The Eclipsed Series

Part Six: Lost and Found




Now


The phone rang on the third day.

Not Jack.

Daniel.

"Paul?"

He'd been calling me that for years, but it still took me by surprise a little. "Yes."

"I've just been talking to Jack."

I checked the clock; pointlessly, as it didn't matter what time of night it was in Colorado; Daniel could be at his desk at midnight, or at home at eleven in the morning. SG-1 didn't exactly stamp a time card.

"Where are you calling from?"

"What? Oh!" His voice got dry. "The library in downtown, actually, and my quarters are disappearing rapidly."

Safe enough.

"Give me the number."

He did, and I put the phone down without a word, breathing quickly, feeling my heartbeat speed up painfully, disconcertingly aware of it.

Talking to Jack was more than I'd done. I'd fallen asleep because I was exhausted, and woken a scant handful of hours later, rare, unfamiliar-feeling tears leaking from my eyes, conjured by a dream where Jack was -- I couldn't remember. Something bad. Dead. Fucking someone else. Gone.

Lost again.

I'd seen him once at work, in the distance, stalking down the corridor, back straight. I'd sent my report over by messenger, instead of hand-delivering it, and heard nothing back.

All lines of communication were effectively sealed because we were each waiting for a call neither of us was prepared to make -- I was waiting, anyway. Maybe Jack had already pushed me aside, out of his life. I'd worn the skin on my thumb to a raw, blistered mess compulsively stroking his key, buried deep in my pocket. He hadn't asked for it back.

Stubbornness and hurt had kept me from making that call. I wasn't sure what I'd say if I did, anyway. I needed him to call me; needed to feel wanted.

I reached for the phone and called Daniel back, agreeing to meeting him, agreeing to fly in the next day, assuring him that, yes, I could fake up a pretext for a visit.


***

He met me in the small office they assigned visitors to the SGC; broom cupboard size, bare and anonymous.

"Hi."

He looked relaxed and strained at one and the same time. I felt the same way. "Doctor Jackson."

He was too used to me being formal at work to even quirk an eyebrow at that. "You're here for the night?"

I nodded. "I've got a flight back at one tomorrow."

"Let me take you out to dinner, then."

He was so direct about it, uncaring about the way it looked. I nodded slowly. "Thank you."

"I'm leaving at six; I can give you a ride to your hotel..."

"I'm staying on base. Hardly worth a hotel for one night."

"Oh, you can't stay here," he protested. "I know you never sleep well on base." I didn't, no, but I didn't recall telling him that. "You're welcome to stay at my place, and I'll bring you in with me tomorrow to finish up what you have to do, and collect your car."

I tried to picture Jack's face when he found out I'd spent the night with Daniel, failed, and nodded again.

He didn't take me out to eat.

He drove directly to his apartment, and gave me a complicit smile. "I thought maybe you'd like to skip dinner."

"No. I refused to let him manipulate me any more. "I'm hungry."

"I'll order in," he promised. His eyes met mine. "Paul -- I'm going to talk to you about it. You know I am. I don't see much point in putting it off, do you?"

I undid my seat belt, surrendering, because he was right; what was the point? Daniel's show; I was just the audience. "I suppose not."

That got me an approving smile and a pat on the knee. "Good. Come on, then."

I followed him up the stairs, my overnight bag heavy in my hand because I was tired.

"Are you checking out my ass?" he threw back over his shoulder, sounding amused.

I didn't rise to the bait. Besides, I hadn't been. "I did that years ago. It hasn't changed much."

"Hey, I work out these days!"

I eyed it. "Looks the same as it ever did, Daniel. Out of reach, and in my face."

He was still snickering when we got to his door, but he shut up once we were inside, doing the host thing with an awkwardness that made me wonder just how often he entertained.

We ended up on the couch, not by my choice, drink in hand, stale chips in a bowl on the table that neither of us touched.

"What did he say?" I asked him.

"You're very direct, aren't you?"

"Yes. Tell me what he said."

Daniel took a sip of his red wine, leaving his full lips stained until his tongue swiped across them. He was pretty. I preferred what I had -- what I used to have -- but I could see his appeal, always had.

"He's..." He hesitated.

"Angry."

"You know he is."

"Hurt."

"Has to be." Daniel looked thoughtful, as if he was comparing past experiences with current events. "Jack's good at hiding that particular emotion, though."

"He's just sick and tired of all my bullshit." It sounded bleak. I swallowed, tasting the wine, thin and sharp. "Daniel -- I don't know why I came. It's over. I know that. What I don't know is why you care."

He looked intensely uncomfortable. "God, this is -- I hate this."

I frowned. "Then why do it? We're grown men, Daniel. We can fight without you stepping in to referee, and I don't see you playing Cupid." I stared at him. "Oh. You feel guilty. Don't. This is -- nothing new."

"If I hadn't gone to see him --"

"We'd have had this fight next week, next month." I shrugged. "Daniel, it's taken me a long time to see that you're not the problem. I am. I got that eventually, remember?"

It was amazingly easy to be forgiving and mature. I basked in the glow for a moment, enjoying the moral high ground. Hey, Jack; see? I'm not always a suspicious, bitter fucked-up --

"Yes, you are."

Agreement brought my exalted state to an abrupt end. "Right," I said coldly. "You know, we seem to have covered everything. How about I get the hell out of here, and leave you to whatever you normally do?"

"I can get you Jack back."

"I don't want him back like that."

"Then I guess you don't want him much at all."

We'd spoken quickly, snapping out the words, but now we paused. "I want him," I said finally. "I miss him. It's killing me that every time we get a chance to start over, I fuck it up, and you're involved. Always." I took a deep breath. "Forget it, Daniel."

"No." He could be an obstinate devil at times. "You've got questions, doubts; ask me. Anything. I want it all to be clear in your mind, so that you can decide what you want to do."

"Anything?"

A flush rose in his face, but he nodded.

"Have you really got the hots for Mitchell?"

A look of utter astonishment crossed his face. "What?"

"Jack thinks --"

"Stop. Wait." He held his hand up and then stood, stalking around the room, his brow furrowed.

Daniel thinking. All movement, absolute concentration.

He whirled around, shaking his head, less in denial than incredulity. "Jack is the most --"

"Isn't he?"

"He thought --"

We shared a smile at Jack's ability to misread a situation and sometimes manhandle it into the shape he wanted by sheer force of will. "Oh, yes."

"And that's why he asked so many questions..." Daniel rolled his eyes.

"Did you answer them? No, you can't have done, or he wouldn't still think it."

"None of his business," Daniel said indignantly. "I love him, but I must have missed the memo where that gives him the right to know about my sex life."

"He doesn't want to know about it; he wants to be part of it."

"You've always believed that, haven't you? I convinced you I didn't want him, but that's only half of it." He sank down beside me again, lolling back, looking more relaxed than I felt he should be. "It's not true, you know."

I didn't answer.

"Jack knows it would have been a disaster."

"Goes with the territory."

"We don't have stellar records when it comes to our romantic lives, do we? Any of us."

"You could say that." I don't know what I'd flown in for, but it wasn't this. "You still haven't told me what he said."

"From memory?" Daniel closed his eyes and then opened them again, his lips curling in a smile as he quoted Jack's words back to me. "'Daniel? If I kill Davis, we can get rid of his body off-world, right? Smuggle him through the 'gate, drop him in a volcano? There was an active one on that planet with the --'"

"Stop." Daniel had captured enough of the cadence of Jack's voice to make listening to him acutely painful. "Did he say anything he meant?"

"Oh, I think he meant that," Daniel murmured. "I thought I was the only one who could get him that mad."

"Something else for us to be rivals for? The keys to Jack's temper? I don't think so."

"It was supposed to be comforting."

"Thanks, but I already know I can piss him off."

Daniel nodded. "Then you also know you matter to him."

"It's possible to be angry with someone and not want to fuck them," I said dryly.

"Jack always wants to fuck you." He sounded matter-of-fact. "We were off-world once, a few years back, got separated from the other two and got pinned down in some caves by this electrical storm. We had time to talk, and we talked about you, amongst other things."

I rubbed at my ear and he laughed. "No; it was all good, I swear, and he didn't break any confidences. Jack's too discreet to say much, but something stuck with me."

I had a vague suspicion that I was being played, but I wanted to hear it. It didn't make any difference to where we were now, but if Jack had said something nice about me, I wanted to know.

"I asked him what he saw in you. It wasn't as negative as the words imply; I really wanted to know. You're not what I'd have imagined he'd go for -- and it was still a lot to take in that he had a type when it came to men.

"He said you'd never bored him. Ever. And you'd never backed down, no matter how much pressure he put on you. He --" Daniel flushed, glancing away and back. "He said you could be kneeling, begging, and still have this look in your eyes that --"

"I'm going to fucking kill him." My face was burning. That was Jack being discreet? "He had no fucking right --"

"It was only me he was talking to," Daniel said quietly. "Trying to make me see, so that I'd accept you. It was important to him."

"But you didn't. Not for a long time."

"I didn't try very hard," he admitted. "And there was a lot going on with me back then. Jack and I weren't all that close. We were on opposite sides so often -- I think he wanted to share something with me that mattered."

"It's not important." I watched the shadow of a tree sway on the wall, endlessly reinventing its shape. "That was then. This is now."

"Why did you get so angry about me staying at your place?" Daniel sounded almost hurt. "I didn't think you'd mind, or I wouldn't have gone there."

"I didn't. Not really. Not you. I told you that you were welcome to use it. I gave you a key, after all."

"I didn't mention that to Jack."

"No?" It didn't seem to matter. "It wasn't you being there; it was --"

"Me being there with Jack."

I nodded. "I trust you."

"But not him."

"I just -- I don't know anymore. Should I?"

"If you trust me, I don't see the problem. You can't think Jack would ever force the issue, and I'm not exactly helpless to defend my virtue."

I gave him the smile he wanted. "That's very logical, Daniel."

He smiled back. Sweet smile, still, after all he'd been through. "Impressive, isn't it?"

"But I still want to know what happened. You said you'd tell me anything and that's what I need to know. Because if Jack even tried anything, I'm going to kick his fucking ass."

"I don't need protecting by you, either."

Oh. That obvious?

"Just tell me. Please?"

Daniel looked up through his lashes, brow creased deeply. "And you'll believe me?"

"You don't lie very well."

"Actually, I do, but I don't see the point very often. Okay. Jack got drunk and told me, in way more detail than he had to, about how much he was missing you. He mentioned how not amused he was that as soon as he arrived in Washington, you left, and then pretty much passed out."

"God." I'd dealt with him like that once or twice. Not easy. "I'm sorry."

"I didn't mind." Daniel held up a finger in warning. "This is the important part. I got into bed with him. I wanted to be there if he needed something, or threw up, and it's not as if it mattered. Your bed's big and, well, it was Jack."

Put like that, it seemed fair enough, but I wasn't letting go of my suspicions that easily. If I did, I'd have to move onto the part where I'd ruined everything all by myself. "And?"

"I had to shove him over to his own side of the bed a few times, and we woke up wrapped around each other and both feeling like hell. I guess I'd had more to drink than I'd realised. He worked out where his hand was - south of my waist -- and moved it just as I rolled away, so it went from my ass to my dick in the space of a few seconds and I froze. We both did. It was...well. Awkward, I guess. But it didn't matter because, at the risk of repeating myself, it was Jack."

I was biting back a grin just picturing it, but I had to ask. "What did he do?"

Daniel's mouth curved in a reminiscent grimace. "Patted me, muttered something about an archeologist's tools that didn't really make either of us laugh, and tripped over the bucket I'd left beside the bed. He was barely speaking to me up until he left, and then I got a hug and he swatted my backside, which is a habit I'm hoping I can break him of, but I'm not holding my breath."

"That was it?"

"Mmm." Daniel gave me an enchanting, dazzling smile. "You feel like an idiot now, don't you?"

"A suicidal one."

"I don't advise it. Jack doesn't like people he loves dying on him."

"I'm not in that group. Not sure I ever was, but I know I'm not after this."

"Now you're fishing."

"Only if I'm the worm."

"The bait," Daniel corrected me. "Paul, you can get Jack back in your bed without even trying. Don't make me go into details about that, because I just -- no. Don't want to go there. Once he's, uh, feeling more kindly towards you, apologise. The shock will shut him up for long enough that you'll be able to sell him on anything. Tell him you were angry on my behalf because you thought he was taking advantage of me."

I snorted.

"It's one approach," Daniel protested. "We are good friends, after all."

"We are?"

"Aren't we?"

"Oh, you know we are!"

"I'm not the one -- never mind." Daniel leaned over and refilled my wine glass. "Protecting me is something Jack thinks is his job, so don't overplay that angle. Just make him see that I've had it up to here with being used by you both."

"We don't use you!"

"Yes, you do. As a way to spice things up, as a reason not to commit, as a weapon..." Daniel pulled a face. "It's annoying. Stop it. Seriously."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that," Daniel agreed. He stood, snapping the conversation off neatly. "Chinese? Pizza? Or there's leftover pasta salad from last night; I made way too much, expecting Mitchell to come over, but he had a ton of paperwork."

"Salad's fine." I stood as well. "I'll give you a hand. Just need to --"

"Over there, down the hall."

"Thanks." He turned back to look at me and I said it again. "Thank you."

He gave me a considering look and then took two steps over and hugged me. Not a token, quick hug; he fitted his body to mine, wrapped his arms around me and held it for long enough that I had time to recover from my shock, return it, and start to shake, just a little.

Which was when I got a kiss somewhere in the vicinity of my ear and a smack on my ass.

"That's as much as Jack gets," he told me, retreating. "Just so you know. And he doesn't get it often."

"That qualifies as flirting," I told him when I'd got my breath back.

He grinned. "Jack's definition is less polite. But he never stops me."

"I bet he doesn't."

"Ah-ah!"

"No." I shook my head. "I didn't mean it like that. It's just -- it was nice. Thank you. Again."

He nodded, beaming at me. Daniel in his happy place.

Jack and I still not. Not yet.



Then


"Hello?"

"You have to do something. You have to." Daniel's voice splintered through the alcoholic haze that was keeping my misery at bay, and I felt a stab of resentment.

"Daniel?"

There was a pause. "Yes, of course it's me." He took a deep breath and let it out with a shuddering sigh. "Good evening, Major Davis. I hope I haven't disturbed you --"

"Do something about what?" I asked, taking a perverse pleasure in derailing him for a second time.

"You know what. The talks. The not-going-well talks."

"Daniel, I'm one of a team working long hours trying to get a dozen countries to agree on something huge that scares them to death. I am doing something."

"What, exactly? Getting drunk?"

"You can tell from all the way over there?" I waved in the direction of Colorado and didn't spill a drop from my glass. "Impressive."

"I can tell, yes." Exasperation roughened his voice. "I wish you wouldn't, Paul."

"It's a way of coping. I'm not doing it every night. How about you?"

"He'll be back. Eventually. I know that. It makes it easier."

"You said that before." I stared around the room. "Don't see him. Let me check under this cushion... nope, not there, either."

"Stop it."

"I can't." My voice thickened and twisted and I stood, phone clamped to my ear, pacing because immobility became unbearable after a while, and I felt as if it was me frozen, held captive. "Suppose he's... aware, Daniel? Suppose he isn't asleep? Weeks. It's been weeks, and he's in there, fucking buried alive --"

"I've seen him," Daniel sounded tense but certain. "He's asleep; more than that. In stasis, I swear it. He doesn't know what's happening. And I've told you; when he went under, it wasn't really him, not entirely..."

"He said goodbye," I broke in. "Goodbye to you. He knows -- knew -- that it was a one-way trip--"

"Is that the way you're persuading people to push to get him out? Telling them he's probably insane by now, or that it's impossible to reverse?" he demanded, disgust souring his words. "God, does he even get mentioned at these talks, or are we pretending he doesn't exist, because it's simpler that way? He deserves better than that. Than you."

"Shut the fuck up!"

"I don't know what the hell he saw in you."

"You sanctimonious, jealous --"

"Of what? That you got his dick and a few hours of his time whenever he got an itch I wouldn't scratch? I don't think so."

There was a dull, buzzing roar in my head. I couldn't speak. Words couldn't get past the scream building and I wasn't going to let the scream out to make room for them.

We'd got to this point of mutual vulnerability before; got close and sheered away.

Now we'd left it squirming, flip-flopping in the dust, back broken, blood oozing. Hit and run.

I'd always thought I'd be the one to break and lash out first. There was an odd comfort in it being Daniel. I heard his fast, jerky breathing, and then the click as he hung up.

I finished my drink and didn't pour another. I didn't want it, and I wasn't going to drink it to spite him.


***

The next night I logged onto my computer, after swallowing down a meal I didn't want to eat. I couldn't work from home much, for security reasons, even though my computer was as secure as humanly possible, but there was a social event coming up, and I'd been volunteered into organising the food. Definitely something I had to do on my own time, as it involved my soon-to-be married secretary. I really didn't have time for it, but crises came and went; secretaries, good ones, stuck with you.

I clicked to get my mail, dealt with the junk and a few replies from various caterers with inflated ideas of what our budget was, and stayed online to read some headline news articles with a desultory interest.

A new e-mail arrived, appearing as if it had been waiting for me to sit down.

Daniel. I eyed it, trying to get a feel for what it would contain when I pushed my finger into clicking it open. At the moment, it didn't seem to want to move. Sensible finger. The subject line was a single word.

No. A single question.

Talk?

I clicked and blinked the words into focus.

Paul, I don't know when you'll get this, or if you'll even open it as you'll be able to see that it's from me. I'll assume that you have.

I need to talk to you about this and I don't want to do this face to face.

And not on the phone, either. It's too easy for that to spin out of control. Like last night.

So this works for me. I can talk without you interrupting me -- you do that a lot, do you know that? -- and you can read this when you're sober.

If you're not; if you're drunk now, please walk away and read this later. God, I imagine you're snarling 'Fuck you' at the screen right now, aren't you? You do that a lot, too.

There's no point in me spending time on this if you're not reading it, or don't plan to, or don't want to communicate using any method, so I'll wait to hear that this is okay with you.

And, no, I'm not going to apologize for what I said. You deserved it.

Daniel


I read it twice, clicked 'reply', and typed an answer one-handed, leaning back in my chair, watching the words appear, hanging suspended, black on white, waiting for the send key to make them real.

I'm sober. Which is none of your fucking business. Lecture me all you want, Doctor Jackson. Knock yourself out.

It doesn't matter now, does it?


It was 8.15 for me; two hours earlier for him.

Time to kill, for both of us.

I poured myself another cup of coffee, tipped a bag of chips up over a bowl, leaving the counter strewn with fragments, and settled down in front of the computer again, provisioned and ready for battle.

It didn't take him long to answer.

It matters to me. And it might make you get off your lachrymose ass and pull strings, call in favors -- Weir isn't Hammond. She's okay, and she's trying, but she doesn't really know Jack -- never had chance -- and she doesn't see why we need him above and beyond personal reasons.

He saved the planet, and no one seems to care, or realize that we might need him to do it again.

But you know that, don't you? So why aren't you helping me?

Is it easier to mourn him than to deal with him in person, with all his flaws? Was the gilt wearing off your shiny colonel? Or do you think if he came back, it wouldn't be to you?


He liked to end with a zing-sting in the tail, didn't he?

My ass isn't weeping, thanks; we had safe sex. Mostly. You mouth off at me again, Doctor Jackson and I'll go into detail.

You want to tell me what you think of me? Fine. But don't say I glorified him, or didn't see him for what he was. Maybe, a little, when I didn't know him well, but that didn't last past the first time I fucked him.

And you know when that was, don't you? Yes, of course you do. I bet you noticed the next day because I put a fucking smile on his face. Night of the eclipse. He seduced me. Wanted me.
Took me. Into his bed, his body -- God, you have no idea how fucking lonely he was, did you? And you left him. What was it, eight, nine months later? We've never talked about that. How I held him together until you got off your ascended ass and remembered your roots.

Maybe I've got stuff to say, too, Daniel. About people who die heroically -- you know, I cried? Actual fucking tears for you -- both of us did. Must be the Irish in us -- though mine's a long way back -- but we gave you a send-off. Hell, maybe you were watching, even if you can't remember it now.

Jack yelling out my name as I nailed him on the couch, whiskey spilled everywhere, his face still wet? Ringing any bells?


There was a long pause, and I got sick of waiting and wandered around the room, restless and angry. I didn't know what he wanted. A slanging match? It wasn't helping. Well, it wasn't helping me. This fearless and frank fucking with each other's feelings wasn't leeching out the poison; it was pumping it in, and I could feel myself swell with it, monstrous and vile. Mr Hyde...

I'd always thought he liked me. Thought, as far as it went, that we were friends; that any bitterness or jealousy was all on my part, because he had Jack's thoughts and love, unstated, sure, but as real as the warmth from sunlight, if equally intangible.

And I had... how had Daniel put it? His dick, and the ability to satisfy his sexual needs.

It sounded dirty. Cheap.

I went back and read Daniel's messages again. I'd never had anything written from him before. Oh, his mission reports, yes, but apart from the odd flash of exasperation, they were fairly bland.

Looking at his words, divorced from him, even the first message had a coldness to it that was a little shocking. Daniel got away with a lot because he said it in a soft, persuasive voice, blue eyes blinking, tongue darting out to wet his lips. I tried to picture him speaking the words aloud, his delivery slipping them past my defences.

That wasn't going to happen now that he'd written them down, immutable, unsoftened. I wasn't going to let him get to me, but he already had.

Did he know something I didn't? Had Jack been planning to end our relationship? It hadn't felt that way to me, but I wasn't good at reading people when my own emotions were involved.

I was certain of just one thing; I wanted him back in the world. His choice what happened then, but I was going to make damned sure he knew I wanted him. Jack wasn't any better than me at the subtleties; maybe he'd misread me, as I had him, so many times.

We were fucking hopeless at communicating. We fought, fucked, and I fell deeper in love every time I saw him, but I didn't tell him that, and I had no idea if he loved me, or not.

Daniel would know, which was why I was scared shitless of doing this.

An email appeared and I closed my eyes, hiding from it until I got sick of being a coward.

I didn't spy on you. I wouldn't have done that.

I think.

I don't know, Paul. I don't remember, if that's any consolation, and I'm not going to waste time apologizing for something I might not have done.

Which is why I'm never going to tell you I'm sorry about fucking Jack, because to the best of my knowledge, that's never happened either.

Which has either dispelled one of your fears, or ruined one of your fantasies, because, to be perfectly honest, you've got to know it didn't happen, so your obsession with it is starting to look... weird?

***

My
what? I'm in a relationship with a man who's fixated on someone else to the point of being ridiculously possessive and protective, and I'm the one with a problem? Jack is in love with you, and if there was a chance in hell you'd let him fuck you, he'd grab it, and your ass while he was at it.

***

I don't think so. Where are you getting this from? What are you basing it on? Something Jack's said? Paul, this is insane. I'm not competing with you for Jack in that way. The relationship we have is based on friendship, trust, and mutual respect. And a lot of fighting. There isn't room for a sexual element in there, and you don't know Jack very well if you think he'd ever be that unprofessional.

***

He's fucking me, isn't he?

***

Yes. Well, no one's perfect.

***

Fuck you.


***

I wondered how long it would be before you said that.


***

There was nothing from him after that for over an hour. I got frustrated, then bored, and walked away, staring out of the window at the blurred light trails from car headlights. That deepened my boredom into an apathetic slump I couldn't shake off. The effort required to breathe; shift positions in my chair; rub at an itch on my leg, seemed huge, and, once accomplished, trivial.

I was losing it, all my control, all my distance, and it scared me.

In an unpremeditated burst of movement, I stood, made it across to the computer and sat down. Somewhere I had the details of a screen name I'd set up for a chat session with a friend who'd gone to live in Europe. We'd used it once, then he'd left Paris, and I'd lost touch with him, apart from a postcard every so often.

I logged on, made sure it was all still working, and sent Daniel an e-mail with nothing but the details and my screen name. It flashed up a warning that I needed a subject line and I added 'Faster?' and hit send, wondering if he was still around to read it.

He wrote back at once, which got him some points, answering with a cautious, 'Okay. Give me a few minutes to do this.'

It took him twenty minutes to get it set up and invite me to chat. By then I was on my second drink, the burn of the vodka hidden under the sweetness of fresh orange juice, not drunk enough to have any trouble typing, but starting to feel a certain recklessness.

danielJ34 Paul?

paul100 I'm here.

danielJ34 Are you sure this is a good idea?

paul100 No. But it's more fun fighting with you than staring out the window.

danielJ34 I don't want to fight.

paul100 Yes, I think you do.

danielJ34 Why do you think that?

paul100 Uh... your e-mails? You told me I was delusional, convenient, and about to be dumped.

danielJ34 That wasn't an attack.

paul100 And yet I'm bleeding.

danielJ34 I'm sorry.

paul100 Going to tell me that the truth hurts?

danielJ34 No. Which part hurt the most?

paul100 ALL of it! Christ, Daniel...

danielJ34 No. I need to know.

paul100 I don't -- the dumped part, I guess. Why do you think that's going to happen?

danielJ34 You and Jack are fighting. Were. A lot more than usual.

paul100 We do that.

danielJ34 This much? This violently?

paul100 Yes. We always have. You just didn't know about it. How did you find out?

danielJ34 How do you think?

paul100 What did he say?

danielJ34 That you were being a pain in the ass about stuff.

paul100 What stuff?

danielJ34 You tell me.

paul100 He got hurt off-world, and I -- but we worked through that at the cabin.

danielJ34 Oh. Then. No, before that.

paul100 I don't know. Either tell me, or admit you're guessing.

danielJ34 What do you think Jack wants from you?

paul100 What? We're in a relationship; what does anyone want from that?

danielJ34 He's never once used that word to describe what you have, do you know that?

paul100 For God's sake, Daniel. I'm having trouble using it. It's about more than the sex, if that's what you mean. And, yes, for him, too, no matter what he's told you. I know that.

danielJ34 Do you love him?

paul100 Do you care?

danielJ34 I'm curious.

paul100 Jack's important to me. In a lot of ways.

danielJ34 Me, too.

paul100 I like him.

danielJ34 No, you don't. You just want him.

paul100 You know, this is getting us nowhere, Daniel.

danielJ34 Funny, that's what Jack said about the two of you.

paul100 What is your fucking problem, Daniel?

danielJ34 You. You and your hang-ups and your issues and your hold on him. You're not helping him, Paul. You're not giving him anything worth the risk he's taking by seeing you.

paul100 I'm giving as much as I'm getting. He's not interested in more from me. I wish he was. If he wants to know if I -- God, this is -- He's just got to ask, Daniel. Everything else I give him, but that he has to ask for.

danielJ34 Why? Why does he have to do it? Why can't you just unbend for once?

paul100 Because he likes me bent? Sorry. Cheap shot. Because that's not how it is between us. You wouldn't understand.

danielJ34 Because I'm not gay?

paul100 Because you're not military.

danielJ34 That can't make a difference. Not now. You've been with him for years...

paul100 And I still call him sir, sometimes.

danielJ34 God, that's -- not in bed?

paul100 :-)

danielJ34 I can't imagine that.

paul100 Why are you trying? Are you curious about that, too?

danielJ34 A little. Yes.

paul100 I'm surprised. Or maybe not. It's one of your defining characteristics, after all.

danielJ34 I suppose it is.

paul100 What, specifically, are you curious about?

danielJ34 I'm not sure. Not what you do, don't worry.

paul100 We fuck, Daniel. It's not like you didn't guess that, or know what it entails.

danielJ34 No, I meant I wouldn't ask for details.

paul100 Only because you know I wouldn't give them.

danielJ34 Wouldn't you?

paul100 No. Not without Jack's permission -- good luck on that -- and even then -- no. None of your business. What else?

danielJ34 Is there anything else?

paul100 Ouch.

danielJ34 Okay, and you can just not answer if you don't want to...

paul100 Gee, thanks.

danielJ34 Paul? After years of working with Jack, sarcasm isn't an effective weapon to use with me.

paul100 Better than a P90.

danielJ34 You really do have a lot of hostility toward me, don't you?

paul100 Want the truth?

danielJ34 Usually, yes.

paul100 There have been times I've hated you, times I've liked you, times I've come hard thinking about you. Take your pick which one sums up how I feel about you the best.

danielJ34 Are you drunk?

paul100 I'm drinking. I'm not drunk.

danielJ34 How can you --

paul100 Jerk off thinking about you naked when I know you're straight, untouchable and off-limits? Born rebel.

danielJ34 Does Jack know you do that?

paul100 You're kidding, right? And it's not often, so don't flatter yourself.

danielJ34 You don't think about Jack?

paul100 Sometimes. Not recently. Not since he's gone.

danielJ34 Why?

paul100 Why do you fucking think? Because it hurts. He's gone.

danielJ34 Paul -- we'll get him back. I came back, didn't I?

paul100 Which time? :-)

danielJ34 Humor. Okay, that's... something. Any time. Jack's alive. The Asgard helped him once; we've just got to tell them what's happened and get them to do it again.

paul100 Or something.

danielJ34 Yes.

paul100 I'm doing what I can, but he's a relatively minor part of the negotiations; sorry, but he is, and I have to be careful.

danielJ34 What the fuck for?

paul100 Because, Daniel, Jack would kick our asses if he woke up to find himself outed because people worked out why that nice major was freaking out over him being like he is. And Jack -- and you -- might get away with sweeping in and playing hero but I don't have that much pull or that much... audacity. Just a pencil-pusher from the Pentagon, right? A go-between. A flunky.

danielJ34 You've kept Jack interested for a long time; I seriously doubt that's all you are. I know it isn't. I've worked with you, remember? You're passionate, intense and intelligent.

paul100 Are you flirting with me? Because I'm spoken for.

danielJ34 And I can see why you piss Jack off so much. Do you ever let your guard down?

paul100 I'm sorry. That was rude of me, wasn't it? Thank you, Daniel. You're all of those things yourself. Hey; what a coincidence! I wonder if that's why Jack's doing his starving donkey/bales of hay impression.

danielJ34 Now I'm wishing we were face to face because I can't tell how angry you are right now.

paul100 Not very. Just resigned.

danielJ34 To what?

paul100 Daniel -- you're straight, right?

danielJ34 Yes...

paul100 Not tempted to try Jack on for size for curiosity's sake?

danielJ34 Not even a little.

paul100 Does he know that?

danielJ34 It's never come up in conversation. Not explicitly. But he does, yes. He has to.

paul100 Then I guess I don't understand it. He's stubborn, but he's not stupid.

danielJ34 Occam's Razor. Stop making it complicated when it's simple. I am Jack's friend. Jack is my friend. We are not fucking because we are just friends. Come on, Paul; you don't want to sleep with all your friends, do you? It's not that difficult a concept.

paul100 What friends?

danielJ34 Oh, come on!

paul100 What friends? I don't have any friends; I don't have time for them and I'm not -- look, Jack's it, okay? And I don't need to tell you how I feel about him because you know.

danielJ34 I was about to tell you I'm sorry and that's pitiful and then I realised...

paul100 You don't have many, either. d

danielJ34 Outside work? No. Sam, Teal'c... they're the closest I've got.

paul100 Sucks to be us.

danielJ34 Sometimes. ...

danielJ34 Paul? You still there?

paul100 Still here.

danielJ34 I miss him.

paul100 I know.

danielJ34 He'll be okay.

paul100 Sure he will.

danielJ34 I'm going to go now.

paul100 Okay.

danielJ34 Did this do anything? Did this help?

paul100 I guess. Do I say thank you?

danielJ34 No. Do I say sorry?

paul100 No need. Never? Really never?

danielJ34 Nope. You're more my type ;-) Night Paul.

paul100 Sweet dreams, Daniel.


Way Back When


The seventh time he told me that it was his fault, I agreed with him. Anything to break the pattern. I was hanging onto my temper and my patience with difficulty, willing myself to hold back words I'd regret saying, and he'd never forget hearing from me.

"What?"

He gave me a glare that was blurred and unfocused, but still managed to burn through me. I stood and walked over to the couch, closing the distance between us, distance he'd enforced on me from the moment I'd arrived at his house and he'd stepped back, away from my offered, instinctive hug.

Fine. He didn't want hugging. I'd fed him, later I was going to suggest he showered, and I wasn't leaving until he'd slept, properly slept.

I'd seen his bed; neatly made; he hadn't been using it. Passing out on the couch, most probably.

It was safe for me to be there. No one would be around; Daniel had been ... missing for a few weeks now; the rallying around, such as it was, had been and gone.

I hadn't had chance to be part of that; Jack had told me not to come to see him, then a mission had taken the remnants of SG-1 away to rescue the Asgard, and this was the first chance I'd had to do more than call him and get grunts and bitten-off tags of sentences in reply.

He'd been coping until Hammond gave him a week off. This was day four and I didn't think he'd left the house the whole time. It smelled fusty, and he stank of beer, takeaway food, and sour sweat.

I had no doubt that on Monday he'd be showing up crisp and clean-shaven, Colonel O'Neill reporting for duty, sir, but I didn't care. He might have needed this, but it was time for it to end; it'd slopped over from cathartic to self-indulgent wallowing in his misery.

"It was your fault." I stood in front of him and stared down. "It happened off-world, on a mission, and he -- Daniel -- was part of your team. Ultimately, you were responsible for his action. Yes?"

"Yes."

"Congratulations."

His head jerked up and I swear he bared his teeth, although he stopped short of growling. "Excuse me?"

"Millions of lives saved? A large section of a populated planet spared from being turned into a radioactive wasteland? I'd say you deserved praise for that, wouldn't you?"

"Daniel saved them, not me."

"You were in charge --"

"Save the Pentagon logic, Davis. I'm not stupid. I see where you're going, it just isn't true. I'd have ordered him not to do it; to save himself."

"That wouldn't have been possible, given the circumstances, and, no, you wouldn't. You might have done it yourself, if you'd been there --" I shook my head. "Yes, of course you would. No doubt about it -- but you weren't there. Just him. And Daniel knew what needed doing, and he did it."

He stood up and pushed me out of his way. "I don't need to hear this. I know it."

"Then why are you blaming yourself? He had no choice --"

"Yes, he did! He could've let one of them do it! That fucking Quinn guy; his planet, his project, and he's still walking around, he's still alive, and in my fucking face --"

I sighed. "People --most people -- don't react quickly in emergencies."

"But Daniel did." He turned on me. "I trained him to. Taught him to fight, to shoot, to think fast --"

"And because of that, millions of people are alive who wouldn't be. You can't think Daniel would want it any other way."

His hands rose, clenched, and jerked down to his sides again. "Will you stop? Christ, Davis, just -- I don't want to hear it. I don't want comforting, I don't want to share what I'm feeling, not with Carter, not with Teal'c, not with you."

"You just want Daniel." I felt exhausted, tiredness dragging at me. I hadn't been sleeping well myself.

"Yeah." He was watching me now, cruel, cool eyes sharp. He'd woken up. "I want Daniel. I've always wanted him."

"I know."

"And he's gone."

"Yes."

He walked closer and put his hands on me, tilting up my face, stroking my ass, proprietary, possessive touches, roughly impersonal. I swallowed dryly, letting him do it.

"You're going to let me fuck you, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Think it'll help?"

"I don't know."

"Thought you knew everything, Major. Thought you came here with all the answers."

"No."

"Came to fuck me?"

"I wasn't expecting to, no, sir."

His hand moved from my face to my cock, a swift drop and clutch that had me breathing out sharply.

"Liar."

I drove my fist into his stomach, making up for the lack of distance between us by throwing every ounce of strength I possessed behind it. It had to have hurt, but he'd been expecting it, I think, because it didn't wind him.

The fight that followed was quick and dirty. We were both trained, and I was technically in better shape, but I never even considered the possibility of winning. The controlled, artificial fighting I did in a gym was a world away from field combat, and I'd read his record.

Around the time he cracked one of my ribs, I began to have second thoughts about my sanity. I'd already lost all confidence in my tactics. He wouldn't kill me; I trusted his skill level too much to think he'd do it accidentally, and he had no reason to do it deliberately. Being alive when Daniel wasn't; did that merit a snapped neck? I didn't think so. A sharp, sweetly agonising pain tore through my wrist.

"I write with that one."

He grinned at me, eyes focused on me. "Not all you do with it, Major."

"Let go."

"Beg."

"Break it, then."

"You know I won't."

"I really --ah, God --"

Something -- my bones -- grated, ground, the sound of it turning my stomach more than the pain.

"Jack --"

He released me, stepping back, his hands rising to ward me off, though I hadn't moved. Too busy cradling my wrist to me, moaning and cursing under my breath.

"Oh, God. Paul."

"Mmm," I managed. "I'm okay."

"The hell you are."

I took inventory. Bruised ribs --maybe not broken after all -- swelling wrist, assorted places that were throbbing in time with the beat of blood in my ears. "Stupid."

I meant me, and he wasn't going to disagree. "Yeah. You're lucky it isn't worse. Want some ice?"

"Ice?"

"Sure." He nodded, his tongue licking across his lips nervously. "For your hand. I'll go --"

My good hand closed around his shirt and tugged him closer.

"Davis?"

"You're going to let me do this first," I whispered tensely. Relief was washing away the pain, leaving me waiting to be written on, bare sand to be marked.

"I'm tired --"

"I know."

"Paul..."

I mouthed at his jaw, sucking the point of it, high up, by his ear, until his skin tasted of me and his throat was working, pained, soft noises swelling it.

"You're going to come with me."

"Right here?" He swayed against me, his hands coming up to grab at me with helpless scrabbles that didn't connect, crooked fingers skating over skin and cloth. I took his hands and locked them in mine, feeling the tremors running through him, barely noticeable to my eyes. My wrist throbbed sullenly and I ignored it.

"Not like that. Bedroom. To sleep."

"Because I'm tired?"

"Because you're tired," I agreed.

I guess it'd worked after all. I stripped him, gave him something for the pain he wasn't even close to feeling yet; the pain he'd wake to, and curled up beside him, fully-dressed, my hand on his shoulder. He rolled over, turning his back on me; not a rejection, just an automatic settling into sleep, and my hand slid away. Without speaking, he reached back and found it, rubbing his thumb over my bruised, split knuckles.

Even gently, it hurt.

***

He slept, and after I'd dealt with my own injuries, taking a deep, scalding bath and raiding his medicine cupboard, I slept, too, stretched out on the couch. He had been using it as a bed; I could tell. The cushion he'd used as a pillow was stiff where tears had dried on it, messy and salt. I leaned my face into it, and closed my eyes, letting my own slow, hot tears leak out and soak in.

Crying was a luxury; an indulgence. A rebellion, too, as it was something I wasn't supposed to do. It just had to be a private rebellion, and that meant I didn't bother often, because what was the point?

And it left me with a headache, a running nose, and a lightheaded emptiness, none of which were all that pleasant.

I just felt that Daniel deserved something, and this was the best I could offer.

I threw the cushion down onto the floor and woke early the next morning with my body complaining and my nose stopped up, which meant my mouth was open, which meant...

I sat up, winced and whimpered as there was no one around to impress, and went to get some water and more painkillers so that when Jack woke I'd be ready for whatever he needed.

We started the day with a peaceful truce, kicked off by him giving me a crooked smile when he appeared in the doorway, his hair rumpled and his hand scratching reflectively at the stubble peppering his chin.

"Morning."

"Just about." I nodded at the coffee pot. "It's all ready to go. Want some?"

"Have I got time for a shower?"

"Yes."

He grinned at my decisive agreement. "Stink that bad, do I?"

"On the ripe side. I can stand it."

I thought for a moment that he was going to cross over to me and put a receptive look on my face, but he settled for another nod, his grin softening to a smile, and disappeared. By the time he emerged from the bedroom, clean, shaved, and wearing a loose green shirt over jeans, I'd made breakfast.

We ate, alternating silence with inconsequential talk, and then he sighed and went to refill our mugs. "I ache in more places than I've got places."

"I'm flattered."

He gave me an amused look over his shoulder. "I won, though."

"As you didn't have one hand behind you and your foot in a bucket, yes, you did."

"Now I'm flattered."

"Don't be. It's the simple truth."

"You?"

I shrugged, testing the pull and play of muscle. "I'll live."

Wrong words to choose, to use. His face closed up.

"Yeah. I didn't really -- I was holding back."

Not from where I'd been standing, but I didn't argue. He came back to the table, setting the mugs down carefully. He always filled mine too full because I took more milk than he did.

"I was out of it yesterday; did you tell me how long you could stay for?"

"I was planning on going back tomorrow, on the lunchtime flight. Is that -- look, if you want me to go sooner, I get it. It's okay."

"Why would I want you to do that? I don't get to see you all that often as it is."

It was such a normal thing to say that it left me floundering. "Oh. Well, good. That's good."

"Yeah?" He gave me a weird look, half wary, half pleading, the skin under his eyes tightening as he grimaced. "You sure you want to hang around? I'm not up to doing much."

"We never do much." I lifted my mug in two hands and took a quick slurp at the coffee.

"No, but we usually do something."

"Name it."

He got a baffled look on his face as he thought back. "Shit, we just fuck, don't we?"

"You're complaining?"

"Maybe."

"What else can we do?" I waved my hand. "This... thing we've got is a secret. I got the cab to drop me off two streets over. I checked before walking up your path. I stay away from windows, don't answer your phone... it's not like we can go out for dinner or a movie."

"And that doesn't bother you?"

"I'm just glad we've got something." I shook my head. "Why are you asking me this? You know how it has to be."

"Side effect of losing someone you care about. Gets you thinking about stuff."

I studied him. He looked better, but not by much. "It wears off, trust me."

"It shouldn't."

"It has to."

He didn't argue with me but it left us with nothing to say. After we'd cleared away the dishes we ended up facing each other, stuck in an awful silence.

"I've got to get out of here," he said finally, almost visibly shrugging off his depression. "Both of us," he added before I could offer to go again. "There's got to be something we can do together in public that won't get us arrested."

I grinned. "The fun stuff's usually best done in private."

"We can do that later. Right now I'm trying to broaden your horizons."

"Well, what do you like doing?"

"I thought you knew me."

"Fishing's out."

"Why?"

"Season hasn't opened yet."

He tilted his head and gave me an admiring look. "You know that? You fish?"

I shrugged. "Sure. I grew up on a farm and we had a creek." Sun-warmed shallows to paddle in, feeling the green treachery of moss against speckled brown rocks, sharp stones and grit, dams I built and watched wash away, reeds rustling dryly... "Be another month before the bass season opens; you might get some panfish maybe."

"We won't get anything, but that's not the point." There was an eagerness in his face only another fisherman would understand. "You up for it?"

It'd been fifteen years or more since I'd fished. I wondered if I was up to casting a line and decided it was worth the pain if I wasn't. "Sure, if you've got some tackle I can use. If not, is there a bait and tackle shop around? I can pick up something cheap for the day."

"Oh, I can sort you out," he said, looking vaguely shifty-eyed which I took, correctly, to mean that he had more rods, reels, weights, hooks, sinkers, spinners and flies than the shop. "Help yourself."

I did, and got my hand smacked when I reached for his favourite rod.

We ended up on the banks of a river settling down after the rush of snowmelt, running clear and fast. The ground was dotted with yellow and white flowers, winding thin stalks through wiry mint-green grass and the mountains were hazy against the flat, faraway blue of the sky. It was the definition of idyllic and for an afternoon, at least, I found it was just where I wanted to be.

Jack relaxed in stages and then fell into the silence required, turning his face up to the sun now and then, and smiling when the breeze lifted his hair.

We caught nothing, drank beer and ate sandwiches, perched on foldaway stools, and I watched Jack get torn by conflicting feelings when an old man and a dog came by. Jack wanted to pet the dog, who was only too willing to be fussed over, but it barked, chased a stick thrown by its owner into the river, tangling itself in our lines, and then shook itself dry over what was left of our lunch.

Bad dog. Jack still gave it a forgiving final pat as the owner hauled it away, muttering under his breath about some of the things Jack had said to him about dog-training and riverbank etiquette.

"Are you laughing?" he asked suspiciously. "Because that wasn't funny. They were starting to bite."

The hell they were. "Inside. Where it doesn't show."

"Oh, it shows, Paul."

"Really?" I blinked innocently as he began to patiently unknot his line, reeling it in slowly. "I'm known for my poker face."

"Huh. Next time I'm short on cash, I'll show you how wrong you are about that."

"You'll lose," I warned him.

"I don't think so."

We turned to look at each other, steely-eyed and determined. He broke first, grinning at me. "Later," he mouthed. "Going to take you for everything you've got."

I had something witty to snap back but I got lost in staring at him and he frowned, then hitched his chair closer, nearly falling off it, and touched his fingers to my face. "Hey."

A fish broke the water, leaping high to catch something unlucky out of the air and his head snapped around. "Did you see that? Give me your rod!"

"I don't think so --"

"Major. That's an order."

I shoved it at him without a scrap of good grace and took the last beer while he lost every bit of tackle to a clump of weeds.

Served him right.


Part Seven

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