FT, PG, J/D, near the end of Season 3, 5717 words.
Summary: It’s Christmas.
Daniel awoke before dawn and groaned in frustration and alarm from a nightmare. Jack’s life had been in danger. Not all that different from other dreams, plus reality. But he had been chased by supersized spider things with front claws that resembled mechanical pincers. Daniel sat up and scowled at himself. “Where the hell did that come from?” he asked aloud. Could it have been because he’d gone to bed after watching Aliens? That didn’t track. He’d seen the film before. He shook his head dismissively and glanced at the clock. Five thirty-nine. Good grief.
As he got up to relieve himself, he thought back to the only time a movie or TV series had caused a nightmare. He had been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and it had been the episode that introduced audiences to the Borg. He’d then dreamed about becoming one. Not even The Exorcist had caused a nightmare. It had taken a Borg.
Daniel shook his head as if clearing it like an Etch-a-Sketch and shoved the thoughts aside. Might as well start the day. There was no way he’d get back to sleep. He didn’t want any more dreams about Jack in danger. He had enough of the real damn thing.
As he made his morning coffee, he thought about why Jack-in-Danger would be a nightmare and knew the answer: Because he loved the man, and not just as a friend. He’d realized it after Jack had told him that their friendship was never real. Not in those words, of course, but it amounted to the same thing. Even today, three months later, it still hurt, but it wasn’t as fresh a hurt. And he’d forgiven Jack easily. He’d never forgiven the Asgard and Tollan—and he kept telling himself to do that because they’d been justifiably angry at the Tau’ri. It was the fact that he, Sam, and Teal’c hadn’t been in on the plan. He could’ve easily acted the shock and hurt instead of actually living it.
Daniel frowned at himself as the old hurt began to sour his morning. “Enough, Jackson. Get your head straight.” He snorted as he started up the shower. Straight. In a manner of speaking and no pun intended.
As he showered, he shoved all that crap aside and thought about what he’d do for the day. One task was easy. Christmas presents.
Jack slowly woke up from somewhere on the far end of dreamland. For the umpteenth time in the last six months, Daniel had been featured in dreams that were neurotically erotic. Jack’s long-enforced inhibition to that side of his deep psyche always manifested as weird-ass “I can’t make a move” dreams. For several years, during college and the academy, his dreams had consisted of push-me-pull-me scenarios where he’d indulged himself to the point where he’d woken up sweaty and frustrated until he’d relieved himself. When he got married, those dreams had turned into vague innuendo, much to his relief. Then Daniel had entered his life.
Except that the dreams he’d had weren’t wholly sexual. There was this “I don’t know if I should” element to sexual dreams that started with a cat and mouse game of “come get me” until his inhibition turned them into scenes of frustration. For the last three years, he’d been able to keep his desire at bay. Just switch it off as easily as turning off a faucet. Then the faucet broke after that fun trip to Ne’tu.
Jack stared up at the ceiling and let out a long sigh. Pushing his feelings to the back of his brain, he rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom to relieve himself. He glanced at the mirror and snorted at the conical shape his bed hair had formed. He donned Air Force-branded sweats and headed for the kitchen, where he found he’d yet again awakened before seven. For cryin’ out loud. They had two weeks off for the holidays. Couldn’t his mind just let him sleep in?
After fixing coffee and breakfast, Jack fished the newspaper from the box by the front door and sat down to read—though truthfully, he got the paper for the wonderfully hard crossword. It allowed his sleepy mind to focus. And inevitably, he’d get stuck. He’d call Daniel or Carter. This time, Carter wasn’t available. She’d set off to take Cassie and Fraiser on a Bavarian-themed Christmas. Krampus was likely to scare Cassie into another incarnation. He smiled to himself as he imagined Cassie slapping Carter and yelling at her. It’s what had happened the first time she and Fraiser had introduced her to Halloween.
Frowning, the Colorado Springs newspaper had decided a themed crossword was appropriate. It was The Constitution. With an eyeroll and a huge sniff, he called Daniel. He grabbed the napkin to blow his nose while the phone rang. Daniel answered during the third blow.
“Hey Jack,” Daniel said.
The tone was amused.
“Hey. My brain’s not working. What’s the answer to, “Crimes are tried in blank where committed.”
“Since when do crosswords ask those questions?”
“It’s a Constitution-themed crossword.”
“Check the intersecting words?”
“Just a sec.” Jack went through them. “Hmm. Second letter is a T. States it is.”
“What was the crossing word?”
“Constitution replaced Articles of blank.”
“Confederation,” they both said.
“Why are you up?” Daniel said after a minute.
He’d gone quiet, then had let out a sigh that sounded like satisfaction. Coffee.
“Please,” Jack said, because Daniel didn’t need to ask that question.
“Right. What’re you gonna do today?”
“Right,” Daniel said with a short exhalation of amusement. “I’ll leave you to stuff then.”
“Yep,” Jack said. They hung up at the same time. Jack stared at his phone screen, which showed a circular picture of Daniel with his tongue sticking out. Jack had taken it by accident. He’d been playing with the camera before a mission briefing because it was his first time owning a smartphone. It annoyed Daniel, so it was worth keeping. As he stared at the screen, he wondered if he should update the pic. Then ditched the idea. He had more important things to do.
Daniel stared at the laptop screen filled with ‘guy’ presents and thought it was stupid to label them. Shaking his head at himself for what would have been a huge sidetrack, he returned to business. Buying gifts. He had decided that the third year at the SGC required a change of protocol: he was going to get his teammates Christmas presents. It went against unofficial orders from Jack: no presents. Or as Jack had put it, “No gift-giving. Do that and then you’ll find that everyone will expect one too. Screw that.”
Daniel smiled wistfully at the memory, but the smile faded to consternation because he had no damn idea what to get for Jack. Sam and Teal’c had been easy. He’d bought a $1,000 VISA gift card for Sam so she could use it to order any Indian motorcycle parts at Pikes Peak Indian motorcycle shop . . . or use it for something else.
While he normally would have balked at the price, being a member of SG-1 meant he had very little personal time. His salary was spent on household expenses with very little luxury. As a result, his bank account had a surplus amount. Although it was now a little less.
For Teal’c, he’d bought a gift card to Pier 1 Imports. The local shop had a lot of African-styled housewares that Teal’c had shown interest in. They came oddly close to Chulakian styles. But Pier 1 had something else Teal’c needed and wanted: Candles. Next to Yankee Candle, they held a lot. But they weren’t as expensive. Daniel had toyed with the idea of getting Teal’c some candle-making kits but thought better of it because the SGC might have a conniption fit over open flames. The candles were bad enough.
Now, it was Jack’s turn. And Daniel was drawing a blank.
Well, not really a blank.
What he wanted to buy him and what he should buy were two wholly different things. The latter included a lot of gender-biased man cave things. Daniel found the website he wanted and kept going back to stare at the pool tables. Jack would love to have one. But he’d rarely get to use it. After half an hour’s browsing, Daniel closed the site and sat staring at the screen’s search page.
His gaze began to wander as he looked around from his perch, thinking about what he could get for himself . . . and came up with a blank there too. The TV was of no use. The commercials were mostly aimed at kids. He then rolled his eyes at himself and aimed the remote at the TV, switching to the Smithsonian channel. No kid ads there.
Daniel ran his fingers through his hair and scratched at his scalp. It had been nearly ten months since he’d had his hair forcibly cut and it was finally growing out enough to get it properly cut. He missed having longer hair and wondered if he should let it grow out. He almost immediately nixed the idea. Being out in the field was a hell of a lot easier if he didn’t have to constantly tie his hair back. It had been the reason he’d started wearing bandanas—not at the SGC but when he’d been in the Yucatan region of Mexico studying the Chichén-Itzá ruins, then had found it a requirement in Egypt while studying the half-buried King’s road between Luxor and Giza (and hadn’t they changed the name again?). Jack’s reaction to the wearing of a bandana had been annoying at the time. In retrospect, it made Daniel smile.
“That’s hardly part of the uniform,” he’d said.
“I’m not wearing a helmet while you’re wearing a baseball cap.”
“It’s a utility cap.”
“It’s a renamed baseball cap. Honestly, Jack. Does the Air Force ever come up with something new?”
Jack had grabbed the floppy hat from Daniel’s side pocket and held it up. “Boonie hat.”
Daniel had lost the argument but won the war. He kept his Boonie hat in his side pocket and wore the bandana. It was his signature look now, though he sometimes wore the Boonie hat only when he hadn’t washed his bandanas. He could’ve sent them to the military laundry off-base but it was . . .
Daniel’s retrospective ceased when he saw something on the TV. Yep. The Smithsonian Channel. He avidly began a search on Google.
Jack sat down at his kitchen table and twisted the cap off his beer. While he took a long pull, his eyes were on the laptop screen. On the screen, a browser was open. The browser had four tabs open, all of which are non-standard shopping sites he found after running several searches. He was beginning to grow impatient when he found that Google could do all of it, sort of, or at least show him where to go. Hence the site tabs.
Carter was easy to shop for. So were Teal’c and Hammond. Actually, he’d gotten them all gift cards to places that were of significance to those people. He’d gotten Hammond a present the week before—a gift card to an art supply store. Few people knew that Hammond loved to paint on canvas. Carter was awarded a card to Nike. She went through sneakers more than a 12-year-old.
Teal’c was a tough nut to crack so Jack took the easy way out. He bought a $1,200 VISA debit card for him that could be refilled. Teal’c could use it for whatever he liked. What the hell did he like? Clothing. Candles. 3D jigsaw puzzles. No video game consoles other than Wii because it held exercise games, and that was going the way of the dinosaur. Pity.
Jack took another pull of his beer and put a bit more thought into Teal’c gifts. He then grinned and surfed to an art supply store to get him some models to put together. Legos and old sailing ships.
That done, his attention went to Daniel. Like everything did lately. Even his dreams. Jack looked up and stared at the TV screen, which was showing ESPN. Ads were annoying but once in a while, they gave him ideas. So far, nada. He switched to ESPN 2, then 3. Fox Sports 1 was next. Then 2. Jack left it there as he stared at the computer monitor.
Why was the man so hard to shop for? He could get Daniel almost anything and it would suit, but Jack wanted something very unique and special. But why?
For the sixth or seventh time in as many months, he’d discovered that his feelings for the man were both complicated and very specific. Typical. Things had changed recently. First, there was the implosion of their friendship thanks to his over-the-top performance. He’d wanted to tell Daniel everything but he couldn’t be sure there wasn’t video surveillance along with the audio bugs he’d found. Then Daniel’s . . . lie? About choosing straws and Jack still wasn’t sure if the man had lied and Carter and Teal’c sure as hell weren’t clearing that up. In many ways, Jack was still paying for that stupid episode.
Then Daniel had disappeared. Quite literally. Jack had hidden his alarm after the muon radiation side effects had disappeared. Wow, that headache and fever had been bad. And Carter was angry about getting sicker faster than he had, as if the muon radiation had singled her out for some sort of misogynistic attack.
It had been three weeks since that visit to the Mayan temple and the side effects were still cropping up. Nothing major but Fraiser had them all on downtime until the Christmas holiday had thankfully dismissed them all for two weeks. Until the occasional headaches and fever-spiking abated, they weren’t going anywhere in the new year.
Daniel. Jack rubbed at his face. His mind kept veering off whenever he tried to focus on his feelings for him. One moment, he’d think of arranging a private dinner. The next, he was jotting up the times Daniel went missing. Then he’d veer off into completely non-Daniel thoughts. Because he didn’t want to accept the desire, the attraction, the want, and the need.
Jack’s attention was diverted again, but not completely. FS2 was about to air a competition Jack rarely got to see. And it gave him his answer about what the hell to buy the man. Hopefully, it’d be the right thing, although how often he’d be able to use it was the question.
He thought it would’ve been an easy issue. Just surf to where they sell the expensive stuff and pick. But it took him longer than it should have to find the right one. Finally, he sat staring at the selections on an outrageously expensive website. Then he found one suitably specific. It was perfect.
But Jack sat there, drumming the fingers of his left hand on the table. The price wasn’t the issue. It was how often Daniel would be able to use it.
Screw it. He purchased the item.
For Colorado, snow at Christmas was a certainty. Its only question was how much. On the 23rd, it snowed two feet on top of the foot that had already accumulated. Fortunately, the packages had been delivered on the 21st.
It was just after 3:30 p.m. and getting dark. Daniel shook himself free of snow as he knocked on Jack’s door. He heard the stereo inside playing Frank Sinatra’s Christmas hits and he grinned. He wasn’t Jack’s favorite. Jack liked instrumental Christmas music.
Daniel noticed that no one else was parked in the driveway. Would Sam and Teal’c be coming later? Daniel frowned, thinking that if she was, she was cutting it awfully close to being able to catch a flight to San Diego with her dad. Teal’c would be taking off for Chulak. Unless they’d already been at Jack’s and left? It was possible. It was a good thing he’d already given Sam and Teal’c their presents, but he felt a bit left out if they’d come and gone and no one had told him they’d arrived early.
To his surprise, Sam opened the door. He grinned widely. “Sam! Hey!”
“Hey Daniel!” she greeted. After he came in and set his present down, they hugged. “You just caught us. Dad’s doing last-minute shopping, then we’re heading to Peterson for a hop down to San Diego.”
“That’s convenient,” Daniel said, nodding. He craned his neck and looked around. “Where’s Teal’c?”
“Oh, he’s in the kitchen.”
Daniel felt relief relax his muscles. He hadn’t missed them. “Got your presents?”
She grinned. “The envelopes are on the tree.”
“Not under it?” he teased.
“Daniel, c’mon. They’re not big enough for under the tree.”
“Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c greeted. He held two Christmas Santa mugs and offered them to Sam and Daniel. “O’Neill said these are for you.”
Daniel took off his coat and hung it on one of the wooden hooks by the door. “Thanks,” he said, taking the mug. He looked inside, then sniffed. Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and it had a foamy top. He sipped and grinned.
Sam sipped and frowned. “Yum! But what is it? Thought you were handing me eggnog, Teal’c.”
“If I’m not mistaken,” Daniel said, moving around Teal’c for the kitchen. “It’s a Tom & Jerry.”
“A what?” she asked. She sipped it again. “Well, I like it.” She and Teal’c followed Daniel into the kitchen.
“Not quite a traditional Tom & Jerry,” Jack said, sipping from his own mug. “It’s an O’Neill version of it.”
“Which is?” Daniel asked, taking a bigger drink and getting a foam lip.
Jack grinned as he handed Daniel a napkin. “It’s water, liquor, and batter. No milk. Liquor is a mix of dark rum and spiced rum. No cognac.”
“Batter?” Teal’c asked.
“Powdered sugar, eggs, butter, and spices,” Daniel rattled off.
Jack gave him a look, then to Teal’c, he clarified, “The spices are these,” he said, pointing to the small jars on the kitchen counter. “Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.”
Teal’c popped the tops open and sniffed. He kept going back to the allspice and nutmeg. “These are similar to Chulakian spices.” He pushed the cloves away with distaste. “This is medicinal. Why is it among cooking spices?”
“It’s also medicinal,” Daniel said. “What’s the Chulakian equivalent?”
While they talked of medicines, Sam gestured to Jack as she held the wrapped box Daniel had brought. “To Jack,” the name tag read. They’d made a bet. Over fourteen inches or under. Sam had chosen Over 14. Daniel’s present was at least sixteen square. It was only an inch larger than Jack’s present to him.
Jack rolled his eyes and reached for his wallet while Daniel and Teal’c finally realized there was a silent conversation going. When Jack fished out a fifty-dollar bill and handed it to ear—Sam grinning ear to ear as she plucked it out of his fingers—Daniel rolled his eyes.
“Okay, what was the bet?”
“The size of your present to Jack,” Sam said as Jack turned away, stuffing his wallet into his back pocket.
“Seriously?” Daniel asked, then stared at Teal’c.
With clear reluctance, Teal’c removed a leather pouch from a thigh pocket of his khakis and opened the drawstring. It amused everyone to see the man’s choice as a wallet. Teal’c removed a hundred-dollar bill and handed it to Daniel.
Sam and Jack blinked. “You made a bet?” they both said, then looked at each other in consternation. Duet Talk was Jack’s and Daniel’s thing, then Sam’s and Teal’c’s thing.
“On whether or not you two would make a bet about presents,” Daniel said, tucking the bill into his pocket. His wallet was on the inside pocket of his coat, where he always kept it. If it was a suit jacket, it’d be the inside pocket there, too. If he didn’t have an inside pocket, it was always in his front pocket. He’d been pickpocketed too many times to wear it against his backside again. And forget about the accidental bump against him to get at the inside pocket. Honestly, who fell for that crap?
“Living Room,” Jack said, and they headed there. It was gift-giving time. Soon, Jacob would show up to pick up Sam and Teal’c. Jack wanted to see what Carter and Teal’c thought of their presents—and for Teal’c, it meant shopping online so he wouldn’t have to ask for a ride to Pier 1. For Daniel, though, he was nervous. He hoped he liked it.
Daniel followed them in, then figuratively smacked his forehead. “Be right back.”
“Daniel?” Jack asked before sitting in his chair.
“Be right back,” Daniel repeated as he went through the front door and shut it.
Jack shook his head and sat down. Sam and Teal’c took the couch, leaving the only other seating option: the stool next to the fireplace. Realizing this, Jack got back up and grabbed a chair from the dining room table. He really needed to get another couch but since get-togethers were so few these days, it kept slipping his mind. He then went to the tree in the corner by the back door—he’d first put it by the fireplace but upon imagining a spark lighting that baby up, he’d moved it—and retrieved the presents. He passed them out, sitting Daniel’s on his empty chair. Sam and Teal’c did the same.
Daniel returned and before sitting down, passed his presents to their respective recipients. He was about to sit down but Jack said, “Hold up.” Daniel gave him a look as Jack snatched a small hand towel from atop one of the bureaus and proceeded to wipe the snowflakes from Daniel’s hair, shoulders, arms, and back. He grimaced. “Sorry.”
“You’d’ve thought you’d remembered this,” Jack mock-growled.
“Right. Guess my mind’s otherwise occupied.” He handed Jack one of the presents he’d been holding—also dotted with snowflakes. “Missed a few spots,” he teased.
Jack glared at him and took the smaller presents from him first to hand to Carter and Teal’c. “Thanks,” he said, taking his own. “Can we get this done before Jacob gets here?”
“Jesus, Jack,” Daniel said, taking the chair. “It’s not a chore.”
“Says who?” Jack said, throwing a mock glare. “It’s practically that trying to find gifts for ya’ll.”
“Right?” Sam said. She held three envelope-shaped wrapped presents and one small bag-shaped wrapped one from Teal’c. She opened that one first, as did the others. She found the trappings for incense-burning. A tiny circular brazier, two two-inch square pieces of charcoal, and several pieces of resin shaped like small crystal wands. She smelled them and smiled. Chulakian incense always smelled like pine trees, or those “balsam & cedar” candles she bought every Christmas. “Thanks, Teal’c!”
He bowed his head to her. “You are very welcome.” The same was given to Jack and Daniel as they thanked him for their incense.
“You did these yourself?” Daniel asked.
“Indeed. It is a common Chulakian ritual every day of the Cha’bari.”
Jack raised an eyebrow while Daniel asked, “Day of Ancestors?”
“That like Christmas?” Jack asked.
Teal’c gave him a blank look while Daniel said, “More like Halloween.”
“How’s that like Halloween?” Jack asked.
“Like the Mexican Dia de los Muertos,” Daniel said.
“Day of the dead?” Jack asked, surprising only Sam that he understood Spanish. “That’s November first, Daniel, not October thirty-first.”
“Yes, but since that’s far less known than Halloween, it’s easier to just say Halloween.”
“Not if you’re familiar with All Hallows, Daniel. One billion Catholics recognize it.”
“More like half a billion these days,” Daniel rebutted.
“Guys,” Sam interrupted. “Please don’t start an irrelevant argument today. Please?”
“Indeed,” Teal’c repeated.
They gave her annoyed looks and Jack muttered, “More than half a billion.”
Daniel wisely didn’t reply and returned to opening up his envelope-shaped present.
“Holy Hannah!” Sam exclaimed at opening Daniel’s present. “What’s this for?” she asked, waving the VISA card.
“Whatever you want,” Daniel said. “I was thinking of Indian motorcycle parts but they didn’t have gift cards.”
“Wow,” she said, looking at the small Post-It note on the card, naming the balance on the card. “I can replace the motor.”
“You couldn’t afford that ‘til now?” Daniel asked in surprise.
She waggled a hand. “Yes and no. I’ve been too busy replacing old appliances in my house. I really needed a new fridge.”
Jack groaned. “I’d love to get a new fridge.”
“Right?” Sam rhetorically said. She then exclaimed over the same present from Jack, only the amount was higher. “Wow.” She wrinkled her brows. “Why VISA cards? If you’ll pardon the question.”
“It’s easier than—” both Jack and Daniel began, but Daniel then gestured for Jack to continue. “Than getting you something you’ll return. I hate that. So this is best.” She smirked as Teal’c held his own payment cards, though Daniel’s said Pier 1 Imports. “Wow,” she said, pointing. “That’s pretty cool.”
“I am at a loss,” Teal’c said blankly.
“About the present or the cards?” Daniel asked.
“Both,” Teal’c said. “Particularly this one,” he added, holding up the Pier 1 card.
“They have great candles, remember?” Daniel said. “I was thinking of giving you a candle-making set but figured you didn’t need Security hammering on your door about open flames from an element set.”
“Then give him the induction burners,” Jack said. “No flames. No gas. No heating elements.”
“I thought of that,” Daniel countered, “but figured Teal’c could buy one if he wanted.”
“You’re arguing again,” Sam sing-songed in a low tone.
“No we’re not,” Jack said, making her point even more clear as the others stared at him. He winced. “Okay, fair point.”
“Thanks, Sam,” Daniel said, broadly smiling at the letter that said Atlas Coffee Company, which stated he had a year’s subscription of coffees from around the world. “I haven’t used my coffee grinder in a while.”
“First delivery is after the holidays,” Sam said. “It’ll give you a chance to reject it just in case you didn’t like it.”
“Hardly!” Daniel said, and a knock came at the door.
Jack got up, setting Daniel’s present aside. “That’ll be Jacob,” he said, and called out, “It’s open!” The door opened just as Jack got there. “Hey there, Jacob.”
“Jack,” Jacob said, smiling. He held out a generic gift bag. “For you and Danny.”
“Thanks,” Jack said, taking it while shaking Jacob’s other hand. “Gotta run or do you have time for a Tom & Jerry?”
“I’m driving, so no,” Jacob grinned.
“More for me,” Jack said, giving him a wink. He turned around and said, “Carter, Teal’c, just leave that.” He gestured at the torn wrapping they were gathering. “I’ll take care of it.” When Teal’c reached him, he hugged the man. “Thanks for the gift. You take care and have a good time. Say hi to Rya’c and Drey’auc.”
“I will do that,” Teal’c said.
“What he said,” Daniel said, and hugged Teal’c. “Have a good time.”
“Thank you, Daniel Jackson.”
“Hey dad,” Sam said to Jacob. “Mark and family ansty for us to get there?”
“You could say that,” Jacob grinned.
Jack and Daniel exchanged Merry Christmases with him and saw them out. A few snowflakes flew into Jack’s face and he grimaced with annoyance and shut the front door. He watched Daniel return to the living room. Funnily enough, he returned to his chair instead of moving to the couch, but then he simply picked up wrappings from the floor and moved the lot to the couch before sitting down.
Their presents to each other remained.
Jack sat down. “Okay then.” He began to tear the wrapping while Daniel meticulously slid fingers under the taped ends. “You’re not saving it, Daniel,” Jack told him.
Daniel blinked and paused. “Good point.” He ripped the paper as he removed the rest of the wrapping from a generic box. The gift was heavy.
Jack did the same and found the same. It too was heavy.
They opened their boxes.
Jack’s mouth dropped open.
Daniel’s mouth dropped open.
They hadn’t gotten each other the same theme but it was precisely the same item:
A chess set.
Jack opened the case and a card inside said, The Goliath Series by The Chess Empire.
Daniel opened his case and a card inside said, Pacific Trading Limited Edition, Romans v Egyptians.
“Wow,” they both said.
Jack’s pieces were made of ebony hardwood and African padauk.
Daniel’s were silver, Romans, and gold, Egyptians. He opened the bag of gold pieces and held up the queen, who wore the headdress of Nefertiti or Nefertiri. The king wore that classic headdress, so he could be anyone. “Thanks,” he said, and realized the bottom of the packaging box held a separate board made from the sliced intersection of a young oak. He glanced up at Jack, who was marveling over the redwood Knight. “I hope we don’t run across the Goa’uld versions of Nefertiri and any of the other pharaohs. Or Anubis,” he added and held up the piece for the knight.
Jack cringed. “Dammit. Didn’t think of that.” Shaking it off, he added, “It wasn’t that expensive so don’t worry. I’ll get you a better one for your birthday.” Holding up the knight, he said, “This is beautiful, Daniel, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Daniel said, and nearly blushed. Birthday? They were going to do the birthday gift thing?
“Game?” Jack asked. Daniel smiled and it was both awkward and sexy at the same time. “Sexy?” Jack asked himself. He thought it over. Yes. It applied. He’d never before thought of that word applied to Daniel. He was the gawky geek, not the sexy one. “C’mon,” Jack said as he shook off the thoughts. “Help me get this stuff cleaned up. Then we can refill our mugs and settle down to play.”
“Deal. Only put the movies in while we do?” Daniel asked as he picked up the paper.
“Which ones?” Jack asked, taking the chair back to the dining room.
Daniel followed. “The usual. Only don’t do the one with the kids in it.”
“What about tiny Tim?” Jack asked.
Daniel found himself looking at Jack’s ass and shocked that he’d forgotten himself (don’t let the target see you looking), he blushed furiously. Jack turned at that moment to walk past him and there wasn’t enough room in the short thru-way between hallway and dining room-slash-kitchen.
“He’s the exception,” Daniel said, though he wasn’t paying attention to his words. He was paying attention to Jack’s lips. His attention moved up to Jack’s eyes. There was emotion there. An emotion he’d never seen there before.
“Yeah, he is,” Jack said absently. Daniel’s eyes were very blue. Had they always had that color.
“Right,” Daniel said, not paying attention to his word either. “’cause he’s the epitome of . . . I think I’m gonna . . .”
“Yes?” Jack asked and managed to draw out the single syllable.
“I . . .” Daniel began, then said to himself, “To hell with it!” and wrapped his arms around Jack, with one pinned around his neck, and brought their lips together in a tight, warm, lip lock. Jack’s hands went up but they stayed there as if being hit with a robbery, while his lips met Daniel’s. Soft. Warm. Pliable.
Then Daniel parted his, inviting Jack to do the same.
Their eyes were closed.
They held still.
Then they both let out sighs of both astonishment and indulgence as Jack parted his lips and their tongues met. Breaths exchanged through nose and mouth and the kiss deepened while their arms and hands traveled over each other. They parted enough for their eyes to meet.
“Okay?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah. Okay?” Jack said.
“Yeah. But where do we go from here?”
“I don’t want to think,” Jack said. “I just want to do.”
“Yeah, me too, ‘cause it’s been a long, long time,” Daniel said. “The libido has kicked into overdrive.”
“Do we give in to it?”
“Yes,” Jack breathed.
“The chess game?” Daniel asked.
“I’m considering a different sort of moves and countermoves,” Jack said.
Their eyes had traveled down their faces to focus on their lips. “Okay,” Daniel breathed. “Your move or mine?”
“Mine,” Jack said.
“Done,” Daniel said, and they returned to engage in their second kiss that led to much, much more.
. . .
“You sure about that?” Daniel asked.
They lay across Jack’s bed with Daniel’s chess gift between them. Jack was Rome. Daniel, Egypt.
Jack moved his bishop, a Roman cleric, across the board and took Daniel’s rook, an obelisk.
Daniel moved his knight. Anubis, the jackal-headed god of reincarnation. “Check.”
Jack sighed. “Resign. Again? Only with my pieces?” Daniel stared at him and the look was somehow smoldering. It took a few seconds of silence for Jack to ask, “Daniel?”
“How about an hour from now? I’d like a shower.” He sat up and held out his hand. “Join me?”
Jack smiled and took it, slowly lacing their fingers together. “Think this’ll work?”
Daniel nodded slightly. “It’ll take work.”
“I’m . . . game.”
Daniel smiled broadly. “Me, too.”
Jack followed Daniel into the bathroom, watching the man’s ass unconsciously sashay – just a little. Sexy. Oh hell yes. He reached out to take Daniel’s hand and pulled, bringing their naked bodies together. “Merry Christmas, Daniel.”
Daniel wrapped his arms around his neck. “Merry Christmas, Jack. Start the shower. Or something’s going to happen outside of it.”
Jack gave him a mischievous grin. “And here I thought you were up for anything.”
“One wonderful step at a time, Jack,” Daniel said, moving out of the embrace to start the shower himself. He waited for the hot water while he looked over his shoulder to give the man a Cheshire cat smile. “One step at a time.”
Jack said it with him.