Sequel to “Awakening”
Episode Tag: Meridian, Abyss, Fallen, Homecoming
Multi-POV: Daniel, Jack, and Narrator
Summary: By the time Daniel ‘died,’ his and Jack’s relationship had ended thanks to Daniel backing out of it. Jack responded with anger and guilt assailed them both. Now Jack wants it all forgiven and forgotten. Provided Daniel can remember. (unbetaed)
Chapter One: The Set-Up
One Year Previously …
“You’re not gonna take the fall for this. I don’t care what’s at stake,” Jack said at Daniel’s bedside.
Daniel’s brain was hot, his body drowning in blood and painkillers. Jack’s voice sounded far away.
There was an adamant tone to it, a caring one, which made no sense. They’d been arguing again before this FUBAR of a mission, and the clusterfuck with Reece. It had seemed that being on SG-1 had no good purpose anymore. As if their relationship had soured it.
They had once been friends, then lovers. They’d worked at it. Until his feelings for Sha’re mixed with Jack’s insecurity. After she had died, Daniel had pushed Jack further and further away. He hadn’t wanted to, but he had never handled grief all that well, and in turn, Jack hadn’t handled the breakup all that well. It had been a fear of rejection that had kept Daniel from admitting his true feelings to Jack. And it had been Jack’s fear of rejection that had made him lash out as if in punishment.
Even dying, Daniel felt resentment and sorrow. They couldn’t fix things and time had run out.
“Why do you care?” Daniel asked. To his ears, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth.
Jack glanced sideways in the direction of the isolation room’s camera and began fidgeting, so much so that Daniel realized he’d asked a question that had required an answer. He was about to say it was rhetorical before Jack said, “Because, despite the fact that you’ve been a terrific pain in the ass for the last five years, I may have, might have, uh, grown to admire you a little. I think.”
Anger swelled for a second, then the pain overrode it with the knowledge that such feelings were pointless. Except he couldn’t let the sarcasm go. Even now. “Now that’s touching.”
Jack seemed to have missed it. “This will not be your last act on the official record.”
Daniel suddenly found his mind floating and in a second, he was in the gateroom with her.
Four months later …
Jack didn’t really need the water. He just needed quiet. He hurt everywhere. That goddamn sarcophagus withdrawal had snuck up on him when he wasn’t looking. He heard movement. Daniel. If he could have felt the warm fuzzies, he would have. A part of him asked, ‘Why isn’t he alive?’
“I always seem to be saying goodbye to you,” Daniel said, arms crossed.
Jack wondered if Daniel knew he was still doing stuff as an alive person. Wasn’t that body posture for insecure people? Wasn’t he supposed to be all Zen and shit now?
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Jack said. Remorse was setting up shop again. “Why don’t you stick around for a while?”
“I can’t, really.”
“You just did,” Jack said. The teasing was on.
“Christmas?” he prodded. The hidden grin began.
“Groundhog Day?” he asked, grinning wider.
Daniel covered up the smile. “Nooo.”
“I’ve got my journey, you’ve got yours?” Jack asked, hiding the resentment in tone. He did such a good job, Daniel didn’t even notice.
“Something like that, yeah.”
There was something on his face, Jack thought, that made him think that Daniel was having issues as an ascended being. Typical. He was never satisfied, no matter what job position he held.
To back up the ‘aren’t you supposed to be all Zen and shit’ thought, Daniel began to speak in that long run-on-sentence tendency he’d had when alive…
“Look, I know you don’t think so right now, I mean, I know you have your doubts, but uh, because you’ve been through something that no one should have to go through… I guess what I’m trying to say is, you’re gonna be all right.”
Jack could tell that Daniel was hiding something. “How do you know?” he asked.
A slow half-hidden smile. It was Daniel’s version of ‘I know something you don’t’ smile. It had always made him mad before. Not this time. And still, the man was acting as he’d always acted. Jack guessed that being Ascended wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“You’re just gonna have to trust me,” Daniel said.
Jack didn’t even blink. “I can do that.” Except, he hadn’t, and when Daniel was alive, he hadn’t trusted Jack’s words either. Or whatever acts, plays, and thoughts he had in mind.
Daniel smiled and nodded, but it was with an air of awe. He hadn’t expected Jack to tell him that. Jack was then hit with an intuition that Daniel wanted to rant—due to a case of dissatisfaction. Again. Jack could tell something was wrong.
“You gonna be okay?”
Daniel’s eyes went a little misty. That didn’t seem possible for an ascended being. He tightened his crossed arms. Jack thought More ‘Big D’ defense.
“Yeah, I’m gonna be fine.”
Jack could’ve sworn that he was lying but he was just too tired to ask. Daniel then looked over his shoulder and as suddenly he had appeared, he vanished. Carter rounded the doorway into the darkened ward, explaining the disappearing act. Jack was filled with so many thoughts. He could only express one. He waited until Carter left.
“Thanks,” he said to the ceiling. He meant it for a lot of things, and he figured Daniel would get it.
Eleven months later…
Arrom sat on a short, hollowed log located near the edge of the only squat bluff for a hundred miles. He stared down into the small valley basin which housed the ruins of an old civilization accented with scrub-brush and maroon-colored ivy. His thoughts were filled with ever-present questions he couldn’t answer. Who was he? Why was he here? What was he supposed to do? He understood only one thing: he had the answers. Everything he knew or wanted to know was just under the surface, like a word or image he couldn’t grab. It wasn’t just frustrating. It was infuriating. They hid behind a wall, like a bit of knowledge you tried to retrieve but were refused.
He heard movement behind him and knew from the shuffling gait that it belonged to the elder, Shamda. An odd man. He liked to remind everyone how old he was by repeating long-memorized teaching sermons. It was a bit annoying after a while, but the man was harmless, and he had helped him quite a bit by focusing Arrom’s mind.
“You come here often,” Shamda said as he reached him. He stood for a moment in silence, then sat down next to him.
“You state the obvious,” Arrom said, but kindly.
Shamda grunted. “I was hoping for a different answer.”
Arrom grunted back. “I’m tired. I’m not in the mood for our usual back and forth.” He gave the old man a crooked smile. “Besides, you know why I come.”
“You are using those ‘contractions.’ You said you would not.”
“You are avoiding what I just said.”
Daniel grinned wider. Shamda returned it, but it was belied by the sadness in his eyes. “But you do not know why you sit here.”
“No,” Arrom growled. “Something in me says there’s a reason but I cannot fathom it. All I know is that the ruins fascinate me.”
“You know things,” the elder said. “But you do not know why or how. Your manner of speech is likewise curious.” Arrom nodded. “Neither of us knows why you use them. It is …”
Arrom clenched his jaw then released it. “Infuriating.”
Shamda laughed a little, nodding. “Indeed.” There was silence between them, then he said, “Something new today. The Chappa’ai has awakened.”
Arrom frowned again, this time looking at the man. “This is new. What happened?”
“Strangers come this way. You needed to know.”
“Why?” Arrom asked warily.
“You look like some of them,” the old man said as he rose. “Your light skin. But one is Jaffa.”
“You will learn.” He put a hand on Arrom’s shoulder. “Come when you are ready.”
Arrom stared at the ruins for a while as fear and excitement warred within him.
Jack was exceptionally good at hiding his true feelings. His sarcasm and inappropriate wit were a protective shield. So was his anger. At the moment, he teetered back and forth between elation and disgust.
Daniel was alive. And he had no goddamn idea who he was.
Then there was frustration because Jack had absolutely no friggin’ idea how to talk to the man. He had been tongue-tied, sitting there in the tent, spouting gibberish. All he wanted to do was take hold of the man and hug him till his ribs broke. Tell him he was sorry, ask if he was done acting like a dick. Tell him he loved him. Instead, he’d stomped out, told jokes, lost his temper again, and then, of all things, given up on him.
So what the hell had he been thinking, stocking the VIP room with mementos of Daniel’s late wife?
Rejection. And the fear of it. And remembering how Daniel had withdrawn from him, how he’d reacted, and then died.
Emotionally, Jack had just packed up and bolted from the room, leaving Daniel alone with no memories and a clear feeling of bewilderment and fear.
So who was acting the dick now? Goddammit.
Jack sighed and sat on the bench in front of his locker. He took a moment to lock all those feelings up and deal with the most immediate situation: the mission. Always, the mission.
Chapter Two: The Return
Daniel stood nervously in the corridor in front of Hammond’s door. He wasn’t sure he should be talking to the man since most of his memories of him hadn’t come back. He kept wondering, “What if we didn’t get along?” Then told himself to bite the bullet. He knocked, then opened the door when he heard “Come.”
“Sir, I’m sorry to bother—”
Hammond rose, holding his hand up to forestall Daniel’s apology. “Not at all, Doctor. C’mon in.”
Daniel came in tentatively, slowly closing the door. “Sir, that’s kinda what I’m here about. Doctor.” He didn’t sit down and just sort of hovered by the door, as if ready to be kicked out of a General’s office. His memory wasn’t back, and he didn’t know the protocols.
“I beg your pardon?” Hammond asked, and gestured at the chair before his desk.
Daniel took the seat, again hesitant. He wasn’t comfortable. Not. At. All. In a rush, he said, “Am I a doctor? I mean, I’m dead. Well, okay, obviously not, but legally-speaking, I am, so, uh, how exactly are you going to resurrect me when you had a funeral and all my stuff was, well, you know, I’ll assume there’s a death certificate and …” He paused, clearly chagrined, and grimaced. “That sounded …”
Hammond sighed. “Take a deep breath, Doctor. I’ll put your mind at ease.”
“Okay,” Daniel said, relieved.
“First, given the operational exceptions we deal with here on a daily basis, your situation can be remedied with a figuratively simple act of moving your name from one column to the other. Given that our personnel files, including medical, are deemed classified, the details of your … shall we say, descendance, can be recorded and all credentials put back on active status. Second, this isn’t the first time we’ve recorded a member of the SGC as presumed Killed in Action only to have them reappear and rescued, and thus revived from KIA status. Granted, you weren’t KIA, but it amounts to the same thing.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, feeling lame. “Well, that’s good news then,” he offered. Bite the bullet, he told himself. “Sir. Not all of my memories of you have come back. So I have no idea what our relationship was. What I mean to say is …” He looked wary. “Did we get along? I mean, I feel friendly toward you. I’m inclined to keep feeling that way. But if we had an adversarial relationship before—”
“No, we didn’t, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said, grinning a bit.
“Oh. Well, good.” Daniel wondered if this was a cue to get up and leave. He pushed forward to the edge of the chair. “Good then.”
Hammond studied him. “You seem to have something else on your mind?”
Daniel huffed out a breath. “I have a lot of things on my mind, sir. All of them are questions with no answers. None that I can give, anyway, and I’m not really inclined to ask Jack, Sam, or Teal’c personal stuff because it just doesn’t feel like I should. I don’t remember that stuff. Does that make any sense or am I overreacting?”
Hammond gave him a fatherly look. “I think you’re overreacting, but I also think you can consider it par for the course. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in your position. Not even a little. And I also think you need to speak to someone to help you through this.” Daniel’s brows rose. “I don’t mean Colonel O’Neill or Major Carter or Teal’c. You should speak with a psychologist who can help you.”
“There’s no one who could possibly foresee this situation, sir.”
“There are doctors who’re trained in helping people with amnesia,” Hammond said pointedly.
Daniel made a face. “Right.”
“If you don’t mind some advice?”
“Talk to Doctor Fraiser. She has some background. She also knows who else you could see.”
“Oh right,” Daniel said and winced. “Should’ve thought of that.”
“I’m not putting any kind of timetable on your progress, Doctor Jackson. She is your doctor, so I’ll get updated reports from her on how you’re doing and when, or if, you can come back to work.”
“If?” Daniel asked, taken aback. He grew a little worried.
“Whether you want to, is what I meant.”
“Well of course I want to,” Daniel immediately stated, then frowned in thought. “But I guess my amnesia is a huge obstacle so advisable is probably the better word.”
“Right now, you’ve got time,” Hammond said gently. “You’re on downtime until Fraiser clears you for work.” At Daniel’s raised brows, Hammond grinned. “Granted, you’ve already been working, but for now, take a deep breath.” Daniel did and Hammond’s grin widened. “And go up to S3 to get your pay and credentials. Then take the time to get yourself situated and relax. Go shopping.”
Daniel’s brows shot up as he snorted. “Really?” Hammond nodded. “S3?”
Hammond got to his feet. “Air Force speak for Base Operations. And where the Personnel department is. Also known as Admin.”
Daniel nodded as he took the cue and rose. He reached over and held out his hand. Hammond shook it. “Thank you, sir. There’s now a plan. Sort of.”
“It’s good to have you back, Doctor,” Hammond said, seeing him to the door. “Now let’s get you squared away so you can come all the way back.”
Daniel gave him a confident smile. “Yes, sir.”
Jack rubbed damp palms over his trousers, frowning as he asked himself What the Hell? With no answer available, he knocked Fraiser’s office door.
“Come,” she said.
He opened the door and began to walk in when he saw Daniel sitting on the small sofa she kept in her office and came to an abrupt halt, knocking back on his heels.
“Oh. Hey,” he said and looked back and forth between Fraiser, who was standing at one of her file cabinets. A folder in her hand was half-out, her wide brown eyes lasered on his.
“Colonel. What can I do for you?”
“I, uh,” Jack began, thumbing behind him. “I can come back lat—”
Daniel got to his feet. “I was just leaving.”
“Doctor Jackson,” Fraiser began. “This could be something that’s of interest to Colonel O’Neill.”
Daniel blinked while Jack remained in the doorway. He glanced at him, then Fraiser. “I don’t see how.” She opened her mouth, then closed it. “Because he’s the XO?” she offered. At Daniel’s puzzled look, she clarified. “Base executive officer.”
“Oh,” Daniel said. He blinked again. “Which means what?”
“Second in Command,” Jack further clarified. He looked at the base Chief Medical Officer. “Fraiser? What’s it about and I’ll tell you if I need to be informed.”
“His memory,” Fraiser said.
“Ah.” Jack leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms. Given that he’d intended to talk to her about Daniel’s memory, he felt just a bit awkward. Of course, he’d been feeling that for the last three weeks, ever since Daniel returned. He took a deep breath and everything in him said to back away and leave. Run. Except that’s what he’d been doing before Daniel died and ascended.
“Well, I think Daniel needs to see a specialist to ascertain whether he has retrograde amnesia or anterograde amnesia and whether it can be recovered with assistance.”
At Jack’s raised eyebrow, Daniel said, “Anterograde amnesia is after an injury. Retrograde is before. That means—”
Jack cut him off. Daniel had always gone into unnecessary explanations and it seemed he hadn’t lost that trait of his personality. Pity. “Retrograde is not remembering the accident or what happened just before it,” Jack said. “Antero is bits after it, like maybe surgery or gaps between periods of unconsciousness. I get it.”
“Right,” Daniel said, his face expressionless. He paused, exchanging looks with Fraiser. “Except I don’t know if what I have is an injury. If I understand it correctly, Oma or The Others enforced this amnesia. Whether that’s considered an injury, I don’t know. But perhaps it’s not permanent. Teal’c thinks Oma made it so I would eventually remember, but there’ll be gaps pertinent to life as an ascended being, to prevent The Others from killing me. I mean, the proof, as I see it, is that I don’t have full amnesia. I don’t need to relearn everything. Walking, talking, eating, et cetera.” He looked at Fraiser. “So as I was saying before Jack knocked—”
“Sorry,” Jack said.
Daniel gave a short nod of acknowledgment. “I’m not so sure I need to see anyone. This isn’t an injury. It isn’t an illness. It’s not dementia.”
Jack gave a wry grin. “I get it. You don’t want to see a shrink.”
“He wouldn’t be,” Fraiser interjected quickly. The two men raised their eyebrows. “You don’t see a psychiatrist for this sort of thing. You see a psychologist. Possibly, a psychotherapist.”
“What’s the difference?” Jack asked. “Between a psychologist and psychotherapist, I mean.”
“A psychotherapist doesn’t have to be a psychologist. They can be a regular medical doctor who’s expanded their field of practice in studying the mind.”
Daniel nodded. “Okay. But what’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? I mean, if I remember it correctly, isn’t it in terms of aberration?”
“A psychiatrist studies the abnormal mind. A psychologist studies the mind in general, and then branches into more specific areas of study, such as sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, or memory. A psychiatrist isn’t the person to see for amnesia unless the patient has a paraphilia.” Jack raised a brow. “An unhealthy or abnormal sexual fixation.” She grinned when both men looked uncomfortable. “For example, if a person’s got a shoe fetish that branches into stealing women’s shoes, or further if they kill women and cut off their feet.”
“Ew,” Jack said, making a face and waving a hand. “Not an image I wanted in my head.”
“Apologies,” Fraiser said with a sardonic grin. “But you see the difference.”
“Bottom line,” Jack said. “Who does he see for his memory? Recommendation?”
“I, uh, I’ve changed my mind,” Daniel said. “Pardon the pun.”
“What?” Fraiser asked. “I thought …” She studied Daniel carefully. “You don’t want to see anyone about recovering your memories?”
“No,” Daniel drawled. “I could just read what I need.” He pulled out the phone the General had gotten for him through the Supply department and waggled it. “I’d been about to tell you that I’ve already found a few professional sites about memory. So I think I’ll go this route instead.”
Fraiser looked non-plussed, but she shrugged. “Okay. Come back for recommendations. I still think you should see a psychologist if only to help you focus your mind.”
Daniel nodded, then, with phone still in hand, tentatively passed Jack and left the office.
After following the man with his gaze, Jack turned to Fraiser. “That was abrupt.”
Fraiser rolled her eyes. “You scared him off.”
“Did not,” Jack said, frowning.
Fraiser ignored him. “What’s up, Jack?” When he raised his military eyebrows, she tapped to the wings emblem rank on her collar. “Somebody wise decided that a CMO shouldn’t be a Lieutenant Colonel.” His brows rose even higher as his cheeks reddened from embarrassment. “Yes, I know. It was done without fanfare, which is what I wanted. Now, let me repeat. What’s up, Jack?”
His mouth twitched. “I feel like you should ask that while nibbling on a carrot.” She snorted a few giggles. “It was actually about him. Daniel’s memories.”
“You want to hurry it up by telling him,” Fraiser guessed.
Jack made a face but nodded. The expression remained as he added, “What if he doesn’t remember on his own? What if there are memories he never recovers? What if he seeks help and it doesn’t do any good?”
There was a long pause. Fraiser said, “There’s another hypothetical.”
Jack stared at her. “Which is?”
“What if he doesn’t feel the same way toward you?” she offered gently. Jack grimaced. She sat down on the sofa and patted the cushion. Once Jack relented and sat down, forward, elbows on knees. He wasn’t someone to turn to you on a couch or love seat or in chairs around a table. He felt it was too confrontational … and intimate.
“First,” she began. “Thanks for telling me about you two and all that had happened before he died.” He nodded. “Second, when he remembers, and I’m pretty certain he will … look, here’re my two cents on what will happen: he won’t reject you. He’ll reject himself.”
Jack turned his head without sitting up and gave her a confused look. “Come again?”
“He left you, remember? You didn’t leave him. You got angry and took it out on him.”
“Thanks for the recap,” Jack said dully.
She wanted to touch him but knew he’d hate it, so she emulated his position and clasped her hands, resting her elbows on her own knees. “My point is that you put yourself in his shoes and imagine getting your memory back, or part of it after something triggers it. You remember that, for whatever reason, you backed out of a partnership without explanation and hurt the person deeply.” He gave her a glower. “If you refuse to admit that he hurt you, Jack O’Neill, you shouldn’t be getting back together with him in the first place.”
Jack rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. “Yeah.” After a few seconds, he added. “Okay. I see your point.”
“That wasn’t it, actually. I had to add that in. The point is that he’s going to remember what he did. Maybe he’ll remember why. And maybe he’ll do it all over again, or maybe he’ll be a healthy grown-up and talk to you about it and apologize.”
Jack grimaced again. “Meaning that I should do the same?”
“Is that really a question?” she countered.
“Point,” he said, then offered a smile as he rose. “You’re a pretty good shrink, Doc.”
She rose too with an automatic “I’m not—”
“Just take the compliment, okay?” he said as he patted and squeezed her arm, then left.
Daniel ignored the desire to regain his memories and did something else instead: he drove the rental vehicle the Air Force had loaned him—a hybrid car called a Prius—to a few clothing stores where he’d get typical clothes and … a suit. After that, he’d make a beeline to the most progressive bank he could find in Colorado Springs: a credit union. But he didn’t want to walk into the place in jeans and a tee. Base supply had given him Air Force civvies so he wouldn’t leave the base in a uniform—he’d been told it was against Air Force protocol, even for a civilian—but he couldn’t stomach walking around in garb stamped with U.S. Air Force. He wasn’t an airman. He was a civilian. He ought to have civilian clothes.
The biggest surprise had given him his itinerary. He had received a pre-paid VISA debit card from Personnel that contained his last assigned monthly pay plus one year’s worth back pay. He hadn’t expected that last part. He’d expected a bank check for one month’s pay telling him which bank to go to where he’d either take the money and run or create an account.
“It’s easier,” the clerk had said. “It works like any standard debit or credit card. You can have your pay deposited on the card or at your bank. If you decide to have a bank account, come back so we can enter that information and change the details for direct deposit. The bank will have its own debit card for you. Just give them the pre-paid and they’ll transfer the funds for you. You can keep the pre-paid, regardless.”
He had also expected to be driven around since he didn’t have a driver’s license, but the clerk had shaken his head.
“Colorado recognizes military I.D. as a legal stand-in for a civilian driver’s license. But get a real one as soon as you can. It’s easier for the bank, never mind any civilian legal authorities where you need an I.D. Like buying alcohol, for instance.”
It was one more item on Daniel’s new To-Do list, which at present had been transferred to a digital list now in an app on his new phone: a smartphone also issued by Admin. They had their shit together, and now, so did he. Mostly. Up first, get something to wear that matched the price tag attached to his debit card. Second, get an account and transfer that money. Third, get a driver’s license. Thankfully, Admin had also given him copies of his birth certificate. He’d get his social security card in a few days, so if they needed it for ID with a birth certificate, the driver’s license would have to wait. Fourth, get an apartment. And he knew just where to look. Good thing the base had computers that allowed personal use.
Three hours later …
Daniel entered the manager’s office inside the small office building off Cascade Way—coincidentally, not far from the bank. He was still wearing his new suit. A dark grey subdued pinstripe with a slightly lighter gray shirt. The shoes were a bit creaky, even for the soft faux leather. He could have changed, but first appearances mattered, and getting this loft apartment without many questions required it. His belly grumbled and made him wish he’d stopped for something to eat. He stopped just inside the lobby, checking it out and nodded to a woman who sat behind a desk at the New Accounts section. Two others were talking to someone wearing an apron.
“Hi,” he said as he walked up. He flashed her the front of his phone which displayed the ad for the loft apartment. “Please tell me this is still for rent?”
She smiled and said it was and they went about the usual mess for getting an apartment. It was lucky he was able to get his ID or this deal would have been a bust. After being shown the apartment, they were back in the office, filling out paperwork. To his surprise, his cellphone rang. He withdrew it from the inside jacket pocket. The caller I.D. read:
Daniel grinned. “That was fast,” he said into the phone.
Daniel tried to withhold a laugh and failed. “Getting my number. I only just got this phone. What’s up, Jack?”
There was a slight delay, then Jack asked, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Checking in at my apartment.” There was a long pause of silence. “You still there?”
“Why? Don’t you have a free room at the base?”
“It’s a tomb. I like investigating them, not living in them. I need to be above ground.”
“An apartment though?”
“Where else?” Daniel nodded to the woman who put a new form in front of him, tapping at spots, and began to sign where indicated.
“Look, I really, really need to be above ground.”
Another long pause. “Sure. I get that.”
“What’s with the long pauses?”
“Nothing. I … you’re doing things you would have done before. I thought …”
“Well, no, but … yeah, okay. Memory.”
Daniel frowned. Jack was definitely thinking about something else. “Memory needs a bit of a boost. No therapist can give me that short of a trip inside my head via hypnosis, but I don’t want that. I’d figured I’d rather be out here. Sights, smells. Better than any psychologist, to my way of thinking anyway.”
“It is your way of thinking, Daniel. You knew that stuff.”
Daniel frowned and thought about it. “It is? I mean, I did?”
“Yeah. Look, why not stay at my place? It’s cheaper.”
Daniel felt a blush creep up the sides of his face as he laughed. “Ah. Well, it’s not mine, is it? Can’t just get up and make what I want, can I?”
“Uh, well …”
“Yeah, exactly. I need to fulfill an image in my head.” Jack barked out a laugh and to Daniel, it sounded familiar. There was something attached to it. A memory. But he couldn’t grab it.
“What image?” Jack asked, a chuckle in his voice.
“Sitting outside on a balcony drinking coffee.” The assistant gave him a sympathetic smile. There was silence on the other end of the phone. Daniel was puzzled. “Jack?”
“You, uh, have a balcony?”
There was a lot of throat-clearing.
“You could do that here, you know. My house, I mean.”
Daniel’s eyes widened slightly. He had no memory of Jack’s house. Or a balcony. And something prodded at his intuition. Something about brown wood. Slowly, he asked, “Did I used to do that?”
More throat-clearing. “Yeah, actually.”
Daniel frowned. “Oh.” He smirked as the image in his head was only cemented. “Got a big wide space? Round windows? A walk-in spray-and-steam shower? A queen-sized bed? Lovely ambiance and views?” The assistant smiled as she took his debit card. On the phone, Jack chuckled again, and it was softer, yet deeper. A private chuckle. It sent a shiver down Daniel’s spine and wrapped around his hips. Warmth spread everywhere. “What’s that laugh mean?” he asked.
“Well, to answer your questions in order. No round windows. No steam. Yes on the queen bed. And the ambiance is my carefully maintained back yard and my oh-so-manly charm.”
Daniel coughed and lost his concentration. “Hang on,” he said to Jack and took the phone away from his ear. “Sorry. Shouldn’t really be doing this while I’m on the phone.” The woman handed him the keys and the copies to his lease, manager’s information, and having listened to his phone call, she also handed him several brochures on local take-out.
Daniel smiled and left, putting the phone back to his ear. “Sorry about that, Jack. What were we talking about? Oh, right. The invite. It’s a bit late since it’s done. Next up, food.”
Jack clearly sounded disappointed and wanting to alleviate it, Daniel said, “You could always invite me out or something.” He blinked and frowned, having no idea why he’d said it. And there was this urge to say it romantically. Because it felt familiar. But that made about as much sense as a newbie with a memory problem going on an alien ship to rescue someone he didn’t know.
“Listen, I’ll come over. Where’re you at?”
Daniel was stunned and didn’t know why. He felt a little flustered. “Rental loft over the Cheyenne Building at the corner of Pike’s Peak and Cascade.” Again, Jack barked out a laugh, only it just kept going. Daniel couldn’t help but smile. “That funny?”
“Mister Archaeologist, yes, it’s funny. That’s one of the oldest buildings in Colorado Springs. The entry?”
“Small door on Cascade, farthest left side. Um …”
“There’s nothing to see, no food to eat, and I haven’t even moved in. I mean, I have everything I need to do that. I just …”
“Gotta haul it from the SGC,” Jack finished for him.
“Then my invite still stands. Unless you really do want to go out to eat.”
“Yeah, I’m hungry.” Daniel stood by the Prius and realized he didn’t have a wallet. He rolled his eyes at himself. “I gotta make a pit stop at a department store.”
“Gotta buy a wallet.”
“You don’t have a wallet?”
“Well, no. No need for one when you’re living underground with no money or memory.”
“So, I can meet you.”
“Okay, but … no, wait a sec.”
Daniel waited as he got into his car, then got back out again and grabbed the bags of newly-bought things. They’d go in the apartment first. No need to tempt thieves. He should buy a car with a trunk, not the Hyundai SUV he’d seen online, but he needed to get an electric car, all things considered.
In the elevator, Jack’s voice sounded oddly tinny as he said, “Okay, I’ve made a reservation. I’ll pick you up.”
“Hang on. Call me back,” Daniel said, hanging up. He kept dropping the bags and suddenly the elevator stopped and the door wouldn’t open without the keycode. He sighed and dropped everything as he fished in his inner jacket pocket for the keycode the assistant had given him. It was his chosen code and she’d programmed it in. And he’d forgotten it. Grumbling about memory, he punched it in, and the doors opened. Gathering everything up, he stepped inside. The air was nice and cool, and it hit him then that he’d been sweating. It was summer, after all. “Great. Another shower is imminent.”
The phone rang.
“Fuck!” he yelled and threw the bags on the low-seat fuchsia sofa and answered it. “Sorry, sorry. I had my hands full and—”
“Listen, if you don’t want—”
“—I was all absent-minded and needed to get—”
“—we can do this another—”
“Wait, what?” both of them said.
Daniel burst out laughing first. He put a hand over his eyes. “No, no, I’m on board with the invite. Just let me shower and change first.”
“Oh. Okay, great then. Listen, I’ll just pick up a wallet for you. Saves time. I’m by the department store anyway.”
“Oh, okay. But no real leather.”
“I think I remember what your old one looked like. Reservation’s in an hour, so you have plenty of time. Pick you up in fifty?”
“Sure, thing,” Daniel said, and hung up. It didn’t occur to him until he was in the shower that what had just happened sounded more like a date.
Jack chewed at his lip as he wove his way to the section of the store where they sold men’s wallets, trying to remember what Daniel’s old one had looked like. He picked one that he felt looked suitable, then went home to change, hoping that he wouldn’t bail on the whole thing before he got done.
A date? No, it wasn’t. It was dinner. Or something to eat. Just food. The only thing he thought odd was offering to get his wallet. Was that how they’d been before? Picking stuff up for each other? They’d been friends, hadn’t they?
As the shampoo lather and water mixed, sluicing down his body, Daniel let his mind drift, dismissing thoughts as immaterial for the time being. He told himself not to focus on anything, that if anything should come, it would come. But on the heels of that, he contradicted himself by wondering what kind of wallet he did use to have. What would he choose now? Something dark brown, leathery feel without being real. It had to have the usual pockets, with insets for cards on the fold. It had to be soft so the wallet would fold right. That was also the trouble with new leather. It needed conditioning and …
“Where’s my fifty?” he’d asked Jack.
They were at Jack’s breakfast table. The sun wasn’t completely up yet.
“I, uh, used it on the pizza last night. My wallet’s, uh, in my locker.”
“What? Are you insane? You never leave your wallet! You are so full of it. Where is it?”
He got up to search through Jack’s jacket, and when it wasn’t there, he headed into the bedroom for his jeans.
The memory hit him clearly and took his breath away. Daniel leaned a shoulder against the shower’s only tiled wall, examining the scene, replaying it over and over. They’d been at the breakfast table. At Jack’s. Neither of them had been dressed. They’d been in ‘bedclothes.’ Tees and boxers and boxer briefs. The tone had been light-hearted, teasing, full of peace, and annoyance, and love. The only thing he couldn’t nail was what kind of love.
But on the heels of that memory came others. Dozens. The influx was dizzying, and he felt himself slide to the floor. Daniel swallowed and waited as the return of memories settled and his head stopped swimming. Slowly, he got to his feet and absently finished washing while he sorted through similar memories. Nothing was complete, but the jigsaw was filling in. He didn’t have all of the memories of Jack, but he had the gist of them.
They’d had a good friendship that had turned sexual. He’d felt both ecstatic and guilty. Even though he hadn’t loved Sha’re as much as he thought he should have, he’d tried to do his best by her. And he’d failed. And with Jack, he’d tried to do the same thing. But when Sha’re had died, taking away all hope of ever getting that snake out of her head, he had felt so bad that an equal fear of losing Jack had hit him hard. And the only way to avoid it was to back away before he’d fallen completely in love with him. Jack had made it difficult because he wasn’t an easy man to love, but Daniel knew his heart was on its way. And instead of taking it easy on him, Jack had … had …
More memories slid into place. Jack had been angry until just before he’d died. Daniel had never known the man to be mean, not even to enemies. They just weren’t worth the trouble. But it had come out of him and turned him into someone Daniel hadn’t known. Then suddenly it was too little, too late, and he’d welcomed the ascension. Well, after a little pep talk from the creature named Oma DeSala.
Now here he was. Back from the dead. Dead-ish. Because he couldn’t abide the rules of ascension. He couldn’t just sit there and watch. Watch what, he didn’t know, and that was probably a good thing. And Jack was being nice. Not too nice. He’d been understandably frustrated, plus a little edgy and hard and inappropriate, like that day when Daniel had come to their meeting. But today was different. He was smoothing things over. No, it was more than that. He wanted a second chance. Daniel was guessing, but if their roles were reversed, it’s what he’d want, too. A do-over, as Jack used to say. They rarely came in life, those second chances.
And Daniel wanted one too. The only problem was whether they could work it out. Or work out at all. Sure, Jack was acting—being—a friend, but it didn’t mean anything until they talked.
Daniel pulled on the new pale blue jeans and zipped them up. The apartment came with a full-length mirror propped against a wall outside the shower area and he checked the look of the jeans, his critical eye satisfied. Absently, he made a mental note to mount the mirror on the wall. Propped up like that was asking for trouble.
He brought the rest of his new clothes to the bedroom where there was very little furniture. Just a futon bed on the floor and an amazing desk-slash-dresser. The futon was king-sized and the minimalism of just the two objects was something he sort of liked. Until he reached for something on a nightstand that didn’t exist. He sighed, knowing he’d get a frame, a nightstand, and a free-standing closet. And he’d ask to get rid of the godawful light fixture. A chandelier. Honestly. A chandelier. Still, the Minimal would have to serve for now. Right now, it was time for Talk with Jack. Extreme patience was the only thing he planned on having besides food.
Chapter Three: Memory
Jack drove up to the brewery building and upon catching sight of Daniel, the skin of his chest and arms tightened and warmed. Daniel was wearing fit blue jeans, a dark brown button-down shirt with rolled-up long sleeves that looked like suede but couldn’t be in the warm weather. Probably brushed cotton, he thought. He was also wearing black boots with the jeans tucked in. It wasn’t a look he’d ever imagined Daniel choosing. The man had changed. Hopefully, it was just his wardrobe choices.
Anxiety permeated Jack’s mind even as goosebumps formed over his arms and neck the moment he pulled up in his truck and Daniel got in. What if other attitudes had changed, he asked himself as he looked Daniel over. Then he consoled himself. A man with no memory shopping for clothes wouldn’t necessarily pick stuff he’d previously worn. He followed the consolation with a mental chiding and his favorite mantra: what will be will be.
“’Sup,” he said to the man.
“Hey,” Daniel said, trying not to stare at Jack. Or rather, what he was wearing. Black jeans and a blue button-down short-sleeved shirt, showing off those handsome forearms. His still-somewhat-limited memory told him that Jack didn’t wear black unless it was a combat uniform. From what he could tell, they fit, too. He reminded himself not to stare when he checked out his ass when Jack got out of the truck. “So, where’re we going?”
“Well, it’s a bit …” Jack sniffed as he pulled into traffic and cleared his throat. “Le Voie Bénéfique.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open. The Beneficial Track? “You’re shitting me?”
Jack gave him half a grin. “It’s kind of a bar slash lounge slash restaurant, and it’s the only progressive eatery that won’t have fits with two men sitting together for early dinner. Plus it serves American food, despite the name. I can’t stand—”
“French food, otherwise,” they both said together.
Jack’s brows shot up and it made him stare at Daniel and the road three times in a row. “Your memory come back?”
“Sort of. Wallet?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jack said and tugged at the plastic bag between them. “Here. If you don’t like it—”
“It’ll be fine,” Daniel said with false security. “I guessed what you were going to say, actually,” he continued as he pulled out a soft brown wallet that made him frown. “Kidskin?”
“No, it’s fake kidskin. Damned if I know how they do it.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, running his fingertips over the outer material. He opened it up and saw what he liked. The card slots, the soft fold, the place for his bills. He dug out his new cards and ID placed them in the wall.
Jack kept glancing, watching, and spotted the new ID. “Hey, let me see that ID.”
Daniel gave him a somewhat sheepish look and handed it over. “It’s got the usual picture that makes you look like you’ve been arrested.”
“Only if you’re not smiling,” Jack grinned back. They came to a stoplight and he took the time to look at the card. It was a driver’s license, not a state ID. “When did you have time for a driver’s test?”
“Didn’t need one,” Daniel replied. “I’ve only been gone,” and he paused to make air quotes, “for a year.”
Jack blinked, thinking, then shrugged and handed it back. “Right.”
Daniel returned his ID to the wallet and promptly stuffed it into his boot, not his back pocket. It made Jack blink again, taking note of another change. “That’s new.”
“What?” Daniel asked absently as his mind was on something else. His gaze was fixed on a mail store they’d passed, believing he’d never heard of such a thing. He should have. He then cursed the state of his mind for bringing back his memory in such a haphazard fashion. Jack had said something, answer his absent question, and he hadn’t even been listening. He made a face. “Sorry. I wasn’t listening. What did you say?”
Jack abruptly snorted and spat out a laugh at the same time and began chuckling. “The more things change …”
Daniel frowned at him. “What? Me not listening or …?”
“That,” Jack clarified. “You’re like a ferret sometimes, you know that?”
The comment didn’t bite. “Ah. Well, not all the time. But I’ll keep an eye on my tendency to have my attention too easily diverted.”
Jack grimaced. “Christ, Daniel. Could you restate that in English, please.”
Daniel smirked back at him. “I’ll try not to be so easily distracted.”
“Thank you,” Jack said with a false air of snootiness while trying not to laugh at him. It was like riding a bike, this effort. Daniel grinned back and returned to staring out the windows. It seemed to Jack that it looked as if Daniel was hoping the sights and sounds, as he’d previously mentioned, would trigger memories. His mind then went to the earlier ‘French Food’ guess. What if it hadn’t been a guess? What if he remembered more and wasn’t saying anything? If so, why would he play that game? Daniel wasn’t a game-player. Never had been. But he did have a penchant for playing things close to the vest. Or chest. Whatever. Trying to figure this out wasn’t something he should be doing while driving so he’d wait ‘til they sat down for … dinner. Or was it supper? No, supper was later, wasn’t it?
“Penny for your thoughts?” Daniel asked, watching the man. Jack had the ‘intense focus’ look on his handsome face. It made him look hard and Daniel had an equally intense desire to soften it.
“Stuff I shouldn’t be thinking about until we sit down.”
“Try me,” Daniel said.
“No, I mean, while I’m driving.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, slightly deflated, though he wasn’t sure why given that he agreed. Driving isn’t the time for intense anything except driving. Apart from road rage. He snorted to himself and when Jack arched a questioning brow, he shared the thought.
“Yeah that,” Jack nodded. “Focus on driving. Not on going after the moron who cut you off. In that instance, you get off the road and call a therapist.” Daniel burst out laughing and nodding. That too, Jack thought, was a change. He had never seen Daniel do that over anything. He’d quietly chuckle, even at the funniest stuff. Like the time Teal’c had tried a marshmallow. They’d had their second team night, but at the cabin and Carter had brought out the bag of marshmallows while Jack had gotten the pit fire started. The look on Teal’c’s face before he’d literally vomited the thing out of his mouth had the rest of them in stitches for at least five minutes. And all through that, Daniel had only smiled and chuckled.
“What?” Daniel asked, and paid attention to the answer this time.
“You laughed,” Jack said, then cleared his throat. “I mean, it’s not like you don’t, but you laughed laughed, like everyone else. A guffaw.”
Daniel frowned in thought, confused. “I laugh.”
“Not like that,” Jack said, shaking his head. “You never have, not until now.”
Daniel opened his mouth to contradict him but shut it again and thoughtfully chewed at his lip. As he mulled it over, he realized that Jack was right. He chalked it up to growing up in foster homes and adopting a reserved façade. “Well, I was … figured I had always guffawed on the inside. Maybe there’s no need for that anymore.”
“Did you …” Jack began, certain that Daniel had been about to comment on what had been, a sign his memories had returned. Then Jack put it aside as he turned into the restaurant parking lot. Thank god it wasn’t packed. Whenever he’d driven by in the past, it had always seemed pack, regardless of what time of day.
As they got out of the truck, Daniel asked, “What were you about to say?”
“It looked like you were going to comment about comparing what you used to do to what you do now. Like you have your memories back.” Daniel nodded acknowledgment but didn’t reply, which made Jack more certain that he was holding back. He stopped in the middle of the parking lot and took Daniel by the arm, though gently. “Hey.” Daniel gave him a direct look. “You remember?”
“Not …” Daniel began but hesitated. “Let’s sit down. Get out of the heat.” He paused. “Get a drink.”
Jack grinned, but he felt tension sliding down his back. “Good idea.”
They were given a low-backed half-circle booth in a lowly-lit area by a window that overlooked a garden’s water feature and ordered two bourbon sours. Three minutes later, the drinks were delivered and Daniel downed half of it.
“That bad?” Jack asked though he had taken a fairly large swallow himself. On an empty stomach, it warmed him immediately.
Daniel stared into his glass, admiring the amber color before he forced himself to look into Jack’s eyes. Eyes he could stare into forever, though they also scared him and made him feel ashamed. He had to remedy that.
“I’m sorry, Jack,” he blurted out, showing emotion as his cheeks pinked up. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“First, I remember almost everything.” Jack stared back, brows arched. “It happened in the shower. I was thinking of the wallet you were getting me and a memory about you taking a fifty out of my wallet suddenly hit me, and right after that, it was like getting pumped with a huge high. It came crashing into my head and …” He turned a darker shade of pink.
Daniel leaned forward slightly and heatedly whispered, “And second, why the fuck aren’t you seriously pissed off at me? Why are you being nice?” Jack just stared back looking shocked. “I don’t get it. But I owe you massive amounts of apology. I’m sorry I pushed you away. I was an asshole.”
Jack’s shock abated and he gave Daniel an empathetic look. “I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what happened between us. I think I know why you did it.”
“Enlighten me,” Daniel said, his blush refusing to ebb.
“You hold onto guilt like a drowning man,” Jack said, frankly. “You felt responsible for Sha’re. When she died, the guilt magnified, and you didn’t want to feel any more of it. You didn’t want to feel anything. You were afraid that I’d die and that it might be your fault. You couldn’t handle it.”
Daniel sat back and blinked at Jack in his own shock. He could’ve said a lot of things in response but what came out was, “Nailed it.” The blush refused to fade, and the embarrassment increased. “I’m sorry.” He paused, then added, “Why aren’t you mad? You seemed like it that day in the briefing room?”
“That wasn’t anger,” Jack said, his cheeks coloring slightly. “That was assholery. And frustration. I’d gotten you back and you didn’t remember me.”
“Sorrow,” Daniel said softly. “I think that’s called sorrow.”
“Ditto,” Jack said pointedly.
Daniel reflected on that and the waitperson came to take their order. After he left, Daniel took a deep breath. “I’ve always been good at sharing my feelings … until she died.” He paused, finishing his drink. The waitperson brought him another, plus two glasses of iced water for the two of them. This time, Daniel sipped at his drink but downed more of the water to off-set the effects of the alcohol. “Then I didn’t know how. All I wanted to do was … run away.” He blinked a few times as color returned to his cheeks. “I looked at you and saw you dead. I saw my heart break into a billion pieces. We live such dangerous lives and I couldn’t go through it again but worse. I panicked, like a big old coward, over shit that might never happen.”
Jack nodded. They were quiet for a few endless minutes. Then he said, “You were acting like me.” Daniel looked sheepish and Jack grinned back at him kindly. “It’s exactly how I treated Sara after Charlie died except that I …”
A few more silent minutes went by.
“Wanted to die,” Daniel finished. Jack nodded. “I saw it, back at the beginning, when I was more or less a rational, caring person.”
Jack frowned. “Stop it. You’ve always been one.”
“Not with you. I turned on you, punishing you for something that never happened. All because I was afraid that it would. How is that rational?”
“It isn’t. But we’re human, Daniel. We aren’t perfect. We can be assholes.”
“Well I’m sick of it,” Daniel said with abrupt disgust, but with such heat, his eyes widened at the knowledge that his sharp tone might have had a little volume with it. He cringed, even as Jack smiled.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack reassured him. “Your voice didn’t carry. You really, really don’t have a drill sergeant’s voice.”
Daniel abruptly snorted. “That’s a relief.”
Sobering, Jack gave him a sympathetic look. He wanted to reach across the table and take Daniel’s hand, then he remembered where they were. He reached across the table and took Daniel’s hand, but not completely. He curled his fingers with Daniel’s. “Listen. We fuck up. We make mistakes. And it’s my turn to apologize.”
“For?” Daniel asked, tugging his hand a little but Jack wouldn’t let go.
Jack blinked at him. “Your memory not all the way back?”
“Assholery,” Jack growled, but in an undertone. “Reece? The bugs? All that shit before? Your deathbed, for cryin’ out loud?”
“Kyra?” Daniel asked softly. “Chaka?”
“What is this, a competition?” Jack asked, squeezing Daniel’s hand enough to hurt a little. “Stop it. I’m apologizing over here.” Daniel released his grip and Jack smoothed his fingers and took his hand properly. “It’s not easy for either one of us. Take it as it’s given, okay?”
Daniel placed his other hand over Jack’s. “Do the same. You’re the one who began the competition.”
“No, I didn’t,” Jack frowned. He wanted to draw back but ordered himself to stay the fuck where he was. “You wouldn’t accept my apology.”
“And mine?” Daniel asked. “This began with me apologizing to you and—”
“For cryin’ out loud,” Jack interrupted, then decided a threat would get through to the man. “I’m gonna come over there and kiss you in front of god and everyone if you don’t just say, ‘deal’.”
Daniel blushed, eyes widening. “Deal. Time and a place, Jack.”
Jack let him go and sat back, a wolfish grin on his face as he looked at his watch. “Well, let’s see…”
Daniel started laughing.
Halfway through dinner, Daniel felt the desire building between them. He wanted to blame it on the red meat. By dessert, that idea had been tanked because the desire was increasing almost exponentially. “My place,” he said abruptly before he reached the ‘full’ stage and pushed his cobbler aside. He blamed the whipped cream. It gave him ideas because he wanted Jack for dessert.
“Have you got any supplies?” Jack asked.
Daniel didn’t get it. “Supplies?”
“Lube, condoms, shackles, blindfolds—”
“Jack!” Daniel hissed, eyes widening with embarrassment.
“What?” Jack asked, pretending innocence, but he couldn’t hold it. “Okay, maybe not the last two. But do you?”
Daniel made a face. “No. I haven’t gone shopping for that stuff.”
“Then how about we put that on the to-do list for breaking in the loft. We’ll go to my place instead.”
“Deal,” Daniel said with a tiny nod. He drew a random pattern on the table with a fingertip. “Still got those brandy snifters and the brandy to go with it?”
“I’ve been saving that for winter,” Jack said, head tilted a little, wondering what Daniel was thinking. “Have some regular whiskey glasses and some 30-year old Scotch.”
Daniel nodded. “I have this idea in my head.”
A smile crossed Daniel’s lips as he shook his head.
“Tease,” Jack accused.
Chapter Four: Pause
Jack’s desire seemed to turn to nervousness once he opened the front door to his house and walked through, Daniel right behind. He turned to look at him over his shoulder and saw the same sort of nervousness in Daniel’s eyes. At least, he thought he saw it. The man was the same, but he was also different. Guess someone had to be after going through all that.
Daniel followed Jack into the kitchen, feeling just a bit … interrupted. He’d have jumped Jack inside his own apartment, but here, there seemed to be a pause. A reflection. He didn’t quite know why. But he had this image in his head—it had replaced the ‘coffee on a balcony’ image—and it had to do with taking a mouthful of booze and kissing Jack with it. He wanted to feel the burn and taste against skin, though only around nipples and pecs and maybe the stomach. Any lower and all wanton activity would come to an abrupt and painful conclusion for them both.
Jack withdrew two glasses and handed them to Daniel who went to the icebox and filled the glasses. Jack’s brows rose and Daniel smiled back.
“It’s coming back.”
“So I see.”
Daniel set the glasses on the counter as Jack pulled the bottle from a cupboard down below and broke the seal. As he twisted the cap and began to pour, a memory came to him and he paused. Despite what they all knew about the sarcophagus and its effects, Jack had kept one side effect to himself, one that had never waned: perfect memory.
“Jack?” Daniel asked, fearing their reunion was about to hit a brick wall.
Jack frowned, realizing he’d stopped pouring. He finished Daniel’s glass, picked up his own, turned, and paused. “Where?”
Daniel swallowed. “Bedroom? Living room? Your house, your rules.”
Jack grinned. “You remember.” Daniel nodded. “Bedroom. We can drink, talk, flirt, and if things go where we want, there’s no travel involved.”
Daniel smiled and followed him. “There’s something on your mind, other than the obvious,” he said. When they entered the room, he paused, taken aback. “What the hell happened to your bed?”
Jack grimaced. “I … couldn’t deal with the king. It had been ours. And then you weren’t … it was too big.”
“It’s … small.”
“It’s a Full … plus. Sort of.”
“But, don’t you …” Daniel waved his whiskey glass, slightly sloshing the contents.
Jack clinked his glass against Daniel’s and took a drink. “Yep. I’d roll over and fall off. I’ve just been ignoring it. But I’ll get the king out of storage.”
“Masochist,” Daniel murmured as he drank. The alcohol burned, but it had a good earthy flavor. “Nice.”
“Damn straight. Cost enough.”
“You don’t pay for this expensive—” Daniel began.
“Carter,” Jack said. “Birthday present. And it went into the cupboard and stayed there. I just never had a good enough reason to drink it.”
Jack sat down on the bed close to the pillows, one foot on the floor, a folded knee on the bed. Daniel set his glass on the dresser and pulled off his boots, wallet falling to the floor. He picked it up and replaced his glass with it. Taking a seat at the foot of the bed, he crossed his legs.
“How can you do that in jeans?” Jack asked.
“They’re loose enough, soft enough. I wasn’t going to buy stiff jeans that required twenty washings to get wearable.”
“Yeah, well, if you get a hard-on, that attitude’ll change,” Jack said with a crooked grin.
“Well, I don’t see a problem with that since they’d be coming off.”
Jack nodded, returning the grin, but the memory from the kitchen returned. He couldn’t get rid of it.
“Out with it,” Daniel said, hoping what followed wouldn’t ruin the upcoming evening.
“A memory. My own. Of you. In Ba’al’s stronghold. Former stronghold, thanks to you.” He lifted his glass. Daniel reached over and clinked. They drank.
“Of me? Teal’c said something about it, but he wasn’t specific. Even Jonas said something.” Daniel looked down, holding the glass in his lap. “A Tok’ra got you captured.”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “And you were there. In my cell. Keeping me company. Tried to get me to ascend.”
Daniel’s brows rose. “I did?”
“I wanted you to lay the place to waste but you said you couldn’t. And I quote, “The hardest part of being who or what I am is having the power to change the things I want to change and knowing that I can’t. Even when I’m certain, even when it’s … absolutely clear to me, even when it affects the people I care about.” Jack sighed. “I wanted to smack you.”
“That’s … a really accurate memory, Jack,” Daniel said slowly. He had one himself. But all he could see was yellow stone.
“It stuck,” Jack sighed. “And … you warned me about the sarcophagus. Thing is, it gave me perfect memory. And I mean perfect.”
Jack raised his glass, leaned over, and they clinked and drinked. “Don’t have a clue how.”
“What’d Sam say?”
Jack shook his head. “I’ve kept this bit of knowledge to myself. I think …” He gave Daniel a meaningful look.
“Me? Or Oma?”
“Maybe someone’s messed with my head too.”
“That’s …” Daniel shook his head. He couldn’t find the word. Or words.
“Or maybe it’s just the sarc. We don’t know a lot about those damn things, other than they can turn you into a psychotic asshole and stop being useful to really old snakes, like what’s his name.”
“Yu,” Daniel said, and when Jack got a mischievous look in his eye, Daniel held up a forefinger. “Please. Leave it.”
Jack grinned and held up his glass. More clinking and drinking.
Afterward, feeling a little numbness in his mouth, Daniel mulled over the quote. “No wonder I failed as an ascended being. I—”
“Hey!” Jack said, brows knotted in anger. He sat forward and grabbed at one of Daniel’s legs, forcing him to unfold, then backhanded his thigh. “Don’t do that. Don’t you damn dare. You’re here because you could no longer sit back and do nothing. That’s who you are, Daniel.”
Daniel gave him a nod, acknowledging his words. “Yeah.”
“Oma and those other bastards should follow your lead, not the other way around. They can help and they don’t. They’re cowards.”
Daniel sighed. “They’re power. And perhaps … afraid of it. Not cowards, Jack. Uber cautious.” Jack grumbled wordlessly, making Daniel grin at him. “I know.” Jack turned his glass around and around, staring into it. Daniel knew what it meant. Jack was debating whether or bring up something or not. “Out with it,” Daniel said, but gently.
Jack looked up at him and half-smiled. “You made me executor.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, half-nodding as his gaze went to Jack, then off to the side, then back again. He fluttered his lashes unknowingly and it distracted Jack for a moment.
“You still do that,” he said, half to himself.
“That thing with your eyes, your blinking.”
“My what now?”
Jack’s eyes narrowed slightly in astonishment. “You don’t realize you do it. That’s … not all that surprising actually.”
“Jack,” Daniel said impatiently.
“It’s a thing you do when you’re a little embarrassed.”
“It is?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” Jack nodded. “And you flutter your lashes as you look off to the side, then back at the person, several times in succession. When you’re talking, it means you’re lying.” When Daniel frowned and opened his mouth to argue, Jack raised the forefinger around his glass and added, “Or hedging the truth a little.”
Daniel smirked at him. “Nice save there.”
Jack snorted. The room grew quiet for a minute, then he said, “You left me all your stuff.”
Daniel read ‘stuff’ as ‘shit.’ Jack was being diplomatic and he appreciated it. “Of course I did,” he said, giving him a look that said who else? He then asked, “Did you really chuck it all out?”
Jack looked chagrined. “Well, just the stuff that needed throwing out. Food, stuff you’d toss anyway.”
“Oh. Right.” Daniel thinned his lips. “Yeah, I tend to stockpile some things.”
Jack snorted again. “Like newspapers. You and me both. We have to put a stop to that, newspaper business be damned. Have to go digital or else.”
Daniel gave him another look of surprise. He then realized what Jack was alluding to. “Ah. Climate change.”
Daniel nodded. Again, it was quiet. He could see that Jack’s muscles were tensing up. He was holding back emotion, and given the events lately, it was likely anger. “Go ahead,” he said on a heavy sigh.
“Go ahead and what?” Jack asked, visibly relaxing. Daniel could always read him like a book. It was annoying at times.
“Get mad at me,” Daniel said, fighting off the urge to look into his glass instead of into Jack’s eyes. He needed to meet them.
“I’m not mad at you,” Jack said, just a tad defensive.
“That I did what I did. Then went and ascended.” He paused. “There weren’t any other choices.”
Jack started to show anger, started to argue, but he stopped himself as his mind ran through the details of the statement. He nodded, begrudgingly. “I guess.”
Daniel nodded back and sighed again. He noticed the ice melting a bit too much and downed the remainder in his glass. He got up and set it on the dresser, then wiped his hands on his jeans before debating where to sit next. He decided to sit next to Jack, back against the headboard, even though it would be crowded and one push would send him on the floor.
Before he got settled, Jack said, “I love you, you know.”
Daniel stared at him. He’d never just said it like that. Without having an afterglow about him. He was looking into his glass again. Daniel crossed his legs and turned his whole body to him. He dipped his head, leaning in, eyes on Jack’s, to get the man to look at him. When Jack did, he said, “I love you, too, ya big idiot.”
I love you, too, ya big idiot.
Minus the ‘too,’ Jack thought, and it was how Daniel had first said he loved him. Jack had started a mini-argument afterward.
“I am not an idiot.”
“Where I’m concerned, you definitely are.”
It hadn’t been said the first time they’d been together, but the third. But Jack had said it first, and during their second time together. Of course, he’d said it mid-coitus, and Daniel had said it hadn’t counted. Everyone loves the person mid-coitus.
“What’re you smiling about?” Daniel asked as he scooted off the bed.
And began to undress.
Jack looked at him in surprise, then a dark look crossed his face and he got up to undress as well. “Remembering our first times.”
Daniel grinned. “Right.”
Jack watched him instead of paying attention to what he was doing and lost his balance a little, pushing an elbow out against the dresser to steady himself. He then stared as skin was revealed. “Holy …” he murmured and hung his shirt on the closet’s doorknob.
“What?” Daniel asked, pausing just before taking off the boxer briefs. Jack’s eyes were traveling over him and he looked down at himself self-consciously. “What?”
Jack walked over and passed a hand down Daniel’s back. His skin dimpled in reaction. “Your scars are gone.”
“What?” Daniel asked. “Seriously?”
“Yeah,” Jack said, examining his legs. “All of them.”
“Huh,” Daniel said, but he wasn’t interested in the odd fact. He was interested in getting Jack out of his clothes. He looped a finger through Jack’s belt and drew him closer to unbuckle it and get the jeans off.
While Daniel busied his hands, going slowly, Jack took his face in his hands to force him to meet his eyes. He said nothing, but Jack said, “Welcome home.” He touched his lips softly to Daniel’s and the contact sent a wave of desire and need through him that began as a soft warmth but spiked to a hot hunger in the following second. The kiss became firm, needful. Daniel’s lips moved with his. They felt no different than before, but there was a difference in Daniel’s response. Demanding. He’d never really been an aggressor before but he sure as hell was now and Jack couldn’t help but respond. The only hold-up was having to redirect his attention to getting the damn jeans off. Then their boxer briefs joined the wad on the floor.
Neither of them was at full staff, but Daniel knew it was temporary. All it would take was contact. The long-missed contact, even for him. Daniel drew them onto the bed and hated the lack of room. “Next time, my place,” he said, his breathing increasing.
“Deal,” Jack replied. He started to lower his weight onto Daniel but paused when he reached for the top drawer of the nightstand. He was wondering a few things.
Daniel looked up at him, beginning to spread his legs, and felt awkward at Jack’s seeming hesitation. “What?”
“Uh, listen,” he said and lay down next to him. “No scars. The only thing that’s old with you is your eyesight. Your glasses.” He took them off the man and set them on the nightstand. “So, that being said …”
Daniel snorted a soft laugh through his nose. “Virgin, huh? You think you’ll hurt me or something? Are you kidding?” He ran his hands over Jack’s chest, threading the nails through the graying hair. “Trust me. You won’t.” Jack grabbed one of his hands, inhaling sharply through his nose. Daniel arched a brow, then felt Jack’s hardness against his thigh. He grinned as he looked down, then a growl erupted in his throat. “Now, get that damn lube.”
Jack didn’t take his eyes off him as he blindly groped in the drawer and brought out a bottle of translucent gel. It was different than the last one Daniel remembered. “Speaking of new,” Daniel said and took the bottle from him. He flipped open the cap and squeezed a liberal amount onto his fingers, then reached between his legs to coat his anus.
“New,” Jack said, his voice husky. He reached down and covered his fingers with his own, coating his own at the same time. Theirs were now slick, slippery, and still looking into Daniel’s eyes, Jack slid his middle finger into him, right up to the third knuckle. Daniel sucked in a breath at the sudden, quick invasion, but he wasn’t displeased. He spread his legs as he covered Jack’s hand with one of his own while his other reached for Jack’s cock. Jack moved his finger back and forth, slowly, and when all the way in, dug his knuckles against Daniel’s perineum. Daniel matched his movements with his slickened hand and when the knuckles dug in, he squeezed the head and pressed his thumb over the slit, moving in circles.
Jack echoed the growl and though he wanted to kiss him, he preferred to stare into the blueness of Daniel’s eyes, now getting swallowed by the dilation of his pupils. They stimulated each other for a minute or so before Jack made a sudden face. “I wanted to taste you. It’s a little late. I hate the taste of lube.”
“Next time,” Daniel said, his breathing more energetic. “Now.”
“Already?” Jack teased and slid two fingers into him.
“Are you fucking kidding?” Daniel panted, arching his head back and closing his eyes. He groaned and controlled Jack’s hand, wanting to slam his fingers into him, but it just wouldn’t be enough. “How’re your knees?”
“Good on a soft mattress,” Jack replied and rolled on top of him. Daniel kept hold of his cock, pumping him slowly. “Keep that up and this’ll be over before long.”
Daniel let out a moan and released him. He spread wider, raising his knees, and kept Jack’s gaze as he reached for the bottle of lube and squeezed more onto Jack’s fingers. The coolness of the gel was delightfully contradicted by the heat of his cockhead as Jack rubbed it against his sphincter.
“Yes,” he said in a guttural growl.
“Yes,” Jack repeated and pushed.
Daniel inhaled through his nose and groaned at the same time. He forced himself to keep his eyes locked on Jack’s, even though he wanted to just wallow in the hot, velvet hardness of him as he entered him.
Unlike what he did with his finger, Jack went slowly. He could tell Daniel’s impatience wanted him to hurry the hell up, but he refused. He needed to make this moment last. His balls were tightening, drawing up, and he knew that it wouldn’t take long to climax. He had to make this as hot as possible and something told him that all-out lust and animal need would do it. Daniel had always loved it, but he liked the slow burn first. Clearly, as evidenced by the way he rolled his hips against him, Daniel didn’t want the slow burn.
“Okay,” he warned in a soft purr and cradled Daniel’s head in his hands as he slammed his hips down and plowed into him.
Daniel cried out, “Oh fuck yes!” and raised his feet.
“I missed you so goddamn much!” Jack panted, hips rapidly moving, delivering loud, hungry slaps.
“Oh god yes!” Daniel replied, and reached between them to stroke his own cock. “Yes!” he continued, with loud grunts on each of Jack’s downstrokes.
It went on and on for minutes on end and Daniel couldn’t stop himself from cursing and breaking Jack’s gaze as he arched his neck and threw his head back, spreading wide as he received the hard pounding from Jack’s body. The tingles began, warning him, and his eyes widened and returned to meeting Jack’s deep, dark gaze. “Oh god. It’s … I’m …”
“Oh damn!” Jack replied, hating that it was going to be over too damn soon. But he loved it. He loved Daniel, and the orgasm was going to be …
“Fuck yes!” Daniel cried out, stroking himself rapidly, squeezing the head of his cock as he bent forward, watching his hand and Jack’s cock pistoning into him. “Fuck yes! Jack! Do it! God, god, oh fuck yes!” He drove his hips up hard to demand more from Jack.
“Jesus,” Jack gasped and grabbed one of Daniel’s legs, holding it against his chest as he rammed home hard repeatedly, loving the sound of Daniel’s cries, loving the way the man writhed and begged and growled. He’d missed this so goddamn much and when Daniel came, he came with him, both of them demanding more and getting it. The orgasms shot pleasure spikes through them, causing a pause in their bodies’ movements as they froze, staring into each other’s eyes as white-hot nerves released an almost painful pent-up tension. Come spread and shot over Jack’s belly and he dropped on top of Daniel to spread it between them.
Daniel grabbed him and pulled him down into a fiery kiss, wrestling with his tongue, matching the gyrations of their hips. Jack kissed him back with fervor, and as the seconds passed, the kiss turned languorous, then sensuously calm. The afterglow spread and bathed them in a warmth that lulled them into sated sleepiness. They remained locked together, arms around the other, and dozed happily for several minutes.
When a cool breeze came out of nowhere, Jack growled and wished they’d thought to pull down the bedclothes first. On the other hand, they were saved from having to sleep in a giant wet spot.
“You know what?” Daniel asked voice muted against Jack’s lips.
“What?” Jack asked, kissing him lightly.
“I’m still hard.”
“Yeah?” Jack asked, and rubbed against, earning a growl. He felt the erection and his brows rose. “Hot damn.” He reached down and took Daniel’s cock in hand. “Now whatever am I gonna do with this?” he asked and began to move with expert twists and pulls. Minutes passed and he soon found, thanks to the way Daniel responded, that he too was in the mood for more. Daniel then surprised him by turning away from him—a position he had rarely liked. Another change. “Not as deep,” Jack said as he re-lubed himself.
“You’ll think of something,” Daniel said with a deep moan and spread his legs wide while he raised his ass. “Fuck me.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack teased, and knelt behind, taking his hips in hand. He slid back into him, then lay down over him, sliding his hands under Daniel’s armpits to take hold of his shoulders. “Hold on.”
“To wha—” Daniel started to ask, then forgot about anything even remotely related to language.
Chapter Five: Finish
Jack liked Daniel’s loft apartment kitchen (and shower and bedroom). It was all the room. But he also liked the spread-out countertop and the long island with all the drawers. No cupboards below the counter. They were all above, with the island taking care of the rest. Daniel sat on a stool, cutting up vegetables while Jack stirred the sauce. He was making Mama O’Neill’s Irish Spaghetti, which any red-blooded Italian would’ve thrown his hands up at. It included leeks—a Welsh addition—with regular yellow onion, which Daniel had already taken care of. He was busy dicing celery and baby carrots. The sausage had already been put in the pot of sauce and Jack grabbed the wooden spoon and dipped it in, then swiped at it with a finger to put into his mouth. His stomach growled as he nodded.
“Lemme taste,” Daniel asked.
Jack swiped another finger and held it before Daniel, who sucked it into his mouth. He was careful not to turn it sensual but the taste of Jack’s finger damn near made it impossible. Damn near. “Good,” he said with the obligatory “mmm” sound.
Jack grinned and picked up the cutting board to toss the veggies into the frying pan for sautéing. “You, uh, ready to get back to work?” he asked. It was the next morning. Their brief downtime wasn’t long enough and Jack found himself thinking of retirement. With Daniel, of course. He couldn’t go with Daniel still in the field.
“I guess,” Daniel said. He finished and handed Jack the other cutting board with the celery and carrots.
Daniel sighed. “I am. I just like this. Right here. Wish we could keep doing it.”
“You read my mind.”
Daniel grinned. “Been doing a lot of that lately.”
Jack smiled back, showing teeth. “You have.” He then turned serious as he went back to the sauce. “We’re good like this. At work though …”
Another sigh from Daniel. “I’ll make you a promise.”
Jack raised an eyebrow as he looked over his shoulder. “Oh?”
Daniel walked over and held up his right hand. “I promise to trust your judgment, back your play, and argue when necessary.”
Jack smiled. “Done, done, and done.”
Daniel turned to the pot of boiling water and added the pasta. In his mind, he formulated the words that would sound best. “Took some time to get here. I think we’re better now.”
Jack detected a little questioning note at the end. “We are,” he agreed, and accepted the quick kiss Daniel gave him. He was going to ask, but Daniel’s phone rang.
“Yeah?” Daniel answered. “Where are you guys? … Uh-huh … okay … well, remember, housewarming.” Jack began chuckling and Daniel threw a celery stalk at him. They’d had their own housewarming earlier. Daniel hung up. “On their way. Teal’c’s taking his time choosing a gift. Seems he has no idea what a housewarming is.”
“Indeed,” Jack said, lowering the tone of his voice to match Teal’c’s. It made his throat tickle and he coughed a few times, making Daniel laugh. “Love you,” he said suddenly, softly.
“Right backatcha,” Daniel said, imitating Jack. The man gave him a look. “Love you too,” he said, enunciating the words. Then added, “Ya idiot.”
Yeah, Jack thought. They were going to be just fine.
~ End ~