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
"Courtesy of the Air
Force?" Jack asked cheerfully as he sauntered down to meet the
general. "Have a good one, Carter."
"Thank you, Sir,"
"Debriefing can wait
until you return, Major," Hammond offered generously.
Ignoring the general
along with Sam's professional pride, Daniel hugged her. "Merry
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
"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.
brainwashed by Hallmark," Jack hissed into Daniel's ear. "He has
antlers stashed away in his quarters."
"You don't?" Daniel
Jack sniffed and
looked superior, which meant his antlers were bigger and probably
"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
"Like a gazelle,"
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
"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
"Was anyone hurt?"
Daniel asked dazedly. His head was buzzing, making it hard to
"No, son," Hammond
Jack's arm hugged
comfortingly around Daniel's shoulders.
DanielJackson's books and belongings?" Teal'c demanded, frowning
"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
"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
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.
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
"I didn't mean
that!" Daniel flared, glowering up at him. Teal'c patted his
"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
acknowledged as he took up position on Daniel's right.
snapped as he reached for the keypad.
"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.
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.
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!
"It's - it's
impossible!" Daniel blurted, panicking.
"I am not staying
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
"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."
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
"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.
"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
"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.
Teal'c's tone was markedly cooler.
Teal'c was also
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.
homeless, you know," Daniel complained as the supportiveness got a tad
"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.
temporary," Daniel insisted distractedly, not sure which crisis to
panic over next. "Did everyone get out okay?"
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.
"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.
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.
agreed with a stern look and his best weighty tone.
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."
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.
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!"
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,
"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
"You can rebuild,"
Teal'c went on, ignoring this irrelevant interpolation. "As did
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
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
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.
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 -
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
A wary elbow nudged
No. He wasn't.
"I require you to
fasten your seatbelts," Teal'c instructed.
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.
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.
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
"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.
will send a car for me," Teal'c responded blandly.
embarrassed you sufficiently, Jack."
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."
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
"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."
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."
explosively and failed to make it sound like a coughing fit.
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."
"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,
"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."
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."
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.
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
Jack glanced at
Daniel, a quick, assessing gaze skimming him from head to toe.
"Head for Zumiez," he instructed.
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.
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
"He heard that,"
Jack whispered smugly.
"I heard you both,
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
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
"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
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
"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?
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
"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.
"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."
considerate, Teal'c," Daniel said reassuringly. "Thanks for being
"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
"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
"I forgot," Daniel
"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.
sucks," he said bitterly.
"Tell it," Jack
answered easily, strolling up to join him. "I must be getting
Daniel glanced at
"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
"Just a friend."
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
"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
"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
"Not that it
matters," Jack said vaguely, apparently conceding this round to Teal'c
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
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
Jack smiled at him.
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
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?"
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.
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.
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
"For cryin' out
loud!" Jack hollered.
"You knew you were
attracted to me!"
"I'm not!" Jack
"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
"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.
brushed the warm skin of Jack's nape, Jack's shudder echoed in his own
"We're more," Daniel
"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
decided Daniel that the only place he wanted to be was right next to
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
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."
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.
"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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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
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
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.
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
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,"
They drank some
"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
"I didn't want us to
"I don't think I can
stop, Jack, and I don't want to," Daniel confessed.
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
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
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."
"Why don't we go to
bed and talk some more?" Jack whispered, kissing Daniel's jaw.
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.
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
"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,
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."
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"You don't want me
"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
"We're not good at
boundaries, not when it comes to each other," Daniel acknowledged more
"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
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.
"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?
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
"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."
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
"Don't be stupid,
Daniel was smiling
and then they were kissing, and at the cusp of hearing, church bells
chimed for Christmas.
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