Den of Chaos Fiction
Stargate SG-1

East of Omaha
by Taselby
cover by Tripoli

 

Written with much love for Destina, for the 2005 J/D Ficathon. She asked for a true-to-the-characters seduction, or a little h/c.

Not mine. No money, no harm, no foul, no additives or preservatives, no MSG. For safety, please close cover before striking.

Many thanks to Elynross, jenlev, and mmmchelle for their patience, grace under fire, tolerance for my babbling, and for an incredible last minute beta. Thanks to JiM for pats on the head and a shoulder to cry on, and to Dail for... well, just because.

Title is from the song “Turn the Page,” by Bob Seger, but that really has nothing to do with the story.

Rated Adult for m/m sex.


Jack doesn’t expect the wash of loneliness dragging on him like an undertow. Indifference, sure. Anger, even. Maybe. The self-destructive urge to wallow in his own emptiness and drink himself unconscious, well, that’s still sounding like a pretty good idea, even at 0730. Instead, he refolds the newspaper carefully, running a hand over the smooth page as he lays it on the table. Sometimes he misses the old style newsprint, the kind that caught on his fingertips, slightly rough under his calluses, oily inks clinging to his skin. The sense of tangible connection to the world he helps protect –- the world the paper represents -– is fading, piece by piece, as though it’s no longer his in any way that matters.

All told, it’s a crappy headspace to be in before he even finishes his second cup of coffee.

He takes a breath deep enough to make his chest ache and drags a hand over his face, trying to shake off the mood. The task of cleaning up his solitary meal fills his head nicely, and he lets it crowd out other images that really have nothing to do with him or the world he inhabits these days. And if his hands shake he doesn’t acknowledge it.

By mid-afternoon he’s cut the grass, folded the one load of civilian laundry that’s been lingering, ignored on top of the dryer, mopped the kitchen floor for good measure. He idly considers dusting, but he can’t write his name on the shelves yet, so it seems a waste of effort. Too soon, the reservoir of busy-work that doesn’t involve ladders or trips to the hardware store is exhausted. And before he thinks too far in that direction -– gutters and shutters and paint for the porch -– he picks up a magazine and flips through the pages. He doesn’t read the articles, and the ads all look the same.

Jack picks up the phone on the fourth ring, just before the answering machine kicks on. “Yeah?”

He doesn’t need caller ID or fancy tracing gizmos to tell him who it is; the sinusy rasp of breath and rustle of papers give it away before Daniel can say a word. “Jack, hi. I was just on my way out and wondered if I should bring anything?”

Crap. He’d invited Daniel for dinner. The temptation is there to beg off, but since he’s the one who pushed for this, canceling now will only raise questions, and a helpful, persistent Daniel isn’t something he feels like dealing with today. “Yeah, you could grab some beer.”

“All right.”

“And leave those files you’ve got in your hand till Monday. No one’s going to die if you don’t take them to the Mountain today. I’ve got chops thawing, The Terminator on DVD, and everyone knows that killer robots trump anything work-related on Saturdays.”

Daniel pauses, and Jack can sense the frown, the way Daniel’s mouth hangs open in confusion. “How did you know…?”

Jack smiles tiredly. “My ways are beyond the ken of mortal man. Don’t forget the beer.”

“Right. Because beer is essential to the appreciation of killer robot movies.”

“Exactly,” Jack says and smiles again, more genuinely, as he thumbs off the phone.


It’s nearly two hours later when Daniel shoulders open the door, arms laden with bags, and already five minutes into a conversation. “--and the man at the store was no help at all, I’m telling you. Seventeen kinds of beer -- some of which I’m not sure were really beer at all -- and the labels tell you nothing helpful, so I asked the clerk who was stocking--“

Jack takes a bag, hand brushing Daniel’s, and sets it on the counter, looking inside. Yup, beer. “Daniel,” Jack waves a hand at the bags, “tell me these aren’t all full of beer.”

Daniel blinks, his mouth working like there are still words trying to come out but the volume has been turned off. “Umm, these aren’t all full of beer?”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously, it’s not all beer.”

“What did you buy? Besides the beer.” Jack pulls out two bottles and uncaps them, raising an eyebrow at the label before handing one to Daniel. Nothing he’s ever heard of, but that’s okay.

Daniel takes a drink and makes a face, reading the label before he takes another. He starts unloading things into the refrigerator, completely at home in a way that’s both comforting and irritating. “Oh. Just some bread and salad and stuff.”

“Salad?” Jack leans back against the counter and watches the process, like an excavation in reverse. “Stuff? Why do you always presume I have no vegetables?”

Intent on his work, Daniel doesn’t look up. All he needs is his boonie and some dirt on his nose to complete the image. “Do you?”

“That’s not the point.”

“That’s exactly the point.” Daniel is looking at him now, intense and faintly amused. Daniel likes these little not-arguments they have, and probably has some big words and sociologically quantified male peer group bonding rituals in a dozen extinct cultures to justify them.

Jack’s just not up for it this afternoon. Another long drink of the strong, smoky beer and the sudden quiet draws out almost too far. “So what’d you bring?”

Daniel’s eyebrows snap together over the bridge of his nose, and the scrutiny intensifies, and Jack realizes this was a mistake. Better to have begged off, told Daniel he had to wash his hair, had a hangnail, a touch of plague, anything.

Told him that Jack’s ex-wife had gotten married, and he really wasn’t feeling up to company, thanks. Yeah, sure that would have put him off.

Daniel is lipping at the top of his beer the same way he does his pens, studying Jack like one of his artifacts, or a stubborn translation. “I brought summer squash and one of those pre-made bags of salad. The woman in the produce section was somewhat more helpful than the man in the liquor store.”

“Oh. That sounds,” Jack looks down and back up, straining for something rude and funny to say. Zucchini he could have made a joke with, likewise potatoes. Hell, rutabaga he could have milked all night, never mind that he had only a vague idea of how to cook one, but leave it to Daniel to get what was quite probably the least funny vegetable in existence. “That sounds fine.”

He looks around the kitchen for something to do, remembering too late that he’d exhausted all the chores earlier. Plastic grocery bags go into the recycling, and he starts to unload the dishwasher. The cups are still warm.

“Can I help you with that?”

“Nah, I got it. Not much in here but coffee cups and forks anyway.”

Daniel nods, wandering over to the small table, rolling his bottle across his lip as he looks at the corkboard. “Terminator or Terminator 2?”

“The first one, why?”

“I don’t know. I was just thinking that the sequel has more…” Daniel waves his hand, searching for the right word. For a smart guy, especially a smart guy who spoke, what, about a hundred languages now, he got tongue-tied an awful lot. Maybe it was all those different words for the same thing tripping over each other trying to get out all at once.

“Killer robots?” Jack supplies.

“Yeah.”

Jack shrugs, and takes a long drink of the beer before he remembers that it tastes like burnt oatmeal -- with a kick. “I don’t like the kid.” Before Daniel can read more into that than there is -– and there really isn’t any more there than Jack being seriously annoyed by the punk-ass kid in that movie –- he grabs the chops out of the fridge. “I’m going to get these started. You can get the squash ready to grill, if you want.”


Daniel eats like a guy, stripping the chop right down to the bone with none of that dainty, fat-trimming nonsense Jack has never understood. After half the meat is gone Daniel spares some attention for the vegetables, eating them with the same focus. Not quickly, but with a kind of intense dedication to the experience of food. Sure, Jack has seen him eat before, lots of times, lots of places. In palaces and prisons, and wretched little mud-clotted camps pinned down by thunderstorms and cranky locals -- seen him blandly eat stuff that looked like it’d been scraped off of a shoe.

But eating for pleasure, safe and unguarded and just genuinely enjoying himself? That was rare. Jack makes a note to have him over for dinner more often, like old times. Jack liked to cook; Daniel liked to eat. It should work out nicely.

“Is something wrong?” Daniel rests his fork on the plate.

“No.” Jack sits there booking Daniel’s Saturdays for the next couple of years.

“You’re staring. Do I have something on my face?”

Jack pretends to inspect him, turning his head this way and that, making all the appropriate “hmm, ahh” noises until Daniel scowls at him halfheartedly and turns back to his meal. Jack smiles. Daniel has a nice face. Silly eyebrows, but he really can’t imagine any other eyebrows there after looking at these for so long. They fit.

He takes another drink of beer and considers taking his knife and fork to it as well.

Later on the couch, he makes sure to sit on Daniel’s off side, the better to avoid catching one of the beer-powered points being sketched in the air to the side of his head. “This,” Daniel says, pointing at the screen with the neck of his beer, “is impossible. The central paradox of the movie makes it impossible for the leader of this future rebellion to have ever been born. I mean, there had to be an original timeline where John Connor was born and eventually led the rebellion, then sent Reese back in time, but if Reese is the guy’s father, how was Connor ever conceived in that -–“

“Daniel, it’s a killer robot movie. It’s not supposed to make sense, it’s supposed to be fun to watch.”

“Don’t ever show this to Sam; she’d spontaneously combust.”

Jack nods. “Carter needs to relax. You want another beer?”

“Hmm? Yeah, that’s good. These people in the future look pretty well-fed for being on the brink of extinction.”

“Fun, Daniel,” Jack says as he goes to get more beer. They’ve gradually worked their way through the burnt oatmeal beer, so he grabs the other kind with another label Jack doesn’t recognize. If the first beer didn’t kill him, he doubts this one will, but there are worse ways he can think of to go than drunk and mellow, with Daniel beside him.

Definitely worse ways.

Of course, that’s before he tastes it, like paint thinner, sharp and bitter. Jesus, where did Daniel find this stuff? On the TV things are blowing up, guns are firing with the wrong kind of report for the weapon type, and the electronic soundtrack is pulsing heavy and ominous. No subtlety at all.

“Sam can relax,” Daniel says, color high in his cheeks, and Jack has to rewind the conversation in his head to find the reference.

“Carter’s idea of fun is running gassy… choreotopographies on tubes of dirt.“ It’s easy to imagine Carter in her lab, wearing her white coat and safety glasses, eyes alight as she rambles on about specific heats, specific gravities, specific ways to make his head spin. “At least when you talk, it mostly sounds like English.”

Daniel stares at him, eyebrows clenching in concentration. Jack spreads his hands. “What?” he asks.

Daniel squints at him, thinking so loudly that Jack swears he can hear an echo. “Gas chromatography, I think… Maybe.”

Jack drinks his beer, falling into the easy pattern of bickering and banter, but their pacing is off, and somewhere he feels that he’s lost an argument he didn’t know he was having. “Yeah, and does anyone even know what that is?”

“Sam does.” Daniel manages to smile without ever moving his mouth, and Jack is still trying to figure out how he does that, even as he realizes that whatever point he just lost, Daniel won.

Jack waves his hand, encouraging Daniel to get on with it.

“Well, yes, it’s tough to deny the gut-clenching excitement of… whatever it is she does.” Daniel blinks slowly, his face lit in flickering orange light from the explosions on the TV.

They drink in silence for a minute. “You weren’t with us that night we took Teal’c to a karaoke bar.”

Jack almost chokes on his beer and has a brief thought of trying to explain to the ER doctor how he managed to inhale turpentine before it really registers what Daniel said. “Karaoke? Carter?”

Daniel nods vigorously. “It was after P9A-something-something… the one you called ‘Camp Swampy.’”

“I remember that one. Why didn’t I get to go see Carter sing karaoke? She did sing, right?”

“She got loaded on tequila and sang Copacabana. Teal’c had to drive her home.”

“And I missed this? You let me miss this?”

Daniel snorts into his beer, but there’s little humor behind it. “So, yeah, she can relax. She just doesn’t relax around you.” There is another long pause as Daniel’s mood downshifts without warning, his eyebrows clearly signaling the change, and he looks down at his hands, tracing a finger through the condensation on the bottle. Quixotic drunk. Maybe not quite as drunk as Jack thinks he is, but Daniel’s funny that way.

“Oh.” Jack slides down the couch a bit, leather creaking against his ass. His knee brushes against Daniel’s where it’s already slipped off the couch. Any further down and Daniel will be horizontal, and Jack hopes it doesn’t come to that, because Daniel is a little too big to carry to the guest room, and Jack would hate to just leave him on the floor. And just maybe they are both as drunk as Jack suspects, after all. “You relax around me.”

Daniel smiles, warm and sloppy, and salutes Jack with the beer. “Ah, but I don’t have the same issues that Sam does.”

He knows what Carter’s issues are. Hell, everyone on the base probably knows what Carter’s issues are. Jack sets down his bottle, desire to participate in the unholy trinity of bad beer/bad movie/bad conversation suddenly gone. “I’m going to make some coffee,” he says, grasping at any polite excuse to leave the room.

Daniel turns off the DVD and follows him into the kitchen, neatly thwarting Jack’s intention. Jack fills the pot, counting out spoonfuls till he loses track, then just scoops coffee into the filter till it looks about right, feeling Daniel’s eyes on him. He leans against the counter to watch it brew, his chest tight with something he can’t give a name to.

Daniel starts rinsing plates and stacking them in the dishwasher, as if they’ve done this a hundred times. Since there really isn’t enough work for two, Jack just watches him, finding an odd intimacy in this, in Daniel doing his dishes. It’s been a long time since anyone was domestic with him, and it feels itchy and good in the right places in his head. Daniel’s hands are reddening under hot water, eyebrows making a serious attempt to do the Wave, like they do when he’s lost in thought.

He thinks of Carter wanting to build cyborgs in her basement, reverse engineering the hydraulics from Daniel’s eyebrows, programming machine language that would make her creation exclaim “holy Hannah” instead of “fuck you, asshole.”

Daniel doesn’t have the same issues that Carter does. Jack’s own issues are apparently still being defined.

“I saw the paper today,” Daniel says without looking up. His hands are red and starting to prune. He’s been rinsing that one plate a long time. “I didn’t make the connection right away.”

Jack shrugs, trying to look casual, but even from the inside the motion feels stilted and jerky. “It’s been long enough. I’m glad she’s found someone to make her happy.”

“You still love her.” It’s not a question, and Jack’s grateful for the understanding. Even when they don’t agree, Daniel almost always understands him.

“I’ll always love her, Daniel. That was never the problem.” He looks for coffee cups, and then realizes that Daniel is holding them out to him, hands scalded red from the dishes. He pours for them both. A drop of coffee falls, sizzling on the warmer plate. “There was just too much… stuff. Even before -- before Charlie, there was a lot.”

Daniel nods and takes the cup of coffee from Jack, cradling it under his chin. He slouches against the counter. The steam licks at his glasses, but can’t cling long enough to make them fog properly. “So what about you, don’t you deserve to be happy?”

Jack thinks of all the pieces of the world that don’t belong to him anymore, that he’s traded and sold and surrendered with only a token fight. Thinks of Carter immersed in her labs, singing karaoke without him; of Daniel sprawled out on his couch, eating his cooking, bringing him vegetables and bad beer.

“You have terrible taste in beer, you know,” he says finally.

“I told you before I don’t really like it. I think it should work like Scotch, you know? More expensive should be better.” He drinks his coffee, eyes flicking back up to Jack’s. “You didn’t answer my question, by the way.”

“I know that. What about you?”

Daniel presses his lips together while he thinks, and it touches Jack that he’s giving it genuine thought and not tossing off a glib response. “I think that happiness is relative, and subjective. Before… Before I ascended, I was looking for my purpose, my path. I was waiting for my journey to begin. If I could save Sha’re, find the Harcesis, defeat the Goa’uld… then I could be happy.”

“Jesus, Daniel.”

“But I didn’t understand that this is my life, right now. This is the journey, and by waiting to give myself permission to be happy –- for the right time, I’m losing the chance to be happy now.”

Daniel’s issues aren’t the same as Carter’s. Jack’s issues are starting to resolve themselves. He sits his coffee down. “And are you happy -- right now?”

Daniel smiles again, that careful, private smile that crinkles the corners of his eyes. “Yes, Jack. Right now.”

“Good, that’s… good.” Jack’s heart feels too big for his ribs. He’d pick up his coffee again, just for something to do with his hands, but he doesn’t want to fidget. Looking at that smile that’s just for him, right now, it’s easier than he thought to gather up his courage and unfurl it out in front of him. “I’m happy that you’re here.”

That was easy enough, so Jack closes the half step between them and takes Daniel’s coffee cup, sitting it on the counter beside his own. Daniel’s hands are hot from the ceramic. “Jack?” The smile fades, but the tension around his eyes remains.

“I have to clean the gutters tomorrow,” he says with forced casualness.

Daniel’s smile returns, confused. “I can help you with that, if you like.”

Jack nods, stroking the back of Daniel’s hand and the soft underside of his wrist where he can feel the pulse leaping. “That would be good. We can order pizza and watch Indiana Jones.”

“Which one?” Daniel’s cheeks are pinking up nicely again.

“The first one,” Jack says. Skin slides over bone and tendon, pieces of the whole, small things that add up to something much larger and more complex, more wonderful. Daniel has large hands, equally at ease holding pens and coffee as holding a weapon. Jack turns the dichotomy over in his head, not for the first time. Scholar and warrior. Dust and blood.

His blood, more than once.

Jack’s issues are working themselves out, his skin tightening with the need to feel those hands on his body.

Daniel is breathing harshly, leaning against the counter.

Daniel swallows, licks his lower lip with a fast swipe of tongue. Jack watches his throat work, wanting to put his hand there, to feel it for himself. Instead he inhales deep, chest aching, lightheaded and firmly ignoring the little part of him that wants to know what the fuck he thinks he’s doing. He turns Daniel’s hand over.

“Is -- is that the one with the monkey brains?” Daniel’s hand is shaking, just a little. Jack can feel all the little muscles jumping, straining. He presses his thumbs firmly into the palm, and Daniel jerks back against the counter hard enough to bang the cabinet door. Sweet enough to move the ache from Jack’s chest to his groin.

He looks up into Daniel’s eyes, dark and dilated, the bright rim of blue nearly eclipsed. “No, it’s the one in Egypt.”

“Oh my God, Jack…” Daniel says in a broken voice, pulling Jack against him and capturing his mouth. Daniel tastes like bitter beer and coffee, the harsh rasp of stubble strange and right. It feels like a very long time before Jack can do anything except kiss him back.

When they break for air, chests laboring, Jack rests his head on Daniel’s shoulder and tries to find a safe place to put his hands. “Jesus. Jesus, Daniel.”

Daniel takes his glasses off and drops them to the counter. He rubs his face in Jack’s hair. “This is life, Jack.”

Jack laughs weakly, still out of breath and waiting for his heart to calm, and slides his arms around Daniel’s waist. It’s nowhere near safe, but he’s always lived a little dangerously. “This is crazy,” he says. “We’re crazy.” But he doesn’t move away.

“Maybe, but I don’t want to wait any more.” Daniel pulls him closer, closing what little distance remained between them, holding tight. An anchor.

Waiting. It hits him -- that they’ve been -– that Daniel has been waiting. For him.

For him. Oh, God. He clutches Daniel to him, hard and hurting with the weight of this understanding.

“Are you happy, Jack?”

Jack sniffs and eases back out of the hug just far enough to see Daniel’s face. “Yeah, I am. Right now.”

Daniel smiles bright enough to light up the room and kisses him again, his mouth soft and hot, demanding Jack’s tongue, his hands working open the buttons on Jack’s shirt. Apparently he isn’t kidding about not waiting, and Jack doesn’t make him, opening his mouth to Daniel’s kiss, opening his body to Daniel’s touch.

His heart, well, apparently that’s already been Daniel’s for a long time now.

“A little help here?” Daniel’s hands are shaking again, trying to unbutton Jack’s shirt and his own at the same time, his calm unraveling sweetly between kisses.

The kitchen is very bright, smelling of soap and salad dressing. He takes Daniel’s hands in his and stills them, his heart pounding double-time high in his chest. “Come on,” he says, and leads Daniel back to the bedroom.

He stops at the foot of the bed, one last recon at the edge of unknown territory. The bed is rumpled, pillows askew where he tossed them in a snit of Saturday morning good enough before he went to get the paper. It feels like a long time ago, before Daniel brought him vegetables and changed his world. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Daniel is warm behind him, big hands stroking over his shoulders, soothing, anchoring. Daniel understands, has always understood him. He knows that it’s not him that Jack fears. “Living, Jack. We’re living. The rest is easy.” He presses his mouth to Jack’s ear. “Touch me,” he breathes.

Then he turns Jack, guiding Jack's hand to his waist, gasping at the shock of flesh on flesh. His voice is a cracked whisper of “Please, Jack.”

Something twists inside Jack and he suddenly can’t get close enough, can’t get his clothes off fast enough. He needs to touch all of Daniel, taste him, awkwardly kicking off shoes and fumbling with his pants, stumbling over a hundred barriers. It’s terrible and graceless, noses and elbows collide, and there is the distinctive sound of a seam ripping as he struggles out of his undershirt. Nothing has ever felt better. “Oh, God, Daniel…”

“It’s easy,” Daniel whispers again, pressing him back into the mattress, chest to chest, hard and strange and so good he thinks he might die from it.

Together, they find a rhythm to see them through, and Jack thinks that it shouldn’t be this right to have Daniel –- Daniel -- bearing him down into the bed, pushing against him. Daniel thrusting, voice ragged with need, gasping wetly into Jack’s neck, panting things under his breath that Jack can’t quite make out and isn’t sure are in English anyway.

The images splinter under the strain like sunlight on water, broken and beautiful. Daniel is warm and alive against him, tasting of salt and dust. Jack presses his mouth into Daniel’s shoulder, biting gently in a way that makes Daniel groan and kiss him again.

Daniel’s back under his hands, humid with sweat, Daniel’s hips, his –- oh, God –- his cock –-

Daniel making him sweat and shiver, stripping him with pleasure, making him cling and cry out and come so hard he forgets his own name.

Daniel, lying against him, sticky and spent and trembling, so beautiful. A smile flickers over his lips as Jack smoothes damp hair back from his face, gentling him down. Daniel swallows, moistening his mouth. “Easy,” he repeats.

And God help them both, Jack wants to believe it.


Sunday morning dawned much the same as Saturday, clear and cool, the promise of a warm afternoon in the cloudless sky. The paper was fat with sale flyers and special sections, magazine supplements and a host of useless feel-good nonsense that Jack pulled out, gutting the paper much like a trout so that he could get to the meat of the news. World, Local, and the Op/Ed page just for laughs.

The coffee pot gurgled and hissed as the reservoir emptied itself through the filter, finished at last. He spared another glance at the headlines before tossing the filleted paper on the table and pouring himself some coffee. There was nothing really new in the news, just more idiots around the world, fighting over the record collection while the house burns down. Looking out the window as he drank, he noticed the grass clippings he’d missed in his haste yesterday, and a patch of lawn that stood taller than the rest, likewise overlooked.

Daniel shuffled out of the bedroom in a t-shirt and boxers, rumpled and scruffy, squinting in the bright sunlight. “Coffee?” He yawned, rubbing at his head.

“Yeah, sit down before you hurt yourself.” Jack poured a fresh cup and set it on the table. “Eggs?”

“Mm, yeah,” Daniel said absently, curling himself over the coffee like he wasn’t planning on coming back up for a while.

Jack pulled out a skillet and carton of eggs, trying to decide between toast and pancakes. “I’ve got an extra set of gloves, but you’re going to have to help me move some stuff to get the second ladder out.”

Daniel looked up and blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”

“The gutters?” Toast, he decided. He set the skillet over the heat and counted out slices of bread. It was all so ordinary and comfortable.

“Gutters.” Daniel frowned. “You were kidding about that.”

Jack cracked eggs into a bowl one-handed. “No.”

“Oh,” Daniel quirked one eyebrow up, hopeful. “I was kidding?”

“Ah, no.” He shook his head and smiled, turning back to the stove. Eggs and bread went down at the same time.

Daniel’s chair creaked as he got up. He poured more coffee for Jack, then himself, and leaned against the counter very close to where he’d been last night. Jack’s smile deepened at the realization, and remembered arousal warmed through him. He shifted his stance a little wider and stirred the eggs.

Sipping his coffee, Daniel looked down and back up, his smile slow and playful. “Do I still get the pizza and movie afterward?” The toast popped up.

Jack nodded. “Indiana Jones. This is almost done. Get some plates, will you?”

Daniel pulled out plates and forks, stopping to collect the toast on his way to the table. “This movie is the one where he gets the girl?”

Jack brought the eggs and coffee to the table, resting the skillet on top of the newspaper. He reached over and covered Daniel’s hand, briefly squeezing before he reached for the toast. “No, it's the one where she gets the archaeologist. Do you want jam on your toast?”

Daniel was right. It was easy.


Fin

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