Truth Factor

by Sandi

"For heaven's sakes, Jonathan, sit down before you wear a hole in the rug!"

Jack paused in his agitated pacing, smiling as he heard his mother's words running round inside his head, his eyes drifting to the photograph on the mantel. "Sorry, Mom," he sighed, scrubbing a hand across his newly cropped hair. Pacing: it was a bad habit, one he'd gotten into as a child. Whenever he was angry or upset, or when things didn't work out the way he wanted them to, he'd pace, back and forth, back and forth, driving his folks crazy from the constant motion or the thud-thud-thud of his footsteps overhead. Too much energy, his mother said. His dad blamed too much junk food and caffeine.

Today he was angry and upset, and nothing was going the way he planned. So he paced, kitchen to lounge, lounge to den, den to bedroom, bedroom to kitchen.

Dammit, Daniel! Where the hell are you?

Three days. Three goddamn days since he'd woken up in his quarters at Cheyenne Mountain to find the place beside him, the hollow where Daniel had slept, empty. It hadn't bothered him at first. Daniel had clearly been concerned about being caught spending the night in the colonel's quarters - even though all they had done was sleep - and had probably slipped away to his own room when no one was about. Except when Jack went in search of him, Daniel's room was empty and his bag was gone, and when he checked with the guard he was told Dr Jackson had left half an hour before. Gone. No word, no explanation, not even an apology, just - gone.

Three days.

When Hammond had given them some much-needed R&R they - the four members of SG-1 - had agreed to meet at Jack's house for dinner the night before they were due back on duty. The meal was scheduled for tonight and although Sam had rung to confirm she would be there and would be bringing Teal'c with her, she had no idea where Daniel was. He had hoped the scientist would call, but it was past five o'clock and there had been nothing. Nada. Zilch.

"You're doing it again, son," his subconscious warned him in his mother's voice. Throwing the photograph a sour look, he stalked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, deciding that he would be best occupied in starting the dinner preparations. Anything to take his mind off his missing friend.

But the thoughts of Daniel refused to relinquish their hold on him. He worried, he wondered, he fretted, awake or asleep, and all the time there was an ugly black lump in the pit of his stomach telling him he had made the biggest mistake of his life. He had opened himself up to Daniel in a way he had never done before - not even his ex-wife knew those darkest, deepest corners of his life - he had lain his soul bare, and now he was paying the price. If Daniel had wanted him, as much as he had hinted he wanted him, would he really have kept away for so long? No, either he'd scared the man off by being too intense, or he had gone because there were parts of Jack's past he simply could not accept, namely his relationship with Charlie Kawalsky.

He pounded the steaks to a bloody mess, taking out his anger on the helpless meat. {{Never figured you as a hypocrite, Colonel.}} Daniel's words floated back to him again, as they had over and over in the last few days. Yeah? he pondered, So what does that make you, Daniel? I never told you about Kawalsky, you never told me about - who? Who was the date who talked you into that - that thing you wear?

Emotions diametrically opposed came at him from every side: excitement and anger, fear and anticipation, need and curiosity, and the desperate urge to run and hide. He wanted it all, yet at the same time he was afraid of what the consequences would be. Daniel was not Charlie Kawalsky and Jack had the feeling that, unlike Kawalsky, Daniel wouldn't settle for the occasional, uncomplicated roll in the hay. The Daniel he had confronted in the shower room had a darker side to him, a thread of mystery kept carefully hidden from the rest of the world. But was the fact that he had allowed Jack a glimpse of that side of his nature a sign that he trusted the colonel, or was it merely the baited hook to lure him in?

And just what the heck did the younger man see in him anyway? He was old, he was tired, and his hair was turning grey - hardly a good catch. If Daniel was into kink, he'd never be able to keep up - or keep it up.

Ah hell, why me, huh? With all the guys on base, why did he have to pick me? The tenderiser struck down hard towards another defenceless piece of meat, slipped sideways at the last moment, and crushed Jack's finger instead. Jack yelled as the pain flashed through his hand and up his arm, and the wooden mallet spun forcefully across the room, landing in the furthest corner of the kitchen… just as the doorbell rang. Grabbing a towel he wound it around his hand and tried not to speculate on whether that was his blood or the residue of the meat as he headed for the door.

He expected to see Sam and Teal'c on the porch, but instead he found himself staring into the smiling eyes of one Dr Daniel Ballard Jackson, multiple 'ologist' and all round pain in the butt.

"Hey Jack!" he greeted airily, walking past the colonel and on into the hall.

Jack stared after him, one eyebrow raised above an incredulous brown eye. "That's it?" he queried. "You go missing for three days, and all you can say is 'Hey Jack'?"

Daniel balanced on the balls of his feet and frowned from behind his lenses. "I'm sorry?" he said, and Jack felt his anger slipping away. This was the Daniel he knew, the guy who was never quite up there with the rest of the world.

"Where the hell have you been, Daniel?" he demanded, the words no longer angry but carried on a sigh that was as much relief as fatigue. Daniel blinked at him.

"Been? Ah - I don't..."

Jack let out a groan of frustration and kicked the door closed, wincing as it slammed into place in the frame with a deafening crash. "I woke up and you were gone. I've spent the last three days trying to find you. Why the hell didn't you at least leave a note? I've been worried sick!"

Daniel glanced shyly at him, tilting his head back to look at him through the glasses which were, as always, resting on the end of his nose. "Really?" he asked, sounding inordinately pleased with that admission. Then he shrugged and turned to walk into the dining room, saying airily "I was in Chicago."


"Don't you remember?" Setting the bottles of wine he was carrying carefully onto the table, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his linen pants. "I told you on the way to the debriefing."

"No you did not," Jack countered, hearing the trace of doubt blossom in his own voice as the memory started to assert itself. Daniel hadn't told him - had he? Ah hell...

Shaking his head in amusement now, Daniel insisted "Yes, Jack. I told you I was heading up to see a friend I knew from college. Another linguist."

As if on cue the memory spooled itself through Jack's mind, replaying the conversation word for word: Daniel was hitching a ride on an early transport from the airstrip and would be back Thursday afternoon, in time to have dinner with the rest of the team, as arranged. If Jack needed to reach him he could do so through the college. Daniel hadn't been missing at all and, what was more important to Jack at that moment, he hadn't run out on him as he had started to believe.

"Ah… Oops?" he pulled a contrite face and shrugged awkwardly, making Daniel smile.

"Yeah, I guess 'Oops' about covers it," Daniel laughed indulgently, retrieving the bottles and heading into the kitchen. "You know, Jack, you're really gonna have to do something about that memory of yours."

"Oh thanks." Jack followed him into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, clearing space on the crowded shelf for the bottle of Chardonnay. "White and red?" he queried, accepting the second bottle and setting it on the counter.

"I wasn't sure what we were having." The blue gaze slid past Jack, coming to rest on the bloody mass on the chopping block. "That looks - ah - interesting..." His eyes travelled on, locating the tenderiser which still lay where Jack had thrown it, and although he said nothing, Jack knew he had made the connection.

He sighed. "Okay, so maybe I got a bit - carried away... At least it won't be tough." he scooped the meat onto a plate and returned it to the refrigerator, yelping as he caught his damaged finger against the edge of the shelf.

"What's wrong?" Daniel leaned over his shoulder to peer at Jack's abused hand, wrinkling his nose at the sight of the deep welts caused by the mallet's spiked surface. "Looks painful."

"Oh ya think?" spat Jack, turning on the faucet and holding his hand beneath the flow of cold water. "I think it needs stitching."

Daniel spluttered a laugh. "Sure Jack... Do you still keep your first aid stuff in the bathroom?" he asked. Jack gave him a 'how did you know that?' look, then recalled the few occasions in the past when Daniel had stayed at the house.

"Top shelf on the right. There's some peroxide there, too... Raw meat?" he added at his companion's enquiring look. "I'll probably get some infection and then - "

Shaking his head in amusement as he made his way up the hall to the bathroom, Daniel was back in a minute or two, peroxide, cotton wool and Band-Aids in hand. "Hold still," he ordered as he set to work, bending low over Jack's hand, his face creased in concentration as he bathed, dried and dressed the wound.

"You've been taking lessons from Janet," Jack teased, trying not to notice how gentle and considerate Daniel's touch had become, his left hand palm to palm with Jack's to support it as he worked, his thumb making tiny soothing motions against Jack's wrist, turning even the cleaning of the wound into something akin to a caress. Now and then Daniel would jerk his head to flip the long fringe from his eyes and Jack, needing to respond to him in some way, to atone for his earlier outburst, reached to comb the silky strands out of the way with his undamaged fingers and tuck them behind the perfectly formed ear. "I'm sorry I got mad," he murmured.

Daniel glanced up, clearly surprised by the apology. "Forget it, I'm as much to blame. I should have woken you before I left."

"Why didn't you?"

"You - looked like you needed to sleep," was the hesitant, not-quite-true response as he straightened up, his task complete. Jack let it go, accepting the excuse for what it was.

"Yeah, I did," he said, flexing his fingers. "Thanks - on both counts." They looked at each other for a moment, neither quite sure what to say, then Jack grinned and pulled open the refrigerator door again.

"You want a drink?" he offered, brandishing a bottle of beer. Daniel nodded. "So, how was Chicago?" he asked, watching as the younger man hooked a chair from beneath the table and straddled it, and trying hard not to notice how the loose pants were suddenly pulled snug across the well-packed crotch, reminding himself it didn't do well to acknowledge such things.

"Chicago? Oh - fine. I mean, not that I saw much of anything except between the hotel and Talli's room at the college..."

"Talli?" murmured Jack absently. Daniel had tipped back his head to take a swallow of the cool beer and Jack's insides were doing strange things as he contemplated the long arc of tanned throat presented to him. It was either the most blatant come-on Jack had ever been subjected to, or Daniel had no idea of the effect he was having. Knowing Daniel, it was probably the latter.

"Talisha? My linguist friend - Jack are you okay?"

"Hmmm? Oh - ah - yeah," Jack replied, jolting back to reality. To distract himself, before he did something he would assuredly later regret, he pulled out a dish of vegetables and set to work on them.

He had never been more aware of Daniel's eyes on him than he was at that moment, watching him from behind his glasses, his head tipped a little to one side as if he was trying to unravel some mystery. He loved that look on Daniel's face, an expression he had long ago dubbed 'innocent curiosity'. So often he would catch those eyes in just that expression as the scientist contemplated a cartouche, or tried to interpret a hieroglyph, or simply stared in awe at something he had read about but had once never expected to see with his own eyes. To Jack a five thousand years old stone tablet was just a lump of rock with lines etched on it, but Daniel greeted it like a child on Christmas morning opening the gift he had not dared to ask for outright. Jack frequently understood less than half of what his friend said, but that didn't mean he could not understand his love of what he did or appreciate what it was like to be the first to do or see something. Jack had once experienced that feeling himself as he had led the first recon team up the ramp and taken that all-important first step through the Stargate.

"So what's this 'Talisha' like?" he asked, needing to keep the conversation flowing, unaware of the biting inflection in his voice.

Daniel shrugged. "I suppose - a bit like Sam really. Intelligent, enthusiastic, dedicated - beautiful..."

Jack looked away. "Oh? " he prompted casually, tugging nervously at his eyebrow. "And you two were - ah - 'friends' in college..?"

"Yes... Is - that a problem?" Daniel frowned momentarily, then nodded, realisation dawning. "I slept with her once, Jack, fifteen years ago, but that was enough to tell us both it wasn't what we wanted. After that we became - really close. She's - like a sister, I guess." His gaze dropped to the bottle held loosely between his hands and he sighed. "Look, can we talk about something else? I've got other things on my mind right now."

Jack felt a chill of apprehension slide down his spine. This was it, the moment he had been dreading. Daniel was about to throw it all back in his face, claim it had been a mistake, a spur of the moment thing that he'd allowed himself to be drawn into because of his feelings of friendship for the colonel. Nothing more than that. He was sorry, but - hey, that's life. "Oh?" he said aloud. "Problems?" adding silently C'mon, Danny-boy, if you're gonna rip out my heart let's get it over with before the others get here.

"More like - questions..." Getting to his feet, Daniel stripped off his jacket and hung it over the back of the chair before joining Jack at the counter. "You need some help here?" he asked, indicating the bowl of salad.

Jack frowned at the sudden change of subject - or rather the avoidance of it - but was prepared to play along and see just where they were going. The last thing he wanted was a row, not when Sam and Teal'c were due at any moment. "Ah - sure. Grab a knife and - dive in."

Daniel picked up a tomato. "What exactly are we having?" he asked, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth.

"Steak... salad... baked potatoes..."

"I'm impressed."

Jack pulled a face, hating to be caught out in such a juvenile deception. "Don't be. Mrs Olsen - my neighbour? - was going to the market, so I asked her to bring me back whatever she thought looked good. I - ah - didn't want to leave the house in case - you rang." Before he had even finished speaking he felt the heat climb into his face. Why couldn't he have just lied about it, taken the credit for the meal, instead of letting on that he had been fretting about Daniel's disappearance? Why put them both through this embarrassment?

Except, Daniel didn't look very embarrassed at that moment, only a little - shy, as he ducked his head and chewed on his bottom lip in that endearing way of his, and when he murmured softly "Thank you", it was all Jack could do to hold off from hugging him on the spot.

"For what?"

A shrug. "Caring about me."

"Even if there was nothing for me to worry about?"

"That doesn't change anything. You cared, that's what counts." He gave a little fond smile as he picked up the knife and began slicing the tomato.

Both men grew quiet, lost in their own thoughts, the mood between them comfortable now, familiar. For Jack it was as if the last three days hadn't happened and he and Daniel were spending an ordinary evening together, just like all the others they had shared in the past - with one exception: three nights ago he and Daniel had fallen asleep in each other's arms, and that changed everything, for although they had done nothing more than sleep, the desire had been there, the need. Out of the blue it was a whole new ball game. Just knowing that Daniel wanted him, in the same way he wanted Daniel, had added a new perspective to his life.

Jack had always regarded himself as basically straight, his experiences with Kawalsky no more than horsing around. It had only ever been sex between them, plain and simple, he had never consciously desired the man. Sure, they had shared some great times between the sheets, but it had always been spontaneous, never planned or actively sought out and never something he thought about beyond the actual moment of their coupling. He enjoyed it at the time, but as soon as they went their separate ways the memory was quick to fade.

Those few hours with Daniel, however, had been constantly on his mind in the last three days and he had found himself unable to stop thinking about being curled against him in the narrow bunk, or the way Daniel had kissed his hand and held it close to his heart as they slept, or the clean fresh scent of his hair and skin that seemed to fill Jack's senses for hours afterwards. Got it bad, Jack he acknowledged, smiling to himself when he realised that he wouldn't have it any other way now. Daniel had gotten under his skin as easily as any Goa'uld, and would be just as difficult to remove.

"Damn!" Daniel sniffed loudly and dropped the knife.

Jack looked up sharply, then grinned at him. "Onions, huh?"

Sniff. "Yeah. Damn!" He set down the knife and pushed up his glasses to rub away the tears with the back of his hand.

"Hey, don't do that!" Jack warned. "You'll only make it worse." Wiping his hands on a towel he crossed the kitchen quickly, picking up a napkin as he went to Daniel's aid. Carefully he removed the spectacles, laying them on the work top. "Now, let's take a look.."

The blue eyes were rimmed and netted with red, swimming in crystalline tears that only seemed to increase the more Daniel tried to blink them away. Jack leaned past him and dipped the wadded napkin into the bowl of ice water. "Y'know, this is gonna be a great conversation opener when the others get here," he teased. "They're gonna wonder what I've been doing - " A sudden wave of heat filled his face and he stumbled over the rest of the thought, too uncomfortably aware of the innuendo. "Close your eyes," he said, clearing this throat and reaching for some semblance of calm. Refolding the cloth, he lay it carefully over Daniel's face, pressing lightly into the eye sockets.

He could feel the warmth of Daniel's skin beneath his hand and his thumbs itched to brush the lips that were so close, lips that were smooth and pink and slightly parted to assist his breathing, his nose being clogged with tears, the tip of his tongue resting against the even white teeth. Damn, but the man was beautiful! It had been his very first thought, way back on day one at Cheyenne Mountain: no man had the right to be that beautiful. The impact of it had been unnerving, but as he had walked away, feigning calm, he had known that from that moment on whatever Daniel Jackson wanted he would get. Two weeks later, when Daniel had put himself forward for the recon mission, Jack had told General West that it was his call, all the time pleading with whatever Fates might be watching that the general would say 'yes'.

Jack found himself recalling again what had happened back at the base, about their confrontation in the shower but, more importantly, about what had passed between them in his quarters, the way Daniel had held him as he mourned all those he had lost, no awkward questions, no condemnation, just a quiet acceptance of the past in all its forms, as if in his eyes Jack could do no wrong. What was it about Daniel that made it so easy for him to open up?

Looking down into the half-hidden face, Jack felt closer to Daniel than ever before, and not only in terms of physical desire. Daniel cared, perhaps more than anyone had cared about him before, and if he was willing to give so much, was it fair to deny him? Maybe it was time to forget about rules and protocol, and whether his feelings were right or wrong - all the things that had prevented him from ever allowing his relationship with Kawalsky to become serious. Maybe it was time to accept that with Daniel it could be different. With Daniel there could be a chance.

He lifted the cloth away and, with trembling hands, brushed aside the fringe of damp tawny hair, letting his fingers rest for a moment against the flushed skin. "Any better?" he asked.

Daniel sniffed, blinking his eyes open, and for a moment or two Jack was treated to the comical sight of those sapphire orbs doing a gymnastic sequence in their sockets, circling, rolling up and down and from side to side as Daniel tried to clear his vision. A laugh bubbled on Jack's lips and he ruffled Daniel's hair. It was an easy, friendly gesture, as spontaneous the laughter had been, and yet the spark was suddenly there, static crackling between them as their gazes met and held.

Jack couldn't stop himself. Reaching out slowly, he framed Daniel's face between his hands, thumbs tilting the chin up just enough so that he could lean down and touch their lips together. In the instant before contact he paused, silently asking permission, only to feel a warm melting sweetness ripple through him as Daniel's own hands lifted, guiding him the rest of the way.

Kissing Daniel was like nothing he had ever done before. In a single moment his whole self was invaded by everything that Daniel was, the richness of it, the subtlety, the joy that seemed to radiate from him. Nothing was denied or held back, Daniel gave all that he was, and Jack could do nothing less than offer the same. Daniel's mouth was a treasure house of sensation guarded by softly yielding lips and strong, even teeth. Jack breached both easily to coil his tongue around its new mate, sliding and sucking, encouraging it into his own mouth, giving like for like, touch for touch... taste for taste - And oh, the taste! So unlike anything he had ever known before. Sara had always tasted of toothpaste while Kawalsky had had a passion for chilli, the hotter the better, the taste and smell of which would linger for days after, souring his breath. It was one of the reasons why Jack had always avoided kissing him on the mouth, claiming that the residue of day-old chilli was not noted for its properties as an aphrodisiac. But Daniel's mouth was something else entirely. It tasted of... candy bars and... fresh beer and.. stolen tomato slices: an odd combination, but not unpleasant, sharp yet sweet, a fresh, clean taste that reminded him of - summer picnics.

And when at last their mouths parted, their bodies flowed together. Seated on a stool, Daniel spread his legs, guiding Jack to stand between them, close enough so that he could lay his head against the colonel's stomach. Jack held him there, arms around him, petting the overlong hair that seemed to draw his touch like a magnet. He felt - overwhelmed by the emotions running through him and at the same time - intimidated by them, this whole thing way outside the realms of his experience. He wondered how he had ever succeeded in fighting this need and, more important, how he had ever dared risk losing this man by blinding himself to Daniel's feelings and locking his own away behind a wall of duty and honour. Duty and honour to what, exactly? God and Country? Well God hadn't exactly returned the favour, taking everyone Jack had ever cared about away from him, and he figured he had done enough for his country over the years to warrant a little something for himself now, before it was too late and the rest of his life passed him by.

When he felt Daniel move against him he slackened his arms and allowed the younger man to ease away, holding each other at arms length now, reluctant to let go completely and break the delicate mood.

"Wow!" Daniel said, running the tip of his tongue across his own lips. "That was - uh - kind of unexpected," he said, brows arching.

Jack laughed as he fought to catch his breath. "Yeah, I guess it was. Do you - mind?"

"No. Should I?" Head tipping to one side, Daniel looked up at him, the hint of a frown creasing his forehead.

Jack shrugged. Reality was starting to intrude once more, and all at once he found himself unsure and Daniel's calm acceptance unnerving. Kissing Daniel might be an incredible turn-on, but it was way out of character for him. Bottom line - in Jack O'Neill's world men did not kiss other men. Kawalski's chilli breath had really only been a convenient excuse to get him out of a situation he was unable to relate to, and finding that not only had he enjoyed Daniel's kiss but that he actually wanted more, had dealt a heavy blow to his equilibrium.

"I don't know..." he murmured. "I don't exactly - make a habit out of it. Kissing guys, I mean."

Daniel nodded solemnly. "So why did you?" he asked, curious to the last.

Good question, Jack, why did you? "I guess it just - felt like the right thing to do at that moment. I - didn't hear you objecting." Great! he thought How the hell is the guy supposed to object when you're ramming your tongue down his throat?

He knew it had been the wrong thing to say - the old maxim 'if it feels good, do it' not something he figured Daniel would know much about - and was ready for it when Daniel extricated himself from his grasp. The scientist ran his hands through his hair to straighten it and reached for his glasses, slipping them on, almost as if they might form a shield between himself and Jack.

"Yes... Well, like you said, Jack, it felt right for the moment. Don't let's make a big deal out of it, okay?" and with that he picked up the knife and resumed his assault on the onions.

Jack watched him, his mind in turmoil, knowing he was only making things worse but at a loss as to how he could put things right. He could feel Daniel slipping away again, just as he had in the shower, could sense the barriers going up again. A kiss like that could not be ignored, yet Daniel had brushed the whole incident aside with nothing more than a passing appreciation of Jack's technique. In fact, Jack wasn't sure that he hadn't just been insulted!

"If that's what you want," he responded flatly, and caught another off-key look from those piercing eyes.

"Why?" Daniel asked, dropping his gaze. "Did you want it to be something more?"

Yes! Jacks treacherous mind screamed, but already he was shaking his head. This was getting too complicated and he was rapidly finding himself out of his depth. He had to get back to the basics, keep it simple, like it had been with Kawalsky, fuck and be fucked, with no emotional ties, no commitment. It was safer that way. Kawalsky had understood - or so he had let Jack believe - and Daniel would just have to learn. "No." he muttered, turning quickly away before Daniel could read the lie in his eyes.

Leaving Daniel to finish the salad, he went to set the table. Nothing of this was working out the way he had planned, but he knew he only had himself to blame for that. Where Daniel Jackson was concerned, Jack wanted everything, yet at the same time he knew that having everything went against the personal code he had learned at the feet of his first male lover, the code which said sex between men was just that - sex. Men didn't kiss, men didn't show tenderness towards each other, men didn't call each other by endearments or indulge in things like foreplay with other men. It was just get in there and get it over with, achieve the maximum amount of physical pleasure with the minimum amount of personal involvement and never, ever allow yourself to fall in love. Charlie had made it easy to stick to the code, Jack had assumed because he felt the same way, but was it maybe because that was the only way he could be sure of keeping Jack coming back for more?

Not for the first time since his death, Jack wondered how things might have been if Kawalsky had confessed his feelings earlier. He liked to think that he would have had the strength to accept it in an adult manner, even if he could not respond in kind, yet somehow he knew he would have run - as far and as fast as he could.

But then, of course, he had never been in love with Charlie Kawalsky...

Looking up from the table he glanced at Daniel, and at once felt that little thumpthump sensation he had come to associate with the scientists presence. What if Daniel was to confess to loving him, how would he deal with that? How would he respond to having his heart's desire suddenly placed within his grasp? Not that it would ever happen. 'No big deal' Daniel had said, and that was enough to warn Jack that whatever developed between them it would never go beyond the physical.

Friendship and nothing more. He sighed inwardly and went back to arranging the cutlery. Like all other disappointments in his life, he supposed he would learn to live with it.



Daniel scooped up the last of the onions and dropped them into the bowl of ice water, taking the opportunity to glance across at Jack's averted profile. He could feel himself shaking - hardly surprising after the surge of adrenaline caused by... Oh god - that kiss!

Jack had kissed him. It hadn't been a joke or even a 'spur of the moment' peck on the cheek, it had been a lover's kiss, full-blooded, rich with desire and promise, a kiss that had seemed to be searching for a way to reach his soul. No one had ever kissed him like that before and for a moment he had really believed Jack wanted him, the way he wanted Jack.

Gods, how he wanted Jack! Had done since the first time he saw him. Love at first sight, even though he knew the man saw him as just another geek with a head full of theories and not an ounce of real knowledge. Daniel had taken great delight in proving him wrong on that count! And then on Abydos... The spark had been there, right from the start - Jack had to know that, had to have felt it... Didn't he? And when they all went home, and Daniel stayed behind, because not to do so would put Sha're in danger, and what had she done to deserve that? On the steps of the Stargate, saying goodbye to Jack, {{Are you gonna be alright?}} and the warmth in his eyes, and the smile, and Daniel couldn't help but respond {{I'm gonna be alright... How about you?}}, and seeing the truth in Jack's face, and hearing the lie. {{Yeah... Yeah, I think so...}}

He reached for a dish of mushrooms and began wiping them carefully. A year on Abydos was like eighteen months on Earth, and in all that time there wasn't a day when he hadn't thought about Jack. Sha're, bless her, had known and understood. The love between men had long been accepted on her world and Daniel's feelings for 'Oh-Neel' had been seen as noble and honest, not a thing of shame. They had thought him brave indeed to have given up the man he loved to stay with Sha're, and Kasuf had openly honoured the selflessness of his decision. But it was not a choice he had made lightly. He loved Jack, but he had known just as surely that he was walking a one-way street. Jack was military, married, very much a 'man's man'. He might offer friendship, and Daniel would accept it, he might even agree to a physical relationship, but there would never be anything more. At least, that was how it had seemed to him all those months ago on Abydos, and so he had stayed, and made a life for himself with his beautiful Sha're, and dreamed the kind of dreams that only come true in fairy tales.

A smile touched his lips as he remembered the day the gate had been activated and a box of tissues had come flying through, knowing at once that it had to be Jack's way of saying hello. He remembered too the mingled feelings of anticipation and dread, wanting to see Jack again yet at the same time afraid that the reality would instead destroy the dreams and leave him nothing. It had hurt him to see the way Jack had aged in their time apart, the grey in his hair, the lines of sorrow around his mouth and eyes, and he'd known then that Jack's life had fallen apart. It should have been a joyous reunion, would have been if the Goa'uld hadn't returned and taken Sha're and Skarra. He would never forget the pain in Jack's face as he realised the boy had gone. Love of another kind, and perhaps the only real love Jack would ever allow, that of a father for a son. In the end it was that - the mutual loss of loved ones - that had brought them together, forged the bond, and in the months that followed Daniel had learned new ways in which to convey his feelings for the older man, until his desire for a more physical relationship had been pushed into the background. There it had stayed, and he would have been content to let it remain so. Okay, so he was in love with Jack and knew that, given the right circumstances, he could make them both happy, but until that night at the base he had never even dared to hope, even though he knew about Jack and Kawalsky. Even though he had stopped by the infirmary the night before the operation and heard what Jack had said to his dying friend...

"Well, I guess we've done all we can till the others arrive." Jack's smile was false, his dark brown eyes devoid of it and refusing to meet Daniel's gaze. He looked - lost, as if everything he had thought he was sure of, he suddenly wasn't sure of at all. Does that include me? Daniel wondered. Dropping the last of the mushrooms onto the plate, he wiped his hands and headed for the door, collecting two more beers as he went. Maybe it was time to find out.

"C'mon..." he said, leading the way out onto the deck.

There was an old wicker chair there and a lounger with plaid pillows, and he could easily picture Jack, at the end of a long, busy day, stretched out there to enjoy the sunset. Daniel settled himself on the chair, his long legs stretched towards the rail, leaving the lounger for his host.

"What are we doing out here?" Jack asked, leaning a shoulder against the wall, his posture too defensive for Daniel's liking. He didn't want to fight. There were other things - better things - that he and Jack could do together, if only the colonel would let him in.

"Cooling off... chilling out... Trying to get back to where we were three nights ago..." He took a pull on his beer then lay back, looking up at Jack through slitted eyes. "What's wrong, Jack?"

"Wrong?" He hitched his right shoulder and stared out across the garden. "Who says there's something wrong?"

"I do." The questions that had been plaguing Daniel for the past three days were chasing each other around in his head, each of them wanting to be the first on his lips. Talk to him, Talisha had said, tell him how you feel. He wished it was that easy - as easy as it had been with Rick. Ah Rick! You always said I give my heart away too quickly... And you always told me I'd get myself hurt one day. Well, maybe I will... but I know I have to give this a chance, whatever the consequences.

He let his feet drop to the floor and hunched forward, leaving Jack with only the back of his head to respond to. "What's going on, Jack? I thought maybe we had the start of something here. Was I wrong?"

"I don't know - were you?" Jack's voice was hollow in the evening stillness, too flat and unemotional to be the voice of a man in love. Daniel gripped the bottle tighter. He couldn't have read it that wrong...

"Don't play games with me, Jack," he warned, the hint of a threat in his voice. A threat that said he would rather leave now than let Jack make a fool of him. "If you don't want this, say so now," and then, with complete candour, added "I admit I'd like to have sex with you, but our friendship is more important."

For a long time Jack said nothing, then his foot scraped on the dusty boards of the deck as he stepped over the lounger and sat down, facing Daniel but still not looking at him. He took a sip of his beer and cleared his throat, then very softly said "I was kinda hoping we could... have both?"

In that first instant Daniel had the overwhelming desire to jump up and run round the house yelling 'Yes, yes yes!' - but instead he only turned his head sideways, smiling softly as he watched Jack's hands pick nervously at the label on the bottle. "Really?"

"Yeah." Abruptly, he set the bottle on the floor and clasped his hands together, looking up into Daniel's face, hope lacing the pain in his own. Daniel seized on it.

"So - why did you back off just now?"

Jack shook his head. "Dunno. Scared, I guess."

"Not of me?"

"No." A broad, rich, smile that warmed Daniel to his soul. "I could never be scared of you, Daniel. By you, sometimes, for you, often... but never of you. No - I'm scared of me, of what I do to the people around me. I destroy people, Daniel. Sara, Kawalsky - even my own son. I want this - yeah, crazy huh?" he grinned, catching the surprise reflected in Daniel's face. Then he grew serious again. "But I'm scared that I'll end up destroying you, too. I couldn't live with that."

A cool breeze swirled around the deck, setting a hanging plant swaying above their heads and raising goose bumps on Daniel's skin - or was that the unquestionable sentiment behind Jack's simple statement? He had wanted honesty and he knew, beyond doubt, that was what he'd got, and the implications of it were, in their own sweet way, terrifying. "You can only hurt me if you lie to me about us, Jack," he said, reaching out to cover Jack's hands with his own. "I want you, you already know that, but I give you my word I'll never ask for what you can't give."

"And... if all I want is to stay being friends?" Jack asked.

Daniel swallowed hard around the constricting fear in his throat. "Then... that's what I'll be." A loving - friend...

The brown eyes bored into him, reading him, and he sat very still, allowing the intense scrutiny as he waited for Jack to decide. Friends... he could do it. It wouldn't be easy, not now, but he could do it - for Jack. He could - and would - do anything for Jack.

Slowly, Jack turned his hands over, fitting them palm to palm with Daniel's, their grasp strong and warm. "When we were getting ready to leave Abydos, and I saw the way those kids looked up to you, it kinda - got to me. I realised then you weren't the same guy I'd left behind there... or maybe you were, and I just - read the signs wrong. I do that once in a while." His mouth tweaked in a shy, self-effacing grin before he continued. "But I can see now what drew them to you. You're a hell of a guy, Daniel Jackson - you know that?" He tugged on Daniel's hands, bringing them to his lips, still holding his gaze as he kissed each knuckle in turn, sending shivers of delight and joy up and down the scientist's spine. "It's not gonna be easy, y'know - ask my wife. I'm selfish and stubborn and I spend half my life on a short fuse - " he cautioned, making Daniel laugh.

"I - ah - I kinda figured that already, Jack," he replied "but I always did like a challenge."

That raised the greying brows and won him another 'ya think?' look. "Challenge, huh? You better be careful what you wish for, Danny-boy."

The pressure on Daniel's hands increased and he found himself pulled gently out of the chair and onto his knees at Jack's feet, his elbows resting on the strong thighs to keep his balance. Was he mistaken, or were Jack's hands trembling as they pushed through his hair, framing his face, tilting his head once more as he lowered his mouth to Daniel's lips. The kiss was less passionate than the first, yet infinitely more tender as Jack's tongue made a hesitant exploration of Daniel's mouth, inviting rather than demanding, offering instead of imposing. Daniel allowed him to set the pace, knowing that time was short and that anything more would have to wait until another time. But for now this was enough, a beginning. A foundation upon which they could build.

The distant scrunch of gravel from in front of the house announced the imminent arrival of the rest of the team. Daniel sighed, kissing them apart as he sat back on his heels and looked up into Jack's stunned, rugged face. There were some that might question the quality of his looks, but to Daniel he was the most beautiful man in the world.

"Guess that means you gotta go play the congenial host," he said, his expression making it clear he was less than happy with the interruption.

Jack nodded. "Guess I do - unless we pretend we're not here." He reached for Daniel again, but a car door slammed and they heard Sam Carter's voice calling Jack's name. "Or not," he murmured.

Reluctantly, Daniel pushed himself to his feet and reached down to haul Jack up beside him. The colonel went more easily than he had anticipated, and without warning Daniel found his arms filled with the increasingly familiar warmth of the man who had just agreed - in a very roundabout way - to become his lover. His lover... One day maybe you'll even let me say it, he mused wistfully, hooking his arm around Jack's neck and hauling him into a kiss that was nothing short of blistering.

'Be careful what you wish for' Jack had cautioned... He didn't know the half of it.


"Colonel, that was great" enthused Sam, dabbing at her lips with a napkin. "I never realised you were such a terrific cook." There was a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth and Jack was puzzled as to its reason, until he saw her sidelong glance at Daniel and the penny, as they say, dropped.

"Did you tell her to say that?" he asked of Jackson, who met the question with a wide-eyed innocence that was clearly feigned.

"Who, me?"

"Sweet," he muttered. "Remind me to do the same for you sometime."

Daniel caught his bottom lip between his teeth as he smiled, an endearing gesture that was guaranteed to melt Jack down to his socks. "Oh, I will, Jack. I will..."he vowed, reaching for his wine.

Despite Jack's eleventh hour concerns as he had spread the steak on the grill, the meal had been a success. There had been a lot of laughter, a lot of warm affection and Jack had been pleased at the way things were coming together. They already had a good working relationship, a good solid team who could depend on each other and trust in each other's instincts, but now they were coming together as friends, a close bond forming between them that he knew would give them an edge in the field. The ability to laugh together was a must because that also meant they would be able to cry together when the need arose, and shout and yell, and give comfort to each other. They had been a team from the start, now they were becoming a family. He liked that.

Dinner over, the dishes cleared away, they carried their conversation - and the remainder of the wine - into the living room. Daniel finally began to talk about his visit to Chicago and the work Talisha was doing with ancient Egyptian dialects, and somewhere along the line he and Sam got into another of their lengthy 'scientist-type' discussions which could often become quite heated but always ended with an amicable truce. Jack sprawled in his favourite chair and half-listened to them, half listened to what Teal'c was saying about Jaffa training techniques and how they might be adapted for use within the SGC, all the time his eyes never leaving Daniel's face, watching the multitude of expressions dance across the fine features. It was all very laid back, very cosy, and Jack realised he had not felt this relaxed, this depth of contentment, for a long, long time.

It was well after eleven when Daniel excused himself from the conversation and headed off towards the bathroom. Jack, his eyes growing heavy with the lateness of the hour and the wine he had consumed, watched him go, admiring the way he moved, the flex of muscles as he climbed the short flight of steps, the graceful stride out of sight and without realising it he puffed out his cheeks and blew an appreciative sigh. That view was good, but he could still remember how Daniel had looked in the shower, skin gleaming with water, muscles defined by the trails of suds as they slid down his body, the rain of crystal droplets that fell from his nipples and the tip of his cock. And that little gold stud...

He shifted in the chair, his cock responding to the memory. Never, not in a million years, would he have imagined Daniel going for something like that and the fact that he had threw up a whole new crop of interesting possibilities. What other secrets was the archaeologist hiding?

"Colonel?" Sam's voice cut across his thoughts. "Are you okay?"

He rolled his head across the cushions to look at her and grinned drowsily. "I'm fine, Sam, just - fine. Never better, in fact."

Despite the warmth of his words - or maybe because of it - she frowned and looked pointedly at the empty wine glass in his hand. "Um - no criticism, sir, but... we do have an early start tomorrow."

He laughed, "I'm not drunk, Sam, I'm just - happy. Have you ever been really, really - at peace, like nothing in the world could ever wipe the smile off your face?"

"A few times, yes," she confessed, her concern slipping away, "at special times in my life."

"Feels good, huh?" he coaxed, and she nodded, smiling now.

"Yes, sir, it does."

He could tell by her expression that she was confused by his mood, but he had no intention of enlightening her further. One day, perhaps, if it worked out, they would take her and Teal'c into their confidence, but for now let her just reap the benefits of his good humour.

Daniel appeared at the top step once more and Jack, feeling his pulse quicken, wondered if there would ever come a day when Daniel's presence would not effect him in such an extreme way. "Find everything you need?" he asked, just for something to say.

"Thanks," Daniel murmured, shifting from one foot to the other and waving a distracted hand towards the door. "Ah - listen Jack it's - getting late. I'm gonna - head home."

The words slammed into Jack like blasts from a zat gun and he felt the cosy bubble of contentment around him shatter into millions of tiny shards of glass, each piercing his heart. Daniel was leaving? But surely, after what had happened earlier - the things they'd said, the kisses they'd shared - surely after all that, Daniel was going to stay the night..?

"Ah - I thought..." He scrabbled around for the right thing to say to keep Daniel there, but words evaded him. After all, what could he say that would not alert Sam? He could hardly argue the point or protest his going without giving everything away, even if he could persuade Daniel to come into the kitchen to talk, which he doubted. They would still sense that something was going on, and wonder, and the way his luck was heading they would work it out for themselves. He had to let Daniel go, whether he liked it or not - and he most certainly did not like it.

"Okay. Sure. If that's what you want..." he said, the final word dripping venom. "Running out on me huh?" he said, and it sounded more like the accusation it was than the teasing it would once have been.

"Something like that." He dragged his gaze away from Jack's, shuffling his feet awkwardly and scratching at his cheek, all familiar signs of embarrassment. "I - ah - I've still got some things I need to - er - take care of, before we - gate out tomorrow."

Yeah, thought Jack, and I thought I was one of them. How could Daniel do this to him, giving with one hand and snatching it away with the other? Was this how their relationship was going to be from now on, a string of fruitless encounters, of promises unfulfilled?

"Guess I'll see you in the morning then," he said, all of a sudden the fight going out of him as he realised that with the others watching he was in a hopeless situation. "Briefing at oh-six-thirty."

Daniel looked at him, through him, neither his eyes nor his face giving anything away. "I'll be there," he said, turning for the door. "Thanks for dinner," he said, and this time he did manage a smile. "Next one's on me."

Leaden legs hoisted Jack from the chair and carried him laboriously across the room. He tried to school his face into an expression of nonchalance but he knew it missed the mark by a mile and instead left him looking cold and distant. "I'll see you out," he said, but Daniel waved the offer aside.

"No, that's okay. You stay and talk to Sam some more, I can see myself out."

So, he was not even to be allowed a goodnight kiss. The pain was tangible, slicing through his chest, and despite himself he released a sigh that sounded almost like a whimper of despair which, fortunately, was too low for the others to hear. "Sure," he said again, stuffing his hands into his pockets, his suddenly tired gaze falling to a worn spot on the rug. He didn't dare look at Daniel in case the other saw the misery in his eyes. One thing he would not do was allow Daniel to see how much his rejection hurt. "Guess I'll see you in the morning then."

"Bright and early," Daniel was smiling, his voice light, his manner so casual that for an instant Jack found himself fighting the urge to hit him. "Night Sam! Teal'c," he called, looking at them past Jack's bowed shoulder. They responded in kind.

"You sure you're okay to drive?" he asked, one last, desperate attempt to give him an excuse to stay. Daniel's voice was too bright, too frivolous as he called back "After two glasses of wine and a gallon of coffee? Don't worry about it, Jack, I'll be fine."

As the door closed behind him, Jack felt the bottom fall out of his world. If Daniel cared anything at all for him he would have read the veiled request and would have stayed, at least until the others had gone so that they could take their leave of each other in private. Guess I know where I stand now, he acknowledged, which is w-a-y down in his list of priorities.

"Colonel?" He heard Sam's voice but chose to ignore it. To hell with Daniel! At least Kawalsky had never played those tricks on him, wind him up and watch him make a fool of himself. "Sir?" She was there beside him, concern in her voice, her face. He braced himself to meet it, knowing she meant well.

"Sorry, Carter, I - " The words trailed away, taking his gaze back to the door. Daniel. Dammit! It doesn't have to be this way, not with you... But there wasn't much he could do about it now, and he wasn't about to lose face in front of the rest of the team, so he pulled himself up and found a smile from some hidden depths, and said "I didn't realise it was so late."

She frowned at him, assessing, trying to separate the truth from the lies. But Jack O'Neill was not an easy man to read, and after a moment or two she broke eye contact and looked instead at her watch. "Neither did I," she said with false brightness. "I think maybe it's time I took Teal'c home - if you're sure you'll be okay."

"Sure. I'll be just - peachy." Try as he did, he could not hide his bitterness. What had started out with such promise had fallen into dust at his feet at the moment of Daniel's abrupt departure, and now she was leaving too, and he would be left to face the night alone. Again.

He walked them to her car and watched her drive away, standing for a long time in the cooling night air, trying to come to terms with all that had happened. One thing was certain, his involvement with Daniel Jackson - whatever it turned out to be - was not going to be an easy ride and he realised with a sudden shock that at that particular moment in time he didn't much care if it ended right there, without another word on the subject. Daniel had hurt him, had held out the prize only to snatch it away the instant Jack reached to claim it. Well, whatever game he thought he was playing, Jack wasn't taking the bait.

It was well after midnight and he knew he should get some sleep, but somehow the thought of his bed, as empty and cold as ever, held no appeal. Instead he set about tidying the living room, throwing out bottles and washing glasses, and by the time he had finished there was nothing left to show that this evening had been any different to all the others he had spent in this house since returning from Abydos. Only he had changed. Three days ago he had believed it to be a change for the better; a few hours ago that feeling had been confirmed, but now - ?

"Dammit, Daniel, what are you trying to do to me?" he asked the empty room. "Whatever it is, I think you're succeeding."

Knowing that he could sit there all night and still not find an answer, he locked the doors and turned out the lights, heading down the hall to the bathroom. He relieved himself then turned on the faucet, filling the basin with cold water. The face staring back at him from the mirror looked even greyer than it had that morning, when he at least still had a reason to hope, and his eyes were dull and despairing. He felt old beyond his years and found himself wondering if maybe it wasn't time to quit once and for all. After all, he had done what they needed him to do, there were others who could take on the fight, younger, stronger men who had something to fight for. Maybe it was time to step back and let them take a shot.

Stooping, he scooped the water over his face, feeling it prick his skin like so many tiny needles, reminding him he was still alive. Alive, but not living, not in the true sense of the word. Maybe tomorrow, on the other side of the stargate, he could find a more permanent way out of the mess he'd gotten himself into..

Expendable, remember Daniel?

He flipped off the light and crossed the hall to his room, nudging the door open with his foot as he pulled off the dark blue sweatshirt. Emerging seconds later from the soft folds, he found himself face to face with a pair of sparkling blue eyes.


"Hey Jack.... I thought you were never coming to bed." Not only was he in Jack's room, he was also in Jack's bed, propped against the pillows, the sheet drawn no higher than his waist. That far, at least, he was naked.

Jack shook his head, as if by doing so he would dissipate the mirage, but when he opened his eyes again, Daniel was still there. "But... I saw you leave... I thought..."

Daniel sat forward, hugging his knees and peering at Jack from beneath his lashes. "I - ah - drove round the block. I'm parked a ways down the street."

"How'd you get in?"

"Through the window... " he jerked his head towards the open casement. "Opened it when I went to the bathroom just before I left."

Jack leaned heavily against the wall and wondered how much more of this he could take. "Why are you doing this?" he demanded, the softness of his voice making the question all the more threatening.

Daniel shrugged. "I thought we could pick up where we left off the other night."

"No. I mean - why are you playing games with me?" His voice raised up a notch, anger threading it. "You get off on seeing me squirm?"

"I'm not playing games, Jack," Daniel responded sweetly, the innocent look adding an untouched quality to him. "At least - not yet."

A shiver of anticipation picked its way down Jack's spine and drew the denim tight across his crotch at the blatant promise in Daniel's voice. After all, there were games and there were games.... "You let me think you were leaving," he protested, holding onto his anger like grim death in the stillness of the room.

"No - I let them think I was leaving. Well one of us had to make the first move! Or would you rather we sat there all night? " The smile faded abruptly from his face and he was suddenly serious. "I told you, I want this. You have to start trusting me, Jack."

"I trust - - " Jack began, then stopped, shrugging the lie aside. "Yeah, I guess I do." He sighed, scraping a hand through his hair, feeling out of his depth again, just as he had in the shower. "It's not easy for me, Daniel. You'll have to - be patient with me."

"Oh, I can do patient," Daniel told him, beaming. "After all, I've waited this long for you." His eyes were full of wildfire and Jack felt it searing away all the emptiness and longing that had surrounded him for months. And then , in a perfect reflection of three nights ago, Daniel held out his hand and said quietly "Come to bed, Jack. Please?"

How could he resist those big blue eyes, or the sweet smile, or the soft lips that promised so much and gave so much more? Still he hesitated, but this time it was from fear of his own inadequacy. Daniel was gay equalled Daniel was experienced with men: Jack was not. There had been Kawalsky, of course, and sex with him had been hot, hard and uncompromising, but as far as Jack was concerned that was all it had ever been: sex, physical gratification. And before Kawalsky? Sure, there had been men, but only in the most limited sense, a hand job here, a body rub there, stag games that meant nothing more than getting his rocks off in some hell-hole far away from civilisation, and which were forgotten at once. Daniel deserved more than that. Hell, if there was even the slightest chance that he could make this work, he had to take it, and that made every move, every decision important.

A flurry of movement ended his musings and he watched in fascination as Daniel threw back the sheet and rolled to his knees on the bed, reaching for Jack, at the same time giving him the answer to his earlier question. Buck naked... right down to his toenails. Ohhhhshitttt!

There's beautiful and there's beautiful, and time seemed to stand still around Jack as all the parameters of the word were redefined for him. He wanted Daniel. It wasn't sex, it wasn't lust - wasn't any of the things it had been with Kawalsky, and he knew then that just to hold Daniel in his arms and feel that incredible mouth open beneath his, would be enough.

His hand lifted to the silky hair, pushed through it, tipping Daniel's head back as he guided him closer, his own head dipping to meet the moist lips. They were already parting for him and he slipped his tongue into the warm, wet cavern, tasting him as he had never tasted anyone before, devouring him. He felt hard teeth, smooth gums, the ridged palate and the strong, sensual tongue that jousted with his own, and he felt all his resistance being drained from him. Resistance is futile - oh yeahh! he laughed through the kiss, and the vibration of his laughter only seemed to stimulate Daniel even more for he locked his arms around Jack's neck, hauling himself closer, and Jack clutched at him until between them they had almost succeeded in lifting Daniel off the bed -

- until a sharp gasp echoed through the kiss and Daniel snatched himself away, sitting back on his heels, his hands curled defensively over his groin.

"Daniel?" Concern replaced the need in Jack's eyes, was met with a watery and lopsided grimace.

"I - ah - caught myself on your- um - ow, that smarts! - buckle."

"What?" Jack's gaze dropped from Daniel's distressed face to the waist of his cotton pants and the offending buckle, and finally to the cupped hands soothing the now flaccid cock. "Oh shit!" he snarled, dropping to his knees. "Ah hell... You okay?"

"I think so." he replied, although he sounded less than convincing.

Taking hold of his wrists, Jack eased his hands away. "Let me see..." he said, oblivious to the duplicity in his words. Daniel leaned back, bracing himself into a sitting position with his outstretched arms. Jack knelt before him, peering at the abused flesh with a clinical detachment that he would have found astonishing, had he been consciously aware of it. Daniel, thankfully, did not appear to be injured but, that fact established, Jack made no attempt to move away. He had never seen a male organ this close before and he found it - intriguing. But even more interesting was the fact that, unlike himself, Daniel was uncircumcised. In its pain-softened condition, the crown shielded by the pale foreskin, it reminded Jack absurdly of a small, frightened animal seeking refuge in a burrow - an image further enhanced by the shy emergence of the pink tip as he absently stroked a finger gently along its length.

Oh fercryinoutloud! he thought, If that thing starts to purr I'm outta here!

But he stayed, gazing in mute amazement as the shaft began to lengthen once more under his hand, the loose fold of skin rolling back of its own accord with each inch. It was - different, to say the least. He had seen more than enough erections - his own and those belonging to other guys - but not like this, not so - intimately. Without him being aware of it, his head had lowered to rest on Daniel's thigh, his face inches from the swelling flesh as he ran his fingers dreamily back and forth along it, lost in the newness of the situation.

"Don't stop." He heard the hushed voice above him at the same moment that he felt Daniel's hand come to rest on the top of his head. He looked up -

- and caught his breath at the sight of Daniel, head thrown back, lips parted in a wordless, breathless cry of joy, the broad chest heaving with the effort to keep control in a battle that he was quickly losing. All this from one touch? And he was the cause? Mesmerised, he slipped his hand beneath the straining shaft and closed his thumb across the top, rubbing gently, watching Daniel's face for every flicker of reaction.

"Oh... God... Yeah..." The whisper forced it's way from Daniel's throat and he arched back, so far Jack thought his spine would snap.

Jack felt his own pulse start to race. He had never touched another man like this, not even Kawalsky. Grab, position and in, no finesse, no consideration for the other's enjoyment because that had always seemed too - soft. But maybe that was the whole point... Was there a part of him that wanted this intimacy with Daniel, a part that was more concerned with Daniel's pleasure than his own? He certainly had no desire to stop what he was doing, it felt - sweet heaven!! - far too good, the weight of the engorged cock in his hand, the warmth of it, the feel of the pulse beating along it's length... and the cries of pleasure his touch wrenched from its owner's lips, that filled Jack's ears and stole away the last of his sanity.

The fine trembling through his limbs had by now become a palsied shaking that he could barely control. He knew what he wanted to do, but the dominant part of him, the macho military man made him hold back, telling him that to do that would be going too far, giving too much, and so he lay his head down again, cushioned on the strong thigh, and continued the gentle exploration of Daniel's body, trying to come to terms with the strangeness of the emotions he was feeling.

"Jack?" Daniel's voice seemed to come to him from far away. "Jack?"


"It's okay... You don't have to."

And if I want to? he wondered, shocked at the thought and the wild images it created. His mouth... around Daniel's cock.... sucking him... making him come... He couldn't do it - shouldn't do it - but by god, he wanted to!

Without warning, Daniel surged upward, dislodging him. Sinking back onto his knees, Jack looked at the younger man, feeling the heat rise in his own face. If only he knew what Daniel wanted him to do, what he liked... what turned him on. If only he knew the right way to make love to him.

"What?" he asked, uncertain what he was asking.

Daniel hitched to the edge of the bed, dropping his legs over the side. "Come here," was all he said - all he needed to say as he held out his arms to gather Jack to him.

The kiss stole Jack's heart, stripped away all the hurt and loneliness, then gave it back to him, clean and whole again. It reached down into his soul and scoured it of all the misery, and when it was done, Jack felt - renewed. No - reborn. Whatever had gone before was unimportant now, this was where life began for him and he knew he must give himself over to Daniel and let him lead the way.

Plundering the sweet mouth, he felt confident fingers tug his belt free, open and unzip his pants. Warm hands slipped inside, cupping his ass, and he moaned as he felt the fingertips dance feather light along his cleft. Laughing at the sudden clenching of tight muscles, Daniel dragged his mouth away from Jack's long enough to whisper "You said if I touched you there again I'd have to fuck you. So - I'm touching."

"Yeah," Jack sighed, wishing that touch was firmer. "You are."

"So... Did you mean it?"

His mind provided the vivid image of himself beneath Daniel, the powerful thrusts of the younger man driving him through the bed, his own body streaked with sweat as they strained for release. Had he meant it? "Yeah," he said, no more than a murmur, then, with far more confidence than he was feeling at that moment, repeated "Yes, I meant it."

Daniel's smile grew radiant at the admission, but in the depths of his eyes Jack saw something more, something that he could only describe as - relief. That was - interesting...

The hands squeezed once more, hard, before sliding down, divesting him of the rest of his clothes. He stood and kicked them aside, some distant part of his brain acknowledging with amusement the fact that he felt no embarrassment at standing there, naked, while Daniel practically devoured him with his eyes. For some unaccountable reason, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be doing at that moment.

"Well?" He said at last, his voice teasing as an unbelievable lightness flowed through him. "Do I pass?"

Daniel at least had the grace to blush. "Ah - sorry, it's just... Sorry." But his hands were far from apologetic as they brushed across Jack's chest, gliding up to capture his head and pull him down into another searing kiss, using his own body weight to tip them backwards onto the bed. In one movement Jack found himself lying on top of Daniel, resting between the spread thighs, the two hard columns of flesh pressing into their bellies, yet he continued the kiss, driving his tongue deep into Daniel's mouth, all at once unable to get close enough to this amazing man. He would have been content to come like that, just rubbing himself against Daniel's hardness, but tonight was for more than just a speedy gratification of his baser urges. Tonight was for exploration and discovery.

Breaking the kiss, he eased himself onto one elbow and looked down, his heart dropping like a stone into the hot blue waters. He wanted to tell Daniel how beautiful he was, but he didn't have the words, or if he did they couldn't find their way past the barriers guarding his inner self. One day, perhaps, those barriers would come down, but it was too soon, and so he contented himself with simply gazing at Daniel in wonder and allowing his hands to begin their journey, marking Daniel as his.

"What do you like?" he heard himself ask, sweeping an errant strand of hair from Daniel's eyes. Daniel captured his hand and kissed it, drawing the index finger into his mouth and suckling on it, igniting a fire deep inside Jack that filled his cock to bursting.

"Most things. There's not much I haven't tried."

Jack felt his confidence slipping. His personal experiences might not seem very inventive, but he had a good idea of what 'most things' probably meant, taking into account the fact that Daniel was, first and foremost, an anthropologist and therefore given to exploring cultures and rituals from one end of the globe to the other. One end of the universe to the other now, he corrected.

"Like what?"

"The really - weird stuff."

"You don't go in for kinky, then?" Despite himself, Jack grinned, relieved that he would not be required to perform any acrobatics to get Daniel off. Somehow he just couldn't imagine Daniel Jackson naked, spread-eagled and tied to the bed post.

"No, I mean weird, Jack."

In Jack's opinion, kinky and weird were pretty much the same, but clearly there was a distinction in Daniel's world. "So," he said, gesturing to - but not touching - the gold stud piercing the left nipple "is that 'kinky' or 'weird'?"

"Neither," Daniel sniggered. "Well, I don't think so. " All at once he took Jack's hand and kissed it, then drew it to his centre, wrapping it around the formidable erection, and Jack discovered that looks really could be deceptive. He had never realised Daniel was so well- endowed. "Ready?" Daniel asked. Jack thought Ready for what?, but nodded anyway, figuring things couldn't get any stranger.

He was still thinking that when Daniel moved his own hand to take the gold stud between his fingers and give it a gentle twist.

"Whoa!" Daniel's cock gave a massive jolt and Jack snatched his hand back as if it had been stung. "Whatinthehellwasthat?"

Laughter, rich and vibrant, rolled from Daniel's throat as he lay back, staring innocently at the ceiling, the tip of his tongue caught teasingly between his teeth. "That" he said "is what this - " he pushed at the tiny adornment "is all about. It's like - when someone sucks it, only - ten times better. You feel it - everywhere."

"Everywhere?" Jack heard himself ask, realising he sounded completely dumb. How could something that small possible produce such - results?

"Everywhere," Daniel confirmed, licking his lips. "From here..." his fingertips touched the stud, "to here..." his hand snaked down across his abdomen, "to here..." nestled over his cock, stroking himself with light, teasing sweeps, "and here... " slid beneath the rigid shaft to squeeze gently at his sac.

Jack swallowed audibly, unable to drag his eyes away from the brazen display. He had imagined this, dreamed of Daniel naked, aroused, pleasuring himself, but he had never once believed that those dreams would ever become reality. The Daniel he saw every day, who worked and fought alongside him, was not like that... or was he? Hidden depths, Danny-boy?

"Daniel - " he whispered, breathless, wanting. This was just so - so -

"What's the matter, Jack?" Curiosity, teasing light, chasing the shadows away. "Am I pushing too many buttons?"

Jack pictured the shower room, the soap and the steam, and the sight of Daniel all glistening wet arousal. He remembered, too, the way Daniel had touched him, had asked that same question, a minute or two before it had all gone wrong. Well, he wasn't about to let that happen a second time. He shook his head slowly, feeling a surge of desire drive through him as he moved his hand to enclose the straining flesh once more, his mouth to draw the breath from Daniel's body. "You're pushing them all," he murmured against parting lips.

He felt the kiss reverberate through Daniel's body, felt him shudder and gasp and pull himself closer, spreading his legs in invitation - an invitation Jack found he could no longer refuse as his hand released its hold on Daniel's cock and slipped down to cup the heavy spheres in their soft sac. For a moment it was as if he was standing outside of himself, watching his body do the things he had only previously dreamed about in his darkest, most secret dreams. But this was no fantasy, this was real, he was... He was making love to Daniel.

"Jack?" Daniel's voice, whispering with concern, and the hand that lifted to stroke his face, brought him back to the moment. "Stay with me..." was all he said, and Jack nodded, understanding.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked, was answered by the lift of Daniel's brow as he reached beneath the pillow for items Jack knew were not his, and stared as the tube and the little square sachets were pressed into his palm.

"I always saw you as a top man, Jack," Daniel smiled, his meaning obvious.

Jack's heartbeat became so erratic in those few moments that he fully expected it to stop. Daniel - was offering himself. "Why?" was all he could think to ask. Daniel looked away, the tips of his ears turning an endearing shade of pink in the lamplight, and suddenly Jack knew that he was just as uncertain about this as he was himself.

"Because I know it's been a long time for you," he murmured hesitantly, "and because... I - ah - I want to - to feel you - inside me. Sorry. If you - if you want to do it - the other way round - ".

"No, this is - ah - this is - " His nerve broke then and he rolled onto his back, arm flung across his eyes. "Ah hell, Daniel - I don't know what I'm doing here." Then, realising how that must have sounded, he corrected himself quickly. "I mean I don't know how to.... Damn!"

"It's okay, Jack," Daniel said sweetly, "I understand."

"No, you don't - and that's the problem. I never made love to a man, Daniel. Me and Kawalsky, we'd have a few drinks and we'd start fooling around, and sometimes it'd get a little rough and - " He closed his eyes, trying to blot out the memories, but the darkness only made things worse. He sighed and forced himself to meet the enquiring gaze, knowing the truth would probably be as hard for Daniel to hear as it was for him to admit. "And - whoever ended up on the bottom was - the one who -"

"- got fucked?" the soft voice finished for him. "You're right, I didn't understand. Was that how you wanted it?"

Jack considered a moment, remembering what Daniel had said about learning to trust. Maybe this was where it truly began. "Yes," he said quietly, "With him...Then..." A tentative hand reached to touch Daniel's lips, to trace the downward tilt of their outline before travelling on to curve around his cheek. "But not now," he whispered. "I'll be honest with you, Daniel, this scares the crap outta me... but I want it. I want you - so damn much it hurts."

His confession complete, he fell silent, waiting for the sky to fall in on him. It didn't, of course, and after a moment he looked up, to find Daniel watching him, an expression that went far beyond the mundane description of a smile transforming his face. "Then maybe it's time we stopped the pain," he murmured, leaning forward to kiss Jack's lips lightly. He picked up the lubricant again, turning the tube over and over in his hand. "I suppose you've never - ah - I mean - What do I mean?" He shook his head, his breathing short and rapid. "This is crazy. I feel like - like this is my first time..."

Jack could hear the confusion in his voice, sense the uncertainty as the man beside him became once more the sometimes nervous, sometimes insecure scientist who seemed to stumble his way through life in the most annoying, endearing way. They were both out of their depth here, so what better time to help each other safely back to shore.

"It is," he said calmly, "with me. We can do this, Daniel."

"We can?"

"Sure. Piece 'a cake." Taking the tube he flipped it open, squeezing a generous amount of the gel onto his fingers. "You want to turn over?"

"I'd rather watch you." Daniel's voice had fallen to a whisper, no longer of fear but of - expectation. "You sure you don't want me to take care of this?"

His insides liquefying as he contemplated what he was about to do, Jack nevertheless shrugged the question aside. "Nah, I got it covered. Just - Just tell me if I hurt you, okay?"

It felt strange to touch another body in ways he had only previously touched his own. Strange but, he realised as he teased his fingers into the warm cleft, not unpleasant. Daniel had snuggled in close and was laying a trail of moist, gentle kisses along Jack's collarbone and the soft skin of his neck, and the sensation quickly captured all but Jack's peripheral attention, left him hardly aware of exactly what he was about to do until the tip of his finger brushed across the tiny pucker of flesh and Daniel whimpered in obvious delight, thrusting uncontrollably against him. Fascinated by the response, Jack touched him again, harder this time, feeling the opening yield to the pressure.

I can do this, he told himself again. After all, he'd done it to himself, before Kawalsky fucked him, and this surely couldn't be that much different... Could it? Except this is Daniel, the man you've wanted since Abydos. Face it, Jack, that makes a hell of a lot of difference.

All at once Daniel's hand was there, against his cheek, leading him into another kiss. He lost himself in the sensations of mouth and tongue, the scent of warm musky skin and the unique flavour that was Daniel, and in losing himself he forgot to be concerned for what his hand was doing, forgot to worry that he had again broken one of his own taboos. Where Daniel was concerned he might as well throw away the rule book and start again. Hell, where Daniel was concerned he didn't need a rule book, period.

"I think we're just about ready here," Daniel whispered into his mouth, and Jack nodded and withdrew his fingers - all three of them. Whoa! Three? How the - ? he thought, then decided he didn't care about that either.

His hands were trembling as he picked up the little foil packet and tore it open. This was where it got serious p.d.q. and he felt like a teenager again, fumbling, unsure, embarrassed by his ineptitude, aware all the time of Daniel watching him, that sweet, non-judgemental smile on his lips. He looked so beautiful that it made Jack even more clumsy and he cursed as his nail ripped the thin sheath.

"Hey," Daniel's voice was soothing balm to his frayed nerves. "Let me..."

Breath hissed through Jack's clenched teeth as he felt Daniel's hand close around him - the first time that Daniel had attempted to touch him - and his hips jerked forward involuntarily, thrusting him into the warm palm. His lips twitching in delight at the effect, Daniel stroked him again... and again... making Jack's cock swell and lift, and the colonel slid willingly into the sensation, finding himself at last on familiar ground. This was the kind of thing he had done with Sara and he closed his eyes, trying to recapture those moments, reaching again for the feelings they had shared. Yet it was not his wife's face that formed in the darkness, and in that moment Jack knew that he could no longer ignore his feelings for Daniel.

The caress halted briefly and he groaned at the loss, groaned again when it returned to roll the condom into place and coat him with the cool gel, preparing him. Daniel's gaze was on him now, unwavering, as he settled back against the pillows, drawing his legs up, wide and waiting. Now or never, Jack thought, knowing 'never' was unacceptable. "Tell me if I hurt you," he repeated, kneeling between the tanned thighs, positioning - just so...

"You won't," Daniel promised with confidence.

There were no words to describe the sensation as he pressed forward into Daniel's body. He had done this before, countless times, yet never had it felt this good... this right... this - perfect, as if he and Daniel had been made for this, fitting together with machine precision. A moment of resistance sent his mind into a panic, but he barely had time to register the fact before Daniel let go a deep, satisfied sigh and opened his body to Jack's possession, lifting and wrapping his legs around Jack's waist to guide him home, locking their bodies together. So it began, that slow, rocking ascent, each thrust driving him deeper, forcing a rising cadence of fractured cries from his lover's lips, each undulation of muscles drawing him nearer and nearer to the precipice. Higher and higher, faster and faster, all conscious thought annihilated by pure sensation as he slid in and out of the hot, tight ass. Daniel was no virgin, but he was still tight, blissfully, wonderfully tight, milking Jack with each stroke and wringing every possible spark of pleasure from him..

Sweat gleamed on Jack's skin as he stepped up the pace, pooled in the hollows of his collar bones, ran glistening rivulets down his body, oiling his skin so much that Daniel was forced to wrap his legs even tighter in order to hold on, ride out the storm. The blue eyes were wide and wild in a face transformed by joy and desire, but Jack's eyes were focused, sharp as a hawk's as he fought to see, to know, to memorise each nanosecond, to catalogue and store it away for future reference. Never before had it mattered to him what his partner of the moment was experiencing, the sexual act was selfish and egocentric, arrogant to the last... but with Daniel his sole purpose was to give his lover everything that he wanted, and his reward was the look of unutterable joy on the younger man's face as, with a halting cry, he spilled his seed between them. It was the most beautiful thing Jack had ever seen and his throat and eyes filled with the acknowledgement that he had done this, he had brought Daniel this happiness.

"Jack..." Breathless sigh carried on air that shimmered with the force of their loving, rasping from a throat made hoarse from screaming out his need. "Oh, Jack..." he sighed, his hand lifting to brush the sweat and tears from Jack's face. The touch, no more than a fragile contact whispering over his skin, burned a trail from Jack's lips to his belly, coalesced there, releasing the fire now barely containable, and with a cry he arched back, one last pile-driving thrust pitching him over the edge, into darkness and heat and shuddering oblivion.

When at last he recovered the strength to open his eyes he found himself cradled gently in Daniel's arms, his head pillowed on the broad chest. He was hot and sticky and reeked of sex, and every muscle in his body felt as if Apophis himself had laid into him with the ribbon device, but he didn't care. Everything that mattered was here, in his arms and he felt... he felt...

"Dann - " He could hardly get the words out, his throat was so dry... "Danny?"

"Right here."

"You - okay?"

"Uh-huh... You?"

"Oh yeah!" he replied vehemently, and felt the body beneath him begin to shake as Daniel laughed. It was the most wonderful sound he had ever heard and somehow he found the strength to raise himself up so that he could see the expression on his lover's face. "That was..." He shook his head, unable to find words adequate enough to express what he was feeling at that moment.

"Quite something, huh?" Daniel grinned, holding Jack's face between his hands. "You're quite something, too, Jack O'Neill."

Jack felt the heat fill his face and he ducked his head, not wanting Daniel to see how the words affected him. Instead he pressed a kiss over the drumming heart and, as he did so, touched his mouth to the tiny nub with its gold adornment, tugging on it with his lips, making Daniel writhe once more..

"When are you gonna tell me about this?" he asked, heard Daniel sigh in response.

"One day. When it's not important anymore."

A frown creased Jack's brow. "I don't..."

"I'll tell you when you don't need to hear it," he said candidly.

Jack grimaced. "You mean when you're sure I trust you. Nah, it's okay," he said when he saw Daniel's face darken. "You're right. I don't want anything to get in the way of what we're building here. We'll have plenty of time to talk about the past." He saw the sudden change in the cerulean depths, the glimmer of disbelief, and it hurt him, deeply. "I mean it," he said, kissing Daniel's lips lightly.

Daniel glanced shyly away. "I thought maybe this was going to be a - one night thing."

"Then you thought wrong. This... is important, Daniel, more than anything has been in a long time. I'd be crazy to let it slip away."

Daniel ran his hand slowly the length of Jack's flank, down to his knees and back up again, making Jack's skin crinkle into goose flesh at the delicate touch. "For what it's worth," he whispered "it matters to me, too."

Jack nodded, knowing deep down that a part of him wanted more, but at the same time conscious that it was too soon, his wounds - and Daniel's - were still too raw, and the future held way too many uncertainties for both of them. For now, this was as much as he could ever hope for.

"Let's get cleaned up and get some sleep," he suggested, kissing them apart as he rolled out of bed. Daniel held back a moment more, something indefinable flashing across his face, then he nodded and held out his hand, allowing Jack to pull him to his feet.

"What happens tomorrow, at work?" he asked, his previous composure giving way to a familiar uncertainty.

Jack felt a sudden surge of protectiveness towards his lover, Daniel all at once seeming far younger than his thirty-two years. Jack reached for him, brushing the wayward hair from his eyes as he gathered him close, tilting his head to kiss the stubbled cheek. "We'll be okay. I don't intend putting this at risk, Daniel - even if I am gonna have a hard time keeping my hands off you." He leaned in closer, teasing his way into Daniel's mouth, accepting that he would never get tired of the taste of his new lover. If they could bottle it and market it as 'Essence of Daniel', they would make a fortune. "Come on," he urged, turning them towards the door. "Before we fall asleep where we stand."


Four o'clock.

The world was still cocooned in darkness as Daniel eased out of his lover's embrace and reached for his clothes, treading lightly on the balls of his feet as he carried the bundle into the living room to dress. He had dozed on and off, spooned against Jack's chest - just as they had that first night - yet true sleep had evaded him, his mind too full of images of their lovemaking, racing along in the fast lane of imagination to what the next time might hold.

He winced as he bent to pull on his underwear, muscles long unused protesting, yet bringing delicious reminders of everywhere Jack had touched him... and Jack had touched him everywhere.

The cotton pants had not taken so kindly to the abuse of being dropped on the floor and trampled, and now looked as if he had slept in them. He only hoped there would be time to stop off at his apartment to change because no way was he facing the kind of looks those pants would draw at the base. Sam for one would never let him live it down.

Shirtless, sockless, he wandered into the kitchen and set the kettle to boil. Coffee. Before he could start to think straight, he needed an injection of caffeine. And maybe - a slice of toast? he pondered, his stomach growling. Sex always gave him an appetite and great sex made him ravenous. This morning he was definitely ravenous. Two pieces of toast then...

Dropping the bread into the toaster, he returned to the living room to finish dressing. His shirt had fared no better than the pants, and by the time he had it on and buttoned he was feeling decidedly rumpled. Next time he'd better make a point of begging closet space, or at least finding out where Jack kept his iron.

Next time... The thought threaded warmly through his mind, filling him with contentment - now that he was sure there would be a next time. And a next... and a next... <You must take it one step at a time, Daniel>: Talisha's words as she bade him farewell at the airport. <If you rush him you will lose him. You must let him come to you.> Sound in theory but, where Jack was concerned, not necessarily so hot in practice. The man lived behind granite walls most of the time, doling out information about his personal life like drops of blood. Except for that one night, here, in this room, where together they had grieved for Sha're and Skaara, Charlie and Sara. That night had been the turning point, the acknowledgement of friendship, the forging of the bond that held them together: shared grief. There was a certain bitter irony to it.

The toaster 'pinged', calling him back to the more mundane necessities of life. The coffee was instant and the refrigerator yielded only low-fat spread in place of butter, but it was better than nothing. He was spreading the second slice when a pair of strong arms slid beneath his own and wrapped tightly around his chest, and a soft mouth suckled a kiss beneath his right ear. The knife hit the counter hard as he shivered from the unexpected contact, eyes closing as a wave of desire broke over him.

"Are you trying to scare me into an early grave?" he hissed, giggling, pushing back from the work top enough so that he could turn to face his lover. The sight that met his gaze took his breath away: Jack, standing stark naked in the middle of the kitchen, still warm from the bed they had shared, his hair all mussed up and his eyes still heavy with sleep. Oh Jack! How did I ever get myself hooked up to the most gorgeous man at the SGC? he mused.

"Trying to run out on me again?" he enquired, the slight catch at the corner of his mouth betraying him.

Daniel shrugged. "Sure, Jack, that's why I stopped to make breakfast. What are you doing up anyhow?"

"Needed to pee. When I woke up and found the bed empty..."

"You thought I'd gone," Daniel finished for him, but Jack shook his head.

"Decided to come looking before I jumped to conclusions. Well, isn't that what this trust thing is all about?" he added as Daniel tilted his head, not quite sure what to think.

"Ah - yeah... Yeah, I guess it - is. Do you always wander around the house in the nude?" he heard himself enquire.

Jack's reply was noncommittal. "At four-fifteen in the morning? I have been known to do so." His eyes slid from Daniel's uncombed hair down to his bare feet, assessing him. "What happened to you?"

"You did," Daniel replied succinctly, closing the space between them to wrap his arms around his lover's neck and claim the first kiss of the day. It was long and sensual now, the passion of last night banked a little by their lovemaking and Daniel decided that this was the way every day should begin.

"Coffee's getting cold," Jack murmured, his tongue charting a course along Daniel's jaw line, dipping into his ear.

"I like cold coffee," Daniel countered, taking his mouth again.

Breakfast was forgotten as slowly, gradually, the embers were re-ignited. He felt the nudge of Jack's unfettered erection against his thigh, the rasp of Jack's stubble against his cheek, and his own cock began to swell in response, straining inside its snug cotton cocoon.

"I have to go," he whispered, but the suggestion only made Jack hold him tighter, broad hands sliding down to squeeze Daniel's butt through the wrinkled pants.

"Wouldn't you rather come..." Jack's breath was hot against his ear now, his voice filed with seduction, and Daniel was forced to admit that it would not take much to make him do just that.

"You make me come in my pants, Colonel, and you pay the cleaning bill."

"Oh ya think?" Jack's voice was ragged now, and Daniel could already feel moist warmth leaving a damp patch on his pants leg. "I'm hearing a challenge here, Danny-boy."

This was the Jack he knew best, forceful, dynamic, wildfire captured in his arms as he was backed up against the counter and pinned there while Jack began a concentrated assault on his senses, working his body through the layers of cloth, hands cupping and squeezing, stroking and petting, pushing up beneath his shirt and raking his back, sliding down to rub him, taking him to the edge. The buttons of Daniel's shirt ricocheted off the cupboard doors with tiny pinging noises as eager hands ripped it open, and then Jack's mouth was on him, closing around the golden stud, twisting... tugging, sending jolt after jolt of sensation down into his groin to feed the fires of orgasm. He tried to fight it, but it was a battle he had no real interest in winning, and so he surrendered, plunging down into the well of Jack's lust, one harsh, barking cry splitting the dawn stillness as he bucked forward into his lover's hand and came, the force and suddenness of his explosion carrying Jack along with him, a second wave of liquid heat spilling between their close-pressed bodies.

Shuddering... laughing... gasping like beached fish, they clung to each other, mouth seeking mouth in gratitude and tasting there the bitter regret that the moment was over.

"I don't believe you did that," Daniel sniggered, pulling back to gaze into the sated brown depths.

"Takes two, babe," mumbled Jack, pulling him near again and burying his face in Daniel's neck. "Oh god... can you believe this?"


"Us, Daniel. Us." Triumph gleaming in his eyes, he reached to ruffle Daniel's hair. "I'd forgotten what it was like to be - " The sentence broke off abruptly with a self-conscious shake of his head and a rush of colour to his face, the ending lost in a groan as he tightened his arms around Daniel. Yet Daniel had heard enough to spark his curiosity.

'To be -' what, Jack? he wondered, unable to quell the hope that was as much responsible for his breathless state the incredible climax he had just experienced. Tell me you love me, he pleaded, Say it, Jack, just once. But there was only the denial of Jack's silence. "I have to go," he said aloud.

Jack frowned. "I guess it would look odd if we drove in together," he mused, the note of longing in his voice finding it's echo in Daniel's heart. If only they could...

"It'll look even odder if I turn up like this." Daniel gestured to the wet patches on his pants, dark against the light cotton. He supposed that under other circumstances someone inclined to poetry might make romantic allusions to the 'mingling of their life forces', but right then he just felt damp and sticky and ever so slightly embarrassed. Coming in his pants, like a damn teenager, was bad enough, but having Jack come all over him as well - how would he ever live it down? "Good thing it's early. With luck I'll be able to get into my building without being seen."

Jack followed his troubled gaze, finally realising just what they had done. "Not one of my better ideas, huh?"

Daniel took pity on him. "Good idea, bad timing. Don't worry about it." Slipping his hand beneath Jack's chin, he touched their lips together in a forgiving kiss. "But I really do have to go, Jack."

"Yeah, I know."

Daniel sensed it then, the reluctance to let him go which matched in force his own desire to stay. What's happening to us? he pondered, not daring to seek for an answer. It really was like being a teenager again, holding onto the phone, not wanting to be the first one to break the connection, content just to listen to the sound of each other's breathing. "Jack-" he called softly.

"I know, Daniel. It's just - Ah hell! - I don't want this to end."

The breath caught audibly in Daniel's throat and he felt himself begin to tremble as he took Jack's hand and smoothed it between his own. "It won't, if you don't want it to."

"What about you? What do you want?"

To love you, Daniel answered silently for the rest of my life. To love you and know you love me. "I want you to be okay with this and - I want you to be happy, Jack. I think you're long overdue."

Tears spiked the dark lashes, but Jack held them in check and instead brought their joined hands to his lips, kissing Daniel's fingers one by one. "I think we both are, Danny-boy," he smiled, for once a truly open, uncluttered smile. Then, letting his fingers mesh with Daniel's, he headed for the door. "C'mon, Dr. Jackson. Let's see if we can't find something to ease your embarrassment. Y'know, you should maybe have a talk with Dr Fraiser about this little - ah - ejaculation problem you have," he grinned.

As they played follow-the-leader through the dimly-lit house, the only sound to be heard was that of Daniel Jackson's jaw hitting the floor.


The End.