Daniel had a certain
guilty suspicion he was already firmly
wrapped around one small, appealing paw,
because allowing your dog to sleep cosily
curled up on your tummy had to be right at
the top of the How not to care for your
A quick, nervous glance at the clock told
him it was seven-thirty already so he should
be up and picking out something sexy, an
exercise in futility he expected was going
to take some time. Elvis looked so sweet,
though, Daniel didn't want to disturb him.
Um, comfortable. He meant comfortable.
"You’re a bad influence, Elvis," he
complained gently, drawing the curly tail
through his fingers. "Smart too, using me as
a cushion so I can't get away from you."
Daniel allowed himself to be quietly pleased
by this small sign Elvis had some faith in
him. While he certainly wasn't about to
apologise for his protectiveness, the
pleasure he was taking in getting to know
Elvis was surprising him.
On principle, he was reluctant to admit Jack
was right, but in this instance it was
undeniable. Fish were not the same.
"I'm so happy I found you," he murmured,
thinking how quickly this had become true
for him. He was determined to make his dog
secure and happy because Elvis's gentle,
loving nature deserved nurturing, and
because he loved him already. He was so
enjoying discovering each – to him -
charming new facet of Elvis's irresistible
personality, grateful for and quite humbled
by the affection Elvis wasn't shy of showing
him. It was a new experience, one he was
willing to take the time to explore.
"I always wondered what cute was," he mused
idly, his fingertips dwelling in silky fur,
careful of the dog's emaciated state. "I've
been described by women of demonstrably
little discernment and limited vocabulary as
cute. The dictionary definition is daintily
or quaintly pleasing, you know. Somehow, I
doubt that's what women mean by it. There
are some gender specific semantics going on
with that. Aesthetic judgements," he
suggested, dark with disapproval. Daniel
rested his hands on the dog's side, feeling
his gaunt ribs move as he breathed. "You're
cute, though, in all senses of the word," he
said softly, smiling.
Elvis slowly opened sleepy eyes, yawned
cavernously, planted his three good paws
solidly and stretched himself, wobbly but
perfectly at home on his Daniel. His smile
broadening, Daniel fielded his excited dog,
scrambling gamely up his chest to bestow a
good morning lick, scolding Elvis with no
conviction whatsoever for overreacting.
"Cute," Daniel sighed, melting
embarrassingly as Elvis's tail wagged so
furiously his whole butt moved. "You're not
going to pee on me, are you?" he asked
sternly, failing to avoid a rasping tongue
on his chin. He petted Elvis good morning,
carefully smoothing out the ruffled fur with
his fingers. Elvis appeared to thoroughly
approve of this grooming technique,
squirming and arching to keep Daniel's hands
on him. Daniel rather enjoyed it too. He
didn't think he'd ever seen anyone - or
anything - so pleased to see him before. Not
even Jack. He decided he and Elvis were both
suckers for one another, which made it
perfectly okay of course.
He soon realised there was an undercurrent
of desperation to Elvis's ecstasies, a
palpable, almost hysterical relief Daniel
was still here, that he was still safe. It
was clear the dog didn't really trust what
was happening to him. As raw over what had
been done to Elvis this morning as he had
been last night, Daniel cradled the dog to
him and simply held him while he quieted
down. He was mortified by his own emotion
when Elvis settled into a slow, repeated
pattern of gentle licking, as if he were
grooming Daniel, seeking and giving
reassurance, contact, constancy.
Seeing the impact he had on Elvis, Daniel
began dimly to understand the extent of the
responsibility he'd accepted for this
animal. Dependency wasn't a trait he was
comfortable with, but then, neither was love
if he were being honest.
"We've got some work to do," he informed
Elvis, who jumped at the sound of his voice.
The curly tail wagged uncertainly, the dog
unsure of what he could do to please Daniel.
He was so starved, so pathetic, Daniel was
wrenched with pity for him.
"I want to do the right thing for you," he
promised determinedly, kissing the eager
head. This meant research, and questions for
Jack, who knew dogs but more importantly,
"Hungry?" he asked, both of them startled,
shying when the phone rang shrilly. Elvis
went slithering into the comforter when
Daniel strained awkwardly across the bed to
There was a long pause then as Jack
apparently ran out of steam, filled by a
scared, indignant Elvis limping up the bed
to assume his rightful position snuggled
into Daniel's arms.
"Er - hi."
"You sound awkward, Jack," Daniel snorted,
amused. "Embarrassed, even." There was
another pause. Daniel had plenty he wanted
to say about Jack being rendered apparently
mute, a kind of quid pro quo for all Jack
had had to say about certain allegedly
loquacious linguists, but some very specific
memories inconveniently surfaced before he
got started. "Um. I. Er," Daniel mumbled,
very glad Jack couldn't see his face slowly
flame. It was very definitely the morning
after the night before. "I - er – you..."
Strange. He appeared to have something in
Possibly his heart.
"I know, I know. It's the whole crazy in
love with you thing," Jack reminded him
sweetly, annoyingly making a recovery just
as Daniel was losing it.
Daniel felt his decidedly nervous bleat was
not an adequately enthusiastic response to
this. He was also pretty sure he'd just
abjectly surrendered whatever small
conversational advantage he'd had. Crucified
by embarrassment, he cringed as Jack, ever
considerate to friends in need, chuckled
Elvis was sitting up and taking a
bright-eyed interest in the phone, curiously
tugging and chewing on the cord. Daniel put
his hand invitingly in front of Elvis's
face. He snorted as his wrist was pinned
beneath a wily paw, Elvis dropping his head
to lap wetly at Daniel's fingers.
"How's the mutt?"
"He's good." The mutt didn't like Daniel
being distracted. He wanted to assist with
the phone call.
"How'd he like his basket?"
Daniel decided to perjure himself on the
grounds of having a spine like a damp
noodle. "Fine," he said firmly.
"He slept with you, didn't he?"
Daniel didn't care for Jack's tone of voice.
"He did not!"
"That skinny flea-ridden ass is parked in my
spot!" Jack indignantly accused him.
"You don’t have a spot," Daniel responded
coldly, not prepared to go there this early
in the morning. He wasn't ready to face Jack
asserting access rights to his blankets.
"Even if you did, Elvis isn't in it."
Uneasily, Daniel assured himself pedantry
was not synonymous with dishonesty.
"So that's you licking the phone, is it?"
Scowling, Daniel craned up to lift the
handset out of Elvis's orally fixated reach.
Elvis liked this new game, tugging
energetically on the phone cord, bouncing up
on his rear paws as Daniel tugged back. "Did
you just call to say you love me or is there
a point to this?" Daniel asked loudly,
suspecting all the playful growling was a
bit of a giveaway.
"There's a point as well," Jack responded
with freezing dignity. "Want to meet me at
Garden of the Gods? Take the flea bag for
his first walk? Have breakfast with me?"
"I - I'd like that," Daniel accepted
"Our first date!" Jack proclaimed, gloating
dotingly. "I'll meet you at the first
parking lot at nine. Remember! Wear
something hot." Jack hung up on him before
he could respond to that.
Daniel returned the handset to its cradle,
then rolled onto his back. Elvis clambered
up on to his chest, inviting further petting
if Daniel were so inclined. They enjoyed
themselves very much with their mutual
tactile learning curve, while Daniel eyed
his closet doors broodingly, wondering aloud
if he could get away with interpreting 'hot'
to mean something like a really thick
sweater or thermal underwear.
"Breakfast first," he decided, scooping
Elvis up as he rolled neatly out of bed.
When he got down the steps, Daniel
conscientiously put him on the floor and
looked at him encouragingly. Elvis sniffed
his ankle, then gleefully attacked his bare
toes. Telling himself he was too pushed for
time to let Elvis play, Daniel happily
cuddled him up again and trotted out. Elvis
didn't mind. He didn't seem to mind anything
except being put down. Even then, he was
flexible if this involved petting.
In the kitchen, Daniel deposited Elvis
suggestively by the litter box. Elvis
sniffed at it dubiously then began to back
away until he was huddled by Daniel's feet.
It occurred to Daniel he had no idea how to
make a dog pee. It had never come up, not
even in conversations he'd had with dogs.
He hunkered down. Elvis looked up brightly,
anxious to please.
"Go, um, pee," Daniel suggested hopefully.
Responding to his voice, Elvis licked him
but that was all.
Remembering Jack's advice to assert himself,
Daniel ordered Elvis to pee. Looking
flattened, Elvis whimpered and started to
pee on the floor. Daniel instantly scooped
him up and deposited him into the litter
box, where nature continued on her majestic
course. Confused and crying, Elvis took a
lot of soothing and praising before he
calmed down enough to take the only treat
Daniel had within reach. Fortunately, they
both liked Cheerios for breakfast.
While Elvis sniffed around in the box,
clearly happier now he could smell his own
scent in there, Daniel cleaned up the floor,
did what he could for himself, then darted
over to the table to choose some food for
Elvis. Mindful of Jack's orders, he took out
the bag of dry food as well as a can of
chicken flavoured dog food. Idling his way
through a gentle lecture on scent marking,
he took his time mixing the food in the bowl
as appetisingly as possible, hopefully
disguising the taste of the crushed pill he
was supposed to give Elvis. The pills were
twice a day. The ointment was four times,
which meant it was coming with them.
"Does it make me a loser if I'm looking
forward to taking you out?" Daniel asked as
he freshened his dog's drinking water.
Elvis was sitting smugly by the damp spot on
the litter tray, clearly awaiting his due
praise and petting, even though he was
airborne when most of it hit. Deciding he
could grade Elvis – generously – on a curve,
Daniel happily obliged, then settled him
down to eat. It upset him to see Elvis
gobbling down each meal as if it was his
last, fuelling his determination to have him
plump and contented as soon as humanly
He had to wonder if he was going to annoy
Elvis with his healthy-eating nagging as
much as Sam and Janet annoyed him.
As Elvis rapidly vacuumed up his chicken
meal, Daniel made a mental note to ask Jack
about appropriate feeding for small dogs,
because Elvis seemed to him to be
desperately hungry all the time.
He wasn't going near that pamphlet Laurie
the vet had given him. It was bound to be
rigid and preachy about things like not
allowing your dog to sleep on you and making
him walk on his sore leg whenever possible.
What he needed was a trip to the canine care
section in the Chinook, his favourite
Leaving the little dog to finish his heaped
gourmet breakfast and enjoy a nice cool
drink, Daniel headed off to snatch a quick
shower. Even when it was drying on you, dog
pee was pervasive. He honestly wasn't sure
what to do for the best when Elvis
immediately followed him out of the kitchen,
his tail again wagging uncertainly.
Daniel almost went back to reassure him, but
felt it would do more harm than good.
Surely, Elvis had to get used to him not
being there before he could learn to accept
Daniel would come back?
After some diffident mutual hovering, Daniel
compromised, keeping the door to the
bathroom open while he showered and Elvis
ate. He sang too, optimistically thinking
the sound of his voice would soothe Elvis's
nerves, whatever it did to Mrs. Lewicki's
Unfortunately, this led him to wonder what
Mrs. Lewicki's cat would make of Elvis.
Smudge had never struck Daniel as a
canine-lover. In fact, he'd never struck
Daniel as a lover of anything, including
Mrs. Lewicki. If Smudge had a credit card
and a can-opener, he'd blow off his adoring,
elderly owner in a heart-beat.
Daniel's own relationship - and he used the
word in its loosest possible sense - with
the cat was difficult to say the least.
Smudge appeared to be magnetically attracted
to him, almost besotted in a crazed-stalkery
restraining order kind of way. Daniel was
going to have to keep the two pets apart and
if he couldn't, if Smudge gave Elvis
problems, well, he had a creative,
resourceful Special Ops trained cat-hating
colonel very much at his disposal.
Jack was a great comfort to Daniel, for all
kinds of reasons.
When he emerged from the shower, Daniel was
disconcerted to discover he wasn't any more
comfortable being naked in front of his dog
than he expected to be in front of his - his
- God. He had difficulty even thinking it.
Boyfriend. Significant Something Or Other.
Whatever it was Jack was to him now.
He also discovered Elvis liked rolling
around in huge fluffy towels, but not nearly
as much as he liked Daniel's toes.
Jack's butt was numb but
he looked really cool in his leather jacket
and shades, sitting perfectly poised on the
hood of his truck, so he stayed put,
thoroughly enjoying the show as Daniel and
Elvis made their way towards him through the
packed car park. Garden of the Gods, with
its vast red rocks, heaved with joggers,
climbers, families on outings, dog walkers,
picnickers, tourists, coffee-swilling
lollygaggers and arty types dawn 'til dusk,
day in, day out. Jack had long suspected its
appeal to Daniel lay not in the stunning
scenic beauty but the drive-thru Starbucks
just down the road.
Man and dog were on either end of a light
leash, but it was anyone's guess who was
doing the driving. To Jack's amusement,
Elvis appeared to have way more experience
of being owned than Daniel did of owning.
His sweet baby towered over the little dog
clinging so closely to his side, Elvis
bouncing along slightly awkwardly as he
favoured his sore leg, looking up adoringly
at his proud owner with every other step,
his tail wagging the whole time.
The flea bag looked as gung-ho as Jack felt.
Jack was delighted - and amazed - to see
Daniel had taken him at his word, dressing
hotter than hell in jailbait-tight dark
indigo denim and a slinky soft sullen blue
sweater which clung faithfully to every
curve, the sleeves falling down over his
graceful, speaking hands. Daniel's attitude
was eloquent of straight-forward masculine
challenge perfectly blended with
mortified modesty. The former was clearly
aimed right between Jack's shamelessly
Everything, in fact, was perfect. At least
until Daniel walked into a gaggle of
power-walking grannies emerging from a SUV.
The gaggle took one look at the emaciated
Elvis and freaking ensued.
Jack's instinct was to rush to the rescue
but, one, little old ladies scared him, two,
Daniel could scare him, three, Elvis was
practically hysterical in defence of his
idol and four, Daniel had a way with him.
The raucous, ugly calls for cops and ASPCA
faltered in the face of – well, Daniel's
face. He was much too pretty for everyone's
good. It worked against him as much as it
worked for him, but this time, those big,
beguiling baby blues worked like the
While Daniel made soothing noises and fussed
over the cute little doggie, the old
battleaxes gradually stopped with the
yelling and started with the listening. Then
the outrage on the little doggie's behalf as
Daniel revealed himself to be rescuer, not
abuser. Finally, the sage nods, sound advice
and petting. More of Daniel than of the dog,
Jack was sad to see. Fortunately, Elvis was
about as keen on sharing as Jack was and
satisfyingly open about showing it.
The grannies departed amicably, but not
without a cheeky wolf-whistle or two when
they got a load of Daniel's equally
"Don't these people have anything better to
do?" Daniel bridled indignantly as the old
gals went off giggling.
"Not when what they want to do is you," Jack
observed judiciously, sliding lithely down
to ground level. "Nice job, by the way." He
activated the alarm on his truck and waited
expectantly for further communication.
"Oh." Daniel stood in front of Jack, looking
at him. He nodded vacantly, a possible
thanks for the compliment. Elvis sat on his
foot. "Um." He looked some more. "Hi." He
was still looking.
In the absence of petting, and apparently
remembering Jack as a source of treats,
Elvis stirred himself to amble over to sniff
him, leading Daniel along resistless at the
end of his leash.
"If this were a better world, I'd kiss you,"
Jack informed Daniel as he hunkered down to
say hello properly to Elvis, gratified he'd
reduced the boy to monosyllabic incoherence
and his dog to squirming acquiescence.
"That would be fine," Daniel agreed in a
small, distracted voice, still staring.
"Let's walk." Jack took the leash from
Daniel. Elvis planted his skinny behind on
the pavement and barked. This was clearly
going too far even if Jack had been granted
petting privileges. Meekly, Jack gave Daniel
back the leash. Elvis wanted to walk between
them. "He thinks he can take me," Jack
"He's protective," Daniel admitted
affectionately. "I know it's absolutely
ridiculous. I mean, look at the size of
"He's going to embarrass you all over
Colorado Springs," Jack observed cheerfully,
looking forward to being there, preferably
with a camera. Elvis was enjoying himself,
dividing his time between sniffing Daniel's
leg and the ground in front of him with
ferocious lightning assaults on Jack's
"He has a toe fetish," Daniel muttered
"Really?" Jack politely invited
"Yes!" Daniel nodded vigorously. "It's
inconvenient to say the least. I love
working - um - relaxing," he amended
instantly, looking shifty. "I mean
"Of course you did," Jack agreed in his most
blandly soothing tones.
Daniel avoided his eyes. "Barefoot."
"You 'relax' barefoot? Really?" Jack perked
up, abandoning an argument about Daniel's
recreational habits in favour of intriguing
fetish-related intelligence. He and Elvis
were as one on the subject of toes. He could
also harangue Daniel in private for having
no social life any time he felt like taking
him out on the town and showing him off to
the bitterly envious someplace expensive.
"This is going to cause problems.
Distractions. Rolling around playing."
Daniel sounded as if he was quite looking
forward to this.
"It certainly is!" Jack agreed heartily,
wondering if Elvis was up for a threesome in
the rolling around department. If not, the
mutt could make his own amusement. "Speaking
of distractions?" he segued smoothly into
something he did want to investigate further
at this time. "Want to tell me what was
going through your mind back there?" he
asked invitingly, jerking his thumb towards
"All that staring?" Jack coaxed.
"You love me," Jack observed complacently.
Daniel went very red.
"It just got real for you, huh?" Jack
suggested sympathetically. "I think I slept
ten whole minutes last night," he admitted
ruefully. He was fine until he got into bed,
then he stupidly pictured Daniel in bed and
promptly freaked about him coming to his
senses. It was to Jack entirely possible for
them to be in love and for him to still not
get any. It was just his luck. Worse, it was
He'd waited three hours next to his phone
lying to himself he was reading about the
very deep deeps of the deepest lake in the
world in his National Geographic before he
let himself make the call to Daniel this
morning. Even if he was possibly maybe
slightly too worried about getting laid
before Daniel dumped him, Jack liked to
think he had some dignity.
"We're in a relationship, Jack!" Daniel
babbled, clearly into some freaking time of
"Do you want that?"
"I want you."
"Then everything else will come," Jack
promised reassuringly. "Including me, I
hope," he muttered.
"Good to know you have your priorities
straight," Daniel snapped, pissed and
"Absolutely. I planned to soften you up with
coffee and pastries before the morning study
"Study group? I'm afraid to ask," Daniel
hinted inquisitively, brightening up.
Sucker, Jack thought fondly. "Sex Ed. I
figured we'd hit the books hard and, you
"Try a little hands on?" Daniel guessed, his
perfectly arched, ridiculously mobile
eyebrows soaring as he sneered.
"That's a good suggestion," Jack commented,
much struck by this evidence of Daniel's
foresight and sexual open-mindedness. He was
confident Daniel - and Elvis - would want to
look at the books. There would be questions.
Possibly notes. Cross-references and use of
the laptop. Licking. "Life is good," he
decided, smiling expansively. Daniel seemed
to agree with this pronouncement, a smile
lighting his face. "I'm touched you actually
looked at me before you looked at the
flea-bag," Jack thanked him graciously.
"You're taller," Daniel explained.
"There speaks a man who's just asking to
drive all the way downtown to Panera Bread
to buy his own cinnamon crunch bagels," Jack
retorted, hefting a large decorative bag of
fresh-baked, still-warm goodies.
"Cinnamon?" Daniel echoed greedily. "Can
Elvis eat bagels?" he asked after a swift
"I think he wants to."
"I don't care how much he wants to. Dogs
always want to. Dogs will eat until they
explode if you let them. That doesn't change
the fact cinnamon bagels are bad for him."
"Don't tell me that, tell him."
"He can't explode before the barbecue. I
told everyone they were meeting Elvis."
Daniel found he was
enjoying their stroll through the park,
surrounded by the magical towering red-gold,
sun-drenched rock. Elvis was being very
good. So good, in fact, Daniel suspected he
was going easy on his stupid human. Jack was
going easy on him too, patiently assured,
cheerful and teasing by turns, especially
when they passed the Kissing Camels rock.
There was a lingering warmth in his eyes
though, a hint of predatory possessiveness
in the fleeting, fugitive touches to
Daniel's back or waist which told him
everything had changed between them.
Although what they were talking about was
"Instructional videos?" Daniel asked for
about the third time.
"I swear to God!" Jack held up a solemn hand
as he gracefully insinuated his long legs
into the small gap between bench and table
in the fortunately quiet picnic area.
Daniel put the creamy cappuccinos onto the
table and sat Elvis on the bench next to
him. Elvis promptly propped his chin on the
table and tried to psyche out Jack with
kilowatt pleading puppyish eyes, smartly
targeting him as the source of those
delicious warm cinnamon scents.
"They do that?" Daniel hinted delicately,
having difficulty following the conversation
even without Elvis being cute as a button at
"I hear that men think about sex all the
time," Jack responded solemnly, a grin
tugging at his lips. "Even with each other."
"Cued up in the VCR and ready to roll," Jack
said cheerfully, attacking his first bagel
with audible and visible relish.
"You've watched them?"
"They're instructional, Daniel," Jack
explained in a slightly superior, pitying
tone. "Not porn."
"Are they?" Daniel pulled a face at Jack,
unsure himself what he was asking. His brain
seemed to have seized.
"I'm fully briefed and good to go," Jack
"I know I said I believed we'd be okay with
the sex, Jack," Daniel began a difficult
explanation - he refused to think of it as
wussing out - of his tangled feelings. "I
didn't expect to have to be okay with it
Frowning at Jack, he helped himself to a
bagel, a pair of bright, gimlet eyes
tracking his hands all the way. Elvis
instantly abandoned Jack for easier meat.
Daniel distractedly stroked the pathetic,
neglected head resting persuasively on his
thigh. "I know you want to go to bed with
me," he acknowledged doubtfully. Jack had
made this crystal clear. "I also thought we
were going to be getting to know one another
better, not focusing on a sexual
relationship. Not right away," he added
hesitantly, sure he wasn't explaining
"Would you prefer not to know that I want
you?" Jack retorted. "That I'm thinking all
the time about how we'll be together?
Neither of us are kids, Daniel, and I prefer
to be honest. We don't have time to screw
each other around, we have too much going on
in our lives for that. I figure we both need
to know where we stand and it's not just
about what we feel. That part is great, it's
good, I want it too," he promised with
unwonted earnestness. "I want everything. I
wish I could offer it all up to you in a
neat, logical a to b, b to c, c to d
package, but I can't. Sex and love, it's all
part of what I want, what I feel." Jack took
a long drink of his coffee, cradling the
container between his palms. "I need to be
honest," he said again.
"You had time to adjust to your feelings,
Jack, a time when I didn't know you were in
love with me. It took as long to come to
terms with wanting me sexually as it did to
admit you love me," Daniel reminded Jack
gently. "I have to try to deal with all of
this too, but the difference is you know.
You're right here, watching every move I
make, waiting for," Daniel trailed off, well
aware of the depth of Jack's frustration. "I
don't expect anything but the truth from
you, Jack. It's all I've ever asked for.
Except now, when I - I need some patience."
He looked unhappily at Jack. "You told me I
didn't have to decide the rest of our lives
Jack relaxed, his eyes twinkling rueful
acknowledgement. "I meant it too," he
admitted reluctantly, a real grin breaking
out. "God knows I've never managed to
railroad you into anything you didn’t choose
to do," he complained, flourishing a bagel
for emphasis. "You have a damned
inconvenient memory for the stupid things I
say to you."
"I know." Daniel risked a smile and was
magnanimously rewarded with a bagel for his
"This was stupider than most," Jack
grumbled. "That video is wide screen, you
"I'm not pushing my luck," Jack informed
Daniel reproachfully. "I'm explaining.
"You love it," Jack said complacently.
As he was likely to lose this one, Daniel
prudently decided to change the subject. "I
need a licence for Elvis." He was sure of
this. Jack would be sure of everything else.
"He has a certificate for his rabies shots
so we can swing by the Humane Society," Jack
shrugged easily. "If you think the flea-bag
is worth eight bucks."
Daniel didn’t dignify this with a response.
He took another bagel and stroked his dog.
"Or maybe twenty. Elvis still has quite a
spring in his step even with the limp." Jack
straightened up to peer inquisitively over
the table. "Is he fixed?"
"Fixed?" Daniel looked down. Elvis looked
up. "How can you tell?" he asked at last,
Jack rolled his eyes. "Take a look," he
advised Daniel with slow, crisply enunciated
clarity, as if he was talking to a
fractious, none too bright pre-schooler.
"Oh, like you're an expert in canine
castration!" Daniel snapped, feeling goaded.
He refused to be made to feel inadequate
because he lacked the broad experience of
multiple-species male genitalia which
appeared to be a key component of Special
Ops training, if the pitying look on the
colonel's patronising face was anything to
go by. "I'm not taking a look," he refused
"I'm aware I'm anthropomorphising Elvis,"
Daniel interrupted, heading off at the pass
Jack's all-too-imminent lecture. "I'm also
aware of the issues and of my
responsibilities as a responsible dog owner.
I'm just not going to look for his testicles
here. Not in front of everyone. He has his
dignity, you know?"
When Daniel put him down,
Elvis wanted to be picked straight back up.
Jack's place was, apparently, big and scary.
Daniel, who'd never had to deal with Jack
undressing him with his eyes, was inclined
to agree. "Coffee?" he hinted, desperately
"Sure." Jack smiled to himself and signed to
Daniel to lead the way. He wolf-whistled
before he even got the door closed behind
Elvis, meanwhile, was sniffing distractedly
at the air. Hunger winning out over nerves,
he limped straight for Jack's kitchen,
following his nose.
"How often am I allowed to feed him?" Daniel
"Twice a day."
"He's very thin," Daniel hinted hopefully.
"He's an expert guilt-tripper."
"Possibly, but he still needs feeding up,"
Daniel insisted stubbornly. A peremptory
bark had him lifting his head to sniff the
air over the steamy stove. "But not on -
what is that?" he demanded, his nose
"Chilli," Jack informed him coldly. He'd
spent a great deal of time and extremely
precise experimentation perfecting his
recipe, blending herbs and spices with juicy
fresh tomatoes and chillies, the best beef
money could buy, ground right here in his
kitchen to the exact texture for optimum
sauce absorption. In Jack's opinion, good
chilli was both art and science.
"Chilli? Elvis!" With a bleat of panic,
Daniel dashed into the kitchen.
Jack was clearly in love with a thankless
culinary philistine who would be apologising
and making it up to him suitably and at
length, preferably this evening after all
the extraneous guests had gone home. The
late September sky was wine-crisp, with just
enough bite after dark to beg a fire. In the
meantime, he was planning to idle away a
sunny morning in his garden communing with
Daniel while Elvis - for preference - built
up his strength in a long, refreshing sleep.
Thanking his realtor for a garden masked by
mature trees and high fences, Jack picked up
his favourite woollen blanket and the pile
of how-to guides which were so focusing
Daniel's mind, strolling out onto the deck,
then down into the garden. He'd missed a
couple of weeks of mowing and the grass was
long and tender, perfect for a small,
still-frail dog to play in confidently.
"Elvis likes your chilli," Daniel said from
behind him. "He likes it more than he
apparently likes me right now."
"He's fine," Jack said reassuringly. "He
can't do any damage and he'll come out to
you when he's ready."
Daniel looked longingly into the house.
"You're breaking every rule in Laurie's
book," Jack teased. "I know you are."
His only response to Jack's accusation a
stubborn sniff, Daniel took the blanket,
shook it out and spread it, then tumbled
down to sprawl over most of it.
Jack dropped his assortment of well-thumbed
and in some cases annotated sex books onto
the grass in front of them, then joined
Daniel on the blanket, which took quite a
bit of nudging before the love of his life
sullenly shifted over an inch or two and
made room. Jack gave him a good, hard shove,
then stretched out next to him, propping his
chin comfortably on his hands.
They both watched the pile of books in
silence for a while, trying, not very
successfully, to act unconcerned.
The skitter of paws on the deck had Daniel
looking around. Elvis whined but he wanted
to be down the steps more than he wanted to
wait for Daniel to pick him up, so he gave
it a shot. It was slow progress and when he
reached the grass, the dog's limp was more
pronounced, but his tail was wagging. He
came over to Daniel, nosing at him to be
petted. Daniel stroked him and kissed him on
the head, praised him lavishly for his
intrepid bravery, and then Elvis went over
to say hello to Jack, who melted like butter
in front of a blow torch. They both
thoroughly enjoyed the fuss. Elvis started
sniffing the grass as soon as Jack put him
down, rambling off to investigate.
"I love him," Daniel confessed in a rush to
Jack, embarrassing himself. "Already. He's
filling up an emptiness I wasn't aware I
"Unconditional love," Jack said softly, his
eyes far away. "He's always going to be a
responsibility, he's always going to need
your care. Give him your affection and what
you get in return?" He shrugged
uncomfortably, as embarrassed as Daniel was
at his sudden sentimentality. "You have no
idea how he's going to change you."
"He's a good dog." Daniel smiled as a small
head popped out from behind a tree, checked
on him, then vanished again. "I hate what
happened to him and the way he was treated.
I hate that he loved someone unconditionally
and trusted them and they did this to him. I
don't care what was wrong with them or their
lives or what they lacked in their souls.
They tossed him like trash and left him to
die. I hate what they did." He picked at a
fold in the blanket. "It's not a huge leap
to hating them."
"Try not to think about it," Jack advised,
knowing it wasn't possible.
"No," Daniel said definitely. "Elvis needs
me too much. It's more than just his injury.
He was frightened last night, in the dark."
"There are a lot of predators out in those
Daniel's face hardened. "It's going to be
hard to leave him," he said slowly, watching
a rustling bush. Elvis peeped out, looked at
Daniel, his tail wagging as he limped
through the soft grass. "It's too soon. I
won't traumatise him with what would have to
feel like another abandonment. I have a ton
of translation work to catch up on and I can
do it from home."
"I think your colonel might have something
to say about that," Jack suggested meekly.
"Sam has a back-log which might actually be
bigger than mine and the only reason either
of us needs forty-eight hours in the day is
your expressed loathing of paperwork."
"You can go off people, you know."
"Yes," Daniel agreed crisply, "You can."
Elvis came up to him and snuggled into his
shoulder, his fur warm against Daniel's
throat. "You're such a good boy," he
crooned, stroking him.
Jack's legendary will of iron crumbled for a
wagging tail and a soft, hesitant lick of
his outstretched hand. "Base time sounds
good," he lied through gritted teeth. George
would be thrilled. At some point he'd
decided it was time to groom Jack for
command and he seemed to prefer it when Jack
showed some hackle so he could rub him up
the wrong way some more. It was possibly
character building. George certainly
intended it to be, but Jack wasn't playing
along. He was happy to keep a cool head in a
crisis but he reserved the right to lose it
when the small stuff screwed him over.
Elvis lay down on a corner of the blanket,
drowsing under Daniel's hand.
"Book?" Jack asked pleasantly, sliding one
of his 'how to?' manuals across.
Native caution where Jack was concerned
warred with Daniel's proper scholarly
curiosity. He guessed they both knew which
would win out. He took the book, opened it
and checked out the contents page,
disconcerted by the serendipitous go read
wherever the mood takes you approach. A
logical progression would have been slightly
more reassuring to the absolute beginner, he
felt. He read on, checking out the foreword,
then on into the introductory chapters,
finding the emphasis on the sharing of
pleasures, on comfort and mutual consent
"This is probably the most surreal
experience I've ever had with you," Daniel
informed Jack after a while, leafing back a
couple of pages in the book to check out the
photographs again. It was ridiculous, but he
was very glad Elvis was sound asleep, curled
into a ball in the corner of the blanket by
his head. This was bizarre enough without
having Elvis listening in. "I didn't even
know they published books like this. The
only ones I've ever seen..."
Jack raised an enquiring brow.
"When I was researching the Spartans,"
Daniel informed him dampeningly. "Those
books had line drawings."
"Just wait until we're trying it in bed,"
Jack said smugly.
Daniel stared at the uppermost photo of the
two naked men, one with his legs hooked over
the other man's shoulders. "It doesn't look
comfortable for either partner," he
commented doubtfully. "Or dignified."
Jack reached across him and flipped over the
page, pointing to figure seventeen.
Carefully noting the ecstatic expressions on
two effortful faces, Daniel cleared his
throat nervously. "Possibly worth the
indignity," he admitted.
"When was the last time your right hand made
you look like that?" Jack asked dryly.
Daniel glanced skittishly at figure
seventeen again. That would be approximately
"Me either," Jack admitted woodenly,
apparently reading Daniel like the book.
"This reminds me of learning to drive,"
Daniel muttered, wondering if he dared to
check out the chapter on - what was it
called? Rimming? "Ferocious concentration
and not enough arms and legs for all the
manoeuvres." He waved a vague, explanatory
hand over the double page spread of
full-colour figures fourteen through
seventeen. Rimming worried him. He'd never
heard the term before and given this was in
the context of 'Sharing oral pleasure with
your partner' he wasn't sure of much except
it sounded highly unlikely to him.
Daniel turned onto his side, facing Jack, a
cheek propped up on his hand. "You watched a
video?" he asked, in awe of this
Jack nodded, his expression mild.
"How was it?" Daniel was fascinated and
appalled at once. "As bad as it sounds?"
"Bad maybe isn't the term I'd use, but bad
enough it made me realise there's something
fundamentally screwed about sex education,"
Jack grumbled. "All this fulfilling your
partner shtick is really about fulfilling
the woman. With the guy, it's assumed orgasm
"Like death and taxes."
"If the woman isn't fulfilled, it's the
guy's fault. If the guy isn't fulfilled,"
Jack complained, "It's also the guy's fault.
We're talking medical practitioners. The
assumption is there has to be something
physically wrong with the guy because god
forbid we get all judgemental about the
woman being lousy at sex."
Daniel made 'what he said' noises.
"Your average hetero how-to guide is long on
the woman's g-spot but comes up short on why
straight sex for a guy is, physiologically
speaking, always a few fries short of a
"Good, but," Daniel trailed off, his eyes
once again drawn to figure seventeen.
"Could be better." Jack's eyes were dwelling
too. "Way better." He was being extremely
careful not to let on to Daniel just how
much sexual experience he'd had with men. He
couldn't think of anything he hadn't tried
and enjoyed at least once. He consoled
himself that he wasn't exactly lying, just
being economical with the truth. Daniel was
feeling hopelessly inadequate and
overwhelmed as it was. Jack couldn't see it
helping him in any way to have performance
anxiety on top of everything else. There was
to be no question in Daniel's mind of
disappointing or of being compared to other
guys Jack had been with.
"I don't know if reading all of this makes
me less or more unnerved than I already
was," Daniel confessed, reaching over to
rest his hand at Jack's waist.
"I recommend de-sensitising," Jack responded
instantly. "Repeated exposure eventually
dulls the knee-jerk reaction that makes you
want to gibber under the bed with ' Miss
July' to prop up your psyche."
"I'm very proud of you," Daniel decided.
"Even if you are scaring the crap out of
Jack rolled smoothly on top of Daniel,
pinning him neatly with the weight of his
body. While Daniel tried to figure out how
he felt about this, Jack removed his glasses
and set them safely down on top of the pile
of reference books.
When he turned back, Daniel reached up to
stroke trembling fingers down from Jack's
temple to his jaw, his blue eyes wide and
wondering. The intensity of Daniel's gaze
was as much for Jack as a physical touch.
"I never really noticed how good-looking you
are," Daniel remarked absently. "Although
that's not specific to you. I always seem to
be searching for more than there is on
anyone's surface. I get so caught up in
that, in knowing a person, maybe I don't
really see them." He smiled shyly at Jack.
"Seeing you now, though," he confided,
lifting his face to kiss him.
They lay tangled up together, moving their
mouths restlessly, curiously, together.
Daniel closed his eyes but Jack watched,
assessing the unsubtle incredulity and
awkwardness in Daniel's face and body. Even
his lips were stiff and careful. Jack
couldn't even remember the first time he got
laid with a guy but guessed it must have
played out something like this.
"I never kissed a man before you," he
promised quietly, reaching across to rub
Daniel's stomach. He found he was aroused by
the sensation of firm muscles sliding
beneath the soft wool as he rubbed in slow
circles, by the difference between a man and
the boys he remembered being with. Jack slid
his hand lower, slipping it beneath the
sweater. Daniel gasped, shifting jerkily as
Jack's fingers stroked over his skin.
Not really thinking, Jack went with it,
curiosity at Daniel's reactions, at his own,
leading him to skim over the sharp jut of a
slim hip, across a muscular, denim-clad
thigh. He didn't mean to push, but suddenly
his hand was there, between Daniel's legs.
Daniel shuddered convulsively, shook and
shook as Jack's palm massaged his
slow-swelling crotch, his mouth working
soundlessly, in pleasure or protest Jack
couldn't tell, until it was too much for him
and he cracked, pushing Jack away.
Daniel apologised immediately, disjointedly,
neither of them sure what for, exactly,
promising it was okay, he was okay, he just
wasn't used to - to this. Sorry himself,
Jack slid his arms around Daniel, hugging
him close, in comfort, Daniel's head moving
diffidently onto his shoulder, a strong hand
coming to rest over Jack's.
It struck Jack then that Daniel was as wary
and uncertain of him as the dog was of
Daniel. They were both mistrustful. The dog
had learned this response from experience,
but he wondered now what had happened to
make Daniel this way. Was it experience or
was it truly his nature? The answer could be
important if he was going to make things
right between them. If he was going to make
"What was it like for you with Sha'uri?" he
"You want to know about my sex life?" Daniel
was astounded. "My sex life with my wife?"
"I'm not trying to pry," Jack explained in
his most reasonable tone.
"That's exactly what you're doing!" Daniel
countered hotly, shoving at Jack until he
reluctantly shifted, barely enough to allow
Daniel room to wriggle out of his embrace.
"It's none of your business!"
"When you go to bed with me, your past
experiences are kind of my business, Daniel.
Our business," he corrected himself with
"Does that mean you're going to fill me on
your sex life with your wife?" Daniel
demanded, struggling to control his temper.
"That's different. I know how bad that
sounds, Daniel, but it's not an excuse. It's
a fact. We were married a lot longer and we
were married here." Where things at least
could pass for normal. "You, though," Jack
paused, knowing he wasn't necessarily doing
the right thing but at least was trying to
say it right. "All the time I've known you,
you've never dated. The only woman you ever
went for was just as alien as Sha'uri was. I
don't get it. I don't get that part of you."
"I've never known you to date either,"
Daniel argued, stiff with resentment.
"I was in love with you," Jack reminded him
calmly. "I only lost sight of that once,
when I thought I had no choice, when I
believed I was never going to see you again.
I was..." he hesitated, then decided to let
Daniel hear it. "Lost."
"Edora," Daniel replied instantly, softening
as he caught the deeper meaning of what Jack
was telling him. Despite himself, he reached
out tentatively to rub Jack's arm in quiet
empathy and understanding.
There had been nothing easy about Jack's
relationship with the Edoran woman Laira. It
took her almost the whole time he was
trapped there with her to corner him. It was
only with hindsight that Jack could see how
manipulative she had been.
They sat for a while in silence, Jack
looking, waiting, smiling to himself as
Daniel thought all of this through, forgave
him for being a tactless asshole and thawed
just enough he found his voice again.
"Difficult," Daniel said at last, sounding
very gruff. "It was difficult."
"You told me she laughed," Jack recalled.
The first night Daniel was back on Earth
with him. "Everyone else worshipped the
ground you walked on and she...laughed."
"Kept me grounded," Daniel corrected him
with gentle dignity.
Jack freed his arm and slid it around
Daniel, who put up a token resistance, then
slumped gratefully and, daringly, started up
with the rubbing thing again, only this time
on Jack's thigh.
"Have you had a – a lot of partners?" Daniel
asked with extreme caution, bracing himself
for a rebuff.
"Some," Jack shrugged carelessly, not about
to open up the thorny issue of gender.
His hand stilling, then slipping from Jack's
thigh to wipe nervously over his own, Daniel
looked down, pale and mortified. "My wife,"
he admitted in a stifled voice.
Somehow, on some level, Jack had always
known this, but it was still a shock to have
it confirmed. He had the sense not to let it
show, not to say anything, and to wait
Daniel out again, with more patience than
he'd imagined he possessed. It was becoming
terribly important to him Daniel be more
than happy. He wanted him comfortable. He
wanted him to have expectations, to be
certain of him, to feel free to push him. He
wanted Daniel to trust him, to give more of
himself to Jack than he had ever given
anyone before. To let Jack in.
He was asking the world and intended to have
it. Daniel meant this much.
It was about limits for him, for both of
them, he guessed. He thought he'd opened up
them both, expanded what they knew and what
they wanted from one another but in reality,
all he'd really done at this point was make
Daniel painfully aware of all his old
limitations and a whole bunch of new ones.
And left himself trying to deal with it all.
He didn't have his usual option or excuse of
emotional constipation, not when he was the
one with the experience. There were plenty
of times he'd depended on Daniel he
shouldn't grudge the tables being turned.
"I loved her very much." Daniel sounded
sure. "There's nothing I haven't thought
about, replayed over and over in my mind, so
much I would've changed if I could." He
smiled, strained and difficult. "So much I
did change. I made her fit to me. All of
Jack could imagine some of it. The cartouche
room had always nagged at him. It had looked
to him like the set of one of those wildly
lavish Cecil B. Demille epics with an
improbable cast of thousands and had
probably taken that many to dig it out. Not
to mention the time spent by Daniel
exploring and finding where 'X' marked the
spot before the excavations ever started.
Throw in teaching the people English and the
rudiments of archaeology, training them in
digging and soldiering, or at least mounting
disciplined guard on valuable artefacts.
Uncovering the Stargate, experimenting with
it. So much Daniel had accomplished, in so
No wonder Daniel was stricken. As driven as
he was during that year away from Jack, he
must never have believed Abydos could last
for him, that it could ever be more than a
dream. He had never trusted it, never given
himself wholly to that life or to Sha'uri.
"She didn't like me," Jack noted, wondering
if Daniel had ever picked up on this. He
remembered Sha'uri's reluctance when he took
his team back through to Abydos, the way she
had clung to Daniel's side and shook Jack's
hand as if it had shit on it. He remembered
the challenging, territorial kiss and
Daniel's stupefaction as she staked her
claim on him, the lusty approval and
encouragements of the crowd, Skaara and the
No birth control.
He understood then how it was for them, he
guessed he knew it all. Daniel anxious for
Sha'uri, taking no risks. Not with her life,
not with a child's. Pouring all of his
energy, all of his life into – what had
Carter called it? The archaeological find of
the century. No surprise Sha'uri had hated
Jack and feared him. She was barely holding
on to her precious Danyel before Jack ever
came back through the Stargate. She had
never needed to be told Jack had come to
take Daniel from her. How long had she
waited for exactly that?
"Talk about me a lot, did you?" he asked
Daniel, carefully neutral.
"Sha'uri didn't," Daniel tried to argue,
bewildered, defensive and meaning his
stuttered objection honestly. "She didn't
"We both wanted the same thing, Daniel,"
Jack interrupted, reaching up to stroke
Daniel's face. "We both wanted you and I
guess on some level we both recognised it in
"Ke'ra," Daniel said slowly, frowning
through another realisation. "You loathed
her from the start, Jack. Learning her real
identity only justified the feelings you
were already expressing towards her, didn't
it? The way you overreacted to our
friendship never made sense to me. It never
occurred to me you could be jealous."
Jack stifled a sigh. He could almost see the
question coming at him.
"Were you jealous of Sha'uri too?"
"Maybe as much as she was of me," Jack
replied steadily enough. "Maybe more."
"All this time," Daniel muttered fretfully,
distressed as much for Jack as for his
surfacing memories and his blindness. "I've
spent half my life studying...No," he caught
himself up hastily. "More than that, Jack.
Much more. Spent it captivated by the
written word, and I married a woman who
couldn't read or write or speak my language.
Do you know what that means?" he asked
painfully. "It wasn't the words. Those I
could teach. It was the meaning. A pen was a
wonder to Sha'uri. A pen." He pushed away
from Jack and got up, pacing off his
agitation. He didn't slow when Jack followed
to stand a small distance from the path he
was wearing through the grass, back and
forth, back and forth.
"I did love her," Daniel protested, needing
to say this even though Jack wasn't arguing
"I know, but it wasn't a marriage of
equals," Jack said quietly, knowing it was
exactly this equality and balance between
them which had most attracted him to Daniel.
"She was strong," Daniel argued fiercely.
"Strong and smart and capable. The things
she could do, Jack, the skills she had."
All about survival, Jack knew. Sha'uri was
simple because her life was simple. It was
easier for her people to die than it was for
them to live. Without reading and writing,
without recording the history and
accomplishments of the people who lived
before them, the Abydonians had stagnated.
Sha'uri had known no more and could do no
more than the women Ra had brought with him
from Egypt. Daniel could love her, and teach
her, but they could never be equals. She
could never challenge him intellectually or
even emotionally. Her laughter was like her
obedience, a control, a way to push Daniel
into the role of husband and provider that
she understood. She had wanted Daniel to
conform, not question, for him to be the one
who was changed, not her people.
Jack had no doubt she had loved Daniel as
much as he had loved her but whether they
were happy, whether they would have lasted,
he didn't know. He felt not.
"I never did put her first," Daniel
admitted, his voice breaking. "Jack..."
"I'm here," Jack said simply, standing his
ground. Not pushing, not this time. He felt
a rush of relief and achy gratitude when
Daniel came to him.
Daniel's eyes were huge, shadowed in a grey
face. He was burning inside, hurting and
scared to lean on Jack. He was also strong
and excruciatingly honest, even with
himself. "I never was who she needed me to
Knowing it was easier for Daniel to remember
Sha'uri as perfect rather than human, to
hold on to his remembrances rather than
reality, Jack kissed him warmly, softly,
then folded him in close and held on to him,
hoping and waiting for him to want to give
in, to meet him halfway and reach out for
They needed to talk, to help each other
reach an understanding about this shared
past of theirs, interlocking painfully on so
many levels, but Daniel didn't try to
comprehend or explain what he'd just learned
about Jack and maybe could begin to face
A soft nudge at his foot made Jack glance
down to find Elvis anxiously staring up at
Daniel. Sensitive to their mood, he was
silent, cuddling shyly into their legs.
Daniel didn't try to talk. He only kissed
Jack's neck and hugged him hard.
He held on.
For Jack, this was better. This was worth it
all. For the here and now, this was pretty
near everything he wanted.
Back to part
Feedback makes the difference between
writing and posting; please contact me at