Pavlov By Kalimyre
“Well, this is a cliché,” Jack said, peering up at the blank white ceiling, his hands patting across his chest for a weapon that was no longer there.
Daniel turned from his examination of the plates of food laid out at one end of the room. He followed Jack’s gaze to the featureless walls and a small line appeared between his eyebrows. “It is?”
“Well, yeah.” Jack waved, as if his meaning should be obvious. “Here we are, trapped in a little room, all our gear gone and no way out. Haven’t we done this, oh, a few hundred timed already?” He leaned forward slightly, tilting his head to one side, fixing Daniel with an irritated stare.
“Sam and Teal’c will get us out,” Daniel said absently, already studying the food again. “I think these plates are laid out in some kind of pattern. It’s almost familiar.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. His voice was deliberately calm. “Daniel? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider your priorities. We’re prisoners and you’re talking about china patterns?”
“I wasn’t--” Daniel stopped, recognized Jack’s baiting for what it was, and rolled his eyes. “Right,” he said. “I’ll just wail and pull my hair and bang on the walls for a while. I’m sure that’ll help.”
Jack considered coming up with another sarcastic response, but Daniel would only match him at every step and he was bored with the game. Maybe later, he thought. When staring at the wall lost its limited charm. “Not wailing,” he said instead, sauntering over beside Daniel. “Did you hear me wailing?”
“Hmm,” Daniel said, which bugged the crap out of Jack. It was one step above outright dismissal. Sometimes he thought that Daniel had never really come back from being a glowy light thing. His head was still in the clouds. But then, it always had been.
“What’ve we got?” Jack asked, considering the food. It was, at least, more interesting than the slick, white, not-quite-plastic of every surface in the room.
Daniel slid his eyes sideways to Jack, and his lips twitched. “Food,” he said.
“How do you know?” Jack countered. “Have you tasted it? Maybe it’s fake. Hell, maybe it’s decoration.”
“Our hosts don’t seem to be too big on decoration.”
Jack nodded, grimacing at the stark, angular room. Even the food looked plain and boring. A shelf protruded seamlessly from the wall, and on it were several white circles, which couldn’t really be called plates because they were perfectly flat discs. Jack pushed at one and found it locked in place, not just on the shelf, but part of it.
The food looked innocuous enough, dried meat and largish square chunks of flat bread, along with some vaguely carroty vegetables and something round and red that Jack assumed was fruit. It looked like a dietician’s idea of a healthy balance. Jack hoped they wouldn’t be here long enough to need to eat it.
“At least we won’t go hungry,” Daniel offered, casting another sidelong glance at Jack’s sour expression.
Jack grunted and considered the non-plates for a moment longer. He didn’t see any pattern. He suspected that Daniel was trying to see a pattern because there was nothing else even remotely interesting to look at. “Can’t say I think much of the facilities,” Jack said, tilting his head toward the other end of the room.
Daniel walked over, falling into his surveying habit and counting his paces, coming up with fifteen. The room felt small, stifling, the walls uncomfortably close. He wondered where the clean air was coming from, since as far as he could see, there were no vents or gaps anywhere.
“There’s water,” Daniel said. He was trying to find a bright side.
“I’m not big on drinking from the toilet,” Jack replied. He wasn’t helping Daniel find the bright side.
Daniel’s mouth turned down at the image Jack just created for him, and he wrinkled his nose. “Jack,” he said, short and irritated.
Shrugging, Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets and shut up. He decided that his displeasure at the situation was now sufficiently clear and it was time to quit whining and do something about it. “Water looks clean,” he said, and he began to scan the room for anything that could be used to store the water, just in case it stopped running down the wall in that steady stream.
“Hmm,” Daniel said, tilting his head back and appraising the water system. “This design is actually quite ingenious. Everything we need for survival and relative comfort in a very compact space.” The water came from a point high up on the wall and poured down in a smooth, constant column. It was caught in a basin at chest level, and gathered there in a pool, then drained from the bottom of the basin in another stream, flat and wide against the wall, to splash in a bigger bowl. The lower bowl was thick, with a rim broad enough to sit on, and the water inside whirled away constantly, disappearing into the floor.
Jack shook his head and grimaced at the thought of taking a crap with Daniel in the same room. “What, no toilet paper?” he muttered.
“Whoever built this place must be at least humanoid, if not completely human,” Daniel continued as if Jack had said nothing. “Either that or they have a working knowledge of human physiology. There’s even...” He paused and dabbed a finger into the little bowl beside the upper basin. It was a semicircle, half buried in the wall, containing some sort of cream. Jack peered at the cream and was wholly unsurprised to find that it was white.
“Haven’t we had a discussion about you touching things?” he asked, narrowing his eyes as Daniel lifted a fingertip of the cream to his face and sniffed. When Daniel didn’t acknowledge this, Jack sighed and said, “So? What does it smell like?”
“Nothing.” Daniel dipped his hands into the water and rubbed the cream between them. It lathered obediently and he smiled. “It’s soap. I thought so.”
Jack was liking this less and less. Everything about this place said that it wasn’t a temporary waiting room. The cell was designed to keep them alive indefinitely, and that was always a bad sign.
“Any thoughts about how we’re going to got out of here?” Jack asked, crossing over to the food again. He picked up a piece of dried meat, sniffed it, found that it smelled as bland as it looked, and put it back down.
“I’m still not entirely clear on how we got in here.”
Jack winced slightly, his lips tightening into a rueful little smile. He had so been hoping Daniel knew something he didn’t. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“We came through the gate,” Daniel said. “I was going to check out the DHD, you were saying something to Sam, and then I woke up here.”
“Yeah,” Jack replied. “That’s about how I remember it.”
“Were we drugged?”
Jack shrugged and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “I don’t feel drugged.” And considering how often he’d been drugged, he ought to know.
Daniel nodded and pursed his lips as he stared at the floor, his eyebrows drawn together, his fingers tapping against the sides of his legs. “Do you have anything but your clothes? Anything in your pockets?”
“Nope.” Jack rocked back on his heels, and then forward again, patting his shirt pockets as if he might have missed something the last three times he checked. “I hate when this happens.”
“They even took my watch,” Daniel said, frowning. “But not my glasses. Why is that?”
Jack shook his head, throwing his hands into the air briefly. “Hell if I know. They took my dog tags. What was up with that?”
Jack considered the possible weapon construction properties of bootlaces and broken glass, decided that Carter could probably came up with something, then gave it up as moot when he realized that Daniel would not give up his glasses unless he could provide a damn good reason.
“Sam and Teal’c will find us,” Daniel said, then remembered he already said that. Its reassurance value didn’t seem to grow with repetition.
“What if they’re in another room just like this one?”
“Then General Hammond will send another team to find us when we don’t report in,” Daniel replied doggedly.
“And when they got treated to the same little white box as the rest of us?”
Daniel folded his arms and glared at Jack, who had the grace to look slightly apologetic. “Maybe instead of pointless sarcasm, you could try to focus on what we’re going to do?” Daniel asked. Each word came out crisp and sharply enunciated.
Jack shrugged and perused the food selection again. “We should ration this,” he said in his best conciliatory tone. It wasn’t very good, but Jack figured he deserved points for effort, at least.
“You think they won’t give us more when we use that up?”
“How do I know?”
Daniel frowned and said nothing. He was used to manipulating information, drawing conclusions from all the facts at hand, creating the big picture from the small details. But this place didn’t have small details. There was no writing, no decoration, no sound or color or anything to indicate why they were there. Every surface in the room was joined to every other surface, as if it was all carved from a single piece of stone, only it wasn’t stone.
He walked to one wall and pressed his hand against it, then rapped it with his knuckles. It was perfectly smooth, and a little bit slick, like glass, but it didn’t produce the sound that glass made. It seemed to suck all the sound from the room. Daniel pressed his cheek against the wall and sighted along it, looking for any irregularity that might mean something, but there wasn’t even a ripple in the surface. His fingertips glided easily over the wall, and he kept coming back to that one word. Slick. Everything was slick. Not wet, or slippery, but still somehow unpleasant. He rubbed his fingertips together and imagined that he had picked up some residue from the wall, but he had not.
Jack watched this, bemused, tolerant. He had a deep rooted certainty that Daniel would fix this, somehow. He would pull the answer out of his ass in some way that was baffling to Jack. He had seen Daniel do this so many times that it had become routine, so he waited, and watched, and hoped they got out of here in time to still got the weekend off.
Daniel began to circle the room, sliding his palms along the wall, a little frown creasing his forehead, and Jack turned to keep him in sight. Soon, he thought, Daniel would call out that he found it, and he would push something and turn something else and a door would appear. That was what Daniel did.
But Daniel didn’t call out. He circled the room three times, and just when Jack was getting dizzy watching him, he stopped and kicked a wall. His foot bounced off harmlessly and he winced, half crouching as if to rub his sore toes, and then straightening. He cast a slightly embarrassed look over his shoulder.
“Nice,” Jack said, lifting his eyebrows. “Feel better?”
“There’s nothing here, Jack. I’ve got nothing to work with.” That, more than the captivity itself, seemed to piss Daniel off.
“Could be worse,” Jack told him, and Daniel nodded. Because yes, it could be worse. They had food and water, the room was, if not exactly comfortable, at least livable, and they weren’t hurt. No one had come to make threats or drag them off to be beaten, and that was very good. But the incessant whiteness was giving Daniel a headache, and he focused on Jack, who wasn’t flat and white and empty, but real and solid and alive. Daniel thought that after all the white, the dark, rich brown of Jack’s eyes was oddly soothing.
When Jack shifted uncomfortably and looked away, Daniel realized he was staring. He blinked and looked up at the ceiling again. The walls gave him nothing, but he wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“I wonder where the light is coming from?” Daniel said, craning his head back to try and look at the entire ceiling all at once. It was high, by most human standards, and it wasn’t until he turned to take in the entire room that he understood. The ceiling was as high as the walls were long, and the floor was wide. They were in a cube, and Daniel was willing to bet that it was a perfect cube. It seemed to fit in with the hollow precision of the place.
“The walls?” Jack guessed. He waved his hand close to one of the walls, but it cast no shadow. And now that he was thinking about it, he saw the room had no shadows at all. The diffuse light was everywhere, not too bright and not too dim. Just as the room was not too hot and not too cold. Jack suddenly thought of Goldilocks and despite the situation, the corner of his mouth curled upward. He would have to mention it to Daniel later, when he ran out of more clever things to say.
Across from him, Daniel was performing the same shadow check and coming up just as empty. “How about this?” Daniel asked, turning back to Jack. “Where, exactly, are we? The UAV didn’t show any structures.”
Jack shook his head, because the question was pointless. “You know everything I d, Daniel. Maybe we’re out of the range of the UAV. Maybe we were taken through the gate. Maybe this place was camouflaged. Maybe we’re underground. It doesn’t matter where we are; what matters is how we get out.”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Daniel argued. “The more information we have, the better chance we have at solving the problem.”
“And why do you think I have information you don’t? I wasn’t exactly consulted about this.”
Daniel opened his mouth and then shut it again, biting back his first response. He told himself that Jack really hated being held prisoner, being helpless, having his team cut in half. Daniel could be patient.
So Daniel said nothing, and that turned out to be the most effective rebuke, because Jack dropped his gaze and muttered, “This is turning into a bad day.” Which, for Jack, was an apology.
Before Daniel could come up with a suitable reply, the lights started.
Jack and Daniel drew closer together in the center of the room, back to back, searching for the source of the lights. They seemed to be in the walls themselves, random colors, blinking across the walls in a grid. Instead of blank whiteness, every slick plastic-stone surface in the room was covered in a checkerboard of color. The plates, the sink basin, even the toilet bowl all carried the pattern. Basic colors, all of them, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, violet. There was no brown, no gray, no pink or any kind of dark color. No blurring or mixing or gradations of color.
Daniel approached the wall first and reached out, pressing his palms against a couple squares of color. Each one was roughly twice the width of his palm. They were all blinking on and off in a regular pattern, and he watched it until he could pin it down. All the red squares would blink, then the blue, the yellow, and so on. While one color was blinking, the others remained constant. Daniel was sure it meant something. Sure that if he could just press the right colors in the right order, he could accomplish something. He whipped his head around quickly, trying to find the pattern, tapping his fingers against the wall.
“Do you hear that?” Jack asked, and Daniel raised a hand to him, waving his finger. His head was down, cocked to one side, his eyes flicking back and forth. Searching for the answer that he was sure was there.
Jack began to circle the room, listening hard, but he couldn’t find the source of the sound. It was very faint, and seemed to come from everywhere. To his side, Daniel was muttering, and Jack wanted to shush him but knew it wouldn’t do any good. Daniel was somewhere inside his head, making connections, and Jack decided to let the man work. He still carried the certainty that Daniel would solve the puzzle. He knew it was irrational, that Daniel wasn’t infallible, but he believed it anyway.
The sound was getting louder, and Jack stopped searching for the source. It was equally loud no matter where he stood. His stillness seemed to distract Daniel in a way that his pacing did not, and Daniel stopped muttering.
“What’s that noise?” he asked.
Jack shrugged and waved one hand in authoritative circles. “It’s sort of a ticky, clicky, tappy sound.”
Daniel stared at him. He was having one of the moments that he often had around Jack, when he wasn’t quite sure if Jack was yanking his chain. But Jack looked perfectly serious, and Daniel had to admit his assessment of the sound was accurate. “It’s like a hundred people fiddling with ballpoint pens,” he said, and Jack blinked at him. Daniel felt obscurely smug that he managed to give Jack pause.
“I was thinking about a pack of dogs walking across a hard floor.” Jack took in Daniel’s look and waved an arm impatiently. “You know. The claws clicking on the floor.”
“Because it’s a ticky, clicky, tappy sound,” Daniel said, deadpan.
Jack gave him a deeply suspicious stare. “Yeah.”
“Ah,” Daniel said, and focused on the sound. He was getting nowhere with the colors, and besides, he was far more comfortable with a spoken language than some strange color code.
Wishing that he still had his watch, Jack squeezed his eyes shut for a long moment and wondered how long the colors had been on. He was beginning to miss the whiteness. At least it was calmer. When he opened his eyes again, he found himself looking at Daniel. Or, to be more accurate, Daniel’s back. Daniel’s head was tilted up, and Jack could see his profile, his closed eyes, and his faintly moving lips. Daniel was listening. His hair brushed his collar and Jack wanted to fix it. To smooth down the bits that were sticking up. His hand was actually half raised when he realized what he was doing and dropped it.
Jack took two steps back and scowled at the lights. They were obviously messing with his head. The sound was pervasive, not loud, but impossible to ignore. He could close his eyes, but he couldn’t shut out the sound. He had the sense that it was drilling into him, and he brought one hand to the bridge of his nose, expecting a headache. But his head was fine; the ache, when it came, was where he didn’t expect it. Low in his belly, heavy, familiar, sweet. Jack shifted and took a deep breath, willing the ache to die down. He had excellent self discipline. He had always been able to control his body with great skill.
This time, however, his strong will got him nowhere. The ache persisted, and Jack began to hear a rhythm to the sound, a beat that seemed to match the low throb cycling deep in his belly. He opened his eyes in time to see Daniel, still listening intently, shift his weight from one foot to another and rub a fist into his gut, just above his groin. Jack closed his eyes again.
The lights, he told himself. Or the sounds. Or both. Maybe neither, maybe some kind of invisible gas in the room. Some alien energy rays. If it was just him, he could discount it as a strange, stress related hormone spike, but it was Daniel too, at the same time, and that was no coincidence.
Jack allowed his eyelids to slit open, and regarded Daniel again. Daniel’s face looked slightly pink, but it was hard to tell, with all the colors behind him. His expression was still calm, concentrated, and thoughtful. One finger was tapping at his lips. Jack found himself staring at where Daniel was touching his mouth and he quickly looked away.
Daniel probably doesn’t even notice, he thought. Daniel was so deep into figuring this out that nothing short of an aerial attack would get his attention. Jack, unfortunately, didn’t have the luxury of distraction. He had nothing to think about but what was happening.
Prickling heat started to creep along the skin of his thighs, and when he shifted again, he grunted very quietly as the material of his pants slid over his groin. Jack risked a glance down, and was relieved to see that he wasn’t obvious. Yet.
Jack cleared his throat, opened his mouth, and then shut it again. What was he going to say? ‘Oh, hey, Daniel, any luck figuring out the deal with the lights and noise? And by the way, are you suddenly horny as hell for no reason or is that just me?’
Yeah. That would go well.
Besides, he didn’t need to ask. He could see that Daniel kept shifting, that he was now biting his lip, that his chest was rising and falling in a series of deep, controlled breaths. Daniel felt it, alright. But Daniel didn’t seem aware of his own body, and, of higher priority to Jack, Daniel didn’t seem aware of Jack’s body.
Jack couldn’t count on Daniel being oblivious forever. And even if he could, he wouldn’t be able to ignore his own condition much longer. Jack gathered the material of his uniform jacket in one hand and squeezed it, then tugged at it a few times. He tilted his head back, stared at the ceiling, and blew a hard stream of air through tight lips. He thumped a fist lightly against the wall behind him. He wanted to hit harder, but it wouldn’t do to catch Daniel’s attention. Wouldn’t do at all.
As the pressure increased, Jack wondered if he even had a choice. Because if this kept up, he was going to come in his pants without once having touched himself, something which had not happened since he was fifteen and found a porn tape belonging to his older brother.
Then the lights stopped, all at once, and the walls were white again. The noise didn’t fade, but rather cut off abruptly, and the sudden silence was stunning. Jack blinked and rubbed his eyes, the colored squares still visible as vague blobs on the insides of his eyelids, but fading fast. The internal pressure was fading too, and he slumped against the wall, a lungful of air whooshing out of him.
“Dammit,” Daniel growled. “I didn’t have time to distinguish any of the separate sounds.”
“It’s noise,” Jack replied, wondering if his face was as pink as Daniel’s.
Daniel wasn’t quite looking at him. “It might be more than that. The design of this room seems to suggest a very precision oriented society. Everything is so stark and clean and... and mechanical. Maybe we’re dealing with artificial intelligence. That clicking sound could be a kind of computer language.”
“And you’re going to try and talk to it?”
“It’s all I have to work with,” Daniel said, shrugging. He was still looking around the room, only meeting Jack’s gaze for a moment, and then slipping away again. Jack began to wonder if Daniel was quite as oblivious as he thought.
Well. Better not to dwell. It happened, it was weird, but it was over now and with any luck, it wouldn’t happen again.
Daniel was tapping his short, blunt fingernails against one wall, trying to imitate the pattern that he’d heard, but already his memory of the sounds was fading. He thought about the colors, flashing in their steady way, one each second, like a visual clock. His mind jumped on that idea, turned it from side to side, poked at it, and filed it away for future consideration.
Maybe if he followed the pattern, touched each color just as it flashed. That wouldn’t be too hard. Or maybe the opposite colors should be touched. Green as red flashed, blue as orange flashed, and so on. Or he could follow the colors, one step behind. Or ahead? Maybe it was a test of logical reasoning. If he could predict where the colors would be...
“Earth to Daniel,” Jack said, gnawing on one of the fruits. “Come in, Daniel.”
Daniel held up a finger without turning around. He took off his glasses and tapped the frame against the wall, but it didn’t produce the sound he wanted. The noise from before was clear and crisp and defined, but his glasses made only a muffled, flat tap. The colors offered too many possibilities, none of which he could try until they came back. If they came back. The sounds were too unlike any language he knew to stay in his mind, and he couldn’t reproduce them anyway.
Daniel, well aware that Jack expected him to figure this out, put his glasses back on and tried not to glare. He could be resentful that Jack wasn’t even trying to figure this out, that all the responsibility rested with him, but that would be pointless.
“Dan-iel,” Jack called again, injecting several extra syllables into the name.
“What?” Daniel snapped. He caught his arms folded and deliberately dropped them to his sides. “What, Jack?” Softer this time.
Jack regarded him steadily. “Come here,” he said. “Eat something. My stomach says it’s lunchtime.”
“Mine doesn’t,” Daniel replied, a frustrated frown still creasing his forehead.
“Come on. We’ve got...” Jack held up one of the root vegetables and shook it enticingly, “...these things. Mmm, space carrots.”
Daniel told himself to quit acting like a petulant child. “Okay,” he said, taking the pale orange tuber and sniffing it skeptically before taking a small bite. To his surprise, the taste was light and a little sweet, and the flesh was softer than he expected. “Not bad. How’s the fruit?”
Jack licked his lips and said, “Fruity.”
Daniel blinked, coughed a little, and sat against one wall, taking a piece of bread and a couple strips of meat with him. Jack followed suit, and they shared a quiet meal, staring at the blank wall across from them and chewing methodically. They were not touching, but they were close enough for Daniel to be aware of Jack as a heat source, and he thought how much more depressing this place would be if he were alone.
“So,” Daniel said when he had finished eating, “what did you think?”
“Boring, but edible,” Jack replied, licking fruit juice from his fingers.
“I was talking about the lights.”
Jack paused, a fingertip still in his mouth, and then he withdrew it quickly. “Right,” he said. “Very... colorful.” He pulled one knee up, found an errant thread along the seam of his uniform pants, and picked at it.
“Ye-es.” Daniel drew the word out in a way that clearly said ‘thank you, Captain Obvious.’ “Anything besides that?”
“The colors were square?”
At Daniel’s impatient huff of breath, Jack lifted his hands in the air. “Look, Daniel, what do you want from me?” he asked, irritation coloring his voice. “I saw colors. Square, flashing colors. And I heard the noise, which I think we’ve discussed quite enough. Tappy. Clicky. We covered it.”
Daniel nodded slowly, his gaze focused on the toe of Jack’s left boot. He could see dirt ingrained in the seam between the sole and the leather. He wondered how many different worlds Jack had on his boots. “So you didn’t notice anything else?” He thought about boots while he asked this, and succeeded in keeping his voice calm and steady.
There was a long pause, during which Daniel did not look up, and that alone was enough to tell Jack exactly what Daniel was referring to.
“No,” he said flatly. “Nothing else.”
“Yes, Daniel, really.”
Daniel nodded and rose to his feet. He cupped his hand high in the water stream and drank from his palm, water slopping down his chin and dampening his shirt collar. “Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t notice anything either.”
Daniel was almost asleep when the lights started again. Jack, who had fallen asleep easily despite the hard floor and constant brightness, woke and rose immediately to his feet. His hands dropped down for a weapon that wasn’t there before his conscious mind caught up with his instincts.
Daniel dragged himself up more slowly, rubbing at his hip, which was sore from his efforts to find a comfortable position. He pushed away his irritation at the interruption of near-sleep and focused on the colors.
Jack leaned against one wall and listened carefully, making a halfhearted attempt to match the sound by tapping his fingers on the wall. The sound was too erratic to predict, and besides, he thought it didn’t mean anything. Jack’s gut told him that the lights and noises were just a distraction, a false lead that would divert their attention from the real way out.
Daniel tried different color combinations, moving with the steady flashing and pressing his hands against the squares. Jack watched him work, and his experience with the way Daniel thought was enough for him to predict what Daniel would try next. When Daniel brought up both hands and started hitting two reds, then two yellows, and so on, Jack smiled and gave himself a mental pat on the back. I’ve got your number, he thought, but he also knew Daniel well enough to know that he was only guessing, grasping at straws. Daniel had no idea how to get them out.
It looked as if Jack would have to bite the bullet and talk to Daniel about the other effect of the lights. Because that was starting again too, and he could see Daniel noticing and pretending not to. They couldn’t ignore something that was potentially important, couldn’t avoid it when it might be the reason they were here. Daniel could talk all he wanted about how they’d be rescued, but they both knew that sitting around and waiting to be sprung free was a bad plan.
Pressing the colored squares was getting Daniel nowhere, and he braced his arms against the wall, dropping his head down and taking several deep breaths. He had always considered the requirements of his body to be secondary to whatever his mind was working on, but this wasn’t the same as ignoring the need to eat or sleep. He wasn’t ready to concede the battle, though, and he began to rap his knuckles against the shelf with the food on it, trying to match the pattern of noise.
“I tried that,” Jack said. His hands were deep in his pockets. Daniel refused to give too much thought as to what those hands were doing there.
“I don’t knew what else to do,” Daniel replied shortly. He could hear the strain in his voice, and he met Jack’s gaze for a long moment. It was obvious they both had the same problem. Daniel told himself there was no reason to be embarrassed--they were suffering the effects of alien technology and couldn’t be blamed for natural, physical reactions.
Jack cleared his throat and a muscle in his jaw twitched. He shifted all his weight from one leg to the other, and back again. Daniel’s fingers were tapping nervously against the shelf behind him, and he deliberately made them still, grasping the blunt edge in both hands and holding it tight.
“So, it’s doing the same thing to both of us,” Daniel said, the words coming out in a rush. “Possibly as a kind of laboratory experiment? That’s something I hadn’t considered. We could be exposed to various stimuli in an effort to understand our physiology and capacity for reasoning. Maybe there is no specific way to touch the colors to garner a result, but the mere fact that we were attempting to find a logical solution was giving them information. In this case, the answer doesn’t matter so much as the method we use to reach that answer--”
Jack slipped in when Daniel paused for breath with the ease of long practice. “Daniel.”
Daniel blinked at him. “What?”
Another blink, slower, more deliberate. “Right. So. Do you have any theories?”
“No,” Jack said, drawing the word out and raising his eyebrows. “I think someone is messing with our heads.”
Daniel dropped his eyes below Jack’s belt automatically, and then jerked them back up. “Yes,” he said, “literally and figuratively.”
Jack tightened his jaw enough to make his teeth hurt and fought the urge to cover his groin with his hands. “Funny, Daniel.”
Pulling his glasses off, Daniel rubbed a damp palm over his face and scrubbed at his mouth with his fingertips. “The more I think about it, the more a laboratory seems right. We’ve been captured as... specimens, I guess, and are now being tested.”
“So how do we pass the test?” Because Jack would really, really like to get out of there. An exit to any place that he could have five minutes of privacy would be just fine.
Daniel shook his head and tugged at the bottom of his jacket, pulling it away from his body. “That’s not how it works. There are no ‘correct’ responses.”
“How do you know that? Maybe they’re waiting for us to do what... what they’re making us want to do, and if we play along, we get out.”
“And maybe it’s a test of willpower, and if we wait, we get out,” Daniel countered. “Or maybe we were captured by an automated system and no one is watching us at all. Or maybe no matter how we respond, we stay trapped. I don’t know, Jack!” His voice climbed to a near shout at the end and he closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together.
Jack began to kick the wall behind him, the rubber heel of his boot almost silent against the alien material. “So, what? You want to ignore it?”
“The lights stopped after a few minutes last time,” Daniel said, uncomfortably aware that his voice had risen at least half an octave.
Jack took an exaggerated glance around the room. “Not stopping,” he pointed out.
Daniel glared across the room and then began to undo the buttons of his jacket, muttering dark imprecations under his breath. Jack’s eyes widened, and he tried to take a step back, but was blocked by the wall.
“Daniel? What’re you doing?”
“I’m hot,” Daniel snapped.
Daniel pulled the jacket off, leaving his brown tee, which was visibly damp down the center of his chest. He stared at Jack. “What?”
Jack blinked and swallowed, then shook himself. “What? Nothing.”
Pausing, Daniel tilted his head to one side and frowned. “I wasn’t going to...”
“I was just--”
“Hot,” Jack finished for him. “Right. I got that.”
Daniel started to pace, winced, hunched over slightly, and went back to standing still. One hand clutched the food shelf; the other gripped the back of his neck. He began counting his breaths, five seconds in, and five out. He timed himself with the rhythmic flashing lights and made a concerted effort to slow his racing heartbeat. He could feel it in the soles of his feet.
“Would you stop that?” Jack said in a strangled voice.
Daniel stared at him, deep furrows appearing between his eyebrows, his mouth half open. He brought his jaw up with a snap when he realized Jack was staring. “I’ll just hold my breath.”
“Snippiness,” Jack said in a low, raspy voice, and Daniel shivered.
“I won’t look,” Daniel blurted out.
“Excuse me?” Jack looked confused, but Daniel had been his friend long enough to knew the difference between real confusion and playing dumb.
“If you want to...” Daniel made a hand gesture that no one could possibly misunderstand. “I won’t look.”
Jack nodded once. “Ah. That. Are you going to...?”
“No. I can handle it.” Daniel closed his eyes for a moment as he heard his words and held up a hand, stilling Jack’s open mouth. “Don’t,” he said. “You know what I mean.”
Jack seriously considered taking Daniel up on his offer. The tapping, clicking noise was loud enough to cover any low sounds, and he was adept at being quiet. It would be fast. He shifted, winced, and amended to himself: very fast. He could aim for the toilet, no muss, no fuss, and he’d feel much better.
But Daniel wasn’t going to do it. Daniel could hold out. Jack examined the idea of jerking off in the same room as Daniel, caving under the pressure, while Daniel himself looked the other way and stayed firm. Literally.
Nope. Not going to happen.
But maybe he could convince Daniel to do it too. If they both did it, it was alright, and he wanted to. He really wanted to. Jack opened his mouth, but failed to deliver a compelling argument. His brain had gone on strike. It was refusing to cooperate until it started receiving its rightful share of the blood volume in his body again.
Daniel tilted his head back, unable to prevent a low whine deep in his throat. He was about to swallow his pride and yell at Jack to get on with it already, so he could have his turn, when the lights stopped.
Jack slumped against his wall, which he was growing rather fond of, and patted the slick whiteness. “Well, that was fun,” he muttered. “Let’s do that again real soon.”
“Let’s not,” Daniel said. His eyes were still closed, a patchy, hectic flush high on his cheekbones. The low, throbbing ache was receding, but not particularly fast. He found himself wishing he had capitulated and just gotten it over with. Maybe next time, he thought, and the idea wasn’t entirely unpleasant.
Jack stepped over to the sink basin and wondered if dipping his head into the steady flow of water would be too obvious. They had already found the water to be very cold, and entirely tasteless, in an airy, crisp sort of way. He thought it would feel fantastic on his overheated skin, particularly his neck and ears, which felt like they must be bright red. He glanced over at Daniel and took some comfort from the fact that he couldn’t possibly be that red.
Jack settled on washing his hands and face, doing it fast and sloppy enough to got a rather large amount of the icy water on his shirt. He could feel his skin prickling into goose bumps, the shiver coursing down his back and seizing his balls, which were already high and tight against his body. Jack braced his arms against the basin and shook himself like a dog, water flying from his hair, leaving it spiked and messy.
Watching him through half-lidded eyes, Daniel waited until Jack had wandered over to the food with forced nonchalance, and then he followed Jack’s example with the water. Scooping up a double handful, he dumped it over his head, and then sucked in a quick breath, making a high squeak in his throat. “Damn, that’s cold,” he gasped. Across the room, Jack chuckled, and offered a slightly embarrassed grin.
“Yeah,” he said. “Feels good, huh?”
Daniel nodded and joined Jack in examining the food. “So,” he said. “Breakfast?”
Jack thought that if Daniel didn’t stop pacing soon, he was going to shoot him. Or not, he amended, when he remembered he didn’t have a gun. Maybe he’d drown Daniel in the sink. But that wouldn’t work either, because Daniel was too strong and fought too dirty to be held under the water long enough. And besides, Jack didn’t really want to kill him. He just wanted Daniel to stop with the fucking pacing.
Daniel was trying to put it all together. There was some big picture here that he wasn’t seeing. He was sure of it. He could see the outlines of it, out of the corner of his eye, and it was there, he knew it, if he could just...
Taking two more steps before Jack’s voice registered, Daniel slowed, then stopped, turning distracted eyes toward his cellmate. “What?”
“Could you, oh, I don’t know, maybe sit still for five damn minutes?”
Daniel blinked, and then his eyes narrowed. He’d been all but beating his head against the wall trying to figure this out, he hadn’t slept in god knew how long, and Jack had been doing nothing but nibbling at the food and complaining about how boring it was. “I’m sorry if my attempts to get us out of here are interrupting your whining,” he said, in his sweet little fuck-you tone. The one he reserved for Goa’ulds and politicians.
Jack didn’t do the decent thing and take offense, didn’t offer an argument that Daniel could really sink his teeth into. Instead, he asked mildly, “Have you considered taking a break?”
Daniel opened his mouth to deliver his standard line, that he was fine, and then he saw Jack’s expression. A sort of fond exasperation, a face that said he knew exactly what Daniel would say, and suddenly Daniel was fed up with the pointlessness of it. This dance was old, and familiar, and he was tired and would just as soon skip it. He supposed that making Jack cajole him into resting was rather immature, anyway. He was an adult, and he should know his own limits. He was aware that he needed to calm down, to eat and sleep and quit going around in circles. Jack shouldn’t have to be the one to tell him this.
So Daniel didn’t argue. His irritation ran out of him in a rush, and he allowed his body to slide down one wall, ending up cross-legged on the floor. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “Guess I could use a break.”
Jack beamed at him, and it was so easy, to please Jack. Jack was so uncomplicated, and Daniel loved that, the way he could just sort of stop thinking for a while where Jack was concerned. All he had to do was take relatively good care of himself, not got himself killed on missions, and occasionally share a pizza with Jack over some chess or hockey, and that was enough. Jack was safe, comfortable, and familiar, and Daniel thought again how terrible this place would be if his friend wasn’t here.
“Here.” Jack reached over his head and grabbed one of the little red fruits, which had purple-red flesh on the inside and a small pit, like a plum, but tasted more like an orange. He tossed it to Daniel. It was the last fruit on the plate, and because Jack and Daniel were both sitting with their heads below the level of the food shelf, they didn’t see the plate refill itself. They did, however, heard the small humming noise, startling in a place that was absolutely silent but for their breathing.
Their eyes met, Daniel with his mouth open and the fruit halfway to it and Jack wiping his fingers on his jacket. They both stood and look at the plate, which once again had ten small red fruits on it. This was the same number they had started with--Jack had counted them all when he decided how the food would be rationed. Every plate started with ten of its type. To Daniel, that meant speculation about the race that was holding them, how they might use base ten math, how that related to the sounds and colors and how he could tie it together. To Jack, it meant ten small meals.
“Huh,” Jack said, poking at one of the fruits. He hadn’t quite allowed himself to hope for something like this, but he was very glad to see it. The food wouldn’t have lasted very long otherwise.
Daniel picked up the last piece of bread from its plate, and a few seconds later, they heard the hum again. There was a brief shimmer of light, barely visible in all the white, and then more bread appeared. Ten pieces, neatly stacked.
“Someone’s watching us,” Daniel said.
“Or it’s an automated system,” Jack replied. He didn’t like to discourage Daniel, but somebody had to stay grounded in reality.
Shrugging, Daniel wrapped the last two pieces of meat in his bread slice and took a bite. They watched as the meat plate refilled itself. Jack pushed the last few tubers off their plate, leaving them on the shelf, and that plate refilled as well. They could stockpile a large amount of food very fast in this manner, he thought, but they also had no way of preserving the food. Jack decided to compromise by keeping a small amount in reserve, and relying on the food supply to stay constant.
Now that there was no need to ration, they both enjoyed their first full meal since they had arrived in the cell. There was no way to tell time, but if hunger was a reliable gauge, they’d been here about two days. Daniel wondered if that meant the lights came on once a day. Or if they came on at different intervals. He was trying to think of a way to determine how much time elapsed between episodes when the problem was taken out of his hands. The lights were starting again.
Jack immediately stepped away, moving to a corner near the sink and toilet. The low, vaguely sweet pressure which had never fully disappeared since the last time was already cycling up with a disconcerting speed. Jack estimated that the lights lasted for about ten minutes each time. It didn’t sound like long, but he was pretty sure it would be too long to wait.
Daniel swallowed his last bite of bread in a mouth that had suddenly gone dry. He could see Jack eyeing the facilities, and he licked his lips, his fists clenching tight enough for his fingernails to hurt his palms. He tightened them further, but the small pain wasn’t enough to drown out the sharp, twisting want in his belly.
Darting a quick, furtive look at Daniel, Jack waved toward the sink and toilet. “I’m just going to...”
Daniel nodded rapidly. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll...” And he turned around, his hands gripping the edge of the food shelf. He stared fixedly at the strips of meat. He thought about them. They didn’t taste like chicken. They were slightly sweet, and made him think of beef jerky glazed with honey, except that they carried no glaze, and left no stickiness on his hands. He heard Jack’s breath catch in his throat with a little choking gasp, and then blow out in a rush, and he gritted his teeth and stared harder at the little strips of meat. He speculated as to what kind of animal they came from. He hoped it wasn’t anything that could talk.
Jack knew how to be quiet. He had spent the better part of his life in the military, and he was accustomed to close living quarters with little or no privacy. It was an unwritten rule in such situations that if the man in the bunk next to you was engaging in a little stress relief, you pretended not to notice. He remembered big, crowded rooms with sixty or more bunks, and the ubiquitous ‘happy sock’ under each pillow. Everyone did it, and you learned selective hearing.
Jack’s fingers were shaking, and he held his breath, forcing them still. Not for the first time, he cursed the button fly of his BDU pants and wondered why the military couldn’t just use zippers like the rest of the country. He knew, of course, the tactical reasons, the slight sound that a zipper made might be the sound that got you caught, but at the moment, he didn’t care. When his fly was open, he shoved his shorts down unceremoniously, not bothering to push them past his thighs. The cool air hit hot skin and he almost lapsed in his ability to be quiet.
Painfully aware of Daniel behind him, Jack was nonetheless ecstatic to finally wrap his hand around his dick. His hips jerked forward reflexively, and he squeezed hard, closing his eyes. A very low groan built in his throat, and he swallowed it, clamping his teeth together. He kept his eyes closed and aimed using the sound of the water to guide him. His fist moved up, his thumb pressing against the head, and his other hand went to cup his balls, hard and tight against his body. A long, shuddering breath rushed past tight lips, and his head fell back.
He didn’t want to be doing this, didn’t want to be forced to jerk off in a room with Daniel, didn’t like the coercion or the loss of control over his own body, but it was so damn good. His fist slid back down, already wet with sweat, dragging at the skin with just the right amount of friction, and his hips stuttered forward again. He wasn’t going to last long, and he didn’t want to. Up, down again, and he swallowed another moan, bracing himself against the wall with his free hand. Head down, sweat dripping from his forehead, he cracked his eyes open to check his aim, centered himself, and pulled one more time.
He locked his knees, which were threatening to fold beneath him, and came, turning his head and biting his collar, unable to completely suppress a high, gasping whine. The sound came through his nose, and his eyes were squeezed shut so hard that they were beginning to hurt, but all that was secondary, peripheral. He was aware of shooting over the bowl itself and hitting the wide slide of water, slipping down the wall, but that was all right. His come was washed away quickly, and he was glad. He didn’t want Daniel to see it.
Then he was done, shaking all over, his legs still weak and watery, his breath coming in harsh pants. He opened his eyes and stared blearily at the sink basin, which was about two inches from his forehead. He was still bent over, one hand on the wall, pants bunched at his spread thighs, his softening dick resting in his palm. Jack swallowed, leaned over and grabbed a quick mouthful of water, and rinsed his hands. He pulled his pants up and tucked himself away, relieved that the lights were no longer affecting him. He’d been a little worried that he would come and just stay hard, but that didn’t seem to be the case, thank god.
Jack turned as fast as he could on unsteady legs, surprised at Daniel’s voice. He didn’t remember ever hearing quite that tone from his friend before. “What?”
“Hurry,” Daniel said, aware that he was begging, not caring. If Jack didn’t finish soon, he was going to join him, embarrassing or not.
Now that the urgency was gone, Jack could feel embarrassed, but he didn’t really, because Daniel was in the same boat. He briefly considered telling Daniel to wait, messing with him a little, but then he thought of how he would feel if he was still waiting, remembered just how badly he needed it, and decided to have mercy. “Just finished,” he said cheerfully. He was about to invite Daniel to take his place by the toilet, but Daniel didn’t wait for an invitation. He rushed past Jack, his head down, already undoing his pants. Jack had time to notice that Daniel’s face had progressed past red to something resembling purple, and then he dutifully turned his back.
Daniel wasn’t good at being quiet. He had never even tried to be quiet. When he was in college, getting laid was something of an accomplishment, and on Abydos, Sha’re had been proud of the vocal reactions she could cause.
Daniel thought that Jack was probably going to hear him, but he was beyond caring. Maybe he’d worry about it afterwards. Right now, all that mattered was getting the unbearable pressure off his dick. He thought he’d rupture something if it didn’t stop.
He had his pants down and was struggling with his briefs, which were damp with sweat and dragging stubbornly, when he noticed his vision graying out and remembered to breathe. He sucked air in and released it in a series of high, whimpering sounds. “Ah, ah, ah, ah,” he breathed, and behind him, Jack straightened, and then ducked his head, embarrassed for them both. He was glad he went first. He didn’t think that he could have listened to Daniel make those noises and still continued to wait.
Finally getting his briefs down, Daniel tried to contain a low moan. His effort was wasted when he wrapped his hand around himself and a sharp yell was startled from his throat. Daniel didn’t use his languages during sex. His mind was simplified, cleared, and he shifted into a lower gear to express his pleasure. “Oh, fuck,” he muttered, no longer caring that Jack could hear. No longer even aware that Jack was in the room. He hated that he was forced into this, but oh, it was almost worth it. He was gaining speed now, hips jerking back and forth, and he was still failing to be quiet.
“Oh, god,” Jack heard, and he wiped a hand across his face. He wished Daniel would keep it down. He knew a lot about Daniel, but knowing what he sounded like when he got off wasn’t something he wanted to find out.
Daniel was moaning now, his pitch getting a little higher on each rapid exhale, and he kept saying “yes,” like it was some great discovery, like he just found the word and he loved it so much that he had to celebrate.
Daniel reached an eye-watering pitch and then his voice dropped at least an octave and delivered a deep, long groan that raised the hair on the back of Jack’s neck. He found himself breathing in time with Daniel’s panting and forced himself to stop. His knuckles were white where he was gripping the food shelf. He tried to swallow, but couldn’t summon enough moisture in his mouth.
“Wow,” Daniel murmured, looking at the wide spray of semen on the wall. He had overshot the target just a bit. Quickly, before Jack could notice, he spread some water around, wiping up his mess. Then he tucked, buttoned, and washed his hands, splashing some water on his face, which was still burning.
The lights stopped as he was flinging excess water from his hands, and it occurred to Daniel that he didn’t even try to solve the pattern of the flashing colors this time. Not that he was in a particularly logical frame of mind. Jack had time after he finished, and he didn’t try either, Daniel thought. That somehow made it acceptable.
Jack still hadn’t turned around. Daniel looked at his back, the tense line of his shoulders, and realized Jack had to know he was done. He’d certainly made enough noise--and maybe that was problem. Which made a certain amount of sense. Jack, for all his bluster and bravado, was a very private man about some things. Daniel wondered what Jack was bothered by more--the noise he made, or what Jack himself had done so quietly.
Daniel was pretty embarrassed, but acting all shy and flustered wasn’t going to make things any easier. Besides, it appeared that Jack was taking the role of ‘shy and flustered’ today, so Daniel would just have to act unconcerned.
He stepped up beside Jack, tore off a bit of bread, and popped it into his mouth. “Next time,” he said, “I get to go first.”
Jack was leaning forward, the heels of his hands resting against the shelf, his elbows locked. He slowly turned his head, and found Daniel regarding him steadily, a hint of a smile around his eyes. Daniel was inviting him to laugh at the situation, to dismiss it, to treat it as just another thing for the weird shit file. Jack was swept by a sudden rush of gratitude for Daniel, for being the most unpredictable, confusing, stubborn, maddening person Jack had ever known, and for being the one person he could count on to say the right thing when it really mattered.
So Jack grinned, and gave Daniel a little shove, bumping their shoulders together. “That’s what you think,” he said.
Daniel just smiled and stretched, planting his hands in the small of his back and wiggling the kinks out of his neck. He yawned, dusted his hands together, and moved over to one wall. “I’m going to sleep,” he told Jack.
That sounded like a great idea to Jack, and he arranged himself against the opposite wall, wadding his jacket up beneath his head and watching Daniel. He noticed that Daniel fell asleep with no difficulty, then smirked a little because he knew why. He fell asleep still watching Daniel.
Jack was sick of playing twenty questions with Daniel. Partly because Daniel always asked the same questions, methodically narrowing down the possibilities in a way that pretty much guaranteed winning, but also sucked all the fun out of the game.
They had discussed, in depth, which of Fraiser’s nurses they would sleep with, given a choice. Jack thought that conversation was actually pretty funny, since Daniel could’ve had any one of them. They had speculated as to how many facial expressions Teal’c actually had in his repertoire, and which one he used most often. They had chosen which of Sam’s myriad hairstyles they liked best. They had even played catch with some of the food. Jack had tried to teach Daniel to juggle. Daniel wasn’t interested. He said if he ever reached that threshold of boredom, he wanted Jack to smother him in his sleep.
Jack wondered if it was possible to create a chess set out of their food. Or maybe playing cards. Maybe if he used the pieces of bread. He could carve them if he broke one of the arms off Daniel’s glasses. He imagined the look on Daniel’s face when he caught Jack carving hearts and diamonds into chunks of bread with the broken remains of his glasses.
They’d decided that the lights came once a day. This was arbitrary, based only on when they felt hungry and tired. The lights seemed to come at the end of each day, just before it was time to sleep, which was convenient, in a way. Made falling asleep easier. Going by this system, they had been in the cell for five days.
Jack thought it felt longer. Daniel, who had argued with him on every possible point during their confinement, just to have something to do, would probably agree with him on that one.
The effects of the lights hadn’t changed. Daniel speculated that it was actually the sounds that affected them, because even if they closed their eyes, the need didn’t stop. Jack didn’t really care what, exactly, was making them do what they did. It was enough that they had no choice. The particulars didn’t matter--coercion was coercion, however you looked at it.
Jack was emphatically Not Happy about the situation. Being fed and watered, okay. Not being tortured or interrogated, even better. But losing all vestiges of self control on a daily basis wasn’t his idea of a good time. Daniel maintained that it was a lab experiment, simply stimuli and response. Jack thought someone was watching them and laughing their asses off.
They meant to take turns when the lights came on. It was bad enough jerking off in the same room; there was no way they were going to do it at the same time, where they could see each other. They didn’t discuss it, but taking turns was clearly the plan.
That plan lasted exactly one day.
On the fourth day, Daniel went first. Jack conceded that it was fair, since he had gone first the day before. He could wait an extra two or three minutes. But then Daniel started making those sounds again, and Jack had two choices. Do it against the wall, or stood next to Daniel, aim for the toilet, and not have a mess afterwards. It was a surprisingly easy decision.
Besides, being right up close to the source of those amazing sounds wasn’t exactly a down side.
So he elbowed Daniel to one side and got right in there next to him. Daniel, barely pausing in his frantic rhythm, tossed him a confused look. “Couldn’t wait,” Jack said, already clawing at his belt. And Daniel shrugged and closed his eyes again, and went right on with the moaning and gasping and all that other crap which had caused Jack’s problem in the first place.
They still hadn’t discussed it, but Jack assumed it would be the same way tonight. The lights would come on and they’d both go at the same time. No eye contact, no touching, he reminded himself. They were barely even aware of each other, too deep in their own needs. It wasn’t like he was participating in a sexual act with Daniel--just next to him.
Jack had decided that made it okay.
Daniel, who always seemed to want to talk everything to death, had shown no indications that he wanted to discuss their mutual jerking off sessions. Jack wasn’t sure if this was because Daniel himself was embarrassed, or if it was because he thought Jack was. Didn’t matter. He wasn’t all that embarrassed anymore, but he certainly didn’t want to talk about it. He wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“Crap,” Daniel muttered suddenly, and Jack stopped throwing a piece of fruit in the air and catching it to look at him.
Daniel sighed and tossed Jack a glance over his shoulder. He’d been examining the walls again. “I really wish I had something to write with.”
“Mmm,” Jack said. “I wish I had a Nintendo.”
Daniel turned back to the wall, but not before Jack saw his smile. “Coffee,” Daniel said. “I really miss coffee.”
“Television. Donuts. Or, here’s one for you, an actual bed to sleep in.”
Daniel actually moaned, and the sound caught at Jack in a way that he tried very hard not to think about. “God, yes,” Daniel murmured. “My five hundred thread count sheets.”
Blinking at Jack, Daniel tilted his head to one side. “I didn’t know you liked chocolate.”
Jack shrugged and spread his hands. “Hey, who doesn’t like chocolate?” And he did like it, but he was actually thinking of Daniel when he said it.
“Sam,” Daniel said quietly. “Teal’c. Janet. Hammond.”
Jack nodded. “Yeah,” he replied, just as quietly. Then he grinned, went to Daniel and threw an arm around his shoulders, and said, “But mostly, the Nintendo.”
Daniel laughed, and he felt solid and heavy and warm against Jack’s side, his face so much younger when he laughed. Jack was leaning close enough to him to realize that laundry was going to be necessary very soon, and a bath wouldn’t be a bad idea for either of them, and despite all that, he had no urge to pull away. Just the opposite, in fact. There was something fascinating about the way Daniel’s shoulders were actually broader than his, the way their heights were almost equal and the fluid slide of muscles in Daniel’s arm against him.
Then the lights started. Daniel jumped a little, blinking at the sudden flashing colors. The skin at the back of Jack’s neck prickled at the clicking sound, which now made him think of mice. Lots and lots of little mice. With tap shoes. Lights, camera, action, he thought crazily, and hoped like hell that they weren’t being recorded by some alien camera crew. That was blackmail material he didn’t need to deal with.
Jack pulled his arm off Daniel’s shoulders and turned toward the facilities. Daniel started to follow, and then hung back uncertainly. Jack turned to see what the holdup was, not even pausing to ask himself why he wanted to wait for Daniel.
Daniel was frowning, the flush already rising from his collar, his hands plucking fretfully at his jacket. Technically, it was Jack’s turn to go first. But Jack jerked his head in a ‘come on’ motion, offered a quick, strained smile, and Daniel didn’t wait to be asked twice. He didn’t think he could wait.
Jack was aware that Daniel was making a frantic, low pitched whining as he struggled with his belt buckle. It seemed to be uncooperative this time, and for a moment, Jack actually entertained the insane notion of reaching over and helping. But then Daniel got it and Jack applied himself to the task at hand.
Daniel was making noise again, and Jack decided that restraint was bad for the blood pressure, and allowed a low groan to escape. He glanced over to see if Daniel noticed, and Daniel was looking at him.
Around them, all the colors flashed at once, a single time. There was a moment, when all the lights were out, of perfect darkness. Then the colors were back, running in their normal pattern, and Jack and Daniel were still staring at each other.
It occurred to Jack that his hand had not stopped moving, that he was jerking off while looking at Daniel, and that this should probably bother him. Some warning bells should be going off, telling him this was wrong. But then, doing it while Daniel stood ten feet away with his back turned had been wrong as well. Listening to Daniel do it--wrong. Being turned on by the noises Daniel made...
Jack was sensing a theme here.
So doing it while locked onto Daniel’s eyes was wrong, very wrong, a serious case of crossing the line, but that line had been crossed so much in the last few days that Jack was having trouble finding it.
And besides, Daniel wasn’t stopping either. Daniel was staring at him, his eyes darting over Jack’s face, touching on his lips, his throat, seeming to trace over him with enough force to create actual tactile sensation. And Daniel had not once stopped what he was doing. He was, in fact, speeding up.
Jack wasn’t above a little competition. He liked competition. He was good at it. He liked to hit the gas hard when the light turned green and shoot ahead of whoever was in the next lane. He kept close track of his team’s records at the shooting range and physical trials. He encouraged, badgered, and pestered them to be the best. He could live with losing the race, but the idea of not even running the race was anathema.
Jack decided he needed an extra edge. Daniel was younger, after all. So Jack looked down and watched Daniel’s hand slide up and down his cock. Daniel twisted a little on the upstroke, Jack noticed. He pressed his thumb into the head, the same way Jack did, and he jerked his hips forward as his hand moved back down to the base. Jack opened his mouth slightly, licked dry lips, and then shivered all over when Daniel did the same.
Watching Daniel was working for Jack, working in a big way, and he was getting very close, very fast. His legs were shaking, his knees feeling like old clay, numb and ready to crumble. He could feel sweat slipping down his back, his skin cold and hot at the same time, his fingertips tingling slightly as he bordered on hyperventilation. He wasn’t quiet anymore. He was starting to rival Daniel for noise as well as speed, and why shouldn’t he? Competition, Jack told himself. That’s all.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jack was aware that he was looking at another man’s dick, that he was watching that man jerk off, that he was now timing his thrusts into his own palm to match what that man was doing, and most of all, that man was Daniel. He was so far over the line that the line was now a faint speck in the distance behind him.
But then Jack came and he couldn’t care less about the line. He could hear his own voice, groaning, “Oh shit oh shit ohmygod yessss...”
Making noise was definitely better.
And it certainly seemed to work for Daniel, who had begun to make the high pitched “ah ah ah ah” sounds that came just before his voice dropped low and he finished. “Oh, god,” Daniel gasped, and before Jack was quite finished coming, he was joining in, making a mess as usual. Daniel’s aim wasn’t so good, but Jack gave him full points for distance and quantity.
That was when the blood returned to Jack’s brain and he realized that he was looking at Daniel’s semen, Daniel’s, oozing down the wall. He did a perfunctory cleanup and turned away abruptly, going to the far side of the room, futzing with the food, counting it, ignoring the little contented moany noises Daniel made right after he got off.
Crap, Jack thought. Crap crap crap. This wasn’t good. He needed to find the line again, and get on the right side of it. This thing that was happening with Daniel was clearly a slippery slope, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was already too far gone to claw his way back to solid ground.
“Did you notice that?” Daniel asked, as if they were passing the time of day and nothing untoward had just happened.
Jack liked to think that he had a quick reply to any situation, a glib remark always at the ready, but his mouth was failing him. Jack had noticed quite a few things recently, and he didn’t want to talk about any of them. He shook his head at Daniel, in denial of the whole conversation. Whatever Daniel was asking, the answer was no.
Daniel didn’t do the easy, cooperative thing and drop it. Of course he didn’t. When did he ever?
“The lights all went at once when we looked at each other,” Daniel continued, deliberately ignoring Jack’s scowl.
“Huh,” Jack grunted. He began restacking their bread slices, carefully lining up the edges and putting the stack in the exact center of the plate.
Daniel sighed and ran a hand through his hair, which was getting rather lank and greasy. He wished for a shower, and clean clothes, and to not have this conversation with Jack. “I knew you’re not comfortable with this...”
“This? This is great. Why wouldn’t I be comfortable?”
Daniel stared at him for a moment. He understood Jack’s sarcasm for what it was, but that didn’t keep it from driving him nuts on a regular basis. “We have to explore this development,” he argued doggedly. “This is the first time anything we did caused a change in our environment. If we follow the laboratory experiment hypothesis to its logical conclusion, it only makes sense that they’d try to direct our behavior. Stimulus, response, reward. The lights flashing that way could be an indicator that we did something right.”
Jack darted Daniel a look from the corner of his eye. “I’m sure this is all fascinating for you,” he growled.
“I don’t like it any more than you do--”
“Really?” Jack interrupted. “Because you don’t actually seemed all that concerned. No matter how much you dress it up, we’re being forced into this against our will. Now, I don’t knew what the scientific name is for that, but where I’m from, we call it rape.”
Daniel blinked at him, his mouth open, startled that Jack had come right out and said it. Jack stared right back at him, his eyes flashing, his mouth in a hard line. Daniel shook his head, took a step back, and lifted his hands slightly. Dropped them. He knew Jack was embarrassed, irritated, but he had no idea that Jack felt... forced.
“It’s not like that,” Daniel finally said.
And Daniel had no answer for that.
Jack pushed his hands out, like he was ridding himself of the whole concept, and turned away. He stalked over to the sink and took his jacket off, then his tee shirt. He soaked them and began to scrub the soap into the fabric, getting soapy water all over himself as well as his clothes. “I need a wash,” he said shortly, as if Daniel had asked what he was doing. “And so do you.”
“Right,” Daniel said faintly. “I’ll wait till you’re done.”
Jack gave him a level look, nodded once, and turned back to his washing. Daniel stared at the back of his head and thought, that went well.
Daniel had had enough. Jack had been snapping and complaining all day, whining about everything from his still damp clothes to how sick he was of their unchanging food selection. Daniel had tried to broach the subject of what happened with the lights yesterday twice, and twice he had been frozen out. Daniel was patient, he was understanding that Jack was very upset by the situation, but he wasn’t a saint. Enough, he thought, is enough.
“The lights will be coming on again soon,” Daniel said. Jack tried to look away, and Daniel moved with him, denying Jack’s avoidance.
When ignoring Daniel didn’t work, Jack said, “Oh? Got a watch hidden somewhere that I don’t know about?”
Jack had been bitching about scientists and their crap all day. Daniel wasn’t above playing the part to the hilt just to get a little of his own back. “Our circadian rhythms have adjusted to the day cycle in here now,” he said. He wished he could have a PowerPoint presentation for that extra edge. “I can predict with a reasonable amount of accuracy when the stimuli will begin based on my own body clock.”
Jack was glaring at him. “You’re doing that on purpose,” he said.
Daniel blinked. Moistened his lips. Widened his eyes. “Doing what?” he asked.
“Knock it off, Daniel.” Jack turned away again.
Realizing that he had allowed himself to be diverted once again, Daniel gritted his teeth and followed Jack, leaning down, forcing Jack to met his eyes. “Enough,” he said. “I knew you don’t like this. I knew you’re pissed off. But it isn’t my fault, and I’m sick of you taking it out on me.”
Jack considered playing dumb, and then decided against it. Daniel would only see through it anyway. “Fine,” he said tonelessly. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“Why does this bother you so much?”
Jack raised his eyebrows and swept his arms out to encompass the room. “Why? I’m being held captive and forced to jerk off with an audience and you want to know why it bothers me?”
“That’s the obvious answer,” Daniel said, narrowing his eyes. “Of course you hate being a captive, hate having control taken away. But you were dealing with it, accepting that there was nothing you could do, that it could be much worse. You didn’t get really upset until yesterday.”
Jack tried to turn away again, but Daniel grabbed his upper arm and held him in place. He wasn’t going to let this go. “Dammit, Daniel,” Jack muttered.
“Is it because of what we did?”
Jack jerked his arm out of Daniel’s hand and began to pace. “Of course it is!” he snapped. “How can you possibly be alright with it? How can you just shrug it off with a line of bullshit about lab experiments?”
“It’s not bullshit.” Jack shot him a dark look. “Not the point,” Daniel added quickly. “And for the record, I’m not entirely alright with it, but I don’t see how we had a choice. It wasn’t...” Daniel sighed and lifted his hands, spreading them toward Jack. “It’s not our fault, Jack. Whatever the influence of this place is making you feel, it’s not your fault. You’re not any less of a man for wanting--”
“Don’t,” Jack interrupted. He had stopped pacing. He was standing very still, and Daniel felt caught by his gaze like a bug on a pin. “Do not,” Jack enunciated very clearly. “Absolutely do not.”
Daniel dropped his hands. There was nothing he could say that Jack would hear, and he knew it. So he just shrugged and shook his head, and Jack nodded once, sharply. Glad we got that cleared up, his face said. End of discussion.
There was a moment of charged silence, and then a rush of sound--rustling, tapping noise. The lights were starting again.
Jack closed his eyes for a moment, and Daniel saw that he wasn’t just angry, or confused, that he was miserable, and his stomach lurched. He didn’t know what to do; he only knew that his best friend was in some kind of trouble and he couldn’t help.
They did it facing each other. Jack didn’t even bother trying to look away. He recognized the inevitable when he saw it. And for a while, with the lights and colors and that sound, he could forget everything but how good it was, because it was always so damn good.
Afterward, Jack washed up and went to sleep without another word. Daniel lay awake for a long time.
They had an uneasy truce. Jack was as pleasant as he could be, under the circumstances, and Daniel didn’t rock the boat. He had decided that he’d give Jack some time to come to terms with whatever his problem was.
Small talk was no longer an option. They had exhausted their supply of it. Facing yet another hour of watching the water run down the wall, Daniel had volunteered some stories of his college days. Jack had reciprocated with what Daniel was sure were wildly exaggerated tales of high adventure in special ops. They had known each other for seven years, under some of the most extreme and extraordinary circumstances possible, and they were finding that they still don’t knew all that much about each other.
Daniel knew a great deal about who Jack was, about his courage and his deceptively sharp mind and all his clever defenses, but he didn’t knew that Jack lost his pilot’s wings over a drunken fight with a superior officer after a particularly bad mission. The failure of the mission and the loss of two members of Jack’s team were due mostly to that officer’s bad choices, but that did not make breaking his nose acceptable.
So Daniel found these things out, and Jack found out that Daniel wasn’t meek and shy and friendless in college, which came as a shock to him. Daniel laughed at his reaction, and told Jack that he’d been taking care of himself most of his life. He’d been a bit lost in the beginning at the SGC, yes, but he was never helpless.
Despite what his team seemed to think, Daniel was aware of his looks, aware that he attracted people. In his life he’d had very few advantages, and his appearance and ability to win people over was something he had relied upon many times. Sex was never his primary focus, but he was certainly not averse to it. He’d been a horny teenager just like everyone else.
They had long, meandering talks about anything and everything, and they threw bits of food at each other when the sameness got to be a little too much, and they devised a system of washing clothes that involved sharing one uniform while the other dried. They discovered that the soap dish refilled itself just as the food did.
And once a day, they masturbated while looking at each other.
If it weren’t for that, this would be the best captivity he’d ever been in, Daniel thought. Which wasn’t really saying much.
He was beginning to grasp a kind of direction in the way the lights worked. The increasing need for some kind of connection with Jack when the lights and sounds began couldn’t be coincidental. Soon, he thought, just looking at each other wouldn’t be enough. Touching would come next. It had to, in any kind of logical progression.
They were being pushed into something, and the more Daniel considered it, the more he thought he knew the answer. But if it was what he thought, they were going to be in here for a very long time.
“I have a theory,” he said one day. As the leader, Jack needed to know, but Daniel wasn’t looking forward to telling him.
Jack, slouched against one wall with his arms loosely crossed over his upraised knees, looked at Daniel from under sleepy lids. Boredom, more than actual fatigue, Daniel thought.
“All right,” Jack sighed. “Let’s hear it.”
Jack grimaced, but made a little ‘go on’ twirl with his hand.
“We’ve been captured, put in a cage, fed and watered, and completely isolated from all outside influence. We touch nothing, breathe nothing, eat and drink nothing but what they allow us. It’s like having control factors in an experiment, so that only the thing you want measured can change. Everything else stays exactly the same.”
“Still waiting for the point, Daniel.”
Daniel smiled in a small, tight way. “It’s actually rather funny, when you understand what they’re trying to do.”
Jack matched Daniel’s false smile. “I’m sure,” he said. “Hilarious, no doubt. That’s why you’re laughing so hard.”
Daniel snorted and shook his head, smiling a real smile this time. “So, if you had a pair of unknown creatures in captivity, what would you need to knew about them? If you were studying them, you’d need to discover their basic physical needs, food, water, shelter, that kind of thing.”
“Of course,” Jack said, in his nodding, ‘I knew that’ way.
“But it’s pretty clear they either determined what we need from what was in our packs, or from a scan of our bodies, so now they’re trying to determine something else. The other thing essential to our survival.”
When Daniel paused again, Jack raised his eyebrows and waved one hand. “Which would be...?”
“Procreation,” Daniel said, trying for his best calm ‘professor’ tone. “Survival of any species depends on its ability to reproduce. They have a pair of the same species in captivity and they’re trying to... well, breed us.”
Jack stared at him for a long moment. “Breed,” he said. “Us. Breed us. What?”
“Well let’s face it Jack, that’s the direction we’re headed in.”
Jack shook his head. “What direction? There’s no direction. We’re not going anywhere.”
“There’s more pressure every time, pushing us together. Ah!” he said, holding a finger up, stilling Jack’s objection. “You know I’m right. I don’t know exactly what’s causing the compulsion, but you can’t deny it’s there. They’re trying to create a conditioned response. The visual and auditory stimuli, combined with a physical need being met. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs, or like a chimpanzee reacting to a bell being rung and pushing a button to got his food.”
Jack rubbed a hand over his face. “I should’ve known monkeys would come into this eventually.”
He flapped a hand at Daniel, his other one still over his face. “Yeah, I got it,” he said. “They’re trying to breed us, and since there’s no way we’re ever going to make a kid together, it could take a while. Real funny.”
“Maybe they don’t realize humans need one of each sex in order to reproduce. They could be asexual. Or maybe they just don’t realize we’re both men.”
Jack uncovered one eye and peered at Daniel. “Which one do they think is the woman?”
Daniel found himself grinning again, and after a moment, Jack began to grin back. Daniel dropped his head and chuckled, his shoulders shaking, little snorts escaping his nose. Jack watched this and snickered a little himself, his head back against the wall and his hands hanging limp between his knees.
“You do realize that we’ll never hear the end of this,” Daniel said.
“Oh yes. Carter, in particular, will take great pleasure in reminding us.”
Daniel imagined the look on Sam’s face if he ever escaped from here to tell her that aliens had tried to breed him with Jack. He laughed a little more, feeling punchy and maybe slightly hysterical, but he thought he was probably entitled. He’d been locked in a little white room with Jack for a week. Anyone would be going nuts.
“Hey!” Jack shouted, looking up at the ceiling. “It’s not going to work! We’re both guys!”
Daniel stared at him, open mouthed, and Jack shrugged. “Worth a try,” he said.
Daniel watched Jack for a long moment. Jack was still grinning, his eyes bright, his body more relaxed than it had been in a while. Daniel thought if there was ever going to be a time to suggest this, it was now.
“I had another theory,” he said.
Jack waved a lazy hand. “By all means. The first one was such a hit.”
“We’re going through a process here. A gradual increase in intimacy. Based on what we’ve done and how far we have to go before we got to anything that could be considered ‘breeding,’ it could take a long time. It may be that when we reach the end, it will become obvious that we lack the anatomy to conceive a child, and we’ll be released.”
Jack wasn’t smiling anymore. He regarded Daniel with strong suspicion, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “And...?”
Daniel took a deep breath. “And we could save ourselves a lot of time and aggravation by skipping the process, and going straight to the end.”
Jack became very still, his eyes hard and unrelenting. He stood and looked down at Daniel. “I can’t believe you just suggested that,” he said, biting off the end to each word.
Daniel scrambled to his feet, his hands out, palms up, supplicating. “Wait, hear me out.” His voice rose slightly in pitch, as it often did when he argued. “We both knew we’re going to get there eventually. Why put ourselves through any more of this than we have to?”
“Of course,” Jack replied icily. “Why continue resisting, when it’s so much easier to give in? Why fight them when we could just give them what they want?”
Daniel closed his eyes, pressed his fingertips against the bridge of his nose, and took a long breath. “You make it sound like I want to give secrets to the enemy.”
“It’s the same principle,” Jack countered in that same cold, hard voice. “Resisting is hard, so let’s give up. Let’s do what they want, and maybe they’ll let us out. It’s a slippery slope, Daniel. Once you start down that road...”
“Doing this doesn’t hurt anyone. It doesn’t compromise the SGC, doesn’t endanger anybody--”
“Wrong, Daniel,” Jack cut him off. “It hurts us. It endangers us. It compromises us.”
Daniel’s hands dropped to his sides and hung there, limp. He stared at Jack. He had no idea how deep this went, how unwilling Jack was to even entertain the possibility. “It’s going to happen anyway,” he tried again.
“Nothing is certain until it happens,” Jack said flatly. “We could do it tonight, and be rescued tomorrow. If it comes to the point where we have absolutely no choice, that’s one thing, but I will not give them one concession that I don’t have to. The moment you stop fighting, you lose.”
Daniel shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. You can’t have peace until you stop fighting.”
Jack just lifted his hands and dropped them again. It was at times like this that he was reminded how fundamentally different he and Daniel were, how there were some things that they would never, ever agree on. And it appeared this was one of them.
“Forget it, Daniel,” he muttered, turning away. “I won’t do it.”
Daniel’s mouth opened and closed, working around words that he wanted to say. He wanted to keep fighting, to press and persuade and debate his way around this, to make Jack see that he was right. But Jack’s turned back mocked him, told him that all his clever words would only bounce off. Jack had put his foot down.
Daniel slumped back against the wall and shut his mouth.
The next time the lights came on, Jack stumbled in his haste, reached a hand out to steady himself, and landed on Daniel’s shoulder instead of the wall. Daniel stared at him, and Jack was struck by how much darker Daniel’s eyes got when they were doing this. It wasn’t just the wide, dilated pupils; the blue itself seemed to darken. It made him think of deep water.
Jack tried to take his hand away. Failed.
Daniel turned to face him, sidestepped with him, brought his own hand up. Left hand, right shoulder. He could feel Jack’s muscles work under his palm, bunch and release. Jack could feel the same. Daniel squeezed, dug his fingers in, Jack leaned forward and squeezed back, and the lights told them they were doing it right. Total flash, total darkness, and then back to the blinking and clicking.
The time after that, they started out touching, hand to shoulder. By the end, Daniel’s hand had slipped down to Jack’s elbow.
The next time, Daniel touched Jack before he had time to fully undo his pants, because the need for that connection had become stronger than the need for individual release. Daniel fumbled with his buttons one handed, and Jack didn’t stop to think what he was doing when he reached down to help. When his fingertips grazed over Daniel’s skin, the lights rewarded them again.
It was a helpless, irresistible slide. There was nothing else here to think about, nothing to focus on. They weren’t really talking anymore. The environment never changed, and the numbing sameness of it all made one day blend into the next. Jack had lost track. He found himself devoting a lot of thought to how far they would get the next time.
The mutual hand jobs were not so bad, Jack told himself. His hand on Daniel’s dick, Daniel’s hand on his, eye contact, yes, but no real intimacy. They didn’t kiss or even get close, other than their hands. It was sex at arm’s length. He thought that was okay. It was acceptable. Their hands were even similar. Wide palms, long, strong fingers, calloused. It might as well be his own hand. Not so different.
Daniel tapped his shoulder, interrupting his rationalizing.
“Yuh?” Jack grunted, tilting his head back to look up at Daniel. Jack was sitting against one wall, legs splayed out in front of him, arms folded.
“Laundry,” Daniel said. He already had his jacket off. Jack watched as Daniel removed his tee, appreciating what he saw without really thinking about it.
“Okay.” Jack stood, gave Daniel his jacket. Daniel tied it around his waist, then removed his pants, socks, and underwear. They had gone without boots for several days now. Socks were just easier.
Daniel carried his bundle of clothes to the sink and began washing. Jack sat back down and scratched his face, where his beard was growing in. He hadn’t gone more than a day or two without shaving for years, and he was vaguely glad that they had no mirrors. He didn’t really want to know how much gray was in his beard now.
He watched Daniel’s back as he worked. Daniel was humming something tuneless and slightly nasal. His last allergy shot wore off some time ago, and although there were no allergens in here, he was still prone to slightly snuffly breathing. His light tan was fading in the artificial light, but he had lost no muscle tone. They’d both been doing calisthenics, to help their bodies deal with the confinement.
Jack considered how broad Daniel’s shoulders were. He gauged the size of Daniel’s biceps, the way muscles were visible under the skin of his back, moving as Daniel scrubbed, the line of his spine reaching down beneath the jacket slung low on his hips. Jack wondered if he could still take Daniel in a fight. Daniel was probably heavier, he conceded, and possibly stronger, but Jack still had the superior reach, and would always have superior experience.
Not that he expected to have to fight Daniel. Daniel wouldn’t force him to do anything. Of course not.
Jack redirected his thoughts before they could become troublesome. Beards. That was a safe subject. Daniel looked strange with facial hair. It was coming in reddish brown, thicker than Jack expected. It drove Daniel nuts. He was forever scratching at it and wishing he had a razor. Jack wished for a razor for other reasons. He still hated being without any kind of weapon in a hostile environment.
Daniel hadn’t pressured Jack about the breeding thing again, but Jack thought it was only a matter of time. Daniel just didn’t give up that easily. He knew Daniel, knew the way Daniel thought. Daniel was just giving him some time to get his own head straight. Waiting for Jack to quit being an ass and come around to his way of thinking.
It bugged Jack, the unconscious patronizing nature of it, Daniel’s assumption that Jack was the one who needed to rethink his attitude. But that was alright, because Jack knew how to win an argument with Daniel. It was quite simple, really. Don’t engage. Don’t even try to out talk him, don’t counter his points with your own. That was a sure path to confusion and eventual capitulation. In this case, not fighting meant winning.
Jack was aware of the irony. It was funny, in the same way aliens trying to make he and Daniel breed was funny.
Daniel had finished wringing all the water he could out of the clothes. He laid them out to dry, hanging them off the edge of the food shelf, and turned back to the sink. He scrubbed his own body, dipping his head into the stream of water to wash his hair. Jack got an eyeful when Daniel lifted one leg, propped it on the toilet seat and rinsed, but that was nothing new. He’d been getting an eyeful and a handful for some time now, and it had become routine.
Jack watched Daniel because there was nothing else to watch. Eventually, Daniel finished and rubbed his freshly cleaned, damp tee over himself to pick up the excess water. He mopped up the floor, wrung the tee out again, and hung it back up. He retied the jacket around his waist and did some stretching. Jack watched.
Daniel laced his fingers together and rose to his toes, his arms high over his head. Jack could see him inhale and deliberately tighten his abs. Their healthy, boring diet was beginning to show there, and the little softness around Daniel’s middle was nearly gone. Daniel was still damp, his hair plastered to the back of his neck, very uncombed in front, and starting to get too long. He twisted, and Jack could see his navel, where the jacket slipped down a little, the taut skin over his hip bones, and the little hollow just inside of them.
Jack wondered how far they would get tonight.
“I have a theory,” Daniel said.
Jack, standing at the sink and scrubbing his teeth with one finger, closed his eyes for a moment. He spit water out and sighed. “Here we go.”
“You’ve been captured before.”
Jack turned, regarded him steadily. Daniel was standing with his arms folded, his chin tilted down slightly, looking at Jack over the rims of his glasses. His stare was focused, determined. His lower jaw was thrust out slightly, his eyebrows up. Jack knew that face. Daniel was gearing up for an argument.
“So have you,” Jack said pleasantly, as if he didn’t see what was coming.
Daniel shook his head. “It’s not the same for me. Yes, I’ve been captured with the team, on several occasions, and just recently I had that little adventure in South America, but I’ve never been... indoctrinated on the rules of being a prisoner.”
Jack crossed the room and began to fiddle with the food. He felt vaguely nauseated at the sight of it. Eating had become a chore, a necessary thing to keep up strength and health. “I assume you’re going somewhere with this,” he said over his shoulder.
Daniel sighed and followed him, standing beside Jack and waiting for him to look up. When Jack didn’t, Daniel spoke to his profile. “We have a different instinctive response. When I’m in trouble, I talk. I ask questions, I find out their side of it, I try to see if we can come to some kind of agreement. It’s my most reliable tool. I know I’m argumentative and pushy and probably a pain in the ass, but it works for me.”
Jack gave him a sidelong look. “Probably?” he mimicked, raising his eyebrows.
“Right, but, my point is--”
“I was wondering,” Jack muttered.
Daniel rolled his eyes. “The point is that your response isn’t to talk. You don’t want to know their side of it. You’ve been drilled with that military ‘name, rank, serial number’ thing, and that’s all you want to do. Never give an inch, never compromise, and never lose control.”
“Yeah?” Jack replied, shrugging. “So?”
“So you’re applying past experiences to a situation that is completely different. This isn’t like being interrogated by enemy intelligence. Resisting until you have no options left isn’t always the best choice.”
Jack groaned and walked away. “Christ, Daniel,” he said, “not this again.”
Daniel followed him, still talking, relentless. “I think you’re making a link between the last time you were a prisoner for a significant period of time and now. I think that’s the stumbling block for you, and if you could just see it, you’d realize how fighting this doesn’t make sense.”
Jack had a hand over his eyes, his back against the wall. He was so tired of Daniel. “What are you talking about?”
Daniel got up close to him, pulled his hand down, forced Jack to meet his eyes. “This isn’t Iraq,” he said softly, squeezing Jack’s hand a little as if that made up for opening a subject that was clearly off limits.
Drawing in a fast breath, Jack stiffened, and then made a concerted effort to relax. “I know that,” he replied coolly. “It was difficult to figure out, but I picked up on the subtle differences.”
Daniel ignored the sarcasm, discarded it as meaningless. “Were you forced when you were a prisoner there? Is that what this was about?”
Jack planted his hands on Daniel’s chest and shoved hard, sending Daniel stumbling back, trying to keep his feet. “Out of line, Daniel.” Jack’s voice was tight, controlled. “Way out of line.”
“Yes, okay,” Daniel said hastily. “I knew I shouldn’t have asked that. It’s not my business. But I just don’t understood why you can’t--”
“You don’t need to understand. I said no, and that’s final. No argument, no psychology, no theories. No.” Jack had drawn himself to his full height, his head down slightly, like a bull preparing to charge. He jabbed his hands forward a little to emphasize each point.
“So that’s it, we spend another month in here working our way up to what will happen anyway because you say so?” Daniel’s voice was beginning to rise, his hands spread wide. Two patches of color flared up on his cheekbones. “Because you’re not even willing to consider the possibility, because you can’t overcome whatever hang-ups you have, we’re stuck here! That’s great, Jack, that’s just great.”
“Back off,” Jack growled. “You have no right to expect me to do this.”
“Expect you to do what? Listen to me? Actually consider that I might have a point, if you’d only open your eyes? Jack, we could be out of here! We could have been out of here days ago!”
“You don’t know that!” Jack shot back. “All you have was your pet theory. What if you’re wrong?”
Daniel stepped in close, his arms up, coming perilously close to stamping his feet. “What if I’m right? What could it hurt to try?”
Jack grabbed Daniel’s shoulders and pulled him in a little, wanting to shake him, to get him to stop talking for one damn minute and listen. Daniel was so stubborn, so relentless, and Jack couldn’t let him win, couldn’t let it happen because if he did it and he didn’t have to, what did that say about him?
Daniel’s hands came up defensively, gripping Jack’s upper arms, and Jack shoved him back and forth slightly, a half-hearted shake. Their arms were bent, Jack against the wall and Daniel almost holding him there, close enough to feel Jack’s rapid breath on his face.
It wasn’t time for the lights to start, not for hours, but they started anyway.
Daniel saw Jack’s eyes widen, his harsh breathing catching for a moment and then getting even faster. He leaned in, slid his hands down, and pressed them hard on either side of Jack’s waist. Jack’s hands tightened convulsively on his shoulders.
“Oh, god dammit, Daniel,” Jack groaned. “Why’d you do that?”
Then he spun, fast, pinning Daniel against the wall with his entire body, shoving a knee in between Daniel’s legs. Daniel’s back hit the wall hard and air rushed out of him. He sucked in a deep breath and wrapped his hands around Jack’s hips, lifting one leg and hooking it behind Jack.
Burying his face against Daniel’s shoulder, Jack panted in and out, his vision wavering, his chest on fire. He couldn’t get enough air. Couldn’t get enough Daniel.
“Harder,” Daniel hissed in his ear. They were tight against each other now, still fully clothed. Jack’s shorts were clinging to him, and his pants were dragging over the thin, damp cotton. He was aware of Daniel’s hard cock and softer belly, aware of driving into that warmth, that living, moving surface.
“Oh, fuck,” Jack wheezed. Daniel was making his low, frantic whine, his hips jerking forward erratically, and they were both going too fast, too rough. There was no rhythm, no easy slide. Each time they clashed together was painful, almost too painful to be good, and then Jack bent his knees a little and started pushing up instead of straight forward.
Daniel angled his ass to one side, and Jack fit into the hollow of his hip, and he fit into Jack the same way. Daniel stroked up, shuddering into the deep, sliding pressure, yanking Jack more firmly against him. Jack thrust, then allowed himself to be pushed back, and then it was his turn again. There was the rhythm. Daniel could feel Jack’s breath against his neck, could hear Jack’s low grunts right in his ear. His skin prickled, tightened, fine hairs rising on his arms and the back of his neck, nipples contracting into hard little pebbles, achingly sensitive to the battering of Jack’s chest against his.
“Yeah,” Daniel gasped. “Yes, oh god, Jack...”
Jack froze, his heartbeat a thundering rush in his ears, the pressure and friction against his cock almost unbearably good. He was shocked, floored, to hear Daniel say his name. That wasn’t how this worked. They didn’t say each other’s names. But then Daniel moaned in protest and dragged him close again, his hands clamped to Jack’s ass, jerking him back and forth, and Jack forgot that they didn’t do this.
Daniel was tilting his head, his face was touching Jack’s, their cheeks scraping together, rough and scratchy. His mouth was getting close to Jack’s. “Mmm!” Jack said, lips pressed firmly together. “Mmm, mmm!” It was a warning. Of course it was. He certainly didn’t want Daniel to kiss him.
Daniel’s mouth opened suddenly and Jack was aware of warmth and wetness on his jaw, on the place where his jaw hinged, hot, damp breath rushing over his earlobe and making him shiver. Daniel’s tongue flickered out, grazed Jack’s neck, and he hollered and came, pounding Daniel into the wall.
Daniel began to come in the moment of total darkness as the lights told them they were on the right track. Total color, perfect black, and a kind of crescendo in the clicking. Jack was still spurting weakly, and he moaned and tried to twist away as Daniel jerked into him. He felt raw and oversensitive and spent, but Daniel was too far gone to stop. Jack’s knees buckled, his head was spinning, and he slumped forward, his chin hooked over Daniel’s shoulder and his arms around Daniel’s waist.
Catching Jack before he could slide to the floor, Daniel leaned back, joining his hands under Jack’s ass and lifting him slightly, taking most of his weight. Jack was shaking against him, gasping in his ear, limp.
They let the wall hold them up, waiting for their breathing to slow. Waiting for their legs to work again. Around them, unnoticed, the walls turned white again and the sound stopped.
“It wasn’t... time for... the lights,” Daniel panted.
“They saw. Took... took advantage of the situation.”
Daniel tried to look at Jack, but could only see the top of his head. Jack’s hair was tickling his nose. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Jack found his legs and straightened, wobbling over to the sink and scooping water over his face, swallowing what he could catch. He looked at Daniel with water still running down his cheeks, dripping off his chin, and raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“What I said,” Daniel continued. He was looking down, plucking at the damp, sticky front of his pants. “I was out of line.”
Jack nodded and wiped water off his face, scrubbing absently at the side of his neck. Right by the hinge of his jaw. “Yeah, you were.”
“I hate it here,” Daniel muttered. He looked up at Jack, spread his hands. “I was just looking for a way out.”
Jack sighed and leaned against the wall. “I know,” he said. “But I can’t... there has to be another way.”
“What, exactly, stops you from doing it my way?” Daniel asked, narrowing his eyes. “Is it because you see it as giving in to a captor’s demands? Breaking? Or is it something else?”
Jack shook his head, shrugging. “Isn’t it enough that I said no? Do you have to know why?”
“Do you know why?”
And Jack winced, because he had forgotten the cardinal rule: don’t got into a war of words with a linguist. Particularly not this linguist. “Daniel,” he said, warningly.
Daniel ignored the warning. Of course he did. “You don’t, do you? It’s just some ingrained response in you, that this is wrong, that you can’t do it. So, what, it was acceptable if you had no choice? If you’re forced into it, if you fight it until the very end, that makes it okay, but if you do it willingly you’re... compromised? Diminished, somehow?”
“Drop it, Daniel,” Jack said flatly. Because Daniel was far too close.
Daniel’s voice was soft, earnest, and it would be so much easier to dismiss him if he was yelling. “All I ask was that you think about it, Jack. Figure out why you can’t do this. If you can give me a reason, a real reason, I won’t ask again.”
“How about, because I said so. That’s a reason.”
“Just think about it,” Daniel insisted. “Please?”
Jack covered his face with his hand, took a deep breath, and then lifted both hands in the air. “Oh, for crying out loud. Fine, Daniel. This is me, thinking about it, okay?”
“Okay,” Daniel said, and just like that, the discussion was over and he was starting to get cleaned up.
Jack had the sinking feeling that he had lost yet another argument with Daniel.
Jack could no longer kid himself that he wasn’t having sex with Daniel. That first time rubbing together against the wall was definitely sex. Sex with clothes on, which should have been less hot, but wasn’t. Maybe it was the way they couldn’t even wait long enough to drop their pants. Button, button, shove, an operation taking all of twenty seconds, at the outside, and they couldn’t wait.
The rubbing thing--frottage, Jack corrected himself. Daniel had educated him as to the proper term for it. Daniel was helpful that way.
The frottage was better than the hand jobs. Hotter, closer, faster. They were going off like hormone soaked teenagers. Jack was careful not to touch Daniel, careful to keep his distance, in case the lights came on unexpectedly again. Not that it helped. When they came on at the end of each day, there wasn’t enough distance in the room to stop it from happening.
After a few incidents of dry humping, Daniel managed to hold back long enough to get his pants down. Jack, seizing the opportunity, dropped his own, and they had their first skin contact. Full frontal, Jack thought, except that it wasn’t. Not yet. He doubted that they would got there, because it would require taking the time to got naked, and that was patience they didn’t have. Dropping the pants was enough, anyway. All the important parts were touching.
Daniel had been kissing him again. His neck, mostly, and his ears, which Jack had been very enthusiastic about when it was happening, and less thrilled about later. Kissing was intimate in a way that even fucking would not be. He didn’t know why that was. There was a vague concept in his head, something about prostitutes and not kissing them, but he hadn’t really taken it further than that.
Frankly, any time he considered Daniel kissing him, and the inevitable day when he gave in and kissed Daniel back, his mind shied away. Because the hand jobs were good, the frottage was fantastic, but the kissing had fascinated him. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. And that didn’t make any sense, did it? It was just kissing. His mouth on Daniel’s. He had never in his life had an orgasm from kissing, and to his knowledge, it wasn’t possible. Since what they did when the lights came on was all about getting off, kissing shouldn’t matter at all. It was secondary. Window dressing. Meaningless.
Except that it wasn’t.
Jack had been thinking about Daniel’s mouth a lot. Which wasn’t that surprising, considering who Daniel was. That mouth, that maddening, stubborn, brilliant mouth. When Jack thought of Daniel, thought of words to describe him, what did he came up with? Mouthy, of course. Smart mouth. Clever tongue. A sharp bite when you least expected it. That was Daniel.
Maybe it was because he could control the kissing. Maybe that’s what made it so important. When Daniel was grinding against him, slippery and shaking and shuddering forward, Jack couldn’t help pushing back. Matching Daniel thrust for thrust, clamping his hands wherever he could get the best grip and holding Daniel close, joining him in the headlong race to the finish line. That was all beyond his control; he didn’t want to do it, but he had to.
He didn’t have to kiss Daniel, but he was starting to want it. It was only fair. Daniel had been doing it for days. It wasn’t right that things should be so one sided. Jack was itching to show him how it was done. Show him that Daniel wasn’t the only one with a talented mouth.
And he did show Daniel that, but not in the way he expected. It happened one day when he was doing pushups. It was laundry day again, and he was wearing his shorts and nothing else. He liked to do it that way, working up a sweat with good, honest exercise, and then washing and having a clean uniform to put back on. It made him feel less like a lab specimen.
Daniel was having his own wash, stripped to the waist, water running down his back, making his hair stick out in ragged tufts. It was getting very long. Not as long as when he’d joined the SGC, but heading in that direction. He was crossing the room to hang damp clothes off the food shelf when the lights began.
Jack, at the lowest part of his pushup, his back straight and his chest nearly touching the floor, froze. The first thought in his mind--it’s early. There was usually only one reason for that. They were about to do something new.
Aware that he was on his belly, his back exposed, his ass unguarded, Jack scrambled to his knees. He was about to rise further when Daniel’s hand landed on his shoulder. He looked up, following Daniel’s legs. His eyes snagged at Daniel’s groin, where his pants were already flapping open, and his underwear was molded over his erection. Jack could see the shape through the worn gray cotton easily.
“Jack,” Daniel said. He was looking down, his hand still on Jack’s shoulder. Resting there. Not holding him down. It would be so much easier if Jack could tell himself he had no choice, but he did have a choice. He could stand up... but he didn’t.
Jack looked up, met his eyes. Deep water, he thought. On the tail of that thought was the idea that he was in over his head, and he almost laughed, because that was old news.
All this time Jack had been thinking of Daniel’s mouth, of all the things it could do, of kissing and tasting and where he would like Daniel to put that mouth. He hadn’t considered what he could do with his own mouth, beyond a little kissing. Hadn’t considered doing this. But now that it was staring him in the face, he couldn’t remember ever wanting anything more.
Jack yanked Daniel’s underwear down, and Daniel flinched as the waistband caught him, making his cock bob down and up. Jack was licking his lips, already swallowing, his mouth was literally watering at the idea of what he was about to do, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought of Pavlov’s dogs.
Jack didn’t want to be a dog, but the sound that Daniel made when he took him in his mouth, that sound...
There was a long list of things that Jack would do to hear that sound again, and a very short list of things that he wouldn’t. The short list kept on shrinking, and he was so afraid that soon it would be gone, soon he would do anything for Daniel.
Jack was clumsy in his eagerness, catching with his teeth, lacking rhythm and skill, and none of it seemed to matter. Daniel’s hands were in his hair, and that would be alright with Jack if they were holding him in place, or moving his head, but they were not. Instead, Daniel’s fingers were stroking him, petting him, and that wasn’t okay. That was more of Daniel’s outrageous intimacy, more of Daniel putting emotion where it didn’t belong.
Jack would show him how it was wrong. See how Daniel liked it when the tables were turned. He brought a hand up and cupped Daniel’s balls, rolled them gently. Daniel gasped, tried to jerk away, unbearably sensitive, but Jack was relentless. Payback, he thought. He would make Daniel come unhinged with gentleness, to show him the power it could have. To demonstrate how dangerous that power was.
He slowed his pace, because he could, because he had the connection, and that was what he needed. His cock was heavy between his legs, the slight friction of his shorts against it sending low, heavy pangs through his belly, but it could wait, because he had Daniel in his mouth. A part of Daniel was in him. Connection.
Daniel whined low, tugged fretfully at Jack’s hair, and twisted his body again. “Jack,” he whispered, unable to find his voice. “Wha...?”
Jack pulled completely back and bared his teeth up at Daniel, triumphant, because he was showing Daniel, he was making his point, he was winning. “See?” he murmured, his voice high and strained. “See?” And he proved to Daniel that tenderness wasn’t okay, that the kissing and the stroking and the softness would ruin everything. He showed Daniel what it was like on the receiving end.
Jack opened his mouth and sucked one ball in, and Daniel tensed, perhaps afraid of being touched too roughly. But Jack was gentle, laving with his tongue, rolling and sucking lightly, and Daniel quickly gave himself over to it. He was moaning now, swaying on his feet, and stroking Jack’s hair again, and this was all going wrong because he wasn’t supposed to like it.
Jack wasn’t supposed to like it either, he was supposed to hate every minute of it, and it wasn’t working that way. When it was hard and rough and painful, he could take some consolation in the fact that he was being forced, that he was fighting it every step of the way, but this... what was he supposed to think about this? Why couldn’t Daniel cooperate? He was supposed to recoil from the gentleness, supposed to wake up and realize how not like fighting it was, and go back to the way it was in the beginning. Mechanical. Impersonal.
Too late, Jack thought. They couldn’t go back now.
Since back wasn’t an option and stopping was absolutely unthinkable, Jack went forward. He switched sides, tasted, slid the tip of his tongue along the crease where Daniel’s thigh met his groin, and higher, along his hip bone. He bit, not so gently, and then licked, feeling the indentations his teeth had made. Above him, Daniel was squirming, making these delicious ‘mmm mmm mmm’ noises. Begging noises.
Jack liked that, that Daniel couldn’t even say ‘please,’ couldn’t even ask for what he wanted because his words were gone. Jack had stolen Daniel’s mouth with his own, and that was such a rush, see what I did, finally found a way to shut Daniel up. But Jack only teased a little, flattening his tongue and running along the underside of Daniel’s cock, long, broad strokes. Then, because he couldn’t wait anymore, he took Daniel back in his mouth, as deep as he could go. Not deep enough, he thought. Never deep enough. He was suddenly starving, wanted more, wanted all of Daniel, and he sucked hard, frustrated, impatient.
Then Daniel was coming, and Jack was startled by the rush of hot fluid in his mouth. He sputtered and ended up swallowing some of it, which he hadn’t planned on doing, but it was done now. Done, couldn’t be undone, he wailed in his head. Too far, too late.
Daniel wobbled and dropped down, his knees hitting the floor hard, and he fumbled with Jack’s boxers. Jack started to stand, but Daniel pushed him, laid him flat, spread his legs and Jack should feel panic, should struggle, but he didn’t. He was on the floor, legs open, exposed, and Daniel was on top of him and he wasn’t afraid, wasn’t fighting.
Wrong, oh wrong, Jack thought. Then Daniel’s mouth was on him and he stopped thinking. Daniel’s mouth was every bit as good as he knew it would be./p>
Later, they started doing sixty nines, and it was even better. They weren’t really wearing clothes anymore. Tee shirts and underwear. It expedited things, and the ambient temperature had risen to compensate. Plus, it meant less laundry.
“I have a theory,” Jack said one morning, during breakfast.
Daniel raised his head, startled to hear his own words from Jack’s mouth. His eyebrows flew up, his mouth slightly open, and Jack wondered if he knew how dumb he looked with that face. He realized that he was smiling at Daniel with something approaching fondness, and quickly schooled his expression.
Jack nodded. “Yeah. It’s pretty good, too. Want to hear it?”
Daniel looked down at his attempt to make their food selection taste different by breaking into pieces. His mouth was still slightly open. He looked up at Jack, blinked, and put his mangled pieces of bread down. “Right,” he said. “Your theory.”
“Okay. I think you,” and Jack pointed at Daniel, “are only guessing about why we’re here.”
Daniel’s mouth closed, then curved up slightly into his tight, polite smile. He blinked several times, rapidly, and nodded. “Yes,” he said, slow and deliberate, making every letter count. “I’m making educated guesses based on what I know about laboratory testing methods and our environment in this case, as well as the mental and physical effects that--”
“Ah!” Jack waved a hand, shaking his head. “I’ve heard all that. Repeatedly. But deciding that we’re supposed to be ‘breeding’ because all the lights flashed at once? Bit of a reach, isn’t it?”
“It’s a change in the environment. The only change. Everything else is absolutely constant, except for those occasions when we change our behavior, when the physical contact escalates, and then we are rewarded for the change.”
Jack snorted. “Rewarded? It’s a flashing light. How is that a reward?”
“It’s an indicator,” Daniel insisted. “It’s a sign that we’ve done something they took notice of.”
“So how do you know it’s good?” Jack countered, leaning forward, spreading his hands out. “Maybe they flashed because we broke the rules. Maybe it was like you said, about the answers themselves not being as important as how we get them. Maybe there’s no right reaction, no ultimate goal.”
Daniel was shaking his head, one hand lifted, a finger waving back and forth. “No, no, because there have been other indications. The lights suddenly starting when we were close to each other, or in a position to take things to the next level. That’s happened twice. Not to mention the effect the lights have on us. You can’t deny that.”
“I’m just saying there are other possibilities,” Jack said. “I’m willing to concede that you could be right about the breeding thing, but--and this is a big but--you might not be. You might be way off base.”
“It’s possible.” Jack raised his eyebrows, widened his eyes at Daniel, clearly waiting.
“Yes, I suppose it’s possible,” Daniel admitted after a long, reluctant pause. “But it’s also possible that trying my idea will get us out of here.”
“That’s another assumption. Who says they’ll let us go?”
“Who says they won’t?”
“And you think it’s worth it, because this theory on which you’re so hot says we get out if we play their little game.”
Daniel threw his hands up in the air, then stared up at the ceiling for a moment, as if asking for patience. “Yes! Haven’t we covered this?”
“You said my reason for not doing it wasn’t good enough,” Jack said, and then paused, blinking and frowning slightly. He knew how this conversation was going to go ahead of time, because it wasn’t the first time they had had it, but this was new. His mouth-brain connection was suffering a sudden breakdown.
Daniel was staring at him, eyes narrowed, head tilted to one side. “Ye-es,” he said, drawing the word out. “I did say that. Because this wasn’t a case of breaking under interrogation or divulging secrets to the enemy. You’re saying you have another reason now?”
No, Jack thought. He sent frantic messages to his mouth. No! Say no!
Daniel’s eyebrows were trying for whole new altitudes. “And?” he invited, extending a hand to Jack, crooking his fingers in encouragement.
Jack wondered if he could blame alien influence for his sudden attack of honesty. But no, what he was about to tell Daniel was something he had been mulling over for a long time. There was nothing else to do in here but think, and create little scenarios as to how this talk would go, what he would say and how Daniel would react. So far, Daniel was following along perfectly, as if he had read Jack’s mental script.
“It’s the principle of the thing,” Jack hedged. He wished they hadn’t given up on clothes beyond underwear and tee shirts. He could really use some pocket flaps or buttons to fiddle with right about now.
“The principle.” Daniel’s voice was level, smooth, and Jack recognized it. This was Daniel in first contact mode, feeling out a potential ally--or potential enemy. Giving nothing away, keeping neutral, and waiting to see which way it would go.
Jack reviewed his plan, discarded several possible choices, and then decided to improvise. Plan A never worked anyway. “Ask yourself something, Daniel,” he said. “Why are you so determined to go through with the sex?” Daniel blinked a little, and Jack realized he had called it sex instead of ‘breeding,’ which somehow made it more human. More real.
“Because it’s our best chance to--”
Jack held a hand up, cut Daniel off with a short ‘ah!’ “That’s the PR reason. The one you put in the report because it sounds all nice and rational. What’s the real reason? Maybe you’re just a little too eager. Maybe you’ve gone along with all of this a little too easily. Why is that?”
Daniel took a step back, his head down, a nest of lines growing between his brows. “I’m only making the best of a bad situation. Just because I don’t have the same visceral responses as you do doesn’t mean I want this. What has already happened between us never would have happened if we weren’t here.”
Jack pointed at Daniel, nodding once, sharply. “Now, see, that I believe. That it wouldn’t have happened, but not--not that you didn’t want it on some level. Because you’re taking all of this way too well.”
“Of course,” Daniel said. His eyes had gone very cool, his talented mouth all but invisible, pressed into a flat, hard line. “That must be it. You’re the great Jack O’Neill, and I’ve been secretly lusting after you for years. I was just waiting for a chance to throw myself at you. Of course, so would anyone else, in this situation. I mean, how could they resist?”
Jack’s lips twitched into a wry grin. “Sarcasm as a defense mechanism. Wow, I would have never thought of that.”
Daniel turned away, flicking one hand at Jack as if shooing him. “Christ, Jack. I’m surprised this room is big enough for your ego.”
“Tell me I’m wrong.”
Pausing with his back to Jack, Daniel was quiet for a long moment. Then he twisted his upper body, his face visible in profile over his shoulder. “Need me to spell it out for you?” His tone tried for contempt and missed it completely, instead sounding confused and hopelessly off balance.
“Yes, Daniel,” Jack said pleasantly, because every instinct was telling him he was on the right track, he had Daniel running for cover. “Spell it out. Explain to me how you have absolutely no attraction for me. How the idea of having sex with me is completely offensive to you. Tell me I’m totally wrong.”
Daniel didn’t move. He was staring at nothing, and Jack could see the faint flutter of his pulse in his neck, the slight shift and bulge of muscles moving in his jaw. Then Daniel growled something in a language Jack didn’t recognize and hit the wall with the flat of his palm, making a dull smacking sound.
That’s right, Jack thought. He knew it. His mind was ready to revel in his victory, at finally winning an argument with Daniel, but his mouth had other ideas. His mouth, perhaps remembering the incredible things that Daniel’s mouth was capable of doing to it, had decided to take pity on Daniel.
“You’re not the only one,” he said.
Daniel turned very slowly. “What?” he asked, biting off the end of the word with crisp deliberation.
Jack’s mouth, the little traitor, deserted him, and he scrambled for a glib response. “That’s why I fought it so hard. I thought...”
Shit, Jack thought. Not very glib. He was still suffering from that attack of honesty.
He hadn’t given Daniel much to work with, but Daniel was very good at working with very little. “You thought you might like it? You thought if you let it happen, that meant you wanted it?”
Jack shrugged and looked around the room, avoiding Daniel’s suddenly piercing stare. “Crap, Daniel, you know me and psychology.”
Daniel ignored that, dismissed it effortlessly, and Jack was glad. He was tired of his own pointless playacting, his dumb persona. It was just that he’d been doing it so long, he wasn’t sure how to stop.
“Wait,” Daniel said, holding a finger up. “Wait. So, if you held out as long as you could, fought and resisted every single step, you could tell yourself you had no choice? You were doing it because you were forced, not because you wanted to?” Daniel nodded at him, answering for Jack, because he knew he was right. “But if you gave in, let me talk you around, then you’d have to ask yourself if maybe you caved for a reason. You’d have to admit that you wanted it too.”
“Another brilliant deduction by Doctor Jackson.” Jack was looking at Daniel in quick, flickering glances, a slight, sheepish smile on his face.
Daniel was beginning to smile. “But that means... if we both want to...”
There was a low hum, a barely there flash, white on white, on the food shelf. They both turned toward it, starved enough for any kind of change to the sameness of the cell that they were willing to interrupt what promised to be a very interesting conversation.
“What is it?” Jack asked, as Daniel picked up the small bowl. White, of course.
Daniel tilted it back and forth, and then lifted and sniffed. He dabbed a finger in the clear, shiny gel that filled the bowl. Color started to rise in his cheeks.
He darted a quick, nervous glance at Jack. “I think it’s supposed to be lube.”
Jack stared for a second, and then closed his eyes. He tilted his head back, glared at the ceiling, and yelled, “Not funny! I know you’re laughing up there!”
“Well,” Daniel said, in his best reasonable tone, “it will make things easier.”
“Hold on there, speedy,” Jack retorted. He could feel his heart rate increasing, and a kind of nervous, fluttering anticipation filled his belly. This was all happening too fast. “I don’t recall agreeing to anything.”
Daniel gritted his teeth and put the bowl down very gently. “What else is there to talk about? Do you still think this isn’t what they want us to do? I’d say that,” he waved at the bowl, “is a pretty clear sign!”
“Oh? And just who is putting that,” Jack mimicked Daniel’s wave, “where the sun don’t shine?”
Daniel opened his mouth. Shut it. Blinked. “Well... I just assumed...”
Jack was nodding grimly. “Uh huh. Well you knew what they say about assumptions.” And even as he said that, he wondered when he agreed to this at all, when it stopped being hypothetical and became real. Because he would’ve liked to have been consulted about that.
“So you don’t want to...” Daniel went through a series of gestures, head tilts, and eyebrow twitches. Jack started to laugh. “What?” Daniel asked, and he sounded so indignant and surprised that Jack just laughed harder.
“You,” Jack snorted, shaking his head. “All this time you’ve been pushing me to do this, and you can’t even say it?”
Daniel sighed and rolled his eyes. “Well excuse me for not taking this to the lowest possible level. I’ll put it simply--you don’t want to be fucked?”
Daniel closed his eyes momentarily. “Thank you, Jack, for finding an even lower level.”
“Oh, like you’re so eager to take it up the ass,” Jack scoffed.
“Not the point.”
“Well actually, Daniel, that is the point. Because one of us is going to have to, if we’re doing this.” And they were, Jack realized. He’d known it all along. Daniel was right--it was inevitable.
Daniel stared at him. Jack’s smile faded, and he stared back. This wasn’t a problem he’d anticipated. He’d just assumed...
Jack looked up and silently petitioned for help, and for the first time in memory, help appeared.
It started with a low vibration, a kind of bone deep hum that made Jack’s teeth hurt. After exchanging a glance with Daniel, he started gathering up their clothes.
“What’s happening?” Daniel asked, one hand on the wall to steady himself, eyes darting around the room in confusion.
“I don’t know,” Jack said, tossing Daniel’s uniform to him, “but I bet we’ll need pants.”
They got dressed, stuffing uncooperative limbs into clothes that didn’t feel familiar anymore, and the vibration increased, rattling them both off their feet. Food began to fall on the floor, and the little bowl of lube wobbled its way off the shelf and landed face down with a splat. Jack made a tactical decision and tucked himself under the food shelf, motioning for Daniel to join him.
They crammed together in the tight space, watching the water splash and slop over the rim of the sink basin, covering their ears against the noise. It reached a crescendo, eye-wateringly loud, and then suddenly stopped . Jack wiggled his jaw, popped his ears, and wondered if he had gone deaf.
“Hello?” Daniel called tentatively.
Silence, and then--
Chunks of white not-plastic fell to the floor, but before they could assume it was a collapse, the distinctive five step hum of a ring transporter whooshed down into the rubble. Rings down, light, rings up, leaving Sam and Teal’c standing in the middle of the cell. Sunlight slanted down from the gaping hole in the ceiling, illuminating swirls of dust hanging in the air and glinting off Sam’s hair.
“Colonel?” Sam called, bending down to squint through the dust at Jack and Daniel, still huddled under the shelf. “Daniel? Are you alright?”
They stared at her, and at Teal’c, who was still scanning the room suspiciously, both hands on his staff weapon. Unreal, Daniel thought, and then corrected himself, because unreal was the wrong word. Sam and Teal’c were actually there, it was real, but they seemed so out of place. Like strange, exotic creatures. Surreal. That was better.
“Carter?” Jack called, disbelief clear in his voice. He cleared his throat and tried again, surer, stronger. “Carter. Teal’c. Nice of you to drop in.”
Daniel shook his paralysis off and scooted out of his cramped position, picking gingerly over the rubble on the floor. He was only wearing one boot. He sneezed three times in close succession, and waved a hand in front of his face, trying to chase the dust away. “Hi,” he said, gaping at them. “Um... good to see you guys.”
Jack was busily working the kinks out of his back, rising to his full height and brushing the dirt off his uniform. He peered up at the hole in the ceiling, and saw a long tunnel, with the white material of their cell comprising the bottom twenty feet or so. After that, it was ordinary dirt, the same ordinary dirt that was still raining down on them in little clumps. At the very top of the tunnel, sunlight, bright enough to make him blink and look away, his eyes stinging.
Teal’c gave them both one of his rare smiles, and clapped his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “O’Neill,” he said, nodding. “Daniel Jackson. I am pleased to see you well.”
Jack cocked his head back, his eyes wide and a bit unfocused. “Yeah. Ditto,” he murmured, his voice flat and weak.
Daniel was still having unreality issues. He looked at the sink and toilet combo, the place where he and Jack had their first connection. It was their water source, their cleanup site. It was essential, important, vital. Except that now, the water had stopped coming from the seemingly inexhaustible place on the wall. It had all swirled away. Dust clung to the damp white surfaces, no longer pristine. We won’t have water now, Daniel thought, and the idea was frightening, until he remembered that they didn’t need it. They were leaving.
The word bounced around in his head, searching for some context, some frame of reference to give it purpose and definition. Leaving. It was like a word in a language he didn’t know. Just a meaningless sound.
“Daniel?” Sam asked, fighting the urge to wave a hand in front of his face. Daniel’s vacant stare was beginning to worry her.
Daniel blinked a few times, and then took a quick breath. He focused on her, a slow, dazed smile on his face. “Hi, Sam. You have amazing timing.”
Across the room, Jack abruptly started coughing. He waved off all attempts at assistance. “It’s fine,” he wheezed. “Swallowed some dust.” And when he caught his breath, he shared a quick, embarrassed smile with Daniel. Rescued in the nick of time, he thought. He wasn’t disappointed. Of course not.
Daniel was looking up at the tunnel now, pushing aside the unreality--there was a hole in their ceiling, the perfect cube was gone, unreal, surreal--but not important. Time to adjust to a new reality. He could do that. “How, ah...?” He waved vaguely at the circle of sky visible high above.
“That is a lengthy tale,” Teal’c said, moving to the center of the room.
“Long story, Teal’c,” Jack corrected, out of habit. He allowed himself to be herded inward, where the rings could reach him.
Daniel stared at the overturned bowl of lube on the floor and for a moment, considered telling them to wait. Because he had to grab something before they left. But the moment passed quickly, and he decided that under the circumstances, a few less than sane impulses were understandable.
The four of them tucked into a little group, and Jack kept his mouth firmly shut, aware that he hadn’t had toothpaste for god knew how long, and the last thing he had in his mouth was Daniel’s cock. Surely the others must know that just by looking at him. It felt like he had “I had sex with Daniel” written in neon on his forehead.
He looked up at the distant sunlight, making his eyes threaten to water again, and then the rings hummed down around them and they were in the light.
Fraiser was waiting for them on the Alkesh, and so was Jacob. There was a brief flurry of celebration and excitement. Sam hugged her father, and Jack was startled to see the shimmer of tears in her eyes. He was aware, of course, that people would be worried about them. He knew that his team would never give up the search. He could sympathize, really. It’s just that he’d been so preoccupied with his own situation, he hadn’t spent a lot of time wondering how Carter and Teal’c were doing.
Daniel accepted a hug from Janet, and another from Sam. Teal’c did his forearm-clasping handshake with both of them, accompanied by a small, dignified bow. Jack nodded approvingly at Carter, holding her eyes with his own. “Nice work,” he told her, and she lit up, holding her back straight and her chin high.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, smiling fiercely. He pretended he didn’t see the little extra shine in her eyes.
“Teal’c,” Jack said, grinning at him. “Buddy. Thanks.” Teal’c gave his little bow again, and Jack turned to Fraiser. “Doc. Taking a field trip?”
“We didn’t knew what condition you would be in when we found you,” Carter said tightly. The fine lines around her eyes, the draw to the sides of her mouth; those suggest that she did plenty of speculation on the subject. None of it pleasant.
“We were very concerned for your well being,” Teal’c added, with the kind of gravity that suggested anything that made him very concerned must be dire indeed.
“We’re fine,” Daniel said. He had a hand for Janet, another for Sam, a reassuring, understanding smile for all of them. “You guys must’ve been worried sick.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow and inclined his head. Sam nodded slightly, then shrugged, trying to smile. “Oh, well, you know. We were confident.”
Fraiser allowed them all a moment to grin stupidly at each other, and then she cleared her throat imperatively. “I need to examine both of you. Do you need anything? Did you have enough food and water?”
They tell her that they did, indeed, have enough. More than they could ever possibly want. So she got down to the business of examining them, in a cursory sort of way, since they didn’t have very much room or privacy on the little ship. While this was going on and Teal’c was digging the dessert items out of MREs for them, Carter explained their rescue.
Jack listened, skimming for the pertinent facts. Carter and Teal’c delivered back through the gate unconscious, the iris rendered inoperative by some force on the other side. Nobody ever saw the aliens, or whoever they were. Gate wouldn’t dial the planet after that. Luckily, they had the Alkesh that Teal’c and Jack picked up during the debacle with Felger’s DHD virus. Not so luckily, their scans of the planet found two human life signatures way too deep underground for the ring transporter.
That’s when things got tricky. Apparently, the ring transporter on the Alkesh had to be modified to dig a big hole first, and then to transport through that hole without the benefit of a ring receiving station on the other end.
“The Tok’ra were very helpful when it came to designing the modifications,” Carter said, nodding toward her father. Jacob, sitting up front and steering the ship, grinned and waved back at them.
“How long did it take?” Jack asked, because his time sense in that place was screwed.
Carter seemed to take this as an indication that she had worked far too slowly. “Well, sir, the ring transporter was never intended to be used as an excavation tool. We had to completely overwrite the control programs with our own, and then augment the power source of the energy beam so that it would have enough force to bore through the ground. The material that your... room was made out of was particularly difficult, some kind of polymer that I’ve never seen before and we only had the readings from the sensors to go on which was rather limiting--”
“Major.” Jack shook his head, smiling slightly. “I’m sure you worked miracles. I’m just wondering how many Simpsons episodes I missed.”
Clinging firmly to the thin edge of her professionalism, Sam managed to avoid bursting into slightly hysterical laughter. Because the Colonel and Daniel were here, they didn’t have a scratch on them, and the Colonel was making jokes like nothing had changed, like everything was normal again. If Daniel could read her mind just then, he would understand. She was having the same unreality issues as he was.
“A little over ten weeks, sir,” she said, and the ‘sir’ at the end helped her stay calm and grounded. “Seventy three days, to be exact.”
“Huh,” Jack said, because the number was meaningless. Seventy three days. Ten weeks. Two and a half months. He wondered how long that was in light cycles.
“I hope somebody fed my fish,” Daniel said. He thought of his fish, going around in circles in their little tank. He thought of their automatic feeder, their nice, safe, controlled environment, and the way he sat outside, above, and watched them, had complete power over them. He felt slightly ill. Maybe, if they were still alive when he got home, he would let them all go.
Then he remembered that tank fish would die if they were released into the wild, and felt more than slightly ill.
“So,” Sam said brightly, when she had finished telling the tale of their rescue. “What have you two been doing?”
Jack, who had been eating MRE cookies like they were finely cooked filet mignon, froze mid chew. Daniel passed him a canteen, and he gulped water, his face reddening. He didn’t look at Daniel, which was fine, since Daniel was fiddling with a hole in his sock. He was still only wearing one boot. He had the unsettling feeling that everyone could see through his clothes and somehow sense the stickiness that Jack’s mouth had left on his inner thigh.
“Ahm...” Jack cleared his throat, glanced at Daniel for help. Got a wincing sort of half smile in response. “Well, you know, there wasn’t much to do in there,” Jack said finally. “Lousy accommodations, slow room service, and they only had basic cable. Really, I’m thinking of asking for my money back.”
Carter’s lips twitched, and she blinked rapidly several times. “You do that, sir,” she said thickly. Then she turned to Daniel, obviously expecting a real answer.
Daniel licked his lips and smiled slightly, eyes downcast. “Well, I’m not entirely sure what our actual purpose there was, but I do have a... theory.”
“Daniel.” Jack drew the ‘el’ sound way, way out, rising at the end. He raised his eyebrows at Daniel, gave him a meaningful look.
“From what I could tell, we were part of an experiment in conditioned behavior,” Daniel said, holding a hand up to quiet Jack’s objections. He looked at Jack, widened his eyes slightly, and twitched his eyebrows. Trust me, his look said. I’m not stupid.
“Really?” Carter asked, her scientific curiosity engaged now that her worry for her teammates had been assuaged. “What led you to that conclusion?”
So Daniel started to discuss lights and sounds and stimuli and response, and how their environment made him think of a lab, and soon Sam was hip deep in an evaluation of alien scientific method versus their own, and why they should even assume that aliens would think the same way, and whether the idea of conditioned responses would even exist on other planets. Sam suggested that it was Daniel’s ethnocentric reasoning that assumed a culture on another planet would have laboratories and perform experiments on specimens in the same way that earth scientists would, and Daniel countered that all human behavior they had so far observed in the universe had held certain parallels with earth humans.
Daniel was thrilled to exercise his mind with an equal who could fully appreciate what he was talking about, and Sam was happy to see that Daniel was unchanged, and it was like the last ten weeks never happened. Jack listened long enough to realize that Daniel was never going to explain exactly what behavior was being encouraged, and tuned them out, secure in the knowledge that Daniel wanted this to stay just as secret as he did.
Jack left them to it and wandered over to the front of the ship. He dropped into the copilot’s chair, reveled in the upholstery and the fact that he wasn’t sitting on the floor for the first time in months, and watched the streaky colors of hyperspace slide past the window. Teal’c had taken the stick, and Jack gave him a nod. Teal’c nodded back, one corner of his mouth curling upward, and Jack wriggled into the chair a little bit, sighing happily. He was going home, and it was finally starting to seem real.
Jack would have been fine if not for the road construction.
The trip back in the ship had been quiet, full of the simple pleasures of really clean uniforms and private bathroom facilities and bunks with actual mattresses. Jack had even enjoyed the MREs, something which he would have previously declared impossible. Daniel had been positively ecstatic over instant coffee and a clean, fresh journal that Sam brought especially for him.
Then, the SGC, full of smiling people welcoming them back and hot showers and clean shaves and a medical exam so thorough that Jack was grateful he and Daniel had never gotten to the Main Event. Because that would have been fun to explain.
A debriefing full of Daniel disguising the fact that he wasn’t telling them everything by telling them a whole lot of nothing, at least as far as Jack had been able to tell. And judging by the slightly glazed expression on Hammond’s face, he hadn’t been the only one. Kudos all around for a successful rescue, a clear medical exam, (your cholesterol levels are excellent, Colonel, you must have had a very healthy diet) and they’d been given a week of downtime, just to settle back in.
It was great. Driving down the mountain, fresh air, music, and civilian clothes. Jack was in an excellent mood. He was putting the entire situation with Daniel firmly in the Weird Shit that Never Happened file in his head, and closing the lid. It was over.
And then, the road construction.
It was close to his house, on the intersection that led to his road, actually. He couldn’t avoid it. There was no construction there last time he drove this way, but then, that was some time ago. He shrugged it off. It was a hassle, slowed traffic down, but it couldn’t touch his mood. He thought it would take a full scale Goa’uld invasion of earth to bring him down.
That was when he saw the flashing orange caution lights, and discovered that things weren’t so peachy after all.
Jack couldn’t look away from them. They lined both sides of the road, redirecting traffic away from the giant hole in the pavement. He couldn’t close his eyes, because he was driving. All he could do was grit his teeth and shift uncomfortably in his seat as traffic inched forward.
He moved his truck to the edge of his lane and craned his neck, trying to see the slowdown. There appeared to be a big yellow bulldozer crossing the road ahead, a man on the ground walking backwards in front of it and guiding the driver around the orange cones with hand signals. All cars were stopped as this procession lumbered across the road.
Jack tilted his head back and blew air through his teeth, making a hissing noise. He squeezed his legs together, putting pressure on his balls, hoping for some relief, but it didn’t help. He reached one hand into the back seat and cast about blindly, as if he might have left a convenient ice pack back there.
He looked to either side, checking if anyone in the lanes beside him could see into his truck. It sat pretty high off the ground, so chances were good that nobody would know the difference if he opened his fly and went for it right there. His truck was a stick shift, which made one-handed driving difficult, but not impossible. It could work.
Jack spared a moment to debate the tackiness level of jerking off in public, and risk of being seen; considered whether he should just wait until he got home. But it was a short moment.
Dropping the transmission into neutral, Jack spread his legs as much as he could, unzipped with shaking fingers (sending a mental thank you to the Levi corporation for making jeans with such easy zippers) and gave his dick a firm squeeze through his underwear.
His hips jerked forward, his foot slipped off the brake, and his truck began to slowly roll backward due to his uphill slant. When the car behind him honked its horn, Jack jumped, opened his eyes, and stomped on the brake. He looked at the driver in his rearview mirror and offered an apologetic wave. The driver glared.
“Shit,” Jack muttered, shifting in his seat again. He put the truck in gear, rolled forward about ten feet, and was forced to stop again. He pulled the waistband of his underwear down, glanced to his left, and quickly pulled it back up. He had drawn even with a tractor trailer, and the driver had a clear line of sight on his lap. Despite that, he couldn’t help rubbing himself through his pants, still unzipped. He could feel the teeth of the zipper, smooth, hard little bumps. He thought of Daniel’s teeth and his hips jerked forward again, a shiver tightening the skin of his back and arms.
Stretching his neck and peering ahead, as if knowing what the delay was would help, Jack succeeded only in seeing more of the flashing orange lights. He groaned and glanced briefly down at his lap. He didn’t want to see his dick. If it looked even half as painful as it felt, it wasn’t going to be a pleasant view.
It took Jack fifteen minutes to get through the construction traffic and in his front door. He slammed it behind him, leaned against it, and dropped his pants. He had slimmed down during his time in the cell, and they slithered obediently down his hips, pooling around his ankles. His underwear followed, and then he could finally finish the job that all his covert rubbing in the truck had started.
Twenty minutes later, he was still trying. Despite the fact that he could no longer see the flashing lights, the conditioned response was still going strong, and his own hand wasn’t enough. But of course it wasn’t, because he hadn’t been trained to need an orgasm. He had been trained to need Daniel.
Jack was sprawled on the couch, his numb hand still loosely wrapped around the base of his dick, which showed no signs of faltering. His pants were in a sad little pile on the floor nearby, with his underwear still inside. His shirt was hanging open, sweat beaded on his forehead and slipping down his chest.
That was the scene that Daniel walked in on.
He shoved the door shut behind him, already intent on Jack. Jack watched him approach through glazed, half-lidded eyes and thought he should make some kind of comment about knocking and the lack thereof, but he was too focused on Daniel’s mouth. That lovely, clever mouth that was already opening.
Daniel dropped to his knees in front of Jack. “Did you knew there’s construction on the way to your house?” he asked.
“I’d noticed,” Jack said, and then he gasped and arched his back. “Ohgod, Daniel...”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jack noticed that he had used Daniel’s name, something he had never done before. But it was a small step, a tiny step on a long journey, and really, what was one more step?
Afterward, Jack was sitting on the floor, his back against the couch, legs draped haphazardly over Daniel’s. Daniel was lying on the floor, one arm slung across his eyes, his chest still rising and falling fast. He had pulled his pants back up, but hadn’t bothered zipping or buttoning. Jack was wearing his shirt, and nothing else.
“I actually came over to talk,” Daniel said, when he felt a little more coherent.
“If that’s how you talk, you must be a hit at cocktail parties.”
Daniel snorted and lifted his arm, peering down at Jack. He could see Jack’s penis, lying spent on his thigh, and that was a new intimacy--post coital almost naked Jack. In the cell, they would both pull their underwear or pants back up immediately afterward, but this time, Jack wasn’t wearing any. Daniel could see his chest, the line of his sternum, but because of the shirt and his awkward angle, he couldn’t see Jack’s nipples. He wasn’t particularly surprised to find that he wanted to see them. He wanted to feel them, to roll them between his fingertips and see how Jack reacted, what sounds he made. He wanted to feel them harden and grow slick in his mouth.
“We may have a problem.”
Jack lifted one eyelid, decided it required too much effort, and shut it again. “Ya think?”
“Well, getting through that road construction next time you leave the house isn’t going to be easy,” Daniel said pointedly. He propped his elbows behind him and lifted his head off the floor, regarding Jack, who was still flopped against the couch, his eyes closed and his mouth open.
“Leaving the house is overrated,” Jack replied.
“I somehow doubt your groceries have survived the last couple months.”
“I’ll get takeout delivered.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Jack.”
Grumbling, Jack sat up straight and rubbed a hand over his face. “Yeah, okay. But what do you want me to do? Petition the city to stop all road construction because flashing lights make me want to jump my archeologist?”
“The effects of our conditioning shouldn’t last forever,” Daniel reasoned. “If we can just avoid the stimuli until the training wears off, we’ll be all right.”
Jack closed his eyes again and waved a hand in Daniel’s direction. “There you go, then. Problem solved.”
“Oh, here we go,” Jack muttered. “You couldn’t leave it alone, could you?”
“Is that what you want to do? Ignore what was said? Forget it?” Daniel rose to his feet, buttoning his pants. Jack cast a weary glance at him, at his folded arms and closed, carefully neutral expression, and sighed heavily.
“Is that not an option?” Jack asked. He reached a leg out and snagged his pants with his toes, drawing them closer. His underwear was sticky with drying pre-come, and he wrinkled his nose at it and decided to go commando. He dragged himself to his feet and skimmed his pants up over bare hips, zipping carefully.
“Do you want it to be an option?” Daniel’s voice was measured, deliberate.
Jack shrugged. “It would make things simpler.”
Daniel wasn’t meeting his eyes. He nodded, once, a small, I-should-have-known smile on his face. Jack tried to place why this felt familiar, and then remembered his undercover mission for the Tollan, lying to Daniel in this house, telling him they had no foundation. Daniel had that same look on his face now.
“You’re not going to let me make this simple, are you.”
Daniel raised his eyebrows, blinking in his exaggerated ‘excuse me?’ way. “I didn’t say anything.”
Jack snorted. “You didn’t have to.”
Daniel stared at him for a long moment, his mouth slightly open, his eyes revealing more than he wanted them to. Then his mouth snapped shut, his expression went carefully empty, and he turned on his heel.
He was halfway out the door when Jack caught up to him and yanked him back, shutting the door and standing against it, cutting off Daniel’s escape.
“I’m leaving, Jack,” Daniel said flatly. He wouldn’t look at Jack.
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes. I am.”
Daniel gave a sigh that was almost like a growl, and his eyes finally snapped onto Jack’s, hard, flashing. Deep water, Jack thought, and even though there were no lights, no clicky noises, he felt a low surge of arousal.
“You’ve made your decision.” Daniel’s voice was toneless. “I’m not going to beg.”
Jack allowed his desire to show on his face, if only for a moment. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” he said.
Daniel blinked at him, drawing his eyebrows down. “What?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time you begged me.”
“As I recall, Colonel,” Daniel leaned forward, licked his lips, swept Jack up and down with his eyes, “I wasn’t the only one.”
Jack wondered if there was something seriously wrong with his head that made him get turned on when Daniel called him Colonel. After all, everyone called him Colonel. Why should it matter when Daniel did it?
But of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? Daniel didn’t call him that. Daniel was the only one who was his true equal. Maybe that was why this was inevitable. How could it be anyone else?
“Call me Jack,” he said, giving Daniel a daffy grin. “And you’re not leaving.”
The small spark of amusement in Daniel’s eyes died abruptly. “Clever, Jack. Very good distraction technique. Certainly a sound tactical move. But then, that’s what you’re good at, isn’t it?”
Jack felt himself losing the argument and quickly tried another tack. “Maybe you’ve forgotten the road construction? How are you going to got through that without getting all... conditioned again?”
“Something tells me I won’t have any trouble not wanting you this time.” And Daniel turned to go, his shoulders hunched and his head down.
Jack let the door open two inches before planting his palm against it and slamming it shut again. “So you’re giving up?” he asked, all the teasing and humor gone from his voice. His usual tricks, charm and sarcasm, weren’t working. It was time for the last resort--honesty.
Daniel turned slowly, gave Jack an unreadable look. “What do you want me to do?” he asked. “Cry and plead with you to give me a chance? Argue all the reasons why we should be together? If you’re so certain that all you want to do was forget it, pretend it never happened, then... then...” Daniel shook his head, threw his hands up in the air. “I shouldn’t have to force you, Jack. That’s what it’s always been about, you being forced. You kidding yourself that you had no choice, that you didn’t want it. Well, I’m not going to twist your arm. Either you want this, or you don’t. You’re going to have to decide.”
“Now, see, that doesn’t make sense. That’s a cop out,” Jack retorted. His hands were on either side of Daniel now, pressed against the door, bracketing Daniel in. He leaned forward, closing their bodies together, his head tilted down just enough to look Daniel directly in the eye. “I have never known you to back down when you want something. You are one stubborn son of a bitch, and you never quit. What, I’m not worth fighting for?”
Daniel brought his hands up and grasped Jack’s wrists, clutching them tightly, widening his eyes for emphasis. “What do you think I’m doing? Why do you think I haven’t left? I’m making you decide, making you admit what you want, what you’ve always wanted, because I’m not fighting for you, Jack. I’m fighting for us.”
Jack blinked, pulled back slightly, and a slow smile formed on his face. “Wow, Daniel. You could write song lyrics.”
A bark of startled laughter escaped Daniel before he could fight it back, and he let out a long breath. “Jack...” He shook his head. “Can’t you ever stop? Can’t you take this seriously?”
“I am. I just...” Jack shrugged and spread his hands, his lips tilting into a sideways smile. “I’m really bad at this.”
“I’ve noticed that about you.”
Jack didn’t really know what he was doing, but Daniel was still there, and he was smiling in a way that Jack could seriously get used to, so he figured he must be doing something right.
“We’d have to be careful,” Jack said.
Daniel’s smile got a lot wider, and he leaned in, allowing his forehead to touch Jack’s for a moment. “I could do careful.”
“No sex offworld.”
“I think we may have already broken that one.”
Jack laughed and opened his mouth for another rule, but Daniel captured it before he could speak. Jack was kissing him back before he remembered that he had never done that, kissed Daniel on the mouth. Other places, yes. He’d kissed Daniel’s cock, his balls, and his belly. He had kissed the smooth place just behind the balls, where he could press his tongue and Daniel made this kind of moaning gasp that he would pay serious money to hear.
The mouth was new, though. Jack decided he liked the mouth a great deal, because it could kiss him back. Much more interactive. And of course, Daniel was good with his mouth, fascinating and compelling and powerful.
This was the mouth that had explained the stargate to a room full of Generals and opened up the universe. The mouth that had brokered hundreds of touchy meetings with aliens both friendly and otherwise. The mouth that said crazy, brave, stupid things to Goa’ulds. The mouth that could communicate with anyone, anywhere, and win over everyone from sarcophagus-addicted princesses to teenage unas.
And it belonged to Jack now. It was his mouth.
“Mine,” Jack growled, and bit Daniel’s lower lip. Daniel grabbed his ass, yanked him close, and ground an impressive erection against his hip.
Jack loved it when Daniel spoke his language.
It was almost time to go back to work, and the conditioning was wearing off, slowly but surely. Jack hoped it would be completely under control before they had an actual mission, because he knew he couldn’t let the team go into the field if he and Daniel weren’t in control. He would explain the situation to the general before he would risk his people--but he really hoped it didn’t come to that.
They had spent the last week finding new and inventive ways to entertain themselves. Daniel had introduced Jack to rimming, which sounded disgusting when described out loud, but felt fantastic when Daniel held him down, ignored his half-hearted protests, and went for it.
Later, Jack returned the favor. But he insisted that they both take a long, thorough bath first.
Carter and Teal’c had been over a few times, bringing food and movies and good company. One night, all of them but Teal’c had gotten rather smashingly drunk and the whole story of conditioning and breeding and road construction had come out. Jack would have been worried about Carter’s reaction if she had been able to stop laughing.
In the morning, they did talk about it seriously. Daniel made some excuses and took Teal’c upstairs to show him something on the computer, leaving Jack alone in the living room with a pale, hung over Carter. Daniel kept giving him meaningful looks as he went up the stairs, until Jack rolled his eyes and called out, “Yes, Daniel, I get it. Carter gets it. Teal’c gets it. The people down the street get it. Thank you for your subtlety.”
So Jack had The Talk with Carter, which wasn’t nearly as bad as he thought it would be. She saved him from a lot of awkward sidestepping by getting right to the point.
“I don’t have a problem with it, sir. And I won’t tell anyone.”
Jack raised his eyebrows, offering a weak smile. “That easy, huh?”
“I could make it harder.” Carter gave him a pointed look, and let him squirm uneasily for a minute before relenting. “Actually, things have changed for me. I might have had a problem with this if it had happened sooner, when I was still... confused.”
“Confused,” Jack echoed neutrally.
Carter looked down, and then peeked up at him with a slightly embarrassed smile. “You remember when the Prometheus was trapped in that nebula and I got a concussion?” At Jack’s cautious nod, she went on, “I worked some things out then. Realized where my priorities were, and where they should be. I let some things go.”
“Well. That’s good.”
She nodded. “Yes. And besides, I’m with Pete now.”
“Yes,” Jack said, suddenly feeling that they were on safer ground. “How’s that going, by the way?”
“Good,” Sam replied, smiling. “Really good, actually. I, ah... I think I’m... it’s good.”
Jack nodded. “Glad you’re happy.”
“Same here, sir.”
After that, the team had hung out together for a while longer, Sam teasing both of them mercilessly, Teal’c watching with quiet amusement. He kept inserting sly comments into the conversation that could have been perfectly innocent, but probably were not.
When the other two left, Jack and Daniel were spoiled for choices on how to spend their last evening of downtime together. Daniel was vacillating between two of his favorites when Jack suggested that they simply do both. Daniel said that he loved the way Jack thought.
They hadn’t actually said that they loved each other, but then, it wasn’t really necessary. Jack liked that he didn’t have to say it. Daniel knew.
When it was very late and Jack felt deliciously heavy, slow, and sleepy, Daniel said, “We could take turns.”
Jack lifted head slightly and wondered how Daniel had the energy to sit up, much less speak. “Daniel, we have to get up and go to work in three hours. Can this wait?”
Grinning, Daniel laid on top of Jack, chest to chest, propping his head and shoulders up with his elbows. He let most of his weight rest on Jack, who did nothing to discourage him. He loved how Daniel felt on him, the solid presence, warm and heavy, keeping him anchored.
“I’m tired of waiting,” Daniel murmured, craning his neck down to nip at Jack’s jaw line, and nuzzle the side of his throat.
“I’m just tired,” Jack countered, yawning for emphasis. But that didn’t stop him from angling his neck for more nuzzling.
“I think taking turns would be fair.”
Jack sighed and opened his eyes reluctantly. “Taking turns with what?”
Daniel gave him a meaningful look.
“Oh,” Jack said. “I thought we weren’t doing that.”
“I want to. And so do you.”
“Well.” Jack tilted his head to one side, blinked slowly. “I want to do it, yes. Just not so sure I want to be... done.”
Daniel smiled, his mouth warm and mobile against Jack’s bare shoulder. “Same here. But remember how much you didn’t want to try the rimming until I demonstrated its more enjoyable qualities?”
“Bluh. I won’t deny that it felt fucking great, but that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it. Still weirds me out a little.”
“So we don’t have to talk about it.”
Jack lifted his head slightly, so he could look at Daniel. “Uh, Daniel, in case it escaped your notice, we are talking about it.”
Jack closed his eyes. Daniel always did this to him. “Taking turns?”
“So you like the idea?”
Despite his annoyance, Jack couldn’t help laughing at the look on Daniel’s face, the smug little ‘I outmaneuvered you’ smile. “I’m still waiting to hear the idea, Daniel. Sometime today, maybe?”
“No, I think I’m pretty much done for today.” Daniel frowned down at where his groin was pressed into contact with Jack’s and wiggled slightly, testing for a response. “Nope. Tomorrow.”
“You’re doing that on purpose.”
Groaning in frustration, Jack arched his back and rolled them, landing on top of Daniel with an ‘oof!’ and a triumphant grin. “Stop talking in circles.”
Daniel gave him a sly, slippery look, but relented when Jack raised his eyebrows and pinned him more firmly to the mattress. “I’m willing to try it,” he said. “Both giving and receiving. But only if you’ll try it too.”
Jack screwed his face up and rolled off, lying beside Daniel and staring up at the ceiling. “Dammit, Daniel,” he muttered. “You never make anything easy, you know that?”
“I know.” Daniel slid one hand over and laced it with Jack’s, rubbing his thumb over the inside of Jack’s wrist, where the skin was soft and thin, and he could feel a pulse. “If you really hate the idea, say so, and I’ll drop it. I mean that.”
“Yeah,” Jack said softly. “I know you do.”
They were quiet for a long time, and Daniel thought that Jack had probably fallen asleep. He sighed and turned toward him, curling against his side and shelving the conversation for another time. But Jack surprised him, pulling him close, giving him a sudden, fierce hug.
“Who goes first?” Jack whispered in his ear, still holding him tightly. Daniel stiffened in surprise, and Jack squeezed a little tighter for a moment before letting go. He pulled back, lying on his side, his face inches away from Daniel’s.
“Really? You’re willing to try?”
Jack shrugged, offered a half smile. “What the hell,” he said. “Never know unless you try.”
Daniel felt a slow grin spread across his face, and he kissed Jack impulsively, holding his head in both hands. “Thank you,” he murmured. “I know this is a big deal for you.”
“Don’t worry, Daniel,” Jack leered, “it’ll be a big deal for you too.” And he waggled his eyebrows so suggestively that Daniel laughed, throwing his head back and really letting go.
“So, I repeat my earlier question--who goes first?”
Daniel shrugged. “Flip a coin?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Jack stared at the ceiling thoughtfully. “No, let’s make this really interesting. Maybe a little competition?”
“What kind of competition?” Daniel asked, fixing Jack with a suspicious stare.
“Let’s say... next one to initiate sex is the first one to get...” Jack made explanatory hand gestures.
Daniel smiled. “What, you think that’ll be me? You think I have no patience? No willpower?”
“Hey, you said it, not me.”
“Need I remind you which one of us caved first when we were in the cell?”
Jack sniffed dismissively and burrowed close to Daniel, closing his eyes.
“Hey! Don’t we need ground rules? What, exactly, constitutes ‘initiating’ sex? And does the one who does it have to bottom right then, or later? If later, how much later? Are there limits on procrastination? And what about--”
“Go to sleep.”
They made it through the road construction on the way to work the next day without major incident. Provided that driving down the road with Daniel’s hand in Jack’s pants could be considered a minor incident. But that connection proved to be sufficient, and they made it in with self control and dignity intact. And more importantly, clean pants.
Carter caught them in the hall before the morning planning brief, and immediately started to snicker. She covered her mouth and turned away, but made no other effort to stop laughing.
“Problem, Major?” Jack asked pointedly.
“No, sir. Just remembered something funny I heard last week.”
Daniel was turning a sort of deep mauve color, which only served to set Carter off again, and she held a hand out, shaking her head. “No, stop, Daniel.”
She grinned brightly at him. “Never mind. I’m just glad you didn’t tell me before the mission debriefing. I never could have kept a straight face.”
Daniel snorted and gave her a sideways smile. “Why do you think I didn’t tell you?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Kids? Shall we?” And he escorted them into the briefing room, carefully sitting across from Daniel, the wide table between them. No point in tempting fate, after all.
“Good morning, SG-1,” General Hammond said, sweeping into the room. “I trust you enjoyed your downtime?”
Carter began to cough, and quickly drank from her glass of water. Daniel sought refuge in his coffee cup, his lips twitching. Jack leaned back, smiled blandly, and said, “Yes, sir. A good time was had by all.”
Hammond looked curiously at Teal’c, who appeared to be the only one at the table acting completely normal. Teal’c looked impassively back, giving away nothing.
“Right,” the general said. “Let’s begin.”
Getting down to business proved to be a dash of cold water to Sam and Daniel, who quickly stopped behaving like giddy children and became the professionals they were. Jack took a moment to watch his team around the table, reveling in the fact that he was back, that things were normal again.
Hammond was discussing their upcoming mission schedule, and he turned on the display screen with his remote. Dates and planet designations were listed, each one with a brief explanation of their objectives. Jack was relieved to see that they had no missions for another week, which should be enough time to fully overcome their conditioning.
The general clicked his remote again, and the screen changed. An aerial map provided by the UAV, with color coded deposits of minerals. Click. Change. More colors.
Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep gulp of coffee. He tapped his fingers restlessly on the table and then stopped when he realized the sound was making it worse. He snuck a glance over at Jack, who was very deliberately not looking at him.
The next screen was a risk analysis for a Goa’uld controlled planet with a rich naquada mine and shoddy guard system. The data was displayed in a grid. Colored squares.
Daniel bit his lip and shifted in his seat, opening his legs, slumping down, then straightening and closing them again. He tried crossing his knees together briefly, thought that he probably looked like a kid who needed the bathroom, and concentrated on sitting still.
Click. Click click. Tap tap tappy taptap.
Daniel frowned, staring at the General, but he was still talking about the risk assessment. That screen hadn’t changed. Still colored squares. Daniel looked away, and found the source of the sound.
Jack. Fiddling with his ballpoint pen. He was looking directly at Daniel, a small smile on his face. He pushed the button on the pen, released it, and pushed it again. Clickclick. Tapped it on the table. Pushed the button again. Smiled a little wider.
Daniel stared at him, lost, wondering what the hell Jack was doing. They were in a briefing, with the General, for god’s sake. This was hardly the time to... to start something. No, Daniel corrected himself. Jack wasn’t starting something. He was initiating something. Something they would have to finish later. But not too much later.
He entertained a brief but highly incendiary fantasy involving Jack, a storeroom, and a conveniently broken security camera. He had just gotten to the part where he shoved Jack over a desk that happened to be just the right height and started pulling his uniform pants down, kissing every bit of skin revealed as he went, when he remembered he was in the middle of a briefing and redirected his thoughts.
Daniel cut his eyes sideways, indicating the screen display to Jack with a glance. Jack looked at it, nodded, and clicked his pen again. He lifted his eyebrows slightly, then let them drop. Rapped his knuckles lightly on the table. Click, click, tap tappity tap.
Daniel began to smile.
August 17 – 26, 2004
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