I'd just got Jack's shirt unbuttoned and was sprawled across him, kissing him in a slow, lazy way I was still getting used to when a knock at the door was followed by the grate of a key.
Getting tipped unceremoniously to the floor as Jack got up fast, his hand groping for a weapon I hoped to God he wasn't actually wearing, did my dignity no good at all.
He stood still as his hands moved from preparing to fight to buttoning his shirt. That meant he knew who it was from the small auditory clues of a cleared throat and a dropped bag. That meant it was someone he trusted with a key, which narrowed it down to a handful of people, and that meant I was about to get caught with my pants, not down exactly, but another few minutes and they would have been, by -- oh, yeah. Him. Who else?
I got up in time to greet Daniel on my feet, which was something, I supposed.
He stood in the doorway, his gaze travelling between my bare feet and Jack's untucked shirt, a quick comprehension there in the faint flush on his cheeks, quickly fading.
"For what?" Jack asked with a hammed-up gesture that swept all Daniel's shortcomings as a guest -- it'd definitely been an overnight bag he'd dropped in the hall -- under the mat Daniel had probably wiped his feet on. Jack frowned. "Unless you've done something worse than interrupting the first night off I've had in three weeks."
Daniel blinked at him, and it dawned on me that Doctor Jackson looked wasted. Exhausted. Worse than us, which was good going as neither Jack nor I had gotten much sleep in those three weeks and none of it in the same room as each other.
Which was why it was a little odd Daniel hadn't walked in to find us on round two of fucking each other blind but like I said; we were tired. And necking with Jack was starting to be a new hobby of mine. Or an obsession. He had what my grandmother would have called a smart mouth on him but although I agreed with her, I defined 'smart' differently. He used his mouth the way other people used their fingers, teasing reactions out of my skin that I wouldn't have thought possible. Mouths kissed and tongues licked and teeth bit. Jack did all of those and did it in ways that left me whimpering and curled in on myself, overwhelmed and lost.
Until he stopped and I starfished out and demanded that he put his mouth right back where it'd been, yes, there, God, yes, there, there, Jack…
He'd never done that to me in the past; never seemed to be time, but we were doing a lot that was new these days.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said again. "I just had some time off and I thought --" His gaze shifted to me. "I should have called first. I'm interrupting."
"Yes," I said before Jack could be uncharacteristically polite again. "But it's okay."
I meant it. Daniel and I had come too far for me to resent him any longer and Jack and I had all the time in the world.
In theory, anyway.
Daniel gave me an assessing look, nodded, and collapsed in a chair. He was asleep before we'd finished getting him a sandwich (me) and a beer (Jack).
"I don’t think I've ever seen him asleep before," I said, not whispering, because that carried, but keeping my voice low and not using Daniel's name.
Jack took a drink from the beer and deftly swiped half of the sandwich I'd made, messy and over-stuffed, leaking mustard. I grabbed the other half before he took that, too, and we sat down on the couch, watching Daniel sleep with an absorbed interest.
He twitched from time to time, making small indeterminate sounds that I couldn't decipher. Jack's mouth got tight when he did that, and his shoulders moved in an uneasy roll.
"What?" I murmured eventually, putting the plate down beside the empty bottle of beer.
"He gets like this sometimes," Jack said, his words and expression carefully guarded. I wished he trusted me with Daniel the way Daniel trusted me with Jack but two things equal to the same thing aren't always equal to each other and Jack didn't and never would.
"He's been under some stress…" I said with an equal care. I'd read the reports. SG-1 led deeply fucked-up lives.
Jack snorted. "Always is. He thrives on it. It just… sometimes it needs a place to go."
I studied Daniel. The lamp in the corner threw a shadow across his face, like a hand, protective, shielding, but the full, stubborn pout of his mouth was visible and I was close enough to see the faint tremors under his eyelids. Dreaming… dreams could be scary places when you had the monsters of a hundred cultures, ages, worlds in your head, jockeying for attention.
Daniel had died a couple too many times to dream sweetly, feel safe. The angels around his bed had dark wings and stern faces.
"So what does he do? Get drunk? Fight? Get laid?"
Jack gave me a sidelong, surprised look, as if all of those options were ridiculously implausible. Given that we were talking about Daniel, I supposed they were.
"He does this." Jack gestured.
"He sleeps?" I frowned. I'd known men returning from missions sleep for twenty hours straight, sometimes talking, eating, but still asleep, their bodies on strike, their minds… elsewhere. "We should get him to bed then; he's going to wake up hurting."
"No. Well, yeah, sleep, because he hasn't been, I can tell --" I could, too; there was a graveyard pallor, that bruised smudged look under the eyes… "But he --" Jack hesitated, clearly uncomfortable, and I filled in the blanks.
"He comes to you," I supplied.
"And you… talk?" I felt hot behind the ears. This was so --
"A bit. Not much. We just --" Jack didn't take his eyes off Daniel. "We just fool around mostly. Watch a movie. Play chess. Stuff."
God. Like pulling fucking teeth.
"Jack, if this is something that's between the two of you, then forget it. I don't need to know. I'll help you get Daniel into the spare room and I'll --"
Jack stood and gave me a look that asked for tolerance, understanding and trust. "He's going to want to sleep with me."
"The fuck he is!"
I always let him down…
"Sleep, not fuck. Christ, Paul, not again. Not now."
"Sorry." It took me a moment to remember that I wasn't jealous and possessive and insecure anymore. "Sorry," I said again, making a better job of it this time. "Look, I'm going. You and Daniel do whatever it is you do and call me when you've done it and he's on his way back."
Daniel moved, restless, frowning, and his head slipped sideways, not waking him but leaving his neck at a cricked angle that would cripple him when he woke. Without thinking too much about it, I grabbed a cushion and went to him, sliding it between his face and the chair, His hair was too short to fall into his eyes these days, but I smoothed it back anyway. It was no more than I'd done at family gatherings a dozen times for assorted nieces and nephews and kids of Cousin Laura, you know, the one who married Stevie and then decided she was happier with him gone so she got her a boyfriend twice his size, and Stevie, well, he…
Yeah. My family had its moments.
I turned away to find Jack watching me, a faint surprise and pleasure on his face. I flushed. "What?"
A year ago, six months ago, I would have talked it out, discussed it until Jack's eyes got glazed with boredom; now I thought it over in the space of a few moments: breathe in -- fuck, he means it -- breathe out -- I can't intrude -- but he asked me -- Daniel didn't -- yeah, but he wouldn't mind -- you don't know that -- Jack does -- breathe in fast--
I realised then just how tired I was, a yawn splitting my face. Jack chuckled. "Yeah. Me, too." He knuckled his eye like a child and walked over to Daniel.
I followed him, thinking he'd need some help hauling Daniel's comatose body upstairs, but he waved me back, leaned over and said with a soft, carrying voice, close to Daniel's ear, an officer's voice, the kind that would wake the dead if the dead had been through Basic, "Daniel. Go to bed."
Daniel's eyes flicked open and he stared up at Jack without seeing him, I think. Or maybe he was seeing a different Jack, culled from memories. I don't know. I just know that he got to his feet and ambled off to the stairs, Jack there behind him, a guiding hand on his elbow and, when Daniel staggered on the first step, the small of Daniel's back.
I picked up the cushion and put it back where it belonged and followed them as docilely as Daniel.
When I got to Jack's bedroom, Daniel's pants were off and he was unbuttoning his shirt with fingers that didn't know what they were doing. Jack slapped them away with the utmost gentleness and took over, getting Daniel down to shorts without fuss.
Daniel turned away, crawled across the bed to the side Jack didn't use and went back to sleep, if he'd ever really woken. The covers had been turned down far enough that all Jack had to do was scoop up Daniel's feet, bony, well-shaped feet, hard of sole and dirty with a fading tan to be able to grab the sheets and lift them over him.
He didn't, though. He just stared down at Daniel for a while, then gave a small shrug and came over to me, kissing me with the same odd gentleness as though he'd turned it on for Daniel and couldn't turn it off.
I'd never, not really, wanted gentle from Jack. I'd never wanted him to see me as weak enough to need it. I cupped his face, seeing the lines, the uncompromising silver of his hair -- Daniel's was dark still but starting to show a few lighter strands here and there, age-bleached and wiry. I rubbed my thumb against the chin he'd shaved so he could kiss me without marking me, and then dropped my hands to unbutton his shirt as he'd done for Daniel.
"Don't kiss him," Jack said after we'd rolled Daniel to the middle and got in on either side of him. "Or touch him if you can help it. He'll remember if you do and he doesn't like it. Just let him feel safe." He eyed me over the angled thrust of Daniel's shoulder with a certain sympathy. "You're not going to enjoy this as much as you think you will."
He was right.
It was hell.
We'd all kept our shorts on, a minor irritation I could deal with, even though I slept bare mostly. I was hot and sweaty and too tired to switch my brain off. Jack was out of reach, Daniel was off-limits, and a residual arousal was still thrumming through me, peevishly unsatisfied. I lay carefully, barely breathing, trying not to disturb either of them.
Jack had fallen asleep quickly; whatever it was he did for Daniel clearly didn't need him awake to do it. He was close to Daniel, facing him, but not touching him, on the extreme edge of the bed, which wasn't really big enough for three men.
I was facing Daniel's back, a pale expanse in the semi-darkness of the bedroom. His shoulders were wide, strong and he smelled of tiredness; showers taken to wake him up when he'd done no more than stand under the beat of the water, the effort of scrubbing skin clean too much to contemplate, teeth brushed with exaggerated care in one spot and cursorily in the rest. His hair needed combing; his face needed shaving.
And his elbow took me in the ribs as he rolled and muttered and lashed out.
I still wanted to touch him with the hands of a lover, licensed hands, lavish, careless touches. Just once. Just to see --
But more than that, I wanted to reach past him and get to Jack. My hand was curved against my chest, light, empty. It should have been filled with any one of a dozen places on Jack's body that fit that hollow cup. I knew them all, from the shape of his jaw to the squash and jiggle of his balls, spiky with white hair and grey.
Daniel lay between us, temptation and barrier, as I'd seen him all these years.
The reality was a little different than the symbolic. Jack was snoring softly, oblivious, just -- well, just being there. Stopping Daniel from falling out of bed, stopping Daniel from being alone in bed. I couldn't doubt that this was all there was that happened; it had been too easy, too routine for it to be faked for me.
They wouldn't wake and fuck, not now, not at three, not at seven. They wouldn't kiss; they wouldn't hug. It wasn't cold, so they wouldn't huddle close; if they touched, they'd move away automatically -- I saw it happen -- and when they woke, they'd exchange looks, grunt, and get out of different sides of the bed.
Or Daniel would, climbing over me with a pat to my shoulder, which was more than Jack got, leaving Jack and me to move closer, wrap ourselves into a tangle of arms, kissing with a sleepy fervour until the sound of the shower cut off and we had to get up and make Daniel breakfast because Jack said no one flipped pancakes like I did (true) and Daniel was wandering around the kitchen, cupboard doors slamming as he searched for a mug, voice raised in a sleepy whine as he called for Jack.
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