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Daniel shifted in bed, turning left, then right. There was a noise coming from somewhere--out of place, odd. His dream-muddled brain couldn't define it but it made him pause and ask, "Dream or real?" But then the noise came again--a thud or thump. Something falling. A fighting noise?

Daniel rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. Stilling himself, holding his breath, he listened, and after a minute, he pushed up on his elbows and waited another minute. It was probably nothing, he decided, but he also believed in making sure.

Rolling out of bed, he threw on his sweatpants and made his way through the dark, waiting for his eyesight to adjust. He squinted against the porchlight when he looked through the living room window and again through the kitchen's double doors. The light from over the sink wasn't helping matters, even with his eyes shielded by his hands. The backlighting was just too much interference.

Disabling the security pad by the doors, Daniel grabbed the bowstick he kept propped against the wall nearby and took a step onto the cool wood of the small patio deck. Reaching behind, he shut the door and waited for his eyes to adjust while his alert senses went into search mode.

He'd done this at least a hundred times on missions; stepping out of his tent, looking around, listening. Of course, those times were usually with all his clothes on and now he felt a shiver run over his bare skin. Breathing quietly, he took another step, peripheral vision on hyper-alert. He could see shadows made by the moon among the bushes next to the house but they were normal shadows so far, nothing out of the ordinary. However, anyone could make use of those shadows so he adjusted the grip on the stick.

After a few minutes, he was almost certain that he'd simply imagined an intrusion when a human shape crossed the lawn. He launched himself after it, careful of the wet, slippery grass under his feet, but lost his balance as he hit the intruder's legs twice. They both went down but the stranger was quicker to his feet and was yards away by the time Daniel went after him. Heart racing, he cursed himself for not putting on shoes. He couldn't match the speed of this bastard, not in bare feet. By the time he got to the front yard, a van was tearing off down the road.

Quickly, facts collected in Daniel's mind before the van disappeared. One, the color looked dark blue but was very likely black. Two, it had "surveillance" written all over it, given the unmistakable antennae. Three, there would be hell to pay later on today for this unauthorized watch. And lastly, the lightening of the eastern sky meant it was around 4 a.m. God, he hated getting his sleep messed with. He didn't get enough of it as it was.

Cursing under his breath, Daniel returned to the backyard. Surveillance was from a distance so just what the hell was that man doing next to the house? He made a circuit of his property just in the case the asshole had left any presents behind but came up with nothing. The darkness was a hindrance so in a few hours, after the sun was well up, he'd have to check again.

Stepping onto the patio deck and heading for the doors, Daniel's senses kicked up again as another man shape moved from the darkness. The stranger's right arm stretched toward him as if to grab or shoot and Daniel brought his stick down--and missed. The stranger was fast but so was Daniel's rebound and he swung again, this time hitting an arm. As he pulled back to swing again, a voice stopped him.

"Daniel! Wait! It's me!"

Halting mid-motion and nearly losing his balance again, Daniel stared at the black shape and two emotions flashed consecutively. Confusion and anger. "What the fuck are you doing here, Jack? Who the hell ran out of here toward a black surveillance van? What, you don't have enough to control so you're after me now?"

"Don't worry, I'm not doing that," came the whispered reply.

Jack stayed in the shadows and Daniel was going to ask why when another thought intervened. The man's voice sounded lighter than the usual deep growling he made.

"Have you been drinking?"

A snort, then, "Not lately."

Daniel frowned, thoughts of drinking abruptly leaving when he realized that Jack didn't sound drunk, but he still sounded different and it bothered him because he didn't know why. There was also something different about his silhouette. An idea occurred to him and as the hairs stood up on the back of his neck, he took a few backward steps toward the doors.

"Come toward me."

Jack took a few steps but remained in the shadows. Even though the amber glow through the thin kitchen curtains wasn't illuminating enough, Daniel's suspicion was confirmed. Jack was standing straighter and he'd walked without the limp from his bad knee. His body shape was different, too; more slender, less thick with... age.

Reaching behind, he abruptly shoved the doors open with one hand and the minimal light spilled onto the patio, catching Jack's clothing as well as his face. Even prepared for what he'd find, Daniel still froze in surprise. Because ingrained habits died hard, he automatically catalogued the other facts to give him a small piece of puzzle: Jack wasn't in special ops gear, yet he wore dark colors as if he were on a job. Black jeans, black high-top Nike's, dark blue sweatshirt, dark blue knitted cap. In the moonlight, they'd be black enough for covert work.

Then there was Jack's face. His young face. Daniel's gaze flickered down to the longish brown hair caught against the nape that the cap hadn't covered. A thousand questions formed behind his tongue, the most important was why this Jack was at his house. He was almost sure this Jack wasn't a threat, but he wasn't in the mood to get his answers on the patio. He turned with a sigh and motioned Jack to follow him inside.

"C'mon. It's obvious I'll need coffee for this."  There was a snort behind him and Daniel imagined the lopsided grin, the one that a very long time ago used to make him hard just looking at it too long. Moving straight for the coffee maker, he added, "Shut the door behind you and lock it, then sit the fuck down and start talking. You want coffee?" The coffee question was rhetorical. Like himself, Jack never refused coffee.

"Does a bear sh--"

"Talk," Daniel said rudely, cutting him off. He made short, angry movements designed to let this Jack know how pissed off he was. The sound of a chair being pulled out cautiously reminded him that this Jack wasn't the original. The original Jack wouldn't have cared how he felt and he would have reacted to Daniel's anger with some of his own, as if Daniel hadn't any right to be pissed off. So, unfortunately, Daniel couldn't help transferring some of his perpetual anger at General O'Neill onto this younger civilian.

What controlled his anger was how this man was acting, as if he'd fucked up, as if he'd--no, not fucked up.

It hit Daniel what was wrong. This Jack was acting like he was scared. The idea was simply unimaginable. Jack O'Neill never showed fear, only anger, and he was often angry these days.

"Thanks," came the quiet voice.

Daniel glanced over, watching as the man pulled off his cap to run his hand through his hair. Some mannerisms never changed, he thought, but the courtesy was an abrupt wake-up call, telling Daniel who exactly was sitting at his kitchen table.

"For what?" he asked, puzzled.

"Saving my ass."

That mysterious answer only required more answers to more questions. "You're welcome," he said, thinking how odd it sounded. Being polite, as if this was a normal situation. But having the clone Jack O'Neill sitting in his kitchen at four in the morning was far from normal. The clone. The guy General O'Neill used to refer to as the 'Do Over' once upon a time.

Finished and waiting for the coffee to brew, Daniel turned to face him, crossing his arms as he leaned against the counter. "So..." he began. "What do I call you? Is your name still Jack or...?"

Jack cocked his head to the side as he looked down at the table. "I changed my last name but kept the first. I couldn't get used to being called anything else."

Daniel nodded. "Okay, Jack. Out with it."

Jack's browline rose as he looked over at him. "You don't have a problem with this?" and he waved vaguely at himself.

"It's unusual and I've been one-on-one with unusual for a long time, so... no, not really."

"You're acting as if you expected me."

"I wasn't," Daniel answered, pausing. Then with a quirk of his lips, he added, "Maybe the surprise will hit me later."

Jack pressed his lips together in half a smile. "Still got the same old sarcasm, I see."

"Just as I imagine it's never left you, either."

"Not really."

There was silence then, which made Daniel extremely uncomfortable--as if the situation itself wasn't doing that already. He grabbed the backs of his arms, a common 'hugging' posture known for him, and he didn't realize he was doing it until Jack pointed at him.

"Still doing that, too?"

Daniel didn't want to let go but the coffee was almost done. He turned away and set his hands on the counter instead. "Yeah. So, talking?"

"Right," Jack said, plucking at his sweatshirt. "Listen, is it okay if I take off this sweatshirt? I'm kinda baking here."

Daniel risked a glance, then nodded, and kept his sideview on Jack, hoping the man was wearing something else under that sweatshirt. He caught a glimpse of grey and glanced over, finding Jack in an undershirt. Except this tank top made Daniel feel a bit too warm. The shirt was snug, low-cut, with wide arm holes. A gym or muscle shirt probably. Which fit, since it accentuated the curves of his pectorals. The man was ripped.

Daniel blurred his vision, not wanting to see. Jack was twenty years younger than he was. He shouldn't be thinking of, well, that. Taking a deep breath, he poured the coffee into the mugs and paused with the milk and sugar. "Still take it like I do or...?"

"No, black's fine," Jack answered.

Daniel brought him the mug and made sure that his eyes were just out of focus, that he didn't look at him. It didn't help. The old feelings were resurfacing, damn them. He took another deep breath and reminded himself about age differences--as if that were the paramount thing here--and returned to the counter to fix his coffee. He purposely sat down two seats away, hiding the obvious distancing by turning the empty chair and using it as a foot stool. When Jack did the same, using the same chair, Daniel sighed and stared into his coffee. Feelings were welling up inside and he focused on them, wishing them away.

"Thanks," Jack said, raising his mug.

Daniel nodded without looking up. The feelings weren't listening to him. "You know, never in a million years did I imagine this situation."

"I... did."

Daniel looked up sharply. Jack looked sad, wistful, and... afraid. There was that fear again, so at odds with what Daniel knew. Seven years may have passed since 'little' Jack had disappeared out of their lives, but Daniel couldn't help thinking that he knew the man before him. He squashed the possessive need to obliterate whatever it was that had made this Jack afraid. He had no right to feel that way.

"What happened? Why are you here?"

Jack took a long drink from his coffee and looked down at the table again, his fingers tracing some pattern on the wooden top. Daniel recognized the mannerism--Jack was having difficulty in talking to him about it. And probably because it was him. Again, some things never changed.

"If you can't talk to me," he said, unwilling to hide the snark, "then maybe I should get you someone else." He went to the end of the counter where he kept the phone and his little notebook of numbers but before he could flip through the pages, Jack's hand was over his own.

"No, don't," Jack said, staring back at him. "No one can know I'm here."

Startled, Daniel resisted the urge to yank his hand away. There was the dim memory of Jack's hand closing over his as he dialed the DHD. It flashed and was gone.

"Okay, then start talking," Daniel said with an annoyed sigh. "I'm not a mind-reader and I don't like mysteries of this kind." He gestured at the table and started back toward his own chair but Jack's hand was on his arm, staying him. He fixed his gaze on his face, looking down at his lips, and Daniel had the strangest, giddiest feeling that this Jack was going to kiss him. Unfortunately, he must've had that roadkill look because Jack abruptly released him.

"Sorry," he said, and sat back down.

Daniel's annoyance increased because he abruptly felt, for no logical reason he could think of, teased. Shoving the thought away, he returned to his seat and told himself to forget all about it because it was imagination, nothing more. Gesturing outside, he said, "Start with who the hell that was?"

Jack sighed and ran a hand over his face. "That was a spook."

Daniel closed his eyes. Shit, he knew it. "NID."

"Yeah."

The tone made Daniel open his eyes and stare at him, calculating a few things. "You're on the run," he stated. "Why?"

Jack sighed heavily, as if the strength had run out. "Could I get a beer?"

"In the fridge," Daniel pointed.

Jack went over and grabbed a bottle from the door shelf, twisting off the cap on his return. Daniel tried not to stare, but he couldn't help it. The man walked with a grace he'd never seen before. Long strides. On another man, you'd call that hip swing a swagger. On Jack, this Jack, it was something else.

Then with an aim previously assigned to that other Jack, this one tossed the bottle cap across the room and hit the slightly-open top of the kitchen garbage. It suddenly struck Daniel to wonder. Were all the things this man did things the other Jack did? One thing after another that he *still* did? Or were they just similarities? After all, he wasn't Jack O'Neill, and the longer Daniel sat there, watching him, listening to him, the more confused he became. This was, and wasn't, Jack. The Jack he used to know, the Jack he'd wanted to know, and the Jack he no longer knew.

Just... what the fuck?

Jack took a long swallow of the beverage, burped quietly, then proceeded to peel off the label. "Still keeping it, I see," he commented, tipping the beer in a salute.

"It's old," Daniel said. He tried to make it sound dismissive but he had a feeling it didn't come out that way. He didn't want to have this particular conversation so it was likely to affect his tone. And those particular two words would tell this Jack all he needed to know anyway. Given his memories prior to being cloned, he'd know what it meant.

"Should I be sorry?" Jack said, looking a little sad, and in such a way that made Daniel's hands itch.

"It's not your problem. NID?" Daniel pushed.

"He hasn't been around then?"

Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed. "No. NID?"

Jack shook his head and Daniel was grateful that he didn't pursue the personal angle. "I've been in their evil scientist hands for the last three weeks. I was wondering when they'd try something. I found out."

Daniel stared in shock. "Are you serious?"

Jack sighed and stared back at him. "Unfortunately."

"But..." They can't do that was what he was going to say and knew it was a load of crap. "Why the fuck didn't you contact--"

"Because I couldn't. I wanted to come see you before they grabbed me but I knew you were being watched so I just stayed away."

Daniel knew then that he'd been right to be pissed off about the surveillance. He'd been starting to wonder if he'd just overreacted, but no, the NID had been watching, but not to trip him up--to catch the young man before him.

"What the hell were you thinking, Jack? They sure as hell know now. What did they do to you?" He started to rise, alarmed that he hadn't considered that Jack was hurt. "Did they hurt you?"

Jack waved him back down. "Sit. I'm okay. They ran medical tests, blood work, scans. They gave me these idiot intelligence tests which I purposely answered wrong and that pissed them off."

Daniel stared, horrified. "Punishment for that, I'll bet?"

Jack shrugged. "The light stuff at first. Sleep deprivation, mild starvation, dehydration."

"What?" Daniel asked and started to reach for the beer to take it back but Jack pulled it out of reach.

"That was a while back. I've had water since. And I started answering their goddamn test questions correctly."

"Why?" Daniel asked. This Jack didn't seem different where resistance was concerned.

"The one reason any POW eats the food his or her captors give them. Escape. If I was going to take advantage of any hole in their security, I had to be ready. Being weak from lack of food wasn't going to get me anywhere. Answering questions was one thing, pacifying behavior was another. That'd tip them off. Don't you dare think I gave in."

"You're here and they're after you. I couldn't think you gave in. It's not..."

"Me?" Jack grinned.

"Yeah."

Jack gave him a strange smile. "Yeah, I guess. I had fun fucking with them despite the disciplinary shock treatments they gave me."

The blood left Daniel's face. "I thought you said light torture?"

"At first. They had a couple of those Goa'uldy pain sticks. Nice incentive-makers, those."

"Christ," Daniel said, rubbing his eyes.

"I could take it, Daniel. Better than before because I didn't have to worry about the pain in my knees--and seriously, you find out just how big a difference that makes when you're getting zapped by those things. I certainly learned to appreciate it. Anyway, I eventually found a few weak links in their security. But despite the threat of torture, I didn't make a break for it yet. I had to hang around to see what else they had planned. For me, for anyone else."

"And?"

Jack nodded. "Upside is, I was their only prisoner. Downside, I heard the nurses--if you could call them that--talking about experiments with chemicals. After I learned that shit, I high-tailed it out of there."

"We have to do something," Daniel said, more to himself as he sat forward.

"Can't, Daniel. They're autonomous."

"No one's that autonomous."

"Well, this time, they are. They operate with impunity."

Daniel thought of the changes at the Pentagon's Oversight Committee and their watchdogs at the SGC. Maybe something could get done, maybe it couldn't, but the mere idea that General O'Neill would allow his clone to be hunted down and used as a lab rat turned his stomach. Clenching a fist, he went over to the sink, turning on the hot water and letting it run over his hands as he bent over to inhale the steam. It was always a calming effect and he sure as hell needed to calm down or he'd act rashly.

"I'm starting to wonder if the Pentagon isn't run by Goa'uld," he said finally. "Members of the Trust are already taken over. Some civilian corporations, which is an irony if you think about it." He heard Jack snort. "I'm just at a loss how... fuck, Jack, they could have..."

"Yeah, I know," Jack said, and his voice was a lot closer.

Daniel was grateful that he didn't jump. "You need to tell someone. General O'Neill should be able to at least--"

"No!" Jack said fiercely.

Daniel straightened and looked at him. "Why?"

"No one can know, especially him. He would only try to keep me under guard and under his control and I can't allow that. Not ever again, Daniel, no matter who's doing it or for what grand or ethical reason they tell themselves. And you and I both know how good Jack O'Neill is at lying to himself."

"Yes, but he wouldn't..." Daniel started but let his protest fade. This Jack was right. General O'Neill would definitely consider this Jack his 'property' since he didn't consider clones human. They didn't have rights or deserve consideration. "Shit."

Jack suddenly grinned at him.

"What?" Daniel asked, annoyed.

"You've cussed more in the last five minutes than in all the time I'd known you... before."

"No, I haven't."

"Yes, you have."

"No, I mean, I cuss all the time."

"You didn't around me."

"I did so."

"Did not."

"I used to say shit and damn all the time and I've called you a few names, like stupid sonofabitch. I used to tell you not to be an ass."

"Not the same thing."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

Daniel opened his mouth to keep arguing but the smile on Jack's face stopped him. Rolling his eyes, he turned back to the sink. "Your faulty memories notwithstanding, I have good reason to cuss."

There was a sigh behind him, then he heard Jack say softly, "I missed this most of all, I think."

Daniel turned back around, brows narrowing again. "The arguing? You can't be serious?"

Jack nodded. "I'm afraid I am, Daniel. I don't like argue-arguing with you, but the little meaningless stuff, like just now? I've really missed that."

Daniel regarded him for a moment, acknowledging to himself that he missed it, too. Sighing, he shut off the water and dried his hands, thinking about Jack's situation.

"Well, if you can't get help from the SGC then I'll do what I can to keep you safe." With a grim set to his mouth, Daniel crouched in front of a bottom cabinet at the end of the counter. Opening the door, he revealed a small safe and tapped buttons on a keypad.

"Daniel?" Jack asked, sounding alarmed when Daniel opened the safe. Inside were documents and sidearms. Daniel handed Jack a handgun and ammo, and paused at the sight of shock on Jack's face. "What?"

"Something's wrong with this picture."

"What?"

"You keeping sidearms in a safe."

Daniel set his mouth in a grim line. "It's proved to be necessary since I decided to stay with the SGC. With you here, at least this shit's about to put to practical use. Now, let's get you safely secured."

He was aware of Jack's eyes on him as he loaded the clip and cocked a bullet into the chamber. Pausing to think where else Jack could go unnoticed, he reluctantly had to admit that there was nowhere. Not right now. With a large sigh, he said, "Well, my house is being watched. If you ran, they'd track you. I can only imagine what devices have been planted on my Jeep. I'm fairly certain the house isn't bugged since I sweep that constantly but it's probably a good idea to get the sweeper upgraded with the newest hardware because there's no telling what the spies have come up with to counteract the readers--"

"Daniel?"

"What?" Jack frowned at him and Daniel frowned back, wondering what he'd done now. "What?"

Jack suddenly looked sad. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I should have kept you out of it, kept running."

"You don't have the same kind of resources you used to have," Daniel said as he made for his desk in the living room. "You'd have been caught." He paused again, forgetting what he was looking for.

"Probably."

"So..."

"So... I'm sorry for dragging you into this anyway."

Daniel turned to him, exasperated. "Stop saying that. You're scared and I don't blame you. You need resources."

Jack nodded, his jaw flexing as he ground his back teeth. "Still, I should've known better."

Daniel stared at the young man standing there with an old man's mind. "You have a lot more experience than I do but this is the one time where your experience doesn't help you. You can't go to your old contacts because they belong to him."

Jack looked at him strangely. "Except for you."

"Yeah, except for me," Daniel replied, frowning slightly. "But your skills are still available. For instance, where'd you get the clothes? You don't usually dress in dark colors." He added a smile of approval mixed with reassurance.

Jack gave him a rather smug, sarcastic smile. It oddly made Daniel feel better. He hadn't seen it aimed at him in a nice way in a very long time. "The clothes were easy to steal from their laundry room and I knew where to find everything because they held me in a place I already knew."

"Which was?"

"The safehouse in South Dakota."

Daniel snorted incredulously. "The one where they kept Adrian Conrad?"

"That's the one."

"Jesus, what a bunch of idiots."

"Hence the getting away part."

Daniel nodded, but his grin faded. "Jack, why here? I'm like a big neon light."

"I... you won't believe me."

Shaking his head, Daniel walked down the hall and stopped at the door to the basement, punching in numbers at another keypad and the door clicked and opened sideways, sliding into the wall. When Jack didn't follow him, Daniel called after him. "C'mon, Jack. Just in case they're listening."

When Jack was in view, he was frowning in confusion. "You can't hide me here."

"Obviously, but I can keep you out of earshot as well as out of harm's way. C'mon."

"They could waltz right in," Jack said, following.

"They won't. The SGC now takes precedence over the NID, though the mandate is still military. They have no way out if they're caught messing with me."

"Which begs the question. Why haven't they installed an exterior alarm system on your property?"

"Because I wouldn't let them. I have small animals hanging around here and the occasional deer. I don't need an alarm system going off every day." He gave Jack a sly smile. "But I didn't fight the security system installed in here."

"Saw that."

"I figured you did."

"Why'd you allow that? Or... did you?"

"I didn't really have a choice. Control issues from you-know-who."

"Right," Jack answered grimly.

"This time, of course, he was right. And I think in the end, his plan backfired."

Jack said nothing as he closed the door behind him, grinning at the electronic hum as the door slid closed and locked. Daniel reached the bottom of the stairs first and turned to watch Jack descend, enjoying the look on Jack's face when he entered the fully-furnished, carpeted living room.

Jack's eyes widened. "I seem to remember this place being nothing but a concrete storage room."

"Much better, don't you think?"

Jack took in everything, from the four-poster bed at the far right wall to the mini-kitchen at the far left. "Been living a double life?" he asked as he finally turned to Daniel with a cocked brow.

"Yeah. I'm really a criminal mastermind."

Jack snorted. "Been hiding that well."

Daniel grinned at him. "This is where I go when I want to be completely alone. The only way down here without my passcode is by explosive, and should that happen, the whole place will go. It's wired that way and no, it's not part of their design. A friend altered it for me."

Jack's eyes grew wider at that information. "I'd ask who but I'm afraid to know. So I'll ask 'Why'?"

"Because I won't let them control me. Any of them. And here is where I keep documentation on everything."

"What's 'everything'?" Jack asked, staring at him.

"Everything," Daniel answered. "And I mean everything. I won't be blackmailed anymore, that's for sure."

Jack let out a nervous and surprised laugh. "Shit, Daniel, that's..."

"Scary, I know. They've changed."

"So have you."

"I had no choice, and it's not as big a change as it looks."

"Yet you're still working for them?" Jack asked, that look of disbelief on his face.

"Not for much longer," Daniel replied.

Jack narrowed his eyes but didn't ask. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts as he examined the large room, catching every little thing that made the basement a cozy and safe hideaway. His eyes rested on a newer version of a lava lamp, with a miniature hourglass turning inside, and he smiled. "All the comforts."

"This is where you can stay for now. That is, if you want."

Jack only nodded mutely, looking a bit shocked. Daniel wasn't sure what this Jack thought about the changes in him. He guessed that the man wasn't happy about it, but he couldn't really tell. This Jack had facial expressions he'd never seen and it made him harder to read.

"Do you want to stay?"

"For how long?"

"Up to you." Daniel fidgeted, then asked, "Jack, I need an answer. Why me?"

"Just didn't believe you could..." Jack said, running a hand through his hair. He paused as he spotted an open door and what was obviously a bathroom beyond. He moved to it, then turned around and smiled. "Thought of everything, haven't you?"

Jack was still very good at deflecting. "Answer the question, Jack."

"Because I knew I could trust you."

The words were out of Daniel's mouth before he could stop them. "That's an interesting concept, coming from you." His mouth dropped open and he turned away, angry at himself. "Sorry."

"Issues much?" Jack said, and the amused tone made Daniel turn around.

Daniel shook his head as the surrealism of this morning continued to increase. It was so very damn odd to see Jack this young. About 23 years old or so. Had he really looked like that once upon a time? So damn... "Issues," Daniel said, avoiding that last thought. "Yeah, you could say that. But coming to me on an old sense of trust isn't a sound tactical move. Not from you. So again, why'd you come to me?"

Daniel nearly jumped when Jack suddenly placed his hands on his arms. He was aware of sweat and body odor--Jack needed a shower, obviously. He wasn't sour, just musky, and god, if it weren't the most arousing thing he'd ever smelled.

"Because I missed you," Jack said, the expression telling Daniel that he expected a rebuff. Which was almost exactly what he got.

Daniel took a step back, then another, creating distance. It was habit; something Colonel O'Neill had instilled in him a long time ago. "Missed me?" The look on Jack's face let him know that he wasn't at all happy about what Daniel was doing.

"Yeah, I missed you. You don't look too happy about that, either."

"No, it's okay, it's just..."

"What, I can't miss you?"

"I never said that. It's just not something I expected you to say," and Daniel took a deep breath. "So, what've you been doing since getting set up as an emancipated minor?" It was lame, but the only thing he could think of to change the subject.

"You asked, Daniel," Jack told him, not letting the subject change quite yet. Neither one was very comfortable for the moment. Daniel also saw dozens of questions behind Jack's eyes. He'd answer them when the time came.

Daniel nodded, his jaw grinding. "Yeah, be careful what you ask for, right? So... you really didn't go to High School, did you?" He watched Jack's expression alter, knowing he was giving in. For the moment.

"Not exactly."

"What's that mean?"

"I went back to take tests and it was only for a few weeks. The rest was a ruse."

"Thank god," Daniel sighed, immensely relieved. "Whose ruse, yours or his?"

"Mine. He came up with the idiotic notion of actually going back to high school, boning those teenaged girls. I'm still trying to figure out if it wasn't some sort of sick joke on his part. But I pretended to go along just as I knew he wanted me to."

Daniel's mouth slowly fell open. "Huh." He couldn't stop the continued looks of relief and Jack scowled at him.

"Don't tell me you believed that high school shit?"

"The Colonel wasn't exactly acting like a rational adult where you were concerned. No one else was, either, as a matter of fact."

"You were."

Daniel sighed again. "I'm better at handling the weird shit." Jack snorted. "But honestly, I thought that his suggestion that you go back to High School meant that he'd finally snapped, and since you didn't disagree, that you weren't all that different." Jack's eyes widened and Daniel looked back at him defensively. "Well? You went along with it. How was I to know you were lying? You're pretty damn good at it."

Jack shrugged, and when he caught Daniel staring, his scowl deepened. "What?"

"So different and so much alike."

"There might have a been a compliment in there somewhere."

"Jack, sorry, but you have some of the same mannerisms."

"Such as?"

Jack was teasing him, like he used to do a long time ago. And a long time ago, Daniel fell for it. He wasn't about to answer him this time but it was nice to know the teasing was back. "Never mind. So you went out and got jobs, I assume. What kind? Anything that came your way?"

"At first, the ones only a 16-year old could get. I wanted to go back to college so I headed out west, got jobs in San Francisco, then Seattle, to pay for the education."

"What'd you study?"

"Odds and ends, mostly business courses. Had a lot of new shit to catch up on, new directions to take. Then I started planning."

Daniel's brows rose, trying to forget how relieved he was. "For what?"

"To start my own business."

Daniel smiled at that. Jack could work for others but he did seem the type to be the boss. "Doing what?"

"Buy a boat, start a charter business or something."

Daniel's mouth quirked. "Sounds nice."

Jack gave him that grin again. "It was. Pacific ocean's as good as any to start." His face became more serious then. "I was on the move again, heading for San Diego, when those assholes grabbed me. Fuckers cleaned out my account and stole my money, trying to get rid of my ability to run."

Daniel ground his jaw. "I could--"

"No, no hand-outs."

Rolling his eyes, he sighed. "For once, try to put that goddamned idiotic honor of yours in a lockbox. It's not a hand-out. I'm your friend. A concept you must get since you're here."

Jack looked a little sheepish and Daniel was glad for it. It meant that his stubbornness hadn't toughened to stupidity. "Hard habit to break, Daniel."

"So break it. And consider anything I give you a loan, if it makes you feel better. I'll even add a tax on it if you want."

Jack gave him the same smirk Daniel had used before. "My own loan shark. Fine, a loan. Just promise not to feed me to the fishes if I don't pay you back in a month's time."

Daniel snorted with laughter. "Feed you to the fishes? Jeez, Jack." He waved a hand at the basement. "I'm not talking about staying here, you know. I'm talking about a loan after you leave here. You'll need a reserve so you won't have to worry too soon."

"Daniel, you can't, that'd be a big damn loan. You couldn't possibly--"

"I have the money, trust me. I've never had anything or anyone to spend it on, so just humor me and take it."

"What about retirement?"

"OPM will take care of that. But funny you should mention that."

When he didn't explain that cryptic statement, Jack walked closer to him. "Daniel?"

"I'm, um, getting ready to do just that actually."

"You're only forty-five."

"From the SGC, Jack, not from working life. I've some archaeology digs I'd like to handle and I'd like to get back to teaching. Your little visit is good timing because in two weeks, you'd have found an empty house." Jack looked a bit panicked but Daniel said nothing about it. "So, basically, you can stay here for two weeks."

"I thought you liked the 'finding new worlds' thing? Why leave that?"

"Because of the political agenda. I'm sick of artifacts being dismissed over the weapons gathering and I'm sick of beating my head against a rock."

"Where's Hammond?"

"Retired. That's when O'Neill was put in charge. At first it was fine, but then the President and the Pentagon were pressured into getting a civilian oversight for the SGC and ever since, we've had watchdogs who get a say in what we do. They're interested only in new technologies and defenses for Earth. They couldn't give a shit about regular old understanding, much less boring scientific advancement."

Jack cursed colorfully.

"Yeah," Daniel agreed. "Maybe the pressure was too much, I don't know. But he's seriously changed."

"That much?" Jack asked with even more alarm and Daniel could see his mind working out the angles.

"That much. Maybe time wore him down. The only one who supported him without question was Sam."

"Goddamn it," Jack said suddenly, his expression darkening.

"She just, well, she just... made it easier for him, I guess. Ear to chew off, as they say."

"It's more than that, Daniel, and you know it." Daniel started to turn away but Jack's hand was on his arm. "C'mon, let's sit."

With a sigh, he joined Jack on the sofa. "It wasn't that difficult for her," Daniel told him quietly. And it hadn't been. "She made her choice, so did he. The only problem I found in it was that they used to be people I knew. Then they stopped." He paused and changed the subject slightly. "Teal'c's gone."

Jack's eyes widened and Daniel immediately looked apologetic. "No, no, no, no, I'm sorry. I don't mean dead but he's no longer part of the SGC. He and Bra'tac are managing the newly created Jaffa Alliance."

"No shit?"

"No shit."

"Good for him."

"The only damn good thing that's happened. I miss him, but I'm glad he's not there to see the changes. Hanging around Sam and the General was wearing on him. He'd have left sooner or later because he wasn't doing what he wanted to do. So three years ago, he left--ostensibly because Bra'tac asked, but mostly I think because the General was just a bit too controlling. Anyway, I periodically got messages from him, and I used to go visit him, see how things are and if I could help any."

"Used to?"

"Teal'c used to send the General updates and personal messages, but when the General flat out refused to let me go visit, Teal'c stopped speaking to him. And in not speaking to him--"

"He cut you off, too."

"Yeah, pretty much. It's another reason I don't like the man the General's become." Daniel winced. "And probably why I wasn't so thrilled to see you. Until I saw your face, I was fully prepared to crack open your skull."

"I noticed that," Jack said softly.

"Except for Teal'c and Janet, who's moved to D.C. with Cassie, everyone's either gone or changed."

Jack stared at him for a long minute before saying, "Except for you and me."

Daniel narrowed his eyes. "I've changed."

"Yeah, but listening to you, I'd say not that much."

"I'm harder. Less idealistic."

"Goes with the territory, Daniel."

Daniel nodded. "Happens when you get it stripped from you, made me see how you got to be so cynical. It's another reason to leave. I can't turn into a sour old bigot like the General."

"Bigot?"

"Russians?"

Jack cringed. "Sorry, Danny. Long ago mission didn't leave me carrying any favors."

For a moment, Daniel was sidetracked by the nickname, but forced himself to file it away for later. He had a feeling there would be a lot of 'laters'.

"I get having issues, Jack. I don't get the rude, insulting behavior. After a while, he did try, because we got some Russian units. Hell, they even have their own ship now."

"Ship?" Jack asked, eyes wide.

Daniel twisted his mouth, partly out of humor. "Um, yeah, I think you knew that was coming sooner or later so don't act too surprised."

"I'm not, not about that. I'm just surprised the Pentagon let them have it."

"We have their gate."

Jack twisted his mouth this time. "True."

"Anyway, point is, the General pretty much gave in to his prejudices as easily as he gave in to Sam."

Jack scowled. "Is that out in the open?"

"Yeah," Daniel said, jogging his brows.

"How? They can't ignore the regs that much, even for a General."

"Sam was transferred to the Prometheus after General O'Neill took command from Hammond."

"Right," Jack said sarcastically. "Separate commands is a perfect excuse to fraternize."

"Right," Daniel said, wishing he'd poured himself something to drink.

"It shouldn't have been her, Daniel," Jack said softly, looking down at the hands in his lap.

"You... um, they've apparently had this thing for quite a while so--"

"No, I mean, he's settling. He settled for her."

"What do you mean?" Daniel asked, frowning.

Jack took a deep breath and without looking at him, said, "Because he couldn't have you."

Daniel's eyes grew wide as he turned so fast he nearly slid off the cushion. "What?" he gasped, mouth hanging open like a broken hinge. He couldn't have heard the man right. Couldn't have.

Jack glanced at him, but looked back down at his hands. "Before I was, well, how I am now, I tried to ignore the chemistry we had, even when we were fighting. It's probably why I got so nasty sometimes. I took my frustration out on you and I shouldn't have. I'm sorry, Daniel. Anyway, point is, I liked what we had, that half-flirting thing." Daniel shot him a frozen-deer look and Jack threw him an angry frown. "Don't you dare deny it, Daniel, or I swear I'll knock you on your ass for lyin' to my face."

Daniel shut his mouth and ground his back teeth together. For once, he had no words.

"We had this thing," Jack went on, gesturing between them as he turned to face him. "This flirty thing, with a lot of friendship in their to hide it under. My feelings haven't changed, Daniel, and the truth is, it wasn't just trust that had me coming to you. I came to you because I missed you and I knew you'd help me."

"But we... we weren't..." Daniel started to say, but embarrassment stopped him. How could Jack bring that up? It had been an unspoken, silent condition. They knew but they didn't openly acknowledge. A look in the eyes was all that had been needed. "I... don't see how you could still..."

"Long before Loki messed with me--with him, actually--I was already feeling something more than just innocent flirting. Remember how weird I got after your appendicitis?"

"You mean, how you started avoiding me during my recovery, then just up and asked me to go fishing? Yeah, I remember. Then you disappeared for almost two weeks and..." Daniel narrowed his eyes. "And when you came back, you were different. And so was Sam."

"I got scared, wouldn't admit it, and I used Carter to transfer the feelings. Gay is not a word that means something nice in my education."

Daniel's lips thinned as memories surfaced. "That much I already knew."

"It's not like I haven't had the practice, but after Iraq, I focused on family. After that... well, Carter was the obvious target of redirection. I never would have done anything, but then you died. It became so much easier to forget how I felt. I am good at dismissing my own feelings."

Daniel wanted to be more open with him, to touch him, but he couldn't risk the rapport they were building. It was new, with this Jack. "I, uh, feel a little like a Twilight Zone episode." Jack laughed softly in agreement and Daniel scrubbed his face in his hands, leaning his elbows on his knees. "I have no idea how I'm going to be able to look at him over the next two weeks without thinking--"

Jack took hold of Daniel's shoulder and pushed to make him face him again. "Don't go there. It's not him anymore. He's seriously repressed his feelings. I know. He won't know what you're talking about if you confront him so save yourself the headache."

"I wasn't planning on confronting him. It's just the knowing, that's all. Makes me sad that he's closeted himself so well."

"Years of training are hard to overcome," Jack said softly, taking Daniel's hands in his. "And I want to say I'm sorry for being a big horse's ass."

Daniel frowned, confused. "No need, Jack. But it begs the question. Why aren't you just as repressed?"

"I've had seven years to reevaluate the choices I'd made before and to have the balls to do what I've always wanted to do."

Daniel smiled. "Is reevaluate a word in the Jack O'Neill vocabulary?"

"No," Jack rebutted with a smirk, "it's in my vocabulary. And since I'm twenty-three, I'm allowed to have a whole new lexicon."

Daniel laughed suddenly and though he was very nervous, he found the laughter amazingly easy to share with this Jack. But just as suddenly as the laughter had started, it faded as he held Jack's gaze. There was something else there that he'd never seen before. Desire. It was damn odd to find that look on any Jack's face.

"What's wrong?" Jack asked.

"Nothing, exactly. It's just that the look on your face isn't what I'm used to seeing. It's caught me off guard."

Jack sighed heavily. "I could kill him for making you so distrustful of this face."

"It's his face I don't trust, not yours," Daniel replied, then grinned sarcastically. "If you want to kill him, he still lives in that rambler. With Sam."

Jack made a face. "I could blow it up."

"Jack." Then came a shiver down Daniel's back. This all sounded so... normal. And it wasn't.

"So how's everyone else, at least?" Jack went on, looking as if he felt it, too.

"Okay, I guess."

"Jacob? How's he doing?" Daniel's smile faded abruptly. He didn't need to say it and Jack didn't need to ask but... "When and how?"

"Four years ago. Firefight with a new enemy; some pulse energy weapon that goes right through stone. He was caught with other Tok'ra behind a wall of ruins."

"Ruins? You were still checking out ruins?"

Daniel ground his jaw and nodded. "Only because were there to retrieve some potentially valuable information off some obelisk."

Jack flopped back against the couch, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Let me guess. The info didn't pan out so he blamed you for Jacob?"

"After all was said and done, yeah, pretty much."

"Fucking no good sonofa--"

"Jack, it's done, just leave it." Daniel tried not to smile at Jack's protectiveness but it felt so damn good to be defended. For once.

Jack kept his eyes closed. "I'm sorry, Daniel."

"You're not him."

"I was."

"Not anymore. The difference between you two, other than age, is obvious. The least being that he never would have come to me if he were in trouble."

Jack opened his eyes briefly to look at him and then turned his face away. "I am still a sonofabitch, Daniel."

"Maybe, but so am I," Daniel offered kindly. "Doesn't mean that we're that way all the time."

Jack gave a nod of agreement as his lips twitched with amusement. "Are we that fucked up that calling each other a sonofabitch is a kind of a compliment?"

"I'd prefer to call it 'dysfunctional' but that's just me."

"Daniel."

Daniel tried not to smile and failed. "Yes, Jack, you're right, a compliment, because we've always been seriously fucked up."

"Daniel, language," Jack grinned.

"You using sonofabitch isn't language but my usage is?"

"It's expected, coming from me," Jack grinned.

Daniel rubbed his forehead. "You never fail to give me a headache," he said, then paused. "That too was a fucked up compliment." He pinched the bridge of his nose and sat back, closing his eyes as he relaxed into the couch. "Don't let it go to your head."

"I won't."

There was an eerie silence then. Comfortable, Daniel thought, and in thinking that, he started to become uncomfortable in trying to figure out why.

"You're thinking too hard."

"I'm just tired," Daniel quickly covered--although it was also the truth. "I need to get some sleep and so do you." He pushed off the couch and walked toward the stairs. "You should find whatever you need down here. The code to leave and enter is Teal'c's name, numerically, plus..."

"Plus?"

"Shau're's."

Jack gave him a soft grin. "S-h-a-u apostrophe r-e?"

"Yeah."

Jack rose and walked over, laying a hand on Daniel's shoulder. A very old touch that had been achingly missed. "Thanks."

Daniel only allowed himself to nod, unable to trust what he'd say as desire battled with exhaustion. "See you in about six hours or so."

"No work today?"

"I go in late or every other day. I won't be missed anyway. I have things covered."

"Already?"

"I handed my resignation in two weeks ago."

"What was his reaction?" Jack asked and Daniel could see he was concerned.

"He appeared to have cared less. Acted as if it would be a huge bother to replace me, but I made it clear that I had that covered. He hasn't spoken much to me since."

"Asshole. Still, it seems odd you can just take the day off."

"I'm only showing up to get the new guy situated, Jack. I don't even need to be there. But if you remember, I never do things half-assed or unfinished."

"Yeah, I remember."

"Get some sleep, Jack," Daniel said as he climbed the stairs and opened the door. "You really do need it."

"So do you. Sorry for--"

Daniel turned and pointed a finger at him. "Not another apology. Ever." He hesitated, then gave Jack a long look. "Truth is, you've given me a good reason to get up in the morning. I haven't had that in a while."

"Me, either."

"'Night, Jack."

"'Night, Daniel."


Daniel smelled coffee and cracked his eyes open. He smiled, thinking, Wasn't that nice? Jack made coffee. Except the next thought--when reality crashed in--had him sitting up in bed and swinging his feet to the floor. Running a hand through his hair, he grabbed the tall mug and drank, groaning both at the delicious taste and the fact that Jack remembered how he liked it. He got up and made it to the bathroom, taking his coffee with him, and quickly locked the door before Jack got any notions in his head.

Not that he'd shown any inclination or anything, but Daniel remembered the desire in his eyes, the things he'd said, and this Jack was even more unpredictable than the older one, something that Daniel actually found he liked. And while the thought of Jack coming into the bathroom while he showered had its appeal, Daniel wanted to be wide awake just in case anything happened.

. . .

After his shower, Daniel pulled on a pair of old jeans and made his way down the hall with damp hair and an empty coffee mug. "Thanks for the coffee," he called out before reaching his destination. "Is there any left?"

"Yeah," came Jack's reply and Daniel grinned as he turned the corner and entered the kitchen. He paused, taking in the sight of this very young Jack at his stove.

As if he belonged there and always had.

Looking away, Daniel went to the coffee pot behind him and refilled his mug, adjusting it with milk and sugar. "So, what're we having?" he asked, even though he could smell the sausage and eggs.

"You still like 'em scrambled?" Jack asked.

"Yeah," Daniel drawled.

"And do you still mix them up on your plate with sausage or bacon?"

"Yeah," Daniel drawled again, grinning over his mug as he walked over, finding that Jack had added the small patties to the eggs and had it off the heat. "Smells good."

He couldn't meet Jack's eyes for too long, even as they ate and talked. He was always horny in morning and because of Jack's presence, he'd gone without this morning. As a result, he was feeling twice as edgy but at least his cock had had the good sense to stay below decks.

They sat on the couch after breakfast, continuing to talk about things serious and trivial; old memories that were good, plus some new memories of Jack's that Daniel found himself captivated by. He tried to relax but he found that he couldn't. When he shifted forward to the edge of the cushions, arms resting on his knees, Jack moved his hand to Daniel's lower back.

"About that flirting thing?" Jack said, half-asking.

His touch was warm against his skin, sending tingles everywhere, and it made Daniel feel twitchier than he already was. He swallowed, wishing he'd put on a shirt, and silently ordered himself to move away. He didn't. "What about it?" he asked.

"You never once denied your half of it," Jack said softly.

A flush surfaced abruptly. "I'd be lying if I did."

Jack only nodded in reply.

"So..." Daniel began, trying to think of something else to talk about.

"So..." Jack said, his hand caressing that one spot at the small of his back. "Not repressing."

Daniel cleared his throat. "Um, no. Just keeping it to myself. Out of necessity."

Jack's hand moved over to his side and tugged a little, sending up a little flare of panic. Daniel turned to face him, scooting back out of Jack's touch. "Jack..."

"Daniel?"

"You're..." He closed his eyes. "God, this is... you're twenty-three."

"And? But? So? Therefore?" Jack asked, laughing, and Daniel opened his eyes, startled again.

"Hello? Half my age?" Daniel said, even as he wanted that hand back, and wanted that mouth. God, he wanted that mouth.

"All that means is that my knees are fine," Jack said, leaning toward him, making Daniel lean back, hands clutching at the couch cushions in a vain effort to keep himself pushed back but upright.

He didn't respond to Jack's comment. What could he say? Then Jack placed one hand on the inside of his knee and pulled his leg up onto the sofa... and did it so that his body would be between Daniel's legs. Panic flared. Daniel wanted him and Jack wanted him right back. But it was fucking weird as hell, this very young man with Jack's face. He pushed back, using his heel on the sofa, but in a move only the Goddess of Irony and Nice Timing would have fully appreciated, it slipped out from under him and he lost his leverage.

Daniel found himself on his back and Jack hovering over him, staring down with a quiet intensity that he'd only ever dreamed of when his hand was on his dick. And he hadn't had that particular fantasy for a very long time.

"Being twenty-three also means more stamina," Jack said, lowering himself down, lips coming dangerously close and...

Daniel slithered out from under him, falling to the floor and not caring. He couldn't risk it. He couldn't. They'd have to keep this platonic... whatever it was. There was too much history, too much snark, too much potential hurt.

He began to backcrawl away from Jack, who was stalking after him on his hands and knees and fuck, that was sexy and seductive as hell. He wondered, briefly, how anyone could stalk on their hands and knees, then corrected himself and figured that if anyone could, it'd be Jack, whatever the age.

Daniel hit something with his left shoulder and figured it was the edge of the padded stool. He would've looked but it wasn't really important. He veered away, moving in a direction that he figured would give him more space and the ability to get to his feet...

And just why wasn't he already up? He had the room, dammit. His lizard brain trapped him: Because he liked this. He wanted Jack to keep stalking him on his hands and knees; wanted Jack to catch him. Kiss him. Fuck him.

The thought made Daniel's hands weak with tingles and he slipped, dropping onto his elbows, which gave Jack the prime opportunity to reach him... and Jesusgod, was this happening? It couldn't be. He couldn't let it. Jack was half his age and... Daniel let out a nervous laugh because didn't that sound fucking stupid and weird and he really was in the Twilight Zone.

He would have laughed outright if Jack hadn't had a hold of his ankles now. Daniel's eyes went round and just the feel of those hands got him harder than he'd ever gotten in his entire life. What did that say about him anyway? The question was pushed aside when Jack yanked, pulling himself forward and Daniel's legs behind him as he gracefully moved over him.

Daniel found himself on his back, hands pressed flat into the carpet, Jack's hands beside his head, elbows locked, eyes dark and intent with mischief as he looked down at him.

God.

"Gotcha."

"Jack, think about this. It isn't a good idea--"

"Your eyes and erection tell me otherwise."

Daniel closed his eyes and didn't respond; he heard his own excited breathing, felt the strain of his cock barely hidden under his jeans. Then Jack was lying down on top of him and Daniel opened his eyes wide. His breath hitched and he could feel the pre-come forming. "Jack," he said, meaning it to sound sharp and angry only that's not what it sounded like. What the fuck was wrong with him?

"Daniel?"

He didn't know what the hell to say. He was reduced to Jack's age, or lower, and the desire inside him was climbing.

"You can't."

Oh, that was a brilliant argument.

"Seriously, I can. Fourteen years, Daniel. That's enough bizarre foreplay, don't you think?"

Yeah, he agreed silently it was. It was just as annoying to hear Jack say it. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Shut up."

"Done," Jack said, and captured his mouth in a long, passionate kiss that Daniel couldn't have fought. Correction, wouldn't have fought. Jack tasted good. His hands felt good, traveling down his sides, caressing nothing exactly erogenous but Daniel suddenly found the sides of his hips were getting with that particular program.

Still, his own fingers dug into the carpet, refusing to touch...

Until Jack ground his hips into him and a flare of pleasure warmed his entire body down to his toes.

"Touch me," Jack whispered, kissing and biting at his lips. "You want to. Give in."

Jesus. Daniel was melting and how goddamned cliched was that? Jack kissed him again, harder, and Daniel wondered why Jack made him think from his reptilian brain? The thought itself made him laugh through the kiss, forcing Jack to break off and look down at him.

"Getting with the program or laughing at something entirely unrelated? Because if it's the latter, Daniel, I'm so doing this wrong."

Daniel didn't answer; he just stared up at him, cheeks flushed mostly with desire and just a little apprehension. He looked into that handsome face and tousled, spiky brown hair; at the sheen of sweat that covered the muscles--muscles that strained and flexed underneath the grey tank top.

There was something wrong and when Daniel realized it was the absence of dog tags, he decided that there was nothing wrong after all. Jack's neck stood out more. So did his collarbones. Daniel's mouth watered a little at the thought of tasting the skin there; hell, everywhere.

Jack lowered again and kissed him softly, biting at his lower lip, licking across lightly before taking his mouth again in a way that removed any remaining restraint. Daniel gave in. He grabbed Jack by the hair, fingers tightening as he kissed him back deeply. He wrapped his legs around him and turned them over, resting on top of him, waiting to see what Jack would do. What he did was grab his ass and hold him as he thrust up in a hard grind.

The feeling was electric and Daniel needed more. Needed to feel skin. The feel of Jack's shirt wasn't enough and he had to feel that cock, wrap his fingers around it. Had to see the look on his face when he stroked him. Pushing up, Daniel opened his jeans, breathing hard as he stared down into Jack's face and stood up. He quickly stepped out of them, moving backwards. "Bedroom. Coming?"

Jack looked up at him with the most feral, seductive look he'd ever seen. "As many times as I can," he answered and left his clothes on the floor as he followed Daniel into the bedroom and onto the bed. "Where's the lube?"

"Under the pillow," Daniel answered, making Jack grin. He could tell Jack wanted to ask. "Solos only."

"Not any more," Jack whispered and sought out his throat, biting and sucking as he made his way down his body.

Daniel bucked when Jack's tongue played in his sensitive navel, hands teasing his inner thighs. "Thought you wanted the lube," Daniel said as he sucked in a breath.

"Just wanted to make sure it was at hand," Jack replied before he licked at the head of his cock before sucking it into his mouth.

Daniel matched the groan Jack made and threaded his fingers through his hair, his eyes heavy-lidded with pleasure. "Taste so good," Jack whispered, moving down his shaft to suck his balls into his mouth. Daniel bent his knees and thrust, moaning with want as Jack moved lower. It only occurred to him then what was going to happen. Was Jack readying him or just pleasing him?

"I want to fuck you," he told the man whose tongue artfully played at his hole.

"Yes," was all Jack said before he swiftly moved back up his body, biting Daniel in several tender places, all designed to wind him up. Except Daniel didn't need it.

Putting Jack on his back, Daniel moved down, biting and sucking harder than Jack had, making him writhe with frustration by the time he swallowed his cock. Humming around his cock, he felt Jack's body tense and moved away, tongue making a wet trail to his hole. "You taste better than I imagined," he said before he turned Jack onto his stomach and dove his tongue inside.

Daniel smiled when he looked up to find Jack thrashing his arms about, grabbing at the headboard hard enough to shake it. He made a promise to himself that Jack would shake that damn headboard loose by the time he was finished with him.

"Lube," he whispered, laughing softly when Jack fumbled blindly about for the tube under his head.

"You think this is funny, don't you?" Jack asked, pushing up on his elbows after tossing Daniel the tube.

"Watching you lose yourself?" Daniel asked as the cap was flipped open. "No, Jack. You just look hot as hell and I'm smug as hell that I did that." His fingers lubed, he paused as Jack grinned evilly back at him. "Something?" he asked.

"You'll get yours."

"I look forward to it. But right now..." and after turning Jack onto his back again, he pushed a forefinger slowly inside, making Jack fall back, hands clutching fistfuls of pillow. "That's it, open for me," Daniel told him, amazed at how hot and tight he was. When he crooked his finger, pressing up, Jack inhaled sharply and bucked several times. By the time Daniel had three fingers inside him, he was begging. He looked so beautiful, Daniel thought; body shining with sweat and need, the hairs on his chest damp and stuck against the skin.

Moving up over him, his slick cock in hand, he watched Jack raise his legs and locked his eyes with his when he pushed in. Time seemed to stop for a moment like some old cliche. Daniel could swear it was true; all he could see was Jack's dark eyes and feel the heat around him as he moved inside.

A drop of sweat rolled off Jack's brow and it was the sexiest fucking thing, making Daniel thrust in response. Jack sucked in a breath and dropped his head back. More drops ran down his throat and Daniel licked, thrusting slowly as his tongue took up the salty taste of Jack's excited body.

"Jack," he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut as his balls tightened. "God, no, too soon," he said, just as Jack grabbed his ass and... pushed him off.

Daniel knew what he wanted and when Jack turned over, he slid back inside, filling him deep. Grabbing his shoulders, Daniel watched with catching breath as Jack grabbed the headboard, hissing, "Hard and fast, Daniel."

"Eventually," Daniel choked, thrusting slow, knowing it was too intense to last long no matter what he did. Angling, he rubbed Jack's gland and bit down over his shoulder and neck, muffling, "Jack," against his skin. When Jack made the most wonderful growling noise in response, Daniel sucked his shoulder hard as he slammed his hips into him--again and again.

"Shit!" Jack shouted, his head falling forward, eyes closed, mouth open. "Shit yes!"

Daniel moaned loudly over Jack's skin, unable to drag his mouth away to shout and yell when Jack tightened around his cock. Instead, Jack did it for them both, cursing and yelling the hottest, silliest things as he came. Daniel came a minute later, urged on by Jack's now-filthy suggestions, the pleasure blinding him to everything.

"Fuck, fuck," Jack whispered, grabbing Daniel's hands from his shoulders as he let go of the headboard and slumped down.

Hands trapped underneath his... lover's body, and the sound of it in his head made Daniel forget all about the blood flow being cut off. He smiled against Jack's neck, watching his cheek, waiting for Jack to smile back. He did.

"So, ten minutes and we go again, right?" Jack asked.

Daniel closed his eyes and put up with the teasing. What else could he do? "This is so not fair."

Jack sniggered. "Maybe we could find Thor and have him go through Loki's notes."

Daniel shook his head. "You're funny. And would you really want that?"

Jack turned over, wrapped his arms around Daniel, and grazed his teeth across his throat. "I like what I have just fine."

Daniel's lips twitched. "And later?"

Jack frowned at him. "Hey, you're supposed to say the same thing."

"I am?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

There was silence and Jack began glowering at him until Daniel started to snicker. "I may be easy, Jack, but so are you. Yes, I like what I have. I could go further than that but there's no need to inflate your ego more than necessary."

Jack bit his lips to hold back a smirk. "We'll just wait till later then."



Epilogue

"I've been thinking," Daniel said sleepily.

"Go to sleep," Jack mumbled.

Pushing up on his elbows, Daniel stared at Jack. Sated, mussed, and sexy as fuck. He could feel himself getting hard again.

"About a partnership instead of a loan."

That got Jack's eyes open. He stared at Daniel for a few silent minutes. "What the hell would you want to partner up with me for?"

Daniel felt the sharp words and suddenly felt Older Jack in the room instead of this one. Rolling away, he sat up. "Right. Never mind, forget I said anything." He looked around the room for his clothes, but the minute he felt Jack's hand on his arm, he leaned into it.

"Daniel, I'm sorry. It's habit," Jack said, the tone sincere.

"You're gonna have to work on that you know, or we won't last a year."

Jack sighed and pulled Daniel back into bed, snuggling behind him. "I snapped because... this scares me."

"This?"

"You."

Frowning, Daniel turned within his arms. That wasn't something Jack would say. Ever. "Who are you and where'd Jack go?"

"Daniel..."

"I scare you?"

"Partnership implies commitment, which is, to me, a marriage," Jack said carefully.

Daniel closed his eyes and took a breath. "Shit. Sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"Yes, you were. And I'm the one who's sorry. I look at the more immediate. You're the one who looks at the future as well as the past."

"Bullshit. You've been saving money for what reason?" He smiled when Jack looked embarrassed. "Ah huh. Sell it to someone who buys it. That's not you anymore."

"It still is, just not all there is." Jack's mouth was on his nipple and Daniel inhaled.

"Jack..."

"What?" Jack asked as his fingers reached down to play at Daniel's hole and perineum.

Daniel closed his eyes. "Never mind."

"I honestly like the idea, Daniel," Jack murmured over his skin. "Partnership. Just give me time and we'll work out the details later. Right now, I'm working on making you and I come together. How's that sound?"

"Fuck," Daniel gasped as a finger slid inside him and he wondered how Jack had found the lube so quick, since he didn't remember retrieving it from the floor. A few minutes later, Jack's cock replaced his finger and as he was fucked hard, Daniel mumbled around the spikes of pleasure--about sex 24/7, partnerships, and how loving someone half his age might be a good thing.

"A very good thing," Jack said with a smug, pleased look as he fucked Daniel into the mattress. "I am, after all, the real Jack O'Neill."

"God, yes you are," Daniel gasped, and came with his partner, fingers entwined.

~

end?