Chrysalis 4: Together We


J/D, Explicit, 20756 words

Summary:  Daniel’s better.  Now what?  That first kiss is a lot harder to get than it should be.

Note:  Quote is from Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”.


If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you


 

Chapter One: Obstacles

Three months later …

While Daniel underwent a painful physical therapy, Jack couldn’t be there to coach and support.  He wanted to be, but that wasn’t the way the world worked.  He was leader of SG-1 and he, Carter, and Teal’c had to continue with their jobs.  Jack didn’t really mind.  He found himself looking forward to missions rather than being grumpy about all the downsides.  This was another benefit from his sessions with Doctor Carmichael.

He had been preparing himself for Daniel’s interrogation—okay, overreaction—about the things he’d learned in therapy, but to Jack’s private chagrin, his friend hadn’t even asked.  Daniel had, instead, been more interested in Jack’s current thought process.  Were they now friends again?  Was it up to Jack to determine that?  What if they were destined to stay acquaintances only?  The answer to that had been a gruff refusal to consider it and Jack had been happy to see that Daniel had instantly agreed.

“I was just putting it out there, Jack.  We have to consider all angles, no matter how difficult.”

It had been a week after the surgery and they’d been on a very soft mat in the physical therapy room.  All Daniel was supposed to do was gently move and roll.  To ease the tension-filled muscles that attached themselves to the muscles that were part of the scapula.  It was hard because the pectoral muscles were a big part of that and the damage was hideous.

The entire upper left side of Daniel’s body was one big, ugly, blue and purple bruise.  It traveled from the top three ribs to the sternum, then up across the clavicle and over the top of his arm.  It then spread over the shoulder and turned a sick yellow over the trapezius.  Every time Jack saw him without a shirt, he’d wince.

One week, Daniel’s physical therapist, Staff Sergeant James Han, had used nothing but massage and acupuncture.  Fortunately, Jack was gone for most of that.  SG-1 had gone on a few missions in just one week.  The first had been to a world where an Ancients’ device had supposedly been located but it had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption.  Still, they’d scouted the lava field to see if anything could’ve been salvaged for examination.  The second destination had led them to a planet similar to the one that held that Naquada-encrusted quantum mirror.  They’d brought back tech that they hoped would prove useful, but they had no idea what it was or what it was used for.

The third destination had landed them in the middle of a festival, which included the stargate.  To say the people had been stunned was an understatement.  They would have returned to the SGC immediately if the inhabitants hadn’t been wearing jewelry made out of trinium and naquada.  The rainbow sheen on the silver and the blue sheen on the dark metal had been the tell-tale giveaways.  And, of course, they had needed a linguist, anthropologist, and sociologist.  In other words, Daniel.

Two linguists had been tried, but none of them seemed to grasp the indigenous people’s mode of speech.  It had been highly difficult to determine.  Jack had simply given up and called Hammond to get Daniel on a video conference.  A replay of the attempt by the other linguists had Daniel grumbling under his breath.

“No, it’s not ‘hammer’, it’s ‘staff weapon’.”

“No, it’s not ‘mouth’, it’s ‘talk’.”

And finally, “General, can I—”

“No.”

Daniel had complained to James all that week until he finally remembered someone worth using on SG-1.  Doctor Valorie Barnes.  She had been stationed at Area 51.  Hammond had her transferred immediately, and Jack had nicknamed her ‘Daniel 2.0’ because she had basically been Daniel’s female version.

“She’s pretty damn good, Daniel.  You know what this means, right?”

“I’m permanently replaced?” Daniel asked as he got himself some coffee.  They had been in the mess hall and he was having lunch with his former teammates.

“Oh hell no,” Jack said, waving a hand.  “That SG-6 can have her and we can get you back.”

“It doesn’t work that way, sir,” Carter had reminded him, and Jack had given her a hard look.

“She’s right,” Daniel said.  “I’m the one who has to ask, not you.  Civilian.  He can fire me and assign me wherever he wants, but General Hammond put me with SG-6 because of a request I made.  Now I have to prove to him that you and I aren’t on the outs anymore and that it’ll stay that way.”

“Aren’t I half of that equation?” Jack asked with a bit of sarcasm.

He had most certainly been, but Daniel hadn’t wanted to discuss it in front of Sam and Teal’c and he’d avoided the subject ever since.  Jack had persevered but eventually gave up.  He’d try again later.

 

Week Twelve

 

Jack was finishing up his meeting with Hammond when he paused at the door.  “Sir, would it be possible to set a meeting with Daniel?”

“For what purpose?” Hammond asked, though he had a pretty good idea.

“To get him back on the team.”

Hammond sighed and got to his feet.  “Jack, I get it.  But it has to be Doctor Jackson’s request.  You know that.”

It was a direct replay of what Carter had told him.  At least Daniel was healing well.  The bruises were turning that weird color between green and yellow.  At least looking at them didn’t make you cringe.  Cringing, Looking, and Daniel.  Those three words did not belong together.

 

“Will you just leave it!” Daniel said, exhausted.  “I’m so done.”  He got up from the exercise mat in the infirmary’s physical therapy room and grabbed a towel from a nearby rack.

Jack set the small barbell down on the rack with the others, grinning.  “Okay, okay.  You finished the reps anyway.”

Daniel glared at him.  “Remind me again who assigned you as my physical therapist?”  He turned to his real therapist, whose name was James Han.  A civilian.  “Thanks for putting up with him, James.”

“I believe we’re done,” the man said, glancing at Jack.  “This was your last weekly visit.  Make one more appointment a month from now.  Your muscles are nearly healed.  All you have to do now are the exercises I printed out for you, which you can do on your own.  And still no heavy lifting for another month.  I’ve already given my report to Hammond.”  He paused, giving a flicker of a glance in Jack’s direction, to let Daniel know that last part had been meant for Jack’s ears.  “If you go offworld, be careful.”

Daniel nodded.  “Understood.  Thanks for your help.  And for putting up with the peanut gallery.”

“No problem.”

Daniel walked out of the room and headed for SG-1’s locker room.  Jack was on his heels.

“You know what this means, right?” Jack asked as they rode the elevator to Level 17.

“That you can stop torturing me?” Daniel asked, getting out.

“What?  Torturing you?”

“It was rhetorical, Jack,” Daniel said as he entered the locker room.  He went straight to his locker and grabbed his coat.

“You’re not taking a shower?” Jack asked, knowing damn well Daniel wasn’t.

“And have you stalk me in there, too?  No thanks.”

Jack opened his mouth to say something sarcastic but the phone rang.

“Saved by the bell,” Daniel quipped.

“O’Neill,” Jack said, answering the phone.  It was Hammond.  “Yes, sir.”  Turning to Daniel as he hung up, he said, “Gotta go see The Man.”

“Awww,” Daniel said, and left, leaving Jack behind him.

“You too, smart ass.”

Daniel turned around and blinked at him.  He looked down at his gym sweats.  “Like this?”

“Yep,” Jack said.  “Let’s go.”  He put on the serious but confused face.  This was one time where his acting would result in something good.  Hopefully.

 

By the time they got to Hammond’s office, Daniel knew something was up.  After three-plus more years of learning Jack’s behavior, messed up as it was, he could tell his moods and when he was covering them up.  Jack was in a cheerful one but trying to act worried.

It was the little giveaways that barely anyone else would have noticed.  What was the poker phrase?  Tells.  Like the way he tapped his right pinkie with his thumb:  Anticipation.  Shaking his hand as if it went to sleep:  Nervousness.  Examining inanimate objects as if they were interesting when they weren’t: covering up a need to whoop and holler for some sort of celebration.  At the moment, Jack was examining the elevator panel.

Daniel was tempted to blow this charade out of the water, but he decided to see how and where Jack was going with it.  A part of him wanted to be mad, but he just couldn’t summon the strength.  He was damn tired.  If that had been Jack’s aim, to tire him out and therefore try to soften him up, for whatever reason, it just might blow up in his face.

Daniel had a feeling that this meeting was a set-up and not by Hammond.  The last time that had been done over Hammond’s head, it had been by Frank Simmons of the NID who’d spied on Sam.  That had been the last damn time the NID had had any control over Hammond’s people.  He’d been so mad and Daniel had been glad it hadn’t been directed at him.  Of course, why would it have been?

However.  And wasn’t there always a ‘however’?  There were times when Hammond’s faith in him had been non-existent.  He shouldn’t take it personally because the man had a stressful job, but sometimes, it was the unanswered questions that stayed with him.  For example, his behavior after that damn chemical addiction on that Goa’uld planet.  The one with the light.  He’d been so out of his mind, needing to go back, and he’d snapped at Hammond, who’d snapped back.  But why hadn’t Hammond noticed that he was acting off?  Why hadn’t Jack?  Sam or Teal’c?

A sense of isolation and loneliness hit him, and Daniel had to push it away and lock it back up in the box marked, “Unresolved But Let It Go”.  It was just another example of how much farther he had to go in order to put the right things away and settle the others.  It was a double-column list of grievances that he had to decide to let go.  If Jack was truly ‘mended’, then perhaps he’d be receptive to clearing Daniel’s box of nonsense.

Unfortunately, that incident regarding his outbursts and the near suicide was one of the foundational reasons for his belief that he didn’t really matter.  He’d say, “Anyone can do my job” and he’d get instant denials, but whenever he’d acted out of character, no one blinked.  Was it because others had done the same thing and it was part and parcel for working here?  He really had to let this go for two good reasons:  One, it would fester and materialize in nasty ways, and Two, his mind had to heal along with his body.

He was at the door now, standing behind Jack and he took several steps back and to the side.  He’d damn near run into Jack during his introspection.

“Come,” Hammond said in response to the knock.

“General,” Jack greeted, then gave Daniel a look that meant ‘follow’.  It was an oft-used look.  Sometimes, Daniel wanted to pretend he didn’t understand just to see what Jack would do, but that wouldn’t fly.  Jack would know.  Had they always had that sort of understanding and communication?  No, of course not.  It had developed through experience.

Daniel sat down in a chair next to Jack, noting that it was the same chair he’d chosen a year ago, back at the beginning of this … mess.

“General, I’d like Daniel to be reinstated as a member of SG-1.”

Daniel turned to look at him, to argue, but he realized that he should have done that back in the elevator.  He’d known damn well what Jack had in mind.  He had no business getting upset, despite the inner demon telling him to pick a fight.

“Are you requesting this, Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked him pointedly.

Daniel opened his mouth, but nothing would come out.  Too many words in his head to choose from.  Jack gave him a mixed look of surprise and expectation.

“Oh shut up,” Daniel blurted at Jack.  Hammonds eyes went round.  “Sorry, Sorry,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut and grimacing.  “I’ve had a hard day, sir.  Yes, you could say it’s my request.”  He pointedly looked at Jack.  “I just hadn’t really meant to do it this soon.  I was gonna wait until I was fully healthy.”

Hammond gave Jack an annoyed look.  “Colonel?”

“I know what you’re gonna say, General, and normally, I’d agree with you, but I really, really need Daniel back on the team.”

Hammond turned thoughtful and folded his hands.  “I’m going to need a lot more than that.  From both of you.  Has the situation improved?”

Jack’s brows shot up.  “Hasn’t Doctor Carmichael talked to you?”

“Yes, she has.”  He turned his attention to Daniel.  “She said you’ve made remarkable progress.  As for the Colonel’s request, it can’t come from him.”  Back to Jack.  “You need to remember why Doctor Jackson requested reassignment.  Has the situation changed?”  He looked at them both inquisitively.  “Well?”

Daniel had to cut off this meeting.  He and Jack needed to talk and talk openly and honestly and just get it all out in the open.  As a teammate, and as Jack’s friend.  He gave Jack an apologetic half-smile.  “I’m sorry, Jack, but it’s not time yet.”

“What?” Jack said, surprised.

“We can talk about it and then take up the General’s time.”

Hammond stood up and gestured at the door.  “I’m always here, Doctor Jackson.  Next time, make sure you and Colonel O’Neill are on the same page.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I thought we were,” Jack said, frowning at Daniel.

 

The moment the elevator doors closed, Jack rounded on Daniel.  “What the hell was that?” he spat.

Daniel narrowed his eyes.  “You need to walk that back right now.”

Jack blinked, opened his mouth, shut it, and looked pensive.  He’d relapsed right then and there and the danger signal from Daniel was all it took to back down.  He’s goddamn lucky that Daniel didn’t stop the elevator and get out, ending their future together right then and there.

Jack took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry.  I just thought we were on the same page.”

Daniel shook his head.  “It’s well past time to have a long talk, Jack.  Your place or mine?”

Jack rocked back on his heels.  He’d been caught fully flat-footed.  “A talk?”

“About us.  Tonight.  Your place or mine?”

Jack stared at him, thoughts running amok.  “Mine.  I can grill something.”

“Whatever you like,” Daniel said as the doors opened on Level 18.  “I’ll see you at …”  He looked at his watch.  “Seven?  Eight?”

“Split the difference,” Jack said, frowning with confusion.  “Seven-thirty.”

 

 

Chapter Two: Smoke and Fire

 

Daniel was nervous.  He rehearsed everything he had to say while he was getting ready.  He stood naked in front of the mirror and if it weren’t for the discoloration, he’d appear perfectly normal.  This was going to be painful for both of them and either their friendship survived, or it didn’t.

It wasn’t going to be about who hurt whose feelings.  As he’d taken a long shower, he’d mulled it over in his head a thousand times and the most important questions were always, “Can I leave all that hurt behind?  Do I skip going over it with Jack?  Why the hell would I want to do that?  What is the issue?”

The answer, of course, was Daniel’s irrational, dysfunctional need to pick at emotional scars.  To rehash everything, to rip off those scabs and open those wounds, would serve no useful purpose.  Maybe once in a while they could talk about them when their relationship wasn’t on the line.  It would be cold counsel and a proper, rational examination.  So, final decision?

As he dried off, Daniel decided that, no, ripping off all those scabs was a method of attack, to inflict the pain he’d gone through.  It was long past time to leave it behind, no matter how tonight ended.  The only thing he couldn’t leave behind was Jack’s feelings for Sam.  That had to be addressed and it had to end.  Jack would have to choose.

Even with the tummy rumblings of doubt and anxiety, he still took time to figure out what to wear.  He pulled dark blue denim jeans over the boxers he had to put on because he’d forgotten to do laundry.  He put on a forest green button-down, short-sleeved shirt and frowned at the white tank underneath.  He took that off and put the shirt back on.

Daniel considered wearing his glasses but decided that if things went well, they would get in the way.  He really hated it when something went wrong in a first kiss scenario.  Like bumping his glasses off his face.  And if things went that well, a First Kiss would be an apt description since they were, he hoped, starting anew.

 

Jack was nervous.  By seven o’clock, his hands frequently went from dry to sweaty and back.  It was starting to piss him off and he had to admit that he was afraid just a bit.  They should have had the talk long before now and despite having cleared a bunch of emotional hurdles to get here, he was unsure how to start.  He had a pretty good idea of what needed saying, but it was still going to feel like pulling barbs out of your skin after falling in a cactus bush.  Or maybe jumping into one.  He had to make sure he had the first aid kit version of answers and the right things to say.  To feel.

Jack unknowingly performed the same ritual for clothing choices as Daniel.  He debated which short-sleeve shirt to wear, and whether to leave the undershirt on.  Then khaki cargos or jeans?  If he was honest, the cargo pants really needed to go in the trash heap, since he wanted to be desirable.  But no, there were the times he just wanted to be more than comfortable.  He needed to relax, but that would be impossible to night.  He chose jeans with a dark shirt and no tee.  Like Daniel.

 

Jack heard the car door shut, dropped the pot holder in the sink, and ran to the front door.  He had to get there and open it before Daniel did the formal thing and knocked.  A long while back … and it felt like ages … Daniel would knock, then open the door and call out.  During their brief time together, that greeting had been a balm.  The tension of the day would drain out of him at the sound of Daniel’s voice, calling out.  Had it ever occurred to Carter and Teal’c that whenever they’d arrived with him for a team night, Daniel had used his key?

The only time during their relationship where Daniel hadn’t opened the door after a knock had been he’d come to see him after Jack had been forced into retirement—as a scam.  That had been so damn hard, to lie to him.  The words he’d said at the end had unmoored something inside and left him floating, adrift.  It had almost split them apart, but if he was honest, that might have been the beginning of the end for them.  But now things were back on track, hopefully, and the last thing he wanted was a formal knock.  He swung the door open just as Daniel was approaching the front stoop and relief colored his cheeks.

“Hey,” he panted, hating that he sounded like he’d run to the door.  Because he had.  Of course, being nervous added extra air to talking even though he was in fairly good shape and a dash at the door shouldn’t have …  Jack blinked as he caught himself wool-gathering.

“Hey,” Daniel said, staring at him.  Jack was in faded jeans and a brick red shirt and for some stupid reason, the scar on his shoulder hurt.  It had to be the adrenaline.  And Jack looking edible.  It was fair.  And he was nervous.  He held out a paper sack and Jack took it with an upraised brow.  “JD,” Daniel clarified.  Jack cracked that crooked grin of his and it sent a wave of warmth through Daniel’s body.  It settled somewhere below his navel.  He ordered himself to stop it.  That sort of thing was not going to help.

“Come in and make yourself at home,” Jack said out of habit.  “Soda water or coke?” he asked, raising the bottle as Daniel hung up his coat.

“Soda and ice.”

He followed Jack into the kitchen, unwilling to sit in the living room by himself and shout back and forth.  They used to do that.  He’d be on the couch, studying the chessboard while a football game played in the background and Jack would be finishing dinner.  Then they’d eat, play chess, talk, and then go to bed.  Sex had almost always followed and at the beginning, when they’d been learning what the other liked, there had been that air of awkwardness.  He felt it again now, only it came with hindsight.

“Can I help with anything?” he asked, stopping at the dining table.  It had two place settings.  There was a Village Candle pillar burning in the center.  Balsam Fir.  It smelled like Christmas.  Jack had been watching him, a curious grin on his face.  When Daniel looked up, he cocked that grin again.  The crooked one.  Daniel felt the back of his thighs tingle.  Sense memory.

“I wasn’t in the mood to cook,” Jack said, spinning a pot holder by its loop.  He opened the oven with a flourish of his free hand.  On a cookie were several containers of Chinese food.  Daniel blinked and his stomach growled.  Jack grinned.

“You didn’t.”

“I did.”

“All of them?”

“Ginger, Orange, Mongolian, and Sweet and Sour.  Plus the usual rice, chow mein, and crispy noodles.”

“From that place that—”

“Yep.”

“Awesome,” Daniel said, and helped Jack set silicone pads on the table for the cartons to sit on.  Large spoons followed, then iced water.  “Hey, did you—”

“Fridge,” Jack said.  Daniel opened it to grab the soy sauce.  He grinned and pulled out his chair.  Jack cleared his throat and said, “Here.”  He held out a long, narrow grey cloth with a string closure.

Daniel stared at it, dumbfounded.  He looked into Jack’s eyes and saw emotion there.  “You kept them?”

“They’re yours.  You know I don’t like using them.”

Daniel pulled the end of the bag open and tipped out a pair of chopsticks.  They were made of bamboo with a black lacquer and red Chinese characters that meant “Year of the Dragon.”  Daniel had gotten them in 1988, visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown.  He’d been there for his birthday.  They had great sentimental value and he’d forgotten all about them.

Jack moved around Daniel to sit down.  He got a good whiff of whatever body wash Daniel had used.  He smelled good.  Hell, he looked good.  Better, especially wearing jeans, although he looked a shade too thin.  It was odd, but it felt as if Jack hadn’t seen Daniel in several hours and not the two and a half that had gone by.  In the background, he had the stereo on low, playing soft classical.  It would serve any setting.  He only hoped that days, weeks, months, and years later, the music would have a fond memory attached to it.

“Daniel?”

Jack calling his name snapped him out of his shock and he sat down.  “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Daniel nearly inhaled one container of orange chicken and it sent an air of familiarity into the room.  Jack took a deep breath while he ate from his own carton of chow mein, sprinkled with crispy noodles.  He watched as Daniel expertly used the chopsticks and felt awkward, experiencing the need to talk during dinner.  He used to, back before they’d split up, but that hadn’t been awkward.  It was now because this evening was very important.

“Have you talked to anyone from SG-6 lately?” he asked.

Daniel nodded.  “Wallingford and Waterman.”

Jack snorted.  “Sounds like a law firm.”

Daniel grinned.  “Yeah, it does.  Anyway, Sonja said not to worry about coming back if I’m not ready.  I got the feeling she meant more than that.”

“Sonja?” Jack asked, cracking that smile again.  Daniel didn’t answer.  “On a first name basis with your team leader?”

“I was with you.”

“Not at first.”

“No.  You’re regular military.  Sonja isn’t.  She was awarded the rank after joining.”

Jack blanked at him.  “Wait.  She didn’t earn Lieutenant Colonel?”

“Oh, she earned it, but it’s academic.  It’s no different than getting the rank of Sergeant or Lieutenant because you went to college before joining up.  She had the skills they were looking for when it came to tech.  She’s been here for six years and now she’s leaving.”

“I haven’t heard too much about civilians earning a high rank when they join.  Are all the other civilians who joined the program like that?”

Daniel grinned.  “No.”

“You sure?”

Daniel grin widened.  “Yes.”

“How?  You know them?”

“I’m one of them,” Daniel said slowly.

Jack stared at him, confusion coloring his face.  “You’re not military.”

“No, but I recently learned that apparently my rank in the Office of Personnel Management equals yours.”

Jack’s brows skyrocketed.  “It does?”

Daniel wiped at his mouth with a napkin.  “I never knew that before.  Holly told me.”  Jack blinked.  “Sergeant Travers.”

“Huh.”  Jack considered that news for a few silent moments, then steered the conversation to more inane things like, “What’s Siler been doing with the generator lately?” and “Davis is finally getting leave.”

Sooner than expected, most of the food was gone and Jack got up to get the fortune cookies.  “You wanna talk at the table or in the living room?”

“Living room,” Daniel said, getting up.  “You wanna just leave all this here?”

“Yeah, it’ll keep.”

“Okay,” Daniel said, and his tone made Jack frown at him.

“What’s that mean?” he asked as they went into the living room.

“What’s what mean?” Daniel asked.  He stopped at the black leather sofa as Jack turned around and retrieved their cocktails.  When he came into the living room, he handed Daniel his drink and headed to his overstuffed chair.

“Wait,” Daniel said.

Jack paused halfway sitting down.  “What?” he asked, finishing.

“Would you sit over here, on the couch?”

“Why?”

“Because the last time we had a heart to heart, and it was fairly important, you sat in that chair and lied to me about how our friendship was over.”

“That was four years ago,” Jack said, frowning as he got up to sit at the other end of the sofa.  He put his back against the overstuffed arm.

“And I’m experiencing déjà vu.”

“Okay,” Jack said in a mollifying tone.  “So about that ‘okay’ thing.  You had a tone when you said it.”

“I did?” Daniel asked.  “I … sorry.  It didn’t mean anything.  It was one of those, ‘food’s gonna get dry but if that’s what you want, okay by me’ sort of thoughts when I said it.”

Jack paused as he sipped his drink.  “Oh.”  He considered Daniel’s lengthy answer.  “A lot when into that.”

Daniel sipped his drink and set it on the coaster on the coffee table.  “Yeah.  Um, it seems a lot of our conversations in the last few years have gone like that.”

“Like what?”

“I say something.  You don’t like the tone.  You say something.  I don’t like the tone.  And neither of us explains what we meant, so we don’t find out that we’ve just overreacted.  If you’ll pardon me for going psych 101, and I don’t mean to speak for you at all, but it’s like we had other things to say and purposely shot ourselves in the foot by not saying them.”

Jack nodded agreement.  “Okay.”  It was the same tone he used when he’d say, “Whatever.”

“Terse as always.”  Daniel had said it automatically because he was annoyed at the simple answer after he’d just given a long one.

“What did you expect me to say?” Jack asked, and his tone had a bit of chiding slipped in it.

Daniel stared at him, mouth open, stunned.  This was the old Jack, not the one who’d supposedly learned how to express himself.  “Okay,” he said, drawing out the word, and set his drink on the coffee table.  He wiped his palms on his thighs.  Every fiber told him to get up and leave.  This wasn’t going to work and he should have known better than to—Suddenly Jack got up and sat next to him, reaching over to grab his hand.  Daniel stared at him and he was abruptly back on Euronda, dialing the DHD, and Jack was grabbing his hand, to apologize for being a Grade A asshole.

“I’m sorry,” Jack said.  “I was—”

“Rude, short-sighted,” Daniel said, cutting him off.  “Déjà vu all over again.”  He got up.  “This isn’t going to work.”

“What?” Jack asked and shot to his feet.  “Why?  What’s happened?”

Daniel stared at him.  “You’re deliberately provoking me.  Why?”

Jack blinked and took a step back, then sat down and sighed deeply, closing his eyes.  “Sit down.  Let’s start again.”  Daniel stubbornly crossed his arms and stayed where he was.  Jack gestured at the space next to him.  “Please?”

Okay, that was different.  It was a request, not an order.  Daniel sat down, despite feeling the urge to flee.  Fight or flight.  The way things used to be had given him a very good reason to leave and he couldn’t shake it.  He didn’t want to listen to anything Jack had to say.  The food in his stomach started to flip.  He closed his eyes and cleared his throat.

“What do you want to do here?” he asked.  “What would you like to happen?”

“To be together.”

“But you’re acting like your old self.”

Jack made a face.  “I’m … embarrassed.”

Daniel blinked.  “Why?”

“Because I picked a fight and I think I did it because …”  He frowned.  “It’s better to push you away than to face getting rejected.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed with exasperation.  “Talk to me.  I’m not asking for the moon here.  I won’t take off if you promise yourself right here and now to cut the crap.”

Jack took a deep breath and nodded.  “I promise.  And to your earlier point about saying things we should have said but didn’t?”

“Which then starts a fight and neither of us knows how to get past it.”

Jack nodded again.  “This started out because I got annoyed at your long-winded explanation about shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Daniel nodded.  “And you said ‘okay’, and in the same tone you use when you’re being dismissive.  That ‘whatever’ answer.”

Jack made a face.  “Yeah, I … I’m sorry.  I just didn’t know what else to say.  I agree with you, but part of me just … I purposely disrespected what you said because it made me feel stupid for not having come up with it myself.”

“Jack, this isn’t a competition.  There are no points for who comes up with the best response.”  He watched Jack’s jaw tighten.  “Okay, it’s time for me to apologize.”  Jack looked at him, surprised.  “My tone was argumentative and scolding.  I shouldn’t have done it.  It’s the automatic response from the old days.”  He rubbed his face.  “Let’s start over.”

“No, we have to sort this stuff out.”  He turned to him after setting his glass on the table.  “Look, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to sharing my feelings.  I know that.  I’m asking you for your patience.”

Daniel blinked at him, but his expression was kind.  “Thank you.”

Jack gave him a wan smile.  “So.  What would you like to ask?”

Daniel took a breath.  “Are you going to talk to me about the things you had to sort through with Carmichael?”

Jack took a deep breath.  “Yeah, I think I’d better.”

Daniel shook his head.  “You don’t have to if you don’t really want to.”

“Really?” Jack asked, surprised.

Daniel thought about it, then made a face.  “No, not really.”

“Then why say that?” Jack asked, and annoyance began to creep toward him like a slithering monster.  He didn’t want to be annoyed, dammit.

“Maybe because … it sort of felt right to, ah, give you the illusion of choice.”  Daniel grimaced and shook his head.  “It sounds like I’m trying to pick a fight and I swear I’m not.”

“What are you doing then?” Jack asked.

“We’re at cross-purposes,” he said.

“No we’re not.”

“Then tell me what you learned.  What’s different?  Why were you so angry at me all the time?”

Jack relaxed against the back of the sofa.  “I was hating myself for being bi.  So I took it out on you.  I’d deflect, and it’s apparently my favorite fallback position to avoid things I don’t want to feel.”

Daniel’s eyes widened a little.  “You definitely learned something. That sounds like psych speak.”

“It is psych speak.  Something I learned when it came to my bass-ackward methods in avoidance.  To escape talking about ‘my feelings’.”  He made air quotes.  “Also known as the macho way I feel about myself.  About people.  About things.”

“About us?” Daniel asked, venturing out there.

“Yeah.  And about that other thing,” Jack said, and his face felt warm.

Daniel shook his head.  “I’m not gonna guess.  What other thing?”

“My switch-hitting,” he said, and downed his drink.  When Daniel’s brows rose dramatically, Jack sighed.  “Bisexuality.”

“Better,” Daniel replied, but he was frowning.  “Have you discussed why you avoid using the term?”

Jack frowned, confused as he thought over his sessions.  “Actually, yeah.  I had a problem with saying it, but I got over it, so I don’t …”

“Ah.”

“Ah?”

“It’s me.  Saying it to me.”

Jack sat forward, hands between his knees and rolled his empty glass between his palms.  “Yeah.”  He made a face, as if fighting himself.  “I need to speak the things in my head and to do it without fear of rejection.”

“You know that wouldn’t happen with me.”

“You were just about to walk out of here.”

“Because you weren’t sharing.  It’s that whole shooting yourself in the foot thing again.”

Jack stared at him and blinked a few times, thinking.  “You’re right.”

“So what did you discover during the sessions?”

“Jesus, you sound like her,” Jack said, evading.

Daniel gave him an expectant look as he wiped at the water on his tumbler glass.  Jack raised his hand in acknowledgment and it was so surprising to Daniel that when he went to take a drink, he swallowed wrong and began coughing.  Jack leaned forward, showing concern, but Daniel held up a hand.

“I’m fine,” he rasped.  “Talk.”

Jack waited till Daniel returned to normal.  “She had me repeating, ‘there’s nothing wrong with being bisexual’ a billion times.”

“Because there isn’t,” Daniel said, and when he earned a look, he challenged, “Is there?”

“No,” Jack said flatly, clearly irritated.  “It’s just that it became something else.  I never thought of myself as gay.  And it’s still taking me a while to get the nonsense out of my head when it came to all that phobia I grew up with.”

“But you’re bi, not gay.”  When Jack sent a withered look, Daniel said, “You’re not,” he said firmly, then weakened.  “Are you?”

“That’s the problem.  Or … not problem exactly.  More like unanswered issue.  I discovered that I kept changing my mind about who I found attractive.  One year I’d like guys more.  The next, I’d like ladies more.  And over time, it seemed that I was liking guys more and more.  And as a result, I went to war with myself because I thought I should like girls more.  And you can guess how that played out.”

Daniel nodded.  “You took it out on others.  Like me.”

“A long time ago, I used to get into fights a lot.  Then I grew up after I met Sara.”

“Grew up?”

“Stopping reacting with my fists.”

“Ah.”

“And then … Charlie happened.  You know.”  Daniel nodded.  “And on Abydos, I … changed my mind.”

“About suicide?”

“Yeah,” Jack drawled, but he wasn’t finished.  “Not just that.  I felt something for you, but it was okay because I was leaving you behind.  It was safe to feel.  When I got home, I told myself to forget about it.”

“Forget or repress?” Daniel asked, curious.

“It’s escapist,” Jack said slowly.  “It was more that I accepted that I couldn’t go there with you.  You liked girls.”

“I liked Shau’re,” Daniel admitted.  “She was intelligent, despite her societal conditioning.  Kasuf kept telling me to treat her the way they treated her and I had to put a stop to it.”

“Bet that was fun.”

Daniel snorted.  “Back to repress and ignore.  Which for me?”

“Both.”

“So your feelings for me were repressed,” Daniel said, mostly to himself.  “Which explains that whole alpha male brush-off when you came to get me.”  Jack blinked at him and surprised Daniel more.  “You mean you didn’t realize that …”  He huffed out a breath of amusement.  When Jack gave him a look of impatience, he said, “I’m sorry.  Go back and remember that day.”

Jack thought, and said, “Got it.”

“You came through the gate.  You got startled by all of our guns.  Then you saw me.  I said hello.  You didn’t reply.  You ignored me, walked past me, slightly brushing my shoulder as you went to greet Skaara instead.  Classic alpha male dominance.”

Jack frowned.  “I didn’t—”  When Daniel’s eyes widened, he said, “I did?”

“You don’t remember it that way,” Daniel stated, stunned.

Jack frowned.  “No.”

Daniel blinked at him, then frowned.  “Exactly how do you remember it?”

“Um … I just nodded at you, saw Skaara, and I just remembered developing a father-son relationship with him.  I walked over.”

Daniel sighed.  “You didn’t nod.  I guess it’s not surprising.  You miss Charlie and Skaara reminded you of him.”

“Still.  Alpha male dominance?  Really?”

“Repression is a weird thing.”

“You speak from experience?” Jack asked, surprised.  “You’re joking.”

“Nope,” Daniel said after taking a sip of his mostly watered-down drink.  “I was like that as a teen.  I kept thinking I was supposed to like girls, period.  I didn’t want to get the shit kicked out of me, so I buried my head in books.  It was easy.”

“Easy,” Jack said, nodding.  “For me, it was easy dating girls.”

Dating?” Daniel asked.  “I think that’s a euphemism for wanting to sleep with them.”

“And that’s a euphemism for wanting to fuck them.”

“Crude,” Daniel said.

“And honest.”

“Point.”

“So,” Jack said.

“So,” Daniel copied.  He found he was relaxing more and more.  “Thanks, Jack.”  Jack nodded.  “We’re not done though.”

“No, we’re not.”

They were silent then.  Jack was backtracking the conversation in his head while Daniel waited for him to continue.

“Where was I?” Jack asked.

“Liking guys more, I think,” Daniel said.  He was trying to imagine Jack in the early days of his career and couldn’t really picture it.  Well, not true.  He could.  It just sent his mind into places it had no business going at the moment.

“Okay, here goes,” Jack said, taking a deep breath.  “I’m sorry,” he blurted out, his cheeks coloring.

“For?” Daniel asked, unexpected hope flaring inside.

“For treating you like shit.  I’m really, really sorry.”

“Uh,” Daniel began, his own cheeks burning.  “Why did you?” He already knew but it needed saying.

“Like with leaving you on Abydos.  The whole bisexual fight.  I liked being with you.  I loved the sex.”  They both blushed a bit, though it was about excitement, not embarrassment.  “But I thought I shouldn’t, so I decided I didn’t want to be gay.  I wanted to be straight.”

“That’s not what—”

Jack held up a hand.  “I know that now, but this is what I was thinking.  I thought that you had to be one or the other and I was sick of feeling different.  I wanted to blend.  So I figured I had to play straight.”

“Is that why we got into that fight?  Arguing about being bi?”

“Sort of, yeah.  I didn’t realize it at the time, though.  I’m really sorry I put you through all of that.  Pushed you away.”

Daniel stared into his glass.  “Thanks.”  He wanted more and wasn’t sure if he should prod Jack into saying more or if he should wait and see if he came to it naturally.  But then, that sounded like a self-inflicting trap to set himself, to justify wallowing in misery.  And so nothing would get accomplished and Jack’s therapy would stall.  As a result, Daniel would also feel justified in keeping his distance.  A self-fulfilling prophecy.  “So how do you feel about me now?”

“I love you,” Jack said.  “I told you.”

“And I love you,” Daniel said.  “But what now?  We care.  Great.  But how do we move forward?”

Jack took Daniel’s hand again.  “I want to start over.  Start fresh.  Not just as friends.”

Daniel barely nodded as he twined his fingers with Jack’s.  It was equally an effort when he pulled his hand away.  “And Sam?”  The question seemed to create a bell tone of absolute silence.

Jack stiffened.  “What do you mean?”

“Don’t do that,” Daniel said softly.  “Zatarc, remember?  The brain stamp?  The other times you revealed your feelings for her and sometimes they were done by snapping at me.  You’ve shown this interest in her that goes far beyond being a teammate and a friend.  It’s been going on for a long time.”

“There’s nothing going on between us,” Jack said, his throat burning.  He needed another drink.  But if he got up now, Daniel would think he was avoiding.  And he would be.

“But it seems like you want there to be.”  When Jack looked like he was thinking about it, Daniel did what Jack told himself not to do.  He got up.  “I need another drink.”

“Daniel, wait,” Jack said, getting up in a hurry.

Daniel paused, staring back at him, into those dark emotional eyes that can turn from arousing to menacing.  Right now, they were neither.  “I’m going to get to the point, okay?”

“Okay,” Jack said, drawing out the word.

“I’m not into sharing.  Pick one of us.”  The urge to flee came back in a rush.  To run away.  Part of him said to stop moving, to stay right where he was.  The other part said, “Fuck this.  If he wants her and me, he can have her.  I’m not playing this stupid, fucking—

He handed Jack his glass.  “Time for me to go.”

“No, you can’t.  Who’s avoiding now?” Jack asked.  He grabbed Daniel by both shoulders and made him wince.  “Sorry!” he said caressing Daniel’s shoulder.  “I didn’t mean—”

“Who do you want?” Daniel asked, his cheeks turning red.

Jack’s hand froze on Daniel’s shoulder.  Underneath, his skin was warm.  Tempting.  Provocative.  Sensual.  Accessible.  Beautiful.  He was lost in a long list of adjectives.

“Jack?”

“You.”

Daniel stared at him and shocking them both, he stepped back.  “Make sure.”  He then beat a hasty retreat.  “Thanks for dinner.”

Jack stood there, stunned, as the warmth of Daniel’s body left the tips of his fingers.  The sound of the front door opening and closing broke the paralysis of shock.

“Like hell.”  He bolted and ran out the door.

Mild snow flurries were floating like pollen in the night and he ran into the darkness of his driveway, absently noting that he hadn’t turned on the security light.  It seemed like fate.

“You can’t do this.  Run away.”

“Jack, maybe we should just say goodnight and continue this tomorrow,” Daniel said, trying to get his coat on as Jack walked around his car.

“Fuck that,” Jack said, grabbing Daniel’s uninjured arm.  “I’m sure,” he said, and brushed his lips with a light kiss.  Outside.  Where anyone could see if they just looked their way.

“But—” Daniel interrupted, pulling back.  He was shaking.  Why was he shaking?

Jack stared at him as his arms went around him.  “There’s no more need to bandy this back and forth and hash it to death.  I love you.  I want you.  And I don’t want Carter.  Yes, I was attracted to her.  She’s beautiful and smart.  But I don’t want her.  I don’t fantasize about her.  I don’t lie awake at night thinking about her.  I don’t have erotic dreams about her.  Is that clear enough for you?”

Daniel blinked at him and a heat spread through him like wildfire.  “Okay, but—”

“Stop it,” Jack said, his voice rough, and he brought their lips together in a much more serious and heartfelt way.  Pressing, mashing, making love.  When Daniel parted his, Jack felt him shaking and knew it wasn’t from the cold.  He resisted finding his tongue and just paused with his mouth open, inhaling and tasting his breath.  “Come inside,” he mouthed over him.

“If I do, what then?” Daniel panted.

“Don’t play coy.  What do you think will happen?”

“I can’t—”

“Shut up and come with me.”  He backed up and took Daniel’s hand in his, keeping hold of it as he led him back into the house.  When the door was shut, it was Jack’s turn to be surprised.  Daniel wrapped his arms around his neck and shoved him against the door as he attacked him with a deep kiss.  His tongue searched and found Jack’s, tasting, probing, trying to discern how far to go before stopping.  When Jack’s hands slid down his back, inching toward his ass, Daniel inhaled sharply and broke the kiss.

“Jack,” he said, coming up for air.  And kissed him again.

“Daniel,” Jack said, breaking off.  He began to walk backward toward the bedroom.  His fingers were both pulling and unbuttoning Daniel’s shirt, inviting him to follow.

“Jack,” Daniel said again, and he told himself to stop, that it was too soon.  He wasn’t completely healed.

Jack sensed the hesitation and guessed correctly.  “We’ll only go as far as you can.”

Daniel swallowed.  “Deal.”

Jack stepped away, taking off his shoes.  Daniel dropped his coat to the floor and copied him, yanking off his boots down the hallway.  His open shirt swung freely and got in the way.  He twisted the wrong way and winced as he hit the wall with the wrong shoulder.  This was not going the way it should.  He threw down his shoe.

Jack began to laugh and took his hand.  “No rush.”  He led them into the bedroom.

Daniel grinned with embarrassment.  “It went so well in my head.”

Jack gave him an understanding look.  “I was afraid to fuck this up.”

Daniel snorted.  “You and me both.”

They climbed on the bed and lay down facing each other.  It was different.  Normally, Daniel preferred lying on his left side.  Jack preferred his right.  But thanks to the injury, their positions were switched.  A heat rocketed through him when Daniel remembered the dream, where he’d fucked Jack.  Their positions switched.

“What’s that?” Jack asked, brushing his cheek like he had in the hospital.  “Blushing?  You?”

“I …”  He shook his head.  “It’s all convoluted thinking in my head.”

“Try me.”

“You’ll laugh,” Daniel predicted.

“Maybe not,” Jack said, giving him that particular look that made Daniel want to kiss him stupid.

“Okay, here goes.  I was thinking that thanks to this shoulder, we’re on the sides we don’t normally use when we lay down.  Our positions are switched.  With me so far?”

“Easily,” Jack said, earning a swift smile that faded.

“And the thought reminded me of the ending of a dream I had.”

“About us?”

“In a way.”  He told him about the dream as Carlin.  “And it mirrored what you said once when you ripped a condom when you tore the packaging.”

“What was that?” Jack asked, puzzled that he didn’t remember.

“I said it was okay to make love without it, and you asked if I was sure because wasn’t like going barefoot.”

Jack laughed and pulled Daniel closer, if it was possible.  He twined their legs together and it was slightly difficult because it pulled at their crotches.  “Jeans are in the way.”

“Yes, they are.”

Neither of them moved.

“We have to take them off,” Daniel said, “or things will get a whole lot more uncomfortable.”  He rolled onto his back and unbuttoned and unzipped faster than Jack could react.

“I was gonna do that,” he said.

“Then help me with the rest of it.”

Jack walked on his knees to the foot of the bed and yanked Daniel’s jeans until he could easily slide them off.  He stepped onto the floor and stood there, looking at Daniel’s body.  His cock twitched.  “Boxers?” he asked.

“I didn’t do laundry,” Daniel said, shoving them off and throwing them to the floor.  He revealed his half-hard cock and Jack swallowed.

“Leave the shirt on,” he said, unbuttoning his own.

“Backatcha,” Daniel said, making Jack grin at him.

“That’s my line, isn’t it?”

“We’re sharing it for the moment,” Daniel grinned, but it faded when Jack pushed off his jeans and briefs at the same time.  Jack was so hard, his cock pointed skyward without wavering.

“Wow,” Daniel said, swallowing.

Jack smiled and crawled on the bed over Daniel’s feet and kept going until he was hovering over him, hands beside his head, elbows locked.  “What?  You remember, don’t you?”

“I was just surprised how hard you are,” Daniel said quietly, though his voice was thick.  “I loved your cock.”

“Past tense?” Jack asked.

Daniel shook his head.

Jack looked down between them to find Daniel’s cock was on its way to matching his.  He looked back into his darkening blue eyes.  “Right backatcha.  Take both in your hands.”

Daniel kept Jack’s gaze as he did so, pressing and rubbing their shafts together.  Jack bit his lip, then brought their lips together.  The desire between them was perfume-heavy, and Jack needed to feel skin.  He lowered himself carefully, watching Daniel for any discomfort.  To his delighted surprise, Daniel spread his legs and brought his knees up.  But Jack could see the tinge of pain in his eyes and the tension in his left arm.  He lifted himself off and Daniel started to grab for him.

“No, wait,” Jack said, kneeling and pushing off the bed.  “Let’s try something.”  He opened the closet and pulled out four fluffy pillows.  He brought them over to the head of the bed and climbed on.  “Sit up,” he said.

Daniel complied, giving Jack plenty of room.  “Trying to make this as pain-free as possible?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Why do you even have all these pillows?”

“I like to be comfortable watching TV,” he said, referring to the flatscreen.

“I can understand,” Daniel said automatically, not really paying attention to what he was saying.  He was too preoccupied with easing himself back against the pillows.  Jack grinned only slightly as he lowered himself again.  His cock was only half hard now, and he thrust his hips slightly, creating a bit of friction.  Daniel inhaled sharply as he looked up, repositioning his knees.  His shoulder twinged, and it was expressed by a twitch of his left cheek and eye.

“Damn,” he said, cringing.

“It’s so not a problem,” Jack said, bringing their lips and tongues together for minutes on end, and he rolled them back to their previous positions, moving half the pillows out of the way.

Daniel broke off, his body on fire, and he had to taste more.  Jack was a drug.  His hands caressed while he moved down his body, teasing a nipple between his teeth before going much further down.  He tongued Jack’s navel and looked up to catch his gaze while he laid a long, wet line past it.  When his chin hit the head of Jack’s cock, his newly reconnected lover opened his mouth and inhaled a shaky breath.

Daniel smiled and broke eye contact as he slowly placed his lips around the head and sucked him in.  While Jack’s fingers threaded through his hair, Daniel savored the flavor of him, moaning, like one does sometimes with the first taste of fresh ice cream.  His shoulder twinged again, and Jack noticed it.

“You need to take a few Tylenol 3s.  They in your coat?”

Daniel nodded as he pulled away, letting Jack disappear quickly and return just as fast.  He took the pills with water, and began to say, “I’m s—”

“Shh,” Jack said, kneeling and bringing Daniel up to do the same.  He kissed him, gently, then passionately, wrapping his arms around him.  He broke off and laid a bunch of kisses down his neck and behind his right ear.  An erogenous zone.  Daniel shivered under his touch.  “Let’s lie back down.”  He guided Daniel onto his right but once Daniel was there, he shimmied down his body.  “Take it easy.  Don’t strain.  We can stop anytime—”  Jack inhaled sharply and threw his head back, eyes squeezing shut.  Daniel had swallowed him whole and sucked hard.

“Christ,” he whispered hoarsely.

Daniel smiled around his cock and slowly moved up and down the shaft.  With deft fingers, he cradled his balls and massaged the space between them and Jack’s anus.  He broke off suddenly and said, “Lube,” before he returned to business.

Jack grabbed blindly over his head to find the shelf in the headboard, fished for the tube, found it, and tossed it down to Daniel.  It hit him in the head.

Daniel broke off again, unable to keep from laughing.  “Thanks,” he said, and with a fading smile and a smoldering look, he kept his eyes on Jack while he slicked a finger.  Taking the head between his lips, he sucked a bit as he slid his finger into his hole.  Jack’s flesh clutched around it and Daniel loved watching Jack drop his mouth open and fist the sheets.

“Like that?”

“Jesus, Daniel,” Jack gasped.

Daniel smiled and began in earnest to bring Jack to orgasm.  With his free hand, he stroked the shaft while keeping only the head in his mouth.  His business was inside him.  He probed with long fingers and found the pleasure point.  Jack’s lower body shuddered and his legs were spread wide.  When he managed four fingers, he took his cock down his throat and massaged his balls.  Jack was gasping and gulping air, body shaking, and frantic fingers combed through Daniel’s hair.

“Fucking hell,” he groaned when Daniel twisted his fingers inside him.

What brought Jack over the edge was when Daniel lifted his mouth off his cock and finger-fucked him rapidly in time to the stroking of his cock, and said, “If I wasn’t spent, I’d fuck you right now.”

Jack arched his back and went rigid as Daniel took his cock in his mouth and swallowed his pleasure.  His slightly bucking hips only made Daniel draw the orgasm further until he was truly spent.  When he crawled up and laid over him, finding his mouth for a long kiss, Jack engulfed him in his arms and kissed him back for all that he was worth.  When he broke, there was a feverish determination in his eyes.

Daniel smiled slightly, trying to guess what Jack was thinking.  “What?”

“My turn.”

The look in his eyes matched action and he tortured Daniel with his lips, tongue, and hands, starting with his nipples and inching his way downward.  By the time he swallowed Daniel’s cock, his lover was achingly hard with demand.  Instead of lying down, Jack knelt between his legs and placed them over his own.  He slicked both hands with lube and began to probe his anus with one while stroking the shaft of his aching cock with the other.  While he longed to suck him into his mouth, he preferred to kneel here and watch Daniel’s face.

When two fingers went in, Daniel gasped, “Oh fuck me,” and threw his head back and closed his eyes.  Jack smiled at the reaction and with his right hand, he expertly stroked his cock in time with his left.  In and out, up and down.

“Fuck me,” Daniel pleaded.

Jack moved from two fingers to three and pressed deep, searching.  Gasping, Daniel let him know when he found the nub by white-knuckling the sheets with both hands and raising his head to gasp.  He froze there and thrust against Jack’s fingers.  “That’s it,” he whispered, his gaze locked on Jack’s.  “Please, Jack.  Fuck me.”

“Just this for now,” Jack said, wishing he really could.  If there was the slightest chance of causing pain and a relapse, Jack would wait.  In the meantime, there was this.

“Oh god,” Daniel said through gnashing teeth and he fell back, eyes wide, hips thrusting rapidly against Jack’s wonderful fingers.

Jack stared, watching the way his skin glistened under the open shirt.  Goddamn, he was gorgeous.  He stretched out onto his stomach while keeping his probing fingers where they were and took the head of Daniel’s cock in his mouth.  Stroking the shaft, he pistoned his fingers inside his body and felt the tension vibrate around his hand.

Daniel cried out, “Fuck me hard!”  Jack obliged, hitting his sensitive anus with his knuckles.  It was a particular pleasure point for Daniel and he came with a spasm, twitching uncontrollably, murmuring “Yes” repeatedly.

Once he was finished, Jack eased away and crawled up to wrap his body around him and share a deep and grateful kiss.  “How was that?” he whispered against his neck as he nuzzled.

“Oh god.”

Jack smiled.  “My sentiments exactly.”

Their afterglow was wonderfully free of pain, worry, and any desire to move.  Fifteen minutes later, Daniel murmured, “I’m hungry.”

“Want me to bring it to you?” Jack quipped sleepily.

“I wasn’t talking about the food.”

“It’s gonna be awhile,” Jack grinned, disappointment coloring his tone.

“I know,” Daniel sighed, his hand caressing Jack’s hip.  “But if you think we’re doing this only once tonight, you’d be wrong.”

Jack smiled and leaned back to look at him.  “Not just tonight.  I can watch you do that for the rest of my life.”

“Do what?” Daniel asked.

“Come for me.”

Daniel smiled and kissed him lightly.  “You know what’s different?”

“What?”

“You came when I said I’d fuck you.”

Jack frowned slightly and brushed Daniel’s hair out of his eyes.  “I noticed that.”

“Doesn’t mean I don’t want you inside me,” Daniel said, nuzzling his throat.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Jack gripped a buttock tellingly, making Daniel laugh.  “Good.”

 

 

Chapter Three: Changes

 

It was odd, the next day at the mountain.  They had no trouble acting ‘normal’, never mind feeling that way.  It was unlike their previous attempt at a relationship.  Back then, everything had felt awkward.

As he dressed, Jack thought that perhaps he hadn’t been ready before.  That it took seeing a shrink … sorry, analyst … to get his own head on straight.  Daniel, on the other hand, was the same.  To his eyes anyway.  He’d have to discuss it with him the next time they went home.

Daniel noticed the thoughtful look on his face as he caught him staring at him as they finished changing into their warm-weather uniforms.  Since they were returning the Furling planet, Jack had opted for black tees and green trousers for everyone.  As Daniel was lacing up his boot, he said, “Anything on your mind?”

Jack looked around and strained his ears for eavesdroppers.  “Just liking the normality of the day.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said, with a cryptic smile.  “I know what you mean.”

Pretty soon, Teal’c and Carter would be coming in, Jack thought, and it was time to get up to the briefing room.

“Just to be clear, we’re going back to the planet?” Daniel asked in the elevator, arms folded.

“We are, but we’re going nowhere near that obelisk until the IED boys say it’s safe.”

“IED?  Why would they be over there?”

“They’re trained to handle dangerous material.  Albeit with bombs.  But this is no different than clearing an area.”

“Except I have no clue what I did to get shot.”

“Once we figure out how to deactivate that trap or warning or whatever it is, then you can find out.”

“It’s a shame.  I mean, once it’s deactivated, it may not tell me what I need to know.”

Jack turned to stare at him.  “Do you want to get shot again?”

“I don’t think want is on the list of things—”

“I love you,” Jack whispered, completely derailing Daniel’s thought process.

Daniel knew why he said it, too.  He narrowed his eyes.  “Don’t do that.  You’ll make it meaningless if you trot it out every time you want me to shut up.”

Jack’s expression matched Daniel’s.  “I wasn’t.  I was just reminding you why I’m not letting you near that thing until it’s safe.”

The doors opened, and they headed for the Briefing Room.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to figure out how to open that building.”

Jack frowned.  “What building?”

“The one next to the colonnade, on the left.  Most of those pentagon-shaped buildings aren’t open.  We have to find out what’s in there.”

“We do?”

As they entered the Briefing Room, Daniel said, “Jack, it’s the Furling.  They built that planet.”

“Don’t you mean the buildings?” Jack asked as Hammond came out of his office.

“No, I mean the planet.  Those islands are an equal distance apart.  That’s not natural.  And in the time since the Furling have been gone, which I’m guess is at least thousands of years, the bridges and distances haven’t succumbed to continental shifts or weatherization.”

“Are you serious?” Hammond asked.

Daniel nodded, trying to contain his excitement.  “Yes, sir.  If we can figure out how they did that, we might be able to help our own planet.”

“From?”

“Climate change.”

“Climate change?” Jack asked.  “You mean the ozone?  Global warming?”

“It’s a lot more than that.  We’re warming the planet and since greed runs everything, we’re in for a world of hurt.  Of course, those greedy people don’t care about—”

“Save it for another time, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said, waiting on Sam and Teal’c.

“Yes, sir.  But I’m not kidding about the usefulness of that planet.”

“If we can make it be of use,” Jack said.

“Yeah, that.”

Sam and Teal’c entered and Hammond gestured at the table.  “Have a seat.  We’re waiting on Major Wallingford.”

“We are?” Daniel and Jack said together.

“She’ll give us an update on what you’ve been talking about, Doctor Jackson.  They’ve gone a bit further in discovery since you’ve been out of commission.”

“Damn,” Daniel said, frowning.  He looked to his right and saw that there was a stack of folders, a slideshow machine, and a remote control sitting on the opposite end of the table.

“The cost of doing business,” Hammond said.  “And you have a knack for getting tech to respond.  For example, what happened with Mordecai on that Ancients’ planet.”

“Well, it was more a matter of him responding, sir,” Daniel replied.

“Agreed, but I think you know where I’m going.”

“I tend to get into trouble?”

Hammond chuckled.  “Sometimes.”

“So what’s so interesting?” Sam asked as she and Teal’c sat across from Jack and Daniel.

Daniel started to answer when Major Wallingford came in.  She was British, with dark caramel skin and a beautiful face.  She was formidable, seeing as she was just a bit over six feet tall.  He hadn’t gotten along that well with her, but he certainly admired her dedication.  “Doctor,” he greeted.

“Doctor,” she replied.  “General.  Colonel, Major, Master Teal’c.”  She picked up the remote and a screen descended from the ceiling.  She moved the stack of folders around to operate the slide machine.  “Here’s what we have so far.”

Jack liked her no-nonsense approach.  She certainly got down to business.  Wallingford detailed the findings they’d made so far, showing slides of their progress.  They had managed to open the building Daniel had been talking to Jack about and he hid his disappointment.

 

 

“How did you open that door?” Daniel asked.  “I was there three months and never found anything.”

Wallingford gave him a chilled smile.  “By accident.  After your injury, Forrester looked at the panel on the obelisk and returned to the building.  You know that faint outline on the center of the door?”

Daniel nodded, then he blinked.  “Wait, it’s the same shape isn’t it?”

She nodded.  “He pushed on the cover with all five fingers splayed out.”  She opened her hand.  “The cover disappeared.  I don’t mean it slid into a slot designed for it.  I mean, it disappeared.  No fading, no other effect.  Poof.  Gone.  The panel underneath had the same buttons, plus one.  I assumed it was to make up for the button on the leaf shaped plate at the top of the pyramid part of the obelisk.  I took a cue from your actions and pressed all buttons at the same time.”

Jack blinked.  “Excuse me?”

“You did?” Daniel asked.  “That was risky.”

“You’re lucky something equally harmful did not happen to you,” Hammond told her.

“We take risks all the time in this job, General.”

Hammond frowned at her flippant attitude.  He lifted his chin.  “Continue with your report, Major.”

“Pushing the buttons on the panel activated the entire door mechanism.  The panel moved inward at the same time the door did.  It moved approximately two feet and slid sideways into a crevice in the wall, which is what I had expected the panel cover to do.  These are pictures inside the building.”  She clicked the remote.  The inside of the building was dissimilar to the exterior.  It was blue, but of a slightly less rich shade, and the surface of the walls were carved floor to ceiling in a flower motif.

The ceiling and floor were the same as the exterior.

The center of the structure held a pedestal and on top of that was a rounded disc of dull pale blue rock crystals with white veins.

 

 

 

“This pedestal appears to be a power source.  The crystals emit heat.  Not like a radiator or a wood fire.  The heat wasn’t that intense.  You could touch it and it was just slightly cooler than your hand.”

“I hope you tested it for possible radiation before touching it without gloves,” Hammond stated.

“Yes, sir.  We scanned it for fifteen minutes before we touched it.  The heat registered in magnetic waves, barely measurable.”

“I’d like to see that,” Sam said.

“I thought it would interest you,” Wallingford said.

“What’s the composition?” Daniel asked.

“We haven’t been able to determine that.  I have only been able to run it through several surface scans.”

“Why is that?” Hammond asked.

“Because the crystals are impervious to any attempt at taking samples.  It doesn’t appear to have weathered with time, either, which is an indication of its resilience.  I believe it’s the same type of crystal found in the center of the obelisk.”

“Only that crystal was a smooth disc,” Daniel said.

Wallingford nodded.  “That technology is missing from the planet, unfortunately.  All we’ve learned so far is that the crystals emit low level heat.  Because of its density, even though it looks like every crystalline structure we’ve discovered on Earth, its weight would be on par with a brick of naquada.”

“Are there any applications that sort of material may be used for?” Hammond asked.

“Unknown, since it can’t be damaged.  I thought to bring it back here for study.”

“You’re not seriously considering taking the pedestal, are you?” Daniel asked both Wallingford and Hammond.

“We were, Doctor Jackson, but the device can’t be moved,” Hammond said, clearly disappointed.

“Has the UAV found where that crystal was mined from?” Daniel asked.  “The last time I checked, it hadn’t.”

“We have yet to locate the island it came from,” Wallingford said.  “It’s possible that it came from underground caves or from the ocean itself.”  She paused and seemed reluctant.  “Like you posited, Doctor Jackson.”

“The cenotes, and I’m going to assume there are more than just the one Jack and I fell through, might be a source.”

“I agree,” Wallingford said.

“If it’s underwater, wouldn’t the saline content in the water erode it?” Sam asked.

“If it was on our world, yes.  Their world is another matter.”  She looked at the General.  “Sir, there is, quite frankly, too much to study before we can come to any hard conclusions.  We’re still trying to find the material that arrow was made of.  So far, the only mine or quarry we’ve found is the blue rock quarry.”

“What was the result of the arrow analysis?” Hammond asked.

Daniel blinked.  “Wait, haven’t you already concluded it was trinium?”

“At first I thought it was,” Sam said when Wallingford hesitated.  “It’s composed of a trinium alloy but we can’t identify the mix.”

“When Daniel was out of it, he said it was silver,” Jack said, grinning at Daniel.

“Ha,” Daniel said, giving him a mock-glare.

“It’s a big planet, and we have a lot of work to do,” Hammond said, rising.  “You’re dismissed, Major.  SG-1 will continue to work alongside your team.”

“Yes, sir.”  She appeared to dislike that idea as she left the room.

“Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said.  “My office.  SG-1, wait here.”

“Sir, may I—” Jack began.

Jack frowned and watched as Daniel followed Hammond into the office and shut the door behind him.

“Sir, is he coming back?” Sam asked.

“We didn’t discuss it last night.”

“Last night?” she said, and exchanged surprised looks with Teal’c.

Jack could have kicked himself.  “Yes, Carter, last night.  I invited him over and we had a long talk.”

“And?” Sam pushed.

Jack smiled.  “We’re good to go.  The friendship is back on track.  Now it’s up to Hammond.”

“I’m sure he’ll ask for the return to SG-1.”

“Yeah, but again, up to Hammond.”

 

“Have a seat, Doctor,” Hammond said as he took his.

“Yes, sir.”  Daniel chose the one Jack normally sat in.  Hammond seemed to make a note of it.

“I noticed during the briefing that you and Colonel O’Neill seem to be communicating well.  Have you two come to an understanding?”

“Yes, sir.  Last night.  We had a long talk.  Jack told me about his sessions with Doctor Carmichael.”

“I see.  Are you now requesting that you rejoin SG-1?”

Daniel frowned slightly.  A puzzled expression.  He looked at Hammond’s name plate, then into his eyes.  “I had it mind, yes.  I just hadn’t had the chance to request a meeting.”

“Well then, here we are.”

“Yes, sir.”

When Hammond said nothing, Daniel got the hint.  “General, I formally request that I be reinstated with SG-1.”

“And how is your relationship with Colonel O’Neill?”

“Sounds stupid to be talking to you about it, but I was the one who brought it up to begin with all those months ago.”

“Over a year and a half, Doctor.  And for valid reasons.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So you came to an understanding?”

“Yes.”

“Can you be more forthcoming?”

“Jack communicates better.  Thanks to Doctor Carmichael.  We’re now able to be friends without fighting against each other.”

“And are you sure about this request?” Hammond asked.

“Yes, sir.”

Hammond relaxed his hardcore exterior.  “Look, I understand that it’s not always easy to get along with people.  But we’re professionals and we do what’s necessary to get the job done.  When something interferes with that, as has happened here, then it brings into question your ability to work under pressure.  I’ve given Colonel O’Neill the same advice I’ll now give to you.  Make it work.

“Yes, sir,” Daniel said, understanding the threat.  He’d be gone.

“Then your request is hereby granted.”

Daniel breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Thank Doctor Carmichael, Doctor Jackson. Her work with Colonel O’Neill is the only reason you’re back and that he remains leader of SG-1.”  He sighed.  “Jack’s interpersonal skills have been a problem for a while.  You were simply the excuse I was looking for in order to get him the help he needed.”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel said, not completely surprised.

 

Jack stood at the window, looking down at the gateroom.  The gate was currently active and Major Wallingford was assembling two more FREDs with the help of Sergeant Travers.  Jack had liked her forthrightness at first, but during the briefing, her attitude was like most other academics he’d run into on the base: snooty and in their own little world.  If that attitude was directed at him while on the planet, she’d find out that his reputation was well-deserved: he didn’t put up with it.  Work with Carmichael hadn’t changed that.

Hammond’s door opened and Jack turned, instantly looking for signs that their linguist was back on the job.  He caught a small smile on Daniel’s face and he returned it with an even bigger one.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, before Hammond could give them the good news.

Daniel exchanged a look with Hammond.  “What?  It wasn’t supposed to be a surprise, was it?”

Hammond snorted and nodded at Jack.  “You have a go.  Check back in six hours.  After that, you’ll be checking in with Major Davis, who’s flying in from Washington.”

“Where are you going to be, sir?” Jack asked.

“I’ll be in Washington begging for additional funding.  After that, I’m taking a week’s leave.”

“It’s about time they let you have some downtime, sir.”

“I agree.  I’m looking forward to it, so do me a favor, Jack.  Stay out of trouble.”

“I’ll do my best, sir.”

“Do better.”

As Hammond turned to return to his office, Jack held up a hand.  “Ah, sir?  Could I have a quick word about something?”

Hammond gestured his office.  “Very quick, Colonel.”

“Yes, sir.”

Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c were puzzled as Jack ducked into Hammond’s office.  He closed the door but remained there.

“What is it?”

“Is it true that a GS-15 is equivalent to a Colonel?”

Hammond grinned.  “Yes, Colonel, it is.  Anything else?”

Jack frowned.  “No, sir.  Thank you, sir.”  He stepped out and closed the door quietly.  Turning, he found six pairs of eyes staring him down.  “What?”

“What was that?” Daniel asked.

“What was what?” Jack evaded.

“We heard you, sir,” Sam said, smirking.

“Indeed,” Teal’c said, smugly.  “Daniel Jackson is the same rank as you are, O’Neill.”

Jack grumbled.  “Yeah, okay.”  He headed out the door.  “Let’s get geared up and go piss off the archaeologists.”

“I’m an archaeologist.”

“But you’re ours,” Jack said, looking over his shoulder briefly.  “And you tend to piss off other archaeologists.”

Daniel snorted.  “They keep using Budge.  Not my fault their translations are fucked up.”  He blinked and looked over his shoulder.

Sam grinned and punched him in his healthy shoulder.  “Glad you’re back.”

“As am I,” Teal’c said.

“Thanks, guys.”

As they headed to the armory, Sam asked, “So, did you two finally kiss and make up?”

Daniel coughed.  Jack said, “Why, Carter, you know a gentleman never kisses and tells.”

Daniel pretended to be offended.  “He’s kidding,” he said.  “I would never kiss him.”

Sam and Teal’c seemed to find it all amusing and there was a bit of good-natured teasing.

When they were squared away and got down to the gateroom, Jack said, “Yes, Carter, we kissed and made up.  Everything’s hunky dory.”

“Really?” she asked Daniel.

“Really,” Daniel nodded.

“Better,” Jack said, giving Daniel a fond look that made Sam frown in confusion.

Teal’c, however, was looking at them both, deciding something.  “I see.”  His tone was amused.

“See what?” Daniel asked.

Sam gave Teal’c an expectant look.  He grinned.  “They are having sex.”

Sam burst out laughing and didn’t notice the contrasting look of panic and denial both Daniel and Jack gave Teal’c.  Their Jaffa friend knew what it meant: “Don’t you dare repeat that.”

As Teal’c nodded, Sam had no clue that a silent exchange and understanding had just occurred.  Daniel felt guilty, but he honestly had no idea how she’d react, given that she too had feelings for Jack.  He couldn’t be jealous.  It wasn’t in his nature.  He just felt sad that her feelings would never be satisfied and sooner or later, they’d have to have that talk.  If she found out from Teal’c, she’d be pissed.  The thought then hit him.  Would she turn them in?  He didn’t think so, but people reacted badly to the simple idea of two men being together.  Society was changing, but not fast enough to suit him.  Or Jack.

 

 

Chapter Four: A Fever Before the Storm

 

After arriving with their own FRED, SG-1 set up camp in Daniel’s small building.  The moment things were settled, however, Daniel grabbed his camera and notebook and headed for the pedestal building.

“Daniel,” Jack began, his tone warning.

Daniel turned around and stopped.  “I know, I know.  Don’t touch anything.  But how the hell else am I going to do my job?”

“Okay,” Jack said after a second of thinking it over.  “Just don’t activate anything.”  Daniel gave him a confused look.  “You know what I mean.  Find something that looks weapony, give me a shout.”

“Weapony,” Daniel repeated, shaking his head as he turned and headed for the structure.

“Weapony?” Sam asked, grinning.

“Same order for you and Teal’c.  Go exploring.  Check in every ten minutes.”

Teal’c frowned.  “Do you expect trouble, O’Neill?”

“On this planet, yasureyoubetcha.  I’m not falling down another goddamn hole.”

“Cenote,” Teal’c corrected.

Jack gave him a flat look.  “I’m gonna look around, see if we can set up surveillance so we don’t have to pull guard duty.”

“It’s not a Goa’uld planet, sir.  Why would that be a consideration?”

“You never know, Carter.”

She watched Jack head over to one of the members of SG-6 … Captain Cornell … and she began to follow Daniel.

“Major Carter?” Teal’c asked.

“I’ll catch up with you, Teal’c.”

Instead, he waited.

Sam followed Daniel into the structure and pretended to have a look at the pedestal.  She was interested in it, but she also had to talk with him about the Colonel.  About him.

“So this is it, huh?” she said.

Daniel turned around, pausing the camera.  “Hey.”  He gestured at the pedestal.  “Yeah, I guess it is.  Didn’t you put together your own sensor device?”

“Yeah,” she said, and pulled it out of her side pocket.

As she turned it on and flipped up a type of antenna, he turned back to the wall.  “This relief mural,” he said, turning to gesture at the whole, “isn’t just decorative.”

“It isn’t?” she asked, adjusting her readings.  It was interesting.  She was picking up low levels of gamma radiation but they were so miniscule that there was no need to mention it yet.  She wondered why Wallingford hadn’t picked this up.

“No,” Daniel drawled, watching through his camera.  “There are slight variations and normally, if I found this on Earth, I’d say it was just designer’s choice.  Here, too, maybe, but it just doesn’t …”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know.  It’s just a feeling.”  He pointed outside.  “I can’t make any headway on the language because I have no form of reference.  I’ve been getting it all down though, so that when we hopefully run across the Rosetta Stone, I’ll know what this place was.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he said, biting the inside of his cheek as he turned, eyes on the walls.  “If it was an outpost planet or one of their homes, like Earth is ours.”

“Ah,” she said, eyeing him at the same time as she changed the settings on the pad.  “Um, Daniel?”

“What?” he asked, glancing at her before turning to look at the wall.  He then did a double take and gave her his full attention.  She was blushing slightly and looking worried.  Well, worried wasn’t right.  But there was something on her mind.  A dread filled him.  Would it be about Jack?  “What?”

“Um … things are okay with you and the Colonel?”

Daniel raised his brows.  “Oh.  Yeah.  They’re better, actually.  That therapy did wonders.”

“Yeah, I noticed.  It’s nice not to get cut off mid-sentence anymore.”

He grinned slightly.  “Exactly.”  His expression turned downward.  “What’s up?”

“Uh … this is gonna sound … are you gay?”

Daniel’s brows shot up into his hairline.  “You couldn’t have asked me back on Earth?”

“The walls have ears, and I haven’t had a chance to come visit you at home.”

“So this is something you’ve been wanting to ask?”

“Yes and no.  Not until recently.  I mean, I wondered, but it was like one of those thoughts you easily forget or dismiss.”

“Why did you wonder?”

“I was …”  She lowered her voice.  “I was wondering if that was why the Colonel was so negative with you for the last three and a half years.”

Daniel was taken aback.  He’d never considered that anyone would view their animosity that way.  Was he that clueless?  “Jack’s not homophobic, if that’s what you mean.  Are you the only one asking or is this going around the base?”

“I’m asking only for me, but other people … I mean, I’ve heard people wondering.  They noticed his behavior change too because he never did anything in private … like he was supposed to.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“In the military, if you want to dress someone down, you do it in private.  The Colonel used to but that changed when we were on Euronda.  I was frankly pretty shocked but he’s my C.O. so I didn’t say anything.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said slowly, and thought, thanks for the backup.  “So …?”

“I’m sorry.  I know.  DADT.  But you’re my friend.  I thought you would have shared that with me.”

Daniel changed his expression to thoughtful, but at the same time, he wondered if Sam was asking because she was putting together puzzle pieces.  He told himself that after they got home, they’d have that talk and he’d find out if she was as homophobic as others on base.  She had led a sheltered life until coming to the Stargate Program.  Interacting with a lot of people who weren’t academics, never mind natives from other worlds, must’ve been eye-opening.

He resisted telling her.  He wanted more.  Why ask this now, and offworld?  He voiced it.  “Why ask now, and offworld?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, blushing more.  “I just wondered if it was the reason you two were fighting.”

“No, it wasn’t.  You know how he was with me.”

“Yeah, I know.  I just could never figure out why.”

“Jack has his own demons.  He took them out on me.  And now, he’s okay.  He’s better.”  More than better.

“But …”

Daniel sighed.  “I’m bi.”

Her brows turned down.  “What does that mean?”

“Bisexual.  I love men and women equally.”  He didn’t bother telling her that he liked men just a bit more because it simply wasn’t her business.

“Oh,” she said.

To his relief, her frown was one of puzzlement, not disappointment.  At least, that’s how it looked, and he’d always been able to read her expressions.  Unless this was a new one he’d just gotten wrong.  “Is this a problem?” he asked quietly, leaning against the wall, wishing there’d been something to sit on instead.

“No,” she said quickly.  “I just …”

“Don’t get it,” he finished, nodding.  “A lot of straight people don’t.  A lot of gay people don’t.”

“They don’t?” Sam asked.

He shrugged.  “Many choose not to get it.  To understand.  To ask questions.  It’s their loss if they choose to remain ignorant.”

Sam nodded.  “I think I understand.  My roomie in flight school was gay.  Someone made a call and she was thrown out.  It wasn’t fair.  One of my biggest regrets was never getting the opportunity to ask her questions.  Now, here we are and …”  And here it was now, staring her in the face, and she was hesitant.  Did they really kiss and make up?

“Sam?”

She blinked, coming back to the here and now, finding Daniel staring at her.  She couldn’t read his expression.  Anger?  Concern?  Fear?  Protectiveness?  If she were gay, she’d be in protective mode.  She badly wanted to sit down.  “Was Teal’c serious?  I mean, was he right?”

Daniel hated himself, but he schooled his features and his voice.  A practice he was very good at.  “No, he wasn’t.  He was teasing.  And if he hadn’t been, he’d have been wrong.  Jack is straight.”  Sort of.  He then aimed to get her to relax and smiled.  “And we didn’t literally kiss and make up.”  When she visibly relaxed, he knew he’d made the right call.  She wasn’t ready.  But the thought had been planted.  Hopefully, it’d germinate into future acceptance.  Besides, it wasn’t Daniel’s place to out Jack.  He started to say something else about how Teal’c’s jokes were getting funnier, but he sensed a hesitation.  “What?”

Sam gave him a pensive look.  “Right after you died, ascended, we went and helped the Asgard.”

Daniel nodded.  “I read the report.”

“Well, what isn’t in the report was how Colonel O’Neill behaved.”

“Behaved?” Daniel asked, wondering where she was going with this.  Jack had still been evasive and distant, right up to the time he ascended.  Absently, Daniel wondered if he was remembering wrong.

“He was cut off at first.  But over time, I could see he was taking your death as badly as me and Teal’c.”

“Why wouldn’t he?  You know how he is.  Private feelings and all that.  I don’t think that’s changed.”  Daniel regarded her carefully and decided to use a past situation to make a point.  “Remember when you, Jack, and Teal’c blew up Thor’s ship?”

“Yeah,” she said, clearly puzzled.

“Did you and Jack have a relationship while you were on that planet you gated to?”

“A relationship?” she asked, hesitant.  “Um, no.  Not exactly.  We were close, but it never got physical.”

Daniel nodded.  “What was your immediate response when I asked that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you think, ‘this is none of his business’?”

She gave him a short nod.

“So do you know why I asked anyway?”

“No.”

“I crossed the line on purpose, Sam.  Even if something had happened, it really isn’t any of my business, is it?”  Well, it was, but that wasn’t what he was after.

She opened her mouth, then shut it again.  Then after a few thoughtful moments, she gave him a sheepish look, blushing.  “I see your point.  If I’m not willing to tell you anything, why I should I expect you to.”

“It’s not your business.  It’s not my business.  Just because someone’s gay or bi doesn’t give others the right to know their intimate lives, but people interfere all the time as if they have that right.”  She opened her mouth to say something, but he held up a hand.  “You’re different because you’re my teammate and my friend.  I consider that a bit of a free pass.”  He smiled at her then and she smiled back.

“Thanks.  And thanks for putting up with some stupid questions.”

“Anytime,” he said.

“Major Carter,” Teal’c said as he appeared in the doorway.  “We should be on our way.”

“Yeah, in a sec,” Sam said, and hugged Daniel.  “Thanks, really.”

“No problem.  When we get home, we’ll talk more, okay?”

“Great,” she said, smiling, and followed Teal’c out of the building.

Daniel let out a slow breath, closed his eyes, and pressed his lips together.

“Hey, aren’t you guys supposed to be doing something?” came Jack’s voice from outside.  “No, never mind.  We got something.  Hang tight.”  He ducked into the pedestal building.  “Hey,” he said, then frowned and gave Daniel a wary look.  “What?” he whispered.

“She asked the question,” Daniel told him softly.

“Which one?”

“Am I gay?”

“You told her …?”

“I’m bi.  And that we’d discuss what that meant when we got home.”

“Anything else?” Jack asked, partly relaxing.

“She wondered if you were gay, too.  She didn’t ask it that way.  She wanted to know if Teal’c was right about our having sex.”

“Christ,” Jack whispered, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head as if he tried to unhear what Daniel had just said.

“Don’t worry.  I told her you were straight.”

Jack absently waved him off because he had already assumed Daniel had told her that.  Fucking society.  And fuck that DADT shit.  Meanwhile, his thoughts were going over a million scenarios until he shut off the stream of consciousness.  “Why’s this shit come out now?”

“Because the underlying tension for the past six months has been about you and me.  Teal’c simply put the thought in her head and if he hadn’t, I don’t think she’d have ever asked.  Unless we run into a planet of gay people and they have magnificent gaydar.”

Jack snorted.  “Don’t jinx it.”

“Oh c’mon, Jack,” Daniel grinned.  “You know that’d be fun, watching all the homophobes on the mountain have conniption fits.”

Jack didn’t smile.  His expression was deadly serious.  “Or worse.  Don’t ever underestimate fear, Daniel.”

Daniel nodded and gave Jack a look equally serious.  “I haven’t, ever since Freshman year in High School.”

Jack’s brows rose.  “Therein lies a tale, methinks.”

“You’d be right.  And one day, I might just tell you about it.”

“That bad, eh?” Jack asked, but he was grinning now.  He tipped his head at the door.  “C’mon.  We’re getting in a Zodiac.”

“How come?”

“Captain Cornell has been busy.  She found a way into the cenote and discovered something else.”

“What?”

“A back room.”

 

The four members of SG-1 followed Cornell’s boat and Daniel was intrigued that Jack knew how to drive one.  They weren’t exactly standard gear for Air Force personnel, but he knew better than to ask about classified missions.

When they arrived at the third island, Jack shut off the boat and was about to ask how the hell they were supposed to get to the other side when Forrester jumped onto the bridge and knelt, feeling for something.  Then the bridge jerked slightly and began to part in two as it opened outward toward the sea.

“I was wondering how they went around,” Sam said.

At the back of the boat, Jack said, “It would’ve been nice if they’d told us about this little discovery.”

“I don’t think they knew about it when I got shot,” Daniel said.

Jack grunted and restarted the boat.  They moved through and he could see Cornell pointing, telling her teammates—all but one of them were in the boat—where to go.  He hated following someone into unknown territory.

“If the roof comes down on our heads, I’m killing someone,” Jack told his teammates.

“I’ll join you, sir,” Sam said.

Daniel only smiled with Teal’c.

Soon they traveled toward a dense growth of overhead vines and passed through easily.  It made the cenote a lagoon, not a true top-only cave.  Daniel looked for the edges of the opening but there was nothing but green.  Ahead, he spotted the boulders they’d sat on, and they moved past and to the far side.  Forrester again got out and climbed up an embankment, taking a long metal spike with a loop on the end.  Attached to it was a rope and he plunged the spike into the Earth.  To Daniel’s surprise, Jack handed one to Teal’c as they drew up next to the other boat and Teal’c easily copied Forrester.

In front of them, Captain Cornell headed toward what looked like a wall of heavy tropical growth, but she pushed vines aside and entered a tunnel.  As they travelled single file, the earthen corridor eventually emptied into a large room composed of both crystal and blue stone.

“Wow, that was some … job,” Sam said, and she came to a halt.  Inside the room was something that she, Jack, and Teal’c had seen before.

There was an orange dais in the center of the floor and several feet to everyone’s left sat an Asgard console with two portable consoles sitting atop.

“Well, I’ll be a sonofabitch,” Jack said.  He headed for the console but paused when he got there.  Instead of the oval-shaped opaline stones, there were six polished stone disks, black in color and one and a half inches in diameter.  On the console were three rows of circle outlines, five to a row.  Only a few of them had runes below the circles.

“This is different.  Carter.”

Sam came up and looked.  “Huh.”

“Did you move any of the stones?” Wallingford asked Cornell.

“No, ma’am.  I know Asgard tech when I see it and these stones and circles didn’t match the pictures in the reports.”

“It’s Asgardian anyway,” Daniel said, and he put a forefinger on a stone and moved it to the third circle on the first row.

“Daniel!” Jack said, glaring at him.  “Touching.”

Daniel gave him a look and held out a hand.  “I think it’s been ages since the Asgard were here.  The power source …”  His voice faded when a hum filled the room.  It began as a barely audible buzzing, and as the volume increased, it fluctuated until it stabilized into a solid low hum.  Across from the dais, a line of crystals five inches wide lit up.  They began at the base of the wall and ended in the center of the ceiling.  They flickered for a few seconds, then stabilized.  Nothing else happened.

“Ah.”  Jack looked around, able to see better.  “It’s like the planet we rescued Heimdall and Thor from.  Only a lot smaller.”  At Sam’s amused look, he added, “A lot smaller.”

Six feet up from the dais, another flickering emerged and an orange holoscreen barely formed.

Greetings,” said a voice, somewhat thin and broken.

“That sounded like Thor,” Jack said, frowning, looking at Sam, Teal’c, and Daniel.  “Did that sound like Thor?”  He received nods of agreement.  “Thor, that you?”

“It’s probably a recording, sir,” Sam said.

“Remember what happened the last time you said that?” Daniel asked, recalling Cimmeria.

Sam’s brows went up and she waited expectedly as the holoscreen tried to fully form.  It managed very faintly, but eventually, Thor’s voice strengthened.

Greetings,” he said again.  “I am Thor, of the As…”  He blinked.

“’Gard race,” Jack finished.  He waved a gloved hand.  “Hey, buddy.  Fancy meeting you here.”

O’Neill,” Thor said.  He looked to his right, then back to Jack.  “On what planet have you discovered this remote outpost?”

“P2C-701,” Sam said automatically, then winced.

Jack grinned a bit, then told Thor, “A Furling planet with blue stone buildings.  Ring any bells?”

“No bells, O’Neill, but I am familiar with the planet of which you speak.  How do you know it is a Furling planet?”

“The writing,” Daniel answered.  “From Heliopolis.  Jack told you about it, I think.”  Jack nodded.

“I see.  The Furling race no longer lives in this galaxy.  They now reside the galaxy of Andromeda.”

“Damn,” Jack said.  “I so wanted to meet those folks.  So can you help us out on a few things here?”

“I can be of some assistance.  Major Carter, did you bring your portable computer with you?”

“I did, yes,” She said and whisked her backpack off her shoulders.

“Place it on the dais.”

Sam did so.  “Open and on?”

“It does not matter.”

Sam left it closed and backed away.  A glittering stream of energy drifted down from the top of the holoscreen and encased the entire dais in a translucent orange column.

“I am downloading all the relevant information about the Furling race.  After I am done, I suggest you leave that planet.”

“Why?” Jack asked, frowning.

“Because the crystals you see around you are unstable.  I am surprised you were able to travel to that world.”

“The crystals you refer to are impervious to any tampering,” Wallingford said.  “So in what way are they unstable?”

Thor blinked.  “Who are you?”

Jack answered for her as he held up a hand to halt her response.  “An archaeologist, Thor.  One of seven who’ve been on this planet for the last eight months.  Nothing has happened here.”

“Eight,” Daniel corrected.

“Not for eight months, you haven’t.”

Daniel shrugged acceptance.

“Daniel Jackson,” Thor said, somehow looking surprised.  “You have returned to physical form.”

Daniel looked at Jack.  “Uh, yeah, I’m back.”

“That is most unusual.  The ascended beings would not have normally allowed it.  I can only assume it was the work of Oma Desala.”

“You know about the Ancients’ having ascended?” Daniel asked.

“Of course.”  The energy field surrounding Sam’s laptop stopped and dissipated.  “The download is complete.   I will be in Earth’s orbit in two weeks’ time.  Anubis is working his way to your system, amassing an armada.  I hope to have further information for you.  In the meantime, I ask again.  Please leave that planet or you will die.”

The holoscreen flickered out but the lights remained on.  Their hum became ominous as it increased.

“Everybody out,” Jack said, and they rushed to the boats.

When they were almost to the main island, an explosion rocked the third and three successive ones followed in under fifteen seconds.  They were massive, and more explosions began underground, signified by the sudden vibrations under their feet.  Daniel dialed home as ash, dirt, a flaming debris began raining down on them.

“Everyone grab what they can!” Jack said, dashing into the small building.  “Now!”

 

“Thor was right, sir,” Jack said in the Briefing Room an hour later.  “By the time we began to send the FREDs through, everything else had to be left behind.  The explosions had a cascading effect and it was only a matter of minutes before the island with the gate was going to be blown to smithereens.”

Hammond nodded.  “That is a safe assumption.  The stargate will no longer connect to that world.”

“A shame,” Wallingford sighed.  “A lot of equipment and data was lost.”

“Better your life and the lives of your team than the data, Major,” Hammond told her.

“We have the information Thor sent, sir,” Sam said.  “That’s something.”

“But we lost a FRED and the two Zodiacs,” Jack said, making a face.  “Damn shame.”

“So Thor didn’t elaborate on what information he would be bringing?”

“No, sir.  He wanted us off that planet or I think we’d have had a longer conversation.”

Hammond nodded.  “Major Wallingford, have your reports in by the end of the month.  I’m familiar with the time frame it takes to wrap up an expedition.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“In the meantime, you and SG-1 report to the infirmary to get yourselves cleared.  However, before you go, I have some unfortunate news.  Weather reports say we’re due for a blizzard in thirty-six hours.  The SGC cannot go idle during inclement weather, no matter how bad.  You have thirty hours to take care of your affairs, house your pets elsewhere, and bring whatever you need for at least a week, probably longer.”

“Sir,” Wallingford said.  “I have to be in California tomorrow.”

“I’m aware.  You have my permission.  Everyone else, return by sixteen-hundred, Friday.  Dismissed.”

 

 

“You confound me sometimes.”

 

As Daniel quickly changed clothes into a grey pullover and jeans, preparing to spend the night elsewhere, the phrase cropped up in his surface thoughts and he paused, trying to figure out where it had come from, and why it had popped up in his head.  By the time he set two backpacks and a suitcase in his car, he was still mulling it over.  He didn’t remember until he was almost at Jack’s.

He’d been in the infirmary, dying of radiation poisoning, and Jack was telling him how he was gonna get his named cleared.

 

“Why do you care?”

“Because, despite the fact that you’ve been a terrific pain in the ass for the last five years, I may have, might have, uh, grown to admire you a little.  I think.”

“Now that’s touching.”

 

The version of Jack that Daniel knew today, right now, wouldn’t have said it like that.  He would have been like the Jack O’Neill that had given his eulogy in the gateroom when he’d been kidnapped by Nem.  And Daniel wouldn’t have had to ask the question.  Why was he revisiting this?  Why had that phrase popped into his head?  That chapter was closed, sealed, and dealt with.

As he parked in Jack’s driveway, he turned off the engine and sat staring over the hood of his car.  He thought hard, trying to search for something that would equate with that phrase.  In the end, he had to replay the end of that scene in his head.  He’d said it right after Jack had told him that his actions would not be his last on official record.

 

“You confound me sometimes.”

“How’s that?”

“You sound like you care.  I know you don’t.”

“What are you talking about?  Would I be going through all this if I didn’t?”

“But it’s all for nothing.  I’m dying.  And you’ll finally be rid of me.”

Jack hadn’t said anything, and Daniel said, “I loved you, you know.”

And Jack had said, “As friends.  So you see, I care.”

He’d been afraid someone had been listening, but Daniel hadn’t been thinking that way.

“I don’t understand you.  You pushed me away.”

Silence.

“Doesn’t matter now, does it?” he’d asked.

But Jack had gotten up and left.

 

 

Daniel felt a hot rush of emotion flush his face, neck, and ears.  No tears fell but his eyes were glistening.  Why had that phrase popped up and goaded him into remembering one of the most painful moments of his life?

 

“You confound me sometimes.”

 

It suddenly dawned on him.  It was the phrase itself, not the reason it had been said.  Jack confounded him then.  He confounded him now.  Back then, it had been for negative reasons.  Now it was for positive ones.  He took a deep breath and got out of the car.  He grabbed the bottle he’d picked up at the grocery store and headed for the front door.  Jack stood there, waiting.  This was the second time Daniel hadn’t had to knock.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hey yourself.  What were you doing?”

“Woolgathering,” Daniel said.  He had no intention to share why.

“Took you a while.  Did you at least make a sweater out of it?”

Daniel blinked, missing it.  “You lost me.”

“Wool.  Sweater.  Get it?”

“Ha,” Daniel said, grinning, and handed Jack a bottle of champagne.

Jack grinned.  “I have strawberries,” he said, stepping aside.

“No you don’t,” Daniel laughed.

Jack shrugged.  “Okay, but I wish I did.”

“That’s a misnomer, you know.  Champagne and strawberries.  I think it came from that movie with Julia Roberts.  Some people got rich after that.”

“Cynic,” Jack grinned.

Daniel hung up his coat and headed for the kitchen.

“Aht!” Jack said, grabbing his elbow.  “Not that way.”  He ushered Daniel into the living room.  A fire was burning.  And there was a slumber party’s worth of blankets and pillows on the floor in front of it.  On the coffee table sat a few bags from Burger King and two boxes of Dominos Pizza.  Daniel gave Jack an amused look as he went into the living room.

“Couldn’t make up your mind or …?”

Jack shrugged.  “What the hell.  Cover the bases.”

“You could’ve fucked this up badly.  I might have come over with a box of sushi.”

“Ew, you would not.”

Daniel started laughing quietly, through his nose.  Jack still hated sushi.  “Okay, you got me there.”

Jack paused in the act of setting the champagne down on the coffee table, then slowly put it on a coaster.  “You didn’t eat any before coming here, did you?”

“Uh, no,” Daniel said, giving Jack a ‘are you crazy?’ look.  “If you can’t stand to eat it, you’d hate it second hand.”  Kissing would have been off the menu and that just wasn’t going to work.  Ever.

“I also have these,” Jack said, and handed Daniel a large paper sack.

Inside were adorable, old-fashioned pajamas.  Made of thick flannel.  With boats on them.  “You have got to be kidding.”  He looked at the floor by the fireplace, then at Jack.  “When did you turn into a pre-teen girl?”

Jack shoved at him, then walked past him toward his bedroom.  “Get changed.”

While Jack was in the bedroom, Daniel suspected he was changing too.  He got out of his clothes and slipped on the night wear.  He had to admit once he had them on that if Jack was wearing the same ones, he was going to be damned sexy.  Well, without the top.  The bottoms clung just right.  Daniel left his shirt unbuttoned so it wouldn’t spoil the effect.  When he turned at the sound of Jack’s approach, they both froze, staring at each other’s bodies dressed in the flannel.

“Wow,” Jack said.

“Wow,” Daniel copied.  “How in the hell did you get pajamas that look this good?”

“I found them online,” Jack said.

“Care to elaborate?”

“No.”

Daniel thought about it.  “Hang on.  How long ago did you order these?”  Suddenly Jack blushed.  It shocked Daniel so much he froze again.  “Jack?”

Jack took a deep breath.  He knew Daniel would figure out that he couldn’t have just gotten these.  And it would have been pointless, never mind arrogant, if he’d ordered them while Daniel was with SG-6.

“Um,” he said, and he grabbed Daniel’s hand, refusing to look into his face, and had them sit down on the blankets.

Daniel felt a lot more cushioning than mere blankets would have created and he folded back a corner to find two overlapping sheepskins.  He turned to Jack, mouth open.  “Holy shit.”

“I know.  I went overboard.  But I want this to be a great night since we’re gonna be … on rations, so to speak, for a week or more.”

“You know that’s gonna happen when we’re stuck offworld, you know,” Daniel said as he got comfortable and crossed his legs.  “So.  Pajamas?”

“You really wanna go there?”

Daniel considered it for a minute.  If he was right, these had been bought back before Thor had beamed Jack up to his replicator-infested ship.  And things had changed after that, so giving them to him would have been … well, it wouldn’t have happened.

“Why did you keep them?” Daniel asked, taking the bottle of champagne.

“Shit.  Be right back.”  Jack got up and headed for the kitchen.

“What?” Daniel called.

“Glasses.”

“Oh, right.”  Speaking of.  He was glad he was still wearing his contacts.

Jack returned in a jiffy and was back down in front of him, with corkscrew in hand, as well.

“You don’t really need that,” Daniel said, pointing.

“Okay, well,” Jack said, setting it aside.  He grabbed the bottle and began to peel away the foil cap, wishing Daniel would just give up the question.  But … why was this a problem?  It wasn’t.  “I just couldn’t get rid of them.  Seemed a waste of money, so I kept them.”

“Seriously?”

Jack shrugged.  “Remember, I was doing my great big avoidance gig.”

“Right,” Daniel said, looking pensive.

“Stop that,” Jack said, pointing at him.

“What?”

“That frown.  I know that frown.  Don’t do that.  Get rid of whatever was in that noggin.  We are going to have a good night, not one full of heartbreaking nostalgia.”

Daniel grinned at him.  “That was what I had planned for a few hours with Sam.”

Jack looked at him blankly.  “Why?”

“Because I told her we’d talk about what I told her when we got home.”  He winced.  “We’re friends, and she’s pretty—”

“Innocent.”

“Well, unknowledgeable about some things.  Honestly, Jack.  You lock yourself in your own little world and sooner or later, the real one will bite you on the ass.  I had to educate her.”

“Well, not tonight.”

“No.  I called her, told her I was staying over here.”

Jack stopped what he was doing and damn near spilled the champagne.  “Are you out of your fucking mind?” he shouted.

Daniel reared back, scowling.  “Hey!  Friends here, remember?  I said we could talk another time but that I wanted to repair our friendship first.  Yours and mine.”

“She bought that?” Jack asked, calming down and pouring bubbly into the glasses.

Daniel noted with amusement the sugar cube at the bottom.  He picked up his glass to stare at it.  He always liked to watch it disintegrate, completely spoiling the reason for it being there.  “Yeah,” he said absently.

“Drink, not watch,” Jack ordered and held out his glass.

Daniel held up his glass.  “What are we drinking to?”

“Us.”

“Yeah, I have a better idea,” Daniel murmured as he set the glass down on the coffee table, then took Jack’s glass from him and set it down next to his.

“Daniel?” Jack asked, puzzled, but not bothered.  “The cube is going to waste.”

“Let it,” Daniel said, and leaned over to kiss him.

And Jack leaned away.  A mischievous grin slowly spread across his face.

Daniel’s eyes widened as his grin changed to match.  He leaned an inch further.  Jack leaned away an inch.

“Jack O’Neill, are you playing hard to get?” Daniel asked, leaning forward a little more.  Jack leaned away just a bit more, too.

“I don’t know,” Jack said, raising his brows.  “Let’s have a drink to consider it.”

Frustrated, Daniel sat back and grabbed his glass.  “To not screwing this up.”

“Amen.”

Jack drained his glass, glad that he was keeping Daniel on his toes.  He wanted romance, sure, but they weren’t really the romance types.  Truth be told, he’d only ever known how to be with Sara and he wasn’t sure he wanted it to be the same with Daniel.  And an inner Doctor Carmichael told him to let Daniel in on it.

“Thing is,” he began.  “It got a little weird for me.  Just now.  You leaning over to kiss me.”

“I’m sorry?” Daniel asked, eyes wide.

“I mean, it felt … romantic.  It felt the same as when I was romantic with Sara.  The same feeling.  Shouldn’t it be different between us?”

“Sure, because we’re who we are.”

“Exactly.  Are you the romantic type?”

Daniel thought about it.  “I wasn’t before.  But I feel different now.”

Jack’s brows went up.  “Seriously?”

“Seriously.  I think we can be however we really want to be.  No holding back.  No covering up.  No pretending to feel some way just because you think the other person will hate you if you don’t.  No lies.”

Jack leaned back on his elbows, thinking about it.  “You know what?  That actually makes sense.”

Daniel rolled his eyes.  “Jack O’Neill said I made sense.  The sky is falling.”

Jack nudged him hard in the hip with his foot.  “Careful.”

Daniel shot him a look just as mischievous as Jack’s had been.  “Or what?”

Jack stared at him.  Daniel’s tone was challenging.  What was he daring him to do?  Jack couldn’t imagine.  It was new to him.  He imagined what he would do with Sara and his brain froze.  He shook his head and got up to walk around.

“Jack?” Daniel asked, alarmed, but he stayed where he was.  “What just happened?”

Jack shut his eyes.  “I just had a panic attack.”

“Why?” Daniel asked, his heart sinking.

Jack shielded his eyes, still keeping them closed.  “I was trying to figure out what you were daring me to do, and I couldn’t.  So I thought, ‘What if you were Sara, what would I do?’, and the thought just drove a knife through my skull.  It was an instant, ‘what the fuck are you asking that for’ moment.”

“And you thought that it’s not what you want right now, to spoil things.”

Jack lowered his hand and turned to stare at Daniel.  “How the hell did you figure that out?”

“I’m smarter?” Daniel said, but he started laughing.  “I’m kidding.  I’m more experienced.”

“But I’m older than you,” Jack said, scowling, but not at Daniel.

“Doesn’t matter,” Daniel said, and he was getting awfully warm as he looked at Jack in those pajama bottoms.  “Do me a favor.”

“What?”

“Take off that top.”

Jack snorted out laughter, but he complied.  He held out his arms.  “Satisfied.”

“Not yet,” Daniel replied.

“Ah huh,” Jack said as he threw the top on the couch.  “Now you.”  Daniel removed it without having to sit up.  He just shrugged his shoulders and shook his arms.  Jack was fascinated.  But then the fascination turned into something else.  And suddenly, he understood the romantic angle Daniel had been going for a little while ago.

“Okay, can we start this thing over,” he said as he walked over and refilled their glasses.  Daniel shook his head and Jack paused on the way to the floor.  “Why not?”

“Because it’s not spontaneous.  It feels like I’m acting.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a little acting.  Haven’t you ever heard of role play?”

Daniel sat up straight and gawked at him.  “You’ve done that before?”

Jack nodded, and he was amused because this time, he was the experienced one.  “Don’t that beat all.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said, and picked up his glass.

Jack picked up his, then he abruptly set it back down and took Daniel’s and set it next to his.  “Fuck it.”  He leaned forward to kiss him.  And Daniel leaned back.  A slow smile spread over Jack’s lips.  He leaned forward more.  Daniel leaned away more.  They inched more and more, and Jack was aware he was now holding himself up over Daniel’s body until Daniel was on his back.  “There’s nowhere else to go,” he said in a low, husky voice.

“No, there isn’t,” Daniel whispered back, and he slid his hands up Jack’s chest and wrapped his legs around him.

“Oh hell,” Jack said and dropped on top of him as he brought their lips together in a deeply passionate kiss.  He felt their cocks growing erect and Daniel’s was much faster.  Jack pushed up on his elbows and broke the kiss.  “What do you want to do?”

Daniel swallowed.  “Get the lube.  I want you in me.”

“No foreplay?  No teasing.  Just straight to the—”

Daniel pulled him down for another kiss, even more passionate, and for a while, they gently thrust into each other, twining their limbs around the other, as if trying to be one entity.  Jack finally disentangled himself and got up.  “Do you want me to get a condom?”

Daniel shook his head slowly.

Jack swallowed.  “Damn.”

The moment he was gone, Daniel threw off his pajama bottoms, but Jack was back by the time he was throwing them on the couch.  It made him smile.  Jack wanted him just as badly.

Jack shucked off his pajama bottoms and knelt between Daniel’s drawn up legs.  He flipped the cap open.  “How?”

“However you like,” Daniel said, and he reached out to pull on the back of Jack’s thigh.  “Just get in me.”

“How’s your shoulder?”

“Fuck my shoulder.”

“Daniel,” Jack admonished.  Daniel stared at him with heat in his eyes.  “Stay like that,” he said and spread lube over his cock, and with the same slickened hand, he reached down between Daniel’s legs and coated his anus.  “You need fingers?”

Daniel swallowed audibly.  “No.”

Jack arched a brow.  “You sure?  I’d ask how long it’s been but…”

“Not since I was with you.”

Jack’s mouth dropped open.  “Are you serious?”

“Have you been with someone else?”

Jack blinked.  “No, actually.”

Daniel huffed out a breath of surprise.  “Go figure.”

Despite what Daniel had said, when Jack lay down, just slightly off to the side, he moved his hand between his legs and rubbed the puckered flesh until he slid a finger into him.  Their eyes remained on each other as Jack inserted another finger.

“Tight,” he said, and swallowed.

“You didn’t say that before,” Daniel noted.

“I wasn’t really paying attention before.”

“You will now.  And I won’t be tight for long.”  Daniel reached down and held his hand over Jack’s for a few seconds, then pulled the fingers from him.  He spread his legs wide.  “Take them,” he said, referring to his knees.

Jack was unable to look away, to take his gaze from those sexy-as-shit blue eyes.  Lifting his legs, he pressed Daniel’s knees to his chest and adjusted his hips.  His cock lined up, missed, lined up, missed, and just when he was thinking about reaching down, his head pushed past the anus.  He caught his breath as the tightness and heat sucked him in and stole his mind away.

Daniel closed his eyes and tilted his head back, moaning as he welcomed the burn.  When Jack paused, he opened his eyes and gently pressed his heels into Jack’s thighs.  “Do it.”  He gripped the blankets, readying himself.  It had been so long.

Jack hesitated, but only for a second.  He pushed, long, slow, and didn’t stop until he was fully inside.  Daniel’s eyes fluttered closed and he couldn’t help but lean down to kiss him.  “Okay?” he asked.

“Oh yeah,” was Daniel’s instant answer.  “Move.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, move,” Daniel demanded and opened his eyes to lock gazes again.  “Fuck me, please,” he whispered.

Jack obliged.  He moved slowly, expertly, his body remembering the way Daniel had liked it before.  He thrust in hard, then slowly pulled out.  Again.  And again.  Then came the slow, easy rhythm, and they rocked back and forth for a while, just indulging in the sensations.  There was no hurry.

“Yes,” Daniel breathed, and when Jack twisted his hips a bit, his eyes widened and his mouth did the same.  “Oh god.”

Jack smiled.  “Have I found it?”

Daniel only huffed out a breath and grabbed at Jack’s biceps.  “Oh shit.”

“I’ll take that as a Yes,” Jack said, rocking against him, hips pistoning in a feverish pitch.  “C’mon.”

“No, not so soon,” Daniel panted.

“I don’t plan on letting you up for a while.  You’re going to come many times before I do.”

Daniel let out a short laugh.  “No, you …”  He inhaled and threw his head back, eyes bulging in shocked pleasure.  “Oh fuck!”

“That’s it,” Jack said, and closed his eyes.  He allowed himself to slow down, to give Daniel time to recover, but he kept going.  It was beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent.  His body felt both young and experienced and there was no way this was going to end.  He could go on forever.

It was easy, making him come.  All he had to do was keep Daniel’s knees to his chest, to make the angle perfect, and then thrust into him for only a few minutes.  But the key was to keep going and not pause.  It was a workout, but Jack was happy.  He had Daniel under him, loving him.

Suddenly Daniel dropped his legs and forced him to stop moving.  His eyes were shut and he was biting his lip, holding back an orgasm.  “Not yet,” he gasped, and finally looked up into his eyes.  “I want to feel myself inside you.”

Jack stared at him and the words made the back of his thighs quiver.  His balls and ass cheeks followed.  There was a tingling sensation and his mouth dropped open when he realized that the suggestion from Daniel had damn near made him come.  Who knew?  He stared down at his lover’s cock and unbelievably, he was hard.

“It’s been a hell of a lot longer than we’ve known each other,” he said, his throat dry.  He reached over and grabbed his wine glass and tossed the contents back.  When he looked back down at Daniel, he found him … just beautiful.

Daniel suddenly grabbed hold and flipped them over and the wine glass went flying into the fireplace.  Jack started to laugh.  “Damn you.”

Without a word, Daniel found the lube and knelt between Jack’s legs.  He began to stroke himself, watching Jack’s eyes darken with lust.

“That’s hot,” Jack whispered.

With his free hand, Daniel reached down to find the puckered entrance.  “Are you sure you haven’t touched here?  Just yourself?”

“Oh,” Jack said, almost blushing.  “That’s different.”

Daniel moaned with pleasure and slipped a finger inside.  Jack inhaled sharply and lifted his knees.  “Caref—” he began, but Daniel let go of his own cock and took hold of Jack’s.  With a sharp gasp, Jack covered Daniel’s hand with his own and they stroked together while Daniel introduced a second finger.

“Tight,” Daniel mirrored.

“Yeah,” Jack said, but his hand faltered over Daniel’s and he grabbed fistfuls of blanket.  “Now.”

With deliberate slowness, Daniel pushed his knees to his chest, lined up, and thrust inward, little by little.  The heat and burn made them hiss at the same time and Jack’s eyes were wide with shock and need.  “Oh my god,” he gasped.

“Goddamn, you feel amazing,” Daniel murmured as he pumped into Jack in an agonizingly slow rhythm.

“Backatcha,” Jack said, and pulled his knees higher.  He squeezed his eyes shut as tremors of pleasure spiked through him.  “Oh damn.  Oh damn.  Oh damn.”

“That’s it!” Daniel breathed, and sped up, pounding into him.

“Fuck yes!” Jack managed, the words a whisper.  “I love you!”  He inhaled three sharp breaths before he tensed up and the keen, wonderful flood of pleasure blinded him.

“Oh shit,” Daniel cried out as Jack clenched up, making his body tighter.  “Shit!”  He thrust fast and hard five, six, seven, and cried again when he came, jerking while his cock spasmed inside his lover’s body.  “Oh my god,” he breathed into Jack’s neck.  Then hands turned his face up and lips sought out his for a long, deep kiss.

It took forever, Jack thought, as his body jerked with Daniel’s.  He’d come even harder than he had when Daniel had sucked him the day before.  It had been a white-out; a keen and glorious moment.  And now he was coming down, his body as boneless as Daniel’s.  He rolled them over and groaned when Daniel pulled out.  He laced his fingers with Daniel’s and shared another kiss.

“Would it be really cliched if I said it again?” he asked.

“Sure,” Daniel said, slurring the s.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“My turn in an hour,” Jack said, nuzzling.

“No.”

“Two?”

“No.”

“Three?”

“Uh.  Maybe.”  Daniel breathed a happy sigh.  “I don’t care.”

“I do,” Jack said, lifting up on his elbows to look down at his lover.  “That was amazing.  Why didn’t we ever do it that way before?”

“Macho bullshit?” Daniel suggested.

Jack snorted.  “Probably.”

Daniel snuggled against him.  “We’re gonna have to figure out a way to do this at the mountain.  I don’t wanna go without.”

“Are you insane?” Jack said, disbelieving.

Daniel closed his eyes and smiled.

“Of course you are,” Jack said, dropping his head down, speaking into Daniel’s neck.  “And apparently, so am I.”  He paused, then lifted up and stared.  “Hey, how’s the shoulder?”

“What shoulder?” Daniel said, then grabbed Jack and somehow maneuvered himself so that he was on his stomach with Jack on top.

“Wiggle worm,” Jack laughed.  “How the hell did you manage that?”

Daniel wiggled his ass.  “Talent.  Three hours.”

“Promise or threat?” Jack asked, kissing Daniel’s shoulder.

“Which would you prefer, Mister Role Play?”

Jack dropped his head down again.  “I knew that would bite me on the ass later.”

His voice buzzed Daniel’s neck and he giggled.  “Only if you’re lucky.  And very, very good.”

Jack couldn’t help himself and he playfully bit his healing shoulder.  “Promise?”

 


 

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