Part One: JACK
What Jack was looking at couldn't possibly be real. It had to be some trick of the neon lights on the dark street, or a residual effect of something aliens had done to him that no one had yet discovered. Those were the only explanations he could come up with to deny what he was so obviously seeing.
He watched the flamboyantly dressed man across the street disappear into a nightclub, eyed the other men going in the door after him, and knew instantly what kind of place it was. This wasn't something he could just shake off and ignore.
He tucked his wallet into his back pocket as he stood on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, the reason he'd come to Denver forgotten until the last of his old Air Force buddies slapped him on the shoulder and gave him a hearty farewell. He'd met a handful of his Special Ops cronies for dinner at the sports bar behind him, and Jack had stayed late to watch a hockey game while most of the others had gone home to their wives. Jack started across the street when he was sure all those who knew him had gone on their merry way.
Almost as an afterthought, he pulled out his cell phone, thinking about dialing Daniel's home number. He put it away after checking his watch, deciding that Daniel was probably still at the base, hunched over his desk, toiling away at his latest hot translation project. With the current deadline hanging over his head, Jack figured there was no way short of a miracle that Daniel would be home, even as late as it was.
Jack didn't want to call the base, either: going through the operator, giving his security clearance for the call, and being redirected to Daniel's desk was too much trouble just to interrupt him for no good reason. He pocketed his cell phone, knowing there was a far easier route to verify Daniel's location. He simply walked back to the dance club, paid the cover charge, and went in to look for the enigma he'd seen on the sidewalk outside.
Once he entered the place, however, it took him a minute or two to force himself past the entry and into the main room, where the bar and a multi-level dance floor were located. Lit only by small spots and the constantly moving reflections from multi-faceted disco balls hung from the ceiling, the club was dark and other-worldly. For a moment, he felt like he'd flashed back to the 70's, only with slightly different fashions in view and way different music, not to mention a totally different kind of clientele.
The music was techno and ear-splittingly loud. The handful of women he spotted were dancing with each other and apparently oblivious to the swarm of men around them. The majority of patrons were men were in their 20's and 30's, with only an occasional older fellow like himself. Most were in decent physical shape, some dressed to the nines, others in wild new fashions, and a few had their shirts open or completely off, dancing with abandon to the thumping beat.
For a moment Jack felt utterly lost, as if he'd stepped through the stargate onto an alien world filled with men who had eyes only for each other. All around him he witnessed men paired off and kissing. Some were even fondling each other through their clothes, and more than a few were sporting boners in their trousers and jeans.
The sight made him uneasy, not so much because he had any personal objections to gay people, or even public displays of affection, but because being seen going into a place like that was potentially dangerous to his career. Still, he had come in for a valid reason and set aside his disquiet to search for the familiar face he'd seen on the sidewalk.
Jack looked around and finally spotted the man. He was dressed in a skintight black mesh tank top, through which his nipples were visible, and a pair of snug black leather pants. His hair was spiked and golden, and he wasn't wearing the glasses Jack expected to see on his familiar face. Bare arms sported black and red Celtic tattoos, which looked distinctly out of place, too.
Daniel Jackson certainly didn't dress like that. The getup just screamed "gay hustler."
He was toward the back of the dance floor not far from the bar, gyrating energetically beside a younger man with long blonde hair. They were facing each other, but as Jack watched, the youth turned around and put his back to Daniel, grinding his ass into Daniel's crotch. Daniel grinned broadly and held onto the blonde's hips, humping against him.
Jack couldn't take his eyes off Daniel, because their dancing could only be called erotic, looking as if they were having sex standing up. As Jack watched, Daniel leaned down to lightly bite the blonde's neck, which made his partner close his eyes and throw his head back against Daniel's shoulder in abandon. The sight went straight to Jack's dick, slamming his attention down into his own pants for an instant before he dragged it hungrily back to the couple on the dance floor.
Then, inexplicably, Daniel let go and moved away with a little wave and grin, leaving his dance partner looking abashed and disappointed.
Daniel was still smiling, shaking his ass and his shoulders, biting his lower lip and making his dimples flare as he moved through the crowd. As he danced with various men for a moment, they smiled at him, obviously thinking they'd gotten lucky tonight, but then he was off again to a new partner, and finally to the edge of the dance floor where he leaned back against a table to catch his breath and watch the crowd.
Jack moved toward him, edging through the dancers, doubting himself as he drew closer. The man's bare arms had tattoos on them, for crying out loud -- beautiful abstract designs with a vaguely Celtic look to them. He had earrings in both ears, little silver hoops, and Daniel didn't have any of those decorations on his body. This guy even wore his hair differently, long bangs covering his forehead, the top liberally spiked up and frosted golden blonde.
Someone swept in front of Jack just then, cutting him off as he advanced toward his intended target. He brushed off the stranger's intended flirtation. When he turned back to look for the Daniel-clone, the man's gaze went sliding right past him, not a flicker of recognition on his face.
Even more disturbing, Jack noticed that his eyes weren't Daniel's pale blue, but some indeterminate dark color.
"…tienne!" someone called from nearby. "Baby, where've ya been?"
The speaker hurried toward Daniel, and he turned his head in acknowledgment of the greeting. He smiled brightly, reaching out to kiss the other man on the lips, a light peck that spoke of close friendship.
Jack slowed down his pace, watching them.
The music stopped as the club's DJ announced a short break.
In the sudden relative silence, Jack listened to the two men, prowling slowly closer to them and taking stock of the other men in his vicinity. He didn't want to get groped and break someone's arm in an instinctive reaction, but his internal alerts were on high at the moment, and he had to be aware and careful. He also wanted to eavesdrop, thinking Daniel just hadn't really seen him yet. After all, this would be the last place on Earth Daniel would expect Jack to visit.
"Ah, Robert," said the Daniel-twin with a decidedly heavy French accent. "I 'ave been away, but now I am 'ome. Tell me, did you miss me, mon ami?" His answer was another kiss from Robert, this time accompanied by a long hug.
Jack stopped walking, just staring at the two men. He studied the doppleganger more closely now, looking for some sign of familiarity, but aside from his uncanny resemblance to Daniel, nothing else was the same. Jack watched him embrace the other man, saw the look of pleasure on both their faces that spoke of intimacy, and knew in his gut that they were lovers. Jack hated the young man instantly.
After a moment, Robert hurried away to the bar, leaving "…tienne" standing alone in the back of the room, his butt still perched on the edge of the table, smiling as he watched his lover go to fetch him a drink.
He looked right at Jack, now acknowledging the stare, and a slow smile curved his lips. "Like what you see, Beautiful?" he asked boldly, the words clear in spite of the heavy accent.
"Cut the act, Daniel," Jack shot back with a trace of irritation, stepping closer. "I know it's you."
…tienne's heavy brows climbed his forehead and then dipped low in confusion. He glanced right and then left and, seeing no one else close by, turned back to Jack. "Were you talking to me, per'aps?" He pointed at himself. "I do not know any Daniel. My name is …tienne," he said with a small shrug.
Jack just stared at him, four feet away now, studying his face under the colored kaleidoscope of moving lights. "Yeah, I was talking to you," he said in an impatient voice. This really wasn't funny. Every instinct was screaming to Jack that this WAS Daniel, but the more he looked and listened, the less certain he became.
" 'ave we met?" …tienne asked. "I am sure I would 'ave remembered someone as fine as you." His gaze swept Jack from head to toe, stopping on the way back up for a brief study of his crotch. He gave him a lopsided smile before making eye contact again. There was definite interest warming his expression. "You are not my usual type," he said thoughtfully. "But for you, monsieur,I could make an exception."
"I'm not interested in sex," Jack shot back with a note of warning in his voice, "though I must say I'm surprised to find you in a place like this. Let's get out of here, so we can talk."
Suddenly Robert reappeared, pressing a full glass of some dark brown liquid into …tienne's hand. "Here ya go, baby. Your favorite Jack and Coke. I'm gonna go dance. Catch you later?"
"Per'aps," …tienne told him. He nodded toward Jack. "This fellow seems to think I should not be 'ere." He spoke with his eyes roaming over Jack's body, checking him out all over as he already had, from head to feet and back again. "And maybe I will go 'ome with 'im, eh? It is an interesting line I 'ave not 'eard before."
Robert turned to study Jack, his expression filled with doubt. "I thought you only went for twinkies, E," he observed to his friend, "being a top dog and all."
…tienne chuckled. "We will see. I might break my own rules for this one. 'e is a pretty stud, non?" He took a long swallow of his drink, cool, assessing eyes on Jack's face.
Jack felt like a prize bull at auction, the way they were sizing him up. It was disconcerting, embarrassing even. He looked back and forth between the two men as they continued to discuss his assets.
"If you like gray hair," sniffed Robert disapprovingly. He put his drink down and leaned in to kiss …tienne, tongue and all, pulling the Frenchman's attention squarely back into his court, as if laying claim to him in front of the competition.
"Silver," …tienne corrected with an elegantly rolled 'r' as they came up for air.
"Twinkies?" asked Jack, eyebrows raised in question.
Robert grabbed his own drink and with a small smile for …tienne and a dismissive glare for Jack, he walked into the crowd.
"I like my men small and sweet," …tienne returned. "You, monsieur, are quite the stud. Neither small, nor sweet. As I said, not ordinarily my preferénce. So tell me, are you a top or a bottom, eh?"
"Huh?" Jack said stupidly.
…tienne laughed. "What are you doing in this place, mon cher, if you do not even know..."
Suddenly the thunderously loud music started again, so …tienne stepped up to Jack, sloshing his drink a little, and spoke into his ear, "Come. We will go someplace plus tranquille," he waved around the room, "where we can talk wizout all zis noise." He nodded his head toward a set of double doors nearby and proceeded to stride towards them without a backward glance at Jack.
Following the man, Jack went with him into what appeared to be some sort of dimly lit sitting room, with couches against the walls and a few others in the middle of the floor. Small lamps were burning on low tables and in wall sconces here and there. The music was barely audible in there, and the place was very dimly lit. It was too warm, and the air was sharp with the scent of male musk, sweat and semen.
…tienne sauntered over to an open spot on one of the sofas and sat down, patting the cushion beside him in invitation, paying no attention to how the place looked, smelled, or sounded.
Jack came and sat next to him, feeling for all the world like he was caught in some episode of The Twilight Zone. He wasn't nave; he knew places like this existed, but never thought he'd actually find himself in one.
Moaning and the soft, wet sounds of slow movement made Jack look around curiously at the other sofas. He realized with a start that most of the men sitting or lying down on them were having sex. Some were getting blowjobs, others hand jobs while otherwise engaged in passionate kissing. Some stood against the walls, taking it up the ass as they moaned and gasped toward ecstasy. Still others were just petting and fondling each other, but there was waaay too much intimacy going on there than Jack had been prepared to see.
He turned wide eyes to the man next to him, wanting nothing more than to get up and run. "Isn't there someplace else where we can talk?" Jack hissed. "Someplace where people aren't fucking right beside us?"
"Is this not what you came to see?" …tienne prodded, his head cocked, a half smile tugging up the left side of his mouth. He took a long drink from the glass in his hand, then set it on a table between the sofas.
"I came in here to see you, Daniel," Jack insisted. "And if you're not Daniel, I want to know that without a doubt."
"Then I will tell you now," the man told him quietly, his hands gliding out in an expansive gesture. "Again. I am not your Daniel. I am …tienne, and I did not come 'ere to waste my time."
Something inside Jack shifted at those words, 'Your Daniel.' The jostling sent a pang through him, filling him with regret and dull pain. "Daniel's my best friend," Jack told him, his voice just above a whisper. "I don't want him hurt, and if you're playing some kind of sick game-"
"Sick?" …tienne bounced to his feet, his dark eyes flashing, a look of sudden anger on his face. "I am not sick, monsieur," he snapped, teeth bared in challenge. "I am gay. I love men, but this is not une maladie." He stepped aside from Jack, reached over to pick up his drink, and headed back out towards the club with Jack not far behind him. He drained the glass and set it on a table in passing.
Jack caught up with him and grabbed his arm. "Listen. I didn't mean to insult you," he shouted back over the loud music, frowning. "I wasn't talking about-" But he suddenly realized that he had been referring to the man's orientation, to his being in a place like that.
The guy shook loose from him and returned to the dance floor, weaving his way through the crowd with Jack hot on his heels. …tienne caught at a young man who glanced at him and started dancing with him.
The fair-haired guy, whom Jack now knew fit the description of a twinkie, smiled at him and gave him a wink, but Jack stepped between them and stood stock-still, staring at the Frenchman and staking his own claim on him.
…tienne stopped dancing and placed his fists on his hips, meeting Jack's stare. "Shall I call the police?" he threatened loudly, a stern, warning gleam in his dark eyes.
"I just want to talk to you," Jack hollered. "I saw a bar down the street. Will you meet me there? Please?"
Heaving a heavy sigh, …tienne threaded his way through the crowd, leading the way outside into the night. Jack caught the smiles of other men as he followed along, and a few even congratulated him on his catch, which made Jack wonder if they knew the quality of the goods from personal experience or were just mutually appreciating his taste. That whole idea embarrassed Jack, but it also sent his mind spinning into forbidden places that made him curious as hell.
Jack followed him at a discreet distance, unable to take his eyes off the Frenchman's six as he walked. He oozed confidence and sexuality, and that did things to Jack that he wasn't prepared to handle. That was one really nice ass in front of him, and Jack couldn't help wondering what it would feel like to run his hands over it without the leather between them.
By the time they'd reached the bar a few doors down on Broadway, Jack's mouth was so dry he could barely order his own beer, plus another Jack and Coke for his companion. When he'd paid for both drinks, he carried them to a small booth way in the back where the Frenchman sat waiting for him.
The seats were red vinyl with a scratched-up faux wood table between them. A sputtering votive candle in a ruby beaded glass container sat on the table, providing little light for a good study of the guy's face. Jack set the glass down on a napkin in front of him and slid into the empty seat.
"I do not know what you believe is going to 'appen between us tonight, monsieur, but I do not fuck on the first date," …tienne blurted in a cool voice. "I like to get to know my partners first, s'il vous pla"t."
Jack sighed wearily. "I told you, I'm not looking to fuck you," Jack reiterated. "Or to date you. I just wanna know why you're doing this, what kind of game you think you're playing. You could get in big trouble for this, Daniel."
The other man's expression turned from one of wary interest to chilly insult. "I 'ave told you. My name is …tienne. …tienne Beno"t. 'Oo is zis Daniel?" He gestured with his hands as he spoke, punctuating his irritation and frustration, his face half in shadow, looking through his lashes and straight down his nose at Jack, in a way that made Jack squirm in his seat. He just looked... hot. Sexy.
"Someone I work with," Jack admitted woodenly, looking down at his drink. "My best friend."
"Ah ha." A chuckle slipped out of …tienne. "Well, if you know 'im so well, zen you should know by now zat I am not 'im. 'ow can you be confused? I would know my best friend in zee dark. I know 'is voice on the telephone. I know 'is body when 'e 'olds me. I could not mistake someone else for 'im. Never. It is not possible."
"That's why I'm here talking to you, Daniel. Because I know this is you, and I'm afraid for you."
"Why should you be afraid for your friend?" He looked smug, sure of himself, as if he had nothing in the world to fear. "I am …tienne. I 'ave a wonderful life, 'ere in America. I am a citizen now, for three years. I am free to be 'oo I am, and I am 'appy. I am not your Daniel."
Again, that phrase struck at Jack, going deep.
The man patted his chest confidently and lifted his chin in defiance. "I am …tienne." He pulled a driver's license from a pocket of his leather pants and laid it on the table between them. "You see?"
Jack picked it up and scrutinized it in the low light. It was a Colorado license, picture and all, and it didn't have Daniel's name or address anywhere on it.
"So?" Jack tossed the license back across the table. "Those can be faked, y'know."
…tienne shook his head, muttering in French and waving one hand at Jack with an air of dismissal.
A waitress came by and asked if they wanted anything else, glancing at their full glasses and giving …tienne a lingering suggestive smile.
"Une cigarette?" he asked her, leaning close and flirting with his eyes, giving her a rakish smile. "Just one, ma chérie. You see, my pants are too tight to carry a pack." He winked at her and chuckled when her gaze went straight to his crotch.
She beamed back at him. "I'll see what I can do, handsome," she returned with a wink of her own.
Jack took a sip of his beer to wet his mouth, staring at his companion. When the waitress was gone, he blurted, "Thought you said you were gay."
"Women like me," he returned with a shrug, settling back in the seat, resting his back against the wall and stretching his long, leather-clad legs out on the booth seat. "I like women, and I like to flirt. I just do not want to fuck them, because I prefer cock."
She returned a moment later with a cigarette and a book of matches imprinted with the bar name. …tienne thanked her, and she smiled as she was walking away. He opened the matchbook cover, chuckled and flipped it over to show it to Jack. The woman had written her name and phone number on the inside.
Jack watched in disbelief as his companion put the cigarette between his lips, lit it, and inhaled deeply, with obvious enjoyment. He blew out the smoke on a sigh.
"Daniel doesn't smoke," Jack announced, mostly talking to himself.
…tienne rolled his eyes and gave Jack a look that spoke volumes of impatience. He set the cigarette down in an ashtray, moved the candle over, swung his legs over the side of the seat and stood up, bending over the table. He reached with both hands and took a hold of Jack's face, then moved in slowly, deliberately, and kissed him.
Stunned, Jack sat rock still, unable to resist as …tienne explored his mouth thoroughly with his tongue, tasting of whiskey and tobacco, with just a hint of the soft drink sweetness.
Jack's eyes closed instinctively, and he let himself be dominated, pushed hard against the back of his seat. He was vaguely aware of one of …tienne's hands slipping around to the nape of his neck, holding him close as the kiss deepened, roughened, both of them panting into each other's mouths. Teeth clashed and scraped lips. Whimpers and groans escaped, and Jack realized that …tienne wasn't the only one making those noises.
Just when his mind finally engaged, and he realized he should be protesting, …tienne pulled back, just a little, panting against Jack's lips.
Jack didn't move. All he could see was that shadowy face above him, unfamiliar dark eyes looking back at him, glimmering with lust. Slowly, Jack realized how he was sitting, splayed out against the booth seat. He blushed down to his toes, his breath catching in his throat, suddenly hyper-aware of what had just happened between himself and this... this whoever he was, Daniel or not. In public, yet.
Eyes widening, Jack took in the fact that the guy was now kneeling on top of the table, one hand down to help him keep his balance, the other just sliding away from Jack's nape. He'd damn near crawled down Jack's throat. As he watched, the Daniel-twin slowly slid back to his previous position across from him with a cocky little grin.
"Voila. Does your friend kiss you like zat?" he taunted quietly. He picked up his cigarette and took another long, slow drag, his eyes daring Jack to argue.
"No, because he's straight," Jack shot back, making a show of bravado to cover his fear of stammering, "and so am I." He was still reeling from the shock and eroticism of that kiss.
"Not gay, eh?" …tienne quickly ducked his head down under the table, then came back up with a smug smile and flicked the ashes off his smoldering cigarette, into the glass tray. "Zen explain to me why your cock is so 'ard, mon ami." He winked with an impudent smirk.
Jack realized with a start that he was indeed as hard as nails and stupidly glanced down at his lap as though to confirm it. His face heated up by a good ten degrees and his erection slowly wilted. "I was just... surprised, that's all. I haven't been kissed in..." He frowned, thinking back. "...a very long time."
"Pity," said …tienne. "You are very good at it." He sucked on the cigarette again and blew the smoke out in a long stream from his nose, his eyes on the matchbook in his hand. Then he sighed. "Look, monsieur, I am not your friend. You do not need to worry for me, or for 'im. Why don't you call 'im and assure yourself of zis, eh? I 'ave not yet found my man for zee night, and if you do not want to be 'im, please stop wasting my time. D'accord?"
He scooted toward the end of the seat, getting ready to go.
Jack put a hand on his forearm. "Wait."
…tienne sat still, just looking at him.
Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, Jack dialed Daniel's home number. After the fourth ring, he heard a soft click and then a weary, "Hellew?"
Jack stared hard at the man across the table. "Daniel, is that you?"
There was a heavy sigh, followed by a brief silence. Then that familiar voice spoke into his ear, through his phone. "Look, Jack, I'm tired and very busy here. I don't have time to play. I'll talk to you Monday, okay? G'night."
The call disconnected in his ear. He pulled the phone away and stared at it, frowning. His eyes moved back up to the stranger's expectant face.
"Well? Was zat 'im?" asked …tienne.
Jack's eyebrows floated up his forehead. "Uh. Yeah. He told me to fuck off because he was busy."
"'e does not sound like a very good friend," …tienne sniffed. "Perhaps 'e is a whiny little bitch, eh?"
Reaching for his beer, Jack downed it in one long, desperate swallow. He set the empty bottle down and called the waitress over to order a Jack and Coke for himself, and a refill for his new friend. She shrugged and moved off, the disinterest now written on her face announcing plainly that she'd seen them kissing earlier.
…tienne took another drag from his cigarette. "Are you all right, mon ami? You look a little pale."
Jack took a deep breath and let it out explosively. He'd just made a grand fool of himself. "Could I convince you to stay? Talk a little, maybe?" He lifted his eyes to his companion's dark ones, his mind reeling with the thought that there could be two men who looked like that, and that they were so different from each other.
The Frenchman shifted back in his seat with a smile. "What is your name, Beautiful? I should at least know zat, oui?"
"It's Jack. Jack O'Neill. Pleased to meet you, …tienne." He extended his hand across the table and shook the Frenchman's, his whole world rocked as he wondered when it might stop spinning.
An hour later, …tienne poured them both into a taxi and gave his address to the driver. When they arrived at the humble apartment building, he hauled Jack out of the cab and up two flights of stairs to a small efficiency with a great view of the brick warehouse across the alley. He planted Jack on a cheap, dingy sofa and helped him put his feet up, then headed into the tiny kitchen area, which Jack could see was stacked with dirty dishes.
Jack glanced around the dimly lit apartment. There were no bulbs in the overhead fixture, but two lamps had come on in the corners of the room when …tienne had flipped the switch upon entering. The bulbs had to be something like 20-watt, because they didn't put out much in the way of illumination. Jack began to wonder if he'd ever get a good look at the Frenchman, not that it really mattered much anymore.
Turning his attention to the décor, Jack noticed the art posters of Paris and Montréal, and of naked men, which adorned the walls. In the back of the big room stood an unmade bed with rumpled sheets. All around it were clothes that had been discarded haphazardly. The place was a pigsty, and Jack knew this wasn't Daniel now. There was no way the fussy archaeologist, whose home was always so tidy, could bear living in a place like this. It was tiny, modest and cheap, with bureau drawers open at odd angles and clothes strewn everywhere, the closet door standing open and piles of indistinguishable things in there; the place was totally disorganized. Daniel would be uncomfortable just walking into that apartment; it would be impossible for him to actually live there.
Jack struggled to sit up and put his feet back on the floor, holding onto his head, trying hard to make sense of all this weirdness. "I am so drunk," he moaned.
"Do not worry, Jacques," …tienne called across the open expanse of the small apartment. "I will not take advantage of you. You are safe with me."
Slowly lifting his head, he saw that the other man was making coffee in the indentation that served as a kitchen.
"Coffee. Good idea. I need to be sober before I drive home. I don't live in Denver."
He also saw the way those black leather pants fit …tienne's ass and long, muscular legs and had a hard time pulling his gaze away from there.
"You could stay 'ere for zee night, if you wish." …tienne turned to him with a small grin, obviously aware of Jack's scrutiny. "But I must tell you, I might not be 'ere when you awaken."
"You trust me to let myself out and not steal you blind?"
…tienne laughed. "You look like a man of 'onor, Jacques." He shrugged. "And besides, I 'ave little of value, aside from my wardrobe, which will not fit you." He looked Jack up and down. "And even if it did, I doubt you would find it quite your style, non?"
Helpless to stop himself, Jack felt his gaze slide back to his host's body, far too aware of how it unsettled him. …tienne had his back to him now, pouring the coffee into a cup. As he watched, the Frenchman pulled the mesh tank top off over his head and let it drop to the floor at his feet. He reached for a saucer from the cupboard, taut muscles covered by acres of smooth, pale skin, rippling as he lifted his arm. Casually, over his shoulder, he nonchalantly asked how Jack liked his coffee.
Jack moved his tongue around, searching for some moisture with which to speak. "Black and strong," he managed, leaning over to put his head into his hands, then wobbled back against the sofa for some support.
A moment later, …tienne came close and bent down to hand the cup and saucer to his guest.
Gaze going right to the Frenchman's bare chest, Jack shamelessly stared.
His nipples were pierced, too; silver rings dangling from both of them, larger and sturdier than the ones in his ears, with small tiger's-eye balls in the middle of the hoops.
Jack's mouth went dry again. He couldn't take his eyes off the rings and just sat there, hand clutching the saucer in mid-air.
…tienne straightened up once he'd released the saucer. He shifted his weight to one hip and hooked his thumb into the waistband of his clingy leather pants. "You like what you see, non?" he asked softly, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"I." Jack struggled to breathe, to think. "Uh."
The man sat down on the sofa beside Jack, whose head turned automatically to watch him, gaze still riveted to those small erect nipples.
"Do you want to touch?" …tienne's voice was quiet, seductive, inviting, but he made no move toward Jack.
Without thinking, Jack lowered the saucer to his lap. He shifted it to his left hand and reached out with his right toward that amazing chest, bulging with muscle, hairless and smooth. His fingertips dusted lightly over …tienne's swelled pectorals, middle finger tracing down the cleft between them. Lightly, delicately, he skimmed over one dusky brown aureole, jostling the warm metal ring. Driven by curiosity, Jack grasped it lightly between thumb and forefinger and pulled on it, very gently, watching the nipple and aureole elongate slightly behind it.
…tienne groaned, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back on his shoulders. "Ah, oui," he breathed. "'est bon."
Jack let go, pulling his hand back as if he'd touched something that had burned him. Fear and desire shot through him, straight to his dick. He watched in hungry fascination as the other man lifted his head and gazed at him through slitted, enchanted eyes.
"Did you like zat, Beautiful?" whispered …tienne. "Do you want more?"
"Yes," answered Jack instantly. He shook himself, and said, "No. I mean, shit!" He turned to stare down at the coffee, then lifted it and put it to his lips. It scalded his tongue, but he swallowed the mouthful anyway. He vaguely became aware that his heart was pounding in his chest and his dick was hot and hard against his thigh.
…tienne leaned very close to his ear and murmured, "I believe you do not know what you want." His tongue snaked out and flicked Jack's earlobe, drawing it between his teeth for a nibble that made Jack gasp. …tienne sucked on the soft flesh and then let go, pulling away to make eye contact. "Per'aps I need to show you what you want," he murmured.
Hazel, Jack thought, staring back into those big, dark eyes. …tienne's eyes were dark brown with flecks and ribbons of dark green all through them.
"Quoi?" teased …tienne with a broad smile.
"Hell, yeah." The enthusiasm in Jack's answer surprised him.
He barely felt the cup being taken out of his hands and set aside. He watched …tienne turn his head away to put the saucer on an end table. Jack was way out of control. He couldn't really think, but he knew that whatever …tienne had planned for him, Jack would go along with it. He was so caught up in this person that he was utterly lost. On some primal level, he knew that, and he didn't care.
Those beautiful hazel eyes stared back at him beneath heavy lids, sparkling with desire. "Kiss me, Jacques," he breathed, reaching for him.
"I'm not..." Jack forgot what he'd been about to argue. He felt himself leaning away, with …tienne pursuing him in slow motion until they were lying back against the sofa, …tienne stretched out on top of him between Jack's spread legs. Jack's dick actually hurt, it was so hugely swollen. He could barely breathe. That hot, hard body on top of him was like nothing he'd ever felt before, so full of power and strength. So potently male...
And then …tienne was kissing him, just like he had back in the bar, and Jack was not only letting it happen, he was giving back every bit of what he was getting. The Frenchman groaned into his mouth and Jack was lost, all semblance of control vanishing like flash paper touched to a flame. Jack grabbed him by the hair, great handfuls of it, pulling him closer, kissing him harder, aware that he was bruising those sensitive lips but unable to make himself stop.
The gleam of those nipple rings glimmered in his mind and Jack went searching with one hand, skimming his fingers down to …tienne's chest, pushing him back until he could reach one of them. He grasped it, twisting it slowly until …tienne grunted, amazed as he felt the man's pelvis jerk reflexively against his own. Jack could feel the other man's arousal encased in those tight pants, his cock hard where their groins ground together. He twisted the ring again and again, making …tienne spasm and thrust against him until he was pumping hard, gasping and lifting his head away, eyes closed in bliss.
…tienne's hands were moving, too, caressing Jack, squeezing and fondling him. He slipped a hand between their writhing bodies and grasped Jack's dick through the thick denim of his jeans, twisting and pulling at his erection. It felt damn good, and Jack didn't care that this was a man. He was looking at the hottest thing he'd ever seen, and the sight, added to the stimulation of …tienne's hand on him, pushed him over the edge.
"Oh, fuck!" he growled, and then howled as he came, arching up beneath …tienne, who swore in French and shuddered as he throbbed and pulsed against Jack.
For a long moment, they lay without moving, catching their breath. …tienne slowly eased off him and sat up, rubbing his face and looking away in embarrassment. "I am sorry, mon ami," he said quietly after a few moments. "I took advantage of you. I am ashamed."
Jack felt the warm, sticky come against his thigh. His head was spinning with post-orgasmic euphoria accentuating his inebriation, and he couldn't remember when he'd ever felt so good. " 'S'okay, …tienne," he said quietly. "I know what I'm doing. Or rather, what we just did." He felt a grin stretching across his face. "And I don't kiss and tell."
…tienne just stared at the floor. "But I never... Not on the first date." He got up and walked a few steps away, right hand shoved deeply into his pants pocket, left worrying at his neck while he paced in a slow circle. "Per'aps you should go, Jacques. I will call a taxi, and you will go to an 'otel. It would be better."
Something unexpected jiggled at the corners of Jack's mind as he studied his host. "Do you like me, …tienne? Is that what this is about? I turn you on, don't I?"
The Frenchman stopped pacing. His left hand came down and his head went up. He looked at Jack with an expression that just screamed Daniel Jackson, except for the color of his eyes, the tattoos, and that wild hair. He was obviously surprised, but sad, too. For a moment, he just stared. Then he put his head down and started pacing again. "Oui, Jacques. I like you," he admitted in a soft, wistful voice. "I find you incroyable." He sighed. "But, unfortunately, you are straight, eh?"
Regret tugged at Jack, too. "Yes, I am." He glanced down at the wet spot darkening the leg of his jeans. "At least, I always have been." He shook his head, rolling his eyes, trying to make sense of what had just happened between them. "But obviously I was turned on by what we just did, too. Don't sell yourself short, there, fella. You're hot, for a guy."
…tienne looked at him with a glimmer of hope and uncertainty in his eyes. "Does that mean you want to see me again?" He shifted from one foot to another, looking nervous and sinfully provocative with those rings shining against his pale, smooth chest.
Jack scooted carefully over to the end of the sofa and picked up his cup and saucer, thinking about the offer. He looked up at this virtual stranger and thought about all the damage just knowing a gay man might do to his career. It could well be scandal he didn't need, but he felt compelled to stay connected to him somehow.
"You got an email address?" asked Jack. He took a swallow of coffee, now cooled.
The Frenchman's face brightened. "Mais oui." He pulled out a business card from the barely-there space in his back pocket and handed it over.
Jack took the card and held it under the wash of lamplight close to him on the end table. The telephone number had been scratched out, but there was the apartment address, email address and the man's name and occupation: …tienne Beno"t, Writer.
"You're a writer, huh? What do you write?"
The Frenchman shrugged. "Travel dialogue, mostly for European publications. I am away a lot." He nodded toward the card. "My telephone was disconnected zee last time I was on assignment, and I 'ave not 'ad it turned on again."
"Then how do you get on the internet?" Jack frowned at the card, noting the email address: email@example.com.
"Internet cafés are everywhere in zee world, mon ami. All I need do is pay for zee time I am online. Merci mon Dieu for free email, oui?" He grinned a little. "You want to get to know me, zen? Even if I am gay and you are... not?"
Jack stared at the card, thinking hard. He'd passed by some internet cafes in the Springs, and thought he might set up an account with one of those free email things, too. That would probably give him a little privacy, but he'd still have to watch what he said in the emails, just in case.
He raised his eyes to his new friend, thinking about what they'd just done together. He didn't know why he felt so driven to keep in touch with this guy, but he recognized the need. He nodded. "Yeah, …tienne. I'd like to be friends. I don't completely know why, but I would."
A great sigh of relief issued out of his host, followed by a big smile. "I would like zat, too, Jacques. Beaucoup." He swallowed hard. "And I will not take advantage of you again. I promise."
Jack considered that briefly, thinking about making a joke out of that claim, but then thought better of it. "Good." Jack took a gulp of coffee. He frowned. "So, just how were you planning to call me a taxi if you don't have a phone, Frenchy?"
…tienne shrugged. "You 'ave a cell phone, n'est-e pas?" He gave Jack a wickedly sexy, playful smile.
Jack chuckled and tossed it to him. "What does your email address mean? I can't even pronounce it."
The Frenchman arched a single eyebrow at him, his smile fading. "It means 'let's go.' Fitting for a man 'oo lives to travel and is always ready for anyt'ing, oui?"
With a sigh, Jack let his eyes travel hungrily up and down that mesmerizing masculine figure. "You are that, …tienne. And I'll bet you've been around every block there is a dozen times or more."
"Zis means you believe I 'ave much experience in zee art of love, yes?" …tienne asked. At Jack's nod, he added, "Zen you are right, Jacques. I am told zat I am very, very good in bed." He winked and flashed a rakish grin. "It is a pity you will not find zis out for yourself. Mais 'est la vie." He shrugged nonchalantly.
" 'S'okay. I think I got enough of a taste to figure out that's no brag, just fact."
While …tienne dialed the number and made the call, Jack hauled himself up off the sofa with some effort and staggered into the bathroom to clean himself up a little before the taxi arrived to collect him.
By late Sunday morning, Jack's hangover had finally waned enough for him to manage the drive home from Denver. He'd bought a new outfit before he left the hotel, showered and changed into it, so he was clean enough except for being unshaven. That could wait until he got home.
Upon returning to the Springs, he drove straight to Daniel's house, parking in the driveway next to the Jeep. He knocked on the front door and, when no answer came, used his key to let himself inside, calling out as he entered, but there was still no answer. A stop by Daniel's home office showed that all his materials were still laid out from whenever he had stopped working.
The sound of running water drew Jack toward the bathroom. He started to announce his presence by calling through the door, but sounds on the other side made him go still and press his ear to the door, listening. After a few seconds it became clear that Daniel was having an intimate moment with his right hand in the shower, so Jack moved away to give him his privacy. He headed for the kitchen and saw that the coffee was made, helped himself to a cup and waited for the water to shut off.
As soon as he heard Daniel was done with his shower, he called from the tiny living room of the bungalow to let his teammate know he was there.
Moments later, Daniel joined him, tying the sash on his bathrobe, face and hair still dripping. "Jack, what the hell are you doing here? I told you last night I was busy."
"Just checking on you, buddy." Jack studied his old friend from his seat on the sofa. Same old blue eyes, no holes in his earlobes, ordinary American accent. He grinned. "Didja have a good time in there this morning?"
"Aw, crap, were you listening?" Daniel threw up his hands and turned around, heading for the bedroom, his raised voice trailing along in his wake. "Jeez, a guy can't even have privacy in his own house, anymore!"
"Want some breakfast?" asked Jack casually. He picked up his coffee cup, got off the couch and strolled slowly toward Daniel's bedroom, leaning against the doorframe.
Daniel was already dressed in tightie whities and heading for his closet for fresh clothes.
Jack noticed there were no tribal tattoos and no nipple rings in sight, which was kind of disappointing.
"There're some toaster waffles in the freezer," Daniel snapped, glaring at him as he pulled on some baggy jeans. "Go eat and then go home. I've got a deadline to make here, Jack. Like I told you last night, I don't have time to play."
"You should make time, Daniel. I'll go fix us some waffles. We'll sit down in the kitchen and have a nice breakfast, talk a little, and then you can go back to the ol' grindstone. Did you sleep last night?"
"Not a lot," Daniel answered honestly. He threw on a loose-fitting blue and white checked shirt and started to button it up. He sighed. "Look, Jack, I appreciate your concern, but I really am under the gun here. I can have a nap Monday afternoon after the briefing, but General Hammond is expecting this report-"
"I know, I know." Jack waved an acknowledging hand at him. "But you've gotta eat, you need your rest, and breaks are good for you. Indulge me. I'm tryin' to be nice here."
"I noticed, but I don't get it." Daniel's brows pinched together. His hands settled on his hips. "What's wrong?"
O'Neill stared down into his coffee cup, swirling the black liquid around gently, thinking. He'd argued with himself all morning about whether to tell Daniel about …tienne or not, and finally decided he shouldn't, because - knowing Daniel -- he'd be way curious about a guy who looked just like him, and want all the details. There was no way he could tell Daniel that his twin was gay, or that Jack had kissed him and come in his pants over him like a fourteen-year-old.
"Nothing. Can't we just be friends and have breakfast together?"
"No," Daniel shot back suspiciously, finishing with the buttons on his shirt and tucking the hem into his jeans. "We haven't done that in years. You're not on some new undercover mission, are you?" He crossed his arms over his chest, standing there beside his bed, eyeing his guest suspiciously.
Jack's half-smile wilted. He straightened up in the middle of the doorway, shocked to the core that Daniel felt their relationship had deteriorated to such a degree that something dire had to be happening before Jack could even be nice to him, or show concern. That hurt. More than that, it made him a little angry.
He straightened up, frowning at his teammate. "Never mind. I'll leave you to your work and not bother you any more. Just forget I was ever here, okay?" He turned on his heel and headed for the kitchen to put away his coffee cup, barely hearing Daniel's sigh and parting response as he followed Jack out of the bedroom, toward the front door.
"Now, that's the Jack O'Neill I know."
Jack's mouth went dry. His heart clogged his throat. He was stunned at how that wounded him. He didn't bother looking back as he slammed the front door behind him.
Was that how Daniel really expected him to behave -- self-centered, angry and rude?
What the hell had they come to, Jack wondered, and how had they gotten to that point?
And just how the hell was he going to fix it?
He drove home just under the posted speed limit, thinking back through the recent past, trying to piece together the deterioration of their friendship.
The Next Afternoon
The Internet Café was a small storefront in the heart of The Citadel Mall. Jack had passed by it a couple of times, not really interested in its services until now. He had a computer and internet connection at home, but didn't want any trace of what he was about to do on that machine following him home. He strolled into the café late Sunday afternoon, bought a soft drink and a bag of chips and let the café manager show him the ropes at one of the terminals.
In minutes, Jack had an account set up for Frenchyspal and started working on his first email, pulling out the business card for the spelling of …tienne's name and his email address.
Don't know if you remember me or not, but I'm the guy who thought you were somebody else last night.
Been thinking about you. Looked you up on the internet and found some of your articles, but they were all in French, so I couldn't read them. Looked like you've been to some cool places, though.
Jack read what he'd written and decided the email was a lot of words that said absolutely nothing. He wondered how people developed friendships that way, and the more he stared at the screen, the more he thought about what had happened between them in that Denver apartment. He put his fingers to the keys again, his gaze flicking between the keyboard and screen as he typed with two fingers.
I can't stop thinking about you. You look so much like my friend, but you're nothing like him. Sometimes there's a look or a gesture you'll have that makes me "see" him for an instant, but then it's gone, and you're you again. That sounds kinda stupid, but then I'm known for being obtuse.
Thing is, because of you, I've started really looking at my friend again. I think I've hurt him a lot over the years, and never really realized it till now. I tried being nice to him today, and he thought something was wrong with me. Guess I haven't been a very good friend. Got a lot to think about there, so thanks for helping to open my eyes.
Jack pictured the Frenchman standing in front of him in the soft light in his apartment. He started getting hard and quickly shoved that image away. A memory of Daniel presented itself, a brief glimpse of him in the base showers, naked and wet. Heat filled Jack's belly, the image merging with …tienne's until Jack saw blue-eyed Daniel in tight leather pants and nipple rings, giving Jack a sexy, inviting smile.
He inhaled sharply, opened his eyes and let his fingers fly across the keys.
I'd like to see you again. Maybe we could have dinner together soon, if you want. Write me back and I'll check my email tomorrow night.
He hit "send" without another review, regretting it almost instantly. He sat at the terminal, pondering the wisdom of pursuing this doppelganger, and just before he logged out, he saw he had an email waiting to be read... from …tienne. He took a deep breath and opened it, surprised at how short it was, answered only minutes after he had sent his first post to the Frenchman.
Of course, I remember you, Beautiful. How about dinner tomorrow night at Tante Louise, 8 PM? Not a date, just a friendly dinner, yes? Perhaps you would like to talk more about your friend. Sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger, and I will enjoy listening because I will get to look at you. ;-) It is a very nice view.
Jack smiled, pleased that the Frenchman found him attractive and flattered at seeing that opinion in print. He sent back his reply, agreeing to the date and time, logged out and settled up the bill for his time, in cash.
All the way home, he thought about the coming dinner, imagining their conversation and how …tienne would flirt with him. As Jack stepped into the foyer of his home, he clunked his keys on the table in the entryway and locked himself in, the fantasies in his mind quickly scrolling from pleasant into dangerous territory.
Almost on autopilot, he plodded into his bathroom, turned on the shower, and undressed while the water heated. He let the hot spray pour over him, imagining himself suckling on those pierced nipples, the metal rings clicking against his teeth. He remembered the hot, sexy sounds had …tienne made when he was aroused, how his face had looked when he came. Jack's hand moved faster around his engorged cock, his eyes closed, head back, water raining against his throat and chest.
He was panting now, one palm flat on the tiles in front of him, propping him up. With his eyes closed and head bent beneath the shower, his mind reached for the forbidden. He pictured Daniel naked, as he'd seen him in the showers so many times over the years, but this time he imagined him with his hands, chest and cheek plastered against the tile wall, legs spread and back arched to make his buttocks more accessible. Jack fantasized his hand slipping down into the cleft between those firm, muscular cheeks and then -
Jack came with a wild cry, so turned on he hadn't even been able to finish the fantasy. Catching his breath, he leaned against the side of the shower to keep his knees from giving way. When he could stand unsupported, he flicked water from the showerhead to the tiled wall, washing the globs of his semen down the drain.
He didn't want to think too hard about what had just happened, so he just turned off the water and puttered through the rest of his day, ignoring the dawning of new ideas that he wasn't yet ready to face. Hours later, after a dinner washed down with a few too many beers, he toddled off to bed and fell quickly into a deep sleep filled with images of smooth, pale skin with little silver circles winking against it.
Tante Louise was quiet and intimate, the lighting low and romantic. Jack sat at a table in the back, well away from other patrons, checking his watch for the third time. He'd dressed carefully, not wanting to look like this was more than just a casual meeting, but he'd changed clothes twice before deciding on beige linen slacks and a pale green cashmere pullover with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. The color did nice things for his tan. He hoped it did, anyway. He'd given himself a close shave and then chided himself for it, but splashed on a little cologne anyway.
This wasn't a date, he kept telling himself. It still felt like one, though. He was definitely dressed for success, and he was nervous as hell. He sipped his beer and studied the other patrons, fighting his paranoia, wondering if any of them were NID operatives, tailing him.
He thought about that kiss in the bar on Saturday night, how …tienne had almost crawled down his throat, and Jack had just sat there in stunned surprise and let him, right in public where anyone could have seen them. That had been the single hottest moment of Jack's whole life, only blown into second place by the events on …tienne's couch a couple of hours later, the echoes of which still had the power to make a bulge in his trousers.
He was intrigued with the Frenchman, to say the least, and that was a dangerous state of affairs considering how he felt about Daniel. The attraction was irresistible, something he was compelled to pursue, partly because Daniel was so out of reach, but also because there was something innately sexy about the foreigner. He was sex on legs, dark-eyed desire, passion with a French accent, and Jack was drawn to him like a moth to flame, heedless of the potential danger in that dazzling light.
Jack lifted his gaze as that revelation dawned, and there he was. A spectacular …tienne was making his way across the dining room toward him, being trailed by the ma"tre d'. He was wearing skintight electric blue satin pants and a shiny rainbow hued tie-dyed T-shirt, snugly fitted to his body so that even the nipple rings beneath it showed. He was smoking and the host was insisting that he put the cigarette out. …tienne finally gave up and handed it over, grousing about it in French with much waving of hands as he finished his trek across the room, shaking his head defiantly, making his blond spikes quiver.
Daniel would never have made such a scene, Jack assured himself, or be caught dead in such a get-up. Grinning, he shook his head as …tienne sat down across from him, contemplating how very different the two men were. And yet how very much the same. The Twilight Zone comparison came back to Jack in a rush.
"Bon soir, Beautiful," …tienne quietly greeted him with a smile. "I am sorry I am late. I 'ad to look good for you, non?"
Jack grinned back. "Well, you do, but I don't think you were dressing just for me, Frenchy." He looked around the elegant dining room, waving his hand to indicate the other diners, most of whom had now torn their eyes away from …tienne and returned to their food and companions. "Quite the peacock, aren't'cha?"
…tienne beamed. "I like to be noticed, oui."
Eyes running over what Jack could see of those muscular arms, he admired the tattoos and let his gaze stray to the rings beneath …tienne's shirt before returning to his face. Right away, Jack saw that he was busted, and that …tienne was smugly pleased he'd been looking.
The waiter appeared and took their drink orders. He, too, seemed stunned by the Frenchman, staring at him hopefully while he spoke to Jack. As soon as Jack ordered a second beer, the waiter's attention zoomed back to …tienne, and he hung on every gesture of the man's mobile face as he pondered his drink choices, finally settling on a glass of the house Chardonnay.
Finally …tienne teasingly shooed the man away, glancing up at Jack with a smile. He'd apparently enjoyed the waiter's attention, and gave Jack a sly wink.
The two men studied their menus and decided on their meals. Jack had to tamp down the urge to order for both of them when the waiter returned with their drinks.
When they were alone again, Jack watched his friend fidget in his chair. "Nervous?" he asked gently.
"No." …tienne shook his head. "Just remembering... Never mind. You wished to talk about your friend, non? Tell me about 'im."
Jack dropped his gaze to his pilsner glass and toyed with it, thinking quickly. This was hard for him, but …tienne didn't know him and wouldn't judge. …tienne knew nothing of Jack's relationship with Daniel, neither what it was, nor what it wasn't. Jack couldn't be completely truthful, because their work at the SGC was classified, but he could put things into terms that the Frenchman would understand.
When it came down to the bottom line, the discussion wasn't about what Frenchy thought, anyway. It was about Jack figuring things out for himself. …tienne was just the sounding board.
"Daniel's a good guy," Jack began. "Kinda arrogant sometimes, but he's got a right to be. He's really smart. Way smarter than me."
…tienne propped his elbow on the table and rested his chin in his palm, dark eyes heavy-lidded and sparkling with interest. "What does 'e do, your Daniel?"
"Uh, he's sort of a trouble-shooter. Problem solver. Negotiator. And he's good at it."
"Et toi, what do you do, Jacques?"
Clearing his throat, Jack took a sip from his beer and looked …tienne right in the eye while he lied to him. "I run an international business conglomerate. Big business."
…tienne's eyes lit up. He sat up straight and then leaned over the table eagerly. "Do you need a French translator? I could use, 'ow you say? A steady job."
A half grin pulled one corner of Jack's mouth up. "Nah, Daniel takes care of that, thanks. He speaks practically every language there is, and a few dead ones, to boot."
Astonishment flashed across the Frenchman's face. "That is impressive. Maybe I should get to know your Daniel, mon ami."
Jack's eyes widened at that thought. He imagined …tienne kissing Daniel and then his mind shut down from the overload. "Uh, no, not a good idea," he mumbled. Daniel didn't need to know about …tienne.
"Pity," sighed the Frenchman. "And 'e looks like me, yes?"
"Well, yeah, but... brown hair, blue eyes, no tattoos or piercings. Dresses like a dweeb and wouldn't be caught dead in anything tight or colorful."
…tienne relaxed back against his chair. "Ah," he said knowingly. "I understand. 'e is boring," he announced with a small, dismissive shrug.
Jack chuckled. "He can be a little... tedious. But like I said, he's a good man. A nice person. Even when he's mad as hell at me, he's still polite." The grin widened. "His snark can be deadly, though."
…tienne frowned. "Snark? What is this snark, s'il vous pla"t?"
How to define that word? Jack pondered. "Sort of a sense of humor with a sarcastic edge to it. He makes jokes that slip by a lot of people because they're so subtle."
"A man of deadly wit, non?" …tienne asked. He looked shrewdly at Jack's face. "You admire 'im. It shows in 'ow you speak of 'im."
That comment sent Jack's mind back to the SGC infirmary, to the lame, stupid goodbye he'd given Daniel as he lay dying.
I may have... might have... come to admire you... a little.
Jack had been screaming and crying inside, in agony because his friend was dying. Blaming himself, horrified and helpless to stop what was happening, Jack had shut down every one of his own emotions in that treatment room that night, all his pain and regret and loss, and had never looked back. Even now, with Daniel back among the living, he hadn't processed any of it. He still kept Daniel at arm's length, all on the surface, because he couldn't bear to deal with what that loss had cost him. If it ever happened again, God forbid, Jack was convinced he'd never survive it a second time.
…tienne reached for Jack's hand, clasping his fingers tightly. "Jacques? Are you all right?"
Lifting his head, Jack shook off his reverie and wondered what the other man had seen in his face.
…tienne's expression was serious, worried.
"I was just thinking about..." Jack sighed, his mind scrambling for context for the next lie. "Daniel got very sick for a while. Went into a coma. We lost him for over a year, and when he finally came out of it, he wasn't quite himself. There were things he couldn't remember." He covered …tienne's hand with his own and ran his thumb back and forth across his warm skin.
…tienne nodded, his eyes full of understanding. "You love 'im," he prodded quietly. "Don't you, Jacques?"
Words couldn't adequately describe that idea, so Jack just nodded, his heart pushing itself up into his throat.
"Ah, mon cher. 'Ave you told 'im this?" …tienne reached out with his other hand and touched Jack's forearm on the table in a gesture of concern.
Mutely, Jack shook his head, ashamed that he'd kept that to himself when Daniel had most needed to hear it, but helpless to change that fact.
"Per'aps you should."
With a shrug, Jack stared at his beer. "Wouldn't be worth much, right now."
"Do you know 'ow Daniel feels about you, Jacques?"
"No." Jack shook his head. "I mean, I know he cares about me," he admitted, looking down at the hand still slowly stroking his arm. He liked that. It felt good. Comforting. He hadn't had anyone comfort him in so long, he really had forgotten how wonderful it felt. "But we're not close like we used to be. That's my fault. I pushed him away."
He thought back to that time only a few months after Daniel's return to the land of the living, about how callous Jack had been to walk out and leave Daniel to negotiate with the Kelownans when they'd been in danger of blowing up their own world. Jack had left Daniel all alone with them after they'd come to the SGC for help. The arrogant aliens hadn't shown the slightest recognition of Daniel's previous act of heroism or offered an apology for branding him a saboteur. Jack should have stayed by Daniel's side and demanded they give him the respect he so richly deserved, but Jack so hated the aliens and he'd put his own feelings above Daniel's. He hadn't even thought about it until that moment, but Daniel had had even more of a steady diet of that kind of treatment since his return to human form, and not just from aliens. Jack had been an ass to Daniel at almost every turn.
…tienne's gentle voice interrupted his raging thoughts and memories. "Did somet'ing 'appen to push you apart?"
An image of Daniel's face streaming with tears leaped up into memory. He could still see Daniel on his knees on the floor beside the dead android, Reese, grief and horror written all over him as he called Jack a stupid son of a bitch. Jack's only response had been to have yelled at him rather than help him. Even before that, Jack had been unnecessarily mean and condescending to him during the whole time the android had been at the base, disrespecting Daniel's efforts to communicate with the thing.
There were other times, too. Rudely telling Daniel to shut up during the Eurondan negotiations, when all along he'd been dead right to doubt and question the racist aliens. Not offering a word of protest when the Tok'ra wanted to turn Daniel into an assassin at the summit meeting of the System Lords, a task for which Daniel was not emotionally suited.
"Lots of things pushed us apart," Jack finally murmured, his heart weighed down with guilt. "Too many to even start to tell you. And all of them were my fault." He sighed and sat back, pulling one of his hands away from …tienne. He rubbed at the back of his neck, not moving the arm …tienne was still touching. He wanted that contact; needed it right then.
"I hurt him, over and over," Jack continued. "I yelled at him when I should've comforted him. I abandoned him when I should've stood by him. I let him do things he had no business doing, knowing he wouldn't take up for himself. And I blamed him for things that weren't his fault. I've been a shitty friend. The worst. Hell, sometimes I think I'd've made a better enemy."
The heavy burden of his conviction about that truth settled into the pit of his stomach, and he rubbed at his forehead with fingers that felt cold and stiff against his heated face. He felt sick, old, tired, utterly useless. How had he fucked things up so badly?
"Per'aps it is not what you believe," …tienne offered kindly. His warm fingers were squeezing Jack's forearm now.
Jack looked up into his sweet smile, so much like Daniel's own, and felt his heart melt a little at the beautiful sight. "What do you mean?"
…tienne cocked his head with a lift of his heavy eyebrows. "Well. Is your Daniel a weak man?"
That question surprised Jack. "No. Of course not. He's one of the strongest men I know. Physically, as well as inside, where it counts. He's also one of the most gentle, because he's aware of that strength."
The Frenchman's smile widened. Pleasure sparkled in his dark eyes. "Yet you feel you must protect 'im, oui?" He snorted gently. "Pourquoi? Why?"
"I-" Jack closed his mouth. These days he didn't really have to look after Daniel, not like he'd had to in the beginning, because Daniel had learned to be a good soldier. He could fight, when necessary. He'd single-handedly killed enemies, many of them, whenever it was necessary, no questions asked, no arguments engaged.
He pulled away from …tienne's grasp and crossed his arms on the table. He stared down at them, his mind turning in circles around that question.
"Is it because... you love 'im, Jacques? Because you are attracted to 'im?" …tienne's hands closed over his wrists, warm, gentle, and compassionate. "Because you want to be with 'im, as lovers are?"
Jack's mind went back to his shower fantasy, to that place he hadn't quite been able to reach. The bright flash of that image seared him, gone almost before he could see it all. He'd been fucking Daniel, taking him up against the wall in the base showers, and even in his dream state he'd been aware that it had been much more than just fucking. He'd been making love with a willing, wanting Daniel Jackson.
He was lost, utterly lost in his overwhelming love for the man that in reality he couldn't have, who didn't love him back, not in that way. He froze. He didn't even breathe. It felt as if even his heart had stopped beating.
"It is all right to love 'im. To want 'im," …tienne murmured, tilting his head down to look up into Jack's face, bowed over the table. "It could be beautiful. Perhaps it is what you each need to 'eal what 'as 'appened between you."
Slowly, Jack inhaled. His mental cogs started turning, going back to that shower scene, replaying it, slowing it down, watching it unfold. In his mind's eye, Daniel pushed him away, tried to hit him in the face, horrified by Jack's advances.
"No! Daniel's straight. He wouldn't..." He shook his head. "Oh, Christ," he moaned softly. "And I. I can't. I just can't."
But now that he'd admitted the desire to himself, Jack knew it wasn't something he was going to be able to shake. It was powerful, making his body and mind hum and resonate with need. He'd never felt anything quite like it.
He lifted his gaze to the face across the table, taking in all the similarities, all the differences.
…tienne studied him back, reading the hunger in Jack's expression, smiling in open invitation. "Zen, per'aps I would do, eh?" he asked softly. "You say I look like your Daniel. You want to know 'ow it would be with 'im, oui? 'Ow it would go between you?"
"Yes." Jack hadn't even thought about his answer. It had just come tumbling breathlessly, emphatically out of his mouth.
"Zen I am willing, Jacques." …tienne sat back in his chair, his hands in his lap.
As Jack stared at him in shock, he was given no chance to respond. Their waiter appeared from the kitchen and set their plates down in front of them. He quickly disappeared again, leaving them to enjoy their meal in private.
Jack picked at his food, barely noticing that …tienne was relishing his dinner with abandon, the way he seemed to do everything. Eventually, Jack laid down his fork and sat back, watching the Frenchman groan and roll his eyes as he chewed, savoring every bite. He had a lust for life that Jack hadn't seen in a long time, hadn't felt himself since Charlie was alive, and he found it refreshing.
He imagined …tienne's sinfully sexy mouth wrapped around his cock and gave into temptation, as he'd known he would since …tienne had spelled out his offer. "All right. But we can't do it here. You know, in Denver," Jack announced quietly. "We'll have to travel somewhere and book the room in your name. Are you willing to do that?"
…tienne stopped chewing, head cocked, studying him again. "What is wrong with Denver, s'il vous pla"t? We could go to my apartment. It will be discreet."
Jack shook his head. "I can't. Not locally. Just trust me on that. I'll be happy to pay for the trip. In cash. I just can't have any of it traced back to me."
The Frenchman frowned, pondering. "No one will see you, if zat is what worries you. And I will tell no one."
"Out of town or not at all, Frenchy. This has to be on my terms."
…tienne thought a moment more, then shrugged and took another bite of osso buco. "I do not understand zis need for secrecy, Jacques. But of course we can do it your way." …tienne laid down his fork and knife on his plate as he swallowed his last mouthful of food. "So. Where do you want to go, Beautiful?"
"I don't know." He quirked him a small grin. "I guess someplace nobody goes, Mister Travel Expert." He suddenly realized he was flirting and liked how that made him feel.
"Ah." …tienne cast his gaze skyward, thinking. "It should 'ave a big airport, for easy travel, but little tourist draw." His brows scrunched up. His mouth slid to one side, and then suddenly he brightened. "I know. 'Ow about Jackson, Mississispi?"
Jack chuckled at his terrible mispronunciation of the state name. "Jackson. Of course. It'd have to be in Jackson." The irony caught at him, and he shook his head. "Find out how much it'll cost and email me. I'll get back to you with the cash."
"Quand? When do you want to go?"
"I'll get back to you on the date, too. I'll be out of town best part of next week, so sometime after that. We'll work it out via email, okay?"
…tienne beamed. "May I kiss you again?"
Jack shook his head. "No. Not here and not now. Not till we get to Jackson, in our hotel room."
"A secret rendezvous," growled …tienne with a sexy grin. "I will like this beaucoup, Jacques. It will be very sexy."
"I think I might like it, too, Frenchy." Jack picked up his napkin and folded it, anxious not to meet the gorgeous hazel eyes looking at him so knowingly. "Which I think you already knew," he whispered.
From the moment he stepped through the 'gate, Jack knew this was going to be a difficult mission. For one thing, it was hot as blazes on that desolate planet and even with their desert gear on and plenty of sunblock, Jack thought he'd melt into a puddle before they got to go home. There wasn't a tree in sight, either; just rocks, sand and a little scrub vegetation clinging stubbornly to a few of the rocky outcrops.
This particular planet had no ruins for Daniel to explore or alien civilizations with whom he could interact, so he was much less the archaeologist this trip. What it did have, however, was rich mineral deposits that kept Teal'c busy collecting samples, and a crashed and long-deserted alien ship that sent Carter and Daniel into spasms of science-geek delight. The energy sources in the derelict craft were totally depleted, but the hull did provide a little shade and protection from the weather.
Jack spent the first two days standing guard over Teal'c and walking a perimeter around the ship while his companions did their respective things. Evenings, they took turns on watch outside the ship while the others bunked down inside its weather-beaten hull, protected from the frigid cold of the desert night, but suffering from the hangover heat absorbed by the derelict craft during the long hours under a merciless sun. Only for a few hours each night did their sleeping quarters get comfortable enough to catch a little rest, which left them all tired and grumpy, though Jack showed his bad mood more easily than the others.
On the third day, Carter gashed her arm while reaching into the bowels of some control panel she was taking apart. She assured her CO that she could treat it herself and did so, bandaging it up nicely and continuing with her exploration and study of the ship, with Daniel at her side providing translations for whatever writing they found.
Then Teal'c proceeded to accidentally dig up some huge alien bug thingy. It had a soft, squishy-looking red body with yellow spots, kind of like a basketball-sized tick with six skinny, bent black legs and two long feelers protruding from its head. The bug skittered away and kept its distance, but prowled around the camp, doing its own kind of exploring while giving the humans a wide berth, apparently afraid of them.
Jack decided to leave it alone as long as it did the same with them.
The next night, Teal'c had first watch outside, Carter was bunked down in her temporary quarters in a small room off the bridge, while Jack and Daniel shared space in what appeared to be the crew's quarters. Jack was trying desperately to sleep, exhausted from the unrelenting heat and stultifying boredom, but his mind wouldn't cooperate. For four days he'd thought of little else besides …tienne, both excited and anxious about the coming rendezvous with him. And when Daniel stripped off his jacket and T-shirt on the second day and started parading around half naked, oblivious to the effect he was having on his C.O., Jack's mind had gotten even busier.
A shaft of moonlight coming in through a hole in the hull lit up their quarters well enough for Jack to see Daniel in the bunk across from his own. His teammate had stripped down to his shorts and lay staring up at the ceiling, also apparently not having much luck with the sleeping thing in the oppressive interior of the ship. Jack watched Daniel wipe his hand over his face and flick it, imagining a small shower of sweat droplets flying off his fingertips, glinting briefly with reflected light and then vanishing into the shadows.
Then Daniel put both hands on his chest and smoothed downward, toward his belly. "God, it's hot," he moaned. "I may spend a whole day in the shower when we get home."
The wet sound of Daniel's hands sliding over his body, coupled with the husky, breathless words made Jack's dick twitch. His mouth was too dry to speak, so he kept it shut. But he couldn't stop staring.
Daniel draped one arm over his eyes, absently wiping his wet hand over his shorts to dry it off. With a sigh, he reached down with both hands, grabbed the waistband of his underwear, and started to push it downward as he lifted his hips off the bunk.
Jack sat up quickly, swinging his legs over the side of the bunk. "Daniel, stop," he commanded.
"I'm hot, Jack," he argued irritably, pushing the garment off and dropping it on the floor. It landed with a damp splat. Daniel spread his legs wider.
Jack stood up, equally miserable, jacket and shirt neatly put aside with his socks and boots, but still wearing his pants. He took two steps across the narrow space between the bunks, snatched up the soggy shorts, and threw them down on Daniel's crotch. "Put 'em on, Daniel," he grated out. "We're in the field. I don't give a shit how hot you are. You know the regs. Safety first. You've always gotta be ready to run, and besides, before morning this place will be an icebox."
Daniel just glared defiantly at him and lay still.
"That's an order, Doctor Jackson," he repeated harshly.
Jack didn't have to see Daniel's frown to feel it in the near darkness. The younger man moved slowly, pulling his shorts back on before reclining back against the bed with an angry flop.
For a moment, Jack just stood there, staring down at him, at the way the bulges of his muscles glistened with sweat in the moonlight. He remembered the feel of …tienne's hard body against his in that crummy Denver apartment, and the taste of the Frenchman's kisses. "God damn it," he muttered under his breath as he turned on his heel, pulled on his shirt and left the room, his perspiring bare feet making impatient slapping sounds against the flat, smooth floor of the ship.
He hurried to an isolated spot up top to catch his breath, reeling with the need to run his hands over Daniel's sweaty skin, to rub his body against his friend's, to taste him. Daniel wasn't …tienne. …tienne wasn't Daniel. Having both of them in Jack's mind left him unsettled and shaken. He loved Daniel - was in love with him - but he wasn't sure Daniel even really liked him anymore. …tienne was available, but Jack barely knew him, and being able to touch the nearly identical body wasn't the same with another soul inside it.
Jack crawled up into an ornamental section of the ship's hull, a sharp ridge that crested across the top of the uppermost dome. A piece of the ridge had broken off, leaving a gap in the superstructure that made a perfect crow's nest, of sorts, where Jack could look out at the night and catch the cooling evening breeze, which ruffled his sweaty hair and started to dry his perspiring face.
Down on the ground some distance away in the darkness, he spotted a moving shadow which was Teal'c making his rounds, his pace around the wrecked craft unhurried and easy. The night was quiet until the low rumble of thunder sounded not far away. Rain on the breeze made Jack inhale deeply, and after a few minutes, droplets started to pepper him through the hole in the roof.
The water felt cool and refreshing. Jack stuck his face out into it, eyes closed, just breathing, trying to regroup and calm himself. He rubbed his hands over his rain-spangled face, relishing the feel of it on his skin. As it began to pour in earnest, he stripped off his shirt and began to wash himself, sluicing the water down over his overheated chest and belly, aching for some kind of relief. His hands stopped moving when they touched the waistband of his pants, and he opened his eyes, glancing all around himself.
This was a private spot, well away from the others. No one would come looking for him there; at least, not for a while. There was no danger that they had seen in that ship or on that world. All was quiet and peaceful, moving by well-established field routine.
An idea leaped into his head. He argued with himself about it, trying to find every possible reason to deny the urge. He'd never done such a thing off-world, never let his guard down enough for that, but he was off duty and supposed to be sleeping. If he could relax enough for that, then surely there shouldn't be a problem with him relieving a little tension in another way, as long as nobody caught him, especially not Carter.
Jack carefully unbuttoned his pants and slipped his right hand inside, touching himself. He sighed a little, his fingers sliding into the even hotter area imprisoned by his clothes. His cock was soft, sleeping, but as his hand moved surely through the thatch of curly pubic hair, it began to stir, tingling and swelling inside his boxers. He pushed one finger down the length of his shaft, feeling the spongy flesh begin to thicken and twitch beneath his touch.
He pulled his hand out and grabbed his pants, pushing them down just enough to give him a little room to work. Reaching back inside, he pulled his dick free with his right hand and slipped his left inside his pants to cradle and squeeze his balls. He sighed again, closing his eyes against the rain, rubbing his right hand back and forth across his stiffening member.
It felt wonderful, just that slow, gentle stroke of his hand against his shaft. He lost track of how long he stood there, listening to the rain and thunder, pumping himself gently, face lifted into the downpour. He remembered the feel of …tienne against him, how thrilling it had been to have him come on top of Jack. He thought about those nipple rings, imagined sucking on them, imagined …tienne naked and hard and splayed out on a bed underneath him.
An involuntary grunt slipped out of him, and he shut it off, aware that he had to keep quiet to avoid discovery, but the visions scrolling through his mind were pushing him hard, turning him on, making his hand move faster. It felt raw and rough against his cock, burning and hurting him, but he couldn't stop. He pictured himself on top of …tienne, naked and hard like that, grinding his dick into the Frenchman's belly, rubbing their cocks together. The image tore the top off his fantasy and he climaxed with a gasp, shooting out a long arc of come into the rain and all over the side of the ship, dribbling onto his hand with the last few spurts.
He staggered back, desperate to catch his breath, and leaned against the wall behind him for a few minutes. The musky smell of his orgasm and sweat was strong in his nostrils, and when he could stand without his knees threatening to give way, he staggered back to the opening and put his hands outside, washing them off in the rain. He washed off his dick, too, and tucked it back into his pants, buttoned them up again, and stood looking out the hole at the storm.
All was still peaceful and calm, with Teal'c dutifully making his rounds in the downpour outside the ship.
Remembering to grab up his soaking tee shirt from the floor, Jack returned on stealthy feet to his quarters, his clothing making a wet trail behind him, listening to the rain on the hull and other ambient night sounds. Something about the noises bothered him, and a distinct sense of unease filtered through his consciousness as he cocked his head and slowed his pace. Something was humming. Something inside the ship.
He followed the sound until he reached the door of the bunkroom, which stood open, just as he had left it. He moved silently, not even his wet clothes giving his presence away, and crept into the room where Daniel still lay, now sleeping on the bunk. And standing beside him on the bed on four of its hind legs, now telescoped longer to lift its bloated body into the air, was the ugly alien insect, looking like it was about to do something terrible to its victim.
Without thinking, Jack reached for the zat still strapped to his thigh. The creature started to turn, to leap off and scuttle away when Jack shot it, knocking it off the bunk and onto the floor. He shot it again just as Daniel sat bolt upright at the noise, eyes wide and mouth open in shock.
He scrambled off the bunk and flattened himself against the wall. "What the fuck?!" Daniel breathed, staring at the dead bug on the floor.
"I think it was gonna eat you," Jack announced in a shaky voice. "Or something else equally gross. I didn't wait to find out what it wanted." He glanced at his teammate, and as Daniel reached for his glasses and jammed them on his face, they exchanged a look as they each spoke at once.
And then they were off to the bridge to check on the major, with Daniel wearing just his shorts and keeping a grip on his Beretta while he ran right behind Jack.
There were two of the creatures in the room with her, neither of which had come quite close enough to mount the bed yet. Jack dispatched both of them with his zat, waking Carter, and soon all three of them were on their way to find Teal'c. They'd taken a few extra moments to gather their weapons but not to fully dress, and when they got outside they realized the time had long since passed to vacate the premises.
The Jaffa had evidently heard the zat fire and was running toward the entrance of the ship, his staff carried in both hands in ready position, calling out for the others on his team one by one.
"Here, T!" Jack called. "We're okay."
Then Jack saw the landscape behind the big man and his insides clenched. Teal'c probably didn't even know what was following him toward the ship where his friends had been sleeping only moments earlier.
An entire army of the bugs was emerging from the ground all around them in the heavy rain. Their weapons were effective enough, but the sheer number of creatures was enough to send them running straight for the stargate and home, leaving all their gear, samples and research behind them.
This would be something General Hammond would have to decide might or might not be worth the risk of sending a larger force back to continue the work they had started. As Jack followed the others into the wormhole at a dead run, he already knew for sure what his recommendation would be.
Meanwhile, they'd arrived in the SGC gate room two days early, armed to the teeth, but only Teal'c was fully dressed. All of them were soaking wet, and Sam, Daniel and Jack were barefoot. Carter wore only her brown T-shirt and regulation white cotton panties; Daniel had on his shorts, but soaked as he was with rain and sweat, the white garment was mostly transparent. The colonel also stood there shirtless, clutching his zat like it was a lifeline, his eyes wide, hair wild around his head.
SG-1 retreated to their locker room with as much dignity as they could muster, grateful that it was also the middle of the night in the Mountain Time Zone of North America. But still there were enough SGC personnel around to get an eyeful of the pretty blonde major, hard-bodied colonel and his studly, practically naked, archaeologist. Jack was quite sure SG-1 would never live this one down.
He escorted them down the corridor, glaring at any who dared meet his eyes, herding Daniel and Carter straight to the infirmary for a checkup. Though the possibility was slim that the bug might have done something to Daniel while Jack was up top jacking off, he couldn't rest until he knew for sure that his friend was okay. Guilt weighed heavily on Jack for not having been there when he was needed, for letting down his guard, for being weak when his team needed him to be strong.
Then again, his distraction had kept him awake long enough to save their lives, so maybe he should have been grateful for the urge that sent him out of his bunk a little longer.
He vowed that he'd never do that again, regardless of how it had turned out. The act had been entirely selfish and might well have cost a great deal. If he'd taken just a moment or two longer, Daniel might be dead now, or Carter, or Teal'c. He'd returned to duty in the nick of time, at the exact last possible minute.
Sitting on the infirmary bed, staring at Daniel's broad back, Jack couldn't help wondering if he'd been too late after all. If that damn alien bug had already done something to Daniel or Carter, Jack would never forgive himself.
Jack was cold in his scrubs, but he wasn't going to ask a nurse for a blanket. The rainwater on his skin had dried long ago, but he refused to leave the infirmary waiting room until the reports came in on his teammates. His examination was finished first, with Teal'c shortly after him, and both of them paced in silence as they eyed the door expectantly.
Finally, Carter emerged with her arm properly stitched and bandaged, wrapped up in an infirmary robe one of the nurses had brought her, and she joined the others waiting for Daniel.
Moments later, he stepped out, dressed in clean blue scrubs. His eyes were bleary from lack of sleep, his lower face darkened with a thick growth of whiskers. "I'm fine," he reported irritably, "and don't anybody get between me and the shower."
Almost an hour later, all of them were clean and dressed in fresh clothes, Carter and Daniel pulling on fatigue jackets and preparing to head downstairs to the briefing room for their initial report to the general.
"You're sure you're okay?" Jack asked, staring at Daniel. Then he remembered the major actually had a wound and glanced at her to include her in that address.
"Arm's a little sore and I'm tired, but I'm in good shape," she reported with a smile. "Thank you, sir. I don't know what woke you up, but I'm pretty sure you saved my life tonight."
Jack turned back to meet Daniel's eyes.
For a moment he wondered if the other man knew what he'd been doing in the dark. There was fear in Daniel's eyes, just a little, as he obviously remembered what he'd seen above him upon waking. "Yeah." He nodded, swallowing hard. "Thanks, Jack. For once, I'm glad you couldn't sleep." He hesitated, his shoulders slumped, and lowered his head guiltily. "And you were right about staying dressed. I might have had to come back here naked."
Carter grinned and covered her mouth. "Daniel! You were naked off-world? What were you thinking?"
He gave her a petulant look. "I was hot."
"Weren't we all?" she teased, nudging him with her elbow playfully.
"Never again," he vowed to the others. "I learned my lesson. No matter how hot I am, I'm keeping my clothes on." He and Jack exchanged a grin.
"C'mon, kids. We gotta go tell Hammond about the pest problem on that godforsaken rock." Jack waved his arms toward them, shooing them toward the locker room door.
Jack hoped this little incident might be a jumping-off point for renewing his friendship with Daniel. Saving someone's life tended to make a lot of points in that direction, and Jack wanted very much to reconnect. He'd be happy with restoring their friendship, even though what he really wanted was so much more.
He was virtually sure that Daniel Jackson couldn't give him that.
But he knew someone else who could.
After their debriefing and a couple of days of follow-up meetings and report writing, SG-1's scheduled post-mission down time arrived. The four of them had a long weekend off coming up, and Jack bolted from the base without a word to his team. The arrangements were all made for the next day, when he would be catching a flight out of Denver to Jackson for a three-day trip leaving mid-afternoon on Friday and returning on Sunday evening.
As soon as Jack checked the details and confirmed everything via email with …tienne, he worked to get all his ducks in a row for the trip to Jackson. He cleaned out his fridge, sorted through his mail, paid some bills, and spent his last evening before the trip deciding what to take with him. He packed lightly, not planning on leaving the hotel room much, but with enough changes of clothes in case they wanted to go out to eat. He included a box of condoms and a tube of latex-friendly lube, wondering if …tienne would do the same.
Anticipation gnawed at him, making his insides hum. He wanted this, wanted to know how it would feel to be with...
Jack wanted to be with Daniel, but this would have to do. It was as close as he would ever get to the real thing, and that knowledge made him ache. This was all so new to him on so many levels, he couldn't even fully grasp what he was about to do, but he was incredibly ready for it. He was horny as hell, and the taste he'd had so far was enough to keep him wired with lust, ready for action from the moment he stepped through that hotel room door.
Before he left for the Denver airport, he checked his email for any last-minute changes in plans from his French friend, but all was still a go. Jack drove to Denver to catch his flight to Jackson with a brief stopover in Memphis, arriving after 8 PM, losing an hour to the Central Time Zone. A shuttle bus took him to the airport Quality Inn, where …tienne had booked their reservation. It promised to be clean and modern. It was nothing fancy, but they weren't going to be there for any amenities or a view of anything but the king-sized bed and the ceiling above it.
The building was tan and brown stucco with a vaguely Southwest design to it, with a porte cochere out front to provide shelter for arriving customers. Inside was the reception area all done up in shades of tan, brown and cream. When Jack arrived at the front desk and announced himself, the clerk rang …tienne's room.
After confirmation with the desk clerk, the woman gave Jack a card key and the room number. He made his way to the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. Room 302 was at the end of the hallway, east of the elevators, near the stairs. Jack unlocked the door and stepped inside. He took a moment to slide the deadbolt home and then turned to survey the room.
He could see the foot of the bed just past the tiny living area, the utilitarian flowered bedspread folded back to reveal crisp white sheets beneath.
The smell of cigarette smoke hit him before he even saw his soon-to-be-lover. Leaving his overnight bag by the door, Jack wandered into the darkened bedroom, where the heavy draperies had already been drawn.
White and red candles were lit all around the room. The king sized bed was scattered with a variety of multicolored condom packages and several small bottles and tubes of lube. Right in the middle of the bed, wearing nothing but his jewelry and his tattoos, lay …tienne Beno"t.
" 'All, Beautiful," he called, setting his cigarette aside on the ashtray on the nightstand. "Make yourself comfortable. Zen we will talk, non?"
Jack spent a moment just staring, his eyes roving hungrily over that hard masculine body, spread out like a smorgasbord for Jack's private enjoyment. The sparkle of silver drew his gaze to the Frenchman's cock and held it. A strange contraption like a collar nestled just behind the head with another right in front of …tienne's balls, were connected with a chain studded with little tiger's eye beads dangling from it. Another chain joined …tienne's nipples, winking in the candlelight with the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. The sight was kinky, so not Jack's thing, but his body responded just the same.
When Jack saw …tienne's appendectomy scar, though, his mind shimmied and his stomach sank. Jack had never really looked at Daniel's scar, but knew he had one. Seeing that …tienne did, too, was a little disconcerting.
Without a word, conscious of the curious hazel eyes following his every move, Jack swallowed hard. He turned away and picked up his bag, putting his clothes into the closet, his shaving kit into the bathroom, and leaving his shoes and socks in the closet near the suite door. He disappeared into the bathroom for a while, deliberately locking the door behind himself, and took a quick shower, shaved and brushed his teeth. He dressed in fresh jeans and tee shirt, leaving off the underwear, before emerging for his rendezvous.
Hands jammed low in his pockets, he strolled back into the bedroom, where he found …tienne calmly smoking and watching him from his supine position.
"So." He couldn't help staring at the bejeweled naked man. His mouth was dry, his heart pounding in his chest like a crazy thing. He felt like he was seventeen again. "Now what, Frenchy?"
"Now we begin your education, Jacques," …tienne responded lightly, his dark eyes smoldering. "And give you your dream, non?" Getting up on one elbow, he stubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray next to the bed. He reached for one of the condom packets beside him and held it up. "Premirement. We will use condoms for everyt'ing. I never touch another man without one."
"Figured that was pretty much a given," Jack drawled, strolling closer. He took his hands out of his pockets and gingerly sat down on the side of the huge bed. "I brought some, too."
"Deuximement," …tienne held up two fingers and a bottle of lube, "this is for-"
"I know what it's for," Jack assured him. "I may be straight, but I'm not stupid."
"I never imagined you were," returned …tienne seriously.
"Troisimement, in zee world of gay men, most of us 'ave preferénces in sexual roles," he continued. "I am a top, which means I am dominant in bed. Since you 'ave never done zis before, I am assuming you will want to be a top, to fuck me instead of be fucked by me. Am I correct in zis?"
Jack nodded. "Yes," he whispered, making an effort not to gasp as half his blood slammed into his groin at hearing the idea of it spoken aloud. He'd thought of little else during the flight southeast, trying to imagine it both ways, but unable to handle the idea of taking it up the ass himself. Not with a man he barely knew. He just couldn't.
"Then you should know, Jacques, zat I will do for you what I 'ave never done for another man," …tienne announced, his voice a velvet rumble deep in his throat. "I will let you do with me whatever you like, and deny you nothing."
That was a surprise, and Jack was sure it showed on his face. "Why would you do that, …tienne? If it's something you don't like-"
"I do not know if I like it or not. I am a virgin in this way, and so 'ave no experience with 'aving a man take me. And also, because zis is about fantaisie," …tienne explained patiently. "Yours and mine. You see, I 'ave never met a man who makes me feel zee way you do. Eh bien, for zee first time, I want to learn of it, of what it is like to be a bottom. From you. With you. I do not know if it will be bad or good, but we will discover it ensemble. Together, oui?"
Jack's gaze strayed to the silver clips pinching …tienne's nipples to hardness, then lower to the chains and beads at …tienne's crotch. "Yeah," he agreed softly. "I'm..." He gulped. He tore his eyes away from that body to look deeply into …tienne's eyes. "I'm honored, Frenchy," he murmured. Tears prickled the back of his eyes, horrified that he might lose control for a moment. He was so horny and disbelieving of what was happening, his mind couldn't catch up with the reality.
But the Frenchman had more surprises for him.
…tienne sat up slowly. "For zee time we are together, you may call me by your friend's name, if you wish. You may tell me all you wish to say to 'im, but cannot, and I will tell you all you wish to 'ear from 'im, and believe you never will. Is zis what you want, Jacques? Something to take back with you, into your forever?"
Jack nodded in agreement. He wasn't sure any of this was fair to …tienne, but it was his idea, after all. It would be so easy to pretend this man was Daniel, and Jack discovered he wanted that, very much. His fingers drifted over the warm links of the chains around …tienne's cock, and he sighed. "This is very sexy," he said gently, "but it's not Daniel. I don't suppose you brought any geek clothes, didja?"
His eyes trailed up that fine, hot body to …tienne's face, finally stopping on his wild, spiky hair. "And can you do geek hair? Kinda flat against your head, sticking up just a little in front?"
The Frenchman shrugged, a little half-smile tugging his cheek upward. "Per'aps I 'ave something in my bag. Give me un moment." He got up with the grace of a cat and went into the bathroom, taking an athletic bag in with him from the closet. Then he poked his head out the door. "Your friend - does 'e 'ave pierced-"
"Leave the nipple chain and earrings on," Jack called enthusiastically, grinning back at him. "Don't you dare take 'em off! I like those."
…tienne snorted a soft laugh. "As you wish, monsieur," he returned playfully, and closed the door again.
Jack stepped to the window, parting the curtains with one hand and pressing his forehead to the cool windowpane. He gazed out at the streetlights around the airport parking lot, the control tower and runways visible in the distance. This was so weird. He'd always wanted to visit Jackson as a tourist, aware as he was of its significance in his country's history, and that it was a favorite place for Civil War enthusiasts. Active duty and retired military folks might well be vacationing all over the city, but Jack had arrived alone and would leave alone, seeing none of the city itself, so the chance of being discovered there with his secret lover were minimal at best.
He heard a noise behind him and turned around, dropping the drapes closed behind his shoulder.
…tienne had combed his hair down, except for a few little unruly spikes right around his face. He wore plain blue jeans, not as tight as he usually wore his pants, but with a closer fit than the way Daniel wore his. A sleeveless black T-shirt completed the ensemble, and Jack gave an approving nod as …tienne held out his arms and turned this way and that, displaying himself.
He glanced down at …tienne's perfectly formed bare feet, then slowly lifted his gaze up to his face, slipping into fantasy-land. "Hello, Daniel," he said softly.
"'All, Jacques," …tienne replied.
Jack had to smile. "Can you say it, 'Jack'?" he asked.
…tienne repeated his very French pronunciation of the name exactly as before. They went back and forth a couple of times, grinning at each other, but …tienne never really got it, so Jack gave up trying, with a bemused shake of his head. "You'll just have to be Daniel with a French accent," he decided with a soft chuckle.
…tienne gave him a slightly embarrassed shrug. He cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. "So. You wanted to see me about something, Jacques?"
Falling into the role-playing on cue, Jack nodded as his gaze wandered over the wide shoulders, toned arms and chest, and slim waist. The tight jeans made his legs look endless. Such a beautiful man. "Uh. Yeah, Daniel. I did."
…tienne waited. He slowly shifted his weight from foot to foot, then slipped his fingers into his pants pockets. "Well? What is it?"
Jack had no idea what to say. He was a man of action, not of words, but he had to find a way to tell Daniel what had been eating at him for years. He couldn't touch him as a lover until he knew for sure that they were friends again. "I'm so sorry," he blurted finally. The prickles were back in his eyeballs.
Taking a deep breath, Jack maintained eye contact with Daniel's twin. "For being the worst kind of friend to you. For always letting you down. For pushing you away, when all I really wanted-"
He stopped, filling his eyes with the vision before him, seeing glasses where there were none, unmarked skin where there were tattoos... but the earrings he left in the mental picture. The earrings were hot, and Jack wondered idly if his Daniel might be interested in such decorations.
"Go on," …tienne prompted gently.
Jack swallowed hard, shifting his mind away from his newly-discovered personal kinks and back to the difficult matter at hand. "All I wanted was to take care of you, but I knew you wouldn't let me because you're a guy and guys don't do that for each other." He hesitated, taking a deep breath, holding it, then letting it out with an explosive breath. "Not straight guys, anyway."
The Frenchman cocked his head. "What are you trying to tell me, Jacques?"
"That I want-" Jack took a step toward him, his gaze riveted to that mouth, drawn up slightly in question, just like Daniel always did. Jack took another step, drawn across the room, unable to resist the attraction. He stopped inches away, still staring at …tienne's mouth.
"Daniel," he whispered hungrily.
"What?" asked …tienne in mock surprise, playing it to the hilt. "What did you say?"
Jack looked into hazel eyes and imagined blue ones, wide and startled, staring back at him. "I want you," he finished huskily. "I have for years, and that's why I was so mean and heartless to you. Because I didn't want to admit it to myself. I never stopped caring about you, Danny. And even after all the shit I put you through, you didn't stop caring about me, either. Which makes me wonder if... maybe... if it might be something more for you, too."
…tienne nodded, his expression sober and filled with tenderness. "Yes, Jacques. I 'ave been waiting for you all my life." He leaned close and kissed Jack, chastely, on the lips.
A great weight lifted off Jack. "Daniel," he whispered. He took the other man's face in his hands and kissed him soundly, mapping the cavern of his mouth with his tongue.
They pressed closer together, hands roaming and squeezing, tugging at clothing. They parted to lift off their shirts, and …tienne whispered, "I want you, Jacques. Per'aps I always knew. Maybe zis is why I stayed with you, no matter 'ow you treated me, because I knew you loved me."
"I do," Jack agreed breathlessly. "God help me, I do."
Eyes locked with …tienne's, he reached for the Frenchman's jeans, unbuttoned them, and started to push them down his muscular hips.
"I want to fuck you," Jack panted. "Jeez, Daniel, that blows me away."
…tienne nodded, maintaining eye contact as he bent down and helped push his pants down off his legs. "I want you to. I want to be yours."
He reached for Jack's zipper and tugged it down, then sank to his knees to pull off Jack's jeans. …tienne smiled as he saw Jack had gone commando. After Jack had stepped out of the pants and kicked them away, …tienne leaned in close and sniffed Jack's crotch, chuckling softly against the warm skin. "I would not 'ave believed you zee type to be so... free, Jacques. I pictured you in tight, white cotton briefs, holding everything close."
Jack felt …tienne's warm breath against his belly, stirring his pubic hair. He reached down and fingered one of the silver chains strung across the other man's chest. "I never would've figured you for this sort of kinkiness, either, Daniel. I guess there's a lot we don't know about each other, huh?"
…tienne looked up, his expression shifting from bemused pleasure to hungry passion. "You 'ave no idea, Jacques," he rumbled.
Except for the accent, that was so Daniel that it made Jack recoil a little in surprise.
…tienne's tongue snaked out and licked the length of Jack's swelling dick. He flinched, gasping at the pleasure that jolted through him. …tienne's hands came up to clasp his cock and balls in a gentle, possessive clutch, and then he moved in, eyes closed, and sucked Jack's balls fully into his mouth.
"Fuck!" Jack groaned, leaning in. He grasped …tienne's hair, ignoring the sticky gel that made it stand up all over his head, now gluing it down in a flattened imitation of Daniel's style. Jack pulled him closer with it, as if he might force more of himself into that hot, wet mouth if he pulled hard enough.
The Frenchman's hand touched his, just the slightest brush of contact, and instantly Jack released his death-grip on his lover's semi-tamed mane. "Sorry," Jack whispered hoarsely.
With a sigh, …tienne released his prize and stood up, meeting Jack's slightly dazed eyes. "Take me to bed, Jacques," he murmured, his lips wet and glistening pink. Taking Jack by the hand, he led him toward the bed and pushed his jeans off, revealing a bright red G-string beneath. …tienne sprawled out on the bed in that scrap of bright red and silver jewelry, male beauty personified.
Jack sat down beside him and reached over, grasping the fabric of the G-string and pulling it slowly down to reveal …tienne's erection, tucked discreetly into it. His cock fascinated Jack, its color dark and reddish, nestled beneath a crown of golden curls with a slight copper cast. The skin all around it was pale from his waist down, tanned golden above.
Gingerly, Jack touched …tienne's dick, now curling over his belly after being released from the undergarment. He felt the heat of it, the smooth satin of his skin, and suddenly became aware of his own heart pounding as he felt the pulse beating in …tienne's hard-on. On impulse, he leaned down and inhaled, his nose pressed into the crease between genitals and thigh.
…tienne smelled musky but pleasant, and Jack decided to try a little taste. He gave an experimental lick to the underside of …tienne's shaft and was rewarded by a soft, happy groan. …tienne arched his back off the bed, his hands clutching at the pillows beneath his head. He said something in French that Jack imagined was probably very sexy, but didn't ask for a translation.
He could do this, Jack decided as he sat up. He felt heat and excitement that hadn't touched him in years, long before Charlie was ever imagined. He felt young again, vibrant and full of life and energy, but he didn't want to rush anything. He wanted this to last all night.
Slowly, he climbed onto the bed and stretched out beside his lover, propping his head up on his hand so he could look down into …tienne's expectant face.
"It's been a while for me," he admitted, every nerve ending aware of his hot cock pressed against …tienne's cool hip. "I know it has for you, too, but I want you to know that I don't plan on getting any sleep tonight. There'll be time for that on the plane home tomorrow. So after we've rested as long as it takes to get it up again, I wanna do it over and over till time to check out and catch our flights."
A wistful look softened …tienne's expression. "And after we return 'ome?" His fingers ghosted against Jack's cheek.
"I'm sure I'll want to see you again, …tienne," Jack told him honestly. "I know I can't have Daniel, no matter how much I may want that. But I can have you, and you want me. Maybe that's enough."
"We will see," said …tienne. He smiled a little. "Kiss me, Jacques. You talk too much."
Jack grinned. He'd never been accused of that before, and obliged the man with sweet little nibbles at his lower lip that made …tienne chuckle. Then Jack made him groan when he took possession of …tienne's mouth. As their tongues fought for dominance, their hands explored each other's bodies, and they rolled and writhed on the bed.
This was like nothing Jack had ever experienced, almost like fighting for his life. …tienne's strength pushed at him, resisted him, then suddenly gave and embraced him, holding onto him so hard Jack could barely breathe. He was panting, breathless and tiring, and all they had done was kiss and wrestle each other into the mattress. If Jack didn't have him now, it was going to be too late too soon. He broke free, pushing himself up to his knees.
…tienne came up with him, caught him by the shoulders and, in a move worthy of any special ops trainer, grabbed Jack's shoulders, deftly turned him and carried him back down to the bed on his back.
"Hey, wait!" Jack called as …tienne stared at him with a wickedly delighted smile, but then he was gone, kissing his way down Jack's torso with fiery lips, his hands blindly groping for one of the condom packets littering the bed. Jack propped himself up on his elbows to watch, still not certain what …tienne was going to do to him. He saw the other man tear open the square plastic packet with his teeth and expertly slide the rubber out with his thumb.
The condom was a glistening, translucent brown, and …tienne rolled it down over Jack's cock with amazing speed.
And then …tienne's mouth closed over Jack's sheathed cock with hungry abandon, and Jack fell back against the bed with a groan of rapture. Busy hands stroked and fondled Jack's balls, belly and thighs, and he didn't even try to resist the wave of ecstasy building inside him. He came with Daniel's name on his lips, tensing with each spurt, forcing himself down his lover's throat in short, sharp thrusts that made …tienne moan with pleasure.
As soon as the last pulse ebbed, …tienne released his lip-lock on Jack's softening dick and sat up on his knees. Jack winced as he pulled the condom off and dropped it into the waste bin by the bed. He watched as …tienne grabbed another condom packet and quickly put it on himself, then stretched out on top of Jack, his cock pressing into Jack's hard, flat belly. "Ah, Jacques," he whispered, "you are so sexy."
…tienne's hands on Jack's face and arms were rough, needy. …tienne kissed him, the taste of chocolate with a hint of latex surprising Jack. It was easy to get carried away by his lover's passion and Jack responded in kind, his hands grasping that tight, muscular ass and urging him on.
It was wildly exciting, a battle between well-matched opponents, and by the time …tienne's cock throbbed in climax against Jack's belly, Jack was already starting to get hard again. He liked the feel of heavy, sated man on top of him and held him tightly, smiling into the sticky blonde hair plastered against his cheek. For a long time, …tienne didn't move, just lay sprawled bonelessly on top of Jack. Eventually, he propped himself up on his elbows to gaze down into Jack's smiling face, wriggling against Jack's insistent erection.
"I did not believe you would be ready again so soon, mon ami," he murmured, stroking the shape of Jack's lips with one fingertip.
Jack's hands never stopped their exploration of his lover's buttocks and back, kneading …tienne's relaxed flesh, stretching his arm to slip one finger into the crease. "I told you. Wanna fuck you," Jack growled softly. "All night long."
"I see you mean it," returned …tienne around a smile. Slowly, he eased off Jack and rolled onto his back, picking up a condom packet between two fingers. "First, we rinse off a little, and then you will take me. All right?"
Jack leaned over, gave him a quick kiss, and was off to the bathroom like a shot. Minutes later, …tienne stepped into the shower just as Jack was getting out, but before …tienne finished bathing, Jack was back behind him, his erection encased in clear latex and liberally coated with lube.
…tienne grinned at him and put his arms around Jack. "You could not wait, eh, Beautiful?" He swayed with Jack, dancing him slowly around in a tight circle until they had switched places under the spray, putting Jack's back to the water to keep the lube from washing off.
"Want you," Jack murmured, catching one of those nipple clips and giving it a gentle little twist.
With a groan, …tienne grasped his hand and made Jack let go. …tienne turned around in the tub, putting his back to Jack, and pressed his palms against the white tile wall. He turned his head, speaking to Jack over his shoulder. "Fingers first," he advised his lover. "Stretch me wide, Beautiful, so it does not 'urt so much, oui?"
Jack couldn't take his eyes off that gorgeous backside, muscles rippling in …tienne's well-defined back and ass. Jack ran his hands over that fine body, hardly able to believe this wasn't a dream. A flash of familiar fantasy scorched him as he remembered imagining touching Daniel's ass in the base showers, his fingers slipping into the cleft between his buttocks, and now he was actually doing it. His body was wet and slippery, and Jack's middle finger slipped right in between his ass cheeks.
"Daniel," he whispered, an ache starting deep inside him as he let the fantasy take hold of him. "God, Daniel, I need you." He pushed his finger slowly into Daniel, forgetting the truth. His lover responded with a gusted moan of pleasure, canting his hips back, stepping wider, giving Jack better access, just as he had done in Jack's fantasy.
He could see it now, could watch his digit sliding in and out, and a shuddering sigh escaped him.
"More," Daniel moaned, wriggling his ass in invitation.
Jack obliged, adding another finger, his heart beating so hard his whole body was shaking. What he was doing fascinated him, and the sounds Daniel was making set Jack on fire. He grunted rhythmically, his muscles flexing and relaxing as he strained and writhed against the shower wall.
"Maintenant!" he begged, his voice a ragged howl. "Ah, mon Dieu, fuck me now, s'il vous pla"t!"
Jack grasped his erection with his left hand and slowly withdrew his fingers from that hot, tight hole. With his right hand, he pulled Daniel's cheek aside, aimed his cock with his left, and very slowly, very gently, entered his lover's body until he was half gone. Unable to tear his gaze away, he heard Daniel grunt, felt him flinch, and stopped immediately.
"You okay, Danny?" he panted, caressing Daniel's flank, leaning to one side to try to catch a glimpse of his facial expression, but Daniel stood with his head down, forehead pressed against the tiles. He nodded, splaying his fingers wide against the tiles, soft little whimpers issuing from him.
"Want me to stop?" Jack asked, raising one hand to stroke Daniel's nape.
He shook his head in answer.
Jack stayed frozen in place, trying to decide if he should pull out. He didn't want to hurt him. "I'll just be still here for a minute," Jack murmured to him. "I'll let you take charge of how fast we go." He bent down and placed a kiss on his wet shoulder, then straightened and looked down as Daniel started to move. Little by little, he pushed himself backward onto Jack's rigid cock until he had taken it all. He was trembling, but Jack was, too.
Daniel straightened, pressing his shoulders against Jack's chest. He turned his head, eyes closed, just as Jack started kissing his neck and shoulders, licking off the water droplets and sweat forming on his hot skin. Jack's hands came around him, his fingers spreading possessively over Daniel's flat belly, sliding up over his ribs to his chest. Jack hugged him, the warm water pounding against his back and buttocks, his arms full of hot man pressed delightfully against his chest and belly.
Jack stroked him, his fingers drifting over that gleaming silver chain, giving one of the clips a gentle little twist. Daniel's ass clamped down on his cock in response, and both men grunted with pleasure. Jack let Daniel's upper body move away from him, leaning against the wall again, without letting go of the clip. Every time he moved it, pulling or twisting it, Daniel would gasp or twitch, and Jack loved that. He played with the clips while his lover thrust against his cock, impaling himself on Jack's erection.
"I'm fucking you, Daniel," Jack murmured against his shoulder, so aroused he thought he'd pass out from it. "Please, God, don't let this be a dream. I want it to be real."
An anguished little cry slipped out of Daniel, and Jack let go of one clip, caressing his lover's belly all the way down to his cock with his right hand. Daniel's dick was rigid and hot, and at Jack's touch, he groaned low in his throat.
"Gonna jack you off now, Danny," Jack told him huskily, nuzzling at his nape. "Gonna make you come while I fuck you." He scraped his teeth over Daniel's neck, nibbling while his hand squeezed that hot, hard dick.
Daniel pushed against the wall with his hands, forcing Jack into him deeper, harder. Jack squeezed his lover's cock, working him fast in a tight grip. Daniel writhed against the wall, against Jack's pelvis, wordless moans, grunts, and low shouts expressing his enjoyment of what Jack was doing to him.
This was the most erotic thing Jack had ever done, and he never wanted it to end. He was fucking Daniel! A wave of emotion swept through him as he let go of his treasures, bending over to embrace his lover from behind, his hands greedily holding him. He closed his eyes, resting his cheek against Daniel's wet back. "Love you," he whispered breathlessly. "Jesus, Daniel. I love you. I have for a long, long time."
A shudder rippled through his lover, followed by a half-strangled sob. Jack held him closer, feeling his control slipping as he shared that truth with Daniel. His ass was so slick and tight, so welcoming and needy; Jack couldn't get enough. He wanted more, his hands clasping Daniel's hips, thrusting harder, faster, deeper until he was slamming into his lover's backside, screwing into him with sharp twists of his hips. Daniel was shouting now, urging him on with his voice. Jack barely noticed Daniel drag one hand down from the wall to put to his cock, felt the frenzied rhythm as he pumped himself to completion, and Jack encouraged him, murmuring softly between kisses and nibbles.
He felt Daniel's body grow stiff as his climax built. Jack opened his eyes and looked over Daniel's shoulder to watch him come, thick globs of creamy white spurting onto the tile wall, but then Jack couldn't see anything as the sensation of Daniel's orgasm rippled through Jack's cock, pushing him screaming over the edge of utter bliss and leaving him staggering backward in the tub, trying to maintain his balance and not fall on his ass.
Daniel turned around, reaching out to steady him, panting and barely able to speak. "Are you all right?" he asked, his speech colored with French pronunciations.
Not Daniel, Jack reminded himself in momentary alarm. This is …tienne.
Crestfallen, Jack waved off his lover's assisting hands and steadied himself under the spray. "I'm fine, …tienne. You okay? I didn't hurt you?"
A broad grin split the Frenchman's face, his dark eyes twinkling with pleasure. "This was... 'était magnifique!" he panted. …tienne kissed his fingertips in a wholly French gesture of approval. "You are a great fuck, mon cher."
Jack couldn't help the feeling of disappointment expanding inside him. He glanced down at himself and pulled the condom off his flagging cock, holding it in his hand in a death grip. Jack had just had the ride of his life - but with the wrong partner.
…tienne turned around and reached for him, but Jack dodged back under the spray, pretending to wash himself off. …tienne leaned his back against the wall, still smiling, but staring at Jack with an assessing look.
He avoided meeting …tienne's eyes and dodged him when he reached for Jack again. He got out of the tub almost in a panic and threw the used condom in the trash, toweled off and wrapped the cloth around his waist, heading for the bed with his heart still pounding. He wanted to run, but there was no place to go. He had committed himself to this rendezvous, and now he was stuck there, facing a man he hardly knew, whom he'd just fucked through the shower wall.
Sliding between the sheets, Jack decided to close his eyes for just a moment. He needed to think, to pull himself together, and hoped …tienne would leave him alone for a little while. Jack threw one arm over his eyes, suddenly weary beyond measure, physically sated but emotionally bereft.
The next thing he knew it was the middle of the night. He awoke to silence, the room awash in light seeping out from the crack in the bathroom doorway, which stood slightly ajar. All the candles had been extinguished and the lamps were off. Jack knew he wasn't alone.
…tienne lay beside him, eyes open and staring at the ceiling, hands clasped behind his head, a lit cigarette between his lips.
Jack studied him without moving, taking note of his manly profile, strong chin, and bulging biceps.
How Jack wished this were Daniel, but …tienne wasn't and could never be.
The Frenchman's chin tipped up a little, his expression somber, thoughtful. He lifted the cigarette away from his mouth and stubbed it out on the nightstand ashtray, pursing his lips and blowing a stream of smoke. "Did you really mean it," he began quietly, hesitating, obviously aware that his lover was now awake, "when you told me zat you loved me? I mean Daniel, naturellement."
Jack didn't answer. He rolled over onto his back, still questioning the wisdom of their out-of-state, out-of-his-mind rendezvous. He was certain he'd made a mistake coming there and having sex with a virtual stranger. He should find another hotel for the rest of his stay, see the city and go home rested, without getting himself in any deeper than he already had with this man, but he had no words to put any of that into a response for the man beside him.
"You should tell 'im, your Daniel," …tienne said into the silence. He looked down at his body and lazily played with the chain still strung across his chest. " 'e deserves to know."
"Can't do that, …tienne," Jack returned slowly, looking at his lover. "Daniel's straight."
…tienne turned his head, making eye contact. "As are you, mon cher," he said softly. "Yet 'ere you are wit' me. And you are in love with a man, are you not? You want to make love to 'im, to 'ave 'im in your bed, non? You should tell 'im so," he said again with quiet conviction. "Better to take zee chance and win, zan to already 'ave lost wit'out trying."
If he were going to leave, this seemed like a good time for it. Jack sat up, putting his back to …tienne, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He was aware of his nakedness and felt the need to cover up, ashamed now of what he'd done with this man. He shouldn't have. This wasn't Daniel. He was just some stranger who happened to look a lot like him. Almost exactly like him.
"Would you do something for me, Jacques?" …tienne asked, rolling onto one elbow to lay his other hand on Jack's arm, rubbing it comfortingly.
Heat flushing his face in the darkened room, Jack felt himself tense under that affectionate touch. His mind was all awhirl, trying to decide how to gracefully get out of this mess. "What?"
There was a note of wonder in …tienne's voice, a soft vulnerability that made Jack turn around and look at him as he spoke. "I 'ave never been loved as you love your Daniel," he said quietly. "It is not likely zat I will ever know zis, since I never stay in one place for very long. When we were in the shower, I felt..." He grew quiet for a moment, his lips closing briefly. "I could feel 'ow much you loved 'im, and just once more..." He turned and looked Jack in the eye. "Please, Jacques, I would like for you to love me zis way again, in zis bed, and say it to me again while you look into my eyes. Just once, I would like to make believe it is for me. Will you do zis? Please?"
Jack was stunned. Shame gnawed at him, and he looked away. …tienne had fulfilled his fantasy and asked nothing in return, offering Jack the opportunity to do whatever he wanted, even though it wasn't what …tienne liked himself.
The Frenchman smiled. "I would like it if you continue to call me Daniel while you make love to... 'im," he said hopefully. "And zen, when we 'ave finished, we should go 'ome and look back fondly on zis time together, and not see each other again. I believe it would be best for us both. Oui?"
His smile was fragile, and Jack could see the pain in his eyes.
This was good-bye.
…tienne had given him a great gift, and suddenly, inexplicably, all Jack's fears and regrets vanished. After all, it had been just a harmless fantasy that they'd shared, something never to be revisited. When they got back to Colorado, it would be over. Jack would have his dream, and maybe, if he worked at it, he might be able to give a little something back to …tienne, by doing what he was requesting now.
"All right," Jack agreed. "But I know you'll find love someday, …tienne. My heart's already taken, but if it weren't..." He turned around on the bed and reclined beside his lover. "You're a good man. I don't know much about you, but I read people pretty well, and I know that, at least. You've got a good heart, and some hot guy is bound to love you for that. Just give 'em a chance. Okay?"
A sad smile lit …tienne's face. "Your Daniel, 'e is a lucky man," he murmured, trailing his fingers across Jack's cheek and up into his hair.
Jack caught his hand and held it to his face. "Tonight," he breathed, "you're still my Daniel." He kissed …tienne's palm and saw him swallow, hunger dawning in his eyes.
"Je t'aime, Jacques," he whispered, his voice quivering with emotion. "Je t'adore."
Reaching over to the bedside lamp that …tienne had thoughtfully switched off while he slept, Jack turned it on and sat up in the bed. For a long time he studied his lover, setting the stage in his imagination, trying to make himself believe that this was real, that he was Daniel, and that they were celebrating...
Jack closed his eyes, searching his heart. Jack knew now the depth of his feelings for Daniel, and if he were free, if nothing stood between him and the man he loved - not military regs, not society nor convention, not the possibility of rejection - this would have been his wedding night with Daniel, because that was the kind of man Jack O'Neill was. He made commitments, always had, and it had taken something as life-altering as the death of his child to make him break his vow of forever to his wife.
This bond, Jack knew, was the strongest he'd ever felt, stronger even than mortality.
Looking down at that Daniel-Jackson face, Jack was suddenly sure that nothing in the universe could make him break a vow to love, honor and cherish him. Even in death, Daniel had stayed with him. And now Jack knew for certain that he always would, at least in Jack's own heart.
He picked up his lover's left hand and laced their fingers together.
It took him a moment to gather himself, and when he saw …tienne - Daniel, he reminded himself - purse his lips to speak, Jack held up a finger to his lips to silence him.
Jack eyed their clasped hands and, when he felt himself go still inside, he began to speak.
"I, Jack, take thee, Daniel, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health..."
He recited the traditional vows softly, and when he reached the end, he revised it, "...till death do us part... but maybe not even then. I love you, Danny, and I promise to do everything in my power to make you the happiest man on this or any other world."
Tears stood in Daniel's eyes. His lips quivered with emotion. He sat up slowly and the tears rolled unheeded down his cheeks.
Jack could tell he wanted to say something, but held back, reaching for Jack's nape with his free hand and bringing him close for a kiss. He was trembling, obviously touched and surprised. There was grief and unexpected joy in his dark eyes, and Jack didn't want him to be sad. Not tonight, on their wedding night.
He smiled. "This is supposed to be a happy occasion," Jack reminded him in a soft voice. "It's our wedding night."
Daniel nodded and clung to him, his tears wetting Jack's bare shoulder, just holding him close while he struggled to compose himself, breathing in small gasps.
Dropping a kiss at the base of Daniel's neck, Jack's hands began to roam all over his broad back. Jack relished being close to him like that. He kissed his way up the side of Daniel's neck, nibbled a little on his earlobe and jewelry, and Jack gently stroked his lips through Daniel's stubble toward his mouth. By the time he'd taken possession of his soft lips, Jack's own were tingling from the abrasion. It was an incredibly erotic sensation.
Daniel held Jack's face with both hands now, fighting back with kisses of his own. Passion built between them, and Jack carried him down to the bed on his back, his hands caressing, exploring, worshipping every part of Daniel. Every place Jack touched with his hands, he followed up with his lips and then his tongue, tasting, nibbling, kissing, and licking until his dick ached with need.
The moment he lifted his head from between Daniel's thighs, he saw a tube of lube and condom packet thrust at him, already ripped open. Daniel was breathing hard, his hands tugging his own rubber back down to the base of his cock. Jack sat up on his knees and rolled the condom down on himself. When he was ready, he leaned forward and Daniel lifted his legs, setting his calves on Jack's shoulders.
Looking down between his lover's legs, Jack gazed at that intimate place, spread wide open for him in the ultimate gesture of trust, acceptance and absolute love. Carefully, Jack scooted closer and applied the glistening gel, his heart beating in his throat. He positioned himself with one hand and started to push, risking a glance upward then, taking in the expression of need on Daniel's face, and his heart swelled inside him.
"I love you, Daniel," he whispered, thrusting deeper, feeling the wet heat close around his dick. "Ego te amo. Yo te quiero, Daniel, mi amor." Jack told him how he felt in every language he knew, and when he had filled his lover completely, he leaned over him, folding Daniel's body up tightly so he could reach his mouth for a kiss. Jack rocked him slowly, nuzzling all over Daniel's face, nibbling at his mouth, grazing Daniel's closed eyelids with his lips, kissing his expressive brows. He kept his eyes open as he made love to Daniel, alert to his every sigh and touch, witnessing the absolute surrender of himself to the man he loved.
There was something almost holy about those moments between them, the rhythmic glide of man into man, satisfying in a way Jack had never before felt.
But Jack knew this wasn't Daniel. This was someone else, someone who - for whatever reason - had chosen to give Jack the gift of his body. …tienne deserved something just for himself, something he could take away with him to remember.
Jack hovered above him, perfectly still now, waiting for his lover to open his eyes.
"Merci, …tienne," whispered Jack, using what little French he knew to thank his selfless lover for this precious gift.
…tienne whimpered a little, and then a torrent of emotion-packed French poured out of him in a shaky, breathless voice. Tears rolled down across his temples as his hands gently stroked Jack's face and hair.
Jack felt him clench around his cock and then …tienne's eyes closed tightly. He arched back against the bed, his fingers digging into Jack's flanks, holding on tightly. With a strangled sob, …tienne came, the pulses of his pleasure driving Jack headlong into his own orgasm. Only for a moment did Jack close his eyes, opening them as soon as he could manage to gaze at the beautiful face staring up at him from the pillows.
He didn't understand the pain he saw there, real and raw, on the heels of …tienne's climax.
"Did I hurt you?" asked Jack tenderly. "I was tryin' to be gentle this time."
…tienne's breath hitched. It took him a couple of tries to make his voice obey him, and finally shook his head against the pillows. "No, Jacques," he sniffed. "You were wonderful. Per'aps too wonderful." He reached up and kissed Jack briefly, then turned his head away as Jack slowly climbed off him and flopped down at his side.
After discarding their condoms in a nearby trashcan, Jack laid one arm across …tienne's waist. He was sated and drained. For a long time he just lay there, idly dragging his fingertips in small, slow circles all over his lover's chest. He wasn't sorry for what they'd done now. It had been something they both needed, a moment out of time when they each could hold the impossible in their hands.
It had been good, and if Jack were honest with himself; far better than anything he'd ever experienced with a woman. That was an enormous surprise, but not something he could ever act on in the future. He believed that this had been a once in a lifetime adventure, a walk on the wild side that could never be revisited. He lifted his eyes to that oh-so-familiar stranger's face, and wished with all his heart that he could have this for the rest of his life, with a blue-eyed American named Daniel.
His heart ached. Angling his head downward on the pillow, Jack pressed his lips against …tienne's shoulder and closed his eyes, grateful to feel his lover's arms wind around him and draw him close. He was tired, despite his plans to fuck all night, and as he felt himself slowly drowsing, he gave himself up to sleep without a fight.
It was morning when Jack awakened, and as soon as he roused, he knew instinctively that he was alone. The bed was cold, and he knew that …tienne hadn't slept with him. That made him a little sad, but he was sure it was for the best. This way, there would be no awkward goodbyes between them. He got up slowly, muscles slightly sore, the room and himself stinking of sex and sweat, and he smiled a little. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so damn good.
He silently thanked his French friend in the stillness of his heart, and headed for the shower to clean up for the day. He had time now to do a little sightseeing, and intended to do just that. And somewhere in the city, he wanted to bring home a little souvenir from his trip, something that he might keep on his mantel as a reminder of that rendezvous in a strange new world.
One Month Later
"What's eating you, Jack?" Daniel asked him as they trudged wearily back to the stargate across the alien landscape. "You haven't been yourself for weeks. No wisecracks, no dumb act. You've hardly even spoken for a couple of days."
Jack stared at Daniel while he talked, watching his mouth move, unable to think of anything besides kissing those lips. "Nothin'," he replied automatically. "Just got stuff on my mind." He shrugged and tore his gaze away, turning it toward the ever-present trees to watch for signs of danger, pulling his mind reluctantly back to the job.
Daniel let the subject drop, and Jack struggled to focus on the task at hand. The archaeologist hurried ahead of him, giving Jack a mind-numbing view of his camouflage-clad six. Danger signals flashed internally, making Jack's heart beat faster. He had to do something, or he was afraid his desire for Daniel was going to get someone hurt.
Keeping watch while Daniel dialed home, Jack brought up the rear as they went through the gate. They handed over their weapons to the ordnance sergeant, gave the brief scoop on the big nothing they'd found on that planet, and then he headed to the locker room with his team to clean up and prepare for the official debriefing. In that place of safety, Jack could let his guard down and allow himself to think about more personal things.
Which led him right back to Daniel. He averted his eyes from his teammate while they showered, but as fate would have it, Daniel dropped the soap. The bar hit his foot and slid over right in front of Jack, who looked down at it, then back up to his friend's expectant face.
"I'm not getting it," Jack told him, continuing to scrub the sweat and grime off himself after the week-long mission.
Daniel sighed, marched over in front of him and bent down to get the soap, his side to Jack's front.
Jack stepped back a little to give him room.
The bar squirted out of Daniel's hand again, and he turned to chase it, putting his back to Jack now. After a few more tries, he managed to get a grip on it and straighten, but not before Jack had gotten an eyeful of gorgeous ass. All he could do was close his eyes and start vigorously scrubbing his privates, hoping his hands would hide the fact that he was starting to get hard. He tried to think about bad things to turn his arousal off and somehow managed to keep from embarrassing himself in front of his teammate. All through the rest of his shower, he avoided looking at Daniel and hurried to get dressed again.
He was sitting on the bench, tying his bootlaces, when Daniel came out in his dark blue robe and sat down next to him, leaving just a little space between them.
He reached for his glasses and slid them on his face. "You okay, Jack?" he asked quietly, looking at him with concern.
"Peachy. Why do you ask?" Jack studiously kept his eyes on the floor and his footwear.
"Because you haven't been your usual self lately. I was wondering if you had something on your mind, something bothering you." He hesitated. "I thought you might like to go somewhere and talk. Or maybe just hang out for a little while, like we used to do." The concern on his face was obvious, as was the fear that Jack might snap his head off.
For a moment, Jack couldn't process that invitation. Had Daniel forgiven him for being such a hardass? Was he ready to be friends again? Jack wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to find out.
"I'd like that," he agreed immediately, risking a glance at his friend and teammate. "I've missed you."
Daniel gave him an oddly perplexed look. "I've been right here, Jack."
O'Neill nodded. "And a million miles away, all at the same time. I'd been wondering if we really got you back from your fluffy white cloud." He gazed into those baby blues and fought the urge to lean in for a kiss. Daniel seemed to be waiting for something, and Jack realized he'd been waiting - holding back - since they'd found him on Vis Uban. "I think we should have a talk about things. Get right with each other again, like we used to be."
"I thought we were just fine," said Daniel, turning his gaze away and staring at the floor. He pressed both palms against the bench and let his head hang.
Jack shook his head. "Maybe you just don't remember everything," he offered. "We used to be friends. Real friends, not just folks who worked together. That's what I miss, and we haven't had that for a long time."
Daniel sighed. "I know I've been kinda distant since I... came back, but I-"
"It isn't you," Jack corrected gently. He patted Daniel's bare knee and pulled his hand away sharply, suddenly aware that the other man was too close to naked for Jack to be touching him like that. He set his hand down on the bench without looking and put it right on top of Daniel's, jerking away and lacing his fingers together in his lap self-consciously, his mind scrambling to maintain the thread of conversation and not be so distracted by the incredibly distracting man sitting beside him. "I've got some apologies to make, and tonight's as good a time as any to get to that. Maybe it'll help both of us reconnect."
Daniel looked thoughtful and nodded. "Okay. Do you wanna go to dinner first or get take out at your place?"
They discussed dinner plans and finally agreed to Chinese at Jack's.
Once they finished the official debriefing and wrote their reports and turned them in, the rest of the evening belonged to them.
Daniel parked his old red Jeep in the driveway right beside the truck, and Jack couldn't help the little twinge inside that wished Daniel's vehicle were parked there all the time. A random image of two toothbrushes side by side in his bathroom popped into Jack's mind and vanished as he fumbled with the keys on the front porch.
Evening was just settling over the city as they stepped inside his house. Jack reset the security system as Daniel eased past him, carrying the paper bags of Chinese food into the dining room. When Jack had deposited his coat and keys in their usual places, he went into the living room and smiled a little as he watched Daniel setting up for their meal, then opening a bottle of beer for Jack and pouring a small glass of plum wine for himself.
Daniel knew Jack's routine, knew his way around Jack's house, and didn't act like a guest anymore. That felt good, because Daniel belonged there. It was his home, too, even more so than Carter and Teal'c, because they never stayed over with him. Daniel had, but not for a long time... and not since his return from the dead.
Jack watched him, his heart aching as he remembered that year Daniel had been among the ascended. Jack had chosen to just shrug it off as if nothing had happened, concentrating on the work to try to live without Daniel. He'd turned into an ogre that year, snapping and snarling at everyone while his unanswered grief gnawed away at his soul. And then, just when he'd started to get comfortable with the wound that wouldn't heal, they'd found Daniel and brought him home.
Only he hadn't been quite the same. This Daniel was quieter, more solemn, less innocent and filled with wonder. He kept everyone at arm's length and didn't get as upset about things as he once had. He also worked harder, taking even less time for himself than before he'd... died, and never seemed to spend time with his friends anymore, keeping to himself when he did take time off to rest. Daniel was also a better soldier now, hardened in a way that bothered Jack. He didn't want Daniel to be good at that. It diminished him somehow.
"Jack, you're staring at me," Daniel stated quietly.
"Oh," said Jack, that fact just registering. "Sorry." They'd been standing in the living room after Jack took his beer from his guest, and Jack hadn't taken his eyes or his heart off the man for a moment. "I was thinking," he admitted.
"About?" Daniel lifted his eyebrows to accentuate the question.
"That year when you were-- dead," he answered slowly.
"Oh." Daniel looked down into his glass, then took a sip of his wine.
"I never mourned you," Jack told him. "I couldn't."
Head still down, gazing into his glass, Daniel turned and led the way into the dining room. "It's okay. You weren't sure if I was alive or dead. That's understandable."
Jack followed him. "That's not it, Daniel. I couldn't mourn you because I couldn't handle it. I felt like as long as I ignored it, maybe I could cope with losing you."
Daniel's eyes went wide as he faced Jack in the dining room. His mouth drew up, small and tight. Surprise faded into sorrow, and he started to apologize. Jack could see it all over him.
"Don't you dare say you're sorry for dying," Jack interrupted gently. "You were a hero, and those damned Kelownans-"
The memory of Daniel sitting at the conference table with those asshole aliens dickin' around scraped against Jack's mind and made him shudder. "They never even thanked you for saving their asses, Daniel. And then when you tried to help them again-"
"They learned," Daniel assured him. He set down his wineglass and started opening the brown paper sacks, setting white cartons of hot fried rice and Kung Pao Shrimp out on the table. He opened the cartons one by one and parceled out some of the rice topped with the spicy shrimp, vegetables and peanuts on top, carefully picking out the dried peppers from Jack's bowl and putting them into his own, because he knew Jack didn't like them, but Daniel did.
They were like an old married couple, so familiar with each other's habits and preferences that neither had to think about them, they just automatically acted to suit one another's needs and desires. That momentary illumination brought Jack an instant of grief with it, followed by guilt and self-recrimination.
"That's not the point," Jack returned sharply, anger at himself rising and heating him up inside. "I threw you to the wolves, Daniel. You shouldn't have even been in the room with those fuckers! Not until they admitted what you'd done for them and apologized, and even that wouldn't be good enough. God damn it, you died for those people! And I left you with them to suffer even more. What kind of a friend does that make me? Huh?"
Jack knew his eyes must be blazing right then. His free hand was fisted up in his pants pocket, the other clutching his beer in a white-knuckled grip. He set the beer down forcefully on the table. He was furious with himself.
"It's okay," said Daniel, putting up his hands and patting the air between them, trying to placate him somehow.
"No, it's not," snarled Jack. "I've been doing shit like this to you for years."
"I don't remember any of it," Daniel defended staunchly, lowering his hands to his hips and shooting Jack a challenging look, his chin thrust forward stubbornly.
"Well, I do," Jack growled back, "and I can't - I won't keep treating you like I don't care, because I do. So sit down and listen, 'cause I'm gonna unload." Jack pointed to a seat by the table.
Obediently, Daniel lowered himself into a dining room chair, a perplexed look on his face. "Don't you wanna eat first?"
Jack shot a disparaging glance at the bowls of delicious looking, aromatic food. His stomach was tied up in knots, and eating was the last thing he wanted to do just then. "Go ahead, if you want. I'll eat later. I gotta do this now, before I chicken out."
Noticing that Daniel made no move towards the food, Jack took another long swallow of beer and set the nearly empty bottle down again. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and sat down across from Daniel at the table.
"I think it started with that undercover NID sting," he said, his voice quieter now. "I had to look for anything and everything that bugged me about each of you, and blow it all out of proportion to push you away. Except when it came to you, it was too easy to forgive or overlook things I didn't like about you. I had to take a different route with you, to take a good, hard look at how I felt about you and twist it into something else."
He got up and started pacing, his head down, arms crossed over his chest, hugging himself tightly. "Only I didn't look deep enough, not then."
"I forgave you for that a long time ago, Jack," Daniel reminded him. "Once I knew it was an undercover thing, I understood why you'd said all those hurtful things, and that you didn't mean any of them. All of us did that."
Jack didn't stop pacing. "But I didn't stop there. Part of me recognized we were getting too close, and that's when I started pushing you away. Remember Alar and his Nazis-types on Euronda? You were just doing your job, trying to look at the issues and keep our hands and our consciences clean, and I told you to shut the hell up. There's no excuse for that kind of disrespect, especially since you were so damned right. Just like you usually are."
"You already apologized for that one, too," said Daniel, frowning as he aimlessly stirred his rice around in his bowl with his chopsticks. He didn't take a bite, just messed with it to give his hands something to do, to have something to look at other than his host.
"I still should have respected your opinion," Jack reiterated. "I should have respected you. You were doing what we hired you to do, what you're good at, and I almost blew it. You're SG-1's conscience, Daniel. Always have been. I knew that."
"Jack, sit down," Daniel implored gently. He looked up at his host, worry in his eyes along with a little flicker of alarm.
Waving a dismissing hand at his companion, Jack didn't stop his pacing. "I haven't even gotten started yet." He stepped down into the living room and glanced out the picture windows. A light snow was just beginning to fall, and the security lights in the back yard had come on as dusk turned into twilight.
Jack bent down and lit a fire in the hearth as he talked.
"You remember those red-eyed folks we resettled?" he asked in a loud voice, speaking over his shoulder, as he savagely poked the now-burning logs, driving them into a better position to make the fire burn hotter.
"The Enkarans," Daniel supplied. "Yes, I do." He rose from the dining table, bringing his wineglass with him into the living room, and took a seat on the sofa. He set his glass on a Sports Illustrated magazine on the coffee table, since there were no coasters in sight.
"When you left that last time to talk to Lotan about other solutions to terraforming the planet his people wanted to colonize, I actually asked Teal'c if he thought you'd spill what we were planning to Lotan. You didn't know about that, Daniel. You didn't know there was even anything to forgive, but I had pushed myself so far away from you, I was starting to doubt you."
Jack didn't have to look at his friend to see the shocked expression on his face. He could see it clearly enough in his imagination as he stared into the flames.
"I should have known better, Daniel," he continued quietly. "You'd never betray us, even if you thought we were wrong. You'd never betray me."
Daniel didn't say anything. It wasn't necessary. Jack could feel how stunned he was by that revelation.
"I know what kind of man you are," Jack went on. "You're gentle, good and kind, someone I've trusted since that first mission, when I found out what you were made of, when it mattered most. You've forced yourself to learn how to shoot guns and kill people because you understand the necessity of it, but you'll never be a killer. It'll never come naturally to you, where you can do it and just shrug it off, like I've learned to do."
He remembered seeing Daniel in that slave-boy outfit the Tok'ra had put him in when they'd asked for his help to eradicate the System Lords at their own summit.
"You're not cut out to be an assassin, and I can't tell you how glad I was that you didn't have to be one for the Tok'ra. It would have pushed you over the edge, and I knew that." Now he made eye contact with his teammate and friend, but Daniel instantly dropped his gaze to his wineglass, running his finger along the edge in a slow circle, listening thoughtfully.
"I didn't stand up for you. I didn't protest. I never the hell should have let them do that to you. I just sat there and let them take you. And then when you got back, I didn't talk to you about any of it. Aside from getting your report in the debriefing, I didn't have a clue how dangerous that mission had been for you. I didn't want to know, because I didn't want to think about what might have happened to you."
Jack closed his eyes, the nightmare that had haunted him since that mission returning just long enough to sear his soul all over again and make his stomach flip over. "You were made, God damn it, and Osiris might have turned you into a host. God knows why she didn't, but I knew it was a risk even before you went on that mission, yet I let you go without a word of protest."
"We all decided, Jack. I was the only one who could've done it," Daniel reminded him soberly.
Shaking his head vigorously, Jack argued, "Every linguist at the SGC speaks fluent Goa'uld. That's one of the first things they learn in training. Any of the academics could have done it. But they wanted you, because you're handsome, and you looked good in the damned costume. Because you knew all the players. And I handed you over to them. I shouldn't have. That's not the kind of thing you need to be doing."
"I've been in the field longer than the other academics. I was best choice."
With a sigh, Jack leveled a frustrated gaze at him. Daniel wasn't seeing what Jack so plainly did. "So what about that android?"
"Reese?" Daniel shifted on the sofa, still eyeing his wineglass, which he set on the coffee table in front of himself. His shoulders came up around his ears. He looked distinctly uncomfortable. "You did what you thought was necessary."
"There was more to it than that, Daniel." Jack rubbed his face, remembering the enchanted look on Daniel's face as he'd looked at the thing just after they'd brought it back to the base, how softly wondrous his voice sounded when he'd talked about it.
Why don't you kiss her? Jack had taunted.
Part of him had heard Daniel's pleas to understand that the android was a conscious, sentient being, fully self-aware. But the fascination in those blue eyes had been more than Jack could bear. "I kept trying to tell you it was just a machine, because I didn't want to see Reese any other way," Jack told the floor at his feet. "I didn't want you to see her any other way, for her to be real. But I could see how real she was to you, and I..."
In his imagination, Jack rewrote the whole event in the blink of an eye. Instead of arguing with Daniel over the fate of the robot or what information they could get out of her, Jack took him in his arms and kissed him senseless. He told Daniel how he felt, and Daniel smiled and kissed him back. He envisioned waking up in the night in his bed to find a wonderfully naked, recently-fucked Daniel lying next to him, sound asleep with a soft smile still on his lips.
Jack would never know for sure if that were a real possibility unless he took the chance. He glanced over at the mantel, at the little model of a silver canon with a gaudy enameled plate attached to the base identifying it as a Civil War souvenir from Jackson, Mississippi. A bittersweet pang of memory brought back his encounter with the Frenchman in that hotel room, and for a moment, he could still feel, smell and taste the man with whom he had made love.
…tienne had been right. Daniel deserved to know the truth of how he felt. All of it, no matter how much it might hurt Jack if Daniel took it badly. And getting it all out in the open would be the only way Jack would ever know if his fantasy might ever be truly possible.
Jack took a deep breath. Closing his eyes in resignation, he let the words come out slowly as he exhaled. "I was jealous. Of Reese. Of how I thought you felt about her. That's partly why I lost it there at the end. Because I knew you didn't need me to save you. Because you were crying over her. Because you never looked at me like you did her, and I hated her for that."
Letting the truth come out like that shook him to his bones. His whole life would now be forever changed in the wake of that admission. He raised his eyes to Daniel's shocked face, blue eyes wide and staring, lips drawn up into a tiny 'o' of surprise.
Jack felt relieved, almost giddy with hope and fear. But he'd done it. He'd confessed. Now this man who had been his friend for so long truly understood a little of how Jack felt about him.
Daniel was obviously too stunned to form a coherent response to that confession.
Jack had to get the rest of it out, but he couldn't do it looking into Daniel's eyes. He turned his gaze back to the floor, tried to steel himself, and let the memories of that horrible mission to Kelowna flood into him, along with his enormous regrets and unexpressed grief.
"And then we went to Kelowna, and rather than tell you the truth, I gave you that lame, stupid goodbye while you were dying right in front of me-"
His voice broke, and he shut up, clenching his teeth together. He couldn't look up, couldn't control the searing pain in his heart any longer. He felt as if he were going to explode and bent over, hands on his knees, gasping, eyes closed, trying to hold together just a little longer.
Just one more breath, and he thought he'd be all right. Then two more, and the agony started to ease. And then he noticed the shoes on the floor just inside his line of sight, and knew that Daniel was now standing right in front of him.
"I'm okay." He said it out loud more to convince himself than to answer Daniel's summons. He straightened up a little, but still couldn't lift his chin or pry his gaze off the floor.
"What, exactly, are you trying to tell me here?" Daniel's voice was exquisitely gentle now.
Jack took another steadying breath. "The same thing it usually means when someone says they're jealous."
He heard Daniel's sigh. "Do you mean that you're..." The feet stepped away a little, pacing now in a slow, small circle not far away. "That you. Want. Me?"
"Give the man a see-gar," Jack snapped dispiritedly. "Boy, they don't call you a genius for nothin', do they."
Daniel ignored his attempt at irritated snark. "So, you're telling me that you've... wanted me for that long? For years? And you never thought to tell me?"
The irony of that query made Jack roll his eyes upward and catch a glimpse of his teammate's perplexed face, obviously still trying to take all this in and understand it. "I didn't figure it out myself till a couple months ago, Daniel. Of course I didn't tell you. I didn't even tell me, for cryin' out loud!"
"But when you knew..."
Jack stood up and looked his friend in the eye. "I knew if I told you, I'd be taking a chance at wrecking our friendship for good, if you weren't okay with it. I didn't want to lose that, and I." He swallowed, looking into those concerned, confused blue eyes, aching to kiss those full lips, drawn up in concentration. "I didn't mean to tell you at all, Daniel. I just wanted to apologize for being such an asshole these last few years. I wanted to try to mend the fences between us, and now I'm afraid I've..."
He couldn't see what Daniel was thinking. Had he screwed the pooch with that confession? Daniel certainly hadn't fallen into his arms with undying declarations of love. Was he totally wigged out?
Daniel backed up a step. He turned away and headed back to his spot on the couch, picked up his glass and drained the wine in a single long swallow. He didn't look at Jack; just stared down into his empty glass with panic-stricken eyes.
"Aw, shit," Jack breathed. "I fucked this up, didn't I?" He stuffed his hands into his pockets.
Daniel stood up, gaze on the floor, and started wandering erratically around the room. "Jack, I... I need to think about this."
"I wasn't asking you to have sex with me, if that's what you're worried about," Jack blurted, his face heating up as soon as the words left his mouth.
"Sex? No. Um." Daniel's eyes were glazed over now as he finally made eye contact. "But th-thank you for telling me, Jack. I appreciate it. I really do. Things make more sense now, but..."
"But you just don't wanna have anything to do with me," Jack surmised, his heart aching now.
"No. Don't put words in my mouth, please. That's not it at all," Daniel assured him quickly. "I just... I need to think. Give me some time. Okay?" He turned without another word, fled to the foyer, grabbed his coat and hurried outside without even putting it on.
Self-recrimination boiled over into rage. "Fuck!" Jack shouted to the empty house, flinging his arms into the air, scraping his fingers through his hair until his scalp hurt. "God damn you, Jack O'Neill! You and your fucking big mouth."
He spent most of the night on his feet, pacing his house and yard, thinking. Tomorrow he'd have to go into the base and look Daniel in the eye and hear that he'd requested a transfer to another team, or maybe get a shaky 'thank you' for his honesty and a polite request that they just remain friends. Daniel wouldn't betray him; Jack was certain of that much. What had passed between them in his house would stay between them.
But Daniel's hasty retreat made it clear that he was shaken and uncomfortable with the idea of them as more than friends. Daniel was straight, and Jack had known that to his core. And now his confession had driven an even bigger wedge between them than had been there before, and there was a very real danger that their friendship was over for good. Jack couldn't live in that world, seeing Daniel every day in the halls, watching him go through the stargate on someone else's team, having Daniel dodge him so they wouldn't have to talk.
Jack couldn't handle that. It would be like having his heart cut out, which left only one thing for him to do.
He headed straight for the computer in his den and booted it up. When it was ready he opened the word processing program and started typing. As soon as that was done, he printed out the letter and signed it, put it into an envelope and went into the bedroom to pack. After a short trip to the mountain to leave the letter of resignation on Hammond's desk, he returned to his truck and drove off into what remained of the night, starting the long, twenty-hour trip to Minnesota and his grandfather's cabin to lick his wounds and deal with his embarrassment and grief in perfect isolation.
Three Days Later
Jack was outside chopping wood for the fireplace when he heard the car drive up. He'd been dreading the inevitable confrontation for two days now, but wasn't sure exactly who would be coming after him. Teal'c was the only one of the team who'd actually been to the cabin and knew the way; Carter would be the most likely official contact from the military, but Daniel had the most reason for coming. For all Jack knew, all three of this teammates might well be on his porch by now, getting ready to knock on the door.
He came out from behind the cabin with an armload of neatly chopped cord wood and saw Daniel's Jeep pulled up beside his truck, but the man himself was nowhere in sight. He stepped up onto the porch, pushed open the door and saw Daniel coming back into the living room from the bedroom.
"There you are!" he said on a relieved sigh, his face breaking into a grin. "I was worried about you, Jack."
O'Neill didn't say anything, uncertain how he was supposed to feel about having his solitude interrupted. He headed for the fireplace, squatted down with his burden and put the wood into the bin.
Straightening up, silent and struggling with a world of denial, he dusted debris off the front of his grey sweater and then his arms. He took two sticks of wood and added them to the cheerfully burning fire, doing his best to ignore his visitor, ashamed to make eye contact.
He brushed right by Daniel to move into the tiny kitchen and start making coffee just to have something to do.
"Well. Okay," Daniel said awkwardly. He looked around the living room, and then strode to the entryway, where he shrugged out of his coat and hung it on a peg, right next to Jack's. "I think we should talk," he began.
"Did that already," returned Jack quietly. "It didn't turn out so hot."
"Maybe it turned out better than you think," said Daniel gently.
Jack made eye contact then, and saw that Daniel was smiling. He looked at peace with himself, somehow. Almost happy. And so beautiful, he took Jack's breath away with the wonder of it.
Jack wasn't prepared for any of that. He wobbled a little with the shock of it, feeling unsteady on his own feet, and had to put out a hand and brace himself on the kitchen counter, his eyes locked with Daniel's.
"I'm sorry for the way I reacted the other night, Jack," he said, his voice a soft, deep rumble. "You surprised me. And I know I didn't handle it too well, to say the least. Not one of my finer moments." He let out a slow breath. "See, I think you should know that I drove all this way for only one reason." Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, standing tall and sure. "You see, I wanted to tell you that I feel the same way about you. I have for a long time, but never dreamed it could go anywhere."
That confession shocked Jack so much, he couldn't think for a few heartbeats. He just stared at Daniel, unable to believe what he'd just heard. "You mean..."
"Yep. I've been in love with you for years." Daniel ducked his head, looking at Jack over the rims of his glasses, gracing his friend with a shy smile. He chuckled happily. "Which brings us to the question, now what do we do about it?"
Jack was speechless, shocked, almost disbelieving. He shoved his hands into the back pockets of his well-worn jeans and walked back to the fireplace. For a moment, he kicked aimlessly at a wrinkle in the throw rug between the two chairs facing the hearth. He gestured toward one of them with his head. "Siddown, Daniel," he said slowly. "Let's talk." Jack was aware that his heartbeat was speeding up in anticipation, trying to keep a tight rein on himself and not get excited. Not yet.
"Okay," Daniel agreed, taking a seat in the overstuffed green wing back chair. "But me first."
Jack eased into the wooden rocker facing his friend and teammate, and waited.
"I covered for you with the general," Daniel began. "I told him you had a personal matter come up, and that you were upset about something. Which as far as I was concerned, was the whole truth. So anyway, he's holding your resignation until he has a chance to talk with you about it.
"So now we have to decide how we're going to handle this relationship on the job. 'Cause I want you back. At work, of course." Daniel looked him in the eye. "And everywhere else, too."
"So... you're saying... you want us to... be lovers?" asked Jack. "Am I getting that right?"
Daniel nodded. "I think we should start out kinda slow. You know, date. Try to figure out if this will even work before we commit to a full-blown romance." He rolled his eyes and quirked a little grin at his own choice of words. "No pun intended. Before we have sex."
That made sense, Jack thought. His mind automatically went straight to fucking Daniel through the chair he was sitting in, and Jack realized that was far too much, way too soon. "Do you think it could work for us?" he asked hopefully. "I mean, realistically?"
"Chances are good," Daniel returned with a grin. "But I have to ask you if you're sure you want us to be lovers. Having sex with another man is way different from having sex with a woman. The relationships are different, too. You can't treat me like a woman, because I'm not one."
Something about the way Daniel said all that made Jack certain the advice came from personal experience. Had Daniel dated other men? Had he been in love with any, aside from Jack? The more he thought about that idea, the more he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Daniel had nearly thirty years of his life under his belt before they met, and a lot could've happened in that time.
"I know, Daniel," he returned quietly, "because I've already tried it. I think I know what I'm getting into here. I've never been a bottom, but I've topped and I have to tell you, it was the best sex of my life."
He expected Daniel to gape, but only a little surprise flitted across his face. Daniel gave him a long, slow blink and a lazy smile.
"In fact, I think that's why I finally got the guts to tell you how I felt. I met someone who kind of. Uh. Showed me the ropes. If I hadn't met him, I'd probably never have admitted to myself how I really felt about you."
"You slept with him?" Daniel asked cautiously, picking at some imaginary lint on his jeans, almost hiding his face now. His smile was gone now, listening intently.
"We had safe sex, yes," Jack admitted, studying Daniel's reaction to his confession. "Does that bother you, that you won't be the first man I've ever had?"
Half of Daniel's mouth quirked up in a wry grin. "No. I didn't expect you to have saved yourself for me. I just never pegged you for the type to wander that far off the straight and narrow in the first place, or to admit it if you had."
"He looked just like you," Jack blurted, instantly horrified that those words had slipped out, especially at such a sensitive time. Filled with regret, he chided himself, stupid, stupid, stupid. He held his breath, waiting for Daniel's reaction.
Moments ticked away while Daniel studied the weave of the jeans covering his thighs, his expression carefully composed and utterly neutral. "So lemme see if I get what you're saying. You pretended you were sleeping with me while you were doing it with him," he surmised.
Daniel nodded, accepting that. He pursed his lips, still thinking, still not looking at Jack. "Did you level with him?"
Jack nodded. "He knew, from the second we met, when I thought he was you. And then later, when we decided to have sex, it was actually his idea for me to be thinking about you. He enjoyed helping me fulfill my fantasy."
"Are you still seeing him?" There was a note of coolness in Daniel's voice.
"No. We agreed it should be a one-time thing."
"So you've had the dress rehearsal and know you'll like the sex." Daniel finally lifted his head and looked Jack in the eye. He seemed a little sad somehow. "You should know that I'm not inexperienced, either, but I won't go into detail. I have confessions of my own to make, but not here and not now. There'll be plenty of time for that later.
"Meanwhile, come back home, Jack. You're needed at the SGC."
Jack shook his head. "I can't do that. If I'm going to have a relationship with you, I can't be a soldier anymore. The resignation will have to stand."
"Because of the military regs? Don't ask/don't tell?" asked Daniel, cocking his head.
"Yes. I couldn't continue to serve in good conscience-"
"Oh, for heaven's sake. Explain to me how your choice of sexual partners in any way influences or changes your ability to fulfill your vows as a member of the United States military." Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, his chin tilted up defiantly.
"It doesn't, but-"
"Jack, you've made a career out of ignoring regs and direct orders that you knew were wrong," Daniel pointed out firmly, his voice gentle but his expression set and confident. "The military once excluded men of color and even women, until irrational fears were proven false and closed minds were opened. Eventually, the regulations against gays will vanish, too, because it should. It's wrong, and it shuts out a lot of people who have incredibly valuable skills and knowledge that we need. People like you and me."
"I can't buck the regs, Daniel," Jack argued back quietly. "We're too often under scrutiny-"
"We can be careful and discreet," Daniel assured him. "I've already submitted a proposal to General Hammond for several new academics to be hired, some of whom are openly gay. I'm also adding a request for the military to waive that particular regulation for the SGC, specifically because of the special needs of the program. Just any archaeologist or linguist won't qualify for the skills we need, and I know for a fact there are perfect candidates out there that we've passed up strictly because of their orientation. I mean to change that."
That was a surprise. Jack hadn't heard a word about it from Hammond.
Answering Jack's unspoken question, Daniel told him, "Right now, it's just between the general and me. He's helping me pull together necessary research and preparing our arguments. We'll be going to the Pentagon soon to present our case." He smiled a little, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. "And I've been quietly gathering the opinions of the ranking officers on the base, one on one, off the record, no official statistics anywhere but in my head, and the response so far, after I've made my case to them, is standing at over 70% to suspend the regs for the SGC."
"You didn't ask me," Jack noted.
Daniel chuckled a little. "I figured I already knew your answer. Looks like I guessed wrong, and that makes me pretty happy, actually."
"I'd like to know how all that turns out," Jack told him honestly. "But it still doesn't-"
"Let me ask you this," Daniel interrupted, leaning forward, elbows on his knees, hands clasped loosely in front of him. "Do you think your skills as a soldier are useful in the fight against the Goa'uld?"
"Yes. Of course."
"SG-1 has the best track record so far in the field, as far as what we've accomplished in the way of discoveries, allies we've made and the mortality rate of System Lords. You're largely responsible for that, Jack. Your command; your command decisions. We can't afford to let you go because of some asinine discriminatory policy that's going to change somewhere down the road anyway. We need you, until you decide of your own volition that you want to retire, and I think you're not done kicking Goa'uld ass. Am I right?"
Jack had been watching Daniel, listening to the confidence in his voice, the righteous belief in his expression, the arrogant gleam in his eyes, and knew that Daniel would never let the subject go. He would continue to argue, to reason with every speck of that incredible intellect of his until Jack had no choice but to see things his way. They had done this dance together for years, and when the scientist was this passionate about something, the soldier always lost the battle for command.
It didn't matter that Daniel's reasoning was flawless, or even that he was morally right. The debate was simply over before it began. It was time to run up the white flag.
"Okay, Daniel," said Jack quietly. "You win."
Real surprise made Daniel's eyes widen and his mouth draw up into that sexy little 'o' that made Jack squirm in his seat.
"You can keep on laying out the arguments if you wanna," Jack told him playfully, "but it's check and mate three moves into the game. I'll tear up my resignation, and we'll date on the side. But if we get caught and I get thrown out on my ass, you're supporting me. Okay?"
"Gee, Jack, when did you get so easy?"
Startled laughter leaped out of him. "Better watch it," Jack warned, still grinning. "You'll ruin my rep."
Daniel's chin went down. A sly little grin tweaked up the left side of his mouth. He chuckled, deep in his throat and looked up at Jack from beneath his lashes. "Oh, I intend to ruin you in all sorts of ways," he rumbled, his expression positively filthy.
Instinctively, Jack clenched his legs together in response to the stab of heat that reply sent straight to his dick. His pulse quickened, and he nodded his head toward a door on the far side of the room. "Bedroom's that way," he intoned, his mouth going dry.
Daniel sighed and stood up. "As much as I think we'd both enjoy fucking each other's brains out-"
Hearing Daniel Jackson say the "F" word turned Jack on in a big way. He glanced down at the hard-on heating up his right thigh, knowing he'd be drawing Daniel's eyes there, too. Daniel was still staring at it when Jack looked up at him, but he hadn't paused in his dialogue.
"-I meant what I said. I think we need to stick to figuring out if that sort of relationship will work before we get to the good stuff." He hesitated. "I've only dived into commitment on the first date once, and while that did work out pretty well for a while, I'm not eager to try my luck a second time. I want to be sure before I get in too deep." He slipped his hands into his jeans pockets.
"Come home, Jack. Rescind your resignation and let's give this thing a shot."
Jack stood up, wanting desperately to touch him, but certain Daniel wouldn't allow it, not yet. He was a man who appreciated tradition and protocol, so in order to appeal to that aspect of him, Jack would have to make the proper first move. "So, Daniel," he said brightly. "We do it your way. Dinner? Movie? Hockey? What sounds good to you for a first date?"
Daniel was so beautiful when he smiled, especially when he looked as open and happy as he did right then. "Surprise me," he returned gently. "You know what I like. I know what you like, and never the twain shall meet. Dating will be about compromise, about discovering things we can enjoy together, because that's what will make or break the relationship. First date is up to you, second will be up to me, and we go on from there." He strolled toward the front door.
Jack walked with him, watching as he put on his coat. "No kissing?"
Daniel shook his head. "Not on the first date."
"How about the second?"
"There will be kissing."
"How many dates till we... you know."
The joy in Daniel's eyes took Jack's breath away.
"When we both know it's right, Jack. When we're sure it's going to work." Daniel pulled the door to the cabin open and stepped outside into the chill.
Following him outside, Jack lifted his hand in a good-bye wave. He watched the love of his life drive away, then hurried back inside to start packing up his belongings and close up the cabin. He intended to head home first thing in the morning.
Five Days Later
Jack sat down at the terminal in the internet café, his heart full of hope. He had his job back, things were going smoothly in his life, and he had a date with Daniel for Friday night. He'd been doing some research on the internet for romantic and fun things to do in the Springs and Denver, and had a list of potential choices for date activities. But all during the last four days he'd spent planning, his mind kept going back to …tienne. Had it not been for him...
That was what had brought Jack back to the café, where he could be anonymous. He logged into the free mail server, opened his account and started a message, typing in …tienne's email address from memory.
Thought you'd want to know, I told my friend how I felt, and he's okay with it. More than okay, really. We're going to take a chance on each other and see if we can do this thing. It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't met you. I just wanted to thank you, Etienne. I owe you for helping to bring us together.
Keep looking, Frenchy. Your dreamboat is out there somewhere. All you have to do is be ready when you find him.
He sent the post on its way, then started checking through his IN box, most of which was just spam that he deleted unopened. The last message, however, was dated the previous day, and it was from allons-y. He opened it and read:
Bonjour, my friend!
I hope you are well. This note is to tell you that I will be leaving soon. I will be giving up my apartment and moving on, but I hoped to have a chance to tell you goodbye in person, if you wish. Some of my friends will be coming to the club where we met on Friday night, 5 October, around 9 PM. I would love to see your face once more before I am gone, but if you do not come, I will understand. I wish you a happy life.
Jack stared at the screen, his mind turning circles all around that invitation. He didn't know how Daniel would feel about meeting his lover, but Jack would pay good money to see the two men standing side by side. He might be making a big mistake, but he hurriedly sent a post to tell …tienne that he'd be there - with his friend, Daniel, so …tienne could meet him.
Then Jack closed up his account, paid for his time, and headed home; wondering about his own sanity. If Daniel popped a cork, he'd eventually cool off, and they'd talk about it. This was just too good an opportunity to let slip through his fingers. He hoped Daniel would understand, once he laid eyes on his twin.
Jack and Daniel stood outside the gay club, watching the men going inside, the sound of the loud music audible through the closed doors. Daniel was dressed in a green V-neck sweater and baggy black jeans, and Jack had on a cream colored shirt and tan khakis, with a tan suede jacket on top. Most of the men who passed them were dressed to the nines, or in skin-tight or wildly colorful clothes, and their casual clothes made them stand out in the crowd.
Daniel just stared, an uneasy look on his face. "I don't think I..."
"Just for a few minutes," Jack cajoled. "I promised I'd say goodbye." Jack had told Daniel what he intended, wanting to be honest with him about everything. "C'mon, Daniel. You've gotta meet him."
"I'm okay with that. I really am." Daniel just stared at the doors. "But I don't wanna go in there." He turned to Jack. "I saw a bar down the street. How about if I wait there, and you can go in and find your friend and bring him to meet me?"
Jack didn't quite understand his reluctance, and disappointment settled in with acceptance. "Sure. Okay. We'll meet you there. You sure you don't mind?"
A relieved look passed over Daniel's face, and he nodded. "I'd rather do that, Jack. See you in a little while." He took Jack's hand and squeezed it, then walked away in the direction of the bar.
With a sigh, Jack turned and went into the club, paid the cover charge and went straight to the bar to order a drink. While he waited for his beer, he scanned the room, searching through the faces for one in particular. …tienne was nowhere in sight.
He was about to go into the sitting room when a young man came up to him. He was blond and slim and looked vaguely familiar.
"Robert, isn't it?" Jack asked.
"Hey, you remembered," said the youth with a smile. "Wanna buy me a drink?"
Jack grinned and shook his head. "I doubt you're old enough for that, Bobby. Have you seen …tienne?"
"He's running late," Robert told him, leaning close and shouting over the loud music that had just started up after a short break. "He just called me and told me to keep you here, if you showed up."
"Okay. I'll wait." Jack took his beer from the bartender, handed over his money, and turned back to the twinkie. "Thanks."
"Wanna dance?" Robert gave him a coquettish smile, his head tilted, his eyes inviting.
"I thought you said I was too old," Jack teased, grinning back at him.
"You are," Robert agreed, his grin widening, "but you're hot for an old guy."
"Thanks, but I'll just watch." Jack sipped his beer and then saluted the kid with it, watching him move off into the crowded dance floor amid a sea of writhing male bodies.
Jack waited for a good half hour, then stepped into the sitting room to call Daniel. It was a little quieter in there, and he did his best to ignore the sex going on all around him. He could smell it, and the soft groans and wet, sucking sounds tugged at his attention and his libido, making him close his eyes after he finished dialing. He held the phone up to his ear and listened for Daniel to answer his cell phone.
"Hey, you okay?" he asked, sticking one finger of the hand holding the beer bottle into his free ear so he could hear better. "I got hung up here at the club. The guy's on his way, but he's not here yet. I'm gonna give him five more minutes, and then I'll be on my way to the bar. Okay?"
"Sure, Jack," Daniel told him. "Take your time. I'm fine here."
He said goodbye and closed up the cell phone, sticking it back into his pants pocket. A few minutes after his return to the club's bar, he saw …tienne come in the door. The Frenchman glanced around the room, and a group of men cheered when he arrived. They welcomed him noisily, each hugging him and kissing him on both cheeks, French-style. Jack patiently waited until the others had said their hellos and drifted away, and …tienne finally spotted Jack and made his way toward him.
He was dressed, as always, in skin-tight clothes. Tonight's outfit consisted of black satin pants, tightly fitted to the knees and flaring out from there. Though the night was chilly out, he was without a coat or sleeves, his chest covered in a black vest with silver brocade on the front that showed off his tattooed arms nicely. He looked hot, and Jack felt a pang of want for him, but quickly shuttled it away.
Jack took his hand in a firm grip, then patted him on the shoulder, wishing he had the guts to kiss him. He was happy to see the Frenchman. He genuinely liked the guy, for all his flamboyance and attitude. He had a good heart, and he was fun. Jack would miss him.
"Bon soir, Jacques!" …tienne said with a bright smile. "Merci - thank you for coming." He glanced around. "I thought you said you would bring your friend, non?"
"He didn't wanna come in here," Jack answered honestly. "This isn't his scene."
"Nor yours, either, n'est-e pas?" agreed …tienne playfully.
Jack grinned and shook his head. "No, not mine, either. Daniel's waiting for us at the bar. That same one we went to that first night."
…tienne scratched his head amid the blond spikes. "It is too loud 'ere, Jacques. Why don't we go to meet your friend, oui? Then we will see 'ow much we look alike."
Jack brightened. He nodded, set his beer bottle down on the bar and left the nightclub with the Frenchman, walking quickly in the autumn chill to the nearby bar.
As they came in, Jack spotted Robert sitting in a booth way in the back. They approached him and saw that he was sitting next to an athletic bag that Jack recognized as …tienne's. Daniel was nowhere in sight. As they neared the booth, Robert got up and left, giving …tienne a wink and a smile as he passed them, heading outside into the night.
…tienne slid into the booth Robert had vacated, and Jack sat down across from him.
"Maybe Daniel's in the bathroom," said Jack, still looking around the room. "I'll go check."
"If so, 'e will be out soon," …tienne assured him. "We will wait for 'im, oui?"
Without another word, he reached up to his left ear, unclipped his earring, and took it off. He massaged his earlobe a little, then repeated the procedure on the other side, laying both earrings on the table. Then he unbuttoned his vest and did the same thing with his nipple rings. He reached into the athletic bag for a small white plastic container and a squeeze bottle, which he set out between them. He pulled a comb out of the bag and started dragging it through his spiky hair, flattening it down against his head in a much more conservative style.
"…tienne?" Jack was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable at what he was seeing.
The Frenchman was beginning to look even more like Daniel, which was starting to get a little creepy. "I'm just gonna... go find Daniel," Jack said, eyeing the comb just placed on the table. There was a residue of gold gel all over the teeth of the comb. He glanced up at …tienne and watched him reach into his eye with finger and thumb, and pull out a dark contact lens, which he placed into the plastic container. He added some liquid from the squeeze bottle into the well, and capped it.
Then …tienne looked up at him, with one hazel eye and one of bright, pale blue. "You don't have to look for Daniel, Jack," he said without a trace of French accent. "He's right here."
All Jack's cognitive processes came to a screeching halt. He just sat as still as a statue, and stared, watching as the man across from him continued to remove the second contact lens and put it carefully away.
Other pieces of the French persona were also removed until what clearly showed beneath was familiar and known. The jewelry had been clip-on, leaving no telltale holes in the skin. Contact lenses had covered his eyes and changed their hue. A tube of temporary, wash-out hair color that acted as a styling mousse had changed his hair. The tattoos had been artfully sprayed on, with waterproof ink that would last for several days, but came off easily with the swipe of a cotton ball loaded with mineral oil. After using several of those pulled from a Ziploc container in the athletic bag, …tienne's tattoos were gone, and Daniel's bare arms glistened with an oily sheen where they had been.
When he'd stripped off as much as he could, Daniel wiped down his arms with a small hand towel he'd brought, pulled the green sweater he'd been wearing earlier from the athletic bag, along with his glasses, put them on and - voila! - there sat Daniel Jackson.
Jack just continued to stare, wide-eyed, unable to think or move while a storm of emotions swirled through him.
"I'm sure you're pretty upset right about now, but I know you don't want to make a scene," Daniel continued quietly. "So how about if we go someplace where you can explode in private?"
Jack slid out of the booth, his jaws clamped shut, stomach clenching, moving on autopilot. He pushed past the waitress coming to take their drink order, only vaguely aware of Daniel apologizing to her in his wake. By the time they reached his truck, Jack felt his anger rising to the top, heating him up inside and out. Detonation was imminent, and he struggled to maintain control.
Daniel reached for the keys, gently closing his hand over Jack's, which he jerked away, his eyes ruthlessly averted.
"Gimme the keys, Jack," Daniel said in a patient voice. "I think I should drive," he insisted. "I know where we're going, and I'd like to tell you everything while we're on the way." He cleared his throat. "And you shouldn't drive when you're this angry."
Without a word of protest, Jack handed over the keys and went around to the passenger side, climbed in and fastened his seat belt.
It was going to be a bumpy night.
Daniel started the ignition and drove south on Broadway.
"Where are we going?" Jack demanded through clenched teeth, doing his best to keep his temper in check.
"Home," he answered as he glanced at Jack. "To the Springs. It's a long story, and I can tell you everything on the way back. " He sighed. "Look, in my own defense, remember that I know how you feel, because I've been on the receiving end of something similar. You've had hidden agendas before, too, and made me believe things about you that weren't true."
"That was different. That was for work," Jack snarled, his hands curling up into fists on his thighs.
"Well, then, forgive me for wanting to actually have a life," Daniel shot back, his voice gentle but tense. "I did all this to protect the SGC. What was it the Air Force said about giving the okay for that stupid TV series, Wormhole X-treme? Oh, yeah. Plausible deniability." He sighed. "Just hear me out, Jack. Let me tell you what happened and why, and maybe you'll understand. I can't hope you'll forgive me, but if you can just understand why I did all this, maybe it'll be enough to keep you from hating me for deceiving you like I did. Will you at least listen?"
Jack nodded, staring daggers at Daniel's profile as he guided the truck through traffic.
Daniel sighed. "I guess the best place to start is back in the infirmary, when I was recovering from that sarcophagus addiction..."
Part Two: DANIEL
Traffic was heavy through the city, and the truck moved slowly down Broadway toward the interstate. Daniel glanced at his companion, his heart sinking at the stony expression on the other man's face. Jack sat ramrod straight, eyes forward now, aimed out the windshield, the only movement a muscle twitching in his jaw.
That wasn't good. Jack was seriously pissed off. Daniel could practically see the steam curling out his ears.
He swallowed hard, took a leap of faith, and began.
"After that incident in the storeroom, when you'd taken me back to the infirmary, the next time I woke up I found you sitting next to the bed. You were sitting on a stool, your head down on your arms, sleeping. And you were holding my hand. I-" His throat closed up as the memories of that first moment of awareness cut into him all over again.
His heart had gone out to Jack, deeply touched by the depth of his caring. He had studied that grizzled head - what he could see of it - and felt a rush of warm affection that had brought tears to Daniel's eyes.
"I knew then that I loved you, way more than I was supposed to feel about any man," he went on, his voice a raw pain in his throat as he pushed past the constriction. "Especially my CO. But you were always there for me. Always. Even with little things, like making sure I ate regularly and slept once in a while when projects weren't urgent. I know from what you said at the cabin that you think you always let me down, but it's not true. You've taken care of me in a way that no one else ever has, except for my parents, and maybe Sha'uri. I couldn't help loving you, Jack. And when I realized how much... Well, it was too late."
He glanced over at Jack and saw the lines of tension in his face begin to soften a little. Jack looked down into his lap, at his fists clenched on his thighs, and opened them, lacing his fingers together in his lap. He nodded, still not ready to speak, but at least he was listening.
"You used to try to teach me to play," said Daniel with a hesitant smile. "Always tossing some kind of ball at me or making me play street hockey with you. Remember?"
Jack sighed and looked out the windshield again.
"There was one time - I don't remember when it was, exactly - but we were in your driveway, both of us scrambling for the puck, and you pushed me up against the garage door..."
Daniel turned his eyes back to the road, remembering that day as a savage pulse of heat swept through his body, from his groin to his face. His smile vanished. His voice got tight. "You were really grinding into me, and I started to get hard. I liked how you felt up against me, how strong you were, pushing at me, grabbing at me. That was when I knew this wasn't just going to go away. I was going to have to deal with it sooner or later." He cleared his throat. "But I could never let you know. I was convinced that you'd have hated me, if you'd known I was attracted to you."
Following the stream of traffic, Daniel took the next access road that led up onto I-25 south, toward the Springs.
"I was also still a married man then, and there was no way I was going to give up looking for Sha'uri or trying to save her. I'd resolved that if we ever found a way to free her, I'd go back to Abydos with her and love her for the rest of our lives. But in the meantime, I put my feelings for you away and concentrated on other things to keep my mind off you."
He kept watch on traffic, pulling into an opening to speed around a small tanker truck, his thoughts turning grim.
"That's why I worked so hard all the time, Jack. Because my first loyalty was to my wife. It had to be."
Traffic began to thin as they left the city limits, heading out into the countryside. It was dark in the cabin of the truck, only the occasional brightness of passing headlights illuminating Jack's face, contrasted by the dim greenish wash from the dash display.
He smiled a little at Jack, then turned his gaze back to the road and the red glow of taillights some distance in front of them. His heart was heavy with sadness as he let himself fall back into the past, remembering all the little milestones that had brought him to where he was now. "I think I first started feeling you pull away from me when Doctor MacKenzie committed me. When you and Sam and Teal'c came to visit me, you wouldn't even touch me. Just stayed back and stared at me, like I was some animal in a zoo."
Pain twisted around his heart, but he refused to give in to the threatening tears he felt.
"I remember wondering if you knew, somehow, if I'd given off some vibe or something." He sighed, swallowing hard. "Then I started thinking that maybe you just tolerated me for what I could bring to the program, to the work we were doing. You never really seemed to like me - well, maybe a little - but we were never really friends. Not really." Daniel knew he was pushing now, wanting desperately for Jack to finally say something.
It worked. "I told you a million times, Daniel, I had to say that shit because of the undercover operation," Jack growled. "I did my best to make it up to you afterward."
"And I know now what all that was about," Daniel added hurriedly. "You were fighting a battle of your own, but I didn't understand that then. All I saw was the distance between us growing... and then Sha'uri died."
It took him a minute or so to go on, to gather himself to continue.
Jack reached over and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, giving him a comforting squeeze.
"I was so lost, Jack," Daniel murmured. "I know you know that, and how stupid it was for me to do what I did with Kera-"
Jack's hand abruptly lifted off Daniel's shoulder and returned to his lap. Daniel remembered Jack's reactions to that whole mess, and now he understood the motivations behind them. Jack had been jealous of Kera, too.
"She was the last woman I ever touched," Daniel said with a note of finality. "After that... for a while I decided I'd never let myself fall for anyone again. I'd just shut my heart off and forget about love. I was hurt and sad and thought I'd never have anyone care about me again."
His stomach hurt as the memories welled up inside him. He'd almost felt cursed, so angry at the universe for cheating him of love at every turn, and especially for holding the one love he most wanted right in front of his nose, but forever out of his reach. Worst of all was the fact that no one close to him had seemed to notice. His team - his family - had not paid the slightest attention to the fact that he was no longer going out with them or indulging in any sort of recreation. Work and sleep had been the sum total of his life, and no one seemed to have cared in the slightest.
"Then you were marooned on Edora." He felt the tightness in his chest as he remembered seeing Jack with Laira, saying goodbye. "I was happy for you, that you'd found someone, and sad that you had to let her go. I wanted you to have what I couldn't, Jack. I was looking around for possible candidates at the base, trying to find someone to fix you up with when... well..."
Daniel realized he was tailgating a Corvette and doing well over the speed limit, caught up in his own emotions as he drove. He pushed all that down, taking back a little control and easing off the gas pedal.
"That was when the sting happened, and even after you apologized, I..." He lifted his chin, struggling to maintain a little stubborn pride. "I saw the truth in what you said when you told me our friendship had no foundation, and you were right. It really doesn't. We're nothing alike. We think totally differently. We have nothing in common but our jobs." Again, he was pushing Jack, and he knew it, but he had a point to make and wanted to be sure he drove it home.
"That's not true, Daniel." Jack's voice still had an edge of anger to it, even with that quiet tone.
Risking a glance at his companion's face, Daniel saw those dark eyes staring back at him from Jack's shadowy face. He looked grim. He looked irritated.
"Yeah, it is," Daniel argued dispiritedly. "You chose to tolerate me. You chose to like me a little. But I never felt like you really meant it, not for a long time. I just didn't understand at the time, Jack. But I do now." He turned his gaze back to the dark highway. "Only it wasn't just you. When I disappeared after touching that crystal skull... nobody was in too big a hurry to find me. I know, because I was there, walking around with everyone, listening to you talk about me as if I weren't there. You couldn't see or hear me, but I was there. Everyone just shrugged off my disappearance and went about their business, looking for me nine to five."
Guilt etched into Jack's face. He looked down at his hands again.
"It became clear that I was never going to find any kind of respect or affection within the bounds of the SGC. I thought I'd be okay with that, but then we went to P3R-118."
Even now, years later, Daniel could feel the false memories implanted into his mind by the aliens who had tried to make SG-1 forget who they were. Carlin had been quiet and obedient, lending his muscle where it was most needed, contenting himself with doing what he could to help others, yet strangely drawn to Jonah, Thera and Tor. Daniel's mind had eventually rejected the memory stamp, but he'd never quite reconciled the memories of that other persona. He still dreamed of the mines he'd never been in and the childhood that never was.
"Did you know Carlin was gay?" Daniel asked, staring out the windshield. "It's funny, when you think about it, actually. Aside from you, I had never really looked at men as sexually exciting, but I suppose it was always there beneath the surface, in one way or another. That much of the memory stamp stuck, anyway. They programmed me with a personality that either changed or enhanced my natural orientation and afterward... Well, it started me thinking. Maybe I'd have better luck with men than I'd had with women."
A glance at Jack showed him turning away at that admission. This would be the hardest part to get out, because Daniel knew it would hurt Jack to hear about him with other men, but it had to be done. He'd spare as much as possible of the details, but not how the evolution of …tienne Beno"t had occurred. That was important for Jack to know.
"I knew I couldn't pursue any of this in the Springs, because I couldn't take the risk of any casual sightings," he went on. "So I started way out in Boulder, going to gay clubs and bars and just watching the interactions." He'd grinned at himself, ever the academic studying this new alien culture, learning the social customs and unique language. "Nobody paid much attention to me at first. Geeks aren't high on the list of desirable types. So I just observed and learned, and tried to concentrate on just talking to other men, getting comfortable with that. I worked it like I was a researcher conducting interviews, so they wouldn't think I was hitting on them, and I wouldn't feel rejected if they weren't interested in me. Which they weren't."
Daniel sighed, remembering how depressed he'd started to get when no one flirted with him. He'd seen the hustlers, witnessed what looked like plenty of fun on the dance floor and at the bar. He didn't want the anonymous back room sex or the drugs, but he liked the dancing, the flirting and touching, and he was all too aware that he didn't fit in that scene. He was too old, too staid, too straight-looking. The guys didn't take him seriously. Meanwhile, he was about to die of boredom and sexual frustration in his real life. He could still remember thinking that if he didn't get some zing in his life soon, he'd wither away to nothing.
The more he chatted with gay men in his interviews, though, the more he was drawn to the subject of what they were looking for in a lover, what turned them on and kept them interested. As he considered all that information and wrestled with Carlin's dreams and desires, he began to realize he would have to make some changes in himself if he were going to attract a lover, starting with his wardrobe. Geek chic just wouldn't cut it.
"I paid attention to the clothes the other men were wearing, especially the guys everyone else thought were hot," continued Daniel, "and then I went shopping." He chuckled softly as he recalled that day years past. "There I was, looking through the clothes in this store I'd heard mentioned frequently, and I found this ugly orange-brown vest that reminded me of Carlin's clothes, and suddenly, I could almost hear him snarling about how he hated that color and fabric, and reaching for something else. The next thing I knew, I was pulling shirts off the rack that screamed with color, and trying on pants that fit me like they were painted onto my ass. It felt good, and I knew I looked good in them." His grin widened. "But the glasses had to go, and something dramatic had to be done to my hair, something I could put on and take off without it being a wig that might come off at the wrong moment."
He glanced at his companion, who was now examining him in the low, eerie green light from the dash instrumentation.
"Jack, it was as if I'd suddenly become someone else, as if Carlin had just leaped out of me and taken over. I mean, I know he's not real; that the personality was just a mask or alteration of my own natural inclinations, but that moment opened my eyes. Carlin and I were Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins, totally different men in personality, yet inseparable. I knew I couldn't ever be gay as Daniel Jackson, because even as a civilian advisor, it would have to be kept a secret. If anyone in the military found out I was living that sort of lifestyle-"
"You'd be at risk for retaliation," Jack finished for him. "Yes, I know. That's why I followed you into that club in the first place."
Daniel met his concerned, simmering gaze for a moment. "I know, Jack. But don't get ahead of me here." He turned back to the road. "So I thought the best way to keep my private life private would be to hide in plain sight; to make myself look so different even those closest to me might not recognize me. In essence, to become my own twin."
He glanced at Jack's burning eyes, aware that his anger hadn't completely cooled yet.
"It took me about three months to plan out and put together," Daniel admitted. "I started with a fake ID, then opened a separate bank account, got an apartment, wardrobe, the works, down to the last detail."
Daniel had known that the only way he wouldn't be recognized was if he were completely different from the sedate Doctor Jackson. Not just looking different, but acting differently, too. Different habits, different accent; everything about him had to be different. Everything.
He'd need a history, something he could remember to avoid getting caught in a web of lies. So Daniel had sat down and written out a brief life story of the man he'd always wished he could be, piecing together Carlin's memories and spicing them up with something appropriately flamboyant to fill out the persona of …tienne.
He'd even taken up smoking for the role, hating every minute of it, but he'd done it specifically because it was something Daniel Jackson would never do. He'd studied himself and his habits, and consciously worked to change them. The fictional history of …tienne Beno"t had scrolled through his head until he'd it memorized, and finally he'd felt he was ready for his official coming-out.
"Remember Robert?" Daniel said the name with a French lilt.
Jack's gaze snapped to meet his, anger on the rise again at the sound of that accent.
Daniel braced himself. "Found him on the way to make …tienne's debut. I was passing by this fetish shop, and decided to go inside on a whim. He was behind the counter, working on an airbrush tattoo on a customer, and I asked him to do me, too."
He remembered the way the young man had smiled at him, a twinkle in his eyes, his expression full of invitation. Daniel had browsed in the shop while Robert finished up with the other customer. That was where he'd found the clip-on jewelry that he'd used to finish up his look. And just so Daniel's own tastes wouldn't influence the choice of tattoos, he'd had Robert choose the designs for him.
"I left with his phone number in my pocket," Daniel admitted proudly. "That first night in the club - God, Jack! I'd never had so much fun in my life!"
His moment of self-consciousness and doubt upon entering the nightclub had faded into delight as he'd soaked in the atmosphere of the place. This was where …tienne belonged, where men could look at other men and openly admire them, where they had the freedom to react to pleasure and desire. He hadn't been inside the club for two minutes before someone had asked him to dance.
"I'd done the odd tribal dancing here and there, but I'd never learned social dances like the waltz or disco," he explained. "What the men in the club were doing was more like upright fucking to the beat of the loud music while fully dressed, so I adapted. I studied other dancers and picked up the moves. The dancing itself was exhilarating, and I loved it. Before long, I was speaking with the French accent without even thinking about it. I could let go while I was there, and it-- It felt-- " He sighed, emotion filling him up as he remembered the joy of that first night, and many thereafter. "So good, Jack. I was free, really free, for the first time in my life."
He swallowed hard, struggling for control.
Other men had loved his accent and his talk of places he'd been in his Earthly travels before coming to the SGC. He'd loved the way they looked into his eyes, how they touched him, how they smiled and flirted and made him feel welcome and wanted. He never gave out his phone number, wanting to take his time and be more sure of himself and what was expected of him before he did more than socialize.
"Robert was my first male lover," he said quietly. "He didn't want a boyfriend, and was sympathetic to my voyage of discovery. We were friends, right from the beginning. He taught me everything he knew and then helped me connect with a few of his favorite lovers, guys he knew would enjoy what I was willing to do for them."
Daniel had decided his choice in men should also be different from his true heart's desire, and he had settled on slim blonds like Robert. They made Daniel feel big and powerful, and he'd found he liked the more dominant role during sex, too. He'd enjoyed the feel of a strong, male body in his arms, rubbing against him. He loved having a hard cock in his hand, in his mouth, being sucked off. He loved the way men smelled, the hardness of their muscles, the ferocity of their pleasure when they came. He found he liked everything about having male lovers, although he'd never bottomed until his tryst with Jack in Mississippi. He'd always resisted that experience until Jack had walked into that club, changing both of their lives forever.
He sighed, his heart like a great weight inside his chest. "But the few men I slept with just drove home how much I wanted... something... someone... I thought I could never really have. I took my time, looking for relationships instead of anonymous sex, but I couldn't--" He cleared his throat, his lips pressed together as he considered his words carefully. "I found out I couldn't get over you, Jack. That whole business out on the balcony at my loft... it wasn't just about the effects of that Goa'uld pleasure palace with the light show. I was feeling pretty hopeless at that point. A lot of the despondency... that was real."
"I'm sorry," Jack told him. "I didn't know."
"Yeah." Daniel fell silent. He didn't bother reminding Jack that while they were trapped on that planet, gradually reducing the amount of radiation until they could free themselves from their addiction to it, that Jack had hardly spoken to him. He'd spent almost all of his time with Carter, Teal'c and Loran, the teenager who'd been marooned there alone for years. Daniel had spent most of his time by himself, studying the building, aching to get back to Denver, to someplace where he was wanted.
"Anyway, being away that long pointed out to me that I needed a contingency plan for that sort of thing, so I transferred most of Daniel's money into …tienne's account, to keep the other lifestyle going. I had my apartment rent and utility bills set up as automatic withdrawals, but I was uneasy about having my fake ID and stuff at my loft, where they might be found and connect me to …tienne. I started keeping them in a safe deposit box in my Denver bank, so after I... well, after Kelowna, you guys never found any of that when you cleaned out my apartment."
Jack had fully turned away now, looking out the window to his right.
"And after I came back, when all the memories of my double life returned, I no longer had the key to my safety deposit box, because I'd hidden it in the loft and no one had found it. I filed for a lost key at the bank, paid to have the old lock drilled out and a new one put in, then made a trip to Denver to see if my other life were still there. It was, and I missed it. Missed the dancing. Missed being touched and wanted. So I took it up again, but not like I had in the beginning. Just when I got so lonely I couldn't stand it anymore." He looked hopefully at Jack. "Do you understand?"
"I called you," Jack growled. "I talked to you on the phone while you were sitting with me in that bar."
Daniel nodded. "I'd seen Sam and Janet on my way to a dinner date just a few weeks before you caught me at the club," he explained. "They didn't see me, but it started me thinking. Eventually, someone was bound to put me on the spot, and I needed some way to prove I couldn't be Daniel Jackson dressed up like that." He grinned. "My answering machine gave me the idea, since the only people who ever call me aside from sales people are you guys and Janet. I've got Caller ID on my home phone, and after a little investigation of some of the local tech geeks, I found a guy who helped me set up a gadget that would read the ID of incoming calls and route them to messages I'd recorded specifically to answer to each one of you, so you'd think you were talking directly to me. That was the clincher, and it worked. You bought it."
That extra planning had helped buy him the credibility he'd needed when Jack had spotted him on the street outside the club.
When he'd seen Jack inside, fending off the advances of an appreciative man, Daniel had had only seconds to prepare himself. He'd done his best to forget about Daniel Jackson, firmly entrenching himself in …tienne Beno"t, until he'd almost believed it himself. Jack had been skeptical at first, but the more he'd observed the Frenchman, the more he'd believed, and the more Daniel had realized it was because Jack wanted to believe …tienne was someone else.
"I was trying to shock you, when I kissed you in that bar," Daniel admitted, watching the lights of Colorado Springs coming up all around them. "Trying to make you run. When you didn't, I decided to have a little fun with you. I was angry that you took it so well and didn't seem put off by this gay Daniel-twin at all."
Daniel had been thankful for the poor lighting everywhere they went, keeping Jack from getting a really good look at him. He'd watched Jack down one whiskey after another, trying to wrap his mind around this impossibility sitting before him. Daniel had been afraid to let him drive in that condition and thought to further cement the distinction between …tienne and Daniel by taking Jack to his Denver apartment.
He hated the place and how messy it was, but that, too, had been a conscious choice on Daniel's part, yet another way to distinguish …tienne's persona from his true identity and help him keep in-character.
Then he'd noticed the way Jack was looking at him. Part of that shaken expression had most certainly been shock; Jack had still been trying to process all the evening had brought him, but there had been something else in those warm brown eyes as they'd stared unblinking at Daniel's bare chest. He'd served the coffee to his guest and had seen Jack swallow hard, his pupils dilating with desire, his cock lengthening and hardening in his pants.
"You wanted me," Daniel said, his voice a husky, angry growl. "Or rather, you wanted …tienne. I wanted to hate you for that, for all I'd been through, trying to figure out that other life, to keep the SGC out of my personal affairs. I wanted to humiliate you. To punish you. So I kissed you again and I-- " He tried to swallow. Couldn't. His mouth was dry as a desert, his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth. "I couldn't stop, Jack. I'm sorry. I was horrified at what I'd done afterward. I took advantage of you when you were drunk. You didn't deserve that. All this happened because of my lapse in judgment, believing you would never want me. I didn't even give you a chance to say yes or no. I just assumed I knew you well enough to answer for you, and that was wrong."
Daniel had invited Jack to touch, and so he had. Pleasure-pain had shot straight through him, from nipple to dick, as Jack had played with his jewelry. The pressure from the clip-ons had taken a little getting used to, and normally Daniel had taken them off his nipples before having sex with anyone, but what Jack had done with them was a sweet, hot pain that had taken Daniel's breath away and sent his motor into overdrive.
He'd wanted Jack, wanted him so badly he'd lost his mind a little, behaving entirely out of character even for …tienne, going farther, faster with Jack than he ever had with other men. Jack O'Neill just did things to him, made him crazy and wild. Daniel had been reckless, and he knew it. He'd struggled to find a way out of the mess he'd created for himself before it went too far.
At that point, he knew he'd already come too damn close.
"I let you do all that, as I recall," Jack hissed back. "Because I thought you were somebody else."
"Somebody you wanted to fuck," Daniel returned harshly. He glared at Jack and saw the temper flaring to life behind those dark eyes. "You couldn't just walk away. You had to keep in touch with …tienne. You went out with him - me, I mean - and took me out to dinner. I wanted - Oh, hell, I don't know what I wanted! " He scraped a hand through his sticky hair and wiped it on his thigh before putting it back on the steering wheel. "I was angry. You wouldn't give me the time of day, but you'd spend a free evening with a gay Frenchman and even go home with him for a quick grope. I guess I saw …tienne as a way I could find out why you'd pushed me away so hard, and kept me at arm's length. I just..."
Heart in his throat, he remembered Jackson, Mississippi.
"Jack. I never expected it was because you loved me. God. And when I found out..." He sighed, turning into a whimper deep in his throat. "I wanted to tell you in that hotel, Jack. Tried to, so many times, but I couldn't get it out. Except in French, while you were... you know."
"Fucking you?" Jack snapped. "But I don't speak French. Not much, anyway."
The words echoed in Daniel's head and heart. "I know."
I love you, my beautiful friend. I've wanted this so much for so long, but I never expected you to love me back, to want me this much. This is me, Jack. The man you believe I'm not. I'm right here, and you're inside me, and I love you. I love you. Till death do us part, I'll always be here for you.
That was what he'd said in French, trying to tell Jack while they made love in that hotel room, but Jack had no way of knowing.
Daniel turned off I-25 onto Colorado Avenue, heading west toward Manitou Springs, near downtown Colorado Springs. "When I met you in Jackson, it was because I figured that would be my only chance to ever have you, and I selfishly wanted that. I tried to get you to tell me - Daniel - how you felt, but you kept refusing. I figured …tienne would be my only chance with you, so I took it."
He glanced over at Jack and saw that the stony look had returned. His fists were clenching and relaxing, clenching and relaxing against his thighs. His mouth was a grim line across his face. The anger was rising again, hotter now than it had been when they'd started the drive back home.
"That whole business with the alien bug things made me realize that you really have been trying to fix things between us, and that I was the one pushing you back. It was my cue to try to make an effort to recover a little something of our friendship," Daniel went on, turning his eyes back to the road and the late-night traffic. He turned south on Gold Camp Road, heading for the residential neighborhood where his bungalow sat, in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain. "I was stunned when you told me how you felt about me, Jack, that night at your house. I'm sorry I reacted so badly. In hindsight, I should have told you about …tienne then and there, but I thought it would be best if you saw the proof with your own eyes. I'm hoping you don't hate me for deceiving you. I never meant to make you feel like a fool, though I'm pretty sure I did."
He shot a wary glance at Jack as he turned onto his street.
"I had a lot of time to think while I was driving out to your cabin and back, and I decided I was going to dismantle …tienne's life. If there were any chance of having any kind of relationship with you, even just friendship, I wanted that far more than anything …tienne Beno"t could offer me. I was going to give all that up, Jack. For you. And I knew that, if we were going to have any chance of building a relationship together, I'd have to come clean and tell you everything. If things didn't work out between us, I'd never be able to be with another man without hurting you, so there was no point in continuing my double life. I don't want to hurt you, Jack. I never wanted to hurt you, not really. But I have, and I'm sorry. Please believe that. You were never supposed to know about any of this. Nobody was. That was the whole point of the secret identity."
A lump formed in his throat as he pulled into the driveway of his bungalow and shut off the ignition. He handed Jack the keys and got out, leading the way to the front door in silence. He listened to the near-silent footfalls behind him as he stepped inside his dark house, standing aside to let his guest enter before closing the door. He'd been dreading this for a while, but he'd made his bed long ago, and now it was time to sleep in it.
He switched on the lights in the foyer, closed and locked the door behind them, and then turned around to face one very angry Jack O'Neill.
Daniel didn't see the fist that came crashing into his jaw. He was vaguely aware of the pain of the blow, of his body falling sideways. He crashed into the foyer table where he'd just put his keys, bounced off the corner and hit the floor. And then, there was nothing.
Part Three: JACK and DANIEL
Daniel's eyes opened slowly, trying to focus on what was right in front of him and figure out where he was. From the position of his body, he guessed he was lying on the floor. He thought about moving, and sudden, sharp pain lanced from his left jaw into his eyes, blinding him.
He grunted, closing his eyes, and rolled backward a little, up against the table. His ribs hurt, too, but nothing like his face. He struggled to open his eyes again and this time found himself looking right into Jack's, bending over him now, on his knees on the floor.
"You okay, Daniel?" he asked gruffly, obviously still angry, but concerned as well. "I hit you pretty hard. I'm sorry. Are you all right?" His hand was on Daniel's shoulder, running up and down his arm.
Daniel pushed his hand roughly away, mightily pissed off at Jack's reaction to his heart-felt confession.
"Mm-mm," Daniel grunted with a shake of his head, his lips pressed firmly together to try to hold his jaw in place. He reached up to it with his right hand and gingerly felt around the curved bone, realizing instantly that it was broken. Jack had broken his fucking jaw with one punch.
Nope, he wasn't all right. Not at all.
With tremendous care, Daniel pushed himself up to a sitting position.
"Daniel?" Jack reached for him with his left hand, but Daniel batted it away again.
Then he noticed Jack was holding his right hand cradled against his chest. It didn't look right, the way it was folded up, and he wondered if maybe Jack had broken some of the bones in his hand with that punch, too. Only he couldn't ask. He couldn't talk, because even the slightest movement of his mouth took his breath away.
Carefully, Daniel managed to get to his feet, trying not to pass out from the pain.
"Daniel? Talk to me," Jack ordered. "Are you okay?"
As Jack reached out to touch his shoulder, Daniel jerked away, grunting at the savage pain that tore through him at that quick movement. He couldn't even shake his head to answer, so he just pointed to his mouth and sliced his hand through the air in a cutting-off motion. Then he held up his hand in a one-finger salute that spoke volumes about how angry he was at Jack for hitting him, in his own house, right after Daniel had poured his heart out to him.
"Jesus, did I break your jaw?" Jack demanded, walking with him as he trod slowly toward the bathroom.
"Mm-hmm," Daniel answered in the affirmative, peeling his sweater off carefully over his head. He dropped it on the floor, toed off his shoes and started unfastening his tight pants. He was going to take a shower and wash the goop out of his hair before going to the base infirmary. It wouldn't take long, and he didn't want to go onto the base duded up like …tienne. He'd been in worse pain before; he could tolerate this for a few extra minutes.
"Holy shit," Jack breathed, staring down at Daniel's side.
Daniel followed his startled gaze and saw a huge, dark bruise already purpling his ribs where he'd hit the table on the way down. He could hardly feel that pain compared to his face, and continued on the way to the bathroom.
"Daniel, I've got to get you to the infirmary," Jack declared, the edge of anger still in his voice. "Fuck! Put your clothes back on and let's go outside. I'll drive you."
Batting his hand away again, Daniel glared at him and pointed to his head, tugging on his hair a little, doing his best to make clear his intentions via sign language.
"That can wait," Jack told him, taking a firm grip on Daniel's arm with his left hand.
With a jerk, Daniel tore his arm free, heading quickly through the small house and into the bathroom. He shut the door in Jack's face and locked it, barely getting it closed in time to prevent Jack from coming in after him. His movements were slow and careful now, and every time he bent over, the increased pressure and severe pain in his head made him reel for a few seconds. It didn't take him long to get the gold gel out of his hair and towel it dry.
Getting dressed in something from the wardrobe he usually wore, Daniel left the bag of …tienne's things and ID in his bedroom, took Daniel's wallet, cell phone, and base ID and stuffed it into his baggy jeans.
He took the ice pack Jack had made him while he was in the shower and held it to his jaw, groaning at the contact and the cold, but knowing it was necessary to reduce the swelling in his face. Almost as an afterthought, he combed his hair as he and Jack made their way out to the truck. While they walked, Daniel pointed to Jack's hand.
"Yeah, pretty sure it's broken," Jack admitted sourly. He got behind the wheel, fumbling to put the key into the ignition with his left hand, but Daniel had to reach over and do it for him. Jack eyed him morosely, regret written all over him. "I'm sorry," Jack said, his voice harsh with self-recrimination. "I lost it, Daniel. I just fucking lost it, and I'm sorry. So goddamn sorry."
Daniel's eyes closed briefly. Then he turned toward Jack; head, ice pack and hand moving as one as he stared at his friend, eyebrows scrunched up in anguish. He took a breath, gathered himself, and said, "I know. 'S'okay," between closed teeth, the slight movement of his lips and tongue causing still more pain. He reached over with his free hand and patted Jack on the thigh before he twisted the key in the ignition to start the truck. He motioned impatiently for them to get going.
Jack obeyed, pulling out of the driveway. Daniel shifted the truck's gears from park to reverse and then into drive once they got out on the street. Jack controlled the wheel one-handed.
Neither of them said anything on the way to the base. They were taken to separate examination rooms, and eventually Daniel was hustled off to surgery to have his jaw set and wired shut, so it could heal properly. He wasn't going to be talking or eating solid food for a while, but on the up-side, he and Jack would have a little time to cool off and think about things before they talked again.
General Hammond, Carter and Teal'c were waiting for Jack when he got out of surgery. The procedure had been a delicate one, requiring the services of a hand specialist, but the SGC infirmary had one on call so Jack's operation had taken place on the base. Daniel, however, had been shipped off to the Academy Hospital to be worked on by an oral surgeon, and would be admitted for the night so the staff could watch for swelling and any potential breathing problems.
Once the recovery room nurse had finished with Jack, he went to his lockdown quarters, since he wasn't allowed to drive after the anesthetic he'd been given. Minutes after getting settled in the bed, he had visitors. One was an official visitor; the other two were family - more or less.
"How's your hand, colonel?" General Hammond asked, taking up a post beside the bed.
Carter stood on the other side and Teal'c stationed himself next to her, at parade rest. The major's expression was guarded, as if she'd already put Daniel's and the colonel's injuries together and deduced a fight had taken place.
"It'll be fine," Jack returned casually. "I won't be signing any autographs for about six weeks, and then there'll be some physical therapy to do, but I'm okay. Never mind me. How's Daniel?"
Hammond's expression darkened. Anger gleamed in his eyes. "He's just come out of surgery. The jawbone's been set and his teeth wired together to keep it in place. You want to tell me what happened, colonel?"
"As if we didn't know," Carter sniped. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Sir." That last word dripped with venom. Carter was angry with him, all right, already blaming the whole thing on him - and rightly so.
Jack glanced down at his right arm and hand, now encased in a plaster cast, which started well up on his forearm. The tips of his fingers protruded from the end of it. He looked back at the general. "We had words. I lost my temper and went a little nuts, and I hit him." He averted his eyes, his face heating up with embarrassment. "And I can't tell you how sorry I am about that. I've already apologized to Daniel, and he's forgiven me. I'll never do anything like that again - barring having some alien take control of either one of us and making us do stuff against our will."
The general was studying him now, one eye squeezed half closed. "I've never known you to lose control like that before, colonel. Is this something that-"
"What happened between us was a personal matter that will not affect our working relationship," Jack cut in, not wanting to explain what had precipitated the punch. He sighed and glanced at his broken hand, remembering Daniel's face and that ugly bruise on his ribs the last time he'd seen his friend. "At least, I hope it won't. We've still got a couple of things to work out between us, but if Daniel's still speaking to me, I'm sure we'll be able to get past this incident with no hard feelings. I was just. Surprised. Taken off guard. But I'm fine now." He rubbed a finger over the now-hardened cast. "Sort of."
"What could possibly have made you hit Daniel?" Carter demanded hotly, one hand waving in the air, the other still gripped around her waist, like an angry mother defending a child against his father. "He's the nicest, kindest, sweetest, gentlest-"
"I know, Carter," Jack cut in irritably. "He didn't do anything wrong. He was trying to set things right between us, in fact. We were working on getting our friendship back, though why he'd still want that, after all the-" Jack glanced up at his superior officer and re-thought his wording. "After all I've put him through, he shoulda been the one punching me out."
"The reason is simple, O'Neill," Teal'c intoned. "Danieljackson loves you... as he loves us all."
Jack's gaze shot to Teal'c's eyes, which seemed to be twinkling with secret knowledge. One dark eyebrow arched in answer to the question Jack was thinking but didn't ask aloud. The Jaffa didn't miss a trick. He probably knew exactly how Daniel felt about Jack, and Jack was certain Daniel hadn't told a soul that he'd been in love with his team leader for years. Teal'c had somehow figured it out all by himself.
He inclined his head regally toward Jack. "And you also love Danieljackson, as you do all of those who fight by your side, as well as those who command you." He smiled, his dark eyes wise and kind.
Jack felt a sudden surge of warm affection for the big guy.
Jack nodded. "Yeah, T. I know. But I just forgot that for a second." He looked up at the general. "And it won't happen again, sir, unless one of us is possessed or something weird like that. My word of honor. Do I have your permission to go see him after I'm released, so we can finish talking this out?"
Hammond's lips pressed together, thinking about that and the risk it posed to Daniel.
"I will accompany O'Neill," offered Teal'c, "to ensure the safety of Danieljackson, if you wish it, Generalhammond." He smiled slightly at the general.
"Yes, Teal'c, I think I'd feel much more comfortable with you there to mediate as necessary." Hammond turned back to Jack. "And I have your word of honor, colonel. I intend to hold you to that." He relaxed slightly, most of his anger placated for the moment, but a little gleam of it still in his eyes.
"Thank you, sir," said Jack, sinking back into the pillows with relief.
"I'll see you later, colonel," said Hammond, and strode out of Jack's quarters, leaving the three teammates alone in the small room.
Carter spoke first, obviously not satisfied with his explanation. "I still can't imagine what the two of you might have been talking about that would make you-" Her mouth snapped shut in mid-sentence. Her eyes got big and round. "This wasn't about... that secret poll Daniel's been taking... was it?"
"I believe Majorcarter is speaking of Danieljackson's query on allowing ch'menai to serve among the soldiers at the SGC," clarified the Jaffa.
The major leaned closer and whispered, "You know. Gay people."
"He believes some of the best candidates for academics to assist on teams are not being considered for employment at the SGC because they prefer lovers of the same sex." Teal'c arched an eyebrow at Jack. "I believe he is correct."
Jack's gaze shifted from one to the other and back again. A trace of irritation crept into his voice. "So did everybody know about that but me?" he demanded. "Why am I always the last one to know? I've gotta see somebody about getting my memos."
Carter sighed and shook her head. "Sir, I can see you being a little surprised about it, maybe even yelling at him a little, but punching him out-"
"It wasn't about that," Jack cut in. "As long as folks can do the job, I don't care who they sleep with when they're at home. Gay people are just like everybody else, in my book." He frowned, searching for something to say that would placate Carter and make her drop the subject.
"Sir?" Her voice jumped up a couple of pitches higher than her normal range, in obvious surprise.
He glanced at her. "Yeah, Daniel was pretty shocked, too. Thought he already knew my answer, and he was wrong." He cocked his head, studying her. "You got a problem with the idea, major?"
"Uh. Well. I. I don't think it's appropriate."
"Fraternization in the ranks, of course, sir. Same reason the military prohibits it now." She frowned at him.
"Did your military not also once ban women in the military for the same reason, Majorcarter?" asked Teal'c, raising an eyebrow at her. "And was this irrational fear not proven to be without foundation?"
"Well, yes, but-"
Teal'c's attention was focused squarely on her, but Jack felt he was getting a little instruction, too. "Among the Jaffa, we recognize that ch'menai often make the finest soldiers, because their love for those who fight beside them is deeper than that of a warrior whose woman is at home. No one wishes to be seen a coward by those whom they love. And when an army has been many years away from home, we often turned to ch'menai for comfort and pleasure, when no women were available. They are valuable members of Jaffa armies, and could also be on this world - but for ignorance and unfounded prejudice among the Tau'ri."
"Besides, we're talking about civilians here, Carter," echoed Jack. "Not turning the military gay."
"But that would be the next thing," the major argued. "If it's okay for this program, it'll soon be okay in the service."
"Which would undoubtedly benefit from the inclusion," finished Teal'c with a gentle, knowing smile.
"Um." Carter's eyes were wide as she glanced between the two men. "I. Um. Have a. Thing. In my lab. That I should." She pointed toward the door. "Go see about. I'm glad you're okay, sir." She hurried out of the room without looking back.
Jack looked at Teal'c. "I thought that went well."
"Indeed." The Jaffa's smile widened.
"You wanna drive me over to the Academy Hospital in the morning?"
"It would be my pleasure, O'Neill." Teal'c gave him a little bow.
Silence stretched between them.
Jack glanced around his private quarters, as if to ensure to himself that they were alone. He motioned to Teal'c, who ambled closer and bent close to him as Jack whispered conspiratorially, "So, did you ever? With those... you know. Whatchacallems?"
"Ch'menai," Teal'c supplied quietly. "And yes. They considered it an honor to pleasure the First Prime. I was always welcome in their beds."
"But you prefer women?"
"I make little distinction. I have found the gentleness of women to have a somewhat stronger appeal, but..." He chuckled. "...there is nothing like the feel of a strong man straining against you in the night."
"Whoa, T. You're bi?"
The Jaffa gave an elegant nod of assent. His voice was a low rumble as he whispered, "As are you, O'Neill. As is Danieljackson, and many others I could name, but will not."
Jack frowned at him, his mind awhirl with this newest revelation. "Uh. Daniel didn't... tell you, did he?" he asked hesitantly.
"He did not."
"You just knew?"
"I have seen the way he looks at you when he believes no one is watching." Teal'c's smile softened and disappeared into concern. "And I have see you when you touch him, O'Neill. Was this the reason for your conflict with Danieljackson? That he expressed his love for you, and you were angry that he had done so?"
The Jaffa's depth never ceased to amaze Jack. He shook his head. "No. It was something else. A confidence I have to keep. A surprise I had to get over."
Teal'c gave him a nod and a smile of approval. "Then all is well between you?"
"It will be, I hope," Jack returned with a weary sigh. "If he can forgive me for decking him. I mean, he was trusting me with something important, and I blew it. Just like I always do."
"I believe he would forgive you anything, O'Neill," observed the big man. "As he would all whom he loves. There are some, however, whom he loves more than others, and you are first among them."
Jack plucked at the sheets over his lap. "Yeah. Just like I'd forgive him." He realized Daniel had been placed in a difficult position and simply made the best of it that he could. Daniel had come to him with an open, trusting heart, wanting to give Jack the honest truth about how his double life had come to be, and Jack had attacked him for it.
He wasn't doing so hot at being Daniel's friend. Jack was the type who shot first and asked questions later, and sometimes that saved lives, but in situations like this one, that instinct was more of a hindrance than a help. He couldn't address every problem with his fists or his P-90. Some required talking and calm, rational thinking. Daniel was good at that; Jack wasn't.
"Perhaps you should rest until morning," Teal'c suggested.
Leaning his head back against the pillows, Jack said on a sigh, "Yeah, a nap would be good." He closed his eyes and in minutes was fast asleep.
The night passed quickly. It was still early when Teal'c came to help him get dressed, since Jack's right hand was useless and suspended in a sling around his neck to keep him from waving it around too much. Once he had his clothes on and Teal'c had made him stop for breakfast, they were on their way to the Academy Hospital to see Daniel.
Jack paced the floor in front of the nursing station, checking his watch - now strapped to his left arm, thanks to Teal'c - so that the second visiting hours started, Jack was off and striding down the hallway to Daniel's private room. Teal'c brought up the rear at a more sedate pace, and just as Jack hit the door, he heard the Jaffa call, "I will stand watch and let no one enter, O'Neill."
Turning just enough to give his teammate a quick, heartfelt thanks and a thumbs-up, Jack knocked on the door, then pushed through it and into the dimly lit room.
Daniel was sitting on the side of the bed, already half dressed in preparation for going home after his discharge. Jack stopped three strides into the room, just staring at the man. Daniel's shirt was off. He'd just finished fastening his pants and reached for his blue and white checked shirt, while staring at his bare feet and wiggling his toes.
Jack's breath caught in his throat.
Daniel's torso was taped from armpits to waist, so he had a few cracked or broken ribs to go with his broken jaw.
What made Jack gasp and wilt a little, though, was the bruise halfway down the left side of Daniel's neck, reaching all the way up to his eye socket. The area around the break was black and purple, and still hideously swollen. His left eye was half shut because of the swelling. He looked like he'd been hit by a truck.
"I'm sorry," Jack blurted, feeling about an inch tall. His shoulders slumped as he sighed and shook his head in dismay. "Oh, Daniel, I'm so sorry."
The other man glanced up at him. His lips moved slowly, but the rest of his face didn't. "Hi, Jack. You okay?" His words sounded funny; slow and careful pronunciations that were clear enough to understand, but obviously spoken with great effort and a notable lack of his usual oral dexterity.
"Huh?" It took Jack a second to remember his broken hand. He glanced down at it and wandered slowly closer to the bed. "Oh, yeah. It's a boxer's fracture, but the docs got me all pinned and stapled back together." He watched Daniel slip slowly into the shirt and begin buttoning it up. "Did you break your ribs when you hit the table?"
"Just cracked. I'll be okay." He sighed, looking down at the buttons between his fingers. "Gotta drink my food through a straw for a while, though. And carry wire cutters around with me, in case I need to throw up. This is gonna be fun." The note of sarcasm was heavy in Daniel's voice.
"I know, Jack," Daniel cut in irritably. "Will you stop telling me how sorry you are? I already know you feel terrible about hitting me." He was frowning as he looked up at Jack, head cocked expectantly. "I feel just as bad about lying to you, so let's just call us even and move on. Okay?"
Jack nodded, suddenly at a loss what to do with himself. He looked at the floor. He examined the sling supporting his right arm and adjusted its position around his neck. "Okay, Daniel." He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. "Are we. Uh. Are we gonna be okay with each other?" he asked softly, hesitantly raising his eyes to Daniel's.
Pursing his lips with a tight nod, he rose off the bed. Daniel stepped toward him with open arms, and Jack came into them, holding him carefully, afraid to touch his body or face. Jack patted his back in an ineffectual effort to convey comfort and pleasure.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're fine," Daniel declared. After a moment, he eased out of Jack's tentative embrace and sat back down on the bed. There was worry in his eyes, and a flicker of hope. "You and I..." Daniel rolled his eyes. "Well, we never do anything the easy way, do we?"
"No," Jack whispered with a tiny smile. "No, we never have." Wrapping his good hand around the back of Daniel's head, Jack pulled him close enough to plant a kiss on his forehead. They stood there like that for a few moments, with Jack's lips pressed against Daniel's warm skin. He breathed in and out, relishing the nearness of the man he could now call his lover.
Finally Jack tilted his head back to look deep into Daniel's eyes. "I wish I could do better than that, but right now I think that's all either one of us can handle. But as soon as we're up to it, I think we should celebrate."
"Well, you won't be getting any blow jobs for a while," Daniel deadpanned.
Jack laughed a little, and Daniel smiled back, a tiny little smirk of indulgence.
"So maybe you'll get lucky instead," suggested Jack, waggling his eyebrows.
"I might not be ready for that for a few days," Daniel informed him, reaching up with one hand to trace his fingertips over Jack's cheek and lips in wonder. "Kinda sore right now."
"Just tell me when you're ready. I've got some practicing to do."
Daniel glanced down and wiggled his toes again. He reached for a sock, lying on the bed beside him, and just stared at his feet.
Jack remembered Daniel's ribs and realized instantly that Daniel was trying to figure out how to get his socks on without bending over, because that would be pretty painful for him at the moment. Taking the sock from Daniel's hand, Jack squatted down and Daniel pulled both feet back, tucking them under the bed as far as he could get them, obviously embarrassed.
"You don't have to do that!" he said quickly.
Smiling to himself, Jack reached out and grabbed an ankle, hauling it back toward the stool that had been under Daniel's feet a moment earlier. "Hush up, Daniel," he said tenderly. "You need help, and I'm helpin' ya. Haven't we both been stubborn fools for long enough?" He looked up at his partner.
Daniel's head bobbed. "Okay," he said softly, and put his feet back onto the stool. Jack tugged the sock on one-handed, then followed up with the other while Daniel stroked his hair.
"I'm not mad about you hitting me anymore," Daniel told him. "I was at first, but I understood."
"You always do," Jack said as he stood up again. "That's one of the things I love most about you. That and you're damn hot in the sack."
Daniel glanced at the floor as he stood up, then stepped off the stool and into his loafers. "Yeah, well, we gotta talk about that, and a lot of other stuff. We can spend our convalescence just hanging out; dating without the pressure of sex in the background, to see if this will even work, like we talked about at the cabin. Then, when we're sure we'll be able to manage an intimate relationship..." He looked up at Jack, his expression set. A decision had been made while he was talking. "I'm not so sure Jack and Daniel's relationship should change. We won't be able to give each other pet names-"
"No Spacemonkey? Snookums?" Jack's eyebrows lifted in mock surprise. "I've given you nicknames in front of a whole room full of Marines. No one would think a thing of me calling you sweet nothings."
"I think if you called me 'baby' you'd not only get a little of your own medicine and find yourself on the floor at the end of my fist, you'd probably find yourself in front of a court martial pretty fast, too." Daniel's eyes were gleaming and firm in his decision.
"So I'll watch what I call you." He paused. His eyebrows lifted in question. "Danny?"
"That one's okay." Daniel's lips peeled back in a big smile, revealing the web-work of shiny silver wires wrapped around his teeth to immobilize his broken jaw. There was a small gap between his upper and lower incisors, just big enough to slide a straw through it.
"Holy crap!" Jack wheezed, bending down to get a good look.
Immediately, Daniel turned away, holding one hand over his mouth.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to embarrass you. I just." Jack shrugged, still staring at the other man's mouth. "I've never seen anything like that. It's freaky lookin'."
"Oh, gee, thanks, Jack. I needed to hear that right about now." Daniel grabbed up a small blue plastic basin filled with papers and supplies that the hospital had given him upon discharge and went across the room to sit in a chair and wait for the transportation aide to arrive.
Embarrassed, Jack dropped his gaze to the floor. He spied a piece of paper on the floor under the bed and bent to pick it up. The handwriting he recognized immediately as Daniel's, and he was reading before he could stop himself. It was a note to the general, apparently written the previous evening.
Dear Gen. Hammond,
Please don't penalize Jack for the fight we had tonight. He had good reason to be angry with me and I don't blame him in the least for punching me out. The personal matter at issue between us has been resolved and no further difficulties should arise as a result of this disagreement. Consider it a clearing of the air that was long overdue, and the resulting injury to both of us my fault entirely. I'll discuss this with you after my discharge from the hospital.
My apologies for any inconveniences this may cause you or the SGC. I should have no trouble returning to work within a few days, though I may not be up to giving intelligible oral lectures or briefings for several weeks.
Sincerely, Daniel Jackson
"I don't deserve you," Jack said gruffly, his voice husky with emotion. "You're a far better man than I'll ever be, Danny." He folded the paper and wandered over to Daniel to give it back to him. "You made sure before you went into surgery that I'd be absolved of blame, didn't you?"
Daniel shrugged, his eyes lowered to the letter in his hands. "I hear you did the same thing. The general came here after he saw you at the base. I couldn't exactly tell him all that before the surgery, since I couldn't talk much, so I made the doctors wait until I had it written and waiting for him before they put me under."
"I'm surprised he didn't take it with him."
"This was personal and off-duty," Daniel reminded him. "It didn't need to go on either of our records."
Jack lifted his broken hand in the sling, waving it slightly toward his friend. "Thanks for trying to get the heat turned down for me with the general. I could have been in a lot of trouble if you'd pressed charges. And in spite of what you said in that letter, none of this was your fault, Daniel. It was mine, and it'll never happen again. I gave Hammond my word of honor, and now I'm giving it to you."
Daniel just gazed solemnly back at him.
"I'd kiss you right now, if I could do it without hurting you," Jack told him honestly.
Daniel's mouth barely moved, just a little upturn at the corners, but his eyes smiled brightly. "Later," he promised, and winked at Jack.
With a happy grin and a bounce in his step, Jack went out to relieve Teal'c from guard duty so they could both keep Daniel company until time for him to go home. Jack amused himself by playing with the electric controls on the bed until the transportation aide arrived with Daniel's ride to the hospital's front door.
Three Days Later
Autumn had arrived in the foothills of the Rockies, bringing cold nights and warm days, and everywhere the aspen leaves were turning golden. Daniel stood on Jack's deck with a cup of coffee in hand, enjoying the view of the back yard, while his host swept the interior of the house for listening devices. This was something Jack did regularly anyway, but now they had good reason to seek out any possible eavesdroppers, especially in light of the intimate conversation they were about to have.
Jack pulled open the sliding door and announced, "All clear." He stepped aside to let the other man enter.
Daniel brushed past him, carefully squeezing his left elbow, staying well away from his damaged hand, but wanting some brief contact, whatever he could get. He was close enough to catch Jack's scent, that uniquely masculine essence that so easily got under Daniel's skin. He wanted to just grab onto Jack and take him to bed right then and there, but neither of them were in any shape for that yet, which made this the perfect time to talk and get things settled between them.
"Want some more coffee?" asked Jack, eager to be the perfect host.
"No, I'm fine." Daniel set his mug down on top of an old Car and Driver magazine on the coffee table, bearing the rings of other cups and glasses. He stretched out on the sofa, easing carefully back against the cushions.
Jack sat down by his feet, perching one hip on the arm of the couch. "So, what do we talk about? I mean, we're gonna be lovers, once we're actually able to boink again, so-"
"No, we're not," countered Daniel flatly. He looked right into Jack's startled brown eyes and sighed. "Listen, I've been giving this some serious thought. You know we can't take any risk of being together here, Jack. How often have people set up surveillance on our houses with our knowledge? Don't bother answering, because that's not the real question here. Anyone out in a van across the street with the right equipment could get all the data they need to incriminate us, and we'd never even know they were there. We just can't take that risk."
"So... what are you saying?" Jack was looking none too happy at the moment.
"I'm saying that you and I are best friends. We work together, fight at each other's sides, and sometimes do a little socializing as a team. That's all we have, and all we can have."
A storm was beginning to gather behind those brown eyes. "I want more, and so do you. Both of us need more. I won't settle for just friendship, Daniel. I'll retire first."
Daniel smiled at him coyly. "No need to retire," he assured Jack. "And there is a way for both of us to get what we want. It just won't be convenient or easy."
Interest warmed in Jack's eyes. "So... you have a plan, Doctor Jackson?"
Nodding, Daniel agreed softly, using …tienne's French accent. "Mais oui. I do 'ave a plan, Colonel O'Neill."
"Well, then," Jack told him with a fond smile, "by all means, Professor. Present it to the class." He listened intently.
By the time Daniel finished talking, Jack's eyes were gleaming with interest, and through the discussion afterwards, he found himself stammering like a school boy. The plan was exciting, and it would work because Daniel Jackson had thought it all out, beginning to end, from every conceivable angle. He was good at that sort of thing, and that was all Jack needed to know.
They would have a chance for happiness, just not in the way Jack had expected it would be. The truth was, he was in love with two men, Daniel and …tienne, twins from totally different worlds, with completely different personalities. Being in a continuing relationship with both of them would never be boring.
Twins, he thought to himself with a broad smile. He was one damn lucky dog, and he knew it.
Six Weeks Later
As …tienne sauntered into the club in Denver, the thumping, primal music was loud enough to hurt his ears. He'd dressed well for his comeback: red spandex pants laced up the sides of the legs with red satin ribbon, revealing an inch-wide strip of skin from waist to ankle, topped off with a sleeveless red leather vest, open down the front to show off his impressive biceps, pecs and six pack.
He'd spent a lot of time working on his body lately, doing lots of sit-ups and crunches as well as weight training to improve the tone and size of all his muscles. The liquid diet he'd had to follow while his jaw was healing had stripped off most of his body fat. This new outfit nicely showed off all that hard work and sacrifice.
Tonight, he had spiked his hair with silver gel and had gone all-out with two inch long dangling earrings embellished with blood red crystal drops. Two silver chains dangled between his nipple rings, winking into view in the opening down the front of his vest. His tattoos gleaming in the moving lights, …tienne knew he outshone every other guy in the room, which was always his intention.
Aware of the scrutiny of nearly every eye in the place, he recognized a few faces and was warmly welcomed back after his long absence. Someone bought him a drink; someone else offered him a cigarette, which he graciously declined, and then a stranger, a beautiful blond twinkie who was boldly studying him, caught his attention.
The young man asked …tienne for a dance. "You're French?" he inquired above the music.
"Oui," declared …tienne, grinning. "And you are sexy, non?"
"My name's Billy," said the young man with a thoroughly charmed smile. "What's yours?"
…tienne told him, and Billy's face lit up at the way he said it.
A moment later, Billy was grinding his crotch against …tienne's as they undulated together to the beat of the music. Another attractive young man came up to dance behind Billy, running his hands over that firm, slim body. Then he circled around behind …tienne, and they made a sandwich of him.
It felt good, being appreciated like that. The loud music took him away to a place that had no problems, a place he could visit and be who and what he wanted to be.
…tienne laughed, enjoying the attention and wriggling his ass against the other man's pelvis. Billy turned around and leaned in to kiss him, but …tienne only smiled and turned his face away, wagging a finger at him to tell him no.
A few minutes later, a pair of long arms came down, seemingly from out of nowhere, lowering between …tienne and his dance partners, and insistently guiding them away from him.
Looking to his right, …tienne saw that the arms were attached to a tall, green-eyed cowboy with a shaggy, dark blond mullet that actually looked good on him. The guy had a bushy brown mustache over his thin-lipped mouth, and a chin with just a hint of cleft in it. He gently insinuated himself between …tienne and his suitors, having eyes only for …tienne, completely ignoring the other two men.
…tienne's gaze roved up and down, missing none of the delicious details of the cowboy's appearance. He was dressed in nicely fitted low-rise black jeans that made his legs look like they went on forever. He'd tucked in a long-sleeved dark gray western shirt with pale silver wolf silhouettes running across the chest above the pockets. On his head and pulled low over his eyes, he wore a flat-topped black felt hat banded with silver conchos that matched identical ones on his black leather belt. Square-toed black snakeskin boots completed the outfit, making him look like he'd just stepped out of a GQ Western feature.
The man's sea-green eyes were intense beneath thick, perfect, dark brown brows.
Relishing the undivided attention this newcomer was giving him, …tienne happily turned away from his other dance partners to face him. The cowboy, however, wasn't dancing. He just stood there, examining …tienne, so he stopped dancing, too, returning that pointed stare.
…tienne turned around in a slow circle, his arms held out with palms raised, showing himself off. Then he bent at the waist to speak directly in the cowboy's ear. "Do you like what you see, Beautiful?"
The gleam in those gorgeous, pale green eyes told …tienne that he did. The Frenchman reached for the cowboy's hips, swaying his own as he invited the handsome stranger to dance. Seeming eager to do so, he stepped closer, pressing their bodies together as he rested his forearms on …tienne's shoulders and looked into his eyes.
During the next several minutes, they undulated together in a rhythm of their own, ignoring the fast beat of the techno music assaulting their eardrums. Gently they rocked, swaying in unison, their hands smoothing over each other's arms, backs and faces, lost in the rapture of discovery, love at first touch. Then the cowboy wrapped one arm around …tienne's waist, cradled the back of …tienne's head with his free hand and kissed him right in the middle of the dance floor. This time, the Frenchman didn't object.
Cheers and applause went up as the cowboy bent him backward with that passionate exploration of his tonsils.
…tienne was a little breathless when his dance partner straightened up and let him go, shaken and stirred and way turned on. He smiled and started to ask his admirer's name, but the man just turned away with an inviting glance and nodded toward the exit. …tienne followed him as he walked away, waiting until they were outside before cutting in front of him and trying to get him to talk.
"Wait!" he insisted, putting a hand on the middle of the cowboy's broad chest. "Tell me your name. I am …tienne." He longed to hear the tall stranger's voice.
Long, elegant fingers touched the brim of the black hat politely. "Most folks call me Buck," he drawled. "But you c'n call me anythang y'want, Frenchy. Y'are from France, aren'tcha?"
"Oui, from Lyons, but now I am American, n'est-e pas?"
"Whazzat mean, that stuff y'just said?"
"Oh, never mind." …tienne stepped beside him and hooked their arms together, leading them toward where …tienne's car was parked. "'ow would you like to come 'ome wiz me for a little mindless sex, eh, 'andsome?" He smiled hopefully at his newest conquest.
Buck carefully unwrapped …tienne's arm from around his own, a frown pinching his perfect brows together. "Ah was hopin' y'wouldn't be easy," he said slowly, his disappointment obvious. "Ah don't do one-night stands, Frenchy."
"Nor do I," returned …tienne, getting in front of him again. "There was only one time, with a beautiful silver-haired man, but that was special. It could 'ave been much more, but 'is 'eart was already taken by another lucky man."
Buck stopped walking, looking down into …tienne's eager eyes. "So y'don't sleep around? Y'do commitment?"
…tienne gazed deeply into those pale green eyes that were obviously wanting so much, and smiled. "Ah, so many questions! But no and yes, mon p'tit choux. I believe I 'ave been looking for you all my life."
"Well, here I am, pardner," said Buck with an expansive spreading of his hands. "Now what?"
"Are you 'ungry? I will take you to dinner, we will talk, and we will see if this could work between us, non?"
"Great," Buck agreed, dimples flaring on either side of that bushy moustache. "Then we can have sex." With a hearty laugh, he reached around, grabbed a handful of …tienne's ass, and squeezed. "Y'reckon?"
…tienne returned his laugh and reached up for a kiss, his lips tingling from the texture of the moustache brushing against them. "Oui, Beautiful Buck. We will set the Mile-'igh City on fire!" He grabbed a handful of jeans-covered backside and steered his new boyfriend toward his car.
"Oh, this is nice, Pete," said Sam as they strolled across the dining room at Tante Louise. He pulled out her chair, and she sat down, checking out the elegant setting while he took his seat. "I've never been here before."
"I've been a few times," he answered, scooting his chair up closer to the table. "The food is great. Best place in town for French cuisine."
"I thought you were a hot dog and hamburger kinda guy," she teased.
He raised his eyebrows, pretending insult. "I'll have you know, Samantha Carter, that I am a many-faceted man of varied interests. I still have mysterious depths you haven't yet plumbed."
She snorted delicately. "Oh, sorry. Was I supposed to take that seriously?"
He grinned. "Okay, I asked around at work and this is where the guys said they take dates they really want to impress. So, is it working?"
Sam fluttered her eyelashes at him. "Why, Pete Shanahan." She lowered her voice and leaned over the table towards him. "You impress me into the mattress as regularly as possible. What makes you think I need something like fancy restaurants to keep me happy?"
He took her hand, kissing the knuckles. His eyes were warm and filled with love. "That's just it, Sam. You don't need that stuff. I know that you don't have to be impressed and won over and over again. You take me as I am, and that means more to me than anything." He sighed, still smiling. "And that makes me want to do stuff like this for you, with you. Because you don't need it. Because it could be something fun, or a disaster we both look back on and laugh at, and you're the first woman I've ever met that I can say that to. Or even about. That's why I love you."
"Aw, Pete, you're the best." Sam wasn't the sort to gush, especially in public, but she was touched by the sentiment. The waiter appeared before she could respond further, and took their drink orders. She finished looking at the menu before her boyfriend and set it down to look around the restaurant some more.
That was when she saw him.
For a moment, she couldn't blink. She stared. She couldn't stop staring, even when Pete put his hand on her arm and jiggled it to get her attention.
"Sam, are you okay?" he asked.
She tore her gaze away, lowering her head to look at the table, blinking rapidly, trying to make sense of what she had just seen. Looking up at Pete, she pleaded with her eyes for him to help her. "Don't look now, but behind you, at about five o'clock. Do you see those two guys over there at the corner table? The cowboy and the peacock?"
Pete twisted around in his seat to follow the direction of her nod and tried to take a good, long look, but Sam interrupted his efforts.
"For heaven's sake, don't stare at them!" she hissed at him. "Holy Hannah! Be discreet."
"Okay, okay!" he whispered back at her. With a sigh, he brushed his napkin off his lap and bent down to retrieve it, managing to turn to look at the two men. He straightened back up, replaced his napkin in his lap and said, "Yeah, so?"
"Don't you recognize that guy in the wild clothes? I'd swear that's Daniel! Or if it's not, he looks just like him."
He turned to look again. "No. I mean, there's a similarity, yes, but those two guys are obviously gay, and your friend Daniel isn't. At least, not that I could tell, anyway."
"The resemblance is uncanny!" Sam whispered, leaning toward him across the table. "I mean-" She turned to look again, taking in the tattoos and earrings on the flamboyant blond who looked so much like Daniel, holding hands with a long-haired cowboy with a bushy moustache. She couldn't see the other man's face since he had his back to her, but the Daniel-twin was facing her, and she had an excellent view of him. Then she saw him look at her without the slightest flicker of recognition, his gaze sweeping past her as he glanced around the room.
As Sam ignored her own warnings about discretion and continued to openly stare, a serving girl came by to refill the stranger's water glass and accidentally tipped it over, sloshing ice water right into his lap. The man leaped up out of his seat, a stream of surprised and unhappy French pouring out of him. He made a huge scene that brought the manager over to settle things down. The cowboy just slunk a little lower into his chair and pretended not to notice, pulling his hat down lower over his eyes and sipping his beer.
That was not how her teammate would have behaved. Daniel would have been assuring the girl that it was just an accident, nothing to make a fuss over. A glimmer of doubt jiggled at Sam's previous certainty.
While Pete watched her, his eyes full of concern about what she might do next, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed Daniel's home number, already certain he'd be finishing up a full day of translations, as he had promised her he'd be doing. The phone rang twice, and she almost expected to hear his voice mail pick up, but then an irritated but familiar, "Hellew?" sounded in her ear.
"Daniel? You'll never believe what I'm looking at-"
"Um, Sam, I'm in the shower. Can this wait?"
She could actually hear the water in the background and blushed at the thought of him standing there naked and dripping with the phone in his hand. "Well, yeah, I guess, but I-"
A thud sounded, along with some muffled cursing and then, "Sorry! Sorry. I dropped the phone and I'm getting shampoo in my eyes. If this can wait, I'll talk to you about it tomorrow. Okay, Sam? Bye."
The call disconnected in her ear and she pulled the phone away and looked at it, then at Pete, then at the doppelganger, and finally back to her boyfriend.
"Well?" asked Pete patiently.
"Daniel's at home."
"So that can't possibly be him," he summed up rationally.
She looked back at the couple. "I could have sworn..."
Pete put his hand on hers. "Sam, would it matter if that really was Daniel?"
She slumped a little. "Pete, you know the military's policy on same-sex relationships. That policy even goes for civilians. Daniel's been campaigning to get that changed, to allow gay academics into the program, but I'm not so sure that's a good thing."
He nodded. "Yeah, I know about that policy, and I think it's stupid. My best friend is gay. He's in a relationship with a good guy, and from what I can see, it's gonna be for the rest of their lives. They're just like everybody else, honey. Nothing to be afraid of, and if your buddy was steaming up the sheets with another guy in private, it's nobody's business but theirs. The government needs to keep their noses out of our bedrooms, period."
Frowning, Sam shook her head. "But if he felt that way about another man, he could quit and go have a life doing that, without being a disgrace to the military we both serve."
Pete looked at her. He sat back in his chair and drew his hand away. "A disgrace? And a life doing what, exactly? Frankly, this surprises me, Sam. You, of all people, should know that what the men and women in your unit do for all the rest of us is to be honored. They're bona fide heroes, just like you are. How can what a few do in the privacy of their hearts and beds be a disgrace, in light of what they're sacrificing? And how can it be degrading to anyone's standards if it's love?"
She thought about that. Thought about it hard.
"And if you found out tomorrow that Daniel was gay and had been for years," Pete continued, "would he be any different? Or would it just be your perception of him that's changed?" He sat forward again and took her hand in his. "I've been through this already, when I found out my friend was gay. He never hit on me, never told me about it, but one day I asked him why he never dated, and he explained why. He was a cop, too, you see. And rather than risk being shunned or hung out to dry by other cops, he just committed himself to a life without love, for the sake of the job. Is that what you want for your friend?"
"No. Of course not." She felt embarrassed and shamed by her prejudice, in light of Pete's openness and acceptance of others. "So how did your friend manage to find love, and still be a cop?"
Pete's warm brown gaze shifted to the table. A muscle clenched in his jaw. "He didn't. He was shot in the head and left permanently blinded in the line of duty. After he recovered, I helped him get into the dating scene by taking him to gay meet and greets. We met a lot of nice people like that, and eventually he found someone who doesn't care if he's blind. I just wish Joey'd had that earlier, when he was whole, so he could've seen what his husband looks like."
Pete's gaze was steady and certain, his thumb rubbing a small circle on the back of her hand. "Yeah, Sam. Husband. It might not be legal right now, but it oughta be. The commitment is exactly the same. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, against prejudice and in acceptance, till death." He sighed. "Just the same as for people like us."
Sam looked over at the cowboy and his date. The Frenchman had settled down now; both of them had received their food and were apparently enjoying it, and she could almost see sparks flying between them in the intensity of their gazes and the way they touched. They were certainly an odd couple, but no odder than a lot of others she'd seen on various worlds. She'd never gotten any hints from Daniel that he was anything but straight, but she made herself a promise that, if she ever did find out that he were gay, she'd treat him just the same as she always had. He was, as Pete so aptly pointed out, a brilliant, heroic, honorable man, worthy of high regard in anyone's esteem. And if he'd found love with another man behind the scenes, she decided to give him her blessing. It really wasn't anyone's business but Daniel's own.
"Why don't we send them a bottle of champagne?" she suggested. "My treat."
Pete's smile widened and his eyes glowed. "That's my girl," he purred, leaning over to give her a kiss.
By the time their food arrived, they were deep in conversation about other things. After tasting their first bite of the fancy French food, they switched plates and tried again, laughing a little about their choices. Then the Frenchman caught Sam's eye, lifting his glass toward her. Sam looked into the dark-eyed Frenchman's face, gave him a smile and a nod, and then glanced over at the cowboy sitting with him, half turned toward them with his own glass raised in salute. He touched the brim of his hat politely, but she wasn't really looking at the cowboy.
She and Pete raised their wineglasses in response, and turned back to their meal. A little while later, the sound of the Frenchman's raised voice made them turn as the two men rose from their table. He caught his lover's hand and gave a little bow toward Sam and Pete, then looked up at the taller man barely visible beneath his hat. "Come along, mon Beau. I will take you 'ome now and give you a taste of my éclair Franais."
Sam and Pete burst out laughing at the outrageous Frenchman, staring at each other and shaking their heads as the gay couple left the restaurant. "Whatever dials your 'gate, huh, Sam?" he asked with a soft chuckle, his eyes twinkling with amusement.
"That is soooo not Daniel Jackson," she giggled. "I don't know what made me think that could've been him. He's as different from that guy as daylight is from dark."
They returned to their own conversation, and that momentary distraction was forgotten in light of their own good time.
The apartment door closed and locked, and …tienne whispered, "I must get my wet pants off. Zat stupid vache Espagnole of a waitress poured water in my lap because she was so busy looking at you!"
Buck leaned close, all but pinning him against the door. "Want some help with that, honey buns?"
…tienne ducked out from beneath his arm nervously, popping up behind him. "Ah, non. I will just be une minute." He held up one finger and backpedaled into the apartment. He turned, searching around on the floor for something appropriate to wear, distracted and turned on by this tall, beautiful man he'd brought home with him. "You know, I do not usually kiss on zee first date, mon cher."
"Did that already," Buck observed, taking a seat on the sofa, stretching his long legs out in front of him, and crossing them at the ankle.
Picking up a pair of black leather pants, …tienne headed for the bathroom. "And I never, ever fuck on zee first date," he threw over his shoulder as he walked. He hoped this guy wouldn't bolt at the prospect of having to put a little work into his evening, in case the fun didn't happen. …tienne was going by feel with this one, trying not to expect too much, but wanting everything he saw.
"Then why don't we just fergit th'whole datin' thang and go straight fer th'relationship?" Buck called loudly after him as he sat up and pulled off his boots and socks. "I'm ready t'settle down, if'n you are, Frenchy. I think I purty much know all I need t'know 'boutcha ennyways."
Stepping out of the bathroom with his pants still unzipped, …tienne cocked an eyebrow, wondering where this guy got off, thinking he understood him after a kiss on the dance floor and dinner. "Oh? And what, exactement, do you believe you know about me, monsieur?"
"Oh, I know lotsa stuff 'bout you," Buck announced with a soft dismissive snort. He got up, took off his hat, and tossed it into the corner of the sofa. He took a step and unbuckled his belt. Eyes riveted to …tienne's, he spoke with certainty as he began his lazy stroll across the open room. "I know that underneath that purty face yer a smart l'il cuss."
Another step. Buck slowly undid the buttons on his jeans. "I know y'got secrets y'don't share with nobody, and that y'don't let folks get real close t'ya." He nonchalantly reached inside his pants and ran the flat of his palm over his growing erection, his eyes narrowing, breath hitching in his throat. "But yer gonna let me, aren'tcha, Frenchy boy? Yer gonna let me get under yer skin, 'cuz I'm already there."
Two more steps led him directly to …tienne as he tugged his own shirt out from the waistband of his jeans, unbuttoned it and let it drop to the floor. Then he reached out, grasped …tienne's red leather vest, and slowly pushed it off his shoulders, tossing it aside.
Buck's gaze scorched him as it took in his bare chest, his smooth, hard, hairless belly, his unzipped pants. With exquisite tenderness, he reached out and slipped his arms around …tienne's waist, pulling him close. "Dance with me, Frenchy," he whispered seductively.
"But we 'ave no musique," …tienne breathed, spellbound by the cowboy's intense green eyes and possessive manner.
"Then I guess we gotta make our own, now, don't we?" growled Buck against his mouth. His hands slid down under …tienne's leather pants and he grasped the rounded curve of his naked buttocks, holding him close as Buck started to sway, dancing him backward toward the bed.
…tienne's arms went around the taller man's shoulders and he struggled to keep his wits about him. "I do not... I do not fuck on zee first date, Beautiful," he said in a hoarse, shaky whisper.
Buck moved one hand up from …tienne's ass to the nape of his neck, his long fingers wrapping around the warm skin. "Won't be fuckin'," he assured his soon-to-be lover. "We'll be makin' love." He grinned wolfishly. "B'sides, y'did promise me your ee-clair, an' my mouth's just waterin' fer th'taste of it."
With a groan, …tienne knew he was sunk. This cowboy seemed to know every button to push, every turn-on in …tienne's book. He was sexy and charming, just a little shy at all the right moments, wonderfully assertive at others. Add that to the sizeable boner pressed against …tienne's thigh, and he knew he didn't have a chance of resisting.
"All right, all right, you 'ave won me, cowboy," he declared with a dramatic sigh of resignation. "You will 'ave your way with me and zen ride off into zee sunset, and I will never see you again, oui?" He pouted, trying not to grin into the rakish face pressed so close to his.
"Nope. Wrong." Buck grinned beneath his moustache. "'Cuz in my outfit, y'see, ain't nobody gets left behind." He winked at …tienne and swept in for a deep, satisfying kiss.
When …tienne's eyes could focus again and he'd caught his breath, he reached up and gave a little tug on the moustache. "I would like for you to shave, if you don't mind. Un petit whisker burn is nice, but zis? Zis is too much, oui?"
"Sure thing, Frenchy. Damn thang itches, ennyways." He kissed …tienne quickly and started to back away. "Don't y'go no place, now. I'll be right back." Buck went into the bathroom and moments later came out without his facial hair, wiping his upper lip with a towel.
He stopped two paces out of the bathroom, his eyes going wide. "Well, holy shit."
…tienne had cleared off the bed, turned down the covers and lay sprawled against the pillows completely naked except for his earrings and chains, his face the picture of desire. He held a small plastic packet in one hand. "I always use condoms," he began. "No one 'as ever touched me wit'out one."
Buck nodded. "Knew you'uz a smart 'un," he stated, has gaze flicking from the condom packet to …tienne's hard-on.
…tienne winked at this near stranger, soon to be his lover, and tossed the condom packet aside on the bed for later. He held his arms out to Buck in clear invitation. He watched with delight as the tall cowboy shucked his 501's down over his lean hips, pleased to see that he wore no underwear beneath. Buck's cock was long and thick, jutting proudly out from a nest of salt and pepper hair that trailed up along his flat belly and spanned across his broad chest.
…tienne liked hairy chests. Liked them a lot.
The big man crawled onto the bed with the grace of a tiger, stretching out beside …tienne and propping up on one elbow to gaze down into his face. "You sure are a beaut," he whispered, a note of awe in his voice. "An' y'know what? I wanna do somethin' with you I ain't never done b'fore, Frenchy."
"What is it, Buck?" …tienne rolled toward him, skimming his hand down his lover's side and pressing their cocks together, pinning them between their bellies, rubbing them languidly together.
"Wanna bottom for ya," Buck breathed against his lips. "Ain't never trusted nobody with mah ass b'fore, but somethin' tells me you'll do me right. Jest a feelin' I got, way down low."
…tienne blinked, his heart gone still in his chest for a moment. He stared into those heavy-lidded, sea-green eyes and wanted desperately to see brown ones. For this, he needed to be very, very certain. Following his sudden impulse, he carefully reached up and grabbed a handful of dark blond mullet, and slowly tugged it back. There was a little resistance, but the wig finally slipped off a head of short silver hair, plastered down by sweat. Daniel dropped the hairpiece on the floor.
"Are you sure, Jack?" he whispered, his accent gone, his heart in his throat. He ran his hands through the damp hair, making it stick up in little spikes all over his lover's head, thinking how adorable Jack looked like that.
The smile he got was blinding. "Yeah, Danny. I haven't thought about much else for the last month. I'm sure."
Daniel clasped that beloved face in both hands. "Damn, I love you." He kissed his lover down into the pillow, his heart soaring. He wanted this to be perfect for Jack, for him to have no regrets or reservations. For that, Daniel would need to be exquisitely gentle, to stay in complete control, and yet make sure Jack was wildly turned on through it all. They'd been thoroughly checked out during their convalescence and both were clean, so some of what Daniel had planned would be au naturel.
He used every skill he possessed, his hands and mouth exploring every inch of Jack's body, paying special attention to his beautiful cock. Daniel sucked him off until he came, fast and hard. In the afterglow Daniel kept going, whispering soft words of love against his skin. With his hands he guided Jack to roll onto his side and finally onto his belly, while Daniel nibbled and tasted his way all over that newly exposed territory.
At first Jack lay still beneath that tender assault, almost boneless, his eyes closed. He was silent except for his breathing, alternately gasping, shuddering with delight, and slowing when Daniel gave him space to come down a little. But as Daniel made his way to Jack's buttocks, his teeth scraping gently over the muscular swells, Jack's breath caught in his throat, and he started to squirm.
He tensed up as Daniel's hands parted his cheeks, and when his tongue touched that sensitive, tightly clenched opening, Jack gave a little shout of surprise. He hadn't been expecting this and wasn't prepared for it, but it felt so good he didn't really care what Daniel was doing with his ass. His tongue was hot and wet, teasing him, promising more, and soon Jack was moaning and twitching on the bed.
Jack gradually rose to his hands and knees, ass in the air, wriggling back to impale himself on Daniel's thrusting tongue. "Oh, God, yes!" he groaned, his eyes tightly closed, so turned on he could hardly breathe. Grunts of pleasure gusted out of him between breathless pleas for more, until Jack collapsed onto his belly again, head turned to one side and half buried in the pillows.
Grinning, brimming with delight, Daniel crawled over his exhausted, happy lover, gently settling his body on top of Jack's.
"Did you like that?" Daniel asked, nuzzling behind Jack's ear. He already knew the answer. There was no doubt how much Jack had enjoyed his first rim job.
A big grin made Jack's dimples flare. "Hated it," he joked. "I swear, Daniel, from now on, every time I see you lick your lips, I'm gonna get a hard-on."
Daniel's laugh was husky and filthy. He was immensely pleased with himself. "Are you ready for the next big discovery, then?"
Jack's smile faded. One green eye cracked open and rolled toward the man lying across his back. "If being fucked in the ass is even half as good as what you just did to me, I'm gonna be way pissed that we didn't go gay years ago."
"What d'ya mean, we? I already did," Daniel reminded him. "You were the one holding out." He nibbled at Jack's nape, making him shiver and gasp with delight.
"Tell me what to do," whispered Jack, his words half muffled by the pillow. He arched his hips up off the bed, rubbing his ass against Daniel's straining cock.
"Just relax," said Daniel. "Your first instinct will be to clamp down, but that'll just make it more uncomfortable. It might hurt anyway, but that won't last. Just trust me, and try to stay relaxed, okay?"
Jack nodded, closing his eyes and settling into the bed, just breathing.
Daniel reached for the lube on the nightstand and rolled onto his side. He squeezed a little of the cool gel into his hand and closed his fingers over it, warming the stuff before applying it to Jack's backside.
This is Jack, he reminded himself. Jack wants me to make love to him, just like he made love to me. This is everything I ever wanted.
With trembling fingers, he traced the cleft between those hairy cheeks, spreading the warm gel deeper, massaging his way closer to Jack's anus. He leaned down, brushing his lips over Jack's shoulder, inhaling the scent of him. He felt the tight ring of muscle give as his fingertip rolled against it, and groaned softly as he slipped inside.
He closed his eyes, the sound of his whispered name on Jack's lips sending shivers all through him. He couldn't answer the summons, his mind unable to remember how to make his voice work.
"I love you," Jack whispered, his voice trembling.
"Yes. Always. Love you, too." Daniel rested his cheek against Jack's shoulder and slid his left hand beneath Jack's chest, holding him as closely as he could with his body half on top of Jack's and his right hand pushing slowly, gently deeper.
"I think I've always known," Jack went on, turning his head so he and Daniel were facing the same direction. "I thought it was wrong to love you so much... but this can't be wrong." He whimpered a little. "Can it?"
Daniel clasped him closer, kissing his shoulder. "No, it isn't wrong," he declared fervently. "Real love is never wrong. How can it be?"
Heat flared up in him, making him gasp. He wanted Jack so badly, wanted to just roll over on him and jam himself balls-deep, but he caught himself and held on, held back, gently twirling his finger, delirious with the knowledge that no one had ever touched this man as he was now doing. With agonizing slowness, he began to withdraw his finger, slowly adding a second, gently massaging Jack's prostate and smiling broadly at the awestruck twitches and groans that produced. He kissed Jack's shoulder, neck and cheek, nibbling on his ear and making him shiver.
He reveled in the way Jack moved beneath him, writhing and trembling, making the most delicious sounds. Daniel watched as those strong, sure hands gripped the sheets when the pleasure was unbearably good, his fingers slowly uncurling and smoothing across the fabric only to clench again to the music of a startled groan of delight.
"So beautiful," Daniel whispered, watching him, adoring the bliss cresting in waves over Jack's face. His eyes were closed and Daniel wanted to see him, to have Jack looking into his eyes, but that would wait for another time. This way would be best because he had more control in this position.
Slowly, he withdrew his fingers and sat up long enough to put on a condom, then settled his pelvis over Jack's buttocks. He couldn't stifle a groan as his dick nestled between Jack's cheeks, and he almost lost it for a moment. Reaching between them, he gripped his cock and held it steady, squeezing himself hard to choke down his own need, and carefully, gently guided himself home.
He felt the slightest give and stopped pushing. The taut ring responded by tightening and he held still, not moving, waiting for Jack to relax and let him slip slowly deeper. Little by little, Daniel let Jack control the speed, creeping forward only until Jack's ass tensed, waiting until it relaxed and let him push deeper. Entry seemed to take forever, and while he waited, he talked to Jack, as much to keep himself from exploding as to comfort and soothe his lover.
"Almost there, Jack," he said breathlessly. "Don't wanna hurt you. That's why I'm going so slow. I love you, love you - God! How I love you, Jack."
"Jesus." Jack writhed beneath him, wriggling his hips and trying to pull Daniel deeper. "Fuck me, already, Daniel! Can't wait. Can't - God!"
"Not too fast," Daniel cautioned, pulling back just a little. He was halfway there, and impatience was a good sign. It meant Jack was loving this, and wanted more.
Jack sucked in a breath and lifted his head and shoulders up off the pillow. "God FUCKING damn!" he hissed, wriggling harder, pushing his ass back against Daniel, demanding more with his body.
That was Daniel's undoing. "Jack!" he wailed, grabbing a fistful of Jack's hip, trying to ride out the intense pleasure rippling up his dick and into his balls, but he was lost. With a wordless groan, his hips bucked and he plunged deeper, holding onto Jack's shoulder with his teeth, desperately trying to grab for a little control.
A ragged moan spilled out of Jack. His whole body tensed and then shuddered, and suddenly, inexplicably, he shoved himself fiercely backward, coming up slightly onto his knees.
Daniel was buried inside him now, his cock being squeezed so hard he almost went blind for a moment.
Then Jack was lifting them both off the bed, pushing up to hands and knees, and Daniel held onto him, afraid he'd fall off, not wanting to be disconnected.
"Fuck me, Daniel," Jack rasped, hoarse with need. "Oh, God, fuck me!"
Daniel got his knees firmly under him and nudged Jack's thighs wider apart, keeping a firm grip on Jack's hips, then smoothed both hands beneath him, seeking out Jack's cock, now fully hard again and straining in his grip. Jack howled at the contact and his hips jerked backward, impaling himself hard on Daniel's cock.
The last shards of Daniel's self control shattered. He roared as a wave of savage lust and years of denial swept through him. He clutched at Jack's cock and belly, his hips driving him in deep. Bending over Jack's back, he bit and sucked at what skin he could reach, trying to force more of himself up inside his lover. Sweating and swearing, he pounded Jack's ass until he drove him down into the bed again, knocking him off his knees as Jack's cock erupted in his grip, hot semen shooting into his fist and the sheets beneath them.
For a moment, Daniel lay stunned and shaking, poised on the verge of ecstasy, his senses on fire. He could smell Jack's come, feel the sticky warmth all over his hand as Jack's throbbing dick pulsed and shivered and went limp. Daniel reached up with his free hand, feeling blindly for Jack's face, following the curve of his left ear to his jaw and finally to his lips, gusts of hot air panting out between them as he caught his breath.
"Am I... too heavy?" Daniel gasped, nuzzling into Jack's sweaty nape.
"No," Jack answered instantly, reaching back to clutch at Daniel's hip and keep him there. "I like this. Like how heavy you are. Makes me feel..."
Jack said the last word into the pillow, where Daniel couldn't hear it. Jack's body language said he was embarrassed by the admission, the way he curled up on himself.
"Tell me," Daniel begged, pulling his hips back in a long, slow glide, then easing back into Jack's slick, sweaty backside. "Tell me how I make you feel, Jack. I want to know. You're safe with me. I'd never betray you."
Pushing up slightly onto his elbows again, Jack nodded. "I know, Daniel. You were the only one who could make me feel like that. Safe. So loved. From the beginning, since Abydos, you've always protected me. No one else ever has." He tipped his head back with a groan of pleasure. "I was always the one looking out for everybody else, but you... You've always taken care of me. Watched over me to make sure I was all right." His voice caught. "Even... even when you were dead."
"I never thought you understood that," Daniel whispered, "until now." Something inside him opened up, like a blossom in the heat of the sun, gently unfurling and fusing them together. Daniel's lips descended on Jack's nape and shoulders as his cock undulated into and out of him, hips rocking slowly, gently. "Love you," he confessed with trembling voice.
Daniel put his head down and closed his eyes, one hand caressing Jack's arm, the other touching his face. His forehead rested against Jack's shoulder as he thrust languidly into him, feeling the emotion rising up inside him, drowning him, pulling him under into bliss.
"You're fucking me," Jack breathed in awestruck wonder, his hand covering Daniel's against his cheek. "Feels so good. So good. Yes." He wriggled beneath Daniel, and suddenly Jack's muscles squeezed and relaxed around Daniel's cock.
"Oh!" cried Daniel, tossing his head back in delight. "Yes. Yes. Make me come. Make me do it."
Jack's ass gripped him hard. Daniel gasped and groaned, his balls tightening. He was close, so close, but he couldn't...
"Daniel," called Jack urgently. "Wanna feel you come inside me. Do it!"
That was what he needed, that deep, soft voice commanding him with love.
His orgasm was silent, waves of peace beating through him, out of him and into the condom he wore deep inside Jack, with velvet pulses that left him spent, clean, and whole for the first time in his life. This was what he'd been seeking all his life, this man of indomitable strength who would surrender himself only to Daniel; a man who would love as fiercely as he lived.
At that moment in time, Daniel Jackson had it all... and so did Jack O'Neill.
The two men lay quietly spooned together in the bed for a few moments, drowsy little kisses pressed against Jack's neck and shoulders as Daniel stroked down Jack's side and over his hip. Daniel eased out of Jack and pulled the condom off his shrinking cock, tossing it into the waste bin by the bed.
As Jack rolled onto his back, Daniel settled beside his lover, cuddled up to his side, his arm thrown over Jack's waist. Their faces were only inches apart, and Jack turned his head to regard him.
Green eyes, not brown ones.
Not Jack, he reminded himself sadly. This is Buck, and my name is …tienne. Jack and Daniel can't have this right now, because our world is still too narrow-minded.
Daniel's hand drifted over, stroking in small circles over Jack's chest and stomach. " 'ow do you feel, mon p'tit choux? I did not 'urt you?" he asked as …tienne.
"Mah ass is still a-throbbin'," admitted Buck with his raspy Texas drawl. He turned onto his side to face his lover and laid one hand on Daniel's face, his thumb tracing the curve of his cheek, long fingers wrapped around Daniel's nape. "And no, ya didn't hurt me. Not a bit. I loved it, Frenchy-boy. Loved how y'make me feel. Love you."
He started to move in for a kiss, then stopped and moved back to make eye contact again. "D'ya believe in love at first sight, …tienne? 'Cause I'm damn sure this here's th' real thing. Hearts 'n' flowers 'n' picket fences; the whole shootin' match."
…tienne smiled, adoring that gorgeous face on the pillow. "I never kiss on zee first date, remember? And I never, ever fuck on zee first date. But for you, mon cher ami, I break all zee rules, non? L'amour knows not'ing of boundaries. It is zee only true freedom zat exists."
Buck grinned in delight. "Knowed y' wuz a smart 'un," he rumbled. "Now, c'mere. I'm up for a li'l French kissin.' "
Monsieur Beno"t was most happy to comply.
Late the next morning, Buck and …tienne lingered over breakfast, feeding each other little tidbits of food, touching and kissing their way through their meal. They'd made love off and on all night, napping briefly only to rouse again when hunger and desire called to them. By mid-morning they were both sated and exhausted, wrapped in a cocoon of joy and love that made the whole world seem a beautiful, peaceful place.
All too soon, however, they knew they'd be stepping outside …tienne's messy little apartment into another world, one that was often unfriendly to men like the cowboy and his peacock.
…tienne sighed as he stuffed a small sliver of fresh peach between his lover's lips. Buck's mouth closed over his finger, sucking off the juice, his green eyes twinkling, the morning sunlight glinting on his dark golden hair. His moustache lay on the table beside his plate, waiting until after breakfast and the requisite tooth-brushing to be reapplied.
"You oughtta think about getting yer nipples pierced fer real, Frenchy," Buck suggested, toying with one of the bigger rings as it lay on the dining table between them. "I think they're hot."
…tienne chuckled. "Zen consider it done, Beautiful. And you will kiss zem all better when it is over, yes?"
Jack's eyes rolled back in delight, and he groaned and chuckled deep in his throat all at the same time. "Y'gonna make me hard agin, talkin' like that. And damn, I ain't fucked this much in m'whole life! Yer just th'sexiest man alive, y'know that, …tienne?"
"Zat would be zee green-eyed cowboy devouring mes pches, 'oo is zee sexiest man," …tienne argued playfully, smiling back at his lover. He cut another sliver of peach, heedless of the juice running all over his hand, and watched in fascination as Buck sucked the fruit and then the fingers into his mouth and licked them clean, munching happily.
Then his expression sobered as he swallowed, and he grew pensive. "Y'think it's gonna work out for Buck and …tienne?" asked Jack, rubbing the back of Daniel's hand with his fingertips as it rested on the table beside his empty plate.
Daniel smiled. "Oh, yeah." He glanced around the little apartment. When he spoke again, the French accent was back in place. "'ere, in zis place, no one else exists. It is a world of only two, where only love and joy live. We 'ave loved a long time, mon ami, and yet, it feels so new."
"Know whatcha mean, thar, honey buns," agreed Buck with a sly wink.
…tienne's smile faded and worry crept into his dark eyes. "Do you think Sam and Pete bought the act?" he asked his lover with no trace of French pronunciations.
"Carter called one of us," Jack reminded him. "I'm betting it was you, since she didn't really get a good look at me." He grinned. "You got some big brass cojones, Daniel. I never would've had the guts to make such a spectacle of myself, like you did." He shook his head in wonder, remembering the scene in the restaurant the previous evening. "But you know, after Pete picked her chin up off the floor for her... yeah, I think she did buy it."
"She'll be watching me for signs now," Daniel looked down into his empty coffee cup, his mind obviously spinning off into possibilities and planning how to deal with what the future might hold for them.
"Come what may," said Jack, still smacking his lips over Daniel and the peach, "we have this now. We have each other. If it comes down to it, I'm sure Hammond would keep it quiet and let me retire. It'd break his heart to see me go to prison. And you did say he was on your side with this whole gay thing at the SGC."
"Yes, but that's for the civilians," Daniel interjected. "I never said anything about the soldiers and bending any rules for them, though I think the regulations are asinine in the first place." He laid his hand on Jack's cheek, his thumb tracing the curve of his bottom lip. "I don't want you to go to prison for loving me."
"I don't think that's even a possibility. But if I do, at least I know you'll be waiting for me when I get out." Jack touched his cheek, mesmerized by how soft his skin was after his morning shave. "Let's not worry about what might or might not happen, okay, babe?"
Daniel's thumb settled gently over Jack's mouth, pressing his lips together, desire warring with prudence in his heart. "You can't call me that, Jack. No terms of endearment other than what you already call me. We can't risk a slip at any time."
"Sorry. Forgot." Jack sighed, frowning. "It's not fair."
"No, it's not. But we're already taking steps to change things. They'll be small, at first, but eventually we may just get there." He smiled across the tiny, cheap laminate dining table at the man he loved more than his own life. "And maybe one day, Jack O'Neill, we'll be able to take those vows for real."
"I'd like that, Daniel. Till death."
"And per'aps not even zen, oui?"
They both stood and put their arms around each other. Daniel's eyes drifted closed as their lips touched, and fantasies of cowboys and colonels in Class A's danced and flirted with the Frenchman in his soul.
|Category:||Jack/Daniel, Jack/Other Male, Daniel/Other Male|
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, First Time, Romance|
|Summary:||Jack strikes up a relationship with a surprising new friend, and through him comes to terms with some issues that have beenbothering O'Neill for a long time.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Warnings: Hot man sex!