Jack stood in the shadows of the small room; the only illumination being the glow coming from the banks of monitors. Flickering screens showing repetitive views of corridors, the commissary, labs, and despite the lateness of the hour, SGC personnel were still visible on the screens. Images of VIP rooms...of sleeping archaeologists in VIP rooms. Ever present, anonymous, watchful eyes, tracking locations of lives below ground.
With a tight smile, Colonel O'Neill waved away the concern of the Airman who manned the console.
"Carry on, Airman."
Those words were Colonel O'Neill's only acknowledgment of the young man's presence. At parade rest, Jack's attention was honed in on one monitor, one lone image. Daniel hadn't budged since he had fallen asleep, the frantic pacing in the VIP room had eventually slowed and finally halted as exhaustion had set in. Uncovered, still dressed in the clothes provided by the SGC, Daniel slept in a fetal position, which Jack recalled with crystal clarity. Through shared tents, hundreds of off-world missions over the past years there was little the Colonel didn't know about SG1's archaeologist's sleeping habits.
Jack stepped back further into the darkness, settling in as the corner of the room became his sanctuary. No one saw, there was no camera in this room to record the slumped shoulders of the SGC's second-in-command. No red blinking camera eye set to register the emotions buried just beneath his hardened exterior.
* * * *
Going through the Stargate had become routine and the thought frightened Jack O'Neill. When things become routine, one had a tendency to let their guard down, when one's guard was down, things happened, people got lost, or died, or ascended.
It was the planet, PX6983, which was directing these morbid, introspective thoughts. The inhabitants were pleasant, sharing, wonderful folks, perfect for filling Washington's quota of a new- ally-a-month. Jack sighed, petulantly kicking the ground and watching the dirt fly. Maybe it was time to retire. Maybe he was getting too old for this. He adjusted his P-90 and began to walk the perimeter again. If he kept moving, he stopped thinking. If he kept busy, his thoughts wouldn't stray to Daniel. It amazed Jack; it wasn't the SGC or Daniel's office that would bring images of the man into Jack's mind, but the solitude during his night watch or the quiet moments before he drifted off to sleep.
Jack was three-quarters through his walk when Bonin, a healer from the nearby town, interrupted him. He pulled his gun up short, his heart pounding at what might have been.
"I'm so sorry, Colonel Jack. Please forgive my intrusion." The younger man bowed in greeting.
Jack bit back his retort and shoved thoughts of stupidity down as he forced a smile in place of harsh words. He bowed in return. "There's no need to be sorry, Bonin. Is there a problem?"
"You did not call for me?" He glanced in the direction of SG1's camp. "I felt pain. There is no one injured in your dwellings?"
"Nope," Jack answered with a shrug of his shoulders, then remembered Jonas *had* mentioned that the healers on this planet were empathic.
Bonin stepped into the Colonel's space. Tilting his head from side to side, he examined the man before him. "It is you, Colonel Jack. You are in pain."
Jack backed up two steps. "Must be getting your signals crossed. I'm fine. Right as rain."
"No, it is you, of that I am positive," he replied emphatically. Bonin took a deep breath, his hands clenching and unclenching by his side. "Oh," he exclaimed, a sad smile touching his face.
"What?" Jack couldn't hide his annoyance any longer.
"Will you allow me?" Bonin asked, not waiting for permission as he placed his palm over the area of Jack's heart.
Jack gasped, overwhelmed by what Bonin gave to him as his mind filled with visions of a multitude of lifetimes. Him and Daniel. Kings, servants, scholars, hunters, tragic lives, floundering, comforters, comfortees, unlikely friends. Warriors, scholars...always opposites. Always ending the same way. Unhappy. Empty.
With a shock, Jack saw how close he and Daniel had come to taking the final step in this lifetime. So close...but Jack had allowed fear to overrule his heart and had permitted Daniel to once again slip through his fingers and out of his life. Another generation whose outcome would end in a bereft Jack, doomed to finish out his life incomplete and alone. A self-fulfilling prophecy passed down through the ages.
Bonin dropped his hands, pulling them up into the sleeves of his voluminous robe. The pity in his eyes forced Jack to avert his face. "I am very sorry, Colonel Jack. I did not know."
Jack shook himself in an attempt to regain his composure. "Yeah, well, you know how it is. Ya win some and you lose some." Jack shrugged. Stupid words to cover up a lifetime, no, a millennium of losses.
A sudden gust of wind, and Bonin's piteous glance was accompanied by a sad, but knowing smile. He glanced upward into the star filled night sky. "The other one is in pain also."
"Not any more," Jack snorted.
"He feels no physical pain, that is true, Colonel Jack. But his is a pain of the soul that carries through all levels of existence." Bonin bowed. "Please forgive my inadequate skills as a healer. I cannot take away the pain. Nor can I lessen it. I am truly sorry."
* * * *
The position of the sleeping form on the monitor moved slightly and without uttering a farewell, Jack took his leave of the suddenly too small room. He began to aimlessly wander the halls of the SGC, ignoring the kindly smiles people bestowed on him as he traveled the passageways. The same people who had either averted their eyes or given him looks of sympathy eight months ago, now shared pats on the back. Everyone's mood seemed lighter, more frivolous.
Jack found himself in Daniel's new/old lab. Pieces of Jonas painfully intermingled, garishly standing out now that the original owner of the room had returned, descended, whatever. There was no comfort here and Jack turned on his heels and abruptly left.
Jack ended his night's journey in the dimly lit briefing room, standing rigidly by the window overlooking the gateroom. Jack had never mentioned his encounter with Bonin, never signed his name to any report regarding what the healer had revealed to him. For the remainder of SG1's stay on the planet, Bonin himself had never acknowledged meeting Jack during his perimeter walk.
In the weeks and months after SG1 had visited Bonin's planet, there were times, in the solitude of his bedroom, Jack would believe he had imagined the whole experience. No matter what incredulous things he had seen or experienced in his missions through the Stargate, Jack found it almost inconceivable to believe he and Daniel's lives were inexplicably entwined throughout the ages.
"Answer me," Jack hissed at the dormant Stargate, the moisture of his voice clouding the glass, fogging his view of the massive ring. "I'm not sure what to do," he whispered plaintively.
"Damned if you do...damned if you don't," the gate taunted him.
"I know," Jack agreed as he angrily shoved his fisted hands deep into the pockets of his BDUs. But Jack knew what the answer was. He'd known the second Daniel had been given the death sentence from his actions on Kelowna, had known the minute he and Daniel stood before Oma in the gateroom and again when Daniel was discovered on Vis Uban. The problem, as it was in every lifetime, was Jack's inability to acknowledge his love for Daniel. And though in this lifetime, Jack had been granted the gift of a second chance, he was terrified his apprehension would damn them to live out an echo of all of their previous lives.
* * * *
"Come on, Jack, just a few more steps," Daniel urged, supporting Jack as he limped along the walk to the house. It was hot and the sheer effort of maneuvering up the path had both men sweating profusely. "We're almost there."
"I'm fine. Just get me inside the house and help me sit my ass in a chair. All I want is the remote in my left hand, a beer in my right, and then you can take your leave and enjoy the downtime the General gave us."
Daniel's loud expulsion of pent up air was a clear indication of how frustrated the Colonel was making him. "I'll get you into the house, gladly dump your ass in your favorite chair, *maybe* you'll get the remote but no way are you getting a beer, *nor* am I leaving you alone. Janet would kill me if I did either."
"I won't tell," Jack promised.
Jack's eyebrow tweaked in surprise as his "yeahsureyoubetacha" spewed from Daniel's mouth, followed by a resounding, "in your dreams."
Jack handed Daniel the house key, and both men stepped back as a blast of hot, stale, stagnant air slammed into them through the opened door. Daniel propped Jack against the wall inside the house and immediately adjusted the central air into overdrive mode.
"Couch or bed?"
"I already told you," Jack said, limping over to the recliner, hmruffing in annoyance as Daniel steering him in the direction of the couch. "Hey...I thought you said I could have the chair." Jack shot a glance over his shoulder, looking longingly at the aged, weathered, overstuffed chair.
"I lied. Now sit," Daniel commanded as he guided Jack to the couch. "Lookie." Daniel dangled the remote seductively in front of Jack. "I'll give you this if you stay on the couch."
"Blackmail," Jack groused as he dropped onto the cushions.
Daniel's low chuckle caused Jack to smile. "Did anyone ever tell you that deep down you are evil?" Jack teased.
Daniel ignored the jibe. "Come on, let's get you comfortable."
* * * * *
Between Fraiser's pain killer and the comfort the couch was offering, as well as the soft blanket which covered his body, Jack had fallen into a heavy, dreamless sleep. Drifting up from slumber, he felt Daniel's close presence and he whispered the younger man's name. Daniel leaned in so close to check on Jack's condition, that the Colonel could feel his warm puffs of breath on his face.
"Are you okay?"
Jack opened his eyes as Daniel's scent invaded his personal space. Blue eyes worriedly bore into him and Jack saw Daniel's mouth move, but he heard no words as his eyes focused on the lips that were so near. Tentatively, Jack reached out and gently ran his thumb along Daniel's jaw line. The intense eyes never wavered, and his position didn't shift as Jack's hand slid to cup the nape of his neck. There were no words of protest, no struggle when Jack pulled him in for a kiss. Daniel acquiesced to Jack's demanding pressure, answering with a desire all his own, and it was only when Jack's tongue begged for admittance that Daniel broke the contact.
"Daniel. I..." Jack seemed to shrink into the cushions.
Daniel adjusted his glasses, his shaking hands the only visible sign of his emotions. Daniel tapped his index finger against his pursed lips, effectively shushing Jack. "I need to get some air..."
"Please," Jack begged as he attempted to push himself to a sitting position.
"Stay." Daniel commanded. "Air...that's all...I'll be right back."
Daniel walked stiffly to the sliding doors. Even from where Jack sat, he could see Daniel's hands trembling so badly he fumbled three times with the simple lock. "Damn."
"Not now," Daniel adamantly pleaded and bolted out the door the moment he got it open.
Jack pounded the couch in frustration. He slammed his head repeatedly against the cushions of the couch, cursing at his own ineptitude. Jack gradually halted his self-flagellation as he tried to recall specific images Bonin had shown him. Slowed down and freeze-frame pinpoints of time, and all he could capture were feelings of failure and intense loneliness.
Maybe he and Daniel were stuck in a time continuum, a 'what if you killed your own grandfather clause', a loop that would never allow them to be happy. Somewhere Carter should have an explanation. "This isn't fair," Jack complained to himself. He was the *military* think inside the box guy, *Daniel* was the think outside the box. Fairness wasn't an issue. Jack realized that rethinking tactics of survival outside his safe, comfortable four-walled box was going to be a problem.
Jack leaned forward and snagged the remote Daniel had dropped on the coffee table. He turned the TV on and by rote, honed in on one of the twenty something sports channels and mindlessly lost himself in the drone of the sportscasters.
Jack heard the opening and closing of the sliding door and waited with pounding heart for the fallout of his impromptu kiss.
"You should have said something," Daniel chimed in softly. He wasn't angry, Jack realized with a shock. Daniel was embarrassed. The younger man stood before him, awkwardly shifting his weight from leg to leg, his hands hanging by his side.
"Huh? Care to run that by me again?"
Daniel began to pace the length of coffee table. "I know it took me awhile to remember." Daniel's expressive hands flew through the air and then suddenly fell into a self hug. "Granted, there are still gaps. But the missing pieces of memory have to do with inane pieces of my life...not with something as important as..." Daniel rocked his hand between the two of them.
"Me and you?" Jack squeaked, wagging his finger at Daniel and himself.
Daniel nodded. "Us."
'Like taking candy from a baby'. Jack held back his whoop of happiness. Problem solved. There wasn't going to be an awkward "first time." No "first kiss" because Daniel obviously thought he'd been there, done that, and had simply forgotten. Now, all Jack had to do was assuage Daniel's feelings of guilt over misplacing their relationship and start midstream. Jack was going to be spared having to explain Bonin's visions and the need for the two men to get it right this time. No need to lay personal feelings on the table and let Daniel know how much he loved him, and not chancing the younger man to slip through his heart and fingers. No need for Daniel to be aware that in the years preceding Daniel's ascension, Jack had almost destroyed their friendship by denying his feelings for Daniel. There would be no need for damage control and that was the way Jack liked it. All neat, clean and tied up with a bow. And for once in his life, Jack was more than willing to take the coward's way out...and then he looked at Daniel's slumped shoulders and Jack knew he couldn't be that devious.
"Sit down, Daniel, you're making me dizzy."
"I don't want to sit," was his petulant answer. "I don't know if I'm gonna stay. Maybe Sam or Teal'c can come over..."
"There is no *us*," Jack blurted out.
"To take care of...no us?"
Jack shook his head. "No us, no me and you, no..."
Jack's heart broke at the sad smile that sat on Daniel's face. A mask of bravery hiding what...disappointment, embarrassment? "I understand," Daniel said softly.
"No, I don't think you do."
"What's there to understand? You obviously were under the influence of Janet's drugs." Daniel shrugged. "Now that I know the circumstances, you believed I was someone else and you kissed that other person. End of story."
"Why did you pull away?"
Jack could see Daniel floundering for an explanation. "To save you...and me," Daniel added hurriedly. "I tried to save us from having a conversation we weren't...I wasn't ready for."
"A conversation like this one?"
The corners of Daniel's mouth flashed up and down in a self- depreciating smile. "Let's just forget it."
Daniel's raised his eyebrows. "No?"
"No." Jack secured his position on the couch, carefully stretching his injured knee, honestly surprised that Daniel eyed him warily instead of jumping to his aid. "No," he repeated tersely.
"You kissed me on the couch thinking I was someone else and you want to talk about this?" Daniel snorted. "Maybe this is an alternative universe because the Jack O'Neill I knew at the best of times wasn't a great communicator."
"You were gone for almost a year. People change."
"Not that much," Daniel added sadly.
"I didn't think you were someone else." Jack dropped his gaze, studying his hands as his fingers began to nervously fiddle with the remote.
"When I kissed...when we kissed, I didn't think you were someone else."
"You didn't?" Daniel's voice seemed to have jumped an octave with Jack's revelation. "You knew?"
"I knew who you were. I knew I was kissing Daniel Jackson." Jack swallowed. "Can I ask you again why you pulled away?"
"You surprised me?"
"Um, that surprise thing, is that a statement or a question?"
Jack interrupted Daniel's stuttering with a flick of his hand. "Never mind. Just sit. Okay? Please, sit down."
Cautiously, Daniel approached Jack and stopped just short of plopping down on the couch. Jack looked up at Daniel expectantly. "Is there a problem?"
A short burst of laughter flew from Daniel's mouth before he could smother it behind his hand. He cleared his throat and chewed on his bottom lip, a diversionary tactic that Jack remembered well. "Problem? I would say so. To tell the truth, Jack, when I got up this morning I really didn't expect one of our topics of conversations was to be you kissing me."
Jack met Daniel's accusatory stare head on. "If I recall, you kissed me back."
Daniel dropped so heavily onto the couch that Jack's cushion rose in retaliation. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "I did kiss you," Daniel whispered.
"And I kissed you."
Daniel opened his eyes and turned his face, examining Jack's profile. "You kissed me first," he accused.
"Yes, Daniel, I kissed you first." Jack sighed in exasperation. He leaned his head on the back of the couch and rotated so he and Daniel were eye to eye. Daniel blinked at the proximity, yet made no move to change positions. "And you kissed me back and then..." Jack anchored Daniel's position with a hand on his thigh. "Then you pulled away. Why?"
Daniel placed his hand alongside of Jack's but made no attempt at physical contact, shrugging his shoulders in response to Jack's question. Daniel's eyes were so intent in studying the two hands that occupied the space on his thigh that he jumped when Jack gently squeezed the tight muscle. Keeping his head down, Daniel mumbled something.
"Jeeze, Daniel. A straight answer, okay?" Jack's fingers began to beat a tattoo of annoyance on Daniel's thigh. "Slowly now...I kissed you. And you obviously had no objections 'cause you kissed me back...you kis..." Jack's voice trailed off the ramifications of what he said finally sinking in. "Holy crap, Daniel, you kissed me! I kissed you knowing who you were...you kissed me knowing it was me...and then...then you pulled away thinking that I was thinking I was kissing someone else. But before you pulled away we *were* kissing."
Daniel's hand encompassed Jack's agitated fingers and Jack knew the truth as soon as Daniel touched him. "Damn it," Jack whispered, the harsh word countered by the tone of his voice. "How long?"
Daniel physically re-deposited Jack's hand back into his lap and pushed himself to a standing position. Daniel went and stood before the mantel, examining the pictures lined up on the granite, his back facing Jack.
"What?" He twirled to face Jack. "I'm not sure what you want from me. *You* kissed me and suddenly it's become all about *my* feelings." Daniel threw up his hands to ward off any objections. "I've had feelings for you that surpassed the friendship boundaries since before..." Daniel waved his hands heavenward. "Well, since before that." Daniel ran his hands through his hair, leaving little spikes pointing in all directions. "Not that it was easy that last year. I wavered somewhere between wanting to kill you and loving you."
"You loved me?" Jack couldn't hide the smile.
"No, you stupid son of a bitch." Mindful of Jack's injured knee, Daniel sat down on the coffee table facing Jack. "I love you...present tense."
"Oh," Jack replied stupidly.
Daniel's eyebrows raised in surprise and he leaned away from Jack. "Oh? Good 'oh' or bad 'oh'?"
Jack hesitated with his answer a moment too long and watched as the look of hopeful expectancy on Daniel's face melted into the shame of embarrassment for secrets revealed. Daniel jumped up, nearly tripping over Jack's legs in an effort to beat a hasty retreat. Jack leaned forward, ignoring the pain in his knee and forced his face to remain neutral as he latched onto Daniel's hand.
Daniel stopped in his tracks. "Let me go," he hissed.
"Never." Jack tugged. "It took me too long to even get the guts up to kiss you. I'm not letting you go."
"How long?" Daniel spit the question back at Jack. "How long? Did distance make the heart grow fonder? Funny, 'I've grown to admire you' by no stretch of the imagination sounds like 'I love you'." Daniel's eyes widened at the cruel intent of his words, grimacing at the hurt look on Jack's face. He dropped to the coffee table, Jack's warm hand still wrapped around his colder one. "I'm sorry. I don't know where that...I didn't mean..." Daniel ducked his head from Jack's unabashed scrutiny.
"Don't apologize," Jack begged as he tightened his grip on Daniel's hand. "I deserved that. I was cruel."
"No...no...you weren't cruel."
"Daniel. Shut up, okay?"
Daniel pulled his hand from Jack's grasp. "Shut up?"
"Be quiet, shush, zip it...I just want you to listen." Jack massaged the muscle in his thigh, slowly working his way down towards his knee, waving away Daniel's concern. "There were so many words I wanted to say to you in the infirmary...but I couldn't. I was furious with myself...you were left alone on Kelowna. I failed as a team leader. SG1 was on a mission and we intentionally split up three and one. No matter how safe we have *ever* deemed a planet to be I shouldn't have allowed that."
"You learned from your mistakes," Daniel said.
"Learned from our mistakes? Do you think that's funny? Do you know what it was like to watch you waste away, in pain..."
"Oh God." Daniel scrubbed his hands over his face. "You're angry with me."
"Damn straight I'm angry with you. You killed yourself for a planet of people who couldn't have cared less about you. They just wanted the biggest weapon...the country with the largest toy wins the war. Those are the type of people you died for. You're one stubborn SOB and I..."
"And what, Jack?" Daniel slapped his hands on his thighs, jumped up and resumed his pacing. "When I saw the experiment had failed, my mind wasn't on rescuing the *whole* planet, it was on saving SG1. Teal'c, Sam," Daniel audibly swallowed. "You. I wanted to save you. I'm not a hero...I didn't draw my gun, break the glass and risk my life to save the planet. I did it to save my family and the man I loved."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Pfffft. Honestly, come on, be realistic, Jack. I'm dying and I won't live to see tomorrow but, oh, by the way, I love you." Daniel stood before Jack, blue eyes hardened, his body thrumming with emotions.
"I wish I could have told you that I loved you that day in the infirmary."
"Yeah, me too. But you didn't," Daniel said sadly.
"Don't ask, don't tell. Why is now different?"
"I love you, Daniel." Jack hoped hearing the words here and now would erase the hurt of what had been.
Daniel shook his head, battling curiosity and losing the war to contain a happy smile. "Why now, Jack?"
Jack echoed him with a wary smile of his own. "Why not?" he answered flippantly.
The smile dropped and Daniel was unable to bury the look of annoyance. "Stop being cryptic."
"I pushed, and prodded, shoving you as far away as possible...unable to face my feelings. And you stayed and pushed back, but the last time I pushed, you fell, and there was nothing I could do."
"You could have told me you loved me, it would have softened the landing." Daniel lowered himself into Jack's easy chair and closed his eyes for a minute. Not facing Jack, he spoke to the air. "I'm tired, you *must* be tired, and we're treading water getting no closer to shore." Daniel shrugged and turned his head towards Jack and blinked slowly. "Do you love me out of a sense of guilt? I don't want to think you love me out of some skewed sense of dereliction of duties, or some warped belief you failed as team leader."
Jack squirmed, this time he was unable to hide the grimace of discomfort.
Silently, Daniel got up, went into the kitchen and returned with a sleeve of crackers, a glass of water and what Jack recognized as a pain pill. "You shouldn't take a pill on an empty stomach...and the crackers are the freshest thing I could find." Daniel offered apologetically.
* * * *
Sluggishly, Jack opened his eyes, cautiously stretching out sleep- stiffened muscles, burying a moan of discomfort in the pillow under his head. Slowly, awareness crept into the drug-induced sleep, forcing away the cobwebs. He noted late afternoon shadows reflected on the living room wall, the chill of the air conditioner being held at bay by the afghan covering his body, his head was resting on a pillow and the only other sound in the house was Daniel's snoring.
Jack was lying the length of the couch, a pillow in Daniel's lap supporting and cushioning his head while Daniel's right hand sat heavy on his shoulder. Awkwardly, Jack slid his glance upward, encompassing Daniel's uncomfortable position. Daniel was sitting, his long legs spread to the side of the coffee table and his head was thrown backwards against the couch cushions. Slack jawed, Daniel's breathing was leading to audible snoring, which on waking was going to more than likely lead to a dry, sore throat.
Jack's hand hovered over Daniel's knee as he second guessed his need to wake up the younger man. His head bounced up and down as Daniel shifted position and tightened his grip on Jack's shoulder. Jack removed his hand and tucked it under his body rather than awaken Daniel.
'Was Daniel right?' Jack pondered. 'Was his love born from a sense of failed responsibility? Did his feelings hang on the coat tails of the visions Bonin provided him?' Jack tried to pinpoint the moment he realized he loved Daniel, and all he could manage was the anger from the year preceeding Daniel's ascension and the horrific sense of loss and emptiness when Daniel had joined Oma. That wasn't love. Was it?
As the shadows lengthened and darkness rolled into the living room, Jack came to believe that all of these emotions did indeed signify love. Anger, fear, loss, loneliness, happiness... feelings he had permitted only Daniel to see. Pieces of the puzzle that made up his psyche that Daniel was able to fit into their proper places. Daniel had been willing to dig under Jack's skin. His marriage to Sara had fallen apart due to Jack's inability to confront any emotion other than anger.
Jack honestly believed he had always loved Daniel in some capacity or another. Jack couldn't pinpoint a time because friendship had flowed forward into love with nary a ripple of emotion. The problem became when the mind couldn't or wouldn't adjust to the heart's forward motion. No more. Bonin had given Jack the gift of seeing where this would lead.
Jack's hand squeezed Daniel's knee and Daniel tightened his grip on Jack's shoulder in response. He heard Daniel smack his lips, clear his throat and cough to bring moisture back to his throat. A sleep addled "hi" was all Daniel managed. Using Daniel's body as ballast, Jack pushed himself upright, leaned forward to grasp the glass of lukewarm water from the coffee table and handed it to Daniel.
"Aaaaah, thanks. I needed that." Daniel fell back against the cushions after finishing the water. "Do you need anything, I'm sorry...I didn't mean to fall asleep." Daniel's words began to trip over each other in their rush to form a coherent apology.
Jack sidled next to Daniel, the heat of the other man giving him the courage to speak what he felt in his heart. "I love you, Daniel. It's all I have to offer. I don't know how or why or when...I just know that I love you. I'm sorry if that's not enough..."
Daniel stood up quickly and stepped into the space between Jack and the coffee table. With a predatory grin, he lowered himself to meet Jack's expectant lips. He held his position by gently anchoring his hands onto Jack's shoulders. Jack's hands slid up the body shadowing his to join the fingers now digging into shoulders. Daniel separated the moment Jack began to moan.
"I kissed you," Daniel admitted proudly.
Jack couldn't help but laugh at the grin on Daniel's face. "Yes, you kissed me, Daniel. And you pulled away...?"
"Cause I gotta pee."
Jack laughed long and loud as Daniel hurried from the living room.
* * * *
Jack's stomach growled loudly but he was far too comfortable to move. Far too embedded in the embrace of Daniel's arms to leave the couch and limp his way into the kitchen.
He threaded his fingers through Daniel's hair, tugging at the strands to test the depth of Daniel's sleep.
"Ow. I'm not sleeping. The rumbling in your stomach is keeping me awake." Daniel's head was pressed against Jack's bare chest and he pulled a chest hair in retaliation.
Jack playfully slapped Daniel's hand away. "I love you."
"I love you too, Jack." Daniel sat up, rubbing his arms to ward off the chill. "It took us a long time to say those words, huh."
"Lifetimes, Daniel...it took us lifetimes."
Author's Comments: : In response to the AG FNF Challenge #37 Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. Thank you to babs for these great challenges, thank you to jo for the beta, though as always, all mistakes are my own. To the people on my porch, old and new...thanks for the company. Thank you Amy for the visuals that manage to prod my muses.
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