Jack crept into the dark bedroom, the dim light from the hall only just enough to allow him not to fall over the strategically deployed furniture. He shed his clothes as he went, reaching the steps up to Daniel's bed as he removed his socks. Moving with infinite stealth so as not to wake the mound of archaeologist, Jack slid under the quilt, spooned up behind Daniel and pressed a gentle kiss into his soft, sleep-tousled hair.
"Night, babe," Jack whispered and settled into the pillows with a contented sigh.
"Night, J'ck," came the sleepy, whispered reply.
The clock marked the silent seconds; one, two, three, four, fi...
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" Daniel yelled, throwing himself violently across the bed and clicking on the lamp.
Jack sat up, squinting into the sudden illumination.
Daniel's eyes were huge and his mouth worked soundlessly as he stared at Jack. Both men clutched armfuls of quilt, Jack from the shock of Daniel's shouting and Daniel from having a damn near naked Jack O'Neill suddenly and unexpectedly in his bed.
"Sorry, are my feet cold?" Jack apologised, snuggling back under the quilt and smiling sheepishly at the confused linguist.
"Jack?" Daniel wheezed, his face a picture of incomprehension.
"Yeeeeaaaah?" Jack drawled warily, looking as if he thought Daniel had lost his mind.
"What are you doing?" The effort of making his voice sound normal was a problem for Daniel, who had been happily dreaming until twenty seconds before.
"Coming to bed. Sorry I'm late. Did I wake you?" Jack appeared contrite but then shamelessly shrugged his way into the warm hollow, which had been left by Daniel's sleeping form.
"Er...why are you coming to bed? Particularly my bed?" Daniel enquired, frowning. He edged himself even further away from Jack and balanced precariously on the edge of the mattress.
"Look, if you are still pissed off about the whole 'who was supposed to pay the electric bill' thing, I've said I was sorry," Jack humphed. "Anyway, when did you get home? I thought you were still off with SG-23 on Ak'ab."
Daniel stared at Jack as if he had never seen him before. Every time a coherent thought struggled to the top of the pile in his head it was immediately jumped by a dozen or more confused ones leaving the linguist uncharacteristically lost for words and gaping like a fish.
Alarmingly for Daniel, Jack appeared to find this very endearing and smiled at him fondly.
"Not that I'm complaining," he qualified. "I've missed you." Jack crawled across the bed and into Daniel's lap, where he seemed to think he belonged. He grasped the floundering man's face firmly between his hands and pressed a kiss on him, taking the opportunity to comprehensively explore Daniel's tongue with his own.
Jack drew back to take a breath, his Cheshire Cat grin firmly plastered across his face. "Yeah, missed you," he repeated, and with a final hard kiss, snuggled back into Daniel's pillows.
Daniel did the only thing he could think of doing - and he'd really tried - and slid slowly off the bed onto the floor.
After a few moments' silence, Jack leaned over the side and looked down at the Daniel-shaped heap below him. "Are you okay?" he asked, "You're acting kinda weird."
Almost thankful for something to direct his confusion at, Daniel jumped to his feet and pointed an enraged digit at the amused but puzzled looking man occupying his bed. "I'm acting weird? Me? Jack, what in the name of God do you think you are doing? There is no SG-23. I've never heard of Ak'ab and you do not sleep in my bed... and kiss me and..." Daniel trailed off with a vague flapping gesture at Jack's lack of clothes. This reminded Daniel that he was, in fact, also completely butt naked, and he quickly covered his groin with both hands.
"How much coffee have you had today?" Jack asked, frowning at Daniel and blatantly ignoring his blushing embarrassment.
"Enough that this cannot be some freaky dream!" Daniel retorted sharply.
"I know what you need, babe." Jack sat up, grabbed one of Daniel's hands and dragged the stunned archaeologist closer to him. "How about you come and lie down and I'll suck you, nice and slow, just the way you...like...it...errrr, Daniel?"
With a surprising amount of athleticism, Daniel had grabbed a pillow and fled to the opposite side of his bedroom, where he now cowered - his back pressed against the wall and the pillow clutched to his groin as he glowered at Jack myopically.
"Shit," Jack said quietly from the bed. "You're being serious!" He began to glance around Daniel's bedroom, obviously searching for clues to this surprising behaviour.
"Who are you and where is Jack O'Neill?" Daniel asked with as much authority as a naked man, hiding his inappropriate interest behind a pillow and wishing he had his glasses on, could muster.
"I am Jack O'Neill," Jack insisted. "But I'm beginning to think I'm not your Jack O'Neill."
Daniel's mind only just resisted the temptation to go and sit in a metaphorical corner and suck its thumb. "What do you mean?" he asked warily, not sure his battered psyche could take the answer.
"We've been experimenting with...do you know what a Dimension Portal is?"
Daniel shook his head.
"Big mirror thing, we found it on..."
"P3R-233," Daniel supplied - grateful for something he finally recognised. "We call it a Quantum Mirror."
Jack thought about this for a minute. "I like our name better, but, yeah! Well, Carter has been running tests on it, trying to make it work more predictably. We've had problems with holding realities."
Daniel nodded. At last. Something that made sense. "Us too. Sam had it shipped to the Mountain three weeks ago from Nevada to run more simulations on it."
"That has to be it," Jack said, and blinked with surprise. "I must have activated it, but this reality was so close to my own I didn't realise I was in the wrong one until..." He paused and turned an appraising eye on Daniel, gesturing across the space between them. "So you and I aren't...?"
"No!" yelped Daniel, his fingers clutching the pillow even harder against himself.
"Wow! I can't imagine that!" Jack said and whistled in a low incredulous tone.
"You're telling me you're from an alternate reality?" Daniel whimpered.
"Well I hope so, because if my Daniel behaved like you are right now, I'd be in deep shit."
Jack's bemused expression, as his eyes roamed around the room, was both comical and touching. His gaze would stray back to Daniel again and again as if listing the similarities and differences between his own reality and this one.
"Damn it, I knew something was off when I saw Siler. He's supposed to be on honeymoon!" Jack groused, still making no move to cover himself up or leave.
"Our Siler isn't married," Daniel supplied helpfully.
"Really? Who is Janet with here then?" Jack asked casually.
"Janet? She's not...wait...Janet and Siler?"
"Oh yeah!" Jack smirked, "Can't keep their hands off each other."
Daniel smiled weakly. Pairing up the dinky doctor and the taciturn technician had provided a short respite for his overworked brain, but Jack, sitting on his bed in all his not inconsiderable glory, made it very hard for Daniel to avoid thinking about his alternate self and this smug looking colonel who was gazing at him with open admiration.
Open and very obvious admiration.
Daniel licked his lips, trying to phrase his next query carefully. "So...?"
"Yeah!" Jack grinned, anticipating Daniel's question, his eyes glittering in the light from the lamp.
"Oh!" Daniel gulped. "How...?"
"About three years now," Jack obliged.
"Ah! Are we...?"
"Very," Jack declared, holding Daniel's eyes with his own. "We are very, very happy together. What can I tell you? We're just good for each other."
Daniel shifted uncomfortably under Jack's scrutiny. "I see," he bleated. He was unnerved by Jack, but even more unnerved by his own blurred vision, so Daniel and his pillow boldly marched over to the nightstand, which was perilously close to the happy, horny colonel, and found his glasses.
He slipped them onto his nose and blinked a couple of times, then bit his lip. Daniel had expected to feel slightly more in charge of the situation now he could see, and was disappointed to find this was not the case - because now he had to contend with a sharply focussed lecherous Jack instead of a mercifully hazy one.
"So your Jack has never...?" the colonel began as Daniel sat back down on the opposite side of the bed, his pillow still firmly glued to himself.
"No," Daniel said quickly and glanced at Jack. "No," he repeated more gently and a little wistfully.
"What, nothing? Not even a kiss?"
"No, not even a kiss," Daniel agreed, slumping miserably against the headboard.
"Is he with someone?"
"Not as far as I know," Daniel admitted.
Daniel laughed without mirth and shook his head.
"So what's stopping you?" Jack asked, puzzled.
"Well, let me see," Daniel began snappishly. "He doesn't want me for a start."
"You're wrong there," Jack said with such assurance that Daniel was forced to pause and look at him. Jack met his gaze unflinchingly, not a moment of doubt in his brown eyes.
"He's not gay," Daniel explained patiently.
"Wrong again," Jack smiled infuriatingly. "Are you?"
"No...well, not gay, per se," Daniel muttered.
Jack nodded encouragingly, wanting more.
"I've never had a homosexual encounter...until tonight," Daniel admitted, glaring at Jack. "Thanks for that by the way! But...well...it has crossed my mind that I might like to... I wouldn't mind...that Jack...my Jack, well...he's a babe," Daniel blurted, blushing all over again.
Jack's grin seemed to stretch beyond the confines of his face and, if he'd looked any more self-satisfied, Daniel would have had to smack him one. For his own good, of course.
"Well you need to tell me...him...your Jack," the manically grinning man advised.
"Yeah, that'd work," Daniel muttered and rolled his eyes, wondering exactly when he'd decided to adopt Jack's favourite sarcasm as his first line of defence.
"I'm telling you, Daniel, I know! I'm him!" Jack said earnestly and looked only slightly confused by the semantics.
"Other realities we've visited have always included you and Sam having a relationship and, to be honest, I did wonder if my Jack..." Daniel tightened his jaw in annoyance, "...this Jack might not also have a bit of a thing..."
"How the hell would you know?" Daniel snapped irritably.
"Did you figure in any of those other realities you've visited? Have you ever met yourself?"
"Well, no," Daniel admitted.
"That's why. Give a Jack O'Neill the choice between a you and a Carter and he'll go for the Daniel Jackson every time. I've seen fourteen different realities so far, seven of them with you and me in them, and in each one with both of us, we're together."
"Really?" Daniel gasped, a sweet smile sliding unexpectedly across his face.
"Yep," Jack confirmed, picking this moment to begin to inch towards the unsuspecting archaeologist.
"But this Jack," Daniel explained deliberately, "is so big-bad...you know? Macho, over the top, shooting stuff, blowing other stuff up?"
"It's all a front, Daniel," Jack said softly, pausing in his subtle advance. "A kind of defence mechanism. I know how he thinks and I know he loves you. I promise, go to him tomorrow, ask him out or, better still, tell him straight." Jack's eyebrows rose comically at his choice of words. "He won't say no. I guarantee it."
"But he's never given any indication, nothing at all, to make me think he might be interested in me."
"He's scared," the colonel shrugged.
"Jack?" Daniel snorted.
"Yes, Jack. He's scared you'll laugh at him and he'll lose his best friend," Jack explained, inexorably closing the gap between them. "I remember it well."
"Oh, yes, of course," Daniel muttered - embarrassed. "How did we get together then? You and your... me?"
"Well," Jack said, arriving at Daniel's side, " We were on a mission to PPP-Who-the-fuck-remembers-these-things."
Daniel rolled his eyes, recognising a tactic he had seen Jack deploy more times than he cared to remember - playing dumb. The problem was the Jack was so good at it.
"The gate malfunctioned, you and I were stranded in this ice cave, we couldn't make the gate work and there was no chance of walking out of there. As it turned out we were on..."
"Earth," Daniel supplied "Antarctica."
"Yes!" Jack said excitedly. "Didn't you make a move on me while we were waiting to be rescued?"
"Er...no. It was you and Sam, and you were badly injured in this reality."
"Carter? I got stranded with Carter?" Jack winced. "Jeeeeezus! Were my injuries self inflicted?"
"Jaaack," Daniel said plaintively.
"What? Maybe your Carter has a sparkling wit and is a great conversationalist, but our Carter, well, she's a nice enough girl, smart and pretty, but just so..." Jack struggled for words.
"Driven?" Daniel offered, "Compulsive? Focussed?"
"Boring," Jack supplied, smiling apologetically when Daniel scowled at him.
"So, I came on to you?" Daniel gulped, unable to leave it alone, although he wished he could.
"Oh, yeaaaah!" Jack drawled, the smug look stealing across his face once again. He smiled at Daniel, unnerving him.
Daniel got the distinct impression that although Jack was looking at him, he was seeing something else entirely; something...intimate, something that probably involved being horizontal, but he courageously maintained eye contact, never letting his gaze stray from Jack's face, not wanting to see further evidence of how into his archaeologist this Jack really was.
"H...h...how, exactly?" Daniel stuttered bravely.
"Well, it was cold. We were huddled together for warmth, talking about what we missed about home. You know, hot bath, steak sandwich, Simpsons, thermal underwear kind of thing. So I said, 'Bed' and you said, 'Yours or mine?' And while I was still working out what you meant by that you leaned over and kissed me."
"Did you hit me...him?"
"Hell no! Couldn't think of anything but your sweet lips on mine, your tongue curling over..."
"Tongue?" Daniel squeaked.
"Yeah, you're a great kisser, Daniel," Jack said, leaning into the oblivious linguist. Honestly, it was too easy.
"Am I?" Daniel mumbled doing his best impression of a rabbit caught in the headlights. His eyes followed Jack's mouth but he did nothing to avert the inevitable.
"Yeah." And Jack landed his lips softly and squarely on Daniel's. Jack quickly brought up his hands to hold Daniel's face and slide through his hair while he languidly stroked his tongue over the linguist's, responsive and welcoming despite the ambush.
Jack drew back, leaving Daniel frozen in place, his mouth raised up, lips parted and eyes closed. Jack smiled to himself and ran a gentle finger down the young man's exposed neck, across his collarbone and over his chest.
"You shouldn't do that," Daniel said hoarsely.
"Because," Daniel began, finally opening his eyes, "I'm not your Daniel."
"If I can convince you to go to your Jack and make him as happy as I am, my Daniel won't mind. He's a good guy - brilliant, beautiful, sensitive and understanding. You'd like him a lot," Jack grinned and ruffled Daniel's hair.
"Yeah? He sounds like a geek," Daniel replied with a shadow of a smile on his lips. Jack just gave him a stern look and bounded out of the bed. With reckless abandon he began to pull on the clothes he had scattered around the room. "Where are you going?" Daniel asked in surprise.
"I need to get back before I'm missed, and before I start having those freaky timeline shudders," Jack explained working on his socks.
"Entropic cascade," Daniel muttered despondently, watching the other man tie his boots.
"Whatever, it hurts like crap."
"My Jack has a jacket just like that," Daniel commented as the colonel stood up to go, shrugging into the leather coat the archaeologist loved so much.
"Yeah? Does he look as good as me in it?" Jack joked, twisting this way and that so Daniel could admire. Daniel smiled despite the irrational stab of sorrow he felt at the alternate Jack's departure. "I don't suppose your Jack will be too pleased to meet me either - best avoid that if possible. Technically this is his jacket. I changed into it on base, and if he finds out I've taken his truck..."
"You took his truck??"
"I mentioned the similarities between our universes, right? I thought his stuff was my stuff - it's all the same." Jack walked over to the door leaving Daniel watching him from the bed. "Except for one crucial thing."
Jack turned and looked intently into Daniel's face, then quickly retraced his steps to the bed and kissed him hard.
"Tell him, okay?"
Daniel didn't move until he heard the front door click shut, then he slumped down onto the bed, his synapses firing wildly as he tried to work out what the hell was going on.
He really didn't need this now. Having a thing for Jack was fine all the time it was safely suppressed. He had struggled with it for a long time before he'd been able to control it, and ignore the cravings of his body whenever Jack was around. For a while Daniel had wondered if Jack might feel the same, before the whole Sam thing had made him think otherwise.
Jack had been the one Daniel had turned to since Sha'uri had been taken; a solid, reassuring presence in a life that had lacked such certainties for too long. Daniel had never been able to work out why Jack seemed to like him so much, and it had been a novel experience for Daniel to have a best friend - certainly one who had always been so obvious about it.
Jack had never missed a chance to touch Daniel those first years on SG-1, a pat on the back, a squeeze of his shoulder, a full-blown hug once or twice. But slowly, inexorably, Jack had withdrawn from him, moved on, never actively shutting him out, but never inviting him in anymore either.
Daniel had learned to live with it. He'd had more than a passing acquaintance with disappointment in his life, and although it had hurt him to lose Jack in such a strange way, he'd never shown it. He was content that, at least for a brief time, Jack had loved him in some way.
So to have this guy - who was, to all intents and purposes, Jack - turn up in his bed and kiss him and tell him how good they were together was a disaster for Daniel's well-ordered life. It reminded him of things he had convinced himself he could live without.
On a sudden impulse, Daniel fetched the phone and dialled Jack's cell. It seemed to ring for a long time before it was picked up.
"'Neill," came the slurred response.
"Where are you?"
"I'm in bunkroom three on level twenty-six. Why?" Jack's voice was croaky and quiet.
"Nothing. No reason. I just thought... thought I saw you," Daniel answered, shaking his head.
"You okay? Where are you?" Jack asked, picking up speed now on hearing Daniel's spooked tone.
"Home. Don't worry. I'm sorry I woke you," Daniel gabbled.
"Daniel, is everything alright?" Jack's voice was gentle, something Daniel hadn't heard for a long, long time.
"Fine, Jack, everything's fine," Daniel sighed. "I'll see you tomorrow." He switched off the phone and threw himself back onto the bed, arm over his eyes, and fell asleep with the taste of Jack still lingering on his lips.
When Daniel arrived at the Mountain the next morning, he was half expecting there to be a security alert, but as he traversed the quiet halls on his way to Sam's lab, it was business as usual.
"Hey, Sam," Daniel greeted the furiously typing figure. A blonde head and a rueful smile peeped around the side of the monitor.
"Hi," she said warmly, if a little distractedly.
Another flurry of keystrokes followed and Daniel didn't wait for an invitation. He walked over to the massive inanimate block currently taking up most of Sam's workspace and looked at it long and hard, his hands firmly jammed in his pockets as a reminder not to touch.
He walked all the way around the mirror as if it could give him the answers he wanted just from intense scrutiny. His fingers itched when he saw the control device on Sam's bench and without a conscious thought, he withdrew a hand and started to reach for it.
Sam's hand shot out and settled protectively over the device.
"Oh!" Daniel muttered as Sam grinned at him.
"Can't have you disappearing on us again, Daniel," she chastised. "The Colonel would probably shoot me." She only relaxed when Daniel put his errant hand back into the safety of his BDU's.
"So, how's it going?" Daniel asked, trying for nonchalant but sounding alarmingly rehearsed to his own ears.
"Slowly," Sam sighed. "The dialling protocols don't seem to have any kind of base logarithm I can detect - which makes it a little hard to accurately locate a specific reality."
"Hmmmm," Daniel sympathised vaguely. "Is it active now? I mean could others potentially use it to get to this reality?"
"Well as far as we can establish, it is always active. I think its very fabric is a source of energy."
Daniel nodded, his brow wrinkled in thought. "So it's monitored to make sure no one...?"
"24/7, Daniel. Don't worry," Sam laughed.
"I'm not worried," Daniel lied. "Has anyone tried to come through since it's been here?"
"No," Sam replied, sounding puzzled. "Daniel, is something wrong?"
"Noooo," he smiled reassuringly. "Just don't want to find another me in my office." With a grin, he reached the door and made for the sanctuary of his corner of the SGC.
As he walked, Daniel pondered the problem of finding out about his visitor from the previous night without drawing attention to himself. It wasn't the easiest thing to slip into conversation casually. 'By the way, Jack's double let himself into my house last night, thinking he lived there. As good as told me that he and his Daniel were at it like rabid mink, kissed me senseless and gave me the first wet dream I've had in years.'
If only he could find a reason to look at the security footage or speak to the SF's on duty last night, without having to spill all the kissing and Jack-in-bed with him stuff. But he couldn't come up with a single plausible excuse for making either request without admitting an alternate Jack had visited him, and for his own peace of mind, he didn't want that looked into too closely.
Daniel made straight for his coffee machine when he entered his office, and was pleasantly surprised, but slightly confused, to find that it was freshly made.
"Morning!" Jack hailed him merrily.
Daniel jerked around to find the colonel happily spinning back and forth on his chair. "Jack!" Daniel yelped, staring at him stupidly, while Jack just smiled and continued to play at Daniel's desk. "What are you doing?"
"Hiding," Jack admitted immediately.
Daniel's heart leapt into his throat. Which Jack was this? Physically there was nothing to tell between them. Daniel had made a thorough, if surreptitious, examination of the alternate last night to compare against his furtively acquired knowledge of his Jack and found no differences.
To cover his confusion he turned and poured a mug of scalding hot coffee. "From what?" he asked as calmly as he could.
"Paperwork," Jack hissed, miming a towering pile of reports with his hands.
Daniel almost sighed audibly with relief. He brought his coffee to his desk and stood pointedly until Jack, with rather poor grace, vacated his chair.
"So, what's going on?" Jack asked, beginning his careful study in 'How to get a rise out of Daniel' by taking random books off his shelves then putting them back in a different place - knowing it drove the linguist nuts.
"Not much," Daniel said, and wondered if Jack could hear the deafening brittle quality in his voice.
"What was all that about last night, then?" Jack persisted moving from books onto Daniel's sacred coffee machine and casually helping himself. "You sounded a bit freaked."
Daniel watched the colonel move confidently around his space; he seemed relaxed and comfortable but, despite Daniel's efforts to see otherwise, there was no indication his interest in Daniel was anything more than friendship. And that friendship had been sorely tested recently what with one thing and another. Antagonistic was too strong a word, but Daniel had definitely recognised an undercurrent in their professional dealings, which had spilled over into their friendship. The result of this was the polite distance Jack kept between them and the decline in the time they spent together when not working.
Daniel smiled to himself as he recalled his visitor from last night bouncing around his bedroom, the fact that the guy in the bed was not his lover barely breaking his stride. He'd been assured of his reception despite the difference in reality, making Daniel wonder how tight it had been between him and his Daniel before they had got together.
His own friendship with Jack was too fragile, too newly-mended to be tested by something like Daniel asking him out on a date, and he seriously doubted it would ever be strong enough again, should he miraculously find the courage to ask and find himself turned down.
"Not freaked, just thought I saw you when I was driving home last night," Daniel answered quietly.
"You were out late - on a date?" Jack asked with a grin, suddenly more interested in Daniel's answer than getting a response from his deliberate assault on the man's office, which had moved onto the final phase - the rocks and sticks Daniel cared for so lovingly.
Daniel directed a scathing look at Jack, and the colonel shrugged and nonchalantly tossed a wooden artefact back on Daniel's bench, making the archaeologist wince.
"See you around then, Daniel," Jack smiled, knowing when he was beaten. He walked to the door and paused for a moment, half-turning towards Daniel before apparently changing his mind and leaving.
Daniel chalked up another symptom of the shakiness of their relationship if Jack had to think twice before saying something to him. Convinced he'd made the right choice in not asking the colonel out, Daniel opened the top file in his in tray and lost himself.
By four p.m. Daniel was going out of his mind.
It was the third time he had made the journey to Jack's office without actually going in. First time he had just walked in a big circle before returning to the elevator and back to his own floor. Second time he had brought a report with him as an excuse to talk to Jack, but had chickened out at the last moment, made a detour to the water cooler and scuttled back to his office. This time was going no better.
As he hesitated in the corridor outside, Daniel felt like an idiot. He was thirty-six, for goodness sake - if he couldn't even ask his friend out for a beer, what hope was there?
Daniel was certain that there was pretty much zero hope of having the kind of relationship he knew at least eight alternate versions of himself were enjoying with their Jacks, but talking with the other Jack the previous night had reminded him of all the things he missed with the colonel from here and now. Daniel hoped that this, at least, he could fix.
Jack had seemed friendly enough this morning, more like his old self than Daniel had seen in the longest time. With this in mind, Daniel had resolved to keep up the momentum and take the battle to him. Except his legs did not seem to be in on this plan at all. As much as he urged them to take him into Jack's office, he still resolutely remained loitering in the hall.
With a defeated sigh, Daniel gave up and resolved to try again tomorrow... or Friday, yes, Friday would be better all round. He turned back towards the elevators to find Jack standing in his path not five yards away, watching him carefully.
"Looking for me?" he asked with a warm smile.
"No," Daniel lied quickly, his pulse hammering in his ears. No matter how many times Jack did his stalking thing, it always scared the bejeezus out of Daniel. You'd think he would have learned by now.
"Oh?" Jack said, giving Daniel a sceptical look, his eyes tracking from Daniel to his office door and back again. "Okay. So why have you been standing outside my office for the last three minutes?"
Daniel had been standing there three minutes? He felt the blush rise up his neck and into his cheeks. "I wanted to ask you a question, but on the way here I remembered the answer myself," Daniel muttered, moving past Jack and picking up speed down the corridor.
"What question?" Jack called after him.
"Not important," Daniel replied and, with a cheery wave, disappeared around the corner, missing the fleeting look of disappointment wash across Jack's face.
Daniel couldn't settle to anything that evening. None of the things he normally did to take his mind off... stuff... were working. In desperation he had turned in early, slept for a few hours and now found himself lying awake at two a.m. with sleep as far away as it had ever been.
When he heard the lock to his front door turn, his first reaction was excitement, before it dawned on him to be wary. Daniel sat up and put on his glasses. A dark shape loomed in his bedroom doorway, just waiting, so Daniel reached out and clicked on his bedside lamp.
Jack blinked a few times, his eyes crinkling at the sudden illumination, but he didn't seem surprised.
"Hey," Daniel said softly.
"I'm back," Jack sang, redundantly.
"I'm not sure," Jack replied, looking genuinely perplexed. In a classic O'Neill avoidance tactic, he changed the subject rather than elaborate. "Carter is really making progress with the dialling problem, it only took me thirty-two attempts to find your reality."
"What gave it away?"
"I left a sign in her lab when I went home last night," Jack grinned broadly.
Daniel shuddered to think what that meant and made a mental note to scour Sam's office for anything vaguely resembling a heart inscribed with 'J.O. and D.J. forever'.
The two men regarded each other in silence, neither knowing what to do next.
"Is your Daniel home yet?" Daniel asked finally.
"No," Jack sighed theatrically and took a few steps into the room, "I did speak to him today though, when they checked in. Just a quick 'Hi', but it was good to hear him."
Daniel nodded his understanding and the stillness returned.
"Did you talk to your Jack?" The silver-haired man broke the silence this time.
"No." Daniel's voice betrayed his disappointment and Jack covered the distance between them swiftly to sit on the end of his bed.
"Decided he's not worth the risk?" Jack asked softly.
"No! No, not that at all," Daniel quickly corrected him, wondering why he was telling this Jack all about it when he couldn't tell his own. The double standard stilled his tongue once again.
Jack puffed his cheeks and blew his breath out in a single, long whoosh. "Look, Daniel..."
"It's too much to ask, Jack. It might mean his career, his command." Daniel's words suddenly tumbled over each other in their haste to be admitted. "Even if I thought he had feelings for me - which he obviously doesn't - I couldn't ask him to jeopardise all that makes him... him."
Jack shook his head, his face incredulous. "You know, for a smart guy, you sure are dense sometimes. Do you think that stuff is important to him anymore?"
"Well since Sara left, he doesn't have much of a life outside of the Air Force..."
"And you think that makes him happy? You think he longs to define his life by how many funky coloured ribbons he can collect on his dress blues? You don't know him at all! Are you sure we mean the same guy? Grey hair, 6'2", kinda debonair looking...?"
"Gets pissy and tense if he doesn't shoot things on a weekly basis?"
"...likes hockey, Puccini, Bud and archaeologists named Jackson?"
"Lives to stick it to the man?"
"Lives to stick it to one man in particular," Jack replied suddenly serious. "Don't you know you are what makes him want to get up every morning?" He took in Daniel's saddened face. "You don't, do you? You have no clue that he can't imagine a day without you; that he watches you while you sleep; that he hangs around in places on the base where he stands the best chance of bumping into you? Wow! Your Jack must be a real asshole."
"No, he's not...he's just not ...you," Daniel murmured. "We're friends... it's enough."
Jack looked at the averted, downcast eyes and defeated air of the man in front of him. "The fuck it is!" he snarled and got to his feet.
Before Daniel could find his voice, Jack had deliberately and efficiently shed his jacket, shoes and socks. He pulled off his tee and climbed into the bed beside Daniel in just his jeans. Reaching over, he removed Daniel's glasses, folded them and placed them on the nightstand.
"What are you doing?" Daniel whispered, shaking like a seventeen year old.
"Showing you," Jack replied simply, and wrapped the bewildered man in a gentle embrace.
"Shhhhhh!" he replied and silenced Daniel with a long, unhurried kiss, his hands in Daniel's hair.
The sensation of Jack's mouth on his was stunning and Daniel felt the serenity he had experienced last night in Jack's arms settle upon him once more.
In the back of his mind, Daniel knew this was an act of infidelity, that he was kissing someone else's lover, but although this wasn't his Jack, it was 'a' Jack and one that wanted to love him: it was in his eyes and in his smile.
Daniel knew it was madness, knew it wasn't real, but it felt so good to be held, to be wanted. He was convinced it was all he'd ever have and he grasped it with both hands.
Jack's eyes opened into Daniel's as he slowly inched him back down to the bed. When his body came to rest on the archaeologist's, he sighed with contentment and his eyes rolled shut
Daniel hadn't expected Jack to return, but having had to talk to him naked last night, he had played it safe and worn shorts to bed, hoping he would have a reason to be grateful for it; that very reason was now pressing kisses along his jaw and neck. Daniel was very aware of Jack's denim covered groin matching up with his cotton covered one and was relieved to feel that his growing... interest... was shared.
Jack couldn't have failed to feel Daniel swell against him, and he kissed him hard on the lips, his tongue butting impatiently for access. When Daniel complied, Jack gentled and coaxed Daniel's tongue into his mouth, sucking on it and caressing it with his own, making him groan.
Very tentatively, Jack pushed his hips down into Daniel's, watching for a reaction. Daniel's eyes flew open, locking onto Jack's burning brown gaze. Jack watched carefully, ready to stop if he saw anything but welcome. The sky blue of Daniel's eyes quickly became passionately stormy before they closed again in bliss.
Jack kissed him everywhere he could reach - his eyes, his lips, his neck and his collarbone. "Look at you," he muttered, mapping Daniel with his mouth. "You're amazing. I've never seen anything more beautiful." His sliding pressure became more rhythmic - a perfect, building friction.
"S'okay, Daniel," he murmured. "Trust me."
"I love you, Jack. Love you so much!" Daniel whispered.
"I know, baby. Love you too," Jack soothed, and Daniel stopped reminding himself that this was someone else's Jack.
Daniel must have slept because when he awoke, Jack was asleep tight up against his side, his thigh and arm thrown possessively over him and his head tucked at Daniel's shoulder. With wondering fingers, Daniel touched Jack's hair and face, revelling in his freedom to do so. He stroked Jack's neck feeling the chain of his dog tags roll under his fingers.
"How did you get off the base?" Daniel whispered, half to himself, but Jack heard him.
"Signed out, like normal," he slurred.
Daniel thought for a minute, wondering how it had not been noticed that Jack had signed out twice that evening. "Why aren't you...cascading?" he mused, but Jack just muttered unintelligibly and burrowed further into Daniel's neck.
Deep in Daniel's mind alarm bells were beginning to ring too loudly for him to put off hearing anymore. He tried to ignore them, tried to slide back into the delicious place he and this Jack shared, but he couldn't. A terrible suspicion gnawed at him, a growing certainty this was all too perfect. Since when had Daniel ever got the g... guy... of his dreams? Lucky-in-love and Daniel Jackson were not phrases that had ever been seen in close association.
In his blissed-out daze as they'd made love, some of the things Jack had said and done had jarred at Daniel. Of course Jack had seen something more beautiful in his life... his own Daniel. And when Jack had told him he loved him - why had he sounded so comfortable? Had he honestly forgotten the difference between himself and his own Dr. Jackson?
If Daniel had found out his lover of three years had been with another version of himself, he would have been spitting tacks - not giving his blessing. And even though he and his Jack were not lovers, he knew that his colonel was a man of integrity and would never have skipped dimensions for a quickie while he was off-world - not if he claimed to love Daniel as much as this AU Jack did.
With his free arm, Daniel reached across to the nightstand and groped around for his ever-present journal, then pulled his pen from between its pages as quietly as he could.
He kept up his soft stroking at the nape of Jack's neck while he worked the lid off his pen, before reaching round and replacing his fingers with three swift marks. Jack stirred slightly in his arms but soon settled again when Daniel took up the movement on the back of his neck with his fingers once more.
Daniel was so unsurprised by the lack of colonel in his bed when the sunlight awoke him next morning, he didn't even bother to look for him. It was only on his return from the shower that he noticed the note placed on the bed in Jack's untidy scrawl.
"ASK HIM TODAY!"
This time Daniel didn't even bother to go to Sam's Lab to ask if there had been any activity overnight. Instead he went straight to Jack's office and, with all the ease he had lacked the day before, he knocked and entered without waiting for a reply.
Jack looked up from his monitor and smiled broadly at Daniel, his real delight at seeing him reflected in his eyes.
"Morning, Jack," Daniel said chirpily.
"Hey," Jack replied, easing back in his seat comfortably. "To what do I owe this honour?"
"Just thought I'd pop in to see how you are." Daniel helped himself to some of Jack's inferior coffee, grimacing a little at his first sip.
"I'm fine, Daniel. Little tired," he smiled, a confused look in his eye.
"Oh yeah? How come? You signed out nice and early last night, noticed your name on the roster, 18.22 hours. Could you not sleep?"
"Something like that," Jack nodded, beginning to look a little uncomfortable.
"And then signed back in again at 08.04 hours this morning," Daniel continued, coming to stand beside Jack and resting his ass down on the colonel's desk.
Jack was clearly not used to Daniel being so in his face and eyed him warily. "Sounds about right," he conceded. "Look, Daniel, is everything okay? I'm getting that whole 'freaked' thing from you again."
"Fine, fine! Good actually," Daniel breezed. "Had a friend over last night."
"Oh yeah?" Jack asked.
Daniel didn't miss the carefully neutral expression that washed across Jack's face. "Yep, good friend. Kind of friend you can rely on. One who says you can trust him." Daniel nodded, and looked down into his coffee.
Jack didn't say anything but sat completely motionless as he waited for the archaeologist to continue.
"One who you wouldn't have to try to catch out. One who would never hurt you." Daniel glanced up to see the shocked expression and the momentary closing of Jack's eyes, as he understood what Daniel's words meant.
"Show me your neck, Jack," he requested quietly.
"Show. Me. Your. Neck," Daniel ground out, looking up from his mug and into the colonel's eyes.
Jack slowly got to his feet and pulled his tee shirt away from his throat.
"At the back, where you wouldn't see it in the mirror," Daniel said sadly.
"Show me," Daniel whispered and put down his coffee with a shaking hand.
Jack slowly turned around, but made no move to bare his neck. He didn't need to, even from his vantage point, Daniel could see the circle that sat atop the crooked triangle that made up the Earth point of origin glyph he had drawn there last night. It was pale, where Jack had showered, but undoubtedly there.
"You bastard," Daniel spat quietly, then stood and walked numbly from Jack's office.
By the time Jack had ordered his day's work with the intention of taking Daniel somewhere they could talk, the linguist had already been to his office, collected what he'd needed and signed himself out of the mountain.
Jack immediately followed suit and drove straight to Daniel's apartment, hoping to find the right words to make Daniel even let him in the front door. A quick scan of the parking lot told Jack that Daniel's car was not there, but he asked the doorman anyway. Sure enough, Daniel had left for work and not returned yet.
Jack walked back to his truck, and having no other choice, dialled Daniel's cell number. He'd really wanted to see Daniel's face for this conversation, needed to get the feedback from his eyes and stance that would tell Jack how badly he had fucked up and what he would have to say to begin to make it up to him, but that option was unavailable.
He couldn't believe he had let it go this far. It had started out as a kind of joke. He'd thought Daniel would have kicked him out on his ass within thirty seconds and then Jack could have laughed it off; got away with making a pass at his friend without consequences, but it had backfired on him.
One look at Daniel's peacefully sleeping face by the light spilling from the hall and Jack had lost his mind. He'd taken off his clothes and slid his cool skin against Daniel's warm, smooth back, and for five seconds it had all been worth it. Jack had felt forever in those precious stolen seconds before Daniel had woken and sent Jack on the path of rehearsed lies and half-truths that had carried him to here.
If Daniel had reacted positively to his advances, Jack had been going to tell him straight away, before it had got too out of control. But Daniel had seemed so undecided, so unsure of his place in Jack's affections that Jack had kissed him and left. He'd been expecting the call on his cell and he'd had his story ready when Daniel had asked him where he was.
When Daniel had left the mountain that day without saying a word to him about a date, Jack had tried not to return to Daniel's apartment. He had sat outside his building for two hours, chilly and miserable in his truck, struggling with his motives and attempting to rationalise the irrational.
Finally, loathing, but unable to stop himself, he had gone into Daniel's place once more and damned himself forever by continuing the deception. That it had got so out of hand was no one's fault but his own. He should have known how crazy he was for the guy and kept a safe distance.
But he hadn't.
And now he was paying.
Jack wondered if he owned enough to cover the debt.
"Hello?" Daniel's voice sounded quiet and clipped but at least he'd picked up.
"Hey," Jack said softly.
"Which Jack is this?" Daniel asked, his scathing tone clearly audible over the tinny cell speaker.
"I'm so sorry, Daniel," Jack murmured.
"What in particular are you sorry for, Jack?"
The colonel winced at the inflection on his name - only Daniel could make the word 'Jack' sound like encouragement, despair, warning or a bawling out.
Jack knew empty platitudes would be worse than pointless; they would only infuriate Daniel further. He had no other option but to tell only the truth and after all he had done over the last two days, it was the very least he could do.
"I'm sorry for being a cowardly sonofabitch. I'm sorry I didn't tell you I love you and I'm sorry that it wasn't me you thought you were making love to last night."
Daniel's silence told Jack he'd made the right move, and rather than unnerving him, it gave him a glimmer of hope that maybe something could be salvaged from the car-wreck his life had suddenly become.
Jack heard Daniel sigh deeply and held his breath.
"We'll talk," Daniel finally conceded.
"Where are you?"
"Tomorrow... we'll talk tomorrow, Jack," Daniel qualified and Jack was glad Daniel couldn't see the massive disappointment he knew had settled on his face.
"I'll see you in the morning." Daniel cut the connection before Jack could think of anything to say.
Jack spent the next couple of hours in abject misery. Having to wait twenty-four hours to resolve this was like purgatory for someone like him. Jack was a man of action, he needed to get things done and move on to the next thing. That he had been in love with Daniel these past months without being able to address it had been deeply unsettling to him.
So when he'd thought up the idea of the Quantum Mirror as a cover story one lonely and slightly beer-stained Monday night, he had embraced it completely. It would be a way to find out if Daniel had feelings for him - a way he could declare his own feelings for Daniel, and it would give him the closure he craved - good or bad.
Jack half-heartedly ran some errands, pushed a cart despondently and vacantly around the supermarket and drove home. He stowed away the bizarre contents of his paper sack (tofu ice-cream and some vegetable he didn't even have a name for) and realised he would have to go shopping again the next day to get the stuff he really needed. In disgust he decided to go for a run - maybe physical exercise could do what chores had failed to achieve - lessen the feeling of trying to crawl out of his own skin a little.
Jack sloped into his bedroom and bent down to riffle through his running gear for his favourite pants.
"Jon, did you get your hair cut?"
Jack tried to turn and stand at the same time, fetching himself a smack upside the head from the lip of his dresser.
With his cranium stinging like a sonofabitch he eyed the other occupant of his bedroom in disbelief. There, propped up on every pillow he possessed was Daniel, naked, glasses on the end of his nose and his eyes peering over the top of 'Archaeology Today'.
Jack sucked in a much-needed breath. "Whatsgoingon?" he managed in a whimper.
"Jon? You okay?"
"It's Jack..." he corrected absently, but still bleating pathetically.
"Well I did expect a bit more," Daniel huffed. "I have been away for three weeks, Jon. I thought you might be a little pleased to see me."
"But...wha...you...eh?" Jack blithered, thinking he needed to hit his head much harder for this shit to make sense.
"Should see what we found though. There was this big mirror thing, like a polished rock..." Daniel smiled, his grin getting broader and broader despite valiant efforts to suppress it. Oh, this was gonna be so good - revenge and sex - did it get any better?
Jack decided sitting down would be good... right now.
Daniel peered around the side of his magazine at the crumpled colonel on the floor. "You okay, babe? You're acting kinda weird."
|Genres:||First Time, Romance|
|Summary:||The man in Daniel's bed was everything he'd ever dreamed of... except his.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
With thanks to Pie, Saladscream, Phoenix E and Pepe for betas.