Phone. Ringing. Jack's hand reached for it before his brain woke fully, as involuntary a response as closing his eyes when he sneezed. "O'Neill."
"Good evening, Mr. Nail. How are you tonight?"
His sleep-bleared eyes found the bedside clock and squinted at the red numerals until they became a time. Very late. Or very early. "Awake. Wish I wasn't. Who is --?"
"That's good." Bright, chirpy, insincere. Auditory torture. "I wonder if I could interest you in a two-for-one deal on windows we're running at the moment…"
"You have got to be kidding me." Outrage built and met disbelief. No way. No way they were calling him at nearly two in the fucking morning --
"It is amazing, isn't it? For a limited time only--"
Enough was enough. Jack had several methods of dealing with calls like this, the simplest, and to his mind the rudest, being to hang-up while the other person was still speaking, but tonight that wasn't going to cut it. For thirty seconds or so, the phone wedged between his cheek and the pillow, Jack told the caller what he could do with his special offer in terse, clipped, lyrical prose before some quality in the expectant silence tripped his alarms.
He rolled to his back, staring at the darkness, automatically filling it with shapes he knew were there even if he couldn't see them. He'd been asleep, but his brain was catching up now, and that 'amazing' had been oddly familiar in cadence.
"Daniel? Daniel? It's you, isn't it? Dammit --"
Was Daniel smiling? It sounded like he was smiling -- "Are you drunk?" It wouldn't stop Jack being righteously angry, but it'd make sense. Sort of. Actually, no, it wouldn't.
"Mm, no. Just horny."
The hell? Two words and Daniel had wrenched the conversation into a place surreal enough for Jack to wonder if this was an off-shoot of the dream he sometimes had between one bleep of the alarm and the next, the one where he rose, dressed, and woke in bed, over and over, until when he really did get up he was never quite sure…
No. This was real. Jack breathed in the ripe, familiar smell of bedding that needed washing, but he hadn't found the time in the last few weeks, and let his free hand find the worn spot in the under sheet, the one another wash would shred, so he'd have to shop for a new one, stiff and scratchy, which he knew, and which was why he was putting off doing some laundry.
"Didn't need to know that, Daniel."
Curiosity flared even as he tried to shut Daniel up -- like that ever worked. Daniel always did that to him; got him wanting to dig deeper, fit the disjointed pieces together. And this was one hell of a puzzle. Daniel had called him in the middle of the night before, halfway through a sentence when Jack answered, letting his voiced thoughts spill into Jack's ear in an endless stream, dammed only when Jack pointed out the time. Daniel didn't sleep much since he came back, and deep in the endless day of the mountain, after pulling some long shifts, it was easy to get out of step with the world outside.
But the practical joke shtick was new, and the sexual edge razoring the words was disturbing in every sense. Jack felt the squirm of unease he got watching a horror movie when you just knew someone was three frames away from bloody, screaming death. Daniel didn't do this. Daniel didn't pace his home, restless and needing -- something. Daniel didn't veer between weeks of effortless, unthinking celibacy and days when the ache to fuck someone wouldn't go away, kicking in with his morning erection, never leaving even when he'd jerked himself to sleep, fingers and dick protesting because it had taken too long to wring a climax out of a sullen, protesting, lonely body.
Just Jack, and he didn't want to think that Daniel was as desperate at times as he was.
Daniel was self-contained, self-sufficient, calm in that area, Jack was sure of it, based on no evidence whatsoever. Jack had never asked what Daniel did for sex once he was a widower -- or before it. None of his business. Daniel had to know it was out there if he wanted it, for free or for rent, and Jack had always assumed that Daniel, with a methodical tidiness, scheduled the occasional wine, dine, and seduce the same way he did dentist appointments. Or just did without. Who knew? Who cared? Jack wasn't thinking about it, except when he did, when he studied Daniel on a Monday morning, looking for signs; a kiss-bruised throat, a sunny smile… And when Daniel had turned up two months before with a raw, chafed wrist, skin rough and peeling, Jack had come close to hugging Teal'c for asking, with a concerned frown, just how Daniel had come by it, even as he'd winced inwardly, his own guess fitting Daniel out in leather and cuffs with an embarrassing speed.
And Daniel had shoved his glasses higher with his finger, peered down at his hand with a vague smile, and murmured something about walking his neighbour's Great Dane, who had a tendency to pull on its leash, which was plausible, convenient enough to be either the truth or a lie, and Jack hadn't been sure which he wanted it to be then and wasn't now.
"And you get your kicks pretending to work in telesales? Most people just jerk off, you know."
Daniel giggled, breathy and quick. "Doing that, too…"
Jack blinked, getting a shocked visual, patchworked together from a handful of memories predating a dying Daniel leaving him, going on a spiritual walkabout with his stepson's sitter, for Christ's sake.
Daniel leaning back against the wall of the shower on base, eyes closed, water coursing over him, so wiped out after a mission that standing upright was too much work, his hand stroking shower gel into his mud-streaked skin in slow, slow motion, the vivid blue mixing with the dirt, turning to a filthy froth, and then washing away, leaving skin Jack had stared at for longer than he should because he'd been tired, too, and looking away from Daniel's body, spread-out and still under the insistent beat of the water, was an effort he hadn't wanted to make.
Daniel beside him in the darkness getting off one night, only time ever he'd done it on a mission because Jack knew he wouldn't have slept through it if it'd happened before, the sleeping bag rustling in too even a quickening tempo, Daniel's breathing controlled and too quiet when Jack was used to soft, snuffling snoring breaths.
And he supposed Daniel was in bed right now, not wet, but not covered with a thick layer of down-stuffed fabric, either, not in Jack's head. Propped up on pillows, glasses still on, staring down with absorbed fascination at what his hand -- hands -- were doing, as if they belonged to someone else. As if they were Jack's hands --
No. Daniel was probably fully dressed and yanking his chain for something Jack had done or said anywhere up to a year earlier. Daniel had a long memory when it came to payback, no matter what else he'd forgotten. Or maybe something more recent… Daniel got irritated over stuff Jack didn't even know he was doing. One thing to piss Daniel off intentionally; that was a game they'd been playing for years, but Jack resented the idea that he could be intrinsically annoying, even when it was just Daniel on the receiving end.
He kept his voice light. "And you need me, because? There are numbers you can call for this, you know, Daniel. Expensive, sure, but at least you're not waking anyone up."
A moan, luxurious and sinful, tickled his ear. If he hadn't been hard already, his cock filling and stretching in response to all those pictures in his head, that would've done the trick. "Needed you -- ah! God, mmm -- to help me out."
"Oh, yeah. What're best friends for?" The sad part was, he meant it in a way. There shouldn't have been -- there wasn't -- anything he wouldn't have done for Daniel, hell, any of his team, up to and including killing anyone who came close to hurting them. He hadn't known the men he shot in the back a few weeks ago were zombies in that hellhole of a jungle; he'd just pulled the trigger on men about to kill Daniel, men who'd held him captive, tortured him. No hesitation, no regret. "How?" Keep it brief, keep it impersonal, a joke. Don't reach down, batting sheets out of the way to get to your cock. Don't talk to Daniel while you've got a handful of dick and a head full of him.
Too late. His dick strained in the firm clamp of his hand, just raring to go. Jack let the darkness make it Daniel's hand, out of pure masochism, and discovered that Daniel was a fucking tease.
"Think… about it, Jack. What you just did. More of that." And then, because it was Daniel, he added a dutiful, "Please," before he stopped talking and got noisy.
Jack listened to the sounds Daniel was making for a while, uninhibited, over-loud, stilling his hand. Did anyone really pant and moan like that when the cameras weren't rolling? He preferred the bitten-lipped silence in the tent. "I yelled at you, Daniel. End of story. And I didn't even know it was you."
"If you had, would you have gone easier on me?"
Stupid question. Like he'd ever held back when it came to ripping Daniel a new one. "What do you think? No."
"Do it now. Tell me now. Yell at me."
If Daniel got off on verbal abuse, it was news to Jack. Unless arousal and anger shared a bed in Doctor Jackson's head. Daniel hated it when Jack shouted at him in public, loathed the sledgehammer sarcasm Jack used too often when he was tired or worried, bitched back, tight, testy lips biting out sharp little liberal sound bites. If that was foreplay for Daniel -- Jack reconsidered years of fighting and started to get suspicious because no, as far as he could tell, he wasn't wrong there. Short step from suspicious to stubborn. "No fucking way."
Daniel chuckled in his ear, filthy and unrepentant. "That's a start."
"Why aren't I hanging up?" Jack wondered aloud, really not knowing, really wanting to know, asking the one person who could tell him.
"Because you haven't come yet and you're hard. I can help you with that, Jack. I want to."
Jack's hand had two options. He picked one and rode out the wave of lust slamming into him as his fingers clenched brutally hard, and then turned his head away, letting his pillow smother the deep, choked sound he couldn't hold back. Okay, maybe the startled, guilty, snatching his hand away route would've been the better choice…
When he spoke, his voice was tight, shaking for the first few words until he got it under control. "You're the one with the problem south of the waist, Daniel. I'm the one who was asleep a few minutes ago and got woken up by an inconsiderate asshole."
"You're doing it." Daniel sighed, satisfied and smug.
"I'm not." Jack tried to keep his voice even and calm. Not going to give Daniel anything to work with.
Jack opened his mouth to say "Am not," and changed his mind. "Daniel, I'm not yelling."
"But you're angry."
"Yes, I'm angry! You woke me up!"
"That's it?" Daniel sounded unsure for the first time. "That's the only reason you're angry?"
Shit. He rallied quickly. "The whole inappropriate behaviour stuff is too off the scale to think about. I'm not thinking about it. It isn't happening."
He was splitting his attention between the voice in his ear and his hand, and it wasn't working. They kept blending, mixing, swirling together, so that Daniel's voice was what was wrapping around his dick and his thumb was stroking the edge of the phone, dragging along it, touching it deliberately, purposefully, getting all kinds of noises back from Daniel as if he could feel Jack's fingers on him, transmitted through whatever the hell it was phones worked on these days.
"Oh, it's happening --" Daniel's words were stuttered until the last one, which was drawled out and punctuated with a murmured mmm. "Yes, it's definitely -- uhnh…Jack? You talk now. I'm busy."
More pictures in his head… God, he'd be getting off on this for weeks…There was something about hearing Daniel whimper happily that was painting in between the lines in thick, vivid washes of colour, turning pallid, faceless fantasies bright and personalised. What had Daniel just done to himself to get that soft, startled grunt? Where had his hands been? Jack thought of Daniel's fingers sinking deep into dark, secret places, driving hard into his body, and shuddered. "Stop it. What you're doing. All of it."
There was a moment where Daniel did, where Jack could swear he heard the slide of hand on skin pause and teeter on the brink of expectancy, but it didn't last long. Daniel moaned from deep in his throat. "No, I don't think so. Can't stop. Too close. Why should I?"
"Because I'm telling you to." Jack bit his lip, chewing the skin tender as he considered how weak that had sounded. Begging was out. Damned if he would, anyway, and the mood Daniel was in --
"Because I'm ordering you to." It felt sick and twisted to be using that phrase, one which belonged at work, sanctioned and required, in this context. Which didn't stop him getting off on it. Ordering a civilian to do something was tricky, because you just never knew if they were going to jump the way they would if they were trained. It made things risky. Uncertain. Uncertainty pissed him off. Daniel pissed him off. Often. Always.
God, he'd missed him.
"That means you're playing." Daniel sounded stone-cold sober and disturbingly like himself, the whimpers and sound effects cutting off abruptly. Had they been real? Any of them? "Are you? God, are you --?" Daniel sighed into Jack's ear, a long distance tickle. "Sir?"
'Sir'? It sounded weird coming from Daniel. Really fucking weird, and Jack was too old to be aroused by the unexpected.
Except his dick hadn't got the memo on that, and it was indicating that it was willing to learn a new trick, sir, yes, sir, saluting like a good little cadet.
"Don't say that." It came out with an edge to it that he hadn't intended and he heard Daniel's breath catch, thick and eager in his throat.
"Please, what?" Jack dropped his defences, never that strong when it came to Daniel, never built on anything but shifting sand. "Daniel -- What the hell is this? You've got to help me -- Payback? Is that it? Or a bet with someone? Or --"
He couldn't finish it. Couldn't ask.
Daniel could. "It's me asking you a question, Jack. Do you want to play? With me?"
Play should have sounded innocent. Children played. Music played. Raindrops and sunlight and -- Daniel made it sound pornographic, the slight pause before the last two words erased in Jack's head the moment Daniel finished speaking. Did he want to play with Daniel? Yes. He wanted to make him fucking scream he was having so much fucking fun -- Jack inhaled sharply, close to coming, close to giving Daniel a few sounds to listen to.
"You want us to get off? Now? Like this?"
Impatient, can we turn the page now? Teacher, I don't want to share a book with Jack anymore, he reads too slow, sigh. "Yes, I'd like that, Jack."
He spat out the words, low and furious. "What makes you think I would?"
The corrosive patience was back. "I'm seeing things a little more clearly these days, Jack, and you're not as good at hiding stuff as you think you are. Not with me. Not when it's about me. And you didn't hang up. You won't until you come, and then I'm not sure what will happen, but it won't be the same." Daniel's sigh was tangible, sending a shiver over Jack, a tingle. "It shouldn't be the same between us. I died. I'm back. It should be different, and it's just like it was before, and I'm so fucking tired of starring in your jerk-off fantasies and never getting to touch you, never getting to see --"
Cold horror took care of Jack's erection, scything it down to size. "You --"
"The first time."
"You yell my name and you don't expect me to come running, living or dead?"
"I never yelled it and don't be so fucking dramatic."
"It sounded loud in my head."
"That's kinda rude, Daniel." Anger, blinding and salt-sour, had Jack's fist slamming down onto the bed. "Sneaking around -- Don't you think?"
"I do now," Daniel admitted. "But when I did it… no. I wasn't human, Jack. I didn't have a body --"
White light and stained bandages falling empty to the bed --
"And when you don't have a physical form, things get… distant. Fuzzy. I went to you because you needed me, and I didn't know why, and when I saw what you were doing, I still didn't, for a moment." There was a soft, uncomfortable chuckle in Jack's ear. "Yeah. I know. And even when I did… I was just curious, in a detached sort of way, and then I forgot."
"When did you remember?" It was hard to get the words out, hard to pick words that meant something and push them through the frozen mush his lips and tongue had become in the right order. Daniel had watched him, silently hovering, like the fucking angels at the corners of the bed, the ones Jack had prayed to nightly as a child and then, when adolescence hit, prayed just as fervently that they didn't exist.
"That particular memory? About an hour before I called you."
"Not getting the connection between --" Jack swallowed hard, which helped for some reason, his voice steadying. "Between you being an intrusive fucking Peeping Tom and following it up with obscene phone calls. Oh, wait… yeah, maybe I am. Doctor Jackson's a fucking pervert. Who knew?"
"It's not -- I was angry with you."
"Shoe on the other foot, Daniel!"
"No." Daniel seemed pretty sure about that. "No, I'm angry, too, Jack. I was there in your head, your bed, trotted out to get you off, doing whatever you wanted, and it wasn't me. You didn't want me. I wasn't good enough in the flesh, not worth the risk. How the hell could I ever measure up to the way you see me in your fantasies?"
"You would." Jack screwed his eyes closed against the unexpected tears, shamed and weak, willing them back. "Daniel, you would."
"And that's not all," Daniel hissed in his ear, spitting cat furious, something Jack was starting to see had been there all along.
He knew Daniel too well, even this Daniel, not to get what else he was pissed about. "I couldn't tell you."
"No, Jack. You couldn't have acted on it. There's a difference."
"It would have been fucking awkward, Daniel! I chose --" Choice? He hadn't had one. If Daniel couldn't see that --
"You don't think it was something I might have wanted to know? Had a right to know?"
"No. Pointless." Jack wasn't budging on that. "I knew what I felt, and no matter what your reaction was, there wouldn't be any way to make it work. Telling you would have just fucked things up even more."
"Because of the programme."
"It comes first."
It was a statement of fact but Jack sensed a resignation he hadn't expected. "It doesn't with you?"
World saving, or Daniel in his life as a lover, not just a friend, a team mate… Jack had settled for what he could have without guilt, never questioned it until Daniel had died, never regretted it even then, because he'd never really thought Daniel would go for it. Daniel was the unthinking hero type. Jack had to work at it.
"It does, yes. It's just…"
"Yeah. I know."
Jack cupped his hand around the soft, question mark curl of his cock and balls and sighed, hearing the unspoken conversation compressed into the pause unspool in his head, forgiven, shriven, contrite, both of them. He said the only thing left to say, said it just as he had a thousand times, casual, affectionate, routine. "Good night, Daniel."
"Night, Jack." Daniel yawned, making the grumbling little murmur he always did before he turned onto his stomach, hand curled under his chest, and Jack switched off the phone and did what he always did, rolling away from Daniel, his back to Daniel, his hands folded so they couldn't reach for Daniel, couldn't touch.
And tried not to think about tomorrow, when he'd find out what it was like to live in a world where Daniel knew. No, worse; a world where he knew that Daniel knew and Daniel knew that he knew that Daniel knew…
Jack groaned and turned over, restless, sleepy, and confused, and heard the sheet tear and split beneath him.
Yeah. Tomorrow was going to suck.
Obscurely comforted by that thought, he fell asleep.