Chapter 1: Admiration
“I know I put it here, somewhere... .“ Adjusting his glasses, Daniel glared at the contents of his desk. Mission reports, post-it notes, coffee mugs... he'd have to clean and put them away before he'd leave... a street map, travel guide, research papers,... Where were those damn flight tickets? And his hotel reservations? He knew they had been in one of those official looking USAF envelopes. Because that's how they had arrived on his desk this morning. And he had put them... on his desk.
He carefully moved a tower of books. Nothing. He rummaged through the box for incoming mail. Nothing. He checked his watch and groaned. He'd have to go home and pack clothes... toothbrush... shampoo... allergy meds... Tylenol... books and his laptop... But first he had to find his tickets. He looked behind his computer screen, he looked under the desk...
His phone rang.
Startled, Daniel shot upwards and his head collided with the solid underside of his desk. Letting out a blue streak of curses in French – how appropriate – he scrambled to his feet and lunged for the phone, one hand rubbing vigorously at the back of his head. “'lo?”
There was a pause on the other end, then the deadly voice of doom. “Explain.”
“Wha...?” He winced as his fingertips found a growing bump.
“Oh... hi, Jack.” Great. This day was getting better and better. He should have looked at the caller ID. Then again he wouldn't have gotten around to making this call. He would just have preferred it to happen at a later point. When he was on his way to the airport for example and not in a hurry to get away.
“Landry is sending you to Paris,” Jack said, his tone indicating it must be Daniel's fault that he was about to leave the country.
“Right... Oh, there you are.” He pulled the USAF envelope out from under the books the phone had been perched on.
“He's sending you to Paris for some kind of archeological shindig. On your vacation.”
“Actually,” Daniel pulled his chair over with one foot while he flipped through the contents of the envelope, “it's just a cover story. Someone found obscure writings on the great Sphinx of Tanis at the Louvre. Might be Goa'uld.” Flight tickets, hotel reservations, rental car reservations... yep, all there. “I'm going to attend the seminar, but I need to take a look at this.”
“I KNOW it's just a cover story,” Jack snapped, the pretense of calm momentarily gone. “What I don't know is why it can't wait until next week.”
“Err,... Landry made it kind of urgent. We've got a tight mission schedule next week,” Daniel said. He shoved everything back into the envelope and checked his watch again. “Look, Jack, I'm sorry. I know you were expecting me... .”
“Damn straight I was. Tomorrow. Ring a bell? Vacation? Minnesota? Fish? Beer? Lots of trees... .”
“I always wondered why you like going there so much. You hate trees,” Daniel said, momentarily distracted.
“These are different trees. They're Minnesota trees. But that's beside the point. You were coming over. I already bought food for a week.”
Daniel rubbed at his head again and probed the bump. It wasn't too bad, but still tender to the touch. “We'll do it when I'm back.”
“It took you almost six months to squeeze that vacation in. It'll take you another six months to even consider another vacation,” Jack whined. “I've got t-bone steaks on ice. I got here yesterday. I even cleaned the fucking house!”
“Look, I'm sorry. I can't just go to Landry and tell him I have other plans. Unless you want to call him and pull rank?”
“That's not a bad idea, you know... .”
“Ja-ack. You're not going to call Landry and order him to let me go to Minnesota with you.”
“Why the hell not? What's being a major general good for if I can't order you to spend your vacation with me,” Jack said indignantly.
“You do realize how that sounds, right?” Daniel asked dryly
“Never mind. I'll miss my flight if I don't hurry.”
“And? So? Therefore?”
“Jack... . I realize this is spoiling our vacation. I'm sorry, but I can't change it.” He lined up the coffee mugs to take them with him on his way out.
“Why are you going alone anyway?”
“What? Cam, Sam, Vala and Teal'c are off world. Besides, it's just an investigation. Nothing I can't handle.”
“Fine. I'll relax for both of us then. Have all the beer and food to myself. You have fun.”
“Hey, I might be in DC in a couple of weeks. We can catch up then,” Daniel said in an attempt to mend some fences. Jack sounded actually hurt. As if he had really been looking forward to spending this vacation with him. Well, it had been Jack's idea in the first place so Daniel was sure he had been looking forward to it. But there was an edgy undertone in his voice, underneath the indignation and the show of annoyance.
“Yeah, whatever.” Resignation now. There was something slightly off. Daniel couldn't put his finger on it, but if he weren't in such a hurry he would have tried to get to the bottom of this.
“Jack? Are you okay?”
“Peachy. Take care. And don't die.”
“Har har. Very funny,” Daniel muttered.
“I'll do my best. Listen, I need to go.”
“Right. See ya.” Now he sounded upbeat again. “Bye Daniel.”
“J....” The line was dead. Daniel stared thoughtfully at the phone in his hand.
Loosening his tie on his way out of the conference room, Daniel's thoughts were still occupied with the seminar's subject when Steven caught up with him. “I thought we could have a drink at the bar.”
Daniel hesitated. He felt neither the desire to spend time with Steven nor was he in the mood for drinks. He was tired and still felt the jet
lag It was ironic how he never had that much trouble with gate lag, but when he had to fly out the country he'd suffer from the time differences. However, Steven probably wanted to talk about that Sphinx.
“Sure, why not.” He followed Doctor Rayner down the hall to the small bar which was housed on the same level as the conference rooms. It was only open during seminars and meetings and not for the regular hotel guests.
They settled at a small table in the corner.
“Did you notice how they looked at you?” Steven asked with a smirk. “Like you were a ghost coming back from the dead. How long has it been since you attended any kind of seminar?”
“Long enough that I thought no one would remember me,” Daniel muttered. There had been a few odd looks from people he used to know. No one had come straight out to ask him where he'd been all these years. Some of them were probably afraid he might step up to the podium and share more weird 'aliens built the pyramids' stories. It was a bit unsettling that all he was remembered for was that fateful day when he’d flushed his career down the toilet at the academy. Yet, it had lost most of its sting years ago. If they only knew the half of it.
Steven shrugged. “They talked about it for a long time. Especially since you disappeared soon after that speech and never showed up again. Well, not until Doctor Jordan died. Even then only those of us who were there knew you were back. And then you disappeared again.”
Daniel was grateful for the young French waitress who approached their table just then, asking for their orders. He settled for Merlot while Steven had beer.
Once the waitress had left, Steven picked up the conversation before Daniel could make his move to steer it elsewhere. “You ever heard from Sarah again?” There was a twitch in the handsome face and something like fear crossed the man's dark eyes. “How is she?”
“Ye-ah, she's... fine. Therapy helped. She's working again. She moved back to the UK.”
“I'm glad to hear that. That she's better.”
“It was very considerate of you not to press any charges against her for attacking you in that temple, Steven,” Daniel said quietly.
“When I recovered from my injuries she'd already been taken to the psych ward. I didn't think pressing charges would have helped. It wouldn’t have changed anything.” He bent forward and gave Daniel a hard look. “You know I never believed the stuff about her melt down. She might have been thinking she was Osiris when she attacked me, she might have been delusional, but that thing she attacked me with was definitely not a weapon I’ve ever seen. And what ever happened to the amulet? I know it was a key. I think it proved your theories were right after all. I just wonder why you never came out with it again. Why you never tried to redeem your reputation? Why keep quiet about it all these years? If the military is in on this... it must be huge.”
“I told you. Some things are better not in the public eye,” Daniel said. He knew Steven hadn’t bought the psych ward story, but what were they supposed to tell him? That Sarah had been taken over by an alien parasite who was – by the way – Osiris? That Osiris had taken Sarah away to his ship and made her work for Anubis? They had to come up with something, so they had quickly worked out this story about Sarah's melt down and that she had attacked him, thinking she was Osiris.
They had given him parts of the truth because he had figured out some of it already. That the amulet was alien technology and over 10 000 years old. That it had been a key to open the chamber that had held the ribbon device. And that the ribbon device was a weapon not originating on Earth. They couldn't give him all the details, and had finally shut him up with the 'classified' clause and the 'need to know' rule. Even though Steven had always been looking for fame and attention he had never attempted to go public with his new knowledge. Probably because he didn't want to be laughed out of his job at the Oriental Institute. No one there would support his theories. He had no evidence. The military had taken care of that.
Until the writings on the Sphinx appeared.
Steven's eyes narrowed. “I don't get you, Daniel. You used to want the world to know the truth. You even risked getting kicked out of the institute.”
“Things change,” Daniel said tersely. “I'm sorry. I can't tell you.”
“At least take me with you to the Louvre tomorrow. After all it was because of my call you're here now.”
Their drinks were delivered and Daniel sipped his wine before answering. “Look, I'm grateful you called...”
“I saw those writings and knew right away they're similar to the ones on the jar we found with the amulet. I knew you'd know what they are and I hoped you'd enlighten me.”
“I can't,” Daniel said. “I'm sorry Steven, but it's still classified.”
“I won't tell anyone. I just need to know the truth. I almost died in that temple. I'd like to know why.”
“Sarah was not having a meltdown. She was possessed by something. Her fucking eyes glowed,” Steven snapped.
“Keep it down,” Daniel hissed, taking a look around the bar. It had filled up. Many of the seminar's attendees were having drinks and snacks.
“Well?” Steven prompted.
“Sorry,” Daniel replied. “I can't.” He knew where Steven was coming from. He knew how important it might be for him to know the truth. But he had never trusted Rayner. Steven had always acted to serve his own agenda, even when they’d been working together. Steven had stolen the amulet because he had been the one who wanted to make the discovery: to gain more fame, to be the man in the limelight. So yeah, he had almost died in that temple because he had no idea what he'd been dealing with. Maybe he felt they owed him the truth, but revealing the whole truth to someone like Rayner was dangerous.
“I could publish pictures of those writings,” Steven went on. “I could throw the question out there, get people's attention. Someone might pick up on it. Someone might have similar ideas to yours. Someone might listen and help me figure it out for myself.” His eyes narrowed. “I could track down Sarah. She owes me. I'm sure she can be convinced to talk.”
So that's why Rayner never pressed charges against her for the attack. He could have tried. He had no idea she was really gone from the planet. He thought – or was forced to believe – Sarah was stuck in a psych ward and not allowed to see anyone. But he never even attempted to try. Daniel had always thought it was an awful noble thing for someone like Rayner. Apparently this, too, was to be used at a later point.
“You won't find her,” he said.
“I might try.”
“Good luck.” He made a mental note to call Landry and let him know Rayner was being difficult, just in case. Sarah had a new identity and a change of career. They sometimes talked on the phone. She was doing okay under the circumstances. She really liked Australia.
Steven took a large swig of his beer. Apparently he decided to change tactics again. “Talk to me, Daniel. We can make a big story out of this. The discovery of the century. Think about it.”
“That's exactly why I can't tell you the truth,” Daniel said coldly. “Because you don't know how to handle it properly. And besides – you signed the classified clause after what happened in the tomb.”
“Maybe I don't care about the classified clause? Maybe I'll tell people anyway,” Rayner sneered. “I have pictures of the Sphinx writings.”
“Oh, but you should care,” a smooth voice said, coming from behind Daniel.
Rayner's head snapped upwards, his eyes narrowing. “And you are...?”
“Major General Jack O'Neill. And I strongly advise you to rethink your actions there, buddy.” Jack slipped onto the free chair on the other side of the table. “The military is everywhere. Watching.”
“Are you threatening me?” Steven sat back and gaped at Major General Jack O'Neill.
“Ah, yes.” Jack said pleasantly. “I am.”
“You... do you know this guy, Daniel?” Steven asked.
Daniel shrugged. “Yeah. Comes straight from the Pentagon.” His eyes widened as he leaned in to whisper, “They're watching me, you know?”
“Yeah. To make sure I don't tell stuff I'm not supposed to. Especially to old colleagues. I signed the same clause as you did when I started working for them. And to make sure no one tries to pry things out of me they're always around to watch.”
“Is it?” Jack gave Rayner a long measuring look. “Doctor Jackson here has top priority. Top security, too. No one messes with him – or the knowledge he carries around. So if you want to stay alive and unharmed, leave it.”
“You're better off not knowing,” Daniel said, his voice grave. “It's a matter of national security. If any of this goes public they know where to find you.”
“Since all this is so classified we're very interested in keeping it off the record,” Jack said smoothly.
Daniel only got a glimpse of a hand moving underneath the table, then Rayner blanched and went very still.
“You walk out of here and leave,” Jack said. “I'll pay for your beer.”
“Better take a night plane,” Daniel added. “Go away and no one will bother you.”
“You didn't take any pictures at the Louvre,” Jack went on.
“No pictures.” Rayner's head went up and down.
“Go back to Chicago. Stay head guy of the department at the Institute. Do what you do best. Write books. Have parties. Attend seminars. Safe subjects,” Daniel said, matching Jack's calm, almost airy, tone of voice.
“Safe subjects,” Rayner parroted.
“No aliens,” Daniel said.
“We'll keep an eye on you.” Jack's hand pulled away and Rayner surged to his feet. Without another word he turned and hastily left the bar.
Jack put his gun back into the inside pocket of his jacket.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Daniel blurted out.
“You think he's going to be a problem?” Jack's eyes were fixed on the bar's entrance.
“Steven? No. He's ambitious, but he likes his comfort zone. I think he got the message. But you might alert some people about him. He said he might try to hunt down Sarah Gardener.”
“She's out of the country, isn't she?”
“Yeah. No traces leading there. But still....”
“I'm sure Landry's going to take care of it when you call him.”
“As I said I don't think he's really willing to give up his cozy life as head of the Institute for this but it can't hurt to keep an eye on him.”
Jack's head whipped back to face him, his eyes twinkling with something like mischief. “Good. Problem solved. Drink up. You've got packing to do.”
“Packing?” Daniel's hand paused with his glass halfway raised to his lips.
“Yep. And checking out.”
“Packing and checking out?” He took a sip of wine, deciding he was in need of a drink. Then he placed it back on the table and turned his full attention to the man sitting next to him looking smug. “You didn't answer my question. What. Are. You. Doing. Here.?”
“I'm on vacation.”
He intensified his glare, knowing it probably would be pointless. To his surprise Jack averted his gaze. He pursed his lips and stared at the red table cloth as though it held some significant meaning of life stuff. “I thought Paris was a place as good as Minnesota. Figured you'd like the company,” he said finally, somewhat sullen.
“Well, I do. Like the company. But....” He shook his head. “Are you telling me you came all the way to Paris just so we could spend the week together?”
“Geez, Daniel. Don't get all overjoyed,” Jack snapped.
“Excuse me, I'm just...confused.”
Jack scowled. “Well,...that makes two of us, actually.” Then he brightened and, as he waved the waitress over to pay, said, “Let's go.”
“I rented a boat,” Jack informed him.
“Daniel, will you stop it?”
“Repeating everything I say.”
Daniel watched a bit dazzled as Jack paid for the drinks and wished her a good evening.
He was so busy processing the events of the last five minutes that he simply followed Jack out of the bar to the elevators. Jack grimaced. “This where they put ya in? Not very stylish. I take it the seminar was here?”
“Yes. It's not five stars, but it's okay.”
Jack rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything.
The Belladins wasn't a first class hotel, but the rooms were clean, with cable TV, telephone, and the beds and bathrooms were good standard. Daniel didn't intend to spend much time in his room anyway.
“How long do you need to pack everything?” Jack slouched into the recliner by the TV.
“A couple of minutes,” Daniel replied absently. Then, when he realized he was about to just comply, he shook himself out of his daze. “Let me bottom line this. You want me to pack my stuff and leave the hotel, for which the Air Force has paid, and stay on... a boat with you?”
“Because you're gonna love the boat, Daniel. And this isn't the place to stay when one is in Paris,” Jack explained patiently.
“And the right place to stay when in Paris is on a boat.”
“A house boat to be specific.”
“O…On the Seine?”
“No, Daniel, on the Colorado River. Yes, on the Seine.”
“And once we're there you're going to tell me what's going on?” Because something was definitely going on. And Daniel was determined to get to the bottom of it.
Jack shrugged. “Sure.”
He packed his things. It didn't take long. He was used to traveling light and had only unpacked his toiletries, the suit, and a couple of books. Thirty minutes later he had checked out of the Balladins. While he had informed the clerk he wouldn't be staying the whole week after all, Jack had asked the other guy at the desk for Steven Rayner's room number and got the reply that Mr. Rayner had checked out just a couple of minutes ago.
“Nice car,” Daniel commented as they left the Belladins's parking lot and headed for the highway. It was a warm summer evening. The sun was just about to go down, spreading orange light all over the city, reflecting in the windows of the skyscrapers of the office district La Défense in the distance. Daniel allowed himself a moment of enjoyment at the unexpected luxury of sitting in a black open Chevrolet Cabriolet. He let the wind play with his short hair and closed his eyes.
Jack had turned on the radio and the soft voice of a French female singer underlined by a piano turned the simple ride into something nice. They wove their way through the traffic of Paris once they had left the highway, passing monumental buildings, expensive shopping malls, streets lined with cafè's, restaurants and brasseries. The sidewalks were full of people, the streets crowded by cars, bikes and buses.
When Jack maneuvered the car down the ramp leading to the river, Daniel's eyes settled on the large barge. Its hulk was black with the name Belle Réve written at the side. Beautiful Dream... Daniel couldn't help but smile at that. He’d had one of those – a long time ago.
The cabin, taking almost half of the ship's surface, had large windows and small bull's eyes in the basement. On the other side of the river the towers of Notre Dame were looming in the dusk of the evening.
Jack parked the Chevrolet next to the barge and pushed his sunglasses up to sit on top of his tousled gray hair. “Whattya think?”
“I thought it would be a nice place to spend our vacation.” Jack smirked. “C'mon. I'll give you the tour.”
A long gangway led up to the barge. “Is it actually fit for travel?” Daniel looked around curiously.
“Nope, it's moored. The owner lives here part of the year,” Jack said.
“Oh? Friend of yours?” They had reached the deck now and Jack fiddled with a bunch of keys while Daniel let his gaze wander down the Seine. Further away he spotted another boat not unlike the one they were on.
“Nope. Found a website featuring house boats as a nice alternative to hotels or houses.” Jack pushed the door open. “Welcome aboard.”
They walked down a short narrow stairway, then the cabin opened up into a large room complete with a sitting area and a fire place. Daniel stepped in and placed his duffle bag on one of the two small but comfy looking couches. A bottle of red wine stood on the table next to two glasses.
“I'll light a fire.” Jack moved around Daniel to crouch in front of the fireplace. “This place comes complete with a kitchenette, bathroom including shower, sleeping area, TV and a grand view of the river.”
Daniel couldn't help but smile as he surveyed the interior of Jack's ship. It was plain, yet had an air of comfortable luxury upon it. The bookshelves – housing mostly Paris Tour guides and sightseeing brochures – were of warm pine wood. He wondered if the owner built them himself as they fit perfectly to end just underneath the windows which were covered by white flowing curtains. He spotted a chess board on the coffee table, tucked away in its box. Large iron candle holders were placed in the corner by the fireplace, bearing thick white candles.
By its look the flooring was from the same wood as the shelves and the table by the couches. Daniel crossed the large room from one end to the other. There was a large double bed on a pedestal and behind a partition wall he found the kitchenette. A small alcove harbored a stove, a dishwasher and a fridge. A cabinet held dishes and on a shelf Jack had stacked cans and other food. There was a wine rack embedded into the wall and Daniel pulled out one of the bottles, whistling at the excellent choice either Jack or the owner had made in selecting the wine. There was one other door and Daniel assumed it led to the bathroom.
Not bothering to check it out he went back to where Jack had started the fire. His friend had also opened the wine to breathe.
“It's great,” Daniel admitted. “Is this what you envision when you keep saying you want a boat once you're retired?”
Jack's retiring plans involved either the cabin in Minnesota or a boat somewhere. Daniel never thought about retirement plans. He would decide what he wanted to do once retirement actually happened – if he was still alive or descended by then. When he had been young – which sometimes seemed a lifetime ago – before he'd joined the Stargate program, he had thought he would go back to Egypt in his later years. To live where he had been happy as a child. But he had learned that mapping out the future was wasted time in his venue of work.
“You like it?” Jack grinned.
“Yep, I like it.”
“Nice.” Jack poured them wine and settled on the couch.
“Where do you want me to put my stuff?” Daniel pointed at the bag.
“Just drop it by the bed for now.”
He did that, returned to the couch and settled next to Jack. A question formed in his mind, but he chose not to ask it. They clinked their glasses and drank. The wine was rich, with a fruity final note. Daniel looked at Jack's sharp profile, the aristocratic nose, the small lips and angular features.
And suddenly it hit him.
Blindsided him with such force that he almost bolted from the couch, almost stumbled away to put distance between them. Almost...but just almost.
“It” being a desire he thought had faded away years ago. A feeling he thought he had buried under the endless scars of their trials and tribulations. Stuffed neatly away in order to maintain this friendship they had tried to keep going all those years despite the scars. Despite the disagreements. A friendship that had been close to the breaking point once or twice. There had been times when Daniel hadn't even been sure why they still bothered. But they had. They still did.
Things had gotten remarkably easier between them once Jack had made general. And Daniel had actually missed him in the field. Mitchell had taken to going off world like a duck took to water, but he wasn't... Jack. When he had realized he missed Jack's bad jokes, the eye rolls, yes, even the endless arguments and bitching sessions, Daniel had thought it was just that he had gotten used to Jack so much that he simply couldn't imagine someone else leading the team. And maybe that had been part of it. Once he'd gotten used to Cam and once Cam had gotten over his hero worship for SG-1 Daniel had eased into the new team dynamic, amazed how much less conflicted he felt with Mitchell. How much less on the edge.
And yet... he still missed Jack from time to time. He had long given up on trying to find a reason why. He just did. Maybe he had never stopped feeling “it” after all. Maybe it had always been there, hiding in the back of his mind, biding its time.
Daniel didn't know. He had thought he'd gotten over Jack years ago. But now he was sitting here on a boat in Paris, sipping wine and “it” had sprung out of its hiding place like a Jack-in-the-box.
He stayed seated and hoped the heat in his face wasn't visible. Hoped the little tremors running down his spine would go away. Hoped that his jeans weren't too tight to hide the spark of interest that had jolted through him.
Slowly he relaxed, willing his mind to steer clear of naughty thoughts. And his eyes to leave Jack's face.
“Why, Jack?” he finally asked. “Why jumping through all these hoops?” They had spent weekends together before. At Jack's place in DC or at the cabin with Sam and Teal'c along for the ride. When Jack had suggested a week in Minnesota for just the two of them – it had been a first.
Oh, Daniel had looked forward to it. A week of peace and quiet. Jack was actually great company when they weren't out in the field and in each others' faces. Jack didn't require constant entertaining or talking. He would sit and fish while Daniel would sit and read. They'd cook together and hike and do guy things. So, yeah, Daniel would have loved having that vacation. When Paris showed up he had been a bit resentful about having to cancel the cabin trip.
He'd certainly never expected Jack to come after him and present him with a boat for a week.
“I want to try the retirement thing again.”Jack placed his wine glass on the table and leaned back into the couch.
Daniel frowned. “Why? You're not going to die or something, right? I mean this isn't some... I only have a year to live kind of thing?” An imaginary ice cube settled in the pit of his stomach.
“I'm afraid you won't get rid of me that easily.” Jack raised an eyebrow and turned to look at him.
“There's always hope,” he said lightly, as the ice cube melted away. “So, why retire – again?”
Jack shrugged. “I'd like to leave the circus while I'm still young enough. I did my bit for God and country, so I thought the time's right now.”
“So, I put in my resignation.”
Daniel felt his jaw hit the floor. “You already did? I... I thought this was some kind of 'maybe' or 'probably' idea.”
“Nope. All signed and sealed. I'm out.” Jack gave him a lopsided smile and raised his glass again.
Daniel blinked. “How long have you actually thought about this? I mean, are you sure?”
“Thought about it ever since I left the mountain, actually.”
“That's … wow. Congratulations. I think.”
“The Goa'uld are no more, the Ori are defeated... if there's another baddy waiting at the gate, SG-1 and Landry can deal with them. Riding the desk wasn't all that exciting.”
“Do I hear resentfulness?”
Jack shook his head. “Nope. I'm done.”
“No regrets?” Daniel teased, watching Jack over the rim of his wine glass.
Jack didn't answer. He stood to poke at the charred wood. The fire flared up again. Then he spun around and tilted his head towards the door. “C'mon. I want to show you something.”
Daniel followed Jack back up the stairs and out on deck.
“I got here late last night. Thought it's quite a view,” Jack said.
Daniel didn't say anything.
They leaned against the railing, facing the river. Notre Dame on the other shore was illuminated and so was the rest of Paris. Lights reflected in the dark water beneath them. He could see the bridges that connected the Île de la Cité with the rest of the city. It was actually an isle in the middle of the Seine. They were bathed in lights as well.
He looked at the stars lurking at a velvet sky. There was no moon, yet. “We go off world so much, finding all these cool and exciting planets – we sometimes forget how much we have here. On our own planet,” Daniel said finally.
“Yeah. That's why I'd like a boat. I'd like to go see places. Without all the hassle and the shooting.”
“Something like that.”
“There's a thought,” Daniel said, thinking he'd like to do that for a while, too. Travel. Then what Jack had said struck him and he pried his eyes from the lights and the river to face his friend. “Is this goodbye? Are you going to fall off the face of Earth next week? Go where no O'Neill has gone before?”
“It might take a while longer to arrange everything, ya know. I don't even have a boat yet.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Just along the coast line first. I didn't map it all out, yet. Hey, I'm hungry. I did some shopping today while you were stuck at your seminar. I'm thinking steaks and salad, baked potatoes?”
Daniel felt his stomach cheer at the thought of dinner. “Sounds great.”
Cooking was a comfortable quiet affair. Daniel put together a Cesar Salad while Jack took care of the potatoes and the steaks. They had French baguette and butter on the side and Jack promised coffee for later.
There was a folding table attached to the wall next to the wine rack. Jack pulled it up and got two chairs from a niche. The table was set with plain white plates and wine glasses. When they sat down to eat Daniel noticed the lit white candle. It was a nice touch and the thoughts of romantic candlelight dinners crossed his mind as they clinked their wine glasses once more over the food.
Jack didn't do romantic.
At least not with Daniel.
But there was something so unreal about the whole scenario, something absolutely wrong and yet...
“The steaks are great,” Daniel said.
Jack looked at him, his eyes dark and shiny in the candlelight, his features unusual soft. “Let's check out the French Cuisine tomorrow. When do you have to be at the Louvre?”
“Around nine. I'm going to meet up with... ah, Doctor Bertrand. He called the Oriental Institute in Chicago when no one here could figure out the writings.”
“Which is why Rayner showed up,” Jack said dryly.
“Yeah. Steven may be an arrogant SOB, but he made the right call.”
Jack grimaced. “He better stay out of it. I don't trust him any further than I could throw him.”
“I think you scared him off. For a while at least.” Daniel smirked, stomping down the slight feeling of pity he had for Steven. “If I'd trust him anymore than you do I'd recommended him to work on the program.”
“But you didn't. Which tells me enough.”
“Wow. I didn't think you valued my opinion that highly.” Daniel's eyebrows rose over the rim of his glasses.
Jack cocked his head. “All that crap I let you talk me into all those years - and you still think I don't value your opinion?”
“Well, I like to think I drilled some sense into you here and there. But I'm not sure you always saw my point,” Daniel said mildly.
Now it was Jack’s turn to raise his eyebrow. “I didn't always like what you said, but I did see your point. Occasionally.”
“Is this where you're going to tell me you learned to admire me even though I've been a terrific pain in the neck most of the time?”
”Admiration is a good thing,” Jack said. “Means a lot of stuff.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Only when your best friend was going to die you didn't say stuff like 'admire', right? Unless – and this just occurred to Daniel right now – 'admire you' had been a synonym for something else. Something Jack couldn't have said. Not there, in the infirmary. He used to think Jack had been out of words back then. Had not known how to say goodbye to him. He'd never second guessed what Jack had said to him. Had just shrugged it off as something Jack would say because he wasn't good with words.
Maybe he'd been wrong...
Maybe Jack had actually tried to tell him something important. Something... huge. And maybe it was just wishful thinking on Daniel's part. Only Daniel's wish to see something more, something... deep and meaningful... in their complicated friendship. Years had gone by since he had returned from the higher plains and Jack had never... said anything. Never given him any hints...
Aside from that awkward moment when Daniel had appeared naked in Jack's office and Jack's eyes had popped out of his head before he'd given him the flag to wrap himself in.
“Want your coffee fix now?” Jack started clearing the table, leaving Daniel - again – to figure it out.
“Sure. Coffee sounds great.”
When the dishwasher rumbled they were back on the couch, sipping French coffee.
“Jack?” The question Daniel had chosen not to ask earlier became a more pressing matter now.
“There's only one bed.”
There. He had said it. He watched Jack carefully. Jack put his coffee mug on the table and turned to face him. “Actually,” he said, “this is the exact moment where I'm going to tell you how much I... admire you.”
Daniel swallowed hard. This wasn't happening. Couldn't be happening. After all these years? Now? “You... will?”
“Oh, yeah.” Fingertips touched Daniel's temple, tracing the outline of his face. “Admiration; a feeling of wonder, adoration, pleasure, respect, approval... “
“You looked that up?” His mouth had difficulties to catch up with his mind.
Jack's hand stilled on his face then fell away. “'Dammit, Daniel, you sure know how to ruin a moment!”
“I... ah, sorry... I just....” He blinked and wished he could turn back the clock for about two minutes.
Jack had left the couch, leaving an oddly cold space where he had just sat. He stood by the fire, poking at the wood. Daniel wondered if he'd blown it for good. He rose and stepped behind the lean tall figure. “I didn't expect this,” he said softly. “Not now. Not anymore.”
“Not anymore?” Jack's back stiffened, but he didn't move.
“No. I used to... but I gave up on you a long time ago. Things were never... easy between us. Working with you never was. I used to think having you in my bed wouldn't make things exactly more... smoothly? SG-1 always came first. Had to come first.” He put a tentative hand on the small of Jack's back.
“Things change,” Jack said hoarsely.
“But why now? You left two years ago. Why waste all this time?”
Jack hung the poker on its nail on the wall and slowly turned around. “We'll talk,” he said. “Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” Daniel agreed. He wasn't willing to waste any more time. Suddenly everything else lost its significance. Jack's long fingers were back, cupping his jaw, tilting his head.
“You have any idea for how long I wanted to do this?” Jack whispered.
“I'm almost scared.” Daniel licked his lips. He didn't know for how long Jack had wanted to kiss him. But he knew how long he had waited to be kissed by Jack. Too long. So long that he feared the real thing might not live up to his expectation. That it turned out to be...
Their lips met in a virgin like kiss, almost shy, hesitating, lingering...
Then a large hand wrapped around the back of Daniel's neck, reeling him in. His lips parted and Jack took advantage of him immediately. Tongue slipping in, the taste of coffee and steak sauce being the biggest turn on ever for some reason. Someone moaned deep in his throat, someone breathed harshly... Jack's hands grabbed his skull as their kiss became less chaste, more hungry.
“You okay with just one bed then?” Jack asked in between kisses.
They staggered in the general direction of said bed, not able to keep their hands and mouths off each other. The mood changed dramatically on the short distance between couch and bed. Daniel had longed for this and dreaded it all these years. He had always known they might unleash something they couldn't control... for some reason he had known that, if they ever let their guards down, it would be like this.
Screw admiration. This was more like a volcano erupting.
He was roughly manhandled on to the bed, then Jack pounced on him with a growl that sent bolts of lust through every nerve in Daniel's body. They started bucking and pushing at each other. Shirts got ripped and in between Jack clamped his mouth over Daniel's again.
“Holy Crap,” Jack moaned when they came up for air.
“Stop talking,” Daniel snapped. “Waste of breath.” He grabbed Jack's biceps and pushed, then rolled them over so he came out on top. Jack's fingers dug into his hips, jerking at his jeans.
“Get 'em off, Daniel.”
But Daniel was busy exploring a certain general's assets more closely. His hands roamed over Jack's body, touching a nipple, stroking through the graying chest hair, gripping shoulders and wandering down still muscular arms. His eyes took in every scar, every crease, the small love handles which most certainly hadn't been there three or four years ago...
“Daniel, jeans,” Jack demanded, working on the buttons now.
“You can't even stop giving orders in bed, can you?” Daniel teased. He sat up and his own hands started to mirror Jack's, quickly opening the general's pants.
“Any chance you actually will follow orders in bed?” Jack eyes twinkled.
“When hell freezes over.” However, Jack's words made his pulse quicken. Maybe he was more inclined to actually do follow orders in bed...
“Always with the attitude,” Jack muttered. “Get off me or we'll never lose our pants.”
“Maybe I'd like to see you coming in them,” Daniel teased.
Daniel found himself thrown on his back again, Jack looming over him, a dangerous look in his eyes. “What IS it with you?” Something cold touched his chest and he grabbed for the small tags, pulling Jack back down, capturing his mouth in a kiss.
Yes, what was it with him? He didn't know. He didn't care. All he knew was that Jack had set something free in him that had been waiting to be let out for such a long time. He had never felt so alive. So vibrant with energy. Never felt this young. Never felt a hunger to touch like this before.
He wanted. Wanted to explore. Wanted to get to know this new side of Jack. This physical side. “I want you,” he blurted out.
“Oh, yes. God, yes.”
They somehow managed to get out of their pants after all. They didn't take time to go slow, didn't take the time to think about what they were doing. They weren't going for the real deed here, they were too much out of their minds already to have the patience of figuring out what had to go where and how...It was all a haze, a blurry chain reaction of sweat soaked skin slapping against skin, hands clutching, mouths clashing, fractured words being uttered...everything melting into a long explosion of lightning, want and emotion...
When they came down from the heights of orgasm, Daniel was wrapped in Jack's arms, their shared semen cooling between the sheets and on their bodies. Still they weren't ready to stop. They kissed again and again and with every kiss Daniel felt lighter, sated, content. They had slowed down now, their tongues playing lazily, their hands twisting in each others' hair.
“Sleep with me,” Jack murmured.
“Huh?” Daniel was sure that's what they were doing.
“Stay. No shower.” Jack tightened his arms around him. “Sleep. Now.”
“Oh, okay. Jack?”
“I'm going to kill you in the morning.”
“Okay. Why?” Jack nuzzled his hair with his nose.
“For letting me wait six fucking years.”
There was a chuckle. “Six, huh? Really?”
“Bastard.” Daniel smacked Jack's hip, hard.
“Attitude.” Jack sighed as he started to gently rock against him. “You tired?”
“Me tired. You can't seriously go again... you're old,” Daniel muttered, meeting Jack's movements with his own all the same.
“Old? I'll give you old,” Jack growled.
Daniel's phone chose this moment to beep. Loudly. They froze as though they were teenagers caught in the act by their parents.
“Crap,” Jack hissed as Daniel untangled himself from him.
“Sorry,” Daniel muttered. He padded across the wooden floor to find his jacket and retrieve the phone. One look at the caller ID made him grimace. Oh, no. He cleared his throat and scrubbed a nervous hand through his spiky hair. “Vala, what do you want?”
Okay, so that wasn't the nicest way of saying hello, but puh-lease...why now? Behind him Jack slapped both hands across his face and groaned.
“Oh, Dan-iel,” she twittered at him. “I wanted to know if you got there okay. Oh, and Sam and Cam send greetings. Muscles is still off world, but I'm sure he'd say hello as well.”
“Yes, uh, thanks, Vala. I'm fine. The seminar was boring and I was about to go and have a...,“ he was going to say 'shower', but decided Vala would love that, so he opted for, “...cup of coffee and read through my notes.”
“Daniel, it's the middle of the night. You should get some rest, dream sweet dreams, preferably of me, and then you should take me shopping tomorrow.”
“Right. I should... I should WHAT?!” He looked at Jack in horror, but Jack hadn't heard the other end of the conversation. He stared back, mouthing, “What?”
“Take me shopping. Tomorrow. I heard Paris is the ultimate shopping empire. It's also called the city of love. I looked it up on the internet. Will you show me the Eiffel tower?” She purred like a kitten.
Daniel closed his eyes. This was NOT happening. No way. “You're not in Paris,” he said sternly. She couldn't be. No how. “Vala, tell me you're not in Paris?”
Jack shot upright, his eyes widening in horror.
Vala gave him a throaty laugh. “As a matter of fact... “
No no no no no.
There were some funny noises at the other end of the line and then – god bless her – Sam was there. “Daniel? It's me. Don't worry, she's not in Paris. She's just kidding.”
“I knew that,” he said weakly, closing his eyes in relief. He heard her laughing in the background and when Sam spoke again she could barely contain her own amusement. Har har. Very funny.
“Just wanted to let you know we're okay.”
Okay? Oh, right. The mission. They had been off world when he'd left for Europe. “Great,” he said. “I'm glad. Uh, how did it go?”
“Kicked ass,” Cam yelled from somewhere.
“Nice. Where's Teal'c?”
“He didn't return with us, he went to Chulak to see Bra'tac. Some Jaffa feast,” Sam said.
“Warrior party,” Vala shared.
“Anyway, you should get some rest. See you soon,” Sam said cheerfully.
“Uh, yeah. I'll call in tomorrow about the Louvre thing,” he said.
“We'll be off world again tomorrow. But Landry is kind of anxious about the whole thing,” Cam said, having taken over the phone now. “Sleep tight, sunshine.”
“Yeah, you too. I'm glad you called.” Just not now. “Bye.”
“Tell me she's NOT in Paris,” Jack snarled as soon as Daniel had put the phone down.
“She's not in Paris.”
“Good.” He relaxed immediately. “C'me here.”
And for once Daniel complied without a hitch. They snuggled under the cover, not minding the stickiness nor the smell of sex and sweat. He eased back into Jack's bed warm arms and closed his eyes, ready to drift off to dreamland.
TBC "Second Thoughts"
Chapter 2: Second Thoughts
“And you are sure that's what it says?” Doctor Bertrand looked over Daniel's shoulder.
“Yes. It's a hidden cartouche of Hyksos Apepi. Or rather the beginning of it. It was apparently brutally cut away by Merenptah. He must have claimed the Sphinx being his and tried to get rid of its previous owner.”
“Well, that's not unusual, but why are the writings so vastly different from the known glyphs?” Bertrand asked. “And why are you able to decipher them?”
“Apepi ruled Egypt during the 15h dynasty. Or so it is stated. He ruled Egypt with help of the Hyksos which were Asiatic. The Hyksos took over the Nile Delta during the 12th dynasty and Apepi allied with them during his time.” So much for the official story.
“I know that,” Bertrand said, a touch impatience in his voice. “But the writings are neither fully Egyptian nor are they of specific Asiatic origin.”
Daniel brushed a hand over the obscure writings. “Actually, that's a bit complicated. But it's safe to say that Apepi never built his own monuments. He rather crossed out the names of the former builder and put his own in. I guess Merenptah just continued that tradition when he crossed out Apepi's name later. Originally the Sphinx of Tanis belonged to Ammenemes II, who had it built.”
“Why did no one find these writings earlier?” Jack asked.
“I have no idea. We put it down because it was damaged. And as it was moved to the reconstruction area one of my employee’s discovered the writings. They are so tiny, barely readable without the magnifiers.” Bertrand shook his head in amazement. “Doctor Rayner assured us you would be able to read them, Doctor Jackson. May I ask where you learned this?”
“I discovered writings such as these before,” Daniel said. “I studied them for many years.”
“But you never shared your discoveries with the world?”
“Interesting,” Bertrand said. “I take it your theories need more research and more of a foundation before you are willing to share them?” His gray sharp eyes seemed to look right through him. “I do remember you.”
“Yes. It needs more proof. And it's not ready to be published yet,” Daniel said, keeping the professional tone he reserved for this kind of conversations.
“I see. You are Nick Ballard's grandson, are you not?”
“Yesss.” Well, this was tricky. Not too many people ever made the connection. He looked at Bertrand with more interest and alertness. Next to him, Jack shifted.
But Bertrand just nodded again. “What will happen with the Sphinx now?”
“For now it will stay here. Should there be any plans to move it elsewhere you'll be informed in time to make preparations,” Jack said. “And we'd appreciate it if you could keep this... “
“Quiet. I know. When Doctor Rayner told me he would send you to take a look at it, I was sure it must be something very unusual. I don't suppose you'll tell me anything. But Nick Ballard was a colleague of mine before he assigned himself to that hospital.” Bertrand shook his head. “I'm glad you stuck to your beliefs and found proof. Whatever that is.”
Daniel and Jack exchanged a look. “Thank you,” Daniel said quietly. “I... appreciate that.”
“I will make sure the Sphinx will stay out of the exhibition until I get word from you,” Bertrand said.
They left the Louvre and walked back to their car. Daniel would have liked to see the exhibition of Ancient Egypt, but Bertrand had been so easy to deal with, had been so forthcoming about how to handle the discovery of the unknown hieroglyphs – Daniel was not willing to push his luck by staying any longer than necessary. He didn't want Bertrand to come after him to ask uncomfortable questions. So they were better off leaving.
“So this Apepi fella...,” Jack said as they settled into the car.
“He's no threat,” Daniel replied. “And the writings on the Sphinx were cut off so expertly that basically only his name and a few ramblings on how powerful he was are left.”
“So, no need to panic?”
“Nope. He's dead anyway.” Daniel shrugged. “There's a chance that Bertrand will change his mind. Maybe he will even call Steven. But all they'll be able to figure out is that the writings are much older than they should be. Dead end there.”
“Who was he?”
“Apepi? It's the Egyptian name for Apophis.”
“Nope. But it doesn't matter anymore. He's dead.”
Daniel made the call to the SGC and reported to Landry. For a change things went pretty smoothly and there was no protest when he said he had decided to spend his vacation in Paris and would be back next week. One of the upsides when your vacations were so few and far between was that no one dared to cross your well laid plans twice if you actually took a vacation.
They parked the car near the Place Pigalle and leisurely strolled down the Boulevard de Clichy. It was sunny, the sky a patchy blanket of blue and white clouds. They passed Moulin Rouge and Daniel nudged Jack. “They say you haven't been to Paris if you haven't visited the Moulin Rouge.”
“You'd like that?” Jack eyed the building with the red windmill on its roof curiously. “Says they do opera, cabaret and musicals.”
“They have dinner shows,” Daniel said.
“What's the French can can?” Jack pointed at a large poster pointing out a famous dinner show including the French Can can.
“It's a dance, actually. Ah... it's usually done by a chorus line of girls dressed in petticoats, long fluffy skirts and black stockings. There's lot of leg kicking and pushing up and down of the skirts involved.”
“You mean like galloping over a stage, kicking legs in high heels and waving their skirts up and down?” Jack wrinkled his nose.
“Ye-ah. It's supposed to be seducing.” Daniel had to laugh at the doubtful look on his friend's face. “We don't have to do it. I'm not too much into skirt waving and black stockings either.”
Apparently relieved, Jack nodded and they walked on. They were on their way up to Monmartre and the Sacré Coeurs. It had actually been a bit of an effort to leave the barge this morning. Or rather it had been hard for them to get out of bed and under the shower... no, make that; it had taken the most effort not to jump right back into bed after the shower. Daniel suspected with only a hint of awkwardness that if they didn't have the nine o'clcok appointment at the Louvre, they'd probably stayed in bed all day.
It was like licking blood for a vampire who had lived on veggies all his vampire life.
They had woken early and started right off where they had stopped last night, only much more relaxed and deliciously slow.
They should probably talk about this, right? About what happened, about what changed? About how they'd go on from here?
Instead, they put it off.
This was Paris, after all.
“Whoa,” Jack's voice pulled him out of his musings and he looked at the window Jack had his nose literally plastered to. “Fancy.”
“You into leather?” Daniel asked, looking at several more than just a little daring outfits displayed in the large shop window. Out here in the open, not hidden in some dingy alley. He could see a brightly lit store, its walls lined with shelves. He made out shiny metal chains, handcuffs…and more ordinary things. A row of bottles with oil used for erotic massage caught his eye.
“I don't know,” Jack said absently, “Never thought about it.” He turned and his eyes glided up and down Daniel's body. “Maybe.”
For a moment Daniel's gaze lingered on a pair of black tight looking pants. Jail bait. Definitely nothing one would wear out in the streets. He wondered, for a second, how the leather would feel on his skin. And if Jack would get off on... He spun around, taking a calming breath.
“Price tag pretty much takes all the fun outta it,” Jack muttered.
“You...you don't seriously want me to wear something like that?” Daniel snapped. His shirt collar seemed too tight all of a sudden and he jerked open the first button as they strode on.
“Actually, I'd like you to do a lot of things. And I'd like to do a lot of things with you. I'm also pretty sure some of them are illegal in the US,” Jack sighed when he had caught up with him.
“You scare me sometimes,” Daniel said, not scared in the least. Just a bit worried that he might be in some drugged Nirvana, kidnapped by an alien, instead of actually walking through Paris with Jack. Wouldn't that be just like him? To be rescued by Sam, Cam and Vala just as Jack nailed him to the bed after he'd peeled him out of those leather pants? To be rescued and finding out it had all just been a weird dream.
“What?” Jack grinned at him.
“Nothing. So what does your map say?”
They studied the map and turned left, leaving the sex shops behind. They walked up hill into the small alleys of Monmartre. Souvenir shops, T-shirt shops and cáfes lined the sidewalks. Once Monmartre had been a Mecca for artists who would sit in the streets or around Sacre Coeur and draw. At least that's what Daniel had heard. The crowded alleys were a bit of disappointment to him as they continued to go up hill.
Monmartre seemed to be the Mecca for shops selling metal Eiffel towers, T-shirts, postcards, French flags and cheap jewelry...
It wasn't until they reached the steps to climb up to Sacré Coeur that the crowd thinned out a bit. They decided to take the walkways instead of the many steps leading up to the Basilica. The walkways led up left and right of the lawn covered hill while the steps went up in the middle. Many people were sitting on them, enjoying the view. There was a terrace half way up where you could stop and look out over Paris, using one of those binoculars you had to put money in order to see everything up close.
Music drifted over as they paused on the terrace and Daniel spotted a carousel on the lower level, an old artful carved wooden frame with colorful little horses. They watched it turn round for a while.
Jack looked up at the basilica towering over the city. “That's impressive.”
“Yeah. Because it's build on the hill top it's even higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower.”
“Can you imagine people built these things without any modern technology?” Jack let out a low whistle as they continued the ascent.
“Do I hear a note of respect for the long dead constructors?” Daniel teased. “Don't worry. I'll spare you the lecture of when it was built and what it stands for.”
To his surprise Jack said, “No, come on, enlighten me. And you can't possibly know everything, right? This isn't Egypt.”
“Well, no. But I do know a thing or two about European history and architecture,” Daniel said with a slight cough.
“Of course you do.”
“Well, the reasons for building this monument were two-fold. Some higher ups had pledged to build a church if Paris would escape unscathed from the war with the Prussians. And they declared the defeat of the French at the hands of the Prussian army as a moral condemnation of the sins of Paris. The project was set up by the National Assembly in 1873. A competition was organized to build an imposing basilica true to Christian traditions.”
“A competition? A church build competition? You're kidding me.”
“No, I’m not. Paul Abadie, who had already restored two cathedrals in France, was the winner of said competition. He designed an immense basilica in a Roman-Byzantine style. This architectural style stands in sharp contrast with other contemporary buildings in France, which were mostly built in a Romanesque style... “
“All right, I get it. You DO know all this stuff,” Jack groaned. “Sometimes your brain scares me, Daniel. Seriously. Why doesn't it explode?”
A guy approached them, offering golden Eiffel towers varying in sizes from twelve inch to very small key chains. Jack shooed him off with one of his special 'go away or die' glares that could only be topped by Teal'c's 'you are a false god, you will die now' glare.
When they finally reached the top of the hill, the huge cathedral made of white stone seemed to be even more imposing. An equestrian statue of Joan de Arc stood majestically in one of the alcoves near the entrance. Jack pulled a small Canon from his jacket and started snapping pictures of the city skyline, Monmartre and the carousel down by the hill.
They had to stand in line quite a while until they made it into the basilica, but Daniel thought it had been worth the long wait when they finally entered and stood in the bright hall with its high dome. Mesmerized he tipped his head back to gaze at the mosaic covering the dome. It showed Jesus surrounded by his disciples. Daniel had never been a religious man, but he admired the art of architecture, the knowledge of how the creator of this mosaic had put it together piece by miniscule little piece. Its colors were mainly blue and gold foil.
When he was able to pry his eyes off the mosaic Jack had moved down the wide aisle. Daniel followed him as he passed by the altar and impressive pipe organ, apparently looking for something specific. Finally they ended up in a more secluded area where many candles were lit.
He watched, feeling he wasn't supposed to invade here, as Jack took one of the thick red candles and held it to an already lit candle until a flame ignited on his. Carefully, shielding the light with one of his hands, he carried it over to a free space between halfway burnt down candles. He stood there just a moment, watching the lights, then turned and tossed one Euro into the box next to the unused candles.
They left in silence. Whether the light had been for Charlie or for teammates he’d lost in battle Daniel didn't know. He didn't feel the need to ask.
Turned out he got the answer anyway.
“There's a lantern on his grave,” Jack said as they stepped back into the daylight. “Sara's idea. She lights it on his birthdays, on Christmas, those kind of days.”
“It's a nice touch,” Daniel said softly, wondering when Charlie's birthday was.
“Yeah. Just remembered it in there.” Jack shrugged it off.
Soon the sunlight and the chatter of all the people around them chased the solemn mood away as they descended the stairs and came down to Monmartre again. They wandered through streets with little shops now, not the souvenir ones but stores selling handcrafted jewelry, colorful bandanas, hand knitted clothes and sculptures of all kinds.
It was when they entered Place du tertre that Daniel finally spotted the artists. They were sitting under sun shades with easel and brushes or coal crayons, offering to paint anyone coming their way. Some were creating street paintings. They stood and watched two guys working on a huge painting of Sacré Coeurs for a while. Others painted landscapes in oil, skylines of Paris or sketched monuments like the Eiffel tower or the Arc de Triumph.
A young woman with long flowing red hair sat hunched over her easel, engrossed in her work, a portrait of two men posing for her. They stood, arms around each others' middle, cheek to cheek. They kept kissing and the girl would look up and laugh and tell them to stop so she could continue the painting. They'd be good and stood still for a moment, then started kissing again.
Daniel watched them with growing interest.
“I'm hungry,” Jack said into his ear, making him jump.
“Yeah. Let's find a place.”
“Oh! Hungry.” Daniel nodded.
“I'm hungry, too,” Jack smirked. “But that'll have to wait.”
The brasserie La Mascotte was set in one of the smaller streets around Monmartre. They indulged themselves with fresh hot onion soup, bread and butter. As the main course Daniel opted for a plate of various seafood while Jack had braised chicken in red burgundy wine, served with mushrooms and broccoli.
The food was excellent and sitting out on the street watching the by passers was nice.
Still, Daniel felt a growing urge to return to their little barge and close the door on the outside world. He was curious and a little afraid of where their new found relationship would lead them... was this even a relationship? What exactly had they started in the heat of long suppressed emotions and overflowing hormones yesterday? Was this something they would have to stop once they'd leave Paris and return to their normal lives?
But Jack has retired, a tiny voice nagged at him.
Had Jack retired to be with Daniel? Surely not. Jack wouldn't just throw away his career because of... of... What exactly?
“I can hear you thinking.”
“Huh?” Daniel looked up from his lobster.
There was a twinkle in those brown eyes, and a twitch of those lips Daniel had kissed…. He swallowed.
“Stop thinking things to death, Daniel,” Jack said.
“You know I can't stop thinking,” he almost snapped.
Jack eyed him for a moment, then nodded and returned to his chicken.
“And maybe we shouldn't stop thinking,” Daniel said sharply. “Maybe it's dangerous if we do.”
“Retired here,” Jack said, smiling.
“Yeah, let's see how long that lasts,” Daniel muttered.
“I have no intention of turning back.”
“That's what you say now.”
“There's nothing left out there worth dying for. And there's nothing at the pentagon worth keeping me from doing what I want to do.”
“Which is, exactly?”
Jack's scarred left eyebrow climbed upwards.
“Oh, no. You didn't retire just to be with me,” Daniel said with a snort. “Jack? This is me, Daniel. If you start admitting undying love for me, I'm going to call the mountain and have you tested for alien viruses.”
“Have you been listening to me?” Jack set down his fork.
“Yes. Yes, I have. And while I agree we have a... a... thing going, you're not supposed to retire because... because of me. That's a bit too much of a commitment. That's not like you. And on top of it you retired even before... before we... did what we... did.”
“Meaning you're either pretty full of yourself or....” He threw up his hands, “I don't know!”
Jack pushed his half empty plate away and propped his elbows on the table as he leaned over. “All right. What do you want?”
“You. What do you want.”
“I don't want you to make decisions for both our lives without talking to me first,” he blurted out.
“I retired because I wanted to. It won't change your life if you don't want to.”
“But you retired because of me. And what if this... thing... doesn't work out? What if we find we can't stand each other once we're tired of playing around?”
“Then I'll get the boat.”
Daniel wiped his hands at the napkin. “You... you really thought this all through.” He was amazed.
“I do have a bright moment here and there,” Jack said dryly.
“That's not what I... what I'm trying to say is that...” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Maybe all this goes a little too fast.”
“You said you waited six years for me to let you know.”
“Yes! But I never expected you to actually DO it.”
“It's about time, don't'cha think?”
“Yes. But....” He shook his head, for the moment unable to continue.
Jack waved the waitress over and they paid for their dinner.
When they returned to the barge they didn't feel like going in all of a sudden. In silent agreement they started walking down the shore, along the illuminated buildings and the gently flowing river. They passed underneath a bridge, dunked in darkness for a moment.
“I couldn't do anything about it,” Jack said, an embodied voice next to him. “You were there, all the damn time so close. And I couldn't act on it.”
Daniel froze, grateful for the dark. “All those years?” he asked in a whisper.
“No. Not right away. But little by little. Scared the crap out of me.”
“The stuff I wanted to do with you... You were right. SG-1 always had to come first.”
They stood there under that bridge, facing some of those truth they'd been hiding from each other so long. Even from themselves. Daniel reached out and his hands found the front of Jack's jacket, pulling him close until their lips met briefly, a touch of reassurance.
“All those times you got shot at, died or went AWOL,” Jack said hoarsely, “I kept thinking this is it. You won't come back. And I never told you. It got worse each time you came back. And I kept pushing you away. It was either that, or... ”
“Don't.” He didn't need to hear this. He had done his share of pushing too. Daniel decided they had hurt each other enough. He remembered how often they had bickered at each other and how often Daniel had thought he'd shove Jack through a wall any minute or alternately jump him in the showers later. All those arguments... not the huge ones, not the meaningful ones... but the unnecessary ones... how often had they snarled and yelled at each other just to override this damn burning need to...
“For what it's worth, I'm sorry,” Jack said quietly as they walked on. “That it took me so long.”
“You know what they say. Better late than never?” He still wasn't sure about this. It seemed so...life altering...so serious. But there was a part in him that had craved for this to happen for so long. And right now that part won over his doubts.
He wondered if there had been a final straw, something that pushed Jack over the edge, made him pull the plunge.
They stepped into the night lights again and continued their walk along the Seine.
TBC : Les jeux sont faits (The Die is Cast)
Chapter 3: Les jeux sont faits (The Die is Cast)
Les jeux sont faits
(The Die is Cast)
“We should go to that sex shop today.”
Daniel stretched lazily, his butt rubbing against Jack's groin. “Why?”
Jack's arms tightened around him and long fingers stroked down his belly and brushed through his pubic hair. “Need lube.”
“Need... oh...“ Daniel closed his eyes in bliss as Jack's fingers curled around his half erect shaft, pulling teasingly. “Are you telling me you thought of...uhh... everything, but... oh yeah... lube?” He pushed his hips forward to coax Jack's hand into faster movement.
“Wasn't sure how fast we'd get there,” Jack mumbled.
“Getting there... soon,” Daniel moaned. “Verrry.... so..ooon, oh my god... don't stop that.”
Instead of an answer Daniel's whole body started trembling, his balls tensed, his hands clamped down, clutching the bed sheets as long spurts of semen splattered over his groin and Jack's milking fingers.
He had barely recovered when Jack nudged and pushed him until he reluctantly left the warm embrace and turned on his side. He watched as Jack got up and padded to the bathroom.
Flopping on his back Daniel closed his eyes and considered to never get up again. He felt quite boneless and happy where he was. Just as his brain tried to figure out in how many ways you could jerk your favorite major general off, Jack returned and Daniel cracked an eye open to look at him.
The realization that this was Jack O'Neill, his best friend and class A SOB, hit home again and Daniel stared in wonder at the man he had spent the night with. Would probably, hopefully, maybe spend many more nights with.
Jack cocked his head and grinned. “Ready to get up yet?”
“Whyyyy?” Daniel whined. “I got it up just now. Come back to bed?”
“We need to change those sheets, Daniel,” Jack said, grimacing. “How about coffee?”
He sniffed at the sheets and had to agree. They had shared a lot of bodily fluids last night and this morning. “Coffee,” he said, yawning. “You coffee, me sheets.”
“Me Tarzan, you Jane?” Jack snorted with laughter as Daniel threw a pillow after him.
They had breakfast and showered and Daniel figured out how the washing machine worked. All the instructions next to the buttons were in French, so it was his job to wash the bed sheets and linen.
“What do you want to do today?” Jack asked as they sat on the couch, finishing the pot of coffee.
“I'd like to do the Champs-Elysées and see the Arc the Triumph,” Daniel said. He had promised Sam and Vala gifts and thought he might find something they'd like there.
“What about the Eiffel tower? You want to go up there?”
“Sure. If it's not too crowded.”
“This is Paris, Daniel. It's crowded everywhere,” Jack muttered.
“Is there anything special you want to do?” Daniel asked.
Jack put his coffee mug down and gave him a leering look. “I want you to wear those leather pants for me. And I want to keep you in them... until I get you out of them.”
“Sorry, no leather-Daniel,” he said with a smirk. “Chose something else.”
“You're no fun,” Jack muttered.
“I try not to degenerate to some sort of sex object only two days after we started this,” Daniel said dryly.
“Oh, okay. I get that. But you'd be willing to do that eventually?” Jack's eyes widened in anticipation and Daniel elbowed him in the ribs.
“I'm still trying to get over the fact we're having sex at all, caveman!”
“I think you're adapting just fine,” Jack snorted, blocking Daniel's attempt at punching him with his arm.
They shared a deep, coffee tasting kiss until Daniel pried himself lose from Jack. “Going out,” he panted. “Right?”
“Sightseeing,” Jack nodded.
They walked across the Place de la Concorde. The octagonal place was the largest square in Paris. To their right Daniel could see the iron gates to the Jardin des Tuileries, a big park complex. The most prominent thing on the square was the large obelisk and a large well with a statue in its middle.
“Isn't this the place where all those people were beheaded?” Jack asked.
“Yeah. There used to be a statue of Louis XV here, but during the revolution in 1792 the statue was dismantled and instead they put an obelisk here. And the guillotine was installed. Later the old obelisk was exchanged for this one.”
“Guillotine! Gimme all the gory details,” Jack grinned.
“In just a couple of years, 1119 people were beheaded here. Like King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and revolutionary Robespierre, just to name a few.”
They took pictures of the obelisk which had been imported from Thebes in the 19th century. It belonged to King Ramses II. It was offered by the Viceroy of Egypt to Louis Philippe. They stepped closer and Daniel pointed out the hieroglyphs and pictographs on the pedestal picturing the reign of pharaohs Ramses II & Ramses III and the description of the transportation to Paris and its installation at the square in 1836.
“It's funny how Egypt has left such an imprint everywhere in the world,” Jack mused. “You think that's because they've been such an impressive civilization or because the snakeheads used to reside there a lot?”
“Both, I think.”
They entered the Champs-Elysées once they had crossed the Place de la Concorde. The long promenade stretched from here to the Place Charles de Gaulle. The Arc de Triumph marked the end of the street, a monument in the distance.
Jack rubbed his hands. “So! What do you want to get for Carter and the annoying little..?”
“Vala isn't... well, she is annoying. But she's changed. Somewhat.”
“She's got the hots for you,” Jack growled.
Daniel raised his eyebrows at him. “Oh? You noticed that, too, then?”
“Well, yeah. She's also worse than you about following orders. And she can be a deceptive little bitch.”
“She's changed,” Daniel said again. “All she needed was a chance to... to come around. When it was offered she grabbed it. Not right away, but... she did.”
“Boy Scout,” Jack griped.
“You only met her a couple of times,” Daniel said. “What do you know anyway?”
“I know enough not to like her,” Jack insisted like a petulant school boy. “Been keeping an eye on you guys. After all I needed something to entertain me while being bored out of my skull at the pentagon.”
“You read our mission reports,” Daniel concluded.
Daniel had a suspicion Jack had read them all. That he hadn't read them just to be entertained was a given. “You missed us,” he said with a grin. It was satisfying to know Jack had missed them, too.
“So sue me,” he muttered, then brightened up again. “There's a mall. Let's look for fancy gifts there.”
The mall consisted of several clothes stores, all selling high quality clothes and evening gowns. They stared at the price tags, then at each other, then walked out of there quickly.
“I'd rather spent 2000 Euro on that leather outfit than on a dress for your... Vala,” Jack muttered.
“Forget the leather, Jack,” Daniel said. “And I won't spend 2000 Euro on a dress for Vala. I was thinking more about, uh, I don't know. Perfume? Jewelry? A fancy shawl?”
“You don't want to get it on with her, do you?”
“No! I just want to bring her something special from Paris. And for Sam, too.”
“Then forget the perfume and the jewelry,” Jack said.
“Right. Good thinking. What would you get them?”
“Chocolate maybe. Chocolate's good. Or something that has 'Paris' written on it. A bag or a scarf.”
Daniel stared at him. “Sometimes you really have good ideas.”
“Always the note of surprise,” Jack sighed, shaking his head.
They sauntered along the promenade. Jack got all excited over a t-shirt store that sold Bart Simpson t-shirts and Daniel was tempted to get him a huge donut shaped pillow with 'D'oh' written all over it. They cruised through some souvenir shops, but he couldn't decide on a gift for his friends and finally they ended up at a coffee shop having Lattes and a plate of mini pastries with different frosting and fillings. Daniel particularly liked the coffee flavored ones with dark chocolate frosting.
Jack picked up one with raspberry filling and eyed it for a moment before holding it out to Daniel. “Take a bite,” he said, smiling.
He reached out for it, but Jack pulled it away. “Aht, no hands.”
“No...?” He glanced at the other tables around them. No one paid any attention to them.
“Indulge me,” Jack whispered.
“Why?” He frowned.
Sighing, he bent forward and took a tiny bite of the pastry, nibbling at the frosting. The sweet but fruity taste exploded on his tongue and made him lick his lips.
Jack gazed at him somewhat dreamily. “I like that expression on your face.”
“I'm not getting blissful over a pastry,” Daniel said firmly.
“You even get blissful over coffee.”
“Fine.” Two could play this game. He chose a mini vanilla cupcake with a splotch of whipped cream on top. “How does this taste?”
Jack grinned, leaned forward and took a bite, licking whipped cream from his lips. “Excellent.”
Sudden disturbing visuals of feeding Jack chocolate covered strawberries in bed, made Daniel's mind go in overload for a moment. It had to be an alien virus, he decided. Or the peaceful ambience of sitting in a street cáfe in Paris. Or a gamekeeper illusion.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Do you like strawberries?” Daniel asked back, realizing he had no idea.
“Oh, just... wondering.”
They rounded the Arc de Triomphe and took pictures. There was a guided group of tourists standing in the archway and Daniel listened absently to the guide who pointed out that the arc had been commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories. However, Napoleon had been ousted before the arch was completed. In fact, it wasn't completed until 1836 during the reign of Louis-Philippe.
He noticed the names engraved in the stone. Names of generals who had commanded French troops during Napoleon's regime. He wondered if someone would someday engrave the names of the SG teams somewhere. Those who had gone out there to fight the fight of the good and never came back. Probably not. Unless the program went public one day...
They walked up all the 234 steps to the dome and viewing platform. Jack kept muttering about his knees, but the view was well worth it, even though they had to push through rows of other visitors to be able to stand at the banister.
Once they were on the street again, Jack took a look at his city map. “There's a big mall on a side street somewhere, called the Lafayette. It's supposed to be huge. Maybe you'll get something for Carter there?”
“The Lafayette is probably even more expensive than the mall we were in this morning,” Daniel muttered.
“If it's such a huge shopping temple they must have something you can effort,” Jack said.
“Shopping temple,” Daniel snorted. “Has a nice ring to it.”
They found the right street and followed it for about thirty minutes. Just when Daniel thought they must have gotten lost, they spotted the two huge buildings joined by a bridge high above street level.
“Looks scary even from the outside,” he groused.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed.
They entered through glass double doors and merged into the world of lights, low music, perfume scent and the sheer overload of conspicuous consumption.
They moved through rows of leather bags on the one and gloves and hats on the other side of the aisle, trying to find the escalator or a sign to tell them what to find where. They crossed the perfume aisle and the aisle where they could buy watches for a whole month's salary and upwards.
“Whoa,” Jack whispered – as though he was in a church and not in a mall, “look at that, Danny-boy.”
When he followed his friend's pointing hand upwards he almost believed he was in a church. High, high, high above them was the Lafayette dome, made all of steel and colored glass. The sun beams filtering in through the small steel framed glass pieces mingled with the different colors and created an almost celestial light.
It was in the very center of the store and now Daniel also noticed the galleries on each level with the Art Nouveau balconies and stairs. He counted ten levels.
“I love what they did with this place,” Jack drawled. “Our friend Hathor would've loved it too.”
“Hathor?” Daniel frowned.
“Well, the goddess of wine, drugs and Rock'n Roll... in a mall like this? Imagine it!”
“You're weird, you know that?” Daniel muttered, but couldn't help to think that the Goa'uld would probably really like a place like this. Decadence, luxury... just down their alley.
They finally found an escalator and a sign with directions. “Books,” Daniel said.
“Why am I not surprised?”
They hit the book aisle on the third level and took their time strolling around. Or rather Daniel took his time. Jack spent a few minutes browsing through sport magazines, then moved on to Paris tourist guides, flipped through a couple of them, and finally ended up at the comic book section looking for Simpson's comics, all the while mumbling under his breath about the fact they were all in French.
Daniel found several books that sparked his interest. One was the life and fall of the Sun King Louis XIV. He briefly wondered if that man had been possessed by a Goa'uld. Seriously, a normal guy wouldn't declare himself to be on one level with God and force his people never to worship anyone but him? But then he remembered a mission from way back where Sam's former boyfriend had thought the same of himself, and he decided it was probably possible after all. He picked two more books on French history. It was a relatively new terrain for him, and it would be interesting to widen his horizon here.
When he looked for Jack again he found him back at the tourist guides, actually engrossed in one of them. Daniel joined him and peered over his shoulder.
“Did you know,” Jack said without looking up from his book, “that Paris has catacombs?”
“Yeah. Pretty large net, actually. You'll get lost down there if you're not careful. Why?”
“Here's a travel guide just about the catacombs. It's kind of cool.”
“There're dead people down there,” Daniel said. “Lots of crypts. You can see the skulls lined and stacked up.”
“One of these days I'm gonna know something you don't,” Jack bickered, then brightened up. “I bet you didn't know there are parties held down there. It's all in here. How to get down and where to find the cool stuff.”
“They're doing parties down there?”
“Well, it's illegal, obviously. If they get caught they'll get arrested.” Jack gave him a sideways look. “Wanna do something daring tonight?”
“No, thank you,” Daniel said dryly. Even though he'd like to take a look at the cemeteries. It was the archeological gene leading to an automatic response to the thought of descending into the catacombs and checking out the crypts. “Are there tours? I mean... real tours, not party tours?”
“Yep. Even has a museum.”
He gave it some serious thought, then shook his head. “This might come as a shock to you, but I've spent a lot of time in caves... I think I'm gonna skip this one.”
“Bad memories.” Jack looked at him carefully.
“Ah, sort of.”
“Cimmeria?” Daniel knew Jack had his share of cave visits as well.
“That cave you found Merlin in?” There was a sudden edge to Jack's voice.
“There, see? Enough caves. Catacombs, whatever.”
Jack put the book back on the shelf.
Daniel picked an interesting looking Paris tour guide for Vala, knowing she would have loved to join him.
Once he had paid for his books they entered the aisle for sweets and candy.
Daniel found chocolate filled plastic Eiffel towers. He picked one for each male member of SG-1. It wasn't a great gift, but it would at least satisfy Teal'c's and Cam's sweet tooth.
On the next level Daniel had to stop to take a look at the spice department. He had never seen such a thing ever since he'd been a snotty kid in Egypt. He hauled Jack over to all the bowls set up at the balcony, filled with spices. He deeply breathed in the smells. Coriander, curry, pepper, saffron, cinnamon...
“Let me cook tonight,” he told Jack, inspired by the different alluring scents.
“Sure, why not? What are we going to have?”
Daniel closed his eyes and sniffed. “Lemon flavored lamb.”
“Sounds good to me. What'd we need?”
“They do have a delicatessen aisle, right?”
That's where they went next.
They ended their shopping adventure with a visit to the Lafayette roof, another viewpoint with excellent look over the city. The best part of it was the absence of herds of tourists. They walked around the dome – which wasn't all that impressive from the outside – and found a secluded and wind sheltered area with no one in sight.
They placed their shopping bags to their feet and when Jack leaned against the stone banister, Daniel quickly surveyed the area for unwanted attention. When he found no one lurking close by, he slipped his arms around Jack and pressed into him from behind. With a little smirk of satisfaction he noticed Jack tense for a moment as he turned his head to look out for people, too. Apparently Major General O'Neill wasn't as aloof as he pretended to be. Even though he had fed him pieces of pastry on a busy street just a couple hours ago.
But this was different. This was... Daniel rested his chin on Jack's shoulder, taking in the by now familiar scent of his shampoo. This was them practically coming out to the world, showing them what they were doing. And they could do it here because this was Paris.
They gazed at Notre Dame in the distance. Somewhere there was their barge waiting for them. And suddenly Daniel wished Paris wouldn't end. Wished they could just stay here forever and do things they'd probably never have done at home. Naughty things. Wonderful things.
Being together. Just because they could. No rules, no regulations.
Jack has retired, he thought, still not used to this. He's free to be with whomever he wants. Free to be wherever he wants.
But what about Doctor Daniel Jackson? He was Civilian, there were no regulations for him. And he didn't care about what people were going to say. Didn't care about rumors. But was this going to work? With Jack being retired and Daniel being away all the time, being stuck at the mountain, being off world while Jack was... at home waiting for him? Somehow the picture didn't fit.
Jack sighed. “You're doing it again.”
Daniel tightened his arms around his... lover. What a word. Jack was his lover. It was safe to say that, wasn't it? “Sorry.”
Jack turned without getting out of the embrace. He placed his hands on either side of Daniel's face. “Dare we kiss in public?” It was a sincere question, not mocking, not joking. Jack's eyes were earnest, soul searching, wondering.
They had saved the world together. But this was probably the most Earth shattering thing for both of them.
“Yeah,” Daniel whispered. “I guess we dare.”
When Daniel spread out all the contents for his lemon lamb in the tiny kitchen, Jack suddenly grabbed for his jacket.
“Where are you going?” Daniel asked, curious.
“Lube, remember? We wanted to get some. Unless you want to use olive oil or the good French garlic butter?”
“I guess... not.”
They smirked at each other and Jack jiggled the car keys in one hand. “I'll be back soon.” He rounded the counter Daniel was working at and stole a goodbye kiss, or two. “Be good.”
“Drive careful, honey, and don't be later for dinner,” Daniel said sweetly and jumped when the palm of Jack's hand smacked down on his jeans clad ass. “Isn't that domestic abuse, snookums?” He spun away, out of reach. Raising the lemons he was holding in his hands, he threatened to throw them at his laughing, but retreating, lover.
Daniel took pleasure in preparing the lamb. Once he had done the marinade it had to rest in the fridge for an hour, He chose a wine to go with the meal and put it on the table. Since there was nothing else to do for now he decided to get the laundry out of the dryer where they had put it before they left this morning. He folded the sheets and linen, shrugging at their slightly rumpled appearance from being stuck in the dryer all day, and put them away. He'd leave the task of putting new sheets and bedding on their bed to Jack. After all he wasn't the designated house wife here.
He had just put the lamb out of the fridge and put it into the large pan to cook when he heard the front door slam and Jack holler a cheerful, “Luuucy, I'm hoooome,”
“You want to get your ass smacked, too?” Daniel snarled.
There was a lot of rustling going on in the other part of the room before Jack stuck his head around the partition wall and raised his eyebrows at him. “Whoa, what did I do?”
Jack gave him a scowl. “Snookums?”
“You smacked my butt.”
“You called me honey. That's no way to call a three star general.”
“Right. I'm awfully sorry,” Daniel said, and after a dramatic pause, added, “But aren't you
He found himself slammed against the fridge and blocked by the three star general, who growled, “Space monkey,” into his ear.
Which had Daniel burst out in laughter. He hadn't heard that one in years!
“Oh, so you think that's funny, eh?” They stared into each others' eyes, unmoving.
“Yeah, I do,... “
“Don't!” Jack surged forward and next Daniel had his mouth full of the three star general's tongue.
When they parted, Daniel smiled. “Darling?”
“You're asking for it, geek boy.” Jack watched the contents for the lemon lamb on the counter. “When's that gonna be ready?”
Daniel traced a finger down Jack's chest. “It needs watching or it'll be ruined.”
“You won't get dessert before dinner, General O'Neill.”
“You started it, Doctor Jackson. But no. Actually, it's better to wait anyway.” Jack smirked and stepped away from him. “I'm going to get the bed ready while you cook.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel quipped.
“Ah, see, now that's more like it. WHOA!” He made a beeline out of the kitchen as Daniel whipped the kitchen spatula from the counter.
“Chicken!” Daniel yelled after him and then he had to really take care of that lamb or they'd have charred meat.
“It's not French, is it?” Jack thoughtfully chewed his lamb.
“Actually, it's Egyptian. You like it?” Daniel had served rice with the lamb.
“What else is in there? I taste almonds, lemon, onions and... garlic?”
“Marsala and lemon juice.”
“It's great. I always liked when you got to cook on team nights,” Jack said.
“Your BBQs aren't so bad either.” Even though Jack drowned his steaks in beer and cremated them on occasions. But mostly Jack did a great job with all the side dishes like coleslaw, potato salad and anything else that went with a good BBQ. He had missed those too. For some reason they never had BBQ nights anymore ever since Jack had left the Springs. Cam was more of a 'let's go out' guy so they were doing that.
“Don't have a grill at the apartment,” Jack said with a shrug. “But that's history. No reason to stay close to the Pentagon anymore.”
The question was hanging in the air between them and finally Daniel gave himself a mental slap over the head. Someone had to start this. “Where are you going to live?”
“Where do you want me to live?”
Oh, here they were again. “That's not my decision to make, Jack.”
“No, it's not. But it's your call whether you want me close or... dropping by occasionally.”
“You want me to set the boundaries for... how this is going on?”
“I want you to be okay with whatever we decide on,” Jack said a bit stiffly.
“So, you'll either move back to the Springs or rent a boat, go away and only come back when you feel like it? Are these the options you're giving me? Married couple or part time lover?”
“There's a third option,” Jack said quietly.
“Doing the boat thing together.”
Daniel gazed out the window, watching another barge chugging by on the other side of the river. It was still daylight, but the sun already turned a slight shade of orange. He'd love to do the boat thing for a while, he realized. Getting away from everything. Now that the Ori were defeated and the Goa'uld were mostly gone he could actually, maybe, do something like that.
You could go to Atlantis, a voice whispered inside his head. Finally you could join them. Now that all the fires are put out.
The amazing question was – did he still want to go to Atlantis that badly? Did the city of the Ancients still hold as much fascination for him as it used to when they had first encountered it?
“I don't know yet,” Daniel said, staring at his almost empty plate. “Give me some time?”
“Still going too fast, huh?” Jack reached out and his fingertips brushed over Daniel's right wrist.
“It's just a lot to think about. I dismissed the thought of ever being with you years ago. I didn't... map this out.” He turned his hand upside down and felt Jack's fingers entwine with his. Strong fingers. Masculine hands. He loved them. These hands.
“Sorry,” Jack said.
“No. It's not your fault. It wasn't meant to be. And then I didn't imagine you'd...“ He squeezed Jack's fingers. “I'm glad you did, though.”
“Yeah.” There was that lopsided smile again. “Me too.”
After dinner Daniel took care of the fire while Jack did the dishes. They were both full and too lazy to do anything else for a while when they finally met on the couch. Daniel hooked one leg over Jack's thigh and leaned against him, getting used to this new way of being together. Snuggling on the couch. Nice. He hadn't done that... he hadn't done that in a very long time.
There hadn't been couches on Abydos. For a short moment he wondered if Sha're would approve of this, if she'd be mad at him if she knew... wherever she was now that she had gone down the Nile and crossed over to the afterlife. A stab of dull pain spiked through him and was gone as fast as it had come.
Focusing on the here and now was good. He had learned the hard way to cherish the good things life gave him as they usually went away sooner or later.
Though Jack had been a constant part of his life for a long time now. Not always an easy part, not always comfortable. But he'd been there. And still was.
“This is nice,” he admitted into the comfortable silence.
“Think we could get used to it?” Jack tilted his head, gently rubbing his temple against Daniel's.
“Scary,” Jack murmured. “This.”
For some reason this new found closeness was more intimate than the sex. And more intimidating. But god, he craved it. He had no idea he did. Not until he could have it now. If he could sit here forever, plastered to a warm solid body, just like this, he wouldn't mind.
“Let's go to bed,” he said after a while.
They shed their clothes by the couch and crawled into a freshly made bed. Daniel was immediately drawn into Jack's arms again like a magnet would always be drawn to its opposite pole.
He could feel Jack smile into his hair.
“Yeah. Let's pretend we have all the time in the world to just be together. Like this.”
“The world owes us, Daniel. We're entitled to have all the time we want.”
“Ye-ah. It just doesn't always work out that way.” His arms came around Jack's body, too, and he started to plant feather light kisses on Jack's lips, jaw and down his throat line. Jack let out a deep throaty sound and his head lolled back to give Daniel better access.
“Thought you just wanted to snuggle?” Jack's voice was husky and his hands tightened on the back of Daniel's head.
“Changed my mind,” Daniel murmured. “Exploring to do. Lie still.”
“Oh yeah... treat me like an artifact. I guess that's what I am anyway,” Jack chuckled.
“Shh. Artifacts don't talk,” Daniel chided. He came to kneel between Jack's legs as he moved down his body, mapping every inch of skin with tiny kisses and licks and the occasional bite, tracing old scars with his fingertips. Jack lay perfectly still, only his growing erection pressing against Daniel's giving away how much he enjoyed being claimed like this.
“All mine,” whispered Daniel. “No artifact has ever been given favored treatment like this. None has been handled with so much...“ He dipped his tongue into Jack's navel, smiling as he felt Jack suck in his breath, “...care.”
“Don't you ever give me away to Area 51,” Jack moaned softly.
“You want to be kept in my personal collection?” He moved further down Jack's body, gently blowing over Jack's pubic hair.
“Yes, Doctor Jackson, I need to be kept.”
Daniel came to a halt as he was up close with Jack's rigid penis. He bit his lips, not sure what to do next. He swallowed. He knew his options. He just didn't know how... or if he was up to this.
“What do you want?” he breathed, his heart beating like a jackhammer against his ribs. What if Jack wanted to be sucked? And what if Daniel couldn't do it? What if it threw him off? He was more experienced with women than most people would think and he didn't have hang ups when it came to being creative in bed. He'd done some pretty intense stuff with Sarah Gardener in their time. With Sha're he had explored things he'd never believed to be possible... and Shyla had taken advantage of Daniel's growing health and libido during his stay on her planet.
But this? He had never been with a guy... had never given head. And suddenly he wondered if Jack had.
“Use your hands,” Jack's voice drifted down to him. “You have... skilled hands.”
Daniel licked his lips. “What about mouth?” he asked hoarsely.
Jack sat up and they looked at each other. “You ever did that?” he asked, eyebrows raised.
“Got. Never gave.”
“You like it?”
“It's your exploration,” Jack said, a twinkle in his eyes. “I just want to get off. Preferably sooner than later.”
“Right. I didn't tell you to move, did I?” Daniel pushed him back on the bed and Jack complied readily, spreading his legs wider as he did.
Daniel positioned himself between Jack's knees, curled the fingers of his left hand around Jack's cock and his right around his own. Settling into a slow rhythm he stroked and rubbed the sensitive flesh and soon felt close... so close... It took all his willpower to keep both his hands moving as he went over the edge, taking Jack with him.
As they lay together in post coital bliss, Daniel wished his mind would stop working every once in a while. But it never did.
“So when you said you never gave head, but got it, did you mean by...?” he asked, knowing it might get him a rebuke.
The tip of Jack's thumb drew circles on his back. “Sara was good at it. But she had to be in the mood.”
Okay, so no rebuke. Since when was Jack this open about sex talk? Oh, wait - they never had a reason to do sex-talk before.
“So,” Daniel started again, “You never went with guys before?”
“I asked you first.”
The circle drawing finger stilled. “Been a long time ago. Hadn't even made it captain back then.”
“Out in the field?”
“Buddy stuff, yeah. Just a bit of fooling around. Letting off steam, that kind of thing.”
“Did you like it?” Daniel assumed it couldn't have been too traumatic or disgusting. Otherwise they wouldn't be here right now, would they?
Jack shrugged and picked up the circle drawing again. “He was nice enough.”
“Friend of yours?”
He didn't ask if it was anyone he knew, like Kawalsky or Ferretti. It wasn't really important.
“What about you?” Jack nudged him.
“Huh? Oh. No. Never with a guy.” He grinned. “But I think I really like guys, too.”
“Yeah? You better make that singular. I don't share.”
“Good. Neither do I.”
Les jeux sont faits. The die is cast.
Daniel was officially in a relationship.
TBC IV Sightseeing
Chapter 4: IV Sightseeing
Daniel smiled as he brushed a hand over Jack's wet hair. A trickle of water ran down an angular cheek and he bent forward to catch it with his tongue. Jack turned his head and they kissed while their hands went on a soapy journey over their bodies.
“Let me wash your hair?” Jack asked when they parted for air.
“Let me shave you?”
“Uhh, Daniel, I dunno...“ Jack looked doubtful.
“I'm good with knives,” Daniel coaxed. He picked up the shower head and reached around Jack to turn on the faucet. A gentle spray of warm water rinsed the soap off of them. That done, he turned off the water and stood with his back to Jack, closing his eyes as strong fingers started massaging his skull, the herbal scent of his shampoo becoming more prominent.
Jack gave the back of his head a slight pat and when Daniel lowered it, Jack's shampoo coated hands wandered down to his neck and back upwards until he was brushing through his hair again.
Daniel's scalp prickled in a very stimulating way and he was almost disappointed when Jack turned the water back on.
“Where's your razor?” Daniel asked a moment later when all the shampoo was gone from his head.
“By the sink.” Jack winced.
“You want me to do it in here or...“ He gestured at the bathroom, thinking this would be more comfortable if they had a bathtub to sit in.
“Well, if you cut my throat there won't be such a mess if we're doing it in here,” Jack quipped.
“If I wanted to kill you I'd just shoot you and throw you into the river to rot by the fishes,” Daniel replied lightly.
“Remind me why I ever thought you're a nice guy?” Jack squeezed past him and left the shower.
“Because I'm good in bed.”
“Right. No argument from me.” Jack grabbed a towel from the shelf by the shower and quickly dried himself off. He pulled a chair from its place under the small window. Sitting down on it he handed Daniel the damp towel. “You cut me and I get to get off first tonight.”
“Okay.” Daniel wrapped the towel around Jack's shoulders before taking a fresh one for himself.
Jack smirked and leaned back in his chair, exposing his throat as Daniel applied shaving cream. “All right. Do your worst.”
Daniel picked up Jack's razor and frowned. “That's a straight razor.” He was sure Jack used safety razors.
As though he had read his thoughts, Jack said, “I use the safe ones out in the field and at the mountain.”
“You use this one at home because you like living dangerously?”
“Just like it I guess.” Jack shrugged.
“Oh. Well, that's okay. I used one similar to those on Abydos. Only it was bigger and sharper.”
“Yeah, but do you know how to use it on someone else?” Jack asked with a scowl.
Daniel gave it a bit of thought and said, “Yes.”
“When?” Jack challenged.
He had sheared mastadges on Abydos with the same type of knife they used to shave.
Jack gave him an 'I really don't want to know any details' look. “Focus, okay? I don't want to run around with band aids plastered all over my face.”
Daniel went to work, his hand steady as he guided the blade over Jack's cheeks and jaw. He enjoyed the simplicity of the act, the feel of Jack's skin under his fingertips as he adjusted his head. The faint noise of the blade as it slid through the cream and over Jack's jaw was the only sound in the small bathroom. At first Jack was tense, his eyes following Daniel's every move. But soon he relaxed visibly.
Daniel liked the feel of the knife in his hand and the way the blade gleamed as the morning light fell on it through the window.. He shaved the underside of Jack's jaw with utter care.
Finally, brushing off an errand splotch of shaving cream that had found its way on the long curve of Jack's nose, Daniel stepped back. “Done.”
Jack wiped the rest of the shaving cream off and took one critical look in the mirror. “You missed some,” he said, scratching at a point on his right cheek.
“I did?” Daniel bent over his shoulder to examine it, but couldn't see anything.
“You did,” Jack insisted, slapping a bit of shaving cream back into his face. He leaned back and Daniel shrugged, deciding to indulge his picky friend. He raised the knife and just as it touched skin, Jack's head jerked. It was the tiniest of moves, but it was enough for the blade to slip and nick the skin.
“Daniel!” Jack snapped.
“Shit, I'm... wait, it's not bad.” Daniel grabbed for the Kleenex box and dabbed at the blood mingling with the shaving cream. “Sorry!” When the spot was cleaned Daniel took a closer look at it. “It's just a small cut.”
Jack examined himself in the bathroom mirror. “I'll live.”
“Barely,” Daniel snorted, then sobered. “Look, I'm really sorry, but you jerked your head.”
“No, I didn't.”
“Yes, you did.”
Jack cocked his head and pressed a Kleenex to the cut. “Maybe,” he admitted. “Got something in my eye.”
They had breakfast out on the barge's deck, the warm morning sun keeping them company as they savored French coffee and croissants with butter and jam. From somewhere the forlorn little melody of an accordion, played by someone out of sight, wafted over to them. Probably a clochard or a street musician playing for a bit of money.
They stayed seated after they had eaten, enjoying more coffee. Daniel was reading his Louis XIV book, intrigued and somewhat appalled by the glorious sun-king's doings.
“So, what are we gonna do on this fine day?” Jack asked, helping himself to some more coffee. The tiny white piece of Kleenex still stuck to his face didn't show any signs of new blood, which was a relief.
“You know, this book about Louis XIV is really interesting. I'd like to explore some places attached to him. Like Versailles,” Daniel suggested.
“Louis le Grand,” Jack said. “Le Roi-Soleil – the Sun King.”
“He was a fascinating personality. Self centered and more than just a bit vain, but a colorful historical figure for sure,” Daniel said with a slight smile at Jack's French accent. It was kind of... cute? Funny? Charming? “No one brought absolute monarchy to the same heights as he did. Not here in Europe anyway. It was... “
“Disgusting?” Jack suggested mildly.
“Yeah, that too. From the historical view you have to wonder how he managed to keep this up for 72 years without being killed or pushed off the throne. He was no Goa'uld so he didn't have the advantage of glowy eyes and hand ribbon devices.”
“Charming personality, maybe. Passionate. In control of his people,” Jack suggested. “And a good military at his back.”
“Power, money... yeah. He also glorified himself through arts. Louis was a discriminating patron of the great literary and artistic figures of France's classical age. His state established or developed in rapid succession academies for painting and sculpture. A lot of Paris's historical buildings were built thanks to Lois XIV. Like the Louvre or Versailles or the Les Invalids... ”
“There's a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans he built. It‘s part of a complex dedicated to France's military history. Actually there's also a museum and a burial site for French war horses. Even Napoleon's horse is buried there.”
“Cool,” Jack stated, eyes glazing over. Daniel knew the history lesson ended here. He didn't mind his lover's disinterest. Or maybe he was just used to it. It had stopped bothering him a long time ago.
“We could go there if you like to visit the military sights of Paris?” He could at least offer.
Jack shook his head. “Nah. We can do Versailles. Might be nice to get out of the city, too, for a change.”
Daniel looked across the river to the ever looming towers of Notre Dame. It was amazing how he had become used to the sight in just a couple of days. He didn't feel like he was in a big metropolitan city at all. It was quiet here, the river had a calming effect and the old buildings and stone promenade almost made you believe you were in a different time period – if it wasn't for the tourist boats and dinner cruise ships. And the cars crossing the bridges and driving down the streets behind the promenade.
“How about we do the Eiffel Tower first, have a bite to eat and then head out to Versailles.” Jack's voice broke him out of his musings.
“Yeah,” Daniel said, “I'd like that.”
“This is like living in an ant colony,” Jack groused two hours later as they stood in line, waiting for one of the elevators to take them up the Eiffel Tower.
The analogy had some truth, Daniel decided. The Eiffel Tower was huge with its 1063 feet high iron lattice construction and inside it tourists were standing in line to the elevators or moving up and down the stairways to the first and second level. When they had been standing on the street gazing up at the enormous tower, the people moving inside really did look like ants.
“This is nuts,” Jack went on as they moved forward inch by inch in line.
“You'd like to walk the 300 steps to the first level?” Daniel asked with a doubtful look at his friend's knees.
“No,” Jack griped. “Who's stupid idea was this anyway?”
“So, why didn't you tell me it was a stupid idea? You're doing it all the time.”
“I didn't think it was a stupid idea – at the time,” Daniel replied with a grin.
“You're losing your touch then,” Jack muttered.
“I'm out of practice,” Daniel said easily. “Pointing out which ones of your ideas are stupid, or more stupid than others, isn't my job anymore.”
“Mitchell never has any stupid ideas?” Jack snorted.
“Oh, he has his moments.”
“Yeah, like losing you to Adria,” Jack said. “More than once I might point out.”
“Wasn't his fault.” Daniel was surprised at the sharpness in Jack's voice.
“He allowed you to stick your damn head into Merlin's head sucker.”
“Well, to be fair, he wasn't exactly there to do anything about it. That's not the point. It had to be done.”
Daniel knew Jack wouldn't have let him do it. Jack would have tried to do it himself – again. And leave Daniel to figure out what it all meant. They couldn't talk about things like that here and it was a mute point anyway. Water under the bridge.
Still, Jack was rather tight-lipped until they finally made it to the second level of the tower. Daniel watched him closely as they stood atop the city gazing over its many pompous buildings and sites.
He should let it go. He shouldn't try to get to the bottom of this right here and now. Yet, he couldn't help himself. “I had to do what Merlin asked me to do. There was no other way. You know that.”
“That's what you always say. One day it'll cost you your fucking head and maybe Oma won't always be around to boost you up to glowy land,” Jack said under his breath, his voice like a razor blade.
Jack turned away from him. He pulled out his camera and took pictures. Even the way he pushed the camera button and stalked around the platform spoke of suppressed anger.
Daniel remembered how he had come around in the Odyssey's sickbay... Jack's hand in his hair... Hey, Sleepyhead... He had wondered, back then, what the hell had gotten into his friend... and again his mind took a leap back to... I may have, might have, uh, grown to admire you...
“You really want me to go on this boat trip with you,” Daniel concluded quietly. “You want me to leave and be with you... because you can't... Because you...“ He wasn't able to finish the sentence. He wasn't used to someone feeling like this for him anymore. Wasn't used to this kind of attachment. It was so much more than a normal relationship. So much more commitment.
In a relationship where you just met someone you got to know each other, grew together, became an item before you started to make huge life altering decisions. He and Jack skipped the whole 'getting to know you' part because they already did. Know each other. Not like this, maybe. Not this private and not this intimate. Not until recently. But they knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, knew how the other one ticked. They moved right on to... stages Daniel usually never encountered anymore. With no one.
Jack stuffed the camera back into its pouch and slipped it into his leather jacket. “I can't make that choice for you.”
“But you want me to make that choice.” It wasn't a question. Not anymore.
“Has to be yours.”
“How much time do I have?” he asked, his voice slipping into the old sarcastic tone they used when they had to cover up real feelings. “Is there a deadline?”
“I told you I'm not gonna push anything. I'll stick to that. I'll take what you're ready to offer,” Jack didn’t face him but looked out in the general direction of Île de la Cité.
“What do you want?”
There was only silence. For so long, Daniel began to wonder if he'd ever get an answer.
Finally Jack turned around, his face smooth and his eyes calm. As if the last five minutes had never happened. “Let’s take it one step at a time. First I want us to have fun.”
Daniel fought his natural tendency to argue, to tear the lurking issue out into the open and have it out with Jack once and for all. But if he was honest with himself, Paris wouldn't last forever and they should leave the issue – any issues – for when it was over. “Okay,” he agreed. “Want to go to the third level?”
They had baguettes for lunch in a little street café with a view of the Seine. Now that it was almost afternoon the river carried lots of traffic. The tourist boats with their orange plastic seats and music drifting out of the loudspeakers, some fast and fancy motor boats. At the promenade a colorful mixture of people strolled along the river and the whole area seemed to brim with life and noise. It wasn't a bad noise. Daniel enjoyed sitting there in the middle of it just as he had enjoyed sitting on the barge's deck and having a quiet breakfast this morning.
Jack stirred his coffee, looking thoughtful, but no longer angry or distressed.
“Do you still want to go to Versailles?” Daniel asked as he dabbed the corner of his mouth with a napkin.
“Sure. Can't wait to hear all about it,” Jack quipped.
“You're a bad liar.”
Daniel paid for lunch and they took their time to walk back to the car, drinking in the hustle and bustle of the city.
“If you had a boat,” Daniel couldn't resist asking as they crossed the street to walk at the Seine. “What would you name it?”
“Homer,” Jack said without the slightest hesitation and they started laughing.
“If you had a boat,” Jack asked then, “where would you go first?”
“Somewhere I haven't been before. Like... I don't know... Canada?”
“Uh, yeah. I've never been to Canada and you could sail along the coast, right? If you start, let's say, in California?”
“It's cold in Canada. Never thought you'd go there,” Jack said, curious.
“Too many trees?” Daniel asked teasingly.
“Okay, let's say you start in California... you could go down to Mexico.”
“Digging for Mayan and Aztec treasures.”
“Lying on a beach and drinking Tequila.”
“Maybe we could meet somewhere in the middle,” Daniel said dryly.
“You digging for artifacts and me drinking Tequila.”
“I need you sober and alert for certain activities though,” Daniel grinned.
“Yeah? Like hauling your sorry ass out of some temple you get lost in?” Jack grabbed his arm and made him stop walking. “Let me be your bodyguard?”
“What? So you can stalk me all the time? No way.”
“It's perfect, Daniel. You stay out of trouble and I'll sleep better,” Jack said, a rather smug look on his face.
“You want to sleep better? Have a warm glass of milk.”
“Admit it. You miss me out there. You'd love to have me back watching you six. So if you'd stay earth side and dig in some grubby hole of dirt I could still do that.”
“And get dirty with me?”
“I heard archeologists do it in the dirt. Of course that's a cliché,” Jack chuckled.
They had reached the car and their playful argument was interrupted by getting in and putting on seat belts. Jack slipped his sunshades on and a moment later they were heading to the Rue de la Coutellerie on their way to Versailles. The city was packed with traffic and it took them a while to make it out of the worst of it. Daniel didn't mind. They were in no hurry, a soft summer breeze played with Jack's hair and he resisted the urge to brush his hand through the silvery strands.
The Rue Saint-Martin was one of the oldest streets in Paris. It had many passages leading into malls, but there were small shops as well like bookstores and coffee shops. And in between all these modern aspects of the city's old majestic buildings stood as a leftover from the past. The church Saint-Merry, the porte Saint-Martin which had been replaced by an Arc de Triomphe for Louis XIV and the Musée des Arts et Métiers, an university for artists and part of the St-Martin-des-Champs abbey.
They made their way through the city and ended up at the Seine again on their way to the outskirts and Versailles. They passed the Quai Henry IV and Quai de Bercy with its national bridge and the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy – a multi-purpose hall for sports events or concerts of any kind.
“Leaving Paris now,” Jack announced as they entered the ramp to the highway.
“Not really,” Daniel said. “Paris has grown so much, it almost reaches Versailles now.”
“It's so nice to have my very own guide who knows everything, even more than my Paris 101 book,” Jack snarked, but the broad smile on his face was in total contradiction to his inappropriate sarcasm.
“Nope, not gonna happen.” Jack stood rooted to the spot, a mulish expression on his face.
“We should have come earlier,” Daniel said, not exactly all that enthusiastic about this himself.
“I'm not going to stand in line for another hour or two, forget it,” Jack informed him.
“Yeah, it's kind of, uh, discouraging.”
They stood at the wide square with its impressive bronze gates and stared at what had to be hundreds of people waiting in line to be let into the Cháteau de Versailles.
“Let's do the gardens then,” Daniel suggested. “Tickets are less expensive and the line's remarkably shorter.”
They trudged across the square towards the palace. They had to pass between two of the long stretched buildings to get to the gardens. Jack pushed his sunglasses back on his head and let his eyes travel over the palace complex. “Nice,” he drawled. “They're calling this a chateau?”
“Actually,” Daniel recalled what he had read in his new book this morning, “It used to be a rather small... well, small compared to what it is now... hunting lodge for Louis XIII. His son, Louis XIV, transformed and expanded it. He built the Grand Apartments of the King and Queen. Among those was the Hall of Mirrors. Since he didn't like Paris all that much he decided to move court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. After him, Louis XV built the chapel and the opera house.”
“Wow. To have your own opera... cool.”
Someone tugged at his jacket's sleeve and when Daniel turned he was face to face with an elderly woman, who looked up at him quizzically. “Young man, are you our guide?”
“Sorry, I... “
“We have been waiting for you and we're next in line to go in. Where have you been?”
“Ah, I'm actually not... “
Another member of the small group came to stand beside the lady. He was around her age, his white hair sticking out behind his ears like tufts of feathers. He had beetle black eyes and his beak like nose gave him a hawk-like expression. “We need to hurry, Mister. The bus won't wait forever and we're not the youngest or fastest bunch of people.”
It was Jack who took matters into his own hands. Clapping Daniel's shoulder he announced – loudly and with a charming smile to calm the group. “We're very sorry for the delay, Ladies and Gentlemen. We'll make up for it by giving you a tour extraordinaire. You won't be disappointed. You'll go home telling your grand kids about this. Doctor Jackson here is your man for all things Versailles.”
Mutters of approval answered that.
“Jack? What are you doing?” Maybe now was the time to tell his ex major general that he was having one of his not so good ideas? Whatever the idea was?
“Getting us in,” murmured Jack as he waved at the tourist group to move to the main entrance.
“This is a bad idea,” Daniel hissed, a huge false 'I'm your friendly guide' smile plastered to his face as they walked past the guards. No one was asking for their tickets. This group had probably bought pre-sell tickets that included the guide. Or whatever. He had no idea. All he knew was that they made it inside not only without waiting in line, but also without paying. If they got caught he'd blame it all on one Jack O'Neill...
“No, it's not. You know all this stuff, so do your thing. Talk them into unconsciousness,” Jack said with a smirk.
They crossed a booth and Daniel quickly snatched a floor plan of the castle from a rack. Scanning it briefly he said out of the corner of his mouth, “You are aware my field of expertise is Egypt? Remember that? This is France. My knowledge of French history barely covers the basics.”
“Don't sell yourself short, Daniel. You still know more about anything than... anyone.”
Daniel rolled his eyes as he quickly read what other information the floor plan provieded. They had entered the entrance hall and before he and Jack could make a quick exit into one of the other rooms, the lady from before looked expectantly at him. “Can you tell us something about how Versailles was built?”
“I thought we're doing a tour through all the rooms,” another woman said. “Who wants to know how it was built? I want to see the king's private chambers.”
“Be quiet, Delores,” a man, apparently her husband, said in a rather whiny voice.
Daniel cleared his throat and began, “Hi, uh, I'm Daniel and I'm your guide today. If you will look around, you'll already notice that Versailles is an architectural wonder. It is truly, ah..”
“Beautiful, artful and was way ahead of its time,” Jack jumped in.
“Right. Um... The... the innovative construction and design of the Sun King’s former home was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who is the architect responsible for the palace in its current form.” He glanced at the plan in his hand. “Versailles has 2,153 windows, 700 rooms and 67 staircases.”
Ah's and oh's followed this, and Daniel led the group quickly across the polished wooden floor into the next room. “When Versailles was built baroque architecture was highly appreciated. Versailles is a baroque lavished complex containing extravagant ornaments, opulent paintings, and bold contrasts.”
He had no idea how they made it through the first parts of the castle without the group getting suspicious. Either none of the men and women had any deeper knowledge of the palace and its history or they didn't care as long as he kept talking. Daniel suspected some of them might be near deaf as they kept talking among themselves rather loudly to be heard by their companions. Delores kept muttering about the king's private quarters and her husband kept telling her to shut up. The lady who had first approached them walked arm in arm with hawk-man and there were three other couples who were more or less interested in what Daniel had to say.
Mostly he rambled on about who had lived in Versailles, how Louis XIV had moved the court here from Paris and how he had taken absolute monarchy to a whole new level by telling everyone he was the state and as powerful as the sun and that no one around him was allowed to speak unless he granted it.
Jack was reading in a brochure he had picked up somewhere at the gates and threw in witty remarks here and there, making the elderly people chuckle.
Someone was going to pay for this. Someone silver haired and smug.
Finally they reached the Hall of Mirrors, which was a relief because Daniel had already read about it and he also remembered enough from his European history classes at college to fill in a couple of blanks.
“The Grande Galerie, as it was called in the 17th century, served daily as a passageway and a waiting and meeting place, frequented by courtiers and the visiting public,” he said when everyone gathered around him again.
“It's beautiful,” Delores said with a dreamy smile.
“You wouldn't want to be the cleaning staff here though,” her husband muttered.
“Imagine they held dances and proms in here,” hawk-man's wife said, an excited undertone in her voice. “Look at all these mirrors! And how big it is!”
Daniel cleared his throat. “The Hall of Mirrors was one of the most used rooms in the palace. During the 17th centuries the royal family walked through here daily on their way from their apartments to the chapel. It also served for feasts, political meetings, courts and other gatherings. Probably the most significant event that took place here during the reigns of Louis XIV was the Siamese embassy seeking an alliance with France in 1685. The Siamese stayed for three years and all the meetings took place here.”
“Who wants to know all the political nonsense,” Delores twittered, reminding Daniel of Vala in her behavior. “Tell us about the feasts.”
“The feasts. Right.” Daniel raked his brains. There was something about a costume ball. Something about a mistress... “The feasts were very pompous. Everything Louis XIV did was, actually, since he always wanted to remind everyone he was the greatest and most powerful... “
“Oz,” Jack deadpanned, making everyone laugh.
“...monarch there ever was. He wasn't called the sun-king for nothing. He saw himself as bright and shining as the sun.”
“What kind of balls and feasts did they held here?” Delores asked.
“Costume balls, for example. There was...“ He tried to remember the one that was most known.
“There were many,” Jack jumped in as Daniel snatched the brochure from his friend's … his former friend's... his soon to be dead friend's... hands to sneak a peek.
In the meantime Jack went on, “There was a costume ball, the Ball des Ifs, ball of the Jew Tree.”
“A costume ball,” Delores sighed. She turned to her husband. “Imagine how we would have danced, Arthur.”
Arthur grimaced and took a step back as though he was afraid his wife was going to force him to dance.
Jack, however, took Delores's hand and gently moved her in a circle, placed his other hand lightly on the small of her back and guided her through what Daniel recognized as a waltz. The rest of the group applauded and the ladies actually giggled.
Once Daniel had picked up his jaw from the floor, he remembered what he had just read in Jack's brochure. “Louis XV was dressed as a tree. He met Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson d'Étiolles, who was costumed as Diana, goddess of the hunt during this ball. She became Louis XV’s mistress.”
Jack and Delores had reached the group again. He stopped, took a step back and indicated a gallant bow. “Thank you for this dance, ma'am.”
Delores blushed pink which gave her face back some of its youth. She put a hand over her mouth and smiled, flattered, as Jack stepped away. However, hawk-man's wife didn't miss an opportunity when there was one. Before Jack knew it she had taken his hand and he had no choice but granting her the next 'dance'.
Daniel hastily pointed out a couple more interesting facts about the Hall of Mirrors as he tried not to be mesmerized at how Jack wrapped the old ladies around his little finger. Or about the fact that he had just discovered something else he hadn't known about Jack.
Dancing? He looked good. Even without any music to go with it Jack seemed to move in sync with the ladies. Classic. It was the oddest thing Daniel had ever seen him do. The most out of character thing, maybe. Here they were in this grand hall and Jack moved little old dames through the room. Daniel could see glimpses of him and his current dance partner in the mirrors hung in the arches opposite the large windows.
The arches themselves were fixed between marble pilasters whose capitals depicted the symbols of France. Jack seemed to multiply in the three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors that decorated the seventeen arches. From the ceiling hung crystal chandeliers which were reflected in the mirrors as well.
Daniel cleared his throat. “If you look into the mirrors you'll see the magnificent effect of how the view into the garden is reflected in them. If you will stand in front of an open window and look into the mirror you get the impression of standing outside in the garden instead of inside a room because of the illusion the mirror gives you.”
Everyone wanted to try that and the ladies dragged their husbands to stand in front of the mirrors to enjoy the view.
“There's a secret passageway in the next room. Let's take our leave there,” Jack whispered into his ear while everyone was still playing with the mirrors.
“Tired of dancing already?” Daniel quipped.
“Why? You want to dance with me?” Jack asked, a cocky grin on his face.
“Uh, no thank you. I didn't know you could dance.”
“Well, there's not much need for dancing when one is visiting other planets.”
“Actually, we got lucky that way. Lots of cultures use dance as a form of expression and communication.” He tried to picture Jack engaging in any form of dancing off world – and failed. Maybe some things you could only do while not in uniform.
Or when retired.
“C'mon,” Jack said, and for a horrible moment Daniel thought he'd be swept across the room in a waltz. But Jack took lead and they slipped out of the Hall of Mirrors and entered the King's interior apartments.
To Daniel's horror there was another guided group of tourists in there and a young woman talked to them using a mike, “The Petit Appartement du Roi, and the neighboring rooms overlooked the Cour de Marbre on the right and the Cour Royale. In the 18th century they became real living and working apartments decorated in a very sophisticated style. These rooms and their functions were continually renewed and adapted to the tastes of the occupier.”
The large room was held in white and gold foil. Another chandelier hung from the ceiling in a corner. Daniel spotted a large fireplace with a pompous mirror hung above it. He didn't have much time to look around as Jack dragged him through a small door, almost unseen in the richly decorated wall. Unnoticed by the other people Jack pushed it open and they squeezed through it, finding themselves on a narrow staircase.
“What now?” Daniel gently closed the door.
“Now we find the exit,” Jack said.
“How did you know this door was here?”
“It's in this brochure I picked up. It leads down to a corridor leading to the palace's kitchen in a side wing.”
“Ah, yes. These passageways were used by servants so they could move around the palace unseen by the nobles,” Daniel said absently. He checked his floor plan. Jack was right. Though two other passageways were accessible from here and one would lead out into the gardens. They should try that one first.
“That was fun,” Jack said as they headed through a plain corridor only lit by several naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Apparently these passages were still used by people who worked in and around the castle.
“Yeah, it was,” Daniel grinned, realizing it really had been. Risky but fun. “And no one arrested us – yet.”
“And no one will...“ Jack stopped short, one hand grabbing Daniel by the elbow. He put a finger to his mouth, shaking his head.
Daniel pressed himself flat against the wall next to Jack, straining his ears for any sound.
Not very close yet, but coming their way...
They looked at each other and Jack pointed backwards for retreat. Daniel frowned. They could still make it around the corner. The corridor parted in two ways there. If they went the opposite direction... He really didn't want to run into his 'group' again after they had just deserted those people. He pointed forwards, indicating a left turn. Jack shook his head and gave him a prompting push.
“I'm not going back in there,” Daniel whispered.
“Daniel,” Jack hissed.
He spotted something else. Another door just a few steps down the corridor. He tugged at Jack's jacket and pushed off the wall, taking point.
The voices became significantly louder, Daniel could make out two guys arguing about something in French. He opened the door, relieved when it gave way, and stumbled into the room, followed by Jack.
Only the room turned out to really be some kind of in-the-wall broom closet.
Daniel smacked his forehead on the wall and almost crushed his glasses as Jack pushed in behind him and closed the door. “Damn,” he snarled, rubbing what would soon be a sore spot on his brow.
“Quiet,” Jack snapped.
They tried to move around each other without making too much noise, but it was pitch black in here and Daniel heard Jack bump into the door and curse under his breath. He felt Jack press against him as he tried to move again. There was a hand probing for his shoulder and Daniel was shoved against the back wall. His arm was caught between their bodies and he pulled it free and wrapped it around Jack's middle. A moment later he felt Jack's arms sneak around him and so they stood in an awkward embrace as they waited for the other guys to either pass by or open the closet door.
At least the closet was empty.
Something clattered loudly.
“Jack,” Daniel breathed. “Stop it.”
“Fuck,” Jack cursed, but keeping his voice low. “Don't move.”
“And shut up.”
They stood, plastered against each other, as the voices grew closer and closer... Daniel could hear them approaching and then... They seemed to stop right in front of their hiding place. They were talking about their wives and apparently one of them had forgotten an important anniversary and was seeking his colleague‘s advice on how to make up for it.
Daniel could feel Jack's warm breath on his face, could hear his flat breaths as if they were the loudest noise ever.
The smell of cigarette smoke wafted in. Those idiots were taking a smoking break right here? Right now? Daniel groaned inwardly.
“...bring her flowers and a ring. Women love diamonds.”
“Like I have money to buy diamond rings.”
“Then take her out for dinner, somewhere fancy.”
“That's not enough to calm her down. You know Claudine, she wants me to suffer.”
Jack put his chin on Daniel's shoulder. “What's going on?” he murmured into his ear.
“Love crisis, forgotten anniversary,” Daniel murmured back. Jack still smelled a little of the after shave he had used this morning. When Daniel had shaved him... No, he wouldn’t go there. Too distracting. Too dangerous. Jack also smelled of leather and something... something that was just Jack. Daniel moved his head so his nose touched Jack's cheekbone. His hands began to slide over Jack's...
“Bad idea, Daniel.”
“Hands off my ass. Now.”
“Keep it down, Jack.” Daniel stilled his hands but didn't remove them. It was not exactly spacious in here. And besides … revenge was a sweet thing.
Outside the discussion went from mad wives to high rents and unpaid bills. The smell of cigarettes became stronger.
Daniel nudged Jack's cheek with his nose until Jack moved back a fraction and they were face to face. Or at least that's what Daniel hoped. It was too damn dark in here. He made a quick assessment of the situation. Sounded like those guys outside were going to end their little break any minute. Just as he thought that he heard them walk away, still engrossed in their conversation.
Daniel plunged forward and found Jack's warm dry lips. He met resistance there as Jack tried to draw away. When Daniel followed suit, Jack's mouth opened readily and they engaged in a battle of tongues. Daniel felt the lapels of his jacket being grabbed as he was slammed against the closet's wall and Jack growled deep in his throat.
Daniel came to the realization he liked Jack torn between being mad and horny. He wondered how often Jack had felt like this over the years when they had argued and had had one of their pissing contests... there was probably a lot of leftover UST they'd have to work through.
Daniel grinned when Jack pulled away from him, panting, “Son of a bitch.”
“What? You didn't like it?”
“Oh, I liked it. What about this?”
Daniel sucked in a strangled breath when Jack's hand closed over the front of his jeans, his fingers stroking and rubbing through the fabric. “Ja... stop it!”
“You want to walk around with a hard on the rest of the tour, Danny-boy? Or sporting a wet spot on your pants?” Jack asked, voice deadly.
Daniel tried to get away, but he was trapped in the narrow space of the closet and Jack was blocking the way out. And his body had other ideas. Daniel gritted his teeth, willing his hips to stop moving. “What about you?” he snapped. “You make me come in here, I'll make you come twice as hard before I let you out of here.”
“That a promise?”
Daniel felt his balls being gripped almost painfully. He closed his eyes. Sweat trickled down his temple. Oh... damn. “You bet, flyboy.”
“All words, no action, bookboy.”
He grabbed Jack's skull with both hands and dove in for another harsh kiss, pushing off the wall and moving them through the closet until it was Jack who was stuck. Their feet became tangled in a bucket and a mop, they started swaying, there was a lot of crashing noise and the door flew open as they stumbled and swaggered out into the corridor. They went down, Daniel coming out on top. The bucket rolled out of the closed with a metallic bang, the mop toppled over and hit Daniel over the head.
“Get OFF me!” Jack yelled between fits of laughter. “Daniel, so help me... “
“Ow, sh... “ Rubbing his head he pushed the mop out of the way and rolled off Jack, who was getting to his feet rather clumsily, clutching his ribs.
“You okay?” they both asked.
“I'm fine,” they both replied, out of breath.
Somewhere a door opened and a female voice called out, asking if someone was there.
“Run,” Jack hollered.
And they did.
“You sure you don't hurt anywhere?” Brown eyes raked over him, looking for any signs of injuries, even internal ones.
“I'm okay.” Even the tender spot on his brow didn't turn out to be that bad. At least Daniel hoped so. It didn't bleed, which was good. It was only slightly swollen, which was good, too. “What about you?”
“Oh, couple of cracked ribs, punctured lung maybe.“ Jack snorted. “Next time I'm the one using you as a cushion, that's for sure.”
Daniel stretched out his legs and tipped his head back to gaze at the bright blue sky and the late afternoon sun. Below the long row of stone steps they were sitting on was the basin de Latona, a fountain dedicated to Apollo's mother. Beyond that the Grand Canal stretched out well into the back of the gardens. It was the main axe of the grounds of Versailles. Geometry and symmetry had played an important role in constructing the gardens. In a basin at the top of the canal was a statue of Apollo himself being pulled out of the water by his horses.
Daniel contemplated apologizing for the attack that had initiated the whole mess they’d gotten themselves into. The mad dash down the corridor and the relief as they stumbled through another door that had led into a courtyard was like a blur. They’d been lucky – the two workmen must have forgotten to lock doors behind themselves as they passed through the palace. They had ended up in the gardens and decided to take a look around.
Nobody had seen them and what were the chances their little group of tourists would catch up on them out here? These gardens were huge. Then again it was probably safer not to stay too long.
“You getting now why it was a good thing we never acted on our...“ Jack paused as if to search for another word, then shrugged and continued, “feelings while we were still....”
“Damage control,” Daniel said quietly. “I knew that before, though.”
He could picture the situation so clearly; nights in tents, endless hours in prisons, plastered against each other in grubby holes covering from the enemy, … if they had given in an inch, if they had let go just once... maybe they would have never been able to regain full control. Or maybe they would have. SG-1 always came first. Had to come first. Jack was a soldier through and through. He had his priorities straight when it came down to it. So did Daniel. Still, there was this one tiny bit of uncertainty. The always looming What if...? Neither one of them had been ready to risk SG-1.
That was how it had to be. Now things were different.
“You're driving me nuts.” Jack shook his head.
“In a good way.”
“In every possible way.”
Daniel glanced at the man sitting next to him. “Likewise,” he said.
They decided they had to get away from the possible discovery by a group of angry senior citizens. They walked back through the gardens, passing colorful artfully displayed flower beds and another lake. Daniel was aware they hadn't seen half of what lay hidden in the wide grounds of Versailles and that he probably wouldn’t be back to take a proper tour. But right now the temples, pavilions and petit palaces didn't hold much interest for him. His eyes were on the guy walking beside him. A military man who had once worn three stars on his sleeves, who was a hero in every sense of the word, and who was now engaging in hanky panky sessions in broom closets with his former civilian consultant.
Daniel realized he was in even more trouble than he’d first thought.
TBC: V Jack
Chapter 5: V Jack
They had spent the evening strolling through the neighborhood and Daniel had bought a fancy looking sports bag for Carter that had 'Paris’ written all over it. Daniel had told him how Carter was always complaining about her bag being too small, but that she never got around to buying a new one because, face it, if you were holed up under a mountain or off world for long stretches of your life, going shopping for sports bags wasn't at the top of your list.
They had considered going to the Opera tonight, but Jack had other plans. Daniel had smiled and said, “Surprise me” so that’s what Jack was going to do. Surprise him.
He just hoped that by surprising Daniel he wouldn't get booted out of the barge to sleep on deck. Working up to his surprise had seemed like a great idea at the time.
Now Jack had to face a rare case of not being sure if he could work up the courage.
Daniel was slouched on one of the couches, reading his newly acquired French history book and Jack was watching Daniel read. A simple pleasure he hoped to be able to enjoy a lot more often in the future.
The bets were still all out there.
When Jack had followed Daniel to Paris, determined to work all this out, he hadn't expected it to be easy. He had expected a wall of resistance, a barrier of issues, unsolved things, unsaid things... things that had piled up between them over the years. He had been ready to make Daniel see his point. He had been prepared for a fight. For... anything.
He had been surprised at how smoothly they had eased into... this. After all these years they had just moved on from being friends – they might have issues but they were still friends – to being lovers. They had opened Pandora's Box and what was coming out of it was extremely satisfying and exhilarating - and downright scary.
They were a long way from reaching the bottom. A long way from being ready to talk about what would happen after Paris.
“Now I can hear you thinking. It's kind of creepy.” There was an amused smile playing around those lush kissable lips and Jack was this close to move over and do just that. Kiss him. Just like the little bastard had kissed him in that broom closet.
“Thinking about dinner,” Jack said the first thing that came to mind. As if on cue his stomach gave a faint grumble.
“Dinner or dessert?”
“Dinner first. What do you want?”
“What do we have?” Daniel closed his book. “Or do you want to go out?”
“Nope. I’m gonna wine and dine you right here.”
“That sounds nice. How about pasta?”
“Pasta it is. You stay here. I'll cook.” He rose from the couch and swooped down to kiss the top of Daniel's head. Domestic delight. Jack loved that. Another pleasure he hoped to be able to enjoy more often in the future.
They had dinner on deck at the small white plastic table. The sun was setting behind Notre Dame and Jack thought he could get used to the sight. Both, the sunset at Notre Dame and Daniel sitting across the table from him, swirling the wine in his glass. It wasn't a big table, so their knees touched when they moved. It was cozy and felt just about right.
Tomorrow all this would end. Sort of. Hopefully not for good.
If Jack didn't screw it up tonight.
“So...” Daniel placed his glass back on the table. “What's for dessert?” He sounded content, playful. Jack looked into twinkling blue eyes. He had never seen Daniel like this before Paris. Not this open. This vulnerable. This... happy. Had he ever seen Daniel happy before? Yes. On Abydos. When he had stepped through the Stargate that very first time. Boy, had the kid been happy. And later whenever he had laid eyes on Sha're... and there was that kiss. That kiss Daniel and his wife had shared when Jack had been back to Abydos.
He had never seen Daniel this happy after that.
Until now. Underneath all those layers of what had molded Daniel into the man he was, so far from who he had been on Abydos, that happiness was there now. Daniel looked... gorgeous.
“Dessert's inside,” Jack said, voice raspy.
“Special dessert?” Daniel's eyebrows rose over the rim of his glasses.
“You could say that.”
He unfolded himself from behind the table, long strong legs in tight faded jeans and a plain white buttoned down shirt. The sunlight caught in his still shower damp hair, making it appear almost back to blond. It had darkened over the years, Daniel's hair.
Jack followed him inside, dishes forgotten, wine bottle abandoned.
“That's my dessert?” Daniel smoothed out the black leather and turned incredible blue eyes on Jack. He didn't blink, or look offended or disgusted. Actually, he wasn't giving away how he felt about it. Jack had to give him that – the guy had learned to keep a straight face. Learned from the best of course. “Looks more like it's going to be your dessert. Me in it. For you to take a bite off?”
Now he sounded dangerous.
Crap. Jack should have listened to that 'I'm not going to wear that thing' line Daniel had given him when they had spotted the outfits at the sex shop. He had listened, but when he'd been out to get the lube it had kind of seemed like a great idea at the time.
“I'd like you to wear it,” Jack pushed on, knowing he'd probably end up sleeping on deck after all and not getting any. “But only if you want to.”
Daniel's fingers, experienced in handling precious and sensitive objects, felt the leather again and finally he picked up the pants. He turned them over and suddenly held them up to his face, burying his nose in the material. “This is real leather,” he observed.
“Yeah.” Jack had checked. It was smooth and soft, probably felt great on the skin. The good stuff. Only the best for his Daniel.
“What's in it for me?” Daniel held the pants in front of his groin, checking the length. “If I wear them and let you play with me – what am I gonna get?” There was still a hard edge to his voice, his eyes piercing Jack with a blazing look.
“Hey, you already got me in a broom closet. What else do you want?” Jack felt it safe to quip.
“Right after you subjected me to a whole group of tourists to play their guide.”
“I thought you'd appreciate going into the palace without having to wait in line for hours,” Jack said, cocking his head.
Daniel was not impressed.
“You'll get me,” Jack said quietly. “In any way you want me.”
“In any way? What if I want you handcuffed and blindfolded and tied to the bed?” Daniel brushed a hand over the leather pants.
Jack blinked. “That’s what you want?” He hoped not because he had issues with being tied up. Huge ones. Daniel should know that. They'd been tied up often enough over the years. It was a no go.
“Would you?” There was a challenge in those steel blue eyes.
Jack snatched the pants out of Daniel's hands and threw them on the bed. “Fine. I get your gist. Forget it.” He strode past him, up the stairs and out on the deck.
To get some fresh air.
To calm down.
He leaned against the iron banister and stared out onto the slow flowing river for a while. The river was good. Calming. He knew he'd screw it up somehow. He'd never been good at this touchy feely stuff. He should have asked him first, figure out if he really wouldn't put on those damn pants.
God, they were hot, those pants. Daniel would be incredible hot wearing them.
Jack cursed under his breath, willing himself to cool off.
He'd go back down there and apologize. Try something else. Daniel was hot no matter what he was wearing. Maybe if they kept this thing going between them, maybe one day...
“All I wanted was a choice in this.”
Jack stiffened at the now soft voice behind him. “I told you, you don't have to wear them,” he said, still defensive.
“I wanted to make that choice before you went and spent hundreds of Euros on them.”
“We can give them back,” Jack said. And finally added, “I'm sorry. For cornering you.”
They both didn't like to be cornered. He should have known. He was such an idiot sometimes.
“Da...“ He turned and trailed off as his eyes tried to frantically catch up with his brain. He had known it. He had known exactly how Daniel was going to look.
The steel was gone from his eyes. In the glorious orange light of the low riding sun Daniel looked at him almost shyly, but not quite. A bit concerned maybe, vulnerable, but...
“I kind of... like the feel of them,” he offered.
“You...“ Jack cleared his throat and tried again. “You're....”
“They're actually comfortable,” Daniel went on, sounding surprised at the discovery. He brushed his hands over his thighs. “Little too skin tight maybe, but not bad.” He was still wearing his white shirt, but that didn't do anything to stop Jack from practically drooling all over the damn deck.
“Holy buckets,” he whispered. “Get inside. You're absolute jail bait...“
“Let me undress you?” Jack asked as he came to stand behind Daniel. He placed his hands on his lover's hips. “Slowly?”
“Is this part of the price I have to pay for cutting you this morning?” Daniel asked.
“Oh, yeah, definitely.” He reached around and started opening shirt buttons. His hand slipped inside, roaming over taut skin, abs and ribs. Daniel stood motionless, arms at his side, relaxed. Jack continued with the buttons, then stepped around him to take a good look at what was his.
At least for tonight.
“You did that on purpose,” Daniel said lightly just as Jack smoothed the shirt off his shoulders.
“Let me cut you. It was a calculated risk.”
“Mmmh, maybe.” Jack smirked and the shirt fell to the floor. He listened carefully though, to catch any kind of unease or annoyance in Daniel's voice. He didn't want any more delays. He didn't want to piss him off again.
“What makes you think you're still in charge here?” Daniel crossed his arms over his chest. Nice bulky arms. “First you cheat to get your way with me, then you expect me to wear leather for you and now you expect me to lose my virginity to you?”
This time Jack heard the vibrant undertone in Daniel's complaints. Saw the twitch of a muscle in Daniel's jaw. He hooked a finger into the waistband of the leather pants. “Something like that, yeah.” He pulled him close and they kissed. Daniel pushed against him, but Jack wouldn't budge. With a smacking sound their lips parted.
Jack took a step back even though all he wanted to do was jump and tackle Daniel right here and now. “I want you on the bed,” he said, not quite making it sound like an order, but somewhere close.
Daniel's hands flew to his pants, but Jack shook his head. “Like this.” Again he searched for Daniel's eyes to make sure they weren't on cross wires.
“You really have a thing for leather, huh?”
“Just a thing for you wearing it.”
Daniel smirked and went down on the bed, sprawling on his back. Then there was that not-quite-shy look again, just a flicker of it. It was enough for Jack to get cautious. “You okay?”
“Feeling a little alone here,” Daniel said, opening his black clad legs. “But okay, yeah.” He wriggled around a bit, his bare feet brushing over the white bed linen.
Jack had to do something quick or he'd go into overload.
He stood there, gazing at the most beautiful man, the most gorgeous human being in this and other worlds... he had known it would be like this. Exactly like this. Daniel was... everything Jack imagined him to be. And more.
Only his planning of the night had never gone beyond this very precise moment.
“Jack?” Daniel licked his lips. “You'd like to, uh... come down here?”
He tossed his shirt, his shoes and socks, but when he started to work on the buttons of his jeans, Daniel said, “Leave them on. What's good for the goose... “
“They're just jeans,” Jack argued, but complied all the same. He climbed onto the bed, hovering over Daniel, his dog tags jingling softly as he bent down to suck on an erect nipple. Daniel shifted and breathed in deeply. Jack gave the lavished nipple a tentative bite and Daniel let out a hissed, “Yesss.”
Smiling, Jack went on to the other one, giving it the same treatment. When he came up and licked his lips, Daniel had his head thrown back, baring his throat in the most vulnerable way. Jack couldn't resist. He placed feather light kisses to Daniel's jaw line, then moved lower and found the pulse point. He nibbled the spot carefully, then sucked in the skin, making sure he'd leave his mark right there. The thought alone almost brought him to the edge and he had to stop what he was doing and pull back again .
Checking on Daniel.
Daniel was all eyes and glowing skin. “Now you're playing,” he said hoarsely.
Jack sat back on his heels, his fingertips ghosting over Daniel's leather clad thighs. Remembering what they'd done in the broom closet he placed the palm of his right hand on Daniel's groin. Massaging gently through the smooth fabric he felt him swell inside the pants. Jack cupped his balls, thumb applying pressure.
His eyes never left Daniel's face. Jack watched his eyelashes flutter, his skin flush pink, his throat muscles working, his lips parting as he let out huffs of shallow breaths.
“Nuts,” Jack murmured.
Daniel blinked, slowly. “Huh?”
“You. Driving me insane.” He wanted him to turn around, on his front. But he also wanted to be certain he didn't do anything Daniel wouldn't like. He needed the eye contact to be sure of that.
Maybe it was too early to do leather play... or whatever it was called. Maybe this was a bad idea. Jack wanted everything at once. It was too much too soon. Making a choice, he lowered himself on Daniel so that they were chest to chest, groin to groin. Their eyes locked, blue on brown as they started moving against each other and yet in sync with each other. Skin on skin, jeans on leather. The friction was incredible. The enclosed tightness of their pants was like torture...
“This is a bad idea,” Daniel groaned. “Very. Bad.”
“Stop that... Jack, stop that... “
He almost laughed at the desperation in Daniel's voice. “Can't... “
“You're not going to make me... oh god, don't... don't...” Daniel heaved Jack off him, rolled them around, landing heavily on top of him. Jack's hands fit perfectly on leather clad buttocks. He squeezed, rubbed and felt the fabric stretch under his fingers as Daniel seemed to try to decide whether he wanted to bang into Jack's groin or buck backwards to give his hands more to work on.
“You BASTARD,” Daniel yelled, outraged, but not slowing down in the least.
“Language...“ Jack panted, slamming into Daniel as hard as he could, fingers digging into delicious smooth leather. “C'me ON!”
“No way!” Daniel started to squirm and writhe now, trying to get away from him. Sensing the change of attitude, Jack forced himself to let go. Daniel threw himself on his back, slapped both hands over his face and let out some interesting French words.
Jack groaned and quickly opened his jeans before he broke something in there. Damn, he'd been so close... so close... what the hell was wrong? He wriggled out of his pants and turned to look at Daniel, who was still sprawled on his back. “Daniel?”
“Get those off me,” Daniel snapped. “Now.”
Uh-oh, the blazing steely look was back.
Jack, ignoring his own aching erection, scrambled to his knees.
His hands were actually shaking as he opened those leather pants and pulled the zipper... and Daniel's straining, leaking erection sprang out of it, not being hindered by underwear. Forgetting he was in trouble here, Jack scraped a fingernail along Daniel's shaft. “Nice,” he drawled.
Daniel moaned, then his eyes narrowed and he snarled, voice hoarse, “Will you QUIT dicking around and DO something! Get the lube!”
Jack blinked at him. “What?”
“Lube,” Daniel repeated, breathing harshly. “What does a guy have to do to get off around here?”
“Hey, I was this close to getting us there,” Jack said, getting annoyed.
“Oh yeah? You wanted me to come in those pants? You have any idea how TIGHT they are?”
Oh, crap. Still, he had to let off some of the steam. “You could have SAID something!”
“I TRIED. You kept going!”
“Yeah? So were you!”
“I need to... now... will you...? Oh... just forget it!“ Daniel took himself in hand and expertly started to jerk off while Jack sat next to him open mouthed. He mirrored the movements with his own hand without even realizing it. It didn't take long. A couple of squeezes and jerks and they were both shooting ribbons. Jack's hitting Daniel's groin and stomach, joining Daniel's as it splattered all over him, ruining the damn leather pants in the process.
“Well, that was fun. Not.” Daniel ground out a moment later.
“You did get off, didn't you?” Jack griped, staring at the stains on Daniel's pants.
“Yeah, not thanks to you though.”
“Oh, for crying out... “
“Apparently it doesn't matter. You seemed to enjoy yourself just fine.” Daniel rubbed a hand over his abdomen, grimacing.
So much for a grand night of love making.
“Look, I'm...“ Jack cleared his throat and tried again. “I thought you... ah, crap.” He stared at the ceiling, still lying on the bed next to Daniel.
“They're like a second skin,” Daniel said in way of an explanation. He was calm now, exhausted maybe. Jack couldn't tell. At least he didn't sound mad anymore, which was a start. “They were really nice to wear, but coming in them just wasn't going to happen.”
“Sorry.” He'd been so determined to do this right. To make this the best sex ever. Last night in Paris. Huge big deal. This kind of crap never happened in the movies.
“I thought I was going to explode,” Daniel said. “Or rupture something. You kept doing what you did and I thought I was going to die... though it would have been one of the nicest possible ways to go. It was just... too much.”
“Shit.” Jack rolled on his side to look at his lover. “Daniel, I... “
There was a tentative smile on Daniel's lips. “Didn't know you have a leather kink.”
“I'm just figuring out this stuff myself,” Jack muttered.
“Didn't know I'd get off on it like this.”
“You were pretty happy there for a while, yeah.” Until things went awry.
Daniel looked down at himself. “Maybe...“ He licked his lips and hooked his fingers into the waistband, pushing and rolling them down bit by bit over his hips and to his knees. Jack scrambled off the bed to help.
“Maybe they're too tight. Maybe they're not supposed to be this tight. Though I had no trouble putting them on.”
“You were sweating. Made them stick to your skin.” With a final pull the pants gave way and Jack looked down at Daniel with a crooked smile. “Seemed like a great idea at the time. Leather. You. Me.”
“It was a great idea. In theory.”
Jack let the pants drop on the floor by his jeans and scrubbed a hand through his messed up hair. “Want a beer?”
Daniel frowned. “Weren't we going to have sex?”
“Are we?” He'd thought after the disaster they needed some time to regroup. To breath. To... whatever. He'd thought in the morning maybe. Or... who knew? Jack had lost his momentum. He didn't know how to get it back. Not right now. The rush was gone.
There was a long silence. Then, “Beer sounds good.”
Jack got up, feeling like the old guy he really was as he went to the fridge – and discovered there was no beer. He cursed and slammed the fridge door shut. Grabbing an old pair of sweats and pulling it on he told Daniel he'd get the wine from the deck. There had still been plenty in the bottle and he had corked it before they had gone down.
He had quit smoking after their first Abydos mission. He wasn't even sure why he'd quit. He'd never felt so much like having a cigarette as he did now, standing on the deck of their little boat, staring out at the illuminated city.
How had he fucked this up so badly? Just because he had wanted Daniel in those pants... and had gone totally overboard, not realizing Daniel really needed him to stop. And he'd tried so hard to get it right.
A slight breeze made the hairs on his bare chest rise. He picked up the bottle, uncorked it and took a long swig. The sound of bare feet tapping across the planks announced Daniel's approach. Jack didn't turn around. Daniel came to stand next to him and after a moment Jack passed the bottle on to him.
Daniel drank and handed it back. “You going to hide out here all night?”
“Only place to go,” Jack muttered.
“I'm going to miss this.” Daniel said suddenly.
“Paris. This place. One of the best vacations I’ve had in...“ Daniel shrugged. “The best vacation I ever had.”
“Yeah, right. You going to keep those pants as a reminder?” Jack didn't want to sound so sarcastic, but he couldn't help it. It was what he did best. Being a jerk – even to himself at times.
“Actually, they aren't a complete waste seeing how much they turn you on,” Daniel said lightly. “Do you think they can be dry cleaned?”
“Look. I'm sorry for ruining... “
“...what should have been the best of nights. I wanted to get it right. Just once,” Jack said. “All the way. From start to finish.”
“If there's one thing we're not, it's perfect.” Daniel shrugged. “But if there's one thing we're good at, it's... uh... nothing comes to mind.”
Jack snorted and Daniel chuckled. A rare sound. But a good one.
“We're good together,” Jack blurted out. “Even if we hate each other occasionally.”
“I never hated you,” Daniel said softly. “Not even when you shot Reese. Well, maybe a little bit. For a while.”
“Hate you. For leaving me.” He bit his lip. He had never intended to say something like that. But maybe if they were really going for serious and... long term... here, things had to be said.
“I'm... sorry. I didn't set out to leave.”
Jack nodded. He knew that. Still... “You went glowy on me twice,” he tried to explain. “The second time I didn't even know for sure. I kept waiting for you to waltz through the door... when you finally did...,“ a smile crept into his face at the memory, “it was a real entrance.”
Had been jerk-off material for months afterward. Daniel naked in his office, over his desk, wrapped in nothing but a flag, without the flag... crap. Jack had trouble sitting at his desk without certain images flooding his mind for a while after that. Yet another reason to hate Daniel. Right? Yeah, right.
Daniel grinned, apparently reading his thoughts. “Maybe you should wrap me in a flag instead of giving me leather pants next time.”
“When that bitch, Adria, took you and you turned up looking like Marcel Marceau I knew I couldn't put up with this crap any longer.”
“You putting your life on the line to save the damn universe.”
“Someone has to. It's not like you wouldn't do the same thing.” It wasn't said with accusation, merely a stated fact.
“I know that,” Jack said, annoyed. “But I figured if you go glowy or AWOL the next time you should know someone's waiting for you here. Someone who...“ He trailed off, choking on the words.
“Yeah. Not... cares as in cares as a... friend, but as in...“
“I know. That's the scary part. Makes you feel... obligated to stay alive.” It was said teasingly, but there was an apprehensive touch.
Daniel was scared. So was Jack. They both weren't used to opening up like this. They sure weren't used to lasting happiness, but Jack had come to the point where he knew he had to at least try.
They fell silent again. A boat passed by, a loud party in full flow on deck. People cheered and waved, then it was gone. Daniel turned to face him. “Why retire though? We could have tried this... being together... with you in DC. No one had to know.”
Jack shrugged. “I figured dealing with your crazy schedule is difficult enough. I didn't want to do this like a squeeze in every few months. Besides, I'm an old warhorse. I'm dispensable. And no, I didn't only do it for you. So get off that guilt trip ASAP.”
Daniel pushed off the railing. Jack noticed he was only wearing a pair of boxers and his white shirt – hanging open in the front.
“Let's go back to bed,” Daniel said quietly.
There was a brilliant pout as Daniel started glaring again. “You don't expect me to leave Paris with nothing more than friction burn from my shiny new leather pants, do you?”
“Oh, I don't know, Daniel... I think you got enough friction burn from the previous nights already,” Jack teased mildly. But he felt a nagging worry. What if he screwed it up again? This... the real deal? He'd never done it.
Neither has Daniel, he reminded himself.
So what if they ended up being bad at this? Or not liking it? Fooling around was one thing. But penetration was... big. Crap, he felt like a sixteen year old trying to have his first time in his dad's car with Laura what‘s-her-name. This was getting ridiculous.
“I want this,” Daniel said, all determination. “I'm serious, Jack. I won't go off world risking my neck again next week without the experience of having you. Life's too short and all that.”
“No pressure, eh?” Jack growled as he followed Daniel inside.
Later, though probably not much later, Jack had overcome any thoughts of failing. Had overcome any means of thinking at all. The only thing he zeroed in on was Daniel. Daniel on his back again, sans pants – leather or otherwise – panting and squirming as Jack carefully rocked the two fingers he had inserted while his other hand rested on Daniel's solar plexus, keeping him in place.
Daniel uttered something that almost sounded like a purr, his eyes were half closed and his tongue came out to lick his lips.
Daniel's hands flew to his own cock, giving it a swift stroke.
“Don't do that,” Jack hissed. “Not yet.”
“You giving me a hand this time?”
“Not. Yet.” The fingers of Jack's free hand closed over Daniel's and stilled his movements. “Trust me?”
“Ye-es.” Daniel sped up the ride on Jack's fingers. “But... get on with it.”
But Daniel was so tight. Jack had no idea how to get in there... he carefully inserted a third lube coated finger, making Daniel hiss in appreciation.
“Easy,” Jack murmured, trying to stay in control here while his own need was growing far too quickly.
“Jack,” Daniel croaked. “If I have to come without you again, I'm going to punch you.”
“Stop arguing... for Pete's sake, Daniel, stop moving so damn fast.” He couldn't stand this any longer. He had to... Quickly positioning himself between Daniel's wide spread legs, Jack pulled out his fingers. Daniel's legs hitched up and came to rest on his shoulders. “Careful now,” Jack whispered. “Just... very... “
Daniel let out a low growl when Jack pushed in, then stilled, then pushed a little further and stilled.
Like this they stayed, unmoving. Daniel squeezed his eyes shut in frustration, his breath coming in ragged little huffs. Jack tried to stay calm while all he wanted was slam all the way in.
“Jack,” Daniel moaned.
“You're not ready,” Jack ground out, his fingers digging into Daniel's hips.
“I knooow... but I have to... “
“Try to, I dunno... relax.” Jack felt sweat running down his temple.
Daniel said something that sounded like “Guh,” then he started to breathe more even, his eyes closed.
Jack put his hands to either side of Daniel's hips, trying to support his own weight.
And then... then he felt it. The ring of muscles inside Daniel gave way and Jack slid in. Letting out a triumphant yell he gave a tentative thrust and felt a tremor ripple through Daniel's body.
“You okay? Daniel? You...?”
“Again,” Daniel whispered.
Jack did it again, slowly, scared he might inflict pain where there should pleasure. He knew there had to be pain anyway, but...
He started moving more confidently. God, he'd never felt something he could compare this to. It was hot and tight. It was the only space that existed. The only thing to focus on. It was deliciously painful when Daniel's muscles squeezed around Jack. He thrust harder into him, had to thrust harder - or lose his mind from the sheer wanting...
“Yes, oh, yes... yesyesyes... do that again,” Daniel commanded breathlessly.
Jack took a lungful of air, pulled out and hit home. Again. And again. Daniel let out a flood of words in a language Jack had never heard before. Daniel met each of his thrusts with equal strength. Jack yelled Daniel's name, over and over again and Daniel opened his eyes and made Jack drown in them.
The words popped into Jack's head, just like that.
He couldn't say them. Not yet. Not sure why, but he just couldn't. There was a heavy ache in his gut, a want that had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the man sleeping peacefully beside him.
Jack spooned up behind his lover, one leg possessively draped over Daniel's, one arm wrapped around the broad chest. He felt a steady, reassuring heartbeat. He nuzzled his nose into Daniel's warm neck.
Jack closed his eyes. If he'd practice it long enough, maybe he could say it out loud one day. Until then he'd just have to show him. Provided Daniel was going to let him.
For a while he just stayed there, mellowing in the strange feeling of being so totally spent and achy and yet feeling better than he’d felt in years.
Sunlight filtered through the drapes.
Dropping a kiss on the nape of Daniel's neck, Jack pulled away and got out of bed. He put the coffee on, then took a quick shower and shaved.
When he returned, Daniel was on his back, sleepy blue eyes watching him.
“Hey,” Jack said, balancing the two coffee mugs in his hands.
“Hey,” Daniel said, his voice hoarse from sleep. He sat up and winced.
Jack bit his lip. Shit. He'd hurt him after all. “Daniel?”
He coughed slightly and held out a hand for the coffee. “I'm fine.” He sniffed the mug and smiled. “Thanks, Jack.”
Jack slipped into bed with him, making sure not to spill any of his own coffee. “How bad is it?” he asked, trying not to sound patronizing or overly worried.
Daniel blinked at him kind of owlishly. “I'm sore. I'm supposed to be sore, right? I mean, it's a given.”
Jack grimaced. “I suppose. I'm... “
“Don't you dare tell me you're sorry.” Daniel glugged down some more of his coffee. “It's a small price to pay for something that was so...,“ he frowned, apparently trying to find the right word, “hot.” He scowled at his coffee. “Hot actually doesn't cover it but it's too early to come up with more appropriate words.”
“Mind blowing,” Jack suggested. “Well, at least not bad for two anal virgins.”
Daniel spluttered and almost spit his coffee all over the bed. “Anal virgins? And what do you mean; not bad?”
Jack smirked. “Just saying we might need more practice. You're into learning stuff. I think on this one I'll follow suit.”
“Motivation through stimulating subjects?”
“Something like that.” He put his mug on the floor. “Spill, Daniel – in how much pain are you?”
“Going to walk a bit stiffly today, maybe.” Daniel snorted. “What do you expect? No blood. So that's good.” He cocked his head. “Stop glowering at me like that. It'll get easier. As you said – practice does it.” He stretched leisurely, winced again, and emptied his coffee. “Actually, we should practice a lot.”
Jack relaxed and leaned back against the headrest. “Yeah. A whole lot.” After a pause he asked, “When does your plane leave?”
“Five thirty. Why, you want to start practicing right now?” Daniel grinned, a glint of mischief in his eyes.
“You can't seriously... again?” Jack had performed twice last night. Three times if you counted the earlier mishap. He was spent and kind of sore himself. Plus, he didn't think Daniel was ready just yet to take it up the ass again.
However... “You want to return the favor?” He wasn't sure how he felt about that. Being inside Daniel had been the biggest rush he'd ever had. It had blown him away, brought him on to heights he'd never thought existed. He wasn't sure if he’d like it the other way around.
But what's good for the goose...
Daniel gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, then shook his head. “Not right now, no.”
They snuggled up under the covers, just enjoying each others' warmth and closeness. A weird thought crossed Jack's mind. On all the missions he had been freezing his ass off he'd always fantasized about him and Daniel doing the snuggling up thing for body warmth. Sadly it had never been cold enough to actually use it as an excuse. The only time he'd been really freezing to death it had been Carter who shared body warmth. How ironic was that?
“Jack, this week has been... kind of unreal.” Daniel said out of the blue. “Sounds corny, I know but from the moment you showed up in that bar until now... it’s been like living someone else's life. Stuff like this happens to other people. Not to me. Not to us.”
“What are you saying?”
“Other people have lives. Relationships. We? We don't do happily ever after.” There was bitterness, but also a longing in Daniel's voice. Something Jack could relate to. “But this, Jack... this week might... might have proved me wrong. I'd like to believe there'll be time to... to do it. To be together. Somehow.”
“I don't know but going home tomorrow doesn't have to be the end of... this.”
There they were. The words he had hoped for. He let out a held breath. “So what are we gonna do?”
Daniel took his time to answer. Finally he said, “I need a couple of weeks to wrap everything up. Tie up some lose ends at work... that kind of thing. I'm thinking of taking a leave of absence for a while. They owe me, right?”
“For saving the world multiple times over? You bet they do.”
“Maybe I could give my house to Vala. She's overdue for having a place off base.”
“Throw a goodbye party?”
Daniel looked spooked there for a moment, then grinned. “No. Well, maybe. I guess Vala will throw one for me.” He sighed. “Not sure how to get around that.”
“I'll get the boat,” Jack said. “Unless you want to pick one out with me.”
Daniel looked around the barge. “I trust you to make the right choices for us.”
“Mexico?” Jack kind of liked the idea of dig sites and Tequila.
“For a while.”
“And then what?”
“Wherever we want to go? Provided we keep this thing going long enough for future plans?”
Jack grinned. “Well, at least now we have a way of letting off steam if we get mad at each other.”
“Yeah. No more UST.”
“Unresolved sexual tension.”
Jack laughed. “There's gonna be a LOT of sexual tension. Just not unresolved. Not anymore.”
“So when does your flight leave?” Daniel's hands started doing naughty things under the covers involving Jack's nipples.
Jack closed his eyes. “Eighteen hundred something,” he murmured. “Gotta clean up the barge, wash these sheets again, hand it back over... “
“Not yet,” Daniel whispered and dove under the covers to do naughty things with his mouth.
“No-o, not... yet.”
When he followed his very naughty archeologist under the cover he couldn't help the surge of excitement – not only at the things Daniel was doing, but at the thought of going to explore new places. Places with Daniel. Places they wouldn't reach via the Stargate.