I'm old. Well not that old, but too old to have a school boy crush, the blush has been off the rose for more years than I care to admit. I'm pretty damn positive I definitely shouldn't be having the impure thoughts that pop into my head at the most inconvenient times. The sort of images that leave me flushed, flustered, sweaty and in dire need of an ice-cold shower. The briefing room is one, the commissary, his office, my office, Carter's lab, the infirmary, my car, his car. I confess, if I took a shower every time I thought of him, I'd be spending a majority of time under cold water with a severe shrinkage problem.
Okay, I admit, it's not that bad and it probably sounds worse than it is. I mean, my heart doesn't go pitter patter, nor do I feel the urge to swoon, and I certainly don't get weak kneed. I'm a Colonel, for god's sake. I do have some sense of dignity and propriety, except for the impure thought thing, I do have an image to uphold. I'm a tough guy, a gruff persona in a military uniform that certainly doesn't lend itself to being in love, sorry, I mean in like, with an archeologist, a civilian, a man ... a scientist.
This is really ridiculous. I'm sitting outside Daniel's house, the cab of my truck smelling like an Italian restaurant -- my treat -- with pizza and beer -- my necessity -- my stomach is growling and I'm nervous. I've faced Goa'ulds with less trepidation than I feel about walking up the pathway to his house. Ridiculous, it's truly embarrassing that no one. not Simmons, Kinsey, Ba'al, Hathor, not one of them have left me as confused and unsure of myself as I am at this moment.
It's Daniel's fault, it really is. I was coming to grips with my feelings, doing a good job of concealing them, burying our friendship, and then what did he go and do? He let Oma fill his dance card for a whole year. A whole friggin' year and what did Daniel leave me? A big honkin' hole in my heart.
And then, just when I was managing to mark Daniel's existence as a passing vision during a nightmarish time in my life, he comes back, and I'm done for, finished, cooked, head over heels in 'like' the moment we find him on the planet.
Bullshit, he didn't remember me. He managed to convince everyone else, but I knew differently, I knew Daniel calling me "Jim" was his idea of a cosmic practical joke, and I just played along, 'cause hey, it had been a year since I seen that smile, and if he thought calling me "Jim" was pulling the wool over my eyes, then so be it. It made him happy. He was happy and corporeal. Life didn't get much better than that.
The pizza's gonna get cold and the beer will get warm, and I make the decision to gather up our dinner and walk the "Green Mile" to his door. It's just a house and that's just Daniel behind the door. The problem is, he hasn't been just Daniel to me for a very long time, longer than I care to acknowledge.
I'm hit by a blast of warm spring air as I step out of the truck, a warmer than usual breeze ruffles my hair. Very unColorado like. It's the type of heat that forces summer days into the forefront of everyone's mind. I clear my throat, straighten my shoulders, balance the two pies in one hand and hold the beer with the other. Daniel's gardening attempts are visible along the walk and he honestly didn't do a bad job, a little messy, but for a first try, not bad at all.
The windows are open and I hear music. Loud, bassy music, playing loud enough to annoy the neighbors. He'll learn, he's smart, and I'll make sure to mention it in passing that he shouldn't make enemies of the people on his block.
I punch the doorbell with my elbow. Nothing. I bang on the door with my knee. Nothing. I yell his name and still nothing. Then with two fingers, I try his doorknob. The door swings open and I stomp into the living room. After all these years, you'd think he would understand the idea of. never mind -- this is Daniel I'm talking about and he still won't get it. Protection and safety is something the guy next to him needs to address, because it obviously doesn't pertain to Daniel.
I balance the pizza boxes on a stack of still-sealed packing boxes, then put the six pack on the floor, grabbing a bottle for myself, I twist off the top and toss it over my shoulder as one would spilled salt. I'm considering the throw to be a blessing of good luck, then take a swig and go in search of Daniel.
The music is loudest in the den and I follow the reverberating bass in that direction. The room has two walls of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and French doors that open out onto a deck. I would have bought the house for the doors and the deck alone, although I'm sure what captured Daniel's eye was the bookshelves, because he didn't purchase this house for its size, that's for sure.
The French doors are wide open, Daniel's standing on the deck and because his back faces me, and due to the fact the music is so overpowering, he's oblivious to my arrival. It's not like I'm a peeping Tom or anything, 'cause hell, if he wanted to know I was there, all he would have to do would be to turn around. But Daniel's gaze is fixed on something in the distance and my gaze is fixed on Daniel, so I'm safe.
Woohoo, out here in broad daylight, instead of in the more familiar darkness of my bedroom where I usually pull out those impure thoughts and visuals, right here, not ten feet from where I stand, I get the real thing, in living color. God, he's barefoot, his jeans are old and lived in, though I don't remember him living in them in my presence, 'cause the way they hug his ass, I'm sure I'd be remembering those Levi's. I adjust myself, mentally yelling at my dick to go back to sleep and later, when the time's right, I promise I'll be reminding him of Daniel, those jeans and that ass. I sigh, my cock has no intention of listening to me and I swear the words "up periscope" are bouncing around in my brain.
My throat is painfully dry and my hand reminds my ass-focused brain that it holds the bottle of beer. I lift it to my lips, then swallow, the coolness of the liquid a prayer from heaven.
Daniel's white tee shirt is sweat stained, and even the back is streaked with dirt. I'm amazed that even filthy as Daniel is ...
"Hot?" My voice imitates an adolescent school boy's and in defense, my fingers clutch the neck of the beer bottle like a safety blanket. Talk about being lost in my own world, I don't even know when Daniel turned or when he walked into my personal space, fanning his sweat stained, filthy tee shirt away from his body.
He blinks at me curiously. "You don't think it's hot for the beginning of May?"
I nod dumbly, my eyes glued to a smudge of dirt centered right on the tip of his nose. It's distracting and oh so appealing, and I fight the urge to use my finger to wipe it off. Actually, embarrassingly enough, my finger is paused on its trek to his nose and it's only Daniel's confused, sidelong glance at my appendage that halts its forward movement. He then waves towards the open doors. "Yeah, hot."
He shrugs and damn him if he doesn't wrinkle that nose, sniffing. I'm dying here and take another gulp of beer hoping to -- honestly, I don't know what I'm hoping to do, I have to shove something in my mouth to stop the words that are threatening to embarrass me, embarrass Daniel, ruin our friendship and get my ass kicked outta the SGC, and since what I would really like in my mouth is so off limits, I have to be satisfied with the sweaty bottle of beer in my hand.
I nearly choke on the beer when Daniel leans closer to me, sniffs again and hums an appreciative "mmmm" very close to my ear.
"Is that pizza I smell?"
"Oh yeah, pizza. I brought pizza. Two pies." I lift the bottle to my lips to stop my babbling, only to find that I've drained it dry. Damn.
"I'm starving." Daniel turns, shuts the doors, and swivels to face me. He rubs his nose with the heel of his palm and then uses the hem of his stained tee shirt to sop up his sweaty face, exposing a fair amount of flat, firm muscular stomach. "I stink. Do you mind if I jump in the shower really quickly before we eat?"
Thankfully, Daniel doesn't really wait for answer, because I'm stuck somewhere in the realm of fantasy land picturing Daniel naked, in the shower and me just about ready to join him under the hot spray of water when a heavy hand on my forearm makes me jump.
"Are you okay? You seem --"
"Distracted. I'm distracted."
He listens with wide eyed sympathy as I conjure up some cock and bull story about new recruits at the SGC, Hammond and evaluations. Daniel nods in sympathy and his touch turns to an empathetic pat. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable?" He gives a short burst of laughter as he gazes around, obviously realizing the rest of the house is in as much flux as the den. "Okay, why don't you settle on grabbing yourself a slice of pizza and at least eat. I know there's paper plates and napkins in the kitchen, courtesy of Sam. I'll be right out to join you," he promises.
Daniel's kitchen is an eclectic jumble of things from storage and new purchases still in boxes, and bags on every flat surface. I stand like an idiot with the two pizza boxes, contemplating where I should put them down. I settle for the state of the art ceramic topped stove, figuring as long as we don't turn it on, it has to be safe. I pick up a paper plate and then put it down, opting to wander through the house by myself, rather than eating alone.
Daniel's been cleaning more than unpacking; though boxes are opened, the shelves are bare. I touch an amazingly intricate, hand carved camel that is sticking out of one of the boxes in the living room. For old time's sake, I can't stop myself from picking it up and examining it, remembering. This camel and I are old buddies. I've packed him twice, once when Daniel was missing on Nem's planet and this last time, when Daniel ascended.
The camel fits in the palm of my hand and I can recall with crystal clarity contemplating not placing the little fellow in the box. A week after Daniel's ascension, for over an hour, I had stood in his apartment with the camel in my hand, just like now, and had thought about letting this carved object come to live at my house, on a shelf in the living room, but it didn't seem fitting for the animal to be removed from all the other artifacts just to sit amongst model airplanes and medals; so at the last minute, before I sealed up the box, I painstakingly wrapped him and stuck him right on top.
I'm glad he's finally home. Hell, I'm glad Daniel's finally home, and I walk to one of the empty shelves and place the camel there, maneuvering him so I'm gazing right into his eyes. "I'm not packing you again," I warn, wagging a finger at this inanimate object. "Better make sure you're home to stay."
"Who are you talking to, Jack?"
I should be embarrassed, but for some reason I'm not. Maybe it has to do with Daniel being home. Me being home with Daniel, so I answer him as truthfully as possible, looking, but trying not to see, the just showered Daniel standing not two feet from me. "Your camel and I were just having a little heart to heart."
"Secret, Daniel. I'm not breaking a confidence that I was entrusted with."
He holds up his forefinger. "You did only have one beer, right?"
I drop my arm around his shoulders, trying not to inhale the mixture of herbal shampoo and soap, the odor of cleanliness that seems destined to put images of me and Daniel right back in the shower. I glance over at the camel, who is shaking his head at me. Oy, talk about not sharing secrets, I thank god that the little wooden creature is closed mouthed. "One beer, that's all."
Daniel's wolfing down the pizza like he hasn't eaten in -- "Daniel, when was the last time you ate?" The fact that he stops and actually has to contemplate the question is a scary thought.
"Yesterday." He taps the paper plate. "Sam brought over cold cuts for lunch, with some juice and soda, milk." Daniel takes a gargantuan bite out of his triangle of pizza. "I had lunch, dinner."
Okay. I'm sure about lunch, dinner was is questionable. "Breakfast?"
He tears off a sheet of paper toweling from the roll in the center of the table and uses it to wipe his mouth. "I stuck two slices of bread in the toaster. then I got involved and forgot it in the toaster." His loud burp interrupts his thought process, and he shoves the last bit of crust in his mouth.
He swallows, picks up his water bottle, realizes it's empty, then takes a swig of my beer without any apology. "Oh, toast was inedible, burnt to a crisp, but on a good note, the fire alarms work well."
"Glad to hear that." Annoyed that Daniel doesn't seem to be relinquishing the beer anytime in this century, I get up and get another one for myself. I twist off the top but this one I drop into the paper bag on the floor which is serving as a garbage pail. I throw my plate in the garbage and Daniel gets up to throw his plate away. The fridge is empty enough that the slices of pizza stay in the box and slide onto the bottom shelf. He's standing on one side of the kitchen sink and I'm standing on the other, both of us surveying the clutter that is his house, both of us drinking beer in silence.
"Mine." Daniel waves towards the living room with a sweep of the bottle.
"No, actually, the beer was mine."
"Not the beer -- this."
"The house?" It's a nice house, the square footage leaves a lot to be desired, the windows in the bedroom need replacing, the kitchen needs a new appliance or two, the washing machine has seen better days, but all in all, it's an okay place to live.
"The house," he echoes confidently, then takes a swig of beer and looks around the kitchen. "It's mine." Daniel says those two words as if they are holy and fragile.
I'm sure Daniel could have purchased any house he wanted. Money certainly isn't an issue and I make an attempt to see this place through his eyes, curious as to why he chose this one to call home. There are bookshelves and natural light, wood floors, the deck, the French doors, an incredible master bath, and Daniel. I can see him in here, and in my mind, with a Mary Poppins imaginary wave of a wand, everything falls into place, and the four walls become a home, Daniel's home, and I understand what he sees here. "Good choice. It's you."
"That's what I thought." He takes one last gulp of beer and places the empty on the counter. "Guess I need to ..."
Daniel's state of dishevelment when I first entered the house is nothing compared to how filthy and sweaty the two of us are now. We managed to unpack a majority of the boxes and at the moment, I've collapsed on the living room sofa while Daniel is still trying to arrange his books on the shelves. Personally, I never realized books could or even should be arranged. New paperbacks or hard covered books just got stuck in the next available space on the shelf. Daniel is pulling books out, replacing them with others, all the while muttering to himself.
There's something so right about this scenario and I don't know about Daniel, but I sure as hell feel like I've come home.
With a book in each hand, and his glasses in danger of slipping off his nose, he smiles at me. Not a dimple producing smile, but a smile that warms me all the way down to my toes. I chicken out. I refuse to risk it. I won't risk it. I can't bear losing Daniel again. I would rather be up close and personal with my right hand for the remainder of life than damage what we have now. Because I think if I tell Daniel I want to jump his bones, he's not going to get it. Because it isn't about the need for sex, or scratching an itch or satisfying our libido, it always was about friendship. Our friendship. As sappy as it sounds, like has turned to love in this tiny house.
The words are there, right on the tip of my tongue, so close. "Daniel?"
"I just wanted to ask ... can I take a shower?" That's so not what I wanted to say, I'm terrified -- I'm not a linguist nor am I articulate enough that he'll understand. There are times I truly hate myself, and this is one of those times.
He slips the books into the empty slots he prepared, then slides his glasses back up his nose. "Sure. Towels are on the --"
"I know," I say, getting off the couch with a grunt. "I put them away."
"There's a basket in my bedroom. I'm sure there's a pair of sweats that'll fit you."
I find Daniel throwing in the laundry when I get out of the shower. He obviously used the smaller bathroom to get cleaned up 'cause his wet hair is standing up in spikes and his tee shirt is still damp in spots where he didn't dry himself that well.
He shuts the machine and turns the dial, then touches the washing machine like an artifact. Long fingers trace the outline of the lid. "Do you know what this means?"
"You'll have clean underwear?"
"Ha! No, it means that I don't have to go down into the basement to do laundry. That I don't have to make sure that I have change. It means that I can do the laundry naked if I want."
"Well, Daniel, that's certainly a visual I can live with."
Now? Now? I study the pile of wet towels and the design of the floor, hoping that a hole will just appear at my feet. I backed out from swearing my undying love to Daniel in the living room and now I'm confessing in the laundry room? Over a dark wash?
Confronted with the truth, I do the only thing that I can. What every red blooded man would do. I run. I turn on my heels, then rush out of the room, leaving a recently showered, confused Daniel in my wake.
"You like the yard?"
"It probably needs a bit more work."
I shrug again. Okay, I chickened out and ran, and got as far as the deck off the den. I'm standing outside, the setting sun still allowing me enough light to scan Daniel's backyard. I'm looking everywhere but at the man who followed me.
"It's okay, you know."
I point to the far corner. "You could use a hammock between those two trees. Perfect spot."
"You really like the visual of me doing laundry naked?"
I shrug once more for good measure. I figure today my mouth has gotten me into enough trouble and maybe I should just keep it closed. It's safer. But with his usual "dog chasing tail attitude," Daniel's just not going to give this up.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
I move to face him. I'm angry. At myself, not at him, but hey, better to be on the offense than on the defense, so I toss the ball into his court, even though Daniel's really not into sports. "What do you think the answer should be?"
"I know what I would like it to be, what would you like it to be?"
For a man who really doesn't like sports, Daniel just did a great job of putting the ball back in my hands and I go for a counter attack, my mouth is open, my brain is primed, and then I realize what he just said. "You don't mind what I said? The naked, visual, laundry room thing?" I'm babbling but that's okay, this situation can allow for babble.
Now it's Daniel's turn to shrug, but he adds a little head shake to the mix. "Doesn't bother me at all."
"Well the laundry room wouldn't have been my first choice."
"Oh?" Choices? There are choices?
"In front of the fireplace, the couch or the bedroom may be more conducive to nakedness."
"I've seen what you call a bed, Daniel. It's not conducive to sleep never mind --"
I wonder if my gulp is loud enough for Daniel to hear.
"I never thought I'd be sharing the bed."
"Obviously," I snort.
"Just my bed, is that all you want?"
Oh boy, there it is. That's the one. The question. Probably the one and only time Daniel will be either this open with me or this vulnerable.
"I never said I wanted a fuck buddy." I also never did a man before, but that's a conversation for a whole other time.
"You haven't said too much of anything," he hisses, "unless you want to count your desire to see me doing laundry naked."
God, how did this happen? I was supposed to live out the rest of my days in denial and this conversation was only supposed to exist in my dreams. "I never said that."
Daniel nails me with a 'how stupid do you think I am' gaze over the rim of his glasses.
"Okay, I think it was you that mentioned naked, Daniel. I just said it was a nice visual."
I throw my hands up in exasperation. "And what? It is. You naked is a damned nice visual."
"What do you want me to say? That I'm turned on by you. That I dream about you? Jerk off to thoughts of you?" Ooops, I can tell by the expression on his face that this was way to much information to be sharing. "And," I hasten to add before all is lost and Daniel believes I only want him for his nakedness in bed, "I like you. Like you a lot."
"Okay," I admit, "maybe I like you a little more than like."
"A little more," he echoes. "And exactly what word would you use to describe someone liking someone a little more than like?"
Like a damn puppet on strings, I shrug again. "I don't know. You're the linguist. What word would you use to describe how I feel about you?"
There isn't ever a moment's hesitation before he answers. "Love. You love me."
"Love?" I try to object but I can't, 'cause amazingly enough, the word feels right. Sounds right. I say it again with a tad more conviction. "Love."
"Yup." Daniel smirks, a know-it-all expression that he usually saves for situations where he's right and he's just had great joy in shoving that knowledge into someone's face. Kinsey, Simmons, Ra, Apophis. me?
"You son of a bitch, how long have you known?"
"I never knew, Jack." He wraps his arms around his body, suddenly unsure. "I suspected."
"And?" I ask innocently.
"And I like you a little more than like."
"What would be a word that you could use to describe those feelings?"
Only Daniel can call me a bastard and get away with it. Only Daniel can smile like he's smiling at me now, seconds after calling me a bastard and live to see another day. "I don't think bastard is the correct answer."
"You didn't answer my question. What word would you use --"
"I love you, Jack."
"I knew it!" I yell triumphantly.
"Don't give me that shit, you didn't know it."
I shut him up with a kiss. Thanks to the vividness of my imagination, I thought I knew how it would be when we kissed. But in my life, I have never misjudged something as badly as I did this kiss. The kiss is awkward, I'm inept, we aren't sure what to do with our noses, Daniel needs a shave, and it's a thousand times better than I ever imagined.
We're sitting on the couch, close, obviously closer than when we started out the day. The left over pizza is warming in the oven, two beers are on the coffee table, and Daniel's head is resting on my shoulder. Heavy, but I can deal.
"You don't have cable?" I gripe good-naturedly when I realize the TV remote is only honing in on the local stations.
"Tomorrow. Have to stay home tomorrow and wait for the guy. Satellite dish." Catlike, Daniel rubs the side of his face against my shoulder. I guess the "L" word opens up a whole gambit of tactile fantasies for him. Not that I'm complaining, it's just strange.
"Satellite? For me?"
"Not for you." He apologizes as long, inquisitive, artifact finding fingers dance along my thighs. "I didn't -- we weren't -- when I ordered the dish."
I nearly jump outta my skin when his finger skims across my erection.
"Oh, nice," he quips, adding a little rubbing action. "Is that for me?"
Oh my god. His touch is waayyy better than mine and here again is another example of reality being much nicer than fantasy. Even through a layer of sweats and cotton boxers, it's a whole lot nicer than my right hand.
The buzzer on the stove goes off, Daniel stops, and I sigh. Empathetically, he pats my thigh. "First date," he whispers seductively in my ear. "I don't want to take advantage of you."
This time Daniel's just picking the cheese off his pizza. Quietly. A quiet, contemplative Daniel, I've learned, is not a good thing. "Penny for your thoughts?"
"Huh? Oh. Just thinking."
"Well, that's obvious, but about what?"
He uses the folded triangle of pizza as a pointer, waving it between the two of us. "This is good, right? We're good?"
I grab hold of the hand that holds the waving pizza, then bring it to my mouth, biting off a huge piece. "Yeth, weth gooth," I mumble around my mouthful.
"Just checking." He smiles, looks at his pizza and bites off a piece that matches mine. I'm proud that his linguistic capabilities enable him to understand Jackspeak.
"What about the bed?"
"Me, you," I get up to throw our plates in the now overflowing brown bag used for garbage. "Sleeping?"
"Yeah there's that --"
"No." Daniel begins to shred his napkin.
"Huh? No sex? I never said that."
"Well, what did you say?"
"I said no to the bed. You want me to get a bigger bed."
"I never said that."
"You didn't have to, it was implied."
"That's the general direction my request was headed in. Why the no?"
"Big bed in the loft, bought with Sha're in mind. She never makes it back. Small bed and I end up with the guy."
"So you think if you buy a bigger bed ...?"
"Okay! I know it sounds stupid. Hey, it sounds stupid even when I say it. But I don't want to tempt fate."
"Doesn't sound stupid." To me, after what we've seen and done, that Daniel has died more times than fingers on one hand, and the fact that I had spent a few minutes conversing with a carved camel, I really do understand.
"Cross my heart." I scrabble my fingers through his hair, then place a kiss among the messed up strands. I'm thinking a recently showered Daniel may be one of those things that's gonna push my buttons. And a sweaty Daniel. And a contemplative Daniel. A Daniel that teases. I didn't realize that I even came equipped with all these buttons that could be pushed. Amazing what one can learn in just the space of a few hours if you keep your mind open to all the possibilities.
He pushes me gently aside and stands. I smile and he kisses me, no may I, no can I, just a hunger. Daniel's just as inept as me, though our noses seem to stay where they're supposed to, so I'm guessing practice will make perfect. Our hands are hanging until Daniel makes the first move and I feel one of his hands travel around my waist, the other cups the back of my head. Now that I've been given permission to touch, two seconds is all it takes before my hands begin to roam his body.
Daniel laughs against my mouth. I break the kiss. "Problem?"
He blushes, still laughing. "Ticklish."
"Oh, ticklish. Nice." I'm sensing a laughing, ticklish, blushing Daniel is gonna be another one of my buttons. "Daniel?"
Damn, he's nuzzling me. Grown men nuzzle? I didn't think that we did, but here we are, standing crotch to crotch in Daniel's kitchen, and he's nuzzling me. Feels fine, so fine as a matter of fact I'm losing my concentration.
"No go on the bed, right?" I used my hands to cup his ass and pull him in even nearer.
"Would you consider a couch that opens up into a bed? A king sized bed?"
"Sure. Couch. Bed. King sized." He steps back, looks at me and my hands automatically come up to adjust his glasses. "In the living room by the fireplace. Or the den by the window. There's a great possibility that I'm going to go shopping tomorrow after the dish installer leaves. Smart thinking, Jack."
See even Daniel agrees that as long as you keep your mind open, the list of possibilities in your life is endless.
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