WARNING: Major Character Death.
…two steps back…
It was hard to accept change. Hard to accept the inevitable, like time and gravity.
Hard to accept that some things were irreversible. Like a staff blast in the chest.
There was once a time when Jack considered asking Janet to dinner, but being a pseudo parent to Cassie made everything else presumptuous. And that Daniel might have objected… or something.
And speaking of Daniel. Where the hell was he? Jack ground his jaw at the sound of Daniel’s voice mail coming on instead of the ringing of his phone. Great, just great. He raised his arm to throw his phone but made a disgusted face and spoke slowly into it instead.
“Daniel, guess who. It’s me, your conscience. If you don’t get your ass down here and take me grocery shopping, I’m going to leave you.”
Click. Now he could throw it. Well, on the couch.
Jack stared at it, started to walk away, when it rang.
Mustering as much control as he could, he picked up and turned it on. “What!”
Throat clearing on the other end. “Sorry.”
“You’re two hours late, Daniel! Where the hell are you? What the hell have you been doing?”
“I’ll tell you later, but I’m five minutes away so… you don’t need to, um, leave me.”
Jack grimaced again, only this time in guilt. Just freakin’ great.
Daniel pulled up in front of the house, and leaving the engine running, jogged up to the front door just as Jack opened it, closed it, and locked it. Daniel frowned. Jack was wearing his Class B’s. Not that he didn’t look good in dark navy blue, with that open-collared white shirt, or the dark blue jacket that went with it…
Daniel cleared his throat again to get back to business. He scratched behind his ear absently and stopped when he caught himself doing it. “I thought we were going shopping?”
“What?” Jack asked, and saw Daniel staring. He looked down at himself, as if he’d forgotten his pants or something. Then it dawned. “Oh, right. I didn’t do the laundry.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “C’mon, let’s go.” Reaching the Jeep, he held the door open, received a glare for it, and another one when he tried to buckled Jack in.
“I can do it myself!” Jack growled at him.
“Yes, probably, but let me do it anyway.”
Click, and the seatbelt was in. He moved around and got in, belted, and was down the road in silence that lasted two minutes. “I’m surprised you didn’t call Sam.”
Jack’s turn to roll his eyes. “Oh, here we go. For your information, I didn’t have to. She dropped by.”
Daniel felt his stomach sour a little bit but ignored it, hoping it would go away. “And?”
“You waited anyway?”
Jack was quiet for a minute, then, “She had plans. She only stopped by to see how I was.”
Ah. Pete. Daniel took a deep breath, stomach settling, but he couldn’t help the baiting. “I’m surprised you didn’t try to convince her to change her plans.”
“For cryin’ out loud, Daniel. What the hell do I have to do to convince you I’m not jealous?” Jack was tired of this subject. He wanted to make up but Daniel just wasn’t letting him. “C’mon. I apologized.”
“I know,” Daniel relented. Yet Jack was still acting weird around him. Distant. Guilty.
“What? You don’t think I meant it?” Jack asked.
“I’m not the one who’s acting guilty, Jack.”
“I’m not acting guilty!”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Does avoiding me sound normal to you then? Is calling the Duty Sergeant to come get you in the morning instead of calling me the act of someone who’s not guilty?”
“You were busy,” Jack covered.
“Not that busy.”
“And I’m not avoiding you.”
Daniel was fed up, too. “We can’t keep doing this,” he said, turning down a side street, and not the one he was supposed to take. Jack didn’t seem to notice, either.
“No, we can’t.”
“You’re being pigheaded, and won’t admit that you want my help. You’d rather do things the hard way, and refuse to accept that I want to help.”
Jack didn’t answer because Daniel was right. And he was tired of arguing about it. But that didn’t mean he would answer. He frowned, realizing that Daniel was now driving down the alleyway behind the grocery store and pulling into the back lot where the trucks loaded.
“What are you doing, Daniel?” he asked as they parked between two large dumpsters.
“What I have to do,” Daniel answered, then put the Jeep in neutral, set the brake, and unlocked his seatbelt. He turned, unlocked Jack’s, leaned forward, grabbed him by the lapels, and kissed him, hard, pushing Jack into his seat.
Jack’s free hand went flying up, as if at gunpoint, and he contemplated pushing Daniel off him, but a few things stopped him.
One, Daniel was awfully careful of his arm, bending over him at a difficult angle just so he wouldn’t hurt him.
Two, he kissed great. And Jack had forgotten that somehow. But he let himself remember. And remember. And remember.
Daniel pulled back slowly, breathing just a little fast.
Jack took a deep breath. “Better?”
“Do you need that much guacamole dip?”
“Do dogs lick their balls?”
Daniel grimaced. “Jeez, Jack, a simple yes would’ve sufficed.” He walked ahead to get the next item on the list and Jack grinned in triumph behind his back. “And you can stop grinning at me.”
Jack glowered. “I think Oma left you with a few omniscient gifts you’re not aware of.”
“I know you. I don’t need eyes in the back of my head.” Cheddar, sour cream, cottage cheese, parmesan…mozzarella? “Are you going to eat all this in one week?” he asked, thumb indicating that part of the list.
“No, you’re gonna help,” Jack replied. He put the dairy items in the cart and walked past to grab the milk.
Daniel stared after him, eyes avoiding his ass out of ingrained habit…considering where they were…for about five minutes before halfway down the meat section. So the most inappropriate place to sneak a glance.
“Did you get the power on?” Jack asked.
“With the special billing?”
“Phone and cable?”
Daniel sighed. He didn’t even have a TV yet but Jack kept nagging about the damned cable. “Yes, Jack.”
“The sewer, the garbage?”
“Yes,” and the ‘s’ was drawn out.
“Rent paid three months in advance?”
“It’s done, Jack.”
“Will you stop worrying, please?” Daniel stressed with quiet annoyance, eyebrows highly arched. “It’s all done. I did have my own place before, you know.”
Jack couldn’t help but worry, but he also had to cover it up. “Yes, I remember, Daniel. I stored most of it.”
Daniel walked ahead, hiding his smile. “I know.”
They were down the cereal aisle when Daniel suddenly said, “She does love him, you know.”
Jack had been carefully comparing brands of instant oatmeal. He paused, then set both in the cart. “Daniel…”
“Thing is,” Daniel went on in a low, fast voice, picking up a few different brands of cereal as he spoke. “You don’t like what has to be done and neither does she. She loves Pete so this is going to be hard. She comes to you with problems, looks to you when she does something good, hides when she fucks up, she’s dependant on you and hates it. She loves you a lot and I don’t blame her one goddamn bit.” He paused, taking a breather. “You know, we were really worried about you. And face it, Jack, whether you like it or not, you’re just not that easy to let go of.” Boxes set inside, he started off, ahead of the cart again, for the end of the aisle and the granola bars.
Jack pushed the cart along and took his time reaching him, taking in the words Daniel had and hadn’t said, reading between the lines. Looking at the box of blueberry and apple breakfast bars Daniel set in the cart, Jack absently realized how much Daniel actually knew about his eating habits. He also knew Daniel’s. It was a little unnerving, even after all this time.
When Daniel started to disappear around the end of the aisle, he called after him. “Hey.” Daniel stopped and looked back expectantly, as if Jack were going to send him somewhere. Jack looked at him–stared, actually–and didn’t want to say it in a grocery store. Maybe not anywhere. “Thanks.”
Daniel blinked, looking a little shocked, then nodded. “Want some topping to go with the vanilla? We don’t have any in the cart.”
Simple. Why couldn’t they always be like that?
“Did you get the furniture picked up? The plumber over to fix that leak? Did you remember to seal up that rose bush? I can give you the number of a gardener I know and he’s really good with–“
“Jack,” Daniel said quietly, grabbing Jack’s hand as he squeezed the caramel sauce over his ice cream. He took the bottle and set it down, then without further comment, kissed him again. It was more intense this time, and his hands travelled over Jack’s ass with unerring, familiar precision. “I love you,” he whispered in his ear, “and I miss you.” Stepping back, he said more loudly. “I have it covered.”
Jack cleared his throat several times. “Just checking.”
Things on TV were annoying and Jack switched channels one after another, unable to find anything. Grabbing his phone, he hit a number.
“What’re you watching?”
Daniel wanted to talk dirty, wanted so bad to tell him the nastiest things over the phone. But they couldn’t do that anymore. “Currently, I’m watching the mating habits of spiders.”
Jack smiled. He could hear the music in the background. “If you watch that again, you’ll start quoting it in your sleep.”
“Yeah, I know. I think Teal’c is convinced that you think you’re the elf.”
“Don’t let him see me with a bow. He’ll have a heart attack.”
“Do Jaffa have heart attacks?”
“He probably will, eating our food.”
“True. Do me a favor?”
“Bring those over here and we’ll watch together. I’m dying of boredom.”
“You’ll keep me up all night and I have to go to bed in half an hour.”
“I’ll call Hammond, get you the day off.”
“Love to, but–“
“C’mon, Daniel. Please?”
There was a heavy sigh on the other end. “Well, it just so happens–“
“Great, and bring popcorn. I ran out.”
2 am. The second film was playing, the sound turned up and blaring.
Except Daniel and Jack weren’t watching it. They were still sitting on the couch, but Daniel was straddling Jack’s lap, kissing him hungrily, trying not to moan, while his bared groin rubbed against Jack’s, sending shocks of pleasure over their erections. Close, so close. It never took long anymore, which was a good thing, but they also found they were ready more often and that wasn’t. They couldn’t take the chance.
Daniel was careful, even through the desperate grinding and the bite of Jack’s ear. “Ready?” he breathed.
Jack grabbed him by the hair and pressed his lips to Daniel’s ear. “Go for it!”
Grabbing the back of the couch with one hand, Jack’s cock with the other, Daniel pumped rapidly, then sat down over it, filling his body. Worked every time. Jack bit his ear, hard, and came inside him; Daniel responded in kind and came in the washcloth Jack held around his cock as he worked him dry. They were good at it now, never making a sound.
They stayed together for several minutes. In the past, they’d sometimes dozed, but that was when Jack’s arm hadn’t been in a sling. Eventually, they’d had to part, clean up, and go back to whatever they’d been doing, and in this case, it was falling asleep in front of the TV.
It was Jack who had woken up Daniel this time. Groaning, sweating, breathing way too fast. There were no words; there never were, not until later.
Jack had already brought the water and the pain pills. One for his shoulder, one for Daniel’s migraine. He always got them after the nightmares now.
Jack sat next to him, ready to hold him if necessary. It never was. Daniel wouldn’t let him, especially now.
An hour later, they were sitting at the kitchen’s breakfast bar. Daniel always needed to eat something or he’d throw the pill back up.
“This is supposed to get easier, isn’t it?” Jack asked, head resting on his arms.
Daniel chewed quickly and chased it down with Gatorade. He finally gave a nod in agreement, then reached over and took Jack’s hand and held it. A few seconds later he dropped his head down, cheek on Jack’s hand.
Jack sighed and turned his head. “It isn’t though.”
“We just sort of need more time,” Daniel mumbled. The pill was making him sleepy now and he somehow managed to get back into his bed, aware of Jack sitting next to him until he nodded off.
He found him lying beside him several hours later. “That was risky.”
“I couldn’t leave.”
Daniel sighed and snuggled into him. “I miss her very much, Jack.”
“I know. Me, too.” Jack abruptly raised his head in alarm, then relaxed and let out the breath he’d been holding. “Is that where you were?”
A moment of silence, then, “Yeah. Sorry.”
“S’okay. I was gonna go tomorrow.” Silence and the breathing of heavy hearts. “You wanna go with?” A quiet nod answered.
In the shower, they took another risk, with Daniel carefully seeing to the sutures.
“There’s always supposed to be a reason,” he said, and sniffed loudly, both of them pretending it was sinus trouble. “But there never is, Jack. There never is.”
“No, there never is.”