I'm never, I swear to God, ever sitting opposite Daniel in a briefing again.
He's got this habit of glancing down at the papers in front of him, studying them with this little furrow appearing in his forehead, and then glancing up at me.
Fine. Not a problem. I can deal with that. I've dealt with wanting him for months now and I've gotten good at hiding it. Oh, yeah. Real good. He stood naked in front of me for ten minutes the other day, one sock in his hand, forgotten, babbling on about a new translation of something written God-knows how many thousands of years ago and I smiled and nodded in all the right places.
And waited until he'd left the locker room to start breathing again.
What had me lying awake though, staring at a ceiling I couldn't see in the dark, was knowing that I'd have reacted just the same if he'd been fully dressed apart from the sock. I hadn't been getting off on him being naked. Much. No; it's just that when he geeks out on me like that -- when we're not under fire -- it's cute. Cute. God help me.
So I can cope with the up-and-down glances.
It's the way his tongue strokes out across his lip that's killing me.
I can admire the timing, I guess: glance down, stare, glance up, hold my gaze, lick. It's hypnotic, rhythmic, as subtle as a brick, and if he does it one more time...
Oh God. He did it again.
I spend all afternoon thinking about it. Four times in a ten minute briefing. What the hell? Couldn't have been accidental, but it beat me what he was trying to do. Daniel's not the sort to be cruel, and if there was a joke in there, I wasn't seeing it.
Wasn't seeing anything but blue eyes holding mine and a tongue swiping over a full lip and leaving it glistening momentarily.
So I head to his place to straighten things out because that's me. Direct. Take no prisoners. Put up with zero bullshit. Yeah, right. Even I'm not buying that pretty picture. It's more that I can't stop thinking about it. About him. Glance down, glance up, swipe. Fuck. Months of perfecting denial and he breaks me with something this trivial.
The drive over is taken up by me not thinking about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, because I want to get there in one piece. I do a pretty good job of it, so that when I raise my hand to knock on his door, there's an instant when I could just change my mind and make this a friendly visit, nothing more, like a dozen others. I'm calm again, in control.
Then the door opens and I'm getting a pleased, puzzled look as he shoves his glasses further up his nose, hair damp from a shower, T-shirt clinging here and there like he's tugged it on over a body still not dry.
Oh, yeah, that's helping.
I will myself to make this casual, keep it away from anything dangerous, but I can't. All this time thinking I was getting good at ignoring the way being around him makes me feel, and what I've been doing is shove it inside a box that's full to overflowing and about to burst at the seams.
"Daniel? I need to ask you something."
He leads the way to chairs, and I find myself sitting with a beer in my hand I don't remember asking for, with Daniel at the other end of the couch staring at me, owlish-eyed.
"Well?" Daniel prompts. "What?"
I can feel the cold slide of glass against my palm, and I rub my thumb slowly up the neck of the bottle while I think. Daniel's eyes drop to my hand and widen slightly and damn if he doesn't do the lip-slide-glide thing again.
"That," I say, my hand tightening around the bottle, feeling the condensation-soaked label shift and crease as it peels off. "That thing you're doing. You've got to stop doing it, Daniel. I'm asking as a friend, just don't, okay?"
And I'm prepared to beg, too, but let's see how it goes, huh? No need to let him realize that when it comes to hands, his is uppermost.
God, you know a person for years, fight beside them, save their life, and then you find out that they're a sadistic sonofabitch, because damned if he didn't do it at the end of his sentence.
"That," I said, teeth gritted. "That, that thing with your tongue."
Daniel's eyes go distant as if he's replaying the last few minutes in his mind. Then he gives a brisk little headshake and meets my eyes with this innocent, questioning look on his face. "Show me."
"Show me," he insists, setting his own beer down and folding his arms across his chest. "This thing I'm doing."
"You want me to do the thing."
"That you do."
"With your --"
"Jack." Daniel's starting to sound a bit frayed around the edges now, but hell, he wasn't in my seat in the briefing, so he can just take his lumps.
I do it, and it's all wrong. I must look like I'm a ten-year old who's just been told he's got chocolate all over his face. He must have practiced, dammit. Daniel's snickering and trying to hide it.
"I do that?" he says incredulously. "Really?"
"No," I snap, waving my hand impatiently at him. "Not like that. You do it and it doesn't make me want to laugh; it makes me --"
I come to the sort of halt that normally means there's a kitten in the middle of the road who doesn't see you coming, a screeching, burning rubber, ohmygodding dead halt.
Daniel raises his eyebrows, looking expectant, and I give him nothing but silence and possibly my fish impression, with the gaping mouth and the bulging eyes, before I swap to poker-face-Jack and go for the bluff. "Think that you're being unprofessional," I finish, and it's lame and we both know it, but he just nods slowly.
"Unprofessional. Right. And I should stop?"
"Yeah." I take a swig of the beer, feeling the bubbles pop and prickle against the roof of my mouth. Tastes good. Beer. Two men drinking beer, with all the awkward stuff out of the way.
"So," Daniel says, because he's clearly not getting past this the way he should be, "you came over to tell me to stop doing this." His tongue makes a slow circle, starting in one corner, going up and around and across, and it makes what he was doing in the briefing room look tame. I spray slightly-used beer over both of us, which can't be any more pleasant for him than it is for me, but he just brushes away the drops that have landed on his T-shirt and keeps staring at me, waiting.
I swipe at the mess I've made and my hand ends up sticky. "'Scuse me," I mutter. "I've just got to go wash up."
"It's only beer, Jack," he says, and he sounds impatient. "You came here just for that? To tell me that doing this --"
"Don't do it again," I say urgently, and fuck, I'm sweating now. "Please."
"'Please'?" he says disbelievingly. "I get a 'please'? It's serious enough to rate a --"
Bastard's frowning now and damned if he doesn't bite his lip as he does it, teeth digging into that full curve leaving tiny dents that fill and pink back up again as he releases it, and then --
It's my best 'I'm gonna kill you' voice, and he flushes guiltily. "Oh. That?"
I don't even bother saying anything; just nod wearily and drain the bottle.
Daniel grimaces and then says, "Nervous habit?"
I get a little bit in his face for that. "Briefings make you nervous, Daniel? You never said."
"Noooo," he says slowly, dragging the word out.
"Then you should say what you mean." I jab him in the chest. "It's your job."
"Well, strictly speaking --"
"It's not a nervous habit," I say flatly.
Daniel blinks at me. "It's not?" he asks mildly.
"No." I still don't know why he's doing it, although I'm starting to get an idea, but it isn't that.
"Dry air in there. I'm moistening them."
"That makes it worse," I say. "Chaps them." I stare at his mouth. Little bit of chapping maybe, but not much. Just enough that I'd be able to feel them drag and catch if they were against my skin, which would feel good, yes it would, but we were drifting here, or maybe I was, and that had to stop.
"I'll try to remember."
"You can do better than try," I growl.
His eyes narrow. "I'm still not sure why my lips getting chapped or licked bothers you so much, Jack."
"Need to know, and you don't," I say. Maybe I'm a little bit smug, because Daniel smiles and it's not a sunny-side up smile, it's a fucking scramble your brains smile, and I'm losing it and I can't figure out how, or why, or when.
"You know, it's dry in here, too," Daniel says thoughtfully.
"Meaning what?" I snarl.
He shifts closer so that our knees are bumping; close enough that I can taste toothpaste on the air, mixed with beer. No wonder he pulled a face with the first swallow. Don't know why he was brushing his teeth at this time of night though.
Tip of his tongue shows.
"Daniel, I swear --"
His eyes are dancing now. Little specks of dark amongst the blue, or maybe I've stopped breathing and I'm about to pass out. Either works.
"It's okay, I know what to do," he murmurs and his hand's on my knee, gripping it lightly. Has he ever touched me like that before? I can't remember, and I think I would. I jerk off over him smiling at me; I'd remember him groping my goddamn leg.
"Go on," I say, and yes, I'm really suspicious now because he's talking faster, sounding nervous and excited as if he knows as well as I do that we're someplace new.
"It can't be the actual act that's bothering you. People do it all the time. Sam does it, you do it; you've done it three, maybe four times tonight."
"I have? Sorry," I say hastily.
He smiles. "I don't mind."
"No," he continues. "It's me doing it that's the problem, right?"
I nod dumbly and Daniel shrugs. His hand's moving now, edging higher, but I'm not going to tell him to stop; I should, but then he'd know I'd noticed. Pretend he's not doing anything out of the ordinary; let him touch what he wants. Safer.
As long as it's not his neck. I flash on Daniel stroking along his throat while he's talking about translating something and I don't cough in time to hide the moan. No, not his neck.
"So the solution's simple," Daniel says brightly, and he beams at me the way he always does when he's solved a problem.
"Help me out here," I venture when he stops talking.
He rolls his eyes. "You do it," he says in his best, 'this is really simple, so pay attention' voice.
"Yeah, you said, but I... don't... see... oh."
He smirks as enlightenment smacks me about the head.
"They're dry," Daniel says, looking disappointed. "Really dry."
"Get some of that stuff," I say, desperation returning power to parts of my brain that shut down when his hand moved even higher. "Lip balm, yeah. Good stuff, lip balm."
"Tomorrow," he promises, "but right now, I'm going to have to --"
The tip of Daniel's tongue is curling out again and I lean forward. "Stop it!"
"My lips are dry," he says and there's nothing in his face that's remotely amused now. He's tense, blinking fast, and his mouth closes in a determined line for a moment. "Lick them."
I'm hard already, but that makes me realize that, embarrassing though that is, given where Daniel's hand is now, high on my leg, it could be worse. Damp patches aren't a good look on me.
I figure that doing what he says will freak me out enough that my dick will get the message and go to sleep, so it's the best way out of this mess. Or maybe I've lost all ability to get out of the corner he's pushed me into, because every man has his limit and I reached mine in that briefing, and passed it when his hand came down on my leg.
One deep, shuddering breath later, I'm leaning in, and his mouth's close enough to kiss but that's not what I'm doing, not what he asked for. His lips do look kind of dry, but when I let the tip of my tongue drift tentatively over the top one, it feels hot, so that's not surprising. Feels good, too. I can see why he does it. Tastes like Daniel.
I stroke across the top one and get an encouraging, barely voiced murmur of approval, and Daniel parts his lips so when I reach the corner my tongue slips between them. I jerk back and Daniel stares at me and taps his finger against his bottom lip.
He doesn't say a word, but he doesn't need to, does he? I screw my hands into fists so that I'm not tempted to punch him and close my eyes and bob forward. His nose. I just licked his fucking nose. I open my eyes, give him a glare that has him flinching and grab him by the back of his neck so that he stays still.
Then I lick his mouth like it's a dripping ice cream cone and sit back, panting slightly, and wait.
He licks his lips.
All that and he just does it again. I give up. I stand up. I am so fucking out of here. And also totally dead because I've - we've - crossed lines here that should've stayed far, far away in the distance, but I can't let myself think about that right now.
I pause and force myself to turn back. Daniel's standing in the middle of the room and looking upset. "Yeah?"
I glance over at the door. "Looks that way."
"I thought --"
"What?" It comes out sounding angry and I don't know why, except that maybe I'm blaming him for this and starting to wonder how much he's seen of what I've been hiding, how much planning went into getting me here and getting me to do what I just did.
Because I've wanted people before, people I couldn't have, but they've never been as smart as Daniel. Never been so observant and so blind. Never, when it came down to it, been worth the risk.
Daniel's worth it. Maybe. I'd never planned on confirming that, one way or another. And I guess I missed the point where he lost patience with me and started to push me someplace I never planned on going.
I hate it when he does that, dammit.
"You just kissed me," Daniel says, "and now you're --"
"No. No, I didn't." It's important that we get that straight. I'm walking back over to him and I'm moving fast, but Daniel doesn't back down. Doubt he knows how to. "If you thought that was a kiss then it's been too long since you had one."
"It has," he says, staring down at the carpet. I know what's coming. I just know. Daniel looks up and meets my eyes. "Doesn't mean that I've forgotten what it's like."
"So what now?" I say, exasperated enough to find my voice. "You ask me to kiss you just so I can prove there's a difference?" I shake my head because he's about to say 'yes', I can tell. "Not going to happen, Daniel."
"Because I say so."
He shoves his hand back through his hair, looking frustrated. "Arguing with someone who reverts to childhood three sentences in, is, well, it's --"
"A damn good tactic," I say, and he smiles.
"Yes, it is, but it doesn't get us anywhere, so maybe you could stop?"
I shrug. "Nowhere to get to. We're done."
He nods, pushing his hands through his hair, looking as if he's holding himself still with an effort. "I see."
"What? What do you see?" That triggers something, because he flings his arms up in disgust and then I'm talking to his back and yelling over the echo of a slammed bedroom door. Fuck. "Daniel, get the hell out here and talk to me."
I have to hammer on the door before it opens with as much force as he shut it. He's stripped off his T-shirt and he's holding it in one hand, his hair mussed and as wild as his eyes. "I don't want to talk, Jack. I'm going to bed. See yourself out, will you?"
"It's 9.30, Daniel. Isn't that a little early to hit the sack?"
"I didn't say I was going to sleep," he answers, and I do what you just don't do, not ever, and glance down without thinking. He's hard. Fuck. The jolt that gives me is like a double espresso. I'm practically shaking.
"You're --" I clear my throat. "Tired. Right. I get that. Been a long day."
"I'm not tired. I'm going to get naked and jerk off."
Daniel's got this way of making anything he says sound reasonable while he's saying it. I swallow, ignore the fact that his eyes are looking south of where they should be, just like mine were, and manage to smile. "You, ah, are? Okay. Well, that's the definition of something you don't need company for, so I'll do that whole letting myself out thing then."
I've taken one step backward when he says, "You'll be one of the people I think about when I do it; you know that, right?"
I've been punched in the gut and felt better. "One of -- me -- while you -- Hell, no!"
Not like I don't think about him, but that's different, and I never would've told him. I'm starting to wonder just what else I'm going to learn now he's good and angry.
He leans against the door frame and folds his arms across his chest. Bare chest, skin pale because when we go somewhere hot through the Gate we do more sweating than sunbathing, looking strong, looking good. I can't help staring and I can't help noticing that he's wearing old jeans and they don't fit him. They're loose enough to be sliding down and exposing two points of hipbone and a line of hair pointing down at his dick. Man needs a belt.
"You have a problem with that?" he asks.
"Hell, yes!" I'm not getting points for originality of response here, but I'm busy dealing with the ego blow because, dammit, if he's going to jerk off and I'm involved, well, I don't share. Not when it's him.
"With being included, or not being the only one?"
I open my mouth to lie and something in his face stops me. Guess I owe him the truth but it was one debt I was hoping I'd never have to repay. "What is this, Daniel? What are we doing here, because I'm just --" I lift my hand and let it fall back. Suddenly I'm feeling tired.
"We're negotiating," he says seriously. "I'm doing something that you don't like --"
"I never said that."
Blink. "You asked me repeatedly to stop."
"That's not the same thing."
He nods. "You're right; it isn't. But you asked me to stop and I agreed."
"No." You know, other people let him get away with bullshit like this. Not me. "You said you'd try, and so far you're doing a piss-poor job of it."
"Even so," and his mouth's set in stubborn lines now, "I agreed to try. You owe me."
"I do?" I think about that as he scratches at his ribs, leaving marks that don't last for long enough, and then I sigh. "Go ahead; tell me what you want me to stop doing."
"Nothing," he says. "I like you just the way you are."
I tilt my head. "You do?"
Then why are you jerking off thinking about other people? And who -- No, I shouldn't be wondering about that; I should concentrate on the fact I'm one of them, and wonder how in hell I missed the hints Daniel must've been dropping until he got bored with subtle.
"More or less."
Huh. I thought my perfection was too good to be true. "Daniel, it's late --"
"You just said it wasn't," he points out.
"You know, that's something else you do that I could live without!"
His lips twitch as if he's trying not to grin. "You only get one wish, Jack. Pick." He holds up his hand and counts off on his fingers. "The lip thing; thinking about you while I --" He catches sight of my expression and skips over the verb. "Thinking about more than you, and that last one, which I guess would come under remembering every word you've ever said to me."
And we're back to that breathless dizzy feeling. "Daniel, please."
"Four. Pick one."
"Stop this." I sound desperate and when I hear that in my voice I get angry. "I walked out of that meeting today and I didn't know what the fuck we'd discussed, do you know that?"
"It was about --"
I chop at the air, cutting him off. "Save it. I found out from Carter. The point is, when I said 'unprofessional', it wasn't really you I was talking about; it was me. I shouldn't have been looking at you, I shouldn't have given a fuck what you were doing; not in a briefing." I take a step closer. "You ever fuck with me at work again, Daniel and I'll take you somewhere quiet and we'll discuss it until you holler 'nough, you got that?"
Give him credit; he doesn't do more than swallow heavily, the muscles in his throat working. "I've got it," he says. "Jack, I'm sorry. All of it. I'm sorry."
All of it. Driving me crazy and getting me over here to make sure I don't deny my way back into sanity the way I have been, over and over.
"Yeah," I say, turning away. "That makes two of us."
"You're off-duty now."
He says it in a low voice, but I can hear him. I can always hear what he's saying, no matter how quietly he says it. That's why I'm here tonight.
"It doesn't work that way, Daniel. You know that."
This time he lets me leave.
At the next meeting, he sits beside me and I watch his pen slide through his fingers, turning and twisting, faster and faster.
When I show up at his door that night he tastes like cherry and I scrub it off his mouth with the heel of my hand, bruising the skin and bringing the blood hot to the surface.
He's not going to be thinking about anyone but me tonight.