It came to me as I drove along wet country roads in the deepening dusk of a February day -- not the fourteenth; that'd passed when I was off-planet, thank God -- that a week before, I'd been getting ready to step through the 'gate and come home. In a week, I'd taken everything I'd built up over four years with Jack and brought it down around us. No; less. I'd done it that first day, attacking him, mistrusting him --
I pulled over. What the hell was I doing this for? It was over. Like a child erasing poorly drawn lines until the paper was smudged and spoiled, we had nothing left to work with. Too many fresh starts, resolutions, promises to do better… both of us, because I wasn't the only one at fault here, even though I was clinging to my guilt because it was about all I had at this point.
I'd fallen in love with someone who would never see only me, no matter how much he filled my view. I half-wished Jack and Daniel could fuck and get it out of their systems, because I was sure, without knowing why, that it'd be a disaster. Jack's expectations would be sky-high and Daniel was human. Sort of. And his many abilities didn't necessarily translate, no fucking pun intended, to being an animal between the sheets.
I stared out through a rain-bleared windshield at a field of cows, placidly chewing, the way cows did, and smiled sourly, picturing Daniel's expression when Jack tried something just a little bit outside his comfort zone; a nose-wrinkle followed by a game attempt to be open-minded? A thrown punch and a swift exit? An earnest look through his glasses, accompanied by a blush, a throat-clearing, and a lecture about kinks and fetishes?
Or maybe Daniel would be perfect, just what Jack wanted in every way, and really, what difference did it make? Straight. Not interested beyond a mild curiosity, and without vanity, I was more his type than Jack from some hints he'd dropped, not that they meant anything, and why the fuck couldn't Jack just let it go? Christ. My head hit the back of the seat and I closed my eyes, breathing deeply as the familiar anger and frustration built up and my thoughts churned themselves to leaden, indigestible lumps.
Oh, this was really going to be a successful reconciliation…
I didn't doubt that I could get Jack to fuck me. Unless he'd been unfaithful while I was away -- unlikely; Daniel was the only one I -- he --oh, let it go, Paul, let it go -- or gone out and screwed the first warm and willing body he came across after our fight, he'd been without sex for a while. Me, too. And though both of us were used to that condition, on edge and restless until the need sank back, pouting, dulled and dormant, it didn't mean we liked it, and it did mean that shove us close together, sparks flying, and we'd be slamming each other against walls, fucking half-dressed and cursing, and coming in a nicely messy splatter three minutes later.
Which would solve nothing, maybe even make things worse.
I felt like writing it in pen across the palm of my hand, an aide-memoire for when I saw him and my brain heated and turned to mush.
I needed a game plan. I needed to go in there knowing what I wanted and how to get it.
And it was Jack, just him, and I didn't have a fucking clue.
I pulled back onto the road leading towards the cabin. Best done quickly… and maybe I'd get there and find him with someone, and I could just drive away, tell Daniel it'd been too late, I'd blown it… And if he was, I couldn't even indulge myself with a nice little screaming match and a fight as the betrayed lover. I couldn't claim Jack publicly on this or any other planet without repercussions I didn't want, and not purely for selfish reasons, either.
Earth needed him saving her, actively or from a desk. I wasn't sure I had it in me to be enough of a hero to give him up; self-sacrifice wasn't one of my virtues -- or failings -- although I'd been told by Claire often enough that I got off on playing the martyr and I was firmly of the opinion that having me to fuck had kept him mellowed to the point of being bearable. I should have gotten a medal for it. No. I wouldn't turn away from him for the sake of the regs we'd both been flouting for years, either, but I wouldn't expose him, ever.
When it came down to it, we trusted each other on that point without reservation, without doubt, always had. Daniel was the only person he'd ever told about me and that, once the shock had faded, struck me as being another example of Jack covering both our asses and protecting me the best way he knew how. Daniel exuded trustworthiness and morality; he could lie for us and be believed; play the chaperone while turning a blind eye to whatever we were doing.
He'd done both and he'd done more. We owed him. I was just of the opinion that debt was paid in full now that Daniel and I were friends. Time to move on when it came to that, too.
The cabin lay dark by the water when I pulled up, no lights glimmering, locked and silent, no car parked outside. Not that I knew what Jack was driving these days, and wasn't that something? I used to know his life from the smallest detail up.
Gone. I knew it. One of the cars that had passed me, barely registering because I was hunched over the wheel and focusing forward, must have held him, or maybe we'd been yards apart at the airport, or maybe he'd already been back in town when I'd left --
I unpeeled my hands from the wheel, because it was in danger of bending under the pressure, and said 'Fuck' more times than was really necessary. After a while, I got out of the car into the light drizzle and swiftly on-rushing dusk and wandered around, kicking at stones, hands in my pockets because I was off-duty and I could.
It hadn't changed since the last time I'd visited, the summer before: over there was the dock we'd fished off, sharing the last beer, swapping it amicably, with Jack chasing me, yelling, when I took it off him, half-full, and drained it in three long gulps as he stared indignantly. He'd tackled me just inside the woods, catching me because I was laughing too much to breathe, bringing me down in a patch of grass, soft and damp, warmed by the sunlight filtering through the trees.
I'd let him pin me, turning my head and feeling the blades of grass tickle my chin, the solid weight of him on my back unbearably welcome. He'd leaned down, his mouth close to my ear, and whatever threat he'd been about to murmur had turned into a kiss, with me rolling under him until I was on my back, and his hands were cupping my face.
"You laughed," he'd said, rubbing his thumb through a tear-track on my cheek. I still was, but it was quieter now, broken into chuckles, the thrill of the chase fading to happiness spiced with need. His mouth had moved over mine, sure and certain and slow, and I'd closed my eyes and let his tongue stroke across my lips.
"No one around for miles, Paul," he'd said, the words soaking into my skin as he pushed my T-shirt up and kissed down to my belly. "Make all the noise you want."
"No hope of rescue?" I'd sounded breathless still, and I could tell how much he liked that, having me off-balance.
"For someone who steals the last fucking beer? What do you think?"
"I think I'm repenting. Want to make it up to you."
"Nice when we're in agreement…"
I shook myself free of the memory of what he'd done to me to make me yell and curse and love him just a little bit more, and turned away from the dock. Time to go.
With a perfection of timing that verged on slapstick, his car -- had to be a rental, no way did O'Neill ever put down good money for that piece of blandness -- pulled up just as I was leaving, both of us slamming on our brakes, glaring blindly at each other through a mutual dazzle of headlights. The lane leading away from the cabin was too narrow at that point for us to pass; we were blocking each other and one of us would have to back up.
Symbolic, I guess. I doubted it would have occurred to Jack to think of it like that; he'd have just assumed, with the arrogance of a landowner, that it was his fucking lane, and I should get the hell out of his way.
So I did. I reversed in a wet squeal of tyres on leaf-strewn mud and spun the car around, leaving him space to pull forward and take the best place to park. He got out after a moment, letting the car door slam closed, and leaned back on the hood, arms folded, waiting.
I contemplated driving off and wondered if he'd follow or let me go. Not worth putting it to the test; he looked annoyed as it was.
I killed the engine and the lights. I wasn't used to seeing him this way. Angry, he was usually all action, loud and forceful. I had a memory of him striding towards me as if he was going to walk right through me, yelling about the loss of the Prometheus and blaming me. He'd never apologised for that and I'd never wanted him to; it was work and I'd fucked up.
He wasn't making any move towards me tonight. I walked over to him slowly, eyeing him with an uncertainty I couldn't fake into calm.
Neutral. Edging to hostile?
His eyes crinkled at the edges and he did that grimace that says a lot if you know him, none of it good. "You know, I left these orders about not being disturbed --"
"This isn't work."
His gaze skimmed up and down me pointedly. Right. Out of uniform; of course, it wasn't work. Stupid.
"I mean, I can --"
He cut me off before I could offer to go, completing his sentence as if I hadn't spoken. "And I mostly meant by you."
I let that sink in. When it had, I smiled.
"What's so funny?"
"You ran away from me?" I was so fucking close to elation… "You came the hell and gone out here because you were scared of bumping into me?"
"Yes. Oh, thank God."
"Oh, no." I shook my head. "Stick with 'Paul'. For once, just do that, will you? Because if I remember your rank I'll --"
"Like you've ever cared about that," he muttered.
"I have." Close enough to see he looked tired, to notice the heaviness in his expression. He looked older. Not old, just… older.
Close enough to touch, but his arms were still folded forbiddingly across his chest and my hands were at my sides, fingers curled slightly, loosely, the way I'd stand when I wasn't at attention, wasn't relaxed.
"What do you want?"
"Daniel says hello," I remembered to say. Daniel would ask if I had, I knew he would.
"Does he?" Jack's mouth twisted. "Glad to see you two getting on so well."
"We always do."
"Not from where I'm standing."
"Then I guess you should get your head out of your --"
"Ass," I finished, refusing to back down.
That got me a glare, the kind that slammed slouching spines straight and had eyes facing forward, sir, yes, sir.
Didn't work on me. Not now. Not with what I knew of him, which included the gasping, shuddered breath he took when I bit down on his nipples.
I never said I didn't understand the fraternisation regs.
"What do you want, Paul?"
I hunched my shoulders against the rain. "An invitation inside? A talk where we stay dressed and reasonably civil?"
He glanced up at the dark sky and sighed. "Fine. Get your gear and come in." I turned away to hide my smile and had it wiped from my face by what he threw back at me as he stalked towards the cabin. "But that last one's going to take some doing. After sex is the only time you're even halfway human."
The hell? I took hold of my temper, got my overnight bag, and followed him into the cabin, tensed up already.
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