Summary: Post-Into the Fire
…ding-dong, the bitch is dead…
Jack sat on the bench in front of his locker, fiddling with his dog tags while several emotions ran through him. Predominately, fear, hatred, and revulsion. He was also feeling a large amount of gratitude for that Tok’ra woman. He never thought he’d be grateful to them for anything. One hand slowly moved from his tags to feel at the back of his neck. Normally, there’d have been a fresh scar there, but there was only a faint one-inch line.
Janet had said she supposed it had been a courtesy side-effect from the freezing technology, or something like that. He didn’t really catch all of it. What he’d wanted to know was if he could get rid of the scar because of what it represented to him… and to Daniel. Janet had told him that it wouldn’t be necessary. It wasn’t even visible unless you pulled at the skin.
“In other words, Colonel, you would have to have someone up close and personal with you in order for them to see it.” She’d then given him a barely contained grin.
Jack had arched an eyebrow at her. “Didn’t you just see it?”
“That’s different. I’m your doctor. I’m supposed to see it. Wouldn’t be doing my job otherwise.”
Jack had just grumped agreement. “So it’s faint, right?”
Janet had seemed to understand what he’d been getting at. He didn’t want traces. Touching his arm, she’d told him, “It’s faded scar tissue. No one will notice and you shouldn’t be able to feel it.”
Jack rubbed the back of his neck for the umpteenth time. No, he couldn’t feel the scar, but he kept remembering the pain of invasion. The memory of that and everything else had prompted Janet to place him on downtime for ten days, which Jack hated. He was used to pushing things aside and dealing with them later. He wanted to work, even at the mountain or help out some place else. He did not want to be home for ten days, staring at the walls, forced to do nothing but deal with his nightmares. Which Jack didn’t want to do.
There was another option, one that he was reluctant to use. He could spend those days with Daniel, who was going through his own crazy time, nightmares accompanied by the pain of healing. That staff blast he’d taken had just barely missed his femoral artery; if that had sliced open, Daniel could have bled to death in under five minutes. Jack couldn’t help but think that Daniel had just used up one of his nine lives.
Jack wanted to spend time with him, but it brought conflicting emotions: embarrassment and shame from having Daniel watch his… invasion. But there was a respect and admiration at how Daniel had handled it. He’d shut down, but afterward, even after he’d been shot, running around with Makepeace and SG-3, trying to do a job that wasn’t his in any way, shape or form. Jack had been very proud of him for maintaining control, kneeling there next to Makepeace with a gaping, bleeding thigh wound and a weapon trained at his head.
Jack knew from experience that whenever Daniel felt trapped, he lashed out. From what Sam and Makepeace had told him, he’d been concerned only about Jack and everyone else. Jack couldn’t get over how Daniel had dismissed his own pain. Jack knew, of course, that he’d been putting on a show.
Jack could do that, too; ignore his own pain, although the nightmares were harder to dismiss. The problem now lay with getting Daniel to let him spend time together. The man was currently by himself and, in Jack’s opinion, wallowing. Although he had every right to. What Jack found the most disturbing–because it was absurd–was Daniel’s distracting focus on his hair.
Of all the things to invent a crisis about, it was his hair. Jack couldn’t help but wonder at Daniel’s coping mechanisms, focusing on that instead of the other emotions the attack and kidnapping had produced.
“Why my hair? Is this some sick Goa’uld joke?” Daniel had asked, running his hands through his hair.
Teal’c had lifted that brow of his and informed Daniel that the Goa’uld were not capable of joking, and that to a snake, everyone was property. While they’d discussed it, Jack had taken the opportunity to study Daniel’s change in appearance more fully. With his face and head now uncovered, his face seemed somehow more angular, more handsome. And more than that. Open and trusting.
Sitting on the bench in locker room, Jack now wondered exactly why he’d thought of those words. Daniel had always been open and trusting, hadn’t he. So why did the haircut say it more loudly? Was it Jack’s craving for something more than the intimacy they shared? Some sort of… commitment? Jack felt they’d both been avoiding that. Partly because of Shau’re, partly because of the job. Whether he liked it or not, Jack knew that he and Daniel were overdo for a serious talk. And the idea made his stomach flutter.
Getting up, he set his things in the locker, locked it up, and left for home. On the way, he thought about stopping by Daniel’s to talk, admitting to himself that yes, he wanted more closeness. Except Jack questioned the wisdom of it. Weren’t they close enough already? Why examine it?
In the end, he decided to head straight home, and primarily because when Daniel had gone home earlier, he’d done so with the attitude that he’d wanted to be left alone. Jack felt he had to respect his wishes.
Grinning at the Simpsons on TV, Jack was pulling dinner out of the oven when a knock came at the door. He opened the door and stared in surprise at finding Daniel standing there, leaning on his cane… and wearing a bandana on his head. Ouch. Daniel also had the look of a man with too much on his mind.
When Daniel didn’t greet him, Jack went instead. “Well… hey there. Fancy seeing you here.”
“You gonna let me in?” Daniel asked abruptly.
Frowning, Jack felt the urge to return a little of the pissiness. “Give me a proper hello and I’ll consider it.”
“‘Scuse me?” Daniel asked, taken aback. He hadn’t realized how he’d been behaving till then. He wondered if he was still glowering.
“You know. Hello, hi there, hey ya, how are ya, how’s it hanging, whaddup, who’s your daddy?” He paused then, making himself smile, especially because that last one got Daniel’s mouth to turn up at the corners.
“Who’s your daddy? Is that a hello?”
Jack’s grin spread slowly. “Sometimes.”
“Somehow, it doesn’t apply to me. Um, anyway. Sorry.” He cleared his throat. “Hey.”
Jack grinned even more and stepped aside to let Daniel in, breathing in the subtle musky cologne he wore. “You hungry?” he asked, feeling he meant two different things.
Daniel didn’t answer as he hung up his jacket then paused before he followed Jack into the kitchen. He stood in the doorway, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, I guess… no, not really.”
Jack lifted the lid on the electric skillet and stirred. “That’s okay. It’s not done yet anyway.”
Daniel sniffed. “Smells good though. What’re you making?”
Jack turned down the heat and replaced the lid. “Onion soup.” Taking down two glasses from the cabinet, he filled them with ice and poured two fingers of bourbon in each.
Daniel took the one offered and immediately swallowed a large mouthful. Grimacing at the burn, he rasped, “Thanks.”
“Didn’t you say you were gonna hit that HairMasters?” Jack asked as he sat down at the dining table.
“I did,” Daniel replied, joining him.
Jack winced, feeling a sudden deja vu as he remembered a time when he’d asked Sara the same question after her return from the salon. “What I mean is, what’s with the bandana?”
Daniel made face of disgust and got up from his chair to fidget and pace. “My hair’s too short. I can’t do anything but wait until it grows out.” He turned and looked at Jack, his expression serious. “Jasmine said my hair was like Hamlet’s. Totally fucked. Cutting it more would make me look like Makepeace so I decided to pass.” He sighed and leaned back in his chair, taking a drink from his glass.
Jack threat-assessed during the silence, then reached over and pulled off Daniel’s bandana. Daniel grabbed at it but Jack tossed it under the table. “You look fine. Just a bad hair day.”
“More than a day, and dammit, I wish you hadn’t done that. I look like shit.”
Jack took in the jeans and beige sweater, shaking his head, then gazed at his face. “You look just fine, Daniel.” He reached over and threaded his fingers through the short hair… now overly gelled and sticking up in spikes. “You also look punk.”
“Punk?” Daniel asked, finding a bit of a smile. “That went out in 1990, Jack.”
“It still applies, Daniel,” Jack said, fingers still in his hair. “Bleach it and you’ll look like Spike on Buffy.”
Daniel jerked his head back, trying to get Jack to stop playing with his hair. “I will not.”
“You don’t look like him, no, but your hair does,” Jack said with a soothing grin, moving his hand to the back of Daniel’s neck, pulling him forward. “Kinda kinky, if you ask me.”
Daniel lost his smile, unable to keep up the pretense. “How can you be so calm about all of this?”
Jack absurdly felt relief at his question. So Daniel wasn’t in complete denial, after all. He brushed his thumb over Daniel’s still bruised cheek, wincing when Daniel did. “I’m far from calm about it, Daniel. I wanted to come see you earlier but I didn’t want to fight.”
“You thought we’d fight?”
“You’re in an argumentative mood, Daniel.”
“I am not!” Daniel scowled, then suddenly realized he was argumentative. He drained his glass, looking guilty. “Sorry.”
“The bitch is dead, Daniel,” Jack told him quietly. “We won this one.”
Daniel nodded and gave him a grudging smile, which faltered again. “With the help and loss of a few good people. And if it hadn’t been for that Tok’ra woman, I’d have… we’d have lost you.”
Jack sat there, dumbfounded at the blush that rose over Daniel’s cheeks at the admission. “I think you’re entitled to feel something… more. I’ve been giving that some thought today, actually.”
“So’ve I,” Daniel admitted, but he’d been thinking that he shouldn’t have allowed himself to fall in love with Jack. The snake attack had been a brutal, cold wake-up call.
“You’re regretting being together?” Jack asked, feeling his throat go dry.
“Yes,” Daniel said honestly, guilt returning. “But not because I don’t want to be anymore,” he added quickly. “The thing is, Jack, I’d have been devastated even if we hadn’t been together.”
Jack didn’t comment immediately; he picked up their glasses and refilled them, then gestured they move to living room. “It’s okay to feel that way, you know.”
Daniel set his glass on the coffee table and sat down, resting his head in his hands. After a moment, with Jack studying him carefully, he scrubbed at his scalp, messing up his hair even more.
“You think I could get away with wearing my hair like this at work?” he asked evasively.
Jack stared back at him, wondering why Daniel was avoiding the issue. “Probably not a good idea.”
Daniel groaned. “I thought so. I’m still fighting to be taken seriously and this would probably screw it up even more, wouldn’t it?”
“It’ll be fine, Daniel. Just wait till it grows out so you can get it cut properly.”
“Like yours, I suppose.”
Jack snorted. “I need a haircut, too.”
Daniel grinned and nodded. “Okay, Jack. When you get one, I’ll get one.”
Jack reached over to run his fingers through Daniel’s hair once more, but Daniel pulled away and grabbed his glass of bourbon. “Don’t.”
Jack was growing frustrated as well as concerned. He was used to Daniel talking, arguing, and now, he was going quiet and unapproachable. Jack hated it. “You wanna talk to me about it?” he finally asked him.
“Do you?” Daniel said, casting him a sideways glance as he took a sip from his glass. “I don’t think either of us is up to talking about what that bitch did.”
Jack frowned as Daniel leaned back and rested his head on the back of the sofa. Daniel wanted something or he wouldn’t have come over. Was it just company? Jack could relate to that part but Daniel was also pulling away. So what did he want? Jack suddenly felt as if the universe had turned on its ear. Here he was, ready to talk, and it was Daniel who was the one clamming up.
Sighing, Jack let things sit unspoken as he turned to the Wings channel to see what aircraft they were discussing. All the while, Jack kept waiting for the other shoe, for Daniel to suddenly start ranting. Anything was preferable to the silence. It was unnerving. After ten minutes passed, Jack got up to check on dinner, sighing heavily.
Guiltily, Daniel watched him go, then stared down into his drink. He knew Jack wanted him to talk, but Daniel felt a restlessness he couldn’t explain. What the hell was the matter with him? He wanted to talk, he really did, but he didn’t know where to start and was frankly scared out of his mind that if he started talking, he’d start reliving what Hathor had done to him.
He’d thought that coming to Jack’s would relax him, get his brain sorted out, put things in perspective. And it was doing the job to a certain extent, but Daniel was just as worried about Jack, wondering how his friend was dealing with what Hathor had done. He couldn’t shake the irrational feeling that what had happened to Jack, happened to him as well. That made no sense. He wasn’t the one who’d been snaked.
The wrong kind of shiver shot down his spine and forced Daniel to drain his glass. He got up to get another refill, finding Jack had turned off the skillet and had pulled out a tray containing two earthenware bowls. He was spooning the thick soup into the bowls and placing toasted bread on top, covering that with cheese. He glanced at Daniel as he poured himself another drink.
“Are you hungry yet?” Jack asked.
Daniel staring at him, then finally shook his head. “Not now.”
“You gotta eat,” Jack persisted, starting to feel a bit edgy. He slid the tray under the oven broiler and shut the door, setting the timer.
“I want to enjoy it, Jack. Right now, I just feel…”
Daniel blinked back at him. “I was gonna say empty but pissed is probably more accurate.”
Daniel came in and sat down beside him…with his plate. “Thanks.”
Jack nodded, and a few minutes later, pulled the tray from the oven and set the bowls down on plates. “Trust me. It’s good for what ails you.”
Taking them into the living room, Jack threw in a DVD for something more escapist and entertaining to focus their attention on. They ate in companionable silence, knowing that the monsters they each carried would have to wait to be fought.
A few hours later, neither of them had said much. Daniel watched Jack as he returned the DVD to its case and placed it back with the others under the TV. He could tell Jack was growing angry at him for remaining silent but Daniel hadn’t known what to say. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He did know. He just didn’t know where to start.
“Jack… I’m sorry for being an asshole. I know I usually talk about this stuff but–“
“It hurt like hell, Daniel.”
Jack had suddenly whispered that without turning round and Daniel blinked rapidly in reaction. The words scared him and he wasn’t sure why. “What?”
Jack turned his head toward him without looking at him. “I’m having nightmares about it. Over and over.” He finally looked at Daniel and Daniel finally saw the deep pain residing there; the haunted look that would forever stain Jack’s memories. Jack looked away and stepped over to the hearth, getting down on his knees. He began to clean out the ashes, getting ready to build a fire. Daniel went over and knelt beside him, then laid a hand on his arm.
“Would it help if I said I was, too?”
“I figured you were losing sleep,” Jack said, not looking at him as he filled the ash bucket. “You have circles.”
“So do you,” Daniel replied, then silently helped him clean the fireplace. As the kindling was put in the fireplace and lit, Jack sat back to wait for it to catch and burn. Daniel was going to say something but Jack took that moment to continue.
“It was a hot, slicing heat, the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt. Then came the horror of being trapped. I don’t remember much of anything else until that Tok’ra woman took my face in her hand and told me to hang on.” Jack suddenly reached out and mimicked the gesture on Daniel with his soot-covered fingers, smudging Daniel’s face. Daniel was startled for a moment but he didn’t flinch or move away. No matter what Jack told him, there would be no fear reflected back from his eyes. Only the ache in his heart would show.
“She told me to hang on, then it was cold, so fucking cold.” Jack dropped his hand and went silent for a few minutes, poking at the fire, adding more bits of kindling as the embers formed. “I don’t know how long I was in there. Carter figured no more than an hour. I remember feeling the heat returning and that numbing pain you get when your hands have been in snow for too long. Then I heard that goddamn machine, that fucking hand device.”
Jack cleared his throat, then continued. “I prayed that it wasn’t you as I forced myself to get the fuck out of that chamber. Then I saw Carter… and that snakey bitch. And I saw red, Daniel. That meant that if I had to, I would have killed her with my bare hands.”
Jack took a deep breath and then realized that he was crushing a piece of kindling in his hand, driving in a few splinters. He stared at it, confused for a second that he hadn’t felt it. Daniel looked on, still remaining silent, then removed the broken pieces of wood and tossed them into the fire. He gently brushed the remains from Jack’s hand, peering at the skin to find the splinters and remove them. His actions were gentle but methodical, dedicated. He felt the ache increasing in his chest and felt the blood thumping in his ears. He knew Jack wanted him to talk and he wanted that too, but…
Jack cleared his throat, forcing Daniel to look at him, to meet his gaze. “Nothing to say?”
Daniel grimaced and suddenly let Jack’s hand go, tearing his eyes away to look into the fire. Jack could see their watery look by the reflection from the small flames and though Daniel’s face seemed to be dry, his eyes also seemed to be red-rimmed, as if he’d been crying all this time. Jack suddenly thought that perhaps Daniel had been. Daniel was shut down, and except for the trivial stuff about his hair, he hadn’t said a word about what had happened, or about Hathor and her tremendous mind fuck on all of them. Jack took his face in his dirty hand again, forcing Daniel to look at him once more, but Daniel kept his eyes averted.
“Daniel?” he prompted, feeling a bit of anger again.
Daniel wouldn’t look at him. “One second, Jack,” and he pulled his face from Jack’s fingers. He had to gather his thoughts together and quickly. He wouldn’t let himself cry again, like he had after Shau’re had been taken away from him that second time. He suddenly thought about what might have happened if she hadn’t gone, what things would be like for her now, then just as quickly, dismissed the thought. It was much easier to face the ‘what ifs’ where he knew for certain what the outcome would have been. What would have happened if Jack’s snake hadn’t been forced out of him and killed by the cryogenic process. That ‘what if’ was easier to see, although somehow harder to feel.
Daniel would have been forced to kill Jack…and then he’d have killed himself for doing it. He knew as certainly as he knew the sun would shine the next day that it would have come to that. He also knew that what they had narrowly avoided was a threat they each faced every time they went through the gate. Daniel remembered how upset he’d been as he’d wondered how he would get to Jack, how he’d find the strength to kill him…and then himself. It was one thing to be forced to kill in defense, but killing Jack wouldn’t have been just a mercy killing. It would have been murder. Maybe not cold-blooded, but it would have been calculated. Daniel remembered how he’d forced himself to move on with the mission protocol first, forcing himself to run on automatic pilot, like a robot, doing whatever needed to be done.
Suddenly Jack’s hand jerked his face back to the present, startling him as he found Jack’s eyes. Jack’s worried, nearly angry, eyes. He looked away again, wrenching his face from Jack’s fingers for the third time in an almost irritated gesture.
“I watched you, Jack,” he said softly, his body becoming rigid as he spoke into the fire, using it almost as an hypnotic tool. “I saw the pain in your face and I…forced myself to shut down…in order to watch. I tried to blur what my eyes saw, but it didn’t help. Then I heard your scream,” and his voiced faded to nothing at the last word. Jack went to put his arm around him, but Daniel shook his head. “I remember thinking that I needed to find my sidearm…except I didn’t know where it would be. I was taken away and I needed to get back to you…to…to…I kept thinking, ‘It’s our time to die. We’re both dead for good this time.'”
His voice dropped below a whisper and his closed his eyes. Just when Jack was going to reach out to him again, he continued. “Then there was Makepeace and I was telling him you’d been taken…” and Daniel screwed up his face, as if to cry, but just as quickly recovered. “I ran for the gate but all the time, I kept thinking that I had to get a weapon. Then Sam was yelling my name just as that fucking explosion ripped a piece of shrapnel through my leg. Next thing I know, Makepeace is handing me a sidearm and I remember staring at it as if it were a foreign object. I needed to get back to you. Sam wanted to look for the generator operating the shields and I wanted to go with her but she told me no.”
Jack saw the pained expression of anger forming in Daniel’s face, his brows knotting together. He started to interrupt but kept his thoughts to himself. He knew if he interrupted, Daniel might stop talking. For once, Jack just wanted Daniel to keep talking…and talking. Somehow, it would keep Jack from cracking.
Daniel glanced at him, then back into the fire. “I was following Makepeace down one of the Tok’ra tunnels and I was looking for a way out of there, a way to get back to you…but the next thing I knew, I had a fucking staff weapon at my back, and then I’m getting shoved on my knees in front of the gate, and that fucking hurt.” He paused, his voice altering slightly. “Suddenly my options were gone and the only thing I could think of was hoping that Sam, wherever she was, would take care of it for me, for you. I was hoping she’d have the courage to…” and his voice then dropped below a whisper. “To kill you.”
Jack didn’t know what to say at first. The thought that all Daniel had had on his mind was ending their lives shook him hard. He expected pain and god-knows-what-else from Daniel, but not this…nor in the manner he was getting it. He expected a tirade, for Daniel to be screaming his head off about the thought of killing…about what Hathor had done…but Jack did not expect to get this soft litany of words, as if Daniel were reading from someone’s journal. He frowned, waiting, expecting Daniel to go off. He reached out and massaged the back of Daniel’s neck, trying to give him something, anything. This whole thing was surreal enough. Daniel’s behavior was even more bizarre. He’d grown used to Daniel’s silences when he was mad or upset, but this was stranger. Daniel was changing. He wanted to hug Daniel to him, to kiss away the pain and the sorrow, to have Daniel take from him as well. Instead, he just offered the touch of his hand. How lame was that?
Daniel suddenly grimaced and cleared his throat when he felt Jack’s hand around the back of his neck. He looked up at Jack, his eyes bright, almost teary. Seeing Jack sitting there, the fact that he really was sitting there, with his hand on his neck, trying to comfort him… “For as long as I live, I’ll never forget that feeling…the feeling when I saw you coming over that damn rise. Cocky as hell, bold as brass,” and Daniel gave out a shaky, almost hysterical laugh, his eyes somehow giving Jack a look of deep admiration. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I kept blinking, as if I were hallucinating. You sounded like…you…and I knew no Goa’uld could ever mimic that sarcasm, or tell awfully bad Python jokes.”
“Hey,” Jack faintly protested, smiling gently back at him, trying to get Daniel calm. He didn’t like that hysterical tinge. It reminded him of the one inside his own head.
Daniel cleared his throat. “I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that sarcasm,” and he suddenly turned away, unable to look at Jack. He felt the tears behind his eyes, felt that ache in his throat, his heart. He wanted to cry, to scream, to hit something hard, to make something hurt as bad as he did.
Jack knew what Daniel was feeling and suddenly, another deep ache filled him with the realization that Daniel would have killed himself if he’d been forced to kill him. He squeezed Daniel’s shoulder and tried to pull him toward him, to hold onto him. “I’m glad that you were willing to do that for me, Daniel. I just wish that you wouldn’t–“
“Don’t, Jack,” Daniel interrupted. He turned and looked him straight in the eye, letting Jack know how serious he was. “We made an agreement, remember? All of us. Should we ever get snaked, we make damn sure that the person doesn’t live, no matter what.”
Jack gave him an equally serious look. “Yes, Daniel, we agreed. We did not, however, agree to suicide afterward.”
Daniel shook his head and didn’t answer right away. When he finally did, he was staring back into the fire. “Listen to me, Jack. I know for a fact that I could kill you if I were forced to. I also know for a fact that I’d die soon after.”
“I almost lost you,” he whispered. “You almost lost you.” He paused, swallowing hard, then, “Jack…I love Shau’re dearly but I think…I…love you…more.”
Jack stared at him, blinking. “You…” and then went quiet for several seconds. “Well, damn,” he whispered. They were silent for several minutes as they digested.
Daniel suddenly wished he could take it back…or at least be able to crawl into the fire. It would likely hurt less. He shouldn’t have said it and he didn’t know what on Earth possessed him.
Jack had no idea what the hell to say to that one. Well, that wasn’t true. He could say it back. He knew he felt the same way and a growing part of him was screaming at him to tell that to Daniel and that damned voice was growing more insistent as the minutes passed. Suddenly Daniel sat back, off his legs, wincing at his wound, then drew his knees up carefully to his chest and dropped his forehead on them. Pressing his lips together, Jack got up, then stared down at Daniel. Daniel slowly looked up at him.
“Dammit, Daniel. I love you, too,” then Jack turned and walked away, down the hall.
Daniel frowned, unsure he’d heard what he’d heard. He stared at the dark hallway, wondering where Jack had gone. He slowly turned back to the fire, not certain he’d not heard Jack correctly…other than the ‘Dammit, Daniel’ part. He straightened out his leg gingerly, wincing at the constant reminder of what had happened to them. He laid his forehead on the one raised knee and listened to the soft crackle of the fire. He berated himself for telling Jack he loved him and should have left the suicide comment alone and let Jack think he’d convinced him that the idea was stupid. What Jack didn’t understand was that he was worth dying for and worth sacrificing oneself for. Daniel closed his eyes, deciding that when Jack returned, he’d get up and go home.
When Daniel heard Jack coming back into the living room, he slowly raised his head, pushing on his hands, preparing to get up. He was then startled as he felt something heavy hit the floor behind him. He turned and looked, finding the large sheepskin rug along with the quilt and the pillows on the floor. He carefully stood up, frowning in confusion.
“Aren’t you sleeping in your bed, Jack? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable?” he asked, absently helping Jack lay the things down on the floor in front of the fire.
“Yes, but I thought it might be more calming out here.” Jack disappeared again. Daniel heard him moving about and took that moment to go over and grab his jacket. When he came back, he’d changed into sweats and t-shirt, and tossed Daniel the same. “Daniel…hang your coat back up. Put these on.”
Daniel stood there, staring at the clothes in his hand. “I thought maybe I should be going.”
Jack paused in mid-motion as he sipped from his glass. “What for? Didn’t you just say you loved me?”
Daniel realized that he’d heard Jack correctly. “So…?”
“Well, didn’t you hear me say ‘I love you’ back?”
“I wasn’t…sure…to tell you the truth.”
Jack snorted and shook his head. “Well…I do. Now, come on. I’m tired and this seems like a good place for us right now. And if you say anything romantic, I’m smacking you one.”
Daniel frowned, though inside he was smiling in confusion. This was one hell of a way to express their feelings…now, of all damn times. Without another word, Daniel stood there in front of the door and changed into the other clothes, then laid his jeans and sweater over the back of the sofa. He limped over to Jack, who was now lying down, his hands folded underneath his head, and tried to get down next to him. Unfortunately, all that time he’d been kneeling exacerbated his leg and it was throbbing madly. Jack started to sit up to help him but Daniel shook his head as he knelt on one knee, preparing to turn.
“No, I’m fine, Jack. Just a little–” and his words were cut off as he lost his balance and dropped onto his back. Jack’s reflexes automatically shot out, catching Daniel as he’d hit the thick rug, buffering his fall. Daniel turned onto his side, looking sheepish. “Okay, so I’m not so graceful right now.”
Jack turned toward him and wrapped his arm around Daniel’s waist, pulling him against him. He gave him a soft kiss, which Daniel returned. Neither felt the need for anything else, their own traumas still keeping the fire down within them. Daniel laid his head down on Jack’s shoulder, then suddenly shivered.
Jack pulled him more firmly against him. “What?”
“You know I hate the cold, right?” Daniel asked.
“Well, now I really hate it.”
Jack snorted softly and pulled Daniel even closer. After a few long minutes of blissful silence and the beginnings of sleep, Jack turned his head, his breath snuffling the top Daniel’s hair.
“Thanks for finally talking.”
“You’re welcome,” Daniel replied against his collarbone. “I wish we could get over this one fast.”
“You and me both, Daniel.”
Jack felt comforted as Daniel stretched his arm over him, hugging him tightly.
“Thanks for wanting to…you know…but you know damn well you can’t…join me.”
Daniel mumbled, “Jack, don’t be an ass.”
Despite himself, Jack grinned.