Harlan tugged his tie loose and sighed in relief for the second time that evening. "Not bad. At least the topic was interesting this time. Where's your brother?"
Joey shook the controller madly, jabbing buttons is desperation as Lara Croft cart-wheeled out of danger, before he answered. "Over at the Whitman's place. Jay asked if he could stay for dinner. I said it would be okay."
Harlan ruffled his son's hair. "And Terry?"
"Said something about taking a shower." Joey answered.
Harlan's grin almost split his face in half. "Hold the fort for half an hour son?"
"Get outta here." He boy blushed, knowing full well why his father needed the privacy.
Harlan jogged up the stairs, his mind already full of images of Terry in the shower, naked, wet and unsuspecting.
Harlan's wife Alicia had died eight years ago in a car accident leaving him to bring up two young sons alone. Davie had only been two years old, Joey, seven. It had been a struggle, balancing his fatherly duties with his Air Force career. He had even accepted a transfer to the Academy in Colorado Springs so that he could keep more sociable hours, but the boys were a handful and he had often felt inadequate to the task. Seven years went by and he never even considered looking at another woman. Ally had been the one true love of his life; the mother of his children, and it had felt like the biggest part of his heart had been torn out when she died.
Then Terry blew into his life, all flashing green eyes and long black hair. Terry had taught him how to love again, how to enjoy life, how to live rather than just exist, and he couldn't be happier. Somehow he knew that Ally would approve and even the boys had accepted Terry as part of their family.
He smiled at the memory of their first kiss. Could it only have been six months ago? It felt like they had been together longer than that because Terry had started off as his lodger and part time tutor to the boys close to a year ago.
Harlan reached the bedroom and quietly slipped inside, careful to avoid the creaky floorboard. Stripping off quickly, he tiptoed into the en-suite and took a moment to admire the figure half obscured by frosted glass and steam. Terry was perfectly proportioned; long, long legs, narrow waist, and skin as soft as a baby's butt. Harlan imagined himself tugging aside the cascading black locks and sinking his teeth into that creamy white throat. He looked down at his twitching cock and grinned.
Reaching for the shower screen, Harlan stepped inside the cubicle and dropped a chaste kiss onto one exposed shoulder. Terry whirled round, gasping in shock, eyes wide with surprise. His own flaccid cock slapped hard against Harlan's thigh, making the old soldier grin even wider. Pulling his lover into his arms, he murmured against the wet hair, "Did ya miss me?"
Terry pushed him roughly back against the cold tiles and held him in place with two strong hands planted firmly on his chest. "You were only gone six hours lover boy. I actually managed to get some work done with you out of my hair for a change."
Harlan reached out and grabbed a handful of said hair, bringing it to his nose, inhaling the scent of Terry's shampoo. When his eyes finally opened again, Terry tugged him upright and back under the shower spray. The water blinded him, but it didn't matter. His eyes closed anyway, the moment Terry began kissing him.
Terry watched as Harlan rubbed the towel through his hair until it stuck up in spiky blonde tufts. He grinned at his lover from his reclining position on their bed. He could never get enought of this man, and could hardly believe that they were together at all, even after almost a year living with him, the last six months sharing his bed, his family, his life. Terry kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
They had met a year ago at Cheyenne Mountain. Harlan had been representing the Air Force Academy at the memorial service held for Daniel Jackson, who had recently passed away from radiation poisoning. Terry had been a friend of Daniel's for a couple of years. Their academic paths had crossed once or twice, and on Daniel's recommendation, Terry had been brought in as a civilian consultant for the SGC. Unlike Daniel, Terry wasn't on a team; he kept normal office hours, working in the labs and sometimes on specific projects for Daniel himself. They had become good friends, and although they rarely socialized, they would often drop by each other's offices and talk long into the night about their shared passion of archeology. Daniel was aware of his friend's sexuality, and had politely turned down his offer of a deeper relationship. Daniel claimed to be straight, and although Terry had his doubts, he could see no reason to call his friend on it, but he did notice that any spare time Daniel had, seemed to be monopolized by his commanding officer, Colonel Jack O'Neill. He observed the way the two men looked at each other, felt the charge crackling in the air between them and came to his own conclusions.
As time went by, Terry noticed a change. That final year, Daniel had begun to withdraw from everyone. Terry watched, as his friend seemed to die a little more each day, until finally, he had persuaded Daniel to come back to his apartment for a drink. It hadn't taken much to get him loosened up, and then everything had come out. Terry's suspicions were confirmed. Daniel had fallen for Mr. Macho himself.
Terry had never had much to do with the military part of the SGC. He avoided the marines at all costs, and tended to make friends with the other scientist where possible, so he had no idea if Daniel's feelings could be returned. He doubted it. He may not know much about military rules and regulations, but same sex relationships were a big no-no as far as he could tell.
After that, Daniel would often confide in Terry. It seemed that the colonel was being a bastard for no apparent reason; he appeared to be trying to end the friendship, which hurt Daniel even more than his unrequited love for the other man. Terry tried to be supportive, but there was really nothing he could do, beyond offering a friendly ear.
Then Daniel had died.
The details were very sketchy, and several days went by before it was decided to hold a memorial service. It appeared that there had been no body to bury, but Daniel's teammates were dissatisfied with the lack of ceremony, so General Hammond had relented, and decided to hold a very small service in the gate room. Word had spread, and the small service had snowballed, as more and more people asked for permission to attend. No one would have been more surprised that Daniel, to find out how many people loved, and respected the archeologist. The ceremony was very touching, with all of his teammates giving a little eulogy.
After the memorial, Terry had watched the Colonel carefully, surprised that he seemed unaffected by the loss of his best friend. He had a strange look, almost a smug smile, which hinted that he knew something no one else did. It was a little eerie, in Terry's opinion. When another man came over to offer Jack his condolences, Terry found that he couldn't drag his eyes away from the tall blonde officer. While he could definitely see what Daniel found attractive about Jack, this other man was simply breathtaking. Tall, broad- chested and blonde, with sparkling blue eyes and a boyish grin, the guy was everything Terry found appealing in one package.
Later, he had managed to get an introduction to the man, and had been embarrassed to find himself somewhat tongue-tied. Lt Colonel Harlan Beck was as good-looking close up as he was from a distance. They spent the rest of the evening talking, and when Harlan offered him a lift home, Terry accepted gratefully. The rest was history.
Terry reclined on the bed and watched his lover dress in more comfortable clothes. Harlan walked over to the nightstand to find the novel he had been reading and saw a letter laying on the table. He recognized the writing.
"Is that from Daniel?" he asked, not really needing a reply. Dr Jackson writing reminded him of hieroglyphics.
Terry scooped up the letter and smiled. "Yeah, I still can't believe the guy is alive. The weirdest shit happens at the mountain, but this really defies logic."
As he spoke, Terry opened up the letter and scanned the pages.
Shortly after Daniel had died, Terry left the employ of the SGC. His contract had ended, and Harlan had recommended him for a position at the Academy. They had kept in touch after Daniel's memorial, and Harlan offered Terry his spare room if he decided to take up the job. He agreed immeiately. Although at that stage, thier relationship had not progressed beyond freindship, Terry just knew that they would end up in bed, and hoped that it would become much more than a fling. The job didnt pay much, so Terry did some freelance tutoring, including working with Harlan's son Joey, who was struggling a bit at school. It had taken six months for Harlan to finally get over his internalised homophobia and admit that he was attracted to another man, but it had been worth the wait.
Then out of the blue, less that two weeks ago, Terry had received a letter from Daniel, explaining that the rumors of his `death' had been greatly exaggerated and would he consider coming back to work for the SGC? The Academy had been a means to an end for Terry, a way of getting closer to Harlan. Now that they were lovers, the job held no appeal for him, so Terry had readily agreed.
This second letter from Daniel was of a more personal nature, and Terry wondered how much of it he should share with his lover. Daniel talked about how pleased he was that Terry would be back at the mountain and how he really needed a friend to talk to. The tone of the letter was a little melancholy; Terry got the impression that his friend was lonely. This surprised him, considering how pleased the Colonel must be to have Daniel back from the dead. Getting to the bottom of the riddle was inventive enough for Terry to take the job. He loved a good mystery.
Daniel headed out of the infirmary feeling better than he had in weeks. He knew that Jack was going to be fine, Janet had told him repeatedly that it was a just a flesh wound, but he still felt better having seen for himself. He had half expected Jack to be as snarky as always, but he had been in a remarkably happy mood. Probably the painkillers Janet had pumped him full of, reflected Daniel. Still, it had felt almost like old times. Daniel had seriously missed Jack on this last mission, but was proud that he had managed to secure an agreement with the Unas. Jack seemed to be proud of him too, although he would never come right out and say so.
Since Daniel had been `found' and brought back to the SCG, his memories had trickled back gradually. He had remembered Shau're and Skaara, and grieved for the loss of all his friends and family on Abydos. He had remembered details from early missions, his parent's death, the names of Hammond's grand daughters, everything…
…except where Jack was concerned. His memories regarding Jack had still been hazy. It was almost as if he were deliberately sublimating those memories. Then the survivors of a dead civilization had hijacked his mind, and once a way had been found to remove the uninvited guests from his brain, Daniel had been left with nothing but his own thoughts and memories. *All* of his memories.
He spent the following three days in the infirmary, supposedly getting over the trauma, but in reality, Daniel used the quiet time to reflect on his relationship with Jack. He still had no idea why Jack had pushed him away, and maybe if he had known the reason, maybe if he had found a way to make up for whatever he had done, then maybe he wouldn't have been quite so willing to leave them all behind and follow Oma Desala. Of course, there had really been no other choice. Daniel was a brave man, but offered a painful and lingering death or a chance to go on to greater things, he had taken the only path he could see open.
His last memory before his ascension was standing on the ramp, saying goodbye to a man he had come to love beyond all reason. There had been tears in his eyes when he told Jack that he had no idea where he was going. He had been afraid, but not of the unknown. His fear was that he might never see this man again. There was so much he wanted to tell him, so much he wanted Jack to understand. But in the end, he had said none of it. What good would it have done?
Jack would remain here, fighting the good fight in his own stubborn way, and he needed to be free to do that. Declarations of undying love would only cloud his last memories of his friend with unpleasantness. Daniel wanted Jack to remember him with dignity and respect. And maybe a little love too.
When he was finally released from the infirmary, Daniel decided that it was time to get his friend back. He didn't care anymore what he had done to alienate Jack in the first place; all that mattered now was putting the past behind them and trying to get back the easygoing friendship. He had seen evidence that Jack hoped for that too. His joke about breaking in a new colonel had made Jack smile, even if he had been in too much pain to actually rise to the bait.
Daniel paused in the doorway and glanced back over his shoulder to catch Jack smiling at him. He smiled back, and continued on his way. Only yesterday, he had been in that very same bed. He supposed that this was the closest he would ever come to actually sharing a bed with Jack. He shook his head at the whimsical thought. He didn't have time for `what ifs', he had a mission of his own to achieve. Somehow, he had to find office space for his newest staff member.
"How well do you know him, Harley?"
The older man glanced at Terry's reflection in the mirror, took in his worried look and stopped fussing with his hair to turn around.
"Daniel? I never actually met him."
"Not Daniel, Jack. How well do you know Jack?"
"We met during the Gulf war, the *first* one that is. I was flying an AC 130 Gun ship as air support to the Special Forces during operation Prudent Force. Jack was in command and we got friendly. Kept in touch for a few years, then his son died. I hadn't seen him for a while, and when we met up at the funeral, he barely spoke to me. Understandable really, under the circumstances. I heard he volunteered for a couple of scary missions after that, but we lost touch."
Terry came to stand behind him, leaning his chin on the other man's shoulder. "Yeah, but how close were you? Close enough to exchange confidences?"
"We spoke about sports and women, Terry. Typical `guy' stuff, but I thought I got to know the man behind the mask fairly well. Guess I was wrong though. Just a few weeks ago, I ran into a nephew of his outside a liquor store. The kid tried to get me to buy him some booze! I didn't even know Jack had a brother or sister. That's the kind of thing you tell your friends about."
Terry began nibbling his ear. "So, you were just `friends' then?"
Harlan frowned and tried to answer the question as honestly as possible. "Are you asking if I was attracted to him? Because even if I had been, which I wasn't, I didn't know him *that* well. Coming on to a superior officer of the same sex is the quickest way to get your ass shipped off to Leavenworth. Too risky. Why are you asking all these questions?"
Terry's eyes flicked up to meet his lovers amused regard in the mirror. "I need to know if Jack is gay."
Harlan nearly choked on the snort of laughter he tried to suppress. Twisting round in his chair, he hauled his smiling lover onto his lap and reached up for a sloppy kiss. When they broke apart, they were both laughing.
"What's the matter Ter, one officer and gentleman not enough for you?" Harlan wrapped his arms round the squirming lapful and squeezed until Terry was begging for mercy. They barely heard the knock on the bedroom door. Harlan dragged his lips away from those of his lover long enough to shout "Come on in." then returned to the task with renewed vigor.
Joey took one look at the two men and covered his eyes with one hand, "Jeeze guys, you're warping my fragile teenage mind here."
Terry laughed and managed to wriggle free, patting the boy affectionately on the shoulder as he headed for the bathroom. "Nothing warped about two people in love expressing their affection in a physical manner, kiddo. It's all good."
Joey opened one eye and grinned at his father's partner. "Yes Mom." He drawled, ducking the pillow that Terry launched at his head. The boy ran to his father's side and crouched behind him. "Dad, dad, my stepmom is an axe murderess!"
Harlan grabbed the boy by the ear and pulled him upright, ignoring his cries of "ow, ow, ow."
"Joseph Patrick Beck, if you insist on hurling abuse at Terry, you're on your own. Face thr fallout like a man, but first, tell me why you interrupted our private time."
Joey rubbed at his sore ear and glowered at his father. Should have know better than expect him to protect his son from the pissed off scientist. "Mrs. Whitman called and asked if Davie could stay over. I said it was okay."
Terry came back into the room, now dressed in sweatpants and a t- shirt. "Cool – now if we can only get rid of this little snothead, we can have a nice romantic night in."
"Hey, slip me 50 bucks and I'm outta here." Offered the boy, generously. "They're showing a marathon of Star Trek films at the Odeon. Should keep me busy for 8 hours." The kid's grin split his face from ear to ear. Harlan was seriously tempted. It had been way too long since he and Terry had enjoyed a quiet night at home. At the weekend, Harlan's mother would be taking the boys for a two-week vacation, but it seemed a long way off. The episode in the shower had only served to remind Harlan how much he lusted after this man's body.
Digging into his pocket, he came up with the cash and told his son to be careful. Terry closed the bedroom door and sat on the end of the bed watching his lover though narrowed eyes. In a convincing Georgia accent, he drawled, "Why Colonel Beck, I do believe your intentions are less that honorable, sir."
Harlan stood up and advanced on his lover, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a rat's ass."
Terry poured out a handful of massage oil and rubbed his hands together to warm it. He still wasn't sure how much of Daniel's turmoil he should reveal to Harlan, but his lover was the only person that could answer the burning question. "Harley?"
"Yeah, babe?" mumbled Harlan, his voice muffled by his arms as he lay face down on the bed.
"You still on that? What is the fascination with old Jack O'Neill?"
Terry began kneading the taut muscles and grinned at the strangled moan from the man lying on his stomach beneath him. After a year together, he knew just how to make the guy squirm. "Harley, if Jack were gay, would you tell me?"
He was a little surprised at the abruptness of the answer. Shifting position slightly, he dug his fingers deeper into the knotted mass of muscle beneath his hands. "What do you mean `no'?"
"I mean, I'm not allowed to talk about stuff like that."
Terry wriggled further down the bed, trailing his hands over glistening skin and rippling sinew. "That only applies to other military personnel, Harley. There's nothing to stop me asking, and nothing to stop you telling me. So come on, spill."
Harlan gasped as Terry's fingers slid over his buttocks, forcing them apart. "Gawd, Mata Hari, give me a break. You are gonna be the death of me and no mistake."
Terry leaned over, his long black hair falling over his shoulder to brush Harlan's back. The older man shivered in pleasure. Terry let his locks skim his lover's skin, reveling at the way Harlan's back arched everywhere the hair touched. "Tell me Harlan, tell me or my next stop is the barber's shop." This particular threat never failed to get Harlan's attention.
Rolling over so suddenly that Terry lost his balance, Harlan pinned the younger man beneath his body. "Jack O'Neill is a ladies man. If he weren't, trust me, I would know about it. Are you happy now?"
Terry struggled to get loose. "Is that the truth?"
"Honest, babe. Are you going to tell me why you need to know?"
Terry sighed and stopped wriggling. It was only turning Harlan on anyway. "Because Daniel is in love with him."
"Breaks your heart doesn't it?"
Harlan rolled to the side, propping his head up on one hand. He laid the other on Terry's chest, over he place where his lover's heart was beating. "Terry, he hasn't got a chance. I wasn't joking. Jack's straight."
"Yeah, so were you, until you met me." It was true; Harlan had never looked at another man in his life. Terry had quite simply bowled him over, swept his feet out from under him, made himself so much a part of Harlan's life, that he could no longer imagine living without him.
"True, but then, you are absolutely unique. It was practically love at first sight with us, even if I wouldn't admit it at first. If Jack hasn't noticed Daniel in all these years, its not gonna happen."
Terry placed his own hand over Harlan's where it rested on his chest. "We'll see." He said softly. Harlan's eyes narrowed. "Oh man, I don't like the sound of this. What are you planning?"
Terry smiled a slow, evil smile. "Jack doesn't know about *us* right?"
"Duh! Well I'm naked in bed with you, not locked up in a military prison, so I would say no."
"Right then, here's what we're going to do…"
Jack yawned and stretched, trying to work the kink out of his spine, and wincing as the action put pressure on his newly healed shoulder. It was nearly five o'clock, and he had been working on his report for hours, his progress slowed by the sling Fraser insisted he wear. For the past year, Jonas had done all Jack's reports, and he missed the kid like hell. He would never dare ask Daniel to do it. Not if he wanted to walk out of here in one piece.
He was about to shut the computer down when his incoming mail icon flashed at him. His hand hesitated over the close button. It would probably be something work related, and he really wanted to go home and take a long, hot shower. Then again, if it was from the General…
He opened the e-mail program and stared at the screen for a moment, a huge grin spreading across his face. Well this was… unexpected. He scrolled thought the message.
// Hi Jack, long time no see. I don't know if you know this, but I'm working for the 10th Air Base Wing at the Academy now. I thought it would be nice to touch base with you again, chew over the good old days and maybe sink a few cold ones? If you're up for it, I have the coming weekend off, so maybe we could meet up on Friday night? I could come out to the base and pick you up around 1800 hours? Regards- Harlan Beck (Lt Col) //
Jack hit the reply button then closed down the computer. He headed for the surface, whistling a happy tune as he went. He was looking forward to seeing his old buddy again the following day.
Daniel closed down his own computer and looked at his watch. It was getting late. Any other night of the week, it wouldn't have bothered him, but it was Friday night. Friday was Pizza and beer night at Jack's house. He smiled at the thought. Even before his memory had come back, Jack had insisted on resurrecting the old tradition. At first Daniel had been wary, but as his memories began to trickle back, he saw this as a way of getting close again. And now that his mind was fully restored, he remembered how much fun those nights had actually been. Then there was the fact that he felt far more at home in Jack's house than in his new apartment. Since he'd moved in, he was lucky if he'd spend more than a handful of nights there. He would either work late and then crash in one of the rooms on base, or visit Jack and sleep over there. He filed away his paperwork and gave his desk a quick tidy, then headed off to the locker rooms. Perhaps he should have checked with Jack first? After all, the man had only been released from the infirmary two days ago. Perhaps he wasn't up to Pizza night yet.
It took him only a few moments to change out of his uniform and into jeans and a loose fitting blue denim shirt. He checked the showers and toilets, but Jack was nowhere in sight, so he took the elevator up to the office level. Jack was not in his office, nor was he in the commissary, or with Sam in the Lab. He wasn't in Teal'c's room or in a meeting with General Hammond. After 15 minutes of fruitless searching, Daniel had to come to the conclusion that his friend had left the base without him. Frowning, Daniel made his way to the surface, nodding distractedly at the guard on duty as he signed out, when the man wished him a pleasant weekend.
Daniel climbed into his car and started the engine, thinking of reasons why Jack would leave without saying anything. His mind came up blank. Reaching inside his jacket, he fished out his mobile phone and tried calling. Jack's answer phone picked up. Daniel tossed the phone onto the passenger seat and let off the parking break. Maybe Jack had gone to pick up some more beer? Maybe he had an errand to run in town? Maybe he had forgotten it was Friday?
Daniel decided to drive over there anyway, and if Jack was still out, then he would go eat at a restaurant or something. One thing was for certain; he didn't want to go back to his cold, empty apartment.
"Remember Buck? Huge guy, feet smelled like a rotting corpse?" said Harlan.
Jack's belly laugh rattled the table and drew the looks of several of the bars other patrons, but he didn't care. He was really enjoying taking this trip down memory lane with his old buddy. Harlan had always been a good sport, able to take any of the off color jokes Jack threw at him. In the eighteen months they had served together, they had become firm drinking buddies, and Jack regretted losing touch.
"Yeah, I remember him. Didn't he marry the General's daughter?" Jack tipped back his beer and drained the bottle, smacking his lips together in appreciation. Much though he enjoyed his evenings at home with Daniel, the guy insisted on drinking wine, and there was nothing quite like sharing a crate of beer with…
Jack froze, and Harlan stopped talking to enquire if he was okay. Jack looked at his watch and slapped his forehead in frustration. "Dammit! I forgot about Daniel."
"Daniel?" asked Harlan politely, draining the contents of his own beer bottle in one swig. Jack got to his feet and dropped a few notes onto the table to clear their tab.
"Yeah, my buddy Daniel. We have this `beer and pizza' ritual going. He'll probably be sitting in my living room fuming right about now. Do you mind taking this back to my place?"
Harlan got up too and clapped Jack on the shoulder. "Sure Jack, so long as you're fridge is well stocked, I don't mind at all."
Daniel sat in the driveway looking at the darkened house. He had tried the phone again, thinking that as his truck was in the driveway, Jack might be having a nap, or watching TV with the lights out, but the answer machine came on again. Sighing, he pocketed his mobile and reached for the ignition, but he was blinded by a set of headlights. A black pick-up truck drew up at the curb. A moment later Jack tapped on his window. Daniel rolled it down and waited.
"Been here long?" asked Jack, looking a little sheepish. A tall guy got out of the pick-up and wandered over to stand behind Jack, his eyes scanning the neighborhood in a manner Daniel recognized at threat-assessment. This guy was military.
"Just a few minutes," Daniel lied, not wanting to look pathetic or needy. "I was working late."
Jack nodded and pulled open the driver's door, "Well don't sit there all night, or Harlan here will eat all the pizza." Daniel got out of the car, eyeing the tall blonde man warily. He looked to be a few years younger than Jack, with the same wiry frame, and confident air. The guy smiled as Daniel approached, thrusting out his hand and shaking Daniel's firmly.
"Harlan Beck," he announced, making up for Jack's total lack of etiquette as if he were used to doing it. "I'm an old friend of Jack's from way back. You must be Daniel?"
Daniel nodded, surreptitiously flexing his hand to get the circulation going again. Jack opened the door and ushered them inside. Harlan was no sooner across the threshold than he was asking directions to the bathroom. Jack pointed him in the right direction, and then followed Daniel into the kitchen.
"Sorry about this, Danny. I should have told you Harlan was going to be here tonight. I guess it slipped my mind." Daniel tugged open the fridge and handed Jack two bottles of beer. He then retrieved the bottle of white wine that he'd left here the week before and opened a drawer, looking for the corkscrew. Jack watched his friend navigate his kitchen with the ease borne of familiarity. Daniel shrugged his shoulders as he bumped the drawer shut with his hip.
"Hey, don't mention it. It's not like were married or anything." Daniel turned away to place the bottle on the worktop so he missed the look that came over Jack's face. By the time he turned back, Jack was busy ordering the pizza.
In the bathroom, Harlan smiled at his reflection in the mirror. Things were proceeding in accordance with the plan. And if for some reason the plan failed, there was always plan B. He washed his hands and reached for the towel, remembering how Jack had talked constantly about Daniel on the drive from the bar to his house. There was warmth there, an underlying affection that seemed to go deeper than mere friendship. Perhaps no one else would spot it, but Harlan knew what to look for. Was it possible that Terry was right about this?
He grinned and shook his head, opening the bathroom door and following the sound of voices into the kitchen. He was just in time to catch the comment Daniel made and saw the look of distress on his friend's face, before Jack quickly masked it and turned to pick up the phone. Harlan strolled over to stand next to Daniel. Leaning back on the counter, he watched the younger man opening his wine.
He could definitely see the attraction. Daniel Jackson was quite beautiful, if one could use that term to describe a man. Finely sculpted eyebrows arched over the bluest eyes Harlan had ever seen, framed by long thick lashes that would put any woman to shame. His bone structure was anything but feminine, strong cheekbones and a firm jaw line, defined a very masculine face, but then the lips…ah the lips. Harlan found himself licking his own lips. He gave himself a mental shake. Terry would kill him if he found out Harlan had been lusting over another man's lips. But they *were* imminently kissable.
Harlan realized, somewhat belatedly, that he was staring, and smiled at the confused look he was receiving from Daniel. "I was just wondering about the wine? You're not a beer fan, Danny?"
The younger man seemed to flinch at that comment and Harlan wondered what he's said wrong. Perhaps Jack teased the guy about the wine? He wouldn't put it past the Colonel. Daniel turned and leaned against the counter, mirroring Harlan's pose.
"I drink it occasionally," said Daniel, "but on the whole, I prefer wine. Beer gets me drunk too quickly."
Jack replaced the receiver and walked over to retrieve his own beer. He smiled at Harlan and raised his bottle in a toast. "To the cheapest date in town, Daniel Jackson."
Harlan raised his own bottle and let it clink against Jack's. Daniel scowled at them both for a moment before he finally relented, and grinning, joined them in their toast.
Jack led the way into the living room and they sat down. Harlan took the single armchair, and Jack sat next to Daniel on the sofa. Out of habit, they both kicked of their shoes and rested their feet on the coffee table. Harlan smiled. Oh yeah, these two guys spent way too much time in each other's company for it to be simple friendship. He kicked off his own shoes and sighed with contentment. A week ago, he would have had no hesitation in stating categorically that Jack was a typical heterosexual male. Now, well he wasn't quite so sure. And it was possible that Jack wasn't sure himself. He had denial written all over him. Harlan grinned even wider as he watched the two guys tussling over throw cushions.
Oh yeah, Jack was in for the biggest shock of his life. It was painfully obvious to the informed observer that Daniel was besotted with Jack. His eyes never left Jack's face for very long, and when he was looking at his friend, there was softness about his expression, a tenderness that spoke volumes. The sappy looks were mirrored in Jack's face too, yet neither man seemed willing to acknowledge what was passing between them.
The more Harlan watched, the more he became convinced. It wouldn't take much to get them onto the same page. He only hoped that they would thank him later. Because he had seen the damage Jack O'Neill could do with an automatic weapon and he didn't want to be on the wrong side of that. He swallowed the last of his beer and waited patiently for round two to begin.
The living room was a disaster. Two empty pizza boxes and some crusts were strewn across the floor, and a dozen empty beer bottles covered the hearth and coffee table. Daniel's wine bottle and glass lay beside the couch, and the contents of a giant bowl of popcorn was scattered on the rug. Several shoes littered the floor; various items of clothing were draped over the arms of the sofa. Daniel's denim shirt, Harlan's sweater and Jack's over shirt had all been discarded as the room heated up. Jack's open fireplace was not only beautiful, but it was also very functional.
Daniel pushed himself upright, trying to keep his glasses from sliding down his face. Jack was in the process of opening a bottle of malt whiskey, and there was no way the younger man could drink that and not puke. He got unsteadily to his feet, wondering what on earth had possessed him to finish off a whole bottle by himself. The truth of the matter was, that he had been enjoying hearing tales of Jack's adventures. It was strangely compelling to hear about stuff that had happened before the SG program, before they had even met. He sat quietly listening to the old war stories with a sense of wonder.
But now he had to draw the line. He grabbed the phone and lifted the receiver to his ear. "Gonna phone a taxi, Jack. Gotta get home, sleep this off…"he slurred.
His words were interrupted as Jack rudely snatched the receiver out of his hand and replaced it upside down on the cradle. He ignored the annoying whining noise and pushed Daniel back onto the couch. Harlan's grin threatened to crack his face in half.
"Nah, nah, you stay here Danny. You always stay here on a Friday."
Daniel tried to reach for the phone again, his hands tangling with Jack's. "You have company Jack. I'll just go on home and put myself to bed. Be okay in the morning if I drink plenty water…"
Jack pushed him back against the arm of the sofa and gave him a stern look. "If ya wanna lie down, go sleep it off in my bed. Harley and me are gonna be stayin' up a bit longer. Still plenty lies he can tell about me. Isn't that right Harley?"
"Yup, and I gotta prove I can drink him under the table."
Daniel sighed and got to his feet. No point in arguing. He headed towards the spare room, but found that Harlan's overnight bag was in there, and his clothes for the next day were laid out on the bed. He closed the door quietly and took another peek at the two men in the living room. It really did seem like they were dug in for the night, laughing and throwing back their whiskey shots like old soaks. Daniel pushed open the door to Jack's bedroom and took a deep breath.
He had imagined what it would feel like to be in this bed so many times that it didn't feel at all alien to him when he slipped between the sheets. They smelled of Jack. He inhaled deeply, turning his head to the side so that the scent of Jack's aftershave that lingered on his pillow filled his nostrils. After a whole bottle of wine, Daniel was shocked to feel his body react to the stimuli. His hand slid under the covers and down over his stomach, stopping a fraction before reaching its goal.
He rolled onto his side, bringing both his hands up to curl tightly at his chest. He was *not* going to jerk off in Jack's bed, no matter how tempting the thought was. He forced his breathing to even out and clicked off the lamp, lying in the silence of the room, listening to the indistinct sound of men's laughter filtering up from the living room.
Harlan leant on the door jam, eyes narrowed to slits against the brightness of the mid morning sunshine. He shook his head when he took in the sight of Jack lying slumped on the sofa. When he had staggered off to the spare room in the early hours of the morning, had been sure that the colonel would crawl into bed with Daniel, but it seemed that there would be a need for plan B after all.
He retrieved his mobile and locked himself in the bathroom. Terry wasn't at all surprised to hear that Harlan's well thought out plan had been a bust. "This isn't a military operation, babe. You can't predict the human heart."
Harlan stared at his bleary eyed reflection in the mirror, and ran a less than steady hand though his short-cropped hair. "Okay, smartass, let's see you do better."
A tentative knock to the door made him jump and the phone nearly ended up in the toilet bowl. He whispered his good byes and unlocked to door to find Daniel hovering outside.
"Sorry, I thought I heard voices?" The younger mad asked, peering round Harlan to see who was in here with him. Harlan waved his phone, thinking quickly, "Just checking in on my boys. They give their grandma grief if I don't keep on top of them." He let Daniel slide past and headed back to the spare room to get dressed. Privately, he was really looking forward to the next phase of the plan. These two guys wouldn't know what hit them.
Daniel threw his keys onto the kitchen table and clicked on the kettle. As he hung his jacket up, he noticed the red light flashing on his answer machine. He didn't have that many friends outside of the team, so the flashing light was a bit of a novelty. He pressed the button and leaned against the wall. There were three messages.
/beep/ "Hey Daniel, it's Jack. Give me a call when you get home, okay?"
Daniel grinned. Jack never changed, even after seven years, he had to make sure that Daniel got home all right. It was kind of endearing, and a bit annoying at the same time.
/beep/ "Dr Jackson, this is the building superintendent speaking. We need to arrange access to look at the leaking faucet in your bathroom. Please call me at your earliest convenience."
Daniel had to smile at that too. He had reported the leaking faucet shortly after he moved in, and in the end, Jack had fixed the damned thing for him.
/beep/ "Daniel, hey its Terry here. Looking forward to starting work at the mountain on Monday. I was hoping you and I could get together tonight; maybe take in a movie or something? I have one or two questions to ask, and it's been forever since we did anything together. If you're free, give me a call. See ya." /beep end of messages/
Daniel's grin grew huge. He was overjoyed that his friend would be coming back to the mountain. He was the one and only person with whom he could talk about the mess his life was in right now. Terry knew about his confused feelings for Jack. He remembered their late night discussion over Tequila slammers and grinned widely. He deleted the messages then checked his phone book for Terry's mobile number.
"Don't you look at me like that young man!" Grace Beck scolded, swatting Terry playfully on the ass. He yelped and leapt out of range, a huge smile splitting his face wide. He didn't really approve of the boys eating too much sugar, and Grandma's home-made triple choc cookies were a dentist's worst nightmare, but at least Harlan wasn't here to overdose himself on his mother's baking. Deciding that discretion was definitely the better part of valor, he accepted a cookie from the bag and mumbled his appreciation round a generous mouthful.
Grace smiled at his capitulation, before handing the cookie bag to Joey. "All right soldier, make sure your kid brother is all strapped in and don't get crumbs all over my upholstery," she ordered in her broad Brooklyn accent.
Joey rolled his eyes at his Grandma. "Whatever. Bye Terry, don't do anything I wouldn't do," the kid teased. Terry punched him lightly on the shoulder then leaned into the open window of Grace's station wagon. "Too old for a kiss Davie?" he asked.
The sandy haired kid grinned and threw his arm round Terry's neck, planting a loud smacker on his cheek. "Don't tell Jay though." He whispered, concerned that his best friend might call his a sissy if he knew. Terry ruffled his hair affectionately. "Our secret." He whispered. Drawing back, he turned to hug Harlan's mother tightly. "If they give you any trouble, just call, okay?"
Grace scowled at him, and then softened the look with a gentle pat to his cheeks. "Quit worrying Tarzan, they do as they're told for me." Terry winced at the nickname, which Grace had coined the very first time she had met him. It had been the height of summer, and he had been shirtless, his hair flying wild and free and he attempted to rescue a neighbor's cat from the oak tree in Harlan's front garden. He wouldn't have minded so much if he had Johnny Weissmüller's muscles…
The boys in the station wagon began yodeling loudly, adding to Terry's discomfort, but his eyes were sparkling with genuine affection for the crazy old bird. "Get outta here, before I call the old folks home and have them come pick you up."
Grace climbed into the car and backed slowly out of the drive. She rolled down her window and shouted her farewells, accompanied by several short bursts on the horn. Terry watched until the car disappeared around the corner then went back indoors to get ready for Plan B.
Daniel waited on the street outside his apartment, scanning for Terry's beat up Volkswagen Beatle. He heard the vehicle approach long before he saw it. He was wincing in sympathy by the time it pulled up to the curb. Terry jumped out and enveloped Daniel in a full body hug. He was one of the very people Daniel allowed to touch him. They were grinning like lunatics when the smaller man finally released Daniel. "God, it's good to see ya. Hey, you've been working out."
Terry squeezed Daniel's bicep and waggled his eyebrows appreciatively making Daniel flush with embarrassment. He reached into the Beatle and pulled Terry's overnight bag from the passenger seat. "Yeah, well, I got used to a more energetic pace of life when I was on…." Daniel trailed off, realizing that he really shouldn't discuss details of his ascension/descension with Terry. Even once he was officially working for the SGC, he would not have clearance for such information. Fortunately, Terry had worked at the mountain long enough to understand such restrictions. He knew that Daniel was probably referring to his previous `death' and subsequent `rebirth' so he merely nodded and took the bag from his friend's hands.
"Well it looks really good on you, man. So are you gonna leave me standing here all night or are we gonna go get ready to party?"
Daniel grinned and led the way up to his new apartment. Terry wandered around, picking up and examining the various artifacts and curios scattered over every available surface. He envied Daniel this freedom. The boys would reduce his own treasures to mini piles of rubble within days if he brought them out of storage and tried to display them at home. And anyway, Harlan was a stickler for neatness. Terry supposed it was a military thing, and wondered fleetingly if Jack was the same way. If these two men did get it together, would Daniel get his way, or would Jack? He watched as Daniel bent over to pick up a book from the floor, displaying a wonderful vista of perfectly rounded ass. He smiled. Daniel would get his way, no doubt about it.
Daniel straightened, and caught Terry checking out his ass. He had almost forgotten what it was like to be looked at like that by another man. He had always known that Terry was gay, right from the first time the man had come on to him, but Daniel didn't feel uncomfortable, just bemused, that such a good looking guy could even look twice at him. He wished that Jack would look at him like that, but after seven years of searching for a sign and seeing nothing but affection and friendship shining back at him, Daniel knew it was never going to happen. He grinned at his friend and shook his head, acknowledging the look, but ignoring the intent.
"So," said Daniel breezily, "looking forward to Monday?"
Terry moved a magazine out of the way and flopped down onto Daniel's sofa. "I guess I'm a little nervous. It's been almost a year, and things will be different. Is Sam still on your team, or did she get her own command yet?"
Daniel smiled. Terry and Sam had gotten on like a house on fire. They shared a passion, motorbikes. What Terry didn't know about the workings of a Harley Davidson, wasn't worth knowing. The two enthusiasts had spent several weekends at rallies often dragging Daniel along too. He wasn't interested in the bikes, but enjoyed watching his friends enjoy them.
"Not yet, but its coming. Jack's been attending a lot of meetings in Washington lately. He won't say why, but I have a feeling he's being groomed to take over the SGC when General Hammond retires. Its only speculation on my part, but he would be the obvious choice."
Terry stretched his long legs out and laced his fingers behind his head. "Colonel O'Neill in charge of the Stargate Program? Holy shit, Daniel, the man's a maverick. He struck me as the sort who…"
Daniel's smile vanished and a frown marred his brow as he leapt to his best friends defense. "Jack's changed a lot over the past year, Terry. He's settled down, matured. You won't recognize him, he's a different man."
Terry's face softened, and he patted the sofa beside him until Daniel sat down. He turned and took hold of Daniel's hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "You still love him." It wasn't a question, merely an observation.
Daniel sighed. "Its not exactly something you can turn off and on. And before you ask, he still doesn't love me. I don't think he's really forgiven me for… leaving." He had almost said dying. It was more difficult than he had imagined, trying to confide in Terry when he couldn't fully explain the situation.
Terry shrugged. "Daniel, tonight you and I are going out to have a damned good time. Forget about Jack and his lack of good taste. I'm taking you to Diva's." Daniel's eyebrows shot up at the mention of Colorado Springs Premier gay nightclub. He had only been there a handful of times before, and always with Terry. It wasn't his scene, as he had only ever felt the pull of attraction for one specific guy, but Terry loved the place so Daniel just nodded.
At least he knew how to politely refuse the advances of the clubs patrons. On his first visit, he had nearly ended up going home with a six and a half foot tall transvestite called Barbie because he didn't want to offend her with an outright refusal. Terry had managed to rescue him, and they had laughed about it later. He would have preferred to go for a quiet drink in a small pub, but Terry was obviously looking forward to his night out.
"Just tell me you won't be wearing that purple velvet shirt, Terry? That thing even gets me drooling." Terry's grin grew wider.
"Nah, got a purple silk one now. Tactile much?"
Daniel rolled his eyes and headed for the bathroom for a shower, already wondering what he could wear that would let him fade into the background, unaware that no clothes yet invented could do that.
They were just about to go out when the phone rang. Daniel was tempted to let the machine pick it up, but old habits die hard, and in the end, his curiosity dictated that he take the call.
"Hey, Danny, wanna come for a steak with Harlan and me?" Jack's voice, even muffled over the telephone, filled Daniel with a rush of warmth. He glanced down at his attire, then at Terry's flamboyant clothing and sighed. There was nothing he would like more than to spend more time with Jack, but he had promised Terry that they would go clubbing.
"Sorry, Jack. I have plans."
There was a moment silence on the other end of the line, then Jack's voice again sounding faintly surprised. "You do?"
Daniel refused to rise to the bait. Jack knew he had other friends; he was just being insulting as usual. "Yeah, I'm going clubbing with an old friend. Sorry."
Another small silence, then the sound of Jack clearing his throat. "Bring your friend too, the more the merrier. You can go to your club after, whadda ya say?"
Daniel covered the receiver with his hand and looked at Terry apologetically. "It's Jack. He has a friend staying too and wants us to join them at O'Malley's steak house." To his surprise, Terry shrugged and nodded enthusiastically.
"Why not. It might be the only protein I'm getting tonight." Daniel made an `ewwwww' face and removed his hand from the phone. "Okay Jack, we'll meet you there."
When he replaced the phone on its cradle, he looked again at their nightclub attire. "Do we get changed?" he asked dubiously. Terry grabbed him by the arm and propelled him towards the door.
"Hell no! If Jack and his friend don't want to be seen in public with guys who have some fashion sense, then we'll eat at a separate table." As he carefully locked the door, Daniel ran his hand over his black silk shirt, smoothing it down, and sighed. He'd never worn anything like this in front of Jack before, and he was sure his friend was going to get the completely wrong idea about his relationship with Terry. He could have taken a moment to change into something a little less `obvious' he supposed, but he had nothing else in his closet that came even remotely close the night club wear. The silk shirt and skintight black jeans would just have to do.
Jack flashed his biggest smile at the waitress and landed the best table in the house. Harlan was impressed. They threaded their way through the busy restaurant to a secluded booth at the back. The two men slid into opposite sides of the table and Jack ordered a pitcher of beer. Harlan gave the menu a cursory glance, but already knew what he was going to have.
Jack kept his eyes glued to the front door, waiting for Daniel's arrival. Harlan smiled behind the cover of the menu. Damn, but Jack had it bad. It was proving remarkably hard to make Jack see the truth though. Harlan loved Terry more than he could ever have thought possible, but even he could appreciate how special Daniel Jackson was. Those eyes… a man could get lost in those eyes. But what drew Harlan in the most about Daniel was his resilience.
Harlan had seen so many big, strong guys crumble under the type of pressure Jack and his team faced on a daily basis. Of course Harlan had no idea what the team actually did, but Jack was Special Forces, so whatever it was, it was dangerous. He knew that Daniel was a civilian, but it was obvious that the man knew how to be part of a military operation. In Harlan's opinion, any civilian that could survive in such a team without the benefit of the years of training, had to have balls the size of coconuts.
Jack's eyes lit up, and Harlan directed his gaze towards the front door. He felt his mouth go dry at the sight of the two men that had just walked in. Daniel was dressed head to toe in black with his hair fasionably mussed up which was distracting enough, but Terry had put on that damned silk shirt. Harlan loved that shirt! He glanced back at Jack in time to see him mask his own reaction to the view.
The waitress led the two men to the booth at the back and placed another two beer glasses on the table then left. Jack's eyes were wide as he swept an appreciative look over his best buddy. "Wow, someone's out to impress the ladies?" he drawled, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. Daniel blushed to the roots of his hair as he squirmed out of his black leather bikers jacket, deflecting the attention towards Terry with a wave of his hand.
"Jack, this is Dr Terrance Calvert. He's staring work in my department on Monday." Jack managed to drag his eyes away from Daniel. The guy standing in front of him was quite stunning. There was no other description that fit. He stood about two inches shorter that Daniel, and had the most dazzlingly green eyes Jack had ever seen. His hair was incredible. Long and raven black, it hung in a silky wave down his back, brushing the top of his leather-clad buttocks. He wore a deep purple silk shirt, unbuttond to the navel, with pirate style sleeves and diamante buttons that caught and reflected the light. How he had gotten into the black leather pants, Jack could never guess, but they left very little to the imagination. He cleared his throat, realizing that he might well have been staring at the pants, and thrust out his hand.
The guy had a surprisingly firm grip. Jack's eyes flicked towards Harlan; narrowing slightly as he saw the same frank admiration he had been showing mirrored in his friend eyes.
"Pleased to meet ya Doc. This here is Harlan Beck. We flew together in the Gulf."
Terry disengaged his hand from Jack's and took Harlan's smiling provocatively at the blonde haired man. "Well, isn't that interesting. Call me Terry." He practically purred, making Jack's eyes narrow even further. As they all sat down, he took a moment to check Terry out more thoroughly. The guy had slipped into the booth next to Harlan and was practically undressing the officer with his eyes. Jack would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to feel the sexual tension that suddenly hung over their table.
Daniel picked up the menu and began to read, so Jack busied himself pouring out beers for everyone. He watched Harlan carefully; unsure how the big guy would react when he realized that he was being chatted up. Finally, he glanced sideways at Daniel. He had to know, right? Terry wasn't exactly subtle.
Then the waitress appeared and the men ordered their meal. Harlan was being very polite, and friendly to Terry so Jack decided to relax and enjoy his meal. He trusted Harlan not to cause a scene and get them banned from the best steak house in Colorado Springs.
"So then what did you do?" asked Terry, licking the chocolate ice cream from his spoon in a very suggestive manner. Three sets of eyes, tracked the progress of the spoon, as it moved from bowl to lips. Harlan cleared his throat, but his voice still came out as a croak.
"I er… I told him to put Jack down or I'd shoot him in the balls." Terry blinked slowly, a tiny smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, as he turned to look at Jack. He was amused to note that the Colonel couldn't seem to drag his eyes away either.
"And did he drop you Colonel O'Neill? Or did Harlan here have to shoot him after all?" They had been taking about an incident that had happened not long after they had met. A Marine had taken exception to Jack's sense of humor and before he knew what was happening, he was pinned by the throat to a wall, his feet dangling several inches above the ground. Harlan had not had to shoot the drunken soldier, but it had been close for a while. The guys Jack had been training were more than grateful that the colonel was unable to talk for several days after the event. He had been chewing on their asses from day one.
Jack smiled as he remembered the look on the guys face when he saw who his instructor was the next day and how he had made the marine do the obstacle course twice as payback. Revenge was, indeed, sweet. He opened his mouth to answer, but Terry had already lost interest, and had gone back to giving his spoon the blowjob of its life. Jack rolled his eyes at Daniel, but his friend refused to join in the fun. He sat back in his seat, cradling a cup of coffee with both hands, and looking distinctly uncomfortable in his shiny black shirt. Jack forced his eyes from the tantalizing glimpse of throat that the open necked shirt revealed, feeling slightly disorientated at seeing Daniel as a sexual being for the first time in his life.
On one level, he had always known that Daniel was attractive, and that his looks attracted the wrong type of attention. People tended to think that he was weak, that he was a victim, and were very quickly proved wrong in that assumption. Daniel Jackson was not only a survivor; he was a fighter, and one of the bravest sons-of-a-bitch that Jack had ever met. There were those that assumed he was gay, but Jack had never been one of those. He had never seen any evidence of that. Daniel dated women, he had been married, and he never looked at men that way.
On the few occasions where Jack had caught himself looking a little closer, he had immediately pulled back in on himself, rationalizing his interest as curiosity, friendship, nosiness. Anything other than what it really was. Lust. Daniel Jackson was hot. Jack couldn't allow himself to admit that, not even in the privacy of his own head, so he sunk slowly into the murky waters of denial and wallowed in its cold embrace.
It had always been relatively easy to do. Daniel never willingly displayed more than an inch of skin in public, showered when the rest of the team had already left, and wore the dowdiest and uninteresting of clothes when off duty. But as he was now, dressed to kill, smelling fantastic, wearing contacts rather than his glasses… Jack could feel the pull, feel the tightening of his groin as he looked at his friend, feel the slowing down of time as his eyes met and held the confused blue eyes beside him.
Across the table, Terry and Harlan smiled knowingly at each other. They had stopped talking five minutes previously, but neither of the two men sitting opposite seemed to have noticed. They were staring at each other in mild confusion. Terry reached for Harlan's hand under the tablecloth and gave it a quick squeeze. It was time for stage three of the plan. Clearing his throat loudly, Terry grinned when Jack and Daniel both jumped at the noise.
"Would you guys like to come clubbing with Daniel and me? I've heard so much about Diva's, I can hardly wait to get there." Jack's eyes widened when he heard the name of the club. Harlan waved the waitress over and looked at Jack expectantly.
"I could do with working off some of this food Jack, whadda ya say?"
Jack licked his lips, his eyes flicking back and forth between Harlan and Terry. "Ah, Diva's isn't really my scene, Harley. Yours either."
"What's wrong with it?" the big guy asked, eyes narrowed in confusion, "Too trendy for old geezers like us? Twenty dollars says I pull before you do, Jack."
Again Jack's eyes flicked towards Terry. "Diva's is a gay club," he said quietly. Harlan's eyebrows arched upwards, but he didn't look away, and he didn't look embarrassed. He smiled slowly at Jack.
"In that case, twenty dollars says you pull first."
"I can't believe I'm doing this," hissed Jack, throwing back his shot of whiskey and slamming the glass back down onto the bar with a little too much force. He and Harlan were leaning against the bar, looking somewhat out of place in their casual clothes amidst the more colorful club patrons. Harlan waved to the bartender, a slim, baldheaded man in his twenties and waited until he had replenished their glasses before he answered.
"Aw lighten up Jack. Its not like you've never been inside a gay club is it?"
Jack gulped down the second shot and turned his head to glare balefully at his friend. "That was an accident and fine you know it. What were the chances of there being two bars called the Pink Parrot on the same street anyway?"
Harlan clapped him soundly on the back and waved the barkeep over again.
"Leave the bottle, will ya?" Jack snapped, grabbing the whiskey from the startled man and pouring out a double for each of them. His peripheral vision clued him into the presence at his side, so he turned to get a look at the person standing way too close and nearly had a seizure.
"Hi, I'm Barbie," crooned the huge, blonde wigged transvestite in the red cocktail dress. Jack threw back the large whiskey and coughed as the alcohol burned a trail down his throat.
"Charmed," he wheezed, turning back to the bar. Barbie seemed to take this as a come on and insinuated him/herself between Jack and the bar stool he stood next to.
Harlan snorted and turned to scan the dance floor, leaning back against the bar with his elbows on the surface. He spotted Terry and Daniel without any trouble. Terry's ebony mane flew wildly about his shoulders, as he bounced about, the strobing lights reflecting from his diamante buttons. Harlan watched his partner twist and gyrate to the thumping beat and chewed on his lower lip. He loved to watch the man dance. Terry had an inbuilt sense of rhythm and knew how to make his body work for him. As he watched, Harlan saw several men brush or rub against his lover, but it didn't bother him at all. Terry ignored the attention, closed his eyes and let the music take him. At his side, Daniel had begun to loosen up a bit too. He swayed and gyrated, his arms held up above his head. Harlan turned to see how Jack was faring and a sly grin spread across his face. Jack had turned to watch the dancers too, his `lady friend' being studiously ignored for the time being. Jack watched Daniel move to the music with his jaw hanging open. Harlan let his eyes stray downwards from Jack's face, until he saw evidence that his good friend was most assuredly turned on by something. He didn't think it could be Barbie that was ringing Jack's bells.
The persistent `lady' was blowing in Jack's ear, but the only reaction she got, was when Jack raised a hand to swat her away like an annoying insect. She dodged the hand and went right back to blowing. Harlan decided that it was time to take pity on his friend. Draining the last of his whiskey, he shuffled closer to Jack and draped an arm around his shoulder. "Is this guy giving you any trouble, babe?" he asked, planting a kiss on Jack's cheek.
That got his friend's attention. Jack blinked at him for a moment, and then followed the direction of his gaze to the perfectly manicured transvestite grinning madly at him. "Er… no that's okay… *babe*… he was just leaving."
Barbie pouted and batted dangerously long false eyelashes at the two men. Seeing that she was on a highway to nothing, she teetered off in search of fresh prey. Jack let out the breath he was holding and stared pointedly at the arm still draped over his shoulder. Harlan took his time removing it. Daniel and Terry then appeared, panting and covered in a thin sheen of sweat. Harlan could feel the waves of heat radiating from the two men.
"Wow, I haven't danced like that in years," panted Daniel, that rare face-splitting smile dazzling them all for a moment. Harlan reached forward and tugged on the open neck of Terry's shirt.
"Nice dog tags." He commented, seeing the military issue tags nestling against the sprinkling of dark hair that had been revealed by the open shirt. He knew who they belonged to, and was hoping that Jack might actually work it out too, but a quick glance revealed that Jack's gaze was still captivated by his archeologist.
Daniel's own eyes were averted, but he must be able to feel the heat of the gaze burning into him. Jack seemed to give himself a mental shake, and clearing his throat, he tried to sound as casual as possible.
"Well, this has been a lot of fun. I got propositioned by a lovely gal with shoes three sizes bigger than my own, sunk the best part of a bottle of Jack Daniels, and got blinded by a strobe light on speed. Think I've had all the excitement I can manage for one night."
Harlan agreed. "Yup, getting too old for this crap. But before we go, I believe you own me twenty bucks." Jack handed over the cash good-naturedly and was about to bid farewell to the other two men, when Harlan spoke again. "You guys staying here, or do you want to come back to Jack's and listen to some more old war stories?"
Jack began to head for the door, almost tripping over his own feet when Terry answered, "Sure, that sounds like a lot of fun."
Three hours later, Daniel admitted defeat and staggered into Jack's bedroom, collapsing face down, diagonally across the bed. His head had no sooner hit the covers, than he was sound asleep. A few moments later, Terry appeared in the doorway, and getting no response bar a small snore from his friend, he padded into the spare room and collapsed in a similar fashion to Daniel.
In the living room, Jack tipped the empty bottle of whiskey up, watching as the last drip impacted with his equally empty glass. He felt obliged to point out to Harlan that they were out of booze, but the other man seemed to have passed out on the sofa. Jack got to his feet, slipped out of his trousers, folded them very carefully and laid them over a chair. He then headed for his bed.
As he staggered out of the room, Harlan opened one eye and grinned, before passing out for real. Jack pushed open the door to his room and was surprised to see Daniel lying on his bed. He hesitated for a moment, trying to figure out how to get the guy to move. He looked so dammed comfortable, that it was a shame to wake him. Mumbling under his breath, Jack shuffled into the spare room and found Terry unconscious too. Now his muddled brain was faced with a set of decisions. Sleep on the hard wooden floor of the living room, sleep in this bed with a longhaired hippy who was unashamedly gay, or slide in beside his best buddy Daniel. No contest really.
Harlan stood in the doorway of Jack's spare room and shook his head sadly. The plan had hinged almost solely on Jack being so drunk, that his fears regarding Daniel would be suppressed. But it seemed that Jack still clung to the fragile balance he had managed to achieve in his relationship with the younger man. Right now, he should be sleeping with Daniel, curled around him like a blanket. Instead, he was teetering on three inches of mattress, while an oblivious Terry took up the rest of the bed. Harlan sighed and headed for the kitchen to start the coffee brewing.
It took approximately ten minutes for the smell of coffee to awaken Daniel, who looked like death warmed over and he materialized at the kitchen door. Harlan handed him a cup and a bottle of aspirin without saying a word and the two men sat at the table, eyes unfocused and blank. A moment later, Terry arrived. He was as big a caffeine slut as Daniel apparently was. Accepting his cup from Harlan, the wild haired man slid slowly into a vacant chair.
He drained the scalding coffee before blinking a few times. "Did I sleep with Jack?" it came out as a dry croak. Daniel's eyes opened wide and he stared at his friend in shock. Harlan nodded and poured them all another cup of coffee.
"Sure did. You know this means divorce don't you?" Daniel did a double take.
"I can't be held accountable for my actions when I'm unconscious, Harley. And think of the kids." Daniel's gaze flew back to his friend's face, a frown creasing his brow as he tried to follow the conversation.
"Aw come on, Terry, don't hit me with that `for the sake of the children' shit. We managed fine before you came along."
Daniel suddenly realized that the two men were smiling. Placing his glasses carefully on the table, he rubbed eyes that felt like they were wrapped in sandpaper. When he managed to focus again, Terry had gone to stand behind Harlan, and was leaning over his shoulder, with both arms wrapped around the other man's neck.
"Sure ya did big guy. So I guess it was you that helped get Joey's grade average up to B+ and you that taught Davie how to ride his bike?"
Daniel might be hung over, he might be half insane from alcohol poisoning and completely and utterly confused by the evidence of his own ears, but he certainly wasn't stupid. Once the truth dawned, he manfully resisted the urge to state the obvious. He could see a set up when it hit him in the face.
Jack picked that moment to stagger into the kitchen. His eyes seemed to be closed, so Daniel could only assume he was navigating from memory. Jack slid into the remaining chair and accepted the cup of coffee with a grunt. Once the cup was drained, he managed to crack open one eye.
"I had the weirdest dream last night." He said, voice low and husky. "I was in a Goa'uld mother ship, and I had just planted some C4 under the control crystal, when in walks Daniel wearing a kimono and begins singing an aria from Madam Butterfly."
There was silence from the other men at the table, then Terry nodded sagely. "That's deep, man. Probably means something."
Harlan nodded and pulled his lover down onto his lap. "Yeah - it means Jack should try to avoid mixing his drinks."
Daniel watched Jack carefully, trying to work out if he had noticed anything odd going on, or if he was just choosing to ignore it. He seemed to be oblivious, which annoyed the crap out of Daniel. He wanted to know what the hell was going on, why Terry had set him up like this, but he was too shocked to ask the questions. Jack, on the other hand, should have been in full voice by now, reading the men the riot act. Yet he was not only remarkably quiet on the subject of his old friends' lapful of male lover, he was also uncharacteristically unfocused. Jack noticed everything, because it was part of his job to do so, and his training had honed his observational and tactical skill to the point where it was as unconscious a thing as breathing. Why hadn't Jack seen this coming?
Daniel decided that Jack was in denial, and then had second thoughts, deciding that the more likely scenario was that he was actually still asleep, and that any moment now, he would burst into song. He drew the line at the kimono though. Even in dreams, he had *some* standards!
Jack slipped outside and stood on the deck, pretending to survey his garden. To anyone looking out at him from the house, he appeared to be deep in thought, making plans about his planting schedule, wondering if he should build a potting shed perhaps. In actual fact, Jack's mind was a maelstrom of conflicting information and half buried emotions that were well on their way to giving him a migraine.
He remembered getting very drunk last night, then things got fuzzy. He remembered waking up in bed with Terry though, and knowing that the guy was gay had given Jack a few moments of serious panic before he remembered why he had chosen to climb into bed with him. Then his mind quickly informed him that those emotions were not open for examination, and should he care to rethink the limitations of his life choices, he could do worse than begin with why he always had to fold his damned trousers.
He heard the French windows open behind him, and knew without turning round that it was Daniel. His friend hesitated for a moment before deciding to step up to the rail beside him. He remained silent for a time, his eyes drifting over the neatly trimmed lawn and well-maintained borders.
"Do you find him attractive?"
Jack didn't know what he had expected Daniel to say, but that definitely wasn't high on his list of possibilities. He whirled round to face his friend, confusion and a touch of anger coloring his expression.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"He's very good looking, and I know he likes you. I assumed you must feel the same way considering you slept with him last night." There was an edge to Daniel's voice that sounded almost like jealousy. Or maybe that was just plain silly. He might get a little possessive of Jack's friendship occasionally but that's all.
"For cryin' out loud Daniel, I was drunk…."
Daniel wrapped his arms around his middle and turned, leaning his hip against the railing. Jack couldn't bring himself to make eye contact. This whole thing was turning into a farce. How was he supposed to explain his reluctance to share a bed with Daniel when he didn't really understand it himself? Playing the `drunk' card was a major cop-out, but his head was still a little fuzzy and it was the best he could come up with. Daniel stared at him in silence for several minutes before snorting and turning his angry regard on the garden again.
"It wouldn't be so bad, but we've been friends for seven years. Been through some bad times together, know each other inside out. It would have been a little embarrassing in the morning, but we would have laughed about it. However, you chose to climb into bed with a stranger; a *gay* stranger, Jack! What does that say about me?"
"Danny, you're blowing this out of proportion…." Daniel pushed away from the railing and reached for the door handle, obviously deciding that this conversation was over, but Jack grabbed his arm, halting him in his tracks. "You don't understand, Daniel. Terry was *safe* for me to sleep with."
Daniel turned a disbelieving look on Jack. "Safe?" he shouted. "How can you feel safer sleeping with a gay guy than with me? Have I ever given you any indication that I would …"
"*He* was safe, Daniel. Not *me*."
Anything Daniel would have said was cut short by the arrival of Harlan and Terry on the deck. The two men were laughing about some private joke, and didn't seem to notice the look that passed between Jack and Daniel.
"You agree don't you Jack?" Harlan grinned, thumping his friend enthusiastically on the shoulder. "Don't ask, don't tell sucks?"
Jack nodded distractedly, unable to drag his gaze away from Daniel's face. He hadn't meant to give so much away, but neither could he bear the rejection he had seen in those stormy blue eyes. But now it looked very much like Daniel got the message, and Jack wasn't sure he was ready for the consequences. Harlan and Terry were babbling on again and Daniel took advantage of the distraction to make his escape back into the house, leaving Jack gaping like one of his fishes.
"Er, yeah, yeah, it sucks. Excuse me."
Harlan raised an eyebrow, as he watched Jack hurry after Daniel. Terry just frowned. Whatever had been going on between the two men when they had arrived, it wasn't what either of them had hoped for. Daniel had looked angry, Jack had looked embarrassed. Harlan wrapped his arms around Terry and hugged him tight.
"We did everything we could, Terry. I guess we just have to face the fact that Jack is happier with things the way they are. This life isn't suitable for everyone."
Terry sighed, "But they've both lost so much Harley. They deserve the same happiness we found."
"It has to be their choice. Time we headed for home."
Sadly, the two men opened the French doors and stepped into the living room…
"Oh my God!" whispered Terry, grabbing Harlan's hand and squeezing.
It appeared that Daniel had finally decided to take matters into his own hands. He must have been heading for the front door when Jack had caught up with him, because he had Jack pinned to the wall, kissing the ever loving shit out of him, and if there had been resistance to begin with, there was none now. Jack's passion and state of arousal was as high as Daniel's. His fingers were buried deep in Daniel's hair, holding him in place as their mouths moved hungrily over each other's. Daniel's fingers moved up and down Jack's biceps, his fingers flexing wherever they stopped. Jack threw his head back, gasping for air then groaned loudly as Daniel sunk his teeth into the exposed throat.
"I think we should be going." Harlan whispered, steering his lover towards the French doors again. Terry resisted a little, his eyes riveted to the sight of a snarling Daniel, ripping Jack's shirt open. The strangled noise that escaped Jack's mouth seemed to make Daniel even more aggressive. Harlan forcibly turned Terry away from the spectacle. "C'mon, babe. Give them a little privacy huh?"
Suddenly Daniel pushed away from the wall, his chest heaving as he stared in disbelief between Jack and the two retreating men. He couldn't believe he'd just kissed Jack, in front of witnesses. Jack slumped against the wall, his own breathing erratic. He looked dazed. Then he noticed Harlan and Terry too, and tried to stand upright.
"Um, I was just… I was…. Shit, Harlan it's not what it looks like."
Harlan shook his head and dragged Terry over to stand in front of Jack.
"Buddy, I've been very patient with you, but it seems you're just too dense to see what's right in front of you. Seeing you and Daniel suck face doesn't bother me, and you wanna know why?" Without waiting to hear Jack's answer, he swept Terry into his arms and proceeded to kiss the shit out of him. The younger guy, already more that a little turned on by Jack and Daniel's display, was panting when his lover finally let him up for air. "Get it Jack?" Harlan grinned.
Jack's jaw, which had been hanging open, snapped shut loudly. He blinked, then a look of wonder washed over his face as he finally got it. "You're telling me to get over myself and take a chance like you two obviously have?"
Both Terry and Harlan began clapping, but Daniel just blushed and averted his eyes. He still couldn't believe he'd actually played tonsil hockey with Jack. He was sure that his hair must have been sticking up on end from the shock.
"We're telling you that it's possible to serve your country and your heart, Jack. You do love Daniel, don't you?" asked Terry softly.
Jack reached out and tilted Daniel's chin, forcing him to look up. They gazed at each other for a long moment, until finally Jack smiled and let his fingers slide into Daniel's hair again. "Yeah... Yeah, I guess I always have ."
Daniel gulped and licked his lips in anticipation. He could already feel the electricity building up again. He moved a step closer and leaned forward, his eyes drifting shut as he whispered, "Same here." Then their lips met again and everything faded into the background.
Harlan threw his arm across Terry's shoulders. "Our work here is done. Lets go, before they spontaneously combust." Terry grabbed their coats and overnight bags from the hall while Harlan disappeared into Jack's bedroom. When he emerged, he lifted the phone off its hook, and then locking the front door behind them, he posted the key through the letterbox. They climbed into Harlan's truck and pulled away from the house without saying a word. Harlan drove for a few minutes before looking down and the hand trailing up his thigh.
"Wanna book into a motel?" he growled.
"Hell yeah!" replied Terry, moving his hand before Harlan drove them into a ditch. He could wait a little while longer.
Harlan stepped on the gas, feeling the same sense of urgency as his lover. There was something incredibly freeing about making love with another man, knowing that you could be as gentle as you wanted, but also that you could be rough if that's what you needed. He thought about Jack and Daniel and wondered if they had managed to make it to the bedroom after they had left. His smile grew. He really hoped so, because if they did, they would find the small gift he had left on the bedside table.
A bottle of Astroglide and a pack of condoms.