|Slash:||Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.|
|Category:||Angst. Challenge. Drama.|
|Synopsis:||Daniel worries that he's getting old.|
|Warnings:||None, nada, zilch.|
"Daniel," Jack called, "Come on, time to pack it up for the day."
He looked down into the small trench where his favorite archaeologist was bent over a rock using one of his small brushes, diligently working to take off the dust of centuries, and he didn't care what the hell Daniel said it was, it *was* just a rock. Granted there was some strange sort of picture writing on it but for all intents and purposes, it was a rock.
Daniel mumbled an mmm-hmm and kept brushing.
"Daniel," Jack used his warning tone, the one he'd perfected over the years of being a father and then a colonel with a sometimes wayward civilian consultant under his care. "Time's a wastin'. If you're a good boy, I'll let you stay up late and play all day tomorrow."
Jack grinned at Daniel's sigh as the younger man put down his brush and felt the smile grow even larger as Daniel looked up at him, face smudged with dirt and frowning. Daniel's eyes appeared impossibly blue behind his glasses.
"But, Jack, I..."
"No buts, Daniel. You've been at it long enough today. C'mon. It's hot, you're tired and hungry. This... whatever it is," Jack waved at the rock, "has been here a couple hundred years. I'm pretty sure it'll still be here tomorrow." He reached down a hand and waited until Daniel gave a huff of breath and took Jack's hand in his.
Jack closed his eyes briefly at the sensation. Daniel's fingers curled firmly around his own,the dry warmth of them sending a wave of tenderness through Jack. He gave a grunt as Daniel stepped up, his weight tugging on Jack's hand for a moment.
Daniel let go quickly and looked away almost nervously. He cleared his throat and put his hands to his lower back, arching slightly and winced. A hiss came out between tightly clenched teeth.
"My back," Daniel finally ground out. "I'll be fine. Just too long in one position, you know."
"Maybe I could rub it for you later." Jack offered as he helped Daniel spread the tarp over the site. "I'm sure we have some liniment in the first aid kit."
Daniel let out another grunt as he straightened and smiled regretfully. "Since when do your back rubs ever end there?" He held up a hand as Jack puffed up to reply. "Not that I don't love having you rub my back, Jack. You know I do." Daniel's voice lowered, a silky chocolate tone. "But we can't. Not here. You know it as well as I do."
Jack looked up at the sky for a long moment wishing for an icy torrential downpour. Daniel was right. He hated it when Daniel was right, and being reasonable about it thrown into the bargain. He took in a deep breath and let it out in a huge sigh. "Yeah, I know." He leaned close to whisper in Daniel's ear as they started the short trek back to camp and the others. "But be prepared for the best back rub you've ever had in your life when we get home."
"That a promise, Colonel O'Neill?" Daniel smiled dangerously.
"That's a promise, Dr. Jackson." Jack gave back the same predatory grin and strode ahead, smiling even more as he heard Daniel's breath quicken.
"Are you sure you don't want some ibuprofen, Daniel?" Sam asked, her expression one of deep concern.
"I'll be fine, Sam, thanks."
Daniel put down his coffee mug and tried to ignore the spasms that were still shooting through his back muscles. Was he getting old, he wondered. He didn't remember getting these aches and pains on missions last year. And he had found a few gray hairs when he was toweling off the other day. God, he was getting old, and pretty soon, he wouldn't be able to go on any more missions and then what was going to happen? Daniel tried to remember if his dad had had any gray hair, but the image wouldn't come to his mind. He poked the stick he was holding into the fire.
"Daniel, you keep playing with the fire, you'll pee in your bed." Jack warned.
Daniel dropped the stick, startled by Jack's comment. "I'm going to go for a little walk." He needed to get away for a few moments, get away from the morbidity of his own thoughts.
"Do you require assistance, Danieljackson?" Teal'c asked as he offered Daniel a hand up.
Daniel brushed the hand aside with uncharacteristic rudeness. "I need to be alone." At Teal'c's silent nod, Daniel touched his shoulder, "I'm sorry, Teal'c. I just...I've got some things I need to work out." He walked stiffly from the camp, hearing Sam's, "Don't you think you should go after him, sir?" and Jack's, "Leave him be. I'll go after him later."
Daniel smiled to himself at that. Jack was the only one who understood how he needed to be alone sometimes. He knew that Sam probably thought Daniel was the one who talked out all his feelings and that Jack was the strong, silent, stoic type. She would have been surprised to learn that more often than not, Daniel kept silent about his feelings for days until he had everything worked out in his own mind and Jack was the one whose emotions sometimes exploded and then were over quickly.
Daniel sat on a small slab of rock not too far off from camp. If he turned his head to the right he could still see the campfire, the tents and the outlines of his teammates. Maybe it wasn't the getting old that scared him, Daniel mused as he stretched out on the rock, bunching up his jacket for a pillow. Maybe it was the thought of losing what he had. He couldn't stand the thought of losing any of them and the past few missions had driven home to him that any of the others could be taken from him in an instant. God, he was sick of losing people he loved. And he couldn't help loving them no matter how hard he tried.
He threw an arm over his eyes. Stop, he told himself. Stop thinking for awhile. Daniel could hear Jack's voice saying those words the first time they'd made love. Daniel had been busy analyzing and rationalizing their attraction to each other even while Jack slowly unbuttoned Daniel's jeans. Daniel remembered he'd even started to talk in lecture mode about homosexual relationships in Ancient Greece. He smiled to himself as he remembered Jack's fingers brushing his lips lightly before Jack bent his head closer to kiss him softly. Daniel had been amazed by that kiss. Amazed that Jack loved him and terrified by the same. He'd vowed that he wouldn't let anyone else get close to him after Sha're, that he would keep his heart safe from hurt. He'd forgotten how very persistent Jack O'Neill could be when he wanted something. How it could it have only been three short years ago? How could time be slipping by so quickly?
Stop, Daniel told himself again sternly, and then focused on the rock under his back. Warmth seeped through his pants, his T-shirt, slowly easing tight muscles, allowing Daniel to truly relax for the first time in days. He put his hands at his sides, rubbing the hot, rough stone under his fingertips, almost imagining he could feel the individual grains of sand that comprised the rock. How long had this rock been here? How large had it once been? How many storms and sunrises had it seen? Daniel's mind spun through the centuries, through thousands of years, seeing in his mind's eye, the rock underneath his body covered by ancient seas, battered by sandstorms, baked by a relentless sun. How much of Daniel Jackson would be left when life finished with him? Maybe it didn't matter, maybe all that mattered was now, this moment in time and space. Daniel let himself be the rock.
"Ahhh, that's nice." Jack heard Daniel's soft voice as he followed the trail Daniel had taken an hour earlier.
Despite Carter's urgings to follow Daniel right away, Jack had waited. He knew what Daniel needed. Teal'c was concerned that Daniel was angry at them, well, mostly at Jack since he'd made the comment about peeing in bed. Jack had spent most of the hour explaining to Teal'c that no, playing in the fire didn't really make you pee in your bed, but it had been a sure fire way of keeping kids from playing in campfires for more years than Jack could count. Jack had seen Daniel's mood change as they'd eaten their evening meal. He knew Daniel's back was hurting. Hell, whose back wouldn't hurt after spending it cramped up and bent over in a little bitty space? Evidently Daniel thought his back shouldn't. It wasn't just the back, though, Jack figured.
Daniel had been moody for the past few weeks. There hadn't been any big events in either of their lives. A few missions, two of which included run-ins with Jaffa, but nothing earth-shattering or out of the ordinary. They'd had their annual physicals and had both been in perfect health. Well, Janet had given Daniel a lecture about the evils of caffeine but that was routine.Their lovemaking had been good, probably not as frequent as either of them would have liked, but they'd been busy with work and often too tired to do much more than just sleep spooned up against each other, comfortable in just being together.
"Ahhh..." Daniel's voice came again. Just what the hell was Daniel doing anyway? Jack wondered. And why was he doing it without Jack?
He was vaguely disappointed when he finally approached the man he loved. Daniel was lying on his back on the rock, his arms stretched out to the side s.
"Hey there," Jack murmured as he sat beside Daniel.
"Hey." Daniel made no effort to get up.
"How's the back?"
"Better. The heat's helping somewhat." Daniel rolled his head to face Jack. "Everything okay with Sam and Teal'c?"
"They're fine, Daniel. They're not upset with *you*." Jack made a pouty face and got the smile he was hoping for.
"Poor Jack," Daniel sympathized. He rolled his head back to look up at the stars. "I just needed to get away, you know?"
Jack took off his own jacket and bunched it into a pillow. He put his head next to Daniel's, stretching out at a right angle. "So, Daniel."
Jack listened to Daniel's breathing, heard the pauses as once, twice, Daniel started to talk and then stopped.
"My back hurts, Jack," Daniel finally said.
Jack remained silent and waited watching the stars, so bright on this uninhabited world. The rock's residual warmth from the sunlight spread through his tired frame and wrapped him like a blanket.
"I found a gray hair when I took a shower the other day." Daniel moved slightly, his head bumping against Jack's. "And after our last mission, my knees ached for two whole days."
"You'd just spent how many hours crawling through tunnels, Daniel?" Jack asked quietly.
"I know, I'm being ridiculous." Daniel's shoulder came up against Jack's arm as he took a deep breath.
"I didn't say that, Daniel," Jack reminded him. He reached out a hand, found Daniel's, and rubbed his fingers briefly over the knuckles, a small scar smooth under his fingertips.
The next words were whispered. "I'm getting old, Jack."
"Older, Daniel, not old," Jack whispered back. "It was gonna happen sooner or later."
Jack heard the chuckle Daniel tried to stifle.
"And the gray hair...well, I've been told gray hair is sexy," Jack continued. Daniel's shoulder shook against his.
"Yeah?" Daniel's comment was laughter tinged. "Who told you that?"
"I have it on very good authority," Jack nodded. " The SGC's best linguist told me so. Hopefully he'll be as calm about turning gray as I was."
Daniel let out a snort at that. "Who had the bottle of Grecian Formula in his bathroom for two years?"
"Hey, I had to keep up my youthful image for awhile. Didn't want the new guys thinking I was on my last legs and ready to be put out to pasture."
"Oh no, not that." Daniel's tone held disbelief. The short banter turned into silence once again.They watched the stars together, allowing the stored sunlight of the rock to permeate each breath.
Jack listened to the night sounds, the voices of Sam and Teal'c carrying in the still air, the insect chorus, birds chattering as they settled in for the night, and Daniel's breathing, slow and steady, just like the man himself. He came to a realization as he listened. He and Daniel were breathing in tandem, inhalations and exhalations perfectly matched, two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, fitting together, belonging together, despite the jagged edges.
"I guess I'm like this rock, Jack," Daniel said what could have been hours later. "I realized how it's been here thousands, maybe even million of years. It's still solid, maybe a bit different, but still solid." Jack heard the change in Daniel's tone, the tone that said Daniel had worked it out, the tone that was self assured.
Jack rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. He looked down into Daniel's beloved face. "Danny." He brought his other hand up to Daniel's cheek, Daniel's skin cool under his fingers, emotion welling up so strongly in him that he was unable to say the words.
Daniel smiled up at him, brought a hand to Jack's face, tracing over Jack's cheek, his nose, his lips, as carefully as he did an ancient artifact. As Jack watched the smile grew until even Daniel's eyes had crinkled with it. "Yeah, Jack, me too. Me too."
Jack turned slightly and kissed the palm that rested on his cheek. Daniel withdrew his hand then and got to his feet, holding out a hand for Jack. Jack took it briefly, enough to feel those strong fingers curl around his warmly for an instant. They walked back to the camp side by side, shoulders bumping now and again as they found their way over uneven ground.
Jack put out a hand to stop Daniel before they entered the camp once more. He'd found the words, his voice. "Forever, Danny," he whispered.
The words that echoed back warmed him more thoroughly than the rock, although they carried its enduring solidity. "Forever, Jack. Forever."