Crash Course


"Fall back! Fall the fuck back!"

Jack's bellow cut through the ululating howls of the people shooting flaming arrows at them -- oddly not as impressive in daylight -- with effortless ease. Daniel scrambled to his feet, ducked as one of the arrows gave a weird twist and headed right at his head, and began to move towards the 'gate in an awkward crouch.

He was almost there when he realised that he'd left his notes behind on the slab of rock he'd been using as a table.

"Daniel, where the hell do you think you're going?" Jack was still bellowing, but now it was at close enough range to be acutely painful.

"My notes ..."

Jack rolled his eyes and lowered his voice because even O'Neill couldn't yell through gritted teeth. "How many times have I told you to pack up fast when we're under fire?"

"Never." Daniel frowned. "Really. It hasn't come up before."

"Well, I'm telling you now! Pack it or lose it, and you lost it. Now, come on."

Jack's hand clamped around his arm and they started to move towards the 'gate, which had already swallowed up Teal'c and Carter.

"Jack, I can walk, you know."

An arrow sizzled between them and O'Neill let go of him and turned, firing high and buying them a brief respite as the natives attacking them scattered in confusion. Obviously considering his point made, Jack made for the stargate without looking back. Daniel hesitated and then turned around.

A week's work. He wasn't leaving it.

He fell through the stargate, rolling and tumbling in an undignified heap, the weight of his pack overbalancing him, the tiredness he'd ignored for days rushing over him now that they were back. Jack was there to help him up, the crease between his eyes smoothing away as he saw that Daniel was unhurt.

"Took your time, didn't --"

Daniel blinked up at him, watching Jack's expression harden as he stared at the sheaf of papers Daniel was clutching.

"Jack, I had to get them."

Jack nodded slowly. "Your ass is on fire," he observed calmly and walked away.

It wasn't, but there were more than a few snickers from the watching guards as Daniel yelped and batted frantically at his backside before realising the truth.

By the time he'd finished getting checked over by Doctor Fraiser the others had already left the infirmary. The debriefing had been scheduled for the following morning as there was nothing particularly urgent to discuss, and the corridors, although never empty, were quiet. Daniel walked through them to his office, adjusting easily enough to the feel of level flooring underfoot after a week of walking on shifting sand or scrambling over rocks. Anticipating going home to food, a hot bath, and a bed free from the P2X-337 equivalent of biting centipedes, he pushed open the office door and then paused.

"Jack? What are you doing in here?"

"Waiting for you."

Jack's voice was even and he didn't look up from his rapt study of a Mesopotamian figurine of a fertility goddess, long fingers tracing the smooth stone curves.

"Uh, why?" A thought occurred to Daniel. "If you wanted to apologise for what you said, it's all right." He waved a magnanimous hand. "Just forget it; it was kind of funny, I guess. On fire. Right."

"Apologise?" Jack spaced the word out, giving each syllable a full workout. He dropped the figurine back on the desk with a soft thud. "I don't think so."

"Look, Jack --"

"You just can't do it, can you?"

"Do what?"

"Obey orders."

Jack leaned against Daniel's desk with his arms folded across his chest. The pause before the pounce. He looked forbidding, even scary, except for the part where this was Jack and Daniel couldn't picture Jack hurting him.

Daniel tried a smile and thought better of it, schooling his face back to solemnity. "That's a little unfair. I obey orders -- your orders -- all the time, Jack. It's just that sometimes I --"

"Don't."

Giving him a perplexed look, Daniel shrugged. "Well, now and then, sure, but so do you! Don't, I mean."

"No, I don't." Jack looked doubtful. "Do? Don't? God, Daniel, you tangle a conversation up faster than anyone it's been my misfortune to meet, you know that? I don't disobey orders."

"You do," Daniel insisted, feeling indignant. He was willing to accept that from Jack’s perspective, he’d been more of a pain in the ass than usual, but even so, that was a little too much to take. "All the time."

"In the field? Under fire? No. And when we're out there, I'm in charge, Daniel. There is no one for me to disobey."

"General Hammond..."

"If he's given me a mission order, I do it, simple as that," Jack said, sounding as if he believed every word, which argued a remarkable capacity for self-delusion. "And we're not talking about me. We're talking about you."

"You know, it's late, we're both tired..." Daniel dropped his dearly-bought notes onto his desk and gave Jack a tight, brief smile. "I'm sorry that rescuing my notes meant disobeying an order from you, but I'm fine and you’re fine, so why don't we just --"

"Why?"

"Why?" Daniel rubbed at his forehead, feeling the grit left behind after a week of inadequate washing rough against his fingers. "Why what?"

"Why did you rescue them?" Jack flicked his finger at the notes. "What's in there worth dying for? As far as I know, it was straightforward shit about legends you think might have connected the tribes to the Sumerians. The only reason we spent a week on that godforsaken dustball was because while you were translating, Carter was tracking down an energy source."

"Oh..." Daniel nodded. "Yes, I know she was. I just wasn't paying -- how did that work out?"

"Radioactive swamp," Jack said succinctly. "Great for breeding super villains but we'll have to see what else she can do with it. And, yeah, I get that she was as absorbed as you; Teal'c and I were just there to guard your asses and bring you both coffee, and that's fine. I guess." Jack took a deep breath. "And then when the natives woke up to us and didn't like what you pair of Goldilockses were doing, we got you out of there. The difference is that Carter didn't give me attitude about leaving samples of goop behind."

"Did she?"

"What?"

"Leave them behind?"

"No." Jack smirked. "Unlike you, she had 'em packed and ready to go. Carter's smart."

"Well, good for Sam!" Daniel smacked his hand down on the desk and watched Jack fail to react in any way, shape or form. "And unlike me, she's military. It makes a difference."

Jack nodded. "You bet it does." His eyes acquired a wistful expression. "She's been trained."

"And I'm still not housebroken, is that it?"

The smirk on Jack's face was infuriatingly persistent. "Couldn't have put it better myself."

Daniel poked Jack's chest with a finger that was trembling. He couldn't remember being this angry with Jack. Not for weeks. "I'm not rolling over for you, Jack. Tell me to jump and I'm not going to say 'how high?', I'm going to ask --"

"'Why?'," Jack interrupted flatly. "Yes, I know." The wistful look was back. "God, what I wouldn't give to have you under me."

"Under...?"

Daniel was standing close enough to see the skin tighten around Jack's mouth as if he was holding back his amusement as he waved his hand airily. "Chain of command, Daniel. You're all... off to the side in some ways. It's fuzzy. I don't like that." He smiled. "I like the idea of you doing basic training though..."

"A little late for that. And I'd have to enlist." Daniel cleared his throat. "That's never going to happen, just so we're clear."

"Yeah..." Jack seemed to lose interest. He sauntered toward the door and muttered just loud enough to make certain Daniel heard him, "You're an undisciplined asshole at times."

"Jack..."

Jack turned, spreading his hands wide with a patently false look of innocent bewilderment on his face. "What? You are."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am --"

"Prove it."

"How?" Daniel sighed. "I promise I won't take off like that again." He frowned and added conscientiously, "Unless I think it's absolutely necessary of course."

Jack leaned his head against the doorframe with an audible thump and groaned. "See? See?"

"Well, I don't know what I can say!" Daniel protested. "It's not what I'm used to. It's not who I am."

Jack straightened and turned to face him, his eyes sharp. "You think obeying orders comes naturally to me? To Carter? To any airman on this base?" He shook his head. "We're trained, Daniel. Until it becomes automatic. Until we don't even think about it, any more than we debate whether or not to breathe."

"That's a little of an exaggeration, surely?"

Jack wiggled his hand. "Little bit, but not much."

"We're back to where we started," Daniel murmured, reaching out absent-mindedly for the stack of mail on his desk and starting to sort through it. "Oh, well."

"Promise me."

"What?"

"That you won't fuck up like that again." Jack walked towards him, his face set and serious. "Or I swear I'm not taking you with us on the next mission."

"I'm part of the team, Jack," Daniel said, tossing the mail down and only realising later that it was to free his hands in the face of a potential threat to his health. Some instincts ran too deeply to be anything but automatic.

"You're a liability," Jack answered. "If you can't obey orders --"

"What is your problem with me?" Daniel said, his voice rising. "Why do you have this insane desire to have me saying, 'Sir, yes, sir!'?"

Jack screwed his eyes closed for a second and growled in frustration. "Daniel, so help me, the next time someone asks who's smarter; you or a drooling idiot, I'm pointing to the idiot." His hand came down, warm and heavy on Daniel's shoulder. "You almost died today. Because you didn't trust me. If you can't see why I have a problem with that --"

"Jack --" Daniel swallowed, momentarily robbed of words by the concerned look in Jack's eyes that had replaced the annoyance. "I'm sorry," he said earnestly. "I do trust you, it's just --"

"No, you don't!" Jack stepped back. "No. You don't," he repeated in a quieter voice. "You think orders are there to be argued with when they don't suit you. You don't trust my assessment of a situation."

"From a military or a tactical position, yes, yes I do." Daniel took off his glasses, polishing them on his shirt to give himself a break from Jack's unwavering and frankly disconcerting stare. "That's your area of expertise and I don't think anyone does it better."

"It's my job," Jack said, one shoulder lifting in a shrug. He seemed genuinely indifferent to the praise, although Daniel didn't doubt for a moment that Jack knew just exactly how good he was.

"And you do it well," Daniel said, slipping his glasses back on and giving him a tentative smile.

Jack's mouth twisted. "Well, thank you, Daniel," he snapped. "So why not try letting me do it next time?"

"I will," Daniel assured him. "Really. Trust me."

"I don't. Not after today."

That hurt. That hurt more than Daniel was prepared to admit. "I -- ah," His head drooped. "Jack -- please."

"Forget it, Daniel." Jack swung around and headed toward the door. "I'll find myself another archeologist. Put an ad in the wanted column or something."

Daniel laughed and then straightened his face as Jack turned back and gave him a bone-melting glare. "Sorry. It's just, well; you're stuck with me, aren't you?"

"Hammond wanted you here on base, not out in the field," Jack reminded him. "If you think he wouldn't listen to my recommendation that you be re-assigned, think again."

Horrified at the idea, Daniel blinked at him. "I don't want to stay behind," he said. "Jack --"

"No. I’ve had it with you, Daniel."

Jack left the room and Daniel followed him, grabbing at his arm. "Wait."

"Let go of me," Jack said, shaking Daniel's hand off him. "Jesus, Daniel, I'm doing you a favour. The way you take chances, you're safer here."

"Safe's over-rated," Daniel said.

That got a glimmer of a smile from Jack. "Maybe."

"I've told you I'll try to uh, change my ways --"

"Not good enough."

"Right, right." Daniel nodded quickly. "You need more than words, yes of course you do, because they're just well, words --" He was babbling, he knew, but it was working. Jack's expression was relaxing into a tolerant, familiar exasperation.

"You trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat, Daniel?"

"I suppose I am." Daniel tapped his finger thoughtfully against his lips and then smiled. "A day."

"A what?" Jack lifted his eyebrows questioningly. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Actions, not words," Daniel said. "I'll obey every order you give for a whole day while we're here on Earth. Perfect, unquestioning obedience, just to prove to you that I can." He beamed at Jack, warming to the idea. Yes. Oh, yes. This would be the perfect chance... "Consider it a crash course; I'm a quick study; you're a great coach; it'll be like months of basic training compressed into 12 hours."

Jack was silent for a long ten seconds. "Daniel? Did you knock your head when I wasn’t looking?"

"No, really," Daniel insisted. He wasn't going to let Jack talk them both out of this. It might have been an impulsive offer but he was already seeing the possibilities. "It's the perfect way to show you that I'm sincere and that I'm fully capable of obeying you."

Jack tilted his head and studied him. "You really don't want to be left behind, do you?" he said quietly. "Daniel, it's a dumb idea and it won't prove a thing, or change my mind."

"Oh," Daniel said flatly, making no attempt to hide his disappointment. "So you don't want to do it?"

The corner of Jack's mouth quirked up. "I didn't say that."

"You implied that it was futile," Daniel said, switching sides with an effortless cunning. "Pointless and a waste of time."

"Welcome to the military," Jack said. "Okay, Daniel. Your ass is mine for a day. I'll get back to you on when."

He was smiling as he walked away. His back was to Daniel, but Daniel could tell.


*****

The darkness of the room was split and shattered by the jack-hammer drill of the phone. Daniel groped for it, eyes screwed shut, fingers made clumsy by sleep and dread. Middle of the night. Had to be a problem.

His hand knocked against a Kleenex box and he used the memory of its position to navigate across the obstacle course of a night table littered with far too much junk. Left a bit, water bottle, mustn't tip it over, down to his glasses, resting on top of his book -- ah.

"Yes? Doctor Jackson speaking." His mouth sounded more awake than he felt.

"Morning, Daniel."

"Jack?" Daniel sat up, pressing the phone to his ear. "What is it? God, what's happened?" Belatedly, his drowsy mind realised that Jack wouldn't be sounding indecently cheerful if something was wrong. "Are you drunk?"

"No, Daniel, I'm not drunk. God, wake up, will you?"

"I am awake," Daniel said. "I wish I wasn't, but I am." He yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth, and reached for his glasses. "Hang on." He dropped the phone on the bed, put his glasses on, and gave the clock a disapproving glare. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"It's 5.30."

"I make it 5.32, but whatever."

"And you're calling me at dawn on my day off, because?"

"Thought you might like to go jogging, Daniel. See the sun rise."

"Fuck off."

"That's an order, Doctor Jackson."

If Jack had sounded anything but bored it wouldn't have had the effect it did. Bored because this was routine, this was mundane, this was how it was in Jack's world. He gave orders, people obeyed them.

Daniel obeyed them. Usually. When he had to.

He just wasn't usually naked in bed when Jack gave them and it was amazing what a difference that made. He really had to stop doing this to himself, he reflected, feeling a familiar stir of interest push aside a little of his sleepiness. Really had to stop using Jack -- what he said, how he moved, how he looked -- anything and everything -- as a turn-on. It wasn't fair to either of them.

And if Jack knew that he was doing it, he'd have Daniel off SG1 in a heartbeat.

"I thought you'd forgotten about that --"

A week of waiting and wondering, with Jack taking him on two routine missions to places they'd already been, safe places, friendly places, where they were greeted with smiles as they unloaded promised supplies or inspected defences. A week where Jack had never mentioned Daniel's suggestion or what had happened on P2X-337 until, disappointed but too stubborn to bring it up, Daniel's expectations had faded to a familiar resignation.

"Forgotten?" There was a pause long enough for Jack to roll his eyes, shake his head and sigh sadly at Daniel's general, all-round cluelessness. "No, Daniel. Today's the day. Now get your ass out of bed, get dressed in something you can run in, and don't bother showering, because by the time I'm done with you, you'll be dripping with sweat."

"Jack--"

"You know, just for today, let's make it 'sir'. I'm more used to that."

Biting down on his lip Daniel took the time to breathe in slowly. Didn't help. Being told to call Jack 'sir' didn't do much for him one way or another. He got more of a kick out of using Jack’s first name when he was surrounded by people who had to call Jack ‘Colonel’. It was the way Jack was drawling orders down the fucking phone at him that was doing the damage. Without volition, his hand found his cock, stroking the soft curve of it lightly, absent-mindedly, as his other hand tightened around the phone.

"Sir," he said, slathering sarcasm as thick as the butter on the slice of toast he wasn't going to eat because he'd be too busy throwing up -- he'd seen the way Jack exercised and pushed himself to the limit, which was light years past Daniel's. "Request permission to start this later in the day? Preferably after the sun's already started to shine?"

A muffled thud echoed through the apartment and Daniel flinched, his hand jerking guiltily away from his cock. "God, what was that? Jack, I'll have to go --"

"That was me, knocking at your door, Doctor Jackson."

Jack sounded pissed off, a sharp bite of disapproval souring his voice.  

"What? Stop it!" His fleeting arousal fading, Daniel glared at the phone and then in the direction of the noise.

"Get your ass out of bed and let me in!"

"I'm naked!"

"Really didn't need to know that, but I don't give a fuck." A second thud reverberated through the apartment. Jack's fist? Or was he slamming his shoulder against it? "And in case it's slipped your memory, I've seen your bare ass before and survived."

"Jack, look --" Daniel scrambled out of bed, looking around wildly for something he could drag on. The front door opened with an entirely criminal click and he yelped with indignation and panic. "Wait there," he called. "I'll be out in just a --"

"I told you," Jack appearing in the bedroom doorway, reaching around to flick on the light. "I've seen it before." Cold eyes raked him over from bed-rumpled head to curling with embarrassment toes. There wasn't a flicker of self-consciousness on Jack's face and his expression didn't alter when his gaze came level with Daniel's half-erect cock.

"Jack --"

"I thought we'd covered that."

Daniel blinked away the dazzle as his eyes adjusted and then caught on. "Sir?" he said doubtfully, feeling like an idiot. This wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind and why the hell had Jack picked today of all days? "Look, I know I said I'd do this, but I wasn't prepared --"

"It was your idea," Jack pointed out inflexibly.

"I know, I know." Daniel smiled nervously and adjusted his glasses because if he didn't do something with his hands they were going to drop and cover and he was fairly certain that if he looked ridiculous now, he'd look ludicrous cupping his balls to hide them from Jack.

Who wasn't even looking at them or him.

Striving for nonchalant, Daniel turned away and walked over to his closet. "Jogging? Right. I'll just grab some clothes."

"Yeah, that might be a plan," Jack said, rubbing at his eyes and smothering a yawn. So he was tired, too? Then why the fuck hadn't he left this until later? "You've got five minutes."

Daniel glanced at him. Taking care not to sound confrontational he asked, "And if I take six?"

"You won't." Jack twisted his wrist and stared at his watch. "Move it."

"Yes, sir."

He couldn't keep the edge out of his voice but Jack didn't say anything. Why that made Daniel feel guilty was something he wasn't ready to consider. Not when he was trying to pee and brush his teeth at the same time.

The street was quiet; light glimmering from a single window in a house and only the occasional car passing by. Daniel tilted his head back and watched the stars wink out as the rising sun extinguished them.

"Stretch," Jack said, leaning against a wall and looking naked without his P-90 cradled in his hands. His gaze was flickering to every shadow, checking out every possible hiding place. Daniel pitied the mugger who targeted Jack -- but a mugger with any sense of self-preservation probably wouldn't.

"Are you armed?" Daniel asked suddenly.

"Stretch."

"You are, aren't you?"

"Or you'll pull a muscle."

"Is that legal?"

Jack's fingers grabbed fabric and skin and Daniel yelped as he was spun around and slammed against the wall. "One more word, Daniel. One more and this is off, you got that?" His hand tightened around the crumpled front of Daniel's T-shirt. "You're supposed to be impressing me today. You're not."

"I'm --"

"You're a member of my team, Daniel. SG-1. We're supposed to be it. The best. And when it comes to what you do, you are, or you wouldn't be walking through that 'gate beside me."

The conviction in Jack's voice stripped the words of flattery but Daniel couldn't help feeling pleased.

"And if you won't do as you're told, you put us all at risk. Ever think about the fact that all three of us would die trying to save your ass?"

"I know that," Daniel said softly. "And I'd do the same, you know I would."

Jack let go, absently smoothing down the rumpled cloth. "I know." He patted Daniel's shoulder.

"Jack? Do we have to do this?" Daniel asked tentatively.

"What? Jog or --"

"The 'or'," Daniel said as Jack got lost searching for a phrase.

Jack's mouth twisted in a rueful smile. "Guess not. To be honest, I don't know what good you thought it'd do." He shrugged. "I just trusted you. Thought you'd got a plan or something."

"No. I was panicking --" True enough, if misleading. "-- and it seemed like a good idea." Daniel blinked at Jack as he began to snicker. "That wasn't meant to be funny."

"Daniel, you crack me up."

"I do?"

"Yeah, you do. Come on; I've dragged your peachy ass out of bed; might as well do what we came out here to do."

"Or we could drag my not at all peachy ass back to bed?" Daniel suggested hopefully, trying to salvage something from the disaster. "I wasn't planning on getting up for another four hours at least."

"Ten o'clock?" Jack looked shocked. "You're not sick, are you?"

"I didn't get to bed until three," Daniel confessed.

Jack clicked his tongue disapprovingly. "No wonder you look like shit."

"Charming."

"You're not running."

Daniel looked longingly back down the street. "The going back to bed idea isn't appealing to you?"

Jack studied him thoughtfully. "Go back to bed, Dr Jackson. Get your eight hours in and eat a decent breakfast when you wake up. That's an order."

Daniel patted Jack's arm, feeling gratitude well up. Jack. Salt of the earth. Really. Sexy, irritating, control-freak, salty Jack. "Yes, sir!"

He'd taken two steps when Jack's hand slipped down inside the back of his T-shirt and brought him to a choking halt. "Yeah. Guess you can do it after all, Daniel. Good to know. One mile to warm up nice and slow and then we'll pour it on."

"Jack --" Daniel massaged his throat and dragged in some much-needed oxygen. Tricked. Damn. "Bad idea. Really is. I don't jog."

"Pretend you're being chased by someone you're pretty sure is armed and who's really pissed off with you for jerking him around."

"You'd never shoot me," Daniel said with certainty.

"Yes, I would," Jack said easily.

"For not jogging?" Daniel asked incredulously.

"It's symbolic, you idiot. You get symbols, right?"

"Yes." Along with a lot of other deep and meaningful shit, and don't make me explain what some of your habits say about you, Jack.

"So." Jack gestured at the empty sidewalk.

"I still don't see how I'm supposed to run when you’re talking about putting a bullet in me!"

Jack moaned. "I hate you."

"What?"

"Daniel? Just run. Run before I start banging my head against the wall and crying like a baby. Run before I shoot you somewhere that won't stop you running."

"I'm fairly certain that getting shot anywhere would --"

Jack's face got very close to his and breathed a single word. "Daniel."

Daniel took a step away from the scary man and then another. It meant that he was moving backwards but he didn't want to turn his back on Jack right then.

"Faster."

At some point Daniel got turned the right way around. It helped.

Just not enough.

*****

By the time it was hurting to breathe -- and he was doing nothing but breathe, each exhalation interrupted by a frantic gulping gasp, each strand of hair ending in a drip of sweat, he wanted to kill someone to end his suffering.

Jack would do; Jack would do nicely, but if that proved impossible -- and given his current inability to form a fist with the trembling, palsied extremities that had once been hands he thought that it might -- he'd happily settle for a merciful death for himself.

He was fairly certain that when you died they let you lie down.

"Keep it up, Daniel."

Was Jack even panting?

"... hate... you..."

"Sure you do." Jack sounded amused. "Never was a recruit who didn't hate his drill sergeant. It's the way they like it. Not that you get away with telling them that though. Not respectful."

"Fuck... respect."

"If you can talk, you can run faster."

"Can't."

He wasn't running now. It was more of a barely controlled fall forward that the painful slam of his foot against the sidewalk was halting. Each step jarred every single bone in his body and he'd bitten his tongue twice and his lip once.

He hurt.

"Jack..."

"No."

"Please."

"No."

"'m sorry?"

"You're just saying that."

"Not."

"Are."

He broke when Jack announced, in an obscenely cheerful voice, "Halfway. All down hill from here, Daniel."

Stopping wasn't as much of a relief as he'd expected. He was doubled over, coughing piteously, his hand reaching out and finding Jack's arm. Jack let him hang on and then, with a sigh, slipped his arm around Daniel's shoulders and hauled him upright.

"Open your eyes."

"Can't." Halfway? God.

"Do it."

Blinking blearily, Daniel registered the fact that he was standing outside his apartment building.

"Bastard," he said with conviction.

"Yeah. Need help?"

"Depends."

"On?"

"Still going to tuck me in?" Fuck not flirting ever, because it was risky. Jack came out with plenty of suggestive comments and no one ever said anything to him.

Not to his face, anyway.

Jack chuckled. "Maybe. Come on."

With Jack's help Daniel made it back to his apartment. He leaned on Jack heavily in the elevator, resting his head on the softness of a worn, damp, sweat shirt-covered shoulder and snuffling in the smell of a Jack who needed a shower but still smelled good.

Extreme exhaustion of body and mind was very much like being drunk. There was the same exhilarating, tempting, entirely false belief that you could do anything you wanted to and get away with it because you weren't yourself. Freedom from inhibition, temporary and dearly bought.

"And we’re wasting it on this?" From the puzzled look Jack was giving him, he'd just said that aloud. "Sorry. Not thinking --ow. Ow. Owww."

"Yell a bit louder, why don't you?"

"Muscles. Seizing up...."

Daniel hobbled through the door and to the couch and was about to collapse onto it when Jack sighed and grabbed his arm. "You do that, and you'll never get back up again. Take a bath. Soak. And what muscles? We did four miles, Daniel. Four lousy miles."

"What?" Four? More like ten...

"Yeah. Come on..."

Jack towed him to the bathroom and propped him against a wall, muttering under his breath the whole time. Daniel caught enough to confirm his guess that it wasn't complimentary and stopped listening.

The gush of water from the taps drowned it out anyway.

Daniel watched the bath fill as Jack fussed around, examining Daniel's choice of toothpaste, deodorant and floss with a curiosity that was endearing rather than irritating. Puzzling, though. By the time the water was lapping at the overflow Daniel had decided, dreamily, that Jack was just avoiding looking at him, which begged the question of why he didn't leave the room.

Then Daniel took hold of the hem of his T-shirt and tried to pull it over his head. The muscles across his shoulders went into spasms and he got tangled up, blinded by fabric and whimpering with frustration because his arms were trembling. "Jack..."

The air in front of him was filled with the solid, familiar shape of Jack, close enough that Daniel's body reacted automatically to the proximity, tensing and holding still in a frenzy of 'remember this, lock it away for later'. Jack close to him was normal but not like this. On the other hand, in addition to being exhausted and in pain, he couldn't see... All good excuses for stumbling forward slightly so that Jack had to catch him, or maybe reaching out and brushing his hands across Jack's chest or arms...

He didn't. Wouldn't have been fair. Just held still, barely breathing, feeling a shudder build and spill through him. Jack reached up and eased Daniel's shirt off without touching his bare skin once and tossed it in the direction of the laundry hamper.

Daniel's mouth shaped a thank you and Jack grimaced at him, the sarcastic twist of his lips not even close to a smile. That wasn't a look he gave Daniel often. He usually saved it for pushy system lords.

Jack glanced down and sighed. Before Daniel could ask why, Jack sank to his knees with a grunt and began to work at the laces of Daniel's running shoes.

Daniel stared through the wisps of steam at the tiled wall opposite until he couldn't stand it any more and then let his head tilt down.

He didn't get the chance to look at Jack from this angle often. The silvering of the brown hair was advancing; he wondered if Jack would allow that or try to halt the process. Probably not. Jack had his vanities, his foibles, but Daniel couldn't see him wasting time on touching up his roots. Besides, grey would look good on him.

Daniel pushed his hands behind him before he gave into the urge to finger-comb the spikes Jack's hair had formed. Not a good idea. No.

Jack slipped Daniel's shoes off his feet and then peeled off his socks, one hand around Daniel's ankle, lifting his foot up a little. His hand was warm. Jack's hands usually were. One sock went flying across the room, then the second. Daniel waited but Jack didn't release his ankle. Instead, he drew the tip of his finger along the curve of the arch, a slow, deliberate touch, thoughtful rather than questioning.

Daniel squinted down. His feet looked like normal. Maybe a little sweatier than usual, with a few blobs of black fluff from the lining of his socks adhering to them, but more or less clean, nails trimmed fairly recently. Just feet. "Jack?"

Jack looked at him without speaking and reached up. He'd hooked his fingers into the waistband of Daniel's track pants and tugged them down before Daniel had chance to do more than arch his hips forward a little, releasing his hands and making it easier for Jack. No time to say anything, because that would have meant having something to say, and Daniel had nothing coherent ready. Jack's name, maybe, and although that was capable of holding a dozen different meanings within the three syllables he could squeeze out of it, he'd just said it and got no response.

He stepped out of the pants, even the small effort of raising his knees an inch or two enough to scare his body into thinking he wanted it run some more, and frowned down at his lack of underwear.

"You rushed me," he said apologetically.

Jack's mouth was level with Daniel's cock. Daniel's naked cock. With a detached, distant part of his brain chanting, 'no, God, no, please, oh shit, no' he watched, not the swift twitch and fill of his cock, but Jack's face as he stared blankly at the floorshow.

"Yeah, I'm getting that," Jack said finally. He stood up, wincing as something cracked, and nodded at the bath. "Soak. Yell if you --" He paused and visibly switched tracks. "Just don't slide under and get stuck, okay? Hard to explain away how you managed to drown with me next door."

Jack left and Daniel stood without moving for a long ten seconds before going over to the bath.

The water was hot. The water was scalding. He dipped his foot in gingerly and pulled it out fast, yelping and hopping around.

"It's hot!"

"So run in some cold!" Jack sounded less uncertain at a distance. "That's an order, if we’re still playing your fucked-up little game!"

Daniel bared his teeth in a snarl Jack would never see and did as he was told. When he eased his way into the water it was still hot enough to hurt, his skin flushing scarlet, heat prickling over him as he gasped in lungfuls of moist steam, drenched, damp air that left him floating, glowing, acutely aware of each lap of the water as it rose around his gradually lowered body.

Relaxing was impossible to manage at once but with his wet skin seared to insensibility he achieved it in increments until he was immersed and languid, eyes closed, tasting the water as it stroked across his lips, feeling it seep insinuatingly into his ears, filling them and leaving him deprived of another sense.

Nothing to touch, nothing to see, nothing to hear or smell or taste that wasn't water, pale and bland and empty.

He drifted, swayed by the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. He could feel the sweat bead and bubble on his scalp and above his lip, feel the skin on his fingers wrinkle and shrivel.

"Daniel soup."

His eyelids opened just in time to see Jack dip a finger in the bath water and bring it up to drip dry. He nodded. Soup. Yes. And he was the bay leaf, waiting to be extracted and tossed onto a bed and ravaged.

So not exactly like a bay leaf. Close, though.

"Come out."

Getting out was easier than he'd expected but as he stood on the mat, feeling grubby because he was still sweating, but water-logged so that a shower was the last thing he wanted, he began to tremble.

"You cooked my brain," he whispered, grinning because that was amusing. "Boiled me alive."

The towel scoured his skin dry enough that he wasn't dripping.

"Yeah. Got me my very own lobster-boy."

His bedroom was dark and the sheets were cool against his damp, hot skin.

Jack tucked him in with deft, brisk hands and said, "Go to sleep, Daniel."

"Make me."

"That's an order."

"Right.” Daniel nodded against the pillow, smiling into it, unseen and hidden. “Got to do it, then."

"Yeah, you do."

His pillow was blissfully smooth and as cool as the sheets.

"Really did waste this chance..." Daniel mumbled against cotton. "Could have had me doing anything."

The bed creaked as Jack lay down beside him, on top of the covers. "Yeah? Such as?"

Sleep was smacking into Daniel and running away before he could hit it back. "Jogging? Where's the fun in that?"

"Wasn't supposed to be something you wanted to do, Daniel." Jack sounded amused. "Where's the point in that?"

"Think it taught me a lesson?" That was funny, too, funnier than the bay leaf, which hadn't been all that funny now he thought about it, and Daniel would've smiled but his mouth was busy yawning.

"Oh, I think we both learned something today," Jack said dryly. "You'll obey me every time when it's something you want to do. Real breakthrough."

There was a silence long enough for Daniel to edge closer to real sleep, true sleep, deep and crisp and even, but he pulled back just in time. "Still seems a waste…”

“Not if you’ll remember this next time I tell you to do something.”

“That’s what you want from me?” He hoped that didn’t sound as crushed as he felt. “Because I meant it. Would’ve done anything…” He stretched out his foot and nudged Jack’s leg through the covers, wishing Jack was under them.

"I want you safe, Daniel. That's all."

"Oh."

"I want you to trust me."

"... do..."

"Not argue when people are shooting at us."

"Can I argue when they're not?"

"Not if it makes them start shooting."

"You'll have to trust me not to do that."

"I can't..." Jack interrupted himself, sighed and said grudgingly. "Sometimes I can do that."

“Thanks."

"You're welcome."

Daniel waited. "Jack?" He waited a little longer. "Are you asleep?"

Jack rolled over and kissed him hard enough to jolt Daniel fully awake, but too fast to register. "I hate that question. Suppose I had been? You'd have woken me up."

"Did you just kiss me?" Daniel reached up and let his fingers find his mouth. It was tingling and stinging. "Jack?"

"In your dreams."

"No. I can't be dreaming."

"Why?"

"One kiss? Please. That's not even worth a cat nap."

"'Ah, but a man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?'" Jack quoted, adding helpfully, "Browning."

"Did you just quote poetry?" Daniel groaned. "Fine. It is a dream. It's some weird sleep-deprivation dream. I should've known."

"Relax," Jack said. "It was a question on Jeopardy last week and it stuck in my head. And why aren’t you sleeping, anyway?"

“I’ve been too busy." Obsessing over you, Jack, just as much as all the paperwork I’ve let build up…

Jack reached out and Daniel felt clumsy fingers brush through his hair. “Yeah. Busy worrying. I’ve seen you. Look, forget what I said. You can stay on my team."

"That's it?"

"'That's it?'," Jack parroted. "Yeah, that's it. That's not enough? Go to sleep."

"You won't be here when I wake up."

"And you'll be damn grateful for that."

"I will? I won't."

"You're saying a lot you wouldn't say if you weren't tired."

"Doesn't mean I don't mean it."

"Does mean I won't listen."

"Then wait until I wake up and I'll say it again."

Jack shifted to his back, restless and uneasy. "Daniel..."

"Have you got somewhere you'd rather be?"

"No."

"Stay? Please? Sleep with me for a while? Just that, I swear. Please, Jack."

Jack got off the bed and Daniel closed his eyes in defeat until he heard the soft slither of clothing being removed.

With the last of his energy he pulled back the covers so that Jack could get between them and rolled over, already falling asleep.



He dreamed of nothing worth remembering and woke to find Jack watching him, lying back against the headboard, wary eyes softening as Daniel smiled up at him.

"Hey."

"Hey," Daniel murmured back. "You stayed." He frowned, taking in Jack’s sweatshirt and pants. “You got dressed?” Apart from bare feet. Why did that -- oh. Jack kneeling, his hand clasped briefly around Daniel’s ankle… Even in a sleep-dazed haze it’d been profoundly erotic and the memory was sharper than the original somehow. Daniel’s toes curled hard in an involuntary response to a touch hours old and he glanced away. “Why aren’t you wearing socks?”

Jack wiggled his big toes as if he'd only just found out that he could. “There’s a dress code? My socks were sweaty; my feet were clean; you work it out. And I got up because unlike you, I’m not short on sleep. I dozed for an hour and then got bored.”

“Oh.” Daniel wasn't quite sure how to take that. Being in bed with him was boring? On the other hand he had been one step away from comatose...

“Watching you drool onto your pillow isn’t that entertaining. And I needed a shower.” Jack yawned reflexively as Daniel did, their faces contorting and then relaxing in unison. “Made myself some breakfast, and then some lunch – you’re out of bread. Fed your fish because they were staring at me –"

“They didn’t need feeding, and if they're floating belly-up tomorrow...”

“Washed the dishes, scrubbed the kitchen floor…”

“Liar. You’ve been on the couch watching cartoons and working your way through the beer you left the last time you came over.”

Jack didn’t bother arguing with that. “And then I got bored again and came in here to see if you were showing signs of life.”

Daniel ran his tongue experimentally over his lips, wondering if Jack had gone for the traditional method of waking someone. Hard to tell. “Did you --?”

“No, I didn’t.” Jack rolled his eyes. “Get a grip.”

“You did before.”

“Dreaming.”

“No, I wasn’t.” Daniel propped himself up on an elbow, letting the sheets slip down, exposing his chest, stomach and hipbone, just to see where Jack’s eyes went. Dip down, scan, back up. Daniel wasn’t sure how to interpret that. “You kissed me and got in bed with me. Naked.”

“So?”

“Brazening it out. Right. Good tactic, Jack.”

“I’m just saying; so? Nothing happened.”

“Do you wish it had?”

Jack sucked air through his teeth and looked pained. “Daniel – can we drop this? Please?”

“Why did you stay?”

Jack shrugged. "You asked nicely. Works every time."

If only it was that easy. "Can I ask for something else?"

"Is this what you were asking for before you went to sleep? In a roundabout way?"

"Yes. Is that a problem?"

"You know it's a fucking problem, Daniel, or you wouldn't have spent months dancing around it. Nothing's changed."

"That's not strictly true."

Jack shoved out his bottom lip. Undiluted stubbornness and sexy as hell with it. Like he didn't know. He really wasn't helping.

"Jack..."

"You know that I know. I know that you want... yeah. Well, newsflash, I already knew."

"I just woke up," Daniel reminded him, feeling dizzy from trying to follow Jack's shorthand. "Slow down."

Jack smacked Daniel's ass through the sheets which didn't slow anything down as far as Daniel's dick was concerned. It must have shown on his face because Jack snatched his hand back, folding his arms protectively across his chest. "Took the words right out of my mouth."

"Even slowly, we'd still get there in the end," Daniel pointed out. He didn’t bother adding that they’d both been sprinting in the last few hours. And he wasn’t going to let Jack stamp hard on the brakes either.

"Why waste time?” he continued. “Time we might not have. We come close to dying on a regular basis. Shouldn't we be gathering rosebuds, assuming you're still feeling poetic?"

"Yeah..." Jack didn't look happy. "Guess I'm hoping that you'll change your mind."

"You want me to do all the hard work? I'm the one who makes the running and breaks it off before we've even done anything?" Daniel shook his head. "No."

"'Done anything'? You mean before we've fucked?" Jack met his eyes. "We can take care of that right now. Might as well get it out of the way. Stop you wondering what it'd be like."

"Romantic depths," Daniel said lightly, wincing at the raw hunger in Jack's eyes that was probably just a reflection. "Who knew?"

"Sorry."

"No, you're not."

Jack gave him a noncommittal look. "Well?"

"I don't -- it isn't just that. Mostly, but not ..." Daniel groaned. "I can't do this," he said quietly. "God."

He felt trapped in the cocoon of sheets wound around him, scared to move in case Jack flinched away from him.

"I know that's not all you want," Jack said after a moment. "If it was, you'd have grabbed one of the three chances I've given you."

"Chances? To do what?"

"Grab me," Jack said with the ghost of a smirk. "I decided three was enough, and when you walked away from all of them, I just..."

"Wait." Daniel waved Jack quiet and skimmed through every memory. "Three? I make it either once, or too many to mention."

"Lost me at the end there, Daniel."

Daniel flushed. "I, ah, may have got to the point where I was counting just about everything as proof that you were fighting the urge to -- never mind."

"Oh, I want to hear more about that..." Jack said with a grin. "Once, though... are we both thinking about the same time?"

Had to be. "After P3X-396?"

"Yeah..." Jack stretched out long legs and tucked one hand behind his head, relaxing a little. The washed-soft sweatshirt hiding a body Daniel hadn’t got to touch rode up enough to expose a strip of stomach, flat and lightly furred with hair. Jack reached down and ran his thumbnail across his belly, scratching at the skin and scowling at nothing in particular. "I stayed sober for you when I'd have killed for a drink --"

It'd been the mission from hell, not for any grand, heroic reason; just a multitude of petty annoyances that had left them all sullen, irritated and glum. Jack had taken one look at them all as they slouched out of the gate room and said, "Bar."

Teal'c had sipped apple juice, and Jack had nursed a single beer for the two hours it had taken for Sam and Daniel to get to the point where they were snorting with laughter at the stupidest things, their voices low, heads close together. Jack'd driven them all home, the choice of bar making it reasonable that Daniel was the last one dropped off, so that he and Jack were alone when they pulled up at Daniel's apartment.

"You coming up?" Daniel had asked, leaning in just a little, breathing in industrial soap and smoke from the bar, clinging to Jack's clothes and hair. "It's not that late..."

Jack had shaken his head. "If you'd had two drinks less, maybe."

"I'm not that drunk..."

"Too drunk for what I had in mind."

Daniel remembered poking Jack in the chest, slurring through a hundred mouthfuls of whatever the hell Sam had ordered by closing her eyes and jabbing at the drinks menu. "Do I wanna know what that means?"

Jack's hand had closed around Daniel's, halting the assault. "I don't know. Do you?"

If Jack had let go... but he hadn't. They'd sat there for long seconds, holding hands in the expectant dark, until a passing car had illuminated them in a splash of orange and Daniel had...

"When I told you I had to go because I was about to throw up, it wasn't connected to what you were asking."

"I worked that out." Jack grimaced. "Eventually."

"I'm sorry."

"No need."

Jack sounded far too pleasant about it all. The conversation was going nowhere. Daniel supposed that given some of the situations he'd seen Jack face with aplomb, élan, and a certain je ne sais quoi, he shouldn't be too surprised that Jack was coping with this one so well but it didn't mean that he had to like it.

"I can't believe that you -- that I --"

"What? That I was subtle?" Jack raised his eyebrows. "Or are you just kicking yourself that you missed all the signals when that's supposed to be your thing?"

"A little of both," Daniel admitted readily. "You're so direct most of the time that when you're oblique it's disconcerting."

"This isn't a most of the time situation." Jack sounded frustrated again. "God, I should go."

"What? Go?" Daniel sat up straight, fighting off the sheet that was still tangled around his hips. "Jack, you can't just -- ah, oh God that hurts!"

Jack twisted around to stare at him and then grinned. "Muscles seizing up?"

"Yes!" Daniel reached under the sheet to rub peevishly at a calf muscle that seemed to have shrunk. "Damn it, Jack, that run was brutal."

"Not really."

"I can't walk!"

"You haven't tried yet," Jack pointed out.

Without thinking, Daniel kicked free of the sheet and began to massage the cramp out of his calf, pain overriding caution. By the time he realised that he was giving Jack a lot more to look at than Jack might be comfortable with, it was too late to retreat without looking skittish. It wasn't as if they hadn't showered side by side for months after all.

"You know, for a guy who's all about being kind and considerate to a bunch of aliens, you don't seem too bothered about torturing me," Jack said, rolling onto his side to face Daniel.

Daniel gave him a sidelong glance. "Unless you're trying to say I'm so out of shape that it hurts to look at me, I'll take that as a compliment."

"I'd go with compliment if I were you," Jack said. He waved his hand. "You're not bothered? By the whole being naked and me..."

His voice trailed off and Daniel rubbed the heel of his hand against his leg, sighing with relief as the tension eased. "Staring? Yes, a little. More because it's making you feel uncomfortable though. My robe's somewhere..."

"It's on the chair in the corner," Jack said, without turning his head away. "And I'm not uncomfortable, I'm just..."

"I'm not going to keep finishing your sentences for you," Daniel said softly when Jack stopped talking.

"Pity. Your vocabulary beats mine hands down." Jack was still looking at him, his gaze travelling over Daniel's body in a slow, rigidly controlled appraisal. Daniel had spent too long watching Jack surreptitiously not to feel envious of him. "You could give me all sorts of fancy words for how I'm feeling right now."

"I could?"

"I'm sure of it, Daniel."

Daniel closed his eyes for a second. "You can see I'm hard," he said, opening them just in time to see Jack's lips tighten. "That's because you're staring at me, just so we're clear. That's arousing me."

"Arousal." Jack considered that and nodded. "That would be a good one."

"And there's something about being naked when you're dressed that's making me feel vulnerable."

Jack sat up and pulled off his sweatshirt. "Better?" he asked, tossing it onto the floor and waiting for Daniel's nod before stripping off his pants. "Because that's not a good feeling. Got anything else?"

"Jack..." Daniel swallowed, his throat working as he dealt with Jack naked, hard and close enough to touch. "This is -- are you sure?"

"No. But it's not working out the other way, is it?"

"Not really," Daniel admitted.

"Just one thing," Jack said. "That plan you dreamed up."

"Hmm?" Daniel dragged his attention away from Jack's cock -- he'd tried to start at the top and work his way down but it had taken too long and he'd cheated shamelessly. "Plan? Oh, that plan. The plan you didn't follow."

"What was I supposed to do?" Jack tilted his head in a question. "Order you to strip and --"

"Go on," Daniel said. He narrowed his eyes. "Are you blushing?"

"Somehow, I doubt it," Jack said. "No. I was just thinking; your idea wouldn't have been something you planned before I told you I was going to kick your ass off my team, was it?"

"What difference does it make?"

"Daniel. Answer the fucking question." Jack shifted towards him but it didn't feel as if they were any closer.

"No." Enlightenment dawned. "Ohhh. You think I - no. No, Jack." Daniel shook his head fast enough to leave him dizzy. "I wouldn't do that."

"Do what?"

Jack could be mercilessly tenacious at times. Daniel drummed his fingers against his leg and recited obediently, "No, I wouldn't piss you off on a mission deliberately, putting us both in danger, just so that I could get you to agree to a day where you order me around in an attempt to get you to fuck me." He dropped the smart-ass act and met Jack's eyes. "The going back for my notes was a spur of the moment action. It wasn't connected to how I feel or what I want. I wouldn't -- Jack, you know I wouldn't."

"Daniel..." Jack's mouth twisted in an exasperated smile. "Do you think I'd have gone along with your wacky, nutso plan if I thought you'd been that much of an idiot?"

"I don't know," Daniel said. "I suppose it depends on how much you want to fuck me."

"A lot. Not that much. Come here."

Daniel hesitated. So easy to roll over and get enveloped in a bear hug, the soft scratch of Jack's chest hair tickling his skin, strong hands on him, touching him. God, he could almost come just from that, it'd been so long since anyone had done more than brush against him in passing. Casual pats, formal handshakes... he needed more than that. Needed someone he could touch without hesitation or permission, as readily as he touched himself.

And he was tired of waking alone. Unbidden, he recalled a cage of sleeping mice in a pet shop window, sleek furred bodies piled in a heap, five deep, tumbled and snug. He'd taken weeks to get used to sleeping with Sha're curled around him, and dozens of people close by, sharing the darkness, but once he had he'd found he liked it.

He missed it.

He bit the inside of his mouth, chewing off a shred of skin to distract himself, wanting that release, sweet and sharp and urgent, but wanting more, too.

Besides... when did Jack ever like it easy?

"I don't think so."

Jack arched an eyebrow. "You want me to order you?" he asked, his tone making it clear that he wasn't happy about the idea. "Because that's crossing a line, Daniel."

"Yes, I imagine it would be," Daniel said, settling down comfortably on his back and spreading his legs an inch or two wider. Jack made a small, soft sound deep in his throat and Daniel smiled. "And no, that was more of a means to an end. We can drop that agreement if you like."

"Hey, you goofing off on a mission is still important," Jack said sharply. "I might have guessed you'd got something in mind beyond that, hell, I knew you had, but nothing we do here changes the fact that --"

"Jack. Stop it. I know." Daniel sighed, feeling a faint, familiar exasperation. "And I've told you that I'll try --"

"Try, hell." Jack moved across the bed in a sudden lunge, his hands finding Daniel's wrists and pinning them above his head.

They were touching now, Daniel thought hazily, staring up at Jack's face, tight with annoyance skimmed over need so thinly that Daniel only had to relax into Jack's grip and shift just a little... yes, just an inch, to scrub it away. Jack's weight was on his elbows but he was still lying on top of Daniel and from the waist down they were skin on skin. Daniel rubbed the sole of his foot against Jack's ankle slowly and smiled.

"Kiss me."

"What?" Jack's eyes were wild and his fingers were tightening and slackening in a loop of lost and regained control.

"You're not comfortable giving me orders in this situation -- I'm not sure why, as you're quite happy dictating to me in every other situation we find ourselves --"

"I don't --"

"But it occurs to me that maybe I need some perspective from the other side."

"Daniel..." Jack's head sank down. "Isn't this one of those times where you should just shut the fuck up?"

"No, I think this could work," Daniel said thoughtfully, sliding his leg across the back of Jack's to stop him from pulling away. "If I know what it's like to give orders, maybe I'll get better at taking them? What do you think?"

"That you should shut up?" Jack altered his grip, stroking his thumbs across the palms of Daniel's hand, leaving the skin tingling, before locking their fingers together.

Daniel shook his head. "I can't do that and tell you to kiss me, hmm..." He lifted his head a little and glanced down his body. "Left nipple," he decided. "My left, not your left." He gave Jack a sunny smile. "See; I'm being accurate; that's important, right?"

Jack's face lost all expression. "Daniel."

"Mmm?"

"You're starting to piss me off." Now he looked grim.

"You're still hard though." Daniel wriggled his hips until Jack's tightly clamped lips parted on a groan, guiding Jack's cock until it lay beside his own, each breath they took enough to apply a frisson of friction. "Oh, yes, you are..."

"Well, of course I am! For crying out loud, you're naked in bed with me, coming on to me. Wriggling." Jack spat the last word out and glared as Daniel snorted with laughter. "Daniel, so help me, if you don't --"

"I've told you what I want you to do," Daniel said flatly, losing the remnants of his grin.

"And what makes you think I'll do it?"

Jack was breathing faster now, his tongue swiping restlessly at a lip he'd bitten to fullness. Daniel studied him in silence, doing his best to stay focused. This close, he was finding out a dozen details he'd missed in his catalogue of Jack's features. Jack could sink easily enough into the relaxed immobility needed to watch someone and remain unseen but he was a natural-born fidget. It made it difficult to pin down the details. Daniel was used to studying objects that stayed still, giving up their secrets under the impersonal gaze of a magnifying glass and a bright, focused light. The bedroom was suffused with the strong light of afternoon filtered and robbed of power by thick curtains and Jack's face was both shadow-washed and illuminated in the glow of it.

"I think that would be the way you look when I, ah, wriggle," Daniel said. He gave Jack an apologetic grimace. "Sorry; am I supposed to be intimidated by the fact that you're on top?"

"Did I do something that means I have to suffer?" Jack demanded. "Apart from waking you early and making you go for a run? Because I'm getting the feeling that you're enjoying this way too much."

"And I'm starting to see how irritating I am when I argue," Daniel said reflectively. He shook his head and gave Jack an uncompromising stare. "Let's try again. I want your mouth on me. Now."

"Well, why didn't you just say so?" Jack asked, mordant sarcasm dripping from every word.

"Jack --"

Jack widened his eyes. "Hey, I'm doing it, Daniel. See?" He let his head dip low enough for his lips to brush against Daniel's left nipple and Daniel sucked in a breath and held it because even that, even that --

Jack had meant it to be a fleeting touch, Daniel knew. Capitulation wasn't that easily won. Not from a man like Jack. It was supposed to be the obedience of the soon-to-be mutineer; grudgingly given, barely adequate, impossible to class as disobedience.

In other words, frustrating as hell for the one giving the order.

But Jack wasn't pulling away and flashing Daniel a smirk of triumph and challenge and his head was still lowered.

Daniel whispered something he couldn't hear over the thrum of blood in his ears and Jack raised his head enough to meet Daniel's eyes, his face showing a bewilderment Daniel shared.

"Again," Daniel said, the word emerging in a harsh croak. "Don't stop." His arms were aching from being held so long above his head but that was one order he wasn't going to give. Jack would have to release him to obey a command Daniel was going to be giving very soon.

Jack's tongue wet the skin around Daniel's nipple, tasting it, teasing it and Daniel's fingers clenched, his nails biting into Jack's hand. Jack retaliated -- or responded -- by using his teeth, biting at the slippery skin without finesse, the scrape of his teeth sending a stab of heat through Daniel making his cock jerk and his balls tighten.

"God --"

Jack did it again, gentling the touch and refusing to move from the few square inches he'd been told to kiss. He was kissing it, too; ridiculously delicate little pecks of kisses, dotted against bruised, spit-wet skin.

"Enough," Daniel said. Jack ignored him and Daniel kicked him, as hard as he could, which wasn't very. "Jack, you can either do as you're told, or you can --"

"What?" Jack let go of Daniel's hands abruptly and cupped Daniel's face. "You know, people who give orders usually have a plan. I'm guessing yours is something along the lines of drive Jack bat-shit insane with hours --"

"I don't think I can last hours."

"I don't think I can last minutes," Jack said. "Fine. With an unspecified amount of time spent in foreplay which is supposed to be to turn you on, if I'm remembering correctly, and which isn't needed because hello, turned on here!"

"You don't like doing that?" Daniel wasn't faking the hurt.

"Yes! Yes, I like it!" Jack's eyes screwed up as he fumbled for words. "You -- when I was doing that, you were making these sounds --"

"I was?"

"Little whimpery sounds, yeah." Jack shrugged, looking uncomfortable about sharing even that much. "Nice, really nice, but Daniel, I need to -- fuck it, I need to come. I'm dying here." He gave Daniel an appealing look and said quietly, "Please?" His fingers spread wider and he rubbed his thumb gently across Daniel's mouth, his own lips shaping a second, soundless 'please'.

Daniel took a deep breath and said, "No."

Jack's expression changed to incredulous, his hands slamming down into the pillow on either side of Daniel's head and making the bed rock slightly.  "Did you just --"

"What would you do if Sam tried to coax you into changing your mind on duty?"

"She wouldn't." Jack's lips curved in a tight, humourless smile. "Only you do that, Daniel."

"If she did," Daniel persisted, resisting the urge to turn his head and get Jack's thumb back where it had been, because it'd felt good crossing his lip, catching on the rough skin, slipping briefly inside for his tongue to lap at in what was less a demonstration than a promise.

"I'd come down on her hard," Jack said, a flicker in his eyes daring Daniel to take that and run with it.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Daniel said. He put his hand on Jack's shoulder and pushed, not bothering to exert himself. If Jack didn't want to move, Daniel wouldn't be able to budge him; if he did, he'd take the hint.

Jack rolled off Daniel, going to his back, and tucked his hands behind his head as if he didn't trust himself not to use them to influence the issue. Daniel got a look that told him he was skating on thin ice without a paddle and the clock was ticking. An eloquent look.

"God, you look so..." Daniel knelt beside him and then reached out his hand and laid it against Jack's chest, feeling the heat held in the skin and watching his hand rise with each beat of Jack's heart.

"So?" Jack prompted. "Desperate? Horny? About to jerk off if you don't - ow!"

"That didn't hurt," Daniel said evenly, closing his hand around the flush of warmth from the slap.

Jack yanked a hand free and reached down to rub at his leg. "Stung like a bitch, thanks for nothing."

"Then behave."

"And if I don't?"

Daniel was surprised it'd taken Jack this long to ask that question.

"Your clothes are over there -- well, I don't know where you left your socks but if they're as ripe as you say, I'm sure they'll be easy to find -- and you know where the door is."

"You know, I really don't like ultimatums, Daniel."

"And I don't like being pushed into giving them." Daniel leaned down and kissed the pale print his hand had left. "Better?"

"Oh, yeah." Jack's voice had dropped to a murmur. "And while you're down there..."

"Not yet."

Jack shoved his hand back behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. "If I fall asleep, promise me you'll wake me up for the good part?"

"You really can be an asshole at times, you know that?"

Jack sat up with the abruptness of his namesake, twisting to face Daniel. "And you don't know what the hell you're doing, do you?"

Caught off guard, Daniel gaped at him in silence before shaking his head. "I suppose I don't," he admitted. "Is it that obvious?"

"Sort of." Jack grinned at him, losing the frown. "Don't get me wrong, but I kind of like that you don't have a clue. A Daniel with a plan is a scary Daniel."

"Can I ask why?" Daniel said tartly. "Or are we just back at you being uncomfortable in any situation where you're not in complete control?"

"Did we just circle back to the start there?" Jack enquired. "Because I'm getting that deja-vu feeling all of a sudden."

"Jack --" Daniel slipped his hand around the back of Jack's neck and pulled him close enough to kiss, giving up on words in favour of body language. Jack was still hard -- they both were -- but the urgency was losing its edge and he didn't want that to happen. They'd end up talking themselves dressed again.

There was a moment where Jack resisted and then his arms wrapped around Daniel in a convulsive, clumsy hug. "Hey..."

The kiss should've been clumsy too. Daniel had a handful of memories of early kisses and none of them were accompanied by rising music and dazzled, blissful expressions. A lot of nervous bobbing forward, although he'd avoided actually bumping noses with anyone, a lot of moments where he was trying to swallow a mouthful of spit very fast or trying to regain his balance after discovering that kissing someone on the side of a dune wasn't a great idea...

Somehow he had the feeling that Jack's track record left his a long way behind.

As kisses went, this worked, mostly because they both settled for it being an effective way of avoiding talking, rather than the ultimate in romance. Jack kissed him once, closed-mouth and fast, and then jerked back, his arms tightening, mixing his signals enough to have Daniel blinking in confusion before he cautiously returned it, lingering because Jack's mouth fitted against his too well to be surrendered. He pulled back the barest inch, met Jack's gaze and then leaned in again.

This time neither of them pulled away to do anything but breathe. Daniel was acutely aware of each and every increase of pressure from Jack's mouth, pressure that was parting Daniel's lips slowly, firmly; dimly aware of Jack's hands stroking his back. He wasn't sure where his own hands were; it was just too much to think about.

Jack's tongue slid into his mouth and Daniel closed his eyes.

Jack kissed like a man who could strip down and reassemble an automatic rifle in seconds with his eyes shut, or half an hour with a lover's hands. It was overwhelming, like Jack himself. Jack was good at most things he wanted to be, in Daniel's experience, and kissing apparently made the list.

He floated through a full ten seconds of having his lip caught between Jack's teeth and sucked into stinging tingles and then snapped out of it.

"Jack..."

"Mmm?"

"Stop."

"No."

"I mean it."

"No."

Jack was a lot more convincing when his words were mumbled against your lips and his hands were busy.

"You're supposed to be doing as you're told!"

Jack's hands moved to the back of Daniel's neck, warm, long fingers finding the places that made Daniel shiver, the hair on his arms and legs rising in an atavistic, pointless reaction. "I am. You're telling me you want to be kissed, and I'm kissing you. You're telling me you want to be fucked, and if you'll shut up and lie back, I will."

Daniel opened his mouth and then closed it again, swallowing his instinctive response to Jack's attempt to needle him. "Now you're trying to rush me," he said.

"Did it work?" Jack glanced down. "Nope. We're still not fucking, so I guess it didn't. Damn."

"Stop rushing me!"

"Stop panicking!"

"I'm not --" Daniel paused. "You think I don't know what to do and that I'm waiting for you to help me out," he said slowly. "Point my dick in the right direction --"

"It's pointing up, so I'm thinking you've got that part covered."

"It's not something I've ever tried, but I'm beginning to see the advantages of bondage," Daniel snapped. Until he got to know Jack, he'd assumed friends were the people you didn't fight with.

"You want to tie me up -- or down -- go for it, Danny." Jack put some space between them and lay back down, his hand scratching casually at his balls, his expression blankly polite. "I'll even tell you the best knot to use."

"You know I won't." And now he wanted to, just to see what Jack would do if he was getting everything he asked for at a cost. Fight, wrists and ankles marked, chafed and reddening, or relax, lounge back, and quip his way to freedom. Intriguing choices, nice visuals either way. On the whole, though, he'd rather have Jack able to move. And able to touch him.

"I know I'd let you if it meant you stopped talking." Jack shook his head sadly. "We should be showering off and getting ready for round two by now --"

"There's a time limit involved? I'm sorry, no one ever told me --"

"Yeah," Jack said, overriding Daniel's attempt at sarcasm. "And I'd know what you look like when you come -- been wondering about that now and then." Jack screwed up his face in thought. "I see you as the sort who doesn't cuddle up afterwards, but hey, I do, so deal."

"I cuddle," Daniel said defensively. Even if he'd had to be taught how.

Jack sighed. "You want to call this off, Daniel? Getting second thoughts? Because I'll -- no, I won't understand when it's gone this far, but it's you, and I'm used to not getting you -- take that any way you like." He gestured at himself. "So what is it? Up close, I just don't do it for you, or something?"

Daniel indulged himself in a long look at Jack's scar-spangled body, lean, hard and weathered, gave his cock, no more than half-hard now, a rueful pat, and shook his head. "I might not look it, but I'm still, ah, of the same mind, Jack. It's not that." He looked away and then forced himself to meet Jack's enquiring eyes. "Can we start over?"

"From where?"

Daniel moved to straddle him, running his hands over Jack's chest. "Here?"

"Here's good..." Jack murmured. "This it? Battle stations?"

It was too accurate a description not to make Daniel snicker but the quelling glare from Jack sobered him. "I won't stop again," he promised.

"Don't know why you stopped before."

"Unless you want me to gag you with one of your socks, shut up? Please?" Daniel begged. He could feel the muscles of Jack's thighs shifting under his own and each breath brought him the smell of the man, all clean skin and dirty thoughts, headily arousing. "Trust me, okay? Just trust me and let me do -- God, I don't know what. There's so much, and I might never get another chance because you're not going to let this carry on, are you? You can't. You're here now and you're hard -- God, yes, you are -- so you want to, but this isn't -- it's not -- why aren't you saying something?"

"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack muttered. "That's it." Daniel slid sideways as Jack heaved him off and watched Jack get off the bed and bend over to yak impatiently at the drawer of the nightstand, feeling a rising dismay. "Where is it?"

"Is what?"

Jack didn't even spare him a glance. "Lube, Daniel. Slippery stuff. Makes life easier at certain moments, if you know what I mean. You must have some." Jack pulled a bottle out of the chaos and studied it. "Eye drops. Nope." He carried on rummaging and then threw up his hands. "Why do you have to make things so fucking difficult?" he demanded. "You don't even keep stuff in the same place as everyone else."

"I don't have any," Daniel said. "I don't use it when I -- I'm not circumcised, and I  --"

"I can see that," Jack said with a comprehensive look that made Daniel's cock jerk in response. "What I don't see is how even you --"

"'Even me'? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"-- could plan this whole insanely complicated, fucked-up seduction deal and not buy lube."

"I didn't plan -- well maybe a little, but I didn't think it'd get this far!"

Jack gave him a look of utter disbelief. "You thought I'd turn you down?"

"Well, of course I did! You've done nothing else for months, and you want me off the team, and this seemed like a good way to --"

"Make sure I went through with it?"

"Yes." Daniel pushed his hair out of his eyes impatiently. It needed cutting but he never seemed to have time to spare for that. Too busy battling aliens bent on world-domination, catching up on paperwork, and lusting longingly after Jack. It didn't leave much free time.

"Mind if I ask why?"

"Because it was getting to the point where I wasn't sure I could trust myself not to be distracted off-world," Daniel said tasting truth, bitter and sour, with every word. God, he was pathetic. Manipulating Jack into pushing him over, because he was too scared to jump.

"Daniel, you get distracted off-world all the fucking time. You see an artifact or a crumbling bit of stone someone's scribbled on and woosh! you're in la-la land and you wouldn't notice if a Jaffa stuck his staff weapon up your ass." Jack got back onto the bed. "If you're staring at my hot, enticing body instead, at least you'll be close enough to kick awake."

"That's not funny."

"It wasn't supposed to be." Jack's hand shot out and wrapped around Daniel's cock. It was nerve-wrackingly pleasurable to be touched but Jack's grip was brutal, which explained why Daniel's whimper sounded confused even to his own ears "You're going to come for me, Daniel. Don't need lube for that. Don't need anything but my hand, right?" Jack's grip gentled enough for him to be able to slide his hand up and down in a measured, thoughtful stroke. Daniel reached out blindly and held onto Jack's arm. They were kneeling up, face-to-face in the middle of the bed and he wasn't sure how much longer he could stay like that. His legs were trembling and he couldn't stop his hips from thrusting mindlessly up into cool, empty air.

"Oh, yeah," Jack whispered. "You're so fucking close."

Daniel gritted his teeth as Jack's thumb made a lazy circle on the tip of Daniel's cock and did some grabbing of his own. Jack's shudder was gratifyingly sincere as his cock hardened against the palm of Daniel's hand.

Awkward angle, nothing where it should be because this was all back to front -- Daniel dealt with the differences and concentrated on getting Jack to break first. Jack had copied him to the extent of using his free hand to brace himself against Daniel's shoulder and he was squeezing and kneading at it. He was going to leave it marked and Daniel knew that was a bad idea but he couldn't find the words to tell Jack to stop. Couldn't look away from Jack's face.

"God, Daniel--" Jack's voice tore through the breathless, hoarse noises they were both making. "Harder --"

Daniel didn't want to come this fast, locked in a race towards a climax that he was still sure would mean the end of whatever it was he and Jack had started, but he didn't have a choice now. Even the thought of Jack's hand leaving him was enough to draw an inarticulate protest from him, a frantic sob catching in his throat. Jack's hand swept up to cup the back of Daniel's neck possessively, cradling it and bringing their mouths together in a kiss that matched the ruthless, relentless blur of their hands in intensity and managed to be sweet at the same time.

They were too close now, hands bumping, hampered by the crush of their bodies as they kissed.

"Not working," Daniel ground out. "Jack--"

Without speaking, Jack fell sideways, taking Daniel with him, and carried on what he'd been doing as soon as they'd landed in a tangle of arms and legs. Daniel had automatically let go of Jack's cock when Jack started to move and found himself unable to get to it again past the barrier of Jack's wiry arm.

No. He wanted it, dammit.

Not bothering to ask if it was okay -- if Jack misunderstood his reasons for pausing it could get messy and Daniel knew what the answer would be anyway -- Daniel moved down the bed, knocking Jack's hand away with a self-sacrificial glow as scant compensation for the loss of that tight, sure caress.

Up close, Jack's cock was a sticky hot thrust of skin stretched taut, his balls tight and damp in the curve of Daniel's hand. He tasted of sex; indefinable, unmistakable, and the perfect, original aphrodisiac. Daniel ran his tongue greedily over the head and felt Jack's startled reaction to his sudden movement simmer down to a charged expectancy. He put his hand on the jut of Jack's hip and pushed.

Jack rolled to his back and stayed there, parting his legs as Daniel moved between them.

Reverse engineering a blow job was easier than Daniel had expected. It helped that Jack was so close to coming that Daniel guessed pretty much anything he did, short of biting, would be fine by Jack.

And scraping. He winced in sympathy as Jack whimpered pitifully and muttered a 'sorry' that brought Jack's hand down to fumble through his hair in a reassurance Daniel didn't need or want.

Jack fucking up into his mouth in short, choppy jerks of his hips because he couldn't keep still, Jack moaning out Daniel's name in an endless, breathless rush, Jack's cock quivering and rising to meet each touch of tongue and lips -- that he wanted.

Shaking his head until Jack's hand fell to the back of his neck and shuddering because it clamped down before moving away and he felt held, owned and it was disturbingly appealing, he started again.

Take it from the top...

It was fun. He'd expected to feel the slightest bit of squeamishness but Jack tasted clean and soon he tasted of Daniel's spit as much as anything, and that was familiar enough. And he smelled good; rich, ripe, intimate smells of secret, folded skin that had Daniel pausing to nuzzle and snuffle at the base of Jack's cock, where the loose skin, scattered with hair, rasped against his tongue and left a persistent, clinging hair stuck to it.

Daniel discreetly swiped it away and moved up a few inches, one hand around Jack's cock, the other, oh, God, he was going to kill Jack for pushing and rushing him out of the chance to explore his body. With a surge of possessiveness, he spread his fingers wide on the muscle-hard flesh of Jack's thigh, silently claiming all he held.

Without shifting the hand holding Jack's cock up and away from his stomach, positioned for whatever the hell Daniel wanted to do to it, Daniel leaned over and licked slowly between each spread finger, tracing a handprint in a wavering line of wet. His, dammit.

Something had to be.

Jack was breathing slowly now, audible sips of air, laboured and careful. Controlled breaths. Jack had been expecting fast and clumsy. Jack had needed nothing but a warm wet mouth and probably didn't give a fuck what Daniel did with his come once it left his cock.

Giddy and drunk on the possibilities inherent when he had Jack's erection in his fist, Daniel really didn't think he was going to settle for merely adequate. He could spend an hour teasing centuries of dust away from a single line of cuneiform on a clay tablet with a fine-tipped brush after all; this exercise in concentration was infinitely easier and one hell of a lot more fun.

He gave the top of Jack's cock an exuberant smooch of a kiss, carried away just a little, and then parted his lips and darted his tongue across it.

"Daniel --" Jack's voice sounded rusty. "Killing me here..."

Daniel smiled and carried on, flickering stabs of his tongue with his lips locked tight around the first inch or so of Jack's cock. His wrist ached and he realised it was because Jack was trying to push up and Daniel was pushing back, anchoring Jack to the bed with his hand, still on that same patch of skin, sealed to it with sweat.

When he'd had enough of teasing himself and Jack, when his mouth wanted to be filled, his lips split wide, he set Jack free, shifting his hand lower, thumb rubbing over the seam of Jack's balls, fingers tracing the hollowed join of leg and body.

Jack sighed in a way that told Daniel he'd been holding his breath and then hesitated. Daniel waited patiently, his lips parted, brushed lightly by the slick tip and then gave up and slid his mouth down at the exact moment Jack tilted his hips up with an eager jerk.

Daniel choked, inevitably, gracelessly, gag reflex well and truly triggered, eyes filling with tears, nose starting to run. The back of his throat felt raw and bruised and he didn't need Jack's hissed, heartfelt, 'fuck' to know it hadn't been much fun for Jack either.

He pulled away, swiped at his eyes, sniffed hard and ran his hand comfortingly along Jack's abused, battered cock. "Sorry," he whispered. "God, I'm--"

"Don't stop," Jack whispered back. "Daniel, don't stop."

Oh.

Daniel fitted Jack's cock back inside his mouth and slid a hand as far under Jack's ass as he could, using the upward pressure of his fingers to signal Jack, setting a rhythm that worked, until Jack had learned the dimensions of the inside of Daniel's mouth. Daniel's hand was flexing mindlessly, clawing at the yielding hardness of Jack's ass because he had to move and his other hand was tight around Jack's cock. His body was immobile, bowed in fervent worship as he wondered why this was seen as a favour bestowed.

It got messy. Daniel's hand was wet with drool, and his lips were numbing fast. His eyes were closed, bright washes of colour popping out of the darkness, ignored because right then Daniel didn't need to see anything.

His tongue lapped along the side of a cock that had suddenly, impossibly, become harder and was beating out a stuttered message of surrender. With nowhere to go, the jolts of come, warm and thick, filled Daniel's full mouth, spilling down his throat as he swallowed convulsively, tasting and smelling and frantically trying to describe, catalogue, remember...

He licked gently at the final spurted dribble that emerged and then rested his head on Jack's stomach, eyes refusing to focus on the inward whorl of his navel because it was too much effort.

He felt tired again, with the comfortable lethargy a chair in the sun induced, kept awake because he could hear the grumble of Jack's belly and it was making him smile. Then his pillow became a bumpy ride as Jack propped himself up on his elbows.

"Daniel?"

"Mmm?"

"Come here, will you?"

With a wordless grumble Daniel made his way back up the bed and lay beside Jack. "I was comfortable," he said.

"You were heavy," Jack corrected him, his arm under Daniel's neck, tugging him closer. "And how the hell can I take care of you when you're down there?"

"Take--?" Jack's fingertip tapped meaningfully against the side of Daniel's cock and he gasped as the arousal he'd damped down because it was distracting flared back to life. "Oh God...."

Jack kissed him, his hand on Daniel's cheek to stop Daniel's instinctive flinch because his mouth was damp with come and spit still, remaining there so that Daniel couldn't look away. "Show me," Jack said. "Show me, Daniel." His hand dropped down.

Jack's grip was gentle and slow for the time it took him to coax Daniel's lips open with his tongue and then it tightened and it was fast, tight, just right, faster... Alone, Daniel wouldn't have made much noise; he'd learned to come quietly behind canvas walls, but with Jack's eyes intent on his face, he let his control slip, guttural, desperate noises coming from nowhere, aural kisses.

Jack's hand, God, so fucking hard... almost enough, nearly perfect... Jack's ass would be better, oh yes --

Jack held Daniel's shaking body close and Daniel felt the wet slick of his come, sticky and cooling fast, smeared across Jack's stomach.

"What were you thinking about then? Right at the end?" Jack asked curiously. "Your face changed..."

"How it's going to feel when I fuck you," Daniel answered, and wondered why Jack was laughing.

*****


"Did we just have sex, or a really long conversation?" Jack asked.

Daniel leaned forward and bit at Jack's ear, pushing back the shower-damp hair. "Both?"

"That tickles."

"No, it doesn't." Daniel traced the shudder of goose bumps racing over Jack's arm and smiled. "It only does it on this side; isn't that strange? I'd have to bite --"

"Tickle."

"-- your other ear to get both arms like this."

"That's fascinating, Daniel."

Daniel rubbed Jack's skin smooth again and kissed his shoulder. "Try saying that again with a shred of sincerity."

"Can't," Jack said after a pause.

"I didn't think so."

"Daniel, we don't have long --"

"No." Daniel stared at the phone beside the bed. "They must be ringing Sam first."

Jack reached out and scooped up his cell phone from the bed; unearthed from his jacket two minutes earlier to the accompaniment of a litany of curses, answered with a crisp, professional snap.

Recalled to base. All of them. It happened too often for any of them to ever make firm plans on their off-days. At least this was routine and no one was dying, lost or in danger.

Daniel watched Jack start to dress. His phone rang just as Jack found his socks and he answered it, dealing with the impersonally delivered message as briefly as possible.

"I'll see you there," Jack said, already dressed apart from his shoes and jacket. He hesitated in the doorway. "Is it going to be difficult?"

"God, yes." Daniel started to button his shirt. "Don't look at me in the briefing. Don't talk to me either. Don't sit opposite me -- no, don't sit next to me --" He frowned. "Maybe General Hammond will let me have his chair..."

"Daniel..." Jack warned him. "Be good."

Daniel opened his mouth and Jack cut him off. "Yes, that's an order."

"Sir, yes, sir," Daniel murmured, zipping his pants.


Return to Home

Click here if you'd like to send feedback