Daniel watches me as I gleefully unload the MALP of its goodies; I'm full of excitement and good humour as I explain various items to a smitten Loren. I'm good with kids. Daniel closes his eyes for a moment and looks like he's hoping that the world will stop spinning soon. I continue to prattle on to Loren but all the time I'm watching Daniel and listening. A light hand settles on his shoulder and he looks up blearily at Sam.
He manages a weak smile.
No, he really isn't all right. Everyone else is back to near normal now that they had returned through the wormhole from the mysterious and addictive light. We're all stuck here for the next three weeks as Sam gradually cuts down our dosage to the point where we can finally leave without fear of killing ourselves! Everyone is fine except Daniel. He was under the influence of the light for longer than any of us, and it could certainly be a factor but I don't think that's all it is. I think he's struggling with his feelings.
Dragging his attention back to the here and now, he pats the hand still resting on his arm and smiles again. "I'm just a little tired. I'll be fine after a good night's sleep."
I prove that there's nothing at all wrong with my hearing as I turn and beam at Daniel over my shoulder. "No problem there - Hammond has sent us some airbeds and some decent pillows. There are a couple of small rooms off the main corridor." As I talk, I attach the compressor pump to the first air bed and begin inflating it. "...Carter, you take the small one on the left and Danny and I will share the larger one. Be warned though, I think they were broom closets in a previous incarnation. No room to swing a cat in there."
No way am I letting him out of my sight even for a minute. I keep getting flash backs to the moment I staggered though the gate and dropped him to the floor. For an endless moment he lay there, unbreathing, unmoving. I felt all the pain and guilt rise up inside me and I cried like a child. I shook him and cried and raged like a madman until his eyes fluttered open and he took that first ragged breath. Until that moment, my heart had been frozen in ice. When he looked at me and smiled, the ice began to melt.
I drag myself back to the here-and-now, forcing a smile that I just don't feel. Loren watches in rapt fascination as the bed quickly fills out. I pop the seal closed and throw it to Carter.
"Here, you can get yourself settled while I finish unloading... "
"All due respect Sir, I think we should see to Daniel's comfort first. He looks a bit peaky"
Daniel manages to raise his head at that, but drops it back into his hands when the world tilts sickeningly around him. I get down on my haunches and take a good hard look at my friend. "You gonna hurl, Danny?"
"I'm fine. Just need to sleep now."
Loren has attached the compressor to the second airbed like he saw me doing and is feeling extraordinarily pleased with himself. He has sealed the bed closed and begun on another. I toss him a well done then glance up at the hovering Carter.
"Keep an eye on him Major." I nod in Daniel's direction then grabbing the two beds and a handful of pillows and bed linen, I head off in the direction of the bedchambers. I wasn't exaggerating about the closeness of the quarters. This tiny room had been designed to hold one occupant in a narrow cot against one wall. Probably a human body servant to one of the Gou'ald who used to frequent the pleasure palace.
Apart from the cot, there are no other items of furniture in the cramped little room. The cot itself is far too narrow to accommodate the airbed so I tip it up and push it against one wall. Once the two airbeds are on the floor, there's barely room to squeeze back out into the hallway. I retrieve the sleeping bags and pillows from where I dropped them and fling them at the airbeds. The sooner Danny is safely in here where I can keep an eye on him, the better.
Back at the Gate room, I head right over to him. Carter is helping Loren to set up another of the airbeds in his sleeping area. She turns on hearing my footsteps approach. "Sir, I've sent the MALP back through. General Hammond's orders are to rest and get some serious relaxation in. The area is secure."
I nod. Good old Carter. I know I can always rely on her to focus on her duty. "Cool - I don't think we need to take watches so why don't you get some shut eye?"
Carter nods and scoops up the last of the airbeds. "G'night sir."
Daniel waves his hand but doesn't raise head thing again. Loren's smile is as wide as the Cheshire cat's. He's clutching a recording of `The Lord of The Rings' which I requested for him and quite obviously can't wait to get started on listening to it. I nod and smile indulgently back. "Go on, just don't stay up all night, Okay"?
The gate room falls into silence and I stand up, fists balled on my hips, staring at the bent head in front of me. I'm dammed worried. Daniel should really be back to normal by now. If anything, he seems worse. Well that's better than unconscious certainly and way better than dead, but still far from his old self. I drop tiredly onto the steps beside him.
"Hey Danny? I have to tell you, you don't look so good. You want me to get Janet?"
Daniel lets his head roll from side to side in a gesture I assume is meant to mean 'no'. Taking a deep breath he slowly lifts his eyes and gazes blankly at me.
"Then she would be stuck here too. Jack... I want to ask you something."
Daniel looks a little puzzled at the softness and swiftness of my reply but lets it go for now. "Do we have any Tylenol here?"
Even as he speaks, I'm reaching for the pocket on my utility vest where I keep the painkillers. I pop two white pills out of their foil wrapper then place them into Daniels palm while I unscrew the cap of my canteen. Daniel swallows both pills and gratefully gulps down the water.
"Actually that was only my first question but I think I should probably lie down now."
I help him to stand. I hitch one shoulder under Daniel's armpit and we walk slowly into the corridor.
"Jack, back home at my apartment... on the er, the balcony. Did we..."
"Not tonight Daniel, Okay? We'll talk about it in the morning." I cut him off quickly. I'm not ready to talk about it yet, but I know that we'll have to do it soon. Call me a coward, but I only just admitted I loved him. I need to come to terms with that before we have 'the talk'.
He lets it drop, clearly too tired to argue. We stop at the entrance to the bedchamber and he frowns.
"It's tight Danny - but no worse than a two man pup tent. Here, let me help you."
Daniel gratefully sinks down onto the soft mattress and watches passively as I undo his bootlaces.
"Everything is so fuzzy Jack. I remember shouting at George, the next thing I can clearly remember was climbing over the railing of my balcony!"
So, he's not going to give this up after all. I pull one boot free and deftly follow it with the sock. I really don't want to dwell on the events that drove Daniel onto that balcony but he seems to have to get it off his chest, so I hold my tongue and let him talk.
"Are you kidding? I was rooted to the spot with fear. I didn't know what the hell to do."
"It was your voice. You just kept begging me to come back inside. Finally, it got through to me. I think you were the only person in the world who could have talked me down from there, Jack."
Daniel's second boot hits the floor, with his sock still inside it. I unzip the sleeping bag and roll my eyes towards the pillow. Obediently Daniel slides down inside and allows me to tuck him in like a child.
"Sleep, Danny. We'll talk about it tomorrow."
I wake quickly and am instantly alert. Someone is whimpering. I gently pull back the edge of the sleeping bag and try to make out Danny's face in the darkness.
"You can't... can't fix it. Don't even know what I'm talking about."
Damn it to hell, he's having a nightmare. These are the words Daniel said to me on his balcony. I was so scared, so sure that Danny was going to let go. I stood paralysed with fear and indecision, trying desperately to make Daniel understand that this wasn't the answer; that whatever was wrong, we could fix it.
Danny is thrashing wildly now, his head beaded with perspiration. He's muttering something that I can't make out. I grab his shoulders and haul him to a sitting position. "It's just a dream Danny - just a dream."
I continue to make soothing noises but Daniel is too disorientated to hear me. He tries to pull away from me, staring at me blankly. "You don't get it... You don't understand..."
I shake him roughly making his teeth rattle. "Dammit Daniel, it's me, its Jack. Snap out of it - that's an ORDER."
Suddenly, Daniel's eyes grow wide and luminous. "J... Jack?"
I pull Daniel roughly into my arms and hug him hard. "It's Okay buddy, you're Okay. That's right, take a deep breath. It was just a dream."
Daniel pulls back and stares at me with those huge blue eyes. "But it wasn't a dream, Jack. The light may have caused us all to surrender to our darkest fears, but those fears were real. All the things we keep hidden, sometimes even from ourselves, our darkness, our fantasies, our regrets, our deepest needs. I couldn't push them back down and they overwhelmed me."
My eyes cloud with sympathy and I begin gently rubbing Daniel's tense shoulders. "I know, I know. I was getting real pissy with Carter about her refusing to call me Sir! Like deep inside, I'm terrified of losing all this, the command you know? Losing the respect maybe, or just plain losing control. I guess we're all learning something about ourselves."
Daniel begins to relax beneath my fingers so I keep up the pressure, happy to do anything to bring him out of this. Daniel takes a deep breath and sighs it out. "We opened Pandora's Box and when everything flooded out, not even hope remained."
"Stop that Daniel - there's always hope. No matter how bad it gets, you have to remember that. You have to find a new way every day to survive."
I've had plenty practice surviving. Daniel has never had the guts to ask me what they did to me in Iraq. I know he's curious but the haunted look I get when someone mentions it obviously makes Daniel afraid that any answer he got might be more than he could handle.
But Daniel has seen more than his share of torment. I've tried to shield him from the worst of it, but even I can't protect him from his own feelings. Deep inside, the faces of every person he has been forced to kill tortures Daniel, and the faces of all those he has failed to save.
"I can't Jack, I can't keep doing this..."
I move my hands from Daniels shoulders to cup his face, forcing him to meet my eyes. "You're tired, you're hurting and you're still suffering from the after-effects of this whole place." I wave my hand vaguely towards the ceiling, then immediately bring it back to hold Daniels head up. "...Give it some time Danny. I promise, things will look better in the morning."
He swallows hard. "No they won't Jack. I tried to tell you but you just don't see. You don't see me. When you look at me, you see Doctor Daniel Jackson, friend, colleague, team-mate and pain in the ass. Do you know what I see when I look at you?"
I know what Daniel sees when he looks at me. If I'm honest, I've known for a very long time how he feels, and I should have told him, but it would have meant the end of 'us'. All the things that combine to make me the man I am make it impossible for me to be with Daniel like that, but just as impossible for me to let him go.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I can admit, in the privacy of my own head, that what I feel for Daniel goes way deeper than friendship, I've only just given it a name; it's love, pure and simple. I've filled the gaping hole in my chest after the loss of my son, with Daniel. He means the world to me and I will do just about anythig to keep him in my world. But what he really needs from me, I'm not sure I can give him.
I don't know what to do, or say to make things right between us.
I'm not surprised that Daniel thinks I don't really see him. I come across as overprotective, I know it must be stifling, but I gave too much freedom to my son and look what happened. There are times when I'm so scared of loosing Daniel that I simply refuse to trust him enough to make the right choices on his own.
And I still need more time to process all of this. I can't tell him that I have feelings for him too, becuase I'm terrified of where those feelings are leading. So I give him half an answer, and not the answer he would like to hear."
"I guess you see an arrogant, self centred, egotistical tyrant who won't let you off the leash! Daniel, god knows you've changed these last few years; you're not a weak link in the team chain anymore. You're as good a soldier as any other at SGC and you've learned to see the bigger picture better than most. I know you need me to give you space. I'll try; I really promise I'll try. It's just that every time I let go of someone, they have a habit of getting killed. I need to look after my kids, Danny."
"I'm not a kid Jack, and you're not my father."
Now Daniel leans forward and takes my face gently between trembling hands. I look into the fathomless blue eyes and see sadness so deep and so profound that it nearly takes my breath away. In that moment I know for sure that I care for Daniel far more than I could have imagined. More than a friend, more than a son, more than a brother. My throat goes dry, but I don't pull away as Daniel's face inches closer to mine.
"I don't see a father when I look at you Jack. I don't see my commanding officer; I don't even see my friend. I only see the man I..."
Carter's voice echoing from the Gate room has us both jerking apart guiltily. Always the soldier, I leap to my feet and throw open the door, not even stopping to retrieve my boots. Carter meets me halfway along the corridor.
"Sir I thought you might want to know - I think I've come up with a way of speeding up our detox. We could be out of here in a week."
I glare at my watch and run a hand through my unruly hair. "For cryin' out loud Carter, I thought I told you to get come rest."
"Couldn't sleep sir. Thought it best to keep busy."
I scowl at her through knotted eyebrows "Okay - this is an order. Go to bed; go to sleep! Oh and well done by the way. Daniel's snoring would have driven me insane if I had to listen to it for a whole three weeks."
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
Carter hurries off down the corridor and I watch until she disappears from view. I hesitate in the doorway, suddenly uncertain and desperately scared of returning to the bedchamber. Carter interrupted at just the right time, or the wrong time depending on your perspective. At the moment I'm confused as to which one I want to be my perspective.
He was going to kiss me again. And I wasn't going to stop him.
I'm not stupid. I know that I'm teetering on the edge of some pretty life changing revelations about myself, and I'm fucking scared to death.
Daniel is lying on his back with one arm flung across his face when I quietly push open the door. He doesn't say anything and I almost let out a sigh of relief. If Daniel is asleep, we can pretend this conversation never happened. Denial looks pretty tempting to me right now. I quickly close the door, discard my heavy jacket and slip under the covers. In the darkness, I listen to Daniel's even breathing and decide that he was right - some things are best left unsaid.
Which is pretty much the moment the shit hits the fan. Because Daniel has clearly decided that he's not prepared to wait until morning to 'discuss' this. He rolls towards me and pins me to the mattress.
Although I've managed to grab both of his shoulders through reflex alone, I'm not able to brace myself in time and with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile, Daniel's lips find and lock onto mine. Then he moves against me and the shock sends a bolt of electricity right through my body. Every muscle clenches and the breath freezes in my lungs as Daniel's hips grind hard against mine.
"Mmmf. Danny - no!"
I mumble tightly, more than a little shocked that the wave of panic I had felt rising a moment before has been replaced by something far more terrifying. Okay I admit I love him, and I can't bear to live without him, but am I really ready for this?
Daniel claws the sleeping bag aside and buries his face into my throat, right at the sensitive juncture where it meets my shoulder and licks a trail of fire up my neck. I gasp and dig my fingers deeper into the muscles of Daniel's shoulders, trying vainly to put some distance between us. God, but that felt good!
No, no! Get a grip O'Neill, Stop this right now!
Daniel's hand slips down to the waistband of my BDU's and deftly pops the stud open. I make an attempt to grab Daniel's hand but his fingers have already slipped beneath the material. My whole body arches clean off the bed as long gentle fingers slide slowly down the length of me.
As my butt hits the mattress again, I force my eyes open. Okay - this has gone Way, Way WAY too far! Now Daniel is graphically aware of how turned on the Colonel is. No fucking way am I going to be able to talk my way out of this one. I can't get a word out past the panting breaths I'm currently sucking in, but in a last ditch effort, I twist free and shoot to my feet, knees almost buckling in protest, legs tangling in the sleeping bag. Daniel launches up from the mattress with a feral snarl which only makes my knees go weaker.
I'm staggering backwards but Daniel's momentum throws me hard against the wall. Then his sleek, well-muscled body slams into mine. His hands are everywhere and I begin to lose it.
I canlt fight this. Not sure I want to fight it.
Daniel presses his lower torso hard into mine showing me that I'm not the only person turned on here. I groan and let my head fall back against the wall. Daniel's mouth closes over that oh so sensitive spot at the base of my neck and bites.
My BDU's, unbuttoned and unzipped, are hanging perilously low on my hips, Daniel's grinding action forcing them into a battle with gravity they are destined to lose. I didn't bother with underwear when I was getting dressed earlier; I was a little preoccupied with Daniel's state of mind. The friction of Air Force issue against my dick is driving me insane here. Dimly, I am aware that I've begun to run my hands up Daniel's back under his shirt and that this seems to be making him groan. No scratch that - he's groaning because my hips are now rocking achingly in time to his own movements.
I desperately need a time out.
I'm having sex with Daniel.
If I think it quickly enough, it sounds almost natural. I'm having sex with Daniel.
And it's good. More than that, it's great. Okay, Okay, it's absolutely fucking amazing and I haven't felt this alive for years. Maybe I am ready for this stuff after all. The hot, burning gut wrenching desire currently arcing through my body like a lightning strike feels the same with Daniel as it would with a woman. It's just the plumbing that's slight... different.
My mind has gone into meltdown and I'm thinking with my dick. It has the better blood supply after all.
Daniel slides his hands down to my waistband again and grabs my hips, rocking even harder, throwing his head back and groaning from the depths of his soul. My head is spinning! Due in no short part to all the hyperventilating I'm doing. But I have to stop this somehow. I need time to think. Daniel deserves my respect and right now he's only getting my desire. I don't do causal sex and I know he doesn't either. This cant happen. Not like this.
"Danny - back off - that's an order!"
He leaps back like a scalded cat, hurt and confusion obvious in those wide innocent eyes. I can't afford to show weakness now. I'm balanced on a knife-edge as it is. Hauling my pants up and fastening the button again I growl, "you don't know what you're doing Daniel."
"I'm showing you how I feel about you," he keens.
"NO! This isn't right! I don't get what's going on here but I sure as hell don't want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a complete Bastard!" It's partly true. I do think this place is having an effect. But mostly I need to stop this becuase I'm scared.
Daniel turns away and hangs his head. It tears me to pieces thinking this is my fault, that what I've said could be causing Daniel so much pain but I desperately want to do the right thing here. Part of me, a big part, wants to take Danny in my arms and kiss the shit out of him, but part of me runs screaming from that visual. I take a halting step towards Daniel, my resolve crumbling as I watch the broad shoulders shudder under the weight of what is happening between us.
"I love you Jack."
It's almost a whisper. Time stops. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears and am aware of my heart pounding in my chest. He said it out loud. That makes it real.
For a long, long moment, neither of us moves. Then Daniel turns, his arms wrapped tightly around himself for comfort. He smiles sadly and knowingly at me. "You once asked me what you had done to hurt me. You assumed that the reason I pushed you away was because of something you had done."
I'd kept my word. I'd never brought up the subject again. I knew that one day Danny would tell me but I never dreamed it would be under these circumstances!
"You did nothing wrong Jack," he tells me solemly. "What happened was that I had an epiphany. You see - when I drank the blood of Sokar I realised how I felt about you. I knew that it was really Apophis asking me where the Tok'ra base was, but I could only see you. I would have given you anything you asked for and he knew that. He used it against me. It was a weakness and he exploited it."
His voice cracks and for a moment I think he won't go on but I hold back the empty words on consolation. He has more that he needs to say.
"I tried to ignore it, Jack, I really did. I thought if I put some distance between us, I could get past it. All those months we spent orbiting around each other, me pushing you away. You never knowing why. Then you made that stupid meal for me and bought me expensive wine and I realised I couldn't stay away. I missed you too much. I thought I could handle it so I've spent the last seven months trying to get back some of the closeness we once shared. But it keeps going away..."
Now the words he said to me on his balcony were beginning to make sense.
"It's my fault Jack. Every time I felt connected to you, I pulled back because I was afraid you'd work it out! You said you could fix it, but how could you? You had no idea what was wrong. You couldn't see how much I needed you, how much I loved you. When I say I can't do this anymore, I mean I can't do 'us'. Not as friends - I need so much more, and I know you can't give me that. Despite the way your body reacted, you're still straight, and you're still career military. I've always known that. It's probably why I tried to keep it hidden. My secret. My guilty secret. "
I swear I hear his heart break. I see the anguish and hurt on his face, know that I've put it there and shake with helplessness. We have shared a connection from the very beginning. I let Daniel in and in return, Daniel helped me get through some tough times. We've been together in everything, in every sense but the physical and I suspect that if one of us had been another sex, that barrier would have been crossed long ago.
Maybe it's time to start thinking outside the box!
The meal with Daniel seven months ago was a turning point. Things had already begun to surface. The strange tension between us should have been the first clue. It didnt even occur to me at the time it could be sexual tension. I knew things could never be the same between us and I've been running away. Running from the emotions that I just couldn't understand until now. He thinks the fact that I'm straight and in the military are barriers too high to climb? My career and my heterosexuality are not worth hurting Daniel for. I see that clearly now.
I don't care about anything else, just him.
I reach out and take Daniel into the circle of my arms. He goes without protest. All the fight gone from him now. He looks bleak and defeated. I tighten my hold for a second then tilt Daniel's face up to meet my lips. This time I want to show Daniel that I'm both willing and ready to meet the challenge.
At first he merely stands impassive and lets me brush his lips tenderly, but as the pressure begins to increase, his head angles slightly then suddenly his lips part and I feel my tongue slip inside. Daniel's arms slip up around my shoulders, one hand burrowing into my hair.
He goes a little weak at the knees and I brace my legs to hold us both up. Daniel is gasping, and writhing in my arms now, making balancing difficult. I use a foot to take Daniels legs out from under him and we both go sprawling down onto the matresses. Daniel lands on his back with me on top of him still kissing him like there were no other options. Right now, I don't think there are.
I lift my head and watch Daniel's flushed face through smoky eyes as I slowly slide my hand down to the waistband of his BDU's. My own reaction to this particular form of touching had been ballistic and I want to make Daniel feel the same way. It's difficult not to hurry this, the urgency twisting in the pit of my stomach growing too difficult to ignore. Daniel is straining towards me, digging his heels deep into the mattress for purchase and panting with desire.
"Please Jack, please."
I shakily undo the button and zipper then abandon finesse and simply haul Daniels BDU's and underwear right off. I may be a novice to this, but I'm not scared anymore. It's Daniel. And I want him.
Daniel near naked is simply breathtaking. I kneel at his side and stare in awe. I've never seen him like this before. In the showers on base, sure, but there are unwritten rules about that stuff in all male institutions. Eyes above waist level where possible, look away after 2 seconds, no staring.
He lies quietly for a moment, not in the slightest bit embarrassed by the scrutiny, then he gets to his knees in front of me, careful not to let our bodies touch. He pulls off his t-shirt then helps me out of mine. Then he reaches down and undoes my fly without breaking eye contact. It's the most erotic thing I've ever experienced and I feel desire rip through me like a flood as Daniel gently slips the soft material down my legs.
"What the hell do you see in me?" I ask in wonder.
"I see the man I love." He finishes the sentance that Carter interupted earlier.
I move first. It's important for Daniel to see that I want this too, that I'm not just reacting to, or worse still, humouring Daniel. I reach out to grasp Daniels slender hips and pull him closer until our straining erections are trapped between us. It feels like nothing I have ever experienced before and it leaves me weak and desperate and so close to losing it completely that I bury my mouth in Daniels arched throat and sob out his name.
He moves against me and words tumble out of him in between ragged laboured breaths as I gently ease him back onto the mattress.
As my weight settles on Daniel, I know neither of us will last much longer but it doesn't matter. We have the rest of our lives to take it slow.Right now, we both have to let the passion take us. I begin to rock into Daniel's frantic rhythm and am rewarded with a needy little moan as Daniel digs his fingers into my ass, then he's panting,
"Don't stop, Jack....
Daniel's head snaps back and he lifts us both off the mattress with the power of the orgasm that shakes his body. I feel the tremors building within me and a moment later I am pounding Daniel almost into the floor! "Jesus! Daniel!" I press the words into his skin.
We crest the wave and cling to each other as pleasure ripples through us, breathing harsh and laboured. I roll onto my side bringing Daniel with me, wrapped tightly in my arms. I hold him close until his breathing settles and he falls into a light sleep.
I lie in the silent darkness, with the stupidest grin planted on my face. Finally, my life makes sense and for the first time in many years, I'm at peace.
This is what it's all been heading towards.
Me and Daniel.
I could kick myself for not seeing it sooner. I was closed minded and it's cost us years.
"Love you Danny" I admit, softly.
One day soon I will tell him that when he's conscious enough to reciprocate.
Right now, Daniel's soft snore is all the answer I need.