Black and White by Jude
[Reviews - 2] Printer
Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Angst, Romance
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Proving that life is seldom about

- Text Size +
The sun was mercilessly hot. I took my glasses off and used a spare bandana on my sweaty face, mopping up around my neck and forehead. With a sigh, I put my glasses back on and tipped my head back to look at the sky. P4X-842 was like so many places we'd reconned. Trees all over the damned place. Grass. Blue skies and lots of sunshine. So much for thinking that Earth had a unique ecosystem. Over a hundred and fifty planets and counting, and we had found that Earth was anything but unique in the galaxy.

It had to be around noon. My stomach growled, reminding me it'd been hours since coffee and a breakfast MRE had started my day. I was thirsty, too. As usual, I had been concentrating on the work I was doing, and time had gotten away from me.

I reached for my canteen and opened it. Tipping back my head, I swallowed several big, long mouthfuls of water, forced to stop only because I needed to breathe. I looked down at the canteen in my hand and made a decision.

I got up, stretching my back and legs, and walked stiffly over into the long grass that ran alongside the plaza I had been working in. Deliberately, I upended the canteen and poured the rest of my water into the grass. I screwed the cover back on, and then went and sat down at my work site again.

I reached for my radio and keyed the send button. "Hey, Jack?"

After a moment, Jack's voice came through loud and clear. "Yo, Daniel. What's up? You okay?"

"Yeah, but I'm out of water."

There were a few seconds of silence. Jack was thinking.

"'Kay, I'll send T by with some for you.'

"Hey, Jack?" I said again.


"Look, I don't want to stop working to come back to camp for lunch. Next time you patrol past here, why don't you bring the water? And bring me an MRE, will ya? Something with veggies in it. Surprise me."

Another small silence.

"Roger that. Be there in ten."

I smiled, glad to know I'd see him soon. Thinking about Jack always made me smile, even if I were angry with him or upset about him. No one in my entire life had ever gotten under my skin, literally and figuratively, like Jack O'Neill had. I was in love with him, hook, line and sinker.

As I picked up my video camera and opened my journal to continue logging the information I was researching, my mind was far away from the alien plaza, and the alien wall with the ordinarily fascinating alien text that was right in front of me. My mind was on my buddy Jack. As usual, I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. But I did want to smile.

It was more like twenty minutes before Jack appeared with the water and food. One hand on the P90 on its sling around his neck, the other steadied a small backpack he had thrown over one shoulder. I watched him amble up to me in the bright sunshine.

The visor of his OD baseball style cap was pulled down over his eyes, wraparound sunglasses covering his upper face. He wore a sleeveless black tee and a black utility vest, his dogtags hanging outside his shirt. I took in his long, nicely defined, tanned arms, and endless legs, encased in form fitting green fatigue pants, the cuffs tucked into the top of his boots. He wore a black utility belt, slung low on his lean hips, in which he had extra ammo and his knife. His sidearm was strapped to his right leg. Behind my own sunglasses, I let my eyes rove over him appreciatively. It was all I could do not to wolf whistle at him.

He came and stood over me. "Hey. Come take a break with me. Let's go sit over there under that tree in the shade." He pointed over at the park-like area beside the plaza.

Without waiting for me to give an opinion, he slowly started walking towards his objective. If I wanted food and water, I'd follow him. And if not, I could sit in the sun and starve. Whatever.

I got to my feet, brushing off the loose dirt from the seat of my pants, and followed him, not unaware of the nice view of his six. I liked his ass. I liked just about everything about him. He liked my ass, too. Said he did anyway. Sure seemed like he did, he took enough interest in it.

Under the tree, he dropped down and leaned back against the trunk. He unclipped the P90 and set it down next to his right side, handy if he should need it. As I plunked down facing him, sitting cross- legged, I watched him drop the backpack off his shoulder.

I pulled the bandana off my head and used it to wipe my neck. I took the fingers of one hand and scratched roughly at my scalp, messing up my hair, but it felt good. Now that we were in the shade, I was more aware than ever of how hot it had been out in the sun.

"Thanks for bringing this stuff, Jack," I told him. I leaned back a bit and shoved the bandana into a pocket in my pants.

He grunted in reply. As he unzipped the backpack, he said, "I got T to finish the patrol. It was his turn anyway. Carter's back at camp having lunch. I thought I'd eat with you."

He dragged out four MRE's, a fresh canteen of water and two big red apples.

"We've got apples?" I asked him in surprise.

He snickered. "Yeah, my own private stash. Don't tell." He held one out for me.

I grabbed it from him and wiped it on my tee shirt to shine it up. As I took a huge bite,

slurping on the refreshing juice that threatened to run down my chin, Jack watched me. He took off his sunglasses and let them dangle on their cord around his neck. I saw his gaze flicker quickly from my face down to my groin and back again. His dark brown eyes lit up from the inside, interested, as always, glowing with a quiet, bridled lust.

I lowered my chin, pretending to look at the apple in my hand, and then hurriedly took another bite. I tried to ignore the warm coil of desire that wound around inside my lower belly. Just the nearness and scent of him, combined with the look he had just given me, made my world start to tilt. No surprise there. It WAS what I'd wanted, after all. Having him nearby WAS why I had poured my water out on the ground and called him to bring me more.

With a sigh, Jack arranged the four MRE's in a line on the ground between us and pointed at them. "Meatloaf, teriyaki chicken, turkey in gravy with potatoes, and black bean and rice burrito. You pick first."

I grabbed for the turkey, knowing it would have carrots in there as well. I tore open the large outside pouch and dumped out the contents onto the grass, finding the plastic spoon, moist napkin and salt and pepper packets. There was a chocolate chip cookie, a drink mix, and a small package of applesauce in there, too. Without a word, I tore open the turkey packet and started spooning the contents into my mouth. It wasn't half bad, considering what it was. And my poor growling stomach was glad for any help I could give it.

Jack smiled at me and reached for the burrito.

"That's gonna make you fart," I informed him with a straight face.

He snorted and shook his head. Like he cared.

Finally, with every scrap of food eaten up, apples reduced to just gnawed-on cores, we passed the canteen between us, taking long swallows of the warm water. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand as I gave Jack the canteen. He took another swallow and offered it back to me, but I shook my head.

"Nope. Had enough."

I stretched out my legs and then lay back on the grass, feet crossed at the ankles, one arm under the back of my head. I closed my eyes, slowly rubbing my other hand in a circle on my belly. I was sleepy and content. The warm day, big meal, and general fatigue made even the hard ground under me feel good.

I turned my head toward Jack and took a quick glimpse of him. He squirmed around a little, his eyes on my stomach, watching the movements of my hand there.

"Wanna fuck you, Jack," I informed him softly. I heard his quick intake of breath as I smirked at him and closed my eyes again, turning my head away. Yeah, he wanted that, too.

//God, I love you, Jack//, I thought to myself. //Need you so much, every minute of every day.// Tears prickled the inside of my eyelids, but he would never know. We didn't "do" feelings.

What Jack loved was fucking me and being fucked by me. No secret there.

Eyes closed, I listened as he bundled up our trash from lunch and shoved it all into the backpack. I heard him clip his P90 back on its sling and then he stood up.

I opened my eyes again, and gazed up at him as he stood over me, looking down into my face. He had a huge erection, tenting out the front of his pants. I could see it, and he knew I could see it.

"Tonight," he informed me as he slipped his sunglasses back on his face. He looked away from me, out over the plaza. "When we get back. I'll be at your place at 1930 hours. I'll bring Chinese."

I didn't answer him or smile. Without another word or glance my way, he stepped over me and strode away.

When I was sure he was out of sight, I sat up. I noticed he had left me the canteen. My eyes filled with foolish tears, something I had been struggling with off and on for a couple of weeks. I wiped at them impatiently, picked up the canteen, and slowly walked back to work.

Later That Night

It was dark in my bedroom. The only light was from the partially open bathroom door at the other side of the room. When I forced my eyes open for a second, I could see Jack's features clearly, poised above me. His head was thrown back, face contorted in a pleasure that was so close to pain, there was a razor thin line between the two. My eyes closed again as small whimpers were dragged out of my throat, my whole body moving up the bed under the force of his ferocious thrusting. I gripped his biceps and hung on.

"Daniel," he gasped. He was close.

I got my eyes open again, finding it hard to have any kind of coherent thought.

"Oh, YES." He started chanting. He always did, right before he came.

"Yesyesyesyesyes..." And then, with a last, shuddering breathy groan, he pushed himself into me as deeply as he could and let his orgasm overwhelm him. He grunted and thrust at me with each spasm.

I looked up at him again as he rode out his orgasm, memorizing his features, watching the sweat drip down the sides of his face. I could feel his wet heat fill me as I squeezed him with my ass muscles, milking him the way I knew he liked it.

I moved one hand to his neck and gripped him there, to steady and center him.

"God, yes, Daniel," he managed to say. He pried his own eyes open and gave me a little grin. Slowly, he collapsed on top of me, burying his face in my sticky neck.

"So good," he murmured into my shoulder. "Such a good fuck."

I lowered my legs until I could put the soles of my feet flat on the bed beside his calves, and I felt him slip out of me. I tightened my arms around his shoulders and gently held him, listening to his quiet panting in my ear. My ass was aching, dripping with his come.

After a couple of minutes, he pushed himself off me and rolled over onto his back beside me. I turned my head and looked at him. His profile as he looked at the ceiling was in shadow, the light from the open bathroom door behind him. I rolled onto my side to face him. He used a hand to wipe the sweat from his face, smoothing his hair off his forehead.

"Wow," he murmured to the air above his head. "You wear me out." He took a few deep breaths. He pushed himself upright and sat on the edge of the bed, his back to me.

"Gonna go take a shower."

I watched as he stood up and padded to the bathroom, quietly closing the door behind himself. After a few moments, I heard the toilet flush and the shower start up.

He'd never seemed to notice that I hadn't said a word to him.

As I lay on my side in the dark, I reached out to where Jack had been and ran my hand up

and down the sheets. I could still feel the warm dampness from where he had lain.

A good fuck. That's what I was to Jack. Now, when Jack thought of me, I was sure that's exactly how he thought of me. A good fuck. With his testosterone soaked brain, he probably thought of that as a compliment.

Sure, he also thought of me as his friend. We still had some good times together out of bed.

What he didn't know was that I had made the mistake of falling in love with him.

And after all, it had been I who had initiated our sexual relationship three months before. I'd been lonely. He'd been lonely. We were best friends, so I'd reached out, and he'd reached back. That's all. Simple, I had promised him. Uncomplicated. No strings. No sap. Just some nice, fun recreational sex together. Hell, there was no risk in that, was there? God, I hadn't meant to fall in love with him.

I just hadn't known. When I'd opened our private little sexual Pandora's Box, I hadn't known that I was incapable of having sex with someone I didn't love, someone who didn't love me. And by the time I realized, I had been sharing my bed with Jack O'Neill for over three months, and he had no idea that I had crossed that line.

We had to talk. And tonight was the night. I couldn't be with him again and live with myself.

I used the smaller bathroom in my foyer to wash up and brush my teeth. I pulled on my sweats and a clean tee shirt and then went barefoot out to the living room to wait for Jack to appear. He would be going home soon.

By unspoken agreement, we had never spent the night together. A couple of times a week, we had dinner, a few beers, and then two orgasms each. You could have set the clock by us. And once the orgasms were accomplished, whoever was visiting would wash up, dress, go out to their vehicle, and drive home. Dark, wind, rain, snow, sleet, whatever, one of us always went home.

As I sat on my couch and waited for him, I thought about us.

We'd been friends for ages, almost 8 years. Best friends. Through injury, fear, loss, pain of all kinds, victories and defeats, the one constant in my personal life had been Jack O'Neill. He had held me while I was recovering from Shyla's sarcophagus and then later when I'd cried after Sha'uri died. He had argued with me when I needed to listen to the voice of military "intelligence." He had covered for me with the general, over and over, when I'd disobeyed direct orders and made Jack's life a living hell. We'd laughed together about life, about the shit that happens, about meaning of life stuff, some of which we understood and some of which we knew we never would.

In all the years of our friendship, until three months ago, we'd shared everything together except sex.

I would never forget the night I had approached him with my idea. Hey, like I said, I was lonely, and he was lonely. I had offered, and he had accepted. And so we'd started having sex together, and somehow, gradually, our relationship had changed. Why had I been surprised by that?

It was good for us, he'd agreed. Greatest thing on earth for reducing tension, putting things in perspective, reminding yourself you're alive. The sex was supposed to be for fun, and I had promised him no strings. And God only knows, it WAS fun.

I hadn't expected him to be such a considerate lover. He took his time with me, making sure I was prepared, making sure I was stimulated, making sure my own orgasms were taken care of. But he didn't kiss me, ever, and he didn't really talk to me. Grunts, groans, expletives and "Yes!!" don't count as talking, in my book.

We had never kissed each other on the mouth. We didn't hug, we didn't snuggle, and we didn't sleep together or wake up together. We didn't date. We didn't give each other gifts. We didn't exchange long looks over the briefing table or over our campfire off world.

Actually, we had never touched each other off world, because that was our agreement. He was in command of the team, and had to have a clear head at all times, and I understood that. The comment I had made to him that morning after lunch, about wanting to fuck him, was a first. Normally, off world, we were both all business.

Now I was feeling pretty stupid that I hadn't told him about how my feelings had changed.

In my own defense, at first I hadn't realized that what I was feeling for Jack was a blooming love. God, he felt good in bed. We got off together. But week after week had gone by, while I felt more and more lousy about "us" and more and more stumped as to how to get out from under Jack, literally and figuratively.

I was so afraid of losing him altogether, losing his friendship, wishing to God I had never opened my mouth and changed what we had had between us. But in the end, I had decided that I was more afraid of what would happen to me, if I allowed what was going on to continue.

"Daniel?" I heard him call out, down the hall in my bedroom. "Where the hell are you?"

I gave myself a mental shake. "In here!" I got to my feet and heard him start towards the living room.

As he came into the room, juggling his leather coat and his shoes, he looked over at me.

"Whatcha doin' in here in the dark, for cryin' out loud? I couldn't find you." He hit the light switch, turning on the lamp by the couch.

I didn't answer, just stood there. I watched him as he went over and plopped down in the recliner to put on his shoes. I wrapped my arms around my waist, bare feet spread in a wide stance. He took no notice of me, intent on getting ready so he could leave.


He bent over to tie his left shoe and didn't look up at me. "What." It was a statement, not a question.

"Jack." I took a couple of steps toward him.

Now he was tying the other shoe. When done, he finally sat back a bit and lifted his head

to look at me. "What."

I chewed on my lower lip and looked him over. My heart was full, equal parts of love and dread at war there. Finally I lifted my chin defiantly and gave myself a mental shove.

//Get on with it, Daniel.//

"We can't do this anymore."

His eyes widened, but I'll give him credit. Jack could do the cool exterior pretty well when he needed to. I had surprised him; that much was evident. He sat all the way back in the chair, a quiet whoosh of breath escaping his lungs. "What?" This time, it was a question.

"This. The sex. We aren't going to be able to do this anymore."

He put his hands on the arms of the chair and gazed up at me like I was a scientific experiment gone bad. Threat assessing, as always, weighing his options, planning a solution.

My heart was pounding in my ears. I could feel more stupid tears prickling the back of my eyeballs, but I had already decided I would throw myself on my own knife before he'd see me cry. I reminded myself to breathe, as I waited for what he would do or say next.

"Oh." He stood up but didn't approach me. "I'm sorry to hear you say that." He pursed his lips and shook his head. "Huh. My God, I AM surprised."

// I love you, Jack. This is not what I want. But you don't love me. You can't even kiss me. So I can't do this anymore. It's killing me, and I can't stand the pain anymore. I love you, and I will miss you like someone cut out my heart. But we can still be friends. We can go back to what we were before, and I swear to God, it'll be okay. It will, Jack. It will. It has to be.//

He held out one hand, palm up, in a gesture of concern. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you or something? Because honest to God, Daniel, I didn't know. You know-"

"No, Jack." I shook my head. "It's been fun. You've been great." I took a deep breath and gave him a tremulous smile. "Thanks for everything. I'm feeling better now, and I. Um. Don't need this anymore. We can both get on with our lives." I tried to smile at him again and failed miserably.

Jack took a step towards me and started to reach out for me. Then he lowered his hands.

I noticed they were drawn up into fists. His face was calm, although a bit puzzled. The frown line on his forehead deepened.

He lowered his eyes and turned aside to grab his coat. I watched as he slipped it on.

Finally he looked at me again and stuck out his right hand. He wanted to shake my hand?

The man had been buried balls-deep in my ass fifteen minutes before, and now he wanted to shake my hand? I was surer than ever that I was making the right decision.

"Well." He grasped my fingers and squeezed them, and then his left hand came over to cradle mine between both of his. He swallowed. "Well. I AM surprised," he said again, shaking his head. "But if you're sure this is what you want, Daniel." He dropped my hand and said, "ARE you sure?"

I nodded at him. "Yes. I want us to go back to what we had before, Jack. I still want to be your friend. You know that. I will always be your friend." I wrapped my arms around myself again.

He blinked rapidly and looked away from me. "Friends. Yeah. We are." He looked over at the painting that hung over my couch and spoke to it. "That will never change."

He shoved his hands into his coat pockets and dragged his gaze back to my face. "I'm sorry, Daniel. I didn't see this coming. I feel like maybe I must have done something wrong..."

I shook my head at him with a long, slow blink, but he didn't look convinced.

"I'm gonna miss this, I really am," he told me. He made the tiniest move towards me, and

I hoped for a minute he might be going to hug me, but no. With a little shuffling motion of his feet, he stepped sideways, pulling his hands out of his pockets, and started to walk toward the front door.

When he reached it, his hand on the doorknob, he looked back at me, where I still stood rooted to the spot. "Make sure you lock up after me, okay? I guess I'll be seeing you Monday morning, 0800." He paused for a moment, his eyes searching my face. He sighed.

"Night, Daniel."

Wordlessly, I nodded at him, and then he was gone.

I went to the door, locked and bolted it, and hit the light switch to plunge the living room back into darkness. I stepped to the window beside the door and pushed the sheer curtains aside to look out at my driveway. The truck was running over beside the house, the lights on, but it wasn't moving.

With a deep, shuddering breath, I gave in to the first tears. I leaned my fist against the cool windowpane and lowered my mouth onto the back of my hand. "Jack," I whispered.

I was hoping he'd come back, pound on my door, demand an explanation that made sense, declare his love for me, kiss me senseless and take me back to bed.

Instead, as I watched through the blurry veil of my hot tears, I saw the truck slip into reverse and back down my driveway. Before I knew it, he was gone, red taillights disappearing up the street. The silence in my house was complete. I dropped the curtain and stepped away from the window.

I walked to the recliner where he'd been sitting just a minute earlier, and dropped down into it. As I felt my sore ass react to the sudden pressure, reminding me of what Jack and I had done together that evening, and what we would no longer be doing, I took off my glasses and then lowered my face into my hands, wiping at my wet eyes.

A fresh wave of aching loneliness washed over me. All I wanted was his arms around me. All I wanted was for him to kiss me and act like he cared about ME, not just my body. All I wanted was to hear that he loved me. Those three little things, and Jack could have had me, any way he wanted me, any time he wanted me, for as long as he wanted me.

But he didn't love me. It was so clear. I was sure I had done the right thing for me, sending him away. It hurt, but in time, I knew it would be for the best. In time.

I knew it would be a long while before I could smile again while thinking about Jack. A long while.

Two Days Later

I got to work early on Monday morning, arriving at the base by 7AM. The SG-1 locker room was deserted as I came in. That was okay by me, and exactly what I had planned.

I got out of my clothes and into my black tee, blue fatigues, and boots as fast as I could. I hung up my shirt, folding my jeans and shoving them onto a shelf along with my Nikes. My wallet, keys and cell phone went into a small strong box in my cubby. I slammed the door and twirled the combination lock. I made sure I had my SGC ID and key pass tucked away in my pocket, checked to make sure I was zipped up, and turned on my heel to leave for my office.

Except I was a little too slow. As I pulled open the door to the hallway, the door was shoved in roughly from the other side, and it knocked into me so that I staggered back a couple of steps. "Oh!" I exclaimed, trying hard not to get knocked in the mouth by the door as it flew towards me much faster than I'd intended.

"Sorry!" Jack said as he strode into the room and caught sight of me. I must have looked a little shocked, because he put his hand on my arm for a second. "Daniel. You okay?"

I rubbed at my face where the door had grazed my mouth. "Yeah. Jeez, slow down, will ya? Where's the fire?"

Jack went and sat down on the bench. He started pulling off his shoes and glanced back at me. "You know me, I was about a hundred miles away, thinking about something else. Did I clip you in the mouth?" He got to his feet and started to remove his shirt, his eyes forward, studiously not looking at me.

I stood and stared at him for a moment. I wanted so badly for everything to be right between us again. I had absolutely no clue as to how to make that happen. In the few seconds during which I looked at him, my eyes on him like a starving man at a banquet, I knew I couldn't deal with any of it right now. I hadn't heard from him all weekend and hadn't been able to bring myself to call him either. And now here he was, and I couldn't tell if I wanted to smack him in the mouth or tear his clothes off and suck his brains out through his dick. God, how is it possible to have so many conflicting emotions in the same five seconds?

So I did the only thing I could make my body do. I ran away. I turned on my heel to leave. "See you at 8 at the briefing," I called over my shoulder as I pulled open the door to leave.

Just as I stepped into the hallway, I heard Jack's voice behind me. "Daniel! Wait a sec!" I kept walking, pretending I hadn't heard him.

I was only about half way to the elevator before I remembered I was supposed to be breathing.

There was an email from General Hammond waiting for me when I fired up my office computer. He requested to see me privately five minutes before the scheduled 8AM briefing. I checked my watch and saw I would have a solid half hour, maybe a little more, to work before I'd have to get myself up to his office. I sent him a short reply, telling him I'd be there.

Right on time, I knocked lightly on General Hammond's door and heard him say, "Come!" so I let myself in. He was seated behind his desk, reading glasses perched on his nose, his laptop open in front of him. He glanced up at me as I came in, and I saw him hit the save button before he closed up the computer.

"Doctor Jackson," he said warmly with a smile. He took his glasses off and used them to wave at the chair by his desk. "Have a seat."

"Good morning, General," I murmured as I eased into the chair.

"Did you have a good weekend?" he asked pleasantly. Small talk.

//God, no, general, I had a shitty weekend, thanks for asking. Jack and I broke up, you know, and the funny part of it is, we weren't even really going together. Just having lots of hot, wild monkey sex together, but I had to do The Right Thing, and now we can't even do that. So no, my weekend pretty much sucked. In fact, since you brought it up, right now, I feel like my whole life pretty much sucks.//

"Fine, thank you," I said with a cheerful smile. "The weather was great, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was," he agreed. He sat back in his chair and looked me over. "Well." He was deciding if the small talk was over, and if he'd been pleasant enough to me so he could get on with it. "Yes."

I looked at him over the rims of my glasses. Yep. //Enough, general. I care, you care, it's Monday AM, let's get started, shall we?//

He fished in a pile of paperwork on his desk and came up with a folder that he opened. He looked it over for a second, and then passed it over for me to see. "I got a request," he told me. "For you specifically. From Colonel Vanguard, CO of SG-11."

I took the folder and looked at the form on the top. I saw my name there and a few lines about a possible assignment to a planet to work on a dig. P4X-551. I searched my mind but couldn't remember any specifics.


"Yeah, the place with the Aztec pyramid all covered with Goa'uld writings and Egyptian hieroglyphs. SG-3 did first contact six months ago."

Oh," I said, light dawning in the eastern sky of my mind. "Of course. Xochimilca."

I shifted in my seat, looking at the material in the folder like it would give me a few clues about what was going on. I hadn't said anything to anyone, but my archeologist's fingers had been itching to get dirty in the soil of Xochimilca ever since I'd first heard mention of it.

"Yes," General Hammond said. "As you may remember, SG-11 has been working almost full time there the last few months. Now they have made a new discovery in the ruins, and they have requested for you specifically to join them for a few days. They feel you are the best one qualified to help them do translations, and also to catalog and help preserve the artifacts they are uncovering daily."

He sat back in his seat again, seeking my reaction.

I took a deep breath. I couldn't keep the big grin off my face and didn't even try.

He smiled back. "Is that a yes?"

"Wow. Of course, sir. It would be, well, fun! To work on an archaeology team again for a while would be great anyway, but on top of that, I always thought Xochimilca sounded fascinating."

General Hammond smiled at me and reached for the folder I was still holding. He closed it, and put it down on the desk right in front of him. "OK. I'll get the paperwork started," he said decisively. "Figure on Thursday at the earliest for you to ship out to be with them. You'll have to work through this next weekend off- world. I assume that's all right?"

I nodded. This couldn't have come at a better time for me. I needed so badly to have a distraction, a change of scenery, and a new challenge, and Xochimilca would provide all three.

"Fine. I'll inform Colonel O'Neill that, starting Thursday, you will be standing down from SG-1 for the foreseeable future." He nodded at me. "Dismissed, Doctor Jackson."

When I emerged from Hammond's office, Teal'c, Sam, and Jack were already seated at the briefing table, getting prepared for our upcoming meeting. Each of them had their folders and notes spread in front of them, heads down, eyes front. I headed for the table at the side of the room where the coffee carafe was kept.

"Morning, guys," I told them. They each lifted their head to look at me. Only Sam smiled and said good morning. Teal'c nodded at me, and Jack looked nonplussed to see me emerging from Hammond's office. His eyebrows climbed into his hairline. //Surprise, Jack, you didn't know I was in there, did ya?//

My back to the room, I started pouring coffee into a big mug. Somewhere between when the first molecule of coffee hit the bottom of the mug and its being filled to the brim, I had a full on brain cramp about going to Xochimilca.

One name, one face, one reality hit me, right between the eyes. Doctor Kyle Costas. Shit. Kyle was assigned to SG-11 right then. Well, maybe this was karma, fate, my destiny, or some such crap. Whatever, I'd think about it later. Giving Kyle a mental shove, to move him to some back corner in my mind, I turned and went to sit down at the briefing table with my team.

"All right, SG-1, you have a go for P3X-990 for this afternoon at 1400, and your return will be tomorrow at 1600," General Hammond told us. "A MALP is scheduled to go out for one last look-see at 1300, so you will be able to view the images starting at that time. All right, everyone?" We all nodded. "Good. If there are no more questions, you're dismissed."

We were all set for our first contact mission that afternoon, my last with the team before temporarily joining SG-11. We exchanged a look and started to gather up our belongings.

As we all got to our feet, Hammond leaned towards Jack. "Colonel O'Neill, a word before you leave, please. In my office."

"Yes, sir," Jack murmured. He shoved his papers into his folder and followed the General into the other room, where he closed the door.

I thought I might linger, maybe talk to Jack on the way back to our offices. I took my time with my briefing notes, making a neat pile, slowly tucking away my pens and Palm Pilot.

Sam and Teal'c left with a little, "See ya later, Daniel" and a, "We will meet you in the gateroom at 1300 hours, Danieljackson." I just gave them a little smile in answer.

After a couple of minutes, I was thinking about maybe alphabetizing my notes, just to use up some time while waiting for Jack. When I glanced in the window to where he was sitting with Hammond, I saw Jack's stiff back, his arms waving around, and then one hand running through his hair. Jack was not pleased about something.

All rightie then. Well, maybe this was not a really good time to want to shoot the breeze with the love of my life. Light conversation through clenched teeth was not always a lot of fun.

I dumped the alphabetizing idea and got the hell out of Dodge.

I got an email from Jack late in the morning. "Lunch? Meet me in five. J." The little message was something between a command and a quirky request. Typical Jack.

I wrote back to him just as cryptically. "K. Make it ten. D."

Jack and I had control issues. I strolled into the commissary fifteen minutes later.

He was already at a table, his food on a tray in front of him. I caught his eyes as he looked at me over the rim of his coffee mug. While he put it down, he gave me a look of such puzzled longing and regret, I almost forgot to keep walking. In fact, I slowed down so much, my eyes locked with Jack's, that the guy coming in through the door behind me plowed into my backside. I distantly heard his muttered, "Sorry, Doctor Jackson."

Lunch forgotten, I went straight to Jack, like a bee who suddenly remembers where the pollen is kept. He watched me as I approached, and I could tell his own food was momentarily forgotten, too. I dropped into a chair across from him.

He swallowed and gave me a weak smile. He leaned across his tray to get a little closer to me.

I leaned on my arms and bent my head towards him. I didn't know what I expected him to say.

"Food, Daniel," he reminded me. "First, get food. It's lunch. We ship out in two hours, and I don't want you falling on your face on that ten klick walk we have to do when we get there."

And who said romance is dead?

I sat back and took a big breath, laughing in spite of myself. I gave him a "drop dead" look. "Yes, Mom."

He waved at me in a little motion of dismissal, and I got up to go get some food.

When I came back and sat across from him again, he wouldn't meet my eyes. I took a couple of bites of my sandwich and picked up my coffee. I stared at him, willing him to act like he even knew I was there.


He was working at his apple pie with his fork, cutting off a huge piece, which he then shoveled into his mouth. "Yeah."

"Um. Did you ask me to have lunch so you could ignore me?" God, why had I said that? People who are "just friends" don't ask questions like that. Do they? I gave myself a mental shake. What the hell did I know about anything? Jack and I were sailing uncharted waters as far as I was concerned.

I quickly returned my attention to my food, none of which I was tasting anyway. I had a sudden irrational thought about how a big fat Hershey bar (the male kind, the kind with the nuts) would be good to go with that coffee, and screw the rest of it.

I sighed and glanced at him.

He dropped his fork, sat back, and looked at me. He leaned towards me again. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times as he put a hand on the back of his neck and rubbed at the tense muscles there.

"I miss you," he blurted in a tiny voice, mindful that we were not alone. "I fucking HATE this," he informed me.

"What do you hate, exactly?" I raised my eyebrows at him.

"This," he gestured between us with one impatient finger. "This."


"Shit." He rubbed a hand over his face. His brown eyes were so serious, so full of a kind of pain that I couldn't really read.

"We can't talk about this here, Jack." What was he, insane? Whatever the hell he wanted to say, this wasn't the place.

"We ship out this afternoon for two fucking days, Danny," he said in a low, intense voice. "And I will be exploding by the time we get back, unless I say something to you."

His gaze was mesmerizing. I wanted to climb over the table and suck his tonsils out over his tongue, especially since I had never done that very thing before. I wanted to push him over backwards in his chair, onto the floor, rip off his pants, and take him right there. My dick was getting hard just thinking about it. Damn.

"Stop this, Jack," I whispered. "Stop it right now." Fuck, I couldn't get up and walk away with a hard on the size of the Empire State Building.

"I will not stop," he hissed back at me. "Why did you do it? Why did you say we couldn't be together anymore?" When I didn't answer, only looked at him with my best blank face, he continued in a furious whisper. "I know you, god damn it. You don't do any damned thing without a good reason. What is going on?"

I looked at him for a couple of heartbeats. I stood up, tugging the jacket of my fatigues down in a desperate attempt to hide the tent pole that was sticking out of my groin. God damn hormones anyway.

Keeping my eyes studiously off his face, I loaded my sandwich on top of my piece of pie, picked up the plate and my fork, and made to leave, hard on and all. One lunch and one big dose of attitude to go.

I heard his flustered exhalation. "Dammit, Daniel." He clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth for good measure and sat back in his chair with a thunk.

"See you at 1, Colonel O'Neill," I said in a reasonable tone of voice. Without a backward glance, I turned on my heel and left, running away from him for the third time that day.

I was fuming in frustration. //Goddamn right I have a reason, Jack. And here is not the place, and this is not the time. We'll just see if there ever IS a time and a place.//

Fuck it all, anyway.

Thursday 0800

I stood at the base of the ramp, my two big backpacks at my feet. I had my laptop, a couple of changes of clothes, my journals, and two big reference books, one on Aztec language and culture and one on Egyptian Old and Middle Kingdom art. I hoisted one bag over each shoulder and then did my best to stand up straight and look at George Hammond, who was there to see me off.

"Enjoy yourself, son," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I know you will. God speed."

I shook his hand and smiled at him. "Thanks, sir. I'll miss all of you, but you know I'll have fun."

I couldn't help myself. I just had to look. Yup, there he was. Jack. Looking down from the control room, his arms crossed in front of his chest, very serious. His mouth was a thin line.

I knew he wasn't happy. He'd made no secret of the fact that my "taking off" (his words) with SG-11 was a betrayal of the first order, to him, to SG-1, to the SGC, to all mankind, and maybe even to God himself.

Our mission on Monday and Tuesday to P3X-990, had been peaceful, busy, and thankfully tiring. Jack had slept hard, the one night we were out, snoring and never moving. I had managed to come into our tent after he'd passed out and then had gotten up early enough in the morning that he had still been asleep.

During those two days, he'd managed to grouse at me and give me a hard time about every damned thing that happened during the mission. I'd absolutely been determined not to answer him back. I'd kept a cheerful smile plastered on my face whenever possible, chose my battles as wisely as I could, and mostly turned a deaf ear to anything he said that didn't demand my attention. I think that drove him even crazier, but it was all I could think of to do to deal with him.

Even still, I'd been pretty worn out by the time we'd gotten back home. Wednesday had been a day "off" for me. I'd caught up with stuff at home, reviewed my material about Xochimilca, and hadn't held my breath waiting for my phone to ring.

Truth be told, I was worried about Jack and me, but figured in time we'd find some kind of balance. Hopefully, we would get civil with one another again, enough to go back to our friendship. So far, our relationship, since I had told him to take a hike out of my bedroom, had been like a storm-tossed sea, with a couple of small hurricanes and a bolt of lightning or two thrown in for good measure.

I hoped I hadn't blown it completely. God, why was life so damned complicated? And why, in the name of every holy thing, had I ever started a sexual relationship with Jack? I needed him in my life as a friend, and somehow we just had to find a way back to what we had once shared.

Meanwhile, I was going to Xochimilca, and I was going to see Kyle Costas.

Kyle and I were mostly just acquaintances. We knew each other slightly, since we both worked in the same department in the SGC, but we had never served on the same team, so hadn't had that much contact.

Back in the early fall, Kyle had approached me one day about going out with him. He'd come by my office and asked me to dinner. I'd asked for a rain check, and over the next couple of weeks, he had actually asked me out a couple more times, but I'd always refused him. I'd been busy, preoccupied, and probably already contemplating about how to approach Jack. Kyle had taken the hint, apparently, since he'd never bothered me again, but he'd always been friendly when we met up at archaeology department meetings or if we passed in the hallway.

Now I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with Kyle. The thought was alternately exciting and terrifying. I wasn't scared of Kyle, of course, but I had to admit to myself that I was feeling kind of vulnerable and fragile emotionally. It didn't matter anyway. Xochimilca and Kyle Costas were a package deal.

With one last nod at General Hammond, I turned and caught Jack's eye. I raised one hand in a little goodbye gesture, which he did not return. I turned my back on them and walked up the ramp and through the blue wormhole.

Nothing had prepared me for the beauty of the place. My first lungful of Xochimilcan air was a revelation. Crisp and clean, cool and oxygen-laden, the very atmosphere of the place was like a tonic. As I stood at the top of the gate platform's six stone stairs, my eyes briefly took in the majesty that surrounded me.

Craggy towering mountains dominated the near distance. They seemed to be formed of a ragged black stone, and they were steep, deeply marked by ravines. Snow topped their heights.

It was dusk on the planet when I arrived. The sun had just dipped down below the mountains, tingeing the sky in hues of pink, gold, purple, and gray. The miles between the mountains and the stargate were filled with deep green forest, acres and acres of what looked like Douglas firs. Huge alien birds turned cartwheels in the air high above the trees, circling and diving. I could hear their screeching calls in the distance.

After the quickest glance around at the natural wonders, I turned my attention to the two men who had come to meet me. With a smile of greeting, I started down the steps.

The man closest to me held out his hand to shake mine as I approached. "Doctor Jackson," he said warmly. "I'm Colonel Jim Vanguard. It's so nice to see you again. Welcome."

"Thank you, sir," I told him. "And please, call me Daniel."

I looked him over. He was as tall and wide-shouldered as Jack, and about the same age, but he was at least thirty pounds heavier. His hair was shorn so short, he almost looked bald. His was a friendly smile, and his bright blue eyes twinkled with good humor. His reputation had preceded him. Jack had told me ages ago that Colonel Vanguard had been a decorated war hero in Vietnam. He'd served in 'Nam as a medic, with the rank of Staff Sergeant. His PhD in anthropology had come later, after his retirement. He had reenlisted, gone through officer's training school, and later had been drafted into the service of the SGC. I knew that anyone who had earned Colonel Jack O'Neill's respect was a good guy, and I was quite prepared to enjoy my time under Vanguard's command.

He turned to his companion. "And you remember Doctor Kyle Costas," he said to me, with a small sweep of his hand.

Kyle stepped up to shake my hand. "Daniel," he said warmly with a big smile. "Welcome to Xochimilca. We're so pleased you could come and work with us."

As I smiled into his handsome face, my heart contracted in my chest. Beautiful Kyle. He was four inches shorter than me and ten years younger, with black curling hair that he wore long around his shoulders. It was swept back and tied at the base of his neck now.

Huge green eyes, framed by the longest black eyelashes and expressive eyebrows I had ever seen, flashed in friendly welcome. Possessed of a trim, athletic body with slim hips and compact legs, he had powerful shoulders and arms, and a long toned neck. The man was a small Greek god. There was no other way to describe him.

"Kyle," I managed to say. "Long time, no see. You've got quite an operation going here, huh?" Kyle continued to hold my hand, gazing up into my eyes with an assessing stare. He was still smiling, but he was studying me, like he would a fascinating but untouchable objet d'art, on display in a museum.

I pulled my hand away, self-conscious and embarrassed. I was aware of my heart skittering in my chest.

"Well," Vanguard interrupted our greeting. "I'll take my leave of you two men now. I have some matters to attend to with General Hammond, and have to make a report to him through the MALP in a few minutes."

He turned to me. "Daniel, Kyle will help you get settled, and I'll see you in the morning when we start work for the day. If there is anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask one of us. We're a small team; there are only six of us here. We want you to feel at home and comfortable."

He held out his hand to shake mine one more time. "And again, welcome. We know we'll be learning a lot from you while you're here."

I dipped my head, embarrassed and pleased. It felt nice to be appreciated, and I hadn't even done anything yet. "Thank you, Colonel," I murmured. "Thanks again for requesting me. I know this will be an interesting place to work."

With a final nod to Kyle and me, he took his leave of us and turned his attention to the MALP, which was over by the DHD, a few feet away.

Kyle had insisted on carrying one of my heavy backpacks. As we started walking back towards SG-11's camp in the growing twilight, an awkward silence fell between us.

"Daniel," he started after we'd walked in near silence for a couple of minutes. I looked over at him. He stopped walking, so I did too. "I won't lie to you. I was really happy to hear that Colonel Vanguard and General Hammond thought it was a good idea for you to come join us for a while. It's so good to see you again."

He looked me over, readjusting the heavy pack on his shoulder. "But I don't want to make you uncomfortable. I know I came on pretty strong to you, back there a few months ago."

He stopped talking, waiting for my reaction.

"No you didn't. It's okay, Kyle," I reassured him. "I was flattered." When he smiled at me, I added, "I'm still flattered, if you want to know. And it'll be good to spend some time together, huh?"

Kyle turned to start walking again, and I fell into step beside him. He was quiet for a while. He spoke with his eyes on the path. "The only thing I've ever wanted was the chance to get to know you better. I think I scared you off last summer, when I asked you out, and that was the last thing I wanted."

"You didn't scare me," I told him. "But there's been someone else in my life, Kyle. We've been having problems, though, and I feel like I've made some bad decisions. I still have hope for us, but my life has been kind of a mess lately, to say the least."

Kyle gave me a sharp look. "I'm sorry to hear that. You deserve the best," he told me.

Then he chuckled. "Maybe you'll find out that I'm the best. That would be a dream come true for me," he said with a chuckle.

I reached out and gripped his shoulder as we walked. He turned to give me a little grin.

I was in love with Jack O'Neill. Jack and I had something that could never be replaced by anyone else. But the solid, reassuring warmth of Kyle's words brought back to me again why I had told Jack we couldn't be together anymore. I needed this, to matter to someone, to be esteemed and valued and stroked.

A part of my heart thawed as I dropped my hand from Kyle's shoulder, and a few moments later, we strode into camp.

Heaven. The place was an archaeologist's heaven. Being there brought me back to my roots, to my first passion, to the time and place, years ago, when I had decided that doing this work would be my life's purpose. Don't get me wrong; I loved my work with SG-1. It was exciting, dangerous, fulfilling and satisfying. I loved working alongside Jack, Sam and Teal'c as we watched each other's sixes, sharing not just our work but also our very lives.

But Xochimilca! Gorgeous, primitive, exciting Xochimilca. Everything I needed was right there. Except Jack. God, how I missed him. The homesickness I felt for him, for his presence, his attitude, his caring, his protection, was like a sharp knife, ever present, stuck somewhere in between my ribs. I felt it keenly, even as I tried to work around the pain of it. I couldn't pull out the knife, wasn't even sure I wanted to pull it out. I just bucked up, accepting the ache, almost savoring it. In every other way, Xochilmica made me feel truly alive for the first time in months.

Camp consisted of two tents, each about 25 by 18 feet in size. The first tent held our cots, a field stove, a table and chairs, and all our clothing and food. The second was an equipment tent, and held all of the scientific and communications gear we needed as well as some of the treasures SG-11 had been cataloging. A computer station was set up in there, along with the lighting needed to illuminate the gloomy interior of the tent.

Out back, about 20 feet behind the two larger tents was a small enclosure with a chemical toilet. Next to it was an electric generator, fueled by gasoline. Maintenance of the generator was a shared responsibility, and even I was trained on its upkeep and refueling.

The main dig was located at a small Aztec style pyramid a short walk away. My first sight of it, the morning after my arrival, had my heart in my throat. I had visited the ruins of Aztec villages in Mexico in the past, seeing the stone structures that had been carefully reclaimed from the jungle surrounding them. This pyramid sat in the woods, in a large clearing. Fashioned of weathered gray stone, it stood about 300 feet high, a stone stairway running up each of its four sides, to a flattened top. Except for the lack of jungle growth, it was identical to what I had seen on Earth.

I stood and took in the awesome sight, Kyle by my side. The other members of our team were already inside, continuing their work. As I lifted my eyes to the top of the pyramid, taking in the majesty of the place, I was aware of Kyle watching me.

"It's really something, huh, Daniel," he said softly.

I nodded. It sure was. I looked over at him with a smile.

Talk about something. Kyle was, too.

The week passed quickly, too quickly. I got my hands dirty, assisting with the dig in the bowels of the pyramid. I spent hours translating Goa'uld, Aztec and Egyptian writings. I was allowed to touch and catalog, not to mention drool over, the gold and silver Aztec and Egyptian style statues, masks, ceremonial knives and jewelry that had been found.

There were no longer any people living on Xochimilca. It was a mystery why such precious items had been left behind, probably thousands of years before.

Just before my arrival, a burial chamber had been unearthed far beneath the pyramid, connected by a long passageway which was lined with beautifully clored mosaics and extensive scroll work and writing. It was an exciting time for the team, and I felt privileged to be a part of the ongoing work there. There was no end in sight, since every new day found more and more treasure being exposed to the light of day for the first time in millennia.

Everyone on SG-11's team had treated me like one of their own. I had been expected to do my share of the work, but in return they had let me take a leadership role, as I'd guided them in translation work and had gotten a say in how the dig proceeded.

I knew I would be missed when I had to go home, and God knew, I'd miss them. I felt sure I would give up some of my free time and ask to return again and again in the future, to take part in the ongoing work there.

All during my stay, Kyle had stuck by my side like the other half of a piece of Velcro. He had not mentioned the subject of "us" all week, every inch the professional in his conduct, but I had seen him watching me and was not unaware of his almost constant hovering presence. All during my time with his team, we had been almost inseparable. If anyone else noticed, nothing had been said.

One morning, along about the third or fourth day I was there, I had awakened to see him lying on his side in his cot, his eyes on me. He'd been watching me sleep. He had not seemed embarrassed of self- conscious in the least when I'd caught him staring. His warm smile and softly spoken, "Good morning," had been not just friendly but almost intimate.

When we'd gotten up, though, he'd been all business again.

So I knew that he was interested, all right. I would have had to be totally clueless to have missed it.

All week, with Kyle so near and seeming to be so interested, Jack was never far from my thoughts. I was in love with him. Jack, whom I couldn't have. Who didn't love me back. Jack, who had fucked me with every fiber of his being, with an intensity and passion that took my breath away, time after time. Jack, who had filled me up. Jack, who had lain down for me, given his body to me, held me and rocked with me, allowing me to pierce him, to take him, to thrust into him, as we cried out and soared together. My friend Jack.

Who owned my heart and didn't even know it. Whom I had sent away.

On the last night of my stay, dinner was a somber affair for me. Each member of the team made sure to seek me out and say a few words to me in private, kowing I would be going home in the morning.

After our meal, Kyle and I cleaned up the team's dining table and cooking area, taking care of the trash and washing up the few utensils and plates we had used. We chatted easily about the fun we'd had, doing our archaeologists' "thing" together all week.

As we put the last of the dishes away, Kyle looked over at me. He shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his green fatigues. "Put in for a transfer, Daniel," he said impulsively. "Ask Hammond. I know he'll let you do whatever you want. Vanguard would love to have you with us. Come and work with us full time."

Ah, temptation. Sometimes it arrives on little cats' feet, creeping gently into one's presence. And sometimes it arrives like a team of Clydesdales, stomping and blowing steam from their nostrils. This was Clydesdales stuff. When it came to my work, Kyle knew me so well. He knew me on a level that Jack never would, because Kyle and I shared the same love for our field.

But I belonged to SG-1, body and soul. We were family, and I belonged to them, as they belonged to me. I could never leave Jack and the team. Never. Not even to work in Xochimilca, doing archeology and linguistics full time. Not even for that.

I sighed, looking into Kyle's big green eyes. He was so serious, wanting me to understand the sincerity of his words.

"I can't leave SG-1. You don't understand, Kyle," I murmured. I bit my lower lip and looked over his head at the open flap of the tent's front doorway.

He stepped closer, almost but not quite in my personal space, drawing my eyes back to his face. We were alone in the tent, and I could feel the heat of his body as he stood in front of me. "So help me understand," he whispered. He impulsively leaned forward and put his arms around my neck to give me a quick, fierce hug.

When he drew back, he left his hands on my shoulders and we stared at each other, our needs palpable between us. He was beautiful. Committed, intelligent, interested, with a security clearance that matched mine. What the hell was I waiting for?

//Jack. I love you, Jack.// The thought came unbidden. Instead of Kyle's dark curls and green eyes, I saw silver hair, smoky brown depths, wide shoulders, and height. I saw protection, maturity, security, caring, loyalty, humor, passion, and a wonderful long history of friendship. But not love. I couldn't see love. // I love you, Jack. So much. I need you to love me back, but you can't. And here is Kyle, wanting me and waiting for me to make up my mind. Will you forgive me, if I look to him for what I need? Will you? I can't lose your friendship, Jack.//

I had a sudden lump in my throat. Not now.

Kyle squeezed my upper arms, his face full of concern and compassion. "Daniel. What is it?" he asked gently.

I lowered my chin, closed my eyes, and shook my head. I took a big shaky breath and opened my eyes. I tried to smile and failed miserably. I shook my head again, trying to swallow the presence in my throat.

"Let's go for a little walk," Kyle said. He took my elbow and started to propel me out of the tent, not asking my permission, just taking charge. What was it with me and take-charge guys?

I didn't argue, just walked along beside him. I didn't even ask him where we were going. I trusted Kyle and just wanted to get out of camp for a while.

We both were wearing our side arms, and had been told there wasn't any danger in the immediate area, which had been thoroughly reconned and patrolled. We had our radios if we needed to use them to ask for help. Everyone else had gone back to the dig site to get in a few more hours of work before bedtime. It'd be a couple of hours before darkness fell.

We walked along in silence, through the big trees that were so much like Douglas firs. A narrow dirt path meandered down hill, and we picked our way along in single file, Kyle leading. Bushy fern-like plants grew waist-high beside the path. I could hear birds in the upper branches of the trees. Otherwise, it everything was quiet and pristine. As I walked, I took big lungfuls of the clean Xochimilcan air.

After about five minutes, during which neither of us said a word, the path we were following broke out of the trees. I stopped dead in my tracks, blown away by the vista in front of me.

A beautiful, serene lake lay at our feet. Its waters were crystal clear, unsullied by silt or pollution of any kind, the surface unruffled by wind or waves. The lake was cerulean blue with black depths, reflecting the pearly pink of the first glint of sunset from the sky. In the near distance, the dark mountains I had seen from our work site, and from the stargate, towered above the lake. Their snow covered craggy heights were majestic. Xochimilca's two silvery white moons hung in the sky behind the mountains, one huge and dominant, the other smaller, higher up in the sky, like a small fraternal twin of the first.

Kyle didn't look at the scenery. He had turned and was looking at me. "Beautiful," he breathed.

As I looked into his face, I made my decision. I wanted this. I needed this. I was so lonely, so sick of being unloved and uncherished. I needed this. I did.

I opened my arms to him, and he took the two steps separating us and came to me. We wrapped our arms around each other and stood still, listening to each other breathe.

Kyle was trembling, nuzzling my neck with his nose, kissing me just under my ear, his face stretched up in wordless supplication. I felt my body respond to him, as easily as it always had to Jack. I tightened my arms around him, running my hands down to cup his ass and press him close to me. He moaned.

"Oh, Daniel," he whispered. "Daniel. I love you." His hands were in my hair, urging my head down, his mouth blindly seeking mine.

How had he known that those were the three words I needed to hear more than any others? How had he known that now that he'd said them, the knowledge that I couldn't say them back was slamming into my brain? I shoved that knowledge away ruthlessly, wanting badly to seize the moment.

How had he known how badly I needed to be kissed?

As I moved my head down to capture his lips, his knees went out from under him, and I found myself helping to hold him up, steadying him as he sagged against me. He was pressed as closely to me as he could be, only our thin tee shirts and fatigue pants separating us. I spread my legs and held him between them, kneading his ass with one hand while the other explored his firmly muscled back.

He whimpered deep in his throat, hands clutching at my shoulders and back, grasping at me, trying to get even closer.

I hadn't kissed anyone in ages. There had been too many years, too much time wasted, too much need unexpressed. He opened his lips to me, letting me probe his sweet mouth with my tongue, and his own tongue curled around mine. He tasted good. I had almost forgotten what it was like to taste someone else on my tongue.

We kissed for many minutes, expressing our hunger for one another in an exchange as ancient as mankind itself. My mind waged war with my libido. This man wanted me, and I knew I could have him right there, right then, if that's what I decided I wanted.

Making the decision for us, taking charge again, his hands were on my belt, our lips still glued together, and I felt him undo the buckle and start to work the buttons of my fly free.

I was rock hard, and when Kyle's hand made its way inside my shorts, and he started to stroke me, I pulled my mouth away from his with a gasp of shocked pleasure. I laid my forehead down on his shoulder, my arms around his back, and panted harshly through my mouth.

"Kyle," I gasped. "I'm gonna-- oh, God, Kyle-"

He pushed away from me and dropped to his knees, pulling my dick out of my pants. Just before he took me in his mouth, he looked up at me and said in a harsh whisper, "I want you, Daniel. I want all of you. Every drop. Go for it."

Three or four good sucks was all it took, and I was a goner. All coherent thought was lost as I came, long, hot spurts hitting the back of his throat. He swallowed over and over again, desperately taking all of it and looking for more.

I tipped my head back, making inarticulate sounds from some place deep in my chest, my eyes closed. My hands were in his long curly hair, grasping at his scalp, trying not to pull at the soft strands.

A few moments later, he was gently licking me clean, patting my thighs, soothing me, making little humming noises in his throat.

As he stood up, I dropped my hands to hang on to his waist, keeping my eyes closed, listening to my own heartbeat thud in my ears. He adjusted my pants for me, and I felt him start to button me up, putting me all back together.

"Kyle," I gasped. I pried my eyes open and looked down at the top of his head, which was bent over his task. He managed to get my buttons done up and then he got my belt buckled.

That done, he ran his hands up under my tee shirt, along my sides, and then thunked his forehead into my chest. He heaved a big sigh.

I held him close and kissed the top of his head. "Thanks," I whispered.

He moaned softly, turning his head so that the side of his face was against my chest. I reached for the leather thong that was tying back his hair and pulled it open, releasing the long black waves. I sank my fingers into their depths. I took hold of his head and tipped it back so I could look down at him. Big solemn green eyes searched my face. I lowered my lips to his in a gentle kiss. I could taste myself in his mouth. It was unbearably erotic.

Without a word, I turned, my arm around his shoulders, and led him back to the trees. I sat down with my back against a huge trunk, cushioned by the thick moss that grew at its base. Kyle stood and looked down at me, watching me intently.

I opened my arms to him. "Come sit with me," I invited.

He came to me immediately and lowered himself to sit on my lap, sitting sideways, his arms around my ribs, both legs out to one side. I held him close, hyperaware of the little squirming motions his ass was making as he settled himself on me. He made me feel like a giant, he was so small and compact.

I chuckled softly. "You feel good," I told him.

He laughed and snuggled into my neck. "You, too," he said.

I placed my hand on his groin and squeezed him through his pants. His dick was already hard, but I felt it twitch under my palm. He moaned, reaching to undo his fly and push his clothing down. I pulled his erection out and held his length in my palm, stroking him, squeezing him as he gasped and squirmed.

"Oh, yes, Daniel," he moaned. "So close now..."

He put his hand over mine, guiding me in how he wanted to be held, showing me how fast he wanted me to stroke him. I took his lead, and within seconds he was coming, spilling onto his leg and onto the moss on the ground beside us. He groaned and collapsed onto my chest as I held him hard around his shoulders.

After giving him a minute or two to catch his breath and readjust his clothes, I put my fingers under his chin and lifted his face to mine for another long kiss.

When we broke apart, we gazed into each other's eyes. I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times, searching for the right thing to say. This encounter had been just what I needed, but part of me felt ferociously guilty. Kyle did not deserve to be used the way I felt like I'd just used him.

"Kyle," I started.

He lifted his hand and placed his fingers over my mouth with a shake of his head. "No, Daniel," he said. "Don't." He looked at me, pleading with me to be silent. "It's okay."

He removed his hand from my lips and sighed.

"Do you really love me?" I asked gently.

He nodded solemnly. "God help me, I do," he murmured. He caressed my cheek with one finger. "Wanna hear something corny?" He asked shyly. He rested his head in the crook of my shoulder, turning his face into my neck, acting like he didn't want to meet my eyes anymore.

I held him close. "Sure," I told him. I kissed the top of his head, running my lips in his soft hair, breathing in his scent.

He took a deep breath. "I think I've always had a bad case of hero worship about you. Before this week, you were like a fantasy to me, Daniel. Ever since I first met you, and I found out what you'd done at the SGC, even the little bit we talked last year, I've wanted you." He tightened his hold around my neck, and kissed me under my jaw line.

I didn't speak, so he continued in a low voice. "But God, how I want to get to know the real you. This week has been so wonderful for me." He put his forehead on my collarbone,nuzzling me with his nose.

He raised his head and looked at me. "Tonight was like something out of my dreams. I'll never forget this, Daniel. Never. And I wasn't lying when I told you I love you. I do."

"Kyle..." I started again.

He shook his head firmly. "No. Don't say it. You already told me. I know you're in love with someone else. And it's okay."

I must have looked doubtful, because he continued quickly. "Go home tomorrow, Daniel, and straighten out your situation with that crazy person who's giving you a hard time." He tried to smile, and I pursed my lips at him in a little wry acknowledgement of the truth of that statement. If he only knew.

"And if you ever find yourself free, will you call me?"

I nodded. I would call him. If, God forbid, I never had Jack in my life as my partner, I would call Kyle.

"I'm serious, Daniel," he told me. "Please. Don't just say you will if you won't. Because I'll be waiting. I swear to God, I will."

"Don't spend your life waiting for me," I whispered, shaking my head. "Don't do that. Live your life. Please."

"Okay, I'll try," he murmured, making another attempt to smile as he moved in for a kiss.

I gathered him in my arms again, and we clung to each other. In the gathering darkness, in the few minutes before we returned to camp, I kissed him over and over.

I wasn't "in love" with him, but I did care deeply for him. He'd given me an incredible gift that night by the peaceful lake in remote Xochimilca. And I would never forget that.

"Welcome back, Doctor Jackson," General Hammond said over the PA. As I walked down the ramp, I heard the wormhole close behind me. I greeted him with a little wave.

Jack was there, in the gate room. He was standing over by the door leading to the corridor, arms folded, giving me a hint of a smile. His eyes were warm and squishy, they way they got sometimes when he looked at kids and dogs. Jeez, Jack was looking at me like he did kids and dogs. I felt stupidly flattered.

"Hey, Jack," I greeted him. I walked heavily, burdened with my two huge backpacks, one over each shoulder. I walked up to him, and he was already reaching for one of the bags.

"Hey, gimme that. I'll carry it for you," he murmured. I gave it up gratefully. The damn thing had my laptop and books in it and probably weighed fifty pounds. He hoisted it over his shoulder.

"God, this is heavy. You bring home souvenirs from that place, Daniel?" He gave me a wry little smile.

"Yup," I told him. "Rocks, just for your collection. I figured you could put them around your rose bushes in your yard. You know, alien rocks. Maybe they'll glow in the dark."

He laughed. I could see that the easy Jack was back. Well, maybe absence did make the heart grow fonder.

As we stood there smiling at each other, Hammond came into the gate room. "Did you have a good time, Doctor Jackson?"

"Yes, sir, I did," I told him. "I'll write up a report, and you'll have it on your desk by tomorrow." I smiled at him. It was good to be home.

"No hurry, son. You've been working for seven days straight. I took you off the duty roster until Monday, so you have three days off."

I smiled at him. "Thank you, General Hammond."

"Come on, Daniel," Jack said, turning for the door. "I'll carry your books home from school."

Hammond watched us leave, an indulgent smile on his round face. It really was good to be back.

On my way home late that afternoon, I downshifted the Subaru on the long hill leaving the mountain, shoving it into fourth gear, letting the engine slow my descent. As I eased the clutch out, the engine's RPMs increased, and I relished the throaty sound of the powerful little motor.

I touched the electric sunroof control, letting the hatch slide open. Warm June evening air came in, and I filled my lungs with it. I was suddenly hit with a pang of emotion, remembering Xochimilca. Clean, crisp air. Beautiful, loving Kyle. He was like a half a billion miles away, and I could still see him, hear him, taste him.

And I had agreed to dinner with Jack.

As I drove, I seriously examined the inside of my own head to see if I was rowing with both oars in the water. I had agreed to dinner. Dinner. Dinner was safe, wasn't it?

After all, I'd had dinner with Jack hundreds of times, before and after we'd become lovers. McDonald's, pizza, Chinese, Froot Loops, Mexican, MREs, Italian, Burger King, Greek, steaks, hot dogs, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese out of a box, Pop Tarts, you name it, we'd eaten it together. So if I wanted us to be friends again, it had to start some place, right? I couldn't be Jack's friend and never again be alone with him. Right?

When I'd arrived back home, and Jack had been so disarming, so charming, as only he could be when he felt like it, I guess he'd surprised me. We'd walked into the SG-1 locker room, and as he'd swung my heavy back pack off his shoulder, he'd just very matter-of- factly asked me to come over at 2000 hours. He'd cook, he said. I'd agreed without giving it even one thought.

"'kay, Daniel, it's a date," he'd said, patting my shoulder. He'd stuck his hands in his pockets, turned his back on me, whistling a tuneless little ditty, and then he'd strolled out. I'd watched his retreating back with my heart in my throat. What the hell had I done?

A date?

Dinner. It was only dinner.

The air in my house was stale as I let myself in. I'd been gone a week. I left my wallet, cell phone, and keys on the small table by the front door and then went around, opening windows to the fresh evening air.

In the kitchen, I opened the fridge. Just checking to see if anything was growing in there. It looked pretty good. I had ruthlessly thrown stuff out before I'd left a week ago.

I grabbed a can of Pepsi, closed the fridge, and leaned my butt on the counter. I opened the can and took a swig, looking around.

I loved my new house. It wasn't big, and I needed to do some painting and redecorating, but I thought it would be fun to have a yard to take care of, a roof to mend once in a while, a basement to pump out when it got flooded in the spring. I just hoped we'd be on-world long enough to get any of those things done, otherwise I'd have to pay someone to do them for me.

I went to the kitchen window, leaning my belly against the counter at the sink, and looked out at my back yard and deck. I made a mental note to myself to get some flowers and some deck furniture. I needed to buy a barbecue set too. Summer had arrived while I wasn't paying attention, and I needed to get with the program.

I headed into my bedroom, Pepsi in my hand, and opened the windows in there too. I set the Pepsi down on my bedside table and sat down on the edge of the bed. Jack and I had gotten it on in that bed many times, including that last time we'd been together.

I turned sideways and looked at the pillows. I tried to picture Kyle there with me. I hadn't slept with anyone since Sha'uri. It'd been years. Just the idea of waking up with someone else's head on the pillow next to mine was almost unimaginable, unfortunately.

Kyle at least wasn't as tall as I was. Maybe he and I would fit better on the full sized bed, better than Jack and I had. Jack had groused about the small bed, but for what we did on it, it had been plenty big. Snuggling and sleeping would have taken more room.

I felt a sudden pang in my stomach. I needed badly to snuggle and sleep with someone I loved. I needed badly to do that with Jack.

But maybe I could come to love Kyle. He already loved me, wasn't that half of it? I was so confused.

I reached for the Pepsi and took another gulp, trying to swallow down the lump in my throat along with the fizzy soda.

Nope, this wouldn't do. I was happy to be home, I really was, and I needed to stop this mooning around. I grabbed myself by the mental short hairs and twisted them painfully, ordering myself to stop it, goddamn it. Get a life, make some good decisions, and for fuck's sake, stop the mooning.

I snickered to myself in wry reaction to my thoughts. Yup, I needed to stop mooning.

I got up to shower and shave, and get changed to go to Jack's.

I looked at myself in the rear view mirror of my car as I backed out of my driveway. Sunglasses, hair still damp from the shower, all in a tumble around my head, and my stomach in my throat.

Out in the street, I shoved the car into first and got a move on. God. //Here I come, Jack.//

I hadn't known what the fuck to wear. Finally I'd pulled on a new pair of Levi 501's that I'd bought recently. As I'd tucked myself in and buttoned up the fly, I cursed at them. They were a lot tighter than what I was used to wearing, and they needed to be washed a few more times. I could barely breathe in them, and wondered again why I'd bought the slim cut, since I usually wore baggy jeans.

I'd given myself the once-over in the mirror on the inside of my bedroom closet door. I'd had to admit that the jeans fit my ass well anyway.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out if this was a date I was going to or just a casual dinner with a friend. So jeans it was, clinging to everything God had ever given me.

In self-defense, still not knowing if I needed any (self-defense, that is) I'd put on a well-worn pale blue and white checked shirt. Its shirttails covered up my crotch and ass. I'd left the top two buttons undone.

I looked at myself in the mirror again. Hm. On second thought, I'd decided to let my assets show. I'd tucked in the shirt and put on my new black leather belt with the silver buckle that I'd bought at a Native American crafts show I'd gone to the month before. I'd folded the shirtsleeves up on my forearms.

One last assessing look in the mirror was enough. //Here I come, ready or not//, I thought stupidly. Ready. For what was I ready? I just didn't know.

I arrived on the dot of eight, and Jack opened his front door quickly, like he'd been standing on the other side of it, waiting for my arrival. We stared at each other.

His eyes did that quick, assessing thing he was so good at, traveling from my face, down to my feet, and back up again in a fraction of a second. Just a flicker, but I knew he'd seen everything he needed to in that instant. The man was a scary dude when he wanted to be. He made my mouth go dry. I liked it. I liked him.

He stood back to let me in. He looked good. He smelled good. I wanted to touch him. I wanted to kiss him.

What I really needed to do was twist my mental short hairs again and get another goddamned grip, just as soon as I figured out how to do that.

"Hey," I murmured as I walked past him into the house.

"Hey," he said with a small grin. "Welcome."

"Thanks." God, we could do nice. And wasn't that nice? //Wanna suck out your tonsils, Jack, how the fuck are we ever gonna do this?//

"Dinner's all ready," he said. He closed his door and turned to go ahead of me, into the kitchen. "Sit down at the table, I'll get stuff."

I followed along behind him, taking in his skintight black jeans and the black tee shirt stretched across his shoulders. I could see the chain of his dog tags at his neck. The damn things had knocked me in the mouth enough times when we'd fucked. I'd always wanted to tear them off him and throw them on the floor when they bothered me, but I never had. They were Jack, part of who he was. A big part. You take Jack, you also get the Air Force. Like I said, scary.

"Anything I can do to help?" I asked him.

"Yeah," he answered, pointing to the wine in the cooler on the table. "Open the wine and pour us some, will ya?"

"You drinking wine tonight, Jack?" I asked him. I felt honored. Usually he was a Coors man.

"I thought I might," he said over his shoulder with a chuckle. "To keep you company." He disappeared into the kitchen, and I pulled the wine out to look at it.

It was a Napa Valley '99 Cabernet Sauvignon. Fifty bucks a bottle, easy.

"Hey!" I called out to him. "You went all out! Sure we're supposed to drink this? You could barter for gold with it, if you wanna!"

I heard his laugh from the other room. "No," he hollered. "Open 'er up!"

A couple of minutes later, he came back with a plate of little toast points with sour cream and black caviar on them. Wow.

I raised my eyebrows at him. "Caviar?"

With a shrug and a low chuckle, he dropped into a chair across from me at the table and accepted a glass of wine. He swirled the wine in the glass, holding it to his nose. He raised his eyebrows at me, his eyes holding mine over the rim of his glass. "Umm," he murmured. "A good balance. Fruity, a good nose, just the right acidity. Youthful, but great backbone."

I picked up my own glass with trembling fingers. I didn't know whether to laugh or run away. Or both. He had been talking about me, cloaking it with a wine description that he'd learned somewhere and probably memorized. I didn't know how to deal with rakish, seductive Jack. In fact, I'd never seen this Jack before. This was good scary. Indeed, as Teal'c would say.

I managed a smile. Took a sip of wine. He continued to stare at me as I lowered my glass.

"Stop it," I kidded him with a smirk. I looked at him over the rims of my glasses. "What the hell are you doing, Jack?"

He dropped the seduction persona like he would have a blanket he'd had wrapped around his shoulders. Suddenly the old familiar Jack was back.

"Nothin'," he protested with an innocent 'who, me?' expression. He shoved the plate with the caviar towards me.

He took one of the toast points and shoved the whole thing in his mouth at once, chomping happily. He took a slurp of wine and grinned at me. "Aren't you hungry? Eat up! More coming soon! I made lasagna."

Over dinner, Jack had been a perfect gentleman. No more attempts at seduction, no more double entendres, no more appraising looks. Just Jack, funny and irreverent and snarky, at ease in his own skin. The Jack I had fallen in love with.

I'd watched him over the dinner table, his brown eyes alight with good humor and life, as he talked to me about what had happened while I'd been gone, about the latest SGC gossip, about Carter's love life with Pete, about T and the new recruits, just any damned thing. He'd even asked me about Xochimilca, and had listened patiently, smiling, as I'd regaled him with the fun I'd had. He'd only made a couple of comments about playing with rocks and dusty artifacts.

Dinner had been good. Jack had gone all out. We'd eaten mounds of fresh salad with a Greek dressing he'd made himself, garlic bread right out of the oven, and wonderful lasagna, served along with the expensive wine.

After dinner, we'd retreated to the living room, sitting on opposite ends of the couch, and we'd each followed up with big mugs of Starbucks Yukon Blend, served with bowls of deep-dish apple pie and French vanilla ice cream.

As we finished up, Jack watched me put my bowl and cup on the coffee table and sit back on the couch.

"More coffee?" he asked. He shoveled his last bite of apple pie in his mouth and looked at me, chewing away. He wiped at his mouth with his fingertips.

I patted my stomach and shook my head. "Nope. I couldn't eat another bite. Thanks. Everything was great."

He nodded and put his dish down, too. Looking down at the floor in front of him, he put his hands on his knees. Then suddenly he patted them in a little impatient gesture, heaving a big sigh.

He got up and went to his living room windows, looking out into the darkened yard. He stood, arms crossed, with his back to me.

I watched the back of his head, wondering what was going on inside there. "I should be going home," I said quietly. "It's getting late, and I still have to unpack and get some stuff done."

He didn't respond. He did hang his head a little, as though lost in thought.

I needed to leave. When I found myself standing up, I tried to turn towards the front door. I swear to God, I don't know why I went over to Jack instead. I homed in on him like he was wearing a Daniel beacon.

"Don't," he said suddenly.

I stopped walking. "Don't what?"

He shook his head a little. Still with his back to me, I saw him lift his chin, and he looked at my reflection in the window, right next to his in front of him. So I looked back at him that way.

"Just don't come near me, Daniel." His voice was low and full of authority.

I stepped back a couple of paces. I waited.

He finally turned and looked me in the eyes. His face was tight, a deep frown line between his eyes. "I hear ya, Daniel," he said to me. "I know how you want us to be now. But God help me, I want you so bad, I don't think I can be near you like this anymore. You know, alone like this. And that makes me very sad." He swallowed, a small muscle flexing in his cheek.

I involuntarily took a step towards him.

He held out a hand to me, like a traffic cop, in the universal signal for "stop." "No," he said. "I mean it. Don't come over here. If you do, I can't... I don't know." He hung his head. "I just don't know," he whispered.

I held out my hands in a beseeching gesture. "Can't we talk about this, Jack? Please?"

Looking up at me, he crossed his arms again, as if to ward me off with another layer between us. His lips were drawn in a thin line. He looked down his nose at me.

I wanted to kiss him so badly; I could taste it in my mouth, the hunger of it coiling around in my stomach like a living thing.

"I'm so sorry, Jack," I whispered. "I never meant to make such a mess of things. If I could go back to February, and take it all back, I would, I swear to God. We had fun while it lasted. You were great." I felt tears prickling at the back of my eyes, rising unbidden and unwanted. I stopped talking, not trusting my own voice and desperate not to cry in front of him.

He put one hand over his mouth, the other down deep in a pocket of his jeans. He blinked several times. Finally, he took his hand down and shoved that one in a pocket, too. His shoulders were up around his ears. He was the picture of abject misery.

I felt so damned bad, that I had done this to him. To us. "I'm so sorry," I whispered again. Tears were standing in my eyes, and I lifted my chin and willed myself not to blink.

"I'm not," he said in a stubborn voice a little louder than mine. "I don't regret a goddamned thing that we did together. You." He gestured at me with one hand, like he was at a loss for words. "You are the most important person in my whole world, Daniel Jackson. And I hear ya, I really do. I know what you want. While you were gone, I thought about it a lot. I know I have to do what you want. I do. I know it. I just don't know how yet."

He looked at me, his eyes roving over my face. "You're the best friend I ever had, Daniel. What we had together, it was good for me. For us, I thought. It was more than just sex for me, do you believe that?"

I nodded mutely. Yes, I did believe that. Jack O'Neill was a man of integrity, of honor, and he couldn't fuck anyone he didn't care for.

"And now you want to go back to being just friends. I hear ya," he said for the third time in as many minutes. "But I just don't understand you. I've tried, and I can't imagine what I did wrong."

Still blaming himself.

I turned my back on him, losing my battle with my tears. I finally had to blink, and they ran down my face. I quickly wiped at them, swallowing to try to clear my throat. Inside my mind and heart, I searched around for what I should say.

"I've been offered a place on SG-11, Jack," I blurted, my back still turned to him. "If I took it, you wouldn't have to have me under your nose all the time. It'd be easier. For both of us, don't you think?"

I don't know how someone as tall as Jack moves as fast as he does. I've never understood that Special Ops thing he does. He was behind me, grabbing hold of my arms and whipping me around to face him before I could have one more coherent thought.

He gripped my upper arms, squeezing me, his nose about two inches away from mine. "What?" he hissed at me. "You're kidding, right? Daniel! Tell me you're kidding!"

"Jack, you're hurting me," I insisted, twisting my shoulders to get away from him.

He hung on even harder.

"Jack, goddamn it!" I dislodged his hands with an upward motion of my arms, and gave him a shove that made him stagger back a step. "Get your hands OFF me!"

He held up his hands, backing away from me a couple of steps, and shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said breathlessly. "You just surprised me is all."

We glared at each other. I took a couple of shuddering breaths. "Yeah, well, it's true. And I'd like it with them. I could make a difference with them. I could be happy with them."

"No, Daniel," Jack entreated. He shook his head. "You're not happy with us? With me? Please. SG-1 needs you. Please." He ran one hand over his face and then around the back of his neck, looking me in the eye.

When I didn't answer him, he swallowed convulsively, taking a tentative step towards me, holding out his hand. "I need you with us, you know I do. We can't go out there without you. I promise I'll stay away from you. And I won't give you a hard time anymore. You can do whatever you want."

I laughed bitterly. Yeah, sure.

"Fuck, you know what I mean," he said in an impatient tone. "Like always. I mean, we'll argue about stuff, but that's all just doing the job, right?"

I didn't answer him. I stood, my feet spread wide apart, my arms folded, watching him.

"Right?" he asked. He stepped towards me again.

I made an impulsive decision.

"Okay, Jack. Look." I backed away from him a little to put some distance between us. "Goddamn it," I said to him. "Stay over there." I pointed at the far side of the room. "You're the one who said not to come near you. Now I'm asking you for the same thing. Just listen to me for a minute, and then I'm going home."

I took a deep breath. He stared at me.

"Truth, okay? I hoped we could just be friends again, and you wouldn't push me," I told him, "but you seem not to be able to deal with any of this, so it's time for the truth. Can you handle it?"

He stood up tall, his chin lifted. "Finally. Out with it, Mister."

"That's Doctor to you," I told him. He didn't smile at my lame attempt at levity, and neither did I.

I sighed and went to sit down on the couch, collapsing like I'd just run a mile. "Sit down over there, Jack. I don't want you to fall down."

He sat at the opposite end of the sofa, separated from me by five feet of cushions. He drew one leg up under himself and faced me, looking at me with frank curiosity.

I clasped my hands, looking down into my lap.

"Okay," I started. "Okay. Well."

"For fuck's sake..." he groused. He ran one hand through his hair.

I looked over at him. We blinked at each other. I held my breath, and then spit out the truth I'd promised him, my jaws tight with tension. "All right. Here it is. The God's honest truth. I've fallen in love with you, you stupid son of a bitch. Okay?"

His eyes widened. His mouth dropped open.

"Yeah, how about them apples?" I laughed nervously. "Don't that beat all?" My heart was thudding in my ears. I sat back into the couch cushions, my eyes on his face, suddenly weary beyond measure.

He didn't speak, but his eyes shifted from side to side, like he was looking inside his brain, trying to make what I was saying compute.

"We started out as friends who decided to be fuck buddies," I reminded him. "That's what I offered, wasn't it? Just some good fun, right? No strings, I promised. Remember? No sappy feelings. Just sex."

My voice rose and got louder, and I found my hands starting to wave in the air. Jack still sat like a rock, unmoving. I sat up again and twisted around to face him.

"And I goddamned fell in love with you, all right?" I spit the next words at him, my voice sounding harsh and cruel in my own ears. "Mister Straight Arrow Air Force Colonel, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, I Never Made It With a Guy Before, But You Can Show Me How, Daniel. YOU!"

I stood up and started pacing. It felt good, cleansing, to get the truth out at last. Finally, I could tell Jack what I had been struggling with for weeks. "And I can't fucking DO it anymore, all right? I can't fuck you. I can't let you fuck me anymore. Because I LOVE you, and you don't love ME."

Tears of frustration were pouring unheeded down my face now. Jack tracked me with his eyes, one hand on the back of the couch, the other in his lap. Nothing moved but his eyes.

"What's the matter, Mr. Big Mouth? Cat got your tongue?" I jeered.

I swiped at my wet face. "God damn it," I spluttered. "You can't kiss me, you can't hold me, you can't sleep with me. You can't even go there, can you?"

He didn't answer. He looked pole axed, totally unable to deal with what was happening, what I was saying.

"Well, that's what I NEED, Jack." I was practically yelling now, my hands gathered into fists at my sides. "I'm fucking SICK of being alone, of sleeping alone. And I had to fall in love with YOU, goddamn it. So pardon me if I try to get a life! Pardon me if maybe I need a little space!"

"Daniel..." Jack whispered. His forehead was crinkled in a deep frown, and he was shaking his head and holding out one hand to me, like if he could just touch me, maybe I'd calm down.

"Oh, don't worry," I hollered at him. "I've already decided not to go with SG-11." I took a big breath and made an effort to lower my voice. "I wouldn't leave T and Sam in the lurch. I'll stay with our team. I couldn't work with anyone else but you as CO anyway. That is, if you still want me, after all of this."

He looked a bit relieved, but I knew I'd hit him with a lot in a small space of time. "Of course I still want you on my team, Daniel," he said quietly. "You should know that. That'll never change. For cryin' out loud..."

I nodded at him. I was relieved to hear him say it.

"I DESPERATELY need you to be my friend, Jack. I don't want to lose that," I told him, breathing hard. "I don't need you to feel guilty, and I don't need you to be worried about me. I'm a big boy, and I can take care of myself. In time, I'll get over you. I just need time and space. And some patience."

Jack's mouth opened and closed a couple of times. He gaped at me, his eyes huge, obviously trying to process all the information I'd thrown at him in the last two minutes.

I wondered distantly just exactly what I had thought he was going to do or say. God, it was useless. I was useless. I had to get the fuck out of there before I made even more of a complete fool of myself.

I turned to leave, striding towards the door. I spoke over my shoulder. "See you on Monday morning, Jack. Have a good weekend."

I heard Jack get up from the couch. "Daniel!" he called out to me, but I ignored him.

I let myself out of the house, closing the front door gently behind myself, hearing him say, "Wait!" just as I shut the door. I didn't wait, and he didn't come after me.

I went to my car, started it up, and pulled out of his driveway.

I drove for about five minutes, long enough to get out of Jack's neighborhood. The first shopping center I came to, I turned in to the parking lot, and pulled way over to one side where there were no other cars. I put the car in neutral, set the parking brake, killed the lights, and took off my glasses, which I gently laid in the empty seat next to me. I put my arms on the top of the steering wheel and lowered my head onto them, feeling both relieved and bereft. I was shaking like a leaf.

It was many minutes before I lifted my head. I rubbed at my eyes and my face, feeling a bit calmer. I put my glasses back on, and looked out my windshield, not seeing any of my surroundings.

Jack. Both of us were stubborn fools. I had no idea what was going to happen to us. But at least at last I had told him the truth.

I drove around for a while before going home. I had all the windows in the car rolled down, and the new Josh Groban CD cranked up in the stereo. You gotta love a man who can sing in four languages.

I spent about an hour cruising around Colorado Springs. The beautiful music surrounded me, and I allowed my mind to empty of everything except driving. It was a nice night, and the warm air circulating through my hair and over my face and arms soothed me.

It was close to eleven before I finally pulled into my neighborhood. As I drove slowly up to my dark house, what I saw caused me to stomp on the brakes, almost stalling the car in my haste to jerk to a stop.

Jack's truck was parked in my driveway. Oh, shit.

I had to decide. Drive on, or face him. I turned the CD player off and killed the car's lights while I sat and thought about it, the car in gear and me with one foot on the brake and the other on the clutch, ready to run. Drive on and go where? Shit. I liked to think of myself as a grown up in every way. All I needed to do was tell Jack to take a hike, right?

But what could he want? And he'd better not be wanting THAT...

As I sat and stared at the truck, I saw the driver's side door open, the dome light inside coming on briefly before Jack slammed the door shut again. He came around to the back of the truck, leaned against the tailgate, his arms crossed in front of himself, and stared at my car. Busted. O'Neill strikes again. The man had eyes in the back of his head.

Now I had to go deal with him, whether I wanted to or not.

I pulled into my driveway and stopped the car next to the huge black truck. I opened my door and slid out, locking the car up behind myself. Jack came around to stand by me.

"What are you doing here, Jack?" I asked him in a low voice.

"Gotta talk to you," he said. He stared at me, his mouth in a thin line, his forehead deeply furrowed.

"So, talk."

"Not out here, Daniel," he told me. "Haven't your neighbors gotten enough of an eyeful of your crazy friends and what they do for fun? They haven't recovered from Sarah yet, have they?"

Well, he had a point about that. My neighbors had been hard to convince that we'd just been filming a wild home movie when that panel van had blown up out in my street, and then Osiris had tried to zap Sam and Pete with her hand device. Sam returning fire into my front yard with a zat, Jack and T standing there on my front porch with their guns, and then the arrival of half of Colorado Springs' fire and police force had all made for an experience from which old Mrs. Forbes across the way probably would never recover. So Jack was right.

"Get inside," I hissed at him in frustration. Shit, this was the last thing I wanted. "Unless you will just be good enough to turn around and go home."

He raised his eyebrows at me and made a sweeping motion at my front door. "After you," he told me.

I could feel his eyes boring into the back of my skull as I led us up onto my porch. I fumbled with my keys in the dark and finally managed to let us in. I hit the light switch and turned on the lamps in the living room and then turned to relock the door behind Jack as he stepped inside.

"So talk," I said rudely.

I didn't want to talk. The knowledge of what I really wanted to do slammed into my brain and the pit of my stomach at the same time. I wanted to fuck. And I knew he did, too. And we just couldn't. I had decided that was over, I had communicated that decision to Jack, and I wasn't going back now.

"Okay," he started. He took a deep breath and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "I was gonna just let this go, give us the weekend to think things through, try to do the friend thing like you asked, but I decided I've done enough thinking about this to last me a lifetime already. And in light of what you told me tonight, everything's different for me now anyway."

He looked over at the sofa. "Jeez, do you mind if I sit down?"

I looked at the couch in a fog, like I'd never seen my living room furniture before. "I suppose," I said in an impatient tone of voice. "You aren't staying long, though, right? I'm tired, and I need to go to bed."

"Whatever," Jack groused as he plopped onto the sofa cushion down at the far end. "Sit down, too, Daniel, for crissake, will ya?"

I very slowly walked over and then eased myself down on the arm of my couch, as far away from him as I could get and still be on the same piece of furniture. I didn't want to get too comfy.

"So talk," I said again.

"Okay, I wanna say my piece. And I also wanna ask you to please not run away until I'm finished. The last few times we've tried to talk about this, you've shut me down and won't even stay in the same room with me. And I've got some things to say."

I looked at him and blinked a couple of times. "So?"

"Well, I have to tell you some stuff. And the first thing is, I guess, the most important." He looked at me, and then his eyes shifted around. I was surprised to see that Jack was scared. I hadn't seen a scared Jack hardly ever. And he was scared now.

He looked like he was standing on uncertain footing, facing something very dangerous, very unexpected.

As angry and impatient as I had been feeling, my heart went out to him. "Okay, out with it, Jack," I said, trying my best to sound understanding.

I got up, walked over to him, and sat next to him on the couch. He was like a magnet, and I was as attracted to him as the North Pole is to the South. Somewhere between us was a center that so far had eluded us, but I wanted badly to find it.

He looked down into his lap, and then over at me. Very gently he reached out and grabbed one of my hands, drawing it back over onto his thigh. I half-heartedly tried to pull back, but he shook his head and hung on.

"Don't..." he whispered. I saw him swallow.

He looked at our hands that were clasped together, and I felt his fingers squeeze mine.

"I didn't know, Daniel. I swear to God, I didn't know you were in love with me."

My heartbeat thudded in my ears, doing a quick little stuttering stammer in my chest. My anger and pride suddenly dissipated, gone in a flash.

He lifted his eyes to mine. Their brown depths were liquid, full of misery and longing. His nearness was killing me. I couldn't breathe for it, couldn't think, dying with the wanting in my heart. "I love you, Jack," I whispered to him. I couldn't help it.

He nodded, holding my gaze. "I know. I believe you. And I love you, too, you know."

At my quick intake of breath, he gave me a tiny smile, just for an instant before the serious expression was back. "Always. Well, almost always. Certainly since you've come back to us."

Now it was me who had my eyes shifting around. Okay, Jack had just told me he loved me, too. Huh. Well, maybe he meant like philios love, brotherly love.

"I know you love me, Jack. We're friends, and I always want you in my life."

He smiled again, his eyes crinkling up. "No, genius," he murmured. "IN love, I am IN love with you, like you are with me. And I swear to God, I never knew you felt the same way."

He turned towards me on the couch, still hanging on to my hand. "Last February, you and I had had a few on that snowy night, remember? And you said you wanted us to be fuck buddies. You said you wanted us to have some fun, and there'd be no strings, no sap. Daniel, I loved you so much. I was willing to take you however I could get you. So I agreed. I was in heaven. I never thought in a million years you'd..." His voice trailed off.

We stared at each other. Jack was in love with me? Jack had been in love with me when we'd started the sex thing? I blinked at him again.

"You never kissed me," I protested. "You never said anything. You never slept with me."

He dropped my hand and got up. He stood at my front window, looking out into the dark.

"Daniel. You said you wanted sex." He turned around to face me. "You said you wanted no strings, no sap. And I-" He held his two hands out, palms up, and shrugged. "I just needed you. I needed to be with you, however you would allow that. And then when I found out what it was like, being with you...

"You know I'd never been with a man before. I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I was so scared, and you were so patient and gentle with me. I was bucking regulations to be with you, feeling so guilty about that, but I didn't care. I would have bucked the whole universe to be with you. You were amazing in bed."

He walked over to me and knelt in front of me, grabbing my hand again. "You're amazing everywhere.

"I never thought I'd ever fall in love again, Daniel. Hell, I'm almost fifty years old. You don't know yet what it's like, but lemme tell ya, after a while it starts to feel like the whole damned world has moved on and left you in the dust. You look in the mirror and see a new gray hair and a new wrinkle every day."

I smiled at him. "Jack, you're not old..."

He shook his head. "Hush up, mister thirty-eight and holding. What the hell do you know about it?" He grinned at me. "But anyway, never mind all that. I digress."

"Okay, don't digress, I like this stuff you're telling me," I told him with a smile.

"And there you were, in my bed. So beautiful, so smart and funny and sexy, and you let me do any damned thing I wanted to you. With you. I couldn't tell you I loved you," Jack told me. "I couldn't risk it. You said you wanted sex, and you'd made it very clear from the beginning that that's ALL you wanted."

"Oh, Jack, I'm so sorry..." I gazed into his handsome face, and I could see how desperate he was to make me understand.

"When you told me you didn't want me anymore, I went into shock or something, Daniel,"

Jack whispered. "I almost lost it. I'd had you for a little while, at least, some part of you, and now you were asking me to give you up. And then you wouldn't tell me why, and I figured I'd just blown it somehow, or maybe you had someone else you liked better, someone younger or smarter or something."

I shook my head at him. "All I knew, Jack, was that if you couldn't love me, I couldn't stand to be with you anymore. It hurt too much."

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked. He got up on his knees and leaned over my lap, still hanging on to my hand. He really wanted to know. "Why didn't you say something?"

I reached out with my free hand and drew my fingers down his cheek. "I don't know. You didn't kiss me, Jack," I whispered. "You didn't talk to me in bed. I thought you wanted it just the way it was. I'm so stupid sometimes. All I knew is that if I couldn't have all of you, I wouldn't have any of you. And I didn't know, Jack, just like you didn't know about me."

I took a deep breath. "I guess we're both pretty dumb, huh?''

He nodded solemnly. He slowly stood up and pulled me up beside him. He stepped into my space and put his arms around my shoulders, drawing me close. I slipped my arms around his waist and put my head on his shoulder, my forehead resting against his neck. It was the first time we'd ever embraced, and I felt like I'd come home.

"Sweet Daniel," he breathed in my ear. "My friend. I love you to death. I love you with everything in me. I swear, I'll never hurt you again."

He tightened his arms around me and we stood swaying a little, soaking up this new reality between us. "I've hurt you so badly, and I'm so sorry. I'm a rat bastard sometimes, and I'm always and forever late to my own party, but I swear to God I'm gonna try to be what you need. I swear it."

I lifted my head and gazed into his brown eyes, my heart full. "You're my rat bastard," I kidded him softly. "And I wouldn't have you any other way. Don't be so hard on yourself. I know you didn't hurt me on purpose. I didn't hurt you on purpose either. Do you believe that?"

He nodded.

" Kiss me," I told him. "Show me, Jack."

He never took his eyes away from mine. He moved one hand to cup my chin and then tilted my head back slightly. Slowly, letting his eyes slide shut, he lowered his lips onto mine, kissing me for the very first time, running his mouth along mine, inquisitive, gentle, almost shy.

I stood, my eyes closed, and enjoyed the feeling of him, offering myself to him in a way I never had before. This man had owned my body, over and over, but now I was offering him me, my heart, my very soul.

"I love you, Jack," I whispered against his mouth. "I want this to be forever with us. I want to belong to you. I've never wanted anything or anyone more."

I felt a strong tremor run through him. He ran his hands down around the curve of my ass, and he gripped me possessively. As we pressed our groins together, I could feel that he was as aroused as I was.

"Forever, Daniel," he promised softly, gazing into my eyes again. "Always. I will love you always. I want this to be the last time I ever fall in love, and it's gonna last, I swear to God."

I reached for his head and drew him into another kiss. At the first inquisitive touch of

my tongue on his lips, he opened his mouth to me, and we spent long moments exploring, learning each other's taste. It was so odd to be experiencing a first kiss with someone I had already known so intimately. But that was Jack and me, so often "bass-akwards" about things but getting it right in the end.

When we broke apart, we smiled at each other, our noses touching.

"Hey," Jack whispered. His fingers rubbed at the cloth of the seat of my jeans.

"Hey," I told him. I pushed my hips into him and sensuously moved against his groin.

"Ummm," he said appreciatively. "So. Does this mean that I can come out of the dog house now?" He gave me a little kiss.

"I don't know," I said slowly. "I'm thinking I should make you woo me, you know. Flowers, candy, dates, batting your eyelashes at me. Yup, that all sounds good."

He grinned at me, batting his eyelashes furiously. "Okay, is that a good start?"

I held his face in my hands. "Sure. I guess so. But just one last thing, Jack."

He raised his eyebrows at me.

"Tonight, you stay the night. I want to snuggle. I want to hear you snore. I want to wake up next to you." I looked him in the eye. "I want us to fuck all night long," I added with a leer.

"Can't do that," he abruptly announced.

"No?" My heart sank. I lowered my hands onto his shoulders

"Nope. No fucking." He shook his head, looking very serious.


"Nope. Only lovemaking. We are gonna make LOVE all night long. And Daniel Jackson, you ain't seen the real Jack O'Neill in action yet. You are gonna get kissed and kissed and kissed..."

I was already dragging him towards the hall.

Epilogue Two Weeks Later

I had come in to the office early to get started on a translation that had been bugging me. SG-5 had brought back some video footage of a plinth that had been covered with what was probably Furling inscriptions. Furling was still a language that eluded me, but I was excited about it, loving the challenge and the very real possibility that when its ancient code was broken, we'd very possibly be on the dawn of a new age out in the galaxy.

Now it was almost noontime as I bent over my notebooks, scribbling furiously. I heard a soft rapping on my open office door.

"Come in," I called out, without raising my head. After a few seconds, when no one said anything, I pulled my attention away from my work and looked at the doorway.

"Kyle!" I said in surprise. I threw my pen down and sat up straight, smiling at him.

He was leaning one shoulder into my doorjamb, his hands shoved down in his pockets, grinning at me. His long hair was loose around his shoulders, and he was dressed in civvies.

"Hey, Daniel," he said.

I stood up, pushing my glasses back into place on my nose, and started to stride towards him.

I offered my hand to him, which he took in both of his for a moment.

"You're back," I observed stupidly. "Obviously."

He laughed. "Yup."

I drew him inside the office and closed the door.

"Sit down," I said. I hurried over to my couch and swept aside the folders and books that were cluttering up the place. "Sorry this is such a mess."

"It's okay," he said. "You're a busy man. I've always loved your office. It's like a cross between a museum and a library. Right up my alley, you know."

I smiled at him. I did know. We sat on opposite ends of the couch, turned toward each other.

"When did you get back?" I actually knew exactly when he'd gotten back, since I'd been keeping tabs on SG-11's work on Xochimilca. I'd planned to go see him at some point.

"Just this morning," he said. "I thought I'd come by and visit you."

An awkward silence fell between us. His wide green eyes flickered over me.

"Kyle...Daniel..." we said together, and then we both laughed.

"You go first," he said, his smile slowly fading.

"Kyle. What we shared on Xochimilca. You gotta know how important that whole week was for me. The work was fascinating, and your team treated me so well, it was great. And then what happened between you and me, that last night, down by the lake. Well..."

"Daniel." He reached across and offered his hand, which I took.

He looked into my eyes, almost right into my soul. He always had seemed intuitive, knowing me better than I knew myself sometimes. "You and your partner have made peace, haven't you?" he said quietly.

I nodded. "Yes," I told him. God bless him, he'd cut through all my semi-pointless reminiscing and gotten to the heart of the matter. "We have." I squeezed his fingers and slowly dropped his hand.

I saw him swallow, and his face was pinched. "I'm happy for you, Daniel," he said with a little shrug. "I know how you were hurting."

I nodded, remembering the pain of losing Jack. Of thinking I'd never really had him to lose.

"You helped me, Kyle. You made me feel like I mattered, like I was a whole person. You were just what I needed that night. I'll never forget it. Or you. But now I have that with my lover. We're learning to communicate better, and we hope it'll be forever with us."

Kyle nodded. "He's a very lucky guy," he whispered. His bit his bottom lip.

"Oh, Kyle."

"And if he ever hurts you, if I find out about it, I'll tear him limb from limb." He tried to smile, knowing his words sounded foolish, but I thought maybe he meant them. I smiled back, trying to picture Kyle tearing big old tough Colonel O'Neill limb from limb or any other way.

"There's someone out there for you," I assured him in a soft voice. "And you are going to make someone a very lucky guy, too. Anyone would be proud to have you love them." My words sounded patronizing in my own ears, and it was the last thing I wanted. I really meant them.

"Actually, I have met someone interesting," he told me quietly. "I was home briefly a couple of days ago, and someone asked me out. He's not you, though, Daniel. No one is, of course," he smiled at me. "No one else could be. But I'll be okay. I'm just glad you're happy now. And life goes on."

I smiled at him as he got up to leave. His face was soft, his expression one of caring and concern, laced with regret.

He looked down at me, touching my shoulder for a moment. "Bye, Daniel," he murmured. "If you ever need a friend, look me up."

I swallowed against the sudden rush of emotion in my throat. "Bye, Kyle."

"See you around," he said with one last look into my eyes.

He let himself out, closing the door gently behind himself.

I sat still on the couch for a the better part of five minutes, thinking about how my life had come full circle in the last few months. Me, who had always thought I'd never matter to anyone ever again after Sha'uri died.

I got up and went to my phone. I dialed an internal extension number and listened to the phone ring on the other end.


"Hey, Jack. I wanna blow this place. Let's take the afternoon off and play hooky."

"Okay," he said immediately. "Meet you topside in thirty."

"Make it forty-five," I told him. Control issues, you know.

I heard his deep chuckle as I hung up the phone.

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