kneeling on the floor, trying to process what had just happened. Jack had said he loved him, Jack had kissed him, and he kissed Jack back. The only explanation he could think was that he was hallucinating. He was already thinking about how to explain this symptom to Dr. Fraiser when Jack started the snap his fingers in front of Daniel’s eyes.
"Danny boy? Still with me?"
"Uhm?" Daniel shook his head. Everything seemed so confusing, reality didn’t match what he believed was possible. "I... I don’t understand what is happening."
Jack sighed. "If we're going too fast, just tell me. What is happening is that I love you and I think you also have feelings for me. We kissed and now you're down on the floor with a lost puppy look."
"You keep saying that."
"That you... me... you..." He couldn’t say it, it was too unreal.
"That I love you? That's because it's true."
"Jack, I love you, but I never thought you could... do you really...?" He couldn’t rationalize what was happening, so he gave up on trying.
"Yes, Daniel. I really love you. Now, I need to know one thing. Are you feeling any side effects of the alien lights or you do always react this well when someone hits on you?"
"Hey, you were angry with me until a few minutes ago and then decided to kiss me, you have no right to judge my reaction."
Jack smiled. "That's my Daniel."
Daniel scratched his head, slightly embarrassed. "So, will we stay here staring at each other and kneeling on the floor or will you take me to your room?"
"Do you want to go to my room?"
Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck, getting closer to his face. "To be honest, I do." He decided to surrender completely to what was happening and leave the thinking for later, as his brain wasn’t being much help.
Jack gave him a peck before getting up, pulling Daniel with him. He hadn’t managed to keep Daniel away for more than a few seconds, so he had to find the way to his room as they kissed passionately. They hit some furniture on the way, before finally finding the bed.
"Oh Daniel, I love you so much, let me show you how much I love you." Jack said between kisses on his jaw as he tried impatiently to remove three layers of Daniel’s clothing at once.
Daniel raised his arms to help remove them; Jack’s hot hands against his bare skin seemed to spread heat waves throughout his body. "Jack, please..." He wanted to ask Jack to stop repeating that, he had put himself in a state of suspension of disbelief, and every time Jack repeated that statement, something in his mind insisted that he should analyze that and that was the last thing he wanted to do. So he focused on taking off Jack’s clothes, hoping he would stop with that soon. In the back of his mind, a little voice kept saying 'he's lying, he's just saying this to get you to bed', but he didn’t care, he wanted take maximum advantage of the situation even if after this he were to be dumped.
Jack grabbed Daniel as if he could somehow keep him safe and in his arms forever. He wanted to show how he felt, and he was always better with actions than with words. He was torn between his desire to be kind and act slowly and his desire to follow Daniel’s frenetic pace. However, he keep in mind that his goal was to show Daniel how important he was to Jack.
"Daniel, you don’t know what seeing you like this does to me. You always give everything of yourself in all you do, don’t you? You devote so much energy, if I knew before what I could be the target of all your attention..."
"Shut up and fuck me." Daniel cut him, freeing Jack from his belt and sliding a hand into his pants.
Jack grunted as he felt Daniel’s hand involve his cock, and needed a calming breath. He kissed Daniel passionately, before leaving to take what was left of his clothes and shoes, and do the same to Daniel. He paused for a moment at the foot of the bed, the image of Daniel exposed in this way in his bed was almost too much for him to take.
"Damn, you are so beautiful." Jack said before returning to kiss Daniel.
"Fuck. Me. Now." Daniel said between his teeth before turning his attention to the curve of Jack’s neck.
Jack smiled, straining to grab the lube on the dresser without breaking contact. He imagined that a linguist would be more vocal, but Daniel concentrated all his oral efforts to mark every inch of skin he could reach.
When Jack pushed the first finger in, Daniel bit down lightly on his neck. Daniel muscles contracted around him and the anticipation left Jack breathing heavily. He added more lube before adding the second finger.
"Daniel, you have no idea how beautiful you are, you almost make me come just by looking at you, I love you so much..." Jack whispered affectionately in Daniel’s ear when he was interrupted.
"Stop!" Daniel shouted angrily.
Jack removed his fingers and pulled away slightly, with a worried expression. "Are you alright? What did I do?" When he got no response, he added. “Daniel, please talk to me. What happened? Did I hurt you?”
Daniel turned away. "You've got me where you want me, stop lying to me."
Jack wiped his hand on the sheet before placing both of them on the sides of Daniel’s face, gently leading him to look at Jack again. "You still think I'm lying?" He tried not to let the hurt show in his voice. "Daniel, do you really think I would lie to you like that? After all we've been through together? I respect you too much for that. And it has been a while, but I'm not desperate to the point of risking my relationship with one of my best friends and my job for a meaningless fuck. I love you, and I’m willing to do whatever you want of me to prove it."
"No, you don’t love me, so just stop this."
"Why is it so hard for you to believe?"
"Because people only compliment me when they want something, and that sentence is the worst of all because it’s never true and everyone just says that when they want to force me to do something."
"Daniel, I would never force you to do anything! You are important to me and I want you to appreciate yourself as much as I do, which is why I'm praising you. And I said I love you because I wanted you to know that you mean a lot to me, and that this is not something I'm doing because I'm bored or trying to get some company or something."
Daniel bit his lip. What Jack said made sense, but years of trauma had taken him to that point, he couldn’t just accept what Jack was saying. "Either we can continue what we were doing and you fuck me without further discussion, or you can give me the dignity to get dressed and go sleep on the couch, but I won’t stand here listening to you lie to me."
Jack sighed and laid down next to Daniel, gently leading him into a hug. "I won’t force you to talk or stay here if you do want to, but if I can get you some comfort like this I would like to do that."
Daniel froze for a moment, in conflict. Finally, he let himself be hugged by Jack and snuggled into his chest. He felt the tears that began to fall and cursed himself for it. "I can’t believe you made me cry, it's the first time this happens when I'm in bed with someone."
Jack kissed the top of his head. "It's okay, I won’t judge you, you can cry all you want."
"I don’t think you would lie to me, but I can’t believe what you said is true. I thought that if I could ignore everything I was thinking then I could enjoy what was happening, but the conflict is too much."
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
"I don’t... I don’t want you to know how damaged I am."
Jack hugged him tighter. "Don’t say that, I would never think that about you. You can tell me anything, I promise. Just trust me."
"I trust you, and I want to believe. I want to believe everything you said. Only then, I remember all the people who lied to me. Nick said he loved me and that was why he was handing me the social service; the parents in foster homes always said they loved me when they threatened to send me back if I didn’t do as I was told; one of my professors in college told me he loved me and after sleeping with me for two weeks he failed me in his class and tried to get me expelled for plagiarism using a work he forged; I’ve lost an important publication because a rival who said she loved me was just seducing me to steal all my research while I slept; I got fired once because an artifact thief dated to me for almost a month to gain access to the museum, and I could go on. Since my parents died, the only person who said that loved me and didn’t stab me in the back afterwards was Sha're, and to this day I wonder if she really loved me or was just glad that the arranged marriage was better than her expected." He talked more in those couple of minutes than he had previously the entire night, and felt a great relief to verbalize these thoughts for the first time.
Jack drew circles on Daniel’s back, offering comfort in silence as Daniel vented. "Sha're loved you, truly. To the end of her life, she loved you. Anyone who looked at you two could see that your feelings were true."
"It must be weird for you, talking about my dead wife in this situation."
"Daniel, I'm too old to be competing for the exclusive love of a widower. You loved Sha're, and I believe that you still love her. But I also think that you love me and we're both mature enough to handle it."
"She rarely say it in English, she almost always used Ancient Egyptian. I liked that, I think the disgust I have is more of words than of feeling."
Jack made Daniel look up and gently kissed his lips. "You could have told me this before, I'm not as uneducated as you may think."
"What do you mean by that?"
"That if you had told me that it was easier to believe if I didn’t say that in English, I could have done it before. Io ti amo. Yo te amo. Ich liebe dich. Watashi wa anata o aishite. Je t'aime. I may not speak twenty-three languages like some people, but I can work well with eighteen." He said punctuating each sentence with a kiss.
Daniel laughed. "It’s thirty-one now, and I think this was the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me."
"Yeah, that's me, Mr. Romantic."
They were silent for long moments, enjoying the company of each other. Daniel tried to put his emotions in place and understand what was happening, and Jack was willing to give him as much time as he needed. After some time, Daniel finally spoke again. "You really do love me." It wasn’t a question.
"You're finally getting it."
"And I love you."
"That's very good to hear."
Daniel lifted his chest and gave Jack a flirtatious smile. "So did I kill the mood definitely when I insisted on accusing you of lying, I started crying and told you my whole life story?"
Jack laughed. "I wouldn’t say definitely. What do you have in mind?"
Daniel began circulating Jack's thigh and bit his lip. "I was thinking that I love you and I would like make love to you tonight."
Jack kissed him slowly, savoring the contact. Their pace was different this time, giving and receiving affection, letting their actions express their feelings. Jack began to prepare Daniel again, whispering praises in his ear and giving him kisses on the neck. This time, Daniel accepted what Jack was saying, at least for the moment. There would be times when he would feel doubt, the traumas of the past were too strong to be erased in one night, but when Jack and he were together in this way, believing his words was possible.
"Ready?" Jack ask removing his fingers.
Daniel tried to make a snarky remark, but only managed to produce a disappointed moan when Jack’s calloused fingers stopped their caress.
"I'll take that as a yes." He said kissing his neck. "Will you complain if I say that you really are beautiful?"
"I’ll complain if you keep stalling, you can say whatever you want as long as I can feel you inside me."
Jack smiled. "I don’t think I can do both at the same time." He added more lube before slowly starting the penetration, and realized he was right. He couldn’t concentrate on anything but Daniel’s warmth around him.
"I'm not made of glass, you can go..." Daniel lost his train of thought when Jack hit his prostate.
Jack began to move faster, touching Daniel at the same rhythm. He meant to show how much he appreciated Daniel somehow, but couldn’t concentrate with Daniel contracting his muscles around him. "Damn, you feel so fucking good." Good enough, for now it would have to do.
His orgasm came with a speed that surprised him, but he managed to maintain control long enough to make Daniel come in his hand. He dropped himself back on the mattress and pulled Daniel back to the position they were in before.
Suddenly, Daniel’s insecurity was back. He didn’t know what he should do next. "Uhm, do you want me to go sleep on the couch?" He asked hesitantly.
Jack looked at him horrified and pulled him tighter to himself. "No way, I want you here with me. Do you still not get it?"
Daniel snuggled with Jack. "Just confirming."
"Look, I know what I'm asking of you isn’t easy, you can’t ignore a lifetime of experiences. But I am willing to prove my feelings are true every time you feel doubt."
"I know, I trust you. Please don’t let me forget that."
Jack kissed the top of his head. "I will do my best."
Daniel woke to an insistent poking at his ribs. He tried to slap whatever was bothering him, but Jack was quicker at catching his hand, and put a coffee mug under his nose. Daniel opened his eyes slightly, and closed them again.
"Time to wake up, sleeping beauty." Jack said, putting the coffee on the nightstand, and kissed Daniel's forehead.
Daniel grunted in reply, and tried to stuff his head on the pillow.
"No, no, no. The last time I called you, you said 'if there’s no coffee, fuck off', so I made you coffee and now you will wake up." Jack pulled the pillows, throwing them across the bed.
"I didn’t say that." Daniel protested, trying to force his eyes to stay open.
"You said. And that was the second time I tried to wake you, the first time you tried to suffocate me with a pillow when I gave you good morning" He helped Daniel to sit, returning the pillows when he thought he was already awake enough.
Daniel squinted. "I don’t know if you're messing with me, but I don’t care. Coffee."
Jack laughed. "When you said you weren’t a morning person, and was dangerous before the first sip of coffee, this wasn’t what I had in mind."
He handed Daniel the coffee mug, and he deserved some credit for knowing him well, because it was a soup mug, much bigger than a regular cup of coffee. As he began to drink it, Daniel felt his mood improve. It could be just psychological, but coffee had a positive effect on him.
"At least you can’t say you weren’t warned. Do you remember where I left my glasses?"
Jack took them from the nightstand and adjusted them in Daniel’s face as soon as he finished his coffee. "On top of the table, but I got them for you."
It was only then that Daniel stared at Jack. He was smiling, more than that, he was glowing. They were screwed, there was no way the whole base personnel wouldn’t discover what had happened, and they would be fired, he thought to himself. He was surprised to find that he didn’t care about it all that much, Jack’s good humor was contagious.
Jack’s smile increased and he took a tray of the nightstand. "Now, try to eat fast. You still have to take a shower and we have to go to work in ten minutes."
Daniel stared at the tray as if it was a completely unknown alien object. "You cooked breakfast for me?"
"It wasn’t the original plan, but since it took me more than half an hour to wake you up..."
Daniel felt his eyes sting and tried in vain to fight back the tears. He cursed himself for crying in front of Jack again, but couldn’t help it. "Damn, I swear I'm not usually this emotional."
"Daniel, talk to me, what happened?" Jack asked worried, stroking Daniel's cheek lightly.
"Nobody gave me breakfast in bed since my parents died." He said wiping his tears and trying to control himself.
"Then you haven’t been treated the way you deserve." Jack kissed him, and almost dropped the tray in the process.
Daniel began to eat, a little embarrassed by the way Jack looked at him. It was the same look that Daniel directed at particularly interesting artifacts, and being the target of such scrutiny wasn’t something he was used to.
"This is really happening, isn’t it?"
"Yeah. To me it also feels like a dream."
"We'll be fired."
"Nah, at most we’ll be forced to change teams, maybe I’ll get a demotion, maybe they’ll you from field work. We are too valuable to dismiss like that. And this will only happen if the wrong people find out, and we won’t let that happen."
"And how do you intend to prevent this?"
"We'll think of a way. And the first step of the plan involves going to work today, and on time. So you better run to the bathroom."
Daniel smirked. "Do you want to join me?"
"I'd love to, but we're already late. Wake up when I call you next time." Jack kissed him and practically forced him out of bed. "You have five minutes to get ready, or I’ll drag you to the base as you are."
Daniel smiled and went to the shower. Under the hot water, he began to reflect on what had happened. It still seemed too good to be true. 'Jack loves me, Jack loves me.' He repeated to himself like a mantra. At each repetition, he believed in those words more.
He smiled when Jack knocked on the door and he complained about being late, he could get used to this.