So we beat on, boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past.
F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ The Great Gatsby
After all, telling someone that a loved one had died, that they'd never speak with them again, could never, should never be something that you got used to, should it? But face to face had to be the way to go. How could news of that importance be relayed by phone, or in the crisp terseness of a letter?
He checked his watch once more, looking up at the departure times. There was his flight, right on time. A scheduled flight from Chicago to Denver, then a rental car the rest of the way.
As he picked up his bag, he pondered the instructions he'd been given - he had to give the envelope to the man in question, no-one else, but first he had to find him.
How hard could that be? How many Colonel Jack O'Neill's could there be in Colorado anyway?
"Colonel O'Neill, SG-1," General Hammond began, as the members of the team in question trooped into the briefing room, "I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of the SGC."
Four pairs of eyes, brown and blue alike, turned almost as one to look at the man seated at the conference table to the general's right. Dressed in an immaculate air force dress uniform, the man was tall and lean, almost angular, black hair in a regulation buzz-cut, fingers laced together on the table in front of him. Despite the slight appearance there was something calculating in those dark eyes, something that spoke of a man not to be trifled with.
"Colonel Jack O'Neill," Hammond continued, eyes locking with the man in question, "this is Colonel James Martin, who will be taking command of SG-6."
"Colonel," O'Neill said, nodding at the man who still remained seated, his dark eyes flicking over the members of SG-1.
"Colonel," Martin echoed, his eyes resting for a longer moment on Daniel as they surveyed the rest of the team.
Daniel was standing slightly to one side of Jack, but even so, Jack could still feel the tension in the air, see the way that Daniel's fingers were rubbing the back of his hand in what was clearly a subconscious movement. Jack filed this response away for future reference, promising himself that he would investigate it later.
Watching Daniel Jackson had become an important pastime, a source of constant interest to the colonel over the time they had spent together. With any one of a hundred surreptitious glances a day, Jack was able to gauge where the archaeologist was at, knowing Daniel's state of mind at any given moment.
But when had it become so important to him to know, Jack wondered, how Daniel was feeling about a situation? This tangible air of defensiveness that was emanating from his friend, not so unusual in a man who had lived through so many bad experiences, something about it struck a chord within him. Jack shifted his weight from one foot to the other, considering this as he watched the formalities continue.
All around where Jack was standing, still all-too conscious of his friend's strange reaction, introductions were going on. Carter was introduced, then Teal'c, and finally Daniel. Daniel spoke politely to the newcomer, but their eyes never met, and Jack was left with a strange sense of wrongness there was something here below the surface, something he was not aware of yet.
Jack hastened down the corridor in pursuit of his friend, who had left the conference room in a hurry. Daniel slowed his pace, but didn't turn around he carried on walking, his back ramrod stiff, his arms still wrapped around himself in self-protection. One hand continued to absently rub the back of the other, agile fingers tracing and re-tracing the same path across the skin.
Jack settled into step beside Daniel, noting with a frown that Daniel didn't even turn his head in Jack's direction. With a glance he also took in the defensive body language once more, but Jack knew that the conversation they needed to have was not one they should have in a corridor, not even in the secure environs of the SGC.
So many things remained unspoken between them, thoughts that Jack wanted to express, but he was not even sure he knew how. Could he find the words to name for Daniel what was just a sensation, a previously-unexplored facet of himself? It seemed to Jack as though he had somehow strayed into unfamiliar territory, passing with one step from 'being a friend' to something else, something undefined.
Something that, if Jack was completely honest with himself, scared the hell out of him. He waited, impatiently, trailing along beside Daniel as they walked in silence, all the way to the archaeologist's office.
Daniel seated himself at the desk, as if he had forgotten Jack was even there, gathering some papers that were scattered across the surface and shuffling them together. His hands shook slightly, even as he appeared to make a conscious effort to try and still them.
"You want to tell me what's going on?" Jack began, perching on the edge of the desk in an attempt to ensure that Daniel could no longer ignore him. Daniel continued to sort the papers however, not even looking in Jack's direction. "Daniel?"
"What?" Daniel snapped the word out, looking at Jack for the first time since they had entered the office. "What do you want me to say?"
"Well, why don't we start with what the hell is going on with you, Daniel?" Jack retorted, glad finally to see some reaction. "Then you can tell me where you know this Colonel Martin from and why he's making you act so jumpy...."
As Jack spoke Martin's name, he couldn't fail to notice the way that Daniel's hands tightened around the papers he was holding, the grip increasing until the skin across Daniel's knuckles was white.
Bingo! I was right... Daniel does know this guy from somewhere.
There was a long silence, hanging heavy in the small room. Jack tried to be patient, knowing that to press Daniel for information he wasn't ready to give would only make his friend clam up on him.
Come on, Daniel.... Jack thought.
After a few moments silence, it became clear to Jack that he would get nothing further. Daniel had drawn in on himself, even as he placed the papers he had been crushing onto the desk, trying for a moment to smooth out some of the creases he had caused.
Sighing, Jack got up from where he had been sitting.
"You know I won't let this rest, Daniel. And when you need to talk, you know where to find me...."
"I'm fine, Dr. Fraiser." The lieutenant was backing towards the door as he spoke, a worried expression on her face. A face that was pale, dark shadows under green eyes. "Really."
"I could make it an order," Janet said. She drew herself up to her full height, clearly prepared to follow up on her threat.
"Janet?" For a moment, Sam wondered just what it was that she'd walked in on. Janet just glanced at her, acknowledging her presence with a nod.
"Rest, Lieutenant Forrest." The lieutenant nodded, still clearly nervous. "And tell your C.O. I said so." Forrest looked less happy about this part of it and it was clear that Janet noticed. She checked her clipboard. "Better yet," she continued, "I'll tell Colonel Martin myself. Dismissed."
With a grateful smile, Forrest disappeared, the door swinging closed behind her as she hastened to escape.
"What was that about?" Sam asked.
"I have no idea," Janet replied. "Just one newly arrived lieutenant who isn't looking after herself properly, it seems. Nothing I haven't seen before."
One relatively-uneventful mission later, Daniel was returning to his office, his arms laden with artifacts and an unhappy looking airman trailing behind him with a further box.
"You can put that down..." Daniel began, looking around in a futile search for a free space for the box to be placed. In the end, the archaeologist had to put down the armful he was carrying and clear a space on one of the workbenches. "Thank you, Airman," he said, with a smile that the other returned tentatively after a moment's hesitation.
"Do you need anything else, sir?" The airman was clearly impatient to leave, his hand already resting on the door handle.
"Huh?" Daniel looked up from the box, having already opened the lid and begun cross-checking the contents with the inventory list he held. "No, thank you. You can go back to whatever it was you were doing."
He was so engrossed in removing the contents of the box, checking each off against the inventory then carefully examining them for damage, that Daniel neither heard the airman leave or the door opening again a few minutes later.
"Some things never change, do they?" a voice asked, breaking into Daniel's concentration with the force of a blow.
Daniel felt his hands tighten on the fragile pot that he was currently holding and he made a conscious effort to relax his grip, placing the artifact safely back in the box before turning to the man who had spoken.
"Colonel Martin," he said, proud of the steadiness of his voice.
"Danny, why so formal?" Martin asked, closing the office door behind him as he entered the room completely.
"Because I have nothing to say to you."
"And there was I thinking this was just like old times, Danny," Martin said, with a cold smile.
"Old times?" Daniel blurted out, astonished. "How can you think that you can just walk back in here like nothing happened between us?"
"I can see that some things have changed, haven't they?" Martin said, ignoring the fact that Daniel had even spoken. "You've obviously forgotten all the good times we had together. We had something special between us, Danny. We could have that again."
"No." The word was a snapped response, instant, unthinking.
"You're looking good, Danny," Martin said, coming closer now, still keeping himself between Daniel and the door. "But there's something not quite right about you I could make things just like they were."
"I told you, I'm not interested in anything you might have to say," Daniel said, trying to edge round to place the workbench between him and the advancing colonel. "In fact, I'd like you to leave. Now."
"You don't really mean that," Martin said. "You and me, we belong together, Danny, don't try to deny it. You know it's the truth."
"All I know is that I don't need you any more," Daniel said, amazed at his abilitiy to form the words even as he spoke them. "I don't need that kind of 'together', not with you, not with anyone. And I have work to do, so I'd appreciate it if you would get out and let me get on with it."
Martin opened his mouth to speak again, but the words never came. Before he was able to utter them, the door opened and Jack walked in.
"Daniel, you need..." he began, before he registered the fact that there was another person in the office.
"Colonel Martin," Jack said, in a colder tone, when he recognized the other man, taking in the hostility with which the small room bristled. "Was there something you wanted?"
"Dr. Jackson and I were just discussing the next mission SG-6 is scheduled for," Martin replied casually, "and the culture we can expect to be meeting on that planet."
Daniel glanced across with patent surprise at Martin as he spoke. Jack's eyes travelled thoughtfully from the colonel to Daniel, his look clearly assessing both of them.
"Thanks for your time, Dr. Jackson. It's been most helpful," Martin said, after a moment's slightly awkward silence. "Now I know where you are, I'll be sure to drop by again..."
With a nod to the bemused looking scientist, Martin headed for the door. He didn't turn around, shutting the door quietly behind him. When Jack looked back to Daniel, he saw that the other man's eyes were resting pensively on the grey metal of the now-closed office door.
"Daniel." No response. "Daniel."
"Huh?" Daniel's head snapped round to where Jack was standing, and it seemed to take a moment before he was able to process again. "What is it, Jack?"
"I came to tell you Hammond wants you to expand on your last post- mission report. He feels that it was a little sketchy in places."
"He does?" Daniel turned to his desk as he spoke. His hands rummaged through the papers scattered there, as if of their own accord. "I'm sure my notes are here somewhere..." he continued, clearly speaking as much to himself as to Jack.
"No hurry," Jack continued. "Some time tomorrow will do, he said." Jack paused, watching Daniel proceed to root through the detritus that currently covered most of the available surfaces in the office. "You ready to tell me what's up with you yet?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Daniel replied, without even bothering to turn around. Jack smiled to himself. Even from where he was standing he had seen Daniel stiffen slightly as he asked the question, so he knew he had struck a nerve.
"Sure you do, Daniel," he continued. "You were getting ready to tell me about you and Colonel Martin...."
Daniel stopped what he was doing as the words Jack had spoken sank in. His hands stilled their search and his head bowed, as if he were taking the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Leave it alone, Jack. Please."
"No can do, Daniel," Jack replied, even as his conscience pricked at him for forcing the issue between them. "You know you want to tell me."
"I don't. Really."
Jack frowned as he considered all the implications of that statement. The more he tried to get information out of Daniel and failed, the more he worried. Something felt wrong here, Jack decided, something that nagged at him. If there weren't something serious between the two men, something that would make him worry should it be revealed, would Daniel be so keen to keep it from him? Jack sighed to himself at the twisted logic of that conclusion.
"Okay," Jack conceded, reluctantly. "I'll see you later..."
Once outside in the corridor, Jack paused, wondering if he had done the right thing.
And what am I supposed to do? The man has a right to privacy, even if it's bugging me not knowing whatever-it-is that's going on between him and Martin....
Something was familiar about the look he'd seen in Daniel's eyes, something that reminded him of people long since passed on in his life. There were so many things that Jack tried not to think about, burying them with the ease of long practice, that it was hard to pinpoint what they all were. He had once said to Hammond that he had done some damn distasteful things in his past, but that was barely scratching the surface. It was not just what he had done, or what he had seen, but what he had experienced.
Jack shook his head slightly, as if to free himself of the past, but some trace of those thoughts remained with him, tenaciously, no matter what he did.
When he walked into the mess hall and saw them together, Daniel was amazed. So much so that he stopped in his tracks, not hearing the protestations of the airman who had followed him in, who had been forced to make a sudden detour to avoid walking into Daniel as he stood just inside the doorway.
As hard as he tried to make a surreptitious trip to the counter, to gather some coffee and leave, Daniel had a feeling this attempt would be doomed to failure.
He hadn't made it three steps away from the line before he heard Sam's voice calling his name. Pasting a smile onto his unwilling face, Daniel turned in her direction.
"I can't, Sam. Really," Daniel replied, forcing a pleasant tone to cover the abruptness of his words. He wasn't sure what Sam's reaction would be, but he really could not bring himself to sit down with her, not now.
"Come now, Dr. Jackson," an all-too-familiar voice chimed in then. "Do what the good Major says and join us."
Just the sound of his voice was enough to make every nerve in Daniel's body jangle he could almost feel the adrenaline begin to circulate as his instincts screamed at him to get out of there as quickly as he could.
"Please," Sam continued. "Colonel Martin was just telling me tales of his wild times as a student at the University of Colorado...."
Daniel hoped that he managed to keep the shock he felt from reaching his face somehow he managed to look Martin in the eye, recognizing immediately the mocking look he saw there.
"Some other time, Sam," he replied, turning on his heel and heading out of the mess hall before he did what he really wanted to do. Behind him, as he walked away, he could hear Sam's voice. Her laughter followed Daniel as Martin regaled her with some amusing story of student mischief.
If only you knew what he's really like, Sam...
How many years of his life had he spent just like this? Sitting cramped up in a car, waiting for someone to show their face?
Taking another mouthful of luke-warm coffee, he grimaced at the thought. Where was this guy anyway?
He was an USAF colonel, for crying out loud, so why didn't he come home?
Daniel was pre-occupied, engrossed in his work, when he heard the office door open. He felt himself tense, in anticipation of that voice which was really the last one that he wanted to hear. There was silence in the room for a moment Daniel heard the footsteps of his visitor as they crossed to his side, felt his nerves start to react....
"Danny," Martin began, finally. "I told you I'd drop by again..."
"Why can't you just leave me alone?" Daniel asked, hearing the desperation in his own words. He didn't turn as he spoke, but his hand tightened instinctively on the pen that he held.
"What do I have to say to convince you, Danny?" Martin asked, moving even closer.
Daniel retreated, leaving his seat and navigating the familiar space of his office with ease, knowing exactly when to side-step furniture. In the end, however, he found there was nowhere to go, his back was pressed against the wall furthest from the door.
"We belong together. You know that."
"I know nothing of the sort," Daniel replied. He stunned himself by his boldness, and wondered for a moment where those defiant words had come from.
"You know I didn't want to leave you like that, Danny." Martin's voice continued, the tone almost hypnotic. "It was my C.O.'s idea that I transferred, I had nothing to do with it. If it weren't for him we'd still be together..."
"You really think that?" Daniel blurted, unable to stop the words escaping. He jerked back as he saw the flash of anger that skittered across the colonel's face at his impulsive words, painful memories resurfacing at that all-too-familiar look.
"Maybe you need a little reminder about minding your manners, Danny," Martin drawled, his words chilly. "You never used to be so abrupt with me." As he spoke, Martin's hand came up to caress Daniel's cheek, despite the way that the archaeologist squirmed to avoid the touch.
"I don't need anything from you..." Daniel replied, tensing as the other man's hand made contact with his face.
"On the contrary," Martin said, his face mere inches from Daniel's own, "I think you do."
Daniel stayed silent this time, his eyes blazing with a mixture of fear and anger.
"You know I always get what I want, Danny." Martin's voice was dark, seductive, with a sharp edge to it. "And you're going to give me what I want. Things are going to be just like they were between us, just you wait and see..."
"Or what?" Daniel blurted, bringing his hands up to push Martin away at last.
"Or the truth will come out," Martin replied, bracing himself against the pressure on his chest. He smiled to himself, a smile that was positively glacial. "Colonel O'Neill seems to think very highly of you, Danny. What would he think if he found out the truth about you? About the things that you did?"
The pressure ceased then, Daniel pulling back his hands as if they had been burned, looking for all the world like he wanted to blend into the concrete behind him, disappear forever.
"You wouldn't do that," Daniel half-muttered. He frowned. "How could you do that without implicating yourself?"
"Easy enough. I have certain mementoes from our time together. Sufficient to make the good colonel see you in something of a different light, but leaving me free and clear - just an innocent led astray..."
Martin smiled. "Of course, you'd need to find another place to work - you know how the Airforce is..."
Daniel fell silent once more, biting the inside of his lower lip as he glared fiercely at the man who stood before him.
"What do you want?" The words grated their way out. Martin eyed him for a moment, his dark gaze assessing.
"You always had such a talented mouth, Danny," he said after a moment's thought.
"And if I go to Jack and tell him everything?"
"You have a choice, Danny. Do what I say and this is kept between us - tell your precious colonel anything and I promise you that I'll destroy both of you, one way or another."
Their eyes locked for the briefest of moments, a threat, more a promise, exchanged between them.
Daniel let out a shaky breath, looking past Martin as he did so and focussing on a spot on the opposite wall.
Daniel nodded tersely.
He could feel the change in the temperature of the air around him as Martin stepped back, one hand coming up to touch his face once more in an unwanted caress. Daniel suppressed a shudder at the other man's touch, biting the inside of his lip again to remind himself not to flinch.
What choice do I have? he thought.
Daniel knew the answer then, as the hopelessness of his situation struck home to him. He was as trapped as he had been with Hathor, as surely enslaved to the desires of another as he had been then. Only this time he was submitting to those desires of his own free will.
Long fingers that he had once known so well carded through his hair, coming to rest as they cradled the back of his head. The illusion of care they gave was so strong, it almost made Daniel cry out, shove Martin away and run for the door. Almost.
"You know what I want, Danny."
Simple words, uttered plainly. A universe of desire expressed within them, all of it dark and twisted.
Daniel nodded once more, unable or unwilling to meet the other man's eyes as he began to kneel.
He was out of the car almost before the other man's jeep had drawn to a halt in the driveway, crossing the road in a half-lope that covered the distance easily.
The man turned, frowning.
"Who the hell are you?"
Half-smiling to himself, he reached into his jacket pocket to pull out his identification. Something in the way the other man tensed spoke of long years in the military, the wariness that only active service brings.
He forced himself to move slowly, carefully.
"Richard Buchanan, Colonel. I represent Mitchell, Butler and Pike, Attorneys at Law."
Buchanan smiled to himself. This was definitely the man - everything about him fit.
"And if you're Colonel Jack O'Neill," he continued, "we need to talk..."
Afterwards, as he leaned wearily against his desk, Daniel watched Colonel Martin leave his office without looking back. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, Daniel considered the deal he had entered into. He had heard the term 'making a deal with the devil' many times, but now, Daniel realized bitterly, he understood exactly how that felt.
What the hell was I thinking? And can I trust him? Daniel moved back to his chair and sank into its embrace. Like I have a choice... he thought bitterly, resting his elbows on the desk, his hands coming up to cradle his head as he shook with silent tears. Like I ever had a choice....
Jack stood on the doorstep, watching Buchanan drive away, a heavy white envelope held forgotten in his hand.
He had known it would happen one day. It had to. No-one lived forever, after all. But why now?
Turning back into the house, Jack glanced down at the envelope. It was addressed to him, the type on the front cold and black. 'Colonel Jack O'Neill' the only words.
At last, he thought, it took me a lifetime to get him to accept that I didn't want to share his name.
He knew what was inside the envelope, or could at least hazard a guess. And he wanted nothing to do with it. It was enough that he was dead, without everything that followed. How could he lay claim to everything that he had walked away from as a teenager anyway? He had made his choice, Jack remembered his father saying once - he had made his bed and now he had to lie in it.
Yeah, dad, Jack thought bitterly. Words to live by....
Jack watched Daniel across the briefing room table, taking in the haunted expression that the other man was trying so hard to hide. It had taken a while, but he was beginning to be able to decipher Daniel's changes of expression, the little looks and glances that said as much as Daniel's actual words. It had been hard work, but a worthwhile use of his time.
And Jack had to think that Daniel choosing to sit over there, as far from the colonel as he could, was of some significance. There was nothing casual to Daniel's behaviour, Jack had realized after a month or two - even if there was no obvious reason for the things he did, then there was a subconscious one. If nothing else, Daniel was more predictable than he might like to think.
Everything he knew of Daniel told him that the other man was in some kind of pain. But what was going on? And why now?
His thoughts turned to the envelope that waited for him at home, still unopened. Like he needed any more aggravation. Like life wasn't already complicated enough just coming to work every day.
This time she bumped into Lieutenant Forrest in the women's locker room. Hammond kept promising that a refit was due, to give a number of the SG teams their own space, but Carter wasn't holding out much hope that plan would make its way through military red tape any time soon.
Still, there weren't many women in the SGC, so when they did get the locker room to themselves, it wasn't all that crowded.
So much so, in fact, that Carter hadn't realised she wasn't the sole occupant for a moment, till Forrest appeared from the direction of the showers.
"Lieutenant," Carter said, nodding at her.
Forrest hesitated, even despite the years of communal changing that she must have experienced to reach her current rank. One hand clutched the towel that covered her torso, knuckles white.
"I don't bite," Carter said, smiling up at her from where she had sat down to unlace her boots.
It was then that she noticed the bruises. Yellowing, on their way towards nothingness, but still clear on Forrest's pale skin, standing out starkly against the whiteness of her upper arm. Looking just like finger marks.
Bruises themselves were nothing unexpected - there weren't many missions where Carter didn't discover some mark or other on her body when they got back to base. And some people bruised more easily than others. But this was different. Anyway, SG-6 had no recent off-world time to explain these marks away, no training exercises either, that she knew of.
Forrest was drying herself now, as far away from where Carter sat as the locker room allowed. She looked for all the world as if she wished she could just merge in with the surroundings, make herself invisible.
That response headed off the direct approach. Questions would just make her clam up, Carter decided. But something was clearly wrong, something more than a lieutenant not looking after herself, like Janet had thought.
As she toed off her second boot, Carter wondered just what it was like for Forrest. When she had arrived, she'd been something of a novelty, but at least she had her Pentagon reputation and her PhD to fall back on. And the support of a team of which she felt very much a member.
What was there for women like Forrest? The USAF wasn't always the most supportive organisation going in the first place and a C.O.'s attitude made all the difference. For all his faults, Colonel O'Neill was a fair commander, judging people first and foremost by their ability to do the job.
She knew nothing about Colonel Martin, Carter realised, as she continued to strip. Nothing other than that he was a charming conversationalist. But she, of all people, should know that being charming wasn't always all it was cracked up to be.
This time, when Martin arrived in Daniel's office, Daniel had been expecting him for quite a while. Putting his work to one side with a sigh, he looked up at the other man, taking in the possessive look, so familiar to him from days long gone, with which Martin gazed at him.
Don't pretend this is something I want to be any part of, Daniel thought bitterly.
Martin frowned at Daniel's response, the cold defiance running through the heart of the single word he had spoken.
"You know why I'm here."
Daniel nodded, taking off his glasses and running his hand over his face with a tired gesture. There was silence for a long moment - neither man moved.
"Well?" Martin said, finally.
Reluctance clear in every movement, Daniel stood, one hand placing his almost-forgotten glasses on the cluttered surface of his desk. Martin stood his ground, making Daniel come to him. When Daniel was within reach, his hand snaked out, sudden, fingers gripping Daniel's hair a little too tightly, pulling a gasp from the archaeologist as his head was yanked towards Martin.
"Don't forget our little bargain, Danny." Martin spat the words into Daniel's face, his eyes cold. "You know who's in charge..."
Within the small movement the iron grip on his hair allowed, Daniel nodded, his eyes dropping. He felt the strength of that grip with every movement he made, not lessening even as he tried to kneel, a prelude to giving Martin what he wanted.
Daniel's stomach rolled, churning in a slow and lazy way, as he contemplated what was being demanded of him. Taking a deep breath to suppress the bile that was rising, Daniel closed his eyes.
The door opened.
Jack took in the tableau in a glance, Daniel kneeling at Martin's feet, one of the colonel's hands seeming to rest casually on the other man's head, entwined in Daniel's hair. Daniel's hand was frozen in place, his fingers resting on the buckle of Martin's belt.
And Daniel's face....
Daniel's face was rigid, emotionless, all life driven away from it except for that which burned so brightly in his eyes. Eyes full of self-loathing, regret and pain so real that it sucked a breath from Jack before he realised it.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Martin?" Jack snapped, his voice cold, full of barely contained fury.
"What business is it of yours, Colonel?" Martin replied, barely glancing at Jack.
Jack could see Daniel's face, which was pale and set, even as the other man evaded his glance. Daniel was shaking slightly, the finest of tremors, as he struggled back to his feet, but Jack felt them as surely as if he experienced them himself. As he stood, Daniel shook himself free of the hold that Martin had on his hair, backing away without looking at either man.
"You know the regulations, Martin, and even if you didn't, I'm making it my business," Jack said tersely, without taking his eyes off Martin. "I suggest you leave Dr. Jackson alone unless you want to deal with me."
Martin's look was longer this time, but scornful, raking Jack from head to toe. A slight smile appeared on his face as he looked at the older man, before he turned briefly back to the archaeologist.
"We'll finish this later, Danny," Martin drawled, the smile stronger now, before turning his back on the two of them and walking away.
"You okay, Daniel?" Jack asked, crossing to where his friend was standing. Daniel was gaping at the departing back of Martin, as if he couldn't believe that the man had left. "Daniel?"
"Huh? Oh... yes, I'm fine," Daniel replied, his voice shaking slightly. "I'm not sure that was such a good idea, Jack."
"What? Getting rid of Martin?"
Jack's eyes were intent on Daniel's face, which was still far paler than he liked. His mind screamed to him about what he had seen, a voice which Jack suppressed, pushing it to the back of his thoughts with every ounce of willpower he could muster.
"You don't know what he's like, Jack," Daniel muttered. "He's crazy..."
"He must be if he thinks he can get away with hassling you when I'm around," Jack replied. "He could be up on charges before he knows it." He paused, as if considering something. When Jack spoke again, his voice was softer, more tentative. "What you do on your own time..." The words died in Jack's mouth. "You need to be more careful, Daniel."
"You think I...?" Daniel began, seemingly to himself. Then his tone changed. "What makes you think I need your protection, Jack? I was dealing with it..."
Daniel's voice had become glacial, with a sharp edge to it. His lips hardened to a single line and he looked at Jack intently, his eyes crystalline.
"Wha...?" Jack asked, taken aback by the change of topic. "What was I supposed to do? You call that 'dealing with it'? If the guy was harassing you, then press charges."
Daniel shot him a glance, the sharpness of it cutting off any more words before Jack could speak them.
"I can look after myself, Jack," Daniel stated, his voice still flat and emotionless. "I'm not a child. And I'll deal with this. My way."
"We're friends, Daniel. Friends look out for one another."
Daniel sighed, as if tired with the way the conversation was going. His head dropped slightly, and some of the coldness left his eyes, to be replaced by an emotion that resembled despair.
"I can look after myself," he repeated, his voice shaking again. As he spoke, Daniel's arms wrapped around himself, as if he needed them to hold himself together.
"You've not done a great job so far, Danny," Jack said, his voice equally quiet.
At the name, Daniel's head snapped up, the coldness returning to his eyes and voice.
"Don't call me that! Don't ever call me that again!"
"What?" Jack asked, bemused.
"My name is Daniel. Not Danny."
"Then talk to me, Daniel." Please, Jack thought, pleading silently with Daniel to finally trust him...
The words stayed with Jack long after the conversation had ended.
"No. And if you've ever trusted me, Jack, leave it alone. Please."
Their eyes had met for a moment, the pleading look in Daniel's face tearing at Jack's heart, breaking down whatever ability he had ever possessed to deny Daniel anything he wanted.
"I shouldn't. I know I'll regret it..."
Walking out of Daniel's office had been one of the hardest things Jack had ever done. Turning his back on the other man when he was so clearly in pain went against everything Jack was, but Daniel had effectively dismissed him, turning his back after the briefest of thanks.
As he walked back through the monotonous corridors to his own office, Jack mulled over what he had seen. Some part of his mind refused to believe it, refused to consider that Daniel would abase himself that way for anyone, let alone someone like Martin, a man he so clearly feared and disliked.
But what other interpretation could there be?
He knew he should have spoken more to Daniel about the regulations he had signed up to when he started working for the USAF, about 'don't ask, don't tell', but there was something more to this, Jack sensed. More than he had already seen, more than he already knew.
And the fact that he was Daniel's friend, as well as technically his commanding officer, had made those straightforward words stick in his throat, unspoken. He should have urged Daniel to press charges, pushed him to file a formal complain against Martin, even though Jack knew it wasn't likely Daniel would want to do that.
There was something about Daniel that drove Jack to want to protect him, even though he knew that Daniel was quite capable of looking after himself. Well, quite capable of doing so most of the time. It was just that this time, he had chosen a route that was ultimately self-destructive, that could only lead to his being kicked out of the employ of the USAF had anyone else walked in on him and Martin.
And that was something that puzzled Jack, because it was so alien to everything that he knew to be true of Daniel. This was his life's work, bound up here in the SGC, there was no way that he would throw it away over something trivial. There had to be another explanation. Something had happened in that office, between Daniel and Martin, something Jack couldn't quite put a name to.
And the most worrying thing of all? Something had stirred inside of him, a feeling that made it difficult to be objective. If Jack had to name it, then he would have had to call it 'jealousy' and that was just plain ridiculous.
He knew the truth now.
As he paced the corridors of the SGC, Colonel Martin cursed at his own failure to see what was there before his eyes all along. He should have seen it as soon as he saw the two of them together their casual familiarity, the tolerant relationship that existed between the two of them. Why else would a hardened military man like O'Neill put up with a weakling like Daniel Jackson?
Martin knew from his own experience how Daniel was, the easy way he seemed to have with people at times, but that he would flaunt his relationship with O'Neill in front of him in this way....
They had made a deal, but Daniel had clearly broken it, by word or by deed. Which meant that all agreements between them meant nothing now, except for what he could gain by their apparent observance.
It was clear to him now. If there could ever be a chance that things could go back to how they were, how they were meant to be, Jack O'Neill would have to be taken care of. Permanently.
It mocked him. Lying there on the coffee table, so innocuous- looking, just paper, ink and glue, and still the envelope and its contents mocked him.
Jack leant forward and picked it up, weighing it in his hands.
How could it hurt to open it?
Had he said that out loud? Since when had he started talking to himself? That was Daniel's province - maybe he'd been hanging round with the guy too long, if that whole chewing-stuff-over-out-loud routine was starting to rub off on him?
Jack stared at the type again, as if he somehow expected it to change, letters morphing to form a different name altogether, but without success. Turning it over, he slid one thumb under the edge and began to open it.
"Sit down, Colonel, SG-1," Hammond replied, gesturing towards the seat nearest him as he absently shuffled through a pile of reports.
Jack took the seat indicated, the one he usually occupied during briefings. Across from him, his face as calm as if he had never harbored a moment's evil thought, was Colonel Martin. The seating arrangements had ensured that SG-6 sat on one side of the long table in the briefing room, with SG-1 arrayed along the other.
Daniel had hesitated at the doorway, allowing Jack and Carter to pass him, when he had seen Martin sitting there so calmly. This was the moment he had feared for so long as long as he only had to deal with Martin in the relative privacy of his own office, things were okay, sort of....
As he had allowed Sam to overtake him, Daniel found himself third along the side of the table, sitting between Sam and Teal'c. At least this way he did not have to try and avoid Martin's gaze. He glanced towards the general a little reluctantly, seeing the tension in Jack's shoulders where he was sitting,gazing implacably at Martin.
What is he thinking? Daniel wondered, as a sudden cold feeling of foreboding gripped his heart. He must have realized what was happening between us when I wouldn't agree to press charges.
Daniel felt his face redden at that thought, as the full weight of it struck him for the first time. He glanced between Jack and Martin, uncertain what he saw in the faces of either man.
To say that the idea of going on a joint mission with SG-6 rankled with Jack would be an understatement.
The last thing he wanted was to have to deal in a civil manner with the man he had seen taking some kind of advantage of Daniel. Even as he laced his boots, pulling the laces a little too tight in his irritation at the situation, it took all Jack's years of practicing self-control to not go right over to SG-6's locker room and give the colonel a taste of his own medicine, to humiliate him like he had humiliated Daniel.
But that wouldn't help, would it? All that would mean is that I'm no better than he is. And I have to be, don't I?
The thought that he could be so consumed by rage, that the very thought of someone humiliating Daniel had now become enough to make him almost ready to throw away everything for which he had worked so hard, stunned Jack a little.
What is it with me? he wondered.
And that was without considering the sexual side of the little scenario he had walked in on. There had been humiliation involved in what was going on, that was true, but it had also been immediately and painfully clear to Jack, no matter how much he might deny it to himself, that Daniel was being coerced somehow.
The look on the archaeologist's face had spoken eloquently of his own distaste, his own reluctance to do what he was doing.
Yet the thought of Daniel like that, on his knees, sent a burst of heat through Jack, making him shiver slightly at its intensity. Did that really mean he wanted the same from Daniel that Martin did?
I just wish I knew what I do want, Jack thought, patting down his fatigues pockets as he left the locker room. Maybe, just maybe, I could talk to Daniel some time, and then see what happens between us....
There was a deceptive calmness between the two commanding officers. Outwardly, Martin deferred to Jack, allowing him to take the lead by virtue of his years of experience. And maybe if Jack hadn't walked in on the two men the other day, hadn't seen the way that Daniel looked as though he wished he could walk through walls like the Tollan in order to escape from Martin, that deference might have borne fruit.
But Jack had seen what he had seen in Daniel's office, felt the hostility between the two men despite the apparent intimacy of what he had witnessed, so he was left with no doubt at all that there was more between the two men than met the eye. More than a straightforward interpretation of the regulations would take into account, that much was certain. So how could he reconcile that tension with the affable way that Martin was behaving towards him now?
Does Martin really think I'll be taken in so easily? Jack wondered, his eyes flicking across to where Martin was in conversation with a member of SG-6. I walked in on the two of them together, yet he's acting like he doesn't have a care in the world.
Despite what the MALP's transmissions had shown, SG-1 and SG-6 stepped straight into the middle of hell. What seemed at first sight like a peaceful planet was in fact a Goa'uld stronghold, leading both teams to conduct a running battle through tangled knots of trees in a desperate attempt to return to the 'Gate and escape.
Jack had been running through the forest, at a pace just short of headlong, when the zat blast took him down. The familiar tingling crackle slammed into his side, sending him headfirst into a clump of undergrowth. Jack was unconscious before he hit the ground.
When he finally swam his way back to reality, Jack's hand fell upon his empty holster even as his eyes tried to focus on the man who stood over him. Instead of the Serpent Guard he had expected, something turned inside him when he saw that it was Colonel Martin.
Daniel's words, and the fear that lay behind them, came back to him: "You don't know what he's like, Jack. He's crazy..."
I'm sorry I doubted you, Daniel.
"Colonel O'Neill," Martin said coldly. "So good of you to join me."
Jack tried to move, to get up, anything to get away from the terrifying lack of emotion he saw in the darkness of the other man's eyes. Nothing worked properly, his arms and legs still spasming from the aftermath of the zat gun blast. His side ached too, a tell-tale feeling that reminded him of past broken ribs it had to be a distinct possibility that Martin had kicked him a couple of times while he was out.
As he shifted on the cold ground, hearing distant staff weapon blasts that reminded him that the running warfare was still going on, Jack knew that this had to be the case every indrawn breath was painful.
"Why... why are you doing this?" Jack asked, grinding the words out despite the pain that raced through him as he spoke.
Martin stared down at him for a moment in silence. Jack felt as though he was an organism being examined under a microscope, this man's eyes boring through him, as if considering his every thought.
"You really have no idea," Martin replied, his tone a little incredulous, "do you?" Jack did not reply, instinct telling him that the other man was not really looking for an answer. "Danny is mine. Somehow, you've taken control of him, turned him from me. But with you dead, nothing will stand in the way of Danny being where he's meant to be with me!"
"You're so full of shit, Martin, no wonder your eyes are brown."
Even as he said the words, Jack was surprised at them. Even with his hard-earned reputation for speaking before thinking, this had to be a classic.
Yeah, you've got him right where you want him now, Jack.
"Any last requests before I kill you, O'Neill?" Martin asked, gazing down at him, clearly unmoved by Jack's words.
Jack felt as though he had been struck again. Daniel had been right, like so many times before, giving him a warning that he had disdained at the time. Who would know better than Daniel Jackson what this man was capable of?
"It's not like that between Daniel and me," Jack said, deciding to ignore the death threat. "We're friends, that's all."
"Don't try to lie to me, O'Neill!" Martin snapped, taking a step closer to where Jack lay. "I've seen the way you look at Danny and I've seen the way he looks at you as well."
Jack shook his head, realizing then that there were no words that would be able to get through to Martin now. And it wasn't as if the other man, crazy as he so obviously was, wasn't somewhere close to the truth about how Jack felt concerning Daniel.
If only that were true - if only Daniel had ever given any sign that he felt the same way, that he felt anything more than friendship towards Jack.
Taking a deep breath, even as he winced at the pain that shot through his side, Jack decided to try another approach.
"And you think killing me will change anything?" he asked, his voice mocking. "You're too late, Martin. Daniel is mine now."
Even as Jack spoke the words, a pang of sadness echoed through him, a feeling of wishing that was indeed the case, that the things Martin had said about Daniel were something other than a madman's ranting. But Daniel had never given him any indication that this was how he felt.
All that time wasted. All that time when the two of them could have been together, could have tried to have some kind of relationship beyond what they already had. And now Daniel would never know that there was some degree of truth to the things that Martin was accusing him of. He would never know that Jack had wanted more than he had, even though he had always been grateful just for how things were between him and Daniel as well. That the archaeologist was even able to be his friend, despite the number of times that Jack had opened his mouth only to put Daniel down.
Martin was about to reply when movement behind him made him stiffen slightly, turning to see who was there. Jack's breath caught in his throat when the bushes parted and the last person he wanted to see at this moment was revealed.
Daniel, Jack thought. Your timing really sucks.
"What the...what the hell did you do?" Daniel snapped at Martin, even as he was crossing the small clearing in a couple of steps to where Jack lay.
"Get out of here, Daniel," Jack muttered, just loud enough for the archaeologist to hear. Daniel turned his attention to Jack for a moment, just long enough to glare at him, then back to Martin.
"Why?" Martin almost wailed the word, the hand that had been holding the zat gun so steadily in Jack's direction starting to waver slightly. "Why, Danny?"
"I don't believe this," Daniel retorted angrily, ignoring Martin's question. "How could you even think you could attack another member of the SGC and get away with it?"
"You... you've betrayed me, Danny," Martin said. It was as if Daniel had never spoken. "And you did it with him." He indicated Jack with a motion of the zat gun. "Why him and not me?"
"I've done nothing of the sort," Daniel said. He had to do something - he couldn't let Martin get away with this. He began inching closer to the other man, moving slowly round to place himself between Martin and his intended target.
"Then why aren't things like they used to be between us?"
"Because of what you did," Daniel replied. "Whatever there was between us, James, whatever there might have been, you were the one who destroyed it."
Even as he spoke, Daniel could feel the emotions that always rose within him when he was facing Martin. The fear was almost overwhelming, grabbing at him like a cold hand only his fear for Jack's safety was greater, beating back the waves of terror that threatened to make him sob like a child.
"But why him?" Martin repeated. "What's so special about him? We're so alike it hurts, your precious colonel and myself."
Daniel felt himself stiffen at those words, his body reacting to them and rejecting them as surely as his mind did. Without another thought, he found himself stalking over to where Martin was standing. Jack would probably yell at him for doing this, Daniel realised, if they both survived, but there was no time to consider that now.
"He is nothing like you," Daniel snarled, his hand coming up swiftly to wrap around the zat gun, pushing it to one side.
Was it shock that stayed Martin's hand for a moment? Whatever it was, it took a fraction of a second for Daniel's defiance to sink in. Martin's eyes widened as surprise overtook him. With an incoherent cry of rage, Martin tried to tear the zat gun away from Daniel's grip, stepping back to try and overbalance the archaeologist.
Daniel stumbled slightly as he went forwards with the sudden movement, his other hand coming up to wrap around the zat gun and Martin's steely grip upon it. That movement pulled the zat between them, as the two men tussled for its possession. Daniel felt the familiar electric buzz hit him, before he tumbled into darkness, wondering if he would ever surface.
What the hell was he doing?
The words that Jack wanted to yell stuck in his throat. The moment was too tense for mere words, the delicate balance between Daniel and Martin too poised on a razor's edge. One distraction could send it tumbling the very way Jack feared the most, so he bit back the words, saving his strength for cursing his own state.
He'd walked into the ambush like a raw recruit, not taking Daniel's warning seriously enough. He should count himself more than lucky if they both walked out of here, Jack told himself, as he watched Daniel and Martin struggle for the zat gun. He held his breath as the familiar sound ripped through the clearing, once, twice.
Jack closed his eyes, not wanting to see Daniel slump to the ground, biting his lip as he waited for the colonel to come and send him to follow his friend into death.
"Oh my God. I... I killed him."
Jack's eyes snapped open at the voice he had never expected to hear again, just in time to see Daniel fall to his knees, head resting in his hands as he moaned wordlessly. Daniel's face paled dramatically, the zat gun falling from a suddenly nerveless hand to land with a soft thud on the leaf-strewn ground.
"Daniel," Jack croaked, his voice uncertain.
It took a moment before Daniel's head rose again, his colorless face turning towards Jack. Jack sucked in a breath at the look on the archaeologist's face, the sheer pallor of it. His eyes were huge behind the lens of his glasses. Daniel's mouth moved, but no sound came from it.
Memories of lying there helpless to intervene, watching the macabre struggle between the two men, before the zat gun sparked twice, played through Jack's mind on an endless loop. Stifling a groan, Jack rolled onto his side, his hand stretching out in search of the discarded zat. He could not take his eyes off Daniel's face, mesmerized by the distress displayed there Jack felt his fingers brush the still-warm material of the zat gun, before they curled around it with the familiarity of regular handling.
"Daniel. We've got to get out of here..."
"I killed him," Daniel said, again. "Jack. I killed him." Jack nodded, his eyes going past Daniel to where Martin's body lay. "I killed him..." As he spoke the words once more, Daniel's hand came up to cover his mouth and he turned away, retching slightly.
"Daniel!" Jack snapped, his need to get through to the other man taking over from his concern for Daniel's immediate well being. Daniel turned back to him then, his face still drained of all color but now full of distress. "Help me up," Jack continued, in a quieter tone.
Obediently, Daniel crossed the clearing to where Jack was, giving him a hand up and half-supporting his weight as he stood.
"Don't argue with me about this." He saw Daniel's eyes widen in confusion for a moment as he spoke. He crossed to where Martin's body lay, rummaging for a moment among his clothing until he was able to remove the other man's dogtags. Then, with a shaky hand, Jack raised the zat gun, aiming it at Martin's body. Before Daniel's gaze could return to it, from where it had been resting pensively on Jack's face, the colonel's body had disintegrated.
"I said, no arguments. It wouldn't be right to leave him here and it's going to be difficult enough for us to make it back to the 'Gate."
Jack began to gather up his equipment, most of which was piled in an untidy heap at the foot of a nearby tree Martin had obviously thought that stripping him of his weaponry would be enough to make sure that he could do exactly as he pleased.
Well, he's not the first person to underestimate Daniel, and he probably won't be the last.
As he passed the strap for his MP5 over his head, feeling the reassuring weight settle on his shoulders once more, Jack glanced round at the man who was the subject of his thoughts. Sure enough, Daniel was still standing where he had left him, now staring at the spot where Martin's body had lain, arms wrapped around himself.
"Come on, Daniel," Jack said, snagging the other man's sleeve and pulling at it gently. "Let's go. We'll have time to argue about what I did when we get back."
Sam's voice was relieved as she covered the short distance between the tree line and the DHD. Jack's head had snapped around as he heard movement through the trees, bringing his MP5 round to bear on the newcomers. Behind him, Jack could hear the 'Gate turning, making that reassuring heavy clunking sound as each of the chevrons in turn engaged.
"Carter. Any sign of SG-6?"
"They..." Sam hesitated. Jack eyed her, guessing that he likely knew what she was about to say. "They left earlier, sir."
"And you two stayed behind to look for me and Daniel," Jack said, his inflection turning what might have been a question into an unanswerable statement.
Sam's slightly guilty smile was enough answer.
"And to look for Colonel Martin, sir," Sam continued. "There's no sign of him."
"He's dead, Major," Jack said flatly, as he turned to watch the wormhole form. No matter how many times he saw that happen, it was always a source of wonder to him so much power erupting from the 'Gate in such a controlled way.
"I saw him die." Jack gestured to Daniel to lead the way into the event horizon. "No doubt about it."
Daniel's face was still pale as he glanced round at the others, his eyes lingering on Jack for a moment longer than normal. He nodded as if to himself, one curt movement, before heading up the steps and running through the liquid surface of the wormhole.
How could Jack treat this so calmly?
He couldn't forget the expression on Martin's face, the last look of surprise and anger and a hint of scorn. The certainty that Daniel could do nothing to stop him, that, as usual, he would get his own way, had been the last thing that Martin had ever thought. He couldn't have been more wrong.
Of course, Jack had been through this kind of thing before, Daniel told himself, as he walked down the ramp and handed his pack to a waiting airman. He had to have killed people at close range, seen the light of life extinguish in their eyes.
Suddenly a hot shower seemed like a very good idea.
By the time Jack had left the general's office, having reported to him the death of Colonel Martin, Daniel was long gone. It had been difficult for Jack to lie to Hammond his every instinct had told him that he could trust the general, but it was not his choice to make. He, after all, had not been the one who had been wrestling with Martin at the time the zat gun had discharged. Had that been the case, Jack might have considered telling Hammond everything, and trusting in the other man's inherent sense of justice that everything would all work out.
But, try as he might, Jack could not bring himself to tell Hammond how much Daniel had been involved, the role that the archaeologist had played in this untimely death. In fact, he had not even mentioned that Daniel had been anywhere in the vicinity when Martin had been killed. So, in order to cover both their backs, Jack now desperately needed to speak with Daniel, to ensure that both their versions of events matched.
And maybe he could get some kind of answer from Daniel now, some kind of explanation for what the hell was going on between him and Martin.
Yeah, that's if Daniel will even talk to you...
This time, when she pushed open the locker room door, Carter found herself face to face with Forrest. They both stood for a moment, as if frozen, then the lieutenant backed away, letting Carter in.
"Any news, sir?" Forrest asked, her voice sharp with worry.
"I'm sorry, lieutenant," Carter began, wondering just how you told someone this kind of thing on a regular basis.
Some expression flicked across Forrest's face and was gone before Carter could fully identify it. If she hadn't known Martin was Forrest's C.O. she would have said it was pleasure, but that had to be wrong.
"Colonel O'Neill said so."
Silence fell between them as Carter searched for the right words to express her sympathy.
"I should go," Forrest said, moving towards the door. "My team..."
Carter nodded and let her leave.
It took a while before Daniel opened the door to his apartment, despite the way that Jack had been pounding on it. One look at his face was enough to tell Jack that Daniel had been sick again. The fact that Daniel would not even meet his eyes was a source of concern too.
"I've been expecting you," Daniel said, stepping back to allow Jack to enter the apartment. "In fact, I thought you'd have been here long before now."
"I had to stop off and see Hammond," Jack answered, not missing the tiny wince that Daniel made when he mentioned the general's name. It was clear that Daniel had immediately discerned the reason for that visit.
"What did you tell him? And when should I expect the MPs?"
Jack sighed, seeing the dejected slump of Daniel's shoulders as he followed the other man into the living room.
"I couldn't tell him what happened, Daniel. How could I? Without implicating you, without making him start to think about stuff that he's better off not knowing about..."
"I killed him," Daniel said, sinking into the embrace of an overstuffed armchair. "I'm responsible for the death of James Martin, and I should pay for that."
As he spoke, Daniel pulled one of the cushions from behind himself, hugging it to his stomach tightly.
"More than you've already paid?" Jack snapped, the words coming before he could stop them. "For God's sake, Daniel, he could have killed you. And if not you, then me. Martin was going to kill me. No doubt about it."
Daniel shook his head.
"That doesn't make it right, Jack. How can I ever forget what I've done? Martin was right. I've changed. And part of that change is the fact that I can kill someone now without a second thought."
"What do you mean, he said you'd changed?" Jack asked. "Daniel, you were throwing your guts up back in that clearing and even now you look like you want to run away and hide. If this is how you react when you don't care, I'd hate to see you worried!"
"You don't understand, Jack..."
"Then make me understand, Daniel." Jack took a seat on the coffee table directly in front of the other man. "Explain it to me. Tell me about this guy, who he was to you..."
"I... I'm glad he's dead."
Daniel spoke without looking up, his voice so quiet that Jack had to lean forward to hear the words at all. Jack let out a sigh at those muttered words, feeling that now that he was getting nearer to the crux of the matter.
"Today I killed a man, Jack. I mean, I've done it before, I killed Serpent Guards on Apophis' ship, stuff like that, but never anyone who had a name, never anyone I knew."
As Daniel spoke, his eyes were focussed only on the rapid movement of his fingers, as they methodically twisted and untwisted a piece of thread hanging from a cushion he was clutching to himself. Jack nodded, even though he knew Daniel could not see it, wanting, needing Daniel to go on, to get all of this out in the open. Then, at least, the two of them might be able to deal with it, together.
"And all I could think of was Kawalsky. How you had to give the order that meant he died. That's kind of dumb, isn't it?" Daniel looked up this time, his eyes clouded with confusion. "I mean, there I am having killed a man, and I can't stop thinking how you must have felt at that moment. And I never gave it any thought before now."
Jack was mesmerized, seeing the raw pain so clearly in Daniel's eyes.
"I don't think it's dumb at all," Jack said quietly, not even sure if Daniel heard him speak.
"Is it different when you don't know who they are, Jack? When you don't know that they have a brother who lives in New York, that they only drink diet soda, that they won't eat pepperoni?"
"What do you want me to say, Daniel?" Jack asked, leaning forward. "That you shouldn't care? That it doesn't matter that you killed someone? Can't do it. Not even for you."
"I'd have thought you'd had lots of practice," Daniel snapped. "After all, aren't you Mr. Covert Ops? The man who knows where all the bodies are buried?"
Daniel's words ground to a halt as he saw Jack's face pale at his words.
"Let's cut to the chase here," Jack said, his voice cold and unsympathetic now. "Who was this Martin? How did he know you? What the hell was going on between the two of you?"
"I can't tell you," Daniel said, looking down again.
Jack paused, considering the bowed head before him.
"You're gonna have to some time, Daniel," Jack continued. "And till you can do that, you're off the team." Jack saw Daniel tense at those words. "I can't trust you if I don't know what's been going on behind my back."
Jack got up and headed for the door. He glanced back as he reached it, seeing Daniel still curled up in the chair, his arms still wrapped round the cushion in a comforting embrace.
"When you're ready to tell me the truth, you know where to find me..."
Daniel let out his breath in a hiss as the apartment door closed behind Jack. That conversation hadn't gone quite as he had hoped or expected. He'd wanted to explain, to give Jack the information he wanted, but all that had come from his mouth was bitterness, the fear and anger he had felt towards Martin now aimed at Jack, of all people the least deserving to be a target.
He didn't know where to start, though. How to tell Jack what he so clearly wanted to know, explain the twisted relationship, fear and sex entwined, that had bound him to Martin when they were together. How could he expect Jack to understand that without being repulsed by anyone who could allow themselves to be used as Daniel now knew he had been?
But even without knowing where to start to explain himself, Daniel had never expected to be pushed away like this. Being part of SG-1 had been so important to him for such a long time that even the thought of a temporary separation left Daniel feeling numb.
And how would Jack explain it to the others? There could be no easy way for him to tell Sam and Teal'c, let alone Hammond, why they were suddenly down a team member.
Daniel shoved the cushion he had been holding back onto the couch, crossing over to the window. In silence, he watched the sky darken, the lights of the surrounding buildings coming on, as night fell.
Jack was right, he knew that, the secrecy that lay between them was ultimately destructive. If he had listened to his instincts, not allowed himself to be cowed by Martin once more, Daniel would have confided in Jack. He wanted to believe that he would somehow have found the words, that Jack would have listened patiently and then somehow made everything better.
As he leaned against the window, staring out at the lights, Daniel knew that notion for the fantasy it was. But if it was a fantasy, at least it was a comforting one - he had a feeling he would need all the comfort he could find in the days to come.
In hindsight, Jack was proud of himself. He had felt so much anger, anger that should rightly have been directed at Martin, but the true villain of the piece was no longer here to receive it. And somehow Jack had managed not to vent that rage on Daniel, even though it hadn't been easy to hold back at times.
There was more going on that he knew, that was certain. Daniel was so much like an iceberg at times - just when you thought you knew all there was to know, you'd discover so much more below the surface, waiting to catch you unawares.
All Jack knew was that he had been denied the opportunity of pounding Martin into a pulp, and that, had the rest of the SGC discovered whatever twisted thing was going on between Martin and Daniel, a good proportion of them would have been forming an orderly line right behind him for the same privilege.
But that retribution had been denied to all of them. The only person who might be considered to have had some kind of revenge on Martin, for the things he had made him do, let alone all the as-yet-unknown deeds of the past, was Daniel. And Daniel, true to himself, was suffering for it.
As he got back into his jeep, Jack rested his forehead on the steering wheel for a moment. Then, when he started the motor, instead of heading back home, he headed back towards the SGC.
His thoughts were whirling furiously, all the emotion he was feeling becoming confused together. Jack's hands shook slightly on the steering wheel and he made himself grip it a little harder, watching the way his skin paled over the knuckles.
Too much, he thought. All this stuff, too much to deal with. My dad, that sleazebag Martin. Why now?
What he needed was to burn off this adrenaline, get rid of the overwhelming anger that was threatening to erupt at any moment. And if it took imagining Martin's face on the heavy bag, or his dad's, as he beat the hell out of it, well, that might just be a plan...
Heaven knows he didn't want to have this conversation at work - hell, he didn't want to have it at all, but Jack knew that there was no alternative.
He was calmer this morning. The long workout of the night before, venting all that anger in a socially-acceptable way, had tired him enough to make the drive home impossible. Jack had slept on a lumpy bed in the guest quarters, a restless night that left him feeling almost as tired still when the morning had finally rolled around.
If ever he was going to find out what had happened between Martin and Daniel, Jack knew that the more he delayed things, the more evasive Daniel would become. Not that the other man would lie to him, but he'd make sure it was as difficult as possible to determine exactly what the truth was, given the opportunity.
In the end, Jack settled for heading to Daniel's office, the first words coming out of his mouth almost before the door had closed behind him, shutting the two of them in together.
"You knew him, didn't you? Before you joined the SGC, before you came along on our little trip to Abydos the first time round, even."
Jack made a conscious effort to try and keep the accusatory tone from his voice as he spoke, but the frown that appeared on Daniel's face as he looked round at the words was evidence that he had failed.
"It's not that easy, Jack."
"You couldn't just say 'hey, Jack, I know that sleazebag.'?"
The silence was eloquent, telling Jack everything he needed to know and all the things that he had feared. That Martin still had so much power over Daniel, even now, even when Jack knew the stubborn core that Daniel had to his very being. What must have happened between them, what hold did Martin have over Daniel to command that kind of response?
When Daniel finally spoke, his voice was barely above a whisper.
"I did know Martin. It was... well, it was a long time ago. I was 19, studying for my doctorate in anthropology I was on an exchange program, spending three months here in Colorado, at the University. One of the professors I had admired since I first started to study the subject was teaching there, and I had always wanted to hear her lecture. Even with my scholarship, I could never have afforded to go and hear her speak, not all the way from New York, so the program was a dream come true."
Jack did not respond, his mind enraptured by the images that trooped before it all he could do was wonder what a 19-year-old Daniel would have been like. Would he have seemed even more innocent than he had at the time when they had first met?
He remembered his first glimpse of Daniel, wondering that he hadn't realised at the time what a monumental role this man would play in his future. Jack had been so frozen inside, so much emotion stifled and suppressed, that he had almost resented the life that he had seen in Daniel's eyes.
As time had passed, he had realised that Daniel knew what loss was, how pain felt, but at the time, he had envied him his seeming innocence.
"I'd travelled a lot, as you know, Jack, so I thought I could look after myself I'd been living in New York for a while, so I guess that after that I thought I could cope with anything life could throw at me. I knew better soon, but I'm getting ahead of myself..."
"When I first met him, I would never have guessed that he was in the military. He had a short haircut, sure, but when he was in civilian clothing, you couldn't tell he was an Air Force officer I thought he was a student, like me. I suppose you could say he picked me up."
Jack was aware of Daniel glancing at him as he spoke, covert glances as he was ostensibly focussed on where his linked hands lay on the desk before him.
He's waiting for me to react, Jack thought, schooling his face into as deadpan an expression as possible. Seemingly heartened by his friend's lack of response, Daniel continued.
"I guess I should have told you a long time ago that I'm gay, Jack, but there never seemed to be a right time to say it now, after Sha're, everyone just assumes I'm straight. All that time I was in the closet, I never realized that getting married was the most effective way of hiding how..."
Daniel paused for a moment, shaking his head slightly.
"But I was telling you about James, wasn't I? He picked me up, in a cafe I was nursing a cup of coffee before the next lecture, wondering if I had time for another, when he just appeared, and that was it. I've never been someone who trusts other people easily, but there was something about him."
"He made no secret of his orientation, at least not on campus, and the next thing I knew we were going out. He was... all the things I needed at the time, he seemed so gentle, so caring then, after a few weeks, he asked me to move in with him, and I agreed. Looking back now, I can't believe I made it so easy for him."
Daniel ground to a halt, eyes still focussed on his hands, the fingers gripping each other tighter now, so tightly that the skin across his knuckles was white. Jack hesitated, unsure if he should say something, but also lost for anything to say that would be appropriate.
"But of course," Daniel began again, after a few moments silence, in a voice that trembled slightly, "I had no idea what I was letting myself in for."
"I need to know what happened between the two of you, Daniel," Jack said quietly. "What you tell me here is between us, I hope you know that. You're a civilian, so you're free to have been involved with whoever you like there'll be no comeback from anything you say to me. I just wish this wasn't all such a surprise."
"I know, Jack," Daniel said, his hands releasing their grip. One hand moved upwards, rubbing through Daniel's hair as if searching there for the words he wanted to say. "That doesn't make it any easier though I'm so ashamed of what happened."
There was silence between the two men for a moment. Jack hesitated, not wanting to speak in case he shattered this fragile moment of trust between them, driving Daniel back deeper inside himself.
"The last time I saw James Martin was the night he put me in the hospital," Daniel said, his voice quiet and steady, a chilling counterpoint to the images those words evoked.
"How bad?" Jack asked, the words almost choking him as he spoke. Daniel shook his head, silent. "From where I'm sitting, it doesn't sound as though you have much to be ashamed of, Daniel. You didn't ask him to treat you that way."
"No. But I stayed with him despite everything he did, despite everything that already happened. Doesn't that count for something? Doesn't that make me just as culpable as he is?"
"I can't say that I understand how you could do that, Daniel. You said he put you in the hospital. How could you believe he felt anything for you?"
"I feel differently now," Daniel said. "But back then.... You wouldn't have recognized me, Jack. I was so desperate for someone to care about me, to make me feel like I belonged somewhere, that I was prepared to put up with whatever it took to get that. And in this case, that was putting up with the beatings."
"Beatings?" Jack asked, color flooding into his face. "How many?"
"It's not as bad as it sounds." Daniel back-pedalled hastily, seeing the anger rising in Jack's face. "At first it was the odd blow now and then. He'd always be sorry, blame it on the stress he was under, but things between us just got worse and worse as time went on."
"Then what happened?" Jack asked, not certain that he wanted to hear the answer after all.
"He snapped." Daniel's voice was calm, measured. He surprised himself with its tone, listening to himself speak of the things that had happened as if recounting a tale of another person's life.
I'm not that person anymore, that's why. Those things happened to someone else that Daniel died on the first mission to Abydos.
"How badly..." Jack began, stumbling slightly over the words.
"He smashed my hand pretty severely, gave me a few rib fractures, a mild concussion." Daniel's fingers returned to trace the path they had been travelling earlier over the back of his hand as he spoke. "He said I paid more attention to my studies than I did to him. I was writing the foundation for what would later become my thesis, and word processors weren't common, so everything had to be done by hand initially. I'd never realized there were so many bones..."
"Why didn't you tell me, Daniel?" Jack interrupted, his voice angry. "As soon as you knew that Martin was here, you should have told me."
"What was I supposed to say, Jack? 'Hi, my name's Daniel Jackson, I think I'm gay, and by the way I used to live with a man whose idea of fun was knocking the hell out of me on a regular basis.' When was I supposed to tell you all of this anyway? When we first met? On Abydos? When we got back from Chulak? And if I couldn't tell you then, how could I tell you now?"
As Daniel's tirade continued, his voice began to shake and waver, until he was gasping for air, almost choking out the words.
"That's not what I meant, Daniel, but if I'd known what that son of a bitch had done. If you think I'd have let him anywhere near you knowing that..."
"Don't, Jack. I knew I shouldn't have said anything. It's too late now anyway. He's dead, it's over."
Bringing his hands up from where they had been resting on the desk, Daniel buried his head in them, long fingers threading through his hair.
"Dammit, Daniel," Jack said, a worried look on his face, "of course you could have said something. To someone, even if you couldn't have told me. But, I guess there's one good thing about this, at least, that you didn't tell Teal'c. If you had, and Martin had so much as looked at you in a way he didn't like, he'd have torn the guy's head off."
Jack paused, waiting for a reaction from Daniel.
For a few moments there was silence, the only movement in the room Daniel's busy fingers, still passing through his hair. Then, just when Jack began to worry that his plan had failed, Daniel's shoulders began to shake, first with laughter, a strange almost-hysterical noise that threatened to topple over into sobbing.
"D... don't..." Daniel stuttered, "I.. I..."
Moving with an instinctive reaction, Jack crouched beside the chair Daniel was occupying, reaching out a hand to his friend's shoulder.
"It's gonna be okay, Daniel, I promise," Jack said quietly, with all the conviction he could muster. "And you know I don't make promises unless I intend to keep them."
The effort of telling the truth had left Daniel feeling exhausted, as if someone had turned on a tap and all his energy had just drained away as he'd spoken. Jack's reaction had surprised him, he had to admit that. He had been ready for a variety of responses, once he had steeled himself to actually speak the words he had so long feared to say.
In hindsight, he supposed he should have realised Jack would be supportive, not wanting to add to the pain that Daniel knew he was struggling to hide. No matter what else he thought, his protective instincts would kick in, responding to the need Daniel never could quite mask. For all his verbal dexterity at times, Daniel was certain that Jack could see right through him, if he chose, straight to the heart of the matter.
It had taken a little while for Daniel to regain his composure, uncertain whether the least movement would send him back into laughter or tears, or a nasty combination of both. He hadn't felt quite so confused since the dark days when Sha're had first been taken.
His face burned with embarrassment. It didn't matter that Jack had certainly seen him worse, a particular encounter in a storage room still etched firmly in Daniel's memory as the time he'd fallen apart in the most spectacular fashion. Despite all that, he didn't like to lose control so badly - it unnerved him, as if the earth had suddenly bucked beneath his feet, throwing him off balance.
But Jack had seemed to take it all in his stride. That had to be a bad sign, in some ways. Like the calm before the storm.
Daniel turned back to his work, the mission report he had left partly completed, re-reading the sentence he had half-written before Jack's appearance.
He could do this, he could pull himself together and move on. He had to, or everything would spiral into nothingness.
Jack's words were calm, much calmer than he felt.
As he left Daniel's office, once he had been sure that Daniel was going to be okay, all he could think about was Martin and what that man had done to his friend. Try as he could, Jack couldn't understand how anyone could want to hurt Daniel, who was someone that always looked for the good in people. He was no soldier, he hated violence, and yet he had been on the receiving end of so much.
Why am I so angry? Jack wondered, as he stalked down the corridor. Daniel chose to get into that relationship.
Like she did?
A small voice in the back of Jack's mind spoke suddenly, making the colonel stop in his tracks. As he hesitated, not noticing the SGC staff detouring around him, his thoughts went back, back to one particular day in his own childhood.
It had rained that day.
His strongest memory was of the rain dripping from the trees, the grass around him already saturated, even as his raincoat was starting to let the water through.
He was eight years old.
In his own way, Jack had never understood what went on at home. All he knew was that mom and dad argued, and the shouting seemed to echo in his head long after it was over. This time though, the shouting had stopped suddenly, as though he had been watching TV and the set had been switched off.
The silence that followed was deafening, making the tiny noises that the house made seem like the whole world was moving.
The next thing Jack knew was that he was being hustled out of the house by one of his aunts, putting a coat on over his pajamas. It had taken all the persistence of an eight-year-old before he had been able to persuade her to let him take his favorite truck, but he had got his way in the end.
As he was half-dragged out of the house, moving slowly and unwillingly, he had seen the living room door was slightly ajar. Breaking free from his aunt's grip, Jack had darted into the room, in search of his parents, only to come up short when he saw her.
She was lying on the living room floor, her body mostly covered by a white sheet only her head was uncovered, tilted away from him as if she were deliberately ignoring her son's entrance into the room. Bruises, black and purple, stood out clearly on her face, as did the trickle of blood that had escaped from the pool that had formed under her head.
A man was taking photographs, flash in hand, snapping his mother, the position of the body in the room, the side of the fireplace she was lying beside.
It was his father's voice, coming from across the room, and Jack turned to look at him then, somehow tearing his eyes away from what he knew used to be his mother. His father was standing by the window, talking to a man wearing a long brown raincoat. The man had a notebook, and was flicking through it, noting the odd word now and again, with a bored expression on his face.
"For God's sake, Susanna," his father's voice said, "get the boy out of here!"
Unresisting now, Jack had let his hand be captured, let his aunt lead him away as the photographer draped the sheet back over his mother's face.
Jack remembered his mother's funeral, standing in the rain by her graveside. He was numb inside, frozen to the core. All the emotions he had ever experienced, all the life had been sucked from him the night he had seen his mother lying there on the living room floor.
At the time, he hadn't understood.
He had taken his father's word as gospel, like always. He had known that his parents fought as far as he knew all parents did. It was all he could remember happening between them, and somehow Jack knew it was related to the fact that he was an only child. And when his father said that his mother had been in an accident, Jack had believed him.
As time passed, he reflected on what had happened, with a child's wisdom and a growing sense of understanding. When Jack was a teenager, he knew that his father had lied. And now, it seemed as though everything was coming full circle. The letter from his father, the things he was learning about Daniel's past. Did anyone ever really escape the things they had been through?
She didn't ask to be treated that way, Jack thought. No-one would. And neither did Daniel.
It took two long days before Jack saw Daniel again. At work, it was clear that Daniel was avoiding him. At least the down time between missions meant that Jack didn't have to try and explain to Carter and Teal'c just why they were headed off-world as a threesome.
A hundred times Jack had reached for the phone, intending to call him, a dozen times he had found himself in his car, headed towards Daniel's apartment. Each time, it had been a struggle for Jack to let Daniel set the pace, not to force him to deal with something with which he obviously had a Major problem.
Not that he didn't have enough to think about himself. He'd read the letter from his father, putting it down and picking it up again a dozen times before he made it all the way through. The words stayed with him, pleading for a forgiveness Jack could never give, a forgiveness that could never be his to give.
All he could hope for his father was that he had found some measure of peace for himself, that he had forgiven himself. Jack knew he could never forgive, never forget.
When, finally, he heard someone tentatively opening his office door, Jack knew immediately who it was and it took as much willpower as he could muster not to turn to greet the man he had been so desperately longing to see.
"I told you that he was crazy," Daniel's voice said, from over by the doorway.
"If this is the start of an 'I told you so', I don't want to hear it," Jack replied, not looking up from the report that he was working on, albeit half-heartedly.
"No, not exactly. I've been thinking about what you said, Jack. As soon as I walked into that clearing I made my choice. There was no other way it could have gone down without one or both of us dying."
As he spoke, Daniel crossed to Jack's desk, until he stood by the side of it, casting a shadow over its lustrous surface. Jack hesitated, still looking down, knowing now that Daniel knew the report was merely something to keep him occupied so they didn't have to look at one another. He could see the nebulous shape of Daniel's face reflected in the polished wood, but it told him nothing.
"Are... are we okay, Jack?" Daniel asked, hesitantly, after a long moment of silence had passed. Jack glanced up when Daniel spoke, the tone on its own enough to intrigue him. "What I said..." Daniel continued, not meeting Jack's eyes.
"You were still in shock, Daniel."
"You were trying to help me. To get me to help myself. And I threw it back in your face."
Daniel looked at Jack then, an almost defiant lift to his chin.
"No." Jack watched as Daniel's eyebrows lifted at that denial. "Well, okay, you did."
Daniel half-smiled at that, a reaction that warmed Jack more than he cared to think about right then.
"I just have no idea why Martin was so obsessed about you. I mean, how could he have believed that you were some sort of rival for my affections?" Even as he spoke the words, Jack could hear the tension in Daniel's voice, the slight tremor of uncertainty in the words. "It's ridiculous, isn't it?" Jack didn't answer, looking back down at his half-written report again as Daniel spoke. "Jack?"
"Ridiculous," Jack echoed in agreement, momentarily glancing up, in the desperate hope that Daniel would just drop the subject and leave him the hell alone.
Was there a fractional hesitation in his voice or did something, some expression that crossed Jack's face in that instant, betray him? Jack saw Daniel's eyes widen in discovery and he knew then that there was no way back.
"He was right, wasn't he?" Jack said nothing, unsure whether the problem was that he could not find the words to deny it all or whether he even wanted to. "Martin knew, all the time. I never realized, and he knew." Daniel shook his head, an expression of disbelief clearly written on his face. "What do you want from me, Jack?"
"What do I...?" Jack began, before his voice trailed off. There was a moment's uncomfortable silence between them, each man lost in their thoughts.
Tell him, stupid, Jack thought. It's now or never.
"I just want to know if there's a chance..." he began again, berating himself mentally for the triteness of the words.
Daniel stifled a snort of laughter, but it was clear from his voice that he was close to tears as well.
"You're trying to tell me that you're attracted to me? That Martin was right about you all along?" Daniel asked, not daring to look at Jack as he spoke. All he feared was that he was wrong, that he would see mockery in those dark eyes he had so long wanted to see filled with other emotions. "Why now, Jack?"
"It's taken me a long time to figure it out, Daniel," Jack replied, surprised at the quietness of his own voice, almost too quiet to be heard over the constant buzz of the air-conditioning. "You know me, always a little slow on the uptake."
"All this time, you never give me any idea that you feel this way," Daniel said, "then someone from my past comes along and suddenly you're interested in me? Forgive me if that seems a little like common or garden jealousy to me. You can't just wake up one morning and decide that you want to change your sexual orientation, it just doesn't work like that!"
"Then what do you want me to say, Daniel? That I think I've been a little in love with you since the first time I saw you? That I used to watch the stars when I came back to Earth and you stayed behind on Abydos, and wonder what you were doing? That you've been the star player in my fantasies for the past year? Because all of those are true. I'm not kidding around here, I mean it!"
"Jack. I don't want you to say anything." Daniel sighed, one hand coming up to allow his fingers to travel through his hair. "I know you don't really..."
"Where do you get off, telling me what I feel?" Jack snapped.
"I'm sorry, Jack," Daniel replied quietly.
"I don't want to argue with you."
"So what do you want, Jack?" Daniel asked, his voice shaking slightly. "To tell me how you feel about me? Forgive me if I take a little convincing that this conversation is really happening."
"It took me a while too, Daniel," Jack replied. "I tried to deny it, tell myself that I was just glad we were friends, but that was never enough. I discovered that I couldn't stop thinking about you even if I was able to control my thoughts when I was awake, the moment I was asleep you were there with me."
"So, these revelations about your feelings for me, and the arrival of Colonel Martin, that was just a coincidence? And it has nothing to do with the fact you walked in on me on my knees?"
Daniel's voice was hard, the words brittle with suppressed emotion. Jack glanced across at his friend, searching for the feelings that lay behind the words, the feelings Daniel was trying so hard to hold in.
"I can't say Martin being here had no effect on me, Daniel," Jack conceded. "Even now, when I think about what that bastard did to you, I can't believe..."
"That I let him? That I did that?"
Jack was silent for a moment, just staring open-mouthed at his friend, struck by the anger in Daniel's voice.
"...that anyone would ever want to hurt you that badly."
Daniel looked back at him, his eyes cold, blue and unblinking; it was Jack who looked away first.
Someone had turned everything upside down, changed all the laws of nature, and no-one had told him. That was the only conclusion Daniel could come up with for what had just happened. Jack wanted him. Or so he said, at least. And what he had walked in on, what he had almost seen Daniel doing, had pushed every button Jack had and then some.
That in itself was something of a revelation.
He'd never really thought about what Jack might want - when he'd fantasised about being with Jack, Daniel had discovered that his usually-creative imagination didn't seem to want to cooperate. It was as if it took too much doing or that something short-circuited the thoughts before they became too explicit and Daniel was left feeling desolate and alone. Some kind of failsafe for his libido.
But, in this conversation at least, Jack had seemed to know the right thing to say every time. Just when Daniel felt himself getting worked up, the anger he should have felt towards Martin transforming itself into a weapon aimed at Jack, he had been able to defuse the tension between them. Somehow.
Not with pity, Daniel would never have tolerated that, but with a sympathy that couldn't be faked. A confusion on Jack's part over what motivation Martin could possibly have had that warmed Daniel to the core. That reminded him how different Jack and Martin were, despite what Martin had said so shortly before he died.
He'd been so wrong, more wrong than he could possibly imagine. There was so little that Jack and Martin had in common, so little that it didn't even bear thinking about.
And that was one of the reasons this just might all work out.
They had parted on relatively good terms this time, Daniel smiling in farewell at some comment of Jack's as he left Jack's office, but leaving some of the bitter words they had exchanged behind him as he departed.
It wasn't until Jack went home that he had time to think about what they had discussed, and the things that hadn't been touched upon, whatever secrets there were that had made Daniel go along with whatever Martin wanted him to.
Damn, Jack thought, sinking down into the embrace of his couch with a cold beer. Like that's a conversation I want to have any time this century.
But even as he tried to forget it, push it to the back of his mind and move along, Jack's mind worried at the thought like a dog with a bone. What on earth could have possessed Daniel to go along with Martin's plans? He had to know.
Now that he had thought of it, the sight of Daniel on his knees before the other man, hand reaching towards Martin's belt, was burned into his memory. He'd seen the expression on Daniel's face, the self- loathing clear for anyone to see. There was no way on earth that whatever happened between them in Daniel's office had been consensual.
Jack took a mouthful of beer and considered the guilty feeling that overtook him when his body responded to that memory. How sick was that, the way his body reacted to the memory of seeing Daniel humiliated that way?
Before he knew what was happening, the beer was standing on the coffee table, condensation running down its surface and pooling on the wood, and Jack was on his way to Daniel's apartment.
"Who else?" Jack answered, then mentally kicked himself at the flippant tone in his voice. "We need to talk." He pushed past Daniel and into the other man's apartment.
"Sure, Jack," Daniel muttered, closing the door. "Come on in, make yourself at home."
"What did you think you were doing?" Jack snapped, barely waiting for Daniel to get into the living room.
"Does that mean that you don't want a beer, Jack?"
Jack interrupted him, taking a step towards Daniel then pausing when he saw Daniel's instinctive move backwards. Jack took a couple of deep breaths to try and quell the anger rising within him.
It's Martin I'm angry with, not Daniel.
"Beer. Beer would be good."
Jack tried to make his tone more amicable, to put Daniel at some kind of ease. Ease would be a really good idea if this conversation was going to get anywhere at all.
"Take a seat, Jack," Daniel said, gesturing in the general direction of the couch.
Obediently, Jack sat, watching Daniel until he disappeared into the kitchen. He had to stay calm; getting angry with Daniel was a bad idea right now.
It didn't escape Jack's attention that, on his return to the living room, Daniel stood about as far away as possible from him while still being within reach to pass him his beer. As his hand wrapped round the bottle, their eyes met and Jack knew that he was looking for the fear he had seen in them earlier.
Daniel took a seat opposite, nursing a mug of coffee, his eyes on the steam rising from its dark surface.
"No beer?" Jack asked, after taking a swig from his bottle.
"At least one of us should be sober for this conversation, Jack," Daniel said, with a small grimace. "And as much as I wish it wasn't me, I only plan to say all of this once."
Jack took another mouthful of beer to cover his embarrassment. Once again it seemed as though Daniel was a few steps ahead of him, that he'd been expected.
"You told me about your history with Martin. But I need to know about the other day. When I... when you..."
"When you walked in on us as I was about to go down on him?" Daniel said, smiling slightly as Jack choked a little on a mouthful of beer. "You knew that was what you saw, Jack, so why pretend?"
"Maybe because I have no idea why you'd do that?" Jack paused at the look on Daniel's face, half-embarrassed and half-mischievous. "I'm talking reasons here, Daniel, not why two people would. I need to know why you'd do that for Martin." As soon as Jack had spoken, Daniel's face told him that he had hit a nerve, even if unknowingly. "I mean, you didn't even like the guy..."
"No," Daniel agreed, "I didn't. But I was afraid of him. I always was. Almost always." He paused, glancing at Jack as he sat there. Jack could feel the tension in his body as he spoke - could Daniel see it too? "And this time round he threatened me."
"You couldn't tell me?"
Jack leant forward in his seat, placing the bottle of beer carefully on the coffee table. He'd felt his grip tightening on it as Daniel had been speaking and putting the bottle down seemed like a very good move.
"He said if I told you, he'd destroy us both. And I learned really early on with Martin that he always kept his promises, one way or another."
"So what was it?" Jack pressed, his eyes intent on Daniel. "What did he have on you in the first place?"
"Martin said he had enough evidence to get me thrown out of the SGC for good, things from when we were together that wouldn't look good for me, but that wouldn't implicate him."
Daniel frowned, taking a mouthful of coffee before glancing over to Jack and seeing the same expression reflected there.
The two men spoke together, increasing alarm clear in their voices.
"Daniel, do you think he really had anything?" Jack asked, getting up and crossing over to the telephone.
"I... I have no idea," Daniel began, putting down his mug. He ran one hand through his hair as he spoke. "I mean part of me says Martin would be crazy enough to keep something if he could use it against me, but how could he know we'd ever meet up again?"
"That's good enough for me." Jack picked up the phone and dialled quickly. "General Hammond? Sir? It's Colonel O'Neill. I know that, sir." He paused, clearly waiting for Hammond to finish speaking. "It's about Colonel Martin - I have reason to believe that the colonel's apartment contains sensitive material likely to jeopardise national security." Jack listened again for a moment, nodding slightly at the general's words. "Yes, sir."
As he cradled the handset, Jack turned back to where Daniel was sitting, taking in the concerned expression on the archaeologist's face with a glance.
"Well, it's true, isn't it?" Jack quipped. "I mean, about whatever- it-is being 'sensitive material'?"
Daniel nodded slightly.
"I have no idea what he might have there."
"And that's why I need you to come with me when I search his apartment, Daniel," Jack replied. He crossed back to where he had been sitting and reclaimed his beer.
Even though he knew that no-one was home, that no-one could possibly be at home, Jack found himself holding his breath slightly as he opened the door to Martin's apartment. That kind of feeling was why he'd dismissed the airman who'd been sent to meet them with a spare set of keys - they needed to do this, but alone. Jack could feel Daniel's presence behind him, hear the hurried breaths that the other man took as he tried to keep calm.
"If you don't want to do this, Daniel, I'll understand."
"No." Daniel's voice was more resolute than his expression. "If he had anything of mine, anything about me, I want to know."
Swinging the door open wider, Jack walked in, scanning the apartment with assessing eyes. He hadn't exactly lied to Hammond, about the likelihood of Martin having sensitive material, things relating to the SGC, in his apartment, but he hadn't mentioned that he'd be bringing Daniel with him on his mission either. Sadly, this wasn't the first time he had scoured a recently-dead colleague's apartment for sensitive material, even if the circumstances otherwise were a little more unusual.
The last time, it had been the apartment of the very man who accompanied him now, thought dead on another planet - Jack's heart started to beat faster as he remembered the lies that Nem had implanted in his mind, and turned looking for reassurance of the truth and finding Daniel standing by the mantelpiece.
In a few short strides, Jack had crossed over to his side, to see what held him so entranced. Even as he reached Daniel, the other man had picked up a photograph that stood there, his long fingers caressing the cool metal frame that held it.
"That was you?"
In some ways, Jack could tell at first glance that the two men were Martin and Daniel. There was the same slightly dishevelled look to the younger of the two men, the look of someone who wasn't quite comfortable at being photographed, but it was what was lacking in the picture that was most apparent.
At first glance, it seemed a straightforward portrait of two friends, but there was something stiff in the way Daniel stood, something that spoke of more than a dislike of being there, more a dislike of being anywhere near the other man.
Feeling his hand shake slightly, Jack reached across and took the photo from Daniel, expecting no resistance and getting none. He studied the picture more closely, crossing over to the window and away from where Daniel still stood.
"Young?" Daniel prompted from close by, making Jack jump slightly.
"I was going to say you look uncomfortable, but young works as well."
"I remember that photo being taken," Daniel continued. "A couple of weeks later I was in hospital."
"Let's get this over with as fast as we can, okay? And then we can get on with the rest of our lives..."
"Our lives?" Daniel asked, smiling. "Isn't that somewhat presumptious?"
"I... Let's just do this and then go over to my place," Jack said, marvelling at how much confidence he had managed to put into the words, considering how nervous he felt.
A systematic search of Martin's apartment had revealed nothing obvious. Jack hoped that Daniel hadn't noticed him slip the photo he had been examining earlier from its frame, secreting it in a side pocket.
Whatever else, he would have that glimpse of a Daniel from the past, uncomfortable as he looked - that was a part of Daniel, like Charlie was a part of him, and shouldn't be forgotten.
Jack was standing by the table, sorting through a pile of papers and separating those that clearly belonged to the USAF, when Daniel's gasp alerted him to a discovery.
Turning, he was only in time to see a glimpse of flesh and movement on the TV screen, before the screen turned to snow as Daniel hastily turned the VCR off. Daniel glanced in Jack's direction, his face reddening at whatever he had seen there and the possibility of Jack having seen it too, whatever it was that Martin had captured him in the middle of.
"It's yours, Daniel," Jack said, turning back to the papers once more. When he looked back, after a moment, the TV screen was dark and Daniel had walked away from it. He was gazing out of the window now, his shoulders no longer tense.
It was over, at last, it seemed.
Daniel glanced across at Jack, his gaze skimming the rows of ribbons on Jack's dress blues before rising to his solemn face. How many times, Daniel wondered, had Jack been through this? How many remembrances of comrades lost in circumstances no-one could talk about?
Jack's face was set, a little too calm, covering a world of guilt and worry - Daniel knew that the calmness he saw there was only superficial, emotions waiting in the shallows to trap the unsuspecting.
He had not been to many of these occasions, their solid ranks of dress uniforms marking him as even more of an outsider than he already felt himself to be; not part of the illuminati, still mystified by the rituals even as he tried to understand them.
Kawalsky's had been the first memorial service to be held in the reconstituted SGC - unsure of his place and even more unsure of his welcome, Daniel had chosen to stay away. He had preferred to remember Charlie Kawalsky as he'd been on Abydos, smiling from the midst of a group of children, rather than the haunted-looking man he had spoken to in the infirmary.
The next memorial service he had known of, if only after the event, had been his own - for obvious reasons, he had not attended that one either.
What had Jack looked like that day? That was a question Daniel had never asked, barely allowing himself to even contemplate it. He had seen the shadows of the pain Jack bore, hidden more or less effectively by the professional facade, but long acquaintance had taught Daniel that there was so much more to Jack than that.
He didn't like to consider it much - Daniel had discovered that particular train of thought generally led to the tables being turned by his own wayward psyche. He didn't want to think himself into Jack's place, forced to turn private grief into public spectacle.
Jack took off the jacket of his dress blues after the memorial service was over, loosening his tie with one hand as he headed down the corridor away from the 'Gate room. He'd always hated the formality of it all. Memorial services never got any easier, no matter how many he attended, even if they were for someone he'd rather not remember at all.
Daniel had slipped away at the end, his position close to the door allowing him to make a swift exit.
Jack wondered if he had deliberately arrived late, in order to ensure he didn't have to stand any closer. So that no-one would see his face when the eulogy was given by General Hammond, or know the words Hammond spoke about Martin's character for the lies Jack had discovered them to be.
SG-6 had been somber, their faces unreadable as they waited for it all to be over. And, just like the last memorial service Jack had been to, one for the very man that he was now looking for, there had been no-one to receive the flag at the end of it all.
Too many similarities to last time. Even though months had passed since he'd stood in this same place speaking the eulogy for Daniel, he remembered it like it was yesterday. The empty feeling that it had left inside himself was something Jack wasn't going to forget in a hurry.
No body to bury, no-one to receive the flag, no-one for Hammond to write to and advise of their loved one's death. Except that no-one, it seemed, would mourn Martin's death the way Daniel had been mourned. Certainly not the way he had mourned Daniel.
And Martin wouldn't be coming back. So, it wasn't all doom and gloom.
First stop, the messhall. And there was Daniel, sitting alone at a table, nursing a cup of coffee like he expected someone to come and take it away from him. They could try, Jack decided, looking at the way Daniel was almost visibly bristling with tension, but how far would they get?
He took the chair opposite, hanging his jacket over the back and pulling his tie off fully now.
"You okay?" Jack asked, desperate for something to say, no matter how inane it might sound. He was suddenly conscious of the way he was pulling his tie through his fingers, fingers moving over the material like it was a rosary. "Dumb question, I know."
Daniel just looked at him, for once lost for words.
"Come over to my place," Jack continued, looking down at his hands. "Later."
There was silence, moments that seemed to stretch into eternity. Jack was conscious of every movement, every breath, every thought.
"About 8?" Daniel asked, finally.
"Sure," Jack replied, impressed by the way he managed to mask his own pleasure at Daniel's acceptance in the bland tone of his words. "See you later."
It wasn't unusual for Carter to be sitting down over coffee with Dr. Fraiser, sharing companionable silence in her office as Janet pored over charts or toiled through paperwork. Except normally Carter didn't have something to ask her, something that lay coiled inside her as if it would change the universe forever if she spoke the words.
At the moment Janet seemed oblivious, running her pen down a long list of items on an inventory, but that would be over soon. Sooner than she wanted, Janet's eyes would turn to her and she would be forced to say the words, allow the possibility to be real, admit that something more than wrong had been going on here, in the SGC.
That thought made her stomach turn a little, wondering just what else she had turned a blind eye to over the months she'd been here.
It couldn't just be about Forrest and her C.O., could it? It would be comforting for that to be an aberration, for the darkness that she believed Forrest had lived through to be something unique.
But what if it wasn't?
Carter knew enough already about, what had she called it when Hanson finally went over the edge? Oh yeah, 'the lunatic fringe'.
Her experience with Jonas should have made her more perceptive. Had it, Carter wondered, also made her less willing to consider the possibilities? More determined to protect herself from seeing what went on around her?
Janet came to the end of her paperwork and put down her pen, reaching for her coffee. She took a long mouthful, clearly savouring the flavour, then put the cup back down again. Then she turned to Carter, who found herself beginning to speak.
The words were hesitant at first, because they were words she never wanted to speak. Conclusions she'd drawn from her observations, the things Forrest hadn't said and the tone of her silences as much as the words themselves. All the words pulling Carter towards one inevitable conclusion, no matter how much she hated the possibility she could be right.
The shocked expression on Janet's face told her everything she needed to know, was all the confirmation Carter required. Janet hadn't suspected either, it seemed. Not till now, when there was little that could be done.
It had seemed such a good idea at the time. The two men had spent enough time in each other's company, visiting each other's homes, that it seemed a natural extension of things for this next step to take place on familiar ground.
But even so, as Jack motioned to Daniel to go into the living room, he could see the momentary flash of uncertainty that chased itself across the archaeologist's face. He knew the feeling there was little that either of them could do to make this next step less nerve- wracking for both of them to take.
Having filled the coffee machine, Jack headed back into the living room. As he had expected, Daniel was pacing, his feet measuring the rug as he headed back and forth, back and forth.
"Daniel," Jack said quietly, as he sat on the couch.
Even he was feeling it now, as if the nervousness that Daniel was feeling was contagious. Jack found to his surprise that he was just perching on the edge of the couch and tried to settle back into its depths.
However, after a moment it overwhelmed him and he struggled back to his former position, uncomfortable as it was.
"Come sit down before you wear your way through to the cellar."
Jack's words were calm, so calm that he was proud of them. Daniel started guiltily as their meaning sunk in, coming over to hover a little uncertainly by the couch.
Smiling up at the other man, Jack edged across the cushions, heading towards one of the sides. Was it caution or concern that made him give Daniel as much room as possible?
He watched Daniel carefully as the other man finally sat. The expression on Daniel's face reminded him of a natural history program he had seen once. The same expression that he saw on the face of his friend, he had seen on the face of a rabbit, just before a particularly large and nasty looking snake pounced on it.
Am I that scary? Jack wondered, as he tried to smile. Or do I just look that hungry?
The smile seemed to have the effect he had sought Daniel relaxed visibly.
"Are you sure about all of this, Jack?" Daniel asked, his tongue flicking out across his lower lip. "I mean, if you've changed your mind...."
"I've never been more sure about anything." Jack edged back closer as he spoke, making the movement as slow as he could manage. "You okay, Daniel?"
"I really don't know what I am at the moment."
Daniel's eyes widened slightly as he watched the colonel inching nearer to him.
"'Cause if you're not..." Jack began, his hand coming up to tentatively touch Daniel's face.
From the slightest contact, his fingertips brushing against Daniel's skin, Jack could feel the tremors that were shaking his friend, feel him swallow nervously as his eyes grew yet wider.
I could fall into those eyes and drown, Jack thought, marvelling at the desire he saw there.
Daniel moved suddenly, leaning forward and wrapping his hand gently round the back of Jack's head, pulling Jack closer until they were almost touching. Jack could feel Daniel's breath on his face, and the sudden intimacy sent shivers down his spine, as well as blood rushing to his groin.
For a moment, the two men seemed frozen in time, staring into each other's eyes, passion passing between the brown and the blue. Then Jack broke the moment.
With a groan of need, he pressed forward, capturing Daniel's mouth with his own, all his months of longing focussed on that one contact. He felt Daniel's fingers tighten reflexively into his scalp, his other hand coming around to wrap itself round Jack's shoulders as the kiss continued.
It was all Jack had hoped for, had dreamed of, and more.
All those fantasies had been a poor preparation for actually kissing Daniel, sharing this experience with a willing partner, one made of flesh and blood. The best he had been able to imagine was compliance, but this was active participation, Daniel's tongue jousting with his own, making its own exploration of his mouth. He could feel the warmth pooling in Daniel's groin as well as his own, the material of the cotton trousers both were wearing no barrier to the life that was developing there.
Jack's hands travelled across Daniel's back, seeking their way downwards, until they finally gained access to his back, moving easily up under the T-shirt the archaeologist was wearing. The minute tremors that had been shaking Daniel before seemed amplified now, echoing down Jack's fingers, travelling up his arms and into his brain.
He was lost, swept away by a passion greater than he had dared to dream about, lost in uncharted waters. And he didn't care at all.
After a little while, their mutual need for oxygen forced them apart, their embrace still unbroken. Jack felt Daniel's lips travel gently across his neck, skimming their way up to the skin behind his ear, and was astonished to hear himself groan with pleasure.
A small chuckle escaped Daniel, echoing its way through Jack, repeated when Jack groaned again, deeper this time.
Their lips met again, with less vigor this time but equal passion.
"Danny," Jack groaned. He felt Daniel's body tense beneath his hand and pulled back slightly. "I'm sorry," he breathed, "that was what he called you, wasn't it?"
Daniel nodded, his eyes glistening slightly with the force of the memories that had rushed back upon him.
"I don't want to hurt you, Daniel, I never want to do that."
"I know," Daniel replied. "And if you want to call me Danny, that's okay. Better than okay, in fact..."
"I want it to be your voice I hear calling me Danny, not his."
"I think I can manage that," Jack replied. "There are so many things I want us to do together, Danny."
"Well, I hope you made a list, Jack," Daniel said, with a smile. "Because I intend to make sure we try them all."
Waking up together the next morning had been a revelation for both of them. How many times had Jack seen Daniel dishevelled and half- asleep? He'd lost count years ago.
But this morning, it seemed as though a weight had fallen from Daniel's shoulders - he seemed alive again, full of energy once more, in a way that Jack realised now that he hadn't seen since Martin had arrived. And even if all they had done the previous night was go to bed together, that had been enough. There would be time for things to develop between them now, if only they didn't ruin it all by going too quickly.
As he stood by the window, drinking his first coffee of the day, Jack thought back over the events of the past couple of weeks.
Why had it taken him so long to figure out what was happening between the two of them? If he had been quicker off the mark, then Daniel would have been spared the humiliation he had been forced to endure at the hands of the other man.
"It's not your fault, Jack."
"When did you take up mind-reading as a hobby?" Jack asked, without turning round.
"Like I need to, where you're concerned?"
"You saying I'm that easy to read?"
Even as he spoke, Jack could feel Daniel come closer to him, the warmth against his back as Daniel tentatively came up to embrace him from behind, long arms wrapping round him slowly as if afraid he would be pushed away.
Does he really think I'd do that? Jack wondered, feeling his anger towards Martin flare up once more.
"If I can learn 23 languages," Daniel said, resting his chin on Jack's shoulder, "I can learn to decipher one Jack O'Neill."
"All it takes," Daniel continued, quietly, "is patience and a little incentive."
It was nothing unusual for the two of them to drive into work together. There had been countless nights when Daniel had stayed over at Jack's place, or Teal'c had stayed with Daniel. Nothing to remark upon at all.
So why did this feel so different now?
Jack chanced a glance across at Daniel as they drove into road leading directly to the SGC. He smiled to himself when he realised that Daniel had actually fallen asleep once more, his face pressed firmly against the glass of the window.
Jack reached across to shake Daniel awake as they pulled up at the checkpoint.
"We're here, Daniel. Don't tell me you left your ID behind, please. Remember how long it took for me to talk Security into letting you into the base last time?"
Jack's smile grew as he watched Daniel rummage through his pockets for the item in question, his frown growing deeper as he did so. After what seemed like minutes, Daniel smiled, producing the ID card and passing it over.
Jack felt his heart lurch.
You got it bad, O'Neill, he said to himself. Like that's a problem...?
Daniel found himself staring at the telephone, willing it to ring. He had given up any pretense of working a while back, his mind unwilling to co-operate with anything that he wanted it to do. All he could think about was the previous evening, how perfect it had been, how terrified he was that he was going to mess everything up between them.
After all, it was not like Jack was at the head of a long list of friends. The itinerant nature of his life had meant that Daniel had lost track of so many people he held dear at one time or another, and he had always considered it to be a natural part of life.
All this was new, unexplored territory, daunting even for a seasoned traveller like himself.
He had been half in love with Jack O'Neill for so long that he felt now like he had been given an unexpected present, one that he was almost afraid to touch he valued it so much.
He had to get out of here, talk with someone before he went completely crazy, thoughts running round inside his head like rats in a wheel. After a moment's thought, he reached for the phone himself, dialling a familiar number.
He hated every moment of it, but it was necessary. In some ways, that was Jack's mantra as he went through his report from the ill- fated mission with SG-6 once more.
He had to do this. He had to protect Daniel, no matter what. Ruthlessly, Jack stifled the small voice that insisted on asking what would happen if Hammond ever found out the truth.
And how is that going to happen? Jack asked himself. There were only 3 people in that clearing - 2 of them aren't talking and the other one isn't around to argue the case...
Not that this particular fact made it any more easy to lie to Hammond's face. Especially when Jack had so much respect for the general, for the calm way Hammond always put the welfare of 'his' people first.
For the way the general had of using whatever influence he had to make sure things were done the right way, even when that conflicted with what would be good military practice.
But what choice did Jack have?
Some secrets were no longer his alone to share. His only concern was Daniel - would this secret they shared push them closer together or would it ultimately drive them apart?
"I am glad to see you well, DanielJackson," Teal'c said, getting up as Daniel entered his quarters.
"It's good to see you too, Teal'c."
Daniel glanced round, taking a deep breath as he did so. There was something so calming about being in this room, something about the candles, maybe, that turned Teal'c's quarters from a dreary concrete box into a place of tranquillity and peace.
"We have not spoken in some time."
"I guess not," Daniel said, taking a seat. He watched as Teal'c regained his seat on the floor, folding his deceptively large body into a comfortable lotus position.
"Not since the mission with SG-6," Teal'c continued, his dark perceptive eyes resting on Daniel's face.
Taking another breath, Daniel forced himself to stay calm.
No-one else can know about Martin, he thought sadly. Not even Teal'c or Sam.
"That was a nightmare, wasn't it?" Teal'c's eyebrow rose in silent question. "It was hard for SG-6 to lose their new CO that way, though."
Had he managed it? Had his voice remained stable all through that seemingly innocuous statement?
"I do not think he will be missed."
"I guess he wasn't really here long enough to make an impression on anyone," Daniel agreed, trying not to laugh hysterically. Did Teal'c know? How could he?
"It is not a matter of time, DanielJackson," Teal'c said solemnly, his eyes closing, "it is a matter of the person concerned."
Daniel's voice shook slightly, the worry in it alone enough to make Jack want to grab the other man before he fell apart completely.
"He can't know."
"I'm telling you, Jack, he knows."
Jack crossed the small space that comprised his office, brushing past Daniel on his way to the door. He locked it, resting his back on the cool metal as he faced Daniel once more.
"This is Teal'c we're talking about, Daniel. Even if he suspects that what I told Hammond isn't the exact truth, there is no way he will tell the general anything."
"Daniel, you know this."
After a moment, Daniel nodded, a terse movement.
"We can't ever tell anyone, can we?" Daniel asked, after a moment. "Not even Sam or Teal'c."
Jack sighed, resting his head back against the door. He had been wondering how long it would take Daniel to figure out that they were alone together in this particular mess, without even the promise of the rest of SG-1 to bail them out. It had taken a little longer than he had anticipated, but Daniel had got there in the end.
"No," he agreed, "not even Carter or Teal'c. We can't make them lie for us, Daniel, it wouldn't be right."
"For us?" Daniel asked, frowning. "But I was the one who..."
"We're in this together, Daniel. From the moment I filed my report with Hammond, we were in this together. Now trust me, keep calm, and we'll get through this."
This time, they were at Daniel's place.
Even as they walked in the door, Jack could see Daniel's nervousness increase, clear in the way that he moved around, between the living room and kitchen, never really able to settle.
"Pizza okay with you, Daniel?" Jack asked, one hand on Daniel's chest halting him in mid-patrol to make his enquiry.
Turning to the phone, Jack ordered dinner, one eye still on Daniel as he did so. They had eaten together so often that they knew each other's preferences, so it wasn't something he needed too much concentration for.
There was something about him being here, Jack realised, that was making Daniel edgy, despite how commonplace an event that was. It had to be related to the revelations of the afternoon, the realisation that they were in this together, with no-one else to rely on.
Jack accepted the beer Daniel offered him with a smile, which dwindled as he saw Daniel make another detour into the kitchen for something or other.
This has got to stop, Daniel.
"Why don't you come sit down?" Jack asked, pitching his voice so it would carry into the other room.
"You've been in and out of the kitchen since we got here - anyone would think you didn't want to be alone with me, Daniel. I could get some kind of complex."
There was silence for a moment, then Daniel came in, clutching a couple of plates and a beer, all of which he deposited on the coffee table.
"Just trying to get organised."
Daniel retrieved his beer, taking a seat at the other end of the sofa, kicking off his shoes as he did so. He curled his feet under himself, turning till he was facing Jack, his back against the arm of the couch.
"Not avoiding you, Jack, honest," he said, with a smile.
"So," Jack began, after a mouthful of beer, "no making out till after the pizza arrives?"
Jack smiled as Daniel almost spat out his mouthful of beer.
"Hey, it's just a question."
"Food first, fooling about later," Daniel replied, saluting Jack with his beer.
"Now there's a plan I can go for."
"What do you want from me?"
Daniel's voice was a whisper as his hand snaked across Jack's stomach, fingers coming down to rest on his belt buckle. Jack suppressed a groan of need as he felt Daniel's hot breath on his neck, the way that the other man's movements was making him press against the constriction of his jeans.
Jack swallowed, trying to articulate the words, but not knowing if he could.
He knew what he wanted from Daniel, had known it ever since he walked in on Daniel with Martin, but it was a guilty torment to him. How could he ask Daniel to do that?
"Let me help you out there," Daniel muttered, his hand coming to rest on Jack's fly, agile fingers popping out the buttons one by one.
"Tell me what you want, Jack."
He felt Daniel's hand slip inside, long fingers coming to wrap themselves knowingly around him. Jack arched into the movement, feeling the grip tighten slightly, and blessed the fact that he had decided to go commando. Daniel's other hand was shoving gently at the waistband of Jack's jeans, pushing the heavy material down over his hips for better access, his fingers sliding in a caress over the skin of Jack's ass.
"I know what you want," Daniel breathed.
Jack shuddered, guilty pleasure at the thought of Daniel kneeling before him crackling through his senses like wildfire. Daniel's fingers trailed across the small of Jack's back as he circled him, his other hand still gripping gently, his thumb stroking the sensitive underside.
Jack closed his eyes, screwing them up as he tried not to submit to the desire to open them. If Daniel was there, kneeling, he wasn't sure there was any way he could hold back.
Then nothing. He could still feel Daniel's hand wrapped round him, the warm and gentle grasp of his fingers, but other than that nothing.
Opening his eyes, Jack risked a glance downwards to see Daniel kneeling there, as if mesmerised. One hand was still holding Jack's length in a firm grip, the other resting where his pants were hanging crumpled around his hips, but Daniel was not moving.
Jack heard the alarm in his voice, the concern. His hand came forward from where he had been clutching the edge of the kitchen counter, to cover Daniel's, feeling his own heat and the relative coolness of Daniel's skin. He could feel Daniel shudder slightly.
"This... this was a bad idea," Jack said, as soon as he could speak coherently. He could feel himself begin to soften within Daniel's grip, even as he tried to pry Daniel's fingers gently away. "Another time..."
"I have to do this," Daniel muttered, looking up at him for the first time since he had frozen in place. "I have to get past this, Jack."
"It's not a competition." Jack pasted on a smile, using the grip on Daniel's hand to encourage him to his feet. "There's time, isn't there?"
Daniel's eyes were bright with emotion, Jack realised, as he brought his free hand up to stroke Daniel's face.
"I thought I could do this, Jack. I'm sorry."
Jack stifled the anger he felt, knowing that another appointment with the heavy bag at the gym was beckoning, even as he stroked Daniel's hair and the other man wept.
This is dumb.
He'd seen the expression on Jack's face when he had walked into his office that time, interrupting Daniel as he was about to go down on Martin. It had taken a while to interpret that expression correctly - not realising that Jack was halfway in love with him already - but he'd got there in the end. Whatever it was about the concept of being sucked off by Daniel the same way, it pushed every button Jack had and then some.
This is so dumb, Daniel thought. I could do it for someone I was afraid of, but can't do it for Jack?
Watching Jack walk away, down the featureless corridors of the SGC, Daniel could feel the guilt start to grow inside him.
What must Jack think of me?
The truth was that they were tied together now by a lie, something that bound them more securely to each other than he had ever wanted. Jack had risked his career by lying to Hammond about the way Martin had died, and he had done it only to protect him.
And I can't even give him what he wants. What if I can never do that? Jack deserves better.
It didn't take a PhD to realise there was something wrong with Daniel. Jack had swung by Daniel's office, planning to sweep him away for a little food and a lot of fooling around, only to see that the walls around the archaeologist were back, this time higher than ever.
"Ready to go, Daniel?"
"I have loads I need to do yet," Daniel answered, without even looking round. He had laid his pen down as he spoke and was rubbing the back of his hand, fingers tracing and retracing the same route they had when Martin had been around.
Now that is not a good sign, Jack thought.
"All work and no play makes Danny a very dull boy..." he began, crossing over to the side of Daniel's desk. The proximity, at least, made Daniel look up. "Humor me?"
"I do that every day," Daniel said, smiling a little, at last.
"Well, time for more practice," Jack said, making a shooing gesture towards the door. "Let's go, Daniel. This stuff'll still be here tomorrow, ya know."
Reluctantly, Daniel nodded, shuffling his notes into some kind of order, before weighing them down with one of the pieces of pottery he was currently examining.
Watching the dejected slump of Daniel's shoulders as they walked towards the elevators was like looking back in time a couple of weeks. Jack frowned as he cast a sidelong glance at Daniel's face, seeing there the expressionless mask that he knew hid a mind whirring with ideas and thoughts. But it was the content of those thoughts that worried him.
The way that Daniel was just going along with whatever he proposed worried Jack too. Not that Daniel wasn't usually pretty amenable to whatever half-baked scheme he came up with, let alone adding his own particular twist to it, but this was different.
This was compliance, not agreement, and something about it chilled Jack to the bone.
"Don't do this to me, Daniel," he said, suddenly, as they were driving down the mountainside.
Daniel half-turned to look at him, briefly, before turning back and once more contemplating the lights that flickered outside in the passing darkness of the Colorado night.
"You know what I'm talking about." Jack pressed on, his anger getting the better of him, not for the first time in his life. "I'm not him, so don't treat me as if I am."
Even from the corner of his eye, as Jack navigated the twists and turns of the mountain roads, he could see Daniel stiffen in his seat.
"You bastard." Daniel spat out the words, radiating anger. "Everything is always about you, isn't it, Jack? I can't be upset about something without it having to be about you."
"And this isn't about me? About what happened last night?"
Making a swift decision, Jack pulled the jeep over to the side of the road, a small part of his brain noticing that his hands were starting to shake slightly with all the anger he had been banking down all this time.
"Why shouldn't I be angry, Jack? He used me."
And you wanted to, was the unspoken implication, Jack realised.
Jack bit back the words he wanted to say, the angry words that beat at him, desperate to escape. If he let them, he knew, then any chance that he and Daniel had of making any kind of life together would be struck dead as soon as they were uttered.
"I thought you wanted to do that," Jack said, mentally slapping himself for the feebleness of that statement.
"I... I wanted to prove something to myself."
Daniel was staring out of the window again, looking at nothing. Or was he watching Jack's half-reflection, illuminated by the small amount of light within the cabin?
"Was it what you were trying to do?" Jack paused, not wanting to ask, but at the same time desperately needing to know. "Or was it me?" Silence. Undaunted by this, or foolhardy, Jack couldn't decide which, he pressed on. "So, I could have been anyone, you just needed a test subject and I was handy." Silence. "Help me out here, Daniel, because I'm drowning in this, okay?"
Daniel sighed, finally, his anger seeming to drain from him like water running away.
"I just want to go home, Jack."
Jack glanced across at him, seeing the dejection and pain in every line of Daniel's body. After a moment, he started the engine once more.
Jack watched Daniel walk into his apartment building - he didn't look back.
He'd almost asked whether he could come up, for coffee or something, but he hadn't made it to full bird colonel without developing survival instincts. The temperature in the jeep had seemed to drop dramatically since their little discussion on the roadside and it hadn't taken a mind-reader to see that Daniel was in no mood for company.
Jack rested his head on the cool steering wheel for a moment, marshalling his thoughts as he did so.
Daniel was angry with him, he realised that, but Jack had also seen that Daniel was angry with himself, angry at his failure to give Jack what he had so clearly wanted.
It was like living in the middle of a minefield. Danger at every step and no clues on how to avoid it.
Almost against his better judgement, Daniel had watched from his darkened apartment window, his eyes fixed on the shadowed shape of Jack's jeep, until it was clear that Jack had driven away. He stood by the window a few moments longer, half-watching the cars as they passed, his mind somewhere else completely.
He'd behaved so badly that he'd been embarrassed to speak with Jack after they'd argued.
Daniel rested his forehead on the cool glass, closing his eyes.
He'd wanted to ask Jack up, to try and see if they could make this thing work between them, whatever it was, but the words had never come. And Jack had said nothing either, locked into himself and surrounded by an impenetrable wall of silence.
On his own now, it seemed impossible. How could they survive this? There was no way they could ever revert to being just friends, not any more.
A sudden thought struck him.
What if we fall out and Jack tells Hammond the truth about what happened with Martin?
The rational part of Daniel's mind knew that could never happen - Jack would find himself in equally hot water were he to turn round to Hammond and admit he had lied to the general in the first place. But that didn't stop the more paranoid part of his nature from dwelling on this thought, long past the time when his exhausted body should have been asleep.
Sleepless, Jack stared up at the darkened ceiling of his bedroom, eyes following the half-remembered cracks in the plaster as a thousand restless thoughts whirled their way through his brain. This time he had really blown it; he should have done something, said something different, but had no idea where to begin. Like he ever had any idea where he was with Daniel?
That thought made Jack smile, a sad ironic grin at the stupidity of it all. He had been out of his depth with Daniel since the first moment a colder version of himself had walked into that subterranean briefing room. Maybe fate had taken things out of his hands even before then, back when he had agreed to return to work for the USAF, rather than choosing to splatter his brains across his son's bedroom wall.
Jack rolled over, closing his eyes firmly and pressing the side of his face into the pillow in a determined effort to sleep.
That kind of thought gets you nowhere, O'Neill. Look at what a difference you've made by being alive.
There had to be a way forward for the two of them, together, or else why had he lied to Hammond? He could have saved himself, at least, this torment, by telling the general what had really happened to Martin, even if that would surely have been the end of Daniel's association with SG-1 - maybe with the SGC as a whole.
It was not just the death of Martin, but the whole sorry history that existed between Martin and Daniel, the thought of which still drove a spike of fury through Jack's heart every time he even considered it. The bastard had deserved to die, had in fact been lucky to meet his fate the way he did. Jack could have thought of a dozen deaths more fitting, had he been given the opportunity.
Jack watched Daniel openly across the briefing room table, half- tuned into the scientific explanation that Carter had launched into as part of their briefing for SG-1's next mission. Her voice rolled over him as he considered ways forward - he had to talk to Daniel, somehow make things right between them. This chilly silence was more painful than he had ever thought.
Daniel looked tired, dark patches under his eyes. He was doing his best to pretend attention, his pen paused over the mission report, but Daniel's eyes told anyone who knew him that his attention was elsewhere.
When, finally, it was over, Hammond dismissed the team, before turning to Jack as he pushed his chair back to leave.
"Colonel. A word."
Jack paused, sitting again at the general's gesture as the rest of SG-1 left the briefing room. He could feel Daniel's concern sweep over him like a wave, those intelligent eyes resting on him for as long as Daniel was in the room.
Jack pasted an expression of slight boredom on his face, as he laced his fingers together on the table's surface.
He can't know, Jack told himself. It's impossible. Unless Daniel...
But what would Daniel gain by telling Hammond what had really happened with Colonel Martin? It made no sense. Civilian as he was, he had to know the consequences for both of them if the truth came out now.
Jack realised suddenly that Hammond was speaking and made a concerted effort to concentrate, looking into those glacial eyes.
"...no idea what is wrong between you and Dr. Jackson, Colonel." Hammond paused, leaning forward slightly to emphasise his point, even though his eyes were vehement enough already. "But whatever it is, fix it. That's an order. I realise Dr. Jackson is a valuable asset to SG-1, but I'll be forced to take steps to assign him to the SGC as a permanent consultant if things don't improve dramatically between the two of you. Dismissed."
He couldn't help thinking about just what Jack and Hammond were discussing. As he headed down to his office, Daniel wondered whether his ears should be burning - he had to figure in their conversation somewhere. He'd been quiet, unresponsive, sullen even. There was no way that Hammond would miss that, no way he wouldn't be ordering Jack right now to make everything okay again.
As if Jack had some kind of monopoly on dealing with him, on 'making Daniel better'.
How long would it be before Jack tracked him down, Daniel wondered. Long enough for him to leave the SGC? Was it worth him going home, to make sure that this conversation he didn't want to have in the first place at least took place on his own territory?
Or would that seem like an admission of guilt, somehow? Running from the past hadn't worked before, so why should Daniel think it would now?
Time for work, instead, if his brain would allow him to concentrate on anything. Even if it wouldn't fully cooperate, Daniel decided, as he headed for the elevators, anything was better than turning what had happened over and over in his mind.
If he couldn't control what had happened before, at least he could control something about what happened now.
Sighing to himself, Jack headed down the maze of corridors, his feet on auto-pilot as he headed for Daniel's office.
Opening the door, it was hard to believe that only days before he had walked in on Daniel and Martin, setting into motion a chain of events that had led to the death of one man and the creation of a wholesale tapestry of lies.
Daniel turned round from his desk to look at Jack as he heard the door open, his eyes sliding past the colonel to see whether he was alone.
"Guess we're still in the clear then," Daniel said, turning back to what he'd been studying.
Jack paused for a moment, watching Daniel, his eyes tracing the curve of the other man's shoulder where it met his neck, thinking only of how the soft skin there had felt under his fingers.
"Did you want something, Jack?" Daniel asked, without turning round.
"Hammond..." Jack saw Daniel's back stiffen at the name. "He knows there's a problem between us. He wants me to fix it or else."
"Or else what?"
"You get permanent consultant status here on base and I'll probably get to ride a desk somewhere as well. Generals have a low tolerance for people who don't follow orders."
"Oh, please," Daniel sneered, turning to face Jack this time. "And how would you know that? You're not exactly Colonel By-the-book."
"There's a time and a place to buck orders, Danny," Jack said, his words hurrying over each other in their anxiety to escape as he saw Daniel stiffen at the pet name. "Any soldier worth his salt learns to tell when that is. We want to carry on jaunting round the universe together, we got to play ball the way Hammond wants."
Their eyes met, the scorn in Daniel's face like a blow. If Jack had ever been told that Daniel would one day look at him that way, he would have laughed till he cried. But here was the evidence, one archaeologist in an uncomfortable USAF-issue desk chair, glaring up at him with eyes cold enough to freeze him where he stood.
"I'm sorry, okay?" Jack blurted out the words - they surprised him as they made their escape.
Daniel frowned slightly, a tiny furrow of concentration.
"You're sorry," he repeated, as if trying to decipher some alien language.
Shaking his head slightly, as if puzzled, Daniel turned back to his desk then, picking up his pen. His head bowed slightly as he stared down at the parchment fragments that littered its surface.
Jack watched him for a moment, unconvinced, but having no idea how to break through. It was as though they spoke different languages once more, except this time Daniel was making no effort to understand, turning his back on Jack in more ways than one.
When he heard the door close behind Jack, Daniel let out the breath he had been holding, the only way he knew to hold himself together. He'd planned to apologise, searching his mind for words that would build some sort of bridge between the two of them, but the moment Jack had appeared that intention had disappeared like mist.
He'd thought it was all over, that Jack had been sent by Hammond to lock him up, pending whatever legal sanction he would face for the death of Martin. Had he truly believed that Jack had cut some sort of deal? That he could somehow look to save himself, no matter what the cost?
Put like that, examined objectively, those thoughts seemed idiotic.
There might be people who would behave like that out there, but there was no way that Jack was one of them. Their secret would live and die with him.
And in the mean time?
In the mean time, he couldn't live like this. After all, it wasn't as if Daniel could afford to throw everything away, to draw attention to the two of them in the way he had been doing. Although he knew General Hammond to be a perceptive man, someone experienced at judging the mood of a team, he was not the only one who might suspect something was going on.
And they couldn't afford that sort of suspicion, for both their sakes. They had to give at least the appearance of normality, of friendship tempered in the fires of all they had experienced together, a camouflage to protect them from the truth.
He managed to make it through the day, processing the kind of paperwork he had always hated, the kind he had hoped promotion would free him from, only to discover that this was anything but the case. Scrawling his signature on the last document, Jack pushed his chair back, clicking off the desk light as he stood.
As he walked to the elevator, Jack thought about approaching Daniel once more, then dismissed the idea.
Maybe Daniel needed more time to come to terms with the death of Martin than he had thought - maybe the problem was that Jack had let things go on too fast between them, letting his libido override his common sense, not for the first time in his life.
He should have known Daniel wasn't really ready for what he was offering to do, should have said something before it was too late.
Just as the elevator doors were beginning to close, Daniel stepped in to the crowded car.
There were a number of people between them, but Jack still knew that Daniel was watching him intently, trying to judge his current mood. Changing elevators, to take the one to the surface, this time Jack found that they were standing next to one another. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack could see Daniel fidgeting slightly as he stood there, his usual impatience warring with the lengthy ascent.
Once past the security checkpoint, Jack waited by Daniel's car, where he watched him cross the expanse of the carpark, the expression on his face one of clear uncertainty.
"Your place or mine?"
Jack expected some kind of disagreement, some argument that there was nothing to say, but instead Daniel just nodded.
"Mine," he replied.
Jack followed Daniel's car down the mountain road, wondering if this was any sort of a good idea at all.
The last time they had been truly alone together had been disastrous, no-one could argue that - if it had not been for their former friendship, it was unlikely that the two of them would still be speaking to one another. By the time he made it up the stairs to Daniel's apartment, he was already having doubts, wondering if this was going to be yet another in the lengthy list of mistakes that characterised his life to date. The door was standing slightly ajar.
"Daniel?" Jack called out, as he stepped into the apartment.
"In the kitchen."
Closing the door behind him, Jack surveyed Daniel's apartment.
Somehow, Daniel's place was somewhere he never got tired of being - there was always something he hadn't seen before every time he came here. Or at least that was how it seemed. How Daniel had managed to acquire half the stuff that cluttered the shelves and wall-space, Jack had yet to figure out. All he could think was that the stuff had gone into storage when Daniel had been evicted from his apartment, before Catherine had persuaded him to join the SGC, and that it had taken him a while to get it all back and unpacked.
By the time Daniel came out of the kitchen, clutching two mugs of coffee like a shield, Jack was working his way across the titles on the bookshelf, noting the new additions automatically.
Daniel was watching him, caution and concern warring for dominance in his expression. He held out a mug of coffee. Jack crossed the small distance between them, taking the mug from Daniel's grasp and then retreated to the window, almost feeling Daniel relax as the space between them grew. He rested his butt on the window ledge, taking a cautious sip of the coffee and watching as Daniel crossed to a chair and sat.
"We're stuck together, aren't we?" Daniel asked, suddenly.
"Jesus, Daniel, you make it sound like a prison sentence!"
Daniel paused a moment before replying, his eyes solemn.
"Our continued working relationship is founded on a lie, Jack, one where neither of us can ever tell the complete truth to the people we're closest to on this planet. How much worse could being in prison be?"
Jack bit back the immediate response that almost made it out before he thought. There were things about his own life, no matter how much he trusted and cared for Daniel that he would ensure that the other man would never discover.
"We have to make things work between us, Daniel. Not for our own protection, not because Hammond wants us to, but because they should."
Daniel nodded, his gaze intent on the mug he cradled in his hands. Jack's eyes followed Daniel's gaze, his traitorous memory reminding him how those agile fingers had felt on his flesh, how close he had come to getting exactly what he wanted from Daniel.
"Can we start over?" Jack asked, wrenching his mind back to the matter in hand. Daniel looked up at the question, frowning. "Pretend last night didn't happen, go slower, that sort of thing."
"I'd like that. And earlier." Jack looked at Daniel, puzzled. "I wanted to apologise for what I did, but the words just didn't come. I... I want this as well."
If he had a slightly idiotic smile on his face as he closed the apartment door behind Jack, Daniel could have cared less.
He'd wanted to ask Jack to stay, but somehow he knew that it wasn't a good idea. Though the words had been on the tip of his tongue, despite all the practicalities of an early mission the next morning, it had been the realisation that this would be too much too soon that had stopped him. They needed time - time to put the events of the previous night behind them and time to reduce the level of anxiety that Daniel, at least, had over the possibility of sex with Jack.
Sex with Jack.
Even thinking about it made Daniel shudder slightly, not with fear but with anticipation, an anticipation he hadn't felt since being with Martin the first time round. Martin had destroyed that, every cruel action wearing at his self-confidence, putting him firmly under the thumb of the other man, until it had all erupted in violence.
Daniel had been the one to protest that Jack and Martin weren't alike, throwing those words back in Martin's face with a defiance that had surprised him at the time. And then he'd gone out of his way to try and make those words a lie. He'd forgotten the kindness that was at Jack's heart, the compassion that the gruff exterior and the sarcasm covered so effectively. Most of the time, at least.
Knowing what Jack wanted from him, Daniel had somehow classed Jack alongside Martin, as someone who wanted to use him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that Jack had tried to stop him once he realised what was happening, let alone the existence of the long- standing friendship between them, should have been enough to give him his first clue.
We can do this, Daniel thought, fiercely. We can make this work.
There had to be things they could do together, things that would drive away the spectre of Martin looming over them. Even if the thought of Daniel sucking him off did seem to be something that drove straight for Jack's libido, with no diversions along the way. Daniel sighed, crossing back to his half-empty mug. He grimaced slightly as he swallowed the mouthful or two of slightly-too-cold coffee.
Between the two of them, he was sure, they could think of something.
The next morning, as the team waited at the bottom of the ramp for the 'Gate to be activated, Daniel could feel Hammond's eyes on him. He turned slightly, glancing over his shoulder up at the control room - true to form, there was the general, in his usual position by the window, gazing down on SG-1 as they were about to depart.
As he looked back, Daniel met Jack's eyes, the smile he saw there finding its counterpart on his own face; he knew that his own smile widened as Jack slapped him on the shoulder. Daniel could almost sense the approving glow from the control room.
Looks like Hammond's happy, he thought.
As the final chevrons locked into place, he watched the wormhole form, the blue rush that charged towards him, before settling back into the embrace of the 'Gate, a shimmering pool of promise.
Now this feels like old times, Jack thought, watching his team at work while keeping an eye on the surrounding countryside. A mirror image of himself, Teal'c was standing watch at the other end of the clearing, while Daniel and Carter argued quietly over what to do next. The utter normality of it all, after the craziness of their last mission, was refreshing.
Suppressing a smile, Jack decided to interfere.
"Do we have a problem here, Major?" he asked, strolling casually into earshot of the two scientists.
As he had expected, both of them had been too engrossed in their conversation to hear him approach, even when a career officer like Carter should know better.
"No, sir," Carter replied, with a last exasperated glance at Daniel. "No problem."
Jack could see Daniel trying not to smile, knowing that he had probably tied Carter up in verbal knots - she might be one of the most intelligent people Jack had ever met, frighteningly so at times, but Carter had a lot to learn about winning an argument. Daniel was resilient and resourceful when it came to debate - he treated a conversation of this kind like a chess game, trying his best to make sure he was three steps ahead.
"Daniel?" Jack asked, seeing Carter turn back as well. Daniel's small smile was extinguished suddenly as he realised that he was the subject of scrutiny now.
"Hmmm? No, no problem."
Jack stared at Daniel for a moment, seeing that this was making the other man squirm but choosing to prolong the torment a little.
"We have an hour," he said, finally, having seen Daniel's face turn a little redder. "And then we go home."
Daniel smiled at this, his eyes sparkling with an unspoken communication between the two of them. Jack felt an answering grin beginning to form, so he nodded tersely and turned away - no sense giving Carter any cause to be suspicious.
Before Jack had taken more than a few steps away from where they stood, he could hear the argument beginning again, the frustration clear in Carter's voice and the certainty and confidence equally so in Daniel's.
After the mission and the subsequent debriefing session, they had picked up Chinese on the way back to Jack's house. Daniel balanced a number of containers as he tried to get out of Jack's jeep, making him come to the rescue.
Jack had watched Daniel's face become more and more solemn as the two of them had neared the surface - at least by the time they got back to Jack's place, Daniel was looking more relaxed, smiling every so often at one of Jack's lame jokes.
As well as attempting to feed him up during the evening, Jack had kept Daniel's wine glass full, watching the way that Daniel was getting more vocal, his gestures more extreme, as the evening went on.
My cunning plan is working, Jack thought, as the two men headed for the couch.
Once there, Daniel had leaned forward, taking extreme care in placing his half-empty glass on the coffee table, then turned back to face him.
"Anyone would think you were trying to seduce me, Jack."
"Is it working?" Jack asked, leaning towards him and pulling Daniel within kissing distance.
Daniel had sobered up fast, frighteningly fast - what little biology Jack remembered blamed endorphins for that. Those little suckers must be racing round Daniel's bloodstream like Indy 500 cars right now. And the way that Daniel was starting to respond, particular parts of his body at least, showed they were breaking every track record going.
"I... er, yes." Daniel smiled, a slow sultry smile, full of promise of little sleep to come that night. "Looks that way."
"Glad to hear my effort's not been wasted." Jack grinned, watching the slow tide of pink that was rising across Daniel's face as he tried to keep his cool. "Now why don't you slide over, Daniel, and let me drive."
Daniel felt his face flame as Jack's hand slid across to cup his crotch, before insinuating their way through the button fly of his jeans - long fingers caressed him through the thin material of his boxers. He seemed to be losing the power of coherent speech; the more those fingers rubbed, the more brain cells seemed to be shutting down, making his responses minimal, monosyllabic.
Jack smiled to himself as he slid out from Daniel's embrace, managing to not wake him as he did so.
Daniel just muttered to himself, turning over on the couch and tugging the blanket that Jack had pulled from its back over him as he moved. Jack had to resist the urge to tuck him in, all his protective instincts kicking in where Daniel was concerned. While he was awake, Daniel was usually annoying enough that he was able to keep those under control, but seeing Daniel like this, asleep and vulnerable- looking, brought those instincts to the fore.
Stepping back, Jack shook his head at the injustice of it all. Daniel had been vulnerable, had allowed himself to be vulnerable with someone who abused that trust. Someone who had then radically misjudged him later on. The thought that anyone could intentionally be cruel to the man now fast asleep on his couch puzzled Jack completely.
What possible motivation could Martin have had? Daniel was annoying at times, petulant and stubborn as well, if he thought back to some of the experiences they had shared together, but none of that had ever driven Jack to the depths of anger that Martin seemed to have plumbed. The man was a bully, pure and simple.
Leaning over the sleeping man, Jack pullled up the blanket slightly, letting his hand rest on Daniel's shoulder for a moment as he did so. There were muscles there now, more than there had been when they had first met, even though Daniel's subject of study had meant he was no stranger to physical labor.
I guess years of running from the Goa'uld helped too, eh, Danny?
But inside, Daniel was no different, despite all they'd shared together, despite all the things he'd been through before he and Jack had even met. He had a darker side to him, Jack knew that, but essentially he wanted to believe that people were good, that talking worked, that reason could win out.
And it wasn't his fault if some of the people they met up with along the way just didn't hold to those same tenets.
For a moment, as he woke, Daniel was more than a little disoriented. All he realised was that he was not in his own bed, and after a moment's thought he realised that he was not in his own apartment either. Then the memories came flooding back, Jack's hand making him feel things he hadn't felt for a while, things that made his face flame with embarrassment as he recalled them.
Pushing back the blanket that covered him, Daniel swung himself round, feeling his head throb slightly as he sat up.
Little bit too much wine last night? he thought, with a rueful smile.
This was Jack's place, that much was certain, though Jack himself was nowhere to be seen. Daniel frowned slightly at this, wondering whether this absence meant something. Surely he couldn't be regretting what had happened between the two of them? After all, a good part of it had been his fault - every time Daniel had looked away, Jack had surreptitiously refilled his wine glass, smiling smugly at Daniel the first couple of times he had protested. After a while, he hadn't bothered to say anything.
Not that he had protested when Jack had done, well, just about whatever he thought Daniel wanted him to. And he had been right every time. It hadn't been exactly reciprocal between them - after Jack had brought him off, all he had done was hold Daniel until he had fallen asleep.
When he had protested, tired half-murmurs against Jack's chest, Jack had just promised he'd have his chance, and then he had dropped into darkness anyway, the promise of undisturbed rest too tempting to turn down.
That was one reason why waking up alone was so strange.
Not that this hadn't been the way things had been for a while. Apart from that strange head-trip that Amonet had subjected him to, days and nights that were only his over-active imagination at work, Daniel realised it had been a while since he had woken up alongside someone else.
And that it was something he missed. Something he missed a lot. Moving gingerly, Daniel got up, pulling the blanket up with him and trying to fold it - he couldn't bring himself to trust leaning over to drape it across the back of the couch, his unsteadiness a warning before he over-committed himself.
Instead, he piled the blanket on the couch, straightening it before turning to the fireplace.
There, as he had both hoped and dreaded, was a piece of paper with his name on it, scrawled in Jack's oh-so-familiar handwriting. As he reached for it, something else caught his attention, some subtle difference in the arrangement of the pictures there, something out of place since the last time he had stood in this very spot.
The realisation was like a blow, making Daniel suck in a breath in surprise.
Jack had pulled one of the pictures of Charlie forward, bringing it to a prominence he could not always bear to deal with, and in the frame, alongside the smiling face of his son, Jack had wedged another photo. Or rather half a photo, the other half cut off at a strange angle.
Although much time had passed, so that it was almost like looking at the face of another person entirely, Daniel also remembered the last time he had seen this photo. And the last time he had seen that face - in the mirror the previous morning.
Jack, it seemed, had taken more from Martin's apartment than Daniel had realised.
In the end, the note that Jack had left had only been a simple one - he had discovered that they had run out of coffee and had slipped out to get some. After all, how could Daniel be expected to face the day without an adequate caffeine level?
No matter where he went in the room, Daniel found himself returning to the fireplace, staring at the picture of his younger self, seeing the innocence as well as the fear that he remembered from the time when that photo had been taken.
Why had Jack wanted it?
Daniel wanted to think that he could explain it easily, that it was about control, something he had learned more than enough of from James Martin in their time together. Although he had professed on more than one occasion to love him, Daniel had soon discovered exactly what that meant in this case - the desire to hurt and embarrass him at any given turn, to use his own compassion and kind nature against him.
And he'd vowed that he would never let it happen again.
But, of course, that vow had lasted only until he began to work in the SGC. There he had let his better judgement be overwhelmed by someone he had thought cared for him, putting his friends in danger as his arrogance took over. That he had finally seen sense, seen what he was doing, was more credit to their perseverance than his own virtues. He had allowed himself to become hooked on the power of the sarcophagus, letting it warp him even as he relished its healing properties.
Once again, he had stared at the darkness inside him and discovered that it frightened him.
So it had been easy to categorise Jack as someone who just wanted to use him, who would use the fact that he knew Daniel was gay as a way to get sex. After all, what man didn't enjoy getting a blow job, no matter who it was from? And if it was from someone you trusted not to blow the whistle on you, didn't that make it doubly atttractive?
But the photograph.
The photograph proved he was wrong. He had to be. Why would Jack have it if that was all he wanted?
If it had been Martin, someone like him where Daniel never knew what he was truly thinking, he would have been suspicious, but not Jack. If Jack had the picture of him, if he had so carefully cut all trace of James Martin from it, that meant...
That meant Jack cared for him more than Daniel might be able to handle.
Letting himself back into the house, Jack was surprised to find he was alone there.
He had expected Daniel to sleep for a while yet, despite how uncomfortable the couch was, helped by the amount of wine he had consumed and the fact that he rarely got a chance to sleep in. But it was clear from the neatly folded blanket on the couch that Daniel was not only awake but also moving about.
"Daniel?" Jack called out, hearing his voice echo through the house.
When there was no answer, he cursed the fact that it had taken him so long to find the particular coffee that Daniel drank at home, puzzling over the different packets until he found one that he was almost sure he had seen Daniel using. If he had just bought the first one that had come to hand, like his first instincts had told him.
The note he'd left for Daniel, explaining his whereabouts, was on the coffee table now, a few words added to the bottom.
Had to go, talk to you later.
Whatever he did, Jack couldn't seem to get it right. He had wanted so desperately for everything to be perfect, concentrating on giving Daniel what he needed, rather than letting Daniel meet his needs, and it had still been wrong. Taking one last look at the simple words Daniel had added, the seeming casualness of them biting at him, Jack screwed the note up, crushing the paper far longer than he needed.
The phone rang and rang.
As tempted as he was not to answer it, to leave it to ring until whoever was calling lost patience and gave up, there was no way Daniel could do it. The sound worried at him, making him think the worst, somehow, even though there was no way of telling what message he was about to receive.
It could be Jack, Daniel thought, wondering if he wanted this to be the case or not.
He just watched the telephone until it stopped ringing, then looked away once more.
"I have some things I need to do, in Chicago," Jack said, as they ate lunch together in the messhall the next day.
Daniel nodded. Though he wanted to ask Jack why he was going, there was no way he could justify it to himself. If Jack had been the one who phoned him the previous night, he hadn't mentioned it, but things still seemed tense between them.
"How long will you be gone?" Daniel asked, choosing a relatively innocuous question.
"3 or 4 days, tops." Jack paused, as if eyeing Daniel's expression. "I'm leaving in the morning. Figured the sooner I go, the sooner I get back."
"I guess this is goodbye, then," Daniel said, turning his attention to his lunch once more. "You know I have to finish that report tonight, it should have been done days ago."
Daniel didn't trust himself to look up, that Jack might mistake his expression of relief as gladness that he was leaving, rather than a chance to put his plan into action. He had thought of little else the previous night, in the silence of his apartment.
He could hear the disappointment in Jack's voice when he spoke.
"I guess it is. Look after yourself, Daniel," Jack said, pushing his chair back from the table.
Daniel waited uncertainly outside Hammond's office for the general to arrive. He hadn't slept much the previous night, though the uncomfortable cot he had set up in his office for those nights when he couldn't be bothered to make it down to the guest quarters had gone some way towards ensuring that.
More than that, he had wanted the conversation he was about to have to be over, having run a thousand different versions of it in his head, pondered a hundred different ways of saying what had to be said.
"Dr. Jackson? Is there something I can do for you?"
Despite the early hour, Hammond looked awake, his perceptive eyes sharp and sparkling with life.
"I need a moment of your time, general," Daniel said.
Jack went through the things he needed to do in some kind of a daze. It was all he could do not to turn straight round and get on a plane back to Colorado - the more he thought about Daniel's attitude when he had told him that he was going to have to go to Chicago, the more Daniel's response worried him.
How strong was the tie that kept Daniel with the SGC?
He had always known, when Sha're was alive, that the search for her was a Major driving force behind Daniel, something that could always be guaranteed to make Daniel push himself a little further than he could actually manage.
Jack thought back to the conversations they'd had just after Sha're had been killed, when Daniel had tried to explain the strange dream- nessages that he was so sure Sha're had sent him through the ribbon device. One of the scenarios that stuck in Jack's mind, even now, had been of Daniel leaving the SGC, packing everything up and moving on.
Was that what Daniel was planning while he was away? Was the search for Sha're's child not enough for Daniel after all?
The more he thought about it, the more real that possibility became. Daniel had said little about him leaving for Chicago, Jack realised, and had never said anything that indicated he would still be there, at the SGC, when Jack returned.
Daniel had never seen Hammond look surprised before. In all the time they had worked together in the SGC, he had seen a variety of expressions cross the general's face, but never like this. It took a moment after Daniel had fallen silent before Hammond said anything, just looking at him intently, until Daniel felt every twitch and shuffle.
"I wish you'd come to me before now, Dr. Jackson," Hammond began. "Matters between you and Colonel Martin should not have been allowed to go this far. If nothing else, you should have pressed charges." He shook his head. "That a man like that should be able to achieve such high rank."
"I'm sorry, general," Daniel said, quietly. "I had no idea he would go to such extremes."
"Of course, you realise, I have only your word that it was self- defence." Daniel nodded. "And Colonel O'Neill knows nothing of this conversation?"
"Do you think he'd let me take responsibility for what happened?"
Hammond nodded, his face showing that he was considering the situation carefully, as always.
"Dr. Jackson," he began, finally.
Daniel straightened slightly at the tone of Hammond's voice - here was the moment of truth, the one he had thought of for so long.
"You have come extremely close to being put up on charges yourself," Hammond continued, "as has Colonel O'Neill. I want to speak with the colonel on his return from Chicago, so I would ask that you not communicate with him between now and that time. Is that understood?"
"After I have spoken with Colonel O'Neill, asking him to corroborate your account of the events which led to the death of Colonel Martin, I shall then make my final decision on this matter. Dismissed."
With a curt nod, Hammond looked down at the pile of paperwork, not looking up again while Daniel was still in his office.
Daniel frowned, listening to the messages on his answering machine.
He had promised General Hammond that he wouldn't speak with Jack until Hammond had the chance to speak with him first, but the increasing annoyance and anxiety he heard in Jack's voice as each bleep passed made that one of the most difficult promises of his life.
Finally, the long beep came and then silence.
Had he done the right thing? What if Hammond decided that he should still be charged in relation to the death of Colonel Martin? What if Jack wouldn't forgive him for going behind his back?
Daniel sat down on the couch, letting his head sink back. He closed his eyes. There was no other choice, he knew that now. Even if Jack never spoke to him again, even if he ended up being put on charges to do with what had happened between him and Martin, or just ended up being kicked out of the SGC, he had done what had to be done.
Remorse pricked at Daniel as he considered the possibility of having to leave the SGC. He had made a promise to Sha're, even if no-one else believed that she had been able to communicate with him, to search for her child. Could he break that promise? What if he had no choice?
He'd survived in academia before, even though now his reputation was a tarnished one, if the SGC was no longer a possibility, surely he could find something to do, somewhere to go?
Or could he bear it at all? Being sent away, in disgrace. But worse than all that, Daniel decided, would be his life if Jack turned against him.
When his hotel room phone rang, early in the morning, Jack snatched it up, moving from sleep to wakefulness in less than a heartbeat.
"Who is this?"
"Lieutenant Simmons, sir," the chirpy voice continued. "General Hammond's compliments, sir, and he'd like to see you in his office at your earliest convenience."
"I'll be catching a plane in three hours, Lieutenant," Jack replied, feeling his broken sleep pulling at him now the rush of hope that it might be Daniel calling him had worn off. "Is Dr. Jackson there?"
"I haven't seen him, sir," Simmons replied. "Would you like me to ask him to contact you?"
"No need," Jack said, thinking that request would equally go as unanswered as his own had been.
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
"You're welcome, sir," Simmons replied, before the whirring of a disconnected line was all Jack was left with.
Where are you, Daniel? Jack thought. And why won't you return my calls?
Getting to the SGC a little earlier than he expected, Jack allowed himself a few minutes to look for a certain missing archaeologist, finding himself becoming more and more disappointed as each new place showed no sign of Daniel. On top of that, it looked from the state of Daniel's office, coffee mugs comfortably growing a new civilization on his desk, as if Daniel hadn't been around for a while either.
Carter caught up with him in the hallway on the way to see Hammond.
"Morning, Major. Have you seen Daniel about?"
Sam paused before answering, frowning slightly.
"Now you come to mention it, sir, I haven't seen Daniel in a couple of days. Not since he saw General Hammond."
Jack glanced across at Carter, seeing nothing but concern on her face. Surely, if Daniel had decided to make a break with the SGC, he would have said goodbye to Carter and Teal'c?
"He saw Hammond?" Jack echoed. "What was that all about?"
No sense wasting an opportunity to pry for information.
"No idea, sir. Welcome back, anyway."
"Thank you, Major," Jack said, pausing outside Hammond's office. He could feel the weight of the general's gaze through the glass star map that made up one wall of his sanctum.
"Sir? Can I talk with you about something?" Carter looked a little anxious, her voice slightly strained.
"Carter?" He couldn't talk with her now, no matter what it was she wanted. "Can this wait? Hammond's expecting me." She looked worried and Jack felt a pang of concern lodge itself in his chest. "I'll come find you later, okay?"
Carter nodded, then walked off, the usual intent expression taking residence on her face once more as Jack took a deep breath and entered Hammond's office.
The phone rang.
Daniel looked at it for a moment, waiting for the answering machine to kick in. He had no idea, after all, when exactly Jack was due back, so there was no way of telling when his exile might end. How long would it take for Jack to get back from Chicago to the SGC anyway, and then how long would Hammond want him?
After the beep, Jack's voice came.
"Daniel." He sounded angry and relieved all at the same time, which seemed a strange combination. "Daniel, I know you're there, and I know Hammond told you not to talk to me, but pick up the god damn phone!"
Daniel hesitated. If Jack was angry with him, he wasn't altogether sure he wanted to have any kind of conversation with him now.
"I'm coming over," Jack continued. "So stay put." There was a moment's silence. "I mean it, Daniel, don't even think about leaving there."
A click coincided with Daniel exhaling, tension flooding from him like the outgoing tide. The fact that Jack was still able to be calling anyone surely meant that Hammond had decided to believe his story?
Damn. He'd promised Carter he'd hear her out after brushing her off earlier, but all Jack wanted to do was go and confront Daniel. What the hell had he been thinking?
For a long moment, as he stood by the elevators, Jack seriously considered 'forgetting' his promise to Carter, but then he remembered how worried she'd seemed. If his team was falling apart around him, Daniel doing stuff behind his back, Carter worrying herself over something or other, then he had to do some repair work, and soon.
Daniel could wait.
Tracking Carter down was just as easy as finding Daniel, her familiar haunts well-known to Jack by now. It didn't take long before Jack was perched on a stool in Carter's lab, watching her as she worried a pencil half to death, turning it over and over in her fingers as she spoke.
"I don't really know where to start, sir," she said.
"Start with what?" Jack asked, his interest piqued now. She was still anxious, that was clear, and if he was right, that anxiety was centred on someone else. Sympathetic wasn't working, so why not try brusque? "Spit it out, Carter."
That startled her, made her drop the pencil, but also made her start to talk.
"It seems wrong somehow, sir," she began. "They say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I had to tell someone."
That made Jack sit up; he felt himself straighten, knew that Carter had seen it by the way she looked at him.
"Go on," he said.
"It all started when I went down to the infirmary," Carter began, hands now resting in her lap. "There was something about her, Lieutenant Forrest I mean, something not quite right..."
For a moment, after the doorbell rang, Daniel actually contemplated pretending he wasn't home, keeping a low profile until Jack left.
"I know you're in there, Daniel," Jack said, his voice carrying clearly through the apartment door.
Reluctantly, Daniel got up and crossed to the door, taking his time to undo the lock before pulling the door open.
"Did you have a good trip?" he asked, stepping back so Jack could pass him.
"Don't pretend, Daniel."
Daniel closed the door, taking the same care with the lock as he had when he had undone it, wanting anything that would delay this conversation. Jack's tone had been sharp, the words snapped out like bullets, so it was clear that he was still angry.
Daniel turned, his eyes searching for Jack and finding him, standing by one of the windows, looking out, his back rigid with tension.
"What did you think you were doing?" he asked, without turning round. "Going to Hammond like that behind my back."
"I was trying to make sure..."
"What?" Jack turned, his face angry. "That we both got put up on charges?" He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to calm himself. "Because that's what almost happened."
"The operative word here being 'almost'," Daniel replied.
Jack just stared at him for a moment, silent.
"You chose to do this, you didn't even ask my opinion."
"Because I knew you'd tell me not to!" Daniel replied. "That your response would be... well, it would be like this!" He gestured at Jack, his hand sweeping over the anger that Jack was exuding, the stiffness of his stance, the way his eyes were hard and unforgiving.
"I thought I could trust you, Daniel."
Daniel said nothing, instinct and a strong sense of survival telling him that there was no response he could give that would pacify Jack at this moment. Words would not help.
He had to leave.
Jack knew that if he stayed in Daniel's company a moment longer he would lose his cool completely, say and do things that he would regret for the rest of his life. But the worst thing, he decided, was that Daniel didn't seem to understand the enormity of what he had done - he was calm, almost serene, in the face of Jack's anger.
The little shit waited till I was on a plane to Chicago, Jack thought, as he headed out of the apartment building. He waited for me to leave and then he did this.
Jack could feel that he was being watched as he got into his jeep, but didn't bother to look up. He wasn't sure he could have restrained himself from flipping Daniel the bird, and he had no intention of showing himself up in public that way.
The drive home from Daniel's place was one Jack was familiar with, which he realised was probably a good thing. He was on auto-pilot, the angry words he had barely bitten back in Daniel's apartment running round and round in his head.
Getting in, Jack found he was restless. Before he had left for Chicago, he had planned to make his return a time that neither he or Daniel would forget in a hurry, but Daniel's actions while he had been away had ruined that.
How could he have done this?
Discovering that Daniel probably hadn't been the only person Martin was victimising hadn't helped either. The familiar anger had re- surfaced, taken hold of Jack once more, as Carter recounted her suspicions about Martin and one of his team.
Jack picked up the picture of his son, the one with the old picture of Daniel wedged into its frame, and stared at the face of the man he had so recently left.
It was the fact that Daniel didn't seem to understand what he had done, hadn't trusted Jack enough to even mention what he was planning.
Daniel's words came back to him: "Because I knew you'd tell me not to!"
"Looks like you knew me better than I knew you," Jack said to the picture, as he removed it from its place.
For a moment, he considered tearing it up. It was so fragile in his hands, printed on the cheapest of photographic paper. But that was a step he didn't want to take, Jack decided. Although he didn't know what would happen next, there was something important about this picture, something that made him put it back onto the mantel, undamaged.
When Daniel walked into the briefing room, Jack didn't even look up from the folder he was reading. It was that which stung the most, Daniel decided - compared to the pleasant greetings of his other team- mates, Jack's attitude stood out in sharp relief. Daniel stifled a smile at the look both Sam and Teal'c gave Jack, settling into a chair next to Teal'c where he could watch Jack relatively unobserved.
He had never seen Jack pay so much attention to a mission briefing, as his studious interest continued, right from the written report through to the general's instructions. Daniel watched Hammond too, as the canny general eyed Jack speculatively, as if trying to decide whether this was some new way for Jack to get his own way in the end.
He waited in the hallway for Jack to emerge from the briefing room, turning down an invitation from Sam to join her for coffee, only for Jack to walk straight past him as if he wasn't even there.
This isn't funny any more, Daniel thought, glaring at Jack's departing back as he headed down the corridor away from where Daniel was standing.
Damn it, was the universe out to get him? Jack stopped, turning to see Teal'c stalking down the corridor towards him, clearly oblivious to the effect that he had on the people around him. It never failed to amuse Jack that the Jaffa didn't realise how people just tended to get out of his way, as if he'd walk right through them if they didn't.
Teal'c glared at him a little as he reached where Jack was standing and Jack felt his small smile disappear.
"We must talk."
Jack's sense of impending doom continued to grow. Teal'c clearly wasn't at all happy with him and somehow he knew it had to do with Daniel. As if Daniel wasn't capable of protecting himself, now he had yet another team member wanting to do so.
"My office," Jack snapped, turning sharply on his heel.
As people got out of their way, he wondered momentarily whether it was him or Teal'c they were trying to avoid. Or whether he looked like he was projecting the air of a condemned man, his would-be executioner trailing at his heels.
Jack's house was dark, no sign of life at all, as Daniel drove up. Parking his car, he hesitated at the end of the driveway, wondering where the hell Jack could be at this time of night. He knew that Jack had left the SGC hours ago, having somehow lost track of time a little when he had intended to confront him before.
Instead, here he was faced with a missing colonel, no opportunity to try and put things right between them.
Pulling his jacket close around him, Daniel sat down on the steps leading up to Jack's front door, determined to wait this one out. One way or another he was going to sort things out between them tonight.
Jack frowned when he saw Daniel's car parked outside his house.
Leaving the SGC had been a relief, removing him from the possibility of Daniel cornering him somewhere and demanding that they talk. Jack had driven aimlessly for a while, before finding a small diner where he had eaten a poor meatloaf, all the while trying not to think of the hole he had dug for himself.
Teal'c's words had stayed with him, too, making him wonder just how transparent he had been all along. Any protestations of ignorance he had made had been ignored by Teal'c, who had just looked at him as if he was an idiot then continued to make it clear that he knew how Jack felt about Daniel and had done so for a while.
He'd been on the verge of asking Teal'c if he'd suspected something, if there was anything Martin had done that had given him concern. But when Jack thought about that, he'd realised that, if that had been the case, Martin probably wouldn't have survived long enough to organise his ambush.
Jack had then been forcefully reminded by Teal'c that he had a responsibility towards Daniel, that he would have to answer to Teal'c personally if he continued to make Daniel unhappy. As if Jack needed an incentive of any kind.
What he did need was time, time to think about what Teal'c had said, time to decide on a course of action that would keep everyone happy.
The last thing he needed now was Daniel.
Sadly, it seemed he was unlikely to get the chance to avoid that conversation, frowning to himself as he watched Daniel uncurl himself from what must have been an uncomfortable position on his front steps.
"Can't this wait, Daniel?" he asked, hoping for a reprieve, at least for tonight. One glance at Daniel's face, the stubborn set of his jaw was enough of an answer to that question.
Jack sighed, then walked past Daniel, leaving the door open for him to follow. This was the last thing he wanted, really, but it had to happen sooner or later, so why not get it out of the way?
It was obvious Jack was still more than a little angry, and Daniel could understand that. He had deliberately chosen to wait till Jack had left the SGC before going to Hammond, hadn't talked about what he was planning to do because he knew Jack would oppose the idea. And now he had to deal with the repercussions of his action.
Daniel closed the door behind him, watching Jack disappear down the steps into the living room.
He followed Jack, hesitating at the top of the steps for a moment, until Jack glared at him a little, which hardened his resolve.
"Things between me and James," he said, smiling to himself as he saw Jack look at him with a surprised expression. "They were always about control." Jack nodded, pointing at the couch to indicate Daniel should take a seat. "He got off as much on the power as the sex."
"What does that have to do with you going to Hammond behind my back?" Jack asked, leaning forward.
"I couldn't have something like that hanging over us, Jack. If something happened between us..."
"You think I'd do that?" Jack interrupted, his voice sharper now. "Go to Hammond and tell him you killed Colonel Martin if things didn't work out between us? For crying out loud, Daniel..."
"I know," Daniel said, looking down. "But I had to be sure. I can't apologise, because I don't feel sorry for telling Hammond."
"And you expect me to trust you, now?" Jack asked. "How can I?"
Daniel looked at him, seeing the tenseness behind the seemingly- relaxed posture, hearing the hardness in Jack's voice.
"It's not just that, is it, Jack?" he asked. Jack was suddenly very still, his eyes intent. "Me going to Hammond isn't what's making you so angry, or at least isn't the entire reason." There was silence for a moment. "Trust goes both ways, Jack," Daniel pressed, feeling like a hypocrite.
"I thought you were leaving."
"When we had lunch, and you didn't seem to be interested in where I was going or why, and you said goodbye to me." Jack paused, suddenly finding his hands incredibly interesting where they were resting on his lap. "I thought I'd come back and find you gone."
Daniel felt his heart lurch. If he had ever thought for a moment that Jack and James were alike, he knew now that they were cut from completely different cloth from one another. James would have been angry at the thought of Daniel leaving, at that loss of someone he considered his - Jack was torn apart by the idea, that much was clear.
"You think I could just go?" Daniel asked. "Just leave like that? I don't have anywhere to go, Jack. And even if I did, I couldn't do it."
"I can't help feeling angry, Daniel," Jack said, looking up again.
Daniel smiled, shaking his head slightly.
"I didn't think through what I was doing. I should have told you what I planned. Of course, you wouldn't have wanted me to do it, but we could have got past that. Couldn't we?"
Jack nodded, starting to smile now.
"Forgive and forget?"
"We can try."
It was uncomfortable, but at least now they had cleared the air a little, and Jack was starting to understand more why Daniel had done what he had done. He'd shared Daniel's feelings about the death of James Martin hanging over them, he just hadn't been as sure as Daniel obviously was that things would work out if they told Hammond. He'd wanted to believe the general would do the right thing, but had been too worried that it might go wrong to trust in that belief.
"I don't want there to be secrets between us, Daniel." Jack was amazed to hear himself, wondering for the briefest of moments what his ex-wife would think of this development. "Not any more."
"Me neither," Daniel agreed. "I've told you what happened between me and James, there isn't anything more that could come out."
Jack nodded, wondering whether James Martin would ever leave his place between the two of them, no matter how much time passed. He thought back to the conversation with Carter and wondered whether it would make a difference to Daniel that he wasn't the only one, that Martin had chosen to misuse his authority over someone under his command.
But what difference did that make? One victim or a dozen, the knowledge that Daniel had not been the only one would doubtless only leave him angrier than he was right now.
If not for himself, then for those who shared that humiliation. It wouldn't solve anything. Ultimately, it wouldn't help Daniel.
"Want some coffee?" Jack asked, getting up from where he had been sitting. Daniel nodded, getting up as well and following him into the kitchen.
"What were you doing going to Chicago, anyway?" Daniel asked, leaning on the doorframe and watching Jack make the coffee.
"I had things to deal with," Jack said, without looking round.
Daniel could hear the defensive tone in Jack's voice, the one that normally made him back off a little, but what was that they had just agreed about there being no secrets between them?
"What sort of things?" Daniel pressed. Jack's head snapped round, his eyes dark with emotion. "We said no secrets, remember?"
"Last week," Jack said, clearly reluctant, "I got a letter. From my dad's lawyer. I had to go sort out his estate."
"Your dad died?" Daniel asked, straightening up. "Why didn't you say something, Jack?"
"We weren't close, Daniel. I hadn't seen him in years, didn't want anything to do with him, then or now." Jack turned his attention back to the coffee machine, seeming to focus on the steady drip of the dark liquid.
"Still," Daniel continued. "You could have said something. I could have come with you."
Jack looked at him again, his eyes unreadable.
"Because you needed me to? Or wanted me to?" Daniel said, sensing somehow that he was somewhere important in their relationship. "Or just because you asked me?"
Jack was silent for a moment, as if assessing him, considering whether to say something more.
"What was it that you thought I'd have the most problem with?" Jack said suddenly. "You being gay, or you being in an abusive relationship?"
Though in some ways it seemed a non sequitur, Daniel could see where this line of questioning had come from. Hadn't he agreed to no secrets between them?
"I wasn't sure what you'd think about me being gay," Daniel admitted, after taking a deep breath to steady his nerves. "The USAF isn't the most tolerant place to be if that's the case. And as for James, he wasn't always violent towards me. Maybe if he had been it would have been easier for me to realize what a mistake I'd made. At times he could be the most loving and generous person I've ever met."
"And that was usually after he'd knocked you around, wasn't it?" Jack was silent again for a moment. "I was too young to remember much about what happened, Daniel," Jack said, suddenly. "All I know is that my parents lived in that kind of relationship for a long time. And one day it all got out of hand."
"Is that why you and your dad...?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Daniel paled slightly. "I mean... You don't have to tell me, if you don't want to," he added hastily.
"I've already told you that I think I'm in love with you, Daniel," Jack said, wryly. "How much more shocking could anything else be?"
"I don't want you to feel that you have to tell me, Jack. This isn't some contest about who's had the most shit to deal with."
"I want to tell you. I've never told anyone before, but I feel as though I need to tell you. Is that okay?"
"Thanks, Jack." Jack looked up at that, a slightly puzzled expression on his face. "For trusting me with this," Daniel explained.
"You trusted me enough to tell me you were gay," Jack said, in a tone that implied that this statement was an explanation for everything. "I don't think I even trusted Sara enough to tell her what my family was like. She had enough sense not to push me, to make me give answers to questions I didn't want to."
"She loved you, Jack," Daniel said quietly. "Why would she want you to be unhappy?"
"I think that was another reason," Jack replied. "Why I never told her, I mean. She needed me to be strong, so how could I tell her that I was afraid?"
"Afraid?" Daniel echoed.
It was as if he hadn't spoken. Jack's voice was quiet and as soon as he began speaking Daniel realized that he needed to get it all out. Jack needed to talk about the fights, the bruises, the silences between his parents, the warnings he was given never to speak of what happened.
"It was our business and no-one else's what went on in our house, that was what my father always told me," Jack said. "And even when my mom died, it took me a long time to realize what had happened."
"You were only a child, Jack," Daniel said. "How could you know?"
"I saw her, Daniel."
"The night she died. I was there, in the house, in that room, and I saw her. I'd never seen a dead body before."
"And you never told anyone?"
"What could I say?" Jack asked. "If I told anyone what I'd heard, what I knew, what I suspected even, how would that help? My mom would still be dead."
"But what about you, Jack?" Daniel asked. "You had to live with what happened too."
"I always worried about being a dad," Jack said. "After all, what did I know about it? I never even told Sara how scared I was I'd turn out to be just like my old man, that I'd make her life miserable and Charlie's too."
"I think you were worried about nothing, Jack," Daniel said, quietly. "After all, you didn't turn out to be the same kind of father that you had, did you? I mean, it's clear that Sara still has feelings for you and anyone who knows anything about you knows that losing Charlie was the worst thing that ever happened to you."
"That doesn't mean I was any better at being a dad."
"You had insight, Jack," Daniel said, leaning forward with an intent expression on his face. "How do you think anyone learns to be a parent? They learn from their parents, and then they either follow the example they've been set or they reject it. You didn't follow in your father's footsteps, instead you chose to make your own path."
"He left me some money. I can't bear to have anything to do with it. I never wanted anything from him when he was alive - why should I want it now?"
"You need to do something with it, Jack," Daniel said. "That money itself isn't either good or bad, but it needs to be made to have some positive effect on the world, not just sit there in an account gathering interest."
"What did I ever do without you, Daniel?" Jack asked, with a smile.
"I have no idea," Daniel replied, an answering grin appearing on his face. "But I bet your life was way less complicated than it is now..."
"You have to ask?"
Before he could think twice, Jack found himself crossing the small distance between them, one hand going out to wrap itself in the front of Daniel's sweater as if he feared Daniel would run from him. The smile on Daniel's face, the expectancy of it, told him that nothing could be further from the truth.
"I do love you, you know, Daniel," Jack muttered quietly, when the two of them were face to face.
"I hope so," Daniel replied. "Because I wouldn't do this with just anyone."
The words made Jack pause and he bit back an automatic response, the one that reminded Daniel that he had given his consent before, to someone who Jack despised more than he could explain. But that would be cruel, those words would cut Daniel to the bone, and he knew that so much had changed since Daniel and Martin had been together - he knew that had never been anything like the kind of relationship he sought with Daniel, that in some ways that was another Daniel altogether.
Jack silenced his thoughts by kissing Daniel, his mind focussing on the feel of Daniel's hands on his back, the tiny moans of pleasure Daniel made that were muffled by his questing mouth.
He was here, now, with Daniel, and Martin was dead. Daniel had made his choice long ago, made it again on the planet, was making his choice once more. Jack knew that he had to believe Daniel knew the consequences - after all, he had known very well what he was doing when he went to Hammond.
He'd been angry when he discovered what Daniel had done, but it hadn't been difficult for Jack to realise that his anger was magnified by his fear of losing Daniel. He had imagined coming back to the SGC, stalking its corridors in search of Daniel only to discover the other man gone, and the pain that had followed that imagining had shaken Jack to the core.
He pulled back from Daniel reluctantly, smiling at the blissful expression on Daniel's face, in the split second before Daniel's eyes opened. There was still a slight wariness there, something that unsettled Jack, and he resolved to make that disappear, if he could.
He had half-pulled, half-coaxed Jack into the living room, and onto the couch. Once there, Daniel was suddenly struck with uncertainty. He knew what he wanted, and Jack's questing hands made him realise that he was in search of something as well, but he wasn't really sure whether those two things were the same.
It had been such a long time since Daniel had done this - his experiences with Martin had soured the memories he'd formerly treasured, twisting the pain and ecstacy together until they were a tangled mess.
But here, on this couch, Jack had begun to untwine some of those feelings, bringing new memories for Daniel to treasure. And now he wanted to share that pleasure, allow Jack to experience it as well.
"Let me," he said, his hand reaching for Jack's fly.
Jack's eyes were questioning, and Daniel knew what he was asking in an instant. He had seen what had happened the last time Daniel had tried to give Jack what he wanted, the horrible mess that experience had turned into, and Jack wanted to be sure that he was ready. Daniel nodded, smiling slightly - he was ready, more than ready.
He pushed Jack back onto the couch, urging him back against the arm of it, one foot still flat on the floor and the other resting on the couch itself. Jack let his head fall back slightly, closing his eyes. Daniel took a deep breath, his fingers stroking the material over Jack's crotch, feeling the movement that gesture elicited. He could do this, he had to do this, for so many different reasons.
"If you change your mind," Jack began, his eyes still closed. Daniel smiled to himself - so solicitous of his well-being, so different from Martin in all the ways that mattered.
"No." He was sure Jack could hear him smile, seeing the answering curve of Jack's mouth when he spoke the single word. "Not this time."
Daniel's fingers slipped under the fly of Jack's jeans, popping each button until he was able to pull the material back, and slip his hand inside to free Jack from his boxers. Daniel felt the heat against his fingers and heard Jack moan as he did so, arching his back slightly.
"Look at me," he whispered, smiling as he saw Jack twitch at the air brushing across his length. "Jack." He looked up, meeting Jack's eyes, dark with desire. "This time," he continued, leaning over and ghosting another breath across the head of Jack's dick. Daniel smiled to himself as Jack moaned, twitching in Daniel's hand, his eyes darkening further.
Somewhere, somehow, he had died and gone to heaven. That was the only explanation for it. There was a god and he liked Jack O'Neill, for some reason Jack couldn't quite determine - why else would Daniel be kneeling between Jack's legs, offering to do the thing that even thinking about sent him almost into orbit?
Jack closed his eyes before the sight of Daniel, the feel of warm air being breathed across the head of his dick made him come. Damn him, Daniel had to know how close he was here, and he was just tormenting him. He didn't dare open his eyes, feeling himself teetering on the brink and knowing that the sight of Daniel on his knees would be enough to send him screaming into the abyss.
His eyes still closed, Jack reached out a slightly shaking hand in search of Daniel, his fingertips grazing the skin of Daniel's neck. Under his thumb, Jack could feel Daniel's pulse thrumming, yet another proof that this wasn't his vivid imagination at work.
He could hear Daniel speaking, but his mind was too pre-occupied with his incipient orgasm, the familiar tightening feeling rushing upon him, to determine whether those were real words Daniel spoke. Then, suddenly, for a moment, there was silence before heat encompassed him and that was the last Jack remembered.
So, this was what freedom felt like. Daniel climbed up onto the couch next to Jack and curled himself around Jack's body. Jack opened his eyes and smiled at him, shifting slightly to make room and then closed his eyes once more.
It felt at last as though he had overcome his past - he hadn't forgotten it, but it no longer had any power over him. The death of Martin, the discovery of how Jack felt about him, both had worked together to help him shed the last chains his past had weighted on him.
He had seen Jack change too, their previous friendship deepened by what they had experienced together, Jack trusting him with things he had never told anyone else, it seemed. That had to be good, laying a solid foundation for the time that was to come.
Somehow he sensed there was more, still something that Jack wasn't telling him, but they had to start somewhere. There would, Daniel hoped, be time enough for everything.
Not that he expected things to be all plain sailing between them from now on - Daniel was nothing like naοve enough to believe that could be the case. But now, at least, there was hope, and they would weather the storms ahead of them together.
The warm embrace was enough, Jack's arm a solid reminder of the unspoken support he offered. It had been a while since Daniel had welcomed the oblivion sleep brought, the nightmare of his experiences with Martin still holding too strong a sway over him for him to truly relax, but not now...
Now he could sleep.