Rated Adult for graphic m/m sex and some violence
This is set in or around season 4, though it's not tied to any particular episode.
Taselby would like to thank adonnchaid, elynross, killabeez, jenlev, and mmmchelle for their advice and kind support, and to Princess of G for agreeing to push up her sleeves and take on the half-finished mess of conflicting ideas this story was when she found it.
Thank you from Princess to Taselby, for the invitation to finish this story and to play in Taselby’s sandbox.
“I cannot promise at my hearth
great slabs of beef, and gold,
and deep red carpet,
but only the loving-kindness
of your host, and music,
and clay crocks of local wine.”
Invitation” by Bakchylides
Daniel wasn’t sure there was a name for what this was. But it went like this. Once in a while, and there was no pattern that he could discern, Jack would show up at his door. Sometimes early in the evening, polite and talkative, with an offering of beer and pizza. Sometimes late at night, haunted and silent, emptyhanded, his clothes cold and smelling of damp.
And Daniel always let him in. Always.
After that first time, Daniel feigned sleep until Jack slipped out of the bed and away, then sank into a deeper darkness. He dreamed about the mud people of P5X-351.
In the dream, he knows he is blindfolded, his eyes covered with rough cloth, but in the not-logic of dreams he can still see, the images hazy and torchlit, figures moving too slowly through the oily air. Sam’s face is wet with uncharacteristic tears of frustration and rage, her shirt torn open to display the gleam of her dog tags and the bland functionality of her sports bra. She is struggling, pressed to her knees by two of the gray, mud-smeared men. Her chin is pulled cruelly back, but she keeps straining to see Daniel, as if by witnessing this she can prevent it.
Jack is shouting, but the words feel foreign. They come to Daniel through water, or the heady darkness of wine, or through blood. Jack isn’t tied, and it takes four men to hold him face down on the stones, even with more of those staves to help them.
It takes six to hold Teal’c. Once subdued, he doesn’t obviously fight their captors, but there is an air of waiting about him. Of them all, Teal’c is best at choosing his moments, but apparently it isn’t quite time.
Daniel is being dragged roughly by his bound wrists, up the worn stairs, and there is a moment of surreal gratitude there, that the polished edges are not more harsh on the fresh bruises on his legs and hips. His feet are bare, toes scraping and scrabbling for purchase in the cold grit scattered on the stone, and they stutter ineffectually behind him. He’s trying to talk, to explain, but the words slip in the bloody pulp of his mouth and emerge shapeless and without meaning.
Jack shouts, the noise blunted by the gravel and stone into which his face is pressed. There is an edge of pleading to his curses and demands, and Daniel doesn’t remember if this is true, or just the dream -- that Jack would beg. The words are tarnished silver, slithery against his ears. Daniel has been hit in the head too many times. Unconsciousness would be easier, but that’s something he can still fight. So he does.
Even in the dream, he can’t see the knife. He knows his eyes are covered, and the not-logic can’t seem to reach him anymore.
It isn’t sharp enough, he thinks, knows with a sudden flash of dream-given prescience and a loosening of his knees. The stone is cold and gritty under his cheek as he is shoved down and pulled across the altar. He cries out as the blade stutters through his flesh, voice mingling with Jack’s in a twisted harmony.
It was the dazzlingly white sunlight that finally pulled Daniel slowly from sleep. He squinted at it, at the gentle rattle-slap of his open blinds in the fifth-story breeze, then let his head fall back against the bed and pressed an arm across his eyes.
The wooden blinds continued their gentle staccato against the window. He tried to ignore it, because it was familiar, because he always left the window open to the fresh air when it wasn’t too cold, and the blinds always rattled. He reached in, past the bleary, headachy fog that lay over him, in the hope of more sleep. But the wind brought the sounds of mid-morning with it past the wooden tapping -- music and traffic and the distant scent of cut grass. There were errands to run, shopping that wouldn’t wait, and a translation that Sattler had been complaining about.
And Jack was having a barbecue at four. Crap.
Daniel got up and rubbed his face, noting the rumpled bed, the room that smelled of new sunshine and sex and Jack, then, the damp towel on the bathroom floor, and the orange spot of hand soap that had dripped onto the counter. He noted all with equal weight, trying not to analyze, not wanting to consider implications. The hand towel was crooked. He straightened it.
The shower was hot enough to peel tomatoes. He lingered under the spray, rubbing at the aches and stretched places, and trying not to remember how got them. They were good aches, blissfully acquired aches, the latest souvenirs of a relationship that he was always forcing himself to not analyze.
Relationship? No. Daniel discarded the word as too passive, and then spent a fruitless minute, the water simmering against his shoulders and bent neck, considering and rejecting more active descriptions. It was a luxury he shouldn’t, even after all these weeks, allow himself. He knew that. He did it anyway.
Maybe there wasn’t a word for this. Nothing sufficient to convey the bizarre cocktail of passion and detachment. They weren’t lovers. Daniel had never let himself entertain that particular notion. Friendship was inadequate. Relationship was too soft, too squishy. There was no word for this.
He scrubbed roughly at his hair, ticking off words for “relationship” in a half dozen languages. The heat and the scrubbing had brought him fully awake. The aches annoyed him now, with their insistent signal of pleasures gone with the night. The morning was too bright. He rinsed, and dialed off the spray with a vicious twist.
The toothpaste was minty and hot, and burned the taste of Jack from his mouth. By the time he was done in the bathroom, he’d mentally organized his errands and filled out a sketchy shopping list. That was all he need consider today.
The first time had been in winter, after their ignominious return from P5X-351.
They’d made it back through the ‘Gate and home, only ten hours overdue, wet and covered to the thighs in gray mud. Daniel slid down Teal’c -- who had been half-carrying, half-dragging him during their ungainly run for the ‘Gate -- and sat down hard, the metal grating of the ramp digging into his ass. He’d lost his glasses again, leaving everything blurry and unreal. Fluorescent lights pulled warmth from the colors until the ‘Gate room was a monochrome smear. Paint daubs on a canvas. Poorly rendered Impressionist art. The assembled Marines stood like a forest of olive and black, bleeding together, undifferentiated.
Bleeding together. His head ached, and there was a terrible pressure behind his eyes. Klaxons and shouts and the drumming of boots pushed at his ears.
Sam was crouched beside him, touching his neck and face, marginally more in-focus than the sea of green, shouting hoarsely for a medical team. It felt like she was very far away, but then everything was fading, becoming muffled as if some kind person had dialed down the volume just for him. Her shirt was torn, and her throat bruised in livid red and purple blotches, colors that might have been pretty. Daniel thought that she really shouldn’t be shouting like that. It had to hurt her throat.
He leaned forward, cradling his arm against his chest, surprised when dog tags sticky with blood swung out to brush his fingers. Jack stomped past, the heavy slap of his boots rattling the ramp. Daniel wrapped his good hand around the tags and squeezed hard, letting the edge bite into the flesh of his palm, and looked up, tracking Jack across the crowded room. Or, at least, he tried to keep track, but Jack melted into the wash of color and was lost. The noise slipped deeper into cottony softness and the room spun a sharp quarter turn, following the twist of that invisible volume knob that kept adjusting things downward for him. Daniel looked up and thought that Sam’s eyes were very blue, just before everything went dark.
A summer storm was gathering, immature thunderheads clumping together in an ominous bruise. The air was sticky, the warm wind tainted with a scent of decay. The streets were busier than Daniel expected, the volume of people a little disorienting after having been off-world, the stop-start of traffic frustrating. He could cross the galaxy in a single step, but getting across town in traffic took almost an hour.
The dry cleaner’s wasn’t open yet, so he stopped at one of those mailbox stores in a strip mall to pay his phone bill. Precisely what the odd aggregation of services offered had to do with one another, or with his phone bill, he never had quite figured out, but today he was grateful for the convenience.
This was another thing that had never been mentioned in any of the recruiting speeches. Sure, he could see the galaxy, validate his theories, and be among the first to make contact with entirely new cultures, but no one would pay his bills while he was off-world. His at home life could crash, like a tree falling in a forest, and anyone who might hear it would be offworld and out of range. Including himself. He grimaced and took his place at the end of the line.
The room was a bare box of tile and fluorescent lights that made him think of the commissary on base, with its sharp acoustics and pungent aromas of bleach, coffee, and French fry grease.
He could picture the microwave on the counter in the back of the mailbox store, a wastebasket overflowing with wrappers on the floor below. The clerks certainly looked as if they subsisted on a diet of Hot Pockets and Nintendo -- pinched-faced, despairing undergrads scraping together book money for the autumn term.
He looked down at the stained tile, the memory uncomfortably close. He’d worn that look himself, once, hungrier for knowledge than food. He supposed it was much the same now, having traded one form of isolation for another, dark libraries for a windowless office. He subsisted on commissary coffee and power bars, walking under the light of alien suns more often than Earth’s. He felt as though he were losing touch with something important, and wondered what exactly it was he hungered for.
At the side counter, a couple was arguing with quiet intensity. Daniel couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but the language of their postures and rising inflections was perfectly clear. It was something simple, probably, a small, meaningless thing people fought over, like who had forgotten the letter to mail, or what time the appointment was. Maybe they loved one another, but neither would back down from their short gestures and invaded spaces long enough to listen. Certainly not long enough to see if there was more to be found beyond the anger and passion. Maybe this conflict today would be the end, and they’d never know if it was love or just convenience.
The woman turned and glared at him, color high in her face, and Daniel realized he was staring. Saddened and empty, he turned back to the line that had moved on without him. The paper in his hand was smooth and dry, evidence that he did indeed have a life, or at least the trappings of a life, beyond the Mountain.
He paid his bill and left.
The drugstore was closer than the dry cleaner’s. More things that he needed, or felt that he should need. Toiletries and razors for making himself presentable and professional-looking on his rounds to and from the Mountain, cleaning supplies for the home he was never really in long enough to make dirty. A new toothbrush to replace one Jack had used.
A hotter brand of toothpaste. A harsher brand of soap. Angry now, and perversely angrier because he had no good reason for his ire, he flung items in the basket with a force that almost satisfied him.
Forty-eight hours after he’d collapsed on the gate ramp with Sam at his side, he’d been stitched up by Janet, poked with enough shots to make his ass feel like a pin cushion, observed by a series of duty nurses to Janet’s reluctant satisfaction, and had so many little vials of blood extracted that he’d blinked and asked, only half-joking, if Janet was going to leave any for him.
“No,” she said. “You already left your share back on the planet.”
Daniel thought that at least a few of the injections could have gone in his shoulder, but Janet was wearing what Jack had called her Little Tin Dictator face, and it seemed easier just to grit his teeth and take his medicine.
Preliminary reports were filed, a hazy and incomplete debriefing given, more medication prescribed, and he was finally released to go home, driven by a nervous young airman who didn’t look as if he had clearance to tie his boots without supervision. The man drove with the caution of a teen-ager frightened of having his permit revoked. He came to complete stops, signaled and double-checked his blind spots before every lane change, and allowed an ample cushion of space around the car on the snowy roads.
Daniel huddled deeper into his coat and resisted the urge to shout, to insist that he just drive already. Daniel wondered if the airman was hoping for a chance to do public service ads for the Department of Transportation and Highway Safety. It felt like forever before they arrived at his building.
“I’ll get your bag, sir.” The earnestness of his wind-chapped, corn-fed face made Daniel tired.
“Thank you, but that’s not necessary,” Daniel said, wanting only to shuck the man and be left alone. His head was pounding, and the transition from warm car to cold wind made his cheeks sting. The new glasses Janet had supplied dug into his ears. He did his best to funnel his frustration into a withering stare and held out a hand for the bag.
The ruddy color of those earnest cheeks deepened, but the airman didn’t budge. “Beg your pardon, sir, but I have orders to see you safely inside.”
They stood like that, ridiculously, for another half minute, until Daniel’s fatigue got the better of his stubbornness. He dropped his arm, tucking his hand back into the shelter of his pocket. “Fine.” This had Jack written all over it. He sighed, breath steaming in the cold.
The airman smiled, shoulders easing somewhat, and gestured to the door. “After you, sir.”
Daniel hadn’t been home for two hours when the buzzer rang. He set aside the apple he’d decided he had no appetite for, and padded to the door, soft pajama pants slapping at his ankles.
“Jack,” he said, feeling obvious and clumsy under the light haze of pain medication and booster shots.
“Daniel,” Jack was much too bright, too perky, too… up to something. But he had food with him, something that smelled wonderful and spicy in a brown sack under one arm, and beer under the other. “You gonna let me in?”
“What? Yeah, yeah come in.”
Daniel held the door open wider and eyed the bag with undisguised interest, his hunger returning in full force. “What’s that?”
“Take out from that little Chinese place downtown.”
Daniel would have asked which one, since there were half a dozen within the area that could be called downtown, but Jack had breezed past him and was setting styrofoam cartons on the table and twisting the tops off beers. Beer was probably a bad idea on top of the meds, but what was one more bad idea on the heels of all the others?
Dimly, he thought he might be hanging around Jack too much.
Before he could properly explore that thought, there was truly spectacular Kung Pao shrimp and rice, beef with broccoli, and something with all vegetables that he knew Jack had bought just for him. Jack hadn’t bothered with plates, so they passed the cartons back and forth and shared. Daniel decided he was fine with abandoning his manners in this way. Jack had worn his blood. What was a little saliva, after that?
Daniel was halfway through his second beer, absently picking water chestnuts out of the Kung Pao, when he noticed Jack was watching him, rolling his beer back and forth between his palms, muscles flexing under the white bandage on his arm. The strapping on Jack’s forearm matched Daniel’s own, but it covered a much smaller area. Daniel met his eyes briefly and Jack looked down, mouth quirking in amusement, or apology, to be caught out like that. Jack shifted in his chair and drained the beer in one long swallow.
Daniel picked a chili out of the remains of the Kung Pao, bit it hard and let the juices trapped inside sear his mouth. The chemical heat made his eyes water, and he struggled not to cough as it burned down his throat.
“You want some water?” Jack asked him, already getting up.
Daniel waved him back to his seat, resisting the gesture even though he really would have liked the water. He drank from his bottle. The beer just made the pepper burn hotter, but that was all right too, in its own way. The sting of the chili was simple and clean. It grounded him in something tangible. “No, I’m all right.” His voice was hoarse.
Jack nodded and started to peel the damp label from his bottle, and for once, he didn’t argue.
After another long minute of pushing vegetables around the carton and feeling Jack’s eyes on him, Daniel got up and started clearing the table. He wondered when Chinese restaurants had given up on traditional paper boxes and switched to styrofoam. It made him sad in a way he couldn’t define, like something had been lost in the name of progress.
Jack gathered the other cartons and followed him into the kitchen, where Daniel scraped the rest of the rice into the Kung Pao. The contrast was startling and beautiful, white over dark -- covering, clean. Like the snow outside. Like fresh gauze. He pushed at the rice, nudging the grains apart, flattening it against the dark sauce, trying to cover it all, hide it with a white as clean as the sting of the chili had been.
“Daniel?” Jack’s voice was quiet, careful as his hands as he took the spoon from Daniel. His hands were warm.
“It’s still under there,” he said, not looking up. The rice was too thin in the corner. If he pressed there, even gently, the dark would show through.
If he leaned back, just a little, Jack would be there, solid and warm. Daniel closed his eyes, feeling the faint tug of vertigo. The beer had been a very bad idea. In the darkness behind his eyelids he could still see the rice, the gauze. The dark sauce. The blood under the skin. Jack’s warmth, so close.
The clamshell of styrofoam squeaked softly and then there was the sound of the refrigerator door as Jack put the leftovers away. “Are you tired?”
Daniel shrugged and opened his eyes. The light made his eyes water. “Yes. No… I don’t want to sleep right now.”
“All right.” Jack moved back into his space, his stance boneless and alert. Focused.
Daniel pulled his glasses off and dropped them to the counter from loose fingers. His ear still hurt where the grip of his glasses hadn’t been adjusted properly. He felt restless and itchy, as if his skin were too tight. The floor was cold, and yet his lips and throat still burned faintly from the chili he’d bitten, and between the two extremes he felt as if his whole body pulsed in time with his heart.
The kitchen was a soft-focus blur of white light and Jack. It was all too bright to look at. “Is there more beer?” he asked, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Yeah, but not for you.” Jack smiled, patient.
Daniel shifted his weight and dug a toe against a seam in the linoleum. The room swam gently, back and forth, waves lapping, pulling him out to sea. He pressed his palms to the counter, trusting it, at least, to stay put.
Jesus, he hated pain medication. Inside the freezer, the icemaker jerked and clattered with a sound like rocks falling.
“Daniel?” Jack was close, warm against his shoulder, a large hand on his back. Jack.
“My head hurts.”
A gentle touch brushed the back of Daniel’s head, so lightly he thought for a second he’d imagined it. Jack cleared his throat. “Yeah, I hear that happens when you get hit there a half-dozen times.”
Something was happening here, something was unfolding; Daniel could feel it, even if he couldn’t name it. It felt strange, and good. He shrugged, feeling the movement of his shirt against his skin -- still tight and dry, waiting to be shed -- feeling his arm brush against Jack. “Their hearts weren’t really in it.”
“Well, no, that just being the pre-game warm-up,” Jack said and let go of Daniel and turned away. Daniel shivered, instantly cold, when Jack’s touch left him.
Something teased at the back of Daniel’s mind, a sliver of memory, bright and quickly fading. He didn’t know what to say. He reached for Jack, wanting -– wanting something, wanting to feel that warmth again, but the gesture fell short. “I’m all right,” he said at last, in defiance of his catalogue of aches and pains.
He couldn’t reach out. He was too dizzy. Daniel gripped the sink, clenching fingers tighter than he needed to, feeling the stitches pull in the flesh of his arm. Janet had done the sewing herself, all kind eyes and steady hands, tying off the sutures and offering to listen if he needed to talk.
Jack wasn’t so… delicate. But that was all right too. Jack was… He couldn’t think of a word for what Jack was. Words swam in his head, obscured and gauzy.
Jack had been speaking… pre-game warmup. Daniel squeezed his eyes closed, opened them, tried to focus. “They weren’t evil, Jack.”
“God damn it…”
“No.” He clenched his fingers against the smooth white counter until his nails whitened, savoring the small pain. It was easy to slip back into lecture mode, pulling up information he’d already processed, instead of really talking. Or asking. Expressing needs he wasn’t sure were legitimate, needs he was almost certain would go unmet if voiced. “The local population of P5X-351 is insular, patriarchal and hierarchic. They are generally intolerant of outsiders, and in particular have legends concerning ‘pale-eyed devils’ from the Great Circle.”
“Goa’uld,” Jack toward him and came closer, eyes shadowed.
“Yes, most likely, but they since their population apparently lacks the appropriate recessive genes to produce blue-eyed children, they never differentiated between light-colored eyes and the glowing eyes of the Goa’uld. Or maybe they just kill all their blue-eyed infants. I don’t know.”
“Daniel, you don’t have to do this now.” Jack drained the last of his beer and reached for another, twisting the cap off, fast and efficient. He clenched his fist around it. “All of this was in the preliminary report.”
“You never read my reports.”
“Yeah, well,” Jack looked away and flipped the cap toward the garbage. He missed, and it clattered somewhere in the corner. “I read this one.”
The floor was still cold under Daniel’s bare feet. He traced the seam in the linoleum with his toe again and wished for beer. Bracing cold and numbness, all in one convenient package. He knew his thoughts were circling, repeating themselves. Jack moved further into his space, close enough for Daniel to feel the delicious warmth rolling off of him again, close enough to touch. It added to Daniel’s restlessness. He lectured, he insisted. “They were scared, not evil.”
“They tried to kill you and Carter for having blue eyes.”
He'd been standing too long. He was dizzy. "They were scared of us. Scared of..." He was looking over Jack's shoulder, at the square of window over the sink. Out at the sky. Blue, like his eyes, like Sam's. Blue eyes, and red, and white -- patriotism and the flag and the gauze of the bandage. Sam had bled, too, and bucked and fought and tried to get to him, but they dragged her away, too. Blue blooded, true blue, our Sam....
"Scared. They were just..."
“Daniel, stop.” Jack rocked closer, reaching out to cover Daniel’s hand. The subtle pull and gap of his collar as he reached caught Daniel’s eyes.
“I just… I can’t remember,” Daniel said. They had taken Sam, had tried to. Jack had screamed, had given orders, but they didn't listen. They didn't.
Jack looked down. He didn’t take his hand away. “You have a concussion; you may never remember. It’s all right.”
“It’s not.” Daniel shook his head. Jack’s hand over his felt good. There was a flash of other hands, gray and mud-smeared, wearing their darkness on the outside. Flash of Jack shouting, and Sam crying out, but the memory was splintered and incomplete. “They hurt Sam, too. Because of her eyes.”
Jack nodded, and rubbed the back of Daniel’s hand with his thumb. “Yeah, they did.”
“But why…?” Daniel’s head pounded, and he let the question drop. Some things there were no answers for. Jack’s collar drew his eyes again. Something… The gleam of silver drew his fingers.
“Daniel, what are you doing?” Jack asked, but didn’t move as Daniel fished under his shirt collar.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Daniel whispered. The chain was slippery and warm, the dog tags feather-light as Daniel pulled them out, tracing the edges of the black silencers. He ran a fingertip over the raised letters, not really reading, just feeling the easy slide of the texture. “They were yours,” he said softly, another fragment of memory teasing him.
Jack stepped back, and the dog tags were slipped from Daniel’s hand. “What?”
“I was wearing your dog tags.” He pinched the bridge of his nose again. The tags were a black and silver smear, like an oversized thumbprint, in the center of Jack’s chest. He reached out to touch them again, irresistibly drawn. They were hard under his fingers, warm from Jack’s skin. “You gave them to me.”
“Yes,” Jack said roughly. He stood stock-still, chest twitching with tension.
The tags slid along the chain, bump, bump, bump. Daniel traced the line of small metal beads up to Jack’s neck, where the skin was very soft. From there it seemed a small thing to follow the collar around and then slide his fingers up to the short hairs at Jack’s nape.
Some questions had no answers. Daniel knew that, even as he believed that most of the time the answer was there if you just looked hard enough.
Jack was breathing hard, hands working on empty air, the cording of muscle in his arm concealed by gauze and tape. Daniel flicked his eyes from Jack’s bandage to his own, separate and unequal, yet identically white and smooth. He clenched his fist, feeling the sutures pull. You couldn’t see it, but it was still there. Blue, through the skin. Red underneath. But now it was all white. Clean and white. Like the clouds, like the sky.
“Daniel…” Jack breathed, but it sounded more like surrender than warning.
“It’s okay, Jack.” Daniel threaded his fingers deeper into the softness of Jack’s hair, leaned closer to breathe in the clean scent of him, touched lightly with antiseptic, but mostly just warm Jack-scents of soap and antiperspirant and beer.
Daniel nodded against Jack’s neck. “Not that stoned. You smell good.”
Arms, around him, strong and warm and safe. Wrapping him tight, like the bandage around his arm.
"Come on," Jack was murmuring, a harsh buzz against his head. Jack was strong, and they were walking, Jack's will substituting for his own, because he was dizzy, so dizzy. "Come on, Daniel, work with me."
Later, he awoke because he smelled the chili pepper in the chicken.
"Kung Pao," he said, words flying upward, like helium balloons, and there was his bedroom ceiling. He watched it, but it stayed in place. His head hurt.
He turned his head, a gritty release of vertebrae. The pillow was soft. Jack was sitting cross-legged next to him, eating out of the white plastic container with chopsticks.
"You're eating my dinner," Daniel said.
"You passed out. I was hungry," Jack said. He looked down, dug with the chopsticks, and brought up a carefully constructed bite of chicken and shrimp and the end of a pepper. A peanut was stuck to the chicken.
He held it out and raised his eyebrows. Daniel lifted his head off the pillow and opened his mouth. Jack hesitated and breathed and there it was again; the something shifting under the surface, a seismic shiver, but Daniel couldn't think about that, couldn't watch for that, because Jack was holding out the bite. His fingers were firm and relaxed with the chopsticks, and the bite went into Daniel's mouth. Jack’s fingers, deft with the chopsticks. You wouldn’t think Jack O’Neill, All-American, would know about chopsticks.
It was burst of sensation -- the half cooled chicken and meaty shrimp, the exploding bite of the red pepper, the crunch as he bit down on the peanut and the pepper together.
Jack was holding his gaze, looking sour, looking reluctant. Daniel had not imagined the swim and shift of whatever had been unfolding in the kitchen. It was still here, and the lemony disapproval of Jack's mouth couldn't contradict entirely the warmth and yearning in his eyes.
Daniel chewed. Jack watched him.
"You feeling better now?"
"Maybe," Daniel said. "Give me some more of that."
Jack, still with that air of surrender, obeyed. He scooped up another bite for Daniel and leaned over and put it in his mouth. Daniel held his gaze through the whole thing, the reach of Jack's hand toward his mouth, the careful placing of the meat and the rice and the greens on his tongue. He sucked the food from the chopsticks and chewed it, swallowed. Jack watched him.
Daniel sat up slowly, with an easy pull of sore abs, and leaned forward, not dizzy at all now, as if the brief nap and the bites of food had revived him in a magical way, like a fairy tale elixir. He felt strong and reckless and awake. The spell of his drug dream had broken. But something remained... He leaned and put his arm around Jack's shoulders, his other hand on Jack's crotch, feeling the softness there spring to life, start to take shape, resolve itself into a long thickness.
"Daniel," Jack said, panicked and sharp, but he didn't lean away and he didn't push Daniel off.
"It's all right...." Daniel moved his hand, turned his head to put his lips against Jack's collarbone. "I'm all right."
He moved his lips, nuzzling and not kissing. With his fingers he traced the shape of Jack’s erection through his chinos. He could tell from the fabric’s thickness that Jack was wearing boxers, not the white cotton briefs appropriate to his uniform. Of course he could wear something else off duty. Of course he could.
Jack was still, as if listening. He smelled of beer and soy. His cock tapered a little toward the head. It was very hard now. Daniel smiled against Jack’s neck, against the thin skin covering bone. He felt the drag of Jack’s arm as it came up his back. Jack was still holding the chopsticks, and it was the gauze-covered forearm that came to rest against Daniel’s neck, flinched, and then turned a little and rested again.
Daniel closed his eyes. A strange clarity informed his touch. He cupped his palm and fingers over the swell of Jack’s erection and dragged his hand slowly up until his thumb was resting against Jack’s belt. He felt for the zipper and found it, dragged it down. The metal was warm.
“Daniel,” Jack whispered, and turned his head.
“Shh,” Daniel said. The boxers were old and washed soft. The slit in them was long and fell apart easily. The skin of Jack’s dick was warm and a little sticky with heat. Daniel opened his eyes. He wanted to see this, this rare and impossible thing, something he’d dreamed, something he might be dreaming now, except his recent dreams had been waking and medication-induced and edged in ice. This was clear and warm, like a summer noon. The erection seemed eager in his hand, pushing into the space Daniel had opened, rising obscenely out of Jack’s opened fly.
Daniel smiled, and formed his hand around it. His hand glided easily down to Jack’s balls, and back up. He gave a little twist at the head and Jack grunted, and Daniel glided his hand back down. That sharp clarity, in his touch, in his vision. He’d been wearing Jack’s dogtags, wearing Jack’s name. The touch of the food, just now, on his lips. The two of them, sprawled on his bed. The relief of escape, the relief, the living ease, of each breath.
Jack’s breaths were catching now. He’d given up trying to speak or to warn Daniel or whatever it was he’d wanted to whisper. Daniel raised his chin, but kept his hand moving, gently, up and down. Jack had closed his eyes. He looked resigned, almost pained. He was so still, but Daniel could hear him breathing.
“It’s all right,” Daniel insisted. Jack frowned, just a little. Daniel let go of Jack’s dick and reached around and took the chopsticks out of Jack’s hand. He leaned across Jack to poke them onto the nightstand, and found the nearly empty white box and perched it on the nightstand as well.
When he leaned back, Jack hadn’t moved.
Daniel had two hands free now, so he slipped the button through the buttonhole and slowly, hearing every click, every creak, unbuckled Jack’s old braided belt. Jack didn’t help and didn’t hinder. He eased back, watching Daniel’s face, to lean against the headboard.
Daniel, intent, pushed the worn waistband of the boxers down to reveal the brown hair, the abrupt push of the shaft away from the plane of Jack’s groin. He licked his lips, but he didn’t bend down. He kept using his hand, stroking gently, feeling Jack relax, and then start to strain, motionless, in a whole new way.
Jack was already getting close to climaxing; Daniel could feel it, and it sent a shiver down his spine, sharp as the pepper. With this knowledge coursing through him, Daniel kept stroking Jack’s penis, gently, his hand not too tight, careful but relentless, and so Jack slapped clumsy fingers against Daniel’s cheek, seized, and turned half away, and came, grunting Daniel’s name. Daniel felt him shoot, watched him shoot, onto the bedspread, streaking it whitely. The come sank into the fabric almost immediately, leaving a darker stain. Jack breathed heavily, almost gasping.
Daniel was panting with the excitement of it, but he wasn’t hard, through some trick of surprise or the medication. That fact in itself surprised him, vaguely, in the background.
“Daniel,” Jack said again, his eyes screwed shut, his cheek against the headboard.
“It’s all right, “ Daniel said again. It was so important that Jack believe him. Jack had to believe. The need to reassure made Daniel insistent. He cupped his hand around Jack’s slippery, softening dick and hitched closer, easing his hips against Jack’s half-bared ass.
He hooked his other arm, with some difficulty, under Jack’s ribs and pushed and moved until they could both lie down. Jack let Daniel move him. It was strange, a completely uncharacteristic passivity. Jack groped for Daniel’s hands, and, fumbling, covered them –- one over Daniel’s hand on his ribs, one over Daniel’s hand at his groin. Daniel felt him fall asleep.
Daniel was still pondering when he, too, drifted off. He dreamed, confusedly, sluggishly, and through his dreams he smelled the sharp persistent bite of the Chinese pepper, like sharp metal against his skin.
Daniel was late to the Saturday barbecue. He was late intentionally. He’d lingered over his errands, found ways to delay, taken the least efficient route. Once at home, he’d carefully put away all the dry cleaning, hanging each shirt and pair of slacks individually instead of shoving the rubber-banded hangers in a clump onto a hook in the laundry room. Then, he’d developed a sudden need to find a particular brand of green tea in his pantry, and after he’d made the tea and drunk it, he’d brushed his teeth with the new, cinnamon-flavored toothpaste, and flossed. Carefully.
So he was late. He’d eaten some toast with his coffee, but he’d skipped lunch, and now it was late afternoon and he was hungry and irritable as he approached Jack’s party.
Because of the faint, cool breeze, he could smell the grill smoke from the street as he parked. The day was perfect, and thus a further, perfect affront to his mood. High puffy clouds, a cool breeze, warm sun. The occasion was Labor Day, and using some arcane personal calculus of military protocol of which Daniel felt secretly contemptuous, Jack had invited a motley yet presumably nonrandom roster of SGC personnel. Whoever’s turn it was to come on over and feel the warmth of his precious camaraderie.
Daniel had remembered at the last minute, when he was less than a mile away, that he’d offered to bring drinks, and he had had to turn back and stop and buy them. He’d wrestled two 24-can cases of soda into and out of his Honda, cursing at his bruised thumb with a vehemence out of all proportion to the actual self-inflicted harm.
He’d had to park on the street, because of all the guest cars. Lugging his soda, he paused in the driveway, smelling the meaty rich smoke, and gazed toward the deck. Jack was holding forth, his back to Daniel, waving a metal burger flipper and a longneck in one hand, his free hand waving at the sky. His audience was laughing. Smoke poured from the grill, white and fragrant, and one of the airmen, without a break in his laughter, pointed it out. Jack cursed and laughed and turned to attend to the burning food.
Daniel couldn’t look away. Jack, a ridiculous stained linen apron, with an armadillo on it, tied around his middle to cover his polo shirt and jeans. Jack, bareheaded, his bare feet stuffed into Docksiders. Jack, the genial, informal host. Welcoming and warm.
Daniel frowned and turned back up the driveway. He would go in the front door. It would be easier to get to the kitchen that way, dump his ridiculous offering of orange Fanta and Dr Pepper. He’d grabbed what was closest to the door of the grocery store. He didn’t care what it was; he didn’t drink soda. And he was not in the mood to thread his way through the people around Jack on the deck. He was not in the mood for a party.
No one, mercifully, was in the house. Daniel was able to put his cases of soda on the kitchen counter among the debris of the makings of hamburgers and scraped-out containers of deli salads. He stood there, eyes closed.
Jack, outside, bareheaded, laughing in the slanting sun, in a circle of admiring faces. Happy. Welcoming.
The Jack he’d come to know in the dark of night -- a furtive, impatient Jack. Someone who came and went secretly, taking what he needed while, seemingly, wishing that even Daniel wouldn’t know, wouldn’t see.
Daniel leaned on the counter, bending his head, willing away memories recent and distant. They crowded him.
Not long after that night, that fragile strange night, when Daniel had reached out, the drugs making him reckless, he’d asked, again, on another night, that Jack stay. Jack had said no.
Jack had never stayed again, after that first night. After that terrible mission. Jack never smiled on the strange nights when he reached out to Daniel. He never welcomed Daniel here to this house, as he’d welcomed the teams today. No, Jack appeared on his doorstep, alone, like an orphan of some internal storm.
They seldom spoke during those nights, unless it was a gasp or a curse or a command, some harsh need that couldn’t be communicated through touch. And they never spoke of it after. There were no promises between them, ever. And Daniel had come to understand that each time he woke alone with the taste of salt and Jack in his mouth, it might be the last.
He would have asked Jack how he felt about that, if this was something they talked about.
They weren’t lovers. If it weren’t for the occasional evenings of drink and laughter before the touching and the not-talking began, Daniel might have doubted they were even friends.
He looked around the kitchen, trying to find something to allow him to ground himself in the present. He had to find a drink, a prop, a box of crackers, and go out there. He had to make an appearance.
But he had realized, sometime during the course of his pissed-off, pointless day, that he wanted to never have to do this again.
Daniel woke, and the sluggishness was back. It was night; late night. The bandage on his arm was stiff; the arm under it numb, the numbness a thin veneer over the very real pain. That planet of mud people.... so many things about the mission were still so vague to him. The clarity he’d been dreaming was gone. He rubbed his eyes. He could feel Jack, smell Jack. He moved his leg and nudged Jack’s knee. Jack was here. Jack was in bed with him. This was new -- as strange and ill-fitting as the bandages.
Tonight after the airman had delivered him home through the cold, he’d dreamed, and eaten, and stumbled, but he was fairly certain he hadn’t made up what had happened -- the seduction-by-Kung Pao and the hand job. The sex. His mind skittered, then recoiled. Hope was dangerous. He stilled his hands against his face and wondered if he dared test Jack’s mood.
Jack was still here, though. Surely that was a good sign. Daniel breathed, bringing in fading scents of sex and soy, clear scents of Jack’s skin, beer and laundry soap. The air in the bedroom seemed dry. He exhaled. Then he jumped. Because Jack’s fingers brushed along his wrist, above the stretch of his cuff. Brushed again. The skin there was tender. Because it was there that he’d been bound with rope and dragged.
Jack turned his hand and put the backs of his fingers against the rope burn. Daniel let go, dared to look. Jack was sitting there, on the edge of the bed, fully dressed, his pants zipped again, but looking at Daniel as if he couldn’t look away. His dogtags were tucked back inside his shirt.
Again, the slow brush of fingers, carefully tracing the raw edges of the wound, of the bandage. Daniel’s skin tightened, tingling.
“What they did to you,” Jack said in a voice as raw as Daniel’s wrists, “was wrong. Evil.”
Daniel swallowed. So much he could say. But this was a place to start. “Jack, we’ve all been injured. On the job.”
Jack nodded, his face muted and brittle. He looked away as he nodded. “Yeah. Firefights are one thing. Jaffa attacks I get.” His mouth twisted in disgust “But getting sliced open for the sake of cultural intolerance—it’s just wrong.” Daniel stared, fascinated all over again at the movement of Jack’s fingers on his skin. It was darker now, sometime after dinner time. Or what would have been dinnertime. The light from the living room made shadows stagger on Jack’s face, but Daniel could see well enough. Something had bloomed slow and dark in the shivery not-pain of Jack’s touch. Maybe this was the beer and the meds and the confusion leaving him off-balance and mistaken, seeing things that he couldn’t put a name to. Maybe not. He couldn’t look at Jack, but neither could he bring himself to pull his hands away, not after how he’d touched, what he knew. He licked his lips, still tasting a trace of Jack’s sweat.
“Lots of things are wrong, Jack. Sometimes…” Daniel swallowed again. He carefully lowered his free hand and rested it on Jack’s thigh. A small thing, surely, after what they’d already done? Jack didn’t stir, either closer or farther away. But he once again, almost obsessively, Daniel was beginning to think, traced the edge of Daniel’s bandage, fingers stark against the white gauze, and then the knobs of Daniel’s knuckles. Something inside Daniel coiled tighter and started to shake. This wasn’t what it looked like, couldn’t be. “S-sometimes all we can do is try to un-understand, so it doesn’t go wrong again.”
Jack looked up. “Don’t you dare defend them.”
“I’m not. Understanding doesn’t necessarily mean approval. You know that.” Daniel slowly, feeling like he was moving underwater, brought his other hand up and covered Jack’s where it still rested against the dry flakes of skin already peeling from the rope burns. Jack’s thigh was still warm under his hand. “Lots of things are wrong. And if you want to keep fighting about this one tonight, you’re going to have to do it without me.”
“Yeah, all right….” Jack drew breath. Would they talk about it now? This other thing, not the mission, but the dreamy thing that they had just done? What would Jack say? Daniel, suddenly, crazily, was sure for a moment that he had dreamed it all, dreamed touching Jack, dreamed bringing him to climax. Jack squeezed his wrist and leaned and brought up his free hand to touch Daniel’s forehead. Gently. Almost, Daniel thought disbelievingly, lovingly. “Are you okay? How’s your head?”
Daniel stared into his eyes, mesmerized by the hands on his skin, by the skin and warmth under his own hands.
“Better,” Daniel croaked. He blurted, not thinking: “I guess I’m a little thirsty.”
Jack nodded. He let go right away, got up, left the room. Daniel looked after him, equal parts confusion and yearning. But Jack returned. He brought Daniel –- so simple, so everyday -- a glass of water, and Daniel drank it. Under other circumstances, letting Jack wait on him was not in the list of the possible outcomes for a post-mission dinner-and-bitch session. Okay. But. Neither was sex. Neither was the agonized realization Daniel had seen in Jack’s face not an hour ago, or the careful detachment he saw there now.
Jack sat there, watching him drink, perched with one hip on the bed. The silence seemed long. Daniel drank, and watched Jack’s face.
“I’d better go,” Jack said. “Let you rest now that you’ve had something decent to eat.”
Daniel stared at him. Jack stared back. But Jack, despite his words, didn’t move. Not a muscle, not a hair. He sat, and held Daniel’s gaze.
“You could stay,” Daniel said. Jack’s nod was almost imperceptible, but Daniel saw it. Clearly.
Daniel, a warm can of Dr Pepper in his hand, a smile pasted on his face, moved out to the deck.
Relief: Nyan came toward him, gesticulating, making some cultural reference, turning to include some other members of Daniel’s staff and a couple of exobiologists in the joke. Daniel smiled. It felt stiff, but Nyan didn’t seem to notice.
Someone -- Lilly from Accounting -- was putting a plastic plate in his hands and shoving him toward Jack and the grill. Someone else had a bun, and the bun was on his plate.
“Daniel!” Jack said, all false cheerfulness. He took a swig from his longneck and set the bottle on the railing. “Rare or medium rare?”
“Either, whatever,” Daniel muttered, and Jack put a burger on his bun and turned away to serve someone else.
Lilly was hovering again, pushing Daniel to the table where the bottles of ketchup and mustard waited by the plates of lettuce and sliced bleeding tomatoes and pungent onions.
Daniel put something on his burger and sealed the top bun over it. He’d lost his drink can somewhere. It didn’t matter. He stood there by the food table, and realized that Nyan was talking to Major Coburn, talking about Coburn’s impending promotion to lead SG-6 after Colonel Cantrell’s retirement.
Daniel found himself speaking up, unaware of what he was going to say until the moment he said it.
“Would it be all right if I put in for the vacant slot on your new team, Major?”
Coburn’s eyebrows went up. Daniel’d known him for years, and had seen up close how solid he was, how unflappable, on Kheb.
“Didn’t know you were looking for a new assignment, Daniel.”
“Oh, you know. Time and change,” Daniel said, lightly.
Coburn’s dark gaze shifted to Jack, who, Daniel suddenly knew, was standing still, just behind his shoulder. Daniel could feel him looming there, and knew the stormy expression that had gathered on his face without even looking. It made Daniel feel reckless and free and happy.
“Well, Colonel, you know what an asset Dr. Jackson is. We’d be happy to have him.”
“That you would,” Jack said, his voice neutral.
Daniel turned to him. His plastic plate was crackling in his hands. His hamburger was tipping. The plastic crunched and he shifted his grip. The crunch of plastic, the bite of Chinese pepper on his tongue.
“No problem to put it through. Nothing but paperwork, eh, Jack?” Daniel said.
Jack said nothing, and turned his back to flip the meat on the grill, but Daniel could see the muscle twitch in his jaw. He wondered if Coburn saw it, too.
“We can see about that Monday, Major,” Daniel said. Some gremlin had hold of his tongue. He couldn’t stop talking. “I’m sure there won’t be any problem with expediting a transfer request.”
All Daniel’s anger and all his nervousness about having to participate in a party had evaporated when he’d resigned from SG-1, front and center, on Jack’s deck, in front of parts of SG-6 and the biology department and several linguists and nurses.
After his offer to Coburn, he made cheerful conversation with his co-workers. He consumed two hamburgers and drank two porters. He flirted shamelessly with both Coburn and the swingshift infirmary supervisor, who was trying to leave, and was actually making a team-building appearance here on her way to work. They didn’t realize he was flirting, probably, but it made him feel wonderful.
He’d put in his time socializing, doing the right thing, bonding with the staff. It was important. He felt a glow of righteousness. He put his crunched plastic plate in the trash bin. He put his second empty bottle in the recycling bag just inside the kitchen door. He felt no need to say goodbye, to anyone. His keys in his hand, he headed for the front door.
But Jack was there, waiting for him, facing the hall, still in his ridiculous apron. Daniel stood still. Jack came off the door where he’d been leaning, and took two steps toward him. Then he stopped and put his hands in his pockets.
“What the hell was that about?” Jack demanded, in a fierce whisper.
“Nothing,” Daniel said, brushing past him and reaching for the knob. “Nothing at all.”
Robert Rothman was tapping him on the forehead with the butt of his brush, tapping hard enough to hurt. They were in a big square pit, at that dig outside of Ticul. It was hot, and the smell of mud and sweat was overpowering.
“Stop it,” Daniel demanded in the dream, batting at the brush, but his hand didn’t make contact; there was nothing there. Mud and something wet. The banging went on. Robert was grinning at him -- that stupid patronizing grin. The brush handle hurt.
He woke up, suddenly, slumped sideways in his own bed, his laptop teetering with his startled jerk. It had slid off his thigh to the left as he leaned to the right. His elbow was asleep.
The tapping, the banging, was real. It was still going on. It would pause, then start again. It was someone banging on his front door. He massaged his elbow. It tingled. Then he let go to raise the back of his hand to his mouth and wipe. He’d been snoring; his mouth had been open as he slumped sideways, and his cheek was wet. He felt like something the cat had dragged in. His lips were dry and tasted foul when he tried to lick them. He pushed his glasses back into place, and fumbled to shut the computer.
The banging continued, sharp raps of knuckles on wood.
It was Jack. It had to be Jack. No one else would do this at -- he glanced at the clock on the bureau -- midnight.
Daniel heaved himself to his feet and stumbled out of his bedroom, parking the computer on the bureau as he went. The knocking got louder as he approached the front door and he realized he had a headache. It felt like a hangover, but not as sharp. Probably dehydration, he thought distantly.
“Jack?” he said to the closed door. His voice was calm. He swiped at his mouth again. The harsh knocking stopped.
“Let me in, Daniel, please.”
Jack said, “Don’t do this. Let me in, okay? Don’t do this, like this.”
Jack sounded... upset. But Daniel smiled at the Jack-ism. He was amazed at how calm he felt, still half caught in the dream of being hit in the forehead with a big brush, still feeling the familiar humid weight around him of the Mexican plateau and not the cool interior of his apartment. His clothes felt heavy. He yanked at the hem of his shirt. Then he opened the door.
Jack came through and turned and closed the door in one swift surge. Then he just stood there, his hands pressed against the door, and his forehead leaning on it, too. One of his hands was curled into a fist, curled around something he was concealing.
Daniel backed up and folded his arms. “What are you doing here?”
He watched Jack’s shoulders hitch and slump as he took a big breath. Then Jack turned, and came at him, and Daniel’s eyes got wide and he took another half step back, because Jack was coming fast and he had a look in his eye that Daniel didn’t like, a wild desperate look.
What Jack had in his fist was a set of dogtags. The chain unfurled, swinging between them, and Jack grabbed it with his other hand, to stretch the chain wide, and he tossed the oval of chain over Daniel’s head and then grabbed, all in the same motion. Daniel had backed up and Jack had followed, and now Daniel was against the wall and Jack was against him, leaning in and kissing, demanding, relentless. The dogtags landed on Daniel’s shoulder and slid. Jack’s mouth and hands were assertive and hard. Daniel tilted his chin up and took it, took the kiss.
“I’m sorry,” Jack said. And Jack started talking, against Daniel’s mouth, arrhythmic phrases punctuated by sharp breaths and sharper kisses. His hands scrabbled and clutched, as if he couldn’t quite find his purchase on Daniel’s body. “I’m sorry -- Daniel -- Don’t do this.... Don’t leave the team.”
Daniel listened, and kissed him back, almost inadvertantly -- habit, his body’s habit, to respond to this man. Jack wasn’t leaving him much space to respond. Jack was upset, urgent. He was leaning in, reaching, holding. Jack had never done that before.
Jack was still talking. “Don’t. You have to....”
More quick kisses, and Jack’s hands left Daniel’s face and groped down, one reaching around to press against Daniel’s spine and hold Daniel against him, the other fumbling for Daniel’s belt. Then he left off pulling Daniel against him and ran a hand down Daniel’s arm, and bent it, and brought Daniel’s wrist to his mouth. Jack kissed there, too, over and over, while he unbuckled.
Daniel had fallen asleep fully dressed, except he’d taken off his shoes and socks. So now he was dressed and barefoot, because he’d climbed into bed, the party hamburgers lying heavily on his stomach, bringing a mug of merlot and his computer with him, and fallen asleep working. And now he was standing here, his head fuzzy, and Jack was trying to take down his pants. He felt more disoriented than ever. He found Jack’s shoulders with his hands, tried to set Jack back a little and look in his face.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Daniel said.
Jack was breathing hard, still with that intent, half-wild look. He licked his lips and gripped Daniel’s shoulder with one hand, and with the other, threaded the dogtag chain between shaking fingers, pulling it taut, using it to bring Daniel’s head forward. Daniel’s resistance made the chain dig into his neck. It hurt. So Daniel let himself be pulled in for another kiss, this one clinging and warm and tender.
He kissed back. Jack’s agitation was catching. Daniel’s heart was beating faster. He couldn’t do this now. This was over. Jack had to know that. It was over, so why had Jack come?
“Please,” Jack said. Again the strangeness. Daniel couldn’t think of a kiss like that before from Jack. Daniel realized his eyes were closed, and Jack now had one hand pressed over the tags, flat and firm against Daniel’s chest. Daniel could feel the tags’ oval, overlapping outlines through his thin T-shirt.
“Please,” Jack repeated. “Make love now. Talk later.”
Daniel’s eyes flew open. Make love?? Jack saw it in his face, the surprise at the words. The never-before-said words.
“I know,” Jack said. “Please.”
Daniel inhaled, let it out. Jack pressed against him again, the full length of their bodies coming together, and he sank against Daniel and dropped his face against Daniel’s neck. Daniel’s arms, familiar instinct, came up to wrap around him.
Daniel said, “Are these your tags? Of course these are your tags.”
“Please,” Jack said again. And Daniel surrendered. He turned, took Jack’s arm, and led him to the bedroom.
Jack rushed him as they walked, an arm around his waist, pushing, both of them stumbling. Daniel went to the bed and stopped and turned to Jack, his hand going to the tags around his neck, and Jack had let go of him and already had his own shirt off and was toeing out of his shoes and shoving his jeans down.
Naked, half-hard, frowning, Jack stepped over to Daniel and began tugging his shirt up. Daniel let him, frowning back, holding on to the dogtags until he had to let go so that Jack could get the shirt over his head. He took off his glasses one-handed and reached behind him to set them on the nightstand. Jack undressed him, but made it a point to leave the chain around his neck, and then gently pushed him onto the bed, coming with him and sliding up to lie on top of Daniel. Jack pressed urgent kisses to his cheek and forehead, and stroked his hair. Jack’s hips rolled, rubbing his erection into Daniel’s groin. Letting his hands sink to Jack’s ribs, Daniel closed his eyes. Jack felt so good against him, so warm.
Daniel murmured, and it was hard to form the words with Jack’s heaviness pressing him, smothering him, all over him: “Jack. I don’t think I can do this without talking first. Not after today.” Jack sucked in air, and he stopped moving, stopped everything. “What are you doing? What do you think this means?”
Jack’s hands scrabbled for his shoulders, and squeezed. Jack’s turn to give in, and he settled, a leg sliding between Daniel’s legs, his erection nestling in the hollow of Daniel’s thigh. Daniel had to keep his eyes closed. Damn him for a fool, he wanted this. He shouldn’t want it. Not after the dramatic stunt he’d pulled today. Daniel was supposed to be severing this. He was supposed to be walking away. He pressed his hands against the warm skin of Jack’s back, and waited.
Jack lay still. Finally he said, “If we hadn’t gotten together the night we did, it would have all been different.” The words were muffled in Daniel’s shoulder. “On that planet, with the blue-eye bigots, you know -- the mud people -- I gave you those tags because I had to show them.”
Jack paused for a long time and Daniel started to speak, but Jack shifted quickly and put his hand over Daniel’s mouth. Daniel frowned, but didn’t attempt to push it away. Jack still had that wild look in his eye, but his voice was calm and soft now.
Jack continued, “I had to show them in a way that would make sense to them. You were out cold, and you were the only one who could speak their language and they were afraid of you and afraid of Carter and I was running out of time.
“So I had to ... mark you. To make them see that they couldn’t have you, couldn’t sacrifice you because you were already ... claimed.” His hand still on Daniel’s mouth, he looked down for a moment, as if it was hard to hold Daniel’s accusing gaze. “So I put the tags on you, and I saw what they’d already done, with the cutting, the ritual....” He took away his hand from Daniel’s mouth and waved it vaguely into the dark.
Daniel was quiet. Now, finally, he got it. Got what Jack could not say, because Jack had no words for this. Unlike Daniel, Jack did not use the sanitized, distancing anthropological jargon for the bloodshed, the fear, the symbolism.
Jack went on, “So I put my own blood on you. On both of you. The dogtag thing...” His hand had found Daniel’s shoulder again, and was absently squeezing and stroking. Daniel, reluctantly, remembered -- the fragments of his fear, the thick sickening sensation of bruises being dragged over cold, dirty stone. Pain and shouting. His own broken voice, calling for Sam.
He knew what Jack was seeing, too, as he stared toward the headboard, continuing to touch and squeeze. Daniel let his hands creep around Jack’s shoulders again. Daniel said softly, taking up the story, “But the tags thing wouldn’t work on Sam. She already had her own. It was....”
“I was improvising, okay?”
Daniel inhaled sharply, and stroked his palms firmly down Jack’s naked back, all the way to the curve of his ass, and stopped there. “I get it now,” he said.
Jack closed his eyes. He pushed a little with his hips, maybe in response to Daniel’s stroke, to Daniel’s hands on his skin. He was still half hard. He said, “I’m sorry about today. I can be awfully boneheaded sometimes. I just... It wasn’t until you left today, and the party went on and everyone else was there and not you, and it made me realize...” His hands tightened. “Ah, fuck. I’m really bad at this.”
Daniel let his hands slip lower, let them mold to the shape of Jack’s buttocks. Daniel offered, “On the planet... The thing was -- it got very close to the bone for you, besides the emergency, I mean. So frightening. Because.... Have I got it now? .... I really was already yours.”
He brought one arm up, and put his fingers against Jack’s cheek. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and nosed against Daniel’s hand, finding, unerringly, the scar those people had left on Daniel’s arm, and kissing it. The scar from that planet was all that was left. There was no more gauze, no more cloudy too-white gauze, covering, obscuring, sanitizing. Just warm skin, and white scars -- an all-too-real tracing of fear on skin. On both of them. Daniel remembered that night with such clarity. After they were all home safe -- that night when he and Jack had had matching bandages, and Jack had come to him, with takeout food and Chinese beer under his arm. Daniel shivered.
“Have I got right, Jack?” Daniel said, his voice a ragged whisper. Jack’s lips, against the tender skin of his wrist. Jack’s face, brushing his skin, moving up his arm. He pulled his hand away to hold Jack close against him. “Have I?”
“Mine,” Jack agreed, and he brought his face up and they were kissing again, shocking and impossible and so close.
“We can be done talking,” Daniel said, amazed at himself, amazed at the understanding welling up inside him, and the emotion welling up with it. “If you want.”
“Oh, good,” Jack said, smiling, and they kissed for a while longer, and Daniel let it go, let it all go, all his resentment and fear, and when he came up for air and knew he was hard, he met Jack’s eyes. Holding his gaze, Jack traced the line of the chain against the skin of Daniel’s chest, and brought his mouth down again to Daniel’s.
When that kiss finally broke Daniel said, “What do you want?”
“Anything. Everything,” Jack said, and Daniel smiled and squirmed and rolled over inside Jack’s embrace.
“Oh, God,” Jack said, and he slid down, his mouth lingering on the knobs of Daniel’s spine, down and down, noting each one, attending to each, until he was kissing Daniel’s buttocks, kissing along the cleft, and Daniel gasped and pushed his hips into the mattress, because this was something else he’d been sure Jack would never do, something Jack was way too self-conscious or macho to ever try, but Jack was sliding down toward the foot of the bed and pushing Daniel’s thighs apart and doing it.
Daniel moaned, and tried not to jerk, and Jack’s tongue swept around and in, Jack’s lips sealing, sucking. Daniel writhed and got some of his weight onto his knees so he could lift his ass closer to Jack, and groaned aloud.
He had no idea how long Jack rimmed him, but he was hard and leaking and desperate when Jack finally pulled away and leaned up, looking for the lube where Daniel always kept it, in the nightstand. And it was there.
Daniel waited, panting, while Jack got himself ready.
Jack groaned, holding Daniel’s shoulder with one hand, guiding himself with the other, and then he was pushing in, giving it to Daniel, and Daniel wanted it all, pushed back, pushed into it, and he bit down hard against the needy moans because he’d spent the whole day nursing his anger, steeling himself to never want this again, never have this again, and now he was getting it.
“Danny,” Jack choked out, and he pressed against Daniel, sliding his hands along Daniel’s arms, covering Daniel’s hands with his own. Daniel interlocked their fingers and pushed, matching Jack’s urgent rhythm.
And he thought about the difference between fucking and making love, and the meaning of possession and of ownership and of naming, and the dogtags pressed uncomfortably against his collar bone when he turned his head so that his face was buried in the pillow, and no one but Jack would hear his shout of release when Jack thrust into him, blanketed him with his strength, making love to Daniel and making him come, and finally, letting himself fall asleep after. Letting himself stay.