The Other side
(by necessity, also longer than a MICRO fic)
Daniel entered his apartment and dropped is keys in the bowl on top of the bookshelf that separated the entryway from the living room. He shrugged out of his jacket and set it on the back of one of the dining room chairs. He paused, wondering why he’d said yes to housesitting this apartment when he clearly had no real use for it. A dining room that never saw a family sitting at it. A piano he didn’t know how to play.
Answer: he hadn’t had time to look for an apartment since he’d lost his own during the Nem kidnapping. He’d simply jumped at the offer to house sit. His own stuff decorated the apartment, but most of it was still in storage.
He felt adrift, like his belongings. Only it was grief causing the feeling, not any sense of losing his home. He’d had a breakthrough with Jack yesterday but the distance the man had put between them was so maddening that the only name for it was heartbreak. Daniel’s tried and true answer to heartbreak was work. Always work. It was tempting to sink into a maudlin depression but he couldn’t do it. He’d always been able to rebound from bad relationships . . . which were his lot in life. But instead of embracing the woe-is-me mindset, he found it distasteful in the extreme. He’d recently had the practice, though it had been about eight months since Sha’re had died. Now Jack. The only thing to do was move on.
Except it was worse with Jack because the man hadn’t had the decency to die and exit his life. Daniel immediately shook off that thought. He didn’t need to be that horrible about it. To put the whole thing into the newest cliché: it was what it was.
When he turned to fetch his gym sweats from the sofa, he froze.
Jack sat there. Daniel was immediately reminded of the dream vision Sha’re had sent him, when he’d found Jack and Kasuf in his living room. And then Jack repeated the scene almost identically.
“I let myself in.”
The exception to the dream vision was that Jack had a key. The dream Jack hadn’t.
Daniel remained frozen, tightly gripping the back of a chair for support. His mouth worked a few times without any words coming out because he was grappling with several different things to say at once. He finally chose the safest route. “What’re you doing here?”
Jack rose slowly. He was wearing jeans, a white button-down shirt, and that gorgeous brown leather jacket. He had no business looking that good. It made Daniel’s chest hurt, literally.
“I’m here to talk,” Jack said, stuffing his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.
“About what?” Daniel asked, swallowing hard. He had a few ideas about what should be said but he wasn’t going there. Jack had made it clear. They were done. Why inflict wounds by explaining?
Jack hesitated. “Got anything to drink?” he asked as walked up the steps to the dining area.
Daniel didn’t want to hear it. But he gestured at the fridge. He kept Coke, beer, and wine. Leftovers. He wouldn’t drink anything but the wine. He had the feeling it was going to be Drunk Night again. It wasn’t the right way to handle heartbreak. Just the only way. Until enough time passed.
Jack went to the fridge and looked in, grabbed a Coke. He opened a cupboard and didn’t find what he was looking for. “Where’s the Jack Daniels?” Jack asked.
“I drank it a few weeks ago,” Daniel said. “Have a beer. Take the rest with you ‘cause I won’t be drinking it.”
Code. Just go. Don’t come back.
Jack retrieved a beer, twisted the top off and flicked it into the trash. He leaned against the counter and stared at the floor.
Daniel was in no mood for head games. “What’re you doing here, Jack?”
Jack didn’t meet his gaze. “Trying to figure out how to save our friendship. How to apologize.”
“You can start by telling me what happened while you guys were gone. Then you can explain what the hell happened on Euronda and why you broke protocol when you dressed me down in front of others. Why you then picked a fight in front of Sam and Teal’c and kept it up until something made you stop.”
“Euronda first?” Jack asked.
“Fine,” Daniel said, and pulled out the end cap chair and sat down.
Jack returned to the fridge and got out the bottle of wine. He poured some into a glass and walked to the dining table. He set it calmly in front of Daniel, then sat to his left, his back to the kitchen. He took a long pull from his beer, then frowned and double-checked the label. He’d only glanced at it, assumed it was Heineken. But it was Guinness dark. He gave Daniel a look.
Daniel shrugged. “It was supposed to be a welcome home beer.” He chewed at the inside of his cheek. “So, here’s a belated welcome home, I guess.” He would have raised his glass of wine but he simply didn’t have the energy.
Jack took another pull from the bottle. He stared at the bottle again. “It’s official. I’m switching brands.”
He was stalling. Daniel hated it. But he said nothing. He waited.
“Guess one follows the other. Back on P3X-234, Carter and I were searching for edible greens. Teal’c would taste-test. Poison test, I guess you could say. There was plenty of this tropical fruit that had a yellow rind, red pulp. We thought we could make a salad.”
Daniel finally took a drink from his wine glass. A long one. He emptied half the glass. Jack frowned but didn’t interrupt his monologue with a criticism. Daniel was privately grateful.
“The greens we’d chosen, that didn’t affect Teal’c were psychedelic. Like mushrooms, I guess. We . . . got carried away. The stuff did things . . . and for a time, I thought you were there too. Then the effects wore off . . . two days later.” Jack swallowed. “Brought some back for Fraiser to check out, to make sure we didn’t slip our sanity somehow. She said they were ten times the narcotic effects of psilocybin and ecstasy combined.” He paused, drank, then started again. “We had plenty of time to get over what had happened, come to terms with it. I didn’t want to break us up. The team, I mean. We had to move on.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me all this?” Daniel asked, as a hole opened up in his stomach. His throat felt raw, as if he’d eaten broken glass.
“Because I violated my oath to do no harm.” Daniel raised a brow. “It’s not exactly the oath we take, but it’s implied in the command structure. I put Carter in a bad position and I was humiliated, embarrassed, and horrified after the fact. You can only imagine how she feels.”
Daniel kept silent. He would’ve agreed but refused to show it. It was possibly childish. He didn’t care.
“Then the Pentagon dropped a hammer on all of us: start producing profit or the program gets shut down. Hammond passed that joyful order onto me. And I was so mad, embarrassed, humiliated still from what happened between me and Carter that every time I looked at you, I just . . . got mad. The Pentagon crap only made me even more of a . . . dick.”
Daniel took a deep breath and looked away. He felt his cheeks burn and his eyes grew hot. He ordered himself not to tear up. He’d rather jump off the balcony than tear up. If he looked at Jack now, he’d lose control by hitting him.
“Like I said on Euronda at the DHD. I’m sorry.”
“That was for this incident. Not for all that shit you laid on me after you guys came home.”
His throat burned.
“Do you have any idea what it was like for me? With you possibly dead? And then you come back and act like I never mattered? Like I was a stranger? Why did you do that? No amount of guilty behavior from hallucinogenic drugs excuses that, Jack!”
Jack reached over to touch him but Daniel pulled his arm out of reach. He forced himself to meet Jack’s eyes, let him see all the emotion there, and silently dared him to say something sarcastic.
“I don’t know . . . how to handle it. How to say I fucked up.”
“You just did.”
“Now. When it’s . . . humiliating. My behavior, or lack thereof, ruined my marriage. And . . . it’s ruining us, too.” Jack paused because his throat grew tight.
“It already did,” Daniel whispered, and couldn’t say any more. He downed the wine and got up, intending to refill his glass but Jack got up and blocked his way. “Move.”
“No.” Jack grabbed his arm at the biceps and Daniel wrenched his arm away as his left hand came up, fingers closed in a white-knuckled fist. Jack reached over and closed his own fingers over the fist. “If it’ll make you feel better, go ahead.”
Daniel let out a disdained gust of air. “No, it won’t make me feel better!” he shouted. “You’ve made me hate you. I hate myself even more for putting myself in a position to be hurt!”
Daniel suddenly clapped a hand over mouth and closed his eyes. He turned away as tears formed. He forcefully breathed out a groan and sniffed hard to make the tears disappear. He hated that he’d just let Jack see his weakness.
“Jesus, Daniel, I’m . . .” Jack began as he enclosed his arms around Daniel from behind. He murmured against his right ear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to end it. I didn’t want . . . I don’t want to end it.”
Daniel spoke, and hated that tears were in his voice if not his eyes. “I worried for weeks, worried that you were dead. Then you come back and you’re distant and cold. You keep lashing out at me and I’ve done nothing wrong!”
“No, you haven’t. I’m a son of a bitch. And I don’t know how to fix it. I’m sorry. I need some help here.” He squeezed Daniel. “I mean it. Are you listening?”
Daniel didn’t say anything. He wanted to step out of Jack’s embrace but found it impossible to tear himself away. Then Jack turned him around and Daniel expected more words. Instead, Jack’s hold tightened as he leaned in and captured his mouth. It was clearly meant as a quick thing, but it transformed into something fiercely and desperately hot. The kiss encompassed a thousand words, a thousand apologies.
All Daniel could do was respond likewise. Jack’s lips were warm. His tongue beseeching. Daniel felt the heat rising and he gave into it. The need for comfort made him clutch at Jack, at his jacket, his shirt. Jack’s hands were doing the same.
Then there came a tearing sound, a hard ripping, and it changed things. It turned a simple response into a hot need. Daniel groaned. He walked backward as Jack guided him to the bedroom. Their hands fumbled at their belts, their jeans, fingers needing to feel naked skin. Jack’s kisses turned deep and devouring as he moved from his mouth to his throat and behind his ears. His hands were exploring, reuniting, refamiliarizing and Daniel’s body responded. He fell back, felt the bed beneath, spread his legs and twined them around Jack’s.
Then there was the blessed heat of him as he entered and they rocked and swayed and thrust with maddening desperation. Daniel was sure he’d yelled and cursed, demanding speed and friction and ignoring the need for release. Jack’s mouth was at his ear, breath hot and dangerous and soul-igniting.
“I love you, do you hear me? Do you hear me?”
Daniel answered but not in words. His voice was too busy with cries as his flesh seemed to merge with Jack’s as they refused to separate. They undulated in a wave of heat and then suddenly the need for hard, pounding speed hit them both and time was lost in the joy and thrill and love of it. They met their release almost together, sweat pouring off their skin, becoming sticky and cooling. All they wanted was to start again.
Lying together sort of crosswise on the bed, Jack murmured, “Do you believe me? Did you hear me?”
Daniel let out a sigh. “Yes. Now give it a rest.”
Jack smiled against his neck. “Maybe later.”
In the kitchen, Daniel put together a plate of strawberries, a bowl of sugar, and a bottle of old champagne he’d been saving for something.
In the bedroom, Jack sprawled lazily under the covers and when Daniel came in with what Sara used to call a love feast, he let out a breathy snort. “What’s this?” he asked, taking the glass of champagne offered. Daniel slid into bed, careful with the tray, then set it down. He picked up a strawberry, dredged it in sugar, then held it up.
“It’s not hallucinogenic, but it’s my way.”
“Good enough,” Jack said. “So how are we? We good?”
“Time will tell,” Daniel said, holding a strawberry.
“Daniel?” Jack said, impatient.
“Yes,” Daniel sighed. “But it’s only going to get harder. I hope you’re gonna put in some effort not to kill us both.” He bit into the strawberry and was startled when Jack leaned in and kissed the strawberry away from his mouth.