General Jack O’Neill’s fists clenched at the jarring ring of the telephone. Crap, if I talk to one more bureaucrat today, I’m going to have to hurt someone. He glared at the phone like it was the enemy, and then his heart skipped a beat when he realized it was his private line. Only three people knew the number: General George Hammond, General Hank Landry, and Doctor Daniel Jackson. George was vacationing with his granddaughters at Disney World. Say hi to Mickey for me. Daniel had yet to call, no doubt feeling he would be an interruption. Daniel. I gave you my number so you’d use it, for crying out loud! That left Landry. Oh, God, what’s happened?
Jack snatched up the phone.
“O’Neill. Hank, what’s up? A coma? Ah, shit. Damnit, Daniel. But he’s stable, right?” Jack inquired, standing up. “Good, good. I’m coming out. I’ll let you know my ETA. Thanks for calling.”
Jack pressed the receiver and buzzed another number.
“Lorrie, I need to be at the SGC yesterday!” He flung the phone down and grabbed his jacket.
Jack stared out the window, his eyes focused on nothing, his mind focused on Daniel Jackson. If he hadn’t left the SGC, he’d be at Daniel’s side now. Hell, maybe he could have prevented the whole mind transference thing in the first place. Yeah, right, O’Neill. Like all the other times you protected him? Jack sighed. Daniel was a walking magnet. He didn’t have to look for trouble, it came right to him.
“Yes?” Jack said, turning to the steward.
“Telephone call, sir. General Landry.”
“Thank you,” Jack replied, accepting the phone, his pulse racing. “Hank?”
Daniel swallowed two more Tylenol, hoping to take the edge off a splitting headache, courtesy of his latest coma. He sat down with a sigh and opened The Book of Origin.
Jack sighed and relaxed in his seat. Daniel was okay. He didn’t know what to feel about Vala. From the sounds of it, she’d been nothing but trouble for Daniel, and he didn’t take kindly to people who messed with his friend. Worse, he was jealous. If anyone was going to be linked to Daniel, Jack felt it should be him, even if he did give up that right when he left the SGC. Left? You ran like a scared rabbit. Raced like hell to get away from the best thing in your life.
“Aw, hell, Danny,” Jack murmured and closed his eyes. He didn’t know what kind of a reception he’d get from Daniel. He requested Landry not inform Daniel of his imminent arrival, but now he wondered if that was such a good idea.
A beard? Jack stood in the doorway and stared at his friend. He had pictured this scene of Daniel at his desk hundreds of times in his mind. A scene that helped alleviate the loneliness of Washington, but at no time had he envisioned a beard. The beard had thrown him, momentarily stunning him. Daniel had changed. In Jack’s absence, Daniel had changed. Jack swallowed hard and closed his eyes. You can go home again, damn it. It’s only a beard. It’s not like he’s gone out and had a sex change, for crying out loud. But Jack couldn’t help wondering what else had changed. Did Daniel even miss him? Maybe that was why he never called? He got on with his life while Jack ran from his. Crap, just get in there! Jack opened his eyes, entered the room and drummed his fingers gently on the cabinet.
Daniel was typing up his report when he sensed a familiar presence. He looked up to see Jack.
“Hey,” he said, then his mouth dropped open in shock. Jack? “Wow, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you, too,” Jack replied.
“No, no, sorry. I just…I wasn't expecting to see you,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, well, I was in the neighbourhood. And I've got a little surprise for…Mitchell,” Jack said after a pause. Good one, O’Neill. God forbid you should let Daniel know you care about him.
“Oh, yeah, he loved the last one,” Daniel said dryly. “The fact that you didn't tell him we were all moving on to different positions.”
“Yeah,” Jack winced. “Sorry you missed Daedalus,” he added.
“No, you're not,” Daniel said.
“You're right, I'm not,” Jack agreed.
This is awkward, Daniel thought. Why the hell do I feel nervous? Jack’s my best friend.
“Listen, I just had a briefing with Landry…about…your … stuff,” Jack said.
“Yeah.” My ‘stuff’? Seems like I’m not the only one feeling nervous.
“Sounds like it could be a problem, “Jack said.
“Well, we've been up against some pretty bad guys before,” Daniel shrugged.
“Nah, not so pretty. Overdressed, yes,” Jack amended
“Been through some tough situations,” Daniel said.
“That we always won.”
“Yeah, but didn't you feel that was because we had someone … looking out for us?” Daniel asked, smiling shyly.
Yeah, we had you, Jack thought. And your friend, Oma helped. And Thor. Neither of whom we’d have met if not for you.
Daniel took a deep breath to say the words to the only person he could say them to; the only person with whom he could trust his fears. “I don’t think I’d ever say this to anyone else, but for the first time…I’m scared.”
Jack stared at Daniel, his impassive face not revealing the shock and genuine fear he felt at his friend’s quiet declaration because Jack knew if Daniel Jackson was scared then they were in really deep shit. There was only one thing Jack could say.
“I’m hungry,” he replied.
Daniel stared incredulously at Jack. He just admitted his very real fear of the Ori and Jack had the audacity to say he was hungry? Then Daniel smiled. Jack wasn’t making light of his fear; Jack shared his fear.
“Me too,” Daniel agreed. He was hungry; hungry for food, but more importantly, hungry for time with his best friend, Jack O’Neill; the man who could drive him up the wall to the point where he’d stamp his feet in frustration. The same friend who could make him feel as important and cherished as a priceless heirloom.
Jack gestured to the door, and Daniel nodded and followed, performing a ritual second nature to both men.
Jack suddenly stopped, resulting in Daniel’s fluid movement to end in a muffled grunt, a ritual also common to both men.
“Watch the suit,” Jack muttered, tugging sharply on the jacket of his dress blues.
“What’d you stop for?” Daniel countered, pushing up his glasses.
“So I can do this,” Jack said, opening his arms wide and engulfing Daniel in an enthusiastic bear hug.
Daniel squawked in surprise, but readily returned the hug.
Jack loosened his grip and stepped back, his hands still grasping Daniel’s shoulders.
“What’s with the Space Monkey hug?” Daniel grinned.
Jack smiled and ruffled Daniel’s hair.
“I’ve missed you,” he said, dropping his arms to his sides.
“Yeah, me too,’ Daniel admitted.
“Yet, you never call, never write,” Jack sighed, walking out the door, his shoulders hunched.
“Oh, here we go,” Daniel sighed, his grin belying his annoyance. “Tell you what, I’ll buy you dinner.”
“Daniel, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a two-star general. I eat for free and so do my guests,” Jack explained dryly.
“And whose fault is that?” Daniel asked.
“What, I was supposed to turn down the promotion?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You certainly implied it,” Jack insisted.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Just like old times,” a voice from behind said.
Jack and Daniel turned to see Sergeant Siler’s deadpan face.
“It’s good to see you, General,” he said, saluting respectfully.
“Good to see you, too, Sparky,” Jack said, returning the salute then shaking Siler’s hand.
“It’s not the same around here without you, sir, isn’t that right, Dr. Jackson?”
“Oh, yes, definitely not the same,” Daniel agreed, hiding a smile behind his hand.
“Got that wrench with you, Siler?” Jack asked, eying Daniel menacingly.
“Sorry, sir, I left it in my other jacket.”
Jack looked balefully at the sergeant.
“On my way, sir,” he said saluting quickly before leaving.
“Daniel, when I turn around, I expect that smirk on your face to be gone,” Jack warned.
Jack turned and shook his head at a grinning Daniel.
“And people wondered why I went to Washington,” he murmured.
“We still do,” Daniel said.
Daniel’s tone was serious and Jack eyed his friend closely. Leaving SG-1 then the SGC was the hardest thing Jack had ever done since divorcing Sara, but his growing attraction to Daniel, coupled with Carter’s apparent infatuation, had spurred the change. He knew he could not continue to be in close proximity to Daniel and keep his feelings hidden. God knows, he tried. He even used Kerry as a diversion, something that he wasn’t proud of. It may have worked, too, at least for a while, if Carter hadn’t screwed it up. Jack thought more than once he should have let Daniel go to Atlantis, but his selfishness wanted Daniel where he could at least talk to him and picture him. Carter. Well, Carter he did want to get away from because it seemed a hell of a lot easier than actually dealing with those feelings. If only she hadn’t broken it off with Pete. Yeah, and if only you hadn’t fallen in love with your best friend.
“Yeah, so do I,” Jack replied quietly.
The two men stared silently at each other, both acutely aware of the emotions in their words and the ensuing awkwardness.
“I never thought it would turn out like this,” Daniel said, breaking the silence.
“Me neither,” Jack shrugged, uncomfortable with the steady blue eyes boring into him. “So, what’s on the menu tonight?” he said, determined to change the subject.
Subtle, Jack, Daniel thought. “I don’t know. What day is it?”
Jack looked at Daniel and frowned. “Beats me.”
Daniel smiled. It really was good to see his friend again..
“Do you want to change into something a little less colourful?” Daniel suggested as they finally made their way through the gauntlet of salutes and well-wishers and into the safety of an empty elevator.
“Attracting too much attention?” Jack smiled.
“I don’t want it to go to your head or anything,” Daniel said, “but you were a legend without the stars. The stars make it …”
“Works for me,” Daniel grinned. “Um, you did bring some other clothes, didn’t you?”
“Does underwear count?”
“Still miss me?” Jack grinned.
“It’s getting a little harder,” Daniel replied.
“The night is young, Danny Boy.”
“Suddenly the Ori don’t seem so bad,” Daniel muttered.
“Nothing,” Daniel said brightly.
Jack laughed and leaned back against the wall. “So, how’s this whole Vala thing working out for you?” he asked.
“’Vala thing’?” Daniel queried, peering over the rim of his glasses.
“Well, you were practically chained to her,” Jack replied.
“Please, don’t remind me,” Daniel said, unconsciously rubbing his wrist. “You have got to meet this woman,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“A peach?” Jack asked rakishly.
“Oh, she’s … something.”
“Oh, please,” Daniel scoffed. “Vala could wipe the floor with Anise. No, think of a female Aris Boch, over-sexed and more attitude.”
“Impressive,” Jack said. He sure sounds protective. Great, now I’m jealous of someone I don’t even know. “I hear she’s got a thing for you.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Daniel denied. “She … she … hell, I don’t know what she thinks,” he admitted.
“Well, rumour has it she’s bearing your child,” Jack said, fighting to keep a straight face.
“Who told you that?” Daniel asked in alarm.
“I’ll never tell.”
“Jack, I never—”
“Not my business, Daniel,” Jack interrupted.
“Oh, come on! You don’t really think I slept with her?” Daniel asked in an urgent whisper.
“Relax, I’m just yanking your chain,” Jack grinned, taking pity on his friend and relishing the understanding that Daniel wasn’t interested in Vala.
“Oh, well, okay,” Daniel muttered. “Besides, she’s not my type.”
Hallelujah for that, Jack thought.
Jack smiled and patted Daniel’s shoulder. “Just for you, I’ll change my clothes. I’m in the VIP suite next to you. Besides, I’ve been in this thing for hours,” he said, tugging at his necktie. “By the way, you’re way ahead of me on the legend front. You should hear the stories about you going around Washington.”
“You set them straight, didn’t you?” Daniel frowned.
“Why? They’re all true,” Jack smiled.
“Right,” Daniel muttered, imagining the stories Jack would tell. “So, how long are you here for?” he asked, pressing the button for the VIP floor.
“I wrangled a few days,” Jack replied. “I tried for more, but it seems comas only earn three days,” he scowled.
“Comas?” Daniel queried.
Jack sighed and looked patiently at his friend. “Why do you think I’m here?”
“You, um, said you had a surprise for Mitchell,” Daniel said.
Yes, I did and it was a big fat lie. Crap, now I have to think of something to do with Mitchell. Okay, time for the truth.
“Right, so my best friend linked to an alien device and in a coma isn’t reason enough?” Jack asked. Now, how hard was that?
Daniel blushed and ducked his head. “Well, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before,” he shrugged, feeling rather pleased.
“Hence the stories,” Jack said, spreading his hands.
Daniel grinned and looked down at the floor, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. He looked up and met Jack’s gaze.
“Thanks for coming,” he said softly.
“As T would say, ‘undomesticated equines’,” Jack said, placing his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.
Daniel smiled and was not surprised to see a suspicious wetness in Jack’s eyes. Hell, he was on the verge of tears himself.
“So, what’s with the beard?” Jack asked, clearing his throat.
“Oh … well,” Daniel said, fingering his beard. You left and I got so depressed I couldn’t be bothered to shave. Well, I can’t say that. “When SG-1 disbanded, I thought I’d try something different. Do you like it?”
Jack reached out and gently touched Daniel’s face. He shivered inside. The hair was soft and oh, God, he missed his friend.
“Yeah, I do,” he said softly.
Daniel smiled and felt a rush of pleasure at Jack’s touch and his words. God, I’ve missed you, Jack.
“Sorry I came out of the coma early,” Daniel smiled.
“’s’okay. More time for you to annoy me,” Jack said.
“My favourite pastime,” Daniel smiled.
Daniel methodically hung up Jack’s dress uniform as the older man stripped and tossed items onto the bed.
“You don’t have to do that,” Jack said, kicking off his shoes.
“I don’t mind,” Daniel replied. “How’s your knee been since you’ve been inactive, so to speak.”
“Comes and goes,” Jack said, unzipping his pants and slipping them off.
Daniel took the pants then leaned to the side trying to peer behind Jack.
“What are you gawking at?” Jack asked, glancing behind himself.
“Just seeing if your butt’s any bigger,” Daniel smiled. “You know, with all that sitting you do now.”
“My ass is just fine and as perky as ever,” Jack replied smugly.
“I’m sure it is,” Daniel laughed. The rest of you looks pretty damn fine. Daniel felt his neck flush and he turned away to busy himself with putting the clothes away. His sudden image of Jack in the buff took him by surprise. God, I know I’ve missed him, but…
Jack smiled, too busy getting a vicarious thrill from Daniel’s words to notice his embarrassment.
“Speaking of being in shape, you haven’t slacked off at the gym because I’m not here to ride your ass, have you?” Jack asked, wincing inwardly at his choice of words.
“No, I haven’t,” Daniel huffed. “Teal’c set me up with a program. You didn’t tell him to do that, did you?”
“I thought so,” Daniel muttered. “Oh, and Mitchell’s got this whole basketball thing going on, but I have to admit, it is rather fun,” he admitted, hanging up the last of Jack’s clothing. “Vala’s pretty good at it, too.”
“So Mitchell’s working out okay?” Jack asked, trying to squelch a sudden stab of jealousy of both Mitchell and Vala.
“He’s…eager,” Daniel said, pausing to find the right word. “It’s funny, but I think he’s actually in awe of us,” Daniel smiled.
“Nothing funny about it,” Jack said, pulling on his well-worn fatigues. “You guys are the best, bar none.”
“Maybe,” Daniel shrugged. “It’s not the same anymore though, is it?”
Jack looked at Daniel and his heart melted at the wistful look on his friend’s face.
“Things can’t stay the same forever, Daniel,” he said quietly.
“I know, but I never envisioned myself being on SG-1 without you,” Daniel replied, flashing a small smile.
Ah, Danny, if you had any idea how good that makes me feel.
“So, you’re staying on then?” Jack asked.
“I can’t leave with the Ori on our doorstep,” Daniel said.
“Mitchell will be glad to hear that,” Jack said.
“I want to make him sweat a bit first,” Daniel smiled.
“My lips are sealed,” Jack grinned. “Think Teal’c will come back?”
“I’m sure of it. Sam, I don’t know. Jacob’s death really threw her for a loop and then you left and things, well, things just weren’t the same,” Daniel repeated.
“There was a lot going on,” Jack said. “The change is probably good for her. You know what they say: ‘a change is as good as a rest’.”
“Maybe,” Daniel said thoughtfully. What did go on between you two?
“Come on,” Jack said, clapping Daniel on the shoulder, “let’s grab some grub and you can fill me in on these Ori.”
“Okay, but I don’t know much about them. I’m just starting to put the pieces together,” Daniel said.
“I have faith in you, Daniel,” Jack said, draping his arm across his friend’s shoulders. Jack knew he shouldn’t be so tactile with Daniel, knowing the deeper desire he felt, but he figured Daniel could use the encouragement, and Jack really, really missed his friend. “You’ll figure it out and if there’s anything you need from me, just ask.”
Come back, Daniel thought sadly, but he replied with a heartfelt, “Thank you, Jack.”
“They burned to death. Teal’c and Mitchell freed us from the device, leaving Herod and Sallis to regain their consciousness, only to be consumed by fire,” Daniel explained grimly.
“You didn’t kill them, Daniel,” Jack said quietly.
Daniel looked at Jack sadly and shook his head. “I wish I could believe that, Jack, but they never asked to have their bodies possessed.”
“They had those communication things with them. You know they would have used them if they could, and they never would have submitted to the Ori,” Jack added.
“But Jack, they didn’t even know what happened. They had no idea why they ended up tied to that damn stake. To them it was just like waking up from a deep sleep. God, they must have been terrified. And now the Ori know of our existence,” Daniel added quietly.
“Daniel, don’t do this to yourself. Because we know about the bastards, we can fight them and maybe save millions, hell billions, from their domination,” Jack said. “I think Herod and Sallis and their friends would be honoured to sacrifice their lives for that.”
“But they didn’t, Jack. That’s my point. I made that choice for them,” Daniel insisted.
“Daniel, you had no idea what would happen when you touched that device. For all you know, you could have died. Hell, you almost did! If Mitchell and Teal’c hadn’t thrown the damn thing—”
“I know,” Daniel sighed, “and Vala did die once.”
“Their sacrifices won’t be in vain, Daniel,” Jack said quietly, reaching out and grasping his friend’s forearm. “We won’t let it.”
Daniel’s eyes swam with tears at Jack’s quiet conviction and he nodded. “We won’t,” he agreed, smiling.
Jack squeezed Daniel’s arm. “Now that’s settled, tell me what you think of Landry.”
“I like him,” Daniel said without hesitation. “He reminds me of you.”
“Oh?” Jack queried, his eyebrows raised.
“Not that that’s why I like him,” Daniel clarified with a grin.
“Of course not,” Jack drawled.
“Landry listens, and I think he’s really interested in gaining allies rather than in obtaining weapons or technology. You made a good choice, Jack. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Jack smiled.
“So, how does it feel to be back here?” Daniel asked, sipping his coffee.
“Well, the circumstances suck,” Jack said.
“Sorry,” Daniel smiled.
“It also feels … strange. I’ve only been gone a few months, but already I feel like an outsider,” Jack frowned.
“Jack, you’ve been here for years,” Daniel protested.
“I know. That’s why it’s strange,” Jack said quietly.
“Come back,” Daniel said.
Jack looked at Daniel and smiled. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Says who? Bureaucrats in Washington?”
“I made my choice, Daniel, and for better or worse, I stand by it.” I have to. For your sake.
“We didn’t know about the Ori when you made your choice,” Daniel said.
“I can still help from Washington,” Jack replied. “Listen, can we talk about something else?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Hockey?”
“My head hurts,” Daniel scowled.
“Sit! You’ve been in a coma, remember? I’ll get it,” Jack said.
Daniel smiled and sat down. Jack missed him, too.
“Well, that was … odd,” Jack muttered, frowning at the spot where Vala recently stood. He had to admit, Daniel was right; she really was something. He also had the disconcerting feeling he came out looking like a mother wolf defending her cub, but damn it, she’d gotten Daniel into all sorts of trouble and if she started messing with his heart, she’d wish she’d never been born.
“Crap, I actually said that?” Jack murmured.
“Daniel, you naughty boy, you’ve been holding out on me.”
Daniel groaned and looked up from his desk to see Vala slinking towards him. I really have to remember to shut and lock my door.
“I know I’ll regret this, but what are you talking about?”
“Oh, don’t be coy,” Vala said, sitting on the edge of his desk, “and to think of the time I invested in you.”
“And you are wasting my time,” Daniel retorted, “because I don’t know what the hell you are talking about and Landry’s expecting—”
“I was just talking to your general about you,” Vala purred, reaching for a fragile-looking object from Daniel’s desk.
“Don’t touch,” Daniel snapped, clamping his hand down on her wrist “and why were you talking to Landry about me?”
“Not him, the other one.”
“What other one?” Daniel frowned.
“General Jack O’Neill, of course, unless you have another one hidden away,” she said, perking up and peering around the room.
“Vala, you’re not making any sense, but then why should that surprise me,” Daniel muttered, releasing her hand and looking back at his book.
Vala rubbed her wrist thoughtfully where the bracelet linking her to Daniel used to be. She sighed heavily.
Daniel cringed at the sound. “Do you mind?” he asked irritably.
A sudden image of her, Daniel and Jack popped into her mind and Vala smiled. “I wouldn’t have any objections,” she said cheerily.
“Objections to what?” Daniel asked, sitting back, accepting he was not going to get any work done.
“To sharing,” Vala grinned.
“Sharing what?” Daniel asked. God, why do I bother? And I thought Jack was annoying?
Vala stared at Daniel and her eyes widened.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Ye-es,” Daniel said slowly, his brow furrowed.
“Oh, my poor Daniel. You really don’t know, do you?”
“Vala, I’m tired, I have a headache, and you are not helping,” Daniel groused.
“This could be fun,” Vala grinned. “I know something you don’t know,” she sing-songed.
“Argh!” Daniel moaned. “Do I have to call security?”
“I’m going,” she said, jumping off the desk.
“Thank you,” Daniel grumbled.
Vala stood and stared at Daniel, almost like she was memorizing him.
“What?” Daniel snapped.
“Such a shame,” Vala sighed. “Oh well, plenty more in the galaxy, I suppose. Just don’t wander too far.”
“There is no place far enough,” Daniel muttered once he was safely alone. Shaking his head in exasperation, he returned to his study of The Book of Origin. At least, he tried to. Vala’s cryptic words clamored for attention: ‘you’ve been holding out on me’. “I’ve invested a lot of time in you’, and ‘I wouldn’t have any objections to sharing’.
“What the hell?” Daniel murmured, sitting bolt upright. Is she saying that me and Jack … No, that’s crazy, even for Vala. Unless…she did say, she talked to Jack. That’s it! Jack told her we were an item so she’d lay off the sexual innuendo. God, but what innuendo is she going to indulge in now? “Jack, what the hell were you thinking?”
Jack opened the door at the insistent knocking, not surprised to see Daniel.
“Did you tell Vala we were lovers?” Daniel demanded.
“Jesus, Daniel, close the door,” Jack hissed, pulling Daniel in and closing the door.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, pacing the room and trying to get his emotions under control. “She gets me … she gets me all worked up.”
“I can see that. Hell, I was only with her a few minutes and she got me worked up,” Jack groused.
“So you did talk to her.”
“It was hard not to. She caught me in the elevator. I think she’s secretly been taking lessons from Carter,” Jack frowned.
“What about Sam?” Daniel huffed, and why do I feel jealous?
“I thought we were talking about Vala?” Jack frowned.
“Right,” Daniel said, getting his mind back on track. “What did she say to you that got you all worked up?”
“I don’t know. Stuff,” Jack shrugged.
“Stuff,” Daniel said dryly.
“Like?” Daniel prompted.
“Like … wanting to make babies with you,” Jack said, stifling a grin.
“She said that?” Daniel asked in horror.
“She thinks you’re hot,” Jack replied.
“So you told her we were lovers?”
“No! Why do you keep saying that?” Jack grumbled, lowering his voice.
“Because that’s what she intimated,” Daniel said, unconsciously lowering his voice.
“Yes, she did.” At least I think she did. God, what if I’m wrong? What if I’m right? Damn, I don’t know what to think.
“Is that a bad thing?” Jack asked.
“Well, you could do worse, right?” Oh crap, stick both feet in, why don’t you?
“What?” Daniel repeated, Vala’s words whirling in his brain: ‘You really don’t know, do you?
Daniel felt butterflies in his stomach and his heart thumped wildly. Is Jack interested in me? He had to know.
“Never mind,” Jack said, waving his hand. “Look, I have to get ready for—”
“Why did you leave?” Daniel asked quietly, surprised at the steadiness of his voice.
“What?” Jack said, looking guarded.
“Why did you go to Washington,” Daniel asked.
“You know why. The President asked me to.”
“And when the President asks, it’s an order,” Daniel said.
“Pretty much,” Jack assented.
“I’m not buying it,” Daniel said, slowly shaking his head. “I never really did. It’s not you.”
“Daniel, I don’t know what you—”
“Did you leave to get away from me?” Daniel asked.
“What? No!” Jack exclaimed. Shit, this wasn’t supposed to happen!
“Damn it, Jack, can’t you be honest with me for once?”
“How the hell can I be honest with you when I can’t …” Jack’s voice trailed off and he rubbed the back of his neck wearily
“When you can’t what?” Daniel asked gently.
“When I can’t even be honest with myself,” Jack sighed, looking miserable.
Daniel didn’t think his heart could beat any faster. He took two long, slow breaths. “Okay,” he said, nodding slowly, “this is good.”
“No, it isn’t,” Jack muttered, “and my head hurts,” he said, sitting down heavily.
Daniel wrapped his arms around his chest and chewed his lip thoughtfully.
“Jack, we’ve known each other a long time. We’ve seen each other at our best and our worst, well, my worst anyways. At least, I hope that was my worst.”
Jack looked up at Daniel and smiled. “Yeah, we have.” And right now you’re scared as hell. So am I, Danny.
“Let me put it another way,” Daniel said carefully.
Jack motioned with his hand for Daniel to continue.
“Did your going to Washington have anything to do with me?”
Jack gazed at Daniel a long time before he lowered his head and massaged the back of his neck. Hell, Daniel, it had everything to do with you.
“Why were you so hell bent on going to Atlantis?” Jack asked, looking up.
“Atlantis?” Daniel frowned. “Did I just miss something because I’m sure we were talking about you going to Washington?”
“That doesn’t answer my question, Daniel,” Jack said.
“And you haven’t answered mine,” Daniel replied.
The two men stared at each other, both desperately wanting to say what was in their hearts, and both deathly afraid of what the other would think.
“This is nuts,” Jack muttered.
“No, this is us,” Daniel sighed.
Jack laughed. He couldn’t help it. Daniel was absolutely right and they were doing it again, or more precisely, Jack was doing it again: evade, evade, evade.
Jack’s cell phone rang, saving him from a reply. “Phone,” he murmured to Daniel as he pulled out his cell.
“O’Neill. Yes, sir, I’ll be right there.”
Jack looked at Daniel apologetically. “Landry wants to see me.”
“Don’t keep him waiting,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, uh, then I have to take Mitchell out.”
“Take Mitchell out?” Daniel queried.
“Flying. I’m taking him flying,” Jack explained.
“Oh,” Daniel said. “Right, that’s why you came.” God, I’m even jealous of Mitchell now.
“That is not why I came,” Jack said. “I just thought he’d like a ride on an F-302.”
“More perks of being a general?” Daniel queried.
“Exactly, so I’ll see you later,” Jack said, reaching for the door.
Daniel nodded, the door closed, and he felt sick to his stomach. Jack was gone and they hadn’t said a damn thing.
“That was amazing!” Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell enthused, slowly coming down from his high of flying an F-302.
“It never gets old,” Jack agreed.
“Come on, sir, even after gate travel?” Mitchell asked.
“Ah, now that’s a whole other thing,” Jack said. “There’s no comparison.”
“I can’t believe you’re giving that up. I mean, it’s great that you are because I get a chance to be with SG-1,” Mitchell grinned.
“You’re not with SG-1, you’re leading SG-1,” Jack corrected.
“Hardly. I’ve got Jackson only because he missed the Daedalus. Teal’c’s been hanging around because of Jackson, and Sam, well, Sam seems pretty happy at Area 51.”
“Relax, Mitchell, you’ll get them,” Jack said.
“Is there something I should know?” Mitchell asked eagerly.
“I just know my kids,” Jack said. Crap, that wasn’t supposed to come out.
Mitchell smiled at the thought of Jackson, Teal’c and Sam as ‘kids’, but he had sense enough not to comment.
“I’ve known Sam for awhile,” Mitchell said. “Teal’c is certainly amazing. I’d hate to get on the wrong side of him. And Jackson … well, Jackson is incredible.”
“Incredible?” Jack queried, his eyebrows lifting.
“Oh yeah, he knows so much! I love listening to him talk.”
Jack regarded Mitchell closely then nodded. “Make sure you do,” he said quietly. “He knows his stuff. He also has this annoying habit of being right all the time.”
“I will,” Mitchell smiled, nodding slowly. He regarded Jack closely then said, “I might be out of line here, General, but you didn’t want to leave SG-1, did you?”
“You’re right, you’re out of line,” Jack replied. “But, in a word, no.”
“Then why …ah right, none of my business,” Mitchell murmured when Jack’s dark eyes bore into him. Like my grandma always said, let sleeping dogs lie.
Jack decided he couldn’t face Daniel again. He knew it was cowardly and Daniel would hate him for a long time, but he figured it was for the best. However, his quick and dirty departure wasn’t as quick as he’d hoped. He’d never appreciated how difficult it was for a general to actually leave quietly, especially one who didn’t have his own vehicle. It seemed everyone and their dog wanted a last few words. Jack smiled sadly as Daniel’s voice spoke softly in his mind: ‘It’s not the stars, Jack. It’s you, they missed’. For crying out loud, I haven’t even left and I miss him. I shouldn’t have come back.
“General O’Neill, your car is ready.”
“Jack, open up!” Daniel called, thumping loudly on the door to the VIP room.
“He’s not in there, Daniel.”
Daniel whirled at the sound of Vala’s voice.
“I suppose you know where he is?” Daniel asked testily.
To Daniel’s surprise and concern, Vala did not respond in her usual annoying and cryptic manner. Instead, her reply was short and sincere.
“He left, Daniel. I’m sorry.”
Daniel blinked twice then gave himself a mental shake.
“What do you mean ‘left’? Is he with Landry?”
“He’s gone back to Washington,” Vala replied.
“Washington? When?” Daniel demanded, heading for the nearest phone.
“Just minutes ago. I tried to find you.”
Daniel snatched the phone off the wall and dialed the front gate.
“Yes, this is Dr. Jackson,” he said urgently. “Has General O’Neill signed out yet? Damn it, when?”
Daniel hung up the phone and raced down the hall.
“Good luck, Daniel,” Vala whispered.
The cold air blew into Jack’s face as he emerged from Cheyenne Mountain. The biting wind would pale against the stinging words Jack knew Daniel would unleash against him when he learned of his sudden departure. It’s for the best, Daniel, Jack thought miserably, but he couldn’t help thinking he was just a damn coward. Crap, it just shows I’m not good enough for you, Danny. Your life would be hell.
Daniel was breathing hard and sweating by the time he reached the parking garage. In fact, he felt like shit. God, I shouldn’t be this out of shape. He automatically looked at Jack’s parking stall and his heart sank at the empty stall. Get a grip. He doesn’t have a truck anymore. Quickly scanning the area, Daniel almost shouted in triumph when he spied one of the military limos backing out.
“Jack!” he shouted.
If this were a cheesy movie, I’d look back and see Daniel running towards me, Jack thought gloomily. Damn it, how can I leave him like this? I love you, Daniel. I always will. I’m just not good for you. Sighing, Jack looked back.
“Shit! Stop the car!”
Daniel woke up to the familiar sounds and smells of the infirmary. “Crap,” he murmured, his eyes still closed.
“Hey, that’s my line.”
Daniel’s eyes flew open and he looked to the side to see warm, sad, dark brown eyes.
“Hey,” Jack said softly. “You scared the hell out of me back there.”
“So did you,” Daniel replied.
“Thought you had a heart attack or something,” Jack said, glancing away from accusing blue eyes.
“Sorry, must be residual effects from that bracelet,” Daniel said, with a look of distaste.
“Yeah, that’s what Lam figures, too.”
“You left without saying goodbye,” Daniel accused.
“Well, no, technically, I tried to leave without saying goodbye,” Jack muttered, wilting under the intense blue gaze. “Uh, look, this probably isn’t the best—”
“Why did you run?” Daniel interjected.
“I didn’t run,” Jack protested. “At least, not technically,” he added weakly.
“Okay, then, why are you still here?” Daniel asked. “I assume, technically, you are still here.”
Jack winced at the deserved sarcasm.
“You know, I’m not really comfortable talking about this here. Could we do this somewhere, I don’t know … homey?” Jack asked.
“Homey?” Daniel repeated. “You don’t have a home here anymore and I sublet mine because I’m supposed to be on Atlantis.”
Jack stiffened and the blood drained from his face. ‘You don’t have a home here anymore.’ He felt sick. He didn’t have a home and he didn’t belong. Mitchell had his team. Jack knew it was only a matter of time before Carter re-joined SG-1. Daniel already said he was staying. He had a new cause, one he could sink his teeth into. And Teal’c? Teal’c would come back to help Daniel. Of that, he was certain. Jack had forfeited SG-1, his friends and his family. He was an outcast; the proverbial kid with his nose pressed to the window of a store he could not enter. Images flashed through Jack’s mind: sharing stories with his team off-world, enjoying themselves at his house, chess games and late nights with Daniel that meant more to him than he’d ever dare admit, even to himself. Until now.
Jack blinked and looked dazedly at Daniel, the latter already half way out of bed.
“Sit down,” Daniel urged, motioning Jack to the chair. “Should I get Dr. Lam?” he asked worriedly.
“No, no, I’m fine,” Jack said, waving Daniel off as he sat down.
“What just happened?” Daniel asked.
A cold blast of reality. Jack looked up into worried blue eyes and felt his own eyes sting with hot tears. How could he have left Daniel like he did? How could he ever think of leaving him again?
“I … I…”
“Dr. Jackson, you shouldn’t be out of—General O’Neill, are you all right?” Dr. Lam inquired, zeroing in on a potential patient.
Jack looked at Lam and bit back a laugh. Was he all right? Hell, he hadn’t been all right for a very long time.
“He’s a little jet-lagged still,” Daniel explained. “He just needs some rest. Right, Jack?”
“Must be,” Jack murmured, his voice tight. It was a lame excuse, but Daniel was still watching his back and that made Jack’s heart swell.
“I’ll get you some water, sir, and you,” Lam said, directing her gaze at Daniel. “get back into that bed.”
“Fine, yes, I know, but until all your test results are in, you are confined to that bed,” Lam stated.
Daniel sighed, but dutifully flopped back onto the bed.
“And we thought Janet was bad,” Jack whispered once Lam left the room.
It still hurt to think of his fallen comrade and friend, but Daniel smiled in spite of the heartache. Just being in the room with Jack felt right, even if it was the infirmary, or, maybe because it was the infirmary. God, how many times had he woken up here and looked for Jack to ground him? He was sure he murmured Jack’s name when he woke up after being separated from the communication device, too.
Daniel glanced up at the voice and the touch of Jack’s hand on his arm.
“Beaming out on me?” Jack asked.
“Lots of memories in here,” Daniel said quietly, gazing around the room.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, “and I’ve got the grey hair to prove it.”
Daniel looked at Jack and smiled sadly. “So,” he said.
“So,” Jack replied. So, get on with it, you ass. “You were half right.”
“Okay, you’re right. I did run, but not from you. I ran from myself,” Jack confessed.
“Yourself,” Daniel said, frowning. “Isn’t that pretty much impossible?”
“Yep, pretty much,” Jack agreed. “Let me rephrase that. I ran from having to deal with certain … issues.”
“Come on, Daniel. You know me better than anyone. Things were getting difficult. Carter was … and then you were… crap, I’m no good at this stuff.”
Sam. It was Sam all along, Daniel thought sadly. It seemed so clear now. Jack was in love with Sam, but he ran from those feelings. Sam was his subordinate and both their careers would be ruined. One of them had to go and Jack did the noble thing. But why did Sam leave and why didn’t they tell him or Teal’c?
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Daniel asked, feeling hurt and angry. “Maybe I could’ve helped. Does she even know?”
“Does she know? Does who know what?” Jack frowned.
“Sam. Does she know you love her?” Daniel asked.
“What? Carter?” Oh, jeez “Daniel, I am not in love with Carter,” Jack said quietly.
“No, I’m not. Besides, she’s not my type,” Jack added with a small smile.
“Oh,” Daniel murmured, utterly relieved and utterly confused.
“Are you disappointed?” Jack asked.
“No,” Daniel replied quickly. “I mean … no,” he repeated softly.
“Good?” Daniel repeated, his eyebrows arching.
Jack stood up and began pacing. “I ran because Carter made me realize something. Crap, I can’t believe I’m actually saying this stuff.”
“Actually, Jack, you’re not really saying anything,” Daniel said, “or at least nothing that makes any sense. I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying.”
“Yeah, well, I’m nervous,” Jack said, scrubbing his head.
“You’re not alone.”
Jack nodded and sat back down. “I could really use some coffee right now.”
“Me too,” Daniel smiled. “Jack, I don’t want you to go back to Washington.”
Jack looked up and met Daniel’s clear blue gaze.
“I don’t want to, either.”
“But,” Daniel said.
“But, I have a job to do and so do you.”
“I’ve given my life to this job more than once, and so have you,” Daniel said. “I think it’s time we got something back.”
“For starters,” Daniel said.
“I’d like nothing better,” Jack said wistfully, “but we need you here, Daniel. Who else can save us from the Ori?”
“Jack, I’m just–”
“The best kept secret Earth has to defend herself,” Jack interjected, smiling at his friend’s slack-jawed look. “Besides, you can’t tell me you’re not itching to sink your teeth into The Book of Origin, not to mention all that King Arthur stuff. And let’s not forget Atlantis. You will get there one day.”
Daniel dropped his chin to his chest. Jack was right. He did want all those things, but he wanted more. He lifted his head and looked at Jack.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here, Jack, and if I’m wrong it’s going to be a hell of a drop,” he added softly.
“Daniel, don’t say anything you’ll regret later,” Jack cautioned, but his mouth was dry with anticipation.
“I’ll regret it forever if I don’t say it,” Daniel said.
Jack swallowed hard and nodded, nervous of what Daniel may say and equally nervous of what he may not say.
“As I said, we’ve known each other for a long time; ten years, but it seems like a lifetime,” Daniel said, “and I mean that in a good way. We’ve fought together, played together, cried and laughed together. Hell, we’ve even died together.” Daniel paused and looked down. When he looked up his eyes shimmered.
“I guess what I’m trying to say, Jack, is I want you in my life. Not in Washington or anywhere else, but here, by my side.”
“Are you …” Jack paused and cleared his throat. “Are you asking me to grow old with you?”
“Yeah, I guess I am,” Daniel said, smiling shyly.
“Sweet,” Jack whispered, afraid if he spoke too loud, he would awaken from a dream. “Um, you’re not talking platonic, are you?”
“God, no! I expect to get something if I have to put up with hockey and The Simpsons.”
Jack laughed and his heart swelled with love. “Daniel, I don’t know what to say. I mean, I never thought that you … you know,” he said, waving his hand helplessly.
“Either did I,” Daniel said softly, “but I can’t imagine being with anyone else. I also never thought that you … you know, either,” he added, blushing slightly.
“How did this happen?” Jack asked, frowning.
“Ten years?” Daniel suggested.
Jack smiled. “A lifetime.”
“No, a beginning.”
“I like that,” Jack smiled. “We got off to a hell of a start, didn’t we?”
“Yes, we did. Oh, damn,” Daniel frowned.
“What?” Jack asked, alarm in his voice.
“I forgot about Vala,” Daniel said, gesturing to the bed. “We can’t seem to be too far apart.”
“She doesn’t have to live with us, does she?”
“Actually, she did say she wouldn’t mind a threesome,” Daniel murmured thoughtfully, but his mind giddy at the fact Jack actually referred to living together.
“For crying out loud, I am not sharing you with Vala, or with anyone,” Jack added.
“We’ll manage something,” Daniel said. “These effects can’t last forever.”
“You know I can’t leave Washington just like that,” Jack said worriedly.
“I know,” Daniel nodded. “I can wait.”
“Have you ever … you know, with a guy?” Jack asked, feeling his neck flush.
“No, have you?” Daniel replied, looking very vulnerable and very adorable.
“No,” Jack replied with a frown. “So, why do you think we … you know?”
“Ten years,” Daniel smiled.
Jack laughed and gazed into sparkling blue eyes, his heart doing somersaults in his chest.
“Yeah, ten years,” he murmured. He sighed and looked around the room. “I guess this isn’t the place to give you some of that … ‘something’, is it?”
“Uh, no,” Daniel agreed as he heard Lam’s voice in the background, “but I think you left something in my room,” he added, his eyes twinkling.
“Yeah?” Jack asked, brightening considerably.
“I’m sure of it,” Daniel nodded.
“Let me talk to Lam,” Jack whispered.
Jack closed the door and turned the lock. He couldn’t wait to get to Daniel’s room, but now he was here, he didn’t know what to do. Unlocking the door and running like hell seemed a good option. Running always worked before. Like hell it did!
Daniel heard the soft click of the lock. His pulse raced and his stomach did somersaults. He felt sick, but didn’t know if it was with anticipation or dread. He looked down at his arms hugging his chest tightly, and closed his eyes. Both. Could they make the leap from friends to lovers just like that? How could things change so quickly?
The silence behind Jack was more nerve-wracking than the chaos of his thoughts. He turned around and saw the all-too-familiar stance of crossed arms and bowed head. A surge of love for Daniel brought tears to Jack’s eyes. He blinked them away and walked over to his friend.
“Daniel,” he murmured.
Daniel looked up, fear and hope radiating from bright blue eyes.
Jack smiled then gently enveloped Daniel in his arms, breathing deeply when he felt strong arms return the embrace.
Daniel hugged Jack with a strength borne of years of love and friendship. He smiled. Things had not changed quickly. Rather, they gradually evolved over a period of ten years, just like he said. Each hug, each smile, each laugh, and each touch shared between them served to bring them to this moment, to this understanding.
“I love you,” Daniel breathed softly into Jack’s neck.
Daniel’s quiet declaration infused Jack’s whole being with a warmth and passion he had despaired of ever feeling again.
“I love you, too,’ Jack whispered.
They held each other a little longer then gently disentangled themselves and stepped back. They both blushed slightly, but there hearts were light.
“Nothing needs to happen quickly,” Jack said, sensing Daniel’s nervousness, not to mention his own.
“You mean I have to wait another ten years just for a kiss?” Daniel queried.
Jack laughed then licked his lips nervously. “Can you wait ten seconds?”
“That long?” Daniel pouted, but his heart pounded in his chest.
“Come here,” Jack whispered, his eyes warm and inviting.
Daniel stepped forward and closed his eyes as Jack’s hands cradled his face. He inhaled the coffee-laced scent of Jack’s breath and his lips parted slightly. His skin tingled as soft, firm lips pressed against his own teasing his mouth to open wider. Daniel let out a low moan as Jack’s tongue tentatively probed his mouth.
The hot moistness of Daniel’s mouth and tongue sent little shivers to every part of Jack’s body.
This is right. This is so right, he thought as he deepened the kiss. Daniel’s arms wrapped possessively around him and it was his turn to elicit a low moan.
Encourage by the sound, Daniel plunged his tongue deeper into Jack’s mouth. Oh God, this feels so right.
All fears and doubts vanished as both men realized this was meant to be, and they moaned with pleasure as they hungrily explored the delights of their first kiss. Minutes later, they pulled back and stared at each other in awe.
“I think we should try that again,” Daniel said huskily, leaning in and claiming Jack’s mouth.
Jack crushed Daniel to his chest and eagerly engaged in their second kiss.
Both men could feel the other’s arousal as their bodies rubbed rhythmically together, but they knew this was neither the time nor the place to take things any further. Right now, they had all they needed. They were together in body, mind and spirit.
“When will you be back?” Daniel asked as he watched Jack pack his bag.
“As soon as I can,” Jack replied. “I thought maybe you could come to Washington.”
“Is now too soon?”
Daniel smiled. “I’m not doing anything this weekend.”
“You are now,” Jack said.
“How big is your bed?” Daniel asked.
“Big enough,” Jack replied, his groin tightening.
“Actually, I think at this stage, a two by four would be big enough,” Daniel laughed.
Jack grinned and hugged his friend tight. “God, I miss you already,” he murmured into Daniel’s neck.
“Me too,” Daniel replied, wrapping his arms around Jack. “It’s a good feeling though, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Jack whispered, nibbling Daniel’s neck.
“Uh, no hickies, remember?” Daniel moaned.
“The weekend?” Jack asked.
“Okay, but not where anyone can see,” Daniel replied.
“Oh, I promise,” Jack said, smiling at the possibilities. “I have to go,” he sighed.
“I’ll walk you out.”
Jack pulled back and placed his hands on Daniel’s shoulders then leaned in for a last kiss.
“General O’Neill, I was just going to look for you,” the sergeant saluted. “Your car is ready.”
“Yeah, uh, sorry, I was delayed,” Jack said.
“Washington,” Daniel shrugged for the sergeant’s benefit.
“Of course, sir.”
Jack looked at Daniel and smiled. In a sense, Daniel was telling the truth because they were talking about Washington and the upcoming weekend.
“It was good seeing you again, Jack,” Daniel said, holding out his hand.
“Yeah,” Jack said clasping Daniel’s hand in a firm handshake. “It was.” Then he smiled. Hell, he hugged Daniel in front of a gateroom of people, what was one airman?
Daniel squawked in surprise when Jack hugged him tight. “Call me tonight,” Jack whispered.
“I will,” Daniel murmured, surprised, but delighted with Jack’s open display of affection.
“Washington, here I come,” Jack sighed, releasing Daniel.
“Don’t be too hard on the pencil-pushers,” Daniel said.
“And don’t you stay up all night studying the Ori,” Jack replied.
“I won’t. I’ve got other plans,” Daniel smiled.
“A date?” Jack asked rakishly, causing the sergeant to smile.
Daniel merely smiled, plunged his hands into his pockets, turned his back and walked away. “Don’t miss your flight, Jack.”
Jack found his eyes zeroing in on Daniel’s ass, the fabric pulled tight by Daniel’s hands in his pockets. He groaned inwardly, his cock twitched and he smiled. I’ll get you for that, Daniel.
|Summary:||After Daniel’s brush with the Ori, Jack returns to Stargate Command.|
This story was written for Lorrie who graciously allowed it to appear in Ancient's Gate XV: The Way It Is.