"Jack, the waffles are getting cold." Daniel's voice again, cheerful and not sounding in the least bit the worse for wear, had him throwing back the covers. He lay for a moment, staring down at is completely naked body. A quick scan of the room confirmed that his clothes were scattered haphazardly all over the floor.
Now that was weird. If he'd been blind drunk, he would have passed out fully clothed, if he'd been a little more sober, he would have folded his pants at the very least. It was a military thing. He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on his boxers and t-shirt then followed the smell of waffles to Daniel who would have all the answers. He hoped.
Daniel was pouring freshly brewed coffee when Jack located him in the kitchen. He turned round and favored Jack with one of his room illuminating smiles.
"Well finally!" he exclaimed, thrusting a mug into Jack's hands and steering him towards the dining table. The smell of coffee wafted up into Jack's face, and he decided that the questions could wait until after his caffeine fix.
Daniel went back to the kitchen and returned a moment later with a huge plate of waffles and maple syrup, which he placed before Jack with a flourish. Mouth watering with anticipation, Jack picked up his fork and tucked into his breakfast. He was aware of Daniel watching him eat, aware that the younger man seemed to be smiling indulgently. Still chewing, he raised an inquiring eyebrow. Daniel shook his head and picked up a napkin.
As Daniel crouched down at his side, Jack watched curiously, wondering what on earth the other man was doing. Then Daniel reached up and dabbed a dribble of maple syrup from the corner of Jack's mouth. The colonel blinked in confusion. He glanced around the room, convinced that he must be on Candid Camera. When no one jumped out at him, Jack concentrated on trying to escape Daniel's ministrations, only to freeze in shock, when Daniel leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips.
Jack was absolutely immobilized by the action.
Daniel drew back, smiling widely and Jack's mouth fell open. "Wh... What... what was that for?" he managed to stutter.
"For good luck. You have a job interview this morning, or had you forgotten?" Daniel squeezed his knee and went back to the kitchen, returning a moment later with his own breakfast. But by this time, Jack had recovered slightly.
"Interview?" he asked, searching Daniel's face carefully for any signs of duplicity. It had to be some weird joke. Was it April Fool's? Maybe it was 'drive your C.O. nuts day' and he hadn't received the memo.
Daniel gazed impassively back. "What are you worried about Jack? You'll get the job. They're gonna love you."
Jack sat back in the chair, eyes narrowing into suspicious slits. If this was a joke, Daniel was managing to keep his face remarkably straight. He decided that until he had more information, it was probably best to play along. "So remind me. What sort of job is it again? "
Daniel frowned, now looking a little worried. "Jack, you do remember applying for the contract don't you? Flying a private jet up to Africa to drop off a group of anthropologists? I got the tip from the University? Is this ringing any bells?"
Jack continued to look blank.
"The anthropologists are my colleagues. You've met them... Jack, you're scaring me."
Jack pushed back his chair, the half eaten breakfast now forgotten. Daniel wasn't the only one freaking here. He was talking to to a person that appeared to be Daniel Jackson, and sitting in what appeared to be his kitchen, eating what appeared to be waffles, but somehow, he had been pulled into the twilight zone. It was the only explanation, because in any normal, sane reality, Daniel Jackson would not have kissed him.
He got to his feet, desperate now to remember anything about the previous night that would explain this. His memories were fuzzy, the details sketchy. He stopped pacing when he noticed Daniel's worried expression.
"Come on Daniel, you know the Air Force won't let me take on a private flying contract...."
"What on earth has the Air Force got to do with this?" asked Daniel, folding his arms. The younger man sounded genuinely confused. Jack tried stating the obvious, but somehow he knew it wasn't going to mean anything to Daniel.
"They pay my wages, Danny... yours too."
Daniel began chewing on his lower lip. He watched Jack resume pacing for a few moments then took a deep breath. "Jack, you're not in the Air Force. You're a freelance pilot, and I'm a linguistics lecturer at the University. Now I know we got a little vigorous last night, but I don't remember you hitting your head off anything, so I'm gonna assume this is some kind of weird 'Jack' joke."
Jack stopped pacing and turned to face Daniel, a look of utter confusion washing over his face. Vigorous? If that meant what he thought it meant....?
"You and me... we're...?" he said wagging his finger back and forth between them.
"Going to be late? Yeah, so get a move on." Daniel moved past Jack towards the bedroom, swatting him playfully on the ass as he went by. Jack yelped and whirled round, not wanting to believe the evidence of his own senses. He and Daniel had somehow become lovers over night? No WAY!
He followed Daniel into the bedroom and stood just inside the doorway. Desperately, he tried again; hoping that something he was saying might ring a bell with his friend... lover... NO! 'friend' was good, 'friend' worked just fine. He didn't want to think about the other.
"Daniel, I'm a Colonel. You're an archaeologist. We're both straight, and we both work for the Air Force."
Daniel glanced backwards over one shoulder, casting Jack a look hot enough to melt Jack's Air Force belt buckle. He slipped his robe off, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Oh, I get it. Well that's a new one, Jack. We don't have time, especially for role-playing, but maybe tonight?"
Jack's jaw fell open. Daniel thought this was some kind of bedroom game? He advanced on his now naked friend, eyes blazing with a mixture of rage and embarrassment. "Daniel, I'm not kidding. This is serious. Best I can figure is something happened yesterday when Sam and I were looking at that damned... doohickey in the lab..."
"Sam? Who's he?" Daniel demanded.
Jack wasn't immune to the note of restrained jealousy in Daniel's voice. He sighed. "Sam Carter, Major Samantha Carter? She was trying to explain how the... doohickey worked, but you know me...? Most of it went right over my head. Okay, okay, all of it did! Then there's this blinding flash of light, and... BAM! I wake up in your bed."
Daniel folded his arms across his chest, still convinced that his lover was playing a new game. "Nice dream, Jack. No more cheese for you before bedtime."
Jack was having a really hard time keeping his eyes focused on Daniel's face. Although they had been friends for years, he had never seen the man completely naked. Daniel had some weird hang-ups when it came to publicly displaying his body. Which was why the present situation seemed so very out of character. Daniel stood in the middle of the room, as naked as the day he was born, but more interestingly, completely uninhibited about it. Then again, if Daniel believed that he and Jack were lovers...?
"Daniel, I'm not role-playing, I'm not joking and I'm not hallucinating. This isn't how things are between us. We're friends. Just friends. I have to find out what happened. Will you help me?"
Daniel picked up his discarded robe and shouldered back into it. He walked over to the telephone by the bed, dialing the number before turning to face Jack. "Of course I'll help Jack. Why don't you lie down for a minute?"
Jack shook his head. It was obvious that Daniel still didn't believe him, and for all Jack knew, he could be phoning the loony bin right now. The next words out of Daniel's lips seemed to confirm that hypothesis.
"Hi Janet, listen can you come over. There's a problem with Jack. Thanks."
Jack pushed away from the doorframe and came to stand in front of Daniel, glaring angrily at his friend. Daniel flinched when Jack snatched the receiver from his fingers and slammed it down, but Jack was way to upset to worry about it. "I'm not nuts, Danny. I don't need any potions or pills from the Doc. I just need to find Sam and get her to figure out what's going on."
The tiniest smile appeared on Daniel's face as he reached for Jack's arm. Guiding him into the living room, he urged Jack to sit on the couch. "At least you seem to know who Janet is." He offered optimistically. Jack didn't feel very optimistic right now. "Look, I hate to do this, Jack but I can that you really believe what your saying. If I dont get help soon, things could get ugly. This, I know from bitter experience."
The sound of the doorbell interrupted Jack's angry retort. Daniel sprinted to the door and a moment later, the pint-sized Napoleon of the SGC was standing before him.
"Okay, Jack, what did you take?" she asked without preamble, pulling a stethoscope out of her black bag and tapping the chest piece to see if it was working. Jack gave her a dirty look.
"How the hell did she get here so fast, Daniel?" he asked, evading the stethoscope with practiced ease.
"I only live one floor below you, Jack." She growled, determinedly pressing the scope against his chest. "Heart rate is elevated, and if I checked, I'm sure his blood pressure would be up, too." She muttered, her comments aimed at Daniel, as if Jack wasn't even there. Finally, she put the scope away and regarded the colonel coldly. "I'm your doctor, so you can't lie to me, Jack. What did you take this time? Amphetamines, Heroin, Coke...?"
Jack jumped to his feet, scattering both Daniel and Janet in his haste. "What the hell...? I do NOT take drugs, Janet. You know I haven't touched anything since Iraq. Daniel, what the fuck is going on?"
Janet stepped quickly between the two men. "Calm down, Jack, or I'll be forced to sedate you."
Daniel wasn't meeting his eyes. Jack felt the cold hand of fear squeezing his heart. What the hell sort of bastard was Jack O'Neill was in this reality? It appeared that not only did he have a male lover; he was also a drug addict, and probably violent too. Jack had to get the hell out of this place. Grabbing his jacket from the back of the couch, he stormed to the door, ignoring the pleas and protests from the two people left floundering in his wake. Daniel sounded terrified and he shouted down the corridor at Jack's retreating back, "At least tell me where you're going, Jack!"
But Jack just kept walking. He was half a mile away from the apartment before he realized he didn't have a clue where the hell he was going. He rifled his pockets and came up with a set of keys and a wallet full of cash. Taking a deep breath, he doubled back to the apartment to pick up his truck. Perhaps in the privacy of his own home, he could think this thing through. He was sure that Carter had to be here somewhere. They had been together in the lab when the alien device had gone boom. Maybe she had gone to his house too? He clung to that hope as he eased the truck out into the late morning traffic.
The sound of a child's laughter halted him half way up the path. Eyes narrowing, he picked up his pace, then flattening himself again the wall, he slipped round back. Everything looked different. His neat, well-maintained garden had been replaced with a riot of rose bushes and honeysuckle; his garden shed was now a jungle gym of huge proportions. Five kids, varying in age from about two to about ten cavorted noisily on the gym.
Jack's mouth gaped open in shock. He didn't know any of these kids. But then a voice he did recognize hailed from inside the house, telling the kids to come wash up for lunch. Jack flattened himself against the wall again, as the kids chased each other, giggling and screaming with delight towards the house.
Jack found he could hardly breath. The voice had belonged to his ex-wife Sarah. Sarah was living in his house? And who were the kids? Were they his? He shook his head trying to make his thoughts fall into line, tying to make sense of all this. Finally, taking a deep breath, he went round front and pressed the doorbell.
Sarah looked incredible; her long blonde hair pulled back into a pony hail, her beautiful blue eyes sparkling with merriment as she regarded the man on the doorstep.
"Can I help you?" she asked, obviously not recognizing him. Jack just stood there, speechless. His eyes fell to the distended belly pushing her apron out in front. He glanced back up and pasted a hollow smile on frozen lips.
"Name's Jack, Jack O'Neill. I... I used to live in this house, long time ago. I was in the neighborhood and thought...."
Sarah's smile grew wider. She grabbed his arm and pulled him over the threshold, into the familiar yet unfamiliar house. Jack's eyes darted about, noting what was the same and what wasn't with an almost detached air. He was only half listening to Sarah as she propelled him towards the living room.
A tall gray-haired man was sitting in the armchair by the fire, the local newspaper spread out on his lap. He glanced up with a curious smile as Sarah pushed Jack into the room. "Alan, this is Martha O'Neill's boy, Jack. Remember when we bought the house, she said her son was working in Saudi Arabia as a pilot?"
Alan got to his feet and shook Jack's hand vigorously. Then the room was filled with kids, all laughing and shouting to be fed. Sarah excused herself and ushered her brood into the kitchen leaving the two men alone. Alan offered Jack the couch and the two men sat, regarding each other curiously. Jack felt almost like he was looking at himself in the mirror. The guy's eyes were green, but in every other aspect, the two men could have been brothers.
"So you're Jack?" Alan asked, giving him the once over. "I must say, you're not at all what I expected. The way Martha talked... "
"You thought I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger?" Some things never changed no matter what universe you were in, and Jack's sainted mother appeared to be one of them. She had been so proud of her son, that she hand tended to paint him as a little larger than life, to anyone willing to listen. Alan smiled and nodded his head. "Did you really land a burning jet on a highway?"
Jack shifted uncomfortably. As he had no memories of that life, he was unable to answer the question, so he went instead with evasion. "Ah, well if Ma said I did... So, how's the old house working out for ya? I like what you've done with the place."
In Jack's experience, no man could resist showing off his DIY accomplishments to a fellow male of the species, and Alan turned out to be no different. An hour and a half later, Jack had visited every room in the house, some rooms twice.
He managed to hide his distress well when watching Sarah interact with her kids. In his universe, Sarah had loved kids even more than Jack had, which was why losing Charlie had been such a terrible blow. She had miscarried twice before Charlie, and then found that she couldn't have any more kids. He watched her smiling face as she rubbed noses with the youngest child. Here, at least, she was surrounded by children, which was as it should be.
Jack drained his beer and got to his feet, thanking Alan and Sarah for their hospitality. He declined their offer of dinner, turning to look back at the house one last time before getting into his truck. There was nowhere for him to go now, except back to Daniel's apartment. It was time to face the music.
Jack stood in the hallway, facing a door he had faced hundreds of times before. Only this time it was different. This time, the door didn't lead to his best friend, Danny; it lead to something darker and more terrifying. His gay lover. Daniel.
Jack leaned his head on the wood, summoning up his courage, trying to find the strength to just knock, to get it over with, to go in there, and face it like a man. Jack had no objection to people being gay, so long as they did it in the privacy of their own homes where he didn't have to see it, or even think about it. Thinking about two men having sex made him uncomfortable. Thinking about Daniel and himself having sex made him positively squirm.
He pushed away from the door and let the breath he hadn't even been aware he was holding, whoosh out. Just as he raised his hand to knock, the door opened and he was faced with a small bespectacled woman, her white hair pulled back into a tight bun. She staggered back when she saw Jack standing there, her hand flying up to cover her mouth.
"Oh my God, Danny he's back!" she shouted, grabbing Jack by the sleeve and hauling him into the apartment before he could change his mind and bolt. Jack was beyond surprise now. He had no idea who the woman was, but she seemed to know him.
No sooner had he set foot inside the living room, than he had his arms full of a very upset Daniel Jackson. He stood there for a moment, letting Daniel babble, and took a moment to threat assess the other people in the room. Doc Fraiser was still there, and a tall grey haired man had joined the small white-haired woman. There was something faintly familiar about him, but Jack couldn't think straight with Daniel squeezing him so tightly.
Finally he was released, and taking a step backwards, he met Daniel's eyes. "I'm sorry I took off like that. I was a bit confused."
Before Daniel could answer, Janet was in his face, shining her annoying pen light in his eye and asking a whole lot of questions. No he hadn't been drinking, no he hadn't taken anything, and no he hadn't eaten anything. She seemed satisfied with his answers and turned to address the tall gray-haired man.
"Mel, I can't rule out a drug endued psychosis, unless he lets me take a blood sample, which is unlikely... " She glanced at Jack, his angry frown being enough confirmation, "but it could just have been stress. Daniel tells me he was supposed to have a job interview lined up today."
The man she had referred to as Mel nodded minutely. He appeared to accept what the Doc was telling him. Then Janet reached over and squeezed Daniel's arm affectionately. "Look after him Daniel, feed him, make him rest. I'm off duty tonight if you need me. Take care."
Then she was facing off to Jack again, a look of grim determination on her face as she pulled him away from the others. Her voice dropped so that only Jack would hear her. "So help me, Jack, if you hurt him again, I'll hunt you down like an animal."
Jack gulped. Again, he was hit with the realization that whoever he was in this reality, he wasn't a very nice person, judging by the doctor's reaction. He opened the door and watched her stiffly retreating back until she got into the elevator.
Daniel and the older couple were watching him with concern as he came back into the room. The tall man, Mel, intercepted him before he reached the others. "Son, you have to stop doing this. How much more do you think he can take?" They both glanced at Daniel who was still refusing to meet his eyes. Jack cleared his throat. "Er folks, can you give me a moment with Daniel?" As he spoke, Jack made his way to the bedroom, tugging Daniel along with him. Once the door was closed, he took a deep breath and leaned back against it.
"Daniel? I need you to believe me when I tell you that I'm not high on drugs or booze. Neither am I stressed out or insane. But I am mightily confused."
Daniel didn't lift his head, but his eyes shot up briefly to lock with Jack's. "You haven't even asked me why they're here," he stated flatly, his voice low and hollow. Jack took a step closer, but Daniel backed away so he froze, stuffing his hands into his pockets in frustration. He wanted to shout, to scream, to smack Daniel in the mouth or to beg him to make this nightmare stop. He didn't want to be here, he didn't want to be the person he apparently was. But he could do none of that. Daniel seemed to flinch at his slightest movement. He wondered again if the Jack O'Neill in this reality had ever hit his Daniel.
"This isn't who I am, Danny. This isn't how it's supposed to be."
Daniel's head snapped up fully this time, a look of defeated resignation washing over his features. "How many times have I heard that, Jack? 'I'm sorry,' 'it wont happen again', 'it was the booze that made me do it', 'I never meant for this to happen'. Well I can't take it anymore. My parents are here to take me home."
Jack gasped, his mind finally peeling back the years so that the two people in the living room lost the gray and the wrinkles, and became the same two people he had seen in the one and only photograph Daniel still had. His parents, Melburn and Claire Jackson. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and clasped them behind his back to stop them from shaking. In this reality, Daniel's parents were still alive?
Daniel had turned to the face the dresser, hands braced on the wood. Jack stared at the back of his friend's head. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. Walking out on Daniel this morning had obviously been the last straw for the younger man, and now he was ending his relationship with his lover because of something Jack had done. Guilt stabbed through his heart. If this Daniel was anything like the Daniel Jackson he knew, then this had to be killing him.
He couldn't be held responsible for the sins of this Daniel's Jack, but neither would he be responsible for making things worse. Taking a steadying breath, he clasped Daniel's shaking shoulders and turned him round. "Danny... I'm sorry."
Before he even realized that Daniel was moving, the younger man had thrown his arms around Jack's neck, and pressed his lips hungrily against Jack's own. Shock made his knees go weak, and he staggered backwards, Daniel sill kissing him like he had never been kissed before. It was terrifying. He could feel the hardness of Daniel's muscles pressed against him, the restrained power that leaned against him. The rasp of stubble against his jaw sent tiny bolts of electricity arcing through him, strong fingers in his hair, an erratic heart beat thundering against his chest. It was all so alien, so wrong. His legs hit the bed and they went down in a heap, Daniel on top of Jack.
Jack's head was beginning to spin. He struggled out from underneath his panting friend; trying not to look freaked-out but knowing he must be failing. Because he was freaked-out - big time. Daniel rolled onto his back, hurt and rejection radiating from every pore. Jack scrambled quickly to his feet, thinking fast.
"I feel... weird Danny. I think I need to sleep. Is that okay?"
Daniel sat up and straightened his clothing. "Janet left some tranquilizers for you. Will you take them?"
Jack reached out a hand and pulled Daniel to his feet. "If I do, will you promise to stay with me?"
"Of course I'll stay, Jack. I wouldn't leave you alone after taking something like that. I'll go get them and tell my parents to go home, while you get into bed."
Daniel left without looking back at Jack. Well it wasn't the best outcome, but it also wasn't the worst. When he finally found a way out of this screwed up version of his life, at least he wouldn't have made things any worse for this Daniel and his Jack. He shuddered at that thought, and determinedly pushed the memory of the kiss they had just shared into the same dark corner of his mind.
He was warm and safe, wrapped in a loving embrace. He hadn't felt this at ease for years, since before this life went down the toilet, since before Charlie died. The fuzziness of sleep cradled him, gently eased his fears, and made him feel protected. Jack stirred, his hand sliding down to cover the hand resting on his thigh. It slid over strong fingers, tracing the short nails, feeling a steady pulse beating beneath the satin smooth flesh of the wrist.
He moved his hand sleepily, up over the sprinkling of hair on the forearm, fingers brushing over the rougher skin of the elbow, to curl around the tight bicep, feeling it flex beneath his caress. Strong arms, holding him, making him feel safe, making him feel....
Jack bolted awake, panic seizing him as he jerked out of the embrace, rolling to stare at the man beside him in the bed. Daniel mumbled sleepily and rolled away, leaving Jack feeling both relieved and strangely bereft. He worked on steadying his breathing as he slipped out of the bed, navigating across the room by memory alone. It was pitch dark, probably not long after midnight. Jack had only pretended to take the tranquilizers, but the stress of the day had obviously taken its toll, and he had fallen into a deep sleep, even without the drugs.
He shouldn't have been surprised to wake and find Daniel in bed with him. In this world, the bed belonged to both of them. Why wouldn't Daniel climb in beside his lover? Jack chided himself for not thinking about that sooner. He opened the bedroom door and crept out into the living room.
His heart was still hammering in his chest, and he was way to hyped up to sleep. He didn't switch on the lamp, preferring the darkness. In the kitchen, he boiled a kettle and made himself some herbal tea. Caffeine was not a good idea right now, and the smell of tea had never been known to wake Daniel the way the smell of coffee did.
A short while later, Jack was still prowling the darkened living room, trying to make sense of things. He should have been treating this situation like he was a soldier trapped behind enemy lines, and be trying to find a way home. But instead, all he could focus on was this version of himself's sexual preference. He had always thought that your sexual orientation was predetermined, something genetic rather than a life choice. If this Jack could be open to a gay relationship, did that mean that he could be too? Had this Jack always prefered men or had he just woken up one morning and fancied a bit of a change?
A sudden thought occurred. Jack made his way over to the groaning bookshelves and found what he was looking for. Daniel's journals. This, it would appear, was another universal constant. The answers might well be found right here.
He took several of the older volumes and made himself comfortable at the kitchen table. A deep breath, and the first well-leafed page fell open. He began to read.
As the first rays of dawn filtered through the drapes, Jack closed the final journal and got up from the table. He carefully replaced all the volumes on the shelves then opened the balcony doors and went outside to watch the sunrise.
He had his answers.
They had met in a Paris bar six years ago. Jack was with a passenger airline that specialized in VIP jets for the rich and famous, and had a layover of three days while his client, a very young French pop star, visited the folks back home. Daniel was nearing the end of another degree at the most prestigious University in the city, and was taking a break from his studies.
It was almost clichéd in its simplicity. Their eyes met across the crowded bar, and within moments they were seated next to each other. Jack offered Daniel a drink, Daniel accepted, and so it had begun. Later that evening, they walked along the banks of the Seine. As the Eiffel Tower came into view, Daniel asked how long Jack was going to be in Paris and was disappointed that they would have so little time.
According to the diaries, Jack was the perfect gentleman; they spent almost every moment of Jack's three days together, walking, talking, laughing, and getting to know each other. Daniel didn't want to spoil things by rushing into a physical relationship on such a short acquaintance, and it appeared that neither did Jack, but there was a definate spark between them. When they parted, it was as friends. Jack never even tried to kiss Daniel, although secretly Daniel longed for it. They exchanged phone numbers, and for the next three months, kept in touch.
When Daniel finished his degree, he came to Colorado. He'd begun to wonder if he'd imagined the spark as Jack never talked about deepening their relationship in his letters. Jack was flying a crop duster by then and he was so happy to see Daniel standing beside the runway that he'd pulled him into a bone-crushing embrace and kissed the shit out of him. Oh yeah, the spark was most definitely not a figment of Daniel's imagination.
Later, Jack had admitted that Daniel was the first guy he had ever been attracted to, and that he'd been trying to figure out if he was ready to throw away a lifetime of heterosexuality on the strength of three days with Daniel in the romantic capital of the world. Seeing Daniel again in the flesh had been all it took to convince him that this was really what he wanted. Less than a year later, they moved in together.
It read like a romance novel, but it touched off a need for something in Jack's heart that he hadn't been aware he was missing. He rested his forearms on the railing and stared out across the darkened city. As he watched, the stars began to fade and the sky lightened, then the reds and yellows of dawn chased away the more somber blues and purples until finally, the whole sky was set on fire by the rising sun. Jack shivered, and wrapped his arms around himself. The journals left him in little doubt how much Daniel loved his Jack. They had been blissfully happy together until Jack's little adventure in Paraguay.
Reading that part of the journal had been particularly hard for Jack. It sparked off too many of his own, unpleasant memories. Apparently, his counterpart had been hired by a local Drug Baron to fly a consignment of cocaine to America. He had immediately informed the authorities, and working undercover for them, had tried to infiltrate the drug smuggler's ring. The plan failed, and Jack was held captive and tortured for three months. His captors got him hooked on cocaine.
When he was finally released, he was not the same man, and despite a protracted stay in the hospital and extensive counseling, he was prone to bouts of severe depression, during which, he would often take drugs or drink himself into a stupor. Daniel had stuck by him through it all, but the strain of it all had almost ended their relationship on a number of occasions.
Jack couldn't help but remember his own long incarceration in an Iraqi prison. He too, had become addicted to drugs, and had been beaten and tortured, but unlike this Jack, he had survived the ordeal more or less undamaged. It hadn't been easy, and it had ultimately cost him his marriage. Jack had withdrawn inside himself and let his mind heal. Perhaps it was the military training that had made the difference. He didn't know. One thing was very clear to Jack. If his counterpart in this reality didn't pull himself together soon, he was going to lose the greatest love of his life. No doubt about it.
Jack shivered again, and went inside the apartment. It was only a little after dawn, and his sleepless night had begun to tell on him. Quietly he made his way to the bedroom, pausing at the side of the bed to look at his sleeping friend. Daniel looked ten years younger when asleep. Jack bent and brushed a stray lock of hair from his brow.
He cared for his Daniel more than he probably should, but he couldn't imagine being his lover. No matter how close they got, he just wasn't wired that way. His brain chose that moment to replay the kiss from earlier, and remind him of how little he had actually fought it. Sighing quietly, Jack slipped back into bed. Almost immediately, Daniel snuggled closer, burying his head in Jack's shoulder, one arm thrown casually across Jack's stomach. He tensed momentarily, and then willed himself to relax. If he didn't find Sam soon, this life might well become his by default. So he had better get used to sleeping with his friend. A moment later, he drifted off to sleep, Daniel's arm still wrapped tightly round his waist.
Jack relaxed in the armchair, surreptitiously watching Daniel through half closed lids. As he puttered about, seeing to the household chores, Jack thought about how different this Daniel was from the one in his own reality. This Daniel seemed too quiet, too withdrawn, and too ready to accept the shit that his lover was putting him through. His Daniel would never let Jack get away with half this stuff, and it made him sad to wonder about the life these other two men must lead.
Granted, in this world, Daniel still had his parents, and Sarah had her brood of kids. So there was a definite upside. But what benefits were there here for Jack O'Neill? His career certainly wasn't doing that well, and his people skills clearly left a lot to be desired. And there was the addiction. Jack could see no advantage here for him over the life he already had.
Then Daniel appeared before him, offering a tentative smile that none-the-less lit up his whole face. Jack smiled right back. This Jack got to put that smile on Daniel's face. Perhaps that was enough benefit for any man. Shaking his head at the weird direction his thoughts were leading him, he declined Daniel's offer of coffee and let his fatigue take him. His lack of sleep the night before finally caught up with him, and he slowly drifted off into a light sleep.
It seemed that he had been dozing for only a few moments when the doorbell rang. Daniel hurried to answer it and Jack pulled himself upright, hoping that it would the elder Jacksons again so that he could properly apologize for storming out the day before. But it wasn't the Jacksons. Daniel took a step back into the hall and let the blonde woman in. Jack was on his feet in a heartbeat.
"Sir!" she beamed happily, brushing past Daniel and hurrying to his side. Her use of his military title confirmed that this really was his Carter, and he couldn't help but hug the shit right out of her until she was squirming uncomfortably in his over enthusiastic embrace. The sound of the door slamming made them pull apart.
Daniel walked down the corridor, arms tightly wrapped around his middle and a look of confused skepticism on his face. "So this would be Major Sam Carter?" he asked giving the major a sweeping, head to toe appraisal. Jack almost felt like laughing, partly out of relief, and partly at the jealousy he could see in Daniel's eyes. It was almost comical, given that even in his own reality, Jack had never gotten anywhere close to first base with Carter. Some relationships were never meant to get beyond friendship. That thought, coupled with what he knew of the life this Daniel led, wiped the smile right off his face.
Jack took Sam by the elbow and led her into the living room. "So, you figured it all out yet?"
"No - you?" she tried to look hopeful, but if she couldn't work it out, what hope did the colonel have? He shook his head and sat on the couch beside her, one eye tracking Daniel as he paced back and forth.
"You were trying to explain the doohickey back in the lab. Then there was this flash of light. The I woke up in Danny's.... erm, then I woke up."
Sam glanced at him the quickly looked away. "Similar thing happened to me, sir." She admitted reluctantly.
Jack wondered what she had to be embarrassed about. He continued to relate the story so far. "I went round to my house..."
Sam blushed and couldn't meet his eyes, "Yeah, I went there too. Sarah's looking..."
"Pregnant?" Jack supplied helpfully. Daniel stopped pacing and glared between Jack and the newcomer. "Who's Sarah, and what do you mean by 'your house'? Jack, why won't you just tell me the truth?"
Jack stood up and reached for Daniel, squeezing his the tense shoulders lightly. "Daniel, this is gonna sound really weird, but I'm not your Jack. I got sent here from a... a..." he looked at Sam expectantly.
"Parallel universe, Sir," she supplied.
He nodded, "...what she said, and we have to get back. I assume that we swapped places with our counterparts?"
Sam went white. "Oh, God! I hope not. My counterpart is... I mean, she's not exactly... Oh, God!"
Jack's eyes narrowed as he turned to face his 2IC. "Where the hell did you wake up anyway, Carter?"
"In bed with some guy called Donald Forbes. In this reality, I'm married with a bunch of kids. And all I do all day is finger paint, change diapers and bake cookies. Interesting change of pace, but still..."
Jack bit down hard on his lower lip to stifle the giggle at the thought of Sam waving a wooden spoon dripping cookie dough with a tribe of little Sam's running around her feet. It was actually very endearing, and nowhere near as embarrassing as his scenario. No way was he going tell her about the nature of his relationship with Daniel in this reality. There were already enough rumours circulation around the base about them without adding fuel to the fire.
Then a sudden thought struck him. If Sam was horrified at the thought of her counterpart teetering around the SGC on high heelsthen imagine what damage a gay Jack O'Neill could do to his rep? "Sam, we have to fix this. NOW! Think damn it! What did we do wrong?"
Sam looked absolutely miserable. "I don't know - we'd opened that box a hundred times before and nothing like this had ever happened. Then we found that inscription on the base. Daniel told us how to pronounce the words, we opened the box... then poof!"
"Wait, wait, wait... I gave you the pronunciation?" Daniel suddenly looked very interested, and Jack belatedly remembered that the Daniel of this universe was a linguist of some renown. "What did it say, exactly?"
Sam hesitated for a moment, trying to call to mind the exact text. She stumbled over it at first, and then with more confidence, repeated the alien words. Daniel flopped down into the sofa. "Well, it's Ancient Norse and it sounds a little like a prayer. Roughly translated, it says; 'Great Odin, grant short passage to the life I have coveted, that I might learn its shortcomings and find harmony and peace in that which I already posess.' It's kind of a 'grass is always greener' sort of thing, if that makes any sense to you?"
Sam scrunched up her face. "Actually, I think it does. Just before the colonel came in, I'd been talking to my brother on the phone about his kids. I get kinda broody when he calls, and I was just day-dreaming about what things would have been like if I had got married and had a family...."
Jack stared at his hands. Well that explained Sam's journey into the twilight zone - her own personal showing of 'It's a wonderful life.' But there was no way he had been hankering after any of this. He had come to the lab directly from Daniel's office, but they had been arguing. Some long-standing disagreement about how Jack tended to overprotect the archaeologist.
Jack remembered his parting words to his friend before he had left, Daniel's office. "Yeah sure Daniel, you can look after yourself. Ha! You know, it's a good thing you have me watching your six, because if it were the other way round, I would really be in trouble. Now that, I would pay good money to see!"
Hell, that was it! This stupid alien doohickey had read his thoughts and thrown him into a reality where Daniel did look after his Jack, and his Jack damned well needed to be looked after.
Jack got up and began pacing. "So how do we get back?" He stopped pacing and looked inquiringly at Carter, "Repeat after me - there's no place like home, there's no place like home." She shook her head and watched as he banged his heels together three times. "Hey - Odin, buddy, you listening? We see the light, okay? We won't hanker after unobtainable shit anymore. Is it that easy?" Jack glanced at the ceiling, the window, nothing happened.
Sam let her breath out in a whoosh. "I have no idea, sir, but if it takes a while, can I stay here with you guys? Those kids were driving me nuts."
Daniel sighed and got to his feet. "Sure, why the hell not. And while you're at it, why don't you ask the very pregnant Sarah over too. The more the merrier, I say." And with that, he got up and stormed out of the apartment. Sam watched him go with one eyebrow raised. She was clearly taken aback at the uncharacteristic temper tantrum, and Jack realized that he was going to have to explain the nature of their relationship sooner or later.
"Carter, in this reality, Danny and I live together." She remained impassive, waiting for him to elaborate further. "As in, we LIVE together." She still wasn't getting it. "Sam, we live here, together, in Daniel's apartment. How many bedrooms do you see?"
"Oh!" She said stupidly, finally beginning to understand. Then shock washed over her face and she whirled round to face the colonel. "OH! You mean you're... you and Daniel are... OH!"
Jack sucked his teeth loudly and rubbed his tired eyes. "Yeah, just... do me a favor, keep it under you're hat, okay? If Feretti ever found out... well I'd never live it down. I'd better go after him. Make sure he's all right, you know? Make yourself at home and for God's sake, come up with something - fast.
Daniel made it to the parking lot before Jack caught up with him. He was leaning against his car, breathing heavily, but when he heard Jack approach he stood up straight. Jack slowed his approach, realizing that he had no idea what he was going to say to his friend. Daniel leaned back against the car and pulled the lining of his pockets out to illustrate his point.
"Forgot my car keys." He stated flatly. Jack nodded, reaching out tentatively to rest his hand on Daniel's shoulder. He realized that the other man was trembling. With a muttered curse, he pulled Daniel into his arms, rubbing soothing circles on his back.
"Shit, this is such a mess." He growled against his friend's hair. Daniel remained stiff and unresponsive for a moment then Jack felt the tension leave his body as he relaxed against his lover.
" I've missed you." He whispered, nuzzling Jack's neck until the older man had to pull away or risk flinching, which he knew Daniel would read as rejection. Daniel's arms tightened around his waist. "No, don't move. Just hold me, Jack. I've missed this so much."
Jack gulped, a sudden memory of allowing a longhaired alternate universe version of Sam Carter to kiss him for very similar reasons. It hadn't felt anything like he expected it to, the spark of attraction was missing and yet he had persevered, for her sake. In the end, the AU Sam had admitted that it wasn't right. "You're not him are you?" she had said.
Jack swayed slightly, a wave of nausea making him lean heavily on his friend for support. Daniel drew back slightly, trying to see what was wrong. "Jack?" he asked in confusion. The last place Jack wanted to lose his lunch was in the parking lot. He took hold of Daniel's elbow and staggered towards the elevators.
"Get me to the bathroom, quick!" he rasped, feeling his mouth fill with saliva, a familiar precursor to throwing up. Daniel didn't argue, he wedged his shoulder under Jack's armpit and half carried him back to the apartment.
Unfortunately, the bathroom was already occupied by Carter, who had found herself similarly indisposed. Daniel managed to find a large bowl in the nick of time, then stood back and watched in dismay, as Jack was violently sick. Eventually the nausea abated a little and Jack rolled onto his back on the kitchen floor. Daniel was beside him in an instant, wiping his face with a cold cloth.
"Feeling better?" he asked softly, smoothing back the damp hair from Jack's sweat soaked forehead.
Jack nodded mutely. "Check... Carter."
Daniel handed him the cloth and did as he was told, returning a moment later to tell Jack that the major was still throwing up. When the world stopped spinning, Jack let Daniel help him to his feet. He was beyond rational thought right then, and made no protest when strong hands guided him to the bedroom and removed his clothing down to his boxers. The he was being pushed under the covers. "Get some sleep, Jack. I'll look after your friend."
Jack was still awake when Daniel slipped in beside him. He lay on his back, one hand resting on his chest, the other behind his head, watching as Daniel disrobed silently. The room was dark, but for a tiny sliver of moonlight that bisected the bed, bathing Daniel's form in silver. When Daniel rolled towards him and laid his hand over Jack's, he didn't flinch. Daniel wriggled about until he was comfortable, his head resting on Jack's shoulder and his fingers tangled in the fine smattering of chest hair. Jack took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
So long as Daniel remained content to just sleep, Jack could cope. Actually, this wasn't at all bad. When they shared a tiny two-man pup tent on away missions, they slept almost this close to each other. Granted they were both usually fully clothed and in their own sleeping bags at the time, but this wasn't so different. He stayed perfectly still, waiting for the familiar deepening of his friend's breath, signifying that Daniel was asleep.
Jack moved his hand from behind his head, letting it slip down, briefly stroking the top of Daniel's head, settling finally at his nape. He squeezed gently, letting his thumb caress the soft skin. Daniel murmured something unintelligible and snuggled closer, making Jack smile. No, this wasn't at all bad. He slid his other hand up to cover Daniel's, where it rested on his chest, meshing their fingers together. He could definitely get used to this.
The next few of days went by in a daze for Jack, although their bouts of nausea had, at least abated. Sam theorised that it was just their bodies accustomising to this new reality. Sam became convinced that the alien chest device must exist in this reality, and finding it was their only hope of getting home. Daniel had suggested that museums and art galleries would be the most obvious places to find something as elaborate as an 8th Century Norse casket carved out of Walrus Ivory. Not that he actually believed Jack's wild story, but Janet had advised him to go along with it for the moment.
Dr. Fraiser had insisted on accompanying the major in her search. Jack was sure that Janet was checking her out for signs of mental illness, but made no comment. It was enough to know that Sam would be well looked after if anything happened. Daniel refused to leave his side, so they wandered around the museums together. Jack could think of far more interesting places to spend his enforced downtime, but Daniel seemed to genuinely be enjoying the quest, and watching Daniel enjoy himself had been a hobby of Jack's for years.
Life began to fall into a pattern. They spent their days wandering the district, checking out possible leads, then came home to eat. Sam had been invited to stay downstairs with Janet, as she had a spare bed, so Jack felt less and less uncomfortable crawling into bed with Daniel each night. He would lie motionless, waiting for the strong arm to slide across his stomach, and a moment later, Daniel's head would find his shoulder. Daniel's hair would tickle his nose but he didn't mind. It really wasn't so bad, being turned into a human pillow. As the days went by, he came to long for nightfall.
Daniel never pushed him, never asked for more. He seemed happy just to be close to his lover. Jack wondered how he was ever going to be able to sleep this close to his own Daniel, without wanting to wrap him up in his arms. He smiled a little at the thought of his Daniel, pushing him away and giving him that 'look'. The one he reserved for times when Jack was acting weird. He could hear his Daniel's voice clearly in his head, using his 'reasonable' tone of voice. He would say "Jack, whatcha doing?" and Jack would say "Nothing," and they would never mention it again. Jack sighed, and wrapped his arms even tighter around Daniel. He felt suddenly very sad, and alone, despite his friend's closeness. He inhaled the smell of freshly washed hair, and closed his eyes.
The next day they took a trip to the local supermarket for groceries. Jack and Daniel bickered constantly over what was being put in the cart, and Sam tried to pretend she wasn't with them. It took a little longer than they would have liked but eventually, they had paid for their purchases and were loading them into the trunk when Sam went white and pulled Jack down behind the car. Immediately on high alert, he automatically reached for a handgun he wasn't carrying. Cursing softly under his breath, he tugged Daniel down too.
"What's up, Carter?" he asked, pressing himself against the car door. Sam looked more agitated than Jack had ever seen her. She peeked over the hood of the car and quickly ducked back down.
"Donald, my 'husband'. He's loading his shopping three cars down from us."
Jack stared at his normally unflappable 2IC as though she had just sprouted wings. She had her panties in a knot because she had eyeballed her hubby? Daniel grinned and got to his feet, offering Jack a hand up. The two men causally walked to the back of the car to get a better look, ignoring Sam's frantic gestures for them to stay put.
Donald Forbes was a pleasant looking man in his mid forties, with salt and pepper hair and designer glasses. He was beginning to go a little saggy round the middle, but on the whole, he was a nice looking man. He was struggling to get the shopping stowed in the car and keep the kids in his Station Wagon from killing each other.
Jack shook his head and stole a quick look at Carter, still huddled behind the car.
"Poor guy, looks like his wife left him holding the baby."
"Maybe we should go over there, see if he could use a hand?" said Daniel. Carter's eyes widened and her face went even whiter before she recognized the teasing tone in Daniel's voice. Jack closed the trunk and tossed the keys to Daniel.
"Its okay, Carter. Donny and the kids have gone. You can get up now."
Carter peeked over the hood, then seeing that Jack was telling the truth, she tugged open the door and jumped into the car. She refused to speak to either of them for the rest of the day.
That night, as they lay in bed, Jack let one arm move up Daniel's back to settle at his nape, giving it a gentle squeeze as he had done so often in the past. Daniel glanced up at him, a tiny smile playing with the corners of his mouth.
"Love you, Jack." He whispered. Three tiny little words. Monosyllabic, meaningless by themselves. But put them together, and WHAM! Jack gulped, overwhelmed by the force of that simple sentence.
The Jack O'Neill of this universe was a lucky bastard, and he didn't seem to know it. What Jack wouldn't give to be loved again, and with such an unconditional love, too? He found himself wishing that Sam would never find the answer, just so that he could stay here, be loved, be cared for. Sighing, he squeezed Daniel's nape again and tried out the words, for Daniel's sake.
"Love you, too." He kissed the soft hair tucked under his chin, and found that those words were not just for Daniel's sake. He really meant them. The realization took his breath away.
Daniel snuggled closer, his soft breath ghosting across Jack's chest as he lay there, wondering how something like this could sneak up on a person. How did you miss something like the fact that you were in love with your best friend? Just like the Jack from this reality, Daniel was the first and only guy he'd felt this way about. It was something unique about the man himself. He found himself smiling into the darkness of the room. Maybe if his Daniel had grabbed him and kissed the shit out of him, he may have clued in a little sooner. He listened to the sound of Daniel's breathing as it deepened with sleep and he sighed. Ah well, it was all academic anyway. There was no way he was ever going to find out.
On the evening of the fifth day, they walked home through the park. Daniel slipped his hand into Jack's coat pocket, curling his fingers around Jack's hand. Jack sighed, and let their fingers tangle together. He didn't see the harm in letting Daniel have this small pleasure, and, he admitted inside his own head, he enjoyed the connection, too. Inside the apartment, Janet and Sam were setting the table for dinner. Sam stood a little straighter when jack walked in, and he wished she could forget the military protocol and just relax. His own cares and worries had all but slipped away over the last few days, leaving him mellow and happy.
"Sir, I think I know where the casket is."
Her words brought Jack out of his fuzzy utopia with a bump. Secretly, Jack had given up hope of finding the device. He was beginning to accept that his life was here now, with Daniel. He still couldn't imagine making love to his friend, but the kissing had been nice enough. With time, and a little patience, he was sure he could have managed something. But Carter's words halted that train of thought before it had fully left the station.
"Well, where is it?" he asked, flopping down onto the sofa. Sam was more animated than he had ever seen her. He felt a brief stab of guilt over how close he had come to giving up on his previous existence. Sam didn't have the same incentive to remain, and finding a possible way out of here was making her giddy with excitement.
"I think it may still be in the lab, sir."
Jack frowned in confusion. Janet and Daniel were hovering over them like a pair of concerned parents, still unconvinced that their two charges were really who they professed to be. Jack shrugged.
"Okay, but if it's in another reality..."
"I didn't say it was. The Cheyenne missile base exists in this reality too. I'll bet my reputation that the casket is in their lab."
Janet began pacing, one hand on her hip, the other rubbing the back of her neck. "Even if that's true, how the hell do you think you're gonna get in there? It's a top security military outfit. It's the headquarters for NORAD, for God's sake. I had to go thorough eight security checks before I could even set foot in the elevator."
Three sets of eyes fixed on the diminutive doctor. She stopped pacing and stared back at them. "Oh, no - forget it! I'm not going snooping in there."
Jack jumped to his feet and grinned down at her. "Okay, so get Sam and me in. After all, we know exactly what we're looking for."
Jack looked at himself in the mirror and tried to read his I.D badge upside down. Dr. John O'Neill. He thought it had a ring to it. A moment later, Daniel came up behind him, slipping both arms firmly round Jack's waist. His eyes appraised Jack in his white lab coat with approval.
"You look good in that." He nuzzled Jack's neck, squeezing tighter when Jack tried to pull away. Jack met his eyes in the mirror, and a moment of understanding flashed between them. Daniel finally believed. This was their last moment together. When Jack left the apartment, if all went well, this would be the last time they saw this 'version' of each other. Daniel blinked hard.
Jack watched the emotions pass over Daniel's face and felt his own heart contract. If everything worked out right, he would never see this man again. He suddenly felt very confused. It had occurred to him that maybe he wasn't in love with his Daniel at all. Maybe he had fallen in love with this Daniel, because here, there were no barriers to their relationship. Perhaps, once home again; he wouldn't feel the same way about his friend and that hurt. It hurt a lot. He didn't want to lose this closeness.
He turned in the circle of Daniel's arms, pulling him in closer. Daniel gulped, meeting Jack's eyes unflinchingly. "Jack, when you get back there, promise me something."
Jack lent forward, his forehead touching Daniel's lightly and he closed his eyes. He knew they were doing the right thing, he knew they had to say goodbye now, before things got anymore complicated, but damn, this was hard. "Anything. Name it." He whispered brokenly.
"Don't let fear stand in your way. Take a chance with your Daniel. You both deserve happiness."
Jack pulled away a little, enough to be able to gaze into those expressive blue eyes one last time.
"And you, promise me you won't let your Jack break your spirit. He doesn't mean to act the way he does. He just needs to know that you'll love him, no matter how bad things get. But you have needs too. Show him."
Daniel nodded, sniffing a little at Jack's concern. He would have pulled away, but Jack's hands on his cheeks held his still. Something infinitely sad passed over Jack's face then as he surrendered to the overwhelming desire to kiss Daniel.
All their joys, all their regrets, all their wants and unfulfilled needs, passed between them in that timeless moment. When Jack finally drew back, he was shaking. They held each other tightly for a moment longer, until Sam's voice from the living room made them draw apart.
"Time to go." Whispered Jack sadly. Daniel pulled back, both physically and mentally. They gave each other one final searching look, and then went to join Sam and the doctor.
"Sir, I think they're coming round."
Jack was trying really hard to get his eyes to open but they didn't seem to want to co-operate. This time, he was sure that he'd been drinking. His head was fuzzy and full of cotton wool and his tongue felt three times its normal size. A cool hand had pressed to his forehead.
"Doc?" he croaked. The Doctor pushed him firmly back onto the bed. The familiar smells and sounds, told him that he was in the infirmary, but he couldn't remember how he had gotten there. Jaffa raiding party? Replicator attack? Tok'ra incompetence? Could have been any of the above.
Finally his eyes cracked open a little, and once he was used to the brightness, he could make out the outline of several people hovering over his bed. Then it all came flooding back to him, the alien device, the alternate reality, everything.
"Colonel O'Neill? How are you feeling, son?"
Okay, that was definitely General Hammond, and he had used Jack's military title, which meant that he was back in his own reality. Jack propped himself up on his elbows, willed the world to stop spinning and smiled at his audience. "Like the morning after the night before, sir."
Then came the expected flurry of activity as the doc's army of nurses removed the monitoring equipment. Through it all, Jack was aware of one steady, silent presence at his side. Daniel sat quietly by Jack's bedside, watching the nurses do their job. Then Janet shooed them away and hit Jack with a barrage of questions, telling him that he and Sam had been found unconscious on the floor of the lab a week ago. They had both been in a coma for that long.
Jack was relieved that his gay, drug-addicted alter ego had not appeared to ruin his reputation, but sobered by the thought that the other reality had never actually existed. All that time spent with Daniel, falling in love, seeing his friend with different eyes, it had all been an illusion. He couldn't bring himself to look at Daniel at all, afraid that something of his confusion and regret must surely show in his eyes.
He glanced over at Sam, who was trying to get her own eyes open whilst being helped to sit upright by Teal'c. She looked as confused and disorientated as he did as Janet filled her in, too. Finally he couldn't avoid the moment any longer and his eyes met Daniel's.
There was something there, something he couldn't put his finger on. The younger man looked tired, and drawn, as if he hadn't slept in days. And he probably hadn't. If Jack had laid here in a coma for a week, wild horses wouldn't have dragged Daniel from his silent vigil. He searched his friend's face, seeing the relief and... and love shining from his eyes.
"Hey, Daniel." He said softly.
"Hey, Jack," came the equally soft reply.
Then the moment was gone as Janet came back and stuck a thermometer in Jack's mouth. "Daniel, the general has ordered a briefing for 1700 hours so I suggest you get some sleep first. As you can see, the colonel in going to be fine." Daniel nodded, getting stiffly to his feet. Jack watched him go, the sadness and regret of earlier coming back to shroud him in darkness.
"Catch you later." He called after Daniel's retreating back. He didn't hear if Daniel replied or not.
"So, did this other... reality actually exist, or was it all an illusion?" asked General Hammond after Carter had finished her report.
Sam dropped her pen onto the file before her and shrugged. "I guess we'll never know for certain, sir. The casket's real purpose is still unclear, but I believe it was originally designed as a teaching device for youngsters that complained about their lot in life. They got a chance to experience their dream and in so doing, see for themselves that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the hill."
General Hammond nodded minutely. "Very well Major, I believe this is another case for the boys out at Area 51. Box it up and see to its shipping yourself. In the meantime, I'm going to authorize a few days downtime for SG1. It must have been very harrowing for you both, trapped in that nightmare reality."
Jack's eyes met Daniel's across the table and he found he couldn't look away. "It wasn't that bad, General, but the downtime is appreciated." Jack had managed to describe the nature of his relationship with the alternate reality Daniel without too much embarrassment. Daniel gazed back, his face a mask. The General stood and dismissed them all.
Jack's first instinct was to follow Daniel to his office, but he knew that would be a very bad idea. The teaching device had done its job well. Until recently, Jack had never even been aware that he was attracted to Daniel, much less in love with him. The device had shown him, that even in a perfect world, where they could be together openly, things were not as rosy as he would imagine. It was telling him, that the risk wasn't worth it; that he shouldn't disturb the status quo.
Things were fine the way they were.
He made it to the locker room, and got changed into his civvies. Inside his locker, a picture of Charlie was taped to the door. It invariably made him think of Sarah and her brood of kids. He took the picture down and ran a thumb gently over the image of his son's face.
Things were fine the way they were.
Jack pulled on his coat and headed for the elevator that would take him to the surface, but before he even made it out of the door, Daniel materialized before him.
"Did you kiss him?" Daniel had his hands wrapped tightly around his chest, but his eyes met Jack's defiantly.
Jack wasn't sure he was ready for this conversation. He met Daniel's eyes and for a moment, everything else faded into the background. He remembered what the other Daniel had asked him to do. Take a chance. He took a step closer, reaching out to trace the stitching on Daniel's jacket.
"Yeah, we kissed." His eyes never left Daniel's. The other man seemed to be searching his face; eyes darting from eyes to lips then back to eyes again. Looking for something. Searching for the answers. Jack took another step closer.
"What was it like?" asked Daniel softly.
Jack froze. What was it like? It was incredible, shattering, life altering, insane, heart stopping and wonderful. But could he tell that to Daniel? Could he admit that he had liked it? That he had been turned on by it? If he did, then things would change between them. How could they not?
Things were fine the way they were.
He stepped past his friend, hand reaching for the door handle, but Daniel stopped him with a soft touch. "What was it like, Jack?"
Jack turned, saw the invitation in Daniel's eyes, and gulped. They faced each other, barely three inches of space between. Daniel's hand still rested on Jack's arm, his fingers squeezing gently. Jack opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out. His eyes searched Daniel's face, a slight frown marring his forehead. Was it possible? Did this Daniel feel the electricity sparking in the air between them? Did his Daniel want this, too?
Jack lifted a hand and touched Daniel's cheek. His thumb moved, tracing the full, slightly parted lips, and his eyes fell to track the movement, then snapped back up to meet smoky blue eyes of his friend. His other hand slid over a firm, muscular arm and up to cup the back of Daniel's head. The gentle pressure, forced Daniel one step closer. Jack's tongue darted out to moisten his own lips while his eyes fell to Daniel's again.
"It felt... like... this." He whispered, as he lowered his face to meet Daniel's, their lips barely brushing. Daniel's hands slid around Jack's waist, pulling him impossibly closer. Jack let his eyes drift closed and moved his grip deeper into Daniel's hair. He could feel every silky strand slide through his fingers. Their mouths met again, more certain and more confident this time. Daniel gasped and melted against Jack, clinging desperately to his shirtfront for support.
They staggered backwards, until Daniel's back made contract with the lockers. Both Jack's hands were cupping his face, thumbs tracking the sweep of his cheeks, and the sensitive skin behind his ears. Lips parted, glistening and wet, they devoured each other. Jack pressed Daniel back against the locker, feeling the evidence of the other man's arousal against his thigh. This was nothing like it had been with the other Daniel. He had felt shock and desire when the other Daniel had kissed him, but nothing as powerful and intense as this. He shook under the onslaught. He wanted to tear Daniel's clothes off and pin him against the wall and... Oh, God! The image had him panting and harder than nails in no time. Daniel groaned into his mouth and writhed against him.
In the other reality, Jack had not been able to imagine making love with Daniel. Here, and now, he wasn't able to imagine anything else. His hands tightened in Daniel's hair, as he tried to stop them from trembling, but Daniel was making things difficult for him. His tongue forced past Jack's lips and into his mouth, startling a moan of sheer lust from him. His hips bucked forward and Daniel went completely weak at the knees.
They slid to the floor, Jack finally letting go of Daniel's face long enough to tug the hem of his black t-shirt free from the waistband of his BDU's. Daniel's head fell back against the locker he was leaning on and Jack's mouth went dry at the sight of the exposed throat. Growling, he surged forward, sinking his teeth into the soft skin of Daniel's neck, while his hands roughly shoved his t-shirt up, so they he could run his thumbs over the tiny peaked nipples beneath.
When Jack pinched the nubs firmly between finger and thumb, Daniel cried out. "Ah God! Jack, not here! Jesus, not here."
Jack came back to reality with a bump. He was half lying over Daniel on the locker room floor, their erections rubbing together erratically through the fabric of their pants. Daniel's chest was exposed and covered with a thin sheen of sweat and Jack's heart was hammering so loudly, that it was all he could hear. He got to his knees, tugging Daniel's shirt back down and pulled Daniel up to a sitting position.
What the hell just happened? If Daniel hadn't stopped him, Jack would have taken him right there on the floor. He had lost control, turned into some kind of an animal. He shivered at the loss of body contact but felt shame heat his body a moment later. How could he have done that to Daniel? He got to his feet, walked over to his locker and banged his head against it several times.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" he chanted, oblivious to the hands that pulled at his shoulders, until the hands became insistent, spinning him round and forcing him to look into those beautiful blue eyes. Daniel smiled and gently kissed him.
"I only meant that I didn't want our first time to be on the floor of the SGC locker room, Jack. Do you suppose we could take this somewhere a little more... private?"
Jack blinked. First time? Daniel wanted there to be a first time? Jack felt the smile begin to spread from his face to his eyes. "My place, seven o'clock sharp?"
"It's a date," replied Daniel.
Jack nodded, still more than a little dazed by the whole thing. 'Take a chance', Daniel had said. 'You both deserve happiness'. Jack had no idea if he could make Daniel happy, but he intended to die trying. This wasn't going to be easy, his career and his liberty were on the line here, but neither of them mattered to him as much as putting that smile on Daniel's face.
He opened the door and stepped out into the corridor, the goofy grin still plastered all over his face. The sudden impact nearly knocked him off balance, when a man in a lab coat barreled into him. The man reached out to steady to colonel, apologizing profusely. Jack squinted at him, trying to place where he had seen him before.
"Sorry, sorry! Wasn't looking where I was going! My fault." The man gushed as Jack peered at the I.D. badge dangling from the clip on his pocket. "I've just been assigned here and I'm afraid I got a little turned around. I'm looking for the physics lab.
Jack finally managed to read the I.D. badge and a slow, evil grin spread across his face. "Take a left here then second right. Then go up one level and the door is right opposite the elevator."
The man pumped his hand enthusiastically. "Thank you colonel." He called over his shoulder.
"Don't mention it Donald." Jack replied, "Tell major Carter, Jack said 'hi' - oh and tell her that the grass is never greener...."
Daniel watched the man disappear. "Who was that?" he asked curiously.
"That," said Jack gleefully "was very possibly the future Mr. Sam Carter."