"Well...this place hasn't changed."
"What were you expecting?" Daniel asked, pausing to look back at Jack.
"I don't know," Jack said, lingering a moment longer by Daniel's front door. He gave himself a little shake and finally moved into the apartment, his eyes glancing rapidly around the room. "I guess I thought you'd have all kinds of nifty Aschen gadgets and doohickeys."
"I've never really been a gadget and doohickey kind of guy," Daniel said. He walked over to the table and dumped the day's accumulated debris from his pockets onto its surface.
"No," Jack agreed. "I just figured--you being a big 'hero' and all--the Aschen would've just given you everything you wanted. And probably everything you didn't want."
Daniel's lips thinned, pressed tightly together to avoid his immediate response to the insult. And he wondered--again--what had ever possessed him to offer Jack a place to crash for the night.
"They would've. I wasn't interested," Daniel said tersely. "And you can claim the 'hero' title all for yourself. Now that we know that Colonel O'Neill was right all along."
Jack studied Daniel through narrowed eyes. After a moment, he sighed and gave an apologetic shrug of his shoulders.
"The 'hero' crack was uncalled for," he admitted. "You did what you thought was best. And, unlike the political power mongers like Kinsey, you weren't in it for yourself."
"No. We did what we thought was best," Daniel said. "We were wrong, obviously, but we had good intentions."
"I know that."
"So why did you give Sam such a hard time when she came looking for you at the cabin?"
"Can't have my reputation as a world class curmudgeon getting rusty," Jack said.
"Why did you come back?" Daniel asked, staring intently at Jack.
"Guess that 'saving the planet' habit is hard to break," Jack said, fidgeting with some of Daniel's knick knacks to hide his discomfort.
"Just say no," Daniel suggested.
"Not that easy," Jack said with a rueful grin. Jack's genuine embarrassment prompted a return smile from Daniel.
"I just hope we get it right this time," Daniel said.
"We could hardly get it more wrong," Jack pointed out. Daniel winced at the reminder but nodded.
"So, what happens if we actually succeed tomorrow?" Jack asked. "We...what? Don't exist anymore?"
"Not as the 'us' we are now," Daniel said.
"We'll be different us'es?" Jack asked, his confusion growing. "But...we'll remember this stuff, right?"
"I would think not. Since, if we succeed, none of this will have happened."
"It happened," Jack argued.
"But it won't if we get the message to our past selves," Daniel said calmly. "They'll never know about this."
"But we will," Jack said, almost pleading.
"No, we won't. We'll have led different lives."
"This makes my head hurt," Jack admitted.
"Well, if it helps, I'm not entirely clear on it myself," Daniel said wryly, gesturing at a bottle of scotch. Jack gave him a distracted nod in response.
"Hey! Does this mean Kinsey won't be president?" Jack said turning to look at Daniel with a hopeful expression.
"It's possible," Daniel allowed, handing Jack his drink.
"Well, that's something then. But...." Jack's brow furrowed again. "Explain this--if we get the message through tomorrow and our past selves avoid the Aschen, then we won't make a deal with them and end up at this place and time...in this situation."
"Right," Daniel said slowly.
"So...if we don't end up at this particular place and time and situation, we won't send the message back and our past selves won't avoid the Aschen." Jack pondered his statement briefly. "And we'll end up at this time and place and in this situation. Again. Still."
Daniel stared at Jack, his mouth gaping slightly.
"Won't we?" Jack asked, looking completely befuddled. "That makes sense, doesn't it?"
"I...uh...I have no idea," Daniel admitted. "I think alternate realities come into play somehow but...I really have no idea."
"So bottom line--we've got one more day as ourselves."
"Well, the only way we'll stay ourselves is if we fail and get captured...in which case we'd probably not be happy to still be ourselves," Daniel answered thoughtfully. "But based on what we know about the defenses at the stargate I'm assuming that, succeed or fail, we'll most likely be killed."
"That's a fair assessment," Jack said, studying Daniel's face for his reaction.
"You're all right with this?" Jack questioned. "With dying or not being the same you or whatever?"
"If we don't do this then the entire human race ends. It really isn't that difficult a decision," Daniel said. "Besides, if we get the message through and our past selves avoid the Aschen, then we'll still be alive."
"We won't," Jack insisted. Daniel closed his eyes and sighed in frustration. "And how do you know we...they won't run into something worse than the Aschen?"
"I don't," Daniel said sharply. "I choose to believe that they'll have better lives than we did. To hope that they'll have happier lives."
"Have the last ten years been that bad?" Jack asked, taking a seat on the couch.
"Could've been better," Daniel said noncommittally. He fussed with a framed photograph, of whom Jack didn't know, for a moment before turning abruptly toward the bedroom. "I'll get you a pillow and blanket."
"If you could tell your past self to change one thing, what would it be?" Jack asked when Daniel returned. Surprised, Daniel just stared at Jack as he dropped the bedding onto the arm of the couch. "Come on--you get to put one thing in that note. Do this. Don't do that. What would you tell him?"
"Nothing," Daniel said flatly, averting his face from Jack's probing gaze. "There's nothing I would tell him because he couldn't change...anything."
Jack wondered at the slight pause in Daniel's voice and waited for Daniel to explain. When Daniel merely sank into a seat opposite Jack without saying a word, he decided to pursue the issue himself.
"That's not news, Jack," Daniel said. "But you can't tell them who won the 2005 Super Bowl. Besides, you might be giving them the wrong information."
"Changed history," Daniel said succinctly.
"We stop us from getting in bed with the Aschen and that changes who won the Super Bowl?" Jack asked skeptically.
"It's impossible to predict how even a small change could affect the course of history. And this is, after all, a pretty big change." Noting Jack's bewildered expression, Daniel smiled. "Chaos theory. Ask Sam."
"Butterflies and tidal waves, right?" Jack said with a grimace.
Daniel just nodded, tired of pondering the ramifications of changing his own history, let alone that of the entire planet.
"That's not what I'd tell him anyway," Jack continued. "Tell me, I mean."
"Okay, I'll bite. What would you tell him?"
"To stay at the SGC no matter what," Jack said. He was taken aback by Daniel's disgusted grimace.
"First of all, what we do tomorrow will likely prevent the circumstances that led you to leave," Daniel said coldly, not interested in reliving some of the most difficult days of his adult life. "But regardless, you shouldn't do this because you think things would've gone differently with Sam. She fell in love with Joe, she married Joe. Changing the past doesn't mean she'll end up with you."
"You think that's why I left?" Jack asked incredulously. "Because Carter finally got herself a life?"
"I know the official story," Daniel said sarcastically. "That you left rather than deal with the Aschen. Or, according to some, that you left before you got kicked out. No one who knows you believed that."
"I wasn't in love with Carter," Jack said, his words very deliberate.
"Then why would you confess it to your nearest and dearest?" Daniel challenged. He hated remembering how the group of Jack's nearest and dearest had included Sam, Teal'c, Janet, and the Tok'ra tart, Anise. Daniel hadn't even been on the radar...which seemed to sum up their relationship at that time.
"I never said I was in love with her," Jack shot back. "That's just what some people wanted to hear."
Daniel just waved his hand wearily, as if to say 'whatever'. Jack had spent years burying his head in the sand. His skill at denial was honed to perfection by now. And Daniel couldn't see the point of calling him on it at this point in time. In less than a day it wasn't going to make a damn bit of difference anyway.
"Don't you want to know why I really left?" Jack continued irritably.
"Yes, of course, Jack. Please--tell me why you left," Daniel said.
"I left because there was someone I did care way too much about."
"Against regulations, blah blah blah," Daniel said to the room, sick of the whole topic.
"Civilian," Jack said shortly. Surprised, Daniel looked back to Jack with a questioning look. "Civilian...and male."
Daniel's jaw dropped as he considered the implications.
"Still...against regulations," he finally said.
"Fuck the regulations."
"You didn't think he would return your feelings?" Daniel asked, feeling the sickening twist of his stomach.
"Wouldn't be the first time I've been rejected," Jack said.
"I didn't want to care too much. About anyone," Jack said fiercely.
Daniel nodded numbly. Strangely enough, he understood exactly what Jack was saying. Caring too much could lead to a whole new level of hurt.
"So essentially you were a coward," Daniel said. Jack winced but nodded his agreement. "Well, thank you for telling me this. It...it explains a lot. I just wish you had trusted me enough to tell me sooner. Like ten years sooner."
"Damn it, Daniel," Jack growled in frustration. "I couldn't! You were the one I cared too much about!"
Daniel wondered if he'd just had a stroke or gone out of phase or if he were experiencing some weird late effect of having been zatted one too many times. Both his mind and body felt numb. Daniel stared off into space while Jack watched him anxiously. He slowly stood and turned to face Jack.
"You stupid, selfish son of bitch," Daniel said in a dull monotone. Jack opened his mouth to speak and Daniel cut him off curtly, the numbness quickly heating into anger. "You cheated us out of ten years."
"Us?" Jack said doubtfully. "You really think we would've lasted ten years?"
"Maybe. Maybe not," Daniel said. "You cheated us out of the chance. You cheated me out of the choice."
"Okay," Jack acknowledged. "I may have been a little selfish...."
"You're still a stupid, selfish son of a bitch!" Daniel said in a cutting tone. "What is this? Why are you telling me this now? Is this to make you feel better?" Daniel paced the length of the room in agitation. "We most likely have less than 24 hours to live. Why now?"
"I suppose because we probably only have 24 hours," Jack said. "Because I owed you the truth, even if it is a case of too little, too late. Because...we could have one night."
"One...one night?" Daniel repeated with a bitter laugh. "Wha...why? You didn't want it then, why would you want it now...when it's too late to matter?"
"Because this is all we get," Jack said. "Blame me if you want. It doesn't matter now. The fact is one night is all we can have. And I want it."
"Why?" Daniel asked again.
"Because...." Jack's expression softened. "Because I want to know what it's like to make love to you."
"Why?" Daniel persisted.
"Because for more than ten years I've fantasized about making love to you," Jack answered. "Tried to fight it, ignore it, deny it. I'm tired of denying it. I want the reality. Even if it's only once."
"Okay?" Jack's eyebrows shot up in disbelief. "What? No argument? No meaning of life discussion?"
"It doesn't matter," Daniel said fatalistically.
"It matters," Jack insisted, taking a step toward Daniel. Daniel moved more quickly. He caught Jack with certain hands and pulled him close for a kiss.
"Not in the big scheme of things," Daniel said when he relinquished Jack's mouth.
"Fuck the big scheme," Jack whispered vehemently. "It matters to us. It matters to me." His lips met Daniel's again in a more forceful kiss.
"Maybe," Daniel conceded. "Maybe...for one night...maybe that's all that matters."
A slight questioning lilt in Daniel's voice brought a quick nod of agreement from Jack. He kissed Daniel like...like there was no tomorrow. Daniel simply reveled in the sensation as Jack nibbled his way down Daniel's neck. He was just as tired of being denied as Jack was. Besides, it wasn't like he would have a lifetime to question or regret. At worst, they would have a few hours to ponder their sanity or lack thereof.
"Hey," Daniel protested mildly when Jack surrendered his mouth and proceeded to rip his shirt open.
"You won't need it again," Jack said with blunt honesty before starting to lick teasingly at one of Daniel's nipples.
A moan vibrated deep in Daniel's throat, prompting Jack to push at the nipple more firmly, finally sucking it between his teeth. Daniel moaned again, his cock swelling in response to the biting kisses Jack made down his chest and belly. Jack impatiently unfastened Daniel's pants and Daniel sighed as the pressure on his cock eased. Jack stroked him almost reverently, watching as the head swelled and purpled. Then Jack placed his lips around the cock and slowly drew it in. Daniel's inarticulate growl of pleasure thrummed all the way down his spine and through his cock.
Jack fumbled briefly in his pocket, finally grasping the lube. He quickly slicked up a couple of fingers and slid them into Daniel's ass. Daniel moaned louder and rocked his hips, pushing harder onto the fingers and bringing his cock even deeper into Jack's mouth. It was matter of a few minutes before Daniel surrendered his essence to Jack. Jack lingered, letting Daniel's cock begin to soften in his mouth. He finally stood up and plunged his tongue into Daniel's mouth, sharing the earthy flavor.
Pulling free, Jack guided Daniel to a kneeling position on the couch and shoved down his own slacks and briefs. He plunged his fingers back into Daniel with a moan of his own.
"Daniel?" he growled.
"I, uh, I have a bed," said Daniel, still vibrating with the aftershocks of his orgasm.
"Can't wait," Jack insisted.
The pain of waiting even one more minute seemed almost physically unbearable to Jack. He buried himself deep into Daniel's welcoming body. The dizzying pleasure left him uncertain as to whether he should shout out in joy at finally having what he'd desired for years, or howl in despair at what he'd been denied. What he'd denied them both.
Daniel moved against him, with him, as Jack thrust heedlessly, swiftly reaching his climax. Spent, Jack rested against Daniel's back.
"Well," Daniel said, still breathless with the force of their passion. "That was...."
"Quick?" Jack said ruefully as he withdrew.
"A long time coming," Daniel corrected him.
"We still have the rest of the night," Jack offered.
"I still have a bed," Daniel reminded him as he took Jack's hand and pulled him toward the bedroom.
Daniel woke Jack in the early predawn hours with a nearly inarticulate need to make love to him. Half asleep, Jack merely rolled toward Daniel and surrendered his body to Daniel's attention. Muttering Jack's name over and over, Daniel quickly, almost frantically, prepared Jack before sinking deep inside his body.
Finally where he'd wanted to be for longer than he cared to admit, Daniel paused to let Jack's body to catch up with his. Daniel kissed Jack deeply, slowly, wanting to make their time last. They rocked together with a measured pace, gradually building to more powerful thrusts. Gripped by an almost melancholy joy, Daniel watched as the strong strokes of his cock and firm grasp of his hand brought Jack shouting and grimacing through his orgasm.
"Danny, Danny," Jack murmured, drawing Daniel down into a kiss.
"Jack," Daniel groaned, burying his face in Jack's neck, breathing harshly. He fought off his own release as if that could hold back time itself. Daniel kept himself balanced on the edge for so long that his own orgasm took him almost by surprise, moving almost instantaneously from consuming need into shattering fulfillment.
"No, don't go," Jack said quietly when Daniel started to withdraw.
"You okay?" Daniel asked even as he let his body relax on top of Jack's. Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel and tangled their legs together, making it very clear that he was very okay with having Daniel sprawled in and on him.
"More okay than I've been in years."
"You always get this...gooey after sex?" Daniel asked as Jack stroked his hair.
"Fuck me again and find out," Jack invited lazily. He snorted softly when he felt a small twitch from Daniel's cock where it lingered in his ass.
"Love to take you up on that but I think my battery needs to recharge a while longer."
"Sadly, so does mine," Jack said with genuine regret. "We could rest. Just for a little while."
"Just a little nap," Daniel agreed with a yawn.
They fell asleep still entwined.
Daniel slapped at the alarm clock, determined to silence the persistent buzz. He swung up to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, reluctantly noting the time. Daniel had set the alarm so he'd have just enough time to get ready in the morning. And not enough time to think.
"Any chance we could squeeze in a wake up call?" Jack asked from behind him, sliding his arms around Daniel's waist. Daniel just turned the clock so Jack could see the time. "Guess not, huh?"
"Not unless you're ready to give up saving the world yet," Daniel said quietly, turning his head to look at Jack.
"Yeah, sure--gotta be someone else's turn by now," Jack grumbled. Despite his words, Jack released his hold on Daniel and climbed out of bed. Daniel watched Jack stand in the middle of the room looking slightly disoriented and scratching his ass.
"What?" Jack asked grumpily, noticing Daniel's attention. Jack looked down at himself, then back at Daniel. "You're not exactly Sleeping Beauty yourself, you know."
"No, I don't imagine I am," Daniel agreed, thinking that if he were ever going to have a Prince Charming, Jack would be it. Thinking that Jack would kill him if he knew Daniel had had such a thought.
"So...we could at least share a shower," Jack offered. Daniel sat pensively for a moment before shaking his head.
"No, I... Go on. I'll find us something for breakfast."
Jack shrugged and wandered into the bathroom. Daniel peered around in the leaden gloom of his bedroom. His mood wasn't much brighter and he had to force himself to get moving. He went to the kitchen to start the coffee maker then returned to the bedroom. The shower was still running so Daniel busied himself pulling out clean underwear and clothing.
As he walked past the bed, his attention was drawn to the sheets. Stained with dried semen, there was no doubt about what had happened in that bed and suddenly it bothered Daniel that someone else might see it. He quickly stripped the sheets off of the bed and put them in the washing machine. He wouldn't be there to take them out when the wash was finished, but at least no one else would ever know something they had no right to know.
Daniel walked back to the bedroom with a certain grim satisfaction at having thwarted any posthumous discovery. Daniel startled when he nearly ran into Jack, who was just coming out of the bathroom. Jack eyed the stripped bed and gave Daniel a questioning look.
"I didn't.... It's nobody's business," Daniel stammered.
"No. It isn't," Jack agreed.
Less than an hour later, Daniel looked around the apartment, plagued by the feeling that he was forgetting something. Jack set their breakfast dishes in the sink and waited silently, watching Daniel's distracted movements.
"Daniel?" Jack cocked his head curiously as Daniel went to his computer.
"Just...just wiping the hard drive," Daniel said with an almost apologetic shrug. Jack just shrugged in return and went to get his bag from the bedroom. He understood. He himself had burned most of his files and correspondence before leaving the cabin. Jack knew it was unlikely he'd ever return.
Daniel knew the Aschen almost certainly had copies of everything he'd ever worked on. But it wasn't the work that concerned Daniel. It was his personal files he wanted destroyed. He'd never been brave enough--or foolish enough--to commit his deepest thoughts and feelings to any medium, but there was still personal stuff encoded in the computer's memory. The thought of someone going through his files--going through his life--made Daniel intensely uncomfortable. Made him feel naked.
"So?" Jack's soft query startled Daniel out of his reverie. "Ready to go?"
"Yes. No." Daniel shrugged helplessly. "I feel like there's something I'm forgetting."
Regardless, he followed Jack to the door. Jack turned to look at him, his eyes shadowed. Daniel studied those familiar eyes intently. And suddenly he knew what he'd forgotten. He placed one hand around the back of Jack's neck and gently pulled him in for a kiss. A soft, lingering kiss that held all his longing and regret.
"What was that for?" Jack asked.
"Good-bye," Daniel said simply.
"Good-bye?" Jack repeated.
"One night," Daniel reminded him. "It's morning now."
Jack pulled Daniel to him and kissed him hard. Daniel didn't need to ask Jack what it meant. He knew. When Jack released him he turned and unlocked the deadbolt. Jack hesitated as he stepped through the open door.
"Maybe the other 'us' will have those ten years," Jack suggested.
"I doubt it," Daniel said with a wistful smile. "I'm pretty sure they'll be as stubborn as we are."
"Yes," Daniel agreed fondly. "I'm just hoping they won't be too stubborn to grab one night if they're lucky enough to get the chance."
Back to Eos' Home