"Do we have to?" Tim asks.
"Yes," I hiss over the sound of the klaxon.
"Couldn't we just stay in your office and lock the door?"
"No," I say, giving him a little shove out of my office and into the hall.
"I just don't see the point," Tim complains.
"If you'd managed to foil an alien incursion by sheer luck and the skin of your teeth, you wouldn't question it," I tell him. I motion for Tim to follow me as I start cautiously edging my way down corridor, headed for the control room. I hold my intar sidearm up, charged and ready.
"It's an exercise in futility," Tim says, his own intar dangling carelessly from his hand. He shuffles along beside me, resigned to the fact that this is just another one of those strange things that the military does.
"It does seem that way sometimes," I'm forced to agree.
Ever since the attack of the lobster men--three guesses which SGC Colonel came up with that moniker--the SGC has run surprise invasion drills. A handful of our own personnel play alien invaders. The rest of us are supposed to contain them and maintain, or regain, control of the base. Occasionally the 'invaders' use those voice altering devices. That makes it easy. Anyone who sounds like Goa'uld is a bad guy.
Most of the time, though, it's impossible to know who the bad guys are. We all run around shooting anyone who crosses our path. By the time the exercise is over we've taken out more good guys than bad. It's a paranoid's dream. Or should that be nightmare? Not sure which. I'll have to ask Jack.
"O'Neill's just going to piss and moan whether we win or not," Tim points out.
Jack's voice, so close behind us, catches us off guard. And then Tim, the man who had never used a gun before joining the SGC...the man who tends to wave a gun in the general direction of the target, close his eyes and pull the trigger...this man whirls around, swings his gun up...and shoots Jack.
All three of us stand in stunned silence, staring at Jack's chest. There's no mark, of course, but the electronic sensor on his vest clearly shows one hit.
"God damn it!" Jack snarls with disgust. He allows his own weapon drop to his side. Poor Jack. In the blink of an eye he's gone from alpha predator to useless bystander.
"Hey! I think I'm starting to like this game," Tim says, absolutely delighted by this unexpected turn of events. The gloating is understandable. But probably not wise. Jack gets that "someone needs shooting" look and starts to raise his weapon.
"Jack," I warn as I move between them. He glares at me from narrowed eyes, obviously giving serious thought to shooting me, too.
"Don't make me do it," I say, reaching for his gun. "You know what the general said would happen if you showed up with two hits again."
Jack lets out a grunt of frustration but hands the gun to me. The last time Jack refused to 'die', Hammond told him that if he couldn't play by the rules, he wouldn't be allowed to be an invader again. And Jack really loves invading. It appeals to his inner Terminator.
I've just taken Jack's intar in hand when a soft footfall sneaking up behind me has me turning around with both guns up.
"Daniel?" Sam glances over and sees Tim. She relaxes her stance slightly. She knows she's safe if Tim is around. Tim was assigned to play invader during his first drill after joining the SGC. He...sucked. So by common consent he was banned from playing evil overlord ever again.
As Sam walks closer she catches sight of Jack behind me.
"Ah, fudge," she says. "Daniel, you were supposed to let me kill the colonel this time."
"Let you?" Jack protests.
"Um...Tim got him," I say, ignoring the death throes of Jack's ego.
"No," Sam says. "Really?"
Before I can confirm Tim's lucky shot, Sam suddenly raises her weapon, sighting over my shoulder. I look back to see Teal'c approaching silently behind Jack. His dark eyes take in the scene and he instantly hones in on our beloved Colonel.
"Don't shoot!" Jack says, throwing his hands up to cover his vest. He really, really wants to play invader again.
"My congratulations, Major Carter," Teal'c says with a smile.
"Wasn't me," Sam says, her disappointment obvious.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c says, looking at me with disapproval. "You gave Major Carter your word."
"Wasn't me either."
Teal'c's eyes widen as he turns toward Tim. Jack just cringes. Having me see him get taken out by Tim was embarrassing. Having Sam find out was humiliating. Having Teal'c discover the truth...well, it's going to take a lot of ego stroking, and probably other kinds of stroking, before Jack gets over the shame.
"Dr. McGill?" Teal'c is so astonished his voice actually goes up half an octave.
"Real kick in the ass, isn't it?" Tim says proudly.
"Oh, for God's...." Jack halts when we all turn to stare expectantly at him. "I got a little overconfident. That's all."
"I trust you have learned your lesson, O'Neill."
"Yes, thank you, I have," Jack snipes.
"What do we know of the other invaders?" Teal'c asks, filing Jack's busted bravado away for future fun.
"Nothing yet," Sam says. "I was trying to get to the control center."
"Us, too," I chime in, raising my hand.
"Let us proceed then," Teal'c says.
"Wait--what do we do with the colonel?" Tim asks.
"We could take him along, use him as a hostage," Sam suggests. You can tell she's getting a guilty pleasure out of the idea of parading a thoroughly humiliated Jack around the base.
"He will try to warn his associates," Teal'c points out.
"He's too much trouble," Tim says. "I say we tie him up and stick him in a closet."
Jack's eyes are instantly wary. Tim just returns Jack's challenging gaze with an innocent look. Which is almost as good as my innocent look. Actually, it's better because Jack still doesn't know Tim well enough to call his bluff. But I know damn well Tim knew exactly what he was saying.
"Do not be shoving me in some closet," Jack warns as Teal'c cuffs his hands behind his back.
"Looks to me, Colonel, like you got there all on your own," Tim says happily, still basking in the glow of having offed his C.O.
"I got him," I say, quickly grabbing Jack by the upper arm and steering him away from the group before he pushes the closet thing too far. Just twenty feet back down the hall is a small storeroom for housekeeping supplies. Jack mutters under his breath when he realizes that I really am shoving him in a closet.
"Daniel," he says plaintively as I turn over a bucket for him to sit on.
"Now, Jack," I admonish. I guide him gently but firmly to his seat. "Play nice and maybe--later--I'll kiss it and make it better."
"You're enjoying this," Jack accuses.
"Um...yes. Yes, I am."
I have the greatest admiration for Jack's combat skills. There's no one I'd rather have watching my six. Protecting it, I mean. Because if he's watching it he's probably too distracted to do a very good job of protecting it. Which may help explain why he got tripped up by a civilian in the first place.
"It's your own fault, Jack. This is what happens when you underestimate the geeks."
"I didn't," Jack protests. "I know you're dangerous. That's the problem. I concentrated on you and McGill got in under my guard."
"All archaeologists are dangerous."
"I'm starting to think so, yes," Jack agrees. "Now, about that 'making it better' offer...."
"Later, Jack. Right now I have to go save the planet again."
"The thrill is gone," Jack says in a mournful tone.
"What thrill?" I ask absently, engrossed in a journal article. Jack digs his chin into my ribs. "Hey! That hurts."
I set the journal aside and look down at the top of Jack's head. After supper I decided the couch looked comfy so I stretched out on my back, my head and shoulders propped against one arm so I could read. Then Jack decided that I looked comfy and stretched out on top of me.
"We've only been together a few months and look at us. Pizza and TV and doing the couch potato thing," Jack grumbles, his head resting on my chest. "Fully clothed, I might add."
"Oh. That thrill."
"Where's the romance?" Jack asks.
"Candlelight, fine dining, flowers," Jack explains. "Wild monkey sex."
"You want flowers?" I ask. Strange as it may seem, I just can't picture Jack with a nosegay.
"That's not the point, Daniel," Jack says. I'm taking that to mean he doesn't want flowers. "You know, my parents are having their fiftieth wedding anniversary next month."
"Do they still have the thrill?"
"Daniel!" Jack says sharply.
"Parents. Sex. Not an image I want in my brain."
What do I know? My parents were dead before I had any practical knowledge of sex. I might have been precocious but I wasn't that precocious.
"I don't think I've ever known a couple who'd been married fifty years."
"Yeah, grew up just down the street from each other. High school sweethearts. All that sappy crap," Jack says, his voice warm with affection.
"You mean romance?"
"You have to know what romance is, Daniel. You've dated before. You've been married before."
"Yeah, but my idea of romance isn't exactly conventional," I admit, running my fingers through Jack's hair.
"Your ideas are never exactly conventional about anything," Jack chuckles.
"True," I admit. "But the usual ideas about romance seem so contrived."
"Clichéd," I clarify.
"Ah," Jack says.
"And I know how you feel about clichés."
"I could make an exception," Jack, the closet romantic, offers.
"I haven't had much experience with traditional romance," I admit. "It was different on Abydos. They were a little short on flowers and fine dining establishments. College was even worse given my budgetary constraints. In college romance was pizza and necking on the couch."
I pause for a moment, reflecting on my rather patchy romantic history. And realizing that Jack's right. We've got the couch but no action.
"And speaking of necking...? Jack?"
A soft snore answers me. I pat the top of his head and pick up my journal again.
"Yep, the thrill is gone."
Jack wants romantic. I'll give him romantic.
"Jack?" I call as I let myself into his house. Getting no response, I start wandering quietly, peering into each room.
Jack's been bitching up a storm about his back lately so I decided to engage the services of my massage therapist, Rose. Okay, so I tend to go for the pragmatic type of gift. It's the thought that counts. Right?
I just hope Jack paid attention to the note I left him. I knew better than to have a stranger in the house with Colonel Paranoia. But it's entirely possible that, even with my explicit instructions, Jack gave Rose the heave ho. Actually, I can live with that. I just don't want to have to find a new therapist.
I step at last into the master bedroom, which holds my apparently comatose S.O. Jack's sprawled out face down on the bed, naked but for a small white towel draped across his ass. Yep, Rose has definitely been at work here.
"Come here," Jack growls, still not moving. I edge closer to the bed...and Jack suddenly reaches out, grabs me, and pulls me into the bed. He rolls us over so that I'm on my back and he's laying half on top of me.
"Hi there," I chuckle. "I take it you and Rose hit it off?"
"Proposed the minute she fondled my vertebrae," Jack agrees.
Right. Rose is on the back side of 60 and built like a Marine. Then again--she can do incredible things with a man's joint. Er...joints.
"Where'd you find her?" Jack asks.
"Janet recommended her."
"Doc? When did she start using a masseuse?"
"Not a masseuse," I correct. "Rose is a massage therapist. She usually works with people rehabbing from injuries. Janet sent me to her when I messed up my knee."
"How come she never sent me to a massage therapist?" Jack asks.
"Because she wants you to suffer?" I suggest.
"Probably," Jack agrees. He smiles broadly. "Not suffering now."
"You got the full body treatment then?"
"Oh, yeah," Jack sighs. He leers as he rubs his naked, and aroused, body against mine. "Only one muscle she didn't give a work out. Speaking of which...."
"That's not a muscle, Jack."
"Don't be a damn pedant, Daniel. Shut up and let me show you how much not suffering I'm doing here."
"In a minute."
"What do you mean--in a minute?" Jack asks indignantly. "Horny, grateful man here."
"Yeah, yeah, that's great, Jack. But I gotta piss."
Jack rises up slightly...and rests his elbow on my gut. Not a good thing to do to a man with a full bladder.
"This never happens in the movies," Jack complains. "The hero makes a thoughtful gesture and the...other hero responds in kind by making mad passionate love to him. They don't stop to take a piss."
"Well, this isn't the movies and I'm going to rupture something if you don't get off."
Jack growls and flops over on his back.
I hurry into the bathroom to take care of business. And strip while I'm at it. Hey--who says I can't multitask? I peek around the door as I finish and Jack's still lying flat on his back, his cock rising up from his body like some bizarre homing beacon. I rummage quickly through the bathroom cabinet. He has to have extra lube in here. Jack's the kind of guy who has extra everything.
Aha! Finding the spare I knew would be here, I start to prep myself. And ponder, not for the first time, Jack's enthusiastic embracement of guy/guy sex. Turned out I didn't need to be so nervous about introducing him to anal sex. Jack took to penetration, in either direction, like a fish to water.
I don't know. I guess I thought Jack would finally come to his senses when it came down to actually doing the deed. I knew I was the one in love. Jack...Jack was experimenting. I knew he cared--even loved me. But I had a hard time believing that he wouldn't wake up in the morning and realize that it just wasn't his thing. Or, possibly even worse, that it was his thing but he wasn't willing to take the risk.
Yeah, okay--I'm incredibly insecure and pessimistic at times. I'm working on it. I'm also starting to let myself believe that Jack's in this for the long run.
As soon as I'm ready to receive Jack's gratitude I slip quietly back into the bedroom. Jack's eyes open at the last second as I climb on the bed and straddle him.
"Hey!" he protests as I quickly coat his cock with lube.
"What?" I counter as I lower myself onto him.
"Completely limp here. Laid out helplessly for you to take advantage of," Jack says, flinging his arms wide to the side in a "take me" gesture.
"One part of you isn't limp," I point out, contracting my ass around him. Jack clenches his hands with a groan. "And that's the part I want to take advantage of right now."
"Jeezus. What does a guy have to do to get fucked around here?" Jack mock complains.
"You could ask nicely," I suggest. Jack's hands slide up my thighs as I begin moving in a slow, measured pace.
"Yeah?" Jack asks, his hips automatically matching my rhythm. He studies my face for a moment. "No way. You'll never last."
If I want to. I do have some control.
"Not," Jack says with confidence. He grips my hips and thrusts up vigorously. "Five minutes from now you'll be howling and flopping like you just got zatted."
"Better stop that if you want a second act," I warn, halting my movements. Jack just rotates his pelvis and oh yeah.... Yeah, I'm seconds away from howling and flopping.
"Next time," Jack says. He whips his hips up over and over and he's going to throw his back out again if he keeps holy fuck I don't care just keep doing that!
"N-n-next time," I stammer out in agreement. "Oh yeah you fucking...oh, god, yes! Do it harder, damn it, harder!"
Jack has a demonic grin on his face as he gives me everything he's got just as hard as he can give it. We meet each other in a joining that's savage and raw and uncontrolled and all consuming. By the time I regain any sense of who I am or where I'm at, we're both limp and panting.
"Fuck," I manage to say in a weak and thoroughly embarrassed voice.
"I'll say," Jack says smugly.
"What's up? Some kind of geek convention?" Jack says.
I look up from the images I'm studying to see Jack slouching in the doorway of my office. Tim and Teal'c are sitting at the far end of the table where Teal'c is trying to turn Tim into a serviceable speaker of the Goa'uld language.
"I beg your pardon, O'Neill," Teal'c says archly.
Seems Jack's still a little pissed about the 'incident'. By now the entire base knows Colonel O'Neill got taken out by a geek. Jack hasn't forgiven Tim for doing it. And he hasn't forgiven Teal'c for taking such pleasure in his downfall.
"Oh, hey, Teal'c. Didn't see you there."
Yeah, the big, bald guy with a gold tattoo on his head and a snake in his stomach is easy to miss. Happens all the time.
"That's understandable," I say. "You're getting older and the eyesight is what? Second to go?"
Jack fixes me with a look that would have any other man quaking in his boots. Being of a completely contrary nature, I'm just terribly aroused.
"Your day's coming, Dr. Jackson," Jack says, shaking a finger at me.
"Yes, but my day will always be about ten years behind your day," I point out tactlessly. Not that I'm complaining. Jack's in better shape than a lot of men half his age. And I like the gray hair.
"Smartass," Jack says.
"Yes," I agree, making a shooing motion. "Now go away and let us get some work done."
Jack turns a baleful eye on Tim, who is just asking for it by smirking much too obviously at his translation.
"You do realize this is not considered acceptable behavior by a subordinate toward a C.O.?" Jack tells Tim as he waves a disdainful hand at me.
"Certainly, Colonel," Tim agrees, his expression sobering instantly as he sits up straight. "I assumed that was why Dr. Jackson was removed from SG-1 in the first place."
"Hey!" I protest. Removed? I was not! And Tim knows it. Jack just turns a smirk on me despite the fact that he knows it's not true, too.
"Shut up, Jack."
Jack smirks a moment longer, just to make a point, before turning all business.
"You two," Jack says, crooking a finger at Tim and Teal'c. "We're out of here."
"Hammond had to move our departure time up," Jack explains. "We gate out in thirty."
"We shall continue upon our return, Dr. McGill," Teal'c apologizes. Or...threatens.
We've already given up on Tim ever being fluent. Tim isn't a linguist and doesn't particularly want to be a linguist. He seems to share Jack's philosophy with regards to pronunciation, which is that as long as he manages to spit out all the letters in the word it doesn't matter what they sound like.
Just before he leaves, Tim points a finger at Jack, makes a shooting motion, and blows softly across the tip of his finger. As he walks out the door, he...yes, I have to say it--Tim is swaggering. In a show of solidarity, Teal'c is doing a little swaggering, too. On the inside. If you look real close you can tell he's swaggering on the inside.
"Does McGill owe you any money," Jack asks, still facing the doorway just vacated by half of his team.
"'Cause I'm going to have to hurt him," Jack says matter-of-factly as he turns to face me.
"So, two hours early?" I say, hoping to distract Jack from his homicidal fantasies.
"Yeah, someone overbooked the gate or something," Jack says with a shrug. "No biggie."
"Three days?" I ask. I don't know why. I know Jack's schedule as well as I know my own.
"Yep. You don't have a mission until next week, right?"
"Right. So...see ya in a couple of days."
"Yeah, see you then."
Just before Jack saunters out of the office, he turns back to me with a smile that...well, that makes me want to drag him right back to my desk and perform felonious acts on his naked body. I close my eyes and fix that smile in my memory along with the others that have told me he'll be coming back. Back to me. Yes, I've become a complete and utter sap. Ask me if I care.
That smile is what will get me through the next three days.
"Jack?" I demand breathlessly the minute I fly through the infirmary doors.
"They're taking him to surgery," Sam says, getting up from her chair and heading toward me. I look around and head for the curtained off area. "Daniel, you can't see him now."
"Just try and stop me."
Right now I don't care what I say or do, or who sees it. I'm going to see Jack. Janet appears from behind the curtain as if on cue, blocking my way to Jack. Or so she thinks. I push right by her.
He's pale and his face is damp with sweat. He's obviously in pain. And there's really too much blood--way too much and it's not where it's supposed to be. I have to struggle to stop myself from grabbing on to him so hard I leave bruises.
"Daniel." He smiles wanly.
"Daniel." Janet glowers at me.
"I know," I tell her. "Just...."
"Give us a sec, Doc," Jack requests in a hoarse voice. Janet looks at us, both puzzled and annoyed, but she silently grants Jack's request.
"I'll be fine, Daniel. Just aliens poking more holes in me."
"You idiot," I spit at him, meaning, of course, "I love you." I grip his hand tightly. Jack squeezes back.
"I know," Jack whispers. And he does.
"Daniel," Janet says again, and this time she's not going to take no for an answer. I give Jack's hand another quick squeeze and step back. Jack gives me a thumbs-up as they wheel him out.
If he dies, I'm going to kill him.
"Sorry," I apologize to the rest of SG-1. The waiting area is much quieter now that Fraiser and her minions are on the way to the O.R. "Sorry. I just.... I hate you guys getting hurt out there without me."
"You would prefer to be with us when we were injured?" Teal'c asks. From where he's standing behind Teal'c, Tim gives me a little nod. He alone knows that this is more than just concern for a teammate.
"Yes. No," I tell Teal'c. "I just...you know what I mean."
"It's all right, Daniel," Sam says, patting the chair next to her. I sit down. "You should've seen the colonel when he found out you'd messed up your knee."
"Oh, yeah, did I ever hear about that."
"You're kidding?" Sam says incredulously. "He still harasses you about that kind of stuff even though you're not on the team anymore?"
Er...not exactly. No, Jack stormed home, read me the riot act, then proceeded to fuck me through the headboard. Just Jack's way of saying "I care." What's really amazingly is that he did it without giving my knee the least little twinge of discomfort. Maybe it was the drugs I was on. Or maybe it was because Jack knows all about painful knees. He's operating with a serious cartilage deficit these days.
"You guys are all right, though?" I ask, finally taking two seconds to show some concern about their welfare. I am concerned. I just got a little sidetracked. In my defense, Jack was the only one obviously bleeding. The rest of them are just rumpled and dirty. And fortunately it turns out that really is the worst of it for them.
"Go on and get cleaned up. I'll stay here," I tell them. "I'll let you know if...well, if there's anything to know."
"Back before you know it," Sam says. She and Teal'c both walk heavily from the room, their fatigue evident now that the adrenalin has worn off.
"Sorry, Daniel," Tim says, lingering behind.
"For what? Wasn't your fault," I reassure him.
"I know but...." He shrugs helplessly. Boy, do I know that feeling. Tim reaches back, yanks his ponytail loose, and scratches his fingers across his scalp.
"You were pretty masterful there," he says with a spark of returning humor.
"Yeeaah. I'm going to be in trouble for that," I admit. Mostly from Janet. "But I couldn't take the chance that... It might have been the last...."
"Yes," Tim intones dramatically. "Such tragic young love. Well, except for the 'young' part."
"He'll be fine, Daniel," Tim grins. He gives my shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "You two will be making like monkeys before you know it."
"Get out," I say, waving him away. Tim throws a salute and walks out the door.
"Hey, wait--who told you about the monkey thing?"
Jack's voice cuts through his darkened bedroom, nearly scaring me out of my shorts. He's not supposed to be yelling at me. He's supposed to be sleeping.
"Would you quit?" he continues.
"Hovering, for chrissake," Jack grumbles. "Just get in here."
"I don't want to disturb you."
"Getting in bed with me will not disturb me. Sneaking down the hall from the guest room every half hour and hovering--that's disturbing me."
"I'm not hovering," I protest as I walk to the side of the bed.
"You are. Now get in and go to sleep."
I climb into bed and gingerly settle down on Jack's uninjured side.
"Scooch over here," Jack orders. "You're not going to hurt me. I'm fine. Fraiser would never have let me come home if I wasn't."
Well, excuse me for being concerned. Granted, Jack is recovering well, but those aliens poked an impressive hole in his right lung. A sucking chest wound Fraiser called it. It even sounds...sucky.
"You scared the shit out of me, Jack."
"I know. I'm sorry," Jack says as he takes my hand and entwines our fingers. "I'd like to say it won't happen again--believe me, I'd like to say that--but I can't."
"I know." I try to bottle up the rest. I don't want to burden Jack with my concerns, my fears, my needs and....
"I...It was hard to sit there like I was no more than a friend," I blurt out.
So much for not burdening Jack.
"No more important than Sam or Teal'c," I continue. "Not that.... Sam and Teal'c are important. They're part of the family but...."
"I've already taken care of it."
"I called my lawyer. My will, power of attorney.... Everything's been changed, put in your name. Fraiser has a copy of that medical DPOA thing. If anything happens, you and you alone have the authority to make decisions for me."
Oh. Good going, Daniel. Here I've been harboring these lingering doubts about Jack's commitment and in the meantime he's put his life in my hands. I draw his hand to my lips and kiss each knuckle while I struggle to regain the use of my vocal cords.
"Of course, I'm planning on never needing you to make decisions for me," Jack goes on. "And just so you know--you screw it up and I'll come back to haunt you."
"That's only to be expected," I say.
"And in the meantime we get to play doctor."
Right. Just not the kind of doctor I'd like to be playing. The official story is that I'm staying with Jack to take care of him, do his dressing changes and stuff. I don't know why we bothered with an 'official' story. No one gave it a second thought. Jack and I have a history of taking care of each other. Which, of course, comes out of the simple fact that we have a history of getting hurt.
Hammond generously approved my leave request...until my next mission. He's not going to reschedule SG-7's missions just so I can play doctor, but when we're on Earth I can take whatever time I need. Whatever time Jack needs me to take. Hammond understands that even though I'm not on SG-1 anymore, Jack and I are still close. He just doesn't realize how close.
Janet, though, has been giving me some odd looks ever since my little outburst in the infirmary.
"Fraiser suspects something," I tell Jack, wary of his reaction.
"McGill knows something," Jack counters.
Damn. Knew there was a reason I should've stayed in the guest room.
"I didn't tell him," I say with a resigned sigh. "He guessed. Truth is--he saw it before you did."
"Does he understand how dangerous this could be for us?" Jack asks.
"He knows," I reassure Jack. "Tim couldn't hide his orientation if his life depended on it but he does know what the risks are for us."
Jack just sighs. In the dim glow of moonlight I can see his lips pressed tightly together as he stares at the ceiling.
"Technically, Tim doesn't actually know anything. I've never directly told him anything--not about you. And I won't," I promise.
"Drives you nuts, doesn't it?" Jack asks, squeezing my hand.
"Not having anyone to talk to."
"I have lots of people to talk to," I say, deliberately misunderstanding.
"Not about us."
"I have you to talk to about us." Not that we do talk much. Jack prefers hands on demonstrations, but he allows me to babble at him when I need it.
"It's the way it has to be. I know that, Jack. I accept it. I don't like it but there are lots of things I don't like. Like Monday mystery meat at the mountain, aliens who poke holes in you, and Sam's new lipstick."
"Yeah, what's up with that?" Jack says. "It's so not her color."
I just grin and shift over--carefully--to kiss him. I've obviously completely lost my mind over Jack despite the fact that he's hard and bitchy and downright tyrannical about his rules. But he knows me and he knows what I need.
It goes without saying he also has a damn fine ass.
I'm busy digging through the book shelves and it's a moment before it sinks in that someone is standing in my office. Startled, I look around to find Tim waiting just inside the doorway.
"Hey," I answer. "What's up?"
"Not much really," he says, claiming the only empty chair in the office. Actually, it's the only visible chair. Hmm...may be time to crate some of this stuff up for Area 51. "Not while Invader Zim is on medical leave."
Invader Zim: Tim's new nickname for Jack. What's scary is--Jack likes it. What's really scary is that both Jack and Tim watch Nickelodeon. In truth it's strangely endearing, the fact that Jack enjoys children's shows. But the next time he calls me Jimmy Neutron, he's sleeping on the couch.
"Ah, yeah, that's kind of the way it goes. Seemed like one of us was always recovering from something or other," I commiserate. "Has a tendency to cut down on the number of missions."
"That's one part of your legacy I'm trying to avoid," Tim says, propping his feet on my desk and shaking a finger at me.
"How many times have you died?" Tim asks.
"I really try not to think about it. Last time I died Jack insisted I do a shot for each instance. I told him the alcohol poisoning would kill me." I shrug. "Apparently that was his point."
"Yeah, well, I'll pass. Living up to all your other legendary feats is more than enough."
"Not a day goes by I don't hear 'Daniel' this and 'Dr. Jackson' that." Tim complains, making a talking motion with his hand. "If it's not the SOB, it's Carter. Even Teal'c manages to get his two cents in."
Christ, I know Jack gets grumpy when his routine is upset but that's ridiculous.
Wait--they all do it?
"Don't worry," Tim says with an easy shrug. "I know it's not deliberate...usually."
"You have to stand up for yourself," I say firmly. "Especially with Jack."
"He's not so bad now," Tim says with a smug gleam in his eye. "Shooting him has done wonders for our professional relationship."
I have to laugh. The memory of Jack's face when he realized he'd been taken out by a geek is priceless. Sam even pulled a still from the surveillance camera and had it framed for Tim. My phone rings while Tim and I savor the triumph of brain over brawn. I answer and it's Jack. And he sounds...tense.
"Jack? What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Daniel. I just...you have to come up here."
"Why? What happened?"
Jack's in Minnesota. His folks celebrated their wedding anniversary this past weekend and since he's on leave anyway, he figured he should go join the festivities.
"Nothing. Not much. Look--you can come, can't you?"
"I've got a mission in...three days," I say, quickly consulting my calendar.
"So you come for a day or two. Please, Daniel."
"Um...yeah, sure, I'll...I'll...."
"Great! I already booked you a ticket. I'll see ya tonight."
"Yeah, okay. Tonight," I mumble into the phone, mindless of the dead connection. I stare at the chaos on my desk as I put the phone down. I've got half a dozen projects I'm working on in addition to my own mission prep. I should sort through it all before I go rushing off.
"Yeah?" I look up at Tim. He's leaning forward in his chair, staring at me with concern.
"You okay? Is O'Neill okay?"
"I, uh, I don't know," I admit. "He says I need to come up there."
Tim stares blankly at me for a second. What? He has to have heard about the charms of Minnesota by now. Anyone who's spent more than ten minutes in Jack's company has heard about Minnesota. And the fish.
"You mean...he actually went to Minnesota? As in--took a trip to another state?" Tim asks with a puzzled frown.
"Yes. Why is that so hard to believe?"
"It's not," Tim hastens to say. "It's just...well, I always thought he was using Minnesota as a euphemism."
"A euphemism?" Something clicks and, truly, the mind boggles. "For sex? Why on Earth would you think that?"
"Have you seen the expression on his face when he talks about fishing?" Tim asks.
"Just go," Tim says, shooing me away from my half-assed attempt to organize the mess on my desk. "I'll sort this out and take care of anything that needs immediate attention."
"Okay...if you're sure."
So I do.
For once my flight is on time. And my rental car is actually ready and waiting for me. And the drive from the airport, through the suburbs and out to the O'Neill family home has gone without a hitch. Fortunately, Jack's military training has overcome that macho 'real men don't need directions' attitude and he'd faxed me a set of precise instructions that get me to the house without a single wrong turn.
I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most likely on my head.
It's a bad omen. I know it is. My life never goes this smoothly. My apprehension grows to mother ship proportions as I swing into the driveway of a modest ranch house. Jack's at my door almost before I've turned off the engine.
"Hey." He has that cockeyed grin on his face as I step out of the car.
"Hey. You okay?"
He looks good. His color's coming back. He's moving pretty easily. I don't think he's had a relapse.
So what the hell am I doing in Minnesota?
"I'm fine," Jack says. "How was the trip?"
"There are lakes here," I accuse.
"Which one might expect from the name White Bear Lake," Jack says.
"Lake, Jack. Not lake-s."
"The other lake you saw--that's Goose Lake."
"Does it have any geese?"
"Huh?" Jack stares at me, bewildered. "I don't know. I suppose there are. Were. Why?"
"Is this a Minnesota thing? Naming places after non-existent wildlife?" I ask as I open the rear door and pull my bag from the back seat. "There's the fishing cabin with no fish, Goose Lake with no geese. And I'm betting White Bear Lake hasn't seen a white bear in millennia, if ever."
"I thought you were supposed to be sensitive to all this crap," Jack complains as he tries to take my suitcase from me.
"Crap?" I pointedly hold my suitcase out of reach. He's still recovering for Pete's sake.
"Culture. Native American mythology," Jack explains. He leans closer and breathes into my ear. "You know--rumors, lies, and fairytales."
"Why am I here?"
"My mom wants to meet you," Jack says as he pulls back to look at me. His tone is perfectly casual but his eyes are suddenly guarded.
"Why? She has no idea who I am," I say, completely confused.
"She does now."
And just like that--bam! The other shoe drops.
Jack came out. To his mother of all people. What was he thinking? Jack has a solid reputation as offensively heterosexual. And we've only been together for a few months....
I'm agog. Seriously. I'm completely gog-less here.
"Daniel?" Jack stares at me, puzzled.
"Why would you tell her?"
"I didn't really tell her per se," Jack says, flushing a little. "I guess I talked a lot about you and...she guessed."
"What about your dad?"
"No way," Jack says firmly. "Not with his crappy ticker. This would kill him."
"Won't your mom tell him?"
"Nope," Jack says with absolute confidence.
"They've been married fifty years and they keep secrets from each other?"
"Daniel, they've been married fifty years because they keep secrets from each other."
"All the more reason not to go talking now," I point out.
"I figure I lucked into one last chance," Jack says quietly, cupping my cheek. "I'm not going to lie about it. Not to my family."
"B-b-but your mom?"
"She asked," Jack says with a shrug. "I told."
Jack's hand drops from my face immediately and he winces. I glance at the woman standing at the front door of the house and...oh, my.
She's...intimidating. Not her looks so much. She's average height, sturdy--but not fat--build, iron gray hair. Her face is what I suppose you'd call handsome. Not pretty or beautiful in any traditional sense, but attractive in a rather austere way. But her eyes. Bluish-gray and I'm willing to bet nothing escapes their sharp gaze.
"You ready for this?" Jack asks sotto voce.
"I'd be a whole lot more ready if you'd warned me before I got here," I point out.
"If I'd warned you, you'd never have come."
"I may yet run away," I whisper, taking another quick look at his mother.
"No, you won't. You're not a coward."
"I'm thinking of converting."
"Jack?" His mother's voice is a little more insistent this time.
"It's show time," Jack mutters as we turn to face the music.
"We're sharing a room?" I ask, shocked by the idea. Well, not by the idea of sharing a room with Jack. Just by the idea of his mother allowing us to share a room.
Jack opens the door and gestures broadly.
"Twin beds," he points out.
So? I've worked with smaller spaces. Jack shuts the door behind us and I walk across the room and set my bag in the corner.
"They squeak," Jack adds when he notices the calculating look on my face. "Mom works all the angles."
"Um, Jack--don't take this the wrong way but your mother.... She's what you might call formidable."
"Formidable?" Jack asks, raising an eyebrow.
"I don't mean...."
"Formidable?" Jack repeats with a little laugh. "Jesus, Daniel, the woman is downright scary."
"Er...you noticed?" Well, that was stupid. Of course he noticed. "I really didn't mean that in a negative way...necessarily."
I'd been prepared to pity the woman who had to raise Jack. I figured that would've been enough to test the limits of even the most patient parent. I hadn't counted on the likes of Betty O'Neill. I suspect that if Jack ever got one past her it was purely by accident.
"She's a great mom: tough but fair," Jack says. "But you should know--she has super powers."
"X-ray vision, ESP, able to leap tall piles of bullshit at a single bound--that kind of thing."
"What about your dad?"
We haven't been formally introduced yet, but I'm assuming the man we passed in the living room, dozing in front of the TV, was Jack's dad, Tom. The death grip on the remote was a dead give away. That and the fact that he has Jack's lean build.
"He's mortal," Jack says.
"Yes, but is he scary?"
"He was a...well, not a push over," Jack says. "He didn't tolerate any rule breaking either. It's just that he had fewer rules to begin with. As long as I didn't cause problems at school or get in trouble with the law, he didn't sweat the little stuff."
"Boys will be boys?"
"Basically," Jack agrees. "Mom, on the other hand, felt that a Y chromosome was no excuse for behaving like an animal. She expected me to say 'Sir' and 'Ma'am' and use silverware and everything."
"How horrible for you," I say supportively.
"I sure thought so at the time," Jack admits. He steps closer and pulls me in for a rib bending hug.
"Miss me?" I ask. Pointless question really. I can feel how much he missed me. Just about as much as I missed him. "Um...Jack, I can only stay until tomorrow evening."
"Then we'd better make the most of it."
"Do you know how long it's been?" he asks, dropping one hand to my ass.
"Since exactly two days before the aliens poked a hole in your lung."
"Too damn long," Jack whispers against my lips just before he kisses me. He pushes his hips forward and rubs against me slow and hard. Damn, that feels good...but if he doesn't stop this we're about thirty seconds away from finding out just how squeaky these beds are.
We jerk apart at the sound of Betty's voice just outside the door. Jack lets out a hiss of frustration. I know the feeling. I can't keep from grabbing myself, trying to soothe an ache that hasn't been satisfied in weeks.
"Yes, Ma'am," Jack calls out in a steady voice. He sees what I'm doing and groans because what I'm doing isn't him.
"Supper will be ready in 15 minutes."
"Okay, thanks. We'll be right there." Jack waits until he hears his mother leave and starts muttering obscenities under his breath.
"Bathroom," I demand.
"What?" he asks.
"I don't know about you but I have no desire to sit through dinner with your parents with this," I say, tugging somewhat impatiently at my groin. "Now--where's the damn bathroom?"
"Second door, left side of the hall," Jack says. He cups his own groin with a disappointed sigh.
"And Daniel? Don't take too long, okay?"
"So what is it you do at the base, Dr. Jackson?" Betty asks. She's seated at the foot of the table, but there's no doubt in my mind as to who's in charge of the proceedings.
Okay. So this is...uncomfortable. I've never been good at the 'meet the parents' thing. Especially given that, in this case, only one of the parents in question knows that we're doing the 'meet the parents' thing.
The fact that not twenty minutes ago I was in their bathroom jerking off over their son isn't helping.
"I'm an archaeologist. And it's Daniel. Please, just call me Daniel."
"I had no idea there was much need for archaeologists in deep space radar telemetry," Betty says shrewdly. She studies me intently and I can see Jack's point about the x-ray vision. Betty doesn't just look at you. She looks into you. I'm giving serious consideration to lead underwear.
"Oh...I'm a linguist. I translate...stuff."
Just not English apparently.
"Speaks 23 languages," Jack brags.
"I didn't realize Canadians spoke a different language," Tom throws in.
"Never heard of a French Canadian, eh?" Jack throws back. Tom scowls amiably at him and Jack grins. "Besides, there's more than one foreign country represented at Cheyenne Mountain."
Hell, there's more than one galaxy represented at the SGC.
"Where are you from, Dr...Daniel?" Betty persists.
"I was born in New York, but we traveled a lot. My parents were archaeologists, too."
"Where are they now?"
"They were both killed in an accident when I was a kid."
"I'm sorry," Betty says with genuine compassion. "Did you have any other family?"
"Just Nick. He's my maternal grandfather."
I catch Jack's scowl out of the corner of my eye. Jack gets angrier at Nick than I do. Then again, Jack gets angry with Nick for some of the same reasons he gets angry with me. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.
"He's an archaeologist, too. He couldn't take me on because he was always halfway around the world."
"Digging up old things must be a family trait," Tom says, his voice touched with a gentle teasing tone.
"Yeah, you could say that."
Along with insanity and latent parental instincts.
"I don't mind. I like digging up old things."
After all--I managed to dig up Jack. I sneak a look at him and his knowing look promises retribution.
"Daniel never had much in the way of a family life," Jack tells his parents. "Not until Sha're."
"Sha're?" Betty asks.
"You're married?" Betty asks. Only a slight widening of her eyes betrays her surprise.
"I was. Very happily. Sha're was an amazing woman."
"Real looker, too," Jack says fondly. "Swept Daniel completely off his feet."
"She did," I admit, flushing a bit at the memory.
Jack and I share a smile. Unlike most past loves, the ones you'd rather your current partner didn't know about, I'm thankful that Jack knew Sha're. I'm thankful that he knows what having, and losing, her meant to me.
"Daniel's wife died," Jack says gently. Betty's expression immediately turns from confused to consoling.
"Good heavens, son," Tom says with dismay. "You really have had bad luck with family, haven't you?"
"Yeah, but I'm trying to not take it personally."
Jack slings his arm around my shoulder as we stroll through the neighborhood. Seems a bit...daring of him. Maybe coming out to his mom, more or less successfully, has eased some of his fears. Who knows--some day he may even be willing to tell Sam and Teal'c about us.
"That's the Foster house," Jack says, pointing to a beautiful but extremely run down old house.
"A foster home?"
"No," Jack says with a sharp shake of the head. "The family's name was Foster. Well, if there was a family. Old man Foster was the only one I knew of." He grins. "It was the house, you know?"
"Um...no, I don't know."
"It was the one that all the kids scared each other with. When old man Foster was alive he was a real paranoid prick. If he suspected that anyone was even thinking about stepping on his property he'd be screaming and foaming at the mouth. If you hit a ball into his yard--forget it."
"Oh, that." I swear--there must be one in every neighborhood. The person who hates kids. Or at least other people's kids.
"Yep. And after he died...well, I suppose the house must be part of his estate but for some reason it was never sold." Jack shrugs. "I guess no one wanted it. Can't imagine why, though."
"Neither can I."
It's a wonderful house. Needs a lot of fixing up, that's for sure. It's older than most of the homes in the neighborhood. In fact, I suspect, judging by the architecture, that it was originally a farm house. It was probably the only house for miles at the time it was built. The city grew up around it, engulfed it.
"Anyway, after he died, all the kids swore he was haunting it," Jack says, flashing me a devilish grin. "So naturally the big thing was to dare another kid to go in the house."
"So? Did you?" Come on--you know Jack was right in the middle of that.
"Sort of," he says, looking a little embarrassed.
"I got as far as the front porch.... Then I choked. Big time. But I wasn't about to let the other kids know that."
"Why does that not surprise me?" I'm sure Jack was full of male bravado from an early age. Jack gives my shoulder a warning shake.
"I realized, once I was on the front steps, that those bushes there actually hide the whole north end of the porch. I told them I was going in through the window, went to the edge of the porch, hopped the railing and ran around to the back of the house. In back, I took two seconds to run up and slam the back door and came running around to the front again." Jack grins proudly.
"And you never told anyone the truth, did you?"
"Only you." Jack's affectionate smile grows into a leer. "Hey, Daniel. Dare ya."
"What? Dare me to do what?"
Jack just grabs my hand and pulls me up the walk. About ten seconds later we're at the north end of the porch, safely behind the obscuring shrubbery. Jack's got me pinned to the wall and he's kissing me like he's been wandering the desert and I'm the oasis.
I do not have a problem with this. Not now. Not ever. I could stay here all night. Jack likes to kiss slow and gentle, but you can sense the power, the sheer force of the man, behind the controlled caresses.
"Uh...for what?" I ask, a little dazed by the kissing.
"For coming up here when I asked you to."
"What else could I do?"
"You could've said no."
"You should know by now I can't say no to you." Oh, God--that was a stupid admission to make. "You're going to hold that over my head forever, aren't you?"
"Aw, come on, Daniel. You've got more ammo on me than I'll ever have on you. After all, I turned gay for you."
"Well...you're the only man I've ever even considered having a relationship with."
"Does that mean you won't use the sappy stuff to blackmail me?"
"Of course I will," Jack says. "Just because I'm in love doesn't mean I've lost my mind."
"At least you're predictable."
"In a rut," Jack agrees.
"Not really. After all--you did turn gay for me."
Jack stares at me for a moment, expression blank.
"Okay, that's all the foreplay I need," Jack finally says. "What do you say we take this home and into the bedroom?"
Jack sits on the bed...and it squeaks.
"Well, maybe they won't hear," I say.
"Trust me--they'll hear," Jack says sourly.
I look around the room. There aren't a whole lot of options. Two creaky beds. A small desk and chair. The floor is questionable; Jack's folks are liable to hear his knees creaking.
"Stop looking at me like that," I demand. Jack's expression is both suspicious and intrigued.
"The way you look whenever Maybourne.... Oh, my God!" I say, biting off a yelp. "You have a thing for Maybourne?"
Jack is so absolutely silent and unmoving I start to wonder if I shouldn't check for a pulse.
"I do not have a thing for Harry!" Jack says in a thunderous whisper when he starts to breathe again.
"You do! You get all curious looking around him."
"Yeah, curious about when he's going to shoot me next," Jack snaps.
"With his 'sidearm'?" I ask innocently. Jack shudders.
"That's sick. And way to kill the mood stone cold dead," Jack mutters. He lets out a resigned sigh. "Not that it matters anyway. You're too damn noisy."
"Um...." I beckon to Jack as my mind ponders the problem. "Come here."
Jack eyes me suspiciously but obeys anyway. I strip off my boxers and tackle his as soon as he's in grabbing range.
"Daniel," he protests.
"Trust me." I just draw him to me and he doesn't even try to resist.
"We can't." Jack's protests are growing weaker. "You'll scream. You know you will."
"So keep my mouth occupied," I whisper into his ear. Jack brightens. "Not that way. It won't work with the holster I have in mind for my sidearm."
"Oh, yeah," Jack mock moans. "Talk dirty to me about big guns."
"Well, I've always had my suspicions as to what the 'P' in P90 stands for."
"Hey, is there any way to holster both weapons at the same time?" Jack asks with genuine curiosity as he nibbles my neck.
"Allegedly, but I've never known anyone who actually achieved it. I'm thinking it would be real easy to sprain...something."
Jack just 'hmm's thoughtfully as his hands slide possessively over my ass.
"Jack, on your back."
"The beds squeak," he says with annoyance.
"The floor," I say. He glares at me. "Toss the bedspread on the floor."
"My mother won't need a lab analysis. She'll know what that stain is," he argues.
"What's worse? Having your mother know you're having sex? Or not having sex...at all?"
Jack groans but lets go of my ass long enough to drag both bedspreads to the floor.
"The things I do for you," Jack complains as he settles back on the floor, arranging the spreads to provide the maximum padding.
"You could say no," I suggest as I kneel down between his legs.
"And lose the opportunity for emotional blackmail? I don't think so."
"And here I was thinking I was just so damn hot you couldn't resist."
Our bodies reconnect like they'd never been apart. We know each other by now. We know what brings the other pleasure. But...I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.
As soon as Jack has adjusted to me I stroke long and sure for several minutes. Then I have to pull almost all the way out. I roll my hips slightly, just to keep things in motion, and I curl up and take the head of his cock in my mouth.
"Fuck!" Jack shouts in surprise.
Jack and I both slap a hand over his mouth. He stares at me, bug-eyed. And yes--I love that I can do this to him. Me. "Geek" Jackson has the power to make Jack O'Neill howl at the moon and go weak at the knees. It's the ultimate power trip.
"Do you think they heard?" Jack whispers from behind our hands.
"I think the non-existent fish at the fishing cabin heard."
"Well, what the hell did you do?"
"I was keeping my mouth occupied since, as we both know, I'm the noisy one."
"Jack? Is there a problem?"
We both freeze at the sound of Betty's voice just outside the door. If she really had x-ray vision she'd getting an eyeful right about now.
"I'm fine," Jack calls with a reasonably calm voice. "Just dropped something on my...foot."
"Yes, ma'am. Sorry."
I have to bury my face in Jack's belly to stifle my snorts of laughter. It's just too funny. And scary. But funny. I mean, I have no real frame of reference but being caught having sex by your mother has to have all the emotionally scarring potential of .... Of having sex with Maybourne.
"Daniel. Damn it, Daniel, that tickles." Jack pulls my face up to his.
"Sorry," I mumble as I kiss him. "Sorry, but it's funny."
"Yeah, sure, yuck it up, monkey boy," Jack says, but his heart isn't in the put down. He kisses me in an attempt to stifle my continued snickering. "You wouldn't be laughing if I was so traumatized I never got it up again."
"No, that would not be good," I agree.
"I knew it was a bad idea to get mixed up with you," he whispers against my mouth.
"Horrible idea," I agree, attempting to taste test every millimeter of his mouth. "You should've known better."
"I did," Jack says just before he slides his tongue along my palate. Without thought, my tongue is right there, wrapping around his, stroking, thrusting....
"Jack," I moan.
"Move, Daniel," Jack demands. He rocks his hips urgently.
"Are you sure?" I gasp even as my own hips instinctively jerk forward.
"I was nearly caught by my mother on my back with your dick up my ass. If I don't get at least one blinding orgasm out of this, someone's going to pay."
"You say the most romantic things," I say as we fall back into our rhythm.
"Screw romance. I want to get laid."
And this is the man who was so recently bemoaning the fact that the thrill was gone. Oh, what the hell--I'll give him points for honesty. I lean forward, sealing my mouth to his because, well...because I am the noisy one. Jack wraps his hands around my head and holds me against him, stealing my breath and taking my shouts of ecstasy into himself. Still shaking, I slide my hand between us and finish him.
"You okay?" I pant. Mindful of Jack's injury, I shift to the side. I run my hand gently across Jack's incision, still too fresh and new.
"Just peachy," Jack says with a satisfied smile. "Best medicine there is."
"Really? Maybe we should let Dr. Fraiser in on the secret," I tease.
"She knows. She just doesn't tell us because she's afraid that, with the injury rate at the SGC, we'd all be boinking 24/7."
"Wild monkey sex," Jack agrees contentedly.
"Jack?" I give him a little nudge. Jack just makes a sleepy grunt. "Who's doing Hammond?"
"You are, without a doubt, the most perverted man I've ever met," Jack says, opening one baleful eye.
"Not perverted. Just thinking outside the box."
"Well, shove it back in the box and go to sleep."
The next morning, after the necessary caffeine infusion, I spend a couple of somewhat awkward hours in the company of Jack and his parents. Well, Jack's not a problem. Not much. And Tom spent most of the time reading the newspaper. Periodically Betty would give him a nudge and he'd set the paper aside for a moment and apologize for ignoring me. She needn't have bothered. I was actually quite comfortable being ignored.
Betty...I just can't get a handle on her yet. She seems like decent person--I'm sure she is--but there's a certain distance there. Of course, that may just be because of me. I don't think she's overly thrilled to meet her son's boyfriend.
After lunch, I wander outside, hoping to get a moment to relax in the back yard. I look around and I'm not surprised to see carefully tended flower beds and a small garden plot in the back corner. It's all so very middle class, so Midwestern, so...wonderfully normal and average and moments like these I wish I'd had a more mundane childhood. Jack was lucky to have had a home like this.
Of course, Jack's probably not feeling so lucky right now. The minute lunch was finished, Betty commandeered Jack as her chauffer for the afternoon. No doubt she has an ulterior motive. Now that she's gotten an initial look at me, I'm sure she's discussing the situation with Jack.
I sit down at the wooden picnic table and try to let the tranquil atmosphere ease my worry. It's a beautiful day: clear blue sky, gentle breeze, and no sign of the killer mosquitoes Teal'c battled so bravely at the legendary fishing cabin. Legendary, of course, being the fish since no one's ever seen them.
I lose myself in daydreams until a soft but pointed clearing of the throat draws my attention.
"Beer?" Tom holds out a bottle with a questioning look.
"Thank you." I wrench off the cap as Tom seats himself across the table from me.
"Skol," he says, taking a long draw.
I sputter just as I take a sip, realizing what I just said. To Jack's dad. Damn Jack, his twisted sense of humor, and his lingering familiarity with the language of the Ancients.
Tom eyes me suspiciously. I don't think he's nearly as oblivious as Jack would like to think.
"Don't drink much, do you, son?"
"Not anymore," I say with more vehemence than would seem necessary given that Tom doesn't know about Sam and her toxic truth serum. A puzzled look crosses Tom's face but, in a gesture eerily like Jack's, he shrugs in an 'I don't want to know' way.
"So," he says after a moment's silence. "You're Jack's...what's the correct term these days? His significant other? Life partner?"
I nearly choke again on a mouthful of beer. I cough and wheeze for several minutes before I can even begin to respond to Tom: a man who's definitely not as oblivious as he would have me believe.
"Not as dumb as you look," I blurt out. Like father, like son.
"Never have been," Tom says dryly.
"Um...sorry, that was.... What I meant was not as dumb as you act."
Tom's eyebrow climbs a little higher. Jesus, Daniel. Why don't you just insult his mother while you're at it?
"I mean Jack said.... He thinks you're clueless about...stuff."
"Jack was the kind of boy who always had to test the limits. But he grew up to be a decent, hard working man. Do you think that would have happened if I'd been clueless?"
"No, I don't suppose it would have," I say.
"I'll admit, Betty's the one who put the fear of God into that boy," Tom says fondly. "But she didn't know about everything a boy's liable to get into. Being a former boy myself, I did."
"I'm guessing Jack kept you busy."
"You bet. Jack was always a handful," Tom says with a wry smile. "He wasn't a 'bad' kid, just mischievous."
"Well, that hasn't changed," I assure him. Thor can vouch for that. "Jack's a good man, though. He's the guy we all know we can depend on."
"I've always been proud of Jack."
"Even now?" I ask, playing nervously with my beer bottle and unable to look Tom in the eye.
"I.... It doesn't really change anything, does it?" Tom says, his face thoughtful. "He's still the same person he was before I knew about.... He's still my son."
"He is. But sometimes, for some people, that's not enough." Please don't let that be the case here. I don't ever want Jack hurt because he cares for me.
"This isn't going to hurt him, is it?" Tom asks. I'm a little spooked at the apparent mind reading. I thought that was Betty's talent. "His career, his reputation--he's not going to lose that, is he?"
"We work very hard to make sure that it won't," I assure Tom. "We haven't even told our closest friends."
"That's a difficult life you boys have made for yourselves."
"Sometimes," I admit.
"Is it worth it?"
"You'll have to ask Jack."
"I'm not going to ask him. And I don't want you to tell him I know," Tom says.
I'm supposed to keep this from Jack? I...I can't. That's not right.
"He has to be ready to tell me himself," Tom says firmly while I do little more than sputter in helpless incoherence.
"He thinks you're not ready to hear," I argue.
"He may be right about that," Tom says vaguely. He rises slowly from the table. "I'm going to go rest a spell."
Jack's voice yanks me out of my thoughts. I look up just as he sits down across from me at the picnic table.
"What time is it?" I ask. I've got myself so tied in knots over Tom knowing and not letting Jack know and now I know and how can I not let Jack know and....
How can I not tell Jack? Jack is my...partner, or significant other or whatever you want to call him. How can I keep something so important from him? On the other hand, I haven't had enough time to get a handle on Jack and Tom's relationship. Tom did seem uncomfortable at the idea of speaking directly to Jack. And Jack...maybe Tom's right and Jack needs to reach that point on his own.
"Are you okay?" Jack asks.
"Well, you might want to stop for a while," Jack says, giving me a puzzled look. "You're looking a little tense."
"So, how was the visit with your mom?" I ask.
"You mean the interrogation?" Jack says wryly.
"Could've been worse," Jack says with a carefully casual shrug. "She thinks you're a sweetheart, by the way. She just can't understand why you have to be my sweetheart."
"Daniel, you have nothing to be sorry about," Jack says, his voice firm. "I had a choice. Hell, you did everything you could to stop us from getting involved."
"I wasn't trying all that hard. My heart wasn't in it."
"And I'm glad it wasn't," Jack says, his eyes warm with affection. "Besides, you and me--that's not something we have to apologize to anyone for. Definitely not to each other."
"Not to each other," I agree. "But the rest of the world...that's not the way things are. We can't even tell our friends."
"Reality sucks," Jack agrees.
"So how bad is it really?"
"She's making an honest effort to deal. I can't ask any more than that. I'm sure she'll figure out the positives in this. I mean--at least they don't have to worry about me reproducing anymore," Jack says with a self deprecating grimace.
"My son's dead and I drove my wife away," Jack interrupts before I can voice my disagreement. "Not a raging success story on the 'straight' front here. At least with you there's no chance of...you know. Probably."
"We've time traveled, changed age, switched bodies...who knows what could happen out there." Jack waves vaguely at the sky.
I'm...sans gog again.
"No," I protest, but it comes out sounding more like a question than a statement.
"No?" Jack asks.
"A little alien wham-bam-thank you ma'am?"
"Headlines in the Enquirer," Jack says sourly.
"Maybourne, Area 51, and tests," I say, horrified by the very notion.
"My brain hates me," Jack announces. "A whole big bunch."
"I'm getting a vasectomy," I say, my decision instantaneous and irrevocable. And my brain hates Jack, too.
"Me, too," Jack says with a vehement nod.
"Think Fraiser would give us a two for one deal?"
"I think Fraiser would pay for the chance to neuter me."
I walk tentatively into the kitchen and set my bag by the door. Jack is leaning against the counter, ostensibly drying the supper dishes, but his eyes are fixed on me. Betty, her hands deep in suds, glances over her shoulder. She sees the bag and pauses, her dripping hands held just above the sink.
"You're leaving then?" she asks.
"Yes. I have a mi...meeting tomorrow that I really can't miss. It's very important." The meeting is with the ruling council of M5R somewhere halfway across the galaxy, but she not only doesn't need to know that, she can't know it.
"Hmmm," she says suspiciously. "Awful lot of important and dangerous," with a piercing look at Jack, "work going on with radio-telescopes."
"It is important, Mom," he says mildly. Betty shrugs and turns back to the dishes.
"I could drive you to the airport," Jack offers.
"No, I, um, I have to return the rental car anyway," I remind him.
"Right," Jack nods.
"Appreciate the offer, though."
"Oh, sure. No problem."
Betty looks at the two of us hemming and hawing and shuffling our feet, embarrassed by our own awkwardness. After a minute, she simply puts down her dishcloth and walks out of the room.
"Oh, boy," I mutter, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"Don't worry about it," Jack says, moving close enough to reach out and cup his hand around the back of my neck.
"Daniel, she's 72 years old and a couple of days ago she found out her son likes to play doctor with other boys," Jack says. "I think she's taking it pretty well under the circumstances."
"She is," I agree. "I just don't want to...you know...."
"You're not," Jack says with a quiet smile.
"Yeah, okay," I say, not sounding anywhere near convinced.
"Daniel, trust me. It'll be okay."
I nod. I don't really have any other choice but to trust Jack on that one. There's really nothing I can do about the situation. Betty will deal with it...or not. And we'll deal with the 'not' if that's what happens.
I grab my bag and start toward the door. I stop, though, because I realize there's something I just can't ignore. Something Jack shouldn't leave undone.
"Talk to your dad."
"Daniel," Jack says, shaking his head with a rueful smile. "I don't think now is the time."
"Trust me. Please. Talk to him," I insist. Jack frowns thoughtfully, then shrugs his shoulders.
"Okay. I'll talk to him."
Relief doesn't begin to cover the way I feel. It's the weight of the world, my world, off of my shoulders. Feeling much lighter, I turn back to the door.
"I'll be home in a couple of days," Jack promises.
"I'll be waiting."
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