|Slash:||Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.|
|Category:||Angst. Drama. First Time. Hurt/Comfort.|
|Season/Spoilers:||Season 4. No particular spoilers.|
|Synopsis:||Daniel wrestles with two serious personal dilemmas as his relationship with Jack moves into new and uncharted territory.|
|Warnings:||Contains some graphic scenes.|
Twinges of objection from long-suffering knees disrupted Daniel Jackson’s haze of concentration. Arching his back in an overdue stretch, he glanced at his military issue watch. Whoa! He snuck a look at his guardian—Jack had to be numb with boredom.
The colonel slouched against one of the crumbling pillars, gaze directed across the open area toward the path leading back to the Stargate. From the distance, vestiges of perfunctory conversation between Sam and Teal’c drifted to them—bits of discourse about readings and samples.
While Jack was so distracted, Daniel stole a small moment to store a few more bits in that tiny, secret file he kept deep inside himself. Little tingles of appreciation tickled his body as he carefully recorded a virtual image of the sharp edged profile; the hair, longer than Jack usually let it grow, sticking out in unruly tufts from the bottom of the colonel’s cap.
Apparently sensing Daniel’s scrutiny, Jack turned his head and smiled slightly.
"Don’t tell me you’re finally ready to pack this up?"
"Well, n... no." Daniel ducked his head down, feeling the slight warmth of a blush on his cheeks at getting caught staring at the other man. Hoping Jack would attribute his heightened color to the effects of sun and wind. "There’s enough here to keep me busy for a week. I’m not going to finish within your time limit, Jack."
Jack’s lips thinned in a ruefully disgusted grimace.
"You knew when we started that you were only going to have a couple of days, Daniel. We are not going to stay for a week!"
Daniel sighed regretfully. "I know. And there’s not much here that’s going to be of much use in a military sense. But the cultural information...!"
Daniel felt a flood of sorrow sweep over him . Increasingly, he wondered about what he was doing. Running through sites, cursorily recording whatever the military imperative gave him time to grab, then running off to the next battle or, if he were lucky, the next site. Sending almost everything he was able to bring back with him off to some faceless nobody to analyze—to stroke and treasure, as he longed to do himself. How much was he missing? How much was lost or destroyed by their roughshod methods? There were times when his scholar’s heart wailed in pain. And loss.
"Well, then let’s get the leash back on Carter and head back. There’s always a chance that Hammond will OK a return trip."
Sadly, Daniel cast a look over the two walls he hadn’t yet reached. Well, at least he had video.
The click of Jack’s radio brought his attention back to the team commander. He gathered another image for his little file, watching the man call in the rest of his people. There was that pain, too. The swooping, exhilarating tug of attraction for the closest friend he had on his own world. So surprising when he finally realized what the odd feeling actually was. And so painful to recognize how pointless it was. Even if he could imagine Jack being interested, he himself hadn’t the faintest notion of how to broach the subject. He’d never figured out how to ask a woman for a date; how could he possibly proposition a man like Jack O’Neill?
Sighing again, he returned his attention to his notebooks and video camera, carefully protecting the notes and sketches, packing everything into the seemingly endless pockets of his vest.
"I know that there’s nothing here of military interest! But this culture was, as far as I can tell, a direct evolutionary product of the culture of ancient Egypt. Isn’t there some way we can devote some time to really seeing what’s there?" There were times Daniel felt like he was trying to control the tide with his fingers. Feeling a reflection of the despair he’d experienced in that small temple, he knew he was begging. Knew that he probably sounded like a child with too long a Christmas list. But surely, surely someone could recognize that same loss and desperation.
"I understand how difficult it is for you to leave something like this, Dr. Jackson, but you..."
"...There must be some way to do this and the military stuff!"
In his peripheral vision, he saw Jack drop his forehead onto his balled fists; saw Sam look fixedly at the table. For a moment, the other four people around the conference table seemed to hold their breaths.
Finally, Hammond sighed, affectionate frustration evident in his face and body attitude.
"Dr. Jackson, I know your objectives don’t always match the US government’s, but I also know that you understand the military issues here. I know you are fully aware of the war we are fighting. So you also know that our large, but none-the-less limited resources must be focused on the acquisition of the materials and information we need to fight that war. Other interests can be pursued, but only if they don’t interfere with that primary goal!"
Bitter despair rose in Daniel’s throat. He dropped his head to stare at his hands, clenched into fists on the table’s surface.
Support came from an unexpected quarter. Jack leaned back in his seat, raising an eyebrow as he met the general’s eyes.
"All due respect, sir, but it seems to me we could fit a little expedition into the budget. The place Daniel was looking at was close to the Stargate, easily accessible. It’s near a water source and plenty of level ground—pretty much ideal to set up a relatively long-term camp."
Daniel’s gaze shifted quickly to meet Jack’s. He knew his gratitude was embarrassingly obvious.
"What about the safety factor, Colonel?"
Sam shifted in her seat, then leaned forward. "Sir, we found no signs of any extant intelligent life. The ruins were all deserted a long time ago, and our soil and air samples showed none of the signatures or contaminants indicative of advanced civilization."
Lips pursed, the general looked from face to face around the conference table, then nodded sharply. "Very well. We’ve got another objective for SG-1, but I’ll look in to the possibility of mounting a purely archaeological operation to P2D 799 in the near future. Dr. Jackson, if you could prepare a brief explaining just what you think should be done, I’ll see about putting the operation into development. We’ll take a look at it when you brief Tuesday, oh eight hundred, for the new destination."
Daniel’s heart lifted momentarily. Yes! But not for him; not for SG-1. But still—that beautiful structure, those fascinating inscriptions—someone would get to read them.
As the others stood, and the general left the briefing room, Daniel looked up into Jack’s face. "Thanks, Jack. I... I..."
Jack grinned down at him, then clapped him on the shoulder. "Just wait, Danny boy. Payday will come."
This part of the after-mission routine had begun to assume a bizarre, contradictory aspect. On the one hand, the military custom of communal showers provided priceless opportunities to increase the size of that oh so precious image file; on the other, the more his interest in his friend grew, the harder it was to hide the physical effects created by watching that lean, glistening body twisting beneath the pounding water—and the more desperate he became to protect his secret.
Today, they shared the showers with SG-2, the other team preparing to depart as SG-1 completed their return ritual. Though he couldn’t bring himself to take part, the laughter and wrestling of the other men provided effective cover for the shy glances he stole. Daniel’s reserved nature, combined with civilian-bred modesty, had always inhibited his willingness to participate in the unselfconscious horseplay of the soldiers. Now, given the disturbing tendency of his own body to betray embarrassing evidence of its interest in one of those soldiers, he had become painfully self-aware.
Jack was in an excellent mood—jostling and grappling with Feretti and his men, getting in a few teasing jibes at Teal’c, who smiled indulgently and simply took care of the business of cleansing his own body.
Why Jack? Why did small glimpses of his wiry body make Daniel feel light headed, while views of Teal’c’s magnificent form elicited only a slightly envious admiration? The Jaffa could have provided the body model for Michelangelo’s most robust athletes. Why didn’t his breathtaking physique produce the same tingling thrill excited by Jack’s much more modest attributes?
"Hey, Daniel!" Jack’s exuberant call jolted him out of his introspective mood. "Get yourself out of that corner—we know what you’ve got."
Daniel knew his cheeks were flaming. He ducked his head, then, keeping his back to the other men, he stepped out of the shower and clutched his towel over his groin. The good natured laughter of the others fueled the burn in his face as he escaped to the haven of the locker room.
Daniel knew he couldn’t continue like this. His divided motives were playing havoc with his own peace of mind, and it was only a matter of time before Jack figured out that he was having a problem—and Jack was inexorable when he was chasing after something he wanted to know. Daniel wouldn’t stand a chance.
Daniel sat on the floor, knees drawn up to his chin, gazing out through his balcony’s glass door. The room was in darkness, the lights of the city barely relieving the night’s shadows. The bottle of water dangling from his fingers was still half full, and gone warm now with the time passed since he had begun his vigil.
His two problems spun and warped around his mind, stubbornly defying resolution. Somehow he had hoped that the tranquility of the night vista would help to soothe his roiling indecision.
Problem Number One: Just who in the hell was Dr. Daniel Jackson? Was he a serious, dedicated scientist in the mold of Dr. Melburn Jackson? Was he a reckless, rather eccentric adventurer a la Nicholas Ballard? Or was he becoming a soldier, whose primary imperatives were attack and defense?
Until a bit more than five years ago, his entire life had been passionately devoted to the first. But he very much suspected that he’d become addicted to the adrenaline rush of the second. And necessity drove the maturation of the third. Could he be all three without losing the Essential Daniel Jackson?
Problem Number Two: This one was basic and simple. He wanted Jack. Wanted more than the casual touches and offhand affection of a friend. Wanted all kinds of things that he’d never consciously put names to. His desire grew daily, and was beginning to affect his behavior. His awareness of the colonel’s presence—his look, his voice, his scent—had become overwhelming.
But no one knew better than he that wanting didn’t always lead to having. He knew all the practical reasons why he couldn’t have. The military reasons; the social reasons; even the personal reasons. And he knew that Jack wasn’t likely to share his wanting. He’d known dozens of Jack O’Neills in his life—handsome, athletic, popular. None of them had ever shown any particular interest in the Daniel Jacksons of the world, other than as objects of ridicule. That Jack accepted him as a friend—a close friend—was more a product of the extraordinary directions their lives had taken than of any natural attraction.
Daniel laughed softly in mild self-derision. If it was hard to imagine Jack seeking out someone like Daniel for companionship, it was equally as hard to conceive of the reverse. Would Daniel himself ever have thought to pursue an acquaintance with one of those handsome, air-headed jocks who had made his earlier life such a misery?
Wearily, he dropped his forehead onto his knees. He didn’t see any resolutions. Could he bring himself to give up the exhilaration of Stargate travel in order to return to the purity of his academic imperative? And could he bear to walk away from even the degree of contact he presently had with Jack, for the sake of the pursuit of that heady goal?
Or maybe he was asking the wrong question. Just possibly, the need to ease the growing pain of Problem Number Two was exactly the impetus required to prompt him to resolve Number One. Leaving SG-1—in fact, leaving the SGC—would certainly sever the tie that nurtured his awkward attraction. Maybe amputation was the best solution after all.
The sound of the doorbell intruded on his unhappy ruminations.
Go away. Nobody home.
When the bell insistently repeated its summons, he sighed and stood. His bare feet made no sound as he moved across the room and pulled the door open.
Jaw gaping, he stared at the figure backlit by the hall light, leather-clad shoulder casually leaning against the door jamb. Long fingers wrapped around several bottles of his favorite beer, Jack O’Neill favored Daniel with a jaunty, roguish grin. The grin widened as Jack took in Daniel’s stunned face.
His voice was soft, affectionate. "Hey, Daniel. Somehow I figured I had an invitation to drop by tonight."
Jack cocked his head, expression a bit less assured.
"I thought I’d be welcome... ?"
Daniel forced his mouth closed, then gave a quick, tight nod. "Sure. You just kind of surprised me."
Jack walked past him into the darkness of the apartment. He paused, then turned back to Daniel, eyebrows high.
"You worried about the electric bill?"
Daniel flushed slightly. "No. J... just got kind of distracted. Night sort of crept up on me."
"OK, if I brighten things up a bit?" Without waiting for permission, Jack reached for the controls of a lamp. However, he seemed content to leave the brightness level at the lowest setting.
Daniel moved slowly into the living room behind Jack. His thoughts were back on that wheel; if he’d been conflicted earlier, now he was just confused. Invitation? What invitation?
Setting the bottles on the coffee table, Jack sat on the couch, stretching his long legs out in front of him. He looked up at Daniel and smiled gently.
"You look a bit off, buddy. Anything I can help you with?"
For an insane instant, Daniel contemplated complete honesty. ‘You bet, Jack. Just come over here and let me get my hands on you...’ But cowardice won. He dropped his gaze to the carpet, avoiding those sharp brown eyes.
"Umm... I’m just trying to work some stuff out."
"’Stuff’? What ‘stuff’? What kind of ‘stuff’ could you have to work out that you wouldn’t discuss with me?" There was a hint of disappointment in the tone of Jack’s voice.
Daniel risked meeting Jack’s eyes for a brief moment.
"Jack, half the time when I do try to talk to you about things, you shut me up; the other half, you just space out and think about the latest hockey scores. What makes you think you’d be any more interested in my current worries?"
"There, you see? Worries—that’s different from ‘stuff’—the ‘stuff’ you usually want to yammer on about, anyway. You’ve got things to worry about, I’m interested."
"Well, I don’t think you can help with this ‘stuff,’ so it doesn’t matter."
Jack gazed up at him for a moment, then straightened a bit and patted the cushion beside him.
"C’mon, sit down. We’ll see what I can do."
Daniel hesitated for a moment, then moved to sit beside the other man. He kept his gaze locked on the bottles which were rapidly creating condensation rings on the wood of his coffee table, again avoiding the eyes he knew were focused on his profile.
For a moment, they sat in silence. Then Daniel felt Jack’s hand gently stroke down his arm. Startled, he jerked his head around to meet Jack’s eyes. What he saw stole his breath as surely as a boot in the solar plexus. Admiration. Heat. And desire.
"Danny, I may have been reading you all wrong; one word from you, I’m out the door, and we’ll never mention this again. But I’m pretty sure about some of the signals you’ve been sending. You think I haven’t noticed? The looks, the blushes—pretty cute, they are..." He smiled gently. "I’d swear that you’re ready to take what I want to offer."
Daniel sat motionless; he could hear his panting breaths in the stillness of the room. The heat in his cheeks told him that his face was flushing. Oh, god. Oh, god...
Jack’s hand drifted up from his arm to his cheek, brushing softly against the heated skin. And into his hair, stroking, massaging his skull. Daniel’s eyes closed involuntarily, his head tipped back, tilted into the cradling hand. Oh, yes.
Jack moved carefully closer, bringing his other hand to Daniel’s throat, brushing softly under the collar of his shirt, and onto the bare shoulder beneath. A moment of tender attention, then the hand began twitching at the shirt’s buttons, teasing them, one after the other, free of their buttonholes. Each victory over a recalcitrant button was celebrated by a moment’s indulgence, petting and stroking the new bits of exposed skin.
The burn of Daniel’s cheeks was spreading, following that caressing hand. Somehow, without his conscious cooperation, he found himself stretched out on his back, with Jack’s weight partially cushioned on his lower body. And Jack’s mouth was joining in the exploration. Lips and teeth leaving a trail of moisture and fire along the line of his jaw; down his throat, across the ridge of his collarbone.
"You going to say no, Doctor Jackson?" Jack murmured against his throat.
"J...jack! Oh, god."
A smile shaped itself against his skin. "I take it that’s a ‘yes.’"
Unable to muster the wits to respond coherently, Daniel contented himself with a tiny, desperate nod. He wanted those lips to get back to what they’d been doing.
They did. And both hands had found the way to his chest. His shirt was gone—he didn’t much care where or how—and those hands were spreading that fire—across, down, around his sides.
Daniel heard soft, incoherent moans—his own. They sharpened into little cries as Jack’s mouth followed his hands down to Daniel’s chest to find and pamper a nipple. Lips, then teeth, suckling, nipping gently, turning the fire to electricity, striking straight through nerve to tense muscle; contracting, arching his body up to meet that maddening mouth.
And the hands forged into fresh territory. Having conquered the shirt, they now worried at the button and zip securing his pants.
"Jack, Jack, Jack." Daniel’s breathlessness allowed only short, gasping words.
Jack laughed softly, lifting his head again. "Hey, Dannyboy." He sounded a bit breathless himself.
Daniel’s entire body was tingling; quivering and twitching from over-stimulation; lying passive was impossible. His hands fumbled to grip Jack’s t-shirt, clumsily tugging it free from the grasp of his belted jeans. His hands slid under the hem and up to Jack’s chest. His own nerves were so charged that he thought he could feel every chest hair individually.
As Jack’s fingers finally defeated the zipper on Daniel’s pants, Daniel’s own fingers located one nipple, then the second. Jack’s body jerked against him as Daniel brushed his hands over the sensitized bits of skin, thumbs centering and caressing gently. Momentarily, Jack‘s own hands stilled on Daniel’s body as he seemed to surrendered to the sensations cascading through him. Then, with Daniel’s inept help, he paused to strip his own shirt over his head.
Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack’s body, pulling the other man down, exulting at the sensation of bare chest rubbing against bare chest. He tightened his hold, feeling Jack’s heavy breathing against his own body. He’d never even imagined... never felt this kind of exhilaration. Maybe wanting could lead to having after all.
Jack’s hands were back at the waistband of Daniel’s trousers, working their way underneath, beginning to slide trousers and shorts down over his hips.
Daniel let his own hands return to Jack’s hard chest, stroking, combing through the wiry hair, then smoothing upward, over muscular shoulders to lean cheeks. Hazily, he allowed his gaze to search deep into Jack’s dark eyes, looking for the devotion he so desperately wanted to see. And he was sure he saw it—sure it was there behind the daze of arousal.
His palms caressed Jack’s unruly hair, stroking across grayed temples to cup behind his head. Gently, he tugged Jack’s face closer. His own lips tingled fiercely; he wanted to feel that mouth, with its beguiling, smooth lower lip, on his own.
Jack resisted the pull for just a moment, then relented. Daniel felt a twinge of disappointment as the mouth he wanted diverted toward his throat. But the disappointment faded as those lips and teeth renewed the fire.
He guided his own fingers through Jack’s hair, down to his smooth back, kneading convulsively as the waves of sensation swept through him.
"Uhhmm... Nmwa... Whoah..."
Jack lifted his head briefly to look at Daniel’s face, mouth and eyes crinkling with his soft laughter.
"I really love it when you do that."
His mouth returned to its task.
"Sort of..." Nip. "...making it..." Nip. "...up..." Nibble nibble. "...as you go along."
He could make words. He could.
"F... f... freef... form..." Gasp. "...l...l...linguistics."
Another chuckle, muffled by the muscle of Daniel’s shoulder. "Your private talent."
Daniel made a small, frustrated sound as Jack’s belt buckle pinched against his bare stomach. He pushed upward, trying to worm his hands between their bodies. He wanted those jeans gone.
"Hey, eager!" Jack lifted himself, crouching over Daniel, knees on either side of the other man’s narrow hips. He swept his hands over the bared flesh of Daniel’s chest and groin, teasing briefly into regions still hidden. Daniel’s hands grasped convulsively around Jack’s belt; somehow they defied his desire for more constructive action. Buckle. Snap. Zipper. Couldn’t coordinate himself enough to get rid of them. He heaved upward, trying to renew lost body contact, tugging at that belt in mute demand, and very nearly tipping the pair of them off the couch onto the floor.
"Whoa! Easy does it, big guy. I think this arrangement is a bit... inhibiting" Jack leaned over him to bestow one last nip on the ridge of Daniel’s collarbone, then eased away, careful to avoid impact on any particularly excited parts of Daniel’s inflamed body. As Daniel mewled softly in distress, he felt Jack’s hand caress his flushed cheek.
"Just a second, Danny. Be right back."
Daniel was vaguely aware of a brief flurry of activity, then Jack was back, gently urging him to sit up and slide onto the floor. Somehow, the coffee table had moved itself several feet away, and the tapestry throw from the back of the couch had spread itself on the floor. But much more importantly, Jack’s jeans had disappeared. Other mysteries could wait.
"Mmmmmuch better," Jack murmured against Daniel’s stomach. His hands were once again sliding slowly over Daniel’s hips, beneath his slacks and briefs, calloused palms rough and exciting against his skin. "Time for these to go, Danny."
Daniel arched his body up, freeing the garments, feeling them slip down his legs and past his bare feet. His gasping breaths sounded loud in his ears; the whisper of cool air against his newly bared skin like tiny trails of electric charge. He knew he was trembling; couldn’t seem to care about stopping it.
Jack’s hands smoothed upward, retracing the path the slacks had taken down his legs, stroking tenderly around calves, sensitive backs of knees, and up, up his thighs. And as before, that skilled mouth followed in their wake.
Oh, god. Oh, god. Closer; closer.
"Jack! P... please! Please!"
Nuzzling in the crease at the top of his right leg. Warm breath like a flame against his aching penis.
"You want something, Daniel?
With an inarticulate cry, Daniel’s body twisted and arched, his cock hard and throbbing with neglect. Breath sobbing with his need, Daniel reached desperately for himself.
"No, no, Danny." A gentle laugh as hands gripped and deflected his. "I’m the driver here."
With a final nuzzle at the base of that neglected cock, Jack moved slowly forward, sliding his own body against Daniel’s. His hands carried Daniel’s up and trapped them against the floor on either side of Daniel’s anguished face.
Daniel cried out again as he felt Jack’s own hardness caress his aching shaft; felt Jack’s mouth once again against the side of his neck. He pulled against Jack’s hold on his hands, wanting to hold the other man’s body, but that grip just tightened slightly as Jack began to move against him.
Daniel’s mind swam with the heady cocktail of scent, sound, and incredible sensation. He felt the fireworks building in his brain as Jack drove him closer and closer to that ecstatic edge of oblivion.
With a hoarse cry, Daniel tumbled helplessly over and into the infinity of his own private wormhole.
As Daniel gradually reconnected with his body, he became aware of hands once again stroking, petting his skin. Hazily, he opened his eyes, squinting slightly as the low light stung his over-sensitive vision.
Jack. Oh, yes. Jack.
Blearily, he looked up into deep brown eyes, reaching a shaking hand to brush his finger against that fascinating lower lip. He knew his own mouth was wearing a silly, besotted little smile.
Jack quirked a lopsided grin at him.
"Hey. You’re back."
"Wow. J... just... wow."
Jack laughed softly. "Oh, yeah. Wow and then some."
He lowered himself back down to stretch out beside Daniel, weight supported by one arm as he continued to slide the other hand over smooth, sweaty skin.
"You are just so damned beautiful."
Daniel felt his cheeks burning again. "Right. I’ve noticed how much you tend to go for clumsy geeks in glasses."
"Oh, Daniel. If you only knew..." He laughed again.
Daniel looked up at him. "I love that." He let a finger trail along the outer edge of one of Jack’s eyes. "Love the way your whole face laughs."
He let his hand stroke around behind Jack’s head, and tugged his face down toward his own.
Jack’s smile faded slightly, and he redirected his movement; instead of eager lips, his mouth found the ridge of Daniel’s ear, tongue tickling inside the curve of the cartilage.
Daniel gasped sharply at the unexpectedly arousing caress.
"Why, Daniel. Such nasty language to come out of that pretty mouth!" Jack was laughing at him again. "Let’s see if we can’t find something else for it to talk about, OK?"
And he began to rebuild the fire.
For a few moments, Daniel just enjoyed the ride, floating on a miasma of arousal. But he wanted to be a more active participant this time. As Jack’s hands again stroked his body to flame, he pulled himself up onto his hip, wrapped around the other man’s body, and rolled them both over. Knees straddling Jack’s legs, he crouched up, hands caressing the body now trapped beneath his.
Jack cradled Daniel’s face between his hands, laughing up at him. "Nice move! So what’s this?"
"My turn..." Daniel’s voice was breathless.
He lowered his head, nuzzling into Jack’s chest hair, licking around hardened nipples. He let his hands sweep up the sides of Jack’s body, along his arms; wrapped his own long fingers around those bony wrists, Jack’s approving murmurs encouraging him to explore.
Holding Jack’s arms down against his sides, Daniel investigated every inch of that enticing chest. So different from the one chest he’d been free to discover in the past—smooth skin stretched over hard muscle, wiry hairs tangling between his teeth. Now Jack was gasping a bit, writhing slightly under Daniel’s ministrations.
Slowly, he worked his way down Jack’s torso, finding bare skin to lick and kiss. Then he lifted his head and solemnly regarded that most different part of Jack’s body. His cock was hard and red—impressive in its size—and it seemed to be blindly begging for some of the attention he’d been lavishing on the rest of Jack’s body.
A whisper of his normal body shyness made Daniel look hesitantly into Jack’s eyes, asking before taking this final liberty. Dazed brown eyes gave mute permission, and he turned his gaze back to that insistent hardness.
Slowly, hesitantly, he leaned over and gave the base of Jack’s cock a small lick. It jerked slightly, surprising him. So he did it again, delighted with this new power. Gaining confidence, he used his lips and teeth, gently mouthing, nibbling his way up toward the blind eye at the tip.
Jack’s strangled cry startled his head up. A glance at Jack’s sweaty, contorted face assured him that he was making no mistakes, so he returned to his task. A few more licks and nibbles, and one bashful kiss for the blunt head, and his courage faltered.
One final lick and kiss, and he shifted himself back up to lie along the length of Jack’s body, returning to kissing and suckling hard, swollen nipples. Then he closed his eyes, rolling his head to the side to listen to the frantic beat of Jack’s heart, pulling one of those trapped hands to his lips and beginning a careful oral examination of each finger. Jack, gasping breaths easing slowly, pulled his other hand free, and gently caressed Daniel’s hair, rubbing slowly back and forth, mimicking the rhythm as Daniel suckled on his fingers.
"Oh, Christ," Jack breathed. "I knew you’d be like this. So soft and sweet."
Daniel dragged his mouth away from that fascinating hand, rubbing his cheek against Jack’s chest. "Wanted you. So much..."
He lifted his head, meeting Jack’s hazy eyes. "Jack... I... ah... I w... want you to know that I... "
A sliver of apprehension twitched at Jack’s eyebrows. "Daniel... " He pulled his other hand free, letting it join the first in caressing Daniel’s hair.
Attention locked onto the face that colored his dreams, Daniel braced his hands on the floor on either side of Jack’s head, and slowly bent his body, bringing their lips closer. "I... I want..."
Jack’s hands tightened in his hair, holding him still. For an instant, their eyes locked, messages sent, understood—and misunderstood. Then somehow—Daniel never knew just how—Jack had slithered out from under him, and Daniel was once again underneath the other man’s body, this time stretched out face down on the floor.
His buttocks tightened as Jack’s caresses mapped new territory.
Jack’s hands swept from his buttocks up over his back, then back down again, once again leaving warmth in their wake. And the mouth, and the tongue, and the teeth—once again nuzzling, licking, nipping, fanning warmth to fire.
"Oh, Danny," Jack snatched intermittent breaths to speak. "You... have... no idea... just what... there is... to want."
Small frustrations were swamped by the overwhelming excitement that gripped his body, making him writhe and whimper incoherently.
Jack slithered up Daniel’s back, sinking his teeth gently into the muscle of the other man’s shoulder as he rubbed his own body against every bit of flesh it could touch. The sensation of being enveloped, cradled, warmed every cell of Daniel’s body. He felt tears gather in his eyes, and heard his own tiny sounds of breathless pleasure shiver in the air.
And he felt the rigid prod of Jack’s erection, probing hard between his sprawled legs.
Oh, god. One little sliver of doubt slid into his mind.
"J... jack?" he whispered? "Jack?"
Jack nuzzled damply along the back of his neck. "Mmmmmm... Danny..." His hands massaged, kneaded, sliding under Daniel’s torso to pamper his chest. His cock continued its blind seeking.
"I... I don... Jack?"
Jack shifted to the side, bringing one of his caressing hands around and down to stroke over Daniel’s bottom, fingers dipping into that unexplored crack. The sensation was at the same time frightening, and incredibly exciting.
"W... wait, Jack." Daniel’s breathing gasped in his throat.
"Mmm...?" Jack’s mouth joined his petting hand, licking and nipping at the soft flesh of Daniel’s buttocks. "So beautiful."
One finger of that gentle hand began to tease at the tiny opening to Daniel’s body, sending shocks of incredible sensation darting to the tips of his fingers and toes. His cock, trapped under his body, throbbed against the weave of the fabric beneath him; his nipples abruptly tightened to create sharp points of awareness against the hardness of the floor.
"Ahh! Jack!" he cried. Too much!
Jack’s hands stilled.
"Please, Jack." Daniel felt a flush of shame at the weak, whimpering sound of the plea.
The hands left him, then returned to grasp his shoulders and ease him gently over on to his back.
"Hey hey. What’s this?" Jack looked into his face, using the thumb of one of those tender hands to brush the dampness from under Daniel’s eyes.
"J... just not r... ready for that." He couldn’t control the shake in his voice.
"Ahhh. Little bit of a panic attack?" Jack smiled ruefully and rubbed softly along the side of Daniel’s neck. "OK, so we save that for some other time. Let’s try something else." He winked, then was gone.
Confused, Daniel reached for Jack’s shoulder. "Wait!"
"Relax, Danny. I guarantee you’re going to like this..."
Daniel cried out as incredible, hot suction engulfed his penis.
For a moment, his mind lost all rational function, flung to the outermost reaches of his brain by the amazing things happening in his body. Shocking flashes of fire throbbed from his center outward, exploding, surely, through the windows and out into the night sky.
Gradually the bursting phenomena condensed and recentered inside him, allowing an edge of coherence to return. His eyes slitted open—and focused on an unfinished task.
With an almost impossible effort, he reached out his shaking hand, supporting the elbow on the floor, since he was sure he couldn’t lift it himself. Finally, his fingers closed around Jack’s hard cock. Jack’s body jerked, the exquisite attention to his own penis momentarily interrupted.
"God, Danny!" a breathless gasp.
"B... both. Both of us." Whispered, barely audible.
They exchanged a long, burning look. Jack smiled shakily, then turned back to his charge. And Daniel tightened his hand around his own prize.
Daniel lay stunned, gasping, shaking. Beside him, Jack sprawled on his stomach, panting.
"Ho-ly shit..." Jack’s voice was barely more than a whisper. "Dr. Jackson, you should come with a health warning."
He hauled himself to his knees, then turned around to drop down with his head beside Daniel’s.
"Jack..." Utterly satisfied; contented. Daniel reached weakly to stroke Jack’s cheek, which creased in a slightly smug smile.
"Am I to assume that you’ve enjoyed yourself, Daniel?"
"Mmmmm." Daniel let his eyes drift shut, allowed his hand to drop to the floor. They shared a moment of warm, close silence. Then Daniel felt Jack stir.
He reached out again, running his hand along the bare skin of Jack’s flank. Then he rolled over and moved to snuggle into Jack’s arms.
Jack pulled him close, hand nudging Daniel’s head under his chin, then languidly stroking over his back. Daniel’s own hand lazily teased Jack’s chest, softly massaging a nipple, combing through chest hair. He nuzzled the skin under his cheek, heaving a deep sigh of happy contentment.
Seemingly of its own accord, his hand drifted down Jack’s body to pet and fondle lax genitals. He felt the vibration of a nearly silent chuckle shake his living pillow.
"Oh, Daniel. I’m past 40 now, you know. I think maybe twice is my limit these days."
Daniel lifted himself up to look down into Jack’s face. He knew that silly, radiant smile was back.
"Shall we test your bounds, oh colonel?"
The chuckle graduated to a real laugh. "Maybe some day; but not tonight." Jack brushed the backs of his fingers tenderly down Daniel’s cheek, then pulled him down again. "Right now, this is just about as nice as I could ask for."
"Mmmmm." Daniel cuddled closer, doing his best to wrap himself around the other man’s body.
"I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve wanted this," he whispered, He felt himself drifting toward sleep. Just one final thing...
He lifted up again, gazing solemnly into Jack’s dark eyes. Jack’s hands swept up his back to frame his face.
"You do know that I love you, don’t you?" And he leaned close to kiss the mouth he ached for.
Jack’s hands tightened slightly, arresting Daniel’s movement. For a long, long moment, they lay staring into each other’s eyes, Daniel searchingly hopeful, Jack serious and a bit troubled. Then Jack pulled Daniel’s head back to its place under his chin and wrapped his arms around Daniel’s body.
Daniel was aware of a small chill of fear. But Jack’s arms were warm and secure around him, his breath soft against his face. For a moment, Jack held him, gently rubbing his cheek on the top of Daniel’s head. And Daniel was sure, sure that he’d finally found the place he belonged.
Then Jack’s body stiffened slightly, and he sat up, gently rolling Daniel down onto his back. He caught the hand that Daniel lifted toward his face, nibbled a moment on the ends of his fingers. Then leaned over and patted the other man softly on the hip.
"Time for sleeping, Danny boy. This was incredible; I knew you’d be wonderful, Daniel." His voice was gentle, appreciative, but his eyes were beginning to show a frightening wariness. "Just wonderful."
Then somehow he was gone from Daniel’s side; before Daniel had sorted out what was happening, Jack was standing over him, smiling affectionately, fully dressed.
"Better get yourself into bed, Daniel. You’ll get cold fast on the floor."
"Wh... what? Jack?" He sat up, reached out to grasp the fabric of Jack’s pant leg. "Stay?"
Jack’s gaze slid away from his. "Gotta get home and get some sleep; early call tomorrow. This was great, Daniel. Just great." He leaned down and brushed his knuckles lightly across Daniel’s cheek. Then, gently disengaging his pant leg, he moved toward the door.
"Sleep tight, Danny; I’ll see you tomorrow."
And with a flurry of cold air, he was gone.
Daniel lay on his back, the floor hard under his shoulders and buttocks. He stared at the dark ceiling, waves of unsettled confusion buffeting his mind.
He remembered the incredible, charged joy of the time he’d spent with Jack.
He remembered the hours of sorrowful yearning before.
And he thought about wanting, and getting. Wanting and getting.
He had gotten what he’d yearned for, hadn’t he? Jack couldn’t have been more perfect—tender, gentle, unbelievably exciting. He’d wanted; he’d gotten.
So why did he feel so bereft?
Damn! If he couldn’t get himself to focus on this brief for more than ten minutes at a stretch, no one was going to get to return to his beautiful inscriptions. For the fourth time in an hour, he’d jerked into awareness to find himself staring emptily at the playback on the computer screen.
Daniel sighed, then wearily rewound the video tape yet again. A sleepless night, combined with a brain that seemed to be stuck on an endless gerbil wheel did not foster good concentration skills—spinning and spinning, but no way off.
Propping his elbows on the table, he dropped his face into his hands. Just what was with him? He’d always been good at multitasking; why was he having so much difficulty juggling these quandaries? His two unresolved problems were overwhelming him; he just couldn’t find the mental space to devote to the actual tasks he needed to perform.
OK. The most immediate problem was Jack. Maybe the only way to deal with this was to... deal with it. Face the issue and make a damned decision.
So. The night before, he and Jack had enjoyed hot, fulfilling sex. And it had been. Hot, fulfilling, and very, very enjoyable.
Jack had certainly implied that he was planning more of the same. Daniel’s body shivered with a reflection of the charge he’d experienced under Jack’s hands. It was obviously very ready to get in line with that idea.
But something that he desperately wanted had quite obviously not been offered. Jack had been tender, cherishing—but had avoided any suggestion that they’d been doing anything other than sharing an admittedly rather unusual good time.
Daniel lifted his head, staring blindly at the paused image. Slowly, he ran a thumb over his lower lip. Jack hadn’t kissed him. Had actively redirected his attempts to claim Jack’s own mouth. He knew he was probably exaggerating the significance of that refusal, but in his spinning brain, it was growing into an issue symbolic of what Daniel wanted, but wasn’t going to receive.
Jack always told him that he wasted too much time thinking—was that what he was doing? Thinking something potentially exciting and beautiful to death?
So what were his choices, here? He could acquiesce; if he chose Jack’s agenda, he would enjoy more nights of breathless physical pleasure, many private hours with the person he desired. No question—that was a significant enticement.
But he knew himself well enough to recognize his capacity for depression, not to mention his problems with self esteem. The incredible physical pleasure wouldn’t continue to compensate for the relationship he really wanted. And what happened when Jack’s interest waned? When the novelty wore off, and he began to pay more attention to the problems that could fall on him as a result of... of... ‘fucking’ a member of his team?
All right. What was the alternative? He could stop this right now. He could find reasons to say no when Jack came asking. He could give up the physical joy—that incredible fire—to guard his heart.
And be alone. Again.
But didn’t both alternatives mean being alone?
Oh, God. His head felt like someone with a pickax was trying to break out through his skull. With a moan, he dropped his face back down onto his hands. Spinning, spinning.
A tap of knuckles against wood brought his head up. Jack.
O’Neill was leaning against the door frame, smiling warmly.
"Hey, Daniel. How’s it going?"
Daniel drew in a deep breath, and decided to take the question at face value.
"Slowly. I need to get this brief ready for tomorrow morning, and I’m having a bit of trouble concentrating."
Jack’s smile assumed a hint of smugness. He moved into the office, closing the door behind him, and reached over to run his fingertips gently down Daniel’s cheek.
"Now, I wonder just why that might be?"
Daniel knew if he met those deep brown eyes, he’d be lost. He focused pointedly on the legal pad in front of him.
"I can’t imagine."
He listened to Jack moving around the office, catching peripheral glimpses as the other man picked up and replaced various objects.
"So, Danny. You free tonight?" The suggestion in Jack’s voice was unmistakable.
"Sorry. No. I really have to get this done."
Daniel risked a quick glance at Jack’s face. The disappointment in his voice was mirrored in his expression.
"Sure. This is important, Jack. At least, it’s important to me."
"Ok, ok. I know that." Jack fiddled for another moment. "Look, Daniel—I know you’d really like to do the work on 799. But you know that’s not what we do. We need you to be with us."
Now Daniel’s gaze locked on Jack’s face. "Do you? What do I do on SG-1 that couldn’t be done just as well by someone else—someone better trained to take care of himself? Someone who couldn’t be much better utilized working on things like that site on 799?"
A bit stunned, Jack stared at him, jaw slightly slack.
"What is this, Daniel? You thinking what we did last night is going to make problems with the team?"
"Jack, this has nothing to do with l... last night. I’ve spent my entire life training to be an archaeologist. Not to be an inept excuse for a warrior. I’m beginning to feel a little stifled!"
"Daniel, you know how valuable you are on the team! You know how many times what you know, what you can figure out, has saved our rears. We need you. There isn’t anyone else who can do what you do."
Feeling the frustration and despair welling up, Daniel dropped his head and again closed his eyes.
"Right. OK. Well, I’m still not free tonight. And if you don’t leave me to get this done, I’ll be up all night again. So please, Jack. Just go."
Jack stared at him for a long moment, then reached over and ran his fingers softly through Daniel’s short hair.
"OK. But I think there’s a lot more we need to discuss about this ‘inept’ thing. Get some sleep."
And he was gone.
Daniel lifted his head, staring bleakly at the frozen monitor.
One decision made.
Daniel focused his scratchy eyes on the briefing room screen, feeling the first stirrings of interest and excitement. At his request, the MALP rotated its camera eye, showing more of the structure.
"Wow." For a moment, he couldn’t muster the ability to say more.
He glanced at Jack, then grinned. "Yeah... Wow."
He turned his eyes back to the briefing room monitor. The structure displayed on the screen was unusual. The Stargate was placed in the center of what looked like a large, open building. An upward tilt showed a very high, domed ceiling; a circular pan showed alternating wall panels and open views of the orange and gold of the trees outside the building. The panels were covered with carved and painted scenes and pictographs, too distant for him to decipher any of the details depicted by the pictorial narratives.
"So, Dr. Jackson. You think this destination might make up for turning 799 over to the archaeological staff?"
Daniel smiled at the general. "Yes, Sir. This looks wonderful; rather meso- or South American, but not quite. I can’t tell for certain without better resolution images, but it looks like the six panels are depicting seasonal ceremonies. And it looks like it’s been maintained—the colors of the paint are so vivid, someone must be touching them up. And the structural design...! It’s wonderful."
The image blinked out as the Stargate shut down, cutting off their connection to the source.
"So, we’ll schedule a recon mission for Thursday, oh nine hundred. Primary goals will be the examination of this structure and, if feasible, contact with the native inhabitants. As Dr. Jackson has noted, the freshness of the paint suggests that this building receives regular visits. Dr. Jackson, see supply about any special tools or resources you’d like to take with you." Closing the mission folder, he leaned back in his chair. "Now, about P2D799... Dr. Jackson, what have you got for me?"
Daniel handed Hammond a copy of the brief he’d finally completed in the early morning hours.
"The structure and inscriptions are beautiful, Sir. In very good condition. The inscriptions on the walls of the outer chamber are a history; I was able to manage a fairly complete translation of one of the walls. There are two others. We did a preliminary walkthrough of the inner chambers, which contain numerous additional inscriptions, as well as quite a few more portable artifacts. And my review of the tapes from our recon reinforces my preliminary conclusion that these people were..."
"Thanks, Daniel." Jack’s hand circled in front of his chest. "Can we get to the point, here?"
Daniel’s mouth tightened slightly. Then he turned pointedly away from Jack, focusing on the General.
"I’ve outlined what I think needs to be done to preserve and record the inscriptions on the walls, and made suggestions about the disposition of the small artifacts in the inner chambers. If we plan to do this right, I think you need to give them at least several weeks for the dig; months would be better. There wasn’t any sign of an extant population, so it should be safe." He flipped to one of the tabbed locations in his report. "I’ve made suggestions about the equipment and supplies they’ll need, as well as the reference sources I think they should take along..."
Hammond flipped to the same section of his copy of the report, nodding as he looked over Daniel’s neatly laid out charts and tables of materials.
"Very nice work, Dr. Jackson. I’m sure this will provide everything that we need. I’ll send SG-3 to guard the scientific team. And Dr. Jackson..." He looked up at Daniel, smiling sympathetically. "...I’m sorry you have to turn this over to someone else to follow up, son."
Daniel smiled ruefully. "At least someone will get to do it, Sir."
"All right, people. Looks like this takes care of everything. You’re stood down until Thursday, other than normal preparation. Oh, and Dr. Jackson, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you’d brief Dr. Heidepriem and her team on the P2D799 site." At Daniel’s nod, he stood. "Dismissed."
Daniel began to gather his materials together, then looked up to realize that he and Jack were the only ones left in the briefing room.
"More fun for you, Daniel."
"Looks like it." Daniel shifted his attention back to stacking his notes and reports.
"I’ve got a couple of free hours around noon; how would you like to escape from the Mountain for a bit of real food for lunch?"
Daniel’s hands tightened on the pile of papers in his hands. "Sorry. I don’t have a couple of free hours. I’ve got to figure out what I want to take Thursday, and make sure supply can provide everything. Then I have to prepare to work the 799 dig out with Adair."
"That could wait a bit, couldn’t it?" Annoyance sharpened Jack’s voice. "Hey, Daniel—look at me, here!"
Stiffening his resolve, Daniel met the other man’s eyes. "Jack, I’ve only got two days to get all of this worked out—to plan and organize two separate operations. No, it can’t wait."
The crease between Jack’s brows deepened. "What’s going on here, Danny? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were having some little second thoughts."
Tell him. Say it now.
Daniel opened his mouth—but just couldn’t bring himself to irrevocably kill the dream he’d nurtured so privately, so lovingly.
"Jack, we really shouldn’t even be talking about this here. Just... let me get my work done, OK?"
Jack’s frustration was clear. He paced back and forth a couple of times, then turned back to stare at Daniel for a moment. Finally, he nodded sharply.
"Right. So I guess I’ll see you later. Maybe."
Daniel couldn’t face those eyes any longer. With a mumbled "OK," he lurched to his feet and hurried out the door, eyes downcast as he passed O’Neill.
Damn. What a coward he was. Either he was cutting this off, or he wasn’t. Why hadn’t he just told Jack? This wasn’t fair to either of them.
He felt him before he saw him. Was prepared for the hand that fell on his shoulder. Turning his attention from the clipboard over which he and the supply sergeant had been concentrating, he forced a smile. He’d been evading this all day, to the increased annoyance of a certain Air Force colonel.
"Hey, Daniel. How goes all that planning stuff?"
"We’re making progress." He turned back to Sergeant Evans. "Thanks, Mick. I’m going to need those materials packed to take through the gate on Thursday morning."
"Gotcha, Dr. J. None of this stuff should be a problem."
"Thanks. Dr. Heidepriem and I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon to talk about what they need for P2D799."
Waving his goodbye, he headed for the elevator. Jack fell into step beside him.
"So, Daniel." Jack spoke carefully. "How about going somewhere for dinner. You must be tired of your own cooking." He reached across in front of Daniel to punch the call for the elevator.
"Just inviting a friend for dinner, Daniel!"
As the doors closed behind him, Daniel drew a deep breath. Now. Tell him now.
"Jack, I don’t think..."
"Oh, tell me. You’ve got a headache, right?" The sarcasm dripped down the walls.
Irritated, Daniel turned to stare at him.
As the elevator doors slid open, Daniel swept through and stalked down the hall and into his office. Pointedly, he closed the door behind him.
Chin propped on his hand, Daniel blearily watched the coffee dripping into the pot. He was convinced that sentient beings should never be aware at this hour of the morning.
He moaned as the doorbell assaulted his ears. Who could possibly drop in at 6 am?
Of course, he knew the answer to that one—confirmed when he pulled the door open. Jack. Smiling cheerfully—truly repulsive, considering the display on the microwave’s clock.
"Hey, Daniel. I see you’re your usual bright shiny morning self." He sniffed ostentatiously. "Aaaah! I knew it."
"Jack, just what are you doing here at this hour of the morning?"
"Out of coffee. And there’s no more sure place to find that particular necessity than here."
"Right. Out of coffee. Ummm. Come right in..." He spoke to the back of Jack’s leather jacket as the other man breezed past him and into the kitchen.
Jack handed Daniel one of the two mugs he’d poured, then sat down sideways in one of the kitchen chairs, stretching his long legs out along the table. Daniel dropped bonelessly back into his own chair, holding the steaming mug between his hands and inhaling the blessed fragrance.
After a silent moment, Jack began to fidget nervously. "Um, Daniel, I..." He cleared his throat and stared up at the blank wall above the door. "I was kind of out of line yesterday. Sorry about the headache crack."
Daniel focused his gaze on Jack’s profile. "Yes, you were. Although in fact, I did have a headache. But that wasn’t why I..."
Jack swiveled around to meet his gaze. "So what is going on, Daniel? I thought you had a great time the other night. Why the sudden shrinking maiden routine?"
Mouth tightening, Daniel echoed, "Shrinking maiden?"
Jack’s eyes dropped. "You know what I mean," he mumbled.
This was it. He had to say it.
"Jack, we have to..."
"You’ve been avoiding me, shutting doors in my face..."
"Finding anything you can think of to keep you busy so we ..."
The shouted name shivered in the sunlit kitchen. Jack stared at him, mouth agape.
"Jack, we have to talk about this. I have to tell you..."
Daniel licked his lips. Oh, God. This was so hard.
"Jack, we made a mistake."
"What? What mistake?"
"Don’t play that ‘dense’ thing with me! You know what mistake."
"Daniel... Danny, how could that have been a mistake?" Jack leaned across the table, reaching out to caress Daniel’s cheek. His voice had gone soft and gentle.
Daniel could feel his breath quickening. Abruptly, he straightened, pulling his face out of Jack’s range.
"Stop it, Jack. Stop trying to distract me. We need to talk about this!"
Jack sat back and regarded him seriously. "Daniel, talking and thinking aren’t always the right way to work things out. You can’t tell me you didn’t feel pretty damned good about this Sunday night."
"Yes they are the right way! And how I felt when you... when we.... Jack, it really doesn’t matter. Because there are so many things that do have to be thought about, here!
"Like what? What could be more important than what we shared Sunday night?"
"God, Jack! More important? What about your career? You planning to schedule a private meeting with General Hammond so you can explain to him that you’re... you’re..."
"Screwing my archaeologist?" Daniel winced at the hard voiced crudity.
"Essentially, yes. And what about Sam and Teal’c? You really think this wouldn’t mess up our team? And what about when word gets around the base?"
"Why should it?"
"Jack, half the base already suspects you’re sleeping with Sam; and at least three quarters of them are sure I’m gay. All we need is to provide evidence of a connection between those two misconceptions!"
"Who said you were gay!"
"Jack, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a word. But some of the soldiers on base already give me a pretty hard time; I don’t want to give them any more excuse."
"Who! Who’s giving you a hard time!"
"Jack, it’s not important. Just that..."
"Dammit, it’s those stupid jarheads! I know it!"
"Jack! Forget it! Just listen to me here, OK?" Jack put visible effort into bringing his attention back to Daniel. When he’d calmed enough to sip his coffee without choking, Daniel took a deep breath and played his final card. "There’s a lot more to this list, Jack. But it all adds up to the same thing. I’m not interested in going any further with this."
"No, Jack. I’ve spent a lot of time losing sleep over this! It stops now; no more. We never should have done it in the first place."
"And if I don’t agree? If I don’t want to stop?"
"Oh? And what happened to ’...one word from you, I’m out the door, and we’ll never mention this again.’" Jack’s body jerked slightly as Daniel’s hard voice flung his own words back at him. "You said this was my choice, Jack, and my choice is that we end whatever this is, right now."
"You expect us to just go back to where we were before?"
"We have to, Jack. Friends—good friends."
"No, Daniel. You’re wrong. We can stop. But we can’t go back. We did what we did, and we can’t undo it. We can’t go back."
"Well, we have to try. Because I won’t go forward."
Jack stared at him for a long moment.
Without another word, he stood and stalked out the door, leaving Daniel to seek solace in his lukewarm coffee.
"OK, Daniel. Let’s give this discussion one more try."
Startled, Daniel twisted away from the computer to face the man storming through his door. Oh, for God’s sake—what was it going to take to escape from this?
"What’s left to discuss, Jack? I pretty much said all I had to say two hours ago over coffee."
"Well, I didn’t. You spouted all sorts of garbage about my career and the Air Force, but I know damned well that you couldn’t care less about following rules you don’t believe in. And I never heard a word from you about why you want to give it up."
Daniel gripped his short hair fiercely, squeezing his eyes shut. "Jack... Damn it, Jack, I just want this to be over! It’s driving me crazy! And if you’re going to insist on discussing it, shut the damned door!"
O’Neill slammed the door closed behind himself, moving forward to brace his hands on the desk, looming over Daniel.
"All right, door’s shut. So give."
"Jack... I..." He shook his head helplessly. "I can’t."
"You’d better, or I’m not letting this go. Just what was so repulsive that you can’t stand to be with me again?"
Daniel lifted his head, meeting Jack’s aggressive gaze. The electric silence stretched for an unbearably long moment.
A deep breath. "Y... you never kissed me," he whispered.
Jack recoiled. "What?"
"You wouldn’t kiss me; you wouldn’t let me kiss you. And you left—just left when you were finished with me. That’s not the kind of relationship I want."
Mouth gaping, Jack stared at him. "F’r God’s sake, Daniel... You’re a man!"
"And, so... I shouldn’t want that?"
"You know what I mean..."
"Well, actually, I think I do." Abruptly, Daniel felt a knot of fury tighten his chest. "You know, I don’t think this has anything to do with me being a man; it has everything to do with you being a man."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Jack’s discomfort was shifting inevitably toward anger—one of his favorite refuges.
"Oh, come on, Jack. Even you aren’t that dense! ‘Real men’ don’t kiss, do they? They don’t cuddle, or spend the night wrapped around each other." He felt his own anger expand and rise up his throat, tightening his voice into high, sharp aggression. In some cowering part of his mind, he knew that he needed to stop; that what he was saying—and the way he was saying it—were unforgivable. But the hurt and the anger won, crushing that tiny voice of reason. "And God forbid they admit to any of those soft ‘feelings’ for each other. They just indulge in the occasional roll in the hay, or toss between the sheets—or, as it were, on the floor. Then they slap each other on the butt and go their separate ways. Right, Jack?" Jack’s face was red with his own fury. "Son of a... ! You bastard... ! What, you wanted flowers and chocolates? Strolls down the corridor, hand in hand? Grow up, Jackson! You’re a grown man, and this is a military institution!"
"Oh, yeah. Military. I might just remind you that we weren’t at this institution, Col. Military Jerk! And there’s a hell of a difference between ‘strolling hand in hand’ and acknowledging that there’s something more between us than hormones and the uncontrollable urge to rut! If that’s what you want, I’m sure you can find a volunteer—but it won’t be me!"
"It sure as hell won’t, you sorry son of a bitch!" Spinning on his heel, Jack wrenched at the doorknob and stalked out of the office, slamming the innocent door behind him. Frozen in the shocked silence, Daniel clearly felt something precious break.
Daniel liked Adair Heidepriem. Something about the combination of the rather silly, frivolous name with the tough and scruffy person delighted his soul. The discovery that her seldom acknowledged first name was Antoinette had sealed their friendship with a pact of secrecy. He could only suppose that her parents had named her while caught up in a frenzy of multi-national hysteria.
They’d been going through his recommendations for the 799 dig, arguing over details about preservation supplies, disposition of artifacts and translation priorities. He loved that, too. It was part of the fun of setting up a dig. And right now, this was something he really needed—to grasp desperately at normality. The stunned aftermath of his encounter with Jack was waiting for the idle moments, ambushing him with the realization that he’d very probably turned an uncomfortable situation into a permanent, acrimonious estrangement.
"Now, look, DJ—" Dair’s sinewy finger stabbed at the chart they were arguing about. "You may need all of this stripping, but my crews..."
"Jackson!" The two archaeologists jerked around to stare at O’Neill, standing ramrod straight within the frame of the office door.
"Yes, Jack?" Daniel forced his voice to reflect patience. He’d dreaded his next encounter with Jack; he really didn’t want to provoke further hostilities.
"Streager tells me you skipped your workout this morning. What the hell’s that about? You gave your word."
Daniel sighed. Well, he couldn’t blame anyone else for this one. "Sorry, Jack. I just needed to..."
"No excuses, mister. I’ve rescheduled you for fifteen hundred hours today."
"Jack!" This was getting out of hand. "I can take care of..."
"No arguments. You keep that appointment, or you don’t go off world tomorrow." Spinning on his heel, he stalked down the corridor and out of sight, leaving Daniel with his mouth hanging open. "Shit, DJ. Since when does O’Neill talk to you like that?"
Daniel’s gaze was still fixed on the door. "Well, pretty much since this morning. We had a bit of a... a disagreement. Kind of my fault."
She squinted at him, shaggy head tilted to the side. "You’ve fought before. I don’t ever recall him treating you like one of those ‘Airmen’ these Air Force types like to boss around so much. What’d you do to fall so far out of his graces?"
His mouth twisted a bit. "Long—private—story, Adair. Not really something I much want to talk about. We’ll find a way to work it out. And I guess I go get clobbered on at 3 this afternoon." "Daniel..." She leaned toward him, wrapping her thin, callous-roughened fingers around his wrist. "Daniel, why do you keep doing it? Why don’t you let the soldiers do the rough stuff? You can’t tell me you haven’t been pining after grubbing in the dirt. I’ve seen the signs before. Give up the adventuring before it gets you killed."
For a long moment, he met her shrewd eyes. Then she nodded sharply, releasing his arm and leaning back.
"I thought so. There’s more of Nicholas Ballard in you than you want to admit." He winced. "It’ll break your heart, DJ. Just like it broke Nick’s. You can’t ride the rim like that without eventually falling over the edge. Come back to where you can be safe; where you can do what you love without risking that tumble." "I..." Daniel shook his head. "I just don’t know if I can, Adair."
"But you’ve been thinking about it, haven’t you?" Ruefully, he shrugged. "Frankly, this site would tempt someone a lot stronger than I am. It’s really beautiful, Adair. I want pretty badly to be able to be the one to work it. But right now, I just can’t bring myself to give up what it would cost."
Scornfully, she shook her head at him, scraggly pony tail bobbing back and forth. "I’ll do my best not to butcher it, sweetie. But you just keep thinking about where you really belong." She pulled the pages closer, picking up one of the half dozen pencils scattered over the desk. "Now let’s get the rest of these things settled before you have to go get pummeled into a pudding."
Daniel glared at his soulless taskmaster. 2:00 pm. Briefly, he considered canceling the workout which Jack had so high-handedly scheduled. However, though he might enjoy the momentary flare of self righteous exhilaration at the gesture of defiance, he knew the eventual fallout would be far worse than he wanted to court. And he really had promised to faithfully attend these twice-weekly sessions.
Sighing in frustration, he began to wrap up the ragged ends of the projects he’d wanted to complete before the next day’s mission. Two or three more days wouldn’t go amiss. There was never, ever enough time.
"OK, Daniel, let’s try it again. You’ve got to be quicker; got to try to anticipate what I’m going to do."
Head hanging, forearms propped on his thighs, Daniel did his best to drag air into his laboring lungs. He was just never going to be any good at this.
"C’mon; up off that floor. You’ve got another 30 minutes to go before I let you off the hook. Let’s see some enthusiasm!"
"Enthusiasm. You want enthusiasm. Henry, about the only thing that could make me enthusiastic right now would be a full-body massage. With sauna and Jacuzzi.
"Get off your butt, Jackson!" Jack’s voice ripped through the workout room, hard edged and cold. "There’s a reason for these sessions, you know You’re not here just to beef up your pecks for the beach!"
Sighing, Daniel hauled himself to his feet and turned to face the other man. He was about fed up. "For God’s sake, Jack. Haven’t you got some junior officer somewhere to bully?"
O’Neill’s brows arched. "Bully? You think you’re being bullied, do you." He strode onto the mat, gaze fixed on Daniel. "You can go, Sergeant. I’ll finish here."
"Ah, sir, do you..."
"That’s an order, Sergeant."
As Streager departed, casting an uneasy look at the two men he left on the mat, Daniel found a moment to wonder how a man who was only two inches taller than he could so effectively tower over him, so obviously look down his nose.
The other man moved into position on the mat. "Come on, show me that we’re not all wasting our time, here."
"Jack, just because we can’t..."
"Defend yourself, Doctor Jackson!"
"We need to talk about... Oof."
"On your feet; that was pathetic."
Daniel rolled over and forced himself up. Swaying slightly, he stared at Jack’s implacable face for a moment. He saw no softness, no vestige of the friendship they’d shared for the last four years. Just immovable hostility. He drew a deep breath, then moved into the mock combat... to find himself once again summarily thrown onto his back.
"Oh, nice. C’mon, Doctor. Show me you’re not going to get me killed out there."
Through the ache in his back, Daniel felt his own anger rising. OK, he could do this. No way was he going to fold under this kind of treatment!
Twenty-six minutes later, Daniel was forced to concede that will was never going to be enough. He was on his back—again, for about the thirtieth time—and Jack was standing over him like Tarzan over the carcass of a vanquished leopard. Daniel’s body felt like it had been taken apart, one joint at a time. His aching back was now keeping company with bruised elbows, protesting gut, and throbbing head and shoulders. Not that Jack was actually bullying him... He wasn’t dishing out anything worse than what the instructors inflicted on their charges on a regular basis. Daniel was forced to acknowledge that he was generally given fairly special treatment. Not today.
"Back on your feet, Jackson." He would swear Jack hadn’t even broken a sweat.
"No. Time’s up." Daniel could hear the gasp in his own voice.
Jack moved to loom over him. "Time’s up when I’m finished with you. Now get up and show me you’ve learned something here."
In a fit of pique, Daniel kicked out at O’Neill. Lurching back, Jack grabbed his bare foot, lifted, and twisted. Daniel found himself suddenly on his face, right foot pressed against his buttocks by the weight of Jack’s body. He caught his breath as his knee twinged painfully. "Sorry, that’s a failure. You lose. Looks like you lose all along the way, here."
Abruptly, the weight was gone. Feeling 80 years old, Daniel stiffly rolled onto his side and stared at the retreating back of the man he’d have sworn could be trusted to protect him against almost anything.
"Jack?" Oh, pathetic. To his ears, his voice sounded thin and abandoned.
"Oh nine hundred, Jackson. That’s ready to go through the gate, not trying to find where you left your shoes. For once, don’t hold the team up."
Daniel let his exhausted body drop back down to the mat. He listened to the throb in his knee; sank into the ache in his back. And mourned for the pain in his heart. This was impossible; he couldn’t live with this.
Oh eight fifty five. Daniel’s mouth twisted in self mockery. He was going to be late, after all. But in the end, it wasn’t going to make any difference. He’d made his second decision. He took a deep breath and walked up the steps to the control room, favoring his still sore right knee. As was usual when a team was preparing to depart, the general was watching over the actions of his technicians as they fed dialing instructions into the computers. "General Hammond?"
Hammond glanced up from his position leaning over Harriman’s shoulder and smiled at him. "Good morning, Dr. Jackson. Shouldn’t you be down there with your team?"
"Yes, sir. I’ll join them in a minute. I just... Well... Sir, I need to talk to you, when we get back."
"Of course, Doctor. Just drop in; I’ll be happy to chat."
"No, sir. This is... it’s really important." The general straightened up and looked fully into his face, apparently finally registering his solemn, unhappy expression.
"Does this have anything to do with the... difficulties you and Colonel O’Neill have obviously been experiencing, son?"
"No... Yes... well, there’s a kind of connection. But not really. This is just me. Can you see me right after we debrief?"
Hammond looked at him for a few moments. "I’ll be glad to set aside half an hour for you; will that be enough?"
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut for a second, then nodded. "Thank you, sir."
"Dr. Jackson, you aren’t thinking of doing anything rash, are you?"
If he hadn’t felt so much like crying, Daniel would probably have laughed. "No, sir. Not rash. See you in two days."
"Enjoy those pictograms, Dr. Jackson. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will look better after some time with your work."
Descending the stairs to the Gate room, Daniel couldn’t decide whether what he was feeling was immense relief or overwhelming loss.
Jack’s sour greeting as he joined the other three members of the team didn’t help. He was five minutes late.
Daniel’s throat tightened as the Gate exploded into life. Oh, God. The last time.
As Jack and Teal’c moved to the base of the ramp, the general’s voice sounded over the speaker. "SG-1, you have a go. Enjoy P2R 423.
On to In The Rough