Amelioration By Kalimyre
(amelioration: n : the act of relieving ills and changing for the better)
I am a man with a plan.
I’ve got it all worked out. I should--after all, I’ve had a long week off-world to think about it. A long week ‘supervising’ the training of the SGC’s newest recruits. A long week sorting out minor squabbles over who gets which shift on watch and who won the race on the obstacle course and whether or not the female recruits should get to go around the vertical wall obstacle and why Corporal Peters always seems to end up with the coveted beef stew MRE’s.
A *really* long week.
But in between getting headaches over the recruits and completely failing to keep my socks dry in that damn jungle, I got a lot of thinking done. Mostly about Daniel--not surprising, considering that since we’ve been together, I can’t think of much else. This is the first real separation we’ve had since we started our... crap, I don’t want to call it this, but I guess it’s a relationship.
I’m in a ‘relationship’ with my male team member, my subordinate, and my best friend. Somebody call Oprah. Gah.
Anyway. I started the week out ridiculously happy over what Daniel might do to greet my return. The boy has quite an imagination. He had us all fooled with that shy, quiet academic bit. Apparently all the stuff I did in college was nothing compared to what the kids did when Daniel was in. Something about going to college for so many damn years to get those doctorates makes the kids need to blow off some serious steam, I guess. He’s got stories that get me flustered and embarrassed, and that takes a lot.
So I was watching the recruits fall down in the mud during hand-to-hand training, and picturing what Daniel would do when I got home. I got as far as him jumping me the second I walked in the door, and then it stalled out. Because, you see, Daniel wouldn’t do that. He’d wait for me to jump him, and then--hoo boy, and then. We’ve been at it for two months now, and he can still surprise me.
But the problem is that he’ll wait. He won’t come up to me and do what he wants, what we both want--he’ll wait until I initiate things. Same way with the simple stuff, whether it’s making love or a little necking on the couch or even a little hug. He won’t start anything. He never acts, only reacts. And to tell the truth, it worries me.
If he never asks for what he wants, chances are he never gets what he wants, which makes us pretty one-sided. One-sided relationships don’t last very long. What Daniel and I have--well, I want it to last.
So. The plan. I’m sure Daniel has it in him to ask for what he wants. To demand it, if it comes to that. He’s a strong man, independent and stubborn, and he can speak up for what he thinks is right with no problem. He’s just not so good at speaking up for himself, you know? It’s always for someone else. I’m going to change that.
I figure if Daniel wants something badly enough, he’ll ask for it. He’ll hold out as long as he can, but eventually, he’ll break through whatever that wall is inside him that keeps him from reaching out, and he’ll make the first move. All I have to do is avoid initiating anything and wait.
It seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
He’s on his feet as soon as I’m in the door, grinning widely at me. It’s late, but he knew I was coming home tonight, and it’s pretty clear he spent the evening with about a dozen good books waiting up. I like the scene already--open books, papers, notepads and pencils strewn about, half cups of coffee, uneaten Chinese food. Daniel is scruffy and mussed and distracted looking, his eyes huge with lack of sleep. Sharing a spirited... greeting... with him on the academically decorated couch has a definite appeal.
No, no. Remember the plan. If he wants me--and it’s clear that he does--he’ll have to come up and take what he wants.
“Hi, Daniel,” I say cheerfully. “Didja miss me?”
“Sure, Jack.” That said with a shrug and a shy smile. My fingers twitch and I stuff my hands in my pockets. The plan, O’Neill, the plan. If you’re ready to break the rules ten seconds after you see him, this isn’t going to go well.
“Good,” I say smugly. “Now I am SO getting a shower. The Marines were hogging the locker room on base, and besides, after a week of being crammed into communal tents with those damn kids, I’m ready for a little privacy.”
Daniel nods understandingly. He’s sort of hovering in front of me, his arms half-raised uncertainly, his face expectant. He’s waiting for me to either give him a proper greeting or invite him to join me in the shower. Not this time, Daniel. You’re welcome to join me, by all means, but it’ll have to be your decision.
I walk past him casually, aware of him turning to follow me with his eyes. I hear him take two steps behind me, trailing me, and then he stops. Eyes front, O’Neill. Don’t look at him, at that confused, disappointed expression he’s sure to be wearing. This is for his own good.
I take an extra long shower, just in case he decides to go for it and join me, but it doesn’t happen. When I’ve taken as long as I reasonably can, I dry off and throw on some clean underwear and a tee shirt. He’s waiting for me in the bedroom, under the covers, his eyes bright and anticipating.
I grin and then give an exaggerated yawn. I didn’t have to fake that--I really am beat, and he looks even worse than I feel. Daniel tends to overwork himself a bit when he’s compensating for something, and it looks like he dealt with me being gone by diving into his work with both feet and a pot of coffee.
“Daniel,” I say sleepily. “You tired?”
He blinks uncertainly. “Um... a little...”
“Yeah, me too.” I slide into my side of the bed, wriggling happily in the cool sheets. *Much* better than scratchy wool military issue off-world. I’m aware of Daniel’s body heat leaching through the blankets, sending tantalizing warmth along my side. He’s facing me, his head propped up on one hand. He’s got that troubled little line between his eyebrows.
“You feel better now?” he asks.
“Oh, yeah. Showers are great. Being dry is better. Damn planet rained on us the whole time.”
He hums sympathetically, edging a little closer. Come on Danny, you can do it. All you have to do is touch me and I’ll take it from there. I’m only looking for a first step, here.
Long silence, followed by a sigh that started somewhere around his knees. “Um... are you...”
He narrows his eyes at me, and I make just the right face. That clueless, innocent, mildly curious face. Me, understand? I’m just a dumb colonel. You’ll have to spell it out for me.
I’m good at that face. Years of practice.
“Never mind,” he finally says, dropping his head onto the pillow and wrapping his arms around himself. That’s never a good sign.
“Daniel? Everything all right?”
“Sure,” he replies quickly. “It was pretty quiet while you were gone. Can’t imagine why.”
“Funny,” I say dryly. Of course, he didn’t exactly answer the question that I was really asking, but I expected that.
“I guess you want to get some sleep?”
Oh, that was a hopeful voice. That was a ‘please disagree with me’ voice. He’s got so many ways of asking without really asking, you know? I could make this easy for him. I could roll over and give him the hug that his eyes are begging for, and he’d eagerly take it from there. I *could* do that, and... and I know there was a reason why I’m not...
The plan. Keep it in your pants, O’Neill. Have some patience, some self-control. Yes, he’s gorgeous and willing and all but begging for it with everything *but* his voice, but try to see the big picture here. This is for the best.
Right. Big picture. This is for Daniel.
“Yeah, I’m pretty tired,” I tell him, and he sags visibly.
“We had a long hike back to the gate.”
“In the mud.”
“Plus there’s some gate lag. By my clock it’s the middle of the night.”
“You look pretty tired yourself.”
He’s noncommittal on that one. “I guess.”
Disappointment is coming off him in waves, but I pretend not to notice. I’m pretty good at being oblivious and dense. Daniel knows better, but I’m just good enough and he’s just insecure enough to not call me on it.
“So, good night.” I roll so I’m facing away from him and get settled, trying not to feel his eyes on my back.
“Good night,” he says softly. It’s a long time before I hear his breathing even out. Even longer before I can manage to fall asleep myself.
Looks like the plan may take a while.
I wake up first and discover that in his sleep, Daniel has curled into a ball on the far edge of the bed. His head is resting on the mattress, and his pillow is pressed against his chest, wrapped in his arms.
Can you say sublimation? The pose makes something pull in my chest, and I’m halfway to wrapping myself around him when I catch myself. Yes, he obviously missed cuddling with me last night, but with any luck, he’ll get fed up with waiting and jump me before the day is out.
The trick today will be to keep myself within easy reach, but occupied enough so that he doesn’t suspect anything. Normally, on our down time, I can’t keep my hands off him. If that suddenly changes he’s going to notice. Guess it’s time to take on some of those household repairs I’ve been putting off.
Daniel comes thumping sleepily down the stairs while I’m fixing the leak under the kitchen sink. I watch his feet stop by my sprawled out legs and fidget for a few seconds.
“Well, it’s not the plumber,” I drawl. “There’s fresh coffee in the pot.”
Well, that was decidedly unenthusiastic. Not surprising, since it’s become a bit of a custom for me to bring him coffee in bed on the weekends. Not sure how that one started. It may be that I’m a hopeless sap who is wound around my archeologist’s little finger, but I’m hoping that’s not it. I may never live it down.
I watch his feet go over to the coffee pot, and then I hear the familiar clink-pour sound as he sets up his first caffeine fix of the day. I make some busy sounding rattles with the wrench against the pipes as he crosses to the kitchen table. His robe slips open as he sits, and I’m treated to a silky expanse of thigh that he doesn’t seem in any rush to cover up.
Ahhh... Daniel’s got his own plan, it seems. Clever, Danny, very clever. But I’m the master strategist in this house, thank you very much.
I wait until Daniel’s halfway through his second cup and therefore awake enough to appreciate my next move, and then I quit dicking around with the wrench and tighten the loose fitting that was causing the leak.
“There!” I slide triumphantly out from under the sink and rise to my feet--gracefully, if I do say so myself. I’m wearing cutoffs and a ridiculously tight white tee shirt that I happen to know Daniel loves on me. Or rather, he loves taking it off of me. I was under there long enough to get satisfyingly sticky and sweaty, and the thinness of the tee combined with the moisture makes it damn near transparent.
Daniel nearly chokes on his sip of coffee.
“Uh... you, ah, you fixed it then?”
“Yep.” I give him a cocky grin. “Not bad for an old Colonel, huh?”
He smiles faintly, his eyes taking my measure. “No, no. Not bad at all.”
Oh, yeah. Ego’s doing just fine, here. Nothing like a hot young genius lusting after you to raise the old self-esteem. I can see the muscles in Daniel’s arms tensing, and he looks about two seconds away from launching himself off that chair and taking me right here on the kitchen floor. I try my best to look willing.
He’s leaning forward in his chair, his eyes glittering, his lips parted, and I think it’s really going to happen. I think he’s really going to make the first move this time. He even raises himself off the seat a fraction, but then he pauses and looks at me. I hold myself carefully still. Not shutting him out, not discouraging him in any way, but also not moving forward.
Daniel drops back into his seat and scowls at his coffee.
Damn. So close, and yet, so far.
I wait hopefully for another couple minutes, but he doesn’t even look up. His shoulders are hunched, his hands tight around his mug, and he keeps biting his lip. I stick my hands in my pockets again.
Willpower. I know I’ve got some somewhere.
“So, I was thinking I’d cut the grass,” I say when it becomes obvious he’s not going to try anything. Too bad--I don’t think we’ve actually done it on the kitchen floor. The table, yeah, but not the floor.
“Did you have anything planned for today?”
He gives me a long look. “Not really.”
Which means yes, he planned on spending the day in bed with me and he’s pissed that I’m not playing ball. Good--if he gets mad enough, he’ll take matters into his own hands.
“Okay then, I’ll go do that.”
He raises an eyebrow when I completely fail to move. I shrug self-consciously and head for the back door. By the time today is over, this house is going to be in perfect condition, and I’m going to have permanent blue balls.
When I come back in the house two hours later, having done the slowest, most thorough job of lawn manicuring ever, I find Daniel tapping busily away on his laptop. He’s showered and dressed--and I use the term loosely. Those have to be my jeans, because he doesn’t own anything that tight. Daniel’s legs are more thickly muscled than mine, his hips wider, and those things look painted on. I don’t know how he can take a deep breath, let alone sit down. He’s got on that sort of greeny-blue slinky shirt that Carter bought him and that he never wears because it makes him look like jail bait.
Despite not knowing what the game is or anything about the rules, he’s playing it very well. My Daniel always was a quick study.
I approach him from the side and his nose twitches. I smell of gasoline and sweat and freshly cut grass, and he smells of citrus shampoo and mint toothpaste. His hair is neatly combed, his glasses sitting perfectly on his face, his hands moving quickly and fluidly, his lips forming the words on the screen.
I see a bad porn movie here--Doctor Jackson does the gardener.
“Daniel,” I say pleasantly.
“Jack.” Oh, that was cold. Somebody’s a bit irritated with me.
Ouch. “It’s our day off.”
“You were working.”
“I was doing *chores.* Cutting the grass is the kind of thing you do on a Saturday. Writing reports is the kind of thing you do at work.”
Daniel fails to be impressed by my flawless logic. “What else was I supposed to do?”
Oh, now that was definitely a jab. I’m not paying attention to him and he’s not happy about it. That’s okay, Daniel, I know a trick worth two of that.
“Well, if you’re busy with that report, I guess I’ll just fix that drawer that’s been sticking.”
His typing falters and then stops. I start to walk away, but very slowly, giving him every opportunity to call me back and ravish me on the couch. Or the floor. Hell, I’d take the desk at this point.
I turn and raise an eyebrow. He’s facing me, his arms folded, worrying at his lip again. He looks down and fiddles with a few of the papers on his desk, and then looks up at me over the rims of his glasses.
He sighs. “Um... are you... did I... did I do something?”
I straighten my back and try to imagine nails holding me to the floor. I will not rush over there and reassure him just because he’s giving me that look. If I just give him what I think he needs all the time before he asks, he’ll never learn to speak up for himself.
“What do you mean?” Good, neutral voice. Eyes wide and guileless.
“I, uh... I’m not sure. You just seem...”
He wraps his arms around his middle again. “Nothing. Never mind.”
“Okay.” I turn and head for the kitchen again, as if I don’t notice the blatant ‘upset’ signals he’s sending out. I don’t know how he can possibly believe that I’m not aware of it. Nobody is that dense.
I pull a chair over in front of the sticky drawer and stare at it blankly for a long time, gritting my teeth. I will not go running back in there and hug the crap out of him. I won’t. No matter how much I want to. This is for Daniel’s own good, and it’s for the future of our relationship. See the big picture, O’Neill. Remember the plan.
I remember when the common name for me behind my back was ‘that cold-hearted bastard.’ So why is it killing me to know that I’m hurting him in order to help him?
I spent a while in the basement trying to get the general mess straightened a bit, and when I came back up, I found that Daniel had decided to copy me. He was just putting the finishing touches on a spotless, gleaming kitchen. The living room had been dusted as well, which I do whenever the dust gets thick enough to write in. Even the windows looked clean.
I stood in the doorway watching him for a while, and he pretended not to notice I was there. He did do rather a lot of unnecessary bending down where I could see it, though. I know what my plan was, but his plan seemed a bit confused. He wanted me to start something, and was trying to entice me with glimpses of bare thigh and that gorgeous outfit, and now with the image of those soft, worn jeans straining to contain his ass as he bent over. But since I seemed to be on a demented fixing things kick, he decided to try and do both at the same time. Look irresistible and work on the house simultaneously.
He takes his time straightening, lifting his arms in a long, lazy stretch. “Hey.”
I can’t help licking my lips, and his eyes sharpen when he sees it. Maybe I should give him a little nudge in the right direction. He ought to be ready to ask for what he wants by now--I know he’s getting frustrated and impatient. I’ll just give him a little encouragement.
“House looks great, Daniel, thanks.” He shrugs and gives me a little smile. “You look great too,” I add, letting my eyes trail over him appreciatively.
Daniel blinks and glances down at himself like he forgot. “Oh? I, ah... I do?”
Then I stand and just look at him, trying to invite him with my eyes. He’s watching me, frowning slightly, and he gets as far as lifting his hands the tiniest bit toward me, but then he loses his nerve. His arms wrap around his ribs again, and he sighs heavily.
He shakes his head quickly. “No, no, everything’s fine.” He pauses and gives me a cryptic look. “Did you have something else you needed to do now?” As in: ‘read between the lines, don’t you have *someone* else you needed to do now?’
“Actually, I did have something planned for the afternoon.”
He brightens visibly. “Oh? What is it?”
“I was probably going to get some groceries, run a few errands, pay the bills. All that stuff I’ve been letting slip.”
I can’t describe the look on Daniel’s face. It feels like I just kicked him in the guts. The light goes out of his eyes and his shoulders slump, and he just kind of stands there looking at me, still and quiet.
“I could put that stuff off, though, if you had plans,” I say. Come on, Daniel. Door’s wide open here, all you have to do is take that step. Come *on,* will you? It’s killing me to keep my hands off you when everything about you is begging to be touched.
“That’s okay,” he says dully. “You go ahead.”
I wait for a long moment, but he doesn’t seem inclined to come along. But of course, I didn’t invite him, and Daniel doesn’t invite himself anywhere.
“Okay.” I turn and head for the shower, his eyes burning holes in my back. I try to resist the urge to bang my head against the nearest wall. The plan is turning out to be harder than I thought.
I take my time with the errands. I figure Daniel was getting pretty irritated with me, and I need to give him some time to think. Give him a chance to miss me. With any luck, he’ll be ready to start something as soon as I get home. It might be a fight, but at least it’ll be something. Our fights have a tendency to segue into something more pleasant, anyway.
When I open the front door, weighted down with groceries, I scan the living room quickly, expecting to find him pacing, spoiling for a fight. But the living room is pristine, neat, clean, and empty.
Okay. So he’s sulking on the roof and he wants me to come find him. I can handle that. I get the groceries put away and then climb the stairs to the observation platform, already preparing my best charming smile. He can never stay mad at me very long.
Roof is empty too. I’m starting to get a bad feeling in my stomach.
Back in the house, I hunt around until I find the note on the fridge--Daniel’s scrawled handwriting. ‘Jack--I had some stuff to take care of at my place. See you at work on Monday.’
Okay. That’s not good. Usually it’s ‘the apartment,’ not his place, and more importantly, he doesn’t sleep there anymore. Not unless I’m with him.
This could be Daniel’s way of making me come after him--he has to know I’ll come after him, right? There’s no way I’m just going to let him stay away all weekend, especially not with the way I’ve been acting. I know he’s probably mad, but if I let this go, it’ll only make things worse.
Oh, Daniel. Why couldn’t you just come out and tell me to quit ignoring you? Just step up and ask for a little attention?
All right. Guess I’m going to his apartment. I’m not going to call it his ‘place,’ because it most certainly is not.
I decide knocking is overrated and use my key to get in. He’s on the couch, not reading or writing or watching TV, but just sitting. The room is dim, the lights off, the curtains drawn. He jumps, startled, when I open the door, and stands.
“Jack?” He’s genuinely surprised to see me. How is that even possible? How could he not know I’d be here?
“Hey. What’s going on, Daniel?”
He frowns and crosses his arms. “What do you mean?”
I cross to him, but catch myself before grabbing him. I can feel the muscles in my arms twitching. It’s almost physically painful to not touch him when he’s calling for help so loudly.
“What do I mean? I mean you sitting alone in your darkened apartment when you could be home with me. I mean you looking so damn unhappy. That’s what I mean. Now what’s going on?”
Daniel blinks at me, shaking his head slowly. “I thought... you were so busy, and I thought... maybe you wanted some space or something.”
“Some space?” I stare at him, but he seems perfectly serious. “Daniel... no, listen. I was just taking care of some things. That didn’t mean I wanted you to leave.”
“Oh,” he says in a small voice. “I, um... I thought maybe you were mad at me.”
“Why would I be mad at you?”
“I don’t know. It just seemed like... I mean, you wouldn’t...”
Come on, Daniel. Say it. Say that you’re upset because I wouldn’t touch you. Tell me what you want, and I’m there. You just need to say the words.
“I wouldn’t what?” I ask softly, trying to be as non-threatening as possible. It’s me, Daniel. You can do this.
His lower lip trembles and he bites it viciously, turning away. “Nothing. Never mind.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, his back turned. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.”
“What? You didn’t do anything!”
He takes another step away and then twists to look at me over his shoulder. I can see the over-bright shine of his eyes in the dim light. His hands are clutching convulsively at his arms, wrapped so tight around himself he can barely breathe.
“Oh for crying out loud,” I snap. That’s it--I can’t do this to him anymore. I need a new plan.
I grab him by the shoulders and spin him around to face me, and then I bring my hands up to his face, smoothing the lines there, wiping his cheeks. “Danny,” I say softly. “Don’t. Wasn’t your fault.” Then I do what I’ve been wanting to do all day, and pull him close. He hesitates for a couple seconds, and then his arms let go and re-close around me, returning the hug. He squeezes me so tight I worry for my ribs, but I’m not about to push him away.
“Jack.” His voice is cracking and I rub his back, shaking my head.
“Don’t. God, I’m sorry, Daniel. I didn’t think this would... I didn’t mean it like this. Shhh... you’re all right.”
He doesn’t reply, but he burrows further into the hollow of my shoulder and his hands almost claw at my back. I feel like he’s trying to climb inside me. His breathing is ragged, his chest hitching and jerking against mine, but he doesn’t make a sound.
I hold onto him until he settles a bit, his shaking easing off, his arms still tight around me but not desperately so. I’m stroking his hair, murmuring nonsense in his ear, and he keeps nodding and sniffling, his body slowly relaxing against mine.
“Okay?” I ask when he finally pulls back a few inches.
He nods, raising one arm to swipe across his face. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“Don’t you apologize,” I tell him sternly. “I’m the one that screwed up here. I just... I had a plan.”
Daniel raises his eyebrows. “A plan?”
“Um... yeah.” I dart my eyes sideways at him, suddenly embarrassed. “Come on. Let’s sit down.”
He follows willingly enough, but I notice he doesn’t let go of me for a second. I settle him on the couch, pulling him close in to my side, and he wiggles a little against me, sighing happily.
I lean back and close my eyes, idly running my fingers through his hair, and he doesn’t seem in any rush to stop me. I’m half asleep when he finally speaks.
“What was the plan?”
I press my lips into a tight line and sigh, ruffling his hair with my breath. “The plan was to get you to ask for what you wanted.”
I can’t see his face because of how we’re sitting, but I can feel his confused frown in the lines of his body. “To ask for what I wanted,” he echoes slowly.
“Yeah. You never start anything, Daniel. You never tell me what you need, so I was worried that you weren’t getting what you needed. I figured if I didn’t start anything, you’d eventually get fed up and initiate things on your own.”
He cocks his head to one side. “So you thought the way to get me to ask for some affection was to ignore me? To make me think you didn’t want to be around me, to be with me anymore? You thought that would help?”
“Well.” I think about that for a second. “It sounded better in my head.”
“Yes, it would pretty much have to,” he says dryly.
I squeeze him a little in retaliation, but he doesn’t seem to be very chastised, judging by the happy noise he makes as he squeezes back.
“Did you really think that?” I ask quietly. “That I didn’t want to be with you anymore?”
He nods against my chest. I press a kiss into his hair and he leans into it, lifting his face to be kissed again. I’m only too happy to oblige, wincing a little as I taste the salt still beneath his eyes.
“You don’t have anything to worry about,” I promise him. “I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t want you going anywhere, either. Hell, Daniel, this whole plan was for you. I wanted you to be able to ask for what you wanted.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t you get it, Jack? That’s what I love about being with you. I don’t *have* to ask. You always seem to know.”
Daniel laughs softly, a small sound that means a lot. “Yes, really. Besides, I do ask. I just don’t use words.”
Well, I guess that’s true. If he wants to be held, he wraps his arms around himself. If he wants to be kissed, he turns his face toward me and looks up expectantly. If he wants to make love, he looks at me through his lashes and then lets his eyes sweep me up and down.
“Oh,” I say weakly. Feeling kind of dumb, now.
He smiles and kisses me again, taking a little longer with it this time. I shiver and my hands find their way to his ass of their own volition. Been over a week, after all. I’m only human.
“Can you tell what I’m asking for now?” he murmurs, his voice low and rough.
“I think I’m getting the message...”
“Good,” he says. “But let me make sure I’m absolutely clear...”
He steals away my ability to speak, and sometime before I lose rational thought altogether, I decide I like his plan better.
March 10-11, 2004
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