Tangled Web

First Published: February 17th, 2005
Rating: Adult
Pairing: Jack/Daniel
Word Count: 32,177

Notes: This is an illustrated fic. So many people helped get this mammoth thing off the ground, and I really hope I don't forget any. First there was Ximeria, Saladscream and Skater, who all read this at various stages of its inception and gave me encouragement all the way. Then my Alpha reader Brynn, who's enthusiasm never flagged and who's suggestions helped make things better. Deb C gave me the medical beta for Jack's injury and made sure things stayed feasible. Jude, she of the red pen, beta'd it to within an inch of it's life. And finally Skater again, who I must credit with all the illustrations for part five.
I couldn't have done it without you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Summary: Daniel is looking for something that's been missing from his life for too long. Jack can help him find it, if only Daniel would open his eyes and really see. Illustrated fic

 


Daniel pulled his Chrysler convertible into an isolated parking spot, as far away from the brightly lit dance club as he could manage. He killed the engine and sat for a long moment, eyes glazed, not really seeing the bright neon sign above the door, hearing the loud buzz of conversation, or the deep insistent bass beat of dance music.

This had to be a mistake. A huge one, at that.

He sat still, wondering what in hell had possessed him to come there, to Denver's premier gay nightclub, of all places? Technically speaking, he was bisexual. He found women attractive enough, but his preference had always been for men. However, his only gay experiences had been limited to a few encounters in college. Even then, he'd never progressed to what he thought of as the fancy stuff.

As he clutched his steering wheel, he stared down at his white knuckles and shaking fingers. Had it really come to this? Was he really so desperate for human contact that he'd go looking for a quick, anonymous fuck in some motel room? He took another hesitant glance across the parking lot, giving himself a stern talking-to. He didn't need to do this. Didn't want to do it. There had to be another way. Casual sex just was not his scene.

He was reaching for the ignition key when two men emerged from the club, their movement catching his eye. As he watched, they leaned against a wall to kiss. Their bodies pressed against each other as they ate each other alive. At some length, they moved off again, arm in arm.

Frustration surged within him once again. He let his head drop to the steering wheel, choking off a groan. That was why he'd come there, wasn't it? To get laid? That was what he'd told himself he needed, a brief and meaningless encounter to make him feel alive again.

Daniel sighed and lifted his head slowly, turning to look at the door to the club once more.

He'd thought about trying to date some 'nice' girl, but his options were a little limited. The only two women he knew well enough to date were Sam and Janet, both of whom he loved dearly, but saw more as close family members than potential girlfriend fodder.

Widening the search criteria to include Sam and Janet's colleagues, he'd admitted that he'd never found soldier girls very appealing, and as for Janet's nursing staff... well, the thought of dating someone who already had intimate knowledge of his body, both inside and out, was more than a little off-putting. The only female civilian scientists on the payroll were already spoken for, and the ladies on the commissary staff were all old enough to be his mother.

So, SGC personnel were out, which left trying to find a girlfriend off base, in which case, he would have to keep what he did for a living a secret. He wasn't sure he could actually do that, even if he wanted to go that route.

Besides, he didn't have much spare time, and his friendship with Jack O'Neill took up what little time he did have. They'd watch whatever game was showing on TV, take in the latest IMAX movie up at the new Cinemark Theater, or spend quiet evenings in, eating pizza and drinking beer. He valued the time they spent with each other as friends, knowing on some level that Jack was as lonely as he was.

But there came a time when all a man really wanted was sex.

It'd been four years since Sha'uri had been taken; four long years, trying to pretend that his body's needs were unimportant. When there'd been a chance of getting her back, it'd been easier to cope, but now that she was finally at peace, he couldn't do it any longer. He couldn't pretend that he didn't ache to be held again, to feel warm breath caress his cheek, or to hear his name whispered in a moment of passion.

He wasn't naïve enough to think that he'd find any of that in this club. But he was lonely. And the need to connect on a physical level with someone again was a constant, aching pain that radiated out from some hollow place inside him.

Very briefly, he'd even thought about going to an escort service, but quickly dismissed the idea. No matter how bad it got, he would never be THAT desperate for companionship. He would never use a woman for sex like that. At least here, they knew the score. Everyone was looking for the same thing. For a few hours, he hoped he could assuage the terrible loneliness in his heart. For a few hours, maybe he'd be able to forget who and what he was, and just 'feel' again.

His friendship with Jack had helped ease the loneliness in the past. He was quite possibly the best friend Daniel had ever had, but friendship could only carry him so far. It wasn't enough. Not nearly enough.

Taking another steadying breath, he decided he was done talking to himself, so he stepped out of the car. Maybe coming there hadn't been the best idea he'd ever had, but he was so sick and tired of being responsible and sensible. Tonight he just wanted to get a little drunk and quite possibly fucked. He'd worry about any consequences later.

Mind made up, he strode through the parking lot with a determined set to his shoulders. The music grew louder as he approached. The smell of beer and cigarette smoke wafted in currents though the thickness of the night air. People laughed, voices raised in merriment and joy, surrounding him, and suddenly he felt out of place... alien … alone.

The door swung open as one of the patrons left, and Daniel's eyes scanned the crush of gyrating bodies within. As the door began to swing closed, he took a deep breath and strode forward, determined not to wimp out. He didn't even notice that the man who'd come out of the club was still standing there staring at him, until he found his way blocked by an out flung arm. Surprised, and a little annoyed, he looked up into glittering brown eyes.

"Ja…?" His voice caught on the word, cracked, rose an octave. "Jack!"

The last person he would ever have expected to see coming out of a gay club stared back at him, the neon blue of the club's sign making his silver hair glow like a halo. A thousand thoughts seemed to flow behind those brown eyes, expressions fleetingly manifested, wars fought and lost in a heartbeat.

Finally Jack took a step closer, bringing them almost toe-to-toe. "If you were thinking about goin' in there," Jack gestured over his shoulder with one thumb, "I have to tell you, it's packed tonight. Not usually this busy on a Thursday."

That was it? Easy as that? No hastily formed excuses, no embarrassment? Not even a 'this isn't what it seems' speech?

Daniel stood absolutely motionless, head whirling and heart hammering. Jack… his friend, Jack… his buddy… his best pal, had just walked out of a gay club. Daniel's mouth fell open, and he found himself gaping like a fish. Jack wasn't even trying to pretend he'd gone there by accident. Daniel's worldview tilted alarmingly, and he wasn't at all surprised when he found a pair of strong arms holding him up.

"You okay, buddy?" Jack asked, the concern in his voice making Daniel's knees go even weaker.

He shook his head, groping for the nearest wall, leaning against it, while his brain desperately tried to play catch up.

Jack + gay club = Jack is gay.

Gay!!!? Nope, does not compute!

The wall refused to support him, and he gave in to momentum, sliding down onto his ass on the top step of the club's entryway. His head cradled in his hands, he started to laugh manically.

Jack knelt on the stairs beside him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Had a skin full already, have ya?" he asked with a grin, squeezing the knotted muscle under his fingers.

Daniel wanted Jack to stop touching him, it was making rational thought almost impossible. He tried to shrug the hand away while rubbing his temples in an attempt to stave off an impending headache. "I'm perfectly sober, thank you!" he exclaimed. "But more than a little confused."

Jack refused to move his hand from its perch. "If you say so, Daniel. But you just slid down a wall, so I'm having a hard time buying that." He put a hand under Daniel's elbow and hauled him upright.

Daniel had to grab a handful of Jack's leather coat to steady himself. Jack leaned close and made a big show of smelling his breath. His brows furrowed when he found it to be clear of alcohol fumes. Jack's face became a mask, carved out of stone. He looked down at his feet, took a deep breath, and met his friend's eyes again. "Got your car?"

Dropping his hold on Jack's clothing, Daniel cocked his head towards the parking lot beside the club. "Over there, why?"

"I came by cab." Jack nodded curtly and steered Daniel in that direction, obviously marshalling his thoughts. It gave Daniel an extra few moments to get a grip on his own stampeding imagination. Right now, he was past shock and denial, fast approaching anger and embarrassment. How could he have been so clueless? There had to be some other logical explanation. His brain was still going full tilt. This was huge. Jack was gay. Jack was gay? Fucking enormously huge and scary and … and just huge.

As they reached the car, Daniel fumbled in his pocket for his keys, managing to drop them in his nervousness. "Fuck," he muttered to himself. Jack bent to pick up the keys at the same time as Daniel, and their heads butted. Jack swore under his breath as he rubbed his forehead, squinting at Daniel who was doing the same. Under different circumstances, they would have laughed, but both seemed to know that this was a turning point for them, a landmark in their friendship, a fork in the rocky road of life.

Finally Daniel got the car open and climbed in, aware that Jack was still standing outside, watching him warily. He took a grip on the steering wheel and tried to steady himself.

"Get in, Jack," he ordered.

Wordless, Jack went around and climbed in the passenger side. As the door slammed shut and silence descended on them, Daniel found he couldn't meet Jack's eyes. He remembered an incident a long time ago when a friend at school had cut her shoulder length blonde hair into a military buzz cut and dyed it black. Daniel had felt like he was looking at a stranger. A stranger with his friend's eyes.

This had the same feeling of awkwardness and uncertainty. This was still Jack, but now everything about him was the same, only different. How could Daniel have not known about this?

"Daniel, I should have told you about…." Jack waved his hand in an all-encompassing gesture, grasping for the right words, "about…all this!" It was apparently the best Jack could come up with to excuse all but turning Daniel's world upside down. Daniel stared sightlessly through the windshield, chewing on his bottom lip. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. This was just too weird.

Jack sucked in a huge breath. "Look, call it a survival instinct. You've been around enough to know how it is. You keep this sort of thing quiet in a military base, if you don't want to end up in a bloody puddle on the locker-room floor…"

Jack had spoken to the windshield, so Daniel snuck a quick glance at his profile. He seemed tense, wound up tight. Daniel knew this confession had to be costing him a lot, despite how cool he'd been playing it earlier. Jack wasn't accustomed to talking about these things, that much was patently obvious. Daniel kept his mouth firmly shut. He understood the need to be discrete, but they were friends. Bottom line, he summarily decided, was that Jack simply didn't trust him.

"It's not that I don't trust you, Daniel, 'cause I do," Jack assured him vehemently, seeming to read his mind. "I trust you with my life, and always have. You do know that, right?"

"Do I?" That was the burning question, all right. Did Jack trust him? Daniel shifted in his seat, pivoting around so he could look directly at his friend. Even ten minutes before, he'd have had no doubt about the answer.

He watched Jack swallow, his Adam's apple bob nervously. "I thought we were friends. I thought we…" Daniel shook his head sadly, turning to face the windshield again. He was silent for a couple of moments, thinking, and then murmured, "I guess I've been pretty naive, Jack. See, I thought we had no secrets."

Jack hung his head, nodding slowly in agreement. Watching him once more, sensing Jack's regret, Daniel felt trapped in the tight confines of the car. He wanted to get out, to pace. He wanted to shout at Jack, tell him that this sucked. All this time, all these years, he'd been Jack's very best friend, but he'd had no idea, not one inkling, that the big bad colonel liked... liked men!

With a frustrated growl, Daniel put his seatbelt on and started the engine, putting the car into reverse. He couldn't talk about this right now. "Where do you want to go, Jack? I'll drop you off."

Jack gave him a long look and then reached for his seatbelt. "I was gonna call a cab and go home, actually, " he confessed. He folded his hands carefully in his lap.

Daniel pulled out of the parking lot, taking the turn out of the lot a little too sharply, which threw Jack sideways against him. "It's only eleven thirty!" Daniel sneered, hating the bitchiness in his own voice, but not able to help it. This was beyond huge. This was cosmic! "What happened in there? Didn't you see anyone you liked?"

Glancing sideways, he noted that Jack didn't smile. In fact Jack's brows drew together in a deep frown as he examined his folded hands closely. "Nope. Not tonight. Actually, I haven't for a very long time."

Daniel heard the bleakness in Jack's voice, but the traffic was a little busier out on the main road, and he actually was glad he had to concentrate on his driving. He'd left the top down, relishing the feel of the wind on his face, whipping the collar of his shirt against his neck. Somehow it grounded him. It stopped him from thinking and just let him feel the elemental force of it on his flesh.

The journey back to Colorado Springs took almost an hour and was concluded in silence, with Jack staring out of the side window, and Daniel's knuckles white on the steering wheel. By the time the Chrysler rolled into Jack's driveway behind his truck, Daniel's lips were one tight, angry line. He put the car in park but deliberately didn't shut off the engine, telling Jack without words that he had no intention of coming in.

"This works both ways, you know," Jack stated softly, finally turning to look at Daniel.

Daniel sighed. He was too angry to speak and so let his raised eyebrows ask the question.

Jack's hand rested on the door handle. "It seems to me you weren't exactly honest with me, either."

Daniel opened his mouth, ready to snap off an angry retort, only to realize that it was true. He'd hidden his sexuality from his friends just as completely as Jack had. His anger began to dissipate, leaving an odd, aching sadness in its wake.

Then something else occurred to him. In his shock and confusion, he hadn't noticed at first, but now that he was calming down, he remembered clearly. Jack hadn't been the slightest bit surprised to see him standing outside that club. "But you already knew about me, didn't you?" he asked flatly.

Jack lowered his gaze, fixing his eyes on the top button of Daniel's shirt. He nodded, not trying to deny it. "Look, I'm not proud of it, but... I'm your CO. I have access to your personnel file. Remember all those embarrassing questions they asked you, back when you applied for your security clearance?"

"My sexual orientation is no one's fucking business but my own!" Daniel spluttered before he realized the implications of Jack's statement. "Oh!" he whispered. "That long?"

Jack gave him one last lingering look before undoing his seatbelt and sliding out of the car. He slammed the door and leaned in the open window. "I should have told you I knew. I'm sorry. But believe it or not, I was trying to mind my own business." When Daniel didn't answer, he tapped a finger on the windowsill and started to straighten up. "Call me later, okay? Once you've had a chance to… you know, think it all to death."

Daniel watched silently as his friend hurried away, knowing that they'd both have to put in some work if this was to be fixed, but not really sure yet how it was going to change things, or even if it would.

***

Daniel rolled onto his side and squinted at the digital display on his alarm clock. 4:12. Exactly seven minutes since the last time he'd checked. He'd been tossing and turning for hours, wrestling with the night's startling revelations until his brain hurt. He still had no answers to the myriad of questions whirling around inside his head.

But one thing had begun to coalesce. Nothing needed to change.

Jack was still Daniel's best friend, and it was important to him to preserve that. The parameters of that friendship had been laid down over the years, based on shared joy and pain, as well as mutual understanding and respect.

He'd never really been sexually aware of Jack. In the first moments of their acquaintance, Daniel had looked, admired, and then dismissed any possibility of reciprocal interest from the cold-eyed, suicidal, rampantly heterosexual Air Force colonel. In all the years he'd known the man, there'd never been any reason to re-evaluate that assessment. Daniel had managed to survive in a homophobic, predominantly male environment by sticking to a simple self-imposed mandate: straight men were off limits, and military straight men were just downright dangerous.

That wasn't to say that Daniel didn't appreciate Jack's impressive physical assets. Daniel wasn't blind, after all. He'd noticed how Jack's lean muscles rippled under tanned skin when he worked out in the gym. He'd noticed how the sunlight of an alien world turned the strands of Jack's silver hair to mercury. Whenever they'd showered together, he'd marvelled at how comfortable his friend was inside his own skin, always wishing he could be as uninhibited about his own body. He'd looked, thoroughly and often, but what he'd always seen was just Jack, just his friend, his best friend.

Throwing back the tangle of sweat-dampened sheets, Daniel staggered to the bathroom and turned on the shower. There was little point trying to get to sleep now. He needed to force his mind back into focus.

After a quick in-and-out shower, he powered up his PC, got on the internet, and lost himself in research.

***

Later that morning, as he fought to stay awake during Sam's briefing, Daniel regretted his sleepless night. He had all the information about P4X-923 in the file before him, so he wasn't too worried about missing anything really important. He was more concerned about how rude he'd look if he started snoring. That was the sort of thing Jack might do.

Speaking of whom…

Jack didn't look like he'd gotten much sleep, either. He sat across the briefing room table, slumped in his seat, eyes downcast, lashes sweeping the dark circles under his eyes. Occasionally he glanced up, right at Daniel, who quickly looked away, not yet ready to look into the eyes of the stranger wearing his friend's face.

Finally, the meeting was over. The General dismissed the team, allowing them some time to prepare for the upcoming mission.

Sam gathered up her notes and walked over to stand behind Daniel, laying one hand on his shoulder. "Daniel, you feeling okay? If you're not up to helping with the translations…"

"I'm fine," he said a little too quickly as he roused himself and got to his feet. "I had a touch of insomnia last night, that's all. I'll be fine after I eat something." He cast another quick look at Jack, who was still slumped in his seat. The colonel didn't look up from his studious appraisal of his water glass.

"Oh. Well, if you're sure?" she replied dubiously.

Daniel nodded, casting Sam a reassuring look as he hurried out of the room. "Give me about an hour, Sam, and then bring the notes to my office."

***

"What's with Daniel, sir?" Sam asked, making a production out of shuffling her paperwork.

Jack dropped his pencil onto the file in front of him and gave her a withering look. "How the hell would I know, Carter?"

"Because," she smiled sweetly, "when he's that upset, you're usually the cause."

Teal'c got up from his seat and began to help Sam gather up the files. "Did you and Danieljackson have a falling out, O'Neill?"

"Kinda," Jack admitted, squirming in his seat like a naughty five-year-old boy.

When the colonel was not forthcoming with any more details, Sam shook her head sadly. "Maybe you should go talk to him. Get things straight between you."

She frowned in confusion when Jack spluttered and coughed, but he regained control of himself quickly. "I will, Carter, I promise. Just not right away. He needs time to wake up first."

***

Daniel took the elevator up to the commissary, leaning against the wall, fists thrust deeply into his pockets. He didn't really feel like eating, but he didn't want to risk being caught out in the lie about needing to eat, either. He'd get some coffee, sit in a corner, and read over his briefing notes. Maybe think some more about the 'Jack' situation.

If he knew Jack, which he apparently did not, but that was fodder for a discussion for another day…. If he knew Jack, the man would be biding his time, letting Daniel work it through, and when enough time had elapsed, Jack would come to him and insist on talking. It wasn't something either of them did particularly well, but even Jack seemed to know that some things needed to be said.

Daniel joined the line of personnel waiting to be served, idly sliding his empty tray back and forth. He felt a little calmer now; a little less spooked by the idea that Jack was… might be… was possibly… a little bit gay. Could someone be a little bit gay?

Probably 'bi' would be a better word. After all, he'd not only been married, but he'd been a father, too. It was going to take some mental readjustment on Daniel's part, but he was sure he could do that. He was having more trouble with the sense of betrayal he still felt. How could Jack have not told him, especially since he supposedly had known about Daniel's own bisexuality for years?

It took a moment for him to realize that he was being watched. He glanced over his shoulder, frowning with concentration as he tried to recall the name of the man in the white lab coat, who was now frankly staring at him.

Nathan… something.

"Nathan Leonard," the man said as he came over and stuck out a hand. Trying to be civil, Daniel shook it, still trying to place the tall, dark haired man. "I work with Major Carter in the physics lab," Leonard supplied helpfully. Daniel's eyes widened as he correctly read the warm appraisal in the tall man's gaze, and it finally clicked. Daniel remembered where he'd last seen him, at the physics department's Christmas party.

The guy had said something faintly off-color, even suggestive, to Daniel. At the time, Daniel had figured that Leonard was drunk, but now he realized that the man's previous 'offer' had been quite deliberate. He felt color rising in his cheeks as he tugged his hand free from Leonard's grip and stuffed it into his pocket. "Oh, I remember. How've you been?" he asked stupidly, feeling completely tongue-tied.

Now that he was finally buying a clue, he allowed himself to see the man with different eyes. He towered over Daniel. He had to be at least six foot six, with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a very nice smile. With a sweep of his eyes, Daniel took in the thirty-something fit body, perfect teeth, broad shoulders, and long, long legs. And he even had time to catch the scent of a nice aftershave, not too strong or overpowering.

Daniel blushed even more furiously when Nathan leaned close and murmured, "Like what you see, Doctor Jackson?" Even his breath smelled good.

He'd been giving the guy the once-over, no use denying it. Taking a gulp of air to steady himself, Daniel made a decision. "Um, yeah. I do. You?"

The guy gave him a 100-gigawatt smile by way of confirmation and nodded in the direction of the front of the line, drawing Daniel's attention to the fact that while they'd been talking, the line had moved forward, and they'd reached the cash register.

The girl behind the counter cleared her throat and scowled at Daniel, nodding towards his empty tray. "Not hungry today?" she asked sarcastically.

"Um, I'm just getting coffee," he managed, his mind busy processing what had just happened. He handed over his commissary debit card and then tried to concentrate on navigating the route to the coffee carafes without tripping over his own feet, all the time aware of the brown eyes checking out his ass as he walked. Finally, he found an unoccupied table and slid gratefully into the seat.

A shadow fell over him a moment later, and he was forced to look up. Nathan put down his own tray, sliding into the other chair without asking for permission to join Daniel. "So. You busy tonight? I thought we could maybe have dinner."

Daniel licked his lips nervously. He'd given up on finding someone to date right there on the base. When he'd been mentally reviewing his options earlier, he'd never considered looking at the male civilians on base. This guy was perfect; Nathan had security clearance, was intelligent, and was fucking gorgeous. He even smelled good. What the hell was Daniel waiting for?

"Sure, that'd be nice." His words were ringing in his ears, his heart hammering against his ribs as he smiled up into the knowing brown eyes.

Nathan smiled right back as he got to his feet. "Great. Fenton's, over on Academy. I'll meet you at seven thirty. Oh, and wear something sexy, 'kay?"

Daniel's mouth gaped like a fish as Nathan walked away. He'd just made a date. With a guy. Who wanted him to dress sexy. Suddenly Daniel wasn't at all sure of himself. Dress sexy? What the fuck was that supposed to mean?

***

Daniel took the coffee back to his office and closed the door firmly behind him. He slumped into the armchair in one corner, opening his briefing notes, and trying to focus on the first page. He refused to start analyzing his encounter with Nathan. It was no big deal. They had a date, that was all, nothing to get uptight about. So then why was his stomach clenching in knots, why was his heart still racing, why did he feel like giggling and doing a little 'happy dance'?

He shook his head in frustration when he realized that he'd just read the same line three times. Taking a deep breath, he tried again, only to slam the folder shut the same moment a tentative knock sounded on his door. It was too early to be Sam. He hoped it wasn't Nathan. He wasn't ready to face the guy again so soon. "Come in," he called out, his nervousness evident in the crack of his voice.

He heaved a sigh of relief when it was only Jack's face peering around the door.

"Busy?" the colonel asked. He sauntered in, hands balled into the pockets of his green fatigues.

Daniel carefully laid the folder on the floor and shrugged. "Not really." He sighed, watching Jack pull out a chair, turn it around, and straddle it.

Jack crossed his arms over the back of the chair and leaned his chin on his forearms. "Sorry."

That was so typical of Jack. He'd bat those big puppy dog eyes, say sorry, and expect to be forgiven. And of course, it worked every time. "Sorry that I'm not busy? Or…"

"Or," Jack affirmed, staring at the floor. "Are we okay now?"

Were they okay?

Daniel supposed they must be. He wasn't angry anymore, and he was sure they could work it all out. He nodded, smiling a little, letting the warmth reach his eyes.

Jack's face relaxed, his answering smile lighting up his eyes. "Good," he said getting to his feet. He stopped half way towards the door and looked back over his shoulder. "So you wanna come cruising with me tonight, see if we can get lucky?"

Daniel actually laughed out loud, the thought of cruising gay bars with Jack striking him as being very funny for some reason. They could add it to the list of things they did on a Friday night. Jack looked a little nonplussed by his friend's outburst, so Daniel reined in the hilarity. "Thanks, Jack, but I already have a date."

Jack was across the room in an instant, eyebrows raised comically, eyes sparkling with interest. "No shit? Anyone I know?"

Daniel felt the blush rise again and reached for the discarded folder on the floor. "Jack, last time I heard, there were rules about asking that sort of question."

Jack's eyes went dark. "That means it's a he? Fuck! Daniel, there ARE rules…"

"Relax, he isn't military. I was just teasing. And anyway, even if he were, you're employing a double standard, aren't you?"

"Ever heard the phrase 'don't shit on your own doorstep', Daniel?"

Daniel wrinkled up his nose in disgust, and Jack gave him a lopsided grin. "I wouldn't expect you to see that, but the airman in question would have to have been insane to date another guy on base. That sort of thing always gets out."

Jack seemed to relax, his face back to its normal stony countenance. He nodded, sweeping his gaze over Daniel from top to toe. "So, you finally took the plunge. Well, good for you. Don't do anything I wouldn't do, huh?" he cast over his shoulder as he exited the office, leaving the door wide open.

Daniel grinned and in a loud voice, he fired back, "Hey! I heard there isn't ANYthing you wouldn't do, Jack!"

Silence was the only reply.

Still smiling, Daniel opened the report again, determined to at least make it through the first page.

***

Teal'c was just finishing his last set of reps on the free weights when the colonel entered the gym. He'd observed that O'Neill often favored an exercise regime focused on tension relief, and was not surprised to see him head straight for the punching bags. He was, however, a little taken aback by the sheer force of the blows and violence of the attack.

Wisely, he did not intrude upon his friend's work-out.

***

Daniel peered at his reflection in the full-length mirror inside the closet door of his bedroom. He chewed on his lower lip, examining his attire. Was this sexy? Fenton's was a casual place, so he'd opted for slim fitting beige khakis, a dark grey cashmere sweater, and a soft brown leather jacket that matched his boots. He had no idea if the overall effect was sexy. He stepped back, ran a hand through his hair, and sighed.

His stomach was lurching madly at the thought of his upcoming date, so much so that he'd actually considered cracking the seal on the bottle of pricey Glenmorangie scotch that Jack had given him for his birthday. Maybe a shot or two, just for Dutch courage. He'd thought better of it, though, knowing his tolerance for alcohol was piteous, and anyway, he had to drive. Drinking wouldn't have been the most intelligent decision he could make.

As he was about to rummage around in his closet for something else to wear, his doorbell rang. He glanced down at his watch, wondering who the hell it could be. He only had another ten minutes to spare before he had to leave.

Slamming his closet closed in irritation, he strode to the front door and peered through the peephole. There stood the last person he'd expected to see. "Jack?" he said as he threw open the door. He stared dumbly at the apparition dressed in a full-length black leather coat, casually leaning against the wall in the corridor outside.

"Last time I looked," his friend drawled, eyes roaming all over Daniel and making him squirm with embarrassment.

"Jack, I have a date," Daniel observed, looking pointedly at his watch.

Jack pushed past him into the apartment. "Relax. I just came by to make sure you had everything you need." As he spoke, he reached into the pocket of his long black coat and withdrew a small brown paper bag, thrusting it roughly into Daniel's hands as he closed the door. "You look hot, by the way," he said, winking outrageously.

Daniel's mouth fell open as he opened the bag and checked out the contents, his mind in a daze. Then it registered what Jack had said. "I do?"

Jack took a step backwards and once again swept his dark gaze over Daniel from top to toe. "Oh, yeah," he breathed with a grin. He actually smacked his lips together in appreciation.

Daniel found himself smiling, feeling a little more relaxed now about his date. After all, if Jack thought he looked hot, then his choice of an outfit must be okay, right? "So tell me. Presenting myself for inspection, Colonel, sir," he said with a grin, doing his best imitation of standing at attention, his eyes straight ahead. "Does this pass muster as sexy, sir?"

"At ease, mister." With a soft chuckle, Jack nodded and reached out to brush his fingers lightly down Daniel's arm. "Leather? I haven't seen this on you before. Yeah, very sexy. Very… tactile. Smells good, too."

Daniel's smile faltered. "Not too much, though, right? I don't wanna look...easy."

Jack leaned back against the kitchen counter and shook his head. "Nah, not too much. And easy would be silk. That screams 'fuck me' to anyone with half a brain cell. I take it you're looking for a little more than that?"

Daniel shook his head in amazement. This really was a surreal conversation to be having standing in his kitchen with Jack. He glanced down at the brown paper bag he still held, which held a box of condoms and a small bottle of lube. He held the bag up between them. "Put it this way, Jack, I hope I'll get the chance to use these some day, but not on my first date."

Jack nodded, a small smile softening his features. He pushed away from the counter, hesitating as he stepped past Daniel, en route to the front door. "Have fun," he smiled, one hand reaching out to squeeze Daniel's shoulder. "But for God's sake, be careful."

Daniel nodded, thanking all the deities he knew for a friend like Jack.

*******

Things didn't go quite the way Daniel had hoped. He arrived at Fenton's exactly on time, but Nathan was almost twenty minutes late. Daniel's stomach was churning with nerves by the time the other man sauntered in, a wide and unrepentant grin on his face.

As he flopped down onto a bar stool next to Daniel, he bent forward and planted a sloppy, whiskey-tasting kiss on Daniel's lips. Unprepared for such a gesture, Daniel froze, not sure how he was supposed to react. He didn't like this much intimacy from a man he barely knew, and he definitely didn't like the fact that Nate had already been drinking. But then perhaps he was just being picky? First dates were always hell. Had it been stupid to build this up in his head as some perfect date?

Nate ordered himself another whiskey without asking if Daniel wanted one, threw it back swiftly, and asked for another. "Been waiting long?" he asked, not even looking at Daniel.

Okay, there was 'less-than-perfect', and then there was 'this', whatever it was.

"Long enough to wonder if it's worth the hassle," Daniel replied, deciding that perhaps honesty would be his best policy here. Was Nate being deliberately rude? It'd been a long time since Daniel had been on any sort of date, but he definitely remembered that manners were important.

Sighing, he drained his own glass of Coke, wondering how the hell he was going to get out of this one.

Nate gave him a lopsided grin. "Aw, don't be like that. I got unavoidably detained. And I promise..." he leaned in close, but this time, Daniel was quick enough to draw back, "...it's gonna be very, very worth it."

Despite his misgivings, Daniel didn't walk out at that point. He stayed, he ate, he talked. Nate was actually quite interesting when he got over himself, and Daniel began to relax a little. Nate's cheeky charm and boyishness reminded Daniel of... well, of Jack, actually. He had the type of personality that could let him get away with murder.

Finally, the meal was finished, and Daniel insisted on paying his share of the bill. Nate agreed, but only if Daniel promised he'd go on a second date. Daniel hesitated. He knew he'd probably been expecting too much from Nate, so it was hardly his fault that the date had been a bit disappointing. And give the man his due, apart from the unsolicited kiss, he'd kept his hands to himself. Daniel agreed to the date.

Nate wanted to stay at the bar and drink some more, but Daniel decided to quit now while he was ahead. He excused himself, promising that next time he'd stay longer. He was halfway across the parking lot to his car when he spotted Jack.

The colonel was unlocking his truck, and he didn't seem to have seen Daniel, which was probably a good thing, since Jack wasn't alone. A short, sandy haired man waited patiently for Jack to unlock the passenger door. Daniel ducked behind a large van and spied on them unashamedly.

He couldn't take his eyes off the guy, now grinning at his friend as he climbed up into the truck. He wasn't exactly the type of man Daniel would expect Jack to go for, not that he'd spent much time thinking about what Jack O'Neill's 'type' was. Somehow, he saw Jack with some hulking Marine, someone very masculine at least. This guy was fairly non-descript. Shorter than Jack, barely five foot ten, Daniel guessed, with unremarkable hair and gold-rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He looked like a fucking librarian, for crying out loud. What on earth did Jack see in him?

Then Jack's door slammed shut and the truck's engine purred to life. Daniel found himself watching the taillights disappear from the lot and hoping that his friend's evening had gone better than his own had.

 

Daniel should have gone with his first instinct about Nate. The next weekend, their second date was even worse than the first. Nate was very drunk and very amorous. He seemed to think that they should skip the meal and get right down to the nitty-gritty.

By this time, Daniel had worked out that he definitely didn't want to give it up to this man under any circumstances. He ended the date, dashing any hope Nate harbored of trying again, in no uncertain terms. Daniel drove himself home and spent a very depressing evening watching an old black and white movie.

At ten, when the late news came on, he turned the TV off and threw the remote onto the coffee table in disgust, staring at the now black screen. He was a walking ball of sexual frustration, but it seemed he was incapable of doing casual and, more surprisingly, incapable of sex without feelings. Nate had made it more than obvious what he'd wanted, but Daniel had turned him down flat. Now he felt like banging his head on the coffee table in frustration.

He got up and began pacing the room. He had to do something to take his mind off this. If it hadn't been pouring outside, he might have put on his Nikes and gone out for a run.

Picking up his phone, he pressed number one on his speed dial. A moment later, a familiar deep-throated voice answered, "O'Neill."

"Jack, can I come over?"

There was a moment's hesitation as Jack cleared his throat. "I thought you had a date. It's Friday night."

Daniel sighed theatrically. He really was feeling very sorry for himself. "It wasn't working out," he pouted. "I came home early."

Another pause, then Jack's voice again, sounding a little strained, "I'm sorry to hear that Daniel. Sure, you can come over. Bring beer. I'll get Chinese."

Daniel grinned as he replaced the receiver, already looking forward to once more spending time with his friend. It'd been a busy week, and Hammond had scheduled an early meeting the next day to finalize their mission to P4X-309. Daniel really should have been taking the time to get up to speed with the mission notes, but over the past few weeks, they'd seen little of each other outside of work, and Daniel missed their banter.

He reached for his car keys and wallet and locked up the apartment, somewhat belatedly wondering if Jack might have had his own plans for tonight.

 

Jack put down the phone and turned to face his guest. "That was Daniel," he said, grinning widely. "Seems his date didn't work out, and he's coming over."

"So you want me to leave, right?"

"Unless you can think up a valid reason for you to be in my house at 2200 hours."

His late night visitor got up and stretched. "Ah, Jack, what a tangled web we weave..."

"Charlotte's Web, right?" Jack found one shiny black shoe under the sofa.

"Sir Walter Scott, Jack. Please tell me you knew that?"

Jack held out the shoe, letting it dangle from one finger. "Okay," he agreed. "I knew that."

 

Daniel balled up the paper napkin he'd been trying to fold into an origami stork and threw it at the television screen in disgust. "What are you, blind?" he hollered. Over the years, he'd learned more than he'd ever wanted to know about the rules of football, and that had most definitely been a fumble. How could the ref have not seen it? Fucking unbelievable.

He turned to look at Jack, sitting on the sofa next to him, still cradling his first beer, and nudged him hard in the ribs. "Jack! Fumble?" he asked, knowing that his friend would agree.

"No, thanks," Jack said in a matter of fact tone. "I need more from a relationship than that."

Daniel's mouth dropped open in shock until he caught the gleam in Jack's eye, and he began snorting with laughter. Unlike Jack, he'd already had three beers, so he found the joke hilarious. Within moments, he was choking, and Jack had to thump him soundly on the back.

When Daniel had gotten himself under control, Jack announced, "Gotta pee." He hit the pause button on the remote and leaned forward to place his beer on the table. Daniel immediately swung his legs up, taking over the whole sofa as Jack got to his feet.

"Hey, when I get back, you move those, or I sit on them," he growled, slapping Daniel on the thigh.

Daniel's only answer was to snuggle deeper into the cushions and watch Jack retreating back. He sighed with contentment. It'd turned out to be not such a bad night after all. The date with Nasty Nate might have been a bust, but at least he'd been able to spend some quality time with Jack again.

Actually, he was grateful that Nate had been interested enough to have asked him out in the first place. Since that time, he'd climbed on the clue bus a little better, and he'd noticed more than one set of appreciative eyes following him on the base. He might be finished with the physicist, but he was sure he could easily find someone else to take his place. There was no hurry, now that he had expanded his search parameters to include potential civilian male lovers.

He was still frustrated as hell, but he was happy now to take his time, find someone he could be open with, someone he could fall in love with. Mister Right was out there somewhere, and Daniel was determined to find him.

As he wriggled deeper into the soft sofa cushions, he became aware of something sharp poking him in the ass. He reached beneath him, fingers carefully digging between the cushions until they closed on the object that had been assaulting his derrière.

He stared down at the item in his fingers. It was a gold colored oak cluster, a US Air Force rank pin.

This pin most definitely didn't belong to Jack. It was not for a colonel, it was a major's insignia. At warp speed, Daniel's mind came to some pretty big conclusions.

His mouth went dry. He could only think of one officer holding that rank that Jack could be involved with. It was one thing to find out that your friend of the last five years was unexpectedly bisexual. It was another matter entirely to discover that friend was having an affair with another member of your team. And hadn't Jack been telling Daniel only the other week that it was dangerous to date someone on base?

He sat up, clutching the pin tightly in the palm of his hand just as Jack came back into the room. Suddenly, he felt like a complete shit for spoiling Jack's evening. And Sam's.

"Jack, when I called, were you... entertaining someone?"

Jack sighed and sat on the sofa, pulling Daniel's legs down so he could sit beside him.

"Busted!" He had the grace to blush a little. "Listen, Danny, I'm your friend. I might not be good at the whole 'talking' thing, but I can listen real good." Jack looked a little embarrassed. "You sounded like you needed me."

Daniel gulped, unaccountably touched by the words. He wasn't sure he deserved a friend like Jack. Reaching for his hand, Daniel used his thumb to open Jack's fingers and dropped the rank pin into his palm. "I thought there were rules?" he whispered.

Jack looked down, frowning at the pin in his hand. His eyes were troubled when he looked up at Daniel again. "Yeah... well... it's complicated."

"Are you in love?" Daniel knew what love could do to a person's common sense. Then again, he'd seen Jack with another man just last week, so whatever was going on between Jack and Sam, it couldn't be serious, could it? He hoped they at least got more out of it than just the mutual scratching of some lustful itch. Both his friends deserved more than that.

"No, not love." Jack said flatly, laying the pin on the table next to his beer. "I, um... I like him a lot, but nothing that serious. We don't get to see each other much, actually."

Him.

Daniel nodded, still curious, but needing to respect his friend's privacy. He'd love to know who this mystery man was, but Jack couldn't tell him, he understood that. At least it was no one on the base. Jack obviously practiced what he preached.

With a small smile, Daniel reached out and squeezed Jack's knee, "I'm glad you have someone, Jack. I really mean that. I'm glad you're happy, even if it's not love."

Jack gave him a lingering look then smiled and nodded slightly before scooping up the remote and restarting the taped game again. "So, what was that you were saying about a fumble...?"

 

Sam was in her lab, putting the finishing details on her presentation, when Teal'c strolled in, his hands clasped behind his back. He inclined his head and inquired about her health as he always did, but then fell quiet. Not that Teal'c being uncommunicative was anything new, but over the years, Sam had become attuned to his moods. Something was bothering the big guy.

"So, what's up, Teal'c?" Their meeting was due to start in fifteen minutes; she didn't have time to beat around the bush here.

"I am concerned, Majorcarter, about O'Neill."

Sam was somewhat surprised by that. Before Teal'c had come in, she'd been thinking about Daniel and worrying about him. No one usually worried about the colonel. He was big and ugly enough to look after himself. What could Teal'c possibly be worried about? She raised her eyebrows in question.

"Have you not noticed that he and Danieljackson are not yet fully reconciled?"

Sam shrugged her shoulders. "Well, relationships between human males are complicated, Teal'c. I'm sure you know that. I think their friendship is still sound, but it might take time for them to sort it out. They need to reach out to each other."

Teal'c didn't look at all convinced. "Yet how is that possible? I have observed that O'Neill no longer touches Danielackson at all. He raises his hand to do so, then pulls back from the action before making contact."

Teal'c was right. She hadn't really noticed it before, but the colonel did seem to have withdrawn from them all, from the whole team. She wondered what could have happened.

"Maybe they'll work it out on the next mission, Teal'c. Meanwhile, we should pay closer attention to what's going on with both of them."

"Agreed," said the Jaffa, nodding his assent. "I am sure the punching bag in the gym will be relieved, too, when they work it out," he murmured under his breath.

 

Jack and Daniel were alone in the briefing room. Daniel poured himself a fresh cup of coffee and sat down opposite Jack. It hadn't been a particularly late night for either of them. Once the game had gotten over, Jack had insisted that Daniel stay over, as he had been drinking, and they had both been in bed by midnight.

"Jack, I was wondering..."

Jack poked his own notes with his pen and looked at Daniel indulgently. "Do you ever stop?"

Daniel ignored that. "Well, you must know a lot of people," he said, color creeping up his neck and across his face. "Guys, I mean. You must know a lot of guys."

Jack leaned back in his chair, eyes sparking with amusement. "I'm in the Air Force, Daniel. Of course I know a lot of guys."

Daniel glanced up at the security camera in the corner, noting the blinking red light. He opened his briefing notes and scrawled on a blank piece of paper with his pencil before pushing it across the table.

Jack studied the note expressionlessly. "I don't think that'd be a good idea, Daniel," he said finally as he scribbled a reply and shoved the note back to his friend.

Daniel sighed. Jack had scrawled beside his request, 'no fucking way'. Was it such a bad idea to ask Jack to set him up on a blind date? Jack was supposed to be his friend; surely he could find someone suitable that wasn't a complete asshole?

"Well, something's gotta give, 'cause I don't seem to have very good taste." Daniel very carefully tore the paper up into confetti and got up to dump the pieces in the trash.

Daniel glanced up as the briefing room door opened to admit Sam and Teal'c. As the two remaining members of SG-1 took their seats, Jack leaned forward, a small smile curving his lips upwards. "What the hell makes you think that I do?" he grinned, eyebrows waggling madly.

General Hammond entered the room at that moment with Major Paul Davis, the Pentagon liaison officer, hot on his heels. No one stood up; Hammond preferred it that way.

"SG-1, Major Davis has been sent to act as an envoy on your mission to P4X-309. It was felt that the mission was sensitive enough to warrant some proper diplomatic backup. He'll be joining you when you go through to the planet tomorrow morning."

Davis nodded briefly to Jack in deference to his position, receiving an almost imperceptible nod back from the colonel. Daniel flipped open his briefing notes and skimmed over the first few paragraphs while the major began explaining to a tight-lipped Colonel O'Neill why the Pentagon had sent a tagalong.

Daniel picked up his pencil and began chewing on the end, listening with half an ear to Davis' words. He glanced up every so often to give the impression that he gave a fuck about what the Pentagon thought. Then something drew his attention. A small thing, something perhaps no one else would notice, but Daniel saw it, and it brought him up short.

He glanced away from the major to study Jack's face, but the colonel was staring down at his own open briefing folder, so Daniel couldn't tell if his friend had noticed the fact that Major Paul Davis was out of uniform. He was only wearing one gold oak cluster insignia.

Daniel was impressed, very impressed. Paul Davis was actually a very skilled negotiator, one who honestly tried to take everyone's thoughts and needs into consideration. Thanks to his presence, the mission went well, no one got injured, no one got left behind, Jack didn't have to shoot anyone, and a treaty was signed allowing SG Teams to use P4X-309 as a safe haven for their off world teams.

Daniel had kept his suspicions about the major to himself, preferring to secretly watch the two men for any signs that they were more than just fellow officers. In the week they worked on the treaty together, he'd found absolutely no evidence to corroborate his theories, but he just knew he was right. Paul Davis was Jack's secret lover. Daniel would bet his last dollar on it.

The mission took a little longer than expected, as the alien natives seemed to have a thousand different words to describe the stargate and its operation. Daniel could have filled an entire field journal with those words and phrases alone. The planet was a linguist's paradise, and he would have loved to stay, but Jack decided that it really wasn't necessary for the team to spend their nights on the planet. Each evening, they gated home, and Daniel holed up in his lab, working to translate more of the intricate, verbose language. He was a little disturbed by the number of times Sam and Teal'c 'popped in' to check on him.

Yes, the mission was a resounding success, as far as SG missions went. The same thing could not be said for Daniel's love life, however. Jack had finally caved and set Daniel up with a couple of guys he knew outside the mountain.

Byron, the restaurant owner, seemed nice enough to begin with, as Jack introduced the two men over a steak and beer at O'Malley's. Then Jack had disappeared, and the problems had begun.

Byron took Daniel to see a movie that had no plot, just gore and violence, threw popcorn at the screen, was rude to the people who complained about his loud jeering at what passed for romantic parts, and generally embarrassed the shit out of Daniel.

Then there was David, the orthodontist, he of the perfect white teeth. David was fine until he polished off his second bottle of wine. Then he got maudlin about the break up of his last relationship, and how he knew he'd never find another man as wonderful as his ex-lover.

Two less suitable dates would be hard to imagine, and after the second disaster, Daniel was still seriously pissed off at Jack when he turned up for work the next day.

Jack maintained that he hadn't known that Byron was so crass, or that David was on the rebound. He'd looked so regretful, Daniel had been forced to accept his apology. He'd also firmly turned down Jack's offer to find him another date. Jack was obviously no matchmaker, and Daniel was sure he couldn't do any worse by himself.

At the conclusion of the mission, SG-1 and Major Davis were debriefed and given three days down time before they were due to go out again. Daniel spent a couple of hours helping Sam upload the data she'd compiled to the mainframe, and then turned down her offer of an early dinner in the commissary in favor of heading home.

As he stripped out of his uniform in the locker room, Daniel wondered what Jack had planned for their three days off. Tossing his clothes into the laundry hamper, Daniel opened his locker and bent at the waist to retrieve his shoes.

"Nice view," a husky voice spoke behind him. Daniel jerked upright, the back of his head impacting with a shelf in his locker.

"Ow! Goddammit!" he gasped. Holding a hand over the sore spot, he whirled around to see Jack leaning in the doorway. He was dressed in his civvies, arms crossed casually over his chest, a wide grin warming his face. Daniel suddenly felt naked, despite his boxer shorts. The one downside to them both being out of the closet had been Jack's increasingly lecherous and embarrassing comments.

"Damn it all, Jack," he scolded, rubbing vigorously at the bump rising on his head. "Don't sneak up on a guy like that!"

Jack pushed away from the doorframe and sauntered towards his friend. "Hey, I don't 'sneak.' I 'approach covertly'," he smiled. Hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans, he took up another leaning position, this time against the lockers. "So, got plans for your downtime?"

Daniel tried not to notice how Jack's eyes roved over his bare skin. Reaching for his jeans, he shook them out and slipped a leg in. "I... er, no, not really. You?"

Daniel got his other foot in the jeans then jumped up and down a couple of times, hauling the tight denim up his legs a little further each time. He was totally unaware that his cock flopped enticingly up and down inside his shorts with each hop until he noticed Jack's eyes glued to the sight.

Jack cleared his throat and turned to fiddle with his own locker. "Nope, nothing planned. Wanna come over and watch a game or something?"

Daniel glanced sideways at his friend, a little taken aback by the offer. While he considered his answer, he pulled his tee shirt over his head, absently tucking it into his jeans before fastening the button and pulling up the zipper. The shirt was new, a bit on the tight side for his taste, and an odd color, but it'd been a present from Cassie, and she'd assured him that 'royal blue was the new black', whatever the fuck that meant.

He would have expected Jack to be spending his downtime with Major Davis, but still, he was unwilling to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he nodded his assent. It'd be nice to enjoy some more quality time with a man that he didn't have to impress, someone with whom he could relax. Then Jack confused the hell out of him once again with his next words.

"Or we could take in a club," Jack said in a voice just above a whisper.

Daniel hadn't set foot near a club since that first abortive attempt. It'd taken him months to work up the courage to go to the club on the night he'd bumped into Jack. He was actually terrified of making a complete fool of himself and hadn't bothered trying again since.

Jack was waiting expectantly for an answer, one eyebrow raised in query. He looked so hopeful, Daniel actually gave the idea some serious consideration. "I don't know, Jack. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for that."

Jack smiled and leaned in closer, the sparkle in his eyes making Daniel grin despite his misgivings.

"Hey, I've got your six. We go, we have some fun, and if you don't find anyone you wanna hook up with, I drive you home. How does that sound?"

Actually it all sounded very safe. If Jack were looking out for him, maybe he could kick back and enjoy himself. Jack would make sure he didn't get himself into any awkward situations, watch his six, as he always did. Making up his mind to live a little, Daniel nodded. "Okay, pick me up? "

"2230 hours."

Daniel finished dressing and left the locker room, grinning like an idiot. It could be fun. It was an adventure. And it'd be safe, right? After all, Jack would be with him.

 

On the surface at last, Daniel signed out at the last checkpoint and headed for his car. He was more than a little surprised to see Paul Davis leaning against one fender waiting for him, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Doctor Jackson, I wanted to thank you for all the help you gave me on the mission." Davis smiled, straightening up his full height, which brought his eyes in line with Daniels chin.

Daniel nodded, trying to force his face into an answering smile as he used his remote key to unlock the car. He couldn't really be bothered making small talk with anyone right now. "It was nothing, don't mention it," he said, pulling open the driver's door.

Paul stepped forward, placing one hand on Daniel's arm and the other on the door. "Daniel... may I call you Daniel? I'd love to take you out to dinner to show my appreciation. Your choice of restaurant, of course."

Daniel's eyebrows shot up. Davis was hitting on him? Paul fucking Davis, Jack's lover, was asking him to dinner?

Unable to believe it, Daniel studied Paul's face intently. Davis was hitting on him!! If the major fluttered his eyelashes any harder, he'd achieve vertical takeoff. Okay, there really was no doubt about it. Davis was hitting on him.

Daniel didn't know what to say. Davis was involved with Jack. He was sure of it. Even more so, now that he had some evidence that Davis liked men.

"I, er... I thought you, er... you and Jack...?" he blurted. Daniel blushed scarlet to the roots of his hair, cursing himself for being a gauche idiot.

Davis closed his eyes briefly and sighed. "Ah, so you know about that. Well, you see, Jack and I have a... well, I guess you'd call it an arrangement, if you will. It's a totally nonexclusive thing. We're free to see other people."

Daniel's jaw fell open. He wasn't sure what shocked him more, the fact that Paul Davis had the hots for him, or the fact that he'd just had his suspicions confirmed. Davis was the major that Jack had been making out with, the one Jack didn't see often, whom he really liked but didn't love.

Well, fuck!

He had a disconcerting thought. Daniel narrowed his eyes and peered assessingly at Paul. "He didn't put you up to this, did he?"

"Who, Jack? He thinks I'm flying back to Washington tonight, but it worked out that my flight isn't until tomorrow morning, so..." Davis raised his eyebrows in a silent question.

That seemed a little presumptuous to Daniel, but he had to admit that the thought of getting to know Paul a little better wasn't entirely repugnant. He'd always found the major pleasant company, and he was kind of cute in a 'lost-puppy' sort of way. Maybe he could go to dinner with Paul, and if they didn't click, he could still be home in time for Jack to pick him up.

Quickly making up his mind, he sighed and cocked his head towards the car. "Jump in."

 

Daniel was beginning to detect a pattern. Every time he got close to a guy, he'd discover said guy was a dick. Why should tonight be any different? Paul took him to a very nice restaurant, wined him, dined him, and did everything just right. Except for the way he looked at Daniel.

Right from the moment they'd sat down, Daniel had felt like the entrée. Paul looked hungry, and not for the fancy French cuisine on their plates, either. He'd made his intentions obvious with every hooded look, every lingering stare. Daniel wasn't used to being devoured visually like that. It made him squirm.

By the time they were eating dessert, Daniel was praying for an emergency at the SGC, an impromptu phone call from Jack, anything to get him out of there before he had to face Major 'let me pour you another one' Davis alone, out in the car.

Of course neither of those things happened. It was really very annoying. If he'd been having a wonderful time, panting to get Paul home and into bed as much as Paul seemed to want that, if he'd been finding the hot, sultry looks even remotely sexy, then sure as God made little green apples, Jack would've called with some personal crisis, or Earth would be teetering on the edge of invasion. You could practically guarantee it.

He didn't really want coffee, but it prolonged the moment where he would have to knee his would-be lover in the groin to cool his ardor, so he ordered his favorite blend and settled back in his seat.

"So, Daniel, what got you interested in archaeology?" Paul asked. He licked the froth from his double chocolate latte, in what he obviously considered a 'sexy' manner. Daniel winced. Coffee should be served hot and black. What Paul was drinking was just... wrong.

"My mother and father were both in that field," he answered absently, stirring his espresso. "And my grandfather, too."

"Ballard," Paul stated smugly. Daniel frowned, tapping the silver teaspoon against the rim of his cup. Paul didn't seem to notice. "Nicolas Ballard," he continued. "Your grandfather. He was credited with the discovery of a crystal skull in Belize in 1971..."

Daniel leaned back in his chair, eyes narrowed as he listened to Paul reel off facts about the Ballard-Jacksons like a college lecturer. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, actually, given what Paul had done for a living back in the early days of the project. He probably knew more about SG-1 and their missions and private lives than the members of SG-1 did. Still, it pissed Daniel off that Paul would use a conversational gambit as a means of showing off his knowledge.

"Well, if you already knew, why'd you ask?" he sniped, interrupting Paul in mid-expound.

The other man just smiled smugly. "I was just being polite. Maybe you should be asking me the questions?"

Daniel very deliberately folded his arms. "What makes you think I'm interested in your personal life?" he growled, hoping he could piss Paul off enough that he wouldn't push for anything more.

"Good thinking. We don't need to cloud the issue with irrelevancies, now, do we?" Paul smirked, raising the frothy cup to his lips once again.

Irrelevancies? Another clear reference to the fact that Paul only wanted one thing from Daniel tonight, and it wasn't his views of military budget cuts, either.

Daniel sighed loudly and shook his head. Subtlety wasn't working here. "I'm not going to sleep with you, Paul," he stated flatly, peering across the table at the major.

"Of course you are, Daniel. But if you want to play hard to get, don't let me stop you. It might be fun."

Fun? How many times would he have to say 'no' before this arrogant SOB would believe him?

Daniel got very slowly to his feet, leaned forward across the table, bracing himself on it for support, and whispered, "Go fuck yourself, asshole." With that, he walked out, not even bothering to pick up his jacket.

He had other jackets.

*******

Sam poured Teal'c a large glass of black currant cordial and added it to the tray of tea and cookies, allowing him to carry it into her living room. Janet was already seated on the couch.

"Hmmm. Are those oatmeal raisin cookies?" she asked, pouncing on the tray as soon as Teal'c had laid it down on the coffee table.

Sam grinned as she watched her friend's contented munching. "Specially for you, Jan. And there's more where those came from."

Janet's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she continued to devour her cookie. She knew Sam was up to something, but would bide her time and get through as many cookies as she could before they hit her with it.

Unfortunately she didn't have too long to wait.

"Janet, we're worried about Daniel and the colonel," Sam said, pushing the plate closer to her friend. "We think they had a major falling out and are trying to pretend that everything is okay when it's clearly not."

Janet reached for another cookie. "I see." If they were asking for her opinion here, that was fine. But if they wanted her to breach patient/doctor confidentiality, they could forget it. Some things, Janet was very firm on. This was one of them.

Teal'c took a long sip from his glass. "Were you aware, Doctorfraiser, that Danieljackson has been," he paused, seeming to fish for the word he wanted, "'dating'?"

Janet nearly choked on her mouthful of cookie. No, she hadn't heard that. Things had been a bit busy in her infirmary, and she'd seriously fallen behind on all the base gossip. Still, her head nurse, Kerrie Hughes, had a major crush on Daniel and would surely have known about it and blabbed, if he'd started dating again.

If Daniel were dating, that would explain his falling out with Jack. As his doctor, Janet was well aware of Jack's sexual preferences, and as his friend, she was privy to his feelings for Daniel. Just because they couldn't discuss it, didn't mean she was in the dark. She knew if he heard Daniel was going out with someone, anyone, Jack would be massively pissed off, frustrated to the max.

"Wow, you're sure?" she asked, washing down the cookie crumbs with a gulp of tea.

"He told us himself," Teal'c said. "Although he would not divulge the identity of the individual." He frowned, blinking in concentration as he thought before he spoke. "We believe O'Neill is jealous," he intoned.

Again, Janet choked, on her tea this time. Sam was thumping her on the back as tears streamed down her face. How did Teal'c know about Jack? Janet couldn't picture Jack discussing his preference for breakfast cereal with Teal'c, let alone his preference for men.

"Oh! Well, I er... I see. Why do you think that?" She had no intention of entering this conversation without knowing how much they really knew, and how much they were only guessing.

Teal'c looked smug. "Because we have been watching them carefully. Each time Daneiljackson goes on a date, O'Neill visits the gym and destroys another punching bag."

"He and Daniel are so close, Janet," Sam explained. "If Daniel finds a girlfriend, what's the colonel supposed to do with himself? They spend all of their off-time together."

Janet bit her lip. So far, Teal'c and Sam hadn't figured it out, but if they continued to stalk the two men, they might just begin to buy a clue, and Janet couldn't allow that. She was sure any knowledge of the colonel's sexual preferences would damage the team dynamic, perhaps beyond repair.

"You guys are worrying over nothing," she reassured them. "I overheard Jack arrange to go out nightclubbing with Daniel tonight. Now why would Daniel agree to go, if he were seeing someone?"

Sam sipped her tea and nodded. "I guess you're right, Janet. We just worry about them both so much."

Janet's only reply was to reach for the cookies again.

 

Daniel leaned on the railing surrounding the dance pit and squeezed his glass in his hand a little too tightly, wildly casting his eyes around for any sight of Jack in the crush of sweaty bodies on the dance floor. Things were not going according to plan, and this night just kept getting worse. Daniel had been a little shocked at what the inside of the Denver gay club looked like. The place took the word 'seedy' to whole new levels. People, mostly men, were packed together, and the air was thick with smoke. Strobes flashed neon colored lights across his eyes, and the music was turned up so loud, he could feel it thumping in his chest.

Jack obviously was no stranger to this place. As soon as they stepped through the door, he'd wasted no time losing himself in the crowd, leaving Daniel to fend for himself. Not that he was scared, exactly. He'd just figured that Jack might stick with him a little longer. Make sure he was okay.

Daniel clung to his drink with one hand and the railing around the dance floor with the other, scanning the writhing mass of humanity in the hopes of finding his friend. He wanted to leave, but it would be rude to do so without at least letting Jack know. He felt a hand on his shoulder and sighed with relief, turning away from the dance floor to smile at....

Not Jack.

The guy was about six feet tall and almost as wide, with wild curly hair, an untidy beard, and breath that could fell a rhino at twenty paces. He wore shades, and a red and white bandana festooned with stars, a grubby white tee with the words 'Hells Angels' emblazoned on the front and a fringed black leather vest that was about four sizes too small. He also had a tattoo of a coiled python on one forearm. 'Oh, great,' thought Daniel, 'a goddamned gay Hell's Angel. What next?'

Recoiling in horror, swallowing the bark of incredulous laughter that threatened to burst out of his chest, Daniel did his best to step back. Hindered as he was by the railing, he couldn't go far, unfortunately.

The guy grinned, obviously no stranger to the joy of the chase. He slipped one meaty hand around behind Daniel to grab a good handful of his ass. He leaned in to holler directly into Daniel's ear, doing his best to be heard over the deafening din of the music. "Name's Snake. Been watchin' ya," he slurred, the stench of his breath making Daniel try another attempt to back away. "Nice, tight, little ass." The guy illustrated his approval by squeezing said ass roughly, and Daniel recoiled again, his hands coming up defensively between himself and the advancing behemoth.

"Er... really. Um..."

"Oh, yeah!" the guy said, moving in closer, pressing Daniel against the railing. "Saw ya when ya came in. Been thinkin' I'd like t'fuck ya. Whatcha say?"

Daniel's eyes went round and wide. The guy was trying to insinuate one leg between Daniel's knees. He tried to wriggle free, but 'snake' sank his other meaty paw firmly into his hair and seemed to be preparing to kiss him. He was wondering if he'd survive the aftermath, if he decided to knee the guy in the balls, when a familiar and very welcome voice spoke up from somewhere behind the man-mountain.

"Drop him! NOW!"

Snake turned slowly, looking down his crooked nose at Jack. The colonel showed no fear, his stance easy and relaxed, almost daring the other man to start something, as if it'd be his pleasure to beat several shades of shit out of him. Snake glanced back at Daniel briefly then shrugged. "Didn't know he was with ya, Jake. No harm?"

With a long, slow blink, Jack seemed to be deciding about harm vs. no harm. "Not if you move your ass the fuck out of here right now," he hollered into the man's ear with a cold grin. The big guy made a bolt for the door without a backward glance.

Daniel let out the breath he'd been holding and downed a gulp of his lukewarm drink. "Jake?" he asked, when he was through coughing.

Jack leaned his back against the railing and scanned the press of people around them. "Yeah, well, people don't use their real names in a place like this." He turned to take in Daniel's white face and wide eyes. "Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I?"

Daniel drained the last of the liquid from his glass and set it down by his feet. There was nowhere else to put it. "I was doing fine," he said indignantly, straightening up only to find Jack's warm hands on his shoulders.

"Sure you were." Jack smiled and shook his head. "You're not enjoying this, are you?"

Daniel was about to refute the statement, but Jack continued, "Wanna leave? We could go get a pizza to go and eat it in the truck."

Daniel blushed and looked down at his feet. "Oh, the excitement!" he mumbled. When he looked up again, Jack was staring over his own shoulder. He followed his friend's gaze and was surprised to see a very good-looking blond man staring back at them. The man was smiling, one eyebrow raised inquiringly. Almost imperceptibly, Jack shook his head and turned back to Daniel.

"Jack, I can get home by myself," Daniel told him, glancing at the blond again. The guy couldn't have made his interest in Jack any more obvious if he'd winked. And Jack certainly seemed capable of attracting a better class of admirer than Daniel had. He was damned if he'd get in the way. "I can head out and see ya tomorrow."

The hands on his shoulder tightened. "No, Daniel, I'm not that fucking desperate to get laid, okay? I brought you here; I'm taking you home. No arguments."

Daniel tried to wriggle out of Jack's grasp, but the colonel kept his grip firm on Daniel's elbow as he guided them through the throng.

Just inside the front door, the blond guy cut them off at the pass. Up close, he was even more stunning than from a distance, and Daniel found himself mesmerised by the palest ice blue eyes he'd ever seen. Jack seemed to tense, then with a deep sigh, he released Daniel's arm.

The blond crossed his arms and gave Daniel a good once-over. "Hey, Jake. Who's your friend?" Daniel felt color rise in his cheeks at the other man's blatant scrutiny.

"Back off, Lucien, we're just leaving."

"And you didn't think to invite me?" he said as he placed a hand over his heart in a theatrical gesture. "I'm crushed."

Jack very deliberately settled his hand on the nape of Daniel's neck. "Private party. Excuse us." And with that, he shouldered past the blond, using his body like a shield between Daniel and Lucien's covetous glances.

Outside in the cool air, Daniel shrugged free of Jack's hand. "Oh my God, Jack. Was he suggesting a... a...."

"Threesome? Yeah. That's his thing. I didn't think you'd be into that. Sorry if I overstepped the line. Wanna go back and find him?"

Daniel's mouth fell open in shock. A threesome? With Jack? He gulped several times and shook his head, unable to meet Jack's eyes as he murmured a soft, "Noooo...." Oh, boy! He could barely imagine himself having full-blown sex with one man, but two? And if one of them were Jack? Well, it was just wrong on too many levels to count. Daniel's head began to swim in sensory overload, as the couple of drinks he'd consumed too quickly seemed to hit his knees.

Jack held him up, guiding him towards the truck. "Well good, 'cause that would have been too weird, wouldn't it?" said Jack. He propped Daniel against the back door while he fished around in his coat for his keys. "Imagine you and me in bed together with Lucien?" he chortled in a quiet voice. "Jeez, what if we got carried away and, I dunno, touched each other by mistake?"

Daniel slumped against Jack's side, feeling the warmth of the thigh Jack had slipped between his legs to brace him. He was sure he could detect a hint of sarcasm in Jack's voice but was too woozy to be entirely sure. Still, the point was valid - that certainly would have been weird. He tried to picture it, but his mind wouldn't even take him there.

"Daniel, how much have you had to drink?"

"Dunno," Daniel slurred, "lost track after the first couple." He already knew he was most definitely going to regret it in the morning. Then the hard thigh shifted, and he was being manhandled into the truck.

Once he'd climbed up into the high seat, Jack leaned across him to snag the seatbelt, and Daniel caught as whiff of his friend's aftershave.

Nice.

Musky, strong and sexy.

Like Jack, who was looking out for him, as always. Watching his six.

Once his door was closed, Daniel let his overheated head rest against the cool window and waited for Jack to get in. When the expected rush of cold air on his face didn't happen, he struggled around, fighting the constricting restraint to see what was happening. When that got him no-where, he peered into the wing mirror instead.

The breathtaking blond, Lucien, had Jack shoved up against the side of the truck, demonstrating that although he may look effeminate, there was nothing wrong with his muscle tone. Daniel couldn't hear what was being said, but whatever it was, it was turning Jack on. He arched his neck, giving Lucien access to his throat. As Daniel watched, Jack's eyes slid shut, the expression on his face going from irritated to ecstatic when Lucien sank his teeth in.

Part of Daniel's brain told him he shouldn't be watching. It was private, and it was Jack, for crying out loud. He shouldn't be watching Jack getting it on. It was wrong. Disloyal. Daniel blinked a couple of times while he considered it. Fuck, it was erotic as hell is what it was.

Daniel told himself he was being turned on watching Lucien, who was, after all, a stunning individual, choosing to ignore the fact that his own eyes had never left Jack's face during the entire encounter. When Lucien claimed Jack's mouth in a brutal kiss, Daniel found his head was swimming again. Belatedly, he realized he'd been holding his breath. Jack wasn't fighting the kiss; in fact, he was actively participating, curling his fingers up through the short blond hair at the nape of Lucien's neck.

This wasn't the first time Daniel had seen two men kiss, but somehow it felt different. Suddenly he was seeing Jack, really seeing him, in a new light. Until now, Jack being gay had been some abstract concept, something he realized now he'd never fully accepted.

Jack tore his lips away and thumped the guy roughly in the chest, forcing him backwards. This time, Daniel did hear what was being said. Jack was very close to losing his temper. "I said I'm not interested, pretty boy."

Lucien's hand shot out at groin level, and Daniel heard Jack's groan clearly. Although from this angle, he couldn't actually see what Lucien was doing, it didn't take much imagination to work it out.

"Feels like parts of you are definitely interested, Jake," Lucien purred, working his hand back and forth. Jack's head was thrown back, his eyes tightly closed, mouth hanging open. "Your friend's passed out by now. I'm the best offer you're gonna get tonight. Take it or leave it."

Daniel turned away, letting his head settle on the glass as he closed his eyes. Jack would be insane to turn that down. Maybe if he thought Daniel were asleep? Maybe he'd leave Daniel in the truck and go off with Lucien. Suddenly, Daniel was having no trouble imagining the two of them together. He only wished he could stop imagining it.

A moment later, the driver's door flew open and the truck lurched when Jack threw himself into his seat. Yup, Jack was clearly insane.

Jack started the engine. "Do me a favor, Danny. Just holler if you feel the need to puke, will ya? I just had this thing valet cleaned."

Daniel nodded sleepily, letting his head fall back on the leather headrest, the engine's vibrations lulling him to sleep. As he drifted off, the last thing he felt was a gentle finger brushing the hair away from his forehead. He wondered if it had just been his imagination.

 

Dead.

Must be what it feels like to be dead. Arms and legs like lead weights, gravity crushing downwards, head spinning free, upwards and outwards.

No wait, not dead.

Hung over.

Daniel rolled to the side, hands coming up to clutch at his heaving stomach. He lay very, very still, hardly even breathing, willing the waves of nausea to abate. And it actually worked. After a few moments, he managed to get one eye open. Two things registered in his fuzzy mind at the same time.

One -- it was daylight.
Two -- he was naked.

Blindly, he groped around for the duvet in an attempt to cover his freezing cold ass, but when nothing came to hand, he gave up. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the dizziness to pass.

So, he was naked and this was NOT his bed. Squinting, he tried to focus on the nightstand beside the bed. Lamp, alarm clock, book, photo in a frame. The photo swam before his eyes before finally coming into relative focus. A kid, a young boy, maybe ten years old, grinning and holding a baseball glove to his chest.

Daniel blinked a couple of times.

Charlie?

So that solved the 'where'. This must be Jack's bed. Now he needed to know 'how' and 'why'. Carefully, he rolled onto his back and tried to focus on the ceiling. It was windy outside, the sunlight shining through the moving tree branches casting swirling shadows above him.

Sitting up on the edge of the bed was a bad idea, he found out. As he pushed his glasses on his face, his head felt like it was going to explode. His clothes were draped over a chair in the corner of the room, and the bedroom door was wide open. He managed to struggle into his boxers and a tee shirt without throwing up, but decided that the rest of his clothes would have to wait until after he'd had some caffeine.

Jack was seated at the dining table reading the paper and sipping from an ancient 'World's Greatest Dad' mug. With his eyes barely open, Daniel staggered in his underwear to the coffee machine and poured himself a cup. He stood at the counter while the first cup disappeared in seconds, followed by a second. When Daniel was halfway through his third cup, he finally sat down at the table.

Jack peered at him over the top of his paper, and pushed a plate of buttered toast towards him. "Hungry?" he asked.

Daniel sniffed at the toast, crinkled up his nose, and shook his head. "C'ffee's fine," he croaked. "Woke up in your bed - naked."

Jack very slowly put down his paper and made a production of folding it. Finally he leaned back in his chair and smiled. "I noticed that."

"Why?"

"Because I'm trained to notice things, it's part of the...."

"No, why was I naked, you asshole?" Daniel drained the last dregs of his coffee and staggered back to the counter for more. He emptied the last drop from the pot and turned to find Jack staring at him in amusement.

"Jack?"

"Hey, nothing to do with me, Tallulah. All your own work."

Daniel slumped back into his seat and stared at his friend over the rim of the mug. He had no memory of last night, no memory of leaving the club, and certainly no memory of arriving at Jack's house. His eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he needed to know. "Tallulah? Oh God! What did I do? Tell me!"

Jack got up and began brewing a fresh pot of coffee, his back to Daniel, while he talked. "I was gonna drive you home, but you started whining about needing to pee, and we were closer to my house, so I figured you might as well crash in the spare. You hadn't even gotten over the threshold when you began your little... striptease..."

Daniel's face began to grow red at the visual image that brought forth. So that was why Jack had called him Tallulah! Jack looked more amused than pissed off, so Daniel nodded at him to continue. He needed to hear it all.

"... then you demanded that I put on some music so you could dance..."

Daniel's gaze fell to the plate of toast. He was too embarrassed to look Jack in the eye. "Oh, good God!" Daniel groaned loudly, head falling into his hands.

"Oh, it gets better. I finally got you to the bedroom door, but you refused to go in. Said my spare bed was too lumpy, which is utter crap. And even if it were, you were so drunk, you could've slept on the gate room ramp, but it was easier just to humor you."

"So you let me sleep with you?" Daniel said in horror, finally dragging his eyes up to meet Jack's.

"I let you sleep in my bed, Daniel," Jack said over his shoulder. "I took the spare. Which is not lumpy, by the way."

Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose, as faint memories began to assault him. He dimly recalled the dancing, and being adamant about the spare bed being lumpy, but he certainly didn't remember stripping off in the hallway. "Jack, tell me you're making this up?" he begged.

Jack turned from his task and smiled indulgently. "Okay, okay. You didn't strip. But the rest is all true. You really should learn to pace yourself, Daniel."

Daniel shot Jack an acid glare. He knew Jack was just trying to be funny, but he felt too fragile right now to appreciate his off-colour humor. The thought that he might have been so drunk last night as to have lost all his inhibitions filled him with shame, even if Jack had been making it up. Oh, God, what if he really had stripped for Jack? It was too embarrassing!

"Another pot of coffee will be ready in five minutes. How about a shower?"

"A... shower?" Daniel asked blankly, shocked rigid by the offer.

"Yeah, you know, water... soap... shampoo. I had one earlier, but there should still be plenty of hot water left... Daniel, you okay?"

With a nod, Daniel scrubbed a hand over eyelids that felt as though they were lined in sandpaper. For a minute there, his fuzzy brain had thought Jack was suggesting that they shower together, which was so far beyond ridiculous it was almost funny. As he got to his feet, he decided his brain was still fried from too much alcohol. "Fine. I'm fine. Just, you know, hung over. Shower sounds good."

He bolted for the bathroom before Jack could figure out what he'd really been thinking. Of course Jack wouldn't be suggesting any such thing. He was just as freaked about the idea of them together as Daniel was. Wasn't he?

 

"Colonel O'Neill, may I have a moment of your time?" Paul knew he was blocking the corridor remarkably effectively for such a little guy, and the colonel had no choice but to nod his agreement. He followed in Jack's wake to the colonel's little-used office and made sure the door was closed firmly behind them. Before Jack had a chance to say a word, Paul shoved him hard against the door, not even wincing in sympathy as his head rattled against the metal.

"Don't ever make me do that again, you bastard!" he growled, taking twin handfuls of Jack's shirt and twisting the material until Jack yelped in protest.

"Ouch! Paul, baby... I'm..."

"And don't call me baby! I fucking hate that!" Paul spat out, finally letting go and stepping back. Jack looked chastised, but cute as hell, and it took all of Paul's willpower to remember why he was angry. He'd always been such a damned pushover when it came to Jack O'Neill.

"I'm sorry?" The colonel offered a disarming little smile, and Paul felt his resolve melting.

"Now Daniel thinks I'm a complete asshole," he whined, turning his back on the grinning man. He flopped down into the guest chair and let his irritation find an outlet in the form of rapid foot tapping. "He even told me so." He ran one hand through his black hair, rolling his eyes for effect. "Tell me it was worth it, Jack. Please?"

Jack dropped down onto the couch and sighed. "Paul, I appreciate the sacrifice. I really do. I know how much you respect the little bugger. It's just gonna take a little longer than I thought is all."

Paul's eyes narrowed, but he still refused to look at the colonel. "He told me to go fuck myself!" he muttered petulantly.

"Yeah?" Jack failed to reign in his enthusiasm, which earned him a withering glance from Paul. "Sorry, I mean..." Jack cleared his throat. "That's terrible, obviously."

Jack reached into the front pocket of his shirt and pulled something out, dropping it into Paul's hand. "Oh, by the way, you 'lost' this at my house Friday night."

Paul stared down at the insignia pin in his palm and frowned. "Where'd you find this? I've been searching high and low for it. I thought it'd fallen down the head on base or something."

"It was down the back of my sofa. And I didn't find it. Daniel did."

Paul froze in the act of reattaching the pin to his shoulder epaulet. "Fuck! Did he think...?"

"That I'd been fucking some Air Force major in full dress uniform?" Jack grinned widely. "Sure, he did. And you can take that look off your face, I didn't tell him it was YOU!"

"It wasn't me!" Paul wailed. He jumped to his feet, panic written all over his face. He and Jack had been lovers once, a long time ago, but these days, they both admitted that they needed very different things. They were just friends. The night he'd lost his insignia, he and Jack had been plotting and scheming. Nothing more.

"Hey, a man can dream," Jack, joked, earning himself a swat to the back of the head. They both knew that Jack's dreams these days featured a tall man with blue eyes and glasses, and a penchant for getting himself into trouble.

Paul flopped back down into his chair. "Well, if you didn't tell him, he must have jumped to some conclusions all by himself. He brought up the fact that he thought you and I were an item."

Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Really? So what did you tell him?"

"That we were non-exclusive. I figured he needed to think there might be competition. Jack, how long are you planning on going on with this? Eventually, Daniel is going to find someone all by himself."

He was worried about Jack. Anyone with half a brain could see how much the man loved Daniel Jackson, except for Daniel Jackson, it seemed. Jack had waited a very long time for Daniel to see what was right under his nose. Paul had comforted the colonel through many distraught evenings during which Jack had bemoaned the fact that 'the goddamned near-sighted geek was never gonna buy a clue.'

The colonel's smile was blinding. "As long as it takes to make him see that I'm the only one for him. And don't worry," Jack stretched out his long legs and crossed his hands behind his head, the picture of a man at ease. "I'm a very patient man."

"Did you take him to that awful dive last night?" Paul got up and perched on the edge of the sofa. Part of the plan had been to freak Daniel out so badly, he'd never want to set foot inside another gay bar as long as he lived.

Jack's grin grew even wider. "Yeah. Abandoned him the moment we got there. Gave Snake a fifty to put the moves on him and make it good." Jack chortled at his own cleverness. "Worked, too. You shoulda seen Daniel's face!"

Paul couldn't help smiling as he imagined Daniel being manhandled by the greasy biker, who worked as a busboy at the club.

"So, what went wrong when you got him home?"

Jack began picking at a piece of imaginary lint on his cuff. "He was smashed out of his skull, Paul. Even I couldn't take advantage of him like that."

Jack let his head tip back onto the sofa and stared up at the ceiling. "He was all over me. I kid you not. It was all I could do to keep my fucking hands to myself! I managed to get him to my bedroom and out of his clothes, but the little shit dragged me down with him. Then he kissed me."

"That's good, isn't it?" asked Paul hopefully.

"Not really." Jack's eyes were suspiciously bright when he finally looked up at Paul. "When he managed to lift his head, he just looked at me all sappy like and said, 'Love ya, Jack. Best friend ever'. Then he passed out."

Paul reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "Ah, I see. Jack, maybe it's time to face the fact that friendship is all he wants from you?" Seeing that Jack needed a little alone time, he got to his feet, giving Jack's shoulder one last squeeze. "I told you this before, but it bears repeating. It's one thing to indulge in the occasional bout of hot sweaty sex with a fellow officer, but with Daniel? It could never be just casual with him, could it?"

When Jack didn't look up, he continued, "I'm just saying that maybe it's for the best. Think about that, okay?" Paul left Jack sitting on the couch, looking for answers in the shiny toes of this boots.

 

Three weeks. For three fucking weeks, Jack had been marooned on P4X-783. Daniel was almost out of his mind with worry. Despite the fact that Jack had Teal'c with him, along with several of Bra'tac's men, Daniel couldn't help but imagine a worst-case scenario.

It was supposed to have been a quick and dirty rescue mission. The natives still believed that the Goa'uld were their gods, and therefore the decision had been made to send in the rebel Jaffa instead of SG personnel. Jack had gone along as backup, in case the Jaffa couldn't get close enough to the temple where the missing airman was being held. Jack would play the prisoner, being brought by the Jaffa to the temple to face his fate.

But things had gone wrong almost right away. The airman's body had been found outside the city walls, so the mission had failed before it could even begin. The team managed to get one message back to SGC before they got cut off from the gate by a large party of natives. The plan had been for them to head deep into the forest to evade capture until they could make it through the gate again.

Finally, on day 21 of Jack's mission, Daniel was in the gear up room, making sure his kit was ready in case General Hammond approved the search and rescue mission Daniel had begged for. When the off world activation klaxon sounded, he found himself hurtling through the corridors like a lunatic.

He arrived in the gate room at the same time as Sam.

"It's SG-l's ID. It's Teal'c," Walter's voice echoed through the speakers, "and they're coming in hot!"

Hammond's order boomed through the speakers, "Open the iris."

The huge trinium shield spiralled out of the way, filling the gate room with the blinding light from the already established wormhole. Daniel realized that Sam had slipped her hand into his and was gripping his fingers tightly. He squeezed her hand reassuringly but couldn't tear his eyes away from the gate.

Two of Bra'tac's Jaffa ran through amidst a flurry of arrows, none of which, by some miracle, actually hit anyone. Each of them was holding the end of a pole. By the time Teal'c emerged on the other end of the contraption, Daniel realised they were carrying a stretcher. His heart gave a terrifying lurch as he saw they were carrying Jack.

One look at Teal'c's bleak face, and Daniel was moving forward, still clutching Sam's hand, totally oblivious to the arrows still zinging through the open gate. He barely took notice of the last of the Jaffa coming though, carrying the body of the dead airman.

"Close it down," Hammond ordered, and the room suddenly became much darker and quieter.

The medical team that had been standing by barrelled past, and Daniel stopped, watching in horror as they went to work. Jack was a mess. Daniel might not be a medical doctor, but even he could see that Jack's wound was serious. There seemed to be an incredible amount of blood.

The Jaffa carefully placed their makeshift stretcher on a gurney and stepped back to allow Janet to do a quick examination. Jack had taken an arrow to the chest. The shaft had been snapped off, allowing someone to remove Jack's utility vest and rip open his jacket and tee shirt.

"Teal'c?" Janet's eyes flew to the warrior's face even as her fingers expertly explored Jack's injury. "Did you treat the colonel's wound?" None of the other Jaffa would have had this much first aid knowledge, since they always relied on their symbiotes to do their healing for them.

"I attempted to apply a field dressing to the area, but was afraid that the pressure might drive the arrow head deeper into his chest," Teal'c reported evenly. "I regret that we were unable to access the gate immediately. He has lost much blood."

Daniel tried to split his attention between what Teal'c was saying and listening to Jack fighting for every breath he took. Suddenly Jack's breathing became even more labored, and Daniel could hear gurgling noises that sounded ominous.

"He's in respiratory distress! Might be a collapsed lung! Come on, people, let's get him into a trauma bay," Janet barked at her staff. "NOW! Move it, move it!"

Daniel watched helplessly as Jack was rushed out of the gate room. Teal'c appeared at his side, and the three remaining members of SG-1 stood silently, staring at the closing blast doors. Still hanging onto Sam on his left, Daniel curled the free fingers of his right hand into Teal'c massive paw and felt the warrior's hand trembling.

Jack was in surgery for almost three hours. The rest of his team kept vigil in the corridor outside the operating room, refusing to be intimidated by the succession of nursing staff who glared at them as they passed. Nothing short of a base-wide emergency could have moved any of them.

Finally, Janet emerged from the double doors, looking pale and drawn. On seeing the team jump to their feet, she quickly raised both hands in a soothing manner. "He's stable," she reassured them right away. "I have him heavily sedated right now, and he's on a respirator to help him breathe, so there's no point in you asking to see him. He's out for the count."

Three sets of eyes gazed pleadingly at the doctor until she sighed, "All right, but just for a few minutes," and beckoned them to follow her.

Jack was in an isolation ward just off the main infirmary. Daniel took one look at the ventilator breathing for Jack, the tubes and wires and monitors surrounding him, and had to reach out to steady himself on the railing beside the bed.

"His utility vest and jacket literally saved his life," Janet explained. "Not only did they absorb most of the arrow's momentum, meaning that it didn't pierce any major organs, but it also deflected the trajectory. An inch further to the left, and it would have gone though his heart."

That was all good news, he supposed, but Daniel didn't feel much like celebrating. To him, Jack still looked way too close to death's door. "Is he gonna be all right, Janet?" he asked though clenched teeth.

"The next 24 hours are critical. We'll keep him on the ventilator and sedated until we're sure there are no signs of secondary infection. Why don't you all go get some sleep?"

Teal'c inclined his head respectfully. "I believe I would prefer to stand watch over O'Neill."

Sam nodded her head vehemently. "We should be here in case he wakes up, Janet."

Daniel found himself staring down at Jack again. So pale. So fragile. "Please?"

Janet shook her head. "I'm sorry, guys, but you simply can't all be in here. Teal'c, you can take first watch. Sam, Daniel, get some sleep." Janet squeezed Daniel's arm. "Don't make me have to make it an order."

Sam's eyes locked with Janet's, and a small war was waged and won without words. Sighing in frustration, Sam turned on her heel and left the infirmary. Daniel wondered if he should go after her, but he was reluctant to leave Jack just yet. There were tears lurking just behind his eyelids, and he knew if he blinked, they'd be running down his face.

Janet turned to him and laid a comforting hand on his arm. "Daniel, he's in safe hands. You can go get some rest. Teal'c will come get you if there's any change."

His throat tight with unexpressed emotion, he nodded silently, backing away from the bed. He kept his eyes on Jack right up until the moment he had to go through the doors. How was he supposed to sleep, knowing that Jack's life hung in the balance like this? What if they'd gotten him home, just to lose him?

For the better part of a half hour, Daniel walked through the corridors of the SGC without aim or purpose. His best friend was fighting for his life. If Jack died, what the hell would he do without him? Every part of his life was suffused with the man. They worked together, played together, laughed, cried, and ate together. Hell, truth be told, Jack was his life, if he were honest with himself.

He finally went to one of the bunkrooms, stripped off and collapsed face down on a bed whispering into his pillow, "Don't leave me, Jack," as sleep claimed him.

 

"His wounds were too severe. Despite the best efforts of myself and my staff, Colonel O'Neill passed away at 0300 hours this morning."

Daniel stared at Janet, hearing the words, but not feeling any emotional fallout from them. He heard Sam's strangled sob, saw Teal'c stiffen beside him, but Daniel himself felt nothing. He was just numb. Janet's eyes sought out his, and in their tear-brightened depths, he saw her pity.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," she said with a catch in her voice. "I couldn't save him."

Daniel shook his head, just a tiny motion, denial pushing through the shock. "No." The single, monosyllabic word almost choked him.

"He was too far gone..."

When the shaking started, it took him by surprise. He looked down at his hands, held them out in front of his face, and tried to control their trembling by making fists of them. "No... no-no-no-please! No! NO!"

Who was that screaming? Was that his voice, sounding so raw? He fell to his knees, pushing away the hands that reached for him to try to help him up.

Jack wasn't dead.

Jack couldn't be dead.

He refused to accept it. He needed Jack too much. Sometimes he believed he and Jack were actually part of the same entity.

A collective consciousness of two.

A hive mind.

Jack was his soul mate. Jack was his life. He wasn't dead. He just... wasn't!

"Daniel...?" Gentle fingers on his arm, squeezing his shoulder, tugging at him.

He twisted away from the touch. Didn't they understand? No one was allowed to touch him. No one but Jack.

"NO!" With a gasp, Daniel's eyes flew open, and he found himself staring up at Sam.

Blinking furiously at her, he tried to re-orientate himself. "What...?" he gasped.

"Daniel, you were having a nightmare," she smiled in the gloom of the bunkroom, kneeling beside his bed. "I could hear you yelling outside in the corridor. You okay?"

He ran a shaky hand through his hair, "Um.. yeah, I'm fine. I dreamed..." He did his best to suppress a shudder. He looked quickly back at Sam's face, needing her reassurance. "Jack...is he...?"

"He's awake and asking for us. That's what I came to tell you." Giving him a little grin, Sam straightened up, careful not to bang her head on the bunk overhead.

Daniel got shakily to his feet. "Ah, let me... um, make a visit to the head, and I'll be right there," he told her. His knees felt weak in the aftermath of the nightmare.

He'd managed only a couple of hours sleep the night before, then spent the majority of that day camped outside the infirmary. Janet had been much firmer this time about keeping the team out. She was still too worried about secondary infections and had Jack in isolation, not even allowing Teal'c to stand vigil.

Finally Daniel had admitted that he was no good to anyone in his present condition and gone to shower, change his clothes, force down some food and lie down again. A quick look at his watch confirmed that this time, he'd only been asleep for an hour!

The nightmare had been swift and terrifying, as well as heart-stoppingly realistic. Daniel had always known that there were serious risks in their work. They'd all understood that one day, any or all of them might not make it home intact. But never had he been that scared, not since the day they'd taken Shau're from him. Then he'd been scared of losing the woman he loved.

And now? Well, now he didn't know what the dream meant, but he wasn't yet ready to explore the depths of his feelings. He just knew he had feelings. For now, all he wanted to do was see Jack for himself, reassure himself that his friend was indeed going to make it home this time.

 

Janet was standing at the end of Jack's bed, scribbling some notes onto his chart when his team quietly filed in. She hooked the chart back onto the end of the bed and smiled reassuringly at them.

"Guys, he looks a lot worse that he actually is," she assured them. "Remember, he's one tough individual."

Jack was awake, his dark brown eyes standing out in his white face, and under the clear plastic oxygen mask, he really did look like shit. Daniel couldn't drag his eyes away from the pale skin, which had tubes and wires attached to every available surface. His upper body was exposed, to allow the nursing staff easy access to his chest wound. At least the respirator had been removed, and Jack was breathing on his own.

"The good news is that it appears there was no poison or other contamination on the arrow, so there shouldn't be any complications systemically. The breathing mask is just a precaution to make sure he's getting plenty of oxygen. Besides his obvious wound, he's battered and bruised, and both his wrists are very badly sprained." As she spoke, Janet smiled wryly at the man in the bed. Jack was trying his best to look grumpy and intimidating, but he wasn't really managing to pull it off. "There's actually a small fracture in the left one," she continued. "Do you know how that happened, Teal'c?"

"When the arrow struck, he fell to the ground, and I believe he was attempting to prevent it from penetrating any deeper. Had he fallen upon it, death would most likely have been instantaneous."

"Well, we put both wrists in temporary casts, which can come off in a couple of weeks. I'm afraid he won't be fit for duty for at least six weeks," Janet said, ignoring the withering looks being thrown her way by the man lying in the bed. "And he'll be in the infirmary for two of those."

"Sadist," Jack rasped, his voice sounding reedy and weak under the muffling oxygen mask.

"Colonel, you know as well as I do that it takes time to heal from major surgery. And even when I release your from the infirmary, you're going to need help. You're not gonna have the use of your hands for a while."

Janet turned to face the team. "He needs rest. Don't stay too long." Noticeably, she didn't even attempt to make them leave right now. They all understood that sometimes the quickest way to heal an injured soldier was to let him be with his buddies. Janet went out, pulling the privacy curtain behind her.

Sam stepped up to the head of the bed on one side, and Teal'c took up position on the other. Daniel remained where he was, at the foot of the bed, never taking his eyes off Jack's face.

"God, we were so worried, sir," Sam sighed. She started to place her hand carefully over Jack's casted wrist where it lay on the bed. He winced, anticipating some pain, and she immediately withdrew her fingers, apologizing profusely

"'S'okay, Carter," he rasped, his fatigue obvious. "...bit tender still."

Teal'c then drew his attention. "It is good to see you alive, O'Neill. I did not think you could survive such an injury without the aid of a symbiote."

"Indestructible, T...bounce back...ev'ry time..." Jack's eyes slid shut, his breath coming in wheezy little rattles.

"Indeed, I have observed this to be true, yet this time, I had doubts. You never cease to amaze me, my friend."

Jack tried to nod his head, but the action made him cough. Daniel immediately shouldered past Sam to the head of the bed and supported Jack's head until the spasm had passed. A nurse came in and removed the breathing mask long enough to check that Jack was all right, then replaced the mask and left them alone again.

"Sir, we should let you get some sleep," Sam said softly. "We'll be back in the morning to check on you, okay?" This time Jack didn't attempt to nod; he just slowly blinked his eyes in agreement, exhaustion evident in his pained features. As Teal'c pulled back the curtain, Sam looked enquiringly at Daniel.

"I'll sit with him a while," he stated quietly, smiling as Sam gave him a tiny nod of approval. Slipping into the single bedside chair, Daniel waited until Sam closed the curtain before turning to face Jack again. Jack was watching him, peering up though a fringe of dark lashes.

"Had me worried for a while there, Jack." As he spoke, Daniel placed his hand on the bed right next to Jack's fingers, being careful not to knock or jar the injured wrist. He stretched out his pinkie until it touched Jack's.

"Sorry," Jack sighed, letting his own little finger twitch. It was obviously the closest he could manage to reassurance. His eyes began to drift closed.

"I'm right here, Jack," Daniel whispered. "You can sleep now. I've got your six."

Daniel watched as Jack lost the fight to stay awake. His eyes roamed over the sallow face, the bruising evident of the high cheekbones. Without giving it any thought, he reached out one hand and gently used a finger to trace the marks. The nurses had cleaned Jack up, wiping away the blood and gore that had scared Daniel so much in the gate room, but still he looked too fragile and pale. It'd been close this time. Too fucking close. He'd almost lost Jack.

Daniel pulled the edge of the pale green hospital sheet a little further up Jack's chest, his eyes falling to the casts around his wrists. Daniel had sprained his wrist a few years ago, and he knew how helpless he'd felt, unable to even tie his own shoelaces or even cut up his food. Jack was going to need a lot of help when he got out of the infirmary.

Usually Daniel was the one being fussed over. His medical file could give 'Gone With the Wind' a run for its money, for length if not for the amount of destruction, but this time it was Jack that needed the help. His mind drifted, imagining every contingency. Jack wasn't going to like being so helpless, but if he wanted to escape Janet and her clucky nurses, he was just going to have to bite the bullet and allow someone to move in with him for a few weeks to look after him.

Daniel couldn't prevent a small smile creeping over his face at the thought of bringing Jack breakfast on a tray, helping him wash, shave, driving him wherever he wanted to go. What was it they said? Turnabout is fair play. This time, Daniel would get to be mother hen.

An hour later, when Janet came in to check, she found them both sleeping peacefully, Daniel's head resting on his forearms on the bed, and Jack's fingers touching his hand. With a small smile, she backed away, leaving the two men to sleep in peace.

 

"Okay, here we are," Daniel blustered cheerily as he pulled into Jack's driveway and drew up alongside his truck.

Beside him in the passenger seat, Jack scowled. "I can see that, thanks! I'm not blind, y'know," he groused.

Daniel made sure the false smile he'd been wearing for the past several hours was firmly in place before he turned to unbuckle Jack's seatbelt. He met with the expected resistance.

"Jack, let me help..."

"I can manage..."

"You're getting it all tangled..."

"I'm not a five year old..."

Eventually, Daniel decided that it was best to back off and let Jack get it out of his system. He kept telling himself that Jack was in pain, the meds made him cranky. He knew it wasn't anything personal, but Jack could wear the patience of a saint.

Janet had finally released him from the infirmary after two and a half weeks convalescence. The extra few days had been added when Jack had popped a stitch, trying to get out of bed unaided to use the bathroom. His surgical scar was healing nicely, now that he'd finally accepted Janet's rules. The casts had come off that morning, although both wrists were still firmly bandaged and strapped up. He'd been told it would take weeks of physical therapy to get them back to normal.

In all that time, Daniel hadn't had one single date. He'd spent all his free time in the infirmary with Jack. He felt incredibly guilty that Jack had almost died, as if he should have been there to do something to prevent it. Maybe if the team had been with Jack, it wouldn't have happened. They were so used to working together, anticipating each other's every move.

Hammond had called Daniel into his office earlier in the week to sound him out about arrangements for the colonel. Fraiser's report had indicated that Jack's recovery would probably be faster if he were out of the infirmary, where he was bored and frustrated, but there was no way he could live alone without the use of his hands. The doctor had suggested that Jack hire private duty nurses to look after him. The colonel had given her a long and very vehement list of reasons why THAT would never happen.

Daniel volunteered right away. He had plenty of leave time accumulated, and although, as he told Hammond, he could think of a lot more exciting ways to spend it, at the end of the day, Jack was his friend, and he needed help. So Hammond had seen to the paperwork, and a couple of days later, here they were.

Jack continued to struggle ineffectually with his seatbelt before finally throwing back his head and bellowing with rage, "All right! All right, I admit it! I need help, goddamn it!"

Daniel leaned over and popped the belt, wincing when the metal catch flew up and almost hit Jack right in the jaw. Quickly, he jumped out of the car and went around to open the passenger door. He made no attempt to help Jack out, knowing that he was likely to get his face bitten off should he do so. Just because he didn't have the use of his hands yet didn't mean that Jack couldn't still hurt him severely, if he so chose.

Jack walked stiffly up the path, trying to pretend he was fine, and the bumpy journey hadn't bothered him in the slightest. By the time he reached his front door, a fine sheen of sweat beaded his forehead.

"Let me get the door." Daniel used his spare keys to unlock the door then stepped back to let Jack inside.

He'd been around earlier to make sure everything was all right and to bring in some much-needed supplies. Jack's cupboards had seemed to be stocked with nothing but cans of beans and a half empty jar of peanut butter. The fridge had contained beer, mustard, and ketchup, and not much else.

He saw to his coat and boots, while surreptitiously watching Jack struggle with the zipper of his own coat. He wondered if he were brave enough to offer assistance.

Jack made the question moot, turning pathetic, brown puppy-dog eyes on his friend. "Can't get this damned thing off, Daniel," he pouted.

Daniel saw a perfect opportunity to lighten the tone. "You sure you're not a five year old? 'Cause you sure sound like one."

Before Jack could take exception, Daniel tugged the zipper down and pulled the coat from his shoulders. "Now, if only it were this easy, the first time I have to pull down your fly," he teased, turning away from Jack.

"Oh, no!" said Jack indignantly, leaving Daniel to hang up the coats. He headed down into the living room, throwing his comment over his shoulder as he went. "You are NOT undoing my trousers, Daniel. Gotta draw the line somewhere!"

"We'll see," Daniel murmured, heading in the opposite direction. Time to put on a strong pot of coffee. And after the coffee, he was going to help Jack into a pair of sweat pants. That way Jack could see to his own... arrangements.

By the time he was carrying the tray with coffee and peanut butter cookies back to the living room, Jack had fallen asleep on the couch, stretched out with his feet up. Daniel placed the snack on the coffee table and knelt down beside Jack, taking note of his pallor and the tiny frown line between his eyebrows that meant he was still in a lot of pain.

The urge to reach out and soothe away that frown was almost overwhelming, but he caught himself just in time. It frightened him sometimes, how much he had come to need Jack's presence at his side. The thought of losing Jack terrified him.

With a sigh, Daniel pulled the afghan from the back of the sofa and carefully covered Jack's legs. He'd let him sleep for a couple of hours while he made them both some dinner.

In the kitchen, Daniel set to his task with efficient ease. He knew his way around Jack's kitchen well enough. In his opinion, there were not nearly enough cooking utensils, but they were certainly adequate for preparing a simple meal. Daniel began preparing his special carbonara sauce with the supplies he'd bought earlier. Before long, the house was filled with the mouth-watering aroma of food cooking.

Daniel found an old, battered cookbook in a drawer, and sat down at the dining table to read while the spaghetti simmered. He needed some idea of what meals to prepare, and this was as good a place to start as any. He found a couple of pages had actually been dog-eared, so it was a safe bet that these were meals Jack at least found appealing. He raised his eyebrows at 'Quiche Lorraine' and snorted out loud at 'Ground Venison Meatloaf.'

Jack chose that moment to stagger past the dining room. Before Daniel could get to him, he bumped into the wall at the front door and winced with pain, bringing his bandaged wrists up to his chest.

Daniel grabbed him by the arm. "Jack, what the hell are you trying to do?"

"I'm trying to go take a piss," Jack snapped, his face screwed up in agony.

Daniel gave his watch a quick glance. Painkillers must have worn off, but Jack still had another hour before he could take more. Cautiously, Daniel let go of Jack and watched him straighten up.

"Okay, well if you need help...?" Daniel let his eyes drift down to Jack's groin and then back up to his face. Jack was still wearing the jeans he'd come home in.

Jack seemed to flush with embarrassment. "I'll manage," he stated categorically as he headed off to the bathroom.

Daniel was determined not to fuss. He ducked back into the kitchen and checked on the progress of the pasta. It could do with another five minutes, he decided. He added a little cream to the sauce and stirred it, but his focus wasn't really on the meal. His ears strained to hear what was going on in the bathroom at the end of the hall.

"DANIEL!"

Dropping the spoon into the pan, Daniel bolted up the corridor, only to find that Jack wasn't even in the bathroom yet. He stood in front of the closed door with his head resting on the wood. Daniel scanned him from top to toe, trying to figure out what was wrong.

"I can't get the fucking door open." Jack's voice was a flat monotone.

Daniel looked at the doorknob, suddenly understanding. Had it been a handle, then Jack would have had no problem, but no way could he turn a knob with both hands strapped up tight. Of course that wouldn't have stopped the stubborn bastard from trying, and without pain meds, he must be in agony by now.

Daniel reached around Jack and opened the door, then took him by the elbow and led him inside, positioning the reluctant figure at the toilet bowl.

"Okay, Jack, no arguments," he stated categorically as he lifted the toilet seat. "This time, I'm helping."

Jack just let his chin drop onto his chest, but he made no argument as Daniel turned to unbuckle Jack's belt. The look of desolation on Jack's face worried Daniel a lot. He understood that someone as independent as Jack would find this situation frustrating, but there seemed to be more at work there. Something was wrong.

"I'll do all the ground work, Jack," Daniel said, trying out a smile for size and dropping to his knees. Undoing Jack's fly button, he fumbled nervously for the zipper. "But you're gonna have to hold it yourself. That would be too weird!"

Jack's eyes opened up to meet Daniel's, and for a split second, he was sure he saw something in them, a deep sadness, and pain, but not physical pain. But before he could speculate further, Jack's undone jeans slipped down.

"I can take it from here." Jack said roughly, "Wouldn't want you having to touch anything you didn't want to."

Daniel stood and stepped back, frowning. Jack had definitely sounded hurt. "Jack, its not..."

"Thanks, Daniel. I'm good now."

Dismissed.

Daniel stared at Jack's stony profile. He couldn't figure out what was wrong. Usually he could read Jack like a book, finish his sentences, finish his goddamned thoughts more often than not. But this, well this was just so out of character for Jack.

With a frustrated sigh, Daniel backed out of the bathroom. "If you need help getting your jeans back up..."

"I'll be sure to give you a holler," Jack snapped.

Daniel waited until he heard the steady trickle of liquid hitting porcelain before leaving, making sure not to close the door all the way.

Back in the kitchen, the spaghetti was ready, so he made himself busy serving up dinner. He didn't care if it annoyed the crap out of Jack, but he cut up the spaghetti on Jack's plate so that he only had to scoop it up with his fork. There was fresh garlic bread heating in the oven, and a bowl of salad chilling in the fridge. Two cans of ice-cold Coke, one with a straw, completed the spread just as Jack appeared in the doorway, leaning heavily on the wall for support.

Daniel managed to resist the urge to go help him. Jack hated to be fussed over and that was the quickest way to get himself evicted from the house.

Despite his ill humor, it was obvious that Jack's hunger was well and truly aroused. His nose twitched appreciatively at the delicious smell. Daniel placed the garlic bread on the table, ripping off small, manageable chunks for Jack. He sat down, using his foot to push out the chair opposite for Jack. "Well, dig in, Jack. There's Tylenol for dessert."

Jack snorted with the first smile to cross his face all day and walked slowly to the chair. Daniel noticed that his jeans were still undone and hanging open, but he decided not to pass comment. Once Jack's belly was full and his mood had improved, he might offer his assistance again.

The key with Jack was never to push, to let him think that things were his idea, and never let him know he was being manipulated.

More often than not, Daniel ignored his own rule just for the hell of it. He would never admit it to anyone, but Daniel actually enjoyed pissing Jack off. There was something very appealing about Jack when he was angry that Daniel had never managed to define. All he knew for certain was that every time Jack yelled at him, it sent a perverse little thrill right through him. In this situation, however, that would not be fair. Much as though Daniel loved to bait his friend, Jack was really in too much pain.

Jack was looking down at the fork lying next to his plate, obviously trying to figure out how to pick it up. With a little shake of his head, Daniel lifted the fork and slid the handle gently inside Jack's bandage, where it wedged firmly. Jack managed to lightly close his fingers around the fork and scooped up a healthy portion of the spaghetti.

With a happy smile, Daniel dug into his meal, pleased that Jack seemed to be enjoying it, too, and there hadn't been any complaints about the way his meal had been presented.

 

Daniel pushed away his plate and leaned back in his chair, eyes closing with satisfied pleasure. Even if he did say so himself, that was one hell of a meal.

"Marry me." Jack sighed happily, shaking the now redundant fork loose from his bandages.

Daniel choked on his Coke, wondering if Jack had waited for him to take a drink before saying that. "Wha...?"

"I haven't had a home cooked meal that good for..."

"Since the last time I cooked for us." Daniel used a napkin to wipe his mouth. "Which was... about a month ago, if I remember rightly. We had..."

"Irish stew and dumplings!" Jack sighed again, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his full belly appreciatively. "Daniel, I'll give you this, you sure can cook."

Daniel blushed. Jack rarely complimented him. "So based on this, you would marry me? How shallow is that?"

Jack closed his eyes and belched loudly. "Hey, it's as good a reason as any."

Daniel threw his napkin onto his plate and began to scrabble about in his jeans pocket. "That's all you need to know? That I can cook? You don't need more information before you make that kind of commitment?" Locating the bottle of pain meds, he unscrewed the lid and shook a couple of tablets out onto his palm.

Across the table, Jack grinned. "I already know everything I need to know about you. I know that you snore, that you talk in your sleep, that you can go for days without food, so long as you have a supply of coffee, and that you're devoted to your friends. And you can cook. Big honkin' plus there, Danny."

Whatever possessed him to utter the next words out of his mouth, Daniel would never know. "Ah, but you don't know what I'm like in bed. I might be crap or... something."

You could have cut the silence with a knife. Daniel inwardly cringed. They were friends, best friends. It just so happened that they shared the same sexual orientation, but they couldn't... they didn't ... They'd never really talked about sex in the context of each other. It was too weird!

Jack cleared his throat. "Well... actually... I've heard you're fairly talented in that department."

Daniel's jaw nearly hit the table. "Pardon me?" he squeaked, sure he'd misheard.

Jack's eyes dropped to the white linen tablecloth. "Well you know, gossip, in the showers. Those Marines can't be trusted," he teased.

Daniel's eyes went wide, and suddenly he found himself laughing. Trust Jack to find a way to diffuse the situation. Dropping the two tablets into Jack's outstretched hand, Daniel got to his feet and began clearing the table. "I knew that gang bang was a bad idea!" he said, just as Jack's mouth closed over the straw sticking out of his can of Coke to wash down his pills.

The resulting coughing fit make up for all the ill temper Daniel had been subjected to since they'd walked in the front door.

******

It hadn't taken Jack long to fall asleep again, sprawled out on the sofa, with the remote balanced on his chest. Of course, he wasn't actually able to use the remote, due to his bandaged hands.

Daniel left at the first soft snore, to load up the dishwasher and tidy the kitchen. While he was in there, he threw a load of clothes into the washer, took out the trash, and put away the last of the shopping.

A quick glance at his watch told him that is was after ten. Jack was still dozing, but he'd feel stiff and sore when he woke up. It was too early to suggest bed. Perhaps Jack would like a soak in the bathtub, after which it'd be time for his pain meds.

A quick search in the bathroom cabinet yielded a bottle of pine-scented muscle relaxant, which Daniel poured directly into the flowing hot water, sniffing deeply as his nostrils were filled with the delicious aroma. He let a good amount of bubbles form before switching off the faucet and heading back to the living room.

"Wha?????" Jack sat bolt upright at the first gentle shake, wincing in pain as he inadvertently put pressure on his wrists. Daniel steadied him, squeezing his tense shoulders reassuringly.

"Easy, Jack," he said softly, rubbing Jack's shoulder. "Hey, I ran you a nice bath. C'mon, get up."

Jack staggered upright, leaning heavily on Daniel for support. It was a good thing he was still woozy from sleep, or he'd have been making much more of a fuss. Daniel had almost succeeded in getting him right into the steamy bathroom before Jack began to get feistier.

"I can walk!" he groused, making it over the threshold under his own steam. And there he stood, looking blankly at the tub of bubbles. Finally he turned to look quizzically at Daniel. "How the hell do you expect my to get in there?"

For the first time, Daniel realized that he hadn't thought this through very well. Janet had insisted that the bandages had to stay on for the next three days, so Jack would have to keep them out of the water. Daniel briefly considered risking Janet's wrath and undoing hem, but knew he'd never get them back on right.

Plastering an unconvincing smile on his face, Daniel closed the bathroom door behind them. "Jack, you stink. You're getting in there if I have to throw you in."

Jack held up his bandaged hands. "And how the hell am I supposed to wash myself, genius?"

"I'll do it," Daniel blustered, reaching for Jack's still unfastened trousers and giving them a downward tug.

"Hey!" Jack tried to step back, hampered by the heavy denim pooling at his ankles. He looked down and then back up at Daniel with a scowl. "I'm not letting you wash me, Daniel, so you can just fuck off!"

Daniel boldly stepped forward again. "You don't have anything I don't have, Jack. Stop being such a big baby."

Jack staggered back a little further. "Daniel, back off. I'm not kidding." His butt collided with the sink, effectively stopping any further retreat.

With a move that Teal'c would have been proud of, Daniel grabbed a hold of Jack's unbuttoned over shirt and yanked it down over his shoulders, trapping his hands at his sides. Now Jack's modestly was only covered with a thin white undershirt and a pair of navy blue jersey boxers.

"Okay, step out of the jeans and let me undo the cuffs." Daniel instructed, trying not to hurt his friend's wrists.

Jack tried to twist free and ended up yelping in pain. "Goddamned insane son of a bitch!" he spat furiously, while stepping out of the pooled jeans. "Why can't I just take a fucking shower?"

He stood still while Daniel futzed with his cuff buttons, easing the shirt over the bandages. "Because in order to help wash you, I'd have to get in there with you, wouldn't I? At least this way, we both get to maintain some dignity."

Jack glanced at the showerhead longingly, stared at the bubble bath resignedly, and took a deep breath, letting it out in a frustrated whoosh. He gave no further argument. He allowed Daniel to pull his white undershirt off and then glared at him, eyes narrowed to tiny slits when Daniel reached for the waistband of Jack's boxers.

Daniel hesitated, concerned eyes briefly meeting Jack's.

"Just do it!" Jack sighed, rolling his eyes, but standing perfectly still.

Daniel took a deep breath, averted his eyes, and tugged down the boxers. It wasn't like he hadn't seen Jack naked before, but this was different, and they both knew it. Daniel was going to have to put his hands on Jack's body. This made it intimate, not just a couple of guys goofing around in the locker room.

Immediately, his nostrils were assaulted by the musky scent of the human male, and his cock twitched traitorously. He tried to ignore his body's reaction; after all, this was Jack. Jack, who was in pain and needed his help. Jack, who was feeling vulnerable and useless, and really didn't need to be embarrassed any further tonight.

With an efficiency borne of desperation, Daniel managed to toss the boxers into the corner and stand up again without actually looking at Jack's groin at all. By the time he managed to force his eyes open, Jack had already stepped carefully into the tub and was going down into a crouch, using his elbows to brace himself.

Daniel slipped his arms under Jack's armpits and took his full weight to allow him to slide into the warm water until his head rested against the rim. Despite his earlier misgivings, Jack obviously had come around to the idea, since the moment his battered and abused muscles hit the water, a deep-throated sigh escaped him.

Daniel sank to his knees at the side of the tub, watching Jack relax.

"Okay, maybe this wasn't your worst idea ever," Jack, sighed, letting his arms dangle over the sides of the tub as his eyes drifted shut.

Daniel allowed the smell of pine to surround him, to overwhelm his senses and overwrite the very male smell of Jack that had assaulted him earlier. He almost wished he were in there, too, letting the heat and weightlessness sooth away the day's strain, but immediately he shook his head at the bizarre thought. No, that would be too strange!

He squatted at the side of the bath, watching Jack's face slowly relax into a contented smile.

He really was quite beautiful... Whoa! Where the hell had that thought come from?

Daniel chewed on his lower lip while he contemplated it. Jack was beautiful, in a very masculine way. His face was remarkably devoid of lines for a man his age, his skin clear and warm brown, with no blemishes save for the rakish battle scar over one eyebrow, received from the blunt end of some weapon or other.

He had one or two wrinkles around his eyes. Laugh lines, Daniel preferred to call them. His hair was almost completely silver at the temples, though he still retained a respectable amount of brown in there. The effect was unbelievable sexy in itself, but coupled with the dark skin, liquid brown eyes, and long, lean body, Jack O'Neill was just plain dangerous.

Daniel let his eyes wander lower, across the creases and hollows of Jack's throat, the width of his shoulders and the light smattering of curly grey hair covering his chest. Most of Jack was hidden under a mass of white bubbles, but what he could see, Daniel liked.

Jack's voice, when he spoke, suggested that he'd read Daniel's mind. "Like what you see?"

Daniel dragged his gaze upwards, forcing himself to look into the sparkling, amused eyes of his best friend. The answer to that question scared the crap out of him. He really wasn't ready to accept the fact that he could possibly be just a little bit attracted to Jack, 'cause that was just...

"Just wondering where to start," Daniel grinned, lifting up a washcloth and waving it in the air.

Jack's smile faded almost right away and with a sigh he closed his eyes. "Fine! If that's the way you wanna play it - feet, legs, arms, chest and face."

Daniel shrugged. He was more than happy with those parameters. He got to his feet, unbuttoned his shirt, and carefully hung it on the back of the door.

"What the hell are you doing?" Jack asked suspiciously.

Daniel ignored him, squeezing a good-sized blob of shower gel onto the cloth and working it into a lather. Before Jack could make further complaint, he thrust his hand into the foamy bathwater and pulled out Jack's foot. Water sloshed out of the bath, soaking the front of his jeans.

"Hey!" Jack's outraged cry echoed in the small room.

"Well I was hoping to avoid getting wet, but I can see it's to late for that." Jack was trying to tug his foot free, but Daniel had his ankle in a vice like grip, all the while scrubbing enthusiastically between Jack's toes.

Truthfully, Daniel's only real reason for starting with Jack's foot was because it was as far away from his groin as Daniel could possibly get, therefore the least threatening place to begin.

"Fuck, Daniel! That TICKLES!" Jack roared, laugher threatening to break free at any moment. He held both arms up clear of the water in an attempt to keep his bandages dry. If Daniel had been thinking straight, he would have suggested wrapping them in Saran Wrap or at least plastic bags, but it was a little too late to worry about that now.

Jack was squirming about with a vengeance, and Daniel got another lapful of bathwater before he finally released the foot. The resulting splash sprayed him with foam, which dripped from the end of his nose. He swiped it away with the back of his hand, but somehow managed to knock his glasses off instead. They landed in the bath water with a plop.

By now, Jack was almost helpless with laughter, but when Daniel accidentally brushed his hand against Jack's inner thigh while trying to retrieve his drowning specs, he squealed like a girl and jerked away.

"Oh, sorry." Daniel felt a flush creep over his face and neck. He hid his embarrassment by looking busy wiping the soap from his glasses, but he didn't bother putting them back on. They were useless in the steamy room anyway. He reached over and placed them carefully on the closed toilet seat, then held out his hand expectantly. Jack raised his eyebrows in confusion.

"Well unless you want me to go fishing for that other foot..." Daniel explained patiently. He tried to hide his grin when Jack quickly deposited his other foot in Daniel's hand.

This time, Jack managed to keep the wriggling down to a minimum, but Daniel's jeans were now soaked from the waist right down to the knee. He tried to ignore the discomfort, quickly and efficiently running the washcloth as far down Jack's leg as he could manage. Once that task was accomplished, he felt as wrung out as the cloth in his hand.

He wiped the back of his hand across his brow and getting to his feet, he surveyed the terrain, contemplating his next course of action. Arms or chest? He felt the ice had been broken somewhat with the whole foot washing thing and was feeling more confident about touching Jack in this way, but still...

Jack gazed back up at him form the suds, a cheeky grin on his face. "You were right about getting soaked. Look at you - you're a drowned rat!"

With a chortle, Daniel looked down at his jeans, water and suds dripping from his arms. He was glad that Jack had finally cheered up, even if it was at his expense, but the bathwater saturating the denim had cooled, leaving his skin chilled and a little scratchy. He wasn't prepared to risk pneumonia for the sake of modesty. With a little sigh, he unzipped and pulled off the sodden jeans, tossing them onto the growing pile of clothes in the corner. He really should have taken them off back when he'd taken off his shirt, but there was no use crying over spilled... bathwater now. It was too late for 'should haves'.

"Okay, Jack, let's get you sitting up." A few moments later, he'd managed to manhandle Jack into a sitting position. "Bend your legs and get your knees out of the water, Jack. Then you can rest your arms on them."

Despite the fact that Jack was the one in the tub, he wasn't sure which of them was more soaked. Kneeling down next to the tub and soaping up his washcloth again, Daniel decided to start with Jack's back and arms, being very careful not to get water on the bandages.

For the most part, Jack allowed himself to be washed without complaint, although he did jerk a bit when Daniel drew the cloth over his nipples. Only to be expected, though, he thought, as he scrubbed Jack's armpits with the cloth. Nipples were a sensitive area, and oh...so were armpits, it appeared. Jack was biting hard on his lower lip, trying to sit still.

"Sorry, Jack. Won't be long now," Daniel tried to apologize. He was leaning over the edge of the bath, one hand holding Jack's arm up, and the other scrubbing his left armpit.

His ear was mere inches away from Jack's lips when the other man pointedly looked down at his own lap and growled, "That's where you're very wrong, Daniel. It's getting longer by the minute!"

Daniel's mouth fell open in shock. His suddenly nerveless fingers lost their grasp on the washcloth, which fell into the bath with a soft splat. Drawing back, he searched Jack's face, noting the wry little smile and sparkling eyes. Jack was yanking his chain, but Daniel didn't have to be a rocket scientist to tell there was also a grain of truth to the statement.

Slowly lowering his eyes, he wished for x-ray vision. Although the bubbles had dissipated somewhat, the water was too cloudy to make out any details.

"Are you saying that you have a..." Daniel gulped, and looked back up at Jack. "...a hard on?"

Jack waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "It's like that scene from "Spartacus," with Tony Curtis, remember it? The bath scene?"

Daniel felt the blush burning his face. "But... but that was... that was..."

"Hot?" Jack's grin got wider, the more flushed Daniel became.

Daniel blinked, unable to truly focus on Jack's face without his glasses, but sure the other man was still playing mind games with him. He reached for the shampoo and fumbled the cap open, ignoring Jack's pervious question entirely.

"Can you lie back and get your hair wet?" he asked, voice shaking a little.

Jack tried to lean back a bit, but the muscles of his torso were still too tender to take much strain. "Nope, not without using my hands," he stated sadly. Daniel hesitated. He could try to get Jack standing, get him under the showerhead which was fixed to the wall, but then he'd be struggling to reach his hair without getting in there too. Still, if that was the only way...

Jack seemed to read his mind. "Shower would soak my bandages. I don't have any Saran Wrap in the house, so you would have to use trash bags or something."

Daniel licked his lips while he tried to think of a way to wash Jack's hair without drowning him. "I could go get a jug...?"

"Or you could just get in the tub with me."

Daniel stared at Jack in confusion. It had been said so matter-of-factly. Like the very thought of it didn't bother Jack in the slightest. Like he could take it or leave it. Like... like it didn't turn him on at all! And in anyone else's bathroom, it might have also been impossible, but Jack had a deep, modern tub, big enough for two men to bathe quite comfortably. And why was he even thinking about this?

"You could take my weight, support me so I don't drown."

Daniel was gaping like a fish. Jack wanted him to get into the bath... into the water, wanted him to sit behind him... wash his hair, touch him? Oh, God! He couldn't do that... could he?

"Oh! Well, I..."

"For chrissake, Daniel, it's no big deal. Just jump in and gimme the works.

"Works! What...what works?"

"You know, shampoo and shave... like at the..."

"SHAVE?" Daniel squeaked.

Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Okay, no shave. Fine. No problemo. Just, get in here with me, for crying out loud!"

Daniel stared dumbly at the bottle of shampoo in his hand, at the puddles of water all over the floor, the white bandages hanging over the edge of the bath, everywhere but at Jack. He couldn't do that, could he? Couldn't get in there with Jack. That would be... too weird.

He opened his mouth to protest, but what came out was, "Okay!"

What? Where had that come form? His body was moving, totally against the wishes of his mind, towards the bath. Before he had a chance to let the panic attack take him, he was sliding down into the warm water behind Jack, one leg on either side of his thighs. "There, that wasn't so bad, now, was it?" Jack was saying, but Daniel's brain had switched off. He sat rigid, still wearing his boxers, clutching the bottle of shampoo like it was a lifeline.

Then Jack leaned back against his chest with a small contented sigh. His body filled the space between Daniel's legs like it was meant to be there. His back pressed lightly against Daniel's chest.

Daniel almost gasped. God! What the hell was wrong with him? Jack needed his help, needed him to be strong and capable. Not this silly, trembling mass of conflicting feelings. Jack was his friend, his best friend, and it was just too weird to be reacting like this to the feel of his naked, wet skin pressing against him.

"Daniel, I could use a little help here."

Jack was struggling to get his head down low enough to get his hair wet. He had bent his legs, sticking his feet out of the tub, but without the use of his hands, he couldn't move much lower.

Daniel took a fortifying breath and placed the shampoo on the edge of the tub. Scooting back as far as he could, he slipped one hand under Jack's head, cupping the base of his skull and then placing the other hand on Jack's shoulder, he gently pushed him down into the water. Jack had his eyes closed, relaxing completely in Daniel's care.

The thought that Jack trusted him this much filled Daniel with warmth. He scooped up small handfuls of water, wetting down the silver hair until it clung to his fingers and trailed over his thighs. The feel of it sent tiny sparks of electricity spiralling through him.

God, why hadn't he realized before how much he loved to touch and be touched by this man? He'd missed it so much when it'd stopped. He let Jack's head rest on his lap while he squirted out some shampoo, hoping like hell that Jack wouldn't notice his 'interest'. He was sure that the earlier comments about Spartacus and hard-ons had just been Jack playing the smartass.

He could read Jack like a book 99% of the time. This was definitely the 1% where he didn't have a clue what was really going on. Jack's hair tickled against his ribs, so quickly he began to massage in the shampoo.

Jack let out a deep groan, and Daniel knew there was no way he didn't feel the answering twitch of his cock as it was pressed against the back of Jack's neck. To diffuse the growing problem, he worked the shampoo into a frothy lather with firm strong strokes. He imagined that he could feel every single silver strand of Jack's hair as it slid though his sensitive fingers.

"God, that feels good," Jack murmured, rolling his head into Daniel's hands. "Missed your true calling, Daniel. Should have been a masseur." As he rinsed Jack's hair with handfuls of water, Daniel surreptitiously tried to lift Jack's head away from his groin, but Jack just pressed back against him even more, groaning and moaning and sounding like he could come from this. Daniel knew his heart was hammering loudly enough for Jack to hear it. Shit, he had to be able to feel it against the top of his head.

Breathing labored, Daniel tried to push Jack away. "All done, Jack. I... I need to get... God, I need to get out of here."

Jack pressed his feet against the bottom on the tub and surged backwards, his back sliding up Daniel's soap-slicked body until he was pressed against Daniel's chest, making water slosh out of the bath. Daniel let out a tiny moan as the friction caught his already hardening cock. It felt absolutely incredible.

Jack tipped his head back so that it rested on Daniel's shoulder. He turned his face into Daniel's neck in a gesture so intimate, it took Daniel's breath away. "Not yet," he whispered, his breath ghosting over Daniel's jaw. The feel of it made his damned traitorous cock jump again. "Stay a little longer."

"Jack," he breathed. He was torn, needing to move, to get away, but wanting to stay right there. Oh God, right there! "I... I can't..."

"Jesus, Daniel, please," Jack growled, nuzzling against Daniel's throat. "I just spent nearly three weeks with both my hands strapped up. Do I have to draw you a diagram? I could use a little help here."

"Ah, God!" Daniel groaned. Now that Jack was sitting upright, Daniel could very clearly see that he hadn't been joking about the hard on. His cock rose hard and proud from the water, glistening and red, dripping with what few bubbles still remained.

Daniel threw his head back and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He wasn't stupid, he knew what Jack was asking for. Jack's injured wrists meant at least six weeks unable to dress himself, brush his own teeth, feed himself, and more importantly, jerk himself off! He desperately needed to release some sexual tension, and he was all but begging for Daniel's help.

Just a month before, Daniel would never have even considered wrapping his hand around Jack's cock. But now... well, he couldn't deny that he was suddenly seeing his friend in a whole different light.

"Danny, please." The quiet desperation in Jack's voice tore at Daniel's heart. It was no big deal. Jack needed this, so what was he waiting for?

Slipping his hands under Jack's armpits, he ran them slowly down over his chest, his thumb catching on the chain of Jack's dog tags. Under his wet, slippery fingers, Jack's nipples puckered and hardened. Daniel knew that he shouldn't linger, that Jack hadn't really asked for anything more than a quick hand job, but he couldn't help himself. He ran his thumbs back and forth over the rivet-hard nubs until Jack was openly moaning.

Okay, it was time to be honest here. This was really, really turning him on. Sliding one hand over Jack's quivering belly, he wondered how the hell he could possibly face Jack when they were done. Was he just supposed to say, 'no problem Jack, any time,' and walk away? There were no answers forthcoming to any of his questions. His brain had taken a hike.

As Jack's head rolled listlessly on his shoulder, Daniel's hand moved lower, skirting nervously to the side, fingers trailing over Jack's hipbone and under the water. Jack's muscles clenched, hips thrusting upwards, and Daniel couldn't help but stare at his beautiful, thick cock where it lay flat along his belly.

He felt that he should say something, try to be reassuring and strong, but he really didn't trust his own voice. Gulping nervously, he quickly moved his hand upwards, curling his fingers around the pulsating shaft before he could change his mind.

"Oh, God! Yeah!" Jack cried softly, body surging upwards even as Daniel tightened his grip.

He'd done this to himself countless times, of course, so he knew exactly the right angle and position and how hard to squeeze, how fast to move. He knew to match his upward rhythm to Jack's heartbeat, which he could clearly feel against his chest. It took less time than he'd imagined, but then, Jack had already gone three weeks without this.

"Daniel...Danieldanieldaniel! Oh, that's it! SHIT, yeah!"

Daniel squeezed once more, gave Jack's cock three rapid jerks, and braced him as his body arched upward, trembling though one hell of a spectacular orgasm.

"Aaaaah, shhhhhhhhhhhhhhit!" Jack groaned as he went completely limp. He was breathing harshly through his mouth, trying to catch his breath. "You are really really good at that," he gasped. He'd slipped a little lower in the water, and his head now rested on Daniel's stomach. He had such a look of sheer bliss that Daniel felt like giggling, but that was probably just hysteria. God, what had he just done? Daniel stared at his fingers, still wet with Jack's come, and tried to fight back the panic.

"We better get out of this bath," he croaked, struggling to get out from under Jack's weight. Shock was beginning to set in, and his cheeks were flaming with embarrassment. "I don't believe I just did that!"

When Jack moved, Daniel felt cold and exposed. He pulled himself up and out of the tub. With shaking hands, he peeled off his sodden boxers and wrapped himself in a towel before finally turning back to face Jack.

He was just sitting in the tub, arms dangling over the sides, his chin resting on his chest with his eyes closed. Daniel didn't know what to say. Saying that he was embarrassed was an understatement. He felt naïve and gauche, and utterly stupid.

Jack was so much more experienced at the whole 'gay' thing. He could play around about it and joke so easily. He could ask a good friend for a hand job without batting an eyelash, and apparently it didn't mean a damned thing to him. But Daniel couldn't seem to do it. Jerking Jack off had given him a hard on of his own, for chrissake!

No, being totally honest, the hard on had happened sooner than that; all Jack had done was moan a little while getting his hair washed, and Daniel suddenly had grown his very own looffa!

"Jack, I'm sorry..." he trailed off when Jack finally looked at him. The look of devastation in those eyes took his breath away. "Jack? You okay?" Confusion replaced embarrassment. Why did Jack look so utterly lost?

"Just help me get outta here," Jack said flatly, staring at a point just over Daniel's shoulder.

******

Perhaps if he hadn't been dying of embarrassment, Daniel might have taken the time to ask Jack what was wrong, but his head was spinning. He let the water out of the tub, helped Jack out, and wrapped a towel around him, all without looking him in the eye or anyplace else. Not a word passed between them.

Jack took his terrycloth robe off the back of the bathroom door, handing Daniel his shirt that was also on the hook. Slipping the shirt on, Daniel rummaged in the clothing pile for something dry to put on. His own jeans were sopping wet, but Jack's were dry. They were a bit snug on him, but at least they covered him, which was all he really cared about at that point. When he turned back, Jack had slid into the robe and belted it around his waist.

Daniel opened the bathroom door and stood back, letting Jack lead the way into the living room, where the fire crackled merrily in the grate.

"I need a drink," Jack growled, going to stand in front of the flames. Daniel watched him for a moment, hypnotized by the play of firelight on Jack's face. Then with a little shake of his head, he fled to the kitchen.

Jack kept a bottle of Drambuie in a cupboard for emergencies. If she found out about it, Janet would have his head on a stick for letting Jack into the hard stuff, but Daniel thought it was worth risking her wrath, given the events of the evening. He poured out a good measure into two glasses.

Back in the living room, Jack was in the same position as Daniel had left him, staring blankly into the flames, eyes unfocused and empty.

When Daniel came to stand beside him and held out a glass, Jack turned, looked at the whiskey and raised his wrists, reminding Daniel that even something as simple as taking the glass was beyond him right then.

Daniel slowly lifted the glass to Jack's lips, allowing him to use his bandaged hands to steady his own. Jack's eyes met Daniel's over the crystal rim, lingering for a moment before he tipped back his head, forcing Daniel a step closer. He drained the smoky liquid in three gulps.

Daniel watched Jack's throat contract as he swallowed, and suddenly heat flooded him again. He had the overwhelming urge to sink his teeth into Jack's neck, sucking the skin till it went red and left a mark. Oh, God! His cock twitched again with renewed interest, reminding him that Jack may have just gotten off, but he hadn't.

Jack released his hand, and Daniel stepped backwards, blinking in confusion. He raised his own glass and swallowed the fiery whiskey, satisfied with the burn it trailed over his tongue and down his throat. It seemed like every nerve ending in his entire body was firing at the same time.

"Put the glasses down," Jack ordered softly. Daniel reached out and put them on the mantelpiece, never taking his eyes off Jack's face.

"Damn! I swore I wouldn't do this," Jack muttered, fiddling with the loose end of one of his bandages, "but I can't stand it any longer. There're some things I should probably have told you long before now."

Now Daniel really was confused. Suddenly Jack seemed to be having a hard time looking him in the eye. "Jack...?"

"Shush, please, just... gimme a minute." Jack turned away from Daniel to stare into the fire. "It's time for the truth." He swallowed a couple of times and took a deep breath. "So here goes. Daniel, I sabotaged your date."

"My date... you mean with Nate?" Daniel frowned. Part of him wanted to step back, out of Jack's personal space, but he thought better of it and actually leaned in a little closer. At Jack's small nod of affirmation, he shook his head in confusion. "But how?"

"Got a friend of mine to come on to him in a bar before he met you, buy him drinks, get him shit faced..." While he spoke, Jack slowly unwound the loose, damp bandage, dropping it to the floor with a sigh of relief.

Daniel remembered how Nate had already been drinking when they met up, and how much of a turn off that had been. That had been Jack's doing? His eyebrows shot up in surprise, and then rapidly slid into another frown as anger replaced the faint haze of desire that had had him dazed.

"You bastard!" He remembered seeing Jack in the parking lot with that geeky looking guy, and now could put two and two together. Jack had sabotaged Daniel's date, and then gone home to fuck some guy he'd picked up in a bar? This time Daniel did step back, putting a little space between them. "Why, Jack?" he asked coldly. "Why would you do that to me?"

" 'Cause he wasn't good enough for you," Jack sighed, turning back to face Daniel once more. "No one is."

Whatever else Jack had been expecting, it clearly wasn't Daniel's guffaw of laughter. Unable to stand there and hear Jack's bullshit a second longer, he bolted for the hallway. By the time he reached the spare room, he was close to hysteria.

Jack was hot on his heels, and they slammed into the room together. "Dammit, Daniel, why are you laughing? Pouring my heart out here. I'm a little confused."

"You're confused?" Daniel whirled around, his eyes wide and wild. "You showed up at my house and gave me a bag of condoms!"

Jack couldn't seem to drag his eyes away from Daniel's lips. "You saying you would have preferred flowers? I can do flowers, if you want. Or candy. Condoms are just a bit more macho is all..."

Daniel surged forward, one hand on Jack's shoulder and the other clamped firmly over Jack's mouth to shut him the hell up. "For my date with Nate... you gave me condoms for a date with a man that you felt wasn't good enough for me. What the fuck? I don't get you."

Jack mumbled something against Daniel's palm, sending little shockwaves of desire coursing through him with every movement of Jack's lips against the sensitive flesh. He let his hands drop as though they'd been burned.

"It was an excuse to see you," Jack told him, eyes glittering with anger. "But I also had to make sure you were gonna be all right. If things did get physical, I just wanted to be sure you were protected."

Daniel gaped. On the one hand, that was kind of sweet. But on the other hand, it was just another example of how Jack thought Daniel couldn't look after himself. "And what about the guy in the parking lot?"

"What the hell are you talking about? What guy?" Jack was clawing at his one remaining bandage, trying to work his fingernail under the material, and Daniel almost felt some pity for him. He supposed the bandages must have gotten wet after all.

"I saw you..." Daniel said flatly, pulling out his underwear drawer in the search for something clean to wear. "...in the parking lot. With some guy with glasses."

At Jack's snort, Daniel whirled around to face him, a pair of plaid boxer shorts dangling from each hand.

"You mean Ed? Short guy, gold glasses, and floppy brown hair?" Jack grabbed one of the pairs of boxers and tried to wriggle into them. Daniel nodded dumbly, amazed at how cool Jack was being.

"I was taking him home, all right," Jack grinned, finally getting the elastic up past his knees. "He was the friend I was telling you about, the one who hit on your date. I promised I'd drive him home safe and sound to his boyfriend afterwards."

Daniel let the boxers he still had clutched in his hand drop to the floor. "You're kidding?" he wheezed.

Jack sat down on the bed, breathing hard, and pulled the boxers up to mid thigh. He had a look of determination about him, like he was not about to lose the battle with his underwear. "I'm not kidding. Ed was an old friend of Sara's. He owed me a favor."

Daniel turned his back on Jack and tried to reign in his anger. This explained a lot, actually. A whole lot. "And my second date?" he asked through clenched teeth, watching Jack squirming in the dresser mirror.

"You had a second date? I didn't even know about that one."

Okay, so that time, Nate had been an asshole all by himself, even without Jack's intervention, but at this point, that was neither here not there.

"And if I had, I'd have threatened the smug bastard with reassignment!"

Daniel spun around, anger and shock warring with the sight of Jack lying back on the bed trying to get the boxers up over his groin.

"You... you don't have the authority to..."

"He wouldn't have known that, Daniel. Jesus FUCK can you at least HELP me a little here?"

Daniel walked to the end of the bed and stared down at a panting, frustrated Jack O'Neill. He tried not to give Jack's twitching cock more than a cursory glance. Reaching down, he grabbed Jack's forearms and hauled him roughly to his feet. One quick tug, and Jack was decently covered. He flopped back down on to the bed with a sigh. His other bandage now flapped like a flag in the breeze and it was only a matter of time before it came off too.

"Oh my God!" Daniel exclaimed as a sudden thought occurred to him. "Paul Davis? Tell me you didn't..."

Jack had the good grace to blush. "He was in on it from the start. Paul and I had a history a long time ago, but we're still good friends. He didn't want to get involved, but he was the only one I could talk to about it."

"In on it? In on what, for crissake?" Daniel's mouth fell open. "The blond in the club? Tell me that wasn't a set up."

Jack actually smiled, the bastard! "Ah. Now, that was nothing to do with me. Lucien gave me a few hairy moments back there, but I didn't think you'd be interested in that scene. Snake, on the other hand, was all my idea."

Jack was trying to struggle upright using his elbows, but one well-placed shove had him sprawling again, and Daniel quickly crawled on top, glowering down at him, his unbuttoned shirt dangling down. Immediately, Jack's arms slid inside, winding around him, holding him in place.

He could feel the rough bandage scraping the skin of his back, and the terry cloth of Jack's robe grazed his chest where his shirt and the robe had both fallen open. The tiny wiry hairs on Jack's chest rasped against his nipples, and he could feel every single breath Jack took. In other circumstances, there was little doubt he would have been very aroused by it all.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" Daniel hissed, "What gives you the right?" As he spoke, Daniel roughly pulled Jack's arms up over his head, one by one, too angry to care that it must hurt, but Jack just lay still, gazing sadly up at him in the gloom.

Daniel couldn't drag his eyes away from Jack's. As he watched, they went from warm amber to black, pupils dilating with need and lust. Not goofing around. Not joking. Not playing some weird 'Jackian' mind game. Jack thrust his hips gently upwards. He was hard. Very hard. Rigid, actually.

"Oh. My. God!" Daniel gasped when he felt Jack's cock graze against him. How the hell could Jack be hard again so soon? The man was a monster.

"Feel that?" Jack hissed, doing it again, burying his face in Daniel's neck. Daniel closed his eyes. Feel it? Oh, god, yes. He could feel it, all right! "That's what you do to me, Daniel."

"Shit!" Daniel muttered under his breath. His legs were trembling. Jack never talked to him like this. Jack was his friend. His best friend... his... Oh, SHIT! "But you already... you came already," he whispered weakly.

"Barely took the edge off, Daniel. When it comes to your ass, I think I could go all night." Then Jack did what Daniel had been fantasizing about earlier. He opened his mouth and sank his teeth into Daniel's throat, sucking hard.

Hardly able to credit the growl of pleasure that escaped him, Daniel finally gave in and slumped against Jack. "Jesus, Jack, are you saying you want to fuck me?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Daniel regretted the coarseness of the words. They echoed around the room, accusing, harsh, raw. He reared back and looked into Jack's face.

Jack's eyes narrowed to slits, glittering in darkness. "No, Daniel, that's not what I'm saying!"

"Then..."

"I want to make love with you! Hell, if a nameless fuck was all I wanted, don't you think I could have found someone a little more willing to accommodate me? Daniel... Jesus, I...I..."

Jack's fingers flexed a little over the top of the one remaining bandage, and Daniel belatedly saw that he was hurting his friend. In more ways than one. He released his grip a little, watching the relief flood over Jack's face.

Jack closed his eyes, and then let them flutter open again. "I'm in love with you. Have been for years, you clueless bastard!"

Daniel actually gasped in shock. "Whaaaaa?" he spluttered indignantly.

Jack arched his body against Daniel, showing him exactly what the contact was doing to him. "I said, I love you, Daniel," he whispered sadly. "I really hoped that you'd buy a clue one day, but I guess that's just not gonna happen. I'm sorry."

Daniel's mouth opened and closed a few more times before Jack decided to twist and roll them both over, reversing their positions. Daniel was still in too much shock to object. He lay motionless with Jack settled between his spread legs. He stared up into his friend's eyes.

Daniel gulped. Jack loved him? Wow. That was... that was... well, that was kinda cool, actually. Hesitantly, he slid his hands down Jack's back and let them rest on his ass. He could feel the muscles moving under his palms. Jack's hips pushed against him gently. Strangely, it didn't feel threatening, even though he was all but trapped underneath the other man.

"Jack, I'm speechless," he whispered, feeling his body begin to respond to the friction. He might never have looked at Jack this way before, but Jack was his friend, his buddy, and sure he cared, he cared a lot. Okay, okay, if push came to shove, he'd have to admit that he loved Jack. They'd been through a lot, been there for each other too many times to count. He'd stepped in front of a staff weapon for Jack almost the moment they'd met, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

"I finally found a way to shut you up? Cool." Jack's lips twitched, but Daniel could see the sadness in his eyes. Jack had interpreted Daniel's immobility as a rejection. He'd assumed that Daniel didn't feel the same way, and it was breaking his heart. It was all there in those expressive brown eyes.

Daniel gulped again. While his body might want this, his head was putting up a fight, and his heart... well, his heart was just desperately trying to escape his chest right now. He had to be honest. "Jack, this is all just too weird."

Jack's eyes fell to Daniel's lips, and he sighed wistfully. "I guess you're right. If you've never thought about this in five years, then you clearly never will. I shouldn't have said anything."

Before he could think about what he was about to do, Daniel let go of Jack's ass and slipped both hands up to cup his face. "Wait! Not so fast! Kiss me." Jack couldn't just tell him he was loved then get up and walk away! That wasn't how it worked, surely?

"What?" Jack croaked, trying to pull away, "I don't think that'd be such a good idea, Danny."

"Please, just one kiss."

Jack shook his head, trying not to look into Daniel's eyes, but Daniel couldn't let this end without finding out how it felt. He needed to know, once and for all, if kissing Jack would feel good, and if it would make any difference in how he thought of his friend.

"Daniel, please, this is..."

Daniel let his head fall back onto the pillow, "...too weird, I know," he whispered, letting his hands slip back down onto Jack's butt. "Just do it, don't argue with me." He closed his eyes and waited.

Somehow, Jack had slipped one arm under his head, and he could feel his pulse thundering against the sensitive skin at the nape of his neck. He felt Jack's warm breath ghosting across his lips. Then Jack was pressing his lips against Daniel's. They kissed lingeringly, their lips gliding softly over each other's. He swallowed Jack's tiny gasps of pleasure, pressed against him, moaned with him, until they were rocking desperately against each other.

Daniel had his answer. Kissing Jack rocked his world.

Breaking the kiss, Daniel gazed up at Jack. "Wow," he smiled, pressing his lips lightly against the pulse vibrating in the other man's neck. "Okay, that was... wow!"

Jacks' words ghosted over the skin just under his ear. "Oh, yeah" Jack replied, voice shaking with nerves.

"Still feels weird," Daniel grinned, shifting position so that he could trail his tongue down Jack's neck and suck the little indentation above his collarbone. "But I'm getting used to it."

Jack's arms were shaking with the effort to keep his weight off Daniel without putting too much stress on his wrists. "What about the 'L' word Daniel? Can you handle that I have feelings for you? 'Cause I have to tell you here and now, I'm too old to be someone's one night stand, okay?"

Daniel nodded. He wasn't sure how to answer with words. The moment he'd kissed Jack, he'd never considered that this would be a one-off. They had history, he and Jack. They had friendship, respect, shared pain and sorrow, and yes, they had love. As far as Daniel could tell, that meant they were in a relationship. Had been for years, only Daniel hadn't put a name to it, hadn't realized until now.

Taking pity on Jack, he flipped them over so that Jack was sprawled beneath him once more, wincing in sympathy as the trailing end of the remaining bandage got tangled somehow and jerked Jack's injured wrist.

Daniel reached for it and slowly unwound it. The stupid thing was next to useless now anyway. He would do his best to bind Jack's wrists up later. But right now, they still had some things to work through. "Jack, why didn't you say something? Why didn't you tell me how you felt?"

"You could have anyone you want," Jack grumbled. "You're young, fit, healthy and fucking gorgeous..."

Daniel felt his body flush in embarrassment at the unexpected compliments.

"...and I'm a worn-out old fart with bad knees and a head full of grey. I could tell you didn't look at me that way. Figured there was no point making a fool of myself. What did I have to offer you anyway?"

Daniel trapped Jack's face between his hands, until Jack had no option but to look at him. "You could have offered me exactly what I've been looking for all my life, Jack. Love. Your love."

Jack's eyes widened. "Daniel...?"

"I went to that club because I was lonely. It wasn't just because I needed sex, although that was part of it. I needed to feel the closeness, the human interaction, and the intimacy again. You stopped touching me, Jack. You used to touch me all the time, and you stopped. I missed it."

"Couldn't trust myself." Jack muttered gruffly. "Wanted to do so much more than just touch, but I couldn't believe you'd ever be interested."

Daniel leaned down and kissed Jack again. Parts of his body were interested now. Very interested. There would be time for them to work this out. They had the rest of their lives. Right now, Daniel figured that the best way to reassure Jack was to show him just how much he was interested.

Once Jack was totally engaged with the kissing, Daniel tugged the robe from his shoulders, letting it slip completely open.

"Oh, shiiiiiit!" Jack groaned, burying his face in Daniel's neck. His hips began pumping faster as his breathing became more labored.

Jack was a lot closer to losing control than Daniel had thought. The idea that he was doing this to Jack, that he was the reason Jack was about to blow, and for the second time in a half hour, was such a turn-on, Daniel found his body matching Jack's frantic rhythm. Dimly, he was aware of Jack's fingers fumbling with the fabric of his shirt, but he wasn't having much luck.

With a strangled cry, he pushed up, dragging his mouth from Jack's, and tore the shirt from his own body, flinging it across the bedroom. They were both panting. Daniel wanted it to last a little longer, but it had been literally years since he'd been this intimate with anything other than his own right hand. Very quickly he began to lose focus, as the incredible sensations washed over him.

Finding some self-control from somewhere, he braced his hands on Jack's chest and took several calming breaths. There was something he wanted to do for Jack, something that he had always excelled at. Ignoring the whine of protest, he slowly kissed his way down Jack's chest. Remembering how sensitive Jack's nipples were, he took a moment to nip each one to hardness before continuing his downward quest.

Jack had clearly guessed Daniel's intentions and was fighting to stay still. His erect cock jabbed into Daniel's belly through his damp boxers, and a moment later, freed from the soft jersey material by Daniel himself, it waved enticingly in the air.

Faced with his target, Daniel had a small moment of panic when he wondered if he could remember how to do this. It'd been a long time, but it was like riding a bike, wasn't it? Once mastered, never forgotten? He could feel Jack's fingers in his hair. Not gripping or forcing him, just holding him gently.

And that's when he had the epiphany. Jack was in love with him. Jack had done all that, planned, plotted, and connived, because he'd wanted Daniel to be with him, to fall in love with him, to be his in every way. And he had. He HAD fallen in love. He'd just been too stupid to realize that what he'd had with Jack for the last four years was the real thing.

All his nerves left him. It didn't matter if he got this wrong. If he fucked it up, so to speak. This was Jack. They would laugh about it, crack some off-color jokes about it, but they'd work it out, try again and again until they got it right, because that's what they did. That's what they always did. He didn't have to impress Jack O'Neill one bit.

Licking his lips, he bent forward and ran his tongue the full length of Jack's cock, pleased with the gasp of astonishment the move elicited. He did it again, this time swiping his tongue over the spongy head, tasting Jack for the first time, and it was a taste he could get very used to.

"Da...aniel, shit!" Jack's hips bucked a little, but Daniel had anticipated that, and he moved back before Jack could choke him. Wrapping his hand firmly around the base of Jack's cock, he opened his mouth and slid his lips slowly downwards and then back up repeatedly until he could feel Jack's trembles turn to full-scale shakes.

"Stop, Daniel. Stop. Too close!" Jack cried, trying to curl his body into a ball. Daniel was almost beyond control himself. Releasing Jack's cock with a wet pop, he surged upwards, trapping Jack's cock between their bodies. He sank his fingers deep into Jack's hair and kissed him, letting Jack get a taste of himself on Daniel's tongue.

His own erection felt like it was trying to crawl out of the tight confines of the denim all by itself, and he would dearly have loved to give it a helping hand, but it was already too late for that. He threw his head back. "Jack! Oh, God," he groaned. "I-- I'm gonna-- oh, crap!" he hissed, digging his knees firmly into the mattress for added purchase. Jack's cock was slamming against his groin, and he was going to come in his fucking jeans, and it was because of Jack, and it was too weird, and too all consumingly good.

"D...Daniel! Ohhhhhhhhh, fuck!" Jack shuddered against him, body straining against Daniel's, the cords on his neck standing out like ropes.

When he felt the first wave hit, Daniel cried out, shaking and bucking wildly. Their rhythm was all shot to hell, now but it didn't matter. He was coming, and Jack was coming, and it wasn't weird anymore, it was fucking fanTAStic!

"Oh! Shitjackshit!"

"Yessss!" Jack collapsed beneath him, panting, still thrusting upwards, still coming, body trembling and straining. "Yes, baby, yes!"

"Didn't know! I didn't know!" Daniel cried, fighting to breathe around Jack's hot wet tongue. "I didn't know it could be like this between us, Jack."

They lay tangled in each other for long, quiet moments, only the rasping sound of their breathing breaking the silence. Gradually, as their bodies cooled, it was Jack who spoke first.

"Tell me that wasn't out of pity, Danny," he whispered.

Daniel stirred, looking up at Jack from where he lay sprawled over Jack's chest. He couldn't see Jack's face from that angle, but he could hear the fear in Jack's voice.

Gently, he threaded his fingers into the soft wiry chest hair and sighed. "No, that sure wasn't out of pity, you asshole."

"You still mad at me? I'm sorry about your dates," Jack murmured, running his fingers slowly though Daniel's hair.

"No you're not, Jack. Don't lie to me. You're smug and full of yourself for foiling my plans to get laid."

"Okay, ya got me there," he admitted with a little huff of a laugh. "I was a jealous bastard." He took a deep breath. "I am a jealous bastard."

Daniel finally found enough energy to roll to the side and peel himself out of his ruined jeans. Then he scrambled up the bed, so he could look Jack in the eye. "I'm not exactly a novice at gay sex, you know. No virgin here."

Jack grinned back at him. "Yeah, I get that. I think it was the hand-job in the bath that tipped me off, or maybe the blowjob. No, wait. It might have been the file I read five years ago with a list of your previous lovers in it."

Daniel should have been angry at that, but he'd learned to accept a long time ago that a military establishment as top secret as Stargate Command had to be very thorough in its investigation of its staff.

"When I say not a novice, I mean I've done some stuff. I haven't exactly done everything."

Jack struggled up so that he has looking down into Daniel's eyes. "By that you mean you haven't gone all the way with a guy?"

Daniel felt a blush grow on his face. He nodded, not trusting his voice to hide his embarrassment.

"You wanna do that some time, though, right?" Jack asked, and Daniel found himself nodding again. He'd never wanted to before, but this was Jack, and he wanted everything with Jack.

Jack lifted one hand and wiggled his fingers experimentally. "Well It ain't gonna be anytime soon. Janet said I would need a lot of therapy before I got the full use of these babies again."

At Daniel's blank look, Jack wiggled his fingers again. "Prep, Daniel. Especially important if you've never been fucked before. I don't have the strength in my fingers to do it properly yet. However, there's nothing to stop you from drilling my ass, now, is there?"

Daniel's eyes went wide. He'd honestly never thought of that particular scenario. Jack was just so... very alpha, Daniel was amazed at what he was offering him. His cock twitched suddenly, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he would be very, very up for that.

"Wow. Um... well, sure, if that's okay with you," Daniel breathed, trying not to look too eager.

Jack kissed him gently on the lips. "It's more than just okay. I love you, and I want everything with you. Everything. And maybe one day, you'll come to love me as much as I love you."

Daniel's eyes were shining brightly in the darkness of the bedroom. He hadn't told Jack yet, about his epiphany. Smiling, he touched jack's face gently with two fingers. "Already there, Jack. I just didn't recognize it for what it was until I saw you standing outside that club. All my perceptions changed that night. It took a while for the world to stop spinning, but when it did, you were standing right in front of me."

It was Jack's turn to go wide-eyed. "Daniel?"

"Not kidding, Jack. I love you. I want to be with you. I want everything with you, too, but mostly I just want to have the right to touch you and be touched by you. I want to feel loved. That's all I ever really needed."

Jack gulped, and ignoring the pain it must have caused, he pulled Daniel tight against his body. "Daniel, you have no idea how happy that makes me feel, but if you make me cry, I'll kick your sorry ass, do you hear me?" His voice was muffled against the top of Daniel's head, accompanied by a soft sniff.

"I hear you, Jack." Daniel smiled and snuggled closer. It was going to be an interesting life, with Jack at his side. Full of adventure and danger and all kinds of challenges, but it was also going to be full of laughter and love. Of that he was very sure. "I hear you."

The End!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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