'Tis the Season....
Jack struck a match and touched the flame to the wick of a tall red candle, watching the flame flicker and dance and finally take hold, its growing light glinting from the array of glass and silver that adorned the table.
"What do you think?" he asked, as Daniel came in from the kitchen bearing a basket of warm bread rolls.
The blue gaze scanned the dining table before lifting a smile to Jack's face. "Beautiful. Where did all this come from?" he asked, picking up a delicate wine goblet and holding it so that the light from the candle caught in the intricate facets.
Jack ducked his head, but not before Daniel had see the look of uncertainty. "My - grandmother left it to me. What?" he added as Daniel blew a silent whistle, then he grinned. "Didn't expect me to know about things like this?"
"No, I just... I never realised you came from that kind of background."
"Oh yeah," Jack said, then turned away to adjust one of the flowers in the centrepiece. He could have told him more, but on a whim decided to keep the rest of the story for later. There was a lot about him that Daniel didn't know and he was going to have fun telling him. Well, most of it anyway.
"Do you think there's enough food?"
"Jack, there's enough there to feed the whole base," he laughed softly, setting the basket down in the last empty spot and turning to wrap his arms around the colonel's waist. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you."
Jack grinned, the faintest trace of pink highlighting his cheeks. "Yeah. Last few Christmases haven't been much to - celebrate, but this year... I feel like I've got so much to be thankful for. Feels right to do this."
"So, what are you worried about? There's enough food, more than enough to drink, and in about half an hour this place will be packed to the rafters." Disengaging one hand, he stroked the older man's face. "I'm the one should be worried."
Jack tilted his head. "Oh? About what?"
"The women who'll be lusting after you after the first cup of that punch. I'll be fighting them off."
Laughing, Jack combed his fingers through the soft tawny hair, his thumbs touching beneath Daniel's chin to lift his face. "No need," he said. "They can chase - but I'm already caught."
"You are?" Daniel asked wistfully.
"Oh yeah. Heart and soul, babe," he vowed, dipping his head to capture Daniel's mouth with his own. "Punch tastes good," he grinned as he pulled back, skimming his tongue across the soft lips.
"Want a proper taste?" Daniel asked, sparkling eyes teasing as he caught hold of Jack's hand and led him into the kitchen. He picked up one of the glass cups and filled it from the pan, holding it out to Jack, who took it and sipped warily at the contents. There was a moment of hesitation, followed by a look of startlement and a gasp of shock as the heated liquid slid over his tongue and down his throat. "Woah! Holy....!" He coughed, sniffed loudly and shot a wide-eyed look at his lover. "How much brandy did you put in there?"
Daniel shrugged. "About... half a bottle. It's not too much, is it?"
"No!" Jack almost shouted, then grinned. "No, it's... it's great. Get a few hearts pumping."
"Is that a good thing?"
At that, Jack laughed. "Hey, it's Christmas. The annual opportunity for everyone to let their hair down - figuratively speaking of course," he added quickly as Daniel's gaze slid up to his recently cropped grey head.
"Could make for an interesting night."
"In more ways than one..." His voice trailed away as he caught the look of promise in the unshuttered eyes. All day, every day, they were required to keep their feelings hidden, only expressing them in those precious moments when they could be alone together. Lovers for a year now, the strain was often more than Jack could stand. What made things worse was that it wasn't his choice. Given his way, he would gladly give up everything for this man, but Daniel refused even to discuss it, determined not to harm Jack's career in any way. Biting back a smile, Jack rubbed his thumb across the full lower lip. Well, after tonight things were going to change. He had played it Daniel's way for a year, now it was his turn....
He took another mouthful of the mulled wine, holding it until his cheeks burned and his tongue began to tingle. Holding it while he drew Daniel into his arms again and pressed their mouths together once more. Teasing his tongue along Daniel's closed lips, coaxing them to open for him, he let the wine dribble slowly from his mouth into his lover's. Daniel gasped, parting his lips further, his body grinding against Jack's, his arousal a hard ridge against the other man's hip.
"Oh... God!" Daniel sobbed as they broke for breath, then clamped his lips to Jack's again, sucking every last drop from his tongue. "Where the hell did you learn to do that?"
Jack, grinning, shrugged. "Oh - around. I know a lot of tricks like that," he boasted, the first threads of alcohol weaving a warm web through his veins.
"Oh yeah?" Suddenly there was a challenge in Daniel's eyes. "Like what?"
"I'll show you later..."
"No, Jack. Show me now."
"The others will be here soon..."
"So why are you wasting time?" His hand slid between Jack's thighs, squeezing the rock hardness there. "Show me, Jack."
Feigning reluctance, Jack stepped back, putting enough room between them so that he could reach Daniel's pants. Trembling fingers worked the button free, dragged the zipper down, slipped inside to lift the warm flesh from it's cotton cocoon. Full and thick and throbbing with need, he held Daniel in his hand for a moment, stroking his thumb back and forth across the sticky slick head.
"Close your eyes," he whispered.
"Because I asked you to?"
A flicker of curiosity, before the gold-fringed lids lowered into place. Satisfied, Jack eased his hands inside the pale grey cotton, pushing briefs and pants down in one easy motion. That done, he took each of Daniel's hands and set a kiss in the palm before pressing them onto the edge of the counter. "Keep them there, okay? No matter what I do, keep your hands there."
"O-k-ay..." A flutter of uncertainly brought Jack's hands to cup the beautiful face, leaning in to kiss him.
"It's all right, Danny, I'm not gonna do anything you won't like. Just trust me, okay?"
A nod - "Okay" - more positive now.
Careful not to touch his lover in any way, Jack sank slowly to his knees, until his face was level with the glistening shaft. He could smell the rich musk of Daniel's arousal, feel the heat of him radiating from the long thighs and the twin sensations shot straight to his groin, mixing with the thread of apprehension that at the crucial moment the doorbell would ring.
Bracing himself with one arm against the cupboard, he reached for the wine and filled his mouth once more, setting the glass on the floor beside him. The liquid was not hot enough to damage delicate flesh, but it would still be warm enough to surprise his lover. Leaning forward, hands well away from Daniel's body, he touched his lips to the moist head, feeling the shock wave of first contact rip through the tensed body. Grinning inward satisfaction, he parted his lips slightly and slid them, inch by delicious inch, over the column of flesh.
"Jack!" The name was a startled cry wrenched from Daniel's lips. "Oh... sweet... Ohgodjack!"
Moving his mouth back and forth without sucking, letting the wine ripple up and down his length, Jack could feel Daniel's hips begin to pump as he tried to force himself deeper. Still, Daniel's hands remained on the counter, where Jack had insisted he keep them, while Jack's hands pressed against the cupboard door, holding him up. The only point of contact between them was Jack's mouth around Daniel's cock, every sensation flowing through them stemmed from that one connection, and the knowledge of that sent a shudder of desire through Jack.
But there came a point at which the passive movement was no longer enough for either of them. Pulling back slightly, Jack drew a deep breath and swallowed, taking the wine and Daniel's cock with it deep into the back of his throat. The sharp hiss of breath, the sibilant 'Yesssssssss!' that pushed it's way from Daniel's lips, was all the encouragement Jack needed and he began to suck, still not touching, willing himself not to come. Time enough for that later: this was all for Daniel.
Obedient to the last, Daniel was by now gripping the edge of the counter, his knuckles white against his tanned skin as he used that small amount of leverage to drive himself in and out of Jack's mouth, until the colonel wasn't entirely sure who was fucking who. The force of each thrust rattled the cutlery in the drawer behind Daniel's bare butt and Jack spared a moment of sympathy for his lover as he realised how uncomfortable that door knob must be, poking him in the ass like that... until he realised just exactly where it would be poking him.
Inhibitions loosened by the alcohol, he found himself wondering for the briefest of moments what it would be like to share Daniel with another man - Teal'c maybe - to suck him, just as he was doing now, while the other guy fucked him. The slightly wicked flavour of a threesome tingled through him, then was as suddenly gone as he reminded himself that it would never happen. After tonight, Daniel would be his and his alone, and God help anyone who tried to muscle in.
Snapping back to the present, he bore down hard on the thick shaft, taking it all the way to the back of his throat, until his face was buried in the silky brown curls. His fingers itched to touch, wanting to curl around the warm sac, feel the fragile orbs held inside, work their way deep into the hidden entrance to his lover's body - but he had made the rules, and the rule was no touching, and so he kept his hands pressed flat against the wood, fusing them there until the game was over.
Daniel, too, was finding is difficult to keep his promise, making little whimpering noises as he plunged in and out of Jack's mouth, driving himself closer and closer to the edge. Jack could taste him, bittersweet overlaid by the taste of spiced wine and brandy, and he knew that as long as he lived, he would never tire of that taste. Essence of Daniel, as precious as his own life's blood.
Wanting suddenly - needing - to see, he pulled back until only his lips touched the head of Daniel's shaft. Looking up, he found hooded blue eyes gazing down at him, hot and hungry and so full of need that it rocked Jack. Nobody had ever needed him the way Daniel did, the way he needed Daniel.
"C'mon baby," he whispered. "Let yourself go... Please sweetheart... Let me see you come..."
A soul-deep groan tore from Daniel's throat, followed quickly by another as Jack tongued away the dribble of pre-cum oozing from his cock.
"Fuck me..." Daniel begged, hips quivering.
"Later. I'll fuck you all night, if that's what you want baby - but now - I wanna watch you come... Please?"
A curt nod, a slow rotation of his hips as he began to rub himself over Jack's face, across his lips, up over his cheekbones, anointing his eyelids with wet, sticky kisses, pushing himself that last little bit towards the precipice, and Jack went with him, rubbing his face over the hard shaft, licking and nibbling, nudging Daniel's cock aside so that he could reach the full sac, capturing each of his balls in turn and sucking them into his mouth, driving his lover wild.
A startled gasp, a sudden stillness. Jack released the throbbing testicle and sat back, lips lightly touching the weeping head once more, parted ready to receive the precious load. "Yeah, that's it... " he sighed, teasing the slit with the tip of his tongue. "That's it, baby... Let it go..."
"Ohgod... Jack... Iloveyou..." echoed breathily in his ears as Daniel's hips gave a last, convulsive jerk and the first pulse of cream spilled over into Jack's waiting mouth. He drank it all, savouring each drop and then, when it seemed Daniel had no more to give, slid his lips over the softening shaft once again and sucked him until he was dry.
Only when he felt Daniel's legs begin to tremble and buckle at the knees, did Jack relent and reach up to steady him, catching him and guiding him gently to the floor.
"Oh Jack!" Daniel laughed, hanging onto him as he struggled for breath. "That was... incredible. You are incredible... Oh God!"
Try as he might, Jack could not contain the smug grin of satisfaction as he reached to stroke the flushed face. Like this, sated, exhausted and looking thoroughly ravished, Daniel had never looked more beautiful.
"You amaze me," his lover sighed. Arms draped over Jack's shoulders, hands splayed through the short grey hair, he leaned in to lick away a splash of semen from Jack's chin before sliding his tongue between the parted lips.
Jack welcomed him inside, delighting in the enthusiasm with which his mouth was plundered, every last drop of Daniel's own essence scoured from him by an avid tongue. For someone who constantly claimed to be a lousy kisser he was certainly proving otherwise tonight.
Kissing them apart, a cream-fed-cat grin of contentment on his face, Daniel leaned his forehead against Jack's and murmured conspiratorially "Y'know, I don't know which I like more... the taste of your cum in my mouth, or the taste of mine in yours..."
Jack's heart began to pound again, as it always did when his lover let his guard down and said things he otherwise would never say. Nudging at Daniel's lips, he asked "Which turns you on more?"
"That's just it - I don't know. It all feels - so good. You and me... why do we feel so right together?"
Jack shrugged, feeling suddenly too close to the edge of decision, too soon. "Maybe because... that's what's meant to be. You and me, together."
"Yeah... Not fair, is it?" He looked up, met Jack's gaze, and the older man was shocked into silence by the unexpected misery in the blue depths, the need lingering just beneath the surface. No, it wasn't fair that two people who loved each other as much as they did, should be kept apart by a few archaic laws.
But now was neither the time nor place to get into that. Catching Daniel's face in his hands, he kissed him softly, almost chastely, closed lips to closed lips. "C'mon," he said, urging him to stand. "The others will be here soon. We need to get cleaned up."
But at the door Daniel caught his hand and pulled him around. "What about you? You didn't get off..."
Jack smiled. "I told you, later. It's Christmas Eve - I want it to be special."
"How much more special can you get?" Daniel muttered.
Jack grinned, aware of just how close they were sailing to the boundaries of over-sentimentality and, for once, delighting in it. Shaking his head, he wrapped his hand around his lover's, leading him towards the bedroom. "Don't think I've got it in me, do you?" he teased. "Think I'm too old to blow your mind more than once in a night... Well, I'm gonna show you old, Danny-boy," he smirked.
Daniel gave in with a sigh and allowed himself to be pulled along. "Whatever you say, Jack," he grinned. "Whatever you say..."
The lounge of Jack's home had always seemed too big and empty for one man and he often wondered if the house had been more of a statement than a home, his way of telling Sara that he wasn't going to hide himself away in a shoe box of an apartment, the way many of his divorced friends had done. But tonight, with all his friends around him, it finally felt like a home. They had squeezed around the dining table, ten of them around a table only big enough for eight, but the crush had added to the general mood and they had laughed as they jostled for dishes and glasses, clashed elbows as forks were raised and lowered to waiting mouths. Ten of them - the four members of SG1, plus Hammond, Janet Fraiser and Cassandra, the Littlefords and, last minute addition, Jacob Carter, come to spend Christmas with his daughter.
They lingered over the meal, good food interspersed with conversation and much laughter. Yet through it all there were moments when Jack would look across the table to find his lover watching him, an odd expression on his face, and for a moment it would be as if they were the only two people in the room. And for a moment he wished they were.
Once the meal had reached its natural conclusion and all hands had turned to clearing away the debris, they adjourned to the living room and the mountain of brightly coloured packages beneath the tree. Kneeling to hand them out, Jack wondered what the rest would think had they witnessed the scenes of passion enacted beneath those branches just a day ago, or seen Daniel lying there, naked but for the strand of bright red tinsel wrapped around his erect cock, or discovered to what use Jack had put the leftover frosting from the Christmas cake...
There were 'serious' gifts for everyone - perfume and jewellery for Sam and Janet, a new fishing reel for Hammond - things chosen with care and given with affection. Then there were the 'joke' gifts - a personal first aid kit for Daniel, a pair of black fishnet stockings for Janet, a novelty hockey set for Jack, with all the pieces made from chocolate. The largest share of the gifts went, of course, to Cassandra, whose eyes grew wider and rounder as each parcel was delivered into her hands and carefully unwrapped.
"Jack? You okay?"
He responded less to the question than to the hand that unexpectedly wrapped over his. It was unlike Daniel to be so demonstrative in public.
Smiling softly, sadly, he said "Just - thinking about Charlie. He always loved Christmas so much..."
"My parents never bothered much with Christmas when I was small," Daniel confessed. "They were usually on a dig somewhere."
"They didn't take you with them?"
"Sometimes. Other times, I stayed behind in school."
Jack shook his head. "I couldn't do that. Didn't matter where in the world I was, I always tried to get home to Charlie for Christmas. God, I miss him so much...."
Daniel's hand crept soothingly up Jack's arm, coming to rest just inside the collar of his shirt, thumb rubbing lightly at the warm flesh. "You could always... try again... " he whispered, meaning well, yet barely able to contain his reluctance to even consider such a thing.
"Find myself a good woman, you mean? Have another kid?" Jack rubbed his cheek against the tanned fingers. "No. That's not what I want from life now. Anyhow, " brown eyes cast a meaningful look into blue "there's only one person I'd want to make babies with now - and that's - "
" - biologically impossible?"
"Unless there's a planet out there can work a miracle for us."
Daniel let his thumb glide along Jack's jaw line until it reached his lips, collecting a kiss as it came to rest there. "Would you, if they could?"
"What? Make a baby with you?..." He coiled his tongue around the invading digit, laughing as the heat flared in Daniel's eyes. "Ah Danny... You really need to ask?" And the look on Daniel's face told him that in this, as in so many things, they were of like mind.
If ever the moment was right, it was now. Rolling effortlessly to his feel, Jack held out a hand to pull Daniel up beside him. "C'mon..."
"Where are we going?" Daniel asked, making no attempt to remove his hand from Jack's grasp.
"Out on the deck."
"Jack it's freezing out there"
"Just for a minute. Please?"
Unable, or unwilling, to deny him, Daniel followed, closing the door behind them. "Okay, you got me out here. Now do I get to know why?"
Jack drew a deep breath and squared his shoulders, his gaze steady as he looked at the man he loved beyond reason. "There was one gift I didn't give out just now...." Dipping into his pocket, he pulled out a small blue velvet box and handed it to his lover. "Something private, from me to you, Danny."
Hands that began to tremble spontaneously, carefully prised open the lid, revealing two slender gold bands nestled side by side. But the hoped-for reaction didn't come. Instead of delight, a soft, unhappy sigh slipped from Daniel's lips.
"Oh Jack... I thought we agreed about this."
Those few words sent Jack's heart plummeting into the deck. He had been so certain that this time, on this special day, he could finally persuade his love to accept the promises he wanted so much to make. Not once had the thought of failure entered his head, and now that he was faced with it, he felt disappointment blossom into anger.
"No, we didn't agree. You rattled off a whole lot of reasons why we shouldn't do this - and okay, some of them were good reasons... But I never agreed to stop wanting you Danny, and I never agreed to stop hoping one day you'd say 'yes'. I thought... now Sha're has gone..."
"Sha're was never an obstacle, Jack, you know that. I loved her as a friend, the way I love Sam, but I was never in love with her. You know why I won't agree to this."
A nod, an angry gesture that knocked the thick layer of snow from the handrail. "Yes, I know! How could I not know, you've told me often enough. You don't want to harm my career, you don't want me to risk being kicked out the Airforce for being in love with a man. Well, that's one more reason you can scrap, Danny-boy, because as of oh-nine-hundred this morning I'm out!"
Eyes narrowed, hand balling into a fist at his side as he fought for control, Daniel hissed "What?"
"I resigned. Saw Hammond yesterday while you were at the mall."
"You - told General Hammond? What, are you crazy?"
"Yeah, maybe I am, because I told him everything, when it started, how I really feel about you - and then I handed him my letter of resignation."
"Oh Jack..." Daniel sagged back against the rail, dropping his head, avoiding Jack's gaze. "You didn't have to do that."
"Yes, I did. You seem to think my life revolves around the Stargate, but you're wrong, Daniel - you are the centre of my world, not some metal ring in a missile silo. I came back to the SGC because you needed me, I stayed for the same reason." Reaching out, he trailed the back of a finger slowly down the cold cheek. "Everything I could possibly want in my life is right here, in front of me."
Snuffling audibly, Daniel glanced up through a fringe of wet lashes. "You mean that?"
"With all my heart. Nothing else matters, only you."
A sob choked off into a hesitant laugh as Daniel lifted his hands to frame Jack's face, drawing it close to his own. "Oh God... I love you so much, Jack."
"Then marry me," Jack whispered, fighting back the overwhelming surge of renewed hope. "Please?"
"You'd really give everything up for me?"
"Say 'yes' and it's done."
"And - if I say 'no'?"
Again Jack's world came crashing in on him. He wanted to scream, wanted to run, wanted to be anyplace but here, looking into those beautiful eyes as Daniel rejected him once more. "Is that your answer?"
"No. I just... I need to know what's going on in that head of yours. I guess I - don't want you doing anything - crazy."
"Emotional blackmail? Like blowing my brains out or running away to join the Tok'ra?" Daniel gave a little nervous wriggle of his shoulders and Jack knew then that he was still on shaky ground. "Don't worry. If you turn me down I'll go to Hammond and withdraw my resignation, tell him it was all... a mistake."
"You'd stay with the SGC?"
"No - I'd stay with you. If I have to stay with the SGC to do that..."
"What about us?" Daniel pressed the point, his face giving nothing away, not even the tiniest hint about where he was going with his questions. "Would we still be lovers?"
"Lovers?" There was no joy in the little laugh that greeted that question. "We both know how hard it is to kick an addiction, Danny - and you're a thousand times stronger than any drug. So you can turn me down and I'll still stay with you, and I'll do whatever you want me to do, and I'll be whatever you want me to be."
"And spend the rest of your life in a living hell."
"If that's the price for being a part of your life... I don't know what more I can promise you..."
Moonlight danced in Daniel's hair as he shook his head. "I think you said it all. Thank you for being so honest with me."
"I could never lie to you, Daniel, not about this."
"I know." Without warning he stepped back, putting distance between himself and Jack. "I think I need to be alone for a while. Do you mind?"
Jack felt his heart crack. Broken hearts were just a cliché, or so he had always thought, but right then he could feel the sharp pain of loss splitting his in two. Nodding, too choked with emotion to speak, he turned away and went back into the house.
After the darkness outside, the light stabbed at his eyes and, in screwing them up to protect them, he felt the tears he had controlled so carefully start to leak out. He ground them away with the heel of his hand and looked around, taking in his guests, who remained oblivious to the scene of torment that had taken place just a few feet away from them. There was Teal'c, cross-legged on the rug in front of the fire, playing Scrabble with Cassandra. Soft music was playing and Janet had taken to the floor with Hammond while Sam partnered her father, the two couples swaying gently to the rhythm of the Christmas songs. It was all so normal, their simple pleasure a sharp contrast to the pain he was feeling.
"Everything okay, Jack?" Jacob Carter's face swam into view, brow creased with concern. Jack liked Sam's father, he reminded him a little of his own, career military, tough as iron wrapped around marshmallow and with an intuition that could at times be frightening.
He shook his head, cleared his throat. "I - don't know."
"You look like you could use a drink," the older man said, pressing a half-filled glass of scotch into his hand. Jack thanked him and took a deep swallow, the heat of it burned down into his already churning stomach and he swallowed again, fighting back the nausea. Janet and Hammond had stopped dancing and turned their attention to him also. He met the doctor's anxious gaze and the ache began all over again. Until yesterday she, of all of them, had been the only one to whom he had confessed his secret.
"Jack, what happened?" she asked, her hand resting over his.
"I think... I just made a fool of myself in front of the man I love," he said, no longer caring who heard or what they thought. "I just asked Daniel to marry me."
"At last," Sam murmured, coming to stand beside him, her grin fading rapidly as she took in the look on his face..
It didn't really surprise Jack that his astute 2IC had guessed the truth and somehow that made it easier. "Yeah," he smiled brokenly "Took me long enough, huh? Not that it did me any good...."
"He turned you down?" Janet asked.
"He's - thinking it over but..." He took another swig of the scotch, gagging a little on the burn of it.
"Sir, it'll be okay," Sam told him "He loves you." And Janet nodded.
"We've all seen the way you are together. If ever two people should be together, it's you and Daniel."
Jacob glanced at Hammond, who was suddenly finding something very interesting on the floor. Shrugging, the Tok'ra host said "They're right, Jack. You and Daniel - you complete each other."
"Yeah? Well if it's so obvious to you, why can't he see it?"
"You said he was thinking it over," Sam reminded him, her concern growing as she listened to him.
"More like he's thinking of the right way to say 'no'. I must've been crazy to ever hope he'd want to settle down with a loser like me."
"You should have more faith in yourself Jack."
Daniel's voice, coming so unexpectedly, shocked them all into silence. Jack couldn't move, hardly dared breathe, sensing the presence behind him. This was the moment he had feared, and there was no escape now.
"Look at me, Jack"
He turned around slowly, grateful for the presence of the friends who stood behind him, who gave no sign of backing off. Daniel was standing just inside the doorway, his face flushed from the cold, his body visibly trembling. Jack's instinct was to go to him, wrap his arms around him to warm him, but he held back, waiting for Daniel to take a knife and carve out his heart.
"And you should also have more faith in me." He took a step closer, then another. "Trusting each other is the foundation of any good marriage, isn't it?" Jack nodded mutely, watching him move further into the room. "So... Do you trust me, Jack?"
"Yes." No hesitation, no qualification. In everything, his trust in Daniel was absolute.
"And did you mean all those things you said out there, about loving me and staying with me, no matter what?"
"You know I do..."
A few more steps: they were standing so close together now, so close that Jack could feel the chill from his lover's skin and smell the crisp winter air on him, deliciously sweet and inviting.
"What about me? Do you believe I feel the same way? That I'd follow you to hell and back? That all I am and all I have, belongs to you."
The fear shattered then as comprehension won the battle and the tears that brimmed in Jack's eyes turned from misery to joy as he finally understood. How had he ever been so stupid? "I believe it," he whispered. "All of it... You're my reason for being, Daniel, the reason for my existence. I love you - I always have and I always will."
Smiling, Daniel raised his left hand and uncurled the fist. The two rings lay there, side by side, an offering, a pledge. Jack picked one up, took Daniel's right hand in his and slipped the token onto the pale flesh. "You're cold - " he murmured, raising the fingers to his lips, sealing the vow he had made.
"You'll soon get me warm," Daniel responded, and Jack felt himself blush - a blush that deepened as Daniel picked up the other ring and slipped it onto Jack's finger. "I read the inscription... Did you mean it?"
Jack nodded. "Yes. 'My eternity is yours' - and it starts right here." Brown eyes met blue, the look that flashed and sparked between them sealing their vows.
Behind Jack, Janet sniffed loudly, blew her nose and mumbled "Sorry... I can't... That was so beautiful..."
The gathering dissolved into laughter at that and Jacob, self-appointed Master of Ceremonies, said "Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I think a kiss is in order!"
Jack slanted a look at him, brow raised, and quipped "Thanks for the offer, Jacob, but I think Daniel should be first," which reduced them all to more uncontrolled laughter, the sound of it ringing in his ears as he gathered his lover into his arms and took his mouth in a searing and, for the first time, very public kiss.
When they broke apart, reluctantly, they found Hammond had joined the little group. He looked awkward, embarrassed, though not judgmental, as he handed each a glass of champagne and his muttered congratulations.
"I think I owe you an apology, General," Jack said quietly. "I could have handled this a lot better than I did."
"That's why we put you in charge of SG1 and not SG9, Jack" the older man smiled wickedly.
Jack sighed. For all his brave words to Daniel, there was a part of him that would miss his life at the SGC and the wonders of gate travel. "Have you decided yet who my replacement will be?"
Hammond said nothing. Arms folded across his chest, Jacob Carter stared at his old friend, and continued to stare at him until the tips of the General's ears began to turn a very delicate shade of pink, at which point he prompted "George?"
Hammond looked from Jack to Jacob, to the floor, and back again to the Tok'ra.
"George? Are you going to put these young people out of their misery, or do I have to do it?"
"What's going on?" Daniel asked, unconsciously moving closer to Jack, who tightened his arm protectively around his partner's shoulders.
"Yeah, George, is there something you wanna share with us?" Jack added.
The general shuffled his feet, rubbed that spot on the back of his neck that indicated he was not at all comfortable with the situation, hurrumped and, finally, met Jack's gaze. "I'm afraid your resignation has been rejected, Colonel."
Jack felt the room rock. No resignation meant he was still open to courts martial and probable imprisonment for the promises he had just made to Daniel. "What?" he demanded. "Why?"
"After you left yesterday I... asked Jacob's advice on the matter. I wanted a second opinion on how much I should tell Washington."
"To which I, of course, said tell them nothing," Jacob grinned. "Then we got to thinking, and we decided this might just be the chance we've all been waiting for to get rid of some of these archaic regulations. So... " He waved his hand for Hammond to continue the story.
"So - Jacob convinced me to put an unofficial call through to the White House."
Daniel choked on the wine he had just sipped. "You... called the President about... us?"
All of a sudden, Hammond was looking very pleased with himself. Almost too pleased, in Jack's opinion. "And he said....?"
"Basically, that if you tried to resign from the SGC, I was to have you shot. Both of you."
Jack laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like him... What else did he say?"
"Now, Colonel, if I told you that I would have to shoot you! All you need to know is that the details of your 'arrangement' with Dr Jackson will be entered in your records and that any queries regarding the matter are to be directed straight to the oval office."
"And that includes anything Senator Kinsey can come up with," Jacob added, his own grin wide and enthusiastic. Then he sobered a little, and said "Seriously, Jack, we all know things have to change eventually. There are more important things out there than worrying about people's sexual preferences, attitudes are changing all over the world and that's got to influence how we deal with this kind of thing in the US. On top of that, the SGC is a special case. We have teams going on longer and longer missions - what happens if one of them gets involved with someone from an off-world race? How can we endorse relationships like that when we still alienate couples like you and Daniel?" He looked from one to the other, receiving nods and murmurs of approval from all quarters. "My advice to you and Daniel is to just - keep a low profile till the time is right and remember... If the shit hits the fan, you can always come and join the Tok'ra."
Jack feigned dismay. "So, after all of this, I'm still on the team," he said, resisting the urge to punch the air in delight.
Hammond nodded. "That you are, and I shall expect the both of you to report for duty as scheduled."
"You mean we don't even get a honeymoon?" Jack protested, his voice squeaking with indignation around the words.
"As scheduled, Colonel!" Hammond called as he headed off to the bar to pour himself another drink.
"Colonel...." Sam tapped him on the shoulder.
"SG1 is already on stand-down for two weeks."
Jack's eyes lit up at her words. "We are? Hot damn, so we are! Hey, we could --"
But whatever he was about to suggest was lost beneath the roar of music as somebody hit the 'play' button on the hi-fi. A chorus of 'sorrys' and the sound was backed down to a more acceptable level, which mellowed out into a sentimental song about snow and Christmas bells and firelight. He cringed, then groaned aloud as a gleeful Janet gave them a gentle shove towards the centre of the room, assuring them "it's traditional, Jack". He opened his mouth to refuse, then found himself gazing into bright, hope-filled blue eyes and all his reluctance fled.
"Dance with me, Danny?" he asked, holding out his hand, and was rewarded by the sweetest of smiles as Daniel moved into his arms. To be fair, it was less dancing than a mobile, freeform hug as they stood in the centre of the room and swayed in time to the music, while their friends applauded them. Jack felt his cheeks burn - where he came from, men didn't dance with other men - and yet this was as much a part of the commitment he had made to Daniel as everything else. It felt right and he tightened his hold as he realised it was something he had wanted, deep down, to do for a very long time. He wasn't dancing with a man, he was dancing with Daniel, and that made all the difference.
Daniel Jackson: his friend, his lover - and now what? 'Partner' sounded too businesslike, 'mate' felt wrong. 'Husband'? Jack was uncomfortable with that. If Daniel was the husband, didn't that make him the 'wife'? He sighed. Something else they would have to work out as they went along.
"Jack? You okay?"
He lifted his face from where it was pressed against the side of Daniel's neck. "Better than okay. Everything I ever wanted is right here."
Daniel raised his hand, allowing the light to dance across the wedding band. "I owe you an apology."
"Making you wait so long, putting obstacles in the way of what we both wanted. I never realised how much I was hurting you."
"What hurt was the fact you didn't believe me when I said you were the most important thing in my life."
"I believed it, I just think I was afraid to let myself accept it. Nobody ever loved me that much, Jack."
The sad confession brought all Jack's protective feelings to the fore again and he gathered Daniel close and kissed him, savouring the freedom as he felt the others turning to watch them. It was a deep, sensual kiss that reawakened Jack's earlier hunger, reminding him of other promises he had made. Now, if he could just find a way to bring the party to a speedy conclusion... Then he looked around at the smiling faces - smiling at them every one of them approving, happy for them, and he realised he didn't want the evening to come to an end just yet. Each, in their own way, had helped he and Daniel get to where they were at that moment and for that they deserved to share in the happiness of the night.
Along the way the music had changed and suddenly Jack broke away, tilting his head to listen to the music. "Listen..." he said, smiling.
You held my life within your hands
Created everything I am
Taught me how to live again...
"Oh yeah," he murmured "You did that. After Charlie died I thought my life was over - wanted it to be over. You changed that, Danny." Leaning closer, he pressed his lips to Daniel's as if endorsing the words. "You gave my life back to me, love."
"Jack..." Daniel dipped his head away from his gaze, cheeks stained with shyness. But Jack was not about to let it go, not today. If he was going to lay his heart bare then it had to be everything.
"I mean it. I would not here now if it wasn't for you... I think we both know that."
Whenever I was insecure
You built me up and made me sure
You gave my pride back to me...
Pride in himself, in his work, in all that the SGC had achieved. Pride in his team and, most important of all, in the young man here, in his arms. Lover and beloved: his Daniel.
He caught himself grinning as he found the solution to his problem. There was no need for pigeonholes or tags like 'partner' or 'husband', he was simply 'My Daniel'. He could almost hear himself introducing him at parties as 'My Daniel'.
"Think they'd notice if we slipped away?" he asked, nuzzling the curve of an ear and making Daniel laugh.
"Probably, and we'd never hear the end of it if we did. I can wait - if you can..."
"I've waited a long time for this, think I can manage a couple more hours."
"And after tomorrow, we've got two whole weeks to ourselves." Daniel let his head drop against Jack's shoulder, his lips brushing against the throbbing pulse point as he spoke. Jack sighed contentedly. All he had ever wanted, all he would ever want.
"So, where are we gonna go for our honeymoon?"
"Anywhere there's a big bed and twenty-four hour room service?" Daniel suggested.
Jack snorted. "Now why the heck didn't I think of that?" he wondered as the music swelled around them.
God bless you
You make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you...
Blessed? Jack smiled to himself and bent his head to Daniel's mouth. Oh yeah!
Jack turned off the bathroom light and returned to his bedroom - their bedroom now, since Daniel had agreed to spend part of their 'honeymoon' moving his belongings across town. Jack shook his head, amazed at the reality that had so recently been no more than a dream. He had made all the promises he had waited so long to make, and in the end all it had cost him was a moment or two of embarrassment as he bared his heart to his friends. He still had his job, his rank, and on top of that - although Hammond still refused to tell him exactly what the deal was - they had presidential endorsement of their union. What more could they want?
Pushing open the door, he stopped dead, breath taken by the sight of Daniel, siting naked and cross-legged in the middle of the bed, looking so incredibly beautiful that Jack wondered again what he had ever done to deserve this man in his life. He had taken the ring from his finger and was peering at the inscription: as Jack walked in he looked up and smiled.
"'My eternity is yours'," he quoted. "Does that mean your eternity belongs to me, or that we share the same eternity?"
"Both. Marriage vows are only 'till death do us part' - I wanted this to mean more than that. I don't ever want to be without you, Danny, even when I'm old and cold and in my grave."
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment and his chest heaved in a sigh of contentment. "I don't deserve you," he whispered.
"No - you deserve much more than I can ever give you."
But Daniel was shaking his head, rolling onto his knees to slip his arms around Jack's still clothed shoulders. "All I ever wanted," he whispered, "was for someone to love me the way you do. Don't ever stop loving me, Jack."
"I don't think I ever could, even if I wanted to."
They held each other a moment longer, before Jack felt curious hands move between them, working at the buttons on his shirt. Laughing, he sat back, allowing Daniel to finish the task and pull the shirt from him.
"Is that a hint?" he teased, standing and kicking off his shoes.
"A hint... an invitation...," Daniel shrugged. "I just want you naked and over here, so I can finish what we started earlier. This is our wedding night, after all."
"So it is," Jack agreed, as he folded his pants over the back of a chair and bent to strip off his socks. Slanting a look at his lover, he asked softly "You as scared as I am?"
"Scared? Jack - I'm terrified!" he laughed.
Curious, Jack paused, frowning. "Why? What's different to yesterday?"
"We are." reaching out, Daniel took hold of his hand and brought it to his lips, kissing the gold band. "This makes the difference. Yesterday we could walk away if it went wrong, but that's all changed now. We made the promises - very publicly, I may add - now we have to make this work, not just for tonight but for always."
Sliding into bed beside him, Jack gathered him into his arms. "Think we can do it? Can we really have it all?"
"If we want it enough - and I know I do." He reached up, trailing his fingers over Jack's cheek. The friction of skin on skin sent the first tendrils of arousal skitting through Jack's veins and he leaned down, covering Daniel's mouth with his own, letting lips and tongue and hands convey what words could not.
"Take me, Jack," Daniel murmured, words losing themselves in Jack's mouth. "Make it good."
Jack shivered with desire and hunger and the overwhelming need of this man. "Always, for you baby" he vowed, kissing him again and rolling him onto his back. "Always for you..."