Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Angst.  Drama.  First Time.  Friendship.  Hurt/Comfort.
Season/Spoilers: Season 5.  Spoilers for Seasons 1-5.  Politics.  Need.  Legacy.  Shades of Grey.  Divide & Conquer.  Failsafe.  Menace.  The Sentinel.
Synopsis: When Daniel's belief in himself and his place in the team are shaken to the core, can Jack help him find his true voice again?
Warnings: Angst and ambiguity make this quite dark in tone.
Length: 590 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story

Jack was simply there at Daniel's side, leaning over him as he shook his thin blanket out over Daniel's, then he was sliding beneath the doubled covering to stretch out with him on the narrow pallet.

"Was I making noise?" Daniel whispered drowsily as he obligingly hitched closer to the wall to make room for Jack.

"You were quiet," Jack whispered back, wryly conscious of Daniel's affectionate, unquestioning acceptance of him just turning up out of the blue and climbing cosily into bed with him.

"I'm not cold," Daniel lied proudly even though his bones ached with it.

"I am.  My knees hurt so much I can't stand it."  This was a miserable fact of his life which Jack hated to admit to himself let alone anyone else but he needed to be right here and this got him what he needed.  Daniel.  Compassion wasn't always a strength and the closer you got to a person, the more buttons you learned how to push.  "I'm fucking old," he grumbled with some honesty.  His health was weather contingent, for Chrissake.

At this, Daniel put his arms around Jack and held him tightly.  "I'm sorry, Jack," he murmured regretfully.   "This was my screw-up."

"How'd you figure that?" Jack slid his arms around Daniel and hugged him close.  "You had no way to know hostage-taking was plain good business practice here on Planet Hell.  As in, it's the only way these scum can get anyone to do business with them, what with all those awkward questions bound to come up sooner or later from any species which doesn't collectively have its head up its ass.  Anyway, last time I looked, telepathy wasn't on either of our job descriptions."

"Ehle was executed.  His deadline was up two days ago," Daniel whispered soberly.  "I hoped, when he didn't come back, that his government met the price the Mirin set for him.  Before him, it was Shelee from two cells down."


"It's our deadline tomorrow, Jack."

"And our government doesn't negotiate with mass-murdering hostage-takers," Jack sing-songed rapidly.  "I know."  It was why he was here.  Everything had been stripped away from him in the past few weeks of their incarceration on Mirin.  Everything.  All the rules, the regs, the lies and compromises.  All his pretence and his deals with himself.  Even the guilt he had for getting the two of them into this mess.  All that was left for him was Daniel and feelings he wouldn't deny any longer.  The desperation of this literal last chance was going to his head like wine, leaving him giddy and euphoric.

"I'm too cold to be afraid," Daniel insisted quietly, contradicting his earlier claim, in case there was any doubt - in case Jack doubted him.

"There's always a chance," Jack suggested uncomfortably, unable to meet the wide blue eyes fixed on his.  It was never more than twilight in the cells, never wholly night or day and so goddamned fatally easy to lose track of time.  Deliberate of course, so you never knew when you were or when the Mirin were coming for you.

"A chance of what?  Escape?" Daniel demanded angrily.  "Three guards dead, Jack, in the last attempt.  Three guards and three days off the time we had to live."

There was really nothing Jack could say to this and even if there was, he hadn't come to Daniel to fight.

"A chance our President - our government - is so morally bankrupt they'll give the Mirin what they're asking for us, when they can figure out the it'll be put it to?" Daniel demanded passionately.  He looked at Jack, really looked at him, dark eyes glittering feverishly, a flush on his cheeks standing out starkly against the pallor.    "That's what you're afraid of, isn't it?" he breathed, appalled.  "Oh, they couldn't, Jack.  They couldn't," he insisted, clutching at a broad shoulder, as if to shake sense into Jack.

"Hammond couldn't," Jack offered the only assurance he could.  "But ultimately it isn't his decision.  The Mirin will only execute us if the government won't trade."

"Weapons grade naquadah for penicillin," Daniel said dully.  "It sounds like a good deal."

"That wasn't your screw-up, Daniel, so let it go.  That one is solidly down to Carter."

"She had no idea where it would lead, Jack," Daniel argued, rallying in his friend's defence.  "The doctors seemed so concerned for their patients."  It distressed him to think about the isolation wards full of quietly despairing individuals, each of them struggling for breath.   He still couldn't wholly comprehend how he could've been so mistaken in these people, even for a short time.  The civic-minded Mirin were so caring to one another on the surface and so utterly ruthless in their service of what they deemed to be the greater good of their society, culling everyone they decided was unable to contribute to the furtherance of their people.  "I was there too, remember?" he reminded Jack bitterly.  "The medical staff seemed to be doing everything they could."

"Absolutely!" Jack agreed heartily.  "No one could've worked harder to find more efficient, effective ways to put the poor bastards out of their misery."  He brushed at a tendril of soft hair spilling down over Daniel's forehead, relieved Daniel was too upset to notice this lapse.  "A couple more years on the clock and they'd be putting me down."  There was nothing funny about that.  Jack felt his age in more than his aching bones.

"We can't do it.  We won’t," Daniel insisted.  "The President won't provide the Mirin with any means which could be used to conduct mass euthanasia."  The Mirin were worse to him than the Goa'uld, making the fullest use of their beautiful, caring religion, so family oriented and so perfectly constructed to lead the people un-protesting to their duly decreed deaths.

"The population has built up resistance to every drug they have and it all sounds so plausible on the surface," Jack said bitterly.  "Hell, they even snowed you for a while with all that talk of their vulnerability to respiratory tract disorders.  They led you right to it."

"I know," Daniel admitted with a sigh.  "We were so interested, too.  It's not as if we haven't carried infection to other planets or been infected ourselves.  Every world which uses the Stargate faces the same risks.  We've been lucky and found medicinal compounds which have been useful for our people, of course we were sympathetic to the seeming plight of the Mirin.  It actually felt good, for a while, to be able to offer something in return."

"All those patients they showed you and Carter exhibited the symptoms you expected, Daniel," Jack instantly made excuse.   "Carter just had to chatter away about Alexander frigging Fleming, antibiotics, microwhatsit resistance.  Naturally the Mirin were going to be pricking up their ears and asking exactly the right questions, the smart questions.  They've had lots and lots of practice.  And of course, sure as night follows day, Carter whips out her little laptop and helpfully gives them all the sciencey stuff too.  Physiology.  Biochemistry.  Toxicity.  Anaphylactic shock.  The full meal deal," he slowly enunciated with savage clarity.  "Not that I did any better.  Too bored to even show up for the tour.  Jesus."

His fingers moved into Daniel's hair again, smoothing the wayward, now over-long strands.   He loved to see Daniel with his hair this way, he looked so young and vulnerable, so very beautiful, the innocent impression he gave so at odds with the strong individualist Jack had fallen deeply in love with.

"You did what you're supposed to do, Daniel.  You realised something was wrong and you kept right on asking questions.  I just wish Carter and I had listened when there was still time to do something about it."

He was struck by a vivid memory of Daniel's last stormy encounter with the Mirin Conclave in the Hall of Voices, their Speaker completely losing it, his voice climbing to a squeal.

Oh, yeah.  He completely loved this guy.

"Sam didn't - we had no way to know those symptoms were deliberately inflicted," Daniel miserably reminded Jack, his fingers knotting in Jack's T-shirt.  "Microbial resistance is a huge healthcare issue on our world too.  Some infections are becoming impossible to treat.  You know that.  The tabloids are full of stories about necrotizing fasciitis."

"Flesh eating disease?" Jack commented knowledgeably.

"See!"  Daniel accusingly smacked Jack in the shoulder.

"Teal'c buys those rags," Jack sniffed disparagingly.

"You just read them cover to cover, sometimes before he does."

"Was there a point to this apart from insulting my alleged literary tastes?"  Jack was kind of enjoying the way Daniel was holding on to bits of him for emphasis and then forgetting to let go.

"The point is, on the surface, everything appeared as it should be."

"So why were you asking questions?" Jack queried.  "And why wasn't I listening?"

Daniel shifted uncomfortably at this reminder.  "All the evidence is there on the mission footage, Jack, just like it was there for you and me to see when we were escorted back through the streets from the Stargate to the off-worlders enclave.  You know I snatched a minute with Sam just before she gated through, talked it over with her.  She knows something was wrong.  She'll figure it out.  This is Sam!  We're covered.  In fact, we're lucky you sent Sam and Teal'c back to consult with Janet when you did or I - I'd be really worried!"

"As it is, you have me to thank for getting just the two of us executed in the morning!" Jack responded with insane cheeriness.

"If you're going to be sarcastic, you can freeze your ass off on your own pallet until they kill us," Daniel snapped, rallying.

"No, Daniel, I can't do that," Jack said simply,  "I really can't."  And then he lowered his head to kiss Daniel tenderly on his beautiful, haunting mouth.

Daniel's whole body violently jerked with the shock of Jack's mouth on his.  He couldn't breathe, couldn't think, the unsuspected heat of it all shaking him to the bone.  Blindly, stupefied, and trusting his friend instinctively, he let go, let himself fall into that heat, reaching urgently for Jack, wanting to be closer.

Strong, sensitive fingers clutched at Jack's face as his lips moved over Daniel's, so soft and warm beneath his.  "Wanted to do this for the longest time," he breathed against Daniel, then kissed him again.

Oh, Jack.  Oh god.  Daniel didn't know what to do with that, didn't know there was anything he could do, not with Jack kissing him, his weight shifting convulsively to pin Daniel effortlessly beneath him.
Despite the urgency of Jack's desire for him, there was a question in the kiss, a choice.

Daniel loved his friend, loved him dearly, but still he didn't know what to do.  Jack was tender but Jack was starved, a desperation in his gentleness which felt to Daniel as if his friend really had wanted this forever.

His hand was against Jack's face, frozen with his indecision and it was taken now, a hot, moist kiss pressed against the palm.  He was shaking, maybe more than Jack was, and it seemed at the last there was really only one thing he could do, only one way to show Jack how much he meant, how much Daniel felt for him.

He reached up for his friend, kissing him clumsily on the mouth, falling as Jack's urgent weight pressed him back into the pillow.  Jack stroked deeply into his mouth to rub and rasp compulsively over his tongue.  Jack asked, he coaxed, a shudder running through his powerful frame when Daniel shyly responded, his tentativeness accepted, understood, met with so much gentleness and passion it shook him to the core.

"I'm sorry," Jack whispered when they broke apart to snatch a breath, resting his forehead against Daniel's.

Daniel shook his head mutely, again opening generously to Jack as he plunged home, trying to be careful of the tremors running through the strong, generous body beneath this own.   Even if he wasn't deeply in love with Daniel, Jack would have been respectful of his inexperience with men.  Daniel was not going to die regretting making love with Jack, only, maybe, that Jack hadn't had the courage to come to him sooner, that they didn't have more time.

There was so much he needed for Daniel to know and no words to fit what he felt for him.  There were no more fear or consequences, no boundaries.  They'd been close for years but had never found one another, never truly expressed the connection between them.  More than friends, more than brothers.   More even than lovers.  The two of them together were whole, and difficult and challenging as they each could be, they fit and flowed and filled all the empty spaces inside.

Sex was the deepest connection Jack knew, the only way he knew they could express the depth of their bond.  This was their time, the only time they would ever have, too short and too precious to waste a moment of it.

Jack kissed Daniel with all the passion he felt, all the love he'd fought so hard against and finally given in to.  He stroked deeply into the silken mouth, touching and tasting every part of Daniel open to him.  He shook all over when a quietly questioning tongue began to push against his, then Daniel's hands came up to hook tightly around his shoulders and pull him closer.

"Is this good?" Jack asked, feathering kisses over Daniel's cheek and jaw.

"Yes, Jack," Daniel whispered.  "Yes."  He reached for Jack and drew him down into another kiss, deeper and more passionate than before, moaning softly as Jack suckled gently on his tongue, unconsciously rocking their bodies together in the familiar rhythm of sex.

The demanding bulge at Jack's crotch was enough to tell Daniel where this was going but when Jack asked if he could touch him, he agreed.  Straddling Daniel's hips, Jack sat back to strip off his T-shirt, watching intently as Daniel emerged from his own.  Broad, callused fingers, always used with such purpose and capability, splayed over Daniel's skin, tracing the outlines of his collar bone as Jack leaned in to kiss his shoulder and push him back down to the mattress.

The teasing nips and licks at Daniel's throat and shoulders began to warm him and he found himself relaxing into Jack's nuzzling, running curious hands over his broad shoulders.   Jack's skin was smooth but the muscle beneath, the shear breadth of bone, was fascinating.  Daniel was surprised to find himself a little breathless at the thought of Jack's strength and power, that explosive temper, not tamed, but gentled.

"Jack?" he said impulsively.

Jack surged up to kiss him, biting distractingly at his lips.  "Hmm?"

"You're attractive," Daniel frowned over this unexpected if not unwelcome realisation.  "I never knew," he added naïvely.   "I never thought."

Jack hushed him with a kiss, a smile Daniel could feel against his lips, and then he skimmed down Daniel's body taking warm swipes at chilled skin until his mouth closed over a nipple and a swift hand stifled Daniel's shout of astonished pleasure.  Jack tortured him then, suckling and stroking each nub to aching hardness as Daniel panted through each stab of dazed desire.

Smiling, Jack slid lower, confidently unbuttoning Daniel's fatigues, wily tongue flickering into his sensitive navel, then lower still, to bury his face in Daniel's pubic hair, breathing in the rich, earthy, masculine scent of him.  Jack lay that way for long minutes, Daniel's fingers first hesitant then gentle in his hair, his breath snuffing warm at Daniel's groin, simply experiencing each pulse and throb of the slow swelling cock, each restless shift of Daniel's achingly aroused body.

He moved then, rolling away to strip first Daniel naked and then himself, moving quickly to keep the mood.  The oily disinfectant the Mirin favoured was all he had to offer as a lubricant.  Their two-pallet Hilton didn't rate fruit baskets, monogrammed robes or fluffy towels, hell, it even came up short on running water, but the Mirin reacted badly to shit on their floors.  A whole race of anal-retentive obsessive-compulsive dust-busters if ever Jack met one.  The disinfectant was absorbed right into the skin so there weren't any scummy rings to scrub out of the cells after they humanely disposed of the occupants.

A glob of the thick jelly was folded into Daniel's handkerchief, tucked on the floor under the pallet before Daniel had realised Jack was close by.  As soon as Daniel saw him with this, Jack hoped he would understand what he wanted to share with him.  They couldn't be closer than this.

Daniel was watching him with a slight frown as he unfolded the handkerchief.  Jack scooped a little of the disinfectant onto his palm, rubbed it between his hands to soften it, releasing the bitter herbal scent, then he began to massage it into Daniel's groin, his hands deft and firm.  Daniel's frown melted into a shy smile, hips arching to deepen the contact, his hands settling over Jack's as he was touched.

Encouraged, Jack took another scoop, warmed it, and reached for Daniel's enticing cock.  He chuckled as Daniel quivered from head to foot at the first touch, leaning down to share a kiss as he rubbed and stroked the proud cock, swelling just a little more against his fingers.   Gabbling incoherently, Daniel clutched at Jack's shoulders as he pleasured him.

"Oh, that's good, Jack," Daniel groaned.  "So good."

"It can be better," Jack promised.  Daniel grabbed him and hauled him into an ecstatic kiss as he fucked Jack's obligingly gripping, gliding hands.  It was such a turn-on to see Daniel losing himself in sex, so accepting of his arousal and his body's responses to Jack when he'd been so totally unprepared for all of this.  "Anything, Daniel.  Anything for you."

He slid an oiled finger deeper between Daniel's sprawled legs, sliding over the sensitive skin behind his balls.  With no sign of refusal, Jack explored further, stroking between Daniel's buttocks.

The clear eyes fixed on him for the longest time, then Daniel nodded jerkily.  Jack rubbed delicate circles over the puckered skin of Daniel's anus, not missing the way his body stilled.  He lay unresisting, waiting, not quite prepared to reject what he didn't know but not truly accepting either.  Jack felt he almost knew Daniel too well.  He deepened the pressure on those circles he was rubbing, pushing into Daniel gradually, taking such care, and still he jerked hard when Jack's finger breached him.

"I'm okay!" Daniel gasped as Jack's finger eased inside him, resting there while Jack kissed Daniel's abdomen and hip.

Jack moved fully between his legs, burying his face again in Daniel's groin as he began to rock his finger against flesh which seemed impossibly tight and tender around him.  Sweat was beading Daniel's brow as he bit at his lip, Jack reaching inside him, reaching.

Daniel's body spasmed with pleasure, sparking behind his eyes and he collapsed, panting harshly, incapable of speech, of granting or denying permission when Jack asked a question he barely heard and pushed into him again, a broader pressure this time.  Daniel lay dazed and sweating, trembling violently, his penis throbbing painfully as Jack reached again and again for the same spot inside him, convulsing him each time.

Daniel could only cling when Jack stretched out over him, kissing him frantically.

"Let me make love, Daniel.  Please.  Let me," Jack pleaded.

He sounded so lost.  Daniel reached for him, cradling Jack close to kiss him, stroking deep into his mouth as his legs were lifted to hook around Jack's waist.  Jack was going to fuck him, Daniel understood that.  He was a little afraid of what it would do to him, to them both, but he loved Jack and he needed him and he didn't want to say no.  His body sang with the pleasure of all Jack was doing for him and all he wanted was to have Jack closer, to have no walls, no distance between them.

Jack braced himself on balled fists planted hard in the thin mattress either side of Daniel.  He felt as if his head were exploding, he wanted this so much.  It took all his discipline to push with such relentless gentleness into Daniel's body, opening so slowly and grudgingly to him, then Daniel groaned wrenchingly and Jack was sliding stunningly deep into silken, gripping heat.  Instinct drove him forward, powering up from his knees to thrust home, satin skin warm against his balls.

Daniel's hand was clamped over his mouth, a few scalding, pained tears drying on his lashes.  He shook and shook and Jack was still, lowering himself to rest on his elbows and kiss Daniel's face.

"You mean the world to me," Jack promised quietly.

Daniel gulped and nodded, opening drenched eyes.  His mouth was clumsy and shaking when Jack kissed him but he hurt, he hadn't known it would hurt this much.  Jack kissed him again with all the tenderness he could no longer hide, a sweet, endless kiss, tongues touching, stroking sensuously.  The burn eased to an ache.  It seemed to him they lay still and close for a long time and then Jack began to rock their bodies together and the time was little enough.  Pain flared and slowly, slowly dulled again, though Daniel was aware of little else.

He expected it to be quick; Jack filled him to bursting, every throb of blood in his steely penis spiking sensation inside Daniel, tingling throughout his body.  It couldn't last, not this intensity.

Moving softly inside Daniel, Jack was giving everything of himself.  If there was a surrender here, it wasn't simple.  It wasn't physical.  Daniel's body was open to him, but Daniel had all of Jack.  He hoped Daniel knew he was holding nothing back from him.

There were times Jack's eyes would meet Daniel's and the world went away.  He thought it happened for them both.  He was sure it did.  It was easy to lose control around Daniel but painful for Jack to give it up.  A clean pain, though, one which brought him a kind of peace, an ease in himself he hadn't known for a long time.

He couldn't point out a specific time when this began, when he'd first begun to look through other people, seeing only Daniel.  There was no obvious or deliberate way Daniel had breached every defence he had, it hadn't happened quickly or consciously or with his co-operation.  He didn't know when it became as important to him for Daniel to know him as it was to him to know himself, only that it was.
Daniel's hold on him was different than he'd ever known, more complete than he'd thought was possible.

Wasn't this his problem?  Always?  That he kept his distance?  Easy to hug and be the big man, but hard to make himself vulnerable, hard to talk.  His instinct was to withdraw.  To run.  Only Daniel seemed able to make himself heard, to reach Jack when he didn't want to be reached.

Maybe this was all the time they were allowed, but to Jack it still felt like the right time.  Daniel was so gentle, so trusting, his acceptance and shy responses were magical.  Jack felt as if together they could do anything.

Daniel was beginning to wonder what was keeping Jack so quiet when he suddenly smiled down at him, smoothing damp hair from his brow, his fingers moving constantly over Daniel's face, touching him wonderingly, as if he couldn't get enough of him.  All the time Jack was moving, rocking into him so tenderly, so compulsively, Daniel began to warm again, began to want to feel and share.

"Can I?" he asked uncertainly.

"Anything," Jack promised.

Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack's shoulders, curious to feel him move.  Jack's skin was slick with sweat but his iron discipline never wavered.  Daniel moved his legs cautiously, braced for a stab of pain which never came, just more of this rippling warmth.  His thighs ached with the effort of holding himself this way.  He slowly wrapped his legs tight around Jack's back, hooking his ankles, the sudden blaze of pleasure in Jack's dark eyes making him blush.

He wondered how he felt to Jack in all his heat and tightness, then lost himself in how Jack felt to him.  He'd never known anything could go so deep, his body giving easily to each thrust, moving now with Jack's flesh instead of resisting.  The fullness was unlike anything he'd ever felt before and he found he liked it.  The slow slide of sleek, oiled skin inside him was incredible though it made him throb and ache all over.  He and Jack fit so exactly, he felt everything of Jack's rhythmic heat and hardness stroking strongly into him.

There was beginning to be more than warmth now.  His flaccid penis had been trapped between his abdomen and Jack's, but he was rubbed inside and out, skin moving over him, pounding into him with such grace and power, the gradually intensifying sensations sparking throughout his body growing more and more exciting as Jack fucked him perfectly slowly, the steady drive of his hips never faltering.  Daniel began to be aroused again and was touched by Jack's poorly concealed relief that he was giving pleasure.

Jack buried his face in the hollow of Daniel's shoulder, rubbing his brow into the pillow to wipe stinging sweat from his eyes.  At last Daniel was melting into the sex, cradling Jack to him, generous, still trusting and beginning to be pleasured.  Jack dug his knees into the mattress, lifting Daniel a little as he thrust, powering hips rolling him forward.   Daniel gasped and shuddered as Jack's cock stroked over the hard nub of flesh deep inside.

Gloating, Jack thrust again into the same spot, Daniel's thighs clenching urgently around his back, nails digging into his shoulders.  He drove again for that spot, and again, feeling as if his heart might burst.  Discipline and stamina had brought them this far but Jack could do no more, he was hurting.  He drove deep, exulting over the helplessly arching back and moist, greedy noises Daniel was making as Jack fucked him hard.

"Slower, Jack, slower!" Daniel gasped.  "Please!"

Jack loved him and he'd promised Daniel anything, so he fought himself to a stop, trembling violently.  His body pounding, he buried his face in Daniel's throat, labouring for breath as the tension was slowly massaged from his shoulders.   When he felt he could hold himself, he lifted his head and kissed Daniel as long as he could, then began to thrust again, Daniel sliding like silk over his bursting cock.

It was so satisfying that Jack stroked this way again, long and deep, trusting Daniel not to allow himself to be hurt by it, trusting in the incredulous pleasure on Daniel's perfect face as Jack fucked him hard and slow and deep, each time with the exhausting roll of his hips which left Daniel clawing at his shoulders, arching beneath him, the breath sobbing in his throat.

It was the unguarded look in Daniel's eyes which had Jack killing himself to make it last, to make it everything.  Daniel felt the rightness of this too.

Heart bursting, beyond his endurance, Jack drove a final time into that sweet spot inside with everything he had, Daniel's shoulders arched from the bed as he convulsed, crying out as he came in ribbons, slick heat shooting over Jack's belly, his beautiful body electric, and shaken by spasms which rippled and squeezed around Jack's cock.  Ecstatic, buried to extremity inside Daniel, Jack came so hard it hurt, his neck and back clenching as he exploded, pinwheels behind his eyes as he fell heavily forward, the room spinning.  He rocked blindly, unbearably sensitised, his pumping cock milked by Daniel's orgasmic tremors.

They lay that way a long time, holding one another, Jack's heart thumping so hard he felt sick, too drained and sated to even lift his head until the soft, uncertain call of his name had to be answered.  Arms trembling, he withdrew from Daniel with the same care he'd entered him, reaching for the disinfectant to rub over his quaking belly and thighs, working it carefully until quivering muscles at last relaxed beneath his hands.

He pulled the blankets up around them and gathered Daniel to him.

"I'm okay," Daniel whispered.

Jack wished he knew how much time they had.

<>Daniel could do anything with Jack.  Anything.  Jack had made more than a casual offer; he'd made a promise.

This was - Jack was amazing.

"This feels so good," Daniel confessed shyly, his fingers returning once again to Jack's face.  The freedom to touch as he pleased was wholly intoxicating.  He didn't seem able to stop and Jack didn't want him to.  Daniel was fascinated.  And grateful.  Very, very grateful.  Every part of him was warm for the first time in too long, warm against every accessible part of Jack.  "I can't stop touching," Daniel smiled.  "I don't want to stop."  He couldn't be anything but honest either.

"Then we both want the same thing," Jack said lazily, stretching pleasurably, Daniel going with the flow of his arching back and flexing limbs.

It drew him to the breadth of Jack's shoulders, the depth of muscle firm beneath his exploring fingers.

"You good?" Jack asked, smiling as Daniel tilted up his face and kissed him.  "Mmm," Jack sighed, a long leg hooking possessively over Daniel's butt.  "You're damn good.  Great, in fact."

Taking the hint, Daniel kissed him again.  He was drunk with sensation, his attention a fleeting thing, drawn first by the feel of Jack's chest against his as they breathed, the chafe of hair and the granite feel of Jack's abdomen, the ridges of muscle rolling sleekly as the kiss got serious.  They'd never been closer, never been more alive.

He had all of Jack, he knew it.

Electric with all this feeling, Daniel took Jack's face between his hands, nuzzling kisses over Jack's cheeks and chin, stubble prickling over his lips, rubbing his face against Jack's with all the affection he was wary of expressing.

"Spend the rest of your life with me."

"All five minutes?" Daniel murmured distractedly, kissing his way along Jack's jawline.

"I'm serious."

"Ten minutes, then," Daniel amended generously.

"Don't make me get down on one knee," Jack threatened darkly.

Daniel blinked at this pronouncement, which should have been extravagant, but wasn't, Jack was too serious for that, lifting his head a little to look down into dark eyes melting with tenderness.  "Are you?" he asked, incredulous.  It was so wild, Jack couldn't be-

"Proposing?  Yes."

Oh.  He was.  Oh my god!  He was!



"Please."  Dying with no walls between them, together in trust and perfect empathy, his senses filled with Jack, nothing could hurt him.  He could keep Jack safe, keep Jack with him.  The Mirin would have nothing, couldn't touch them.  "Please, Jack."  Together at the end, closer than they'd ever been and sure of each other.

"You've made me the happiest man alive for not much longer," Jack promised solemnly, rolling them onto their sides, smiling contentedly as Daniel drew him in to rest brow to brow.

Arms tight around each other, they lay together, finding their private peace staring into one another's eyes.

The prison began to stir around them, the cheerful voices of the guards obscenely invasive.  Meals were being delivered, cells and prisoners carefully inspected.  Nothing was left to chance by the careful Mirin.  No risks were taken.  Every one of the hostages were valuable until their deadline.  The value the Mirin placed on life was strangely absolute, not a gift of chance and opportunity, not a right, but a burden of privilege and responsibility.  The individual held no intrinsic value, their worth was nothing balanced against the needs of the many.

A price had been set for Jack and Daniel, a price their President couldn't afford to meet.  Daniel wasn't afraid to die if his death was a repudiation of the Mirin.  He wasn't afraid, not now.  He had Jack.

"We're out of time," Jack whispered as the sounds grew closer.

Dressing was a sober affair, completed quickly and in silence.  After, they sat together on Daniel's pallet, facing the door, as ready as they could be.  Daniel's bare hands and feet were numb, not that he wasn't used to this now, the only warmth where Jack's shoulder touched his and he couldn't help but remember the first shock of heat from Jack's mouth on his.

"I meant," Jack said suddenly, fiercely, "everything."

Daniel took Jack's hand in both of his and held on tightly.  Jack smoothed Daniel's hair from his brow and they kissed urgently, losing themselves, letting go, falling into heat.

Then they really were out of time, guards crowding into the cell, too many to resist even if there was any point to it now.  They'd been shackled at the wrist and ankle each time they were taken from the cell to face more questions from the Conclave.  There was a refinement this time, a thin chain which bound Daniel's right wrist and ankle to Jack's left.  Presumably a response to the last escape attempt.  Distant and a little numb, Daniel cared only that he and Jack wouldn't be parted.

The blindfolds were bad, they had been each time, deliberately inflicted disorientation of course, distorting distance and direction, enforcing dependence on the guards.  It was bad, Daniel shying for the first time.  It wasn't the straight-forward threats of the guard which silenced him but Jack's little finger curling around his.

They'd kept perfect time for years and kept it now, moving as one, Jack shortening and slowing his pace a little, just as Daniel lengthened and speeded his.  They matched, always did, each able to give just enough for them to meet.

The cold, pitted metal of the floor marked the boundary of their prison, ending in noise and confusion and the opening of a huge, heavy door or gate they'd never seen as they were marched out into the bite of fresh, cold air, pallid heat in the watery sun on Daniel's face and frost burning his bare feet.

Jack was at his shoulder, the hooking of their fingers masked by their bodies, unseen by the guards, a private thing.  They marched boldly, counting their steps as they had each time they'd been taken to face the Conclave, forcing the pace, refusing to be led.

Daniel was intensely proud of Jack's defiant bravery, as warming to him as the touch of his hand.  He was glad Teal'c and Sam were safe but the knowledge didn't help him.  He didn't want to die.  His life was little enough, paling to insignificance in the great span of histories and cultures which enraptured him.  The truths his studies had revealed would endure, the only legacy he would leave.

Death would mean an end to grief and failure, a resolution of his loss, but still, Daniel didn't want to die.  He lived in hope and expectation, curiosity and wonder at all things greater than himself.  He was passionate, he knew it, a fault in him as much as it was a strength.

He'd found Jack, found greater clarity and oneness than he'd ever experienced in his life and he wasn't ready to let go.  He wouldn't ever be.

Jack hated his helplessness, hated having no choices.  Dying or living and seeing Daniel's heart broken because of it, and maybe his own, was no choice at all.    He'd faced death before and managed to be glib about it, managed, when he had to, to look as if he didn't care in a loud, snide 'fuck you' to whoever or whatever was looking to gloat over his messy demise.  He was not glib now.

They had to move slowly if they were to avoid falling.  They'd walked this unvarying route over and over in the past three weeks but they'd never seen it.  Hearing could only do so much, the measured march of the guards helped.  Daniel's pace was easy, matching his own, never faltering.  There was nothing they could say to one another, not without losing what little privacy and dignity this mundane execution was leaving them, but Daniel was talking just the same, talking loud and clear, his sensitive fingers rubbing and twining sinuously, sensuously with Jack's.

He was smart enough to know Daniel didn't mean his gentle touches to be sexy, any more than he intended his soft, musical voice to be sexy.  Like the big, beautiful baby blues and the soft tendrils of hair whispering over his brow, they just were.  They were Daniel and they evoked a specific response in Jack.

Marching to his death with a big honkin' boner seemed to Jack as good a 'fuck you' as any to the prissy, prudish Mirin and their solemn ceremoniousness if he absolutely had to go, and it seemed this time he did.  Not even Maybourne could sell euthanasia to the good ole' US of A.

It hurt him, he wanted so much for Daniel to be safe and away from him.  A soldier who stopped being afraid was a dead soldier, but this feeling clawing at his insides wasn't the fear he knew.  There was nothing left for him to fight, he couldn't surrender and he wanted Daniel gone and wanted him here and while Daniel was holding onto him, Jack wouldn't ever let go.

They stumbled for the first time as they reached the steps which led up to the Hall of Voices where the Mirin bureaucrats gathered to see the Conclave dispense its arbitrary version of justice, where right or wrong seemed less important than 'how much?'

Jack picked up the pace again, confident Daniel would keep up with him.  They might not have any choices here, but they didn't have to act like it.  He strode out, aware first of smooth boards beneath his feet, the heavy, woodsy scent of incense and then the buzz of hushed, expectant voices.

"Good morning, campers!" Jack roared out in response to the snatches of avid conversation he could hear.  "Looks like we drew a crowd."  The central avenue, the one which led to the Conclave on its dais, would be clear.  The people would be gathered along the secondary walkways winding between the many fire pits.  Jack marched just a little faster, he and Daniel moving like a well-oiled machine, forcing the startled guards to jog to keep up.

So it was small and petty.  So what!  Fuck 'em if they couldn't take a joke.

Two heavily carved stairways led up to the big round table where the thirteen Mirin lawmakers of the Conclave sat.  Jack was counting his steps, he'd been marched this route enough to have his timing down perfectly.  His foot found the first step and they were climbing.

"We have a right to be heard," Daniel demanded the instant Jack brought them to a measured, confident halt.

"That you do," the now familiar voice of the once urbane Speaker responded reluctantly.

"I didn't think this was possible, but the Mirin disgust me," Daniel said steadily, his voice carrying effortlessly with the perfect acoustics.

Jack noted that the pompous bureaucratic buzz began to quieten at once.

"I feel for you nothing but abhorrence and the deepest contempt.  You exercise a societal control so complete it would be impossible to impose," Daniel went on, passionate but controlled.  "Family, education, religion and law are all perverted to one end: forcing yourselves to accept that the state sanctioned mass murder of your elderly and infirm is not only necessary but wise."

"The family that slays together, stays together," Jack chimed in on cue, enjoying a shocked gasp from behind him here and there in the listening crowd.

"You're killing healthy people systematically," Daniel calmly picked up his thread again.  "Because of an arbitrary judgement on age relative to productivity.  The worth of a life and an individual is not to be judged materially!  All people are created equal, all have an equal right to live."

"By your light, they do," the Speaker snapped.  "It is the way of the Mirin to ease the passing of our elders in honour so those who remain are stronger and draw all the closer."

"This concern of yours to kill humanely is simply one more Mirin lie," Daniel interjected, his musical voice rising to drown out the Speaker's nasal, squealing tones.  "You want the elders to go quietly and without fuss so you can go on lying to yourselves and to them that it's for good rather than a calculated murder."

A shocked, angry mutter ran through the crowd.  Jack was proud of Daniel.  He had this way of cutting through the bull-shit with laser-like precision.

"If you want a painless end, why bother with lethal injection?  Toss 'em in the wormhole!" Jack advised heartily, feeling obliged to do the Tammy Wynette thing and stand by his man, who wasn't allowing being chained, surrounded and blindfolded to slow him down at all.  "It makes it harder to lie to yourself you did the right thing," Jack admitted fair-mindedly, "but it achieves the same result and there are no funeral costs at the end of it."  Always look for that silver lining!

Outraged shouts began to erupt from the unseen crowd, an ugly edge simmering now in the buzz behind them.

"We've never discussed what you do with those elders who refuse Quietus," Daniel suggested sleekly, everyone around them aware that he and the Conclave had pretty exhaustively discussed everything else.

"Impossible!" someone gasped, not the Speaker.  Jack didn't know this voice.  "To do so would dishonour their family!"

"What penalty would you impose on the dishonoured family?" Daniel pounced.

"Aw, come on!" Jack urged when they stayed sullenly silent.  "We know they wouldn't get away scot-free.  Nothing is free on Mirin."

"Especially not life," Daniel agreed.

"Such a thing could not happen," the Speaker pronounced with flat, uncomfortable finality.

Jack didn't miss that the murdering bastard hadn't answered the question.

"Because you made it impossible," Daniel retorted.  "Do you sanction Quietus for all the dishonoured family?"

"It does not matter, because-"

"Because you made it impossible!" Daniel interrupted with quiet, controlled anger.  "One dies or the whole family dies, right?  Circular logic won't help you here, Speaker. You hold the lives of these people in your hands.  The low crime rates you boasted of when we first arrived?  Because you kill all the dishonoured family.  The high survival rate and low death rate?  Because any infant born with disabilities or medical conditions deemed untreatable is terminated."

"Because everyone who lives to the age of fifty years is terminated," Jack added.

"There is no need and no want in Mirin society because you terminate all those who are in need," Daniel said scathingly.  "You've abrogated your responsibility in government for the welfare of your people - all your people - and are merely the latest in a long line of Conclaves to abuse the power you've been granted.  My government won't help you. They won't give you the penicillin to help you develop the new toxin you're looking for.  We're neither so cynical nor so desperate."

"Looks like you'll have to fall back on alternative methods of terminating your nearest and dearest," Jack added, smiling unpleasantly.  "Nothing so pretty or so pacifying as the soft-focus Forest Lawns infomercial stuff you have now, nothing so easy to fool all of the people apparently all of the time."

"There can't be a person here who doesn't live in fear for a parent, for a child, a sibling or friend, and ultimately for themselves, whether they can admit or not," Daniel insisted with quiet intensity.  "Everyone is driven by that fear, the advancement of your people is fuelled by that fear, not by pride or honour or ethics, because you have none.  All you have are lies and compromises."

"You have had your say, Tau'ri!" the Speaker snarled.  "Guards!"

"You're worse than the Goa'uld," Jack informed them contemptuously as his shoulders were taken and he was forced along, digging his bare heels into the smooth, scented boards, hanging heavy from the guards' hands.

"I understand why you do this," Daniel went on inexorably, his soft voice whispering around the room, stronger than the deathly hush in the Hall of the Voices.  "I'm not insensate, Speaker of the Conclave."

"Guards!" the Speaker squealed, his voice rising half an octave.

Jack was very proud of the effect Daniel had on some people, like fingernails screeched down a blackboard.

"You have to maintain this lie, all of you, because you've killed your own loved ones," Daniel icily accused the assembled Mirin.  "All of you.  You have to believe Quietus is right and just, because you all have blood on your hands.  Every last one of you.  You can't even allow yourself to mourn the parents you murdered, the husbands, wives and children.  You have to celebrate it.  You can't allow yourself to see a choice and so your slavery endures, a slavery more profound than any I thought was possible, because you did this to yourselves."

"It is you who lies!" some unknown called out from the crowd.

"I can see why you desperately need to believe that," Daniel riposted.  "But while you do, more Mirin will be murdered.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You won't break the cycle until one generation stands up to take responsibility and accepts its guilt instead of institutionalising denial of it.  But I guess that won't be you."

"Enough!" the Speaker roared.  "Silence them!"

Pinned by violent hands and a mass of bodies pressing in, too many for him now, and too angry, Jack was lifted off his feet and viciously slammed down, the guards piling in on top of him, looking for some payback for their dead good buddies.

"Jack!" Daniel's voice rose in a pained gasp as his fingers found Jack's.

Pressure spiked sharp and then dull in Jack's chest, spreading far and fast as Daniel's fingers stilled in his.  Panic clawed as his body numbed, his vision greying out as he choked, raging beneath the deadening weight.  Too soon!  It wasn't enough, he couldn't let go, not of Daniel, never.

He fought to speak, suffocating as Daniel was taken from him.

On to Part Two

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