Summary: Daniel has to get back into shape and while Teal’c is up for the task, Jack wants to help. Meanwhile, it’s Dating Time but there’s a problem.
NOTE: I forgot to give the timeline of this series. The first Abydos mission was in 2009. It’s been 6 years since then so 2015. The purpose of this is to take advantage of technological advancements (so instead of 2001, it’s 2016). There’s talk of the iPhone 7, which wasn’t released until 2016 but this is an A/U. Roll with it. 😉
“Ow!” Daniel exclaimed and grew angry as he let the leg weights drop. They made a light clanging noise because the weight was only twenty pounds. Daniel rubbed at the right side of his abdomen, mentally dredging up the name external oblique.
“What has happened?” Teal’c asked.
“What’s happened is that I needed more time for stretching,” Daniel said, not meeting Teal’c’s gaze. Teal’c had told him he’d need at least a half hour of stretching before hitting the weight machines but Daniel, in a rare form of impatience, had insisted he skip the last fifteen minutes.
Teal’c said nothing. Loudly.
“I know, I know,” Daniel said. As he got up from the machine, he caught sight of himself in a full-length mirror and stopped to stare. He walked closer to the mirror, eyes widening as he touched his stomach, ribs, and hip bones. He was wearing gray Air Force issue sweat pants and a white tank top, with new sneakers and socks. The only thing that looked good were the shoes. “Jeez, Louise.” He was suddenly extremely self-conscious and embarrassed, thinking How the hell is Jack going to be attracted to this wasted body? Good god, why am I thinking of that at a time like this?
Because you set up a date for Friday, you idiot.
At the rate it would take to rebuild his body’s muscles, he and Jack would be on date 26 before he would feel good enough to be naked in front of him. He could just hear Jack’s response to saying this out loud: “I didn’t fall for your abs, Daniel.” No, he fell for your ass. Because he’d said so that morning . . .
Jack opened the door to the VIP room and gestured for Daniel to enter first. He hovered in the doorway, not daring to step inside and close it behind him because two SFs were standing five yards down the short hallway. Then out of the blue, Daniel asked in a low tone, “What made you realize how you felt about me?”
Jack blinked a few times and said, “A, didn’t we agree to just roll with it instead of talking about . . .” He gestured between them. “And B, you’re asking this now, and right here?” He then gave a nod toward the SFs behind him.
Daniel made an apologetic face. “Sorry. Forget I asked.”
Jack seemed mollified and turned to go. “I’ll be back in an hour for lunch.”
“Okay,” Daniel said absently as he looked around the room. He was about to turn and leave for his office so he could grab a few things but Jack stood in the way, still hovering. “What?” Daniel asked.
Sidetracked, Jack said, “Where’re you going?”
“To my office to grab some stuff. We were gonna go there first, remember? But then we were waylaid by Teal’c and his ‘program’ info.” Daniel made air quotes around ‘program.’
“Right. Make a list. I’ll grab it for you.”
“Jack, I can walk there and back.”
“Yeah, but I’d rather not risk what Fraiser called your ‘inner ear’ issue.”
Daniel felt the blurry side effect of dizziness and nodded. “Okay, okay, I see your point.” He looked around again and rubbed the palms of his hands over the hips of his trousers. “Um, I need a pen and paper.”
“Right. Okay, I’ll grab something and come right back.” He turned away.
“I need my clothes, too,” Daniel said to his back.
“Oy,” Jack said. Then suddenly, he turned back to Daniel, paused, then said, “Your ass.” Then without another word, he hurried away and turned the corner out of sight before Daniel realized why he’d said, “your ass.”
My ass? He asked himself and unconsciously rubbed his left buttock.
And upon recalling that memory of this morning, Daniel turned slowly, dreading what he’d see in the mirror. But when he took a good look at his rear end, it didn’t look that bad. Until . . .
“Jeez, you’re all skin and bones,” Jack said as he strolled into the weight room.
Daniel cringed and immediately sat down on a nearby bench to hide his derriere. “I’m at day two of my regimen, Jack,” he said with what he hoped sounded like a cavalier tone. “It’s gonna take a while.” He grimaced at the thought.
Jack gave him a sympathetic grin. “I’m hip,” he said, and with a quick look around, he reached out and threaded his fingers through Daniel’s hair before going down on one knee before him so Daniel didn’t have to crane his neck. “Look on the bright side. At least you haven’t gotten the blotchy skin that I’ve seen on others recovering from radiation poisoning. Their livers are shot to hell.”
“You charmer you,” Daniel said, wishing Jack hadn’t removed his hand. It then occurred to him that he shouldn’t be so worried about being naked. They hadn’t even kissed yet and it had been a week since he’d been released from the infirmary and assigned the VIP room. He wasn’t allowed to go home yet, which was just as well since he’d been planning on moving out of his apartment. Now that he thought about it, he might be able to move in with . . . and what the hell was he thinking? They hadn’t even kissed yet!
What if they sucked at it?
It could happen. Everything else had.
Daniel was suddenly brought out of his internal moroseness when Jack snapped his fingers in front of his face. He’d done that four times this week and it had gone from causing chagrin to annoyance. “What?” he asked.
“What were you thinking about so hard?” Jack asked.
“Nothing,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “What did you say that I wasn’t paying attention to?”
“Never mind,” Jack said, resisting the urge to touch him again.
Teal’c sighed. “He asked whether you want lunch in the mess hall or leave the base for an hour and go through the drive-thru at Mac’s.”
Daniel frowned. “Mac’s? McDonalds? No thank you.”
“No. Mac’s. As in McAnally’s Pub. The place that has the—”
Daniel’s eyes widened. “The onion rings and bacon cheeseburger with the—”
“Blue cheese in the burger. Yep.”
“I’m in. And I’m starving.”
“You are not to have what is called greasy food for another two months,” Teal’c chided.
Daniel groaned, then sighed so heavily a teenager would have been proud. “Just this once?” he asked Teal’c.
Teal’c gave him a look. “You have my permission to eat a small cheeseburger. Trust me. You are not ready for what O’Neill has called ‘The Big Stuff.’”
Daniel wanted to argue. But Teal’c’s judgment had been dead-accurate ever since taking on the task (master) of becoming his physical therapist—with oversight from the actual physical therapist, Staff Sergeant Taylor Wilson. She’d been assigned by Janet, so Daniel had trusted both women . . . until Taylor had decided that Teal’c could take over the job as part of his OJT, or On-the-Job training, which was formally required to be allowed to give T’chula martial art lessons. To no one’s surprise, Teal’c was an excellent student and teacher—and was hideously strict.
“If you keep limiting my diet,” Daniel warned, “I’ll grab something even worse.”
“And I will be recording the result. I will then ask Captain Simmons to broadcast it from the control room,” Teal’c threatened back.
The result was what had happened two days earlier. Jack had brought him a pizza after the workout and forty-three minutes later, Daniel had chucked up the food. One of the side effects of the anti-radiation medication.
“You’re woolgathering again,” Jack said.
“I’m tired, achy, and hungry,” Daniel said, trying not to sound as petulant as he felt.
“You should have stated this,” Teal’c said with a concerned look on his face. “You are released for the day.”
“Yippee,” Daniel said, standing. And a dizzy spell hit him. “Whoa.”
Jack rose and grabbed Daniel by his elbows to steady him. “Dammit. The Mess Hall it is.”
“What? Why?” Daniel asked as his head cleared.
“You’re not going anywhere after that dizzy spell. It might be a blood pressure problem or a side effect from that medication so we’re going to see Fraiser to check it out.”
“Then we go get a burger?” Daniel asked.
“Not until you stop getting dizzy spells.”
“Jack, that might’ve been a one-off.”
“All the same.”
Daniel glowered. “You’re worse than Teal’c.”
“Bite me,” Jack said automatically.
Then, given their new relationship, they were both hit with a vivid image that Jack’s comment had conjured up. They cleared their throats at the same time.
Teal’c didn’t get what was going on but he knew what “bite me” meant and grinned as he left the room.
Jack and Daniel found themselves alone. And Jack was still holding him by the elbows.
“This was the moment,” they both thought, and Daniel didn’t need to lift his chin much since he was only two inches shorter than Jack’s six-foot-two.
They stared into each other’s eyes before looking at their lips, then back to their eyes.
Their hearts were beating faster.
They inched closer.
Daniel parted his lips as his hunger turned to something else entirely. He felt his cock swell in response to his desire . . .
And then abruptly, his cock deflated.
He frowned, his eyes widening for a wholly different reason.
Jack frowned too and pulled back, dropping his grip on his elbows. “What just happened?”
“I, uh . . .” Daniel began. “I/ . . . well . . . um . . .”
“For cryin’ out loud,” Jack muttered, then added, “Fuck it,” before he grabbed Daniel by the waist and the back of his head and brought their lips together—and closed because their lips needed an introduction, not an exploration. Daniel responded, the familiar heat spreading throughout his body, and slid his hands around Jack and up his back.
The kiss was warm, dry, and perfect.
Then Jack pulled back and stepped out of Daniel’s embrace, clearing his throat. “Anyone can walk in if this goes any further and frankly, I don’t want it to stop once we get to the tongue stage.”
Daniel snorted softly and nodded, but inside, his ego was having a meltdown because again, while the rest of him felt a deep desire, his cock wasn’t getting with the program. “I need to see Janet.”
Jack frowned, remembering what Daniel had said a moment ago. “What’s wrong?”
Daniel adopted a mask because he wasn’t about to discuss the problem with Jack. He didn’t want to talk to Janet either but it was a problem she needed to know about. With Jack, well, hopefully, the problem will have corrected itself by the time . . .
Wait. If it’s a side effect of the medicine . . . he had six more weeks to go. Didn’t Jack say one shot a week and there were six more shots to go? He definitely needed to see Janet.
“Daniel?” Jack asked worriedly.
“Sorry. Was thinking about what to cover with Janet. I need to see her to check on all the possible side effects.”
“Why?” Jack asked, his concern deepening.
Daniel sucked at lying to Jack. “Because I . . . felt just a bit too hot down below. Need to find out why.”
Jack regarded him carefully. Daniel had just lied. Heat down below? Was that code? Then it hit Jack what Daniel was too embarrassed to say. Little Daniel Junior wasn’t responding. Jack controlled his expression. He’d let Daniel have the lie if it made him feel better. “Sure. I gotta do my usual Colonel duties anyway so you see Fraiser and we’ll meet up for lunch in the mess hall?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Daniel said. He tried like hell not to do the “Daniel is lying” body movement, which involved fluttering eyelashes and eye contact avoidance. In fact, the first time he’d done it had been meeting with Makepeace after Hammond assigned him to lead SG-1—which had pissed Daniel off because it was Sam’s slot and no one else’s.
“Deep thoughts again,” Jack said as the two men headed for the exit.
“Yeah. Maybe that’s another side effect. Loss of concentration.”
“Maybe,” Jack said, touching Daniel’s elbow and then releasing it. “You good?” He was referring to Daniel’s sense of balance and Daniel nodded. “See you in the Mess Hall.”
Then Jack went right and Daniel went left. And he hated that it sounded like an omen. Like hell, he told himself.
Daniel walked into the main entrance of the Infirmary and up to the blocky nurses’ station shaped like half a hexagon. “Hey,” he said to the person on desk duty, Lieutenant Graham.
“Hey, Daniel,” she said, looking a bit tired.
“Long shift?” he asked.
“Yep. One of those days.”
“I know Janet’s busy but could I see her when she’s got a moment?”
“She’s with the research team in Lab 2,” Graham said, pointing to her right.
Daniel sighed. “Any idea how long she’ll be?”
Graham checked her watch. It was now 11:45. “About another forty-five minutes. She’s scheduled to have her lunch around 12:30 to 1:30, then she’ll be doing her rounds.”
Daniel nodded. “Please let her know I need to see her. It’s about the side effects of the shots.”
Graham wrote down a note on a script pad. “She’ll get it as soon as she checks in at the station.” She waggled a clipboard of duty roster assignments.
Daniel thanked her and left, heading for the elevator. He was hungry and he wasn’t going to wait until Jack showed up to eat. Janet had him on a medical roster, which meant that his health was a priority over anything else.
“No staying up all night trying to solve an alien puzzle,” she had told him. “And no more skipping meals. Eat when you’re hungry. Do not wait for others. This is the perfect time to develop new habits, Daniel.”
Daniel grabbed a mug from the green, tiered stack in the buffet line and poured himself some coffee. It was a perfect time. The mess hall had just started up the early lunch period and the coffee was fresh. While there were many reasons to make fun of Air Force coffee, the first fill in the mess hall wasn’t one of them. Daniel breathed in the smell from his mug before he ruined it with cream and sugar. He could drink it black but right now, he needed the sugar with the caffeine rush.
He grabbed cherry gelatin with pineapple and cherries, for more sugar, and the hot meal wasn’t available this time around. Instead, it was sub sandwich day and the large horizontal fridge had been rolled into place. He smiled and pushed open the glass cover and took a pastrami-on sourdough. He grabbed condiment packets and looked for a seat. It wasn’t difficult. There were only six other people. He chose a seat near the back corner and as he sat down, he pulled out his phone to text Jack where he was but set it aside when he caught Janet’s gaze as she headed toward him.
“Hey Janet,” he said.
“Daniel,” she said and sat down without any food.
“You’re not skipping meals, are you?” he teased, remembering what the nurse had told him.
“Hardly. What did you need to see me about? Graham mentioned side effects from the shots?”
Daniel’s throat felt dry. “Yeah, um. I’m having a bit of a . . .” He swallowed dry and took a large gulp of coffee. He lowered his voice and said, “It’s an impotence thing.”
She raised a brow. “I don’t recall seeing that on the list of side effects we’ve encountered.”
Daniel sighed. “Well, it . . . um, came up, so to speak. I responded normally, then suddenly the physical arousal just up and failed. My mind and the rest of me was with the program but not down below.”
She frowned. “It might be a hormonal disruption side effect. Come by the lab and we’ll take another blood sample and run it for a different set of variables to check your testosterone levels.”
“If your blood tests come back with a low reading, then we’ll try hormonal therapy. We don’t know if it’ll interfere with your radiation therapy so you’ll have to wait till the treatment is done. Then we’ll wait a few days and run another blood series to see if the testosterone is returning to normal levels. If it isn’t, it’ll need a jump start, so to speak. I’ll put you on testosterone pills for five days.”
Daniel’s shoulders slumped. “Crap. So six more weeks.”
Janet frowned. “No, where’d you get that idea?”
“Didn’t you say . . . Jack said . . .” He shook his head. “Side effects. I’m having a short-term memory problem. I thought it was weeks.”
“No, days. The shot you had this morning was number three. Five more days, with the medication decreasing each day so you’re weaned off of it. Give it a week. Today is Wednesday, so figure that any romantic plans you have won’t be feasible until next Wednesday.”
Daniel blinked at her and felt a blush rising. “Romantic plans?” he asked, thoroughly choking to death any hint of embarrassment.
Janet stared back, unblinking, and gave him a small smile. “Not my business. Interpret ‘romantic’ any way you see fit.”
Daniel took a deep breath. “Yeah, um. Thanks, Janet.”
“Sure,” she said, rising. “I’ll need to record these side effects not listed by the Ancients.” Daniel grimaced. “Part and parcel of creating a medication,” she said and touched his shoulder. “Don’t worry. It’s not like it’ll be on the SGC newsletter.”
“Newsletter?” Daniel asked, surprised. “There’s a newsletter?”
“Well, it’s technically a Notice,” she said, making air quotes. “Anything the Air Force thinks is worth informing the masses about, it comes out in a publication akin to Military Times but on a base-by-base communique.” She suddenly rubbed at her stomach. “Can’t wait till lunch. I’m starving.”
“Can’t you just grab a sub and eat while doing that paperwork?”
“I could, but I can’t stand getting crumbs everywhere. See you tomorrow morning for the next shot.”
She walked away and Daniel watched her back until she left the mess hall. She hadn’t allowed her opinion of his situation to show on her face and it upped his personal opinion of her just a bit higher than it already was.
Twenty minutes later, Jack walked into the mess hall and got in line, and at the same time, he took the time to scan the room. When Daniel raised his hand to get his attention, Jack gave him a nod and then turned his attention to getting his lunch. A few minutes later, he arrived with his tray and sat across from him.
“You got here how long ago?” he asked accusingly.
“Half hour,” Daniel said. “I’m sorry. But I couldn’t wait and I had the time.” He didn’t bother telling Jack about seeing Janet. Hopefully, that situation would get resolved. It just didn’t feel right not being able to respond to Jack in the way appropriate to a romantic situation. When it came right down to it, he had the feelings. His dick just wasn’t getting with the program—and truth be told, any thought of sex with Jack made Daniel feel awkward. And he had spent the last twenty minutes trying to figure out why. Again, not something he wanted to share with Jack. Not now. Maybe down the road.
“Deep thoughts again,” Jack said, but he wasn’t annoyed. “I’m gonna develop a complex. Aren’t you supposed to give me your undivided attention?”
Daniel shot him a grin. “I suppose. Sorry about that. It’s just . . . so much going on with me, you know? I’ll make an effort not to woolgather when you’re around.”
“Well, it’s fine. We can text, you know. So if you remember somehow to talk to me . . .”
“Stop,” Daniel said, a mock scowl on his face. Then he blinked. “Wait. Weren’t we supposed to get new phones a while b—”
Jack made a flourishing gesture as he pulled a smartphone out of a front pocket and presented it to Daniel. “Ta-da! Our phones have arrived. Finally.”
“About time!” Daniel said and took the phone.
“Here,” Jack said and handed him a pamphlet. “It’s an iPhone 7 SE, for special edition, but it’s been programmed with special software to meet the classified specifications of the Pentagon.”
“Look at you,” Daniel said with a smirk. “All in the know.”
“Wise ass,” Jack said, and they spent the next ten minutes going over the phones’ mechanics. Finally, Jack sent a text as he said, “But these are SGC phones.”
“And?” Daniel asked as he looked at the text.
They aren’t as secure as you think they are. Big Brother is watching.
“So no talking about dating with these,” Daniel said but not loud enough to carry to the next table.
“No,” Jack said. “That’s why we’re gonna get private phones. These,” he said, waggling his phone, “are expensive-as-hell pagers.”
“And if you don’t mind,” Jack said, putting away the phone. “We can go shopping for them at the end of business.” Meaning after 5 p.m.
“Sure,” Daniel said, relieved. “I’m getting stir-crazy.”
“You got your third shot this morning so you’re out of the woods, health-wise.”
Daniel frowned. “What do you mean?”
“One reason for staying on base, remember?”
“Oh right,” Daniel nodded. “To be sure I was no longer at the infection-risk stage? To make sure the medication didn’t make me susceptible to random virus contamination.”
Before long it was time to get back to work, only since Daniel was on medical “leave” but on-base, he went to his office and sat at the computer, catching up on some “filing” he’d been putting off. It was the computer version of tagging and storing. The physical items had already been itemized and stored in a vault in Area 51, but they could also be examined digitally since everything that came through his office was put through a special MRI scan. Not just for examination but for safety. Just in case a vase held something else.
Personally, Daniel didn’t think it was possible for a Trojan Horse incident. For example, if they found a curved blade and brought it home as an artifact. Perhaps it might once have been coated with a poison—but if it was 10,000 years old, the poison would have degraded to a chemical trace and thus harmless. Besides, any future canopic jars were to be given the Isis treatment: put in an isolation chamber and scanned before opening it in safety.
Two: Accidental First Date
Jack appeared in Daniel’s doorway. “Tick tock. You ready to go?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said absently, standing at his lab desk. He was peering through a microscope. “Just a second.”
“Daniel,” Jack said in that chiding sing-song tone. “Leave it for tomorrow.”
Daniel looked up, saw Jack, replayed what Jack had said before the chiding tone, glanced at the clock on the wall, and realized that four and half hours had gone by. ‘Ohhhh,” he drawled. “Right.” He turned off the microscope and slid a cover over it. Then moved over to his desk and grabbed his phone and keys.
Arriving in the locker room, they swiftly changed into civilian clothes and then headed for ground level and the interior parking lot. Neither man said a word the entire time. After getting into Jack’s truck, they were nearly to the open-air mall where the Apple store sat before the silence was broken.
Jack had a confession to make. He cleared his throat. Twice. “Listen, uh. While we’re here, and it’s close to dinner time, you wanna stop and eat, or is it too soon for dinner?”
Daniel gave him a look and as he kept staring for the next ten seconds, Jack blushed a bit. It was sort of adorable. And it also reminded Daniel of a thousand other times when Jack’s cheeks reddened slightly. Not a lot. Just a bit. And back then, Daniel also found it adorable. He had just never allowed himself to think of it like that, on purpose.
“Where do you have in mind?” he asked, also realizing that Jack had been planning something. It would be churlish to say no.
“Yeah?” Jack asked, surprised.
“Of course,” Daniel said, also finding the attitude adorable. Jack grinned, but it was that sarcastic grin that said he was relishing the “I was right,” line of thought. Daniel blinked and looked away, grinning. “Not unheard of.” Then the grin was followed by a slight frown of confusion. Maybe he wasn’t feeling well. Since when had he ever thought of two situations in a row where Jack was considered adorable? Hot, certainly. Downright gorgeous, maybe. Adorable though?
It was their new relationship. That was the change. Not a sarcastic illness, for cryin’ out loud. Daniel thought he could be a bit silly on occasion.
Jack parked in an area across the thoroughfare from the Apple store. “It’s a little back-alley bar and lounge only that’s the vibe. It’s not really in one of the many actual alley bars around here. It’s kinda old school because it’s the only place in Colorado Springs where you can smoke.”
“Smoke?” Daniel asked, then it hit him. “Oh! You mean that humidor bar? Cocktails and cigars?”
“That’s the one! Not much for food but nearby is a steakhouse.”
Daniel grinned. “There are several steakhouses around that area. So at the risk of repeating myself, where did you have in mind?”
“Mackenzie’s?” Jack offered.
“Sounds good to me. But we have to be a little careful about imbibing since you’re driving and if you’re too drunk, I’ll have to. Given that, how about we skip the bar and go straight to the steakhouse? The reason I’m suggesting that is because the bar and the steakhouse together have a kind of Date Night theme.” He looked down at himself. “And a t-shirt and jeans ensemble isn’t exactly Date wear is it?”
“Oh I don’t know,” Jack said, and an image of taking off that ensemble crossed his mind and he cleared his throat. “Depends on who you are. Mac’s isn’t exactly a formal restaurant.”
“Yeah, showing up there in a suit doesn’t match their vibe.”
Jack snorted, then he grimaced. “Shit. There might not be a table.”
“Call and find out. We can go elsewhere if they’re booked.”
As they got out of the truck, Jack looked up the number to Mac’s and called. “Hey. Are you guys booked for the night?”
“No, sir. Tables that will be available are a 2-party, bar station, and outdoor single or double. You may reserve another date and time as well. The closest time available will be an estimated forty-five minutes for a party of two.”
“That will be perfect,” Jack said.
“Your name for the reservation?”
“O’Neill,” Jack said.
“Very good, sir. It is advisable to be on time. Reservations cannot be held for more than ten minutes.”
“Understood, ma’am. Thank you.”
“Enjoy your time at Mac’s. Goodbye.”
“Yep,” Jack said and hung up. “We have forty-five minutes. Factor in waiting and parking, we have twenty-five minutes to get the phones and be over at Mac’s.”
Daniel nodded. “Let’s get it done.”
Mackenzie’s Chop House was part of a business building adjacent to corporate offices and its entrance was a long walkway with an awning that led below ground. Jack pulled into the parking entrance for three businesses and an attendant stood by to ask which business they were parking for, then gestured to a lane that led underground. After paying for the permit via a small kiosk, Jack found a spot deep within the “O”- shaped layout. Some stairs led to a courtyard and a shadowed inset to the main entrance walkway but there were also two elevators.
Daniel slowed down a bit and looked down at himself, then gestured at Jack. “This is a nice building with an equally-nice entrance and we are severely underdressed. Let’s take the elevator.”
“We’re not underdressed, trust me,” Jack said, and refrained from putting an arm around him as they kept walking past the elevators. “It’s a jeans and t-shirt place as well as a slightly more dressed up joint. Besides, a lot of base folk visit it and if we’re dressed in suits or nicer clothes, it’ll signal ‘date’ to these people. Best to show up like that in Denver or Boulder, not here.”
“Gotcha,” Daniel said as they reached the awning entrance. It ended at the top of three flights of stairs and entering the main door, reached a dark reception area. Jack gave the hostess his name and they were seen to the adjacent waiting room equipped with small round tables and bar stools. It had now been forty-five minutes on the nose, but they had to wait a bit longer.
“I apologize for the delay. We’ll call you when the booth becomes available,” she said and returned to see to other customers.
As they seated, a waitress wearing a long-sleeved black blouse and above-the-knee skirt with black sensible shoes approached, offered a small drink menu and asked if they’d like something while they waited. Neither man needed the menu. Jack ordered a Guinness Draught and Daniel ordered a Hennessy VS cognac, making Jack’s brows rise.
“What?” Daniel asked as the waitress left with their orders.
“Why don’t you stock this at home or bring it during team nights? For that matter, why not order the Guinness?”
Daniel gave him a sardonic grin. “A, it’s too expensive and I don’t drink it all that much. This is a special occasion so I ordered it. Plus good cognac is perfect as a base to eat good steak on.”
Jack nodded in allowance. “And B?”
“I don’t like beer.”
“Seriously?” Jack asked, blinking. “Why don’t you ever say?”
Daniel was still giving him the sardonic smile and they were interrupted by the delivery of their drink orders. Jack thanked the waitress and handed her a tip. He raised his glass from the provided coaster and Daniel raised his snifter glass. They drank. Then Daniel picked up where he left off.
“You know how you said I don’t listen to you?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Jack said, drawing out the single-syllable word as if it had two.
“You do the same thing to me.” Jack’s brows rose. Daniel shrugged. “I’m used to it and I never make an issue out of it because sooner or later, the important stuff will sink into that hard head of yours. Everything else is immaterial. Like not liking beer, ale, or anything else made from hops and barley.”
“Yeah, but . . .” Jack began, frowning as his gaze turned inward and to the past. He couldn’t recall the moments Daniel hadn’t drunk the beer he offered.
Daniel’s expression turned slightly melancholy. “The last time I told you that I didn’t like beer was when you quit the SGC during that Asgard-Tollan sting to catch the rogue teams and members of the NID. It was when I came over to check on you and you handed me a beer, and I said—”
“’I don’t really like beer.’” Jack paused and guilt surveyed his brows and into intense brown eyes. “A lot of other stuff was said before, during, and after that part but I see your point about importance.”
“Don’t apologize again,” Daniel said quickly. “If you were going to, I mean. It’s done and dusted, as guys on the base like to say. I only brought it up because of the beer thing.”
Jack nodded, eyeing his beer glass as he turned it in place on the coaster. He suddenly thought that he should’ve asked for the bottle, not the glass, then chided himself for veering off-topic, even in his own mind. Focus, Jack. Focus.
“This is one time that’ll sink it in, given the importance of this dinner.”
It was Daniel’s turn to raise a brow. “Importance?” he asked.
But they were interrupted again as a waiter approached and led them through a maze of booths and more open tables to a two-person booth connected to two others with aisles on either side in an H-configuration. They were perilously close to the kitchen. Jack winced and threw Daniel an apologetic look as they sat down opposite each other. The waiter handed them menus and asked if they’d like something else to drink while deciding on their dinner order.
“Another Guinness Draught. Daniel?”
“Bordeaux, whatever brand available,” Daniel said. The waiter started to leave but Jack held up a hand. “I can order now, for us both?”
“Meat and potatoes,” Daniel said with a grin. “I need stuff to stick to my ribs.”
“Salad or soup?” Jack asked.
“Calamari,” Daniel said, correctly guessing one of the appetizers.
Jack said, “I’ll have the onion soup for the appetizer.”
The waiter wrote down both dishes. “Main dish?” he asked.
“Two twelve-ounce prime with loaded baked potatoes. Medium rare and rare.”
The waiter nodded and left.
“That was easy,” Daniel said, but he picked up the menu the waiter had left on the aisle side of the table. “Now, what didn’t you get me?” he asked and opened the menu.
Jack snorted. “A lot. And I do mean, a lot. But I know what you like. We’ve ordered it enough at O’Malley’s, which we’re not allowed to visit anymore thanks to that fight we started while wearing those damn armbands.”
“Gauntlets,” Daniel corrected automatically.
“Whatever,” Jack said, and unfocused his eyes as he recalled that entire episode. He suddenly grinned but it turned into guilt. “I’ve never seen Hammond so mad.”
“Right?” Daniel said, brows rising. But then he too adopted a guilty expression. “He had a right to be though. I mean, my god, we were . . .”
“Yeah,” Jack said with emphasis.
Daniel gave him a guilty fluttering of lashes as he looked at him and back at the menu several times. “Truth be told? I miss the powers of that gauntlet.”
“Right?” Jack said, nodding wistfully.
“I mean, for you guys, maybe you miss something different, but I miss being able to read fast. I mean, really fast.”
“I miss zipping about,” Jack said thoughtfully. “At least we were able to destroy that ship.”
“Apart from Teal’c having to rescue us because the damn gauntlets stopped working.”
“Apart from that.”
Daniel grinned a bit wistfully, but that time had been a rough one between friends. It had been as if the whole world had been intent on keeping them apart, even as a team. A month before the gauntlet incident, there’d been the threat from the Pentagon about closing down the program if they didn’t bring home results and it had pissed Jack off so badly that he’d taken it out on Daniel, who kept questioning the Eurondan leader.
Ultimately, they’d patched things up but it had been a moment in their relationship when Daniel had decided to take a step back. To disassociate himself from the team—and go back to Abydos. Then other things happened and he couldn’t keep from caring, couldn’t step away.
Daniel snapped himself out of the memories and stared down at the “dessert” section of the menu, which were all cocktails, chose a few, and made a mental note for later. He then set the menu down to give Jack his attention.
And he found Jack watching him with an inexplicable expression on his face. It wasn’t disdain, chagrin, confusion, anger, or amusement—all of the typical expressions sent his way. This one seemed to be guilt, but for what? They’d mended fences not too long ago, after the incident with Reece. All the petty grievances had been laid on the table, getting them all out in the open with their emotions flayed bare.
Of course, the only safe place to do that and not alarm anyone within hearing distance was the top of the mountain and about a mile east of the listening post. It had been hard to set them all aside. They’d left their phones with the desk sergeant at Level 11, letting them know where they were going, and set up a camp. Anger and resentment had made them quiet for a few hours until dark surrounded them. Daniel couldn’t remember what set off the first accusation because they’d thrown them at the same time. Each of them had bones to pick, and each of them thought their position was the right one.
“Did we finish that fight on the mountain?” Jack asked.
“I think so,” Daniel said, nodding, and somehow grateful he didn’t have to bring it up, that Jack suspected the direction of his thoughts. “I think the yelling started to die down when I mentioned how long I’d taken that pain stick assault.”
Jack grimaced. “Because I was too busy recovering from my own assault to have noticed.” He winced, then added, “But we had our last fight about that android.”
Daniel leaned back, not meeting Jack’s eyes. “I hadn’t realized the anniversary was that day. I’m sorry I forgot.”
“I’m still sorry for the things I said. Hammond should’ve given me a reprimand.”
Daniel shook his head. “The anger was misdirected but understandable.”
“Not to me,” Jack said. “Charlie’s anniversary just popped up and I was angry at myself because I forgot, not just you. We had shit on our minds.”
“Other shit on our minds,” Daniel said, and he finally looked up to meet Jack’s gaze. “While we settled it all, it still smarts, the things we said to each other. And I still think about it, trying to figure out why we can be so cruel to each other despite how much we care.”
The waiter came by to set down their appetizers and drinks, then left. Daniel took a long drink of his wine and Jack did the same with his beer.
Daniel took a breath, then said, “And now, look at where we are.” He grinned and waved an airy hand. “I don’t just mean the restaurant. I mean what’s happened between us? And I know you don’t wanna talk about it but I have to bring up one point, please.” Jack nodded once, hiding the feeling of chagrin. “It’s okay. You can show how badly you want me to shut up.”
Jack’s brows knotted together in puzzlement. “I still don’t know how you do that.”
“You can do it, too. It comes from knowing each other.”
“Point,” Jack conceded, then with a sigh of inevitability, he asked, “You were gonna say . . .?”
“This anger. I mean, we can get so angry at each other. In this new direction, how’s it gonna manifest?”
“English,” Jack said. Daniel frowned. “In other words . . .” he said, making a ‘give me’ motion with his hand.
“We already know how we feel when one of us is in danger. We’re worried sick and it colors everything we do, no matter how we wish it wouldn’t.”
“What do think will happen to us from the other side of that? When we fight, how will it color everything else? Especially in the field when we have to put the anger aside and work together. I know how it worked when we weren’t together,” and Daniel made air quotes. “But now? Moving forward? You and I are going to argue.”
Jack frowned. “Intent on that?”
“Jack,” Daniel said, keeping a soft tone. He left it at that and waited for Jack to pick up the baton.
Jack frowned in consternation because he knew what Daniel was asking. “Yeah, okay. We’ll argue. So what? You’re putting the ball in my court?” Daniel nodded. “Then we commit to a plan of action when arguments happen, okay?”
“Go ahead,” Daniel said, nodding.
“First, we deal with it like grown-ups.”
“That’s a given.”
“Second,” Jack said, and despite his reticence, he said, “We don’t walk away. Never go to bed angry.”
Daniel snorted. “Something I learned a long time ago but it takes two to tango, so to speak.”
“Third, inappropriate times require mandatory time-outs. We talk about whatever it is as soon we’re on downtime. Meaning at home after all the work of the debrief is done or our work between missions.”
“Agreed so far,” Daniel nodded.
“Anything you want to add?”
Daniel picked at a piece of calamari, then placed a whole one in his mouth and chewed. He wasn’t a fan of the sauce they used. Too tart. It needed more butter. “A separate list dealing with actions in the field,” he began. Jack opened his mouth to disagree and Daniel held up a hand. “Hang on. It’s separate from ‘inappropriate times,’ which I believe is what you meant, being in the field or the middle of a briefing.”
“Yes, so please explain,” Jack said.
“Okay. Let’s think of an example of when we’re at cross purposes that does nothing for the mission.” He kept thinking of Euronda and apparently that still rankled. He was also thinking of Reece. “I still have issues with past fights. It’s not you—no, really, it isn’t. It’s me not letting go of it.”
“I thought you took my apologies seriously,” Jack said, frowning.
“I did. I do. What I’m thinking of is getting away from repeating the past. We tend to fight in a never-ending circle of blame. You know that old hoary bit about bringing up old wounds that should’ve been over with but clearly aren’t?” Jack nodded. “I’m trying to think of a way to not do that, no matter what. To argue clean, not play dirty. We have to let it all go and start fresh.”
“Since when do we . . .” Jack began, but he frowned, thinking of an argument last year where he’d thrown out the, “You do this all the time!” “I see what you mean,” he grudgingly admitted. “But how do we settle old business? Stuff we didn’t get to on the top of the mountain?”
“Agree to talk about it until it’s resolved,” Daniel said. “Everything we can think of that we didn’t get to. We’ll have to do that soon or it’ll get in the way during a pissing contest.”
“We don’t have pissing contests,” Jack said, frowning again.
“Yes we do,” Daniel said with a slight smile. “When I think I’m right. When you think you’re right, and our two viewpoints refuse to compromise until Sam, Teal’c, or Hammond forces us to do so.”
“Hmm,” Jack said, with a sharp nod. “I see what you mean.” He fussed with his soup, twirling the spoon around. “So let’s set aside some time. Which we’ll want to cancel and reschedule until doomsday.”
Daniel smiled. “Agreed. So how about we put aside that talk for later? I don’t know when.” Jack’s shoulders relaxed and it made him grin wider. “So let’s talk about intimate stuff that’s probably embarrassing, depending on how you were raised.”
Jack’s brows went up. “Such as?”
“Sex,” Daniel said, mouthing the word so it didn’t carry to other ears.
“Oh,” Jack said, mouthing his word, too.
“We can use code words if you like. But this is stuff I’ve been wondering about. I mean, it’s awkward, embarrassing maybe, definitely inhibiting if we’re afraid of rejection, that kind of stuff.”
“Right,” Jack said.
“Okay, the most important thing first,” Daniel said, intending to deliberately lighten the mood.
“Which side of the bed are you?”
Jack barked out a laugh and then bit his lips together and chuckled. Daniel smiled in return, both in relief and in smugness because the tactic worked. “Nice,” Jack finally said.
“And?” Daniel asked.
Daniel winced. “Me too. Our first compromise. Who goes left?”
“Arm wrestle for it?” Jack asked, his eyes reflecting his lighter mood.
“No, because you’d win,” Daniel said in mock seriousness. “I’m in horrible shape. Ask Teal’c.”
“Coin toss?” Jack asked.
“No,” Daniel said, allowing a slow grin. “You get the right side, assuming we get that far. I’m not tied to it.”
An image hit both men’s minds and they looked away, trying not to grin or meet the other’s gaze.
“You have a way with words,” Jack said, chuckling. “So, what’s next?”
“Ah,” Daniel said, stabbing another calamari, then discarded the dish entirely just as the waiter appeared with their dinner. Down came their plates, warmed, with sides of butter, sour cream, and horseradish cream. Jack asked for a cup of coffee and Daniel echoed him. It was a good idea. Jack’s beer glass was empty. Daniel started having second thoughts about the dessert cocktail. A Crème Brule would be good instead. They attacked the food. The first cut of the meat with the horseradish sauce had Daniel closing his eyes as his mouth filled with water around the savory flavors.
“That is awesome,” he breathed, swallowing.
Jack nodded, chewing with his eyes closed as well. After several minutes as they slowed down a bit, he said, “I’ve been dreaming of this place for a long time.”
“You’ve never been here?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“No. Dropped by once to pick up Ferretti a million years ago. He called and needed a ride home.”
“Oh, that was the day he had that hangover and Siler was teasing him by running that jigsaw near the security office?”
“That’s the one,” Jack said, chuckling around another bite of food and shaking his head. “But no, never eaten here. But I caught a whiff of the food while waiting outside. It’s like the Pied Piper was trying to lure me in here.”
They ate in silence for a few more minutes before Jack said, “Okay, Einstein. What’s next?”
Daniel nearly blushed at the sideways nod to his intellect and appreciated it. “Well.” He reached for the wine and drank a long pull from the glass.
Jack’s eyebrows rose. “That bad?”
“Um, no. But I’m trying to figure out if it’s something to be said at dinner. Neither of us is immature about sex, given the range of jokes we’ve made and heard over the years. And I’m willing to bet neither of us is a virgin.”
Jack reached for his glass of beer but it was empty. The waiter showed up at the opportune time to ask how they were doing.
“Another draught, please,” Jack said, handing him his glass.
Daniel drained his glass and handed it to him. “Another please.”
The waiter departed and Jack raised a brow. “You shouldn’t get drunk.”
“No. But I’m tipsy already. I’ll drink the second one slower. It was just . . .” He stomped on the blush and it failed.
“That’s adorable,” Jack said, then drank his glass of iced water until it was gone.
Daniel made a face. “Yeah, um, no more alcohol for either of us.”
“After this next one,” Jack said. “As you said, drink it slower. We’re gonna get charged for them no matter what. And we have time to spend finishing our dinner, then ordering something else.”
Daniel nodded. “True. I’d love to come back, by taxi, and try out all of their unique cocktails.”
“That’d be some bill. But you can’t do the Neat bar.”
“No, I’d never survive it.”
Jack smiled. A full toothy one. It made Daniel pause. Every time. He was used to seeing the crooked grin, the closed-mouthed grin, and the sardonic grin. But the toothy one was rare and something that would make people look twice. He cleared his throat and said, “Okay, so.” He sliced off another bite of steak, drowned it in horseradish sauce, and shoved it into his mouth. He started to speak but that particular bit of cream sauce had some potency to it and it opened up his sinuses and made his eyes water. “Wow.” He sniffed then looked at the cloth napkin. “Damn.”
“I gotta find the bathroom. Need to blow my nose and I’m not using these napkins. Can you imagine clearing the table and finding that? Gross.”
“Ah. Well, um . . .” A waitress started by but Jack caught her attention for directions to the bathroom. She gave them and when Daniel stood up, she led him mostly there. Jack watched what he could and when the waitress came back this way, she was still taking a look back. Jack had a feeling she was looking at Daniel’s ass.
He didn’t feel jealous. He felt proud, boastful because that ass was his. And upon that thought, he blushed to himself and in so doing, reprimanded himself. He was forty-nine years old. Well past time to stop being embarrassed at sex subjects, especially when they were about Daniel’s ass.
Except. It had been a long time. Over twenty years. And he’d forced himself to go along to get along with all of the homophobes he’d made friends with over the years. Even the guys on this base were tremendous ‘phobes. While he was certain that attitudes were changing and those F-word jokes were no longer tolerated within his own hearing, they were still there, lurking under the surface, infecting people with a bias that wasn’t just outdated, it was unwarranted.
Which brought him back to Daniel. They had to be very careful. Despite the changing of attitudes, all it took was a new and homophobic head of the Pentagon to go on a tantrum and change regs that didn’t need changing. In fact, Lieutenant General Vidrine fit that bill exactly. Thankfully, he was in charge of the program back in D.C., and not the Air Force or the Pentagon. Additionally, there were people at the NID who could make trouble.
Yes. They needed to be careful. And it sucked. Jack felt the rise of anger and moral outrage. It was followed by a wide streak of rebelliousness. He’d risked his career more than once defending another’s life or their right to be free to live their life on their own terms. Now, he was facing another threat, even if the other side didn’t know it yet. The right to be free to live their lives, his and Daniel’s, on their own terms.
It was time to be vigilant, to be careful, but he knew that Daniel would hate having to hide their relationship. It was a compromise in and of itself that needed to be accepted. The time would come, maybe several years from now, maybe next year, when they’d have to choose: stay hidden or be Out and lose everything to a system of injustice. If that day came, or when that day came, his retirement would need to come first. It was simply a matter of survival.
It just galled him to have to work for a bunch of narrow-minded dangerous bastards who’d give up an asset on the grounds of his sexual orientation. Jack was bisexual, and so was Daniel, but together they’d be labeled gay because people don’t like ambiguity or balance. They want you to pick a side. Gay or Straight, right or wrong, left or right. Rules, regs, and stupid, stupid people. It made Jack want to set off for one of the planets he thought he could live on, where there weren’t judgmental shits ruining other people’s lives.
Daniel returned right then and he frowned as he sat down, his gaze direct. “What’s wrong?” He looked around. “Something happen while I was blowing my nose?” He had a folded-up wad of tissues in his hand and he stuffed them in his back pocket.
Jack waved an airy hand. “Just thinking about us. As a couple, I mean. And how, because of the regs and because of judgmental assholes running everything, we have to keep our relationship a secret if we want to stay at the SGC, remain part of SG-1, and continue running missions. And then what if, one day, we either stay together legally or split up because of something stupid? Either scenario is possible. And if we stay around long enough at the SGC, I’ll get promoted, and then . . . I don’t know what. Run an offworld base?”
Daniel raised his brows. “Wow. You have been thinking things over, and not just about us.”
“Seems prudent. We can’t just keep going as we are ten years from now without major changes.” He took a deep breath and restrained the urge to hold his hand out for Daniel to take. “I see us together years from now, still agreeing to disagree, still agreeing to a set of rules for arguing our points of view. And maybe we’ll even be married, once the phobic regs change. Right now, even if I retire, my benefits would be revoked if I married you.”
He blushed a little and raised a hand, even though Daniel wasn’t about to say something. “I know, I know. It’s jumping the gun, imagining a scenario that might not ever come, and going so far as imagining a marriage when we haven’t even found out if we like having sex with each other.”
Daniel snorted. “Yeah, like that’s gonna be a problem.”
“Stranger things, Daniel,” Jack said.
Daniel nodded. “Heavy thoughts, and yeah, I agree with you. But let’s step back and consider the lighter side of you and me.” He gestured between them.
“Okay,” Jack said, allowing the tension between his shoulders to ease. “Sorry.”
Daniel shook his head. “No. It’s okay. Needs to be hashed out sooner or later. But let’s just worry about our relationship stuff right now and leave the rest of the world for another time. Hopefully, years.”
Jack snorted. “Your lips to God’s ears.”
Daniel grinned. He then waited for Jack to sip at his beer before he asked, “So. Top or bottom?” He was well-rewarded with a spit of Jack’s beer that went everywhere, including all over himself. It only made him smile.
“Dammit, Daniel,” Jack said with a mock growl. “You did that on purpose.”
“Yes, I did. But it, uh, needs asking.” He raised a brow questioningly and Jack made a stern face at him that made him smile.
“What do you think?” Jack asked in return.
“Don’t do that,” Daniel said chidingly, but still the smile stayed on his face. And some of Jack’s beer. “Okay, chicken,” he goaded. “Bottom.”
Daniel misinterpreted. “You’re not, too! You can’t be!” He then realized he’d raised his voice and Jack was waving a hand at him to tone it down. “Sorry,” he hissed, “but what the hell are we—”
“I’m not,” Jack said, reaching over to . . . do something . . . but he ended up wiping a drop of beer off Daniel’s forehead. “I’m not,” he repeated.
Daniel’s mouth was open, ready to complain, and he stared at Jack hard then snapped his mouth shut and narrowed his eyes. “Little shit, you did that on purpose.”
“Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?” Jack said, smiling, making Daniel smile back—grudgingly.
They picked at their food, realizing they were mostly full and done with dinner. “How’s your head?” Daniel asked. “I don’t really feel like hanging around longer, do you?”
Jack shook his head. “I’m good to go. You’re not used to alcohol, particularly now, coming back from the dead and all.”
“Ha,” Daniel said. “Let’s leave a tip and go sit in the truck for a bit. That way I can talk louder than this just in case you pull another—”
“Or you,” Jack countered. “But I have a better idea. My place.”
Daniel looked at him with wide eyes and panicked. “Uh, no.”
Jack’s brows rose. “No? Why not? Nothing will . . .” He lowered his voice. “Happen. Not on our first date.”
“You can’t promise that in a setting where we’re safe and can either get drunk and lose inhibitions or simply take advantage of being alone and safe and lose inhibitions.”
Jack frowned. “I’m not sure that made sense but I’ll roll with it.”
“It made sense. I just didn’t supply the caveat. And I’m not going to until we leave.”
“Caveat?” Jack asked. He waited for the waiter to pop by and they followed him up to the register. He left a big tip and paid the bill. On their way to the truck, they said nothing, but once inside, Jack turned and laid a deep kiss on Daniel’s lips. Tongue included.
And unfortunately, Daniel broke it off and shook his head. “We can’t.”
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Because,” Daniel said, blushing and hating that he was. “I’m not . . .” He sighed and looked away. “Normal. I’m . . . my, um, reactions. Oh hell. I can’t get hard.”
Jack’s eyes widened. “Oh. Wow. The medication?”
Daniel nodded. “Janet thinks it might be. It happened in the gym when we kissed. I started to react normally but then . . .” He looked away. “It, I mean, it just . . . died.” He grimaced and when Jack opened his mouth to speak, Daniel held up a hand and gave him a look that could best be described as Don’t Say Anything, It Won’t Help. “You have no idea how mad I am, and how disgusted. We finally . . . and now this. She says I have to wait until a few days after the regimen is done, then see if I react normally. If I don’t, she says a small dosage of Cialis might be needed to jump-start the old engine. So to speak.”
Jack sat and stared, putting himself in Daniel’s shoes. “Jesus. I’d be going apeshit if it were me.”
Daniel held both hands up in a There You Are gesture. “Yes. Trust me, I have been. So this is why I can’t come with you to your house because the minute we’re alone . . .”
The two men conjured up nearly identical scenarios: the ripping off of clothes and then a fade to black because they wouldn’t allow themselves to go there. No sense in torturing themselves about something they deeply wanted but didn’t know when it would happen.
“And now this,” Jack thought. “Dammit.”
“I know,” Daniel said glumly, but he purposely shook off the gloom and doom mentality and tried for flippancy. “But maybe it’s just as well.” Neither man believed that. “And then what about the rumor mill?”
“That won’t happen,” Jack said. “They . . . the guys at the base . . . don’t see us as romantic in any way, shape, or form, thanks to our arguing—which is like a sign that everything’s okay. We’re a fixture. If we’re arguing, all’s right with the world.”
“That is bent,” Daniel said as Jack started up the truck.
Jack snorted. “That’s our world.”
Three: Hang Time
It was day three after the last shot of his medication, and Daniel sat on the yoga mat going through a stretching routine after having exercised his way through most of the weight machines. He followed that with a few laps around the indoor track. He’d been hyper-focused on getting well, working only until 5 p.m. so he wouldn’t be tired for the next day’s series of routines.
Unfortunately, the impotence continued. The desire was there. The bodily reactions were there. Increased pulse, the heat deep in his belly that spread to his groin. But his dick just wasn’t getting with the program and he was beginning to think he was subconsciously sabotaging himself. Daniel lay back on the mat, staring at the ceiling.
“You are . . .” Teal’c began, hesitating on which colloquial phrase to use. He sat a few yards away, poised in the lotus position and concentrating on his kel’no’reem, but it was difficult to achieve in the gym, what with his worrying about Daniel’s health and state of mind. “Unable to focus,” he finally finished. “I am having trouble finding the right phrase that is specific to that condition.”
“Side-tracked,” Daniel said, remaining on his back.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, nodding once. “Would you like to share what is bothering you?”
“Not really, no. Because it’s a deeply personal issue I have to tackle alone. Unfortunately. But thanks for asking.” Teal’c said nothing as he bowed his head. Daniel drummed his fingers over his diaphragm and said, “Hammond is getting impatient. Wants us back on normal duty by next week.”
“I believe you are correct,” Teal’c said. “I find I am also impatient.”
Daniel winced. “If it’s any consolation, I’m better. We will be back to work next week.”
“I agree,” Teal’c said.
Daniel heard him get up and he too sat up, then before he could do anything else, Teal’c reached out to offer him a hand. Daniel took it. “Thanks.”
“It is nothing.”
Teal’c had curiosity rolling off him in waves. Daniel sighed, clearly resigned. “What?” he asked.
“What is wrong? There is something.”
“Yes, but as I said, it’s a personal problem. It’s nothing that will interfere with my job or my general good health.” Not really, but why go into detail?
Teal’c studied him as Daniel grabbed a few towels from the hamper bin by the room’s exit into the locker room. He was moving a bit too awkwardly as if a part of him was missing. And Teal’c suddenly had a moment of insight, born out of decades of experience that a normal Tau’ri man could never match. “Perhaps this problem you have is affecting your sexual health?”
Daniel turned too fast, eyes wide, cheeks blushing, and stumbled against the towel bin. “Teal’c!” he hissed and looked around the locker room to see if anyone overheard. There were a few people there but it didn’t look as if they had. He forced himself not to adjust his sweats and pointlessly held a towel in front of his crotch.
Teal’c hid his amusement. The Tau’ri are odd sometimes. “It is nothing about which shame is felt. It is a known issue among Jaffa who have been in contact with many forms of radiation,” Teal’c said, an eyebrow raised. “Our primta can eliminate radiation poisoning but not all of the side effects. It takes a short time to resume normal health.”
Daniel cleared his throat and found himself only slightly relaxing. Teal’c had taken the right tone and he appreciated it. He cleared his throat. “Have, uh, the Jaffa figured out how to remedy the situation?”
“We ingest the root of a plant called thesalia, which enhances what the Tau’ri call the pituitary gland. It also reinforces the normal output of testosterone via the testes. The result is normal erectile function. I believe you have a medication that has similar properties?”
Daniel nodded. “Three or four. Janet said she’d give me a low dosage prescription if I’m not . . .” He turned pink again. “I’m going to see her. I can’t . . . respond . . . uh, to um, erotic imagery or, um, watch porn or something.” The last four words were said in a lower tone and in a rush.
Teal’c nodded matter-of-factly. “I am confident that you will return to normal function.”
Daniel’s blush refused to dissipate and he was beginning to feel humiliated. This just wasn’t something to talk about with other guys, but he said, “Thanks. Me, too.” He thumbed behind him at the door. “I’ll just get going.” Teal’c bowed his head once. “And um, let’s never talk about this again.” He made a face and left the gym—not quite in a hurry.
After he left, Teal’c adopted one of Jack’s mannerisms, looked at the ceiling, and rolled his eyes.
“Hey,” Jack said, finally catching Daniel by the elevator. Both had changed into civilian clothes alone, having missed each other by twenty minutes. “What’s up?”
Daniel wanted to punch him, then told himself to stop being silly. Jack didn’t purposely use a double entendre. “I’m heading home.” And for some reason, refused to mention filling a prescription before getting there.
“Thought we could go for date number two. Another dinner,” Jack said as the door opened and they got in. Daniel jammed the button for Main Level unnecessarily hard. Jack misread him. “Or not.” He felt himself building a wall between them and put a stop to it. Don’t jump to conclusions. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Daniel said, then rolled his eyes as he stared at the floor. He forced himself to meet Jack’s gaze. “Everything. I’m filling a prescription before I get home. I just don’t know when I should take it.” He paused, then added, “Or if I should take it alone.”
Jack raised a brow. “Just in case something goes wrong or just in case you want company?”
“Uh . . .” Daniel clenched his jaw then relaxed it. “I guess.” He suddenly let his hands rise and fall in exasperation. “I don’t know why I’m all . . .” He flipped a hand at himself. “It’s nothing to feel embarrassed about but I am. Seriously, deeply, horribly embarrassed.” He scowled. “No, that’s not right. I’m humiliated. And Teal’c accurately guessed what was bothering me and had to put in his two cents, which was, I mean, appreciated, but not really, and Jeez, I’m just . . .” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Stop me at any time. Really.”
During the rant, Jack went through a series of emotions, from concern, alarm, slight panic, then a type of amusement. He stood there, listening, but he wanted to do more. He wanted to pull Daniel into a hug. Then kiss him. But not in the elevator. “Did you just go through that rant knowing I could do nothing to respond or was it unconscious?”
“What?” Daniel asked, frowning. He thought it over, then shook his head. “Subconsciously, I don’t know. Consciously, certainly not. I just chose the wrong moment to unload.” He grimaced. “And every goddamn conversation I’m having, both vocally and in my head is turning the most innocent of phrases into an innuendo.”
Jack held up a hand. “Then stop talking.” Daniel scowled and opened his mouth but Jack held up a finger. “No. Stop talking. Wait. Unload when we’re at my house.”
“Your house? Why am I going there? You know what will happen.”
“You just said you need my company when you take the pill. Sort of implies my house. Or yours, for that matter.”
Daniel grimaced. “Yeah, it does. Never mind.”
“Then date number two? We can skip ahead if sex is date three or four or five.”
“Sex,” Daniel echoed, staring at him, then at nothing in particular. “I . . . actually didn’t even think about . . .”
“Why not?” Jack asked, smiling. “Seems a fait accompli, doesn’t it? Inevitable.”
“Not really, no. What if I fail?”
The elevator opened and they walked down a bare corridor, turned right, and approached the SF stood at the primary station. He scanned their badges over a palm plate, which turned from red to green, and they continued toward the underground parking lot.
“Don’t sabotage yourself,” Jack said. “Meet me at my house.”
“Wait,” Daniel said as they stood in the middle of an aisle. “What’s for dinner? Should I pick up something or do you want something delivered?”
“Chinese?” Jack offered. “Haven’t had that in a while. I can pick it up on the way home. Faster than ordering it for delivery.”
Daniel felt himself quite suddenly relaxing, taking the pressure off himself. “Or we could dine out at the restaurant?” he offered in return. “Go home, change clothes. Then pick me up.”
“How about the Sushi Ato?”
“That’s Japanese,” Daniel said with a slight smile. “You hate sushi.”
“Not really,” Jack said. “I hate badly done sushi. Besides, they have tempura, teriyaki, and short ribs.”
“Point. Done then?”
“Done. Fill your script, go home and change, and I’ll be by in 30 or 45.”
“Deal,” Daniel said, then as he turned on a heel, he held out a fist for bumping.
Jack raised his eyebrows in complete surprise, bumped fists with him, and said, “That’s new.”
“Trying it out. Feels okay to me. Says ‘us.’ But maybe it’s just me? So, a thing or not a thing?”
“It’s us,” Jack decided because he hadn’t hesitated one iota to bump fists. “It’s a thing. Whether it’s our thing depends on remembering to do it often enough that it becomes Our Thing.” He turned to go, Daniel turned to go, and each man was smiling.
Daniel kept changing his shirt and trousers based solely on whether or not he cared if soy sauce was spilled on them. In the end, he went for something dark and chose a dark blue-grey, long-sleeved button-down with black jeans that were just loose enough to accommodate a big dinner. He finished with his Nike’s.
He heard the short, sharp honk of Jack’s truck, grabbed his keys, and then paused at the door. He eyed the prescription bottle on the kitchen table, then went over, opened the bottle, and removed a tablet, which he then stuffed into the back pocket of his jeans. Just in case. Though he wasn’t sure anything should happen tonight. Date number two. He had calmed down considerably since getting the script filled as if having it but not needing it was what he’d wanted all along. Or at least, what he hoped would be the case.
Daniel left his apartment and walked down the three flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator. Nerves. The best way to counteract them was physical activity. And then his mind started to go in the direction of the best kind of physical activity and shut his brain off. Stop thinking.
Getting in the truck, he saw that Jack had dressed somewhat the same, only he wore a short-sleeved jade green shirt and dark blue jeans along with the high-top Adidas he sometimes wore. He looked good enough to . . . Daniel cleared his throat and berated himself again. “You look nice,” he said, then thought it sounded silly since Jack wasn’t wearing anything out of the ordinary. “Um, never mind.”
“Ditto, and ditto,” Jack grinned and pulled out of the lot to head for the restaurant. After a quiet mile or so, he asked, “So aside from getting embarrassed by Teal’c, how’d the workout go?”
“He said I’m ‘getting there’” Daniel said with an eyeroll and an air quote. “It’s as if a compliment would be discouraging.” He paused, then both men said, “Teal’c,” at the same time, which was both rebuke and praise at the same time.
Daniel fidgeted a bit as a crease in the seat of his jeans began to pinch some hairs. He growled under his breath and pulled at his crotch. It did nothing so he had to turn sideways and pull down. It did the trick and the nasty hair pulling stopped. Beside him, Jack began to laugh.
“What?” Daniel asked, wondering if Jack was laughing at him or the situation.
“Nothing,” Jack said, waving a hand, and adopting a sober expression. But it didn’t stick. He burst out laughing and the only thing that put a damper on it was having to break hard when an asshole cut them off. He still chuckled afterward though. “Sorry, but it’s just . . .” He continued to chuckle. “It was just so normal. And it reminded me of that time on Abydos when one Skaara’s mates stuck one of those cactus burrs on his pillow seat during that evening feast, remember?”
Daniel smiled. “Yeah. He was hopping about and ended up going into Sha’re’s wardrobe to take his pants off to remove it. Everyone was in fits of laughter. And I was relieved because not long before that they were all making fun of me for doing women’s chores.” His smile faded slightly and he stared out the side window.
“What?” Jack asked. Daniel shook his head. “What?” Jack pressed.
“It . . . look, I’m sorry. I just ruined a perfectly good laugh fest.”
“You didn’t. What?”
“I was just . . . it just reminded me of how complex my emotions were while I was on Abydos. I’m a scientist. I study the past. I love to unravel puzzles. I wanted to learn all about the Abydonian history, their lives, how they did things, to study their lingual shifts from the ancient Egyptian here to how it transformed on Abydos. And it took a while for them to accept that I’m intolerant of slavery.”
Jack’s eyes widened. “They have slavery? I never saw any slaves.”
Daniel winced. “Because it’s part of who they are and those who’re slaves are so accepting of it because they’re not treated badly, on par with all forms of slavery you and I have seen or read about. It’s similar to a caste system, which they also have according to what family you’re born in. It took me a while to accept it, though I never really did. I tolerated it because I had no say in their politics. I only taught them how to use the weapons left behind.”
Jack frowned. “How did you know how to do that? I thought you hated guns.”
“I don’t hate them,” Daniel said. “I think they’re unnecessary in certain situations. Most situations. That’s not the same thing as being unknowledgeable. When you’re at a dig site in hostile territory, it pays to know how to handle a weapon because we can’t afford to hire guards and it’s not in the grant money anyway. Everything’s allocated . . .” He sensed Glazed Eyes territory and skipped the lecture. “Anyway. It’s why I didn’t need to train long on the SGC range to qualify my sidearm or P90.”
“Okay. Back to Abydos. I get the sense you were heading toward a point.”
Daniel nodded as they came to a red light. He chewed at his lip as he thought and suddenly his attention focused on a Dairy Queen. “Hey, Jack? How about we skip the teriyaki and sushi and get some DQ?”
Jack smiled at him. “A man after my own heart. A down-home date. I like it.” When the light turned green, he moved to the right lane and turned into the entrance to DQ. “Drive Thru?”
“Yeah. We can go to a park instead?”
“Done deal. So let’s figure out what to eat, then decide on a park.”
“The menu is easy.” Then they both said, “A1 Stackburgers.” Plus fries, onion rings, soft serve, a blizzard, two cokes, and a slushie. Daniel added the last one because he liked sipping on it after he was full. The same for Jack, only with a blizzard.
“Now for the park,” Jack said as they waited on the food.
It was Thursday, a week after the talk with Janet. “It’s evening,” Daniel said, looking at his watch. “Quail Park is still open, I think.”
Jack frowned. “Yeah, and no guarantee a picnic table will be open. It’s dinner time.” It was his turn to chew at his lip. “Tell you what. Let’s go to that spot on the watchtower drive, where the farthest terminal is to Cheyenne. You know, that outpost with the little-known access tunnel? They have that small lot that gives a great view of the valley.”
Daniel nodded just as the DQ window opened and the clerk handed them their food. “Sounds good.” Jack was handed his credit card and he set it on the dash before moving out to give the people behind them their chance to get their food. He pulled out his wallet and held it out to Daniel. “Put my card back in there, wouldja?”
“Sure.” Daniel knew where it went. They’d done this dance many times.
Jack drove toward the main highway that led to the other side of NORAD. He snacked on fries as they went. Daniel didn’t wait to inhale the soft serve cone and groaned at the first mouthful of vanilla ice cream. He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds as the ice cold did its thing on the roof of his mouth, but it didn’t cause the blinding ice cream headache, thankfully. The weather was too warm.
“Good?” Jack asked, looking over and grinning. He reached over, and with his thumb swiped at the small bit of ice cream at the corner of Daniel’s mouth. He then sucked off the cream.
Daniel’s eyes widened slightly and he felt a slow build of heat that went from his face straight to his groin. There was a faint stirring there but it was merely an emotional reaction. He grinned and said, “That’s something you wouldn’t have done a month or more ago,” Daniel said, eating his ice cream more neatly so that Jack could pay attention to the road.
“Two months or more,” Jack corrected. “A month ago I was going out of my head because you were in lockup.”
Daniel paused and gave him a look.
“Just . . . thanks, you know?”
Jack rolled his hand in a ‘hurry it up’ gesture.
“Right,” Daniel said. And suddenly, he was at a loss for words. “Nothing else to say, actually.” He concentrated on his ice cream as Jack turned the truck onto the back road that led to the overlook. As soon as he parked and shut off the engine, Daniel handed out the food and much of it went on the dash.
They dug into their fast food dinner and watched as the sun lowered enough that the truck’s visors had to be flipped down. It was quiet, and birds and crickets began their evening song, filtering through the open windows. It was peaceful and neither man wanted to break the silence. When the meal was nearly over and they were down to snacking on the remaining fries and what was left of their drinks, Daniel wanted to air what was on his mind. He’d been thinking of how to do it for a while and wondered if he should wait until they were at Jack’s.
“I’ve been wondering—” he began.
At the same time, Jack said, “We should probably talk—”
They stopped and grinned a little. “Go first,” Jack said with a wave of his hand.
“Not doing that. Go.”
Daniel nodded slightly and took a steadying breath. “The, uh . . . last time . . .” He paused, unsure of how to put it. “When’s the last time you were with a guy? Mine was eight years ago. And I bring it up because, well, we’re not, I mean, ready. I mean, used to it. There’s a bit of physical . . .” He grimaced. “I’m a linguist and I can’t talk.”
Jack started up the truck. “Let’s finish this conversation in a more comfortable setting.”
“Your house?” Daniel asked.
They were quiet all the way there.
Daniel felt both giddy and apprehensive. There wasn’t exactly a lot to discuss. Having sex with a guy was only marginally different than with a woman, prep-wise. While he wasn’t used to getting anal in a long while, it still wouldn’t be a problem because he wasn’t a virgin. Once the hormones got going, everything would be easy, and his body would be both relaxed and tense at the same time. But there were the other things he and Jack would do before and during and . . . Daniel stopped thinking about it until the truck was parked in the driveway.
Jack felt a bit nervous. A lot nervous. Hell, he was ready and wanted Daniel so badly that there was a strange metallic taste at the back of his mouth. He wasn’t a bottom, so there was no problem with prep, but it had been a while since he’d stroked, tasted, and felt. He was pretty sure that Daniel was a bigger bundle of nerves than he was because of the impotence. But his own nerves were just as fraught with tension because he simply didn’t want to mess this up. Their First Time.
Daniel followed Jack into the house and because he felt he should’ve been at half-mast by now, he slipped the pill into his mouth and emptied what was left of the slushie to swallow it down. He followed Jack into the kitchen and emptied the ice into the sink before putting the cup and straw into the trash. He watched Jack set their leftovers on the counter and felt the palms of his hands itch.
“Dessert,” he said softly, thinking of what was truly dessert in this situation.
“What’s that?” Jack asked, needlessly opening the fridge, then closing it.
Daniel met his gaze, looked away, then met it again. “I suppose ice cream was the dessert and . . . and I’m rambling. Where to? Living room or um, bedroom?” He then rolled his eyes at himself. “For cryin’ out loud,” he said, his hands lifting and falling. “Why in the hell am I nervous?”
“The same reason I am,” Jack said, reaching out and taking Daniel’s hand. He backed out of the kitchen, leading Daniel into the hall. He kept walking backward as he talked. “We don’t want to mess this up and we’re afraid we’re not good at this part of a relationship. Which is stupid because we had no problem with sex with our exes.”
“I guess so,” Daniel said.
They reached the bedroom doorway, then they were past it. Jack took a deep breath, pulled Daniel to him, and then slid his fingers around Daniel’s neck, tilted his head slightly, and brought their lips together in a soft kiss. Daniel laid his palms flat against Jack’s chest, felt the heat of his body, and parted his lips. Jack parted his. Then their tongues sought each other and their lips pressed firmly together. Jack thought Daniel tasted sweet; Daniel thought Jack tasted savory and masculine, and each man groaned at the same time.
Then fingers began to seek out buttons and zippers and their shirts fell to the floor while their opened jeans waited to follow. Jack slid his hands into the back of Daniel’s jeans and pushed them down, down, down. Daniel followed his lead and both awkwardly stepped out of them, breaking the kiss to do so. Jack took Daniel’s hand once more and led him to the side of the bed. Daniel pulled his hand away and took hold of the waistband of Jack’s boxer briefs and there came a pause. He stared into Jack’s eyes and felt his mouth water.
“I’m going to . . .” he began but paused because Jack’s hands were inside his own boxer brief waistband. Then Jack moved his right hand and slid it to the front, then down. Slowly. And he smiled as his fingers touched the hardening flesh of Daniel’s growing cock.
“Thank god,” Daniel breathed and mirrored Jack’s gestures—of fingers sliding over the cloth-covered erection that quickly grew strained against the fabric. Together, they slid their briefs over the buttocks, and then singly, each stepped out of his own underwear.
Bare now, with only a bit of awkwardness and hesitation. Jack then paused, opened the bedside table’s drawer, and withdrew a bottle of lube and a packet of three condoms. “Do we use these?” he asked as he tossed the lube onto the righthand pillow of his king-sized bed.
“I’m willing to skip that step if you are,” Daniel said. “It’s not like we’ve got a bevy of partners to worry about.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jack said, tossing the condoms back into the drawer. “There’s something to be said for sliding a condom on using only your mouth.”
Daniel let out a short breath that was part lust and part laugh. “Without. I need to taste you, not the silicone.”
“Ditto,” Jack said, then looked down Daniel’s body and took his hips in hand as he pressed their standing cocks together. “A lot of tasting, rubbing, sliding, sucking—”
Daniel abruptly wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and kissed him hard. He felt Jack’s arms slide around him and turn them both while dropping down on the bed. It jostled their lips apart momentarily and Daniel sucked in a breath as Jack moved his lips from his mouth to the skin of his throat, then downward. The wetness of his tongue slid over nipple and muscle until he then between his legs. His mouth dropped open as Jack licked down the length of his cock, then took him inside and began to suck. Daniel felt the orgasm warning and hissed, pulling Jack off of him.
“Wait, wait, I’ll come too soon.”
Jack smiled, mouth hovering over his cock. “At least the plumbing is working.”
“Ha. How do you think you’ll do?” he asked, pulling Jack up his body and then turning them over so that it was Daniel’s turn to slide down his body and take him into his mouth.
The fire Daniel caused sped down Jack’s back and into his balls, which instantly tightened in response to the feel of Daniel’s mouth on his cock. “Jesus,” he said, pulling away. “You’re right. Let’s save it for the second dessert.”
“Second?” Daniel grinned, but it faded slightly as he licked his lips and grabbed the bottle of lube. “How long have you had this?” he asked, as the bottle was about eighty percent full.
“Not long,” Jack said, taking it from him. “Prep or no prep?” he asked, “Other than the usual needed for easy entry and—”
“Oh Jesus, Jack, just . . .” He took the bottle back and maneuvered himself so that he straddled Jack’s legs. Pouring some lube onto his right hand, he then slid it over Jack’s cock and began to massage him lightly. Jack grabbed hold of his hand to still his motion and took some of the lube to apply it onto Daniel’s cock, then over his balls. Daniel groaned and shifted his hips, making Jack grab them and swiftly turn them over.
“On your back or your belly?” Jack asked, taking the bottle and pouring more of the translucent gel onto his fingers.
“Like I am,” Daniel said, lying on his back. He turned a bit so that his head was on the pillow and then spread his legs, knees bent.
Jack settled his body over him, careful of his weight. Not because it would bother Daniel but because the moment he felt his groin in contact with Daniel’s, some actual thinking might leave his brain. He reached down and slid the lube over Daniel’s balls and anus, and was promptly rewarded with a jerk of Daniel’s hips and the clench of muscles. He stared up into his eyes, marveling at their blue color for an instant before he slid his middle finger past the sphincter. Daniel sucked in a breath and spread his legs wider, pulling his knees up to give Jack more room. Jack kissed him softly, then harder as he slid his finger in and out. Then suddenly Daniel gasped, breaking the kiss, and pulled his hand away.
Jack obliged, re-slicking his cock with more lube before he positioned himself fully over Daniel, raised a bit, then locked their eyes together as he slowly slid home.
Daniel felt overwhelmed and loved it. Jack was inside him and he felt damn good. He knew he’d orgasm soon but it didn’t matter. They could do it again. And again. And there’d be more tasting and sucking to do until they fully knew each other. It would be glorious.
Unknowingly, Jack fully agreed. He increased his speed, but only slightly, preferring to draw this out, but Daniel’s responses to him, the sheer sound of his gasps and moans would bring this first time to a swift end. But that was okay. They could go on and on. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Then Jack was brought out of his thoughts by the response of his own body to Daniel’s.
“Jack,” Daniel gasped, eyes wide. “Oh my god!” He spread wide and looked down to watch Jack move in and out of him and demanded, “Harder!” Jack moved to oblige and Daniel heaved several hard breaths before he grabbed the headboard and threw his head back, squashing the pillow as he screamed out his pleasure.
Jack grabbed his hands, laced their fingers together, and pinned them over Daniel’s head as he seized his mouth for a deep, hungry kiss while he pistoned rapidly, groaning and breaking the kiss as his own orgasm hit him.
They rocked together through the convulsions, blinded from every external sound because only the feel of each other mattered. The afterglow went on for a while as Daniel turned them both on their sides. He groaned as Jack’s cock slid from him but then his eyes closed. Jack pressed their foreheads together and dozed.
Sometime later, Daniel said, “I don’t know what the hell I was so worried about.”
“Post-coital bliss is like that,” Jack said and pinched Daniel’s chin lightly as he kissed him.
“Let’s get a shower. Then sleep.”
Daniel nodded. “But first, let’s fix the bed. The next time, we put towels down. Wet spots are horrible.”
Jack groaned. “I’ll put towels down over it, then change the bedding tomorrow. Right now, I just want to get clean and sleep.” He sounded guarded.
“Ah,” Daniel said, frowning down at him as he sat up. “Should I take off then?”
“What?” Jack asked, opening his eyes wide. “What?” he repeated and sat up. “Wha’’re you talking about?”
“You just got that tone in your voice that I always interpret as ‘Leave me alone, I’m done talking.’”
“I did?” Jack asked. Daniel nodded with a shrug. “It’s not what I meant at all. I included you in that statement. Let’s go get clean and sleep. So you’re staying right here.”
Daniel leaned over and kissed him. “We have a lot to learn about communication.”
Jack cupped Daniel’s cheek with his hand. “A rather steep learning curve. We’re new. Bound to be hiccups since our normal conversations can get a little complicated because we’re not on the same page.”
Daniel placed his hand over Jack’s. “I know. We’ll work it out or kill each other.” He added an impish grin.
“Oh pshaw,” Jack grinned back.
“You can’t say pshaw to that,” Daniel said, laughing.
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t.”
They grinned wider. “Shower, bed, sleep,” Jack said in a Neanderthal grunt.
“Charmer,” Daniel laughed. He got to the shower first, which only made Jack join him. Another first.
Yes, this would work out just fine.