Daniel dragged two containers back onto the F.R.E.D.
“What’re you doing?” Jack asked from across the central pavilion that stood adjacent to the Light Room.
“I’m using the FRED to take the bedding supplies to the rooms. I’m not camping out in this central . . . gateroom . . . for the next three weeks.”
“Right. Which ones?”
Daniel blinked. “I don’t know. I figured I’d pick mine, drop stuff off, then let you guys do the same. We have bedding and air mattresses to set up, but we need a lot more generators so we can keep the mattresses full of air. Five rooms, five mattresses. Loran shouldn’t keep sleeping on the floor when we have a bed for him to use.”
“So, there are nine rooms all around us. Which one are you using?”
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t looked at all of them.”
“Unnecessary. They’re all the same. They look like Loran’s room, only empty. They also have these stupid things in them.” He back-kicked the pillar behind him.
“Have you checked out the second floor?”
“Yep, did my typical recon. No rooms up there. It’s an open space filled with pillars. No clue what they used it for.”
Daniel nodded. “I’ll probably figure that out during the time we’re here.”
“Probably.” Jack walked closer and lowered his voice. “Why haven’t you talked to me about what happened?”
“Maybe when we have the personal time?” Daniel said vaguely.
“Daniel, we’ve got nothing but personal time for the next three weeks.”
“Not quite true,” Daniel said slowly, eyeing Jack meaningfully. Jack’s eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to argue but Daniel cut him off. “And to answer your question more precisely, you’ve been busy playing surrogate father. I wasn’t about to interrupt.”
“Oh,” Jack said, feeling awkward. He had been spending most of his time talking to the kid, telling him about Earth.
“Fair warning,” Daniel went on. “I think he’s latched onto you.” Jack looked ready to argue again. “Not that that’s a bad thing, Jack. Just giving you a head’s up. You won’t be able to adopt him, given our jobs—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jack snapped, eyes wide. “Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?”
Daniel smiled faintly. “I watch. I see.”
“Make sense soon,” Jack growled.
“You like the kid. And he’s a good kid if quite a bit traumatized and suffering from PTSD—”
“So help me, Daniel, if you don’t come to a point . . .”
“I’m afraid I’m losing you,” Daniel said very quietly, trying to keep their eyes locked on each other instead of elsewhere. Jack stared back, but he looked down at the floor.
“Funny, since I damn near lost you.”
Daniel sighed heavily. “We have stuff to talk about, not the least of which is me thanking you for saving my life, twice—”
Jack waved an airy hand. “That doesn’t mean I need a thank you from y—”
“—and a big apology from me for making that even necess—”
“—ou and wait, what? Since when do you need to apologize?”
“Are we having the talk right now, here? I mean, I know I brought it up—my fear of losing you.” Daniel looked around. Sam was in the Light Room, configuring schematics to take home. It would take her a while. Loran was with Teal’c while their Jaffa friend set up a surveillance system around the building so that too would take a while.
Jack sighed and sat down on the top platform step the stargate sat upon. He ran a hand through his hair, scratching his scalp. Daniel sat down beside him.
“Why do you feel the need to apologize?” Jack asked.
They’d already spent one night in the Goa’uld Opium Den. Daniel hadn’t been able to sleep so he’d seen Jack startle himself awake from a nightmare. He figured that Jack was in for at least a week’s worth of night terrors. Hence the need to apologize.
“Because of the stress of finding me out on my balcony ready to jump. Nightmares.”
Jack’s cheek twitched in a mild grimace. “Yeah, but that . . .” He shook his head.
“What?” Sam asked, startled. “You were suicidal?”
Daniel grimaced. Apparently he needed to redefine “a while.”
“He damn near died. Twice,” Jack told Carter.
Daniel sighed. He was about to spit out the automatic denial of “No Big Deal” except it really was. He just didn’t like the attention. He felt . . .
“Twice?” Sam asked, clearly horrified.
“He’d been acting like an asshole and Hammond sent him home,” Jack said and gave Daniel an apologetic look. “When Daniel didn’t show up for the mission prep, Hammond sent me to fetch him. We had no idea that his argumentative behavior was because of that damn machine.” He and Carter exchanged embarrassed looks when recalling their own argument on the beach.
“So while they were busy being justifiably pissed off at me,” Daniel rattled off, unknowingly sounding dismissive, “I was out on my apartment’s balcony.”
“Oh my god,” Sam said just as Teal’c and Loran returned.
Daniel rolled his eyes at himself, thinking “a while.” Sam and Jack stared at him in shock, having no idea why he’d rolled his eyes.
Meanwhile, Teal’c’s brow went up when he looked at Jack. Jack grimaced and said, “I forgot to mention that Daniel had nearly committed suicide back on the planet.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, a warning look in his face.
“Okay, well . . .” Jack looked at Carter and Teal’c, then Daniel. “Anyway. He was out on the balcony—standing on the outside of the railing—and I asked him to come in but he was in despair about something, I didn’t quite get all of it. I was too busy trying to figure out what the hell was the matter because . . .”
Jack paused and focused solely on Daniel as he spoke.
“That’s happened to me once before. I walked in on a friend intending to jump out a window, and even though I tried to help, my very presence kicked off his jump. He thought I was going to stop him. So when I found Daniel like that . . . I hesitated. I didn’t know what the hell to say. I was afraid to lunge for him, to keep him from jumping, because that’s what set it off last time.”
“What stopped me?” Daniel asked, his tone dull.
“I dunno,” Jack sighed. “Maybe you recognized my voice. You suddenly came back to yourself. I got you back inside and on the way to my truck, you collapsed. After I got you to the infirmary, I left for the planet, then came back. That’s when I started getting withdrawal symptoms. I got a bit testy with Fraiser, followed by headaches and fever. Then you flatlined and I carried you back here.”
Jack took in the look of horror on Sam’s face, the stony stoicism of Teal’c’s expression, and Daniel’s shocked face, to realize that none of them had known about the collapse and near-suicide. It was one thing to know what happened to Lieutenant Barber and his team but to talk about one of their own was another case entirely.
“You had a nightmare last night,” Daniel said softly. “That’s why I was apologizing. I think my near-suicide kicked it off.”
Jack’s face darkened, partly from embarrassment. “Thanks, but unnecessary. I’ll deal with it, don’t worry.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You have nightmares,” Loran said, staring at Jack.
Jack looked back at him, understanding the realization on Loran’s face. “You too?”
Loran nodded. “About my parents.”
Jack pushed himself to his feet. “Well, we’ve got plenty of time to get that all sorted out. Now, come help an old man with room assignments.” He took the remote to the F.R.E.D. from Daniel.
Daniel snorted through another eyeroll. He let Jack and Loran take over the duties he had planned and instead focused on opening another crate that held some of the items from his office. He’d planned on setting up a makeshift office in one of the gateroom’s many alcoves.
“I’m sorry,” Sam said as she came over. “Do you have any memory of it?”
Daniel sidestepped the near-suicide. “I guess it’ll show up in my own nightmares.”
She sighed and nodded. “What’re you doing?” He explained. “Sounds good. I need my own lab set up, and I figure the Light Room is big enough for that.” She grabbed the handle of one of the crates that had wheels and set off. It distracted Daniel enough to wonder why his own crate didn’t have wheels. Typical. He began to bitch about it internally when Teal’c walked up, watching him move around the crate, doing absolutely nothing. Daniel suddenly didn’t feel like working. He gave Teal’c a half-smile. “What’s up?”
“I have seen and dealt with suicide when I was growing up, then training with Jaffa, and finally when I was working for Apophis.”
Daniel sat on the edge of his crate. “I imagine that must’ve been extremely difficult.”
“We Jaffa are trained to ignore our intimate feelings. We do not share them. It is considered taboo. To discuss it creates a great deal of . . .”
“Dysfunction and ignorance about PTSD,” Daniel stated. Teal’c nodded. “It’s inevitable. It’s also destabilizing and destructive. We didn’t even have a term for it until after the Vietnam war. The soldiers who returned from the second world war and the Korean war had a great deal of PTSD but they were forced to bear that burden alone. Society had not yet accepted the fact that it was normal to experience what they termed battle fatigue. Before the official diagnosis of PTSD, suicide rates were high. Some of the deaths weren’t singular. They took people with them, usually families.”
“PTSD,” Teal’c said.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.” Teal’c frowned. “Sorry. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But trauma, as it is defined, is an injury, not a psychiatric condition. So it’s been reclassified as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But since people first learned it as PTSD, that’s what’ll stick.”
“The syndrome,” Teal’c stated. “It will be difficult to get all free Jaffa to admit to . . . sharing their feelings.”
Daniel smiled. Teal’c smiled back. “One day at a time, Teal’c.”
Daniel heard Jack’s voice echoing through the far hallway. “See, the mattress will be filled with air. It’ll get that done via air transfer. Here, check this out.” The noise from an air compressor built into the mattress was heard and Loran’s shout of surprise over it. Daniel grinned. But the grin soon faded. He had to answer one critical question. How did he get through the next three weeks without ever letting Jack know that he remembered everything that happened before, during, and after the near-suicide?
THREE WEEKS LATER
Daniel was picking up random bits of trash from his room when Jack surprised him. He came in behind and put his arms around him.
“Almost,” Daniel said.
“And it almost worked,” Jack said, his lips next to Daniel’s cheek.
Daniel froze. “What did?”
“You remembered. You had nightmares because of that.”
“I know. I know that you know. And?” Daniel didn’t want to discuss it. He was more interested in talking about spending the night at Jack’s. Who knew that staying close but apart for three-plus weeks would ramp up the ol’ libido?
“Not talking about the nightmares. I meant remembering the near-suicide. And I get it. But why not talk to me about it?”
“There wasn’t a need,” Daniel said softly. “We had things to do, easy distractions, like having Pancake Day and other stuff like that. It made it easier. I don’t have the nightmares anymore. I don’t think you do, either?”
“No, I don’t. Doesn’t mean they won’t crop up again.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“It’s reverse day. You being the one who doesn’t want to talk.”
Daniel squeezed Jack’s forearms and the man tightened his hold around him. “I don’t know what to say. Exactly. It isn’t just about dealing with a withdrawal symptom. It’s having my mind manipulated by that goddamn set of chemicals forced into our brains. Suicide isn’t in my personality matrix. I’ll never be capable of it, no matter the situation. Forcing it upon me makes me . . .” He turned in Jack’s arms. “Angry.” He said it with significance. “I’ll need to hit the gym when we get home. Get this anger out of my system.” He eyed Jack. “There’s something I do need to say right now though.”
“Hit me,” Jack said, looking serious, but the corner of his mouth twitched.
Daniel gave him a long-suffering look, took a breath, and said, “Thank you. For saving my life. Twice.”
Jack frowned. “You already thanked me. It was unnecessary then, it’s unnecessary now.”
“Because you don’t need to thank me,” Jack said, frowning. “For cryin’ out loud, you were an instant away from death. I had to stop you. It doesn’t require a thank you.”
“Maybe,” Daniel said stubbornly.
Jack sighed and stepped out of the embrace. “C’mon. Let’s get going. I have plans, after all.”
“Do tell,” Daniel said automatically. As Jack turned away, he caught the enigmatic smile on his face. “Oh. That.”
Everyone was running on automatic. Unpacking, cleaning, medical tests, and writing up the final mission reports.
They had returned to Earth in the morning, SGC-time, so by the time they were given the All-Clear, it was after seven p.m. It was considered a normal workday, but Hammond gave them a day’s rest anyway to get their home lives restored.
Daniel’s nerves were jangling. He walked through Jack’s front door after nine, hung up his jacket, toed off his sneakers, and headed for the man’s bedroom. He grinned when he found Jack already in bed.
“Do I classify this as eager or desperate?” he asked as got rid of his clothes, tossing them onto a chair by the smaller of the two dressers.
“Both,” Jack said and whipped the covers aside so that Daniel could more easily get in. He was more than ready, though at half-mast.
As Daniel slid in beside him, the kiss came first with a hunger they hadn’t felt in a while. The kiss continued with few interruptions as their hands refamiliarized themselves with skin and muscle. They each took the other’s cock in hand, pumping vigorously and putting aside the usual forays of licking, sucking, and general playfulness.
They had one goal in mind. After that, other tasks could be reacquired.
Daniel arranged himself under Jack, wrapping his legs around his thighs while Jack settled between his knees. They resumed stroking each other but it stopped temporarily when Daniel raised his knees and guided Jack’s cock downward. Lube was retrieved from the bedside table and it was cursory at best. The Need was bypassing the usual time they preferred to take to draw things out.
No more drawing things out. Not right now.
Jack laid over him, allowing Daniel to guide his cock.
“Wanted to do this so badly last night,” Daniel breathed.
Then Jack was gliding inside the tight heat of Daniel’s body. Daniel sucked in a breath and groaned as their mutual lust sped up fast and the desperation they’d fought to repress was released. Jack began to move his hips and once he had, there was no way he’d slow down.
Daniel couldn’t stop himself from raising his knees. “Now dammit.”
Jack grabbed his wrists and pinned them over his head.
“Yes,” Daniel breathed and tipped his head back.
Jack’s hips pounded. Their skin slapped. They closed their eyes to revel in it, then the orgasms were on the brink. They opened their eyes watch each other, intensifying the moment.
To their surprise, the intensity far exceeded prior experience. It was far better than the first time.
“Oh god!” Daniel blurted out.
“Oh yes!” Jack agreed.
It was repeated again and again until they found themselves adrift on afterglow. To their surprise, they were good to go an hour later. This time, a few refinements were in order.
Spooning in bed during the second afterglow, Daniel said, “I hate to say it . . .”
“Worth it just for this?” Jack asked.
“The time apart, not the other thing,” Daniel clarified.
“Duh,” Jack said. A quiet minute passed. “Daniel?”
“I don’t want to go through that again.”
Daniel sighed deeply and loudly. “I don’t either.”
“One more thing,” Jack said, nuzzling Daniel’s neck.
“What is it?”
“I love you. And don’t say ‘right backatcha.’ I want to hear it.”
Daniel smiled faintly. “You always hear it.”
“I love you, too.” Daniel snuffled against his neck, then rolled them over until he lay on top of him. “Now, about that sundae in the freezer . . .”
“Hasn’t anyone ever explained that the cold shrinks genitalia?”
Daniel began laughing. “I mean to eat it, not use it in place of whipped cream.”
Jack smiled, mostly because he’d finally managed to make Daniel laugh. It was good to hear.