Betwixt 5: Jack Rising
Summary: Post-Rising (Stargate Atlantis premiere)
Jack is floored that Daniel’s curiosity about the Ancients overrode any desire to stay with him.
Notes: Takes place just after 8’s New Order (real life series premiere was between New Order part 2 and Lockdown) — Once the story transfers to Atlantis (after 20 min or so), so begins the post-episode fic.
After typing up and emailing the report on Weir’s expedition, Jack closed his laptop. He slid it into his satchel and zipped it shut, then turned off the desk lamp, locked the middle drawer, and grabbed his keys. When he entered the outer office, where the secretary’s desk sat, he silently handed it to the Airman, who placed it in a safe beside the desk. Jack signed the clipboard, patted her on the shoulder and left. Next stop, the locker room.
As a General, the biggest change between himself and George Hammond was uniform. Jack really, really hated wearing his Class As. The cloth was too stiff to wear on a daily basis and how George had done it without any visible complaint—there wouldn’t have been around the lower ranks—was beyond Jack. And what was with that wool blend? It was as if some twit in Logistics a billion years ago had run out of the good cloth and said, “Here, use the leftover bits from the world wars,” and some bean counter in the Pentagon’s basement said, “Let’s continue to do that so we can waste money on planes that don’t fly.”
Jack changed into his civvies—he could never get himself to say ‘civilian clothes’; it just wasn’t going to happen—and as he closed his locker and stared at his name plate, it once more reminded him that he should probably move to the private locker room set aside for the Commander of the base. And again, he grimaced at the idea. It was too elitist. He liked to be in the middle of the troops. Lead, yes. Separate, no.
Looking away, his gaze passed over Daniel’s name plate and kept going. He ground his jaw, snatched up his jacket, and left. After stepping in the elevator, he hit the button for Level 11, and as the doors began to close, he saw Daniel at the far end of the corridor. The man spotted him and started to jog toward him.
He let the doors close. He didn’t want to hear his voice. He didn’t want to see his face.
Jack was mad.
. . .
He didn’t go home. Daniel had a key and he couldn’t lock him out. This is what happened when you had a relationship and got in a fight. You had nowhere to go to cool off. Nowhere comfortable. Jack’s only getaway was his cabin and he couldn’t go there, either, because Daniel could find him there, too. He had the weekend and staying at the mountain to be apprised of the Atlantis expedition was pointless until Weir found a way to send messages home. So right now, Jack’s only interest was to find some place where Daniel wasn’t.
Normally, thinking of Daniel was a good thing. The best thing. The best part of the morning, the best part of the evening. There’d be the usual relaxation and sometimes he’d cook up a great Irish meal or Daniel would whip up something he’d learned to cook in Israel or Egypt or Turkey or even Belize. Being introduced to the origins of hot cocoa had been interesting, and it didn’t include milk. Go figure.
They’d chill out on the couch, watching something on TV. On Sundays, it’d be his favorite show. There’d be amazing sex to have, too, and his family genes were blessed, so outside of injury (like his damned knees), he could have a happy sex life until the day he died. In the past, the only way Daniel could get him to stop being mad was by having sex. Jack was absolutely sure that would not be the case this time.
He spotted that hotel by the lake and without a second thought, turned and went there. He registered for the weekend because he didn’t think one night was good enough to calm down. This was a good mad. He was given a judgmental look because he had no luggage and pointedly looked away as if it didn’t bother him because, well, it didn’t. He could wander around the hotel room in a robe while they cleaned his clothes—it was that kind of hotel.
Daniel had better let him cool off. If he was as smart as Jack thought he was, he’d figure out why he was mad and not try to find him. If he ignored his intelligence and searched him out like a goddamn bloodhound, then there’d be a knock-down drag-out in the hotel room. That was a metaphor. Probably.
History should have told Daniel not to ask. It should have warned him what would happen if he did. Jack remembered that moment offworld as if it was yesterday. He remembered that moment at his house when Daniel had been trying to figure out why he’d been mad.
And the angry question was, why had he been willing to stay behind? To leave him behind?
And the angry question was this: If he was willing to leave him behind again, then what the fuck good was it to continue having their relationship?
The anger was deeper than before. Jack was hurt. And he knew that part of him was also overreacting. He didn’t like admitting either point, but there it was. No sense in avoiding the issues, just like there was no sense in avoiding the reason behind them: Daniel was willing to leave him behind.
It didn’t matter what for. What mattered was the asking, even after Weir had pointed out for the umpteenth time that it was likely a one-way trip. Maybe Daniel was optimistic about coming back home—based on zero evidence—but it was still a matter of leaving for god knows how long.
When long-distance relationships, including marriages, ended, they ended because of absence. Whoever it was that said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” clearly wanted a divorce.
. . .
Feeling oddly sexy in the plush, white hotel robe—didn’t they ever come in anything else?—Jack picked up the phone and called room service. First, pick up his clothes for cleaning and second, bring up some short ribs for dinner. Plus a few Guinness. He lay on the bed and turned on the TV, surfing channels until the pickup came and the food was delivered. This hotel room came with an odd armchair and ottoman arrangement next to the bed, but it was good for eating on. He placed the tray down on the ottoman and dug in while watching some new crime film he’d heard about but had never had a chance to go see. That crap happened on an ongoing basis while you worked at the mountain.
Just under the surface of his thoughts, his to-do list for the next day simmered. Under that, there was a minor war being waged over whether he wanted the phone to ring and have Daniel be the reason it did. Part of him wanted Daniel to try and find him. A larger part of him didn’t. It sure as hell wasn’t because he didn’t like using the phone.
Some guys hated talking on the phone when they were mad. Well, some guys hated talking on the phone period, but Jack wasn’t in either camp. He didn’t mind using one while he was mad because he could hang up on the other person. It was why he liked old-fashioned phones. They gave you two-fold satisfaction. One, the other person had a loud sound pierce their ear. Two, you got to slam that goddamn handset down and vent some anger.
The phones these days, except at the mountain—and Boy Howdy, was he exercising tremendous restraint on that goddamn red phone—had portable units, like the hotel room’s phone. Hanging up on someone simply meant a beep and dead air. But pushing that off button was nowhere near as satisfying unless you threw the handset at the wall and hoped it worked after you cooled off. And cellphones? Beep. And you couldn’t throw it. Jack had turned his off before getting in the elevator at the mountain because he didn’t trust himself not to throw it. It currently sat with his keys.
By the time midnight rolled around and he was done listening to the political jokes of Late Night, Jack made sure the door was locked, then crawled into bed and turned off the light. As he lay down, there was a very annoying pause. No sound. No partner. He was used to the settling of his water-driven heating system, overhead fan, and Daniel’s warmth. He guessed it took him nearly ten minutes to get to sleep and for him, it was a record.
After his morning shower, a knock came. Thankfully, room service with his cleaned civvies. Breakfast hadn’t been ordered yet, so the young man took it and departed. After setting the clothes on the foot of the bed, Jack considered not getting dressed but Murphy’s Law said that if he sat around in the robe, the fire alarm would go off. It wasn’t exactly rational since he’d sat around in it after he’d arrived last night, but goddamn Murphy wasn’t rational. After donning the civvies, he took advantage of the deck the room provided—for extra cost, of course—and waited for the morning meal.
It was a bright but overcast morning, even though the Weather Channel had said a warm day and clear skies. It was the Rocky Mountains. They loved those morning low-ceiling clouds that people mistook for fog and they sometimes didn’t dissipate until after eleven. Fortunately, that was not the case today and after twenty minutes or so, he had a pleasant view. He decided to eat breakfast out there, too, but instead of thinking about the weather, he read the newspaper that had come with the food.
All the while, those just-under-the-surface thoughts rose a bit higher, and when he thought about where he was and why, he allowed those thoughts to fester. The ultimate question reverberated through his brain in varying forms of the earlier question about leaving and keeping relationships.
Aside from the great sex, Jack couldn’t think of an answer that didn’t end with breaking up with the man he loved because clearly, the man didn’t love him as much as he claimed he did.
Okay. Maybe a bit melodramatic. And maybe that foundation was slipping. Did it mean he would leave the hotel, go home, have a fight, order Daniel to return the keys for his house, his cabin, and his truck. Then … what?
Kick him out of the SGC? Unprofessional.
Kick him off SG-1 and send him to SG-11 or whoever was doing the latest dig somewhere? Unprofessional. More melodrama. Juvenile. And inadvisable.
One. Carter and Teal’c would protest, demanding to know why. They already knew about the relationship. And if they pressured Jack, he’d alienate them by telling them they had to tolerate his decision and do so without complaint. Carter would go along. Teal’c wouldn’t. He didn’t have to, either. But would he be so angry with Jack that he’d leave to join Bra’tac? No. Teal’c was a grown-up, unlike himself. He didn’t run away.
Two. SG-1 would be cut down to a two-person team with no satisfactory replacement available. Whoever he stuck Carter and Teal’c with would suffer under their unreasonable—maybe—standards because they’d been spoiled by Daniel’s intelligence and intuition. So had Jack, for that matter, and everyone he saw would have an unfair hill to climb and placing them on SG-1 would be like throwing the proverbial sacrificial lamb into a pack of carnivores.
Okay then. Daniel’s still at the SGC. And he’ll have to deal with him being there. It was going to be extremely difficult and he’d be the proverbial bear with the equally-proverbial sore head whenever he had to deal with him. And then there was the inevitable spill-over onto other people.
But why go to this extreme? They weren’t perfect. They’d fought. Jack knew his own personality quirks. Issues. Problems. When he was frustrated, he would lash out at someone, and it had been, and still would be, unjustified. That someone was almost always Daniel. He was the easy target because, if Jack was honest here, Daniel would forgive him.
And now, that shoe was on the other foot. Jack had forgiven him for Heliopolis. He had to forgive him again? No. A very stubborn No. He didn’t care if it made him look immature. Which is why he needed this time to cool off. But for the sake of argument, let’s say he really was considering ending the relationship. Could he do it? Just like that?
He had no goddamn clue. He only knew that he was angry.
On Sunday, just before noon, Jack was climbing the walls at the hotel. He was bored stupid. His anger was still there, but as he’d suspected, it was cooling rapidly. Which had been the entire point of this exercise. Cool off. Then approach this problem with a modicum of rational thought and civility.
Except the question was still there. “If you really, really want to leave, knowing there’s a possibility that you’ll never see me again, then why are we in this relationship?”
Was he able to put an end to it? No. He didn’t want to. But did Daniel understand that he, apparently, did? No matter how much it hurt, Jack would have no choice but to accept it and back away. Like he had with Sara. Only this time, it wasn’t his doing. It was Daniel’s.
Fuck all this thinking. It was time to settle it all.
Jack grabbed his keys and phone, switched the latter back on, paid the tabs, and headed home.
He tested the door knob and found it locked. Daniel’s Jeep was out front, so he was home. The lock wasn’t an affront. It meant Daniel had taken security to heart. Finally. Irony abounded. Jack inserted the key and went inside. He heard movement in the kitchen. Remember, rational thought and civility. No tantrums. No accusations and … okay, there was the question and it needed asking. Like poking someone (Daniel) with a stick. How exactly was that rational?
He saw him standing there at the block, dicing up veggies for stew. The large crockpot was on the kitchen table. He could smell meat being seared in the frying pan. It already had all the seasonings and marinade, didn’t it? Smelled good. Daniel’s back was to him, but he would have heard the front door. There wasn’t noise from the TV or music from the stereo to mask its sound.
Jack walked over to the table and looked in the pot. Was he fixing his favorite because he knew they needed the all-important discussion? It was old-fashioned comfort food, and one that went with biscuits or dumplings, depending on their mood. Daniel was offering an olive branch. But was it an apology? Time to find out.
Jack tossed his keys and phone unceremoniously on the table and they made a loud, uneasy landing. Making a point. Daniel didn’t even flinch. Was that because loud noises were no longer unexpected? True, Jack did tend to toss them when he’d had a trying day. But what was he playing at, tossing them there? To tell him he was still mad without actually saying it? Whatever happened to rational thought and civility?
He went to the fridge and grabbed a Guinness, twisted off the cap, tossed it in the sink, and leaned against the counter. Between him and Daniel was that block. A five-foot by three-foot, four-foot tall island he’d bought a while back because the kitchen needed it. And because there was room.
Daniel glanced up at him as he sipped at his beer and his cheeks flushed a bit. It was Daniel-speak for “I fucked up.” Jack’s ‘mad’ backed down a notch.
“I know,” Daniel said.
“Do you?” Jack asked.
“I think so.”
“Are you sure?”
They were dancing around the issue. Daniel stopped chopping leeks, retrieved the pot, and threw them in. Seasoning followed. He never measured. Other veggies still needed peeling and chopping.
“The thing is,” Daniel began. “We risk our lives every time we go through that gate.”
Jack nodded. “Yes. And that’s called life. And you also risk getting hit by a bus if you cross the street at the wrong time. That sort of thinking goes nowhere. This is different. Like Heliopolis. There was no coming back from that one, but you wanted to stay anyway. There’s a high probability that you wouldn’t be coming back from Atlantis. And you still wanted to go. Your desire for knowledge overrode any other factor. It isn’t just about me and my fear of losing you. It’s the recklessness of it.”
Daniel frowned. “Weir and the others—”
“Don’t have a position here at the mountain that’s vitally important,” Jack said, frowning now. “You are an important part of this command, no matter what idiotic self-worth issue you have that makes you think you’re replaceable. You’re not. You’re important there. You’re important to me. Why the hell don’t you understand that?”
Daniel opened his mouth, then shut it. Jack could see his thought processes as if they were being typewritten over his head in little talk bubbles. He seemed to be at a loss for words, and probably because he had too many things to say at once.
“You were willing to leave me again,” Jack said, and his own cheeks colored a bit from the emotional weight. “It’s the second time. It’s been a while since the first, but it’s still a desire you have when something fascinating comes along.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Daniel asked, frowning.
Jack sighed. “Nothing, on its face. But Daniel, with whom were you planning on sharing whatever it was you found there?”
“I don’t …” Daniel’s brows knotted.
“You don’t see it,” Jack said, floored. “Christ. So now I have to ask the question, Daniel. Care to guess what it is?”
Daniel frowned at him as he placed diced potatoes into the pot. “Coming from you? It could be anything.”
“No, dammit. You’re not listening,” Jack said on a sigh. “You want to leave, even knowing that you may not be back. It’s not the same when SG-1 goes on missions. That’s in this galaxy. You’d be going to another galaxy. You can’t come home. I don’t mean maybe. I mean, can’t. That’s the reality you have to live with. You can make assumptions all day long but at the present time, upon going through that gate, you have no means to return home. No means to send messages. You’re trapped. They know that. Did you? And you still wanted to go anyway? Leave us all behind? Leave me behind?”
Jack watched Daniel carefully as he spoke, and it was clear that Daniel had thought of all that but it hadn’t sunk in because the dumbshit was nodding in agreement. He walked forward and grabbed Daniel’s right wrist, forcing him to look at him.
“Why are you here? Right now, with me, in this house. Why?”
Daniel swallowed and pulled his wrist gently out of Jack’s grasp. “Because we’re seeing each other and because I love you. You love me.”
“Doesn’t mean anything when you want to up and leave, Daniel. So again, why are you here?”
Daniel frowned, and it was a confused one. Did he really not understand what he’d been telling Jack when he’d asked to go? Was he even hearing him now?
Jack took a deep breath, then ground his jaw. “If we’re not equal here, then what’s the point? It looks to me like you’re just spending time here until you find an assignment that will whisk you off to some fascinating bit of knowledge and whoever you leave behind will just have to get over it. That’s me, Daniel. And it’s a fucking shitty thing to do to someone you say you love.”
Jack grabbed another beer, even though he hadn’t finished the first one, and walked out of the kitchen. Now he had to make Daniel hurt. It was going to hurt him to say it, too. But he needed to piss him off to get through that thick skull. “People left you because of that obsessive attitude, Daniel. Sooner or later, Shau’ri would have done the same.”
“That’s low,” Daniel growled in a low voice. He hadn’t moved. “And it’s not fair.”
Jack turned and looked at him through the wall gap between living room and kitchen. “No, it isn’t. And that’s the entire goddamn point.” He turned on the TV, then sat down to force himself to watch it. What he hoped would happen, did: Daniel left, slamming the door behind him. Good.
Maybe now he’d realize that their relationship wasn’t something to be taken for granted. You were committed to it or you weren’t. The proverbial ball was now in Daniel’s court. Jack had calmed down enough to know that he didn’t want their relationship to end, but Daniel was the one who’d started this miasma of emotional turmoil. It was up to him to put a stop to it.
. . .
Ten minutes passed, and the house felt as if there was a chasm opening beneath his feet. Some big, gaping wound. Jack tried not to feel bad bringing Shau’ri into it, but it wouldn’t wash. He needed Daniel to come back, so they could straighten this whole thing out. He went to his phone, called up Daniel’s number, but his thumb hovered over the send button, then moved off. He set his phone down. Daniel needed time. Hopefully, not as much as Jack had needed.
When he returned, should he apologize for going full metal jacket on the relationship? He really shouldn’t have said the bits that made things sound final. It was an old habit he thought he’d gotten rid of. The one where when something went wrong, you bailed. Or you threatened to bail. But he wasn’t twenty-four anymore so what the fuck had he been thinking? He blamed Daniel for about fifteen seconds.
He went into the kitchen and looked around. Should he finish this? Daniel had a system and Jack had no idea what went in the pot first. And was there something to be done with the gravy? Added spice or whatever? He opened the fridge to get another beer and as he retrieved it, stared at the tumbler glass of wine. Curious, he picked it up, took a sip to find out what Daniel liked about it, then grimaced in disgust and spat it out.
“Jesus Christ, Daniel!”
For five seconds, he thought that it had somehow gone bad, but as he was about to toss it in the sink, he realized that Daniel had added something to it on purpose. For stew? Yes. But for fuck’s sake, why not use a measuring cup? That would have been a good warning. The stupid shit, why …
Jack rolled his eyes at himself. Not Daniel’s fault. Some things weren’t. Hell, a lot of things weren’t. And to blame him for your own mistakes was falling back on other old habits: redirected-and-misplaced anger or guilt. He wanted their relationship. He needed it. But Daniel needed to see things beyond his obsession with knowledge. Hopefully, he’d come back later with the right frame of mind.
Jack set the wine back in the fridge, then drank half his beer to get rid of the taste. It sort of worked. He opened a box of saltines and ate a cracker. He followed that with the rest of his beer. Yep. That did the trick. If it hadn’t, there was always the leftover pickled ginger. He fished out another beer and told himself to go easier on this one. It was his fourth. He could feel the little buzz starting, which meant that it would catch up with him fast in about half an hour. The alcohol, funnily enough, changed his outlook slightly. He wanted Daniel in his arms. Was that bad or good?
There was a knock at the door and he hurried to it …
How could Jack say that about Shau’ri? And how could he think that he wanted to split up? That he wanted to leave him behind? He only wanted to be part of an expedition that had been at the forefront of his research for the last year and a half. The Ancients’ database had information that had led to Earth’s defense, and more information was probably waiting to be unearthed in Atlantis. He’d find out things out that would be useful, not only for the SGC but the Earth, and maybe their allies could …
With whom were you planning on sharing whatever it was you found there?
Jack words sunk in. They should have before this. What the hell was the matter with him?
Just because the database Jack downloaded helped them here, there was no reason to believe they’d find anything at Atlantis. He had made assumptions. He’d thought he could, what?
You mean, leave Jack holding the bag while you went off on your little treasure hunt and to hell with everyone else who needed you here?
It wasn’t the first time he’d blinded himself. In order to see wonders and learn new things, Daniel had spent his entire life chasing them down. Going through the gate to Abydos that first time had been beyond his wildest dreams. Jack had hated him then, and partly, for good reason. Daniel had made an assumption without having a single piece of evidence to support it: that there’d be glyphs ‘nearby’ to tell them how to dial home.
He was doing the exact same thing. Déjà vu all over again. But Jack was wrong. It wasn’t a repeat of Heliopolis. It was a repeat of Abydos, with a few big exceptions. One, he’d get himself trapped, not everyone else—they expected it. And two, Jack wouldn’t be with him.
The point was all about making assumptions. His optimism was an assumption. He’d taken Jack’s feelings for granted, making an assumption that he’d be okay with whatever he wanted to do.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Daniel blinked as a car horn shook him out of his introspection. He realized that he’d been sitting at the stop sign at the end of Jack’s street for … He looked at his watch. Over twenty minutes. Good grief. He made a U-turn and headed back to Jack’s. He owed the man a huge apology. He had already planned on it, which is what the meal had been about, but he hadn’t realized how deeply consumed he’d allowed himself to get. All for, what? A bone fragment? A tablet? An old papyrus? A crystal skull? Was he Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail? God, he was such an ass.
Sobering facts filled him, but one thing kept things from getting fixed on his end: Jack had used Shau’ri against him. He knew why. It still stung like a bitch. Maybe any mention of her always would? And maybe Jack was right. Examine it, Doctor. Was it the truth?
As far as he could tell, yes. He’d push her away by ‘accident’. To his shame, he’d already been doing that. In fact, the day that Jack had grabbed him and brought him home, Daniel had spent much of it, and the entire eighteen months prior, buried in that temple, discovering its secrets. The whole reason Shau’ri had kissed him the way she had was to remind him she was there. That Jack could not steal him away. Except he did. Eventually.
Daniel reached out for the door knob …
He needed his key. He pulled it out.
He hesitated again and put it back in his pocket. This was a perfect time to give Jack the opportunity to accept him back in for a talk. It was a ritual. Hell, everything was if you thought about it. He knocked.
Several long seconds later, Jack opened the door, stepping aside immediately because he apparently knew who it was. Beer in hand, he gestured with it, inviting Daniel inside.
“I’ve been sitting here hoping you’d return to finish the stew.” He’d only glanced at Daniel before turning away. He expected Daniel to follow. Normally, Daniel would have done something else first. Pee. Pick up the mail. Whatever. But today wasn’t that day. He followed. Why is he’s going on about the stew?
“I don’t know the steps. You’ve never written down the recipe.” Jack had finished the vegetables. The heat under the meat was off, which was fine. The stew gravy was on simmer. Only the water and the liquid smoke was needed.
“I’ll, uh, have to write it down,” Daniel said slowly. “I might be stuck somewhere—” He groaned. Ah, irony. He fidgeted as he stopped at the near side of the block. Jack was pointlessly looking in the freezer. Then the fridge. Then the freezer again. It was annoying and endearing at the same time. He was tempted to say something sarcastic, but he didn’t know what. Now was not the time anyway. “I …” he began, and he needed something to do, too, so he began putting everything in the pot as he spoke. “I have a major character flaw. I get tunnel-visioned. I’m like a magpie or a raven. Look, see that shiny thing? I have to go see, maybe take it home.”
He paused with the frying pan over the pot, then spooned in the meat, scraping the leavings in with it after a bit of broth was spooned in to loosen it up.
“I’m wrong about a lot of things. Being with you isn’t one of them.” He paused and went to the fridge to get the wine he’d set aside in a drinking glass. It had a bit of Worcestershire in it, which made accidentally drinking it impossible. He dumped it into the pot. After a good stir, he added the gravy stock.
“I’m an ass. I have my head up said ass sometimes. It takes someone smarter and more level-headed to curb my worst impulses and it can get so bad that I don’t even recognize when they’ve been checked.” He stirred, clasped the lid on tightly, and turned it on low. He went to the sink to wash his hands. “I’m sorry, Jack. You were right. And my answer to your question is no, I’m not willing to give up this relationship in exchange for chasing some damn bit of shiny.”
He sighed heavily, lathering up his hands.
“And now I’ve got to figure out how to get you to believe me. That when the next bit of shiny comes up, the best way to get my attention is to … get my attention. The only thing that comes to mind is grabbing me by the—”
He inhaled sharply because, from behind, Jack physically finished his suggestion.
“Yeah,” Daniel said tightly, and a little high. “That’ll do it.” Jack let him go and he strained out, “Yeah. Thanks.” Then his lover’s body was against his back and his arms were surrounding him …
As Daniel went on and on, Jack closed the fridge and leaned against it, watching him. He was still listening, but now his attention was on the way Daniel moved, and how the muscles worked—ones that weren’t developed eight years ago. He was wearing those slightly baggy cargo pants, which was okay because they hugged his ass really well.
And what the hell was he thinking? Was it the beer? No. It was Daniel. He was apologizing. And Jack felt … aroused. He was still a bit angry, but nowhere near as before and a lot less than when he’d woken up that morning. A better word for it now was aggrieved. Which was the proper state. You could discuss, not argue. And you could … He should never have told himself that bit about no sex.
Daniel was at the sink now, further apologizing and finally, getting to the gist. Plus making a suggestion that …
Jack strode over with a purpose and grabbed him firmly, but not hurtfully, by the balls. From behind. Daniel’s inhale excited him. He should back away. Right now. Keep this level-headed. He needed Daniel to know that he appreciated the apology.
But he stepped in and put his arms around him. It was supposed to stop there. He really meant it to stop there. But his hands kept going and he palmed his crotch outside his cargos. He knew his actions were inappropriate, but he didn’t want to stop. An irony.
“Is this appropriate?” Daniel asked as he leaned into him a bit.
“No,” Jack said, with a tiny smile. He pulled his hands back. “What happens now?”
“Tell me you still love me,” Daniel said quietly.
“Never stopped. Tell me you still love me back.”
“More than I did yesterday.”
Jack closed his eyes and tightened his hold as he nuzzled his neck. “What made you think you could come back? From Atlantis, I mean.”
“Hubris,” Daniel said, drying his hands on the nearby towel. He folded his arms over Jack’s. “My biggest flaw, next to channeling black birds.”
Jack shook his head. “Your biggest flaw is loving me. I’m a pain in the ass.”
“We’re well matched then, because I’m your pain in the ass.”
Jack snuffled, making Daniel raise his shoulder in a defensive movement. “I’m tipsy.”
“How’d that happen?” Daniel asked, snorting.
“The usual way.”
“Yes, but you’re usually careful.”
“I blame you.”
Another snort. “Not buying it.”
“It is you. I had to down a beer to get rid of the taste of that wine.”
Daniel barked out a laugh. “You didn’t.”
“I did. Had to eat a cracker, too. Christ, Daniel, what was in that?”
“God. I love that stuff but not in wine.”
Daniel quietly laughed. “You’re not supposed to. I was saving time, blending tastes.”
“Next time, use a measuring cup.”
“Next time, I’ll buy extra. I couldn’t use the ones you have because you put pudding in the four-cup and A1 in the one-cup.”
“Oops,” Jack said, and snuffled again. He held Daniel still while he did it some more.
“Stop that,” Daniel said, his neck irritated from the tickling by Jack’s breath. He wriggled out of his arms and meant to step away, but Jack pulled him back in, this time face to face.
“Hey,” he said, touching his forehead to Daniel’s.
“Hey,” Daniel said, returning the embrace, wrapping his arms around his waist. His hands slid halfway up his back.
“It hurt,” Jack confessed.
Daniel blushed with guilt. “I’m sorry.”
“It shouldn’t have hurt. I think I’m overreacting.”
“You’re not. And you feel what you feel. There’s no right or wrong.” He thought about that. “Well, except for using violence.”
Jack sighed on a nod. “Point is, I need you here, not chasing some dream of something that might not pan out. It isn’t a dig on the other side of Earth, you know.”
“Next time, let’s talk about it before we ignore each other for a day and a half.”
“Next time?” Jack asked. Daniel sighed. “Right. Couldn’t you just tell yourself to not follow the shiny object?”
“I could,” Daniel told him. “But to be honest, I don’t notice when these things happen. You need to be my thermometer. Tell me when I’ve gone all feverish about something.”
It was Jack’s turn to snort. “Interesting metaphor.” He slid a hand over the side of Daniel’s face and brought their lips together. It was meant to be a soft, simple kiss. But then Daniel opened his mouth and Jack fell in. Tongues tasted and molded together in an all-consuming reacquaintance.
As usual, when they kissed that way, it only amplified the desire they shared. They moved randomly, paying no mind to where they were. When Daniel’s ass hit the edge the island block, it broke their concentration, never mind the kiss. Daniel smiled against Jack’s lips and Jack smiled back. He could feel Daniel’s erection through his cargo pants easily enough and he was sure Daniel could feel his.
“Now what?” Jack asked as he caressed Daniel’s pecs through the shirt. He really had filled out in eight years. More irony. He was paying attention to the things that had been staring him in the face for a while.
Daniel looked over his shoulder. At least he’d remembered to wipe the block down a bit. Of course, he tended to do that after cutting up each vegetable. But he’d missed a stray carrot peel. Typical. He needed to—
Jack took hold of his hips and rubbed their groins together. “Stop thinking.”
“I know that look. Stop thinking.”
Daniel grinned sardonically. “What should I do instead?”
Jack pushed him back. And down. Daniel found himself lying on the block, ass and legs hanging off, and Jack took charge of his clothing and he was suddenly cool from the waist down and his dick shivered.
“What? Right here?” he asked, with more sardonic amusement.
Jack didn’t answer. He only kept his gaze on Daniel’s as he dropped his own trousers and briefs around his ankles, then tapped Daniel’s hip.
Daniel’s grin grew impish. “What’s that about?”
“Lift,” Jack said, brow raised. “Your legs. Give me access.”
Daniel kept his grin, but it didn’t match the light in his eyes as he raised his knees.
“Watch me,” Jack mouthed, and he leaned into the cargos and briefs. They were an interesting resistance. Jack kept their gazes locked, loving the moment Daniel’s expression changed when he would …
“Mmm,” Daniel replied, his lids heavy. “Reclaiming territory?” he asked in a tight, teasing smile.
Jack’s smile only reached his eyes as he pushed Daniel’s knees to his chest. “I didn’t know I’d lost it.”
“What would you call this then?” Daniel asked, but he groaned loudly at the sample strokes. It was a harsh burn, which was out of character. To their right, the bottle of olive oil still sat, and Jack poured a little over his cock and took a few more sample strokes. Daniel groaned again, but this time, it was in pleasure. “Jack? What would you call this?”
“Necessary,” Jack replied as he held Daniel’s calves and used them for leverage.
Daniel grabbed the sides of the block to keep from moving, and when Jack swiveled his hips, he growled and brought his knees to his chest. Panting through his nose, he told Jack what he needed by just the look in his eyes.
It was rough and wild and sweet, and what made it hotter were Daniel’s animalistic vocalizations. Somehow, that was sexiest thing Jack had ever heard, but he changed his mind when those sounds were more fully expressed sometime later.
After some really good stew.