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Hold the Darkness and Stay the Night

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"Stay," Jack said, when Daniel's hand touched the doorknob.

"I can't," Daniel said. He stared at the door. "I still have some more notes to go over. Back at the base."

"You pulled an all-nighter last night. You're dead on your feet. There's nothing in those notes that's gonna save me, Daniel."

"Maybe there is."

"OK maybe there is. You won't find it if you don't sleep. Stay here and sleep." He could almost feel Jack smile, although he didn't look over, even when Jack came up the two steps from the living room. "Keep an eye on me in case I go Ancient."

If an appeal to Daniel's fatigue didn't work, an appeal to duty or compassion usually did, and Jack knew it. "You said you didn't want anyone keeping an eye on you."

"I didn't want an airman keeping an eye on me."

Daniel leaned forward, banged his head softly against the door. "Isn't there something you want to be doing, Jack? I know it was excruciating having us all here. It's eight o'clock. Can't I just get out of your hair so you can go get drunk or get laid or do whatever you do on Saturday nights?"

"I mow the lawn and trim the hedges on the weekends. I do laundry and watch TV. Work out, go biking, use the telescope. Catch up on aeronautics journals and National Geographic. Saturday nights I spend quality time with my right hand and that box of sex aids I know you hid when my clone was here."

"Way too much information," Daniel moaned.

"I don't think it is."

"Teal'c hid the porn videos."

"Remind me to thank him sometime. I'm not the guy you think I am in my off hours, Daniel."

"Well, now you can be. Last weekend. Knock yourself out."

"I didn't ask Hammond for the weekend off so I could do what you thought."

"Actually I thought you asked for the weekend so we'd leave you the fuck alone. I'm really trying to leave you the fuck alone, Jack."

"I waited for you to come. Last night. I thought you'd just show up."

"There was no straw-drawing this time."

"I should have called you. I didn't have the balls. Tonight I think I'd have called."

"And said what?"

"'Get your ass over here so we can talk about this.'"

"And I'd have said I had no idea what you were referring to and I had a lot of work to do."

"But you'd have come."

Daniel closed his eyes. "Yes. I'd have come."

"So let's pretend that's what happened. Instead of you showing up here in broad daylight with a chaperone."

He tried to smile. "Hey, we saved you from Sam."

"And I'm eternally grateful, you sanctimonious little shit. Will you stop jerking off that doorknob and come back inside?"

"Jack ... " His hand tightened on the knob. His forehead pressed against the cool wood of the door.

He hadn't felt this agonized in a long time. Some of the other times flashed through his mind, and it was like his life passing before his eyes in snatches of Jack-moments. Jack lying next to him on the saggy bed in the Tegucigalpa hotel room, dozing but never really sleeping, waking to give him pain meds every three hours, sweating in the heat and scratching at the bedbug bites until it was time to go to the airport, never leaving his side all that long night. Jack's arm around him on his old apartment balcony, traffic swishing below, mountains spread in the vertiginous distance. Jack holding him from behind, in the master bathroom in this house, while he puked his guts up, sweating through sarcophagus withdrawal. Jack looking straight at him and no one else -- Jack, not the alien intelligence that had taken possession of him -- while the alien intelligence said He wants to live. Jack's warm, open palm receiving the pendant he pressed into it less because Catherine should have it back than because he couldn't let Jack go, he'd flailed out for any way to make Jack turn and look at him just one more time, to make Jack stay just one more moment.

He couldn't do this. He couldn't stand to stay here, wanting what he wanted. It was the worst sort of betrayal, subversion of a deep and complex bond. He couldn't bear the hurt and anger and pity he'd see in Jack's eyes if he let Jack back him into the corner he was angling for. The revulsion. The disgust. "Jack," he said again, tight and miserable, pressing his head hard into the unyielding wood of the heavy door. "I can't do this."

Jack turned away, moved down the steps, back into the living room. His voice, hollow and resigned, seemed to come from farther than that; he'd turned his back. "I really make you that uncomfortable? After all these years you really give me that little credit for self-control?"

Daniel blinked. Pushed off the door, but kept his gaze fixed on it, the fine pattern of the grain like a written language his eyes could resolve if given long enough, the old, slow speech of trees. "What?"

"I know we should have talked about this a long time ago. But, you know, me and talking. It's my fault. I'm trying to make that right. I wish you'd let me."

Daniel turned toward him, frowning. Jack turned around at the same time, and a blaze of pain fired up behind Daniel's eyes, the accumulation of sleepless hours, too many cups of coffee over too many bottles of stout, the food he'd barely touched, profound confusion. "I don't understand," he said. His gaze fixed on Jack's pullover; he couldn't force it any higher than that. "Self-control? You think I'm afraid that you'd hurt me if I came clean?"

"If you ... " Jack's eyes narrowed and his head gave a sharp little shake. "What?"

"I don't know." Daniel's frown deepened. "There's some massive miscommunication happening right now."

Jack's body went tense with frustration -- tense and slouched at the same time, hipshot with irritation redirected into insolence. "Ya think?"

Sarcastic mode really, really pissed Daniel off. Anger smashed him out of stasis and he moved suddenly toward Jack, three strides that stopped just short of the steps and were aggressive enough to pull Jack up straight in response, make his eyes focus hard, dark and wary.

"Fine," Daniel said. "Fine. You want to talk about it, not around it? You want to guilt it out of me by implying that I'm afraid of how you'd react? Fine. I'm in love with you. I have betrayed our friendship by falling in love with you. I was in love with you when I Ascended, and I didn't remember it when I came back, and then it happened again and I remembered that it was how I'd felt for years. It's mostly emotional and partly physical but I won't claim it isn't sexual too. I trust you to manage your revulsion and not let this fuck up the team's attempts to save you. But I can't play the supportive friend. You have other friends you can call on for that. I'm a traitor and a selfish piece of shit but I can't do both this time, I can't suppress my inappropriate feelings and my distress about what's happening to you, I did it the last time this happened and it's just, it's more than I can hide this time. I just can't. Is that enough? Are we clear? Do you get why I have to go?"

Jack was staring at him in flat, numb, unfeignable shock. Daniel had gone hunched, arms tightly crossed to keep himself from gesticulating wildly, devolving from a rant into a tantrum. He hunched tighter, hung on to his rage against the dropping-stomach panic of fuck i fucked up he really didn't know, hauled at the rage to twist it from defensive back into offensive. Fuck it. It was out now. Jack would just have to deal.

Jack was silent. Daniel gave up waiting for an answer. Maybe silence was the answer. He turned and retraced his three steps and reached for the doorknob and twisted it and pulled. A rush of night came in, faraway traffic, tree rustle.

"Don't," Jack said.

Daniel hesitated in mid-step, then continued forward, a shift of weight toward relief, toward the dark.

"Don't," Jack said again, this time in the tone of an order. "You get one pass on walking out like that and you used it up when you went with Oma."

Daniel froze.

"Daniel," Jack said. Making a hoarse apology out of his name, although he'd had every right to say what he'd said. "Close the fucking door. Please."

Daniel closed it. Resisted the urge to turn and slump back against it. Found a last shred of that offensive rage and used it to drive himself down one step, the next step, past the pictures of Jack's family on the wall. He stood directly in front of Jack, looked him in the eyes, waited.

"I thought you thought I'd make a move on you," Jack said. "A ... pass at you."

"Why in the world would I think that, Jack?" Daniel said. "I mean obviously given what I just told you if I thought something like that I'd welcome it, not ... "

It took a really, really long time for the penny to drop. As if the penny had been dropped from a great height on some very low-gravity world, and floated downward, turning in slow motion, until it landed with almost no impact.

"Oh my god," Daniel breathed, his arms sliding as slowly down.

"I thought you knew," Jack said, haltingly. "That I had the hots for you. All along. From day one. That I. Loved you. Love you." He winced, as if in irritation at his own verbal lockjaw, and stopped, watching Daniel.

"I didn't know," Daniel said softly, his eyes searching Jack's face.

"Neither did I," Jack said. "About you."

They looked away, suddenly and at the same moment. Neither of them had any blush reflex to speak of, but Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets, Daniel cleared his throat; the profound embarrassment of the moment settled into the walls and the floor, made the room a rebuke.

"Um," Daniel said, finally. "So. What now?"


"Beer's good."

"I'll get you a beer."

In a burst of relief at something to do, Jack went to pass Daniel just as Daniel moved the same way to make room for him. They shifted to the other side, then back, like little kids moving awkwardly at a grade-school dance, gazes on the floor; Jack's hands came up, as if to grab Daniel and hold him where he was or lift him bodily out of the way, then gave a little flail. The hand motion stilled Jack's body long enough for Daniel to step decisively toward the stereo and gesture Jack past. Jack made a little sound, like a pressure valve's sigh, as he jumped the steps and headed down the hall; Daniel let his head fall back, sucking in air, then released it in a harsh, soft whoosh and settled his head back on as straight as it would go.

Sounds drifted from the kitchen. Jack opened the fridge, closed it, dropped something, swore, opened the fridge again. Daniel would have just kept standing where he was, but then when Jack came back they'd still just be standing there, and he couldn't face the resumption of that paralysis, not even with the prop of a beer bottle, so he sat down on the sofa, where Teal'c had sat; then he thought that he should have sat in one of the chairs, that the sofa was too suggestive or inviting, but it was too late, too obvious to get up and move while Jack was coming back through the dining room with a view of this room, so he stayed where he was, hunched forward, forearms on his thighs.

Jack gave him a bottle of some kind of ale, hesitated, then sat beside him. "We drank all the stout."

"It was kinda strong anyway."

"Says you." Jack pulled from his bottle as though he wished it were something stronger, then froze, his eyes caught by Daniel's index finger swirling around the mouth of his. Daniel, feeling the look, raised his gaze to the unmistakably phallic imagery of Jack sucking from the long-necked bottle.

Jack lowered the bottle and said, "Maybe beer wasn't such a great idea."

They set their bottles down on coasters in hasty unison, then sat, forearms on thighs, hands folded, and stared at the coffee table.

"Well, this is stupid," Daniel said, after a while. "I mean, if we both ... " He trailed off, and for a minute more there was silence.

"You ever, ah ... " Jack said.

"No. You?"


"Not even with a ... "


"Me neither."

"But on Abydos they ... "

"They did. I didn't. I watched, though."


"Um, in the military ... "

"Saw a lot of it. Didn't participate."

Daniel debated a long moment before he said, "Did seeing it turn you on?"

"Yeah," Jack said. "You?"

"Yeah. Except ... "


"Except mostly because ... Fuck. I can't do this. I'm so ... Jack, I've been conditioning myself against this for nine years."

"Try thirty," Jack said sourly. "Except mostly because what?"

"Because I kept thinking that if one of them were you it would have been different."

He could feel Jack's surprise. "That far back, huh."

"From day one, just like you. It doesn't change what I felt for my wife."

"Yeah, well neither did me getting a boner when two guys were going at it in the next bunk."

Daniel shifted uncomfortably. "Kind of getting one now."

"Yeah. Me too." Jack scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Daniel, I don't know what to do with this. I'm too old to feel like this. Like I don't know what I'm doing."

"You don't do anything with it. We say whatever we have to say and then I go and you put it away."

"No!" Jack said, vehemently, his hand coming down hard onto his knee, his body twisting. "No, Daniel."

Daniel glanced sidelong at him, at the wild dark eyes, then focused hard on the table again. "What did you think, this would end with us in bed?" He had to concentrate not to stutter. "Really wouldn't go over well with our employers."

"I haven't had time to think. Trying to think out loud here. Work with me on this, willya?"

"This can't go anywhere. This can't happen. Probably it's some kind of ... displaced ... " He saw the hand moving toward him, in his peripheral vision. He stiffened but didn't flinch. Fingers threaded up into his hair. Strong, knobby fingers, intensely gentle. A shiver ran down his whole body, out to his fingertips. "Oh god." His eyes winced shut. "God, Jack. I hated it when you stopped doing that."

"So did I," Jack said quietly. The fingers scrunched against his scalp, a delicious, affectionate, exploratory massage; then the hand moved slowly down the back of his head to palm his neck. His skin prickled, down his back, his arms. His muscles began to melt.

"I don't want you to stop," he said, his voice very low. His body was going into a trance. Jack's bare flesh on his was like a drug. "But they'll know. They'll find out. They'll -- "

"I know the risks," Jack said. "I know the stakes."

"You can't disregard them."

"Risk assessment is what I do, Daniel. Anyway, face it. My number's up here. Thor's got other problems. No Asgard ex machina this time."

"I refuse to believe that. One of our allies will come through in time. Or I'll figure out another way. Or Sam will. Someone will."

"Not this time." The hand squeezed, slid down his back and away. "If you can stand it, knowing that I'm checking out in a few days, knowing you don't have to, you know, hide ... anything ... anymore, maybe we could go inside so I can do that to the rest of you. If you can't, I understand. But keep it about you. Us. Don't make it about the regs or my career or the program."

"I already can't stand you checking out," Daniel said. "'Intolerable' isn't a relative thing." He felt Jack stiffen, and said, "But I'd like to ... make love with you. I'd like to stay, and do that. I want to stay."

"Then come to bed. It's easier that way. Strip down and get in. Makes all this weirdness go away. Truth is I'd be happy just to sleep with you. Whaddya say?"

If he turned, now, and pushed Jack back on the sofa, and touched him, Jack would let him. That knowledge was dizzying. He felt as though there must be a trick here, a catch. This quiet, serious, struggling guy wasn't Jack; it was a dream version that some perverse aliens had switched his flippant, sarcastic, armored Jack for. Maybe he wouldn't like this Jack. Maybe he wouldn't want this if he could have it. That was easier to contemplate than the alternative. Maybe they were both just confused. Two isolated, deeply lonely men, looking to what was closest for what they needed, mistaking the sparkage of a complex, prickly working relationship for sexual charge.

He'd hesitated for too long and the tension was oppressive, but Jack hadn't struck out against it -- hadn't gotten up and walked away, gotten frustrated and said fuck it do what you want. Daniel forced his head to turn, forced himself to examine Jack's expression. It was quiet, soft, open, a little sad. Patient and anxious at the same time. Eyes roving over him, trying to read him through his tense silence. Trying hard to understand what he wanted. Not pushing.

He was more closed off than Jack had ever been. He projected an illusion of being open and emotional and sensitive when he gave up less of himself, less of his interior life, than any of them. He wasn't unaware of that. It was a kind of passive-aggressive hide-in-plain-sight that had worked for him for a long time.

"Steam comin' out of your ears, Daniel," Jack said, with a wry, tentative smile that melted his heart.

"I'm scared of all the things that could go wrong," Daniel said. He was surprised at the vulnerability in his own voice.

"What's the worst that could happen?" Jack said. He looked as vulnerable as Daniel felt. Daniel recognized what he was seeing in Jack's eyes, but his mind locked up, wouldn't put the name to it, the cognitive dissonance was still too extreme. "Sex is a bust, we just sleep. Sex is great, we get to enjoy it for a few days before my head goes kablooey. Or there doesn't have to be -- " Jack cocked his head. "What?"

It was love. The look on Jack's face. And he'd seen it there before, and pegged it for fondness, or ignored it because it didn't fit into his view of Jack at all.

"I'm talking too much, right? Should have just let you think."

"No." Daniel reached out and laid his hand on Jack's chest. Felt his strong, too-fast heartbeat. Slowly, he pressed. Jack yielded, letting himself be pushed into a supine curve against the back of the couch. Daniel followed, bracing on an elbow, sliding his hand down and then up under Jack's pullover. He smoothed his palm over the flat, lightly furred belly. Felt it quiver. Watched Jack's eyes go slightly unfocused. "If I wanted to sit up and talk all night, you'd do that?" he asked, rubbing.

"Yeah, I would," Jack said, very seriously. "But if you keep doing this I'm gonna have to go change into dry shorts first."

Daniel drew his hand out, reluctantly, and patted Jack's shirt down. "Yeah. Me too. OK." He sat up. "I, uh ... feel very awkward about this."

"Yeah. Me too." Jack got to his feet, as though he were moving through molasses. "I need to make sure the place is locked up. You know where everything is. There are sweats and stuff if you'd rather sleep in those. I won't be offended."

Daniel made himself get up and start for the hallway. He did know where everything was. For years, he'd had a toiletry kit here, toothbrush and razor -- fuck, beard burn, major telltale, I have to shave -- and spare clothes to sleep in, to change into. "I thought the idea was to get naked," he said. A small offering for Jack to make a wisecrack, defuse the situation with humor.

"Well, yeah," Jack said, moving to the deck doors, checking the lock. "But not if you're not comfortable."

God, he really was serious about this.

"OK," Daniel said, and went on inside. Thought of all the times he'd slept on that backache-inducing sofabed, just to be in Jack's house, just to be under the same roof with him for a few hours, know that Jack was warm and breathing just a couple of dozen feet away. Thought of the scattered times he'd been in Jack's bedroom, the effect the sight of the rumpled covers had had on him, how much he'd wished he'd shared them, how sad and significant and reassuring it always was that only one side of the bed was slept in, the complex of guilt he'd felt about even noticing that. He really had assumed that Jack spent his weekends playing poker and drinking with old service buddies, hitting strip joints, picking up women. He'd figured he probably worked with disadvantaged kids somewhere during the days, coached hockey or Little League, then spent the dark hours cutting loose and relieving the pent stress of every difficult, long-houred week. Jack had been trying to tell him that he wasn't the opportunist or adrenaline junkie Daniel seemed to take him for. That really he was just a very dull, very private guy.

Daniel stripped down to his briefs, brushed his teeth, shaved. He heard Jack clinking around in the kitchen, rinsing coffee mugs, tearing up the pizza boxes, piling empties in the recycling bin -- giving Daniel time to do whatever he needed to do. It was ridiculous; they'd lived in each other's pockets for years, body privacy had gone by the wayside a long time ago. But Jack was a gentleman, and Jack was trying not to push. Giving him space.

And Jack, he supposed, was nervous too.

Daniel peeled off his briefs and got into bed on the side Jack didn't sleep on. There was no nightstand on that side; he rolled across to put the reading lamp on and grabbed a puzzle book that was lying there with a pencil stuck through the wire binding. Jack came in, flipped off the top light, started undressing. "Crap," he said, as he saw Daniel flipping through the crosswords he'd completed. "Do not out me to Carter."

They were all crosswords from the Sunday Times, filled in correctly to midway through the book. "So what were you doing yesterday morning then?" Daniel called, as Jack padded naked into the bathroom to take a leak, brush his teeth, shave.

"Procrastinating," Jack said. His voice rose to carry over the running water as he turned on the tap: "After you called I had a bad feeling about what was coming. Looks like I was right, huh?"

With the water running, he wouldn't hear if Daniel answered. Daniel looked at the assertive, masculine handwriting, the squares filled out perfectly, no erasures. He'd known this, about Jack. He'd always known this, even though he hadn't. He'd played along with the dumb-colonel farce for so many years that he'd almost started to believe it. But he'd known this.

I'm getting hard looking at his fucking handwriting, he thought, amazed.

Jack came out and got right into bed. His nudity was a blur to Daniel, but so familiar that Daniel could have drawn it from memory. "I'll tell you what happened," Jack said, sliding and elbowing under the covers, jouncing the mattress. "I was late for work because your voice on the phone gave me a hard-on that wouldn't go down. That doesn't always happen, but it did yesterday. I had a bad feeling about the whole repository thing, and I thought, Fuck it, they can wait an extra twenty minutes. So I jerked off, I took another shower, and then I drove to work and sat in my truck in the parking bay filling that puzzle in with nonsense to avoid going in."

Daniel handed him the book of crosswords to put back on the nightstand. "All the wrong answers connected," he said. "You should get a hundred million extra points for that the next time you play Scrabble."

"Yeah, right." Jack couldn't even be bribed to play Scrabble. "You want this light on or off?"

"Um ... " He really didn't know. He was so aroused right now that he didn't care; he was also starting to panic, and wanted darkness to hide in.

Jack looked at him for a couple of seconds, then reached up and clicked the light off.

Daniel's body tensed like a spring, his erection wilting. I'm terrified, he thought. I'm fucking terrified.

"Wanna give me the glasses too?" Jack asked, voice warm and calm in the darkness.

Daniel took them off, folded them, held them out. Jack's hand brushed his as he took them. In the dead silence, Daniel heard the soft click as they were placed on the nightstand. Then Jack rolled back toward him, the mattress shifting under his weight. There was a depression where Jack always slept. It was like a gravity well, trying to pull Daniel in.

"Turn over on your stomach," Jack said, brushing his palm lightly over the covers covering Daniel.

Daniel turned, obedient, his mind numb. He put his arms up over his head, hugging the pillow, bunching it to support his neck. He turned his face toward Jack but still couldn't see him clearly, having given up his glasses and with his pupils still constricted from the glare of the reading lamp. Jack plumped the covers up over them both and scooched in, not quite close enough for their bodies to touch, his head pillowed on a bent arm. The heel of the other hand slid warm and firm up the curve of Daniel's spine, from lower back to shoulders, a long gentle delving that melted every tense muscle group in its wake. Then, as promised, his fingers started from the back of Daniel's head and worked down, scrunching, massaging, stroking with dull fingernails. Daniel let out a low, inadvertent moan. The touch was arousing and soothing in equal measure. Casual and assured. Jack had said he felt like he didn't know what he was doing. His hand said otherwise.

"That feel good?" Jack asked quietly.

"More than good," Daniel said, a little hoarse.

"Fall asleep if you want. I know you're wiped. I won't be insulted."

"Really not wanting to be asleep right now," Daniel said, voice falling to a whisper.

Jack's hand moved lower, palming over the curve of his butt, kneading gently. "This OK? I'm not copping a feel. I just want it to feel good."

"It feels good. More than good. Oh, god, Jack ... " He spread his thighs, lifted his hips. "Jack ... "

Jack swallowed audibly. But his hand accepted the invitation. He reached down and between and stroked with his middle finger. Daniel moaned again and spread wider, cocked higher. Jack's fingertips trailed down over his scrotum, curled under it. His testicles filled Jack's hand. Jack palmed them, gently rolling. His thumb caressed the inside of Daniel's thigh.

"Still feel good?" Jack asked -- not so calmly now. "Even though it's me?"

"Yes, god, yes ... " Daniel crushed the pillow against himself. "It doesn't disgust you?" he asked, desperate, because he could not believe that it didn't, on some level, no matter what Jack thought he wanted. "Tell me the truth."

Jack slid his whole hand down and under, cupping everything, gently squeezing. "Nothing about you could ever disgust me," he said. He was losing control of his voice. "I'm hard as a rock, Daniel. I'm gonna come just from touching you like this. No lie."

"Go on top," Daniel said, suddenly, urgently.

"Ah -- Daniel -- "

Daniel dragged his far arm down, reached back and down for Jack's wrist, pulled Jack's arm across his body, kept pulling. Jack followed his own arm, let himself be drawn half over Daniel, more hesitant than resistant. They both grunted as his erection pressed Daniel's flank. "All the way on top," Daniel said. "Jack."

Jack mounted him, but held his hips up and away; his arms were trembling, his body was trembling. "Daniel, I'm not -- I won't -- not -- "

"Just put it where your hand was," Daniel said. His voice was shaking, the words spilling out. "Put it -- between my legs -- Jack -- "

Jack eased back, and then down onto him, up against him. He hiked up a little, and his hips gave an unmistakably sexual roll, and his cock slid down the crack of Daniel's ass and rubbed down over his balls. His muscled thighs pressed the inside of Daniel's; Daniel pushed down to get more -- more muscle, more cock, more pressure. Then they were locked together, groaning, humping, all sheets and flesh and friction and trembling tightness, Jack's face driven down into his shoulder, Jack's hands sliding up to claw into his forearms.

It was fucking. It was just like fucking, without the penetration. The whole bare length of Jack's body against his bare skin. The weight on him. The animal presentation, his legs open, his butt raised for Jack to thrust into. It was too much, there should have been touching, stroking, licking, foreplay and exploration, but it was so good, so perfect -- implied domination, submission, no question that it was a male body working him, a sexual position alien to his experience, a position he'd deeply, hopelessly craved --

This was how Jack O'Neill fucked. This fluid assertion of weight and muscle. His first contact with Jack's bare penis should have been through his fingertips, his tongue. Instead it was between his ass cheeks, cockhead applied directly to his testicles. Firm thrusts that rubbed his dick over the sheets, then got firmer, harder, heavier, rubbing his dick into the mattress. Whatever Jack didn't know how to do, he knew how to do this. Daniel had wanted to be what Jack fucked for so long that being it, for real, sent a buzzing burn through his brain, a triumphant heat through his body; but Jack was making love to him, and that made an astonished ache swell in his heart.

He was groaning into the pillow, one long ragged uunnnnh after another. Against his neck and shoulder, Jack let out the harsh sobbing sound he made when he was wounded. "Daniel," he said, his voice tight, high, rising, trying to break. "Daniel ... " Against Daniel's testicles, Jack's penis twitched hard.

Daniel came first. Orgasm surged through his groin and he grayed out. Next thing he was aware, Jack was grunting into his neck, teeth gritted, as if he was trying to hold it in, but he wasn't holding it in; his cock was pulsing in the crack of Daniel's ass, bathing Daniel's balls. "Oh god," Daniel gasped, as he registered what that gush of sensation was. "Oh god oh god oh ggnh -- " He clenched through another series of spasms. His throat closed down. He knew he wasn't breathing. Nothing he could do about it. Helpless. He never lost control this way in bed.

"Daniel." Jack's hand was on his head, groping over his ear, leveraging his jaw. "Come on, buddy. Face outta the pillow. No blacking out on me, OK?"

He slurred Jack's name, muffled in the pillow. He tried to comply but his head weighed too much and he had no motor control. He felt Jack shift off him and he groaned protest.

"'Sokay, come with me, roll," Jack said, rolling him, digging an arm under him, wrapping around him. Jack started to say something else, then just nuzzled into the back of Daniel's head and squeezed him tight against a hard shudder and moaned into Daniel's skull.

Daniel tried to push his butt back against Jack's groin, but all he could do was tremble and go limp. His arms and legs were tucked up securely inside Jack's. The sticky wetness between his legs was delicious. "Jack," he said again, a blur of sound. It seemed to be the only thing he was capable of saying. There were no words for this.

Jack freed one arm to pull the covers across their shoulders. Warmth bloomed as the blanket trapped the heat they'd already generated. Daniel was floating. He didn't want to go to sleep. He didn't want to sleep through one moment of this. He needed to tell Jack how good it was, how not freaked he was. But endorphins and oxytocin washed through his brain cells like a sleepy tide. Jack was holding him close and tight in bone and muscle. It was safe to let go. He moaned Jack's name again, and slipped away.

He woke up on his back, Jack sprawled across him, lax face shoved into the side of his head, snoring softly. Offworld he rarely snored; he rested in a kind of half-sleep, never going too deep, never making any noise that would give their position away, always keeping one ear open. Daniel had learned to burrow down into his bag, cocoon himself, shut the world out, make himself as small as possible. Here, if you counted flung-out arms, they took up most of the double bed.

He basked under his half-blanket of Jack, trying to stay awake, soak up every breath of it. He hadn't thought it would feel this good. He'd thought reality could never live up to the fantasy, he'd thought what he wanted was a dream that could never exist, a coping mechanism his mind developed to defend him against stress and perpetual loss. Janet's death was an ache that never eased, a horror he'd never recover from. Another added to a long list -- and he bitterly resented that, because no loss that terrible should be just another in a string. He couldn't conceive of the loss of Jack as just the latest knot in that string. Some defense mechanism. Wanting the one thing that if he got it and then lost it could really undo him for good.

Jack's body against his was perfectly right and natural. As though they'd always slept like this. It was also impossible to process, completely contrary to the reality he'd accepted and lived with for years. For god's sake, this was Jack. Jack O'Neill had not just humped him to orgasm and come all over his balls. It had been years since anyone had touched him with anything more than a supportive pat on the arm. This copy of his body that Oma Desala had sent him back in had been battered and tortured but had never made love. The body he'd made love to his wife with had transformed into energy and gone places he didn't remember. He'd held Sarah Gardner with these arms, but only to comfort, and the offered comfort had never reached her heart; if they'd been closer, back in Chicago, maybe it would have, but they'd been two work-obsessed compulsives playing at romance in their spare time, and there hadn't been enough love between them for her to hang on to. She'd gone off with people who could do her some good. Saying good-bye that day had been the last time he held anyone in his arms.

He remembered Jack looking at him then, watching him watch Sarah walk away. He'd been irritated by the look on Jack's face, and shut him out, went back to his lab and the panacea of work. He thought he understood that look a little better now. He thought he understood, now, what Jack had fought through to come and offer the silent support of his presence. Teal'c had Ishta waiting in the wings for him to be done with his rebellion and join hers, Sam had Pete waiting for her; now, it must have seemed, Daniel had Sarah. Jack's isolation, self-imposed or not, must have prickled keenly at that moment.

How could he not see how I felt about him? I didn't hide it that well.

But he hadn't seen, either. He hadn't seen signs in Jack that in retrospect were glaringly obvious. The bigger question was how everybody else could have failed to see it. Sam he could understand; she'd had her own issues to work through. But Teal'c? Hammond? Hammond would trust Jack. What Jack had just done had betrayed Hammond's trust in ways Daniel didn't want to think about. But Teal'c ...

Jack felt his breathing change, and stirred. "OK?" he said.

"Yeah." He closed his left arm, smoothed his hand down Jack's back. Jack murmured mmm and pressed in closer, tucking the covers down, and went back to sleep.

Daniel wondered if he'd actually feel it when his heart cracked.

He woke up again without realizing he was falling asleep, as though Jack's going back to sleep had sucked him right down after. He was turned on his side, flush against Jack, hardening against Jack's erection. Jack was awake, idly stroking his shoulder blade. The rugged outline of his features was just visible in the faint glow of nightlight from the bathroom. Daniel blinked sleepily into the dark eyes. "What time is it?"

"Five-ish," Jack said. "You want a shower? That stuff must be feelin' pretty scratchy."

It was, but he didn't care. The rub of the two erections flooded him with heat. "In a minute," he said vaguely. He ran his knuckles down Jack's chest, down the trail of wiry-soft hair, down between them. Closed his hand over the heads of both cocks, then firmed it, worked down the shafts.

Jack's eyes closed and his head went back and he arched into Daniel and said, "Oh. Christ. Yeah."

Daniel pushed his cock into Jack's, pushing Jack's into his hand, rubbing it, tugging it. Jack whispered, "Harder," and Daniel flushed with heat and tightened his hand and jerked, finding a rhythm, speeding it up. He got his left hand in to tease the heads, palm them, pull on them, and Jack let out a groan and gripped his shoulder and said, "Harder."

Daniel came, completely unexpectedly, spurting over his hand and Jack's cock. His strokes doubled reflexively, he needed more and faster when he was coming and he had both cocks in his hand and so they both got more and faster. Jack said, "Yeah, yeah," his voice breaking high, and then gave that harsh sob and bucked, strong pulses striping Daniel's abs, fingers digging into his shoulder hard enough to bruise. Daniel closed his eyes, curling over, his mouth on the hollow of Jack's throat. He eased his hand when Jack made a sharp too much too much sound. He liked to hold himself after he came, pretend it was someone else's gentle hand, but apparently Jack went hypersensitive the moment he hit the peak. Except Jack was gathering him up, rubbing into him, aligning their slippery, sticky groins and thrusting, and that wasn't too much, apparently, because Jack kept doing it, moaning into his cheek. "That's good. That's so good. Does that feel good, Daniel?"

"Yes," Daniel said, trembling through an afterspasm because he'd never felt anything like that in his life and it was so sweet, so deliciously good. Jack was nuzzling his face, eyes closed, and he was nuzzling back, eyes open, and when his open mouth almost touched Jack's he stopped, but Jack pushed forward, and then he was groaning into hot, wet warmth, the slide of Jack's tongue, the taste of him, and something like a whine came through Jack's nose and then Jack was working deeply into his mouth, sucking and biting and pushing his tongue in long, slow thrusts as deep as it would go, and Daniel was sucking and biting and groaning in response, and he'd never kissed anyone like that, he'd never been kissed like that. It wasn't even kissing, he didn't think. That wasn't the word for this. This was oral sex. This was what that term meant.

He melted into Jack. Jack locked him in limbs, rubbed against him, plumbed the depths of his mouth. When he finally, finally drew back, swallowing spit, realigning his jaw, Daniel said, "Do you ever kiss like that before you come?"

"Yeah," Jack said, smiling a little, stealing a last nip before he drew back enough to look Daniel in the eyes. "Didn't mean for it to happen like that. Carried away."

Daniel wanted to produce some wry rejoinder, but he found the eye contact disconcerting, Jack's face up close like that. Jack's face.

"Hey," Jack said. "You're freaking. No freaking." He pressed his brow against Daniel's. "Close your eyes. It's not so weird then."

Daniel did, and it was. He took a breath, felt his heartbeat slow. "You know," he said, "this is a lot messier than when there's only one guy."

"Mm." Jack rubbed through the slickness. "Kinda liking that."

"Me too. I'm just saying."

"You want that shower now?"

"Really don't."

"If we fall asleep, we'll wake up with our dicks glued together."

"That could be challenging."

Jack squeezed him, a tight slide of limbs that was suspiciously like a hug. "Jesus, Daniel. I can't believe I'm allowed to do this. Are you really sure this is OK?"

Daniel understood something then. "You're worried about harassment. You keep asking me if it's OK because you have ... " He couldn't think of a less insulting word: " ... a terror of harassment." When he thought about not being allowed to touch Jack, he was thinking in terms of rejection -- of Jack not liking it. When Jack thought in those terms, it carried a lot of other baggage. Technically he was Daniel's boss. He knew Daniel would balk at orders that didn't suit him, he knew his command of Daniel didn't extend into their friendship, but the subordination issue was still there.

Or maybe it was because technically, if he chose to, he could force him. No matter how strong Daniel had gotten, no matter how well the Air Force had trained him to defend himself, no matter that he was eight years younger and a few pounds heavier, if Jack got serious about it, Jack could force him.

He realized that that deeply turned him on, and that he should feel ashamed of that, and that he didn't.

"Of course I do," Jack responded promptly. "Sorry if it bugs you. All the pings." Jack pulled back again. "Daniel. You know that no means no. To me. Right? Tell me."

This time the eye contact wasn't disturbing. It was intense. Important. "Yes. I do." Then he lost it; he pushed into Jack, he pushed his mouth against Jack's. He blurted, painfully, "I want so many things from you."

There was surprise in Jack's lips; then they kissed his for a minute, softly and sweetly; then they smiled, and said, "I make sure you'll say no if it's no, and you tell me you want things. I like that. That works for me."

"Will you tell me what you want?" Daniel asked.

"Why should I go first?" Jack countered. His smile widened. God, he never smiled, not like that. As though he was plainly, genuinely happy. As though Daniel made him happy. Daniel realized he must have a deer-in-the-headlights expression, zapped by that smile, because Jack relented, the smile warming, gentling. He ran his hand over Daniel's head. "OK. There. That's one thing."

"Affection," Daniel translated.

"Yeah. And this." Jack squeezed again. "And this." He brushed his lips over Daniel's. "I didn't think you'd want kissing from me. Even after, you know, we came to bed. For sex. I still didn't think you'd want kissing. I really want you to want kissing."

"I do." Daniel kissed back. "I do. I do." Then he pushed his face between Jack's and the pillow. Burrowing, trying to get closer. "Oh, god, Jack."

"Yeah." Jack stroked his head. "Shhh. Yeah. I know." He kissed down gently into Daniel's hair. "I want to make love to you, Daniel. I want you to welcome that from me. Just my mouth. My hands. It doesn't ever have to be any more than that."

"You're doing it again."

"I know. But it's important."

"I know. I know." He pressed the bones of his face against the bones of Jack's. "I want that too. I don't have to have more than that either. But I want you to fuck me, Jack. I want penetration. I want to come on you. I want you to come in me."

A shudder went through Jack's body, and it tightened on him. "Daniel."

"If you don't want to do that, it would help me a lot if I knew that now."

"I do want to do that," Jack said. Another shudder went through him, apparently involuntary.

"Before. When you were on top. Did you want to get in?"


"You said no. When you thought that's what I was trying to get you to do."

"It was too soon, Daniel, there was no lube, nothing, I wasn't gonna do it like that."

"But you wanted to."

"Yes. I wanted to. See, now you're doing it again. This is you doing it again. You don't disgust me. Nothing about you, no act could disgust me. You spread for me and asked me to mount you and you think I wasn't half out of my mind with that? I know the package is male. I came into it, you think I'd have come like that if it didn't turn me on? It's been a long time since I touched anyone, Daniel, but I know how to take care of myself and I'm not so hard up I'd shoot like that just because you're a warm body. The reason it's been that long is that nobody I could have was you. There was no point if it wasn't you. The reason I've never done a woman that way is that I was afraid I'd like it too much. I know it's your ass. It's a beautiful ass. You are an outstanding piece of ass. You get me so hot I can't see straight, I get scared that I won't be able to control myself. I want to nail you through this bed. I want be so deep up your ass when I come that you feel your molars twinge. That answer your question? Yes. I wanted to."

Daniel was quiet for a moment, stunned by intense arousal that his body couldn't rise to. Then he said, "You should rant more often. That was a really good rant."

Jack wouldn't play. This was too important to him. "Do me a favor and address the content and not the delivery?"

Jack was really, really different in bed.

"I'd give ten years' pay to be able to get an erection right now," Daniel said. He pulled his head back and looked at Jack through the soft darkness. No more hiding. "I want what you're describing, Jack. A lot. I mean I want it deep, and hard."

"So we'll try. We'll work up to it. Slow. Make sure."

"I'm sure. Believe me." He rubbed his hand over Jack's chest, let a nipple graze his palm. It felt good. Too good. Distracting. He pressed his hand onto it, warmly. "I masturbate anally too. I know what I want to feel up there."

"OK." Jack didn't look flustered; he didn't give that TMI wince. He looked relieved, and reassured. "There's something else, though. I'd rather talk about it, ah, beforehand. Since we're talking and everything."

"So would I," Daniel said quietly.

"I want it the other way. Is that something you want?"

Daniel smiled. "I'm a guy, Jack. That's always something I want. But the same thing applies. If you don't want it, we'll never do it, and if we try and you don't like it we never do it again."

"It's ... complicated," Jack said. Struggling again now.

Daniel rubbed again, then stroked. "I have some idea what happens in prisons."

Jack nodded. Besides Hammond, Daniel was the only one who knew the truth of that missing time in Jack's service record. The rest of the team didn't know. They hadn't known how Jack knew Cromwell. Jack had told him, but not until Honduras. He'd offered it up, quiet and straightforward, the same way he'd offered his history with alcohol when Daniel was recovering from the sarcophagus addiction. In the Tegucigalpa hotel room, he'd only talked about torture, because Daniel had been tortured. But Daniel had heard what Jack didn't say. "It was only once. I mean, once is plenty, I don't mean ... but I don't have nightmares about it the way I do about the other stuff. It didn't stop me from using the toys in that box in the bureau. But there might be a body memory. I want it, Daniel. From you. I fantasize about that. But in reality I'm gonna need to take things slow."

"That works for me," Daniel said carefully, stroking.

"I didn't really want to tell you about that unless you asked. I didn't want to bring that into this. But I can't have you thinking I'm reacting to something I'm not. I don't want you thinking I'm thinking about that, either, but it's better than you thinking I'm disgusted by you."

"I won't think that. That's done now, I'm clear on that."

"OK." Jack rolled onto his back, flung an arm up, rubbed his forehead. It was a gesture he made when he was in pain. Daniel didn't think he was aware that he was doing it. "That's not the only complicated thing, though."

"OK." Daniel pulled his pillow down under his neck and put his hand back on Jack's chest. "Tell me."

"The thing with Sarah," Jack said. "Your Sarah. I, ah ... The way you looked at her, when she was leaving."

This time Daniel couldn't intuit the connection. "How did I look at her?"

There was a long pause. Then: "Like you'd failed. Like you thought you'd failed again."

All he remembered was relief and heartache, and the pain of having Jack standing beside him, the glaring juxtaposition of what he could have and didn't love and what he loved and couldn't have. "OK. You're right. It's complicated."

"I know. Daniel ... I don't know how to say this."

Daniel waited.

"There's this light in you, Daniel. And there's this darkness in me. Sometimes I feel like a shadowed place that light of yours can never reach. I know you want to save me. From this crap in my head, from the past, from the future ... I don't want to let you down. I don't want to be another thing you can't save. I don't want you to look at me the way you looked at her."

Oh, god, Daniel thought. Oh, god.

Jack never opened up, to anyone, ever. But when he did, he did not fuck around.

Daniel took a deep breath, thought for a few seconds, let it out. "Can I tell you how I was really looking at her?"

Jack closed his eyes, pushed knuckles into his brow. "Yeah."

"I was sad. Really sad, really pained by what had happened to her. I was sorry that I couldn't help, but it wasn't a failure. I was gratified that we got the snake out of her, that was really important to me, but it made the pain flare up that I failed to do the same for Sha're. If there was failure there, that was it, and it really had nothing to do with Sarah. I wasn't qualified to help her deal with the trauma she suffered, and I didn't love her in a way that would ... I don't have words for this ... soothe her. I care very much for her, but I don't love her, not anymore, not that way. I hadn't for a long time. We did save her. I'm proud of that. But I couldn't heal her. That made me sad, and it made me intensely relieved when she agreed to go with people who could."

Slowly, Jack said, "I kinda misread that, then."

"It's because you were standing there. I know, I mean I think I know, what it cost you to offer that kind of support. You know, just being there. But for me it was just ... There she was, someone I should love, be in love with, someone that if I loved that way I could've ... comforted, made love to, maybe eased some of the horror away, but I couldn't, I didn't ... and there you were, someone I ... did love, do love, that way ... and I couldn't ever have you, you'd always be a foot away from me, you stopped touching me, you stopped ruffling my hair, there was nothing ... and that was so unfair, ungrateful, all the times you risked your life for me, everything we went through, I knew I should appreciate that, it's a rare thing in this life, that kind of dedication, and you were doing it again, just being there, and I couldn't stand it because it wasn't enough and I'd fucked up, I'd fucked everything up by falling in love with you. That's what you saw."

Jack was staring at him; he was staring back, in a kind of shock that he'd said that much, afraid it was too much.

Jack reached out, as if to ruffle his hair, but palmed his ear, his jaw instead, fingers working into his scalp, thumb stroking over his cheekbone, his temple. "I love you, Daniel," he said quietly. "That was as close as I thought you'd let me get."

"I know. I know that now."

"I'm gonna die. You can't heal that."

"We'll see," Daniel said, stubbornly; and then he said, "But if I can't, I won't look at you that way. I'll ... forgive you. I'll forgive myself. I promise, Jack."

Jack searched his eyes for a long time in the darkness -- looking for certainty, he supposed, gauging whether or not it was a promise that Daniel would keep. It was that important to him. Daniel looked back, hiding nothing -- not anguish, not terror, not adoration. Finally the tension eased from Jack's face, and the look of pain drained away into a weary serenity. He kissed Daniel softly on the mouth, his eyes sliding closed, and then drew back, but only to pull the rest of Daniel's body in close against him.

"Thank you," he said quietly. Then, "Hey. Almost sunrise. Looks like you spent the night after all."

Daniel smiled against Jack's jaw, and moved his hand to tease a nipple, lightly brushing. "So, anything else you want? While we're talking about it?"

Jack's arm gave a squeeze, and he said, "I want you to keep doing that with your fingers. And I want you to stay tonight too."

"You got it," Daniel said softly, still smiling, and kept stroking.

When they woke up again, the sun was shining on the house, and for a little while the world was beautiful, and perfect, and Daniel stayed that night too.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^