The two men got out of the big ford pickup and surveyed the lonely cabin that nestled in the sunny glade by the quiet lake. The old building looked a little worse for wear, dressed in a coat of pine needles, dust and neglect. The wildflowers had grown up and were blooming in between the floorboards of the porch.
The older of the two men, lean and with short hair just beginning to turn silver, stretched his arms above his head to loosen his muscles from the long drive. He walked up to the sagging porch and shook his bandana crowned head despairingly. "You know, this might not be such a good idea after all."
The other man, younger and smaller of build, looked around at the natural woodlands that surrounded the small structure. "No, Jack, I think its perfect. It's so quiet, so peaceful here." He took a deep breath. "Just smell that fresh air!"
"Yeah, sure, maybe so, but the cabin is gonna need a lot of work. It's really gone to seed after four years of not visiting it." He looked at his friend. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"But it's just so...so perfect a place." Daniel looked at the retired Colonel. "So, well, out of sight and out of the way. Our own place to escape the real world for a while."
Jack O'Neill nodded. "If nothing else Daniel, it is that." He smiled, "and if you don't mind doing some hard work on the cabin to go with all the fresh air and sunshine, it's fine with me."
"Mind it, Jack? I've been dreaming of it forever. I don't care if I have to live in a tent..."
"If this is what you want, Danny, you've got it. If we get tired of it later, we can always move somewhere else." He reached over and pulled the younger man into a bear hug.
Daniel went to him happily slipping his arms around the other man's waist. "Thanks, Jack...but don't worry about me...its perfect."
"Well then, lets see if the pack rats have taken over completely." He kissed his partner enthusiastically with a smile. The two of them entered the cabin.
The interior was exactly how Jack remembered it, not counting the fine coating of dust on everything. The kitchen area was wide open with only a small island cutting the cooking area off from the den/living room. Pots, utensils, and dishes were still stored in the shelves over it. He'd thrown some old sheets over the sofa and recliner on his last visit, so they should be all right. The potbellied stove was maybe a bit more rusty then he recalled.
The books, various copies of fiction like the Last of the Mohicans, Moby Dick and other classics were still in the cabinets peeking out of their glass windows at the returning master. Keeping them company were some Hardy Boys, The Lone Ranger and Louis Lamour paperbacks. Daniel crossed the room to them and opened the cabinet doors to run his fingers lovingly across their spines.
In the corner in front of a star chart that was pinned to the wall with thumbtacks, sat a very old, very dusty telescope. Next to it was a bentwood hat tree. Draped carelessly over its arms was an old canvas fishing hat with flies embedded in the cloth brim, a Denver Nuggets cap and a small boy's hooded sweatshirt jacket. Jack walked over to the corner and tenderly touched the dusty cloth.
Daniel had turned to say something about the selection of books when he saw what Jack was doing. He stood a moment with indecision, then crossed over to stand next to the older man.
Jack turned his head to glance at his partner. His eyes were suspiciously moist. Daniel cocked his head and reached out as if to touch him, but stopped short of actually making physical contact. He allowed his hand to fall back to his side. "Jack?"
O'Neill forced a sad smile. "Yeah, it's Charlie's. The last time I was here, he was with me." He dropped his eyes back to the jacket. "I'd forgotten this stuff was here. Sorry to get so..."
"It's okay, Jack." Daniel did touch him this time. "I didn't mean to bring back bad memories."
The older man shook his head and rubbed his face with his two hands. "They're not bad memories; they're good ones." He indicated the telescope. "At night, we'd star watch. I was teaching him astronomy. Then during the morning, we'd fish the lake. There used to be an old rowboat at the dock...but it's probably rotted out and sank by now." He glanced over at the open cabinet door at the books. "In the afternoon, he'd practice reading aloud. He'd read me the stories and I'd help him with the big words. He loved the Hardy Boys, wanted to know why he didn't have a little brother like Joe." Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "He didn't know that Sara couldn't have anymore kids...so I'd just say when he was made we broke the mold. Couldn't make another one as good as him."
"It was true, Jack. And I'm sorry to see you upset."
"No Danny, not upset, just remembering...remembering the good times." He laughed hoarsely. "We were last here in October, Columbus Day weekend. We went home, and we went trick or treating, had Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. I got him a bigger telescope... though I think it was more for me than him.... We were gonna come back Easter week in the spring. We didn't make it. He...he left us in March." Jack took a deep breath. "Sorry, Danny, too many memories."
Daniel stood quietly, waiting. After a moment, Jack turned and put his arms around Daniel's shoulders, pulling him into an embrace. The younger man wrapped his arms around his lover's waist and hugged back hard.
"Don't ever forget those memories." He whispered into Jack's ear. "Don't put them away forever. Bring them out to see them and to enjoy the good times. Sometimes that's all we have left."
Jack, his face still buried in Daniel's shoulder turned and kissed him on the cheek "How did you get so smart anyway?"
Daniel pulled back and smiled soggily at him. "Long years of practice. Long years of remembering the desert and the pyramids...longing for evenings in lantern lit tents, and knowing that things were changed forever. But those memories, Jack, those were all I had to hold on to..to remember them." He paused a moment, catching the brown eyes with his blue. "I love you, Jack O'Neill. I love you so much."
"I love you, Danny. And...I want to hear about your memories too, so that they can all live with us again. Because your parents were so good to me..."
"How do you mean?"
"They had you didn't they?" He kissed the man standing in front of him again. "They did great."
Several hours later, the two of them had gone through the cabin and determined what was needed as far as necessary repairs, supplies and modifications to make the old cabin hospitable again. Then they started work in earnest.
The old brass bed was still intact and once it's mattress had been drug into the front yard and beaten within an inch of its life, it proved to be still serviceable. Clean linens were brought in from the boxes on the truck and the huge old antique was soon ready for two happy and tired bodies. Dishes were washed, firewood cut and dinner prepared.
The old cast iron pot bellied stove proved to be still in good working order and after a busy afternoon of opening windows, sweeping, dusting and throwing out detritus from unwanted visitors of the raccoon kind, Jack had built a fire in its middle and heated some canned stew. The ice chest they had brought with them yielded some cold liquid refreshment and the biscuits they had purchased on their way in had finished off the simple supper.
After the two men ate, they cleaned the dishes and put them back away in the shelves where they had long sat idle. Then, Daniel had brought out the medicine kit. The two men sat down on the old couch facing each other. With utmost care and gentleness, he removed the bandana and its underlying bandage from Jack's brow exposing the still raw wound. He gently cleaned and applied the medicated salve to the half-healed surgical scar. The plastic surgery to remove the metal inlaid brand had been of minor importance to Jack; but to Daniel his treatment of the wound was a self-imposed duty that he took very seriously.
Later that night, by the time O'Neill had done the final perimeter walk and lock up of the cabin, Daniel had already climbed into his side of the bed. Jack blew out the oil lamp and slid in beside the younger man, moving over to find him unerringly in the warm darkness. Daniel shifted his position and opened his arms to his lover. As they lay together, Jack gathered his partner to his chest. As they kissed gently and sleepily, he tasted and felt the dampness on the other man's cheeks.
"Danny, are you okay? What's wrong?"
The soft hair burrowed under his chin and he felt a nibble on his throat. Then he heard the soft breath of a sigh. "I just can't believe this is real, that we're finally here."
"Oh, it's real all right." Jack pulled the other tighter to him, stroking the long, soft, brown hair. "It's real, and it's dusty and it's in a shambles, but its ours. Every rotten board and leaky shingle." He kissed the soft hair. "Every rusty nail and mouse nest. I don't have much to give you, Daniel, but everything I have is yours."
"Oh, Jack, you've given me back my life and my freedom; everything I've hoped and dreamt of. And more importantly, you've given me yourself. I can't begin to tell you what it all means to me."
"Well, you're very welcome, sweetheart." Jack traced the beloved profile with his calloused fingers. "I only wish..." but the lips that pressed themselves to his mouth and the hands that searched his body intimately and in most wondrous ways stopped his words.
The next morning, Jack awoke to discover that Daniel was already gone from their bed. Concerned, he arose quickly, pulling on his jeans and sweatshirt. Crossing the bedroom and going into the large living, dining and kitchen area he found a pot of coffee already brewed, and evidence where a light breakfast had been eaten earlier.
Feeling a little better about things, he poured himself a cup of coffee and went out to the back porch, in search of his missing man.
Daniel was standing on the deck of the cabin wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants. Barefooted and shirtless, his waist length light brown hair flowed loose around his shoulders and down his back. He had obviously been sweeping the floor and rearranged the meager furniture so that it faced towards the lake, as he himself was now doing.
Jack came up behind the younger man and rested his hands on the slender shoulders. "Whatchadoin?" The younger man's normally warm skin felt cool to his touch.
Daniel leaned back into his partner's warm hands. "Thinking."
He nodded, "Thinking is good, as long as it's not taken to extremes."
The younger man smiled over his shoulder at Jack, then spoke thoughtfully. "Would you mind if I cut my hair?"
O'Neill paused and considered a moment. The he shook his head. "No, you can do anything you want to. You're free now, Danny." He leaned down and kissed the shoulder. "I'll not tell you what, when, or how to do anything. I'll only ask you."
Daniel turned into his arms. "And what do you ask of me?"
"I ask that you stay with me and let me love you the way you deserve to be. But it doesn't have to be here...here is negotiable...just the with me." He looked thoughtfully at his partner, "but if you don't want to stay, I'll understand."
"I can't imagine any reason I would want to leave or here." Daniel replied slowly, "but if I do, I'll let you know so we can go together."
"And if you want to leave me?" Jack said seriously.
Daniel looked at him seriously, then hugged himself close to his partner. "I can't even begin to imagine what would make me want to do that." He laid his head back on the maroon sweatshirt's shoulder. "And if you want to leave or make me go?"
"Never." Jack breathed reverently into the smooth neck. "That will never happen. I love you, Danny, more than I can ever say." He kissed the shell-like ear. "and if you want to cut your hair, it's okay with me."
"Will you do it for me?"
"You'll have to tell me how short and I make no guarantees on the result, but I'll do it...if you want to take the chance."
"Well, next time we go to town, I'll go to the barber...but I really want to lose the ponytail now." He frowned, "A little shorter than my collar, maybe?"
"All right, when?"
"Now." Daniel replied, "I want to do it now."
"Okay, you get something to sit on, I'll see if I can find a pair of scissors." Jack kissed him again and released Daniel.
Jack went back into the kitchen area and started opening drawers. He found it interesting that the first really autonomous action that Daniel wanted to take was to cut his almost waist length hair. But then again, it was Hathor who had forced him to keep it long. Cutting it was an positive act of freeing himself from her influence once and for all. And, admittedly, it would make it easier for him to fit into normal society even if it was in a small mountain community in Minnesota.
He knew that they would be noticeable enough as it was. Two single men, living together in a remote woodland cabin were bound to lead to speculation about their lifestyle.
He didn't give a rat's ass about the opinion the townsfolk had about him as long as they didn't bother them, or more specifically Daniel. They would have to go into the small community occasionally for supplies and to pick up their mail every once in a while. He promised himself that if anything untoward occurred, they would move. He would not allow Daniel to suffer any more emotional distress. He was amazed the man was as stable as he was after his years of abuse at the hands of the monster, Hathor.
Finding the scissors in one of the cabinets, he checked them out for movement and sharpness. They should do nicely. By the time he got back out on the deck, Daniel had brought an old bar stool from the storage shed and put it in the center of the deck. Jack had also picked up a comb, a string, and some matches on the way out. He motioned the younger man up onto the seat, took his place behind him and kissed Daniel on the shoulder before starting.
"How short?" He asked again, to be certain.
"About here, I think." Daniel made a cutting motion with his fingers about an inch above his shoulder. Jack nodded and picked up the comb, running it through the golden chestnut strands of hair. After indulging himself for a minute, he then gathered the hair up in his hands and started a simple three-part plait. After a few moments, when the length had reached about eight inches, he tied it off with the string at the top and at the tail's end. He then let it fall back down the smooth back when he was through.
Jack reached for the scissors then paused a moment to lay his hand on Daniel's shoulders. "Ready?"
He got a definite nod and a quiet yes. Jack bent to kiss the head in front of him. He picked up the golden-brown length and put the scissors to where he had tied the string. "Here it goes, Danny, speak now..."
The sharp scissors closed through the golden strands, amputating the last vestige of Daniel's enslavement.
Jack dropped the ponytail on the floor beside the stool, then proceeded to trim and even out the now collar length hair. Stepping to the side then the front of his friend, he carefully shaped the hair so that edged Daniel's face. The shorter length fluffed out a bit, offering a fuller, more rounded frame for the firm jaw-line and high cheekbones. Then, taking up the comb, Jack gently parted the hair off center and to the left.
Finally, Jack stepped back and looked critically at his handiwork. "Humm, not bad if I do say so myself." He smiled, and nodded.
Daniel looked up shyly. "It feels really weird...so light, like a weight is gone."
"It is Daniel, it's gone and you'll never have to feel it again." He reached down and picked up the skein of braided hair. "Do you want this?"
Daniel looked at him and said curiously. "Uh, no, I don't, I mean why?"
Jack smiled mysteriously, "C'mon, I was hoping you'd say that. I have an idea." He held the hair in his hand while he put the scissors and comb down on the stool. Then, Jack picked up the box of wood matches. He motioned Daniel to follow him out to the back yard area. The two men walked side by side slowly, taking time for Daniel to pick his steps with his bare feet.
Out in the yard several feet from the deck lay an old rusted metal fire ring. Jack handed the braid and the matches to Daniel and he proceeded to gather a small pile of flammable bark, branches and leaves that lay around the immediate area. When he judged he had gathered enough for his purpose, Jack took the matches and struck the pile to flame.
As the fire licked and consumed the kindling, he motioned to Daniel. Understanding finally, the fire's purpose, Daniel smiled at his lover and laid the long braid in the blaze. The fire leaped to consume the hair with smoke and an acrid smell. Jack then carefully removed the bandage that covered his scar and fed it to the fire, which eagerly caught the gauzy material and it too disappeared in a veritable puff of smoke.
Daniel watched with widened eyes as their symbols of enslavement disappeared before their eyes. Wordlessly, he came into his Jack's arms, wrapping his own around the strong tall form of his long-time protector. They gazed into each other's eyes for a magic time then they molded themselves to each other's body, taking and giving hungrily of all the emotions that they had discovered over the longest four years of their lives.
It was time to make more memories...good ones.
### The End ###
|Category:||AU Jack/AU Daniel, Jack/Daniel|
|Genres:||Alternate Universe, Angst, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt/Comfort, Romance|
|Summary:||SLASH The alternate Jack and Daniel from Hathor's Horror Universe have finally left Cheyenne Mountain and the SGC behind. Now, they must start a new life.
Author's Chapter Notes:
You should definitely read Alternate Realities: A Horror Story! before this or it will make no sense at all.