So, this was the famous Dr. Jackson. The man Dr. Langford insisted he couldn’t do without. He didn’t look indispensable, no matter what the chief mad scientist said. He looked …
Jack considered how he looked for a moment, as he watched Dr. Jackson from the other side of the large room that held the artifact. The subject of Jack’s scrutiny was completely unaware of his presence since all his attention was fixed on the disk and slabs of stone that stretched far above them both. Dr. Jackson was sketching something, some detail from its surface, the pencil he held making sure and steady marks on the paper. His fascinated gaze returning to the object over and over as if he somehow feared it would disappear if not closely watched, taking all its secrets with it.
What would it be like to be on the receiving end of that kind of attention?
Jack wondered about that for a moment. As if that cold fish of an archaeologist could look at anything that wasn’t a few thousand years old that way. He found that his eyes were lingering on Dr. Jackson’s hands. One clutched the pencil as it moved so surely across the paper, the long fingers of the other clutched the edge of the pad as the archaeologist continued to draw.
There was nothing wrong with looking. He couldn’t believe there was.
It was only coincidence that the memory of Dr. Jackson’s face, the almost devout expression, stayed with him long after he’d left the room and returned to the office he called his own.
"Colonel O’Neill?" That was Langford’s voice, accompanied by a staccato rap on the doorframe as he entered, the most courtesy he could expect from civilians, O’Neill supposed.
Jack fixed Langford with a gaze, pointing with his pen at the vacant chair the other side of the desk. He was just returning his attention to the paperwork he was completing when he realized Langford wasn’t alone.
"I don’t want to take up too much of your time," Langford continued, as he settled himself into the chair Jack had indicated. "But I was conscious of the fact you and Dr. Jackson had yet to meet." The subject of their conversation, that same Dr. Jackson, was still in the doorway, looking out of place and as if he wished he could be anywhere but there.
"Come on in, Dr. Jackson," Jack said, putting the cap back on his pen as he spoke. "No matter what Dr. Langford may have told you," he continued, "I don’t bite." Those few glib words seemed to do the trick, making Jackson straighten up a little and actually enter Jack’s small office, taking the other chair beside Langford. "How was the trip from Chicago?" He couldn’t help himself, it was force of habit by now to try and put these civilians off their stride. "You arrived when, Monday?"
"Sunday night," Jackson said. His voice was everything Jack had expected it would be, the measured tones of a man who rarely said anything without thinking it over half a dozen times. "Dr. Langford very kindly allowed me to stay at his house and then I came here on Monday."
Jack nodded, losing interest already even as he thought how soothing Jackson‘s voice was. He didn’t see that same spark now in the other man that he’d seen before—that must have been a figment of his imagination, some small chimera he’d created out of the hope for something more. Instead there was something very familiar about Jackson, some thread of commonality he’d seen in all the other civilians here, a literalness that bugged the hell out of him if he allowed it to. It was as if there was no detail too small to be mentioned and that was a luxury military life didn’t always allow for.
And that was that, really. He’d been about ready to dismiss the two of them, turn his attention back to the paperwork he really had little desire to complete, when Jackson raised his head a little. Their eyes met for the first time and Jack saw the man he’d seen only hours before, there in front of him once again.
He’d never really been a great believer in destiny, stories about meetings that were meant to happen, that seemed unlikely in a universe that seemed to be driven by random events. But there was something about Jackson, something familiar about the life that he saw in those eyes, that struck Jack to the core.
Perhaps it was that the person inside had experienced more than many of these civilians seemed to have known, locked in their ivory towers examining things that people had thrown away a thousand years before. What relevance could that have for anyone, particularly when people were dying overseas?
"We should let you get on," Langford said, after a long moment of silence had hung in the room between them. "Come on, Daniel."
"Thank you for your time, Colonel," Jackson said, pushing back the chair.
Jack nodded, unsure what he wanted to say for once in his life. That wasn’t something that happened very often, but somehow he sensed that this meeting was too important to cheapen with the kind of comment he’d usually make.
"You’re welcome," he replied, even as the office door was closing behind them.
It was very odd. He felt as though he’d met O’Neill before, though he knew that couldn’t possibly be the case—he’d have remembered him, Daniel was certain of that. But the colonel had looked at him as though they knew one another, when he’d bothered to look at all.
"That’s a better reception than I got from Colonel O’Neill," Dr. Langford said, slapping Daniel on the shoulder as they headed back towards his office. "It does the military good to see that we’re not all inveterate pipe-smoking eccentrics, I think."
Daniel nodded, wondering just what everyone had expected from him. He’d never been someone who fitted in but his abilities, his intellect, had allowed him to make a place in the academic world for himself. Even if his immediate surroundings were proscribed, he had the past and its myriad histories to journey in and that had always been enough.
At least, until Nick.
He’d never expected to feel that kind of interest for anyone again, and particularly not for an Army Air Force colonel who had to be ten years older than he was. He was no prize catch himself but what chance was there that O’Neill was even interested in him? Though Daniel had seen the way the man looked at him, curiosity and interest all mingled together, and wondered just what it meant.
It could be as simple as Langford’s explanation—Daniel didn’t fit the bill, wasn’t your stereotypical academic, and that was enough to elicit someone’s interest. It had to be that, there was no way it could be anything else. Still, the best thing he could do was concentrate on why he’d been brought here, rather than daydreaming about something that would never happen no matter how much he might want it to.
He hadn’t realized at the time, though he’d suspected it when he met Ernest Littlefield, but Langford had brought him in to serve as his assistant. Whether it was that Littlefield hadn’t measured up to what Dr. Langford wanted from him, or whether it was some subconscious response to the fact that Littlefield was a poor scholar from a no-account family who had a crush on Langford’s daughter, Daniel had no idea. Except that Langford now seemed determined to have him involved with Catherine instead, no matter how much Daniel might try and make excuses.
He found himself being invited over for Sunday lunch, an excruciating experience even for someone whose own family had turned those occasions into interrogation sessions of which Hitler’s Gestapo might be rightly proud. Langford had wasted no opportunity to sing his daughter’s praises, making both her and Daniel blush.
When he’d had the chance to speak with Catherine alone, he’d discovered she was an intelligent young woman, one whose own ambitions in the archaeological field had been waylaid by her father’s fame and her mother’s death. Dr. Langford had essentially installed her in her mother’s position, expecting her to give up her studies and look after him, with no thought of how this would affect her plans. All in all, Daniel felt that Catherine had taken that knock with more grace than he would have been able to manage.
In the end, Daniel had found himself becoming more and more entrenched in his work, finding reasons not to accept Dr. Langford’s invitations when he could or even keeping away from him when he thought those invitations might be forthcoming. If Langford had him penciled in as a future son-in-law, he was headed for a great disappointment, one way or another. In many ways, particularly in terms of orientation, Littlefield would be a much more appropriate catch—he also had the advantage of being head over heels for Catherine, even though she seemed oblivious of the fact.
"This isn’t right," Daniel said to himself, as he scrubbed a hand across his face. Try as he might, he couldn’t make the translation work. It made no sense at all, no matter how many times he went over it. He looked at the reference book again, contemplating throwing it across the room—what the hell did Budge know anyway?
Daniel stared at the symbols once more, trying to force them to make some kind of sense. To make them have something to do with the artifact that was the center of their project, but nothing else that had been found in Giza seemed to fit. It was as if the artifact and everything else had come from different time periods, but that was impossible. It had to be impossible. If it wasn’t, the very idea turned everything that they thought they knew about Ancient Egypt on its head. But that was impossible, wasn’t it?
Daniel stretched, hearing the vertebrae in his back pop in protest at the long hours spent hunched over this translation. And for what? He’d compared the markings with cuneiform and other pre-dynastic writings and found no matches whatsoever. All he had to show for his efforts were a few scribbled notes and a headache the size of the cover stone itself.
And that wasn’t the only headache he was currently suffering from.
Daniel thought back to earlier, to the expression he’d seen on Catherine’s face when he’d excused himself from their lunch date to get back to his fruitless research. If only he could figure out a way to let Catherine down gently, get out of this damn entanglement without hurting her too much.
If he’d been able to say no to her in the first place, it might never have got to this. Part of it had been a reaction to his need to hide what he was, camouflaging himself with his relationship with Catherine. If Daniel had felt for her the way she did for him it might have even worked out, but he couldn’t pretend that he did. At least not to himself.
And he tried not to lead her on, using the war as an excuse not to marry, even though he hated himself for his cowardice. He should never have let it get this far.
But it had, and Daniel knew now he was in too deep. He’d seen the way Ernest Littlefield looked at her, wondered why Catherine herself didn’t see the adoration that shone from his would-be rival’s eyes. But she was too fixed on her father’s protégé, too intent on hitching her wagon to a rising star of her father’s creation at her father’s behest, to even notice Ernest.
And that made Daniel feel even guiltier. As if he wasn’t just lying to Catherine, leading her on with unspoken promises of something Daniel could never truly give her, but Ernest too. He was robbing Ernest of the happiness he himself desired.
Catherine had even given him her amulet, as a kind of tacit engagement present, and he’d accepted it without raising a single objection. She hadn’t asked for anything in return, knowing that wartime raised its own issues where getting things were concerned, and for that Daniel was eternally grateful. He didn’t want to tie himself to her, or vice versa, any more than he already had.
He certainly could never tell her he had no intentions of marrying anyone. That he was more interested in Colonel O’Neill than he was in anyone else involved with the project and that getting together with him seemed as likely as changing how he felt about marrying Catherine Langford.
At some point, though, he knew he would have to find a way to tell her the truth—or at least as much of the truth as she could manage—it wasn’t right to make her think there was some possibility there when that patently was never going to happen. His own life had been torn apart by actions beyond his control, so Daniel certainly had no intention of wrecking other people’s lives by his own deliberate actions.
Avoidance had its uses but at the end of the day the facility really wasn’t that large.
Jack just turned the corner and ran into Dr. Jackson. Literally ran into him, sending the other man sprawling and watching helplessly as the papers he carried were scattered across the floor by the force of their impact.
Damn it all to hell. What was happening to him? He was never usually this clumsy, or out of touch with his surroundings. Jackson was dusting himself off now where he had sat up, looking at the mess that lay around him—he had an abstracted expression on his face, as if he still wasn’t completely sure where he was.
Jack felt his heart lurch. He didn’t want to feel this way, didn’t want to accept the reality of a universe where he wasn’t completely interested in women and partially interested in the man who was currently looking up at him with a slightly bemused expression on his face. It was as if Jackson couldn’t quite figure out how he’d got from walking down the corridor to measuring his length along it, despite the obvious clue of Jack’s presence.
Against his better judgment, Jack offered him a hand up, feeling the shift of warm skin beneath his palm as Jackson let himself be helped to his feet.
When he wasn’t stooping, wasn’t hunched over whatever he was working on, they were about the same height. Jackson was slighter, but then he hadn’t been through Army Air Force basic training, which would have dealt with that. Jack helped Dr. Jackson gather up the last of his papers, all the while wondering whether he was losing his mind.
This couldn’t be happening, Jack kept telling himself, even as he replayed the last few minutes through his mind. He hadn’t been staring at Dr. Jackson the way a starving man looked at a steak. That wasn’t possible. He hadn’t been a hairsbreadth away from pushing Dr. Jackson down onto his back and plundering that luscious mouth until the other man was whimpering with need beneath him. Surely he hadn’t been considering doing all that and more, and in a public corridor no less?
Because that was impossible. Wasn’t it?
After all, he wasn’t that way inclined. Sure, he’d never tomcatted around like some of his friends—after all, money had always been hard to come by when he was younger and free time had been a luxury in itself—but that didn’t mean he was one of those. Because he would have known, wouldn’t he? Jack had to believe he would have known, if he liked men like that …
So what was this? Frustration, lack of opportunity, his sex drive making him into a liar and proving he really was alive but picking an unlikely target for it?
Because he didn’t even particularly like the man, even though he seemed competent enough. Just now was possibly the first time since they’d met that Dr. Jackson had even looked him in the eye. Jack had felt a little like a snake coming face to face with a mongoose; he’d been mesmerized, trapped, enraptured. And then Dr. Jackson had looked away, breaking the spell he’d cast.
"Thank you, Colonel."
What made him do it? What was it that made Jack decide to lower the barrier between them, the barrier of formality he’d always been happy to hide behind till now?
"Jack," he said quickly, before he could change his mind.
Dr. Jackson just looked at him for a moment, his bright blue gaze assessing and more than a little cautious.
"Daniel," he replied quietly. Daniel looked as though he was unsure what he wanted to say next, if anything, and suddenly Jack knew exactly how he felt. "Pleased to meet you, Jack," he continued, after a moments thought, and held out his hand as if they’d never met before.
Jack nodded as they shook hands, feeling a strange tendril of warmth insinuate itself inside him, a feeling of unexpected elation accompanying it. Daniel’s hand was warm, the grip firm and calloused. Jack suddenly felt more alive than he had in the longest time, and then suddenly afraid. Vulnerable. From Daniel’s reaction, Jack knew his face had closed down—Daniel looked uncertain again, as if he thought he’d done something wrong but wasn’t sure what it could be. That wasn’t fair—Jack was angry with himself, it wasn’t Daniel’s fault that Jack was attracted to him.
There. Jack had admitted it to himself, even if he didn’t understand it. No more prevarication. But that was where it began and ended. Nothing would happen between them. He couldn’t allow it.
Even if, at the moment, Jack wanted something from Daniel, something he could barely understand, something he was certain he wanted more than he wanted his next breath.
His sharp eyes spotted the photograph on the floor before Daniel did; Jack bent to pick it up, examining it as he half-watched Daniel reassemble the contents of his wallet.
One of the men in the picture was definitely Daniel, a younger and happier looking version of the same man. The other was a stranger, but the way they were leaning together, captured forever half-sitting on the parapet of a stone bridge showed they were anything but strangers to each other. The Daniel in the photograph was looking at the other man with an expression that told Jack volumes about who he was, what they were to one another.
Daniel was standing in front of him, hand outstretched for the photograph.
"Who is he?" Jack asked.
Daniel’s face shut down a little, making him look even sadder than before.
"A friend," Daniel said. Jack had to almost strain to hear the words. "Just a friend."
He didn’t believe that for a moment. Friends didn’t look at friends that way, not in his experience; that look bespoke intimacy, closeness, the sharing of more than secrets.
"I won’t give you away," Jack said. The words had tumbled from his mouth, surprising both of them.
"And in exchange for that favor?"
Daniel’s voice was more than a little scornful and Jack found he couldn’t blame him in the slightest. He’d come across sounding like a blackmailer, which had been the last thing he wanted—he was more an opportunist, seeing the possibilities of something he’d hoped for but never really believed would happen. Something that seemed more real than anything else going on around them.
"I do something for you," Jack continued. "Then you do something for me."
There was silence between them for a long moment, Daniel’s eyes on him and he made himself hold that assessing gaze.
"In there," Daniel said, finally, inclining his head towards a nearby rest room. Jack nodded, unable to speak now as the reality of the situation crashed down around him. He followed Daniel into the rest room then bolted the door before he gave himself the time to think what a bad idea this was.
"I don’t usually do this sort of thing."
Jack smiled at him. He hoped the smile was reassuring, but he wasn’t sure it came across as anything other than predatory. It had been so long since he’d had an encounter with anything other than his own hand; his imagination was already three or four steps ahead, enjoying the actions of Daniel’s talented fingers on overheated flesh.
"Are you asking if I’ll still respect you in the morning?" Jack asked. He wondered if he sounded nervous, as nervous as Daniel looked. They both had too much to lose, but there didn’t seem to be much point in turning back—they’d already gone too far for that to be an option.
"That would involve assuming that you respect me now," Daniel said, taking a step closer. Jack made himself keep still, though he was convinced Daniel could hear the way his heart was currently attempting to hammer its way out of his chest. "And that’s not the case," Daniel continued. "Is it?"
Too close. Every instinct was telling Jack to push him away, that no good could come of this encounter, that he was making the biggest mistake of his life. Except that he could see the expression in Daniel’s eyes now, the arousal there, and it seemed to be contagious.
He decided not to answer, closing his eyes as Daniel’s fingers fumbled with the fly on his trousers, those agile hands making short work of the fastenings. The material puddled around his ankles, the cool air of the restroom hitting his legs in fine counterpoint to the heat inside his shorts.
Leaning backwards, Jack’s hands found the cool porcelain of the wash basins, his head hitting the mirror as he watched Daniel carefully. He had that expression on his face, that look of total concentration as he sank gracefully to his knees—it was a look Jack felt himself respond to, growing even harder at the thought of what would happen next.
Jack shot a look at the door; it was okay, it was bolted. He’d bolted it himself, back at the beginning of all this. He couldn’t hear anyone outside and the facility was pretty much deserted this time of night anyway.
"Just you and me," Daniel said quietly, as if picking up on Jack’s thoughts.
Jack’s hands tightened on the porcelain as he remained looking at the rest room door—idly, he wondered how much force it would take to crack one of the wash basins, feeling the coolness curve under his palms. A slight movement in front of him drew Jack’s attention back to Daniel.
"Oh god," he muttered, as Daniel mouthed him through the soft cotton of his shorts. Jack jerked his head back instinctively, feeling the sharp pain as it impacted with the mirror. "Please …"
Please what? Stop? More? He wasn’t sure he could have finished that sentence and he was certain his brain cells were leaking out of the cock that Daniel was currently lavishing his attention on.
"Shhh." Daniel’s voice was a hiss of warm air across his erection, punctuated by his fingers freeing him. "Soon."
Did the porcelain creak under his grip?
He heard Daniel laugh to himself, hating the sound and loving it all at the same time. Jack hated being so weak, being so much in the other man’s control—how much more out of control could he be than to have his cock in Daniel’s mouth? It was moments between the sensation of cool air and the further, more exciting, sensation of hot wet heat surrounding him.
He didn’t look.
Concentrate on something else, Jack told himself, concentrate on the fly specks on that window over there, not the way Daniel’s long fingers currently gripped his hips, holding him still while Daniel’s wicked mouth drove him to the brink. Count them … one, two … what is he doing to me? Three, four, five …
He couldn’t want this. This wasn’t right, he hadn’t agreed to any of this. What Jack had wanted was some relief, some respite from his own right hand, not for Daniel to take him somewhere he really didn’t want to go. And if he kept telling himself that, Jack knew, one day he might believe it.
One day when the sensations had faded, if any of them lived that long.
He closed his eyes, concentrating on the sensations flooding through him, the sensations created by that talented tongue, the coolness of the porcelain under his hands and against the backs of his legs, the odd ache in the small of his back as he tried not to respond to Daniel’s urging.
Daniel’s hands were steady on his hips, cool and knowing.
But he had to. Jack knew he had to see, had to imprint that moment on his mind’s eye, had to know what Daniel looked like doing that. How else would he populate his fantasies in the time to come? He couldn’t risk doing this again, even if the sensations were something unlike anything he’d experienced before, like Daniel was trying to suck his bones out one by one.
Daniel’s eyes were closed, his face held an expression that looked almost devout, the expression that had captivated him once before. When they’d been strangers to one another, not whatever they were now. Daniel looked like a worshipper at the temple of his god. Jack felt something crumble inside at that thought—too much, too much!
He let go of his death grip on the wash basin with one hand, watching as if his hand had a mind of its own—it came to rest on Daniel’s hair, pushing back one errant lock from his brow, the movement making Daniel’s eyes flick open suddenly.
Jack felt pinned by that look, held in place by Daniel’s eyes, pinned by his hands on Jack’s hips, his mouth on Jack’s cock, like a bug on a board.
That wasn’t a plea for Daniel to stop—he wasn’t sure he could, wasn’t sure he wanted him to. Daniel’s mouth curved a little, quirking around the mouthful of cock, and he closed his eyes once more. The world spun round Jack; he was still pinned, still held in place, and trapped on a whirligig of sensation as Daniel turned his attention to pushing him over the edge.
He recognized that expression, he’d seen it close up and personal so many times on Nick’s face, the utter relaxation of a good blow job before the realities of the universe set in.
Jack was still slumped against the wash basins, pants around his ankles, breathing like he’d just run a marathon, eyes closed and head back against the rest room mirror. Carefully, Daniel tucked Jack’s cock back into his shorts, but Jack didn’t respond, didn’t even show he was aware of Daniel’s actions.
Daniel stood, brushing the dust from the knees of his suit pants, wondering if the crease in them would ever be the same.
Not that he was renowned for his sartorial tastes anyway, he reminded himself. That way lay danger, and the possibility of discovery. Just like sucking off an Army Air Force colonel in a rest room? At least this had seemed like a good idea at the time, the sheer pleasure he’d seen in Jack’s face, the arousal in Jack’s eyes going straight to Daniel’s own erection, giving him a hard-on that wouldn’t quit.
"I guess I … err …"
How could he have done anything quite so stupid? Nothing good could come from offering sexual favors to someone as straight as Jack O’Neill—he should know better than that.
Except, in the midst of it all, he’d seen Jack’s face. Daniel had seen that long moment before realization struck, when time stood still before Jack understood what he’d done and what that implied. There was no way Jack could have faked that expression—he didn’t need to, Daniel had already agreed to do what he wanted, there was no need to dissemble.
He knew what Daniel wanted, knew it as well as he knew himself. Jack felt the bowstring tautness of his body begin to fade, releasing his grip on the wash basins as he straightened up. He wondered what he looked like, but didn’t dare turn to face the mirror and find out.
Daniel’s face, when Jack opened his eyes, told him all he needed to know.
There was a subtle smile there. The cat that got the cream. He couldn’t have described it as calculating, there was too much honest pleasure in Daniel’s expression for that.
"I should …" Daniel began again, one hand trailing down towards where his own erection tented his pants.
It was like a lightning strike. Jack knew what he wanted, knew it though he’d never realized before that the possibility was there. In his mind’s eye he could see himself in Daniel’s place, kneeling on that cold tile floor, taking Daniel into his mouth as the other man gasped and moaned at the attention.
Worse still, the image mutated, turning into something else, something he’d never contemplated before. Himself, head bowed over the wash basins, that death grip in place once again, as Daniel pressed himself against Jack’s back, whispered endearments as he invaded Jack’s body in an even more intimate way. What would that be like? He’d seen it once, walking into a room he shouldn’t have, discovering two of his fellow officers in flagrante during their long tour overseas.
He’d never thought of himself as passive, never wanted that feeling of being utterly out of control. Not till now, not till Daniel had done something to him, taken away something that was so much a part of who Jack was, turning him into a stranger to himself.
Daniel had freed himself, eyes bright with arousal as he handled his erection, Jack’s eyes going to his arousal without a second thought.
"No," Jack said. Daniel took a step towards him, concern already taking the place of arousal and Jack found himself shoving at the other man, pushing him away as he turned to the rest room door.
He couldn’t answer, couldn’t do anything but wrestle with the recalcitrant bolt, finally forcing it free and running from the rest room as if the hounds of hell were on his trail.
|Continued in Part 3...|