Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R.
Category: Angst.  First Time. Friendship.  Hurt/Comfort.  Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 5.  No particular spoilers.
Synopsis: Fate, fire and friendship push Jack and Daniel right to where they need to be.
Warnings: A very gentle Christmas story.
Length: 112 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story

"Welcome home, SG-1," General Hammond greeted them warmly as he strode up the ramp.

"Good to be home, Sir," Sam responded brightly, checking her watch.  She sidled hopefully past the general.  "Um?"

"Your bags are packed and the gifts are wrapped, courtesy of Dr. Fraiser," Hammond informed her solemnly.  "They're holding the San Diego flight for you."

"Courtesy of the Air Force?" Jack asked cheerfully as he sauntered down to meet the general.  "Have a good one, Carter."

"Thank you, Sir," Sam beamed.

"Debriefing can wait until you return, Major," Hammond offered generously.

Ignoring the general along with Sam's professional pride, Daniel hugged her.  "Merry Christmas, Sam."

Sam hugged him back.  "You too, Daniel.  I'll miss you," she whispered.

"Me too," Daniel promised.  "Call me!"

"Cross my heart," Sam winked at him, solemnly crossing her P-90.  "It's the thought that counts," she snorted as his eyebrows rose.

"You thought you'd shoot me?"

"You have a much better stereo," Jack remarked casually to Daniel.

Teal'c bowed to Sam.  "I wish you joy on this festive occasion."

Daniel glanced up interestedly at Teal'c's beaming face.

"He's been brainwashed by Hallmark," Jack hissed into Daniel's ear.  "He has antlers stashed away in his quarters."

"You don't?" Daniel asked witheringly.

Jack sniffed and looked superior, which meant his antlers were bigger and probably furrier.

"Thank you, Teal'c." Sam smiled at them all.  "Sirs," she nodded her good wishes to all men who outranked her then bolted right out the door without a backward glance.

"Like a gazelle," Jack grinned.

"General Hammond?" Teal'c prompted, drawing Jack and Daniel's attention away from their madly fleeing teammate.

Looking grave, the general stepped closer to Daniel.

"Sir?" Daniel asked, startled as the general laid a consoling hand on his shoulder.  He looked down at the hand and then up at the general, his heart beginning to thump.

"I have some bad news, son," Hammond told him sorrowfully.

"Sir?" Jack demanded sharply, crowding closer to Daniel.

"There's been a fire at your apartment building, Dr. Jackson.  No one was hurt," the general explained quickly.

"My books!" Daniel gasped, horrified.  He was reeling, rocking back to sit heavily on the railing of the ramp.  Steadying hands at once took his arm in a supporting clasp.  Jack, of course.

"The damage was severe but fortunately confined to the first six floors," Hammond went on.

"Was anyone hurt?" Daniel asked dazedly.  His head was buzzing, making it hard to hear.

"No, son," Hammond repeated patiently.

Jack's arm hugged comfortingly around Daniel's shoulders.

"What of DanielJackson's books and belongings?" Teal'c demanded, frowning heavily.

"I deployed a team to secure the journals and other sensitive materials," Hammond reported.  "In accordance with the risk assessment," he went on, apparently feeling the need to justify his decision.

"Standard SOP for disaster recovery," Jack said briskly.  "Speaking of which?" he snapped.

"The journals, most of your books and some of the artefacts are safe, Dr. Jackson," Hammond finally told Daniel the only thing that mattered.  "Only those itemised on the risk assessment Colonel O'Neill completed when you took the apartment, I'm afraid.  Your furniture, the piano - all your clothes and belongings - are gone.  I couldn't justify the risk to my personnel," he said regretfully.  "Part of the building collapsed during the retrieval.  The only way to make it safe was demolition."

Daniel couldn't remember if his wedding bowl was here or at - at…"I need to go check," he mumbled distractedly, getting to his feet.

"Of course you do," General Hammond agreed soothingly.

"As do I," Teal'c said promptly, gently heading off Daniel's headlong rush at the bottom of the ramp and holding onto him.

"What he said!" Jack agreed, rapidly following.

"Storage room eleven on nineteen," the general reported.

"Thanks," Daniel said abruptly, wondering if he was going to have go through Teal'c.  He didn't care about the goddamned guns and crap his friends were stripping him of and handing over to various blurred sympathetic faces in khaki.

"Dr. Jackson?" the general responded in puzzlement.

"For letting Sam enjoy her Christmas."

Jack's busy hands went still, soft eyes lifting to meet Daniel's.

When he pushed, Jack gave, and Daniel was moving at last.  He had so little of Sha'uri.  Time dulled more than memory.  Her face was in a frame, her life in the little clay bowl from their wedding.  There was nothing else Daniel could touch.  The bowl had to be here.  Had to be safe.

"I don't remember," Daniel fretted as he pulled up in front of the elevator.

"Your office is on level nineteen," Teal'c obligingly reached past Daniel to call the elevator.

"I didn't mean that!" Daniel flared, glowering up at him.  Teal'c patted his shoulder.

"He knows," Jack said soothingly as the doors opened and Daniel pounced inside.

"I will be happy to assist, O'Neill," Teal'c declared as he moved sedately to stand at Daniel's shoulder.

"Thanks," Jack acknowledged as he took up position on Daniel's right.

"What?" Daniel snapped as he reached for the keypad.

"Nineteen," Jack supplied helpfully.

"I know!" Daniel snarled, "I mean, why does Jack need help?"  He punched twenty.

There was a silence.  Quite a careful one.  Neither of his friends had the nerve to point out his was the level above.

Daniel punched nineteen with pissed precision.

"O'Neill requires my assistance to relocate your books to his home," Teal'c smoothly answered Daniel's question.

"And possibly to relocate Daniel," Jack commented under his breath.

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, thoughtfully observing Daniel.

"I can't stay with you!"  There - there were a million reasons why this was impossible!  The main one was standing right behind Daniel and was in his thoughts - and dreams - far too often for comfort.  It should be obvious!

"You can."

"It's - it's impossible!" Daniel blurted, panicking.

"It isn't."

"I am not staying with you!"

"You are."

Moving as one man, Jack and Teal'c more or less wrapped themselves around Daniel, sympathetically suppressing his vague attempts to escape.

"My bowl."  It was weird, but Daniel's mouth seemed to be working just fine.  He hadn't known it was possible to talk without thinking but he seemed to be managing it now.  "Our bowl," he said urgently, gripping Jack's arm tightly.

"In your office," Jack said gently.

"The bowl of which you speak is on your desk, DanielJackson," Teal'c assured him.  "I have observed that you keep it close to you."

"Not close enough."  Daniel was chilled and shivering around a knot of cold at his core, cramping his stomach and his empty head.  "Are you sure?" he blurted to Jack.

"The wedding bowl is on your desk and there's room at the O'Neill Inn," Jack issued a blanket reassurance.  "No crib for your bed," he added, apparently despite himself, if the wince of pre-emptive apology was anything to go by.

"It's not like I've never been in this position before," Daniel told his feet.  "It's the third time my ass has been on the street since I've known you."

"Who?" Jack appeared to sense an element of accusation creeping in.



"You," Teal'c confirmed smugly.

"I've never had to live with you before, though," Daniel bleated.

"Meaning my spare room is rock-bottom?" Jack was hurt.

Living with Jack and still being alone?  Yes.

"I believe so, O'Neill," Teal'c interpreted helpfully.

The elevator doors opened.  Daniel looked at them.  His friends took an arm each and steered him out into the hallway.  Daniel heard the doors close behind them.  Oddly, he felt a little better.  "We're on twenty," he gently observed, purely on a point of information and not in a spirit of vindictiveness or anything.  "This is not my level.  The elevator is now on my level.  We're not."  This was because certain overprotective warrior types thought they knew best.

"You know, even when he's traumatised, he manages to be the most aggravating man who ever lived," Jack complained loudly, instantly attempting to divert attention from the stupid thing he'd just done.

"I agree."  Teal'c's tone was markedly cooler.

Teal'c was also really embarrassed.

They wheeled around with practiced perfect timing and marched Daniel back to the elevator, the car of which was now sitting tauntingly one floor above them.

"Ow!  I'm homeless, you know," Daniel complained as the supportiveness got a tad too physical.

"You are not.  O'Neill's home is now your home," Teal'c contradicted.

"Hey, mi casa," Jack backed up Teal'c with expansive kindness.

"Strictly temporary," Daniel insisted distractedly, not sure which crisis to panic over next.  "Did everyone get out okay?"

"General Hammond assured us that all are safe," Teal'c told him kindly.

"He did?" Daniel said blankly as he was hustled onto the elevator again.  "Oh."  He looked up at Teal'c as the elevator doors closed.  "He did?"

"It's the shock," Jack reassured Daniel as he made a production job of punching nineteen.

Daniel nodded as if this made perfect sense, which it would have, if he wasn't in shock and didn't have this fog bank between his ears.  He couldn't remember much of anything the general had said, but he was perfectly clear about a glaring omission.  His stomach accelerated up his throat and tried to climb out his mouth.



The elevator doors opened on nineteen.

"You know we never leave our people behind?" Daniel asked in a small voice.  "What's the policy on fish?"

The elevator doors closed on a painful silence.

"This is all that's left?" Daniel asked in quiet despair as he stared around the small, dark room, its shelves frighteningly bare.

"Oh, no!  No!" Nyan hastened to assure him.  "The books which were on the open shelves are up on level twelve.  Dr. Grogan and the Biosciences team assisted me with freeze-drying the volumes after I used the chemical sponges to remove the worst of the surface smoke damage."

Daniel took a deep breath and summoned up a shaky, grateful smile.

"The artefacts which were rescued are here.  I am sorry there is not more for you to see, but felt it was important to begin conservation immediately.  I've inspected all of them and catalogued the damage, but full restoration is going to take time, Dr. Jackson," Nyan apologised.  "I will have to devise an individual cleaning and deodorising programme for each.  I have a lot of research to do.  Thankfully there is no material damage to repair!"

"With your workload I shouldn't accept your help," Daniel sighed, conscience-stricken.

"It is far less excessive than your own," Nyan scolded.

"Reeeally?" a pleasant voice enquired.


Daniel looked around and found Jack and Teal'c looming at him, each with arms crossed threateningly over puffed-out chests and dark, disapproving expressions.

"It would seem that DanielJackson's residence with you may yield unexpected benefits, O'Neill," Teal'c announced decidedly.

"Indeed," Jack agreed with a stern look and his best weighty tone.

"Thanks!" Daniel snapped ungratefully.  "Burning me out and then demolishing me is kind of an extreme way to make me go to bed early, don't you think?" he demanded with biting sarcasm.

"O'Neill was not responsible for either of these incidents," Teal'c reminded Daniel.

"Not," Jack looked carefully at Daniel, "technically."

Teal'c also looked.  "I see."

"I don't know why everyone is just assuming I'm moving in with you!" Daniel argued, close to anger in his bewilderment.

Seeming to feel he was personally representing 'everyone', Nyan promptly retrieved a frail artefact and prudently withdrew from the line of fire, leaving Daniel alone with a puzzled Jack and Teal'c, who kept glancing at one another.

"I do not know why you are the only one to assume you would not stay with O'Neill," Teal'c said at last.

"We're friends," Jack explained soothingly, unconsciously assuming a defensive stance.

"The best of friends," Teal'c graciously concurred, also looking quite alert and ready for anything to happen to him.

"Yin and Yang!"

"Everything is gone," Daniel said, unutterably weary and defeated.  He pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.  His head was pounding with tension.  "Weird how losing it all makes you realise," he faltered, dropping his gaze to avoid his friends' empathy.  There had always been a part of him which felt closer to his parents and to his life with them when he lived among the Abydonians.  There had been so many echoes of the past living on, so much to trigger memories he'd thought were lost.

This was home now, these people and this place.  Not Abydos, not anymore.  His apartment - he'd set down roots, hadn't he?  Invested himself in more than a lease.  It had taken him his whole life to find home, to belong.


"It is not," Teal'c disagreed.  "I have robbed many families of their homes," he reminded them straight-forwardly, "just as I in turn was robbed of mine.  Yet I do not forget that my home was a lie while my wife and son did not live free.  It is not the structure which makes the home, DanielJackson."

"What the hell have you been watching?"  Jack was squirming uncomfortably.  An embarrassed grunt in Daniel's general direction signified his assent to these sentiments.

"You can rebuild," Teal'c went on, ignoring this irrelevant interpolation.  "As did I."

Jack took that as a compliment, perking up.

"It would be wise for you to see with your own eyes where you once lived," Teal'c advised Daniel.  "It is necessary for closure."

"I'm revoking your TV privileges as of now," Jack threatened.

"I have to live with that," Daniel whined pathetically to no one in particular.  Jack was going to be an overbearing, bull-headed, overprotective pain in the ass, he could tell.  Of course, this was who Jack was, this was him on a good day, but living under his roof would give Jack what he would consider the right to be himself all over his hapless houseguest - who had enough problems already - as hard as he damned well could.

Teal'c raised an eloquent eyebrow in Jack's direction.  "As do I."

Before Daniel could elaborate on this promising theme Jack scooped him up and escorted him briskly to the gear-up room.  Deposited on the low wooden bench for safekeeping, Daniel despondently eyed what little remained of his wardrobe - now in its entirety - in his locker.  One cream cable knit sweater, one pair of pale grey chinos.  Winter boots.  Socks.  A blue shirt and his favourite tweed jacket because the weather you left was rarely the weather you returned to.  His weddings, funerals and intergalactic diplomacy suit.  A wind breaker because it was raining so hard it was bouncing when he got to the base three days ago.  His heavy woollen winter coat and gloves in case it was snowing when he went - when he - when he left.  That was it.  That was everything.

"At least you're hitting the sales," Jack said tactlessly.

Daniel did a one-eighty on his little wooden bench and fixed Jack with an outraged glare.

"Silver clouds," Jack suggested defiantly.  After a long enough interval to ensure everyone in the room knew just how much testosterone he had fuelling his machismo, he got very interested in his wardrobe too, which necessitated turning around and coincidentally avoiding Daniel's accusing eyes.

Depression setting in with a vengeance, Daniel soberly changed into his only pair of pants, the blue shirt and the sweater, an old, familiar friend and his favourite.  He didn't know if it was snowing outside but he was cold and shaky.  He bundled up in his winter coat and wished he felt warmer.  Jack had his leather jacket and cream chinos teamed with a loose black shirt.  He pulled his heavy waterproof winter coat on over it all and jammed his stupid black woollen hockey-hat on his head.  With his slightly surreal sartorial sense, Teal'c looked like an extra from 'The High Chaparral'.  The only things missing were a six-shooter and one of those strange buffalo coats the cowboys who didn’t have the sense to come in out of the blizzard used to wear, though Teal'c had done his best with what modern waterproof fabrics had to offer.

"Not exactly the Three Musketeers," Daniel observed wryly.

"Speak for yourself!" Jack countered.  "Let's hit the road."  He led the way, walking close by Daniel's side, watching him the whole time.

It was nice that Jack cared so much.  Very nice.  Totally unnerving, but - nice.

Daniel's depression appeared to be contagious.  They navigated the security check-points and walked down to the parking lot in heavy silence, Jack steering them to his truck.  Daniel scrambled in and slumped on the back seat.  He decided he must look as bad as he felt when Jack tossed the keys to Teal'c and climbed in the back to sit close by him.

A wary elbow nudged his ribs.

"Okay?" Jack whispered.

No.  He wasn't.

"I require you to fasten your seatbelts," Teal'c instructed.

Jack barely restrained himself from helping Daniel with his.

Daniel ground his teeth, angry with the part of him that trusted enough to lean.  It was so dangerous to get close to people, to depend on them.    He knew he was a lost cause where Jack was concerned, he had daily proof of that.  Living with Jack, though?  He couldn't let himself get too comfortable.  Dependence was need and insecurity in yourself as much as it was hope and faith in others.  Daniel was desperately uncertain and as always, his instinct was to withdraw and to defend himself.

The trouble was, Jack would never let him go.  He didn't now.  He stayed close and kept watching Daniel like it was just a matter of waiting him out.

Maybe Jack was right.

Maybe for once Daniel should just allow Jack to take care of him.

"Damn straight you should," Jack agreed emphatically.

Okaaay.  Maybe Daniel was more upset than he knew.  He had been talking without thinking and now he was thinking, he seemed to be doing it out loud.  He was completely embarrassing himself either way.

"DanielJackson will require clothing," Teal'c informed them as he drove confidently out onto the main road.

"We'll swing by the mall," Jack said easily.

And that was a whole new level of embarrassment, right there.

"No checks," Jack instructed.

"Such an edict would require you to shed many items from your own wardrobe, O'Neill," Teal'c pointed out smugly.  "I believe DanielJackson refers to these items as your 'Monty Python' look."

"Aren't you supposed to be off-world?" Jack asked loudly.

"General Hammond will send a car for me," Teal'c responded blandly.

"When?" Jack demanded rudely.

"When he's embarrassed you sufficiently, Jack."

"Monty Python?"

Daniel closed his eyes.  He might be aggravating when he was traumatised but this had its upside, because Jack couldn't be.  The whole big bad-ass protector thing cut both ways.  Instead of harassing him, Jack had to suck it up and be quiet while Daniel rested.

Jack didn't get entirely with the programme, managing to make far more noise just sitting there and being quiet than he did storming through the hallways of the SGC.  This suggested he was bored and lonely and wanted Daniel to wake up and aggravate him some more.

Daniel wanted to wake up in Kansas.

"Oh my god," Daniel whispered dazedly, gaping at the garish yellow and black stripes of the hazard signs.  He wasn't the only one here.  Three days after the event and several bleak people he recognised from his building were huddled together, leaning against the signs that kept them out, unwilling or perhaps unable to let go.  "It's a ruin."

Rubble.  Nothing but rubble and chaos.

"I loved my apartment.  It fit."

It was - had been his space, his alone, the only space in his life where he'd been able to express himself freely, without the constraints which had dogged him.  His taste, his personality, his interests.  All the time and care he'd spent in the slow building of his collection, the unique artefacts from worlds they'd never visit again, books and the small things that were part of who he was - all gone.

"A risk assessment."


Jack's arm was around him again, in a strong grip that suggested Jack was holding something up.

"My life.  Itemised."

"I hate this," Jack muttered.  "Not knowing what to say."

"You never know what to say," Daniel argued automatically.  "You just grunt."

"As do you," Teal'c reminded him unhelpfully.

Daniel and Jack both turned to scowl at him, which amused him very much.

"You're not exactly loquacious yourself," Jack snapped.  "And we're here for Daniel."

"I'm traumatised," Daniel seconded.  "Did I say thank you?  I don't remember.  Did I?  I should.  They did so much, the general and Nyan and the team, the ones who went in and killed my fish."

Jack snorted explosively and failed to make it sound like a coughing fit.

"It's Christmas," Daniel realised.  He was beginning to feel a little unreal and out of it.  "My foster parents used to ask if I wanted Christmas presents or a dog.  I always asked for the dog and then found presents under the tree anyway."

"Daniel?" Jack sobered instantly.

"Why want what you can't have?  Why offer what you can't give?  It's not like there's any control."


The gentle pet name stung but it wasn't meant to.

"I'm babbling, I'm sorry," Daniel apologised hastily, his eyes again straying to the detritus of so many lives and hopes, his own among them.  "Adrift, I guess."

"Let's go home," Jack suggested quietly.

Daniel blinked hard at this and had to keep on as his eyes stung with sudden, suspicious moisture.  Jack sounded so - so sure.  Home.  "You really mean that."

Abruptly realising he did mean exactly that, Jack got very red in the face and sputtered quite a bit as Teal'c looked on, smiling beneficently at the two of them and enjoying the Tau'ri floorshow.

"I believe you may stay with O'Neill as long as you desire, DanielJackson," Teal'c translated decisively.  "Though it is doubtful this would be as long as O'Neill desires."

"You know, with friends like you," Jack retorted snidely, just getting into his stride.

"I do not know," Teal'c denied instantly, mentally squaring up for battle.

"The mall will be closing in an hour," Daniel hastily interrupted the brewing brawl.  "Thanks guys.  I'm feeling very, um, anchored now."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Daniel wasn't ready to let go of his home but he was right about having no control.  There was nothing for him to do here but walk away.  There was no way to soften the blow, no moment when it would be easier on him.  All he could do was go.  At least this way, he could fool himself, at least for a little while, that he'd exercised some kind of choice.

He refused to be a victim.

"Look scary and take point," Jack ordered Teal'c.  He squeezed Daniel's arm.  "We're going in."

"I kind of wish I had a P-90," Daniel confessed, looking at the horde of last-minute holiday shoppers, the occasional antler bobbing, thronging the mall.  The tangible desperation of these benighted souls was depressing him.

Jack glanced at Daniel, a quick, assessing gaze skimming him from head to toe.  "Head for Zumiez," he instructed.

"Where?" Daniel asked as he was plucked to safety between Teal'c and Jack.  Literally plucked.  Jack could be annoyingly hands-on as a leader.  "Zumiez?" he prompted, when no answer was forthcoming.

"Men's clothing store," Jack replied blandly, fending off the consumers who were scattering from Teal'c's path.  "It goes to his head, you know," Jack hissed disapprovingly, his warm breath tickling Daniel's ear, making him shiver.  "All the attention."

"It's the hat, I think."

"He heard that," Jack whispered smugly.

"I heard you both, O'Neill."

Allowing himself to be steered through the crowds, Daniel fixed his distracted gaze on Teal'c's broad back and chose to devote himself to worrying about Zumiez.  The fact that he owned clothing - or used to - and had never even heard of Zumiez suggested this was not the kind of store he would shop in.  Not voluntarily.  He had a - a style.  It might not suit everyone's taste, particularly Jack's, but it suited his.

Eventually they slowed their cautious, oblique advance and Teal'c stepped aside with something of a flourish.  The first thing Daniel saw was a skateboard.  He looked up in surprise and realised it was far from alone.  "Are you being sarcastic?" he demanded incredulously of Jack.

"Trust me," Jack crooned, failing to offer any kind of incentive for this as he and Teal'c took an arm each and wedged a resisting Daniel in through the doorway.

There were more skateboards inside.  Plus skis.

"Check out the sweaters," Jack coaxed, freeing Daniel before a display of very nice woollens and jersey knits.

Daniel got his eye on a slate grey sweater with a collar and buttons and went to investigate.

"Half an hour until closing, Daniel," Jack murmured gently.  "Want us to grab you some jeans and stuff?"

The black sweater was nice too.  Maybe he should get both?


"Thanks.  You know what I like," he cautioned vaguely.

"We certainly do," Jack agreed heartily.

"This is a most becoming shade," Teal'c suggested, lifting a deep blue-green sleeve temptingly.

"As is this," Jack seconded him, tweaking out a silken dove grey.

There was being helpful and then there was - there was this.  Weird.  "Jeans?" Daniel prompted with only a slight waver in his voice.  He was being ambushed again by surrealism.  He knew he was.  He always was.  "I'm not up to this," he sighed.

Jack and Teal'c obediently rushed to do his bidding, leaving him with the warm, tactile reassurance of wool stroking over his skin and the faint hope the worst was over.  He wanted to hold onto this feeling for a little while.

His friends seemed disposed to help him, gathering up him and his armful of sweaters to discover the helpful clerk had already packed for him what he presumed were the jeans and stuff.  His sweaters were added to the total, folded, bagged, handed over with a voucher he could redeem against any deck in the upcoming sale and by the time he'd confirmed that 'deck' was how people who had skateboards in their lives referred to them, they were hustled out the door and the electronic shutters were gliding down with unflattering promptitude behind them.

Daniel's stomach rumbled loudly.

"Amen," Jack said cheerfully.  "Home, Teal'c, and don't spare the horsepower."

"That's so lame, Jack.  Can't you give it up?" Daniel begged.  "It doesn't matter how often you repeat it, if it didn't get a laugh the first time, it won’t get one the fiftieth."


Everyone was tired by the time they reached Jack's house.  Teal'c wasn't physically tired, he'd just had a surfeit of Jack and his varied attempts to keep up Daniel's spirits.

"I cannot remain here with you for long, DanielJackson," Teal'c reminded them as he neatly parked the truck.  "Though he wishes to be with his family, General Hammond will remain at the SGC until I safely depart for the Land of Light."

"That's very considerate, Teal'c," Daniel said reassuringly.  "Thanks for being here."

"It was my pleasure."

Daniel scrambled out of the truck and did a double-take.

"Your basic winter wonderland," Jack said complacently as Daniel gaped at the delicate white lights glinting in the snow-filled garden and around the eaves of his house.  "You like Christmas," Jack modestly excused this tasteful extravagance.

"You do too."

It was kind of their tradition to get together for Christmas.  With everything that had happened, it had gone right out of Daniel's head.  He would have been here tonight anyway, and tomorrow, and probably the day after too.  He would keep trying to be polite and not outstay his welcome, and Jack would never let him go.  They talked endlessly, bickered amicably, gorged themselves stupid and slumped in front of classic movies, played silly, ridiculously competitive games, each trying to fill up the empty spaces where family should have been for the other.

"I forgot," Daniel confessed shamefaced.

"Me too."  Jack handed Daniel some bags and led the way into the house.

Daniel dropped the bags inside the front door and walked back down the path.  He needed a little time, just a few minutes to clear his head and ready himself to take this next necessary step he didn’t want to have to take.  He didn't want to let go of his home but he had no choice in the matter.  Daniel abstractedly skirted the truck, following the outline of the house around into the yard.  Walking on virgin snow was a secret, cherished pleasure which had stayed with him all his life and nights like this, achingly cold and clear, had a pristine, striking beauty which never failed to move him.

"Counting blessings sucks," he said bitterly.

"Tell it," Jack answered easily, strolling up to join him.  "I must be getting old."

Daniel glanced at him questioningly.

"If you heard me."

"I didn't," Daniel admitted honestly.  "I knew you were there."  Where else would Jack be when Daniel needed him?

"Not old, just predictable?"

"Just a friend."

Daniel shivered, shoving his hands into his armpits.  He jumped when Jack's arm slid around his shoulders, feeling unaccountably edgy at an intimacy Jack hadn't been nearly so quick to share with him for a while now.  "Snow muffles the world," he said, more or less at random, teeth chattering with cold and nerves.  "Distances you.  It always makes me feel alone."

"You're not." Jack's calm certainty was there in the way he was holding Daniel too.  "Stay as long as you want to."  He said this as if it shouldn't need to be said, as if it was a self-evident truth.

"Shouldn't that be need to?" Daniel queried.

"I don't mind having you about the place," Jack said casually.

"Are you like this with all your friends?" Daniel blurted, suddenly very confused by the incongruity of being snuggled so naturally to Jack's side.  He and Jack fitted and he found he rather liked the feeling.

Jack didn't seem able to find a response to this.  He didn't say anything but he also didn't let go.

"Did you ever hug Kawalsky?"

"I held his hand!"  After a brief silence, Jack's whole body jerked in irritable recognition of this less than stellar example.  He still didn't let go of Daniel.

"Do you ever think," Daniel began hesitantly.


"I do too," Daniel whispered.  "Maybe we're too close."

"No," Jack insisted with flat finality.

"So let go," Daniel challenged Jack, not wanting him to.

"I don't need to," Jack stressed carefully.

"Meaning you don't want to and if you don't need to, then that's okay, that's just friendship?" Daniel immediately pointed out the illogic of this.

"That's what it is exactly.  Just friendship," Jack insisted stubbornly.

Daniel was no longer sure.  It was the most natural thing to them both to be intimate.  It was right. It was also something neither of them could stop even if, maybe, they had to.  He was leaden and stupid with exhaustion, stumbling as they turned to go back into the house.  Jack didn't keep his distance, he didn't seem able to, and Daniel could only be grateful he wasn't drowning alone.

The house was warm and inviting when they went inside.  Teal'c had taken care of the domestics while Daniel and Jack were out in the garden not having their little touching problem.  The glow of the log fire softened shadows and angles, the tall, splendid tree danced with light and glittering jewel colours in the place of honour in the corner of the room.  Teal'c had even lit some candles here and there, something he felt no personal space could be without, not when the occupants had some serious thinking to do.

Daniel stripped off his coat and sweater, accepting a glass of something hot from Teal'c.  He took a grateful sip, heather, honey and herbs sliding sleekly over his tongue.  "Mmmm," Daniel sighed reverently.  "I don't know what you did to Jack's single malt, Teal'c, but it's perfect."

Gratified, Teal'c bowed.

"You boiled up the cheap one, right?" Jack demanded ungratefully after an unwise gulp of his toddy brought tears to his eyes.

Daniel put his hand on the small of Jack's back, so warm and solid beneath the smoothness of cotton.

"Not that it matters," Jack said vaguely, apparently conceding this round to Teal'c uncontested.

The emphatic honk of a car horn startled Daniel, who wasn't really paying attention to anything that wasn't Jack.  He realised that Teal'c was still wearing his weird cowboy coat, looking up in dismay at his friend.

"I will return again in three days," Teal'c reminded him kindly.  "Do not regret what cannot be undone, DanielJackson.  The choices we make are not always for good, nor are the choices fate makes for us always for ill."

On this encouraging if slightly obscure note of wisdom, Teal'c departed, presumably to make sure he had the last word.

"In other words, quit your whining and make the most of it," Jack translated freely, managing to avoid Hallmark sentimentality with his customary verbal panache.


"Worrying," Jack generously stretched this point.

Daniel handed Jack his glass, knelt down and unlaced his boots, his fingers slow and hesitant.  Knowing that he couldn't leave, that he had no place to go, changed how he felt being here.  The house was almost strange to him again.  It wasn't his but he was no longer just a guest.  After a moment, he pulled his neatly tucked shirt free and left it casually loose, feeling this was probably the smallest claim of belonging he could make in a space which Jack fit and filled.

The coffee table was heaped invitingly high with many bowls of snacks, festive or otherwise, while Zumiez bags spilled over both chairs and sprawled across the floor.  Unpacking and checking out his purchases was another way to stave off having to actually face the spare room and another unpleasant dose of reality.  Daniel slid a bowl of caramel popcorn around to his side of the table and knelt down beside the nearest bag as Jack tumbled gratefully onto the couch, toed a bowl of Doritos out of his way and stretched out his feet to rest on the coffee table.

The first bag contained jeans in blue, black and white.  Daniel tended towards the comfort fit, which these weren't, but when he checked the labels they were his size.  The second bag raised his eyebrows.  What he thought were chinos were in fact cargo pants and Jack was looking bland, which suggested they really were as youthfully inappropriate as Daniel felt they were for a staid archaeologist.

The third bag contained several of his half-dozen sweaters, so far so good, the fourth some T-shirts in pleasing colours which seemed on the small side to him.  He pulled one out at random, a white one, noting it was a size smaller than the ones he usually bought but would in fact fit him.  Exactly.  "What did you do?  Check my medical records?"

Jack smiled at him.

Daniel dug deeper.  He unearthed the silken grey sweater Jack had been fondling in the store and wondered how the hell Jack had got it past him.  He held it up against himself in mute accusation and realised it was an even snugger fit than the T-shirts.  Positively clingy.

He looked from the several bags perched up on the chairs to the fifth bag here on the floor with him.  Jack looked at the fifth bag too, a little of his annoying smugness shading to sudden uncertainty.

"What's in there?"

Instead of answering, Jack drained his hot toddy.

Warily, Daniel drew the bag towards him and peeked inside.  "Underwear," he bleated.

"Which you needed," Jack countered defensively.

Skimpy, flimsy, tight-knit, hugging…black.

Daniel rocked back and leaned against the chair, gaping at Jack.  "This is how you think of me?"


Jack didn't sound certain.  He didn't sound certain at all.

Staring at anything but each other, they sat in shaken silence, evidence of their uncertainty scattered across the floor around them.

Daniel sat on the bed in Jack's Spartan spare room.  He must have been sitting here for an hour but Jack hadn't come after him.  Rich meaty smells told him dinner was in progress but he guessed that was less about food than it was about Jack needing to not think about underwear.

There was really only one way to describe this thing they weren't thinking about, this thing which wasn't happening.  They touched and wanted to touch, they felt right when they were close and what they had was beginning to be not close enough.

It was typical of Jack to deny he had a problem almost before he knew he had one.



Dammit, before Daniel knew!

He jumped to his feet, dashing impetuously along to the kitchen.  "You knew!" he accused Jack loudly, making him jump, the potatoes he was mashing flying everywhere.

"For cryin' out loud!" Jack hollered.

"You knew you were attracted to me!"

"I'm not!" Jack denied furiously.

"You mean you don't want to be!"

"I mean I can't be!" Jack roared at him.

"Oh," Daniel said stupidly, not even pretending to misunderstand.  "Denying it isn't helping, Jack.  You have to know that.  You can't keep your hands off me."

Jack was hurt by this, really hurt, flinching back from the harshness of Daniel's belated comprehension.

"I don't want you to."  For a moment, even Daniel wasn't sure what he'd said, then realisation slammed and left them both floundering.

Jack angrily threw the potato masher clattering into the sink then shoved the pan in after it, turned off the stove with a snap and slid the frying pan and its sizzling steaks to one side.  "I lost my appetite," he said bitterly, pushing past Daniel.


As much as Jack wanted to walk away from Daniel, he couldn't, any more than Daniel could walk away from Jack.  They were friends.  Jack froze in place, a brittle hand splayed over the polished surface of the dining table, waiting there as Daniel came up to him.

"I think about you all the time," Daniel told him softly, unable to stop himself from reaching out, a thing he'd done so rarely, only when Jack needed it from him most.  It meant something.  Maybe everything.

His fingertips brushed the warm skin of Jack's nape, Jack's shudder echoed in his own tremors.

"We're friends," Jack insisted.

"We're more," Daniel suggested tentatively.

"We can't be lovers, Daniel.  We can't make love."

Jack shrugged him off, which was probably a good thing because in his righteous indignation, Daniel hadn't exactly been considering the physicality.  His naïveté annoyed him intensely.

"What would you do if I just came down there and climbed into your lap?" he snapped.

"Drop you on your ass."

This instantly decided Daniel that the only place he wanted to be was right next to Jack.

The truth of this hit inconveniently home as the ass in question thudded limply onto the couch, its owner emitting a soft bleat of distress.  After about three years of screaming tension, Jack made a helpless noise low in his throat and put his arm around Daniel.

So.  They were friends who were attracted to one another and neither of them knew what to do.

Daniel reached up and threaded his fingers through Jack's slightly resistant ones, which soon closed tightly over his.

"Do you want to make love?" Daniel asked steadily enough.  He stretched out his legs to rest his feet by Jack's on the coffee table, leaning into him.  It wasn't an easy thing for Daniel to do, but he rested his head against Jack's.  Jack was reaching around to clasp Daniel's waist almost before he knew he was doing it and then of course he had too much testosterone to back down.

"I still don't know what to do," Daniel commented.

"We're just a whole lot more comfortable in our ignorance," Jack snorted.  "Yes," he went on.  "I do want you.  Very much."

"Does it bother you?"

"It's against the regs," Jack began.

"Not the Air Force, Jack," Daniel reminded him.  "You."

"Yes."  Jack's voice was oddly neutral, as if he didn't know how he should be feeling or what he could show.  What was safe.

"Have you been exclusively heterosexual until now?" Daniel asked respectfully.

Jack pulled a face.

"Me too."

"I didn't know, you know," Jack explained somewhat obscurely.  "Didn't buy a clue for the longest time."

"Even when you did, you couldn't keep your hands to yourself."  Daniel wasn't sure why he kept coming back to this point except the obvious one that he liked having this effect on Jack.  "You're very hands on in your denial," he commented approvingly.

"Daniel, you're impossible!" Jack complained without much heat, playing with Daniel's shirt, rolling the cotton between restive fingers.  "The one thing I can always rely on is that you'll never, ever react like you're supposed to.  Not to anything."

"This should be a good thing," Daniel reproved him.  "When one previously straight guy makes a pass at his equally previously straight guy friend, I suspect the textbook hetero panic response probably isn't to snuggle up together on the couch."

"I didn't make a pass," Jack argued.  "I think I was accused of not making one, which illustrates my point perfectly.  You didn't buy a clue at all, did you?  You just realised I'd bought a clue!"

Daniel refused to answer on the grounds that Jack could be aggravatingly perceptive when it was least convenient.

"This is the last thing I wanted you to have to worry about when you've had to move in here with me," Jack said slowly.

"That feels good."


"Your hand."  Big and warm and stroking softly now over Daniel's ribs.

"Are you listening?" Jack instantly made this impossible by curving broad, long, reproving fingers over Daniel's hip.

"I'm not worried," Daniel said uncertainly as a very familiar sensation spiked at his groin.  "Oh."  He shook violently, his mouth falling open in shock as heat and pleasure swelled slow between his legs.  "Oh."  The most real thing was his aching heart.  Jack was the one he could depend on, the one he turned to.  It was Jack who could reach him and shake him apart.  Leave him thrilled and defenceless.  Only Jack.  "I'm - I'm in love!"

The other shoe didn't have far to drop.  Daniel turned beseechingly to Jack, found brown eyes velvet-soft and saying everything.  Jack almost smiled when Daniel's wondering fingers touched his cheek then Daniel's mouth met his for a few clumsy, shaking seconds.

"What bothers you?" Daniel demanded, really needing to know because he'd just kissed Jack and he wanted to do it again so very much.

"Everything.  Wanting you so much I can't think.  Feeling like this isn't any kind of choice I made.  It just is." Jack's soft, frustrated honesty moved Daniel deeply.

"I was thinking that we fit," he confessed.

"This isn't me," Jack burst out, "Wasn't me."

Daniel reached around and kissed Jack again, both of them stiff-lipped and still.  Just a few seconds of awkward contact and Daniel sat back again, that familiar buzz in his head.

"I can't think when you do that," Jack sighed, putting up no resistance when Daniel kissed him again, determined to find their familiar connection in this.  "I can't think."

"Do you love me against your conscience?"

"No!" Jack was upset Daniel could even think this.  "Being with a man just isn't anything I would've chosen."

"I understand," Daniel assured him, relieved they were both out of their depth and at a loss to know how to react.  "I - I feel the same."  He didn't find words for his feelings any easier than Jack did, but he tried just the same.  "It's just - it's you, Jack."

"Exactly!" Jack agreed gratefully.

Daniel smiled, shy but determined, then they kissed, still stiff and difficult, but tasting now.  He was able to feel Jack's lips against his, smooth and mobile, surprisingly firm and fitting.  Then they sat back to think a little.  "This is so awkward," Daniel sighed.

"Good, though," Jack reminded him as he leaned in to kiss Daniel.

They did better this time, rubbing their mouths together with far less hesitance than before.  Daniel put his arms around Jack to keep him close while they explored one another.  Jack quivered when Daniel's tongue flickered over his lips, his arms tightening imperatively as he returned the compliment.  They kissed until they were easy in it, lips and tongues flowing and pleasurable, sitting back then to catch their breath and look at one another.

"You said we can't," Daniel reminded Jack.  "Why can't we?"

Jack was staring at Daniel's mouth.  "I don't remember."

"It was important to you," Daniel persisted.

"It was at the time."  Jack reached for Daniel and leaned into him at the same time, pushing him down onto his back to stretch out on top of him.  They lay in a slightly pained tangle of legs, arms tight around one another on a couch too small for either of them, Jack feathering gentle kisses over Daniel's welcoming mouth.

When Daniel cupped Jack's head to pull him down, Jack came eagerly, his lips parting to a probing, curious tongue.  They groaned out embarrassingly loudly when Daniel slid, incredulous and shaking, into Jack's mouth.  Tongues rubbed ecstatically as their hips found the same compulsive rhythm and they rocked together, aroused now and serious about it, beginning to touch and push impatiently at constricting clothes.  Far too many clothes.

Jack shuddered with excitement when Daniel's hands slid beneath his shirt to stroke lingeringly over his back, his fingers busy between them unbuttoning enough shirt to bare Daniel's shoulder.  If there was a time to stop and be sensible, this was probably it.  Jack's questing mouth found Daniel's nipple, liquefying his bones with stunned pleasure and then his hands found Jack's ass and really, the couch was too damned small.

Daniel pushed and Jack pulled, they rolled to their knees, scrambled clear and tumbled down side by side in front of the fire, kissing frantically.  Jack sat to pull off his shirt, tossed it and reached down to help Daniel discard his.  They lay down again, skin meeting skin, bodies fitting, better than anything.

They kissed more deeply than before, with greater passion and less panic.  Drugging, tender kisses, stealing sense, Daniel electric with love and wanting.  If their hands were uncertain, there was still pleasure shared in touching, a rightness to it that built need between them.  Daniel was lost in wonder at Jack's body, rugged, scarred and wholly beautiful to him.  He wanted more and reached for it, impatiently unbuckling and unzipping, pulling at the pants as Jack gasped at the rough handling, his urgent erection jutting proudly as it was freed.  Jack groaned as Daniel's fingers closed around him, then he peeled away Daniel's hand and shoved him flat to tug at his pants.

Stripped without finesse, they stretched out side by side, each leaning close to fit to the other, gasping as chests, bellies, hips, thighs and finally cocks rubbed sensuously.   Arms finding comfortable places to touch and hold, they pushed questioningly into one another, finding that this fit them too, this was them, maybe close enough.

Blindly seeking mouths met and nuzzled gratefully, Daniel opening to pressure as their hips found their necessary rhythm and they rocked their bodies together slower than the urgency they felt but all the more satisfying for that.  Daniel's leg hooked over Jack's and he went easily onto his back, Jack's weight settling over him.

They kissed and pushed against each other, shivering friction heating Daniel's skin and Jack's face, Daniel's breath coming faster and shallower in this sweet excess of feeling.  Pressure was building inside Daniel, making him moan and writhe, lifting his legs to wrap more tightly around Jack's.  He dug his hands firmly into Jack's ass, hauling him close and holding him there as they rocked, shoving Jack hard against him with each stunning glide of cock over cock, but Jack was not to be hurried.

There were soft, open-mouthed kisses, teasing licks and bites and the deep, slow pulse of stroking tongues and still the pressure was building.  Daniel shook all over, wracked with sensation, his body seizing with blinding pleasure as he fell hard for Jack.

They were back to where they started, side by side on the couch, stunned, sated and nursing warm whiskeys.  For the panic.

"That was good," Daniel croaked.

"It was."

They drank some whiskey.

"I don't think the bar is set all that high for us," Jack went on.  "I mean, after a quarter-century, I figured, I got it, I have it down cold.  Sex," he explained.  "Sex with a woman," he added unnecessarily.  "Now there's you and I have to learn sex all over again."

"You want us to go on?"

"I didn't want us to start."

"I don't think I can stop, Jack, and I don't want to," Daniel confessed.

"Me either."  Jack reached down to run a gentle finger over Daniel's thigh.

They weren't exactly dressed, flimsy underwear and badly creased open shirts baring a lot of skin which attracted and unnerved in more or less equal measure.

"You love me, Daniel.  That's what's important.  That's all," Jack promised.  "Everything else will," he paused, looking for the right word.


Jack smiled at Daniel then, inexpressibly tender, and they kissed gently.  Daniel put his arm around Jack and urged his head down to rest, awkward adjacency melting gradually into contented entanglement.

"You can still take the spare room," Jack offered, "if you want."

"I guess I have to," Daniel said after a moment.  "It'll be easier to leave that space than yours."

"Leave?"  This did not go down well.  Jack looked up scowling.

"I can't stay here forever," Daniel explained patiently.

"Want to bet?" Jack challenged pugnaciously.  "And you're sleeping with me."

"You can't take it back!" Daniel argued indignantly.

"I just did."  Jack's hand slid emphatically between Daniel's legs, making him gasp aloud.  Jack chuckled darkly.  "Didn't I say you were impossible?  I made you an offer you were supposed to refuse."  His fingers cupped Daniel's crotch in silent threat.  Or promise.  "You were not supposed to get all mature and rational on me."

Dr. Mature and Rational was humping the colonel's maddening hand and kind of enjoying being very bad.  "That's w-w-why you l-love m-me," he gasped disjointedly as Jack encouraged him with gently rhythmic rubbing.  "Because I'm impossible.  Only - only one who is."

"Could be."




"Why don't we go to bed and talk some more?" Jack whispered, kissing Daniel's jaw.

"Subtle," Daniel complained as he allowed himself to be extracted from the couch.

"No one gets to you like I do, Daniel," Jack observed complacently, snaking an arm round Daniel's receptive waist.

"No," Daniel whispered.  "No one."  He would be a fool if he wasn't afraid of opening himself up to Jack even more than he had.  They were falling hard and the only thing that helped was they were falling together.  "I'm glad you're my friend, Jack," he confessed bashfully.

"Won't ever change," Jack promised, resting his palm over Daniel's cheek.  "I'm crazy about you but that - the friendship thing - it won't ever change."

"Is - is this why you were holding back?" Daniel suggested.

"You've been the best part of my life for a long time," Jack said slowly.  "Sex, no matter how good it could be between us, was not worth the risk and the change and I won't apologise for that."  He kissed Daniel on the mouth, and then his cheek, then put his arms around him and hugged him close.  "Love, though."

"Is love worth me sleeping in the spare room and then moving out?"

"Don't be stupid, Daniel."

Jack began to tow Daniel towards the bedroom.

"You don't think anyone will get suspicious of two healthy guys living together?" Daniel enquired, quite surprised to discover that all he had to do to enjoy being manhandled by Jack was shed a few clothes.

"Not when one of them is you."

"Excuse me?"

"And the other one is me," Jack smoothly changed mental gears and reinforced this by transferring his grip from Daniel's waist to his ass for the final few steps down the hallway to the master bedroom.

Daniel wasn't mollified.  "I should sleep in the spare room for appearance' sake," he insisted.

"Will you give it up?" Jack hollered as he shoved Daniel into his bedroom and slammed the door behind them.

"The moment you're willing to discuss this in a rational - ooh, nice!"  Daniel was diverted by the bed, a huge, severely elegant four-poster, very masculine in its carving, all straight lines and no curves even on the towering headboard, each post as high as his head.  "What kind of wood is this?  Oak?"  He ran a reverent hand over the exquisite, aged patina.

"It belonged to my grandmother," Jack encouraged this promising line of enquiry as he disposed of his shirt then Daniel's.  "Like the bureau," he whispered against the back of Daniel's neck.  "And the armoire."  He chose at this point to assist Daniel out of his underwear and unhelpfully hugged him again.

It was all skin and heat and there was no point Daniel complaining about Jack taking advantage of him, which Jack absolutely was, not when he was the one who had Jack pinned to the bed.  It was a really, truly lousy time to have a mothership dropped on him, which was what it felt like.  It mashed him flat and left him wheezing and huddled against Jack for warmth.

"It's okay, Danny," Jack whispered, pulling the comforter up around them, then wrapping himself contentedly and just a little protectively around Daniel.  "It'll be okay."  He smoothed his fingers over the contours of Daniel's face with gentle fascination and unequivocal pleasure at being freed at last to touch.

"We don't know what we're doing," Daniel fretted.  Impossible to separate himself from Jack.

"I'm loving it so far."  Daniel's hair seemed much in need of smoothing and stroking and Jack was more than happy to lend an extended assist.  "We made love our first time in front of the fire and practically under the Christmas tree."

"Too much has happened today, I can't think."

"So don't," Jack urged Daniel, his eyes impossibly tender.  "Let me take care of you, just a little while."

"I've been afraid to.  I don't want to depend on anyone, it's too hard when you have to let go and you do, I do, I always lose."  Daniel was gabbling and not making much sense but Jack seemed to have no difficulty understanding him.  "I said we were too close.  I can't keep that distance."

"I -"

"You don't want me to."

"Er, no.  No, I don't," Jack admitted carefully.  "But if it's any consolation, I know what you mean and it doesn't work for me either."  He kissed Daniel's hair.

"We're not good at boundaries, not when it comes to each other," Daniel acknowledged more mildly.

"That's it exactly, that's the root of it."  Jack appeared to be very much enjoying having Daniel in bed with him and his fingers were doing a lot of talking.  "We seem to have this capacity to sneak right under defences other people don't even get near, to bring out the best in each other."  He looked uneasily at Daniel.  "Sometimes the worst," he added fairly.  "And oftentimes, whether I want you to or not."

"Ditto," Daniel retorted.  "My crisis seems to be lacking dramatic flair," he complained into an inviting shoulder.

"We know each other too well," Jack chuckled richly.  "And we haven't had enough sex yet to make allowances."

"I think maybe there's too much pressure, Jack," Daniel suggested.  "We have to deal with working together and living together, sex and all the relationship stuff, a level of intimacy we're not used to sharing and I've got no place to go but your spare room, no space that's mine."

"The space is ours," Jack suggested in turn.  "That's how I think of it, anyway," he explained awkwardly.  "I would never have wished on you what happened to your apartment but I can't deny I wanted us to be together, Daniel.  I hoped," he trailed off as he was beginning to make Daniel's point for him.  "I think I know where you're coming from, though.  It's like we cut out all the intermediate stages and jumped right to arguing over which colour Charmin to buy at Safeway."

"I don't know what that means."  Daniel just was not up to dealing with metaphors.

"Total commitment."

"Buying your Charmin is the ultimate statement of commitment for you?"  And he thought his mind was reeling before.

"Let it go for now."

"I really don't think that's possible," Daniel said giddily.  Charmin?  "Which colour?"

Jack kissed him quite forcefully, then promptly forgot this was intended punitively and settled in to enjoy an endless, thoroughly mutual exploration which made Daniel's toes curl.  Being friends made it almost impossible to get away with anything as lovers.  Jack knew Daniel was still thinking about the appropriate colour for total commitment.  Fortunately, it made him kiss Daniel that much harder.

There was so much potential for them, so much that was good and wanted.  So much feeling.

"Did I really have to lose everything I had to find you, Jack?" Daniel whispered shakily when he was freed at last.

"I was right there in front of you the whole time but you didn't see," Jack answered, thinking carefully about what he was saying.  "Maybe it took all the distractions, all the pretence being stripped away for you to see either of us clear."

The most real thing was Daniel's aching heart but it was the best thing.  He was terribly alive and free, afraid and exhilarated because there was a choice he could make when he was ready for it, the choice to stay.  "Ask me if it's worth it."

"Is it?"

"Oh, yes, Jack.  Yes," Daniel whispered.  "I love you."

"I love you too, Daniel," Jack sealed his promise with another soul-stealing kiss.  "Is it worth the fish?" he asked idly, fingers stroking gently over Daniel's cheek.

"Don't be stupid, Jack."

Daniel was smiling and then they were kissing, and at the cusp of hearing, church bells chimed for Christmas.


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