Jack woke abruptly...and uncertain as to why he'd awoken. He sat up on the couch and looked around, rubbing groggily at his eyes.
The apartment was dark, the only light coming from the clock on the VCR...and a sliver of ghostly moonlight that seeped through the open balcony door. With a sigh, and a slight shiver at the cool air creeping across the floor, Jack wrapped an afghan around his shoulders and went out onto the balcony.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," Daniel said without turning around. He was leaning on the railing, staring off into the night.
"S'all right," Jack mumbled, still half asleep. "Whatcha doing out here?"
"Thinking," Daniel said with a shrug.
"Meaning of life stuff," Daniel said. From behind him, Jack could see just the hint of a wistful smile.
"At two in the morning?" Jack complained.
For Jack, dealing with the 'other' SG-1 had caused more mental stress than physical. Daniel had returned from an arduous dig only to be swept into the craziness of the robots and freeing Chronos' Jaffa and...and it had been a long week for both of them. They'd both stumbled into Daniel's apartment feeling drained. When Jack had lost any hope of normal motor control after just one beer, Daniel had offered him the couch and the afghan. Jack had been out like a light in seconds. He'd expected they would both sleep long and deep. Daniel obviously had a different idea.
Jack looked hard at the man in front of him. Daniel was wearing only a pair of cotton boxers. Not the plain white kind either.
"Aren't you freezing? And why do you have Winnie the Pooh on your shorts?"
"They were a gift. And I like Pooh," Daniel said defiantly.
"More of an Eeyore man myself," Jack said.
"I can see the attraction," Daniel said.
Jack just gave a disdainful grunt and yawned.
"Go on back to sleep," Daniel urged gently, obviously having no intention of leaving the balcony himself.
"What about you?"
"Can't sleep," Daniel said with another small shrug.
"Meaning of life stuff keeping you up?"
"Something like that."
"Well, now that I'm up, talk to me." Jack adjusted the afghan more snugly around his shoulders. When Daniel finally looked back, there was something in his expression that worried Jack.
"Come on," Jack cajoled. "You know what an incredibly deep thinker I am. We'll sort this all out and you can go get some sleep. Which, I might add, you are in dire need of."
Daniel seemed to get lost in his own thoughts again for a moment.
"It's cold out here," Daniel said abruptly, turning and walking back into the apartment.
"Well, duh," Jack grumbled as he followed, closing the balcony door behind him.
"Coffee?" Daniel called as he headed straight into the kitchen.
Jack hesitated. Daniel's body was so acclimated to caffeine that he could drink an entire pot of coffee and be fast asleep ten minutes later. Jack did not have a similar tolerance of stimulants. Still.... Jack watched Daniel's back, noting the mix of tension and discouragement. Jack wanted nothing more than to fall back into a deep sleep, but he couldn't leave Daniel in this state. Jack sighed as he called his assent to Daniel.
It was going to be a long night.
"I need to be true to myself."
"You're always true to yourself," Jack said, watching Daniel slowly pace the length of the living room. He would've thought that would be the last thing Daniel would be concerned about. Jack had never known anyone as inherently honest as Daniel.
"No. That was part of Shifu's lesson. I've been following a path laid out by others. I've been compromising," Daniel said, his expression bleak.
"Not on the important stuff," Jack argued. "Besides, life is full of compromises. It...it just is. If you don't bend, you'll break."
"You're right," Daniel said, surprising Jack with his agreement. "You can't be rigid. That's not living, it's stagnation. Ossification. But I've been compromising who I am."
"Did you know I like men?"
"How? As what?" Jack asked, having a pretty damn good idea of 'how' but needing a few seconds to process the information. Daniel stared at him, both annoyed and disappointed.
"Okay," Jack said, shifting his position on the couch slightly to tuck his cold feet under him. "So you like guys. Isn't it a little late in the game to be exploring your sexuality?"
"There are plenty of people far older than I am who are trying to come to terms with their sexual identity. Mostly because they can't reconcile it with society's accepted norms," Daniel said in a slightly pedantic tone. "But I recognized my sexual orientation a long time ago. Even as a kid I knew the feelings I had were different. But I was already an outsider and I didn't need anything else to make me different. So I just learned to keep it hidden. Even in college...and afterwards."
Jack remained silent, letting Daniel work through what he needed to say in his own time. Daniel finally risked a quick look at Jack. Jack shrugged and made a 'go on' gesture.
"I loved Sha're, you know."
"I don't doubt that," Jack said honestly.
"Granted, under normal circumstances I would never have married her," Daniel admitted. "Of course, under normal circumstances, I would never have married anyone I'd just met. But it turned out okay. We got married and then fell in love. Kind of ass backwards, I know."
"Hey, different strokes for different folks," Jack said casually. He winced as Daniel shot a suspicious look at him. "I didn't mean...I'm not talking about the guy thing."
"I tried," Daniel said, his tone turning harsh. "I tried hard. I was afraid I didn't love her enough...that subconsciously I was holding back. So I tried. I worked hard at being a good husband to her."
"Daniel," Jack interrupted. He had a feeling Daniel was trying to convince himself more than Jack. "You did love Sha're. And you were a good husband to her. A lot of people go their entire lives never being loved half as well as she was. You have nothing to feel bad about."
"Then I lost her and came back here," Daniel said, neither acknowledging nor denying Jack's statement.
"And busted your butt looking for her," Jack pointed out.
"I was still married," Daniel said, nodding. "I couldn't pursue any other relationships. Well, not when I was in my right mind anyway. Not to mention the fact that I was suddenly working in a top secret military facility."
"So all this time you've never actually had a real honest to goodness relationship with another guy?" Jack asked. Christ--that was damn near....
"Pathetic, isn't it," Daniel said self consciously.
"No. Well...." Jack blew out a frustrated breath. "Are you sure you're, um...?"
"Attracted to men?" Daniel asked. Jack nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure. It's not the kind of thing you can mistake."
"It could happen. Having feelings for someone doesn't necessarily mean anything more than friendship," Jack argued. He knew all about that. Just ask Carter. Or better yet, Jack thought, don't. It had taken some painful conversations for he and his 2IC to reach an understanding and he'd just as soon let sleeping majors lie.
"True," Daniel agreed. "Affection, even deep affection, doesn't equate with love. Or even lust. But having feelings for a man and wanting him to strip you naked and fuck you 'til you scream is pretty conclusive evidence that what you feel is more than friendship."
Jack gaped at Daniel, his brain staggered by the images Daniel's words conjured up
"Sorry. That was TMI, wasn't it?"
"It's all right. I'm just not used to you being so...blunt." Or overtly sexual.
"Damn it, Daniel. Stop being sorry. I've been in the military my entire adult life. I can handle a little profanity." Jack sighed. He was too tired to deal with all of this in any truly helpful manner. Why was it that crises of the soul always seemed to happen in the wee hours of the morning?
"So the upshot of all this is...?"
"It's one of the things I have to start being honest with myself about," Daniel said. "Corny or clichéd as it may sound, I need to follow my heart."
"Yep, figured it was something like that," Jack said, digging his fingertips into his temples.
"You're bothered by this."
"I'm worried," Jack corrected. "About you...and everything. Did I mention I'd like to kick Shifu in the ass? No? Well, I would. Christ!" Jack got up and started pacing in the opposite direction from Daniel, the afghan sliding to the floor behind him.
"I shouldn't have dumped this on you."
"I already told you to stop being sorry," Jack growled. "And for the record, I don't care who you love. But you're talking about a big change here."
"I'm talking about finally being who I really am," Daniel insisted.
"In a top secret military base," Jack reminded him. Daniel just stared at Jack, his body language defensive. "Technically, as a civilian, the USAF doesn't care who you sleep with either. But the reality...."
"I know the reality, Jack," Daniel said. "That's one of the reasons I've hidden it all this time."
Jack's look was eloquent--pleading with Daniel not to make life any harder than it already was.
"I can be discreet. I mean, I'm not planning to show up for work wearing pink BDUs."
"Good. They're so fucking hard to accessorize," Jack sniped. Daniel smiled and Jack found himself answering it with one of his own.
"Son of a bitch, Daniel. You sure know how to make life hard for yourself."
"Good morning, people."
The four members of SG-1 greeted General Hammond and turned to their mission briefs. Jack slumped back in his chair slightly. For being career military, he had crappy posture. It didn't help his arthritis any, but it did give him the opportunity to covertly observe Daniel, seated next to him.
"Looks like you're scheduled for P4X-223 at 0600 hours tomorrow," Hammond began.
"Excuse me, no."
"Doctor?" Hammond said, his expression benign despite the fact that he obviously hadn't expected the interruption.
"223 is occupied by a pre-industrial people. Obviously, they were put there by the Goa'uld, but there's no sign the Goa'uld have been there in a very, very long time. There's no evidence of any technology or information that would be of any interest to us." Daniel glanced quickly around the table. "There's no point in SG-1 going."
"Excuse me?" Jack interrupted. "No point?"
"Not for us. The SGC has other teams who can travel to 223 and do the anthropological studies."
"Well, we do have preliminary data on another planet I was considering for SG-1." Hammond pulled a folder from the stack that sat in front of him. "M2Q-743 is currently uninhabited but MALP and UAV recordings have documented the ruins of what appears to be a highly advanced civilization."
"Send SG-1 there then," Daniel said.
"Daniel?" Sam peered at Daniel as if trying to see straight through his skull and read his mind. Or find it. Daniel met her gaze with a bland expression that gave her nothing to work with. Sam immediately glanced at Jack, her message unmistakable. She expected Jack to handle Daniel.
"Could we go back to the 'no point' thing?" Jack asked.
"What about it?" Daniel asked.
"No point?" Jack said sarcastically.
"There's a point," Jack said, exasperated. He looked around at his fellow officers and Teal'c, all of whom appeared to be quite happy to let Jack handle the situation.
"What would that point be, Jack?"
"There are people there. People who are descended from...from...." Jack tried to surreptitiously shuffle the pages of his report to find the information.
"The Aztec," Teal'c offered from across the table.
"Yes, the Aztec," Jack said a tad too loudly as he turned back to Daniel. And in the back of his mind he wondered why he was arguing in favor of 223. The Aztec had sports that made hockey look downright civilized.
"And?" Daniel asked.
"And," Jack said, starting to get downright pissed at Daniel's stubborn refusal to follow Jack's lead. Not that this was anything new. "And you love that stuff."
Jack sat back in his chair, arms crossed, feeling rather satisfied at having found the point.
"That's really not the issue, though, is it?" Daniel said, meeting Jack's gaze head on while pulling the point out from under his feet.
"Did I run into one of those wacky mirrors?" Jack asked, looking around the room, even peeking under the table, in disbelief. "Maybe fall into another reality or something?"
"What are you trying to say, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond asked, stepping in before Jack completely lost his cool.
"What I'm saying is 223 doesn't have anything that the SGC is interested in," Daniel said bluntly. "I hope that a team will be sent to study their origins and cultural evolution, but it doesn't have to be SG-1. M2Q...um...."
"743," Hammond prompted.
"M2Q-743 may have useful technology. And since I'm assuming that any records won't be in English...?" Daniel said, looking at the general. Hammond slid the folder across the polished surface of the table. Daniel leafed through it as his teammates continued to stare at each other in bewilderment.
"Interesting," Daniel said, pausing to study a photo. "Phoenician. Thanks to our little adventure recently in the Tobin minefield, we know Phoenician is the language the Tobin used. It's possible that this planet was part of their empire. If so, it's definitely worth checking out. And even if it isn't, the fact is you'll need me for the translation."
"It would be a logical assignment for SG-1," Hammond said. "There's nothing urgent about 223. I could add it to SG-13's schedule, and free up SG-1 for M2Q.
"So let's do it," Daniel said, setting his folded hands on the table and looking for all the world as if usurping Hammond's leadership was the most natural course of events. In response to Hammond's questioning look, Jack just put up his hands in surrender. If Hammond wasn't going to get all bent out of shape, far be it from Jack to make a fuss.
"I agree. I'll have the reports distributed along with a time for the new briefing," Hammond said, closing his folder. "You're dismissed."
Teal'c's face hovered upside down over Jack as he spotted Jack in the weight room. Jack slowly lowered the barbell, having finished his reps, and looked up at Teal'c.
"So...what did you think of the briefing today?" Jack asked.
"I thought it was extremely brief," Teal'c answered. Jack sighed. Ask a stupid question....
"What did you think of Daniel?" Jack persisted, sitting up and turning on the bench so that he could see Teal'c right side up. He found it made it easier to read the Jaffa's expressions. Both of them.
"Daniel Jackson suggested the most practical and efficacious use of SGC resources."
"It was very uncharacteristic," Teal'c added.
"Congratulations, Teal'c. You've just won the understatement of the month contest," Jack said. "For the 30th month running."
The only reason Teal'c hadn't won every month since his arrival was that, in the beginning, Teal'c had taken 'understatement' to a whole new level by saying nothing at all.
"You are disturbed by Daniel Jackson's behavior."
"Yes, I am." Jack suspected that Daniel's odd behavior in the briefing was related to his 'new path', although, Jack wasn't quite sure how it was related.
"What is it exactly that concerns you?" Teal'c asked.
Jack grimaced. Daniel had spoken to him as a friend. He'd trusted Jack with some deeply personal thoughts and feelings, not to mention one humdinger of a revelation. Jack felt that he owed Teal'c more than a simple brush off but he certainly didn't have the right to out Daniel.
"Remember Shifu's visit? His 'lesson'?" he said, deciding that he could at least bring Teal'c up to speed on the bigger picture.
"Of course," Teal'c answered. "You believe Daniel Jackson has been affected by this lesson?"
"It's got him thinking," Jack said vaguely.
"And you fear where Daniel Jackson's thoughts may lead him?" Teal'c asked.
"Well, you know. Daniel. Thinking. It's bound to mean trouble," Jack said.
"Is there nothing we can do to assist him?"
"I don't think so, Teal'c," Jack said with genuine regret. "I think this is something Daniel has to figure out for himself."
"Daniel, take a break," Sam called across the room. Daniel looked up from the table/desk thing he was hunched over and gave a distracted wave. Sam frowned as Daniel dove back into the documents he was trying to translate.
"Leave him be," Jack said, pausing to take a long pull at his canteen. He wiped his mouth and nodded toward Daniel. "When his blood sugar drops so low that he starts to pass out he'll take a break."
Sam sighed. Jack looked around at what looked to him like a computer lab. It was an alien computer lab, granted, but Carter was certain the machines sitting on row after row of desks were computers. Even Jack recognized that. Unfortunately, the 'alien' part of the picture was making it difficult for her to figure out how to operate them.
To make matters worse, the long vanished inhabitants had kept almost no written records. Sam assumed, and Daniel had agreed, that the missing documents were probably contained on the computers. Trouble was, whatever energy had once powered the machines had long ago gone kaput. Sam had been carefully disassembling one of the computers to see what made it tick in the hope of being able to find an appropriate alternate energy source.
In the meantime, Daniel had found a small cache of paper records. He was doing a quick, off the cuff translation, hoping to find something that would help Sam understand the technology.
"Don't ask me," Jack said, anticipating Carter's question.
"I don't know what's going on with Daniel," Jack said.
"But something is going on?"
"I believe Daniel Jackson is trying to find his new path," Teal'c offered.
"He told you about that?" Jack asked, looking at Teal'c with mild surprise.
"New path?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, it has to do with that lesson the kid gave Daniel," Jack said with a scowl. He still wanted to kick the kid's ass. "The teaching dream."
"But I thought that had to do with convincing Daniel to not pursue the Goa'uld knowledge," Sam said, frowning.
"It was far more than that," Teal'c said. "Daniel Jackson was forced to reflect on the course his life is taking."
"Yeah, supposedly Daniel hasn't been 'true' to himself," Jack added, still skeptical about that little insight.
"And he told both of you about this?" Sam asked. Jack and Teal'c both nodded. Sam's shoulders slumped in discouragement. "Is it because I'm a woman? Is that why I'm always left out of the loop on this stuff?"
"Come on, Carter, when has Daniel ever treated you like a woman?" Jack asked. Sam glared at him. "You know what I mean. And besides, I'd bet a month's salary that there's things you tell Doc Fraiser that you never tell any of us."
"Just...girl talk," Sam said with a self conscious grimace.
"Exactly. The point is, Daniel probably told Teal'c because the Jaffa are kind of into that Oma-esque spiritual crap," Jack said. Teal'c favored him with a disdainfully raised eyebrow. Jack just shrugged in apology. "And he probably told me because.... Well, just because."
"Because you're his best friend," Sam said. Jack nodded, hesitant to accept the title. Not because he didn't like it. He did. He liked being Daniel's best friend. He just wasn't so sure that some days he lived up to all that implied.
"Okay, but I still don't understand how that leads to Daniel turning down 223 and coming here. Obviously, there's translation work here, and Daniel is the linguist at the SGC. But we're looking for technology, maybe even weapons," Sam said. "That's definitely not Daniel's thing. People are."
"I don't know, Carter," Jack said with a deep sigh. "I don't understand that Zen shit on a good day. And I've never known how Daniel's mind works. I mean--I even when I know where Daniel's going, I don't know how he gets there."
"So what do we do?" Sam asked. She looked over at Daniel who had his nose up against a reference book, squinting at the text and oblivious to the world around him.
"I do not believe we can do anything but stand ready to help Daniel Jackson in any way he might need us," Teal'c said.
"As long as it doesn't interfere with his ability to function on the team, we don't have any right to interfere with his...stuff," Jack added.
"Meaning of life crap," Jack confirmed.
Jack bounced his keys restlessly in his hand as the elevator rose to the eighth floor. He'd been thinking about Daniel's new path as it pertained to his sexuality. He'd been thinking about it a lot.
True to his word, Daniel hadn't shown up on base in pink BDUs, but then, Jack hadn't expected him to. Not really. Daniel wouldn't be that obvious. But there was definitely a difference in Daniel, as observed at the extremely brief briefing. Jack couldn't help but wonder if Daniel had begun exploring his path in other ways.
Jack sauntered down the hall and knocked on Daniel's door. He thought that maybe at home, away from the sometimes oppressive military atmosphere of the base, he'd be able to see the change. Maybe Daniel would be more relaxed, more revealing....
Jack blinked hard. He hadn't expected Daniel to be quite so revealing. Daniel stood in the doorway dressed in straight legged jeans and a silky teal shirt that hung open revealing a wall of sleek muscle...and an inviting shadow in the V of the unfastened jeans.
"Jack?" Daniel repeated.
"Hey, Daniel," Jack said abruptly. He gestured at Daniel's half covered body. "Am I interrupting?"
"Oh, no. Not really," Daniel mumbled as he wandered back into the apartment. He turned back to face Jack, holding his hands out at his sides. "I'm just.... Does this look okay?"
Jack blinked again.
"Why am I asking you?" Daniel said absently. He continued mumbling to himself as he wandered off to his bedroom. Jack turned slowly to close the front door behind him, gave his himself a good, hard shake, and followed.
"Got a date?" Jack asked in a decidedly casual manner as he entered the bedroom.
"Uh...no," Daniel said. He went to the dresser, pulled out a pair of socks and tossed them on the bed. "I was just going to go...hang out."
"The pants, Daniel. Zip up," Jack explained. Startled, Daniel complied without an argument. "And you look fine."
"Really?" Daniel asked nervously as he started to button his shirt.
"Really. So...hang out?"
"God. This is...."
"Embarrassing. Ridiculous. Hopeless." Daniel sagged down on the bed as if all his energy had suddenly left him. "I'm 35, Jack. I haven't really dated much in the last few...years. I'm used to meeting people through school or work but that's not really an option anymore. The world has changed and I feel completely and utterly clueless."
"So you were planning to get dressed up, hit a club and...?"
"Find someone to put me out of my misery," Daniel said with a rueful smile before bending over to pull on his socks and shoes. Jack sat down on the bed next to Daniel.
"Where are you going?" Jack asked.
"Not a lot of action there," Jack said.
"That's what I've heard. I figure I should start off easy. Go somewhere I can just get a feel for.... What did you say?"
"You said Hooligans didn't have a lot of action," Daniel said, giving Jack a perplexed look.
"Well, it doesn't, does it?"
"No, but how would you know? Hooligan's is a gay bar." Daniel stared hard at Jack's profile for a moment longer. Then his eyes widened.
"I've been known to switch hit on occasion," Jack admitted. He got up and wandered across the room, stopping to poke at the odds and ends that littered the top of the dresser.
"I should've known," Daniel said. His eyes followed Jack's movements, but he wasn't really seeing him.
"How?" Jack asked sharply, turning back to Daniel. He'd been careful, very careful, to never let his sexuality become a topic of conversation.
"A big, long wick?" Daniel said, his eyes once again focusing on Jack.
"Too much?" Jack asked.
"It was a little out there," Daniel said. "But hell, I thought you were just having one of your blonde moments." Daniel propped his elbows on his thighs and dropped his head into his hands with a groan. "I'm never going to get laid again, am I?"
"Oh, I don't think that's going to be a problem."
"Jack, you have said some of the campiest things I've ever heard and I never clued in."
"You weren't supposed to, Daniel," Jack said. "I have a history of saying outrageous things. Occasionally I can get by with slipping in an entendre that's not only double, it's bent. Even if someone picks up on it, it's always something that can be explained away."
"And no one's going to question an Air Force colonel's sexuality," Daniel said, nodding his understanding. "Especially not one who's been married and had a child."
"Exactly. Now come on, fix your hair and let's go."
"Go where?" Daniel frowned. "What's wrong with my hair?"
"Hooligans," Jack said, grasping Daniel by the shoulders and steering him toward the bathroom. "Look, you want to go and just hang out. I'll go with you. We'll hang out and you can...get back into the swing of things."
"Is there somewhere else you'd rather go?" Daniel asked.
"It's too risky for me to go anywhere in the Springs. At least, not very often."
"So where do you go?"
"I hit Denver periodically. When I need to."
"How often do you need to?"
"Periodically," Jack repeated, leaning against the bathroom door. Jack wasn't about to tell Daniel that his need had grown in the last couple of years. Daniel was liable to get ideas. Daniel did that a lot and quite frankly it unnerved Jack.
"You don't have to come with me," Daniel said, staring into the mirror and running his fingers through his hair. With an exasperated grunt, Jack moved into the room, knocked Daniel's hand away and grabbed a wide toothed comb. A couple of quick passes and Jack nodded in approval.
"That's better?" Daniel asked doubtfully, staring at his reflection as if he didn't recognize the image in the mirror.
"I like it the other way."
"For the record, so do I. But...." Jack cringed inwardly. Daniel was bound to attract all sorts of attention. But that ruffled, distracted look had the potential to attract the wrong kind of interest. The kind of interest Jack definitely didn't want Daniel attracting...any more than he already did. "Trust me on this."
"Okay," Daniel said with an easy shrug.
"And I know I don't have to go with you. But I want to," Jack said. He most certainly did. He wanted to watch Daniel in this get up. The man did not wear tight jeans nearly often enough. And he wanted to a chance to keep an eye on any 'interest' coming Daniel's way. For as long as he could get away with it. Which would be just until Daniel realized that Jack was keeping an eye on him.
"I know how it is. Do you think it was easy for me to start dating again after being married for more than a decade?"
"No, I don't suppose it was," Daniel said.
"Damn straight it wasn't."
"Absolutely the wrong word but you get my drift."
"Hi, Jack. Good to see you," the bartender called out.
"Ted," Jack said with a nod. "How's business?"
"Fair to middling," Ted answered. "Grab yourselves a booth and I'll be over in a sec."
"I thought you said you didn't come here very often," Daniel said, giving Jack a dirty look as they crossed the room.
"Right, but you're on a first name basis with the bartender?"
"Former military," Jack said.
"No kidding?" Daniel asked, glancing back at the bartender as if he might suddenly be able to perceive some sign of the man's military background.
"Spent fifteen years in the Air Force," Jack explained as he slid into a booth. Daniel slid in on the opposite side, his attention focused on Jack. "Then he met Dave. Dave was more important to Ted than the Air Force so he resigned, bought the bar, and lived happily ever after."
"That's nice," Daniel said. He smiled self consciously. "I like happy endings."
"Nothing wrong with happy endings," Jack said with an answering smile.
"So what can I get you gentlemen?" Ted stood at the end of Jack's seat, looking curiously at Daniel.
"I'll have a draw," Jack said. Daniel nodded at Ted to make it two. "Well, this is service."
"Only until the crowd picks up in an hour or so," Ted said. "Then you're on your own."
"Knew it was too good to be true," Jack teased. He'd noticed Ted's interest in Daniel and decided to put him out of his misery.
"Ted, this is Daniel. He's a colleague at the base," Jack said. "Daniel--Ted."
"Great--another piece of brass. You trying to turn this place into a military gay bar?" Ted accused Jack as he leaned across the table to shake Daniel's hand.
"Oh, I'm not military," Daniel interjected.
"Civilian consultant?" Ted asked. Daniel nodded. "Well, welcome to Hooligan's, civilian Daniel. And just so we're clear--Hooligans is just our name. Not our philosophy."
"Really?" Daniel said, looking up at Ted with an expression as innocent as a child's. "Then what's Jack doing here?"
"You obviously know Jack well," Ted teased, patting a very pleased with himself Daniel on the shoulder.
"Don't you have something important to do?" Jack scowled for appearance's sake, but he knew he wasn't fooling anyone. "Like getting us our beer?"
"On its way," Ted said, giving Jack a light slap on the shoulder. "Enjoy, you two."
An hour later, just as Ted had predicted, the bar had a nice mellow crowd gathered. Hooligan's had always been a comfortable, neighborhood type bar. That's why Jack liked it. He liked it a lot. It was a bar. It had booze. It had munchies. It had a jukebox that featured classic rock. He just wished he could risk stopping by more than once in a blue moon.
However, despite the fact that Hooligans wasn't a 'meat market' kind of place, that didn't mean some people weren't looking...and finding. And a good looking guy like Daniel had understandably caught a few eyes already. Jack noted one man in particular whose attention kept coming back to Daniel. And Jack. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the man was trying to decide if Daniel was with Jack or available. Which was a good thing, seeing as Jack wasn't a genius even on a good day.
"Bogey at two o'clock," Jack said into his beer. What the hell--the guy was good looking...in a young, square-jawed, buff way. If you went for that sort of thing. Jack didn't but maybe Daniel did.
"What?" Daniel looked up, then turned to look to the side. He saw the man watching him. The man lifted his glass and nodded at Daniel. Daniel nodded back and turned to Jack, a slow flush coloring his cheeks.
"God," Daniel groaned. "I'm so bad at this."
"What? Flirting?" Jack asked with a chuckle.
"Yes," Daniel admitted. His finger slowly traced the condensation that had formed on his glass. "You know, there's something to be said for the way they do things on Abydos."
Jack laughed, genuinely amused by the fact that Daniel would prefer to be thrown into an arranged marriage than do a little innocent flirting.
"I'm serious, Jack," Daniel said with mildly reproving look. He flicked the water from his fingertips at Jack when Jack continued to grin. "I'm not good at 'games.' Well, you know how I feel about political games...and dating isn't all that different. I'd really prefer it if everyone just said, right up front, what they were looking for."
"Daniel," Jack said, shaking his head. "You can't look at it that way. Yeah, I know--dating can be as dangerous as a negotiating a Mid East peace treaty. But it's also a sort of...exploration."
"Exploration?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah. And you like exploring."
When Daniel went to the bar for another round, the guy who'd been eyeing him sidled over and struck up a conversation. Daniel actually looked at little startled at being approached, which made Jack shake his head fondly. Jack's beer sat on the bar, forgotten, as Daniel became engrossed by the stranger's words.
Jack drummed his fingers on the table top, wondering if he should go get his beer...or just go. Jack didn't know what had possessed him to offer to accompany Daniel to the bar. Well, actually he did know. Daniel had possessed him. Had taken possession years ago, even if Daniel didn't know it.
Jack had gone to Daniel's apartment that evening because the idea that Daniel had kick-started his sex life was weighing on Jack's mind. Jack's own interest in Daniel had been hard enough to deal with when Daniel's interest was restricted to women. Now that Jack knew that Daniel was open to--hell, asking for--a gay relationship, it was taking all of Jack's self control to not beg Daniel for a chance to jump his bones.
Jack watched as Daniel laughed, honest to goodness laughed, at something the other man said. Jack gave a resigned sigh and reminded himself that, as Daniel's friend, he should be supportive. And pleased by any happiness that Daniel might find. After all, he did want Daniel to be happy. Daniel was his best friend. They loved each other...as friends and mutual pains in each other's asses. The fact that Jack was in love with Daniel was just his own tough luck.
Startled out of his own thoughts, Jack looked up to see Daniel watching him with a puzzled look on his face. Jack's breath caught in his throat. The low light in the bar obscured the small lines that had started to accumulate on Daniel's face, and the teal shirt made the blue of his eyes really pop. He looked as drop dead gorgeous as he'd ever looked, and Jack's body responded automatically.
"Yeah?" Jack said, immediately coughing to clear the huskiness from his voice.
"You okay?" Daniel asked, sitting down and sliding Jack's beer toward him.
"Fine. Why do you ask?" Jack said, gripping the bottle, not surprised to find that it was warm.
"You seemed a little...lost there," Daniel said.
"Just thinking." Jack toyed with his bottle for a moment. "So, who is he?"
"Who?" Daniel said a little too quickly. Jack just raised his eyebrow in reproach. "Oh...um, Kevin."
"Kevin?" Jack repeated. Well, wasn't that the perfect name for Mr. All American? Jack's conscience slapped his inner bitch and told her to shut up. "And?"
"And...his name is Kevin," Daniel said, being deliberately obtuse.
Jack's inner bitch had a few choice things to say about Daniel at that point. Jack threatened to cut off her supply of Haagen-Das and she finally backed off, muttering.
"And?" Jack repeated in a very pointed manner.
"Look, Daniel, if you want to--you know--then go on. You don't have to sit here with me. You don't have to leave with me either."
It made Jack's stomach churn to say those words, but he had to. He couldn't let his own feelings get in Daniel's way. Jack's inner bitch couldn't help but point out that noble self sacrifice was so not Jack's thing. He agreed in principle, but that only made his resolve firmer. Almost as firm as his dick.
"No," Daniel said. "I came here, with you, to hang out. That's what I'm doing."
"You came here to get back into the dating scene."
"I'm, uh...I'm seeing him Thursday night," Daniel finally admitted.
"Good for you," Jack said mildly. The inner bitch threw her hands up in disgust and hit the bricks. Jack wasn't worried; he knew she'd be back. In the meantime, Daniel was studying him with a strange expression.
"Is it?" Daniel asked, his eyes intent on Jack.
"It's what you want, right?" Jack asked, feeling confused. "To get back in the dating scene?"
"Um...yeah." Daniel glanced anxiously across the room, seeking out Kevin.
"Look, if you're nervous about the...."
"Ah!" Daniel put up a finger to cut Jack off. "I'm nervous about dating, Jack. Not...sex."
"Oh." Jack stared at his hands for a moment. "Well, see--I just thought since you hadn't had any experience...."
"I haven't had any experience with gay relationships," Daniel corrected him. "I have had experience with gay sex. There's a difference."
"Oh," Jack said again. He was unable to come up with anything more profound because his mind was overwhelmed with images of Daniel experiencing gay sex.
"Not that this necessarily means sex," Daniel continued, waving vaguely in Kevin's direction.
"You're hot. He's hot. Sex is a distinct possibility," Jack pointed out.
"Would I sound really desperate if I said I hope so?" Daniel asked. He paused, his eyebrows drawing together in concentration. "You think I'm hot?"
"Oh, hey--look at that," Jack said, checking his watch. "Time for little colonels to be in bed." And Jack's little colonel definitely needed to be put to bed. Soon. Before it could push Jack into saying or doing something aimed at confirming Daniel's hotness.
"Okay," Daniel said. He stood up and started to put on his jacket.
"Daniel, are you sure you don't want to stay?" Jack asked as he slowly drew on his own coat.
"I'm sure." Daniel's eyes were clear as he looked at Jack.
"Last piece of business, folks," Hammond said with a smile. Jack gave a silent 'woohoo' and settled back in his chair. He watched as Teal'c did the same. Daniel and Carter, on the other hand, pulled out new folders. Yeah, some days it was good to be a non-genius.
"Major Carter, any updates on the device you brought back from M2Q?" Hammond asked.
"Afraid not, sir. This technology is so different from anything we've encountered before that we're having a hard time getting anywhere with it," Sam said with genuine regret. "I thought--hoped--that our experience with the Tobin mine would put us ahead of the game. It didn't."
"Hey, at least you already had that zero thing figured out," Jack said helpfully.
"Yes, sir," Sam said politely. She turned back to the general. "I'm convinced, though, that it'll be well worth our efforts if we can figure it out. This is highly sophisticated technology. We're bound to learn something valuable."
"Any guesses as to how long this might take?"
"No, sir. I've got a team working on it every available minute but, even with Daniel's translations, it's slow going."
"Keep me apprised," Hammond ordered. "Dr. Jackson, have you been able to glean any useful information from the documents you recovered?"
"Ah...not really," Daniel admitted. Jack risked a sidelong glance at Daniel. He'd been the one to claim this mission for SG-1, and Jack wondered if failure would knock Daniel off his feet just when he was struggling so hard to find his way.
"The records I found all deal with the proceedings of some kind of council," Daniel explained.
"Tobin council?" Hammond asked.
"Er...I don't know," Daniel said with a sigh. "The language is the same but...."
"The Tokra might be able to tell us," Sam suggested.
"Oh, do we have to?" Jack asked. Dealing with the Tokra usually involved surprises. Jack hated surprises.
"I doubt it would be much help," Daniel said. "Based on their inability to translate the manual or reprogram the mine, my guess is that the Tokra don't have any significant knowledge of the Tobins or their technology."
"We'll hold that as a last resort then," Hammond decided.
"Do the documents contain any information about the enemies or allies of these people?" Teal'c asked.
"Unfortunately, no. It's essentially just the minutes of a few council meetings. Routine business: ordinances, petitions, etc. Petty details and not much of that. They don't even give me any true insight into their culture, let alone their technology," Daniel said with an apologetic nod to Sam.
"Well, if we can just get one of their computers to work, I think Daniel will have plenty of translating to do," Sam said, nodding back to Daniel.
Jack smiled. He liked it when his kids got along.
"So I have to know," Jack said around a mouthful of enchilada. He leaned over, trying to contain the spillage to Daniel's table. "What's with the no point thing anyway?"
"What's to know?" Daniel asked, setting down a forkful of beans and rice.
"Well, I can't quite see how it fits into the 'new path'," Jack said. And it was bugging him intensely. Not as intensely as the more personal side of Daniel's new path, but a thorn in his side all the same.
"Oh," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Well, if we'd gone to 223, we'd have had barely enough time to say hello and then we'd have to leave because the SGC doesn't consider it important. The upshot is that I would've been frustrated. Again. And quite frankly, I'm not so sure we're doing some of these cultures any favor by visiting them.
"M2Q, on the other hand, had things that needed translating. I'm a linguist. I like doing translations. And I was more likely to have the time I needed because the SGC considered it a viable objective." Daniel shrugged. "I picked the one that give me the best chance for a pay off."
"That's it?" Jack asked.
"That's it," Daniel confirmed.
"That simple?" Jack scoffed. Nothing with Daniel was ever that simple.
"Er...yes, I guess so," Daniel said, trying to slide the guacamole closer to himself, and out of Jack's reach. Jack pointedly licked a corn chip and stuck it in the salsa in retaliation.
"You're disgusting," Daniel said. He pulled the chip out, added a little guacamole and ate it anyway.
"Thank you, I try," Jack said. "Anyway, is this 'no point' stuff part of the whole 'new path'?"
"To be honest, I don't really know," Daniel chuckled. "I'm not entirely certain I've got a handle on that. In this case, I spoke up for the option that was best for me. Or at least the least frustrating."
"It all confuses the crap out of me," Jack said. He held up his empty beer bottle in a blatant request.
"Well, you're not alone in that," Daniel admitted as he got up and went to the kitchen, headed for the fridge. "Turns out it's a whole lot easier to talk about finding a new path than it is to actually find it."
"Let me ask you this," Jack said, raising his voice slightly so that it would carry into the kitchen. "Isn't doing what Oma, or the kid, told you to do the same thing?"
"Um...no, not really. I mean, Oma wasn't telling me what to do. She was telling what not to do."
"Is that really so different?" Jack asked. "You're still doing what someone else told you to do."
"Not exactly." Daniel sighed. He handed Jack his beer and wandered back to his seat. "I know that she's right. I know that I was going wrong somewhere."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I wasn't happy."
Jack finished his enchilada, wiped his hands and mouth, and pushed away his plate as he considered that revelation. It wasn't exactly a surprise. Daniel had, within fairly recent memory, lost his wife's child, an ex-girlfriend, and one of his good friends. Not to mention the odd alien abduction here and there. So no--that fact that Daniel had been less than happy wasn't a surprise. The fact that Daniel had admitted it, on the other hand, was a little unusual.
"Daniel," Jack said slowly, trying to choose his words carefully. "Given everything that's happened in the last year or so, don't you think it's probably normal to feel a little down? That doesn't necessarily mean that what you're doing is wrong."
"But maybe it does. Maybe those things wouldn't have happened if I'd been doing what I should be doing."
"Do you really think it was wrong to try to get Sha're back?"
"No," Daniel said sharply. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed against the memories. "But maybe I went about it the wrong way. Actually, there's no maybe about it. Obviously I went about it the wrong way because I failed."
"You didn't fail."
"She's dead, Jack. How is that not a failure?" Daniel said tersely, shoving his half full plate aside.
"She's dead," Jack agreed, leaning forward, willing Daniel to hear him. "But that's not your fault. You aren't responsible."
"Well, I feel responsible."
"Daniel, you can't be everything."
"I feel like I have to be everything. That's part of the problem."
"For example, I spend more time being a soldier than an archaeologist," Daniel pointed out.
"Well, now that's one of those compromises you have to make sometimes," Jack said. "You could do the archaeology stuff exclusively, but then you couldn't be on SG-1. When there are only four people on a team everyone has to play more than one role. Look at me. I'm a soldier and I spend half my time playing diplomat...or water boy. You don't hear me complaining, do you?"
"Actually, yes--I do. Quite frequently in fact," Daniel said with an amused twitch of his lips.
"Yeah? Fuck you, Jackson," Jack said in an amiable tone. Daniel smiled to himself. "What do you want to do? Do you want to leave SG-1?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. I know I don't want to, but I may have to." Daniel grimaced in frustration. "But until I know where I'm going I don't have any way of knowing where I should be."
"Just...promise me you'll think about it--hard--before making a decision like that," Jack said, feeling a sense of loss at the idea of Daniel leaving the SGC...leaving him.
"I will," Daniel promised. "Like I said, I'm just kind of feeling my way through this right now."
"Shit shit shit."
Jack could hear the muttered obscenities well before he rounded the row of lockers. By the time Jack could actually see Daniel, the archaeologist had worked himself into a full blown snit.
"I know, Jack. I'm late. I know. I'm sorry," Daniel said, his words staccato as he struggled to change clothes. Unfortunately, the faster he tried to move, the clumsier his fingers became.
"Oversleep, did we?" Jack asked.
Jack was feeling lenient this morning. He could afford to be. They weren't scheduled for a mission and the team meeting had been delayed as a result of Carter's...incident.
She'd been all in a tizzy about a particle something or other and had gone running down the hall...and smack into Siler. Or rather, into Siler's ladder. He'd been changing a light bulb. The scenario delighted Jack beyond words. His brain was already busy chugging down the 'how many Siler's does it take...' track.
"Fuck!" Daniel said vehemently when his anxious fingers couldn't get the buttons to work. He suddenly fell silent. Jack could see the flush creeping up the back of Daniel's neck.
"Really?" Jack asked. Today was Friday. Which meant last night had been Thursday...as in Thursday night date with Kevin night.
"Do tell," Jack continued, against his better judgment. Hearing about Daniel's date was not likely to put Jack anywhere near a happy place. Daniel risked a quick, red-faced glance at Jack and then turned away again without speaking.
"Or are you not the kiss and tell type?" Jack teased.
"Jack, please," Daniel begged, sounding distraught.
"You okay?" Jack asked, his protective instincts immediately on alert. He couldn't help it. Daniel brought out the protector in him. Well, okay, all his kids brought out the protector in him; Daniel was the only one who let him get away with it. Sometimes.
Daniel sat down on the bench and started to tie his boot laces, refusing to answer. Jack sat down next to Daniel, straddling the bench.
"I'm fine, Jack."
Yeah, right, Jack had heard that before.
"Jack!" Daniel said sharply. "I'm fine. He's fine. The date was fine. It was just very nerve wracking and then I overslept and I'm just a little off balance at the moment. Okay?"
"Okay." Jack stared at his boots, unwilling to totally let the subject drop. Jack also had a bad habit of picking at his scabs.
"So you had a good time?"
Daniel sat up and looked at Jack, his eyes warning Jack not to push the matter.
"I'm not asking for details. I just want to know if it went okay. I know you were nervous."
Daniel looked away and blew out a long breath.
"Yes, Jack, it was okay."
"Just okay?" Jack couldn't help himself and Daniel turned on him with a pissed off look. Daniel had his own inner bitch and she could give Jack's a run for the money any day. Jack threw up his hands to ward off Daniel's temper.
"I was nervous. I've forgotten how to do the dating thing," Daniel reminded him. "But Kevin was very understanding. We had a nice time. I just don't think it was my finest hour."
"So...going to see him again?"
"Jack!" Daniel looked at him with complete exasperation. Jack mouthed 'sorry' and offered a half assed smile. "Yes. I'm going to see him again. Any more questions?"
Top or bottom was the first one that came to Jack's mind but he bit his tongue and shook his head.
"Good. Now, give me a minute and I'll be ready for the meeting."
"Oh, yeah. About that. I postponed the meeting a couple of hours. Carter got knocked up. I mean down. Carter got knocked down."
"Is she okay?" Daniel asked with concern.
"She's fine. Bruised her dignity more than anything else."
"Siler, light bulbs...," Jack said with a grin. "I'll explain later."
Jack felt a knot loosen somewhere inside him the minute he stepped inside the bar. There were only a few patrons, and none that he knew. He let out a slow, grateful breath and walked over to a stool at the far end.
"Well, well, well--twice. In one month. Either I've suddenly become irresistible or you've gotten careless," Ted said. Jack just scowled at him. "What do you need?"
"A vacation," Jack said sourly. "A very long, very quiet vacation. But I'll settle for a beer."
"Rough mission?" Ted asked.
"No." Jack knew that Ted knew better than to ask for details. "Personal crap, you know?"
"Hey, your friend's been around a few times," Ted said casually.
And just like that--the knot was back. Times like this Jack really hated being Daniel's friend. Hated being the one Daniel trusted and relied on. Jack wasn't even sure he could trust himself. He was trying very hard to be the friend Daniel needed, but the effort was wearing.
"Or shouldn't I have mentioned that?" Ted asked, noticing Jack's reaction.
"It's okay," Jack said with a sharp shake of the head.
"You sure about that?"
"Daniel's just getting back into dating after a long dry spell," Jack explained. "I came with him the first time purely for moral support. He's just a friend."
"A good friend?"
"A friend you'd like to like to fuck."
"Are you going to get all psycho-babble on me?" Jack asked irritably. "Because I'm telling ya--Freud didn't know shit. A cigar is just a cigar."
"I'm more of a Jung man actually," Ted said with a teasing smile. "But that doesn't mean that a cigar can't be a dick."
"Bite me," Jack said mildly.
"Hey, I'm a bartender. Bartenders are supposed to be amateur shrinks. We're good listeners."
"You're not listening. You're talking," Jack pointed out.
"Tell me something and I'll listen." Ted watched as Jack just shook his head. "You do want him, don't you?"
"I wouldn't say no."
"Are you afraid he would?" Ted asked.
"I'm more afraid he'd say yes...but for the wrong reasons." Jack stared into his beer. "Daniel's a little messed up right now. He's had a lot of bad shit happen to him and he's trying to get back on his feet. I don't really trust him to make the right decision right now."
"But you're not afraid of him making the wrong decision with someone else?" Ted asked.
"Well, yeah," Jack admitted. "But not in the same way. Daniel just needs to socialize a little. Hell, he needs to get laid. As long as he doesn't pick up some psycho axe murderer--that's cool."
"Why not with you?"
"Because I don't want to be just a fuck to him."
"So you're letting him sow his wild oats?"
"I'm letting him figure out what he wants." Jack shrugged. "Eventually, he might even decide that what he wants is me."
"I think I figured it out," Daniel said, his eyes bright with excitement as he stood at Jack's front door.
Jack threw up his hands and limped back to his living room, leaving Daniel to close the door and follow. Or not. Knowing Daniel, though, he would follow.
"Ah...are you okay?" Daniel asked, his brow creased with concern. Jack eased himself back onto the sofa and draped the ice bag across his knee.
"No, Daniel, I'm not." Jack winced as he shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable. "The knee's fucked, you know?"
"It didn't seem to be bothering you at the base."
"I didn't want the mini-Mengele getting any ideas." Jack wasn't at his best when he hurt. And he wasn't at his best with Fraiser. That's why he'd gritted his teeth until he could get away from the mountain and come home to wallow in the misery. Alone. Daniel, as usual, had a different idea.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Why? Did the kid teach you some mystical spell that will rejuvenate my chi or realign my karma or something?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of getting you some pain pills," Daniel said patiently.
"I don't like taking that stuff. It makes me dopey." Jack watched as Daniel ducked his head, fighting back a smile. "Don't say it."
"Say what?" Daniel said, looking up at Jack with an expression of utter innocence. Jack just growled at him.
"Besides, I'm not supposed to take it on an emp...." Jack wanted to kick himself for the slip.
"You haven't eaten yet?" Daniel said, exasperation plain in his voice. "Okay, then let me get you something to eat."
"Because I want to."
"Why?" Jack persisted. He didn't need anyone taking care of him.
"Because...it makes me feel good."
"Really?" Jack asked, touched...but suspicious. After all, Daniel was the kind of guy who'd sacrifice his life for a bunch of freeze dried aliens. Feeding Jack was barely a blip on the martyr radar.
"Yes, really," Daniel said, looking Jack straight in the eye so that he could see the sincerity there. "Besides, I haven't eaten yet either."
"Ah, so the truth comes out," Jack said. He relaxed back against the sofa cushion again, far more comfortable with the idea of Daniel getting than with Daniel giving. "Your fridge is empty, isn't it?"
"Yeah, that's it," Daniel said, amused. "So how about I find us both something to eat?"
"Yeah, sure, knock yourself out," Jack said graciously. "Hey, there's some casseroles and stuff in the freezer."
"What are you hungry for?" Daniel called from the kitchen.
"See if there's some turkey and wild rice casserole in there," Jack suggested. "Just toss it in the microwave. And some French bread. Hack off a chunk of that."
"'Hack' off?" Daniel said, peeking out of the kitchen. "You're obviously not familiar with the term cordon bleu."
Jack just grinned at Daniel's exasperated look. Daniel shook his head and withdrew into the kitchen again. Jack listened to Daniel moving around in the kitchen and enjoyed the normalcy of the sounds and smells of a meal being prepared. In fact, except for the knee, he felt content. It was good, he and Daniel hanging together. Times like this even Daniel seemed content.
"What?" Daniel asked, walking into the living room, wiping his hands on a dish towel.
"What did you figure out?" Jack asked, remembering Daniel's excitement when he'd arrived.
"Oh." Daniel smiled. "I think I figured out some of this 'path' stuff."
"No kidding? So...spill."
Daniel opened his mouth and the microwave dinged.
"Hold that thought."
"So," Jack prompted, twenty minutes, two helpings and a couple of Percocet later.
"So," Daniel said. He tossed his napkin on his plate and pushed the plate to the far side of the coffee table. "I've been thinking."
"Thinking about everything I've done in my life," Daniel continued, ignoring Jack's commentary. "About everything I've been."
"Daniel, if you tell me you'd like to go back do things differently, I'm gonna smack ya," Jack said, leaning back and wondering if it would just too rude to undo the button of his jeans. Just until the meal settled a little. "Everyone would like to have a second chance at something."
"I know that. And I know that's not possible. But it made me wonder about what I could've done differently in the first place." Daniel paused, getting his thoughts in order. "I realized that it's not what I've been doing. It's why I've been doing it."
"What difference does the reason...." Jack shook his head. This was Daniel, for chrissakes. Of course the reason mattered. "Forget I said that."
"I'm not saying that's the whole solution. Or even that it's going to make a huge difference, but I think that if I understand my own motivations better, I'll make better choices."
"The thing I don't get.... Well, one of the things I don't get," Jack admitted. "You're always thinking about the whys and wherefores. How's that going to change?"
"I think sometimes I've gotten too caught up in a particular agenda. In being right. In my own...arrogance."
"Arrogance?" Jack had, more than once, seen what he'd considered arrogance in Daniel, but he was curious to hear what Daniel saw as arrogance.
"You know what I mean."
"You can be a little pigheaded when you're sure you're right," Jack agreed.
"Ruthless," Daniel said, wincing at the thought. "That was part of the lesson, too. You know what I did in that dream."
"Ah!" Jack interrupted. "That doesn't count. The kid made you all Goa'uldy and evil."
Jack suppressed the shiver he always got when he thought about what Daniel had revealed of his 'dream.' Jack had never made the mistake of thinking Daniel was beyond the reach of darkness. But the thought of a Daniel who could destroy an entire city without batting an eye made Jack profoundly uneasy.
"It wasn't you," Jack insisted. "It was the snakey crap the kid put in your head."
"No, not all of it," Daniel said soberly. "I'm not sure how much of it was me...and I'm not sure I really want to know, but my single-minded arrogance was ultimately what led to the deaths of millions of people. I thought...I believed I was doing the right thing and in the beginning I was. And then I went too far."
"The ends justified the means," Jack said.
"So I thought at the time," Daniel agreed. "I was wrong."
"Some people might disagree. I might...."
"You wouldn't. You tried to stop me."
"The dream me did. The real me might not be so noble," Jack said dryly. "Or smart."
"The only mistake you made was believing in me. You trusted me too long," Daniel said.
"Oh, for crying out...." Jack snapped. "Daniel, this may come as a huge shock but I do not trust everything you do. In fact, I'm often deeply suspicious of the things you do."
"I know you are. That's not the point," Daniel argued. "The point is that I need to be suspicious of the things I do. I need to think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it every step of the way."
"All that'll get you is a padded cell. You'll just drive yourself nuts."
"You think I've got this all wrong?" Daniel asked, looking more bewildered than angry.
"I think you're expecting too much of yourself," Jack said gently. Daniel's choices had lost him his wife. Jack's choices had lost him his son. No one knew better than Jack about hindsight and missed opportunities. "I think you're expecting the impossible from yourself."
"Take Sha're for example. Maybe you could've made some different choices. But for God's sake, Daniel, look at it rationally. Try to ignore the actual cost of your choices for a second. The fact is that you made, at worst, a mistake. You're human, Daniel. Mistakes happen."
"I have to try. Failure is inevitable--as you say, I'm only human. But I have to try."
"You're putting too much pressure on yourself, Daniel," Jack said with real concern. "Maybe big glowing light beings can do that, but you can't. It'll break you."
"It will, Daniel. Trust me on this. I know about breaking points." Jack was deadly serious. Jack had been that route; he knew what it was like. And he knew Daniel had already come damn close himself.
Daniel stood abruptly, reaching for the remains of their dinner. Jack watched as Daniel brusquely cleared away the dishes and carried them into the kitchen. When he heard the water running, Jack got up from the couch, easing himself onto the sore knee, and went into the kitchen. He leaned against the fridge, watching Daniel fill the sink with soapy water.
"You do know I have a dishwasher?" Jack said.
"What's your point?" Daniel snapped.
Jack hesitated. As well as he knew Daniel, he didn't always know which way Daniel's temper would go. Sometimes you needed to talk him through his anger, sometimes you needed to find the nearest bomb shelter and wait it out.
"Every time I think I'm getting a handle on it, I end up more confused than ever," Daniel said, throwing the dishrag into the water with a scowl.
"I'm not up on this cosmic Zen crap but it seems to me it's not something you're supposed to figure out in a day. Or a year. Is it?"
"No," Daniel admitted.
"And hey--coming out wasn't easy. That's a big step right there."
"Was it? The only person I've come out to is you."
"And was it easy?"
"No," Daniel said, pulling the dishrag out of the water again. "It wasn't exactly easy."
"Maybe you haven't told people, but you're dating and...everything."
"I'm testing the waters. Because quite honestly, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about that either. I know I can't deny that part of myself anymore but beyond that--what do I do?"
"You said you needed to follow your heart," Jack reminded him.
"What if my heart tells me wrong?"
"I don't think it can, Daniel. Not too far wrong anyway."
"Wow." Daniel glanced over at Jack, stunned.
"Yeah," Jack agreed. "That was damn near a compliment, wasn't it?"
"It's the drugs talking," Jack decided. He grabbed a towel and started drying the dishes Daniel had just washed.
"And that would make it a backhanded compliment," Daniel said with a knowing smile.
"And it's back to Oz," Jack said dryly as he stepped out of the gate.
"Sorry, sir," Sam said as patiently as she had the first time she'd explained the need to return to M2Q. "But I really think a follow up mission is warranted. I need to study some more of their 'machinery' and Daniel can look for more written records. And General Hammond did agree."
"I wasn't complaining," Jack said to Sam's back as she set off ahead of him.
"Sounded like complaining to me," Daniel said, falling into step next to Jack.
"No," Jack protested. "It was an observation. Not a complaint."
"It sounded like a complaint to me, also, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"Who asked ya?"
Teal'c smiled smugly and fell back, covering their rears.
"Do you really expect to find anything new?" Jack asked Daniel.
"Me? Probably not," Daniel admitted. "But studying some of the other technology may help Sam to figure out that 'computer' thing."
"And speaking of new...how's Kevin?" Jack hoped his tone was inviting and friendly...rather than jealous to the point of homicidal.
"Why?" Daniel asked, sounding suspicious.
"Just making conversation." Jack shrugged as if the information had no real interest to him. "You mentioned you were going to see him again."
"You asked if I was going to see him again," Daniel pointed out.
"Same diff," Jack said. "So--did you?"
"Jack," Daniel complained. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because...I worry," Jack admitted reluctantly.
Daniel's expression lost its exasperated edge and he smiled at Jack.
"I know you do," Daniel said. "And it's very...sweet."
"Sweet?" Jack asked, cringing. Daniel nodded. "Damn."
"No, it's nice to know that you care," Daniel reassured him. "But you don't need to worry. I may be out of practice but I can take care of myself."
"Sure, I know that," Jack said. "But just in case--if you ever need someone set straight, so to speak, Teal'c and I are so there." Jack watched Daniel's face go slack with disbelief, grateful his own eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses. "No, really--we're there."
"Okay, great," Daniel said, obviously amused. "I'll keep that in mind if I ever need a couple of sarcastic, psychotic hit men."
"You know where to find us. Any time. Day or night."
Daniel just turned forward again, marching along ahead of Jack and grinning.
"Any luck?" Sam asked as Jack and Daniel returned for lunch. All four team members settled down on the steps outside one of the city's central buildings.
"Maybe," Daniel said. "Well, no, not really. You?"
"Not sure," Sam said.
"Not sure?" Jack asked, accepting an M.R.E. from Teal'c.
"I've dissected a few other devices...and I still can't tell where they get their power," Sam admitted. "I'm starting to think there may be some sort of central power source."
"You mean like a power plant? Some kind of generator?" Daniel asked, puzzled.
"Not exactly. It would have to be something that didn't require wiring or any other kind of solid physical conduit."
"Like satellite TV," Jack suggested.
"Yes, sir," Sam said with a smile. "That's actually a reasonable analogy."
Jack smiled smugly at the rest of his team and dug into his lunch happily.
"Major Carter and I believe it would be wise to search more of the city, looking for the power source," Teal'c said.
"You done here?" Jack asked Sam, gesturing at the building behind them.
"Carter, you stay here, keep dissecting the hardware. Daniel, promise me you'll behave."
"Excuse me?" Daniel said, looking up from his lunch.
"Promise me you'll behave so I can help Teal'c search for the satellite dish thing."
"It's not actually a satellite, sir," Sam hurried to correct Jack.
"I know that. I was making an analogy," Jack said sarcastically.
"Yes, sir," Sam said, fighting back a grin.
"Any idea of what whatever it is looks like?" Jack asked with no real expectation that Carter would know. Or, at least not in any way she could describe to Jack.
"Afraid not. Hopefully you'll know it when you see it."
"Daniel, be sure to keep your radio on," Jack said. Daniel sometimes had the habit of shutting off his radio. Usually after numerous calls from Jack. Granted, he only did it on uninhabited planets, like this one, but it was still a bad practice.
"I'll 'behave'," Daniel said indignantly.
"I meant you should keep it on so that Teal'c and I can get hold of you if we need something translated," Jack explained.
"Oh," Daniel said, looking disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to sink his teeth into a good argument with Jack. "Well, as far as that goes, I might as well join you and Teal'c. I'm not really doing anything particularly productive."
Jack watched Daniel looking for signs of...he wasn't sure what. Jack just knew that his concern about Daniel's general unhappiness had not been helped by Daniel's path explorations.
"Daniel, are you okay?" Sam asked cautiously, apparently concerned about Daniel's state of mind, too.
"Sure. Why do you ask?"
"You just seem a little...." Sam struggled to find an appropriate and inoffensive description.
"Daniel Jackson still seeks his path," Teal'c said.
"That's true," Daniel said slowly, eyeing Teal'c.
"Is that why you've been going on so many missions with other teams?" Sam asked.
"Part of it," Daniel admitted.
"Why? What I mean is--how is that helping?"
"I don't know. I don't even know that it is," Daniel said with a shrug. "I'm just trying out some other options. I'm trying to understand what I should be doing. Trying to figure out who I am."
"Don't take this wrong, Daniel, but does it really have to be so...overwhelming?" Sam said. "I understand that you want to reevaluate your goals. But you are who you are--that won't change."
"I'm gay," Daniel blurted out.
Jack didn't know if Daniel had intended to let Carter and Teal'c in on his secret, or if he was just reacting to Carter's comfortable notion of who Daniel was. Either way, Jack couldn't suppress a reflexive wince. Daniel was a civilian. He was free to tell anyone he wanted about his sexual orientation. But for Jack, the need for secrecy was so deeply ingrained that he couldn't help reacting.
"That is not the word I would have used to describe your mood of late," Teal'c said.
"No, Teal'c, it doesn't mean...well, actually it does mean that. But it also means...."
"That you prefer male sexual partners."
Teal'c nodded and turned his attention to his meal, apparently feeling the topic had been sufficiently dealt with. Daniel turned a somewhat flustered look on Jack, but Jack could only shrug in return. Who ever knew how the Jaffa would react? To anything.
"Daniel, is this something...?" Sam began hesitantly. She glanced at Jack. He wasn't sure what she was looking for but he kept his face carefully bland. Whatever she, or Teal'c, learned about Daniel would come directly from Daniel, not from Jack.
"New?" Daniel asked. "No, but it's something I've never fully accepted before."
"Don't worry," Daniel said quickly. "It doesn't affect any of this. Not work. And it doesn't affect us."
"Gonna make our double dates a bit awkward," Jack pointed out. Sam threw him a scandalized look. Daniel just chuckled.
"Not necessarily," Daniel said. "I'll promise not to hit on your date, if you promise not to hit on mine."
"Daniel!" Sam said with a snigger. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow.
"It's a deal," Jack said, tipping his canteen at Daniel.
"I have never seen anyone shut Carter up so efficiently," Jack said, joining Daniel in the locker room. He knew it wasn't the failure to find anything else significant on M2Q. Carter never let a little thing like that slow her down. Daniel, though, had thrown her off her stride.
"What?" Daniel said. He finished buttoning his shirt and leaned down to get his shoes from the bottom of the locker.
"Don't give me 'what'," Jack growled. The growl had more to do with his reaction to Daniel's ass than any genuine irritation.
"Do you think she's okay with it?" Daniel asked with concern.
"She loves you, Daniel. If she's not okay with it now, she will be. And Teal'c could not have been less fazed." Jack settled himself in his trousers and zipped up. "Then again, how would we know if he was?"
"You think I was stupid to tell them," Daniel said, his expression wary. Jack sat down on the bench and reached for his own shoes.
"No," Jack finally said. "I don't think it was stupid."
"Jack, I saw your expression when I told them," Daniel said. "You weren't a happy camper."
"That's me, Daniel," Jack said, bending over to tie his shoelaces. "I have to keep it a secret. My career, my family--everything that has ever meant anything to me was dependant on my keeping quiet. It's second nature now."
"Don't you ever resent that?" Daniel asked. Jack glanced up, then sat up surprised by the pained empathy in Daniel's eyes.
"Sure," Jack admitted. "But that's just the way it is."
Daniel nodded reluctantly. Jack reached over and gave Daniel's shoulder a light squeeze.
"It's different for you," Jack said. "You can be...what you are. You can find someone and be with them. You can be happy."
"Yeah, right," Daniel sighed. Before Jack could pursue the matter any further the phone rang.
"What the hell?" Jack complained. Daniel stared at the phone, too, with a bemused expression. "I didn't think that one actually worked."
"Apparently it does."
Jack strode over to answer the phone, and immediately wished he hadn't. He watched Daniel's amusement grow as he overheard Jack's end of the conversation with Hammond.
"Damn it," Jack muttered as he replaced the receiver and stomped back to his locker. Daniel watched, puzzled, as Jack starting taking off his clothes and pulling out a set of fatigues.
"Uh...Jack? We're off duty now. We've got three days of leave," Daniel pointed out.
"You do," Jack grumbled.
"Go on before Hammond catches your ass, too," Jack ordered. Jack knew damn well Hammond wouldn't be coming after Daniel, but Jack didn't want Daniel hanging around making sympathetic noises. Or gloating at Jack's self induced misfortune.
"Out. Scoot. Amscray," Jack said, grabbing Daniel by the shoulders and pushing him toward the exit. "Don't let the door hit you in the ass."
"Yeah, okay--I get the message," Daniel said, grinning. He paused in the open door. "Hey you're not stuck here all three days, are you?"
"No," Jack said.
"Give me a call then. We'll do...something."
"Hit the road," Jack said, nodding as he waved Daniel out.
Jack parked the truck and turned off the ignition, but he remained inside the cab, staring out the windshield. It was late, but that was his own fault. He'd been letting his paperwork slide...again. Hammond's directive had been clear: stay late and put a dent in the backlog, or give up the first day of a three day leave to do it.
It was just as well. Unhappily engaged in mindless paper shuffling, he'd had time to think about Daniel's revelation to the rest of the team. And about something he himself had said. Daniel was free to live openly. Jack...wasn't. Jack dropped his head and banged it lightly against the steering wheel.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Jack muttered.
He was an idiot. Not that this was any kind of news flash, but sometimes he even surprised himself. Jack had been waiting, giving Daniel time to figure out what he wanted. Giving Daniel time to, hopefully, reach a point where he'd be receptive to Jack's interest. But how the hell could Jack ask Daniel to bury that part of himself again just to be with Jack? Answer--he couldn't. So here he was, just half a block from one of his favorite Denver spots, looking to find some kind of physical diversion. Something to help him start forgetting about what might have been.
As a result of his prolonged stay at the base it was nearly midnight. Jack shrugged mentally. It might not matter. Some nights you got lucky in the first five minutes. Other nights you got squat. Jack was hoping for a five minute night, but if not, well, he still had three days of leave. Three days minus doing 'something' with Daniel anyway.
Jack left the truck behind and strode steadily toward the bar. He pushed through the front door, pausing a moment when the heat and noise rushed over him. He scanned the crowd, looking to see if he recognized anyone, and to see just what kind of crowd it was tonight.
Jack was just shrugging off his coat when a burst of laughter drew his attention to a small group coming in from the game room. He recognized the man in front. Matt. Another out-of-towner like Jack. Matt hit Denver once a month without fail, and on the occasions when their visits overlapped, Jack always enjoyed catching up.
Sex...they'd done that, too. It was no more than scratching an itch for either of them and they didn't do it often. But what the hell, Jack thought. If no other prospects materialized and Matt was willing....
A second later Jack's jaw dropped when he saw the man immediately behind Matt. The bright eyed, heat flushed, hard bodied man....
Jack was ready to turn and head right back out the door when Matt saw him.
Jack groaned but forced himself to smile and walk over to greet Matt. He watched as a look of amusement lit Daniel's eyes.
"Hey, Jack. Long time. How are you?" Matt asked, reaching to shake Jack's hand.
"Good, I'm good. How're you?"
"Bored out of my skull half the time...so nothing new. Oh, Jack, this is Daniel."
"Yeah," Jack drawled. "We've met."
"Really?" Matt said.
"Really," Daniel confirmed.
"Well, join us then, Jack," Matt urged as he edged his way toward the bar. "We're just going to grab another round and then head back to the game room."
"I thought you had detention tonight," Daniel said in a low voice as Matt gave their order to the bartender.
"I was working," Jack insisted. "Speaking of which--Hammond's sending your little Tobin toy up to...Nevada."
"We've already spent several weeks and made two trips to...that place and we haven't gotten anywhere."
"Well, I know but...." Daniel protested.
"We're a field unit, Daniel. Bottom line, neither you nor Carter has the time to spend dinking around with that thing. And that's what those guys are there for anyway."
"I'm willing to bet none of them can speak Phoenician."
"No, but they all speak Geek. They'll figure it out."
Daniel shot Jack a dirty look as Matt rejoined them with a tray full of glasses and a couple of pitchers of beer.
"So, Jack--what do you say?" Matt said. "Up for some pool?"
"Pool?" Jack asked Daniel in a low voice as Matt led the way back to the game room.
"I've been taking lessons from Sam," Daniel whispered back with a mischievous grin.
Now that Jack had to see.
Daniel leaned over the pool table in a manner that could only be described as provocative. He displayed his long legs and rounded little rump to perfection. Then he peeked up uncertainly through his lashes.
"Christ," Matt moaned to Jack. "Do you think he even realizes what he's doing?"
"Not entirely," Jack said, bemused by Daniel's behavior. He'd never seen Daniel in actual flirting mode. "He's going for seductive but he's not sure he's made it."
"Oh, he's made it all right," Matt said. "And if he keeps it up he's about to get made by half the guys in here."
"You're up," Daniel said, walking up to Matt.
"Oh, boy, am I," Matt said before grabbing his cue and leaving a puzzled Daniel behind.
"What?" Daniel asked, still watching Matt in a distracted manner.
"What are you doing?"
"At this specific moment?" Daniel asked, turning his attention to Jack.
"Why are you in Denver?" Jack asked, figuring he might as well start at the beginning.
"I wanted to try someplace different. Meet some new people."
"What about him?"
"You guys already broke up?" Jack asked.
"We weren't exactly going steady," Daniel said.
"So...someone else?" Jack said, keeping his tone light. Just because he understood that he couldn't be with Daniel didn't mean it was going to be easy.
"Why do you want to know?" Daniel asked, fixing an interrogative stare on Jack.
"Living vicariously," Jack said, realizing it was something close to the truth.
Christ. Jack needed to get out. He'd come to Denver to get some ass because he couldn't have the ass he wanted. Now that the ass he wanted had shown up Jack couldn't bring himself to find a different one.
Jack rubbed his forehead in an attempt to ease his frustration. He slumped lower in the booth, only vaguely aware of the group of men still playing pool nearby. The only solution was to hit another--Daniel-less--bar and find a willing partner. Either that or resign himself to jerking off alone in his hotel room. The inner bitch picked that moment to point out that he could've done that at home and saved himself the time and expense of a trip to Denver.
Jack was jolted from his inner turmoil when the pile of coats on the seat next to him shifted. He looked up to see Daniel pulling his jacket from the pile.
"I, uh...I'm crimping your style," Daniel said with an apologetic smile.
"I don't have a style. And what the hell are you talking about?"
"You know," Daniel said, gesturing vaguely around the room. "I'm sorry, Jack. I just wanted to try something...someplace different. You recommended this place, and I didn't think you'd be here tonight. I didn't mean to encroach on your territory."
"Wait just a cotton pickin' minute. This isn't my 'territory.' You're not interfering with anything." Well, he was...but not the way Daniel thought he was. "Besides, if you leave Matt is going to be very disappointed."
"I thought maybe the two of you...?"
"Been there, done him," Jack said.
Daniel flushed slightly, but Jack was surprised to see what looked like arousal in Daniel's eyes. What? He liked the idea of having someone Jack had had? A little weird to Jack's way of thinking, but then again...he was a little intrigued by the idea himself. Sort of a...proxy fuck.
"Besides," Jack added. "Matt's been ogling you tonight."
"Um...no. Not really interested."
So...no weird kink? Jack shook his head. He'd never understood the way Daniel's mind worked before. Why think he would start now?
"Well," Jack said, looking around the room for another prospect. His gut reaction was to put a boot in the ass of anyone who dared...who was allowed to touch Daniel, but Jack had made a promise to himself. He wanted Daniel to find someone. Maybe even someone who would love Daniel as much as Jack did.
"I'm going," Daniel said abruptly.
"Where?" Jack asked.
"Oh, no. No way," Jack said in his most authoritative tone. "It's late. You've been drinking. You are not driving back to the Springs."
"I'm a big boy, Jack," Daniel said, shifting quickly into pissy bitch mode. "If I want to go home, I'll go home."
"That's the dumbest thing you've ever said," Jack said, watching anger flare in Daniel's eyes. "You're not going to try to tell me that you drove all the way here just to suck down a few beers and go home."
"No," Daniel admitted in a tight voice.
"So grab a victim and go fuck your brains out," Jack said, hurting himself with the deliberate crudity as much as Daniel. "Christ, Daniel, you could have your pick of half the guys in the bar."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
Before Jack could react, Daniel's hands were twisted into the front of his shirt and Jack had been shoved against the back of the booth. Stunned, he didn't have time to argue or question before Daniel's mouth covered his own. Daniel's mouth was demanding against his, biting and sucking and forcing his tongue between Jack's shock-slackened lips.
Jack opened to Daniel, allowing him invade Jack's mouth. His hands slowly wrapped around Daniel's forearms, accepting, even encouraging the forceful grip. Suddenly Daniel pulled back, leaving Jack with a sore jaw and his tongue damn near falling out of his mouth.
"What?" Jack said stupidly.
"You said I should just grab my victim of choice," Daniel said defiantly.
"Yes, you." Daniel looked a little wild, a little aroused, and more than a little frightened.
"I want you," Daniel continued in a low, urgent tone. "I want to strip you naked and gorge myself on the taste of your body. I want to hold you and touch you until you're so hard you'll cry if I won't let you come. I want to fuck you until you do cry. Then I want you to throw me down and own me until I'm willing to sell my soul if you'll just promise to fuck me the same way every day for the rest of my life."
"Daniel?" Jack whispered. He would be more than happy, ecstatic even, to comply with Daniel's wishes but he was a little confused by the troubled look in Daniel's eyes.
"Please, Jack. I want you. You're the only one who can make me want that, make me feel like that because you're the only one I want."
Daniel searched Jack's face anxiously. Dumbfounded, Jack couldn't muster up a ready and rational response.
"Please," Daniel repeated, his voice almost inaudible.
Jack suddenly realized that Daniel thought Jack was rejecting him. Daniel didn't know that Jack was about to cream his pants at the mere thought of being thoroughly done by Daniel. Daniel was taking Jack's stunned silence as refusal. Jack couldn't form a coherent sentence to save his life, but when Daniel's hands released their grip on his shirt, Jack let his actions speak for him.
Jack wrapped his own hands into Daniel's shirt and yanked him down into his lap. Surprised, Daniel followed Jack's urgent tugs and straddled him. This time Jack claimed Daniel's mouth; Jack's tongue invaded and controlled the kiss. Daniel made a startled noise deep in his throat, but he wasn't anywhere close to trying to fight Jack off.
"D-does that mean yes?" Daniel asked when Jack relinquished control of his tongue.
"That means let's not waste any more fucking time." Jack slid his hands down around Daniel's ass and groaned. "God, I've wanted your ass for so long."
"Why?" Jack repeated incredulously. "Why not?"
"Why not? What kind of answer is that?" Daniel asked.
"Why are you arguing with me about this?"
"I'm not arguing."
"Are," Jack insisted. He gripped Daniel's ass with both hands and squeezed. "I want this ass."
"You sure?" Daniel asked. Jack tightened his grip even further and pushed their groins together.
"Yeah, okay, you're sure," Daniel said breathlessly, pushing back against Jack's strong hands, increasing the pressure between their bodies.
"I should've figured."
Daniel and Jack both jumped at the sound of Matt's voice. Daniel looked a little embarrassed at having been caught in such a blatant PDA, but at the same time defiant. Daniel sure as hell wasn't releasing his grip on Jack. Jack smiled. He had absolutely no objection to being the object of Daniel's lust.
"Just get a room, would ya?" Matt continued, sounding disgruntled. "Don't make the rest of us suffer."
"Oh, sorry," Daniel said, blushing. "This is probably very...um...."
"He really doesn't realize it, does he?" Matt asked Jack.
"I don't think so."
"Realize what?" Daniel asked, baffled.
"We're not suffering because we're grossed out by some public groping," Matt explained patiently. "We're suffering because a good third of us got an instant hard on watching you give Jack a lap dance...and we're jealous as hell of Jack."
"Oh." Daniel couldn't quite find anything appropriate to say to that. Especially given that he was now certain Matt was a little nuts. Daniel glanced at Jack to share his amusement at Matt's gross error...and was astounded to see the look of supreme smugness on Jack's face.
"Mine," Jack reminded Daniel, squeezing one ass cheek. Daniel smiled brilliantly.
"Just as soon as we're out of here," Daniel promised.
"Check," Jack called.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't know you were gay." Jack sighed. They hadn't even gotten as far as his truck and Daniel was arguing, er, discussing. Jack had managed to convince Daniel to just leave his car and ride with Jack to the motel, but that was all he'd managed.
"After you knew."
"Yeah, that would've worked. You're putting your whole life under the microscope, doing some heavy duty soul searching. And in the meantime--Hey, Daniel--great news about you being gay. Glad to hear it 'cause I've wanted to fuck you stupid for months."
"You could've phrased it a little more tactfully."
"Besides, why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't know you were bi." Daniel held up his hand to forestall Jack's next argument. "And after I did, you didn't act interested. In fact, you acted completely disinterested. You were taking me out, giving me tips, helping me get back in the dating game. How was I supposed to know?"
"I was afraid to say anything," Jack told him. "I was afraid that you might agree because you were confused and because we have history."
"And I didn't want to put you in an uncomfortable situation. I was afraid that if I told you I was interested that you might go along, to some extent, just to help me."
"So, basically, being caring and supportive of each other got us exactly squat?"
"Crude...but accurate," Daniel agreed.
"So what will being selfish and crass get me?" Jack asked. Hey, couldn't hurt to ask.
"What do you want?"
"In the short term--sex."
"And in the long term?"
"More sex," Jack admitted. "All of it with you."
Jack hit the lock release button on his key chain and climbed into the driver's seat. He watched as Daniel slowed as he walked around to the passenger side door. When he slid into the truck, Jack looked carefully at his expression. Daniel's defiance had faded.
"What if this is a mistake?"
"I thought you wanted this?"
"I sat in your lap and begged you to have sex with me. It should be obvious I want it."
"You knew what you wanted and you went for it. Nothing wrong with that," Jack said firmly. "I'm just a little surprised that what you wanted was me."
"You can't," Daniel said quietly.
"I will," Jack assured him. Screw the Air Force. Well, maybe not, not unless he really had to--but this time he was willing to take the chance. "This time I will."
"I don't want to fuck this up." Daniel turned his head, looking at Jack in the dim glow from the dashboard. Daniel had never looked more defenseless, more uncertain. "I'm still kind of lost right now. I don't know where I'm going or how I'm going to get there. This might be a bad time to start something."
"Daniel, I've never known where you're going or how you'll get there. But I'm not afraid to go with you," Jack said. Jack had never been more certain of that.
"And you call me reckless," Daniel said, voice tinged with irony.
"Do you trust me?" Jack asked. Daniel gave a hesitant nod. "Daniel?"
"Yes, I trust you."
"Then go with it," Jack urged. Daniel leaned over, finding Jack's mouth and kissing him slowly, surely. He pulled back slightly and smiled.
"Are you ready for this?" Daniel asked.
"Probably not," Jack admitted. "But that's never stopped me before."
Jack reclined on the motel bed and wondered if this was a really bad idea. Sex with Daniel was, on the face of it, a good idea. Spectacularly good. And they'd established that the mature, supportive approach was just keeping them apart. But...what if they should be apart? What if having what they both wanted was somehow...not right?
"Hush," Daniel said, emerging from the bathroom. He was completely naked, and erect, and Jack's mature, rational side caved without so much as a whimper.
"You're thinking too much."
"There's a first time for everything," Jack said flippantly.
Daniel gave Jack a reproachful glare as he knelt on the bed next to Jack.
"Hush," Daniel repeated, pressing his hand lightly against Jack's chest when he tried to sit up. "Just...hush."
Daniel shifted over, straddling Jack. Still wary, Jack lay back down and waited to see what Daniel would do. Daniel slowly unbuttoned Jack's shirt, brushing it aside and leaning down to kiss Jack.
"Planning to make me cry?" Jack asked, wagging his eyebrows. "Because I really don't have a problem with that, you know?"
"I didn't think anything made tough old colonels cry." Daniel ran his hands lightly up Jack's chest, his attention absolutely focused on the feel of skin and hair and muscle. Jack actually got a little head rush; Daniel's intense fixation on his body like a drug.
"I might surprise you," Jack whispered, almost afraid to break Daniel's concentration. Daniel laid his naked body along Jack's still mostly clothed one and began kissing and nipping his way around Jack's exposed skin. Daniel's arms stretched along either side of Jack, cradling him.
"Daniel," Jack said. When Daniel raised his head to look at Jack, Jack grasped him and drew him up for a kiss. Daniel's tongue probed him slowly and sensually, as intensely as he'd studied Jack's body.
"Jesus, Daniel," Jack gasped when Daniel withdrew. "You're damn scary sometimes."
"You don't like?" Daniel asked, a small frown shadowing his eyes.
"Love it. It's just...intimidating," Jack said. He had to dial down the intensity just a notch or they'd both be crying. "You have to loosen up a little."
"I am loose," Daniel said. Jack raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I know, I'm kind of surprised myself but this feels so good. So good," Daniel murmured, spreading his fingers and gliding his hands along Jack's torso.
"Knock yourself out," Jack said, feeling a little light headed again. "Just...let me have my chance, too. I want to...touch you."
"Jesus, yes, Daniel." Jack ran one hand down Daniel's side, brushed across his ass and onto the powerfully muscled thigh. "Yes, I want to touch all of you. Every fucking inch."
Jack brought his hand back up to grasp Daniel's cock. Daniel threw his head back and rocked easily into Jack's hand. Jack looked up at Daniel, still on all fours above him, and thought it was just about the sexiest sight he'd ever seen.
"Mmmm Jack," Daniel protested, still rocking into Jack's hand. "Have to stop."
"Why?" Jack asked. He was totally getting off on seeing Daniel this way.
"I want to fuck you."
"What's stopping you?" Jack said, reluctantly releasing his prize.
"My supplies are in my car," Daniel pointed out.
"My bag," Jack said, jerking his thumb at the small gym bag he'd tossed on a chair. Daniel slowly rose from the bed, his cock bobbing as he walked to the chair.
"We don't need these," Daniel said, dropping the condoms on the bedside table. He caught Jack's expression from the corner of his eye and hesitated. "Or...would you feel more comfortable if we did?"
"It's not.... I know Fraiser checks us for everything under the sun, but.... You've been...active recently," Jack explained.
"And I used protection," Daniel said.
"You did?" Jack had worried about that, but there was no way even he could find a way to lecture his 35 year old best friend on safe sex. Not without the best friend tearing him a new one.
"I'm not stupid or suicidal," Daniel informed Jack, his voice edged with irritation. "And I sure as hell wasn't that desperate. But if you want...."
"No. If you've been careful with...them, then we don't need rubbers. I just...." Jack shrugged. "You can't be too careful, you know?"
"It's okay. You're absolutely right to be cautious. And I mean it--we'll use them if you want to."
"No. No, I just want to feel you."
"Naked," Daniel said.
"Yes, you are," Jack agreed. Magnificently so.
"And you're not."
"So do something about it," Jack challenged.
A full ten minutes later Jack decided he'd better be very careful about the challenges he issued Daniel. Daniel had stripped him slowly and with a caress for every inch as it was uncovered, some touches sharp, some soft.
"Remember what I said a minute ago? About lightening up?" Jack was panting like he'd run a marathon and Daniel hadn't gotten anywhere close to touching him where it counted.
"Forget I ever said anything. I'm an idiot." Jack gasped as Daniel nuzzled into his groin and bit his inner thigh. Jack spread his legs wider and thrust up. Daniel bit again, more lightly, at the crease between thigh and balls.
"Fuck, Daniel," Jack groaned.
"Not...quite...yet," Daniel said just before drawing Jack into his mouth. Jack's hands itched to grab Daniel by the ears and just go for it. He drove his fingers into the sheet beneath him instead, trusting that Daniel would give him more pleasure if left to his own devices.
Jack felt the storm gather between his legs. Daniel must have sensed it, too. Just as Jack thought he was going to blow sky high, Daniel let Jack's cock slip from his mouth. He shifted forward and pushed into Jack, at the same time leaning down to suck, hard, at Jack's nipple.
Jack choked out a cry that could've been Daniel's name. Could've been his own. Hell, it could've been Thor's for all he cared. Jack simply couldn't understand why no one had ever thought to suck his nipple just as he came. It felt good. Incredible. Stupendous...the strong stimulation seemed to shoot directly to his cock, pleasure pulsing through it harder and longer than he thought he was even capable of anymore.
When Jack had caught his breath, he looked up at Daniel. Daniel's eyes were closed, his face tight with need as he rocked methodically into Jack's body. Jack reached around and grasped Daniel's ass, pulling him in closer. Daniel groaned, barely opening his eyes enough to look at Jack lying content beneath him. Jack smiled and used his ass muscles to grip Daniel even tighter.
Daniel's eyes snapped shut again. His breath hissed through clenched teeth as he began to piston into Jack with a sharper, swifter snap of his hips. Jack encouraged the quickening tempo, a muted pleasure echoing in his own body. Daniel's back arched; his movements stuttered into stillness as he poured himself into Jack.
"Hey," Jack whispered as Daniel slumped. He rested on his forearms holding himself just slightly above Jack
"Just...sec," Daniel said breathlessly. He started to pull away and Jack quickly slid his arms around Daniel, keeping him close.
"No need to hurry off," Jack said.
"Um...kind of sticky, sweaty," Daniel mumbled, but he allowed himself to relax onto Jack.
"S'okay. Kind of like sticky, sweaty," Jack said, running his hands slickly up and down Daniel's back.
"Was talking about you," Daniel said, looking up at Jack, the affection in his eyes stronger than the tease in his voice.
Jack just pulled Daniel up and drove into his mouth, opening wide and devouring him. Jack wouldn't have thought it possible, after what they'd just shared, but he needed Daniel even more. Needed to touch him. Needed to feel him and claim him and possess him and god help anyone who got in Jack's way.
Jack finally forced himself to relinquish that sexy mouth back to its owner. Daniel smiled, dropped a drowsy kiss on the end of Jack's nose, and settled down on his chest. Jack's left arm went around Daniel's shoulders, his right brushed idly through Daniel's hair. Nope, Jack wasn't about to let Daniel go. And he was hoping like hell Daniel wouldn't wake up in the morning and decide to continue on his path alone.
Jack woke slowly. He couldn't tell if the dim light through the curtains was just the outside security lights, or the first glow of dawn. Either way, he knew it was still early. Jack sighed. Well, he'd gone and done it. He'd done exactly what he'd been telling himself he wouldn't do. Couldn't do. Shouldn't do. And he couldn't honestly say he regretted it. He was absolutely convinced that getting fucked by Daniel Jackson was the best idea he'd had in a very long time.
He turned his head to the side and found Daniel looking at him, watching him intently.
"Been awake long?" Jack asked, feeling a little unnerved by Daniel's scrutiny.
"A while," Daniel said noncommittally. Jack rolled to his side so that he could do some looking of his own.
"Are we okay?" Jack asked, leaning in to kiss Daniel. Daniel sighed and matched his lips to Jack's in a lazy, contented kiss.
"Yeah," Daniel said, flushing slightly. "We're, uh, we're fine with.... It's just us."
"But are you okay with us?" Jack asked, searching Daniel's face.
"Well.... I still don't know where I'm going or how I'll get there," Daniel said with a smile. "But at least I won't be alone on the journey."
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