“Look, I don’t wanna just die,” Daniel said as Oma refreshed his coffee. “I don’t suppose there are any other options.”
“I can’t get into it,” Oma said. “What’s stopping you from ascending?”
“I dunno,” Daniel said with continued frustration.
“Must be something holding you back, making you doubt yourself.”
“Maybe it’s not me I’m doubting,” he pointedly.
“Look, whether you choose to accept living on a higher plane of existence has nothing to do with me or anything that I can or can't tell you. It's all up to you.”
“But there is something you’re not telling me.”
“Is that what Jim said?” she asked. “You shouldn’t be listening to him.”
“Good answer,” Daniel said, feeling that the sarcasm was just permeating the air.
“Yes,” she said.
Oma stared at him. “Listen, think about the pros and cons. Gains and losses. I’ll be back.” She disappeared into the kitchen.
“Great,” Daniel said to himself. “Gains and Losses. What the hell have I to lose but . . .”
A small article in the newspaper that Jim gave him caught Daniel’s eye. The headline read:
O’Neill Gives Up the Fake Relationship with Johnson. Considers Retirement.
Daniel snatched the paper and read the newspaper blurb.
Jack. The man was waiting for him. God bless him.
Wait. Daniel read it again. Revealing their relationship? Without him?
No, that couldn’t be right. Jack wouldn’t do that without his permission. It wasn’t a single person’s say-so. What the hell was Oma playing at?
Further, Daniel knew that they were under surveillance by the NID, but he hadn’t truly faced the enormity of what they were doing. But their efforts were to blackmail Jack so that they could continue their illegal activities? Were they kidding? Jack would rather expose the whole enchilada—to use Jack’s phrasing—than cave to anyone’s blackmail. He would also out himself and Daniel as a big Eff You and Daniel wouldn’t have disagreed on that tactic either.
Daniel reread the last paragraph. Returning to human form may not be possible? Since when? Would The Others—and Oma needed to call them something else. Maybe The Ascended? Just a thought—prevent him from descending to human form? Couldn’t they simply return him to life?
Undecided. No. He’d decided the moment he’d read the planted article. He just had to figure out what to do about Oma. And Jim.
Kerry left Jack’s office and Jack stood there, his features schooled from long-used discipline, but he finally allowed an exhalation. Yeah. Issues. Carter’s hero worship. More than that? Was Kerry right? Carter had shown up at his place intending to . . .
Jack closed his eyes. He had convinced himself it wasn’t what it was. Her feelings weren’t romantic. But the look on Kerry’s face.
Her feelings were.
Issues abounded, just not for Jack’s feelings. They were complicated.
He loved her, but not in the way he loved Sara. Not in the way he loved Daniel. That was crazy-making, deep-down “I’ll kill anyone who messes with it” love. Jack thought about Carter, imagining loving her that much and . . . it didn’t click.
Never mind the fact that he had an ingrained, well-schooled, deep aversion to fraternization, he would bypass that at a moment’s whim if the person were worth it. She wasn’t worth it. Daniel was.
Daniel. That . . . he . . . needed examination, for verification. It should never have happened but when the moment came, he’d acquiesced to his desires and responded to Daniel’s.
Still, it shouldn’t have happened.
Jack wasn’t someone who lied to himself, but he had a bad habit of compartmentalization. He had lied to himself about loving men until he was thirty or so. The problem lay with the label of bisexuality. He’d had to get it through his thick skull that bisexuals didn’t have to pick a side. It was society’s reaction to something they weren’t comfortable with. Okay, we can accept this but why the hell can’t you pick a side?
Back in Nevada, when Charlie was still alive, he’d been listening to a radio show (these days it would be called a podcast) on the way to work. They’d been talking about sexuality and a guest had explained bisexuality in terms of the lowest common denominator.
“You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan or a Star Wars fan. You can be both.”
It had made him laugh and for the rest of the day, he’d thought of that and chuckled. It was mostly about the quote. It was also about how right they’d been by using the stupidest of comparisons.
It hadn’t changed anything in his life until years later when Daniel entered it. Here was a man who drove him batshit crazy. As a scientist, Daniel’s thought process went lateral while Jack’s went on a straight line forward or backward. Friendship-wise, he was a useful ear who gave suggestions Jack hadn’t thought of, sometimes to Daniel’s own detriment. The best example was when Daniel told him that he could do anything he wanted—with that damn Ancients’ time loop device and more recently, his job as commander of the base.
And then there was Daniel as Lover. Whenever he thought of him that way—and these days, there was no separating any of Daniel’s roles—it was impossible not to look at his affection with awe. Daniel brought feelings out of Jack he hadn’t even known were there. He made him gladly accept his desires, even when he’d thought he’d already had. He’d opened up fantasy realms Jack had been too embarrassed to tell Sara about. Roleplay, bondage, and even a few little kinks. Jack’s mind veered away from thinking about those because of where he was: in his office. He could fantasize scenarios at home, not here. Not even in his own private locker room.
Compartmentalization of Daniel as colleague, friend, and lover was growing increasingly difficult. He didn’t like sending him into dangerous missions anymore. It had been different when he was commanding SG-1. He was there to look out for him. And Carter and Teal’c, although they were more able to look out for themselves. It wasn’t that Daniel couldn’t—he’d been learning Chulakian Tai-Chi from Teal’c—but Daniel’s mind didn’t operate as a warrior. He operated as a diplomat. As commander of the missions he assigned to teams, Jack found it impossible to send SG-1 anywhere because . . . well . . . because He wasn’t there to watch over them.
Jack had issues with letting go.
He wasn’t going to let go of Daniel, no matter the cost. The man was still alive. Jack didn’t feel that it was a hopeless refusal to accept reality. Something deep inside him told him Daniel wasn’t dead.
Suddenly a scene from the morning before popped into his head: Carter’s insistence that he give up on Daniel being alive. Was it a twisted jealousy that motivated her insistence? No, that didn’t track because it wasn’t in her character to be that petty and cruel. Why was she so insistent then? Because she was being pragmatic.
He thought about being that way toward her about Jacob’s situation and cringed. That would be petty and cruel. She wasn’t someone who refused to face reality—but she did tend to compartmentalize things herself and not for the better. Like this insistence that Daniel was gone. She was one of his closest friends. Why wasn’t she holding out hope for him? Because Daniel’s a rival? No, that didn’t track. It wasn’t in her nature to be that . . . Machiavellian.
A knock at the door and Carter stuck her head in. “Sir?”
“C’mon in, Carter? How’s Jacob?”
She came in and hovered, not sitting down. “Saying goodbye to his Tok’ra friends,” she said, her voice wavery. “If you want to do it yourself, you should get down there within the hour.”
Jack nodded as he tapped the pen in his hand against the blotter on his desk. “Carter? When this is all over, and you’re not feeling overwhelmed by the grief, you and I need to talk.”
She rubbed her palms against her uniform trousers. “About what, sir?”
“The kind of friendship we have. The one you might want. If I may be so presumptuous.”
“No,” he said adamantly, holding up a hand. “Later. Now is not the time. You’re too raw. It won’t be fair.”
“Now’s good,” she contradicted, tears welling in her eyes. “I can’t help the way I feel. But I also know that what I feel isn’t reciprocated. While that hurts, it’s also reality. I love Daniel. So do you. But he has your heart, and I don’t. Not that way. My dad keeps trying to push me into saying something as if it’s my decision and you have no say. But I set him straight. No pun intended.” She wiped at her eyes. “You’re right. Now’s not the time. I’d like some leave. Starting tonight or tomorrow.”
Jack’s heart tugged at her distress. “Granted. You have two months saved. You can take it.”
She let out a half-chuffing breath of clear relief. “I’ll need it. I might come back before that’s up. I don’t know yet. I can’t be idle. I need to work on my projects if nothing else.”
Jack nodded. “Whatever you want, Carter. And . . .” He got up and came around the desk only to sit on its edge. The pen was still in his hand. He gave her so compassionate a look that it hurt. “I’m sorry. I wish I felt more. I do love you. Just not the same way as I loved Sara. Or Daniel.” He held up a hand. “If he’s dead, I’ll deal with it. But something tells me he isn’t. I can’t explain it and I’m not going to give it up.”
She gave him a searching look. “Have you always been . . . both?”
“The term is bisexual, Carter.” She winced and Jack put a bit of authority in his tone. “That’s gotta be something you’ll need to accept or it’ll just sour the friendship and professional relationship. Hear me?”
She made a face and looked away for a second. “Heard, sir.” With a heavy sigh, she turned back to face him. “It’s just that I don’t . . . get it.”
Jack gave her a wistful grin. “Think I should pick a side, don’tcha?” She gave him a wan smile and he nodded. “That’s what I was led to believe for the longest time, Carter. It poisons the mind, stains the soul. It’s called self-hatred and I dealt with it a while ago.”
The phone rang and Jack answered it. He listened and hung up. “Times up. Let’s go.” He followed her down and comforted her when Jacob passed. Truth be told, he’d needed it too. Jacob had been a great and dear friend. He wished Daniel had been here to say goodbye. It would hurt him for a while when he found out.
Daniel waited for Jim and Oma to return, and while he waited, his attention kept returning to the short newspaper article. He thought about the ruse Jack had been forced to concoct and those damn surveillance vans they’d spotted several times near Jack’s home. The article had laid bare the reason they’d been spying. Gathering pointless evidence for blackmail. The Pentagon might not have approved of the lurid spying by the NID, but they weren’t doing anything about it, either.
Since Kerry Johnson had been assigned as a liaison from the CIA, Jack had chosen to ask her for help. While they were using her, she was using them while she engaged in a relationship with Lieutenant Callie McPherson, one of Janet’s nurse practitioners. It was a win-win while the overall situation was lose-lose. They couldn’t be together openly, and if found out, both would lose their jobs. So, adopting a fake hetero relationship had been the only answer.
Daniel saw Jim and went to talk to him. The dominos began to fall.
The intense light and painful heat that had surrounded him had made Daniel wrap his arms around his head to protect his eyes. When he lowered them, he found he was in Jack’s office. Mouth dropping open, then scowled with suspicion and looked heavenward. Narrowing his eyes, he flipped The Others the bird because he stood there, once again, naked.
He looked around and realized in horror that the door to the hallway was open. And the SF standing guard there was staring at him in shock. With a cringing expression and a sheepish wave, he went to the door and closed it. It was then that he picked up on the voices from the Briefing Room.
“The Kull warriors became disorganized and confused, as though they no longer knew what to do,” said Bra’tac.
“They no longer had a master to serve,” Teal’c said.
“After that, they were easily defeated,” Bra’tac said, clearly smug and self-satisfied.
“Many Jaffa lost their lives at Dakara,” Teal’c continued. “Those that survived are united as never before. And we are in agreement. The weapon must be destroyed.”
Then came the voice that sent shivers down Daniel’s spine.
“Well, that's good,” Jack said.
Bra’tac said, “A new memorial will be erected in its place so that our triumph over the Goa'uld will never be forgotten.”
“I still don't quite understand what happened,” said Sam. “One minute Anubis is about to push the button that ends all life in the galaxy and the next minute he's just . . . gone.”
“Indeed, it is a great mystery,” Teal’c said.
“One can only assume he was vanquished by some beings. If not, why would he forfeit the weapon and his army?”
There was a two-beat moment of silence.
“You think?” Sam asked.
“I do,” said Jack.
“It's the only thing that would explain the self-destruct not going off.”
“Of what do you speak?” Bra’tac asked.
“O'Neill believes that Daniel Jackson was somehow responsible,” Teal’c said.
“Nope, wasn’t me,” Daniel called out before he had the sense to keep his trap shut. Now he’d done it.
“Did anyone else hear that?” Jack asked.
Daniel winced. “I’m in here!”
There was quick movement as Jack rushed to the open door and there was really no point in being bashful. Daniel held out his hands to either side in a clear statement of “it is what it is.”
“Whoa! Hey there!” Jack said, blushing as all get out, making Daniel cover his mouth, poorly. Jack grabbed the SGC flag off its standard and went into the office. “You’ve got to be kidding,” he said under his breath and reappeared in the doorway, looking chagrined and embarrassed at the others.
Daniel walked out, flag wrapped discreetly—and he was amazed that the damn thing fit around him. Bra’tac’s mouth began a slow, broad smile while Teal’c’s eyebrow went up. Sam, for some stupid reason that Daniel couldn’t read, looked shocked and looked away, as if she’d never seen him naked before. And he wasn’t naked . . . exactly.
“It’s a long story,” he said, feeling acutely mortified. At least he’d made Bra’tac’s day.
Jack came into his office and handed Daniel a folded bundle of clothes from his locker. To his surprise, Janet followed him in, walking with the help of a cane.
“Janet!” he exclaimed. “I thought you were still in recovery.”
“Are you kidding?” she said and gestured at the nurse coming in behind her to wait. The woman turned away and closed the door while Daniel quickly dressed. “I’m well enough to stop taking up bed space. Bullet wound is healing. Now you. What happened?”
“Hang on,” Daniel said. “I’ll tell everyone in the Briefing Room.”
“Fair enough. When you’re done getting dressed, however, I’ll need your vitals and blood.”
Daniel nodded. To the nurse, he said, “Okay, done.” She turned around and came to him with a sectioned tray that held the items needed for drawing blood and storing it.
While she took the blood, Janet took his vitals. “How’re you feeling?”
“I’m okay. No memory loss. Still seeing spots now and then from the blinding light that surrounded me while I was being sent back home.”
She checked his eyes with her penlight, which made him slap at her, and in return, it made her grin in response. “Sorry about that. Report tomorrow for an eye exam. Safe, sorry. You know the drill.”
During all of this, Jack stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame with his arms folded. He wouldn’t take his eyes off Daniel, and whenever he had to, made sure Daniel was in his peripheral vision.
Once the blood was drawn and vitals seen to, Daniel left the office and walked to Sam. She had been crying. Her eyes were still red. He held out his hand and she took it.
“I’m so sorry, Sam.”
Her face crumpled and he took her in his arms, giving her a fierce hug. “Wish I’d been here.”
Sam sniffed and hugged back hard. Then she let go and stood back, looking a bit flustered. “Thanks. How did you know?”
“Uh, I’ll explain in a minute.”
He went to Teal’c and was prepared to clasp forearms but the big man hugged him instead.
“I am glad to see you alive and well, Daniel Jackson.”
“Right back at ya,” Daniel said as they released the hug. “Heard things got pretty nasty.”
“They did indeed,” Teal’c said. “How did you know?”
Daniel gestured at the conference table and everyone, sans Janet’s nurse, took a chair with Daniel sitting to Jack’s right, Sam to his left, and then Teal’c and Bra’tac next to her. Janet sat down beside Daniel.
“Okay, we’re settled,” Jack said, laying his palms flat on the table, gaze intent on Daniel. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Uh, well first,” Daniel began, glancing at everyone before deciding to focus on Jack. He cleared his throat. “Replicator Carter killed me.”
There were shocked blinks all around.
“What?” Jack asked.
Daniel nodded. “Yeah. I remember that vividly. Stabbed with a sword arm.” He pointed to his chest and rubbed the spot. “Next thing I knew, I was walking into a diner I’d visited after my parents died. Have no idea why I chose that, but to be honest, it was more like Oma read it and created the place as a sort of . . . weigh station. Stopover. Something like that.”
“Oma?” Sam asked. “You ascended?”
Daniel shook his head. “I didn’t. Oma brought me there. It was like Dante’s Limbo. Hang around until you decide to die or ascend. You know, the place where decisions are made. Heaven, hell, reincarnation, ascension, or whatever.”
“And this place, it was . . . what is a diner?” Bra’tac asked. It looked like he’d beaten Teal’c to the question.
“It’s a place where food is served to those who visit it,” Daniel said. “In this case, it was food generally served for breakfast. The morning meal. Although Oma said I could order whatever I wanted. She appeared to me as a 1950s waitress. Why, I have no idea.”
“Waitress?” Bra’tac asked.
“A person who sees to your needs in a restaurant,” Daniel said. “Takes your order, serves it when it’s made.”
“Let’s move on,” Jack said impatiently.
Daniel refrained from rolling his eyes. “Yeah, right. Well. She said I could ascend again. Or die, if I left the restaurant. I didn’t think I had the option to come back, so I figured I’d ascend then choose to be human again. She said that would be the last time. I’d get no more opportunities.”
Daniel looked around, then continued.
“The diner was filled with patrons. All of whom were ascended beings. The Others. None of them bothered to talk to me or even showed that they registered my presence. All but one, aside from Oma since she was the waitress. This one was a guy who called himself Jim. Except as time went on, I realized that he was Anubis.”
“What?” Jack asked, along with everyone else.
“He’s half-ascended himself, so he was able to visit me in this Limbo diner. Taunted me. Gave me a newspaper used to taunt me even more. The Ascended Times it was called. Had articles on its front page that kept changing whenever he handed me the paper. The articles were about what he was up to. Long story short, he went to Kheb and tricked Oma into ascending him.”
“What?” was the general census around the table.
Daniel nodded. “When she realized who and what he was, she tried to undo it but couldn’t. The Others refused to step in. It was her mess. She had to clean it up.”
“That makes zero sense,” Jack said. “They’d interfere when trying to do good, to help people on the . . . human plane . . . but they wouldn’t do something about Anubis?”
“No wonder you didn’t stay ascended,” Sam said.
Daniel made a face. “That’s what made me want to descend in the first place. I couldn’t tolerate beings who permitted this outrage. Oma stopped me from killing Anubis—and that’s when I appeared on Vis Uban. This time around, I got mad at The Others. Anubis began taunting me even more, telling me I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop his rewriting the universe, and then Oma stepped in and turned into energy.” At Jack’s eyebrow lift, he clarified with a touch of sarcasm, “Went all glowy. Anyway, she began to fight him in that form, forcing Anubis to take that shape, taking him out of human existence.”
“Wait,” Jack said. “How the hell were you able to destroy Anubis when Oma herself couldn’t do it? Or the others?”
“I couldn’t. I asked her. She said she stopped me because I would have been fighting Anubis for eternity. She took that role on herself . . . in the end.” Daniel looked at Bra’tac and Teal’c. “That’s why Anubis’ presence disappeared from Dakara.” He looked down at his hands. “That’s what she’s doing even now. She can’t kill him. She can only fight him. Occupy him. Until The Others step in, she’ll be doing that for eternity.”
“Huh,” Jack said. “So you descended? Sort of?”
“I have no idea,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “I was standing there watching. The next thing I knew, the world went bright and painful and I appeared in your office. Again, without clothing. It’s--"
"This you have gone through before?" Bra'tac asked.
"I have already explained this," Teal'c said to him. It made everyone grin. Teal'c remonstrating Bra'tac. The Jaffa master gave him a mock scowl, but it was contradicted by an impish grin.
"Anyway," Daniel said, wanting to finish, even though he too found the exchange between Teal'c and Bra'tac amusing. "I had no real form when I came to the diner. I was projecting my mental image. Something like that. When I was descended, I guess you could say it was like being reborn, only as an adult.”
“Small favors,” Jack said. “They could’ve sent you back as a kid.”
Daniel blinked, then shuddered. “Holy crap, I didn’t even think of that.”
“But Daniel, you did do something to help us,” Jack said. Daniel frowned at him. “The replicators. They stopped their BS before Carter set off the weapon. Gave us time.”
Daniel tried to remember what had been happening in that dreamscape the replicator Carter had created. “Danny’s world,” he murmured and didn’t even realize he’d said it out loud.
“What’s that?” Jack asked.
“She . . .” Daniel gestured at Sam. “The replicator version of you. She was inside my head, distracting me, using me.” His eyes went unfocused as he looked inward at his thoughts. “Lying to me. I thought we’d made a deal, she’d leave Earth alone, but I’d gotten into her head and saw the replicators in the corridor, the gateroom.” He paused and glanced around, feeling a little embarrassed. “Anyway, I got control. I made them stop because I was in her head. And because I was, I was able to break free of the dream world. I began to go toward her to . . . do something.” He rubbed at a spot between his brows with his right thumb.
“How?” Sam asked.
“I don’t know. But I got the sword instead.”
“What does that mean?” Bra’tac asked.
“She literally turned her entire arm into a sword.” He turned to Jack and Sam. “You guys remember Terminator 2: Judgment Day? How the T-1000 made a sword out of his arm?” They nodded. “She did that. She made a sword of her arm just like that. It’s how she killed me. Right here . . .” He shuddered with remembered pain and shock and rubbed at the spot where he'd been stabbed. “And from there, I emerged into that ethereal diner.”
At that point, an incoming gate transmission interrupted the briefing. In the Control Room, a Jaffa named M’brak requested that Bra’tac return to oversee disruptions. It was apparently code for Jaffa infighting.
“I will return another time,” he said.
“I too must return to Dakara,” Teal’c said, and he clasped arms with Jack and gave Daniel and Sam a hug. “Be well.”
“You too,” Daniel said.
Jack absently bumped his arm with his fist, then returned to his office via the back stairwell.
“Okay, Daniel,” Janet said.
“Oh, right. I’ll be there shortly.”
“I’ll come with you,” Sam told her and the two of them left.
Daniel walked up the back stairwell, heading for Jack’s office. He hovered in the doorway. He had to make a decision.
“Listen, I know about . . .” He looked at the open doorways and closed both of them.
“What?” Jack asked.
Daniel took the chair in front of his desk. “About ending it with Kerry. This retirement decision.”
Jack blinked. “How in the hell do you know that?” Daniel re-explained the newspaper in the diner. Jack bit at his lip. “Huh. You don’t know all of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Carter. Maybe you knew already?”
“The hero-worship?” Daniel asked.
“Except it’s not hero-worship,” Jack said slowly, gauging Daniel’s reaction. When he didn’t react with denial, Jack went on to explain it all, including his talk with her. “So, that’s one thing settled. More or less.” He grimaced and sat back, running both hands through his hair and scratching his scalp. “How’d I end up with this bag of snakes.”
Daniel snorted. “No pun intended.” Jack narrowed his eyes at him. “Clean living?”
Jack snorted back. “Never mind. Now, the retirement. Kerry has a point in a way. I really don’t know how Hammond managed this job for seven years. I can’t see myself doing it that long, never mind another year or two.” He shuddered. “We’ve taken care of the alien threats apart from Ba’al, who isn’t our headache for now. We’re working on some cool stuff in Antarctica. Atlantis is up and running. Now there’s just what happens here. Plus what happens between us. They’re sort of . . . connected.”
Daniel sighed and leaned back, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have no idea what to do.” He dropped his hand and stared at Jack. “Well, almost no idea.”
“What?” Jack asked.
Daniel looked at his watch then he gave Jack a very pointed look. “It’s time to go home and celebrate being alive. All I’m in the mood to think about is sybaritic and hedonistic abandon with my loving partner.”
Jack’s brows climbed into his hairline. “Daniel, we have to deal with this. We need to figure out what happens here. Do we retire? When our relationship becomes public knowledge, the Pentagon will replace us. It’s better to get ahead of it.”
“Yes,” Daniel said. “But can we just celebrate being alive for one night first? Please?”
Jack stared at him for seemingly endless seconds. It then dawned on him that he hadn’t fully realized that his partner was home. Compartmentalization.
Abruptly, Jack dropped his pen and stood, grabbed his keys from his desk, and gestured at the door. “Lead on, good sir. Sybaritic and hedonistic abandon awaits.” Two doors down, he said, “I’ll meet you there.”
Daniel stopped at a few stores on the way to his apartment. It was a tiny thing, but it had been better than that house-sitting arrangement. After Sarah-slash-Osiris, he couldn’t abide the place and had sought an apartment closest to Jack’s house. Most of his belongings were in the storage Jack had rented.
Looking around, Daniel decided that the next day, he’d need to take some leave to pack up the apartment. He and Jack would live at his house unless Jack wanted to sell and find another place just their own. Daniel thought about it and nixed the idea. Jack didn’t like getting rid of important, useful things just because there were bad memories associated with them. Besides, he loved his house.
During the drive over to Jack’s, the closer he got, the warmer his body felt. Perhaps it was because the weather was getting colder? No. It was the anticipation. Finally holding him properly. And other things.
Finally, at the house. Grabbing the two bags, he used his key and entered the house. Shutting the door behind him, Daniel immediately detected the old-fashioned scent of the musk candles Jack liked to have around the house, particularly in the bedroom. No lamplight. Candlelight.
Daniel’s muscles twitched in sense memory of past moments and his nerve endings seemed to go on hyperalert. He toed off his shoes and socks, hung up his jacket, then went into the kitchen and put away the groceries. Removing his Air Force issue t-shirt, he was aware that the heat had been turned up. That was good. No gooseflesh. Damn stuff interfered with the proper skin reactions to sensual touch. On the other hand, when they were into their lovemaking, they could get a bit sweaty.
Daniel’s steps moved a bit faster at that idea. He wanted to taste the salt of sweat on Jack’s lips. Fingers on his belt, he began to remove it when he entered the bedroom. The bed was prepared. The linens turned down, lube on Jack’s pillow, the pillar candles lit at the corners of the room and on the dresser and window sill . . . but no Jack. Daniel removed his jeans, then his briefs, and just then, Jack was behind him and his hands were covering his mouth and eyes. Daniel grinned.
Jack pressed his hard cock between Daniel’s cheeks and murmured behind his right ear, “Who is this intruder in my bedroom?”
Roleplay? Tonight? Daniel went with it, knowing the play wouldn’t last long. On the other hand, perhaps it was meted that they should engage in sex this way. He was technically a new man. And he would be . . . a virgin. Quite literally. A new body, even if it looked the same. Hell, he still had to wear glasses, which was a rip-off, all things consi—
Jack grabbed his cock and side-thoughts vanished. “Seems you’re willing,” Jack murmured.
Daniel restrained a restless laugh. “I have no choice. I can feel you.” He rubbed his ass against Jack’s crotch. “I came in here to steal, but I think I’ll have your—”
Jack roughly turned him around and Daniel went with it. He fell back onto the bed when Jack pushed him and his mouth went a little watery at the sight of his seriously hard cock. “I need to taste you. Swallow you.”
Jack sent him a smoldering gaze that never deviated as he bent over his legs. “Back up,” he said huskily. Daniel pushed himself up the bed. Jack took hold of his calves and with his tongue, slid a wet line up the right inner thigh. Daniel sucked in a breath and took handfuls of the sheet in tight fists. When Jack’s tongue reached his balls, he let out a needy groan and it grew louder when his legs were spread wide apart. He grabbed the pillow as he watched him lick around the edges of his balls and the base of his cock.
“Suck me,” he breathed. But Jack spent the next long minutes teasing the hell out of him with just the tip of his tongue. “Jack please.” Before the end of please, Jack suddenly surged up and took him into his mouth, sucking hard as his cockhead slid over his tongue and rested at the back of his mouth. Back and forth he moved, sucking and releasing, tongue bathing him with rhythmic strokes. Daniel felt his cock jerk and his balls tighten. “I’ll come if you keep that up.”
Jack released him to bite at his lower abdomen. “That’s the idea, but you do have a point.”
As he kissed his way up Daniel’s body, Daniel grabbed the lube. “There’s something you need to know.”
Jack smiled around a nipple before sucking it between his teeth. Daniel hissed and groaned, his fingers twining through Jack’s hair. He arched his head back and indulged in the lust Jack brought out of him at the touch of his lips and tongue. Before he could utter another word, Jack captured his mouth and wrapped his arms and legs around him.
They rocked together, rolling side to side before Jack turned them over again and again while his hips worked their magic against Daniel’s groin. Willingly handing himself over, Daniel nonetheless broke the long and deep kiss to murmur, “I’m a virgin.”
Jack paused and looked into his eyes, his arms still around him, hips moving in excruciating pleasure against his groin. “Are you?”
Daniel tightened his fingers in Jack’s hair and it brought their movements to an abrupt halt. “I’m sorry. But I think you need to know so you don’t plunge right in like usual.”
“Ah,” Jack said, and he began moving his hips and hands again. “Does it change the play about how I’ll be going slow because you’re my thief who happens to be a virgin?”
The man’s soft and sensual grin was hot as hell. “Not really.”
“Well then . . .”
Jack slowly moved his hands down Daniel’s arms until he clasped their fingers together and pinned them over his head. “Tell me, thief. Are you a virgin?”
Daniel gasped and lowered his eyes in mock embarrassment. “Yes.”
Jack only smiled and kissed him lightly, fake biting his lips then moving over his chin, down his throat, and indulging in harder bites at the crook of his neck. Daniel groaned as the instant shudder ran down his spine, as Jack’s bites tended to do.
Returning to the role play, Daniel said, “You shouldn’t do this.”
“I’m not doing anything yet.”
His fake objection was cut off as Jack moved to a nipple and both bit and pulled, sucking it between his teeth as the tip of his tongue worried at it. It made Daniel arch his back, his nipples hardening along with every other inch of him.
Then Jack moved fingers between his legs, caressing his balls and the base of his cock before teasing the space between them and his anus. Daniel couldn’t help that his hips jerked upward and his knees spread just a bit in anticipation. But he needed something more and unfortunately, it meant Jack had to stop.
With a reach under the pillow Daniel’s head lay upon, the interruption didn’t last long. No pause to open a drawer. Long practice had the cap flicked open and the needed lube squeezed . . . not on Jack’s fingers but over the base of his cock, a runnel’s worth down his balls to a very specific amount over his external sphincter muscles. Jack bent over and took the head of his cock in his mouth and began to suck and lick while his fingers did some magic below.
He looked up the length of Daniel’s body to see him staring at the ceiling and he groaned to get his attention. Dropping the head of his cock from his mouth, Jack said, “One by one. And when I’m done, I’m going for the real thing.”
Jack proceeded, the tip of his middle finger playing over the tight, wrinkled entrance to tease it. Daniel’s body responded and his fingers clutched at the blanket and sheet, then gripped as fists when Jack took his cock back into his mouth. One finger, two, then three. Sliding ever so slowly in and out before plunging gently and as deeply as was possible for fingers. Daniel began to pant and pushed at the bed to move his body away from Jack’s attention.
“You’ll make me come too soon.”
“I plan to make you come more than once.”
Then the tips of Jack’s fingers carefully brushed over the nub inside him and Daniel exhaled a loud groan while his hips jerked Jack’s fingers out of his body. Jack smiled as he was forced to stop sucking him. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said enigmatically.
Keeping Daniel’s gaze, he moved up his body but settled onto his side beside him. “Turn your hips,” he said, and gently guided him to do so. He lifted Daniel’s top leg and Daniel held it there as Jack positioned his cock, rubbing the head against his anus. He leaned down to capture a kiss and Daniel opened to him, tongues partly stiff and probing. Then Jack moved his tongue back and forth, in and out of his mouth, to simulate thrusting. On the fourth or fifth thrust in, he moved his hips and pushed.
Slowly, giving Daniel’s body time to adjust, Jack’s eyes widened as he pulled from the kiss. “Holy shit. You really are a virgin.”
“No shit,” Daniel breathed and lifted his leg a bit as he turned his hips slightly toward Jack to open further. “Stop talking.”
Which meant the focus was now on movement. Jack obliged. As soon as he was fully inside, he squeezed more lube around the entrance and pulled back to recoat himself. Again, he thrust back in. Daniel dropped his head back and moaned repeatedly with each movement. It didn’t take long after enough lube was applied to get rid of the annoying burn. Then Jack took Daniel’s leg and rested it over one shoulder, holding him firmly there to raise him slightly off the bed. In so doing, he thrust deeper and at the specific angle to breeze over his prostate.
Daniel’s moans grew louder and only when the motion produced enough sweat did Jack drop the leg enough to wrap it around his waist, turning Daniel back onto his back. Daniel raised his other knee and locked both ankles together. Sliding his hands under Daniel’s back to get a good hold, Jack bent to kiss him while his hips began their ancient rhythm. He was in constant contact with the nub inside him and Daniel’s moans grew louder.
“Faster,” Daniel entreated, unlocking his legs to spread his knees and raise his feet. He reached down to take his cock in hand and stroked himself quickly. It would take but a minute, but he needed that hot, delicious friction. Despite the admonition against talking, he began to beg, “Please, Jack. Give it to me.”
Again, Jack obliged. His own cock was pretty near the edge itself as well and as soon as he felt Daniel’s body tense, he used a lot more force and speed. Lifting his upper body, he looked down and watched Daniel’s hand move rapidly over his cock, the head dark red and glistening. Mouth dry, he swallowed against it and kissed Daniel hard just when his lover’s orgasm hit. Daniel partly screamed into his mouth, eyes wide with shock at the intensity of the climax. Hand frozen, his hips weren’t and he kept jerking with spasmodic reactions while jets of come shot from his cock and over his chest.
Jack groaned when one of them hit his chin and it set him off in turn. He thrust hard twice and froze himself as he released his pleasure into Daniel’s body. Eyes squeezed shut, he broke the kiss to pant through his intense release.
“Jesus Christ,” he managed to say, among other things, while he dropped down and held Daniel against him, face almost buried in the crook of his neck.
They drifted through the beginnings of afterglow.
“I wish I was ready for round two,” Jack murmured against Daniel’s throat.
Daniel sighed and kissed his cheek. “We have all night. Right now, we have food and drink to get to.”
“Yeah,” Jack said with interest. Then the nap began; it was another hour before they were able to get to the mojitos and fajitas.
“I love you,” Daniel said through a mouthful as they ate in bed.
“Backatcha,” Jack said around the straw in his mouth.
Mouth eventually free of food, Daniel said, “While I was up in ascended limbo, I was kept abreast of Anubis’ goings-on via a newspaper. The Ascended Times.”
“So you’ve said already,” Jack said around a mouthful.
“Yeah, but I keep thinking of the article about you and me.”
“What about it?” Jack asked.
“This bit about you retiring and how we’re running out of time. Oma wrote it. Must’ve meant something by it but I can’t figure out what she was getting at. She rarely came straight to the point.”
“You’re ruining my whole vibe, talking about serious shit.”
Daniel grinned. “Sorry. I’ll shut up now.”
Jack smirked. “Save it for later. Right now, I feel like another nap. Then round two.”
“Nap, huh?” Daniel asked as his body’s reaction times returned to normal.
“Well. A doze.” Jack looked down at Daniel’s bare lap. “Maybe.”
Around eight-thirty the next morning, the two were in the kitchen wrangling breakfast. Jack kissed the back of Daniel’s neck as he maneuvered around him with a cookie sheet layered with foil. Daniel smiled, hands full of bacon.
Then the doorbell rang.
Jack scowled in that direction. “For cryin’ out loud.”
Daniel continued crumbling the bacon for their frittatas so his hands were a mess. “Uh, you’ll have to get it.”
With a nod, Jack wiped his own hands dry after washing a dish and went to see who was interrupting their peaceful morning. When he looked through the windows in the door, his brows rose with part-pleasure, part-alarm.
“Sir!” Jack said to George Hammond. “C’mon in.”
“Thanks, Jack,” said the General. “I’m sorry to interrupt the morning.”
Jack shook his head. “Nothing. Have a seat at the kitchen table. Coffee?”
“Sure,” Hammond said. As he saw Daniel, his brows wrinkled slightly but he gave him a nod and a smile just the same. “Doctor Jackson, good morning.”
“Morning, sir,” Daniel said, the spot between his brows wrinkling. “What’s up?”
“Let’s give the man his coffee first,” Jack said.
“Right,” Daniel said, moving to the sink to wash his hands. “Pour me another cup while you’re at it.”
“You got it,” Jack said with the response of long habit.
Daniel continued putting together the ingredients of their breakfast pan frittata while Jack took Hammond his coffee: cream, light sugar.
“So,” Jack said.
Hammond took a long swallow and sighed with satisfaction. “No reason not to get to the point. Are you retiring?”
“Planning on it but I have no damn idea what to do afterward.”
“You too Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked. “Quitting the SGC, I mean.”
Daniel brushed the residue from the dry mushrooms from his hands and took his coffee with him to sit down at the breakfast table with the other two. “I don’t want to train another commanding officer,” he said, recalling the mission he’d had with Colonel Edwards. Jack rolled his eyes while Hammond grinned. “I mean, I know there are threats out there but the SGC can handle them just fine as long there’s proper leadership.”
“I too am retiring,” Hammond said. “But not for a few more months. I’ll be overseeing the construction of a new offworld base, but it won’t be in our galaxy.”
Jack’s brows went up. So did Daniel’s.
“What’s up, sir?” Jack asked.
“The president and a few others outside the chain of command want to set up a colony, not a base, and outside the reach of the threats we face in our own galaxy.”
“To face new unknowns in another?” Jack countered. “That doesn’t sound all that smart. No offense intended, sir.”
“None taken, Jack, because I asked those same questions. But the Asgard are going to help because they too are setting up shop in this new galaxy to get away from any leftover replicators in their home galaxy. They were wiped out by that weapon you recreated but maybe they’re getting used to the human idea of ‘better safe than sorry.’”
Daniel grinned. “What’s the new galaxy?”
“Andromeda. The Asgard gave us the coordinates to a solar system they’ve been investigating, now that they have the time and resources no longer needed to fight the replicators. It’s closer to us than the Pegasus galaxy. It won’t tax our own ‘gate’s systems as much, making it easier to use a modified naquadah generator.” Hammond held up a hand. “The specs I’ll leave for the moment. The point is, and the reason for my visit, is just this. A few of us old diehards have been kicking around this idea for a while. With help from the Asgard, it’s become a viable plan. Now, I am of a mind that people with nearly a decade of experience should head this up. Command, security, and the sciences. I think it would be perfect for the former members of SG-1.”
Hammond watched the two men go perfectly still, eyes wide with shock. He didn’t smile. He offered only a small, knowing grin. “I realize fully what this offer would entail and what it would mean for your lives here. What you would be giving up.”
Daniel looked at Jack, his expression full of questions. Jack returned the gaze. Unknowingly, they both drummed their fingers on the table at the same time. It made Hammond grin slightly.
“I . . .” Daniel began, feeling a bit awkward because he hated saying no to the man. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see the need for my presence there. What purpose is there for an archaeologist or linguist? Normally I’d be very excited at encountering new cultures, but if there aren’t any . . .” He held out his hands.
Hammond nodded. “My apologies, Doctor Jackson,” he said, nodding also to Jack. “This galaxy, and in particular, the chosen solar system, is of particular interest because the Asgard believe that it was once occupied by both the Ancients, whom we now know are called Alterans, thanks to the investigations done by our Atlantis research team, and the fourth race from Heliopolis, the Furling.”
“What?” Daniel asked, conservative in his excitement. “How did the Asgard discover this?”
“I believe the Asgard in question, Heimdall, has the answers to your question. I’m here to offer you the jobs.”
“What does this entail exactly, General?” Jack asked.
“Migrating to this galaxy and solar system, setting up the planet as a human colony. It’s to be run by both military and civilian personnel in a cooperative government.”
“Oy,” Jack said, not relishing the notion. “That can get sticky.”
Hammond gave him a sympathetic grin. “I understand your reluctance but you’d be in charge and you’d have Doctor Jackson and Colonel Carter as leaders of the separate divisions. She can also go as a civilian if she so chooses, but in either case, I think she’d be a good fit as head of the sciences. Doctor Jackson would be in charge of the research and investigative areas of anthropology and archaeology that are badly needed when rediscovering old peoples and civilizations.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other then back at Hammond. “How long do we have to think this over?” Jack asked.
“Two weeks. But the project’s scheduled departure is set for three months from now,” Hammond said. “Discuss it with Colonel Carter, see if it’s something you’d like to commit your futures to. You can pick your own department heads, once you sign on. Here’s a copy of the project itself.” Hammond opened up the soft briefcase he’d brought with him and set a thick folder on the table. It had a logo on the cover and the name under it read Phoenix. He pushed back his chair and rose. I’ve got some other business but give me a call. I know there’s more to hash out, Jack, Doctor Jackson, but give this matter some weight. I’d like to see this venture headed by the best people I believe can make it work.”
Jack saw him to the door and before Hammond left, he asked, “How in the world are we getting there, General? You can’t send an entire colony, Atlantis notwithstanding, through the Stargate.”
“Correct. You’ll be commanding one of the newest Earth-Asgard starships, the Phoenix. It is, as it was explained to me, a fully functioning Asgardian city-ship.”
Daniel’s head snapped up from his attention on the project folder’s contents. “City ship?” he called, walking to the door. “Like Atlantis is a city-ship?”
“A bit smaller, but it’s designed to transport the needs of a new colony all at once.”
“Why us?” Jack bluntly asked.
“Thought you could use a new start with something vastly challenging.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jack said, feeling dubious.
“Talk to you soon,” Hammond said and left for his car.
Jack shut the door and leaned against it. He and Daniel stared at each other.
“Holy shit,” they said.
Daniel took the side elevator to the command deck once he’d finished with the inventory tally. He saw Jack talking to Colonel Phillips, the head of xenobiology, and they were having yet another lively discussion that ended with Jack holding up an index finger and saying, “Rethink. Come back when you’ve done that. I’m not kidding, Jeff.”
“Sir,” said the man, and he walked off. He gave Daniel a chagrined look as he passed and Daniel gave him an encouraging nod.
Daniel walked over and stood by Jack’s command chair. He looked around, then at the viewport several yards forward from the command station. Jack walked over and sat down, groaning and saying, “Oy.” It was now an oft-heard statement and when people heard it, they knew to tread a bit more carefully or Jack would assign them something time-consuming and unnecessary. Like filling out a new mission brief on their duties.
“You hungry?” Daniel asked.
Jack groaned again. “Starving.” He looked at his watch. “And it’s lunchtime.”
“Thought that was clear by my asking you if you were hungry.”
Jack grinned. “Okay, Mister Smartass. Let’s go have lunch.”
“That’s Doctor Smartass.”
“Oh, my mistake.”
The mess hall was two decks down and toward the center of the ship. It serviced all the military personnel while the five civilian cafeterias serviced the civilians and their families. That had taken both men by surprise when they’d truly realized the scope of this venture. Families. A literal new home. With a ship that could take them back and forth to Earth in a single week instead of the three weeks it took to reach the Pegasus galaxy using the standard Earth-Asgard battlecruisers like the Daedalus.
Daniel and Jack grabbed their food and sat down in their oft-used spot at the back of the hall. That way, Jack could keep an eye on his people and make sure everyone got their meals in. Anyone who skipped meals would get an automated text message that generally said, “Eat or suffer latrine duty.” Jack had their schedules down to pinpoint accuracy. Don’t overwork. Don’t underwork. Be efficient. Rigidity would relax once the colony was done working out its kinks and beginner issues.
As Daniel munched on his salad, he said, “My stomach’s been queasy for the last six hours. How’re you doing?”
Jack shrugged. “The same. I have way too much stuff to do. But it beats just sitting around trying to fill the time, which is what we’d be doing if we’d retired and stayed on Earth.” He paused, then said, “I miss Teal’c.”
Daniel swallowed his mouthful, and said as blandly as he could manage, “He said he might visit.”
“Might,” Jack said, looking sour. “SG-1 isn’t commanding this mission. Teal’c isn’t here.”
Daniel nodded, then took a bite before the grin on his face could appear.
“May I join you?”
Jack looked up, then his eyes widened and he stood up, nearly knocking his chair over. “Teal’c!”
“O’Neill,” Teal’c said, bowing his head.
They gripped their forearms, then Jack half-hugged him and slapped him on the back. He then looked down and scowled at Daniel. “You little—”
“Tell Teal’c all he needs to know for this mission, Jack. While you’re eating. Like the rest of us.”
Jack glowered at him, then sat down. Teal’c didn’t need to be filled in. He’d already done his best to get Teal’c to sign on. The damn Jaffa had accepted behind his back. Typical. Then Jack narrowed his gaze and looked from Teal’c to Daniel to Teal’c again. “So you decided to check out Phoenix as a possible place for a Jaffa detachment?”
“That is my assignment,” Teal’c nodded. “Bra’tac will lead Dakara in my absence.”
“Teal’c!” Carter said, coming over with a woman in tow. Doctor Elena Bishop, Chief Medical Officer. Carter gave Teal’c a hug and the two women joined them.
Jack had the next table brought together with theirs and he was soon listening to chatter while he ate his lunch. It was a little annoying. The mealtime was one of the few moments during the day when he and Daniel were able to spend time together. Still, he couldn’t really complain.
As the new arrivals began their lunch, Teal’c’s gaze caught the metallic glint of a ring on Daniel’s left hand. The ring finger. His gaze flicked to Jack’s ring finger. There sat a gold band identical to Daniel’s. His eyebrow went up.
Daniel smiled and when Jack realized what was up, he smiled too.
“Together,” they said. “Forever.”