"The confusion could have been avoided, but those involved were beyond help and notoriously poor communicators."
Daniel Jackson closed his laptop, placed it back in its case and zipped it up. With a heavy sigh, he pushed away from the table and rose awkwardly. He'd been sitting for over eight hours. As the other members of the conference streamed out of the large room, he hung back, not wanting to be included in the mass of tired, hungry, and disgruntled individuals. When the last person had exited, he took his suit jacket from the back of the chair, slipped it on, then started for the door. As he walked down the lushly carpeted hall that would eventually lead him out of the building, Daniel wondered again why he'd been chosen to represent the SGC in this ultra secret meeting between 'in-the-know' scientists and military personnel.
For six days he'd been stuck in Cascade, Washington, attending a series of meetings laughingly called the "Conference To Determine The Future Mandates Of Project Stargate Command". The meetings had quickly disintegrated into a battle between scientist and soldier, between discovery and weapons.
Well, duh, Daniel thought.
Major Davis had been the only military representative that had actually been to the SGC, and Daniel the only individual to be a part of the SGC. Unfortunately, on the morning of the fourth day, Paul had been called away due to a family emergency, which had left Daniel the lone 'expert'. An expert, who, for the first three days, had been routinely ignored.
Evidently his reputation as an oddball had preceded him. Duh, again.
In the afternoon of the same day Paul had left, Daniel's temper had finally gotten the better of him and he'd let loose. It had turned out to be a good thing. Apparently anger was something the others could relate to, because they'd started to listen. Slowly, over the final two days, the new 'Manifesto', as the group had started to call it, had changed and developed into something that both scientist and soldier could live with. However, all that agreement still hadn't helped the final discussion: Should the world be told about the SGC?
The last hours of the conference had been spent in anger, yelling matches, and ultimately; no resolution. Daniel had found himself surprisingly against the idea of telling the world, or maybe he was really against the idea of a small group of men and women from the United States making such an important decision. Now that the UK, France, Italy, Canada and China had joined Russia in knowing about the Stargate, it seemed to Daniel that any decision to tell the world should be made by a 'joint' committee of representatives from all those countries, not by a bunch of American scientists or soldiers.
Okay, it was true that any decision this conference might have made with regard to telling the world would only have been considered by the President and his Joint Chiefs, but still, it wasn't a decision they should even have had input in.
Daniel stepped out of the Segerstrom Building and into the early cold Cascade evening. He should have taken the advice of the doorman at his hotel when he'd advised a coat. It was damn cold in Cascade -- for spring. Late spring. He pulled the collar of suit jacket up around his neck and started walking the short two blocks to his hotel. He knew that most everyone else involved with the conference had travel plans for that night and had caught the pre-arranged airport shuttle buses. His own flight home was still two days away, thanks to General Hammond's suggestion to take "some time for you, son."
Time for himself. He supposed that was the real reason he'd been foisted on this conference when so many others would have been better suited, not to mention respected. Things hadn't been going well for Daniel lately, at least not where SG-1 and its leader were concerned. Daniel had found himself reacting to Jack's continued withdrawal by withdrawing himself. From everyone. His life had become missions with other teams, translations, and a few missions with SG-1 where he did little more than watch their sixes while Jack gave him 'that' look whenever he tried to offer an opinion. He'd grown very tired of Jack O'Neill's rolling eyes whenever Daniel opened his mouth. Of course, the end result of his withdrawal had been lack of sleep, resulting in exhaustion and threats by Janet to put him in the infirmary if he didn't change his current lifestyle. It had also resulted in General Hammond's calling him into a private meeting, whereupon Daniel had suggested that perhaps it was time he and the SGC parted company.
Even now, Daniel thought his arguments had been concise and well-thought out. He wasn't contributing anything worth mentioning, he wasn't a soldier, but was fast becoming one, his skills had long since been shelved, and when had the last "first contact" mission been taken by SG-1, anyway? He'd wisely left out the part about "my leader also has apparently started to hate my guts and the urge to throw me through walls has increased exponentially" because, well, it would sound a bit too churlish? Self-pitying? Truthful? Childish?
Hammond had shot down his arguments, but only in a general manner, by suggesting he was too tired to think straight, and that maybe time away was the answer, "and by the way, there's this conference in Cascade and we need an expert to represent the SGC", yadda-yadda. To coin a Jackphrase, 'yeah, sure, youbetcha'.
Well, guess what? He was still exhausted. And existing on coffee, coffee, and more coffee, along with the occasional donut and rank ham salad sandwiches had done nothing for him, other than to aid in the loss of another couple of pounds. And gosh, now he had two whole days in lovely Cascade, lovely wet Cascade, to 'feel better'.
Looking around him, he doubted that there was much to do, which meant that he'd be certain to catch up on the much needed z-z's. The hotel bill was on the government, so eating from room service would take care of the lost pounds. Hey, maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. Two days to himself, two days to read, sleep, eat, and -- nothing else. He could handle that. But he doubted that he'd change his mind about leaving the SGC. After all, who would really miss him? Sam? Yeah, a bit, but the next project would take her mind off of his absence. Teal'c? Maybe the only one who would. Certainly not Jack. Jack would revel in the fact that there'd be no one to blithely ignore his orders. No, his decision to leave would stand.
Daniel stopped at the corner and waited for the light to change. He glanced around and spotted a sign that said, "Muldoon's". They had a Muldoon's back home, a place with a nice quiet pub-like atmosphere. The outside of this Muldoon's suggested it might be similar. With a shrug, and the thought that he had nothing better to do, Daniel back-tracked and went inside.
Blair gazed out the window of the plane and into blue nothing. The flight was still two hours away from Cascade, and where normally Blair would biting at the bit to get home, he was now slightly tense.
His decision to take the short expedition to Bogotá had not been met with approval from his partner, hence their parting had been less than friendly. During the three weeks he'd been gone, he'd tried to call Jim, but never connected with anything but the machine.
//If you want Ellison, he isn't here. If you want Sandburg, he definitely isn't here. Leave your message.//
In three weeks, Jim hadn't returned a single phone call, the bastard.
Blair sighed and turned back to the magazine in his lap. Damn, why had he fallen in love with Jim, anyway? It wasn't like he didn't know that his feelings could never be returned, that Jim simply didn't bend that way, but damn, it hadn't stopped him. But it had caused him to run. He was pretty sure that Jim knew he was running away, but he also knew that Jim didn't have a clue as to the reason.
Blair wondered if, by leaving, he'd ruined their friendship. They were still recovering from Alex, and trust was more important than ever, but damn it, there was no way Blair could talk about this to Jim.
So what were his choices now that the expedition was over? Tell Jim how he felt? Keep his mouth shut and maintain the status quo in order to stay close to Jim? Or maybe cut the string and get on with his life? Gee, wasn't he lucky to have so many options?
Maybe a little introspection was called for in deciding which option to chose? Take a look at his life, up close and personal?
Well, he had friends at the PD, but other than Megan, no one would miss him if he weren't around anymore, except maybe Joel. Yeah, Joel would miss him. But that was it. Simon would probably be relieved, and the others? Yeah, he could hear them now.
"Sandburg's gone? Oh, well, that explains why it's been so normal, not to mention pleasingly quiet around here lately. Cool."
Had he just made a decision? Looks like. On the other hand, was there still life for him in academia? Blair looked back out the window and had to admit that academia held no allure for him anymore. But then, it never really had. It was a necessary evil to his doctorate, to expeditions, to all that he had once held dear. So now what? No PD, no Rainier. Start over? Teach? Go on a walk-about?
Hey, that sounded good. A walk-about.
Except -- he didn't think he could leave Jim. Which meant that he'd just changed his mind. Status quo was looking better. Unless Jim decided to change it.
Blair was getting a headache. He rested his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. He'd decide -- later. Much later. Maybe months later. Or years later. Or tomorrow.
Jack O'Neill sat back in his office chair and stared at the picture in his hand, a picture that represented the biggest problem in his life. As he gazed at the four faces smiling back at him, he traced one of them with his right index finger. The photo was of his team. SG-1. It had been taken by Sergeant Siler as the four had stood on the ramp leading up to the 'Gate. Teal'c was the only one not smiling, but there was a definite gleam in his eyes.
SG-1. A diverse team made up of explorers, soldiers, and scientists. Yet somehow they'd melded into a single unit that made history on an almost daily basis. SG-1 was important to the world, Jack could admit that. He knew that the combination of the four of them worked to create an unstoppable force in the universe. Might sound hokey, but it was true. And if he believed in Fate, he'd say the four members of SG-1 were destined to be together at this time in their world's history.
But SG-1 was made up of people. Four very different people. And one of them owned Jack's heart, lock, stock and barrel. And therein lay the problem. The good of the world, or the good of Jack O'Neill? Would a relationship with this individual threaten the team? Would it threaten Jack? The answer was yes to both. Because the member was Daniel, who was most definitely a man. A good-looking, quirky, honest, brilliant, stubborn, naive, innocent, brain-on-speed, man. He also had one hell of a great ass, and damn cool lips to boot. He was also the man who could drive Jack O'Neill crazy faster than Superman could leap tall buildings.
And Jack loved him.
And he knew that Daniel was very close to leaving the SGC.
God, where were the answers when he needed them?
Suddenly restless, he rose, placed the photo on the blotter, and headed out. Maybe twenty minutes with a punching bag would help.
He made good time getting to the gym, his "I'm in a hurry" expression working better than ever. No one bothered him, or even tried to engage him in conversation. His luck held when he discovered that the only person in the gym was Teal'c, who was on one the benches and pressing a set of weights that Jack wouldn't even contemplate trying.
"O'Neill. I did not realize you were still in the mountain," the Jaffa said as he lowered the bar back onto the rack and sat up.
"Had some extra work to do," Jack said as he joined Teal'c. "What's up with you? Kel-no-reeming giving you a hard time, or is it still too early in the evening?"
"I felt the need to burn off some energy. I find that I'm succumbing to the human frailty of worry."
Jack had been about to enter the locker room in order to change, but Teal'c's words stopped him cold. He turned, walked back over to his friend, and asked, "Worry? Teal'c, what the hell could have you so worried that it interferes with your ability to go into kel-no-reem?"
Jack closed his eyes. Wasn't this just swell.
"O'Neill, I believe DanielJackson is thinking of leaving us."
Jack opened his eyes and nodded. "I know."
"I believe you are the reason," Teal'c added as he stood up and grabbed a towel.
Jack took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out. "I think you're right, Teal'c."
"What do you propose to do about it?," Teal'c inquired, one eyebrow rising.
"Tonight, I plan to kill a harmless punching bag," he responded while once again heading for the locker room.
"That is not the answer, O'Neill."
"It'll work for now," he threw over his shoulder.
"You will only hurt yourself, O'Neill. Wouldn't it be easier to simply tell DanielJackson how you feel about him?"
Jack stopped again, and wondered if he'd ever actually make it to the locker room. He turned slowly and faced Teal'c. "And just how do I feel about him, Teal'c?"
"You feel very strongly, O'Neill. Yet for some reason, you fear those feelings, and we are all paying the price, but not as badly as Daniel."
That got Jack's attention. Teal'c had just used Daniel's first name -- and nothing else. "Teal'c--"
"Do not think that I don't understand your military, O'Neill, I do. I further understand the risks you'd be taking if you -- declared yourself. But I can not help but wonder if you and DanielJackson have not earned the right to whatever happiness you might find together? And are not some rules worth breaking? And some individuals worth breaking them for?"
Jack reached out a hand to steady himself, connected with the wall, and slowly blinked at his friend.
"Perhaps you should take some time off, O'Neill? Visit, for instance, Cascade, Washington? I understand that it has over forty-two different kinds of coffee."
"Teal'c, do you know what a matchmaker is?"
"I do not. But I suspect that it is someone who makes matches, although the typical cigarette lighter--"
"Never mind, Teal'c. Never mind."
Jack walked over to the bench Teal'c had been using and sat down. Okay, so maybe Teal'c had a few good points -- maybe. And Jack could use a little time away, and come to think of it, he actually knew someone in Cascade, which would give him a great excuse for being there. This could actually work.
"You know, Teal'c, I think you've got a great idea. And a matchmaker is someone who brings people together, by the way."
"Ah," Teal'c said as he nodded wisely. "Then I am a matchmaker."
Jack checked his watch. With a little help from the Air Force, he could be in Cascade by nine. This mission was a go.
Jim Ellison stared into the amber liquid in his glass and wondered why he kept seeing Blair's face. Damn it, couldn't he escape the guy even in Muldoon's? Damn the man, anyway.
He was losing Sandburg. It was that simple. He was losing him. Blair had actually accepted an expedition, and Blair's announcement over Chinese had astounded Jim. Okay, things hadn't been terrific between them lately, and he had to admit that Blair looked exhausted, his pale, drawn face almost haunting in its uncharacteristic stillness. Jim just wished he understood where the tension was coming from. If he knew, he could fix it, make things right for Sandburg, make things right for their partnership ... and their friendship.
Damn, it sure would have been a hell of a lot simpler if Sandburg were gay. A hell of a lot simpler. Jim glanced up from his drink and caught his reflection in the mirror that back dropped the bartender. Thank God he looked as miserable as he felt. He really needed to find some guy and enjoy a mindless fuck. A discreet mindless fuck. Keeping his hands off of his partner represented more stress than any man should have to deal with.
Falling in love with a straight man was also more stress than any bi-sexual guy should have to deal with.
Hell, maybe that was Sandburg's problem? Had he tumbled to Jim's true feelings? God, knowing Sandburg, that could be it. The guy would process, mentally discuss, feel empathy for Jim, worry about Jim, the whole magilla. And in the end, he'd do precisely what he'd done; get the hell out of Dodge. Sure, wasn't that Blair Sandburg all over? Jim could almost hear Blair's thoughts--
'Gotta give Jim some space, gotta work this out, do what's right for my partner.'
Oh, yeah, that was his friend all over. And wouldn't it be just like the man to return from his expedition and offer himself to Jim? Sure as hell would. Well, Jim Ellison didn't need some pity fuck.
Sometimes, Jim Ellison could kill Blair Sandburg.
When he didn't want to nail his ass through the mattress -- or vice versa.
Jim threw back the last of his drink, set the glass down, and gave the bartender a nod. The man filled him up again, then moved to the other end of the bar. Jim tracked the man's progress until the moment his eyes locked on another pair of blue eyes -- bespectacled blue eyes. The look in those eyes was so much like Blair that Jim was left breathless. Finally he allowed his gaze to take in more than just the orbs gazing back at him. Lips almost as full as Sandburg's, but from the way the man sat on the barstool, he was definitely taller, probably Jim's height, or close to it. Short brown hair, with reddish highlights, again, much like Sandburg. But there were differences. The nose was aquiline, as opposed to Blair's delightful pug, and the eyebrows were the work of a Michelangelo, etched elegantly onto a smooth brow, unlike Blair's oddly, energetically mobile shaped brows that spoke as loudly as anything Blair could say.
The Adonis a few stools away grinned shyly at him. Jim would have bet every future paycheck that he was looking at either a professor of an Earth science, or a teacher, researcher, or something similar. He had the same look in his eyes that lived in Sandburg's. Jim smiled back.
He was rewarded with a widening grin followed by the man standing, picking up his drink, and walking the few short steps it took him to the open stool next to Jim.
Jim nodded and the man sat down. He'd been right about his height, but he was uncertain about the man's age. The youthful face was contradicted by the wisdom in the blue eyes. The fine wrinkles at the eyes told Jim that he was looking at someone close to, if not Jim's age. But everything else said he was closer to Blair's age. It didn't matter. The man was just what Jim needed. He noticed the almost empty glass, held out his hand, and said, "Ellison, Jim Ellison. Can I buy you another?"
"Daniel Jackson, and yes, thanks."
Jim smiled slowly, and even as he ordered a Dewar's on the rocks for his companion, even as they engaged each other in conversation and Jim's prediction about the man's profession was proven valid, "I'm an archaeologist and linguist", he wished with all his heart that it was a certain anthropologist and Shaman of the Great City sitting next to him.
Blair climbed into the Volvo, glad that he'd decided to forgo the airport shuttle in order to save the dollars spent on long-term airport parking. The idea of waiting for the shuttle, then spending an hour or better getting home, as opposed to the thirty minutes it would take in his own car, chilled him. Sure, he wasn't all that anxious to face Jim, but damn, he did want to get home, take a shower, and climb into bed. The expedition had been tiring, and had proven that such travels were no longer his forte. He'd been short-tempered with the younger members of the team, and impatient with Doctors Humboldt and Reynolds, the leaders of the expedition. He'd forgotten how cautious anthropologists could be.
Heading into Cascade, Blair found the knot in his stomach tightening again.
Jack gazed down at the land below and urged the plane into hurrying its descent. He was anxious to get to Daniel, to spill his chicken-shit guts. Another twenty minutes, and they'd be down. George had taken care of everything, including transportation, so Jack should be able to get out of McChord Air Force Base quickly. From there, it was a two hour drive into Cascade and Daniel.
Ha. Into Daniel. Nice turn of a phrase, O'Neill.
Jack went back to willing greater speed into the plane.
Jim walked toward the balcony, two glasses in his hand. Daniel, who'd quickly become his 'date' for the evening, stood at the railing watching the bay by moonlight. Jim had to admit that the view was perfect for two men bent on seduction. Not that his companion had actually admitted to himself that they were headed in that direction. No, Daniel was still on the old, 'meeting someone new in a strange town and enjoying his company' road. Jim suspected that Daniel hadn't had a date in ages, let alone picked someone up in a bar. And Daniel was most definitely the picker-upper. He who moves to another seat is, according to the Rules Of Sandburg, the picker-upper. But Jim doubted that Daniel knew that.
Jim was also regretting the decision to bring Daniel here -- to the loft. How do you seduce a man, who is in place of another man, the man you really want, when you're surrounded by said man? Jim paused just before the window and took a gulp of his drink. He was making no sense tonight. None at all. But still, ultimately, this whole 'my place is closer' thing might be a bust, considering that he was surrounded by the scents of Blair.
He sighed and moved out onto the balcony. Daniel turned, grinned, and took the offered glass.
"Thanks, and your view is spectacular."
"It is, isn't it?" Jim agreed. Teasing, easy words comparing Daniel to the view hovered close, but remained unsaid. Somehow, saying them would have lessened Sandburg -- in some odd way.
They stood shoulder to shoulder and gazed out, both silent, both deep within themselves. They'd ended up eating at Muldoon's, Jim choosing a secluded booth in the back. Their conversation had revealed Jim's profession and his military background, a fact that had solicited a snort and a quick, "It figures" from Daniel. That had led to further discussion and the fact that Daniel actually worked for the military. Jim had been very surprised at that, as Daniel seemed the last man in the world to be employed, as it turned out, by the Air Force. But then, wasn't Blair the last man in the world one would imagine working with the police department? The similarities between Daniel and Blair had grown as the meal had progressed, and Jim had found himself drawn in by the personality, the eyes, and the lips, that could have been Blair. The nearness of a Blair-twin ultimately proving to be more of a temptation than Jim could refuse.
At least on the balcony, there was no scent of Blair. The temptation of a Blair in Daniel's clothing continued its siren song.
Daniel felt the warmth of the man standing next to him, but it didn't offer the same comfort that Jack's body heat always did. No surprise there. On the other hand, Jim Ellison, while younger than Jack, was incredibly similar on many levels. Which was why Daniel was standing on the man's balcony. His mind told him exactly what was going on, told him that he was looking for a substitute, that he wanted someone like Jack, because he couldn't have Jack.
What a surprise.
And celibacy sucked.
So why the hell not? If he could still read the signals, even if the current signals were emanating from a man, then Jim Ellison wanted him. And if the warm, smiling eyes were blue instead of brown, and if the short brown hair was devoid of silver, well, so be it.
Daniel turned to face the Cascade detective.
Blair walked slowly up the stairs, his luggage weighing a ton. Or maybe it was just the weight of the world. Or of loss. Not that one can lose what they never had. He put his key into the lock of the door, turned it, shoved the door open with his shoulder, then shuffled inside, kicking the door shut behind him. As his luggage slipped from his hand and shoulder, he turned right as a cool breeze wafted over him. The window leading out to the balcony was open -- and on the balcony -- stood Jim.
With another man.
And they were kissing.
Jim was kissing another -- man.
At least one of the men, the sentinel, heard his gasped out words. Jim lifted his head, spotted Blair, and jumped back. The balcony light was on, so now that Jim was out of the way, Blair could see the other -- man. His mouth dropped open.
It had been eleven years, but there was no way Blair would ever forget his first real crush. And Daniel Jackson hadn't changed, other than wearing his hair shorter. But then, Blair was now wearing his longer. He closed his mouth, then opened it again to squeak out, "Daniel?"
Jim moved toward the window, then stopped, turned, looked at Daniel, then back at Blair.
Daniel finally moved, shook himself a bit, then blinked at the man standing just inside the loft. His eyes widened.
"Blair?" he squeaked out in shock.
Blair briefly considered adding Jim's name to the list that had already been spoken, but it would have been anti-climatic. All three men were now frozen and he had the silly idea that they were on Candid Camera, a tableau made for ratings. Even as he thought that, another thought intruded.
Daniel had been kissing his partner.
Daniel wasn't gay. Jim wasn't gay. But they'd been kissing. Each other.
The thoughts continued to zig and zag in his brain, but they all seemed to end the same; with his past.
With a past that included Archaeology 101, and a guest lecturer in the form of Doctor Daniel Jackson. A man who'd connected almost immediately with the youngest class member, Blair Sandburg. Maybe it was the fact that they were both oddballs, or that both had strange ideas, but whatever it was, it had resulted in a fast friendship. A friendship that, for Blair, had rapidly turned to something else; a something else that had been gently rebuked with three softly spoken words: "I'm not gay."
Three words that Jim's life proclaimed loudly every time a Veronica showed up, or a Laura, or a Lila, or a Michelle, or an ... Alex.
But the first time Blair had heard those words, he'd only been eighteen, and certain that his feelings were returned. It had only been that certainty that had allowed him to speak up, to ask Daniel on a date. He would never have had the nerve otherwise. Daniel had been a God to him back then, and he, a skinny, too-young geek trying to fit in with a much older college crowd of brainiacs. His heart had been broken upon discovering that he'd read Daniel completely wrong, but he'd covered it up as he'd always done and moved ahead with a chuckle, swearing to Daniel that their friendship was as solid as ever -- and it had been. Daniel had meant too much to Blair to give that up. Sure, over the years, their visits had dwindled, their phone calls drying up, but even up to just a few years ago, their letters and emails had flowed continually until 1994, when Daniel had been embarrassed at a lecture that had left his career in tatters. Blair had phoned him to offer his support (he'd always believed Daniel's theories) but had received a disconnect recording. That hadn't stopped him. He'd dropped everything to go to Daniel, only to discover that he'd literally disappeared. Blair kept trying to find him, and had finally been told that his friend had gone to work on some government project. Dejected, but at least no longer worried about Daniel, Blair had gone back to Rainier, and two years later, he'd met his Holy Grail, Jim.
Once Jim had come into his life, Blair never really looked back -- until now.
Evidently Daniel and Jim were gay, or at least bi-sexual, just not around Blair Sandburg.
He stared at the two men, one from his past that had held his heart hostage for over two years, and one from his present and future, who now held his heart as no one else ever could. And both had rejected him in either word or deed. But gosh, they seemed to be getting along great together.
Wasn't that just swell?
Man, the truth hurt, the pain excruciating. But no one needed to see it. He raised a hand, grinned, and said, "Look, I haven't eaten so I'm just going to make like a third wheel and roll right on out of here. I'll be back later, so play nice -- or not."
Before anyone could blink, breathe, or say a word, he was gone.
He didn't bother with the elevator, just took the stairs as quickly as he could. His breathing was coming in gasps and he had to bite them back or Jim would hear. And so much for a shower and bed.
Blair hit the street, heart pumping like a jackhammer. He didn't think, he just jumped into the Volvo and started driving.
The two men left alone in the loft stared at the closed front door. Jim took an aborted step forward, then turned back to Daniel.
"You know my partner," he said flatly.
Daniel tore his gaze from the door and nodded. "We -- I was a guest lecturer and we became friends. We haven't talked since '94--"
"When you started working for the Air Force?"
Daniel nodded, then looked back at the door. "He lives here? With you?"
"Yes, we're roommates."
Daniel looked at Jim again and said, "You said -- partner, yet you're a detective. Last I knew, Blair was on the fast track in anthropology." Before Jim could respond, a light flared in the blue eyes. "Blair's dissertation," he breathed out. "It was the only thing stopping him from earning his doctorate--"
"Stopping him?" Jim couldn't resist asking.
Daniel took a step forward as he said, "Yes. His theories, while embraced to a certain extent, were never fully accepted because he always insisted that Burton was right about guardians with heightened senses." He tilted his head and said slowly, "The only thing that could account for where Blair is in his life now -- would be finding that one person, the woman -- or man -- with heightened senses."
Jim's eyes narrowed as he stepped back. How the hell--
"I know Blair pretty well, Jim. Very well. And his secret -- or should I say -- your secret, is safe with me. But you need to know something. Before we rush out of here to try and find him, you need to know that Blair, back when we first became friends, well, he developed feelings for me--"
Daniel ran his fingers through his hair and gave an exasperated shake of his head. "I'm not saying this right. We -- both connected on so many levels, were so much alike, that our friendship was almost immediate and deep. The kind where you can go years without seeing each other, yet when you do--"
"I get the point," Jim said a bit crossly.
"Yes, well." Daniel's glasses bobbed up and down with his expression as he tried to marshal his thoughts and start again. Jim helped him out.
"So Blair fell for you, and?"
"And I turned him down because -- because -- I wasn't, didn't think I was, but actually, thanks to Blair, I later came to understand that I was, well, at least bi-sexual, but at the time, well, I told him that I wasn't gay. He didn't even bat an eye. He kind of chuckled, then shrugged his shoulders, and we moved on. But I always believed that I'd hurt him, confused him. And now, he walks in here, sees us--"
"Kissing," Jim finished for him as his heart dropped to his knees. With his gaze fixed on the closed door, he asked, "So you think Blair could be -- that he still has feelings for you?"
An elegant eyebrow rose, as did Daniel's glasses. "Are you for real, Jim? Why don't you use those -- you know -- and think back to when we first realized he was here. I think you'll discover that I wasn't the focus of his attention. He didn't even know it was me until you jumped back and he finally got a look."
Jim did a rapid sense-memory on Blair's entrance, found out that he'd actually been aware of him, but disbelieving, and when he focused in on Blair's body -- the truth was there.
"Shit," he said as he copied Daniel's gesture by running his fingers back through his short hair.
"I think you should find him, Jim."
Jim looked up sharply and said, "Right now, we both need to find him. And I suspect he's gone to Rainier. It's his sanctuary when he needs peace."
Daniel started for the window. "Let's go."
'Oh, swell,' Jack thought as he drove through the dark streets of some town on his way to Cascade. 'I do not need rain'. But rain he had, in buckets.
He looked at the clock on the dashboard. Okay, he figured that thanks to the 'small' Pacific Northwest downpour slowing his progress, he was at least an hour behind schedule. Not that he was worried. If he knew his archaeologist, Daniel would be holed up in his room reading or watching television -- or both. Jack turned the wipers up another notch.
Blair sat in his car across the street from Wonderburger. He had an overwhelming urge to pig out. He gave into it. Fifteen minutes later he was back in his car, a brown bag full of artery-hardening food tantalizing his nose and therefore his taste buds. He opened the glove compartment, put the super sized coke on the lid, then opened the goody bag. He pulled out the double Wonderburger with avocado and two kinds of cheese, placed it on his thigh, then spread the accompanying napkins on the passenger seat. He dumped the fries and placed the burger next to them. He pulled the ketchup out of the bag, opened it and squirted it over the fries.
He was ready.
It took him twenty minutes to devour the food. Twenty minutes without thinking, twenty minutes of stuffing his face like he hadn't done since he'd been a teenager -- eighteen to be precise.
When the last bite of greasy burger had been swallowed, the last fry popped into his mouth, and the last draw of soda had been taken, Blair let his mind take over for his stomach.
So. Daniel and Jim. Each good enough for the other, but Blair not good enough for either. Cold hard fact, and inescapable. Daniel rang Jim's chimes, where Blair did not, and Jim most certainly rang Daniel's chimes, where Blair just as obviously had not. Two men, presumably straight, and certainly immune to the many and varied charms of one, Blair Sandburg. Yet -- the straight Daniel was kissing the equally straight Jim.
Blair glanced in his rear view mirror, and absently wiped the smudge of ketchup from the corner of his mouth. Okay, so he wasn't exactly Daniel. And he wasn't a Jim Ellison either. Okay, he could live with that. Had been living with it. He wasn't tall, sculpted, finite. He was short, odd, but with great hair and, according to past lovers, in possession of fantastic lips and a great ass. But he wasn't -- Daniel, who also, as if Blair didn't know, possessed great lips, a stupendous ass, and a whole lot more. Like great hands, elegant fingers--
He should really quit while he was ahead because Daniel was way smarter too.
"Quit, already," he commanded himself.
He checked his watch. Time to go home. They'd had plenty of time, too much time. He started the Volvo, burped rudely, grinned, and pulled out into traffic.
"He's not here," Jim said as he came abreast of Daniel, who was standing next to the truck. Jim had checked Hargrove Hall in spite of the absence of the Volvo, and other evidence that proved that Blair was no where near.
"So where else do we go?"
Jim stared out over the quiet campus and shook his head. "I don't know. This is it, his refuge."
"A bar? A friend?"
Jim shook his head, surprised that the answer was no. Blair should have other places to go, but in all reality, the loft, the station, and Rainier, were it. No, Jim said to himself. The loft was Blair's true refuge from the world.
"Let's go back to the loft, he's there, I'm sure of it."
Jack stood in the lobby of the hotel, a surprised look on his face.
Daniel wasn't here. It was almost ten, and Daniel wasn't here.
Jack felt a large stone take up residence in his stomach. Maybe -- maybe Daniel had connected with someone? Someone with the conference? Maybe even now they were out--
Okay, his options. Stay put, wait for the guilty party to show up.
Uhm, no. That was leaving himself open to Pathetic Colonel of the Year.
So -- intrude on his old pal Captain James Ellison? Sure, why the hell not. Jim had always been a night owl, he'd be up. Jack remembered that the man's marriage had folded a few years back, so there was an even chance that a man as dedicated as Ellison was to his job, would be home -- alone.
Sad state of affairs, but one Jack was all too familiar with. He pulled his address book out of his pocket, thumbed through to the "E's", and quickly found Jim's address. 852 Prospect, number 307. He walked over to the Concierge and within a couple of minutes, had the directions.
He headed out, grateful that the rain hadn't followed him to Cascade.
Blair looked around his home, his empty home.
Jim and Daniel were gone.
For some reason, that hurt more than anything. Giving himself a stern shake followed by a mental lecture, he moved into his room.
Ten minutes later, he came out feeling more like a human being. No shower, but at least he'd gotten out of his traveling clothes, which he'd been in for the last twelve hours. He was considering the package of cookies in the kitchen, Jim's favorite stash, when someone knocked on the door. Since it couldn't be Jim, he hesitated. The knock came again and he walked over, peered through the peephole, and found himself staring at a man in his mid-forties, a man who held the bearing of a military officer.
Blair opened the door.
"Can I help you?"
"Oh, hey, sorry, I'm looking for Jim Ellison? He's an old friend."
Blair took in the MacGyver look-alike and could readily believe that the man was a friend. He stepped aside. "Come on in. Jim isn't here at the moment, but I'm -- expecting him any minute."
As Jim's friend entered, Blair added, "I'm Blair Sandburg, Jim's roommate. And you're?"
"Sorry, Jack O'Neill."
"Knew each other in the Army?" Blair asked as he indicated that O'Neill should have a seat.
"No, I'm Air Force, but our units worked together more than once, many moons ago."
"Ah. Can I get you something to drink while you're waiting?"
"A beer, if you've got it?"
"Oh yeah, beer we've got."
As Blair walked to the kitchen, O'Neill said, "I'm surprised to find Jim with a roomie. He's always been a bit of a loner."
Blair pulled two beers from the fridge, walked back to the couch, and as he handed off one of the icy cold bottles, he said, "He still is."
He took up residence in the yellow chair and immediately tipped back the bottle and took a healthy swig. Better than cookies.
"I'm not keeping you from anything, am I? I can always hook up with Jim later," Jack said, sensing a tension in the young man across from him.
"Heck no. And really, Jim should be back any minute. He just stepped out with -- a friend."
They drank their beers in silence, each gauging the other.
Jack liked what he was seeing, but no way could he put this man in any space that was also occupied by the Jim Ellison he'd known. Polar opposites didn't begin to cover it.
"So, Mister Sandburg--"
"Please, it's Blair."
"All right, Blair. What do you do for a living?"
Blair grinned. "I take it putting me together as a cop with Jim didn't work?"
Jack's own smile was as broad. "Nope."
"Well, you'd be half right. I'm an anthropologist going for my doctorate at Rainier, but I also serve as a kind of consultant for the Police Department, Major Crime, to be exact, and I am partnered with Jim."
Jack couldn't hide his surprise. "You're kidding? You're working with the cops?"
Grinning, Blair said, "Yep."
Jack shook his head. The parallels between he and Daniel had not escaped him. Hell, there was something about this Sandburg that reminded him of Daniel. Okay, this kid was probably twenty years his junior, which put him at least five years younger than Daniel, but still -- there was the same sense of innocence and wisdom in those eyes. And he was a scientist in the same field only a different branch. Two wunderkind geeks with two military guys? Unbelievable.
"You know, you remind me of Daniel."
"This guy I work with, an archaeologist named Daniel--"
Blair rolled his eyes and said, "Let me guess; Daniel Jackson."
It was Jack's turn to freeze.
"Small world, eh?" Blair observed dryly.
"You know Daniel?" Jack finally said.
"Yeah. Kick in the head, ain't it? Got more news for you. Jim is out with Daniel right now."
Jack's beer slipped from his hand.
Blair knelt down in front of the couch and wiped furiously at the spot on the floor. His wiping had nothing to do with worry about ruining the wood, but rather on O'Neill's reaction to Jim being out with Daniel.
Blair Sandburg was an expert in people (well, unless they were people he actually knew, apparently) and O'Neill's reaction was yelling loud and clear that he was in love with Daniel.
Golly, gee whiz.
He straightened up and rested back on his haunches. Let's see now, how did this go? Blair loved Jim, who was involved with Daniel (and undoubtedly falling for him while Blair scrubbed the floor), who Blair had once had a crush on, but Daniel wasn't gay -- then, so couldn't love Blair back. Daniel and Jack were friends, and Jack loved Daniel, but Daniel was involved with Jim, who was an old friend of Jack's, and nobody was involved with Blair, but heck, at least Naomi loved him. Oh, and old Mrs. Gottlieb's cat. Barney the farting cat loved Blair.
Did he have it all? Yep, that about covered it.
Jack came up behind him and took the wet towel from his hand. "Sorry about that, Blair." He placed a dry towel in the waiting hand.
"No problem. Just let me be the one to tell Jim. He's kind of warped about his floors."
Smiling, Jack said, "Still?"
Blair couldn't help it, he laughed. "Yeah, still."
Well, he thought as he bent back down to dry the floor, at least Jack wasn't in love with Jim. As soon as Blair said it in his mind, another thought struck and he looked up at the man. Barely able to hide his horror at the very idea of what he was about to ask, he nevertheless said, "You and Jim -- I mean, you two never--"
Brown eyes widened. "Hell, no. I didn't even know -- I mean--"
"I get it. You didn't know about Jim's leanings."
"Well, actually, his leanings I knew about, it was my leanings I wasn't to clear about. That came up a short time -- later."
Blair cocked his head. "Later?"
Jack felt his face heat up. "Yeah, later."
"Luckily in time for Daniel," Blair observed.
"Okay, this is a first. I've known you exactly," he looked at his watch, "fifteen minutes, and I'm sharing details of my life I never even shared with my wife. What's up with that?"
"It's the Sandburg curse, Jack. You'll get used to it."
Smiling, Jack said, "Do I have to?"
Jim paused, one foot hovering over the curb. He cocked his head and finally said with more than a touch of irritation, "He's not alone. Damn it, he's not alone."
Daniel stepped onto the sidewalk in front of 852 and said, "Is that bad? Couldn't it be a neighbor?"
"It's someone named -- Jack."
Daniel's eyes widened in astonishment. "Did you say 'Jack'?"
Jim didn't answer right away, but a moment later, his face split into a wide grin. "Well, I'll be damned." He turned toward Daniel and explained, "It's an old friend of mine."
Daniel looked up at the third floor, then back at Jim. "Let me guess, an old -- military buddy? An old -- Air Force buddy?"
"Yeah, yeah, how did you--"
"His name wouldn't, by any chance, be Jack O'Neill?"
Jim's eyes narrowed. "Okay, spill."
"Why don't we just go on up? I think this is about to get pretty interesting, might even beat what I do for a living."
With a puzzled glance at Daniel, Jim nodded and they both headed inside and upstairs.
Jim unlocked the door and allowed Daniel to precede him inside. Even before he could see Blair and Jack, he could hear his old friend's exclamation.
"Daniel, this isn't what it looks like."
Jim had learned over the years that when people said that? It was usually exactly what it looked like. He almost pushed Daniel out of his way to see what couldn't be what it looked like.
"Oh, shit," he said, the breath suddenly knocked out of him.
Blair was on the floor, on his knees -- in front of a seated Jack O'Neill. HIS good buddy, Jack O'Neill. With HIS partner. His on-his-knees-partner.
Shooting daggers at his partner, Jim said snidely, "Well, looks like Daniel and I got here a little too early for you, eh? Maybe we should just step back out and come back in fifteen or twenty minutes and let you two finish what you're obviously about to start?" Blair debated. He had a whole shit load of things to debate. Like; kill Jim Ellison or walk out and never come back. Or reach up, unzip Jack's jeans and have at it, versus doing the same thing to Jim. Or maybe suggest a cozy foursome? Okay, since no one had any boners for him, he'd have to suggest a threesome. Jim, Daniel, and Jack. Yeah, that was the ticket. Decision made. Man, he was one hell of a short decision maker tonight.
He rose to his feet just a split second before Jack. He dropped the towel back onto the floor, smiled charmingly at Daniel and Jack, then said, "Ignore Jim, you two. Hey, Jack, you're probably well aware of his penchant for jumping to conclusions -- oh, wait, that charming little habit only pops up with yours truly."
Blair moved around the couch, slipped past a shocked Daniel, grabbed his jacket -- again, and without a single glance at Jim, said, "You know, being a third wheel is getting rather comfortable, only now, apparently, I'm a fourth wheel." He gave a mock shiver, then added, "So I'm outta here. And Jim?" he said as he opened the door, "don't look for my return anytime soon."
Blair took great satisfaction in slamming the door behind him.
Daniel cringed as the closing of the door rattled the loft. He could only imagine how the force and sound would work on a -- what had Blair called them? Sentinels. Yeah, sentinels. He turned to Jim, ready to give whatever the man needed, only to find him staring at the door, mouth agape. He shot a look at Jack, and found him staring at the door, mouth just as open in shock.
God, military men and ex-military men were useless. Taking charge, Daniel said, "Jack, don't move. You've got some explaining to do when I get back. Jim, stay here. I think this time, I'm the one who needs to go after Blair." He opened the door, stepped out, and added with more than a little satisfaction, "You guys are in deep shit, you'd better get ready to start shoveling."
Then he slammed the door.
Blair stood on the sidewalk, his energy draining faster than a slashed tire. Fuck, he felt like shit. Like a piece of shit that people walked around, but never bothered to clean up.
'Okay, now that's just gross. You can do better, you're a college graduate.'
Well, hell, he did feel like shit. So there. He scrubbed a hand over his face and tried to think of who he could barge in on and cop a couch. Maybe Megan? No, she had a new boyfriend, and he'd started to sleep over. Blair would be as unwelcome as--
Thank God he'd been saved from making another bad analogy. He whirled around to find himself face to neck with Daniel.
"Gee, I don't think we've actually said hello yet tonight, have we?" Blair observed dryly.
"No, we haven't. And the worst part is that I've been in Cascade for several days and never once--"
"Thought to look me up? No problem, understood," Blair said quietly.
"No, it's not what you think. I just assumed that you'd be long gone, that--"
Daniel stopped, realizing that he was about to add his left foot to the right one -- which was already in his mouth. Where were those infamous first contact skills when he needed them?
"That by now, I'd have my doctorate and be on some expedition somewhere, or--"
"I'm not doing this well, Blair. Maybe we could start over?"
Blair sighed, then said, "Look, you haven't done anything wrong, this is between my -- partner -- and me. Don't worry about it. Now unless you really have feelings for Jim, you should probably get your Jack--"
"I don't have feelings for him, Blair, I swear it. And he doesn't have any for me. I think we just hooked up because we were both miserable and looking for type." At Blair's suddenly worried look, he added, "I've been kind of--"
Daniel stopped dead as all of Blair's words penetrated. "What do you mean, 'your' Jack?" he asked, thunderstruck.
Blair rolled his eyes and said, "I mean just that. The man's crazy about you, Daniel. And for a straight man, you're doing damn well, by the way. You've got Jim eating out of your hand, and Jack panting hard enough to come all the way to Cascade to see you under the guise of visiting an old military buddy."
While Daniel played like a carp, Blair felt the lightning hit as all of Daniel's words got through to him.
"What did you mean that you were both miserable and 'looking for type'?" he squeaked out.
For a moment, Daniel looked at Blair, and Blair looked at Daniel. Then they burst into raucous laughter. After several minutes of the tears-running-down-their-cheeks laughter, a bent over Blair managed to brace himself by placing his hands on his thighs, then catch his breath well enough to say, "This is the saddest exercise in communication I've ever witnessed, and living with Jim Ellison has been the college of miscommunication. And when you think of the brain power between all four of us?"
Holding his side and trying to catch his breath, Daniel nodded and gasped out, "I -- know, I know. The wattage -- in -- our four brains should -- be able to light a -- city for a week."
"Just don't ask us to talk," Blair added with a grin.
"To each other," Daniel finished.
They stared at each other again, then in perfect unison, said, "The smarter they are," before once more bursting into laughter.
The two friends eyed each other warily as Jack rose slowly, but stayed by the couch.
"That was an interesting entrance, Jimbo," Jack finally said as he rubbed his chin.
Torn between retaining his unjustified anger, or falling through the floor and landing in China, Jim walked over to the fridge and took out a beer. Just before closing the door, he grabbed another one. He walked half-way into the living room and said, "Heads up," then tossed the beer.
Jack caught it, twisted open the cap, then took a swig. After wiping his mouth, he said, "You really thought your partner and I were--"
Having decided to junk the juvenile anger and jealousy, Jim said, "Why don't we just forget the last few minutes and start over, buddy?"
"Ah, I'm your buddy again. Sweet," Jack said sarcastically. "And where do you get off with the anger even if your partner and I had been getting better -- acquainted?"
Leave it to Jack to nail the real issue. Jim felt his neck heat up as he said, "Well, apparently I was a bit -- jealous."
"You're out with my archaeologist, and yet you're jealous--"
"Whoa, your archaeologist?"
Jack let himself go to his full 6'2 height as he said, "You heard me, Ellison, my archaeologist."
Jim had the ridiculous notion that he'd just been warned by his old friend. Stay away from Daniel -- or else. But instead of anger, Jim found himself holding back a laugh. Trying to choke it down, he said, "Okay, buddy, okay. Daniel is your archaeologist. Hey, no problemo, I've got a geek of my own." He moved toward Jack and added, "Only issue I see here, is that neither one of us have exactly -- claimed -- our geeks, if you get my message?"
Jack's scarred eyebrow rose. "Claimed? Tell me you didn't just say that word in reference to Daniel and Blair?"
"Fer crissakes, get your mind out of the gutter, O'Neill. And since when did you start leaning, anyway?"
"So when you said 'claiming', you meant exactly what? And a guy can change, you know? Who'd have thunk big bad Jim Ellison would end up rooming with a guy like Blair? No one I know would have thought you had the brains."
"I meant the telling part. The hard part. The declaration part. The part where we go, "Insert the appropriate name -- I love you, I've loved you forever, but didn't think you could feel the same way--"
"Because I thought you were straight--" Jack interjected, his mouth twitching.
"What he said," Jim finished with a wide grin.
Jack walked over to his old friend, cocked his head, and said, "So, Jim, howzit hanging?"
Laughing, Jim said, "To the left of center, buddy. You?"
"Not bad, not bad at all. I've got some 'claimin' to do, but other than that, life is good."
With eyes sparkling, both men hugged, then stepped away still smiling.
"So do you think my Daniel was able to catch up with your Blair?"
Without thinking, which was a Jim-habit, he cocked his head and tuned in to his city, hoping to catch them nearby. He found them immediately. Blair had gotten no further than the sidewalk. He couldn't help what he did next -- he listened.
"He found him," Jim finally said as he walked over to the balcony, a puzzled Jack following.
Reaching the rail, he pointed down. Jack looked, then stepped back. "They look pretty happy, Jim."
"Yeah, they do, don't they? Happy looks good on Sandburg."
"Looks real good on Daniel, and it's been in short shrift lately. I'm gonna have to work on keeping that look."
"Same here. And do you mind telling me how the hell an archaeologist got mixed up with an Air Force colonel?"
"My dumb luck, and if I told you anything more--"
"Yeah, yeah, been there, said that, Sandburg has the t-shirt to prove it."
Jack grinned, then asked, "How 'bout you and the anthropologist?"
"If I told you--"
"In your case, I'd never believe it."
"You got it, buddy, you got it."
Jack's eyes narrowed as he gave Jim an appraising look. "You know, there was always something special about you, something back in '88 that I chalked up to great instincts, but now--"
"Go with the instincts, Jack," Jim said seriously, not nearly ready to allow someone else in on his senses. Although, if there were somebody else he'd tell, it would be Jack O'Neill.
Suddenly remembering astonishing instances of Jim's "instincts", Jack asked craftily, "So, what are our geeks saying now?"
"They're laughing uproariously -- at our expense, I might add."
Meaning more than he was saying, Jack said, "Figures."
Realizing that he'd just fallen for one of Jack's infamous traps, Jim rushed to offer up some kind of explanation. "Jack--"
Holding up one hand, Jack interrupted with, "Later, Jim. We can talk later -- and don't worry. Right now, I'm thinking we should set our geeks straight on a few things. In with me?"
"You had me until you used the word 'straight'."
Laughing, both men headed downstairs.
"Okay, Fred, I think it's time to head upstairs and set a couple of guys I know, straight on a few things."
Blair straightened up and cocked his head. "Fred? No way, man. I'm Ricky. Definitely Ricky. Anyone at Major Crime would tell you that. And you are most definitely Fred Mertz."
"No way. Jack is no Ethel Mertz. Hell, the scrapes he gets himself into, we're talking Lucy all the way."
Blair's eyes glittered with the challenge of proving Daniel wrong. "Scrapes? You don't know from scrapes, buddy. Jim is the King of Scrapes. Has Jack ever been led around by the nose by a beautiful redhead because of her pheromones? I don't think so. And was she a criminal to boot?"
Daniel ducked his head, scratched his temple, then said slowly, "We-ll, as a matter of fact, we were both led around by a dangerous but beautiful redhead who used her pheromones to enslave -- yes, well." Daniel cleared his throat. "Uhm, now that I think about it? It's altogether possible that some, now I only mean some, and they wouldn't be right, mind you, but a few might think I'd fit the Lucy Ricardo profile. So I'm thinking--"
Laughing, Blair said, "Quit while you're ahead, Daniel. And I just know that Simon, that's Jim's boss, calls me Lucy under his breath."
Daniel reached out and fingered a stray curl. "It's the hair, Blair. You're doomed."
Jim and Jack chose that moment to hit the sidewalk.
Blair and Daniel turned their heads, Daniel's fingers still holding Blair's hair.
"Oh, hey, Jim. You look -- cooled off," Blair said in a voice that screamed disinterest.
With his eyes on Daniel's fingers, Jim said, "I'll be one very cool guy when Daniel gets his hand out of your hair, Sandburg."
Jack stepped forward and added brilliantly, "Ditto."
Daniel and Blair looked back at each other, and grinned. Daniel dropped his hand and said, "Hey, buddy, you up for a late dinner? You and I have a lot of catching up to do and I'm suddenly starving."
Blair nodded. "Oh, yeah. Stomach's been protesting for the last hour. Chinese?"
"Oh, yeah, I could do Chinese. Where's your car?"
Blair jerked his thumb and said, "Over there, the green Volvo."
Daniel calmly turned away from Jack and said, "You and your classics, Blair. How old is that thing, anyway? And I'm betting it's older than me."
"Gentlemen?" Jim finally interrupted.
Both men turned and said sweetly, "Yes?"
He stepped forward and took Blair's arm. "Sandburg here is going to eat with me, and you, Daniel, are going to eat with Jack. Now, we could all eat together, or we could--"
Jack took Daniel's arm, "Eat separately, and by the way? That's my vote since Daniel here, and I, have a great deal to talk about. But I'd certainly vote on meeting up for, say, breakfast... tomorrow?"
"Coincidently, Sandburg and I have a great deal to discuss as well, so yeah, I'm thinking the separate thing works, with breakfast tomorrow as a nice foursome."
"You know what I think, Lucy?" Blair said as he moved out of Jim's hand-hold. "I think Fred and I here, should eat together, while you and Ethel over there," he indicated Jack, "should eat together. That's what I think." He turned to Daniel, one eyebrow arched. "Fred, what do you think?"
Daniel rolled his eyes as he moved away from Jack and said, "Okay, okay, if I have to be Fred -- then yeah, I say you and I head out and leave the little women to fend for themselves. I'm certain they'd like to do some catching up too."
"Great, then we're off." He hooked arms with Daniel and started to step off the curb, until Jim's next words stopped him cold.
Eyes on Daniel, Blair said, "I hate it when he does that."
Jack stepped up to Daniel and said, "Danny? Please?"
Daniel said the only thing he could think of. "Ditto."
Blair lifted one shoulder and said, "Well? Up to you, Fred."
"Right. So breakfast tomorrow," Blair said with a grin. "Molly's is a great little joint near the water. Call when you're up," he eyed Jack... and winked, "and I'll give you directions."
They hugged, then stepped back as Jack held out a hand to Jim, who shook it and said, "Tomorrow."
Daniel leaned forward and whispered into Blair's ear, "If they start singing, I'm gonna lose it."
"Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll love ya, tomorrow," Blair sang under his breath.
"Watch it, Chief, tomorrow's only a day away," Jim said with a grin.
Jack reclaimed Daniel's arm, and as he guided him toward his rental, he started singing loudly, "The sun'll come up, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow--"
"Blair, save me," Jim pleaded.
Jack stood behind Daniel and watched him slide his room card down the slot. When the light went green, Daniel pushed the door open and entered, tossing the card on the nearby dresser.
"Nice room," Jack observed as he followed him inside. He was surprised by the fact that he was nervous. In fact, what he was feeling couldn't be equaled by any previous experience.
"Nice chit-chat, Jack. How 'bout we get down to it? Why are you here?"
"Whoa," Jack said as he held up his hands. "Sheesh, Daniel, I'm trying for a little sense and sensibility here, give me a break."
"Why are you here?" Daniel responded, as if Jack hadn't spoken.
"Okay, fine. You're going to play it that way, then hear this; you know exactly why I'm here."
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, tilted his head and arched one finely designed eyebrow.
'Damn, his eyebrows are better than Teal'c's,' Jack thought irritably.
Daniel's 'I'm alive' eyebrow arched higher.
"Okay, okay. I'm an idiot, a fool, I love you, I should have told you, but I'm -- I'm -- you know--"
"A fool and an idiot?" Daniel offered helpfully.
"What you said."
Daniel's dropped his arms to his side as his expression changed to one of gentleness. "I'm sorry, Jack. I've been a bit of a fool myself. I -- I've just been so tired of the mess that our friendship has become, and it seemed so improbable that if I told you how I felt, that you'd feel anything remotely similar, especially since it's become patently obvious--"
Jack figured they'd talked enough. He stopped Daniel in a way he'd dreamt about during way too many briefings -- he kissed him quiet.
It didn't take long for both men to end up stripped to skin and rolling around on the large hotel bed. At one point, as Jack tried to plum the depths of Daniel's left ear, Daniel managed to get out, "So we're okay now? We're talking again?"
"Mmm," Jack murmured before nipping Daniel's ear.
"No recriminations later? No morning after?"
Jack pried his mouth away from Daniel's neck, and surprised, said, "Of course there's going to be a morning after. And an afternoon after, an evening after, and if you're real good, we'll just keep having 'afters' after 'afters' for the rest of your vacation. Hell, Danny, you're gonna need a vacation from your vacation."
Daniel twisted his head around to see Jack's face, and as he traced a finger over Jack's slightly moist lips, he said, "Sounds good to me, Jack. And when we get back home?"
"As a wise Jaffa once said, we've earned our time together, Danny. Sure, we'll need to be careful, but I have no intention of changing anything now that we're finally," he gazed up at the ceiling as if to find the right word, then said triumphantly, "communicating."
Daniel ran his tongue over Jack's lower lip, then whispered, "Just promise that we never stop -- communicating."
"Never, Daniel," Jack whispered back.
Blair took off his jacket and the flannel shirt he'd been wearing over his Henley. He hung one up on the peg, the other he carried into his room and tossed onto the bed. The moment the shirt hit the quilt, nervousness took over and his hands started to shake. He held them up, stared at them, and wondered why they'd turned on him. He hoped Daniel was holding up better.
"It's okay, Chief," Jim said from behind him.
Before Blair could turn around, Jim's hands took his shaking ones. "It's okay," he said again, his voice soft and gentle. "It's okay."
Blair found that he was having difficulty going from the man of a two hours ago when Daniel and Jim were lusting after each other, Jack was lusting after Daniel, and no one had been lusting after him, to the man he was now, the man who had Jim's hands covering his, and Jim's body pressed against his back.
"He was so much like you, Chief. So much like what I thought I could never have. I can't explain it any other way. I was hungry and needy and in walked Daniel."
"You don't owe me an explanation, Jim. Or an apology. We've been missing the boat for quite a few months, which is silly considering that all we had to do was--"
"Pretty much," Blair agreed, a smile in his voice.
"We're not well known for that, so I guess this was to be expected. Good thing you and Daniel are--"
"Nope, Daniel is NOT a talker. Never was. Oh, he'll talk about pyramids, hieroglyphs and cuneiform, but feelings, no. It seems that a hard life breeds silence."
Blair could feel Jim's body tensing and he knew what question was coming. He did an end run.
"Yeah, you could say he was my first love, Jim. But considering that I was eighteen at the time, it's probably safer to call him my first lust. The first man I wanted to climb all over." Blair turned in Jim's arms and gazed up into Jim's eyes. Eyes that held fear. "Ain't you the lucky one," Blair said as he grinned, "to be my first real love. Kick in the head, isn't it?"
The fear melted away as Jim nodded and a beautiful grin broke out. "Yeah, I'm one lucky stiff. But do me a favor?" At Blair's nod, he added, "Make sure I'm the last man you want to climb all over, okay?"
"You stay away from redheads and blue-eyed archaeologists, and I won't climb, or even think about climbing, any other guy."
"Deal," Jim said.
He held out his hand but Blair shook his head and grinned wickedly. "Not what I want to shake, Jimbo. Let's aim a bit lower, okay?"
"I'm going to like this, aren't I?"
"God, I hope so."
Love Changes Everything - epilogue
It was good to be home, even good to be back at the SGC. Jack walked toward the briefing room, a smile on his face, his step light. There was no doubt that he was a changed man. Daniel in your bed could do that, and he was infinitely grateful that it was his bed and not Jim Ellison's.
God, so close. Too close.
He ran up the few steps and burst through the door, eyes going unerringly to Daniel, who was already in his seat, a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Hey, back," Daniel said with a grin he managed to hide with his coffee cup.
Teal'c looked up, his inscrutable gaze flicking from one man to the other. One eyebrow rose, then he smiled.
Sam came in a moment before General Hammond and just managed to take the seat next to Teal'c when the General said, "We have a problem with the very delicate negotiations on Argraia. It seems that SG-5 can't hear the Argrarian Council."
Jack and Daniel looked at each other, then Daniel said, "Sir? Can't hear them?"
"You heard me. When we opened the negotiations for the rights to mine the Naquada, it was with a young man named Juneo, and SG-5 had no problem hearing him. But now, in the city, pleading our case in front of the Council, nothing. Their -- mouths -- moved, but SG-5 couldn't hear a thing. And if you've seen the Agrarians, you know that lip reading is out of the question. We've tried amplification, various hearing aids, but nothings worked. Juneo is mystified as to why we can't hear them, but he's prevented by Council law to tell us what's being said. It's as if this were a test -- and we're failing badly. That's why I'm handing this one over to you, Colonel."
Jack and Daniel looked at each other, and with a slight nod from Daniel, Jack said, "Sir, I think Daniel and I might know someone who can help--"
The End - for now
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