|What the hell was I thinking? Daniel wondered, studying the photos on the mantelpiece once more.
It had seemed like such a good idea on the drive over to Jack's house.
Teal'c, in his quietly-spoken way, had made everything look so uncomplicated, as if this relationship that Daniel longed for so much could just be plucked from the air like fruit from a branch.
That thought had evaporated the moment the front door to Jack's house had opened, revealing the colonel in a pair of faded boxers, and most of the blood in Daniel's body had headed as far away from his brain as it could at that sight.
I'm here to talk with Jack, Daniel told himself sternly, knowing even as he did so that his words were having no effect on his libido whatsoever.
Even with his back to the kitchen, Daniel could hear the noises Jack was making as he puttered around in there, the occasional muttered word coming through just a little too quiet to be understood. Daniel studied the photos again, trying by the sheer intensity of his gaze upon them to persuade himself that he had done the right thing in coming here.
"Coffee," Jack's voice said.
The words came from absurdly close behind his shoulder as a hand appeared, placing a mug on the mantelpiece. Daniel jerked slightly in surprise at the movement, coming as it did into his peripheral vision.
"Maybe you've had enough caffeine for one night, Daniel," Jack said, with a chuckle.
"Enough caffeine?" Daniel echoed, an incredulous tone to his voice. "Hardly." He turned back to the mantelpiece and picked up the mug that Jack had placed there for him.
He could feel the warmth from Jack's body as the other man still stood behind him, even as the heat of the coffee permeated its way through the mug to his hands. Daniel didn't want to turn, to look at Jack, knowing that if he did so, the colonel would step away from him, suddenly aware and embarrassed at his proximity.
Just drink the coffee and keep quiet, Daniel thought. Make the most of these moments, before you go and throw yourself over the edge of that particular cliff...
"You said you wanted to talk, Daniel?" Jack asked. Daniel nodded, taking a mouthful of coffee as a delaying tactic. He could feel the heat of the bitter liquid as he swallowed it, the warmth trickling down his throat. "So talk..." Jack prompted.
In the glass of the picture hanging over the fireplace, Daniel saw the reflection of Jack's face as he spoke, the unguarded look that lingered there. After a brief moment that look vanished and he saw Jack start to turn away from where he was standing, crossing over to the nearby couch. He felt the loss of Jack's body heat immediately and it made him shiver slightly.
Daniel turned from his contemplation of the reflection to look at the real thing. Jack was sitting on the couch, his face a mask, one hand rubbing a little tiredly at his eyes as he appeared to half-heartedly study the carpet.
"This isn't easy for me," Daniel began. "I know you think at times that I have way too much to say, but this isn't going to be one of those..." Jack glanced up at him, saying nothing, and Daniel took his silence as encouragement to continue. "The last time we spoke, you said that you thought..." Daniel hesitated, the lack of response on Jack's face starting to worry him slightly. "...that you might be feeling the same way about me as I do about you. But then you changed the subject."
This was it. This was the moment he had been psyching himself up for over the past few hours, the thing that Teal'c had made sound so simple. Daniel wanted to ask Jack why he had hesitated, what it was that had made him pause so close to the statement that was so important to him, but could not bring himself to form the question.
"And you want to know why, is that it?" Jack asked, sounding tired. Daniel nodded, grateful for the rescue. "I thought when you told me how you felt that you meant it, that's why," Jack said, hearing the coldness in his voice as he spoke.
As much as he regretted it, both now and at the time, the idea that Daniel had found someone else so quickly had cut at him and he could not bury that hurt inside himself easily.
"I did. I do."
Daniel was proud of the steadiness of his voice. When he had spoken, he had expected that his words would reveal how shaken he was inside, how much he yearned to know how the other man was feeling.
"Then why, Daniel?" Jack asked, his eyes, dark and unreadable, fixed intently on Daniel's face. "Why tell me that when all along there was someone else?"
"Don't try to deny it, Daniel. You didn't get that cut lip by being mugged and I saw you with him yesterday."
Daniel felt his face redden with embarrasment. Try as he might, his agile mind struggled with finding a way out of this situation which would allow him to retain his dignity - if he admitted what had happened between him and David, Jack would despise him, if not, then Jack would think him a liar.
"It's not like that, Jack," he began, hesitantly.
"Really?" Jack drawled, his voice full of sarcasm.
Daniel felt his face becoming even hotter, the embarrassment he had been feeling being joined by anger.
All the time he had known Jack, he had tolerated the other man's barbs, confident that it was just the way that the other man expressed his friendship, but this was the last straw. Jack seemed determined not to believe him, or at least to believe the worst of him.
Was it possible, that after all the time they had known each other, Jack did not trust him at all?
"Yes, really," Daniel said. His voice was cold, controlled, belying the turmoil of his heart.
"Then what is it like?" Jack pressed, the tone of his voice cutting. "Please explain it to me, Dr. Jackson, but just remember to use words of less than three syllables, so I'm sure to understand..."
"This was a mistake," Daniel said, as much to himself as to Jack. "I should go."
"Now you think this?" Jack snapped. "You turn up on my doorstep at some ungodly hour of the morning demanding to talk and then want to run away?"
"Well it's clear that you have no intention of listening to what I have to say, isn't it?" Daniel snapped back.
He took a deep breath, one hand running absently through his hair as he tried to regain control of his frayed temper.
"You know where the door is, Daniel," Jack said, his voice suddenly resigned.
Daniel glanced across at Jack in amazement at the sudden shift in the colonel's mood. Jack was sitting back, cradling the half-empty mug of coffee on his leg, his eyes closed as his head rested against the back of the couch. For such a self-reliant individual, someone who seemed to pride himself on never needing anyone else, suddenly Jack looked.... vulnerable.
That realisation twisted something inside Daniel, something that was suddenly able to clamp down on his rising feelings of irritation like a strong hand. He could feel those emotions ebbing away, only to be replaced with an overwhelming feeling of tiredness.
When did I last get some sleep? he wondered, still looking at Jack's face.
After a moment, the colonel seemed to realise he was not alone, his eyes snapping open and focussing immediately on Daniel.
"I'm sorry, Jack," Daniel said, the words escaping his mouth before he realised it.
"I think I'm the one who should be apologising," Jack said, after a moment of silence, the callous tone gone from his voice now. "D'you want to tell me what's going on with you?"
"Not really," Daniel said. He saw the frown that crossed Jack's face as he said the words and hastened to clarify them. "But you know me, Jack - just because I don't want to talk about something..."
He left the sentence unfinished, seeing the understanding that he had not seen before, there in his friend's eyes.
"I'm listening," Jack said, closing his eyes as if realising instinctively that this would make it easier for Daniel to say what he needed to.
He had told Jack all about what had happened between him and David. He had related every embarrassing detail, all of which were still burnt into his memory. It was as if he saw it all taking place on a big screen inside his head. Daniel fell silent, the flow of words coming to a natural halt.
Jack had not interrupted him, not questioned anything he had said. The colonel's face had not betrayed any of his thoughts as he had listened to Daniel tell of his embarrassment, his sudden fear, his discovery that he and David had nothing in common. For a moment, Daniel wondered if his voice had lulled Jack to sleep, despite the seriousness of the subject he had spoken of.
"That it?" Jack asked, his eyes opening again.
Daniel nodded, feeling the other man's gaze on him, basking a little in the warmth of the emotions he saw in Jack's eyes.
"I meant what I said, Jack," Daniel said, his tone serious. Jack nodded.
"I know you did, Daniel," he said. "And now we need to decide what happens next." Daniel swallowed nervously. "Come and sit here, on the couch," Jack said, getting up.
Daniel followed his instructions, watching as the other man left the room, his mind racing as much as his heart. He took another mouthful of his neglected mug of coffee, grimacing when he discovered it was luke-warm now.
"Here," Jack's voice said, coming from behind the couch.
Daniel half-turned, slightly reluctant. Jack was standing behind the couch, his arms full of bedding - he was holding out a pillow to Daniel, a small smile on his face.
"I'd offer you the spare room," Jack said, "but I'd have to excavate it first and that's your area of expertise, not mine." When Daniel did not speak, just reached up and took the pillow he was being offered with a slightly stunned look on his face, Jack continued. "I've had a lot of time to think about all of this," he said. "You're practically dead on your feet though, Daniel. Get some sleep and we'll talk more later. I promise."
The quick smile that flickered across Daniel's face was enough to tell Jack that he understood. This was not a delaying tactic, not an opportunity for either of them to squirm out of talking - the time for either of those was long gone. This was just a case of one friend looking out for the welfare of another.
"It's morning already," Daniel pointed out, even as he stood and took the blankets from Jack.
"I know," Jack said, "but a couple of hours sleep, that's all I'm asking..."
For a moment, before Daniel had accepted his gesture for what it truly was, Jack had been a little afraid of the possibility of another misunderstanding between them. From what Daniel had told him, and what he had figured out that the other man had believed, there had been far too many between the two of them already.
Just the opportunity to look after Daniel, to nurture him in a way the stubborn archaeologist rarely tolerated from anyone, sent a burst of warmth through Jack, the heat of it thawing parts that had been cold for what seemed like most of his life.
"I can't change who I am, Daniel," Jack said, suddenly. "It takes me a while to get used to new ideas, new experiences..."
"I think I'd worked that out for myself, by now," Daniel replied.
This isn't quite what I expected, Daniel thought, feeling his mind begin to slow as his body relaxed on Jack's couch. Not that I knew what I expected anyway...
The fact that Jack had accepted what he had told him about the circumstances surrounding his two meetings with David had been a pleasant surprise to Daniel. He had readied himself for scorn, but Jack had heard him out, refraining from commenting on what Daniel had seen as his obvious stupidity in allowing things to go so far between himself and someone he had met in a bar.
And then he had surprised him again, making a caring gesture that had snuck past whatever defenses Daniel might have been able to erect against him - he had reminded Daniel that there was still some sort of friendship there, at the root of whatever relationship might be formed.
Daniel was reassured by this - he had never really been in any kind of relationship that mattered to him quite as much as his friendship with the taciturn colonel. It had gone beyond simple friendship long ago, maybe as far back as when the two of them had faced Ra together, or later, after Jack had come back to Abydos.
Returning to Earth, Daniel had never felt so alone. But Jack had been there, like Jack was always there, as if somehow he sensed the other man's need and knew how to meet it. That night, it had been beer and conversation, the opportunity to remember Sha're with someone who knew her, tonight it had been similar hospitality. Both offered with the careless hospitality of a kind heart, hidden effectively behind Jack's gruff exterior.
When he was sure Daniel was asleep, his breathing having evened out, Jack came back into the lounge.
For a moment, he just stood there, gazing down on the man who had come to be his closest friend, marvelling at the guilelessness of his face, the innocence that came upon Daniel when he slept. His fingers itched to touch, he could feel the urging of his senses, crying out to him for reprieve. He could just reach out and satisfy this need, brush that errant lock of hair from Daniel's forehead gently enough that he, exhausted as Daniel was, would not wake....
Uh huh, Jack thought. This can't be good...
Jack knew he had no frame of reference for what he was feeling, no experiences to compare it to. His marriage to Sara had been a source of comfort to both of them, they had loved one another, but there was nothing in their time together which could rival the kind of passion he knew that Daniel was capable of. In some ways, the thought of the fire that the seemingly meek archaeologist concealed inside himself scared Jack more than a little.
Daniel had never been someone to do things by halves, he knew that - then again, in so many ways, neither had he. So maybe the two of them were more suited for one another than anyone might think?
I've been on my own for so long, Jack thought, but I need to be sure.
Kneeling by the side of the couch, Jack studied Daniel's face, almost as if he was searching for the answers he needed there. Relaxed in sleep, he looked younger, vulnerable, those bright intelligent eyes when closed taking some of the life from Daniel's face. His hand shaking slightly, Jack reached out, hesitant. His fingers brushed gently across Daniel's hair, tracing their way down one lock, before moving gently onto the other man's temple.
So warm, Jack thought.
It was as though, for Jack, until this moment the idea of being in love with Daniel had been just that. It was as though Daniel was an illusion, not flesh and blood like the man who had come to love him.
Daniel shifted slightly in his sleep, muttering something to himself so quietly that Jack could not recognise, despite his nearness, what language the words came from. He froze, his fingers still resting gently on Daniel's face, waiting for the other man to settle, his heart pounding in case he woke instead.
Too much, Jack thought, pulling back reluctantly. Getting up from his awkward position beside the couch, Jack crossed to the nearby chair, ready to sit vigil on his friend once more.
It had become something of a habit, Jack knew that by now. Daniel seemed to spend so much time in the infirmary that the colonel had lost count long ago of the hours he had spent there - usually he was anxiously waiting for the other man to come round after surgery, each time swearing to himself that the future would be different, that he would find some way to keep Daniel safe.
And each time the cycle repeated itself, Jack cursed his inability to do so, blamed himself, no matter what the circumstances, for Daniel's presence in the infirmary once more.
So, it was something of a relief this time to be watching over Daniel somewhere else, free from the beeping of monitors, the humming of machines to help him breathe, help keep his heart beating.
This time, Jack knew, when Daniel woke, his world was about to change.
When it came, there was no warning.
One moment, the two men were walking across the featureless plain, having just checked in with Carter and Teal'c, the next the ground was heaving beneath them, throwing both of them full-length.
Daniel hit the ground awkwardly, rolling with the aftershock, his body already aching with myriad bruises and scrapes. From the corner of his eye, he had seen Jack hit the ground hard, with an impact that made Daniel wince despite the coolness he had been trying so hard to project towards the colonel on this mission.
Then the ground just seemed to open up underneath him, as he tumbled over into a crack in the ground. Daniel was unable, even though he dug his fingers desperately into the crumbling earth of its edge, to stop his downward motion, his heart rising towards his mouth as he fell.
This time there was no-one there to save him. This time he would plummet to his death, fall and shatter against the rocks below....
He had seen the signs before, of course.
Jack knew them from countless nights like this, watching the nightmares creep up on his comrades in arms, dragging young men away from their innocence. So when Daniel, no stranger to nightmares himself, began to twitch and mutter to himself, Jack knew immediately what it was.
There was a moment's indecision, before he moved forward from his seat to hover a little uncertainly over the couch. Should he wake him?
Daniel began to thrash about more, a strange whimpering noise coming from his mouth and making Jack's decision for him. All his hesitation, all his uncertainty about what he might be getting into by starting a relationship with Daniel was blown away.
Jack knelt quickly by the side of the couch, then took a deep breath before reaching out and gathering his shuddering friend into his arms.
"It's okay, Daniel," he whispered, "I'm here..."
For a moment, Jack could still feel the tremors as they rippled through Daniel's body and hear the words he muttered, though they were still unintelligible to him. Then his friend relaxed, his body heavy in Jack's embrace, his arms coming up to wrap themselves around Jack's back, meshing the two men together.
"Jack?" Daniel whispered.
"You expecting someone else?" Jack asked quietly, smiling to himself.
Why had he struggled against this? He could feel the strength of Daniel's body, the warmth of his friend's breath on his neck, and it felt so right, all of it.
He felt as much as heard Daniel chuckle.
It had been a long time since he had heard his friend laugh at anything, Jack realised then, and the thought that he himself had been the source of so much pain sobered him instantly. He began to pull away from Daniel, guilt overwhelming him as quickly as his earlier resolution to comfort Daniel had.
In response, however, Daniel tightened his grip, keeping Jack in his slightly cramped position.
"Don't go," he whispered, his voice shaking. "Please..."
Jack relaxed then, feeling the arms that snaked around his back loosen slightly.
"D'you want to tell me about it?" Jack asked. "Sometimes it helps..."
There was silence between them for a moment. Jack had just begun to wonder what to say next, how to coax the necessary words from Daniel when the other man began to speak.
"We were back on the planet," Daniel said. "The quake hit, just like before. I saw you hit the ground and then so did I, but this time when I fell there was no-one there to save me..."
Daniel's voice, which had begun steadily, began to shake slightly towards the end of his words.
"You've had this dream before," Jack said, knowing the answer before he even spoke.
Daniel nodded, the movement shortened by the closeness of their embrace.
"The past couple of nights," Daniel said. "For a moment, this time, I wasn't sure if I had woken up, or if I had just carried on dreaming."
"Feels real to me," Jack drawled. "Daniel?"
Leaning back slightly against the framework of Daniel's arms, Jack brought one hand round to touch the other man's face. Daniel's eyes were wide and bright, with what must be unshed tears pricking at the back of them. Jack was mesmerised by them, feeling as if he was falling into those blue depths, never having had the chance to really study them before.
After a long moment, Daniel moved forward slightly, brushing his lips across Jack's cheek before making a movement towards his mouth. Jack did not move, afraid that this would somehow shatter the moment, that this would indeed turn out to be a dream.
The way that blood was rushing towards other parts of his body seemed to argue against this, but he wanted to be sure.
Then Daniel kissed him.
Frowning slightly at Jack's stillness, Daniel pulled back, opening his mouth to speak, when the other man finally reacted. With what was almost a snarl of need, the colonel surged forward, the hand that had been resting lightly on Daniel's shoulder coming up to grip the back of Daniel's neck, pulling him forward into a searing kiss.
All the hesitation, all the uncertainty that Jack had been expressing up till now had been replaced with a desperate desire. It was as though Daniel's hesitant kiss had unlocked the floodgates, allowing them to be swept away. Jack was like a drowning man, his fingers tightening into Daniel's skin, sucking the breath from the other man's lungs.
When they separated, there was still little space between them - Jack's hand was still gripping the nape of Daniel's neck, the colonel bowing his head to rest his forehead in the curve of the other man's shoulder.
He could feel the slight roughness of Daniel's stubble against his ear, the strength of his arms wrapping around his back. For a moment, Jack wondered who was doing the comforting now.
Sure, Jack thought, I'm fine, Daniel. Just discovered that I really like trying to suck your tonsils out, but apart from that...
"Uh huh," was all he said out loud.
Daniel knew that he had a reputation for being impetuous - how could he forget that, when Jack gave him regular lectures on the subject? It was even less likely to slip his mind since those lectures tended to consist of variations on a theme of 'what the hell did you think you were doing...'?
Even so, he had to admit that Jack had startled him this time.
It had been a thoughtless action, one born of that moment between waking and sleeping, something he might not have done at another time. That he had kissed Jack, provoking such a fierce response from the usually self-controlled colonel, was a source of amazement to him.
They were still locked together in an embrace, neither of the two men looking like they planned to end it any time soon. It was a source of comfort to both of them, Daniel knew that - telling Jack about his dream had brought all those buried fears to the surface once more, each man trapped in his own private thoughts.
Daniel could feel the warmth of Jack's breath against the sensitive skin of his neck, the pounding of the colonel's heart through the fingers splayed across Jack's back. What he wouldn't give to stay like this, feeling this safe, this secure, this loved....
When had he last felt so safe?
Certainly not any time in the last two years, since he had been thrown into the crazy rollercoaster that was his life in the SGC. SG1 seemed to lurch from crisis to crisis, hardly giving him time to breathe, let alone consider the sense of insecurity that was threatening to eat him up from the inside out.
Daniel had lost family before, gained a new one before, but there was always the threat of loss hanging over his head, like Damocles' sword, ready to plunge down and destroy him without a moment's notice.
What was it about being here, with Jack, that felt so different?
Somehow, Daniel knew with a certainty that awed him more than a little, that there was nothing Jack would not do to keep him safe, no danger he would not face - if there was peril ahead, they would face it together and that was the difference.
"I was wrong, Jack," he whispered, hardly knowing if the other man heard him or not. "I should never have thought about leaving the SGC. I know I belong here, if I belong anywhere on this planet..."
So this is what it feels like, Jack thought. Falling in love. It's been a while, so how could I be expected to remember?
Despite the awkwardness of his position, the occasional twinge from his knee reminding him that he was uncomfortable, Jack felt in no great hurry to move. He could feel Daniel's fingers flexing gently across his back and, if he concentrated, he was almost sure he could feel the gentle throbbing of Daniel's pulse.
He had done it. Finally, without a second thought, he had done it. He had kissed Daniel, his best friend. And the sky had not fallen. None of the usual signs of impending destruction, of the end of the world taking place, had shown themselves.
He was still Jack O'Neill, lover of beer, pizza and hockey, but it was just that he had found himself a new pastime, one that he intended to immerse himself in to the full extent possible. And that pastime was Daniel Jackson.
How could everything have changed so much and still feel so much the same? he wondered. Shouldn't I feel different?
Despite living for the most part of his life in the military, Jack had never really been one for labels. He had always prided himself on his ability to judge people, so he had scorned the categories that the world tried to stuff people, himself included, into.
But that had been far easier B.D. - Before Daniel.
Before Daniel, he had never been attracted to a man. Before Daniel, if someone had told him that one morning he would be happy to be found kissing his male best friend, Jack was not sure if he would have laughed or lashed out.
Before Daniel, a lot of things had been different. Not better or worse, but definitely different....
Finally it was Jack who pulled away from the embrace, his knee giving one too many twinges to ignore.
"Sorry," he muttered, as he untangled himself from Daniel, hardly daring to look at his friend, suddenly unsure what he would see in the other man's eyes.
He used one of his hands to lever himself up, wrapping his robe around himself once more, to counteract the sudden chill he felt. The slight shudder of loss was harder to deal with, but Jack shoved it down ruthlessly as he turned and headed for a nearby chair.
When he had settled himself in its depths, finally his eyes turned in the direction of Daniel, who was still on the couch. He looked uncertainly at Jack across the space between them, seeming to be on the edge of speaking and yet holding back.
"I... We need to talk, Daniel," Jack said, his eyes intent on Daniel.
He watched the emotions chase each other across Daniel's face, seeing the brightness of his eyes once more, this time from a safer distance. Jack grinned slightly and saw the other man's face relax into an answering smile.
He looks more scared than I am, Jack thought, if that's possible. Give me a bunch of Serpent Guards to fight any day...
"You do belong here," he said, suddenly remembering Daniel's earlier words. "But I was wrong to try and force you to stay."
Daniel shook his head, still smiling. He was still seated on the couch, his shirt rumpled from sleep, the odd tuft of hair sticking up, blanket wrapped around himself from the waist down. He looked so innocent, so young, both of those qualities at war with the devilish glint in his eyes.
Once again, Jack felt the pooling of warmth in his groin and blushed slightly.
"That's not the way things work between us, Jack," Daniel said. "I let myself be persuaded I was in the wrong - Sam started that job and you finished it." He paused, as if remembering the time they spent so close to death on the planet again. Daniel shook his head briefly then, dismissing the memories. "Do you really think it's that easy to get me to change my mind about something?" he continued. "You should know better by now, Jack..."
"So what happens next?" Jack asked, his voice calm even though his heart was pounding.
I'm out of my depth here, he thought, suddenly. Sure hope one of us knows how to swim...
"Whatever you want to happen," Daniel replied. "Whatever you're happy with, whatever doesn't make you run screaming out of the room."
Jack smiled at the image that presented. Then his face changed, becoming more solemn as the words Daniel had spoken sunk in - all of them.
"Not sure that's too long a list at the moment, Daniel," he said.
"That's okay, Jack," Daniel replied. "We've got time, haven't we? But, first of all... I could really do with some coffee."
Jack was almost glad of the excuse to leave the living room, even though he could feel Daniel's gaze on his back as he passed the couch. How could he have thought that this would be simple?
I was straight, he thought. I was married! And now this...
The kiss that they had just shared had been the gateway between fantasy and reality - the thought of entering into a relationship like this with Daniel both terrified and fascinated Jack in equal measure.
Jack had no idea what might be asked of him, no idea whether he could give Daniel what he needed. All his years of life experience for once were relatively useless - nothing he had done in the past had prepared him for this....
As he waited for the coffee machine to finish, Jack stared out of the kitchen window, looking out over the nearby houses. Everything looked just as it had the previous day. Nothing he could see gave any clue to how greatly his life had just changed.
"Jack?" It was Daniel's voice, coming from the doorway into the kitchen. Jack did not turn around, suddenly a little nervous of what he might see in the other man's eyes. "Are you okay?"
"How did you know?" Jack asked, his back still to Daniel as he spoke the words.
Even with his back to Daniel, Jack could imagine the look he would see on Daniel's face if he turned. He had seen that look so many times, the concentration on Daniel's face as he unlocked another mystery.
"That you felt this way."
"Are you having second thoughts, Jack?" Daniel asked, in a quiet voice.
"No," Jack said, "it's just..."
His words ground to a halt. How could he explain it to Daniel when he could hardly put it into words for himself?
"...a surprise," Daniel said, concluding Jack's sentence. Jack nodded. "It's a big step. I understand."
"I thought you were straight," Jack said, turning to face Daniel now. "Hell, I thought I was straight!"
Daniel was leaning against the doorframe, his eyes intent on Jack, squinting slightly against the light that framed the colonel.
"And what do you think now?" Daniel asked.
"I don't know what to think," Jack admitted, with a sigh.
Even as he spoke, Jack crossed to the cupboard and pulled out two mugs. He had to do something, to occupy himself somehow. Maybe then these thoughts would leave him alone?
"I don't have the best track record, Jack."
"In relationships," Daniel explained.
"Who does?" Jack joked weakly.
Daniel smiled faintly before he spoke again.
"Apart from Sha're, I haven't had much success," he said. "And who knows, maybe things wouldn't have worked out with her either, given enough time. She wanted children, wanted me to be the one who took over from Kasuf when he died - she was ambitious that way..."
Jack poured some coffee into the mugs, handing one silently to Daniel.
"I never knew," Jack began.
"How could you?" Daniel asked. "I mean, I loved her, and for the longest time I couldn't bring myself to say anything negative about her. I must have made it sound as though she was perfect, as though we were perfect together. But it wasn't always like that..."
"No relationship is like that, Daniel," Jack said. "Take it from one who knows."
"I always thought we'd have time to sort things out between us," Daniel said. He paused, taking a mouthful of coffee. "That in time she'd come to see things my way, to understand I was happy enough teaching the children of the tribe, that I didn't need to be in charge to feel a part of things."
"Why are you telling me all this, Daniel?" Jack asked, his eyes flicking over the man who stood in his kitchen doorway.
"I thought you'd be the one person who could understand," Daniel replied. "And I need to tell you how much I want things to work out between us."
"Will wanting them to be enough?" Jack asked.
"I don't know."
"Well, that's honest," Jack conceded, with a smile.
"We need that, Jack. There's going to be so much to deal with along the way, if we can't be honest with each other..."
"I know," Jack said. "It's just a lot to take in."
"Maybe you need some time to process all of this," Daniel said, finishing his coffee with a couple of quick swallows. "I should go."
"I don't want you to go, Daniel."
Their eyes met, all the words that Jack struggled to say clearly written there for both men to read.
"It's going to be okay, Jack," Daniel said. "I promise."
By the time he had got home to his apartment, Daniel was beginning to think he had made a mistake. Should he have left Jack alone to face all of the things that were so clearly troubling him?
As he entered the living room, Daniel saw that the light was blinking on his answer machine. Smiling to himself, he crossed over to it and hit the button, already suspecting that he knew who it would be.
"Daniel?" the voice began. "I was worried about you, call me when you get this?"
Picking up the phone, Daniel dialled the number off by heart.
"Daniel. Where have you been?" She paused. "No, don't answer that," she said, quickly. "Just tell me things are okay..."
"Things are okay, Sam," Daniel said, feeling the smile return to his face as he thought about being with Jack.
"I'm so glad, Daniel," she replied. "I'll see you tomorrow, then? Remember we have a briefing at 0800."
"How could I forget?" Daniel asked. "Thanks, Sam."
"For what?" Sam asked, sounding mystified.
"For not letting me run away."
"It was your decision, Daniel," Sam said. "I just helped you realise what you really wanted to do..."
"You and Teal'c both," Daniel said.
"What?" Sam asked, mystified again.
Daniel laughed quietly to himself, hearing the confusion in Sam's voice again.
"I'll tell you all about it when I see you," he promised.
How do you forget everything you thought you knew about yourself and start again? Jack wondered.
He was beginning to think that Daniel going home, giving him time to think, had not been such a good idea.
When the two of them were together, everything seemed so simple. He only had to look at Daniel to rekindle the feelings that he had been experiencing, the pangs of emotion that cut through to his heart as sharply as any knife.
But when he was alone, that was when there were going to be problems, Jack knew that now.
When Daniel was there, it was easy to remember the pure strength of those emotions. When he was alone, the doubts and worries started to gang up on him, driving his confidence before them, making him doubt that this could ever work.
We're so different, Jack thought. What have the two of us got in common anyway?
He thought back to when he had first met Daniel, in what seemed like another life-time. Even then he had been drawn to Daniel, something about him was irresistible to Jack, even though Daniel's exuberant nature had grated on the taciturn colonel as well.
Surely the fact that we've been to hell and back together has to count for something? he thought, a little desperately.
It had been Daniel, unknowing at the time, who had persuaded Jack that there was something worth living for at a time when everything had seemed bleak. In the same way, it had been Jack who had got Daniel through the horrors of his withdrawal from the sarcophagus, barely able to tear himself away from his friend's bedside over the long days of recovery.
Together, they had proved to be an unbeatable partnership, Jack's determination finding a match in Daniel, while Daniel's incandescent intellect found an anchor in Jack's steadfast common sense.
Can we manage this without messing up? he wondered.
The thought of hurting Daniel in any way shook Jack to the core. How could he forget the pain he had caused before, when he had rejected Daniel's declaration of love for him?
At least he knows now, Jack thought, remembering how long it had taken for him to find the words to tell Daniel that he felt the same. So I owe it to him to do this, and to make it work...
The phone rang and rang before Jack finally answered it. He had been tempted to ignore it, not really wanting to speak with anyone, but then a frisson of uncertainty had gone through him - what if it was Daniel?
Even in the few steps that it took to cross to where the telephone was, Jack went through the entire gamut of emotions.
It was Daniel, he knew that instinctively without even picking up the handset, and he was calling to say he had made a mistake, that he had reconsidered, that maybe they should pretend as though none of this had happened between them....
"Yes. Who is this?" Jack snapped, not knowing whether to be relieved or alarmed that it was not Daniel on the other end of the line.
"It's Lieutenant Simmons, sir," the voice said.
Jack recognised it then and smiled to himself, recalling the stories he had heard Daniel tell of the lieutenant's crush on Carter.
"General Hammond has asked me to call you, to ask SG1 to come back to the SGC."
"We already have a mission, tomorrow, Simmons," Jack said.
"It's been brought forward, sir."
"You've contacted the others?" Jack's voice made the question a statement.
"Yes sir," Simmons replied. "The general has arranged a briefing session in 2 hours."
"I'll be there," Jack replied, putting down the phone.
Well, Daniel thought as he drove back to the SGC, at least this is better than sitting about moping...
But as he got nearer to the base, Daniel could not help wondering what things were going to be like now that he and Jack seemed to have made a start on some kind of relationship between them. He wanted this to work out, wanted it more than he recalled ever wanting anything, but the uncertainty of it scared him more than he could admit to anyone.
He knew that Jack was nervous, that had been clear in his eyes when Daniel left the colonel's house - what he hoped he had been able to do was to disguise how scared he was as well.
After all, he felt as though he was being forced into the role of the educator here, teaching Jack that it was okay for them to feel like they did for each other, as well as teaching him how to express those feelings in action.
Not that I'm any kind of expert, Daniel thought. A few short-lived relationships when I was at college doesn't exactly make me knowledgeable...
At least they would have the unspoken support of Teal'c and Sam, Daniel knew that. Even though he had never really given the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' ethos of the military much consideration, Daniel had instinctively recoiled from the idea of keeping his relationship with Jack a secret from the other members of SG1.
If he could not trust them, who could he trust?
It had been Teal'c, after all, who had given him the final push, encouraging him to try again with Jack. The Jaffa had made it all seem so simple and Daniel couldn't wait to thank him for not allowing him to waver. He also had a sneaking suspicion that something had taken place between Sam and Jack, something that Daniel knew he was never likely to get the details of, but which had had a profound effect on the colonel.
Daniel pulled his car to a halt at the entrance to the SGC, pulling out his pass for the sentry to examine. After a few moments, it was returned to him and he was waved on into the car park.
As he waited for the elevator to take him down to the lower levels of the SGC, he heard footsteps heading towards him and looked up from his contemplation of the floor. Daniel smiled when he saw Jack heading towards him, an answering smile appearing on the colonel's face.
Then, uncharacteristically, Daniel was lost for words for a moment, before being saved by the elevator doors sliding open.
"Daniel Jackson, speechless," Jack said, as he watched the doors close. "Never thought I'd see the day..."
"I... uh..." Daniel began, not certain what it was he wanted to say anyway.
"Articulate today, aren't we?" Jack joked, with a grin. Leaning closer, he began to whisper into Daniel's ear. "And I was hoping to make you lost for words in quite another way soon..."
Daniel's eyes widened, his face reddening.
"Jack!" he yelped.
Jack laughed, leaning back against the elevator wall. His deep brown eyes flicked lazily over Daniel's body.
"Whatever happened to 'don't ask, don't tell'?" Daniel asked, innocently. Jack's face darkened slightly as the words sank in. "You started it, Jack," Daniel continued, "and you ought to know better..."
Jack nodded, seemingly considering his words. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet, without the teasing tone it had earlier held.
"You're right, Daniel," he conceded. "I was out of line."
"We just need to remember where we are," Daniel said, his tone softening at the emotions he could see in Jack's eyes. "There's a time and a place, and this isn't either... we both have too much to lose."
Jack nodded, straightening up from where he was leaning against the elevator wall as the doors slid open. He followed Daniel out, into the hallway.
"Still say it's a damn shame," he muttered.
Daniel glanced round at him, smiling until Jack's face began to lighten too.
"You'll get no argument from me," Daniel said.
"Makes a change..."
Even as they headed down the corridor towards the locker room, Daniel felt more and more guilty. Jack had only been trying to tease him - had he over-reacted to the other man's words? He had been the one, after all, who had said that things would go however slowly Jack wanted them to, and now when the colonel seemed comfortable with things speeding up slightly, he had panicked....
Daniel glanced quickly at his watch, calculating how long they had before the briefing session started.
Looking round, and seeing that the corridor was currently empty, Daniel grabbed Jack by the front of his shirt, half-pulling him into a nearby storage room and shutting the door behind them as quickly and quietly as he could.
Before Jack could speak, before he could question what the hell they were doing in there anyway, Daniel pulled the colonel towards him. He still had a handful of the other man's shirt, and that was enough to jerk Jack slightly off-balance, the two men bumping up against the door as their bodies met.
"Is this the place then?" Jack asked quietly, his voice coming out of the darkness.
Daniel could only tell where the other man was by the warmth of his breath on his cheek, as well as the fact that he was gripping the front of Jack's shirt like a life-line.
"Could well be..." Daniel whispered in response, his mouth then latching onto Jack's neck.
He felt, as well as heard, Jack moan slightly as he gently licked and sucked his way up the colonel's neck.
"Daniel... " he heard Jack half-moan. "If you mark me there, I promise you they'll never find your body!"
Pulling back then, Daniel rested his head against the door, one hand coming up in the darkness to trace the trail he had made down Jack's neck.
"I'm sorry if I killed the mood earlier," he said.
"No. You were right," Jack replied. "We need to be more careful."
"So dragging you in here was a bad idea?"
There was silence for a moment.
"Well, you've had better," Jack said, the smile on his face clear from the tone of his voice alone. "But I'll give you an A+ for improvisation..."
"That's good," Daniel said, "I think..."
"Can we go now?" Jack asked, suddenly. "I don't know about you, but I think we really ought to go get changed for the briefing."
"I just wanted to say that I was sorry," Daniel said, quietly.
"You already have..."
"And that I want this to work..."
"Haven't we already had this conversation?" Jack asked, his hand coming up to stroke Daniel's face in the darkness. "You promised me it would be, and that's good enough for me..."
"I never realised you were so trusting, Jack," Daniel joked, weakly.
Suddenly, he felt a little overwhelmed by the certainty he heard in the other man's voice.
"Well," Jack said. "That just goes to show that there's a lot you don't know about me. Now would you mind checking if the corridor is empty, so we can get the hell out of here?"
Somehow, Jack and Daniel had managed to leave the storeroom undetected.
Even as they were getting changed, pulling on the fatigues that seemed to have become like a second skin for Daniel despite the strangeness he had felt the first time he had been dressed that way, he considered what had just happened between them.
Was there some sort of cosmic irony at work?
It had been a storeroom just like that one in which events had happened to seal the way Daniel felt about Jack, confused memories of the colonel's strong arms wrapped around him as he shook from the pains of withdrawal.
And now he had more memories to consider, with the matter of fact way that Jack seemed to trust him to keep his word, that if Daniel said it would be okay, then somehow that promise alone would make it so.
That kind of trust overwhelmed him.
It was something that had been alien to him until very recently - even up until he had joined SG1, he had always relied on his own endeavours more than trusting in anyone else. Learning to work as part of a team had been a long and painful exercise at times, though it had been one that Daniel had thrown himself into whole-heartedly, once he had made the decision to do so.
And now what? Could he do this? Was he strong enough to deal with all that a relationship with Jack might entail?
Daniel shook his head, sighing to himself at the way his thoughts were running, which earned him an inquisitive glance from Jack, who was currently lacing up his boots on the other side of the room. Daniel managed to smile enough, he hoped, to make Jack think that nothing was wrong.
What was he doing feeling like this, anyway? Shouldn't he be overjoyed by how things had been going? After all, he had finally got what he had wanted for so long....
Does he really think I don't know what he's thinking? Jack wondered, engrossing himself in checking the contents of his pack once more. Doesn't Daniel realise that I know him well enough to see that he's quietly freaking out over there?
Jack smiled to himself at that thought. As much as he might like to play the dumb soldier at times, a role which held boundless opportunities for entertainment on the most boring of missions, he had learned over the years to read people extremely well.
Especially the people he knew best of all, those he was closest to.
In so many ways Daniel was an open book to Jack by now. Being, by nature, someone who had little practice in learning to conceal his emotions, Daniel was easier to read than most. Not that, at times, he wouldn't throw Jack for a loop, doing something completely unexpected, but he was usually pretty reliable in terms of his behaviour.
Jack tried to smile encouragingly at Daniel, feeling a little awkward at the presence of Teal'c there with them. Although he knew that the Jaffa was aware of how the two men felt about one another, he had never been one for public displays of affection and was too old to start now....
They met Sam in the briefing room, only having the chance to smile and exchange basic greetings before the door opened admitting General Hammond.
The general took his customary seat at the head of the table, aware that all heads had turned to face him as he sat.
"Thank you all for being so prompt, SG-1," he began, his eyes travelling to each member of the team in turn. "I realise that you were due to go on a mission tomorrow, but recent developments have meant that mission has had to be postponed for the time being."
"Recent developments?" Jack echoed.
"We have received data from the MALP, colonel," Hammond replied, "that indicates that the rainy season is approaching P4X-838 more swiftly than our projections had indicated."
Jack cocked his head to one side, as if to say 'so?'. Getting no further information from Hammond, he looked round at Carter, who smiled at his confusion and began to speak.
"So if we don't go soon, sir," she explained, "we'll have to wait months before the weather patterns are stable enough to allow us to 'Gate there again."
"Months?" Daniel echoed, looking up from the dossier he was studying.
"The probe indicated that the 'Gate itself is under water for a significant amount of the rainy season," Carter said.
"Then we'd better hit the road," Jack said.
"My opinion precisely, colonel," Hammond said, his voice full of humour. "But before you go, SG-1 - I wanted to speak with Dr. Jackson."
Daniel sat and watched the rest of his team leave the conference room, a gnawing anxiety beginning to grow. What could Hammond want to speak with him about? Had he and Jack been seen leaving the storage room earlier after all? They had been so circumspect, so it had to be something innocent....
"Dr. Jackson," Hammond began, making Daniel turn his head sharply to look the Texan straight in the eye. "I wanted to speak with you in private..."
"What about, general?" Daniel asked, proud of the steadiness of his voice.
"I understand that you refused the option of counselling after your last mission, Doctor," Hammond continued. "Do you think that was wise? You were in a near-death situation, after all..."
"I hope you can understand my reluctance to see any kind of counsellor, general, all things considered," Daniel said.
From the way Hammond nodded, he could tell that he recalled earlier in the year when a false diagnosis of schizophrenia had been given to Daniel, when in fact he had been suffering from one of Machello's inventions.
Even if his earlier life experiences had not given him a mistrust of psychiatrists, the way that he had been treated at times during the time he had been considered to be dangerous would have led Daniel to be of that opinion. He was trying to forget those experiences, the looks he had seen on the faces of the people he trusted most on this planet.
"I'm ready to go back to active duty," Daniel said, firmly.
"I hope that, if you're not able to take up the offer of counselling," Hammond said, "then at least you can talk with your fellow team-members..."
Daniel hesitated, thinking that he heard something more than Hammond's usual concern in the general's voice. Did he suspect something? Was he after a particular answer?
"My team," Daniel said, "are waiting for me at the moment, general. If there's nothing more?"
Hammond nodded his dismissal. Daniel quietly let out a breath as he left the conference room, sure that he could feel Hammond's eyes on his back all the way.
It's not being paranoid when they really are out to get you, Daniel thought, a little absent-mindedly, as he headed back towards the locker rooms.
The conversation he had just had with Hammond had filled him with concern - did the general suspect something was going on between him and Jack?
All Daniel knew was that he wanted to talk with Jack about this, but that he had to keep calm in the meantime. If Hammond knew nothing, but only suspected, then they had to make sure that things stayed that way.
|Continued in Part 5...|
Disclaimer : Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is written for entertainment purposes only - no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story-line are the property of the author - not to be archived elsewhere without permission.