It was obvious that it'd been Daniel. Jack was all kinds of any bastard you cared to name but I should've realised that he wouldn't have used my place to fuck just anyone in.
I'd never given anyone but Claire the right to walk into my home when I wasn't there. I'd given a key to Jack because it made sense; I was going off-world for an indefinite time and I had plants to water, mail... all the mundane chores of a modern existence. Having someone check on the place was reassuring.
Jack had given me a key to his house the same day purely out of a quid pro quo sentiment, I think. I'd left it, unlabelled, in a drawer, but I'd appreciated it all the more because it wasn't necessary.
I hadn't told him, but I'd planned to slide it onto my key ring when I got back.
Now I just wanted to demonstrate its usefulness as a weapon.
The air in the apartment seemed soaked, saturated with stale sex. I couldn't breathe. I wasn't even sure why I'd come back. Why obey him in this? Why agree to his terms for the setting of a break-up I supposed I should've seen coming?
Habit. Had to be.
Strip for me. Want to see you. All of you. Want you to suck me. Make it last, Major, take as long as you want... Cancel that, I want to see you this weekend. Do you know how long it's been since I had your dick up my ass? Yes, of course I missed you, God, get over here, will you?
And I'd smiled, nodded, given him what he'd asked for, given him more when he'd ordered me.
I ran my thumb over the rim of my glass. Empty, but I didn't plan to refill it. I'd needed something to stop me shaking but I wasn't doing this drunk. I'd need that escape later. I wasn't being fair anyway; every culled memory was taken from the times he'd been tired, dispirited, angry; there were plenty of others; times when he'd begged, cajoled, or just looked at me and I'd moved closer.
And I couldn't, even with my anger this encompassing, accuse him of using me just for sex. Or if he had, I was just as guilty.
The door opened and he walked in.
He'd used his key. Well, of course he fucking had. I'd given it to him, hadn't I?
He'd taken time to change into jeans and one of the soft, baggy shirts he liked. It made a difference that he was out of uniform. Equals. I appreciated that, I supposed.
I put my glass down and tugged at my regulation tie, loosening it. Clothes had been the last thing on my mind, though. I didn't get up.
"Nice of you to keep me waiting, while you chose the perfect outfit to fuck me over in."
I shouldn't have mentioned fucking me in any context. If this had been a normal homecoming we'd have been sprawled on the couch by now, coming in a rush and a groan after an embarrassingly short encounter. There'd been times we hadn't even made it that far, times when the first words we'd said that made any sense came much later.
He closed the door, flicking it locked, and went to pour himself a drink. I had to admire his complete indifference to etiquette. He should have been feeling awkward and out of place, but I suppose years of sauntering into alien hovels, houses, and palaces had knocked that out of him. He was good at making himself at home and this was somewhere he was used to being.
"Get it out of your system. Go on; I won't stop you."
He came to sit on the chair nearest the couch I was lounging on, close enough to touch until he leaned back.
"What does stop you? What gives you pause?"
"Look, Paul --" He said my name so naturally. I put it down to a few days -- a week? More?-- of saying 'Daniel'. "Let's just cut the crap, shall we? Yes, Daniel stayed here. I didn't think you'd mind and it was better than him stopping with me. Closer to my office, for one thing."
"Yeah, knock yourself out." He took a gulp of whisky and gave me an unfriendly look. "You know, I should be the one getting pissed here. You're quick to make me into a faithless son of a bitch, aren't you?"
"I haven't made you do anything. I haven't been here." I gave him a cold smile. "Unless you want to blame me for a posting your department arranged, or suggest that deprived of your usual fuck-toy you were entitled to --"
He set his drink down on the coffee table and stood up, taking the two steps needed to bring him to my side, and leaning over me, his hands gripping the back and arm of the couch. I rolled to my back and squinted up at him. "Is that supposed to intimidate me?"
"Well, wasn't I?"
"You are my --" He broke off. "You know what you are."
"Yes. Your ex. Ex-fuck-toy. General O'Neill's EFT. Is that better? Less offensive?"
"Oh, you're going to feel so fucking sorry you said that."
I nodded. "Right. Because you're going to explain how you slept with Daniel but it was pure and innocent, despite the fact you've wanted to nail him for years, and then you can tell me why you brushed your fucking teeth in the middle of the fucking day --"
At some point in the middle I rose with my voice, so by the time I'd finished, my hand was beside his on the back of the couch and I was sitting up, right in his face. I wanted to spit into it, make it bleed. If he'd tried to kiss me, I would have done both, but he didn't. He eased away from me and sat down by my feet.
"I had chili for lunch," he said, looking utterly bewildered. "With a ton of garlic in it. I reeked of it. How the hell did you even know?"
"Okay, forget the teeth."
"No." He smacked my foot. "Let's not. I'm just getting that crack about liquid fucking lunches."
I kicked out at his hand. "Took you long enough."
"You suspicious-minded little fuck."
"Love you, too," I snarled back at him.
I think he could tell I didn't mean it. Or maybe he could tell I did. My head was aching; stress, tension, dislocation of space and place -- a dozen reasons, all of them circling the sun gone nova that was the fucking disaster of my homecoming.
I'd wanted kisses, I'd wanted sex. I'd wanted a decent fucking drink, a bath, soft, white toilet paper, and my bed, two-thirds of it occupied by the man who was glaring at me now, sprawled out and sleepy, his hand groping for mine.
I'd planned it. Exhaustively. It'd been all that kept me from cracking during the endless, ponderous debates and speeches I'd been subjected to.
And if I could have fucked it up more spectacularly, I didn't see how.
"Are you going to shut your mouth and listen to me?"
I opened it instead, another withering retort ready, but something -- probably the warning in his eyes -- stopped me. I nodded, slumping back against the cushions and rubbing at my head.
"You look like hell," he told me.
"Headache. It'll go. I'm missing God knows how many hours of sleep and about two meals."
"Stay here. I mean it; don't move a fucking inch."
He came back with tap water, a few tepid inches lost in a pint glass that must have been the first one he saw, and some aspirin. I swallowed them down and muttered a thank you.
"You want to get some sleep? I can stay."
"We're in the middle of breaking up," I reminded him. "No time-outs."
"No; we're in the middle of round ten of you being an insecure, possessive son of a bitch."
"So what the hell are you doing wasting your time with me?"
I closed my eyes. Too soon for the tablets to be kicking in but I was relaxing anyway. Oh -- Jack's hand was warm on my leg, rubbing my thigh in slow, firm circles. I could feel myself unravel, spin off, come apart.
I fell asleep to the sound of his voice, halting, awkward, embarrassed, telling me that he'd missed me and couldn't quite make my mouth work enough to tell him I'd missed him, too.
I woke about four hours later, clear-headed and languid. I was naked in bed and Jack was lying beside me, fully-clothed, which didn't seem fair, squinting at a thriller I'd left by the bed because it hadn't captured my attention enough to be worth packing for the flight.
"Thank God," he said, tossing the book aside. "I wasn't sure how much more of that crap I could take."
"That bad? I haven't finished it."
"If you get past the seduction in chapter seven when they're in a building that's about to explode, you're a better man than I am."
The gush of small talk dried and we were left staring at each other through the shadows. He'd been reading by the bedside lamp, angled away so that it didn't shine in my eyes, barely adequate illumination for him. He needed reading glasses and wouldn't wear them.
"I didn't do it. Tell me that was the jetlag speaking."
"He was here." I plucked at the sheet covering me. "In this bed? With you?"
"Yes, yes, and sort of."
I sighed and let it turn into a yawn. "Oh, what the hell. When is it ever just two of us? There's always that ghostly third person... this time it was me. Or did you manage to forget I existed?"
He doesn't have much patience, but he eked out what he had for long enough to answer me calmly. "I've never been with you and imagined I was fucking him. Ever."
"I have." I wasn't planning to tell him that but I felt the sick, swooping soar of relief confession brings. "Once. Twice, maybe. Sorry."
There was a pause. "Do much for you?"
"Enough for a second time, but after that? No. It's always been you I wanted. I was just... curious."
He nodded and visibly stopped thinking about it for the time being, although I knew he'd come back to it. "He came to see me, and like I said, I didn't think you'd mind him stopping here --"
"Well, I fucking do, and if you knew me as well you say you do, you'd have known that." I sat up and jammed a rigid finger into his shoulder, finding a scar to target without trying hard. "This place, this bed is mine. There're things here I don't want people seeing -- hell, you know there are!"
"Daniel wouldn't have even thought of looking, prying --"
"He digs up graves! He plunders and loots and uncovers secrets for a fucking living. It's what he does."
"He likes you, Davis. And there's the whole good manners thing; he just wouldn't, okay?"
Yeah. Of course he wouldn't. Did O'Neill really see Daniel with a halo? Good manners? Daniel was the consummate adaptor to any local custom, yes, and he had a certain innate courtesy, but he was ruthlessly pragmatic and endlessly curious, and if he'd found himself with time on his hands, he'd have gone looking.
I found myself wishing, with a savage spite, that he had found something we'd used for sex, something to flush his cheeks, bug out his eyes, but I knew he hadn't. My mission hadn't been at all high-risk, but I was going thousands of light years away to a planet in turmoil; I'd taken care to leave nothing like that to be found.
Just in case it wasn't Jack clearing my apartment out.
"Yeah, well, I didn't think you'd mind."
"Will you stop saying that? It won't become true, no matter how often you repeat it."
"Will you accept that it's what I thought, at least?"
I gave him a grudging nod.
"Okay, then... He came because he wanted to see me."
"How much did he get to --"
His hand came across my mouth. "Okay, I've had enough of the bitching. Stop it. Listen."
I jerked my head away and gave him a knowing, taunting smirk. "Or what? I get a spanking?"
He held up his hand and flexed his fingers. "I would, but I sprained my wrist seeing to Daniel."
I made a small, soft sound that was part pain and part vindication and he smiled sourly. "Joke, Davis. Just a joke."
God. I swallowed and felt my lips ache from being compressed.
He gave me a snarl of a smile. "Feel spanked now, do you? Because I can carry on hurting you if --" I shook my head in surrender. I couldn't deal with another jab like that. Even knowing it was a fake-out, because suppose the next one wasn't? "Good. Moving on --"
I held up my hand to stop him. "Please?"
"Wherever you're going with this --"
"If you'd ever stop yammering, you'd find out."
"I will. I just want to tell you that you don't need to tell me everything. I know what you two are to each other. I know there are times you need each other. I'm not stupid, and I'm not as emotionally fucked-up as you like to think." I couldn't be and still function. Christ, he really did get off on being the bone Daniel and I fought over way too much. My fault, but I never could hide anything from him.
"I wouldn't tell you anything Daniel told me that was personal in any case, but thanks."
I felt slapped again. His mouth twisted ruefully. "That came out wrong, didn't it? Look, it goes both ways; if it's about you, or you and me, I don't tell Daniel."
"Neither do I."
He's quick. He connected the dots right away. "You two talk about me?"
"Sometimes." I didn't elaborate. "I'm shutting up now. Talk. Tell me what you can. Make me feel like an idiot for doubting you, as I'm sure you can, and then get the hell out if you want to punish us both."
"I might," he said. "Or I might stay. Play with my contrite little fuck-toy."
The deep irony slathered over the words didn't stop them from making my mouth water and my dick harden in a dizzy rush. "Oh, you fucking --"
"You deserved it." No irony now, just iron-hard inflexibility. "And don't make the mistake of thinking I don't want that. You've been gone a long time. I've missed you."
The darkness of the last three words wound around me, blinding me. I reached out, pressed the heel of my hand against the hardness I knew was waiting to be touched. "Tell me later."
He moved my hand aside with a terrifying gentleness I remembered. Long fingers on me, in me--
"Oh, no. You wanted to know. I'm going to tell you."
I let his grip tighten until it hurt, and then prised his fingers off. He settled back, watching me.
"He came up here with a few days off. With a few questions, stuff he wanted to get off his chest... You know Daniel; he thinks, and he carries on doing it until something gives. This time it was alternate versions of him. You heard about that?"
"Yeah, well, that, and the fucking Ori --still got some cracked idea it's his fault they found us -- and he's --" Jack glanced away. "He misses me. Sometimes. Oh, we can get by; not joined at the hip, it's just... we were together a long time."
"I get it," I said tightly before he got maudlin.
"So he got here, we got talking, he did some sightseeing, talked some more, he tells me he got hit on by an alternative version of Mitchell --"
"The one and only."
"He's not --"
"No, he's not. The one Daniel works with is most definitely not."
Of course not. Or he wouldn't be working with Daniel.
"Still..." I shrugged. "Daniel's had passes before." I'd made one myself, once. "He knows how to say no." And maybe sometimes he's even polite about it.
"He's never wanted to say yes, so it was easy."
I could connect dots, too. "He wanted --wants -- Colonel Mitchell?" Either would be awkward; the one he stood a chance with had disappeared into the ether; the one he saw daily wasn't interested.
"No! Christ, no. He didn't want to say yes this time either; the guy was a liar and a thief, for crying out loud. But it got him looking at his Mitchell --okay, that sounds wrong -- and he started getting all wound-up and flustered; hell, I don't know why, but he did."
I held back a yawn. Didn't sound much like Daniel to me. I'd had years to work out that O'Neill translated Daniel wasn't always that close to the original, though, so I didn't comment.
And I supposed it might have been a fairly odd experience, to be fair to Daniel. He just had so many of them that I couldn't see this being the straw that broke his composure.
"Should you be telling me this?"
"I called Daniel. While you were asleep."
"And told him --?"
"That you'd gone fucking nuts about us sharing a bed -- and nothing else -- and he told me to go ahead and make it right."
I may have whimpered. "Don't make me have to thank him."
Jack looked insufferably smug. "I won't. Good manners might."
"You're not off the hook yet," I reminded him coldly. "So Daniel had a moment of doubt about his sexuality; it happens."
"I didn't say that."
"Oh, please. Why would Daniel care about an alternate version of a man he doesn't know that well yet, being gay? If he's bothered, it's because maybe, just for a moment, he was tempted, and now he has to work with this Mitchell without letting him find out, because I can guarantee you, it wouldn't go over well." I shrugged. "Mid-life crisis. It happens. Even to world-saving heroes. Might not even be the first time."
"It's never happened before."
"That you know of." God, did he think he owned our thoughts? Daniel could have been lusting after clean-cut military types with tight asses and stars and stripes coloured eyes for years, and kept it to himself. I sincerely doubted it, but I wasn't ruling it out. And I noticed that Jack had been really quick to accept my theory that Daniel had been fleetingly interested.
"Whatever you say, sir."
"Christ, why are you being so -- And that was just one thing, okay? One small thing that was worrying him."
"And yet it's the one thing you're focusing on. Let it go. It was probably just weird with it coming from someone he works with. In a manner of speaking. He'll jump a mile the next time Colonel Mitchell slaps his ass in the showers, and then forget about it. It's not like he had chance to do anything with the other Mitchell."
Jack's gaze slid away. "No."
"Is that a no that means, 'Yes, he did'?"
"It's a no that means I asked him that and he told me 'no' and I wasn't going to push it."
In what universe?
"Jack, can you skip to the part where you crawled into bed with him?" And lunched with him, and came back here after lunch, and...
"Nothing to tell. I came over last night, got too drunk to drive. Stopped here. Didn't think you'd --"
"Oh, please!" I took a temper-filled breath. "There are cabs; you could have walked, if it comes to that. You wanted to stop. Wanted to see if you had a chance. Wanted to take advantage of his state of mind and make one last play for his ass. And if you really were drunk, I'm guessing you fell asleep on him before he had chance to point out that compared to the dashing young Colonel you're hardly in the run--"
The bedroom door slammed before I could finish my sentence, echoed by the deeper thud of the front door a moment later.
In between, I was fairly certain I'd heard the clink of a key being thrown at a wall.
I drank the dregs of a cup of coffee that hadn't been hot for hours, too tired to spit it back into the cup. The reports were coming in, pouring in, endless yak and chatter, jubilation and triumph. If one more person slapped me on the back, their face split in a beaming smile, I was going to have bruises.
We'd won. We were safe. We'd whupped those slimy alien sons of bitches and shown them what happens when they come up against humans, by God.
And good luck pinning a medal on the hero of the hour without an ice-pick handy.
I stared at the memo in my hand. Something utterly trivial about a change to medical benefits. I started to laugh, helpless gusts of it shaking me. Earth had come close to being destroyed or enslaved, but I could get my teeth cleaned three times a year, instead of two, courtesy of the Pentagon.
I went home, pushing my way through a corridor filled with people who were still talking, making for the corridors filled with people out of the loop, who didn't know how close they'd come to dying on this bright and sunny day.
The streets were filled with equally oblivious people, and I walked amongst them feeling as alien as if I had a Goa'uld squirming in my belly.
It wasn't that I wasn't glad. I was. We'd won, and done it in style, with panache. Thrilling, edge-of-the seat, last-minute stuff.
There'd been one voice, cracking with excitement and awe --
"Thousands of bright yellow…I don't know…They're coming from the surface. I don't know what they are…They're cutting the enemy fleet to shreds. My God…beautiful!"
Way Back When
Getting Jack alone at the SGC was, as always, difficult. He was hovering around Teal'c, who was bored of his solicitude after five minutes and had to endure it for an hour, and doing his best to avoid the Russians. As they were, to a certain extent, my responsibility, that would have meant that he was avoiding me, too.
Luckily, they were also Daniel's, as he'd invited them along and spoke their language, and Jack didn't, couldn't, wouldn't ignore him.
So I stuck to Daniel, and that got me Jack, and then Daniel... faded away, leaving us in his cluttered room staring at each other, mindful of the cameras but careful not to position ourselves in a way that would imply we were being mindful.
That didn't take much thought; it was automatic by now.
"You hanging around? Overnight, maybe?"
I wished. That would have got me a few hours with him, naked in the dark. I was tired enough that for once just that would've been enough.
"No; I have to be back in Washington as soon as possible. The deal Doctor Jackson set up --"
I shook my head. "No. If it goes wrong, then, yes, me, too, but it was him. He's a born negotiator."
"Still. You let him do it his way. Not everyone would. He can be..." Jack waggled his hand and grimaced. "Took me a while to get to the point where I trusted him. He's not military, or even politically-minded."
"No," I agreed fervently.
"So thanks. For helping get Teal'c back."
I shrugged. "It was my job. And one I was glad to do. Teal'c's worth any amount of effort."
That got me a nod, but I could tell his attention was wandering. It was difficult being alone, yet watched, in a place where we couldn't even stand close to each other for long. Conflicting impulses were making me dizzy.
"Anyway, as I was saying; I have to get back. The fallout from this will be huge. I'll be swamped."
"Sorry to hear that," he said easily. I knew he didn't mean my soon-to-be-overflowing in-box.
I held his gaze. "I'm sorry, too." I lowered my eyes and looked him over, storing up a few memories. He was leaning back against Daniel's desk, arms bare and crossed over his chest. As I watched, his thumb scratched at his forearm, leaving a white line against the tan.
"Got to go," he said softly, regretfully.
"Yes, sir." I turned, knowing he wouldn't want to leave me here, in Daniel's space. "Oh, one thing --"
This wasn't the time and it really wasn't the place, but I had to warn him.
I moved so that my back was to the camera, making it look natural. "He said something. I think -- sir, I swear he didn't get it from me, but he knows --"
Discreet. No names. None needed.
O'Neill looked blank, and then he got it, and then he looked blank again.
"You mean...?" He mouthed a careful, slightly theatrical 'Us?', covering it with a raised hand, and I nodded.
The snort of quiet laughter was disconcerting.
"You knew," I said flatly.
"I told him, so, yes, I'd say you were correct, Davis." He frowned at me. "What?"
I controlled myself, I really did. "Is there anywhere we can go to discuss this?"
"Nothing to discuss."
"Oh, yes, there fucking is."
I was forced to keep my emotions confined to my expression and voice, and it meant that I was damn near growling out of a contorted face. He flinched. "Hey. Calm down..."
"We go somewhere or I do it here."
His face closed down. "Fine."
We ended up in his quarters, getting there in a strained silence, staring straight ahead. He left the door open and as soon as I'd moved inside the bare, utilitarian room he dragged me into the tiny bathroom, kicking that door shut.
"You'd better make this fast, and you'd better have a damn good reason for throwing this particular fucking tantrum," he told me.
He filled the room with his anger and unease and I'd have been the one flinching if I wasn't so angry with him.
"Reason? I'm an Air Force officer and you just told someone you were fucking me! I'd say that was a reason!"
"I told Daniel," he corrected me. "Whole different thing."
"Why? Why is it?" I still couldn't yell at him but we were close enough that I didn't need to.
"Because it's Daniel."
I nodded, lips clamped together until fury burst them apart. "He's your friend, not mine. A member of your team, your buddy, your pal. Whatever he is, he's yours. Not mine. And you gave me to him. Told him something he could use to kill my career stone-dead. You had no right. None."
"He wouldn't do that. He likes you, and I'd trust him with my life, Davis." He spoiled it by adding, "And think about it; it'd kill mine, too."
"You just don't get it, do you?"
"I do, I just --" His hand came up and he patted awkwardly at my arm. "He'd pretty much figured it out."
"Oh, God." I leaned forward, resting my head against his shoulder, all the strength leaving me. "Who else knows?"
"No one. It's Daniel, dammit; he knows me better than I do; he sees me happy, he starts to wonder why; he starts digging. It's what he does."
His fingers stroked through my hair, finding the nape of my neck, cupping it and pulling me closer.
"Hey. We good now? Because we've got to get the hell out of here, you know."
"I know," I muttered into his shoulder. Happy? Because of me? We hadn't -- there just wasn't -- "And no, we're not, but I suppose we'll have to be."
He got me to look up by tugging on my hair, his fingers slipping away with a jerk because it was too short for that, really. "Yes, we will." He nodded down, not giving me the kiss I'd have been shocked to get here on base. "You fit to be seen?"
"What? Oh..." I stepped back. "Yes, sir. Arguing with you isn't exactly a turn-on."
He grinned. "Liar."
I smiled back. Couldn't help it. "You, too?"
"If we weren't on base..."
"Okay, you're not helping."
He opened the door and I saw past his shoulders that we weren't alone. Daniel was in the room, leaning against the wall where he could be seen from the corridor. Safeguard, chaperone, and audience, all in one. He nodded at us, with the small, secretive smile I seemed to be seeing a lot, and spoke directly to me. "The Russians are ready to leave."
I nodded back and left with him, without looking at Jack again.
"I'm sorry," he said as we entered the elevator. "I honestly wasn't being curious for the sake of it."
"No, please." His eyes were earnest. "It's important that you believe that."
He gave a soft, frustrated groan. "I've really made this worse, haven't I?"
The elevator lurched to a halt and I pressed the button to keep the doors closed a moment longer. "I'm trusting you because I have to. Don't make me regret it."
The doors opened and we side-stepped a bunch of nurses and headed along a corridor.
"You know, if you ever want to talk about this --"
"I can't tell you how much I don't."
He paused at a corridor junction. "Well."
I held out my hand. "Nice working with you on this, Doctor Jackson."
He shook my hand and murmured, "Likewise, Major Davis."
I glanced back before I turned the corner, and saw him disappearing down the corridor we'd just walked down, heading back to Jack.
I trusted him with my secret way more than I trusted him with Jack.
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