"And in conclusion...."
Fat chance, Jack thought as he looked around the gate room. Amusement lurked in his eyes as General Hammond's Texas drawl continued unabated.
"Colonel O'Neill has been a true pioneer, opening the universe for all of us."
No, that would be Daniel, Jack mentally corrected.
"...devotion to duty...."
More like the fish weren't biting so what the hell--sure I'll jump through some big alien doohickey.
Carter, Jack thought with a mental snort.
Teal'c. And Daniel again. Carter, too.
Dumbfounded, Jack simply stared at the general. Diplomacy? Jack had been accused of many things but diplomacy? That was really low. Threatened to blow Jack's reputation as a smartass all to hell. Jack managed to plaster a small but entirely insincere smile on his face and listened dumbly as Hammond wound down.
The official retirement reception for Colonel Jonathan "Jack" O'Neill had the obligatory cake, the obligatory non-alcoholic punch, and the obligatory speeches. Personally, Jack couldn't wait to blow the joint and get on to his unofficial retirement party which would feature no speeches and plenty of booze.
Jack glanced to his left where his closest colleagues were lined up on the gate ramp. Dr. Fraiser and Major Carter would either one make a recruiting poster weep, their dress uniforms knife sharp. Teal'c was, as always, subtly hip in a sage green suit and black T.
Jack's eyes finally came to rest on Dr. Daniel Jackson. Daniel was wearing a charcoal gray suit complimented by a silvery-gray silk shirt and tie. Jack gave a mental shake of his head. He'd never understood how Daniel managed to look like a GQ cover and a little boy playing dress-up at the same time.
Daniel felt Jack's eyes on him and his eyebrows lifted in acknowledgment. Daniel was just a little amused himself at all the fuss. Jack deserved it, certainly, but Daniel found it somewhat ironic. Jack was not a man to stand on ceremony yet he'd chosen a career in a field that lived and breathed it. To Daniel's knowledge the only more ritualized institution was the church. For more than one reason, Daniel could not picture Jack as a priest.
"Colonel O'Neill, would you like to say a few words?" Hammond stepped back to allow Jack to take center stage.
"Well, I suppose you've all heard more out of me in the last ten years or so than you ever wanted to," Jack said dryly. "So I'm going to keep this short and sweet." He grinned at the approving nods from the assembled personnel.
"Working for the SGC has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. It is, without a doubt, the one I'm most proud of facing. In return, the stargate saved my life. Literally."
Jack noted the puzzled expressions on many of people gathered. So few of them had been here in the beginning. In Daniel's face, however, he saw bittersweet understanding.
"Of course, the stargate has also taken a few years off of my life, too," Jack continued, to understanding chuckles. "Believe me--I was not nearly this gray when I started. Anyway, that's all I really wanted to say. However, there's just one thing I'd still like to do before I leave this place for good."
Jack crossed the top of the ramp and walked straight to Janet Fraiser. Without pausing, he leaned over, grasped her startled face between his hands, and planted a kiss on her mouth.
"Oh, you," she murmured as he stepped back, a delighted grin on her face.
Grinning, Jack took one step sideways and repeated the performance with an astonished Sam Carter. Sam's cheeks turned bright red to the accompaniment of wolf whistles and laughter. Her eyes darted around the room as she tried to find somewhere to look that wasn't occupied by a grinning face. Jack gave Sam an offhand salute before moving another step down the ramp.
Daniel's smile was restrained, but his eyes were bright with humor. His expression changed rapidly, though, when Jack wrapped his hands around the base of Daniel's skull and pulled him in for a kiss. Daniel's stunned and gaping expression as Jack released him was repeated throughout the crowded room. A shocked silence held sway until Ferretti's "Hot damn!" broke the paralysis and the room filled with wild laughter.
Jack left Daniel with a smug wink and stepped toward Teal'c. Teal'c immediately drew himself up to his full height and thrust out his chest. His menacing look told Jack in no uncertain terms that if Jack persisted the Jaffa would not be amused. Jack hesitated. He considered the odds of proceeding with his plan and still getting out of the gate room in piece. Jack made a prudent tactical decision and offered his hand. Teal'c grasped it firmly and offered a slight bow.
"That's it. My work here is done," Jack announced, turning to face the crowd with a broad smile. "I am so out of here."
"Well, that was some farewell this afternoon," Jacob Carter said as he reclaimed his chair at Jack's table and settled down next to Teal'c. Before coming to the local bar where Jack's party was being held, Jacob had changed from the formal cinnamon colored robes he'd worn at the SGC into more Earth appropriate attire: chinos and a blue oxford cloth shirt.
Jacob wasn't the only one. All military personnel had shed their uniforms the minute the official reception was over. At home, Jack had neatly packed away his dress blues and gratefully slid into his 'good' jeans. The ones that weren't worn through at the knees. Teal'c had ditched the suit coat and acquired a hat. Daniel put them both to shame wearing nothing more glamorous than cargo pants and Henley shirt, both dark blue.
All in all the unofficial retirement shindig had been a smashing success, with the emphasis on smashing. As promised the booze had flowed freely. More than one intrepid interplanetary explorer had had to be pointed in the right direction before he or she could find the exit. The friends and colleagues who'd gathered to make sure that Jack "didn't let the door hit him in the ass as he left" to begin his retirement called it a night and straggled off into the night in twos and threes. Now gone into the wee hours of the morning, all that remained was Jack's "family."
"Leave it to the colonel to shock everyone," Janet said, agreeing with Jacob. She hadn't stopped smiling since the kiss. She'd been unexpectedly touched by Jack's flamboyant but genuinely affectionate gesture. And tickled pink by the sheer outrageousness of it. Sam's cheeks flushed again at the memory as she stole a glance at her father.
"Hey," Jack protested mildly. "It was something I'd always wanted to do and that was my last chance to do it."
"Kissing your team in the gate room?" Hammond chuckled. "You know--they still have to work there."
"Doesn't bother me a bit," Janet said, saluting Jack with her frequently refilled wine glass. Then she snickered and laid a consoling hand on Daniel's arm. "Poor Daniel. He'll never live it down. But the look on your face--priceless."
"Yes, well, I never saw Jack coming. Though God knows I should have," Daniel admitted dryly, shooting an ominous look in Jack's direction. Jack just winked back.
"Well, it could've been worse," Jacob said, although at the moment he couldn't quite think of just how it could have been worse.
"Yeah," Janet sniggered. "He could've slipped you the tongue."
"Janet!" Sam exclaimed, staring at her closest friend with wide eyes.
"Jack knows better than that," Daniel said as he calmly took a sip of his whiskey sour.
"Excuse me?" Jack said sharply to the man at his side.
"I said," Daniel repeated, slowly and deliberately waving a red flag in front of the colonel. "You know the rules. No tongue unless you're planning to make good on the implied promise."
Sam, Jacob and George all grew identical puzzled looks. Teal'c tilted his head in a quizzical manner.
"Oh, really?" Jack challenged.
Seized by a moment of inspiration...or insanity, Jack abruptly reached over and pulled Daniel to him. Threading his fingers through the hair on either side of Daniel's head, he kissed him. Deliberately. Deeply. With tongue.
"Oh, boy," Janet said before inhaling the rest of her drink.
Jack ignored the comment as he slowly released Daniel from the kiss, dragging the tip of his tongue back across Daniel's palate and taking one last nibble at his lip. Jack leaned back in his chair, supremely smug and daring someone to call him on it.
Hammond searched first Jack's, then Daniel's face. After a moment of intense scrutiny he sighed. Mutt and Jeff had done it to him again.
"Jack, am I to take it that you're...."
"Coming out, sir?" Jack said brightly. "That would be a big honking yes."
"You? You and Daniel?" Sam gasped, her features slack with shock. "That can't be. We never...." She looked to Teal'c, who simply shrugged. He was evidently as surprised as Carter.
"How long?" Sam finally asked.
"Five years," Daniel said with quiet pride.
"Yeah, sure ya betcha," Jack agreed, his eyes fixed on Daniel.
"But--but...." Sam's stuttered protestation was interrupted by a hoot from the inebriated doctor on the other side of Daniel.
"Son of a bitch!" Janet exclaimed, dropping her head into her hands and shaking with laughter.
"Dr. Fraiser?" Hammond's voice was just slightly disapproving.
"Oh, I'm sorry, sir," she said wiping tears from her eyes. "It's just too...." She never explained 'too' what, just shook her head in disbelief and gestured vaguely at Jack and Daniel.
"So when's the wedding," Jacob asked dryly.
"That'll be the day. We'd have to go to P7...7 something."
"P7Y-272," Daniel supplied.
"Right--that one," Jack said. "But, as of tomorrow, Daniel will officially be living with me."
"The paperwork is in your in-box," Daniel informed Hammond.
"So while Daniel's out saving the planet, you'll be the good little househusband?" Janet taunted. Jack grimaced at the image. Aprons didn't do a thing for him. Janet gave an evil laugh. "Guess we know who wears the pants in that family."
"Doc, I think you've had enough to drink," Jack said pointedly.
"You know, I think I've had a bit too much to drink," Janet commented casually, giving no sign that she'd heard Jack. "Sam."
"What?" Sam asked, tearing her stunned eyes from her apparently not so well known teammates.
"Ladies room," Fraiser said bluntly.
"I don't need to."
"I do. Let's go."
Bewildered, Sam simply followed Janet to the restrooms on the other side of the bar. Daniel's eyes followed them, his expression uncertain.
Daniel shook his head in response to Jack's quiet question. Daniel turned back to Jack and gave him a quick reassuring smile.
"So I guess you won't be spending your retirement at the cabin after all," Jacob said.
"Sure I will," Jack said easily. "Part of the time. Daniel will be doing stints off world, and I'm not going to sit around playing househusband."
Jack's last words were directed at Daniel. Daniel favored him with a smile of blatantly false innocence that implied that Jack had no idea what he was talking about. Again.
"I'll have plenty of time to break this baby in," Jack continued, patting the new rod and reel he'd received as his retirement gift.
"I'm sure you'll enjoy it," Hammond said, looking a little bewildered.
"I have to admit--this is a bolt from the blue," Jacob said with a bemused shake of his head. "But I wish you well. Both of you."
"Thanks, Jacob," Jack said.
"I, however, did not indulge in self deception," Selmac interjected, drawing a muffled laugh from Daniel. "I have often wondered if the two of you would ever stop trying to kill each other and simply admit that you could not live without one another. Now that you have decided to do so, I, too, wish you all happiness."
"Thank you, Selmac," Daniel said while Jack stared at the Tok'ra suspiciously.
Jack's attention was diverted as Teal'c rose from his seat. Jack watched his friend carefully. Teal'c had offered no comment on the big news one way or another, and Jack was having a harder time than usual reading the Jaffa's expression.
"I must wish you all a good night. It is time for me to return to the SGC," Teal'c said.
"Well, if you must," Jack said as he stood and offered his hand.
"I must," Teal'c said. "Congratulations, O'Neill."
Jack's expression brightened, but Daniel grew more pensive. He wondered if Teal'c was congratulating Jack on his retirement or his relationship. Or both, if they were really lucky.
"I will see you in two days, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c continued, nodding in Daniel's direction.
"See you then," Daniel agreed quietly.
"Well, I suppose we should scoop Doc up and take her home," Jack said as he watched Teal'c's broad back move toward the door.
"Don't worry about it," Jacob said, tossing back the rest of his scotch and pushing back his chair. "Sammie and I need to get going anyway. We'll take Janet home."
"Appreciate you coming, Jacob," Jack said, half rising from his seat again and leaning across the table to shake Jacob's hand.
"Good thing I did," Jacob chuckled, offering his hand in turn to Daniel. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself."
"What?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"I was just thinking," Jacob said. "Anise. Freya. They'll be so disappointed."
Jack and Daniel shuddered in unison.
Jacob chuckled again. Jack shuddered once more as Jacob wandered off to collect his daughter and the SGC's CMO.
"Anise," Jack repeated distastefully. He nudged Daniel. "Hey, would that be a ménage a trois? Or a foursome?"
Daniel considered the problem with the deliberate care necessary when slightly buzzed.
"That would be...disgusting," Daniel decided. Jack snorted and knocked his beer bottle against Daniel's glass. Hammond shook his head. He didn't know if he was just getting old or... He was probably just getting old.
Jack's eyes were intent on his former commanding officer. Jack admired and respected Hammond. One of the many reasons Jack had kept his relationship with Daniel such a tightly held secret was that he didn't want to risk putting the general in an awkward position.
But Jack was no longer Air Force property. After many late nights and discussions...and arguments, Jack had, with Daniel's emphatic encouragement, had decided to stop living most of his life as a subterfuge. But he still cared about George's opinion.
"I apologize if this has made you uncomfortable." He waved his hand between himself and Daniel.
"I don't understand it," George admitted. "And at this stage of my life, I don't expect I ever will."
Jack was still outwardly relaxed but tension hovered just beneath the surface as his dark eyes remained steady on the general. In turn, Daniel watched Jack with concerned eyes.
"Don't misunderstand me," Hammond said quietly. "I'm a big believer in taking happiness when and where you find it. And if you two have found it with each other, then I wish you all the best." Hammond gave a perplexed shake of his head. "I just don't 'get' it."
"Hey, sometimes I don't get it either," Jack said sardonically, visibly less tense. "I mean--me and Mr. Diplomacy here. Makes no sense at all." Jack jerked in response to a sharp kick to his lower extremity courtesy of his significant other.
"We appreciate your willingness to at least acknowledge our relationship," Daniel said, ignoring Jack's attempts to garner sympathy for what he was muttering must be a broken ankle. "We know some people will find it...difficult to accept. All we're asking for--hoping for--is a little tolerance."
"The two of you just never could play by the rules, could you?" Hammond said in a mildly reproving tone.
"Well, what would be the fun in that?" Jack asked.
"What have I told you about using tongue?" Daniel challenged as he clambered into bed and fixed Jack with the evil eye.
"Only on days that end with Y?"
"Pay up, flyboy," Daniel said, tossing the lube at him.
"What I want to know is how come all the rules seem to end up with you on bottom?" Jack complained mildly.
"Because I can be devious in ways you've only dreamed of," Daniel said smugly.
"Ha!" Jack shivered as Daniel's hands glided along his ribs. "I've always known what a manipulative little prick you are."
"Then why are you always surprised by it?" Daniel asked.
"Maybe I like surprises," Jack countered.
Daniel laughed. In the normal course of events, nobody disliked surprises more than Jack. However, Daniel suspected that actually explained why Jack was so willing to be ambushed in bed. It was the one place Jack felt safe in not threat assessing the crap out of everything including the air he breathed.
"You just like sex," Daniel teased.
"Well, duh!" Jack said, staring with a bewildered expression at the large blob of lube that had just blatted into his hand. "Assume the position, Dr. Jackson," he commanded.
"Oh, my!" Daniel said in a southern tinged falsetto. "I do so love a masterful man."
"Shut up," Jack said with grudging amusement. "You want masterful then get your ass in the air pronto."
"Sir, yes, sir!" Daniel promptly got to his hands and knees and wiggled his butt at Jack.
"Christ," Jack groaned. He was too drunk and horny to withstand Daniel's teasing for long. Daniel felt something cool and slick slide down the cleft of his ass.
It took a moment for Daniel's slightly pickled brain to add one and one and end up somewhere in the general vicinity of two. Then he burst out laughing.
"You missed?" he yelped, falling forward onto his face.
"Did not," Jack protested.
"I think I used too much lube," Jack added a moment later, sounding perplexed. "I keep sliding off."
Between his own pleasantly fuzzy thought processes and Jack's drunken deliberateness, Daniel was helpless to suppress a rampant case of the giggles.
"Hold still, dammit," Jack complained as Daniel's shaking turned another attempted landing into a fly-by.
"Hey," Daniel chortled into the mattress. "Do I need to get a couple of those...those orange light...stick...thingies to guide you in? What are those called anyway?"
"Shut up," Jack growled, amused in spite of himself.
"Roger, Silver Fox-1. Reading you five-by. You are cleared for landing." Daniel chortled. "Assuming you can find the fucking runway."
Daniel raised his forearms, held his hands stiffly to approximate directional flares, and crossed them behind his head, pretending to guide Jack in.
"Before landing please return your dick to the upright position."
Jack slapped him on the ass which only provoked another howl of laughter.
"Please use caution when opening--oh--oh--yes!" Daniel growled as Jack finally found his way in. Jack gave a strong, rolling thrust and buried himself.
"Contents may shift during flight," Daniel said with one last helpless snicker.
"Damn straight," Jack growled, biting the edge of Daniel's shoulder blade. He shifted his cock to illustrate the point. "Wouldn't be nearly as much fun if it didn't."
"Oh, God, Jack, stop," Daniel wheezed breathlessly. Jack halted. Daniel caught his breath and immediately pushed back. "Don't stop, damn it. Come on, move it, flyboy!"
"Roger, control," Jack said with a wry chuckle.
Jack had never known anyone who laughed so much during sex. Or who got so turned on by laughter during sex. Jack had been initially surprised upon encountering this unexpected side to Daniel. But surprise had quickly given way to whole hearted approval. Daniel was silly, noisy, and a damn pushy bottom. But what the hell--Jack was getting Daniel's ass on a regular basis. Like Jack was dumb enough to complain about that.
"Janet?" Sam looked hesitantly around the apparently empty infirmary.
"Sam?" Fraiser's head bobbed out of the door to the drug lock-up. "What are you doing here? I thought you were off until tomorrow."
"Yeah, well, I had a few things to do," Sam said vaguely. She walked over and watched from just inside the door as Janet and one of her nurses quickly finished the drug count. Fraiser dismissed the nurse and turned to face Sam.
"So what's up?" Janet asked brightly.
"Oh, nothing really," Sam equivocated. "I was just wondering--what did you think about the party?"
"Aside from the fact that I drank far more than I should have?" Janet asked with a rueful grimace.
"No, not exactly. I meant...what did you think about the colonel and Daniel?"
"I think...I think I should have seen it," Janet said matter-of-factly. "Or maybe not. I don't know. A case of not seeing the forest for the trees, is what I'm thinking."
"Doesn't it bother you?" Sam asked, a sharp edge to her voice.
"No," Janet said with a thoughtful frown. "Ruined a damn fine fantasy but...." The doctor paused, a speculative look on her face. "Then again, I may have a whole new one to enjoy."
"So it's not everyone's cup of tea," Janet acknowledged, reading the look of distaste on Sam's face. "It doesn't bother you, does it? The fact that Daniel and the colonel are gay?"
"He kissed you. And me. In front of everyone," Sam said, sidling around the question.
"Oh, please. Weren't you the one who said she'd get horizontal with George Michael in a heartbeat?"
"That's different," Sam protested.
"Well, it wasn't...real," Sam explained. "Besides...I mean you don't know where the colonel's mouth has been."
"Oh, honey, I think that's exactly what we know now," Janet said with a little laugh. Sam shuddered.
"He used us," Sam insisted. "Kissed me--us--like he meant it but it was only an excuse to...to...grope Daniel in the gate room."
"Airman!" Fraiser said sharply. Startled, Sam turned to see Lieutenant Evans frozen just outside the doorway. "Is there something you need?"
"Uh, yes, Ma'am." He held up a small box. "My field kit needs restocking."
"Nurse Clark can help you with that," Janet said pointedly. "She's right across the hall."
"Um, yes, Ma'am. Sorry, Ma'am," the lieutenant mumbled as he backed away. Janet eyed him fiercely until he was out of view.
"Damn it," Janet muttered. "Well, I hope the colonel and Daniel weren't expecting this to stay a secret." She gave an angry shake of her head and turned her attention back to Sam.
"Look, Sam," Janet said, her expression sympathetic in the face of Sam's unhappy countenance. "I really don't think the colonel had any ulterior motives. The kiss was just his honest, albeit warped, way of saying good bye."
"You know what the rumors have been like about the two of us," Sam said.
"Yes, and I know they're pure bull. You and the colonel straightened that out a long time ago," Fraiser said. "Didn't you?"
"Well, yes," Sam agreed.
"It was a bit of a shock," Fraiser said kindly, trying to be empathetic with Sam's feelings. "A few days from now we'll have a good laugh over it."
"Right. Good laugh," Sam muttered as she turned to leave.
"I'm sure you're right, Janet," Sam said, giving her a little wave. "I...I've got to get back to work now."
"You okay?" Janet called after her.
"Sure, I'm sure," Sam said without looking back. "I'm always sure."
Janet frowned as her friend strode out of sight. "Well, as long as you're sure," Janet muttered.
Jack looked up from the computer screen, his reading glasses balanced at the end of his nose. Daniel stood right behind him, a faintly puzzled expression on his face.
"Oh, just checking out a couple of security companies," Jack said, removing his glasses and folding them away. "A couple of job possibilities. Wanted to get a little background on them, see what kind of reputations they had."
"I thought you were retired," Daniel said, rubbing Jack's shoulders. "As in not working."
"Yeah, well." Jack shrugged. He looked up in time to catch Daniel's knowing smile. "Okay, fine. You were right. I'm already getting bored with being full time retired. Happy now?"
"Delighted," Daniel said as he dropped a kiss on the top of Jack's head. "Any likely candidates?"
"This one has a good rep. And I know a couple of guys--ex-military--who work for them," Jack said, opening a window on the computer screen. Daniel nodded. "But this one," Jack continued as he switched to another window. "They have the coolest uniforms."
"Ah, yes. Well, coolness would be a priority," Daniel said dryly. Jack took Daniel's hands from his shoulders and drew him down for a kiss.
"It'd only be part time, you know?" Jack said.
"Hmmm," was the only comment Daniel made as he rested his chin on Jack's shoulder.
"It'll keep me out of trouble when you're working," Jack suggested. Daniel straightened up with a snort.
"Nothing keeps you out of trouble, Jack," he said as he walked out of the room. Jack quickly jumped from his chair and followed Daniel down the hall to the kitchen.
"Hey, you're not upset about this, are you?" Jack asked.
"Who suggested you look for a part time job before you even turned in your retirement papers?" Daniel asked pointedly. He grabbed a cola from the fridge and looked a question at Jack.
"Beer," Jack said in response.
"I just would've thought you'd want to do something different than the gun toting, planet saving stuff," Daniel said as he handed over a bottle. Jack knew it was the fact that the bad guys might be toting guns, too, that concerned Daniel.
"It's what I'm good at," Jack said simply. Daniel just shrugged in response. Jack reached over and grasped him by the arm.
"Ow!" Daniel flinched away, dropping his soda in the process. "Damn it," Daniel grumbled as he watched the soda gurgle across the floor.
"Hey," Jack said sharply before Daniel could move away. "What's wrong?"
"It's nothing. I banged my elbow today," Daniel explained. "You just happened to grab right on the sore spot."
"Let me see," Jack said, setting his beer aside.
"Let me see," Jack insisted. Daniel reluctantly allowed Jack to roll up his sleeve. Jack whistled low when he saw the swollen joint.
"You did a number on that," Jack said. "Fraiser take x-rays?"
"It's fine," Daniel repeated, hoping Jack wouldn't notice the non-answer. "It's just bruised."
"Better put some ice on it," Jack suggested. "Knock down some of the swelling."
"I will," Daniel agreed. "In a minute."
"I'll clean that up," Jack said, making a shooing gesture. "Get an ice pack and go take a load off."
"Jack," Daniel protested lamely. Jack looked, really looked, at Daniel for the first time since he'd gotten home. He saw the tight look around Daniel's eyes that meant he was tired, upset, or in pain. Possibly all three at the moment.
"Go on, okay?" Jack urged.
Daniel knew better than to fight Jack's protective instincts. Not over something as minor as a spilled soft drink anyway. He nodded and went to the freezer to look for one of the ice packs they always kept ready for Jack's knees.
"Daniel, if you're bothered about my working security...."
"No," Daniel said firmly. "I want you to do whatever you want to do. Just as long as it doesn't involve you sitting around the house driving me crazy."
"But driving you crazy is a whole lot more fun," Jack teased, his concern easing.
"For you," Daniel said archly. He grabbed the ice pack and headed out to the living room.
Jack watched him go, lost in his own thoughts. He was reasonably certain that Daniel was being honest with him about the job issue. The tension in his eyes must be from the sore elbow. And fatigue. Daniel had been more tired than usual in recent weeks. Jack resolved to find a way to get Daniel rested and refreshed over the weekend. Decision made, Jack got moving and cleaned up the spilled soda. The sooner he got done, the sooner his lover would get some much needed TLC.
Carter's reflexive grimace bolstered Daniel's suspicions. It was difficult, though, for Daniel to accept the apparent disavowal of nearly a decade of friendship without understanding why. And without putting up a fight.
"Sam, we need to talk," Daniel said firmly.
Although only a few people had actually seen that kiss, Daniel hadn't been surprised to find that the news had spread through the base. The SGC grapevine was a vast and intricate web that operated at near the speed of sound. But it wasn't so very different from the gossip that had gone on in the Anthropology Department when he'd had a brief but openly gay relationship as an undergrad. He was reaping the results of Jack's--and his own--outing in ways he'd experienced before and had tried to prepare himself for.
Daniel had dealt with various forms of prejudice in his life. College had introduced him, in a very personal way, to the reality of homophobia. Daniel had coped with it then; he'd assured Jack repeatedly during their discussions on the subject that he could cope with it again. He just hadn't anticipated having to deal with it from this direction.
"Talk about what?" Sam asked curtly as she moved over to some machine that measured Sam and God alone knew what.
Daniel moved resolutely farther into the lab. He licked his lips nervously as he struggled to find a non-threatening way to initiate the discussion. Unfortunately he wasn't sure if there was any way for him to be non-threatening to Sam anymore.
"About whatever the problem is between us," Daniel said, reluctant to actually voice his fear in the faint hope that he was wrong.
"Do we really need to spell that out?" Sam said, finally meeting Daniel's eye.
Daniel closed his eyes briefly. He'd expected that some of the people they knew would be offended by Daniel's relationship with Jack. It hurt but he was wise enough in the ways of the world to understand that was a fact of life.
But Sam? That really hurt.
"Please," he said quietly. "Don't do this to me."
"What about what you did to me?"
"What? What did I do?" Daniel asked earnestly. "Is this because we didn't tell you sooner? I wanted to. I did. And I understand how you could be angry about that."
"I don't think you understand at all, Daniel," Sam said.
"Okay," Daniel said slowly, fighting down his own feeling in order to give Sam a calm, receptive audience. "Then tell me. I'll listen."
"What's the point?" Sam said, turning back to her monitors.
"We have to deal with this," Daniel insisted. Unless he could get Sam to communicate with him there was no hope of salvaging any kind of relationship.
"Why? What if this is something that's best left alone?"
"Well, if nothing else, we still have to work together," Daniel pointed out.
"No, we don't."
"We don't?" Daniel repeated, caught off guard.
"No," Sam said tersely. "Hammond offered me command of SG-8. I accepted."
"Oh." Bewildered, Daniel pondered the information. "I hadn't, um...I hadn't heard. Congratulations, I guess."
Daniel stared down at his boots. He told himself that, regardless of the change in work assignments, he needed to get everything out in the open with Sam. Daniel looked back up at Sam, determined but at the same time steeling himself for rejection.
"You know--I'm still the same person I was before you knew about...."
"Daniel," Sam cut him off. "Drop it. Maybe later.... But right now, I'm asking you to just drop it."
"Daniel." Sam's voice was sharp.
"Okay," Daniel said after a long moment. "Fine. I'll drop it. If that's what you want."
"It is," Sam said firmly.
Daniel stood frozen, still wanting to pursue the discussion. But he knew pushing Sam would only aggravate matters. After a moment, he gave a curt nod of the head and forced himself to walk out of the room.
The gear up room had been deserted when Daniel returned to retrieve a notebook he'd forgotten in his pack. Unfortunately it didn't stay that way long.
"Well, well, look who's here," a snide voice said. Daniel sighed. Even Phillips' footsteps sounded arrogant. "On your knees again, I see."
Daniel shot up from his crouching position and turned to face Phillips. The sergeant and a few of his chucklehead cronies had been harassing Daniel for weeks. In what was for them a rare show of subtlety, they didn't normally come right out and verbalize their homophobia. Instead, they indulged in sly comments and dirty looks. And intermittent bumps and shoves that were just a little too frequent and aggressive to be dismissed as accidental. Phillips moved closer, lips twisted in a sneer of disgust.
"Who are you sucking up to these days, Jackson?"
Daniel wanted to slap himself the moment the word left his lips. He knew better than to antagonize morons like Phillips. The sergeant jerked back a step.
"I wouldn't touch you with a ten foot pole," Phillips snapped.
"Ah--so you're not only a small minded bigot, but suffering delusions of grandeur, too."
Daniel mentally kicked himself again as a puzzled expression clouded Phillips' severe features. Sarcasm was wasted on the ignorant. And generally only pissed them off even more than they already were.
"Listen you little...." Phillips bit off his words when Sam suddenly appeared in the door.
"Oh. Sorry. I'll just be a sec."
Sam glanced hesitantly at Daniel. Despite the fact that Daniel deliberately kept his expression neutral, for a moment he thought she would say...something. Instead, Sam crossed rapidly to her locker and stowed away one of her portable monitors.
Daniel grit his teeth. Sam outranked Phillips. Daniel could call on her, use her military rank to slap Phillips down. But, truthfully, that's exactly what he couldn't do. Asking for help would be seen as a sign of weakness...and he really couldn't afford to appear weak right now.
Worse, he couldn't bring himself to ask Sam and risk the possibility that she'd refuse to help. Aside from the added difficulty such a blatant betrayal might cause with Phillips et. al., Daniel simply didn't want to face that refusal and what it would say about the chances of salvaging his friendship with Sam.
So Daniel watched in resignation as Sam finished settling the equipment in her locker and walked out. Daniel was still staring at the empty doorway when Phillips' hand shot out and slammed into Daniel's chest. The locker door rattled as he fell against it and he winced as his head snapped back against the cold metal. Phillips made a show of wiping his hand off on his pant leg, as if touching Daniel was extremely distasteful.
"See ya 'round, Doc," Phillips promised.
Daniel waited until Phillips was gone before gently checking the knot on the back of his head. No blood. Daniel figured he'd live. He shut his locker and headed back to his office.
Daniel walked across the room and lowered himself gingerly to the bed. He curled up protectively around the pain in his belly and thanked an entire pantheon of gods that he'd gotten home before Jack. Daniel would need rest, maybe a long hot soak in the tub before he'd be able to slip this past the eagle-eyed former colonel.
Daniel cautiously took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His run in with Phillips earlier in the week had marked a turning point, an escalation of hostilities in the undeclared war. What had been mostly verbal attacks interspersed with the occasional "accidental" shove had deteriorated into unmistakable if covert physical assault. Daniel was getting a little worried.
Daniel had failed to take into consideration that the harassment he'd faced in college had, by and large, come from people who didn't know him well, or even at all. His friends and fellow students had basically ignored it. In fact, Daniel was fairly certain some of them had barely even noticed. They'd all had bigger things on their minds. Like education. And partying.
Usually it had been strangers who took exception to seeing two men holding hands or enjoying an intimate dinner together; strangers who had caused him the most grief. And they were fairly easy to handle. When reason failed, Daniel turned his sharp tongue and even sharper wit on the ignorant bastards and walked away, never to see them again.
In the SGC, he was forced to face the harassers again and again. It was a constant oppression that weighed heavier on him with each passing week. Sooner or later, Jack was going to figure it out...and it would not be pretty. Jack would be outraged and insulted that his fellow Airmen would abuse anyone, much less a civilian member of their own command.
Jack bounced onto the bed behind Daniel. Daniel grimaced as the movement inadvertently irritated his abused abdominal muscles.
"Daniel? You awake?" Jack rested his chin on Daniel's shoulder and peered down at his face.
"I am now," Daniel grumbled.
"Tough day at the office, dear?" Jack quipped, stroking Daniel's hair from his brow.
"Something like that," Daniel said a sigh.
Behind him, Jack tensed with concern. Daniel sighed again. He loved that Jack loved and worried about him so much. But some days he really just wanted Jack to take his concern elsewhere. Daniel simply didn't have the energy at the moment to fend off Jack's overwhelming interest.
Jack rubbed Daniel's upper arm soothingly, waiting for Daniel to explain his "tough day".
"You want to rest until supper?" he asked quietly when it became obvious that Daniel wasn't interested in talking.
"Please?" Daniel rolled slightly backward to look at Jack.
"Sure," Jack said, giving him a light kiss on the cheek. As he climbed off the bed an idea struck him.
"You've got a few days downtime, right?" he asked. Daniel just nodded, grateful for some time away from the incessant intimidation. A few days of not having to constantly watch his own back.
"So how about we get a few people together tomorrow and throw some steaks on the grill?"
Daniel froze. Home--their home--was Daniel's sanctuary. The last thing he wanted was to see it tainted by those who didn't accept them. But he couldn't tell Jack that. Not without telling him a whole lot more that neither of them really wanted to think about. Daniel knew that it was entirely possible that Sam would decline an invitation, but her absence would be just as pointed and unpleasant to him as if she were giving him the cold shoulder in person.
Daniel rolled to his back, trying not to strain his painful belly.
"Can't we just have a quiet weekend to ourselves?" Daniel pleaded. Daniel hated to mislead Jack, even if it wasn't a complete lie. He did want to spend time with Jack, and he needed that safe time now more than ever.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said instantly. "I know you miss seeing everyone. We can...."
"No," Jack interrupted. "No. Just us is fine."
Jack smiled, unexpectedly flattered that all Daniel wanted was to be with him. That, after all these years, Daniel still found everything he needed with Jack.
"Rain check on the barbeque, okay?"
Daniel nodded in relief. Jack threw him a jaunty salute and left the bedroom.
As soon as he was sure Jack was well down the hall, Daniel lifted his shirt and stared at the livid mark that started over his hip bone and went nearly to his belly button. With a groan he dropped the shirt and let his eyes close.
Daniel knew he needed to get a handle on the situation. Soon. Sam's, and then Teal'c's, move to SG-8 had apparently been seen as a defection of sorts. Phillips and his cronies took it as a declaration of open season on the geek. For all Daniel knew--they were right. He wasn't completely sure about Teal'c. He hadn't had the heart to face the potential certainty of Teal'c's disapproval on top of everything else. But Sam...Sam had been turning a blind eye since Jack's retirement party.
Daniel was on his own. A situation he had a certain familiarity with, but one he'd happily learned to live without after finding Jack, first as a friend, then as a lover. The fact that his sense of isolation was partially by choice this time, given that he didn't want to involve Jack, didn't make it any easier to bear.
Jack considered his plan of action carefully.
Daniel was curled up comfortably on the worn rug in front of the fireplace contentedly reading a book. They were having the quiet, private time that Daniel had requested. Time that had, unfortunately, to this point not included sex. Not that Jack couldn't go without. He'd gone without for years...although generally not by choice. But it wasn't the usual state of affairs for the two of them. Under normal circumstances one of them was borderline libidinous at any given moment of the day. Usually both of them. Which, with a little creative time management, tended to keep both of them very happy campers.
Jack had seen the shadows in Daniel's eyes, the tension in his spine, and known not to press him. Jack didn't have to be a rocket scientist, or even a linguist, to see that Daniel was increasingly stressed. However, Jack felt that after a couple of days of little more than eating and sleeping, Daniel needed a good hard fuck and some quality après sex snuggling to really relax him. Confident that his plan was a winner, Jack went into action.
"Hey," he breathed into Daniel's ear as he curled up behind him on the floor.
"Hey," Daniel returned lazily.
Jack slid his hand around Daniel's waist, hesitating when Daniel flinched slightly. Before Jack could question Daniel he found himself flipped flat on his back. Daniel straddled his hips with a teasing little grind.
"What's that about?" Jack asked with surprise.
"Well, you're always complaining that you're always stuck on top," Daniel said, looking down at Jack complacently.
"Pfftt!" Jack retorted, although he was relieved by the lightness in Daniel's voice and eyes.
"Does that mean you weren't on nookie patrol?" Daniel asked as he slowly unbuttoned Jack's chambray shirt. Daniel ran his fingers lovingly through the chest hair before bending down to suckle at a nipple.
"Ah," Jack groaned, wondering what he'd been worried about a moment ago. He sighed appreciatively as Daniel worked his way to the other nipple, licking and sucking gently until Jack reached down and pulled Daniel's face up to his.
"Come here," Jack growled as he claimed Daniel's mouth. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Nookie patrol? You attacked me."
"Pre-emptive strike," Daniel murmured into the hollow of Jack's throat. Jack groaned as he felt Daniel's hands at his waistband, undoing the zipper and releasing his eager cock.
"Is that a problem?" Daniel asked as he lightly cupped Jack's balls.
"Hell, no," Jack said emphatically. "Fire away."
Jack's jeans never had the chance to get much lower than his hips. As soon as all impediments were removed, Daniel took Jack into his mouth and sucked him fiercely until he howled. Jack panted breathlessly as Daniel lazily slid back up his body and fused his mouth to Jack's. Jack fumbled for a moment as he worked Daniel's fly open. He started to roll them over but Daniel firmly pushed him back.
"Touch me," Daniel ordered, taking Jack's hand and wrapping it around his cock.
Jack laid back and began stroking confidently. After five years he knew how Daniel liked to be touched and he loved to see the pleasure he could bring. Jack was too spent to even consider any more action but he felt a tremor of arousal just the same. He watched Daniel sit above him, moving blissfully in rhythm with Jack's hand. Jack brushed his free hand up Daniel's thigh to his hip. Daniel flinched.
Instantly, Jack's mind snapped back to the concern he'd had before being so expertly distracted. Daniel flinching away from Jack's touch was wrong. Wrong on a gut level Jack couldn't even begin to put into words but so definitively wrong that it demanded explanation.
"Daniel, what the hell...."
Jack literally felt Daniel's cock dwindle in his hand. Before he could demand an accounting his eye was drawn to a discoloration on Daniel' skin. He pushed Daniel's shirt up, revealing a mottled purple mark that even to Jack's non-medical eye appeared to be a couple of days old. He looked up at Daniel who sat absolutely still across his hips, expression unreadable.
"What's this?" Jack demanded.
"Just a bruise," Daniel said reluctantly. "I fell."
"Why the fuck didn't you tell me?" Jack asked angrily. Daniel's cock subsided even further and Jack snatched his hand away at the reminder.
"Because I didn't want you to make a big deal out of it," Daniel said woodenly, hating the half-truth of his excuse. He rose from his seat in Jack's lap and started to tuck himself back into his jeans. Jack scrambled to his feet, yanking his own pants up as he went.
"Damn it, Daniel."
Jack grabbed Daniel before he could walk away. One hand still tugging at his jeans, Jack cupped the side of Daniel's face with his other hand and gently forced Daniel to look him in the eye.
"I don't want to hurt you. Not...not just for sex."
"You weren't hurting me, Jack."
"Was, too, or you wouldn't have jumped," Jack said with annoying logic.
Daniel leaned in and dropped his head on Jack's shoulder. Daniel was beyond tired. Tired of constantly looking over his shoulder at work, and tired of constantly trying to hide the truth from Jack.
"Sorry," Daniel said, the words muffled by Jack's shirt. "I should have told you."
"Damn straight," Jack said firmly, wrapping his arms carefully around the infuriating love of his life. "You get injured in the field, you tell me. And what the hell is it with you getting banged up all the time lately?"
"Just a klutz, I guess," Daniel said, his shoulders tightening up, anticipating Jack's refusal to believe the excuse.
"No, you're not," Jack said, massaging Daniel's back in an attempt to ease the tension away again. He pondered Daniel's recently clumsiness...and wondered briefly if he could get away with padding Daniel up like an NFL linebacker.
"It's the fatigue," Jack decided. "You're tired and stressed and you're not paying attention out there." Daniel's grasp around Jack tightened for a second.
"Yeah," he said with quiet relief. "You're probably right."
"So we need to get on with some serious stress relief," Jack said, nuzzling Daniel's ear and slipping his hands down to emphatically grip Daniel's ass.
"You think sex is the cure for everything," Daniel accused with a pale smile.
"Yeah, well--until someone proves me wrong...."
"I wouldn't think of trying," Daniel vowed. He startled when Jack suddenly sank to his knees, pulling Daniel's pants down as he went.
Jack ignored the feeble protest. He gently and determinedly kissed and licked Daniel's balls and cock; taking the softened organ into his mouth and feeling it grow. He intentionally kept his hands away from the bruised abdomen, reaching around and gripping Daniel's ass instead. The hands encouraged Daniel to rock gently as his cock swelled again to fill Jack's mouth. Daniel softly muttered Jack's name over and over until, with a wrenching groan, he emptied his balls down Jack's throat.
Jack pushed up to his feet, mentally cussing his balky knees. He hugged Daniel gently and pressed his lips to Daniel's. Daniel met him lazily and they quietly entwined tongues, reveling in the lingering physical connection.
"See," Jack said softly, kissing Daniel's closed eyelids. "Your stress level has already dropped."
"You always know best, don't you?" Daniel said with a quiet chuckle.
"This is what I keep trying to tell you."
"So what does Mr. Know-it-all have to say about a post-nookie nap?"
"He says a nap, followed by a long hot shower, possibly some more nookie, and a couple of big honking steaks is the ideal plan," Jack said with certainty.
"Much as I'd like to, I can't find any faults with that particular plan," Daniel teased.
"Of course not. It's tailor made just for you."
"So all I need is sleep, sex and food?"
"Not necessarily in that order," Jack agreed.
"Jacob stopped in today," Daniel said as he headed straight into the bedroom. After one of the uglier days in recent memory, Daniel just wanted some comfortable clothes and comfortable Jack.
"Yeah? How is he?" Jack asked with genuine interest. "You know--I was surprised that he was so blasé about us. I mean Jacob--he was hard core military. He leaned so far to the right it's a wonder he didn't just walk in circles."
"He's fine," Daniel said as he pulled a pair of sweatpants from the shelf in the closet. "And Sam always claimed that Selmac had a mellowing influence on Jacob."
"You think the Tok'ra are less uptight about that kind of stuff?"
"Well, the Tok'ra are genderless. I suppose they more or less take on the sexual identity of their host. And they don't seem to be too picky about the gender of their host." Daniel's voice was lost for a moment as he pulled off his shirt. "After all, Selmac had a female host before, um, 'blending' with Jacob. If I had to guess I'd say that sexual identity isn't a big issue for them."
Jack made a vaguely interested grunt. While it was nice that Jacob hadn't gotten all uptight over their relationship, it wasn't something that really had an impact on their day to day life. Jack opened his mouth to tell Daniel that just as Daniel bent over to pull off his slacks. Jack saw a large sort of oblong bruise that started a few inches above the waistband of Daniel's briefs and disappeared under the white cotton.
"Daniel, what's that?"
"What?" Daniel turned and saw where Jack's eyes were focused. Daniel had stopped trying to hide all of his bruises. The effort just added to the strain he'd been feeling, and as long as Jack accepted his excuses there didn't seem to be any point.
"It's nothing," Daniel said quickly. "Ran into a file cabinet."
"Not this time," Jack disagreed.
Jack's own words sank in and he was rendered speechless by a sudden moment of clarity. All the bumps and bruises Daniel had been coming home with. He always had an excuse, an explanation but.... But even as big a trouble magnet as Daniel was, he'd never gotten hurt on such a regular basis. Never. Jack crossed the few feet separating them and pulled Daniel's briefs away from where they hid the mark.
"That's a boot print," Jack said, trying to keep the sick anger from his voice. Daniel's eyes widened and he struggled to twist around so that he could see the bruise for himself. "Size 12, if I'm not mistaken."
Daniel pursed his lips, looking anywhere but at Jack. He pulled away from Jack slightly, forcing him to release his grip on the briefs. Daniel quickly yanked his t-shirt on in an attempt to hide the evidence. Jack backed slowly to the bed and sank down onto it, cradling his suddenly pounding head in his hands.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"There wasn't anything to tell," Daniel said quietly. Jack growled in frustration.
"Jack," Daniel said, sitting down on the bed next to Jack. "I told you. I've dealt with this kind of thing before. I can handle it."
"You shouldn't have to handle it," Jack said angrily.
"Hey, we both know life's a bitch. And she's got a touch of PMS at the moment. It'll pass," Daniel said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Damn it, Daniel!" Jack said, shooting up from the bed. Daniel remained seated, allowing Jack's angry voice to roll over him. "You should have told me. You're my partner. My...spouse. Not legally, I know, but that's what you are. And you don't hide things from your partner. You don't leave them in the dark. You were married. You know that. When Sha're was hurt or scared you wanted to know about it, didn't you?"
"Yes, of course," Daniel said firmly, meeting Jack's wrathful gaze. "But you also protect the one you love. You don't burden them with things they can't change and will only worry them. You were married. You know that. You didn't tell Sara about your missions--not just because they were classified but because you didn't want to put her through that kind of torment."
"It's not the same!" Jack shouted.
"It is the same!" Daniel retorted hotly.
"Gah!" Jack shouted inarticulately. He threw up his hands and stormed from the room.
Jack idly spun his telescope on its mount and listened to the deliberate footsteps on the ladder. Three more and Daniel's wary blue eyes would be peering over the gutter. Jack didn't know how Daniel did it, but he always timed his appearance perfectly. He waited long enough for Jack's temper to cool, but not so long that the 'discussion' itself could go cold.
Daniel paused at the top of the ladder, studying Jack's body language carefully. With a sigh, he climbed on up to Jack's rooftop observatory and took a seat next to him. Daniel rested his elbow against his thigh and held out his hand, palm up. A second later, Jack's rough hand covered Daniel's, weaving their fingers together.
"You know what the problem is?" Jack asked bluntly.
"We're both guys?" Daniel asked with the rueful lift of an eyebrow.
"No," Jack snapped indignantly. His mouth hung open for a moment as he paused to think. "Yeah, okay, that's probably it."
"We'll just have to work around it."
"I don't like it, Daniel." Jack's imagination had supplied several equally unsavory scenarios for the boot print stamped on Daniel's backside.
"I'm not exactly crazy about it myself," Daniel said.
"No, I mean I really, really don't like it."
"I know, Jack. Just...let me handle it," Daniel said.
"I knew I should never...." Jack began bitterly.
"Stop right there," Daniel interrupted. "Coming out was not a decision you made lightly. It took a lot of thought and a lot of courage."
"It was a bad idea," Jack insisted.
"Why did you decide to come out?"
"You know why."
"Humor me," Daniel persisted. Jack shot him a 'don't I always?' look and sighed.
"Because I hated having to lie. I hated sneaking around to be with you. I hated hiding."
"'Freedom is too enormous to be slipped under a closet door'," Daniel quoted.
"Harvey Milk said that," Daniel told him.
"Daniel, you do know what happened to Harvey Milk?"
"Okay, bad example," Daniel acknowledged. "The point is--there's always a cost. Some things are worth it."
"Not when you're paying the price for my decision," Jack argued.
"It was my choice, too," Daniel said firmly. "Jack, this is something we knew might happen. It's happened. I'll deal with it."
"I can't help worrying."
"Just don't do anything. Please," Daniel implored. When Jack remained silent Daniel tugged his hand, demanding an answer.
"For now," Jack agreed unhappily.
It was all the farther he was willing to go. He understood that, in a sense, it wasn't his place to step in. He wasn't part of the SGC anymore. He wasn't Daniel's team leader. But he was the person who loved Daniel beyond all sense or reason and he firmly believed that no one should ever have to sit by and watch the one they loved be hurt.
Jack was on a mission. A severely time constrained mission at that. Daniel had been coming home banged up and stressed out with increasing frequency. As far as Jack was concerned, his promise of "for now" had expired. It was time for The Colonel to take action. Jack had four people to see before Daniel discovered his presence on base. The SGC grapevine being what it was--Daniel would find out. And sooner rather than later.
"Eh...what's up, Doc?"
Fraiser's head whipped around upon hearing the taunting greeting. She relaxed slightly when she saw Jack leaning against the doorway.
"I should have known," Janet said, gesturing to Jack to follow her to her office. "Don't tell me you've missed visiting the infirmary, Colonel."
"Jack," Jack corrected. He gestured at his usual post-retirement attire of jeans and t-shirt. "Doesn't say 'colonel' anywhere on my uniform."
"Jack," Janet agreed. "So--what can I do for you?"
"Er...." Jack pushed the office door closed before taking a seat across the desk from Fraiser. She watched him curiously but waited patiently for him to explain.
"Have you noticed that Daniel seems to be getting injured more than usual recently?" Jack asked.
"Yes, actually, I have," Janet said somewhat stiffly.
"Has he told you what's happening?"
"No," Janet said, confirming Jack's suspicions. "In fact, he's been very adamant about not telling me who's responsible."
"So you realize that it's not just a sudden attack of clumsiness? That someone's doing it to him?" Jack asked.
"I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, Colonel."
Jack was taken aback by the chilly tone that accompanied the words. A horrible thought occurred to Jack.
"You don't think it's...me?" Janet's wary expression told Jack that was exactly what the doctor thought. "Oh, hey--no way! I'd never hurt Daniel. Never."
"Well, I was reluctant to even think.... But I don't know of anyone else Daniel would work that hard to protect," Janet explained. "I had to consider the possibility that you weren't adapting very well to retirement and...."
"And decided to smack Daniel around in all my newly acquired free time?" Jack said indignantly. He forced himself to take a deep breath. "I've never touched Daniel. Well, not that way. And do you really think Daniel would just sit there and take it?"
"People do dumb things when they're in love," Janet said.
"Like that's news. But Daniel's no 'victim'."
"Even I can see--now--that he's absolutely and completely invested in you," Janet said.
"He's completely invested in us," Jack agreed. "You know Daniel. He doesn't do anything halfway. But he'd still kick my ass if I messed with him."
"You're a lucky bastard," Janet said enviously.
"Yes, I am," Jack said. He relaxed as he realized that Fraiser accepted that his wasn't the hand, or foot, that had been abusing Daniel.
"So what do we do?" Janet asked. "Do you know who's been harassing him?"
"No, the stubborn SOB won't tell me," Jack grumbled. "Wants to handle it himself. I'm going to go talk to Hammond in a minute, but I want you--I'm asking you to keep your eyes open. He still tries to hide it from me. I need to know if it escalates."
"Technically I can't discuss Daniel's health or medical care with you," Janet said reluctantly.
"Then don't. Just call me and say...ask me how the fish are biting," Jack suggested. Jack didn't need specifics, just a heads up. A hint. A clue. He'd take it from there.
"Well, I suppose...." Fraiser said hesitantly. "You never know. I could get interested in fishing."
"Stranger things have happened," Jack said. Janet rolled her eyes. "I'm going to ask Carter and Teal'c to keep their eyes open, too."
"Um...maybe you shouldn't ask Sam," Fraiser said hesitantly.
"What do you mean?" Jack asked, clearly puzzled.
"What I mean is--maybe you shouldn't be the one to ask," Janet explained. "I think Sam's feeling a little...manipulated."
"Manipulated? By me?"
"There was a time when the two of you were...attracted. She seems to think now that was misdirection to cover your relationship with Daniel."
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack sighed. "It wasn't like that. I did care for Carter. Still do."
"I know," Janet nodded. "But let's face it--and I'll deny this if you dare repeat it--but Sam's at an age where the opportunities for doing the whole marriage and baby thing are fading."
"And you think she was counting on me?" Jack asked, aghast.
"No, sir, not really," Janet chuckled. "I think it was just sort of reassuring to know that someone cared about her, even if she knew it wasn't ever going to happen."
"So me and Daniel--that was kind of a kick in the pants?" Jack asked.
"Kind of," Fraiser agreed.
"That sucks," Jack said honestly.
"She'll get over it. In the meantime, why don't you just let me talk to her about Daniel?"
"Be my guest," Jack said. He didn't need that kind of trouble--hell hath no fury and all that. Especially given that Carter was trained in a number of deadly forms of combat.
Fraiser had readily accompanied Jack when he went to General Hammond's office next. Between the two of them they'd broken through Hammond's natural disbelief in fairly short order. Once Hammond accepted the truth, his blood pressure had soared in truly impressive fashion. Jack and Fraiser had both watched the blood vessel that pulsed at George's temple with a sort of sick fascination.
Hammond had never been one to pussy foot around. He had immediately begun drafting up a base-wide memorandum. He and Jack argued over the wording but Jack convinced the general not to name or even allude to Daniel. Mainly because Jack understood Daniel's contention that 'running to mommy' would only make him look weak. But also because he didn't want Daniel tearing him a new one when he saw the memo.
Now, Jack had one last stop. Last but, in the greater scheme, definitely not least. Jack strode briskly to the familiar door and rapped firmly. Seconds later, the door opened.
"O'Neill." Teal'c backed up a step and courteously gestured Jack into his quarters. "It is a pleasure to see you."
"You, too," Jack said. "How the heck are ya?"
"I am well."
"Good, good," Jack said distractedly as he shifted from foot to foot.
"Is something wrong, O'Neill?"
"No," Jack said quickly. "Well, sort of. There's something I need to talk to you about. But I need to ask you a question first."
"Why'd you leave SG-1?"
"I transferred to SG-8 because I believed my presence might be reassuring to Major Carter as she began her new command," Teal'c said with a puzzled expression.
"Not to get away from Daniel?"
Teal'c's eyebrow rose slowly.
"What reason would I have for wishing to distance myself from Daniel Jackson?"
"Because," Jack said uncomfortably. "Because of...of us. Me and him."
"Do you?" Jack asked. "I mean--on Chulak...."
"Homosexual relationships are not permitted among Jaffa," Teal'c said bluntly.
"Oh," Jack said in a small voice.
"They do, however, occur."
"I have never had such a relationship. Nor have I ever wished to."
"So you don't...approve?" Jack asked.
"I have lived far too many years to waste my time worrying about the sexual practices of others," Teal'c said plainly. The tension in Jack's jaw eased.
"So if I asked you to keep an eye on Daniel, you would?"
"O'Neill." Teal'c's features softened slightly as he rebuked his friend. "Daniel Jackson is not a child."
"No," Jack agreed. "But someone's been using him as a punching bag."
"I was not aware of this," Teal'c said somberly.
"Yeah, Daniel's good at keeping secrets," Jack said, the bitterness in his voice aimed more at himself than at his stubborn SO.
"I will endeavor to protect him in any way I can," Teal'c promised.
"Appreciate it," Jack said with relief. He knew Teal'c didn't make promises lightly. "I know you can't watch him every second. And God knows he'd go postal on both our asses if you tried...but I'll just feel better knowing that you're keeping your eyes peeled."
"Have you spoken to Major Carter about this matter?"
"Ah, no. No, Fraiser seemed to think it would be better if she talked to Carter," Jack scratched at his head thoughtfully. "Apparently Carter has some 'issues' with me."
"Not entirely," Teal'c admitted after a moment's thought. Jack shook his head in exasperation.
"Well, anyway, Doc's going to clue her in. And hell--Carter's got a lot on her plate right now with the new command and all." Jack shrugged. "As long as you, Doc and Hammond are actively watching out for Daniel, that should be enough."
"One would certainly hope so," Teal'c said.
"Hey, anyone who knows about that Jaffa revenge thing isn't going to take the chance of crossing you," Jack said.
"Jaffa revenge thing?" Teal'c asked.
"Yeah. You know--the whole...." Jack shook his head. "Never mind."
"I have missed our conversations, O'Neill," Teal'c said with grave affection.
"You miss the fish stories," Jack said confidently.
"Indeed," Teal'c said dryly.
Jack threw a desperate, pleading look at Teal'c before turning to face Daniel.
"Kel sha, Daniel Jackson."
"Hi, Teal'c," Daniel said with a distracted smile. "Jack, what are you doing here?"
"Just visiting," Jack said. "Had a little post-retirement business to clear up with Hammond and stopped in to see Teal'c when I got done." Jack told himself he wasn't lying. The matter had happened after he'd retired and he did need to talk to Hammond about it.
"Visiting," Daniel said suspiciously.
"We have been discussing fishing," Teal'c said. Jack mouthed a 'thank you' at him.
"Fishing," Daniel repeated. He gave Teal'c a sympathetic look. "You do know you don't have to put up with that anymore?"
"Hey!" Jack protested. "Couple of ingrates, that's what you two are."
"On the contrary, O'Neill. I am most grateful for your fishing stories," Teal'c said. He smiled. "This way I am not forced to endure the actual act of fishing."
Daniel snorted and quickly turned his face away from Jack. Jack gaped at Teal'c before giving a disgusted shake of his head.
"Just for that--you're buying lunch," Jack said, shaking a finger at Teal'c.
The front door slammed loudly, startling Jack from his contemplation of a recent job offer. He barely had time to slip the letter back into the envelope before Daniel burst into the study, anger blazing in his eyes.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Daniel shouted.
"This!" Daniel dug a piece of crumpled paper from his pocket and shoved it at Jack. "Did you really think this would help?"
Jack smoothed out the paper and quickly skimmed the page. Hammond's memo. It clearly and concisely warned against the harassment of civilian SGC personnel. Jack sighed.
"You made me a target," Daniel accused. "You might as well have just painted a fucking bulls-eye on my back and been done with it!"
"You've already got a bulls-eye on your back, Daniel. A great big pink one," Jack responded with irritation. "Hammond had to do something."
"You're only making it worse," Daniel said stubbornly. "I asked you to trust me to handle the situation."
"I do trust you," Jack answered, but the words missed their target. Daniel had bolted from the room. Seconds later, Jack heard the bedroom door shut with a firm thud.
"Damn it, Daniel. It's the other assholes I don't trust," Jack muttered.
Jack slumped back in his chair, rubbing his forehead in frustration. He considered pointing out to Daniel that Hammond's original message had been much more obvious. That it had been Jack who'd convinced the general to tone it down. Jack snorted disdainfully. He knew full well that acknowledging any participation by himself in the matter would not make Daniel a happy camper.
Jack had never had Daniel's talent for judging when it was safe to venture back onto the ice. Especially when the ice had worn a little thin. Fortunately for Jack, Daniel tended to be far more forgiving than the average peaceful explorer. Jack wandered down to the bedroom and cautiously opened the door.
Daniel peered up over the top of his glasses and went back to his work without a word. He sat cross-legged on the bed, his laptop in front of him, as he pulled pages from a tattered folder. Jack walked quietly to the foot of the bed.
"You know--we still have that 'two guys' thing going," Jack said tentatively.
"Well, unless you've got an operating room booked in Sweden, that's not likely to change."
"Daniel," Jack repeated more strongly. "I had to talk to Hammond and Fraiser."
"I'm not apologizing for talking to Doc," Jack said, instantly defensive. "She was already suspicious and you were so damned insistent on not telling her who was smacking you around that she was starting to suspect me!"
"You would never," Daniel gasped, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Under the circumstances you can't blame her for thinking I would," Jack said. "And Hammond--I just wanted him to be aware of the situation. He needed to know, Daniel."
"I asked you to trust me," Daniel said, disappointment clear in his voice.
"I do trust you, Daniel," Jack said earnestly. He walked around to the side of the bed and perched on the edge next to Daniel. "I trust you to be honest and compassionate and stubborn and curious.... I trust you to always look for another option. But these people.... Daniel, things like compassion and another option to violence don't mean anything to them."
"You can't interfere like that."
"I can't sit back and watch you get hurt. Don't ask me to," Jack said. "I'm part of the reason these goons are after you. I had to do something. But I promise--I'm done meddling."
"This time," Jack admitted hesitantly. "I've done what I can and now I'll...I'll stay out of it. But honestly, even if you walked out of here right now, it'd be worth it if it kept you safe."
"I'm not going anywhere," Daniel chided.
"Only 'cause you hate having to set the aquarium up."
"It's a huge pain in the ass," Daniel agreed. He let his head drop sideways to Jack's shoulder. "I'm tired."
"I know," Jack said. He understood that Daniel probably felt like he'd been fighting a war on two fronts. He slid his arm around Daniel's shoulders and hugged him a little closer. "You've got vacation time built up. And we could both use a break. Why don't we...."
"No," Daniel said firmly. Jack didn't bother responding. He'd expected that response. "When all of this dies down, then I'll take some time and we'll go somewhere."
"Minnesota?" Jack asked hopefully.
"You can go to Minnesota anytime," Daniel said. "Bermuda."
"Bermuda? What the fuck is there to do in Bermuda?"
"What the fuck is there to do in Minnesota?"
Jack opened his mouth but managed to choke off the immediate and automatic response--"you and fish"--before it could make its way through his vocal cords.
"So Bermuda's nice?" Jack said lamely.
"Very," Daniel said with a taunting smile.
"Bermuda," Jack said with disgust. "My friggin' luck I'll get sucked into the Triangle and wake up somewhere with Elvis and Amelia Earhart."
"Young Elvis or old Elvis?"
"Young," Jack said emphatically. "Old Elvis is too scary for words."
Sam hurried through the parking lot. A sharp bark of laughter drew her attention down the last row of cars. Four enlisted men loitered near the back wall, apparently having nothing better to do. Sam's rapid stride never varied. She couldn't understand why Phillips and his cronies would want to waste their time hanging around the SGC parking lot, but that was their problem.
Sam pushed through the entry to the Cheyenne Mountain complex, flashing her ID at the sentry. She walked straight to the elevator and tapped her foot impatiently, muttering curses at the laws of her beloved physics that made it impossible for the elevators to move anywhere near as fast as she wanted them to. When the soft chime announced the arrival of the elevator car, she pushed forward immediately into the still opening doors. And ran right into Daniel.
"Oh!" Sam said, taking a step back. "Daniel."
"Sam," Daniel said warily. He gestured Sam into the car as he stepped out. He was dressed in his civvies, eager to get home. But Daniel hesitated just outside the elevator. Sam was looking at him with an odd, sort of undecided, expression; Daniel had the impression that she had something to say to him. Daniel was willing to wait if Sam wanted to talk. He hadn't totally given up on the hope of bridging the rift between them.
But even as Sam continued to look at him, her mouth open as if ready to speak, the elevator doors slid shut. Daniel continued to stare at the dully reflective surface for a moment, and then gave a resigned shake of his head. Maybe next time.
Daniel muttered to himself, almost unaware of his surroundings, as he left the complex and entered the parking lot. He pulled out his PDA and made some notes on his upcoming schedule as he ambled across the parking lot.
Daniel's concentration was broken by the sound of heavy booted feet behind him. He glanced back, his own footsteps faltering as he saw four men following him. Daniel turned his head forward and forced his feet to move again. The pace of the footsteps behind him hastened. With a resigned sigh, Daniel stopped and turned to face them.
"Was there something you wanted?" Daniel asked, holding on to the small hope that the sudden churning in his gut was unwarranted.
"Shut up, fag." Sergeant Phillips moved closer, his demeanor undeniably menacing.
"Do you have any idea how cliché this is?" Daniel said with a sigh, willing himself to stay calm.
Daniel couldn't say he hadn't seen this coming. He'd tried to convince himself that as long as he met the taunts and physical intimidation with his own practiced form of passive resistance, the jerks would get bored and go looking for other game. Deep down, though, he'd known the potential for violence was there.
Daniel surreptitiously glanced around the parking lot, looking for someone, anyone. Looking for Sam. Even as he thought it, his brain told him to stop being an idiot. Surely Sam had known they were here. If she'd wanted to help wouldn't she have done so by now?
"Ain't no one around to help you," Sergeant Milton taunted.
Daniel nodded a small acknowledgement of that fact. Then he turned resolutely to face his tormentors. He allowed them to move in a little closer before taking a swing. He managed to catch Milton right in the nose. The sergeant staggered back slightly, but the other three took that as some kind of signal.
They fell on Daniel with an animalistic enthusiasm, staggering him with the force of the attack. He struggled to remain upright, knowing that if they got him down on the ground he'd have a more difficult time defending himself. Daniel's glasses were quickly lost, but that fact was of little import. It didn't take 20/20 vision to land a punch.
Daniel was painfully aware he was in an impossible situation. For every punch he managed to land, four were taking their toll on his own body. A fierce blow to the head caused Daniel's vision to blur even as he heard the sickening crunch in his nose. Before he could even attempt to recover or react, he found himself on his knees. Something dark seemed to rush up at him and everything went black.
"Colonel...Jack, why don't you go get something to eat? Take a break."
"When's the ambulance getting here?" Jack asked curtly, ignoring Fraiser's suggestion.
"The transfer was arranged for 0900." Janet's voice held a hint of disapproval.
Jack was having Daniel moved to Memorial Hospital against Fraiser's wishes. Jack conceded that it might be foolish. After all, Fraiser had been Daniel's doctor for years now. She knew him inside and out. But one look at the battered face on the pillow stiffened Jack's resolve. The people here, members of the SGC, were responsible for what had happened to Daniel. Jack wasn't letting him stay here. And if Jack had anything to say in the matter, Daniel would never return.
In an unexpected move, Janet pulled over a chair and sat down next to Jack at the bedside. Jack turned to her with mild surprise, never taking his hand from Daniel's.
"I'm sorry," Janet said.
"For what?" Jack asked, turning his eyes back to the scraped and bruised knuckles he was gently stroking.
Daniel had put up a fight, that much was clear. He'd obviously been out numbered. Jack was well aware of just how tough Daniel was. One man would never have been able to overpower him this badly. Jack guessed at three, and possibly more than that.
"I didn't see this coming," Janet admitted. "Not to this extent."
"That makes two of us," Jack said.
He lifted his hand to brush his fingers gently across a face so swollen and bruised that Daniel was almost unrecognizable. Daniel's deep sleep seemed to lighten briefly in response to Jack's touch. He started to roll his head with painful slowness from side to side.
"Can't you take that out?" Jack asked, looking at the endotracheal tube.
"Soon," Janet reassured him. "We had to make sure the swelling wouldn't compromise his airway."
"Shouldn't he be waking up?" Jack asked as Daniel's movements ceased.
It frightened Jack beyond words to watch Daniel's body without seeing some sign of the spirit within. Even in sleep, Daniel would smile, grimace, move--show some hint of his vibrant personality. And even when he was calm, his face would still reflect his relaxed and peaceful attitude. This blank, near motionless state was unnatural.
"He will," Janet comforted. "As bad as it looks, there were no intracranial injuries. The MRI was clean and his neuro checks have been normal. He's still recovering from anesthesia, and I'm keeping him sedated right now so he won't fight the tube."
Despite Fraiser's hurried call, Daniel had already been taken to surgery before Jack could get to the mountain. Jack had spent a couple of nerve-wracking, sanity-shattering hours pacing the infirmary before he'd finally been able to see Daniel.
"Just be thankful we didn't have to trach him," Janet said seriously. "With all the swelling and blood and an unstable jaw fracture, it's a wonder we were able to get the tube in."
"Yeah, he's a lucky guy all right," Jack said venomously. Fraiser studied Jack quietly for a moment. She rested a comforting hand on his shoulder briefly before rising and going to attend to the rest of her duties.
A quiet but heavy tread drew Jack's eyes to the door. He watched as Teal'c marched in, stopped dead at the sight of Daniel, and then continued moving more slowly to the bedside. The shock in Teal'c's dark eyes was undeniable, but Jack wasn't even close to being in a forgiving mood with anyone even remotely associated with the SGC. Including himself.
"Nice to see someone gives a rat's ass," Jack said caustically. "Finally."
"I was unaware of Daniel Jackson's condition until a few moments ago," Teal'c said, too absorbed in his study of Daniel's face to argue with Jack. Jack watched as the disbelief in Teal'c's eyes turned to cold fury. He turned to Jack.
"Have the persons responsible been apprehended?" he asked coldly.
"One of them," Jack said.
A sentry had seen that stupid SOB Milton driving off the base with a bloody nose. And that was all that Hammond was willing to tell Jack. He supposed it was because he'd had the same look of murderous rage in his eyes that Teal'c now had.
"And the rest?" Teal'c demanded. Jack shrugged. Milton wasn't talking...yet. And Daniel hadn't been physically capable of telling anyone anything so far. "I will attempt to ascertain their names. Then we will hunt them down and kill them."
"Jaffa revenge thing?" Jack asked.
"Is that a problem, O'Neill?"
"Works for me."
Daniel struggled to wake. He felt uncoordinated, heavy, limp...and in a whole lot of pain. He tried to call out and panicked when he couldn't seem to get his mouth open.
"Daniel, calm down."
Daniel finally managed to crack an eye open. He found a somewhat blurry Jack looking down at him, attempting to smile and failing badly.
"Don't panic," Jack continued in a soothing voice. "Your jaws are wired shut."
"What happened?" Daniel mumbled.
"You got jumped," Jack said tersely. "Do you remember any of it?"
Daniel closed his eyes and the scene was right there, as sharp and fresh as it had been in reality. His small groan told Jack that he remembered just fine.
"How bad is it?" Daniel asked, trying to speak clearly through immobilized jaws.
"You probably won't want to spend much time in front of the mirror," Jack said quietly. "But Doc said there's no permanent damage."
"I'd say you should see the other guy but I doubt anyone could look worse than I feel," Daniel said. "Let me see."
"No," Jack said firmly. Daniel glared at him with one blood filled eye. Jack sighed and cleared off the bedside tray table until he could raise the compartment lid and let Daniel look into the attached mirror.
"Shit," Daniel muttered, staggered by the grotesque sight. Jack slammed down the lid, removing the mirror from sight.
"The jaw's broken, obviously," Jack said. "And the nose."
"I can't see out of my left eye," Daniel said fearfully. He raised his hand to his face but Jack caught it easily and shook his head.
"You can't open your eye because of all the swelling, but the docs say it's fine. Your vision should be normal once the swelling goes down." Jack released Daniel's hand and stepped back again. Daniel nodded in relief.
"There's a few busted ribs," Jack continued, swallowing hard to fight down the sheer terror that naming Daniel's injuries invoked. "Couple of fingers on your right hand got pretty messed up." Daniel raised his hand and stared at the injured fingers. "In a day or two, they'll do surgery to fix them up. Oh, yeah, and your...um, privates aren't looking so hot either."
Daniel's one visible eye widened in horror. He ached so damn bad all over that no single pain had really captured his notice. But he didn't know how he could've failed to realize....
"No permanent damage there, either," Jack hurried to reassure him. "Just more bruises and swelling."
"They didn't...." Daniel swallowed, trying to relax his throat enough to get the words out. "They didn't...?"
"Sexually assault you?" Jack asked. Daniel nodded sharply. "No."
Daniel closed his eyes tightly. He hurt inside and out, he was horrified and enraged and humiliated and frightened and that one reprieve shouldn't make all that much difference. But it did.
"Hey." Jack's voice was quiet and close. Daniel felt lips brush softly across his forehead and he let out a shuddering breath. "Hey. You're going to be okay."
"Because you say so?" Daniel asked, his voice shaky.
"Yeah.'Cause I say so," Jack said quietly. He watched as Daniel drifted back to sleep, overwhelmed by drugs, pain and emotional stress. Jack sat back on a chair, his face grim.
"Yeah, I know best. I'm the man with all the answers," Jack said to himself in a scathing tone. "The man who didn't even see what was happening for weeks."
And then, knowing, had allowed Daniel to take on a problem that was, and always had been, bigger than he was.
"I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop," Jack said with a decidedly forced casualness. Daniel looked over apprehensively. Jack kept his back to Daniel's hospital room and stared out the window. His position prevented Daniel from getting any kind of decent read on his emotions.
"You haven't said 'I told you so' yet."
"I was kind of expecting you to tell me that," Daniel admitted.
"I made it worse."
"No. You didn't," Daniel said frankly. "They weren't going to stop."
They'd avoided speaking directly about the attack since their initial conversation after Daniel had awakened in the hospital. Earlier in the day, Daniel had actually demanded that Jack leave while Hammond and a lawyer took his statement. The biggest surprise to Daniel was that Jack hadn't argued. Had looked guiltily relieved, in fact. Daniel supposed that even Jack had his limits.
It was just as well. Daniel had no intention of naming his attackers anywhere within Jack's hearing, not at this point in time. Daniel had seen the flashes of rage in Jack's eyes. He was afraid that Jack would go out and hunt the other three men down. Daniel was still hurting badly enough that he didn't care too much about the damage Jack might do to his attackers. But he did care--a lot--about what might happen to Jack.
"Parking lot on a military base, for God's sake, and no one saw," Jack muttered angrily as he finally turned away from the window.
"Didn't want to see," Daniel corrected without thinking.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't mean the actual... But someone knew they were there," Daniel revealed.
"Who?" Jack demanded, furious.
Jack stood absolutely still, his mouth hanging open. Shocked and horrified he couldn't begin to form a response.
"Sam knew," Daniel continued, barely audible. "But then, she's known all along. She ignored it."
"Carter?" Jack said hoarsely. Daniel nodded tightly. "Are you sure?"
Daniel flinched slightly at the question.
"No, no," Jack choked out. "I believe you. I just...."
Jack started pacing, looking for a safe outlet for his rage. Just as he abruptly turned to take a swing at the closet door, Daniel's voice caught him.
Jack stopped, fists still clenched in front of him.
"Jack, don't." Seconds later Daniel was behind him, his uninjured hand pressed lightly against Jack's back. "One of us with a busted hand is enough."
Jack turned around sharply, realizing almost too late just how unsteady Daniel was on his feet. He gathered Daniel in a firm but gentle embrace.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Jack whispered into Daniel's hair. "I'm so, so sorry."
"Come on, let's get you back in bed before you fall down," Jack urged as he felt Daniel's abused muscles shaking with the strain of keeping him upright. Daniel allowed Jack to propel him back to the bed.
"I bet Hammond nearly stroked when you told him about Carter," Jack said as Daniel dropped back into bed.
"I hate this," Daniel said as he tried to settle into a comfortable position. Jack knew Daniel was referring to his annoyance with his weakened body. He also knew Daniel was avoiding the question.
"You did tell Hammond, right?"
"No. And you're not going to either."
"Daniel," Jack growled with frustration. "This is not something you can let slide. And I'm not talking about getting back at Carter."
Daniel simply ignored Jack, fussing around with the sheets and pillows instead. Abruptly, Jack got fed up. He straightened Daniel out in the bed and yanked the covers up to his chin. Daniel just stared at him, too astonished to protest.
"Betraying friends is a very bad trait for a CO. You know as well as I do that a team has to be able to depend on each other. What happens next time Carter doesn't approve of someone's sexual orientation? Or religion or politics?"
"Sam won't do that."
"How can you say that?" Jack asked, his voice filled with disbelief. "She did it. To you, of all people. Christ, Daniel--the two of you were like brother and sister."
"I know," Daniel agreed. "Maybe...maybe that's why. Someone else, a stranger--she might not have cared one way or another." Daniel sighed. "I don't know. Sam wouldn't talk to me. It doesn't matter anymore. It's done. It's in the past now."
"Jack, let it go. It's over. Just...let it go," Daniel said with careless wave of his hand. Daniel could and would do whatever necessary to hold his assailants accountable. But he preferred to try to forget about Sam.
"Can you do that?" Jack asked his eyes focused intently on Daniel's.
"I'm working on it."
Jack set breakfast on the table and looked up just in time to see the shining light of his life schlep into the kitchen. Daniel's hair was sticking up in all directions, his eyes barely open. His sleep wrinkled flannel boxers were twisted askew and he had nothing more coherent than a Neanderthal grunt as a greeting. Daniel was not a morning person and yet the sight of him still made Jack's heart roll over and say "woof".
"Must be love," Jack muttered.
Daniel turned a baleful eye on him and grunted again. He'd been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks and the bruises had turned a revolting shade of green; the swelling had faded.
"Breakfast," Jack announced hopefully.
Daniel glared at the slop in his bowl, grunted once more, and shuffled defiantly to the cupboard. He took down a coffee mug, filled it, shoved a straw in and slurped. Jack shook his head in resignation. He glanced at Daniel's plate as they both sat down at the table. If pressed, he'd have to agree that pureed anything didn't look appetizing.
"I suppose you've been thinking about what you want to eat as soon as those wires are out," Jack said, trying to make conversation as he dug into his own breakfast. Daniel ducked his head and didn't respond. "Hell, probably dreamed about it. I know I would."
A muffled snort issued from the other side of the table. Jack frowned, not quite comprehending what Daniel found so damn funny.
"Well? What is it? What do you want to eat?"
Daniel's shoulders shook with laughter. Jack watched in baffled silence for a moment longer, then dropped his head with a disgusted groan. He really should have known.
"You have a filthy mind," he informed Daniel.
"Hey! You asked," Daniel yelped. He finally looked up at Jack, his face red with the strain of keeping in the laughter. Jack shook his head again, fondly.
"Actually, the first thing I'm going to do is brush my teeth. Twice," Daniel admitted. The smile returned. "Then I'm going to eat every inch of you."
Daniel shoved his plate away. He got up from his seat, moved around the table, and planted himself on Jack's lap, straddling his hips. A definite challenge lurked in his eyes.
"Whatcha doing?" Jack asked, a bemused expression on his face.
"Finding something more appetizing for breakfast," Daniel said in the sexiest tone he could manage. He kissed Jack, pulling back a moment later with a frustrated look on his face. "You know--this just isn't the same."
"No, it's not," Jack agreed ruefully. He'd been surprised himself at how much he missed being able to engage in serious tongue action with Daniel.
"Make love to me," Daniel murmured as he slid his lips along Jack's ear.
"Daniel," Jack protested even as he ran his hands softly along Daniel's back. The thought of making love to Daniel's battered body made Jack very uneasy. "You're still healing."
"I won't break."
"You're already broken," Jack said.
"Not broken!" Daniel snapped, jerking back slightly. "A little dented. That's all."
"Daniel," Jack said as he cupped Daniel's face with both of his hands. "I didn't mean it that way. You know I didn't. I just don't want to hurt you."
Daniel's request was simple, dignified. Daniel wasn't begging or submissive or needy. Yet, what Jack saw in Daniel's eyes was need...a need.
Jack sighed. If he had any faith in shrinks he'd be on the phone to one in a heartbeat. He'd be asking what it was Daniel really needed and what Jack should do to fulfill that need. But Jack didn't give a plugged nickel for what shrinks said, he wasn't a shrink himself, and Daniel was a grown man, completely in his right, if filthy, mind. If Daniel said he wanted to make love with Jack, then Jack was going to trust him to know what he wanted.
"How?" Jack asked, capitulation clear in his voice. Daniel smiled.
"Easy. You're going to go the bedroom, strip naked, and get on your hands and knees. Then I'm going to follow you into the bedroom, strip naked, and ride you into next Tuesday."
"Oh, yeah?" Jack's self control immediately surrendered, waving the white flag from his erect cock. Daniel wrapped himself more tightly around Jack.
"Oh, yeah," Daniel growled in his ear.
Jack was a man on a mission. Again. A time constrained mission. Again.
Daniel was getting a routine post op check-up, and Fraiser was nothing if not efficient. Jack just hoped she'd be thorough, too, and keep Daniel occupied as long as possible. If she really got on her high horse, Daniel just might rethink his request to have Fraiser resume responsibility for his care. And Jack had been trying very hard not to think about the implications of that decision to begin with.
In the meantime, Jack had a discussion to have. Despite Daniel's admonition to "just let it go," Jack couldn't. He needed to talk to Carter before he could let it go. He'd already established that the major was in her office. Now he just had to go and face her down. Halting just outside her office, Jack took a deep breath and forced his features into a bland expression.
"Sir...Jack," Carter said, obviously surprised to see her former CO standing in the door to her office.
"Busy?" Jack asked coolly, nodding at the stacks of folders littering her desk. "I mean--you never write, you never call...."
"Um...well, yeah, you know," Carter said vaguely. Jack didn't actually. No matter how busy he was he'd always made it a point to visit, or at least call anyone injured or seriously ill. It was just what you did as a CO. It's what you did for the people who risked their lives on your say so.
"Too busy to visit Daniel even once?" Jack asked. Sam froze. She'd spent far too many years with O'Neill not to recognize that deceptively mild tone.
"I had my own team to worry about."
"Ah, yes...your team." Jack nodded his head. Those words made it all real to him. Not that he had doubted Daniel. He hadn't. But what Jack had only accepted with his head now weighed on his heart. "Of course, the only reason you still have 'your team' is because Daniel refuses to tell Hammond what you did."
"Did?" Sam stumbled over the word. "I didn't do anything."
"No, you didn't. Which is exactly the problem."
"What are you talking about?"
"You knew what was happening. You saw what Daniel was dealing with."
"I didn't see anything." Carter insisted.
"You're not blind and you sure as hell aren't stupid, Carter," Jack said, grinding the words out through gritted teeth. "You had to know that when guys like Milton and Phillips cornered Daniel they weren't inviting him to join their bridge club."
"I had no way of knowing what they were doing," Sam said crisply, busying her hands by straightening the documents on her desktop. "If Daniel was in trouble, he should've asked for help."
"He couldn't. He couldn't ask you and do you have any idea what that did to him?" Jack snapped.
"Well, I'm sure he had you to kiss it and make it better."
"Son of a bitch," Jack swore vehemently. "Carter, what the hell is your problem?"
"My problem?" Sam asked incredulously.
"You left him hanging," Jack accused. "Friends don't do that to friends. Teammates don't do that."
"Teammates don't sodomize each other either," Sam said with cold precision.
Jack took a step back, literally staggered by the disgust in Carter's voice.
"But the rules never applied to you, did they? Or Daniel," Sam continued. "I don't think Daniel ever knew there were rules. And you--you simply ignored the ones you didn't like. When you got caught, you'd do your little Dennis the Menace 'I'm mischievous but you gotta love me' act and expect all to be forgiven."
"Oh, for crying out loud, Carter. You know--we didn't expect or even need anyone's approval. But I'd hoped that you'd remember all the years we've spent together and find it in your heart to at least accept our relationship," Jack said. "I trusted you to be a friend first and foremost."
"Trusted? Oh, that's a good one," Sam snapped.
"What do you mean?"
"Five years?" Sam said sharply.
"We couldn't say anything, and you--obviously--should understand why."
"You used me," Carter accused.
"Caring more than you should?" Sam said pointedly.
"First--I did. I cared about you...and Teal'c, and Daniel more than I was supposed to," Jack said. "Second--we hashed this out a long time ago. I thought you understood that the 'caring' didn't go that far."
"That's not the point," Sam argued. "You know what the rumors around here were like, the things people said. Before, during, and ever since that situation. You let them go on just to protect yourself."
"No," Jack groaned, although, reminding himself to be fair, he could see how it might look that way. "I swear I never deliberately tried to mislead anyone."
"I thought we were a team. Not 'Jack and Daniel' and whoever else was around," Sam said with dismay. "You hid the truth from us for five years. It wasn't fair. How many times were we exposed to danger because you and Daniel were doing God knows what? How often did you risk me or Teal'c because Daniel wanted 'ten more minutes' or 'just a quick look over there, Jack'?"
"Never," Jack said vehemently. "Since the day I got involved with Daniel I've had a letter of resignation ready to go. All it needed was a date and a signature. I was ready to use it the moment I thought I was compromising the team in any way."
"How convenient. And how convenient that you never needed to use it," Sam said disdainfully. She returned to shuffling the folders on her desk, her body language clearly saying she'd had enough of the conversation.
"I did use it," Jack said. Sam's head snapped up as if she'd been slapped.
"You retired because...." Carter started to protest.
"Because it was too hard to keep me and Daniel separate from me and the team anymore," Jack said bluntly.
"You...." Sam stammered.
"I chose Daniel."
Jack and Sam stared at each other in silence. Jack was astounded to realize that Carter was just now truly comprehending the reality of what Daniel meant to him. He almost--almost--felt sorry for her.
"But this isn't all because of you know--you and me, is it?" Jack asked.
"No," Sam admitted. "It's... it's because...."
"What? It's disgusting? Perverted?"
"Truthfully--yes." Sam said.
Jack stared, not recognizing the woman in front of him as the Sam Carter he'd worked with for so many years. Sure, Carter had always been a little uptight, a little too by the book. Not unexpected for a woman trying to make her way in a field that reeked of machismo. But she'd learned to not only tolerate but appreciate beings from completely alien cultures. Had even, if Jack had read the signs correctly, developed feelings for one. Or two.
"How can you travel across the galaxy, see the things you've seen, meet the 'people' you've met, and still call what I feel for Daniel perverted?" Jack asked in a low voice. "You've seen as much bloodshed and hatred as I have. And over truly stupid reasons, I might add. How can caring for someone be wrong?"
"It just is," Sam said stubbornly.
"Damn it, Carter," Jack said, frustrated by Sam's inability to understand...well, to just understand period.
Carter and Jack both looked to the doorway, startled by Daniel's quiet, firm voice. Any further accusations Sam had to make halted abruptly at the sight of Daniel's face. She hid her shocked reaction quickly. Daniel never noticed. Daniel never even acknowledged her presence, looking at and speaking only to Jack.
Jack saw Sam flinch and it angered him. If Carter thought Daniel looked bad now, she should have seen him that night. The thought echoed in Jack's mind. Carter should have seen Daniel that night.
"Let's go," Daniel said quietly, cutting into Jack's thoughts.
"Yes, why don't you go, Jack," Sam said, regaining her composure. Jack glared at her.
"Jack, please," Daniel said.
Jack straightened up and shook his head wearily. With a last cutting look at Carter, he turned and followed Daniel.
"Major Carter, may I have a word?"
Sam turned just as she reached her office to find Teal'c not ten feet away and closing fast.
"Um...sure, Teal'c," she said distractedly. "Just give me a second here."
Sam pushed on into the office, bumping the door open with her hip. She dumped her laptop and several files on her desk with a sigh of relief. Teal'c followed her and halted in front of the desk, waiting with his usual serene patience.
"What's up?" Sam asked as she grabbed the mail from her in-box.
"I have serious concerns about the proposed mission to M8J-770."
"M8J...that's the one we just got the preliminary MALP readings on, isn't it?" Sam said, pausing in her rapid shuffle through the mail.
"Indeed. I have what O'Neill would call a 'bad feeling' about this planet," Teal'c said gravely. Sam frowned at a plain manila envelope, marked only with her name in printed block letters. Sam glanced up at Teal'c to let him know she was still listening as she tore the envelope open.
"I believe that we should proceed with extreme caution. We should be most careful to translate all the writings in that planet's gate room before attempting to travel there," Teal'c warned.
"Well, that sounds reason...." Sam stopped abruptly as several sheets of slick, glossy paper slid from the envelope. Several pictures fell face up on the top of her desk.
"Oh!" Sam gasped. She dropped the envelope as her hand went to cover her mouth. "Oh, my God."
Teal'c moved around the desk and looked at the pictures.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, picking up one of the photos and identifying the nearly unrecognizable face in the picture. Sam sat down slowly in her chair, staring at the pictures. "These must have been taken immediately after the attack."
"It's SOP," Sam said numbly. "They always take pictures in assault cases...for evidence."
"You seem surprised by the extent of Daniel Jackson's injuries. Did you not see them?" Teal'c asked, puzzled by her surprise.
"No," Sam said. "I mean...not like this."
"I wonder who would send these pictures to you," Teal'c mused. "And for what purpose."
"Yeah," said Sam, a hint of anger in her voice. She quickly scooped up the photos and dropped them back into the envelope. "I wonder who."
Teal'c paused, still holding the last picture.
"This was wrong," he said simply. The anger drained out of Sam's face as she looked at the picture Teal'c held, face up, in front of her.
"You're right," Sam said quietly as she took the picture and put it away with the others. "It was wrong."
Sam pushed her grocery cart down the aisle with about as much enthusiasm as she approached a dental appointment. Like most of the single SG team members, her schedule was erratic. Keeping fresh food at home was wasteful if not completely impossible. She paused and stared at the loaves of bread stacked on the shelves and wondered if there was any point to buying a new loaf when 2/3 of the last one had sprouted all kinds of interesting fungi before she had time to eat it. A familiar voice, and even more familiar tone of exasperation, interrupted her mundane thoughts.
"Jack, don't be an ass."
Sam tensed, listening to the low chuckle that followed the statement.
"Chill out, Danny b...." Jack's voice trailed off as he turned into the aisle and saw Carter. For a moment, no one spoke.
"Sam," Daniel finally said in a carefully neutral voice.
Jack apparently thought that was all the conversation necessary because he pushed the grocery cart firmly ahead. Daniel trailed a hesitant step behind. Sam let them pass. When they were almost halfway down the aisle past her, she took a deep breath.
Daniel turned to look at her with an unreadable expression. He touched Jack lightly on the elbow. Jack stayed behind, although his dark eyes stared unwaveringly at Sam. Daniel walked back to Sam and waited.
"I just wanted to say...I'm sorry that you had to go through that," Sam began hesitantly. "Despite what's happened between us...I never wanted something like that to happen. I don't approve of what Phillips and the others did. It was wrong of them to use physical violence."
"Prejudice is always wrong, Sam," Daniel said with an oddly detached expression. "I always thought you knew that."
Sam's brows knit together in confusion, not entirely sure whether Daniel's statement was a question, a comment...or an insult. A strange, almost sad, smile flickered across Daniel's face. Then he simply turned away and walked steadily back to Jack. The former colonel waited, narrowed eyes still glued on Sam. As Daniel drew even with him, Jack's gaze was drawn to Daniel's face. Jack reached out, his fingers barely brushing Daniel's upper arm. Daniel gave a small shake of his head and the two men walked away without a backward glance.
Jack stretched lazily, then turned on his side and draped his arm across Daniel's chest. Daniel made a small, incoherent noise of contentment and yawned. A real yawn. The wires were finally gone and Daniel was enjoying the full use of his mouth again. Jack had been enjoying it, too.
Jack smiled. Morning sex was the best. Right up there with rainy afternoon sex. And sunny afternoon sex. And 'who needs supper let's fuck' sex. And 'wake up in the middle of the night and have sex just because you can' sex. Jack had gotten very used to having Daniel around all the time.
"I'm going back."
Jack groaned and butted his head against Daniel's shoulder.
"If I don't, they win," Daniel continued.
"If you do, they get another chance to beat the crap out of you," Jack retorted.
"That won't happen," Daniel asserted with a lot more confidence than Jack felt. "General Hammond came down on those guys like a ton of naquada bricks."
Jack smiled reluctantly at the memory. It was, in Jack's mind, one of Hammond's finest hours. Although assault seemed too clean a word for what had been done to Daniel. "Aggravated assault in which grievous bodily harm is intentionally inflicted"...better but still too clinical, too detached for Jack's taste. In his opinion, being charged with being "grunting evolutionary throwbacks who ganged up and beat the crap out of an unarmed man simply for being different" had a much more satisfying ring.
Still, the prosecutor seemed like a stand up guy. He was working hard to make sure Daniel's attackers faced the maximum penalties and didn't get off on any damn Twinkie defense. Jack didn't think he would ever consider five years sufficient punishment, but he knew that a dishonorable discharge had the potential to haunt a man for the rest of his life.
The important thing was that Daniel would recover fully and go on with his life. Most likely it would be a full and interesting life. Jack smiled again. Whoever said that living well was the best revenge may have had a point.
"I'm not naïve," Daniel said, breaking into Jack's musings. "I know there are still people at the SGC who find me...repellant. But Hammond made the consequences of acting on those opinions very clear. Besides, most people are...."
"Bigoted numbfucks?" Jack growled.
"Reluctant to actually get involved in physical violence," Daniel said, although on a bad day he tended to agree with Jack's assessment more than he cared to admit. "They don't want to get their own hands dirty."
"What about when Hammond leaves?" Jack asked.
"I'll probably be leaving before he does."
Jack looked hard at Daniel. Daniel wouldn't stay where he wasn't wanted. But he wouldn't leave until it was his decision to leave.
"You know you can't...you can't depend on Carter," Jack pointed out somewhat needlessly.
"Do you have to be so damn stubborn?" Jack sighed.
"Yes. Otherwise you'd walk all over me," Daniel accused. Jack made a noncommittal grunt and tightened his hold around Daniel for a moment.
"Not a chance of that, Jackson." In fact, Jack figured it was more likely to be the other way around. He told himself to suck it up and deal.
"So Bermuda's a bust?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Bermuda's still a go," Daniel insisted. "Just slightly delayed."
"Great," Jack muttered. "I'll get right back to looking for my blue suede shoes."
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