Spit and Polish

Teal'c stood as Jack walked into his room, his face impassive, and his eyes distant. The candlelight illuminating and concealing the drab walls flickered wildly as the door swung shut.

"You okay?"

Jack wasn't good at this, but it needed doing. Teal'c had faced death, grateful for the absolution, and that wasn't something Jack could forget or gloss over even now he'd got Teal'c home safe again. It was wrong; all of what happened was wrong, and Daniel could produce historical examples all he liked, eyes shifting guiltily under Jack's incensed glare but not shutting up because Daniel never did, but it didn't mean what Teal'c had endured was fair.

Teal'c inclined his head, looking exhausted, the slow dip of his head less a gracious, measured action and more just strained, taut muscles surrendering to gravity.

Jack came a little closer, feeling the subtle shifting heat from the candles stroke his face. Teal'c didn't move, his hands locked behind his back, his gaze steady as he watched Jack.

"You've got something..." Jack licked his thumb absently and rubbed at a smudge of paint on Teal'c's chin. Warm skin, thick and smooth.

A shudder ran through him, echoed by Teal'c. Daniel had told him how they'd painted Teal'c, decorating a walking dead man, his eyes closed, massive chest barely moving with each careful breath.

"I thought I had removed it all," Teal'c said, the words halting. "I tried --"

Jack wet his thumb again and went to town on the mark. "Takes more than soap."

"I do not believe that saliva is a more effective cleanser, O'Neill."

Jack smiled. "Tell that to a mother." Satisfied that Teal'c was sounding more like himself, he patted Teal'c's cheek. "Yeah. You'll do."

He turned to leave.

"You bear the scars as I do."

"I do?"

Teal'c's voice was matter-of-fact. "The unseen ones."

"Oh, those ones." Jack stared down at the floor, scuffing at a smudge with the toe of his boot and making it worse. He glanced back at Teal'c, giving up on pretending. "Yeah. Just -- just keep remembering that you were following orders."

"It does not help."

"Okay, then just be grateful you weren't the one giving the fucking orders," Jack snapped.

"I do not believe that you would ever --"

"I would, Teal'c. If I had to, I would." Jack turned to face Teal'c, not allowing himself to hide. A single candle guttered and died, a single drop of darkness poured back into the room. "You were lucky today, you know that?"

A dark eyebrow lifted. "Because I live?"

"Because you got forgiven." Jack shook his head. "Never going to happen for me. Hell, most of the time there wasn't anyone left to take revenge. Cleaner that way."

"Clean." Teal'c studied him. "Your face also requires attention, O'Neill," he said softly.

Jack put up his hand and touched his own cheek. Dry skin, stubbled and tired. "Yeah?" he asked.

Teal'c raised his hand, palm uppermost, and stroked his thumb across Jack's cheekbone. It felt like a benediction. "It seems so to me."

Held in the steady warmth of dark eyes Jack stood awkwardly still as Teal'c's fingers travelled over his face, leaving the point where this was normal between them with the first pass of his knuckles over Jack's lips. The crook of one finger nudged them apart, leaving Jack waiting for something he couldn't name while Teal'c took his time over the angular shape of Jack's jaw, finding the soft, sweet swell of skin under his chin and tickling it, a faint smile curling his lips as Jack swallowed hard.

It didn't help -- or hurt -- that he guessed Teal'c knew as well as he did just how vulnerable that place was. A single killing thrust from stiff fingers -- Jack rolled his head, a hoarse moan caught in his throat, vibrating stroked skin. It emerged quieted to a susurration, brushed from Jack's parted lips by a single soft fingertip.

The finger paused, touching the drying damp inside Jack's lower lip, sticking to the skin in a fragile, painful connection. Jack's tongue slipped out, licked at the salt-soap skin and wet Teal'c's finger, easing it away.

Teal'c smiled and rubbed firmly at the tip of Jack's nose, making him blink with surprise.

"I think that we are both clean now, O'Neill."

If he peeled off the T-shirt Teal'c was wearing, he'd find traces of paint on the broad, bare chest. If he answered the question in Teal'c's voice with a shake of his head Teal'c would carry this on.

Jack reached out and cupped Teal'c's face for one brief moment. "Yeah. We're good. Just wanted to check you were okay."

Teal'c put his hands behind his back and gave a courteous bow. "Indeed I am."

"I knew that."

He closed the door behind him and left Teal'c to watch the candles go out, one by one.


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