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It had been a good day...for once. Ever since that star had landed on my shoulder and I'd had to start watching my team going through the gate without me, things had been strained in the world of O'Neill. Long hours, tedious paperwork, a million mindless decisions to be made every day - as if I care what kind of paper we have in our copiers or what the vegetarian dish is on a Thursday! And then, of course, there's the handful of decisions that dictate the course of the planet's future.

It had been a really bad week, even by SGC standards. Jacob dying had hit me harder than I expected; I would miss him, if not his snaky little buddy. Then Carter dumped Pete and came to chat with me about life, the universe and everything, up to and including how she felt about me. That was an awkward moment to end all awkward moments. I'd known about her feelings, I just hadn't realised how strong they'd been. I think I let her down gently, although my reasons were weak. I could have gone with the truth, but that would have caused more pain, so I told her that my job came first and always would.

But the shit had really hit the fan when Daniel had staged the latest in his string of disappearing acts. One minute he was with Carter and Teal'c, and the next, gone. They couldn't even tell me where or by whose hand. I mean, Carter's only had him a few months and she's lost him already. I know I used to lose him too, but I always knew who had him and where to go to retrieve said archaeologist.

So I did the good General act, keeping the home fires burning for the SGC's favourite comeback kid, dealing with imminent global peril and whether to order 2H or 3H pencils for the archaeology department. But I was worried sick when my workload slackened off enough for thoughts of him to slide unbidden into my head. Of course, I was determined not to show it - that's my job.

And then Carter wanted to 'talk' about it, about where he might be and whether or not he was alive, and I was a little...short with her. I had enough visions of what had happened to him, without her brilliant brain giving me more variations on a theme.

I knew it was him though, when things started going our way, when an unlooked for break came out of nowhere and against massive odds we emerged the surprising winners on a day we should never have survived. And I so desperately wanted to be proved right! When he called from my office, I tried not to let my elation, relief and, I'll admit it, smugness show on my face.

So he was back - and how! I swear every time Oma sends him back he gets better looking. Don't think I didn't notice Bra'tac noticing either. At one hundred and forty whatever, he should know better.

As I said - a good day. The boy was back and I was that pleased to see him that I bundled him from the Infirmary, using all the power of rank at my disposal to extract him in time to take him home and reassure myself that he was ok.

When I say reassure, I had to settle for the look of him and the sound of his voice, when all I wanted to do was get a good hold on him and hug him until someone surgically removed me. Clueless bastard that he is; I could have branded 'Property of D. Jackson' across my forehead and he would still have given me a guileless smile and asked if I needed an aspirin for the pain.

So I sat too close to him on my sofa, I plied him with expensive wine and I took what I could get; my friend, alive, warm, breathing and getting more and more talkative as the afternoon became evening.

I don't remember how we got round to talking about sex, Daniel is not real big on the whole guy-talk thing, so his private life was patchy in my mind to say the least - even to me, his best friend. He asked me about my first time and I regaled him with the intimate details of a pubescent cringe fest, which had him laughing out loud and looking so relaxed and dishevelled that I asked him right back.

Surprisingly he launched into a story about his University days and about how his first sexual encounter had come at a most critical point in his life. Seeing as Daniel had been at University from the age of ten, going by all the letters he has after his name, I stopped him and asked him how old he was at the time.

He sniggered. "Twenty-one," he admitted sheepishly. "Pretty pathetic, huh? As a matter of fact, it was my birthday."

I smiled non-committally, not wanting him to stop the story.

"I wasn't...popular, shall we say? I was way too smart, opinionated, driven, unapproachable...I could go on." He smiled that self- deprecating smile that always makes my guts clench. "It wasn't that I didn't want friends or romantic involvements in my life, but I just didn't really know how to make myself acceptable. So, anyway, my lack of action on the dating scene had marked me out to some of the less intelligent students; three in particular, whom I was helping with their studies - they were flunking and one of the lecturers thought helping them might win me some friends."

Daniel gave a little laugh that made my heart ache. He was sprawled across the sofa, boneless and comfortable, but in his eyes, I could see the memory of his loneliness.

"So, one night they decide to teach 'the gay geek' a lesson, after one too many post game beers."

I hurriedly swallowed my mouthful of beer and asked, "You were gay?" I thought I had betrayed my overwhelming interest in the answer with my choking and high-pitched yelp, but Daniel was caught up in the memory and I thought I'd got away with it.

"No, I wasn't," Daniel supplied. Should have known better, drunk or not, Daniel doesn't miss a trick. "Why, would it matter?"

"Noooooooo," I hurried to reassure him. "Just wondered, doesn't matter to me."

"That's just as well," Daniel nodded approvingly, "Cos the guy who saved me from those idiots? He was my first time."

It took me a few minutes to realise that Daniel was still talking, carrying on with the story in a calm voice, smiling at the parts he remembered fondly, his face flushed from the wine, and content to be telling me this secret, after all this time. I guess being skewered by the Lego Carter and ascended had made him a little defenceless, a little more open than he had felt around me previously. That and the wine I had hoped would make him feel exactly like this: open...receptive...relaxed, in case this time I had had the courage to tell him that he was my world. Divine retribution, eh? Be careful what you wish for.

I could only hear one word in every ten as Daniel told me the story of his deliverance by this older man. A roaring in my ears and the effort of keeping my mouth shut lost the finer points of the tale for me. I was adrift, pulled from my safe harbour and swamped with the waves of his words battering over me, each making it harder for me to withstand the next one.

"Tell me about this guy," I growled. Daniel cast a glance at me that told me I was behaving strangely.

"He was a good man, Jack. He didn't force himself on me, if that's what you're thinking. I needed someone and, at that moment, I needed him. He was gentle, he was kind, and he saved my life."

"Were you together long?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"No. He told me he couldn't stay, said he didn't belong here - I remember that, clearly. I never saw him again."

It was at that point that white flashes started to explode behind my eyes. Suddenly I hated that guy, like no one I had ever hated before. Rationally, I knew that I was being ridiculous, but at my most basic level I felt that he had taken what was mine...and what was worse, he hadn't realised what he'd had, and had left Daniel alone again.

My hands shook with the need to hit something, my breath came in short violent gulps and I could feel the burning crimson patches on my cheeks.

"Good story," I grated. "I'm gonna turn in. Your stuff is in the spare room; you're too drunk to drive. I'll see you in the morning. Night, Daniel." I don't know if I fooled him; I doubt it.

I got to the dark familiarity of my room on sheer willpower and proceeded to quietly allow my anger become fury.

I listened to Daniel knock about the house for a few minutes. He tentatively tapped on my door before I heard the quiet click of the spare room door closing. A quick glance at my clock told me it was only ten pm.

I lay, fully clothed on the bed, my mind as far from sleep as it had ever been. I ran over and over again the image that Daniel's words had lodged there and tasted only bile. I must have taken in more of his description than I'd realised as the pieces slotted into place in my head.

I saw him as I had first known him; long haired, naive and gentle - not as he was now; sleek, built and dangerous - and I felt cold as I thought of what an easy target he must have made for the prick who lucked out the night he chased off a couple of college jocks and got the gratitude and attention of a young Daniel Jackson.

Daniel had mentioned coming out of the library and being jumped on the way home by the three morons; it had been getting dark and the guy had come out of nowhere to help him. I imagined the guy; Daniel had said he was older and I even gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he hadn't realised what he had until after he'd saved the outmanned young Daniel.

Now, I'd like to be able to say I was out of my mind, that my rage compelled me, without thoughts of consequences. But that would be a lie.

I knew.

Daniel had told me enough and I knew what I had to do. I knew what the angles were and I knew what the ramifications might be, and I accepted them all, coldly and without question. The icy edge of anger kept me focussed and motivated, running scenarios through my mind and discarding unacceptable outcomes.

I don't know if I believe in luck or serendipity, but the following day was going to deliver into my lap exactly what I needed; so I decided to take it - it was as simple as that. And then, finally, I slept.

I woke early, packed some clothes in my briefcase and spent ten minutes on my laptop, using my secure line to the mountain to complete my last few requirements. Then I was moving through my dark house and out into the grey dawn, leaving Daniel sleeping, along with any vestiges of rational thought.

I drove to the airport and abused my rank privileges again, having them chopper me to Nevada a few hours earlier than scheduled. Only nine hours after Daniel told me his story, I was on the ground at Groom Lake, carrying out the most fucked up plan of my life as calmly as if I was doing the weekly grocery run.

Some faceless bureaucrat with a couple of SF's gave me the third degree about irregular hours and last minute orders before leading me to the hangar. Retina scans, voiceprints and everything in triplicate finally got me into the most secret place in the US, after my office. And there she was, the object of my quest and the thing that could make this one area of my life just peachy.

I know how desperate it sounds, I realise how wacko it must look, but I figured I was owed this one fucking tiny thing after a life of service to my country and my planet. I rationalised that changing this one little thing could hardly make a massive difference. It was such a small thing, so insignificant, so harmless. The only people it affected were him and me, so I took the chance that I wouldn't come back as a radish or something, and I did it.

I stole the time ship.

I had been due to pay the Groom Lake Facility a visit today anyway, so arriving a couple of hours early hadn't raised too many eyebrows.

I have the unenviable distinction of being the highest-ranking possessor of the Ancient gene in the US Air Force. The brains at Area 51 had had the damn thing for nigh on three months and hadn't even been able to get it off the ground, although they had managed to power up the time interface...whatever that was.

I had been due to 'help' the geeks with their studies, trying to find out how to make it work and how it understood commands. It couldn't have fallen any better.

I smiled politely and pointedly until the pencil neck left me alone, posting the SF's on the doors and I walked up the ramp and onto the deck of the tiny craft while they went to call in the scientists I had been slated to meet.

The annoying what-ifs that had been assaulting me all the way here suddenly became massive doubts about my ability to get the ship to do what I needed it to do. Nothing seemed familiar; there was no feeling of recognition, just the memory of trying to fly the damn thing on Maybourne's planet.

I sat down in the pilot's chair and although I didn't remember it, it seemed to recognise me. The dark panels lit up, holographic displays flickered out of nowhere and the ship hummed to life. A sense of anticipation hung over the ship, a ready willingness, and I forced all thoughts of failure out of my mind.

Carter had known what terrible temptations a ship like this posed to a man like me. I joked about jumping back to watch classic baseball games, but she knew what I would have used it for. She explained, using the death of her mother as an example, how changing something so fundamental to a person's development might cause massive differences in the time line. She said she may never have joined the Air Force or tried so hard to crack the world of astrophysics. But I knew she meant Charlie and how I would never have taken the mission to Abydos had he still been alive. I guess Daniel must have considered the possibility that he could stop his parents being killed too, but he never said.

For a brief second I considered doing it, going back and saving my boy and damn the consequences if it meant I could be with him. But I knew I couldn't. Too much had hinged on that moment.

I guess the death of one little boy against the destruction of a planet must seem clear cut from the outside looking in, but some days...

I closed my eyes and rolled my head to ease the tension from my shoulders. The thing I was going back to change was not a temporal crossroads; it was a lonely, miserable, pathetically grateful young man who had been taken advantage of by an asshole who hadn't known him and hadn't wanted to know him for more than one night.

My way was clear, I would let him save Daniel from the beating, then somehow make sure that he never went back to Daniel's place and that Daniel's first time wouldn't be with a pervert who preyed on men young enough to be his son. Daniel had told me he had no idea how old the guy had been, he'd guessed forties. It made me sick to think of this guy persuading Daniel to be intimate with him.

Taking a deep breath I thought about what I wanted the ship to do. I thought about it lifting gently off from the cradle it was on, about it turning towards the open hangar doors and moving forward.

When I opened my eyes the SF's were staring open mouthed as the ship began to comply, hovering a foot off the ground. I wished I'd thought of that; as soon as they saw the ship fly away, they'd be onto security and I'd have fighters scrambled to bring me home. I needed them not to know where I was. I watched stunned as the guards' mouths dropped even further and they started to scan the hangar, looking for me. A cloaking device - now that I hadn't known.

Quickly before they thought fast enough to close the hangar door, I eased the ship out into the night sky, climbing quickly and pointing the nose towards Chicago and nineteen years ago.

The Chicago part turned out to be simple - and fast, only a matter of minutes saw me circling over the city and the university campus; it was the 1986 part that caused problems.

Don't ask me how I knew that we had not travelled in time - I didn't need to look out of the window to check, I just knew it would be the same 2005 skyline. I tried repeatedly to engage the time drive and was on the verge of giving it up as impossible, when somehow I understood that the jump was too short. I didn't know the ship could communicate information to me as easily as I gave it direction, but that is what it felt like. A red flashing light could not have been plainer.

Quickly, I adjusted my command to make a bigger jump, willing the ship to comply. There was no sensation to suggest that anything had happened, but once again I was sure that it had. A glimpse outside confirmed that the lights of Chicago had gone, and what I was now flying over was an empty landscape other than trees, grassland and a river. I had successfully jumped 500 years back.

Knowing that Daniel would be horrified at my lack of interest, I closed my eyes again and told the ship, with as much accuracy and authority as I could muster, to take me to July 8th 1986, early evening. As it complied, I asked myself one last time if I was prepared to go through with this and if my motives were entirely altruistic. Uncomfortable with my answers - resounding yes and no, respectively - I looked for somewhere to hide my invisible ship near to the buildings of the Oriental Institute. In an act the seemed somehow prophetic, I took off my dog tags and left them in the ship.

I had chosen non-descript, dark clothes to change into, being pretty sure that my wardrobe had not changed all that much in the last 20 years, so I blended in well with the people who passed me in the summer evening light. I carefully picked a spot to watch the library where I would have maximum warning of Daniel's approach and a view of all the building in case he exited through a different door.

I had in my mind an image of Daniel, taken on that first trip through the gate and still in his personnel records, if you had the right access codes. Floppy hair, wide blue eyes, slim and smiling. I had looked up his address from 1986. I knew Chicago; I'd been born here and had visited my Grandparents here often enough to know my way around. So I knew where to go if I'd already missed him, or if he walked right past me without me recognising him.

Fat chance. I spotted him the second he came out of the library, his arms full of books, his glasses sliding off his nose and his head down. Who was this guy? Dorian Grey? He looked just the same as he did now apart from the hair and the muscle mass.

The sun had bleached his brown hair a kind of dark gold colour and he had it tied back into a short ponytail, accentuating the high, fine cheekbones. His skin was tanned and his slenderness, clothed in pale jeans and a white t-shirt made him look taller than he did in 2005.

He covered the ground between us quickly, watching the floor and bounding along so fast that I didn't have time to react and withdraw. He passed within three feet of me, his eyes flickering to me warily before a small, shy smile fleetingly crossed his lips and he was gone.

I stood stupidly, staring at the spot where he had been for a few moments, before turning to watch him strike off across the grass towards a small stand of trees and the city streets beyond.

I was astounded by him, struck dumb. He was beautiful in as much as a 6 foot, long legged, twelve stone man can be said to be beautiful. He had an air of suppressed life about him, as if it was ready to spring from him at any moment, a quiet confidence in the way he moved and a sweet gentleness in his smile that I was sure was about to be sullied, for all that he remembered the encounter so fondly.

With effort, I forced down the inappropriate but entirely understandable reaction he caused in me. I waited until he was far enough away, and then matched his pace and direction, my eyes scanning for what I knew awaited him. So it was that I saw three young men peel off from a gaggle of kids horsing around on the grass and follow him into the spit of trees.

I hung back, my senses on high alert, watching for Daniel's rescuer.

"Hey, Jackson," I heard one of the jocks sneer. Quickly, I took cover behind a broad trunked oak, peering round to keep Daniel in my sights. He had paused and turned to look at the guys following him.

"Hi, Michael," he said uncertainly, his eyes moving from one man to the next. "Er...Hi guys, what's going on?" Daniel licked his lips nervously, in a gesture I knew so well, I felt my stomach flip in recognition.

"There's a rumour going around that you and Professor Leach are more than just friends, geek. S'that true? Is that why you ace all his classes?" the shortest man demanded. His thick neck and barrel shoulders indicated that he was physically powerful, but he was still slim and young and quick on his feet.

"Yeah, what's a pass cost you, Jackson?" the blonde guy sneered with a suggestive roll of his eyes. I clenched my fists, as even in the semi darkness under the trees I could see the purple flush stain Daniel's cheeks.

He turned without a word and started walking towards the edge of the trees and the open street. I followed, keeping my distance but making sure that the group were all in my line of sight. I saw the quiet guy run around Daniel and appear in front of him, pulling Daniel up short and causing him to look over his shoulder to find the other two. Loosely, they had him surrounded. Daniel stilled, facing his first antagonist. "What do you want?" he asked, tiredly.

Michael swallowed the last of his beer, crushed the can and threw it at Daniel's chest. Daniel watched it bounce off him and onto the ground, before looking back up to the drunken man.

"Wanna know what you do for him, Jackson. What does he see in you, apart from a quick fuck when you need an A of course?"

Daniel flinched at Michael's words, his muscles visibly tensing beneath his shirt.

"Well, it could be the ability to speak in words of more than one syllable," Daniel said calmly. Looking into his face, I recognised the closed expression I have seen before in the presence of many System Lords. So Daniel's best Goa'uld baiting style had been honed right here on Earth. I knew how well it worked on the Goa'uld and I reckoned it would be at least as effective on College Jocks.

From the escalating noise in the trees, I knew I had guessed correctly and I began frantically searching the surroundings for the older guy Daniel had spoken of. Where the fuck was he?

The group of kids had moved off and the campus grounds were practically empty but for the odd student leaving the library. I scanned what I could see of the street, craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the guy I had come to thwart, but who, by now, I was starting to get desperate to see.

I returned my attention to the argument as Daniel was getting into his stride.

"You know it is often those men who have homosexual preferences themselves that accuse others of having them - to detract attention from their own desires," Daniel told his audience. I groaned inwardly, knowing how that was going to go down.

Michael shoved at Daniel, just toying with him really, but enough to make my death wish friend stumble. Another push from behind while he was still off balance had Daniel on his knees. Defiantly, he looked up at the three men hanging menacingly over him. I held my breath, willing Daniel to keep his mouth shut for once.

For all that he was behaving like an idiot, irritating his attackers, he looked glorious; his jaw set and his eyes flashing as he deliberately and slowly got to his feet.

"You should watch your mouth, Jackson. You don't have a whole load of friends around here that we need to worry about," Michael threatened.

Daniel looked at him with arrogance and contempt in his eyes, but he didn't say anything, and I thought that maybe, just maybe he had read how much he had pissed these guys off.

I had turned to look again for my target, thinking that the worst was over and that he was about to swoop in and claim his prize when I heard Daniel cry out.

The quiet guy had obviously attacked Daniel from behind as I saw him standing over a winded Daniel on his knees in the leaf litter. He smiled, pleased with his handiwork, then viciously and needlessly kicked Daniel in the side, causing him to sprawl headlong into the dirt.

With a groan Daniel rolled himself onto his uninjured side and tried to sit himself up, but I could see that now the first blow had been struck, the boys were itching for more. They moved menacingly in towards Daniel, who was too dazed to see them coming.

I broke cover, running parallel to where the oblivious men had Daniel cornered and got a good view of the street beyond the trees; there was no one in sight. Desperately, I doubled back; I could hear Daniel asking them not to hurt him, promising that he wouldn't say anything about this. To my horror the park was empty too; Daniel's rescuer wasn't coming. I knew that Daniel would be short work for three well-built drunken young men and that if his saviour was going to act he would at least be in sight by now.

I heard Daniel grunt in pain as a sickening thump broke the warm evenings quiet. At that point my brain kind of shut down and I reacted on instinct alone - and my instinct was to tear those fucking assholes limb from limb.

As I broke into the clearing where Daniel was propped on his ass with his back against a tree, I don't know who looked more surprised. It may have been Daniel, his frightened eyes widening slightly as I ran towards him, it may have been the blonde guy who was the first to see me coming, and therefore my primary target, or it may have been me as I recognised my own voice bellowing for them to get their fucking hands off Daniel.

Blonde guy got a backhander, which lifted him off his feet. He hadn't even hit the ground before I was turning to Michael with an elbow in the guts for his trouble. There may have been three of them and they may have been young, but a special ops trained colonel with attitude and a big dose of motivation was more than enough for them.

While Michael was retching pathetically where he'd dropped, I turned my attention to quiet guy - the sadistic bastard who had struck the first blow. He looked less than pleased with himself now as he saw an avenging angel of doom bearing down on him. I thought about letting him run - but only for a split second. I got a rush of pure satisfaction when my fist connected squarely with his nose and I felt a tell tale pop.

Michael was trying to crawl away after blonde guy and I helped him along with my boot as I moved over to kneel down beside Daniel who was panting, pale and wide eyed.

"Are you okay?" I asked quietly. I lifted my hand to push the hair out of his face and he flinched, moving away from me, scared that I was going to finish what the fuckwits had begun. "For crying out loud, Daniel, I'm not going to hurt you."

I lay a supportive arm around his shoulders and tried to help him to his feet. I can't believe how stupid I was, because all the time I was looking around, trying to spot Daniel's first time guy. I wanted to tell him he'd missed out this time, that Daniel owed him nothing because I'd been there to help him.

Then Daniel looked me in the eye for the first time and realisation hit me like a staff blast.

Daniel's eyes were full of gratitude, relief and interest, like I was some kind of fucking hero or something.

I was an older, silver haired guy of indeterminate age who had appeared out of nowhere and saved Daniel from a possibly fatal beating.

I was the fucking pervert.

I was the guy who had taken advantage of Daniel's vulnerability.

I was the guy I had come back to find.

I was Daniel's first time.

My legs gave out and I sat down heavily on the ground beside Daniel. He looked a little shocked when I went almost as white as he was, as I sat and stared at him.

"I'm fine," he answered my forgotten question in a shaky voice. "Are you okay?" He reminded me of my Daniel, my geek done good, the most bloody-minded, determined, compassionate and stoic soul I have ever met.

"I'm fine," I responded, numbly.

I honestly think I would have just sat there and stared at him all night if he hadn't shifted slightly and winced.

"God, are you okay?" I repeated like a fool. He nodded, but I wasn't buying it and I shook myself out of my stupor to gingerly help the both of us to our feet. We stood swaying for a minute, before I picked up his books, stepped in and draped his arm over my shoulder and clasped him around the waist moving us carefully out of the trees and into the comparative brightness of the lit street.

I steered him towards his street, ignoring the stares of the few passers by. I knew that I had come to prevent Daniel's virtue being compromised, but he felt so damn good encircled by my arm; he was slimmer, somehow less substantial that my Daniel but still definitely not weedy. He was solid and firm, and parts of me were reacting in the same way by the time we had turned into his street.

Thankfully, Daniel lived close to the campus and the relatively late hour meant we attracted little attention on our silent walk. I noticed that Daniel leaned less and less heavily on me as we made our way to his home. I guessed that the exercise had taken the edge of the bruising.

As we reached the steps up to the door of his home, he let go of me altogether and led the way into the building and along a dingy hall, where he unlocked a battered door, switching on a lamp as he preceded me into the small room.

It was clean but shabby, with piles of books and a collection of coffee mugs with dregs in various stages of metamorphosis into who knows what. Daniel closed the door and wearily edged himself onto his bed, which doubled as a sofa in the cramped confines of his home.

When he had settled himself comfortably, letting out a sigh as he relaxed muscles he'd clenched all the way back, he turned his gaze on me once more.

Panic suddenly gripped me. His eyes seemed to be mapping my face - his own face alive with curiosity. What if he recognised me? How could he not? In eleven years time he would meet me deep underground in Colorado and know who I was. In the same instant, though, I knew that couldn't be true - it hadn't happened, so it wouldn't happen. Daniel had shown no signs of recognition that day, and he was meeting me as I was then, brown haired, mid forties and suicidal. He would be expecting me to be an old man if he were to meet me again.

"Now," he said, "Who are you? How do you know my name and where I live?"

I winced as the full extent of my incompetence was brought to bear in the direct, calculating gaze of my best friend of eleven years in the future. I took in his dirty face, the leaves still clinging in his now unbound hair and his fat lip, which still had traces of blood on it - the same blood that stained his 'Feed the World' t-shirt.

"We should get you cleaned up first," I stalled. His eyes told me that he knew that was what I was doing, but he let me get away with it. When I looked around for something to clean him up with, he indicated a door on my right.

In the little bathroom I found a washcloth, aspirin and a clean shirt dried over the radiator. Taking my finds back into the main room, I found Daniel hadn't moved and still sat, watching me calmly as I got him a glass of water from the tiny kitchen area.

"Take these," I said quietly, passing him the glass and the pills. He did so, and then dabbed gingerly at his face with the cloth, washing away the traces of dried blood. He ran a dirty finger along his gums and teeth.

"Break a tooth?" I asked.

"Nah, just chipped it," he responded, withdrawing his finger and eyeing the t-shirt I had twisted in my hands. Silently he sat forward and started to work his way out of his bloody, dirt covered shirt, grunting with the effort. Reluctant to touch him, but unable to ignore his pain, I sat down beside him and helped him ease the material over his bruised ribs, off his arms and over his head before reversing the process with the clean shirt.

"Anything else broken?" I asked him, snagging the hem of the t-shirt with a finger to take a look at the bloom of ruddy coloured skin, just beginning to darken towards purple already.

He was lean, smooth and unblemished. No staff blast's telling silvery burn scars marred the perfection of his lightly tanned skin. I suppressed a sudden impulse to kiss a trail along his ribs and lick the curve of his shoulder blade. He was so...Daniel. Still, unbelievably the same guy I'd yearned after for so long, just younger and less sure of himself.

"No, just bruised," Daniel replied, watching me curiously over his shoulder as I peered at his back. I recoiled quickly when I saw his expression and got up from the bed. Taking the only other seat in the place at Daniel's desk, I took a good look around. Other than the books and the coffee, there was nothing in that place that suggested it was Daniel's home. There were no posters, no photos, no mementoes and no roc...artefacts.

There was also no indication that anyone had remembered his birthday. There were no obviously new items he'd received as gifts, no cards, nothing to make this as anything but another day in Daniel's life.

"Should I call someone? Are you expected somewhere tonight?" His expression told me all I needed to know. His evening entertainment was those books I'd dumped on the floor. He saw that I knew this and averted his gaze.

He was still pale and looked impossibly lost, sitting in his characterless room, his swollen lip the only colour in his face other than those incredible blue eyes he couldn't bring to turn on me.

"I should go," I murmured, standing up.

"Tea," Daniel said immediately. "Shouldn't you be making me tea with sugar for shock or something?"

"Do you have tea?"

"No...but I have coffee," he ventured, and looked puzzled when I couldn't stop the smile sneak across my face. Against my better judgement and because he was right about the shock thing, I clattered about in his kitchen, finding spoons, sugar and mugs. I blinked in surprise when he told me he drank instant coffee, but managed to get a hot mug into his hands without letting on more than he knew already.

He took a mouthful of the scalding, strong liquid and looked at me again over the top of his mug. His sparkling blue eyes were huge in the whiteness of his face. "So, mystery man, do you have a name?"

My mind went totally blank - all I could think of was how important it was that I didn't say Jack or Jonathan or anything like it. "Jim," I announced. Why the hell I said that I'd never know. I've hated that name ever since the time Daniel called me it when he was first...

I had another of my 'What the fuck?' moments. When Daniel returned from the Ascended and we found him at Vis Uban, he called me Jim for several days. At the time I thought it was just to piss me off, but maybe it was his memories slowly resurfacing. Then he'd asked me about my hair, and...fuck. I vowed to shoot myself in the foot next time I had the urge to mess with the timeline. It just makes your head hurt.

Daniel's voice pulled me back from the contemplation of causality that could only end with me whimpering piteously.

"Jim, fine," he repeated, his voice tinged with scepticism. "What's your story? How do you know me?"

"Just seen you around on campus, asked a few questions, nothing sinister," I told him as nonchalantly as I could manage.

His brow creased as he tried to place me. "Are you a lecturer? Mature student?"

"No, I'm just visiting." I sipped my too-hot coffee and avoided his eyes, willing his questions to be over. But this was Daniel - his questions were never over...1986... 2005, same pain in the ass curiosity.

"Why would you ask questions about me? Who did you ask?"

"Daniel, it's no big deal, okay?"

"What did they tell you? It's probably not true what they said," he said, his eyes strangely soft. I could hear his elevated breathing in the silence as he bit his lip in embarrassment at his words.

"I should go," I said again, putting my almost untouched mug down. I stood up and walked to the door. "Bye, have a nice life," I told him with my hand on the handle, resolutely facing the door. I knew that if I looked at him, my heart would shatter; his bruised face, his long hair and his battered soul would be too much for me to bear.

When he spoke it was like a prayer, quiet and hopeful. "Don't."

I heard him take a deep breath, hitching in his chest.

"I'm sorry. I won't ask any more questions, the answers don't matter anyway...I don't care."

I tried to swallow past the sudden constriction in my throat. "I can't stay, Daniel. If I could, I would."

"Please, Jim. Just for a few minutes," he pleaded. The Daniel I knew would only beg in the direst of circumstances. I wondered if this Daniel was the same. I could feel his gaze burning into my back, willing me to stay.

My shoulders slumped in defeat as I turned back to look at him. Sure enough, I had never seen hope like it. His head was tipped to one side, like my Daniel did when he was thinking, a tentative half smile on his poor lips and a world of loneliness in his eyes for anyone to see. He'd kicked off his sneakers and crossed his ankles, his feet hanging off the side of the narrow bed.

I had no chance.

I picked up my coffee and sat down beside him on the bed, close enough for our shoulders to touch, our backs propped against the featureless wall. For a while we drank in a silence that was strangely comfortable.

"They thought I was gay," Daniel said quietly after long minutes had passed.

"Yeah, I know."

"You're gay, aren't you?" he asked, blinking into his coffee mug, suddenly tense that his new question would send me scurrying for the door.

"No, I guess bi-sexual is the word. I was married," I mumbled.

"I guessed you might like men. If you were asking about me and I...I saw you looking just now." Daniel flushed, looking miserably uncomfortable, but pathetically hopeful.

"Well, you know, you're pretty gorgeous, Daniel. You can't blame a guy for looking." I tried to say it lightly; I didn't want to terrify him any more than he was already. Besides, it was the truth - the guy was a babe. How no one had seen through the geeky, bookish exterior before now, I had no idea.

If possible, Daniel turned even more crimson - even his ears were blushing and he furiously avoided my eyes, finding the contents of his mug ever more fascinating. He cleared his throat nervously. "Would you like to...s...s...stay?"

"I don't belong here, Daniel," I replied and the second it was out of my mouth I recalled Daniel, sitting in my living room, on my sofa in nineteen years time remembering exactly those words. It made my head swim for a moment.

So, if I were the guy, Daniel's guy, all along, and if I didn't do it this time, then would I change the future? If I left without loving Daniel, what might he do differently? I'd saved him from the beating, surely that was the turning point? Daniel's future voice echoed around my head, words I thought I hadn't listened to, about this guy turning up at an important time in Daniel's life - about him having saved his life - in more ways than one.

I looked around at Daniel's room once again, looking for clues to what he meant. His space was eloquent in its silence. It was what wasn't there rather than what was. This could have been anyone's room; no personality or permanence was reflected in it whatsoever. I knew he didn't entertain here; it was just a place to sleep and study.

Daniel was lonely.

Daniel was deeply unhappy.

Daniel was sick of being alone if coming onto complete (if interested) strangers was anything to go by.

Daniel's 21st birthday had come and almost gone, unmarked but for the unwanted attention of three fuckwits who were cooking up an alibi for the Emergency Room staff right now if they had any sense.

And was I going to leave him like that?

Was I, fuck!

If I said I was unhappy about that, you'd know I was lying. He was right there, for chrissakes. Warm against my shoulder, beautiful, willing, fallible and as hot as hell! Thinking with my dick, it was easy to justify being with him this one time. It had been what I wanted for so long. We were so much more than best friends already, if Daniel had but known it.

If I did this I would keep the timeline intact. He had lost his virginity to me before. Ergo, I had to do it again.

If I did this, he would remember it fondly in about twenty years time.

If I did this, he wouldn't be alone on a day that if fate hadn't been such a bitch, he would have spent with family and friends.

If I did this, he would know that I loved him, although he had no idea who I was. There would be no way he could miss what I felt for him, when I make love with someone the emotion is paramount. That's not to say all my bed partners have been loved. A fuck is a fuck. Making love is ...you get the idea.

If I did this...

Like Daniel was going to give me the choice. He put down his mug, almost shaking with trepidation. I couldn't watch him so terrified, so unsure of himself. I lost my mug and made it easy for him.

As he turned back towards me, intent on getting his mouth on mine, I caught his uninjured cheek with my palm and brought his bruised lips very softly to mine. Daniel whimpered and thinking I'd hurt him despite my care, I pulled back. Daniel desperately fastened a hand in my hair and pulled me back in, hard and frantic, the whimpers becoming needy little breaths.

I waited until he calmed a little, gentling the kiss, sliding our moist lips together, and seeking the best angles. His eyes sprung open when he felt my tongue exert a soft push against his closed mouth. His eyes burning into mine, he parted his lips bravely and I introduced him to some serious kissing - I'm good at it and his eyes closed dreamily as I stroked and curled my tongue around his, sensuously and slow.

Gradually, I pulled him down on me, until I was on my back with him half laying on my chest. I continued confusing him with the most erotic kissing action I've ever tried - and with him, it just came naturally. So he didn't realise where we were until I finally relinquished his lips.

I could feel how turned on he was against my hip, in fact I'd felt it from hopeful but terrified, and at all points in between. I rolled him onto his back, trying to wedge myself onto his ridiculously small bed. His gaze was conflicted; excited, scared, desperate and so incredibly horny, I had to smile.

Very slowly, trying not to spook him, I ran my fingers down his chest and belly to stroke lightly over his bulging jeans. He gasped as my fingers ghosted over his sensitive, hot hardness. I looked back into those bottomless eyes for permission before I carefully unbuttoned his jeans and pushed back his shorts to let his cock jut up from a jumble of dark brown hair, shot through with gold.

He looked amazing.

In this sad little room, with two grown men crowded onto a single bed, one of them with his clothes pushed down to his thighs, we should have looked ridiculous or sordid or sad or...something.

But not this.

Not...beautiful.

His t-shirt was rutched up, displaying his flat, tanned belly, contrasting against the pale skin where the sun had not reached. One arm was thrown above his head, the other lay on his chest, rising and falling with each panted breath.

I stroked the hair from his eyes, watching me so hopefully, and returned my hand to this cock. His eyes closed as I slid my fingers around his hot skin, and he arched his neck into the pillow when I rubbed a thumb across the glistening head. He trembled against me, whether from nerves or from desire I didn't know.

"Please..." he whispered and I realised that I wouldn't have time to even get out of my clothes before he shot. I wanted Daniel to have something to remember; he'd said it was good after all, and I couldn't believe all I'd done was give him a 20 second hand-job.

But he was so close, the fluid leaking from his cock already as he shook. I quickly wrapped my fist around the bottom of his shaft, as close to this belly as I could, then set up an easy rhythm on him, keeping my tugs short and sharp, never letting my fingers reach the oversensitive head of his dick.

I didn't have much on my side, but experience was one thing I could give him. And it worked; Daniel thrashed and moaned beside me as I kept him just below boiling point for long minutes. I stole wet sloppy kisses when his head turned towards me, before he ripped his lips away to moan some more.

Just watching him get off had me harder than I had been in months and when I took pity on him and let him come, I had to bite my cheek really hard to stop myself coming in my pants.

I sat up quickly, keeping my fist tight around his shaft; Daniel was so far gone, I don't think he even noticed. Holding him firmly, I rubbed the flat of my palm over the swollen head of his dick in a rough, circular motion, my hand sliding easily from the pre-come. I knew from personal experience how good this felt and Daniel seemed to agree as his stomach muscles locked and his hot, thick come shot in a tight arc, spattering his belly and groin and he howled his appreciation.

I quieted him with gentle strokes and stupid murmured nothings into his hair and neck. It seemed to take him forever to stop shaking. When he finally opened his eyes, it looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I was saved from finding out by the most incredible noises from his belly.

He snuffed with embarrassed laughter as his stomach growled, breaking the intensity of the moment. "Forgot lunch," he explained.

"Again?" I asked without thinking. He shot me another unsure glance, not worried, but curious.

"Come on, get cleaned up and I'll buy you a burger," I told him, getting up so he could get past me. He paused as he stood and I thought for one minute that he was going to kiss me, but he thought better of it and went into the bathroom without a word.

Instead of a burger place, Daniel took me to a late night deli a few blocks away that made up some baguettes to Daniel exacting specification. I had a sudden icy feeling as I came to pay. My cards were all dated 20 years into the future and my cash too wouldn't yet be minted. And if they read my name off the card in Daniel's hearing, I'd be caught. I muttered and patted all my pockets while Daniel just looked at me with that brilliant gaze of his that I swear saw straight though me.

"So I don't even get dinner out of this?" he asked quietly, but with a smile.

"Sorry, Daniel, must have forgotten my wallet," I lied, feeling the squareness of the damn thing burning a mark through my jacket pocket.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head as if he'd known me for years and reached into his pocket to pay.

We walked out of the deli shoulder to shoulder and toasted each other with our wrapped sandwiches. "Happy Birthday, Daniel," I said - in for a penny, in for a pound. He raised his eyebrows in surprise, but didn't comment.

We strolled back to his room, unhurried, talking about deliberately inconsequential things. He talked about his work and his studies, about Chicago and about what he did in his down time - hiking, swimming, reading - things he still loves now. I asked him about the places he had been on digs and his animated chatter reminded me so much of my own Daniel that I stared at him openly, unable to reconcile my friends voice coming out of this slim, blonde guy's mouth.

I mean, it obviously was Daniel, as I said he'd hardly aged at all, but it was the man I knew from before the Abydos return mission; the geeky, clumsy Daniel who was so naive, he thought he could stop me on my path to oblivion. Innocent enough to think there was some scrap of humanity left in me and perceptive enough to be right...just. The Daniel who was so surprised to be given a wife, he hadn't realised it for a days. The Daniel who talked with his hands and his face and his whole damn body. The Daniel I watched mourn and hurt and die. The Daniel I began to fall in love with even back then, before he became the gorgeous, sensitive, strong guy I am so head-over-heels in love with now, I don't know where my ass ends and my head begins.

He noticed my staring - I wasn't subtle and I wasn't able to stop - but he didn't call me on it. He simply cast warm smiles at me once in a while to let me know he knew.

We made it back to his place and I hesitated on the threshold. Had I done enough? Was that what Daniel had remembered, was that what he thought of as his first time?

He watched me, the colour back in his cheeks from the warm summer night. And he waited. He looked assured, almost confident now. He wanted me to come in - that was obvious from his alert stance and the subtle swell in his 501's. But he wasn't going to trick me or accept my pity. He walked back to the doorway, deliberately.

"I want this, Jim. I'm not a child, I know what it is I'm inviting you to do," he told me calmly. "I'm not a total innocent."

"Yeah?" I asked him quietly, "How many guys have you been with?"

He shrugged, averting his eyes. "Enough to know that I want you to come in," Daniel asserted.

"None," I answered for him, ignoring his evasive answer. "I would be your first." He looked at me steadily, too smart to argue.

"I want this. I know you don't love me. I don't love you either, but I think... I think I would...if I was given the chance," he said simply and walked over to his little bed, wincing a little as he sat down and drew his knees up to his chest.

And still I stood there and gaped at another aspect of my Daniel in this younger body. The quiet courage and dignity of him - he amazes me. He's used this on me before, it's not a trick, because he does it unknowingly, but it's like a red rag to a bull for me. He leaves me to make my own decision after having spelled out to me which way my decision should go.

He makes me a better man and he makes me think it's all down to me.

It's not.

He smiled as I shut the door behind me and uncurled himself to lie down on the bed, scooting over carefully to accommodate me. He kicked off his sneakers and watched me remove my jacket and boots.

It scared me how old I must look to him. I knew I was still pretty fit, but I'm grey now and the lines on my face compared to his youthful complexion were a stark contrast. I looked back to Daniel, slightly anxiously and he eyed me thoughtfully, as if weighing me up. The he smiled. Just like my Daniel, he didn't let appearances sway him. He wriggled over a further inch in an obvious invitation and I lay down beside him.

We both stared at the ceiling for a moment before Daniel propped himself up on an elbow and leaned over to kiss me, slow and deep. I gently wound my arms around him, pulling him over on top of me until he was placed nicely, with his legs between mine and our growing erections lined up and swelling against each other through two layers of denim.

He kissed me again, not shutting his eyes this time and they widened further still when I softly pressed my groin up into his, bringing the friction of our jeans to scrape against each other. Stroking his back, I planted my feet on the bed and started a gentle rocking motion pushing up to meet him and in a heartbeat he was with me. He arched his back and tentatively met my thrust with one of his own, groaning deep in his chest.

And that was it - there was no stopping him after that. I tried to be careful of his ribs and the bruising on his face, but he roughly demanded more if I didn't meet him with the same force he slammed down into me with. Suddenly his weight was on me and his hands were pulling at my clothes and his clothes, seeking skin contact. Wordlessly I assisted him, my hands shaking more than his. My heart was thumping so hard, I could hear it over the noise of Daniel's harsh panting and my own moans of pleasure.

Suddenly his heat was gone and I could breathe properly again, but only for the ten seconds it took for him to undo my jeans and quickly push back the material. As his hand curiously cupped my balls, all the air left my lungs in a sudden whoosh that made him laugh out loud.

His quick movements in the darkened room were revealed, when he lay himself back down over me, his perfect smooth skin feeling so soft against my hair covered hide. He wriggled until he was happy with his position and took up the pace of our rocking once again. I reached round and placed my hands on his ass, pressing him impossibly closer into me. But my jeans were trapping my legs, making it hard for me to flex.

I growled and kicked and Daniel, understanding my problem, helped until finally we were completely naked. Daniel stilled above me, looking for something in my eyes, something he obviously found, because he began to rub himself against me again, maddeningly slowly, achingly hard. His hair hung around his face, brushing soft against me as he rocked.

Once again I pushed my heels into the covers and lifted my hips to meet him, each clash of our cocks sending sparks all the way down to my toes. The feel of his dick against mine, his hair tangled with mine was overwhelming and I reached up to suck his tongue into my mouth to stop me from saying something stupid. He forced his mouth on mine, fucking me with his tongue, short rough jabs that kept pace with our hips.

Finally it became too much to bear, our grinding, thrusting bodies lost their rhythm and it was a case of getting what you needed to get yourself off before your balls exploded. Daniel came first, with a high keening wail that no one who overheard it could mistake, and I was right behind him, our dicks pulsing and jerking as we shot our combined output into the sweat-slick conjunction of our bellies. We slipped and slid together, pumping every last drop of come from within to mix between us, sobbing in relief and gratitude before slumping, boneless beside each other, arms and legs tangled in the cramped space available.

I must have dropped off, because the next thing I remember was the sound of water and a cold place on my chest where he had been. I waited for a few moments for his return, but the sounds of Daniel showering drew me to the bathroom like bees to honey.

He stood beneath the water, slowly, thoughtfully wiping himself over with a hand, like he was caressing himself. Within seconds I felt my body respond to his unconscious grace and I wordlessly stepped into the shower behind him and began to assist him with his task. He didn't seem surprised by my boldness, he just shot me a sweet smile and let me finish what he had begun.

I swept my hands over him, never settling, always moving and sluiced away the sticky residue of our lovemaking. I ran a hand across his neck and shoulders, and found them tense and knotted beneath my touch.

I switched off the water and took towel from the radiator, then led him back to his bed. Spreading the towel on his bed, I turned to look into his curious face.

"Do you have lotion, oil?" He did his best to cover his shock at being asked so bluntly. "For you back," I told him patiently, "Your shoulders need a rub. You're going to be sore enough tomorrow from the bruises." With a shy smile he disappeared to the bathroom and returned a moment later with a brown glass bottle. I uncorked it and sniffed suspiciously.

"Almond oil," he explained. "I got it on a dig in Turkey for a pulled muscle."

I pulled on my shorts and he went to do the same, but my hand on his wrist stilled him and I pulled him to me for a long slow kiss, which banished all thoughts of clothing from his head.

He allowed me to arrange him on the towel, his skin still damp and his hair pushed away from his face but still dripping. I warmed a handful of the oil in my palm and straddled his back, careful to avoid the dark bruises on his ribs. I settled myself on his butt and let the oil drip from my fingers and onto his broad, smooth back. He sighed with pleasure as my hands began to slide over his shoulders, manipulating the tendons and muscles beneath the golden skin.

I worked my way down each arm in turn, feeling the shape of his muscles, less bulky than they are now, but still nicely defined. I pushed up beneath his hair into his neck and he groaned in appreciation as I loosened the stored tension. Then I worked my way down his back, one rib at a time, avoiding the damaged ones until my hands reached his waist and lingered.

I felt his breathing through my hands, deep and even although I knew he wasn't sleeping. I had an erection so solid, it was painful and I was balanced on my knees in an effort to keep it from distracting him. He was fairly thrumming with enjoyment, little whimpers of pleasure coming from his lips as I touched him.

I don't know how close a family his were before they were killed, or whether his foster parents had been the tactile sort, but even if it had been since his last foster home, that was way too long for a person to be touch deprived, no wonder the guy was as willing as he was to the first person to show an interest.

Skin hunger - that's what they called it, when a child was deprived of touch, it made them restless and unhappy, they needed it to grow up healthy. And Daniel had been skin hungry and lonely for years...YEARS.

If I'd had the time, I could have shown him how deeply he was loved in ways that didn't involve sex, in all the ways I wanted to show him, but I knew that I couldn't risk being out of time for much longer. Would making love to him convey anything other than the physical? Would he understand that it was so much more to me than getting off?

"Lower," he muttered when my hands were still for too long. I gently swept a new handful of oil onto his lower back, my touch light now on this delicate area of his spine.

Daniel hummed his pleasure for a while, and then repeated his demand. I shuffled back on the bed, my knees aching from supporting me for so long and my thighs feeling the burn. I carefully worked my thumbs into the dips on either side of his spine, just above his ass cheeks and he shimmied a little, getting comfy.

I had to shift position, my legs complaining at the unaccustomed strain. I knelt within Daniel's legs, waiting for him to tense from the vulnerability of his stance, but he didn't. He simply lay there, trusting, open and waiting.

My cock was thumping against my shorts with each beat of my heart and I knew that this was the point of no return. I paused, the demands of my dick momentarily put aside as I tried to think as Daniel would. He was willing, he was wanting and he was right, he didn't love me, but I sure as hell loved him. Could anything that was done with so much love, be wrong? Even if it was having sex with a guy who I wouldn't meet for another ten years?

Daniel's quiet voice broke into my thoughts. "Please don't go now," he murmured, sounding impossibly broken; his vulnerability suddenly evident, all pretence lost in the intimacy of our contact. "I can guess what you're thinking, but I want this...want you."

And I knew, in that moment, that my arousal and my need for him was nothing to do with his beautiful, youthful body; it wasn't an age thing, it wasn't even an innocence thing.

It was a Daniel thing.

Suddenly, he was my Daniel again, the sweet, brave, brilliant man I loved. Daniel had never given up, had never done a damn thing he didn't want to or have to...and I'd given him every opportunity to say no. And God, I wanted him so badly; my dick ached to be sheathed in his perfect ass, so mouth-wateringly displayed before me.

So I began to speak, in fact I couldn't shut up. I told him all the things I'd been bottling up all this time. How beautiful he was, how brave, how strong. And all the time I kept my hands on him, soothing him, stroking his skin, always having one hand on him while the other sought out a new place to touch. My fingers swept lower and lower, then drew soft circles on the skin of his ass, my oily hands sliding over the muscled mounds then slipping gently between them.

And he just spread his legs wider. I had never seen anything like it - so much trust. And I had to tell him.

"I love you so much, Daniel. So much."

He made a soft noise in the back of his throat, I don't know if he was listening to my words or just drinking up the sensation of my fingers touching him so intimately.

My shorts were easily wriggled down and discarded, and I leaned over his back and kissed the soft skin at the nape of his neck. I ran my fingers through his dark gold hair, twining it and twisting it, feeling how cool and damp it still was against his hot flesh. Then, with shaking hands, I reached down and oiled up my fingers, sat back on my heels and slowly slipped a finger into his tight hole.

Daniel sighed and wriggled a little. He was so relaxed from my back rub that I withdrew my finger and quickly replaced it with two. His muscles flexed around me as I began to stroke inside him, gently and thoroughly. He sighed again and canted his hips a little to make my angle easier. Feeling how tight he was and knowing how relaxed he would have to be for me to do this without hurting him, I stroked my fingers out of his body to knead at his cheeks again and replaced my hand with my lips.

Daniel tensed; I'd taken him by surprise. I knew that this was a seriously intimate thing to be doing so soon, but I also knew how fucking amazing it felt, once you got over the initial shock, so I slowly and cautiously continued to lick and kiss his ass, sweeping my hot, flat tongue over his hole, making him clench as the sensation took him. And then, once again, he was with me, lifting his hips, arching his back and moaning with every pass.

He was amazing, he was incredible, so trusting he took my breath away. I took tiny bites at the sensitive skin around his hole, nipping and sucking between wet swipes over his increasingly relaxed entrance.

Beneath him, his solid cock and heavy balls invited my free hand to caress them, and the feel of his hot hard skin made me moan along with him. I drew back, panting, needing, and having to take him now or lose it altogether.

Daniel knew and pressing his face into the pillow he held back his hand with a coloured packet in it - a condom. So he had been thinking about it even if he hadn't done anything about it.

I ripped it with my teeth and rolled the light, slippery thing over my dick, trying to ignore its demands that I get a tighter hold and pump 'til I was dry.

I poured a little more oil into my palm and pushed two fingers into him again, stretching him, feeling his muscles give, then slicked myself up with the rest, gritting my teeth at any sensation on my so-fucking-ready cock.

Lifting Daniel's hips, I guided him onto the tip of my dick and felt his shiver as I rested at his entrance. I held my breath, waiting for him to say something, waiting for him to tell me to stop, but with a quiet groan, instead he raised himself onto his hands, slowly bringing his hips back, forcing himself to relax and accept my invasion.

I arched as the head of my cock broached the ring of muscle and I realised how tight he still was despite my efforts. Daniel grunted a little, pausing, and I ground my teeth in an effort not to ram myself home into his delicious heat. Then he was moving again, slowly, so slowly I though I was going to fucking burst into tears, my need and his trust were so overpowering.

Every inch was hard won and I whispered to him, encouraging him to let me in, telling him how perfect, how wonderful, how incredible he was.

But finally he was there and my length was buried to the balls in Daniel. He was soaked with sweat, shaking with effort and whispering moans with each exhalation. I gulped in air, feeling light headed from the effort of him joining us. I ran my hands up his smooth, straight spine, trying to comfort him although I didn't honestly know who was in a worse state - him or me.

"Gentle...I'll be gentle," I whispered to him, taking his hips in my hands. I pulled out an inch, then pressed back in, a subtle rock when my body was screaming its desire to pound and thrust and stab and grind. Again and again I rocked, tiny movements, infinitesimal twitches of my hips until Daniel began to pull when I pulled and push when I pushed. Slowly building a rhythm between us, we moved together in perfect accord as the spiralling lust in our guts coiled tighter and tighter, becoming this tiny and ever decreasing point of white heat.

Spreading my legs wider to get more stability, Daniel suddenly reared back, lifting himself onto his knees, his back connecting with a satisfying thud against my chest. The pull on my dick made me shout out and I wrapped an arm around his chest, my free hand seeking and finding his rigid dick.

I'd been trying for gentle, I'd been hoping for tender, but as my teeth connected with his neck and his hands reached behind to grasp my hair and my ass, I was lost. I pulled and tugged on his cock with abandon, demanding that he come for me and his head arched back to rest on my shoulder. All the while I powered up into his ass, striving, straining, pleading for completion.

Daniel shuddered, stilled, drew in a massive breath and shouted as hot ribbons of semen shot from his spasming cock, hitting the wall, the bed and my hand, with each slide of my fist another pulse joined them, on and on as his scream became soundless and his body writhed against me.

The feel of his cock throbbing in time to my heartbeat and the sound of his come hitting the wall undid me. I felt my orgasm overtake me, drawing the final essence of my being into the brilliantly burning ball in the pit of my belly, then supernova out, breaking me into a million, million tiny bright shards, a cloud of white light that was hot, yet cold, and sharp but indescribably gentle.

When I awoke, it was to find myself nose to nose with a sleeping, Daniel, our legs twined and our arms thrown across each other. A tiny space was a perfect excuse to cuddle up. I knew it was late, noise from the street was almost zero and the muted glow from the streetlights outside were all the illumination I had.

I let my gaze linger on the almost familiar features of my bed partner. His face was relaxed and innocent in sleep and I unconsciously mapped the differences between his face and the one I loved so well, but had never had the opportunity to study like this.

He had none of my Daniel's lines around his eyes, those creases that became so pronounced in one of his rare grins. And my Daniel's face was somehow rounder, more full than this angular, high cheek boned version. His hair was slightly longer than when I first met him and my hand moved of its own volition to tuck the stray strands on his cheek behind his ear. He smacked his lips in his sleep and snuffled a little at my gentle fingers and I held my breath, willing him to stay asleep.

He settled and I refrained from touching him again and contented myself with watching his back rise and fall as he breathed. I knew I was delaying the inevitable, but knowing what I did about Daniel's past, I couldn't decide how I should take my leave. Should I have slipped away, leaving a note - somehow it felt cheap, undervaluing what we had just shared. Or should I have woken him and tried to explain?

I bought myself a little time, cleaning myself up, dressing quietly and slowly in the eerie light through the window. I sat on the edge of the bed, lacing my boots, still undecided and torn when the decision was taken from me.

"I'm never going to see you again, am I?" Daniel's voice sounded clearly and quietly in the darkened room.

"No," I lied past the lump in my throat.

"Do this a lot, do you? Swoop in and swoop out?" he asked, trying to mask his bitter tone.

"No, Daniel, I don't," I said quietly. I wasn't going to defend what I had done - I wasn't even sure I could despite knowing what I knew. He was quiet for a long time and I just sat stupidly on the edge of his bed - lost for words and awash with emotion.

"I'm sorry," he whispered finally, "That wasn't fair, I knew it before we'd even kissed. Where are you going to?"

I hesitated. "Home." And he didn't push it.

"I...I won't forget you," he said, obviously uncomfortable at the mawkish words.

I turned and brushed a light hand down his back. "It would be better if you did, Daniel," I whispered, knowing that my words were pointless - that in twenty years he would recall tonight in a drunken conversation with his best friend and smile.

I stood up quickly, scared that if I didn't act soon, I wouldn't be able to leave him at all. "Don't," I pleaded as he tensed to get up with me. "Just...just don't watch me go. Go back to sleep." He paused, then relaxed back down onto the tiny bed. I stooped and pressed a kiss into his hair, taking one last breath of his scent before I went. Then I marched to the door, my eyes swimming with unshed tears and my throat on fire with the effort of keeping them that way.

With my hand on the doorknob once again, I stopped. I knew what was ahead for him, I knew the battering he was going to take at the hands of fate and I wondered what I could tell him that wouldn't change the timeline. Abydos, Sha'uri, Kelowna, Oma were screaming in my ears - how could I leave him without a word, knowing these things would bring him to the edge of despair and beyond?

"You know, there are people out there right now, Daniel. They don't know it yet, but they are going to love you one day, love you like you deserve to be loved. Some of them you will know about, some of them you won't, but you will be loved."

I heard him catch his breath as my words raked over the very thing he doubted most. I had unmasked his deepest, most dreadful fear and dragged it to the fore. "You just have to hold on a little longer, Daniel. Even when you think you're done...just a little longer."

I thought of Sha'uri, a young girl on her distant desert planet and I thought of Sarah Gardner, the only old-flame of Daniel's I had ever known of; she must be here soon to make her appearance in Daniel's life. But mostly I thought of me, a USAF Captain with a young wife, a career and a head full of dreams, sleeping not 300 kms from here, not realising that the best dream was to come when I had given up on dreams altogether.

I opened the door.

"You were a good dream, Jim," Daniel murmured, unnerving me with his echo of my thoughts.

"Good dream," I whispered back as the tears began to fall in earnest and I closed the door behind me.

~~::~~::~~

It's late now, as I pull into the drive outside my house. I got the time ship back in one piece, replacing it in its cradle and disengaging the cloak only a minute after I'd stolen it. The boffins were so pleased about the cloak, they completely missed that I had a days worth of stubble after stepping into the ship clean-shaven. I hinted to them about the short jump problem without letting them know that I'd actually made a jump and had spent the rest of the day making the thing invisible and visible while they got all excited and measured stuff.

I'm so tired now, I can't think straight. I have so much to consider, so many things to weigh up, I don't know where to start. Do I confront Daniel with the truth? Do I use what I now know to find the courage to ask him outright if he'll have me? Do I ever let him know what I did?

Fuck it.

I need beer and I need sleep before I can do all this existential shit. I enter my house, hell bent on both, only to find that someone has already been there and done that. Daniel is asleep on my sofa, arm curled protectively around an empty beer bottle.

I walk over and watch him for a while. In his sleep he looks younger than his thirty-nine years, the lines etched there by too many losses and disappointments are softened. I could tell him now, admit what I'd done and hope that he had it in his heart to forgive me. Now I know that I wouldn't be rejected for my sexual preference, I could tell him that I've been in love with him for about...forever. At least I'd know that if he said no, it would be for who I am, not what I am.

Or I could just let him sleep.

~~::~~::~~

I come awake instantly at the soft footfall on my bedroom floor and tense before I realise it's Daniel. He moves cautiously though the unfamiliar darkness of my bedroom before sitting down on the corner of my bed. "Hey," he says softly, "You should have woken me."

A glance at the illuminated numbers of my alarm confirms what my body is telling me; it's still an hour before dawn and the full, fat moon is setting, bathing my room in colour leaching brilliance. I pull myself up a little and rest against the headboard. He's not looking at me, his head turned away so I only have his posture and his words to go on.

"Nah, you looked comfortable enough," I murmur to his back. I know he wants to talk, you don't just pop in to your best friends bedroom at 4 am on the off chance. Hell, you don't camp out at their house waiting for them to come home.

It took me forever to fall asleep despite a weariness that had a little to do with performing tricks for science dweebs, a little to do with the best sex I've had in years and a whole hell of a lot to do with trying to find a path through this paradoxical minefield I have made for myself.

My mind just wouldn't switch off, all I could see was his face when I crashed out of the trees to save him from those goons - he'd never had anyone rescue him before and it showed.

And I could still smell him on my skin; I hadn't been able to bring myself to wash it off before I fell into bed. My mind kept telling me that it could be the one and only time I ever got to smell him on me and I figured a couple more hours of feeling that connection would hurt no one but me.

He's in pain, he wants to make things right between us and he shouldn't have to. I was a fucking idiot last night...and that's as good a place to start as any. "I was a fucking idiot last night," I tell him, my voice sounding far too loud and far too raw.

"Well, I did kind of spring it on you," he says with a shrug.

I wish I could see his face, but I think I've done enough to the Jackson psyche without forcing him to look at me. "No, Daniel, it was all me. I didn't listen, I couldn't believe that...that is what you wanted. I'm a fucking asshole. You were twenty-one, you were old enough to make up your own mind." I wait for a response, but none is forthcoming, I still have not said what he wants to hear apparently, so I press on.

"I meant it about the guy thing, Daniel. I don't care. You could have told me sooner...I'm not...I'm not..." Words fail me. What am I not? Honest? Sane? Good enough for him?

All of the above.

"You know you were right to let me sleep." He breaks my inept silence as if I had not just bailed on him once again. He still doesn't turn; his tension is eloquently transmitted through the stiffness of his back and shoulders.

"Yeah?" I ask stupidly. " Were you wiped out?"

"Nah, good dream," he says clearly and it hangs there between us, so huge, so vast that I lose every other sensation, can't see or feel or hear another thing but him and his casual, earth shattering accusation.

My mouth drops open and I stifle the gasp that rips from my unwilling lips. It's like time has stopped and the world won't start again until I respond...which I can't. I'm not ready.

I have no idea what he wants, what I want. If he knows it was me, then why didn't he say something sooner? If he's fishing, finding out what I know, why doesn't he just ask? If it was a chance comment, him remembering a happy time, then I need to get a handle on my emotions before I reply.

But before I can he gets up off the bed, walks over to the wall and turns abruptly beside my...mirror. My blood turns to ice. His shadowed eyes hold a glint of triumph and my lungs seem to stall as I realise he was watching me the whole time.

He saw me react to his prod.

He knows.

He clicks on a lamp and colour floods back into my room, banishing the blueness of the moonlight. The bedspread, the rug, the walls all burst into a riot of shades, making me wince. Somehow the moonlight was safer.

I want to curl up into a ball under his hostile glare, to protect myself from his terrifying intelligence. But I can't. His eyes spear me to the headboard and all I can do is wait for what he will do.

"I fucking knew it!" he hisses and I don't think I've ever seen him so angry - not with me, anyway. "How can I have doubted it? Only the rules as I knew them then, prevented me from accepting it was you when I met you again. You were younger, brown haired, you were a hard-assed bastard and you looked right through me - but then you didn't know me, did you? How can I have been so fucking blind? Even when we found the fucking ship, I wasn't sure...ohhhhh GOD! Stupid. Stupid. Stupid."

"Daniel..." I start in a whimper but he cuts me off with a gesture.

"I'm such an imbecile - God, I can't believe how STUPID I've been. Of course it was you - I KNEW it was you." His voice is hoarse and every word hits me like a physical blow. He brings his hands up to his face.

He stares at me over fingers pressed to his cheeks, looks at me like he's never seen me before and I guess in a way that's true - he's never really seen me - the guy who is so fucking nuts about him that he will steal a ship he didn't know how to control and skip back in time just to stop another guy from...but he doesn't know that.

"I didn't know it was me...I swear, Daniel. I went back to stop him...I thought he'd taken advantage. And when I realised it was me all along...I tried to go...I tried to take you home and go. But the timeline... and you were so..."

"Pathetic!' he spits.

"No..."

"Desperate. Needy. Fuck...I begged you!" he shouts and his face is twisted in an agony of shame and loathing.

"NO!" I bellow and I'm out of bed, my fists clenched, teeth gritted and I have crazy spots swimming in my field of vision. I take a couple of steadying breaths. "No," I repeat more quietly, "Beautiful, sad; never pathetic. Daniel, you're the strongest person I've ever known, you could never be pathetic."

And his face crumples, the fight gone out of him. His eyes close and his shoulders shake as he tries to hold it together. I cross the distance between us in an instant and wrestle his resistant, stiff body into my arms.

"I fucking love you, you idiot," I say roughly, stunned at how incredibly simple it is. "I did it because I love you. I couldn't stand the thought of someone taking that from you, then dumping you and leaving you all alone again. Then I did it myself. Some fucking rescue!"

"Why didn't you tell me? Why wait until now to tell me you love me?"

"Cowardice," I blurt. "Forgive me, I let you do all this alone, all this time, when I could have...if you'd wanted...I..."

If he loved me too.

And here we are, at the crux of the matter. There's nowhere else to go now, we have to find some resolution to this. Just as I am about to release his rigid body and give him the space he obviously wants, he relaxes, and bows his head to rest on my collarbone.

"How can you, Jack? How can you, when I asked you to...do that after only knowing you for twenty minutes?"

"Daniel, I don't care if you've been with every man you've met since that day. You could have put out for every airman looking for some stress relief since you joined. It wouldn't make a difference to how I feel about you." And the amazing thing is that, suddenly, it's true. From a homicidal, jealous friend to an understanding lover in one night...nineteen years and one night.

"I didn't. You're the only one-night stand I've ever had," he mutters into my chest. "I don't do... I'm not really..."

"You recognised me, even though you wouldn't meet me for another eleven years," I tell him quietly.

"That's impossible, Jack..."

"You recognised that I loved you, you knew I wouldn't hurt you and you knew that I wanted you as much as you wanted...me." He snuffs at my hesitation. Does he know that's a question? Does he know I can't ask? Slowly, he untangles his arms from where they are crushed between us and twines them around me, his hands fluttering uncertainly before resting lightly on my back. Of course he knows.

It's at this point I realise that I'm naked.

"Er, Daniel, do you mind if I just quickly..."

"Yes," he mutters and tightens his grip on me. "Last time I let you go, you were gone for eighteen years, you bastard."

I am surprised at the laugh that bursts out of me at the ridiculousness of that statement and I can't believe it, but I think I'm home and dry.

"Really? It just seems like yesterday," I smile and he groans. I hook a finger under his chin and raise his head from my shoulder, bending my neck so I can see into his downcast eyes.

"I love you, Daniel."

"I know...you said."

"I'm thinking I should say it a bit more often than every eighteen years."

"How often are you thinking?" he asks, flicking his eyes up to mine finally.

"Every day for the rest of my life?" I venture.

He smiles, the one that accentuates every single hard won line on his face.

"I love you. Mmmmmmm, s'good. Care to try it?" I ask him.

"Nah," his eyes sparkle, "We have plenty of time."

Fin